I am in search of a travel accountability buddy.

Not to travel with, necessarily.

I started the year with the honest intention of taking short weekend trips across the US since I didn’t have a long overseas trip planned. And now it’s July. And I’ve only been to Austin and Seattle: two cities I adore but have been to before.

I crave new sights and smells and tastes. I want to hear stories from local characters about local lore at every dive joint and general store I can find, told in every thick accent of every region of the U.S.

But I lack discipline. And unlimited funds.

So, I’m looking for a pal who shares the same goal. Someone who might check-in on whether I followed through with diverting my Hulu funds to the travel piggy-bank. Who can help me to rank cities with great public transportation, requiring less budgeting for car rental and cabs. Who will remind me that not spending money is not the same thing as saving money. Who will point out that I can satisfy my voracious, almost physical need for reading on the plane. Who will come up with more for this accountability list.

Someone who will remind me to not talk myself out of my goals.

I’ll do the same for you, kind friend. I’m great at this sort of structure for project management at work and for OPG (other people’s goals).

Not so much for myself.

You can come with me, if you like. But I tend to wander around aimlessly and in silence. I won’t follow your itinerary or eat at chain restaurants. I won’t go to a pool or lay on a beach. Or enter a gift shop. But we can share space and/or catch up on all we saw and did, over coffee in the morning. Early though, because I get up at 5am, even on vacation.

I’m thinking about southern U.S. Civil War cities for my first trip. Charleston, maybe. Or Wilmington. In August? That sounds hot. And muggy. I hate muggy. See? This is why I need you, pal. Remind me to check the humidity, and to look north instead.

Raise your hand if this is you. Or your friend. Or my friend. I’ll be over here, checking out flights.

 

Conversations

June 6, 2011

Because some Twitter conversations are so entertaining and satisfying, I present the first in what I hope will be a series of my favorite conversations with my favorite Twitter pals.

It all started with an unwelcome auto-DM.

There is plenty of information out there on why one should never employ an auto-DM but, of course, said bounty will only be read by those who will go to the trouble of researching such topics to learn and to understand.

Travesty.

So, of course, I had to share it on Twitter.

Because that’s the law.

Moral #1: Stop using auto-DM. Convenience has a price.

Moral #2: Inventing buzz words will make you a hero to some and a douchebag to others.

Others = me and everyone I know.

You just can’t win.

So Twitter rolled out a new feature that I adore. And I’m apparently the only one.

That’s ok, I like being weird.

The Scoop:

Twitter now notifies you via email or SMS for every reply/mention. This is a welcome addition to anyone who, as a rule, responds to mentions as quickly as is humanly possible. I try to.

This new notification is not a huge deal, I suppose, if you leave your Twitter application of choice running at all times because it refreshes often and provides a visual indication of new mentions.

Also, a number of 3rd party applications can be relied on to do the same.

The Problem:

For me, battery life is an issue. Everything I run continuously drains my lifeline and I am often left with dead air. Since I don’t carry a second battery like Chanthana, often forget my charger, or am without an outlet, I try to plan accordingly, painfully aware of my organizational limitations and crippling time management issues.

Also, I’m cheap.

I may be the last person on the planet without an unlimited text plan so the SMS pings won’t work for me.

Therefore, email notifications are a welcome feature for me. Others, however are saying that they get too much email as it is and are toggling off en masse.

Granted, I don’t receive so many mentions or replies as to become an annoyance. In addition, I get almost zero junk email (who do I thank for this?) so there are no cons to this scenario for me.

That being said, I still take the extra step to anticipate a time when this might be a problem.

A Solution/Suggestion for Gmail users:

I set up a folder for Twitter notifications and configured it so that on receipt, the notifications bypass the inbox and land directly in this separate folder. Like this:

Open the offending email, and click on “More Options” then “Filter Messages Like These” which will take you to this screen:

No need for action here, just click “Next Step”

Here, check the box to “Skip the Inbox” and “Apply the Label” then select (or create) the Label (or Folder) you want to collect these notifications.

Be sure to check “Also Apply Filter to xxx Conversations Below” (which I forgot to do when I captured the screen – can you tell?) so that any emails fitting this criteria will be moved in one swoop.

Finally, click “Create Filter” and you’re done.

As you can see, I’ve created numerous Labels/Folders in an attempt to keep my inbox organized.

If this is helpful, fantastic!

If it’s so obvious you cannot believe someone was feeble enough to commit it to a blog post, keep it to yourself.  No one likes a Know-It-All.

In the Blink of a Year

March 7, 2011

Remember when a year sounded like a lifetime?

Vaguely.

I recall being a child lamenting the eternity I had to endure until summer vacation. The teacher laughed and said, “Just wait until you’re grown and a whole year passes in a flash.”

Since I’ve understood her sentiment for a while now, I thought I had a better handle on the disappearance of time.

And then I saw this:

Hi Dorothy!

Ah #HaimUp.

For those of you not versed in the language of Twitter, the # is a hashtag and the “Up” is a play on the word TweetUp.

The Haim is for the one and only Corey Haim, whose death brought together a ragtag group of friends for a very unusual evening.

Corey Haim died on March 10, 2010.

On March 11th, this happened:

Justine and I had decided that tribute needed to be paid.

In the span of less than a day, we wrangled a venue, delicious eats from the one and only Ramon De Leon, and the bevy of everyone’s favorite Chicago Twitter personalities.

What we didn’t plan was the traveling Roshambo tournament, which sauntered into the pub and hypnotized us all.

Who knew there existed traveling roshambo tournaments?

Who knew that Rock/Paper/Scissors was called roshambo? Of course you did. Congratulations. Know-it-all.

I shall never forget the sight of Laser Fists, Danimal, and the Blazin Asian competing with fury or the sound of the roaring crowd chanting “One-Two-Three-THROW!”

Sami took this and should've been in it.

Laser Fists!

I think it tipped the event from fun and silly to legendary. To me, anyway.

And that’s what I was doing a year ago.

I had no idea that in the blink of a year, I would move away from my beloved Andersonville, commit to launching Push m3dia full-time, buy a house in the suburbs, gain a bunch of weight (pffft), and be ten weeks away from the most meaningful accomplishment of my life. So far.

I’m eager to see what the next year will bring.

I’ve made a lot of plans, but the unexpected is the stuff of legends.

I’m ready for it.

“One-Two-Three-THROW!”

More on the Ranking System

January 21, 2011

I had a conversation with Heidi a couple of days ago that has been on my mind since.

Among other things, I was thanking her for her recent comment on this here blog and was reminded of Alicia.

Alicia provided tremendous encouragement when I first started blogging. She requested and published my rumination on booze and what our choices might say about us.

That day, Alicia wrote this to me:

“Today you will find out who your real friends are in the Twitterverse. They will retweet you and/or publicly celebrate the fact that you have the gift of words.

The ones who remain conspicuously silent will disappoint. Take it as a backhanded compliment: Your success today highlights some real or imagined inadequacy that they have.

Either way, you win.”

At the time, I thought it was lovely and generous. A year later, it’s so much more.

It occurs to me that it’s a continuation of the ranking system I introduced as rationale for leaving Facebook. In it, I wrote,

“There are one hundred thousand reasons why some fall off the radar but only one reason why others don’t.

Because you don’t let them.”

We can spout what great friends we are all day long, but our actions define us. How do you evidence your friendship?

It’s wonderful to always take their call and be available and supportive. Invaluable even. But what do you proactively do? You call them, of course. You make the time to reach out, to feel around in some mounting darkness to grasp their hand and hold it tight. You make an effort.

In bloggerverse terms, I have a suggestion.

Comment.

Post a comment on blogs written by your friends.

They labor over theirs just like you labor over yours and feedback is incredibly gratifying and encouraging. A comment shows your friends that you support them and want them to succeed.  Granted we only have so many hours in the day and can’t feasibly read everyone’s every post. No one should blame you for not doing that, but everyone will value you for trying.

Also, subscribe. I am giddy when I receive an email that Dorothy has published a new post. I can’t wait to read it and offer even a simple acknowledgement of her work. I’m not so good at checking Google Reader every day. Admittedly, the email option makes it much easier for me to prioritize my time to ensure that I let her know how much her friendship means to me.

Ranking system.

I’m so grateful to my friends who take the time to share their wisdom on FeliciaCago Land. I plan to practice what I’m preaching here much more in 2011.

Because you’re worth it.

Am I Racist?

January 20, 2011

To preface, no one has called me a racist.

I was involved in a benign discussion on Twitter that got me thinking about the ever expanding usage and application of the word. To reiterate, I was not called a racist and no one was wrong or right in this scenario, in my opinion.

It was simply a conversation that I wish to share here.

Cast:

Me – Ordinary joe. A nobody with an overdeveloped sense of justice, a wicked love jones for the power of words, and a big mouth.

Guy entitled to his opinion – A smart, civically-engaged man.

Innocent – Poor guy whose tweet I found amusing and retweeted. Related: from Alabama, as am I. NOT to imply that anyone is guilty, only that Innocent did not engage further.

It begins with me giggling at Innocent’s tweet:

Guy responds with this:

I prickle, but attempt to diffuse:

Yes, I could have simply ignored it, potentially avoiding more Twitter Fatigue. But I didn’t. Neither did Guy:

I find the generalization of generalizations a bit unnerving. I believe that context should always be considered. So I push, as I am wont to do:

Now, of course I don’t believe Guy hates Alabamians and I’m 100% sure he had no idea that Innocent and I are from Alabama. I offered this unfair accusation to equate with his. And to be funny. Guy does not seem amused:

Guy is absolutely correct. Unfounded claims add nothing to discourse.

But the other part of this really gets to me. No one chooses to believe anything? They just believe? Um.

Our beliefs are informed by experience, education, cultural and environmental influences, and myriad other outside forces.

One isn’t born believing in or doubting God or rooting for the Detroit Lions. Our parents, friends, teachers, clergy, or even strangers serve to form our beliefs until we, hopefully, choose to research and explore the foundation of those beliefs in order to strengthen them or to create new ones.

All by choice.

But by now it’s late, it’s bedtime for me as well, and I’m trying to embrace the notion that I initially ascribed to him in my mind: “Dude, lighten up.”  So I attempt to diffuse again:

Guy kindly tolerated my silliness:

To Guy’s credit, he hasn’t yet blocked me, which I greatly appreciate because I hope this leads to the discourse he referred to and surely values as much as I.

Racism is evil. Identifying and ending racism is everybody’s job.

First, I get it.  Generalizing about any race as superior or inferior is, at the basest level, just plain incorrect.   Generalizing about any demographic as any one charactistic is probably incorrect.  Case in point, an earlier tweet by Guy:

Should someone reprimand him for generalizing about vegetarian girls? Of course not.  Also, blind people do go to movies. But whatever word might be used to connote discrimination about vegetarian girls and blind people probably does not have the immense power of the word racism.

The accusation of racism can destroy careers and reputations in an instant. To bandy about this term is to diminish its meaning. Paul Wachtel posits that “for some people it has lost its impact, lost its power to shock, to evoke guilt or revulsion. A term that once referred to the most deplorable and shameful of traits and actions has been extended to include virtually universal human characteristics and to include within its purview practically everyone in our society.”

I believe it is prudent to apply the term carefully and responsibly.

Second, it was a fucking joke. On Twitter. Jokes can absolutely reflect racism and be hurtful. This one seems pretty harmless to me.

I hope Guy will see this and not be offended. Perhaps he will choose to weigh in. I welcome his feedback and yours.

And yes, I clearly have way too much time on my hands.

Twitter Fatigue

January 17, 2011

The phases of Twitter are well documented.

Whether there are Six phases or Forty-Six, the extremes are what I like to call Attrition to Addiction.

First, they tell you, you’ll dismiss Twitter as far too overwhelming. You’ll abandon, possibly for months and return only reluctantly because people you respect keep telling you it’s not what you think.

And then you’re hooked.

The fun, for research nerds like myself, is discovering what people respond to and how to effectively be heard over the din of millions. It’s watching a personality emerge in 140 characters until you just can’t wait to meet this brilliant, hilarious, ravenous, succinct, and simpatico-in-every-way gadabout behind the quip.

I do not recall my first real tweet but I believe it was in August 2008.  (A free Wow Bao treat for the first person to sift through all 20,000+ of mine to post the first in the comments.  Must redeem in Chicago.)

It began slowly, as it always does. Testing the waters. Coming to terms with the utter narcissism of it all. Getting into the proverbial groove.

I have blogged about the Phonatics timeline, which marks the beginning of my “Addiction” phase. As I approach the end of 2010, I realize that my entire social and professional life this year has been informed and influenced by Twitter.

Attrition to Addiction.

But what comes next? Because that’s where I am.

I propose that the next in the Twitter timeline of phases is Fatigue.

Fatigue is characterized by, but not limited to, the following:

  • You dread planning tweetups because the people you love say, “Ugh, I won’t come if so-and-so is going.”
  • You dread attending tweetups because so-and-so will be there.
  • You were giddy at the rollout of Mute functionality.
  • You make a new acquaintance with someone who informs you of your bitter rivalry/disagreement/argument with someone you’ve never met or even heard of.

Fatigue differs from Attrition in that you don’t want to walk away from the platform altogether because you’ve seen how powerful it can be. You haven’t lost interest. You’ve lost tolerance.

I’ve met more incredible people and made more lasting friendships in 2010 than in all my prior years on the Earth combined. I’ve grown professionally and cultivated clients and referrals all from Twitter. I wish to continue to do so.

But the honeymoon is over.

Much like that unceremonious but crucial point in a romantic relationship when the shit gets real, Twitter Fatigue sets in when the gloss fades. And in a romantic relationship, I generally love this part. I’d choose First Year over First Date any day because that’s when it gets good. And deep. And dirty. That kind of intimacy will decide whether you want more or no more.

So what have I learned after a year of Twitter?

I’ve learned that you people are fucking mean.

Perhaps it’s the assumption of intimacy that is bothering me. The ease with which people will take offense, lash out, or diminish another’s reputation or point of view. In real life, it’s simple to avoid toxic people. We just avoid them. Remember the ranking system? On Twitter, you simply can’t without being mean.

I’m not perfect. I’m quite often considered rude. But I won’t be mean.

Is there a difference, you ask? I think there is. Rudeness is often unintentional because it is defined by an individual. Meanness is always intentional.

A gal once told me I was rude because when asked my opinion about a restaurant she loved, I replied, “I went twice and didn’t enjoy it.  I should try it again.”

She then told me that I must have no taste.

Which was rude and which was mean? And wouldn’t it have made more sense if she were my sister or my best friend as opposed to someone I was just meeting at a tweetup?

So my cowardly solution has been to close ranks, develop a thicker skin, and manage my expectations of Twitter a bit.

On the flip side of this argument is my obsession with an Abe Lincoln quote that AnnMarie shared over dinner: “I don’t like that man.  I must get to know him better.”

Perhaps I have it all wrong.

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