Archive for the 'Think About It' Category


Check your “Other” folder on Facebook — it may be the laugh you need!

I, like everybody else on the planet, have found things to complain about with each successive Facebook upgrade over the last few years. One of the worst things to happen, though, was when the site began to cherry-pick your private messages, declaring some of them as “other” and putting them in a separate folder labeled as such. Granted, a lot of the “other” messages were spam or nuisances, but just as many of them were not. People soon found themselves missing out on invitations, events, and other messages simply because they didn’t know there was another folder their communications may be filtering into.

While this filter isn’t quite as bad as it used to be, it’s still a tad frustrating, and it’s still really easy to forget that it’s there. Earlier this evening, while looking at a message, I saw the “other” tab in its usual place — hidden at the top of the page and shadowed, where you’ll never notice it if you aren’t looking for it — with a note that I had 28 unread messages there.

Even though I knew most of the messages would be junk or so far out of date as to be useless, I checked anyway on the off-chance that something that I legitimately need to know about had been shunted off to that folder. And sure enough, there was junk, junk, garbage, and the occasional invite to some sort of online “event” from a writer or publisher I follow, all of which were long passed. But there was one message that perplexed me. It was from a legitimate Facebook user, not a spambot, not a corporate page, with a message that made no sense:

Facebook Guy

I must admit, this was perplexing. I don’t know this person. I don’t know who he is or what I may have said to irritate him on July 12, 2011, to invite this message. But maybe I can do a little Sherlock Holmes-style deductive reasoning and suss out what sparked this…

  • This person was specifically targeting my occupation. Evidently, being a teacher is not a “real job.”
  • On the other hand, this person doesn’t appear to have a good relationship with education in general.
  • Am I, in fact, “too fat to”? I really don’t think so. Sure, I’ve lost some weight lately (and feeling much better, thank you), but 2011 was before I started that particular program. I may have, in fact, been “too fat to” at the time.
  • “go be the loser you are…” I get that. Most people are, in fact, what they are, often to their detriment.
  • “in your box of a house.” Well, this is certainly closer to being correctly written than “so your so your’re not poor anymore.” But a “box” of a house? defines “box” as “A container, case, or receptacle, usually rectangular, of wood, metal, cardboard, etc., and often with a lid or removable cover.” Hmm. I suppose one could make an argument for calling a house a “box” if you consider things like doors and windows a “removable cover,” but by that definition, aren’t all houses boxes? All buildings of any kind, in fact?

Regardless, I seem to have offended somebody, and that’s not something I ever intentionally do. I like to think I’m an easygoing guy, someone who doesn’t stir the pot or cause trouble, and if someone had a reasonable quarrel with me, I’d like to address it. After all, not everybody is the master of language and grammar that I am, including some genuinely good people who may usually be calm, rational and warm human beings. If this person is among that demographic, it would be worthwhile to see what hatchet, if any, needs burying.

Then I saw the guy’s Facebook profile picture.

Facebook Guy 2Yeah, I think I’m good.


Why I’m Excited for the iPhone 5

Although I’m writing this before the BIG ANNOUNCEMENT, the world is pretty much in agreement that the September 12 press conference by the Apple People will be the announcement of a new, shiny, fifth (or sixth, depending on if you can count or not) generation of its lauded iPhone. It’s gonna be bigger, flashier, faster, and as someone who has had a pretty crappy cell phone (THE SAMSUNG INTENSITY II — I AM SAYING THIS IN ALL CAPITAL LETTERS SO THAT SEARCH ENGINES WILL KNOW HOW BADLY THIS DEVICE SUCKS) for a couple of years now, I’m really excited about this announcement.

Because, friends, once that iPhone 5 is available, I’m hoping I can grab an iPhone 4s for a decent price.

Granted, we don’t know anything official about the iPhone 5 specifications yet (plenty of rumors, but nothing official), but if there’s one thing we can pretty much be certain of, it’s that it will instantly be the most expensive phone on the market and a legion of Gotta-Have-It Apple lovers will be lining up outside the stores even as the announcement is made, probably watching it on their iPads. I really don’t have any problem with Apple products — I’ve owned an iPod for years, I use iTunes regularly and I recognize the superiority of Apple computers for things like graphics and video editing — but aside from people who do graphics or video as their career, I’ve never understood those for whom Apple is a lifestyle choice.

I definitely want to finally upgrade to a smartphone. Last week’s soul-crushing media blackout following Hurricane Isaac drove that idea home more than ever — it was killing me to spend days without checking my e-mail (or… y’know… reading Bug online). But do I need to spend six hundred bucks for the privilege? Lord, no. If I can get a “lesser” phone for a “lesser” price, I’ll jump all over that.

What’s more, I simply cannot conceive what they could possibly put in the iPhone 5 that will make it that much better than the 4s. Higher memory? Great, but is it worth that kind of cash? A bigger screen! I’ve never really had a problem with the screen on my iPod, except when I try to read digital comics, for which my Kindle Fire is a far superior device anyway (thanks, Erin). According to some rumors, the iPhone 5 will be ten times faster than the current generation. Wow! That’s a lot of times! But good grief, how fast a phone does Apple think I need? I’m a child of the 80s, friends. I fought the Prodigy Wars. I remember the days when every effort to connect to the Internet was preceded by ninety seconds of “EEEEEEEEE-SKRRRRRRRRRRRRCH!” If I can save upwards of five hundred dollars, I can wait an extra ten seconds for that Angry Birds update to download.

Speaking of Angry Birds, that does point out the only real reason I’m predisposed towards getting an iPhone — any iPhone — as opposed to an Android device. Like I said, I’ve had iPods for years, and I’ve really enjoyed my iPod touch (basically an iPhone without 3G or the capability of making phone calls). I’ve got a lot of apps, music, and media that I got from the iTunes store. I’ve got it set up to download my podcasts and synch everything to the device just the way I want it. I think about having to start everything over — and losing a lot of that content — with an Android device, and I shudder. Yes, Apple has its hooks in me that way.

But that doesn’t mean I’ll let them keep me hooked in every way. The last iPhone 5 rumor I’ve heard is the one that makes me want such a creation least of all — all new ports and connections for the device. I’m sure if you ask Apple the reason for changing the way the phone connects to your computer they’ll tell you something about increased speed or upgraded terahertz or protecting you from grabulons in the gibbetygoo. But whatever reason they have, the practical application of it is this: buy an iPhone 5 and all of your accessories instantly become useless. The cable you use to connect to your computer? Wall chargers? Car chargers? Car adaptors? External speakers? Docks? Clocks? Socks? Smocks? We live in a world where they’re making it possible to plug your iPod and iPhone into your refrigerator, people. But if the iPhone 5 has a different kind of connection, every one of those proprietary devices becomes instantly worthless.

So yes, Apple. Bring on the iPhone 5! Let the lines form! Let the Apple People have their nice, shiny new toy! And more power to you, if that’s your thing.

Me? I’ll be perfectly happy picking up the leftovers you don’t want anymore, and keeping my wallet a lot healthier.


Back to school-proposed policies for 2012

As much as we all hate to admit it, summer is rapidly coming to a close. In a little more than a week I’ll be heading back to my classroom, getting things in order, writing lesson plans, wondering what that funny stain in row three left by a summer school student really is, etc.

To help get back in the swing of things, here are a few new policies that will make the 2012-2013 a little more enjoyable for everyone. (Please note, some of these policies may not have been technically approved by the school board.)

  1. Required reading for all English classes: Brian Clevinger and Scott Wegener’s Atomic Robo series. Also required in science, math, and home ec.
  2. Students must supply teachers with their parents’ names, thus allowing us to address them as Klingons. (Example: “This is the third time you haven’t turned in your homework Joey, Son of Cooter. What’s up with that?)
  3. New dress code policy includes “Casual Fridays,” “Black Tie Tuesdays” and “Dress Like Your Favorite Muppet Wednesdays.”
  4. Presenting the teacher with an Apple is expressly discouraged. Teacher prefers Toshiba products.
  5. Oprah will randomly appear in classes, give everyone a car.
  6. Use of catch phrases like “YOLO” will be punishable by immediate detention. Use of “YOLO” while wearing a popped collar will qualify student for the Hunger Games.
  7. Science fair projects will be judged based on whether Phineas and Ferb would consider the construction of said project to be a challenge. All project names must end in suffix -INATOR.
  8. Students will be given random tickets with the names of other students. If their partner gets an “A,” student wins a free Big Mac from McDonald’s.
  9. Any student who has not been seen in the same room as Batman will be under constant suspicion.
  10. Pop SATs.
  11. Faculty lounges will feature a New Orleans-style snowball machine and a wide assortment of syrups.
  12. All extra credit assignments will include running the Gauntlet from American Gladiators.
  13. New faculty members will include Bill Nye the Science Guy in Chemistry, Nick Fury as ROTC coordinator, and The Stig in Driver’s Ed.
  14. Students are forbidden from telling their teachers what they did this weekend because we really, REALLY would rather not know.

The Olympics return — sadly, so does Matt Lauer

People who know me know how much I love the Olympics. Every two years, like clockwork, I glue myself to coverage for 16 days — summer or winter, doesn’t matter, I will watch any Olympic event I can find. And I don’t expect that to change any time soon.

But one thing really needs to change, and that’s NBC’s coverage of the games.

The networks of NBC have carried every Olympic games for several years now, and as in the past, NBC’s Today show talking head Matt Lauer has been freeze-dried, shipped overseas, and allowed to show the world America at its most obnoxious. Lauer, as he does daily on Today and annually at coverage of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, came across as a pompous, condescending windbag throughout the ceremony, interrupting moments of brilliant majesty, quick humor, and beautiful music with his own pontificating and blathering about what was on the screen, working under the assumption that the American audience is too stupid to understand what it is we’re watching.

That’s not my theory, though, that’s basically what an NBC spokesman said in an e-mail to the Los Angeles Times.

“It was never our intent to live stream the Opening Ceremony or Closing Ceremony. They are complex entertainment spectacles that do not translate well online because they require context, which our award-winning production team will provide for the large prime-time audiences that gather together to watch them.”

That’s right, friends. If you watched the coverage on NBC, you just wouldn’t have understood what you were watching if not for Lauer and Meredith Viera providing us with such brilliant insight as reminding us that children in the US will have heard of Madagascar from the series of animated movies, clarifying that the six people in the Nigerian delegation are “six athletes,” or — my personal favorite — telling us in the first few minutes of Friday night’s broadcast that in England, they refer to television as “The Telly.”

Remember, America. NBC thinks you are too stupid to understand the Olympic opening ceremonies without this sort of insight.

But look on the bright side — they also protected us by editing out elements of the ceremony such as a tribute to the victims of a London terrorist attack that happened just days after the city won the Olympic bid, instead using the air time to show us Ryan Secrest speaking to Michael Phelps (who no doubt wouldn’t have gotten any coverage at all were it not for this on-the-spot interview). This is context, people. NBC knows, of course, that the people of the United States of America couldn’t possibly understand taking a moment to memorialize the victims of a terrorist attack in a major city.

(Thanks, by the way, to my wonderful girlfriend Erin for bringing this particular bit of stupidity to my attention.)

Of course, this is the same network that can’t figure out what to do with a show like Community, gave Whitney Cummings’ attempt at comedy a second season order, and handled the problems in their late night division with such ineptitude that books have been written about it.


And, yes, are still in last place.

But I guess that last one is easy to explain. Clearly we, the viewers, don’t have the necessary context to understand their programming.


The reason your flight was delayed

Most people don’t know this, but somewhere in the International World Aviation Headquarters of Things That Fly Around the World (IWAHTTFAW), there is an enormous leaderboard with the names and statistics of every commercial flier. This leaderboard is used by pilots, ticket agents, and other airline personnel for a secret competition in which they attempt to screw up the travel plans of frequent fliers as much as possible.

You see, it began with a simple award system for any discouraging, disruptive, inconvenient or life-ruining event they could foist upon any customer: 10 points for a flight delay, 20 points if they miss their connection, 50 points for losing their luggage. (A recent addendum: 150 point bonus if the next time the person sees their belongings is on a reality television show where they’re being auctioned off.) But eventually, as an added degree of difficulty, they began to be scored on a sliding scale, with more points awarded for people who were inconvenienced repeatedly.

Why is this more difficult? Because players are penalized if their actions provoke certain extreme reactions in the customers: cursing at a ticket agent, minus one point; cutting off their head with a commemorative Klingon Bat’leth, minus three points, etc. You see, the goal here isn’t to break the customer, but rather to reduce them to a simmering cauldron of rage just on the brink of spilling over, thereby sparing the airline employees and creating added entertainment value when they go batcrap insane on the taxi driver taking them to their hotel afterwards.

There is legislation currently pending which would deny these people access to bath salts, for obvious reasons.


The Ford Focus Ninja

This morning, my car wouldn’t start.

This is a problem that people face every day, there’s nothing particularly surprising or unusual about it, I didn’t think this was any sort of personal attack on me against the universe, and yet at the moment I turned my key and heard that “tktktktktktktktktk” sound instead of my engine running, I could have gleefully shivved a Rabbi for looking at me funny.

I was frustrated, is what I’m saying.

As it turned out, it was the battery. I discounted this possibility at first — it hasn’t been that long since I replaced the battery in my car, I could have sworn. Until I popped the hood and saw the date sticker on it: “02/08.” Okay, maybe it had been a while. Still, that wasn’t too big a deal — replacing a battery is relatively simple and a hell of a lot cheaper than many of the other problems that I probably don’t want to know about. But it did require me to get a jumpstart so I could get to work, only barely making it in on time. I then spent the entire day worried that my car wouldn’t start when I left, and in fact, I’m pretty sure I called one of my students “Car” at second period. Don’t worry, she didn’t notice.

When the school day ended and I walked out to the car, I knew I was in real trouble. My keyless entry, the greatest device ever invented in that it allows us to open all of the doors to our car with the push of a keychain button, thereby saving lots of awkward moments of standing around waiting for someone to open the door for a passenger… it wasn’t working. The battery was even worse than this morning. I couldn’t even hear the “click” telling me the door locks had disengaged. I pounded the button furiously, only to be greeted by cruel, heartless silence.

At first glance, one would think this put me in the same position I was in this morning. But there’s something about my car you may not know. You see, while I have a deep, personal love for my vehicle I can’t pretend she hasn’t seen better days. Particularly her driver’s-side door handle. Which is broken. I haven’t had a chance to get it fixed, and I’m a little anxious about doing so, because you know they’ll basically have to take apart the whole door to do it and then they’ll charge a preposterous amount for a part that is probably worth about 37 cents because of the “labor costs,” and good GOD, you people need to buy more of my books.

Anyway, with the battery too dead to even unlock the passenger or back doors, I suddenly found myself trapped. The car makers of America, in their infinite wisdom, decided that with keyless entry, they were really only obligated to put one lock on the exterior of the car. In the driver’s side door handle. Which, if you’ll recall, is broken.

I couldn’t open the car, couldn’t even reach the release for the hood to try to get another jumpstart or put in a replacement battery, because all of these controls are in the cab. So I began to circle the car, looking at it in the way that men always do, with the preposterous expression on our face that indicates if we just look hard enough suddenly we’ll switch to Predator-style infrared vision with a potential solution lit up in bright red on our viewscreens. The odd thing is, in this case, it actually worked. There was a second lock on the exterior of my car.

The trunk.

A slightly less stupid thing that car manufacturers are doing than eliminating all but the driver’s lock is attaching the trunk directly to the cab via the back seats. Access available. Of course, as those of you know have seen photographs of me know, my mad ninja skills are mostly in the categories of stealth and subversion… not in flexibility.

Still, seeing no other options, I unlocked the trunk, moved my spare tire out of the way, removed the emergency wheel from the back of my car, and climbed in. I wriggled past ancient manilla folders, pushed aside some old painting shoes, found a textbook from when I was obtaining my teaching certification that I don’t think the teacher ever actually used, reached the back of the trunk, pushed, realized I was on the wrong side of the trunk and it’s actually the passenger’s side seat that folds down, wriggled some more, felt my pants catch on something pointy someplace pointy things shouldn’t go, and finally pushed down the seat. I lurched forward, reaching up and into the back seat, grasped the door handle, and pulled.

And still, nothing.

Because the door was still locked.

A little more wriggling until I could find the manual lock by feel (because my body was certainly not bent at an angle that allowed me visual access), opened it up, and finally got the back door open. Reversing my snakelike motions, I got out of the car, climbed in the back, opened up my driver’s door, and finally, triumphantly sat down.

And, because I’m a creature of habit, I put my key in the ignition and turned it.

Silence, my friends, is sometimes the cruelest commentary of them all.


If I had 500 million dollars…

I’ve never played the lottery very much. Vegas style gambling I understand — even if you win just a tiny amount, there’s that instant gratification that makes pulling the lever on the slot machine again oh, so tempting. (I know, they’re all electronic now, no more levers. Allow me my moment of romanticism.) But not so the lottery. You win five bucks playing penny slots, you get pumped and try to win more. You win five bucks playing the lottery, you think, “Hey… five bucks.”

Still, with everybody buzzing about the current MegaMillions jackpot, estimated at a whopping $540 million, it’s hard not to get drawn in. I threw a dollar into my work lottery pool, not because I expect to win but because I can’t risk being the one teacher who isn’t in the pool if they do. And I bought a ticket myself, which I almost never do. Yeah, I know the odds of winning are astronomical — I’ll get struck by lightning while riding an ostrich before I win one of these things. But as bad as the odds are, sooner or later somebody wins. So why not take your chance that it may be you?

Anyway, as I’ve said before, you don’t so much buy a lottery ticket as you buy a one-dollar license to dream about being rich. You can daydream any time you want, of course, but having a lottery ticket in your pocket makes it just a little more tangible, a little more possible, and that makes the dream more satisfying. So I’ve thought about it, about what I would do if I hit that 500 million-plus dollars tonight. And I’ve enjoyed thinking about it…

  • First, I do the boring stuff. Pay off loans, credit cards, and so forth. Find a trusted financial advisor to set up some funds that would keep accruing interest and make damn sure no matter how stupid I am I’d never have to worry about money again.
  • I know most people say they wouldn’t quit their jobs if they won the lottery, and there’s a good reason for that: they’re liars. I would quit, but not until the end of the semester. It’s not fair to either the students or the school to walk out in the middle of the semester, and I’d feel bad about leaving them in the lurch, so I’d stick it out until June. But man, I’d have FUN those last few months.
  • I would make sure my family is taken care of — money for my parents, my brother, my sister, college funds for my nieces. I can afford to share the wealth.
  • And then… THEN… I’d start having fun. I’d grab Erin. Get a new car. Get us a house in New Orleans and one in Pittsburgh — nothing super-fancy, mind you, I’ve no desire for a 90-room megamansion, but something nice and comfortable wherever we are whenever we want to be there. Each house would, of course, have an extensive library, networked office, and miniature recording studio (I’m not gonna quit my podcast).
  • Buy tickets to San Diego Comic-Con. Yes, I know they’re sold out, but I’ve got FIVE HUNDRED MILLION DOLLARS. I bet I could find one. The same goes for a hotel room.
  • Vacation. Go with Erin everywhere we’ve ever wanted to go — Europe, Austrailia, Six Flags over Albuquerque… shoot the works.
  • And finally, when we get back home, exhausted but satisfied, I’d make writing full-time my gig. In the time I now spend on a day job, I’d spend it all either writing, reading, watching, or writing about what I’ve watched and read. Which is the sort of thing I love doing most anyway.

Will it happen? Probably not. The skies are clear of thunderheads and I haven’t seen any ostriches to climb on lately. But at least until the numbers are drawn tonight, I get to think, “Why not me?”

And then the numbers will be drawn and it’ll be back to reality. But it’s fun while it lasts.

So play the game, friends. You’ve got half a billion dollars burning a hole in your pocket. What do you do?

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