I broke my Facebook argument virginity and all I got was this lousy blog post

I have a hate/hate relationship with Facebook. Sure, I didn’t have to rejoin the social media giant three times. But I did. The reality is that Facebook is a necessary evil. For me? It’s a networking tool for freelancing. Also, after moving across the country, it aided me in remembering new faces and new acquaintances.

Facebook, really, isn’t evil. I try not to be an either/or type of person. I believe it’s best to live somewhere in the middle. Between the mean of two extremes, as Aristotle would tweet.

Facebook arguments, however, are evil and dumb and silly and fun to watch.

They have never settled well with me. Mean spirited. All-too-easy. Festering and sprouting at every opportunity, usually ending in a dog pile of earnest, hurt emotions.

As a veteran online-conscious being, I have abjured all temptations to join any form of online argument. Even as a political Independent. The stuff I see on Facebook (racist, ignorant, stereotype perpetuating, heavy bias journalism) makes me want to scream my fingers off. And the way people pounce on one another. Ugh.

Facebook is a daily lesson in self-restraint, certainly.

That is, until I broke my Facebook argument virginity. I caved in. I can’t even find my promise ring.

The Facebook Argument

There are many kinds of online arguments. Let’s break this down. (more…)

Flex your kindness muscle, jerk

One of my favorite short fiction authors, George Saunders (that is, short story, not short in stature), regrets his many failures of kindness.

51xfEKhLwAL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Saunders released a new book this year entitled, “Congratulations, by the way,” and I would highly recommend it for your bookshelf. Honestly, it isn’t as much a book as it is a transcript of a commencement speech he gave. But it is fun. Also, the cover is pretty and the kindness theme is a blunt and necessary reminder. All this, of course, is well worth your time.

I found Saunder’s book at (uhem) *Urban Outfitters* in the clearance bin while on vacation. Clearance bin!? How kind.

Anyway, I’d like to be more kind.

I’ve never thought about kindness being a skill. Can it be a skill? If so, then the consequences are scary. It means our kindness can improve. I always assumed, embarrassingly, that kindness was limited by our predispositions, how our parents and community nurtured us. I assumed that “kind people” were naturally built to be nice, and the jerks (that’s me) were off the hook for round-the-clock niceness.

But framing kindness in this new light asks us to reconsider our intentionality (as well as coming to terms with the necessity of proper planetary social interdependence). Are we doing enough?

Saunders does three things in this book that I very much respect: 1) he admits he wasn’t always kind 2) he explores why we aren’t all necessarily inclined to be kind and 3) he assumes that everyone could be kind if they just focused on better (more selfless) things.

Here’s a couple quotes from the (incredibly) fast read:

“What I regret most in my life are failures of kindness. Those moments when another human being was there, in front of me, suffering and I responded… sensibly. Reservedly. Mildly.”

“Since we have observed that kindness is variable, we might also sensibly conclude that it is improvable; that is, there must be approaches and practices that can actually increase our ambient level of kindness.” (more…)

Burns Night ’14: Ode to Haggis, Scotch, and the Mystery of Friendship

Last night, my wife and I attended our first ever Burns Night (Robert, not George). Haggis was served with drams of poetry and scotch. Not being Scottish (but Irish!) I had never heard of Burns Night or Burns Supper. Sure, I had belted “Auld Lang Syne” many of New Year mornings, but the story of the man who wrote the original poem was never told to me. The evening was robust and engaging, one I’ll likely never forget.

So sit back, grab a fresh slice—possibly scoop—of haggis with a side of meat pie and mashed turnips. I’ll tell you all about it.


The Mystery of Friendship

The mystery of friendship is such that brings you to parties like these. We were tired from working two jobs all week and tempted, by our bed, with silent talk. But Megan was slated to give a speech at the party (Reply to the Toast to the Lassies), so we couldn’t bail.

We walked in the door of our new friend’s home and smelled a unique fragrance—much like that of Scotch—a blend: haggis, meat pie, grown people, infant people, mashed other-things. The host family, David and Neyir, lived in Scotland for three (or so) years. Ultimately Canadian, they dream of returning to Edinburgh.

The evening began with a formal introduction: welcome and grace. But before we could eat, The Address to the Haggis was recited. Dan, another new friend, recited the poem (from memory) with a hearty Scottish accent.

Address to the Haggis, by Dan

Address to the Haggis, by Dan

Ye Pow’rs, wha mak mankind your care,
And dish them out their bill o’ fare,
Auld Scotland wants nae skinking ware
That jaups in luggies;
But, if ye wish her gratefu’ prayer
Gie her a haggis!

So we ate! And it was… to be honest, it wasn’t bad. The haggis was fine. Really, it’s no worse than hot dogs (geometrically). The flavor was spicy and the texture was that of sausage. There was a meat pie served as well, made with puff pastry and Guinness. I think I liked that the best. (more…)

Becoming a Better Friend/Leaving All My Friends

It’s June 5th; this means we have 25 sunny (foggy) days left in California. Time has been flying. I didn’t quite realize how fast it was flying until June 1st came around. Really? It’s June???

It hit me like a pile of time bricks… if that’s a thing…

Five of our six California months have been spent. Geez… In a few days we’ll be flying to Rochester to look for places to stay. When we get back we’ll have another couple weeks here; sooner or later, though, July 1st will roll around and I’ll have to say goodbye to all my California friends and family once more.

July 1st we drive back to Idaho to square up our belongings; sometime in August we’ll make—what I’m dubbing—The Great Drive.

(Confused? About Me is a good place to go to catch up)

Good at Leaving

About four years ago I left California for Coeur D’Alene, Idaho. It was there I met my wife, started school, and got really cold. Originally, I was looking for a change of pace. I used to say, “God called me to Idaho;” truthfully, our signal has never been that strong. I just sort of ended up there.

Every time I leave California, whether it be a weekend visit, six month stay, or major life move, I’m reminded of the friendships I have here. The term friend doesn’t really cut it as much as the term family does.

There’s times where I feel just as connected to Randall, Patrick, Scott, Justin, Timmy, both Aaron Boyds, as I would my own brother or sister. Generally, these people have always been there for me. As I get older, I realize how much I’ve taken them for granted. These goofy, weird people.

Friendships Never Sink

When I was younger I assumed the world existed for my benefit. I thought my friends were suppose to be some sort of accessory—something that benefited me in the way I talked, looked, and spent my time. Consequently, I took way more than I received.

Remember that episode of 30 Rock where Liz Lemon dumps all of her problems on to Kenneth, and then Kenneth goes crazy and needs therapy? I think that’s what I did to the majority of my friends. I really wouldn’t be surprised if they were all in therapy.

That said, I’m trying to be a better friend. I’m trying to be a better person, in general. I’m hoping to give more than I take. This includes listening more than talking, or not turning every conversation into something about me.

My friends have stood by me all these years, despite my selfishness. I hope I will get the opportunity to stand by them someday.

We’re starting to get a little older; responsibilities are starting to pile up. But when we get together, we still laugh as much as ever. We pick up right where we left off and I feel at home.

I guess, what I’m getting at, is that I don’t want to leave my friends again. I know that I’ll have to, but this time it wont be as easy.

Cheezy Friendship Gallery

A few photos, recent and old. I guess I’m being emotional or something.

Monopoly vs. Poker: Greed, Ill-Will, and Manipulation

Recently some friends and I sat down to play a game of Monopoly. As you can imagine, we are not friends anymore. I haven’t spoken to my wife since.

Monopoly holds special powers. It’s like Jumangi that way. Emotions burst out with each roll of the dice—we scream and yell. People to your right and left, they are not your spouses, friends, boyfriends and girlfriends anymore. They are landlords, tourists, and prisoners.

This last game, a friend of mine gave her boyfriend an ultimatum: continued friendship for Baltic Avenue. What kind of game is this?

Monopoly makes me curse. It’s like Halo that way. There’s something about going to jail early in the game, or landing on the same owned property every time, or having two people land on your Boardwalk right after you mortgage it because your dumb friend just added another stupid house on the spot you landed on right before that.

It gets ugly fast. (more…)