Saturday, January 28, 2012

Facebook friends

I’ve noticed a lot of people I’m ‘friends’ with on Facebook seem to have lots and lots of friends. There’s a guy on my Facebook friends list that I don’t even personally know, but he’s from my hometown and I accepted his friend request because we have 45 mutual friends. I know someone else who seems to ‘friend’ pretty much everyone he’s ever met. One day I noticed that we have a surprisingly large number of mutual Facebook friends. We do have several mutual friends in real life, but only a couple of them are on Facebook. Upon further inspection I was astonished to find that almost all of the mutual Facebook ‘friends’ are my real-life friends that he’s met only once.

I can’t help but wonder what is the point of friending people you don’t even know. Facebook is a wonderful tool for getting reconnecting with old friends and keeping up with people it would be hard to keep in touch with otherwise. But if I send you a friend request, it’s because I know you. I can’t for the life of me figure out why anyone would want to sift through updates from dozens--or hundreds-- of people they don’t even know. Of course, you can always unsubscribe from people’s updates, but in that case, why have them as a Facebook friend in the first place? The only reason I can think of is to have lots of Facebook friends. But why would you do this? Is it an ego thing? Seems a bit sad, really.

Help me out with this--I’d really like to hear your thoughts. Do you get lots of friend requests from people you don’t know? Do you automatically accept friend requests? If not, what your policy on accepting friend requests?

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Observations on Stephen King's latest book

I recently finished Stephen King’s latest book, 11/22/63. The subject of this book, as you probably already know, is time travel. The story’s hero, Jake Epping, has a friend who has discovered how to go back in time and Jake sets out to try to prevent the Kennedy assassination. I’m from Dallas and since parts of the story take place in my very neighborhood, and because I’m particularly interested in the subject of time travel, the story resonates with me. By the way, lest you think I'm a huge Stephen King fan, I confess that I used to be. But in recent years the only book of his that I’ve read is On Writing, which I highly recommend to anyone who wants to try to make a living at this.

Allow me to snipe a bit about a couple of wrong facts I stumbled across. There’s a reference to the Dallas library on Young Street, which in reality wouldn’t be built for another 20 years. In 1963 the Dallas Public Library was still in the old building on Commerce Street. When Oswald returned from Russia in 1962 with his new bride in tow, Marina Oswald was approaching her 21st birthday. King writes that she “wouldn’t be old enough to buy a legal drink for another month." But in 1963 the legal drinking age in Texas was 18. But these are minor details and if that’s all out of a book that’s 849 pages in the hardcover edition, I’m pretty amazed.

Plot spoiler alert! If you haven’t read it and plan to do so, you should probably stop reading now.

The possibility of traveling back in time presents many conundrums which King gets around rather neatly by creating a physical entryway to the past that always takes you to the same time and place every time you go through it. You can go through it as often as you want, but each time you do you start completely over. Jake can only go to 1958, so he has to live in the past for several years before he can do anything about accomplishing his goal. Which gives him time to get ready for his mission, but also time to get into all kinds of situations, such as falling in love. And he has to find a way to support himself all that time. He can’t just pop back into the present for a technology break, or keep one foot in his “now” life, for to do so would mean starting again from the beginning.

In the book, Jake manages to prevent the Kennedy assassination. (I told you to stop if you haven’t read it!) In doing so, he loses the woman he loves. Then he returns to the present and finds a world much changed--not necessarily for the better. Preventing JFK from being killed may have prevented all kinds of nasty things, like the Vietnam War, but Jake runs smack dab into the Law of Unintended Consequences.

Which brings up some interesting questions. If time travel were possible, would you be able to change history? Or would something always happen to ensure that the past stayed unchanged? If you were able to prevent the Kennedy assassination, what would be some of the unintended consequences?