Thursday, April 12, 2007

Twittervision and Kurt Vonnegut

I was inspired to post because I just learned about both Twittervision and Kurt Vonnegut's death (very sad, his books are among the few I've read that have never faded in my memory). And then I thought back to how I came across these bits of information, and the mere chance involved with all of this convinces me it's a wonder I'm ever able to find anything out for myself at all. Here's how it happened, from the beginning:

8:30 pm last night
Get a call from my friend who I've been catsitting for and learn she's going to be out of town until Sunday, so I offer to continue looking after the cat until then.

9:30 pm
Leave the going away party I've been at to head home and go to sleep (have been exhausted for the last couple days); remember I have to go take care of the cat, decide I'll just crash at my friend's place so the cat has someone around.

10:15 pm
Finally get to friend's apartment after stopping at my place to get essentials and make another stop to get something to eat.

11:00 pm
Finally get into bed.

11:45 pm
Finally get to sleep... nocturnal cats are something of a distraction.

6:15 am
Alarm. Mmmph. Snooze.

6:23 am
Alarm. Mmmph. Snooze. infinitum until...

8:35 am
Mmmph. Whatimeizit. Fuckinshit.

8:36 am
Cannot possibly get up. Eyes hurt. 3 days now. Work from home day.

8:55 am
Retrieve laptop.

9:01 am - 10:30 am
Log onto im, remote desktop connection, etc. Check email, get to work on a data request, make some discoveries, send more email, etc.

10:31 am
Hmm, might like some music while I'm poring over this. Nice thing about working at home is I can just open iTunes and voila.

10:33 am
Oh yeah, wasn't there that song I wanted to buy? How'd it go? Had the word 'dare' I think...

10:34 am
Google is amazing. I typed 'lyrics dare' and the song I wanted (turned out it was by Switchfoot) was just below the fold.

10:35 am
Buy song on iTunes.

10:36 am
Hmm, haven't synched my iPod lately, I should see what the podcast situation looks like these days.

10:38 am
Scanning podcasts to download... get all the Ask a Ninja, disappointed that there's no stock of Onion podcasts going further back than 5 days, Slate Explainer.... hmm, read that... ooh, that sounds interesting... yeah, why does it take hours to evacuate a sinking vessel? Think I'll just go read these now instead of downloading them.

10:45 am
Have read about how advertisers can pull spots from shows (inspired by Don Imus), why David Sedaris' "exaggeration" in non-fiction humor writing is being defended, story on the allure of Twitter, which I'd seen mentioned in another blog I read. Have not read about why it takes hours to evacuate a sinking vessel.

10:48 am
Twitter article is pretty interesting. Favorite find is the link to Twittervision, a mash-up of Twitter and Google Maps. Pretty hilarious to watch tweets come in from all over the world, generally in the local language, too. The kind of thing you could just stare at for hours.

10:49 am
Someone just tweeted that Kurt Vonnegut died. Kurt Vonnegut died?!

10:51 am
Sigh. It's true.

10:55 am
I can't even believe how random it is that I learn stuff in this fashion. If I hadn't been checking out Twittervision I wouldn't have heard that Vonnegut had died; I wouldn't have been on Twittervision if I hadn't read about it in that Slate article; I wouldn't have been on Slate in the first place if I hadn't seen the Explainer headlines in iTunes; I wouldn't have been in iTunes if I'd actually been at work today; I wouldn't have worked from home if I hadn't slept poorly due to catsitting for the darn cat; I wouldn't have been catsitting if I hadn't heard from my friend that she was staying in Texas through Sunday... it keeps going on and on.

I realize hearing news of Vonnegut's death doesn't seem like the kind of event that has enough import to merit this kind of retrospection, but his books did have an impact on me and I'm saddened to learn of his passing. And it was in thinking about that that I realized how chancy it was I came across this information myself, working from home, with no coworkers around to keep me informed. I think it was an interesting exercise to go through that because so many things are the result of lots of little what-if events like that. Big things, like how I ended up at my current job, or small things, like this. Our lives feel so much less chaotic than they really are.

I think it has to do with our sense of control. We feel as though we're in control of our lives: we don't know what the other what-if option was and we don't care, because it didn't happen, did it?And we're ok with not having control over that because we didn't know it was something we wanted control over: you can't know that unless you know the difference your power over the outcome could make. In those cases where we do have control, e.g. you know all of your options and you select what you think is the best one, there is no sense of chaos because you knew all the facts. It's only when you think about all those what-if moments, all the times there were things that didn't happen, things you didn't know, and how those made a difference in your life that the possibilities really start to overwhelm you. Which is yet another reason why life seems less chaotic than it really is: we just don't think about the chaos.

Hmm, I think that's enough philosophizing for today. (I don't want to think about the chaos anymore.) Back to work.

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