A happy family

I just had the pleasure of visiting an old school friend, which led to the unexpected (and unusual) experience of spending time with that rarest of modern social units, a happy family. This particular family is firmly based on the traditional, nuclear family — a model i’ve long assumed dead, or at least passé, in these days of broken marriages and mandatory two-job families. It was surprising to see the traditional model working, and working so well.

I won’t breach anybody’s privacy here, but the arrangement is pretty much what you’d imagine from your Leave it to Beaver viewing : WIFE is a full-time homemaker, HUSBAND works in an office to bring home the bacon, DAUGHTER and SON are both doing well in university. Continue reading

Big Al versus Facebook

Alan's mysterious Facebook profile pic

Alan’s mysterious Facebook profile pic

Friend and fellow Tofitian Alan C. receded from Facebook a while back. He was dissatisfied with many things about the site, and wanted to rethink his relationship to the data-mining mega-corporation. He’d been making comments for weeks about spending too much time on social media, with a definite sense of diminishing returns. I gather he was also concerned — as am i — about the amount of personal information Facebook gathers, and what and how it sells that personal info to advertisers for billions in revenue.

However, Facebook has cleverly wormed its way deep into our lives, making it hard to quit cold turkey. (I know; i tried once, and came crawling back two months later.) But Alan was smart about it. Three months ago, he began the process with small steps. Here’s part of his Facebook post from 26 August:

As you may or may not have noticed, I have not been using my personal facebook account for 7 days now! I just logged in to check if there was any important messages. Thought I’d let you know if you do have anything for me, then you should email me….

(breaking the addiction to facebook, one step at a time)

Then a follow-up a few days later (formatting added by me):

So for those that want to keep in touch — you can subscribe to an email list — I will announce radio shows and also things that are of interest too me — my site [TakeToChange.com] will be changing a little bit as time progresses and I find my groove. I will be posting things that are of importance to me on my site and if you want to hear about that stuff, then add your name and email.

If you don’t want to be on the list, no biggie. I have even found that being off facebook increases my desire to reach out to friends on a more personal level, which will improve relationships with those I care about. Plus it frees up enough time to physically connect with those around me.

Facebook is designed as a distraction I have noticed that is not improving the quality of life or relationships. It’s time to scrap the addiction and join so many others that are doing the same.

Then Alan went AWOL from Facebook entirely. Though not from life: We still saw him around town, at events, and he was still active on Twitter and on his website.

And then last week, after three months of Facebook detox, he suddenly came back on, announcing his return with a post that looks to me about the sanest personal Facebook policy ever. It’s a well thought-out way to tame the distractions, but still use Facebook to keep in touch with select people and issues.

Here’s some of Alan’s reintroduction post from 27 Nov. (formatting added by me to make his approach clear for those, like me, who might want to emulate it):

My 3 months away from Facebook have been an eye-opening and liberating time. I have realised what I want to use facebook for now — to keep in touch with my closest friends, and for a customised and uncluttered news feed.

So, I am back, but this time, I have meticulously organised my lists. I have:

  • a small collection of ‘close friends’, they are the only people I follow and they are the only people that see my posts. These people are the friends I physically have in my life and am likely to see again in my life at some point.
  • I have also edited what kind of posts I see from these ‘close friends’. So I will not see anything you like or comment on, and will only see the things you post.
  • I also have a specific list for family, so I can keep tabs on my family (not the weird facebook smart list for family, but my own list that doesn’t tell facebook who my family is).
  • I also have a separate list containing those people, pages and organisations that have a positive influence on me and on the world.

And his kicker pronouncement, that might well apply to every form of media these days: It’s time to put facebook to work for me, not me for facebook.

The man is organized. He loves his Facebook lists, and he relishes the laborious process of using them to tame the behemoth. The big question now is whether he’ll be able to stick to it. Facebook is a powerful drug. Will the giant-slayer resist its lure? I’ll try for a follow-up in a couple of months.

It’s probably futile to “friend” Alan on Facebook, but you could follow him on Twitter @alschill.

Killer cars

A friend and former Tofino resident died recently. It was especially tragic in that she was young (in her 30s) and a mother of two, including a months-old baby.

And it was jarring, because it was a freakish auto accident involving, according to the police report, an unlikely sequence of events that seemed almost pointedly direct in their selection of her as their intended target. She was one of those people who is loved by everyone she meets, and her death was a blow to many, me included.

There’s a lot of virtual love and sympathy flowing on Facebook, and no doubt in person back in Ontario, where she lived. But what nobody is mentioning is what i see as the root cause of her death : car culture. Continue reading

Dead to my Face(book)

This has been pending for months, as more information comes out about how Facebook.com is selling me and my info up the river to its marketers; as more Facebook privacy concerns come to light; as more annoying, unsolicited emails flood my inbox from Facebook services i never signed up for.

What pushed it over the edge tonight was three things:

  1. Carelessly and inadvertently missing a writers group meeting i was looking forward to, spending the time instead in front of a computer, checking (among other things) my Facebook account.
  2. This Mashable.com post — Users for Sale: Has Digital Illiteracy Turned Us Into Social Commodities? — making quite clear to me what i’ve known all along about whose interest Facebook is really serving.
  3. The realization that “socializing” — indeed, “living” — on-line is not healthy for me, and it’s time to back out and spend a little a lot more time and attention on the old way of doing things, i.e. face-to-face, or at least with my “content” not mediated and data-mined by a massive corporation.

So at about 10:40 p.m. tonight i impulsively began deleting my Facebook account. Continue reading

Burnin’ Toff

I am continually amazed by the aplomb with which some Tofinoites burn fuel to satisfy their lifestyle urges. Aside from the evangelical bikers and the broke, bicycle use (and walking) are rare in town. The car — one person per, usually — is the mainstay of everything from food shopping to socializing. Almost anything seems to justify a trip cross-island — shopping, meetings, whims. As for the requisite winter trip … Cuba, Mexico, even Australia are not too far away.

I include myself in this coterie of earth-rapers, by the way. A quick blast down to Ukee to check the mail … an indulgent, flown-in piece of fruit at Green Soul … effortless to justify, even as i declaim my environmental enlightenment.

I’m all for Reduce when it comes to fossil fuel. But i have to acknowledge that, in this crazy existing world, going entirely without would be an act of madness. So to make it a little easier for folks to at least offset their fuel emissions, some resources.

  1. Each litre of gas you burn produces 2.34 kg of CO2. If your car does 25 mpg (9 km per litre), and you drove 15,000 km this year, you used 1,667 litres of gas and produced 3900 kg of CO2 — almost 4 tonnes. So take a look at your odometer, estimate your car’s fuel efficiency, and do the math. (From Guy Dauncey’s EcoNews, Mar. 2007)
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  2. Flying is highly fuel intensive. Here’s an on-line calculator to find out how much CO2 goes into the atmosphere from any flight. (Example: a round-trip flight from Vancouver to Acapulco emits about 270 kg of fuel, producing over 800 kg of CO2 — per passenger! Worse, because that CO2 is emitted high up in the atmosphere, it’s three times more effective as a warming gas. Yikes!)
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  3. I urge you to Reduce, but for that portion you can’t eliminate … offset! Various organizations will, for a fee, pull carbon out of the air (i.e. by planting trees) or see that it doesn’t get emitted in the first place (i.e. by replacing gas generators with solar in remote villages) in your name. But which ones can you trust? Luckily, we have a recent report from the David Suzuki Foundation and the Pembina Institute, rating 19 different carbon offset organizations as to their effectiveness. Download Carbon offset vendors (PDF, 196 k).

Note that an ideal emissions target to avoid catastrophic climate change is something like 4 tonnes of CO2 a year per person — pretty much what average car use produces, never mind the rest of our energy use. So you can see what kind of cutbacks are required.

Another tip: Cut down on the meat, since the livestock industry produces 18% of global carbon emissions. (Econews, Sept. 2007; also a UN figure)

Thanks to Tofino District CFO Edward Henley for bring this report to a Green Breakfast. If you really want to bone up on carbon offsets, there’s a lot of info on the  Suzuki Foundation site right here.