In the Future will Algorithms Do Christmas Shopping For You?

How will online shopping change how Christmas shopping is done?

It’s that time of year. The time of year you have to buy things for other people that you’ll likely never get to use.

Watch any Christmas movie and you get one of two things: a whimsical mall filled with bright lights and toys or a WWE free for all. I think most people relate to the second option more, but at the same time there’s that feeling of options that you get from window shopping.

I generally fall into the WWE category as I hold off on getting presents until the last week leading up to Christmas and I’m stuck fighting all the other people who did the same. It’s a terrible feeling pushing your way to that novel that your Grandma would love only to find out it’s sold out and you’re stuck getting oven mitts for her or something else left over.

Don’t get me wrong, finding the perfect gift is one of my favorite aspects about Christmas. Figuring out what in a store or mall fits the people you’re shopping for most is a great way to reflect on the people in your life and what you’ve managed to learn about them or at least what they want you to know about.

It’s one of the more materialistic aspects of Christmas that the movies tend to fight against, but when you have the time and money it can really be a relaxing and reflective time of year. Granted those two restrictions can apply to essentially everything. Of course if I didn’t have to worry about time and money I’d enjoy things more. They’re the two things everyone worries about.

And with the rise of online shopping is this aspect of Christmas helped or hurt? It’s hard to tell.

With the rise of online shopping it’s easy to get exactly what you’re looking for in a short amount of time. You reduce the time looking around and increase the time it takes to receive the package.

If you have a fairly good idea of what you’re looking for, great! Browse forums about the things your person of interest likes and see what other fans are into. Google enough Harry Potter wands and then all of sudden your twitter feed is filled with Harry Potter books and your top recommended Youtube video is Potter Puppet Pals (I’m kinda showing my age here).

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In a weird way, marketing algorithms are learning about you and doing its best to funnel the items you’re most likely to buy. Just like you learned about your friends and family to find the right gift for them, programs are doing the same thing as you continue to surf the web looking for items.

And just like the more you interact with someone the more you learn about them, the more info that is fed about you (or at least your IP) leads to more accurate predictions of what you’re most likely to buy. And not only will Google Ads and whoever else buys your info be able to figure out what you want, but compare you to other successful matches that worked in the past with people that looked for the similar things. Kind of like a behind the scenes “Other Shoppers also Viewed This” page, but on a global scale.

If not already, perhaps those marketing algorithms will be better at finding the perfect gift for people than you even if they never searched for anything online before.

As these programs improve perhaps the best way to shop for someone would be to spend a couple hours searching for various things you think they’d search for and see what ads pop up. It would at least free up more time for you to actually spend the time with the person you’re shopping for.

Maybe we could even let the program play some Christmas music as you did it.

Stay Focused


The internet will probably go down as the greatest inventions of all time. Fire and the wheel have been the Magic and Bird of our time and its about time they’ve been dethroned with a Michael Jordan. The capabilities of the internet are far from drying up, but there are also plenty of downsides that come with it.

Like a siren’s song, social media has attracted young people, old people, and even the weird people to partake with all their friends. These sites provide almost instantaneous to connect with friends that moved to Thailand “for work”, but at the same time you’re free to compare your social-media-centric life to people who actually do stuff. I never found the appeal of social media only because I don’t need to compare my life to others to understand how horrible it is.

One downside I hate the most is its tax on focus.

There’s always something happening somewhere. Did World War 3 start yet? Sometimes I can’t tell when I read the news… Between the Youtube videos, Facebook updates, Twitter spamming, Reddit uh-redditing, there is never a dull moment. Class time comes and I can’t focus on what the derivative of John Stamos is before I need to sneak a peek at my phone in case I miss the biggest story of all time. I mean it makes sense that I’d rather be engaged than stare at some textbook that I paid $200 too much for.

Being entertained for hours with no downtime could lead to some strange psychological shifts for these newer generations. The only stops of entertainment occur at school and that can be avoided with ease and the discretion of parents.

My parents were horrible with stopping me from watching television. I’d spend hours watching reruns and I could quote most shows that ran from 3,when I got home, all the way to 7 when I made my dinner. Outcries from parents about television rotting young minds would fill PTA meetings and blamed for everything from global warming to autism.

Now just replace television with the internet and you’ve got today’s kids. Great I already sound like I’m 60 and bitter. Can’t be helped I guess.

Downtime is just as important as being engaged. It allows the mind to figure out what the hell you let it process and store what it deems appropriate. Even though some of the community can get a bit nutty with their claims, meditation has some serious benefits. With how easily our minds can be engaged for these days, lulls become rare and its more difficult for the brain to find the time to do the maintenance it needs. There are a plenty of reasons to avoid playing video games before bed. The blue light makes your body think its day, MULTIPLAYER IS A BUNCH OF BULLSHIT THAT JUST RILES ME UP, and the constant action makes my mind race. Going 100 to 0 from gaming to heading to bed is not as easy as it sounds. Sure its possible and does happen, but slowing down your mind before bed may be a better alternative.

Some days that even while I am not actively doing anything my mind is racing. I’ll be walking to class and its as if my brain is hungering for stimulation. I’m always tempted to put in my headphones to alleviate this feeling, but I manage to catch myself every time. It’s just going to prolong the feeling and it will be impossible for me to focus in class. Sure class is boring without the insatiable hunger of my mind, but it does not help in the slightest. Throughout the day, I try to catch myself and figure out ways to stop myself from always being so stimulated. It is crazy the amount of media available to us. That little phone of yours can keep you entertained for the rest of your life. Don’t get me wrong this is a good thing as well. Much better than living in the medieval times where all you could do for fun was not die.

Is what I’m saying just complete anecdotal fake-science? Probably. After all don’t believe everything you hear on the internet. It’s probably just some placebo effect I get when I actively seek to calm my head down, but it works for me at least. Sometimes when I’m studying I’ll notice that my mind is screaming at me, “Put in some headphones. Listen to some music. Do anything.” A reasonable request. But as soon as I hop on my phone there is not turning back. The music itself will have me more focused on the same songs I play  every day over the class material that is brand new to me. Stupid brain.

Granted I’m a rather extreme example. Growing up an only child with old neighbors, not a lot of friends, and parent who had to work a lot of hours, I was pretty much left to my own devices. Or device really. The tv became my only means of entertainment and I’d watch the same dumb shit every day. I would be able to see a title card of a cartoon and instantly know what happens and who says what. I had seen the episodes that much. I’d go days on end with no social interaction. The television was my only stimuli and I’d watch it from when I got home all the way to bed time.

I could never figure out why I couldn’t fall asleep though…

Wait what was I talking about?

What’s The Worst Place A Ghost Can Haunt?


Long car drives are both a blessing and a curse. You need to give most of your concentration to the road to you know not die, but even potential death can be boring at times. Staring straight ahead while sometimes cursing at Toyota Camry going just under the speed limit- I’m getting bored just thinking about it.

The one positive you start to think about weird stuff. Like all the rules that go into ghosts. Depending on what logic we follow, being a ghost has plenty of ups and downs that may deter people from sticking around after death.  Are we going with standard cartoon logic where ghosts can freely move and do whatever the hell they want? They kinda just keep doing what they were doing in life,  occasionally befriending some person alive. That would be one of the worst ways to go out I think. Stuck in the era’s clothes and dialect while the world goes on. They don’t really have a purpose, they’re just ghosts that appear around Halloween and help the main character with some Halloween problem that is strangely paranormal. They can phase through walls and that’s about it. That is Hell in itself right there. Then again, ghosts in those can usually still move stuff and most people can interact with them so it would be like I never died. Then again that would mean I’d still have to socialize. I would hate to be a ghost in an old Saturday morning cartoon.

Or maybe you’ll be one of the more mature ghost movies that haunt shit that they feel like. A grandfather’s clock or something that you saw as you were dying. You know these movies where ghosts don’t look like they’re people with sheets over their heads. It would be cool to haunt a computer for a while and open a bunch of horrible porn and when I’m board I can just surf the web. It would be like me being alive except I wouldn’t need to eat or poop. Pretty dope- well as long as I pick something cool to haunt. Some haunted movies just make you haunt the place you died in, which is a serious risk. Great if you die in a school or something. You can fuck around with the freshman or spook some kids who snuck in to the school late at night. If you’re feeling lazy you could just listen in on the gossip. Hospitals, schools, populated places that aren’t always busy would be ideal, but imagine dying on a sidewalk. No roof over your invisible head and not much to do except look at the occasional cool car drive by. That’d be horrible. Plus you’d really have to spook the few people who walk by, and cyclists would be way too fast to spook. I take it back, haunting rules would be too much of a gamble. If you get a hospital great, but sidewalk ghosts probably can’t wait to kill themselves again.

Then there’s the religious angle, where your stuck in Purgatory or something similar. Regardless of the specific religion, ghosts in general just stick around either to serve some sort of light divine punishment or tie up any loose ends. When I’m about to die there’s no question I’ll remember something important I forgot to do before the whole dying stuff turned up. Oh crap I forgot to feed my cat. Welp guess I’ll see Alfred Whiskers in the next life. Or maybe I got murdered and I have to help some girl help solve my own death. One last screw you before I ascend (or descend). Purgatory as a punishment would suck. Just see how the world progresses without you. A year or two wouldn’t be bad, but after a couple 100 years I might get bored of watching other people play video games or whatever. If there was a lesson I was supposed to be learning I would assuredly not learn it until Jesus himself told me.

If I had to choose I guess I’d go with the lesson one and I’d try to speed-run it. What kind of ghost would you want to be? I also know there’s plenty more types of ghosts, but I’ll get to those later I guess.




Exceptionalism is something everyone tries to attain. What this exceptional attribute is may differ from person to person,but that desire for mastery and becoming the top in one’s field is across the board. No child wants to be a bench warmer in the pros. No writer wants to simply publish one book and be done with it.

It is a predisposition  to want to be the very best. Our hopes and dreams place us on the top tier of humanity, being adored for the rest of our lives and being etched into humanity’s records for all future generations to revere you. There is a desire to be something far larger than one is.

For almost 100% of the population that is simply not possible to attain. If everyone was exceptional then no one would be. For there to be Bill Gates, there were thousands of people who invested in coding,but could never get it right or just could not quite figure it out before him.

For every Tom Brady, Wayne Gretzky, Michael Jordan, Babe Ruth there were countless athletes who spent the majority of their lives practicing and training to not even be drafted. Hours devoted to a goal never achieved.

You can probably point out the people from your high school class who everyone knew was going to be exceptional at what they did. They were exceptional among their peers at your school, but once you all were released to the general public how well did they fare? Almost every time the question arises, no one wants to know how far they fell short.

Now the obvious counterpoint is that there are more levels to anything than professional and failure. That is completely true. There are plenty of positions between never being an elected official and president. However, if one is not the groundbreaking leader in their field, they are often left to follow the cream of the crop that is, which leads to two questions.

First, was it set in stone from the very beginning? Was a combination of genetics, environment, and luck provide the only means of becoming exceptional? Are all star athletes and A-list actors born to be like that from the very beginning? Were all of the most exceptional people in the world God-given a trait that pushes and drives them upward? That would both be a relief and a curse to find out. There would be no pressure if you knew you weren’t going to be the one in a billion person to save the world. That’s crushing to have live up to unreal expectations.

The second would be for those who did not become the top in their fields, what are their purposes in the grander scheme? Every leader had their followers. Every celebrity had their fans. Without the less exceptional people, the exceptional people would have a lot less power in what they did. They would still be exceptional, but without constituents they would still be just one person. Would they not be able to have done what they did without the others to push them forward? How do you separate the person from the people? Surely us common folk are more than just building blocks to build up a leader.

Exceptionalism falls into that nature versus nurture question and the answer likely lies somewhere in the middle. Knowing that exact scale may not yield the results we want in the slightest.

You spend your childhood being told how smart you are, how fast, how talented, how handsome. Then as the world starts opening up to you, the occasional person smarter than you appears. Soon you’re not the straight A student, but B+ and a B student. Then you go to college or move to another town and you really start to see how average you really are. You’re not even top 10% in your class by this point, but you still consider yourself one of the smartest people you know. The farther out your scope pulls, the more you fade into the background. You once could coast with what you had, until you reached the point where those behind you worked their way past you.

Its a shock, but its a necessary one.

Even with those variations from birth, after a certain point you can’t just coast and attain the 1% status you want. Sure some roads are bumpier than others. It would not hurt if I had good eyesight, soft hair, and was at least 6′ 2″, but it would only get me so far with how atrocious my diet is.

Exceptionalism is not born, but perfected. Sure some people have the inside track, but to truly become what one aspires to be, they have to put as much time and effort as possible without wavering. If exceptionalism was easy to attain, everyone would be exceptional. Then nobody would be exceptional and a new cycle would start. By seeing how average we are, you can appreciate that at some level everyone is coming from the same beginnings. As a child, your world view is pretty much just you and a handful of people. You were maybe the funniest one or the fastest one, maybe even the cool one. Everyone was there at some point. It humanizes others.

Maybe people like us are just pawns to the handful of kings. Maybe we are just disposable to the larger picture. All we can really do is accomplish as much as we can and be content with what we did.








Exceptionalism is something everyone tries to attain. What this exceptional attribute may differ from person to person,but that desire for mastery and becoming the top in one’s field is across the board. No child wants to be a bench warmer in the pros. No writer wants to just write in a blog once in a while.

It is a predisposition for us to want to be the very best. Our hopes and dreams put us on the top of humanity, being adored for the rest of your life and being etched into humanity’s records for all future generations to revere you. There is a desire to be something far larger than one is.

For almost 100% of the population that is simply not possible for them to attain. If everyone was exceptional then no one would be. For there to be Bill Gates, there were thousands of people who invested in coding,but could never get it right or simply were not lucky to be exposed with their findings.

For every Tom Brady, Wayne Gretzky, Michael Jordan, Babe Ruth had countless failures, but only some people persisted. Is it blind optimism? Possibly.

Am I talking out my ass? Certainly, but hey I like writing about whatever.

We want all the benefits of benefits from being the best, but man the process sucks. Its almost impossible to find cases of people succeeding at the first chance they get. Sure some are more predisposed to excelling at certain things. If I ever become a seven foot tall behemoth you’ll definitely see me on the court some day. I have a friend who is 6 foot four and he is bombarded with questions about trying to go pro. Too bad he’s the most uncoordinated person the world has ever decided to spawn. Even with these advantages there’s still no guarantee of success. Yet even then there are still other people fighting with you to get to that same goal. Fighting to be a famous writer is a bloodbath while being the number one chainsaw juggler is a bit less broad in scope (not to say it isn’t impressive).

How much of this are we in control of? People love the underdog story and of the self-made man (or woman), but how attainable is it? It happens for sure, but how much is circumstance and genetics and what is the hard work portion. If you’ve seen any of those gym site its always showing these fit models sweating their asses off. They’re not showing the scrawny version that they were for the majority of the time. The gym is more packed in January than Time Square is during New Year’s Eve, ” This is the year I lose the baby fat and pick up that chick on the treadmill with the firmest ass I’ve ever stared at for too long”. The difference is that that girl has been going for 4 years and has been ogled her entire gym career. She’s been running on that same damn treadmill everyday at the same time after eating the same meals for before you knew what leg day was.

I always felt I was one who would strive for goodness, but not greatness. I was an A- student. I went to the gym fairly regularly and ate healthy 4 outta the 7 days of the week. Motivation was a fleeting concept with the occasional appearance in my life. There was a general feeling to be decent at everything I did. That was it though. I never felt like I had to be number one in anything growing up. The top was good, but the very top was too much work.

Was I born to be meh or was it a lifestyle choice? I hold the (rather optimistic) belief that enough effort can alter your life. There is a level though that can’t be attained without some help.

You see the type of person I’m talking about everywhere. They give all they got in everything they do and it shows. Did the effort cause the exceptionalism or did the exceptionalism spawn even more effort to be called upon?

I’m not sure anymore man, my head hurts from thinking about this too much. My fault for trying.

Chew With Your Mouth Shut

Chewing loudly is one of the seven slightly irritating sins.

One of the most annoying sounds I often hear is people eating food loudly. I’m not talking about the clinking of silverware or the slight simmering of the food fresh out of the bowl. No I have no problem with that. Its the person chewing the food. Their open-mouthed chomping mixed with their struggled breath in between mouthfuls of food.

The food can not help it. It was made to be consumed. All it did was sit in a grocery store aisle, looking slightly appealing. I’m sure if food could talk it would apologize for its transgression. The fact that it dared to interrupt my peace of mind. Disgraceful. If it weren’t for foods need to be consumed, my realm of almost complete silence would be intact.

How dare the person put that food in this horrible scenario.  If they just shut their mouths all of this could be avoided. The need for them to keep opening their face holes and never quite closing them seems like too much to ask. Their stupid faces being stuffed just because they never want to stop their attack on their plate.

Why should I be troubled with telling them how to behave? I’m sitting with another adult that has not the slightest idea that they’re irritating me. Wheeze. Pick up bite of food. Wheeze. Shove food down mouth. Wheeze. Close mouth enough to make food mushy,but not enough to actually close mouth. What an abhorrent cycle.

It is a tragedy that I must bare this burden in silence. Could you imagine the fallout of telling someone to shut their annoying faces for a single second. Is the slight discomfort of telling someone to close their mouths greater than the annoyance that it causes? This is the type of question that Greek scholars would ponder while watching their emperor stuff their mouth. Is execution worse than loud chewing? I’m starting to think not.

So instead of enjoying my meal with a friend I must keep my mouth closed while they keep their’s wide open.

Woe is me.

Writer’s Block

Writer’s block is a horrible thing, like a guy at a bar in the middle of a midlife crisis.

Writer’s block is a horrible thing.

It prevents writers from doing the one thing that makes the writers. So are they really writers at that point? They’re just frustrated people staring at the same sentence for an extended amount of time. It can be extended to other facets of life as well.

Everyone reaches a point where they don’t know where to go from there. They want to progress, but every time they start to move forward, something stops them. Some people have huge blocks, often referred to as a “midlife crisis”. Quite frankly, that is a horrible term. Any smart person would try to have their midlife crisis in their eighties or something so they could live until their 160. By then you could probably go to space and do some awesome old-person-in-space stuff.

Anyways, during a midlife crisis sufferers will often ‘discover’ that they are/were in a rut and were wasting their time; usually in the form of a soul-sucking job or maybe a less than ideal marriage. The realization of one’s own mortality, the minuscule impact one’s life is going to have in the grand scheme of the universe, the horror of shopping at Walmart. These are all realizations that may occur as a result of the crisis and to combat this victims will try to do one of two things; try to relive their youth or break up the monotony of their life all at once. These two options should remind you of a lazy son of a billionaire, they don’t work.

A person cannot just have a realization one day about changing up their life and have the exact life they wanted the next one. It’s a process. Instead of quitting your agency job to pursue your art career, just start by drawing in your free-time everyday. Are you planning on dying your hair so you can buy 50 dollar vodka/water mixed drink for a woman half your age at a bar? Maybe just try online dating first… I like your confidence though. The point is, when you’re having midlife crisis, its only a crisis if you try to 180 your life too quickly and you end up crashing and burning. You’re essentially doing a 360. You gotta build the changes you want to make in your life and then each time you do them, you’ll be that much closer to the person you want to be.

The same thing can go for writer’s block. Instead of writing an entire trilogy of novels in one night, just try writing a stupid blog post. About writer’s block.