Peregrination and Revelation

Relationships fail. That is a fact of life. It is a very rare thing indeed for a couple to meet and remain together their entire lives on the first try. There is a very simple explanation for that. We don’t know ourselves. It takes a lifetime of self-exploration to even begin to understand one’s self. I certainly don’t know half of what I’d like to think I do about myself. But I am learning more every single day. This is true for everyone. Anyone that says differently is simply deluding themselves into complacency.

Relationships that don’t work are not failures as long as you come away from each and every one knowing a little more about who you are and what you want and need. Of course the trick to that is that as you find out more about yourself, those things can change. What you want today with the knowledge you have about yourself may not be what you want when you learn the next piece of who you are. This is the way of life. It is the ever changing river of experience. Sometimes it hurts.

Part of me wishes that it never had to involve pain, but I do not make the rules. The bright side to that is the pain can teach us more about ourselves. Lessons of self sometimes need powerful reminders. It is very easy for us to forget inconvenient truths about who we really are. Just look at religion. We have managed to brainwash ourselves into denying many of our base instincts. We even trick ourselves into feeling guilty for trying to be who we are if it doesn’t fit into the rigid religious framework of what is socially acceptable. It is really rather sad to go through life never finding out who the person is inhabiting your body.

One also has to accept the truths discovered about one’s self. I think this is why so many people avoid the self journey. “Socially acceptable” parameters have been programmed into us over our entire lives and we fear. We fear that what we find will not fit. We fear that those things might make us happy. We fear that those things might make us more comfortable with who we are. We fear just what we might find out if we see how deep the rabbit hole goes. This fear is pointless and serves only Mother Culture who wants us to limit our potential not only for understanding, but for deep true happiness. Why happiness? Because we may finally decide that being human and having human urges isn’t such a bad thing after all. That doesn’t work for her automatons.

This is why I say we should all love freely. This is why I encourage free thinkers. This is why I write what I do. We all need to sit back every now and then and listen to that little voice in the back of our minds. No, not that voice…the one you cannot hear because you’ve shut it out for all these years. The one you ignore because it speaks truth to you in the deepest recesses of your soul. The voice you cannot hear unless you spend time getting in touch with who you are. It is the core of yourself. It is the part of you that watches and listens and understands. It is the one that gives you little nudges when you truly look for guidance. It is only trying to help and yet we ignore it.

Some will claim that this voice has led them down the wrong path. It nudged you into a relationship that did not work out. It urged you to take actions that you believe you would have never taken if you had been “thinking clearly”. This would be a misunderstanding. You were led down a path that you needed to take at that time in your life. You were taken on a journey that, if you took the time and effort to notice, taught you something about who you are that was really important for you to learn at that time in your life. Unfortunately far too many people never realize these lessons. They just convince themselves that they have terrible instincts and shut the voice out of their minds. I feel sorry for automatons. They will never fully realize their potential.

It isn’t easy to break the mold of Society. It is not easy to be true to yourself. Nothing in life, however, is worth having if it does not take any effort. But this is something I have said before. Important lessons warrant repeating, though. Especially since it has to penetrate societal conditioning to get at the real person inside. The real you has always been there. All you have to do is listen.

Acumen and Affection

Is it really that hard to know someone? Is really understanding another person truly that difficult? How many relationships are based off misconceptions? These questions bother me because of the answers. Now I haven’t had that many romantic relationships so I am by no means an expert in the field of experience. But I can say that I have striven to learn about who that person is…what their desires and dreams are…what kinds of things make them genuinely happy.

I see it all the time. People trudge along as good little automaton droids following Mother Culture’s programming to find a mate and continue the species…to find someone that is acceptable in specific culture circles regardless of actual compatibility. These are the people that build up in their mind what they want their mate to be and cram the real person into that mold through misconceptions and delusions to create a thin veneer of happiness and contentment. The relationships just don’t work. It’s like letting a total stranger move in and never having any real contact with them. How many people would do that? Very few, I imagine.

Yet I constantly see these false pairings. I don’t know if they are lost in their fantasies to the point of being unable to see any part of the reality or if they are deluding themselves into plausible deniability. It’s a painful thing to see and I don’t understand why anyone would do it. All it takes is communication and an open mind. These are frighteningly rare among Mother Culture’s droid army. Why? Because communication does not mean bandying about superficial formulaic strings of words about meaningless subjects. It does not mean talking about something that will be forgotten in a matter of hours or days. It means having a real exchange of ideas and thoughts that bring a greater understanding of the other person in the relationship. It means accepting things for what they really are. The Human Race is not nearly as good at that as it would like to believe.

The first step, even before communication, is throwing out everything that society has taught you. There are no forumulas to create a romantic situation. There are no words that always work. Everyone is different if you peel off Mother Culture’s coating of “me too”. It isn’t always easy. Quite frankly so many of the Human Race have been enameled in Mother Culture for so long that it’s terribly difficult to find the real person underneath. This is especially true if you still have your own special Mother Culture paint job. It taints your views. You have to break free of the mold you were shoved into and accept that you must be yourself regardless of society’s opinions on what is “right” and “acceptable” and “appropriate”. This is opening your mind. This is necessary.

Once able to see reality, then comes communication. Just talk. It doesn’t matter where the conversation starts…the weather, the latest episode of a television show, or even that mime’s performance yesterday. See, if you pay close attention, every conversation will reveal something of the other person. Tiny facets of personality are always a part of conversation that can work as puzzle pieces to put together the real picture of the person you are with. There will be flaws. There always are. There will be differing likes and dislikes. It is natural. There will probably even be things you wish weren’t true. Just remember that the same applies in reverse. This is part of being someone with an open mind. Accept that you also have flaws. They are a part of who you are just as their flaws are a part of them.

I’ve said before to never be afraid to love. I’ve given reasons for that statement in the past. Another is that if you are afraid to love freely and openly without reservation then you miss life’s greatest adventure. Love can take the Human Race to greater heights than any other emotion. But only a true love born from really knowing someone can transform your life in profound ways. But Mother Culture has taught us that there comes a point in friendship when the friendship itself is more valuable than the exploration of the love it entails. Hogwash. I say that when friendship reaches that point, this is when the love should be explored. Why? Ask any old couple that has been truly blissfully happy for a half century or more together who their best friend in the entire world is. It won’t be Bob down the street or Sarah at the local salon. Their closest and best friend is their partner. This is the one person on the planet that knows them better than anyone else and accepts them for who they are regardless of flaws.

So why wouldn’t you want to explore that love? Why would anyone ever say “But we’re such good friends, I couldn’t date you” or “I don’t want to risk ruining our friendship”? If you are really that closely connected and honestly have that deep an understanding of each other, then even if dating doesn’t work out the friendship will be intact and I dare say stronger. Stronger because you explored even further the ties between you and understand them better. How do I know? I am still friends with every woman I have been in a relationship with save one. In many ways we are closer now than we were when we were dating. That is more than coincidence.

Think about that. Everyone wants to find that one true love. That one person you can open up to…the one person you can share your deepest secrets with. We want someone we can always count on to be there for us. We want someone who knows us well enough to understand how to comfort us or make us laugh or just make a bad day seem better…someone who knows just when we need a hug and when we need a little time alone. Are these not the kinds of things the closest of friends would know and do? How could anyone expect to have a fulfilling long-term relationship with anything less?

This doesn’t mean that you cannot find that person in someone you have recently met. This does not mean that just because you aren’t the closest of friends that it won’t work out. They can become that person over time. I am just asking that Mankind break off the fantasy glasses and see what is really there. Do not assume that a friendship must be put at risk for the sake of a relationship. True friends will still be true friends. That will never change even if the friendship is different. And different is not necessarily a bad thing. Stronger and closer are different. Nothing is ever gained without taking a chance.

Why Does Comcast Fail?

Can someone explain how a corporation that has obviously obtained a fair amount of market success could be so stupid as to release this awful “upgrade” to their guide? I’ll be the first to admit that the old system was light-years behind Tivo…but this? Calling this new guide an upgrade is like smashing your mother in the face with a thin slice of lemon wrapped around a Yugo and telling her it’s a filet mignon. So what’s really wrong with it you ask? Where in the world would I begin?

I’ll begin with their inability to tell time. The phone call I received and the notice that came later in the mail said that on Tuesday morning, Ocober 21, I would lose all my saved shows and settings because of this upgrade. When I got home on Tuesday after work, all of my shows were still there and nothing had changes. However, at 1am Wednesday the software install took place. So marketing people, it’s the next day once the clock hits 12:00am. Try to get that straight. I know all this newfangled stuff called “time” is real confusing but let’s do a little research before the next announcement, mmkay?

Let’s talk graphics. Now I know that the visual candy of the program guide really doesn’t affect the functionality of the guide all that much unless you severely tax the woefully underpowered CPUs that are usually installed in these set-top DVRs. HOWEVER, the graphics are reminiscent of 1988’s worst home-brewed ANSI colored interface and the color scheme looks like a reject for the vomit scene of The Exorcist. I really don’t want to look up what shows are coming on now because the overwhelming FAIL makes my eyes bleed and gives my brain a nearly uncontrollable desire to smash me in the face with a thin slice of lemon wrapped around a Yugo until it goes away. Are you getting this down, Comcast? Did you vet the new interface design at all? I mean with people who aren’t legally blind or were the recent recipients of a lobotomy…

DVR functions have been ‘upgraded’ as well…and by upgraded I mean severely hindered to a point of near catatonic uselessness. There was a time very recently that I could be fast forwarding through a part of a recorded show, see the place I want to stop, press the play button, and the unit would know I have only a human reaction time and would jump back a couple of seconds. No need to worry now. Comcast took that highly unwanted feature and tossed it out with yesterday’s lobster dinner leftovers. Because they listen so well to what their customers want, they replaced this with a wonderful new feature that doesn’t try to anticipate human latency. It simply starts playing from the point you press play. This means if you aren’t a precog, you’ll be doing a lot of rewinding at the end of your fast forwarding. Isn’t that just awesome? Seriously, guys, WTF?

Oh yeah, did I mention that the fast forwarding is slower than with the old software? It is much slower. The second level of fast-forward is around the speed of the first level in the old software. It was frustrating enough giving up my beloved Tivo 30-second skip but this just drags things out even more. And lastly in the realm of the DVR problems, I’d say that the way you set up new recordings is unintuitive. No, that’s far too politically correct and sanitized to express my true feelings for the new process. It sucks. It’s stupid and the guy that designed it is an idiot. Why on earth would you take a process that was simple and elegant and then ‘upgrade’ it into a 7 step process that makes no sense whatsoever?

Next there are the browsing options in the channel guide. Gone are the days where you could start typing the name of the show and have an ever narrowing list of results on the right to choose from. Instead we get the all new and improved option to select on the first letter and then scroll through all of the shows starting with that letter until you get to the one you want. Oh, and if the show airs on multiple stations, expect to see multiple entries in the search results. Isn’t that fantastic? Are you excited about this new system? I’m sure you’re just as excited about all of these great new features as I am. And would you like to know how excited I am?

I’m buying an AppleTV this weekend and canceling cable television. Congratulations…you have officially made my television experience Craptastic. I’ll be spending my money on iTunes to get my shows. Lord knows you’ve worked hard enough to drive even loyal customers to anything but your service. You’ve succeeded. I can’t imagine anyone enjoying this stinking load that you’ve just dumped on us.

Geek Plague – Fanboyism

In the world of geeks we have a problem. A serious epidemic that threatens our peaceful natures. This plague must be stopped before needless violence rips from us the very thing that binds us together: our overwhelming passion for tech/sci-fi/fantasy stuffs. This plague is the mutation of a mild mannered geek into a frothing-at-the-mouth fanboy. Fanboyism really isn’t a new phenomenon. As long as there have been geeks, there have been the radical right-wing zealots that evolved into full blown fanboys. It isn’t restricted to a specific genre of geekdom either. For today’s purposes, though, we will look at the OS Fanboys.

Probably the most famous group of fanboys in current times is the Apple Fanboy. Oh sure, there have been Apple Fanboys since the birth of the computer company in an unsuspecting garage. Since the advent of the iPod, however, the Apple Fanboy has been propelled into the Spotlight (see what I did there?). These are the guys that swear by everything Apple and condemn everything Microsoft. They are touted to have an unwavering belief in Jobs, their “messiah”. But they are not alone.

Microsoft Fanboys are always ready to return a volley of scathing remarks about Apple’s “toy” computers. They all but worship the corporate empire that Gates built and believe that the only reason people resent the object of their near-worship is its unparalleled business success. They resent the idea that any software or hardware offering could dare to think it can compete with their Titan Champion. They stand resolute and declare that all other systems are either just as vulnerable or more vulnerable than theirs. They proudly preach that the only reason their beloved OS is unfairly targeted more than any other is because it is so awesome. It doesn’t stop here, however.

The third leg of this unholy trinity is the Linux Fanboy. He lives by the mantra that all software should be free and open to everyone. He denounces Microsoft and Apple for their evil and secretive ways and blames any faults discovered in their systems on this closed environment. In the eyes of the Linux Fanboy, only the almighty Linus understands the truth in how to get the most out of a computer. Only open-source can save the geek world according to this steaming waste of carbon-based life form. Okay, that was unfair…all fanboys are steaming wastes of carbon-based lifeforms.

I’ve been accused of being each of these over the years. I find that funny. While it’s true that I do not like them all equally, the levels at which I do like them changes with time. I have a tendency to ramble on about one more than the others at any given moment. It has to do with which one I’m learning new things about or spending the most time on. See, I keep saying this in many different places: Each systems has its strengths and weaknesses. Each OS has tasks it performs a bit better than the others. The best thing to do is know them all and use the right system for the job. I really don’t see what is so hard about that idea.

Do I agree with Microsoft’s marketing practices? Not really. Do I believe that open-source is the silver bullet (ugh, I just used a buzzword) for cracking the computer world into an ecosystem that dwarfs what we have now? Not a bit. Do I think that Apple’s idea of totally locking down everything is the solution to the world’s computer problems? Not even close. But each of these groups does have important things to offer. The hard part is navigating the Fanboy Minefield to find real information. I think Dwight Silverman found this out with his article on Mac pricing. I’m guessing he wasn’t expecting a three way war to break out in the comments like it did. Unfortunately, that’s life on the intarwebs.

So to all Fanboys: Until you can stop frothing at the mouth and open your minds a little…shut up. Learn to recognize that other systems…other opinions…can have merit. I’ll be glad to calmly debate the merits of any system over any other. Is that too hard for you?

Comcast in the Kiddie Pool

Comcast gets a lot of press and most of it is bad. I still, despite my glowing praises for the Digital Media Outreach, agree with most of what’s said. The service is flaky. The content is mediocre. The price is outrageous. The hardware just plain sucks. But there are even more frustrating problems. Finally, though, I can take one of them off my list.

It seems they have decided to stick a toe into the kiddie pool of the intarweebs. You can at last get an email notification that your bill is ready. I am amazed that one of the largest communication providers in these United States has had the audacity to buck the trend of convenience by not doing what even little mom and pop shops have been doing since 1996. Any third grader with a keyboard can hammer out a quick and dirty script to send a little SMTP message to a specified email address on a specific day of the month.

I won’t get into it too deeply this time since I ranted about this in an earlier post. The long and short of it is this: Comcast has finally started coming out from under its rock and is beginning to offer some of the basic convenience services to its customers that other web enabled companies have offered for no less than 10 years. So if you have Comcast cable or internet service, you can now log into the website and sign up for email notifications for billing.

Sheesh guys, I know corporations move like slugs, but this is downright embarrasing.

I Suppose Reality Computing is Next

I’m browsing the headlines today and the question finally comes to mind: Who comes up with IT industry buzzwords? I mean really…cloud computing? Clouds are nothing more than large swaths of moisture suspended in the atmosphere. That isn’t exactly the most appropriate environment for electronics. Besides, what would clouds want to do on a computer anyway? I suppose playing solitaire is better than floating around the sky all day with nothing to do, but I really don’t think I want laptops hovering at ten thousand feet above my head. What if the cloud gets mad and throws it down…at me?

Then there’s the whole new economy. I know the “old” economy is having a rough time of it right now, but we should be serious. It’s all the same economy. It just has a fancy new parking garage. Don’t try to argue that it’s new because it uses the internet. It’s still just mail order and that’s been around for ages. Don’t try to argue that it’s new because it’s global. We get too many goods from other countries. Heck, I’ve heard it suggested that if Wal-Mart ever folded, China’s economy would collapse because of the amount of business they do. It’s all the same. Quit trying to be special.

Dot-bombs sound more like some kind of IED or spy gadget. It’s bad enough that we get this overload of buzzwords, but do you have to mix them with bad slang as well? They’re just failed businesses. It happens all the time. Why do you people insist on this obnoxious demarcation line between that which is internet and that which is not internet. Haven’t we been trying to converge everything with the internet? It seems like a self defeating purpose. How about trying something different.

And just so you don’t think I’m griping to the tech industry in general, I have one generic buzzword peeve for you. Offline. I do not think it means what you think it means. Offline means not online. It means you are working with some sort of software or device that normally functions with an internet connection but for some reason is not doing so right now. It does not mean that you want to talk to me away from the meeting. Offline and in private are not interchangeable. Ever. Stop it.

I have a few others that kind of grate on my ears when I hear them but I think the point has been made. Buzzwords are silly and unnecessary. It is just a way for the clueless to try and sound like they have a clue. And unfortunately it is contagious enough that those with a clue end up using them, too.

A-Loan in the Dark

Have you ever noticed that important paperwork is right where you put it for safe keeping…until the moment you need it? Take for instance the situation I am currently in. I have one of those small fireproof boxes in my house for the purpose of keeping my deed, car titles, and custody paperwork. These are documents I don’t want to lose, whether from misplacement or fire. Everything I put in there is right where I left it, too. Well…everything except the title to my Amigo. Which is odd since I haven’t touched that box since I put the title in there.

Why does this matter since I’m not selling my vehicle? I need it for loan collateral. The problem now is that I need the money for the loan in my account by the last day of the month and it takes about 14 days to get a title replaced. The way around this is to go to the local tax commision office where they actually print the things and for a $30 premium you can get one within minutes. Seems easy enough so I choose that course of action. It takes half of my lunch break just to get to the backwoods alternate reality where they located this massive chuck of steel building. But I did manage to find it and fill out my little form with the VIN (and you better know you’re VIN because they will NOT look it up…yay for customer service) and other relevant information.

Then the lady hands me a newly printed form which, by the way, is the exact same form I filled out with ink and handed her save for one little change. Apparently something got screwed up when I paid it off over three years ago. The bank is still listed as the lien holder. I certainly hope I don’t owe them anything. I haven’t made a payment in nearly four years. And I am completely certain I got a title from the State that did not list any lien holders. Yet there it was on screen as plain as day. Of course the lady couldn’t tell me how in the world I got a correct title when the information in the system was wrong. So now I have to get a lien release form from the bank so I can get a copy of the title to hand them so they can put a lien on the title. Still with me? Good because here’s where it gets bumpy.

I tried calling the bank and got stuck on hold for about 45 minutes. Now I only get an hour for lunch and it took 30 minutes to get here and then another 15 to do the paperwork shuffle. Now I’ve been on hold for another 3/4 of an hour and have another 30 minute ride in 98 degree weather to look forward to. Frustrated I contact my mother for reinforcement on trying to get the bank on the phone. She has worked with the lady that’s handling my loan for years so she’s got back lines of communication that I do not have. It also frees me up to make the sweltering ride back to work. Murphy’s Law is having a lot of fun at this point and decides to let my whole family share the joy.

Nobody I know can get anyone at the bank to answer and now I’m back at work with a screwed up laptop, a faulty wireless NIC driver, a problem with a cellular air card, and two weeks of reports that people want done in a matter of minutes. Oh, and let’s not forget the scanner system that lost all of its settings. I make alternate arrangements via SMS for collateral until I can get my title situation figured out. I now have to get everything done at work by 4PM so I have time to finish the bank stuff up today. Somehow I manage. I don’t know how but I manage to get all the broken stuff fixed by 4:04PM. So I run out the back door and head towards my bike.

You guessed it. I have another problem. Now I park my bike out back under the huge shed. It’s about the only place that is concrete and not gravel. The slab is huge and usually mostly empty. For the last week, though, people seem to have been going out of their way to pile pallets and trailers and boxes and cars around the bike so I cannot get out to go home. Today I tried parking right at the edge of the slab instead of the middle to fix that. What did they do? They parked closer and boxed me in more tightly than before. I swear that if I didn’t love my bike so much I would ram it smooth into their $40k plus cages. It’s not like I’m asking for super special treatment and climate controlled parking. I just want something solid under the kickstand and a path out when I get ready to go. It seems this is far too much to ask.

A few more minutes of wriggling and I’m able to squeeze the bike between the rusty Toyota and the Ford SVT pickup. It’s a good thing I’m not spiteful or I would have “accidentally” dragged the highway bar pegs down that lovely white paint job on the SVT…or the black paint of the Pontiac G8. But I didn’t and now I’m off to finally get the money in my account from the loan. Of course the reason I couldn’t get the lady on the phone is that she’s out today. Also, she’s been talking to me on and off for two weeks now about this loan and everything has been approved and is ready to go…except the other ladies cannot find any record of it in the system. So now I have to start all over. This is after the 12 minutes it takes to fill in the 6 blanks on the release of lien form. Eventually I get everything finished. And by that I mean I waited 45 minutes while the lady tapped away on her keyboard so I could sign one piece of paper on a line she drew with a pen.

Why can’t things just be simple? Oh and for those that think this isn’t enough…I just picked up the GMC truck that I’m buying from my dad on a deferred payment. He can’t find the title and after driving over 140 miles back to my house I notice the tag expired two months ago. Now I can’t get him on the phone to tell him I need a bill of sale so I can title, tag, and insure it ASAP. As usual, Murphy’s Imp of Perverse is right on top of things.