Anxious or excited?

Charlie and Sallie at the vet

Yesterday, I took both Charlie and Sallie to the vet for some routine check up stuff, including getting their license, a shot each and heart worm testing. Charlie is the German Shepherd and Sallie is the lab mix. While they are two large dogs (75 and 110 pounds) they are generally easy to handle together — except when they go to the vet.

Sallie gets all excited about meeting new people and exploring new rooms she has never been in. She sees the visit to the vet as an opportunity to expand her world and maybe get a new treat, make a new friend, etc. Her ears dance and she quite literally smiles.

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Look ma, my books report are done #letsblogoff

big pile of books

There is no one best book, so I’m not even going to try. In fact, the best books aren’t even the best books, but only contain best parts of books. But I’m sure if you put all the best parts together, it would make one really crappy book.

So, at the risk of writing one really crappy blog post, I am going to put some of the best parts of my favorite books together below and tell you why. However, I warn you that for you to understand why all these parts matter, you will have to read the books in their entirety.

You have the rest of the summer. Labor Day is this coming Monday.

I’d get crackin’

Grapes of Wrath, Chapter 3 — John Steinbeck
For illustrating the greatest human attribute is tenacity and by writing a skillfully metaphoric narrative about the indomitability of the human spirit.

The Awakening, Chapter 28 — Kate Chopin
The medium is the message. Chopin’s chapter illustrates how the desire once attained is almost always anti-climactic to the anticipation and thrill of the chase. Stay thirsty, my friends.*

The Secret Sharer, Chapter 1 — Joseph Conrad
For teaching me the importance of dotting the i and crossing the t. Because small details like typos can sink a ship, they matter immensely.

The Scarlet Letter, all of it — Nathaniel Hawthorne
For showing me that even in the most austere conditions, the human spirit seeks out the aesthetic. Read the book again (because you haven’t since high school) and pay attention to Hawthorne’s use of color. Genius.

Life on the Mississippi, Chapter 8 — Mark Twain
Steer the boat that is your life with what you know in your heart, not what you see with your eyes. Most things seen in the present are merely illusions or the product of wishful thinking.

I was going to dig into some contemporary books I read recently, but maybe those will be more complete book reports. The classics above is enough reading material for you get through before Labor Day.

*I borrowed that from Dox Equis beer commercials and the most interesting man in the world. Seemed appropriate.

This blog post is part of a blog-off series with a group of bloggers from different professions and world views, each exploring a theme from his/her world view. This was about answering the question, What’s the best book you’ve ever read? To explore how others handled the theme, check them out below. I will add links as they publish.

Thanksgiving should be an international holiday

I have a lot of friends who are expatriates. They all go through this same cycle of Americanism. When they first move abroad, everything is so exciting, quaint and cultural. They embrace the differences between their new homeland and their American culture.

Until Thanksgiving comes.

*Crash*

They all go through that shock like someone just tore off their right arm. They know intellectually it is coming, that their new home does not celebrate the holiday and they will be expected to get up and go to work, go to school like it is any other day of the year but emotionally it is quite tragic.

I think it may be that Thanksgiving is the one holiday that defines America as a nation. Or maybe it is a natural breath we all draw as a nation where nobody has any expectations that you be “on call,” where emails can go unanswered and blogs go unwritten. Maybe it is because the holiday is the jumping off point for the winter holidays where we all collectively agree to give ourselves permission to loosen the tie a bit, relax and enjoy a bit of life we deny ourselves the rest of our “24/7-always-on” year.

Maybe it is the permission (or excuse) to relax a bit for the next month that Americans abroad miss most. Without Thanksgiving, when do the Holidays start? When is it ok to relax and breathe?

Maybe the rest of the world does not need a holiday like Thanksgiving. But on the off-chance it does, I say let’s make it an international holiday anyway. Whether to give thanks, eat without guilt or just to take a day and breathe, a universal holiday celebrated the world around can perhaps be the start in joining ourselves to each other.

It’s a thought.

This blog post is part of a blog-off series with a group of bloggers from different professions and world views, each exploring a theme from his/her world view. This was about “Thanksgiving’s coming, so what’s it to you?” To explore how others handled the theme, check them out below. I will add links as they publish.

Sniffing around for the funny

A three-legged dog walks into a bar, hops up on a stool, slams his paw down and says, “Barkeep, give me a cold one.” The bartender slides a cool draft toward the mutt, notes his slack jaw and and asks, “You’re not from around here, is ya? You in town for long?” The dog looks up from his ale and says, “Just long enough to find the feller what shot my paw.”

Oh, c’mon now, that’s funny. Or it really is horribly pathetic.

Here’s another, thank you Jean
Yesterday, while helping the husband with some work, he asked me if I could hold up a window so he could put it back in after strengthening it-old windows. I pointed my finger at it like a gun and told it to give me all it’s money. He started shaking with laughter and he just looked at me and said “Could you just do what I asked you, and not be a smarta** about it?” Hey, he’s the one who told me to hold up the window.

And here is one more. Thank you Reza

I like corny jokes, I like fun videos where other people break out in spontaneous laughter. It makes me laugh as well. I like long pointless stories that wind and weave to the punchline. I like a good pun.

And I especially like really smart humor where you had to have read the book to get it.

Those are the things that make me laugh.

This blog post is part of a blog-off series with a group of bloggers from different professions and world views, each exploring a theme from his/her world view. This was about “What makes you laugh?” To explore how others handled the theme, check them out below. I will add links as they publish.

Optimism is having faith in youth — a blogoff

I spent about ten solid minutes this afternoon just staring outside my office window yesterday afternoon. The wind had kicked up fiercely, the sky had gone gray and the yellow leaves were blowing off the roof, falling all around like snow. I had no particular thoughts other than how beautiful this little scene was, that a scant few weeks ago these leaves were green and alive and that they would fall to the ground, decay and turn into rich soil for the next crop of leaves in the spring. It was at once a very sad mourning and a moment of hope and optimism for a new season.

I have no doubt there will be another spring, but I have no reason to believe that other than there was one earlier this year and the year before that and the year before that. I suppose there will be one autumn where I will be wrong, but I hope that is a long time off, despite the best efforts humans have undertaken to destroy each other over the past decade. And the decade prior to that. And so on.

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You are bringing a soccer ball to a football game. Why blogs don’t matter.

Are blogs as important as bloggers think they are? The question itself is a bit of a stretch, but I think the shortest answer to it is one of the most American of all answers — the sports metaphor.

“Old media” — television, newspapers, magazines — are like Major League Baseball (MLB), National Football League (NFL) and the National Basketball Association (NBA) with some more minor players like the National Hockey League (NHL). Blogging is like Major League Soccer (MLS).

Who?

Exactly.

Actually, the MLS really doesn’t matter all that much, even to soccer fans. It’s just kinda.. well.. there. What matters more are the many youth leagues, SAY, AYSO, ODP and regional travel leagues scattered around the country. If you did not recognize any of that, you’re not alone and it’s ok. Soccer doesn’t really matter.

In the United States, about 4-6 million kids play soccer, depending on whose numbers you believe. That is more kids than football and baseball combined. By the time they reach high school most of them have dropped out to play other sports like football or baseball. While their kid is playing soccer, parents are engaged, almost fanatically, but when their kid no longer plays soccer, the parents quit caring about the sport, dedicating their time now to an extra dose of football and baseball.

“It’s a good thing Johnny finally got into a real sport like football,” most dads think quietly to themselves with a sigh of relief.

Sportscasters openly mock soccer as not being a real sport much like television and newspaper journalists mock bloggers as not being real media people. Sports departments cover soccer only when they have to or when it fits a pre-determined narrative, like during the World Cup and then only begrudgingly. Mainstream advertisers won’t buy placement in soccer venues. Many have soccer initiatives only because they are looking to attract the soccer mom and many times only as an ancillary buy to a larger media placement. Soccer-only product enthusiasts find out quickly how shallow and cost-concious the market really is, many going out of business within a year after launching their product or service. The parallels to blogging v old media almost rise up and slap you in the face.

And how does soccer respond? Not by being itself but by trying to emulate the larger sports leagues. It organizes the sport into a large national league (MLS) instead of deeper, hyper-local clubs tied to the community. It encourages rule and play format changes to make the play more exciting to American audiences. More goals, more points per goal, more physical contact, shorter fields, fewer players on each side for more ball touches per player, more tournaments, more, more, more….

And even internally, soccer people turn on each other, gutting one league to form another, jealously guarding their own piece of turf or breaking off to form their own club or league when the director pisses them off. (Read points 2 & 3 at Brass Tack Thinking) Sound like a typical impromptu parent sideline meeting? Sure does.

In the end, it is blogging that will change to fit an old media model, not the other way around. Sure, there will be some hold-outs like we have grizzly soccer guys who collect in pubs to watch a Arsenal game and complain about how kids today don’t play futbold like they did back when they were young. And they will eventually die and take their fan loyalty with them.

In keeping the metaphor alive, millions of bloggers write a million and a half blog posts a day. More citizen journalism, opinion editorials, lifestyle, industry insights, restaurant product and movie reviews are published each day by bloggers than network journalists combined. And still we ask, does blogging matter?

Does soccer matter?

This blog post is part of a blog-off series with a group of bloggers from different professions and world views, each exploring a theme from his/her world view. This was about “Do blogs matter?” To explore how others handled the theme, check them out below. I will add links as they publish.

So like sheep, these media types

Lifted from telegraph.co.uk BBC

Do social sites like Facebook connect the world or isolate people? Undergraduate Soraya Mehdizadeh of York University claims to know the answer and has researched this question for a senior paper that was published in Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking. And because it was published and her conclusions fit a media narrative that demagogues find attractive, it got a lot of press coverage. Here. And here. And here.

It’s official. Facebook users are narcissistic with low self-esteem. Men like to brag and women like to show off their best side. And this is news? When did Facebook change this basic human behavior?

Let’s ignore the fact that many college students today are not embracing Facebook as they once did, opting instead for the more private and exclusive circle of text messaging for their real friends. Or that the fastest growing segment of users of Facebook are over thirty-five. Or that she only looked at 100 college students at one college in Canada. Facebook statistics are readily available to any news media organization that wants to independently verify the legitimacy of a study.

I think a study like this says more about our thirst for entertainment at the cost of truth. I think a journal that publishes a study this flawed and subjective says more about the quality of the publication rather than the study. And I think it says a ton more about the quality of the school that allows a study like this to be published by a student who has supposed to have finished a course of study that has an obligation to teach her observational and deductive reasoning skills that qualifies her to practice medicine on living people in several years.

But the relative ease at which news organizations were duped into reporting this study as news without questioning the science behind it speaks more to the sloth of journalism and greed of for-profit news organizations than it does for answering the questions the study claims to have discovered. It is astounding that professional news media glom onto a headline masquerading as a study and propagate it out across the AP, UPI wire as if it were news fit to print.

But then, I am making all these assertions based on the paper abstract and first page alone. That was all that was displayed on the website without paying for it. I’m certain the media did not spring for access and judging from the depth of their stories, even if provided a free copy, they did not read past the first page.

Does Facebook connect or isolate people, was that the original question? Who the hell cares. What I do care about is that of the fifty-three friends I have in my Facebook collection, if Facebook were to go away tomorrow, I’d still know how to connect with them. And I think that most people would also know how to connect with the few dozen Facebook friends who really are their friends. So I think that Facebook perhaps makes it easier to remind me of their place in my life while simultaneously making it easy to feel I can always reach out, so I seldom do. But their photo in my friend box reminds me of them. And I hope mine does the same for them.

And I haven’t changed my profile picture in forever. A social media forever, anyway.

Editor’s afterthought:
After publishing my #letsblogoff, I clicked through my usual reading material and by way of Chris Brogan, I rediscovered Mark Horvath (@hardlynormal). What follows on his blog is a huge testament to how social media spaces are not only connecting people, but transforming lives and giving homeless people hope. I warn you, before you click off to his site, you may feel a bit humbled and dare I say, sheepish at your own observations of what social media can do. I know I did. Thank you, Mark, for reaffirming that we are all in this together. And now his site, WeAreVisible.com

This blog post is part of a blog-off series with a group of bloggers from different professions and world views, each exploring a theme from his/her world view. This was about “Do social sites like Facebook connect the world or isolate people?” To explore how others handled the theme, check them out below. I will add links as they publish.