Mesmerizing murmurations

My daughter posted this video on her blog today. Honestly, I was totally mesmerized when I saw this video and now I can’t stop watching it.

I decided that I need to share it with you.

Do yourself a big favor. Take a few minutes, get comfortable, and watch the video. It’s hypnotic; it will transport you to a whole different mental state.

Oh yeah, you should link to her post, which is all about birds, bats, and bugs. She loves bats and is looking forward to eating bugs. My daughter!


Posted by on August 29, 2014 in Blogging


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Preposition precision

prepositions“How often do you get to (or have to) be awake for sunrise?” This is the question posed in today’s Daily Prompt.

I’m not sure how to answer that question because I’m not sure what the question really is. Is it asking how often I get up for sunrise? Or how often I get up at sunrise? What about by sunrise? Before sunrise?

You may think I’m being petty, but I’m not. These are important distinctions. If one gets up for sunrise, that means he or she is getting up for a specific purpose. In this case, that specific purpose is to experience the sunrise.

But if someone gets up at sunrise, by sunrise, or before sunrise, it just might mean that, like me, he or she is an early riser. Most mornings I am usually up at, by, or sometimes even before sunrise. On rare occasions, I can sleep to well after sunrise.

But getting up for sunrise is a different story. I can’t remember the last time I specifically got up for a sunrise. In fact, I don’t know that I’ve ever woken up specifically for a sunrise.

So precision in prepositions is very important.

“When was the last time you sat in a car?” is a different question from “when was the last time you sat on a car?”
Doing something for someone else is very different from doing something to someone else.
Being on the inside is not the same as being on the outside.
Looking up to someone is not the same as looking down at someone.

So due to the lack of precision and clarity in the question, I have decided not to participate in today’s Daily Prompt.


Posted by on August 29, 2014 in Blogging


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Closed captioning

“We often hear strange snippets of conversation as we walk through public spaces. When was the last time you overheard something so interesting, ridiculous, or disturbing you really wanted to know what it was all about?” So asks today’s Daily Prompt.

I’m actually kind of sensitive about responding to this prompt. Why? Well, because snippets of conversations are all I ever hear anymore. So the last time I overheard something and wanted to know what it was all about is just about every time I hear something.

hard of hearingYou see, as I’ve gotten older, my hearing has become progressively less acute. This loss of hearing acuity is particularly troublesome when ambient noise is loud, which is nearly everywhere in public.

Particularly in noisy restaurants, I often can’t make out what people — even those at my table — are saying unless they are sitting right next to or across from me.

I find myself looking at the lips of whoever is speaking in a mostly futile effort to figure out what the hell they’re talking about.

And when that doesn’t work, I simply nod my head in a gesture of understanding and comprehension, hoping that I wasn’t being asked a question and that my knowing nod is appropriate for whatever it was that someone said.

“Did you see the game the other night when the Red Sox blew a five run lead in the bottom of the ninth?” I just smile and nod my head, having no idea that I’d just been asked a direct question.

“I just read about that nine-year old girl who killed her instructor while learning to shoot an Uzi. That poor child will have to live with that for the rest of her life.”

“That’s great,” I respond, with a knowing look and smile. After all, I did hear something about a child having done something. And with the insight that most stories about children are heartwarming, I gave it my best shot.

Well, perhaps, given the subject of the comment I misheard, “giving it my best shot” is also not an appropriate thing to say. Sorry about that.

I have learned, from the often strange or quizzical looks I get from people after they say something to me, to stop trying to pretend that I heard what was being. Instead, I end up saying things like:

Excuse me?
I’m sorry, could you please repeat that?
Say again?

closed captionedI’m loathe to admit that I’ve even started to turn on the closed captioning for some of the TV shows I watch, especially those that are dialogue-heavy or where the actors may be speaking English with a foreign accent or speaking a foreign language altogether, such as British.

And I have to confess that watching a TV show with closed captioning does sometimes help.

If only closed captioning could be turned on in real life.


Posted by on August 28, 2014 in Blogging


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Seasons change — deal with it

Summer's endYes, another Daily Prompt. This one asks, “Now that you’re older, how has your attitude toward the end of the summer evolved?”

Seriously? Now that I’m older, my attitude toward everything has evolved. But that’s a discussion for a different day.

back to schoolWhen I was in school, like just about every other kid, I hated the end of summer. It meant the end of freedom.

No more opportunities to sleep late, to hang out with my pals, to spend all day riding my bike or playing ball at one of the local fields. The end of August was downright depressing.

But then I grew up and entered adulthood and the working world. I still tried to time my summer vacations for August because, where I lived back then, August was oppressive. Hot, humid, and damn near intolerable.

So I’d head for the shore, to the mountains, to lake country. Anywhere just to get out of the city, where the back of my neck was getting dirty and gritty. (Thank you Lovin’ Spoonful.)

And then I got married and had kids and that’s when I began to look forward to the end of summer. My kids would be heading back to school and life would, once again, fall into a kind and gentle routine.

But then, as kids are wont to do, they grew up and became adults. So August turned into a month just like any other month. A month that just happened to be closer to the change of seasons from summer to autumn and then from autumn to winter.

When I lived in New England, I looked forward to the end of August. Fall in New England is, without a doubt, the very best time of year. The almost unbearable heat and humidity of August dissipates. The air becomes cool, crisp, and invigorating. The trees begin their annual peacockishness, their leaves turning into an artist’s palette of beautiful fall colors.

Now I live in San Francisco, where the change of seasons is much more subtle than it is back east. San Francisco’s summers are characterized by cool marine air and persistent coastal fog. Anyone who visits San Francisco during the summer must remember to dress in layers and to bring jackets and sweaters.

Summer mornings here will typically find the entire city enshrouded in a layer of fog, followed by clearing on the warmer bay side, but only partial clearing on the cooler ocean side. I actually like the San Francisco fog.

Fall is a transition periods for this city. Autumn in San Francisco is typically a little warmer than it is in the summer. But you still gotta dress in layers. Hey, it’s San Francisco.

Most fall days are cloud-free and there is very little rain, at least until later in the fall when the so-called “rainy season” starts. We didn’t have a rainy season last winter, which is why California is suffering from a terrible drought. I am actually looking forward to a rainy season this winter that will, in fact, be rainy.

So to answer today’s Daily Prompt (yeah, I know, it took a while to get here), my attitude toward the end of summer has evolved into no attitude whatsoever.

It’s just another change of seasons, one that barely registers with me — other than the fact that the changing of the seasons is occurring way too fast these days.


Posted by on August 27, 2014 in Blogging


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Another day, another badge

As some of you may know, Linda G Hill, over at her cleverly named blog, lindaghill, held a badge design contest a few weeks back. She was looking for a badge for her popular Stream of Consciousness Saturday (SoCS) prompts.

I decided, pretty much on a lark, to submit an entry and, apparently due to some strange cosmic phenomenon, my entry was chosen as the winner.

I have to admit, I was pretty damn proud that my badge design was selected. The reason I’m telling you this is not to brag, but to offer you some necessary background for this post.

Yesterday, Opinionated Man (aka, OM, Jason Cushman, Cush, and probably a few other names that can’t be said on network television) wrote a post called Writing Shorts.

At first I thought OM was going to describe what it is that he wears when he is composing his posts. I usually wear jeans and a sweatshirt when I write, and I thought perhaps OM sits at his desk wearing shorts that he calls his “writing shorts.”

But that is not at all what his post was about. He was describing his style of writing, or what he calls “shorts.” Before he elaborated on his blogging style, though, he called out three bloggers that he considers to be “examples of purest bloggers.”

I happened to be one of the three. OM then proceeded to say some very nice things about me and two other bloggers, the aforementioned Linda G Hill, and Diana at Holistic Wayfarer. It’s always encouraging when someone says some very nice things about your blog, right? So thanks, OM.

Anyway, in the comments section of OM’s post, Diana said, “Hats off to my fellow bloggers awarded OM’s medal of honor,” to which OM responded, “Oh no, don’t start the rumor I hand out awards please!”

And then Linda said, “Medal? Even better than a trophy! I can wear it everywhere I go!” I responded, “Am I going to have to craft yet another badge? The OM badge of honor?” Linda replied with an emphatic “YES!!”

So I once again picked up the gauntlet and pulled together the new, unofficial, unauthorized, totally unsanctioned “The Opinionated Man Badge of Honor,” shown here for the very first, probably the last, and most likely the only time.

Drum roll, please. Ta da!

OM Badge of Honor



Posted by on August 27, 2014 in Blogging


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“Excellent demo”

No internetAs I was leaving, the vice president of procurement shook my hand and said, “Thank you for coming today. Good job. Excellent demo.”

Was he being polite or sarcastic? I couldn’t tell from the look on his face or from the tone of his voice. All I did know for sure was that it was far from an “excellent demo.” In fact, it was a disaster from the get-go.

We were at a finalist presentation, our last opportunity to shine before this prospective client made its decision on whether or not to engage our company for its benefits administration solution. My role at this meeting was to confirm that we had a solid understanding of the company’s needs and to conduct a live, interactive demonstration of our software.

I’ve done this hundreds of times in the past and since and have always conducted an “excellent demo.” Except that time.

The conference room in which the meeting was taking place was two stories below ground level. For some reason, I couldn’t get my laptop to connect to their corporate WiFi. Then I tried connecting to the internet by hooking an Ethernet cable directly into my laptop, but I couldn’t get through the company’s firewall.

So I implemented Plan C and whipped out my WiFi hotspot device, which, when all else fails, usually enables me to reach the internet.

Again, we were two stories underground and my hotspot wasn’t able to establish a speedy 4G connection. I did get a 3G connection — much slower — but with only two bars, which is a pretty weak signal.

Still, I managed to log in to the demo site and with my laptop hooked to a projector, the image from my laptop showed up on the projection screen. But it was painfully slow. It took seconds for the screen to fully build from the top to the bottom. And with each move from one page to another, the timing for the screen builds, which are typically close to instantaneous, seemed to take longer and longer.

At least three or four times during the demo, the screen froze completely and I had to disconnect from and reconnect to the internet. Once I even had to reboot my laptop. It was awful.

flop sweatsEveryone in the room was looking at me and I could feel the flop sweats developing on my brow. To make matters worse, the fairly large, by today’s standards, LCD projector was situated such that its fan was shooting a stream of hot air in my direction.

It was so bad that drops of perspiration were falling from my face onto my laptop’s keyboard.

I heard myself apologizing for the technical issues and offering to reschedule the demo to another time or place when the connectivity issues could be resolved.

“No, that’s okay,” said the VP of procurement. “I think we’ve seen enough.” That’s never a good sign. When it’s going well, the people who are in the room are fully engaged. If anything, they want to see more, not less.

So when he said, as I departed, “excellent demo,” was he being sarcastic? Was it a backhanded compliment? Or was he just bustin’ my chops? Who knows?

What is interesting, though, is that we were ultimately awarded the business. Maybe they felt sorry for me and my flop sweats.

This post is in response to Today’s Daily Prompt, which asks, “What’s the best (or rather, worst) backhanded compliment you’ve ever received?”


Posted by on August 26, 2014 in Blogging


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I am not a solipsist

I am not a solipsist.

I am not a what? What the hell is a solipsist?

According to the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, solipsism is defined as:

The doctrine that, in principle, “existence” means for me my existence and that of my mental states. Existence is everything that I experience — physical objects, other people, events, and processes — anything that would commonly be regarded as a constituent of the space and time in which I coexist with others and is necessarily construed by me as part of the content of my consciousness.

For the solipsist, it is not merely the case that he believes that his thoughts, experiences, and emotions are, as a matter of contingent fact, the only thoughts, experiences, and emotions. Rather, the solipsist can attach no meaning to the supposition that there could be thoughts, experiences, and emotions other than his own.

Another interesting way of looking at solipsism is the way the Urban Dictionary, of all places, defines it:

Solipsism is the belief that the person holding the belief is the only real thing in the universe. All other persons and things are merely ornaments or impediments to his happiness.

René Descartes proved his existence by saying “cogito, ergo, sum,” or “I think, therefore I am.” The solipsist prefers “cogito, ergo, omnia sum,” or “I think, therefore, I am everything!”

Based upon these definitions and descriptions of solipsism, I again say that I am not a solipsist. But I may be close.

I don’t deny the existence of anything else in the universe outside of myself, or claim it to be non-existent or not real except in my own mind. I know that each and every one of you who may be reading this post exists. You are real. You have your own minds and have your own experiences and they are very real.

I know that this chair that I’m sitting in, which is in front of the desk that holds this keyboard I’m typing on, this monitor onto which my words are appearing, and the WordPress application on which this post is being published are all very real. You and these items are not just figments of my imagination, not mere constructs of my mind.

That said, if I didn’t exist, neither do you. If I don’t exist, nothing would exist.

Wait. What?

Okay, let me put it another way. If I didn’t exist, nothing would exist — for me. So everything that exists is dependent upon my existence. For me.

When I die, when I cease to exist, from my perspective, you will all cease to exist. This chair, my desk, my keyboard, my monitor, and WordPress will no longer exist — for me. My wife, my kids, my home, my city, my job, my work associates will no longer exist — for me — because I will no longer exist.

Yes, you and everything else and everyone else will continue to exist to and for each other. The sun will continue to rise and set every day. The tides will continue to ebb and flow. People will continue to go about their business.

There will continue to be strife and violence in the Middle East. Congress will continue to be totally dysfunctional, Vladimir Putin will continue to be a total douchebag, and people will continue to argue about whether or not God exists.

But not for me. Because I will not exist. So for me, nothing will exist.

Therefore, everything that exists is dependent upon my existence. For me. From my perspective.

Does that make me a solipsist?

Or just a narcissist?


Posted by on August 26, 2014 in Miscellaneous Musings


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