A bird may love a fish…

Humanity is going to become extinct. Not, as you may suspect, due to environmental catastrophe, nuclear holocaust, or zombie apocalypse. No, our extinction will be the result of a species-wide inability to woo. And shallowness, apparently. Yep, we’re all doomed and it’s those whippersnappers’ fault.

Recently I read the article A Million First Dates, which filled me in on the fact that young people are growing into adulthood relationship-impaired. Basically, thanks to technology, young people don’t have to do much work to find partners (sexual or relationship), and so they don’t know how to communicate well, learn compromise, and generally commit to doing the work that long-term relationships require. Why push through the rough or boring times when there are Plenty of Fish in the online (pun intended) sea?

Additionally, according to The End of Courtship, apparently that same technology, combined with soulless hook-up culture, has left young people clueless about how to go about wooing and dating at all. Which hasn’t left anyone very happy (and has even spurred some backlash!) Apparently eventually you have to pursue something more than casual, meaningless (and often recreational substance-enhanced) sex.
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The areas of my expertise

In case you’ve ever found yourself wanting to listen to me talk for a really, really long time, your opportunity has arrived!

Last week MaRS kindly invited me to TO to present in their Best Practices series. I talked about social media for small business in an hour-long presentation, followed by a half-hour Q&A. They also did a shorter, five-minute “Hot Tips” video of, ostensibly, my bonnest of bon mots.

The full media pile of videos, slide deck, and notes is here: MaRS: Social Media for Small Businesses.

BlogHer ’10

Well, we’ve been back for almost a week, and I’m still not sure what to write about the conference. Fundamentally, I would say my experience was better than last year (my thoughts here). And the tone much more positive. Additionally, this was only my second trip to New York, and while I initially suffer sensory overload there, once I acclimatize (to the place, not the heat and humidity… oy vey…) I love it and want to do everything.

This time we also had a lot more company, as there were six of us heading there from KW. Aside from Carol and I, this was the first BlogHer for all the others. It was downright funny initially listening to all their questions about parties and swag and how to find them. Really, unless you hide under your bed in your room for the entire conference, there’s no problem finding either.

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Lessons from the unapologetic fringe

I have never had to make a decision about a job based on an ethical dilemma or consideration of “appearances”, though I know others that have.

Do I agree with that company’s line of business?

How much money would make it worth it?

How would it look to have that company’s name on my resume?

Yet over the last while I have been finding myself increasingly intrigued by the people who choose these paths, or blaze them. More accurately, I am intrigued by what they know — what they’ve learned to successfully build and run their companies and/or communities.

In a nutshell, there is an amazing amount to be learned about people and how and why they do things when you not only accept, but cater to, “impolite” society.

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I have become a podcast devotee

I don’t even remember how this all got started, to be honest. For a long time I’ve thought I should try out listening to podcasts. However, I’ve always been reticent, since: a) I didn’t really know where to start, and b) I’ve never been great at absorbing info through my ears (audiobooks and the like).

Anyway, somewhere I saw/heard/read about How Stuff Works‘ group of podcasts. I’ve been aware of the site for ages, and had dropped in from time to time. You can see the full list of podcasts on their blogs page (cuz that makes sense) in the lower right sidebar.

Being a history buff, I started with Stuff You Missed in History Class, the archive of which I downloaded from iTunes. (They’re all free, just fyi.)

Since then I’ve also gone through the Stuff You Should Know (general interest), Stuff Mom Never Told You (women’s and gender-related topics), and Stuff They Don’t Want You To Know (conspiracy theories – on video) archives, and am nearly the end of the Brain Stuff (general interest – often scientific or technical and much shorter than the others) archive.

The podcasts range from a minute (the early Brain Stuff ones) to over half an hour. I probably started listening nearly six months ago, and have gone through a lot of podcasts. Hundreds. That said, I also haven’t listened to the radio or my iPod in that time period, either. They make for great accompaniment to getting ready for work, running training, doing dishes, etc. And hey, my storehouse of useless knowledge grows by the day. 🙂

Not all topics are of equal interest, and while I haven’t skipped any, it’s certainly easy to do so if you’re not into the topic. One thing that’s a bit unusual and distracting at first is that these podcasters are not “vocal talent”. They’re actual How Stuff Works employees (and, in the case of Brain Stuff, the founder) and the same people you’ll interact on in the blog comments or on Twitter or Facebook.

On every podcast I’ve listened to so far, at least one of the presenters has a mild speech impediment. I didn’t really expect that. Slight lisp, “thick tongue”, or what sounds like just a permanent bad case of hayfever — you get used to it over time. The intermittent southern accents are fun, too. (How Stuff Works is based out of Atlanta.)

I’ve managed to get Andrew hooked, too, and have enjoyed being filled in on historical tidbits I’ve already learned on more than one occasion. 🙂 In any case, should your music library or trivia knowledge be feeling a little stale, I highly recommend heading over to iTunes and loading up. Mmm… useless facts…

Spectacle

I watched a man die this afternoon. Along with thousands, probably millions of other people. What has unsettled me more than the shock of the accident, I think, is how public it was, how immediate the coverage, and how much the coverage was shaped by media as I’ve come to know it.

Within a few minutes, I saw pictures and video online. I actually heard he was dead before I heard about the accident (in the very first stories Kumaritashvili was only “seriously injured”). I watched the video more than once and discussed the logistics of the crash and when he was probably dead with co-workers. Morbid? Yeah. Normal? Also yeah.

Since then I’ve become increasingly uncomfortable by how some outlets have chosen to report the story (looking at you, Huffington Post), and the social media functions that have accompanied that coverage. Video ratings on a clip of the accident? Really? Of course, I’m a consumer of this media, so I’m as culpable as anyone else.

I initially thought, “Can you imagine his mom seeing this?” and then one of the work guys pointed out that she was probably there when it happened. Which was somehow even worse. It feels like there’s somehow sacrilege in there being so little privacy, so little private grief before the rest of the world comes flooding in, and dissecting, and analyzing.

However, as another of the work guys logically noted, it is a spectator sport. All 15 Olympic sports are spectator sports, so spectators are going to be watching. But the second part of that is that our world is media-saturated, so it’s not just the actual sporting event that’s part of the spectacle, it’s everything around it. It’s the luge training accidents and the figure skating scandals and the playboy athletes and who knows what all else that has come and will come to pass.

Really, none of this should phase me. I am immersed in this world almost all the time. I’m not sure why it’s bothering me. Maybe because I’m still old enough to recall when folks wouldn’t have found out about something like this until the evening news, or tomorrow’s newspapers.

Maybe because, though death is not uncommon in my family (and there was one just recently), it all works very differently. Or maybe it’s acknowledging that my eyes were on the story as soon as I heard, just like everyone else’s, even if it didn’t feel right.

At least, by the grace of the same media that unsettles me now, I will cheer and rejoice and indulge my superstitions with millions of others (especially Canadians) when we compete, and when we win. (Particularly at hockey.) 🙂

Bamboozled

Some months ago, Erin told me a crazy story about a friend of hers who was working as an au pair in Amsterdam. It involved a dead dog and a suitcase.

Now, I’ve been on the internets for some time, so I probably should have twigged on to the fact that this story was just right to be… not quite right. But it was a great story, and I love a good yarn, especially when I can re-tell it. Which is what I’ve done since.

A couple of weeks ago I was at the salon, and ended up telling my stylist the story. (I don’t recall how we got onto that subject…) Of course, being a salon, there are plenty of ears around, and when I was done and up at the front paying, the girl helping me said, “I hear you have a dead dog in a suitcase story… That’s totally freaky, because I do, too.”

Then she told me her version, which involved her friend’s boyfriend, took place in Toronto, was on the TTC, and the dog was a German Shepherd.

In the version I heard, as I mentioned, it was Erin’s friend, took place in Amsterdam, was on a bus, and the dog was a Golden Retriever.

The Snopes-worthiness of the story became thoroughly apparent.

So I headed home and searched snopes.com, but, oddly, couldn’t find the story. So I cast my net wider and googled “dead dog in a suitcase”. Ahh, pay dirt. Chicago, the UK — the story has been around for years, as expected.

I also found an entry that noted the Snopes version was about a cat, so I went back to Snopes, and sure enough, there was the story, just with different person, place, public transportation, and animal details.

And so, since I can no longer regale folks with the tale, I shall recount the version I’ve been telling, here, one last time. 🙂

Erin’s friend was working as an au pair for a family in Amsterdam, and they were going away on vacation. She was staying at home to water the plants, feed the dog, etc. However, before the family left, they did mention to her that the dog hadn’t been doing well, and, being quite aged, it was possible he could die pretty much any time. If that happened while they were away, don’t freak out or anything.

So off the family goes, and, sure enough, a few days later the dog dies. At which point the girl realizes that, while they did warn her it could happen, they didn’t tell her what the hell to do if it did. She finally manages to find the vet’s number and calls them. They tell her they can take care of the remains… but she has to bring them to the vet’s office. Hrm.

This is Amsterdam — she has no car, and she can’t exactly get the dog there on her bike, so she’ll have to take public transportation. But she can’t just get on a bus with a dead dog… So she goes hunting around the house and finds a big suitcase the family didn’t use for their vacation.

And she manages to get the dog in it (keep in mind this is not a Chihuahua, it’s 90lbs of dead weight Golden Retriever), and wrestle it to the bus stop. The bus arrives, and she’s wrestling the suitcase up the stairs, when a nice man appears and helps her get the suitcase onto the bus.

So she gets situated, and the guy’s all, “Wow, that’s really heavy. What’s in there?” And, thinking quickly, she replies, “Oh, just some old electronics equipment…” (Now, at this point, most people are assuming the suitcase is going to break open on the bus or something… but no…)

The bus arrives at her stop, and she starts wrestling the suitcase off the bus, and the nice man helps her again. And they get to the sidewalk… and the guy picks up the suitcase and takes off down the street.

She’s standing there, staring after him, wondering what the hell to do. She might be able to catch him, but… he kinda just solved her problem. She no longer has to dispose of the dog, and… wow, can you imagine his face when he opens that suitcase?

So she just goes home, and, when the family returns from vacation, tells them what happened (awkward!), and offers to pay for a new suitcase…

The End

Lines and Surfaces

Desire Line 11
Photo by szczel on Flickr.

You know how, occasionally, you’ll stumble onto a person, thing, or concept that you’d never heard of before, but that all of a sudden starts turning up everywhere? Even better when it’s something you find intriguing or inspiring, and each appearance helps you crystallize some idea.

The most recent occurrence of this for me wove itself through a few skeins of thought, which didn’t necessarily provide me with one of those overarching Eureka! moments, but did provide something of a framework for consideration in the future.

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