25 Random Things

My friend Rick Paul (Facebook page) tagged me in the 25 Random Things meme.  Take a big gulp of coffee (lower and upper case) friends, because I’m going to give it a try:

1. When I was in Kindergarten, my report card had a place to note disabilities.  Right beside “hearing loss” and “poor eyesight” was “left-handed.”  I am left-handed, and they made me write with my right hand.  I think the teachers were all commies- the name of the place was The Little Red Schoolhouse.  I blame all my problems on those mean ladies.  If not for their treachery, I’m sure I wouldn’t have bought Citibank at $50.

2. I have a very distinct false memory.  I talked about it (and even drew a picture of it) here.  I wonder if I can sue Santa Claus for not really bringing me that video game.  With a head start like that, I would’ve been a Pac Man Jedi in college.

3. Back in the eighties, I read every one of the John D. MacDonald Travis McGee mysteries in a row and in chronological order.  Right after I finished, he hosed me by dying.  Later Larry Brown (see item 12 below) did the same thing.  If you’re an author and I start reading all your books in order, be very scared.  Surely there’s a Japanese horror movie in there somewhere.

4. I think Richard Shindell’s Are You Happy Now is the most well-written song I have ever heard.  It’s not my favorite song ever, but both lyrically and musically I think it is the most well-written song.  Every time I hear the “Cinderella checked her watch” verse it sends a chill down my spine.  You can buy this excellent record at Amazon.  You can’t buy any of my excellent records at Amazon for two reasons.

5. While not very random, I deeply, madly and completely love my kids, far beyond any emotion I would have previously believed myself capable of.  Of course, they all know this and think they own me.  The other day, my 7 year old said, in a calm, teaching voice, “look, just because you’re older than me doesn’t mean you get to boss me around all the time.”  I really didn’t have a good reply for that.

6. I knew some of the guys that formed the Marshall Tucker Band in high school.  Tommy Caldwell was a very good golfer AND a rock star.  Previously, I would have thought those to be mutually exclusive.

7. When I was a little kid, Tog’ls were far and away my favorite toy.  I loved them so much that I later bought a bunch of them on eBay for my kids.  So far, none of them share the love.  Now if there was a Tog’l app for their iPods…

8. When I was in college, I was a huge Al Green fan.  I listened to his records all the time, to the point that it drove my roommates crazy (Andy, Al and Carter will attest to this).  Then I heard a cover of Al’s Love and Happiness by The Amazing Rhythm Aces, and became a big fan of theirs.  Later, I realized that my sister’s neighbor was Russell Smith, the lead singer for the Aces.

9. I started writing songs in my early teens, mostly in a failed attempt to impress chicks.  One of my songs was recorded by some friends of mine while we were in high school.  I remember another friend calling me over to her car one day because that song was on the radio.  I wish it was that easy to get my songs on the radio now!

10. I’ve had my ear pierced twice, in college and then much later in the Bahamas while on vacation.  Both times with my buddy Carter (see item 8 above).

11. I remember the first Grateful Dead song I ever heard: Uncle John’s Band.  I instantly became and continue to be a huge fan.  My oldest daughter, Cassidy, is named after a Grateful Dead song.  When she was born, I emailed John Perry Barlow and told him we’d named her after one of his songs.  He wrote her several emails.  How cool is that!?

12. I love modern southern gothic literature (or whatever you call it).  Cormac McCarthy, Larry Brown and William Gay are among my favorite authors.  I also like vintage pulp science fiction, such as Andre Norton and Edmond Hamilton.

13. I think Monty Python and the Holy Grail is the funniest movie ever made.  Other hilarious movies that come to mind are Spaceballs, Raising Arizona, Bad Santa and the greatly overlooked Idiocracy.

14. I love computers and software.  I wrote a shareware game (Touchstone Trilogy) back in the eighties, was briefly a game designer for a small software company and have built computers from parts.

15. I am scared of heights.  When I was a kid there was this tree house in the woods by my house.  It seemed like it was a mile high.  It used to terrify me climbing up, and terrify me even more starting the climb down.  I know why cats sometimes wait for the firemen.

16. When I was a kid, I had this red transistor radio I won playing bingo at the beach.  I’d lay in bed at night with that single earphone and listen to WOWO from Fort Wayne, Indiana.  One far away station, but somehow it seemed more compelling than the multitude of music choices today.

17. I once got an email from the Professor.  And, while you didn’t ask, the answer would be Mary Ann.

18. I am bored to tears by politics.  I have voted for more democrats than republicans for President, but I think many of my democrat friends are supremely unrealistic and utterly naive.  I’m not sure what this says about me, but I don’t think it’s good.

19. I grew up in Cheraw, SC, a great little town.  I wrote all of one and part of another song the last day I spent there, after my mom died:  My Mother’s House and Raccoons and Foxes (the latter co-written with Ronnie Jeffrey).

20. My cars in order are 1972 Chevelle Malibu (brown), 1978 Camaro (silver), 1986 Saab 9000 (red), 1988 Jeep Cherokee (red), 1992 Explorer (green), 2001 Expedition (blue) and 2008 Toyota Tundra (red).

21. I am an Eagle Scout and went to the Boy Scouts World Jamboree in Norway in 1975.

22. When I was a kid I had a pet flying squirrel named Secret.

23. While in college I (and a lot of my buddies- you know who you are) watched General Hospital religiously.  Remember the Ice Princess?

24. I once woke up and saw a ghost (or something unexplainable that looked like a ghost) hovering over my bed late at night.  I thought I was imagining it, until I noticed that my cat was sitting on the bed staring up at it too.  Oddly, it wasn’t a scary experience.  Later, as a party theme, my friends and I had a psychic come in and try, unsuccessfully, to summon it back.

25. I drink only occasionally and then very moderately (although last Saturday night was a major exception to that rule), have never smoked a cigarette and do not eat sweets.  Never fear- I have lots of other bad habits.

I don’t know how to tag people in Facebook, where I got tagged by Rick.  So if you see this, are my (lower or upper case) friend and have not already answered this meme, please consider yourself tagged.

8 Things Meme

Steve Spalding tagged me in the 8 Things meme.  So I need to come up with 8 random things about me…

1) I am left handed, but I write with my right hand because when I was in kindergarten, the teachers made me.  They thought that writing with your left hand was abnormal.

2) I am very impatient in most situations, except fishing.  I am a very patient fisherman, which I why I catch more fish than most people.

3) My first job was as a bag boy at IGA.

4) I love card and board games.  We played Euchre with our friends the Clarks last night.

5) I am profoundly apolitical.  Almost everything about politics and politicians bores me.

6) I was once on the cover of Money Magazine.

7) I think Spaceballs is one of the funniest movies ever made.

8) My cars in order are: 1972 Chevelle Malibu; 1978 Camaro; 1986 Saab 900; 1989 Jeep Cherokee; 1992 Ford Explorer; and 2001 Ford Expedition.

I’m going to follow Steve’s lead and tag only 4 people (instead of the statutory 8):

Be a Good Mom: Because Mike already had his turn and I’m all about girl power.

Warner Crocker: Because, like me, he lives in the overlap of tech and the arts.

Dennis the Peasant: Because I can’t imagine how funny 8 random things about him will be.

Bill Liversidge:  Because I enjoy his writing, and now here’s something he’ll have to write.

If you have already answered this meme, feel (somewhat) free to ignore this tag.

Technorati tags: ,

Songs for Good Spirits

Susan Getgood tagged me in Hilda Carroll’s collective playlist meme.  The idea is to add one song that lifts your spirits every time you hear it.

Those who know me musically know that uplifting songs are not my strong point.  But I can think of quite a few songs that make me really happy every time I hear them.  As Susan and others have said, it’s hard to pick just one.  But after thinking about it for a bit, I did.

It’s a song called Weight of the World off the record Built of Stone by the Cigar Store Indians.  I heard them play it live on XM once and the lead singer said he wrote it for his kids.  One listen by any parent of young children will send you running for the crying towel.  Not because it is sad, but because it is so perfect.

These lines sum up the way the song makes me feel (remember that he is singing to his kids):

You gotta try to live your life
Kinda like a script
Like you’re in a movie
Like you’re watchin’ it
20 years from now
You won’t give a damn
You’re a tempest
Born and raised…and loved

An absolutely perfect song.  Wonderful advice. I gotta go find my kids and hug them.

I’m going to tag Matt Moran, Jeff Balke and Blonde 2.0.

Technorati tags: ,

Sticks and Stones: The Bullying Meme

I enjoy memes, because they are a way to find out about others – and sometimes yourself – in an interesting way, without having to write or read a boring autobiography.  I also think answers to questions are more revealing than prose, because they elicit specific information rather than whatever the writer consciously or subconsciously wants to present.  Having now mounted my defense of memes, let’s get to the business at hand.

Chip Camden tagged me in Randy Morin’s bullying meme.  So here we go.

Am I a bad person, if I’m happy to know that the bully did not live a full life?

I believe people are generally good or bad based on what they do, not what they think.  Having said that, it depends on the level of bullying and what is meant by “live a full life.”  There are certainly some things that a bully could do that would lead me to be happy if he shuffled off this mortal coil, but outside of murder, rape, etc., I would not wish death on someone.  I would, however, be happy to learn that karma or the law acted to cause a serious bully to have a bad job, go to jail, become homeless, etc.  I might want to forgive and forget, but I am an imperfect person and would be perfectly happy to hear of a little cosmic payback.

Were you bullied as a kid?

Not generally.  There were a few times I was treated badly by some older kids, but it was more of a stop following us around thing than a bullying thing.  My dad told me to avoid a fight when possible, but that there are times when there is no other way to resolve something.  I tell my kids, in cases of physical aggression only, to ask the person (be that a sibling or third party) to stop twice, and only if that doesn’t work to respond in kind (or “do what you gotta do”).  It is a hard line to draw and to walk, but I simply do not believe anyone has to accept physical abuse without defending themselves.  Of course most of my wife’s friends think I am a caveman (and not the Geico kind) in this regard.

Was bullying as rampant in your schools, as they were in mine?

Probably, although I was largely oblivious to it at the time.  If I bullied people in any way, it was by being unaware of their suffering at the hands of bullies that I may have been hanging out with.

What happened to the bullies in your school?

A couple of them are in jail, actually.  None of my close friends were bullies, so I don’t know about the rest of them.

Was it just the boys, or did the girls bully too?

I don’t know about at my school, but as a parent of girls, I am convinced that bullying by girls against other girls is much, much worse than between boys.  It’s verbal, as opposed to physical, and much harder to detect.  If two little boys are fighting on the playground, it’s obvious, and they generally forget about it by the time school’s out.  If you see one little girl whisper something to another, you have no idea what she said.  And the adverse effects seem to linger longer.  I think schools need to be much more proactive where girl to girl bullying is concerned.

Were you the bully?

Not to my knowledge.  I have generally taken up for people when I feel they are being taken advantage of.  When I was younger, I was less aware of that sort of thing, but the older I get the better my bully radar seems to be.

Bonus:  Great country song.

Now to tag some bloggers.  I’m going to dive into my new reading list, along with a few long time pals.  Bob Meets World, Nick O’Neill,  D’Arcy Norman, Nancy White, Blonde 2.0, Dave Wallace, Steven Streight and Thomas Hawk (who I think got beat up unfairly in the comments to a recent Scoble post).

Technorati tags: ,

Carnival of Mother’s Day

Mike Miller hosted a special Mother’s Day edition of the Carnival of Family Life.

Here’s a little link love for the other participants, and some good family reading for you.

Technorati tags:

Top 5 Lists Galore

Here are the Problogger Top 5 entries for Day 4. Let’s spread a little link love around.

The Meme Meme

Chip Camden tagged me in a meme that asks the very relevant question, “why do you respond to memes?”  Before I went off the grid for a while, there was some debate about the merit of memes, with some people defending them and others comparing them to chain letters and similar annoyances.  I’ll resist the temptation to wonder how anyone who has a blog could conclude that memes are a waste of their time and just answer the question.

Here are the requested 5 reasons why I respond to most memes:

1) Memes are conversation starters, and conversation is the reason I write a blog and the reason I subscribe to blogs.

2) Memes allow us to find out more about each other in an efficient manner.  Since most of the people who converse cross-blog will never meet in the real world, memes are a good way to find out how the guy who writes about one topic feels about others.  I was at a closing dinner the other night and one of the hosts asked everyone at the table to name his or her favorite movie.  I was happily surprised at how many other people picked a goofy movie (my choice was, of course, The Holy Grail).  Memes are a way to do that sort of thing on a distributed basis.

3) I am appreciative that someone cares enough to ask what I think about something.  So many people are great talkers and bad listeners.  A meme is, at least to some extent, a way to listen.  It’s handing over the microphone to someone else- to let them have their turn.

4) I suspect that memes probably piss off those who take themselves too seriously.  That makes me want to go all meme all the time.  Life is too often hard and serious.  Blogging should be silly and fun.

5) I had to do some thinking to come up with a 5th reason, but upon reflection I realized that I like to see if I can predict who will respond to a meme and who won’t.  Someone who ignores the offered meme is often telling you more than the person who answers.  I have always been (to a fault some people say) a student of human nature.  Memes serve as little human nature experiments.

So here are my five (with a brief note as to why they were selected).  Name five reasons why you do (or do not) respond to memes.

Amy Gahran (a lot of my conversational approach to blogging originated from reading her blogs)
Scot Karp (we started blogging around the same time, and I am impressed with how he turned his blog into a must-read)
Hugh MacLeod (he’s a long time A-Lister who has always struck me as a regular guy (in a good way))
Rockstar Mommy (I don’t know her, but it’s one of my favorite recent blog discoveries)
Ian Delaney (just because he’s a smart guy and a great writer)

My prediction (see number 5 above): 3 out of 5.

Technorati tags: ,

Who Do You Write For – Update 2

We got a little distracted by the latest edition of the Gatekeeper Debates, but now I want to get back to the original challenge of asking ourselves who we actually write our blogs for.

If I missed you, let me know. If you want to join in, I’ll do another update in a few days.

Here’s the current list so far:

Rick Anderson (via comment)
Seth Finkelstein (via comment)
Richard Querin
Earl Moore
Chip Camden

and some new ones:

The Idea Dude (via comment)
Joshua Jeffryes (via comment)
Dennis Howlett (via comment)
Jay Stevens (via comment)
James Robertson
Mike Souders
Oon Yeoh

Tags: blogging, blog building, my audience

Blogger's Challenge: Who Do You Write For?

Who are we, as bloggers, really writing for? Have you ever asked yourself that question?

I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately.

The knee-jerk answer, of course, is that different people write for different reasons. Some write for their real world customers. Some write to attract eyeballs attached to fingers that might click on an ad. Some write as a way to market their online products. Some write for themselves. Etc. Etc.

But I am asking the question at a more fundamental level.

Who are the readers of our blogs? Not the intended audience. The actual audience.

Who do we really write for?

My answer: mostly for each other.

I’m just not convinced that blogs have much penetration into the general reading population. Stated another way, I suspect that the large, large majority of readers of any blog, save and except the TechCrunches and Techdirts of the world, are other bloggers and maybe the occasional relative or curious friend.

Even the mega-blogs, whose traffic the rest of us stare at in jealous disbelief, have subscriber numbers in the tens of thousands. TechCrunch has 92,854 subscribers. That’s an incredible number until you consider the fact that there are 300 million people in the US and 6.5 billion worldwide. In context, even TechCrunch’s penetration into the real world is less than insignificant. The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal have circulation numbers in excess of 2 million, and that doesn’t count tons of people like me who read those papers online or who grab a colleague’s copy after he or she is done with it.

The number of bloggers competing for attention makes it seem like the blogosphere is a huge, chaotic place. But it only seems that way because we have all ended up in a small room at the end of the hall. When people refuse to converse with me or go out of their way to link around me, it hurts a little. Until I remember that while they aren’t listening to me, no one in the real world is listening to them either.

I have been told by a couple of buddies in old media that old media tech writers tend to write for each other as well, so my theory is not limited exclusively to bloggers.

But the more I think about it, I think most bloggers write primarily for each other.

Don’t get me wrong- I enjoy writing. But sometimes it feels vaguely depressing to write something, put it up and wait anxiously for someone to reply via comment or link.

The problem, it seems to me, is that we often overstate the interactive nature of the blogosphere. Sure, blogs are somewhat interactive, but there is still an effort hurdle to be crossed to converse. You have to invest the time and effort to make a comment or write a responsive post. And with everyone talking at once, a lot of things get lost in the static.

And, of course, the rock stars who refuse to have cross-blog conversations with anyone other than other perceived rock stars make blogs seem even less interactive (and more silly) than they really are.

The whole system just seems really inefficient to me.

Which is why we need to ask ourselves why we write and who we are writing for.

So here’s my challenge. Write a paragraph that explains why you write a blog and who you write for. Think about it for a moment first. And be honest. I’ll compile a list (with links), and we’ll see if there are any patterns. Maybe we’ll learn something.

Here’s mine (I trashed and completely rewrote the following paragraph four times):

I write as an outlet for the creative energy that I used to use writing songs, and to initiate conversation with people who share interests of mine that are not generally shared by my real world friends. I write because I like to build things and to see if I can become meaningful in an area other than the one in which I make my living. Fundamentally, I write for the people who will allow me to become part of their conversations, either because they like what I have to say or because they are willing to try to change my mind. And, to be honest, I write to show some of the people who believe they are tech stars that some middle aged ex-farmer from Texas can compete with them on their field, on their terms- and win.