Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Social media: technical points, technical fouls

       I can't imagine many people without social media connections these days -- I suppose an older generation has some holdouts -- and I can assure you I am grateful for it.
      Whether it's e-mail, Facebook and Twitter -- that's about it for me -- it's nice to stay connected. My laptop computer and my (very) smartphone stay busy. But there are limits.
      It's a wonderful world, technology-wise, much different from our pre-senior citizen days, and it's a much better world because of it.
      Yeah, there are some problems with it. If you've had your e-mail or Facebook accounts "hacked" -- broken into -- you know that's a bit of a pain. If you are a Facebook advocate, you also know you are going to see a few, or many, posts you won't like.
      I've written about that several times, and I'll return to that point in a moment. But I don't mean to be complaining because I am -- no question -- a fan of social media.
       It is nice to stay connected with family and friends, and to re-connect with many people from our school days and our journalism days, and to have outlets for these blog posts.
       A friend teased me earlier this week: "From a guy with little interest and no use for computers many years ago, you've become what they used to call a 'power user.' "
       That's a laugh. A power user? Hardly. I am not exactly technologically savvy. But I'm also not technologically illiterate. (Well, the TV remote and the printer still can cause stress and panic mode.)
       I do remember the pre-computer age when we did everything on typewriters (remember them?) and when newspapers ventured into computers, most of us were apprehensive. Now, we look back and ask ... why?
       Computers are so much easier, period. My opinion: Greatest change that ever happened in the newspaper world. And our personal computers? Don't know how we'd do without them.
        Like many people, I probably spend too much time at my computer. It's part of the morning routine.
        And while someone here thinks I spend too much time looking at my smart phone, we do draw a line. There are times when I don't want to be bothered -- for instance, when we're watching TV shows or games of special interest -- and the phone isn't even on. And, with only rare exception, the phone is not in use when I'm driving.
       I did drag Beatrice into the smartphone era about a year ago. But she's not an e-mail/Facebook user on it; too much trouble. She saves that for her trusty and much-used IPad. (And I have no problem with her choices.)
       We don't text much. I'll do it, but frankly I don't enjoy it that much because it wears me out. Same with Twitter. It's a great site for up-to-the-second news and for links to stories, but -- like with texting -- enough already. (Plus, to be honest, I'm not all that fast at typing on my miniature phone keyboard. Go ahead and laugh.)
       For sure, we are not -- not -- among the many people who are addicted to their phones. I have friends who pick up their phones a few moments after they get up in the morning, check e-mail and Facebook, etc., constantly, text incessantly, and don't let go of the phone until bedtime.
       No, thank you.
       I have figured out a few things on the computer and the phone, about e-mail and Facebook. I did -- in a bit of an upset -- set up the blog site, learned how to crop/edit photos and sometimes to even incorporate them into the blog or put them on Facebook (even a series of them) and how to send out a batch of e-mails ... without getting shut down online. (But I don't have a perfect record in that regard.)
        Now, about "hacking" ...
        We know how big a problem it is world-wide, how harmful it can be. On the much smaller scale, it's a bit of a distraction to have your personal e-mail or Facebook account hacked.
        Twice in the past six weeks, my Facebook account has been hacked. Friends will let you know quickly and repeatedly that they've received a "friend request" from you, and they know it's a fake.
        (It's an almost everyday occurrence. In the past three days, I know of four people on my "friends" list who have been hacked.)
        It's a wonder to me -- as I'm sure it is to many -- that there are people out there with absolutely nothing to do other than to hack into other people's accounts. What a (lack of) life.
        Here is what happened with my account the second time: They picked a profile shot out of my photo file -- I don't believe I'd ever used it) -- and they picked a photo of Bea and me with two of the grandkids as my "cover" photo (thank you).

       So if you got a friend request from this guy (left), it was a fake. He was an imposter.
        I had to laugh because that photo showed up in one of the "people you might know" files on my page. I accessed the fake file and it had me being born in ... 1936. Look, I'm kind of old, but I am not 79.
        The Facebook hacking really isn't much of a hindrance. If your friends reject the "friend request" and make it as spam -- or if you do it yourself -- Facebook is quick to delete the fake profile.
        They recommend you change your password. Which I did, and that should keep my account safe ... for a few weeks, anyway.
          We don't have any pertinent information on our Facebook pages, so the hacking is not a great concern. But I have a friend whose page was hacked in another way.
           On my "news feed," a post from him came up that read: "I found out this weekend just how little so many care .... the end is about here."
           My reaction: Yikes.
           It was a fake. It was obvious from reaction, and a subsequent message, that he was fine. When I called to check on him a few days later, he said, "That was someone just messing with me on my page."
           But how does that happen? And here is what else happens: I received a friend request from a young woman in Shreveport I don't know, but who -- upon checking -- had about 25 mutual friends with me. Usually, I am very cautious about confirming friend requests, but I was too hasty here. About 30 minutes later, I got a message from the site: "I'd like to get to know you better." No, you don't. I hit the "unfriend" button. It was a fake site. My bad.

           The really nice thing about Facebook, though, is to keep up with family and friends, see their photos and their family photos, and their travel adventures/photos.
           But the political/social comments I monitor. If they're mean-spirited, and many are, I turn off those people's posts on news feed because I have that option. However, I do not turn off all the views I disagree with or dislike because I want to see some of what I should not be thinking. Just as a reminder.
          I also don't like the negativity and criticism I see of sports teams and athletes -- even the ones I don't root for. I want to limit my negativity and I try to limit my views publicly. But I'm guilty at times (hello, Jerry Jones and Bill Belichick).
         Again, honestly, as the Presidential race heats up into 2016, I might really limit my access to my Facebook news feed, and to Facebook, period. I don't want to deal with all the crap, and I sure as heck don't want to subject you to my crap.
          So there.
          I'll leave that for my hackers and my fake Facebook account.




Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Don't want to be "sir," but "Opa" sounds good

       It happens often now, whether I'm on a walk, or in a store, or around the apartments, or ... just anywhere.
       "Hello, sir." "Have a nice day, sir." "Can I help you, sir?" "How are you, sir?" "Would you like to sample this, sir?" "Sir, you're not supposed to sample everything."
       They address me as "sir." Didn't use to happen -- ever. But about 20 years ago ... yes, sir. (But I never was "Sir Knight." Just a joke for my Woodlawn friends.)
       A sign of respect? I don't think so. A sign of old age, in my view.
       I don't mind aging because (1) it's nice to be here and (2) what are you going to do about it? But being referred to as sir often feels uncomfortable for me.
       However, when someone refers to me as "Mr. Van Thyn," honestly, the first thing I always think is "no, that's my Dad." I have told people who contacted me on Facebook for help with sports projects and used Mr. Van Thyn to please call me Nico.
       But I don't mind being Opa Nico. Four little people, and their parents, call me that. Dad was Opa Louis, and so being another Opa is just fine.
Bea and the YMCA yoga
instructor, Miss Betty, discuss
what's about to happen in class.
       So about aging, being a senior citizen ... it is a mind-set, and it has its advantages. 
       Part of the mind-set is accepting the "sir" tag. My longtime roommate has her view of it.
       "I want to be called ma'am," she told me when I told her what this blog subject was going to be. "It's a title I've earned that shows respect and appreciation for the miles I've traveled and the years, and it allows me my pride and dignity.
      "It's a title of respect, and so is 'sir.' "
       (Guess she told me.)  
       Some of my very good and longtime friends my age are still working, and more power to them. But among the advantages this senior citizen finds is that it's nice to be retired (don't miss working or the newspaper grind, but I do miss the newspaper people).

        Another advantage: Any early evening we can walk down the block to the nearby IHOP and get the 2-for-1 price on the plus-55 dinner specials (with the two-drink minimum ... IHOP drinks, OK).
        Here is one of the keys to our lives these days: We don't get bored. We try to stay busy.
        That means doing laundry and cleaning the apartment, grocery shopping, errands and -- daily -- exercising. More on that in a moment.
        There's not much television during the day, only the nightly news most days and then maybe a show or two that's recorded. I don't watch as much sports events as you might think; only when Bea is not subjected to them (unless it's the Dallas Mavericks). The exception this time of year is Saturdays when there is far too much college football than I can absorb. Three games in a row, that's a chore.
        We attend jazz and piano concerts, book-club meetings, author appearances; we do computer time (hence, writing a blog piece or two); we read a lot (books and computer/phone time); and Bea these days is being creative in her newly found advanced coloring books. 
My membership cards: They work even
though the last name is one word instead of two.
        The daily walks are routine for me; it's the rare day when I don't go. This is not only exercise, it is a time to reflect and think, dodge traffic -- and compose my blogs mentally.      
        Three regular stops/events: (1) We are now members of AARP (which used to be the American Association of Retired Persons, but now is just AARP); (2) the Fort Worth library; and (3) the Fort Worth Central YMCA.

        The Fort Worth Southwest chapter of AARP has monthly meetings, with what we think are interesting guest speakers, and occasional outings, such as a Dallas museum visit last month. I would say we are among the youngest members of the chapter; at least, I'd like to say that.
         There are two library locations we like: Southwest, which is pretty close to the closest Barnes & Noble book store we frequent, and the Central Library -- site of the jazz and piano concerts and convenient to the downtown YMCA. Because I stopped reading the daily newspaper, I have read more books in the past couple of years than in 20 previous years combined).
         About the YMCA: It is practically our second home now. Funny thing, the Central YMCA is a long fly ball from the building (the former Fort Worth Star-Telegram building) where I worked for nine-plus years; I never once went into the YMCA building.
         Now it's a three- or four-days-a-week routine for yoga and stretching classes. Yes, you read that right -- I am now Yoga Man.
         OK, I'm not exactly an expert or an avid practitioner. It's not that difficult, but it's not easy, either. The stretching classes are a little more of a test.
         Bea has been doing yoga for years and while I began my YMCA experience by shooting baskets in the gym (first time I'd done that in a lot of years and I can still fire up shots, not that I make a bunch), I popped into one of Bea's yoga sessions one day ... and stayed.
         We are in moderately good shape physically -- Bea works at it more diligently than I do -- and we're much better than we were. The stretching classes have helped and the evidence came on our recent round trip to see the daughter, son-in-law and the grandkids in Knoxville, Tenn.
         That's 15-16 hours of driving one way -- depending on how long the stops are -- and we spread it over two days, with more frequent breaks than before. It's tiring always, but this time neither of us was as physically sore as we had been on previous trips.
         Driving is one area where we are giving in. To be honest, I don't enjoy it much any more. Never have been a "great" driver, but I'm more unsettled and leery now, and driving in the busy Fort Worth or Dallas traffic or at night is problematic. I look to give up driving sooner rather than later, unlike my parents.
         (Just an aside: The hardest thing about getting to our age -- and I have written this before -- is losing our friends, people who had a part in our lives. This year, for instance, those from Shreveport-Bossier who have died include Billy Wiggins, Billy Laird, Mimi Hussey, Larry Wiseman, Phillip Williams and C.O. Brocato, and just in the past couple of weeks, the 1965-69 Louisiana Tech football teams lost center Johnny Harper and defensive end Tommy Dunbar. So we think of our mortality and we appreciate the gift of life.)
        Back to the Y-M-C-A (don't you just love that classic?). Our memberships came with our Medicare Advantage plan, giving us access to SilverSneakers Yoga and Prime Time Stretch programs, and to the monthly Bingo luncheons.
        Either way -- SilverSneakers, Prime Time -- it means senior citizens. It means old.
        That's us. But it's OK. It's a mind-set. Yes, sir.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

At Fair Park, a shared success story

       (Part II)
       Coach Clem Henderson was "Mr. Fair Park" to so many people.
       Not sure what title or designation Ronald Preston has been given, but we know this: At Fair Park High in Shreveport, he will receive equal billing when the school gymnasium is dedicated and renamed Clem Henderson/Ron Preston Gymnasium on Saturday, Dec. 12.
Dr. Martha and Coach Clem Henderson
(photo from Fair Park Class of 1953 web site)
       Coach Henderson was there in a working capacity from 1948 to 1977, then remained a loyal fan and friend to the school. Coach Preston was there from 1991 through 2011 when he retired, but he's still around almost on a daily basis.
       Fair Park was fortunate to have them both -- state basketball championship coaches, but more importantly, two admirable men.
       Henderson: coach, math teacher, assistant principal, finally principal, and then instrumental -- maybe the driving force -- in the formation and continuing activities of the FPHS Alumni Association.
       "There are no words to express adequately our gratitude to Coach Henderson for his many years of dedicated service to the students of Fair Park and to the great legacy he left all of us," Cathy Bonds wrote in her letter to the Caddo Parish School Board asking that the gym be dedicated to these two.
       "He was a generous Christian man living out his faith every day, and setting a fine example for everyone to follow."
       Just think of the thousands of students, the hundreds of faculty members and school workers who came through Fair Park when Coach Clem -- or Mr. Henderson, as assistant principal or principal -- was there, always with his honesty, earnestness, good humor and dedication.
       In particular, think of the many athletes he coached -- especially as ends coach in football, and in tennis, some in track and baseball, but most of all, on the basketball court.
       In football, he was an assistant coach on four teams that played in state-championship games (1950, 1951, 1952, 1955). It was the 1952 team that gave Fair Park its long-awaited -- and still only -- state title in that sport.
        The head coach was F.H. "Homer" Prendergast, and Roy Wilson was another longtime assistant (until he became head coach in 1958). Five Prendergast teams lost in the finals, the first being the 1939 team that lost 6-0 at Jennings. And here's a story told to me that ties into this picture ...
       Clem Henderson was in high school at Jennings and when he saw five big buses of Fair Park supporters pull into Jennings for that '39 title game, he made note of it and thought that one day Fair Park might be a place for him.
       That came true in 1948 when he finished play at Tech for Coach Joe Aillet and there was an opening on Prendergast's staff. Another connection: one of Coach Aillet's assistant coaches, Jimmy Mize, was a Fair Park graduate.
       It was basketball, though, where Coach Henderson is most remembered. 
       Yes, he was tough, mentally and -- as most everyone knew -- physically (he was barrel-chested, and extremely strong); he could be demanding, but he was no tyrant. I have been told this repeatedly over the years and I saw it -- he was very much a players' coach. They loved playing for him, making the effort he wanted.
       In terms of game strategy, in the 1950s and early 1960s, his teams went against two outstanding coaches -- Scotty Robertson at Byrd and John "Hound" McConathy at Bossier High -- who might outmaneuver him at times, but everyone knew that Fair Park's teams were going to be in superior shape physically, and play hard, and play together on both ends of the floor.
       When he had very skilled players, the Indians won big. When he didn't, the Indians were going to compete hard. After years of playoff appearances, the 1962-63 team was the one he'd waited for.
       In the year of "The Big Three" -- FP, Byrd and Bossier were all powers, any of them could have won the state championship -- the Indians (although losing four of five games with Byrd) ran through four playoff opponents and won the title (with a 32-5 record) by beating Lafayette before a packed crowd of nearly 10,000 at Hirsch Youth Center -- across the street from the Fair Park gym. 
        It was a memorable sight seeing the black-shirted Fair Park players and their coach given victory rides off the floor by their delirious fans.
        Because I was a high school sophomore and a reverent fan, I can still tell you just about everyone who was on that team. Several remain friends of mine.
        Here is a contrast: I can tell you only one player from the 2006 Fair Park state basketball champions (a team with a 27-4 record) -- only because someone reminded me. That's Morris Claiborne, who went on to play football for LSU and now the Dallas Cowboys.
     That is a segue to writing about Ron Preston, with whom I don't have any personal connections. But I've learned about him this week.
Ron  Preston (photo from
 The Shreveport Times)
     He began teaching in 1974, only a couple of years before Coach Henderson's retirement, and spent 15 years at Midway Middle School, a Fair Park-feeder school only a few blocks away. His Fair Park coaching career began in 1991, a few years after I'd left Shreveport-Bossier.
       But Cathy Bonds' letter makes it clear how deserving Coach Preston is, too.
       "When Coach Preston's name is mentioned," she wrote, "respect is the word that will soon follow. His quiet, thoughtful demeanor, and loyalty are known and valued by all. During his coaching career, he developed a number of outstanding athletes. He was also a mentor and father figure for many of the students under his tutelage through the years.
      "In retirement, he continues to do the same fine job of coaching, mentoring and developing outstanding young men. He can simply give a look and without a spoken word, gain a student's respect."
      In addition to Claiborne -- and I'm sure there are others -- I know one outstanding basketball player he coached: Stromile Swift. The big man went on to play at LSU for two years, then -- as far as I know -- became the first ex-Fair Parker to play in the National Basketball Association (eight seasons). (The star of the 1963 team, Charles Beasley, played four years in the old American Basketball Association.)
      When Fair Park was without a head football coach in the summer of 2011, Preston -- a longtime assistant in that sport -- stepped into an interim role. He continues to be a presence at football practices and games.
      Here is what I considered a beautiful connection between Coach Henderson and Coach Preston, according to Cathy Bonds' letter:
      "In 2006, knowing the value of a state basketball championship to the players and the school," she wrote, "Coach Henderson contacted the principal and coach with congratulations and offered a celebration ceremony for the team. In short order, an athletic banquet was held and each player received a Fair Park High School letter jacket, renewing the letter jacket tradition at Fair Park, all provided by Coach Clem Henderson and the Fair Park alumni.
     "Shortly thereafter, the Fair Park High School Alumni Association was founded by Coach Henderson and the letter jacket tradition at Fair Park continues to date, as an annual project of the Alumni Association."
      And now we know that soon, the Indians will be playing their games in the  Clem Henderson/Ron Preston Gymnasium. Congratulations to all ... but especially those two men at that wonderful old school.