Thursday, October 15, 2009

Social Media Mania

I joined a social media site recently… the one originally developed for college students that now, to their dismay and that of teens, is being overrun by Baby Boomers. There are a number of former colleagues / friends on the site, so it provides a forum to keep up with what everyone’s doing. I like that aspect of it.

Now I’m not sure about how anyone else feels about this, but it’s a tad disconcerting to me when “friends” are suggested. While it might be a benefit and provide an “oh yeah… I know that person and want to keep in touch” moment, I can’t get past the 1984 aspect of the whole thing. In fact, when I first signed up, upon entering my e-mail address and nothing else, I was immediately presented with two people I might know and wish to friend. (And yet another noun transforms into a verb.) Yes I did know them and spent several minutes wondering what information existed in cyberspace that enabled the cross reference since I use a few different e-mail addresses. Ah, I.P. address. Like I said, I found it disquieting and quite possibly am the only one on the site affected by it. If Big Brother isn’t watching yet, he’s surely got the means to do so. Then again, I’m sure it’s been that way for quite sometime… the social media site merely drove the point home. As far as I can tell, no one else is worried.

Businesses are embracing these sites for their marketing value. I know a teen who “fans” several sites a day… not sure why. I guess it’s cool. I asked what she did about all the advertising that ended up on her home page. She hides it. I imagine she’d have to since she’s “fan’d” 78 different sites in the fifteen days since I’ve been on otherwise she’d rarely see anything other than ads. So much for marketing efforts.

Getting fans and followers is now a goal for businesses. I read an article in the Washington Post recently about airlines getting in on the Twitter rage. It’s gone too far. In July, a spokesperson for Virgin America “...recounted how a passenger Twittered in-flight about attendants ignoring him. ‘We sent a message to the plane and alerted the crew – and he was served.’”

Let me understand this: a passenger sends a “tweet” to Virgin America’s administrative office regarding the need for attention who then in turn notifies the cabin attendants that the guy in seat 17C at 30,000 feet needs something? Does anyone else appreciate how ludicrous this scenario is? As far as I can recall (let’s say 45 years), there’s been a little button over the row of seats on the plane. It’s got a stick-figure depiction on it. When you press it, it alerts the cabin attendants that you need something. Isn’t technology amazing?

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Worth the Price of Admission

Like many others, I’m glued to Ken Burns’ The National Parks, America’s Best Idea and am enjoying it immensely. Knowing the histories and back stories gives me a greater sense of appreciation for the locations and the preservation efforts… as if having a greater appreciation for them is possible for me.

I’ve been lucky enough in my life to visit many of them and some of them more than once. My experiences there have never failed to exponentially exceed the price of admission. Never. Some of my most favorite vacations involved trekking through a National Park. And I’ve got the photos to prove it….

I recently learned that the U.S. Mint is going to launch another quarter series based on our fabulous landscapes. To my dismay, they’re not simply minting a coin for each of the 58 parks. Apparently, someone decided it would be unfair not to include each state and territory. Well sorry, Delaware and Rhode Island that you have no land managed by the Department of the Interior and that California and Alaska would each be represented eight times based on my idea. I’d still prefer to see each park rather than each state represented in the “America the Beautiful” quarter series… but hey, that’s just me.

I’ve often wondered if I could pick a favorite National Park, and I can’t. There’s something special about each, and each has a certain feel to it. While the grandeur of the Big Ditch (aka The Grand Canyon) can’t be captured in words or photos (at least not by me… I’ve tried), I can’t say I’m more awed by it than by its spectacular neighbor, Zion, or by the whimsy of the geology found in Bryce. Yellowstone is beyond compare both in its unique thermal features and abundant wildlife, and I’ve got this incredible memory and photo of a wall of flowers at Glacier. Nope… no favorite except that if I've got one, it's simply the next one on my “to see” list.

Do yourself a favor. Visit a National Park if you haven’t, and don’t dismiss the idea because you’re not into camping and roughing it. Some of the most fabulous lodges I’ve stayed in and some of the best meals I’ve enjoyed… accompanied by a fine bottle of wine… have been in the National Parks. Hey, I’ll hike all day, but at the end of it, I’m one for a hot shower, cold beer and soft bed. So plan to go, but remember, thanks to Ken Burns, so are a lot of other people.