Pay Attention

I began listening to podcasts back in early 2007, I think. The term was self-explanatory, as opposed to blog, which took a few passes before I understood. In those days, the iPod was king. These were radio shows that you could listen to whenever you wanted; that’s a pretty easy concept to grasp.

I listen to podcasts the way other people listen to audio books: In the car, mostly, or out on a walk. On a plane, certainly. Podcasts wouldn’t surprise anyone 40 years ago, even if the delivery system might seem awfully fancy.

I listen mostly to interviews. A lot of political talk, or at least in the past (I’ve cut back on those). Interviews with interesting people, authors and actors and musicians, that sort of thing. I get the appeal, even if I’m not sure why the medium has exploded in the past couple of years.

But I think about this a lot lately. What’s the best way to tell a story? I’ve always been a fan of the spoken word, but there’s a lot to be said for reading the thing yourself. News is read in this household, not watched, but I guess there’s a preference for everyone.


And so we come to video. I was hooked from the beginning, and I know the beginning. Mr. Emmons’ Spanish class, in which the upper class members got to make a video at the end of a semester. We’d write sketches (in Spanish, of course; sort of the point) and record them on the primitive equipment our AV department had, reel-to-reel tapes and bulky cameras.

That’s when I discovered it. We were goofing around, feeling our senioritis big time and pretty much having wrapped up the year. With the video camera temporarily not in use, and no one paying particular attention, I took it and started shooting video of the class. I just panned the room, stopping on individual students as they wrote or read or talked to someone else, unaware.

And then, before we had to give the equipment back, we played our recorded sketches to the class, and at the end, tacked on, was my attempt at vignette.

People cried a little. You have to imagine it; a lot of us has been taking Spanish from this particular teacher for four years. Same people, same classroom.

There’s even an oblique reference to my “photography” skills in a yearbook note from someone I’ve long forgotten (actually, I just thought of her name. Keep me away from Facebook), and that Spanish class guerilla filmmaking was the reference.

So I caught a little of the power. And it’s the power of images, really; doesn’t have to be a moving image. But I got a bug then, and spent a lot of hours daydreaming of being able to afford my own rig. I finally got one in 1984, just in time for my daughter’s birth.

And of course today everything is different. We’re all videographers now.

I keep trying, though, and I’m getting better. I’m doing a stewardship thing for church, trying to get people to tell some of their stories about this particular church community, how they came, what they get out of it, etc. My first subject was a 22-year-old, someone I enjoy immensely, a great sense of self along with an upbeat, witty way of looking at the world. And she had good things to say, and my new PC made editing it into a couple of minutes a snap. For the first time since I’ve started editing (which really began back in the 1980s, hooking two VCRs together), I was able to finesse this in real time, no lagging or syncing problems that aren’t caught until the film is rendered, a process that used to take serious time.

Yesterday I did a short interview with my wife, looking for some gravitas to match the millennial ambience of my first. Wandering through the footage, trying to get a sense of how to edit it, I realized I’d made a big mistake.

I’m tempted to talk about decreased attention spans, although I can’t because I’m not sure it’s a real thing. I mean, the internet is pretty much designed these days for people to read and see quickly. It’s a skimming medium. It doesn’t mean we won’t sit for longer, because obviously television is hugely popular and movies are hanging around, too. As well as the above-mentioned podcasts and audio books.

It’s online video that begins losing its grip after about 2-1/2 minutes. There’s just so much more to do, who has the time?

And 2-3 minutes of one talking head, even a familiar face telling a compelling story, begins to lose its appeal after a minute or so. This was little epiphany, and once I realized I needed to have several people speaking during these videos, and that I could edit them around similar themes, I could smell a concept.

So off today down south for more filming, then to spend the afternoon with an old friend, I suppose my oldest friend in certain definitions. It’s been too long, and a lot has happened. We’ve got stuff to talk about, so here’s hoping our attention spans are capable of conversation.

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Writing Right

I’m sure there was a period, if years ago, when I’d snark a bit on misspelled words or errant grammar (I can’t think of another adjective; “bad” has never seemed right, since it’s either grammatical or it’s not). This was all online, of course, and eventually I figured out that people tend to write quickly and sometimes carelessly, and then it became null for me. I probably don’t even see the “your” that should be “you’re” anymore, because I get it.

I also get the frustration people have, even if I don’t share it. It just aggravates some people more than others. Street signs with letters missing, willy-nilly quotation marks or free-range apostrophes; if it bothers you, it bothers you. Maybe it’s a symptom of something. Maybe you should try not to fuss so much. I have no real answers.

And I have my share, and they’re getting worse. This means something, although I’m not sure what. Lack of enthusiasm, lack of concentration, lack of something. Mine usually are the result of moving sentences around or changing them slightly in a re-reading stage. Sometimes I don’t tie up all the loose ends, so to speak.

About two weeks ago, I wrote a column and (I’m assuming) changed the tense of a sentence slightly, from simple past to past perfect. “The man came from Europe” to “The man had come from Europe,” like that. Not that, but like that.

And, again assuming, I just forgot to refresh the verb, so it became “The man had came from Europe.” I’m not even sure this is technically a typo, but it’s certainly a mistake. My bad. Also, it certainly was read by a few others before it was printed, so their bad, too.

But I got an email from a reader yesterday, once again proving that the half-life of these newspapers is about 9 days, meaning that I can get mail dribbling in weeks after the fact, confusing me almost always.

And this guy, a retired software engineer (I can find things, you know), dashed off a note to me, just about the typo.

For some reason, it just cheers me up. I know I should probably be worried if I can’t elicit any reaction stronger than grammar policing, but there was something both snarky and friendly about this that made me smile.


Another reminder from Facebook. I gave this reading two years ago today. It was fun, and I wish I could have done more of them. That book got lost in the concurrent news of our Bixie being rushed to the hospital in February with diabetic ketoacidosis, and all that followed. All of the air got sucked out, mostly out of me.

But the poster showed up in my feed today, reminding me, and I noted at the time that I’d never had a poster before. It was kind of cool. I may have taken it home, although I have no idea where it is.

I remember it well, though. It had a typo. Made my wife a little crazy. I was just glad to have a poster.

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That River Thing in Egypt

Denial is a real thing, you know. For a long time I rolled my eyes a little at the idea, which was solely being used in my life when talking about addiction. By then, I’d long since passed denial on my road to rock-solid compulsion. I knew what I was doing. I just couldn’t stop.

I decide to look back through blog posts this morning, though, just for a few minutes, and I saw it firsthand. There I was, mentioning from time to time that my weight seemed to be decreasing a little every week. It seemed like a fine idea to me, even healthy.

It was actually the opposite of healthy, and denial was strong in this one, since I had the numbers right in front of me. Back in June 2015, when I tried to switch my diet around and avoid so much refined sugar, a common reaction in my family once my grandson’s diabetes was diagnosed, I started keeping careful track of what I ate and what I did. More careful than I ever had. My goal was health, and if I lost a few pounds along the way I could probably stand to do that.

I knew that at certain points along that particular nine months or so, I lost my appetite completely, barely able to eat a few bites. This never lasted very long, so I just noted it and tried to find things to perk me back up. I was aware that there were some days that I didn’t eat more than 700 calories, which is nearly a starvation diet. Try to avoid that, I thought.

It was right there, though, in that careful spreadsheet I kept. I just never saw it. I didn’t have days when I only ate 700 calories. I had weeks.

All better now. But it’s made me a believer in the lengths any of us can go to hide from ourselves. The truth is harder to swallow, but then swallowing is sort of the point.

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Not A Drop To Drink

We are drowning here. It’s always awkward to refer to rain and the Pacific Northwest; like reporting a Phoenix heat wave in August. Yeah, yeah. It comes with the territory.

Our territory is really soggy, though. It was a soggy autumn and a soggy winter and since we’re essentially in spring up here, so far par for the course.

A positive is that our windstorm season is over (it can happen, just less likely past February to get a big one), so trees are pretty safe by now, reasonably secure in that soaked soil. Some warmer weather melted a lot of snow and the rivers are high, but even that seems reasonably managed. And once again, we have plenty of water for the summer in case some fool decides to water his lawn (oh, not really a fool. I’ve just never seen the point this side of a golf course, but whatever).

But the slightly, slightly warmer weather (another story) compels me to head outside, and pouring rain makes that compulsion less exciting. I did manage to run the lawn mower over the front the other day, just to keep it manageable, although it hasn’t taken off yet. A little growth. Not a worry.


I’m tasked this year with heading the stewardship committee for my church. Stewardship is the church word for fundraising, the season in which we ask for annual pledges so we can form a budget. This is my second go at being someone asking other someones for money, and it’s not like I’m learning how to get it right. I’m the last person on the planet for this kind of thing, it turns out.

It’s not that I’m philosophically or even morally opposed to picking a few well-lined pockets for a good cause. That’s how this sort of thing works. I just really, really suck at it.

But my job is mostly to find a way of telling stories of our little community, and that I can do. So the rest is routine, writing a letter, explain the budget simply in case people don’t care to read it or don’t understand numbers all that well, toss in a pledge card and we’re done. The rest is filming church members talking about their experiences and putting them up online, eventually combining them all into a finished film after all is done.

My film editing skills, assuming I keep an eye out for creeping sentimentality, are getting better now that I have some oomph in my CPU. Honestly, in the past I had to make edits and then render the thing, only then getting a smooth playback. That’s where the errors pop up, and sometimes I just left them, unsatisfied but doing the best I could. Now I can at least feel confident that when I make a cut, it’ll be a smooth one.

Budget cuts would not be smooth, on the other hand, as we seem to be a pretty bare-bones church and had to let office staff go last year because of pledges being down. We shall see. I have a letter to write. Send money.

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And Here We Are

I spotted an opportunity yesterday, a writing job that seems just about perfect. I see these from time to time; the last time I inquired it turned out I’d be writing blog posts and other articles to help an author sell his books. I mean, a job is a job, but it seemed a little dumb and maybe self-defeating. And the recruiter, who wanted me to continue through a long process of application, thought my samples were “light,” even if he thought I wrote in a friendly and accessible style and WHY AM I DOING THIS TO MYSELF.

So, no to that, but I need work and in my effort to avoid wearing a red coat and directing people to aisle 8, which is fine and I’d be glad to do it but the pay will be, as pay is for these sorts of things, so depressing that I wonder if I wouldn’t be looking a razor blades in an affectionate way after a couple of weeks.

Anyway. For this new gig, I was looking for samples online I could direct them to, and I found three pieces I wrote 10-12 years ago for the Seattle Times. The rest have disappeared, but I read these three, which was also sort of depressing. I used to really try to write well. I need to try again.

And probably right now, since I need to assemble some materials and write a cover letter, all for something I could do really well and probably won’t even be considered for, given the variables that can’t be ignored: A guy my age who is fishing around for freelance work tells a story about failure and missed chances and probably lack of real talent, although that story has a little more to it. Still, that’s who I am and where I am. I may be imminently qualified for that red coat. I’ll try to stay out of the shaving section.

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If You Build It

What did I say yesterday? Hoping to break 20?

Ha. We had 25 or so at last night’s Lenten meal, having to add a second table for the spillover.

My son mentioned yesterday that it was maybe an odd thing to do during Lent. He should really know better, but in a sense I get it. Some people use this season to get rid of distractions, and some will actually fast a lot. I don’t know any personally, but I hear things.

But we’re not really marking the season in that way. We’re using it to attempt community building, which is to say our particular community. And I’ll tell you why.

Call it a microcosm, maybe, although I’m not fond of that word, mostly because it’s overused. Our congregation is not particularly diverse, but then it’s small. I mean mostly white, mostly over 40, although offhand I can name a dozen people in this little church who are exceptions.

Still, it’s hard to extrapolate with such a small sample size, so I’ll just note the need. There’s a need. It’s quiet, it’s sometimes rarely mentioned, but at others it’s mentioned all the time. People are nervous, uncertain, scared, worried. We’re looking for support, for solace, for a safe place to express their feelings about the world at large. We’ve done our best to accommodate this, and the people who don’t, in fact, share the same feelings of dread. As I said, a safe place.

But we don’t need a reason to eat together, share a meal and just chat, and having a solid hour or so to do this is sort of a miracle. People are busy during the week, and the fact that we got 25 of them to come to church after work (for most) is impressive, at least to me.



I’ve never been a hockey fan. There are lots of sports I don’t care about, but hockey isn’t exactly obscure. I went to exactly one hockey game as a kid and that was enough. Just don’t get it, the way people don’t get baseball (incomprehensible to me, but they exist).

But if I only had that one hockey experience, or even if I was forced by a parental hockey buff to watch a lot, and I decided from this experience that all sports were dumb, we’d probably all grasp the situation: Small sample, large opinion.

I understand not being interested in ideas of faith, of a faith structure, of tenets and commandments and creeds. It’s an awkward fit for the 21st century, this reliance on 1st-century testimony, after the fact, and that’s just the New Testament. It’s an easy mark for those who find worthless crutches or worse in organized religion, or really any awareness of things unseen.

I mean, I get it. I know what’s happened to our country at various times when that pesky first amendment looks designed to prevent free expression of religion to certain people. These seem to be not nice people, and their ideas are awful, so I can see how people want to rely on generalizations and feel smug at the same time.

I dunno. I don’t want to convert anyone. I don’t even want to argue some of the finer points, in which I suppose I could make a case that even a layman’s appreciation of quantum physics, as sciency as you can get, can imply that this is a big ol’ mysterious universe that we barely comprehend.

But I’m not all that interested in this discussion. I’m interested in what happens when you get 25 people to sit down, share a meal with people they might know well or just in passing. I’m not sure what exactly happens.

I just know that it can’t be rationalized, or folded into a neat theory of group dynamics or even faith-based actions. It’s just dinner. People have to eat.

It’s just that I have a feeling people need more than bread alone, and a feeling that I just witnessed part of what that need looks like.

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If It’s Wednesday…

I raised my hand a few times over the past months, allegedly volunteering but I’m not ruling out just stretching a little and, you know. Accidents happen.

So that particular plate is full, and given the (church) season it’ll get fuller. This is fine with me; great, actually, at least when I consider the alternative. Too much time is the last thing I’m interested in.

Let us list, then. Monday night was a session meeting at church (board of elders), just running over the nuts and bolts of keeping a small church in the black and serving the needs of its congregation. New business, old business, budget business.

Last night, John and I drove down to Seattle to pick up his mom, then all three of us headed east, an hour weaving through traffic until we reached a sports bar of sorts, a monthly social gathering we do on the second Tuesday of the month. There were about 20 of us, which is a sizeable percentage of the active members of this church. Good food, great company.

And tonight is our second Lenten meal, my baby. I grinned like a fool last week, as everything I was hoping for materialized, one table, simple food, just conversation. No study, no lectures, no reflections or homilies. This was just breaking bread, and it broke just fine.

So now I’ve got a pork butt roast in the slow cooker, some garlic and apple cider vinegar and cumin. My daughter said I should toss a cup of coffee in there, although that seems a little cavalier for something as serious as coffee. It should be fine either way, and is only a back-up; I’ve got a couple of casseroles on the way, as well as salads and dessert. All I need is to roast some veggies, bake some bread, take the cat to the vet, and head south to set up. My kind of busy.


I’ve been apparently mispronouncing “cumin” most of my life, although I’m holding out for alternative pronunciations in this case just because I learned it from my mom. Mothers know things.

But I guess it’s not KOO-men but CUE-men, and I guess that’s OK. Not the way Mom said it, but life’s short. It’s one of my favorite spices, at any rate, so I cumined that pork real good.

Not that the food matters all that much. The idea was community, always was, my personal longing for a time when our little community could just sit down and eat together, not in a restaurant or an individual’s home but at church, where we have a large kitchen and need to use it more.

Last week we had about 16 (again, this is a church that has ostensibly around 65 members on the roll, although Sunday worship usually gets around 40-45 on a good day). I’m expecting we’ll top 20 this week, and while this is going to be a lot of the same people who do these sorts of things, it’s a nice percentage of our church and I’m not ruling out expansion. I’m not quite sure how we pull that off, but what faith I acknowledge is strong in the sense that there will always be enough food.

Man does not live by bread alone, of course. But bread doesn’t hurt, so that’s where I’m heading now, off to start me some dough. Let’s see if we break 20. I’m feeling pretty confident at the moment.

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Heading Out To The Past, Watching The Future

It’s been the coldest winter since 1985 up here, meaning the winter my daughter was born. If you’re under 32, and you live in Western Washington, this is the coldest. Period.

It just wasn’t that cold. Just a tick or two down. I seem to remember a couple of days dropping into the 20s early in the morning, but otherwise there were some days in the 30s that never quite made it out, and then the rest was just a tad cooler and wetter than normal. Perspective, once again, was everything. No damaging windstorms, although we had some (and some power outages, although not in this house, or at least not for more than a few moments).

So these temperatures flirting with the 50s lately are easy to miss, what with the relentless rain and gray. A local meteorologist blogged the other day that we’ve had three sunny days since October. That seems hard to believe, but then the criteria might be different for him than us. Any sun is a sunny day. I’m locking the definition right now.

Also, it’s 51 degrees at the moment, and it’s early. Know hope.


My wife has a couple of remarkably talented students at the university where she teaches, a young man and woman, both of whom were performing sets at a venue on Capitol Hill in Seattle on Sunday night. So of course we went.

And of course they were great, amazing even. So young, but they wrote their own songs, one a singer and the other more versatile, switching between guitar and keyboard, switching between sweet harmony (he had backup singers!) to some serious rock ‘n’ roll with metal overtones, at least to an ear that has leaned more classical in the past few decades. I can still appreciate it, though, particularly in a live setting.

Particularly on Capitol Hill, too, where from time to time we’d be in dives like this (it wasn’t a dive; it just could have played one in a movie) back in the early 1980s before we had a baby and clubbing slid out of the picture. A movie once in a while was pretty cool after that.

As was going out on Sunday, walking the streets late at night, soaking up the ambience of what felt very much like the old neighborhood, when of course it’s not. Seattle is jammed full of brogrammers and the like, jacking up rent and gentrifying what was once a lively (if weird and occasionally dangerous) part of town. I can’t mourn this, not being there much and also aware that over 30-plus years it’s possible that things will change, you think?

And aside from a vague feeling that we were chaperones (there were a couple of older couples, obviously coming to see a young person they know perform, but we were it by the closing set). The remaining oldsters, quietly slipping out, smiles all around. We heard some new music, and we felt as though it was in good hands.


I also saw a selection of one-acts at the university last Thursday night. The theme was supposedly Irish, although it wasn’t exactly Beckett or Yeats or O’Casey or even George Bernard Shaw. The accents wandered a little, as did the acting, although there were a couple of actors who had tons of potential as far as I could tell from these little moments on stage.

And nostalgia, definitely, and more than heading out for a night of club music (my wife packed a whole bag of earplugs, just in case it was too loud, although not needed. Still. Old people). The one-acts were performed in the studio/workshop theater, which looked almost exactly like the one we had in college and where I did my share of one-acts, including a couple I wrote. Nostalgia was not unexpected.

It’s still here, too. It makes me want to write plays, although that ship might have passed. Nothing is too late, it’s never too late, but sensibilities change from every angle. Mine, theirs. I resist the urge to bore audiences; a little narcissism helps in certain situations, not so much in others.


I asked my wife about the women, afterwards. I’ve noticed it before, and not just at school, but since I mostly see performers that’s what I tried to hang this particular hat on.

That is, a majority of the actresses were awfully big. Not huge, but heavy. Much heavier than most college actresses I remember (there were always a couple, and usually stood out because they were so talented). Julie says this is pretty prevalent on campus, so I wonder. Men too, but not as much.

And it could be the men, now that I think of it. I’ve seen countless pictures of lean grooms and hefty brides in the past few years. Could be that young men are seeing inner beauty, I dunno. You worry about that much weight so young, but at the same time we can celebrate a bit. I saw lots of inner beauty myself.

My wife has spent the past couple of years changing her diet, after gaining weight for the first time in her life starting in her late 40s. Some of it has come back, a little. It’s enough to mildly annoy her, particularly since the fall quarter was incredibly busy for her, but she still is in the normal range. Maybe a couple of tenths past a normal Body Mass Index, but that’s a tricky stat and best used to just give a general idea of where patients lie on the healthy weight continuum. A healthy weight according to that would be no more than a 24.9 BMI, while at her highest my wife tips the BMI scale at 25.2. And that’s the highest. So it’s all about comfort, some clothes that fit better at certain weights. We all know about this.

Mine lies this morning at 23.2, which is about perfect, although I say perfect knowing that really doesn’t exist. It’s healthy; 24.2 would be healthy too. It’s not something I think about this side of peeking over my doctor’s shoulder when she looks at the computer and checks out my vital signs.

Age is the big justification here. I was getting in the shower and made the mistake of turning around to check my backside. Not the gluteals; gravity is always going to take your fine butt and turn it into Greek yogurt. I was checking that section of my back where the love handles creep; not so evident from the front, plenty clear from the back. Big ol’ wads of back fat.

I’m 58. I can survive.

And here’s a funny thing I do. Not ha-ha funny. More strange funny.

I try to weigh every day. I try to accurately calculate how much food (i.e., calories) I’ve consumed. Even if it’s a day of nothing but pie eating, I give it a shot.

The strange part is I have two weights. What my scale says, and what I think it should. This isn’t fantasy; it’s math. Let’s say I get sick, and don’t eat much. Or what the hell; let’s say I eat nothing, for whatever reason. A couple of days. Might feel a little lightheaded on the second day.

And, using math again, I should lose maybe half a pound a day. Fasting. So two days, and I’ve lost four pounds. This is mostly less water (less food=less water), but since the scale measures what you weigh at any given moment, I assume this is a dry weight. It won’t keep dropping at that level. It’s just reached a dry weight. There’s not a lot of stuff in my stomach to register.

And so I write down what the scale says, and then I use math again to determine what that dry weight would be. It’s usually slightly less than the scale. If it’s 5 pounds heavier, and I eat a normal diet and it doesn’t drop significantly, over a period of weeks, and I adjust.

I’ve been eating a pretty regular diet lately, though, and I’ve been busy in the afternoons and evenings so I usually eat during the day, needing the energy and not wanting to run out of time.

So I’m within a pound today of the dry weight. This means nothing except I may be doing something right.

And once again I’m tempted to spell this whole thing out, because after nine years of this it appears I know what I’m talking about. But just for me. At most, just for men. Women have their own challenges, and they’re much more complicated than for most men. Unfair, but the way it is.

Still, after all the scary stuff, the lack of appetite and the weird lab values and the fact that now I have to take a vitamin D3 supplement every day, that mostly vanity-driven goal has been reached. My weight hasn’t fluctuated more than 3 pounds since late August.

I look at the pictures all the time. The fat ones. Back when I dreamed that I could fix this, that I wouldn’t be embarrassed by the stray photo or my reflection in the store window as I enter. In the big picture, this is a silly goal. Stay healthy, try to ward of obesity, and stop worrying so much.

I don’t worry. I have no fear of gaining 100 pounds, any more than I fear drinking again. Everything is possible. I just think this is who I am now, and that’s fine. Stay here, and that’s fine. Gain 20 pounds, and it would still be OK. This is what I wanted, this is what I fantasized about, and this is where I am.

It changes nothing, except for everything, but that’s probably not going to go over well. Let’s just say that I eliminated one problem, assuming health is not an issue: I can wear my clothes.

Not wearing clothes is not option. So I think I’m good. I’m just going to stay here, and aside from occasionally posting something on the topic (you think it’s not occasional. I say it is) I’ll stay away from trying to project my experience on anyone else.

Find the inner beauty, though. That’s my advice. Eat healthy foods, indulge but keep that to a minimum (you can pig out on cookies or ice cream or pie or maybe a plate full of all three, and maybe gain 0.3 of a pound); one day of bad eating makes absolutely no difference, all things being equal (e.g., you don’t have diabetes or something else that makes this problematic). Just don’t do it tomorrow.

And for God’s sake, don’t beat yourself up. There’s a million things I can’t do that I wish I could. Weight can sometimes feel impossible. It’s up to you to either change, or know that you are special, unique and quirky and smart and funny. Nobody will care how your pants fit. Nobody cares how mine do, and they fit fine.

Every time I see a painfully overweight person, I’m reminded of the saying that gets passed around these days: Everybody you meet has a secret struggle. Just being aware of that changes everything. And if you give in to that experience, inner beauty transforms into just beauty. We can all get behind that.

Also, shivering burns calories. So this winter hasn’t been a total bust. Just looking on the bright side here.

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I Have Seen The Future. And It’s Dull.







I see no reason why I need to update the above, seven years later.

The gap between what is and what was speculated about, predicted, hoped for is big and getting bigger. I have to think it’s the most profound phenomenon of my lifetime, this blindsiding of the future. Science fiction, or at least the science fiction that I read, didn’t come close.

Didn’t really foresee the internet. Completely missed social media. And looking in the wrong direction when smart phones slipped into our pockets.

All of this is pretty cool. None of it feels that way, and that’s the biggest difference I can see between what we imagined and what we got.

I read this old post today, Facebook to the rescue of aging brains, and tried to construct a timeline of my life and technology. Not using technology. Just the aging brain.

By the time I turned 20, we were still sort of lurching. We had color television. We had push-button phones. We had microwave ovens. Cassette tapes arrived. Cable TV was starting to creep into the conversation. Videotape recorders had been around awhile but were bulky and pricey (around $1200, nearly 5 grand in 2017 dollars), and there was nothing to rent; they were primitive time-shifting devices.

This is just what I was aware of, as far as I recall. Things were happening. Electronics were getting smaller, faster, and ultimately cheaper.

But at 20 years old, I wasn’t buying electronics. I was in and out of college, and nothing was necessary. It was essentially an analog world and I was an analog guy, no surprise. We all pretty much were.

Ten years later, we had personal computers. Twenty and we had internet. Thirty and the iPhone was in town, but by then everything had changed. Those cute gateways to the future, Prodigy and Compuserve and AOL, were toys, curiosities for early adopters or aggressive day traders; by the time the 21st century arrived, so had broadband and we were off the races.

And despite all of this, the radical transformation of every aspect of our lives? Not that exciting.

That slice of pulled-pork pizza my son gave me last night? That I can get excited about. Never saw it coming, either.

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I Know You Are But What Am I

“I took one of those tests you guys who like to work with other people are so crazy about,” I said to my wife yesterday. I was actually trying to think of the term Myers-Briggs, although I didn’t take a Myers-Briggs test. Not even a test; a questionnaire. So, no.

I think I may have actually done the Myers-Briggs thing years ago. I didn’t have much use for it then and I don’t now. Actually, I pretty much scoff at the whole notion of psychometrics and personality types.

I scoff from ignorance, of course. I have vague familiarity with personality assessments and pathologies, but I really haven’t ever been interested. I’m sure there’s good science or at least a track record behind some of this, along with some questionable stuff. Again, I haven’t the slightest interest, or at least most of the time.

The test I took, though (or allowed to test me, I guess), was the meat of an article I finally got around to reading yesterday. It’s long and a little wonky, but I can summarize and save you the click: It tells the story of how a couple of graduate students in the UK, back in the infancy of social media, sent their friends and colleagues a Facebook test. They were just curious about this new medium and how it might or might not provide some insight into the personalities of Facebook users based on their likes.

As will happen, their little test went viral and they suddenly had over a million people willingly providing a huge trove of data. This is also not surprising; every day, I see a dozen or so Facebook quizzes, some of which may just be for fun but most of which, I suspect, are data mining. There was a time when I’d scream about this, over and over again, years ago. Nobody really likes that guy, though. And people are going to be people.

Anyway, the story purports to show how this innocent experiment led to abuse and possibly the success of Brexit and Donald Trump. I didn’t buy that, or at least I didn’t see it as startling. This is our world, and the days of mass advertising aimed at the lowest common denominator are gone forever. We’re all targets now, and the more times we hit “Like” the bigger that bull’s eye gets. People are going to take advantage of data; they always will, they always have. It’s just that there’s so much more now.

I want to read it again, because there’s something there I want to explore more and think about, although I’m not exactly sure what. The article provided a link to the original doctoral students’ test, which asked for minimal permissions and didn’t bother me in the least, so it took a look at my Facebook activity and tried its best to figure me out.

The only thing it looked at, actually, was my Page likes (i.e., which specific Facebook pages I liked), and I have 45 of those. That’s nowhere near enough, but it tried and didn’t miss too broadly. It pegged me as having fairly androgynous taste but probably male. It suggested that I’d probably studied journalism (yes, no, sort of) and probably was very interested in the subject. It had me as artistic and creative and politically liberal and heterosexual and reasonably intelligent, all of this coming from, as far as I could tell, about six Facebook page likes.

It also suggested that I was ambivalent or uninterested in organized religion, probably atheist or agnostic or possibly Muslim or a Jedi. Seriously.

Here’s the link to the original test, if you’re so inclined. It might be eye-opening or, if you’re as reluctant as I am to leave much of a social media footprint as far as this sort of thing, it might be just fun but not particularly useful. At least it’s much safer than figuring out which Disney character or color you are.

Also? I’m probably not a lesbian, according to this. Good to know.

There ya go.
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