My year of living carless

Imagine if you will…

It’s winter in Colorado. The wind’s howling and the snow’s blowing. You’re in a car with me, just a few cars behind a convoy of snow plows. They were three abreast, followed by brine-spreaders.  When we came to a traffic light, everyone stopped. When the light turned green, a brine spreader turned on his sprayer too early and thoroughly doused two of the cars behind him with the salty solution. Fortunately, not us. Did I mention that car washes are closed because of the sub-freezing temps?

It’s not my worry anymore.

It’s been a year – almost to the day – since I turned in my vehicle registration. Read More

Remembering Dublin City in the Old Times

In a galaxy long ago but not so far away, before the euro replaced the punt, the EU begat the Celtic Tiger and the Tiger morphed into a financial litter box, I was dead broke in Dublin. I didn’t know anyone in town, was sleeping on a sagging dormitory couch, had an airline ticket a week away from being useful, and was otherwise having a good time. That is, if you consider that many of the things I wanted to do and see in town were free – except eating and drinking. Read More

Is technology’s edge dulling us?

Technology’s a two-edged sword. Remember back when you’d see someone fall or suffer a painful accident? You’d feel for them, maybe even help them. That was real life. Now life’s virtual – online and divorced from the here and now, except for a like, laugh or sad click. On the other hand, a powerful photo, song or well-made film can evoke deep feelings that provoke us to what’s become significant action in today’s world: a share or comment. Read More

Technology and its Discontents

There’s a new book out called Funny Business, where Karl Toomey recounts his experiences telling jokes to the people and bots of corporate “help” sites.

The concept’s been around for a while, where people recount their experiences with impersonal institutions. The only real difference is that we’ve moved from legally-vetted say-nothing form letters to legally-vetted, say-less scripted bots and overworked underpaid live chat reps juggling their scripts among four complaining customers at once. Today’s society, more than any other, values immediacy over thoughtfulness, rapid reaction rather than reflected response. Toomey throws a spanner into its works. While every now and then a rep responded appreciatively as a real person, he also blew some bot minds and actually had his IP number reported to someone/something at “the next level”. Read More

Brain-drained & exhausted by everything? Here’s what I’m doing –

Our times – and lives – have changed. Irrevocably.

I used to look forward to my morning coffee, scanning FB to catch up with my friends from around the world. For the most part, we’re a self-selecting group, with compatible, yet not always identical, views on the world’s issues. We generally laugh, cry and shout on the same cues. If I haven’t liked or responded to a particular item you’ve posted it’s most likely because I’ve already seen it or it’s been buried by FB’s algorithm du jour. And I’m pretty sure that those of other persuasions have similar habits. As the caffeine hits my system I’m ready to move out into the world with news media and Twitter. I recognize and account for the strengths and weaknesses of the news media. Twitter exposes me to other views from other places. I think I’ve become pretty good at separating the loBOTomized shares from posts created by real people. Read More

Pub Crawling & Other Pastimes

Got an invitation a while back for a 12 Pubs of Christmas Crawl. While I appreciated the thought, my mind instantly started calculating the locations of a dozen locally-owned coffee shops that I’d prefer, along with the conversation that goes along with drink number whatever. While I think I’ve aged out of the 12 Pubs Crawl, it doesn’t mean that I don’t stop in for an occasional pint or more.

I was sitting at the bar in a nearby pub one night and a couple of young Americans came in. While waiting for their pints they asked the barman if it was true if Donovan lived nearby. [He does, if you consider a house he owns further north in the county nearby.] Anyway, the barman nodded and went back to the pints. Then they asked if he ever came into that particular pub. The barman gave me a quick eyeball and I nodded back. Read More

Honor the past, but leave it there. It’s time to live in the present.

atitlan-fishermen-2048Have you heard the story about the stockbroker and his slow speedboat? It seems he’d spent several people’s fortunes on a boat that would make drug runners drool. But no matter what he did or how he handled it, his high performance boat sluggishly waddled in the wakes of the local bass boats.

The crew at the marina checked out the engine and everything else and couldn’t find a thing wrong. Then one of them put on a mask and snorkel for an underwater inspection – to find that the boat was still attached to its trailer. Read More

Has modern times’ clutter killed our attention span?

20130729clutter512When we’ve trained ourselves to simply scan the ever-present screens surrounding us, is it possible to see and absorb anything of value? Does our electronic society have terminal ADHD?

  • Think you ignore pop-ups?
  • Click through an incipient videos before they start?
  • Instinctively delete overly-personal or no-subject email headers?
  • Scan for keywords rather than read headlines? Don’t even think about the stories they lead to.
  • Have you ever read – much less responded to – a Twitter message?

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He had 2-1/2 hours to save my soul

At first, he seemed like a normal passenger, politely asking if he could sit across from me on the train. After a minute or two of the usual seatmate small talk, I went back to sightseeing from my window. He leaned forward with a question, calling me by name, which he used every third or fourth sentence. After too many years of working with insurance salesmen and car dealers, I recognized his training. It didn’t take long to hear what he was selling.

First came the poorly-copied page of push-poll questions about human justice and dignity. Read More

How do you fight fires set by firemen?

Red Flame-1I was at a symphony performance a few nights ago and about halfway into one of the pieces I noticed string section members looking to each other with questioning glances. Then I saw the conductor look to their section, point at himself and accept the blame. All smiled and the concert continued. Few, if any of us, in the audience caught whatever the error was. I certainly didn’t hear anything untoward. Read More