Facebook Techno-Zombies of the 21st Century

9/19/13 - Drew Vics

Buster Crabbe as Buck RogersBuck Rogers would have been pissed. Well, we’re only in the 21st Century — Buck wakes up in the 25th, so he wouldn’t be pissed yet — but when we get there we may just be the dumbest civilization in history. Even though our road was paved by genius.

Brilliant progressive thinkers of the 20th Century have brought us amazing technological advances. The late Steve Jobs will come to mind as one of the most recent and influential, having significantly changed the face of personal computing with Apple Macs, iPads and iPhones, branding our civilization with the tempting fruit of Eden. Some Christians will enjoy putting devil horns on him for that… as if.

With over 116 million iPhones and more than 56 million iPads sold by Q3 of 2013, Apple has truly empowered humankind with amazing technology. Powerful tools for communication, productivity, art and expression. And what do we do with it? We Facebook.

It can be used as a verb now you know, not as often as, but similar to “text, tweet, pm,” and the older tech-comm verb “email.” Each has a past participle form as well, “texted, tweeted, pm’ed, and emailed.” Think back too, the original tech-com verbs were words like “penned,” “phoned” and “radioed,” when we first began to use those technologies.

To get back to it… I guess it falls into the “expression” category. Facebook is an amazing technology in that it made one man stupidly filthy rich (Mark Zuckerberg is worth about 18 billion as of September 2013), like many marketable technology fads, and it functions great as a networking tool, but it also enables us to waste huge amounts of time.

Wasted Time, Money and other Woes of Social Media
We’ve become Facebook Zombies! Active users spend an average of about 8 hours monthly on Facebook. I’m one of them, so this isn’t some fringe commentary against the masses. That said I will state that I try to limit my time, only post when I have something worthwhile or incredibly funny to say, and don’t play any of the games. Sorry, but I’ve got better ways to waste my time than virtual “farming” or playing pretend on a computer.

Why is it so easy for us to get caught up in pretend worlds when there is a truly remarkable real world right outside the door?

In the past — as in, the “olden days” — to kill some time around the house we’d play cards, Scrabble, or watch TV. Many of us spent a hell of a lot of time outside riding our bikes and climbing trees too, but yes, we wasted time watching TV. What I think makes it a little worse today is that we’re doing more of both. We’re watching as much or more TV, and Facebooking, texting, tweeting, whatever-else-ing on the internet.

It gets worse when you consider how much money businesses are throwing away because a larger percentage of their employees are incredibly sidetracked by social media and text messaging. One estimate is that companies surveyed were losing $10 million each year through decreased productivity. Consider this article on the subject.

Should those companies sue Zuckerberg for lost revenue? Of course not, but the impact is real and significant.

Is the technology also “dumming us down?” Will we have generations with fewer bright thinkers or leaders than today? Can our civilization survive? Consider not just the waste of time that Facebook and other social networks contribute to, but the massive spreading of misinformation which in some cases threatens to undermine the science that has helped eradicate disease over the last several decades.

Case in point: Jenny McCarthy and the anti-vaccine movement. Stupid on a level beyond comprehension, but it has grown and proliferated with the help of social media. Why? Because people spread hype and hysteria without first find the facts for themselves. These social networking sites help facilitate the spread of this damaging nonsense. The damage is ongoing.

Night of the Living Dead or People of Walmart?
If you have to herd the human race like a bunch of dumb bovines through a field in order to get them to be more productive something is wrong. It brings to mind the wandering hoard of Walmart Zombies encountered by focused shoppers armed with a concise list who wish to keep their shopping trip brief so they can get back to life outside.

It can be a mind-numbing sideshow. A number of people actually spend hours of their day just walking around the store like the living dead, and some of them dress that way too! George Romero could have saved thousands of dollars on zombie extras if Walmart existed in 1968.

Night of the Living Dead zombies or People of Walmart

We need to self check
Here’s a test: Look in the mirror (in your bathroom or you can find one in the health and beauty aisle of the store, if that’s where you are)… if you look gaunt and pale, mouth hanging agape, eyes droopy, and you spend either too much time in front of your computer on Facebook, or too much time in Walmart, time to get the hell outside and get some fresh air!

Read a book, play a guitar, take a walk or kiss your spouse. Get the hell up and get with life.


Enormously Significant in our Insignificance

8/26/12 - Drew Vics

There is an intriguing image floating around the world wide web. It illustrates our incredible insignificance in the cosmic scheme of things; how really small and relatively unimportant we humans are on a cosmic scale, compared to the vastness of space, with its 100 billion galaxies, 100 billion star systems, 8 planets, and 7 billion people on the planet Earth.

It’s interesting, and relatively true, but we can look at human existence in another, more inspiring way.

you are enormously insignificant image

We can say that we are insignificant, compared to the nearly incomprehensible universe, the vastness of space and time, but in our insignificance, aren’t we rather incredibly significant?

Right now, as far as we know, we are the only intelligent creatures that can accurately comprehend that notion. Out of the hundreds of billion galaxies mentioned in the image (maybe closer to 500 billion according to a German super-computer simulation), and hundreds of billion star systems, and our 8 planets plus the 2,321 Kepler planet candidates we’ve found so far, the planet Earth is host to a species that has evolved the ability to think, rationalize, explore, examine and understand. That’s cool.

Carl Sagan said, “we are a way for the universe to know itself.” From that perspective I think we humans are unique, and rare in this universe.


One Foot out of the Covers

5/23/12 - Drew Vics

A friend posted this on Facebook:

Covers on, too hot. Covers off, too cold. One foot out, just right!

After reading that I felt a slight sense of relief, and somehow felt a connection to the other people who had read the post and responded that they do the same thing sometimes. I thought, “I’m not the only one.”

Over time I’ve also learned that I’m not the only one who sleeps with bare feet that roam around under the sheets looking for the cool spots, though I’m sure there are those who prefer socks.

I’m not the only person who has, at least once, repeated a word to himself until it seems foreign, or who, as a kid, thought that a watermelon would grow in my stomach if I swallowed a seed. And sometimes I still use my fingers to count.

Knowing we share these silly quirks of the human experience can help us feel less alone, existentially speaking of course. With more than 7 billion people on this planet we’re hardly alone, but as individuals we can feel that way sometimes.

Despite all of our differences; all of our attitudes, games, dramas and beliefs, we still have quite a bit in common as human beings. Indeed, we share even those quirky traits, however pleasant, annoying or destructive they may tend to be.

Just as I am not the only one who has kept one leg out of the covers during sleep, or worried about a watermelon seed, I am also not the only person who has voiced a choice word to someone who has cut me off on the highway.

Good or bad, quirky and fun, or jerky and mean, we share these qualities and traits. We are not alone in our human experience, and that can be a comforting thought. We are simply humans, as unsimple as it may seem at times.


Colin Hay at Keswick Theater – Memorable Show

4/29/12 - Drew Vics

Colin Hay performs at The Keswick Theater, Glenside, PA. April 28, 2012.

Buying concert tickets 4 months in advance is not recommended. My fiancé, Cindy, ended up having to go on a business trip and I couldn’t sell the them. As it turns out, I’m glad I didn’t, read on…

I went to the concert with two tickets, expecting to sit next to an empty seat, not worried about recouping the loss for the extra. In my opinion Colin Hay is well worth the $70+. That’s about what I paid for both of them.

Here’s the story. I park by the venue and walk over to Plush, a nice little nightclub near the Keswick Theater, pull up a seat at the bar and order a beer. I introduce myself to a fellow sitting next to me, Dan, and ask if he’s in town for the Colin Hay show. He says he is, and I tell him about my plight with the extra ticket. He laughs and said he has an extra too.

He tells me he bought his tickets way back in December for he and his girlfriend, but they have since split up. I’m happy that my girl was only away on business. :)

We chat a bit more then I head over to the show, expecting to maybe see him later a few rows ahead of me or something. I find my seat at the show, in Orchestra Center row D. As seating goes, from that point forward we have C, B, A, then JJ through AA, then CCC through AAA, which is the very first row. There were an additional three rows of folding chairs set up between AAA and the stage for this show as well.

So I’m sitting there and I hear someone call my name. I turn and look toward the aisle and Dan is walking ahead to his seat in row CCC. He’s waving his extra ticket to me and pointing ahead, indicating that I should join him, so I get up and politely make my way out and move up, very cool.

Ryan Montbleau performs at The Keswick Theater, Glenside, PA. April 28, 2012.

So we sit and chat about music and stuff, and watch the opening act, Ryan Montbleau. Amazing guitarist and singer/songwriter, with an unique style that blends soul, roots blues, bluegrass, country and rock, combined with a storyteller lyrical style. Quite enjoyable. After the show I bought a CD, “Live at Life is good,” met Ryan and he autographed it. Nice guy.

I considered getting an autograph or photo with Colin Hay, unfortunately the line was way long, forgive me if that sounds bad, but consider this…

After Ryan’s performance we headed out to the lobby for intermission. I waited on line for the mens’ room, lost Dan in the shuffle, and by the time I got back downstairs, grabbed a drink at the concession stand and headed back to my seat Colin Hay was already starting his set. I found our row, CCC and notice that our seats were taken, and Dan was nowhere in sight.

Colin Hay talks to the audience at The Keswick Theater, Glenside, PA. April 28, 2012.

I was about to raise a stink and demand those people to move, because I had the new ticket in my pocket, then I heard someone call my name again. I look to my right, toward the stage and there is Dan, in the 3rd row, center stage. He waved to me and nonchalantly motioned to the empty seat beside him. No kidding. I headed up there, excused myself passed others in that row, sat down and asked him, “what the hell just happened, how did we get up here?” He looked over at me and shrugged, smiling.

I like a good mystery. Anyway, there we were. I sat on a folding chair, right down in front, thus the great shots I was able to get with my cell phone (no flash!). Colin Hay is a wonderful performer and story teller, really fun to watch and inspiring to listen to. I’ve been a great fan of his style, especially his voice, since my late teens and early twenties, and this rekindled that fondness.

Funny side story: My father met Colin Hay back in the late 1980s while he was in National Guard. My version of this story was completely inaccurate so my father emailed his first hand account, which you can read at the end of this post.

Upon returning home my father asked, “Have you ever heard of a group called Man at Work?” I said, “yeah, they’re awesome,” or something to that effect. He told me the story and my jaw dropped. Then apologized for not getting an autograph for my sister and me. At least we have the story.

Colin Hay performed many songs from his carrier, including a choice few from the Men at Work Days (it was nice to hear “Down by the Sea”), as well as songs from his 2011 release “Gathering Mercury.” Every bit of music and voice delivered beautifully. Hay is a delight to listen to, engaging, humorous and at times touching, whether he’s telling one of his anecdotes or singing one of his great songs.

It was a very entertaining evening and a great show at the Keswick Theater with Colin Hay, and Ryan Montbleau, enjoyed from some of the best seats in the house. Thanks Dan!

Update: My Father’s Chance meeting with Colin Hay and Men at Work.

I met Men at Work at the Syracuse, NY airport. We were there for a forced overnighter while flying up to Ft. Drum. The weather at Ft. Drum was bad so we had to spend the night in Syracuse waiting for the storm to pass. Our helicopters were buttoned up on the apron and the 4 of us who had secured them were waiting for transportation to the hotel, the other crews had gone ahead. We noticed that the chain link fence around the area where we were waiting was wall to wall people. Didn’t think it was for us. :-)

A four engine Vickers Viscount turboprop landed and taxied up next to us and a group of people came down the ladder. They walked over to us and started to chat, we did not know who they were. I did shake hands with all of them.They wanted to buy flight-suits and wanted to know where to get them. We could not help them but they did invite us to tour their airplane and partake of the cheese and fruit goodie trays they left behind. We watched as they got into some limos and departed. We then climbed aboard the aircraft and had a nice visit with the cute flight attendant who told us who they were and then had a tour and some nice snacks. I also remember a short Japanese photographer running around taking pictures, He stood out in my mind because he only had one hand. He would rest the camera on his stump and then snap pictures.

The guys who had gone ahead were sort of pissed since they missed out. The Viscount was closed up tight when we left the next morning. I read in the local paper that Men at Work had performed a concert at the Civic Center.



The Rewards of Labor – Lunch!

4/27/12 - Drew Vics

It’s the simple things, you know? Making lunch. The simple, personal rewards we kinda look forward to that make us happy. But how does it feel to make lunch if you weren’t looking forward to it? I mean, if you were just sitting around waiting to make lunch that lunch might not be as rewarding than if you were busy all morning, accomplishing things, and then took a break to make lunch. You follow me?

Thomas Edison is quoted as saying, “There is no substitute for hard work.” And Voltaire is quoted as saying, “The biggest reward for a thing well done is to have done it.”

Yeah, but then we can still have lunch! This veers slightly off topic, but one of my favorite quotes is this from biologist —Dr. James Watson:

I don’t think we’re here for anything, we’re just products of evolution. You can say ‘Gee, your life must be pretty bleak if you don’t think there’s a purpose’ but I’m anticipating a good lunch.

I like making lunch.
I don’t do it everyday, but there is something to be said for routine. A routine gives us a regular schedule of things we can look forward to.

Typically we look forward to things we enjoy, so it stands to reason that our routines also include periods of work; chores or tasks we must do to earn a living or keep the house and our lives in order. Face it, what the hell have we got to look forward to if we do nothing with our time?

During our routine, on a daily level, we look forward to lunch after cranking on stuff for the first half of the work day. The second half of the day we keep busy until it’s time to head home. On a weekly level we might look forward to happy hour on Friday, or make plans for dinner out with friends.

Idle hands are the Devil’s tools…
The things we look forward to are like bonuses for a job well done, an earned reward. In order to reap these simple bonuses in life we must be productive. Sit around like a lump and you’ll have nothing to look forward to, except maybe getting off your ass to go sit somewhere else.

I don’t believe in the Devil, but I do believe that a busy mind, and the connected busy hands, are more likely to keep themselves out of trouble and less likely to get caught up in petty dramas and nonsense. There’s also more potential for success for the busy person.

Why lunch?
My father has a routine, even in his retired years he has a routine, and he looks forward to making his lunch, at a specific time. My parents are, even in their retirement, busy, productive people, reaping the rewards of productive professional lives, and now reaping the rewards of retirement. They diligently pursue their daily routines and looking forward to those little things that make them happy.

Flying by the ass of your pants, as I’ve heard it said, being spontaneous, can have its rewards but I find that there is a kind of security in routine. Use a routine to stay on track and let the spontaneity occur as a bonus.

We kinda need a plan. A completely spontaneous life would have no bounds, no control. A graceful, routine flight, with some fun, can seem boundless. Just watch the birds play, between nest building…