3.01.2015

This Guy Woke Up This Morning - You Won't Believe What Happened Next!

Good morning. I am still a sucker for those click bait posts on social media that show a compelling or ambiguous photograph, with a caption like the title of this post. And, sorry, but if you just read the previous sentence...you are one too. Cheers!

Seriously, though, and by seriously, I mean not seriously at all, I have been willfully weening myself off such posts, whose main purpose is to generate "clicks," or junk Internet traffic, to improve the site's ratings in Google and other search engines. Most of these posts, while not completely uninteresting, are quite believable and usually do not live up to the awe inspiring claims of the title.

Eventually, I think more and more people will catch onto this web scam and stop clicking through to cats that talk and dresses of some ambiguous color, when they discover they are less than satisfied by the content of the posts they find there.

But the interesting thing is how well this phenomenon illustrates operant conditioning and how humans are really driven by the same behavioral cues as every other animal. While 90% of click bait posts might be kind of mediocre at best, it only takes that 10th one to be pretty good (or at least controversial) for people to maintain the behavior of checking out EVERY click bait post they encounter. The biological basis of this is well established. In rats and dogs, and pretty much every higher animal, giving a reward for a behavior every Nth time the behavior occurs, where N is some smallish integer between 2 and 9, say, strengthens future repetition of the behavior, especially when the reward comes not every time, but rather after some random occurrence of the behavior. The animal (clicker) doesn't know when the reward will come, so they do the behavior whenever they are able to in hopes of getting a reward. The same exact behavioral cues are at work with click bait posts, and that is why advertisers use them to generate traffic to sites (notice the conspicuous and related ads on all of these sites).

So, while I know that I will be missing out on that dog that says "I love you," I am now forcing myself to ignore posts that are not explicit about their content in the title caption. I am even taking a moment to block such content from my Facebook feed when I encounter it so I don't have to see it constantly showing up there.

Anyway, I promised you revelations about "this guy" and the unbelievable things that transpired after he woke up this morning, so I won't leave you hanging.

This guy is ME!

I urinated. Then I fed the dogs, Buddy and Foster, and let them out in the yard to relieve themselves too. I gave Buddy his medicine for Cushing's Disease, which he apparently has, according to my vet. He said "thank you" to me in his special doggie way of licking the peanut butter I use to hide the pill off the spoon. If you listen closely, his slobbering tongue really does kind of sound like "thank you."

I made myself a four egg and black eyed pea frittata for breakfast and watched an episode of Blacklist on Netflix, all before noon, the time I had set to begin working on my writing homework (for which this blog post is my warm up exercise). For the next five hours or so, I will be furiously working on my homework. I have buffered in a couple extra hours if needed, but I am hoping I will be focused and efficient. That way, after dinner, I will run a few songs on bass in anticipation of the open jam at Funk's Pub tonight, and around 8 PM I will head over to Funk's and set up my laptop to run the live stream of said jam.

I should caption the live stream something like: "These random musicians got up on stage together for the first time and what happens next is AMAZING."

Actually, I think I saw that very caption on Facebook a few days ago. Weird.

Anyway, I hope my unbelievable morning was the most compelling thing you ever read, but I am pretty sure it's not. That's OK though. You'll still click on the next enthralling meme caption you see to try to find that elusive deep satisfaction that only social media surfing can bring!

Ciao.

P.S. The thumbnail images of a scantily clad Kim Kardashian that appear in this post are no accident. Nay! I am exploiting her glorious visage for monetary gain. Hey, I mean, isn't it about time KK did something USEFUL? Always like to facilitate empowering women...

2.28.2015

On a Bus

I am on public transportation - a bus to be exact - going from my house (actually 2 blocks away...is the bus stop) downtown, for my writing class. I opted for the bus because the teacher of the class told us there is some kind of wrestling tournament going on downtown and parking might suck. I am low on gas anyway and this way I don't need to pay for parking. I will save about a dollar using the simplest math. Round trip bus fare is $4. Parking is usually $5. My Prius doesn't use a lot of gas, but whatever gas I save doing this can be tacked onto the cost savings. Plus I can postpone having to get gas again until probably Monday.

But of course, the real value of taking the bus is stress relief and peace of mind. No dealing with traffic. No parking hassles. And someone else is driving. Granted the bus has its First World problems. There's the destitute narcissist who asks the bus driver to wait 15 seconds so he can check to see if he has the bus fare. There's the punk assed petty larcenist who takes a seat and immediately starts talking too loudly on his cell phone, bragging about how he totaled his friend's car to get some insurance money.

I thought my writing class was tomorrow but it is today, which presents a conundrum, because today is also the last day of February Album Writing Month (FAWM) for which I still need to write about 8 songs. That means I can't begin churning out songs until about 6 pm tonight. FAWM closes at midnight at the International Dateline, which gives me until 6 AM Sunday to finish and upload the 8 songs. Since I have no intention of staying up past 2 AM (I like sleep), I have a bold ambition to do about one song per hour starting as soon as I get home from class. This is actually doable...but it means no advanced production, just an acoustic guitar and whatever lyrics I cobble together. They will be sketches to elaborate on later if any are good ideas. The only forseeable caveat to this plan is if I hit upon some pure genius and decide to put all my eggs into that one hit basket. Then I will not achieve the desired quantity of songs (8) but I will get a probable hit song. I am definitely a QUALITY vs QUANTITY kind of guy when it comes to songwriting.

I am almost to my destination so will have to sign off. I will end by saying I hope this writing class offers some opportunities to sketch out some song ideas and maybe lyrics.

Riding the bus is fun and productive. Stay tuned, dear readers.

2.27.2015

Poor Buddy

A week ago, I took my dog Buddy to the vet and found out his anal gland cancer surgery was a success. The vet couldn't feel any tumor regrowth and his calcium levels had returned to normal, indicating no cancer spread.

Since Buddy's thyroid hormone levels were low, the vet put Buddy on a cheap medicine to supplement it.

This week, though, Buddy took a turn. He had a couple of pee accidents in the house on Tuesday and Wednesday when I got home from work and didn't let him out right away. I didn't think too much of it, because he has always been a big water drinker. However, he rarely has accidents and in these cases he did not go to the door or whimper or give me any warning at all. He didn't even try to go somewhere to do it secretly, he went right in front of me. That was actually good because I was able to stop him and throw him outside.

On Wednesday night though, he started stumbling around the house, crashing into chairs and walls and falling down. He couldn't stop drinking water, even trying to lick the snow when I took him outside. He also subsequently couldn't stop peeing. Because of the bladder control issues, I put him in his crate, lined with a towel, to stop him from crashing around and peeing on the floor. The crate has a plastic base with a lip to keep any liquid in. In the morning on Thursday, I called the vet and brought him in for a day admission for observation.

The vet ran a test and Buddy has Cushing's Disease, a condition where the brain and/or adrenal glands produce too much stress hormone, resulting in a lot of symptoms that Buddy has (and has had for a while) - stiff joints, lethargy, drinking a lot, fat pads on his shoulders, disorientation, instability, etc.).

I took Buddy home Thursday night and kept him crated as much as possible so he could rest and to give me a respite from using the steam vac on his accidents. I had bought some doggie pee pads after work to line the crate, and he soiled a few of them during the nigh. These pads are super absorbent and have a waterproof base to they can be disposed of easily, so clean up was pretty easy but I had to get up three or four times during the night when he barked (letting me know he had peed or crapped himself).

I worked from home for most of the day on Friday and Buddy was not in very good shape. He was very disoriented, fell over a couple times, and seemed to have no energy. I wasn't sure if he even recognized me. When I took him outside, he just lied down on the snow in this freezing cold weather. I had to lead him back into the house. His water drinking is reduced a bit though.

Buddy seems to be doing better today. Still lethargic and unstable, but seems to be more with it and not drinking as much. This morning I took him into the vet to get some blood drawn and obtain some pills that cure Cushing's. Well, not really a cure, because he has to stay on them indefinitely and they are not cheap. I hope the pills work and give Buddy a new "leash" on life (did you see what I did there?). I know Buddy won't live forever, but he has had a good long life living with me the past 14 years. As long as it continues to be a decent quality of life, that's all I can hope for.