Social Media Ends Friendships?

Everyone is buzzing with twitter becoming more used by everyone. Facebook has become the place where you find people that you never thought you would hear from again. Yelp has awesome information on local places and overall interesting tone to reviews. But, is social media really bringing us together or actually ending friendships.

I’ve been a web junkie since the early days of the world wide web. I remember when it was ground braking to have frames on your page and most pages hurt your eyes kind of like most myspace profiles do now. I’ve been part of several internet communities as both a moderator, member and lurker. I understand why having a low ICQ means something to many. I know what a BBS is, had my own IRC channel and shared files online way before napster. I have probably received more hoax e-mails than snopes has listed. I’ve had my own personal blog since January of 2004 and a personal web page since 1997. I have my merit badges when it comes to internet navigation.

During all those years I have learned quite a bit about netiquette and internet personas. I learned that the internet has its own tone and have met my wife online as well as some of my closest friends.

I am not getting on some electronic high horse here, just trying to set up my observations about a recent trend that I have been noticing. When it comes to connecting people that know each other in real life first, the net seems to have adverse effects. However, it is not the net as much as social media that is causing this phenomenon in my opinion.

Facebook puts a whole bunch of people you know into a bucket together. Then it turns the window that a blog used to be into someone’s life and it makes your internet presence a french door. Your life is now on display, who your friends are, what you ate for lunch, what time you went to bed, where you spend your free time, if you have a virtual pet. The last election let people know not just how I felt, but how those around me felt. Through me people connect to my wife and my college buddies as well as people that I went to high school with. Who you know starts to form people’s opinion of who you are in a very macro way. So far it sounds great, people connecting and learning about each other, but what happens when that turns ugly?

The first trend that created a bleep in my radar was the, so and so removed me, how dare they? Or what did I say? Some of it is simply a difference on humor, religious or political view, most of it is just that people might not really care what you have to say or think. Overall, most people that get a twitter account or a facebook account today are new to the whole internet thing, and someone that has heard it all just does not want to go watch the hamster dance for the 800th time. The reason we all have friends and get to pick them is because we find the interesting in some way, people we knew in high school or years ago might not be all that interesting anymore.

That is when drama starts, but in this new area of social media disconnecting someone is almost as easy as finding them through the people you might know. Back in the day where forums where the form of community communication, people cared a little more about being banned and learned by community policing. Today, you can just remove friendship and not hear from that person every again. The ugly side is the hurt feelings.

During normal face to face conversation we are more used to editing ourselves. Even someone as blunt as I am keep a lot of thoughts to myself. Not sure if people just get more free when sitting just in front of the computer, but thoughts and words that I know would have never been shared face to face seem to flow like a river.

Mafe recently had to deal with some of her friends’ girlfriends get jealous just because of a simple hello. Sponge probably ended a friendship over a mass e-mail response. I’ve had two high school friends already delete their facebook profile altogether because of people’s nasty comments. They were people I enjoyed being able to connect to, and e-mail for some reason is not as interactive as facebook seems to be. So is this social media thing really making true friendships or really just ending some already existing?

To Tip or Not To Tip

It seems that my previous post took a turn into a hot subject… how much to tip and if to tip at all.

Most places in Colombia are non tipping, meaning you pay for the food and the service is included in the price. Tip at that point is appreciated but never expected.

Here in the U.S. its a LOT different, and I was very surprised when Barry thought that tipping was some cool aide that we all had drank and he wanted no part of.

I have been around plenty of people that have worked in the service industry and I know that tips are part of their income. My Dad has a part time job in the weekends where he runs a donuts shop in the morning. The salary is crappy, but the tips he gets has become his disposable income. He provides great service there, so much so that in two days he makes more on sales than what its made during the other five days during the week. I attribute this to his great service. He remembers all of his regular’s orders and they are being prepared before they even get to the register. Normally people don’t tip at a donuts shop, but my Dad makes probably more on tips that the salary that he gets.

I also know a lot of servers, or former servers and they do depend on the tips. I am not talking about just your average college or high school kid with a couple of part time jobs, but people that are servers as a profession. I believe this is one of the hardest jobs and I am going to reveal something about me that not many people know. I judge people on how they treat servers. It is on my top five measurements on you being considered in my book a good person.

I believe that if you treat the people eating with you nicely, but you are nasty, condescending or dismissive of the server you have not been brought up properly. Now if you are overall nasty, condescending or dismissive all the time, than this rule does not apply. It only applies if you all of a sudden switch because you are talking to someone serving you. However, I don’t judge someone on how much they tip at all.

All of these goes out the window if the server is lousy or being nasty first, or if they look miserable while serving you. I think part of the job is being able to put their issues aside while you are being served. The moment that you look down upon someone that is doing a service for you, I am sorry but you have lost points on my book. The people that work in the service industry are performing duties for you that they normally would only do for family and friends. I think people that don’t respect those professions or see them as less than what a lawyer or accountant does, are missing the point of what providing a service is.

I think those actions have to be paid for, and while it being built into the price in some places(In my experience only some high end restaurants, some resorts and most places in Colombia), it is not the norm here in the U.S.

How much should you tip?

Personally think it is a sliding scale depending on service, type of restaurant and time of day. For lunch, if the meal is being served you should pay at least on dollar per five worth of food. It is a lot easier to leave a 50% tip at lunch for excellent service than on an $30 a plate restaurant at dinner reason being that my favorite time to eat out is lunch. At dinner time everything changes, it takes more time to serve a dinner with multiple courses. If you were provided excellent service I think 20% should be the minimum or at least what you already set yourself to pay. If the service was just ok, anywhere from 10% to 15% should be the norm. An easy way to figure it out is just double the tax, most places tax is around 7%. Again, think of the service you are being provided.

I do understand that having a family means bills are larger and 20% of $60 is $12 (for the no math people) which is what a family of 4 ends up paying on your chain restaurant after drinks, appetizer and a couple of kids meals. $72 dollar seems a lot to pay for a meal at Chillis’s when you can get at least 3 days of groceries for that same amount of money. Not having kids makes it a lot easier to go out to dinner and being able to tip well. I know when I was paying for 3 people to go out to dinner it would happen a lot less often, or take out would be the solution. At that point to me eating out became more of a treat than a convenience.

I can count on one hand the times that I have not left a tip, and I prefer to leave the establishment before the meal is served if I am not being served properly. I just put a lot of my ideas out there, but I don’t know what the right answer is to this question. I guess I care more about people treating the wait stuff with respect and not as much to how much they tip.

Restaurant Ignorance Is Bliss

Knowledge is power, but it can also be somewhat detrimental in certain cases. I think restaurants is really one of them. I worked in fast food before, but that really has nothing to do with serving tables. We had one of the cleanest McD’s you would ever walk into and took pride on our restaurant and the food. I used to think that I had build enough good karma in the fast food industry by serving great “junk” food, until I got food poisoned a couple of years ago. I have since cut down on my fast food eating other than at lunch time when it is some time inevitable.

Growing up in Colombia we lived a middle life class. People rarely go to restaurant unless there is a special occasion. There were really no fast food places back then like her, and even the burger shops modeled after franchises here were a treat and not an every day thing. The restaurants I knew about were mostly a little more upscale and we very rarely visited them. Most of the time my Dad would pick up food and bring it home, so I say my experience with restaurants over there was about 95% take out.

I started going to restaurants during college. I was working and the disposable income and credit card use went mostly to family places like Lake Street Cafe and Dappers. I discovered that you can have breakfast all day other than at Denny’s and Ihop and enjoyed the experience quite a bit. I also learned that Hispanics have the fame of being bad tippers because I was approached several times after giving just 20% tips. I like to tip and if I had more money my tips would probably be closer to at least 50%. I also made it a rule that if I did not have enough to tip, I would just not eat out or adjust the price of the place.

I use my experience in a restaurant as a very social thing. Like with the movies I don’t like to go alone. I am more interested on the conversation and looking at people faces and reactions more than the noise or look of the place (I was going to use ambiance but Meesha has issues with the word.) I used to measure service level with the friendliness and promptness of the service. Also if special request were met and timely. The most important factor was always time of the arrival of the food, and then never to feel rushed out after.

I never thought of the phrase “How is your food” much, that is until someone pointed out to me that a good server always asks and never mid bite. Now I always think of that when I am making up my mind about good service, I can’t help it, its not even a conscious thing anymore.

Wook not to long ago told me during a lunch about clearing out plates from the table as being another measure of a good server. I have noticed lately that I also take a not of that when making my mind up about the server.

The latest one is what ruined a place that I used to love going for us. The server was new and young, and had not noticed that he was pretty much slamming the drink down and not placing things on the table but kind of rush trowing them. I would have not noticed it until it was pointed out to me, again I care more about the company and the conversation. Once it was pointed out and the food was still not coming it because a huge annoyance. Added to that was the fact that he seemed more worried about talking to the female servers than refilling our drinks or bringing out the appetizers. When the refills that we had to ask another server for came out, the glasses were slammed and I about lost it. We ended up walking out still hungry and moved to another restaurant. They say ignorance is bliss and I think when it comes to restaurants, I would say that is pretty accurate.

I think as we get older we all get pickier and pickier about what we like and how we want to be treated. I seriously don’t want to become an old man full of quirks, but I believe that when you pay for a meal in a restaurant two things have to happen. The meal has to be better than what I can make myself, and the service has to be worth my time. If the service in any way detracts from my experiecen, I will seriously consider taking my business somewhere else.

Watchmen (*)

If you are a fan of the graphic novel, under the age of 18 or offended by genitalia stop reading now. I went to see this movie as a complete virgin to the series. I had heard nothing about Watchmen, which surprised me because I thought I knew a little more about comics than your average person. I am not sure if reading the comic book before would have made this movie better, but I think that people that judge it with those eyes might be a little more kind. I don’t think so though, because even though I like Superman and Spider Man a lot, the most recent movies sucked.

If you are never going to watch this movie, then continue reading because I am about to tear it apart… along with probably some of the comic book and probably make a couple of enemies along the way… but hey, I voted for Obama and that already lost me friends, so what is another couple just because I thought a movie was completely ghey.

The superhero genre is getting a little over saturated. I think Dare Devil and Electra started to show us that, and well from then on we have seen a series of crap where the only golden nugget has been The Dark Knight. Everything else as movies has been a pile of crap, and Watchmen seriously felt like stepping on steaming poo.

I would like to start by what I did like. I think that Jackie Earle Haley as Walter Kovacs / Rorschach is impeccable. He kept the movie flowing and I was waiting to see what he was going to say next every single time that he appeared on screen. His character was the only one that seem to have not only depth but any type of likability. Even as a very flawed human being he was still able to be someone you wanted to survive, but he ended up getting blown to pieces because of the greater good.

For a second imagine a world where Superman does not put Lex Luthor in jail, but rather becomes his ally because he thinks humanity is so flawed that what is 15 million people’s death if billions can be saved in the future. In the same train of thought imagine that Batman is not as good of a detective he is, but more of an accountant type that can’t get it up for a beautiful woman, he has to first take the batwing for as spin to regain his manhood that was left hanging along with his cape. The joker is a rapist that is actually allowed to be part of the good guys. All over this comic we see caricatures of other beloved heroes. It is almost like their flaws are being inflated and the painted on top of a canvas mirroring our current paranoia and divisiveness. It is not that the heroes have gone bad, it is more like the heroes were never good.

I get the fact that people live violence and sex. I also think that there is such a thing as too much blood and violence. The blowing up of human bodies is just not something I enjoy seeing, along with attempted rape, bones broken and being exposed through skin and child dismemberment. It did not seem to add anything to the story and the fight scenes just seemed like an excuse to poor some more blood on the camera. In a world already so full of destruction I want to go see a movie that entertains me, not a movie that depresses me.

Every single character is flatter than the pages of the graphic novel that they came from. I am sure the true fans of the series would say that I am missing the point or the satire in the content, but trust me, the package it was delivered on was pretty horrible. Talking about packages, I never though i would see a movie where there would be 4 blue penises on the same frame. If you thought 300 was homoerotic, well there are about 300 frames of penises in this movie. When there was for I had to resist the urge to yell out loud, come on, enough of the blue penises. While there were a couple of bare breasts in the movie, they did not make up for the penis overload, not even one vajajay.

The special effects throughout the movie felt wrong. The camera angles tried too hard to be comic book frames. When the most believable part of an alternate universe is that Nixon stayed in power for three terms, you have serious issues. To me the movie was pretty bad, and it was only somewhat entertaining. I would not even consider this a rental unless you enjoy looking at mans buttocks and full frontal over and over and over.

How To Cope With Anxiety

“Worry is a thin stream of fear trickling through the mind. If encouraged, it cuts a channel into which all other thoughts are drained.”
Arthur Somers Roche

Fear is one of the most powerful emotions. I would go as far as saying that fear is up there with both love and hate. Even though one can argue, and many have, that fear is more an instinct than a cognitive emotion. While this whole area of psychology it still being debated and research, the simple way to put it is that even without the power of reason, you can still feel fear. However, I believe that fear has become a lot more than the protective mechanism to make us reach when there is perceived danged.

We are going through one of the most complex times in recent history. War is going on in the middle east, but it was also brought to our shores. There is an economic downturn and people are losing their jobs. Our economic system is in shambles right now and even though I am optimistic, there is still fear all around.

An anxiety attack is something that I never heard about when I was younger. Now it is part of our culture and often discussed in movies and TV as the alternative to one of the stars of the show having too much stress when they present heart attack like symptoms. The real question is, how do you deal with it? How do you deal with that build up of worry that eventually turns into an uncontrollable river?

Determine what you have control over and then do something about it. If your budget has been cut down because you do not have a freelance job on the side anymore, then adjust accordingly. If a bank is going to foreclose on your house, do not ignore the letters, call them and try to work something out. If you are afraid that you might lose your job in the current months, get as much out of your insurance as possible now, get your teeth cleaned, new prescription glasses, get into the 3 months subscription mail plan if you take medicines regularly.

When fear strike quickly find out if it is real, and if it is truly going to affect you and deal with it. Come out with a plan of action. If the fear is not real, then learn to not worry about it. Dealing with actual situations instead of worrying things that “could” or “might” happen is a lot more productive.

Last but not least, in this difficult times, appreciate and thank your family and friends. They are the people that will help you determine if a fear is real or not. Talk to others, ask for advice. Even if people worry more than you do, it is good to see someone else be irrational about something, that can help you get a grip on your situation. Dialogue is powerful when it comes to fear, because once it is out there it does not have the same effect. Do not let fear rule your life, quit watching TV if you have to.