Name: margalit
Location: Massachusetts, United States Professional writer, educational advocate, opinionated ultra liberal mother of 18 year old twins, living life in the slow lane due to hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, congestive heart failure, and diabetes.

email: margalitc at yahoo dot com

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Thursday, June 30, 2011

Defining the Internet Troll

Gracious me, there has been yet another Twitter scuffle, one that needs a bit of dissecting. I'll be naming names in this post so you can go and look for yourself about the hissyfit. I'm more interested in the namecalling, particularly the use of "troll".

Trolling on the net is far from a new thing. Trolls have existed for at least 20 years, way back when there was no WWW and people used Usenet newsgroups to tell their stories. Usenet was an anarchic, riotous form of communication, a bit like facebook only with no restrictions on the length of a post nor the concept of "friends". Instead, Usenet was grouped by topic, from the most esoteric computer science to religion, parenting, hobbies, and science. Back in the Usenet days, those of us on the 'net were either scientists of some sort, grad students, or techno-geeks in high tech. There were no private accounts, you had to be associated with a university or business that had internet access. This was before AOL came into existence and led to the downfall of Usenet by bringing on millions of the internet unwashed.

One of the quaint features of Usenet were the trolls, people that liked to post outrageous things because they were so outlandish as to bring out the kooks and the uninitiated. Trolls were the people that posted any response diametrically opposed to the original post, just to see what would happen. An example were the childfree trolls that would go onto the main parenting group, misc.kids, and start "breeder" wars. Other examples were people that called anyone not Christian an infidel, reamed out cooks posting recipes calling them plagiary, etc. You get the idea. Trolling was a game, people did it just to score a reaction, and certain people earned lifetime notoriety for their trolling.

I'm not a bit embarrassed to admit that a big group of women including myself created a troll post just to see what the reaction would be. We only did it once, and it was one of the funniest things I've ever done. Many of the guilty are my friends on facebook today, lo these 15 years later!

What trolling is not: disagreeing with someone on the internet. Honest disagreement is the life's blood of the 'net. How boring would the 'net be if everyone agreed with each other? If a poster calls out another poster on their blog, on facebook or twitter, and says "your last post was bullshit for the following cogent reasons..." this is NOT trolling. This is disagreeing. And disagreement is fine. In fact, it should be encouraged. How do we learn anything from each other if we all agree? Disagreement stirs up thought, adding different perspectives that are just as valid as the original post.

What bothers us long time Usenet and then web users is when a cult is formed, and you must agree with the cult leader or you are ostracized and called a troll. The twitter example that I mentioned above is exactly this. Anna Veile had the audacity (thank goodness) to question Dooce on her recent trip to Bangladesh. Now, to tell the absolute truth here, I'm a big fan of both posters. I like Anna because she is not afraid to speak out when she sees hypocrisy and she is so NOT a fan of the blogher ad network, like me. I like Dooce because I think she's a decent writer and chronicler of her life, even though I often take quiet umbrage at the constant traveling, and the money, money, money she's so happy to let us all know she's making from blogging. I also vastly dislike the opinion of Dooce and her husband that she founded mommyblogging and without her, we would all be silenced. Um, no. Not so. See Usenet above. Most of us were writing on the net when she was barely out of diapers.

Anna tends to call a spade a spade and she deeply embarrassed BlogHer be laying bare the joke that is their ad network. She was 100% correct in her assessment of how BlogHer lied to their network affiliates, cutting payments in order to cover very large blogs like Confessions of a Pioneer Woman. Like multi-millionaire Ree needed more money.

Every time Anna posts anything that crosses the refined sensibilities of the A-list bloggers, she is called a troll. Which is insane and just proves how ignorant these women are about their internet history. Anna runs a very professional site and is well regarded despite the name calling. She appears a lot more professional than does Heather Armstrong, who thinks farts are so darn funny (which they are if you're 5, but at 35, not so much) and feels the need to cover her dog's penis sheath with a "privacy patch" in every photo. Mature? No way, Jose.

Anna also covers blog news, occasionally breaking stories before the actual blogger has. Like Her Bad Mother, who is leaving her native Canada behind and taking a real job at Babble at the end of the summer. The queen of Woe is Me going to the most obnoxious parenting site on the web? It's a match made in heaven. Good luck to her in NYC. Guess her shilling for BlogHer is finally a thing of the past. Meanwhile, she's been hinting about "big changes coming but I can't possibly say what or when" for months now. Big deal. She got a job. We should all keel over and faint? Blergh.

But you can bet your last dollar that Anna's reveal is going to cause a huge volcano of hand-wringing and angst-filled posts. Anna is a reporter, and this is what reporters do. You don't like it? Move somewhere where bloggers are sanctioned and the free press is just a dream. Here in the USA we get to say what we want, even if you don't agree. And that is NOT trolling.

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Monday, June 27, 2011

Lonely, I'm Ms Lonely

I got nobody to call my own...

Bobby Vinton had it right. I've been really lonely recently. Part, no most of it is my own doing. I've been so stuck in the house for so long that I can barely remember a time when I felt free. Now that I've got the Ride back, there is such a big city to go out and see that I'm actually overwhelmed with possibilities.

To nobody's surprise, I'm not great with people. For far too long I've been fearful of getting too close to anyone. I wouldn't be wrong to say that a lot of this goes back to my family of origin and their early rejection of me as a member of their family. I'm really  not a member of any family right now. Oh, my own tiny family for sure. But otherwise I have no parents and no siblings that I have any relationship with. I'm an embarrassment to my siblings. I'm poor and fat and in medical distress and that doesn't say inviting, especially to a group of people to whom outward appearances speak louder than what is inside. I own nothing material, I have no career anymore, and I have little to talk about other than my kids, my health and politics. I'm not exactly a joy to have around.

But no matter how negatively I feel about myself and my circumstances, I still want and need human interaction that goes beyond telling kids to wash the damn dishes and take out the garbage. That gets REALLY old really fast. I love my kids, but they aren't my entire life. I want more. I need much much more. I'm not a bad person, but I'm prickly and I have been over-preoccupied with me to the detriment of my mental well-being.

I feel as it I'm a burden to society. I'm hanging on with all the strength I have, but on the other hand, I'd like a bit of support. I'm so tired of fighting for every single thing in my life. One of the worst parts of being poor is that people never think of you. I feel like I've disappeared into the woodwork. I had a group of friends that all deserted me as soon as I needed help last summer. One accused me of being a 'grifter' which was about as insulting as you can be, and yet she didn't offer one second of help when she knew how I was struggling. Other people made promises but never kept any of them. The people that did help did so with caveats or strings. I was appreciative and let them know that in every way I could, but the reality is, friendships ended over us losing our home. People with gobs of money not only didn't offer help, but told me how I should have had the money to just rent a home without the understanding of how much it would cost me. They made me feel terrible about myself instead of being kind and supportive. One person never even said a thing. She just dumped me, not responding to my emails or calls.

So I'm gun shy. I don't seem to pick out the best friends. And I don't seem to be able to sustain relationships because I'm either a sad sack or the worst possible judge of character. I seem to attract people who are also struggling in life. And I tend to take on their issues, even with my own issues threatening to drown me. Oh, and there is that whole social anxiety thing that makes it impossible to go anywhere without freaking out. Plus my inability to small talk.

I'm a real social pariah, and yet I'm lonely. What a conundrum. I need more out of life than what I'm currently living. I just am clueless of how to get it.

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Saturday, June 25, 2011

Once upon a time in Boston

Nope, this is not another tale about Whitey Bulger. I think we have all had enough of Whitey right now. The excitement of his capture, his extradition back here, his indictments, his girlfriend, his brother Billy... it is enough already. I'm totally ODed on Whitey.

But he isn't the only thing to happen in Boston the past week. There is also my long-standing battle to get food stamps. Which would make a great episode of The Office if only it wasn't about life and death. To recap, Gemma went to the local office here countless times to apply for food stamps. We thought with a different name and a new address they couldn't screw up our application if she applied. How naive and stupid I was. Of course they screwed up every single facet of the application. We had to fax our paperwork 4 separate times, the last time being sent by a friend at yet another new fax number.

Once everything was faxed we got a letter saying that we were getting ZERO food stamps because they didn't have copies of our lease and medical receipts. So we faxed them AGAIN. Then we got another letter saying that since we moved they were transferring us to the Revere office. Um, we had not moved since applying initially.

I call the Revere office and speak to someone that actually  feels badly at the treatment we have received and gives me the phone number of the asst director of the agency. I call her and leave a message telling her my long tale of woe. Someone from her office calls back and says that we will be getting food stamps in mid-July and because our application was so screwed up for months we were going to get some back payments. I get all excited. FOOD!

We get a letter yesterday confirming that the payments will start mid-July. Nothing about the back payment but I'm still feeling positive because I am an optimistic fool.  I decide to call the office hotline to see if maybe we have some $ on the EBT card. I honestly thought that everything was finally solved. I have never been more wrong. They cancelled my EBT card. CANCELLED the card.

I mean it when I say that to be employed by this state you must have an IQ of 80 or less. They are overworked morons.

So, on Monday I will once again be on the phone and my guess is that we have to start all over again. So terribly frustrating.

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Thursday, June 16, 2011

Temper Tantrum Alert

Holy Mother of God. Dealing with the state is driving me nuts. Absolutely bonkers. It isn't that the people I'd dealing with aren't nice. They are. And helpful when they can be. It is that the way the communicate with each other is back in the stone age, and they have no money to improve the communication. I'm so frustrated I'd like to go out and buy them a fax machine for the 2 offices trying to talk to each other. Of course I can't but damn, I'd like to.

So this is what's going on. We applied for food stamps in April. We got all of our documentation together, and watched them fax it to the big office in Boston. We WATCHED THEM. Then I started getting letters from the main office saying that we didn't send any documents. So they faxed them all again. More letters came. I got nervous and started calling the worker assigned to us. She said that she hadn't gotten the faxes, which I knew was bullshit. But we faxed them again. Three times we faxed a ton of documents. Then I got a letter saying that we needed to submit all my medical expenses, so I went down to the local office and again watched them fax the stuff to the main office.

Then silence. No word for weeks. So I started calling my case worker in the downtown office. No return calls, mail box filled up. You know the story. Finally today there is a message on her machine saying she's out on an emergency and left the number of her supervisor. I call Lucia the supervisor and she looks around and tells me that I've been approved for 0. This means that we get nothing....again. I ask why and she says that they are missing the copy of my lease and all utility bills.

Three separate times I KNOW the documents have been faxed. And they still can't seem to get from one end of Boston to the other. I'm beyond frustrated. You cannot use snail mail, or I would just mail them return receipt requested. You HAVE to fax them to one number and one number only. We've done that over and over. And yet... it isn't done. I called our local worker and left her a message asking her to fax it again. AGAIN. But the truth is, their fax machine is so old and cranky that I have doubts it will ever reach the downtown office. It would be simple to just fax the stuff myself. Except.... no money. Not a penny. Which is WHY we need food stamps so desperately. I haven't been to the grocery store in 2 months. We are living on what we get from the food pantry. Which is pasta, pasta and oh.... pasta. Every fricking night.

Now I'm in a holding pattern...again. Sigh.

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Saturday, June 11, 2011

Think twice

I'm not a Facebook whore, but I was invited to play a game called Garden of Time recently, and OMG, I got hooked hard. The game itself is kind of stupid, and I imagine it is a lot like Farmville, that FB game that was all the rage a couple of years ago. Gardens of Time (GOT) has you building a "museum" where you get to add artifacts as you move up the levels. It also has matching games, which is the part I really like about the game. I figure that this kind of mental workout is good for my rather fuzzy brain.

Anyhow, in order to get anywhere in the game you have to add neighbors. I only had a small amount of neighbors and i needed more in order to enlarge my museum. So I went on the forum and was immediately stumped by one of the 2 math questions you have to answer in order to register on the forum. I finally figured out the answer and posted a query for some new neighbors. Little did I know that thousands of people read the forums and they started requesting that I be their neighbor at a rather alarming rate. I felt a bit like Mr Rogers. I now have more neighbors than I will ever need.

Unfortunately, my neighbors are needy folks. They keep asking me to send them gifts. Gifts that I have to send one at a time because there is no "select all" button. This means that all my spare time is spent gifting complete strangers with virtual gifts. Plus, I need gold to finish building two projects.

The moral of the story is to think twice before you get caught up in a Facebook game. Really.

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Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Thing that make me say "hmmmmm."

Colbert on Palin's Paul Revere gaff:

Don't text in this movie theater.

Pretty things

The weather. First blistering hot. Then tornados. Then nice cooler weather. Now back to steaming hot.

Bought a bottle of Mojitos. Not a mix, actual mojitos. Put bottle half full in fridge, pulled it out tonight with one fingerful left in it. Is it fair that I cannot keep any alcohol for me in the house? He drinks anything alcoholic.

I’m posting this to enter a contest offered by Brad’s Deals at I Am Bossy! I want to win the iPad 2! Enter to win here!

That's pretty much a wrap.


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Thursday, June 02, 2011


We had a bit of the weather the rest of the country seems to be exhibiting today.

We ended the storm with 4 confirmed deaths, 33 known injuries and 5 people in surgery. Buildings in central and western Ma were damaged and destroyed. By TORNADOES. WTF? We don't have tornado activity here. Until today, anyhow. Now we have 19 communities in the Pioneer Valley that were hit. Nineteen. How weird is that?


Those readers that have no idea of MA geography might not know that Springfield is the state's third largest city, not that this means much as the only real city in MA is Boston. Springfield is desperately poor, with a high unemployment rate, depressed Main Street with many empty storefronts, a large Hispanic population and a high crime rate. The area is so depressed that manufacturing is long gone, houses are dilapidated, and there is virtually little chance to improve ones life there.

Both of my brothers live in the Springfield suburb of Longmeadow. One of my brothers works in downtown Springfield (what little there is of it) and does business in the courthouse that is right downtown. Since I happen to be really ticked at him, I didn't even bother to see if he's OK. I figure that eventually I would hear something. Maybe not. I don't really care right now.

I don't have much love for Springfield. Other than the Basketball Hall of Fame and the Quadrangle of Museums, there is absolutely nothing that could possibly interest me. The downtown mall called Baystate West is filled with empty stores. There really aren't any restaurants worth visiting, nor bars with music. It is as different than Boston as Fargo or Juneau would be. MA doesn't think much of the Western part of the commonwealth. Between Worcester and the Berkshires is a kind of no man's land of small towns, rural and without much to offer other than cheap housing and a lot of bugs.

Even though I'm not fond of the area, I feel badly about the devastation and know that the possibility of Springfield bouncing back is doubtful. The state is broke, the western part of the state always gets the shaft, it the whole think stinks.

Photos taken from boston.com

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