Friday, February 17, 2017

A True Work of Art

I look at the framed print at Salvation Army. I could use the frame. I ask the nearby worker "This says it's $35 but these ones here are similar and you're only asking $15. Can you come down a bit?"

The worker puffs out his chest. "Well now," he says, self importantly. "This here's a real work of art. I collect art, ya know. Why the matte alone is worth at least $100. I know because I had a similar one made for me recently. And it's acid-free, you can tell by looking at it. It prevents foxing. You know what foxing is?" Yes, I assure him, I know what foxing is. I also know you can't tell a matte is acid-free by looking at it, but I don't mention that.

"And it's in perfect condition," he adds.

I point out all the scratches that I'm planning on painting over.

"So," I say, ignoring everything he just said, "can you mark it down or not?"

"The manager will have to do that," he says.

"So could you get her for me?" I ask politely.

"Oh no, I'm wayyyy too busy for THAT," he says.

"OK, where is she?" I ask. He gestures to the woman at the counter, so off I go. I say to the woman "Can you come down on this at all?"

"How about $20?" she suggests.

"Perfect," I say. "By the way, that bald guy who works for you is pretty weird."

"TELL me about it," she says, rolling her eyes. "I can NEVER get him to SHUT UP."

"Duct tape works," I suggest.

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Why Would a Christian Have Voted for Trump? Or Clinton?

Today we know that our future President will be Donald Trump. As I skim through my news feed I see elation and I see sadness. That is to be expected.

But what troubles me are the judgmental and petulant comments that the Clinton supporters are making. One that particularly struck me is "...I don't want to hear a single word from anyone who voted for Donald about how much they love or know Jesus. ...If anyone can find anything in the words of Jesus that aligns with the hate-mongering, fear-mongering, crass name calling..." and the rant continues for a while.

It is finally my turn to speak out, although I don't want to. I chose to stay out of most of the political commentary because I was never a Trump fan. I was never a Clinton fan. I'm not going to say who I voted for, or if I voted, because it's not about me and my vote. Instead, this is about WHY a Christian would vote for either candidate.

Christians are complex individuals, just like everyone else. We are not defined merely by our faith. We are also defined by our minds, various goals, wants and needs.

Some Christians chose to abstain from voting for either candidate because they felt that neither was representative of Christian values, which include high moral and ethical standards.

Why would a Christian vote for Clinton? After all, she is a flawed candidate. She is pro-abortion (many Christians are still opposed to this). She is a documented liar and the email scandal is still seen by many as...well...scandalous, whether or not the FBI has given her a pass. If she won, she would have altered history by appointing Supreme Court nominees that would undoubtedly rule against most mainstream Christian ideals.

But some Christians voted for Hillary in the belief that she would be a good mother to us all. Some voted because they thought she would be generous to everyone: Citizens and non-citizens. Some voted because they truly believe that socialism is the kindest form of government, with the hopes that she would create a future utopia that would come close to it. Some felt that Hillary would be a better protector of the downtrodden and the needy.

Why would a Christian vote for Trump? He has no verbal filter. He is crude, obnoxious, and too quick to speak his mind. He is not the man you'd take home to your parents. He is not the man you'd want your daughter to marry. He seems too quick to anger, too dedicated to revenge.

But some Christians voted for Trump not because they agreed with everything he has said or stands for. They voted for Trump for other reasons.

Some were concerned about the future of the Supreme Court. They didn't want their children growing up in a society where the only hate crimes allowed might be crimes against Christians. Some voted for Trump because they want to live in safety, without the worry of an unvetted Islamic terrorist popping by for an unexpected visit to their children's school. Some voted for Trump because they felt that illegal immigrants are economically harming the country. Some voted for Trump because they felt he would side with victims before he would side with criminals.

I know people on both sides of the aisle. I've never heard a Christian say to me, even in confidence, that they were voting for a particular candidate so that they could ruin someone's life. I've rarely heard a Christian say that they hate someone, and if they do, they feel guilty about it and try to let go of their hatred. A true Christian might hate brussel sprouts, but they are told to not hate people. I've struggled with this myself: Not all people are lovable, after all.

That doesn't mean a Christian is obligated to applaud your choices or your lifestyle, however. And it doesn't mean that someone is a Christian only if they agree with you.

Monday, November 07, 2016

Please Remove This Post: It Bothers Me

It's been many months since I last published anything. But today I opened up Blogger yet one more time and saw ... "Please remove this post. This person committed suicide since you wrote it..." [not due to what I wrote] "...and it causes his family much pain" and "Take down this post please. Her family doesn't want to be reminded of her murder."

I've never received requests like this in all the years I've been writing. My only guess is that we are currently existing in a society where we are so busy mollycoddling everyone that we have completely lost our common sense. The fact that someone feels entitled to even ask to have a factual article removed simply baffles me. Are they also contacting all the major news outlets now, requesting that any news articles about their loved ones be removed from the files? Let's wipe out history and pretend it never happened.

Erasure of history is the constant frustration of Egyptian archaeologists. It was common that conquering or newly appointed royalty would order all mention of their former rivals wiped from record. So, presumably, upon the assumption of a new Pharaoh, craftsmen would be sent out to chisel out hieroglyphs and demolish statues until nothing remained. 

When a King or Queen is newly discovered, it's both a cause for great celebration mixed with awe, due to the complexity of the task. If this terrible practice hadn't existed, we would know so much more about that great society! Such was the case with the Pharaoh Akhenaten: He had been obliterated from most items but there was great excitement when they found the first tablets which even mentioned his name. The story of the discovery of Akhenaten is breathtaking to a history junkie. Why was the attempt made to obliterate him so thoroughly? Most experts believe it's because he was monotheistic: A big no-no in that part of the ancient world.

Modern historians and journalists used to scoff at these ancient Egyptian traditions as quaint but savage. Who would be so narrow-minded that they'd do such a thing? We were brought up hearing "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." [George Santayana]. We know better now, don't we?

So what has changed?

We have bred a nation of entitled whiners. We see constant reminders of it everywhere. Here's a recent meme that came out which sums it all up nicely:
How sad is that?

Of course this isn't limited to 18 year olds. Everyone is busy getting on the "you hurt my feelings" train and getting their tickets punched. And yes, I mean everyone. Every one of us, myself included. 

Are we entitled to complain if someone treats us unfairly? Of course we are. The difference is this: We are allowed to complain about what is unfair. We are not entitled to ask for someone to stop speaking the truth simply because it makes us uncomfortable. 

Monday, April 25, 2016

An Interview with a Scientology Owned Corporation

A woman we'll call Esme recently went to a job interview with a local software company in Clearwater.

For those of you who aren't in the know, if you are interviewing in the Tampa Bay Area, you may eventually run across a Scientologist-owned company. They all have the same traits: They generally operate out of cheap, run down offices. They all have charts all over the walls of their conference room. And they all use the Scientology approved management system.

The Scientologists had a guru, a former SciFi author who believed himself to be a master of, among other things, management.

I have nothing against L. Ron Hubbard's writing skills, having enjoyed "Old Doc Methuselah" when I was a kid. He was creative and obviously persuasive, or he couldn't have created the religion that he did. It was successful for a while, although many reports indicate it is slowly crumbling due to the continued disenfranchisement of its followers, such as Leah Remini.

In his zeal to dominate his followers entirely, LRH (as his devotees call him) created a business management system that he insisted they use not simply in their personal lives but in their professional ones as well. The problem is that he had no degrees in this field, and no personal knowledge of it. His system was outdated even when he conceived it, and depends upon both micromanagement and his poor understanding of how a business should operate. If you are a drone, this is effective. But if you are creative, or think outside the box, or simply want to contribute more to an organization than rote subservience, this system is not effective.

Not knowing that this was a Scientology dominated company, Esme went to the interview. She had been told she was going to take an IQ and personality test. She found that odd, as most of those tests are done online now, but she thought little of it.

The first thing that Esme noticed when she entered the building was that it was dank and dark. There was little lighting and the company obviously spent nothing on creature comforts. There was no attempt to appear palatable or even modern, despite the fact that they were a software company and not, say, a group of shut-ins. The carpet was stained in multiple places and obviously hadn't been cleaned in a very long time, possibly it had never been cleaned since it had been installed.

Esme walked up to the receptionist's desk to find it abandoned. In fact, the entire building appeared to be abandoned, as everyone was at lunch. It had an eerie feeling to it. However, someone meandered by, saw her, and explained that everyone was at lunch. She found it peculiar that everyone was gone at the same time, but she settled down and waited as people trickled back in.

Eventually Esme was claimed by the woman who'd initially contacted her. She was brought into the local conference room, which had an entire wall covered in charts that looked like EKG readings. She was handed a supposed personality test and was told it would take 30 minutes to complete. The test was proudly branded as "Master Tech." 

When Esme retells this, she starts by asking anyone who's lived in the Tampa Bay Area for a while: "If you see the word "Tech" on a test, what do you immediately think?" Most people answer "Scientology." Why? Because LRH was enamored with technology. He felt the best way to appeal to his followers was to appear as scientific and up-to-date as possible so the Scientologist vocabulary is peppered with the word "tech."

Esme blew through the personality test in a short amount of time. "It was so obvious even my poodle could have aced it," she says breezily. The questions included things like "I generally like to be by myself" or "I consider myself to be a people person" or even "I bite at and/or pick at my fingers." When Esme let her handler know she was finished, the handler expressed surprise and then gave her a timed IQ test.

Esme blew through that as well. "I've had serious IQ tests," she states. "They take some real thought. This was a test that was created by someone who really didn't know what they were doing." Again, her handler expressed surprise at how rapidly Esme conquered the test. 

After her handler left, Esme quietly googled "Master Tech" only to find her suspicions confirmed. And quickly glancing over the shoddy bookshelves in the dingy conference room, she saw many Scientology manuals. She googled the company and found out that they'd already been sued for both sexual discrimination and forced Scientology indoctrination conditional to continued employment.

After a short time, two men entered the room. Telling Esme that they had seen her test results and were very pleasantly surprised by them, they began to attempt to sell her on a glorified telemarketing job.

After they ran down, Esme then said "Thank you, gentlemen. May I now ask a couple of questions?" The men expressed enthusiastic interest in what she had to say. She began by asking what the base salary was. Then she said "Obviously you both are Scientologists. Let me start by saying that I'm not an SP."

The men, both startled, uneasily agreed and asked how she'd figured it out. They seemed to find it impressive that she knew what an SP was (Scientologist lingo for Suppressive Person, which is a designation for someone that a Scientologist is not allowed to even speak with. This includes immediate family members if they're designated as an SP).

She explained the wall charts and Scientology materials made it very apparent. Then she asked "Do you insist on using Hubbard's management system?" They said they did and asked her what she objected to. Being a management specialist, Esme truthfully said "I find his concepts severely outdated and only workable in certain situations. His micromanaging is stifling and doesn't allow creativity."

One of the men said he's been brought into the organization specifically to make sure all of LRH's business model be institutionalized. He tried to explain that they'd gone back to the original materials and that was far superior than any modifications that had been made to the system since LRH had gone toes-up. He then asked what she specifically meant by creativity. She explained that she felt she would need to be creative in her sales pitches and, to his credit, he agreed that this was important.

But what Esme couldn't properly express was her knowledge (due to having been trapped before in a Scientologist-owned company) that it is a cruel and didactic system, run by petty dictators with incomplete knowledge. Where people skills and warmth are seen as unimportant. Where flogging employees and negative motivation were encouraged by LRH. Where constant, suffocating oversight is seen as the norm.

In the end they insisted that their particular interpretation of the Scientologist business model was somehow superior to whatever Esme had experienced in the past. They asked if she was offered a position there, would she agree to sign a waiver saying she understood they were using that system? Yes, Esme said, if it was truly as effective as they said, she'd have no problems with it. But she knew there would be problems and so did they.

She never heard from them again.

Thursday, April 14, 2016


I'm a little confused as to why it takes the average teenage girl an entire day to prepare for Prom. You'd think it was her wedding! But I hear many horror stories about it: A trip to get her updo, mani and pedi, makeup, yada yada yada. Prom has become a living nightmare. I'm glad I was able to go to Prom back when it was an enjoyable event instead of a nerve wracking obligation.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

The Planned Obsolescence of Printers

The printer industry has a vested interest in your purchase of a new printer every couple of years. A high level employee once told me that the only way to force this purchase is to up the cost of the ink on the older units to a point that it is cheaper to buy a new printer than to continue to invest in ink.
Most people know this now, and there is a booming market for alternatives (Amazon has a lot of generic alternative inks). I recently went to purchase ink for my 2 year old printer only to see the bill was going to be $100 for 4 cartridges. I went on Amazon and got 10 cartridges for $25.
Today I put them into my Epson printer and I swear the thing took it personally.
I immediately got "We see this isn't genuine Epson ink. Are you SURE you want to use this ink? It could cause [death / disaster / world catastrophes]." I clicked yes, and the printer still wouldn't budge until I pressed another YES button on the printer itself. Finally out of protestations, it reluctantly printed out what I'd asked for.
In perfect color.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016


I take the gallon of "oops" paint up to the old man at the counter. "Do you..." I begin. "Nope," he snaps.
Patiently, I start again. "Do you know what color this is?" I ask. "Oh," he says. He looks at the can. He opens the the can for me, methodically, and shows me what's inside.
"Do you mind..." I start to say. "Nope!" he snaps, assuming I'm going to ask him something that will force him to do more than what he wants to do. "...putting a little bit more on the paint lid so I can get a good idea of what the color is?" I finish.
He glowers at me, but does so, finishing it with the blow dryer so that I can see what color it dries to.
And they say customer service is dead.

The NOT Marry

I just heard on the radio that women still feel very pressured to be married by the time they're in their mid thirties at the latest. I find that quite odd, I don't see that among my female friends. Instead, if anything, I believe that most of us feel the pressure to NOT get married, as if marriage Is for fools and the weak.

The Itsy Bitsy Spider

So me, driving along, suddenly attacked by a spider the size of a quarter. I ended up on the median, but luckily survived the attack and killed the sucker during the struggle. 

I am NOT kidding, either. It actually came scuttling across the windshield at me and went diving for my should've seen me. I grabbed what first came to umbrella that Mary Poppins would be proud of. 

The spider thought nothing of it, but retreated and waited on the ceiling for its next attack. I found something to squash it with and it was finally game over. That is...after I ended up going across two lanes and finding myself on the median, driving/skidding merrily along to a stop.