Tag Archives: technology

Trust Me; The FBI Wouldn’t Want my iPhone

www.melindawentzel.comI have an iPhone, similar to the one that caused the hullabaloo in the news cycle in recent weeks. As you might recall, there is a great deal of controversy surrounding the issue of privacy and national security as it relates to the San Bernardino shooters. In sum, the FBI wants to extract data from a particular iPhone owned by one of the gunmen, Syed Farook, in hopes of obtaining more information about the December attack in California.

Like a lot of people, I have mixed feelings about the matter since I can clearly see the benefit of unlocking the device in order to learn more about the crime’s particulars, yet I can also envision the potential negative of such an encroachment, setting an unwelcome precedent that may affect law-abiding citizens. As is the case with so many conundrums, knowing what is right is far more difficult than doing what is right.

One thing I know for sure, however, is that the FBI wouldn’t want my iPhone under any circumstances. Trust me. If, in fact, the government were to confiscate it, I’m certain they’d be disturbed by a number of things that would likely cause them to chuck it in the nearest river. First and foremost, they would be horrified by the egregiously unimaginative set of numbers I’ve assigned to its passcode—much like the predictable nature of those I use to guard practically everything in my life.

What’s more, they would be appalled to learn how many times my kids text from school to tell me they forgot

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something of vital importance, how often I ignore the directional advice of Google Maps and wind up perfectly lost, or the amount of time my husband and I discuss dog poop. Yes, dog poop. (It’s a long story and you probably wouldn’t be interested). At any rate, officials would also discover the unhealthy obsession with which I text in complete sentences, almost always using proper grammar, capitalization and punctuation—to a fault. My teens, of course, have come to expect such dysfunction in our family, but even still they roll their eyes at me. “Who does that?” they’ll ask with more than a little disdain.

Furthermore, I have serious issues with misspelled words and inadvertent omissions within my messages. Needless to say, it kills me to send them out into the world like that—broken and/or woefully incomplete. That said, I am positively fixated upon retyping them until they’re right. It’s a sickness, I know. By the same token, using abbreviations for common words or phrases would imply that I’m beyond lazy, and I’m simply not ready to admit anything of the sort to the government or to anyone else. Also, relying upon Siri to translate my speech into text while I’m driving is just IMG_0476asking for trouble. Quite frankly, she never gets it right, and then I have to pull the car over, delete her drivel and retype the stupid message—the one that could have been delivered long ago had I simply taken the time to hunt and peck on my tiny keyboard.

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In a related matter, I’m convinced that AutoCorrect is demonic and revels in its ability to thwart my repeated attempts to curse. After dealing with Siri’s ineptitude, it’s no wonder I feel compelled to use colorful language. So, of course, I persevere despite being hampered by the evils of spell-check gone awry. If nothing else, the FBI would be inspired by my determined efforts. Probably.

By contrast, it’s likely they would be largely uninspired by the cache of photos stored within my phone—the ones that feature food on a plate, unabashed selfies with my dogs and a PROFUSION of odd pictures and videos that my kids have taken upon hacking my phone. Because, of course, they think it’s funny to zoom in on chin rolls and nose hairs.

In sum, I think it’s safe to say that my iPhone won’t be seized by government officials anytime soon.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live. Join me there at www.facebook.com/NotesfromPlanetMom.

Copyright 2016 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under Normal is Relative, Techno Tripe

Exhaust the Little Moment

IMG_0365Without question, I am the most incompetent individual using Snapchat on the planet today, a Neanderthal when it comes to hi-tech forums for sharing photos and videos via smartphones and the like. I know this to be true because my teenage daughters broke the devastating news to me. Thankfully, I’m not particularly devastated by it—just discouraged, and slightly annoyed by my failure to embrace yet another trend in social media.

According to my brood, it seems that I’ve missed the whole point of said craze. While I’m fixated upon sharing my treasured photographs, clever memes and the occasional video clip with friends and family on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, I’m passionate about preserving them as well. Like seashells I’ve culled from the miles of shoreline I’ve trekked, I want to enjoy them later, slowly turning them over in my hands, feeling the grit of sand between my fingers, revisiting the memory that was created in the gathering process.

Such is not the case with Snapchat, however. It’s a transient beast. A keyhole view of life that self-destructs within mere seconds. A way of capturing the gloriousness of an instant (serious or silly as that might be), and then letting it die, just as the ephemeral traces of fireworks fade into the dark of night.

Needless to say, the whole thing seems completely foreign to me and I’m having great difficulty wrapping my mind around the concept, despite the fact that Thing One and Thing Two have spent upwards of FIVE WHOLE MINUTES trying to help me understand. Of course, how could I expect them to invest more time, given the fact that they’re terribly busy Snapchatting with their inner circle of cyber friends? However, I’m part of that inner circle now, so it’s all good.

At any rate, I’m fairly certain that neither of the aforementioned teenagers have read any poetry by Gwendolyn Brooks. But somehow they’ve managed to apply a smattering of her most storied words to their lives.

“Exhaust the little moment. Soon it dies. And be it gash or gold it will not come again in this identical disguise.”

Apparently, the beauty of this particular form of media sharing is in its impermanence, forcing would-be recipients to attend to the content of what is sent. Naturally, I can envision a host of opportunities for abuse among teens and tweens in this venue, but at this juncture in time I choose to focus on what is positive about it. Perhaps I can even learn to love that which is decidedly temporary—a lesson that can surely be applied to life itself on a grander scale, much as Brooks opined. Indeed, our hearts are only beating—temporarily, so we may as well make the most of it.

Further, Snapchat has afforded me a tiny glimpse into the colorful teenaged world in which my daughters currently reside, beyond taking note of which books, movies and YouTube tripe happens to intrigue them at the moment. Crazy as it sounds, it gives me the chance to connect a little more, too, engaging on their level, joining in their fun, speaking their language for a time—albeit clumsily. I get to look on as they revel in the art of just being themselves as well, which is a gift in every sense of the word, especially as they begin keeping me at arm’s length more and more with each passing year.

Granted, Snapchat may not be as endearing or prized as hearing firsthand about a certain someone’s latest crush, perceived injustice or small victory, but it’s something, and that something is good.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live. Snapchatting. Sort of. Visit me there at www.Facebook.com/NotesfromPlanetMom.

Copyright 2015 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under Gratitude, Growing Pains, Techno Tripe, The Natives are Decidedly Restless

Call Me Crazy: Crazy for My iPhone

www.melindawentzel.comAs love affairs with cell phones go, the one I am about to describe is epic. Not that I’m the only person ever to become enamored with his or her smartphone—because I’m not. Plenty of idiots like me cling to their dear Droids and BlackBerries, inextricably fused to the deliciousness of those handheld wonders and to the epitome of shameless egocentrism. It’s just that I have trouble wrapping my head around the hideous nature of my fixation.

And by hideous, I mean that it is both appalling and unhealthy, never mind indefensible. Indeed, those with whom I reside will readily attest: “Mom, it’s like you have a crush on your phone or something. I seriously think you need an intervention—or possibly a better hobby.”

Case in point: In the dark of predawn, I abandon the warmth of my bed and stumble across the room, drawn to the soft glow of my beloved phone—a moth to flame. As if nothing else mattered, I scan breaking news from a never-ending stream of sources, devour the latest nuggets of idiocy on Twitter, check my email and, of course, peruse the Facebook statuses of 300 of my closest friends. Admittedly, I’ve got a problem.

Oddly enough, just a few short months ago I mocked those who appeared to be tethered to their precious devices—i.e. the people who routinely careen into oak trees and ill-fated produce towers while attempting to walk and text at the same time. The cool and detached who no longer engage in meaningful, face-to-face conversations, preferring instead the wit and wisdom of Siri, who understands them more completely anyway. Dweebs who have the audacity to sit across from one another in a café (or the same cussed living room), maniacally tapping screens and peering into their palms as if they each held a tiny, companionable wizard—which is disturbingly close to reality, now that I think about it.

Ironically, I’ve become one of those people—ever-so-smitten with my iPhone, unable to resist its wily charms and perfectly debilitated by its consuming allure. Never before did I imagine a fascination or dependency so profound. With each passing day, it lures me deeper and deeper into the tangled wood of its enchanted forest. Good thing I’m equipped with a state-of-the-art GPS and a user-friendly navigation app I downloaded for free.

At any rate, I cannot deny my crippling obsession with the aforementioned gadgetry, nor can I refute the fact that I feel naked without it. Especially in the shower. Despite my best efforts to prevent it from seeping into every corner of my life, it has become my muse, my constant companion, the yang to my yin.

My husband, by contrast, tends to regard it as a) a disease, b) the pure embodiment of Lucifer, and c) a tech-inspired monstrosity he would gleefully launch into the stratosphere if he had his druthers.

Clearly, the man doesn’t understand the bond my phone and I share or how said device “completes me” (and my sentences if need be). Nor could he possibly grasp the deep and abiding love I have for iTunes…and iCalendar…andIMG_0175 word games, or how patently delirious I was when I first discovered Instagram or that I could look up inane facts involving the lifespan of headless cockroaches WHILE listening to Zeppelin AND using the built-in alarm to remind me to haul my brood to the soccer field. Likewise, he couldn’t begin to recognize the delectable nature of speech bubbles or why I smile each time my kids iMessage me. Moreover, I think FaceTime frightens him.

Indeed, it’s a complicated sort of relationship—one that my dear husband will probably never fully appreciate. He doesn’t care that I spent an inordinate chunk of time learning how to properly waggle my phone, that I googled an embarrassment of app-related tutorials in order to become minimally functional or that I endured countless sessions with my tech-savvy charges who found me “impossible to work with.”

In the end, I suppose it doesn’t matter. I’m still crazy for my iPhone.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live, wooed beyond comprehension. Visit me there at www.facebook.com/NotesfromPlanetMom and now www.Instagram.com/PlanetMomPics.

Copyright 2013 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under Techno Tripe, We Put the Fun in Dysfunction

The Value of Permanence

Lots of things in this world are disturbing to me. Greed, poverty and heinous crime. The demise of the planet and the pervasiveness of mediocrity. Mismatched socks and the death of Gilligan’s Island. Oddly enough, I include technology on that list, too—or more correctly, the alarming pace at which technological devices are mass produced, marketed to the public and propelled into the great abyss of planned obsolescence. It’s as if we’re cultivating a generation of people who care less and less about the enduring nature of things and more about the latest nugget of innovation that promises to improve society in some novel way. That said, I fear that my kids will grow to devalue the permanence of things—despite the fact that on this particular day the notion seems wholly inconceivable.

As I’ve described so many times before (occasionally in horrific detail) the hoarding tendencies of Thing One and Thing Two are beyond all comprehension—as is their love of sameness. Ostensibly, their mission in life is to avoid change at all possible costs and to amass virtually every molecule of that which is deemed worthy of collecting—heaping it upon dressers, shoving it beneath beds and stowing it into forgotten corners of our pitifully disordered garage. Of course, they’ve come by this trait honestly. Captain Clutter could, at any given time, produce the following: a receipt for a television we no longer own, a tool I have never once seen in my life, an impressive array of his artwork from the fifth grade, a prized stash of his baby teeth. Yes, baby teeth. I wish I were joking.

At any rate, the hoarding gene seems inextricably present within my brood, although to some extent this gives me comfort because it implies there is hope that my daughters will feel compelled to hold on to the remnants of life that truly matter—the tangible stuff that will trigger memories long after I’m gone, serving to moor them to their childhood.

Like any good cynic, I’m skeptical that an electronic record could preserve the past on par with that which I can hold in my hands. Further, bits and bytes seem inordinately complex and elusive to me. Ethereal almost. Not to mention, data stored in this fashion is far from safe in my charge, having managed to delete countless items to my utter dismay. My husband, too, has mourned the loss of infinitely dear morsels of remembrances, having inadvertently erased a snippet of speech from his cell phone not long ago—one that was placed there by a certain six-year-old who breathlessly told of some robins who had apparently “…lost their way, Daddy!” Her voice, filled impossibly with the exuberance of youth on that memorable January day, cannot be replicated.

Indeed, lapses in judgment happen. Computers crash. Files become corrupt or irretrievable. That which is irreplaceable can be woefully distorted or lost entirely. What’s more, the digital wonders of the 21st century, although truly wonderful, somehow lack the essential element of palpability in my mind—especially as keepsakes go. Pictures and even video clips of my family at the shore simply cannot compare with the sack full of shells we gathered together and hauled back to Pennsylvania because someone insisted that we “…take the beach home, Mom. It’ll help us remember.” Even still, the briny scent of the sea hits me squarely when I open the bag to finger our bounty once more and to poke at the grains of sand that have settled to the bottom. In an instant I am back at the beach, feeling the warmth beneath my feet and hearing the gulls shriek over the waves that pound without end.

Likewise, an email doesn’t possess near the charm that a handwritten letter does—especially if doodles have been scrawled in the margins or a violet has been carefully tucked within the folds of the paper. Nor can a digital photograph compete with the inherent brilliance of a grainy, black and white 35 mm print. Moreover, a text message is not remotely related to a lunchbox note, or one that awaits beneath a bed pillow at day’s end.

Color me old-fashioned, resistant-to-change—a dinosaur even. That aside, I feel connected to what’s real and right for me.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (tethered forever to that which is tangible). Visit me there at www.facebook.com/NotesfromPlanetMom.

Copyright 2010 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under Love and Other Drugs, Welcome to My Disordered World

An Affair to Remember: A Passion for All-Things-Digital

Checkout lines depress me lately. Not only because a goodly share of today’s merchandise seems exorbitantly priced and fairly superficial, but because I’m hard pressed to remember the last time someone actually counted back my measly change—placing the bills and proper coinage into my ungrateful little hands in a piecemeal fashion. Which is sort of pathetic. It seems that clerks can punch keys and bag wares with great fervor and efficiency (some with the suggestion of a smile even), but when it comes to making change in the aforementioned manner (which would imply both humanness and intellect), many are sorely lacking. Instead, they routinely shove a wad of cash in my direction, eager to inspire my swift departure, completely insensitive to my need for order and convention.

Perhaps I would do well to step outside myself, though—to view the matter from a cashier’s perspective. I mean, why bother learning the menial task when a machine can spit out the correct sum instantaneously? To make throwbacks like me happy. That’s why. I happen to like the notion of reliance on someone’s mind as opposed to someone’s software.

Call me crazy.

That said, I fear we’re creating a generation of individuals who can neither think nor do for themselves. Despite the best of intentions, technology appears to be making us both deplorably unimaginative and woefully dependent. Indeed, it seems odd that the best and brightest of our time—the independent thinkers who can be credited with some of the most awe-inspiring inventions designed to improve life—have enabled society to slide, perhaps unwittingly, into the abyss of perpetual neediness. How ironic.

Heaven forbid we attempt to function without our beloved gadgetry—the stuff we’ve allowed to seep into our pores like a drug, rendering us wholly incapable of resisting its allure. Our Smart Phones and Google TV. Our eReaders and Internet Tablets. Our iPods and iPads. Digital this and digital that. And let us not forget our dear TomToms and Garmins, the insanely addictive devices designed to guide us to the familiar and to the frighteningly obscure, because, of course, no one can read a fricking map anymore. Gone are the days of marking desired routes with a big, yellow highlighter and tallying mileage to derive ETA’s—which, oddly enough, always left me with a gratifying sense of accomplishment. That’s code for: I was able to adequately address the infamous “Are we there yet?” queries by handing my brood said marked-up map and suggesting they put their heads together and figure it out.

By the same token, it would appear that kids are no longer able to entertain themselves (given the techno-laden wish lists to which I’ve been privy, and the vast amount of time my heathens spend on PhotoBooth). In any event, the message being delivered to our impressionable youth via the media is slightly disturbing: BE VERY AFRAID OF BOREDOM. ELECTRONIC DEVICES PROMISE A NEVERENDING STREAM OF AMUSEMENT AND COMPANIONSHIP. Thank you very little, Nintendo, XBox and Wii. My children now think it’s uncool to play with Barbies, to climb trees and to devour books. What’s more, they’re fairly enraged because I won’t let them have cell phones. Gasp! So they crafted their own. Complete with penciled-on keypads and cameras. Oy.

Moreover, I’m troubled by this new age of texts and tweets—the one in which pithiness is not only embraced, but celebrated. I worry about future generations and their collective ability to compose thoughts—never mind complete sentences and properly spelled words. Quite frankly, the whole “short message system” makes a mockery of self-expression. It urges us to cut corners, to mutilate words, to discount grammar, to stop short of saying what needs to be said, TO THINK IN 160 CHARACTER BURSTS—which is wrong on so many levels I can’t begin to express my displeasure. Granted, I’m hopelessly addicted to both texts and tweets, however I have standards and an abiding allegiance to the written word. Translation: My tweets are long and rambling and my texts are veritable tomes that make the geeks at Verizon cringe.

Call me a rebel.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live. Visit me there at www.facebook.com/NotesfromPlanetMom.

Copyright 2010 Melinda L. Wentzel

1 Comment

Filed under Rantings & Ravings, Techno Tripe

The Protocol of Love

No one writes love letters anymore it seems—the carefully folded squares upon which fools in love used to pour their hearts and souls, wooing the socks off each other with amorous prose and flawless penmanship. There was something to be said for the renderings of hearts pierced with arrows, too, and the TOGETHER FOREVER proclamations that were scribbled in the margins, punctuating the sentiment that flowed from their pens. Never mind the curlicues sprinkled like confetti across the pages of so many heartfelt messages. The handwritten letter, it seems, is all but extinct.

And while Hallmark does its level best to provide us with a host of perfect wordages for every occasion and our love affair with the instantaneous nature of texting, et al. has blossomed beyond all imagining, somehow these methods of communicating fall short. That said, they lack a certain warmth and palpable quality that only handcrafted ink-on-paper love letters possess.

But it’s unlikely that generations from now any curious-minded descendents of my children will happen upon a bundle of yellowed envelopes in a forgotten corner of anyone’s attic. And even if someone did, said discovery certainly wouldn’t be as remarkable as the cache of a dozen or so letters my husband and I unearthed in recent memory—the ones that were affectionately penned almost seven decades ago by a man deeply in love with his future wife—a man who had joined the Navy and was stationed far from home—a man who would one day become my husband’s father—a man that I, sadly, never knew, but whose letters have helped me bridge the gap.

My mother-in-law, of course, had carefully tucked the aforementioned keepsakes away, and it was some time after her passing that we stumbled upon them in a dresser drawer along with war rations and assorted snapshots from their early life together. Call me crazy, but I can’t imagine anyone digitally preserving treasured emails and text messages for much the same purpose. Alas, the world’s collective mindset has become far too intent upon immediacy and the disposable nature of things for that sort of nonsense.

Indeed, the entire landscape of courtship is a different place these days—no thanks to technology. Evidently it’s no longer in vogue to spend a Sunday afternoon having dinner and getting to know the parents of one’s love interest. The youth of today can’t be bothered with idle chitchat or something as dreadfully dull as sitting around in front of a fireplace, tackling a project together or (gasp!) playing cards at the kitchen table. Never mind taking the time to become familiar with his or her family traditions, cultural background or getting a grip on the dynamics within the family unit itself. Evidently, Facebook is the place where those things are shared nowadays—unless and until messiness ensues (i.e. breakups and whatnot). “What then?!” I ask. Does the proper protocol involve un-friending the would-be significant other/potential mate of one’s child? For all intents and purposes, that seems completely gauche to me. And awkward at best. Needless to say, life’s muck-in-the-middle doesn’t translate especially well via social media. A Facebook fail, as it were.

Furthermore, since the advent of cell phones, parents are virtually removed from the day to day connecting with those who feel compelled to telephone ad nauseam. Personally, I like intercepting those calls for my daughters because it gives me a fleeting chance to become better acquainted with the gentleman caller—whether he happens to fit the profile of an axe murderer, he is the epitome of son-in-law-material, or perhaps the most charming fourth grade boy the world will ever know. That said, I’m in no hurry to add Thing One and Thing Two to our ever-expanding cell phone plan. Our land line is just fine, thank you very much.

Likewise, I will rue the day any daughter of mine announces she’s getting married—unless, of course, the aforementioned epitome of son-in-law-material with whom said daughter would be enamored had had the presence of mind to seek our blessing and approval first. As it should be. However, I fear that sort of creature is a dying breed. Even still, I hope he’ll craft an abundance of handwritten love letters—ones that she will save till the ink fades, but not the memories they make together.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (lamenting the changing face of love).

Copyright 2011 Melinda L. Wentzel

2 Comments

Filed under Love and Other Drugs

An Affair to Remember: A Passion for All-Things-Digital

Makeshift Cell Phone (w/ Texting Keypad and Pics of Endearing Pets)

Checkout lines depress me lately. Not only because a goodly share of today’s merchandise seems exorbitantly priced and fairly superficial, but because I’m hard pressed to remember the last time someone actually counted back my measly change—placing the bills and proper coinage into my ungrateful little hands in a piecemeal fashion. Which is sort of pathetic. It seems that clerks can punch keys and bag wares with great fervor and efficiency (some with the suggestion of a smile even), but when it comes to making change in the aforementioned manner (which would imply both humanness and intellect), many are sorely lacking. Instead, they routinely shove a wad of cash in my direction, eager to inspire my swift departure, completely insensitive to my need for order and convention.

Perhaps I would do well to step outside myself, though—to view the matter from a cashier’s perspective. I mean, why bother learning the menial task when a machine can spit out the correct sum instantaneously? To make throwbacks like me happy. That’s why. I happen to like the notion of reliance on someone’s mind as opposed to someone’s software. Call me crazy.

That said, I fear we’re creating a generation of individuals who can neither think nor do for themselves. Despite the best of intentions, technology appears to be making us both deplorably unimaginative and woefully dependent. Indeed, it seems odd that the best and brightest of our time—the independent thinkers who can be credited with some of the most awe-inspiring inventions designed to improve life—have enabled society to slide, perhaps unwittingly, into the abyss of perpetual neediness. How ironic.

Heaven forbid we attempt to function without our beloved gadgetry—the stuff we’ve allowed to seep into our pores like a drug, rendering us wholly incapable of resisting its allure. Our Smart Phones and Google TV. Our eReaders and Internet Tablets. Our iPods and iPads. Digital this and digital that. And let us not forget our dear TomToms and Garmins, the insanely addictive devices designed to guide us to the familiar and to the frighteningly obscure, because, of course, no one can read an effing map anymore. Gone are the days of marking desired routes with a big, yellow highlighter and tallying mileage to derive ETA’s—which, oddly enough, always left me with a gratifying sense of accomplishment. That’s code for: I was able to adequately address the infamous “Are we there yet?” queries by handing my brood said marked-up map and suggesting they put their heads together and figure it out.

Makeshift Cell Phone (Flip Style w/ Fancy Flower)

By the same token, it would appear that kids are no longer able to entertain themselves (given the techno-laden wish lists to which I’ve been privy, and the vast amount of time my heathens spend on PhotoBooth). In any event, the message being delivered to our impressionable youth via the media is slightly disturbing: BE VERY AFRAID OF BOREDOM. ELECTRONIC DEVICES PROMISE A NEVERENDING STREAM OF AMUSEMENT AND COMPANIONSHIP. Thank you very little, Nintendo, XBox and Wii. My children now think it’s uncool to play with Barbies, to climb trees and to devour books. What’s more, they’re fairly enraged because I won’t let them have cell phones. Gasp! So they crafted their own. Complete with penciled-on keypads and cameras. Oy.

Moreover, I’m troubled by this new age of texts and tweets—the one in which pithiness is not only embraced, but celebrated. I worry about future generations and their collective ability to compose thoughts—never mind complete sentences and properly spelled words. Quite frankly, the whole “short message system” makes a mockery of self-expression. It urges us to cut corners, to mutilate words, to discount grammar, to stop short of saying what needs to be said, TO THINK IN 160 CHARACTER BURSTS—which is wrong on so many levels I can’t begin to express my displeasure. Granted, I’m hopelessly addicted to both texts and tweets, however I have standards and an abiding allegiance to the written word. Translation: My tweets are long and rambling and my texts are veritable tomes that make the geeks at Verizon cringe.

Call me a rebel.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live.

Copyright 2010 Melinda L. Wentzel

2 Comments

Filed under Rantings & Ravings, Techno Tripe