Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Movin' on Up

My dear readers, it is time to move on. A few months ago I began a new blogging adventure and I am now focusing my attention on that. The new site, Slices of Py, focuses a lot on travel, food, drink, cultures and has silly, random stuff thrown in. You'll be able to check out things like the amazing food in Istanbul, the best beaches on Grand Cayman Island, my experience with censorship in the United Arab Emirates, ridiculously inappropriate Christmas songs, and video of a happy dog running through a fountain. I am not necessarily saying Py in the Sky is dead forever, so let's just call this a long hiatus. Until I am able to commit to regularly posting here (if that day comes), I hope you will join me at Slices of Py. You can also follow Slices of Py on Facebook and Twitter to make sure you get all the latest updates, photos and random chatter.

Now, just for old times sake, I leave you with a funny video. Because I'm a journalist and spent a lot of years in TV, I appreciate these TV news fails and hope you will too. Thanks for your continued support!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Don't Give Me No Lines and Keep Your Hands to Yourself

Let's face it, the NFL has had a really bad year, and it's only four weeks into the season. It's reputation is worse than in 2012 when the replacement idiots officials caused the controversial Fail Mary situation... and as a Packers fan, that's saying a lot. Seriously though, the stigma of having several players in hot water because of domestic abuse and child abuse is tarnishing the league's image. Domestic abuse and child abuse are deplorable, inexcusable acts, but I don't think it's just those two types of abuse we should focus on; shouldn't we be appalled at all types of abuse against anyone?

Following the Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson announcements, I saw some people (mostly men) posting on Facebook and Twitter such statements as "I would never hit a woman or a child." Why should the abuse stop at women and children? Why couldn't these statements instead say "I would never hit a person." Why is it not OK for a man to hit a woman or a child, but it's OK for a man to hit another man, or a woman to hit another woman? I contend it's not.

People don't like being touched aggressively, it's not that hard to figure out. And really, there's no need for physical altercations except in life-threatening situations, which are incredibly rare. But in American society we see more and more examples of people assaulting each other as if it's the norm, and perhaps even admirable. We see men fight each other for no good reason in bars, women slap each other silly on reality television, and women punching men because they didn't like what the guy said. It ALL needs to stop.

Remember back when we were young and our parents and teachers constantly told us to keep our hands to ourselves? No hitting, punching, slapping, poking, kicking, nothing. I'm not really sure at what age they stop saying that, or at what age we apparently forget it, but maybe we should take that message to heart again. A lot of conflicts and their escalation to violence could be avoided simply by respecting people and their space enough not to touch them aggressively. How about instead of resorting to physical violence we use our brains and employ some good conflict resolution skills?

That respect thing seems like it might be the root cause. Our diminishing respect for each other appears to be more prevalent each day. So many people do not respect their own lives, much less the lives of others. And many have become so self-absorbed/self-obsessed/conceited/whatever that only their own life has value, not the lives of others. Well guess what, people? If you live in modern society, where there are MANY, MANY HUMANS, you must learn to respect and deal with them. It's just that simple. If you can't follow that one rule, feel free to hole up in a cave somewhere free from the pestering of other humans.

Let's end on a high note. Remember that cheesy-fab group Erasure and its song "A Little Respect?" How about taking some of the lyrics in that song and making it our collective human motto? Check it out:

And if I should falter
Would you open your arms out to me
We can make love not war
And live at peace with our hearts
Oh baby please, give a little respect to me.

And there you go. I drove home a point AND got that infectious song stuck in your head. Now go forth, show respect, and keep your hands to yourself.

Monday, July 28, 2014

So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, goodbye

Last week, I had the misfortune of attending the funeral of my last remaining grandparent. Funerals are never easy, and this one sucked as much as I expected. It really got me thinking about death, funerals and obituaries. I think the digital age is the death knell of funerals and obituaries as we know them.

Obviously, I knew of my grandma's death and flew to Milwaukee to be with my family. But during the wake I marveled at the number of people who said something to the effect of, "I read of your grandma's death in the obituaries..."

Obituaries. Something I haven't thought of in ages. Something I never had read regularly, and certainly not at all since I started getting my news online. Something I honestly don't see myself delving into again.

It's pretty obvious that newspapers are dying and most of the content lives online. But online obituaries are hidden. They're not on most publications' home pages or even available as a tab to click. You actually have to perform a search to find obituaries. To me, that signals the end. It now seems impossible to sustain any type of business without a strong internet presence and ease of use. We're no longer patient enough to jump through hoops to get to our content.

I currently don't read the obituaries in any form. Hearing so many people at my grandma's wake speak of the concept really made me question future attendance at funerals once we lose the paper-reading generations. I realized I never would know my friends' or colleagues' loved ones had passed unless it were posted on social media.

There is something so special and heartwarming about others showing up to pay sympathy. For three full hours, the line at my grandma's wake was out the door. In 90 degree heat. I know the support meant a ton to my dad and his brother and sister. I saw people I hadn't spoken to in decades and I couldn't believe they stood in line for up to an hour (especially in the heat) just to pay their respects to people they hadn't seen in years.

That practice may be lost on younger generations. If we don't post the loss on social media and we've shunned traditional media like newspapers, how will we know to offer support? Will funeral homes and churches see fewer and fewer people for funerals because we're uninformed?

I really don't know the answer and welcome your feedback. Let me know how you see it, by leaving a message in the comments section. Will family and friends find some other way to learn of loved ones' losses? Will attendance at wakes and funerals dwindle and eventually make them obsolete? Will attendance somehow remain steady? I'm curious to hear your thoughts.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Good Things in Small Packages

Ahhhh, hotel stays. The fluffy beds, college-sized fridges and most importantly, the free toiletries. Of all the things to get excited about during a hotel stay, I like the toiletry selection more than just about anything else. Although the offerings tend to be merely average in most cases, I always hold out hope for the swanky toiletry stash. It can make me as giddy as having two snacks drop out of a vending machine when I only paid for one.

I'm constantly compelled to swipe those teeny treats because I paid for them in the price of the room, you know? Some say room prices could drop if hotels didn't provide so many toiletries, but that's not for me to decide. I'm just working the current problem as I see it. (Remember that episode of Friends where Ross crammed his suitcase full of every "free" item he could get his hands on in his hotel room?)

How much free stuff is too much? Typically, I'd immediately say you can never have too much. If it's offered to you, grab it! But recently I've been re-examining my thinking. I was doing some spring cleaning and found dozens of unused mini items I'd accrued at hotels over the past few years. Check out the photo. Do you know how much space these products take up underneath my bathroom sink?! Some of the products weren't even good anymore. So why the heck did I keep them, and more importantly, why the heck do I continue to grab the free goodies everywhere I go? Am I a hoarder??

No, I'm definitely not a hoarder. I think mostly I like the adrenaline rush of seemingly getting something for FREE. That, and the ability to try out a new product I may be unfamiliar with. But I can't figure out why I even bother taking some of these products if they smell gross to me and I know I'll never use them. I cannot think of a single instance when I have used one of the sewing or shoe shine kits offered in hotels. Still, I take them. Every day the toiletries are replenished and every day I swipe more. I. Can't. Stop.

I've recently purged my growing stash of mini toiletries. The photo above shows about one-third fewer tiny bottles than I had two months ago. I threw out the really old ones that couldn't be used. I'm doing a much better job now of using the ones I really like, particularly at the gym or the pool. Any that I know right away I won't use in the next six months, I am giving to the women's shelter down the street.

I think my new system will work to keep my bathroom uncluttered and to ensure the mini products don't go to waste. Sure, I could stop swiping every sewing kit or shower cap or makeup removing cloth I come across. But let's be honest. This girl likes free stuff too much and she's going to continue doing a silly little happy dance every time she grabs a fistful of mini goodies and shoves them into her suitcase.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Keep It Brief

"I need it up to my belly button."

This was the main phrase that gave me pause when I got caught next to a conversation at Target I wish I could un-hear. I'm in the intimates section and two women in the next aisle are having a... well... intimate conversation. But it's loud. They were loudly having a conversation about an intimate topic. The great panties debate was happening right next to me and like a moth to flame, I couldn't help eavesdropping on the awful conversation.

OK, let's be honest. It's not that I was eavesdropping, it's that the two women, who appeared to be approximately 80 years old, were having their conversation about panties at a decibel level normally reserved for noisy bars. They were trying to figure out if the briefs in the sealed Hanes package were what they really wanted, or if they were going to end up with "those tiny things that are too small for anyone to wear."

A Target employee, who appeared to be in her late 60s, had heard the conversation (as had everyone else in the neighboring four departments) so she sauntered over and tried assisting the ladies. I found it funny that her volume exceeded that of the other two, and I'm pretty sure everyone clearly could hear the weird panties conversation all the way in the electronics section on the other side of the building. Imagine looking at an iPod and hearing "NO, I NEED THE BRIEFS THAT GO TO MY BELLY BUTTON!"

I kept imagining something like this.
The employee assured the women that the briefs they were examining would go all the way up to the belly button and would "stay put." Then she added, "that's what I have on right now and they feel great." I stifled laughter, while also crinkling my nose in disgust. I found the whole conversation particularly amusing and although I wanted to walk away, it was kind of a train wreck I couldn't stop taking in. Images of enormous "granny
panties" and atomic wedgies danced in my brain while these three women VERY LOUDLY discussed the briefs they each were wearing. I finally forced myself to walk away when one of the women blurted out, "What if I want them to come up PAST my belly button, do you have anything like that?" All I could picture was this little old lady tangled in a huge, full-body pair of briefs and I knew I needed to get away from there before I burst into laughter.

Would I still have found this conversation so hilarious if it were carried out by, let's say, two young, hot 20-somethings? Well, quite honestly, probably. Maybe for me it was the content of the conversation that made me grimace rather than those involved. I think even supermodels discussing the need for underwear to be "full coverage" would take me aback.

Seriously though, who cares what clothes or underwear another person is wearing? Why was I so amused/repulsed by the undies conversation? I find it interesting the mental images we find disgusting... like our own parents having sex. We know where we came from and what our parents had to do to bring us into the world. But it's still weird and kinda gross. Similar to my Target situation. It made sense for the women to check to make sure they're getting full coverage briefs that wouldn't bug them by sliding down (or up?) all day long. But I still found it weird and kinda gross.

So I guess in weird situations like the Target "Battle of the Briefs," I need to channel my mother-in-law and remember one of her pet phrases: "Put on your big girl panties and deal with it."

Monday, October 21, 2013

False Sense of Security

Ahh, modern technology. How did we ever manage to survive without it? Sometimes I find attempting to remember life without cell phones now conjures images equivalent to Paleolithic man attempting to master fire. But with the convenience, the amusement and the constant staying in touch offered by smartphones comes what I consider a huge, glaring problem that's largely overlooked -- privacy. To be more specific, your privacy when it comes to using apps.

It's no secret that sites like Google, Facebook and LinkedIn farm our personal information for a variety of purposes. Whether it's to expand business reach or to improve direct marketing, websites are becoming more and more invasive. But what I'm finding most disturbing recently is the invasive nature of smartphone apps, and the fact that we knowingly choose to let them blur (or cross) the privacy line.

A partial list of app permissions
Sure, we may initially feel uncomfortable with allowing our apps to have carte blanche access to our devices, but most of us cave and click "accept" anyway. Does my Yahoo fantasy football app really need to be able to "add or remove accounts, create accounts and set passwords"? Should Twitter be able to "modify or delete the contents of your USB storage"? Why should the Washington Post need my "approximate (network-based) location, precise (GPS) location"? None of those things are necessary, yet more and more apps demand such concessions from the user.

Is a silly app THAT important that we should sacrifice our precious privacy? Deep down we know it's like signing a deal with the devil, basically opening us up to marketing phone calls and identity theft, but for some reason we ignore common sense and do it anyway. In fact, I believe most people don't even read the laundry list of permissions apps demand before clicking "install." We spend time creating passwords and security measures to prevent other people from getting into our phones, yet we completely ignore those who are already in because we allowed it.

I've started to draw a line. A while back my Facebook app stopped working on my phone unless I would upgrade to the newest version. I noticed that the newest version had added some new, more invasive permissions that I needed to approve before upgrading that app. I decided enough was enough when it demanded to use my device's hardware to "record audio, take pictures and videos". Are you kidding me? I'm supposed to be OK with Facebook taking pictures of me and my surroundings at any time? No thanks. App deleted.

One of the reasons I find people's lack of attention to invasive app permissions rather amusing is the recent uproar over the NSA's spying practices. I find it infinitely comical that the average person would grow angry at the NSA for reading personal emails, when millions of those same people gave companies like Google permission to do the very same. The NSA is doing it for national security, Google is doing it for profit. Sure, the NSA invaded privacy, but is reading your lame, boring emails worse than Facebook using your smartphone camera to watch you change clothes? Let's put things in perspective here.

As I previously mentioned, I've become more discerning with the apps I wish to download and more diligent about reading the permissions they demand. I'd recommend everyone takes a few seconds to read through the list before rushing to install Candy Crush or Yelp. Sure, we'll probably keep installing the invasive apps anyway. But at least if we read the permissions we can't be surprised when someone at Instagram posts a nude video of us on YouTube... taken directly from our own phone cameras... with our permission.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Living Social

I hearby declare dead the days of referring to someone as a social butterfly. Why the death of the term, you may ask? Because it inherently refers to being social, an act that is more or less degrading into a curious form of being social without actually being social. It's gotten to the point that often we're no longer interacting with people, we're interacting with their electronic personas.

Confused yet? Me too. I contend "social" media has warped us into non-social beings. 

Before I am accused of being holier-than-thou, let me admit to my zealous use of social media. I do my best to keep it at a manageable, sane level. Admittedly, I do not always succeed.

Gone are my evenings spent returning one call after another, chatting and giggling with friends and family. Instead, I tend toward an online chat session that better allows me to multitask instead of focusing undivided attention on an individual. The same goes for texting or posting a message on someone's online message board or "wall", which allows for an even further lack of undivided attention because of the added lag time of waiting for a person to see the message and then respond.

Although older generations tend to blame the younger generation -- Gen Y or Millennials -- I don't think that's where all the blame for the social evolution (or is it devolution?) should fall. I've seen plenty of people aged 40+ walk into traffic while texting. Countless members of older generations can be spotted in public gazing intently at iPads, oblivious to those around them. The difference is that older generations grew up with classic social conditioning but millennials have grown up in an electronic society. The reality of it may be simply that our activities are changing the definition of the word "social" and the various generations will view the term differently over time.

I actually miss the days of not being tied to an electronic device and being able to tune out. Remember the refreshing time of saying you didn't receive a phone or email message and nobody questioned it? Now saying such a thing opens us up to criticism, considering so many of us carry smart phones and can respond to every person's every need every time.

Have we become so rude and removed that we outright prefer NOT to interact with humans in real time? Are we becoming social hermits? It sure seems that way when I look around in public and watch people engrossed in their mobile devices, yet I get a blank stare and sometimes even what appears to be a look of fear if I speak to them. Certainly, this is not always the case, but it's becoming increasingly the norm to succumb to the addictive grip of mobile devices and social media outlets. People would rather follow someone on Twitter, post a photo on Instagram or check how many "likes" they received on a Facebook post than talk to a fellow human in real time. Interacting with other humans without the aid of electronic devices now often leads to socially awkward situations.

Historically, humans needed to be more social simply to survive. Some hunted, others gathered and others kept watch over the young. Now we appear to believe we can do it all alone. I contend that the increasing distancing behaviors humans exhibit could not only negatively impact society, but ultimately lead to its demise. If there is a massive earth-changing event that threatens our existence, we will need to lean on others for support and survival. The way I see things progressing in today's society, we may be doomed.

The de-socialization of society will likely swing further into the anti-social hemisphere before it comes back around, if it does. I'll be curious to see if in 20 years or so the act of genuinely being social is so far gone that it actually comes around again in a new craze. I fully believe that the hipsters (or whichever group takes the place of the hipsters in 20 years) will look at classic social activities as being retro and will make them trendy once again.