Wednesday, August 31, 2011

You is a female sheep

Enough about me, let's talk about you for a minute
Enough about you, let's talk about life for a while
The conflicts, the craziness and the sound of pretenses
Falling all around...all around
Why are you so petrified of silence
Here can you handle this?  
 --Alanis Morissette, All I really want
I'm not sure how long I can keep up working "you" into my blog posts. Besides, I'm not sure writing about "you" has increased the number of people reading my blog. Apparently not as many people care about "you" as much as "you" do.

As for the key words that make people retweet something on Twitter, not a single person retweeted my "Oh twitter you, please check out and retweet my 10 great new blog posts that help you learn how to get top free social media tips" tweet. "You" would think that at the very least Zarrella would have retweeted it just to confirm his theory.

This all does seem ironic (thanks again Alanis). All those years of listening to therapists harp on using "I" statements instead of "you" statements and now we're supposed to only focus on "you." Well, who do "you" think "you" are? Maybe it's time "you" and "I" parted ways. It's not "you," it's "me." "I" just need some time to blog about "me."

"You" realize that "I" am taking this thing way too literally, don't "you?"

.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

A great authoritative new and positive blog post about you that you can retweet for free

I have been reading Zarrella's Hierarchy of Contagiousness: The Science, Design, and Engineering of Contagious Ideas on my Kindle. It is essentially a scientific approach to social media marketing. It is not that I am overly interested in this subject, but I was looking for something to read on my Kindle while exercising and they were giving the Kindle version away free.

The author of the book, Dan Zarrella, bills himself as a social media scientist and has conducted years of research on social media  and what he calls, "Contagious ideas" (although I would argue that social media hasn't really been around long enough for anyone to conduct years of research on it). I think "contagious ideas" are what most people think of as viral marketing or in other words the thing that happens when you forward links to videos of chimps peeing into their own mouths and falling off from a log to all of your friends and they in turn forward it to all of their friends so before you know it, everyone is watching videos of chimps peeing into their own mouths and falling off a log.

 In an effort help you  infect people with your contagious ideas, Zarrella has compiled lists of words to use in the Twitter world that will increase or decrease your retweetability (which I used to think was an uncontrollable urge to watch reruns of Warner Brothers cartoons featuring Tweety Bird) . The most retweetable words are: you, twitter, please, retweet, post, blog, social, free, media, help, please retweet, great, social media, 10 (which is technically a number and not a word), follow, how to, top, blog post, check out, new blog post. The least retweetable words are: game, going, haha, lol, but, watching, work, home, night, bed, well, sleep, gonna, hey, tomorrow, tired, some, back, bored, listening.

In theory then, I could post the following and get retweeted beau coupe times:  "Oh twitter you, please check out and retweet my 10 great new blog posts that help you  learn how to get top free social media tips." But if I post: "Game going haha but hey noone is watching at work lol & at night I'm gonna sleep well because I'm tired and bored of listening-Back tomorrow," no one will retweet it. We'll see, because I just tweeted both inane sentences.

Although Zarrella focuses a great deal on Twitter, he also touches on blogging. Basically he states that people will more likely read your blog if a) you present yourself as a guru or authority on a subject, b) write positive stuff instead of doom and gloom and c) don't write about yourself, because no one wants to read about you. They would prefer to read about them or something that is relevant to them. He also suggests that people will more likely read something that is written very simply with lots of nouns and verbs and not a lot of adjectives and adverbs.

Zarrella writes all of this in a very authoritative manner and seems very positive that he is right. And he seems to be directing all of this at me since it seems I have been violating all of these rules for years now which would explain why so few people read my blog. Though, one could argue that I am an authority on writing about my life since I know nothing about yours.

But hey, enough about me. Let's talk about you. You're obviously a fire, water, air or earth sign and serious, yet carefree. You like long walks on the beach while sitting by the fire enjoying a good book or television program while sipping red or white wine with a beer back. You don't like the two-party political system and wish everyone would quit talking about the economy and the weather. And I bet you've danced with the devil in the cold moon light.

So please, please follow my blog. It's all about you anyway!






Friday, August 26, 2011

One hit wonders

I have to wonder, which is worse, having one hit in your life or having no hits? I mean, how frustrating must it be to have a song on the charts, taste fame and then never be able to get there again. It's like being invited to an exclusive club, drinking the wine and then never being invited back.

It is ironic that so many of the songs I remember from my youth were one-hit wonders. There was "Timothy" by the Buoys. I liked it for the obvious reason that it was a song with my name, but it was also controversial because it was about cannibalism. The song was written by Rupert Holmes who would later get his 15-minutes of fame with his song "Escape, the Pina Colada Song." The Buoys recording of "Timothy" rocked the charts for weeks. Then the Buoys bobbed off into oblivion.

What makes it even more frustrating for one-hit wonders is that it happens when you are young and then you have your whole life to ponder what it was like to taste fame and then have the buffet close down. At least for those of us who have never really been or had a hit, there is a sense that you still could be. Though I can't think of any middle aged rockers who have hit the charts. Middle aged rockers are primarily former one-hit wonders who are shuffling across the stages at Native American Casinos out in the boonies making their middle-aged groupies swoon.

My guess is that the Achilles heel for most one-hit wonders was that they lost their edge when they hit the Mother Lode. When you are aspiring to something, you put a lot more effort into it than when you think you've achieved it.

There is also the "peaking too soon" factor. Say you are a young man playing baseball for the first time and by some fluke hit a home run the first time you step up to the plate (and I'm not speaking from experience here). The expectation is that every time you step up to the plate from that time forward you are supposed to hit a home run. It ain't going to happen. Because every time you step up to the plate at that point you'll be thinking about it too much and the consequences of not hitting the ball. So you won't.

One-hit wonders are just confined to the music industry. Off the top of your head, try telling me anything J.D. Salinger wrote other than Catcher in the Rye? And name any movie Macaulay Culkin has done other than the Home Alone series. How many vice presidents of the United States can you name? And what are the names of the third and fourth men to walk on the moon?

I find it also ironic that many of the iconic figures in the entertainment industry became so because they died before their fame did: James Dean, Jimi Hendricks, Elvis, Marilyn Monroe, Jim Morrison, and Janis Joplin. When it comes down to it, fame just doesn't age well and the public doesn't want wrinkled idols.

And don't try parading the Rolling Stones by me. They are just wrong on so many levels.

But I digress.

I am not sure what this all means to my own life. I've never had a hit record, written a best-selling novel, walked on the moon or  won the Nobel Peace Prize.  But I think I'm okay with that. I'm not dead yet and I'm not so hung up on past achievements that I psyche myself out of future ones. Who knows, I could be the first middle-aged one-hit wonder in history by becoming one of Blogger.com's Blogs of Note.

I'm not sure I could handle the pressure though.




Monday, August 22, 2011

Voices in my blog

So Google has come up with something called Google Scribe that types out suggestions of what to write as you write. Good lord. Is the next step just to turn on the computer and let it compose prose without us and then post it. I might has well become a television "journalist."

I've got the feature turned on right now and these gray ghost words appear after the cursor suggesting what you could or should be typing. Now I get an idea of what a schizophrenic feels like ( though the Scribe thingy did help me spell schizophrenic).

Now spell supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. Well I'll be damned. It did it. Spell sphygmomanometer. Okay you smug bastard, you know what a blood pressure cuff is and how to spell it ( it suggested using the word bastard after smug  by the way).

Okay, who wrote the Nutcracker? Tchaikovsky.

What is that drug they give kids with ADD? Ritalin.

As sphincter says, "What?" "What?"

Ha!  I got you.

No you didn't.

Yes I did.

Didn't.

I'm going to turn you off....don't...what are you doing.. don't do that.. Daisy, Daisy give me your answer true.. argggh.

There. Now I can go back to digressing without that annoying Scribe.

I kind of miss him though. And he sure did know how to spell.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Angry old bird

I originally was going to call this post, "Annoying noises" because I was annoyed by this guy who sat across from me on the train yesterday morning and spent the 30-minute ride grunting, huffing and sighing at a level that managed to penetrate my MP3 player and the train noise. Plus he had a cup of coffee he kept slurping while he reviewed some work document.

In my world, you aren't supposed to work on the way to work, especially while I am playing Angry Birds on my Android Tablet  And you aren't supposed to sit in my roomy four-seated quad on the train that usually I only sit in. And you aren't supposed to make disgusting noises and slurp your coffee especially when I don't have a cup of coffee to slurp back at you.

I didn't complete my "Annoying noises" post because it dawned on me how much of a total crank it made me sound like even if that is truly what I am. I don't imagine the man had a clue how annoying he was being. Because a majority of the population seems basically self-absorbed and oblivious.

I joked once with an old friend that I used to be an angry young man, but now I am a bitter old one. He laughed a bit too much. But then again, he is older than I am.

It is not a new story for someone cresting middle age to be baffled by the strange reflections in windows of trains of a face that doesn't match the youthful mind's eye. It seems quite symbolically appropriate that my new favorite game is various iterations of Angry Birds (which if you live under a rock without a smart phone or tablet is a game where you shoot angry looking birds from a slingshot at moronic pig looking creatures who appear to be the products of cousin pigs in Arkansas).

My thoughts about people violating my personal space on the train are my angry birds. And more often than not they dissipate in the ether without ever actual toppling a target. It is probably that I am not so much annoyed at the annoying noises as the fact that they were penetrating my cloak of middle aged invisibility that I have wrapped around myself to keep reminders of the real world at bay. It is an easier target than the economy, partisan politics and global warming.

Though the noises were pretty annoying.


Monday, August 15, 2011

Now playing LIVE!

I was looking at my Facebook page and noticed an ad for some casino to see Smokey Robinson "LIVE" in concert. My immediate reaction was that they didn't really need to add the "live" part since the market for seeing Smokey Robinson "DEAD" in concert was most likely substantially smaller.

Things like this bug me. And me pointing out things like this tend to bug other people. My children, for instance. My three year old is constantly yelling out, "Papa, my nose is running" to which I respond, "Better go catch it." His capacity to process sarcasm hasn't developed yet, so all I get is a furrowed brow and another announcement that his nose is running.

It reminds me of the old telephone prank where you'd call up someone randomly and ask, "Is your refrigerator running?" If the person replied, "yes," you'd say, "Better go catch it" and hang up. Caller ID has all but eliminated telephone pranks. This is sad to me because it was truly an annoying art form.

Another pet peeve of mine is the language manufacturers use when they write instructions on products. Is it really necessary for cans of shaving cream to explain that you need to proceed with shaving after you've applied the shaving cream? But for really complicated products like toys you have to assemble, they use instructions like "Connect flange A with socket B and interlock with part Aa2 using a clockwise motion." I am embarrassed to admit that I don't really know what a flange is. So generally I just apply shaving cream to the products and proceed with shaving them.

I also have trouble with sports fans exclaiming, "We won the game" when their favorite team wins. First, watching a game doesn't really mean you had anything to do with the physical effort to win or lose it. Taking credit for sitting and watching other people do the work is generally reserved for upper management.

But back to Smokey Robinson. I was actually relieved to see he was performing live, because I thought he had passed away a long time ago. Though I'm not sure you could say his career is live since he is performing at a casino in Marysville, Washington.

There is a certain, sad irony in that.

Monday, August 08, 2011

Just eat

We were walking downtown with the kids on Sunday, enjoying the rare appearance of the sun and we decided to have lunch on the waterfront. It was one of the trendier spots and it had an outside terrace with a sandbox that the kids could play in. We were seated at an area overlooking a dock where boats were moored that likely cost more than my house.

As we got settled and the kids dove into the sandbox, I noticed two young women seated at a table adjacent to ours. I couldn't help be overhear snippets of their conversation since our table was so close. They were talking about a friend who was on a diet and going on about shrinking stomachs and sensible choices. The conversation continued when their lunches arrived (sandwiches as far as I could tell). They continued to talk back and forth about how hard it was to eat sensibly when you were at a restaurant and how you had to make sensible choices, like grilled versus fried and chicken versus beef.

I wanted to scream, "Just eat your freaking sandwiches. You are at a restaurant for Christ's sake."

The server came and asked if they were finished. Half the food was still on their plates. They said they were done and declined the server's offer to box the leftovers. They also declined dessert.

Okay, I have no problem with people watching what they eat. I've struggled with weight issues off and on my entire life. And I believe in eating healthy. But when I'm in a restaurant I try to just enjoy it. That is why you are in a restaurant. You want to enjoy the pleasure of not having to prepare food (though I really enjoy cooking) or wash dishes. You want to enjoy the experience. Don't ruin it by obsessing about fat and calories and diets. 

I believe the biggest barrier to overcoming any excessive behavior is the feeling that you are being deprived of something. It is why people who go cold turkey on anything fail miserably in the long run. The trick is enjoying things in moderation. 

One of my favorite stories involves a guru who is approached by a follower after a speaking engagement and gushes to him about how they have used his meditation technique to stop smoking. The guru lights up a cigarette, hands it to the disciple and says, "Here, anyone can not smoke."

The point being, you need to get to a place where you can smoke or not smoke, not "need to smoke" or "need to eat" or "need to drink." And you can't get to those places if you obsess about your addiction. 

Monday, August 01, 2011

Graven images


Every now and then, the genealogy bug bites me and I dust off my family tree program and root around for more information about my relatives. One of the things that fascinates me about genealogy is the infinite way a family tree begins to fan out from individuals. If there were actual records kept for every individual throughout time, it would be interesting to see whether the roots would fan out and then narrow again to a single organism that split to create the individuals who started it all.

But we don't have records on every individual throughout time. In fact, for the vast amounts of people who don't stem from blue blooded stock, the records are few and far between. Often the only record you'll find of many of your relatives is a manifest on a boat or a notation on a census ledger. And you get the sense that many of the people being questioned by census takers were reluctant to provide concrete information about their actual birth dates, or, and I imagine many of them weren't real clear on the dates anyway.

My mother came from a family of 13 kids. I was conjecturing with my wife the other night that this may have been a genetic code in my mother's family to produce as many progeny as possible due to the high mortality rates and the need to have extra hands to help out on the farms my distant ancestors worked. By the time my grandmother began producing farm hands, however, the Great Depression was in full swing and they didn't have a farm to work. Regardless my many aunts and uncles came into the world.

I didn't really have much interest in my relatives when I was a kid. Most of my mom's family had scattered. But I did see a pack of cousins about Thanksgiving and Easter. I didn't really have much contact with my aunts or uncles. It was only after I began dabbling in genealogy that I realized how sad that was. Because now I'd love to pick their brains to uncover the stories behind the names and faces I see in old photographs, but most of them are gone or beyond remembering.

As part of my search for information about my family, I stumbled onto a website called www.findagrave.com. At first I was baffled that such a site existed. It reportedly contains more than 65 million records of grave records for the dearly departed. It's a community of people who, in there spare time, apparently go out and photograph grave markers and post memorials on line. And most of the memorials they post seem to be for total strangers.

It seemed morbid to me at first. But as I uncovered (no pun intended) the graves of some of my relatives, it dawned on me how important this was from genealogy standpoint and an emotional standpoint. I know that with my own experience, my family stretches across the country and I have neither the time nor resources to travel to various towns and cities to find the graves of my ancestors. This site has been invaluable with, if not putting a face with a name, at least putting something concrete that confirms that they were once part of the world and are more than names on ledgers and manifests.

In the case of some of my own family, I was able to have their virtual memorials transferred to me. I've added family photographs in some cases, virtually adding a face to the name on the grave marker. In some way, it seems to enhance the memories of these people I've never really known. If nothing else,  it symbolically it keeps their memories alive.

I actually think a virtual memorial has more significance in the long run than a physical burial. Personally, I plan to be cremated and won't be leaving behind a marker with my name on it. So as my ashes are scattered to whatever wind my children deem appropriate, I hope to be remembered digitally in some fashion. Perhaps this blog will stand forever as my grave marker. It is kind of a comforting thought that long after I'm gone people will still be stumbling on my blog to learn whether or not clams are really happy and marvel at my stories of mountain beavers.

On second thought, maybe I should get a grave marker.