Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Internet Etiquette

When we were all little kids we experienced the transition between babyhood (which includes infancy, toddlerness) into that phase of actually becoming a humanoid member of society. By this time our skills have increased greatly as we now know how to walk, talk and control our bodily functions…or at least some of us do. Having now reached this benchmark in our social and personal development, we begin to take on more and more responsibility in our place of residence. We are now required to use those walking skills to carry our dinner plates to the counter, use our new communication skills to say “Please” and “Thank you,” and can no longer get away with burping and spitting up after every meal…that is, unless your mom served Mr. Pibb at every meal – then it’s understandable.

If you’re like most kids at this age, you seem to be consumed by curiosity and the ‘wonder of it all.’ This manifests itself in a variety of ways such as the time when you first learned why you’re not supposed to touch a hot stove no matter how pretty it is, or when you first decided to eat dirt. In addition to the violent, dangerous and just outright gross things…we are also curious in regard to the regular day to day things we see our parents doing everyday on a day to day basis. At that age, no matter who we are, Daddy and Mommy are our heroes and we try to emulate everything they do in order to carbon copy their hero-esque qualities onto our own sense of being. So it is bound to happen that on some random day, the telephone happens to be sitting near you when it rings. Instinctively, you pick the phone up and answer it just as you’ve seen your mom do – “hewwo?” Then suddenly someone is talking to you, in rapid bursts of language they ask lots of questions yet there’s no one in the room. Dazed and confused you lock up and don’t speak another word, eventually setting the phone down while the voice continues jabbering. An hour or so later your Mom realizes that the phone has been off the hook and that call she was expecting has come and gone…several times. At this point your Mother decides to teach you telephone etiquette which entails how to speak clearing into the handset, take messages, leave messages and above all, say “Sir” and “Ma’am” based on our ability to recognize a person’s gender by their voice alone.

I say all this just to bring up the point of today’s modern communication medium, particularly online chat and email. It seems that the etiquette and respect we were taught to use when talking on the phone has not translated into the new medium, at all. I understand this could be because e-comm is still very young and standards for what is acceptable have not yet been determined. But it is also entirely possible that mass humanity has become less courteous in the realm of online correspondence due to the downward spiral of societal ‘giving a flip.’ So in order to help us remember what our Mom’s taught us about the telephone and apply it to email and instant messaging, I have complied a list of internet etiquette guidelines (which are really more like hard and fast rules of code and anyone found not abiding by them will be subject to the pangs of torture and humiliation) and general good advice when totting about the inter-web.

01. Use a real language, with proper grammar, punctuation and capitalization.
02. Use a language that the receiver understands.
03. When instant messaging, always provide links rather than saying “go check out this article in this section of the such and such website,” That statement tells the receiver nothing except that you don’t know how to use hyperlinks.
04. When forwarding a message, always delete all the previous email transaction text at the top of the page. Forwards get a bad rap because it takes 10 minutes to dig through and find whatever it is you actually wanted to send me.
05. ‘Reply to All’ is not always appropriate…there are some things I don’t want to know.
06. All caps and red text are to be used sparingly; basically only if you are selling something or are really angry.
07. One exclamation point is sufficient!! Trust me! You don’t! have to make people think you’re wired on caffeine all the time!!!!
08. Abbreviations are acceptable as long as they are not over used and as long as you’re not lying in using them…when has anyone ever actually been Rolling On The Floor Laughing?
09. Make good use of blind carbon copying, it allows your friends to spy on your correspondence without the recipient knowing about it.
10. There is no real winner in a poking war…
11. Humans who only use dial-up are people too.
12. Chatting via mobile merits the user at least 10% more forgiveness to misspellings and grammatical errors.
13. Just because you get an email with “I love you” in the subject line and an attachment that is an .exe file named ‘I’m a dangerous virus bent on devouring and corrupting your computer’s saved data and vital systems” doesn’t mean you’ve received a virus.
14. It is possible for Spammers to lie, just because you receive a message with the subject line: “Angelina Jolie dies in miscarriage” or “Police open fire on elderly in Iowa, want better pay” you aren’t required to open it.

Try these out and let me know how it goes…if you have more to add to the list please include them in the comments section.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Habitual Creatures of Habit

Sometimes in life we sit wondering what will happen next. These wonderings often are derived from life changing decisions such as whether or not to adopt seven Korean children. But our minds are also affected by the mundane snap decisions that we don’t even consciously think about, such as what letter will start your next sentence. In many ways, these rushed choices made while we’re ‘thinking on our feet’ tell us more about ourselves than the huge major important ones. What we do and how we behave under pressure reveals the inner ‘we’ even if it’s a simple matter of deciding between paper or plastic at the grocery store.
Imagine if you will that you are standing in line to order at a fast food restaurant and there is a line of about 30 grumbling construction workers behind you when you step up to order. In this case your mind tells you that you need to hurry up because they’ve already been waiting for 15 minutes. In the rush of it all, you make a quick decision about what you want to eat without even considering if that’s what you really want to eat. So the question is, why is it that we don’t find ourselves constantly sitting down with our food and thinking “why did I order this?” The answer is we are habitual creatures of habit.

In most cases, you have eaten at the same restaurant before and have ordered the same meal before. So by forming a habit, we as humans can remove the thinking process in order to simplify our lives. In this way, we are spared the risk of making bad decisions because we’ve already thought them out and found success with them in the past. We simply repeated the same “good” decision over and over again and thus a habit is formed. Why fix what isn’t broken, right?

Well, there are also some negative sides to this habit thing. First of all, it retards exercise of the human thought process. Sure, it’s nice to not have to think about anything, but what is the overall affect on society? Are we systematically training ourselves to become dumber? Secondly, the incessant habit former stifles creativity by constantly doing the same things. Sure, deviating from the status quo is unfamiliar and scary but being creative requires us to take those risks and very often the rewards are infinite.

So be creative and break a habit this week, variety is the spice of life…so spice it up! Post your death-to-monotony stories in the comments section.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Fantasy World

We as humanoids have always had an aspect of imagination in our minds’ eye that both dwells on and longs for all things contained within the realm of the fantastic, much like this sentence. We are ever striving to create a world of our own fashioning wherein we can sculpt and manipulate everything in it however we wish. This inner desire shared by humans could be explained by our inherent selfishness and humanistic perspective that fancies us as gods. Or it could simply be an outlet for creativity with which we entertain ourselves and others by mentally breaching the boundaries of the possible to explore that which is impossible.

So what would my fantasy world look like? In many ways it would be very similar to our own world and our time with a few hundred subtle differences. I won’t take the time to mention all of them but will attempt to sum up the overall feel of the world that is planet Stewart.

01. Dinosaurs would still be alive and would be hunted like deer, ridden like horses, and put in captivity in zoos.
02. Mosquitoes would be the size of basketballs and would be hunted to near extinction and no one would pity them.
03. Trees would always grow with convenient limb placement for easy climbing as well as universal cup holders.
04. Mr. Pibb would still exist but only to showcase the supreme might of Dr Pepper, no one would actually drink it.
05. I would be able to fly.
06. Lightsabers and assault rifles would be the customary 8th birthday present.
07. Instead of $1 per tooth, the tooth fairy is more like a tooth dragon and gives kids bags of loose diamonds that come out its nose.
08. Texas would have a purpose.
09. Pizza plants would be grown as the main crop in Australia.
10. Ligers would be bred for their skills in magic.
11. At any given moment, the world as we see it could be changed to an 8-bit graphical interface with 8-bit internal PC speaker sound. We could then throw fire boogers at each other after eating a magical flower.
12. Frisbee golf discs would have homing devices.
13. The Atlanta Braves would only have 15 players on the disabled list…I know, impossible right?

So there you have it, just a few things I would want in the fantastic land I created …in my mind. Would you want to live there? What are your own fantasy worlds be like?

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Independence Day 2008

This Friday marks the 231st birthday of the Untied States of America and to celebrate this occasion I will provide a brief time line of the dates and events that have made this country what is is today. May we never forget the past so as not to make the same mistakes in the future.

1763 – British military officers sang “Yankee Doodle Dandy” to shame the disheveled, disorganized colonial “Yankees” in the French and Indian War. This backfired however when colonists sang it in mockery after defeating the Lobster backs in the US revolution. The song was used once again by confederate soldiers during the war of northern aggression.

July 3, 1776 – The draft of the Declaration of Independence was finished.

July 4, 1776 – The Declaration was adopted and signed by the Second Continental Congress as well as Forest Gump’s Great Great Grandfather…Woodedglenn Gump. The names Woody and Glenn were derived from his first name as a way to honor his memory – the name Woodedglenn was retired in the same manner a basketball jersey might be.

1776-1783 – The British invade the newly independent U.S. but are thwarted by Mel Gibson and his tomahawk throwing skills. The french eventually show up after most of the fighting is over and attempt to take credit for defeat of Charles Cornwallis at Yorktown (aka Old York).

December 25, 1896 – John Philip Sousa composed “Stars and Stripes Forever” which later became the official march of the USA and required memorization in high school band rehearsals everywhere. The march had the power to inject strong emotion in those who heard it therefore paving the way for Rock ‘N Roll.

July 4, 1996 – As President, Bill Pullman recruits the talents of a drunk crop duster to fight against the threat of extermination imposed by an unnamed alien fleet that has invaded earth and is destroying her cities.

November 19, 2004 – The Declaration of Independence was stolen by Nicholas Cage using the surname Benjamin Gates in an expansive government conspiracy to prove that the free masons did more than just play bingo and drink beer.

As you can see, we as Americans have a rich heritage of violence, theft, and loud noises. Be an American this July 4 and celebrate by blowing stuff up with fire and creating booming sounds that jolt the continental shelf.