My ace in the hole as a human being used to be my capacity for remembering birthdays. I worked at it. Whenever I made a new friend, I made a point of finding out his or her birthday early on, and I would record it in my Filofax calendar.
Having animals in the city is entirely different from having animals out in the country. For one thing, it's more social. When you live on lots of acres without neighbors within a stone's throw, your dog-walks are usually solitary rambles over hill and dale.
Recently, I have come to assume that any call to my landline is from a telemarketer or an automated call from Terminex, letting me know that our regularly scheduled pest-extermination service will occur on its regular schedule. So I usually ignore my home phone.
'Brave' is one of those words that has been bleached of most of its meaning these days, thanks to far too many appearances in the glaring light of ad slogans and corporate public relations. I never thought about anything as brave anymore; it just seemed like a flabby, glib cliche.
When I heard about the Microsoft Kinect, though, I felt an urgency rising in me. A game you played without touching any machinery? A chance to wave your hands around, Minority-Report style, and move things around on a screen? This sounded like almost too much fun, with gadget-y pizzazz that sounded astonishing.
I have no idea how to get in touch with anyone anymore. Everyone, it seems, has a home phone, a cell phone, a regular e-mail account, a Facebook account, a Twitter account, and a Web site. Some of them also have a Google Voice number. There are the sentimental few who still have fax machines.
There will always be vain, obsessive people who want to own rare and extraordinary things whatever the cost; there will always be people for whom owning beautiful, dangerous animals brings a sense of power and magic.
You may never learn the names of any of the people you talk to in a dog park, even after many, many hours spent there with them, and many hours of conversation. But if - knock on wood - anything should ever happen to your dog, these nameless non-strangers will rally, sympathize, offer to help, and hold your hand. I know this from experience.
I want to let my friend Buster know that I would like to have dinner with him tonight. Does Buster work at home? Then how likely is he to have his cell phone on? Is he one of those people who only turns on his cell when he's in his car? I hate that.
I might have missed my calling as an editor. In the spring, the sight of my empty garden beds gives me the horticultural equivalent of writers' block: So much space! So many plants to choose among, and yet none of them seem quite right!
When I was a kid, Halloween was strictly a starchy-vegetable-only holiday, with pumpkins and Indian corn on the front stoop; there was nothing electric, nothing inflatable, nothing with latex membranes or strobes.
Borders had lousy management and made bad corporate decisions, so its fate is less like a terrible accident than a slow-motion slide into a ditch, but it's hard to be happy about a bookseller's demise.
Now we're e-mailing and tweeting and texting so much, a phone call comes as a fresh surprise. I get text messages on my cell phone all day long, and it warbles to alert me that someone has sent me a message on Facebook or a reply or direct message on Twitter, but it rarely ever rings.
Who on earth is going to use 'utilize' in a text message, a whopping seven characters including the always-hard-to-type 'z,' when you can say the exact same thing in three characters? I can't think of a sentence in which 'use' can't replace 'utilize.'
There are many bad things in this world of ours, but the use of the word 'monetize' has to rank high among them. Also, 'incentivize.' Actually, all the '-ize' words, like 'contextualize' and 'utilize' and 'prioritize.' And - this is almost too horrible to type - 'juniorize.'
I've always been afraid of video games - not afraid that I wouldn't like them, but that I would like them too much, and that after mere seconds in front of any particularly bright and absorbing game, I would abandon all ambition, turn into a mouth-breathing zombie, and develop a wide, sofa-shaped rear end.
What's funny is that the idea of popularity - even the use of the word 'popular' - is something that had been mostly absent from my life since junior high. In fact, the hallmark of life after junior high seemed to be the shedding of popularity as a central concern.
Most fourth graders can't say why Abraham Lincoln is an important historical figure? Wow. This is far more distressing than if the news had been that fourth graders were bad at reciting multiplication tables, because you can, in fact, Google that.
You could go crazy thinking of how unprivate our lives really are - the omnipresent security cameras, the tracking data on our very smart phones, the porous state of our Internet selves, the trail of electronic crumbs we leave every day.
I remember thinking that a girdle was barbaric, and that never in a million years would I treat myself like a sleeping bag being shoved into a stuff sack. Never! Instead, I would run marathons and work out and be in perfect shape and reject the tyranny of the girdle forever.
I've loved some gadgets that were not worthy, and I've loved gadgets that I would have loved more if I had waited for their developers to figure out how to really make them work, but I loved them anyway.
We do a lot of bird-watching up in the country, but we almost never have a chance to people-watch. There simply aren't enough human beings up here: there is nowhere you can park yourself with a cup of coffee and observe the species on parade.