Desert of My Real Life

{May 31, 2008}   Back on the Wii Remote

I finally played with the Wii again today after staying away from it since my unfortunate encounter with a post (which you can read about here). My hand still isn’t back to normal–it was a deep bruise! I was a little nervous about playing but I ended up playing for about an hour and a half. The interesting thing is that after being away from it for almost 3 weeks, I gained in my skill level. My Wii fitness age today was 29 and I’m getting closer to being a pro in tennis. I’m already a pro in bowling and I got a score of 213 (my record is 214) in the only game I bowled. I’m back, baby! But you can bet I moved the coffee table far out of the way! I’m also cultivating a minimalist approach in which I don’t really use my entire body as I play. Instead, I just try to flick my wrist a little bit, especially in tennis. It seems to be working pretty well.

{May 28, 2008}   Blogging for Health

The June 2008 issue of Scientific American has an article called “The Healthy Type”, which is about the therapeutic value of blogging. Research reported in the February issue of The Oncologist has apparently shown that cancer patients who engage in something called expressive writing just before undergoing treatment feel much better, both physically and psychologically compared to patients who did not engage in such writing. Blogging apparently works the same way that expressive writing does, with the added benefit that the blogger gains a community via the activity. Other researchers have shown that there is a link between expressive writing and biological changes, such as improved sleep.

Now researchers are trying to figure out why writing has such beneficial effects. Is it a placebo effect, in which the act of complaining and communicating via the writing acts as a “placebo for getting satisfied”? Or does the act of writing release dopamine in the brain, in the same way that running and looking at art do? It’s difficult to know how blogging works to make people feel better because, according to researchers, the active regions involved are located so deep inside the brain. Images of the brain show that some differences occur in brain activity before, during and after writing but so far, attempts to pinpoint those differences and how they work have failed. But there are a lot of researchers interested in various aspects of the issue so soon we might understand why I always sleep better after writing one of these entries.

{May 15, 2008}   Did Robin Williams Say That?

Jeannette recently told us about an email that she received that is supposed to be a transcript of a “comedy” routine by Robin Williams. We discussed the fact that we think he probably has fairly progressive politics but that this routine was incredibly offensive if it was taken at face value. Then we discussed whether he meant it ironically but failed in making the irony clear enough. After the conversation, we still weren’t sure so she sent us a copy of the email.

Here’s the transcript:

You gotta love Robin Williams……Even if he’s nuts! Leave it to Robin Williams to come up with the perfect plan. What we need now is for our UN Ambassador to stand up and repeat this message.

Robin Williams’ plan…(Hard to argue with this logic!)

‘I see a lot of people yelling f or peace but I have not heard of a plan for peace. So, here’s one plan.’

1) ‘The US will apologize to the world for our ‘interference’ in their affairs, past & present. You know, Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, Tojo, Noriega, Milosevic, Hussein, and the rest of those ‘good ‘ ole’ boys’, we will never ‘interfere’ again.

2) We will withdraw our troops from all over the world, starting with Germany , South Korea , the Middle East, and the Philippines. They don’t want us there. We would station troops at our borders. No one allowed sneaking through holes in the fence..

3) All illegal aliens have 90 days to get their affairs together and leave.. We’ll give them a free trip home. After 90 days the remainder will be gathered up and deported immediately, regardless of whom or where they are . They’re illegal!!! France will welcome them.

4) All future visitors will be thoroughly checked and limited to 90 days unless given a special permit!!!! No one from a terrorist nation will be allowed in If you don’t like it there, change it yourself and don’t hide here. Asylum would never be available to anyone. We don’t need any more cab drivers or 7-11 cashiers.

5) No foreign ‘students’ over age 21. The older ones are the bombers. If they don’t attend classes, they get a ‘D’ and it’s back home baby.

6) The US will make a strong effort to become self-sufficient energy wise. This will include developing nonpolluting sources of energy but will require a temporary drilling of oil in the Alaskan wilderness. The caribou will have to cope for awhile.

7) Offer Saudi Arabia and other oil producing countries $10 a barrel for their oil. If they don’t like it, we go someplace else. They can go somewhere else to sell their production. (About a week of the wells filling up the storage sites would be enough.)

8 ) If there is a famine or other natural catastrophe in the world, we will not ‘interfere.’ They can pray to Allah or whomever, for seeds, rain, cement or whatever they need. Besides most of what we give them is stolen or given to the army. The people who need it most get very little, if anything.

9) Ship the UN Headquarters to an isolated island someplace. We don’t need the spies and fair weather friends here. Besides, the building would make a good homeless shelter or lockup for illegal aliens.

10) All Americans must go to charm and beauty school. That way, no one can call us ‘Ugly Americans’ any longer. The Language we speak isENGLISH..learn it…or LEAVE…Now, isn’t that a winner of a plan?

‘The Statue of Liberty is no longer saying ‘Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses.’ She’s got a baseball bat and she’s yelling, ‘you want a piece of me?’ ‘

If you agree with the above forward it to friends…If not, and I would be amazed, DELETE IT!

I think it’s pretty clear that there is no irony in this vile spew. But I couldn’t believe that Robin Williams had said it. The email was actually accompanied by a photo of him wearing a shirt that says “I Love NY” in Arabic. I could see the irony and the progressive politics in the photo. And the photo definitely didn’t seem to match the diatribe. What we hadn’t discussed with Jeannette was the possibility that the email was a hoax.

Why I hadn’t questioned whether Williams actually said these things? Why is that just because an email says that he said this crap, I automatically believed that he actually did say it? The photo was what made me start questioning things. I could completely see that some idiot might have missed Williams’ point in wearing the t-shirt and thought that by pairing this photo with this hateful diatribe, the hate might gain some credibility.

I spent a few minutes this morning trying to determine whether Williams had said these things or not. Within a short time, I found this article on For those of you who won’t follow the link, I’ll summarize: he didn’t say it. It’s a hoax. The diatribe was making the Internet rounds long before the photo of Robin Williams was even taken.

This just goes to show (once again), you can’t believe everything you read. Especially on the Internet.

{May 14, 2008}   Hyperconnectivity

I recently wrote about being connected while traveling and said that I didn’t think it was necessarily a good thing. A recent study suggests that too much connectedness, called hyperconnectivity, is actually counter-productive for workers. We should all disconnect as an effort to help the flagging US economy. We can call it patriotism.

{May 13, 2008}   A Tale of Wii Woe

I suffered my first (and, I hope, only) Wii injury last night playing tennis by myself against the computer. Because I was only going to play a match or two and because I am incredibly lazy, I didn’t move the coffee table out of the way before I started to play. You can guess why that might be problematic. There are warnings all over the packaging and even within the games to make sure that you have enough clear space to play these games safely. But I very clearly ignored those warnings.

Our Wii is set up upstairs in the loft. On the left side of the loft is a wooden railing. It has one large post in the center that sticks up higher than the rest of the railing. In a game that I was winning by a wide margin, I tried to make a killer cross-court backhand shot (in other words, I was swinging as hard as I can). The back of my hand impacted the top of that post. As pain shot up my arm, my hand turned dark reddish purple and then started to bleed. My first thought was that I had broken my hand.

Eventually, the pain subsided enough for me to take a quick inventory. I could move all my fingers and rotate my wrist. I put ice on my hand and took some ibuprofen. It hurt to move but wasn’t aching so I started to think that maybe I hadn’t broken it after all. I decided to reevaluate the situation in the morning.

Luckily, the only times the pain woke me up were when I rolled onto my hand. Because I know how much broken bones ache, I was really starting to think that I hadn’t broken it. But I still had some pain that radiated up my forearm as well as a burning sensation down the back of my hand. I also accidentally touched the back of my hand on the inside of the car on the way to work and that nearly sent me to my knees because the pain was so bad. There are a lot of little bones in the hand and I wasn’t sure what breaking one of them might feel like. So I decided to see my primary care physician to see if she thought I should get xrays.

No one at the doctor’s office laughed out loud at my tale of Wii woe but everyone had a story of someone else doing something stupid like this. My doctor felt that I probably had not broken the hand (because I could move it in all the right ways and because it hadn’t really kept me up at night) and that the pain was most likely the result of all that soft tissue damage, including to the tendons that run down the back of the hand into the forearm. But she thought I should probably still have xrays because of the extreme tenderness across the knuckles.

So I walked up to the hospital to get the xrays. I know the xray technician from some volunteer work that I do and he and his fellow tech had a hearty belly laugh when I told the story. He also said that he completely understood how this could happen with this game. I think he was just trying to make me feel better about my stupidity.

Here’s what it looks like today:
Wii Injury

This picture doesn’t give you the full sense of the color of the injury but it does give a sense of the swelling and the abrasions. It turns out that I didn’t break my hand, which I feel incredibly lucky about, especially given how hard I swung that Wii remote! I’m not sure when I’ll play with the Wii again or when my hand will feel better. I’m even less sure about when my ego will feel better. But I am sure that when I do play with the Wii again, I will move the coffee table out of the way.

By the way, here’s a blog dedicated to telling stories of Wii injuries. There are a lot of stories! That should probably make me feel better about my Wii experience. But there are a lot of people who do these kinds of things too. And that doesn’t make me feel any less stupid.

{May 8, 2008}   Wii Fitness Age

The Wii has a lot of features that you can use with the basic set up. One of the most popular seems to be the fitness test that comes with Wii Sports. Once a day, each Mii in the Wii can take the fitness test. The Mii is presented with what appears to be a random set of three games (although every time I’ve taken the test, I’ve been presented with tennis, bowling and baseball) to play to determine the player’s “Wii fitness age”. The fitness age purports to measure speed, balance and stamina. The results of hitting balls back over the net in tennis, being able to knock down pins in a variety of configurations on bowling and being able to hit home runs in baseball result in a “Wii fitness age” somewhere between 80 and 20, 80 being the worst score and 20 being the best. The interesting thing to me about this particular aspect of the Wii is that the ideal age is 20.

I’m not sure why a game that is supposed to be based on experience would be designed to peak at the age of 20. The description of this feature suggests that the player should practice every day in order to bring his/her age down. In what world is the “peak” age twenty years old? For many athletes, their peak age is in the late 20s. In fact, for some athletes, golfers in particular, their peak age is much later in life. Think about Tiger Woods who has gotten better and better as he has aged. Now that he’s in his 30s, he seems to be continuing to get better. So where does peak happen at about age 20? The only thing I could find is that men tend to peak sexually at age 20. Women, however, peak sexually in their mid- to late 30s.

The fitness test says that it will be about speed, balance and stamina. None of the games seems to be about these things. Instead the game seems to be totally about experience within the game. Experience tends to increase with age. The only conclusion that I can come to about this particular aspect of Wii Sports is that the developers of the game were geeky men who tend to think that the peak age in life corresponds to male sexual peak age. Why else would 20 be the age to strive for?

I would love to hear from others about what their Wii fitness age is. My current Wii fitness age is 39, which, as regular readers of this blog (all one of you) already know, is younger than my actual age. Although I am skeptical of the bases for this particular test, I am secretly (not so secretly anymore) proud of the fact that my Wii fitness age is lower than my actual age. This reminds me of the peculiar pride I take in the fact that this test has deemed that I am a “Pure Nerd”. All it takes to help my self-esteem is for an anonymous web site to declare one thing is better than another and I am totally trying to achieve that better thing. How pathetic is that? My current score on the Nerd, Geek, Dork test is 82 % Nerd, 17% Geek, 26% Dork. And I’m a little bit proud of that. Sad and pathetic, I know. Take the test yourself and explain why you’re proud (or not) of your score.

{May 4, 2008}   Traveling with Technology

I just got back from the annual Eastern Communication Conference in Pittsburgh. As I sat in the airport waiting to come home, I started thinking about the amount of technology I was carrying with me. I had a cell phone, an MP3 player and a laptop. I called home from the airport on the cell phone. I used the laptop to look at my email using the free wireless network in the airport. And I listened to music on my MP3 player both in the airport and on the plane.

I used to travel a lot for business–in fact, for one year in the late 1980s, I traveled to Parkersburg, West Virginia from Western Massachusetts nearly every week.  At that time, the only thing I would carry with me was a book. Very low-tech.  Once I left for the airport, I was out of touch with my office. And that was actually ok. Everyone survived. Our work got done on time.  I’m not sure that it’s an advance to be so connected all the time.

et cetera