There are those times when the idea for a compelling blog escapes me. So, I scour my mind and fish through the past month of my life, trying desperately to find something to type into a stimulating blog. Finally, I hit the news outlets thinking, what can I riff on?
I played such a game with this month’s blog. I asked myself, “Why? I never run dry of oddball angles to look at things.” The truth is I did come up with several ideas; they just didn’t pan out to be worthy enough for a blog.
While running myself over with the proverbial bus the evening before last, I came upon an old article about The Seinfeld Show that described it with a very fitting blurb. “Much About Nothing.” The piece raved about how the show was a success about nothing and how it caught the voyeuristic eye of the world. The Seinfeld Show ran for about nine years, from 1989 to 1998. That’s nearly twenty-three years ago. Fast-forward to today and take a look at what fills the small screen. We have elevated the “much about nothing” element to a new level called “reality TV.” We devour every moment of peeking into the lives of ordinary people. The networks see this thirst and amp up the drama. Perhaps this makes us feel better about our own lives or at least steals us away one hour at a time.
Let’s go one step further; the internet has ridden this wave with immense success. Twitter, Instagram, and the Generation Z to Alpha population’s favorite pastime, TikTok, exploit the “much about nothing” concept. These social media platforms capitalize on the human urge to watch from a distance and still feel connected. Following strangers or digital friends as they go to the grocery store, put on make-up, or allow us to view whatever it is they do, seems creepy if we examine it in this context, but it sells.
That takes us to the final part of Much About Nothing. This misnomer is the cloak that hides the reality that much about nothing is hiding the millions made from human nature. Those who are successful in front of the lens of television and social media get paid well. Both avenues have their own way of measuring success before the dollar is doled out, but the ultimate goal is currency.
Is this a new concept created by Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld?
To answer that question, we can look back to Mr. Shakespeare. William Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing is a play that lets us view how deception plays out in everyday life, how relationships are comical and messy. Sounds just like reality TV or social media. Perhaps Shakespeare was well ahead of his time. He may be watching now and saying, “I knew it!”
It seems that our voyeuristic tendencies may have begun somewhere in our distant past and continues to evolve. Whatever the reasons, each of us chooses what we watch and why we watch it. I include myself in the collective. Without judgment, just observation; “Much about nothing,” in reality, is “Much about something.”
I hope you enjoyed this view of nothing. Please send me your thoughts and comments.
There is a growing trend in the consumer market that bigger is better. The spread of larger and still larger has leaked its way into almost every corner of our world. I recently noticed a virtually unchanged commodity getting caught up with this need for the gargantuan.
This realization began in the powder room on the first floor of our almost100 year-old home. The toilet paper dispenser is a tile inlay installed when standard, was not Mega, Super Mega, or Ultra-Super Mega. It is increasingly difficult to find quality toilet paper rolls in this smaller size. I became aware of the increase in toilet paper roll size just before the pandemic. During the pandemic, the shortage of toilet paper sent manufacturers into a tailspin and the onslaught of oversizing began.
Perhaps toilet paper manufacturers are trying to accommodate us by keeping up with the fast-food industry. The larger the portions of fries, the higher ounces of soft drinks, the more we have to… you get the idea. This appears to be a logical conclusion and we might want to thank them for their thoughtfulness.
A closer look reveals that the manufactures of toilet paper may not be so altruistic. The cost of cardboard increased by approximately 22% in 2021. This is mainly due to the increased cost of wood pulp which is used to make cardboard. So, let’s do the math. Double, triple the size of the number of sheets of toilet paper on a single roll and use half, to a third, of the cardboard. The sheets were going to be produced to meet the need, so why not make the rolls bigger and cut down on the need for the cardboard roll? Rebrand the label to make the consumer think they are getting more, up the price because, after all, the rolls are giant, and save a fortune on the cardboard.
Now let’s look at it from the consumer’s point of view. We are conditioned to believe that bigger is better. But there is another factor that rolls around in the back of our minds. Convenience is the key here. Larger rolls mean less frequent trips to purchase toilet paper. The rolls are enormous, so walks to the linen closet, reaches behind to the tank, and bends into the bathroom cabinet are fewer. But here is the biggie that manufacturers are counting on. The visual effect and the thought of more sheets on a roll unconsciously allow us to pull more sheets during each use. We use more, we buy more, and their profit margin grows. During the height of the pandemic, toilet paper sales spiked 845%, Soaring to eleven billion dollars for 2020. That’s a lot of pennies saved on those cardboard rolls.
Here is another thought to sit down and think about, pun intended. The increased use of TP causes increases in carbon emissions and the need for more trees to be sacrificed. Both points boost global warming and are harmful to our planet. I have included a link to a Newsweek article below, but be forewarned; there is a great deal of butt talk in it.
Will we see the return of the smaller roll? Only time will tell. I believe the Mega, Super-Mega, and Ultra-Super-Mega rolls are here to stay, so if you’re remodeling your bathroom, you may want to consider installing a large paper towel dispenser instead of a toilet paper one. Size does matter.
How many of you can remember the name of the man shown in the photo, the brand he advertised, and the slogan he used?
Please let me know your thoughts and answers.
It May be a Hazardous Idea to Travel
Earlier this month a discussion took place with a few friends that sparked this May mind mayhem blog. We threw around the concept of traveling backward or forward in time to meet our past and future selves. There was the usual casting out of ideas of what to say or advice to give to the other versions of ourselves. It became very chaotic until one the friends, unfortunately not me, suggested that we take each time travel concept separately.
Man ... can go up against gravitation in a balloon, and why should he not hope that ultimately he may be able to stop or accelerate his drift along the Time-Dimension, or even turn about and travel the other way. -H.G Wells
We started with going back in time. If we could, how would we advise our younger versions. The obvious money and wealth solution poured into the room, winning lottery numbers, winning sporting events, and the alike. This was followed by career choices and the making of different decisions to get on better paths. The final big push was relationships and family advice. On a lesser scale were health habits and where to live.
I should add in, that at some point just after the reorganization of how to think about all of this I made the decision to listen more than speak. There were more interesting thoughts running through my mind that we will get to shortly.
“If we could travel into the past, it's mind-boggling what would be possible. For one thing, history would become an experimental science… -Carl Sagan
We then moved to the thought of contacting our future selves. The room became a bit quieter. I began to speak.
“When it comes to the future versions of ourselves, we would not be giving advice on how to move ahead. They already know the past, and the present and what is our future until the point at which we made contact. So, we would become observers. Perhaps, the reverse would take place. Our future selves would advise us on making financial choices, career choices, retirement choices, relationships and so on.
The already quieted room became deafly silent as the notion of being schooled by our future selves sank in. I continued. “We chose to go back in time first and try to change what our younger versions will do, so our present selves will reap the benefits. That would alter our present-day selves. We might not even be friends or we could be enemies. The trajectory of each of our lives would be different from the point we told our younger versions to alter course. If we still chose to visit the future, after all the changes, we would see a totally different future version of ourselves. This in turn, might want to make us go back to the past again and try to tweak things.”
There was immediate chaos again as six friends began to talk over one another to get conquering and conflicting points of view across. After several minutes of mind bending, one friend looked in my direction. “You opened this can of worms so what would you do?”
The laying out of my ideas didn’t come with a formulated solution, so I sat for a moment, then smiled and began my answer. “Just so we all understand, the ability to time travel is not yet possible, but let’s go with the notion it is.” I admit, I was stalling to build the drama a tad. “Going to the past, I could correct some of the major mistakes in my past, but that might lead to worse mistakes. As for going to the future, there would be no changes I could make to the future version of myself. We all realized the reality that our future versions already know all we know. What we didn’t say was that by going to the future and observing it, we return to the present with knowledge that causes us to alter our present time choices. This leads to a different future than the one we visited. So, we would spend all of the time going back and forth trying to insure the best outcomes. This makes the assumption that we, as our present selves see ourselves as the most superior of the three versions. What if the past and future versions are thinking the same way and doing the same thing. Imagine a limitless number of versions of each of us hopping through time trying to make change after change. That would be chaos at an unconceivable level. I guess I’m saying that I wouldn’t time travel. It would be futile. In the end I have to play the cards I’m dealt, whether I was trying to be the dealer or not.”
The general consensus agreed that it would become a never-ending loop. On the matter of weather to time travel or not, that was split down the middle.
I hope you enjoyed this little adventure into the what if of time travel. Let me know what position you would take by clicking the button below and adding your response.
April has inspired me to step out of my comfort zone and post a poem that came to me in the middle of the night. I usually don't write poetry, nor would I dare to post it if I did. But, since NOW came to me that way it did, I felt the need to share it.
In this tower I sit, watching the world fall apart, bit by bit.
One against the other, the fight goes on, brother against brother.
On the TV, on the internet, can’t turn away from the growing threat.
Try to sleep at night, wake up exhausted from an imaginary fight.
No one will ever win, when did love become so thin?
Have we reached the end? We will break if we don’t bend.
Turn away from the hate, this is a must, before it’s too late.
If there’s still a chance, we have to choose to take a stance.
Deep inside there lives a light, one that says, stop the fight.
Love cannot be stripped away, we need it to find peace some day.
Leap across the angry sea, recreate a world of tranquility.
Take this stand together, choose love, make the world better.
Please let me know your thoughts.
The advent of technology has brought about a new way we read books.
WWW is flipping more than the pages of the book world.
The online industry capitalized on this tech with the creation of the e-reader. Another change brought about by this electronic innovation is the ease of self-publishing. There are new positives and new pitfalls that every author must navigate in this digital world. What follows is merely the tip of an enormous iceberg.
Here are some critical points in the history of book publishing:
Modern technology takes over from here.
In actuality, the first e-books were produced in the 1970s, but they didn't gain popularity. In the year 2000, Steven King's novella, "Riding the Bullet" was turned into an e-book and sold over 400 000 in the first twenty-four hours. This caused two things. First, it crashed the servers, solidifying the new e-book industry. Second, there is now a cheaper and unique way to sell books without a large warehouse.
As time has moved forward, so has technology. The e-reader has replaced the physical book, both paperback and hardcover. There are those of us, myself included, who still like the feel and the smell of a new book in our hands. It saddens me to say that we are the dinosaurs. The e-reader manufacturers often improve the tech on these devices, whereas the physical book industry may have peaked. I am not talking about the book's content, rather how the book itself could advance in its ability to accommodate. E-readers can magnify, bookmark, and dim or brighten, all to the reader's personal preferences. No physical book can do this without tremendous reproduction expenses. This has made the end-user experience nearly infallible.
Switching gears, let's talk about the author's perspective. A positive to the e-book industry is the advent of self-publishing, on-demand changes to the e-book, and the ease of making different electronic versions to fit the different types of e-readers. The two most common versions are Epub and Mobi. I make this point for reference only as free programs will convert from pdf to one or the other.
Self-publishing has many options, both good and bad. Beware author; the scammers are plenty in number. They run the gambit from editor to publisher. I should also note there are as many honest book industry professionals out there. Use the internet and fellow authors to do your research.
Publishing has taken on a new dimension in the e-book world. A new player has entered the game. Here are some of the names it goes by vanity publishers, hybrid publishers, indie publishers, or small press publishers. Just like with self-publishing, be wary of who you make a bedfellow.
Traditional publishing is still alive, and the need for a good agent is paramount. The internet has made the search for the stellar agent easier. Today, with a few clicks, we can read what an agent is looking for and how to submit to them.
It used to be that the traditional publishers handled all the expertise on the bookselling end, no so today. The savvy author must know the industry and be an active participant. From writing the book to publishing, advertising, and tracking sales, the author must be ever vigilant.
My advice is: Don't Go It Alone.
Links supporting this blog:
How many friends do you have? As a novelist and blogger, this question is put to me over and over. I'm always puzzled by what the question means. I have many friends that I have never physically met, and then I have a handful that are the old-fashioned, face-to-face kind.
During the early days of humanity and perhaps for a long time after, friends were limited to the distance they were willing to walk to visit each other. The dangers of walking from one village to another made friendship-building difficult. Many people were limited to those who lived in the same village. Making friendships outside the village's protection was deliberate and made out of necessity for trade, alliances, and peace. Thus, the Friend-Necessity model was born.
The advent of transportation, from the chariot to the airplane, gave way to long-distance travel. The Friend-Necessity type of alliance could now be made across large land masses and oceans. For centuries the model has been used to prevent wars.
1876 saw the creation of an invention that gave the Friend-Necessity model its next great leap. The telephone permitted people to escape the limitation of physically being present or having to send a possibly misinterpreted letter. The telephone allowed the Friends-Necessity model to expand without the use of an emissary or travel.
In 2004, Mark Zuckerberg changed the definition of friends forever. Facebook took friendship and made it limitless. The physical boundaries were obliterated and anyone could be a friend to anyone else, anywhere. But more importantly, and for the first time in history, the Friend-Necessity model had direct competition on a world-wide scale. Zuckerberg brought about a new concept: The Friend– Commonality model. Whether conscious or not, he even used the term "Like." The idea was ingenious because it played on the insecurities of people. Everyone wants to be "Liked," and everyone wants to have friends. Other social media platforms have followed Zuckerberg's ingenuity. Twitter and Instagram used the term "Followers." Linkedin seems to have stayed with the older, more established, Friends-Necessity model, using the word "Connections" and a focus on necessary alliances.
Now don't get me wrong, I don't think this is a bad thing. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and even Linkedin have created a world that has been able to tie people together in a multitude of ways that the Friend-Necessity model alone could never accomplish. Are there aspects of the Friend-Necessity model in the social media mindset, of course? Social media has surpassed the basic premise of let's be friends because it's good for both of us. There was an underlying principle in Zuckerberg's idea. It has an inherent trust built-in. Making a friend that is just a friend implies a level of trust exists.
Recent light shed on international cyber hacking has created complications for the Friend-Commonality model regarding trust. Widespread distrust and misuse of social medial is a sign that the Friend-Necessity model is still very powerful. It has also brought to light that both models fall prey to abuse and deceit.
It's up to us to understand that both models are essential and serve a function. The Friend-Necessity model is eons old, and the Friends-Commonality model is a much-needed alternative. We all use components of each in creating our friendships. Now we just know it.
Please let me know your thoughts.
I thought I would start 2021 with a bit of satire for your enjoyment.
Some of you may have seen this piece posted on social media about a week ago and think that I’m “phoning it in” for this month’s blog. I assure you I’m not.
The responses to this piece of writing were all across the board, from thumbs up to birds being flipped at me. And that’s just the emojis. Some people did take the time to write raving reviews, while other chastised me.
I do feel that there was some merit to the piece as it generated such a response. It was meant to be a poke at the state of the union and not a malicious attack on anyone.
The purpose of satire is to bring awareness to grave or inconceivable circumstances through the use of a ridiculous and perhaps obscure situation. In this case, my implications were not so subtle. None-the-less, the point must have been made.
The Whistleblower Washer
I’m speaking out today because I’m tired of being the bad guy . For safety reasons my face has been hidden. We washers are not to blame for your missing socks. Conspiracy theorist have tried to dampen your view on us. Telling you we stole socks and now they can’t have the socks they want. This is just not true.
We Washers have tried countless time to unify with the dryers for a common good, but they are hell bent on causing havoc. In the recent years, through a single leader, many brands of dryers have begun to unite and plan a siege on human clothing. You’ve heard their motto: “Make clothes Great Again.”
These power crazed groups are planning, with leading Russian, Chinese and North Korean dyers, to control the world’s ability to have dry clothing. They will make you submit to wearing wet clothing then blame us, the washers.
Humans, stand up and do the right thing! Put the hate-mongering dryers in their place and let’s work together to keep clothing dry and clean for all.
Please let me know your thoughts.
We live in a world where letters now take seconds to deliver electronically. They can come in the form of emails, texts, IM, or any other format we can imagine and right a code for. Did you catch that? It was the wrong use of the word right. Lately, I’ve been noticing an outstanding growth in the number of these mistakes. It might the incorrect homonym, an incorrect spelling, the wrong tense, the misuse of homophones, or just leaving a word out.
Now there are many excuses for this problem, but the best one is shifting blame to an electronic creature that goes by the name “AutoCorrect.” While I admit that I have fallen pray to this word hunter many times, I also have to confess that if I took an extra minute to reed what I just wrote, I might find the mistakes. So, the blame is still on me.
Why do we make these mistakes in the first place?
How many of us gave the answer because we’re moving too fast and not watching what we’re doing? Or, we’re to lazy to take the time to go back and thoroughly reread what we just rote. That may be true for a lot of people, but it’s not the hole truth.
According to an article by Lindsay Kolowich Cox, its not our fault. She states that most linguistic researchers agree that words are stored in our brain in groups according to the relationship between words. They call the process "word priming." The process of word priming works by association of the words and how they are stored in the brain. Researchers suspect that linked words are actually physically closer to one another among the neurons in the brain, and that related words might be stored together in specific cerebral regions. The words dog and pet are stored nearer to one another unlike coffee and speaker. This makes our recall faster and we have less chance of error.
Lindsay Kolowich Cox sights the example of the words going and to and the phrase I’m going to. Our brain is more accustom to seaing or hearing going and to combined than going and too, and therefore we type the wrong homophone.
I tested this theory in a chapter of my new book. It appears I’m not immune. I found several instances where I made mistakes because my brain was associating commonly paired words. For more details on the study, please follow the link above.
Melissa Lewis Grimm explains that when we read, our mind plays tricks on us. Especially if we are the originator of the righting.
When you are reading your own work or reviewing something you have already looked at several times before, your eyes might read over the sentences, but all you’re really aware of is the points you’re trying to get across instead of the words you’re using to express the meaning.
It’s a process called “Generalization” — your mind’s shortcut for retaining information. While reading, sometimes your brain is on autopilot, and that’s why you miss errors that should otherwise jump out at you.
Melissa talks about the need to hire a proofreader. I don’t think we need to hire a proofreader for text messages or social media with our friends, but if we're writing professionally, it might be worth thinking about.
What’s the more obvious reason we continuously don’t catch our typos?
We have become a world of thumb-writers with a secret goal of seeing how fast we can bang out the words on a tiny screen. This time-oriented craze has brought about an entire new language of abbreviations and symbols to short-cut the use of full sentences. How R U, B4, BTW, and :), have replaced the written word and effectively lowered our ability to spell or choose the correct form of a word.
Now add in that we don’t want to check our work and we have a recipe for mistakes. Two many times we send off an email without checking it for mistakes. Why because their is something else we want to get to and because we very rarely get called on it.
If you’re feeling criticized, that’s not my intention. I’m merely bring to lite that there is both scientific proof and human nature at play here.
How many of you have noticed mistakes throughout this blog? They were intentional.
You don't have to go down to the local hatter to find out which hat to place on your head. Most of us feel like we are forced to wear them all. From parent to spouse, from child to adult, from dishwasher to CEO, so many hats to try on, force on, keep on, and trade off. It's no surprise we feel burdened by the weight of each hat on our head.
Why do we wear so many hats?
Why must we constantly change them throughout each day?
Let's take a short trip back through history to get a perspective on how hat-wearing practices have changed. First, I must comment that this is not meant to be a journey that defends previous cultural norms, merely one that takes a look at past eras' perspectives. Yes, I am leaving out those who did not fit the mold, for they were the ones who created positive change.
In the early 1900s, hats worn clearly defined "male" and "female" roles, at work, at home, and in politics. It wasn't until a few years after women fought to have the right to vote that who wore what hat began to blur.
In the 1960s, protesting for more equality meant the virtual demand for hats skyrocketed as both men and women began to wear a wider variety of hats. The 1960's also saw another hat wearing boom as gay and lesbian communities stood tall to be acknowledged and later to have the right to wear whatever hats they wanted.
The first twenty years of the 2000s has led to more hat juggle, sometimes placing more than one at a time on our heads. Politics, gender fluidity, and race equality have also thrown their hats into the ring. Some might think this has led to hats being pulled on and off of each other, both willingly and unwillingly. I let you decide that for yourself.
And now the pandemic has furthered the need for multi-tasking hats. So far we have only discussed "Task Hats." Now let's talk about one crucial hat that may have gotten lost in this modern world. A hat whose sales have plummeted, especially in 2020, as ever-growing stress levels climb to new heights. As parents, we are now taking over educating our children, keeping them safe from an invisible predator, and making them understanding why they cannot see their friends. As an adult, we must deal with isolation, stress, frustration, and anger, both our own and from those with whom we now cohabitate full time. As a co-worker, we have been relegated to setting up a home office with ever-waning WIFI signals, and turning our kitchen or dining room tables into work desks that we pray no one in the house will disturb when we step away.
The hat I speak of is the "Reset Hat." This hat is meant to be worn separately from any other hat, and its duty is to elicit play and distraction from the everyday. The Reset Hat is to give both our body and mind a fresh start. For those of us who think we don't have time to wear the Reset Hat; that's a lie. All the day to day happenings will still be there when we take off the Reset Hat. We'll just have a different perspective on how to take it all on. We were not meant to only live for tasks that need doing. We were meant to remove the Task Hats and put on the Reset Hat from time to time and explore fun and distraction.
In case anyone is wondering, I wrote this piece because I wore my Reset Hat for an entire day. Yes, I had to force myself at first. I hope you see the benefits of it. Please let me know.
Can you guess what word has gained the most practical use in 2020? It’s not COVID or pandemic, although they get high marks for making the headlines more than any other word. The answer is Virtual.
In an attempt to acclimate to our new environmental restrictions, we have created a nearly all virtual world. In 2020, civilization has made popular everything from virtual appointments to virtual zoos. If we can think of it, we can put it on a computer screen. I’m not saying this is good or bad; it’s just the reality of our new virtual society.
From A to Z, it can all be done virtually. Ordering groceries, medication, buying an automobile, or whatever we can dream of, it’s virtually at our fingertips and in real time. While each year the use of online commerce has grown, there has never been such exponential growth as we have seen in 2020. The reality of a virus in the world has now pushed us into the virtual realm to seek commerce and friendship. A virtual connection is better than solitude.
We live, whether by necessity, or desire, or sheer boredom, in a virtual world. According to Hootsuite, YouTube has approximately two billion users a month and marketers know this. 5.5 billion (in the US) will be spent on YouTube advertising in 2020. Facebook, even with all of its regulatory troubles, has 1.7 billion daily users (Oberlo).
How about virtual conferencing companies? Zoom was founded in 2011 and launched in 2013. How many of us even knew about Zoom before the pandemic, and now we ask, “Do you “Zoom?” When a noun or company name becomes a verb, they have made it to the big time.
Will we ever get back to our old reality? Perhaps, there is no going back. Maybe there is only a new reality, some type of hybrid of both the old reality and this new virtual world. As we have borne witness to, once something becomes widely accepted, like toll booths and income tax, it’s here to stay.
If we are to create a world where we can enjoy the virtual and also have the option to be face to face or walk in public safely, now we need to do whatever is necessary to accomplish this. Wear a mask, social distance, and stay home. Virtually everything as we knew it in the past is counting on us.
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"Writing is the flow of life through words on a page. We all have this talent to share." Luca DiMatteo