Thursday, June 26, 2008

Explaining death is hard enough...

It was a special moment - a memorable one - when my sons both got their first pets as birthday gifts from their Aunt. A first pet is just so magical - no matter what kind of pet it is. In this case, it was 2 hermit crabs - crab-like critters who live inside, and drag around, abandoned snail shells. For a couple of weeks, my sons were rather good with them - the younger for *not* using his crab as a stringless yoyo ;) and the older one for thoughtfully feeding and caring for both of them.

From the moment those creatures entered our house (the crabs, not my kids) I knew their longevity would be unpredictable, and I'd eventually need to have that dreaded, but important, "what is death" conversation with my kids - I just didn't think that day would come so soon.

So... the other night, after the kids went to sleep, while cleaning the "crabitat", I picked up my older son's crab, and the limp limbs and body of the crab just fell out of the snail shell. I practically jumped back, I was so shocked... and then I felt really sad that my kids would have to deal with this reality.

The next day, I called them both to the tank, kneeled in front of them, and said to my older son, "Your crab is no longer with us - he died yesterday". Well - he went through the classic stages of mourning... demanding a new crab "now", then jealous that his brother still had a crab, then anger (that I killed it, of course), then, finally, sadness, followed by the logical decision that he didn't want another crab at all.... Ok, maybe these aren't classic stages - but this was all new to me.

They actually both dealt with it well... so, after the boys were sleeping, I began preparations for putting the crab into his final resting place (NO! Not the toilet!) - a small paper bag, that we would bury together in the backyard.... I picked up the crab's snail shell again and turned it over... and saw.... AHH! The crab! Alive! I had this sudden nervous energy... I kept thinking "boy, that death conversation was hard enough - but the resurrection conversation is going to be even harder!"... so I grab their "Hermit Crabs for Dummies" book (you think I'm kidding?) and quickly realize that I made a classic, well documented mistake. Molting hermit crabs are often mistaken for dead. Whew... It's not resurrection, it's just the "daddy made a stupid assumption that when a creature's limbs all fall off that it is dead" discussion.

Anyway - the kids were pretty happy about the end result... young son may have been slightly confused that this previously dead crab was now alive, but older son said "I told you he was molting!"... and you know what? He did... a few days earlier - after he read that darn book for daddies - I mean dummies.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

A Friend is a Friend - but...

The lyrics of this lesser-known, but great Pete Townshend song keep running through my head practically every time I use any web site with any form of "friends" community... (doesn't hurt that it's on my ipod at the moment)...
"When eyes met in silence - a pact can be made"

I visit facebook after a few weeks' absence, and see that I have 6 or 7 new friend invitations. Of course, human nature strikes first - and I think "yay!" - and then I see that I only actually really know a couple of them... so I quickly accept those and then click on the names of the others to jog my memory - clearly I must know them, but just don't remember... let's see
"A lifelong alliance - that won't be betrayed"

This first person's name actually sounds familiar, and we do apparently have 3 friends in common - hmmm... two of whom are popular bloggers with, in one case, 5,000 friends (I think I just saw the facebook friends limit)... so now I notice that this 'friend to be' of mine has 2,300 friends himself...
"A friend is a friend - nothing can change that"

...and so, clearly this person really is depending on my friendship ;) - so I accept (for the first time, actually giving in to becoming friends with someone blindly - unless my memory is really failing me here and I actually was roommates with this person in college or something). Hey - a new "friend" - what could be bad about that.
"Arguments, squabbles - can't break the contract..."

Then I look at the profiles of some of these other friend invitations - hey, they're pretty friendful too... 1800, 1300, etc... is that good or bad? Clearly some of those hundreds of electronic friends are actually friends - but can they tell the difference anymore?
"...that each of you makes - to the death to the end"

And now I feel compelled to look at my own profile. 131 friends. huh. Is that too few? or is it too many? I remember a while back, when I stumbled upon my proile page on YouTube, it boldly announced back to me in something close to a 24-pt font,
"You Have No Friends".

I stared at that message for a while and really contemplated it with an ever so slightly broken spirit (drama: mine)... thinking about my friends... Luckily, I was able to conjure up a few real friends at the time and closed that window with a slightly higher velocity, middle-finger click. Interesting that when I went back to find that message again (wish I got a screen shot), it was no longer there... even though I still have no YouTube Friends...
"Deliver your future - into the hands of your friend"

So, I'm sure, as I know you are too, that online friends are a mix of offline-online friends and online-only friends... but I'm also wondering to what extent the simple peer pressure to have lots of friends has driven the activity - the compulsion - to connect to people online. Clearly there is monetary motivation for bloggers and recruiters. Fair. But for the rest of us - once you go beyond your "real" friends and acquaintances - and start inviting - or accepting - online friends... what's the motivation? Is the usefulness of that action becoming diluted - and will we reverse the process eventually - where everyone online is everyone's friend - and then the compulsive action can be to trim down the list to the smallest possible list of true friends.

In the real world - when my laptop is off - YouTube(0) isn't right, but it is closer to the truth than Facebook(131)... Being a good friend to a dozen or so people is plenty if they really are friends.

"A friend is a Friend - nothing can change that" - Pete Townshend

Friday, June 13, 2008

I really do have more than 4 friends (I think)

You've probably noticed that I added this new feature to my blog which lets people become "members" of my blog... It's the Google Friend Connect product. The features I'm using let people show interest in my blog and even leave comments - not on a specific blog post, but on the blog as a whole. It definitely adds a level of connectivity to my blog which was missing before. Readers can now connect more directly and tell others about my blog through their membership...
I love it! but...
... like other online social networking tools and sites, there's a level of transparency that can either be encouraging or seemingly require defensive justification.

In the case of my friend Orli, it must be encouraging! She's got tons of friends immediately joining her site as members, and even press coverage of her use of this new tool..

In my case - uh... I really must say that, uh, all my friends are not on the web... well, actually, they are... but they're pretty busy, you know... no time to become members of my blog.. 'cause that would take like 2 clicks... well... maybe all my friends are on vacation without their laptops... oh, wait... How many "real" friends do I actually have?... let me see... (1, 2...uh...5... hmmm....... 6...) - yeah - 6. So... let's see... 6 members today, not including me and my mom (seriously)... So, on a percentage basis of real-life friends to Friend Connect members, I'm pretty popular!!