Manage communication breakdown


telephone-1822040_640One of my friends, who I’ve only known for a quarter-century wondered how we manage communication, She has four different email accounts, three WhatsApp groups; texts via mobile phone and Facebook account and DMs on Twitter and Facebook.

I’m exhausted just reading the trimmed list.

There were times in the past, it seems, that most people we wanted to reach could be accessed by a single methodology, first by letter, then by phone. As technology has grown, and users’ learning curves differ, it seems more difficult to contact everyone.

Most snail mail I throw into a drawer and leave until it’s nearly full. Then once a month, the great purge, sorting the recyclable from the shreddable material.

Our olde cellphones

Both my wife and I don’t text much because our phones, hers most especially, are old. When my sister became injured a couple years back, the conversations on my phone came through, but not the graphics. Incidentally, I don’t know how old my phone IS. I know it’s less than five years, from something I blogged. Subsequently, I lost that phone in a hotel and had to get a new one, which drains battery power far too quickly. So the phone is off unless I initiate its use.

My wife was added to a text chat and didn’t even know it. She missed some info about a topic of import to her. Now her phone is prehistoric, more than a decade old, possibly older than a certain teenager we know. Actually, my wife will be getting a new phone soon, but we had to wait for the service provider to change hands.

People who text don’t understand folks who don’t.

There was the mom of a friend of my daughter. I could call her on the phone, leave a message, but never get a response. If I Instant Messaged her on Facebook, nearly instant response. But when my daughter IMs me, and I’m not online, she’ll call me to scold me to check my Facebook. Why she can’t just TELL me the info, now that she reached me?

The landline phone answering machine is iffy. I’ll get a message, but if my wife plays it back, I might not notice until the number of recorded messages gets long enough.

I know people who have email but check it only sporadically. It appears to be my primary form of communication. But it will be overwhelmingly crowded until November because every Democratic candidate for President and their common opponent contact me constantly. I delete most of them quickly, but still.

Oh, I should check my AOL account every three months. I keep it as a “recovery for passwords” email. What IS my AOL password? I’ll need to get a recovery text.

I have Twitter and Instagram and LinkedIn, but I seldom actually look at any of them. At least I don’t have to manage communications at the job anymore. No work email or phone mail or snail mail messages. <?strong>

Mansplaining and other forms of communication

There are lots of terms just alienate some people. Black Lives Matter. White privilege. Institutional racism.

mansplainer1Arthur, the executive producer of the vast AmeriNZ empire wonders:

How do you reconcile agreeing philosophically with people, yet being #@$%*! annoyed with them? I’m thinking of political activists, religious people, whatever. Generally speaking, do you tend to focus on the agreement and ignore what annoys you, or does your annoyance prevent you from acknowledging the agreement?

I used to have this brother-in-law. Back in 1977, my gypsy year, I crashed on his and my sister’s sofa during the summer. They lived in Queens, but he and I occasionally went into Manhattan on the subway. He was all into renewable energy, the kind of ideas President Jimmy Carter was talking about – and America largely rejected. But BIL was a sanctimonious pain, who would point out the foibles of other people – “No one is talking to each other” – while oblivious to his own.

I have found that period to be useful training in dealing with political activists this season, especially the Jill Stein for President people. Not that I can’t get a little irritable. I was asked if I really thought Clinton would do the litany of things she said, and I said yes, she’d make the effort, on the domestic front. Then I was told why I was wrong. Hey, do you want my opinion, which you asked for, or not? I got an apology out of that, shocking in the Facebook era.

Hey, I understand voting for the Green Party. I voted for Nader, twice, for President. I voted Green Party for governor at least thrice because New York State has this peculiar provision that, in order to have people registered in the party, the gubernatorial candidate has to get a certain threshold of votes. So don’t get all “you’re a sellout” on me.

I have a friend who’s aggravated by the imperfection of a certain religious institution in terms of inclusiveness, though it’s trying hard to meet that ideal. She’s frustrated; I’m of the opinion that it’s heading in the right direction, but the entity is made up of flawed, imperfect people – aren’t we all? – wanting to do the correct thing.

So it is situationally dependent. I’m fine with the Stein people – I don’t tell them they’re really voting for Trump. But they need to allow me the same courtesy. And religious people who, for reasons of goodwill, do the wrong thing, I sigh and say, “OK, did you know why someone might find that offensive?” But I don’t give up the ship, or the fight, or whatever analogy I’m going for.

We often hear about “mansplaining“, when a man, usually arrogantly, “explains” things to a woman. I recently also heard “whitesplaning” to describe white people “explaining” to black people what the nature of racism is, Black Lives Matter, etc. In your opinion, is there such a thing as “blacksplaining”?

[LAUGHS HEARTILY.] Oh, yeah, and I’ve heard it all my life, long before the term existed. And it comes from all political stripes, including people on the left who tell me X is racist when I just don’t see it.

Oh, and I don’t think “splaining” is always arrogant. Patronizing, sure.

And, are all these “splaining” names useful for understanding and exposing bias, or are they attempts to shut down debate? Are they used to intimidate people into silence, or are they merely a way to get people to see their own blind spots and arrogance?

Yes, it can be all of the above.

I got into some FB conversation with a guy I’ve known only online. Some woman accused him of mansplaining, and I thought she was correct. He did not, and went back and forth with the woman, and a bit from me.

By the end of the conversation, I was willing to concede, as he wanted, that maybe he wasn’t mansplaining, but he was just being, in his words, “an arrogant prick.” Hey, you win.

There are lots of terms that just alienate some people. Black Lives Matter. White privilege. Institutional racism. Racist, which, according to more than a few, only applies to people who wear white robes and hoods. So person T can’t be racist because he knows some black people, and some of them even endorse him for President.

Some days, I think calling someone a racist is unproductive, not because it’s untrue, but because it defines the totality of who they are, and they get their hackles up. (Random thought: What IS a hackle?)

Occasionally I find it easier to talk about racist acts because that’s more manageable. Of course, then they start quoting Avenue Q. They compare a verbal gaffe with excluding minorities from housing units, and shrug, “Well, everyone’s a little racist,” as though they were at all equivalent.


Music and communication

I do have affection for Chester A. Arthur.

cher-dyingMore Ask Roger Anything questions from Chris:

How do you explain to your daughter how to vet sources?

It must be from an example. Just recently, my daughter said, of a tabloid cover in the supermarket, “Cher isn’t really dying, is she?” We watch a couple of news networks, plus Comedy Central, not every day, but often enough, so she can clearly see that shows often offer different emphases.

In your opinion, is Wikipedia a reliable source?

Depends on the topic, and the compiler. There’s an old cliche about a newspaper providing perfect information for topics I know nothing about, but less so for things with which I am familiar. I recently linked to the Wikipedia for the band Blotto, and I noticed that it NEVER mentioned the band members’ actual names. This was a failing.

Some posts are frozen in amber, perfectly accurate as of November 2013, e.g., but not so much today. Whereas other posts are updated regularly to reflect new music released or films made. Deaths are often, but not always, caught.

I specifically remember that back in 2004 or 2005, I corrected a mention that the next Presidential election would be in 2007, when, of course, it was 2008.

Still, when I’m doing research for a topic about which I know nothing, Wikipedia can be very useful, ESPECIALLY the links to the various footnotes.

What’s one area of scientific research that you think we should be funding more (other than medicine and climate change)?

Well, climate change is huge and would include the potential for everything from island nations flooding to the future loss of the maple syrup industry from the continental United States. Once you’ve eliminated climate change and medicine, what I think you have left is space exploration. It has very often answered many questions for answers here on earth, including those two topics.
What’s been the most surprising world change in your lifetime?

Communication, for good and for ill. You make friends on Facebook with people around the world, you have fights with total strangers on Facebook, often about really stupid stuff. You text your friends, while you ignore those physically around you.

I’ve been the guy reading the newspaper, maybe only a dozen years ago, and someone, as often as not, would comment on a story, or maybe just quietly read over my shoulder. Or I’d read over someone else’s shoulder. Those electronic devices don’t seem to open one up to one’s immediate environment, even as one can learn about the most recent terrorism in Turkey.

The Internet allows for more information, but also misinformation, disinformation, satire, lies. We can see Arab Spring or police misconduct, but also LOL cats and Stare-down Sammy, which got 34 million views on Facebook, and was shown on the CBS morning news; I thought it was a waste of air time.

There have been conspiracy theories for a long time, but they can propagate far more freely these days. Even objective facts will be disputed, and as a person dealing with, ideally, objective information, this can be both frustrating and exhausting. (See also my answer about Google.)

I’ve actually had this conversation about an article someone read. (I’m a librarian; a variation of this happens a LOT.)

Her: Is it true?
Me: Where did the information come from?
Her: Facebook!
Me: But what was the ORIGINAL SOURCE of the information?
Her: I TOLD you, Facebook!

Who is your favorite president and why?

Franklin Delano Roosevelt. He was rich and rather pompous and arrogant. His ailment thought to be polio at the time, but now believed to be Guillain-Barre syndrome, humbled him, and made him a champion for those less well off. And he had a great partner in Eleanor, with whom he seemed to have achieved an understanding regarding his infidelity.

He was imperfect, the Japanese internment being chief among his failures. But he initiated a lot of useful programs, some of which are around today, such as Social Security and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.

I do, though, have affection for Chester A. Arthur, a product of the spoils system who became a reformer for civil service.

Tom the Mayor queried:

What is your Favorite Beatles song?

The last time I made a list, it was 3. Help 2 Got To Get You Into My Life 1 Tomorrow Never Knows. Re: TNK, I recently saw Paul, Ringo, and Georges Harrison and Martin discuss its intricacies. But Help! is something I can sing with my daughter.

What is your Favorite Aretha Franklin Song?

The last time I made a list, it was 4. (Sweet Sweet Baby) Since You’ve Been Gone 3. (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman 2. Sweet Bitter Love (1966). 1. Respect
Of course, Respect is a great cover. Since You’ve Been Gone has always been a favorite because it stifled deejays. But Sweet Bitter Love was in a quartet (or more) of songs that I played when romance went south.

What is your Favorite Joni Mitchell song?

The last time I made a list, it was 2. A Case of You 1. River. River reminds me of my late friend Donna George. But the poetry of A Case of You touches me too.

Communications breakdown

The real problem is that, in the state budget cuts, a lot of institutional memory is being lost; NO ONE, at least that I could find, knows the answer to the question.


I was listening to the podcast the Kunstlercast a few weeks ago. James Howard Kunstler and Duncan Crary “have a ramble ‘n rant episode on the robotification of our communications landscape, that wasteland of overcomplexity and hyperdependence of modern technology.” I so related.

In my job, I use a lot of computer databases. But inevitably, I need to call various government and association contact by phone. Talking with someone, I often find information that an entity possesses, and it is NOT on the website. Ironically, a lot of government agencies initially set up their pages so they could offload staff.

Of course, GETTING to that person is a treacherous thing. I swear that half the people who perform those long-winded introductions never actually tried to then call their own office to see how frustrating it is to use. Worse, I’ll get to the “if you want X, dial 1” part, and, as often as not, I don’t want ANY of those choices; I generally pick something at random. Others give a bunch of names, often without titles; generally, I’ll pick the second one, for no reason except that the first is often the CEO and probably can’t answer my question anyway.

The real problem is that, in the state budget cuts, a lot of institutional memory is being lost; NO ONE, at least that I could find, knows the answer to the question.

Oh No! Gilligan Is Dead! I Read It On Facebook! True enough: Bob Denver died – SEVEN years ago this week. Whereas Art Modell, who “enraged fans when he moved the Cleveland Browns franchise to Baltimore,” where they became the Ravens, actually died THIS week.

Some Led Zeppelin.

The Lydster, Part 99: Her Father’s Daughter

We’ve been singing “Build Me Up, Buttercup” together.

For years, part of the running shtick between my wife and me has been this: I ask her a question. She responds to the question. Then I ask the question again, because, while I have some information, I often don’t have the ANSWER. I must say that, early on, it used to drive me crazy. Now, I just recognize it as just the way it is.

Here’s an example from a couple of months ago. I had seen some fresh strawberries in the refrigerator earlier, so I asked her where they had gone. She replied, “Well, I was going to make strawberry shortcake, but that fell by the wayside.” Puzzled, I was about to say, “Oh..kay, honey…but where are the strawberries?” which was my actual question. But instead, Lydia said, “But mommy, where are the strawberries?” I had a VERY difficult time not breaking into uncontrollable laughter. Lydia reacted the same as I did. And worse, she knew it.

We also do a lot of singing together. She has a CD of cover versions of a wide variety of songs, from pop tunes to patriotic songs. We’ve been singing “Build Me Up, Buttercup” together. But “Take Me Home, Country Road” is usually her solo performance.

Of course, there are things that Lydia gravitates towards my wife’s interests, such as watching/participating in figure skating or sharing conversations about clothing and jewelry. Still, I’m happy about when she and I connect.

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