Archive for May, 2012

The World, She Is Fast

We all know that the world moves quickly, but sometimes it still amazes me just how fast things are changing.

10 years ago, there was no Youtube, no Facebook, no Skype, and MSN Messenger was in its infancy. It was inconceivable that a person could be made to feel so cut off from the world when his or her computer went down.

Yet today my old laptop breathed its last, and here I stand, powerless and alone.

…Or so I would have been five years ago.

See, five years ago it was inconceivable that anything could replace a computer as a means to staying connected with the world. I couldn’t check Facebook on my Motorola RAZR, that’s for sure. But now we have smartphones, tablets, and data plans. And here I am, typing out a blog on a phone.

When you think about it, it’s really amazing.

In order to snap me out of this uninspired funk I’ve been having, I figured I’d start a new feature. This one’s called “Things Mike Likes.” In it, I’ll talk about – wait for it – things I like. It’s effectively the opposite of a rant in that rather discussing obscure things that piss me off, I’ll discuss obscure things that I like, but are unappreciated by most.

First off, temporary plastic covers.

You know how when you buy a new electronic advice, be it a phone, or a camera, or speakers, it comes with a temporary plastic covering, usually on the screen?

Like so.

Most people just discard these covers without giving it a second thought. But I don’t. I love these things, and I keep them on for as long as humanly possible.

What could possibly possess me to do this?

REASON #1: These covers give your device a second life. As banged up and bruised as these covers may get, there’s a shiny new device underneath. These plastic covers are temporary, and not made to last. Eventually they start to peel off and become unsightly to the point where they have to be removed. When you reach this point, you can be happy knowing that your device will look good as new once the cover comes off.

REASON #2: These covers make the device feel brand new still, even if it isn’t. If the plastic is still on, it’s like you’ve just taken it out of the box, even if it’s been several weeks.

REASON #3: These covers, temporary though they might be, keep dirt and dust out for as long as they survive, protecting your device and extending its longevity, if only by a few weeks.

Below are two examples. On the left we have my iPod speakers. These things are about four years old, and as you can see, the plastic has become really ugly. But because they’re speakers, I really don’t care about how aesthetically pleasing they are, so I’ve kept the plastic on all this time. But the point is that I could remove it at any time, and find that the sections still covered by the plastic look brand new.

On the right we have my new phone. I’ve had this thing for a little over the week now, and the plastic has started to peel off. I’d say it has a week left, maximum, before I’m forced to remove it. But when I do, it’ll be like getting a new phone all over again.

So yes. Plastic covers. I like ’em. YOU SHOULD TOO.

Deja Entendu

Most people like to talk about themselves. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not blasting the entire human race as a self-absorbed species. I’m just saying that if something mildly interesting happens in Francois’ life, it’s very likely that Francois will tell Louise, Robert, Anne-Marie, Bastian, Jean-Luc, and Joe all about it.

And I think that’s a good thing. Personally, I’ve never understood why some people have a problem with those who talk about themselves too much. I like hearing people talk about their lives. It’s what makes them interesting.

Now, in Francois’ quest to tell everyone on earth the story of how Wiggles the Cat looked so cute playing with his ball of yarn today, he might repeat the story to Jean-Luc twice. It happens. If you’ve told the same story ten times, you’re bound to forget who you’ve told the story to. Jean-Luc, as he listens to this story for a second time, is experiencing a case of Deja Entendu.

What do you do in the awkward event of a Deja Entendu?

Well, on the one hand, you could politely tell Francois that you’ve heard this story before. He’ll realise his error, and life will move on.

But on the other hand, you could take the opportunity to do a little experiment.

It’s very simple: Just let Francois tell his story a second time, and see how the story has changed from the first time he told it.

See, in the process of telling stories, we like to sprinkle in a bit of hyperbole and a liberal amount of overdramatics that distort the reality of the situation a bit. I’m certainly not innocent – the evidence is everywhere on this page.

What’s interesting is not the exaggerations themselves, but how these exaggerations grow and change over time. In the two weeks between meetings with Francois, the story may have gone from Wiggles the Cat playing cheerfully with a ball of yarn to Wiggles standing upright, donning a top hat and cane and doing a little Puttin’ On The Ritz.

What I’ve found is that generally people who have the most to gain from impressing you (e.g. acquaintances, distant family members, people you’ve just met) will alter their stories the most, while people who you have long, established friendships with will alter their stories the least, telling the story again verbatim in some instances.

This is far from a scientific study, and my sample size is admittedly tiny, but I find this incredibly fascinating. If you happen to try this out for yourself, I’d love to hear your findings. In fact, I’d love to hear them twice.