Category Archives: Personal

What Should I Do With the Blog?

So I’ve got a problem.  I used to spend a lot of time on the blog and recently, because all of my free time has gone to YouTube, I’ve dropped off to a couple of posts per week and mostly, I fight to find things to say here outside of Horror Show Sunday because, as I said, all of my energy has been going to YouTube.  But that’s not how I intended it, in fact, my original intention was to have  the blog be my primary source of communication and everything else was supposed to send people here.

Yeah, that’s not how it worked out unfortunately.

But I’ve been feeling like the blog has been left behind and that’s not what I want either.  It really feels like it’s going nowhere and even though it gets some traffic, which I can’t imagine why because I never advertise it, everything here is outdated and I don’t like the look so my question for you, the reader, is what do you want to see here?

I’d really like to tie it in with YouTube more, I had the idea of, maybe once or twice a week depending on the content, of giving expanded looks at some of the videos I do there.  A lot of the time, I don’t want to bore the viewers so I give shorter answers than I might otherwise give and maybe, if people are interested, I might want to expand on things here.  So let me know if that’s something you’re interested in seeing.

Some things here are going away.  I lost track of the Bitchspot on YouTube page forever ago and that’s just going to get deleted.  There’s no way I could keep up on it.  I feel the same way about Religious Horror Show, but I really wanted there to be a place where people could go to see all of that but as you can see, I’m way out of date on it and I don’t feel like I’ll ever get it caught up, so I’d like suggestions of what I should do to showcase all of the horrors of religion.

Then there are the visuals, which right now suck.  I’ve been out of the WordPress game for so long now that I don’t even know what I can do, much less what I should do.  Because I no longer use Facebook or Twitter, and I really want to completely delete those accounts, that will be the end of what little advertising I do around here.  I really would love to find a plug-in that lets me auto-post to Gab or Minds, or Patreon or MakerSupport for that matter, but I haven’t found anything that will work.  I did get a plug-in that will let individuals post their comments to a lot of those social media sites that I will implement, but I really need an automated solution for promotion here.  I just don’t have the time to manually repost all of my articles to Minds and Gab and Patreon and MakerSupport.  I wind up doing it in massive batches a couple of times a month and that’s just not what I want.  Any suggestions?

And the theme I’ve got right now is crap, I’m sorry to say.  I haven’t had a chance to go looking for something new yet, maybe this weekend, but it feels totally outdated and dull.  Ideas for that are also welcomed.

Really, I want to make all of my online activism, if it can be called that, cohesive.  Maybe I can get YouTube videos to automatically post here?  I’ll have to look into it.  This used to be my one-stop shop for everything I did online, now it feels like it’s gotten lost in the weeds and I hate that.  So again, let me know what you’d like to see, you come here after all, you have to have some suggestions.

Thanks for your time and help.

When Marketing Becomes Harassing

You know, there’s a difference between marketing and being obnoxious and we’re currently trying to stop the latter.  Years ago, we bought a new car at what was, at the time, a local dealership and it was a great experience.  Fantastic.  Couldn’t complain.  But thereafter, they have been after us, not only to buy another car, but to sell back the car we had.  This has gone on for years.

Now it hasn’t been a big deal most of the time.  Once in a while, we’ll get a call, or we’ll get an e-mail or, more recently, a text inviting us to come back and get a new car. And we always tell them no, we tell them we’re not interested and leave it at that.  But since we moved, all of it is completely pointless because even if we were going to go buy a new car, that dealership is not where we’d go because they’re 80 miles away from our house now.  We’d go to a much closer dealership and we’ve told them that.

But they don’t listen.  After our mail forwarding ended, they got our new address, which clearly is nowhere near them, and they kept mailing us stuff.  They kept e-mailing.  And they kept texting.  Today, I got a text inviting us to come in for a test drive.  I texted back “Fuck off”.  Finally, I’d had enough so I called them and demanded to be taken off their marketing list and had to go through a long rigamarole because apparently, all of their marketing is handled by different companies.  Some handle mail.  Some handle phone calls.  Some handle texts and e-mails.  It took a while to get off all of their lists, and you know something? That really good experience I had with them has now become a really bad one.  Not only would I never go back there to buy a car again, I wouldn’t tell anyone I knew to go there.

And it’s strange that another car I bought about the same time from another dealership, a dealership from the same company mind you, hasn’t been obnoxious.  At best, we get an e-mail once a year.  Maybe.  Never had a phone call, never had a text and I can’t remember having any mailings after the first year or two.  They’ve left us alone.  We know where they are if we want another car, which clearly we wouldn’t because they’re even farther away, but I still have good feelings about that dealership.  Not so much with this other one.

I honestly don’t get how so many companies are so clueless when it comes to their aggressive marketing.  Don’t they know that they’re just driving people away?  I don’t need to be reminded where I bought a car, I’ll come back or I won’t based on that experience, not on your constant harping and incessant badgering to get me to come back.  You’ll just piss me off, which is exactly what they did.

So have you had any experiences like this, companies that have bugged you so much that you eventually told them where to stuff it?  Let me know in the comments.

Halloween in a Wind Storm!

Normally, I’d put this on my other blog, but since Halloween falls on a Bitchspot day, it’s going to wind up here this year.  I am now and have always been a huge Halloween nerd, I grew up building haunted houses and decorating the yard and scaring the crap out of all comers, back in the good old days where you could get away with that kind of thing.  And as I got older and got married, I never lost that. My opinion was always go big or go home and I always did.  In fact, we had a house on 16 acres for many, many years where I intended to go ridiculously massive in my haunt efforts.

Two things changed that.  First, society got a lot more litigious and you couldn’t do anything open to the public, at least anything big open to the public, without carrying a ton of insurance and secondly, the house we lived in got no trick or treaters.  None. We got, I kid you not, two people coming to the door, total, over the course of 17 years.  And why bother putting up decorations if nobody was ever going to see them?  So over the years, the displays got smaller and smaller until eventually, I just gave up.

So when we moved into the middle of a neighborhood, it was an opportunity to get back to it.  Last year, we had been here for only a couple of months and I was working 70+ hours a week so I had no time at all to decorate.  My daughter handed out candy and we got a pretty decent turnout, so I knew that this year, I wanted to actually do something.

The problem is, a lot of  our decorations are gone.  We weren’t using them so we had thrown a lot out, sold a lot and some things were just not stored well so they deteriorated over the years.  So when we started looking at what we had, we knew we had to start building.  This year isn’t going to be extravagant, but we’re sure doing more than anyone else in the neighborhood, at least so far.

Unfortunately, where we live now is really, really windy.  You might remember last year, a wind storm ripped our roof clean off.  So wind, especially in the spring and fall, is always an issue and this is no different.  Everything gets destroyed.  All of our props have been damaged, some severely.  In fact, I’ve had to bring in a lot of props and reinforce them because they have literally self-destructed in the wind.  Our flying ghost in our graveyard exploded into a dozen pieces, so much so that I have had to brace it upright with 6′ rebar stakes driven into the ground, such that it literally can no longer move.  And we’ve had tombstones blow up, even the ones with plywood backers.  I have had to replace the 1/2″ plywood with 2x4s to have any hope of standing up in the wind.  One of our other stand-up props now has 150 lbs of rocks piled on it’s base to keep it from falling over, because 100lbs wasn’t enough!

It might not be so bad if I could just drive rebar into the ground, but we have super high clay soil that is as hard as a rock and digging in it at all is nigh impossible.  If you get it wet, it dries as hard as concrete, meaning anything that I bury is going to be there forever with no hope of getting it out.  So just about everything is surface mounted and weighted with as much weight as I can get on it.

Luckily, we’re pretty much set, as I write this, for Halloween.  All of the props have been strengthened as much as humanly possible, everything we’re building has been built and I’ve already placed some orders for things to do for next year.  Because while we’re still the top haunt out there in the neighborhood at the moment, this is nothing compared to what we’re going to be doing next year and going forward.  It feels really good to be back in the game.  This is going to be fun!

The Solution to Having No Time

I can’t tell you how many people I see, both online and in my personal life, who constantly complain that they have no time to get the things that they need to do, or that they want to do, done.  They whine long and loud that life is just too busy, that there isn’t enough time in the day, yet I watch those same people doing things that, frankly, are a complete waste of time.

I don’t think they are conscious of it, which is why they spend so much time complaining and so little time actually accomplishing things.  And these same people are the ones who tell me that they have no idea how I get so much done during the day.

Well, I’ll tell you.  Before I even get out of bed in the morning, I have a plan.  I have prioritized what I need to get done during the day.  I know what needs to be accomplished and in what order those things need to be accomplished in.  I know what needs to be done right now and what can wait.  And low priority things never get done until the high priority ones are complete.  Work always comes before fun. That’s where I think people entirely miss the boat.

See, I know someone who complains that she can never finish her work, yet I watch her constantly checking Facebook and Twitter on her phone throughout the day.  She must spend hours doing that. Of course she can’t get anything worthwhile done, she’s wasting time on unimportant nonsense!  I’ve got a good friend who, again, can never get what he wants done during the day, but every single day, without fail, he goes on a long walk to the store so he can buy a smoothie.  This takes up at least an hour, maybe 2 hours of his day.  But he can’t figure out why he’s constantly behind.  Well duh!  And these are just two examples out of many, many that I see on a daily basis.  I mean, that friend told me that he was going to stay home from San Diego Comicon this year because he just didn’t have time, he had too much to do.  But you know what?  He ended up making an excuse and driving 5 hours round-trip so he could “stop at the con” for 2 hours.  Yes, he has a pro pass, like I do, he could go for free, but he just blew more than 7 hours of time to go to a convention that he already knew he didn’t have time for.  Yet he complains about having no time.

I really don’t get people like that.  Now if they worked for me, they wouldn’t get away with it.  I had someone who literally could not stay off her phone for 5 minutes, she had to constantly check social media and was completely incapable of focusing on her work tasks.  She didn’t last long.  She got written up for not meeting expectations, then she started going to the bathroom 4-5x per hour so she could keep up on Facebook in there.  It was just pathetic.  She lost her job because she had no self-control.  She couldn’t prioritize work over play.  These people are unfortunately all too common.  They need help.

So how about you?  How do you prioritize your time so that you get things done, or do you?  Let me know in the comments.  I fear that our society is going to hell in a social media handbasket, that people no longer care about accomplishing something if it means putting pleasure off until their free time. I find that terribly sad, don’t  you?

Zillow is Stupid

In light of my recent post on my new-ish neighborhood, I thought I’d post this too.  I just got an e-mail from Zillow, the home-hunting website, that I used a year ago when I was looking for a new house.  It informed me that my house, the one I just bought, is in “pre-foreclosure” and I should go try to buy it.

That’s news to me.  So I went and looked at the information that Zillow had and it was from 2015 when the previous owners did get foreclosed on, that’s why the house was available for sale and why we bought it.  Do they not know the difference between 2015 and the present?  Are they really that stupid?

The answer is yes and this is a common issue.  Apparently, after doing a web search, lots of people complain about the same thing and this has been going on for years.  Tons of people are reporting that Zillow is falsely claiming tons of faulty foreclosures, presumably so that they get more traffic to their site.  If there are no homes for sale, Zillow goes under.

So of course, I reported that they were wrong and to get it fixed.  The other problem people are reporting is a lot of letters and lookie-loos coming around to see the “foreclosed” property and offers to buy.  All such letters will go straight into the shredder and all people who come to the door will be told that Zillow is a rip-off.  Maybe a little bad publicity will help, but I doubt it.

And yes, I know we can’t expect them to be perfect all the time, but their record is one of absurd proportions and I never would have known it had I not done my research.  Zillow just doesn’t care.  This isn’t a matter of oops, it’s deliberate disinterest.  They don’t care if they make mistakes, in fact, I’d argue they’re purposely trying to make “mistakes” because it makes it look like there are tons of houses for sale, even if there aren’t.  And come to think of it, back when we were looking, I sent a ton of addresses from Zillow to my agent and a lot of them came back as “not available”.  I wonder if that was the issue?

Update:  Zillow did get back to me and corrected the listing.  No apology for the error though.  Not really surprised.

New to the Neighborhood

Now I’m not exactly new, we’ve lived here for almost a year, it will probably be a year by the time this post goes up, but in general, I’ve never been a big fan of neighborhoods.  It goes back to growing up, where most of my neighbors weren’t the nicest people, they didn’t want to be part of a community, they wanted to live in their own tightly-packed slice of suburbia, where they mattered and pretty much nobody else did.  Growing up, I was responsible for maintaining the yard, but we had a Japanese family next door who was anal about their yard and the father spent all of his time sweeping every last grass clipping into the gutter, then sweeping it 1 inch past his property line into our yard.  And I went out and swept it right back.  It became a war and it’s always stuck with me.

The other thing I’ve never liked about neighborhoods is that everyone is always in your business.  One of the first places we lived, we had people actively looking over the fence into our back yard all the time, trying to figure out what we were up to.  Peeking on your neighbors was the neighborhood past time and I hated it.  So when we moved, I made damn sure that we didn’t move into a neighborhood.  We ended up with a 16 acre plot of land and our closest neighbor was 1/2 a mile away.  I loved it.  Nobody bothering us, nobody poking their noses into our business, it was bliss.

Of course, I recognized there were some things that we missed during all of those years.  Virtually nobody came to the door on Halloween.  My kids had nobody they could just go outside and play with. They had to be taken to their friends’ houses or had their friends brought to ours.  I had nobody I could trust to watch after the house when we were gone, no one who I could leave a key with to check on the animals.  It wasn’t bad, but there are trade-offs.

So when we moved again, this time for hopefully the last time, we did decide to get back into a neighborhood.  I knew all of the potential downfalls, but acknowledged that there were some potential benefits as well.  And now, after almost a year, I wanted to report how it was working out.

So far, so good.  We do have neighbors, but none of them are all that close, meaning that the majority of them aren’t just over a fence and aren’t peeking over it.  Of course, there are some big lots up here, your house isn’t directly on the street, people have to walk in to get to your front door.  I only have one neighbor that I share a fence with and my fences are 7 feet tall in the back yard.  You’d need a ladder to look over.

Now I really consider myself to have 4 neighbors.  Since our house is on a corner, three of them are across a street.  When we moved in, our actual adjoining neighbor was a nice black family with a bunch of kids that had “parties” once in a while, but they weren’t loud or obnoxious and always happened on a Friday night when we didn’t have to get to bed early so it wasn’t a problem.  I think I talked to them a half-dozen times before they moved out less than a month ago.

Across the street is a nice old white couple that I see sitting out on their back porch all the time and we wave, but I don’t think I’ve talked to them more than once or twice.  They seem friendly enough though. Note, I’m only mentioning race because some people care about that kind of thing.  I don’t.  I couldn’t care less.  It’s just a generic neighborhood with a mix of different people.  I just wanted to point out that I’m not living in some kind of Nazi white surburbia, like some people think all conservatives do.

On the other side and across the street, we had a Hispanic family that used to live there, but they sold their house and a black family moved in and, although I haven’t talked to them a lot, they seem really nice and I could see myself making friends with the father.  He’s a handyman who seems to enjoy making stuff in his garage workshop, which might be something we have in common.  We haven’t interacted a ton since they’ve been there, with the exception of a couple of weeks ago when something happened, so we’ll see what goes on in the future.

So what happened?  I was out working in the front yard when I heard a crash and saw a car had smashed through my neighbor’s fence.  This was my last neighbor who is kitty-corner across the intersection from me.  The car dragged 50 feet of chain link fence across the street and stopped.  I went to see if anyone was hurt, when the car started moving and I figured that this was a runner.  Sure enough, right after I took a couple of pictures of their license plate, the lady driving the car took off, dragging half the fence down the street with her.  So I called the cops, provided the photos and filed a report.  It’s just not fair for someone to cause all of that damage and not have to suffer the costs to replace the fence.  My neighbor also saw the incident and also provided a report, that’s where we really started talking.

Why did I do it?  It wasn’t my fence after all.  My neighbors with the fence, I don’t think I’ve ever even seen, I just know they leave for work early and come home late, it doesn’t harm me if their fence is demolished, right?  But it’s still wrong.  I want to help people.  I am a really helpful guy, even if my online presence might suggest otherwise.  So I helped out my neighbors because it was the right thing to do.  Now I see they’re replacing the fence so hopefully, the cops got the hit-and-run driver to pay for it. I’m not going to go running over there to introduce myself if I don’t see them out working on it, but I have no interest in getting any thanks.  They didn’t deserve what happened to them, I helped as much as I could.  I hope they got the restitution they deserve.

And they’re not the only one.  My next door neighbors, the ones that moved, I’ve helped them out too. We had a ton of rain this year and that resulted in a lot of plant growth.  I don’t have a lot to mow down in the front yard, but my neighbor has a huge front yard and he works, or worked, a lot and everything grew out of control.  So while I was out mowing my front yard one day, his looked terrible, so I just went and mowed his too.  I didn’t look for thanks, although he came and thanked me anyhow, I did it because he needed help and I was available to help him.  I’ve also fixed the post that both of our mailboxes are on, which leaned horribly when we moved in.  It needed doing, it helped someone else as well, I’m happy to do it.

I think I’ve got just the right balance here in the neighborhood.  People aren’t too close to be a pain and not too far away to be a hindrance.  Sure, I get some people who occasionally play music too loud.  Sure, I occasionally have to go out and clean up after someone else.  But I’m sure that having neighbors might eventually become useful too.  Granted, no one has done anything for me, but I generally don’t need help.  Who knows what the future will bring?

Late Addition:  While I never went and talked to my neighbors who got their fence destroyed, a couple of weeks later, they showed up at my door, I guess the police gave them my name, and thanked me for all I had done for them.  They’re really nice people and we’ve become friends.  Helping people is just something you do when you can.  I was happy to help them and I’m sure they’d do the same for me if they ever had the chance.

Too Many Keys?

Has this ever happened to you?  My keyring is massive.  I have tons and tons and tons of keys that honestly, I have no idea what they go to.  I know what the car keys are and the house keys, but otherwise, I have no clue what the vast majority of them go to.

I know exactly how this problem started though. At our last house, we received a huge ring of keys.  Supposedly, they went to something.  We had no idea what though, so we never threw any of them away.  What if we found the lock that could only be opened by this one specific key?  So they just sat there on my keyring, in the off-chance that we might stumble across the lock they go to.

Except we never did.  In fact, over time, we replaced every single lock in the house.  Those keys, the ones we knew no longer worked, went into the trash, but the rest?  They just stayed, just in case.  And then we moved to a new house, after 17 years, and you’d think that I would have immediately gotten rid of the keys that I no longer had any use for, but I didn’t.  Mostly, it was because I forgot about them.  I was so used to having them that, even though I knew in the back of my mind that they were useless weight in my pocket, I didn’t bother.

It went on that way for months until I came across a bunch of padlocks that I used to use, but hadn’t been necessary at the new house.  I knew I had those keys on the keyring so I took them off and zip-tied them to the padlocks so they’d be together.  And as long as I was taking keys off the ring, I started looking through the others.  I had, after the padlock keys, 17 keys that I had no clue what they went to.

The problem is, I can’t throw most of them away.  Some can go, but there are some that might be important.  I don’t remember if my mother or my sister gave me keys to their houses.  If they did, and they very well might have, I don’t know which ones they are.  They don’t remember if they gave me keys so I have to wait until I get over to their houses to try all of the keys and find out.  Seriously, I think I have keys to my mother’s old house that she moved out of 4 years ago.  I just don’t know which ones they are and I moved out of there nearly 25 years ago.

Luckily, this has led me to recategorize all of my keys so I know exactly what goes to what.  The blue key is the front door, the green key is the back door and my shop gets the red key because it’s the color of blood.  I will eventually re-key all of the house keys to the same key and that will be another key off of the ring.  Once I can figure out what keys don’t go to anything, I can start to slowly remove them and get that extra weight out of my pocket.  I am never again going to let keys get this out of control.  I’m kind of embarrassed that I did this time.

So what about you?  What do you do with your keys to keep them in check?  Let me know in the comments.


What Happened to Customer Service?

I really have no idea, but customer service, that standard given to customers by proprietors of businesses, has gone straight through the floor in recent years.  There was a time when Nordstrom-level of service was the goal, today, far too many companies just don’t care anymore and that struck home twice in recent days.

About a month ago, we had a terrible windstorm here, with sustained winds above 60mph and gusts topping 75mph.  Now it’s a windy area, we get high wind warnings a couple of times a month, but this was just absurd.  We were losing shingles off of the roof left and right, we just sat in the house and watched them come flying down in the back yard.  Half of the houses in the neighborhood were similarly affected.

So we called our insurance agent and filed a claim, which is certainly covered by our policy.  This whole thing happened the day before we went on vacation, we told him we’d be back Monday and to have the policy adjuster give us a call then.  So far, so good.  Of course, we like our agent, he’s an old family friend from way back, so we expect him to give us good service.

Then the problems started.  The adjuster didn’t call on Monday so we called him and left a message.  We didn’t hear Tuesday.  Or Wednesday.  Or Thursday.  We called each day and left another message because they are supposed to call you back within 24 hours.  It never happened.  We finally heard back on Friday and he said he’d send out someone to look at the roof and give an estimate.

That didn’t happen either.  By the next Wednesday, we were calling him back and, of course, he wasn’t returning our calls.  It took us until the next week to hear from him again and he again promised to get a roofer out to us.  Crickets.  Nothing happened.  This is almost 2 weeks since the damage and we were getting no satisfaction.  And this is a major insurer, not some fly-by-night outfit.  So we called our agent and complained and he said that if we hadn’t heard from  the adjuster by the following Monday, he was going over his head to his supervisor.  Our agent said we could just get a local roofer to come out and give us an estimate so that’s what we did.  My brother-in-law had just put a new roof on his house, so we got the e-mail of the roofer and sent him a message.

Now hold on to your hats because this will be a real surprise.  We didn’t hear from the roofer.  Not at all, even though I provided both an e-mail and phone contact number.  Not a peep.  I called another roofer, who I got ahold of and made an appointment with, but guess what?  He never showed up.  Never called.  Still haven’t heard from him to this day.  Finally, the first roofer called me and made an appointment to come out.  I took the day off and sat here all day waiting for him but he never showed and never called.  At least I got some yard work done that day.

So… another roofer got called, made an appointment and on Monday when he was supposed to be here, as if it’s any surprise, he never showed up.  Again, we have never heard back from him with an excuse, he just no-showed.  But amazingly, the first roofer did get back to me and apologized that he hadn’t made it out, his father got into an accident and was seriously injured so he spent the weekend at the hospital.  Okay, that’s a valid reason, but is he telling me that he couldn’t have gotten on the phone or sent an e-mail to a customer the whole time?  Because that’s how basic customer service works.  However, he did come out and he said he’d send me an estimate that I could get to the insurance agent and we could get started, more than 3 weeks after the initial wind storm.

But you know something?  We’re still waiting for the estimate.  He was supposed to e-mail it to me yesterday.  I already sent him an e-mail asking what happened and to date… nothing.  Not a damn thing. What the hell is wrong with these people?

The second incident happened this past Friday at the pharmacy.  I had dropped off a couple of refill prescriptions on Thursday and was told that they were backed up, so could I come back in a couple of hours?  Sure, why not.  I even gave them until the next day, but when I showed up to pick up my pills, I was told that one of them wouldn’t even be in until late Friday night.  Are they seriously telling me they didn’t know that?  They couldn’t have said that one of them wouldn’t be available until Saturday and maybe saved me a trip?  They don’t know my phone number or e-mail address to send me a notification? Customer service anyone?

But no, I showed up Friday afternoon and was told that I could have some, but not all of my prescriptions because… they’re lazy.  Or more likely just don’t care.  And that’s the thing, there were no apologies or anything, they simply don’t give a damn if they inconvenience the people paying their paychecks.  It isn’t important to them.  I had to come back on Monday to pick up my pills, which was fine because I wasn’t out, but that’s 3 trips that I had to make to the pharmacy when it should have been done in 1 and they couldn’t care less about it.

When I’m working, I actually care about my clients.  I am in contact with them if anything goes awry.  I work very, very hard to make sure I can keep my word to them and if something out of the ordinary happens and I can’t, I make sure they know it.  I don’t make them call me, I call them.  They can trust me to do what I say I will do and if I can’t, to keep them in the loop.  And it’s damn rare when I can’t do what I promise to do.  So why are so many other businesses so ridiculously lax when it comes to customer service?  I really don’t get it.  It isn’t like it would have cost any of these companies extra money to treat me well.  In fact, their failure to act cost them potential money and business and certainly got them some bad reviews on Yelp.  They’re only shooting themselves in the foot.  There are dozens of roofers and piles of pharmacies in the local area that I can go to, it isn’t like I don’t have options.  They need me more than I need them.  So why are they so stupid?  I’d love to hear your opinions on the subject because I don’t get it.

People Die, Get Over It!

I write this just as I heard that Carrie Fisher has died and frankly, I don’t particularly care.  But to hear the collective whinging of the fanboys, you’d think the planet was ending.  And of course, this has been a year of people bitching and moaning that famous people have dropped dead so it’s nothing new.

But guess what?  People do that.  Stop being an idiot.

Honestly, people need to get a grip on reality.  Death is a natural part of the life cycle.  Everyone does it.  Everyone you know, yourself included, is going to die and it isn’t a tragedy, it’s reality.

At least this year is almost over so I don’t have to hear that “2016 took someone else from us!”  Now it will be “Oh no, 2017 is horrible!”  Let me let you in on a little secret.  2016 can’t do anything.  Reality did it.  There’s a reason that lots of famous people you grew up with died in 2016, because they are old and people do that.  I can’t remember where I saw it, but someone did a study, back in 2014 or 2015 I think, where they compared the ages at death of celebrities during the year and found that they averaged out to near the average life expectancy of humans.  In other words, people died about when we would expect them to die.  And this is somehow a revelation?  A lot of the people you grew up watching on TV or in the movies are reaching that age, so yes, they are dying.  Why are you surprised?  Why is this a shock to you?  Why all the crying and gnashing of teeth?  It isn’t like you didn’t know it was coming one of these days.  These people aren’t going to live forever.  Why are you pretending that they should?

It isn’t a tragedy, it’s part of being alive.  Grow up and deal with reality.  You didn’t even know these people, why are you acting like your dog got run over by a car?  I mean, I even met Carrie Fisher many years ago, talked to her for a while, and I don’t feel particularly bad that she had a heart attack and dropped dead.  Why should I?  I have no personal stake in her survival.  It doesn’t matter that she was in some of my favorite movies of all time, it doesn’t hurt the movies any that she’s gone, any more than it hurts them that Sir Alec Guinness is dead.  He doesn’t suddenly fade away from the work he’s done.

Isn’t it a better idea to celebrate what she did in her life than to whine about her death?  That seems pretty anti-climactic to me.  Besides, exactly where do you get off being sad about the death of Carrie Fisher or anyone else?  You didn’t know her.  Certainly it is a sad time for her friends and family, the people who actually shared her life, but you aren’t those people.  Your sadness is self-centered.  You’re only sad because she won’t be in any more Star Wars movies.  You’re a dick.  Get over yourself.

And that goes for everyone out there.  Stop whining that people die.  Grow up.  Deal with reality. Accept the inevitable.  Mourn people that you actually knew, but more than that, celebrate their lives. Laud their accomplishments.  Don’t cry over their deaths.  Everyone  dies.  Even you.  Get a grip.

Birthdays Don’t Matter When You’re Old

Earlier in the month, I turned 50.  Now I really don’t care about birthdays, I haven’t for a very long time, it’s just another day and I treat it that way.  I guess when you’ve had 50 of these things, they just aren’t special anymore.  People who have known me for a long time at work know this and don’t pay it any attention.  I didn’t bring it up all day, but it was a bad day and I think I said something at the end like “what a way to spend your birthday”.  That was a mistake.

It was a mistake because the next day, my employees showed up with a cake and ordered lunch for me.  Now it isn’t that I’m not appreciative, I’ve got a great group of people working for me, but I just don’t see the point.  I survived another year hurtling around the sun.  Yay.  So we all ate cake and it was a nice break from the work day and for that I’m happy, I just don’t see the sense of the gesture.  These people are not my friends, they are my employees.  I have a great deal of respect for them, I like them all as individuals, but we just don’t have, and can’t have, that kind of relationship.  I have never gone out with any of them outside of work hours.  In fact, fraternization is a direct violation of the work ethic and company rules. I can’t treat them as anything but what they are: employees.  I cannot show any form of favoritism.  I cannot present even the slightest appearance of impropriety.  If something bad happens, I can’t risk terminating someone and having them come back with “you didn’t fire this other person because you’re friends”.  So I’m not friends with any of them.  I have to maintain that professional distance, just like any manager does.

But that said, I know this is something they do for everyone and I can’t say that I don’t take part.  Earlier in the year, I had two employees with birthdays on the same day and I took the whole office out to lunch to celebrate.  It helps with morale and makes them feel like the company cares about them, which certainly they, and I, do.  I bend over backwards to make sure they are all well taken care of because they deserve it.  So from that perspective, I respect what they’re doing because I do the same thing.  But for me personally, and I’m sure for a lot of older people, they find the whole thing a little silly, having been on this rock for a long, long time and celebrating the day you popped out of the womb seems a bit meaningless.  I appreciate what they did, but if it was all the same, I’d prefer they didn’t bother.  I won’t feel bad about it and they can just keep working.  It isn’t heartless to express a preference, is it?

Slowing Down… Maybe

Not too long ago, Jack, over on Atheist Revolution, wrote a post about slowing down his blog output.  He’s running out of steam and frankly, so am I.  I’ve been doing this blog for more than 10 years and during that time, I have posted, between here and my other blog, every single day during the week.

Frankly, I don’t know that I want to do that anymore.

It isn’t that I don’t want to, I enjoy writing, but I’ll be really honest, I’ve run out of things to write about.  What was once simple to do, writing dozens and dozens of posts, being months ahead of schedule, today is nothing but a struggle.  I fight to find things to say and I keep feeling like I’ve said it all and am just repeating myself.  Therefore, I feel I have to make a change.

That doesn’t mean the blog is going away.  I am still going to write, it just might not be as often.  I am going to write what I want to write, not just because I feel I have to fill a schedule.  That means I might write 4x a week, I might write once, or anything in between.  As I find something that I want to say, I’ll say it, but I won’t say something because that’s the schedule I’ve set for myself.

If there’s anything that you want my take on, by all means let me know.  Half the time, I have no clue what to say.  Help me out here.  Ask me questions.  Give me suggestions.  Provide some inspiration. I have no problems pounding on the keyboard if I feel that it’s worthwhile.  I just don’t know what my readers find worthwhile anymore and since most people don’t tell me, it’s been a struggle.  Struggling isn’t a lot of fun.

The Last of the Atheist Podcasts

Well, that does it.  I have just deleted the last of the atheist podcasts I listened to, and for the same reason as all of the others.  The ludicrous liberal bent has just made it all but impossible to listen to them any longer.  So to Cognitive Dissonance, a not so fond farewell.

And it’s sad because it used to be a really good podcast, but it has gotten more and more and more ridiculously liberal as time has gone on.  I get why they’re doing it, the vast majority of their audience is far left and they want to make money.  But that’s not me and I don’t want to hear it.

You know me, I have no problem criticizing the political right, I spent a lot of time doing it on my podcast, but they’ve crossed the line.  I don’t think they can even see the line from where they are presently.  Anything that isn’t far-left, they make fun of and there isn’t any actual intelligence remaining on their show like there used to be, everything is a joke, but honestly, most of it just isn’t funny.

So if anyone has any atheist podcasts that are strictly anti-religion, let me know because I really don’t know of any.  Lots of them start off that way, then become more and more and more political as time goes on, to the point that they really don’t talk about religion much at all.  It’s all hard left bullshit that I have zero interest in listening to.  I mean seriously, Cognitive Dissonance was, until very recently, a relatively pro-gun podcast when they talked about it.  Tom and Cecil are both gun owners.  Now though, they’re hyper anti-gun because… liberalism.  Sorry, zero interest whatsoever.  But week after week, it just got worse.  I’d struggle to get through an episode and would even find myself just tuning the whole thing out.  Finally, I turned it off in the middle and said enough is enough, that’s it, deleted the podcast and am just finished.  And you know something?  Like Non-Prophets and Atheist Experience and a lot of other podcasts I’ve dropped for the same reason, I honestly don’t miss it.  I used to dread having to sit through another 90 minutes of liberal stupidity.  Now I don’t have to.  I can find a podcast about something I actually care about.  It won’t be atheism, but hey, you can’t have everything.


Why I’ll Always Use Self-Checkouts

So I’m in K-Mart today looking for some hangars for my wife.  We had tried to find them at Walmart yesterday but they were out of stock, which is no surprise.  K-Mart has them, I get them, I go to the front and immediately regret being there because the cashiers at K-Mart are the worst.  No, they’re not rude, they’re not overly stupid, they just have a long laundry list of things that they’re supposed to sell you and nothing you do will get them off their script.  They want your phone number so they can track your purchases, they want to sell you credit cards and extended warranties, they want you to give to their charity of the week and no matter how much you tell them to knock it the hell off, they’re going to continue, even if it pisses off the customer to the point of them walking out of the store empty handed.

And while I’m picking on K-Mart as the worst offender, they are not alone.  No store is immune to trying to up-sell at the register these days.  Sorry, if I wanted to buy anything else, I’d have put it in my cart.  I’m done shopping.  Now I want to pay you so I can go the hell home.  I’m not here to play 20 questions with you.

Now I probably wouldn’t mind if they could just pick one thing and try it and if they don’t get a response, give up.  I’m fine with that.  No, I don’t want to give you my phone number.  I even tell them I choose not to be tracked.  I don’t want their stupid rewards.  I just want to pay for my stuff.  But no, they can’t do that, and I know it isn’t their fault, the company is trying to justify paying these people $10 an hour to stand there and scan stuff, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it.  In fact, it doesn’t mean I have to put up with it.

That’s why I always use the self-checkout lanes if I can.  I can scan faster than they can, I can bag faster than they can and I don’t try to sell myself anything I don’t have the slightest interest in.  So you know, if those cashiers all lose their jobs because nobody wants to deal with them, I’m really fine with that.  And lots of stores are just doing away with cashiers altogether, at best they have a self-checkout wrangler that solves problems, but doesn’t actually ring anyone up.

But you know, speaking of problems, some of those self-checkout machines are stupid too.  Sometimes, they’re even stupider than the slack-jawed cashiers reading off their scripts.  I mean, I was at Lowes last week and bought a bunch of stuff.  I scanned it, I put it in a bag and it pops up saying “incorrect weight, please wait for assistance”.  If I wanted assistance, I wouldn’t be self-checking, would I?  So I picked the stupid thing up again and the machine goes “something was removed from the bagging area”.  Rolling my eyes, I put it back and now the machine is saying “unexpected item in the bagging area”.  Give me a fucking break!  I went through this a couple of times, putting it down, picking it up, the machine was never happy.  Even the cashier who eventually wandered over to shut the stupid thing up thought it was stupid.  More often than not in some places, I have to wait for some idiot to come by and type in a code, not even caring if there was a problem or not, before I can continue.  What’s the point?  If I was shoplifting, it isn’t like the cashier cares enough to find out when they come over anyhow.  And nobody wants to go to the cashier anyhow, they spend their time looking bored while the self-checkout lines are always full.

You’d think the stores would figure it out.  I think Lowes has, they rarely ever have a cashier to be found, beyond the self-checkout wrangler and someone at contractor services.  Those checkout lanes are all dark because nobody wants to use them.  And I’ve been in at least 6 Lowes in recent months and they’re all the same.  Target has self-checkouts and they are always full, unlike the cashier lanes that rarely have more than a couple of people in them.  I just wish the local Walmart would put self-checkouts in and I’d be a happy boy.  The less I have to deal with someone trying to sell me something that I clearly have no interest in, the better off I am.  I welcome our self-checkout robot overlords and wish more companies would either figure out why people prefer them, or just give up on cashiers altogether.

Rant: Why Are Listing Agents So Stupid?

For anyone who doesn’t know, my wife and I have been in the process of buying a new house and moving and, as anyone who has ever done it before, you know it’s a hassle.  But the more we’ve looked at listings and tried to find good properties, the more convinced we both are that real estate listing agents are completely morons.  Or they just don’t care and are crappy at their jobs.  Take your pick.

See, if you go look at something like Zillow, or any of the actual real estate listing sites, the overwhelming majority of listings are just shit.  Not the homes, necessarily, but the care put into getting those listings online.  From really, really, really awful, out of focus pictures to having no clue how many rooms are in a house, I have no idea how these morons actually make a living.

But we’ll start with the pictures.  Someone ought to teach these people how to take photographs.  And I don’t mean one or two that are slightly out of focus, I mean pictures that you can hardly make out what the picture is of.  Do these people not look at the pictures before they upload them?  In one case, the agent apparently took a picture of a painting on someone’s wall and they put that up on the site.  Not the room.  Just the painting and that painting is clearly not going to be included in the sale. Why would anyone want to see a painting when they’re looking for a house?  In another, we got to see someone’s bed.  Not the room, just the bed.  They had some nice stuffed animals, I guess, but who cares?  It shouldn’t be too much to ask for one or more pictures of every room.  Apparently I’m wrong.

And on the other side of the coin, these people clearly know nothing about the houses they’re selling.  Or they don’t care.  I vote for the latter.  On a majority of listings, they can’t even count how many rooms there are.  A four bedroom, two bath house might be listed with 6 rooms.  Um… no kitchen?  No living room?  Nothing but bedrooms and bathrooms?  Seriously?  Or how many floors does it have?  Most of them are listed as zero.  Yes, zero.  I guess these are all two-dimensional houses.  You pretty much have to have one, don’t you?

Yeah, I know they’re putting up a bunch of houses, but this is their job!  This is how they get paid!  If they can’t be bothered to do it right, why do it at all?  I asked my agent about this and she said these people are just morons.

On top of that, there are a lot of these houses that you just can’t see at all until you make an offer on the property.  And I mean no pictures of any kind, you might get a shot of the front of the house if you’re lucky, but nothing inside.  You expect someone to offer you a lot of money for a house sight-unseen?  Yes, you can rescind your offer, yes, I know they don’t want a bunch of looky-loos, but come on, put up some pictures so people at least have some idea about the quality or layout of the inside of the house!  It’s a waste of time to draw up an offer, sign an offer, submit an offer, only to find that the house is trashed or badly laid out or whatever and then have to rescind your offer.  How can you expect someone to be serious about a house if you refuse to let anyone even see what it looks like?

So it’s just been one frustration after another and if anyone was at all organized, it wouldn’t be.  So why isn’t it?  Why can these people not do their jobs competently?  It mystifies me.

Terminal Stupidity Burnout

Does this ever happen to you?  You spend a considerable amount of time debating religious, political and social issues with the usual band of idiots and after a while, you just can’t take it anymore because you know that ultimately, it’s a pointless exercise.  You know that the people you’re talking to are beyond reason and don’t care what you have to say anyhow, so you start to wonder what the hell you’re doing in the first place.

That’s me.  Right now.  And while this happens to everyone from time to time, it seems to be happening more and more often for me recently. It used to be that I could go for a couple of months before getting tired of the abject stupidity, now it only takes a couple of weeks.  In extreme cases, a couple of days.  Then I have to take a big step back because I find that I just don’t care anymore.

A long time ago, I resolved to know when to walk away from pointless conversations, I swore to not engage in debates against those who didn’t have good reasons to hold their positions, but quickly learned that if I really did that, I’d never talk to anyone, especially in the fields of politics, religion and social issues.  These are all filled to the brim with people who only operate on pure emotion.  They don’t think about anything, they only feel.  They are incapable of logically considering their positions and rejecting them if it turns out that they are wrong.  It’s blind faith and nothing more and I cannot stand that.

So you have to pick your battles and honestly, in an increasing number of cases, those battles don’t last long because I quickly realize that the people I’m engaging are a bunch of assholes.  Literally 5 minutes ago, as I write this, I walked away from a complete prick who I’d been debating gay marriage with.  I pointed out that a generation or two ago, interracial marriage was in the same position and the world didn’t end because we legalized that.  So he said that there are virtually no interracial marriages, blacks only marry blacks and, interestingly enough, American Indians, his example, only married American Indians. Both of these are completely wrong.  I showed him the studies that showed that 19% of blacks are married interracially and an astonishing 59% of American Indians are.  He comes back with “well, blacks are just marrying up when they marry white women”.  Great.  Racist asshole.  How do you respond to that?  So I didn’t.  I just walked away.  But I do that at least 5-6x every single day anymore, these are not debates worth having and I have little enough free time as it is, I’m not going to waste it on obnoxious pricks.

And there’s the rub.  It’s very hard to sit down and have an intellectual discussion with a rational individual because there are so few of them out there.  The ones I meet, I already agree with.  The ones I don’t agree with are disgusting, awful human beings, operating on pure emotion, who don’t really care if what they believe is true, so long as it makes them feel good.  Banging my head on the wall gets tiresome and gives me headaches and I’ve got better things to do than that.  What’s an intelligent, rational person to do?

Oranges Don’t Cause Rudeness

I know I’ve said something about this numerous times in the past, but I bring it up once again, not only because this has been an ongoing problem for years on end, but because people and their idiotic entitlement bullshit just keeps getting worse.

So as I’m writing this, it’s the day before Wondercon and I was out washing the cars, getting ready to pack up and go.  This Hispanic guy drives up into my driveway in a beat up car and says he wants to pick some oranges.  Sure, like that doesn’t happen four times a week.  So I tell him the same canned line that I tell everyone.  No, you cannot pick oranges.  This is a commercial grove.  The oranges are grown for sale.  They are not available for picking.  If you’d like some oranges, I’m sure the grocery store down the street would be more than happy to sell you some, in fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if oranges from my grove were there.  I say it as nicely as I can.  This guy is a dick.  He gets mad at me because I won’t give him something for free that is being grown for sale.  That’s like asking someone working at Walmart if they can just take things from the store without paying for it.  In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if some of these people actually tried that.  So I’ve got this pissed off Hispanic guy cussing me out because I won’t give him anything and I have to throw in the zinger, it is a crime in the state of California to pick fruit or vegetables from any commercial grove and we prosecute to the fullest extent of the law.  Hell, he’s already mad, what more could it hurt?  I’ve learned that just telling people no doesn’t matter, I’ve literally seen people who came to the door and asked to pick, upon being told no, just go out and do it anyhow.  They think I somehow owe them something.  If he comes back, he won’t be the first person I’ve taken a picture of picking fruit, along with their license plates and forwarded it to the police.  It helps to be friends with almost all of the cops in your town.

But this really is an ongoing problem.  The week before, I had one obnoxious lady who kept coming to the door.  I used to have a sign posted that explained the situation so we wouldn’t get knocks at all times of the day by people looking for freebies.  The sign got vandalized so I took it down and now just don’t answer the door unless it’s someone I know.  But this bitch not only rang the bell, when nobody came to the door, she banged on the door and started yelling “HELLO!”  Then she walked around to the back of the house and looked into my back yard and kept yelling.  The first time I heard her, I ignored her, a little shocked at what she was doing.  The second time that she did it, and this is about 6:30am that she’s pulling this, I got pissed.  I open the door and of course, she wants to raid my trees.  Who in the hell does she think she is, banging on the door, screaming, invading my privacy, because she wants some free fruit?  I told her where to shove it and slammed the door in her face.

I wouldn’t say if these were nice people who asked politely and accepted no as an answer.  I actually have some trees out there that aren’t commercial, I have some avocado trees that never get picked that I couldn’t care less if people take, but every single time, without exception, that I’ve told people they can pick from these specific trees, I find them out in the groves, filling up shopping bags with oranges.  Every single time.  So I don’t do that anymore.  I tried to be nice.  I was taken advantage of multiple times.  I’m sick of it.

If I could get away with planting landmines out there, I would.  I honestly priced razor wire once.  It’s bad enough that I had someone try to commit suicide out in the groves a couple of months ago, only to crawl to my door, trailing blood all over the place, and bang on it so I could call her an ambulance.  I guess that’s better than finding a dead body out there, but come on.

What the hell is wrong with these people?  Why do they think that anything they see is theirs for the taking and if someone tells them otherwise, they can get pissy and probably just try to take it anyhow?  Fuck these people.  Just fuck ’em.

The Work Ethic and Getting Ahead

Not too long ago, I wrote about someone I used to know who complained that he wasn’t getting ahead and I gave my general suggestions why he wasn’t getting anywhere.  However, I’ve had a couple of conversations since then with people about getting ahead at work and I’m always shocked at the attitudes of the people who stagnate in their jobs so I wanted to give a few more thoughts on the subject.

There are a lot of people out there with absolutely no work ethic whatsoever.  They don’t want a job.  They don’t want a career. They want a paycheck.  They want to punch a clock and go home.  They work because they have to, not because they want to. They don’t enjoy what they do.  They spend all of their time watching the clock, screwing around and doing as little as possible so they can get a check, but not work too hard to get it.  These people are pathetic.  But I find a lot of people who are unwilling to sacrifice their personal comfort and enjoyment for their careers and that’s really why these people are getting nowhere.

Just a case in point, someone I am acquainted with ended up having to work longer than they expected last week because someone called in sick at their work.  It was maybe an extra 2 hours.  They certainly got paid for it, including overtime. They whined about it.  Give me a break.  I remember a very long time ago, probably close to 30 years ago now, when I was working as an assistant manager for a fast food restaurant, there was a national manager’s conference so all the store managers, district managers and regional managers were gone and the assistants were in charge of the restaurants.  My other assistant apparently decided he no longer wanted a job so he never called and just never showed up again.  I ended up working for more than 75 hours straight (24 hour restaurant) because there was no other way to cover it and, of course, no other local stores had anyone to send.  Sure, I slept in the back room a couple of times and I had some decent people I could trust, but I was on site from 6am Friday morning until 9am Monday when someone could come in and relieve me.  And I didn’t complain about it.  Sure, I wasn’t happy, but it was necessary and I did what was necessary because I actually cared about the  company and took responsibility for my store.  And yes, I got a hell of a bonus for doing it but that’s beside the point, I didn’t expect anything extraordinary for doing my job.  Getting anywhere requires going above and beyond the call of duty and I am willing to do that.  Kids these days apparently are not.

But I guess this is nothing new.  I once knew someone many years ago who worked for Pitney Bowes, it was his job to drive around and change out postal meters for companies.  He’d go out first thing in the morning with a list of companies he was supposed to service, with the expectation that when he was done, he’d go back and get more.  Instead, he finished up his first round and went to the local game store and hung out for the rest of the day.  Eventually, they fired him because he wasn’t doing the job they had hired him to do and I don’t think he ever realized why.  It’s just sad.

People need to realize that they aren’t doing a favor to companies who give them jobs, they have to earn their pay and they have to go beyond the basics to get ahead.  If all you’re there to do is punch a clock and go home, don’t expect to ever better yourself. Being successful requires hard work and long hours.  It requires sacrifice.  It requires putting your company’s needs before your own and being willing to do whatever it takes to make your company successful, even if you don’t get directly rewarded for it at the time.  When the time comes to promote people, it’s the ones who have proven their worth who will be chosen, the ones who just sit around staring at the clock, waiting to go home, they’ll never get anywhere in life.

Nor should they.

Half-Truths at the GOP Debate

I know I criticize the left for being dishonest and telling half-truths, or even outright lies, to get their way, but it’s important to realize that the right does exactly the same thing.  At the most recent GOP Presidential Debate, Marco Rubio threw an accusation at Donald Trump about him hiring illegal aliens and having to pay a million dollar fine.  This is, of course, false. It’s actually not even half-false, it’s all-false.

The reality is that in 1979, while Trump was building his Trump Tower, the contractor that he used, Kaszycki & Sons Contractors, hired up to 200 Polish illegal immigrants to work doing demolition for the tower.  I’m assuming that these were Polish workers who had illegally overstayed their visas, I can’t imagine them swimming all the way here from Poland or anything silly like that.  During the project, that took place mostly in 1980, Kaszycki & Sons failed to pay proper wages to these workers and, in what has been described as the longest civil lawsuit in U.S. history, ended up paying more than a half-million dollars in a case that was finally settled in 1991.  Of course, not a penny of that money went to the actual workers, who were long gone by that point, it all went to the local union, who had claimed Trump had cheated them out of pension and welfare funds by hiring illegal aliens in the first place.  That battle went on until 1998, when it was settled for an undisclosed sum and the records were sealed.  Trump maintained that he didn’t know his contractor had hired illegal aliens until after the fact.

But that’s really the thing.  Trump never actually hired anyone.  His contractor did.  Trump is not personally responsible for what his contractor does without his knowledge.  So the claim that Trump hired anyone is false.  The only part of this case that had anything to do with the actual illegal aliens was directed at Kaszycki & Sons, not Trump himself.  Trump only got hit by a claim by the union.

I have absolutely no love of any kind for Donald Trump, but if Marco Rubio is going to throw an out-and-out lie at him, if that’s the best he can do to compete against him, then Rubio deserves to get tossed out of the race.  He’s just proven that he’s a lying sack of shit that will do anything for political points and that’s the last kind of person we need in political office.  It’s a good thing he’s failing so horribly in the polls and will be forced to give up soon.  What a wanker.

Why No Patreon?

I actually get this question a lot, why don’t I have a Patreon account set up so I can beg for money like pretty much everyone else on the Internet does? I’ve gotten it here, I’ve gotten it on my other blog, I get it on my YouTube channel and I’ve even gotten it on the now defunct podcast. Why, on why don’t I want money like everyone else?

Well, I’ll tell you.

Now I’ve been doing this a long, long time, the blog just turned 11 in December, the podcast ran more than 100 episodes, I’m no newcomer to content creation but I have never once asked anyone for any money, no donations, no support, no nothing. My reasons for this are numerous. First, I write for me, not profit. I write because I enjoy writing, I have something I want to say and I don’t need to be rewarded for expressing my opinion.  I have a full-time job, I don’t need constant validation for saying what I say, I’m only too happy to say it for free.  It might be different if I had massive server bills to pay, but I don’t, my costs for virtually all of my online activities is less than $100 a year and paying that out of pocket is no problem.  I just don’t need the money.  Secondly, and I’m just being honest here, if I was getting paid to write, I’d be writing whatever brought in the most money, whether I agreed with it or not.  That’s not what I want to do.  I think a lot of people out there just say things because lots of people will pull out the credit card if they say it.  They are looking for popularity and validation and a lot of people are quitting their day jobs so they can sit home and make YouTube videos all day.  Sure, if I was going to do that, I’d want to get paid too, but I’d be looking for the biggest and most affluent customer base, not people who care about what I have to say. I say what I say and do what I do and don’t give a damn if anyone likes it or not.  I would never work in that kind of donation-based economy.  Finally, we call know that the only way to make money is to have a built-in audience of people who agree with you. I don’t. I know my views are in the minority. I’m not changing my views and probably nobody else is either, so it’s all a waste of time. Why bother begging under those circumstances?  My blog has never had millions of hits, my podcast never had thousands of listeners and my YouTube channel doesn’t get tons of views.  So what?  I say what I want to say, people who want to listen do, people who don’t, don’t and everyone is happy.  I get things off my chest, which is what I really want, people who are of a similar mindset get to hear what I have to say and those who are not can safely ignore me.  It doesn’t hurt my feelings one bit. I’m going to continue producing content whether people pay me or not.  Sure, if you really want to donate to me, I’m not going to turn you down, but your donation isn’t going to change my content onebit.  I have no business model because this isn’t a business.  This is a hobby.  I don’t pretend I ought to make money from a hobby.  I wish more people in the world felt the same way.

It’s Resolution Time!

Every single year for the last couple, I’ve tried to put up some kind of New Year’s Resolution, something that I think I can do better in the coming year, particularly when it comes to my blogging and debating. Of course, every time I do, I explain how I don’t do New Year’s Resolutions, how if I identify something that needs to be done, I don’t wait until some arbitrary date on the calendar to put it into effect, I just do it and as January 1 approaches every year, I wonder what the heck I can say this time. Well, I’m not going to do it.

Instead, I’m going to identify a few changes that I want to see in the world this year, things that I think would dramatically help the planet, but which, let’s be honest, will never, ever happen.  So let’s get started.

  1.  The planet will get over religion.  Yeah, I know, it won’t happen any time soon, although every single year, more people flood away from the churches.  This would solve so many of the planet’s ideological problems, so many religious and ethnic murders, etc.  If we would just realize that no imaginary man in the sky is going to solve our problems, that we are responsible for doing so ourselves, we might actually get rid of a lot of our issues.  But barring that…
  2. We finally get sick and tired of radical Islam and, as a planet, do something about it.  Now I’m not saying what to do, but it needs to be something significant, effective and done worldwide.  If that means sweeping through the Middle East and wiping out every single ISIS supporter in one fell swoop, I’m entirely fine with that.  The time for talking is over, it’s the time for action.  If nothing else, we really need to do this and present a united planetary front against the terrorists.
  3. We reverse our position on liberalism and become more conservative.  I don’t mean more religious, I mean more responsible for ourselves.  No more relying on nanny governments, we accept that we are personally responsible for ourselves, our lives and our actions and stop holding our hands out for everything, expecting someone else to take care of us.  It’s the first step back from the ideological precipice that liberalism represents.
  4. We actually give a damn about education for education’s sake.  That means no more idiotic nonsense stuffed into the schools because it makes people feel good.  Facts are facts no matter how they make people feel.  History is history, what happened happened, stop pretending that just because it makes you uncomfortable, we shouldn’t talk about it. Science is what science is, we teach the best supported facts and we teach kids not just what to think, but how to think.  This alone will lead to the first three being done.

But no, I don’t expect anything to happen this year.  Things will just get worse.  Both the far left and the far right will continue to push for ideological purity, damn the facts.  They don’t care and because they don’t care, the world will continue to degrade. I guess I’ll have something to write about for the next year though, so I can’t look a gift horse in the mouth.

Why I Still Don’t Like Facebook

FACEBOOK-sucksIt’s no secret that I don’t care for Facebook, for the longest time I refused to have an account and even after I got one, I realized almost immediately that it wasn’t for me. It’s not just the people, although come on, a lot of people on Facebook are stupid, to the point that a lot of joke memes out there are made about Facebook users, but that’s really not the point.  My use of Facebook is limited to auto-posting blog articles, pretty much the same as my usage of Twitter.  It’s just not for me.

So anyhow, recently I had someone who follows me on Facebook send me a message asking why I didn’t put up more Facebook-only content and, in general, why I don’t spend any time there.  So here’s my quick answer because if one person asks, there are almost certainly others who are curious.

I’m an old-school kind of guy.  I started online with the dial-up BBSes, when live chat was impossible and people accessed a BBS one person at a time.  All of them had forums, where people would post threads and we’d have a serial conversation, you’d make a post, someone else would respond, a third person would respond and so on.  And when the Internet came around, back before the web, there was Usenet, which operated exactly the same way, with hundreds of newsgroups with thousands of threads all talking a single post at a time.  It’s what I’m used to and really, what I want.  All of the online forums I participate in do exactly the same thing, so does Google+ which is why I use it, although they could certainly be a lot better.  Things like Twitter is just a bunch of people throwing shit at each other and you only see it if you’re following someone that is throwing some of the shit, unless you’re following a particular hashtag, but even there, it’s not organized, it’s just a billion monkeys banging on a billion keyboards.  I haven’t got a clue who I’m even following on Twitter anymore because I haven’t even looked there for a year or so and may never do so again.  Honestly, Tumblr is the same thing, just with pictures of shit being thrown around.  I pay virtually no attention to Tumblr either.

Facebook is the same way.  It’s made up of pages that you have to follow and then, consume the content of the individual writing the page.  There isn’t a big collaborative roundtable discussion, it’s all one-way, from the page-owner down.  Yes, that’s how things go with blogs too, it’s all top-down, people go to the page specifically to read what one person has to say and there are few conversations that ever start that way.  To be perfectly honest, and I went and looked it up so I had the numbers right, there are only four blogs I read every day, along with another nine that I might check once or twice a week.  To be on my daily list, you have to consistently produce content I want to read and not a lot of people do that.  To those four people, who I won’t name, good job.

But anyhow, back to Facebook, because Facebook has no communities like Google+ does, only pages, I really find no reason to pay attention to it.  I want to be talked to, not talked at.  I want to be part of the action, not part of the audience.  I watch enough passive television, I want my Internet to be active.  That’s not insulting people who just want to consume content and read things, I want to participate.  It’s what I’ve always done, it’s want I want to always do.  So long as Facebook doesn’t provide that kind of active experience, I’m never going to pay much, if any attention to it.  Apologies if that bothers anyone but Facebook just isn’t my thing.

Shallow Consumers: The Car Edition

Animaniacs SurveyA couple of months ago, I agreed to join a year-long study of American consumers on automobiles, answering questions about what is important to me about modern cars and the direction that the automotive industry is going.  It takes me a couple of minutes a week, usually answering one or two short questionnaires about various subjects and, what the heck, I get a couple of Amazon gift cards for my time.

However, it didn’t take long to realize that the overwhelming majority of people involved in the survey are shallow idiots and worse yet, the study itself is geared to over-emotional morons.  Most questionnaires, like  the one I just completed, about car seats. spent every second wondering how one’s car seats made them feel.  Were they sexy?  Were they fashionable?  The one thing they never bothered asking about at all was were they functional?  Did they do the job which they were designed to do? The whole thing is form over function, actually, form to the complete exclusion of function.  It’s designed for ultra-shallow people who consume products based on emotion, not intellect.

I am not one of those people.  I buy products because they perform a function that I need performed, not because I care what other people think of me or how it makes me feel superior.  That’s idiotic, but apparently, that describes the majority of the American consumers.  So many of these studies and surveys count on the fact that their respondents are utter morons.

This goes back to the point I unfortunately have to make repeatedly, that people are stupid and act with their “hearts” and not their heads.  Companies rely on that gullibility to sell people crappy products that hit those emotional triggers instead of having to produce a better product.  This thing sucks, but now it’s available in fashion colors!

I don’t care about fashion colors.  Give me a regular colored car.  I don’t care about flashy gadgets that I will never use. Give me a car that gets me from point A to point B in comfort and efficiently.  I don’t need my car to massage me, I don’t need my car to talk to me, I don’t need my car to entertain me, I just need it to transport me.  That’s the purpose of a car.  What’s more, I don’t give a damn how my car makes anyone think about me.  People who are trying to live vicariously through their belongings have serious psychological problems.  ’nuff said.

Wanting the Mutually Exclusive

idiotsI’ve been debating online on various forums for a very, very, very long time.  Mostly, I stick to general purpose forums, not dedicated to politics or religion, because it gives me a one-size-fits-all solution, with members from all walks of life and subjects across the board. You have the far right neo-cons and the far-left-liberals, you have the hardline atheists and the hardline fundamentalists and everything in between.  However, one problem with these general purpose forums is that you don’t get any really good topical debates with people really passionate about their subject matter, there is so much to see and do that you don’t get many single-topic debaters.  If you want to talk about religion, you either get the crazies or you get people who just wander by for a bit until they are distracted by something else.

Therefore, I tend to keep one or two strictly religious forums around, just so that I can go and debate religion in a place where everyone is there for the same thing.  Unfortunately, I’ve found that the moderation on religion-specific forums is very hard to keep balanced and what one group of people look for in moderation is antithetical to another group and this tends to drive away those whose desires aren’t catered to.

Case in point, I’ve been on Debating Christianity & Religion since 2005, although I often take extended vacations from it. I actually started there after another general purpose forum I had been a member of dropped their religious forums and suggested people go there.  It’s a great forum, lots of fantastic people and it has had it’s fair share of religious crazies. It also had a rule that I’ve pointed out a couple of times, it’s rule #5 which reads:  “Support your assertions/arguments with evidence. Do not persist in making a claim without supporting it. All unsupported claims can be challenged for supporting evidence. Opinions require no support, but they should not be considered as valid to any argument, nor will they be considered as legitimate support for any claim.”  This is fantastic because it does away with theists who think proclaiming faith automatically wins arguments.  I wish every debate forum would do this and hold people accountable to it.  Unfortunately, it also drove away most of the theists who knew they could never follow that rule, thus the majority of people on the forum now are atheists and a couple of theists who simply refrain from arguing for their religion at all.  I wander back over there from time to time, make some posts and quickly remember why I left because it just isn’t much fun with nobody to debate.

The other is Religious Forums, which is more geared toward theists, although there is a very healthy atheist community there, but they have the exact opposite problem.  The majority of their theists only deal in emotional pleas and blind faith and nobody stops them.  In fact, when anyone tries to point out how absurd emotional claims are, they get in trouble.  A lot of the more reasonable, rational theists have left because of the crazies and I’ve found that it really isn’t that much fun when the majority of people you talk to just make faith-based pronouncements and have zero interest whatsoever in talking intellectually.  I just opted to take another extended vacation there because I got sick of crazy theists just being crazy.

My question is, what other choices are there?  I want to talk to people who are reasonable, rational, engage in critical thinking and are able to examine their own beliefs intellectually.  That’s damn hard to find when it comes to religion.  You either get the idiots condemning you to hell because you’re not a fanatic like they are or the ones who go opposite extremes and say that everything is their opinion, they have no evidence and have no reason to try to justify anything to anyone.  The middle ground really doesn’t exist on either forum, unfortunately.  Is hoping to have a good debate with a theist ultimately impossible today? That’s certainly how it feels.  Apparently, I want something mutually exclusive, an intelligent theist who will actually try to defend their beliefs credibly, yet doesn’t just blow off any and all challenges.  Anyone have any suggestions?

Public Opinion Polling Stupidity

Stupidity is not a HandicapI know I’ve mentioned in the past that I, from time to time, engage in some public opinion polling.  It lets me make my opinions known to companies and I score a couple of Amazon gift certificates now and then.  It’s really win-win.  Unfortunately, recently, I got a “warning” from one of the polling places, warning me that if I didn’t straighten up and fly right, they might delete my account?  Why?  Let’s see…

First off, I’m moving too quickly.  Sorry, I’m a speed-reader, I can get through your content faster than most, there’s nothing I can or will do about that.  I’m not going to just sit around and pretend that I’m a slow reader, just because you think I ought to be.  Get over it.  They often have “choose X to make sure you’re paying attention” options in the surveys, I’ve never missed one of them, stop bitching because know how to read.

Secondly though, they said something about my responses not being “well thought out”.  No, the problem is that your questions are not well thought out.  For instance, on car-related surveys, they will almost always have a section where you can vote whether your car makes you feel more sexy or more successful on a sliding scale.  There is no option for “neither”.  I don’t get emotionally invested in my cars, they are for transportation, not a status symbol.  Therefore, for all of these emotional responses, I always pick right in the middle of the two.  Neither of the options apply at all.  I think they’re assuming that anyone taking these surveys is a shallow loser whose only concern is getting wolf whistles at the stop light so they pick the most absurdly overpriced and underperforming vehicle they can so it might make them look good.  They have no interest in someone like me, who really only cares about the performance, efficiency and comfort of the vehicle I’m driving.  They want morons.

This could be very easily fixed by simply asking specific questions to rule out particular respondents.  Ask at the very beginning, “do you have a brain” and if anyone says yes, they don’t qualify.  If they only want to hear from the stupid and shallow, just say so.  Save me time.

That is, of course, another issue that has been a constant frustration.  They spend a lot of time “pre-qualifying” you for surveys, often by entirely ignoring the pre-qualifying questions.  I mean seriously, I’ve seen them ask how much alcohol you drink in a given month.  I answer none.  I don’t drink at all.  Then they try to stuff you into a survey on all the alcohol you drink!  It’s really just absurd.  They aren’t paying the slightest bit of attention to them anyhow, they aren’t using them to build up a database about you.  They’ll ask if you have children and then, not 2 minutes later, ask the exact same question again.  Sorry, it hasn’t changed in the past 120 seconds!

In all honesty, if they want good ideas, they ought to stop using the “click here” model and make people actually type in responses.  Give me a way to actually give you a clear and concise response.  Of course, that’s not easily quantifiable and made into nice graphs to show to the board of directors.  It requires thought.  That’s not something that American business does well with today.

I wish these people would actually care about the responses they get, other than catering to the lowest conceivable denominator.  Unfortunately, that’s their business model, they want as many morons through the gate who they can charge companies for essentially worthless opinions over and over again.  Apparently, companies complain that they aren’t getting the typical low-quality responses they’re used to, how dare anyone with half a clue actually complete one of their surveys!  Bring back the brain-damaged!  Well… no.  I’m going to just go on as I’ve always done and if they don’t like it, they can tell me to leave. It won’t hurt my feelings, I really won’t care, it will just make me shake my head at the pathetic nature of the American consumer even more than I do today.

Creepy Chaplains are Creepy

Honestly, the chaplain looked very similar to this…

I just had to throw this quick post up because yesterday, I met a friend for lunch and while we were out, we passed by a local hospital that had a weekly farmer’s market in their parking lot.  I’m assuming that it’s weekly because the signs said “Wednesday Farmer’s Market”.  So we stopped and bought some things and everything was fine.  Before we were going to leave, my friend had to go use the restroom inside the hospital so I sat down on a bench with our bags of produce to wait.  It wasn’t more than a minute before the hospital chaplain, wearing his chaplain ID, comes up to me and sits down uncomfortably close and puts his hand on my knee and says he’s the chaplain.  He starts asking me why I’m there today, am I visiting someone, am I depressed, etc.  Of course not, I’m not in the stupid hospital, I’m sitting in the middle of a farmer’s market with a bunch of bags of fruits and vegetables and breads.  This guy doesn’t move, he still has his hand on my knee and I push it off.  He starts asking if there’s anything he can do for me.  I was about to say he could carry my groceries if he’s really that bored but instead I said I was fine, thanks for asking and I don’t need his help.  He gets up, puts his hand on my shoulder and, no shit, rubs my back with his fingertips.

Seriously, do these idiots have nothing better to do with their time than accost people in the parking lot?  And even if wandering around trying to help is his job, can’t he keep his hands to himself?  I was about to punch this asshole when he finally walked away and tried the same thing on another person at the farmer’s market.  Another guy, I might add.  My friend finally came back and we left but it still gives me the heebie-jeebies.  Maybe that’s why the Catholic Church has so many problems, nobody taught them what “bad touch” means.

On an unrelated note, are all hospitals like this now?  We saw the x-ray machine at the entrance, that’s why I stayed outside in the hot sun instead of going inside, it would have been a royal pain in the ass to get bags of produce through their security measures, but when my friend came out, he told me that past the x-ray scanner, there’s another little table with some guy behind it who demands to know where you’re going and how long you’ll be there and you have to wear this stupid little wristband with your “permission” to go to the bathroom on it.  We’re talking a bathroom that is literally 10 feet from the door and he has to explain how long it’s going to take him to crap.  It isn’t like they checked his wristband on the way out to see if he took too long or anything, what’s the point of this nonsense?

Between the creepy chaplains and the invasive questions, it’s no wonder people don’t want to go to hospitals anymore.

The Stupidity of the American Consumer

RazorsEvery once in a while, I have to be reminded how stupid most Americans really are and how American companies can and do try to take advantage of the lack of critical thinking skills that most Americans have.  Case in point, I just bought a new pack of blades for my razor and they put a sticker on the package that reads: Gillette’s Best Shave About $1/wk**.  Now based on that, you might think it’s a really good bargain, after all, the blades cost $18, that means it ought to last about 4.5 months based on a dollar a week.  Simple, huh?

Not so fast, there’s that ** to deal with.  If you go and look in the tiny print, it says that figure is based on 4 shaves per week. Now who in the hell is only shaving 4 times a week?  Most people have to shave at least 5 times a week for work and this assumes they just don’t  bother on the weekends.  Sure, maybe I might skip shaving on a lazy Saturday when I have no other plans, but if I’m leaving the house, I’m shaving.  The same goes for Sunday, but since I’m always out and about on Sunday, that means that I’m always shaving that day.  That means that, at the very least, I’m shaving at least 6 times per week.  That is going to reduce the effectiveness of the blades and increase the cost.

So if we do a quick calculator exercise, if they’re calculating 4 shaves for 18 weeks, that’s 72 shaves you ought to get out of this pack of blades.  However, if we recalculate using a much more reasonable 6 shaves per week, that gives us only a 12 week supply.  That means it actually costs $1.50 a week, not the $1 as advertised.  Sure, that’s not a huge amount or anything but it’s the principle of the thing.  Gillette has to know that nobody is shaving 4 times a week.  They just picked that number so it would produce a nice round and cheap-looking number they could advertise and the American public falls for it without thinking about it at all.  Heck, if Gillette said these blades last forever, based on never using them at all in small print, I’m sure consumer sales would increase dramatically.  Let’s be honest, the only reason they put the sticker on there in the first place is to try to increase sales.  The only way it would increase sales is if potential customers lacked critical thinking skills and a calculator.

And that explains a lot about the American consumer today.