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Archive for August, 2009

My grandmother was fond of saying, “I might wear out, but I won’t rust out.”

That was her way of saying that she would keep on keeping on until she could do no more. She would never sit idle. For the last decades of her 80-plus year life, she lived alone in a farm house so far back in the country that people walked toward town to go hunting.

Like so many of her generation, she was resourceful. She was able to use the means at her disposal to meet her situation. She thrived in that simple farm house with wood-burning fireplaces for heat. She made, grew, raised, and re-processed everything she needed for daily life.

Looking back, I draw much inspiration from how simply, yet successfully, she lived. Compared to the typical suburban home owner of today, she lived in poverty with no “modern” conveniences. But she did just fine, thank you very much.

If I could give my students one skill to help them in their lives, I would give them resourcefulness. Resourcefulness would help them when all else fails. Resourcefulness means the difference in, to paraphrase Faulkner, “surviving and prevailing.”

I inherited a lot of my grandmother’s DNA. I have always been resourceful, meaning that I could function with what I had and make do. If I needed something, I could repair a broken one, or in some cases, make it completely. Of course, I am talking about simple things, not the accouterments of today’s techno-society. I am not smart enough to build the tools of a Web 2.0 world.

But I have built houses, restored antique automobiles, fixed what needed fixing around the house, and in general, done what I needed or wanted to get done. After my accident and resulting paraplegia, my resourcefulness kicked in big time to help me function in a world full of barriers for a person with a disability.

I believe that resourcefulness begins early. Children learn how to play with things around them. Their fertile imaginations create toys out of everyday objects. It makes me sad when we adults thrust upon children a regimentation that shuttles them from one experience to another, from this lesson to that lesson, from this activity to that meeting. Let them go into the back yard and play in the dirt.

That is, if you even have a back yard. Every child should have a back yard with real grass and real dirt. Throw in some scrap lumber, some rope, some nails, and some simple hand tools. You will be amazed at what the little darlings might create. Rather than fritter their time away, they will make something happen, something creative and fun. And, at times, they will demonstrate resourcefulness and make something useful.

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Facebook has bought FriendFeed, a social media platform that acts as a clearinghouse for our social media activities. 

According to its Website, “FriendFeed enables you to discover and discuss the interesting stuff your friends find on the web. Read and share however you want — from your email, your phone or even from Facebook. Publish your FriendFeed to your website or blog, or to services you already use, like Twitter.”

The goal seems to be a central place of organization among all the disparate aspects of social media. When told what to look for, FriendFeed collects all the information and lets the social media world know about it.

TweetDeck does some of that by facilitating simultaneous updates to both Twitter and Facebook. Facebook tried it with Facebook Connect. According to Chadwick Matlin writing in The Washington Post, Facebook will make FriendFeed a companion to Facebook Connect.

Matlin believes that Facebook’s purchase of FriendFeed is all about social aggregation, bridging the existing gap between what shows up with our Facebook friends in status updates and all the stuff they do outside of Facebook. Now with FriendFeed, Facebook can create a mash-up, making all that much easier.

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A friend loaned me a collection of priceless letters written during the Civil War by one of his ancestors. Reading these original, hand-written letters just as they were penned and sent is an overwhelming experience.

The soldier, Joseph Theordor Betts, was born in New York City on March 12, 1843. He enlisted in Company E, 2nd Regiment, of the D.C. Volunteers on March 5, 1862., at the age of 18. He was discharged in Washington, D.C. on March 6, 1865. He was a drummer.

Betts’ letters were mostly to his parents. He wrote of things that a young soldier often writes about — missing home, favorite foods, his pay, the latest news. He asks about relatives and friends at home. He expresses love and appreciation for the letters he receives.

The rich descriptive detail of his life as a Union soldier in these horrific times is extraordinary. They provide deeper insight into the life of a young soldier during the Civil War. On top of all that, the fact that his original letters survived to be read in 2009 is amazing.

Another aspect of Betts’ letters home is the incredible quality of his penmanship. A lost art these days, Betts penmanship is calligraphy by today’s standards. His letters are simply beautiful. Though stained, faded, and worn, the beauty of his writing shines through.

One particular letter moved me. It was dated December 2, 1863, and was written to his parents from a camp near my hometown of Vienna, Virginia.

This collection of letters is a remarkable gift to be handed down through the ages in my friend’s family. I can’t help but think of today’s correspondence. Will someone one day tell his or her daughter, “Honey, here is a collection of your great, great, great grandfather’s Tweets from when he was stationed in Afghanistan.

That just does not have the poignancy of these hand-written letters. Sadly, hand-written letters are a lost art. The U.S. Postal Service is currently closing offices and cutting back service due to lower volumes of mail. We love the immediacy of email, Twitter, etc. I do, too. But I keep my collection of fountain pens and inks and still get satisfaction from writing real correspondence.

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