Friday, January 25, 2013

Why We Blog

Two years later I am no longer questioning why I invest time in a blog, but remain grateful to those followers who talked me into it. You know who you are.

At the time that I started this blog, I had some time off and life was going according to a flexible plan.  I had envisioned a humorous informative science blog with well written posts, thoughts on art, society and possibly a few experiments in creative writing. I ended up with a 15 minute posts, lists and cat video blog. Sometimes, I combined all three to save time. How did that happen?

Life had happened. An unexpected avalanche of simultaneous and most enlightening exercises in crises management, some great news, some bad news and some ugly news just to make this thing called life a well-rounded experience. By the time I ended up with the additional displeasure of dealing with call centers, (can't you see that I am really busy with important things?) my world was coming to an end. Actually, that is overly dramatic; call centers are just really really irritating.


I work in a highly competitive accomplishment driven environment. It suits my personality. I was dissatisfied about the quality and content of this blog, complained about the time decent posts take to produce and thought of abandoning it altogether and going back to commenting.

The blog remained and became a learning experience. Within just a few months I had met similarly-minded people, which would have taken me years to meet in RL even if we lived in the same area. My personal challenge was to retrain my brain to switch from scientific, lengthy and precise writing to short, goofy, colloquial (and that's okay) posts. The blogosphere is incredibly supportive, fellowers show up at their own convenience, people take blogging breaks when RL takes precedence and everyone understands.

Blogging is much more than communicating with geographically dislocated strangers. We can access this medium instantaneously when we need to and have time for.  15 minutes or 3 hours at a time. The only deadlines and goals are self-imposed. Post 3 times a week or bimonthly. Finish those posts in draft...or not. 

The blog is there regardless of where and when we are. There are not too many things in life that offer this much freedom, control and choice.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Reverse Prank Calling

Self-initiated global research has revealed that various providers are selling our information for considerable profit and miniscule fines.

There has been a recent increase in calls from companies that bypass any effort at blocking them. The polite and courteous "No, thank you. We're not interested," stopped working. In an effort to stop repetitive autodialed calls from call centers that are located in time zones other than mine, I was forced to take desperate and very rude measures. It occurred to me that creating barriers to communication might actually result in the desired effect of having a commission based employee give up.  It also proved to be highly entertaining, albeit very juvenile.

Foreign non-existent accent:

Me: Haya?
John: This is John from hotairductcleaning, we would like to...
Me: Noo. No duck.
John: This is hotairductcleaning...
Me: Duck.Duck. Haya?
Rude John: Yeeeah. I know, you have chickens and sheep...
Me: Noo Chickan. Have duck.
John: *click*

Age barrier:

Kevin: Hi, this is Kevin from Wedestroycarpets.
Me: 'kay.
Kevin: We have a special offer to clean your rugs and carpets.
Me: 'kay.
Kevin: Would you like to take advantage of this special offer?
Me: 'kay.
Kevin: We can schedule you on Friday between 2 and 5 in the afternoon.
Me: 'kay.
Kevin: That's great. Thank you for choosing Wedestroycarpets. I can confirm the appointment on...
Me: MooooOOOOM!!!! There's a man who wants to come over when you're not home. He says he wants to touch my...
Kevin: *click*


Mary: This is Mary. You have won a trip to our time-share resort in Puerto Furtivo.
Me: Maaary, love. How are you?
Mary: We would like to congratulate you...
Me: ETHEL!!! Pack your bags. Your sister Mary invited us to Bali for your birthday.
Mary: Uum..No. You won a 3 night stay at the time-share in Puerto Furtivo.
Me: Eeeh? When did you move to Portugal? ETHEEEL! Did you know that Mary moved to Portugal?
Mary: *click*

Several months later: Antares: 3. "John, Kevin and Mary": Silent.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

What Defines A Great Book?

This is a question that thankfully arises frequently, particularly when I am asked or ask for recommendations. A question that I suppose is as unanswerable as "What is Art?"

At a precocious age I took it upon myself to read the great classics. The canon of (mostly English) literature, followed by the best of world literature. In hindsight, I would have to agree with Churchill that some books are read too young.  Some require life experience to be understood, others remain as unrelatable then as they are now and many hold up to a reread years later.  I loved The Fountainhead, Moby Dick, Huck Finn, Notes from the Underground, To Kill a Mockingbird, 100 Years of Solitude and 1984. They are among the great books that were formative and that inspired me. I appreciated Jane Austin as a great writer, even though I could not relate to the social issues of her time.

Two books, however, that I despised as a teen and gleefully continue to despise as an adult are Catcher in the Rye and The Great Gatsby. In the unlikely event that a self-important literary critic stumbles upon this blog; there are better books to teach teens about alienation and rebellion. Holden is a whiny brat and should pick a fight with Howard Roark. 

As to The Great Gatsby, here is the book review that I never got to write: The pursuit of materialism is a futile endeavor. *Yawn* It is lonely at the top. Never pursue anyone named Daisy. Rosebud. Look what happened to Smeagol.

Rant over.

To those readers who enjoyed two great classics of American literature that I passionately dislike, I am glad that you enjoyed them.

Where was I?

Individual taste and personal choice. It is important to read books that should be part of our collective consciousness, but what I consider to be a great book is a book that is memorable and thought-provoking. It inspires, reveals, introduces new ideas and changes world views.

Since I am always looking for recommendations, which books are on your great book list?

Saturday, January 5, 2013

The Un-Resolution List 2013

Things I will never do, because I do not want to:

1. Swim in or travel to the Amazon.
There are too many lifeforms that can get into and up a human being. Armchair travel suffices and I leave the experience to travel writers and National Geographic journalists.

2. Eat Fugu.
Puffer fish are droll; the fish that turns into a balloon when stressed and paralyzes you if you did not get the hint.

3. Go bungee jumping.
It is not like flying. It is a high speed spine adjustment.

4. Eat anything endangered.
That is how most species became endangered to begin with.

5. Go unexplored cave spelunking.
Toxic guano fumes, spores and methane gas. Also, I watched "The Descent". Creepy white things without eyes are creepy, despite natural selection and the wonders of evolution.

6. Take a wilderness survival course.
I do not believe in reenacting the past without costumes until I have to.

7. Always write a list of 10.
Who came up with that rule?

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Science Fiction And Fantasy Movies of 2012

Good Science Fiction and Fantasy movies fall into two basic categories for me; thought provoking or mindlessly entertaining. The latter includes spectacular things going "boom", especially when aliens make humans go "boom". Fun stuff.

Here are some of my picks for 2012. As someone who despises spoilers, all of my recommendations are spoiler and allergen free.

Ridley Scott waited 30 years to return to the scifi genre. I suspect that most people expected another alien movie. Instead, Scott addressed the questions that have preoccupied him since Bladerunner. What makes us human? Who is the creator? How do we use our scientific innovations? Where is our place in the universe?

The Cabin in the Woods
Joss Whedon makes a horror movie. Need I say more, Whedonites? For those who do not watch horror movies this is is funny. Just watch it.

The Avengers
Joss Whedon creates a truly enjoyable romp. Yes. I am a Joss Whedon fan.

Snowhite and the Huntsman
A visually beautiful film with stunning cinematography. Possibly not the greatest acting or story line but the visuals almost make up for it.

Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter
The title alone made me cringe. It should not work, but does. Stylistically it reminded me of Ritchie's re-invention of Sherlock Holmes.

TV series:
Game of Thrones
Probably one of the best and most cleverly written shows in a long time. Current status: Symptoms of GOT withdrawal.

The Walking Dead
Pure exaggerated horror (of life). The basic premise: What if it does not get better?

Still on my list:
The Dark Knight Rises
Looper (or Sprite starts chanting)