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In a perfect world…

I’m not one to cry much (hey, I’m a guy).  You might not believe that given that I’ve blogged about some of the events in my life where I’ve mentioned it, but as an adult I can only recall a handful of times where tears have actually been shed.   Most have been related to my son and his health, including tears of sorrow when he was diagnosed with Type-1 diabetes just after his first birthday, to tears of joy on the day the Supreme Court upheld Obamacare (tears that surprised even me, given the spontaneity of my reaction).  In terms of all-out, tears falling down my face, the moments have been few and far between, but that doesn’t mean there haven’t been more frequent occasions where my eyes have welled up and I’ve had to choke back the tears a bit.

Yesterday was one of those moments, and it too was a very spontaneous, unexpected event.   Some background…I went to college at the University of Nebraska, for both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree.  In High School, I was incredibly shy, and while I had my fishing buddies and we occasionally did other things, for the most part, I was a loner. The first year or two of college was hard. There were other classmates from my hometown of Beatrice, and oh…I think there was a twin brother around at the time too, although given our relationship, the details of his presence fail me at this time.  We did hang out, played a lot of video games, etc., but still…I remained quite shy and was much more of a loner than those around me.

Without the influence of two people in my college life, I honestly wonder where I would be today.  The biggest influence by far was my wife, who I didn’t meet until my last year of grad school.  Without her influence, without her support and the confidence she helped instill in me, I think I’d still be in my “shell”.  That shell included both my personal and professional life, as even aside from the social side of things, I don’t think I’d be nearly as confident or effective in my career if I hadn’t met (and married!) her.

The second, big positive relationship during my college days was with a long-time roommate…we’ll call him “Derek”, in honor of his beloved New York Yankees.  I don’t even remember when or where we met…I think it was playing in softball leagues in Lincoln…but “Derek” and I become roommates for several years in college.

I continued to hang out with my old Beatrice classmates in college, playing poker, softball, video games…but looking back, it just wasn’t as “real” as my friendship with “Derek”.  Especially as we all turned 21, playing video games or poker instead morphed into bar-hopping.   I went along with it.  If I DIDN’T act as if I were into it, I really would have been an extreme loner, so I played the game, went to bars, drank far more than I should have…and played the part of the typical college guy.  But in reality?  I didn’t enjoy going to bars.  I didn’t enjoy hanging out and getting hammered, just for the sake of getting hammered.  In short, I was faking it, just to look like “one of the guys”.  In reality…I was just as much in my “shell” as ever, never really letting anyone close.

When I started rooming with “Derek”, I never had that discomfort, the feeling that I was faking it.  I was still one socially awkward young man, but…there’s no one in college I’d have rather spent time with than “Derek”.  I don’t remember really going out to bars at all much, but instead, we did a lot of things I can say I truly enjoyed.  Fishing…”Fine Swining” (his term for going out to eat)…playing softball…and some of the most intense, multi-day “Axis & Allies” (a war board game) marathons you could imagine.  In short…with him, I could always be myself, and I really lucked out having him as a college roommate for those years.  Towards the end of my grad school days, he moved on right about the time I met my wife…

After college, we talked on a few occasions.  After college, my wife and I had a year and a half in hell (my term for the Washington DC area), but then moved to South Dakota.  On a couple of occasions, “Derek” came up and we went fishing, but we kind of lost contact until a few years ago.  ALL of my friends from college were big baseball fans, and we started a fantasy baseball league in 1986, way before fantasy sports was widespread at all.  A few years ago, I was surprised to learn that league was still going in Lincoln!  And, one of the league members was still “Derek”.  I was asked to rejoin the league, and for the past few years, I’ve been an active participant, and have reconnected a bit with “Derek”.

Whew…a long background, but necessary for you to understand my reaction yesterday.  I came home from work, plopped on the couch with my iPad, and started playing around.  I looked at Facebook, and noticed many people giving congratulations to “Derek”.  It took me a while to figure out what the congratulations were for, but “Derek” had gotten married over the weekend to “Mariano” (OK, yes, another Yankee stand-in name!).

I was such a misfit back in college, and rarely mustered the courage to get out and date much, but even back then, I never saw “Derek” with a girlfriend or out on a date.  In the years such, I knew he was still single, but never asked him about it, never questioned it.  All I knew…here was the greatest, nicest guy on the planet, and he was seemingly alone.

Now I hope you can understand the flood of emotion that hit when I read the news that my long-time roommate and friend was gay, and had just married.  The tears themselves?  DEFINITELY tears of joy…I was so happy for “Derek”, so happy that he had found someone to share his life.  But I admit that with the flood of emotion, came an undercurrent of sadness…sadness that after all those years living with him, after the subsequent years as adults, I never knew he was gay.

The guy was the best friend I had in college, someone I thought the world of.  However, in the world we live in (and lived in at the time, some 25 years ago), “Derek” must not have felt comfortable sharing this with me.  Given the testosterone-driven freakshow that can define college life for a guy, I can understand his decision to not advertise his sexual orientation.  There are also a couple of “friends” (not the textbook definition) on Facebook who have made no bones about their feelings about gay marriage and the like, friends from high school or college who also obviously went through that era, and STILL choose to act like bigoted neanderthals 25+ years later.    With the joy I felt for “Derek” yesterday, I just couldn’t help but feel that undercurrent of sadness that for those years we lived together, in that world…he didn’t feel comfortable talking to me about it.

The flood of emotion also had me second-guessing MYSELF yesterday.  Why SHOULD he have shared that information with me?  What kind of world do we live in where it’s even NEWS what your sexual orientation is?   Why SHOULD I feel sad that he never shared with me…it’s not like I shared all the intimate details of my love life (or lack thereof) with him!!  And hence the title of the blog post…

In a perfect world, “Derek” wouldn’t have worried about what his friends thought, or what others might think.  He wouldn’t have had to worry about any backlash, about any bigotry or intolerance directed towards him because of his sexual orientation.

In a perfect world, this wouldn’t have touched me so deeply yesterday.  In a perfect world, other than the marriage itself, this wouldn’t be “news” at all.

Here’s to you bud…so glad you found someone to share your life with.  And here’s hoping that “perfect world” may become reality someday.

People who quit when losing online games – Is the Internet making us MEAN???

Online Civility

Is the world of digital relationships making society less civil?

I used to play cribbage when I was a kid, but until starting with USGS, hadn’t played in many years.  However, there’s a long-standing cribbage tournament at work, and I started playing again because of that tournament.  I also enjoy playing cribbage on my iTouch.  Until recently, that was just playing against the computer.  However, recently, “Cribbage Premium” on my iTouch upgraded so you could play someone online.  Not that the computer AI is that bad, but it’s certainly more unpredictable playing against someone online. 

But MY GOD.  I wasn’t always a cynic.  The human race has MADE me a cynic.  Even in something as innocuous as a game of online cribbage, people show that they’ll lie, cheat, steal, etc. to get ahead.  One of the fun features of Cribbage Premium is that it provides you with your “rank” compared to all other players.   It’s fun to see your stats, how you improve (or not) over time, etc.  

So, what’s the relationship between online cribbage and my cynicism?  It took me ONE game playing online cribbage.  I had the game well in hand, was up 115 to 90 or something on the last hand, and RIGHT before the final card was played, the other player just quit.  In this game anyway, that means the stats don’t count for your wins and losses.

Really?  Really??  You get behind, and so to pad your own stats, you just quit whenever you are behind at the end so the stats don’t count?  I now have had the same person, by chance, do it to me twice.  Player “ronmortti”, I’m calling you out!!!

This brings up an issue though in general with online human activity.  People’s face-to-face, or at least voice-to-voice, relationships are now being replaced with digital, faceless relationships.   Is this making society as a whole “meaner”?   It’s certainly MUCH easier in a world of anonymous user names and anonymous online relationships to completely forego any sense of morality, decency, or just simple kindness.   In a simple case like this online cribbage game…would “RonMortti” be as much of a jerk, if we were playing face-to-face?    I doubt it, because people tend to try to avoid conflict over little things like that, when you are face-to-face with another human being. 

This is obviously a minor issue, but it doesn’t stop with online cribbage.  What about online bullying?  Is bullying now much more pervasive in what can be an anonymous digital world?  Is the world of INCREDIBLY shallow, meaningless Facebook relationships making the way human beings interact with each other, well, meaner??  Less kind?   I would be inclined to say that yes, it is.

Perusin' & Musin'

Perusin' & Musin'Some random thoughts from perusing the headlines…

Malaria Killing Off UK Birds — Malaria in the UK?  It’s not quite the same as malaria directly spreading to humans, but malaria has dramatically increased in birds in the UK in the past 20 years.  Climate change?   Nah, I’m sure it’s just coincidence.

GOP Eyes New 2012 GOP Candidates – Paul Ryan?  Do we really need another unrealistic fiscal wacko in the race?  Do yourself a favor Mr. Ryan and stay out of it.  You embarassed yourself enough with your fantasy of a budget you proposed earlier this year.  As for Palin…She’s just become a pathetic punch-line.  I LOVED how she just happened to show up at the Iowa straw poll, like some pathetic 3rd cousin that shows up at your door that you don’t want anything to do with. 

Enter Rick ‘Dubya” Perry — Love the line “They’re both fluent in ‘Bubba’”.  Perry says he’s different than GW though, since he went to Texas A&M and Bush went to Yale.  One thing they both have in common…they both were lackin’ in them there “book smarts”.  Perry “earned” a 1.9 GPA at A&M.

One Hundred Proofs that the Earth is Not a Globe – The examples given here are from a pamphlet from 1885.  I hope to god that 125 years from now, people will be looking at some of the crap being written today by climate change skeptics, and will be laughing about how ignorant humanity once was.  I hope to god that 125 years from now, people will be looking at some of the crap being written today about evolution by creationist wackos, and will be laughing about how ignorant humanity once was.

Like the Birds and Bees, Reindeer can see UV — No way.  I refuse to believe that Reindeer can see UV light.  If this were true, then visibility for reindeer flying in a snowstorm wouldn’t be as much of an issue, and Rudolph wouldn’t be needed.  NOBODY tells me Rudolph isn’t real…science be damned!