Terrible Twitter and Terrible Maps

Twitter is most often a vapid, seething echo chamber where you’re verbally assault on a daily basis by Trump supporters who are personally offended when you tell the President that he is a racist ignoramus who locks children in cages, brags about sexual assault, and calls Nazis “very fine people.”

It’s weird. When these same people were attacking President Obama for any number of nonsensical (and occasionally valid) reasons, I never felt personally wounded. I didn’t flail about in emotional turmoil and fire off poorly constructed, incorrectly punctuated, and weakly argued insults at them.

I just ignored them. Allowed them to proceed with their mindless trolling.

So why do they become so angry with me?

Still, I remain on Twitter, because despite the cesspool of name calling and digital attacks, I’ve made some genuine friends on Twitter and established some strong professional contacts.

I also get to speak directly to Trump, and since he once blocked me (and was forced to unblock me after losing in court), I know there’s at least the possibility that he will hear me again.

It also makes me feel good to know I’m speaking truth to power.

I also stick around for the occasional bits of joy that you can find on Twitter. The humor. The readers who reach out to offer kind words about my books. The people from around the world who hear my stories and are inspired to connect.

I also stick around for wonderful little gems like @terrible maps, which always makes me smile. I’m a bit of a geography nerd, so perhaps this particular bit of comedy hits my sweet spot, but I hope you find this sampling of maps as heartwarming as I do.

If you do, I suggest you follow the feed.

Own your domain, dummy

Wondering what kind of information Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh might include on BrettKavanaugh.com now that he has won his confirmation?

We’ll never know. He doesn’t own the domain.

The domain BrettKavanaugh.com is now a dedicated forum for helping sexual assault victims and ending rape. The website, titled "We Believe Survivors," was purchased by Fix The Court, which advocates for judicial transparency.

The domain and similar sites ending in .org and .net was purchased three years ago with the idea they could be "useful in any forthcoming Supreme Court confirmation battles," the organization's executive director, Gabe Roth, said. 

we believe survivors.png

Why Brett Kavanaugh didn’t purchase this domain years ago is beyond me.

Perhaps he was drunk with Squee at the time, writing crude, sexually explicit, and publicly shaming comments about Renate Schroeder in his yearbook.

Meanwhile, I own matthewdicks.com, as well as mattdicks.com and matthewdicks.net.

I also own my name on MySpace and Facebook, as well as the Twitter handle @MatthewDicks, the Instagram handle @MatthewDicks, and even the Pinterest handle @MatthewDicks.

When I see a new platform gaining steam, I grab my name just in case.

Even Donald Trump doesn’t own his Twitter handle. Instead, he is @realDonaldTrump.

I also own elyshadicks.com, claradicks.com, and charliedicks.com.

Someday Clara and Charlie are going to be very pleased about their genius father’s foresight and planning. To have a domain that actually matches your name is already unusual. It will only become more uncommon in the future, particularly when so much of our lives exist on the Internet.

I recommend that parents do this for their children.

I plan on telling my kids about this great news when:

  1. They understand the value of owning a domain like this

  2. I’ve said something regrettable or horrendous to them and need to find a way to get them to forgive me quickly.

I was a Boy Scout. I believe in being prepared.

Eric Trump doesn't like me

As you may know, I was a part of the Knight Foundation’s lawsuit against Donald Trump which led to him being forced to unblock me on Twitter earlier this year.

One of the highlights of 2018 for me.

Though I had always been able to see the inane ramblings of the self-admitted sex offender and bigot currently serving in the White House, now I can respond directly to him when the need arises.

It’s usually when I’m so annoyed that exercising my freedom of speech and firing off a response to his stupidity makes me feel better.

Yesterday, however, I discovered that I have now been blocked by Eric Trump, the debatably stupidest of the two Trump sons.

I know most comedians portray Eric as the dumb one, and he certainly has a slack-jawed, mystified gaze about him, but after the enormous number of obvious lies that Donald Trump Jr. told about his meeting with Russians in Trump Tower, the title for dumbest Trump son became a lot less certain for me.

Since Eric Trump is not a public official but only pretending to be running the Trump Organization on behalf of his self-serving, racist father, I am not outraged by his decision to block me.

A little annoyed, perhaps, because he’s so easy and fun to insult (which is why I was probably blocked) but I certainly understand that he’s well within his rights to silence me on Twitter.

I suspect that Trump Jr. will also block me at some point if my tweets rise to his attention, and since he is not a public official but only a possible traitor to the United States who is also pretending to run the Trump Organization, I will not be outraged by his decision to block me, either.

Disappointed but not outraged.

Ivanka, however, is a government official. She has chosen not to take a salary, but she’s still working for the government, so she cannot block me based upon the principles of the Knight Foundation lawsuit.

Unlike her father and brothers, Ivanka is not nearly as stupid on Twitter. She did tweet out this photo of her and her son exactly one day after Americans learned that her father was separating small children from their families and placing them in cages on the border, which might receive the tone deaf award of the century, and she also supports her corrupt, sexist, and bigoted father, but she rarely says something so stupid on Twitter than I feel compelled to respond.

She’s complicit and therefore shares the blame for this disastrous and evil administration, but she’s not nearly as fun to insult.

Eric Trump was good for that, but alas no more.

Apparently my words stung a little too much.

ivanka.jpeg

How to handle a troll

While speaking yesterday at the Mark Twain House, a woman asked me how I handle criticism and the negative responses that I receive from people who read my blog, follow me on social media, watch me perform, and the like.

She pointed out that recently, someone disagreed with a position that I took on social media and was aggressive and possibly rude in their response.

It’s true. My wisdom, candor, and wit are surprisingly not always appreciated by the masses. Quite often the responses that I receive via comments on the blog, email, Facebook, and especially Twitter (where cowards hide behind anonymity) are not exactly thoughtful or respectful.

Here is how I manage to avoid allowing these unfortunate interactions to hurt me:

Most important, I am not opposed to disagreement. In fact, I thrive on it. As long as someone is respectful and sincere way in their response, I’m thrilled. Reasonable people can disagree, and the respective exchange of ideas is one of the reasons I write in the first place.

When it’s not respectful, I do this:

  1. I examine the preponderance of the evidence. I look at the responses to my writing as a whole. If the majority of people either support my position or disagree respectfully, then I focus on those responses and ignore the less thoughtful, disrespectful responses. The vast majority of people who respond to my work agree with my positions or push back respectfully. You can’t win over everyone, but if I can get most of them on my side, I’m perfectly capable of ignoring the occasional rude remark.

  2. I have always assumed that mean people are stupid. If someone responds to me with disrespect and vitriol, I simply assume that they are stupid. The world is filled with stupid people. Occasionally my words intersect with these unfortunate souls of limited intellect, and the results are regrettable but ultimately ignorable.

Assuming that mean people are stupid is a powerful and effective tool.

Admittedly, I’ve also always been a person who doesn’t care much about what other people think. As a serial nonconformist, I’ve walked to the beat of my own drummer for a long time. In fact, I look for opportunities to be different. To stand apart from the crowd. To go against the grain.

Honestly, it’s often embraced and even admired.

My favorite example is the time I attended a wedding and did not wear a tie. I don’t wear neckties anymore, seeing them for what they really are:

Pointless, decorative nooses.

It turned out that I was the only man at this rather large wedding who wasn’t wearing a tie. Halfway through the evening, a man approached me and said, “How did you get away with not wearing a tie?”

“I didn’t put one on,” I said. “I’m a grown up. I get to do what I want.”

The man instantly removed his tie and stuffed it into his pocket. It was like watching the unshackling of a grown-ass man for the first time.

I honestly don’t understand why people care so much about the opinions of others.

But if you’re not like me, the strategies listed above might help. What I couldn’t help but think after the woman asked me the question is how often people are being silenced by trolls. Human beings with important thoughts and ideas are hesitant or even afraid to do so because of the stupid people who say mean and stupid things.

Don’t allow the stupid people to stop you. They can’t help it that they are stupid. Sympathize with their lack of basic intellect. Feel sorry for their idiocy. Donate some money to an educational cause that might prevent future people from being stupid.

Move on.

The world needs your voice.

troll.jpg

Trump can't be banned from Twitter, but then he shouldn't be able to block me, either.

As you may know, the President has blocked me on Twitter. 

Shortly after I fired off three successive tweets at him this summer about his failure to produce his promised tax returns, Trump tweeted some inane nonsense to the world and then blocked three people (likely the three at the top of his feed), including me. 

Blocks.jpg

I was outraged. I remain outraged. Yes, I can still see his tweets via an alternate account or a variety of browser settings, but I am no longer able access his Twitter feed via my primary Twitter feed, and this means I can no longer tweet at him or respond to him as me.

More egregious, in 2017, then Presidential spokesperson Sean Spicer said that Trump's tweets amount to "official statements from the President." Therefore, I am also being denied access to the President's official statements because he is a thin-skinned, ignorant coward who cannot handle criticism of any kind. 

When you don't clap at his speech, he calls you a traitor, for example.  

In January of 2018, after Trump seemed to be goading North Korea into a nuclear clash via Twitter, an argument was made that Twitter bans users all the time for making similarly threatening and endangering remarks. 

Why not Trump? 

Twitter responded to these inquiries as it has with similar calls to ban Trump from the platform for similarly egregious tweets:

“Blocking a world leader from Twitter or removing their controversial Tweets would hide important information people should be able to see and debate.”

Fine, but then this:

If Twitter is concerned about the dissemination of the important information from world leaders and therefore exempts them from any possible ban, then Twitter should also be concerned about the hundreds and perhaps thousands of Americans who Trump has blocked, including me, who have also been denied this "important information."

If you want to argue that world leaders cannot be banned from Twitter because the information they provide is too important to hide, then world leaders should be prevented from blocking citizens from this same important information. 

This would be a fair, logical, and sensible policy that would afford world leaders the benefits that Twitter believes is necessary while also providing some basic rights for the citizenry of the world as well.

Why Twitter has not taken this step baffles me. Are they afraid of our vindictive, man-child President? Do they worry that he might abandon the Twitter platform for Snapchat? Or is the company run by hypocrites who don't give a damn about the dissemination of important information? 

I would really like to know. 

What will be written on your tombstone?

Here's a fun little game.

Determine the future epitaph on your tombstone by taking out your phone and beginning a text message that reads,

"Here lies INSERT NAME. He/she was..."

Then allow the phone to predict the rest of the sentence. If you're using a phone that gives you three options, choose the middle one every time. 

Using this method, my epitaph would read:

Here lies Matthew Dicks. He was just a bit too cold. 

Pretty good. Huh?

tombstone.jpg

It turns out that if you try this at different times, you'll get different results. 

My other options include:

Here lies Matthew Dicks. He was a good man in his own life. 
Here lies Matthew Dicks. He was just a bit too hard on himself. 
Here lies Matthew Dicks. He was the one who said we have a lot to do.

I like all of those a lot, too, but you only get one tombstone.

And no cheating. The first one is the right one and the real one. 

Let me know what your phone suggests for you.

When cowards hide behind digital walls and hurl grenades...

Someone did something rotten to me a few weeks ago.

A person who I have never met but who performs in the same New York storytelling community as me, who knows many of the same storytellers that I do, and who was connected to me via Facebook, decided to block me.

I didn’t notice. Though I post to Facebook regularly, I don’t routinely scroll my feed. Even if I did, I have more than 1,300 Facebook friends and 1.400 fans. It’s unlikely I would’ve noticed the departure of someone who I had never actually met.

Once I was blocked and unable to see any of her content, she wrote a scathing post about me. 

Already disenchanted with me (thus the block), this person had seen my post on an NYC storytelling group promoting my monthly author newsletter (which includes storytelling tips), and this had apparently sent her over the edge. She took to Facebook, calling me, among other things, obnoxious, egotistical, self-important, average, and “Mr. Full of Himself.”

She didn’t name me directly but included enough biographical info to make it perfectly clear it was me. “Produces his own show.” “Published author.” Multiple Moth StorySLAM winner. Other details very specific to me.  

There was no doubt over who she was writing about.

It was a cruel and scathing post that painted me as a self-absorbed, opportunistic narcissist who treats the storytellers in my shows with contempt. She called for someone in the community to “sit me down” and inform me that I’m “not all that.”

“He needs to STOP,” she wrote.   

There were also factual inaccuracies in the post. Some of her accusations were simply untrue. She was criticizing circumstances that she did not fully understand.

All of this was upsetting, but I’m a grown man. I can accept criticism, as unfounded and unhinged as it may be. After a decade of publishing novels, magazine columns, podcasts, and a blog, in addition to performing on stage hundreds of times around the world and writing and producing my own musicals, I’ve received my share of criticism. I can accept that. I’ve grown a very thick skin.

dear haters.jpg

But there’s one important difference here.

Because this person blocked me on Facebook before posting her diatribe, I could not see (and would never see) this otherwise public post that was fully visible to my colleagues, friends, competitors, and business partners in the storytelling community. Rather than addressing me directly or posting something on the public network that I could also see, she attacked me behind my back. 

It was an act of cowardice. She called for someone in the community to "sit me down" and make me stop while conveniently and cowardly hiding behind her Facebook wall. 

Had multiple friends in the community not sent me screenshots of her post and cut-and-pasted the text of the post into emails to me, and had she not mistakenly remained Facebook friends with Elysha (whoopsie!), I would have never seen this scathing, libelous attack.

This is one of the insidious parts of social media that doesn’t receive enough attention. As an elementary school teacher for 20 years, I have witnessed firsthand the rise of cyber bullying and know all too well how terrible it can be. It’s devastating to see ugliness, hate, and lies published on a network for the world to see.

But this is different. It hurts to hear that someone despises you and is publicly critical of your craft, but to know that everyone who is important to you professionally can read and respond to the accusations but you cannot is downright insidious and terrifying. To think that this person could continue to attack me again and again, behind my back, in such a cowardly, despicable manner, without me knowing or having any recourse, is scary as hell. To know that your community is reading such hateful comments while you are unable to respond is both enraging and unsettling.  

Elysha didn’t sleep well for days after seeing this post. She couldn’t understand how someone who I have never met could be so angry to attack me online in such a nefarious way.

I can’t either. I can’t begin to imagine her motives or what she hoped to gain from this bit of nastiness.

In response, I wrote to the woman, asking to speak on the phone. I promised to be open-minded and polite. I offered to let bygones by bygones in hopes of finding a middle ground of understanding. And I meant it. I'm nothing if not forgiving. 

Not surprising, she refused. Instead, she sent another screed, calling me among other things a liar. She also widening her target package to include Elysha, who she referred to as a “ditz and a flake.”

It’s an email filled with anger and cruelty and stupidity, and I am so pleased to be in possession of it if I decide to take action someday or (even better) simply post our exchange of emails online for entertainment purposes.

It makes for a fun read. Perhaps a holiday gift to my readers. 

But at least the attack was directed at me this time instead of behind my back. At least I knew what was being said about me. At least I had an opportunity to respond. Defend myself. Challenge her blatant inaccuracies with stubborn little facts.     

Human beings have undoubtedly been speaking behind the back of other human beings since the beginning of time. This is nothing new. It’s awful but unavoidable. But with the ability to block people on platforms like Facebook, we can now speak poorly, cruelly, damagingly, and libelously about another person without their knowledge and reach an audience of thousands with a single click. We can malign a person within their own online community without them ever seeing the insult. We can besmirch their reputation. Levy false allegations. Damage their means of making a living.

All without the victim ever knowing.   

This level of behind the back cowardice is new, and it is terrifying.

The good news about my situation is that the community came to my defense. They did the right thing. They alerted me to the post and offered to respond on my behalf. Elysha was then able to find the post and take screenshots as well. 

It’s important that we all do this.

Public criticism, as harsh and even unfair as it may be, is something that I’m willing to accept. As an author, storyteller, podcaster, playwright, and blogger, I accept my position as a public figure. Criticism is part of the deal. Those who create understand this reality. 

But insidious, behind-the-back criticism that allows critics to block their victims while taking advantage of a network effect that allows them reach large online communities must be rejected and repulsed every time. You have a right to know if someone is criticizing you, fairly or unfairly, on a platform like Facebook. You have a right to know if someone is writing scathing, libelous content about you that can be read and shared by the masses.

When we see these things happen, we must stand up and say no. We can’t accept this level of cowardice and cruelty.

I’m grateful that my community rose to my defense, but then again, I wasn’t surprised. Storytellers are good people.

Most of them, at least.

I've been told that I'm going to hell. I'm not sure I agree.

About a month ago, I wrote a post that criticized Pastor Greg Locke, an outspoken, Trump supporter who opposes the rights of gay, transexual, and transgender Americans and has gone so far as to call them mentally ill and criminal. 

Specifically, I attacked the ridiculousness of Locke's ""Don't you dare lecture us" rhetoric in response to Eminem's freestyle rap video about Donald Trump after it was clear that Eminem had already lectured to him and he had already listened to it. 

It's a bit of verbal puffery that I cannot stand. 

In response to this piece, a man wrote to me (via Facebook), saying, "Your going to hell."

After pointing out to the gentleman that his response required the contraction "You're" instead of the possessive "Your," I found myself wondering how someone who is religious found his way to believing that this blog post was enough to send me to hell.

As you may know, I'm a reluctant atheist, so the threat of hell is fairly meaningless to me. Even when I possessed faith in God as a child, I never believed in the existence of hell. But this man probably does, and he apparently believes that I am going to suffer eternal damnation as a result of my critique. 

going to hell.jpg

It seems like a bit of a stretch. One blog post and I'm forced to suffer the fires of hell for all time? 

I clicked on the parts of his Facebook page that are public, and he seems like a decent man. He lives in Hillsboro, Alabama and makes his living as a welder. He has a beautiful family. Smiling children. A seemingly loving wife. They are a family that seem to enjoy football and their faith.  

Yet he believes I'm going to hell.

Would he still believe this if he didn't know me via the Internet? Would he says these words to my face if we were eating a meal together? If our families were picnicking together? If we were watching a football game side by side?

I like to think not. 

Yes, I have my many flaws, and yes, as much as I wish I had faith in God, I don't.

But I want faith. I strive for faith. Does that count for anything?

I also have two cute-as-a-button kids with kind hearts and great minds who love me. I married a remarkable woman who still loves me eleven years after we were first married. I've dedicated the last 20 years of my life to teaching children in the public schools. I just spent a weekend in Kansas City, donating most of my time and expertise to help the poor, the homeless, and the underserved tell their stories. Last night I worked with the children of Holocaust survivors to tell their story. I've worked with ministers, priests, and rabbis to help them preach to their congregants. I have good friends who love me. Family who loves me. Neighbors who like me. I have a 16 year-old dog who my vet says is alive today only because I have given more time and money to her than any pet owner he has ever met. 

I have even been invited to lead a worship service at a local church in the spring. 

Am I really going to hell because I oppose the words of a pastor who calls my gay friends "criminal" and "mentally ill?" Am I going to hell because I support and love my transgender students? Am I going to hell because I stand against a pastor who supports a President who makes fun of the disabled, brags about sexual assault, attacks military veterans and Gold Star families, and lies with impunity?

Does this man really believe that the Jesus depicted in the New Testament would send someone like me to hell? I've read The Bible cover to cover three times, and I can't see the Jesus who I know from that book suggesting that I belong in hell.   

This is the problem with the Internet. People are emboldened to say things that they might never say in person. They type words that might never come from their mouths, feeling like digital distance protects them from judgment. They often become the worst versions of themselves.

Whenever I write something online, I ask myself, "Would I say this in real life?" Admittedly, I tend to say things that others might not, but I like to think that the thoughts, ideas, and opinions that i express online are the same as those I speak in real life.

I don't think enough people ask themselves this question. 

I'm not a bad person. Certainly not evil. If there is a hell, I am fairly confident that I will not be going there. 

I'm also fairly confident that if I had the opportunity to spend an afternoon with this man, we would find more commonality than difference. More to like than to hate. More reason to be friends than to be enemies. 

I like to think that if he knew me, he might change his mind about my eternal damnation.

Best tweet ever

I've been using Twitter since 2008. My handle is @MatthewDicks. Jump on a platform early enough and your name is always available. 

I receive much of my news via links provided by the people and news organizations I follow on Twitter.

I communicate with friends, acquaintances, and business associates via tweets.

I tweet at Donald Trump - not because I think he'll ever read my tweets - but because it makes me feel good. 

Of the tens of thousands (and maybe more) tweets I've ever read, this is my favorite. It was sent from a woman who identifies herself as Jar and uses the Twitter handle @jell_zebra.

In order to understand the tweet, you need to know that it reads in reverse order. The top tweet was sent on April 22 of 2017. The tweet below it, which she attached to the new tweet, was originally sent on December 20, 2013. 

So many layers of complexity, amusement, and joy in this single tweet. It is truly a peek into a person's soul. 

The essence of a New England Patriots fan and a Bostonian in 5 tweets.

This is a beautiful story. If you ever lived in Massachusetts, and especially in the greater Boston area, this will ring so true.

People in the Boston area are hardcore.  

It's Marathon Monday in Boston. As the runners make their way along the race route, a man stands on the side of the road, encouraging them with this sign that reminds them that in the third quarter of the Super Bowl, the Patriots were losing to the Falcons 28-3.

Keep going, marathoners. Don't give up. Anything is possible.

On Twitter, Addul Dremali, a biomechanical & data scientist and amateur photographer, posts a photo of the unidentified man and his sign.  

About an hour later, ESPN tweets at Dremali, asking if they can use the photo on all their platforms with a credit to him. 

This is where things get beautiful. With the opportunity to have his photo, name, and Twitter handle disseminated across ESPN's enormous and far reaching platforms, Dremail responds like a true and absolute Patriots fan.

This is a perfect reflection of what the people of Boston and its surrounding communities are like:

Fanatic, aggressive, perpetually angry, and so rarely self-serving. 

Forgive Dremali's language. It's also authentic to the Boston area.  

That is a thing of beauty. The perfect response by a man who had an opportunity to gain a little notoriety (in a culture where people will do almost anything to gain notoriety), and he decided to be a fan instead. 

About 30 minutes later, Dremail is contacted via Twitter by another news agency, requesting to use the photo. Their tweet is hilarious. 

Screen Shot 2017-04-20 at 6.54.14 AM.png

One minute later, Dremali responds perfectly.

Rogue One on VHS: A taste of the perfect childhood

I am happy that I live in a digital, HD, Internet-infused world. 

I am also happy that I grew up in an analog, low-definition, Internet-absent world. 

I did not touch a computer or the Internet for the first 18 years of my life. After graduating from high school, I left home, moved in with a friend going to college to study computer programming, and became an instant early adopter of both personal computing and the first iterations of Internet: localized bulletin board systems (BBS). I played games, chatted with friends, and even wrote a blog online (though it wasn't called a blog back then) as early as 1989.

When I finally made it to college in 1994, I was often the only person in any of my classes who understood what the Internet was and how it could be used. I was using the Internet for research on a regular basis (Lycos and Alta-Vista, anyone?) while my classmates spent hours digging through the stacks in the library. 

But my childhood was blessedly analog, and I wish my children could experience the same simplicity and patience that the analog world required. My generation was the only one to grow up as children without the Internet but live all of our adult lives with the Internet.

I humbly suggest that this might be the best way to live. 

It's also why I love this Rogue One VHS recreation so much. The sound and look brings me instantly back to the days when media came in a physical form, you waited all year for the Peanuts Christmas special on television, and my mother would tell me to drink out of the hose when I wanted to come inside the house for water on a summer day.

Those were good days. 

The mix tape was something special

I overheard a woman telling her friend about a Spotify playlist that her new boyfriend has curated for her. She practically swooned as she rattled through the list of songs. And yes, she used the word "curated."

I rolled my eyes, not because I don't approve of young love or romantic gestures or the power of song. I rolled my eyes because of how easy it is to create a playlist on Spotify. My seven year-old daughter has been making playlists using Spotify for years.

The greatest romantic gestures are the ones that require time, effort, creativity, inspiration, and perseverance. 

Spotify playlists require almost none of these.

But the mix tape required all of these things.

Back in the days before the Internet, MP3 players, and streaming services, there was the mix tape: a compilation of music, typically by different artists, recorded onto a cassette tape and imbued with love.  

The mix tape was one of the greatest romantic gestures of all time. It required the creator to sit beside the radio and listen, waiting for the perfect song to come on, hoping against hope that the goddamn DJ would not speak through the song's opening bars. Mix tapes in the analog age took hours to create. They demanded that the creator make difficult and instantaneous decisions. Space was at a premium. Song choice was often limited and random. There was no means of editing. No way of eliminating gaffs unless you recorded over the last bit with something new.

The mix tape was difficult to make and impossible to do well and therefore the ultimate romantic gesture.

I received mix tapes from two girls in my day.

A girl named Nicki Blais made me a mix tape to listen to on the ride home after spending a weekend in New Hampshire with her. I heard "Smells Like Teen Spirit" for the first time on that tape and feared that my '80's metal bands were doomed. I also heard Trisha Yearwood's "She's In Love With The Boy" for the first time, a song my kids and I still sing to this day.

My high school sweetheart, Laura, made me three mix tapes to listen to while we flew to California with the marching band in separate planes. Laura combined music with spoken word. She told me stories, read poetry, and even sang a little in between songs recorded off the radio. I probably fell in love with her while listening to those tapes somewhere over the Rockies.  

I wish I still had those mix tapes today. They were that precious to me.  

The Spotify playlist is easy and unrememberable. A person could make hundreds of them in no time.  

The mix tape was unforgettable. 

At last I am a Beautiful Person. Verified and confirmed by beautifulpeople.com.

In 2013, I applied twice for acceptance to beautifulpeople.com, a social networking site designed specifically for attractive people. Access to beautifulpeople.com is granted only if the members of the network deem you attractive enough to be a member.

I was rejected both times. I cataloged my rejections in blog posts in both August and September of that year. 

In August of this year, I applied to beautifulpeople.com again, using the same photo that I used in 2013.

This photo:

After three days of voting, I was accepted. 

Yes. That's right, people.

I'm a beautiful person. It's been verified. Confirmed. Authenticated.

If I was a professional athlete, I would say that no one can take this away from me, except I'm not, and beautifulpeople.com has been know to kick people off the network for failing to maintain suitable levels of attractiveness.

Still, it's about damn time. 

Now that I've snuck past the good looking gatekeepers and am on the inside, I've been exploring the network as much as possible. Here is what I can report:

  • The operators of beautifulpeople.com really, really want me to upgrade to a premium membership for $12.49 per month. Many of the benefits of the network are hidden behind the paywall.
  • I am now allowed to vote on prospective members. I have chosen not to do this, since I have vowed to never comment on the physical appearance of others, but it's tempting. 
  • I've received five emails from current members. I need to become a premium member in order to read them.
  • I've received four "blinks" from members. I have no idea what this means.
  • Elizabeth G. from Chicago and Khaleesss from Houston "like" me. Khaleesss also added me as a favorite. 
  • Three members are currently "checking me out." I can't see who they are without becoming a premium member. Nor do I really know what "checking me out" means.
  • Based upon a sampling of the last 100 new members to the network, it appears that the female to male ratio is about 7:1. 
  • A surprising number of profile photos are taken inside a automobile. Exposed cleavage is also often used in profile photos. Bathing suits, hats, and selfies taken in front of a mirror are also popular. 
  • The network presets my account to only see female members in the network. In order to see men, I needed to change my settings.
  • Beautifulpeople.com apparently sponsors events that I am now invited to. The next two events are in London and Australia. I don't think my wife will allow me to attend.
  • Members are ranked, with lists of the most popular and highest ranked members available for browsing.  
  • My average photo score is a 3.0. I don't know what the actual scale is, though I suspect that it's at least a 5 point scale. Perhaps a 50 point scale. 

As much as I'd like to gain access to the premium areas of the network, I probably won't be paying the $12.49 to do so. I can't envision myself spending money on this particular product, even in the pursuit of valuable information. As much as I love being authenticated as a beautiful person (and therefore having irrefutable proof of my beauty), I can't see any real benefits from being a member of the network.

I like my $12.49 too much.  

Perhaps I'll start a Kickstarter campaign to raise the necessary funds. 

The Internet is kind and crazy and kind of crazy

Last week I wrote a piece advising that you avoid shopping at multiple grocery stores in a given week, arguing that time is more valuable than the marginal differences in taste and quality of food. 

The argument is more complex than that, but you can go read the piece if you'd like.

It was also published by the Huffington Post, which caused it to garner many more readers.

In terms of direct responses to me via Twitter, email, comments, and Facebook regarding the piece, the reaction was about 80% positive. Many people acknowledged and even thanked me for illuminating the idea that time is our most valuable commodity.

I received tweets like this:

Terry Morriston @msm114
Inspiration at grocery store:  Make time for what you love. Thx @MatthewDicks for a well said reminder goo.gl/Cbz7OH

Kelley Crawford @pga_wife
.@MatthewDicks read the "Grocery Store" blog. I've always thought my time is a value; I appreciate the validation! pic.twitter.com/SKuWOSHT8C

Many who who disagreed with me when it came to shopping were still kind enough to say that the overall sentiment of the piece rang true with them. They felt that shopping for food in multiple stores was worthy of their time, but they appreciated the sentiment regarding the thoughtful use of your time. I exchanged emails with a 90 year-old man who told me to "keep preaching because everybody's wasting their life away." 

Then there were responses like this:

Buzz Gadbois @buzz_gadbois
@MatthewDicks idiot uniformed on nutrition and how food affects our health...this article will kill thousands if they listen to you

Just imagine. My suggestion that people shop in fewer grocery stores and make better use of their time will "kill thousands." 

Also, I'm apparently an idiot.

Then there was this:

Roger Matthews @RogerMatthews6
@MatthewDicks Forgotten?? Americans used to shop at a variety of food stores (French still do). Learn some history.

This one was interesting in that I readily acknowledge in the piece that Americans once shopped at a variety of stores. I could not acknowledge it more explicitly. 

Yet I must "Learn from history."

He followed up his initial tweet with this:

Roger Matthews @RogerMatthews6
@MatthewDicks No citing of people in know, eg chefs. Start/end from prejudice. Capitalist prop. Americans decided nothing. Shoved down throats

Prejudice. Capitalistic propaganda. Heavy stuff for a piece suggesting that shopping in half a dozen grocery stores might be a waste of time. 

The comment section of the piece on Huffington Post also became a festering pit of point and counterpoint, with 220 comments at the writing of this post. 

Some express agreement with me.
Some respectfully disagree and attempt to present an alternate view.
Some have clearly been written in Crazy Town, USA.  

I never mind when readers disagree with me, but when they call me names, make hyperbolic statements, and say things like "Learn some history," I always respond by congratulating these people on making such excellent use of the anonymity of the Internet, which allows them to say horrible and ridiculous things that they would be unlikely to say in person. 

When you write a blog post every single day for more than 12 years (as I have), you always run the risk of upsetting readers. Angering them. Hearing from them loud and clear when they disagree.

You also run the risk of being called names and occasionally encountering the residents of Crazy Town. 

Thankfully, I have a thick skin and a good sense of humor. My wife and I got a good laugh over the thousands who will die upon reading my piece. I had a good laugh on the golf course over my capitalistic propaganda and extreme prejudice. I took great pleasure in congratulating these Internet trolls for finding such an ideal digital bridge to hide beneath while flinging insults and spouting their bizarre rants.   

This blog has brought me far more good than bad, and that is saying a lot given some now distant history. But it's true. I have met some remarkable people and enjoyed some amazing opportunities and experiences through the act of writing and connecting with thousands of people daily. 

But there are also the trolls. The lunatics. Angry, rude, and loathsome people who behave badly because they need not encounter me in person.  

Honestly, I kind of enjoy them, too. They make me laugh. They serve as an excellent contrast to the reasonable, rationale, decent people who I encounter. They make for great stories.

internet at last

On November 23, 2009, I wrote a post arguing that it's stupid that the word "Internet" needs to be capitalized

Seven years later, The Associated Press—purveyor of the AP Stylebook, used by journalists for the last century to standardize mass communications—has made a pronouncement:

No longer will the AP insist on capitalizing both "internet" and "web." 

It's about freakin' time. 

I've switched from PC to Mac. I have six complaints.

About a month ago, I switched from PC to Mac. This was a momentous change for me. Terrifying and frustrating. Like landing on an alien planet. 

It was also necessary. My PC was on its last legs. The shift key was broken and I was starting to get about one blue screen a day. And between my podcast and Speak Up, I was using the Mac more and more. It only made sense to switch over. 

After a month on the Mac, I have grown accustomed to this new planet. It's working. I can love with the change. There are moments when I might even like it. 

But I have a few issues:

  1. It's ridiculous that there is no right-click button,. I have grown accustomed to using the keypad's right-click feature, but still, it's asinine not to have a right-click option. 
  2. The command key (Control key on a PC) is placed adjacent to the spacebar - in the middle of the bottom row - instead of in the far left corner. It's not as easily accessible as it is on a PC, and it's one of my most frequently used keys. I use it much more often than the damn function key, which is where the command key should be.
  3. There is no delete key. There is a backspace key masquerading as a delete key, but in order to delete a word, I must move to the end of the word. On a PC, I had the option of deleting a word from the front or the back. The absence of a Mac equivalent to this is baffling.
  4. I don't have a way of instantly returning to the desktop. On my PC, there was a square in the bottom left corner of the screen. Click it and I'm on the desktop. This was an extremely useful feature. The Mac allows me to swipe three fingers across my mousepad to see all of the programs that I have open - which is excellent - but many times, I just want to return to my desktop. It's not easy.
  5. I can no longer hover over program icons like Word and Excel and see how many documents of each are currently open and switch from one to another easily. This seems like a no brainer in terms of features that Apple should adopt. 
  6. There are programs like Windows Live Writer that are not compatible on a Mac. 

A man who is proving that nothing is as complicated as people think or want it to be.

A phrase that I say often and believe strongly is this:

"Nothing is as complicated as people think it is or want it to be.

That second part of that statement is the one that people don't always realize but is tragically true. There are people in this world - hordes of them - who revel in complexity. Processes. Systems. Norms. Checklists. PowerPoints. Agendas. Forms. 

Complexity is like a blanket that they wrap themselves within in order to feel safe and accomplished. Creativity, inspiration, and genuine problem solving are replaced by the physical evidence and meaningless detritus of marginal and oftentimes meaningless progress.   

Here is a man who is proving that nothing is as complicated as people think it is or want it to me. One man in the comfort of his home is accomplishing more than enormous government agencies and helping humanity in the process.  

Are you faithful to your spouse? It's less common than you might think.

Ashley Madison,  the online affair facilitator with the slogan, "Life is Short. Have an Affair." was hacked this week. Hackers are threatening to release the personal information of its 37 million members. 

Did you hear that (in your head, I mean, since I am not reading this aloud to you)?

37 millions members.

That may sound like a lot, but its not. "A lot" doesn't come close to describing this massive number. 

Let's do the math:

While Ashley Madison operates in 46 countries, a "significant percentage of users" are American.

For this post, let's pretend that a significant percentage of 37 million amounts to 30 million.

The population of the United States is 318 million. Of that number, 51 percent, or 162 million are married, which means that almost 20 percent of married Americans are members of Ashley Madison. 

I suppose this number should not be terribly surprising, since research has shown that 15-25% of married people cheat on their spouse at least once during the course of their marriage, but that would mean that every single person cheating on their spouse is using Ashley Madison to do so, and this can't be true. 

So a hell of a lot of married Americans are cheating on their spouses - more than we may suspect - and many of them are using Ashley Madison to do so.