September 21st, 2009

She Just Smiled

Last weekend I had some people at my house for what we termed “International Beatles Rock Band Day.” As is easily surmised by the title, the day was all about playing Beatles Rock Band. The tricky part is that “International.” What made it international? I will tell you: having someone from another country/continent is what makes it international.

Brian, Angela & Josh (married!), Matt, and Carolyn were the out-of-town attendees, representing (in order) Albuquerque, NM; Jacksonville, FL; Chicago, IL; and Hurstbridge, VIC, Australia. So, Carolyn’s presence is what made it “International.”
We’ve all known each other for 4-5 years online, and I’ve met a couple of them before, but if you had told all of us 4 years ago that we’d ever get to meet Carolyn, we most likely wouldn’t have believed you. So when we found out she was coming to visit, we all freaked out and got really excited.
Until she mentioned the vegemite. As in, “When I come to the States, I am bringing vegemite and you are all going to try it.” We got a little nervous, but we were pretty sure that she’d never be able to get that stuff past Customs, so we felt safe.
When she arrived in-country a week before IBRBD, she announced that she had no problem getting it in the country and that we should all resign ourselves to our fate.
Sure enough, when everyone got here and were preparing for the start of IBRBD, she toasted up some bread and slapped some vegemite on it.
Now, I feel I must at this point say that I don’t mind the smell of skunk. I wouldn’t want it on me, but if I’m passing through a cloud of skunk smell as I’m driving somewhere, it does not horrify me. But you should know, dear reader, that the smell of vegemite horrified me. It was like the smell of stale bread, only with a lurking vengeance buried beneath the surface, waiting to strike, maim, and consume anyone who got within tentacle’s reach of it.
But I had promised I would try some, so I gamely accepted my corner of vegemite-infested toast and ate it. I could write you a thousand words as to my reaction, or I could just save you a lot of reading and show you:

It may be difficult to discern from the picture, but my twisted visage should somewhat convey a similar sentiment to Colonel Walter E. Kurtz‘s last words:

The horror… the horror.

April 10th, 2008

IDK, My BFF Jill

I’m sure most of you have seen this:

While I was looking for that one, I found this one, the sequel:

I enjoy these for a couple of reasons, but the biggest one being the texting shorthand, this all-encompassing form of communication that all teenagers use all the time. The “big” news networks frequently trot out a list of abbreviations that “all the kids are using,” and I know I’m not the only one that looks at the lists and says, “Nobody in the history of texting and IM has ever used that one!” It’s like the kid they got to give them the inside scoop was playing games on them and just making stuff up.

In 40 years I’ll be like the grandma in that second clip, texting my buddies down the hall at the nursing home instead of taking the trouble to get my walker and risk breaking my hip by going down the hall to actually see them. I text enough that I recently had to up my data plan for my phone, as I was going to go over the 1500 I was allotted monthly. Somewhat tellingly, at the same I was doing that, I also lowered my voice plan, as I wasn’t getting anywhere near the limit on that one. I did, in fact, halve my voice plan, and it’s still more minutes than I’ve been using on average.

It should be noted that I don’t just use texting to avoid talking to people – it’s also a useful tool for scheduling and reminding, and its big brother, multimedia messaging, is a handy way to document events as they happen by letting me send pictures to Flickr, other people, or my email account.

There’s a few reasons I like sending and receiving texts on my cell phone. First, it’s convenient. I pretty much always have my cell phone nearby, whereas I don’t necessarily have a computer or a pen and paper handy. When the thought crosses my mind that I need to do something when I get home, I know from historical events that I will most likely forget it by the time I get home. If I text a reminder from my phone to my email, I’ll remember to do it. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten home from being out, saw that I had an email waiting, and said to myself, “I wonder who it’s from?” before opening it to find that I had, indeed, forgotten what it was I needed to do.

Second, it’s unobtrusive. You’ve been in a store, a library, a theater, or maybe even church when someone’s on their cell phone yapping away – we’ve all been there, and most of us have even been the person in question. It happens. Someone conversing via text isn’t forcing you to be a part of their conversations about grocery lists, kids sports schedules, or, worse, medical conditions. Assuming the person has their phone set to silent or vibrate (as opposed to, say, a Murloc), they’re not making any noise at all. And to the receiver, it’s like getting a voicemail without the hassle of having to dial in to hear the message – “Oh, Mark’s going to be late because his cat killed the UPS guy. He says we should start without him.”

Third – and this is what I like most about texting – is that it makes you consider what you’re saying carefully, at least it should. A well-crafted text message needs to consider there’s no room for non-verbals, so it needs to say what it means to say. I actually consider this a plus, by the way, as I think non-verbals sometimes get in the way of what I’m trying to say or understand. Further, text messages are limited. If I go over 160 characters, the message gets split into two messages. I have to choose my words carefully, and there have been many times I’ve edited a message to get it in under 160, turning my Dickensian tomes into Hemingway blurbs. It helps me consider more specific words that do in one what I had done in three or five, and I’m sure there are some of you that wish I’d learn that lesson for blogging, too.

The side effect to all that is that I am thinking about what I’m saying. There’s no “off the cuff” texting: you type what you mean to type (unless you’re using predictive texting and aren’t paying attention to the screen, that is!). For me, that means I’m considering what I’m texting before I text it, something I’m not as good at when I’m talking. I can’t count how many times I’ve typed something out only to erase and edit it before I send it.

Furthermore, texts you get from me are 99% readable English. I don’t use “u” for “you,” “l8r” for “later,” or “(=o=)” for “TIE Fighter.” I capitalize and use punctuation. I may occasionally use a “btw” or an “lol,” but those have almost passed into the vernacular at this point. I’m not the fastest texter, but I hope to be an accurate one. Getting a cell phone with a full QWERTY keypad has helped me a lot in that regard, and in a lot of ways I’m a better text-typer than an actual typer.

I know that texting cannot be a replacement for talking to someone, but it can be a good supplement to the relationship. I receive status updates on my phone throughout the day from Twitter and Facebook, and knowing what my friends are thinking throughout the day when I can’t be with them all the time helps me feel more connected to them.

So please know that if I’m texting you, it’s not me blowing you off, it’s me communicating, just like you might pick up the phone to ask someone how many bags of chips to bring to the party. I’ll still talk to you, and I’ll even meet you for lunch or Starbucks. Just don’t be surprised if I get a few texts while we’re there.

October 10th, 2007

White & Nerdy

A friend of mine and his wife visited a couple of weeks ago and we planned to meet up for breakfast on Saturday. While they’d been in town before, they’d never been to my current apartment. We started talking on Friday night about directions, when he mentioned that he had his GPS with him.

“Neither Google Maps nor Microsoft Streets & Trips has my whole street, I’m afraid,” I told him.

“Hey… why don’t you give me your longitude and latitude and I’ll find it that way,” he came up with.

The prospect amused both of us so much that it quickly became the only option we would consider. I went outside and fired up my laptop in my car (my USB GPS won’t work without a clear shot at the satellite), found my coordinates, and gave them to him.

The next morning, right on time, they showed up on my doorstep. Another victory for technology!

Now if I only I could find a Segway somewhere to try out…