Stupid Human Things That Happen on Thanksgiving.

Three Thanksgiving things that I’m submitting immediately to the “Stuff White People Like” database:

1. Thanksgiving Day runs: Like many semi-lazy humans, I participated in an extended, organized run yesterday. It’s common knowledge that such Thanksgiving Day runs are notorious for presenting the most variable weather conditions existing outside of Death Valley. I have now completed Thanksgiving runs in Washington, D.C., and San Antonio, Texas. In each run, the weather was sub-arctic at the starting gun. By the third mile, the weather had heated up to the point where anyone wearing sleeves looked as out of place as the polar bear in ‘Lost.’ I am told that all Thanksgiving runs — including those in Miami, Topeka and Duluth — feature such wild, inappropriate temperature swings. As usual, awards were presented to the fastest runners, which I found strange, because anyone who was able to even loosen up at 7 a.m. in below-freezing temperatures should be taken immediately to the nearest institute of kinesiology for testing.

The previous two years, I ran a 10K. This year, I ran a 5K. As always, by the end of the run, I looked like I wanted the state of Texas to award me the death penalty.

2. Watching the Rockettes: If you’re like my family, then you completely lost it when you saw Matt Lauer introduce the Rockettes yesterday. The Rockettes are one of those organizations that, I’m quite convinced, only exist because people are inherently stupid. The Rockettes exist almost entirely out of nature, a homogeneous group that wears the same outfits and does the same routine every year. And every year, Americans completely lose it at the sight of these women. Most things obey the law that Einstein once wrote of: insanity is doing the same thing year after year and expecting different results every time. But the weird thing is, watching the Rockettes and NOT expecting people to go nuts would be considered insane.

3. Low-quality sporting events: We are at the point in society where we, as Americans, should no longer allow the Detroit Lions or the Dallas Cowboys to play football on Thanksgiving. We should absolutely demand that the NFL, on the one day when no less than 93 percent of the population is watching football, actually present us with viewing options. And it is unconscionable that other networks have not stepped up their TV watching options. I’m on my ass. I’ve just eaten what amounts to the gross domestic product of Guatemala. I’ve poured enough alcohol into my system to lose the ability to operate machinery as complicated as a remote control. That there are not better channel choices — which is to say, more violent events featuring humans colliding at high speeds — is shameful. We deserve the lowest in high definition gladiatorial competitions, and the Detroit Lions do not come close to fulfilling our needs.

More Proof That I Am, in Fact, an Idiot.

I am an idiot.

I’m 22 years old and blissfully unaware of the world around me. Blissfully unaware, I’d venture, is one step closer to bliss than most people ever get.

But it’s that bliss that, today, reminded me of how big an idiot I really am.

I had to go to Target this afternoon because there was a hot yoga class in town that I wanted to try, and to take the class, I needed to first purchase an official yoga mat. Such a mat is the consistency of an oversized Shamwow, except that it costs $20 and does nothing that a $3 towel wouldn’t do when it’s 95 degrees inside a yoga studio and your palms are too sweaty to grip much of anything. (1)

There was traffic on the way to Target, so I called a friend while I waited in traffic. I kept talking as I got to the store, parked the car, grabbed a hand cart and found the oversized Shamwow that would be my platform for future yoga futility. I started walking back toward the checkout line.

Somewhere during the walk, the idiot in me took over.

For the most part, I try not to be an asshole in public, and generally, I look upon other assholes with scorn. At the top of the list of assholes in public are People Who Talk On Their Cell Phones While Urinating. Just below that, on the list of assholes worthy of title case, are People Who Talk on Their Cell Phones in the Checkout Aisle.

I decided, mid-walk, that I did not want to enter that second category.

But instead of doing the rational thing — explaining the situation to my friend, hanging up and calling back a few minutes later — I just kept walking and talking.

I walked and talked over to the toiletries aisle and picked up some paper towels. I found the grocery aisle and eyed a pint of ice cream, though I eventually passed on any. I looped through to home furnishings and grabbed two scented candles, then back to sporting goods, and over to menswear. At some point, I found myself back in the grocery aisle and decided upon a single can of minestrone soup. My handcart was getting progressively heavier. My left arm was starting to sag. I kept talking.

During my fifth or sixth loop of menswear, I looked down the aisle toward the store’s entrance and noticed that it was getting dark. I told my friend that I had to go and hung up. I saw the counter flashing on my phone. I’d been walking and talking for nearly 40 minutes, it said.

I walked over to the checkout aisles and found an empty lane. I put my things on the belt, and in a conscientious effort not to be one of those aforementioned assholes, I smiled at the cashier and said hello. She said nothing. She put my items in a bag and told me the price of my goods. A trip for a cheap yoga mat had turned into a full-on shopping spree, all in an effort to be polite to this cashier. I thanked her and wished her a nice day, and I actually kind of meant it. She didn’t respond.

I grabbed my bags, and my left arm sagged again. I didn’t feel like an asshole, which was a thought with about as much comfort as my $20 yoga mat. I only felt like an idiot.

Which is, to say, I only felt like myself.

  1. I also must report that my yoga class consisted of what I must assume were the five most flexible people in all of South Texas. The yoga teacher herself may have been born without joints, bones or the ability to sense the unstoppable pain in my lower back. I don’t think she was a contortionist; I think she was a human balloon animal.

Read This, and Every Time You See the Word “DVR,” Insert “The Internet” Instead.

The New York Times has an interesting article today about the DVR and its impact on TV viewing. The article notes that TV execs once feared the DVR. Now, they love it.

What happened? It’s a cycle that happens with any revolutionary technology:

1. The technology is created and released to the public.

2. The technology gains widespread adoption.

3. Everything else works to catch up to the technology.

We created cars, and paved roads came later. We created sliced bread, and toasters came later. We created the slap shot, and — 50 years ago today — goalies started wearing masks. Ever heard the phrase “safety first”? In hockey, quite literally, safety came second.

But TV is just starting to adapt to the DVR, even though the TiVo was introduced more than a decade ago.

The original problem with the DVR was pretty simple: TV stations need money. They sell advertising to make money. But the DVR gave the consumers the power to skip past those ads.

The secondary problem was with TVs complicated ratings system. The ratings are measured in — and I’ll put this politely — an esoteric way. TV people don’t like the Nielsen ratings system. But it’s the only measure that counts when it comes to deciding whether or not a television program is successful.

When the DVR was introduced, it allowed viewers to record a show and watch it later. But Nielsen didn’t account for these viewers. If you weren’t watching the show live, it didn’t count in the ratings.

So it took a few years for the ratings system to catch up. Explains The Times:

Two years ago, in a seismic change from past practice, Nielsen started measuring television consumption by the so-called commercial-plus-three ratings, which measure viewing for the commercials in shows that are watched either live or played back on digital video recorders within three days. This replaced the use of program ratings.

With the new system, ratings are up — way up. Thanks to the plus-three system, Fox has added about 600,00 viewers per show. Even NBC, which has seen the smallest gains with plus-three, has added an average of 140,00 viewers per show.

Here’s the crucial thought: for eight years of the DVR’s existence, television stations were improperly valuing their own assets. Thousands of people were watching TV shows, but those viewers weren’t being counted.

The same is happening with internet advertising. Ads are sold using a CPM valuation that doesn’t work. Today, the clickthrough is the key to increasing your CPM and raising your advertising rates. But it’s not particularly effective.

Why? For one, humans aren’t nearly as impulsive on the Internet as you’d expect. The clickthrough method works well for products that can be delivered on demand, which is why iTunes’ store is so effective, why porn sells on the web and why watching movies with the touch of a mouse is the next big thing. But say you see an ad on Yahoo!’s homepage for Chick-Fil-A. Even if you click through to the company’s website to read or see more, is that really any indicator that you’re heading out for a chicken sandwich at lunch?

The real money will be made when internet advertising measures — much like the Nielsen plus-three method — user engagement. DVR viewers are actively choosing to record and watch their favorite shows. For internet ads to be successful, those ads will have to demand a similar level of interaction with users.

Whatever the new version of CPM is, it has to measure that consumer’s desire for a particular product. A clickthrough simply doesn’t measure up.