How to Be An Asshole Without Really Trying

Thought I’d share this tragic and amusing story from work. I have bonded a bit with a the interns in my office and we like to fool around with each other. For example, one day I was walking to a meeting and another intern drove by. When he saw I was walking to the same meeting, he smiled and gave me the finger as he drove by. Just innocent juvenille fun.

As I left work yesterday I recognized the driver of the car in the previous scenario, driving out of the parking lot. So I slyly gave him the finger while scratching my head. The guy recognized the gesture, gave me an odd smile and returned the gesture. As he drove by, I felt something was out of place. It wasn’t till he was passed me that I realized that wasn’t the intern’s car and that wasn’t him driving it. I just flicked off an innocent man. To add insult to injury, one of the other interns made the same mistake and pointed and laughed at him.

Naturally I was pretty distressed about the situation, as this situation could escalate if it got around that interns were giving other employees the finger. I imagine they’ve fired people for less. So I told my manager and the intern coordinator first thing today, which worked out well. They weren’t too upset and were happy that I had been honest about the situation. My manager even slipped me the finger during a meeting as a joke.

The only unresolved element of this is that I have yet to identify the recipient of my gesture. It seems there are a number of similar looking cars and people in my building. I actually went up to a guy and confused him by asking if we ran into each other yesterday. Hopefully I will find the person and get a chance to explain myself, because it is a funny story.

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Moving On, Moving Up

I am changing the location of this blog again, hopefully for the last time. I recently reaccquired the rights to http://www.quietkid.net again, so I am moving this blog to that domain. You can read about how I originally lost the domain here. WordPress.com has been a great host and I would highly recommend it to anyone looking to get into blogging. I wanted a little more control, however, and this gives me the oppertunity exercise that. The new site has mostly the same look, but I have made some improvements and added some additional content.

I'll keep re-posting here for a limited time while people make the transition, but eventually I'll stop. So you can start directing your bookmarks and feed readers to http://www.quietkid.net from now on. Last of all I would like to thank all my readers who have discovered me on WordPress.com. For the first time in my blogging career I felt like I was contributing to a community and had a real audience. I hope this will continue at the new domain. I appreciate your help and patience in this matter, thanks for all the support.

My Pedestrian Life

My New WheelsI do not own a car and do not enjoy driving much, so I have always had to find other ways to get around. Generally bumming rides, public transportation, or bicycle has been enough. Last summer my bike died though and I started walking a mile to work at the pool. Sometimes I got a ride, but I did a lot of my commuting by foot. I did not mind that though, since the iPod may be the greatest invention ever for pedestrian commuters.

Flash forward to this summer in Erie. I have been able to get rides to and from work. Everything in between becomes a bit tougher. For the last couple weeks I have been limited to Arby’s and CVS for most of my day-to-day shopping needs, which is a bit limiting. So yesterday I walked down to the Walmart, which is about a mile and half away and took about twenty minutes to get to. On the way there I realized what I really needed to get was a bicycle. And since I got paid this week, I had plenty of money to blow. So here’s my new wheels, which hopefully can carry me around town a little better. Now I just have to figure out where you’re allowed to lock up your bike in the supermarket parking lot.

The You in User

A professor once told us, “Only two industries call their customers users: IT people and drug dealers,” I had to get that out of the way. The internet has been alive with debate this week about “user-generated content” and I am happy to report that the name itself has been debated. As a content-creating user (is that what we’re calling it), I figured I could chime in on this subject.

Talking about a YouTube-esque video sharing site Lee Gomes of the Wall Street Journal writes today, ” The short cinematic pastiche we saw is an example of what has come to be called a “mash-up,” and for a big part of the tech world, these sorts of mash-ups are becoming the highest form of cultural production.” Ouch. Besides the fact that most user-generated content on the web is not a “mash-up”, is being derivative that shocking. One only needs to take a look at Google News to see the echo chamber that is the mainstream media. Hip-hop music is an entire art form based around building something new out of old tunes. And Hollywood can’t seem to get enough of “mash-ups”, be they sequels or remakes.

Most user-generated content, however, I think is “organic” content that comes out of people’s daily lives. SixApart’s new Vox service seems to be trying to cultivate people’s lives into interesting content. Flickr, for example, features lots of great original photography from a large group of users. There are plenty of worthwhile pictures for the public, but the others also are special because they mean something to someone. User-generated content is also helping to grow the “knowledge” of the Internet in exciting ways. The Wikipedia is a great example, there is a lot of stuff in there you could never find anywhere else.

I think the debate on books has triggered a lot of this backlash. I do not think books are dead, but I think there are certainly some that could be improved. A hyperlinked (even wiki-fied) textbook would be much more helpful than a printed one. Likewise, print encyclopedias are useful to no one. Still I think there is an audience for printed media. Coffee table books should not be done digitally. And I don’t think hyperlinking and commenting would do very much to improve literature. And I still think there’s something nice about a tangible object in your hands. I do think there is plenty of room for change though.

The Internet has enabled more opportunities for value creation than ever before. People can continue to complain about this or they can accept change and move forward.

Out on the Town

Ribfest in Erie So I have spent a week in Erie, PA now and I have soaked up a bit of culture here. Friday night I headed down to Ribfest downtown with some of my fellow interns. Apparently these rib shops travel around the country to this and other rib eating events, competing (seriously) for the title of best ribs. In any event, there were a bunch of people there and there was plenty of good barbaque food that was relatively cheap. I got a half a rack of ribs (its only the second time I ever ate ribs) and they were both messy and tasty. It was raining, which was a bit annoying, so we didn't spend a lot of time outside. Too bad, since there was a kettle corn stand there as well.

We ended up going to a bar called Molly Brannigans, a cozy Irish bar that is apparently part of a chain. I was a bit hesitant about going into a bar, being under 21, but it wasn't a big deal. We sat down and people got food and drinks; I just got Pepsi. The atmosphere was pretty cool though, since they had this cool musician who played a perfect lineup of classic rock. He did Piano Man, Come Sail Away, Margaritaville and I think he may have done Tiny Dancer too. Anyway, it turned out to be a real good time even if I couldn't drink.

Yesterday afternoon we went out to the Millcreek Mall for lunch and I picked up an adapter for my PlayStation. While we were there we ran into some other interns, including one of the guys from my office. The mall itself was pretty impressive, closer to the ones from home than the Nittany Mall. Someone pointed out that it was built by mobsters who wanted to build it downtown, but the city wouldn’t let them. So they built in the shape of a gun pointed at city hall. I don't know if it's true, but it is in the Wikipedia.

Based on that entry in the Wikipedia, I found a song that was apparently written by a Mercyhurst student about Erie, PA. You can stream it here. It's funny because it sums everything I have learned or heard about Erie. Anyway I'm getting to know the town and things are going well.

R.I.P. Uncle John

Just wanted to post a brief memorial to my dad's uncle and my great uncle, John Clancy, who died earlier this week. He recently got diagnosed with cancer, it spread, and the chemo was not helping. From what I understand, he spent his final day in good spirits, continuing to tell his stories and give people advice. Yet he was also in significant pain, so he is in a better place today.

Uncle John has always been one of my most thoughtful and generous relatives, somehow able to get a birthday card to arrive precisely on one's birthday. He also loved to talk and share stories to any captive audience. He cared a lot about family and I always got a sense he was proud of each of us. Birthdays, holidays, and other family gatherings will be a little emptier without him.