MIPA workshop continues the Technology insanity

I just posted my first picture on Twit pics. Ok, I had to embarrass myself publicly and ask how to do it. And then I had to do it three times before I got it right. But, after successfully answering my cell phone when it rang, I even helped Jody Mackey start a Wiggio account. Yes, Wiggio. Before the name set in, I called it Hulio, Chelios, Wiglet and Wigwam. At this moment I am fairly positive it’s Wiggio.

This amazing site lets you share information with a class, a group of friends, a staff. You set up an account at wiggio.com and invite others to join. Then you can post handouts, share pictures, run polls, communicate in a discussion forum like way and do lots of other stuff I haven’t figured out yet. I love it. I think.

This new knowledge comes months after my last blog. I’d like to apologize for my absence. In fact, I’d like to tell you I was kidnapped by aliens, taken to the planet zumba and reprogrammed into a Cindy Crawford like techno queen. I wasn’t. My absence began with a simple phone call. A phone call at 11 p.m February 15, 2009. It was my friend, Diane, calling to tell me her husband–my husband’s best friend since second grade–had had a stroke. They were on their way to the hospital in Saginaw.

The guy is 56. He had a hemmoragic stroke. Bleeding, swelling, awful things going on in his brain. Monday night they took him into surgery at 9 p.m. to save his life. We were left with the encouraging words of the neurosurgeon–“If we don’t operate, he will die. But, he could also die from the operation.” He lived and spent the day this past Sunday with my husband, sighting in his rifle at Camp Misrey, a place that lives up to its misspelled name in so MANY ways!

I now call February 15 “the day the technology died.” I did set up a Caring Bridge site for the family and it was a wonderful way for people to see photos, check Jeff’s progress and limit their calls to the family. Other than that–I was a no-tech girl.

Coming back to the techno world in July, I had some catching up to do. Each day it seems I am learning something new, something that would have made my life SO much easier if it had existed years ago. If you’re “mature” like me (my family will definitely say that is the wrong word to describe me) don’t be afraid of new stuff. Don’t be embarrassed if you get the name screwed up or have to get directions a few hundred times. Sooner or later it gets easier. And nothing, I mean nothing, is better than being at a high school journalism workshop and dropping words like wiggio, tweet and hash tag–looking into the blank faces of kids 40 years younger than me– and realizing I may be more techno savvy than I realized. High five for Betsy Rau!


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With the technology comes the vocabulary. Poop.

Since my rebirth I have discovered time after time that it isn’t only the technology I need to master–it’s the vocabulary as well. My Twitter experiences are the best examples.


I was in Atlanta last Monday at Screen5ive–a company that is developing online publishing tools for high school journalists–and asked what I thought was a simple question: How can I create a group in Twitter so I can have students submit leads?


The answer–to them of course–was also simple. Create a hashtag.


Although I never inhaled, I do recall some of my college roommates labeling the good stuff and then labeling the really really good stuff, but I was pretty sure this wasn’t what a modern day hashtag was. If it was, I was going to have to find another way to create a group ’cause that stuff made me scoop potato chips into my mouth in two cup servings at the rate of 8 cups a minute. The raw cracks in the corners of my mouth were enough to cure me of that habit–quickly.


In an attempt to learn more about hashtags and the world of  Twitter, I signed up for a webinar (yup, there we go again with strange new words) sponsored by newsu.org. I paid my $24.95,  sat down at my computer and logged in promptly at 1:50 p.m. for the 2 p.m. class.


It was great! When the facilitator used the word hashtag, I was with her, sista. I had done my homework and knew it was a word proceeded by the pound sign. Example: #dumbshit. (Ok I did something wrong when I typed the pound sign because everything in this freakin blog is now big and gray and I can’t undo it.)


In Twitter (now it’s back to normal and I didn’t do anything) my mistake would be called a Twhoops. That’s a word I learned very quickly.


I can ask someone to DM me (be gentle please) and I am really asking for a direct message.


I can Twoosh (without being anywhere near the toilet handle) and I’ve successfully created a full 140 character Tweet.


I can TweetUP (no, that isn’t tooting while sleeping on your tummy) and meet up with someone I have met on Twitter.


I can download the Twitter application Twhirl (what happens right after I Twoosh) and have Tweets from people I follow show up just like an instant message. I left it on yesterday while I was shopping and my husband couldn’t figure out why my computer was burping. He probably wondered what I was Twitterfeeding it. Except that’s automatically posting a Tweet when I publish a new blog. Go Twifigure (that’s a Betsy original!)


If you are interested in hearing me Tweet, you can look me up in the Twellow pages or Twoogle me. When you do, I will Tweet you a high five and see if you are interested in Twisting with me–right before I welcome you with open arms to my new Twitterverse!


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How do I move the stinkin’ headline?

I could scream. In fact I just did. Very loudly. It was a scream so loud and primitive that the neighbor’s dog howled with me.

And our closest neighbors are five miles away.

Ok, a bit of an exaggeration, but you get my point.

After looking at all these great pages created by my 202 class I decided it was time to move into the big time and change “Betsy Rau’s blog” to something a little sexier. And upload a photo. And change the gray to something more exciting. You betcha. All I had to do was pull my husband away from 24 for a few minutes, shove a camera in his face, throw myself on the couch and lean forward to cover my chins and say, “Take it now.” (“Take me now” is reserved for other occasions.)

Easy enough. When he asked why I was doing this I snapped, “Nevermind. Just take the damned thing and I will leave you alone.” Obviously 24 meant more to him than finding out the answer to his question, so he did just that. Took the damned thing and went back to his show.

Minutes later, a show of a different nature was taking place at the dining room table. I hated the picture. In color, my hair looked brassy and I still had three of my five chins, so I switched it to black and white and did a little creative cropping. That was easier than asking Mr. I-love-24-more-than-you to take a second shot.

Because I am typing this into the word press “add new post” box and have lost the entire thing once before (or twice) I am now copying it. Excuse me for a moment.

Ok. So then I figured out how to upload the photo and successfully changed the name of my blog–after using the help function and figuring out that little man inside there likes “header” better than headline. Jerk. I’ll show you some header.

Actually, he showed me. There, plastered over my nose, was the title of my blog. Er, header of my blog. And as you can see, it is still there. And will be, I assume, until some little smart alec in my 202 class shows me how to move it.

Bring it on, 202!

Pretty please.


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Blogs, blunders and continued humiliation

I must admit, I was pretty smug when I asked my journalism 202 students which of them had blogged before and discovered only one of them had. Then when I found out  none of them had ever tweeted, I was even more smug. This wasn’t going to be so bad after all. They were as techno unsavvy as I.


When I went to read their first week of blogging, I was amazed at their Word Press pages. Pictures, links, interactive junk were all over them. While mine says, “Betsy Rau’s Blog,” theirs have clever titles and look fantastic. So these non-bloggers did the same thing I did—started a blog on Word Press and made me look like a moron. A total idiot. Again.

Not only did they write great blogs, they did it in style–several light years ahead of their instructor. It hurt. In fact the only satisfaction I got out of reading them was noticing an occasional misspelled word or AP style error. “Ha!” I would say to myself. “You don’t know smack about editing.”

And I don’t know smack about anything. Even Twitter. Within minutes of setting them up with Twitter accounts they were linking to Word Press, tweeting like they’d been doing it all their lives, and once again making me look like dog shit.

The only satisfaction I am getting out of this crap is the realization that blogs are opening a window to students’ lives I’ve never looked into before. I laugh when Annette talks about her roommates, I lean closer to look at Paige’s picture of a pound pup, and I smell the scent of Brendan’s Cuban cigar. I have to make some of Katie’s recipes and eat at Steffer’s recommended Mt Pleasant restaurants. I worry about Caitlin picking her lips and Sarah’s tattoo, not to mention Jerry’s taste in sports teams. And Mallory—can you find me the perfect bathing suit for spring break?

Thank you 202 for teaching ME, and for giving me 18 blogs to read every Sunday night. Regardless of the available technology, people will always have stories to tell and lives beyond the classroom. Thank you for letting me into yours.

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Eyebrow pencil–My mom’s technology

I’ve got about three blogs in my brain that need to be spit out. However, I lost a critical arm wrestling match with the flu this week and it took everything out of me. Everything.

Let me back up to when I had a normal life. That was up until a week ago Wednesday when my dad called me about 4 pm and said my mother was sick. Real sick. She had collapsed on the floor in the bathroom and he was having difficulty getting her into bed. He figured it was the flu but he was worried enough to tell me he would really like it if I would get over to Mt Pleasant. Fast.

I live an hour away and had just done 40 minutes on the elliptical. When you weigh what I do and work out at a high speed for that amount of time, it’s not pretty. After “powdering the pig” and changing into a clean outfit I hopped in the car and broke every speed law known to man as I booked it to my parents’.

When I walked in the door, yelling hello, I heard my dad’s voice from the bedroom. “I’m going to need some help,” he said. He was on the floor by the door. As I rounded the corner, I saw my mom, on the floor with her head jammed into the side of the nightstand. I used the one piece of technology I understand—the cell phone—and called 911 without asking my dad if that was ok. When the paramedics got there, her pulse was 26. Twenty-six.

After a trip to the Mt Pleasant hospital where they got her up to 37, they decided to ship her by ambulance to Ingham in Lansing. The cardiologists there were better equipped to deal with putting in a pacemaker if she made it to that point. I remember rubbing her back, asking her if there was anything I could get her at the house when we went to get dad an overnight bag. “My eyebrow pencil,” she said. “Don’t forget it.” I was pretty sure at that point my mom was going to live.

However, at one point on the trip to Lansing I broke out in a sweat. In my family something like that is a sign. What if she had just died and I never really said goodbye? Our last words—eyebrow pencil talk. And my dad. What would he do without her? Enough of that. Accelerate. Concentrate. And try to keep my dad’s eyes off the speedometer.

While my mom’s pulse had dropped to 25 again in the ambulance, she did make it to Ingham alive, and the next 5 hours were a blur of filling out forms, listening to the worst case scenarios and going back and forth from ICCU to the patient waiting room. At midnight, after a successful insertion of a temporary pacemaker, I kissed both my mom and dad goodnight and headed back to Mt Pleasant.

It was then that technology nailed me again. My phone began to beep with a low battery signal. I didn’t have my car charger with me. And what if the hospital needed to call on my way home? After a quick run to the Meijer on Lake Lansing Rd, I got back into the car with a Nextel compatible charger—but it was for a wall socket. I burst into tears. Back in the store, I was told customer service was closed and I would have to return the charger later. I purchased a Nextel compatible car charger and some Milk Duds and set off for home.

As I drove the hour long trip to Mt Pleasant I realized that technology had played a huge role in saving my mom’s life. A pacemaker to keep her heart going at an acceptable rate. Every machine in the world hooked up to her to let the hospital staff know if her condition changed. How lucky we are to live in a time period where the elderly have a great quality of life—and help when their bodies backfire on them.

And how lucky we are to have someone who’s been here much longer than technology, looking over those we love, keeping them safe and helping people like my mom wake up another day to put her eyebrows on.

Thank you, God.

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Even simple tasks seem remote to this bimbo

As I struggled to get the live coverage of the election to open on the laptop in my 202 class yesterday, one of my students said, “This will probably end up in your blog.” Yes. Humiliation number 4? 5? 6?  Hell, I’ve lost count. You get beaten down enough it all starts to feel the same. I think there is a definite reason blog rhymes with flog. Or blogging with flogging.

Regardless, I couldn’t get CNN to open. Fairly easy, right? Type CNN.com and hit return. Nope. Blank screen. Awkward silence as 18 people watched me try to close, force quit, disappear into the woodwork. Once I had forced it to quit, I went to WashingtonPost.com and clicked on “Live election coverage.” We got a staccato version of the video and a stuttered version of the audio. It was really quite annoying. When the Morning Sun was having video seizures, too, we did the only thing we could do at a moment like this–went out in the hallway to watch it on the four TV screens hanging on the wall. I had the remote. When I successfully pointed it at the TV with CNN on it and turned up the volume, I did a little, “Ooh ungawa, I got the powa” dance and mentally patted myself on the back. Then Jerry said, “Can we put CNN on all four TVs? I think that would be easier for all of us.”

I broke out in a sweat. Like I was supposed to use the remote and change all four TVs to the same station? I was holding in my hand a remote that had a minimum of thirty-two thousand buttons on it. Me, change the stations? I took a deep breath and swaggered toward him. “So, Jerry, do you want to do that?” Long pause while I waited for his answer. As he headed toward the screens, I silently thanked God and headed to the bathroom to change my Depends.

And like millions of Americans, we watched a very historic moment, listened to a great speech and a whopper of a song by Aretha, and knew we would remember where we were at that moment for the rest of our lives. My analyst says I’ll forget about the technology problems and be able to just remember the good parts of the day.

In time.


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I’m feeling like a twit

My very first blog talked about Grammar Girl and how you had to go through I-tunes. Well, I’m not sure that’s true. I was walking my 202 class through my experience and did everything the same. Searched for Grammar Girl. Went to the page. Clicked on listen. (At this point I am telling them clearly that this won’t work.) It worked. I am not sure if it’s because I tried it on a PC at home and a Mac with my class or what. Regardless–once again I felt a little stupid.

Then, I tried to attach my notes from the Poynter for my colleagues in the JRN dept to read. No one got the attachment. After three tries, where I could clearly see the attachment was there, I finally copied and pasted. Feeling like a real idiot, because I have attached nearly as many documents in my lifetime as I have eaten chocolate, I went into a deep funk. Three dark MUFA chocolate squares later, Mark Ranzenberger told me our list serve won’t allow attachments. Duh,

The final blow to my new media self esteem was trying to tweet. I actually succeeded there  and even tweeted from my phone in Traverse city, but when I tried to find friends on Twitter, so I can have some followers and do some following, it said, “Twitter is stressing out a bit right now, so this feature is temporarily disabled.” I have a horrible feeling I broke it. And I was looking foward to putting in some cool websites I have found so my followers can go there. (They are all clean sites, Bobby.) Now, I only have Barack Obama and Whole Foods following me. I kid not. Check it out. When you sign up to follow the inaguration, the Obama Twitterers sign up to follow you. When you sign up to follow Whole Foods, they follow you.

Life isn’t all that bad is it? Being followed by the President elect and food. What more could a girl ask for?

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