Your One-Stop Shop For All Your Ting Ting Needs

Spock: “Oochy-woochy kootchie-koo”, Captain?
Captain James T. Kirk: An obscure Earth dialect, Mr. Spock. “Oochy-woochy kootchie-koo”. If you’re curious, consult Linguistics.

Star Trek, “Friday’s Child” (12/1/67)

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drikn-44113687

So you’re putting together a dried floral arrangement and you say to yourself, “Self…this arrangement would look even better if it had those gold curly wiry-like things in them sticking out here and there.”

You go to your computer and you put in keywords such as “gold curly wiry-like things” and Curlicue silver wires floral arrangements” and you come up dry. DRY! The problem is that you don’t know what they’re called.

ting-solid-asstmt You call most of your friends. That search proves fruitless. You call your mother; she’s great at arranging flowers. She knows what you’re talking about but has no idea what they’re called. You call Joann Fabric and Michael’s and artsy-craftsy places, but it’s night time and they’re all closed. (Why did you even bother with those?)

You call your friend with the Mad Google-Fu Skillz, but they don’t do much better with the search engines.

Fortunately, you’ve got me.

They do have a name, and that name is “Ting Tings”. Decorations so nice, they named ‘em twice. And, because I’m a swell guy, here are a few places to buy ting tings. I make no guarantees about any of them:

http://www.awesomeevent.com/Curly-Ting-Ting-C130.aspx

http://www.weddingflowersandmore.com/ting.html

http://www.amazon.com/Sparkle-Curly-Ting-feet-Tall/dp/B001MKXARW (of course. They have access to EVERYTHING.)

http://www.kaboodle.com/reviews/chartreuse-sparkle-curly-ting-27-32-stems-for-5.39

The Internets, they are pretty clever.

Synchronicity, or, Back From the Dead

Peasant: She turned me into a newt!
Sir Bevedere: [suspiciously] A newt?
Peasant: [long pause]…I got better.

Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)

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i told you so stoneOddly enough, I’m not the only person in my universe whose health is in much better shape than that which was assumed by others.

A couple of days ago, a friend of mine from high school posted to his Facebook account that one of the teachers who was around back then had died. Not only that, it was his understanding that this teacher had died a couple of years ago and he’d just learned about it. A few of us said some nice things and clucked with the retrospective sadness, much like some folks did when I posted that Garrison Keillor joke. Later on, he came back and noted that he’d been mistaken and that the teacher was still alive. In fact, said teacher even took the time to say “Hi” to everyone in the same thread.

I, like the others who were caught by the error, said a couple of kind things about him in that thread. In my case it was specifically that I’d learned a lot from him and that I still remembered most of his remarkably bad jokes. I also noted that I was disappointed that I couldn’t attend his surprise retirement party several years ago. As it turns out, he retired from teaching in Kings Park (New York), not from teaching altogether, and this may be his last year. After all, he’s been in the business for 44 years now. I wrote a piece that was intended to be shared with him at the party. I don’t have that piece anymore, but I hope he got to read it. I presume he did; I’d emailed it to his wife (whose name, oddly, is NOT “Raquel”).

At the time of his retirement, I was working for the Leader Newspaper Group in northern New Jersey. In addition to being a reporter for the group, I wrote an occasional column to fill up space on the Op/Ed page. I took the occasion to write a tribute to him around that time, and they published it in the July 6, 2000 edition (PDF document).  My column is on Page 5, and I’m only linking because it turns out that I was the guy who wrote that week’s editorial as well. So, if you click the link you’ll see part of my journalistic career. Remember that this column was pre-Facebook and pre-My Space, so Classmates.com was about the only way you had to get in touch with anyone from your past, and it wasn’t a free service.

Here was my column:

Sad news this week: I'm getting old.

Okay, perhaps you don't care about that. So are you, but I have a column to whine about it and you don't. The point is, it doesn't occur to me that often.

There's a big computer company (whose initials may stand for I'll Buy Macintosh) that's been using actor Avery Brooks in its television ads. Apparently Captain Sisko has gotten off of Deep Space Nine and has returned to Earth to hawk "serious software." In one of the commercials he explains to the viewers, whose vocabulary development has been repressed by watching too much TV, what an "epiphany" is.

Well, I've had an epiphany or two myself in recent times. Most of them are connected to the fact that I'm no spring chicken anymore. I'm not talking about the usual aches and pains that come with getting older; I can deal with those. It's when you suddenly realize that the song you're listening to, you heard for the first time when Gerald Ford was in office and it dawns on you how long ago that was. In my case, it was a note from someone I'd never met before.

I spend some time every week on a website called Classmates.com. You go to the site, put in some information about where you went to high school, and you can communicate with a whole bunch of folks you didn't want to associate with back then. The site has a bulletin board system wherein you can send notes to everyone from your home town.

A short while back, I saw a note that said that Mr. Weidig, my Algebra teacher, is retiring after this school year, and that a surprise party was being arranged for him. What! Mr. Weidig is old enough to retire now? Why, he was such a young fellow when he taught me back in…back in…

…1978??

[The reader will please note that this is the part where I cut out a bunch of words that one doesn't ordinarily see in a family newspaper. But the gist of it was: "Golly, it's tough to believe that I was in ninth grade that long ago.”]

Mr. Weidig was one of the reasons I became a teacher. He was one of the few I knew who actually seemed to really enjoy the job. So many others seemed to be going through the motions. Mr. Weidig had a gentle way of prodding you along without pushing the issue. He had ways of making you pay attention without your knowing that that's what he was doing. And his jokes were soooo corny that you just had to repeat them later on. I still know most of those shaggy-dog stories. And yes, I have told some of them to my students in the past. I'll probably burn in Hell for that, thanks a lot.

So the retirement party has come and gone: Mr. Weidig is no longer teaching Math in Kings Park, NY, and it's up to somebody else to take his place. That's not as easy as it sounds. Mr. Weidig was part teacher and part clown. In either role, the shoes to be filled are very large.

In addition to the corny jokes, Mr. Weidig also had a habit of “asking himself questions” as a means of moving a discussion forward, or perhaps letting everyone know that this is something we should be wondering about. He’d walk to the back of the room and sit in a vacant chair, then raise his hand to get attention. Then he’d walk up to the front of the room and call on himself. Then he’d walk patiently back to the seat and ask a question. Then he’d walk to the front again and, before answering, say (and here’s where the entire class would chorus in): “I’m glad you asked.” I’ve pulled that stunt a couple of times, too.

Frankly, I don’t remember what I wrote in the piece that I sent to Mr. Weidig’s wife, other than to suggest facetiously that he tell a story called “The Parade Joke” one more time. And no, I won’t tell it to you here. Maybe I’ll relate the Parade Joke as the last post ever to this blog…

Techno Boy to the Rescue

Haley Graham: Elite gymnastics is like, the navy seals, only harder. There are like 2000 navy seals, there are only like, 200 elite gymnasts. Guess that’s because there’s kids who’s rather have a life than spend 6 hours a day training tricks that could kill you. Don’t be fooled by the leotards people, the things gymnasts do make navy seals look like wusses. And we do them without a gun.

Stick It (2006)

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Wee One chose not to do her Extended Cheer season at the local recreation council; instead she’s participating on a team called Charm City All-Stars. It’s a more rigorous program than the rec program, which is good for her cheerleading skills. On the Parkville Rec team, she wound up teamed up with some very inexperienced girls, which wound up making it tougher on the coaches and the more experienced girls, who wanted to move on to some of the new moves and instead wound up rehashing some of the old ones. This isn’t a complaint specifically; it’s just the way it goes sometimes when you have an inclusive program and only so many participants. You could have two very small teams or one decently-sized one, assuming you have enough coaches. It’s a problem either way and I don’t envy the people in charge of making the decisions. Anyway, Wee One is at Charm City All Stars this winter.

Charm City does its training at a place called Ultimate Gymnastics, which is a pretty gung-ho name for anything. If you’re going to Ultimate Gymnastics already, you don’t have a lot to reach for. I’m just saying. They have two sessions a week of cheer practice, which is where they do the choreography and such for the cheer routines. On Friday night she participates in a tumbling class, where she learns some of the basic stunts and skills.

Believe you me, Wife and I are much happier that she’s learning in this environment. When she first got into cheerleading, she was out front for hours every day teaching herself how to cartwheel. The grass is only just so soft, so we’re just waiting for the moment when she comes in with a broken limb; said limb not being from the tree in the yard.

tumbletrack All of which leads to the fact that I’m sitting now in the waiting area at Ultimate Gymnastics while Wee One is in the gym proper, doing her tumbling stuff and such. They have this extended trampoline thing that she’s on right now, and she’s using it to do roundoffs (kind of like a cartwheel, but your feet stop together and at the same time), and who knows what else. I know her big goal is to do a back handspring independently but I don’t see her working on that specifically just now. I don’t watch her too closely when she’s in there, because she gets a little bit of a “lookatmelookatmelookatme” thing going on, and then she’s not paying attention to what she’s doing.

Windows Live Writer So here I am, banging away on my laptop. Unfortunately, I don’t have the internet access in this place, but I do have Windows Live Writer, which works pretty well until I can get jacked back into the Metaverse. This is my usual gig when I bring Wee One to cheer/tumbling practice: sit and write, and listen to iTunes (got Beethoven’s Sixth going on just now). This has given me a bit of a reputation, I think. Not the reputation for being aloof and unsociable (not that I really care), but rather for being the sort of guy who crunches bytes for a living.

A few minutes ago, another dad (the only other adult, it turns out, in the waiting area this week) walked up to me and asked me to help me with his Blackberry. Now, this guy and I have a “hi, howya doin’” relationship, but not much else. He had no idea whether or not I’d ever seen a Blackberry before in my life, but he was pretty sure I could solve his problem for him.

Naturally, I could.

Shut up.

Atonement

Alvy Singer: [addressing the camera] There's an old joke – um… two elderly women are at a Catskill mountain resort, and one of 'em says, "Boy, the food at this place is really terrible." The other one says, "Yeah, I know; and such small portions." Well, that's essentially how I feel about life – full of loneliness, and misery, and suffering, and unhappiness, and it's all over much too quickly.

-Annie Hall (1977)

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Housekeeping Note: this is another post I started several days ago and didn't finish until just now, so I'm clearing out some mental cobwebs getting it out there. 

WKRP-Tukery-Away_l  One of the things I've noticed about having a blog, and later on a Facebook account, is that you never know what's going to spawn a response and what isn't. Usually when I do a FB post that's related to The West Wing, I'll get a couple of "likes" and maybe a comment or two. This year I got nothing. On the other hand, an offhand reference to an episode of WKRP in Cincinnati launched all kinds of conversations. Likewise, another comment I made about watching TV on Thanksgiving Day launched a similar number of responses. 

A short while back I did a post about the high school friends I have nowadays, and the relative lack of overlap that the modern-day group has with the friends I had then. It's not a big deal, just something I noticed. And while the post itself has no comments attached to it (at present), it has engendered several responses. Most of them have been about what a funny/witty guy I am, and how they never suspected that in high school. (My stock response is that I was funny but not especially witty, which I think is more or less true.) But there was one brief conversation I had with someone that actually touched me, a little. Much of what you'll see here is heavily paraphrased. My memory isn't that great. 

A few days ago someone took the time to send me an Instant Message on Facebook. She opened with "I owe you an apology." This actually confused me, since I didn't recall her saying anything odd, or mean, or unusual, in the recent past or ever, really. 

She went on to say that she'd read my post, and it had gotten her to thinking back to high school. And the bottom line was that, if she'd said anything rude to me, or purposely ignored me, or done anything mean in my general direction back then, then she genuinely apologized for it. 

What do you do with something like that? 

In my case, I thanked her and told her (truthfully) that I hold no ill will toward anybody from school. She noted that there were some people from those days who seem not to have changed at all, and others who surprised her by going a long way in life. (Apparently I was in the second batch.) We chatted a little bit about some of the people–not by name–who pretty much peaked in high school and how you never really know. At that point I had to sign off so I thanked her again and bade her good-bye. 

You know what? That was a pretty brave action on her part, and you don't get a lot of opportunities to do something like that in life. I tried once a couple of years ago: I wanted to re-connect with someone from my past so I wrote a letter and sent it out. I never got a reply. But at least I took that opportunity. 

So thanks to you, RFP: you didn't do anything to make my life more miserable back in the past (that I know of, anyway), but you did brighten my week a little bit in the present. 

That Old Joke About Arguing On The Internet Isn’t Such a Joke Sometimes

Earl Sinclair: Water is the opposite of fire, which we have previously established as a vegetable. What's the opppsite of a vegetable? Fruit. So, water is a fruit. Fruit is not a vegetable, so it has to be either an animal or a rock. We know it's not an animal, therefore, fruit is a rock.

Dinosaurs, "Family Challenge" (9/25/91)

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I can’t believe I let myself get sucked this deeply into a non-argument, and on the Internets, no less…I’m still shaking my head over it.

A few days ago, a Facebook friend of mine, who is leading what I understand to be a vegetarian-leaning lifestyle (she hasn’t quite gone over completely, not yet), posted some statistics to her wall:

It takes 16 pounds of grain and 2,500 gallons of water to produce one pound of meat. Yet 16 people can be fed on that amount of grain and it only takes 250 gallons of water to produce the grain. Feed given to livestock is sprayed with pesticides. More than 90% of the toxic chemical residues found in foods consumed by Americans comes from animal products.

HappyCow Now, I don’t know that this is absolutely true but that’s not really important. It just kind of interested me that this might be a different, less-confrontational way of approaching the situation. Everyone knows the usual arguments, after all. Why not find a different approach? Why not argue that a vegetarian diet is good for Mother Earth? Out of curiosity, I replied to her:

Is this an overall average or are these figures related specifically to beef?
Ponder this: is it "greener" to eat pork or chicken or lamb? How about veal, since we're not raising the animals to full size?
I'm just wondering if there's a sort of middle ground that can be attained.

The line about veal was only partially facetious. If you’ve got people who are unwilling to give up meat altogether, then it’s certainly greener not to raise a cow to adulthood. This was still a thought experiment for me. Her reply was that the stats referred specifically to beef, and that buying organic essentially turned out not to be a better alternative, because she’d learned about abuses at an “organic” farm in Vermont. OK, fair enough. And, of course, veal was out of the question. 

And that’s when it got a little weird. Another friend of hers, whom I don’t know, replied:

Middle ground would probably be just reducing meat consumption, i.e. eating vegan one day a week.. if everyone did it would make a big difference. Definitely don't eat the baby (veal) who was ripped from it's wailing mother and trapped 24/7 in a cage too small to turn around in until it was slaughtered for your culinary pleasure. That's just too much bad karma to digest.

See, now we’re going down the path of rhetoric. Awhile later a second friend of hers posted:

There's no such thing as a middle ground. [Vegetarian Friend #1,]  the dairy industry requires veal because the milk produced for the cow's child (aka veal) is stolen and redirected to human consumers.Therefore any suppport [sic] of the dairy industry directly supports veal whether or not the individual eats or gives up veal.

My friend chipped in:

Thanks [Vegetarian Friend #2] simple facts that most of us never realized or even considered. I never ate veal but never really knew what it was no less how it was "produced". I'd be thrilled to know that Claude & his family had declared one day a week, or even one meal Vegan. May seem like a small success on behalf of animals but to the one individual chicken, dairy cow, baby calf, little laying hen or her male chick saved it's a 100% success. That's the perspective I gained from Wayne Pacelle – brilliant man! And although Claude is host of the much anticipated annual pig roast he is willing to consider/ discuss which is so cool.

I should have just dropped it there…I should have seen the red lights. But, no. Frankly, I was annoyed that the discussion had gotten dragged off-track. My reply:

Yeah, what [My FB Friend] said. So stop giving me crap about the wailing cows and whatever. It wasn't necessary to go there; it really lowered the discourse.
The point of Ann's original post was that it's an inefficient use of resources to raise a cow to full size in order to harvest its meat. So I asked about alternatives that would be more efficient. I'm not giving up meat; I'd consider a meatless day or two per week.

And that’s when all hell broke loose. Veggie Friend #1:

Claude, the abusive treatment of cows in factory farms is a reality. If speaking the truth lowers the discourse then I would be happy to lower it anyday [sic].

Veggie Friend #2:

Claude you sound like a psycopath who is unable to empathize with the suffering of others. Your flippant reference to the "wailing cows or whatever" confirms this.

I’m not sure what a “psycopath” is, but perhaps it’s related to the English word “Psychopath.” I’ll go with that. My next attempt was this:

And again, I say THAT WASN'T THE POINT of the original post. You convince nobody when you go off message.

My friend, trying to calm the waters, a little bit:

The point of my post was to provide a couple among the many ethical, environmental and health reasons to go vegan. Since my posts about the recent expose by HSUS* of the gratuitous grotesque violence committed upon helpless days old calves went virtually ignored I thought I might call attention to just a couple environmental & health reasons.

She said a little bit more but it’s not really germane to the discussion. Me again:

See, for me the whole thing was a little bit of a thought exercise.
Since raising a cow to adulthood is so ENVIRONMENTALLY inefficient, between the feed and the water and the greenhouse gases and the several years that it probably takes (that's a guess on my part), a pretty compelling argument could be made that it's better for the planet as a whole to find an alternative source of protein for those who refuse to give up meat altogether. Maybe you can't save the whole world, but you can certainly work on your little corner of it. OK, beef is a trainwreck, but perhaps pork isn't so much (I don't know this for a fact; I'm just saying that as an example.) 
I'm sure that there are plenty of people who care about the relative cruelty involved with meat processing, but that was never the point IN THIS THREAD. Further, there are always going to be people who won't be swayed by that argument any more than they'd be convinced that "Fur is Murder" by getting splashed with blood, or that abortion is wrong by being confronted with disturbing photos. Bottom line is that a confrontational tone doesn't really lower the discourse so much as it does eliminate it altogether. 
So, you look in another direction: it's the "green" thing to do. An interesting tack to take…!

I thought I was really trying, here, I swear. But now we’re on the fur wagon. My fault.  Veggie Friend #2:

FranceFurProtest Claude I highly recommend you learn more about what is involved in factory farming so that it becomes more than simply a clinical, intellectual exercise in maximizing efficiency. Remember, you are talking about the systematic mistreatment and murder of literally billions of intelligent, self-aware animals. Ann I have to respectfully disagree about throwing blood on people's faces being wrong. First of all it is red paint not blood, and secondly, it is thrown on their fur coats. Anyone who sees how a fur coat is made would recognize that it involves behavior that is criminal and shockingly evil. [145 words of graphic animal torture snipped]

My friend had a reply here but unfortunately I didn’t save it and I’m typing this from an offline position, so you’re out of luck. The bottom line was that we both had a point, and violence begets violence. She also posed a facetious situation where meat eaters were stuck on a plane and shipped to China. (The in-flight dinner would be Veal Parmigiana—heh.)  He replied briefly that it wasn’t so much violence as it was economic sabotage. OK, but still.

It was at this point that I actually sent my friend an email, apologizing to her for dragging the conversation through the muck like this. On the other hand, I noted, “You wanted comments…now you’ve got them” but I also promised to try once more before quitting altogether. Back in the thread, I wrote:

I never said that your respective viewpoints aren't valid ones. Both you and [Veggie Friend #2] have those specific facts in your corner.
HOWEVER, both of you miss the original intent of the thread, which is that perhaps a different approach to convince people to seek an alternative may be in order (or, perhaps more accurately, coming at the situation from a different angle would convince a different set of people). The both of you wrote very impassioned responses to me but there's really nothing new in them, so I didn't need to bother finishing what was written.
At this point, you've both become so entrenched in your argument that you've decided I"m some kind of mean-spirited person who does most of my food shopping at the local puppy mill, and aren't necessarily reading what *I* have to say.
And my bottom line IN THIS CONTEXT is: change the argument. Yes, factory farming is nasty business. Yes, terrible things happen. Everybody knows that and either doesn't care (enough), or is in denial, or something else. So…take another tack. Go the "green" route. Go the "health" route. Go in another direction that we haven't even thought of. It can't possibly hurt, and may even help. Who knows?

Veggie Friend #2 fired back:

Claude what you are saying is that you lack the capacity to be moved by the suffering of animals and need to be convinced on another basis to go vegan, whether it be from the standpoint of efficiency, environmental impact, etc. Your approach is sociopathic.

I did? Where did I say that? And, again I’m being diagnosed with sociopathy. I think I’m-a gonna get me some mustache wax and spend my spare time twirling it between thumb and forefinger. This time I apologized in the thread, saying, “Sorry [FB Friend], I tried.” Within two minutes, he replied:

Do you really believe that? Or is that something you tell yourself so you can appear reasonable?

I don’t know, boy, I’m not sure I was exactly telling myself anything. But this was the point where I bailed out of the fray. Of course, when you get the email alerts from Facebook, the conversation never really ends for you. Consequently I’ve seen a couple of subsequent posts in a similar vein.

20060909-dia_sin_carne_002.preview So that’s my most recent trip down the Internet Rabbit Hole. The question I never got to ask, though, is: if we’re going the whole animal cruelty argument as our reason for not eating meat, is it OK if I eat a steak that comes from a cow who committed suicide?

And, of course, the moral of the story is that you shouldn’t pick on a guy who’s always looking for blog fodder. Fair Warning: Comments related to the vegetarian/carnivore lifestyle will be deleted or edited, regardless of your politics.

*Humane Society of the United States

Unfriended.

Alfred Hitchcock: Now, if you'll excuse me, I must hurry off to a little social affair. A dear friend is guest of honor. It's a stoning. I wouldn't miss it for the world. Good night.

Alfred Hitchcock Presents, "Mr. Blanchard's Secret" (12/23/56)

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The act of "unfriending" someone in Facebook is an interesting one. It gives off a lot of messages that you may not necessarily be sending. Or perhaps you are, who am I to say. 

For lack of a better word, it's often a stealthy maneuver. Unless you take the time to tell someone that you're unfriending them, they don't know that it's happening unless they try to take a gander at your profile and suddenly realize that they're locked out. Or, perhaps they notice that their friend count is inexplicably down by one. 

In the real world, people do drift apart: they call each other less frequently, find different circles of socializing, and sooner or later they delete your phone number altogether. There's no discussion; there's no "Hey! That person isn't my friend anymore!" It's not a big deal; it just happens. On the Internet, however, it appears to be a sudden decision. And perhaps it is, but it can't help but have a little bit of a malicious feel when a person drops off your list. You become all, "What the hell did I do?" 

Unfriending in Facebook, in my experience, is often a reaction to action. Back in March, I wrote a post about how my ex-wife and I were starting to accumulate friends in common. As it turned out, it didn't really create any hassles, until I got married again in July. That was the point where all of the "common" FB friends who attended the wedding suddenly found themselves unfriended by my ex. Common friends who didn't attend, got to remain friends. This, as it happens, includes the daughter of someone who was unfriended who couldn't attend the wedding. It generated a little bit of buzz for a day or two, with the general attitude running somewhere in the realm of "amused". The one person we thought would be terribly upset by the move, wasn't. Really? OK. 

For what it's worth, perhaps they wouldn't have been so amused if she hadn't taken a few oddball pot shots before making the disconnect. 

On a slightly different tack: anyone who knows me, whether online or in real life, knows that I'm a bit of a wiseass. And by "a bit", I mean "consummate". But I get as well as I give, and most people are able to have fun with it. 

Most people. 

About a month ago, someone I've known for a long time didn't take well to it and basically called me out on her page. She told me to stop harassing her. Harassing her! That's a pretty serious charge, especially considering that I nearly got Dooced this summer for my Internet activities. So with that fresh on my mind, I replied to her that it wouldn't happen again, and unfriended her. While that may sound rather extreme to some people, I figured that I'd better take it seriously and therefore take steps to ensure that I don't find myself in that position again. Don't have to hit me over the head twice, except when it comes to getting married. 

As it happens, she just made the discovery and sent me a note, asking why I'd made the move, while at the same time acknowledging that it probably happened awhile ago and she's just getting around to noticing. (Good call, that.) I figured that at this point my explanation would sound petulant to her, so I ignored it. A couple of days later, Daughter emailed me, asking essentially the same question: "XX wants to know why you unfriended her…" I gave her the bumper sticker version: "She said I was harassing her and that's something I have to take very seriously." End of explanation. So we'll see where that goes.

I had another incident this weekend where someone with whom I'm NOT friends encouraged a friend of mine to unfriend me because I'd written something that she considered to be in poor taste. I'm not sure how I feel about that, but I'm pretty sure that I'd never take it upon myself to insist that one person unfriend another. Live and let live, and all that. 

Survey Says…

Pete Marshall: I'm with the Trotter Poll. We're like the Gallop Poll but not as fast.

Murder, He Says (1945)

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Recently I got an email, and maybe an hour later, a phone call inviting me to be part of a focus group. So a few days later I trundled over to an office on Pratt Street, where I sat in a room with four other guys and we chitchatted with a couple of moderators, under the watchful eye of a video camera and whoever was on the other side of the one-way glass.

The discussion started out with a generic chat about wireless technology but before very long it turned into a discussion about Xohm, about which I've written before. Go figure, all five of us were Xohm customers!

Sprint-xohm-wimax So they had me, the sole Caucasian in the group. The guy sitting next to me, a vacuum cleaner repairman, was the only one in the group who wasn't happy with the Xohm, but it was pretty clear that he didn't like much of anything technological. In fact, he kept noting that he'd throw cellphones and such across the room because they frustrated him so much. The next guy…I forget what he was about, but he liked reading New York newspapers on the Light Rail. The fourth guy was a financial wizard apparently, who puts together multimillion-dollar deals all the time and has been in big adventures around the world. He doesn't have a fabulous grasp on the technology behind the Xohm, but since I was already the most talkative person in the group, I didn't bother correcting him. And the fifth guy, who came in late, was also enamored of his USB card, but didn't say a whole lot whenever he spoke.

We were there for about two hours, and over the course of the chat, we had to do a quick satisfaction survey ("How important is thus-and-such? How satisfied are you with the service?"), and we also had to write notes about what we liked about Xohm (selling points for friends), what we didn't like, and unusual places/ways we'd use Xohm. We also had to watch a couple of commercials (which were produced for Xohm's other major city, Portland OR, and where the service is called "Clear") and offer up some reactions to those.

Now that I think back, it occurs to me that the one thing I didn't tell them was that Xohm was kind of a dumb brand name. Tough to pronounce if you haven't seen it before, tough to explain to others. I mentioned this blog early in the conversation, so who knows: maybe they're reading this now. Hi, guys!

At the end of it all, we were thanked for our time, and given $75, plus another $10 for parking costs (I'd parked at a meter, which cost me two bucks. Eight dollars profit!) Not a bad way to spend a couple of hours. I wonder if I can be a professional focus grouper. Groupie. Group…whatever.

Surprise! All Nude, Didn’t React Accordingly

Brooke Penelope Davis: Oh my god, I'm internet porn.

One Tree Hill, "Just Watch the Fireworks" (2/15/06)

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Every once in awhile I get a little curious to see if I can find out what's been happening with people I knew back in the day. Now, of course, my first place to peek is Facebook, but even these days I usually rely on Google or some such search engine to see if they have any electronic trails going on. Recently I got on one of those kicks again, looking up people from my past.

And there was a girl once…she wasn't pretty in the classical sense, she was several years my junior, she was kind of flighty, but she had a certain way about her that was fun and quirky and a free-spiritedness that was a nice antidote to the weight of the world that I'd been carrying around at the time. We were very attracted to one another but at the same time we were doomed to fail in a spectacular way. And despite knowing this, when she started dating another guy, my head exploded. As the song goes, she done tore out my heart and stomped that sucker flat.

Shortly after that, I had a pretty big, bad event take place in my life, and I don't think I ever felt more alone than at that time. I went to her and told her what had happened. And even though she didn't want to–I saw the moment of hesitation–she pulled me into the room, closed the door and hugged me for a long, long time.

It wasn't common knowledge then, but she wasn't a healthy person, and about a year later I moved away and we lost touch. I figured that by now, she could easily be dead. Not long ago I learned that she is, indeed, alive, so I tried to look her up through the usual channels.

In addition to a plain vanilla Google search, I also do an image search because hey, you never know. Imagine my surprise when I learned that she has the same name as a porn star. I remember her as friendly, but not that friendly.

So the search is over for now, until I get another clue. But until then, this one is for her:

Bonus points if you find the hidden message.

I’m Pretty Sure It’s Not a Zero Sum Game

Jackie: [upset] Fred is suing me for custody of my baby!
Roseanne: Oh my God. You're kidding me!
Jackie: No! It's all right there! He wants my baby! It's not even born yet, he – he's suing me for custody of my stomach!

Roseanne, "Don't Make Room For Daddy" (2/15/94)

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Technology, and the Internet in particular, has made life much simpler for people. I'm sure you know that part. Doing research for papers while I'm working on my Administration certificate doesn't meant I have to spend all the time that I spent in the library when I was working on my Master's Degree in the mid-1990s. Natl_teachers google logo Now I've got Google Scholar to help me out. I'm an information junkie and I love the idea of being able to look stuff up. With my Mad Google Skillz I can usually find the answer to most questions within a matter of seconds. This is the stuff that a lot of science fiction didn't anticipate for computers a hundred years from now, never mind this week.

Facebook poked The Internet, on the other hand, has made our social lives a little more complicated. Now, you've seen a million rants about Facebook and this whole "If I didn't talk to this guy in the ten years since High School, why the hell would I talk to him now?" bit and that's certainly a valid, if well-worn argument. I have two other issues with Facebook and with similar sites.

First is the whole "suggested friend" thing. My high school graduating class was HUGE. We had about twenty thousand students in our class. OK, maybe not that many, but over 500 anyway. That's a big class, and the social circles are only so big. So while I recognize a lot of the names I'm seeing, I didn't necessarily know these people very well. And when you're in college it's a similar story. I went to Adelphi University from 1981-1985. And again, you tend to hang out with the people in your major, your immediate dorm neighbors, and maybe a few others. And not all of the people you hang out with are even in your graduating class. You're one among hundreds, perhaps thousands. It was even worse working on my Master's Degree because there were ten of us in our program. Ten. And all ten of us took the same classes together, had the same teachers, the same schedule, looked at the same faces for two years running, even in summer. How many people graduated from C.W. Post that year? Who knows. So a suggestion that I friend someone because "you went to Long Island University together" doesn't mean anything.

So for the school people, I haven't done a lot of seeking out; I mostly let them decide if they want to friend me, unless I'm truly interested in getting back in touch. If I'm added, I'll reciprocate for the most part. At least, I don't think I've turned anyone down yet but I've at least chatted with all of them online at one point or another. And they're all welcome to come to the Pig Roast, of course.

People tend to pass in and out of your life. And sometimes when someone passes out of your life, it's a good news/bad news thing. Divorce, for instance, isn't necessarily good, but sometimes you have to prune the family tree. In both my divorces, I was the one who moved away, so it was pretty natural that the ex-wife retain most of the friendships. There's a certain awkwardness when both parties are still around, and my absence probably made that a lot easier on people, in a way: there wasn't any issue with deciding whom to invite to what party.

(My attitude about inviting people to parties, incidentally, is that if I invite you, I invite you because I want you to come. If you're not going to come because someone else might be there? Oh well, we'll miss you. But I'm not playing that game.)

With the social networking sites, however, you wind up with a new brand of awkwardness because people could conceivably add both you and your ex as friends. You don't have to contact one another directly, but there's a little bit of weirdness going on if the common friend posts something and you'd like to comment on it, but they already did and then it feels like you're trying to one-up them. Or, conversely, sometimes you feel like you have to get "firsts" on them.

Heh. Maybe I should go through all of my friends' photos, posts, announcements and just comment immediately with "FIRST". (Bonus nerd points if you got that joke.)

Crossing the streams The other thing that happens on Facebook is that, because my ex and I are starting to accumulate the friends in common, FB actually recommended to me that I "friend" my ex wife. Given the level of animosity she still appears to hold for me (and I'm flattered, really, that I'm still worth that level of anger), I get the feeling that adding her as a friend would be akin to crossing the proton streams. But it was still pretty amusing nonetheless.

You know, naturally you get curious about a few things and, before she slammed the door shut, I got a look at some of the stuff my ex had posted to her FB profile. And one of the things I did get to see was some of the friends she'd added. I probably shouldn't say this, but what the hell: I'm an open book at this point and she isn't (e.g. I have a blog and she doesn't; I have an open FB profile and she doesn't), but that's her problem and not mine. But I'll be a gentleman and phrase it in the generic because I'm sure she's not alone in this one: It's interesting to see how many people someone will add as a "friend" on the Internet when they have little or no respect for that person in real life.

Baby_2face That's not to say that I've never said a mean thing about any of the people whom I've friended on FB, but I don't think I've behaved hypocritically toward any of them. I'm the type to wear my heart on my sleeve, as the saying goes, and if I don't like you then you're definitely going to know about it. But there are some folks out there (not to name names *ahem*) who definitely have some interesting features.

Silence of the Legos

Jame "Buffalo Bill" Gumb: It rubs the lotion on its skin. It does this whenever it is told.
Catherine Martin: Mister… my family will pay cash. Whatever ransom you're askin' for, they pay it.
Jame "Buffalo Bill" Gumb: It rubs the lotion on its skin or else it gets the hose again.

Silence of the Lambs (1991)

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I don't know if you're aware of this, but a couple of guys actually took the time to turn Silence of the Lambs into a musical. It's weird and funny in a dark way.

But the Internets aren't going to stop there, oh no. Someone took the time to render one of the songs in Lego. It's fascinating all over again. Check it out:

It's nearly as good as the Death Star Canteen video, which I think most people have seen (but if you haven't):

Yow!