A Lack of Spirit

It’s not that I’m a grinch; I just don’t have that “holiday spirit” this year. I suppose it was inevitable. My daughter typically spends Christmas with her mother and I’m not all that much of a Christian (that’s a whole other story much too long for this post). So I usually find myself alone and occasionally visiting one of my parents for a few hours. It isn’t exactly an ideal situation to nurture joyous effervescence.

Add to this my ever-growing disgust at the blatant over commercialization of the holiday season and sooner or later you end up with a total lack of enthusiasm for the season. Nobody seems to remember the purpose of Christmas (or Winter Solstice or Yule or whatever else you happen to observe). I can tell you it has nothing to do with Black Friday or the receiving of things from others. It’s not even about the giving of things.

Every year stores push the “Christmas Season” on us earlier and earlier. I remember when I was younger that we didn’t see stores put out the Christmas stuff until after Thanksgiving. Now we see it out before Halloween has past. It’s become nothing more than a money grab for stores and a financial obligation to each other. This is not what it’s about and I’m really just tired of it all.

This holiday is a celebration. Depending on your particular beliefs, it can represent the birth of Christ or the continuation of life or a myriad of other joyful things that have nothing to do with buying things to give to people. Sure, gifts being exchanged are a part of many…perhaps even most of these traditions. But it was never meant to be the centerpiece of the holiday. At least, until the corporations got involved.

I won’t get into a big rant. It’s late and I have a family gathering I want to attend in a few hours. But I will say that regardless of your religious views and affiliation, please take some time to remember the real meaning of the season. Spend some time with your loved ones and just enjoy their company. Remind yourself that simple fellowship can be one of the most wonderful gifts you can give…or receive.

Happy Holidays to all of you and yours.

My Uncle Paul

…passed away last night. He was only 69, which is not that old these days. I really wish I had words to explain how I feel, but I just don’t. I am upset but at the same time I am not. He was a good man and always enjoyed the times we spent visiting or chatting on the phone. I guess, really, nothing more needs to be said.

Veracity and Articulation

Why is it that society thrives on lies? What is it about our interactions with one another that predisposes us to choose deception over honesty? Has being an honorable and honest person fallen so far from grace that it is now looked down upon as inferior qualities? I just cannot understand how we got on such a path.

The amount of dishonesty from the media all the way down to interactions with immediate family is really very unnerving. What is it about truth that makes us feel uneasy and afraid? The consequences of lies are far worse than those of the truth. While there may be repercussions for telling someone the truth, the breach of trust that comes as a result of lying is, in my opinion, far worse. Trust is a very precious commodity in very short supply. Why squander it over something as ridiculous as a lie?

Perhaps my views are strange and unorthodox. I feel that the breach of trust between people caused by lying is one of the worst offenses one can give a friendship. A friend, in my view, is someone that you trust and have a strong connection with. How can one have those things with untruths lingering between them? This is not to say that full disclosure of every little thing is necessary for friendship…there will always be things that are private. Rather, of the things that are spoken, there should be honesty. If the conversation goes somewhere unwanted, it really is not hard to just say that one does not wish to talk about that any longer.

Unfortunately, far too often this is not what happens. Instead, one or the other continues on and starts fabricating falsehoods to avoid just moving the subject elsewhere. If there was real trust and companionship, would it really be so hard to simply say that there is no desire to speak of certain things? I have a number of friends that we occasionally dip into areas like that and we do not have a problem saying “I don’t really want to talk about that” and then just move on to something else. Part of the bond between friends should include the respect to honor that desire without harboring any ill feelings. If that seems strange and unnatural, the perhaps those friendships need to be looked at again.

Feelings and Admissions

I actually wrote this 3 years ago and somehow managed to never post it. Since I believe these thoughts are true regardless of time, I figured I’d go ahead and post it. Enjoy.

How do you tell someone the depth of you feelings? How do you tell someone they are not so deep? Human emotion is a very tricky thing to deal with. It takes logic and rationality and throws them out the window. The Human heart is probably the most complex thing any of us will ever encounter and if it is our own, well that just makes the adventure all the more interesting.

Neither telling someone you love them nor telling someone you just don’t feel that way are easy. In the former you are opening yourself…leaving yourself vulnerable to anything between great joy or nigh unbearable sorrow. Of course, these are extremes but they are possible. In the latter you run the risk of being on the other side of those extremes…of being the one causing said feelings. How does anyone ever admit their true feelings?

The Human Race is amazing in many, many ways. Despite the potential of failure or embarrassment or even just coming off as crazy, we still find it within ourselves to come clean and admit how we feel about one another. Now this certainly is not always the case as there are many unrequited loves out there and many that lament in silence as they pine away for someone too afraid to take the plunge and speak of their true feelings. There are even those who make it known without ever actually saying it, waiting for some sign of approval that it will be okay to come forth and say those things that are in one’s heart. The situations are myriad and, without a doubt, range in complexity. How do we handle these?

I wish I had an answer to give. If I did, I would not be in one of those situations. And yet here I am. I do not have all of the answers and have no idea what will happen in mine. Life would definitely be easier if it had a script we could review. And don’t look to Hollywood’s version of things. They spin yarns of things that just don’t work in the real world…well at least 99% of the time. So what do we do? It all depends.

One thing is certain: Communication is necessary. The better your communication the better things will work out. This does not necessarily mean that the recipient of your affections will reciprocate; but with good communication, you will not be walking into a confession of feelings blind. I don’t know about anyone else, but I would like to have a pretty good idea of how my admission will be received before I vocalize it.

Because of the sheer diversity possible in these situations, I can offer no more than some very generic advice. First, believe nothing you’ve seen come out of Hollywood. It’s great to watch but life isn’t like that. Second, be sure to communicate. That means really paying attention to things that are said…and things that aren’t. Body language is a very effective form of communication and if you do not pay attention to that, you are missing at least half of the conversation. Third, do not get impatient. Many things take time and the amount they take can be painfully long. Remember, you aren’t only dealing with your own heart.

That last one is probably the most important thing I have said in this piece of advice I can offer. One of the worst mistakes anyone can make is to get so blinded by their own desires and feelings that they overlook those of anyone else. This is especially true when dealing with relationships whether friendships or romantic. The potential to cause inadvertent hurt is greatly increased in these situations…and yet it remains a very common affliction in relationships. All we can do is listen and pay attention and be cognizant of those with which we interact.

Oh, and if you are wondering how things turned out for me in this…I made my admission and it was considered but ultimately we went separate ways. We remain friends, though, because our friendship was always our most important aspect of our relationship throughout all of its weird turns.

Thank you, Steve Jobs

My mom got an Apple ][e when I was 9 years old. During these formative years she taught me BASIC programming on Apple DOS 3. I used that computer for games and learning and even as a presentation tool for my elementary school project that year. Over the years I played around with a huge number of personal computers in the fledgling home computer market. I used Windows because I had to and Linux because I wanted to.

Five years ago I finally got fed up with constantly having to fix my OS and reinstall all my software after a format to get things working again. I was tired of compiling packages and living in dependency hell. I could no longer stand the 11 fan beast I had built in the corner of my bedroom. So determined to change things, I looked around for an all-in-one and did my usual pricing comparison. The iMac came in hundreds of dollars cheaper than everything else I was looking at. So I ordered it with the intention of replacing OSX with either Linux or Windows. But when it came in, being a tinkerer and not having played with an Apple OS since the ][e days, I toyed with Leopard. Five years later I type this in memory of a visionary on my 2008 Macbook Unibody running Lion to be sent to you through my Airport Express that extends my wireless network from my Airport Extreme. My iPhone 4 is in my pocket letting me know that people are liking my remembrance post on Facebook. My iPad 2 will wake me in the morning so I can proudly wear my Apple shirt to work. In the mean time I will continue to watch streaming video covering the reactions of the world on my Mac Mini on my HDTV.

I am not the typical fanboy. I love what Microsoft has done with Windows7. I love my old Dell laptop running openSuSE. But when I just want to get something done, I will always turn back to one of my Macs.

To take a concept from the X-Men movie: Every now and then a visionary appears that takes the world in a huge leap forward. For our lifetime that visionary was and is Steve Jobs. A person like this only comes along once every generation or two and today we have lost ours.

My heart goes out to his family and close friends because as much as he had an impact on our lives as a technology visionary, he was a man. He was a father and a husband and a friend. He will be mourned by millions and missed most dearly by those that knew him when he wasn’t on stage.

Michael Conguista

Dracula Is A Sparkly Vampire Compared To AT&T

So here’s the deal…Tuesday, June 15 I woke up early to pre-order my new iPhone 4. I had an iPhone 3g and being 2 1/2 years old, it was getting a bit long in the tooth. While the AT&T servers were committing seppuku for being unprepared for the onslaught of orders, I somehow managed to slip in my pre-order. This was followed a couple of days later by a reminder to be sure to show up the following Thursday, June 24 to pick up my shiny new toy from the local Apple store.

Thursday rolled around and I woke at 5am to get a shower and get to the line by 6am. I figured that they would have a separate line for those of us with pre-orders and an hour early should be good enough. The original single line wrapped around the corner and to the far side of the parking lot…with me right at the curb. A little free Chik-Fil-A and Krispy Kreme later (Apple stores know how to handle big launches) and they finally split us into the have and have-not lines. Fortunately the pre-order line was very short. Finally the doors open at 7am and people begin getting filed in. It only took 46 minutes from doors open until I was walking out with my fully activated iPhone4. I even made it to work on time. As I said, Apple knows how to handle things.


My daughter had a piece of junk prepaid mobile phone. I didn’t even know that Sanyo made phones…if that’s what you want to call it. In light of the stupid amount of expense for the incredible lack of service…I decided she needed to have my old iPhone 3g. We could switch to a family plan with more total minutes and data and unlimited messaging for a grand total of $5 more a month than I have already been spending. And all she really had was unlimited texting. It’s a winner of a plan. This should be pretty simple: I call them and change my plan, tell them I need to re-activate the old iPhone as the secondary line with a new number…and pick up a new SIM from the local store (since you cannot re-use a SIM that’s been cancelled).

But I failed to realize I was dealing with AT&T.

So the nice lady on the phone supposedly takes care of all this and hands me over to sales to finalize the whole deal of changes she’s made on my account. The nice lady in sales kindly informs me that there is no way to do what I want over the phone and I will just have to spend the hours in the store it will require to get service because the old iPhones require a special SIM card that can only be obtained by rescuing the princess going to an actual AT&T store. I kindly inform her that she must be mistaken since the SIM in my iPhone actually came from my AT&T Tilt. She argued. I hung up on her. I cannot abide idiocy and that was the kindest thing I could do at that moment. This was, of course after she checked my account at my request and told me unequivocally that there were absolutely no changes to my account despite what the first nice lady told me.

Later that night…texting becomes disabled on my phone. WTF have they done to my phone? Well, I can’t find out because the almighty AT&T doesn’t have a 24/7 call center. They’ve closed for the evening and now I’m stuck without my main medium of communication. Beauty. Anyone else notice that the AT&T emblem looks like the Death Star?


…on the way to work I ring them up yet again. The nice lady that took my call apologized profusely for the inconvenience that my outage had caused me. She then found the problem and fixed it. I haz txts againz!!!!!! And apparently my account is mysteriously on the Family Plan that I was unequivocally assured was not added. Curiouser and curiouser this becomes, no? All of this prompted me to launch into my tales of woe and betrayal on my previous call. The nice lady apologized again and helped make the necessary fixes to my account so I could go to the local store to get my new number and SIM card. She even gave me a $16 credit for my troubles. This call ends on a happy note.


I head out on my one hour lunch break to the closes AT&T store to finish up this whole ordeal. I show up and have about a three minute wait until someone helps me. This should worry everyone. No AT&T store I’ve ever been in has ever had less than a 45 minute wait to get help. The nice man whips out a SIM card and begins getting my new number set up for the old phone. After a bit of typing and clicking he gets a perplexed look on his face and announces that it appears his terminal locked while finalizing the new number. He starts over. The perplexed look returns and he picks up the phone to call someone at AT&T’s fully armed and operational battlestation. He spends some time on the phone explaining things and asks the stormtrooper rep to see if they can finish it for him since his station is on the fritz. Another minute or two passes and he gets an apologetic look. We are now 32 minutes into my lunch hour.

He asks if I recently closed another account on my name. I confirm that I did…back in April. He tells me that there is a balance on that account which is preventing the completion of the line addition. –Backstory to this: My ex-girlfriend’s phone was on that account. She missed a payment and the phone was suspended. I called and had them permanently suspend it as it was out of contract so she could pay it off and I could cancel it. All of that happened…in person…at an AT&T store. I was personally guaranteed by the nice people at the store at that time that there were no pending charges and there would never be another balance on that account as long as I live.– NOW, there is a balance. I get a phone number to call and retire to the exterior of the store because I didn’t want the people that have been so nice to me to hear what was about to escape my lips.

The nice lady that answered my call checked and confirmed that there was no balance on the day I cancelled. She also confirmed that despite my assurances otherwise, there was a bill cycle 3 DAYS LATER that put a $104 balance on said account…part of which was a RECONNECT FEE. I tried to reason with her and she was very understanding. She was also willing to work with me in any way possible as long as that way involved me giving them the $104 dollars I was assured I would never be charged. We are now 54 minutes into my lunch hour. I go ahead and pay it because it isn’t worth the rest of my workday to fight it.

I get my confirmation number for the payment and return inside to the nice man that has been helping me. He tries again and fails to add the line. He again calls his cohort on the small moon. He then proceeds to argue with the disembodied voice on the phone that I did in fact pay that bill just now and it was completely fine to finish adding my line. The arguing continues for several minutes. We are now 1 hour and 7 minutes into my lunch hour. Eventually the soulless wretch on the phone gives in and pushes my new line through. HURRAH! Then the nice man looks at me and mentions in an off-hand manner that there will be a $25 fee for adding this new line.

So to recap, we are 1 hour and 15 minutes into my lunch hour. I have now spent $129 more than I was told I would have to spend. AT&T has now sucked my meager savings over the past few months dry. THEY CHARGED ME TO ADD A LINE THAT THEY WILL CHARGE ME FOR. Everyone was kind. Everyone was understanding. Everyone was apologetic. Only one made any effort to compensate me for being financially raped. AT&T is a death star vampire. They will suck your money and your soul and your will to live. I’ve been a customer of theirs for over 10 years with wireless and even longer with various land lines and internet connections.

I would gladly fire a pair of photon torpedoes up their thermal exhaust port.