Monday, December 31, 2018

I've Got A (Newish) Podcast.

Yes, I'm still alive. No, this blog isn't. I mean, it's alive in the sense that I keep posting new ads here (#GetMoney) but that's about it.

Anyways, if you want my irreverent take on today's hot topics, checkout my new podcast, The AverageBro Show, on your favorite podcasting platform. Yes, it's on Apple iTunes too, just search for it!

Thursday, December 27, 2018

How Social Media Killed The Blog (But Not This One... Sorta Kinda)

When I started this blog in the dark ages (circa 2007!) the objective was simple: I wanted to share opinions with people far and wide, and most importantly, I wanted them to share their opinions on my opinions. Because a blog with no readers is just a diary.

While I definitely took some inspiration from other blogs that I frequented, once I found my voice he content began to pile up. I basically just wrote about what I liked, from sports, to music, to social commentary. While things started slowly (I mean "me and my sister-in-law were the only readers" slow) I caught some fortunate breaks along the way that fueled by an unexpectedly popular post called AverageBro Blogs Live! From Jena, LA. In it, I posted some very contrarian thoughts about the Jena 6 case in which I noticed some distubing behavior amongst those who descended upon the sleepy Louisiana town to protest the unfair jailing of six black men for the beating of a white classmate. The story was, in many ways, the embryonic stage of the Black Lives Matter Movement. The first social justice case of the social media age.

My critique was mostly about the performance art nature of all the protests and some of the high profile media members and civil rights icons to ran the protest. Much about that (not the undue treatment of the kids) irked me, and I said so. It was not a very popular opinion, but it's one that I stand by and which oddly made me a go-to voice for people who agreed and disagreed with me.

From there, the blog grew immensely. I got some special co-signs that really increased my exposure. The collection of regular commenters was well over one hundred, which made a community in and of itself. International media outlets started to quote me. Daily hits reached the 10,000 mark with regularity. I got opportunities to do national radio, guest podcasts, and perhaps most importantly, make good money writing pieces for other far more reputable sites thanks to an enterprising editor who saw the value in my "tell it like it is" style and brought me along with her as a freelancer as her career advanced. The whole thing culminated with a truly bewildering interview with ESPN because some nitwit at Reuters picked my story about Diddy's kid getting a football scholarship to UCLA on a slow news Friday.

I had officially arrived.

At this fork in the road, I could have really really dug in more and probably turned writing into a full time job. I have a great career as an engineer that I love (and which pays well) but who wouldn't wanna make money talkin' shit if it in theory paid somewhere in the same ballpark (and I'm not sayin' it would, but thinking out loud here)?

Among the many reasons why I didn't is because by this same time, social media (specifically Twitter) had become the go-to location for instantaneous sharing of thoughts. While I always prided myself on being someone who could take a story idea and turn it into a fully sourced, well written blog post in under 20 minutes (a quality my editors loved), nothing beat the interactive nature of a snarky tweet.

I continued blogging, although for many reasons unrelated to writing my frequency dipped (as did admittedly the quality of my posts) but found myself spending far more time on Twitter for very aforementioned reasons. It was like an Easy Button for sharing thoughts, and eventually I found myself spending so much time on it that I'd go weeks without updating the blog beyond putting an "open discussion" post for the regulars who hadn't left or followed me to Twitter themselves.

And then, an odd thing happened: I quit Twitter.

The reasons are many (and yes, unrelated to writing) but I realized I was spending far more time in a virtual world talking with people I didn't know that those in physically surrounding me everyday. While leaving Twitter cold turkey is easy, doing the same to a blog you'd spend over a decade regularly penning long form thoughts for wasn't. Plus, there was the small matter of me hosting plenty of ads here, which gave me a little pocket change on the side. It didn't make cents (see what I did there) to shut down, so I decided I'd keep it here and reap the periodic benefits of a new ad. Why not?

That said, I owed my (still visiting) readers an explanation. And just like that, the blog was comatose. With the exception of a few new posts when I really had to get something off my chest, the only new stuff here for the past couple of years has been ads. I've moved on to periodically sharing thoughts on Facebook, which I've found to be a far less engaged community than what once existed here, but otherwise I get my fix by talking to real people now. It's just better that way.

I'm not saying there's no value in social media, or that it's the sole purpose for me ending this blog. There were plenty of life related reasons (ie: a 3rd child, a day job that grew exponentially more complex and time consuming, etc.) for this. Likewise, many of my contemporaries who began blogging around the same time have since graduated on the real, full paying media gigs. While I'm happy for all of them, that for many economic reasons was never my end game.

Do I miss having a blog? Yes, I do. Sometimes I wish I'd simply chosen to use whatever energy I had maintaining this community instead of splitting it with Twitter (although that was certainly the case with most bloggers). We had something special here, and I in many ways regret just abandoning that. But life, as they say, doesn't have a rewind button. Most of the regulars have long since left, and the blog seldom gets more than a couple hundred hits a day.

But if there's one thing I don't regret, it's keeping the blog alive. Sometimes I'll wonder "what did I think about" whatever random event happened in 2011, or how I reviewed a movie when it came out. And lo and behold, since I wrote about basically everything for a full decade, there's a good chance I penned a post about it that I can just pull right up. It's like a time machine into your thoughts. It's sorta kinda cool, and the kinda thing you hope your kids might wanna read someday.

So while the blog is dead, the blog lives on.

- AB

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

The Relationship Between Dog and Man

The road to domestication is murky.

Dogs are arguably our best friends forever. But how did that happen? The timeline of when the first dog was domesticated is still vigorously contested. It is still unclear even when the dog first split from its wolf ancestors. Genetic DNA evidence puts the first dog at 14,200 years ago. However, it is possible the earliest dogs were with us between 20,000 and 40,000 years ago.
Maybe a better and just as mysterious question is why did it happen? A strong and compelling argument is that wolf individuals domesticated themselves. Wolves that were less aggressive, more social, more curious, and less fearful were more successful in their quest to obtain food amidst human activity. Studies have shown that domestication leads to an evolution in appearance. Originally dogs probably changed in an outward appearance on their own with longer ears, shorter muzzles, and smaller teeth.

Why do we love being with a dog?

Regardless of how or why it happened, dogs are here with us to stay and we love them. Why do we crave that our closest companions be furry, sometimes large predatory beasts? Originally, humans likely had a symbiotic relationship with their canine associates. The wolves evolving into dogs were getting easy meals and warmth and the hunter-gatherers were perhaps getting much-needed help to bring down prey larger than themselves. Hunters then weren't able to provide modern dog hunting supplies, but evidence exists that dogs and humans had a cooperative relationship on hunts. Today when there isn't such a need, the reasons are less obvious. There may be a genetic component to desiring the company of animals. Also present is the creation of a bond with a being that depends on us and which resembles the connection between a parent and a child. Finally, there appears to be interspecies oxytocin release when dogs and humans are together and looking at each other.
How did the bond between dog and humans evolve?

Dogs served humans in many ways over time. An ancient community in the Siberian region used dogs to pull sleds, at least 2000 years ago. In Mesopotamia, dogs were generally of two classes: greyhound-type dogs that hunted and large mastiff-type dogs that herded and protected sheep and goats from predators or guarded personal property. In other parts of history, dogs have served as companions, hunting dogs, or guard dogs. Their proficiency for guarding herds, flocks, and homes in ancient history is well-documented.

What type of dog makes a good family member?

Many dogs make good family pets. The largest considerations are your lifestyle, the dog's temperament, and degree of social development. By lifestyle, we mean the potential dog should suit your goals. For example, if you want to hunt with your dog, you need one with certain qualities, such as good tracking or good retrieving skills. Golden retrievers, Labrador retrievers, and beagles make good pets that also hunt. They are social and friendly, energetic enough for children, and are able to transform easily into the home from an outdoor event. The Havanese and poodle make excellent family pets that are loving around children and will alert of intruders without acting overly aggressive. Boxers, Doberman Pinschers, and German Shepherds are loyal family dogs who also have guard-dog qualities.

What do dogs do today for humans?

Much of the requirements ancient people had for dogs still exist today. Many people still use dogs to assist with hunting. In fact, dogs have expanded into types of hunting that go beyond the sight hunting of older civilizations. Dogs continue to be indispensable in guarding homes and personal belongings, herding cattle, sheep, and other flocks. Their utilization has broadened to criminal investigations and rescue operations, as well as therapy. We truly take our dogs everywhere these days.

Ultimately, dogs were domesticated to serve humans, whether as companions or for hunting, herding, guarding, operating rescue efforts or tracking drugs. The traits desired in a good hunting or herding dog are also ideal in any of the other myriads of services dogs provide. Temperament, loyalty, a good nose, and trainability are qualities we have come to expect from our four-legged best friends after centuries of domestication and cohabitation.