Saturday, December 12, 2009

American Microcosm Shows Up Everywhere

But in one place specifically right now. My mother is an avid churchgoer and a devout Catholic. Combining her love of helping out and her innate ability to shop, she took on the role of managing the local religious store in their parish. This was a place that I had never seen open, pre-Loretta. I only recently found out that it took in $800/yr. Over the past few years, she has turned it around. It is chock full of all kinds of religious goodies, most of which you have to snatch up before someone else does. They're open nearly non-stop and have an amazing amount of patronage and volunteers. Last week they handed over $1000 for the WEEK. Her and I spoke this morning about the delusions of grandeur at the top wanting a full-fledged inventory, database, etc. Our pastor is worried they are in the red. I went off on my usual style of logic based rant full of analogies marrying economics and Air Force terms. Rather than let her try to frantically write down what I was talking about, I sent her an email. I share that with you now. I haven't written anything on economics in about a year so I figured it was time.

So we've got some applicable Air Force terms for this situation. Not that they are solely AF terms, but we use them heavily. I know I use at least 1 per day especially with my students
~"Spirit and Intent" What are you really after in a given situation? What's the true purpose?
~"Value Added" if you're doing something and there's no value added, then why do it. hopefully, the value added is high and matches the spirit and intent
~"Desired Output" speaks for itself. It's the outcome that you want. similar to spirit and intent, yet differs from the fact that this is not an ideal, but rather a tangible item like "lower prices"
~"Felt Effect" regardless of what you mean to do and regardless of the desired output you're trying to achieve, this is effect that is felt by the people affected.

In this case in particular, I personally believe that the store functions to provide a location for parishioners to get religious items. They are already in church and so this provides a convenient place to buy what they need, have it blessed, etc all at a reasonable not for profit driven price point. The spirit and intent of this ministry is to offer a community run, communal location for like-minded folks. The desired output is not turning a profit or getting rich. it is, simply, to cover costs while providing for your folks. The value added is the sense of community, the pride of the parish in keeping it going, making it better and knowing that they have helped out other faithful parishioners along the way.

Now, where are we now with this? From $800 yearly to $1000 weekly (at the holidays). It's grown and I believe the spirit and intent is being forgotten at the top. This will crush under it's own weight if left unchecked. The desired output has now become another dollar which is contradictory to the spirit and intent. Realistically, both terms should always work in concert and here they oppose each other. The felt effect is under appreciation, lack of spirit and intent which, in turn, leaves no value added. You're working as part of a machine now. It's no longer fun for you, people are leaving, they feel like employees (employees without pay, i might add). Felt effect... people are being used. No value added. Spirit and intent forgotten. This will diminish morale and in turn, your desired output of money... gone. initial desired output of making enough to cover costs to buy more to provide to your folks... gone.

I'm not making this stuff up. We learn this as supervisors in the Air Force as part of Airman Leadership School and in Basic Instructor Course to teach down here. It's a simple model that can be applied to most group dynamics, especially when they go astray. I picked up a little of this with from Air War College with some correspondence course reading I did a while back as well.

What we end up seeing here is a microcosmic view of the country at large. Grandeur build on the shoulders of greed. Even as a right-wing, capitalist, consumer I see the need for checks and balances and regulatory principles. We don't have that here, but it's a church and we shouldn't need it. Any ministry should, by and large, be driven by the need to help others in whatever realm they're charged to do so. But one rogue mindset at the top can affect all operations below it. He sees the value added as more money for the church but he's forgetting the cost. The cost of his people, not dollars, and their willingness to help which will cost money later. So the spirit and intent has shifted in his mind and left unchecked will run amok looking toward the desired output and the rest will suffer as a result.

As far as being in the red is concerned, that's as ridiculous a train of thought as it is simply untrue. If you buy $50 worth of product that can be sold at $100, you can say you're in the red until you sell because your'e out the 50 bucks. But you're not dealing with perishables that will spoil so you can't recoup your money and the church is stuck holding Herman. You're not even talking about lasting products that have lasted 2 years and will continue to sit. You're moving your product. To verify whether you're in the black or red you need to look at quarterly earnings or monthly earning. How much did you spend Jan - Mar. How much did you make? Now subtract. Is that a positive number? If so (and in this case I know it is), you are NOT in the red. This is why companies release quarterly earnings and it's NEVER in the middle of a quarter. You still have expenses out that haven't been recouped because you're mid-cycle. You have to spend money to make money and he doesn't see that. At year end if you've spent more than you've made then you're in the red - for that year. If you have money in your account, you're still in the black at that moment. If you have product you can sell (even if you don't buy more and you liquidate to go out of business) you can end up in the black or further in the black. The only time you worry about being in the red is when you have used all your capital and you have no more product to sell or not enough to break even. Until then, you're mid-cycle. Simple economics here.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

There are not the droids you're looking for & Elvis was gay

How many times to do I have to tell everyone to quit playing the Ostrich and get your heads out of the sand. Hiding from problems doesn't make them go away overall. It just keeps them from view to you. People in this country are quick to believe the first thing they're told and refuse to acknowledge anything further. It doesn't matter what it pertains to either. Elvis slept with this wife once to pro-create. Look at how he looked, acted and dressed. The guy was gay. But wave a hand in our faces and tell us these are not the droids we're looking for and the Jedi mind trick is complete. We're content to believe what we're told even when there is all the evidence to the contrary.

As a foundation to the argument I'm about to begin, I want everyone to know that this Saturday there is a prediction for snow in Mississippi. You can see where this is going. Australia just recently fired their chief Climatologist after resounding proof that global warming was either a myth or a mistake had surfaced. But here in this country we're still going green to protect ourselves from rapid warming of the Earth. I'm not against going green or protecting the planet but like with everything else in life I want to know the why behind it. If we're doing it because it's healthier for us; I'm on board. If we're doing it for long term preservation of the planet; I'm on board. If we're doing it to prevent a mythical rise in temperature while I'm freezing my ass off in Mississippi and parts of this country had snow in September? You can keep your green thumb and sit on it for all I care.

At what point is this country going to wake up and realize that we can't buy into all the propaganda that comes our way? At the very least, we're obligated to view opposing positions and have the capability of changing our minds later. For far too long, we've taken things at face value and applied them on a grand scale. To quote a common Internet slang; that's an epic fail.

How can you believe everything the government tells you without even questioning it to any degree? Do you not think the government is self-serving? Remember; this is the same institution that told the baby boomers to hide under their wooden desks in the event of a nuclear attack. When things are burning around you, covering yourself in kindling is far from the smartest idea. It was our government that refused to share information inter-agency, basically within itself, in order to prevent the September 11th attacks out of a selfish need to appear infallible.

Now the government is into the auto industry for how much money? Promoting the widespread panic of a melting Earth with a solution that will cost taxpayers billions of dollars both in tax revenue and direct net profits for the auto companies is good business. If you want to find the source of the disease, look to the guy holding the antidote. They are often one and the same.

I've said a bunch of ways already, usually in a much angrier tone than tonight. However, I stand before you as a citizen concerned for the future and well being of this country and the society within as we spiral ever downward because we can't seem to think for ourselves.

Read the facts, ignore Al Gore and do what you'll do for the environment for the RIGHT reasons. Just don't do it because you're afraid you'll wake up underwater one day when the ice caps melt and flood the globe.

Think for yourselves, sheep!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Hiring the bad guy?

They say crime doesn’t pay, but apparently writing malicious software does. Ashley Towns, the 21-year-old Australian who wrote the first iPhone worm called Ikee has managed to land himself a job programming, you guessed it, for the iPhone.

The company that hired him is called mogneration and Ashley announced his new employment via Twitter:

The original Ikee worm did nothing more than change the background of your jailbroken iPhone, but since then more malicious versions have been created when someone else modified it into the Duh worm or Ikee.B.

The issue at hand with Towns being offered a job is that it looks like a reward for the worm he created, setting the wrong example for others to follow.

Read more at BBC News and Graham Cluley’s blog

Matthew’s Opinion The author of this news piece

I can see why some people are taking issue with this. It’s a combination of the fact Towns created malicious software with the fact he has never apologized for the problems he caused people who got infected. Now he has a job and it looks like Ikee was the main reason he got noticed.

As Graham Cluley rightly points out, what about all the other programmers out there who didn’t create a worm for the iPhone? Should they now start doing high-profile software releases to catch the media’s attention and get them noticed by another company? No, they should not. Instead, if they take the white hat approach and help find problems, report them to the relevant companies, and don’t go public, they’d probably have as much success with finding a job and have a lot more respect from their peers too.

Towns may still find himself in hot water; as Sophos’ Paul Ducklin points out he has actually broken the law by accessing people’s iPhones without permission.

The fact that people are taking issue with this is ridiculous. I don't condone creating a worm or a virus or anything else malicious (especially as the owner of a jailbroken iPhone 3G S). However, he showcased his talent. Granted there are tons of talented developers out there and maybe everyone deserves a shot. The point is that you can't give everyone a shot. You can't even know all of who is out there.

So what do you do? You meet people, you look in the paper, you check resumes, you watch the news. You give the shots to the people with whom you cross paths. Fortunately for Ashley, he crossed paths with everyone when he hit the news.

And think about it from Mogneration's standpoint. Free publicity for them. The business of business is business. Think about that. Bottom line - they got a talented developer, he got a job, everyone gets the publicity. Should they hire a no-name who will do less for them financially because it's the right thing to do? Absolutely not, a company should always, and more importantly during an economic downturn, do what it takes to survive. When the government subsidizes private tech businesses (which may not be that far off in the US after recent events) then the company can do the right thing and make less money. Until then, I applaud Mogneration for seizing opportunity.

By the way, this has been done in technology for years. People hiring the enemy be it from an opposing company or someone who wrote malicious code. The gaming industry has hired ex hustlers and cheats to look out for people trying to rip them off. There's another one out there. I can't remember it...oh yeah, the government turns people state's evidence to get information. The best person to have on your team is the person who's been getting the better of you all the while.

So forget the socialist agenda that everyone deserves a fair shake and realize that Ashley Towns did what it took to get noticed. The company did what it took to turn a buck. That's what being in business is about. Making money. If other developers had the chops to stand out from the pack, they would have already.

Grow up America. This pansy, "we are the world" holding hands with candles is why we're in the shape we're in. We used to be cut-throat. We used to take no shit. We used to be competitive. We owe China tons of money. The middle east wants to kick our ass. Japan beats us senseless in academics. We can't stay friends with the Russians. Iran keeps kicking sand in our face. And where is our eye? On giving free healthcare to millions of Americans (many of whom are here illegally) at an expense to the honest tax-paying citizens.

Where's that edge? Gone and if I hadn't taken an oath to support and defend this country... I would be too.

EDIT: For the record, I posted most of this comment on the site that sourced the article and they denied it. The big babies post the story with an editorial opinion by the author and don't have the stones to entertain other opinions. I understand it's but are you that much of a bunch of sissies that you hide in your cave and refuse to entertain differing viewpoints? Take down your comments section at the very least. Shut Matthew up, preferably and just throw us an ort of news as you see fit. Oh mighty,, Lord of the Manor, please allow us peasants some drippings from your table. The point is, if you open yourselves up, man up and allow alternate viewpoints and then defend your stance. Putting your head in the sand is not professional and you look like a sissy.

Another EDIT: My comment is now there. Imagine that. Funny how that works. I'm not going to speculate on what caused it. Whether they came to their senses, felt their manhood was hurt or panicked that I was on my way with a sledgehammer. I don't know. But it's there now.

And before anyone comments on the fact that Mogeneration and Ashley Towns are both Australian and I should, in turn, shut the fuck up myself. Remember that I support both of those. It's the simple minded socialists at who are ridiculous and, incidentally, from Pennsylvania so my comments about this country, it's current administration and political standing all APPLY.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

All time low in customer help; all time high in attitude

Just yesterday, a co-worker and I were talking about GameStop and how they need to hire 8,000 folks for the holiday season. With 2 in town, we almost contemplated picking up some shifts there for some Christmas cash. Laziness may have gotten the better of us and in the end it never happened. It's just as well because I had an experience there today that was so awful it bears repeating for the Internet audience now.

On October 28th and 29th, I told you all about some lackluster customer service issues I had (accessible, here, here, and here). I can't be sure if it's specific to the south, this town, this state or maybe it's just a function of time that I'm becoming a curmudgeon in my old age, but I often feel disappointed, dismayed and discontent at the level of service and respect I receive from the titans of the minimum wage industries.

Here's today's event. I had a list of video games that I no longer play and figured I'd trade them in at the local GameStop for whatever few pennies they deemed they were worth. I suppose they were worth zero in my home and it was worth my time. However it wasn't worth the undue stress on my heart from the surge in blood pressure.

Here is how it all played out. I walked into an entirely empty store, save the one employee fighting with a roll of stickers behind the counter. After she wrestled with her self-adhesive opponents for a while, she chose to acknowledge me, for which I was grateful. I explained that I wanted to tally the worth of my wares and determine if I would bother trading them in. She agrees to do the job for which she is paid so I wandered around the store looking to squander the $3.85 I was prepared to receive in trade.

When I come back to the counter to make sure something shiny had not distracted the clerk I found all of my games in envelopes; torn from their homes in the cases in which they had spent all of their lives. She explained that she was preparing the transaction. I allowed her to continue only long enough to gather my wits and reply "I just want to know how much they're worth before I decide if I'm taking them home." She tells me, "But you're going to get the card and you'll get more money." I'm less than interested in a card that costs me money every year but will save me $5 every two years. I reminded her once again that I just wanted the monetary value and that I did still, in fact, own these items.

Her answer was a roll of the eyes, a toss of the stickers and a drawn out, sigh infused, "Fiiiine." And that's when it happened. That's when the heard skipped a beat, I blinked one too many times and started to feel the room move a la The Incredible Hulk. Luckily after enough run ins with bouncers, cops and other peoples balled fists over the years, I've learned to recognize this feeling early.

I turned to look at Linda who has also learned to recognize this behavioral pattern in me and found her clear across the store in hopes her distance was alibi enough that she's never met me. It was apparent that I needed to end this quick before control was no longer an option. I said, "Tell you what. I'm gonna go ahead and take these home with me and I'll come back when there's someone here that is more apt to provide service." and I walked out before she could muster the cerebral energy to know what just happened. As I hit the door, I heard an, "I'm sorry" that had a tone that was a mixture of I just got my hand smacked sheepishness and I think I'm still right indignance.

I'll go back later to finish off the one-two punch with the manager.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Waxing intellectual on Apple's future

Lately, there has been talk about Apple's upward motion and momentum and the possibility of them overtaking Microsoft in the quest to reign supreme in the tech world. There are more and more articles cropping up so I figured I'd smear my pseudo-intellectual feces across the digital landscape as well.

I can see the monetary value of the company overtaking Microsoft fairly easily, but that's only if the market share does not. These companies, just like most things in life, grow too quickly and end up getting bloated and overvalued. The rarity and scarcity of Apple products (usually due to their price points) keep the value high. They are elusive and fancy and innovative and the demand for them is particular and higher than the supply flying off the shelves. This makes them a hot ticket item as a company and therefore, worth more.

Apple is famous for 2 things as a company - their marketing and their innovation and on a smaller scale, their secrecy. Simplistic packaging designs and sleek looks make them intriguing and sexy and there's usually some killer app that makes it a "must have." The fact that it's a "can't have" for most people is awesome for them in value. Flooding the market with Apple products will devalue each product. Innovation drives sales, sales drive value. More sales equal lower value. Think of the Internet bubble. The price keeps going up because everyone wants into what seems like a good thing. The price ends up having no relationship to the value of the company. As soon as someone heads for the exit, everyone else scrambles. The average Joe (not the plumber) ends up holding Herman. Not to mention that, economically speaking, the law of diminishing return wants us to keep apples off the plates of hungry consumers. I don't know if you know that law but here's an example - you love a good Filet Mignon right? Eat it 30 days in a row. Same satisfaction on day 30 as on day 1?

Apple and I get along so well because we're both very ADD in our approach to things. We get into it, do it over and over, get to a decent point and then stop. It's a rate of return thing. The first year you took on a new hobby, your skills were improved dramatically and then more slowly as time went on. Growing in leaps and bounds spurs innovation whereas hitting the plateau is de-motivational. They end up with lots of half started stuff but because of their secrecy... it's easy for those ideas to never come through to fruition; nobody knows, nobody is disappointed but the uber geeks that watch the WWDC live (like me). Now... they grow and overtake things, they'll have the same amount of irons in the fire and complete more of them. Apple has always been a niche company. Even with its growing market share, it's still a niche. It's like a Mercedes-Benz. Your car dies, you need a vehicle you get a vehicle. You're not gonna leave a Dodge or Saturn dealership to see what Mercedes-Benz has to offer. You buy the Benz because you want a Benz. The salesman there do next to nothing. Either you want it or you don't. You have a reason or you don't. All the flashy graphics and glossy screens in the world won't make Apple buyers out of standard users (with shallow pockets). But make Apple accessible to everybody. Lower the PPU (price per unit) and shove them down everybody's throat and John Q. Consumer has no choice but to get it. Why is it cool then? Where is the elite feeling? Where's that control of the status quo? It's all gone and they're just another computer.

I don't see this flooding happening and I think that's by choice. People sell many units to make money. Apple is already doing that. The secret of their success applies to their business model across all products. They control the hardware AND the software. You don't get Sony, Dell, Gateway, etc trying to stuff more shit into a PC, slap an OS on it and make it look more appealing than its competitor's version. It's made by Apple, for Apple and there's no compatibility or interconnectivity issues and you retain the exclusivity of making your limited customer "part of the club." And customers pay a premium for that status.

MP3 players got huge and Creative Labs got in on it, as did every other schmoe out there. An iPod is an MP3 player, but nobody calls it that. It's just an iPod. Now when you talk about mobile music you just say iPod if you don't know what the person owns. It's become the Xerox/Kleenex/Rollerblade of portable music. A brand that stands for an entire industry's worth of a single product.

Steve Jobs got thrown out of Apple on his ASS and was gone for years. He started another company and made it appealing to Apple. Apple bought it and he rode that deal back into his own company from which he had been ousted and look at him today. Back on top. Motherfucker, please. This guy is not stupid. He's a marketing genius. Look at how he's marketed himself. Broke loser hoping for Bill Gates' table scraps 15 years ago is now back in power in one of the most profitable companies in the world and Gates is long done with MS. Jobs has had plenty of opportunity to use Apple's innovation to take them to the next level but why? The business of business is business. He's there to make money. He does exactly that by making cool shit on a smaller, carefully planned level. He controls the supply of everything since it's all done in house and he feeds us one little nibble at a time at a premium to the point that we forget what we're paying and we're just thankful the lord of the manor has allowed us his drippings.

So that's why I think the monetary value of Apple will increase and overtake Microsoft but the market share never can. The last 2 reasons for that is that 1) MS scored with windows 7. They took us from XP which rocked to Vista which was an unpolished turd and then made themselves the saviors of their own flop with 7 (hell, it's got MY eye). I half wonder if it wasn't a planned failure - Vista that is. They did it before with Millenium; that's no secret. They're back on top in the novelty world with wide-eyed geeks drooling over the cool factor and will stay there unless Apple steps up it's game on the computer side of the house; and 2) Apple can't live in the enterprise any more than crabs can live on a bald pussy. They don't have the foothold in that terrain. Windows dominates client services and linux/unix (true command line style) with it's low overhead has the server side processing and cloud computing angles covered. Apple never wanted the enterprise and I can't imagine they do even today (Except to maybe put iPhones in the hands of CEOs).

There's a method to Apple's madness and I think it's very carefully controlled by Steve Jobs. He's not looking for checkmate vs Windows. In the arena that he plays, he's already got it.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

What if...

If George W. Bush had been the first President to need a teleprompter installed to be able to get through a press conference, would you have laughed and said this is more proof of how he inept he is on his own and is really controlled by smarter men behind the scenes?

If George W. Bush had spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to take Laura Bush to a play in NYC, would you have approved?

If George W. Bush had reduced your retirement plan's holdings of GM stock by 90% and given the unions a majority stake in GM, would you have approved?

If George W. Bush had made a joke at the expense of the Special Olympics, would you have approved?

If George W. Bush had given Gordon Brown a set of inexpensive and incorrectly formatted DVDs, when Gordon Brown had given him a thoughtful and historically significant gift, would you have approved?

If George W. Bush had given the Queen of England an iPod containing videos of his speeches, would you have thought this embarrassingly narcissistic and tacky?

If George W. Bush had bowed to the King of Saudi Arabia , would you have approved?

If George W. Bush had visited Austria and made reference to the non-existent "Austrian language," would you have brushed it off as a minor slip?

If George W. Bush had filled his cabinet and circle of advisers with people who cannot seem to keep current in their income taxes, would you have approved?

If George W. Bush had been so Spanish illiterate as to refer to "Cinco de Cuatro" in front of the Mexican ambassador when it was the 5th of May (Cinco de Mayo), and continued to flub it when he tried again, would you have winced in embarrassment?

If George W. Bush had misspelled the word "advice" would you have hammered him for it for years like Dan Quayle and potatoe as proof of what a dunce he is?

If George W. Bush had burned 9,000 gallons of jet fuel to go plant a single tree on Earth Day, would you have concluded he's a hypocrite?

If George W. Bush's administration had okayed Air Force One flying low over millions of people followed by a jet fighter in downtown Manhattan causing widespread panic, would you have wondered whether they actually get what happened on 9-11?

If George W. Bush had failed to send relief aid to flood victims throughout the Midwest with more people killed or made homeless than in New Orleans , would you want it made into a major ongoing political issue with claims of racism and incompetence?

If George W. Bush had created the position of 32 Czars who report directly to him, bypassing the House and Senate on much of what is happening in America, would you have approved.

If George W. Bush had ordered the firing of the CEO of a major corporation, even though he had no constitutional authority to do so, would you have approved?

If George W Bush had proposed to double the national debt, which had taken more than two centuries to accumulate, in one year, would you have approved?

If George W. Bush had then proposed to double the debt again within 10 years, would you have approved?

So, tell me again, what is it about Obama that makes him so brilliant and impressive? Can't think of anything? Don't worry. He's done all this in 5 months -- so you'll have three years and seven months to come up with an answer.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

My letter to AT&T. Will be mailed tomorrow

Jason T. Viglione

October 29, 2009

To Whom It May Concern:

I am generally the last to pen a letter of this nature, especially towards a company I so often laud as being the best in its field. However, the nature of my correspondence and the results received need to be addressed.

I understand entirely that you, the reader, are neither familiar with me nor my account so let me fill in the details before I proceed with the issue at hand. I am a long time customer of roughly 10 years. My account will not indicate such a timeframe as I am active duty military and had an interruption in service due to a government move out of your coverage area. I assure you I returned as quickly as my geographical location allowed me. I currently hold 3 lines on a family plan. Two of these lines are iPhones with the corresponding data feature. An unlimited text-messaging plan is also in place. My history with the company is laden with upgrades and new purchases. I had one of the first iPhones available in South Carolina upon launch in 2007 and again in 2008. I upgraded yet again in 2009 although delayed slightly only because I was again out of the country on military orders. I’m a member of your premium customer service because of my government affiliation.

I recently heard about the addition of your A-List feature and tonight had the opportunity to enable it on my account. To my dismay it was unavailable. I called only to be told that with my rate plan of 700 minutes, I’m not entitled to it. It requires 1400 minutes or more. My initial thought was that with 1400 minutes, I wouldn’t need free minutes to 10 out of network numbers. More importantly, I don’t understand the purpose of having minutes be qualifiers. Is it financial? I assure you that my combination of features that result in $177/monthly is more than a single non-smartphone user with 1400 minutes.

I am a native of the New York metropolitan area and I’m currently serving on Air Force active duty. I was stationed in South Carolina and now Mississippi. As any compassionate human can imagine, my phone is my lifeline to friends and family whom I’ve left behind to serve our country. AT&T has always proudly supported the military as evidenced by the normally outstanding care and well-discounted offerings that are sent our way.

It is in this instance that I look at AT&T differently. If a heavy user, long-term loyalist, dedicated American serviceman doesn’t deserve a widely disseminated, overly advertised promotion, then I cannot imagine who does and frankly, leaving the decision to qualifying standards of a rate plan solely is a disservice to your customers and your customer support reputation.

To that end, when initially surprised at this news I asked the support representative, “What is the reasoning for the rate plan qualification?” to which I received, not an answer, not an explanation but a verbatim repeat of the previous answer. My question did not imply I misheard the answer, but rather further depth to that same answer. Repetition is not further information.

I hung up disheartened and amazed and half wondering if it was, in fact, AT&T that I had just spoken with, as none of the previous moments indicated that to be the case given my track record of complete satisfaction. Sadly, I looked at the 2 iPhones in my home and wondered if the love triangle between the phones, your service and my happiness was had passed its prime.

I suppose the remainder of the contract and the satisfaction contained therein will be my qualifying standard, which I believe to be much more comprehensive than a somewhat arbitrary number.

My account number and wireless telephone number are listed at the top of this correspondence should you choose to rectify this situation.


Jason T. Viglione

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Delightfully tacky, yet unrefined... yet family friendly

Hooters has always been known by that slogan. Moreover, they are famous for their wings... and breasts. Busty women in short shorts and well known tank tops bring beer and wings to ogling men. Not in Biloxi, MS apparently.

A couple of weeks ago during the MLB ALCS I was there - during the now infamous conversation with my least favorite Yankees hater that I posted about before. During that argument I had that manager come over and ask us to quiet down and watch the language because there were children around.

First things first, why are children frequenting Hooters EVER let alone on a weekend night during baseball playoffs when the bar is packed with beer chugging sports nuts? Secondly, why are they a priority over a group of male adults enjoying Hooters for its very specifically tailored features?

That incident notwithstanding, I like the place. The wings are good, the beer is cheap and women are... Hooters qualified women. So, I went back tonight to watch the baseball game. The game turned out to be a disaster but at least I was poised to enjoy a decent evening out and social and laden with lager.

We arrived shortly before the game was to be aired on FOX. Naturally I asked my server's breasts to change the channel to FOX. I'm assuming she had a head and face, but I hadn't looked far enough north to be sure.

Moments later, the on duty manager came by and said she'd be more than happy to change the channel to FOX in a few moments after family guy was over. At first thought, I figured it had to be because, as a sports bar, they weren't going to show sitcoms. Maybe it was because the musicin the place would make watching Family Guy senseless if muted (as if Family Guy is ever NOT senseless in the first place). Of course, I was applying logic and reason to the scenario.

The truth of the matter, as evidenced by the latter half of her sentence, was that they had to wait because they are not allowed to show family guy due to its inappropriate content. Let me get this straight. Your slogan calls you tacky AND unrefined. You stake your claim in the restaurant industry as the premier purveyor of hot women who amplify their tips by hanging their asses out of the bottoms of their shorts and their breasts out of the tops of their shirts. Yet Family Guy is over the line?

Had they said that they are an American institution and they don't support Seth McFarlane or his pro-socialist, commie, pinko views, I'd have motorboated every self-esteem challenged waitress in appreciation. Sadly for me, from a variety of standpoints, this was not the case. They're just too wholesome for the crude humor of family guy.


English Professors at the Hair Salon

I missed my chance to get a haircut on base today so I went to a legitimate hair salon at the mall for a trim. I usually avoid these places because I get a typical military clipper cut and don't need to hang with stylists and pay their prices but I was due and out of time so I went. I was reminded why I usually don't.

Background info: They are running a promotion where if you spend $x.xx, you get a crappy little water bottle. But it's free so the customers want it. While I'm in the chair, a woman pays the required $25 on hair care products to get her water bottle when a dispute amongst the rocket scientists of style ensues. Is it A $25 product or a combination of products that add up to $25? Well the sign reads, "Receive a water bottle with a $25 product purchase." I'm in the chair mid-way through a haircut (the only thing that prevented me from walking out) while they argue and proceed to call the store manager at home to find out the appropriate rules of engagement for giving away a fifty-cent water bottle.

The discrepancy revolved around 2 key factors:
1) it said "product" instead of "products" so that MUST mean the customer had to reach $25 on a single product
2) there aren't any individual products worth $25

Should have been an open and shut case that a total of $25 would work since you cannot spend $25 on one item, right? I should be so lucky. That conspicuously missing "S" was the fly in the proverbial ointment.

It never occurred to any of them that it could have been a typo (which it wasn't). I sat fuming, quietly in my chair, knowing Linda was a few feet behind me waiting to hear me explode at any moment.

Think about it... it's not product vs. products as far as how many items you need to buy. It was a $25 product purchase vs a $25 service purchase. And there's the rub... every single service provider in the place got involved in this, having to stop providing their respective service just to argue and forget this little caveat in the English language.

"There's no S. It means a single product"
"We don't have any products that are that price so it's a total."

I'm just seconds away from saying:
"Has the hair dye fried your already overburdened brains? It's a product purchase not a service purchase. It doesn't matter how many products they buy as long as their money is spent on products. A $25 haircut and/or dye job doesn't count. Did you forget you're here to provide a service as well? Clearly because only half my head has been shaved. Cut my hair and give this poor woman a lousy water bottle so I can get the hell out of here."

It wasn't their thirst for knowledge, debate and good customer service that annoyed me. It was the ebonically-charged adamant positions on which they all stood as if they were all grammatically infallible."

That was the first poor retail-service decision of the evening. The next to follow soon.

Friday, October 16, 2009

October... a time to argue

I went out tonight to watch the Yankee game with some friends. Well, with a friend and his friend who, as it turns out, is a big, wet, flapping douchebag. As soon as we got there, I asked the waitress what channel the game was on and she hooked me up by changing the channel on the nearest TV. I was psyched to check it out. This prick asks me, "Dude, you're a Yankees fan?" When I said yes, he said, "I fuckin' hate the Yankees." Here we go. I asked why and he proceeded to tell me the same thing I've heard a million times. The Yankees buy championships. Steinbrenner steals the best players. They're overpaid. They need a salary cap. And on down the line he went with the same Anti-Yankees rhetoric we've all heard a million times.

I told him I agreed that maybe there should be a cap but there's not. It's not Steinbrenner's fault. Talk to the MLB about that shit. Is ANY franchise in business to lose? If you had limitless funds, would you buy players that are bad? Would you plan to lose? No! If you won the lottery at $200 million, would you buy a Hyundai? Of course not. The point is that you have to pay to play. You're in it to win it. Gotta spend money to make money. And I repeated every financial based cliché I could think of. He didn't get it.

He's a Pittsburgh Steelers fan. I said, "Ok. Why did the Steelers buy Ben Roethlisberger?" Because he's good, because he could win and they pay for that luxury. Let's stay on football and their salary cap for a minute. Last year the Jets wanted Bret Favre. Why? Because he's a winner. So, they let go of Chad Pennington. Salary cap, right? Even so, Favre went where the money was because that's what it's about. Not loyalty to the Packers. Pennington went to the Dolphins. This year he's hurt and Chad Henne is filling in for him and he's having a good time. He's playing like a madman. Is he going to be worth money next year? Will he go where the money is? Yes and yes. It's all about the money.

You want to complain about the Yankees, then talk to the MLB and the MLBPA and get a salary cap put in. In the meantime, however, don't come bitching to me that the league allows limitless spending, the ball club can afford it, the players go for it and we, as fans, shell out our hard earned money for tickets to pay it. Who's to blame here? If a bar charges $20 a beer and you pay it, will they stop? No, of course not. If nobody comes back, you're putting the bar to a decision for all their chips. Do they go all in and keep the prices and risk going out of business or do they lower their prices? We pay stadium prices to fund these salaries. Steinbrenner has the best market in the country (New York) and he uses that to up prices (which get paid) to buy the best players to win. He's not buying championships. He's buying the talent to bring in the championships. Find me an owner of any business in any industry who says, "I buy the most worthless pieces of shit just so I can lose my customers and go out of business" and I'll delete this blog and kiss this douche on the lips. Until then, understand that the business of business is business.

A 4th in the crowd arrived late and asked me if sports are a business or entertainment. I just said, "to who?" because that matters. Frame of reference brother. To me, the spectator, it's entertainment. To the guy with billions of his own money invested in it, it's a business. To the players, maybe, hopefully, it's a little of both. To use a philosophy from the movie Joe Dirt, when UNICEF gets into this business maybe it will be different, but it's not a charity.

Well this wasn't really as much an argument as much as it was him spraying me with stupidity for a couple of minutes and then me firing back with sensible business backed ideas, clear lucid arguments, and simply supply-demand economics.

His final retort was, "I'm not good with numbers and my head hurts. I want to kill you right now because you made my brain hurt. I'm done with this conversation. Are you done? Let me know if you're done or not because I'm not sitting here if we're going to continue to talk about this."

I simply said, "I don't like ultimatums so if I have to sit here quietly during the playoffs of my favorite team just to not upset you and out of fear that you'll take your proverbial ball and go home then I'll make you a deal... I'll just say that I'm going to talk about it nonstop so you can go home and we won't have to walk on eggshells the rest of the night. It's the 5th inning and I've seen a single pitch. Yes I'm gonna talk about it. Cut your losses and go."

And he left.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Customer Dis-service

Now that my blogs here are syncing with Facebook, I may actually increase my readership so I'll try to blog more. To be perfectly honest, I fell in a rut and forgot all about the damn thing until I saw the sync feature the other day. Whatever, it's no excuse, I know. And that's not even why we're here.

Here's the story. Last night I went into Academy Sports (just like a Sports Authority for those of you that don't have one in your part of the country). I was there to get some ammo for one or all of my handguns. I heard they're fairly well stocked with decent prices. In today's economy, under today's administration, you often can't find ammo and when you do... it comes at a premium. So we went to look.

Keep in mind, this is the first time I'm in this store. I walk in with 2 buddies and we have NO idea where the ammo is so we're confusedly scanning the hovering signs, randomly pointing the directions of what we believe to our intended direction. All the while there are about 5 employees just to our left, in their own conversation. No welcome, nothing about helping us find our way. I don't think they saw us. So we wander around the perimeter of the store.

And lo and behold, the ammo section! Here is where the event took place that nearly had me banned for life. If I was the man I was 5 years ago, I'd have been arrested. 3 years ago banned. Now... I just walked away and took the hit internally in blood pressure points.

Here's what happened (or didn't happen). I ask the guys at the counter "Hey, do you have any .45acp ammo?" - no response. My buddy Eric asks the same thing to the other guy behind the counter - no response. I ask the 2nd guy myself by leaning into the counter and very carefully saying, "Dooo YOUUUU have AAAAny FOOOOOrty-FIVE ammo?" and this time I got a response. He looks up and says, "NO!" as if that was the 43rd time I'd asked him that question. I immediately lost my mind and had to get out of there. Walking away the first guy goes, "Just .45 Long Colt." and I stopped in my tracks and then said, as I started walking away again, "Oh, he DID hear me. Just took him 6 minutes to process the question and figure out an answer."

There were other calibers I needed but not from this piece of shit - not from either of them. So I told my buddy Eric that I would be walking around the store because I didn't want to have to choke someone in the ammo department and my other friend Rusty (who may get angrier than me) came with me. I was so tempted to say something to a manager but when I got to the front I saw the same 5 still standing there doing their best mannequin impressions that I realized it just wasn't worth it. We found Eric and left.

Alright boys and girls, it's philosophy time now that you have the story. What in the world is going on? You work in the gun section of a sports shop. This is not McDonald's, you're not plunging toilets in a high school. There's a good fuckin chance, you took that job because you have an interest in it. 3 men come up looking to spend money and you can't even muster up the energy to say yes or no. That is the kind of "I don't want to work for it, I want it handed to me" attitude I expect from the liberals. But we're in the south in a sports/hunting store. It wasn't like they were busy. There was nobody else in the area. One guy was polishing a gun and the other was deep in some kind of profound thought - maybe which flavor of chewing to tobacco to use tonight, I don't know.

I think pay should be merit based, just like a commission. You don't have to make the sale but you have to sell yourself. You have to service the customer with information, friendliness, courtesy, and at the very least, the ability to turn grunts into real words. Everyone gets a little taxi cab type meter. When they succeed, the numbers go up, when they fail, the numbers go down. You control how much you earn (within your set rate, anyway).

You're not motivated inherently by the responsibilities of your job so maybe the ability to keep the lights on at home will do the trick. Lose enough money and you'll forced to be nice. I don't care if you mean it, honestly. I just won't be treated like I'm a jerk by a complete stranger that works at Academy Sports as a career for his entire life. I'm better than that.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Petty Friend Request Behavior

A couple of days ago I received a friend request on Facebook. It was from a female I barely knew about 6 years ago. We were stationed together the last time I was here at Keesler AFB. I deliberated very briefly when I realized... a) we weren't friends 6 years ago, b) we haven't even spoken in 6 years... she's neither friend nor foe. I looked at her photos and found lots of drunken ridiculousness and what even appeared to be her kissing another female (VERY graphically). Now I said to myself... we have very little in common. How old is this person anyway? 24! Hmmm... what is the felt effect of being friends with her? I get to see drunk stories, I get to re-live being 24 all through the eyes of a perfect stranger. Nah, I'm going to pass. Now, while there are 200 people on my friends list that I've never met, they are other "Vigliones" from around the world. We have something in common, if nothing other than our names. I don't share that much of a common bond with this individual. So I clicked ignore.

This morning I received an email from her asking why I denied her. I was a little perturbed at the gall on this individual. I wanted to leave it be and not even reply but I just couldn't. It was 5am, it was dark, it was raining, it was cold, I was in my blues uniform and on the way to work. My mood would not allow this to go unnoticed. So I sent a bit of a wordy reply mentioned all that I mentioned to you above and maybe 1 or 2 other items to the tune of the fact that I'm in a committed relationship and striking up new friendships with complete female strangers, especially those known to be without good moral character, is not the way I operate. Basically, the outcome of a FB friendship with this person is not positive for me. I wouldn't say it's altogether negative. It's a non-entity so why bother. It's like eating white bread. You do it when there's nothing else around but it provides no flavor, no substance. Just filler when you've got nothing else in the house.

Well, Ms. White Bread replied very quickly with a nasty note about all the reasons why she's better than me and why my response wasn't legitimate or sensible. Then she signed off with a self-detrimental point of argument. She said that it didn't matter that I'm not single because she'd never sleep with me and tied up the line with "and I'm not picky." Well then... ok. Clearly sleeping with her was never on my mind since I didn't even want to be FB friends and moreover... she's not picky? How is that a jab at me? Calling yourself a slut and me a guy that doesn't meet your slutty standards doesn't leave me any worse for the wear because you're still the one that's a slut.

In any event, is that what this has all come to? Looking up people for the sake of looking them up? Needing verification and pats on the back that you're still a good person when someone doesn't FB friend you? And finally... going on the attack when someone you said 5 words to 6 years ago doesn't want to continue a zero of a friendship? I think it's all pretty pathetic. And to think I used to get heartburn about deleting friends on social networking sites because I thought it was as bad as hanging up on someone mid-sentence. Needless to say, my privacy restrictions on here have become exponentially more stringent - at least until the world grows up a little.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Social Networking + Freedom of Speech = Requests for Freedom of Killers?

So this morning I was on one of the two biggest social networking sites when I saw something pretty disturbing. It's a group that calls for the freeing of Mark David Chapman. In case you don't know who he is; Chapman is the guy who shot John Lennon outside the Dakota in 1980. The tagline for the group gives reason with the following: "Mark David Chapman did mankind a big favour by shooting John Lennon. Chapman, an avid reader of »Catcher in the Rye« has been in jail for almost 28 years now. Enough is enough." Someone else inside the group commented that "Mark David Chapman did what someone else would have done sooner or later - kill that fucking hippie."

Can these people be for real? There are a couple of things that come to mind. First of all, enough is enough when the sentence is over. I'm pretty conservative. Ok, I'm ultra-conservative. Sometimes I wish the right wing was a little longer so I wouldn't risk falling off the edge. The point is that just because you're anti-hippie, it doesn't mean that murderers of hippies are heroes and should be released from prison. Speaking of hippies, while they are a subset of society today... while Lennon and the Beatles were at their height; EVERYONE was a hippie. It was the 60's when British Invasion happened - "make love, not war," "flower power," and all those cliches were the mantra of the 20-something Baby Boomers. So he wasn't really a hippie back then. He was just another guy.

I also happen to be a Beatles fan so I may not be objective on the matter but I think any music fan will undoubtedly admit that the Beatles have influenced nearly every band in every genre to a degree.

Maybe the Beatles sucked. Maybe John Lennon was a son of a bitch. Maybe Mark David Chapman was merely the first to do the inevitable. Whatever the case may be, is it really enough to release this guy from jail early? Is enough really enough? This guy was a fan that killed his idol. Actually he was a FANatic. That's just not health. I don't know how long his sentence was for bu I think he needs to ride it out.

The important issue here is why people think that shit is normal to say online. You NEVER hear these types of conversation on the street or at the bar at Chili's but the proliferation online is astounding. In the past I would say that it's the relative anonymity of being online that allows you to say the most ridiculous but these the Myspaces and Facebooks of the world give away a lot of one's identity. So I guess I have no idea why this shit occurs online the way it does.

I just know it was far and away the silliest cause I've seen pop up online in a long, long time.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Dunkin Dunkin Donuts Donuts

The below is a previously written and unreleased blog that automatically posted in my absence to help fill the void left in your hearts when I begun my travels.

Don't adjust your monitor or your glasses... you're not seeing double.

I was eating a Donut. The taste of the donut indicated that it might be from Dunkin' Donuts. So I said "I was eating a Dunkin Donuts donut." I stopped mid-sentence to the confused looks from those around me. One spoke up and said "Did you just say donut twice?" As tired as I was, I paused to think and repeat the sentence to myself quietly and answered back "Kinda. I said Dunkin Donuts donut." He asked me why didn't I just say "Dunkin Donut" and leave it at that.

I figured that would be inappropriate since Dunkin Donuts is the name of the brand and a donut is the product that I was eating at the moment; rather than a bagel or even a cruller. So what kind of donut was it? The Dunkin Donuts kind... a Dunkin Donuts donut.

Now, to complete the lunacy, take it a step farther. Should you be enjoying a donut with coffee and should you dunk that donut in your coffee then you would be dunking a Dunkin Donuts donut, would you not? so if someone asks you what you're doing you just simply reply:

dunkin Dunkin Donuts donuts

Monday, April 27, 2009

A photo is not worth panic

But this current presidential administration apparently thinks it is. A White House official approved a mission last week that took place this morning. The mission was for a VC-25, better known as Air Force One, to fly over lower Manhattan escorted by fighter jets. Sound familiar? Well if the scene reminds you of 9/11/01, you should see the flight path that the plane took, which is pretty similar to 7 and a half years ago. this mission was simply a photo op. So for the sake of a photo, many lower Manhattan companies were evacuated in panic. Other pertinent details include the fact that the FAA approved this, local and state authorities were notified, but the public was kept in the dark. Additionally, it was specifically kept quiet to the point that Mayor Bloomberg didn't even know and he is none too happy with folks about it.

So the first evidence of this "photo op" for the general public was seeing a similar aircraft flying in a similar place with similar fighter jets right behind it. Everyone knows that it's restricted air space so what would people imagine was going on? If it was a routine flight that was approved, why hide it?

So at the end of his first 100 days, President Obama allowed White House officials to pull this stunt. His approval rating is still through the roof although waning in the past couple of weeks.

Here's my note to you Mr. Obama. Think about the cost in poll points to yourself after this shit. Think about the cost of confidence and serenity lost on your "blue" constituents in NY. Think about the cost of the friggin' fuel to fly those 3 planes in that area. Then realize you could have had a pre-teen photoshop the same fuckin' picture for a free pair of movie tickets.

Was it worth it? So you've got a photo of your plane and the financial district at half staff with all the PTSD flare ups and an official apology from the White House plastered right below the "First 100 days" title bar on every news service in the country.

Nice work Einstein!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Overseas Cheese

As I mentioned not long ago I'm preparing to depart the good ol' US of A for roughly 60 days to head what us military folks affectionately refer to as "the sandbox." I was thinking about using this opportunity that is free from distractions of real life to get into better shape than I'm currently in. without the ability to sit on the couch and do nothing all day but surf the web and think up nutty stuff to talk to you guys about I just might be more active. Hand in hand with that activity level is nutrition and meals and healthy diet.

Of course, that really has very little to do with why we're here today. During those thoughts, my brain did what it does and went careening of the edge of reality into uncharted territory. I started to think about these meals and then for some reason or another I thought about cheese - stick with me.

Let's say I'm eating something that's got American Cheese on it. I have to wonder if it's really American cheese. What makes American cheese actually American Cheese. Is it a type of cheese we eat in America or a cheese that's manufactured in America? If geography of manufacture is the sole defining characteristic then, by definition, all cheese made here would be American Cheese including Cheddar, mozzarella and everything else. On that note, there would be no Swiss cheese from this country.

So we can postulate that to define American cheese is to consider the manner in which it's made regardless of the locale. This still worries me because if the "American Cheese" I eat over there is a local product then it can't, in fact, be American Cheese. See, to be created over there it has to be done according to Halal which is the proper slaughtering procedures of Muslims. If you make cheese differently, then it's not the same. We all know that the age of Cheddar cheese affects its sharpness to the process is important.

I suppose the only option left would be true American cheese that's made in America which is probably the most likely option. Anyone who has ever eaten government cheese knows that when you heat it, it just gets warm and shiny and never really melts. That kind of fake cheese can only be developed by the US government unless Halal processing causes the non melting issue.

The important question is how do you define American cheese in the first place? From there I can begin to figure out if it is American cheese that I'm eating while there. You all know that I'll be deeply considering this during the 30+ hours of travel to get there... along with periodic pondering of the humble existence of the American bumblebee.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

I guess we're all human

It's sometimes easy to forget that we're allowed to be human. We're allowed to fail. I often forget this. I recently let everyone know that I'm preparing to deploy to the Middle East again. I also have let most people know (one way or the other) that I'm leaving Shaw Air Force Base in Sumter, SC for good when I get back. I'm going to Keesler AFB for 4 years to teach new Airman about their job in my career field. That's not what I'm here to tell you about though.

See... I always feel that it's my duty to put on a front like I'm incapable of stress. I sheath myself behind the aura of the uniform. I don't know who actually reads these things. I like to think that these blogs are being passed around from reader to reader. I may be naive. What I'm driving at here is that there could be a lot of people that don't know me that look at this. It's clear to everyone that I'm in the military on active duty. I guess I feel that many of us are seen in a certain light and I don't want to let people down. I can't allow myself to look incapable or less than superhuman.

As a result, I don't tell everyone everything. I feel like I have to be able to handle all that is thrown at me and show no negative effect. Often this results in many more internal negative effects.

So here's the skinny. I'm deploying for 60 days. I get back and have 45 days to settle back into life, pack the house, make moving preparations, go home to jersey to see the folks and get my ass to Mississippi. Somewhere in there I needed to spend time with Linda and my friends here in SC all while staying mentally prepared for the challenges of a new job that lay ahead.

While I'm deployed, it's not all roses. Sure I want to go. That's because I love what I do. I love the mission and what it stands for. I love being in uniform and playing my small part in protecting this country. But while I love the big picture, the day to day sometimes... well sometimes it sucks. From the minute I touch down in the desert there are many mental and physical rigors. It's not the most austere of locations, but let's face it, it's not safe ol' SC. I'll be away from friends and family and most importantly Linda. It'll be well over 100 degrees every day. I expect to be working 12 hours shifts for those 60ish straight days. In the back of my mind will be the chaos that awaits me upon my return.

Today I called in a favor with the folks who manage assignments. I moved my report date to Keesler from August 15th to September 30th. I just bought myself an extra 45 days. Now I can enjoy July and bask in being near Linda again. I can take leave and see my NJ associates without rushing. Maybe Josh and Kristine can make their way to SC before I go now too. I guess we'll see.

I always thought it was so important to keep up those military appearances for the general public and never let civilians see us have a weakness. But here's what clicked. We're not cyborgs. We're not superheroes. We're people. We have lives. The military is a big part of our lives, but in the end, it's still a part. And at times, the other parts come down on us and make life a little chaotic.

So there ya have it folks... I'm just a guy like the rest of you. I guess I always was, just never wanted to admit it. I don't do what I do to be a hero or get praise. Sometimes we receive it just because we wear the uniform and I wanted to be that guy for everyone in this country that came across this blog. Keeping it inside doesn't help and eventually my job would suffer so that's counter-productive.

We're all human whether we want to admit it or not. Be human, trust people, enjoy life.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Is technology limitless?

I was recently thinking about this routine we all go through of reading the Sunday circular in the paper with the sales and all the things at BestBuy that we look at and think "one day." It seems to be never ending and it made me think... are there boundaries and limits? So I began to theorize and wax intellectual in my own mind and share with you, another set of musings.

Everything has a boundary eventually although I believe that, in terms of technology, it's a long time before we find it. The human body can only do so much, electricity only travels so fast, things can get only so small. Nothing is limitless - if it was, there wouldn't be a little topic called Physics which studies the physical laws of the universe that govern us.

If I think about what has changed in the past 25 years since I got my first computer I can't imagine anything growing because the leaps and bounds so far have been astonishing. It seems like we've come such a long way. However, I can only imagine the pace will speed up. Was it about 10 years ago that the PentiumIII chip came out and was it about 4 years ago that dual core chips arrived on the scene and now I have a quad-core and there's even an 8 core processor. The time between innovations is shrinking allowing for more productivity in less time. It is quite amazing.

Unfortunately greed has it's grubby little mitts in the process (this coming from a capitalist at heart). Money dictates innovation in this world which is a problem. Look at computers these days. They are moving faster than the consumer needs (in terms of updates). Theorists figure out "we can do this" and manufacturers say "go for it, if you can do it, we can sell it" and they put this new thing on every box that goes out the door. Software developers say "if they're putting it in there, let's write our software to make use of it." and the poor consumer has to run out and update all of his stuff every 9 minutes to accommodate this. And they are basically stealing from us. Robbing us of the opportunity to get our true money's worth out of these machines or let us use these items to their fullest potential because we're so busy hopping from one foot to the next trying to keep up, we miss out on the moment and what we're doing.

The technology industry should be renamed "The grandeur that graft built" and don't even start me on the financial ramifications to the ever-broke consumer who's putting the wife's engagement ring in hock so they can update Little Johnny's PC so he can keep up in school. It's a vicious catch-22 of consumers buying so manufacturers continue to manufacture and manufacturers continuing so there's something to buy and along we go.

Now, I'm in technology by trade and I love it. I think it's nearly boundless and in theory it's just incredible. It's the current business model that pushes the technology sector that I can't stand.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Sun and Sand

Nope... I'm not going to the beach. Vegas? Wrong again. Believe it or not, I'm not announcing an appointment to play in a sandbox. Well, actually, maybe I am... in a way. As many of you already know (via myspace, facebook and twitter) I'm scheduled to deploy again in roughly a month - sorry but I can't give you an exact date. I've received many wishes for a safe trip and safe return already which is awesome. Thank you everyone.

In the meantime, let me fill everyone in on the things that I can. If you see updates via my Twitterfeed about ECST, it stands for Expeditionary Combat Skills Training. This is a week long pre-deployment class done here at Shaw Air Force Base. It should be great fun. I spend a day at the M-16 firing range, a day going through CBRNE training (CBRNE: Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, Explosives), a day of weapons skills training (i.e. physical combat with the use of weapons), Self Aid and Buddy Care and Basic Life Support. Sounds awesome, doesn't it? The prep is more like war, than my deployment itself.

I'm heading out for 60 days for a very specific reason. There's a new building going up at a base "out there" that houses millions and millions of dollars of computer equipment. This building provides, what we call, situational awareness and looks a lot like something out of a movie. Giant screens showing the good guys and bad guys and where they're going, planes, boats, etc. It's basically where the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (OIF and OEF) are run from.

I went over once back in early Sept of 2006 and got back at the end of January 2007. From the day I got back in the US I've been asking when I Can deploy again. Finally this project came up and I got asked if I still wanted to go. I said "Absolutely, what do you need me to do? I'm sure there are floors that need sweeping. Sign me up. Whatever it may be."

I'm sure people want to know WHY I want to go so badly. Ok, I'll tell ya. That's where the magic happens. That's why we exist as a military. All those bad guys that want to undo our way of life here, are already over there and we go to get them before they get us. When any one of you wake up in the morning and make decisions about your life every day, it's because of what military people do. There are a couple of sayings I love - the first is "If you can read this, thank a teacher. If you can read it in English, thank a soldier." and the other is "Only 2 people have ever offered to die for you, one for your sins and the other for your freedom." Make no mistake, I have NO intention of dying, but I have even less intention of letting any American die here in our own country. I'm not going on marches; I'm not pulling the trigger, but we all have our parts to play. I do mine and I do it well.

I appreciate the thoughts and well wishes and prayers and crossed fingers, I really do. Just know that I'm not going "outside the wire" where it's dangerous. No mortars, no gun shots. Just lots of computer rooms. It's good money also. Most importantly it's a chance to leave South Carolina and do what I'm trained to do for the most important reasons possible.

It's only 60 days. By the time I get there, in-process, and adjust my body to the time change, I'll be halfway through and back before you know it. Internet connectivity is an uncertainty for now but I'll keep you all abreast of developments.

Thanks again for all the concern.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Obama avatar

So aside from ranting and raving on here I also host a photography community/forum. And further from that... I'm a staff member on a forum for forum administrators. Someone recently posted a poll about an image (included in this post) and whether it should be censored/removed or not. After 4 pages of ranting and raving and me telling everyone to behave, someone asked my opinions on the image. The rest of this post is my response...

Well I was asked a question and it's not like me to not respond. I was waiting until I had the time to dedicate toward an answer.

I'm not offended by the image. I don't think all individuals of that area of the world want people to submit to them. I think there are extremists in every race, culture, and religion. The dregs of society are spread across color, ethnicity, creed, etc. I don't typecast people. I know white people who are brilliant and others who are a drain and can't be trusted. I know black people who are mentors to me in my career and others who I wouldn't have in my home. Once, a good friend was an Iraqi national who was against Saddam (before his ousting) and part of a nation anti-saddam movement in this country working with our government to find him. I don't like individuals as individuals, not as a category they are pigeonholed into.

I said that to say this. Despite my ongoing attempts at impartiality as a leader in my job, an American, an admin, and a human; I understand that many people don't feel the way I do. I also see that the image that started all this is not racist, in my opinion, but it is in others'. For me to define that image would be to say it's "racially charged." It's not a portrait of the man. It's meant to make a point. It's meant to cause a stir.

The arabic style writing and the turban are there to evoke emotion from the viewer. The turban and font are plays on the facets that the republican party ran rampant during the campaign. Obama said "my muslim faith" and he was touted as being a muslim. His middle name is Hussein which was likened to Saddam. Obama/Osama - one letter apart was all over the media. These are subtexts of the photo left open to interpretation of the viewer. The actual text is "Change - You will submit to Obama." The inferred meaning is that you will do it because he's arabic.

Does that make the image racist be definition? No. Does it make it racially profiled? Yes. Does it mean that you will have a divide within your community over the inferred meaning? I believe so.

The end result is that it is, in fact, inferred meaning. It's composed in a way to let people apply their own values and come up with their own meaning. Because it's not spelled out as to what the author/designer meant, people have to decide for themselves. These are beliefs that you can't change.

Is an avatar worth a political split on your forum? Is freedom of speech (on a PRIVATE forum) worth an uprising among members?

Satire has been used and I agree that's what it is, but satirical items can be based on lots of parts of life. Nazi Germany has had satirical political cartoons done for many years. Nobody wakes up and raises their hands. Why? WWII was over 60 years ago - SIXTY! It's not a threat.

Muslim extremists are a current threat. Not muslims, but muslim extremists. During the crusades, Christian extremists were the threat. The word fanatic has the word fan in it. Someone who is a fan to an unhealthy level that they become a fanatic.

Take a heated political/presidential campaign, the first black man running for that office, add in the current hot button issue of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and a general fear (albeit misguided) of arabs and muslims in America and put it all into a cartoon right now, not 50 years from now and you end up with a recipe for angry, emotionally charged debates. It's playing to the emotions of all sides. Republicans get pissed because they say "see? we were right about him." Democrats get pissed because they say "He is NOT a muslim." Christians get pissed because they say "We shouldn't have a turban wearing president that looks like and has a name like those trying to kill us." and Muslims get pissed because they say "We don't ALL believe you have to submit to us."

It's not racist but it IS offensive, in some way, to basically everyone. I'm not offended by it because I know it's meant to offend me and I won't allow myself to lose sleep over a political cartoonists satire and fall victim to his game. But I still wouldn't allow it on my forum. My forum is about photography and I wouldn't let the spirit and intent of my forum get disrupted over an avatar. It's not worth it to me.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Half Truths or Half Told Truths

I can't decide if there is a difference in concept or in felt impact between the two. I recently got an email on another site asking me to join the fray and help stop the clubbing of baby seals in Canada before the 2010 Olympics. The logo showed the Olympic rings so, naturally, my first thought was that it was going to be a new sport. You can imagine my disappointment as I read on.

As it turns out, this crusade is led by PETA, which I recently learned does NOT stand for People Eating Tasty Animals. Dismayed once again.

My spidey sense should have warned me that this was going to inflame my intolerance for left wing, tree hugging, hippy, commie, pinko bastards. (simply stated - Democrats).

Here's the deal, PETA wants to stop the clubbing of baby seals before the 2010 Olympics arrive because it'll put Canada in the spotlight, etc. I have some thoughts on this.
1) Does anyone think the Molson guzzlers care what PETA has to say on the topic?
2) While I think that Canadians can put their time to more productive use by studying proper vowel usage, skinning baby seals is what they do. It's not dissimilar to seeing the Italian greaseball right off the Tortellini boat like me with Tomato gravy dripping down my chin. It's really not much of a surprise.
3) I find it hard to believe that a group of flannel wearing Canadians sat around and one said "How can we get more press here, since the Olympics aren't really noteworthy?" and got a reply "EUREKA! Let's club baby seals!" This has been going on for a long, long time.
4) Now, PETA likes to talk about the cruelty to animals part but nowhere do they mention any of the reasons why it may be necessary to let this activity continue. For instance, is there an overpopulation of seals? This is done seasonally and once a year so it could be a way of population control.
5) With every industry seemingly failing in more than just a few countries is now a good time to put people out of work to save animals?
6) Not much more to say than - evolution and/or food chain.

Believe me, I don't wish harm on animals and quite often there are more people I'd like to see clubbed than animals in the first place. Unfortunately, you can't make a coat out of all of my ex-girlfriends so they're left free to roam causing more harm than the seals on any given day. However, why must every group with a cause get in the way of everyone else with a cause. You don't see the seal clubbing industry firing back at PETA. I think people in a mission like this need to shut their mouths and let others do what they do. Is it illegal? If so, notify the authorities. If not, go away. Just because you don't like it, I don't think you have the right to shout from the mountain tops and invade my personal space. In America, we have many freedoms but you freedom stops when it impinges on mine.

If nothing else, understand that Canada is a frozen tundra with nothing to do and it's inhabitants need a hobby. Besides, what has a seal done for you lately?

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Positively looking up for 2009

It's 9 hours and 38 minutes into 2009 and nothing monumental has happened yet. Linda and I made it through the night sleeping without my snoring waking her and then her, in turn, waking me and me, in turn, swearing I wasn't snoring in the first place and that she's crazy and if she wakes me again I'm knocking her ass out of bed. By the way, the last part is the stuff she claims I say when I'm half awake but I don't recall any of it. So I suppose that's a pretty significant start to 2009. Haha!

2008 was a rollercoaster of a year for me both individually and by proxy with all that a lot of my friends went through. Births, deaths, near moves, really far moves, relationship changes, friendship changes, perspective changes. I have heard quite a few people say that 2008 was a real pain in the ass and I thought about all those things and realized that they are just like any other year when you get right down to it. At least for me.

There are things that come and go, ebbs and flows, ups and downs, times are flush and thin and the yin-yangish descriptors can go on for days. So what positive will you do for your life in 2009? When things are down and go back up you can't think "Oh, now I'm making progress" because that's the natural order of the sine curve we call life. What will you do to make the lows shallower and highs greater? I'm not talking about resolutions. Resolutions are stupid. They are things you wish you'd do but know you never will, yet hope that a digit change in an arbitrary number like the date will give you magical mythical inspiration.

Back away from the individual item list and look at your life more globally. Maybe you want to be more patient as a whole. Maybe you want to study more or make more money. Just remember... do NOT ever use the negative. Don't say you want to get rid of debt - say you want to increase wealth. You don't want to lose weight, you want to get fit or healthy. You don't want to be less negative... you want to be more positive. You're trying to bring your life up in one way or another or multiple so... use words that point that direction. Use positive words.

I don't want to stop fighting with my parents about staying in the military. I want there to be peace and support and understanding within my family about it. I don't want money to fix the effects of the current financial crisis (see how awful that sounds?); I want my overall wealth and prosperity to grow and flourish.

Use the new year as a fresh start to changing your life, rather than nitpicking individual items at so lofty a goal that you'll surrender by the end of the month.

Happy New Year to everyone, good luck, take care, keep looking up! And I'm sure we'll "talk" more.