Thursday, November 20, 2014

Sometimes, I Want to Quit Twitter

When someone asks me what Twitter is all about, I say this: Twitter is like a giant room where everyone talks and anyone can hear, unless you "whisper" to someone in a private chat. What you say in this big room is witnessed by anyone who follows you or who is "listening" for a key word that you might use. If anyone who follows you likes what you have to say, they may repeat it to those that follow him or her, and so on, and so on.

You may earn more followers based on how your words spread, and that's what builds the Twitterverse.

However, when you put something out there on Twitter, you open yourself to whoever is following you or whoever retweets your tweet. Everyone is on a level playing field in Twitter, so if you don't want to have someone—anyone—respond to something you throw out there, it's best to keep it to yourself.

That's Twitter, in a nutshell.

I follow more than 1,000 people on Twitter and almost 1,100 people follow me. A modest amount, and I am thankful for those who follow and engage me. Those who I follow, I follow for many reasons:
  • I know the person.
  • I know of the person and I like what he or she has to say.
  • I'm a fan of the person.
  • I'm a news hound and that person is a trustworthy source of news.
  • I'm a beer lover and that person is associated with beer (brewer, brew blogger, and so on).
  • The person makes me laugh.
  • A person who I follow has retweeted this person enough times for me to want to follow her or him.
Sometimes, if I tweet something that my followers like, they will retweet it and I may gain new followers, and if they engage me, I may follow back. And if they engage me, I almost always respond. I usually respond to a kind tweet with a kind response. I respond to a thoughtful tweet with thoughtful intentions. I tend not to respond to tweets of criticism, unless they're critical in a way that opens up a conversation where there is mutual respect (if it's an attack, I tend not to respond).

That's how Twitter is supposed to work. It's how social media is made social. And I've made some great friends through Twitter, people that I have come to know well in person as well as online.

If I follow someone, he or she doesn't have to follow me back. If I read a tweet from someone and want to engage him or her, I do.

But sometimes, I get the feeling that there are those who want to tweet and not evoke a response, and I feel that that's a shame, because Twitter is the tool to start a conversation, to maybe make a new friend.

A week or so ago, I responded to someone I had only followed for a few weeks (but who does not follow me back). When I read the tweet, I thought the person was soliciting advice on a serious subject. She asked the question, "What do you write to someone who only has a year to live?"

Tough subject, and when I read the question, I felt for this person in her sorrow. I looked at her timeline, to see if there was more context around the question she posed, but found none.

I reached out, and said something, like, "I wouldn't write something: I would just try to be there for him or her." My opinion was that spending time with someone who is dying might be more meaningful than any words written down. Personally, I wouldn't know what to say to someone in the situation that this person on Twitter had described.

The response to my tweet caught me by surprise. I was told that the person who is dying was unconscious and wouldn't know that anyone was with him or her. I was called "judgy."

I responded, explaining that my intention was not to pass any sort of judgement, and that I was sorry if I came off that way. I explained that I didn't know all the facts of the situation.

Another response came back: I did sound judgemental, and still did.

Once more, I apologized for sounding judgemental, that that was not my intent.

Finally, I was told that this person had deleted all of her tweets to do with this conversation, and that I had made her feel awful. "Thanks for making me feel awful," I think were the words that she tweeted. (I couldn't check later: the tweet was removed.)

I didn't respond to her. But to my followers, I had one thing to tweet: "Wow."

Ninety-nine percent of the time, Twitter conversations are great. But it's that one percent that makes you wonder whether it's worth trying to be sociable this way. I can have countless interactions with people I hardly know or don't even know, and they can be all pleasant. But it is that one person who throws Twitter in your face that can make me want to walk away from it.

Thankfully, there's a solution: you don't have to listen to them.

I stopped following her.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

It's That Time of the Year Again

Personally, I don't go shopping this early. I like to wait until the 24th of December to do my shopping, which drives my wife crazy.

She's the responsible one.

And for all of you who love to start your holiday gift shopping early and get it out of the way, I have a deal for you. Or, rather for that book lover on your list.

My book. Autographed. In paperback form.

I have copies that I am offering for $20, tax included. If you live in the Ottawa area, I can arrange to have it delivered to you, free of charge; outside of my home town, you would have to pay for shipping.

To take advantage of this offer (I have limited quantities), send an e-mail to me at, and we'll talk.

Thanks for your support.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Music Monday: Gyre

And now, for something completely different.

I'm not all about rock and adult alternative music. I also love blues and jazz, and when it comes to jazz, my tastes vary as much as the available styles. I love big-band sounds and bossa nova, but nothing gets my toes tapping like Gypsy jazz.

Yesterday, my family battled the snow on worn-out summer tires to get to the small Gatineau town of Wakefield, where we joined family at the Black Sheep Inn to see a performance of the Halifax band, Gypsophilia.

The six-member ensemble features guitarists Alec Frith, Nick Wilkinson, and Ross Burns, with Burns adding percussion and a few obscure instruments to add colorful and creative sounds. Burns also spoke for the band between numbers, though all of the members were engaging. Adam Fine played a mean stand-up bass; Matt Myer played keyboard and trumpet, his trumpet harmonized beautifully with Gina Burgess and her violin.

The performance was held to a full house with a wide variety of ages, from the very young (2 or so, and my kids) to the grey-haired music lovers.

I loved Gypsophilia's show so much that I haven't stopped thinking about them, and had to share. If you get the chance, go and see them.

Here's one of their songs, Gyre: this video was recorded at the Halifax Jazz Festival in 2010. What my family and I noticed right away was that Burgess' hair is much longer than it was yesterday (but her sound is no less impressive).


I know: this isn't my usual Music Monday genre, but it's no less important in my repertoire of musical taste. I should share more music like this.

Happy Monday!

Friday, November 14, 2014

Photo Friday: Killing Time

For the past few Wednesday evenings, I've found myself in Manotick, waiting for my young daughter, who has been enrolled in an activity (that's enough information: her private life is her private life). Because the activity only takes an hour, it's not worth my while to drive home, and so I find myself looking for things to do.

As lovely as Manotick is, it's not a hotbed of activity.

One week, in search of a coffee shop, I learned that the only place that is open at that hour is the nearby Tim Hortons. I don't like their coffee and I try to avoid doughnuts at all costs, so I either have to choke down that hot, coffee-like beverage (their new dark roast is only mildly better) or I have to find something else to do.

The following week, I decided to go to one of the town's pubs, The Black Dog Bistro, which has a great selection of local craft brews on tap. It's a much-better option to Tim's, but also much more expensive (I guess you get what you pay for). And I prefer company if I'm going to drink beer.

This week, I gave up looking for a place to hang out. Instead, I grabbed my camera and headed for the town's major attraction, Watson's Mill. I figured that snow can come at any time, and I might as well take advantage of the weather before it became too cold.

With just a hoodie on, on Wednesday night, it was already too cold. But I still took some shots.

Happy Friday!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Merivale Public School

I only had one clue left.

It was a giveaway clue, something about this not being the time to slack off. But I didn't need that clue. And while this month's Where In Ottawa challenge took longer to solve than any other image, an easy clue wasn't necessary.

November's location was the old Merivale Public School, Nepean Township's thirteenth school.

Here are the clues, explained:
  1. It's how they used to do things—you know, like, old school. This one-room school has been around since at least 1845.
  2. Unlucky number—this was school number 13 in Nepean Township.
  3. Risen from the ashes—the stone school that exists today, on Slack Road (see where I was going with the final, untold clue?), replaced an earlier, wooden school, which burned to the ground.
  4. Oranges & Buddhists—after the school's closure, in 1955, it became an Orange Hall and, later, a meeting hall for the Buddhist Society of Ottawa.
  5. Class dismissed in 1955—as I said, the school closed its doors that year; a modern Merivale Public School opened next door.
  6. Good Mr. Boyce—a teacher by the name of John Boyce was so popular that in 1859 the community built him a log cabin next to the school. It no longer exists.
Congratulations to James Peltzer, who solved this month's challenge. A paperback copy of my novel, Songsaengnim: A Korea Diary, is on its way.

I have learned one thing this past week: I should have a pocketful of clues before I start a Where In Ottawa challenge. But I also think that starting next month, I'm only going to run the challenge for a week. Where In Ottawa starts on the first Monday of each month, meaning that next month, it will start on December 1. If next month's location isn't identified by December 7, at midnight, the challenge will end. On the following Wordless Wednesday, I'll reveal the location.

There will only be a maximum of six clues, from December 2–7, or until it is solved, whichever date comes first.

Think you know Ottawa? Now, you'll only have a week to prove it.