Do Clothes Really Maketh The Man? #NaBloPoMo

I stumbled upon this time lapse video today showing the transformation of Jim Wolf, a US war homeless veteran, who struggles with alcoholism. The clip has been doing the Internet rounds and has elicited some strong reaction. It is quite an amazing three minutes of footage showing the effect that appearance can have on our self esteem. I commend it to you.

This is not to say that simply by giving a person a makeover all their problems melt way.  Homelessness is generally a symptom of wider issues other than a lack of financial resources and to tackle it requires not only accommodation but also support to treat the underlying cause.

What the video underscores is that the giving of dignity and respect is a special gift and further that giving comes from the simplest of gestures. No doubt the choice of Jim’s “after” wardrobe was designed to give maximum impact for the purposes of the video. The transformation could easily have been effected with a more casually tailored look and I venture to suggest that it probably would have had the same impact on Jim’s outlook. The magic is in the gesture of introducing a man to his own potential and in the acknowledgement of Jim’s existence as a fellow human being.

The boost to a person’s self esteem and confidence when they feel they look good is immeasurable. This is after all the cornerstone of the beauty and fashion industry and why a visit to a hairdresser can provide a rather effective form of therapy.

The clothes therefore don’t really maketh the man, but they can embody hope and the motivation to strive for a better life. Something we should all remember when we are cleaning out our closets of unwanted clothes.

You can read more from the maker of the video in this Blaze article.

 

Algorithm Angst in Twitterland #NaBloPoMo

Image representing Twitter as depicted in Crun...

Image via CrunchBase

There are days when Twitter seems like the final frontier of social media. There’s a certain lawlessness to shouting out into the Internet ether to see where it lands. By lawlessness I mean disorder and randomness.

I have been on Twitter for about 18 months and now look back on my Twitter evolution. There was no doubt that in the early days of my exposure I just didn’t get it. However, like any virtual community and platform experience teaches us the unwritten rules. Whilst there are many social media gurus out there blogging and writing about Twitterland, these are rules that you can only learn from the inside looking in.

In real life they say you are judged by the company you keep. In Twitterland they say you are judged by what you retweet.

Retweeting is somewhat of a science in itself, with the use of the acronyms RT and MT and the vexing question of when does repeating a Tweet move from the realm of the retweet to the modified tweet? And then there’s the issue of whether you simply retweet as in copy the tweet into your feed or do you quote the Tweet and say “RT @ [insert Twitter ID of the person you are retweeting] [Tweet text]”. Doing it one way or another affects the original Tweeter’s influence ranking, on some virtual index somewhere. But these are things you can’t know before you dive in.

And then there’s the Twitter algorithm. Helpfully or unhelpfully, Twitter has a “similar to” feature. This is a list which is attached to your Twitter profile which contains Twitter’s suggestion of those Twits who are similar to you. I hate my similar to list. There I said it, I feel better now.

This is nothing personal to those on my similar to list. I know nothing about these people, I’m sure they are very nice. But if this is meant to be a mirror to my Tweeting soul, I feel it is a little cracked.

You may have heard of the concept of the filter bubble and the notion that in the virtual world everything is specifically tailored to your tastes and preferences based on the data you pump out. The data includes who is on your friends and followers lists. So there you are unknowingly trapped in your little bubble reading about the things you like and what your friends like and oblivious to what is happening beyond it based on some algorithm that predetermines to what you are exposed. The likes of Google, Facebook and Twitter are at great pains to emphasize that their algorithms are entirely objective, purely based on data. However, at some point the algorithm has to be programmed by a human who inevitably has his or her own biases reflected in the output.

So Twitter tells me that my bubble consists of mommy bloggers. And I am not sure why.

Image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

Image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

True it is that the first three descriptive words in my Twitter profile are Mother, Wife, Blogger. However, my tweets tend to focus on business, leadership, social media and life on general. Added to this is the occasional parenting post and humour tid bit. I will follow mommy bloggers who follow me first, but I certainly don’t seek them out. I don’t post about recipes, cooking, craft, fashion, coupon shopping, shopping in general, parenting tips or drinking alcohol at the end of the day. And, I am not promoting a business from my kitchen.

So Twitter, I just don’t get it. Why does my bubble not consist of business people, humorists and in fact, the occasional male? Am I therefore being judged by the company I don’t keep?

Apologies to any mommy bloggers who may be offended by this post. You guys form an amazing network and pump out great information for those who are interested. It’s just not for me. Probably because I use social media to destress and to expand my non practical horizons.

Perhaps the programmer of the Twitter algorithm is really a mommy blogger. In which case, I have some great suggestions for who she can follow on Twitter.

Have you had any strange platform algorithm experiences? What are your views on the Twitter algorithm?

Low Hanging Fruit and Horse Race Wrap Up #NaBloPoMo

Thank you for all of your wonderful tips from the Horsing Around With A Race That Stops A Nation post.

The race has now been run and the winners and losers sorted.  Champagne has been drunk and bunions have been formed. Time to put the fascinators away for another year.

After the resounding Tres Blue backing from the blogosphere, I placed a small bet on the horse. You’ll be happy to know he finished 22nd out of a field of 24. So I guess the trainer and owner are now Petit Blue.

But fear not, dear readers for that is not where the story ends.

After a more thorough analysis of the form guide and deciding that the pink stripe on the jockey’s fabric of Fiorente was more purple than pink if you squint hard enough and look at it in a tunnel, I placed a bet on the favourite.

AND SHE WON!!!

In addition to that I drew another horse which came second in the office sweep, so a somewhat profitable day all around.

low hanging fruitWhere things get a bit murky is the somewhat predictable love note I found from the local council placed under my windshield wiper when I returned to my car after my hard day at work. After running a little late for work that morning, I went through my usual routine of parking my car near the bus stop.  The bus stop happens to be near a racecourse. Parking is usually tight, but on Melbourne Cup day it is at a premium. Lucky for me I still scored a spot in the morning. The kicker is that parking in this street is two hours only for non-residents. Normally, I run the gauntlet and park there anyway as the street is seldom monitored. You can see where this is going, can’t you?

Being late it only occurred to me that my parked car was really low hanging fruit for the parking police when I was half way into work. Plump, juicy and ripe for the picking on race day. And plucked it was.

The state of the ledger is therefore:

  • total family winnings on Melbourne Cup  – $152
  • total payment to NSW State Government for the privilege of going to work – $101
  • funds available for the Curtain Raiser retirement fund – $51

My family has kindly donated their winnings to the fund which will be used to increase parking restriction awareness in its members and avoid any more contribution to the low hanging fruit crop.

There was a sad postscript to the race. One of the horses, a mare, was put down immediately after for a broken leg. The decision for the horse to be euthanized was not without controversy. To get the fully story, click here.

RIP Verena.

Of Razor Blades and Memories #NaBloPoMo

It’s funny what banality can trigger memories.

Sometime in the coming weeks, I will undertake a ritual for the very last time. A ritual that has always connected me to my father. A ritual that was ours when my father was alive.

old style rego stickerWhen I was little, I used to be dad’s 2IC when it came to replacing the annual registration sticker on the family car. This used to involve razor blades, hours of concentration, methylated spirits and cut fingers. Back in the day, the Government used to issue each vehicle with a registration sticker which showed the month of registration, the year of validity and the registration number, make and VIN details of the vehicle.  It was up to each owner to apply the sticker to the windshield of the car after removing the pervious year’s version as it was an offence to leave the old sticker visible. So dad and I would set off to laboriously scrape off the old sticker which was made of a thin plastic film and applied to the window with a coat of glue. It was a transparency sort of affair which we could only remove using methylated spirits and razor blades. And the reward for persisting? A formerly whole registration sticker now hacked to a million plastic bits all through the car.

Whatever was involved, I loved this father/daughter time. It was him and me against the world.

As I grew, Dad anointed me in charge of the great registration sticker exchange. Out would come the razor blades and the metho (Aussie vernacularnewer style rego sticker for methylated spirits) and out I’d go to the car and do the deed. By this time, adhesive technology had evolved to the point where the registration sticker was less transparency, more sticker in the traditional sense. No water was required to activate the adhesive. This made old sticker removal somewhat quicker and easier, although the razor blades still came in handy.

Every year I change my registration sticker I use the same tools, the same methodology and I think of my father.

Our Government has finally decided to come into the twenty-first century and will from this year rely on its computer records as proof of registration. There will be no more registration stickers to apply and only this last one to remove.

My kids will never experience this ritual.

I will miss it. As I miss him.

In the coming weeks, my final peel will be for you, dad.

father quote

 

 

 

Costco Capers #NaBloPoMo

This past weekend saw us set out on our biannual Costco run. The Italian Stallion and I do not engage in this sport lightly. The visit is a culmination of weeks of precision planning, pantry reconnaissance and rigorous training. The training consists of pushing dollar bills in and pulling them out of wallets and speedy mathematical value assessment. Apart from this physical and mental preparation, there is always the the issue of what to wear to resolve. I mean who wants to end up on the hypothetical Costco equivalent of People of Walmart.

Walmart e card 1To us non-Americans the Wal-Mart phenomenon is curious indeed. We have no real Australian equivalent that has spurned a whole subculture. In fact, I was so curious that I asked a friend to take me to a Wal-Mart in Tennessee last time I was in the States to pop my Wal-Mart cherry. It must have been a slow day because it was nothing like what I expected to see having regard to the Wal-Mart mythology from the Internet. People shopped whilst fully clothed and there were no sprawling cash register lines. Talk about underwhelming. I didn’t buy anything.

But back to Costco. For us Costco is a pilgrimage and something not undertaken lightly as it is a least a half day event. There are a few reasons for this. Firstly there is only one Costco servicing Sydney. Sydney has a population of about two million, so our Costco sees plenty of action. Secondly, the store is about an hour’s drive away and that’s not counting the time it takes to find a parking spot. Thirdly, given there is only one store social encounters are unavoidable even for a city of this size. You will always meet someone you know at Costco, which of course then ties into the whole fashion thing. This weekend’s excursion didn’t disappoint as we bumped into two of the Italian Stallion’s colleagues and their spouses.

And everything about Costco is BIG.

Big quantities, big deals, big checkout lines, ginormous trolleys and big bucks.  Costco have these great little dinner rolls that I have longingly wanted to try for the past year. I have picked up a pack every time I have been to Costco, but the thought of what to do with 36 of them has always led me to leave them on the shelf. This time though I bit the bullet bread and took the BIG small dinner roll plunge.

And the act of lovingly placing in my trolley the 3 kilos of chicken thighs that will grace our dinner plates for the next little while next to that piece of outdoor furniture that I had to have is worth the trip all on its own. I like an eclectic, variety filled shopping basket.

The fun continued with the post Costco run packathon. Getting the stuff in the car took the patience of the Dalai Lama and the precision of Tetris. Luckily for me the Italian Stallion is really good at Tetris which is positive news indeed because the whole Tetris thing had to be repeated in the pantry at home. As for finding the stuff three months down the track when we need to use it… yeah.. good luck with that.

Which leads me to divulge Fascinating Costco Fact No. 352: After buying cling wrap in bulk at Costco last year, we have figured out we use 300m of the stuff in a year. Costco therefore not only assists with inventory control but also gives good trivia.

So now we are back in training for next year’s biannual Costco run. Should be just in time for Easter.

Dinner roll anyone?Bread Rolls

 Do you ever shop in bulk? Do you have a special shopping experience you could like to share?

Horsing Around With A Race That Stops A Nation: #NaBloPoMo

The first Tuesday in November is only days away and dear readers I need your help. I am desperately hoping your wisdom and good horse sense will see me through this important day.

fuggedaboudittNext Tuesday is Melbourne Cup day here in Australia. The Melbourne Cup is a $6million horse race which literally stops the nation. So good in fact that all of the lucky sods living in Melbourne receive a public holiday to head out to Flemington Race Course. The rest of us schlep to work and watch the event on television amist an eerie phone and keyboard silence. Which means that I have to issue this public service announcement to my international readers – if you are trying to phone Australia next Tuesday afternoon, local time between 2.45pm and 3.15pm, you might as well just stay in Brooklyn and Fuhgeddaboudit.

It is traditional for this one-day-a year punter to place a bet on the Melbourne Cup. Nothing huge, let’s just say if my horse won, the winnings would just be sufficient to purchase an upsized fast food take away meal or a taxi ride home. So fear not, I am staking the farm on your feedback.

Being a one-day-a year-punter, I’d like to say I study the form guide intently in the days leading up to the race, along with the weather conditions and race commentary. I’d like to say that, but neigh, that would be like saying that Phar Lap was just a horse. Instead I rely on a highly secret and scientific formula to choose my horses. This formula involves the intricacies of design, onomatopoeia and poetry, along with some mathematics as length and weight are taken into account. It is of course vitally important that the name of the horse one backs rolls effortlessly off the tongue and that the jockey’s stripes are beautifully colour co-ordinated. Surely, there are no other factors that determine the winner of a 3200 metre horse race?

It therefore must be patently obvious by now that I have no horse sense when it comes to picking a winner.

My general criteria for choosing the worthy candidate for my once a year flutter is a name that resonates in conjunction with a pleasing colour combination both on horse and rider and absolutely no:

PINK

 

So here is a link to the form guide for the race, dear readers and I need your help in choosing which horse is worthy of my once a year flutter.

My thoughts so far:

  • Simeon (19) and Red Cadeaux (3) are definitely out – too much pink
  • Super Cool (13), Masked Marvel (14) and Hawkspur (18) have great names – although is 13 an ominous sign?
  • I like the fact that Green Moon (2) and Sea Moon (4) might be related on the ethereal plane, given the commonalty of last name
  • Fiorente (6) and Tres Blue (23) are contenders because they are trained by one of the few female trainers in this country. Fiorente also happens to be the favourite, but has the disadvantage of carrying a pink stripe. (You see my dilemma?).
  • The best jockey stripe award goes to Dunaden (1). Love the whole polka dot effect and yellow is my favourite colour.

I therefore place my confidence in the blogosphere to assist with resolving this quandary. Please help a once-a-year punter out and place your suggestions in a comment below. All feedback will be gratefully considered and acknowledged and taken back to the stable without any expectation of those kind enough to contributed of having studied the form guide or having any horsey expertise.

And here’s a little something to get you all in the mood for the important task ahead.

champaignfascinator

 

 

November is Here So Let’s #NaBloPoMo

Nano NanoWoke up this morning to social media buzzing with the sounds of NaNo NaNo. This is not be confused with the traditional Orkian greeting of Nanoo Nannoo, although as the month progresses, we will see writers increasingly engage each other in monosyllabic tones.

If you have never heard of NaNoWriMo, it is the chant of writers everywhere as they gear up to participate in National Novel Writing Month. The aim of NaNoWriMo is to write a novel of 50,000 words from start to finish in November. If you are interested you can sign up here. To all of you are attempting NaNoWriMo you have my complete admiration. Please remember to eat, move and breathe whilst you coax your characters to life, they are counting on you.

Whilst writing a novel was briefly on my bucket list when I was ten, that’s way too ambitious for me at this point. The only chapters I am able to write at the moment are called ” How to Survive Parenting in The Teenage Years With Your Hair Intact” and “Existence for Dummies”. Certainly not enough on which to base a whole novel, although there are enough dilemmas and plot twists to keep readers engaged.

My plan to write the next great Aussie novel therefore remains dormant for now. Despite this, I have decided to get in on some of the NaNo action by participating in NaBloPoMo. Despite what it sounds like, it has nothing to with blowing one’s nose. It is in fact the bloggy cousin of NaNoWriMo. National Blog Posting Month means thirty blog posts in 30 days during November. It is run by BlogHer and you can sign up here until 5 November 2013. Whether you run with a theme or post 30 unrelated posts is entirely up to you. The BlogHer site provides daily prompts which you are free to follow or you can write about whatever floats your fancy. At the time of posting, there are about 1200 blog participating. By contrast, there are about 245,000 writers participating in NaNoWriMo. That’s some serious verbage and means that we are in for some fantastic reading in December.

NaBloPoMo_November_small

Please come and join me for my NaBloPoMo ride. This will be the allsorts of blogging challenges with a bit of this and a bit of that. There is nothing like spontaneity to keep a blogger on her toes. Blogging challenges are great for getting into the blogging groove and really test blogging boundaries and for this one I’m leaving my little black dress at home and going themeless.

So lets NaBloPoMo… it’s just a jump to the left and then a step to the ri, ri, ri, ri, right. With your hands on your hips, you bring your knees in tight. Ok, you can even thrust your pelvis if you really want to.