As maligned as Facebook can be, I'd just like to tell a little story about what it's good for. There is some relevance to this little diversion, so please do bear with me (or not, as it pleases you!).
I got out of high school about twenty years ago and, after dusting off my hands, went off to college in Christchurch, New Zealand (lately victim to earthquake trouble...) to study this and that. Second year in, some school mates and I got a flat together (ie, we shared a house).
In many ways it was a pretty sad time. We lacked for female company, heavy, heavy drinking was the norm (when we could afford it!); the sink was clogged with tea bags and the shower with long hair. There was a farting chair, the odd shaved eyebrow, lots of Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Hendrix, Black Sabbath, Alice in Chains and (perhaps more shamefully) U2 on the various stereos; a computer game called (I think) Tank Attack, which we would play 4-player on high rotation, and plenty of fish and chips. We all bashed on the guitar to some degree of unsophistication and took pleasure in having mildly unsavoury characters visiting us, mostly by way of one of our party nicknamed the doctor.
We were mostly pretty good kids. There was no violence, no mistreatment of persons, very little damage to property and no arrests to speak of. We were young guys trying to figure out who we were, where we had come from and what we wanted to do with ourselves. We were at that brittle-bright stage where aspirations could yet co-exist with current circumstances.
Fast forward about eighteen years and things are very different. We have all lost touch to a greater or lesser degree. Some are working in New Zealand; others overseas. Some have families; some do not. I doubt that many of us play the guitar much anymore, though I think we all probably still love our music. I am in contact with one of the guys via e-mail, and another through the grapevine. We might have a beer when I'm back in New Zealand, but there's not a lot of communication between times.
But of Nigel I've heard little.
I knew that he was working for a newspaper, and had hooked up with a girl that we in New Zealand would call a 'keeper', but that was about all.
Then a couple of years ago, after urging from some mates, I set up a Facebook account. To this point I had resisted Facebook as yet another newfangled cybernetic intrusion. But after joining find I'm pleasantly surprised. I can get back in touch with people I haven't talked to in years; can see photos of them, learn what they're up to, figure out who and what not to mention in connection with them and - sometimes tentatively - re-establish long-broken ties.
One day I got a friend request (which, for non-FB uses, means an invite to connect) from Nigel. I hadn't seen him in about fifteen years. There was a flurry of emails, comments on photos, and (in our case) the establishment of an erratic chess rivalry (in which Nige has a comfortable edge!). It was very good to catch up with him again. It was clear that we had both grown up in many ways, and there were more commonalities - kids, chess, family life - than just music, quaffing ales, and the occasional hike - which is not to say that those are commonalities to be sniffed at.
As we chatted a bit more, and skyped here and there, I ended up sending Nige over some fishing lures from Japan. He wanted to pay me for them but the cost was so minor and the pleasure in hooking up an old mate so great that I didn't give him the option to. So what he did was take a look at my blog.
To cut a long story short, the changes from the standard blogger template that you might've seen over the last few months on 'here's no great matter' are all due to Nige.
I couldn't be happier with what he's done. I'm no graphic artist (nor even a family-friendly one!) and would not have thought about - much less have known how to do - the kinds of things that he has taken the time and pains to put together for me.
So I'd like to take this chance to raise a toast to Nige, to old mates in general, and to facebook for making re-acquaintance possible. Next time I go back to NZ Nige and I are going to get together (by hook or by crook) for a game or two of chess, a quite beverage, and a face-to-face reminisce after so many years.
To Nige, with many thanks (and good game)!