the realm of unmatched socks, pocketed business cards and unused social networking pages

10 Baha 165 (Baha’i Calendar)
Soundtrack in my head:  The Pogues, “The Sickbed of Cuchulainn”

I was a Friendster once.  Technically, I still am.  One of my housemates urged me to sign up sometime in 2004.  He was trying to explain the concept to me, and I must admit that at the time I had a bit of difficulty grasping it.  It was something about having friends and being able to see friends of friends.  It sounded strangely similar to the practice of collecting baseball cards.  

But I signed up, and added four people as friends.  Well, actually three.  One of my friends decided to create a profile for one of the prominent buildings in my neighborhood.  I might have had someone’s cat as a friend at one point as well.  Since I’m deathly allergic to cats, interacting with one via a social networking group has a lot of appeal, since cat dander is not an issue in cyberspace.

Later, I started to hear a lot about MySpace.  A few months after I started this blog, I was nominated for a “Blogger of the Week” by MKEonline.com.  I was one of five contestants and people had to vote on their favorite, and a MySpace blog won that week.  This kind of ticked me off because, duh, it’s a social networking site, and of course they’re in a good position to win because all they have to do is get their friends to vote.  So much for artistic merit.

I think on two different previous occasions I did set up a MySpace site, but I have absolutely no idea where they are or how to access them.  Like my Friendster account, I set up the page and then ignored it.  

Last November, I heard about NaBloPoMo (National Blog Posting Month) in which bloggers would take up the challenge of posting to their blog once a day, every day in November.  I decided to take up the challenge so I signed up at the site, and discovered, to my surprise, that I was signing up for an account at a social networking site.  It was not one of the big ones, but a network set up on Ning.  I was busy trying to post a blog posting every day—why would I want to mess around on a social network site as well?  But I did start a group for Wisconsin bloggers and three signed up, and I do link to two of them and occasionally correspond.  

Then I heard about “Baha’i Communities,” another social networking site.  I signed up, and discovered that this, too was a Ning site.  They verified that I truly was a registered Baha’i and let me join.  This was kind of nice, too.  I did not know anyone on the site, though.  I have a couple of “friends” that I’ve added on there.  I could add more—people who are on the discussion groups, though there isn’t a whole lot of discussion on the groups I belong to.

It was around this time that I began to hear more and more about Facebook.  Many of my housemates had Facebook pages and I was considering setting up a page there, too.  But one Baha’i friend told me she had a MySpace page and insisted it was better.  I was reluctant to set up a MySpace page again—not only because of my previous experience but also because there was a period of time where my computer would crash every time I went onto MySpace, and although I wasn’t having that problem now, I still felt MySpace was kind of skanky.

Then another friend invited me to join MySpace.  She said she was doing so because of the online music that one could check out there.  So I figured that if I had two friends on there already, I might as well sign up.  Then I decided, well, if I’m going to do that, then I should set up a Facebook account.  So I registered with Facebook as well.  

I’m surprised at how much I like Facebook.  It made it easy for me to search for Facebook pages of people from my high school and at my current workplace.  I found a bunch of people from work who I knew, including someone I’ve never met in person but with whom exchange emails with frequently for business-related purposes.  I made a bunch of friend requests from my workplace.  Then I found the page of one housemate (one of my friends from Friendster), went through his friends list since I knew there would be a lot of people I knew there, too, and through this and other means came up with eighteen friends in the space of week without really trying hard.  One of them posted a very poignant comment that said, “Ah, yes…no friendship is really real unless it’s cemented over the Internet.”  

Meanwhile, through MySpace, I began to get friend requests from people I’d never met.  Like five or six in a day.  All of them were female, and their names were, well, exotic.  Their manner of dress was, too.  I don’t personally know anyone who poses online in a thong—such people usually aren’t in my real life social network.  I decide it would be prudent to deny their friend request lest I catch some kind of, um, virus from them.  I think they found me through Tom, though I’m not sure.  Tom is a guy who automatically appears as your friend when you sign up for MySpace.  He apparently works for MySpace, serves as the welcoming committee to all new members, and has a blog with insightful suggestions for how to use MySpace and protect yourself.  He has useful tips, so I’m not sure if I want to delete him as a friend, but if it’s the only way to avoid visits from people with names like Fanny, that might be a good call.

Meanwhile, one of my MySpace friends, who is fourteen years younger than I, posted a comment telling me that that I needed to “pimp up” my MySpace page.  I responded by jokingly quoting a lyric from War’s 1975 hit “Low Rider,” and mentioned that I felt like an old man on MySpace as I try to figure out how to use the thing.  I didn’t realize that what I said would appear on my friend’s comment wall, so I thought, great, now I’m going to look like a total dork in front of my friend’s 57 friends.  

But I did explore the music section of MySpace and liked what I saw.  I can do a search of music by genre and location, and it seems like a lot of bands and singer-songwriters have their own pages where I can listen to music.  I can see myself potentially getting lost there for hours.

Meanwhile, Friendster seems to sense that I’m drifting away from them because I’ve been getting more emails from them lately. They sent one email saying that they improved their photos feature, and then they sent another saying that they improved their photos feature even more.  

Honestly, I don’t know how much mileage I will get out of these social networking pages.  At the current time, I have eighteen friends on Facebook, three on MySpace (including Tom), three on NaBloPoMo, two on Baha’i Communities, and four (okay, really three) on Friendster. I’m not up for increasing my numbers just for the heck of it—I favor quality, not quantity.  In any case, I’ve joined millions of others taking up server space on some computers somewhere, offering friendship.

i am a total calendar geek

5 Baha 165 BE (Baha’i Era)
Soundtrack in my head:  Antonio Carlos Jobim, “Ela e Carioca”

Recently, we Baha’is celebrated the New Year on the Baha’i calendar.  It happened to be on the same day as Good Friday, which is highly unusual.  The new year is timed roughly with the spring equinox.  I have had a geek-fascination with the Baha’i calendar (also know as the Badi calendar) ever since rediscovering the Baha’i Faith last summer.

The Baha’i calendar is a solar calendar that has nineteen months of nineteen days each—totalling 361 days—and four or five extra days to round out the total number of days to either 365 or 366 depending on whether the year is a leap year or not.  

The Bab, the founder of the Babi religion (which was the forerunner of the Baha’i Faith) introduced the calendar, and he named each of the nineteen months after an attribute of God.  Today is the 5th day of Baha, and the word “Baha” is Arabic for Splendor.  Because the number of months and the number of days are equal, some users of the calendar will use the attributes of God to designate both the day and the month, so that the 5th day of Baha would be referred to as the Nur (Light) of Baha.  The Baha’is time their feasts with the first day of each Baha’i month.

Nineteen years elapsed between when the Bab declared his mission in 1844 (equivalent to the year 1 in the Baha’i calendar) and when Baha’u’llah declared his mission in 1863.  Less common uses of the Baha’i calendar involve designating a span of nineteen years as a “vahid” but so far, I’ve seen that rarely referenced. 

For me, the number nineteen has personal significance.  I chose the date of November 19, 2007 to declare myself a Baha’i, because it was nineteen years before in November 1988 that I was first introduced to the Baha’i Faith while a student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.  I decided not to go with the Faith back then for various personal reasons.  But the U of I Baha’is gave me a book on the Faith, which, miraculously, stayed with me through almost a dozen moves, and was still sitting on my bookshelf when I opened it again in the summer of 2007. 
Esslemont%201988%20crop%20best.jpg
Personally, I find it interesting that in the Year One of the Baha’i Calendar (1844) the Rochdale Pioneers founded what is considered by many to be the first successful co-op in the industrialized West. The Rochdale co-op and the Babis/Baha’is were very likely unaware of each other, and I don’t know how many Baha’is have embraced the co-op movement. But, speaking only for myself–I see a few parallels between the co-op movement and the Baha’i Faith.  Cooperatives consist of people at the grassroots pooling their resources to provide a common good that might not otherwise be easily available—whether it’s food, shelter, or electricity.  The Baha’i Faith, for its part, has no clergy and so local grassroots efforts are, for the most part, are the only thing driving the local Baha’i community.

Another interesting aspect of the Baha’i calendar is that the change of day is marked by sunset, rather than midnight.  This is also true of the Hebrew and Islamic calendars.  On one level, scheduling becomes a little tricky because the day ends and begins at a slightly different time each day.  On the other hand, there is something precious about watching the sunset and having it signify the passing from one day to the next.  It’s particularly special when watching the sun set into the new year, though in Madison, this year’s Naw Ruz (New Year) was cloudy so there was no sunset to watch.  

There is a neat little widget that I downloaded onto my computer that asks for the latitude and longitude coordinates of where I live, and, using that data, shows the exact date on the Baha’i calendar and shows the sunrise and sunset for that day.

baha'i%20calendar%20widget.jpg

I decided to create my own little weekly calendar planner that incorporated both the Gregorian (modern) and Baha’i calendars.  I desktop-published a bunch of calendar pages and put them in a three-ring binder designed to accommodate half size pages—5 ½” by 8 ½”, which is the size of most paper planners.  
152952.jpg
I also am experimenting with using the Baha’i months for my own personal planning.  Around the beginning of each Baha’i month, I look at my things to do lists, critically evaluate them, and then generate new lists that I then put into the planner.  I see nineteen-day intervals potentially being more useful than thirty-day intervals because the nineteen-day intervals make it harder for me to put off things until later in the month.

I also think using the Baha’i calendar like this is a way for me to tune in with God, an effort to align my planning with God’s planning. I’m only now experimenting with planning my time in this way.  I recently learned that Tom Morey, a surfing pioneer and a Baha’i, used to stamp the Boogie Boards he invented with the Baha’i era date.   I’m still very new to the Baha’i Faith, and I can’t say even for sure whether I will continue to be a Baha’i ten, twenty or thirty years from now.  Nevertheless, I feel motivated to put the Baha’i dates on my blog, too in an effort to try to stay attuned with God…