Tales from the road: Sorrento where the sky grieves with us

We arrive at Hotel Regina, a jewel box by the sea in Sorrento, where a two day day storm of infinite beauty and fury commences. Andy’s cold also begins its furious, dripping journey.

We are holed up in our glass encased room, only leaving for meals during merciful breaks in the torrential rains, lightning and thunder. Three of five meals are at Taverna Abruzzo in the harbor, both the best and closest restaurant to us as we are now well past tourist season and many places are closed. By our last supper, the owner is plying us with gifts of prosecco , fortified wine and limoncello. We stuff ourselves with pasta and clam sauce and fresh grilled sea bass.

What do we do all day in our room with a sea view? We take photos of the changing sky over Mount Vesuvius: The clouds, the rainbows, the sudden darkening skies before the clouds split open.

Watching the variable sky is vastly more interesting than surfing the few English language channels in Europe that only offer a steady diet of news; BBC America, CNN, Bloomberg,  Euronews. Not one hotel offers any English language entertainment and we cannot take any more mewling and puking news media. We are so done with pundits and polls and politics. The skies of Sorrento echo our tears and frustration.

We do, however, discover that our slow  internet supports  playing Ted Talks, podcasts and later we  expand to webisodes of “comedians in cars getting coffee” with Jerry Seinfeld., particularly enjoying the one with President Obama. I also read the extraordinary book “Flight Behavior” by Barbara Kingsolver and write this blog post. A. strums his portable guitar.  The days and the storm pass slowly.

Despite our plans, there would be no visit to Pompeii or Herculaneum on this leg of our journey. No drive to Positano or along the Amalfi Coast. No ferry to the Isle of Capri. There will just be rain outside our Sorrento windows and sniffles inside.

Yesterday, our last day, was a hard traveling one of trains and connections toward Rome where we end up stranded at a hotel near their airport. There is nothing else nearby.

A. is still sick so we eat at the hotel and retire early for our 4 am wake up call to begin the long flight home.

Before we turn out the light, we catch a youtube segment of Saturday Night Live. It is the opening with Kate McKinnon in her Hilary white suit singing Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelulah” in a moving elegy to all of our shared grief over an election lost.

It’s been a long, strange ride this trip and we are ready to come home.

Keep your politics off my Facebook page or I’ll unlike you!

"Free Speech Doesn't Mean Careless Talk&q...
“Free Speech Doesn’t Mean Careless Talk” – NARA – 513606 (Photo credit: Wikipedia). As true today, as it was in WWII.

An Open Letter to all my family and friends on Facebook.

I always love hearing what you are up to. Your cute pet and kid pix are A-OK with me. Your puns, funny videos and clever photos are welcome. But please keep your politics to yourself! Freedom of speech is an inalienable right. But freedom from speech is an inalienable online right. Or should be on your personal pages.

In this overheated election season,  opinions and in-depth analysis of every every scrap of political minutia is available 24/7 without any help from my friends. I can listen to pundits and pols pontificate and prevaricate and bloviate about every issue and non-issue of this campaign season. I don’t want this pollution on my Facebook page.

We may love each other,  we may agree about hot vacation spots and low culture. But don’t assume we agree about politics. Assume we don’t! That way you won’t offend me and I won’t offend you.

If you have a blog,  let loose on your political opinions there (I try not to) if that’s your proclivity. If you want to send me an interesting political email, go ahead. If I don’t like it, I can delete it. But once you land on my Facebook page, your opinions become a permanent part of my timeline. And that’s not ok.

If I want to “like” a pol or party, I can do that all by myself. That’s my choice, not yours. Keep those family photos coming but ixnay on the nasty electoral sloganry.

Consider this my my political stand. You have been warned. Keep your political opinions off Facebook. Or else I will not “like” you any more. And that would be a loss for us both.

How do you feel about having friends and family post political their political opinions on your Facebook Page?  What are you doing about it?

He’s just not that “pinterested” in you! The male/female divide in social media

My love / hate relationship with Pinterest
My love / hate relationship with Pinterest (Photo credit: madaise)

In case you missed my recent piece on Pinterest in Social Media Today, here it is. Last week, NBC News ran a piece confirming what I’ve found: Men are just not that “pinterested” in Pinterest! Enjoy.

Social media may be the new “it’ technology. But even in the digital age, we are dividing along the Mars/Venus axis. In the new virtual world, men are from Foursquare and women are from Facebook.  Pinterest, the latest, buzziest social site, could easily be sub-branded “Boys Keep Out.”

User data from my agency’s site revealed that men are hanging out on Foursquare at a 2:1 ratio compared to women.  On Facebook, women outnumber men by about the same ratio. Of course, Foursquare isn’t anywhere near as popular as Facebook but there are some interesting behavioral takeaways from this statistical observation.

Foursquare is a social media forum (Gowalla is another) where people check in whenever they physically visit a location. Visitors may comment but mostly they check in to establish their whereabouts. Many companies marketing on Foursquare offer tangible rewards for frequent drop-ins, whether it’s free drinks or other merchandise. But the biggest reward for men, apparently, is earning Foursquare’s “badges.” The ultimate prize is becoming “Mayor” of a location—an election of sorts for high frequency visitors that confers not just virtual status but implied power.

This plays to sexual stereotype. Foursquare rewards users with increased status by cultivating frequency without commitment. It’s a macho environment where men mark their territory like wolves in the wild or dogs at fire hydrants. For women, there’s a different animal instinct at play. Women may be reluctant to declare their real time location for safety concerns of stalking or robbery. Guys don’t appear to worry about this personal threat. They’re too busy earning badges.

At the other end of the social/sexual spectrum, Facebook offers a consensual community where the reinforcement for participation is in communicating with others who share your interests, friendships and activities. People don’t get rewarded for frequency on Facebook although marketers avidly promote contests and incentives to create more engaged consumers of their products.  The language of Facebook is all about “liking,” “sharing” and “friending,” terms most often associated with female communication styles. Or as Sally Field once said, “They like me. They really like me.” And the more likes, the better.

Just to be sure my findings weren’t uniqu, I did a little googling and found lots more Mars/Venus data and the more social media we add, the more the sexual divide chasms!

The Pew Internet folk who constantly monitor online behavior,  published a piece in the fall of 2010 showing exactly the same 2:1 ratio of men using location-based services like Foursquare.

More recently, there’s been more attention paid to the male/female fault lines across the latest in social media, including Twitter, which surprisingly (to me at least) breaks more heavily male perhaps because it’s another forum for being the first to assert you whereabouts and breaking news.

Mashable  reported in February: “As a general trend, women engage more on most social sites, including on Facebook and Twitter. Comscore says women are the majority of social networking users, and spend 30% more time on sites than men. Plus, mobile social network usage is 55% female, according to Nielsen.”

recent study of social media by Porter Novelli Communications in the UK also showed similar trends in Facebook and Foursquare to my anecdotal observations. They found:

45% of men who use social media check in to locations (like Foursqure) vs. 33 % of women

35% of men who use social media are Twitter users vs. 27% of women

In the same report, Forrester Research reported that women participate in social media to share information and engage in conversation. Men are more competitive and tend to watch videos, create content and dominate in posting their opinions online. No surprises there!

And what of the latest social media darlings: Google+ and Pinterest? As you might suspect, men are sorting their friends and acquaintances with greater alacrity on the former and women are sharing their favorite fashions and food on the latter. This comment from a recent TimeTechland article: “A quick perusal of the site (Pinterest) finds plenty of photos exemplifying beautiful design and fashion, which — though not solely the domain of women — certainly attracts its fair share of them. Visual.ly estimates that 83% of Pinterest’s users are female. …”

And over at Google+, the Techland article notes it is “the software engineer staring at a stark white screen. In fact, software engineers make up a serious portion of the social networking site’s users, second only to college students.”

Guys just aren’t that Pinterested in you and the things you pin!  They’d rather do cool dude things like classify their friends, family and acquaintances like a stamp collection. We all know that Google has the male DNA down cold as anyone who’s ever turned on the masculine phone boom of “Droiddddd” can attest!

A fun infographic I found  on Proust, a new social site that wants to help you know your friends better, further reinforces these male/female differences in online sharing.  Proust is clearly more focused on the “madeleine” crowd. And Klout, the new measure site that measures your online influence is clearly oriented to the alpha male user with its “my klout is bigger than yours” competitive sensibility.

And as infographics are now the latest online trend, here’s another from onlinemba  that shows sexual preferences across a spectrum of social media. No suprises here although Linked In use is about evenly split at 50/50 but the data is engagingly presented.

Of course, people don’t segregate by male & female everywhere online. Social media is not a complete recreation of your junior high prom experience!  But understanding where the boys are –and the girls aren’t–online reminds us that the virtual world is not that different from the real one.

Stuff I can do without in 2012.

English: A typical Whole Foods Market grocery,...
Image via Wikipedia

The New Year is already two days old and I’m getting antsy to let go of some old baggage (this is not a Newt dig but I’ll take the credit for it anyways) and start this year with some clean up, fess up and smarten up moves. You  may want to try at home, too.

  • Clean out my closets and donate clothes, shoes and books to Goodwill. There may be better places to donate, but Goodwill makes it so easy to drop off your stuff and then slip inside their retail shop and buy some new crap I didn’t know I needed.
  • Take all my dead wine corks to Whole Foods Market. The have bins to recycle wine corks. My year could be written in review with the wines we consumed…but better red than reread so corks begone!
  • Pore through the medicine cabinet and bathroom drawers for all our expired medicines, lotions and potions and bring them to the local police station. They have a hazardous waste collection box.
  • Switch from bottled detergents to powder, from liquid soaps to hard bars. There’s so much less plastic packaging this way …and why pay more for the water that makes these products liquid? A bar of soap in the hand is worth two in the well…you get the idea
  • Sort through the kitchen drawers and get eliminate the duplicate utensils (how many pie servers do I need) and donate to Goodwill (see above)  or give to a friend’s kid starting their first apartment.
  • Unsubscribe to all the e-newsletters that litter my inbox because I succumbed to the fantasy that I’d win an exotic trip or receive a life-changing program. I am making a life change..and cheapcaribbean  is not gonna be part of it!
  • Replace our dead smoke detectors with new ones that work. That horrendous Christmas fire in Stanford, CT  was a wake up call. Nuf said.

    Goodwill Industries
    Image via Wikipedia
  • Collect all the dead batteries in various drawers  and recycle safely.  Many retailers take these so I’ll do a quick google search for that. Vow to avoid buying any more stuff that need so many batteries.
  • Get a portable solar charging pack and keep it handy for dead phone syndrome and other electrical emergencies. Let me mention here that I hate my Droid phone because the battery wears out in less than a day, making late night outings a sometimes scary proposition.  A solar charging pack would come in handy, don’t ya think?
  • Eat less crappy, processed chocolate (kisses, twix bars etc)  and splurge for the good stuff– Lindt Dark Chocolate with Orange is a current fave. I’m not suggesting anyone give up chocolate– it is a life essential in my book– but the good stuff is worth the splurge (it has health benefits, too, but who cares).
  • Check the expiration dates on all the canned food in my cabinets. Many of my ambitious menu ideas requiring obscure ingredients have filled my coffers with expired coconut milk, black bean sauce, dried out spices (as opposed to just dry spices) and Nam Pla sauce way past its due date. (If expired fish sauce doesn’t sound appetizing to you, either…get thee to thy cabinets and purge!)

Let’s all strive to lighten our load & consume less of the stuff that isn’t good for us or for our planet and experience more of the stuff that is…friends, family, fresh air and fine times.

Happy 2012. I think it’s going to be a fantastic year. What stuff can you do without? I hope it’s not reading my blog!

Top 10 posts of 2011. Vitamix, Moleskine, Netflix, Lululemon, Sushi Ran and more

Since everyone else is getting into the New Year‘s Countdown game of Top Ten Lists,  I figured I would, too. Especially since I just found a WordPress Dashboard feature I never noticed before. You can find your top posts for the year by clicking on the “this week” link and choosing another time frame.

There were quite a few surprises about what caught my readers’ fancy in 2011. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that posts ranting about name brands ( adoring Lululemon‘s butt factor, quitting Netflix, coveting Vitamix, etc.) would yield higher new visitor volume. But I also found that some of my quirkier reflections generated a constant stream of visits, including one optimistic post about the ever falling stock market (“The sun will come up tomorrow”).

A few other surprising posts nearly made it to the top ten including our magnificent “Sunol Wildflower Hike,” the importance of “Emergency Chocolate,” and the “Sweetness of a Saturday Morning.”

If you’re curious about my least viewed post, it was “Have you had work done,” a meditation on considering plastic surgery. You know what? I’m glad that most of you didn’t find that a compelling topic. I’m pretty much done with it, too. At least for this year!NoBlueHair’s Top 10 Posts of 2011

Vitamix vs. Kitchen Aid. Let the games begin. (or how I wasted a Sunday morning)

Why do we love Lululemon? Because they make our butts look good
Tossing more hats in the ring.
My beloved Moleskine gets a Fast Company rave.
More Grey Fashionistas
Is it unpatriotic to cancel netflix? More stats 64
The sun will come out tomorrow…
The best restaurant in San Francisco is in…Sausalito. Sushi Ran.
Groupon, Living Social, Homerun, Jetsetter. Dealing with deal a day addiction.
What do you do with expired medications? Send them to jail!

#what are you doing Christmas Day?

christmas 2007
Image by paparutzi via Flickr

If I were going to start a twitter trending topic, this would be my question. What are you doing Christmas Day?

Of course, all my Jewish friends will say Chinese food & a movie. My Christian friends will say opening presents and spending the day visiting and eating with family. But I bet there are lots of people who have much more creative ideas of how to spend this day.

#what are you doing Christmas Day, I’d write cooking a nice dinner, reading a good book and calling friends & family far away to see what they’re doing. Or maybe I’d clean out my closet, pay bills, go for a long walk, go to the gym (mine’s open), or buy more stuff online (full of holiday shame). Some years we’ve gone vacationing in Mexico where we forget it’s a holiday as we sip our margaritas and scarf guacamole and wait for the whole holiday hoopla to pass.

I know this is often the most depressing day of the year for some people because they are alone and far from loved ones. How will they spend the long holiday hours?

For others it’s an annual day of service to those in need. Their acts of kindness range from dropping off gifts to needy kids to visiting the hospitalized and homebound to feeding the hungry and homeless. These people are the true angels of light in the dark of winter.

What’s your Christmas plans? Tweet me @nobluehair or at #what are you doing Christmas Day?

Happy Holidays to all my regular readers, my occasional browsers and my random visitors who land here from google search words…I hope you did finally decide whether to get a Kitchen Aid or a Vitamix !

Cain. Perry. Bachmann.Gingrich. It’s enough to send you to the travel channel.

I just can’t watch the morning news shows anymore. Or any cable news show. I can’t take any more of their daily diet of  dissecting the minutia of the day’s stupid, surreal or slanderous statements of the clowns running for office. Is there anyone serious out there? These are not candidates. These are cartoons.

So, I’ve switched to watching The Travel Channel. I’d rather watch reruns of Samantha Brown in Europe, Asia or Latin American. I’d rather hang out with Anthony Bourdain on No Reservations. I’d like to escape to anywhere but where the talking heads are eviscerating the words of other talking heads.

Anthony Bourdain
Image via Wikipediaconducting autopsies of other talking heads.

There actually are serious issues at hand. Can’t we discuss them in a grown up way with facts, figures and logic? Politics is not a reality show. We’re not voting for the cast of Jersey Shore or voting people off the island on Survivor. “The Real Politicians of  D.C.” is not a TV show. They’re the people making the big decisions about our lives. We need to get real here people. If we screw it up, we can’t just change the channel.

It’s our future that’s at stake. And whipping people into a froth of frenzy about made-up issues and minor mis-statements isn’t going to further our national dialogue.

I’m going off on a rant because…. well…everyone else is. And I’m sure I’m just as ineffectual.