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.

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.

THEN…

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?

SO THE NEXT MORNING…

…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.

BUT THAT’S NOT ALL…

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.

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.

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.

Macrocosm and Apperception

Why have we lost touch with nature? What about us as a race has driven us to create this artificial environment of concrete and steel that separates us from that which bore us forth? Why do we turn a blind eye to the beauty and magnificence of our Mother Earth?

I do not have the answers to these questions. I do, however have some ideas as to what has happened. Over the centuries we have destroyed. We are a race that tears down that which we cannot ultimately control and replace it with our own creations. We inject control into that which surrounds us regardless of the carnage it takes to get there. Again, I blame Mother Culture for this conditioning…this idea that we must be in control of everything. We delude ourselves into thinking we have done that very thing when in fact what we have done is nothing more than feed an illusion.

Life isn’t about controlling what we see or touch. It is about controlling ourselves. It is about using that control we have over ourselves to adapt and cope with our environment. It is about making ourselves better. Mother Culture does not care for this line of thought because it would lessen her control over the Human Race. In her eyes we are mere automatons. This is something many embrace because it means they do not have to trouble themselves with things like original thought.

So much in nature can teach us more about who we are. Have you ever placed your hand on an old tree or an ancient stone and felt a wave of calm and patience? Have you ever watched a sunset in the mountains as the last rays reflect off a pool of water and understood the passage of time and seasons? Have you ever watched as the budding leaves of the forest turn brown and fall to the ground and contemplated how everything in life has its time? Have you ever watched squirrels gather up food for the winter and realized what it means to be prepared for what life will throw at you?

Nature is a wonderful teacher. She will gladly fill our minds with thoughts of life and love. She will nurture our souls and replenish our bodies. She will gently cradle us when we rest. We just have to be open to it. This is why I love to go camping. It is a time for me to get back in touch with nature. It is a chance to reestablish connections that have become weakened in the steel jungle of the cities. It is a time to be reborn into someone wiser and with better understanding. This does not mean that a weekend at the local park will turn you into a sage, but it will open your eyes if you are but willing.

The cities block our spirits from communing. Even the lights blot out the stars in the sky. Walking outside in your suburbian home and looking up will, of course, reveal a few of the brighter stars…but go out into the country far from the streetlights and billboards. You will find that the “sky full of stars” you see in the city is not even a drop in the bucket. There is so much more out there to be discovered. This is how Mother Culture treats all of nature. She will let you have a few samples of nature here and there, but never enough to make a real difference. For that you will have to leave the safe confines of your skyscrapers and SUVs. You will have to venture into the land that has not been razed by “civilization”. How many will dare to do that with a truly open mind? Not enough.

I wish everyone could walk into true nature and just lean back to take a nap on a tree or perhaps a hill to lie upon to gaze at the stars. With an open mind and a hungering soul one can slowly begin to feel the ebb and flow of energies in all nature has to offer. It is these energies that feed our spirits. It is these energies that teach us understanding for nature is in all things upon our fair world. We cannot let Mother Culture fool us into believing we will be better off by obliterating anything we cannot control. It is the lessons we glean from that which we cannot control that gives us the greatest understanding and knowledge.

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.