The Name Game

Google+, a new social networking site that’s in theory still in beta, is having a serious issues amongst its users.

You see, Google+ wants to insist that people use their legal names on their social networking site. If you’re using a name that appears “fake” by various criteria, you stand to have the account axed.

Okay, does this affect me? Personally, not so much. I use my “real” name online and have for creeping up on two decades.

Oh, wait… No, I didn’t for a long time. For the first decade and a bit, I used my maiden name – not my legal name. When I got married, I actually took my husband’s last name. I used it to apply for jobs and sign checks. Socially? I tended to introduce myself with my maiden name. When I went online, I used my NoelFigart as my handle, typically. It wasn’t particularly a conscious decision. It’s my name. It’s unique, and I like my name a lot, so hey…

Notice how I phrased that “it’s my name”. It most certainly was not my legal name. It was the name I most identified with. It was my mental default that I used. I had to think about it a little when I was signing checks or in formal situations where I was addressed as Mrs. <HusbandName>. Oh sure like many a traditionally-reared girl who is engaged, I did practice the “Married name signature” and played with it. I’m just saying that in my case, it didn’t stick much.

I changed it back to my maiden name about six years ago. There were a lot of driving reasons, but the most serious one for me was that my son, if asked what his mother’s name was, would say Noël Figart. The last time I heard him do it when before I changed my name back to my maiden name, this scene from the Bring on the Night movie floated through my mind:

Reporter: Well, Gordon…

Sting: My children call me Sting, my mother calls me Sting. Who is this Gordon1 character?

I figured that when even my son used Figart instead of my married name, it was time to embrace it and have my legal name be the name I actually use.

If I had not changed my name, would Google+ have decided to kick me out if they’d discovered I wasn’t using my legal name? Or is a maiden name “legitimate” because there’s social precedent for a woman using her maiden name either professionally or socially.

However, what about pen names? I have one. One of my blogs is written under a sobriquet. I would (and do) answer to it as readily as Noël. I consider it one of my names. When we’re talking marketing and brand, it’s most certainly identified with me, even if many people who know it know my “real” name as well. In my case, it’s no big secret. It’s also a name that is so obviously “fake” that it would get me kicked off Google+ pretty quickly – never mind that it’s a legitimate identity that I am really, no kidding, known by. And in fact, my Google+ circles are more likely to contain people who know me in that context than as Noël.

I consider myself probably one of the simpler examples of the fluidity of name. So, I think that Google needs to think more carefully about the whole legal, Western-based “Firstname” “Lastname” requirement for its social circles. I get that it is trying to create a culture of transparency in the hopes that it will promote a friendlier environment and better behavior amongst its denizen.

I just think that they’re using a ball-peen hammer for a situation that might call for a scapel. Just sayin’.


1 Sting was born Gordon Matthew Sumner.

E-books and Print

In Glory Road, Heinlein has a character who can’t go to sleep and he asks for something to read.  “Words in a row” is the way he put it.  I remember that really resonating with me, as I have had a similar habit since even before I got into science fiction.[1]

So, I’m a pretty voracious reader.  When I started carrying a purse regularly, purse shopping took on some serious specifics. It had to be large enough to fit a couple of paperbacks.  Even so I had to leave some of my favorite epics at home whenever I travelled.[2]  I disliked that.

When e-readers became popular, I cheered.  Most of my favorite books really are words in a row.  Not too many diagrams or illustrations needed to supplement the text[3] and formatting page by page wasn’t a real issue.  It was the text that was the important thing.

So, I’m a big fan of e-readers.  I get a little frisson of delight when I slip my Kindle into my purse with its library of hundreds of books to choose from.  I like it even better when I am reading long computer manuals on travel and don’t have to carry those brick-like things with me and crowd out my fiction weight!

Does that mean I hate “dead tree” books?

Not in the least.  My copy of The Lord of the Rings in its red leather binding is a treasure to me.  I love the marriage of the art of the book craft as well as the story.  A book on origami or knitting is pointless on a Kindle.  The color illustrations that are large enough to see and understand are integral to the usefulness and beauty of the book.[4]

But when it’s words in a row that make the story and make the art, my oh my do I love my e-reader.

[1] I read my first science fiction story in the fourth grade.  “The Fun They Had” by Isaac Asimov.  That “All Summer in a Day” by Ray Bradbury were in our reading books that year.  I was hooked.

[2] Shogun, Mists of Avalon, a few others…

[3] Well, elvish rune, sure.  But other than that, not really.

[4] Yes, I know.  A tablet computer would handle those things much better.

Mom is not an insult

I’ve had it with “Mom” being used as a prefix or descriptive for something backward, unattractive, technophobic or unfashionable. I wanna know since when was being a mother something shameful and backward?

The roots of this, I think are even worse than it looks on the surface. Mom, in general, also means “older woman”. And we all know older women are valueless, right? Women are worthwhile and tolerable when you wanna bang ’em, but otherwise? Feh! Don’t clutter up the landscape!

While I’m enough of a child of my generation that I don’t think being a mother is the be-all and end-all of female accomplishment, it is a part of what I do and how I spend my days. All the moms reading this know it’s a tough job, and frankly, I’d like a little credit and respect for it. We may not be spending our lives trying to be all hot and hip, but part of that is because we’re trying against almost impossible societal odds to bring up the next generation of decent human beings. Sorry if that’s not cool enough for you, but I assure you that you would not want to live in a world where the difficult job of mother isn’t taken seriously by at least some of us.

Do I do other things? Yep. In fact everything I do requires me to learn and study new things on a very regular basis. So you can drop dead with that backward crap.

As far as being technologically hip? That’s my job, thanks, so that whole backward thing when it comes to being a mom doesn’t wash at my business. In fact, a good 80% of my students are middle-aged women (moms) and this cultural view of older women being technophobic –that it’s expected for them to be so, isn’t something I let ’em get away with. You know what? After a few weeks with me, most of them walk away just as eager to learn and discover on their own as any hip twenty-something.

So, as far as being a “Mom”? Fine, try and brush me aside as middle-aged and not worth too much.

Just don’t get in my goddamned way, because I have shit to do and I will run you over in the process.

In Praise of the Short To-Do List

I like making lists and planning. It’s just one of those weirdo things.

Following through? I’m okay at it, I guess.

The thing is, I can plan life down to the minute and I think I’m gonna be so very very productive. Seems cool when you lay it out in your planner. But it’s not so cool in real life when you’re actually trying to get real work done.

I’ve found that instead of showing more discipline, what I do is place a hard limit on how much I will put on my to-do list.

It forces several things. It makes you prioritize. It also forces you to focus clearly on what it is you really want to do.

Believe it or not, I try to keep my to-do list under ten items a day. Some tasks are bundled, yes. My morning routine consists of getting up, swishing and swiping the bathroom, making my bed, getting dressed, going downstairs to empty the dishwasher and get breakfast. Thing is, that bundled “task” takes less than fifteen minutes. My rule is that bundled tasks have to take less than fifteen minutes, or they have to be listed individually. I also only allow them for daily routine type stuff.

So for me yesterday:

  1. Morning routine
  2. Clean kitchen faucet with a toothbrush (I do this every six months or so. It was getting grody)
  3. Write handout for Project Basic Unit 6
  4. Write 750 words on novel
  5. Write script for Nifty Excel Tips video
  6. Take car to the shop
  7. Install comment form on website
  8. Write Ask the Misanthrope blog post
  9. Poke client about server info
  10. Evening routine.

Is this an overwhelming day? ‘Course not. I’m sure it doesn’t even look very impressive to many people. But I’ve found that if I have that ten item limit to my to-do list, I get more done because I don’t procrastinate and get overwhelmed. If I’m feeling overwhelmed, I’ll do bugger all. And yes, I did everything on my list.