Thursday, September 1, 2011

I'm sorry, but I can't be social without a keyboard.

With the advent of Twitter, Facebook, and other social networks, I have noticed a slow trend towards anti-face-to-face communication.  You probably could consider this going back to the advent of email in all honesty, but I want to spend a few minutes talking more about social networking.  I was a late arrival in the social networking field.  I refused to join Facebook for the longest time because I felt that it would be a huge waste of my time.  When I finally did sign up for a Facebook account, I found that I was right.  It was a huge waste of time ... a waste of time that I now cannot do without.  Now I am a member of Facebook, Google+, and even LinkedIn.  I think I did have a Twitter account at one time, but I gave up on that after one or two tweets.  I find myself checking my social networks a couple times a day ... so that I don't miss anything.

If it wasn't bad enough to waste hours on social networking websites in my personal time, it seems that corporate America is beginning to get into social networking.  Many companies have started creating internal social networking sites for their employees.  The idea is that they can share ideas, post questions, and collaborate more efficiently.  The company that I work for has created an internal social networking site that they are gently pushing employees to start using.  Now I have even more posts to check on a regular basis.  I think that makes four social network sites on which I have an account.

One of the beauties of social networking websites like Facebook is that you can communicate with people that you never thought you would talk to again.  The downside to social networking sites like Facebook is that you can communicate with people that you never thought you would talk to again.  Don't get me wrong, I love the fact that social networking has made it possible to become reacquainted with old friends.  But, I wonder at what cost.

Socializing once meant going out to dinner or drinks with a few friends.  Conversations occurred face-to-face over a table with a delicious meal (or horrible meal if you chose a bad restaurant).  Now, socializing means posting every little thing you do throughout the day on Facebook.  As a society, we are slowly going from lengthy conversations to short posts like: "Having a bad day", "Watching the sun rise", or "Just wrecked my car and am trapped under the steering wheel".  You can even hear the impact of social networking in conversations.  How many times have you said "OMG" or "WTF" when you are talking to someone?

To take this a step further into absurdity, I have even carried on an entire conversation with someone sitting next to me using my mobile phone and SMS texting.  What is worse is the fact that I thought this was a perfectly normal behavior!

My greatest fear is that someday we will all have small keyboards strapped to our wrists and small LCD screen in front of our eyes.  When we meet someone on the street, we won't talk to them, but starting posting on a social networking site.

It is not that I think that social networking is a bad thing.  But, I think that we are slowly missing out on that personal socialization that only comes from face-to-face conversation.  I will be the first to admit that my posts on social networking site are quite shallow.  Heart-to-heart conversations just don't happen on social networking sites.

So, what am I trying to say on this blog (which in itself is a social networking site)?  Let's get out from behind our keyboards, go have dinner at a nice italian restaurant, and catch up for a few hours.  If you don't like italian, we could do mexican ... just no sushi.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Do you REALLY think that is a carry-on bag?

As part of my job, I am frequently called upon to travel.  So, I spend a lot of time in airports and on planes.  For those of you who have never traveled by plane before (and I wonder how you have been so lucky), let me explain one aspect of air travel.  For a long, long time you could check one bag on the flight for free.  Any additional bags could be checked for a nominal fee.  These bags would be loaded in the cargo hold of the plane, freeing you, the passenger, to roam throughout the airport without the inconvenience of having to drag a heavy, cumbersome suitcase behind you.  You could also bring a carry-on bag on the flight if it fit within certain size parameters.  Over the past few years, many airlines have started charging to check any bags.  Usually these fees start at $25 for the first bag and go up exponentially with each additional bag.

Let me start by saying that I always check my suitcase on my flights.  I enjoy that freedom of only having to carry a small backpack with me as I peruse the airport shops and restaurants.  In my travels, I have noticed that people's conception of size has drastically changed.  At each gate, the airlines will typically have a sign that states that carry-on bags must fit with a certain size.  It is amazing to me how far people will try to stretch that rule (men are particularly good at size exaggeration).  Because of my frequent flyer status, I am usually on the plane early.  As I get settled into my seat, I get to watch as people pass by with their "carry-on" bags.  Some of these bags are so big that people struggle just to get them down the narrow aisle in the plane.  The true amusement comes while watching them try to shove, twist, bend, and cram their bag into one of the overhead bins.  It is quite amazing to see the lengths that people will go to keep from having to check their bags in the hold of the plane.  Unfortunately, the result of everyone's efforts to cram "50 pounds of bag in a thirty pound bin" leads to flight delays.

Last week, I was on a plane heading home to Philadelphia from Charlotte, NC.  I was one of the first groups to board the plane so I was comfortably in my seat when a man boarded who was sitting two rows ahead on me.  He boarded with a "carry-on" bag.  I place the the words carry-on in quotes because it was far from meeting the size criteria.  His bag was about two-thirds the size of my body, which is far more than allowed (I am referring to his bag, not my body).  He opened the overhead bin above his seat to find that there were already two "carry-on" bags filling the bin (notice the quotes again).  What I found interesting was that he proceeded to get very pissed at the fact that someone had filled his overhead bin with bags that were obviously not carry-on bags.  He was so bound and determined to not check his bag that he walked to the back of the plane to find an overhead bin that was open ... where he proceeded to fill it with his "carry-on" bag.  I found the irony quite amusing that this man just did to someone else what he was pissed that someone did to him.

To take it a step further, I am always amazed at the response of boarding passengers when the airline announces that there is no more overhead bin space available.  The groans of disappointment and irritation can be deafening.  However, these are the same people that think a bag the size of a Monster Truck tire is a carry-on.  During these moments, I just sit back and smile at the small backpack under the seat in front of me.

Now, I certainly don't want to blame this behavior completely on the passengers.  The airlines do exacerbate this behavior by not stopping people with bags of this size at the gate.  I am waiting for the day that a fist fight breaks out between passengers over a single overhead bin space.  That should make for an interesting flight.

I often wonder the "why" behind this behavior.  Is it that people don't want to pay the $25 fee?  Or is it that our society has become so focused on rushing from place to place as fast as possible that we can't even spare the time to wait for our bags to be unloaded?

My point to all of this rambling (and I am sure you were wondering if there was a point) is people need to start being more realistic with their size conceptions.  When choosing a carry-on bag for a flight, size does matter.  And, if you don't want to pay the fee, fly Southwest.  According to their commercials, bags fly free ... it's the people that have to pay.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Gettysburg

Last weekend (6/25/2011), my wife and I decided to pack up the dogs and head to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania for the day.  I have always had a fascination for the American Civil War, and the battle of Gettysburg in particular.  I can't really say what it is about that particular battle that attracts my attention.  Even as a child, family visits to the Gettysburg battlefield were always an exciting time for me.  This fascination has not weened as I have grown older.

During each visit to the Gettysburg battlefield, I find myself staring at the monuments, reading off in my head of the number of wounded and dead.  It is difficult to fathom so much death and destruction in today's modern world.  Today, people get upset when this country loses ten or twenty soldiers a month in Afghanistan or Iraq.  Take just a moment to think about the Civil War and the idea of losing hundreds or even thousands of soldiers over three days.

Allow me to provide some perspective for those who have never been to the Gettysburg battlefield.  All across the battlefield are monuments to the different regiments, brigades, and corps that participated in the three days of battle.  Each of these monuments lists the number of soldiers that were assigned to that specific regiment, brigade, or corps.  Along with this number is a listing of the total number of soldier wounded and the number of soldiers killed.  More often than not, the number of wounded or killed is more than half of the total of soldiers.  Those sort of statistics were from a three day period.  Don't get me wrong.  It is not the death at Gettysburg that fascinates me.  There is a deeper mystic to my fascination than just the loss of so many lives.

After this last visit with my wife, I decided to dig deeper into my Gettysburg experience.  I downloaded a book called "Gettysburg" by Stephen W. Sears onto my Kindle.  One thing that I like is that Sears does not just jump right into the Gettysburg battle.  He takes the time to explain the events that led up to the battle.  He explains how the Army of Northern Virginia ended up in Gettysburg.  The book is well-researched with plenty of historical references.  What I have learned from this book is the fact that both the leadership of the Confederate army and the Union army were pretty much dysfunctional.  There was so much infighting among the various generals that it is amazing that they ever found time to fight the opposing army.  The leadership of the Union army was particularly fragmented during that time.  One other thing that I am learning is how brutal the fighting was during the Civil War.  Sears quotes the journals of soldiers who fought during Gettysburg.  The descriptions of the Civil War from eyewitnesses are quite incredible.

I have not finished reading "Gettysburg" yet, but I am looking forward to turning each and every page.  If you have never been to Gettysburg, I would highly recommend the trip.  And if you go, make sure that you stop to read the numbers.  You may become fascinated too.