Thursday, May 28, 2009

Planning, planning, planning. . .

For the next several days, I will be quiet.

I will be planning. Actually, HELPING to plan.

We will have a brief visit with our daughter--and we will. . .

taste some wedding cake. . .

look at wedding flowers. . .

shop for wedding shoes. . .

All so that we will be ready for a FALL wedding.

Monday, May 25, 2009

My Generation's War

I have learned, when I use examples during my teaching, to qualify the time frame of my reference. I have had too many blank stares when students have NO clue to what I am referring. So when I talk about Vietnam, I always say--that is my generation's war.

With today being Memorial Day, a time set aside to remember, I recall young men. I knew several young men who went to Vietnam--classmates from high school or college. Of those who went to Vietnam, two were killed there.

Larry was our college class president. He volunteered for the Marines immediately upon graduation from college. Somewhere along the way, before he was deployed, he got married. He was sent to Vietnam February 27, 1968. At that time, the usual tour of duty in Vietnam was one year. Larry was killed in a helicopter crash on February 4, 1969, just days before he was due to return home. At the time, the crash was attributed to hostile action. However, witnesses have since reported that the true cause was a mid-air collision between two U.S. helicopters.

When his funeral was held, I was one of the classmates who volunteered to speak. I have no recollection at all what I might have said. I just remember having this incredible sense of the terrible waste of a life. He was such a decent guy--with a sweet winning smile. And he lived all of 25 years.

Jay was a high school friend of my husband's. They had grown up together; their families attended the same church. Jay had met a perky young woman, and they were quickly engaged. Then, he volunteered for the Marines. He too was deployed to Vietnam. On November 16, 1966 he was killed in a skirmish with Vietcong. Jay had spent time at the base camp and had built an observation tower. During the skirmish, he had climbed that tower to get a better view of what was happening. An explosion knocked him from the tower, and he died. He was one month shy of turning 20.

I had exchanged a few letters with Jay, which I saved for years. In 2001, I heard from a buddy of his, who read a comment I had written on a memorial page. I sent the buddy those letters. He used them in a lovingly written memorial that you can read here.

I was attending graduate school when I learned that Jay had been killed. To work through that awful news, I sat at the piano in the house I lived in during grad school, and played over and over the lovely aria from Handel's Messiah "I Know That My Redeemer Lives".

My recollection is that Jay's funeral had an open coffin with his nearly unmarked body lying in repose. Memory can be faulty--I asked my father about this recollection. My father was pastor of the church Jay 's family (and my husband's family) attended at the time. My father could not confirm my memory. Maybe I only imagined it.

After many years, I finally went to see the Vietnam Memorial in DC. I slowly walked along those gleaming black sections of the Wall that reflect the faces of those who grieve their losses. I found Larry's name, and I found Jay's name. I slowly ran my fingers over those names.

Two young men--two lives sadly cut short.

My generation's war. Oh, if only it were the last war.


Photo of Larry Houck from
Photo of Vietnam Memorial from:

Friday, May 22, 2009

Been there, done that. . .

FULL DISCLOSURE--since I don't want to be accused of pulling a Maureen Dowd, the following post comes from an email I received from a friend, who got it from an email that's "been going around."


Thank goodness there's a name for this disorder.
Somehow I feel better even though I have it!!
Recently, I was diagnosed with A.A.A.D.D. -
Age Activated Attention Deficit Disorder.

This is how it manifests:
I decide to water my garden.
As I turn on the hose in the driveway,
I look over at my car and decide it needs washing.
As I start toward the garage,
I notice mail on the porch table that
I brought up from the mail box earlier.
I decide to go through the mail before I wash the car.
I lay my car keys on the table,
put the junk mail in the garbage can under the table,
and notice that the can is full.
So, I decide to put the bills back
on the table and take out the garbage first.

But then I think,
since I'm going to be near the mailbox
when I take out the garbage anyway,
I may as well pay the bills first.
I take my check book off the table,
and see that there is only one check left.
My extra checks are in my desk in the study,
so I go inside the house to my desk where
I find the can of Pepsi I'd been drinking.
I'm going to look for my checks,
but first I need to push the Pepsi aside
so that I don't accidentally knock it over.
The Pepsi is getting warm,
and I decide to put it in the refrigerator to keep it cold.

As I head toward the kitchen with the Pepsi,
a vase of flowers on the counter
catches my eye--they need water.
I put the Pepsi on the counter and
discover my reading glasses that
I've been searching for all morning.
I decide I better put them back on my desk,
but first I'm going to water the flowers.
I set the glasses back down on the counter,
fill a container with water and suddenly spot the TV remote.
Someone left it on the kitchen table.
I realize that tonight when we go to watch TV,
I'll be looking for the remote,
but I won't remember that it's on the kitchen table,
so I decide to put it back in the den where it belongs,
but first I'll water the flowers.
I pour some water in the flowers,
but quite a bit of it spills on the floor.
So, I set the remote back on the table,
get some towels and wipe up the spill.
Then, I head down the hall trying to
remember what I was planning to do.

At the end of the day:
the car isn't washed
the bills aren't paid
there is a warm can of Pepsi sitting on the counter
the flowers don't have enough water,
there is still only 1 check in my check book,
I can't find the remote,
I can't find my glasses,
and I don't remember what I did with the car keys.
Then, when I try to figure out why nothing got done today,
I'm really baffled because I know I was busy all day,
and I'm really tired.
I realize this is a serious problem,
and I'll try to get some help for it,
but first I'll check my e-mail....
The above litany was sent to me by a friend. I howled--oh, yes, I recognize all those symptoms. As I said in my post title, "been there, done that. . ."

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

A Tip of the Hat to the Bard

Thank goodness for Garrison Keillor's The Writer's Almanac. Today's entry, for May 20, reminds us that even the most famous of authors can have his works published, unauthorized.

For it was on this day, in 1609, that an unscrupulous publisher laid claim to publishing a book called "Shakespeares Sonnets."

As Garrison Keillor points out, " Many people think that Thorpe published them without Shakespeare's consent."

Here's a longer discussion of this publication:

"Shakespeare's sonnets were published in 1609, no doubt without authorization, by the unsavory Thomas Thorpe (1580-1614), described as "a publishing understrapper of piratical habits" who "hung about scriveners' shops"; in order to pinch manuscripts. There was no reprint until 1640. Despite a conspiracy theory that would insist that the volume was suppressed, sonnets just were not in vogue anymore. The 1640 piracy titled, rearranged, and combined the sonnets until those to the young man seem to be to a woman. For 150 years this was the basis for the sonnets: early piracies. Indeed one might feel uncomfortable reading the sonnets, most intended probably as private missives from the poet and lacking that public show-off quality typical of other Renaissance sonneteers. If he had wanted us to witness them, they'd be plays. "

Well, I certainly don't condone unauthorized publication, but the end result--a collection of 154 of the loveliest poems in sonnet form--has enriched all humanity.

Unlike some people, I have not read all of Shakespeare's sonnets. I haven't even memorized any of them. But I do love many of them.

So in honor of this anniversary of publication, herewith another of my favorites:

Sonnet 29

by William Shakespeare

When in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes,
I all alone beweep my outcast state,
And trouble deaf Heaven with my bootless cries,
And look upon myself, and curse my fate,
Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,
Featur'd like him, like him with friends possess'd,
Desiring this man's art, and that man's scope,
With what I most enjoy contented least:
Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising,
Haply I think on thee,--and then my state
(Like to the lark at break of day arising
From sullen earth) sings hymns at heaven's gate;
For thy sweet love remember'd such wealth brings
That then I scorn to change my state with kings'.

Monday, May 18, 2009

A Tale of the Sea-Going Cowboy

I have written several articles for a small historical journal. I wrote a fairly lengthy biography of my paternal grandparents first, then I explored three generations of TCKs (third culture kids), and just this month, my third article for this journal was published.

It is the story of my maternal grandfather and his adventure as a sea-going cowboy. Since the article has now apperared, I can tell the highlights here, without detracting from the published version. Besides, the journal is not available on news stands, so I am not depriving the publishers of any income.

Here the story:

Right after World War II, my grandfather--or Pappap, as we all called him--volunteered to help rebuild Europe by taking a load of horses to Poland. World War II was incredibly destructive--some 50 million people were displaced through all the fighting. Not only that, but most farm animals had been killed--either as a result of combat, or to be eaten as food for the starving people.

The Allies, anticipating the eventual outcome of the war, got together and planned to rebuild Europe, including restocking farms. The United States took former ships used in battle, and converted them into animal transport ships. They had sailors to sail the ships, but they didn't have cattle hands or farmers to care for the animals.

The peace churches in the United States and Canada--for example Mennonites and Quakers--had won the right to provide service to the country that did NOT require a young man to join the military. One of those ways was farm service. So the United States' government approached the peace churches to help round up men to tend animals during the crossing of the Atlantic.

Here's what the advertisement said, in part:

"Two thousand men wanted to serve as livestock attendants on board ships carrying livestock to Europe to replace killed-off animals. Applicants must be able to work with animals, willing to do manual labor, and of good moral character. Men especially desired who will conduct themselves without reproach in foreign ports. Age 16-60. Trip takes 4 to 6 weeks. Pay $150.00 per trip."
My pappap was 59 years old when he answered this ad! I suspect part of his interest in going to Europe was the sheer adventure of it all. Perhaps another part of his motivation was the fact that his youngest son, my uncle Davey, volunteered to go--at age 18. I can almost hear my pappap saying: If Davey can do it. . .

The ship Pappap sailed on was named Mount Whitney. This was a large ship, with the capacity to transport 1400 animals: mostly horses, with a few heifers. The ship had a crew of 64 sailors, and 75 sea-going cowboys. Pappap was one of two men aged 59--the oldest on the ship.

Their destination was Poland. They sailed January of 1947 with their destination the Polish seaport of Gdansk. This city had been occupied by the Nazis, as had all Poland, but the S.S. made it their particular place. When the Allies advanced on the city, the S.S. troops defended it fiercely--so the Russians, who were the lead Allies, bombed the city almost into oblivion.

My pappap witnessed these scenes of destruction. Buildings were still lying in ruins, rubble everywhere. Orphans roamed the streets during the day, begging anyone for food. Women helped to clear piles of bricks, readying the place for rebuilding.

During their Atlantic crossing, on board ship, the sea-going cowboys tended the animals, feeding them, making sure the horses stayed on their feet in spite of heaving ocean swells. If an animal died, they winched it up with a pulley and heaved it overboard. Of course, there was the ever-present animal manure to clean out, which also got swept overboard.

Every day, sailors and sea-going cowboys alike were issued a carton of cigarettes. My grandfather was a non-smoker--and also a deeply grounded moral man. So he declined the cigarettes. He didn't realize, until he got to Poland, that cigarettes were valuable tender, used for trading on the black market. He regretted his stand--because he learned he could have traded cigarettes for food and clothing for poor Poles.

On the trip home, the ship put in at a harbor in Sweden to refuel. The winter was bitterly cold, and the ship ended up being icebound in the harbor for 7 weeks. So the journey, that the ad promised would take 6 weeks total, ended up taking much longer. He did not return home to Pennsylvania until the end of April.

It was the adventure of a lifetime for Pappap. He never again made any trip overseas--although he dearly wanted to. My earth-bound grandmother nixed any such idea.

Oh, how did these men come to be called sea-going cowboys? Simple. Each man was issued a Coast Guard certificate that allowed them to sail on U.S. ships into foreign ports. The certificate listed them as "cattlemen." However, the seasoned sailors on board all the ships cut through that nomenclature--and simply called them "cowboys." And, of course, since they went to sea, they became tagged as sea-going cowboys.
Photo credits:
1) my grandfather David Slagenweit--family photo
2) horses on shipboard--credit Lowell Hoover
3) Gdansk destruction--credit Everett Byer
4) Polish orphans--credit Everett Byer
5) dead horse overboard--credit Lowell Hoover

Thursday, May 14, 2009


OK--the last final exam has been handed out, completed and collected. And the stack of papers on my desk has been graded. I even have the Excel spreadsheet all set up, ready to calculate on one click of my finger (oh, so much easier than the old days of adding machine, pencils and endless calculations late into the night!).

So, what's next?


True, I am a tad early, as far as the weather is concerned. Our cool spring continues--laced with days of crazy rain--that replenishes our parched earth, which suffered from a dearth of snow this winter.

Summertime got me to thinking of summers when I was in college. We would empty out our dorm rooms, and head off to various locations. With my parents in Africa, I sought summer work where I was a live-in maid. That meant travelling to Canada, and saying goodbye to my college boyfriend for the summer. And who knew if we would still be a couple when we returned to college in the fall? The romance usually didn't last.

Perhaps that separation tinged with the possibility of a stalled romance helped inspire some of the summer songs of my youth. One such sobby song was Bryan Hyland's "Sealed with a Kiss." And, yes, I know that song really (make that REALLY) dates me. So be it.

"Sealed with a Kiss" is number 53 on Entertainment Weekly's assembled list of the 100 Greatest Summer Songs of All Time.

Herewith the top 25:

1 The Lovin' Spoonful ''Summer in the City'' Summer of '66
2 The Beach Boys ''California Girls'' Summer of '65
3 Alice Cooper ''School's Out'' Summer of '72
4 Martha and the Vandellas ''Heat Wave'' Summer of '63
5 The Drifters ''Under the Boardwalk'' Summer of '64
6 The Doors ''Light My Fire'' Summer of '67
7 Martha and the Vandellas ''Dancing in the Street'' Summer of '64
8 Madonna ''Borderline'' Summer of '84
9 Sly & the Family Stone ''Hot Fun in the Summertime'' Summer of '69
10 The Rolling Stones ''(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction'' Summer of '65
11 Eddie Cochran ''Summertime Blues'' Summer of '58
12 The Hues Corporation ''Rock the Boat'' Summer of '74
13 The Beach Boys ''I Get Around'' Summer of '64
14 Grand Master Flash & the Furious Five ''The Message'' Summer of '82
15 Mungo Jerry ''In the Summertime'' Summer of '70
16 Rod Stewart ''Maggie May'' Summer of '71
17 The Beatles ''A Hard Day's Night'' Summer of '64
18 The Surfaris ''Wipe Out'' Summer of '63
19 The Beach Boys ''Wouldn't It Be Nice'' Summer of '66
20 The Police ''Every Breath You Take'' Summer of '83
21 Raspberries ''Go All the Way'' Summer of '72
22 The Carpenters ''(They Long to Be) Close to You'' Summer of '70
23 Jefferson Airplane ''White Rabbit'' Summer of '67
24 Elton John and Kiki Dee ''Don't Go Breaking My Heart'' Summer of '76
25 Bob Dylan ''Like a Rolling Stone'' Summer of '65

To see the remaining 75, go here. You can also read the fun descriptions of these songs. Among my other favorites are numbers 5, 15, 35, and 47. And I can always listen to number 73--summertime or anytime.

Any favorites of yours in the list? Do tell.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Road Kill

I hate road kill. Nothing makes me sadder when I am driving along any road than to see road kill. Frequently these flattened fauna are so indistinguishable as to be no longer recognizable as one of God’s creature. Of course, there is the occasional time when I see a deer along side the road, head drawn back in the rictus of death, belly bloated from lying there too long. Such a sight just makes me sad.

In some of our European travels, I have purposefully watched along roadside to see whether or not it is apparent that Europe has the same excess of animal highway deaths as we do. Once, when I didn’t see any dead animals, I asked in innocence—do you have any road kill. Oh, yes—we do. But I wasn’t convinced. Then it occurred to me that, given how long Europe has been inhabited by humans, by now many of the wild animals have been driven away, thereby reducing the numbers that could be killed.

One of the reasons I so hate road kill is that unbridled growth in our part of the country has meant that more and more open fields and farm lands are being converted to sprawling suburban development. When my husband and I first moved to this part of Pennsylvania, the magnificent rolling mountain just to the north of where we live was open space. Albeit forested. Now, there are bare patches creeping up the mountain as more and more individual houses have been constructed. Recently a farm wonderfully named Whispering Winds was sold piecemeal to several developers. I can’t help but wonder when the houses begin to be built there where will the small creatures go? Displaced yet again, they will wander out on to local roads and get smooshed.

There is another aspect of road kill, of course: the sudden and inadvertent convergence of car and deer. My brother recently wrote of an experience he had, along with his wife and another passenger. Thankfully, they were all OK, though the car was a bit worse for wear.

One of my favorite poems is about road kill, in a way.

Traveling Through The Dark
William Stafford

Traveling through the dark I found a deer
dead on the edge of the Wilson River road.
It is usually best to roll them into the canyon:
that road is narrow; to swerve might make more dead.

By glow of the tail-light I stumbled back of the car
and stood by the heap, a doe, a recent killing;
she had stiffened already, almost cold.
I dragged her off; she was large in the belly.

My fingers touching her side brought me the reason--
her side was warm; her fawn lay there waiting,
alive, still, never to be born.
Beside that mountain road I hesitated.

The car aimed ahead its lowered parking lights;
under the hood purred the steady engine.
I stood in the glare of the warm exhaust turning red;
around our group I could hear the wilderness listen.
I thought hard for us all—my only swerving—,
then pushed her over the edge into the river.

I have used this poem in the composition course I teach—I ask the students, how many of you have hit an animal while you are driving? Usually many hands go up. Then I ask—did the experience make you think about the human condition, about mortality? No hands. Or, I ask, did any of you go right home and write a poem after the experience? Again, no hands.

Well, I still don’t like road kill. But I draw deep sustenance from the sentiment of William Stafford’s poem.

“I thought had for us all—my only swerving.”

Saturday, May 09, 2009

The Love of A Mother

So, I went to tea today with my step-mother. This little event is something of an annual tradition at the retirement village where she and my father live. It's a nice idea--a time to honor mothers and daughters. After all, all women are at least one of those!

Since I was with my step-mother, the event got me to thinking about mothers. Herewith, a few thoughts.

What makes a woman a mother? You might think the obvious answer--she has a child or children. And, in a sense, you would be right--but I will be more expansive than your answer might have intended. To be the mother of a child means that you nourish someone, in a loving maternal way. And that does not require that you have actually borne a child.

This definition certainly applies to my step-mother. She is a blessing straight from heaven. After my mother died, my father announced that he intended to re-marry. All of his children quickly voiced their support and consent. Enter--Verna Mae--my step-mother. Now, of course, it wasn't quite so simple or whirlwindy as I make it sound. But about two years after Mother's death, my father and Verna Mae were married.

She is the heart and soul of steady, unflinching goodness. My mother,
Dorcas, would have been a hard act to follow. She was a great woman. Verna Mae had neither need nor inclination to compete with that kind of person. Verna Mae is calm, low-key, solid, and grounded. I don't think she has ever been threatened by the memory of my mother.

Here's part of what makes Verna Mae amazing to me--she had never been married before she married my father. Perhaps, she thought she would live her life out quite happily as an independent unmarried woman. That she was willing to consent to marry my father is a great thing for our family--that's the amazing part: her willingness to trade her life to that point for the unknown.

Maybe you begin to get the drift of this partly rambling reverie on motherhood. Verna Mae had no children--at least none that she gave birth to. But she has loved me and my brother and sister. She loves our children. So she is every bit a mother and grandmother to us all.

There have been several women in my life who are mothers without having had children. Previously, I
have written about my favorite aunt. She has never married, and has never had children--but, oh, did she ever provide loving nurture to me. She nurtured a love of classical music in me. She took me to see movies when I was a child (which, truth be told, were verboten as far as my very strict grandfather was concerned), and she enthusiastically discusses politics with me.

She also exemplifies how being a mother (or grandmother) means nurturing children. She lives in a town in New York state, some 20 miles north of New York City. Across the street from her house lives a family where twins were born about 13 or 14 years ago. When the young couple who had the twins asked for my aunt's help caring for the babies, my aunt's first reaction was HELP. "I don't know anything about . . ." (fill in the blank with some essential baby care skill)--that's what she told me.

But, she pitched in. And over the years, she has become the grandmother for those twins. They come to her house every Sunday morning, giving their parents a wonderful time of quiet and respite. She has patiently answered the questions these sweet girls have asked. She lets them do things, such as draw on the walls, that would no doubt be absolutely forbidden in their own house.

Believe me, I could go on. It fills me with sweet comfort and deep pleasure to know that not only did my own mother, and grandmothers love me fiercely, but so do my step-mother and my aunt.

So, here's to all the mothers--whether the children they have were born from their bodies or from their hearts.


One more quick "mother" update. The first of the baby doves has hatched. Scrawny little thing, really. But the mother dove is rather fiercely protective of this seemingly inconsequential bit of fluff.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Sometimes you just have to buy a book TWICE. . .

Well, you might wonder, why would someone buy a book twice. First, let me point out that I have bought several books twice.

As you can imagine, a lit major has bookshelves stuffed with all manner of books. Add to that a portion of my career devoted to teaching, with the attendant free books. And you perhaps can begin to envision places in our house--here a bookshelf, there a bookshelf. I have never counted all the books in the house, but I am quite sure there must be 500 or 600 hundred books. Oh, wait--I forgot the basement. Make that 1,000 books.

So, why buy a book twice. Well, the main reason is I decide I want to re-read a book I have already given away. I separate my books into two basic categories: keepers, and give-aways. When I loan a give-away to someone, I really don't expect or even want the book back. I urge my friends to pass the books along to yet someone else.

If I LOVE a book, and don't want to risk its never being returned to me, I don't loan it. Or, if I loan it most reluctantly, I say--PLEASE please give it back when you are done.

I have just finished reading a definite keeper book. But--and here's the catch--I read it on my Kindle. Now, one nice feature of the Kindle is that ALL books are keepers--Amazon keeps them for you, even after you have read and deleted them. But, I loved this book so much, I want the print copy. So, I will be buying it (waiting, of course, until it comes out in paperback).

I had not heard of the book Olive Kitteridge, by Elizabeth Strout, until this year's Pulitzer prizes were announced. Olive Kitteridge won for fiction. One of the other nominees is A Plague of Doves, by Louise Erdrich, which sits on my waiting to be read shelf. I figured, if Olive Kitteridge won over a novel by Louise Erdrich--who I love as an author--then Olive Kitteridge must be some book.

So I ordered it for the Kindle. And read it voraciously. And LOVED it! Just loved it. Here's the New York Times review of Olive Kitteridge. The work is a collection of 13 short stories that form a novel of sorts. For comparison sake, the work reminds me of one of my all-time favorite works--Sherwood Anderson's Winesburg, Ohio. Like Winesburg, Ohio, Olive Kitteridge is set in a small town. Where Winesburg is obviously in Ohio, Olive Kitteridge is set in a small town in Maine.

Like Winesburg's residents, the residents of Crosby, Maine, lead desperate quiet lives. One of my favorite stories in Winesburg, Ohio features a spinster who keeps waiting for a beau who is never going to return. One night, she can stand her lonely life no more, and when it begins to rain, she strips and runs out into the street naked. She thinks the rain will somehow renew her. Ironically, the only person she encounters is a deaf bum who stumbles about. She tries to make contact with him, but in his deafness, all he can say is "What?"

The characters in Olive Kitteridge have that kind of desperation. The title character Olive is not particularly likeable, but she grabs your heart, nevertheless, and engages you. At one point, when she encounters an anorexic teen, she tells the teen that she breaks Olive's heart, because she--Olive--is starving. Since Olive has been described as a large woman, the reader recognizes that Olive does not mean physical hunger--but emotional hunger.

This novel is definitely ONE terrific read--and I heartily recommend it.

Monday, May 04, 2009


I just finished grading two (TWO!!)** sets of research papers. The papers are to be 10 pages long, arguing a position, using appropriate sources, etc. etc.

Well, I am done! So , why would I be discouraged?

Because in each of the sections of papers I graded, I found two instances of outright plagiarism. My policy is the student gets a zero (0) on a paper where there has been plagiarism. There is no excuse, absolutely none, for academic dishonesty.

But it makes me very sad--and discouraged--to find those instances. I know, I know--I know students are busy. I know they are balancing many different proverbial balls in their lives. But, cheat to get work done? No. I neither can nor will ever condone cheating.

'Nuff said.
** to my brother--no smart remarks about "only two sets"? Remember, I am supposed to be retired!

Friday, May 01, 2009

The Safety Syndrome

The other evening, the local news gave its teaser headline: A young woman was threatened on Facebook. Stay tuned to learn the details.

Well, I thought--what has happened. Every so often, there is a story about this or that breach of personal safety with Facebook as the vehicle, or some other electronic mechanism.

For example, I heard about a couple who was sued, with the actual serving being accomplished through Facebook. This story came out of Australia--and even though I "googled" to find out more details, I couldn't verify what exactly happened.

Anyone in the job market should be cautious about the information available for the finding on Facebook, or other internet sites.

And, of course, there is cyberstalking.

When the local news got around to the Facebook story, it turned out a young woman was threatened with bodily harm by her ex-boyfriend on Facebook. So, the story was NOT that Facebook is dangerous, but that it was the MEANS whereby a very misdirected young man threatened someone.

Safety, of course, is a very important consideration. We should all be aware of ways that we are exposed, with the Internet magnifiying that exposure. But, Facebook itself is NOT to blame. You can set your profile in such a way that only approved people can view it. And you can turn down any and all requests that you have no idea where they originate.

I get the impression that local news features such stories partly because they want to sensationalize the issue, and partly because they don't understand the technology. What they clearly do NOT intend to do is provide useful information that reasonable people can act upon. So, what can we do?

Use common sense--it applies as easily in the new wired environment as it did before we have such a thing as cyberspace.