Thursday, September 29, 2011

Sniffing GetGlue

This is my "Check-in Legend" sticker for checking in more than 250 times.
I needed another social media site to check into like I need a hole in the head. So apparently I needed a hole in my head. I joined GetGlue. GetGlue is a social media site that combines some of the worst characteristics of MySpace, FourSquare, Facebook and Twitter into one annoying place. Instead of checking into places like FourSquare, you check in to let people know what music you are listening to, television show you are watching, book you are reading or thing you are thinking about.

In theory, you follow friends on GetGlue the way you do on Twitter and they all know what you are listening, watching, reading or thinking and see these scintillating posts like, "I am watching House Hunters." You can also link your Twitter and Facebook accounts to GetGlue so all of those people are privy to these fascinating posts as well.

This just about violates every rule Dan Zarrella cites in his book Zarrella's Hierarchy of Contagiousness: The Science, Design, and Engineering of Contagious Ideas that will ensure people don't read or repost any of your stuff on Twitter (or anywhere else for that matter). Almost every check in you make on GetGlue includes the words Zarrella claims are the kiss of death for ever being read (i.e. listening, watching, reading, playing, thinking, etc.)

GetGlue strongly encourages you to enlist as many friends as possible to join. And they encourage you to follow as many people as possible on GetGlue. In that way, GetGlue is very much like Amway, Mormans and Nichiran Shoshu Buddhists.

The twist with GetGlue is that you are rewarded for checking in with "stickers" that commemorate the number of check ins, the topics you check in on most and other random things. Once you have collected at least 20 stickers, you can click on a button and GetGlue will mail you actual hard copy versions of your stickers. You can do this once a month. This is the brilliance behind GetGlue. It is human nature (especially for OCD people such as myself) to keep pressing a button as long as you get a reward. Never mind that it is a virtual "sticker" that means absolutely nothing.

Other than unlocking stickers for checking in, you can also unlock exclusive stickers for checking in to particular things, like movie premiers, season openers, new releases, concerts, etc. So it is a marketing tool for PR people trying to get the masses to create a buzz around their product. You can also earn discounts for merchandise for checking in on some things.

The drive to collect stickers on GetGlue has spawned a website called getgluestickers.com. The site includes  lists of exclusive stickers available and hints on how to unlock them (i.e. specific words or phrases you need to put in the comments box when you check in).

As of this morning, I have earned 78 stickers. I imagine by the end of the day I will have earned closer to one hundred.

But it's not a problem. I can stop checking in anytime.


Monday, September 26, 2011

Seasons


The rains have begun. I say this as if I were living in the tropics and monsoon season was beginning. Actually it is just fall in the Pacific Northwest. And saying the rains have begun here is a bit redundant.

Regardless, I sit at the window on my morning commute staring at the gray shore merge with the gray water and the gray sky. If you throw my gray hair into the mix, it can be a bit depressing.

Not that I intended to post about the weather. I despise conversations about the weather the way I despise inane comments to me from my neighbors, such as, "Washing you car?" when I'm standing there with a hose, bucket, soap and a sponge in front of my car. I am tempted to reply, "No, just about to have a sponge bath, care to join me?"

Small talk has never been my forte.

Regardless of the rain, the calendar still tells me that it is fall. And before I know it, it will be winter and another year will be tossed into the recycling bin along with the Christmas wrap. I swear time moves so much quicker than it did when I was a kid. Then a summer day lasted a week and Christmas was always agonizing months away. I looked forward to birthdays, too. And I always wished that time would move quicker so that I could grow up.

Be careful what you wish for.

 I could spout platitudes about "being as young as you feel," but I am reminded too often that you are "as old as you look." And  besides, after working in the garden pulling more ivy vines and filling up mountain beaver holes (yes, the little bastard has reemerged), I feel pretty old...physically anyway. My mind still wanders along clicking a stick against a fence and picking up leaves.

My 86-year old  mother tells me she doesn't recognize herself in the mirror. I know how she feels. I feel that way when I look at my hands as well.

I'm sure I've blogged about this before. That is another sign of aging...repeating yourself and forgetting that you are doing so. Forgetting in general is another problem. A couple nights ago I was watching an Adam Sandler film called Just Go with It  that co-starred Jennifer Aniston. Out of the blue Nicole Kidman made an appearance in the film. And for the life of me, I couldn't remember her name. I pictured all the films I'd seen her in, but I couldn't recall her name. I figured it would come to me. But the next morning, I still couldn't remember her name. I finally had to Google Moulin Rouge and read her name in the film credits.

I realize not remembering Nicole Kidman's name isn't a big thing (unless you are Keith Urban). But as bad as physically aging is, losing my mental faculties would be a major bummer.

Perhaps all of this is why I lean toward wanting to believe in some form of the Buddhist concept of spiritual rebirth. At least after a hard winter, I can always look forward to the promise of spring.


Thursday, September 22, 2011

Sesquipedalian

I don't mean to be gasconading, but I was pretty proud of writing an entire post yesterday using only one syllable words. And I couldn't even say that is what I was doing because "syllable" has more than one syllable.

Words can be a challenge. Having been trained in Journalism, I was taught never to use a $20 word when a ten cent one would suffice. Communication is difficult enough without trying to dazzle people with lots of syllables. But I have to admit that only being able to use one-syllable words gets boring. You also can't use many adjectives when you are confined to one syllable.

BTW, the longest word in an English language dictionary is pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis, a lung disease. The longest non-technical word in an English language dictionary is flocci­nauci­nihili­pili­fication. It refers to the act of estimating something as worthless. There is a certain irony there.


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Small talk


I want to see if I can write a blog post with just short words. By short, I do not mean words that are not tall. I mean words that are not long. It is very hard to do. I must rack my brain to find small words (or make small talk). By rack, I do not mean put my brain on a shelf. I mean search my brain. I do not mean look in my brain with a light. I mean I let my thoughts find small words and not big or long words. Good thing I have a small mind.

Wait, that is not right.

But back to small words. Try it. Hard, right?

If I can learn to just use small words, I may write books for kids. See Spot jump. Jump, Spot, jump. No, Spot, no. Go, Spot, go. Do not leave a spot, Spot. Damn Spot! Out damn Spot.

But you can't say "damn" in kid's books. You can say, "Let's build a dam."

Okay, I will not write kid's books. I could write songs, though, like John, Paul, George and that guy who beat on his drums. Songs like:

She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah
She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah
 with a love like that
You know you should
Be Glad!

Okay, small words do not make for deep songs. But the tune is nice.

So I could try and write ads that just use short words, like:

Got Milk? or Just do it!

Those are dumb, though.

I miss big words. I could write a long time with big words. I still would not say much, but the words were big. And that is what counts.

But at least now I can say I wrote a blog post with no big words.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Non-deterministic causality thoughts


Non-deterministic causality thoughts is a pompous way of saying, "random thoughts." I borrowed it from some physicists. Apparently, since they deal in complex mathematical formulas much of the time, they believe their language should reflect their reality and be basically incomprehensible to the average person.

But I could wax poetic (which has nothing to do with actual wax but rather means to "grow" poetic..."wax" being the opposite of "wane") about the language of quantum physics for hours. I really started out to write about randomness. It is something that fosters a great deal of debate in the physicists' and the metaphysicists' world(s). The debate centers around whether it is even possible for something to happen randomly because everything appears to be caused by something else. Even random number generators depend upon a mathematical calculation to generate the numbers so they actually aren't random.

The hang up in all this is the concept of free will. If everything is predetermined or caused by something that came before it, then you could argue that even when you are fooling yourself into thinking you are acting on free will your actions were actually based on tons of stuff that came before your action (i.e. I choose to pull into the 7-11 for a Big Gulp out of free will and not because I just ran a mile on the treadmill and had a bag of pretzels which I found wedged in between the seats by my three-year old).

The big QUESTION in the theory that everything is caused by something else is is what was the first thing that set the whole predetermined farce in motion in the first place?  The religious would adamantly suggest god. But then I would have to ask (as I did in Sunday School) who or what created god?

It becomes a circular argument (as do most of the debates over non-deterministic causality I've read on the Internet). I imagine most of the blogs written by self-professed random thinkers don't really think about where their random thoughts come from. I imagine many of their random thoughts migrated from their subconscious to their consciousness through either reality TV or People Magazine.

I tend to believe that we are who we are based on who we have been and what we've done. So in that sense, everything is predetermined. But it is a predetermination somewhat of our own creation. It boils down to choices. Every choice you make determines the next juncture of your life. And every choice was created by the one before it. We are essentially rats building our maze while looking for the cheese we planted at the end of it.

That was pretty random. I wonder where that thought came from?

Friday, September 16, 2011

Next Blog

How do you feel about that?

Since I get much of my blog traffic from Blogger's "next blog" feature, I can't really bitch too much about it. But the other day I started thinking it would be funny to name a blog, "Next Blog" to freak out people clicking on the next blog button. So I Googled "next blog" and sure enough, someone had created a blog called The "Next Blog" Blog with the tag line "Compulsively clicking the "Next Blog" icon so you don't have to!"

The blog is made up entirely of random posts from other blogs apparently found by clicking the next blog button. The novelty of keeping this up apparently wore off in April 2010, because that is the last post they made.

It was a clever idea, though.

Reading the posts in the blog reminded me of a scene from Bruce Almighty starring Jim Carey, when the character Bruce is given all god's powers and hears every thought or prayer being made at the same time. It was too much for Bruce (and apparently god). I feel that way about next blog in general.

There seems to be a universal theme of tagging blogs with various versions of "the random thoughts of ____." Oh there are tons, too about various forms of crafting, cooking and couponing, but the majority seem to be started by people who just want someone to hear their thoughts. This is intriguing from a psychological standpoint far beyond the level my two college psych courses qualify me to analyze.

The sad thing about this is that a vast majority of the people sharing their random thoughts with the world must feel no one in their day to day life listens to them or wants to hear their thoughts. Or perhaps they are afraid of the reaction people in their day to day life would have to their thoughts.

This all begs the question of whether people are more real in the virtual world or the "real" world. Or is the Web an outlet for the Walter Mitty's of the world trying to express who they wish they were?

Regardless of whether people are casting their thoughts out there hoping to reel in people of like mind, the next blog button unfortunately functions as the mallet from Chuck Barris' Gong Show (my god I've begun writing like a Groupon copywriter). I think people are too often caught up in their own random thoughts to appreciate the random thoughts of total strangers.

At least that is my random thought of the day.

Next!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

When Stella lost her Groupon

When I first encountered Groupon, I thought it was pretty cool. I liked it when there was a restaurant near me where I could pay $20 and get $40 worth of food. But those offers are few and far between. Now  most of the offers are for teeth whitening, Yoga classes and places offering Brazilian waxes. Tell me, how many Brazilian waxes can you possibly get in a month. Wait, don't tell me.

I know that Groupon is hooking in lots of small businesses eager to draw in new customers with the hopes that they will become repeat customers. I'm willing to bet that most of the people buying the Groupon coupons are already customers of those establishments and are just capitalizing on the opportunity to get a $40 meal for $20. So I imagine the only ones really drumming up more business with Groupon is Groupon.

As the Groupon offers have become more and more useless, their copywriters have become more and more annoying. For example, here's a line for an offer for wine tasting classes: "Grape juice magically transforms into wine in the same way milk becomes cheese and a 1972 Dodge Dart becomes an even older 1972 Dodge Dart." Or a line from a custom framing offer: "Art collectors protect their pictures the same way that crime bosses discipline their children—by having them framed."

The copywriter should be pelted with Funk and Wagnalls and AP Style Guides and be issued a restraining order from going within 10-feet of a keyboard.

And their website is full of even more half-witticisms like, "The Situation: A bully kicks sand in your face. Use Your Mind or Your Body? Neither. Instead of using your body to fight back or your mind to conjure up a clever retort, harness your sense of shame to detach your body's molecules from each other and dissipate into the ether."

This is the kind of drivel I used to write when I was in college and thought every word I wrote was the ultimate in clever.

It wasn't. And I hope the Groupon copywriters wake up one day, read what they've written reel in horror at what depths they sank to in their youthful folly.

I could continue to wax poetic about Groupon's crimes against ad copy, but I'm late for Brazilian wax treatment. Then I'm off to my Yoga class. I'm not sure that doing them in that order was such a wise idea, but I'll let you know how it goes.






Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Gaboon Viper

You can actually buy viper mugs at a site called  JungleWalk.com. I'm not making this up.

Back in 2005, when blogging was still new and fresh to me, I wrote post called Horned viper. I had randomly opened a dictionary and wrote about the first entry I found. It happened to be "horned viper." I managed to ramble on a few paragraphs about the horned viper and that it shouldn't be mistaken for the gaboon viper (which I thought sounded very cool).

Well, on Saturday, while at a picnic with my family, I saw a gaboon viper. Gaboon vipers come from Africa and aren't normally found slithering around parks in Washington. In fact this one wasn't slithering around at all. It was actually hanging out in a large plastic bin waiting for his turn to be displayed to a large crowd of "oohing" and "ahhing"  people as part of a show put on by a man who calls himself "The Reptile Man."

The Reptile Man obviously has an affinity for reptiles. I've seen his name on the entertainment rosters of countless community fairs and festivals, but this is the first time I'd actually seen his show. And despite my naturally aversion to snakes and other slimy creatures, I have to admit the show was pretty entertaining. The Reptile Man opened bin after plastic bin and retrieved various snakes, lizards and one pretty large tortoise. He he debunked the defaming myths about each one of the critters including a rattle snake which I had pretty much been raised to fear and try to whack to death with a stick if I ever saw one. He pointed out each of the creatures important place in the eco-chain and the benefits they provided (including eating mice, rats, slugs and various other vermin that I imagine someone called "The Rodent Man" would have taken umbrage to).

I was pretty impressed (from a distance). But it was when he pulled the gaboon viper out of its storage bin that I felt a chill. Here was this random snake I'd referenced in a blog post some six years ago crossing my path in a park in Washington. Who says it isn't a small universe after all?

Despite this cosmic connection, I didn't feel compelled to hug the gaboon viper. Because regardless of whether the Reptile Man had removed the snake's venom glands, gaboon vipers still have a nasty habit of chomping down on their prey and stubbornly not letting go until they are dead. And they have a reputation of being able to swallow pretty large animals whole. Reportedly one in the wilds of Africa swallowed an antelope. I've never had any strong desire to see the inside of a gaboon viper, so I kept my distance. But I did raise my fist in a salute of solidarity when he was being dropped back into his plastic bin.

I think the gaboon viper kind of liked me in retrospect.

Regardless, I wish my wife had allowed me to name my son Gaboon. She wasn't buying my explanation that it was a family name (i.e. my great uncle Gaboon). It would have made my son's formative years a bit rough, but in the long run it would have made him tough, kind of like the boy named Sue.

But I'm sure he'll have other things to resent me for.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

White Mountain Beaver

WHITE MOUNTAIN BEAVER
 -- Time (With apologies to Jefferson Airplane) 
One hill makes you dig larger
And another hill makes you dig small
And in the ones that Mother Nature gives you
You don't dig anything at all
You're full of malice
Even though you're small 
 And if you go chasing mountain beavers
And you know you're going to fall
Tell 'em you've got a bag of used cat litter
And you're going to pay them a call
You're full of malice
Even though you're small  
 When I find one of your stinking holes,
I'll get up and tell you where to go
And you've just stripped all of my trees of bark
How do I stop you digging down below,
Go ask Wikipedia, I think they'll know  
When the Ivy and the Horsetails
Have fallen sloppy dead
And the ground cover is growing back,
And I've weeded, Rhododendron's bed.
Remember what the Mountain Beaver said:
"I'm still well fed
Still well fed
Still well fed"
Okay, a lyricist I'm not. But it dawned on me that if Alice had lived in North America, she would have more likely fallen down a Mountain Beaver hole than a rabbit hole. I believe only European rabbits burrow. And thinking about Alice falling down a Mountain Beaver hole made me think about it being a white Mountain Beaver wearing a waistcoat and looking at a pocket watch. Then I thought about the song, White Rabbit by Jefferson Airplane and I wondered whether it would have been much of a hit if it had been called White Mountain Beaver instead.

 Incidentally, Jefferson Airplane became Jefferson Starship in 1974.  But I digress.

I didn't even know a Mountain Beaver existed until June of last year when I encountered one in my back yard. And after about two and a half months of dumping used kitty litter into his burrow and filling up the entrances, I think he may have actually moved on. I was working in my back yard yesterday and there was no sign of any new holes and he hadn't unplugged the ones I'd covered up.

Of course, he may be playing opossum and trying to lull me into a false sense of security. I wouldn't put it past him. Though if he is just playing opossum, I hope he tries to cross the road like one.

Don't you just love the way I keep weaving these threads of random ideas into a full-blown tapestry of covoluted thought?

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Authority

If you meet the Buddha, kill him.
—Linji
My interpretation of this Koan is that you should never real trust anyone who tells you that they are an authority, guru, expert or Messiah. A more spiritual interpretation would be that anything outside of yourself that presents you with the meaning of your life is an illusion. Regardless, I have never really trusted authority or people who claim to be invested with authority.

Anyone observing my life would probably not get the impression that I overtly question authority. I was always a model student and did everything teachers asked me to. But I didn't do this because I believed in their authority as much as feared their belief that they had it over me and would demonstrate this with a paddle (they still spanked kids when I was in school).

It also seems a contradiction that I get particularly belligerent when people ignore "don't walk" lights or fail to signal when they turn or change lanes. But I don't consider what they are doing as questioning authority. They are being arrogantly stupid (or stupidly arrogant). My thought when someone walks across a street against a "don't walk" light is that they share the same DNA as an opossum and are too stupid to realize that they are no match for several tons of steel travelling at 35 mph. But hey, why should laws of nature apply to them?

Which reminds me of a joke: Why did the chicken cross the road? Answer: To show the opossum that it could be done. Although they aren't real adept at crossing roads, opossums do smell quite nice. I know this because I attended a conference in San Diego years ago that included a lunch at the San Diego Zoo. During the lunch, a zoo keeper came out with a baby opossum and pretty much forced each one of us to smell it before we could eat. I think it was some California thing. Anyway, it smelled pretty darned good.

But I digress.

I also don't think people who do not use their turn signals are rebels ignoring laws to question authority. They are lazy idiots who don't have the courtesy to warn me before they are going to cut me off. Whoops, I am being negative again and turning off potential readers of my blog. What I meant to say was that people who don't use their turn signals are positively lazy idiots. And I mean "lazy idiots" in the best possible of all ways.

All of this being said, I still don't like authority, mainly because I don't really believe that anyone has the authority to invest anyone else with authority. By who's authority do you have authority? Well, a higher authority, they might respond...the law for example. Who gave those higher authorities the right to create the laws? Well, a higher authority.

Circular argument.

I realize that law enforcement people have a difficult job, but I have to say I question a person who voluntarily wants to go into law enforcement. Because I believe that if you actively seek to have authority over other people, you really shouldn't be trusted with it. The same is true with politicians and the people who make and interpret laws.

And don't get me started on religious authorities and their getting authority from the highest authority. That takes us right back to killing the Buddha if you meet him.