Category Archives: internet

Sand Upon the Waters is on the Web

I don’t want to achieve immortality through my work…I want to achieve immortality through not dying                                   —Woody Allen

Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.                     —Eleanor Roosevelt


Walking with a much younger friend the other day, I shared the news that I am developing a web presence.  My sister Nanci, a web designer visiting from British Columbia, was organizing my HLP columns and composing a website.  “I never thought of you as narcissistic” was my friend’s response.  It gave me pause.  

Granted, I subject old friends and former neighbors to my struggles and missteps on a monthly basis, but my portrayals rarely cast me in a positive light.  Of the seven deadly sins I mostly exhibit sloth, impulsivity, and a tenuous relationship between cause and effect.  I do not crave attention, but rather serve as a cautionary tale. I hope for, if not universality, at least  a faint recognition. My goal is to write about the important issues of the day, like garage sales, the conspiracy of objects, and what happens if you have nine dogs over for Christmas dinner.  Heady stuff.

Do my columns merely serve as a buffer between real estate ads in a community newspaper, or are they, as one reader suggested, a desperate cry for help?  The real question is Are they worth preserving?  I am not talking Smithsonian, but JoAnne is tired of the boxes of newspapers that I seem incapable of discarding or organizing.  (An aside: the word fire hazard is tossed around entirely too blithely in contemporary culture.) 

I have written more than three hundred columns since 1980 and a compromise seems to be storing them in “The Cloud,” not in the basement, which we don’t have.  Nanci to the rescue.  She has searched for themes, added photos, and put together through wizardry and hard work a web site.  Might a book publisher or Hollywood literary type decide that my collected columns would make a best seller and a vehicle for Ben Stiller? I am more likely to attract a bored actuary from Dayton. 

As to the original charge of self absorption, I fear my motives are even more grandiose.  I do not paint, sculpt, or create in any meaningful way.  My website may be more like a futile grasp for immortality.  I get no money for clicks or visitors, but humor me and check it out at

Tom H. Cook is grateful to The Hill and Lake Press for untold patience and friendship.



Electronic Devices

 “A mother is only as happy as her unhappiest child.”

Whether the origin is an old Russian proverb or a Hint from Heloise, the poignancy of the unending love and concern for a child even after the kid retires and moves to Boca Raton is heartwarming.  To my knowledge I am the first to be so materialistic, self-absorbed, and gadget obsessed to apply it to a relationship with electronic devices.  I have real children, now adults, but they do not need me the way my iPod, iPad, and Kindle do.  A crackling in my earphone or a slow podcast download is as unnerving as a CROUPY COUGH low battery signal.

The little scamps frequently need downloads, uploads, updates, operating system upgrades, and a new app, not to mention battery charging and screen windexing.  It takes considerable work, but the rewards!   I can walk down the street to “Saturday Night Fever”, play Words With Friends, or watch a short video of a duck mother and a baby kitten, all while waiting to have my teeth cleaned. I have no idea how I stumbled through life without these necessities.

A toaster makes toast (or in my case melts plastic bread bags left in its path) but it is (no offense) an appliance.  My little Kindle and Apple friends grow and learn.  Whether it is a stimulating new podcast, or a bug fix for a favorite app, it is as if they go off to school in a Wi-Fi cloud and come home bursting with new information, just like human children.

What, no iPhone?  As crazy as it sounds, I gathered my little electronic family and we discussed having podcasts, music, Internet, e-mail, photos, and video on a telephone.  My trusty iPod was strangely silent. Intimidated? Jealous?  We, I mean I, am so used to my iPod and earbuds that a new device would jeopardize our bond.

My usually reliable iPad II froze when I attempted to download articles about the new iPad Air.  In my defense I never used the phrase “relatively clunky;” that was a reviewer.  I admit I was curious about the retinal display, impressed by the weight, and momentarily seduced by the pixels.  As I said to Mona, I mean my iPad II, hadn’t I stood in line for five hours in the bitter cold the first week she/it was available?  She said we met in Manhattan Beach, it was 60 degrees and the wait was more like four hours.  I replied that I am loyal and never even considered the iPad mini.  Still, my downloads were slow for a week.

There were no objections to the Kindle joining our family.  It is interesting to browse Kindle Buffet for free e-books, although most are categorized as Bulgarian Women/ Christian Fiction/Romance/Adventure/Amish/Coming of Age.  The Kindle is lightweight and backlit, making it possible to read even heavy books in bed with the light off.  I have borrowed some e-books from local libraries and I may even buy a few to help support the fledgling company Amazon.

My editor (JoAnne) is often in Atlanta with our granddaughter Charlotte (HLP 10/13).   A great night for me is not networking at Chateau Marmont with industry types or doing shots with my bros in Hermosa Beach, but early bed with dogs for warmth and my Kindle and Apple buddies for entertainment.  In The Usual Suspects, the phantom world of Keyser Soze, the devil’s greatest feat is convincing people that he doesn’t exist.  My electronic friends have us believing they are not real.

Tom H. Cook a former local has moved far west of Hennepin Avenue.  He has come a long way from his acerbic suggestion that computers make the unnecessary possible.       



So How About That Twitter!

It would be convenient to blame age for my initial wariness and reluctance to try new things.  Unfortunately it is more a lifetime pattern.  A local fast food restaurant nearly ground to a halt because as a seven year old I would not abide even the hint of a condiment on my hamburger.  In those days special orders did upset them, as well as my parents who were less than pleased when I, years later, not only saw the light but became a ketchup pusher, extolling its virtue at nearly every meal.  Not only am I late getting into the pool, but once I am wet I become a secular Billy Graham urging others to join me.

So how about that Twitter!  Now that there are over 500 million users I have decided to tweet.  Previously the few social media comments I read were hopelessly banal: “I just had a peach, yum!”  T.S. Eliot mused about daring to eat a peach in “The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock”; everyone else need not bother.  If someone had told me that Twitter is a way to make snarky irreverent comments about fools in high places without getting punched in the arm I would have joined years ago.  The haymaker came from a self righteous classmate at Pennsauken High.  The PA had come on in homeroom and the office secretary began, “May I have your attention please…Mr. P___ has an important announcement.”  “Yeah,” I said, “if he doesn’t spill it.”

It was fairly well known that our principal liked to drink, and this was before the era of political correctness.  Most of the class broke up which helped ease the pain of Donnie Cutler’s fist on my bird-like bicep, and the detention I received.  My career of slipping banana peels under the feet of jack booted lock-stepped conformists was born.

I am a long time commentator on the wardrobe of various emperors.  Having worn out most of my friends and family I am delighted to have a new vehicle and hopefully an audience for smart-aleck remarks, wry witticisms, petty digs, and wrong-headed yet trenchant observations.  I will of course save my scurrilous and borderline libelous remarks for The Hill and Lake Press.  If you are willing to indulge me, I am untethered, but my twitter handle is  @tomhowardcook.

Tom H. Cook is (despite the continued presence of Michelle Bachmann) a proud Minnesotan stationed in Southern California.  He hopes that you will friend, follow, or at least attempt to understand him.



We have met the enemy and he is us.                    —Walt Kelly

For a long time I have been railing at friends, and even total strangers trapped in slow moving bank or grocery checkout lines, about the nearly universal use of ear buds.  Without sounding too much like the late Andy Rooney, I was against them, almost to the point of producing spittle.  I viewed the ubiquitous ivory colored plugs as more than a minor distraction or fashion statement, but an antisocial act.  By choosing to seal ourselves in an audio bubble, we not only erect additional barriers with others, but we may stifle our own thoughts.  A brimming haiku, a stinging letter to the editor, a snappy retort for the next tailgating yahoo in a monster truck…snuffed out by a medley of The Grass Roots Greatest Hits.

When I really got going I could verbally Evil Knievel the Snake River Canyon of logic and extrapolate a world of isolated Bee Gees listening zombies, anesthetized and ripe for totalitarian picking.  We walk the lakes and hike the wilderness for the quiet and ambient sounds.  Nature does not require a soundtrack.  Thoreau cruising around Walden with an iPod?  Blasphemy!

Profound alienation, a diss to the environment, issues of safety (distractibility and what that can entail), and the risk of hearing loss to the wearer.  That was my platform, shared with anyone who would listen, and a few that merely turned up the volume to mute my diatribe.  I now see these views as more than a tad extreme, but not without merit.  Nonetheless I have done almost a complete 180 degree turn.  I still do not know what others were listening to, but I always assumed it was music.  I enjoy music, but I do not need it piped over a loudspeaker in a mega mall (another topic) or in my ears.

Podcasts are another story.  I can go for a walk with Ira Glass (This American Life) and not need to hold up my end of the conversation.  I do not watch sports very often, but I am hooked on the soap opera which is Peyton Manning, Jeremy Lin, and Ryan Braun.  Dan Patrick, Colin Cowherd, Mike and Mike, are my podcast pals that make going to the post office or to buying gas (ouch) more interesting.

I have the zeal of a convert.  Do I want to invite a friend on a walk or for tea, and risk a possibly tearful/angst ridden/ intimate/messy/galvanizing/soul-baring/cathartic/breakthrough/bonding/heartfelt exploration of the preciousness of life, the impossible pain of unrequited love, the existential barrenness of possessions, and the hollowness of unfulfilled dreams? Or do I want to go out alone, but with the voice of Keith Olbermann updating me on the latest hijinks of fools in high places?

Tom H. Cook is a very longtime writer for this paper, which is not an excuse, but perhaps an explanation.  He will probably return next month unless someone tells him to stop.


Words With Friends

Playing “bop” is like playing Scrabble with all the vowels missing.      –Duke Ellington

I was peacefully enjoying the prime of my senility.  Content to watch the carnival of politicians wreathe, contort, and embarrass themselves, turning into figures of pity and scorn as they shamelessly pander and grovel for the highest office in the land.  A friend, perhaps concerned about my increasing interest in my other hobby (looking for two identical salt crystals), challenged me to play WORDS WITH FRIENDS, a bastardized form of Scrabble.  WWF is an app for those who find talking on the phone, shaving, and making breakfast, all while driving, not challenging enough.  Young Type A multi-taskers may squeeze in games with up to twenty opponents during spare seconds of their busy days,or at night as a way to unwind during the slow parts of action movies, or romantic dinners.

For me it is all I am able to do.  I have become frustrated, enthralled, and addicted to this silly exercise.  I live in a world where vice ((11 points) is better than nice (9 points). and a quarter (17 points) is worth almost twice as much as a dollar (9 points).  You can play with strangers of all skill levels to sharpen your game.  I prefer to be humiliated by those closest to me.  I am not being modest when I say I am not very good.  “The Scrabble Book” by Derryn Hinch states that the game is only 12 percent luck, I prefer to believe that I have just been slow to adjust to the bare knuckles reality of WWF.

Hinch suggests there are two approaches.  With thinly veiled disdain, he describes expansive play, laying down long words that may impress your partner but produce few points.  The rest of the chapter is devoted to playing tight which sadly does not involve drinking.  A tight strategy focuses on hooks (like plumbers’ elbow joints) that redirect the game to triple letter and triple word squares.  The point total of a well placed pluralizing “S” or a prefix or suffix can dwarf the original offering.  Just yesterday my cleverly arranged CAVORT (13 pts.) was eclipsed by my opponent’s added “S” in a triple word square.  The skillful player then sandwiched my word with parallel two and three letter words. I am not sure if “words” like (EF, TA, XU, EFS, PFT, SUQ) are vocabulary building, but 93 points later I was in no mood to cavort.

The tight approach is more than making words/points; it features a defensive plan of attack.  Like the game Stalingrad (which I have never played but witnessed a roommate’s two year battle in college), WWF requires blocking your opponent with words that cannot be added to, and capturing the triple letter and triple word squares. It is also imperative to memorize small obscure words that do not come up in polite conversation like crwth (an ancient stringed instrument), phpht (an alternative form of pht), and cwm (Welsh for valley).  I have yet to use glycls (a residue present in a polypeptide), or thymy (fragrant smell of thyme) but I am ready.

WWF also records when moves are made.  I know more of the sleep and work habits of my friends than I care to.  The game is something of a Rorschach test.  Liberal arts majors lay down different words than engineers.  I play with my son Ben, whose final scores almost double mine.  This is fine with me as he will someday be providing my care.  I watch the window for my neighbor.  She and her kids are blithely unloading their Costco run, not realizing I have the drawn the “Z” to make the word SYZYGY!  One friend called to make sure our relationship would survive our fervent long distance war of words.

Besides working my brain a little, playing has helped exorcise some negative feelings I had buried about competition.  Scrabble games of my youth began with harmless bluffing and degenerated into loud altercations.  Some boor would think that if you slowly enunciated the word but in a sufficiently loud and menacing tone it would jog the memory of the other players.  Invariably Noah Webster’s name would be impugned, and the dictionary thrown across the room. A pleasant element of WWF is the immediate (no appeal) scoring feature.  This is not Scrabble, there are word discrepancies, omissions and head scratching inclusions, but the resulting peace, as the commercial says, is priceless.

Tom H. Cook currently holds a record of 5-12 (single play high score of 76 points) since devoting most of his waking hours to Words With Friends.  He is beginning to like non-Scrabble playing people better.

Minneapolis in Mid-September

What a wonderful week to come home.  Minneapolis in mid-September has always been one of my favorite times.  The lush trees and cool air, the young families (many with requisite lab or golden retriever), and most everyone’s pace is of hurried optimism.  Winter is coming, but not yet.

I have always loved to show off Minneapolis, whether to stray relatives, old friends from college, or friends of friends.  Even driving somewhere alone I would frequently play tour guide in my mind.  When Rachael returned for a wedding along with her husband Daniel, a New Zealander who had never been to Minnesota, it was the ultimate challenge.  I wanted him to see everything.  Working against my rapidly evolving plan was Rachael’s mortification at me dragging him off, and Daniel’s desperate need for sleep, something he had had almost none of for three days.  The kids also had a commitment with friends and a dash to the airport.  I had one hour.

We began at the old house.  It pays to sell to friends.  Barb and Alan welcomed us to 24th and Humboldt.  Poking around, showing off the still preserved height marks of growing children, and seeing the changes and improvements through Daniel’s eyes was fulfilling, but Tom the Taskmaster had more to point out, and the clock was running.

Flying out the door, we passed Walter and Joan Mondale’s house.  I wanted the Kiwi to see that at least one former U.S. vice president doesn’t need guards, a gated estate, and opulent surroundings.  The lakes impressed him immediately.  By the fourth lake and despite my running narrative and erratic driving he was ready to call a realtor.

JoAnne would have wanted to stop at the elf tree at Lake Harriet, or just walk peacefully around Isles, but she was visiting friends, and I am a quantity over quality guide.  We passed the beautiful mosaic at Lakewood cemetery, but it received short shrift compared to the Lake of the Isles dog park.  We raced and chased on a beautiful late summer afternoon.  Daniel was impressed by the number of people smiling (unlike in LA).  Dropping them off in Uptown as I pointed out Magers and Quinn and the Apple store, the kids forgave my exuberance.  I called out that Minneapolis has free WiFi as they sprinted away.  It is hard to do twenty-five years in an hour.

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The rest of the week was spent more leisurely.  Reminiscing, seeing old friends, going to garage sales, biking the lakes, it was great to be back.  JoAnne returned to The Minnesota Textile Center which has become the finest in the nation in our nine years away.  As a fiber artist it brings her as much joy as I feel watching a baseball game at Target Field.  On the flight back to LA, JoAnne smiled wistfully and said,”I miss Minnesotans.”


Tom H. Cook is a formerly local writer now stationed in southern California.  He realizes that he occasionally needs to abandon the bloody pulpit for more local observations.  He was particularly impressed that the (Cursetown) Crosstown/35W no longer does. 

How About Them Apps?

Isn’t it irritating when a vapid acquaintance breathlessly and with great flourish presents as new, information you have been aware of for quite some time?  It may be a shortcut through town, a new Bulgarian restaurant, or a television show you have been watching for years.  They expect you to share their zeal and congratulate them on being “with it” and ahead of the curve

On another topic, how ‘bout them apps?  In my defense, I knew there was something going on with iPhones, but with no interest in watching full length feature films on a “2X”3 telephone, or a game on any screen.  I ignored the buzz, and missed Apple’s iPad 1 entirely.  The ads for iPad 2 created in me and millions of other lemmings a fervent desire to acquire one immediately. I catapulted from oblivious to obsessed without stopping at rational or reasonable.

My fanaticism was poorly timed.  The first days after the release, demand for the iPad 2  far exceeded supply.  Despite the $500 price tag and me having no idea what I would do with it just served to whet my appetite.  Arriving a mere three hours before the Apple store opens gets you nothing but scorn from the hundred plus faithful already in line.  I slunk away consoled that while others may be more tech savvy, they could not out crazy me.  The next “day” (4:30 AM) I was eighth in line.  Five hours later I was clutching my purchase and comprehending almost nothing of the mini-orientation the “Apple Genius” was patiently walking me through.

I am not interested in taking infrared pictures of the dogs, playing guitar, or making a movie on my iPad.  I have become fascinated by all the free or 99 cent apps (short for applications) available for download.  Because I missed the iPhone boat, the world of apps caught me off guard.  There are between 65,000 and 250,000 iPhone/iPad, Apple sanctioned and rogue apps.  Most of my waking hours are spent strategizing how to procure interesting apps.  Alas this leaves little time to enjoy my new little friends as hundreds of apps are being minted every day.

Staying away from the superb but well known apps (Netflix, Pandora, Wikipanion, Kindle, Movies by Flixer) here are a few of my new favorites.  Crackle (free movies and TV, History of Jazz, Politico, The Hill HD (inside the Beltway politics), Pulse (news and videos),60 Minutes (huge archive of full shows), The Young Turks (politics/lifestyle), Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, TuneIn Radio (50,000 stations), 3D Brain, The Huffington Post, Slate, (new/culture), Taptu (news), ESPN (sports in many incarnations), Zite Personalities (news), Qwiki (reference), Brainshark (business) and TED education/future trends).


“IRTNOG”             –-E.B. White

In 1938 E.B. White, tongue firmly in cheek, wrote “IRTNOG” a short essay chronicling the futility of keeping up with the constant bombardment of information in the pre-World War II era.  He saw modern civilization as locked in a Quixotic duel not with windmills, but a rapidly expanding print culture.    While well intentioned, we were over-matched in the battle to remain well-informed.  A temporary solution was Reader’s Digest, which sought to synthesize multiple news sources.

Alas, the tide was rising and soon, according to White, there were one hundred and seventy-three digests to help people stay current.  This number of short cuts soon became unwieldy and sadly inadequate in the face of the deluge.  The answer to the exponential increase in the ‘body of knowledge’ was a digest of digests.  Without spoiling the ending too much, it all came down to IRTNOG.

With or without the Internet we have long since lost the battle of information overload that White satirized more than seventy years ago.  That ship has sailed.  To beat a nautical metaphor to death, I am drowning, as I attempt to keep track of the passwords to the various sources that have seeped from luxury to necessity in my computer life.

I fear identity theft although I cannot see anyone wanting to be me.  Nonetheless since hackers prey on the unsuspecting and unoriginal great care must be taken in selecting just the right password.  That a password needs to be changed every month falls into the wistful thinking category with tire rotation, mattress flipping, and certain kinds of flossing.

The prohibitions are daunting, do not use ABC or 123.  (Password is not a good password).  Avoid the obvious giveaways like your nickname, bike lock combination, month of birth of any family member, high school graduation year, favorite color, mother’s maiden name, dimension of guest bathroom, elementary school attended, name of first crush, pet names, local sports team, most awesome band, make of first car, hometown, or favorite superhero.  Do not select a word, phrase, or acronym with any meaning or association to you or anyone in your carpool.

I use IRTNOG as a six letter password whenever possible as a silent protest of the ever increasing number of ID’s, and nicknames my computer requires.  Lacking imagination, I have been forced to exhaust all configurations, and spellings of every pet I have ever owned to satisfy, PayPal, iTunes, Yahoo, Travelocity, Ebay, Netflix, Facebook, and an ever growing collection of web sites.

It is wonderful to be able to read the New York Times on-line, but remembering the password is maddening.  What was I thinking in May, 2007?  Did I sign up using the name of my palindrome border collie Hannah, or is this a site that requires eight letters? Does it demand numbers and letters, and (gasp) what if it is case sensitive?   Am I even registered under an e-mail account of mine, or one of JoAnne’s?  Do I want the burden of another password?

I have taken to writing out new passwords on the backs of envelopes which I plan to transfer to my master list when I locate it.  Helpful people suggest that I compile and download the missive into a folder with an attachment on my hard drive or put it in Windows.  My eyes glaze over early in the tutorial, but one time I did manage to create a rather impressive list of accounts and corresponding passwords.  Sadly, weeks later I could not access it because I was unable to remember the entry code to open the file.


Tom H. Cook is a long distance writer.  He wonders if Charles Foster Kane were alive today would he use ROSEBUD as his password.

Mr. Minnick

Angles equal to the same angle are equal.               —Robert Minnick

If Mr. Minnick had been a dog, he would have been a basset hound.  He was a forlorn man who, while not short and squat like a basset, possessed a basset’s appearance of profound sadness and resignation to life.  It was the 1960s, of which too much has been written already, and he was clearly too muddled in life to hop in a psychedelic van and head to California.  He seemed to spend most of our geometry classes wondering what door he stumbled through that landed him a $4-thou a year teaching gig in Pennsauken, New Jersey.

Mr. Minnick had some memorable traits.  He wore a tie and jacket, as required, but with a white short sleeved shirt so that he could play with the golf ball-sized growth under his left elbow.  While we worked on our assignment he would bend his elbow to compress the lump and then straighten his arm to jiggle the fleshy protrusion.  Perhaps he was pondering the paucity of his school district healthcare coverage as he pawed the tumor.  It seemed to be his only friend.  One could only speculate on how they amused themselves in the privacy of his one bedroom apartment in east Pennsauken.

A hairy, stocky, somber man, Minnick spent much of the class period lecturing (he was a pretty good teacher) and searching for an uneven surface to stand against and rub his probably very hairy back.  Leaning against a chalk board brought him little relief, although he never stopped trying.  Classmate Linda Browning was very pretty but Minnick’s interests were more primal.  With Linda solving problems at the board, he could retreat to his favorite spot near the back of the room where the spackling was uneven and he could scratch and instruct simultaneously.

I remember his stating the Transitive Property of Equality as proof of a formula.  “If A=B and B=C, then A=C.”  Minnick, the chalk-stained wretch, had established one of the founding logic principles on which Amazon, Netflix, and Pandora built empires.  If you liked this book, movie, song, you will quite likely enjoy the works of this unknown artist.  Ordinarily, these programs seem to say, this artist would unhinge your precariously balanced paradigm and terrify you because you are old and set in your ways.  But 41,000 people whose taste agrees with yours 82% of the time really liked it, and you need not be afraid. Thus we can move with reassurance from the known to the unknown.  

You will notice I slipped Pandora in as if I were a long time user of the free music service rather than just hearing about it a week ago from my son Ben.  If you are as unhip as I am, Pandora is the result of the Music Genome Project founded by Tim Westergren in January 2000.  The goal of the hundreds of artists, musicians, and computer savvy music lovers affiliated with it is to tease out and identify the essence of a song at its most fundamental level.  The team has listened to tens of thousands of artists and analyzed the musical qualities of each song.  They have assembled hundreds of attributes or “genes.”  Their work has produced a comprehensive analysis of music.  What a person likes may be personal, but it is also fairly quantifiable.

Pandora Internet Radio continues to stream full songs to which you can vote thumbs up or down.  The up signal emboldens Pandora to find you similar songs or musicians you might like; a couple thumbs down sends the artist to music Gitmo.  You can swap your play list with others.  I found out I am not the only James Talley fan out there.  I have enjoyed assembling my personal music stations, which are commercial-free if you are able to ignore the pop up (but silent) ads and suggestions to buy the music on CD on Amazon.

Simply begin with a song or an artist.  Norah Jones took me to Cleo Laine, Linda Ronstadt, and Sarah McLachlan, all of whom I knew.  Pandora also suggested I would enjoy John Mayer, Jack Johnson and Jason Mraz. Why? Because I enjoy “contrapuntal melodic presentation, acoustic sonority, mild rhythmic syncopations, meandering melodic phrasing, and major key tonality.”  I have no idea what any of that means, but Pandora and Mr. Minnick are right.


Tom H. Cook is a Johnny Hartman and Little Jimmy Scott fan and was delighted to discover another jazz balladeer, Arthur Prysock by going to









I May Need More Friends

I may need more friends.  I get enough holiday cards and can usually find someone to talk to, but I feel that I am somehow missing out.  I made a few friends growing up, then some more in college, and then many special people when I lived and worked in the Minneapolis community.  The problem is I met most of my dear friends before the Internet explosion.  They are a fine, loyal, and irreverent lot and certainly better than I deserve, but I do not think my circle is providing me with a full range of the spectrum of e-mail attachments.

I am receiving some of the very clever anti-Bush cartoons from my politically active friends, and I do get many of the signage photos like “Bridge Out Slow to 60” from my sardonic peers.   Still I see the stuff being passed via You Tube by admittedly younger, hipper acquaintances and my friends are just light-years behind.  Granted I do not even know how to copy an attachment to send to twenty people, but when I was making life-long friends, who knew the ability to cull interesting snippets from cyberspace would be so important?

Every day I get countless Rogaine and Viagra ads (which JoAnne claims she has nothing to do with) dumped in my in box.  Between that and the insipid quasi-personal notes from someone named Martinique or Gladys that say “Let’s get back in touch”  it is rare to receive an attachment picturing a bulldozer sinking in a swamp.  I like hearing how my friends are doing, but the photo collage sequence of Madonna morphing into Mick Jagger is what you buy a computer for.  My friends are pretty good about finding the photos of a long line of traffic brought to a stand-still by three turtles trudging across the highway, but they are not finding the edgier stuff.

David Brooks wrote a particularly humorous Shouts and Murmurs piece in The New Yorker recently about E-name dropping and status.  Brooks clued me into noticing the other recipients who receive the same correspondence.  Since most people do not use blind copy, you can see who else is receiving it.  I tend to get lumped with grandparents and obscure relatives.  Still, the next time I write to others I may borrow his idea and subtly pad my list of other recipients like and  Perhaps if my few remaining friends see they are in the company of,, and they will send me better stuff.

Tom H. Cook is planning to go on assignment for The Hill and Lake Press to New Zealand to see if the toilets do flu