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Date: Tuesday, 11 Sep 2007 20:17

Some hipster folks in the blogging/online community use the noun and verb squick in a manner that tells me they have no earthly idea what the word actually means.

Let's have a look at some real-life examples of squick in action:

And because I am officially squicked out, I made the kids help me rip apart the kitchen and disinfect and scrub the whole thing down. [ref]

There's a certain squick factor in comparing the Klan to the Progessives. [ref]

These usages define squick as an involuntary negative reaction to a particular person, place, or situation. The entry for slash fiction in Wikipedia contains a good definition for this employment of the term:

An element of fan fiction is squick, most often used as a warning to refer to a reader's possible negative reaction to scenes in the text (often sexual) that some might find offensive or distressing. This may include, but is not limited to: incest; bondage, discipline, sadism, and masochism (BDSM); rape; scatology; or torture. The term originated in the Usenet newsgroup alt.sex.bondage in 1991. Squicks are often listed as a warning in the header of a fan fiction story.

It seems pretty clear from my research that squick arose from the discussion threads of Usenet newsgroups. However, there appears to be some controversy as to which specific newsgroup pioneered the word. Here is a cogent entry from Urban Dictionary:

A term originated around 1994 in the alt.tasteless newsgroup as a response to the question "What is the sound of a good skull fucking?" The term was quickly picked up by the alt.fuck.the.skull.of.jesus group and used primarily within SubGenius circles as a verb meaning "To fuck someone in the skull." The term was co-opted by the BDSM community some time latter, and its original meaning is often overlooked or ignored.

Grant Barrett offers us further elucidation of the noun skullfucking:

skullfucking, n., a sexual act in which the penis penetrates an orifice of the head, especially as an act of dominance or force; in hyperbolic or fanciful use, penetration of an (empty) eye socket.

A grammatically challenged commenter on the Joannie Writes About... blog provides an even more graphic definition of squicked:

Squicked is a nasty word that 99% of the kink community using it do not know the origin of Joannie...

Squicked is means skull screwing...its actual origins come from a 'quick kill' practice biology teachers actually demonstrate in high school classes to this day..."pithing" where a long skewer or needle is channeled up the spinal canal of frogs until it hits the top of their skulls... once there the pither 'stirs' the skewer so it 'scrambles' the brain tissue...

Frogs humanely dispatched in this manner typically twitch violently as all their neurons are stimulated and fired off...

Apparently students get turned on by this, and there is actually a paraphilia that has evolved from it where a desire to sexually ... i.e. [phallically] penetrate skulls is the result...This is what 'squicked' means...

It's a filthy term supposedly intended to indicate disgust...what it really is, since 99% of the people who use it are oblivious to its meaning is an example of mindless twitophilia...meaning the people who use it are twits...twitty twit twit twit twits....

The Double-Tongued Dictionary appears to back up the assertion that squick originated in the alt.sex.bondage newsgroup:

1991 Usenet: alt.sex.bondage (Apr. 12) "Squick was Ten good non-consensual": There are some things too repulsive to discuss in a public forum?squicking is one of them. I?ve only been squicked once, and if someone wants me to be a squick-top, they?ll have to beg FAR more than for anything else I can think of (though it?s not clear that I _could_ bring myself _to_ squick, even consensually).

Okay. Let's discuss the word squick itself. The folks at Oxford University Press originally thought that squick was onomatopoeic in origin. Here is a more vulgar description of this point:

Squick: unimaginably repellent.

The term was coined to represent the sound effect one hears while fucking the eyeball socket of a still-warm corpse. If that isn't repellent, I don't know something that is.

Laurence Horn, in this American Dialect Society thread, proposed another origin:

Very enlightening. But I think the OUP folks are missing the boat if they're claiming that squick  is (i) onomatopoeic in origin and (ii) derived from the practice of skull-fucking. If we are to retain hypothesis (ii), which seems plausible, I think a much more elegant etym(yth)ology is from an orthographic truncation and revocalization:

sku[ll-f]uck > sku'uck > skuick

Remember, you read it here first...

And then we have the notion that squick is actually a portmanteau of two other words:

squick = squirm + ick

So to come full-circle, the current and predominant usage of squick appears to derive most directly from the BDSM etymology via the alt.tasteless newsgroup:

Squick is also used as a synonym for 'being pushed beyond ones limits' in alt.sex.bondage. Therefore you'll sometimes experience people using the word (i.e.: "That article really squicked me" or, "He squicked my arsehole").

How many of you, now that are armed with this historical background, will continue to employ squick in your 'witty' weblog comments or in your daily speech?

Author: "Tim W." Tags: "Slang, Etymology"
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CamelCase   New window
Date: Sunday, 09 Sep 2007 18:48

Of late much of my teaching has been in the areas of relational database systems and Microsoft .NET programming. Application developers tend to use some interesting formatting conventions; today I would like to introduce you to CamelCase.

First, let's consider the idea of case in general. We draw the distinction between grammatical case, which is defined in the OED as

In inflected languages, one of the varied forms of a substantive, adjective, or pronoun, which express the varied relations in which it may stand to some other word in the sentence, e.g. as subject or object of a verb, attribute to another noun, object of a preposition, etc. But as many modern languages have nearly or quite lost these variations of form, case is sometimes loosely used for the relation itself, whether indicated by distinct form or not.

and letter case, which is defined by the Wikipedia as

In orthography and typography, letter case (or just case) is the distinction between majuscule (capital or upper-case) and minuscule (lower-case) letters. The term originated with the shallow drawers called type cases still used to hold the movable type for letterpress printing.

In this essay we are concerned with the latter...case.

With my native tongue, English, I am aware of four primary letter cases:

  • lowercase
  • UPPERCASE
  • Title Case
  • Sentence case

As I mentioned earlier, computer programmers (and, as we shall soon discuss, advertising/marketing folks) employ a variation on the case theme called CamelCase. Again, from Wikipedia:

CamelCase (also spelled camel case) or medial capitals is the practice of writing compound words or phrases in which the words are joined without spaces and are capitalized within the compound. The term's name comes from the uppercase "bumps" in the middle of the compound word, suggestive of the humps of a camel. An example is BackColor.

There are many other names for this practice, including BiCapitalization, InterCaps, InfixCaps, MixedCase, and PolyCaps. CamelCase is a standard identifier naming convention for several programming languages, and has become fashionable in marketing for names of products and companies. Outside these contexts, however, CamelCase is rarely used in formal written English, and most style guides recommend against its use.

Because some database systems disallow, or at the very least strongly advise against object names with intermediary spaces (a table column named "First Name," for instance, CamelCase provides a reasonable alternative.

First Name ==> FirstName

Initial Hire Date ==> InitialHireDate

Make sense? Yeah, I think so, too.

It is interesting to note that we have two varieties of CamelCase as well. Here, let me show you:

  • UpperCamelCase: HereIsAnExample
  • lowerCamelCase: hereIsAnExample
  • aNaRcHyCaSe: hErEiSaNeXaMpLe

The decision to standardize upon one "flavor" of CamelCase over the other is necessarily dependent upon the style guide(s) in use at your shop.

And then we have the commercial employment of CamelCase. Certainly one of the earliest, if not the earliest, business usages of (upper) CamelCase comes to us via the CinemaScope corporate logo of the mid-1950s [image credit]:

CinemaScope

Did you know that Microsoft used to be MicroSoft? Yep.

And here are some current companies who use CamelCase in their brand names:

  • BellSouth
  • CompuServe
  • QuickTime
  • HarperCollins
  • FedEx
  • MySpace

 Net Village has a pretty sweet mini-history of the programmatical roots of CamelCase:

However, the use of CamelCase became widespread only in the 1970s or 1980s, when it was adopted as a standard or alternative naming convention for multi-word identifiers in several programming languages. There are two theories as to why and where that custom started.

...

Another theory is that CamelCase actually started at Xerox PARC around 1978, with the Mesa programming language developed for the Xerox Alto computer. This machine lacked an underscore key, so the Mesa libraries and the Alto operating system had to be coded all in CamelCase.

The Smalltalk language, which was also developed originally on the Alto and became quite popular in the early 1980s, may have been instrumental in spreading the style outside PARC. Another boost was provided by Niklaus Wirth—the inventor of Pascal—who acquired the taste for CamelCase during a sabbatical at PARC, and used it in Modula, his next programming language.

Additional reading:

Thanks for visiting my blog.

Author: "Tim W." Tags: "Career, Linguistics"
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Date: Saturday, 08 Sep 2007 23:58

No, friends, you are not experiencing déjà vu: what you are seeing is a post that I originally published on Saturday, August 18, 2007. A short time ago a friend sent me an e-mail message inquiring where the original post had gone.

I was shocked to discover that page ID 793 has been pulled from the Mother Tongue Annoyances weblog! I am not necessarily claiming that a third party might have hacked into my FTP site directory and removed that record from my WordPress mySQL database. Nevertheless, I can assure you in the strongest terms that I did not intentionally remove that article.

Wow.

At any rate, you know as well as I do that information persists indefinitely on the good ol' Internet. To that end, I resurrected the contents of the original post and and running them again for your reading pleasure. Enjoy. By the way, to anyone who did, in point of fact, nuke that page: you are being watched. Closely.

***ORIGINAL POST FOLLOWS***

Hey, job seekers, listen up: I have worked with a significant number of placement agencies and corporate recruiters, and every single one of these fine and women told me in no uncertain terms:

Placement fees are paid to the recruiter by the hiring company, not by the prospective employee. If a placement agency asks you for a fee, then run the other way. Quickly.

Got it? You might recall that I had an exceedingly negative experience with one such "placement agency" called JL Kirk Associates out of Brentwood, TN. Read and get yourself caught up:

And then there are the well-publicized experiences of my friend Katherine:

Now, then, on to tonight's news: I wonder aloud if Transition America, an executive placement company with many eerie similarities to JL Kirk Associates, is indeed that latter company masquerading under a different name.

Please understand, dear readers: For the record, I make no official pronouncement in this blog post that the two companies are owned and/or operated by the same entity or individual(s). I simply want to outline the similarities between them, and let you decide for yourselves.

Exhibit #1: WHOIS Domain Registration

A WHOIS domain lookup on americatransition.com resulted in the following data (emphasis mine):

Registrant:
Transition America
5141 Virginia Way
Brentwood, Tennessee 37027
United States

Registered through: GoDaddy.com, Inc. (http://www.godaddy.com)
Domain Name: AMERICATRANSITION.COM
Created on: 11-Jun-07
Expires on: 12-Jun-08
Last Updated on: 11-Jun-07

Administrative Contact:
Wozniak, Edward kirkleipzig@hotmail.com
Transition America
5141 Virginia Way
Brentwood, Tennessee 37027
United States
(615) 613-0300

Technical Contact:
Wozniak, Edward kirkleipzig@hotmail.com
Transition America
5141 Virginia Way
Brentwood, Tennessee 37027
United States
(615) 613-0300

Now I want to submit to you that the mailing address attached to Transition America is identical to the mailing address for JL Kirk Associates as easily found in several online telephone directories:

J L Kirk Associates
5141 Virginia Way
Brentwood, TN 37027-7572
Phone: (615) 376-4650
Business Types: Employment Agencies, Placement Agencies

Kirk Leipzig (or is it "Edward Wozniak"?) is the owner of JL Kirk Associates [reference].

UPDATE: If you run that WHOIS query again against AMERICANTRANSITION.COM, you will see that since I originally published this piece the contact information has changed:

Administrative Contact:
Wozniak, Edward ewozniak@americatransition.com
Transition America
5141 Virginia Way
Brentwood, Tennessee 37027
United States
6156130300

Exhibit #2: Geographical Similarity Via Telephone Lookup

When I ran an Intelius reverse lookup on the contact telephone number for Transition America as provided on their Contact Web page, Intelius sourced the number, 615-613-0300, as being located in Brentwood, TN. Interesting, eh? Whoops—I almost overlooked the fact that this phone number matches the number on the Transition America Contact Web page.

Exhibit #3: Web Site Similarity in Structure and Function

All right, hang with me here, friends. I want you to spend a couple of minutes studying the Transition America home page. Pay particular attention to the options on the main navigation bar.

Now compare the site structure with known JL Kirk/Bernard Haldane sites from the Wayback Machine:

All of these sites offer (a) a client login option; and (b) a survey intended to capture contact information from potential job seekers.

Now as I stated at the beginning of this post, I am not making any definite pronouncements here. However, as my mentors taught me over the years, "If it quacks like a duck, flaps its wings like a duck, and waddles like a duck, then it is probably a duck."

The most striking evidence that JL Kirk Associates and Transition America are suspiciously similar lies in the fact that the "Client Login" pages redirect to the same hosting service (TrueAdvantage)!

Could all of the aforementioned points be coincidence? I'm not sure. As I said, I will let you draw your own conclusions.

UPDATE: You will notice that the above link for the JL Kirk Associates Client Login page bombs out. If you visit their site, you will notice that sometime after the original publication of this article JL Kirk elected to "hide" their TrueAdvantage membership.

However, if you view the source code on that page you will see the following (please click the thumbnail to see a larger representation):

Kirk Client Login

Final note: I am not claiming that Leipzig and Co. did this as a result of my "address expose" post in which I linked up several JL Kirk addresses with former Bernard Haldane addresses, but you'll note that now JL Kirk's home page no longer lists their branch office addresses! Curious.

UPDATE: Thanks to a reader, I've been made aware of another curious "mirror" of Transition America: Professional Partners.

Here is the WHOIS (emphasis mine):

Registrant:
Lance Dammeyer
5141 Virginia Way
Brentwood, Tennessee 37027
United States

Registered through: GoDaddy.com, Inc. (http://www.godaddy.com)
Domain Name: 1PROFESSIONALPARTNERS.COM
Created on: 04-Jun-07
Expires on: 04-Jun-08
Last Updated on:

Administrative Contact:
Dammeyer, Lance integrityisvital@yahoo.com
5141 Virginia Way
Brentwood, Tennessee 37027
United States
615-4-376-4628

Technical Contact:
Dammeyer, Lance integrityisvital@yahoo.com
5141 Virginia Way
Brentwood, Tennessee 37027
United States
615-4-376-4628

"Integrity is vital," indeed. I don't understand the Dammeyer/AmSouth link-up, however [ref]:

AmSouth Bank
Lance Dammeyer
5141 Virginia Way, Ste 220
Brentwood, TN 37027
Phone(615) 748-2961
Fax (615) 748-2920
Cell (615) 977-3093
lance.dammeyer@amsouth.com

And the hits just keep on comin'...

Author: "Tim W." Tags: "General Interest, Pop Culture"
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Date: Saturday, 08 Sep 2007 22:23

I am frankly rather surprised that not too many people besides myself find the similarities between the Honda and Hyundai names, logos, and cars to be, well, a bit too close for comfort. "Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery" and all that, but c'mon.

Take the English version of their company names, for example. Repeat each of them out loud a few times each and ponder their aural likeness:

  • Honda...Hyundai
  • Hyundai...Honda

Next, let's consider their corporate logos:

Honda logo

Hyundai logo

Kind of frightening, right? Let us consider the following facts regarding Hyundai and Honda:

Hyundai is a South Korean conglomerate company that was founded in 1947. According to Wikipedia, the name Hyundai (Korean: Hyeondae) means "modernity."

Honda is a Japanese multinational corporate that was founded in 1948. The name Honda derives from the name of the company's founder, Soichiro Honda.

Hmm. Speaking candidly, I was surprised to learn that Hyundai has been around not only as long as Honda, but for a year longer. Personally, I grew up around Honda motor products: cars, street motorcycles, and ATVs. I presently drive a Honda Element, and I consider myself to be a loyal Honda customer.

By contrast, I have always found Hyundai products to be tremendously derivative and forgettable in almost every conceivable way. For instance, look at the following couple of pictures.

This is the 2006 Honda Accord:

Honda Accord

And this is the 2006 Hyundai Sonata:

Hyundai Sonata

WTF? Who is ripping off whom, here?

Let me know what you think, okay? I am very interested to know. Thanks.

Author: "Tim W." Tags: "Names, Pop Culture"
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Date: Friday, 07 Sep 2007 13:38

Take a look at the following example sentences, which are all legitimate examples of an illegitimate usage:

And so the world waits with baited breath for the new iPod. [ref]

Yeah I'm waiting with baited breadth for Turq's critique. [ref]

Even the flabbergastingly successful novel Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (full disclosure: I freakin' loathe the Harry Potter books and HP subculture) contains an instance of this misusage:

The whole common room listened with baited breath. [ref]

What do you think of them apples? You probably wonder, then, what is the correct usage if the idiom baited breath is nonsensical. And the baited usage is nonsensical, you know. After all, does your breath take on the odor of worms whenever you sit in eager anticipation of something?

The correct idiom is bated breath. This is from Michael Quinion:

It’s easy to mock, but there’s a real problem here. Bated and baited sound the same and we no longer use bated (let alone the verb to bate), outside this one set phrase, which has become an idiom. Confusion is almost inevitable. Bated here is a contraction of abated through loss of the unstressed first vowel (a process called aphesis); it has the meaning “reduced, lessened, lowered in force." So bated breath refers to a state in which you almost stop breathing through terror, awe, extreme anticipation, or anxiety.

Right. The Oxford English Dictionary defines bated breath in its entry for the participial adjective bated thusly: "Breathing subdued or restrained under the influence of awe, terror, or other emotion."

The OED cites the first published instance of bated breath as occurring in the 1596 Shakespeare romantic comedy The Merchant of Venice. Here is the relevant quotation:

A curre should lend three thousand ducats? or Shall I bend low, and in a bond-mans key With bated breath, and whispring humblenesse

I shall close this entry by presenting you with some hyperlinks for additional reading on the subject:

Thanks very much for reading my blog.

Author: "Tim W." Tags: "Etymology, Word Confusions"
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Date: Monday, 03 Sep 2007 12:09

In a specific city of a particular state, I have a Certain Someone with whom I am very close who possesses an honest-to-goodness 'Get Out of Jail Free' card. It looks like this:

Monopoly Card

Just joking. In actuality, the item in question is a Police Benevolent Association membership card engraved with the signature and badge number of a police officer from the local municipality. The card was given to my Certain Someone by the officer, with whom my Certain Someone is involved in an intimate relationship.

The real card looks something like the following:

PBA card

I am unsure if this PBA alternate usage scenario is widespread or if it is localized to the region of which I am speaking. Nevertheless, at this precinct it appears to be understood that (a) cops dispense these VIP PBA cards to their family and special friends; and (b) these family members and special friends are encouraged to present their PBA badges if ever they are stopped by a fellow member of that police department; this action should result in their being let off the hook from their legal infraction(s).

As it happens, my Certain Someone tested out her PBA card recently when she was stopped by a patrol officer on an interstate highway for 'cruising' at over 25 MPH over the posted speed limit. Per standard police procedure, Certain Someone was 'lighted up' by the officer, who subsequently asked to see her driver's license, vehicle registration, and proof of insurance.

In addition to tendering the aforementioned items, my Certain Someone produced the trusty Police Benevolent Association ID card she received from her boyfriend earlier this year.

"So, you know Officer Friendly, eh?" the patrol officer exclaimed. "Here is your stuff back. Have a nice night." And, with that, my Certain Someone drove off happily into the night (at undisclosed speeds).

WTF?

Evidently this Police Benevolent Association Get Out of Jail Free Card thing has been around for a while and is a fairly established practice; as usual, I am late to the proverbial party once again. (Here are plenty of additional references, courtesy of Google.)

Now look here: my Certain Someone was let off scot-free from what should have been a reckless driving citation. This unfair situation introduces the obvious question: How extensive is the offense list that is 'covered' by these VIP PBA cards? Are domestic disputes on the list? Petit larcenies? Clearly the decision to let someone off or to issue a citation rests subjectively with each individual officer; Viz.:

The cards are not recognized by the New York Police Department as carrying any privileges, and department officials say they should have no influence on an officer's discretion in enforcing the law.

"Officers are expected to do their jobs without favoritism," said Inspector Michael Coan, a police spokesman. [ref]

What do you think of this unspoken culture of favoritism?

Technorati Tags: police, police benevolent association, pba, popular culture, monopoly, get out of jail free card, mta, mother tongue annoyances

Author: "Tim W." Tags: "Rants, Pop Culture"
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Date: Friday, 31 Aug 2007 23:56

Yes, it is true: Mavis Beacon, the Queen of the Keyboard, is a marketing construct. A symbol. A brand identity. I almost passed out after I learned this fact earlier today! To me, this Mavis Beacon revelation is similar my discovering the truth about Santa Claus when I was a boy.

Speaking of boyhood, when I first learned to touch-type in middle school, we used old Smith-Corona electric typewriters with the letters and numbers on the keys covered with black fingernail polish. No foolin'.

In the many years since I have employed Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing since version 5  in order to keep my touch-typing skills sharp. I am an accurate 84 word per minute (wpm) typist, I'll have you know.

Read the earth-shattering news, directly from Wikipedia:

The character of "Mavis Beacon" is not a real person, but rather a fictional character created to bring a personal touch to the tutorial. While some have speculated that her image is modeled after Chicago schoolteacher Marva Collins, the original photo of Mavis Beacon was of a bank teller in Sherman Oaks, CA, the city in which Software Toolworks, the original publisher, had its offices. Former TV talk show host, Les Crane, who was then a partner in Software Toolworks, invented the name, although some have speculated that Mavis Beacon's first name is in homage to Mavis Staples, and to evoke the concept of a maven. Her last name represents her role as a light to guide your way.

Now, then: if it is true that Mavis' first name is meant to instill the notion of a maven (noun, "one who is experienced or knowledgeable"), and her last name is intended to represent beacon (noun, "a source of light or inspiration"), then I'd say that Mr. Crane has some mad marketing skillz. Wouldn't you agree?

I should have known that Mavis Beacon wasn't a real expert typing instructor. After all, look at how her image changed over the years.

Mavis in Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing v1:

Mavis v1

Mavis in Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing v17 (the current version of the product):

Mavis v17

The only way I can reconcile the Mavis Beacon identity thing is that because I am myself an educator, I suppose I held high hopes that there truly was a humble typing teacher named Mavis Beacon who, a long, long time ago, applied her innovative instructional methods to software in order to help folks all over the world to become more accurate and productive touch-typists. What the heck do I know, anyway?

UPDATE #1: The identity of the Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing cover model has been revealed! [ref]:

As for the sleek, confidence-oozing African-American woman whose photograph has graced 4 million copies of the software, she's a retired Caribbean-born fashion model named Renee Lesperance, discovered—so the story goes—shopping in a department store.

UPDATE #2: Jeff Atwood reminds me of another stellar touch-typing instructional program: Sega's Typing of the Dead. That game rawks—really.

Author: "Tim W." Tags: "Rants, Pop Culture"
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Date: Sunday, 26 Aug 2007 18:18

What's up? Not too much on this side. I just had a couple driving-related pet peeves that I wanted to share with you today; I hope you don't mind. With no further ado, let's get down to business.

Kvetch #1: Low-Down and Dirty Speed Traps

speed trap

As many of my regular readers already know, I am not a speeder, and I have little respect for those drivers who choose to exceed the speed limit on a regular basis. Furthermore, under most circumstances I have deep respect for the police in general.

On the other hand, when I see some police officers set up speed traps that are obviously intended to generate revenue for their respective municipalities rather than to promote public safety and welfare, I get annoyed.

Case in point: yesterday morning I traveled up W. Sneed Road in Franklin on my way to visit a friend. At one point I passed a police cruiser hidden in a thatch of bushes completely off the road. What the heck?

Fortunately, I was not speeding, but that isn't the kernel issue. My fellow Nashville drivers will agree with me, I am certain, that the mere presence of a patrol officer stationed, say, on the shoulder of I-65 or I-40 is enough to slow down traffic for miles. Why the hell would this officer hide almost completely out of sight on a residental surface street except to maximize his or her chances of issuing speeding citations?

Again, I need to stress this point: I am a fan of speed limit enforcement mechanisms, because (I hope) they serve as a public reminder to drivers to keep their dadgum speed down on our shared roadways. Nevertheless, to my mind, anyway, it is the obvious and visible presence of the police officer that serves as to promote lawful driving. Police who hide out-of-sight to "catch" speeders do not have my respect, all things considered.

Kvetch #2: People Who 'Ride' Merge Lanes

All right, friends: I understand that merge lanes on our interstate highways can be difficult to navigate because there exist those selfish individuals who apparently refuse to allow other drivers to merge smoothly into the main traffic lanes. However, I am not speaking of this situation in this space.

Instead, I refer to those drivers who, with plenty of room to spare both in front of and  behind their vehicles, nonetheless choose to "ride out" the merge lane until the very end, at which point they are forced to enter the primary traffic lane.

I have never, ever understood what possesses people to do this! Here is a real-world image of this situation in action, captured from Google Earth. This satellite image depicts a merge lane on I-40 West that I travel every day of my life:

merge lane

Isn't the point of merge lanes to get your vehicle into the main traffic lane as soon as possible?  "Merge riders" piss me off terribly in their thoughtlessness and lack of consideration for other drivers on the shared roadway.

I'm finished. Enjoy your day.

Author: "Tim W." Tags: "Rants, Pop Culture"
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Date: Saturday, 25 Aug 2007 22:02

Hello. I have some ideas that I would like to run up the ol' flagpole with you. Specifically, I am interested in hearing from the ladies in my readership on this particular issue.

In definition 1b, the Oxford English Dictionary defines the noun compliment as "polite expression of praise or flattery."

I possess an internal, until recently latent set of internal guidelines with respect to how I compliment my fellow human beings. The fact that I focus on complimenting women in this essay belies no chauvinism on my part, I assure you. We men tend to receive compliments in a somewhat different way from how women receive them. I encourage all of my readers to leave their thoughts and opinions in the comments portion of this post. Let's get started.

Above All Else: Be Sincere

In my experience and in my anecdotal experience received from others, unless my motivations for complimenting a woman are totally honest, then the entire complimentary process is for naught. What do I mean? Simply this: If a man compliments a lady with some ulterior motive present (think: to get inside her pants), then, dollars to donuts, unless the lady suffers from frighteningly low self-esteem and other psychological dysfunction, she will see the man for who he is (read: a cad), and the communication process between the two individuals breaks down.

I compliment women and men for two reasons:

1. To help the person feel better about herself or himself

2. To "spread the love"; that is, to share spontaneous goodwill with another person

3. To express my appreciation for the individual

How do you feel when you receive what feels like an insincere compliment? Not good, eh? That's what I am talking about. My modus operandi represents the notion that unless I (a) mean what I say in rigorous honesty; and (b) have clear motives for complimenting the lady, I will keep my mouth shut.

Compliment the Individual as Directly as Possible

From the "what's wrong with this picture?" files, please consider the following sample sentence and identify the problem:

"Wow, Sue! That dress looks great on you!"

Got it? On its face, the complement, if issued sincerely and devoid of self-serving aspirations, is appropriate enough. However, this compliment, on some level or another, serves to praise Sue's dress instead of Sue herself! Let's recast:

"Wow, Sue! You look awesome in that dress!"

See? Here we compliment how good Sue looks in her new dress. Sue and I can then expand our conversational horizons to discuss where Sue bought her dress, how she picked it out, and so forth.

Avoid Unintentionally Insulting the Person

Check this out: I see Christy at work this morning and she looks more "spiffed up" than is typical. I exclaim:

"Hi Christy. You look nice today."

Again, under most ordinary circumstances, this compliment is serviceable; no muss, no fuss, no greasy aftertaste. On the other hand, might also Christy walk away from our verbal exchange thinking to herself, "Gee, do I normally not look nice? I thought I take care of myself pretty well." Let's reformulate the compliment:

"Hi Christy. You look especially nice today."

Ah—much better. In this case we recognize that, to our perception, Christy looks particularly nice today. Moreover, implicit in this compliment is the idea that Christy always, or at least on most days, looks nice.

So what do you think of these ideas, friends? Am I on the right track? Inquiring minds want to know!

Author: "Tim W." Tags: "Etiquette, Pop Culture"
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Date: Friday, 24 Aug 2007 21:24
I Love NY

Um, I have a confession to make. I loathe Internet clichés. Seriously. So much so, in point if fact, that (a) I want the last two minutes of my life back that I just wasted pondering this subject; and (b) I threw up a little bit in my mouth thinking of how prevalent these textual monstrosities are on the ol' Internets. RLY. I'm here to tell you that reading cliché-laden blog posts or comments almost makes my eyes bleed.

Of late, I consider the verbal usage of heart to be the Worst.Cliché.Evar. This usage is not FTW, people. It is Cliché 2.0. Seriously.

As Jeff Atwood so wisely points out, some clichés are acceptable to use in moderation. Truthfully, I enjoy some clichés. The verbal usage of heart? Not so much.

Just sayin'. Heh.

Let's deconstruct to heart in all of its lickable, cliché-ey goodness. Three simple examples:

I heart Susie!

I heart that movie.

I heart political weblogs.

Wikipedia's entry on heart summarizes my problem with the maltreatment of an otherwise exceedingly beautiful word:

I ♥ (pronounced "I love" or "I heart") is a slang expression used to indicate love or affection, sometimes with a connotation that the feeling is superficial or juvenile. It is a play upon Milton Glaser's classic logo, I ♥ NY (pronounced I Love New York). In the U.S., it can be used to show that one has a crush on someone or are in love with someone, being used as I ♥ someone's name or as Someone ♥ Someone else. It is also present in some recent titles, e.g. the film I ♥ Huckabees or the video game We ♥ Katamari.

The widespread use of this expression has inspired many parodies. Originally pronounced "I love," the phrase has recently been used by young hipsters who have taken to facetiously verbalizing it as "I heart."

See, that's just it. If I love you, then I will tell you that I love you. In no uncertain terms, and most certainly with no superficiality, juvenile attitude, and/or facetiousness.

I may like you. I may more than like you; I may indeed love you. However, I never 'heart' you.

Glaser's famous logo is pronounced "I love New York," not "I heart New York." This linguistic warping is bullshit, in my not-so-humble opinion.

I concede that this clichéd verbal usage of heart probably emerged originally in the way Jamie thinks it did [ref]:

Re: the "I heart that" thing, it evolved as a way to transcribe those bumper stickers and t-shirts that use a heart in place of the word "love," as in, "I [heart symbol] my Labrador Retriever."

In performing research for this blog post I discovered an offshoot of the "I heart [x]" template:  "less than three" used as a verb.

This definition is from Urban Dictionary:

I less than three you <3
It was a joke I started towards the "emo" kids in school. They put <3 signs on everything they can get their grimy little hands on. I started using it on myspace.com and now every emo kid in school has it written on every bathroom stall in the school.

I don't love you, or heart you, I less than three you <3

Clever, right? No.

Urban Dictionary, once again, contains a pretty darned nice definition of this colloquial usage of heart:

Heart
Verb. More than "to like" but not necessarily "to love." It could potentially be love, but it does not have to be. This word comes from when people write I (then the shape of a heart) Shannon, or some other name. People would always pronounce the "heart" when it was supposed to mean "love." This would always get annoying, so instead of blocking it out and telling people they are retarded and need to be shanked, it became embraced as its own definition.

I heart Shannon Marie.

Look, I understand the sentiment: I like some person, place, or thing quite a bit, but perhaps I have not yet invested in said person, place, or thing to such a degree that I would say I love him, her, or it. Fine. How about we just go ahead and use more descriptive language instead of yet another shopworn cliché, mmkay?

To those people who use heart as a verb, I ask you: Why do you do this? Do you employ this usage:

  • To be "cute"?
  • To attempt to infuse your writing or speech with a more youthful, "hip" tone?
  • To avoid getting off your intellectual duff and using a thesaurus to find a more accurate word to describe your feelings and/or commitment level?

Sometimes I wonder if the verbal usage of heart is another example of our human fear of commitment or intimacy. In other words, I wonder if the "I heart [x]" motif represents a way for a person to "waffle" and avoid issuing a firm, declarative statement regarding his or her relationship to another person, place, or thing.

If you are over 30 years old and you write "I heart [X]" in your weblog, then you ought to be ashamed of yourself.

Take my opinion to heart (pun intended), dismiss it categorically, or do whatever the heck you want with it. It is all the same to me.

Thanks very much for reading.

Author: "Tim W." Tags: "Usage, Rants"
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Date: Sunday, 19 Aug 2007 18:18

Hi, friends. I am adding yet another post to my JL Kirk Associates series. Perhaps I need to add a new post category to my blog! Here are the background links:

My friend Kat shared with me an interesting Ezine article with me that I would like to analyze with you:

Ezine: "Christian Businessman Attacked by Bloggers"

This article very openly defends Kirk Leipzig, the founder and owner of the "career placement agency" JL Kirk Associates. Let's dig a litter deeper, shall we?

The author of the Ezine piece is one Susan Walker-Ford. Two bylines I found for her (ref1, ref2) read::

Susan Walker-Ford is a free-lance journalist on a variety of subjects including pets, women's issues, and faith.

Susan Walker Ford
Contact : 615-244-4422
Address :
Website : http://www.GuidedTraveler.com
Description : HCT Media is a creative publicity company for business and the arts. Located in Nashville, TN, HCT Media creates articles and interesting campaigns for authors, recording artists, songwriters, and businesses. Our credo is "supporting art with heart".

The "HCT Media" apparently refers to Hippie Chick Twang, "a boutique group specializing in recording artists, songwriters, authors, and creative types." HCT Media's list of services includes "Publicity/Media/Myspace & Such." Okay.

How can I be fairly certain that Susan Walker-Ford is associated with HCT Media? Searching the Internet, of course:

Susan Walker-Ford
HIPPIE CHICK TWANG Media
Visit Our Site
615-400-5140
Email us Here

Thus far we have associated the author of the stridently pro-JL Kirk piece with (a) GuidedTraveler.com; and (b) Hippie Chick Twang Media. What does this tell us, if anything?

Well, the Guided Traveler Experience, by viewing their Web site, appears to be some sort of megachurchy/evangelical experience kind of thing. Hey, whatever floats your boat.

I was unable to find any reference to Susan Walker-Ford on the GuidedTraveler.com Web site. The contact telephone number 615-244-4422 associates with the now-defunct Web site (and company)? Hippie Chick Records.

Here is the deal, friends: There exist at BlogSpot two anonymously authored, strikingly similar blogs that contain mirrored content:

On May 4, 2007, the author(s) of the Grace, Truth, and Chocolate Soda blog published an essay entitled "Who is Kirk Leipzig," which was quite similar in tone to the Walker-Ford piece at eZine. Read the article for yourself and let me know what you think: Grace, Truth, and Chocolate Soda: "Who is Kirk Leipzig?"

Surprisingly (or not), all of the comments attached to this article speak about Kirk Leipzig and JL Kirk Associates in glowing terms.

On Thursday, June 14, 2007, the author(s) of both blogs published almost identical essays promoting (what else?) the Guided Traveler Experience. Check 'em out:

What is the connection between these pieces and the author of the original pro-Kirk article? Simply this, printed at the bottom of both pieces:

Contact Information
DEVON O'DAY
HCT Media
http://www.guidedtraveler.com
615-244-4422

Susan Walker-Ford's contact number: 615-244-4422. Contact number for the event being promoted at both shill blogs: 615-244-4422.

Now for the "Leipzig Link-Up," as it were. On Tuesday, May 8, 2007 the author(s) at eagle ink put up a post entitled "J.L. Kirk and Associates are Angels Among Us." Read it, please:

eagle ink: "J.L. Kirk and Associates are Angels Among Us"

Here is some relevant text from that essay:

One day, at a women's support group for victims of domestic violence, a man named Kirk Leipzig spoke to us. He is owner of a company called JL Kirk and associates. This man took time to help all of us learn about the work force, what we needed to do to get a better job, work up in a company, or even run our own business. He was impeccably dressed and carried himself with that air of expensive college education. We were all shocked when he explained he began in the business world as a bag boy for Albertson's grocery store.

...

I do know that they charge for these services when a client hires them to get them a job. $4,000 is about the average they said. It sounds expensive but compared to that $30,000 college degree it seems like a bargain. They work with clients for two years in consultation, which is great. I call them every week with some kind of question. They've always been kind and understanding. JL Kirk and Kirk Leipzig have been angels to me. Now, I have turned my business into a profit, am supporting my family, and have a new life and I thank JL Kirk for it.

This piece is followed up by a few comments submitted by other seemingly overjoyed JL Kirk patrons and/or supporters.

Now let's be clear: I make no formal pronouncement of any kind in this article. I'm just stringing together data I've collected from freely available sources.

Given that disclaimer, do you find it suspicious at all that these vociferously pro-JL Kirk sources all appear to "drink from the same well," so to speak? I'm not talking about evangelical Christianity, either.

I will leave you with a question: Do you think that JL Kirk Associates has a formal or informal arrangement with HCT Media in which the HCT folks are attempting "damage control" in the wake of their recent negative publicity? Again, I have no idea. Questions are good things, right?

Author: "Tim W." Tags: "Career, General Interest, Pop Culture"
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Date: Saturday, 18 Aug 2007 01:12

Hey, job seekers, listen up: I have worked with a significant number of placement agencies and corporate recruiters, and every single one of these fine and women told me in no uncertain terms:

Placement fees are paid to the recruiter by the hiring company, not by the prospective employee. If a placement agency asks you for a fee, then run the other way. Quickly.

Got it? You might recall that I had an exceedingly negative experience with one such "placement agency" called JL Kirk Associates out of Brentwood, TN. Read and get yourself caught up:

And then there are the well-publicized experiences of my friend Katherine:

Now, then, on to tonight's news: I wonder aloud if Transition America, an executive placement company with many eerie similarities to JL Kirk Associates, is indeed that latter company masquerading under a different name.

Please understand, dear readers: For the record, I make no official pronouncement in this blog post that the two companies are owned and/or operated by the same entity or individual(s). I simply want to outline the similarities between them, and let you decide for yourselves.

Exhibit #1: WHOIS Domain Registration

A WHOIS domain lookup on americatransition.com resulted in the following data (emphasis mine):

Registrant:
Transition America

5141 Virginia Way
Brentwood, Tennessee 37027

United States

Registered through: GoDaddy.com, Inc. (http://www.godaddy.com)
Domain Name: AMERICATRANSITION.COM
Created on: 11-Jun-07
Expires on: 12-Jun-08
Last Updated on: 11-Jun-07

Administrative Contact:
Wozniak, Edward kirkleipzig@hotmail.com
Transition America
5141 Virginia Way
Brentwood, Tennessee 37027
United States
(615) 613-0300

Technical Contact:
Wozniak, Edward kirkleipzig@hotmail.com
Transition America
5141 Virginia Way
Brentwood, Tennessee 37027
United States
(615) 613-0300

Now I want to submit to you that the mailing address attached to Transition America is identical to the mailing address for JL Kirk Associates as easily found in several online telephone directories:

J L Kirk Associates
5141 Virginia Way
Brentwood, TN 37027-7572
Phone: (615) 376-4650
Business Types: Employment Agencies, Placement Agencies

Kirk Leipzig (or is it "Edward Wozniak"?) is the owner of JL Kirk Associates [reference].

Exhibit #2: Geographical Similarity Via Telephone Lookup

When I ran an Intelius reverse lookup on the contact telephone number for Transition America as provided on their Contact Web page, Intelius sourced the number, 615-613-0300, as being located in Brentwood, TN. Interesting, eh? Whoops—I almost overlooked the fact that this phone number matches the number on the Transition America Contact Web page.

Exhibit #3: Web Site Similarity in Structure and Function

All right, hang with me here, friends. I want you to spend a couple of minutes studying the Transition America home page. Pay particular attention to the options on the main navigation bar.

Now compare the site structure with known JL Kirk/Bernard Haldane sites from the Wayback Machine:

All of these sites offer (a) a client login option; and (b) a survey intended to capture contact information from potential job seekers.

Now as I stated at the beginning of this post, I am not making any definite pronouncements here. However, as my mentors taught me over the years, "If it quacks like a duck, flaps its wings like a duck, and waddles like a duck, then it is probably a duck."

The most striking evidence that JL Kirk Associates and Transition America are suspiciously similar lies in the fact that the "Client Login" pages redirect to the same hosting service (TrueAdvantage)!

Could all of the aforementioned points be coincidence? I'm not sure. As I said, I will let you draw your own conclusions.

Final note: I am not claiming that Leipzig and Co. did this as a result of my "address expose" post in which I linked up several JL Kirk addresses with former Bernard Haldane addresses, but you'll note that now JL Kirk's home page no longer lists their branch office addresses! Curious.

UPDATE: Thanks to a reader, I've been made aware of another curious "mirror" of Transition America: Professional Partners.

Here is the WHOIS (emphasis mine):

Registrant:
Lance Dammeyer
5141 Virginia Way
Brentwood, Tennessee 37027
United States

Registered through: GoDaddy.com, Inc. (http://www.godaddy.com)
Domain Name: 1PROFESSIONALPARTNERS.COM
Created on: 04-Jun-07
Expires on: 04-Jun-08
Last Updated on:

Administrative Contact:
Dammeyer, Lance integrityisvital@yahoo.com
5141 Virginia Way
Brentwood, Tennessee 37027
United States
615-4-376-4628
Technical Contact:
Dammeyer, Lance integrityisvital@yahoo.com
5141 Virginia Way
Brentwood, Tennessee 37027
United States
615-4-376-4628

"Integrity is vital," indeed. I don't understand the Dammeyer/AmSouth link-up, however [ref]:

AmSouth Bank
Lance Dammeyer
5141 Virginia Way, Ste 220
Brentwood, TN 37027
Phone(615) 748-2961
Fax (615) 748-2920
Cell (615) 977-3093
lance.dammeyer@amsouth.com

And the hits just keep on comin'...

Author: "Tim W." Tags: "Career, General Interest"
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Date: Friday, 17 Aug 2007 16:07

Being both a man as well as a student of American popular culture, I consider myself to be well-versed in the (mostly) unspoken Man Law. Today I would like to review my understanding of Man Law as it pertains to proper protocol in the men's restroom.

I have gathered data by aggregating personal experience, online research, and interviews with several male friends, family members, and work associates. Furthermore, I encourage all men (and heck, women too) in my readership to leave additions and suggestions in the comments portion of this post. Shall we begin?

Rule #1: No Unnecessary Communication

My wife tells me that she and other women often chitter-chatter while they make water in the ladies' room stall toilets. While this behavior may be perfectly acceptable for many women, it is nonetheless in clear violation of Man Law for  guys to do this. Accordingly, unnecessary conversation should be strictly avoided by men sharing a public restroom.

The men's room is a place to "do your business" and get the hell out of there. It is not a lounge. To that end, read this bit from MetaFilter:

There are a few folks here at work who, upon recognizing your footwear in the stall, will happily chat about the issues and workplace goings-on du jour whilst performing their duties at the urinal.

Wigs. Me. Out.

No doubt. I have had this happen to me before, and it never ceases to make me feel profoundly uncomfortable. How freaky is it that some thoughtless colleague ascertained my identity by scanning my shoes beneath the stall door?

Another Class A infringement of Man Law in general and men's room etiquette in particular is the practice of speaking on the cell phone while using the john. This isn't right, friends. Do you want to discuss your dinner plans with your wife to the happy strains of a stranger's bowel sounds? Besides, this communication breaks the 'veil of silence' that must govern all men's room interactions.

Rule #2: Observe Free Space in the Urinal Row

You will find many, many Flash-based urinal games and text-based tutorials (here's a good one) on how men should approach the question of which urinal to use based upon (a) the number of urinals available; and (b) the number of men currently standing at one or more than one of them.

The basic rule, simply stated, is that you want to allow for the maximum amount of free space between yourself and another man wherever you are in the men's room. In particular, this Man Law prescribes that that you never, ever use a urinal immediately adjacent to an occupied urinal if there is another one available that is farther away.

From the Men's Room Bible we have another horrible "gotcha" dealing with the concept of free space in the men's room:

Now, in spite of the many years of evolution in the urinal manufacturing process, urinals are just not splatter proof. Every once in a while, you feel a little bit of your own drippings hitting your sandaled feet. And guys, let's face it—we just don't care. It'll dry off, and our feet smell enough for odor to not even be an issue. No big deal. Unless...it's somebody else's.

No man ever wants to be touched by another man's pee. Period. This isn't even a commandment—this is just common sense. Years and years of territorial peeing have bred this fact into male mammals. My pee: good. Your pee: bad. It's simple enough.

Rule #3: Avoid Eye Contact

Man Law states that eye contact (especially between strangers) must be kept to a minimum while you inhabit the men's room. I'm not sure how much of this law is rooted in homophobia, but the law exists nonetheless.

When standing at the urinal, a man must stare either straight ahead at the wall or perhaps up toward the ceiling. He should not observe his "junk," and above all else he needs to avoid turning his head to look at another man standing at another urinal. Not cool.

Corollary to Rule #2 and Rule #3 is the notion that intentional man-to-man physical contact is a fundamental breach of Man Law. Brushing shoulders with a man standing at the urinal beside you is a prickly (pun intended) situation, indeed.

Here is some backup from another source:

Central to urinal etiquette is the 'veil of silence' that descends upon men in public bathrooms. Female friends have, on occasion, reported actually speaking to each other between stalls, which is frankly inconceivable in the men’s room environment. Male best friends, or even brothers, upon meeting in the bathroom will usually ignore each other completely, perhaps acknowledging each other with a subtle nod. Strangers in the bathroom will never speak to one another, unless politeness dictates a curt 'excuse me.'

You have heard of the "thousand-yard stare," right? Well, with respect to men's room etiquette, the "wall stare" is a cardinal rule—don't catch yourself violating it, okay?

I simply cannot stress this enough: we men do not intentionally touch each other while in the men's room. It is that simple. Check this out:

Well, the way he told it, he went to the bathroom and said hello to this dude that he thought he knew by slapping him on the ass, and saying something really queer. He scared the dude so much the dude pissed all over his own leg. My buddy apologized and told him that he thought that he was someone else. Then whilst my buddy was pissing the other dude just started waling on his head. My buddy no longer touches people...ever.

Rule #4: Unzip, Don't Pull Down

To my mind, there is nothing cornier and more unnecessary than unbuckling one's belt and opening one's pants in order to take a piss. We men have zippers on our drawers for a reason, people.

This is from the Ex-Donkey blog:

Dudes, pants have these things called zippers. Their purpose is allow access for ol' one-eye to the urinal. Granted it's a little easier if you wear boxers but if you can't figure out how to move aside the flaps on a pair of briefs to let your meat-puppet see the light of day maybe it's time to change your style of underwear.

There is nothing more annoying in a men's room (outside of stupid conversation) than to have some guy walk up beside you and go through the trouble of unbuckling his belt, unsnapping his snap (or unbuttoning his button), unzipping his fly, untucking his shirt and yanking the whole works down to his knees just to take a whiz! Is he afraid of actually touching it? Maybe he figures then he won't have to bother washing his hands.

Incidentally, breaking this Man Law simultaneously violated Rule #7, which we will discuss later on in this blog post.

Rule #5: Wash Your Hands. Always.

You remember the Zen koan: "Does a tree falling in a forest make a sound?" Along those lines, do you wash your hands even if you are alone in a public men's room?

How many times have you been in the men's room and observed (in your peripheral vision, of course) a man pop out of a stall only to dash out of the men's room without washing his hands? Disgusting.

I swear, one of these days if I am ever in the situation where I need to interact with one of these men I will refuse to shake his hand, exclaiming "I'm sorry, I can't shake hands with someone who doesn't wash his hands after using the rest room."

Hell, even the cursory "turn the faucet on for three seconds" courtesy hand-wash is better than nothing, guys. C'mon. At the least, we men need to make a strong showing of washing our hands whenever we visit a public men's room, especially if we used a stall to evacuate our bowels.

Rule #6: Peeing While Sitting Down is For Sissies

In my anecdotal research and life experience, the only time that it is acceptable for a man to sit down in a stall when he pees is if the man is already in the stall to defecate. That is to say, any man who sits down upon a toilet to pee only, barring some biological/physical requirement to do so, transgresses Man Law in a fundamental way.

The author of the Self-Aggrandizement blog performs a lovely analysis of public men's room culture. He goes on to explain why he feels these tacit men's room Man Laws exist in the first place:

Obviously, the normative social influence of urinal etiquette is quite strong. The more interesting question is why. In my opinion, the source of these norms is the biologically driven instinct of self preservation. Culturally, we are conditioned to feel most exposed when naked; pants unzipped, using the urinal, people feel particularly vulnerable. Without any physical divide between the urinal user and others, the urinal user creates personal space in an effort to feel safe.

...

Unlike in other social situations, where an invasion of personal space would simply trigger movement away to reestablish a comfortable boundary, the urinal user is fairly stationary. Except for shifting body orientation, there is very little that can be done to reestablish personal space once that space has been violated. This explains the stronger reactions from the subjects that I spoke to or looked at; their personal space violated once physically, violating their cognitive personal space moments later constituted an inescapable double invasion. Clearly, the issue of personal space is at the root of urinal behavior.

Rule #7: Don't Draw Attention to Yourself

To repeat, the unspoken rule of "doing business" in the men's room is that you want to get in, make your deposit(s), and get the hell out as quickly and efficiently as possible. Loud sighs, extraneous farts, or other strange bodily gestures serve to distract your fellow men in the rest room and draw unfavorable attention to yourself. You don't want this, believe me.

Again, let the Men's Room Bible educate us:

There is a gentleman at my office who I have taken note of for one reason and one reason only: his bathroom behavior. Every time I see this gentleman in the restroom, he draws my attention—an absolute no-no for the men's room.

This man walks up to the urinal, undoes his belt, and undoes his pants such that no hands are necessary for him to perform the task at hand. He then sticks his hands in his back pockets, and without fail, loudly releases some pent up gas before completing his task. The "hands in back pockets" position is unusual enough. The monster fart puts him over the top.

I once worked in the same office building as a dude who would perform a variation of the posture that the Men's Room Bible guy spoke about: This individual leaned over the urinal when he peed, placing his body weight upon both of his hands. In other words, the man's body was positioned exactly like a suspect about to be "patted down" by a police officer. Highly distracting, and highly disturbing.

Most men instinctively adhere to the Man Law that states "Don't Look into the Mirror for More than Five Seconds." This illustration comes to us via Ubersite:

Plain and simple. If you violate this rule, you're either a pretty boy or a girl. Your hair looks fine, your pimples didn't go away over night, and you still need to floss. One glance to confirm, and vacate the premises. You're probably in my way, because I want to wash my hands.

Let me know if I left anything out, guys. And I'll leave you with some additional research materials:

Thanks for reading.

Author: "Tim W." Tags: "Etiquette, Pop Culture"
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Date: Thursday, 16 Aug 2007 15:46
Led Zeppelin

I grew up listening to and loving Led Zeppelin.

However, in the early '90s I dropped the band from my listening repertoire; perhaps I felt "burnt out" on Zep's music.

Well, I am glad to report that I have recently re-immersed myself into the musical genius of Led Zeppelin, and I am into them again. Deep. Do you remember that delightful scene with Paul Giamatti and Thomas Haden Church in Sideways?

JACK: Being with Stephanie has opened my eyes. She's not uptight or controlling. She's just cool. Things are so easy with her. Smells different. Tastes different. Fucks different. Fucks like an animal. I'm telling you, I went deep last night, Miles. Deep.

MILES: Deep.

Miles draws a long sigh.

Today I would like to discuss one of my favorite Zeppelin songs from my favorite Zeppelin record, the brilliant "Friends" (Led Zeppelin III, 1970). "Friends" is the second track on the album.

Led Zeppelin III

Why don't we let Jimmy Page introduce "Friends" for us? [ref]:

Again Robert wrote the words. He did them all except "Tangerine." The idea was to get an Indian style with the strings. The string players were not Indian however, and we had to make on-the-spot changes. John Paul Jones wrote an incredible string arrangement for this and Robert shows his great range—incredibly high. He's got a lot of different sides to his voice which comes across here. It has a menacing atmosphere. A friend came into the studio during the recording and it was bloody loud and he had to leave. He said: "You've really done something evil!" Moog synthesizer at the end, and that's bottle-neck string bass with John Paul playing.

Yeah: that string arrangement by John Paul is tremendously haunting, isn't it? One thing I've always loved about Jimmy Page is that he either (a) doesn't mind letting some gaffes and musical glitches go into a final recording to preserve spontaneity; or (b) he is such a perfectionist that the occasional squeaks and squeals you hear in some recordings were left in deliberately as artifice.

What am I talking about? Well, during the opening of "Friends" you can hear some studio chatter, including what some sharp-eared listeners claim is Jimmy dropping the f-bomb.

Moreover, to my ears Pagey's acoustic guitar sounds a trifle out-of-tune. Additionally, you can hear some fret-buzz when he begins strumming the main riff of the song. For more on both of the aforementioned trivia snippets, let's turn to the Led Zeppelin Infrequently Murmured Trivia List:

Before the song starts and for the first few moments once it begins talking can be heard in the background, what is being said though is impossible to make out. However, at about the 0.09 mark, just as the bass guitar starts, Jimmy can be heard to exclaim 'Fuck!' About the same time someone can be heard saying 'Ssh!' Why Page says this is not clear, maybe Jones started before he was ready, and possibly the other person was telling the people speaking in the background to quiet down. One of the voices in the right channel sounds like Peter Grant.

...

The fret buzz in parts of the song is due to the guitar being in a different tuning where the sixth string is quite loose, which combined with poor fingering at that fret causes the string to buzz on the fret.

This is all very awesome, as far as I am personally concerned. Another reason I enjoy "Friends" so much is that its melody and lyrics marry traditional Western blues music with Eastern music and philosophy.

Plant's lyrics are regarded as "spiritual" in nature by most Led Zeppelin fans. Let us consider the lyrics of "Friends" now [ref]:

Bright light almost blinding,
Black night still there shining,
I can't stop, keep on climbing,
Looking for what I knew.
Had a friend, she once told me,
"You got love, you ain't lonely,"
Now she's gone and left me only
Looking for what I knew.
Mmm, I'm telling you now,
The greatest thing you ever can do now,
Is trade a smile with someone who's blue now,
It's very easy just.
Met a man on the roadside crying,
Without a friend, there's no denying,
You're incomplete, they'll be no finding
Looking for what you knew.
So anytime somebody needs you,
Don't let them down, altho' it grieves you,
Some day you'll need someone like they do,
Looking for what you knew.
Mmm, I'm telling you now,
the greatest thing you ever can do now,
Is trade a smile with someone who's blue now,
It's very easy just...ooh, yeah.

I resonate with the sentiment of this lyric; namely, that we humans are "incomplete" without friends, and "the greatest thing you ever can do now, is trade a smile with someone who's blue now."

If you are wondering how Jimmy Page was able to create such an eerie, droning sound with his acoustic guitar, you should know that Page employed an open tuning.

An "open tuning," for the non-guitarists in my readership, is a string tuning arrangement in which strumming all open strings produces a named chord. Open tunings can be useful to create particular moods, and they can also be used to make some chord voicings easier to fret.

Specifically, in "Friends" Jimmy used the open C tuning, which, beginning with the bottom (sixth) string, is C G C G C E.

In fact, Page used open tunings for several Led Zeppelin songs.

The setting in which "Friends" was written is part of the mystique of the song for me. Many of my favorite Zeppelin numbers ("That's the Way," "Bron-Yr-Aur") were composed at Bron-Yr-Aur, an 18th century cottage in Gwynedd, Wales. [photo credit]

Bron-Yr-Aur Cottage

What I would not give to be able to visit Bron-Yr-Aur someday!

The other principal version of "Friends" in the retail marketplace appears on track 4 or track 3 (depending upon the release you own) of the 1994 Page/Plant reunion record No Quarter: Jimmy Page and Robert Plant Unledded.

Personally, I am not a big fan of this reading of the song. Number one, what I love most about "Friends" is Page's main guitar riff, and in the Unledded version Page drags his syncopation. Sure, he's the artist—he can do whatever he wants with his song. And it is true that in some cases I prefer the live version of a song to its studio counterpart ("Stairway to Heaven" from The Song Remains the Same is a good Led Zeppelin-related example for me).

Nevertheless, the Unledded "Friends" fails to cut the proverbial mustard for me. What do you think?

Technorati Tags: led zeppelin, robert plant, john paul jones, john bonham, jimmy page, bron-yr-aur, friends, led zeppelin III, rock music, popular culture, mta, mother tongue annoyances

Author: "Tim W." Tags: "Poetry, Music"
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Date: Tuesday, 14 Aug 2007 15:02

Whenever I cruise the Internet and am in need of a quick smile, I will sometimes navigate to this May 16, 2005 article at Ubersite:

Ubersite.com: "MythBusters Is TITS! Divvy This… --OR-- My Impending Restraining Order"

One of the author's photographs crystallizes, for me, the "tits as an adjective" mentality [credit]:

Ubersite.com

As far as my own opinion regarding the usage of tits as an adjective, allow me to echo the sentiment of an Ubersite commenter:

God I love the use of the word "tits" as an adjective.

Amen, and amen! Here is a laundry list of some real-world usages of tits as an adjective to whet our proverbial whistles:

I had to crank the pregain up 8-10 for suitable shredding, but it sounded tits! [ref]

I thought the new song you guys recorded sounded tits! [ref]

I saw the Spider-Man 2 trailer in flash last night and it looked tits. [ref]

I think I seen this car a few years ago and it looked tits. [ref]

I got to go home. It was tits. [ref]

Well, I think that you get the idea. The Online Slang Dictionary provides us with our first 'official' definition of tits used in an adjectival sense:

tits (adjective): very good, excellent; COOL. "Man, that car was tits!"

This definition from SlangSite mirrors that of the OSD:

tits: Adjective used to describe satisfaction with something; sometimes said with a thumbs-up.

Example: How was the movie?
It was tits.

Once again, though, I am foiled at the outset by my inability to discover a solid (frankly any) etymological reference for 'tits' as an adjective. Where did this usage originate? Help, anyone?

At any rate, let us, at the least, consider the etymology of the word tit, courtesy of the Online Etymology Dictionary:

tit: "breast," Old English titt (a variant of teat). But the modern slang tits (plural), attested from 1928, seems to be a recent reinvention from teat, used without awareness that it is a throwback to the original form. Titty, however, is on record from 1746 as "a dialectical and nursery diminutive [usage] of teat."

teat: circa 1250, from Old French tete "teat" (12th century), from Proto-Germanic titta

The Oxford English Dictionary defines the noun teat as "The small protuberance at the tip of each breast or udder in female mammalia (except monotremes), upon which the ducts of the mammary gland open, and from which the milk is sucked by the young; the nipple."

Okay, fine. How about the malapropism 'tits up'? I have heard folks misuse this expression plenty of times over the course of my adult life.

The food there is actually alright, had the tacos one night and the cook put this smoked salsa on them that was tits up! [ref]

I bought this $600 suit...it is tits up, man!

What we must understand, friends, is that 'tits up' is a bad thing, not a good thing. Check out this nice explanation from The Phrase Finder:

Tits-up

Meaning
Inoperative; broken. The term is also used to mean fallen over (on one's back)

Origin
This is a 20th century phrase, probably of military origin. There's certainly no mention of it in print prior to WWII. It has been suggested that the term derives from the behavior of airplanes' altitude indicators, which turn upside down when faulty and display an inverted 'W' resembling a pair of breasts. There's no real evidence to support this speculation and it seems more likely that the phrase is just a vulgar alternative to the earlier 'belly-up,' which has the same meaning.

Finally, there is the usage of tits in idiomatic speech. This is from Language Log:

However, there are several English idioms for uselessness—perhaps this reflects a cultural concern with functionality, as opposed to the Teutonic concern with adherence to quota :-)?. The commonest English idioms about uselessness seems to deal with non-functional nipples. Among the variants:

 useless as teats/tits on a boar (hog)
 useless as teats/tits on a bull

Liberman's post puts a different coat of shellac on my thinking of the adjective tits. Perhaps when I describe a fortunate event as being "tits" I am, in a biological sense, considering the favorable person, place, or thing in terms of its evolutionary utility. That is, a "tits" car may, in some manner, possess a higher degree of functionality than a "non-tits" one.

I dunno. I just like saying tits. Over and over again.

Thanks very much for reading.

Author: "Tim W." Tags: "Slang, Pop Culture"
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Date: Monday, 13 Aug 2007 15:26

Although I was a biology major at Cornell, I filled all of my elective space with humanities courses in art, literature, drama, and poetry.

In one of my poetry classes I had the privilege of learning from A.R. "Archie" Ammons (1926-2001), the renowned American poet. Ammons popped into our particular class section on a number of occasions, mainly to read from his stuff. It was cool interacting with the man.

This was in 1994, the year after Ammons was given the National Book Award for his volume Garbage. Incidentally, Ammons said that he composed Garbage using a pencil and a roll of calculator tape. When he submitted the manuscript to his publisher Ammons tendered an enormously long, semi-tattered strip of receipt paper.

What is interesting to me as I write this essay today is that, at the time, I was not an Archie Ammons fan. At all. I found his work too elliptical, too private, and just too weird for my (at the time) so-called 'elevated' tastes.

In the ensuing decade or so since my time with Ammons, I have come to appreciate his poetry a great deal. Today I would like to introduce you to a piece of his entitled "Beautiful Woman." This poem is part of Ammons' 1996 volume Brink Road:

Beautiful Woman

The spring
in

her step
has

turned to
fall

It's a lovely piece, isn't it? The wordplay in this poem is, to me, stunning. First of all, let's consider the physical geometry of "Beautiful Woman."

Can you hear, can you experience, the "springiness" of the beautiful woman's step as we proceed from the first stanza, to the second, and on to the third? I can. Read the poem aloud and let its metrical structure "speak" to you. For some reason I am reminded of the children's game hopscotch.

Note that Ammons does not appear to speak of an archetypal "beautiful woman." In other words, we may not be presented with a snapshot description of THE quintessential "beautiful woman," according to Ammons' standards for beauty.

Instead, I understand this poem to mean that Ammons is writing about a particular beautiful woman in his life. Who this woman is I will never know, naturally. However, I can envision Ithaca, New York  in general and the verdant Cornell University campus in particular, and if Ammons did have a specific woman in mind when he created this poem, at least I can imagine her geographical surroundings, if not her actual identity.

Let's consider the words spring, step, and fall in a literal sense first:

  • spring: "to be resilient or elastic"
  • step: "manner of stepping or treading; one's stride"
  • fall: "to descend freely"

What image "springs" to your mind when we read "Beautiful Woman" literally? I imagine a woman's delicate shoe heel breaking and causing the lady to tumble harmlessly to the ground.

Metaphorically, things can get heavy indeed if we consider spring and fall as seasons. Perhaps Ammons intended spring to represent the woman's younger years, and fall to denote the passing of time and experience that results in the woman's older age; her "fall season" in life.

What's cool about "Beautiful Woman" is that there is no negativity associated with the beautiful woman's passing from Spring to Fall. It "is what it is," so to speak, and there is no implication that Ammons finds the woman any less internally or externally beautiful as she ages.

Good stuff. Thanks for reading.

Technorati Tags: a.r. ammons, ammons, poetry, american literature, cornell university, ithaca, new york, literature, culture, mta, mother tongue annoyances

Author: "Tim W." Tags: "Poetry"
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Date: Friday, 03 Aug 2007 17:34

Although I love most words, there are some that I object to not so much for their meanings, but for their 'mouth feel' and 'ear feel,' if that makes any sense to you. Stated another way, there are certain sounds that simply do not feel good emerging from my mouth, or being processed by my ears.

One good example of this type of term is the dreaded 'c-word,' which you will note that I refuse to spell out in this essay. It is not that I am necessarily squeamish about expletives in general. Rather, the aural and visual impact of that particular word turns me off completely.

Another word that I dislike for aesthetic/sensory reasons is the noun and verb gank. Are you familiar with this slang term? Allow me to share with you some real-world examples of gank in action:

He said he ganked that movie from the store. [ref]

What I'm saying is that he had the chance to win the peace and he ganked it. [ref]

You should blame Acela! it all started when he ganked me while i was going to ninja summon with Shilia. [ref]

"...after police accused him of trying to sell undercover officers "gank," a street term for something that looks like drugs but isn’t, at the intersection of East Seventh and Wallace streets. [ref]

The second edition of the Oxford English Dictionary defines the noun gank as an obsolete term in mineralogy meaning "containing or resembling 'gank.' The relevant quotation from the OED comes to us via the 1747 volume The Miner's Dictionary by William Hooson:

Gank, a Soil lying in some Veins of a very Red or Yellow colour, sometimes Branching and Spreading itself in small Strings or Joynts to the Rachill, by which Signs it is very probable a Vein may be discovered; some Veins are naturally much inclined to it, such we call Gankey Veins.

Hmm...not a very helpful definition, is it? Let's turn our attention next to another definition for the noun form of gank; this meaning arrives to our proverbial doorstep courtesy of the Double-Tongued Dictionary:

gank n. fake illegal drugs sold as real.

To the "recreational" drug users in my readership: Have you ever been ripped off by an unscrupulous (read: desperate) individual who sold you gank instead of the real stuff? Nah—didn't think so.

The DTD also provides us with an acceptable definition of gank used as a verb:

gank v. to rob, rip off, or con (someone).

Once again, to the "recreational" drug users in my readership: Have you ever been ganked by an unscrupulous (read: fiending) individual who sold you gank instead of the real stuff?

All this information is fine, as far as it goes. In my experience, the more common usage of gank nowadays is originally inspired by the addictive in its own right MMORPG World of Warcraft.

Here is a yeomanlike definition of ganking from our friend Wikipedia:

Ganking is a type of griefing in online role-playing video games which employ player versus player combat (especially in MMORPGs such as World of Warcraft). Ganking may involve attacking another player without warning; more specifically, doing so while the targeted player is already engaged in combat with a game character, usually meaning they're distracted and/or their health has been compromised. Ganking is not considered an honorable practice, since the ganker is winning a fight they might not have won in circumstances where those participating in the PvP (player versus player) combat had an equal chance of winning.

According to the Urban Dictionary, the word ganking in this context represents a conflation of gang kill.

In my research I was unable to find a first occurrence of gank used in the World of Warcraft context. Can any of you help me out with this?

The Rice University Neologisms Database presents us with a delightfully comprehensive etymology of gank:

  • gank (to steal): portmanteau of gang + bank
  • gank (to be killed by surprise in an online game): portmanteau of gang + highjack
  • gank (to take by force): portmanteau of grab + yank

A contributor to the American Dialect Society mailing list speculated that "I believe [gank is] probably an abbreviated form of "gangster" (transitive verb), which of course is often pronounced "gankster."

So there you have it, friends. Thanks for reading.

Technorati Tags: wow, world of warcraft, griefing, ganking, gank, etymology, english, language, linguistics, popular culture, MMORPG, mta, mother tongue annoyances

Author: "Tim W." Tags: "Slang, Etymology"
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Date: Thursday, 02 Aug 2007 19:28

When I was a juvenile delinquent, I used to wear Harley-Davidson-branded apparel and whole-heartedly bought into the Harley-Davidson "mystique." Why did I do this, considering I was too young (and financially strapped) to own a Harley-Davidson motorcycle myself?

Well, in retrospect I recognize that my motivation was centered on the fact that I wanted to be perceived by others as a "rebel" or as a similarly counter-cultural figure. How corny this sentiment is! Today I am embarrassed for myself.

At base, the Harley-Davidson Motor Company (NYSE: HOG) is a for-profit enterprise?nothing more, nothing less. The company manufactures what are, in my opinion, oversized, overloud, sloppy-looking motorcycles that are of questionable mechanical reliability and of dubious environmental efficiency.

Look, I'm not here to bash Harley motorcycles or the Harley-Davidson Motor Company. In the U.S. we live in a capitalistic society, and if Harley-Davidson, Inc. can make a good buck by offering a good or service that people seem to adore, then more power to them.

I myself grew up riding off-road bikes (3- and 4-wheeled ATVs, in particular). However, over the past few years I have pondered purchasing a road bike. For my money, I'll take an old Honda Nighthawk or any BMW cycle any day and twice on Sunday.

Please read what Jive Magazine has to say regarding the marketing focus of the Harley-Davidson brand:

Fashion embodies a state of mind, a culture. But it is not that culture. An example of this can be seen in Harley-Davidson driving lawyers in their 40s. Harley-Davidson meant something because of what it was, and that became a shtick that was re-marketed to people that needed not an alternate form of transportation, but instead what Harley-Davidson had come to ?mean.? The bottom line here: we live in a culture where appearances count for a lot more than reality.

One question I have is "What, exactly, did Harley-Davidson ever mean?" Perhaps some folks choose to ride Harleys in order to demonstrate their solidarity with the so-called "American Spirit," or to support American vehicle manufacturers.

News flash: we live in a global economy now. (Please read Thomas Friedman's The World is Flat for additional information on this subject). Regarding "American Pride," "The Power of Pride," or what-have-you, I am not much on nationalism in any event. Aren't we all human beings, regardless of our country of origin or residence? The former is purely an accident of birth, don't you know.

Look at this bit from WebProNews:

Stay alert and get it early. The new branding paradigm is to sell a lifestyle, a personality and it is also about appealing to emotions of your customers. Increasingly, it will be more and more about creating an experience around the product.

The WebProNews article discusses the Harley-Davidson Motor Company specifically. Here are a few questions that I have for those good men and women who wear Harley-Davidson-branded attire (read: marketing materials), affix big ol' Harley-Davidson stickers to their pickup truck's rear windshield, and so forth:

Do you realize that you are providing free advertising for the Harley-Davidson Motor Company? Does the term "marketing shill" mean anything to you? Does H-D provide you with cash remuneration for your offering this valuable marketing service to them?

What's the deal with the so-called "Harley-Davidson culture"? Here is a representative example:

Us long time Harley riders usually say "If I have to explain it, you wouldn't understand anyway"! But I will try!! To all of us our individualized Harleys are a piece of beautiful art work that we not only look at, but touch, smell, ride & listen to! The sound, OH THAT SOUND!!! The PLEASANT deep guttural rumble! We are addicted to the sound as totally as a junky is to drugs!

Harley riders are different from the main fabric of society. This is not a bad thing! Thomas Jefferson said "I stand that, a little rebellion in a society is a good thing!" Harley-Davidson is that little rebellion against a couch potato kiss ass existence.

A "couch potato kiss ass existence"? Let me quote my beloved mother: Get a life.

Do you think that I would ever put a Honda tattoo on my body to show my support for this manufacturer and its products? Not on your freakin' life. Nevertheless, I've known and loved people with Harley-Davidson tattoos for the vast majority of my existence. What is the difference?

Take a look at this piece:

Women always have ridden Harleys. Always will. It?s a freedom/rebellion thing. But Harley?s are masculine. That?s WHY women like to ride them.

I can attest that my wife is *excited* by Harley-Davidson motorcycles. There is a decided "big, swinging dick"-like, hypermasculine aspect to these machines. After all, aren't these bikes called 'hogs' by Harley-Davidson aficionados?

Let me probe further, though: With what 'freedom' and 'rebellion' does the Harley-Davidson rider ally himself or herself? Freedom, say, to break the law? Rebellion against authority?

Again, get a life. We are not in middle school anymore, people. Moreover, we all have a boss (that is to say, someone or something who is an authority over us). Whether that authority is your deity of choice, a governmental or legislative body, your parent, your employer, or your spouse (!), this fact is unavoidable. Don't kid yourself about this.

I would enjoy viewing a statistical study that either supports or refutes my anecdotally grounded belief that the "Harley-Davidson culture" is associated with high-risk behaviors such as substance/alcohol abuse, body modifications, and so forth.

So let me repeat: I don't blame Harley-Davidson, Inc. for capitalizing on the fact that some men and women are drawn, as are moths to a flame, to the "bad boy" image. Heck, if I had a product to sell that had that solid of a hook, then I would be a financially wealthy man.

Furthermore, if Harley-Davidson riders find fellowship and solace in their shared interest in the motorcycles and motorcycle riding, then that's wonderful as well. My motivation for authoring this post was inspired originally by the question, "What exactly is this Harley-Davidson weltanschauung that has created such a vibrant subculture?"

To those Harley fans who play the 'rebellion' card: Please remember that there exists a substantial distinction between non-conformity and anti-conformity. By getting dressed up in "Harley gear," I conform every bit as much to a stereotype/subcultural paradigm as I do if I get gussied up in Ralph Lauren clothing.

Author: "Tim W." Tags: "Rants, Pop Culture"
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Date: Wednesday, 01 Aug 2007 17:27

How many of you have participated in a conversational exchange that was similar to the following:

Caller: Hi Tim, it's Caller here. How are you doing?

Tim: Hey, Caller! I'm so glad to hear from you. I'm great, I'm great. How have you and the family been?

Caller: Never better. So what's new?

Tim: <blah blah>

Caller: Great! Hey, I just called to see if you could do me a favor...

What's wrong with this picture? Well, perhaps nothing is wrong with it. After all, isn't friendship largely concerned with dependability; that is to say, I'm there for you whenever you call, and vice-versa?

Yes. However, if the only time you call me is to ask me for a favor, then I am led to wonder if I mean anything to you beyond my utility to your all-important life. In other words, do you consider me to be a human being or a resource? Does my 'personhood' constitute an end in itself, or am I simply a means to one of your personal ends? And so on.

Let me provide you with another example of this unfortunate communication dynamic. The other day I received an e-mail message from someone who never, ever answers my friendly e-mail messages to him or her. Believe me, my hearing from this person at all was quite a surprise.

Anyway, I received what appeared to be a form e-mail message requesting that I allow myself to be associated with his or her list of professional contacts (evidently this person and I both belong to the same business-oriented social networking Web site).

My principal question upon receipt of this impersonal e-mail message was: "Is this person contacting me because he or she wants me, Tim Warner, to be a part of their business social network? Or, by contrast, did this person send a 'scattergun' mail message to everyone in their address book in the hopes of puffing up his or her contact statistics at this particular high-profile Web site?

As Dr. Phil says, the biggest predictor of a person's current or future behavior is a demonstrated track record of past behavior. Based upon my previous (non)interactions with this individual, I chose to pass on the social networking request.

Am I making sense here? While I stand ever-ready to serve others, I am, concurrently, rather sensitive to the "lover of things, user of people" world view that seems to be so prevalent nowadays. As a result, I am less inclined to be of assistance to those who contact me only when they need help. At least call me just to 'say hi' once per year, for heaven's sake.

I have another "friend" whom I will call Tony. The first three or four times I called him I left messages stating that I contacted him only to chat and to discover how he was doing. All of my calls were ignored.

Rather than become offended by Tony's pointed lack of a response to my messages, I wondered instead how many days in a row I would have to leave Tony the same message before he returned my calls. I'm not kidding you: I quit after 12 attempts. Needless to say, Tony never called me back.

That is, until one day, out of the clear, blue sky, I did in point of fact receive a telephone call from Tony:

Tony: Hey Tim, how are you doing?

Tim: I'm okay, Tony. How are you?

Tony: Um, not too good. My laptop is broken. Do you think you could stop by my house and take a look at it sometime? I have an important paper due on Thursday.

Ugh.

In keeping with the wisdom of my old friend Max, who used to say "Tim, if you don't like what somebody else does, then don't undertake the behavior yourself," I want to share with you my strategies for avoiding this interpersonal mistake:

  • I make it a habit to send periodic 'hello' e-mail messages and to place friendly calls to those whom I care for. My motivation for these messages and calls is grounded purely in love and interest in the other person. Of course, the first question I ask the man or woman on the other end of the telephone line is, "Am I calling at an acceptable time?"
  • Whenever I do ask a friend for a favor, I inform him or her of my intentions immediately. I will typically say something like "Kathy, I'm calling for two reasons. First, and most importantly, I wanted to connect with you and say hello. Second, I wondered if I could ask you for help with something I have going on in my life."

Fair enough? Certainly, I have no aspirations that this simple essay will change anyone's approach in their interpersonal interactions. More than anything, I was led today to clarify in writing my own philosophy on the subject.

Author: "Tim W." Tags: "Etiquette, Communications"
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Date: Friday, 27 Jul 2007 18:36

The other night I read a nifty article at Psychology Today Online that inspired a short poem. The essay dealt with some interesting biological/evolutionary truths concerning men and women. Here, give it a read:

Psychology Today Online: "Ten Politically Incorrect Truths About Human Nature"

Now that we both have had the opportunity to digest the piece, allow me to share with you a bit o' my verse:

On Marriage

You know, I think that science states
That humans are, by basal trait
Led by need to procreate

And yet, not mated two by two
But rather, one to more, ‘tis true
That reproductive urge to screw

But I, for reasons not all clear
Do prefer the nuptial sphere
To live beside my loving wife
For me denotes the preferred life

To each his own, her life to lead
My spousal choice, a planted seed
If our shared life seems anti-math
Then to the good, I’ll claim this path

Technically, "On Marriage" consists of four stanza. The first two stanzas include tercets employing the AAA triplet rhyme scheme. The second two stanzas encompass quatrains leveraging the BBBB monorhymed pattern.

All of this heavy rhyming (cf.  "Upon the Morning") is unusual for me, I assure you. The bulk of my poetry is written in free verse.

Anyway, let us take a look at "On Marriage" one stanza at a time, after which we'll wrap our analysis into a tidy little bow by making general conclusions about the work.

You know, I think that science states
That humans are, by basal trait
Led by need to procreate

A great deal of poetry uses an eight-syllable line; "On Marriage" is no different. Here I have selected iambic tetrameter as my metrical device; the eight-syllable line pattern is broken only twice in the entire poem (line three of the first stanza and line two of the second).

The colloquial "You know" introduction is intentional artifice on my part. Yes, I have flagrantly taken a leaf from Robert Frost by choosing those particular words, and I'm not ashamed to admit it.

Overall, the first stanza is quite literal and informative in meaning (especially if you read the Psychology Today article). If you place much stock in evolutionary biology, then you believe that we humans, like the rest of the natural world, are driven by the so-called "biological imperative." That is, we possess an instinct to reproduce our species for one more generation.

And yet, not mated two by two
But rather, one to more, ‘tis true
That reproductive urge to screw

The second stanza more directly references the Psychology Today article, specifically where the authors discussed humankind's natural tendency for polygyny. My transformation of the phrase it is to the old-timey contraction 'tis represents some more faux cleverness that, more than anything else, allowed me to constrain the line to eight syllables (Yes, I am of Germanic heritage...leave me alone!).

Stephen King is a great inspiration to me, if for no other reason that he has an excellent sense of humor about himself. King once said

"If I cannot horrify, I'll go for the gross-out. I'm not proud."

True, true. You may have been slightly taken aback by the third line of this stanza; my wife certainly was. The "reproductive urge to screw" line is a bit of a 'zinger' that was intended to rouse the reader and pique his or her interest in reading the rest of the poem.

But I, for reasons not all clear
Do prefer the nuptial sphere
To live beside my loving wife
For me denotes the preferred life

The message that underlies the third stanza of "On Marriage" is my own satisfaction and contentment with being a married man. Some individuals are not "marriage material." That's all well and good. While I could list several reasons why I prefer being involved in a legally sanctioned life partnership with another human being, this catalog would be by no means exhaustive.

The reference in the third line to living "beside my loving wife" conveys that partnership relationship that Sue and I share. Neither individual is in any way 'above' or 'below' the other.

To each his own, her life to lead
My spousal choice, a planted seed
If our shared life seems anti-math
Then to the good, I’ll claim this path

I concluded "On Marriage" with (a) an expression of "live and let live" regarding the relationship choices of other persons; and (b) a somewhat crotchety exhortation that no matter what science and/or popular culture tells me to the contrary, I am at peace with my decision to be married to my wife.

The imagery in the second line (my choice to be married metaphorically linked to a planted seed) feels really good to me. In my experience, marriage is an ever-evolving, organic union between individuals.

That shopworn image of the three candles, with each person representing their own candle and candle flame, and the two candles combining to form a third flame that is larger than the two separate ones, is appropriate in this context.

I have friends who abhor the idea of marriage because, they believe, committing oneself to another person involves (a) a subsumption of self; and (b) a fundamental loss of freedom.

Again, this is but one man's opinion, but neither of these admittedly frightening outcomes needs to happen. That is to say, I have become more of an individual since committing myself "for better or for worse" to Sue. Moreover, the perceived impingements to freedom (marital fidelity, adapting to a shared life, etc.), if you can believe it, afford me a greater overall freedom than I 'enjoyed' when I was a bachelor.

Thanks for reading.

Author: "Tim W." Tags: "Poetry, Philosophy"
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