I’m happy I joined the flock

I’ve resisted the lure of the little blue bird for years. I was not going to tweet. At first it was easy. I heard the rumors–people were simply listing what they ate and when they used the restroom. I wanted no part in that. I am not that self-absorbed. I recently changed my mind and joined the flock. It started slowly with trouble in my neighborhood.

The anarchists started attacking Seattle again, and I was able to find updates through the Seattle police Twitter stream. I didn’t realize this, but you don’t generally have to be on Twitter to read the posts. It was very helpful to see the up-to-the-minute info. I looked around a little. I got intrigued. I also decided I should be on there to promote my businesses and so that I’d have experience if someone wanted me to tweet for them–I do some promotional writing. I took the leap.

I’m actually loving it. I’m getting all kinds of fun tidbits about Shakespeare and other geeky subjects I love by following the Royal Shakespeare Company, Sir Patrick Stewart, and others. I’m also following a lot of stand-up comedians. Laughter truly is the best medicine. I also love to share helpful information with others, and this gives me a platform (along with my public Facebook page) to share short things in a timely manner. All this is good, but it’s not my favorite part. I am loving Twitter because of the games.

These aren’t your average time-wasting games. If those are on Twitter I haven’t found them and I wouldn’t indulge. I’ve been on Facebook for years and I’ve never had a farm or tried Candy Crush Saga. I know myself too well and I don’t want to spend my time that way. These are word games. Twitter has a number of fun ways to learn new vocabulary and play with words (and play with others who are doing the same). I am having fun and gaining new vocabulary by engaging with altwiculate and artwiculate. Their websites have a daily word with a definition and then people tweet sentences that use them (trying to be clever, if possible).

My favorite game on Twitter is called the Hashtag Game. Hashtags are the little phrases prefaced with a #. You’ve most likely seen them, even if you’ve been avoiding the Twitter as long as I have. The whole point of the game is to make up something clever to say about the subject that they are talking about. These quips get posted at a fast and furious pace. Here’s one of my examples from yesterday: “A week-old turkey dinner inside a bus station locker. #ThingsYouWouldn’tClaim”

I love to play with words. If you make words your friends you’ll be a better writer, and if you’ve got to write something quickly without overthinking it your brain will be primed to spout ideas and vocabulary at a moment’s notice. This is fun, and it’s fun that’s good for me. I get the added benefit of interacting with the other people playing and connecting further with online writing friends. Sometimes my posts are better than others. This is also okay. Writers need to write lots. We need to write well and to write poorly. This is how we learn. This is how we learn to experiment. This is how we have fun. I like fun, don’t you?

Your assignment, should you choose to accept it:
260. Check out the vocabulary and word games on Twitter and play a few on paper even if you aren’t on Twitter yourself. You can see the stream of my posts on my main personal website or follow me @CathyTenzo. If you’re not on Twitter and it seems like fun, give it a try. If you do join or if you’re already on there, leave your info in the comments and I’ll check out your tweets. Even if the whole thing just seems bizarre, it can be fun to explore a foreign culture.


Let’s all play nice

I’ll admit it—I love Facebook. I like being able to keep in touch with friends from far away, and I enjoy the intellectual discussions that occur in many of the comment threads. I even love all the cute cat pictures—what’s not to love about cute cat pictures? What I don’t love is the unkindness that filters in to so many of the posts and discussions. It hampers my pursuit of joy.

This is a common problem on the internet. If you read any online news story you’ll often see vicious remarks below the story itself. People say some of the most awful things behind the cloak of anonymity, but on Facebook, everyone is posting under their own account. It still happens. It always surprises me that the same people who preach love and tolerance will post terribly hateful things.

I could give you many examples, but I’m sure you’ve seen this yourself. What I’d rather give you is a solution—a very simple one. I think we should all refer back to the Golden Rule, and treat others as we would wish to be treated. Disagree and have discussion, but do so kindly and without malice. We only hurt ourselves when we indulge in mean behavior or making sweeping generalizations about people.

Sometimes even this is not enough. I try to follow this rule when I post, and I’m sure I’m not perfect, but I find that I often encounter deep veins of negativity amongst some people who post to Facebook. For example, I am very frustrated with people who post that all people who are religious are unthinking idiots. I know a lot of people have had negative experiences with religion—I certainly have and so I’ve chosen what to believe very carefully, as have others. You can disagree with the policies of a religion without mocking a whole belief system. Let’s all listen to Aretha Franklin, and show everyone some R-E-S-P-E-C-T.

Not everyone will. I feel like I’m better off knowing that certain people make hateful comments on a regular basis, because I don’t want those people in my life, virtual or otherwise. I was concerned about deleting these people from my page, but I have a very good friend who makes an excellent point—no one deserves to be your friend. Friendship should come from mutual respect and trust. If it isn’t there, delete delete delete! You can’t control others, but you can control what you see and expose yourself to. I’m feeling a lot better already.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it:
238. Are toxic people draining your energy? What can you do to limit your exposure? Also, take a few minutes to consider your own behavior—do you follow the Golden Rule? We all have times when our own experiences bias us. If this topic really interests you, you may also want to read the excellent book Choosing Civility: The Twenty-five Rules of Considerate Conduct by P.M. Forni.



Don’t be alarmed

Today I’d like to talk about the word “vegan.” At the very basic level, a vegan is a person who does not consume animal products, and therefore does not eat meat, fish, dairy products, or eggs. Since I’ve been a vegetarian for a very long time, I sense that this topic may scare you. It’s as if I said I want to talk to you about the word “Christian”. You may think I plan to convert you, or that there is a nasty lecture to follow. You may think of PETA and envision some photos of eviscerated animals, but here’s the thing: I don’t care what you eat. Really. I do what I do for personal reasons, and I believe that everyone makes their own choices according to what is right for them. I’ll happily discuss the topic with someone who asks, but everyone else I leave alone. It’s the same for many religious people, too.

Vegans and vegetarians often get attacked because of the virulent proselytizers in our midst, and so many of the people I’ve met who don’t eat any meat or animal products simply say that they follow a “plant-based diet”. It sounds less threatening somehow. No one assumes that you’re nasty and intolerant. I get hostile reactions to the word, too, and for a while I used the “plant-based diet” line, but I’ve gone back to using the word “vegan”. Here’s why—if all the friendly vegans won’t use the word, a perfectly good word will be lost. Some people think there are no friendly vegans because many of us friendly folk refuse to use the word. It’s as if all the friendly religious people stopped using the words that stood for their faith traditions—these are good words, which convey complex meanings. I’m not doing this just to defend vegans, I’m doing it to defend the English language. I encourage you to do the same.

Stand up for the words that define you and your traditions. Don’t let others add meaning to them that isn’t there. As a gay person, this has special meaning to me. Others have tried to define the word “queer” or the word “lesbian” to be inherently negative. They aren’t, and I’ll proudly continue to use those words, too. Be proud to be yourself— whether vegan, omnivore, gay, straight, bi, Christian, atheist, Buddhist, Muslim, or any other designation. This is true joy.

Your assignment, should you choose to accept it:

226. What words do you use to define yourself? What baggage do others attach to those labels? Consider what you might do to reclaim the word.



Scarlett is still upset

Dear Reader: I’ve decided to do something different on the weekends—something less formal and structured, much like the weekends themselves. Enjoy!

I found another cool little bit in my reading this week, again courtesy of Colin Dexter (I’m whipping through the books, so alas! you won’t be hearing about him much longer). His detective character, Inspector Morse, points out that the phrase I don’t give a dam does not contain the expletive we assume it to have. Morse says that the dam in question is a small Indian coin of little value. Other resources on the web say a dam was an almost-worthless piece of metal used to mend pots and pans, and that this is where the origin of the phrase lies. As a person who loves language and strives to be correct, I revel in the hidden stories behind the phrases we hear every day. When it comes to stuff like that, I give way more than a dam! (Gosh darn it!)

See you tomorrow!