"Utterly meaningless!

Everything is meaningless!"

Ecclesiastes 1:2

While most people are amazed at the sheer volume of attempted pickups I see through instant messenging systems, I'm not. Matthew describes it as being like telemarketing; men target a specific demographic over and over because someone, out there, is biting.

I plan to find this woman and hurt her. Or at least find her a decent boyfriend.

I fall into the main target area: married females between 21 and 35. Those instant messenger users who use the blanket-approach method (bad pun-hunting is left as an exercise for the reader) to trolling for net.nookie undoubtedly see a profile like mine as a very juicy target indeed.

Since the halls of now have a trophy room for the victims of my IM venom, I find the whole issue of net.trolling a lot funnier than I once did. My friends probably roll their eyes every time I ping them with the one-line message, "Hey, we've got another loser on line two..."

(Losers never get line one as a matter of principle.)

I understand the concept of firing an essentially-meaningless instant message to a friend or acquaintance, someone with whom you have an existing friendship. For me, saying "hey you!" to Geof or Jody is a greeting between friends, and an invitation to reopen a previous conversation or to use our baseline knowledge of each other to talk about a new subject. It's an opening gambit.†

What I don't understand is the attempt to do the same with people who are unknown to you:

Session Start (Yahoo! - domesticat01:ropinthewin): Sun Jul 06 12:04:40 2003
ropinthewin: i like to gamble
*** Auto-response sent to ropinthewin: Current location: house. Current occupation (check one): cat-taunting, TV-watching, spouse-spoiling, phone calls, writing, reading, etc. Back eventually.

** This has been a recording **
ropinthewin: hello
me: ...and this has what to do with me, exactly?
ropinthewin: im taking a risk
ropinthewin: talking with you
ropinthewin: what i figured
ropinthewin: your bark is worse than the bite
ropinthewin: lol
me: Right now, I'm waiting to see if you have anything of substance to say.
ropinthewin: you mean i haven't said anything of substance
me: As of yet you've presented no interesting gambits to conversation. I estimate you have around four more minutes before I decide that the women's doubles final at Wimbledon is more interesting, and return to it.
ropinthewin: lmao
ropinthewin: i see u can't chat ane watch t v at the same time
me: Can't? Won't.
ropinthewin: lol
ropinthewin: ok have a great view
ropinthewin: bye

Perhaps I am unusual; when I mark myself as online, that means I am sitting at my computer. No more, no less. It's possible that my main motive for being at the computer at that moment is to chat with friends, but it's equally likely that I am writing, working on photos, or coding. It does not mean that I am sitting at my computer in a state of despair and utter readiness to speak to the next random person who deigns to pluck my screenname from the available horde of 21-35 married women's screennames.

Really, I'm honored, sir. Wait, no, I'm not; I don't see random messages like this every single day, but the majority of my online days see at least one. Multiply this singular experience times years of being online, and the end result is a tedious, daily march of useless words by random screennames whose only constancy is their inability to find even one interesting or unique thing to say.

"I like to gamble," hm? Well, I like knowing that my ears are clean, but you don't see me broadcasting that to the world, do you? I'm sure that you're a unique little snowflake just like the rest of us, but why should I work up much energy to care when a perfunctory check of my logfiles directory shows over three hundred equally unique little snowflakes just like you, and the chance of snow for a week of tomorrows is looking pretty high?

My apologies. The Sarcasm Sledgehammer overheated there. That's what I get for buying the high-performance model. All it takes is just a little rhetoric and it's off to the races; give it too much and the next thing you know, you've got scorch marks clear to the Georgia state line.


I've always labored under the idea that you should converse when you have something to say. When calling someone, you have a purpose, a driving idea behind it all: to talk about Wednesday's group gathering, to ask for help with moving furniture, to complain about the work week, to subtly check up on a blue friend, to comment on a blog entry, to ask how the cats are doing.

Was there a memo stating that instant messages are different? Are we supposed to be so impressed by the immediacy of conversation that we never actually notice that the person we're talking to doesn't actually have anything to say?

Am I alone in my conversational standards? Am I the only one who reserves those long, Seinfeld-esque chats about nothingness for nights sprawled on friends' couches with wineglasses in tow? Is the rest of the world so desperate to connect, no matter how fleetingly, with any person, no matter how anonymous, that these kinds of attempts are the best they can manage?

Vladimir: That passed the time.
Estragon: It would have passed in any case.
Vladimir: Yes, but not so rapidly.
Samuel Beckett, Waiting for Godot (1955)

† It's worth noting that, for someone who does not play chess, it's interesting to see how much I apply chess concepts to books, movies, and conversations. It's rare that you'll hear me discuss a movie without the words "opening gambit" and "endgame," and becoming rarer for me not to do the same with books. Odd, really.

A bonus for the careful reader

A new skin, still not named, is replacing the least-used skin on this site. Many moons ago, when I asked for ideas for an upcoming skin, our inimitable Starlady suggested the idea of a wineglass. It took me a while to get a photo I liked, but I certainly had fun drinking the extra wine from the pours that didn't photograph right. (Those who have visited our house will recognize those as our wineglasses.) You can take a look at the stats & previews for this new skin here.

This skin is only intended for Mozilla and Opera users. (Sorry, IE folks; this skin uses PNG transparency.) It contains only an abbreviated directory of what's available on - just the popular stuff. Chances are good you won't even miss the rest. If you've got a good suggestion for a name, leave it in a comment. I'm sure there are quirks, so you can leave those in comments too.

Today's music:

Three new tracks from GrooveLily, as promos for their upcoming studio album "Are we there yet?" Hike over to and select 'Music,' where you can read lyrics and listen to three full-length mp3s from the upcoming album.

Remember, these guys aren't signed; if you like what you hear, be sure to buy the album and see them play if they play near you. Your money won't fatten a record label; you're helping a few good musicians pay rent and hopefully keep making enough money to make more music.


I'm amused that you'd toss my "I don't like Waiting for Godot for obvious reasons" back across the fence by quoting Ecclesiastes at me. :D

Skin comment: This one is my favorite. Name idea: Vintage

I love the new skin. I am seeing one odd thing though. The box around the comments at the bottom of an entry looks like the one on mint. It may just be my machine though. it's been known to do odd things. (Netscape 6.2)

Ahem. Let's just say that someone (we won't say who, but she owns the site) rather forgot to edit the class for the comments. Oops? Should be fixed now. Ellen - I like your idea. I'd batted around various ideas along the lines of wine, opera gloves, tuxedoes, etc., but I never thought of the word "vintage." I think you're onto something here... Sorry about the style goof in the comments. That's one of my better ones. -laugh- Oh, and Geof, you were the one who threw the Ecclesiastes quote at me first. I had to look it up to get the exact wording, but it was too good to pass up.

I was inadvertently quoting Ecclesiastes, not really realizing that I'd done so. We can keep that a secret between you, me, and the other eight readers of ' My review board doesn't need to know ...

We're on to you, Geof! :)

Ah shit.

On the random IMs: I agree with you completely. It's a plague.