Passings

Roads converge and separate
Paths can cross and undulate
The sun will rise and darkness falls
Doves and ravens let out their calls

Alone I watch and scrutinize
Alone I wait to see the signs
Alone I sit in patience still
Alone I ponder greater will

Seasons come and seasons go
Round again, to and fro
Yet I sit and yet I wait
Will it ever be my fate?

True Friends

This is not a true “rant”…as you will see by the style in which I wrote it. However it is something that needs saying and so…

What makes a true friend? I suppose that depends on who you ask. It also depends on what the term “true friend” means to the one you are asking. From my point of view there are friends and then there are true friends. This is not based so much on how they treat me but rather in how I have come to trust them. While those two aren’t mutually exclusive, they are not totally intertwined either.

I have a fairly small group of friends…say about 30 people. These are the ones that I sometimes hang out with or go to the movies or play some games. I do have trust in them or they wouldn’t be my friends at all. But I am also not completely open with them about anything and everything. I do not feel I could call them at 3am if I am in need of help or just a sympathetic ear to hear my sorrows or worries or frustrations. I have limits on how far I will go to help them.

Beyond that group is a very select few that I call true friends. I do not have secrets from them. I do not have a feeling that I need to hold anything back from them. I know I can call on them at any time for any thing and they will be there for me. I will also move mountains to do anything for them. These are the people I love. These are the few that I know I can count on. Such true friends are hard to come by in today’s world. These are the few that accept everything about me, faults and all.

Why do I bring this up? I had a recent long conversation with one of these true friends about our friendship. I don’t think it was clear before to this person exactly what our friendship really meant. I hope I have conveyed it better than I have in the past. But it also got me to thinking, how many people go through life never really knowing what a true friend can be? How many have never had someone they could confide in completely…someone they could call upon at any time and share any thought with? I think there are far too many that fit in that category.

Life is not an easy thing to live and every now and then everybody needs someone to lean on. Many will just “make do” with whatever person happens to be handy at the moment. Unfortunately such an interaction will probably not be comforting or fulfilling. Oh I am sure many will convince themselves that it doesn’t matter who you talk to when you need to talk. I disagree. The choice of whom you talk to is almost as important as what you say…sometimes more so. The true friend is the one who will really listen and make an effort to understand what you are saying and how you are feeling. It won’t be mindless head-nodding that one normally uses in random conversation that holds no real interest. It will be a focusing of understanding and compassion.

When hurt or insecure or in need of a shoulder, nothing less than a true friend will do. The act of listening and understanding is rarely an easy thing and is absolutely essential at these moments. A “warm body” will, at best, provide superficial comfort but will do little to help the true nature of whatever really brought on these feelings. In some cases, that can actually make the problem worse.

I believe I’ve brought this up before but if you look at couples that have been together for a very long time and ask them who their best, most true friend in the world is…you’ll mostly likely hear them say it is their partner. Now this certainly isn’t going to always be the answer and of course not all true friendships end up in closer relationships. But it is worth mentioning because it further demonstrates how important these types of bonds are. People need other people that can understand…that can be trusted with intimate secrets and desires and worries…that can ease and calm us. We all need someone we can count on.

Big Tobacco – Little Minds (an e-cig story)

Last year the FDA put out a report about how e-cigarettes (personal vaporizers) are toxic and dangerous. Their unbiased tests and fair results reflect a huge cross-section of – oh who am I kidding. They tested two brands that are generally regarded as crap and found faint traces of a couple of potentially harmful substances in some of the tested units. They failed to mention that these substances are found in much higher concentrations in real cigarettes and that the detected amounts on the tested units are well under the accepted “safe” levels. I have no proof and I’m not really a conspiracy theorist but the spin they put on it reeks like last week’s cigarette butts. Without proof, however, I will not speculate on whether or not Big Tobacco had fingers in this cookie jar.

Let’s go over a few things about e-cigs to clear the air and set a few things straight. These personal vaporizer devices typically come in either a two or three piece unit. Both styles have a battery which makes up the majority of the length or bulk of the device. You attach to that either a two piece atomizer/cartridge combo or a one piece cartomizer (which contains both of those in a single unit). The cartridge holds the liquid that fuels the atomizer which creates a vapor that resembles traditional cigarette (or ‘analog’) smoke. Thus this device mimics traditional smoking but without the poison cocktail of chemicals and carcinogens found in traditional smoking.

Well what is this liquid? It’s a base consisting of either vegetable glycerin (VG) or propylene glycol (PG). Now don’t let that scare you. Yes, PG is used in antifreeze…and many other things including food. It is a thickening agent and approved for human consumption by the FDA. I mention this because there was spin on some news reports about how the e-liquid is evil and punches kittens in the face when nobody is looking all because it contains an ingredient found in antifreeze. You know what else is in antifreeze? Water. That’s safe to consume, isn’t it? I wouldn’t suggest drinking antifreeze. But it does contain (besides toxic chemicals) ingredients deemed safe for humans to ingest. Please don’t let FUD fool you. Don’t let Mother Culture steer you to stupidity by believing everything that she and the tobacco companies say. Do a little research as I have done.

Now where was I? Oh yes, the e-liquid ingredients. So you have VG or PG or maybe even a mix of the two. That’s about 80% of the liquid right there if not more. You may have some distilled water for adjusting the consistency as well. Oh, I think that’s in antifreeze…hrm. Anyway, there’s that and a food grade flavoring or mixture of flavorings. That’s it. If you get a liquid containing nicotine then the PG or VG was probably pre-mixed with the nicotine and then blended with some non-nicotine PG or VG for lowering the overall percentage of concentration. Then a few drops of a flavor and there you have it. Let’s compare that with the chemical compounds found in cigarettes. I believe at last test they discovered over 4000 chemical in an analog, many of which are poisonous or carcinogens (cancer-causing). Kind of makes you think, doesn’t it?

So where does that put us? We have a battery, the atomizer, then this liquid filled cartridge. Put them together and get the look and feel of smoking without all of the nasty side effects. You don’t smell like a mule’s ass and you can actually smell and taste foods. There’s no second-hand smoke because there is no smoke. There’s nothing burning so you won’t have ashes or butts or burn marks anywhere. It’s only about 20% of the cost of analogs after you get past the initial investment for your PV equipment. I wonder why big tobacco is campaigning so hard to get the FDA to ban them? It just doesn’t make sense, does it? You’d think they would decide their market is declining and they would look to expand into this new realm. Do you have any idea how easy it would be to convince a life-long Camel smoker that if he wants to get away from all that he should get the Camel e-cigarette? And since you have to replace batteries and atomizers and buy new cartridges and/or e-liquid to refill…you would have a constant revenue stream from it.
But no, they want the FDA to crush the fledgling market.

Now I do concede that there hasn’t been enough independent testing done on the devices and having them completely unregulated means the quality of the products we can currently get may be nightmarish. So yes, there should be oversight. But there should not be banning nor should it be required to get a prescription to have one. That’s just dumb. They’re proposing more strict standards for the e-cigarette which can be used completely without nicotine than the standards set forth for nicotine patches and gum. Really? Are all politicians really that bought and paid for by Corporate America? Of course they are and I’d be surprised if there was an honest fiber in any one of those smug self-serving asses on Capital Hill. But I’m a cynic…too bad my views are more right than wrong.

Getting back to the point, people that get into “vaping”, the term used for people that enjoy PV’s, often find that they want an analog less and less. Usually this moves very quickly to “I think they taste nasty so I put them down altogether” realm. So while they haven’t been clinically tested as a smoking cessation device, they more often than not end up being the tool with which people quit. I mean, if you can get your “nic fix” without all that other crap that comes with burning leaves, why wouldn’t you?

And I would be doing a disservice if I failed to mention all of the medical professionals that express great concern over these devices being marketed to kids “as a gateway to smoking real cigarettes”. Get your heads out of Big Tobacco’s ass. Yes, I concede that the oversight and regulation of PV sales should include the same age restrictions as analogs. I don’t want my daughter on these things. But how do you justify that these would be a gateway to moving into the realm of doing something that tastes like crap, smells worse, and gives you all sorts of health problems? I even heard one say that because the juices come in fruit and candy-like flavors that there was no way such a thing could be marketed at adults. Sir, I respectfully call bullshit. I have a hookah. I am 35 years old. I enjoy my blueberry and cappuccino flavored hookah tobacco (shisha). I also enjoy my flavored juices for my e-cigarette. I’m not addicted to the awful flavor of Camel Lights, I’m addicted to the physical act of smoking and to the nicotine. I get to satisfy my addiction with something far more pleasurable to ingest with far less harm to my body and health. So get off my lawn.

To the FDA I say go forth and come up with fair legislation to regulate the manufacture and sale of PV products. Make sure there is a level of consistent quality in what we purchase. Make sure that our children cannot get their hands on these things easily (for nobody can stop someone determined enough). Do your health studies and effects studies. But do this without lining your pockets from Big Tobacco. If you let them get a word in, then you are likely going to be condemning Americans to a choice between proven failures like nicotine gum and inhalers or going back to the single most deadly legal substance in our country…cigarettes. Stop the spin. We know it’s not healthy because nicotine itself is a poison. But stop demonizing it as being worse that real cigarettes because it just ain’t so.

An e-Cigarette Story

I have a 13 year old daughter. She has been on my case for years for me to quit smoking. Now understand that I started smoking Marlboro Reds when I was 15. I’m 35 now and over the years my list of brands includes Marlboro Reds and Lights, Camel Filters, Wides, Lights, and No. 9’s, Vantage Ultra-Lights, Newport, and a host of others. I also like the occasional cigar and until I lost my pipe when I moved into my current house, I enjoyed the occasional puff on some cherry tobacco. I like my nicotine. I like blowing the smoke. I like the feeling of it as I inhale. Heck, I even own a hookah and will spend the 20 minutes setting it up just to have some of my blueberry shisha (no dummy…that’s tobacco designed for use in a hookah).

So to say I’m a bit reluctant to give up my smoking might be an understatement. Oh I’ve tried over the years. I’ve been able to put them down for a little while but when the stress gets up, I really really really want to have that little cylinder of death between my fingers and smoke billowing from me as I exhale. So I always end up going back to them. I know it makes me smell like an old ashtray and I know it does terrible things to my body. I don’t care because I have an addiction. It’s probably more to the act of smoking than to the actual nicotine but it’s no less powerful in my case.

You may be wondering where this is going. Simple. My mother recently had a heart-attack and she’s been a smoker all her life. She’s unapologetic about it. After the attack, her doctor told her that she cannot smoke if she intends to remain among us. I don’t know that she’ll ever forgive him for that statement. While we’re all thrilled that she’s given up the deadly habit, she’s resentful because she never wanted to stop. And then she found the world of e-cigarettes. She ordered one up and has been much more pleasant now that she can satisfy the habit without endangering her life like she did with regular cigarettes.

Having seen this and how effective it was for her I decided in my own little obsessive way to go research this little miracle product. Apparently this device was invented a few years ago over in China and is fairly booming as a market in other parts of the world. It showed up on our shores not that long ago and it’s been off to a good start so far. What is it exactly? Some call it a Personal Vaporizer (PV) which is a more accurate name than e-cigarette even if it still isn’t exactly right. What you have is typically a 2 or 3 piece unit consisting of a battery, a cartridge with the flavored liquid, and an atomizer. In the 2 piece model the latter two will be a single unit sometimes called a cartomizer. Basically the battery heats up a coil in the atomizer that evaporates the flavored liquid that you then inhale as if smoking a regular cigarette (or “analog” as they are referred to). The result is something that looks like smoke and feels much like smoking but contains none of the carcinogens found in an analog.

So I ordered one. Specifically the Gemini from Revolver. It’s a little more expensive than some but less than others and I really like the looks of it. I’ve had it nearly a month and I had my last analog about 3 days after it came in. I haven’t even wanted a real one. I play poker with a bunch of my friends each week and all of them smoke. I found to my surprise that I can sit at that table for hours around them and just puff on my Gemini with no craving for those smelly things. It’s been rather amazing. Add to that the ability to get liquids with different flavors much like I can with my shisha and I’ve now got a way to get my craves under control without going through a silly amount of work. I love this thing. And the people online that I have found over at e-cigarette-forum.com are truly kind and supportive of everyone that is interested in testing out the world of “vaping”.

My truck no longer stinks and neither do my hands or clothes. My daughter is actually willing to give me a hug…well not in front of friends because that isn’t “cool” 🙂 It’s a whole new world out there and I’ve already saved a good bit of money by not keeping up my pack a day habit. Of course, my daughter has decided it’s probably for the best if I spend that extra money on her so I can’t go back to regular smoking.

Women Are Frustrating

No, I don’t have a witty title for this post. I know that’s out of the ordinary. Yes, I am making a new post. I know that’s also out of the ordinary. But with the start of a new year and me having some time on my hands to contemplate life, the universe, and everything…I decided I needed to get a few things off my chest. Women in general have caused me more frustration than anything else in the past few years.

Let’s go back a few years. I met someone, started dating her, and she moved in with me. This all happened fairly quickly. It didn’t take long for her to alienate my friends and my friends are really important to me. She also spent a great deal of time unemployed so I was left to support the entire household on my less than stellar salary while still paying child support. Enter the wonderful world of ridiculous credit card debt. Eventually the relationship fell apart and she moved out, leaving me with an unholy amount of debt I could not pay.

After a while of being alone and working to get the debt into a situation that I could get out from under one day, I began dating someone I had a crush on back in junior high. She’s got a daughter and lived out of town and worked different hours than I did. With me having a daughter as well and with all of the other factors, finding time to be together was tricky. But we did it. It wasn’t as often as either of us would have liked, but the relationship was just starting and I was still feeling the sting of the last one. Everything was fine until she decided I must not love her because I obviously wasn’t trying hard enough to spend time with her. Never mind that I’m the one that was asking almost constantly when we could see each other next. Never mind that I was also the one that rearranged his schedule of things any time there was a glimmer of a chance we could spend some time together. These are actions of someone that doesn’t really love the person he’s with…or so I am to assume from the text message I received informing me the relationship was over.

Then for the last nine months or so I’ve been asking someone else out. I’ve known her for a while and she swears she really wants to date me. But in the last nine months we’ve managed to go out only…wait, we haven’t gone out at all. That’s right, she tells me she wants to really badly. I asked her out repeatedly and offered to do whatever was needed to make it happen. In nine months she has found exactly zero time to give me. Call me crazy but I think she did not quite tell the truth. Now I understand she’s got two children and being a single mom is a lot of work…but nine months…somewhere in the appriximately 6480 hours I’ve been asking her out, I think she could have found 2 or three consecutive hours to say ‘sure, let’s go get a burger or something’. But no, and now that I’ve brought it up to her, she won’t respond to me at all.

Over-arcing all of this is another that I would have wanted to date. We get along great together, like a lot of the same things, and enjoy being in each other’s company. We share a similar sense of humor and taste in movies and food. In short, someone on the outside looking in would (and has) assumed we were a couple because of how we are when we’re together. I’ve been her friend through several relationships (both mine and hers). How many times has she gone out with me? None. Not once. And she won’t. Now these days we do still hang out some and the desire to date her has long since been killed by the frustration. Yet somehow she still thinks everything I do is an angle to get her to date me. She can’t accept that I like to hang out with her because we have fun together. I think part of that is because I know her so well that I can pretty much tell her what she’s thinking just by looking at her. She thinks (if I’m not mistaken) that I’m merely telling her what she wants to hear so I can keep some grand master plan moving in the background that culminates in her finally agreeing to go out with me. I’m not nearly that devious. I’m flattered that someone would believe I’m capable of such subtle and complex plans when it comes to women, but no. I’m not nearly that good.

We won’t go into the awesome woman I dated a few times thanks to an online dating site that’s now married to a friend of mine. No, it isn’t as bad as it sounds because we were just friends and hanging out together when she and I met the guy she eventually married. But it’s just another tick in the list of weird experiences in dating that leave me single. I’ve grown frustrated with the whole thing and I’m almost to the point of believing that while there is someone for everyone, you can miss your chance…because I believe I missed mine at some point. I couldn’t tell you when I missed it or who it was I missed it with, but time is marching on and I’m still single. No this isn’t a big whining rant. It’s a vent of frustration from my dealings with the opposite sex. Is it really so hard to find someone with some similar interests willing to spend a few hours with you? I’m tired of being the best friend. I’m tired of being told I’m a really nice guy and I’m just the type of guy that women look for because if that was the case, I wouldn’t be writing this. Somebody is lying and it isn’t me. It only adds to the frustration and irritation. And if it isn’t lying, then stop avoiding me. It’s that simple.

I Cannot Call Myself A Frugalista

So if you have been following the saga of the “Frugalista” trademark silliness, then what I say here probably won’t surprise you. That is especially true if you are a frequent reader of my blog. This has irritated me and I feel I need to explain why.

Let’s start with the fact that the term frugalista (oh no…I didn’t use quotes!) is a common term for its market with a general meaning. This alone should be enough to warrant scrutiny over the trademark application. We aren’t even talking about people who claim to be the Frugalista (looky there…it’s capitalized and not in quotes…oh dear me) of a certain geographical area. This is actually a pretty common practice, not just in blogging but in journalism. You stake claim to a geographical location and name yourself the authority over some particular subject matter that you focus on. Well guess what, bucko…you aren’t peddling that name around here. Doing so will get you a nice fresh C&D from the lawyer of the git that thinks she can just rip a word journalists on pain of lawsuit.

That seems awful anti-Frugalista-ish (oh ho…now we’re getting fancy with changing up the word) to spend that kind of money on frivolous unenforceable crap. Perhaps Ms. Self Important should read some of the blogs and forums and general online media on the subject of frugality and being a Frugalista. (Have I earned my very own C&D yet? I’m certainly trying my hardest. After all…every letter costs money and the tool that thinks she can trademark such a broad and general term deserves any bill she gets.) Now I’m sure some of you are wondering how I could possibly get a C&D for simply writing about this fight in the Frugalista community. It’s simple, really. My previous post has the excerpt from the C&D sent to the Jackson Frugalista blogger that holds the key to my crusade. Apparently the law office declares in said letters that they expect you to cease any and all use of the term in any derivation on any type of online media. Shucks…I think I failed to comply with that.

And to add to this idiocracy would be the article in U.S. News where the lawyer directly contradicts the statement of the letter. Now tell me, Madame I-Trademark-Common-Terms, do you actually pay for this contradictory tripe? If not, then I applaud you not only for your ninja skills at being frugal (for these guys MUST be cheap), but also for the sheer amount of ignorance you managed to locate in such a tiny little place. If you don’t yet understand what I mean, allow me to show you.

This is from the C&D sent to the Jackson Frugalista blog owner:

Further, please let us have your prompt written assurance that you and any affiliated companies or individuals will promptly discontinue and refrain from the use of the term “FRUGALISTA” in any form or derivation in any online blogs or journals.

This is statement from the lawyer as reported by U.S. News:

McDowell emphasizes that other writers can still use the word “frugalista” in their stories—which may seem obvious, given the fact that it is a commonly used word—but that they cannot identify themselves as a “frugalista.”

Call me craz…erm…Frugalista, but I don’t think this will hold up in court. Oh heck, I went and did it again. You know, If I keep this up someone might get the impression that I am trying to make a point with all the subtlety of a frag grenade to the face. It’s gotten me in trouble before and probably will again. I cannot, however, sit back and keep my mouth shut when I see something as blatantly stupid as this happening right before everyone’s eyes. This would be like Best Buy trying to trade mark the term “Geek” and saying that nobody could use said term in any online publication to refer to themselves because it “unfairly capitalizes on the goodwill and reputation embodied in our client’s use of the Mark”…not that anyone every accused the Geek Squad of being the recipient of goodwill or anything resembling a (good) reputation. Please, read the story at US News, read the letter and the response at Jackson Frugalista…and by all means boycott the stupid trademark lady’s blog until she apologizes to the internet for being a tool.

And before I forget…

I Am Not A Hypocritical Frugalista That Hates Freedom Of Speech.

I Don’t Own Words Like Frugalista

So the current viral story is the Jackson, Mississippi blogger being targeted by the Miami Herald for use of a word. That word…which will assuredly earn me a C&D of my very own…is “Frugalista”. I’m not opposed to branding. I also understand that if you have a trademark, you are required to defend it or you will lose it. I’m not even totally opposed to the idea of asking that the blog name be changed to avoid any confusion…silly though that is. That’s all fine and good. But the letter had this little tidbit:

Further, please let us have your prompt written assurance that you and any affiliated companies or individuals will promptly discontinue and refrain from the use of the term “FRUGALISTA” in any form or derivation in any online blogs or journals.

Let’s look at that for a moment. They want her to “refrain from the use of the term” not just in her blog title but “in any form or derivation in any online blogs or journals”. This means to comply with this order she can’t even say “I was reading The Frugalista Files” without being in violation. I think that’s a bit far. Being barred from using a WORD? It’s not even a word the trademark holder created. We’re not talking about Kleenex or Xerox here. We talking about someone that decided to use a word that is pretty generic and existed before she got into blogging and then trying to prevent the world from using it.

In that spirit, I am offering my feelings on this through my blog. Until the trademark is revoked as submitted, I will end all posts with the same line. And I dare you to C&D me…there’s no way my use is confusing to anyone.

I Am Not A Hypocritical Frugalista That Hates Freedom Of Speech.