We keep the wall between us as we go.
To each the boulders that have fallen to each.
And some are loaves and some so nearly balls
We have to use a spell to make them balance:
“Stay where you are until our backs are turned!”
We wear our fingers rough with handling them.
Oh, just another kind of out-door game,
One on a side. It comes to little more:
There where it is we do not need the wall:
He is all pine and I am apple orchard.
My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
He only says, “Good fences make good neighbors.”

– Robert Frost, “Mending Wall”

Fences, in my experience, do not make good neighbors. In fact, it seems to be just the opposite. Fences — and the property boundaries they represent — make for horrible neighbors. What’s mine, what’s yours, who’s responsible for this, who’s responsible for that. On our tiny plot of carefully manicured suburbia, we’ve become so territorial and defensive that we’ve forgotten how to be neighbors. How to be respectful of each other. How to be (dare I say it) nice to one another.

You might recall that I haven’t exactly had a great history with my neighbors. I’ve yelled at them and called the cops on them. More than once. And more than one set of neighbors. Mister Rogers would be so disappointed in me.

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Everybody drinks the water from the murky pool
Surely as you think you’re well
You know your belly aches
Everybody learns religion at the blind man’s school
Will you reach for heaven
When the preacher charms the snake?

Is your faith so right?
Are you so blessed?
Everybody wanders in the forest
Is your heart so true?
Are you that good?
Everybody wanders in the woods
Everybody wanders in the forest
Everybody wanders in the wilderness

– The Choir, “Wilderness”

Today is my 40th birthday. Do I feel older? No. Do I feel old? Yeah, and I have for a long time. When your 13-year-old daughter is thisclose to being taller than you are, it sorta changes your perspective on the world. Some people like to make 40 sound like it’s no big deal. “Forty is the new thirty.” No. No, it is not. Forty is the old forty, and it always will be.

One of the cool things about turning 40, though, is that it is a pretty significant number biblically-speaking. In the Bible, the number 40 represents a generation. It also symbolizes a period of testing or trial. God flooded the earth for 40 days. Moses lived in Egypt for 40 years and then in the desert for another 40 years before leading his people out of slavery. He then spent 40 days with God on the mountain. Jonah warned Ninevah that it had 40 days before its impending destruction. Ezekial lay on his right side for 40 days at Mount Horeb. David and Solomon each ruled for 40 years. At the beginning of his ministry, Jesus fasted and was tempted for 40 days, and he remained on earth for 40 days after his resurrection before ascending to heaven.

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JERRY: Elaine, what percentage of people would you say are good-looking?

ELAINE: Twenty-five percent.

JERRY: Twenty-five percent, you say? No way! It’s like 4 to 6 percent. It’s a twenty to one shot.

ELAINE: You’re way off.

JERRY: Way off? Have you been to the motor vehicle bureau? It’s like a leper colony down there.

ELAINE: So what you are saying is that 90 to 95 percent of the population is undateable?

JERRY: UNDATEABLE!

ELAINE: Then how are all these people getting together?

JERRY: Alcohol.

I hate having my picture taken. I never look good in them. (Not that I look all that great in real life either.) But even more than that, I hate posting pictures of myself online. Yes, I have a profile photo that I use for social media, but that’s it. The one photo to rule them all.

A week or so ago, I was playing around with the Retrica camera app at work and took some “selfie” pics. I stiched a few together (two of which are above) and posted them on Instragram. I deleted them about 20 minutes later. I couldn’t stand having them up there. Not that I looked bad in the pictures necessarily but because I secretly felt everyone in the world judging me. Either judging me for how I look or for being vain. (I later posted them on Google+ but deleted them shortly thereafter for the same reason.)

I know, I know. I’m pretty screwed up in the head.

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Haven’t you heard? Check-in apps are sooo 2009. At least that seems to be the lesson learned first by Gowalla and now by Foursquare. You remember Gowalla, right? The Austin-based David to Foursquare’s Goliath never could catch up and decided in 2011 to ditch the whole concept of checking in altogether, redefining itself according to its original vision of being a sort of online travel scrapbook and guidebook of sorts. Believing their pins, stamps, and gamification elements to be passé, they also eliminated their users’ incentive to use the app. It went belly-up shortly thereafter, to be bought out by Facebook for some spare change and a couple of pokes.

And now Foursquare is following the same trajectory. Enter the Swarm.

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