Sunday, July 27, 2014

Twitter Me This, Batman

I hate Twitter.  I love Twitter.  I want Twitter to die and go away.  I can’t live without Twitter.  Clearly, my relationship with this popular social networking site is giving me a touch of cyber schizophrenia.

When I first heard about Twitter I had already been using Facebook for about a year.  I heard about it (like I hear about pretty much everything happening on this planet—and beyond) on NPR while I was driving home from work one day about five years ago.  I remember thinking, “This is the most moronic idea for a website that I’ve ever heard.”  And I’ve heard plenty of moronic ideas for websites—many of which I came up with myself.

Facebook was a revelation; an idea at once so simple, yet genius.  Here was a way to reconnect with old friends, stay abreast of what’s going on in the lives of current friends, invite people to things without going through the disgusting routine of licking envelopes, and see pictures of cats grooming themselves in awkward positions.  What more could one want in a website?

But where Facebook seemed like a feel good love fest shared with all the people who have ever touched your lives, Twitter seemed like a narcissistic, ADD-inspired frivolity, hastily shared with strangers.  What could you possibly say of any importance in 140 characters or less?  And why would people who you’ve never met give a crap about what you have to say, anyway?

I ignored and/or mocked Twitter for a couple of years.  Then, sometime in 2010, I discovered that many people I knew and respected where not only using Twitter, but singing its praises.  “You can get breaking news instantly.”  “You can read witticisms from your favorite authors and actors.”  “You can share your ideas with the world.”  “You can see pictures of cats grooming themselves in awkward positions.”  Hmmm…eyebrow still raised, I decided to create a Twitter account in August 2010, just to see what all the fuss was about.

I didn’t see what all the fuss was about.  I followed some friends.  I followed some news outlets.  I read the innocuous tweets and didn’t really care.  Finally, on August 13, 2010, I decided to send my first tweet, which proved to be rather prophetic:

And Ironically, I did forget that one—until today when I decided to look at my first tweet for the purpose of this blog.  

I really wasn’t sure what I should make of Twitter, or how I should utilize it.  My first few tweets were all about tweeting, since the concept was new to me and I didn’t know what I was doing.  By my fifth tweet, on August 24, 2010, I decided to take the plunge and tweet about something other than Twitter:

This tweet—like my four other tweets before it—got no reaction from my 20 or so followers.  Had anyone seen it?  Did anyone care?  I had no idea. 

I was totally unenthused by the whole Twitter concept, and by the end of 2010 I tweeted all of eleven times.  In 2011, I tweeted just once:

I got no response.

I tweeted:

Silence ensued.

I tweeted:


I realized that part of the problem was that I didn’t have very many followers, so not many people were seeing my tweets in the first place.  But I had no idea how to get more followers.  Every once in a while someone I didn’t know would suddenly seem to follow me.  How did they come across me?  Was it something I did?  Was it totally random?  Was this an actual person or some sort of sentient machine?  I had no clue.

Eventually, the general lack of response from the Twiiterverse became dispiriting and I stopped tweeting.  A few months later I started again.  Then I stopped.  Then I started.  And on and on.  But lately, I’ve become much more active on Twitter because I discovered the power of the hashtag.  (Another earth-shattering discovery, I know.)  While I knew about hashtags for years, I had no concept of how to use them.  Who creates the hashtags?  How does one hashtag become more popular than another?  Am I allowed to create a hashtag, or do I need to get permission from some sort of tribunal?  My attitude toward hashtags are best summed up by this recent tweet:

And yet, as I stumble across hashtags and start using them, I notice that more people have started “favoriting” my tweets and following me.  How or why these hashtags come to be I have no idea.  I came across one that was #HappyBatmanDay.  Was it Batman Day anywhere else in the world other than Twitter?  Who knows.  But I tweeted:

And somebody who I don’t know “favorited” my tweet and started following me.  It was a Twitter miracle!

I still think that the whole concept of tweeting is frivolous and narcissistic, but suddenly, over the past few weeks, I can’t stop doing it.  A couple of years ago I started using my Twitter account to promote my blog.  Now I find myself in the odd position of using my blog to promote my Twitter account.

Follow me at @AndrewofAZ.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Give Me A Side of Toast With That Toast

Through the years I’ve come up with lots of ideas for new restaurants.  I’m sure I’m not the only one.  (In fact, I’m positive I’m not the only one, because if nobody else besides me ever came up with ideas for new restaurants, and I’ve never opened up a restaurant, we’d literally have NO restaurants. And how sad would that be?)

As I mentioned in a previous blog post (click here for said post) I come up with lots of million-dollar ideas, but am just too lazy and unmotivated to actually execute them.  My restaurant ideas are no exception.  For example, a good 20 years ago I came up with an idea for a vegetarian fast food chain restaurant called Very Veggie.  As a vegetarian who’s just too lazy and unmotivated to cook (are you noticing a pattern here?) I thought it would be horribly convenient to roll into a drive through where I can say, “Give me a tofu burger on a whole wheat bun—hold the kale,” without getting nasty looks.  But two decades after the original idea occurred to me, I have not lifted one pinky to get my Very Veggie idea off the ground. (And that includes both my own pinkies and those belonging to others.)

The Very Veggie idea is so 1994, though, that I’m completely over it.  Now it’s time to move on to some other great restaurant ideas that could potentially make me a fortune, but I’ll never actually do anything about.  Recently, my wife and I had brunch at The Good Egg, an Arizona chain restaurant that specializes in breakfast items, specifically—as you’ve probably guessed—eggs.  They have many other items on their menu and, in fact, neither my wife nor I ordered eggs on this particular visit, but eggs are their main area of eggspertise.  Ha, ha!  (Don’t worry, I’ll turn myself in to the pun police as soon as I’m done writing this.)

As we ate our meal it occurred to me that there are chain restaurants devoted to most of the major breakfast foods.  In addition to The Good Egg, there’s IHOP for pancakes and Waffle House for waffles.  But as I pondered this phenomenon, I suddenly realized that there is no chain restaurant devoted to toast.  This is a market that must be tapped!

I would call this restaurant America’s Toast Wanted, and at this glorious eatery you would be able to get toast of any kind with any spread upon it that you could imagine. If a customer tells their waiter, “I’d like two pieces of wheat toast with cream cheese and a side of rye toast with margarine,” the waiter would not blink; he would simply take the order and deliver it promptly to the kitchen, where the chef would place the requested breads in some of the 300 toasters lining the walls.

You want a toasted sesame bagel with peanut butter on it?  We got it covered.  Pumpernickel toast with a schmear of orange marmalade?  Not a problem.  Cinnamon Toast Crunch?  Ah-ha!  You almost got us with that one, by trying to order cereal instead of toast.  Fortunately for you, it also occurred to me that there are no chain restaurants specifically devoted to cereals, so that’s on my radar, too.  It would be called Cereal Killers (have to credit my wife for that one) and at this establishment you could get every commercially available cereal known to man, as well as one known only to chimps.  (Don’t ask.)  You can also pour upon your cereal any milk that you desire—cow’s milk, goat’s milk, soy milk, rice milk, coconut milk.  If it exists in milk form we will have it in our kitchen. 

I’m sure by now everyone’s stomachs are rumbling as they consider the endless possibilities that toast and cereal restaurants have to offer.  Unfortunately, as I hope I’ve made crystal clear by now, I won’t be breaking ground on either of these restaurants any time soon.  So, if you want a slice of dinkelbrot toast with herb-lemon zest butter, or a bowl of Count Chocula with hemp milk, you’ll have to make it yourself.

Bon appetit!