Thursday, April 30, 2009

Sometimes I Just Don't Understand People

I enjoy playing basketball.

I'm not an all star on the court, but I can hold my own. Put me on the floor with a group of guys who can run really well, and I'm happy be the role player and let the other guys shine. Put me on the court with fellas who are average at best, and I don't mind taking the spotlight. I just like to play, get some exercise, and win as much as I can.

Over the past year I've played with three different groups of players. Two of them were pickup games (two separate groups, we'll call them group A and group B), and the third was a paid league at a local gym with refs, scorekeepers, team records, and playoffs. Unfortunately, I will no longer be participating in the latter group.

In all three of these groups I hardly knew anybody before starting to run with them. Each group contained a wide mix of players, old, young, good, not-so-good, you name it. But the league players turned out to be absolutely obnoxious. And I can't figure out why.

Logic, in my mind, would state that if you're playing in a paid league, you would want to work hard to jell as a team and support each other. That never happened... if you did something wrong, a teammate would get in your face about it. You would also think that since the games were shorter than the pickup games (roughly 30 minutes worth of playing time in a league vs. 1-2 hours in pickup games), that you would want to get the most out of your run, and try to be very efficient. That didn't happen either. Half the time, the players are yelling at the refs for bad/missed calls, or showing up late to the game, or crying like babies because they don't get the ball enough. This behavior totally boggles my mind.

In my two groups of pickup games, I NEVER heard any serious arguments or borderline fights break out. Yet in practically every game of the paid league, a screaming match would break out (usually directed at the refs) or somebody would play rough and cause guys to jaw at each other during stoppages in play, all while the clock was running. Meanwhile in pickup games, yes there would be trash talking, but it was all good natured and light hearted, even if you didn't know the other guys that well. If you fouled somebody, you called it and moved on. Slightly bump into a guy during a league game and it was grounds to yell for a foul or start swinging elbows. Unbelievable.

Sometimes I just don't understand people...

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Stretched Thin by Social Networking

This social networking craze has gotten a little out of hand.

As sensible and easy as it is to connect with others online, I've become stretched thin by all of the social networks I've signed up for over the past few years. Now I'm at the point where I find that most of the ones that I'm signed up for I rarely, if ever, even find time to look at. Here's how stretched thin I've become when it comes to online social networks:

-LinkedIn: This may have been the first social network site that I started using. However, I don't think I've ever gotten much of value out of it, but I can see how it could be valuable for things like finding a job or researching somebody's background.

-MySpace: I used this for a few months and grew out of it. I don't think I've updated my page since sometime last year. Too hyper and shallow for me.

-Twitter: I signed up for this recently, and have had several fleeting moments of interest in it, but for the most part I don't have time to get bombarded with messages all day, so it's pretty much fallen by the wayside.

-Ning: I'm signed up for 3 separate Ning networking sites, none of which I check with regularity. One site has a ton of members signed up for it, but is basically dead quiet. Another has lots of chatter but I don't know anybody. And the third just got started up so we'll see where it goes.

-Plaxo: Somebody recently sent me an email to sign up for Plaxo, and so I did, and so goes another page that just sits there and I don't look at.

-Facebook: Right now, FB is the clear leader for me, though my interest in it is starting to wane. I enjoy the games on there and occasionally catching up with friends, but for the most part, reading about how people don't feel like going to work/class/relative's house is just not all that intriguing to me. Good site to kill a few minutes while relaxing on the couch.

As you well know, there are literally thousands of social networking sites available on the internet, but I just have to wonder at what point this whole system will either collapse or radically change in some way. Most people I know enjoy using one or two of these sites, but the return on investment of time put into them seems to decline after a while. Plus the fact that you have to tip-toe around what you say because it could come back to haunt you makes them a little less inviting. Let's see what the future holds for social networking, and hopefully it develops in a positive direction. In the meantime, I'm going to go check my good old fashioned email...

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Power to the People...

The other day I heard a snippet of a report on NPR about how poor the drinking water can be in Pakistan. I don't recall the exact statistics they presented, but the number of kids getting ill because of filthy drinking water was astronomical and the doctors there can't do much about it.

Situations like this one that was depicted are truly deplorable, especially to think that the main pollution in the water in places like Pakistan come from man made chemicals, untreated sewage, and other preventable sources. It's no wonder that angry citizens rise up and riot and overthrow governments in various corners of the world. While I never can condone violence, I can at least empathize with the plight of those that have to live in these filthy conditions day in and day out.

Interestingly, however, it seems that those groups who do rise to power do absolutely nothing (for the most part) to help their fellow citizens, but instead run off with their newfound power and leave the people behind. I, personally, would think that if these people overthrew the government, the first thing they would want to do in order to gain MORE power would be to help their countrymen. By having a safe, happy, healthy citizenry behind you, by default you become a more powerful person since you're their leader.

An example of this is right here in America. While poverty does still exist in this country unfortunately, it's safe to say that most people have all of the basics building blocks (like running water, ample food at affordable prices, shelter, etc.) at their fingertips to live a healthier life than those citizens of Third World countries. And as a result, American citizens can strive for more prosperous livelihoods. In doing so, they, in turn, help strengthen the country by contributing to the well-being of society.

But in a place where people can't even obtain the basic elements of life, the ability to move up in the world will always be out of reach since most people's time and energy is spent just trying to get by.

So the lesson here, in my viewpoint, is if you want to gain success as a leader (be it as a leader of a country or just at your job), your best bet would be to empower others along the way.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Sound of Music

Funny that the Philadelphia Inquirer should talk about Muzak in today's news. Just the other day I was thinking about the effect of music in stores.

Over the years I've noticed a variety of musical schemes in stores. Here's a random list of "musical thoughts and memories" off the top of my head:

-Buy Buy Baby in Cherry Hill: This is what got me thinking about this topic recently... Right now their current audience is people in their 20s and 30s. While there, they wisely played music that has been popular with this age group, with music from bands like U2, Coldplay, and so forth. This music could certainly make shoppers in this age bracket feel at ease since shopping for baby products can be a harrowing experience.

-Once while in Manchester, UK, I went into a trendy department store, went up the elevator, and when the doors opened I was right behind a DJ spinning techno tunes. This music was definitely tailored to its shoppers as the majority of them were young, hip, and college-aged.

-Though I haven't actually been into an Abercrombie & Fitch store in a while, I've often walked by their store and heard bass-thumping music blaring, apparently with the goal to get the shoppers' juices flowing while shopping.

-Starbucks plays jazzy, funky music and hawks the CDs at the front counter. I presume that this strategy has worked for them since they've been doing it for a while.

This is just a small sampling of the musical melodies that can affect shoppers' sense of spending while perusing a store. This is truly a marketing decision and the end result, undoubtedly, means putting shoppers at ease and help them feel more willing to spend money.