Black and Blue Friday

I don’t get the big deal that’s made over Black Friday. I don’t understand the mindset of someone that would camp out in front of a store for a few hours, waiting for it to open at midnight just so they can save a few bucks on stuff they probably wouldn’t buy under normal circumstances. I don’t see how employers can force their employees to come in to work at midnight and pay them no more than usual.

The irony is that all of this happens immediately after Thanksgiving, which is a holiday traditionally dedicated to… well, what it says on the tin. The giving of thanks. It means that little kids in elementary school make lists of all the things they’re thankful for, and write those things around their own hand-turkey. Families get together for a meal that was usually prepared with love (or at least a little liquor) and celebrate one another. The thought of really taking notice of how good life has been to you is on everyone’s mind.

A couple of hours later, people are fighting like savages over whatever little gadget Best Buy or Wal-Mart has told them is both A) necessary to their very survival, and B) fucking $5 off, dude!

Every year it’s the same thing. People line up. Rush in. Shop. Struggle. Fight. Get hurt. Hurt others. Get arrested. Attack. Bite. Tear. Gnash. Save. SAVE.

It brings to mind a line from The Dark Knight

“When the chips are down, these… these civilized people… they’ll eat each other.”

It’s a funny world we live in.

Re-ignition

WHEN I AM EMPTY PLEASE DISPOSE OF ME PROPERLY

I’ve settled into a comfortable dissatisfaction as of late. I don’t really seem to enjoy anything. I’m not sure if it’s because I’m apparently stagnant by nature or if I’ve managed to wring out the last drops of fun from the activities I once held dear. I’ve seemingly lost the capacity for creative thought. It is my sincere hope that doing this, the simple act of posting something, will rekindle the interest that I once had in writing. I’ve given up on so many hobbies in my life… drawing, writing and recording music, collections of various things, writing in general… and I wish that I hadn’t. I wish that I still found time to occasionally put pencil to paper and draw. Or at least stylus to Wacom, I guess. I wish I had time to practice my guitar. I wish I had more time to write, too. I quit doing those things because the finished product in each case never came out the way I wanted it to. The way I saw it in my head. I had an idea of what it should look like, sound like, say… and when I was unable to produce that, I simply quit. I hate everything that I create, really. Except for my son, of course. He gets a pass because he’s the most beautiful child in the world. The question remains, though… is this my lot in life? To have a great imagination with no skill whatsoever to back it up? Maybe by forcing myself to blog, and to blog about this, I’ll get over this hump and the juices will start flowing again.

Instagram

Instagram

Instagram, if you’re unfamiliar, is an iPhone app that lets you take pictures, apply effects, and share. It’s a dead simple concept, but Instagram has the benefit of having its own social network baked right in, so it’s become extremely popular, despite the fact that version 2 of the app basically destroyed the coolness of the filters.

I like using Instagram, but I rarely do anymore… I got tired of people doing what I feel is cheating. “What are you talking about, you moron? How can you cheat at taking pictures?”, I hear you asking. Let me explain.

In Instagram you’re given the ability to import pictures, filter them or not, and share them. I don’t think that should be an option, honestly. To me, the point of the app is to take the pictures with your iPhone. That showcases your creativity both in composition as well as the filter you use serving the shot. If you can set up your $3,000 camera and take an absolutely stunning photograph, that’s awesome… but it doesn’t belong on Instagram. That’s not to discount the hundreds of beautiful photos that I’ve seen on Instagram that were taken exactly like that, but I don’t think it’s really following the spirit of the app. In my mind, anyway.

There’s something to be said for having a photographic eye. There’s also something to be said for being able to take a great picture with nothing but your iPhone. When I started messing around with Instagram, the photos that I liked weren’t breathtaking or anything, they were just cool. They were photos that someone took with their iPhone because that was what they had with them to capture a moment. There was a certain level of candidness to them, and I enjoy that. I like photos of life as it happens as much if not more than photos that are set up.

What do you think? Is Instagram an app that lets you share photos, or an app that lets you take them? If you use it, what do you find yourself doing with it most often?

I Officially Love Pinterest.

English: Red Pinterest logo

Sorry ladies, the secret is out!

 

I arrived a stranger in a strange land. Was I the only male, adrift in a sea of estrogen? Possibly. I knew, though… I knew there had to be more to this than pictures of shoes and manicures, and I was determined to find it.

About 15 minutes later, I was hooked.

Pinterest, if you’ve never heard of it, is a lot like Tumblr but without the stupid teenage hipster bullshit. (Sorry to be blunt, but… I mean, it is what it is.) I had never heard of it myself until I saw my wife using it, and I didn’t think much of it at first. It’s a site that functions as a virtual pin board… any picture you see online can be “pinned”, and in doing so you create a link back to the site you found the image at. At the very core of it all, Pinterest is really nothing more than visual social bookmarking, but that makes it sound like it’s a lot less fun than it really is.

If you’re a visual person like me, there’s a lot to like about Pinterest. Even just looking through other people’s pins can be a rewarding experience. Art, architecture, photography… if it can be presented in a visual format, you’ll find it there, often times neatly categorized and begging to be looked through. That’s right, folks… it’s not all hair braids and outfits. Ideas and inspiration flow freely, and while it’s true there’s a bit of an emphasis on cooking and crafts, the site certainly isn’t limited to just those things. Yes, the site is primarily used by women, but for the life of me I can’t figure out why it’s not more universally accepted. There’s something there for everyone, and if you’re not finding material to suit you, all you have to do is pin your own images and see if anyone responds in kind. People can also repin your pins, which is the equivalent of Tumblr’s “reblog”. Want to see more pictures of torn down Dodge Charger engines? Pin ’em!

I keep comparing Pinterest to Tumblr, but it’s important to note that they’re not interchangeable. Unlike Tumblr, Pinterest is for visual media only, which means that pure text posts aren’t possible, and as such it can’t be used as a true blog. One thing that I find somewhat refreshing however is the fact that Pinterest doesn’t allow nudity. There are times when I’m at work or just sitting around killing time with Small Boy in my lap, and at those times I don’t feel that Tumblr is a place I can go. You never know what might show up there. Pinterest is pretty family friendly, and that’s cool to me.

At first, I didn’t “get” Pinterest. I didn’t see the point, and I wanted nothing to do with it. That’s changed, however, and I absolutely love it now. If you’d like to follow me on Pinterest, please feel free. I don’t have much up as I just got started, but I’m sure once I get going it’ll be hard for me to stop! I’m thinking about abandoning my Tumblr in favor of this more mature and refined option. Do you or anyone you know use Pinterest? Do you like it, or do you just not see the point? Leave me a comment and let me know!

Coffee and/or Keurig.

Keurig.

Image by suendercafe via Flickr

One of the things my wife got me for Christmas was a new Keurig coffee maker. She got me a Mini Plus to replace my old one, which was a Platinum Plus that died a horrible, painful death. I loved the PP for the time that I had it, but unfortunately I had an experience that it seems a lot of people have… the thing just refused to do its assigned task, which is to produce hot brown water that prevents me from bringing harm to the people around me.

The PP isn’t really meant for a one or two person household, I don’t think. It kept water hot at all times, and had a healthy reservoir. Once the machine was first filled with water, it would never be empty again. No matter what you do, you can’t get the water out of it. You can cycle more through, but you can’t drain it out. Now, to me, that seems like a really incredibly stupid way to design a thing, but I’m a computer tech and not a coffee maker… maker. So I’ll let that go. The problem that developed with it was that it simply wouldn’t spit any of that water into a cup. It wanted to keep it all for itself, and in the meantime, my patience with it waned. I unplugged it, as though I had decided that would teach it a lesson. That’s something I’m guilty of, by the way… I try to reason with (and sometimes threaten) inanimate objects. After trying to reason with (and threaten) the coffee maker that I had loved so dearly, it became obvious that I had a decision to make. And so, with a heavy heart and a final cry of “Fuck this shit, man” I threw it away. The warranty had expired, and so had my dear friend, Captain Keurig.

Until…

I was completely surprised when I unwrapped the new Mini Plus that my wife had chosen for me. Undoubtedly moved by my outpouring of sorrow during the mourning period (which manifested itself as various strings of profanity) she had purchased a replacement! It’s not as fancy as the Platinum, and quite frankly, I love that about it.

“The more shit a thing does, the more ways it has to break.” – Me.

This little guy does not have a bizarrely sequestered water chamber, it has what industry professionals call a top part. You pour water in there. You lift the lever thing and you wait for the water to gurgle down into the machine. You put the little K-Cup in the little K-Cup holder, slam that handle down, press the living hell out of the brew button, and you wait. You stare at it, hoping that it’s not going to break, because you’ve basically lost all faith in Keurig, and you wait. Then, two minutes or so later, you drink coffee. Every time you make a cup of coffee, you have that same fear. I hope that maybe this simpler model will be a longer-lasting inhabitant in our kitchen. So far, so good!

But how does the coffee taste, I hear you asking.

Well… not great. Not horrible, but not great. It really depends on the K-Cup you use. So far the absolute worst one that I’ve had has been something that Emeril Lagasse put his name on for God knows why, and it was… rough. It was strong in a bitter way, and tasted like you had poured boiling water on the hell-roasted ashes of coffee beans. So, BAM and all that. The Folgers varieties are all pretty good. I’d love to be able to try the Dunkin Donuts variety, which is some of my favorite coffee to make at home, but last I checked they’d made a decision that I hope got someone in marketing fired and elected to only sell the K-Cups inside Dunkin Donuts. One, we don’t have one around here, and two, if I could go to the store and get a cup of coffee there, why in the hell would I buy K-Cups to take home? Surely I’m not the only person that finds that a bit silly. Still, the overall K-Cup experience is a pretty good one.

As long as this iteration of Keurig keeps putting out that calming ichor, I would recommend it. I like being able to grab a cup of coffee in a hurry (not because I’m so busy, but rather because I’m fucking impatient. Thanks for that, Internet.) and most of the time it’s a decent enough cup that I leave satisfied.

I Watch My Son Sleep.

Sleeping Baby

This baby, while not mine, is cute.

This is actually the kind of thing that I’d usually throw at Twitter, but I’m feeling a little more verbose tonight. If you have a kid, you’ll understand what I’m about to say. If not, you might not understand it now, but if you ever have a child you’ll think back to this post (because it will have made such an impression) and realize I was right.

There is nothing in this world like snuggling up with your baby and watching him or her sleep.

Nothing.

There’s nothing that’s as peaceful. Nothing that will give you the same sense of serenity. Nothing that will make you forget every single worry in your stupid adult brain. At that moment, none of it exists. The bills, the to-do lists, the assholes you work with… all gone. The world disappears and every mundane task and responsibility you have vanish into thin air, and you’re left with nothing but awe. My little dude is 10 months old, and there’s still not a day that goes by that I’m not amazed by him. Amazed that I co-created him. Amazed that I see some of my physical features acting out my wife’s mannerisms, and vice versa. It blows. My. Mind. I know that thousands of people have babies every day, but… I mean, it’s fucking incredible, is it not? No matter how many times a day an incredible thing happens, it’s still incredible. We just forget how incredible it is, and we lose appreciation for it, stupid humans that we are.

Ah, I’m rambling now. My apologizes.

The point is, in this day and age (wow, I sound old) it’s important to remember to slow down every once in a while. For me, cuddling up with my son and watching him sleep kind of puts everything in perspective. None of the monotonous, obligatory shit that I do day in and day out matters. What matters is him. What matters is my family. Knowing that, really knowing that, gives me the perspective I need to deal with the aforementioned monotonous, obligatory shit.

For me, it’s my family that makes it all worthwhile.

What makes it worthwhile to you?

Maybe It’s Not a Numbers Game After All

WordPress

Well, this is awkward.

I’ve been gone for a bit. I’ve tried different things, and now I’m back. Can we just leave it at that?

I suppose we could, but that would make for a very short post indeed.

I ventured forth into the world of social media sure that there were adventures to be had. People to meet, connections to make, interests to share… you know the deal. I decided that I would check out what Facebook was all about, and I’d stake my ground at Google+ as well. Neither of those things were proving to be very effective at putting me in contact with like-minded people, and as I contemplated my Klout score (which is bullshit, and I’ll explain why momentarily) I came across the following Infographic:

Let’s look at that, because it’s good information. 82% of people who are friends on Facebook know one another in their real lives. 60% have a person in common. Those were some pretty staggering numbers in the face of my “stay anonymous but try to make some friends” idea.

So, I decided… fuck it.

I closed my Facebook account that I had amassed an army of three friends on, and I closed my Google+ account as well. I told you that Klout was bullshit before… let me explain why. Like I said before, I didn’t really do anything with either of those accounts; the just kind of were. Keep in mind that on Facebook, I had three friends. It’s not like I was at the center of a flurry of activity. Simply closing my Facebook account caused my Klout score to drop over ten points. Nevermind that I didn’t do anything with it. That leaves me with one thought… maybe I shouldn’t look at numbers. Maybe I shouldn’t look at Google Analytics on my Tumblr site, or how many followers I have on Twitter, or even how many pageviews I get here. Maybe I should just do what makes me happy, and take comfort in the fact that I’m doing this for myself.

So that’s it. A new year starts soon, and I’m sticking to WordPress (for lengthy shit like this), Tumblr (for funny and artsy shit), and Twitter (for pretty much everything… I’m pretty active on Twitter) for all of my “social life on the internet” needs. This is also the only blog post I’ll be doing about social networking, because that subject is tired. I’ve blogged about it enough. For now, I have to say… I’ve missed WordPress somewhat.

It’s nice to be back.

 

Insert cliché about endings and/or beginnings.

Follow me on Twitter logo

You know you want to.

Well, this was fun. I’m pretty much done with it now, but it was fun. I’m not planning on updating this blog anymore, though I don’t want to say that I’m completely done with it. I really just want to experiment with other social networking type deals, and I don’t have the attention span to keep up very many at once. For now, if you have any interest in communicating with me or just being my virtual pal, you can find me in the following places:

Tumblr

Twitter

Facebook

Please feel free to hit me up at any and every place. Thanks to those of you that have been reading over the past several months! I appreciated each and every view and comment. Hope to see you all in some other places. 🙂

Google+ and What It Needs to Survive

Circle_Me_Google_Plus_Logo

Image by The Daring Librarian via Flickr

Ladies and gentlemen, I like Google+.

There.

I said it.

Wow, I just got the strongest feeling of déjà vu… weird.

Anyway, I find myself really liking Google+ lately. I still know practically no one on it, but that’s kind of the point. Thanks to a retweet, I’ve found myself being added to the circles of strangers. I add them right back. There was a time, however long ago it might have been, that your best friend was a stranger to you. You met somehow, hit if off, and you’ve been friends ever since, right? That’s what I’m hoping for from Google+. Not to mention that it’s infinitely easier to look at than Facebook is. Ultimately, that’s what this is. A fight between two titans that I think can be summed up in two links.

On one hand, you have Google.

On the other, Facebook.

To quote a great imaginary American, that’s all I have to say about that.

What I would like to discuss are the things that Google needs to do to come out on top.

Out of the gate, I think they’re more ahead than people realize. Who doesn’t have a Gmail address these days? Well as of yesterday, you’ve got a Google+ account, too. All you have to do is activate it, and away you go. People are looking for something new… something that isn’t Facebook. Google can offer that, while still maintaining a similar (and thankfully trimmed down) user interface.  It will be easy for people who want to use Google+ to do so. Google has achieved metonymy… we don’t search, we Google. So they’re a well-establish brand that reaches absolutely everywhere, offering a service that’s similar to its main competitor while still feeling fresh. What do they need to do?

Despite Google’s proliferation of the internet at large, they’ve got an uphill battle as far as the like button goes. I’ve noticed more and more +1 buttons showing up (on this very blog, for example) and I think that’s a tremendously good thing. Saying that you “like” something is natural and ingrained into us almost as soon as we learn to speak. You don’t see many kids running around saying that they “plus one” cookies, after all. Google has an ace up their sleeve in this area, though. Once you Like something on Facebook, you’re done. Button clicked, interaction complete. With Google+, if you +1 something you then have the option of adding it to your stream with comments about why you +1’d it. It’s so painfully simple in its execution that it becomes elegant. “I enjoyed this. I want to support it and share it with people I know. Oh, I can do that all from one button? Thanks, Google!” When we see the +1 button being spread a little further, I truly believe it will start to gain ground. For now, they’ve still got a way to go.

Another thing that Facebook has on Google is saturation. Practically everyone has a Facebook page. I mean, for crying out loud, Sears has one. Sears. You can log into a bajillion (rough estimate) services using your Facebook account. Google needs to develop that type of market saturation. If I take a cool picture with Instagram, for example, I can share it straight to Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter… but not Google+. That’s simply got to change. Google has to develop the same level of connectivity and interaction with these services that Facebook has to stand a chance. They’ve got to make it simple and easy to get content to them, and they’ve got to connect with other social networking sites like Twitter. If Google+ can become a hub for sharing social media, they’ll be on the right track.

It took a while to grow on me, but I like Google+. I really do. I hope that ultimately, it gets down to a bare-knuckle brawl with Facebook and emerges victorious. If you’d like to add me to your circles, and I’d love it if you did, you can find me here.

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Why I Didn’t “Like” Facebook

Where's the "Meh" button?

Ladies and gentlemen, I didn’t like Facebook.

There.

I said it.

While that might make me a social networking pariah, it’s the truth, and now that I’ve spent a few days with a Facebook account I can say it with a clear conscience. I’ll admit that before, when I said I didn’t like Facebook, it was because I have a tendency to reject what most people are flocking to. Justin Beiber, for example. Now that I’ve gotten a little experience with the service, I have concrete reasons to dislike it; much like hearing 15 seconds of any given Justin Beiber song will give you a clear indication of why it’s horrible.

I digress.

The main reason I dislike Facebook is probably due to the fact that I prefer to remain anonymous. Actually, “prefer” isn’t the right word… “will” is more like it. I am a different person online than I am in real life, to a certain extent. We all are. I choose to keep this persona, this rtik13 guy, online. I keep the real me in the real world. We’re a lot alike, but in several ways the layer of anonymity provided to me online allows me to be more like I wish I could be. rtik13 is free in ways that I am not. He’s my Tyler Durden, if you will. The first thing that Facebook wanted from me was my name. “Well, tough”, I thought. “I’m not giving it to you.” I made up a name (I was actually Rtik Johnson for a brief time) and scurried in, eager to Like the shit out of everything in sight, hoping to make some new connections.

Turns out it’s easy to Like things, but not so easy to anonymously make a Friend.

When I put it that way it sounds creepy, too.

Sorry.

The infamous Like button quickly (and I mean quickly) grew tedious and compulsory. I was amazed at how little fulfillment I got from Liking various things that I really do like. For a service that has blah blah blah millions of people on it, it actually feels pretty hollow. I Liked and Liked and Liked some more; filling my (now deactivated) profile with various interests. Looking into connecting with other people who found the things I like interesting, I found that most of them couldn’t spell.

Of course, I looked up some of my old “friends” while I was there. I use that word in quotation marks because it’s actually what most people would call a lie. This brings me to another reason that I don’t care for Facebook… “I didn’t like you then, and I don’t like you now.” I didn’t enjoy my school experience much at all; I don’t want to know what anyone I went to school with is doing, and I don’t want them to know what I’m doing. Without that desire to reconnect with the past, Facebook loses about 98% of its usefulness. The other 2% (keeping up with bands, movies, other forms of entertainment) is easily accomplished via Twitter and RSS.

I’m not saying that Facebook is a bad service; I’ve already done that. I’m saying that, for me at least, it’s not a particularly useful service. If you have friends old and new to keep up with, then Facebook is great. It’s another way that people can stay in touch and pretend to be best pals. If you don’t have that, and you’re looking for new people to interact with online, prepare to be more than a little disappointed.

In summation… well, David Spira was right.