By Jamie Butow
Today is the day the cardinals will gather at the Vatican and begin the process of electing a new pope to head the Catholic church. It's a process steeped in tradition that involves lots of Latin phrases -- like when the master of the papal liturgical celebrations (that's a real title) orders everyone other than the cardinal electors and conclave participants to leave the Sistine Chapel by yelling "Extra omnes!" (Latin for "Everybody else, out!")
Then there's the ceremonial burning of ballots. It's that fire (with the help of some chemicals nowadays) that tells the masses waiting outside if a new pope has been elected.
Black smoke: no pope. White smoke: new pope.
This is an incredibly secret proceeding. Vatican security forces have swept the chapel for any hidden microphones or other listening devices.
During a recent conversation about this with my 8-year-old son, it was noted by him that Michael Weston would know how to hide a bug so no one would find it.
OK, maybe we need to cut back on the "Burn Notice" re-runs.
The conclave proceedings are run according to strict, centuries-old rules. There are no newspapers, radios, phones or TVs allowed. In 2013, Vatican officials have taken the extra step of disabling Wi-Fi throughout Vatican City, and accessing social media sites like Facebook and Twitter is straight-up banned.
Teens all over the world are twitching at the thought of this.
So beginning today, we will wait and watch for smoke.
It seems odd to watch for smoke signals in 2013. Thankfully outside of Vatican City the rest of the world is still using technology.
You can register at Popealarm.com to get an email or text alert when the smoke turns white. The site proclaims, "You could be asleep or busy doing something and miss the 'Habemus Papam!'"
That way if you're not in front of a TV, you'll know when to check your Fantasy Conclave picks (http://fantasyconclave.com) to see how you did.
And don't forget to let the cardinal electors know you're thinking about them by signing up on the Adopt a Cardinal website (https://adoptacardinal.org), where you'll be assigned one of the 115 cardinal electors to keep in your prayers.
Ain't technology grand?
Maybe the cardinals should think about reducing their carbon footprint, staying home and voting via Google Hangouts. The video presentation is pretty slick.
Even Nick Fury of S.H.I.E.L.D uses video chat to connect with the World Security Council. It's handy when you have a Hulk on the loose.
Worth a thought here in 2013, that's all I'm saying.
Social media class
The Levan Institute for Lifelong Learning has opened another section of Social Media 101 this spring. The first class filled up fast, and since there were enough people on the waiting list, I'll be teaching the class on Tuesday nights in April.
This class is for someone familiar with computers and email but wants to learn to use Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and other sites to keep in touch with friends and family.
We'll discuss each site, privacy and ethical issues, and you'll get to log in and try them for yourself in a computer lab.
This added section will be 6-7:30 p.m. on April 2, 9, 16 and 23.
It's only $25, and there are a limited number of seats left. Register at bakersfieldcollege.edu/levaninstitute.
Calling all parents
If you're a Kern County parent who blogs about parenting issues, things to do with your kids, cooking or just all the fun and funny things that go along with raising kids, we'd like to read your stuff.
We often link to other blogs on BakersfieldMom.com, so if what you're writing appeals to a wider audience, we'll link to you, too.
Send links to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please put "Bakersfield Mom" in the subject line.
Just a quick social TV update: "The Walking Dead" still rules.
Bluefin labs reports "The Walking Dead" (AMC) and "Pretty Little Liars" (ABC Family) are the TV shows most talked about on social networks last week -- other than sports, that is.
See more social TV stats for the week on Facebook.com/JamieButow2.