I Am Not for Sale (But I Used to Be)

Several years ago I visited Charleston SC on a vacation. While there I toured the Aiken-Rhett House, which was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1977 and is now a museum. I love museums and I love old houses, but the Aiken-Rhett House is unique among all the old house museums I’ve ever been to: it retains an outbuilding that once contained slave quarters (discreetly described as “servants’ quarters” in the NRHP nomination form).

I arrived at the house shortly after it opened to visitors for the day, so had it pretty much to myself. I followed the audio tour through the main house, then walked out the back door. Two nearly identical buildings flanked the courtyard—to the left, the stables; to the right, the slaves’ quarters. I went up the stairs to the second floor, above the kitchen. The small rooms, which reminded me of a bargain motel, were where the slaves had once lived. They were mostly bare—I remember a wooden bed frame without a mattress and a simple wooden table—because slaves’ furnishings were not saved as heirlooms and very few have survived the years.

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Of Klout, My First Ambulance Ride, and Chicken Thighs

The subject of Klout keeps coming back in the #UsGuys Twitter stream. We love to measure it, malign it, debate it… But we can’t resist checking our own scores now and then, if only to say that they are a fraction of a point too high or too low, which disproves the whole premise.

I’ll go easy on Klout. In most respects I find it to be a decent measure of a person’s effectiveness on Twitter—no other social network (as of today), but pretty good at measuring how well someone uses Twitter. A score of over 60 is very good; the single digits signal a newbie or a bot.

Anyway, my Klout score has stagnated lately because I’ve been using Twitter less. It goes back to about three weeks ago, when I got my first ride in an ambulance. I wasn’t the patient: that was my Dad. He’s had type 2 diabetes for years and it’s well controlled by medication, but occasionally his blood sugar goes a bit too low and he suffers from hypoglycemia. He’s passed out two or three times before, always briefly, and he always recovered quickly once he got some sugar in him. But this time he happened to pass out on the checkout line at a local supermarket. It caused a bit of a fuss.

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Relationships Are Becoming Virtual. Get Over it.

For at least two years, I’ve been hearing and reading about how social media is taking over our lives. It’s terrible. It’s revolutionary. We love it. We hate it. It needs to stop. We need to learn how to use it. What will we do when the bubble bursts?

It’s time to get over it. Social media is not a fad, although some of the particular websites that have been popular early on (such as MySpace) are struggling and may disappear. Like other electronic technology it will continue to evolve. But it’s not going away.

It’s time to stop arguing about if and start discussing the who, what, when, where, why and how of social media.

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Eh, Canada: A Love Story (Part 2)

This is a continuation of Monday’s post, recalling a visit to Québec in March 2002. Hope it’s a lot warmer in Toronto for tomorrow’s #UsGuys Toronto meetup!

ART + HISTORY + CUISINE = CULTURE

One more day in Québec: I wanted to squeeze in as much as I could. I started with breakfast at a little restaurant across the Place d’Armes from the Chateau Frontenac, another discovery that wasn’t in the tourist guides. The waitress greeted me with a flood of French; I understood only the first and last words, “bonjour” and “cafe.” That was enough.

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By the time I’d finished eating, the Musée d’Art Inuit Brousseau was open. After being in Québec a few days, I was used to everything being labelled in French and English, but here there were also notations in an unfamiliar alphabet—Inuit, I suppose? Really, I didn’t need label copy; just looking at the smooth stone carvings was enough. After the galleries, there are a video tape and a smaller room with a temporary exhibit. And then the shop! This was not your typical museum gift shop; it’s an art gallery in its own right. The saleswoman found me eying an ulu with wistful desire. How would I ever get an Inuit knife past the metal detectors at the airport?? And the statues? Just too expensive! She asked if I’d ever seen any Inuit art before, and I said I had (the Museum of Natural History had a small gallery on Inuits, though I think they still used the word “Eskimo”). She then pointed out that Inuit carvings were only just becoming popular, and few pieces in the museum dated back more than a few decades. “Anything before 1960 is considered quite old,” she said.

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