“Thank You.” “No Problem.” – What Ever Happened to “You’re Welcome?”

I’ve recently become more aware that when someone thanks me, I reflexively respond, “No problem.” I don’t quite know when or why I abandoned, “You’re welcome,” but I’ve recently come to understand the genesis of responses to “Thank you.”

According to Margaret Visser, author of The Gift of Thanks: The Roots and Rituals of Gratitude, unlike many other languages, English did not posses a standard response to an expression of thanks. The use of “You’re welcome” was first introduced by immigrants to the United States whose native languages dictate an expected response. Speaking on NPR’s On Point Radio (at the 27:35 mark in the recording), Ms. Visser noted that in Italian, the expression of thanks, “Grazie,” is followed by the response, “Prego.”

While “You’re welcome” has become common in English, so have “No problem” and “Don’t mention it,” the latter of which can be off-putting for some who may interpret the speaker as saying the expression of thanks was unnecessary. In reality, I think that English speakers continue to struggle to find an appropriate response to “Thank you,” an expression originally intended to signal the end of a conversation.

Demotivation 101

A few months back, I was sent to an “Enhanced Reemployment Services” seminar put on by the CT Department of Labor. The seminar facilitator began the morning by informing the attendees that all were selected because we were employed in industries that aren’t currently hiring. My guess is that everyone in attendance was already aware of this fact, and that beginning a seminar by pointing this out only serves to discourage and distract the attendees.

Marijuana, Budget Deficits, and the Wars on Drugs and Terror

As President Obama prepares to announce his plan for the War in Afghanistan and measures to stabilize the economy increase the federal budget deficit to historic levels, perhaps it is time to rethink our nation’s fight against marijuana. With numerous states having passed medical marijuana statutes and the federal government opting not to prosecute those individuals operating within the strictures of such laws, the so-called “War on Drugs” seems to be a money-losing and ill-fated proposition where cannabis is concerned.

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First Prosecutors, Now Judges – Is Reform Needed?

Last week, the US Supreme Court heard arguments in a case testing prosecutors’ immunity from lawsuits where misconduct, or outright fraud, is concerned. Yesterday, The Wall Street Journal reported on a lawsuit that seeks to test the limits of judicial immunity. While the two cases deal with very different circumstances, the potential outcomes raise many of the same concerns and highlight the need for reform.

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Why Google Dashboard Scares Me

I’ve never been particularly concerned about my privacy as it relates to Google, largely because the behemoth relies heavily on its reputation to support its revenue stream. After all, if millions of internet users suddenly shunned the company’s services over privacy concerns, its primary income source, advertising, would dry up. Instead, Google’s recently-released Dashboard scares me for a different reason.

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Fraud At For-Profit Colleges Shouldn’t Surprise

Recently, public-interest news organization ProPublica, in partnership with public radio’s Marketplace, reported on allegations of fraud and deceptive enrollment tactics at the University of Phoenix, the nation’s largest for-profit educational institution. While the allegations are both saddening and disconcerting, they should come as no surprise. After all, the University of Phoenix’s parent company, Apollo Group, is a publicly-traded entity whose shares are listed on NASDAQ. As such, Apollo Group and its subsidiaries have one responsibility, and one alone: to increase shareholder value.

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The Virtue of Software Updates

As I discovered this week, keeping software up to date, including that which powers one’s websites, has many benefits. Included in those benefits is reducing spam. Yesterday, I received an email from my web host informing me that one of my sites (not disparate.info, thankfully) had been disabled because it had been hijacked and used to deliver spam. The site in question was running outdated software, which allowed some malicious individual to exploit a known vulnerability in that version, install a spam bot, and crash the rest of my sites in the process. After spending days trying to identify why I was exceeding my allotted server resources, thereby causing all of my sites to cease functioning, I had my answer. Needless to say, I’ve learned my lesson. Updating online software is as important as keeping desktop software up to date, and the implications can be much farther reaching. Not only did I potentially lose readers (and revenue) because my sites were inaccessible, but I also inadvertently helped some ill-intentioned individual pollute email inboxes with more ads for cheap Viagra. Then, of course, there is the lost sleep and wasted time spent cleaning up the mess.

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Three Reasons Why I’ll Never Switch Back to Windows

I grew up using Windows (3.1 to be exact) and can still remember when shutting down the operating system returned the user to a DOS command prompt. Long-gone is the DOS prompt, and with it went my fondness for the much-maligned Microsoft product. Instead, I’ve converted to Apple’s Mac OS X and see no possibility of switching back for three reasons: security, stability, and ease of use.

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Mother Nature Needs A New Timepiece

Between the exceedingly rainy June and July, which made way in August for some normal summer weather, and the winter weather affecting New England in October, it seems Mother Nature has lost track of time. Could an abbreviated autumn give way to a particularly harsh winter, or will El Niño counter the Northeast’s rapid dive towards freezing? Weigh in below.

There’s A Map For That. Or Is There?

Verizon Wireless (VZW) recently began an ad campaign aimed squarely at both AT&T and its flagship device, the iPhone. By now, Apple’s “There’s an app for that” commercials are well known for showcasing one of the myriad applications available for the iPhone. VZW’s new ad campaign uses a minor tweak to the familiar wording to wheedle AT&T over its poor 3G coverage. In its “There’s a map for that” commercials, VZW declares, “If you want to know why your 3G coverage works so well on Verizon Wireless, there’s a map for that,” and proceeds to show red- and blue-tinged maps of the United States. As one would expect, the proportion of red covering the continental US far exceeds that of blue, by five times as the advertisements report. The campaign made me chuckle for two reasons when I initially came across it, first because of how easily Verizon Wireless could turn a successful Apple advertisement against the iPhone maker and its wireless partner, and again after I discovered that AT&T doesn’t even produce a map of its 3G coverage area.

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