Not everyone’s a critic

As a kid, I hat­ed “crit­i­cal think­ing” ques­tions.

I didn’t know what the term even meant, but what I did know was that about a third of the ques­tions at the end of each chap­ter in my school text­books were “crit­i­cal think­ing” ques­tions. I’d read the assigned text — well, usu­al­ly — but skim­ming the chap­ter for key words would mag­i­cal­ly reveal the answers… at least for all the nor­mal ques­tions.

In what year did Napolean what­ev­er? I knew the hack for that: scan the text for num­bers.

My goal was to get my work done as quick­ly as pos­si­ble, because the draw of TV time at home, and “free time” in class was strong. Crit­i­cal think­ing was an annoy­ing road­block to very impor­tant leisure. I just want­ed to get done.

As an adult, I take my time when I work — I just try not to com­plete­ly Dou­glas Adams my dead­lines, if you catch my drift. Qual­i­ty is impor­tant (although it’s only job two), and if I fin­ish some­thing ear­ly, odds are it could use some more thought, anoth­er look tomor­row with fresh eyes, or some­thing like that.

There real­ly is no prize for fin­ish­ing first.

I real­ize now that the crit­i­cal think­ing ques­tions were the only ones that ever real­ly mat­tered. Teach­ers prob­a­bly told us that, but it didn’t mean any­thing at the time. And when I look around today, I get the sense that to a lot of my peers, it still doesn’t.

Uncommon Knowledge: Songs about “you”

Every so often I real­ize that some­thing I believe to be com­mon knowl­edge actu­al­ly isn’t, sim­ply because not every­one has the same life expe­ri­ences as I do. I’m try­ing to doc­u­ment such things that I know, for the bet­ter­ment of soci­ety as a whole. This blog seems to be the per­fect place to do this.

Here’s today’s bit of very impor­tant, uncom­mon knowl­edge:

If you’re not in a com­mit­ted rela­tion­ship, per­haps the great­est thing you can do for your­self is begin one with a per­son whose name — or a rea­son­able nick­name for their name — ends in the let­ter “u” (IPA: u: — MWCD: ü — NOAD: o͞o) or oth­er­wise rhymes with the Eng­lish word you.

Why would you want to do this, you may won­der. What you lose being in a rela­tion­ship for an admit­ted­ly piss-poor rea­son, you gain in being able to fill the individual’s name into all sorts of pop­u­lar music from at least the last 60 years or so. This will help you bet­ter put your feel­ings for them into words, and not sound entire­ly ridicu­lous in the process.

Seri­ous­ly, have you ever noticed how many songs address some­one in the second-person, where the singer sings words of love, hate or some oth­er emo­tion to an unnamed some­one? It’s true! You prob­a­bly don’t notice just how use­ful this is until you find your­self in a rela­tion­ship where you want to express some emo­tion or anoth­er for an indi­vid­ual who is named in that cer­tain way. But once you do, this sim­ple thing becomes very use­ful, indeed.

So go and find some­body with a com­pat­i­ble name. I sup­pose you could nick­name pret­ty much any­one “Boo,” but that’s sort of lame. Unless that’s their giv­en name, in which case they’re nat­u­ral­ly a keep­er.

Here are some exam­ple songs to get you start­ed, and names to help nar­row the field:

  • You’re just too good to be true/Can’t take my eyes off Stu #
  • I don’t believe that anybody/feels the way I do about Lulu now #
  • Hello/I love Drew/Won’t you tell me your name? #
  • I know I’ve got noth­ing on Lou/I know there’s noth­ing to do #
  • It’s Matthew that I adore/You’ll always be my whore #
  • Colour my world/with hope/of lov­ing Jew­el #
  • You prob­a­bly think this song is about Mary­lou. #
  • An Eski­mo showed me a movie/He had recent­ly tak­en of Pikachu #
  • If only I’d thought of the right words/I wouldn’t be break­ing apart/All my pic­tures of Sue #
  • If I leave here tomorrow/Would Kooh still remem­ber me? #

Most pet names count, and of course, this works best with names of few­er syl­la­bles. Find the right per­son and the musi­cal world is your pho­net­ic oys­ter.

Uncommon Knowledge: Twitter @replies

I’ve been think­ing late­ly, and I’m going to start a new series here on the blog, ten­ta­tive­ly titled stuff I know and take for grant­ed, but it’s stuff that a lot of peo­ple don’t know, you guys!

I may need to think of a bet­ter title.

I won’t, how­ev­er, let that stop me.1 These are things that the world may or may not need to know, but should cer­tain­ly have the chance to know.

Here’s my first one:

If you have a com­mon name on Twit­ter, you prob­a­bly get lots of errant ‘@replies’ because peo­ple don’t know how to use them.

A lit­tle back­ground: if you use Twit­ter — and I won’t fault you if you don’t2—you’re prob­a­bly aware that you can direct your post to anoth­er user by plac­ing their unique Twit­ter user ID after an @ sign some­where in your post. For exam­ple, if you want­ed to tell me I’m great, you’d say some­thing like:

I think that @everett is great!!

(@nobody Hey, thanks!)

…and then my Twit­ter soft­ware client would alert me that some­one direct­ed a post my way. These are usu­al­ly called “replies” or “men­tions” depend­ing on the client you use. Sim­ple stuff, right?

Note that it just so hap­pens that my Twit­ter ID is “everett.” This is so because I reg­is­tered my account in mid-2006, ear­ly enough that first-names were still unreg­is­tered, and thus, avail­able as user IDs. Because I chose a com­mon name for my ID and quite a few peo­ple out there know peo­ple named Everett and some of these peo­ple don’t know what they’re doing, I often get posts direct­ed at me unin­ten­tion­al­ly.

I’ve got­ten used to it. Here are some exam­ples of places I was ‘men­tioned’ by mis­take.

Not the worst advice, but I can’t take the cred­it.

This nev­er hap­pened. Real­ly.

Not sure where I was on the evening of August 19th, but I’m not sure where Elijah’s sense of enti­tle­ment comes from either.

This exam­ple is inter­est­ing. Thanks to Twit­ter, I’ve learned that there’s a chain of bar­be­cue places in the Oak­land area called Everett & Jones, which a lot of peo­ple like to go to. Men­tions of E&J actu­al­ly get mis­tak­en­ly direct­ed at me a lot… and from every­thing I’ve heard, it makes my must-try list if I’m ever in the Bay Area again. Thanks, Twit­ter!

  1. You could also say that I need to think of bet­ter ideas than this one, but I won’t let that stop me either.
  2. Despite all the hype, Twit­ter is total­ly non-essential, and you’re prob­a­bly not miss­ing that much if you don’t use it.