Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Facebook: "Like" It or Not

From the Marin Independent Journal

To friend or not to friend. That is the question. If you're breathing you're probably on Facebook. Grandmothers, newborns, businesses and sadly, even dead people can have accounts. You can run, but you can't hide. Facebook is everywhere.

My first experience with Facebook was in 2005 as the mother of teenagers. Along with Facebook came a new lexicon. Dinner table conversation became even more difficult to decipher than normal. Friending, unfriending, writing on walls. Not writing on walls. Who knew what it all meant.

Form a parental perch it seemed like a lot of drama over nothing, but high school is full of drama. Lana became obsessed with Facebook. She was constantly checking it and talking about who did what on Facebook. Now she's almost 28 and more reserved. She enjoys seeing posts, but doesn't often like to comment because then she'll be notified whenever someone else comments. She also gets annoyed by everyone's GPS postings. Sometimes you don't really care where people are drinking beer.

Time for the full disclosure. My daughter, Lucy, works at Facebook as Product Designer. What that is, I'm not exactly sure, but it keeps her really busy! End of disclosure. Back to post.

The Facebook etiquette can be a little confusing. Social media is so new we're not always sure how it works. I have been thinking about a few suggestions to minimize awkwardness. Let's start with the premise that your feelings (if you have them) WILL be hurt at some point. All your friends will be at a party to which you were not invited. You'll be tagged in a post in an unflattering angle with massive amounts of cellulite peeking out of your short shorts. My daughter, Allie (the PR princess), always shrugs her shoulders and says the same thing when she hears of some such drama or snub. "Gotta love Facebook. "

Promote Thyself
It's fine (even recommended) to use Facebook to promote yourself. Let's Face it (LOL), we all have something to promote. I'm in real estate and I got my last listing through Facebook. However, if you send a request for someone to "like" your business page and they don't "like" it, don't send three more requests! Also, people feel slimed if they sense you don't care about them at all and are ONLY using the site to publicize your business.

Be Nice
The Golden Rule is still golden online. Walls are visible to "friends" and friends may include bosses, exes, siblings, and children. Don't call somebody out in public. If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all. Snarky comments reflect more on the commenter than on those commented upon.

Sex, Politics and Religion
Dinner party etiquette used to dictate that sex, politics and religion were forbidden topics. I disagree. I've been to a LOT of dinner parties and if all those topics were avoided, they wouldn't have been half as much fun! Be tasteful, be respectful and be prepared to have others disagree with you. I was once unfriended by someone after I made the comment that I couldn't understand how a woman could be a Republican.  My comment was directly related to a women's rights issue. Some of my good friends are Republican women, but I still think the party's policies are not female-friendly.

Don't Take Over Someone's Wall
If you make a comment on a post and somebody else makes a comment, you may begin a hearty exchange. It could be the start of something big. But, be aware that other posters may be getting a notification every time you say something new. Sometimes it's best just to PM (private message) to finish the conversation. Speaking of PM, how do we like those bobble heads of our friends that pop up? The disembodied image can be a little tricky to track down! And for God's sake, don't answer questions directed to the poster on somebody else's wall. Nobody likes a busybody.

Brag About It
I want to see all the wonderful things everyone's doing. That's the point. Bring on the puppy pics and milestones and noteworthy achievements. I love the vacation photos even though sometimes I get incredibly jealous when people are in Tahoe or the East Coast or Europe or Hawaii and I'm not! I still want to see the pictures, especially cute baby photos.  

I can't count the number of times I've  hooked up on Facebook. Not sexually, but that would make for fun dinner party banter! Plumbers and handymen and wonderful places to stay. I've gotten free tickets to concerts that somebody is giving away. I've found that friends (real live, in the flesh friends) are in the same locale and we've gotten together. I've found out about numerous deaths much faster than I ever would by waiting for a newspaper.

Share The News
It seems like every recent news event from my friends has come with the caveat, "Don't post on Facebook". We have a friend who was expecting a baby and were repeatedly warned not to divulge anything about the labor or delivery. Understood. I can keep a secret if I know it's a secret, but if not, I can be a blurter. Sometimes it's hard to know if it's ok to share. Ask yourself: "Is it my news?". If not, then discretion may be the better part of valor.

Like It
The strangest aspect of Facebook is the silent readers. They look, but they don't touch. Some Facebook users leave all the posting and liking and commenting to others. I can sort of understand the reticence, but it takes two to Tango. We know you're looking, but you won't give a thumbs up for anything. You know who you are.

Big Brother data mining is a reality and a scary concept. Cookies are not just baked sweets anymore. You can listen to a Ted Talk about what your "likes" mean. It can feel creepy to think that advertisers are tracking your preferences. I'm not sure that's exactly how it works. I could ask Lucy, but I probably wouldn't understand the answer. A like or two here and there probably won't hurt you.

Instagram and Beyond
Instagram (owned by Facebook) has also gotten incredibly popular. Some people like it better. It's simpler. Post a photo, enhance photo (or not) with special effects. Some of our offspring are using Instagram even more than Facebook. When you post on Instagram, you can also share the same post on Facebook, so if you have the same friends on both sites there can be a potential for repeats which is boring. 

Going Offline
There's Snapchat and Pinterest and a new app every minute. You can be an addict or an abstainer. What you should NOT do is tell people if you're going offline and why. It cracks me up when people post that they are going off Facebook for a while because it's too much of a time suck. Or when they warn you to not be offended that they’re not "liking" your posts for a while because they are taking a break.  People have lives and 300 or 500 or a thousand "friends". They're not going to notice that you're not liking their posts! The same people who post such statements have rarely, if ever, liked my posts.

Be on. Be off. It really doesn't matter much. There's a lot to be said for living in the moment.  Over sharing is a legitimate concern. Posting while drinking should be regulated. I recently saw the movie, "Chef" which was wonderful. I loved the part with the son helping the father succeed through social media. The father was completely clueless, but there's no escaping. It's the way of our world. If you're offline, you’ll be completely out of it and you won't know what everybody else knows and that may be ok with you.  If you're on, you might as well like it.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Breakfast at Wimbledon

Reposted in honor of Petra's second win at Wimbledon. The first was three years ago when we visited and I took this photo of her in one of the earlier rounds.

"I've been queuing all day. I just want to watch some tennis," the young English boy said. We knew just how he was feeling. You can get into the All England Club by buying tickets ahead of time. That is, if you're quite lucky, well-connected or very wealthy. Being none of the above, we had to join the queue.

The first afternoon, day four of the tourney, was fairly simple. We had taken the tube from London that morning and checked into our Bed and Breakfast in Wimbledon Village. From there it was a pleasant fifteen minute stroll to the grounds through a quiet, upscale neighborhood. We went around a bend, looked down and there it all was - one hundred twenty-five years of history, and for Eric, the fulfillment of a dream. Wimbledon was just as majestic and aesthetically pleasing as we had hoped. It was absolutely breathtaking to look down and see the buildings and signs we've seen so many times on television. We were pinching ourselves.

It was another walk, at least ten minutes, to get to Car Park 10 where you can get into the queue for afternoon matches. We got into the queue at 3:15 and had gone through the metal detector, paid twenty pounds a piece and entered the grounds by 4:00 p.m. The weather was iffy, and the biggest names weren't playing, so it worked out well for us. After a late lunch of fish and chips, we were off to the matches which continued until dark - about 9:30. Grounds passes allowed us access to all the matches except for Center Court or Courts One and Two, which left sixteen courts to choose from. Such heaven. Our vantage point for most matches was the front row, where you could actually smell the grass.

We saw some inspiring women's doubles. I pretended they were my partner and me when we're really on. One match featured a tall lefty and a shorter righty on each team.  Trish can be the tall one for now, but next lifetime, I'm going to be the tall one. One of the players we saw, Petra Kvitova beat Venus on Monday. Obviously, she's excellent. Speaking of Venus, what about that ridiculous outfit? Eric said it looked like something she made herself out of dish towels. Awful.

Late in the afternoon we had our first rain delay, which was very impressive. It is so much more involved than what you see on television. An early warning system for rain, broadcast by Wimbledon central control, triggers the alarm. When the number changes, and hits code red, court crews go into action. Even the chair umpire has no say and is wheeled off the court backwards whilst still in her chair. Then the fun part starts. First the court is undressed and the net posts and net are removed. With incredible urgency and frantic strength, the crew pulls the cover across. The team leader shouts orders like a drill sergeant and it's finished in a couple minutes. When the rain stops, it's all reversed.

We watched matches until dark and finished the evening watching John Isner play on the same court on which he had the epic, three day match against Mahut last year. There is a plaque commemorating the event. Sadly, this year, he lost in four against Almagro who has a wonderful game. John has a huge serve, but is so tall that he doesn't move as well side to side as he could. Wearily, we headed back to the B & B. We were planning to join the queue bright and early.  Day five was a gorgeous morning and we were in the queue by seven a.m. My number was 3,992. There were two thousand people who lined up behind us.

The Brits are very orderly, broken to the queue from early childhood. I kept imagining what this would be like in New York - fights breaking out all over the place and lots of swearing. Instead, there were acres of nicely dressed, well-behaved, extremely pleasant people. We were in the grounds before eleven a.m. and treated ourselves to the traditional strawberries and cream which we ate on Henman Hill. Play doesn't start until one on Center Court and noon on the outer matches. The crowds were huge because it was a big day for Great Britain. Laura Robson played Sharapova (whose shrieks we could hear even outside the stadium) and Murray was also in the draw.

We saw Berdych play a wonderful match against East Bay player, Alex Bogomolov, who although scrappy didn't have enough game. We also watched Mirza and her partner, Vesnina, play some fun doubles against Voracova and Voskoboeva, whoever they are. We also really enjoyed seeing Llagostera-Vives and her partner, Parras-Santiago. We were waiting to see my buddy, Ryan Harrison, play doubles with his partner, Travis when there was a rain delay. It was evening and we'd had a long day so we went back to our hotel for a " lie down", as the English would say.          

A while later we walked up the street to get some dinner at an Italian place called "La Strada". The joint was jumping - locals mixed in with players and their entourages. The waiters did an excellent job trying to keep everyone satisfied. In fact, they bumped us from our table when a party of six from the tourney arrived. We didn't mind. They put us right next to Gasquet. That was our Wimbledon - breakfast, lunch AND dinner.      

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Eating Above Our Station at San Ysidro Ranch

The Stonehouse Restaurant
Sometimes you discover a location so enchanting and riveting that all you think about when you leave is how to get back there again. Exactly one year ago we visited San Ysidro Ranch for the first time. We were enthralled by the gardens and charmed by the tasteful cottages. Lunch on the terrace at the Stonehouse Restaurant was delicious, romantic and without a false note.

The intervening year has been traumatic in more ways than one. Looking back on the year in December, a friend remarked that all the good things that had happened to me in 2013 had actually happened to my children. It was a wise and thoughtful comment. Lana got married, Lucy got a fabulous job at Facebook. Allie excelled in her career. All good.

The gyrations of moving and not moving, selling and not selling the house were exhausting. Innumerable stressors, known and unknown, were taking a toll on our relationship. Still in that mindset, we took a trip to Palm Springs in February. The final few days were to be in LA slash Santa Barbara with a belated Valentines Day dinner at the Ranch. Plans changed and that portion of the trip was deleted.

Still hankering for a dose of Santa Barbara, we decided to try again with a June mini-break. Although Montecito is a most dog friendly town, we left Ruby home with Lana. It was her first time without Eric or me and she went on a mini hunger strike. It upset Lana that Ruby would barely eat, but that’s just how dogs are. Anyway, she can stand to lose half a pound.

We started driving down and I was kind of shocked when I realized we were driving six hours for a two night get-away. I'd been thinking it was more like a four-hour drive. My grasp of geography has always been suspect. Basically, we were traveling 345 miles for dinner. No pressure there.

Sometimes its good to be trapped in a car for hours and hours with the one you love. You talk about things you need to discuss and there is no escape. By Woodside we were pretty much talked out and the atmosphere changed. It lifted and lightened. Lunch in Paso Robles was excellent. At least I thought so until I spent much of that night in the hotel bathroom with imploding intestines. Now that's romantic!

Gastric catastrophes aside, it WAS very romantic. It was a short walk to the beach from our hotel in Montecito. The water temperature was perfect for swimming. No wetsuit required. The ocean is incredibly therapeutic. Saltwater will cure whatever ails you in mind or body. It makes my skin feel so good.

I had a huge Planter's wart when I was a young teen.  It was so painful I could barely walk. It was going to be removed when I visited my father on Long Island. A few days of saltwater and the wart was completely cured. We hoped the ocean would cure Eric's 100-day cough, but it didn't. It cured the rest of him. I hadn't seen him so relaxed in years.

My fingernails were a mess so I wandered down the street in Montecito Village for a manicure. I was shocked when they told me the price. Twenty-five dollars for a simple manicure. You might be wondering what they charge for pedicures. Forty-five. So for a mere seventy bucks, before tip, you can leave feeling pretty good. Ridiculous.

The night before we'd gotten ice cream and three tiny scoops were over nine dollars. And I thought we lived in an expensive area. Montecito really has to get over it. Unless you can control the moon and the stars and command the sun to break through the fog, you're just another place.

We were prepared for sticker shock when we arrived for dinner at The Stonehouse. You're paying for the experience and location and the food is very proud of itself as well. The bamboo-covered terrace, with hurricane lamps and sparkly lights, overlooking the property and hillside, was sensational. Eric opened the wine list and gulped. Edna Valley Cabernet started at $280 a bottle. I peeked at the menu. Risotto, at $46, was the least expensive item. Talk about eating (and drinking) above our station!

There is a certain gentle, twinkly sound at high-end restaurants. The Stonehouse was no different. The conversations were interesting in the way only an LA area restaurant can be interesting. The patrons were as eclectic as expected. The gay couple behind us was riveting. One of them had a British accent and a serious stutter.

It was hard not to overhear their conversation, not that we tried. Eric and I love to eavesdrop at restaurants. Allie and I do the same thing. Afterwards we let our imaginations run wild and make up stories about them. At one point the man behind us asked the waitress about a guy called Warner. I had no idea who he was, but he sounded important.

On the drive home the next day I put the google on the ranch. It turns out Warner is the owner. Ty Warner. Ty as in Beanie Babies! The man has 2.6 billion dollars because of Beanie Babies! Lord knows I've contributed my fair share. I must say, the man has amazing taste. It's a legendary location - John and Jackie Kennedy spent their honeymoon there. I'm sure it's always been wonderful, but Ty certainly hasn't ruined it.

We got out of dinner for under three hundred, but it wasn't easy. Was it worth it? Yes. And no. The wine, at $70 a bottle, was mediocre. The abalone appetizer came so drenched in a tetrazzini style sauce that you couldn't taste it. The salad had large chunks of Brie that were way too cold. It was like eating lumps of lard. We fared better with the entrees. My Halibut was outstanding and the portion so generous I couldn't finish it. Eric's dinner was also excellent. The piece of chocolate cake was so so. The lava cake at our local restaurant Vasco is far better.

It's always a let down to be back home. The temperature was a bitter 58 degrees and the gloomy fog dripped on the windshield and swirled around the house. It's hard for me to relax at home. Every place my eye goes there is something for me to do. House projects, the linen aprons I started for Lucy and Allie. Even updating the wills. I do my real estate work at home so that adds to it. For Eric, it's much simpler.He's either at work or at home. That's very old-fashioned, but sometimes I envy it. I'm rarely not working on something. 

My stomach is still protesting so we've been eating simple dinners. We figure two nights of tomato soup and scrambled eggs and our meal at the Ranch hasn't really cost us that much. Dollar cost averaging. And Ruby, the little stinker who wouldn't eat for Lana, she's eating just fine.