This Thing Called a “Selfie Stick”

When people get old, you sometimes hear them say how they can’t keep up with the latest trends.  Well, I recently experienced an incident in which I was not only late to party of the trend, but it had actually already gone out of style by the time I arrived.

You see, some things become a thing and remain a thing until we hate the thing.  That’s a confusing sentence, so let’s try it this way:  some things become a thing and remain remain a thing until we hate the thing.

Note:  There are rare occasions where a thing becomes a thing only to technically lose its thing status but still remain somewhat thing-esque, so perhaps we could refer to it as a “thing.”  For instance, Saturday Night Live spent nearly four hours on Sunday reminding us how it was once a thing, and despite no longer being in the golden years, it could probably, at least, still be considered a “thing.”

All of this somehow leads us to selfie sticks.  Extenders, tri-pods, sticks, fishing poles, whatever-you-want-to-compare-them-to that you attach to a camera in order to get a better angle on your selfie pictures.  Honestly, I didn’t even know that these things existed until we, as a society, decided to hate them.  And even after extensive research, I can safely say that I have no idea what the big deal is.  There have been articles, exposés, and I’m sure dissertations are on the horizon. People have started petitions to ban these harmless props from not only restaurants and museums, but entire countries.  Think about the kinds of literally-death-inducing items you can carry around with you anywhere, but we’re more concerned about a group of tourists trying to take a goofy picture in front of the Statue of Liberty?

Are we really so offended that a person would want to take their own picture from about three feet away?  No really, that’s a legitimate question.  I need to know this stuff so I can be one of the cool kids again.  Maybe there’s an app that can keep me up-to-date on the latest things.

P.S.  I sincerely apologize to all my former English teachers who told me to never use the word “thing.”  I look forward to your comments.


The Dire Consequences of an iPhone Alarm

The past few weekday mornings I’ve been cuddling with my phone.  Not because I feel any special affection for my phone (although, I must admit, it’s quite an amazing piece of technology), but more so because I’ve been riddled with guilt.

You see, as us kids do these days, I use my iPhone as an alarm clock.  Well, a couple weeks ago I hear a knock on my apartment door.  I answer and there’s someone who I’ve never seen before, but turns out he’s my next door neighbor (another “city life” anecdote — not knowing who’s been living next door to you for the past four years. ).  After some brief chit-chat, he asks me if I was hitting snooze on my alarm — and by “hitting snooze,” he meant repeatedly hitting snooze over the course of an hour or so — because he could hear it and it was waking him up.

Perhaps it was just me catching the new year’s resolution bug, or just your average attempt to get more out of the waking hours, but I’ve been trying to rise out of bed earlier and earlier.  Well, the first day I gave this a shot, it was nothing short of an abject failure.

But I couldn’t admit defeat that easily.  So when my neighbor asked me about it, I lied!  I straight up said it wasn’t me — or if it was me, I must’ve been doing it in my sleep and had no recollection of it whatsoever.  He knew I was lying, I knew he knew I was lying, and yet I still lied.  The truth is I snoozed the ever-loving hell out of that alarm.  I hit snooze so many times that even Siri was like “God damn it, dude!  I can’t do this any longer!” I mumbled out a few b.s. scenarios of what it could’ve been,  apologized “if it was me,” and told him I would do my best to make sure I’m not the cause of any wake up calls for the foreseeable future.

So now, in my perpetual pursuit to have my unproductive cake and eat it too, when my alarm goes off the first time, I grab it, hit snooze, and muffle the alarms that follow nine minutes later with my pillow.  I get to snooze my way through another wasted morning and my neighbor can continue to catch his z’s.  A win-win for everyone.

Now that I’ve solved that problem, maybe I should actually just try getting out of bed.

Neil DeGrasse Tyson Is Kind Of An Ass

I love astrophysics.  I understand very little of it, but I do indeed love it.  Neil DeGrasse Tyson seems to be the de facto celebrity on all matters that come to astrophysics — and it’s well deserved.

He has a BA from Harvard, an MA from Texas, and a PhD from Columbia.  I’ve seen him interviewed by Stephen Colbert and seen him debate a myriad of folks on Real Time with Bill Maher.  I’ve read his multiple Reddit AMAs (consistently voted “Best Of” by Redditors everywhere), and on occasion have listened to his podcast, aptly titled “StarTalk Radio.”  I’ve watched his The Most Astonishing Fact video about a billion times, and each time I get chills and have no choice but to contemplate the meaning of life.

Unfortunately, Neil is an active member on Twitter.  And with each and every tweet, I can only think one thing:

Neil DeGrasse Tyson is kind of an ass.

This was exemplified perfectly this past weekend with Neil’s critique of the new film Gravity.  Here are a select few tweets to give you the general picture: 

The film #Gravity should be renamed “Zero Gravity”

Mysteries of #Gravity: Why Bullock’s hair, in otherwise convincing zero-G scenes, did not float freely on her head.

Mysteries of #Gravity: How Hubble (350mi up) ISS (230mi up) & a Chinese Space Station are all in sight lines of one another.

Mysteries of #Gravity: Nearly all satellites orbit Earth west to east yet all satellite debris portrayed orbited east to west.

Mysteries of #Gravity: Why we enjoy a SciFi film set in make-believe space more than we enjoy actual people set in real space.

Now, minus the obvious opinion tweets, everything he said is true–at least, I assume it’s true (I generally conclude that anyone with Harvard, Texas, and Columbia on the resume knows what he’s talking about).  But that doesn’t hide the fact that those tweets are soaked in a bath of dickishness.

Remember when you were little kid, and you’d get in trouble for hitting your sister?  And your parents would say, “You’re not allowed to touch your sister.”  So you’d wave your hands about an inch from her face and repeat several times, “I’m not touching you.  I’m not touching you.  Nananananananananana,” and then she’d go crying to your parents?  Well, that’s what Neil was essentially doing there, and this is me crying to my parents.

Neil, we get it.  You’re a genius.  The knowledge of the cosmos that you have in the tip of your pinky is more than than I’ll ever know.  But please, just let us mere mortals enjoy our scientifically incorrect works of fiction.  I can’t help but think of what The Dude says in The Big Lebowski:  “Walter, you’re not wrong, you’re just an asshole.”

The Unregulated Use of Punctuation: Part 2…

Continuing my series on out-of-control punctuation, we proceed to a popular choice among emailers.

Ellipses (yes, that’s the plural spelling … I think)

Most humans typically refer to it as the “dot dot dot.”  Never mind the infantile manner of referring to an ellipsis as “dot dot dot,” and let’s focus on its true definition:  “the omission from speech or writing of a word or words that are superfluous or be understood from contextual clues.”  So, knowing that, let’s take a look at how ellipses are being used today:

Hi…we need to have that project in by 3:30…with all images inserted…double side print, of course…maybe even some fancy paper…lol…let me know

Please note that this is a direct quote from an email someone sent me.  If I read this message in the context of the proper definition, I have to assume that I didn’t receive all the information.  So now I’m freaked out.  How can I complete this task if I don’t know what all needs to be done?  And what’s up with saying “lol?”  Did he edit out a joke?  Should I respond with a chuckle?  What if it was an inappropriate joke that I don’t find particularly funny?  Laughing out loud would then render me a liar.  I can’t handle this pressure!

Woah now, let’s take a step back. It’s obvious this person’s just using ellipses in place of periods, commas, general spaces, etc.  But why?  Is this just a way of showing me that he’s thinking while he types?  I suppose it’s a sign of respect towards me and my time, sort of like saying, “Hey, I’m just constructing the next part of the message in my head.  Please hold.”  That’s not so bad, eh?  Maybe this is something I can get used to.

But unfortunately, the overuse of ellipses really is so bad, and here’s the worst case:  When people sign off an email—especially one in which they’ve requested something of me—and I see this vulgar display: “Thanks…”

What the hell does that mean?  I can’t help but read that phrase without a handful of contempt smacking me in the mouth.  It’s like saying, “Thanks, but I know you’re going to do this wrong.  So I’m just gonna chill here with my ‘dot dot dot’ for a while.” Or for some of the more intense folks out there, perhaps they redacted, “Thanks, but go screw yourself.” Again, going back to the proper definition, I have to assume that I’m missing some part of the sentence.

You know what, though? Maybe I should be more understanding.  After all, there it is again:  that damn dreaded “Thanks” at the end of an email, which, as previously mentioned, I know all-too-well is a tricky one.

The Unregulated Use of Punctuation: Part 1!

In my daily email correspondences, I can’t help but notice that unnecessary punctuation has run amuck.  I can forgive the should-have-learned-this-in-2nd-grade usage of commas (“I wish I could help but, I’m an imbecile.”), but there are a few types of punctuation with which people simply just need to get their shit together.

Exclamation Points

The other day, I had sent an email to someone’s assistant asking if said-someone was available for a meeting.  The assistant’s one-line response was, “She is available!”  My insecure, over-thinking self immediately grew terrified as to why she felt the need to use an exclamation point.  Is she that genuinely excited about my desire to speak with her boss that the increased flow of endorphins forced her to shout?  Or is she so furious at me for taking thirty seconds of her day that she screamed the answer in my face to let me know that I have crossed the goddamn line?  I was so confused and worried that I couldn’t even respond, and thus, the meeting was never set.  But it made me realize something:  I do the exact same thing!

For instance, when signing off an email, I feel obligated to end with a loud, obnoxious “Thanks!”  Why?  Because if I simply used a period at the end, then I might as well have just sent a Snapchat of my balls.   If the exclamation point isn’t there, it comes across as if I don’t care about the message I typed and I couldn’t possibly care less about the person in which I’m sending it to–at least, this is what my messed up brain tells itself.  So maybe, just maybe, this assistant is in the same boat as me, where she feels that if she’d only used a period at the end, she would have come across like a my-feet-don’t-stink bitch.  So there lies the issue with of the exclamation point in email:  use it or not, you’re always going to come off like an ass.

That’s all for this edition.  Tune in next time for the dreaded “dot dot dot.”

Author’s Endnote

I fully understand the inherent risk of analyzing spelling and grammar in a blog post in which several spelling and grammar mistakes could be made.  If you find any such mistakes, please make note of them in the comments section, and I will gladly Snapchat you a picture of my balls.

Spam-tastic! The Logic Behind Junk Email

I’ve been using Gmail for a nearly a decade now.  Yes, I was one of the cool kids who received an exclusive launch invite (but for some reason, dropping that line in high school didn’t help me get laid).  Their spam filter is extremely effective, and very rarely does any enter my inbox.  Occasionally, however, it will snag a legit message, so I do check the junk mail folder from time to time.

Usually, I just do a brief scan of the ten or so emails in the folder, make sure there is nothing a vital importance, and click the “Delete Forever” button (they make that sound so dramatic, don’t they?).   But sometimes I’ll click and read one just for fun.  I received this the other day:

Sender Name:  Oprah Winfrey
Subject:  Let’s talk more my bunny!

Hello! My name is Tanya , I am lonely russian woman from Ulyanovsk. I hope you will interested in my letter or in my structure in agency. I have decided to write to you really liked to me. Some more about me…. I am 25, I have finished medical university in our city and now I work as the children’s doctor. My free time I spend on a hippodrome, as I 7 years am engaged in equestrian sport. I think more about my appearance will tell you my photos. If you want to learn more about me you may write me to. Also if you want to ask me some questoins (if interested in me), please write me and I promise answer you and also I will send you more of my photos. Bye for now.  I hope it’s letter will not without your reply.

Please know that I cut and pasted that email exactly as it was written—typos and all.  I assume that’s part of the ploy, as the lack of English comprehension is meant to imitate a lonely woman—who may be named Oprah Winfrey or Tanya?—stuck somewhere in Russia, when in reality, it’s just some chubby dude named Todd out in Dallas.

It’s also of note that nothing is asked for other than a response.  As opposed to that message we’ve all received from the Nigerian prince who has fallen on hard times, and if we just send him $5,000, he will repay us with mountains of gold from his family’s fortune.  At its core, it’s a basic scam; he not asking for money, he’s offering an investment opportunity (hell, it may be a safer bet than anything on Wall Street these days).  Maybe if I respond to this lonely Russian woman named Oprah or Tanya, then she will hit me up for money, but as of now, she’s just wasting my time by requesting return correspondence.  Weird.

Ultimately, my question is this: Who exactly is the target audience—if that’s what you call it—for this type of spam message?  If you’re going after someone who is completely undeterred by the lack of writing skill, doesn’t realize that Tanya is not a nickname for Oprah (and vice versa), and really, anyone dumb enough to still fall for email scams, then they probably aren’t going to have much to offer on which to be conned.

Of course, wouldn’t the ultimate irony be if all these spam messages turned out to be legitimate?  I’ve never been to Nigeria before, so for all I know there are countless numbers of princes who just need a little help, only to return the favor tenfold.  And those lonely women in Russia, just looking for love like the rest of us… Nah, that can’t be the case.  If these spam messages held any validity to them, I’d be sporting a 1 to 3 inch gain below the belt.  Sadly, I still don’t think that would have helped me in my high school pursuits.

Dropped Call: A Lover’s Lament

My Dearest Cell Phone,

Before I begin, please know that I do love you.  In fact, it’s greater than love.  It’s an addiction.  And I don’t see that changing anytime soon. So whatever may follow is only a constructive look at our relationship.

We’ve been together for almost twelve years now.  Remember those days in the beginning?  We were just a couple of dumb kids.  Life was so simple.  You had nothing but a monochrome screen, which of course you made sound co much cooler by calling it “digital”—like how old and smelly clothes became “vintage.”  We’d spend our days playing Snake, and no matter how hard I tried, you’d always win.  But I didn’t care; you were MY phone.  My own personal number.  My own exclusive escape.

But as the years have come and gone, you’ve taken on drastic changes.  Now, I understand that our society is obsessed with appearances, and everyone should take at least a little bit of pride in their looks.  But I’m afraid I’ve seen it all with you.  And really, who are you trying to impress?  Your elective surgeries and changes have gone too far.

At first, you were obsessed with losing weight, getting thinner and thinner, until you were damn near anorexic.  You had to be handled with such care, and the proved to be quite difficult, as you were so small my hands couldn’t get a good grip.  Often times, I’d even drop you in the toilet; which I have profusely apologized for (See, addicted.  Couldn’t even not use you while I was taking a piss).  And seriously, you thought “Razr” was a cool nickname?  Woah, look how edgy you are with your letter dropping (Ask your precious Siri to define sarcasm).

But then you went overboard.  Started adding hours of music, Internet access; you even got rid of your keypad.  What kind of phone doesn’t have a keypad?  And the more you changed, the more addicted I became.  Did you ever stop to think that maybe I don’t want to be distracted?  Perhaps I’d like to talk with the other customers at Starbucks while we wait for our chai soy lattes.  Maybe engaging in conversation with my family at the dinner table would be enjoyable; I don’t know, as I haven’t been able to do this in years!

And sure, I enjoy the attention from others.  They stare with great jealousy and utter under their breath, “I must have one.”  Got the gents at the country club thinking they should trade theirs in for a newer model.  A real eye catcher, you are.  And I’m grateful for that.  But there’s one issue that rides above all else.

Despite all your superficial enhancements, the core component of our relationship has never improved:  communication.  After all these years, I’m still turning my head upside down to get better reception.  Hell, I even make weird poses when it’s the other person that’s having quality issues.  I sacrificed my landline for you.  A landline with clear, crisp voices coming through.  I bought into your bullshit, and now I’m stuck with your terrible sound forever.  Love no longer exists in our relationship.  Now it’s nothing but pure addiction.

So Happy Valentine’s Day, Cell Phone.  Maybe next year, instead of getting the technological-equivalent of a third boob job, we can work on what’s on the inside.  And isn’t that what really matters?