Exit 141. Versatile Blogger Award and things about myself.

There are a lot of deep topics I could write about this week.  Today is a national holiday here in the USA commemorating the birthday of civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr.  The controversial businessman Donald J. Trump will be inaugurated later this week as the 45th President of the United States of America.  A controversial political journalist was scheduled to speak at my alma mater, and the speech was cancelled due to protests in a move that some say sounds suspiciously like censorship.

But I really don’t feel like writing something that deep right now.  I’m going to keep it light this week.

One of my readers whom I do not know in person, Anna from the blog My Little Corner, nominated me for the Versatile Blogger Award.  I’ve seen these kind of blog nominations going around for a while now, and this is the first time I’ve ever been tagged in one.  Thank you, Anna.


Now I’m supposed to do these things:

  1. Display Award.
  2. Thank the person who gave this award (and include a link to their blog.)
  3. Share seven things about yourself.
  4. Nominate bloggers.

The first two are already done, so now I get to share seven things about myself.  I’ll try to stick to things that I haven’t written about before on here, although some of these might be common knowledge to my friends in real life.

1. I have never seen the movie Titanic, and I have no desire to.
Yes, I know it’s one of the most popular and highest grossing movies of all time, but I haven’t seen it.  Yes, I know it’s a love story, and if you think that’s going to make me want to see it, you don’t know me very well.  (Read this for more information, especially the paragraph starting with “A couple years ago.”) I wanted to see Titanic at the time it was in theaters (which was my last year as an undergrad at UC Davis), mostly just because everyone was talking about it, and because they built and sank a replica of the actual Titanic to make the movie.  That sounded awesome.  I had plans to see it with a female friend (I’ll call her Aldebaran) who I got along with wonderfully and probably would have been interested in as more than a friend except that she had a boyfriend back home.  Aldebaran cancelled on me, and we never got to reschedule.  A couple weeks later, she moved away to do an internship related to her future career.  When I saw her again in the fall, her boyfriend had moved to Davis, and she pretty much disappeared once he was around.  I think I saw her once or twice that year, we didn’t say much more than hi, and 18 years later I have never heard from her again.  But back to my main story… at some point during the time she was gone, I heard all the stories about middle-aged women being so obsessed with Leonardo DiCaprio that they had seen Titanic 20 times, and I heard from friends whose opinions I trusted that it really wasn’t that good, and I decided I wasn’t missing much.  Eventually, it sort of became something I was proud of that I never saw that movie.

2. I don’t like coffee.
Again, I apologize if you find that blasphemous.  I’m not going to stop any of you from drinking coffee.  You do you.  But I just can’t handle the taste.  I’ve mentioned this a little bit in this blog before (follow the same link in the Titanic paragraph above).  I’ve tried to like coffee.  Being a college student in the 90s, I felt like my dislike of coffee stunted my social life.  But no matter what I added to the drink, I couldn’t get past the fact that I could taste the coffee.  Since there’s not much of a story to this, I’ll tell a related story: A while back, I was in my early 30s, and I brought a friend to a football game at UC Davis.  After the game, she didn’t want to go home right away; she suggested going to a coffee shop to hang out and talk.  (I had no problem with this; my plan was to order a hot chocolate.)  She asked, since I used to live in Davis, where was a good local non-Starbucks coffee shop?  One came to mind right away that I was pretty sure was still there (it was Mishka’s, for my readers who are familiar with Davis).  Once we walked in, I looked around and realized something interesting: I had never been inside Mishka’s before.  I only knew of it because my friends were always talking about it and how good it was.

3. I have never consumed alcohol.
Not technically entirely true, because I grew up Catholic, where they use real wine for Communion, but that’s just a tiny sip.  And once I was trying to make bootleg Vanilla Coke using generic cola and vanilla extract, and I didn’t realize that vanilla extract contains alcohol.  But that’s all; no alcohol other than those situations.  I have mentioned this several times, but I haven’t told the whole story.  As with coffee, sometimes I feel that not drinking has stunted my social life.  But I have different reasons for this.  My father is a recovering alcoholic, and this kind of thing tends to run in families.  Dad has been sober since the early 80s, so I’m too young to really remember most of his problem days.  But I remember him being kind of distant when I was a kid, and much of that was because he was still fighting his own demons.  I also see in myself the kind of personality tendencies where I could easily turn to alcohol to run away, and I’d just rather not play with proverbial fire, so to speak.  Plus, I never have to worry about knowing whether or not I’m too impaired to drive, and I save a lot of money not drinking.  But if you enjoy alcohol in moderation, I’m not going to stop you, and I’m fine being around you.  You do you.

4. I’m not one who always embraces the latest technology with enthusiasm.
This surprises some people, considering how much time I spend behind a computer screen, how I tend to figure things out on computers pretty easily, and how I knew the basics of what would today be called coding by my preteen years.  Growing up, I did a lot of reading about computers, but much of it was wishful thinking because we did not spend a lot of money on expensive technological devices.  As an adult, now that I have more money, I understand the wisdom of not spending it prodigiously, so now I don’t always go out and buy the latest thing.  It also makes me angry the way that slightly older technologies that work perfectly well are forced into obsolescence by corporations (smartphones without headphone jacks and MicroSD card slots, for example).  All that accomplishes is making me NOT want to buy your latest product.

5. I have only been to Yosemite National Park once, for one day, at age 38, despite living pretty much my whole life within a few hours’ drive.
This may not mean much to my readers outside of California, but I know people for whom this fact is completely inconceivable; to them, it’s just something you do growing up in California.  Not me.  I grew up in a family that was not outdoorsy at all, and family outings and vacations themselves were relatively rare growing up because everyone had such different and incompatible schedules.  It was also a trip I hesitated to take because, from what I had heard, Yosemite was always so crowded, and it was very difficult and expensive to find a place to stay.  Around 2000, I got the idea to take a day trip there, to leave very early in the morning in late spring or early summer when there would be lots of daylight, arrive at the park mid-morning, explore until it got dark, and get home in time for bed.  Someone I knew at the time shot down that idea (even though they weren’t invited, this was to be a solo trip), saying that I was underestimating the drive time, so it wouldn’t be worth the trip for just one day.  I listened to them and cancelled this plan.  I got the same idea around 2011 when I was dating Acrux, and she again told me I couldn’t do that, for the same reason.  I’d get there, drive up and down the Valley, and then it would be time to leave, according to her.  By 2015, I did a little more research and decided that my original plan would be feasible.  Screw you, naysayers.  The people shooting down my ideas were presumably assuming that it would take forever to get ready in the morning, and that they would want to get home in time for dinner.  They weren’t counting on the fact that I was perfectly willing to pack the night before, leave my house at 5:30am, and not get home until 11pm.  So I did just that, which gave me around 10 hours of actual time to explore in the park.  It was a wonderful day.  Of course, the park is so big that I just barely scratched the surface, seeing some of the most popular attractions, but the trip was still well worth it.

6. I’m terrible at skateboarding, roller skating, rollerblading, ice skating, skiing, or anything else along those lines.  I just don’t have that kind of coordination or balance.  I suppose I might get better with practice, but it’s hard for me to justify spending a lot of money on a hobby that results in nothing but me falling down over and over again.  (Snowboarding isn’t on this list because I’ve never tried it.)

7. My favorite number is pi, and my least favorite number is 19.
Pi is because it is a symbol of the field of mathematics, which is what my degree is in.  (This is why I named my blog as I did.)  And 19 is because it seems like every time I meet a cute single girl, that’s how old she ends up being.  Either that, or that’s how old she ends up acting.

So, now that I’ve given my seven facts about myself, I’m supposed to nominate bloggers.  I’m going to modify this step, though.  I’m going to say feel free to do this if you want to, and if you don’t, then don’t.  Besides, I think all my blog friends deserve an award.  But if you are going to accept my quasi-nomination, post a link to your blog in the comments so that other readers can follow it.


Exit 94. Friends or followers?

The TV show The Amazing Race, one of my all time favorites, began another season this week.  For those of you unfamiliar with the show, it has been on since 2001, running two seasons every year.  It is essentially a travel game show.  Contestants are in teams of two with some pre-existing relationship, and they apply together.  Typically, the contestants will be a couple, friends, siblings, or colleagues of some sort.  In each episode, the teams travel to some faraway location, where they compete in physical and mental challenges related to the history or culture of the place they are visiting.  At the end of each episode, they meet the host at a pit stop; the first team to finish wins a prize, and the last time (usually) is eliminated from the race.  They continue, traveling through several different countries over the course of the race, until only three teams remain in the final episode, and the first one to the finish line wins the grand prize.

This season has a casting gimmick.  All eleven teams are social media celebrities of some sort: YouTube video stars, Instagrammers with thousands of followers, and the like.  (My first reaction to this was, “I wonder if one of the challenges this season will be to jump over a shark on water skis?”)  I’m still going to watch it, but my perspective will be a bit different because I haven’t heard of any of these people before now.  To me, the fact that “social media celebrity” even exists as a way to describe someone just shows how frighteningly fast the world has changed, and how out of touch I am.

I have an Instagram.  It’s public.  I don’t post pictures of me.  I just take pictures of stuff I see.  I’m not trying to get thousands of followers, and the overwhelming majority of those following me are people I know in person.  But, as it is a public account, every once in a while I’ll get followed by someone I don’t know in person.  A few weeks ago, someone I was pretty sure I didn’t know in person started following me, and I messaged her to ask if we had met in person, since I didn’t remember.  She said she didn’t think so.  I asked how she found me, and I also pointed out that I had looked to see who she knew, and that we seemed to have a few friends in common.

“Friends or followers?” she asked.

And that was the first time it really hit me.  Most people out there in the world of social media make a distinction between the two.  And I don’t.

Much of my social life between 1994 and 2007 revolved around people I met in chat rooms.  I don’t do that anymore, for a variety of reasons.  But I’m still in touch with some of those people.  And I always thought of all the people I would meet on chat rooms and message boards as friends, or at least as people I’d like to get to know as friends.  Occasionally on this blog I’ll get comments from people I don’t know.  I try to check out their blogs when I can, and I’ve started following, and commenting regularly on, two blogs that I’ve discovered this way.  I feel like, were the situation to come up, I’d want to be friends with them, at least so far.  But I can’t expect them to feel the same way.  Not everyone wants to make friends through their blogs.  I haven’t told either of them this… and if they happen to read this, I hope this doesn’t sound creepy or stalkerish at all, because I don’t mean it that way.  And I have no intention of stalking them.  (Both of them live quite far away, so it isn’t an option anyway.)

The obsession with getting followers and not making friends isn’t the only thing that rubs me the wrong way about the existence of social media personalities.  Maybe I’m just envious of people who have these street smarts and these opportunities.  As a teenager, I would have loved to make videos.  There was no YouTube back then, and we never had enough money to have a video camera.

There’s also the fact that I am a teacher.  The stereotype I have of social media personalities with enough followers to make a living from social media is that they didn’t follow the traditional career path of doing well in school, getting into a good college, and getting a good job from there.  But there doesn’t have to be anything wrong with that.  Life changes, technology changes, and career paths change.  “Truck driver” wasn’t a common career 100 years ago.  “Computer programmer” wasn’t a common career 50 years ago.  This is just a natural evolution of things.  And making a living successfully from social media still requires street smarts.  Being a YouTube star isn’t really any different from being an actor, and being an Instagram star isn’t really any different from being a model.  Both of these careers have existed for a long, long time; the technology may have made these careers more accessible, but they haven’t really changed human nature.  So maybe I’m getting worked up over the wrong things.