Snooze You Can Use

My kids say that I like Facebook because I’m old. Ok, whatever, what can I say? I enjoy finding out what people are up to and seeing pictures of their dogs and whatnot. What I don’t like are people who post ridiculous political shit or push their crazy ass ideas about things like vaccinations.

Fortunately, Facebook has a great way to make people go away, but not forever. The feature, commonly called the “Snooze button,” allows you to stop seeing a person, page, or group for 30 days.

It’s like saying, “I like you and I care about you, and I want to be friends, but I’m a little sick of your crap and I need a break.” Even better? They never know they’ve been snoozed, so no feelings, like when you unfollow a friend.

A guy I know pointed out that he’s found himself having to snooze the same people every 30 days. It’s true. I’ve got one person who’s become the Rip Van Winkle of Facebook friends.

Ah, modern living — but you know what we really need? An easy way to snooze people in real life. That would be useful.

Look, Up in the Sky

The great thing about picking cherries and blueberries is that there’s no bending over. Yes, strawberries are wonderful, but the stooping down makes them so tedious to gather.

Last weekend at Samascott Orchards, the fruit was mostly at eye level, but up in the sky was something much more interesting.

High above the farm a biplane was lazily cruising along and performing loops and rolls as it made its way westward. It’s surprising enough to see a biplane, but the stunt flying made it a truly extraordinary sight.

My wife called out to two boys picking cherries from a nearby tree and pointed out the plane. They shrugged and went back to the picking. Their mother, said, “They are not little boys any more.” This surprised me, because actually, the were little boys — and what sort of little boys would not be thrilled by such a thing?

It could be that the stimulation of phones and video games are making real things seem mundane to some kids. In a world where you have endless action at your fingertips, something like an airplane performing acrobatics might not merit even a moment of interest. God, I hope I’m wrong.

Gather Round the Hearth

We’ve been looking at a lot of houses lately and noticed something interesting: people like putting flat screen TV sets over the fireplace.

Not to be judgmental or anything — because I would never do that — but one thing goes through my head when I see this in a house: douchebag bad idea.

There are a couple of practical reasons not to mount the TV over the fireplace. The heat might not great for the TV, and ideally, a TV should be level with your eyes position so you don’t have to look up at it. That could be bad for your neck.

But there are less tangible reasons, too.

It used to be that the space over the fireplace was reserved for something special, like a piece of art or an antique that sits on the mantle. Let’s say you have a mounted moose head that you love. Where’s it going to go? Over the fireplace, of course. It sends a message about what you find important.

When you put the TV over the fireplace, it says that the most important thing in your life is the TV. And it makes your house look like a barroom.

So don’t be a douchebag silly: find somewhere else for the TV. I know the fireplace thing is popular right now, but just because it’s popular doesn’t make it right.

#9 Dream

You know your blog’s in trouble when you start writing about your dreams.

But what the hell.

I’ve had a recurring nightmare where I’m a DJ at a radio station. The song on the turntable is ending, but the next record is not cued up and I’m running around the studio trying to find a record to play next.

I had the dream again the other night, and things were complicated by turntables that played the records upside down, so you not only had to find a song to play, but then struggle to get it ready.

It’s a quaintly old-fashioned dream, what with vinyl and turntables. Those things are gone from radio stations, as are DJs who get to pick out their own music.

Maybe there was a time when railroad men would dream of running out of coal or people would have nightmares about receiving bad news in a telegram. Technology may change, but anxiety is forever.


Payback Time

Parents: how much money do you think you’ve spent on video games?

Consoles, cartridges, disks, online subscriptions, wireless controllers, memory modules… and how much of hardware is in a shoebox in the basement, replaced by the latest system?

Yeah, I know.

That’s why I’m so happy to report that I’ve finally gotten some of that money back! Yes, after shelling out untold piles of cash — particularly around birthdays and Christmas — the video game industry is now paying me. Ha!

checkJust last week, I received this check in the mail for the whopping sum of $24!
Woo-hoo! Windfall! The $24 is my share of the settlement of a class action suit, Pecover vs. Electronic Arts. My purchase of a copy of Madden NFL makes me one of the aggrieved consumers. Power to the people!

I’m not sure how many more lawsuits it will take for me to put a dent in my video game expenses, but it’s a start.

Thinning the Herd

As of this morning I had 283 Facebook friends. Next week at this time I’ll have fewer.

Facebook has value and provides some good things. I’m genuinely interested in much of what my Friends post, but lately I’ve noticed there are lot of people on there that I was never really friends with — and honestly, I can’t imagine they’re very interested in what I post there.

So, one by one I’m picking people who have to go. It’s not personal, just that I don’t care much about them and they seem not to care much about me, so why not?

For the others, I make it a habit to hit the Like button  a few times a day. It’s important for people to know that you’re interested in what they’re posting, especially is you want to carry the title Friend.

If not, it’s like that guy you meet for coffee who can’t stop talking about himself. You say something interesting and they act as if they didn’t even hear you. That’s what Facebook can be like, as hundreds of people go on about their favorite subject: themselves.

This century’s existential crisis is posting things online and wondering if anyone has bothered to read it. If you’re going to take the time to fool around with Twitter and Facebook, spend a moment to let people know that you’re not just talking, you’re listening.

Time Warner Can Byte Me

Here’s an excerpt from the email I got from Time Warner this week:

We want to inform you of upcoming changes to your Internet service price beginning with your next bill. The Internet Modem Lease will be $5.99.

What? It used to be that the cable giant provided a modem for free, but less than a year ago they started charging $3.99 per month. Now, inexplicably, they’ve added two bucks more. Very nice.

Time Warner already nickel and dimes you death on everything, so this is no surprise, but you don’t have to take it lying down: buy your own modem and tell them where they can put theirs.

There’s a list of acceptable models on their website; after a bit of shopping, I found that while a modem isn’t cheap, it will pay for itself in under a year. The Netgear CMD31T seems to be about the best bargain at $79.99, but you can also find used refurbished modems cheaper, or for a real bargain, buy one on eBay.

Maybe you think this is no big deal, but it’s a symptom of the ongoing arrogance of an industry that thinks it’s the only game in town.

But if you ask me, big cable companies should be worried. They are in the same position as newspapers were ten years ago: rapidly nearing the edge of a cliff that they seem not to notice. Some will change direction and others will plunge to the bottom.

Spacing Out

I Googled “Italian astronaut jokes” early this morning after hearing how NASA cancelled the EVA of Luca Parmitano after an EMU malfunction. Space geeks know that an EVA is a spacewalk and an EMU a spacesuit.

It seems that Parmitano, the first Italian astronaut to walk in space, was having a little trouble with his helmet: it was filling with water. Yes, that’s a little trouble.

Speaking of space, I just read two terrific books about space travel, Packing for Mars by Mary Roach and Riding Rockets  by former Space Shuttle astronaut Mike Mullane.

Roach’s book, which examines the science behind putting humans in space, is laugh out loud funny as it closely examines things like zero gravity pooping and the hazards of vomitting in your helmet. The most minute detail of everything astronauts do has been studied to death — often in bizarre ways.

Mullane writes about life as one of the original Space Shuttle astronauts. It’s a frank and hilarious (and mildly profane) glimpse of what it’s like to prepare for and fly in space. It’s also pretty heavy, too. Mullane worked closely with the crew aboard the Challenger — and early in his book he discusses the worries over the disasterously ill fated o-rings on the solid rocket boosters.

Anyway, the only Italian astronaut joke I could find goes like this:

Q: What do you call an Italian astronaut?

A: A specimen.

Please accept my apologies.