11052013 #Hashtag – Just Another Evolution in Language

 Fallon and Timberlake’s Infamous Hashtag Skit
The link above is for the viral take on hashtag usage invading spoken language. 

It is the way of the world for new things to be despised. New words and ways of communicating are often the most hated. It’s always been that way and probably likely will continue to annoy people. Most of the changes are driven by younger people, regardless of how older people or entrenched concerns react to them.

As for the ” # ” or hashtag symbol, it is a very useful communication tool when used properly. The hipsters and octogenarians of our world would have us believe that any usage of the hashtag is dumb and that it doesn’t add any meaningful content to our language.

And they are quite wrong. Like any meme or idea tool, the hashtag is only as good as the people using it. It would be a better tool if people would stop parroting the same tired “it’s stupid” mantra before learning how it is supposed to work. If you are on the “I hate hashtag” bandwagon, you are going to be seriously tested – as the hashtag is a part of our culture now and likely will not disappear from usage, at least for a long time.

As someone getting older, these new means of writing and communicating can be confusing and hard to adjust to. I can either choose to attempt the transition or be left behind. As an amateur linguist, it is my obligation to stop trying to keep language static and uninteresting.

Hashtag Wikipedia Page

I don’t expect the haters to google the usage and etiquette of hastags – but they should. You can’t creatively criticize something if you don’t understand it. I know that we often do – but we look foolish when we do. 

Before being crucified, I’d like to mention that I don’t appreciate people who are misusing the hashtag symbol. It’s just another way to communicate poorly when over-used or used improperly.

Like everything about our inefficient language, though, the # is an evolution of content and context. Our language in every sense has been nothing short of a long revolution and evolution of usage.

08222012 Pranked And Fired at Work (From 2012)

One of my co-workers, Alex, had his last day of work. He had often told me that he was going to ‘get me’ one way or another. Little did I know that he was capable of pulling off the best work prank in a long time. He even managed to get the head of Human Resources involved.

My supervisor called me up to go with him to H.R. We sat down and the head of H.R. told me that I was being suspended and/or fired depending on his investigation and that I had been accused of fostering a hostile work environment.

If you’ve ever been fired or been in the room when it has happened to anyone else, you can imagine how horrible the experience was for everyone else (not just me.) Both my supervisor and the head of H.R. had perfectly inscrutable expressions and delivery the entire time. We talked for a few minutes. As I was leaving and just about the shut the door, the head of H.R. stood up and said, “Wait a minute, X, I’ll let you go ahead and read the file.” He had handed me a blue folder with my name on it. It had been laying in plain sight during the firing meeting.

When I opened it, what I was saw inside was a single sheet of paper, the paper pictured below. Even looking at the paper, it took a few seconds for the realization to sink in that not only was I not fired, but that Alex had finally punk’d me, all with the incredible performances of my supervisor and H.R. head. I had to sit down.

When I returned to the storeroom, everyone was at the front area, awaiting to see how it had went and to get a good laugh.

It was an exceptional experience and I’m glad they ‘got me,’ so to speak. Alex was as happy as the king of the world knowing that he had pulled off the prank. I think everyone was surprised that I had no inkling about it happening. I’d like to say I suspected, but I was totally ignorant of what was going on. Even when inside the H.R. office I still had no clue or even a suspicious thought in my head. They had me perfectly fooled.

I learned a lot from the prank. The first thoughts in my head were of my wife and how she’d be affected and also of my supervisor and how much I’d let him down. I also realized that it was true how much I liked my job. I’ve always said it and even preached it – but being ‘fired’ focused that idea into certainty. I’ll never look at Steve, the H.R. director the same way again, either. His performance was Oscar-worthy.

I guess it’s a good thing I didn’t start screaming and throwing things when I was told I was fired? : )

10102013 Senti-Minimalist

Today, I saw one of the words I thought I invented a few years ago used on a blog: Maxi-malist.
Here’s the Reference (Great blog, by the way…)

It was used in the way that I had thought of, too, involving the idea of too much stuff, in comparison to minimalism.

I also had thought of another word back in the day: Senti-minimalist. For the way I meant it, it describes a minimalist whose main focus is on concerning himself with items of sentimental value first and foremost. It’s obviously a mashup of both “sentimental” and “minimalist.” For example, if I were to be tasked with an impossible hoard, I would start with identifying and extracting items of strong sentimental value first, even ahead of alleged valuables.

Either a lot of people share many ideas in common, or sometimes I actually come up with good ideas. 

04092013 Quality, Qualicide, Perfectionism

        

Lately, I’m encountering ghosts from my “quality past.”

When I worked at a huge multinational meat processor, I taught dozens of 1 and 2-days quality classes. I also administered the pay-for-skill-and-knowledge component that involved testing and evaluation. The version taught at our location was based on the revived Crosby method in the 90s. I taught many more classes in Spanish than English, probably about 7-to-1.

Overall, even though the effort was doomed from the onset, it was one of the best things I was ever involved in.

(The premise of this type of quality hinges on accepting a new definition of quality. Instead of using it equally across different brands of the same car, for instance, you were required to look at things with a “conformance to requirements” filter. In other words, a Mercedes-Benz wasn’t necessarily higher quality than a Ford Escort, depending on one’s customer requirements…)

Before I digress like I am accustomed to doing, teaching these classes and doing the testing forced me to learn a significant amount of practical Spanish. My accent and inability to roll “rr'” dipthongs was horrific, but I plowed through, reminding myself that no one else had the right combination of English ability to navigate the program to the majority Hispanic workforce. Almost everyone in the program would be speaking Spanish, rather than the management language, English. I was “good enough” for the circumstances.

The class and testing absolutely forced me into a “good enough” non-perfectionist mindset. I knew even then that it was a little ironic to keep telling myself that “good enough” was more than enough in a class and learning system designed around quality initiatives.

Basically, when the quality program was launched, I wasn’t a key cog in the machine. It didn’t take long, however, to realize that I had been given the almost never-heard-of opportunity to write my own ticket and create the system to suit my own ideas. Granted, there were a lot of people involved. The reality, though, was that I had huge latitude in vetoing even required components. This was especially the case with the Spanish version of the testing and classes.

When I went to Minneapolis for quality training, I was the only hourly employee to be given the chance. My Spanish-speaking counterpart who accompanied me never once taught a class or led testing. I acquired a poor Spanish version of the proposed class book and took it back to Springdale with me. I spent weeks doing a very rudimentary redrafting of the entire book.

In the Spanish version of the class, I largely ignored the pie-in-the-sky elitist components of the entire program and used what I instinctively knew to be practical. After a few classes, I relentlessly threw out any aspect that didn’t work immediately or effectively. I listened closely to anyone who would take the time to explain their criticisms to me. If I detected boredom with some components, I discarded them or changed them to make them relevant to the people in the room. Many classes were in fact led by me but directed by the participants. I can’t express how fulfilling it was to see people step up and take the reins and lead their coworkers, especially when they were being creative. Several of these people surprised themselves by being confident and creative. The workplace we were in was known for fostering the exact opposite of this type of mentality. We were basically human beings doing mechanical work, for the most part. It is one of the reasons that programs such as Quality which rely on creativity were facing an uphill battle.

I encountered resistance from authority figures but ignored their commentary and edicts unless no alternative was given to me. Usually, though, I got creative and found ways around every attempt to make the classes boring and devoid of real significance. With the English version of the class, though, I couldn’t get by with doing the things that worked. I had to conform. Which led me to the realization that much of the observable output of the class, at least through management’s eyes, was totally incorrect, as the language barrier prevented them from properly “seeing” the class and how drastically different the class could be when compared by language.

Life is largely a series of repeated events, I’ve noticed. Things I’ve learned before come back around to be learned again. Being in social organizations can be frustrating because there are large meta issues which bear striking resemblance to what I’ve already went through.

12292013 Grandma and Her Snuff

Back in the day, it wasn’t an odd thing necessarily for women to dip snuff. “Snuff” is most often thought of as the type of tobacco that you might see pro baseball players or bull riders pinch out and put between their teeth and gums, letting the flavor seep and then spit. But the kind most of us might imagine is not the kind that my grandma enjoyed. Using snuff isn’t often portrayed in television or movies, even though it was extremely common in many areas, even among the affluent of society.

The snuff that my grandma Nellie loved was the other kind, the dried, powdery type. It very much resembled cinnamon, and was the result of dried and very finely ground tobacco. Instead of sniffing it or inhaling it through her nostrils, she would put a pinch in her mouth and let is seep. She would then spit into a cup and wipe the corner of her mouth. Keep in mind that by the time I was born in 1967, grandma would have been 58 years old and didn’t have most of her original teeth. I no longer remember whether she ever sniffed it through her nose. I don’t have any memory of it.

For an interesting history lesson, you should google snuff or read a little about it on wikipedia:
Snuff Wikipedia  It is a reminder of how strange and bizarre some of our customs really are.

I admit to loving the smell of snuff. Grandma’s most-purchased brand was W E Garrett.  The taste could be very bitter. I’m not certain how much nicotine was in it, but I’m sure it was very potent.

It was made packed in small metal canisters, or in a larger drinking glass size. The drinking glass size is worth mentioning because that is exactly what many people used them for – glasses. The top of the glass was an embossed metal lid, sealed onto the glass under the paper label. Using glasses like these was pure marketing genius.

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Above it a decent picture of what these glasses looked like.

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The small metal canisters were 2-3 inches tall and an inch or two wide. As you might imagine, these little cans were used to store coins, buttons, bugs, just about anything an adult or imaginative kid could imagine. I would often open one and just sit and smell the acrid tobacco after grandma emptied it.

Growing up, grandma always had a damp rag by her, mostly to wipe at her lips from dipping snuff.

If you look closely at the picture below, you can see that grandma has a little spittoon on her foot rest.
(She looks grouchy because she didn’t have her glasses on and she often didn’t enjoy getting her picture taken.)

12122012 An Easy Xmas Ornament Idea

People needlessly spend a fortune on getting a yearly Xmas ornament for their tree. There are some very beautiful ones out there – and many which aren’t terribly expensive, either.

But if you are looking for a yearly ornament that is both cheap, easy, and will look almost exactly the same, year in and year out, look no further.

As strange as it sounds, you should use a dollar. Seriously. Each member of the family should sign his or her name on it in colors, then label the bill with the year in larger letters. You can then hang, roll, or place the bills year to year on your tree.

My wife and I now have 5 on our decorations. We even have one that is labelled as a “proxy dollar,” as my stepson thought it would be cute to “liberate” one the first year. It’s now part of the story of our ornaments, rather than detracting from it.

Since we didn’t do a tree this year, you can look on the very far right of the picture I attached to see the dollars in the lighting of my alternate Xmas decorations.

It’s fun, cheap, and different. What’s not to like?

02082014 Child and Domestic Abuse Isn’t Caused by Alcohol

My dad is the gentleman on the left…

I gave up trying to edit this blog post. All errors or poorly worded areas are my fault. Thanks.

First, I was a victim of child abuse and alcoholism. And all that accompanies this type of story.

Second, most people would probably agree that my point is obvious; yet it’s not.

Breaking news: adults who abuse their children tend to also sometimes suffer from substance abuse. Their tendency to abuse is not due to their substance abuse but rather exacerbated by it. Drinking does not cause normal people to commence abusing their children anymore than drinking suddenly makes a person want to publicly rant about Jewish people or burn white flags on their neighbor’s lawns. The root of it was already present, seeking release.

Take away all the alcohol, drugs or substances and the abuse remains. I don’t doubt that drinking removes inhibitions for many adults and allows them to abuse; but alcohol in itself is not the culprit.

Anyone who is on the verge of committing child abuse cannot honestly say that the lack of alcohol is the only catalyst missing from their intention of a crime. If they were to say this, they already need treatment for psychological issues.

(Removal of all alcohol would not eliminate child abuse, if the argument is stretched to its longest possible scenario.)

In a world of my choosing, everyone would have access to free mental health care, regardless of income.

In a world of my choosing, anyone having committed documented child abuse would be required to undergo rigorous evaluation as to when and if they would ever be permitted to have their children again. Anyone already convicted has already demonstrated their lack of normalcy in this regard and the presumption would be against them. In a world of my choosing, if you abused your spouse, one of the many requirements would be lengthy and difficult counseling (among other things).

As a victim of abuse, I can rant expertly on the stupidity and cruelty of abuse. As a victim of a family of alcoholics, I can rant expertly on that, too.

The difference for me is that most people who drink do so responsibly, in my worldview. It would be very easy to exaggerate and shout for prohibition of alcohol. But it would be irresponsible on my part. Each of us is responsible for how and when we imbibe, and whether we do it too much.

In a world of my choosing, anyone could ask for and get free substance abuse treatment. Anyone.

It is a crime against personal liberty to abolish the availability of alcohol simply because those pitiful creatures who abuse other people suffer from its use.

This sort of thinking leads down many dark roads wherein adult citizens are treated as inferior creatures who would otherwise run amok absent a parental government watching them.

 

No Will? Cremation

I would like to establish a centralized system where people could indicate their preferences regarding death – and they chose not to do so, society would determine the course of action for everyone not making the choices. 

As for burial versus cremation, if you die without having expressed your wishes, everything would default to cremation.

If you don’t take the time to register your wishes, as well as setting aside the finances to pay for your specific choices, you should be cremated. Lack of doing so would constitute an agreement to be cremated. Dragging your feet about it or superstitious about planning your death? Sorry, we decide for you: cremation.

Unlike everyone else, I would figure out a way to let people smarter than me establish a database for everyone. Each person would be able to document their wishes regarding “do not resuscitate,” and living will-related decisions, whether they wish to be cremated, buried, and the general circumstances and details for either choice. Each person would indicate how their choices are to be paid for upon their death. Everyone would also be able to streamline much of the will process by making choices or delineating their choices on the database. This might anger lawyers and others whose livelihood is affected by simplification, but these are changes that should happen regardless of economic impact.

Any lack of clear indication about your wishes after death defaults to cremation. Lack of the ability to pay would allow for our tax dollars to put you to rest without financial debt or family stress. I think that it would be beneficial to our society if everyone could be guaranteed a decent cremation in the absence of an expensive and elaborate burial. I think that over time a lot of people would opt for cremation once they noticed that it didn’t cause the earth to spin off its axis or the universe to implode. The financial appeal would be obvious for anyone who has ever suffered when someone they loved died and had to face they economic difficulty of it.

We are all going to die. I think we should have systems in place to encourage and require people to at least express their general inclinations so as to avoid the confusion and stress of it all when we die.

06172014 To Become Again What We Never Were…

I made this picture for a friend of a friend on social media. He was evidently mocking an argument, using the Stephen Colbert’s persona from “The Colbert Report.”

The words on the picture are his and they resonated with me, as one of my common refrains is that people should desist from saying they wish things would go back to the way they were.

Whenever that supposedly was!

We are smarter now, live longer, and enjoy more social and economic liberties than ever before in our world. It is in our hands to make the world we want. Whatever we believe the world once was, we have the opportunity to reshape it to our liking. For everyone – not just with your group.

 

08032014 Baptistan (Update 08 2014)

                    ( Picture without caption, modified with my caption from Petr Kratochvil, http://www.publicdomainpictures.net )

I just wanted a post to identify the word “Baptistan.” I saw it used somewhere recently, or I dreamed I did.

It was being used derisively in regards to politicians and religious zealots who would seek to demand that their extremist views be the law of the land. (Evocative of the crazy fundamentalists found elsewhere in the world.)

-X