Saturday, June 7, 2014

Still Life With Robin: What I Learned on Facebook This Week

Photo by Elvert Barnes via Wikimedia Commons
by Peggy Robin

I am not a terribly active Facebook user. I go to the site maybe a few times a week, mainly when I am procrastinating rather than getting something done that has a scarily looming deadline. However, I’m not going to write off Facebook as a complete time-waster, because in the course of the average week, my friends do tend to post at least a half-dozen things of genuine interest to me. These are things, by the way, that I am guessing they discovered while they were procrastinating rather than finishing up some important project. Nevertheless, I’m glad they did.

To take this past week as an example, here are six new things I learned or videos of things I saw that most likely would have passed me by, if not posted by a friend. The list is more or less in order from “hmm, that’s nice to know,” to “Wow, I’m really, really glad I saw that!”

1.   A spelling thing. In addition to that hoary old spelling rhyme I learned long ago -- “I before E except after C or when sounded like “A” as in neighbor and weigh” -- there’s a more comprehensive but non-rhyming version, which covers some quirkier exceptions: “I before E, except when you run a feisty heist on a weird beige foreign neighbor.” (

2.       The physics of bad sci-fi movies. I’m a sci-fi movie nut, except when the movie too obviously strains the physical laws of the universe. Who better to ID the disgraces to the genre than pop astrophysicist and Carl Sagan replacement Neil deGrasse Tyson, who, when asked to name the worst examples of bad science in sci-fi, got very worked up over his answers: No Spock-like dispassion from Neil!

3.   What would Facebook be without funny animal videos? Not what we’ve come to expect, that’s for sure. This squeaking porcupine has undoubtedly been making the round since Halloween, but I just saw it for the first time this week: -- and if you haven't seen it yet, enjoy!

4.   After three or four different Facebook friends “liked” this Japanese dance video, I decided to go ahead and invest the four minutes and 24 seconds’ time it took to watch it….and was pleasantly surprised to find it was not something I’d regret seeing later. I think you’ll agree …. unless you’re the type of person who has to be dragged to the ballet:

5.  Here is one of the many posts circulating this week as a tribute to D-Day veterans. This one’s something special, though. It’s a CNN interview with a paratrooper who came back 70 years later to make the parachute jump again, at age 93. Just listen to him describe in the most understated way possible what his unit did on the 6th of June, 1944.  You so rarely hear participants in great historical events speak in such modest tones:

6.   And now for my final offering – and this time, it’s news you can use. Take a look at this quite do-able proposal to take all the dead space lying north and south of Dupont Circle where Connecticut Avenue dives under the circle, and turn it into a park on top of the roadway trench.  It’s here: And the assertion is that it can be done for a ten million dollar pricetag. Personally, I’d be astonished if it didn’t take twice that amount of money to accomplish so much, but even at double the cost, imagine how great it would be for the whole course of Connecticut Avenue through Dupont Circle to be cross-able by pedestrians -- and what it would be like without that roadway roaring below and the iron-spiked fences above, keeping people from crossing a main street in an urban neighborhood. Then think of what a great thing it would be for our city if after Dupont Circle is restored, we did a similar project on Scott Circle and Logan Circle. I’m so glad one of my Facebook friends got me to see this vision of the pedestrian friendly circles in our futures, which could become reality if we start working for them now.

But …. here’s the catch with all of these happy little Facebook finds. In order to point out the half-dozen I found rewarding last week, I had to sift through: dozens and dozens of “look at what I’m doing now” selfies; oodles of up-to-the-minute reporting on what somebody had for brunch or what level they’ve reached in whatever video game they’re playing; yet another nudge to see that video of the dog reacting to the cat that took over his sleeping pad (; a link to Andy Borowitz’s latest column that I’ve already read twice; way too many deep thoughts from people like the Dalai Lama and Nelson Mandela and other notable quotables; and as always, pictures and more pictures of everyone’s adorable children and grandchildren and their even more adorable cats, dogs, gerbils, geckos and whatever else they insist you see because it’s so adorable. “Like” it? Sure. I suppose it’s a fair price to pay for having friends….


Still Life With Robin is published on the Cleveland Park Listserv and on All Life Is Local on Saturdays.

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