Posts

Showing posts from 2004
Image
Relaxing over Christmas

Servicing the Customer or Providing Customer Service?

I'm in the process of buying a car. Being a good boy, I went through the process at my bank first to ensure I had the financing. I had already done the research and settled on the car I wanted. As my bank is closed on the weekend, and I bought the car on Saturday, today was the first day I could contact the bank and set up the loan closing appointment with them.

I had been speaking with a pleasant woman named Martha whose uncertainty about certain things made me think she was a little new to the process. However, this is not a problem with me as I'm generally a pretty amiable fellow and I am rarely in a rush. I've spoken with Martha three seperate times concerning the issue and she has been helpful each time.

Today I set up a meeting with her for 1 pm (my lunch hour) at which time I would present her with the paperwork, she would go over them, and type up the final papers from the bank for my signature. About 20 minutes later I get a rather abrupt phone call back from one …

I Think I Think

If I am going at or under the speed limit, if I’ve engaged the clutch and am coasting up hill, and if I am still catching up to you, you may be traveling too slowly for the road.Don’t women know that size matters to men, too? (And I’m not referring to breast size, ladies.)The way people act toward each other, what they want, and the struggles of the sexes, has really changed little over the centuries. Mary of Nazarene and Mary of Magdelene would have had a lasting influence, a reactive relationship, and a profound effect on Jesus and on the founding of Christianity. Of course the threatened males of the time wanted to minimize the women’s role and maximize their own—just like men today try to do with smart, driven, opinionated, influential women.Love and Hate are not opposites. They are different aspects of the same coin. Apathy is the opposite of any of the passionate feelings like Love and Hate.Fear is the one thing that holds humanity (as a whole and as individuals) back more than …

Catharsis

I look back at what I wrote on Friday and am amazed. I guess sometimes you just need to vomit that out of your system to allow yourself to reflect, move on, and gain perspective. As a technical writer in my career, I am amused by the poor grammar and other mistakes I see throughout, but I’m going to leave that post as is. It stands as a truly emotional release—and something I really needed.

Now, of course, the questions: Where do I go from here? What change can I enact to make sure things don’t get this bad again? How can I start releasing these emotions in a way that is healthier and less constrained?

I managed to hit on a wide variety of topics, each of which must be addressed. As always, after the revolution must come the rebuilding. If you have any suggestions, feel free to post them.

Lastly, thank you for the kind words you have posted in response. They mean a lot to me.

The day afte Thanksgiving, 2004

So in high school my best friend died. I was literally the first student on campus to hear the news; the principal of the school, Mr. Cole -- a good friend to the family, told my mother (who worked at the high school) who then walked over to me in driver’s education. She pulled me out of class and told me, giving me a big hug.

I went back into class and everyone knew. All they had to do was look at my face and they could that something was wrong. It took Chris Elliott three times asking me what was wrong—when I said it, I think it was too loud because everyone in the class knew. Suddenly I saw what my face must have looked like.

As the next period began, Mr. Cole came over the loud speaker and announced it to the school. My French teacher started to cry, my sort-of girl friend and the time, Pam Bailey, gave me a hug. Chris Munroe (I know a lot of Chris’) got quiet.

I didn’t even know it but I got up and just walked outside. The teacher didn’t try to stop me—everyone knew how close I w…

Biting the Hand that Feeds You

Marvel Comics is in bankruptcy. They screwed themselves in the 1990’s by overextending themselves, financing bad projects, and believing the record sales of the collector’s market would last forever. When the bubble burst, they were left with overpaid artists (not writers, because Marvel never pays for good stories, just astounding artwork), properties that had lost 50% or more of their trademarked value, and stretched so thinly they couldn’t stand under the base that was left. They also are fighting some pretty nasty lawsuits, recently losing one to a comic book writer/artist who sued them for the rights to one of his creations and won, further lessening their hold on their products.

Early in 2004, Cryptic Studios and NCSoft released a PC game entitled City of Heroes. In this game, the user can create virtually any super hero he can imagine. With the thousands of costume combinations, hundreds of power/ability choices, and the virtually unlimited naming options they made available to…

City of Heroes

My friends have been surprised that I finally went over the edge and started playing an MMORPG called City of Heroes (CoH). I have generally only played single-player games or those (like Diablo) that can be played either way.

CoH is a game using the super-hero genre. As a comic book geek and a lover of super-heroes, myths, and legends, the idea of this game really appealed to me. The only thing I was unsure about was the fact that it was a massively multiplayer on-line roleplaying game (MMORPG). This meant I had to purchase the game itself, and then had to agree to pay a monthly fee to have access to continue playing it after the first month. I quickly was hooked, and let me tell you one story that explains why.

This weekend I played CoH using my "main." He's a Tanker who uses Super-Strength and Invulnerability to take on foes (like the Hulk). I decided to join a special Task Force that allows you to respecify your character, which I had never done before. I hooked up…

Boston's MLB World Series Victory

Boston won the World Series and lost a bit of its character.

Part of the mystique, allure, and soul of Boston was that they were lovable losers. The Curse was something that defined the region and the people. It helped to create one of the best rivalries in all of sports (Boston vs New York) and created a sort of counterpoint between the cities as well. New York City would do anything, pay anything to win. Boston was the also ran, the hopeful, the always denied. The nice, bookish, younger brother always in the shadow of the star, hip, older brother. Now Boston has lost that. People will start to notice now that Boston has the second highest payroll in ML Baseball. The expectations of the city and the fans have increased. The must-win attitude will sink in and you'll hear promises by players and fans to be back again next season. When/If that doesn't happen, you'll see more money spent, more trades made, less excuses accepted. Soon, Boston's front office will look just …

Death of a Superman

“You will believe a man can fly.”

That was the tagline and, for any boy who went to a theatre in 1978, it was true. Christopher Reeve played Superman (and Clark Kent) with such grace and wit and wisdom, that most people alive today cannot separate him and the character in their minds. Most of us, when we hear the name Superman, have a picture of Christopher Reeve in our mind’s eye. No matter how bad the movies got (and three and four were pretty bad), Christopher Reeve remained a source of strength, purity, and self-effacing courage in the role.

And then the “curse” struck him, too, like George Reeves, Kirk Alyn, Bud Collyer, and others. Reeve became paralyzed in a horse-riding accident. Rather than shrink from it, rather than be bitter and angry over it, rather than shy away from the lime-light and hide his infirmities from the world, Christopher Reeve found the courage to once more don the red and blue—this time proverbially—as a man of steel giving voice to a segment of our populat…

Antisocialism

Our country is evolving into an antisocial place. Where once our survival hinged on knowing others and working with them to gather what was needed to live, we now live in a world where you can almost totally do without human contact.

I can order nearly everything I want via the Internet today. This includes entertainment, clothing, food, and all manner of other products. I can pay my bills online. The Internet makes telephoning, writing letters, or stopping by to see someone irrelevant.

Cell phones mean that I can shut out the rest of the world and speak only to those with whom I want to share my thoughts. They also connect us to the World Wide Web and allow us to be more insular.

Internet chatting has replaced dating. Both at work and at home I can IM with people to alleviate the need to actually walk three cubicles over and speak with someone. If I do deign to go to the supermarket, I can now get my items and checkout at the self-serve aisles with absolutely minimal contact with oth…

First Debate (2004 election)

The thing that struck me most while Kerry and Bush were "debating" each other occurred whenever they showed both candidates via the split screen. While Kerry was talking, Bush seemed agitated. When Bush was talking, Kerry seemed calm and understanding. Bush often had long pauses where he seemed unable to come up with the simplest phrases and names. Kerry seemed to have a good command of the facts and was able to "wing-it" and use many of Bush's phrases and goals against him.

To me, it was like watching a boxing match between someone like a Mike Tyson and someone like a Mohammed Ali. Tyson (Bush) is all about aggression and offense. He believes that if you are down on the canvas you can't beat him. So he invests everything in his strong offense and attacks you unrelentingly. However, this leaves him open to the opponent who can successfully outlast his aggression, survive his offense, or counter-attack him. Ali (Kerry), on the other hand, had a plan of attac…

Freedom

Overheard at work:

Worker 1: "You have too many freedoms in this country."

Worker 2: "No such thing. But with freedom comes responsibility. We have too many irresponsible people in this country."


Amen, brother!

Nuclear Weapons

All through the Cold War, nuclear weapons were considered a mutually assured destruction threat deterrent. Because of the power to destroy humanity and cripple the planet for a long period of time, it was believed that no one would use nuclear weapons again (after World War 2). World safety was assured because the super-powers could not and would not use those weapons.

Now we have gone to war over one nation's supposed nuclear weapons and complain about other nations possibly developing their own nuclear arsenals. It is a poorly kept secret that Israel has nuclear weapons. We are in negotiations with North Korea to get them to dismantle their nuclear weapons development. UN inspectors are in Iran, questioning their use of nuclear material. Pakistan and India have nuclear weapons.

My question is: Why go to war over nuclear weaponry?

If what our leaders told us during the Cold War is true, that nuclear weapons are, in fact, too terrible to use because of their power, wouldn't th…

Idle Question (2)

Which series do you think has more quotes used to explain life's little foibles, The Godfather or Star Wars (episodes 4-6)?

I'm thinking it is more a question of the age of the person. If over 40, The Godfather. If under 40, then Star Wars.

"I'll make him an offer he can't refuse."

"Do or do not; there is no try."

Idle Question

In order to save your most cherished, would you rather:
Be murdered in a horribly painful manner?Inflict a horribly painful murder on a random stranger?Yet another of the strange and often unexplained thoughts that pass into my mind.

Basketball and the Olympics

I hope that this American "Dream Team" continues to lose at the Olympics. I wish this not because of any anti-American sentiments or ill-will I feel toward the players or coaches on the team, but because of ill-will I feel toward all those players who should be there but who are not.

There should be no greater honor than playing for your country in the Olympics. Big stars should feel a strong obligation to go out and show the rest of the world where they stand in comparison to our best. Unless you are injured, you should be there. Afraid for your safety? You earn enough to hire your own security.

That being said, a collection of super-stars can only go so far. I am not saying that this team cannot pull its collective head out of its collective ass and still compete for the gold. I am saying it was just a matter of time before the rest of the world caught up with America. Mostly because the talent is there AND the rest of the world plays team-oriented basketball. To counter t…

Perceptions

People can be surprising.

I've been working on a project at my job for a few months now. It hasn't seemed to be going well at all; I have had to get my boss involved with it, the person with whom I've been working has been slow to turn around emails and phone calls from me asking for more information (or any info at all!), and deadlines have been something of a moving target.

And then today my boss forwards to me an email she received in which the person with whom I've been working praises the job I've done, says I'm the best writer with whom she has worked, and thinks all of the documents I've done for her are top-notch.

Just goes to show that our perceptions become our reality and that other people may not share in our vision.

What a surprise.

Slow Drivers

Some words of advice for slow drivers: Driving slowly is not always the best decision. Depending on how slow you drive, you may actually be presenting a greater risk on the road than one who drives too fast. Moderate your speed to be closer to the “flow” of traffic on the same road. I am not advocating speeding by any means; but going significantly slower than the flow of traffic is just as dangerous to other drivers. If you break for green lights, you will fulfill your goal of needing to stop at a yellow or red light. Lights are timed to keep as much traffic moving as possible. In addition, the yellow light is designed to warn you of a change. Every time you break for a green light, you are increasing the likelihood that you will miss the next light, and so will all of those drivers behind you. As long as the light is green, go! Any time the road you are on has more than one lane going in the same direction, the rule that slow traffic should be in the right lane applies. This is true…

Star Spangled Banner

As Independence Day approaches, take a read of this nice article about the Star Spangled Banner.

http://www.jacksonville.com/community/cc/hefty/stories/062804/062804075059.shtml

A lot of people don't know or understand this national treasure and the writer does a nice job of explaining it to today's audience.

Spider-Man 2 Review

So I watched Spider-Man 2 after work yesterday. What a fun movie! In every way the equal (or superior) to the original film.

The Plot
This film shows a beleaguered Peter Parker constantly missing classes, being late for work, and missing out on his friend's lives as his life as Spider-Man takes more precedent. He is failing his classes, is fired from work, is late on his rent, and is losing Mary Jane. These stresses lead to underperformance and a loss of power as Spider-Man, the one area he thought he had control of.

Peter decides he must ditch his alter-ego in order to lead a "normal" life. And his normal life does improve for a time. He is able to mend fences and get back on track for some time. He even tells Aunt May of his culpability in Uncle Ben's death, for which she forgives him (eventually).

Meanwhile, one of Peter's heroes, Doctor Otto Octavius is experimenting with a new energy source that he, and Harry Osbourne who is funding his research, hope will ch…

Music

While I greatly enjoy alternative rock, Top 40, Heavy metal, and other genres, the music I always come back to is slow.

I like a wide range of slow music. From Tori Amos’ China to Marc Anthony’s You Sang To Me, Madonna’s Crazy For You and George Michael’s Father Figure to Alanis Morissette’s Mary Jane and Garbage’s Milk, and even power ballads like Guns and Roses’ November Rain. Old or new and across most genres, sad music speaks to me. I like slow music from the 50s through the 70s, from the 80s through today. There is something inherent in slow music that I respond to. I like the generally sad, lonesome themes and vulnerabilities that are expressed.

Another reason I enjoy slow music is that it requires better composition and singing than fast music. Slow music tends to show the imperfections in a singer’s voice and vocal range. It accentuates poor writing and musical composition.

People know a bad slow song the instant they hear it. It is very rare that a slow song is considered bad…

Friends

To paraphrase many much wiser philosophers: You can't pick your family-- that is an accident of birth-- and you can't pick who you love-- that is an accident of biology. The only people you get to choose are your friends.

I've got great friends. I have some friends who are incredibly unique in both thought and action. I have others who are ultra logical. Still others are incredibly emotional and giving people.

I am an egotistical cuss sometimes. I tend to think of myself as the sun in my own personal universe around which all my friends and family rotate. This is not necessarily a bad thing; I think EVERYONE is the sun in their own, personal universe. The key is to get those universes to overlap and get as many planets and moons orbiting in harmony as possible.

I have changed many of my friend's lives forever, for good or ill. I've had an affect on my friends. And boy have they affected me! Each has brought such a different and interesting perspective into my life …

Business and Bonuses

What business needs to remember is that relatively small bonuses, of any sort but I'm going to speak primarily about money, make a big difference to the grunts who work the trenches.

When the company does well, typically the top excecutives give themselves large bonuses, frequently equal to thousands or millions of dollars. Let's say that one of the top execs earns a $1 million bonus for a year. If you take that top excecutive's $1,000,000 bonus and instead give it to the, say, 700 people who made the company go, you could give each of those people an approximately $1400 bonus. For most of these workers, this will be somewhere between half and one full paycheck's amount. To these 700 people, this amount is a significant bonus and worth striving for, whereas for someone who already makes millions of dollars a year and has all the nonmonetary perks of being a top executive (stock options, golden parachutes, company car, etc.), the $1 million bonus is not nearly as signif…

A different look at spam

I don't know about you, but I'm just not sure of the quality of degree I would get from the online "collages" that offer "acredited" degrees via spam emails.

I'm also not sure I want my "penus" enlarged. I'm not sure what that is, but I'm fairly certain it's the size it should be.

Call me crazy.

Abuse Scandal and America

At what point did our men and women decide to start treating the prisoners captured in anything less than a dignified and respectful way? Whether it was their own invention, or orders from their superiors, does not matter. We are in a delicate situation at best--and an explosive one at worse--in the Middle East and we need to act in as restrained and dignified a manner as possible to uphold the name of the United States. This includes how we treat all nonmilitary people, military personnel, and prisoners.

It is shameful to the entire nation that this abuse scandal has leaked out. There should not be anything to leak. I've heard the argument that, "Even so, we still are treating the prisoners better than Saddam did." These people do not understand the point. If we are trying to espouse the benefits of our democracy, if we are trying to change the world and lead by example, our example must be better than any other nation on Earth. When we make a military commitment to som…

A moneyless society

I think we can start moving the world toward a moneyless society. Let me explain.

The end goal would be for each person to be allocated the essentials (food, shelter, clothes) and then be free to pursue their own goals through the free exchange of skills and abilities. In this way, no one wants for the essentials and money is taken out of the equation. Just imagine what you could do and learn if you didn’t have to constantly strive to keep yourself fed, clothed, and sheltered, let alone all the amenities that people want. Obviously, there would have to be some sort of governmental infrastructure to allow much of this to happen, the workings of which I have not fully worked out yet. That's for another post.

In order to start striving for this goal, we need to start bartering our skills and knowledge to each other directly rather than for money (that we then use to buy what we need and want).

I envision a web-site that has a Skills Available and a Tasks Needed area, like the classif…

One more poem I'll share

The Abyss

There is a lost, lonely little boy cringing inside.
He shivers slightly, but is afraid to move.
It is a frightening place there, outside.

All this urchin sees is humiliation and abuse.
He hugs his knees to his chest and
Prays there's something beyond the refuse.

"God" and "evil" are foreign concepts to the boy.
All he feels is pain and loneliness and fear.
This child's life has no room for hope or joy.

The world outside and the people around rush by him.
He wants to join in, live, and grow, but
His fear of failure overcomes this whim.

He prays for helping hands to guide him through his wilderness,
But closes his eyes and sinks deeper, deeper inside.
All he can see through his fear and pain is the Abyss.

And the Abyss sees him.


06/97

------------------
Again, this is intellectual property and you must obtain written permission from the author (that's still me) to use this in any way. Thanx!

An old favorite of mine

Society’s Mirror

I’m cold
Inside and out
An unfeeling
Monster
Who hurts
People
It’s all an
Act
The smiles
And frowns
During the day
I’m numb and
Uncaring toward
You and
What you
Want
A sterile
Machine
That’s either
On
Or off
I’m frozen
Unmoved by
Your cries
Pity me
For I’m
Just
Like
You

-----------------
I wrote this in the early 90s. Remarkable how often I still feel this way.

BTW, this is intellectual property and you cannot use it without written permission of the author (me!). Thanx for your understanding.

Potential Greatness

Is it better: To have the potential to be great, to possibly have what it takes to be the best at something, or To have the potential to inspire greatness in others?

The world economy and America

From the 40s through the mid-70s, there was more of a partnership between companies and workers. When companies were going through a slump, they told the workers and asked for their help in tightening belts and pulling on boots-straps to overcome the situation. Workers, for their part, helped if they could and got the benefit of life-long jobs and known retirements and benefits.

In the late 70s and 80s, this started to change and took strong hold in the 90s. Workers started job hopping, staying on average 2-3 years at any one job then moving on. Companies started to look more at the bottom line and stock valuation than at their company as a whole (including those who worked for the company). The age of the trolling CEO came into being, where a CEO would job hop as often as their employees; moving from one company, slashing it to bits and making it look profitable to Wall Street, then moving on and leaving a company divest of employees and, in many cases, ripe for a takeover.

Then we h…

Spam

The quickest, easiest way to stop spam, those annoying bulk emails you receive offering you penis enlargements, free vacations, and porn, is to make sending email cost money. I propose a pricing plan equivalent to 1/10 of a penny per email or address. By this I mean that if there is one email address in the to/cc/bcc field of an email, that email costs you 1/10 of a penny. If there are 10 addresss total in your to/cc/bcc fields, that email would cost you one full cent.

For over 90% of the users of the internet this would mean they would spend a few dollars per YEAR on emails. At 1/10 of a penny per address used, $1 would allow you 1,000 (100 cents in a dollar times 10 emails per full cent) addresses. When you look at your Sent list, how often have you reached a thousand emails and how often do you include more than one person on any one email?

However, to a spammer who is generally sending bulk emails to thousands of addresses per email sent or thousands of emails to individual addres…

Joan of Arcadia

I am not a religious man. While I do have a faith, it is not through or helped by any of the established religions. That being said, I feel the best new show on TV is Joan of Arcadia. This show mixes decent drama and humor into a world in which God talks to a high school girl.

Joan is not really about faith or religion, though. It is more about listening to that voice inside you, paying attention to those around you, and trying to be a better person. They use God as the means to prod Joan along that path. It is a journey of discovery for her as she started as a girl with no friends, new to the town and school, and has been "forced" to expand her horizons and do new things and meet new people. It's sweet without being forced. And there are reasonable consequences for her actions.

So many shows move toward melodrama; the consequences and devices used to move the plot forward are so unreal it is unbelievable. In this show, the consequences are very real; Joan refuses to r…

Comic Books Today

Comic books are not for children any more.

Actually, they haven't been for kids since 1984, the year that DC Comics published Alan Moore's Watchmen series. Shortly after this seminal work, Frank Miller's Dark Knight Returns was released and the down and dirty, gritty, realistic comic book genre came into its own and has persisted since.

Price is another consideration. Most children can't afford to buy comics today, at least not on a regular basis. The average price for a comic book these days is $2.50. Some of the bigger titles (Batman, Superman, X-Men) you can still get for $2.25, but many and a growing number of titles are either $2.95 (DC) or $2.99 (Marvel). And almost all independent titles are in the high range.

Another way in which comic books are no longer for children is the cultural influence they have. Big authors, movie scriptwriters/directors, and other top-named talent either got their start in comics or have written comics. Ray Bradbury, Warren Ellis, Wil…

Initial thoughts on this year's NBA Playoffs

Just a couple of comments:

1. Bill Walton is arguable the worst color commentator ever.
1.A. Bill should not be allowed to comment on a game in which his son is playing. Not only does Bill hate the Lakers, but isn't that conflict of interest to announce the game in which your son is playing (even if he plays for a hated rival)?

2. I saw some of the worst refereeing ever on the opening day of the playoffs this year. It culminated in the last game where there were two obvious goal-tending calls missed, quite a few no-calls called, and a number of exceptionally late calls made where, on replay, you could watch the ref's eyes follow the ball and wait to call the foul until after seeing if the shot was missed. This happened in every game (and I watched all 4 of them).

3. If, as a ref, you don't SEE the foul, don't call the foul. Just because you hear a thwack sound doesn't mean it happened on the play you are cut off from. We've got three refs; if each would just ca…

Elections

In the original framing of our country, our founding fathers were concerned with making sure that all branches of the government had proper checks and balances, and that each branch had a means by which they could check and balance the other branches.

Originally in the Constitution, the person with the highest number of votes won the Presidency and the person with the next highest number of votes became Vice-President (Article 2, Section 1, Clause 3). I believe this was an inherent check and balance as designed by the creators of our country. Typically the two highest vote getters would be from different party affiliations or philosophies and they would have to work together toward common goals. It also ensures that the primary resource for the President was someone with a different understanding than his own, so he would be provided with council that someone who generally agreed with him may not give. This seemed to work well as our country quickly grew to be one of the finest and mo…

Parking Lots

Why is it that people lose all sense of reason and propriety in a parking lot?

First, the designers of parking lots are, to a person, mad. Absolutely bonkers insane. Otherwise, parking lots would be more logically laid out, sized to fit actual vehicles, and the spaces would be designed for use.

Second, people in general seem to forget that all the same rules of the road apply while in a parking lot. Unless a lot indicates othewise, lanes have a right side and a left side, turn signals should be used, and through traffic has the right of way. In California, all pedestrians ALWAYS have the right of way.

Thirdly, what the hell are people thinking when it comes to the predatory reaction they have to "hunting" for a spot and "defending" their spot when they find it? Relax, people, it's only a 10 by 15 foot piece of ground. I'm truly surprised there aren't more mall killing sprees where someone just snaps because another driver took "their" parking …

Grocery Store Cards

Albertsons is my current grocery store of choice. There is one within a mile of my apartment and one very close by work, so convenience is certainly a big factor. One of my big reasons outside of convenience has been that they always have had generally low prices with no gimmicks.

However, after coming out of the California workers strike, Albertsons switched to using a Store Card.

The benefit of the grocery store card is that the grocery store in question (and all of its affiliates and third party members) can track where you shop and what you buy. The incentive to you, the shopper, for them having this insight into your life and habits are the sweepstakes, rewards, and "lower" costs on some in-store items when you use the card. In essence, they are paying you to be market research for them.

I went through this with Vons awhile back. I noticed that the prices were generally rising over the course of a month or so, then the cards were introduced. The "savings" you …