Saturday, October 9, 2010

Don't wait for 'someday'

I just discovered some horrible news. A friend of mine died on May 30th of this year. This being October 9th, I'm asking myself: how good of a friend was I if I'm just finding out about it now?

Robert O. Smith was an amazing man. My first memories of him were his performances in the early 1970's, on local TV channel KTVW 13 in Seattle. The show was called Dr. ZinGRR's Projections, and it was something I looked forward to all week long. Robert would introduce a couple of classic (and some not-so-classic) late-night horror movies, and in between commercial breaks, he would appear as various original personas, all hilarious and memorable, even to this day. During these breaks in the show he would display his comedic genius with rapid-fire comments and jokes in a sort of stream-of-consciousness monologue that would leave my stomach hurting from an inability to stop laughing.

He was also a voice actor who had many, many accomplishments to his credit in that field. He was a world-record-holding power lifter. He was a clever digital artist. Try googling his name and reading the comments left by his friends and fans. He was so many things, and now that he's gone, I feel a big hole in my life. The world at large really has no idea what kind of person has left the planet, and that is a tragedy.

His show was on that local station a couple of different times, the last time being in 1974, I believe. That was the last I heard of him for many years because he moved on to other projects, and I was only 12 years old, and didn't have the acumen to figure out what he was up to.

Fast forward to 2001. I had just moved from Seattle to Columbus, Ohio, and one night, very late, I suddenly thought of looking up Dr. ZinGRR on Google. Lo and behold, Robert O. Smith had a site, and a page on it was devoted to Dr. ZinGRR! I was so happy that he was 'found,' I immediately sent him a gushing email, talking about how much his show meant to me when I was a kid.

Robert, being the thoughtful person I eventually learned he was, replied to me immediately. He even posted my email to him on the page.

Fast forward to 2006. I decided to write him an email regarding a book I had written and published in 2004, with the somewhat selfish intent of possibly gaining his professional endorsement. My book never went anywhere, but he and I became friends via emails back and forth. He was always thoughtful, kind, and sincerely interested in me. That never ceased to amaze me, simply because he was a television star when I was 12 years old, and I would never have imagined that someone with that status would want to know a 'nobody' like me.

We traded around 100 emails or so total, before the last one I sent him in December 2009. He always emailed me back within a day, and I would sometimes take a month to email him back. At one point we had agreed that the next time I visited friends and family in Seattle, I was going to drive up to Vancouver to have dinner at one of his favorite spots.

I feel horrible that I hadn't thought to email him sooner. I now have deep regrets that I never made that trip to Vancouver. And because I kept putting it off until 'someday,' I will never know the pleasure of sitting across from one of my childhood heroes, and just talking about whatever.

Robert O. Smith was a great man in so many ways. He will be missed by his family, his many friends, his many professional associates through the years, and his countless admirers. I will miss him terribly for the rest of my life.

Robert, if there's a heaven, I'm pretty sure you're there.

Reader of this blog: you've heard this before from other people, but I'm adamantly saying it again: don't wait for someday, because someday doesn't always arrive.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

For the sake of clarity

I think it's time for me to post a manifesto regarding my past and future musings on the existence of God. There is every chance to suppose that someone who agrees or disagrees with my views may never find this particular essay, but I thought it prudent to post it anyway.

Despite the fact that my family never spoke about God, and we never went to church (that I can remember, anyway), I still developed a keen interest in the existence of God. That's the most accurate way I can describe my early journey toward the 'undiscovered country.'

I certainly didn't acquire any exposure to the subject at school, for reasons that remain obvious, thanks to the ACLU, et al. I also didn't have any friends back then who invited me to church. So, the point here being, I do not fit the supposedly typical mold of a believer who is indoctrinated by authority figures or peers. I made my decision on my own, and in fact it was in odd contrast to the other members of my family at the time.

How many people actually believe in the existence of a Creator is mostly up for grabs these days; the numbers I've heard quoted seem to be highly affected by who's quoting them. The shifts in opinion appear to be somewhat generational, because anecdotally, I've noticed that more older folks are believers, and more of the younger people I've encountered (I work with many adolescents and twenty-somethings) tend to be either atheists or agnostics. The kids are mostly agnostic, in my experience; I think that may be due to an overall desire to avoid the issue. It's way too confusing to know what to do with an inclination to believe, when so many of their 'heroes' in popular culture are prancing on the atheist promenade.

Pardon my digression.

I am not affiliated with any denomination, nor do I wish to ever join a particular religion. I believe very strongly in the God that the Hebrews chronicled in the collection of books that non-Jews call the Old Testament. I also believe that the New Testament is very possibly an extension of the Old Testament, therefore I give it almost as much gravity.

Now, to clear a few things up:

I do NOT believe anyone knows the entire truth about God (yes, that obviously includes me). However, this should never be an excuse to avoid trying to learn whatever that truth may be.

I do NOT believe anyone can buy his or her way to heaven (if it exists) by money nor deed, because those very acts smack of selfish intent.

I do NOT believe God is a wise old man residing somewhere in the clouds or in space or on some distant planet.

I do NOT believe the scriptures should ever be used as an excuse to treat other human beings with disrespect or abuse. Any people doing so, clearly do not understand nor appreciate the invaluable written content they're besmirching before the entire world by their actions.

I do NOT believe people begging for money in God's name on television have anything to say that is worth listening to. That goes for anyone publicly invoking God's name for personal gain, or for the purpose of sowing discord.

I do NOT believe human beings need other human beings to teach them about God. If God is almighty, then a pastor, priest, rabbi, mullah, imam, televangelist, sponsor, cult leader or any other affiliate are all completely unnecessary. Those who seek truth in genuine sincerity will always find it. And no, I'm not selling my views, nor do I have any interest in proselytizing them. This essay is for the sole purpose of preventing a possible misunderstanding by any who think they agree or disagree with me on these matters.

I do NOT believe God needs to be defended in any way. I once had a friend angrily call God an asshole, and then he was shocked that I didn't react with indignation. My take on the matter has always been: any Being capable of creating and sustaining life in every way does not need my puny little attempt at defending God's honor. Perhaps the fundamentalists (of every religion) in the world might take a clue here; resorting to arguments, fighting and murder don't convince anyone of anything except that the combatant's faith is a exercise in fragile self-delusion.

I do NOT believe God answers prayers like a cosmic Santa. Try asking for a cookie to appear on your plate. I do believe God is aware of everything that transpires in the universe, however.

I do NOT believe God enjoys the suffering that human beings visit upon each other. This includes the nasty little caricature of God relishing the final toss of a human being (or soul) into burning flames of eternal torture. It's unfortunate how many people can't seem to see the way this traditional (but biblically inaccurate) depiction of the Second Death detracts from actual eternal separation from God - the true punishment that a human being should fear, for a life of unrepentant sin.

I do NOT believe human beings are clueless children or puppets on spiritual strings who are not responsible for their decisions and actions. Come on, let's be honest, at least on this one issue. The individual's desire to relocate blame to anywhere else but on his or her own shoulders is why so many can't seem to fathom that there are true consequences for the things we do. It's way too easy to push the blame on a faceless Creator, especially when we want to do our own thing. Never mind that our own thing often merely adds to the ills of the world by way of selfishness.

"Hey God (who isn't really there), you supposedly made us this way, so why should I be expected to rise above my own selfish instincts?" or the ever popular, "You supposedly created this world, so why should I have to take responsibility for anything that happens in it?" Somewhere in all this childish logic, the proponents seem to gloss over the whole 'free will' thing. Mix in a robust ingratitude for the statistical miracles they call their lives, and you have a recipe for delusion and potential disaster.

I do NOT believe a lack of miracles or an 'imperfect world' are evidence that God does not exist. I do think it's incredibly arrogant (and amusing) for the created to presume to set the ground rules for the Creator.

We see the world, we see the results of positive and negative decisions. We don't live in behavioral stasis; we adapt. Therefore, the foolishness of constantly trying to swim against the current never ceases to amaze me. People continue in this way, day after day, year after year, millennium after millennium.

The bottom line? When the rules are known and they're still broken, it's not much different than knowing the edge of the cliff holds certain death, and deciding to step on the gas instead of the brake. Yet human beings have done this for as long as they've populated the earth!

And lastly:

I do NOT believe it is worth my time to try and change anyone's mind on this subject. Whether or not others wish to be atheists, or to pursue a belief in God, is entirely up to them, not me. That doesn't prove my opinions correct, but it also doesn't prove them wrong. I do care what happens to people, I simply recognize that human beings are more than able to make their own decisions... and indeed they do.

There will definitely come a time when the word "but" will no longer make a difference.

Friday, September 10, 2010

The Necessity for Justice

My wife and I had a lively debate about the previous essay regarding the criminal mind. She has always felt that my approach to the issue is much too harsh. While I admit that in life there is rarely any kind of incident where the facts are all black and white, I still bristle at the endless permutations of an event spun by lawyers who are merely trying to win 'the game.'

During our conversation at our favorite burger place, she pointed out some questionable behavior by police officers (documented by FBI investigation, I'm told) during the Hurricane Katrina disaster. We tossed that subject back and forth for a bit, and it did make me realize that there are situations where the usual measurements of virtue are 'adjusted' by an unfortunate change in rules.

Simply stated, due to the intrinsically selfish nature of human beings, it is often the case that when a segment of society breaks down during a time of emergency, many previously 'law abiding' citizens seize the opportunity to act out. Looting is one of the more common behaviors witnessed. However, according to the Frontline program my wife had watched, many of the rumors regarding citizens assaulting, raping or killing during the Katrina aftermath were merely that only: rumors. These dark suppositions were spoken by people on the street, picked up by media, and then reacted to by local government.

So where does that leave someone who would like some sort of consistent way to mentally deal with criminal behavior?

When one is being forthright and exercising the best intentions, it becomes difficult to obtain accurate answers, one hundred percent of the time. The truth of the matter is that despite legal arguments and pleas of innocence, the genuine facts of any incident (that we aren't personally involved in) are rarely known with certainty.

I would take this moment to suggest that without an absolute arbiter of justice (God), human beings must resign themselves to lives of good fortune or bad fortune alone, as that becomes the only form of moral resolution available. Without God, there's no point in shaking a fist or crying out that something is unfair.

I think when people view God as either Invisible Santa or Cosmic Bully, they miss the mark in both cases. God would be neither, in the case of meting out true justice. Many of us tend to presume that only the individual has any true idea of what he or she deserves; unfortunately, too many of us suffer from the occasional or permanent delusion that the universally understood, yet unwritten (or written, depending on your beliefs), rules of acceptable behavior don't apply to us personally.

We're not even the best judges of our own behavior, much less anyone else's.

If ever there was an argument for the existence of God, out of pure necessity, that would be a significant one. The alternative, being merely a random string of events of apparently good fortune and suffering, is enough to drive a reasonable person insane if examined too closely.

Without some form of ultimate justice, all the most humane accomplishments and evil deeds in history are both members of the same ill-fated group, consigned to be lost forever in the black hole of forgotten memories, reducing life itself to nothing more than a meaningless collection of pointless interactions.

Just the fact that almost all human beings instinctively recognize the difference between good and evil should be enough evidence that there is a difference, and that hopefully there is a reason to choose good over evil in one's own life.

I know some people insist that human beings need nothing more than their own moral compasses to attain virtue for all of humanity, but the atrocious historical record of humanity's attempts at justice is a pathetic display of navigation, as far as I can tell.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Toxic and Useless Criminal Mind

How many times have you read or heard about some random crime, such as property damage, illegal drug activity, theft, assault, rape, murder, whatever, and found yourself asking that basic question, "Why?"

This is the most troubling aspect of all. Anecdotal or documented, the evidence must overwhelmingly point toward some strange defect in the minds of the criminally inclined. Those of us (the majority of the population, I both hope and assume) who don't find criminal activity attractive are constantly faced with the unfortunate necessity to find some sort of rationalization to deal with the reality of unlawful behavior.

The classic question has always been: what goes through the mind of someone who decides to commit a crime that is altogether unnecessary? By 'unnecessary,' I'm referring to anything that is not required for a person's survival. Stealing an apple from the market because one may literally have no money for food is not the same as taking it because one wants it and wishes to dismiss the fact that it should be purchased. Anyone with an ounce of mercy would find it highly objectionable to convict someone who wasn't blowing money on drugs, gambling, etc., who truly was starving, and who found himself or herself faced with the decision to steal an apple or perish.

Unfortunately for those sleazy advocates who insist on the perpetrator's innocence in the above fashion, this exceptional situation is virtually impossible, especially in this country. There is always a way to get food, even if one has no money. A penniless person can also obtain medical attention, for that matter, but this essay isn't concerned with Obama's dubious healthcare imbroglio.

The bottom line is that there are people 'out there in the world' who, against all propriety and common sense, make decisions that cause everything from simple annoyance and discomfort, all the way up to loss of life, to other human beings.

We are told by the supposedly benevolent leaders in society that the perpetrators of the world are just misunderstood, disenfranchised, victims of prejudice and that they are all potentially good, no matter what they may be responsible for doing. We are cautioned to not be too judgmental, because we ourselves are not perfect. We are told that unless we can walk a mile in someone else's shoes, we have no right to sentence another human being to shame, imprisonment or death. Often, as the legal blathering goes, the perpetrator just wasn't ultimately responsible for the crime he or she did actually commit.

People debate ad nauseum about controversial subjects such as whether or not to utilize a death penalty. This is not the important issue. With or without a death penalty, justice is still not being served by our system, because we as a society have taken a bizarre direction that says habitual offenders are still able to reform and rehabilitate. I say bizarre because the actual repetition of criminal behavior is clear empirical evidence that the person is not capable of reformation.

Why is it the people who shout the loudest about criminals' rights also happen to be the ones who haven't had a sister raped, or a child kidnapped and murdered, or a brother die of an overdose? What was it Ronald Reagan once said? Something about how today's conservative is yesterday's liberal who got mugged.

Here's what I say:

Anyone can make a mistake. Anyone can make two. But when a person has proven time and again that he or she prefers to make decisions that produce a detrimental result for others, this person eventually forfeits any mercy that a reasonable human would gladly grant.

I don't care that the violent offender is loved by his mother. I don't care that the drug dealer spends some of her dirty money to buy shoes for her toddler. I don't care that the crooked CEO seems like a nice guy. It makes no difference to me that all human beings have a potential for being "good." Potential is an utterly worthless proposition if it isn't properly realized.

To all those in the world who habitually make others miserable in innumerable ways, I have only this to say:

If you were to all disappear overnight, and never return, I would not lose one wink of sleep.

After your hapless families and friends finished grieving, they'd realize in all honesty that the world is a better place without you anyway.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Revenge of the Nerds

The title of this essay is a reference to the 1984 movie of the same name, but the revenge I'm referring to is more accurately characterized in terms of a future shift in world power, as opposed to adolescent high jinks on an idealized college campus.

We are entering into an interesting time in history. I apologize for not currently being able to remember the source, but I once read about how the way that the world functions will eventually become so complex, only engineers will understand how anything works.

The basic premise of such a prediction is that the mechanical aspects of the world will eventually become too complex for the average human being to effectively fathom. Our inexorable migration toward a 'push button' world is the direction of the slippery, downhill path we're all collectively skating on. What does this mean in practical terms?

You can observe an excellent example of this phenomenon in the television set. Pretty much everyone in the world knows what one is, and is exposed to one with some regularity. Of all these thinking, sentient individuals, very few understand what is happening mechanically inside the electronics of the object. There are some who grasp, in a general way, how electricity enters the unit via the wall outlet, and through a mystical combination of nondescript components and circuit boards, a picture somehow forms on either the cathode ray tube, liquid crystal display, plasma screen, etc.

However, the amount of human beings who actually understand, and can explain, these technologies in familiar detail are extremely few. Now extrapolate this common situation against all other existing and emerging modern technologies, and you begin to get a clue about how much a practical knowledge of the world is becoming more and more rare.

"So what?" you may ask. As long as there are people 'out there' who can continue to develop and fabricate these convenient technologies, then what difference does it make that the person on the street has no clue about how they work?

I assume most people reading this have heard the old cliché‚ about knowledge being power. The way this currently plays out is by dividing the world into three distinct groups:

1) Those who possess the vital knowledge [the smallest group].
2) Those who have enough money (power) to employ (or force) the people from group number #1 to provide these technological wonders [the slightly larger group].
3) Those who consume and (and more significantly) depend on these technologies for their daily lives to function properly [the truly vast, largest group of all, literally comprising the rest of the world].

Within these groups, there is some crossover, such as the talented person from group #3 who becomes, through extraordinary application of effort and education, to become a person in group #1. There is also crossover of gifted people from group #1 to group #2, by virtue of their own attempts at entrepreneurial enterprise.

The interesting thing is that while someone, through laziness and poor decision-making, can move from group #2 to group #3, the movement from group #2 to group #1 is so extremely rare that it wouldn't be too hard to imagine it has never happened in all of history.

Why is that? The answer to this important question also provides the answer to why the future will not look exactly like the present, in terms of the balance of power in our global civilization.

Simply stated, the power elite are intellectually lazy, as they consider their efforts at gathering wealth (and power) as the most valuable knowledge in the world. They imagine that because they can successfully buy the loyalty of those who possess true talent, they are therefore the smarter of the two, because they ultimately still retain control of both.

Ayn Rand wrote a book called Atlas Shrugged that addressed this phenomenon in a fictional, yet still relevant fashion. The heroes of the story were engineers and inventors who eventually freed themselves from the dullards with power who tried to maintain control of their talent through money and politics. The story was a bit fantastical because the engineer heroes eventually created a secret, hidden place in the world where they could create without the greedy thumbs of the elite pressing down on them.

While the creation of a mystical Xanadu for nerds is not likely to occur in the real world, there is an important message that Atlas Shrugged sends, and I'm hereby sending once again:

If you want to live in a more humane, more just world, you must take power away from those who control others by their will alone. Instead of leading the masses by inspiration or honorable example, the power elite uses legislation and societal manipulation to maintain its position of authority. Their unrepentant mantra of "Greed is Good" is more and more falling on deaf ears, as those 'unwashed masses' they wish to instill with envy are instead growing more and more angry at the inevitable inequity of the philosophy.

Because the people of earth can communicate in more effective ways than they ever have been able to before, the political and monetary elite are having more and more trouble manipulating the person on the street with propaganda. This is significant because the decentralization of information means that edifying facts are more and more difficult to keep away from those grubby little hands that hunger for knowledge and freedom from tyranny.

The societal model of Have's and Have Not's, while becoming more pronounced than ever, is nevertheless unprepared to prevent a total reversal of the distribution of power. As the true destination of our technological progress becomes more evident to the elite, there will inevitably be measures taken to prevent the solidarity of the truly gifted. This will ultimately fail, and the reason for that failure is mentioned in the fifth paragraph of this essay.

While there are smug persons out there who dismiss this kind of talk as wishful thinking, the real world is already showing powerful evidence of this way of thinking. The open source software movement is a very real and established entity whose efforts have given us superior (and free!) technologies that will eventually eclipse the current computer stagnation of Microsoft and Apple.

These talented Linux (and other) hackers commit themselves to creating superior technologies with the expectation of nothing more than respect of their peers and the knowledge that they have contributed to the betterment of the world. These motivations not only fly in the face of the greedy, power elite ideal, but as it turns out, they more effectively address a far more deep-seated desire for relevant existence in the world than merely sitting on a wallet fat with Benjamins.

Revolution is only possible when a certain leverage is available to those who would change things. Prior to the 21st century, this meant fists, rocks, clubs, spears, arrows, bullets, explosives, poison gas, degradation of biological cells via engineered pathogens, destabilization of atomic structures by nuclear fission. These objectionable and often atrocious entities are the progeny of those who wish to control the population through an aggressive will to power, instead of egalitarian reason and common sense.

For centuries, the proletariat of the world have been under the sway of those who possessed nothing more than the charisma to lie effectively and wield loyal armies who ironically were made up of the very people they oppressed. This situation was intractable for one simple reason: knowledge is power, and the knowledge required to usurp tyrants was possessed only by the tyrants themselves, or obtained by brute force.

The power base of the elite is built on a foundation of buying knowledge from those who actually possess it. To this, I pose a question:

How much longer do you truly think those who actually possess the knowledge of how the world functions will continue to defer to those who have no other claim to power other than the silver spoon or grenade pin in their mouths?

Monday, August 16, 2010

A good laugh regarding "Cloud Computing"

I recently clicked my way to an article on techi.com from June 21st, 2010, called "Three reasons the PC era is coming to an end."

This Fantasy Land excursion can be found here:
Three reasons the PC era is coming to an end

Now, keeping one astute eye on the cave-dwellers who were still writing editorials about the impossibility of "heavier than air" flight, even after Wilbur and Orville had successfully accomplished it, I would like to speak about the aforementioned PC article. It's just too funny to pass up.

Navneet Alang, the writer of the article, is utterly convinced that "cloud computing" will replace PC-based computing. What I don't understand is how a supposedly respectable techno-site like techi.com could let this ungrounded and nonsensical poppycock get by them unchecked.

Hilarious claim number 1:
Navneet says that 'outsourc[ing]' our computing power to the network (Internet), and using just a terminal at home (replacing allegedly useless artifacts, such as hard drives, video cards and CPU's) will make much more sense, in terms of vital aspects, such as speed and convenience.

What's wrong with this attractive sounding prediction?

Supposedly the Internet is already overtaxed in terms of usage, according to all the greedy, controlling ISP's who want to charge us by the megabyte, and who say that they must do so because peer-to-peer usage gobbles up too much bandwidth. How, then, will this overtaxed Internet network be able to accommodate the increased activity of millions of terminals simultaneously transferring exponentially greater amounts of remote data over thousands of miles, back and forth, to their terminals? This is an action that is currently performed locally on PC's, only inches from the hard drive(s) to the RAM and CPU in the same PC, and at a bus rate (speed) that makes broadband look like the covered wagons of the Oregon Trail.

Navneet's strong suit does not appear to be logistics.

Historically speaking, the processing community already made the move from mainframe computing to the distributed system model two decades ago. To assert that our computing experience will be more reliable, and faster, if millions of us all use the same collection of remote processors at the same time, is more than just a little ignorant.

Hilarious claim number 2:
Navneet wrote:
"... once broadband speeds are fast enough, it will be one more nail in the personal computers' coffin."

So Navneet's vision of the future requires faster broadband. Okay, that's fair. I'm sure Internet speeds will continue to increase. The only problem is Navneet forgets that PC hardware is the forefront of Internet technology (to even exist, Internet technology actually depends on PC technology). No matter how fast broadband becomes, a PC built with technology from the same time frame will always be more powerful.

The objection to my statement that Navneet could certainly raise is the prospect of parallel computing. Just like specifically structured server clusters, if the entire Internet somehow managed to be utilized as one huge parallel processor, then the processing speed would indeed be much faster than a single home computer.

However, the processing model for that kind of computing would require a complete restructuring of how home computers are currently built and used. Add to that the fact that if we were all using 'dumb' terminals, without CPU's, then the ultimate potential of the Internet as supercomputer would be unrealizable. There's no way to convert a bunch of YouTube and porn surfers into a parallel processing resource by merely key-tapping and mouse-clicking all day long.

Hilarious claim number 3:
Navneet says cloud computing will be much more "convenient" than PC computing.

Is it even necessary to remind computer users that running (any program at all) on a dumb terminal will require a constant and continuous Internet connection the entire time? This means that when the user's Internet connection suffers any type of interruption, there will be moments of frustration with dumb terminals that make current PC troubles seem like a visit to the spa.

The recent hullabaloo over the draconian DRM (Digital Rights Management) on the PC game "Assassin's Creed 2" should be enough of a cautionary tale regarding the requirement of a continuous Internet connection. Yes, many people went ahead and bought the game anyway, but a vast and significant portion of the game's potential user base publicly told Ubisoft to stick their DRM where the sun doesn't shine. In forum after forum, they justifiably proclaimed that it was moronic to require a constant Internet connection just to play a single-player game.

Then, they did what any self-respecting, righteously indignant, and normally honest PC gamers would do: instead of buying the game and being complicit with the unreasonable DRM, they downloaded the pirated version off the Internet, and played it with no DRM... a simple freedom the paying customers weren't even allowed to enjoy!

But I digress.

One thing that enrages many home computer users (PC and Apple alike), is the feeling of helplessness when something goes wrong that they don't know how to fix. How much more will this emotion of helplessness be magnified by being at the constant mercy of the Big Brother ISP's in Navneet's version of our digital future?

Clearly, any reasonable person can appreciate that handing over all control of our ability to run programs, perform computations, communicate, etc., to a handful of ISP companies (or potentially the government, for that matter), would be a significant step toward taking away our ability to protect our own freedoms. Not to sound like a militia/survivalist nut, but cutting us all off from each other would be as simple as the click of one mouse... especially in a scenario where all mobile devices (including phones) might eventually require connection to the Internet to function.

Hilarious claim number 4:
Navneet lists collaboration, document & file movements, communications, scheduling, and ease of accessing data as advantages of cloud computing, as compared to PC's.

The amusing aspect of that list is those activities are already (and have been) extremely accessible with PC's and the Internet; thus the list is redundant and empty as a sales pitch for cloud computing.

Hilarious claim number 5:
Navneet compares letting a company store your most personal data on their server(s) to depositing your money at the bank for safety.

Last time I checked, it was much easier for a cracker to break into a particular box on a network than it is for someone to steal money from a bank. In fact, when money is stolen from your bank account these days, it's not appropriated by a masked gunman, it's stolen by a digital criminal (someone who has used a computer to break into a bank server somewhere and access your information; a server 'guaranteed' to be secure from naughty people).

The truth of the matter is that the information technology robbers ('black hats') are always one step ahead of the cops ('white hats') when it comes to Internet crime. It's much harder to force your way (undetected) into a steel-and-cement structure than it is to breach a computer connected to the Internet.

Hilarious claim number 6:
Navneet says tablet-style personal computers are "the last piece of the puzzle," in terms of bringing the PC era to an end.

Most obviously, how can a PC (regardless of platform) bring the PC era to an end? Nice chunk of nonsense there, Navneet. Tablets are simply personal computers with different window dressing and input mechanisms.

Tablets are groovy gadgets, novel and useful in many ways. But have you ever attempted rapid typing on one? Ever tried to play a serious video game with one? Desktop computers, the most dependable workhorses in the home-computing world, don't usually fall out of your backpack, pulverizing their displays on the asphalt.

To sum this up:
While I do agree that one day the current form of home computing will change (simply because technological progress itself usually dictates those kinds of developments), the idea is ludicrous that dumb terminals, hooked into a cloud we can't control, will please anyone but porn addicts, email junkies, and evil dictators.

Navneet's entire future vision is predicated on the assumption that most users would rather give up consistency of use and personal data security, in order to avoid ghastly indignities like an occasional PC upgrade.

The bottom line is:

Anyone with a real working knowledge of PC's and how they function would never risk the security of their data and the guaranteed promise of local hardware's consistent performance, just to satisfy the latest Orwellian ploy of techno-tycoons.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Technology does not equal Wisdom

Human beings too often mistake technological progress for evolution of mind. We possess the same thought processes as far back as we can remember; we know this due to recorded history. Technology advances because new knowledge is produced by using previous knowledge as a foundation. That is one of the wonders of the way human beings think. Other living creatures on the earth don't produce innovative knowledge beyond their natural instincts. Humans can change that temporarily, via instruction to individual animals, but the knowledge is lost forever to the species when the individual animal dies. Non-human animals certainly haven't shown any innate ability to expand on human-given knowledge, despite cute anomalies such as primates trained in sign language.

The knowledge I speak of is our technical knowledge of the physical world. This knowledge persistently grows and expands because of our natural curiosity, coupled with our desires to make our lives easier, more lucrative or more fun. This type of knowledge is not at all synonymous with wisdom about the behavior of human beings or about the nature of existence. However, these two particular areas are of vital importance because human beings can't change their collective reality, despite centuries of philosophical creativity.

Although we have advanced technologically, recorded history has clearly shown that the human issues of today are the same human issues of ancient times; yet we are certain that we are wiser than people who lived in the past.

This doesn't mean we are doomed to make the same mistakes. What it means is we shouldn't abandon wisdom from the past just because we have cell phones and they didn't. Yes, our speeds of communication and travel have increased, computers have drastically changed the world, and yes, our ability to record our observations allows us to amass incredible amounts information. These examples of our mental prowess don't erase the fact that the same behavioral issues that troubled human beings from the ancient past are still with us in the 21st century.

The thoughts of supposedly 'primitive' people of the past should not be entirely dismissed just because they couldn't turn on the television or radio and have marketing drivel and cultural poppycock influence their minds for night after night, year after year, and decade after decade. Remember, way back in those ancient days they had much more time to actually think about their reason or purpose in the universe, due to far less extraneous distraction. Survival and human relationships were more the focus.

If you lived somewhere on earth where there was no access to 'modern' medicine, would that mean you were a primitive idiot because you died for lack of receiving an immunization? Would it mean your observations about the world and ability to interact with people were all suspect, simply because you didn't know how to create penicillin? Of course not.

As technology has advanced, survival has gone mostly into the background for the average human being. At the same time, as technology has advanced, the idea that our relationships with other human beings are vital to our interaction with the world has become secondary to our belief that we don't truly need others anymore. This is an ultimate result of thinking our technology can address all issues. Human beings produce problems via behavioral disharmony. Devices are merely mindless artifacts that only do what we use them for. There is no device that could permanently change the human condition without actually physically changing the human being so much that the being itself no longer retains truly human status.

What we have told ourselves is that the people of the past were primitive beings who lacked the ability to understand how anything in our modern world works. This is a blatant lie. Our minds back then are the same as our minds now, and the fact that we build on previous knowledge to produce the technological wonders of the present has everything to do with the time line of history. You could pull someone (who understood your language) out of a cave from the past, and explain computers and the Internet to them. Once the wonder of these items subsided, he or she could use them just as effectively as you do.

Technological issues are separate from human issues. We are not our technology; our technology is a physical manifestation of our natural abilities. Human issues are still in the same state they were in primitive times; we are not enlightened in this regard, despite our amusing self delusion that our gadgetry and philosophical sophistry equals greater wisdom.

Take a hint from the people in the past who spent a great deal more time thinking about human existence and purpose than we do. Arrogance is not equal to wisdom: "Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall."

Here's the point:

We are not smarter than the millions of people who have lived and died before us. The sooner we stop pretending that our collected knowledge of physics and science have evolved us mentally as a species, the sooner we can properly address the real problems that plague our existence.

Friday, June 4, 2010

The Movie "Knowing" Exposes Ignorance

I recently watched the movie "Knowing" with my wife. It stars Nicolas Cage, Rose Byrne and others. Then, out of curiosity, I read a bunch of the viewer reviews on Netflix. That was an education indeed.

One point that was raised on many of the negative reviews was the way the movie ended. The complaints were all some form of the following: the ending didn't make any sense, it was completely inappropriate, it ruined the movie because it didn't gel with the rest of the story, it was nothing more than an a big, fat 'deus ex machina.'

I was dumbfounded by how so many people could miss what was to me obvious. Then I remembered something: actual knowledge of the contents of the Bible, as opposed to spurious anecdotal knowledge provided by atheists and popular culture, is steadily being lost to the very societies that were founded on its principles.

It's interesting the movie wasn't released as a Christian film, or at least as a 'spiritual' one. I think the producers must have feared the work being pigeonholed, and thus automatically garnering less box office success. So-called religious movies have long been saddled with lesser production values, acting and writing included. Plus, there's the common standard most moviegoers seem to possess, of steering away from 'preachy' movies.

As a person who spotted a lot of biblical symbolism in the film, I greatly appreciated a decently budgeted movie that wasn't afraid to make a clever connection between our fascination with disaster movies and the Bible's own commentary regarding specific events and entities. That the movie was still just entertainment is not in question; I wouldn't presume to indicate to anyone that it is truly prophetic with its story.

What the movie was though, was an excellent exercise in 'what if.' It not only took concepts directly from the Bible, but also from the possibility that the experiences of the Bible patriarchs may have been interactions with 'Ancient Astronauts,' as theorized by Erich von Däniken and others. Or better yet, the writers could have been advancing the idea that the 'technology' of God might, in some instances, appear to us as the technology of some other advanced civilization, given our current scientific knowledge. Who knows? If the Rapture actually occurs as expected by Christians, who can really say for sure if the chosen will rise from the earth by personally defying gravity, or via spaceships?

There were many subtle visual touches that brought the whole story into focus, such as the picture of Ezekiel's wheel in the mother's abandoned house, and what could be discerned as wings on the backs of the space entities at the end of the film. Even the blinding light and trumpet-like sound that emanated from the stranger's mouth in one scene are concepts that were culled directly from biblical texts.

Nicolas Cage's character (a college professor) is clearly conflicted; the writers chose to have the one lecture to his class in the movie be about random chance versus organization (design). His father just happens to be a pastor, so the internal struggle for someone whose wife recently died could easily be imagined. This struggle is actually stated out loud by Cage's character later in the film.

Subtle examples of biblical influence appear throughout, such as Cage's character finally realizing that certain death with his own family during the coming cataclysm is not something to be feared. The many visual clues, such as the centrally featured tree in the midst of a beautiful golden field, seem to be lost on people who don't know what is actually in the Bible.

What was truly the saddest aspect of this experience for me though, wasn't the mere ignorance of the reviewers. It was the tragically misled anti-religious comments posted on the Netflix site by some reviewers. It seems likely that most individuals tossing darts at those who believe in God are simply jumping on a bandwagon. I find the high level of acrimony of the anti-religious very disproportionate to the meager amount coming from the opposite direction.

The debate over the existence of God has been raging as long as people have been able to argue with each other, and it didn't require the Bible or "On the Origin of Species" as a catalyst. The recent rise from obscurity of certain publicly vocal proponents of atheism has only given one side of the debate more fuel to continue squawking. Their intellectualized nattering is proof of nothing more than our own tendency to avoid whatever we don't find amenable to our own selfish desires.

What's my bottom line on all this?

In this 'wondrous' digital age of instant information, the false idea that history can't be rewritten is even stronger. How ironic that the original written source of the highest aspirations for human beings has been earmarked for complete abandonment, via socially engineered and agenda-ridden vilification, for several decades.

The Bible is not a dispenser of falsehood, ignorance and evil. Those things are what the absence of biblical tenets produce. Keep your eyes on the rotten fruits of apathy regarding God, and you will see, through the years, how the only thing that prevents the world from slipping into total chaos is a return to the values in that unsinkable book.

The values themselves are not exclusive to the Bible, but for any person to claim that the Bible is a (or the) cause of humanity's problems only serves to clearly display that person's intentional ignorance of what is actually written in its pages.

For any reader of this blog who's never really taken an earnest look in the Bible, I offer a challenge:

Be brave, be different, and think for yourself; find out for yourself, once and for all, what is really written on those pages. Don't make the common blunder of letting others interpret them for you.

The Bible will change your life in the best of ways... unless you really don't want it to. As it was in the beginning, so it shall be unto the end of the world: the choice is yours.

Friday, May 28, 2010

The Dangling of the Carrot

The pursuit of power or wealth is an insider's joke, and many people don't seem to understand the punch line, or even realize that one exists.

The 'common man' and the 'elite': how do most view the widening gap between these two groups?

One way (an oddly popular way for the less privileged) is to say, "More power to those in power, I'd like a piece of that pie myself."

Another way to view the situation is to recognize injustice at the way the poor and middle class are manipulated and used to generate never-ending wealth for the rich.

For a poor or middle class individual to doggedly embrace the same obsession with acquisition that the wealthy have devoted their lives to, is an equally amusing and sad state of affairs. Amusing because the strings of manipulation are obviously invisible to them, and sad because they are blind to the detrimental results.

What strings of manipulation am I referring to?

I believe it was a Chinese proverb I read years ago that said it best: that which the eye does not see, the heart does not bleed for. This line was originally written in recognition of the human weakness of envy. In most cases, it is not until we know something exists, and that others apparently enjoy it or value it highly, do we begin to strongly desire it for ourselves.

It is this proclivity of human nature that is exploited relentlessly by the wealthy, in order to produce more wealth for themselves. How so, you ask? Envy is how the phenomenon of advertising has gone from clever street-corner hawking to a trillion-dollar industry. We humans are pathetically predictable when it comes to wanting what we see. Unfortunately, this emotional transaction does not stop at television, magazines and billboards.

Long before there were televisions, magazines, billboards and other forms of mass communication, there was the simple act of flaunting one's good fortune. Although not as many people would be affected by each individual act of ostentation, the results were the same for those exposed. I mention this because advertising is not the only generator of envy. Anyone who has attained the vaunted status of material 'success' spreads envy like a virus.

Every time an entertainer is photographed sporting the trappings of wealth, every time an overpaid athlete is in the news for an indiscretion, every time a CEO or politician is exposed for malfeasance, an entire generation of viewers and listeners are served up a huge portion of envy. We don't envy the negative results of their overindulgence; we oddly ignore those and lust after the assets that made them possible.

On a daily basis, we are given concrete examples of not only how money does not provide happiness, but that it often does quite the opposite.

Yet still, the carrot is dangled, and we predictably stretch for it, over and over again, day after day, year after year... never seeming to appreciate the fact that we are allowing ourselves to be manipulated by those who ultimately are using us to produce more wealth for themselves.

Human beings are a proud bunch. We're infinitely confident, as individuals with our own minds, that we're not able to be manipulated by others. Most of you reading these words would instantly scoff at the idea that you could ever be manipulated by someone else without your knowledge.

Well, I'm giving you that knowledge right now. Every time you buy the latest gadget or accessory, every time you schedule another expensive vacation, every time you spend your time and money at a bar or casino, every time you buy a lottery ticket, every time you insist on the best of something, every time you get yourself further in debt by buying things that aren't necessary to live, every time you buy something that your favorite public personality wears, eats, drives, owns, lives in, sails on, etc. etc., every time you think you're not getting laid enough, every time you think you're not getting paid enough, every time you think life's unfair because you don't have that particular thing you really think you deserve... well, hopefully you get the idea.

You are being manipulated during these situations because the end result is a corporate mogul's dream: you do whatever you can to acquire whatever it is you think you need. Extra hours at work, maxed-out credit cards, lying, cheating, stealing, selling drugs, murder. While some of those activities are a bit extreme for most people, be aware that they are not limits for the richest people on earth. That's how they became rich and stay that way; don't let anyone convince you differently if you wish to remain honest.

The Bible compares a rich man entering heaven to a camel going through the eye of a needle. It doesn't make any difference which way you interpret the phrase; either a camel and a sewing implement, or a camel and the special gate that lets people in and out but keeps larger animals in. The point is that in both cases, it is impossible.

A bit of a harsh judgement, you say? Sure, and since there's no way to prove there's life after death, and since I'm no one to claim I have those kinds of answers, I'm not qualified to tell you for certain if the saying is accurate or not.

What I am in a position to tell you is that it doesn't take an exceptional dose of common sense to understand that wealth is never acquired and maintained without an equal loss to others. Simple math. The assets of the wealthy were not materialized out of thin air. They actually came from somewhere, and that somewhere is your pocket. While some of this loss is agreeable and acceptable, such as paying one dollar for a McDouble hamburger, most other loss is not. Even those who claim earth's natural resources for their own, an apparently 'victimless' way of producing wealth, will not give it away for free. Thus your pocket, or the sweat of your brow, is still the real source of the elite's wealth.

Most items (and services!) available for purchase are priced astronomically higher than they need to be. Look at the brazenly exorbitant pricing for services provided by doctors and lawyers. There has been (and still is) much marketing research devoted to figuring out just how much you can charge someone for a particular object or service before that potential customer tells you to shove it because it's too expensive. In addition to unreasonable pricing, there's a gargantuan mass of cleverly marketed crap that is entirely unnecessary to life and the enjoyment of it. Inexplicably, the utter complicity of the consumer seals the deal.

All these poor and middle class people, who make personal sacrifices of time (and often integrity) simply to feel as though they've achieved some important level of status in their own eyes (and in the eyes of others), don't even realize that their indulgence in this cycle of wealth production assigns them the mere status of revenue generating sheep. They not only dance vigorously to the tune of the elite puppeteers' whims, they help strengthen the connection of the strings by accepting and promoting the lie that captured them in the first place.

"Aw, come on! These guys are just getting paid, what's your problem?"

If in fact, your opinion is similar to the previous line, then this essay is a waste of your time. You have no conception of the pathological absurdity of pursuing status, and you will likely live the rest of your days saddled with Pavlovian desires that leave you feeling empty despite the efforts you make to satisfy them. You participate enthusiastically because you'd like to be the one pulling the strings? Shame on you.

If instead you see and understand the picture I'm drawing, then know this... if there's a God, and if our actions matter, then there's something you can have high confidence in:

The endless injustices in life that are originated by the 'love of money' have not gone unnoticed, and they will bring to fruition the prophecy, "But many that are first shall be last; and the last first."

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Puzzle of Modern Love

For most people, sex is a complicated issue. The complications are many: confusion, delusion, restriction, addiction, fidelity, infidelity. I think it safe to observe that sex rarely manifests itself in a completely trouble-free and happy environment. How could something so wonderful and natural become so complicated?

You don't have to look hard to find advocates of extremes on both sides of the political sex fence. The entire spectrum, from if-it-feels-good-do-it all the way to sex-is-something-to-be-ashamed-of, is prolifically represented in life and on the Internet. There are a lot of people out there who would love to give you advice on how to best live your lives in terms of sexual activity.

However, neither extreme, nor the myriad variations in between, properly address the basic human instinct and need for procreation and sexual intimacy. Rather than a person submitting himself or herself to potentially harmful direction from biased sources, perhaps a simple question posed to one's self might be more edifying.

Question:

Why is sex considered in the 21st century to be just another biological function, similar to eating or going to the bathroom, when it is also the method by which new life is introduced to the world?


Ask people who are in love in a committed relationship such as marriage, how they feel about their children. Especially, ask them how they felt when their children were born. The answers come back with absolute consistency: their children are the most important aspects of their lives, and the births of these children were life-altering.

Why is that? Listening to the materialist exponents of the world will enlighten you to the chemical processes involved that, in their expert opinions, arose from millennia of evolutionary change. But that conjecture leads to a chicken-or-egg debate that doesn't truly answer the question.

The fact that this intangible bond exists consistently between parents and their offspring speaks much louder than any scientist's attempts to reduce the gravity of it with biological statistics. What we are still left with, since the question isn't sufficiently answered by science, is the simple reality of the strong attachment of parents and their children. It is that reality which plays the most important part in solving the puzzle of modern love.

There are many out there, for selfish (and ironically, some unselfishly mislead) reasons, who will speak unendingly about the joys of sex. These joys embrace all kinds of permutations, including sex within marriage, sex outside of marriage, sex before marriage, sex with the opposite gender, sex with the same gender, sex with animals, sex with corpses, sex with machines, sex with children, sex with one's self, sex with toys, sex with master/submissive role play, sex with pornography, sex with cameras, sex in public, sex with all sorts of odd, strange, or bizarre fetishes.

What does all this information and activity really say? Does it prove that sex is supposed to be a ripe fruit just waiting to be picked and eaten whenever the mood strikes? Does the excessive proliferation of sexual awareness prove that sex is something that should be experienced by everyone, anywhere, anytime, for whatever reason? Does it support the concept that sex is something that is everyone's 'right' to enjoy?

What of the other side? Does the puritanical backlash against such a sex-obsessed culture prove that we're all better off abstaining from sex except to produce children? Are human beings better served by not acknowledging their own biological urge to procreate, and instead living lives filled with shame because their hormones are doing their jobs?

Somewhere, somehow, at some time in the past, human beings in the predominant cultures of the world adopted the concept that sex was no longer a mystery. The physical processes themselves were examined and revealed by science. The emotions attached to sex were also dissected and analyzed, and the results reported were as variegated as the imaginative 'professionals' who presented their own conclusions with supposedly clinical accuracy. We were left to deal with the spurious assumptions that all these data were allegedly suggesting.

How have we dealt with this information? By pounding away at the delicate nature of the mystery of sex until there is nothing left but dust that blows away at the first strong wind of opinion. Try to imagine the excitement and anticipation that vanishes when something is made commonplace and sometimes vulgar.

Think about this. Our genitalia were once considered a mystery, something special, something sacred. That's exactly the sort of respect you give something that causes such a miraculous event as the birth of a child.

But now, in the enlightened, informed, educated and evolved 21st century, what you now possess between your legs is a recreational device. A toy that potentially exposes the rest of your body to disease, disappointment, guilt complexes, addictive behavior, marriage-destroying decisions, emotional anguish, monetary ruin, questionable reputation... and the greatest result of all: the depressing truth that the more you try to manipulate or control it, it manipulates and controls you even more.

I challenge anyone reading this to deny the negative results of the 'sexual revolution' without making yourself look disingenuous and foolish.

We humans are indeed masterful at deluding ourselves. Our popular culture promises that sex will fulfill and satisfy, but in reality sex has become an abused aspect of our existence that won't generate its natural state of bliss unless we close Pandora's Box. We need to once again imbue our sexuality with the respect and reverential mystery it had in our more 'primitive' past; otherwise the situation will only continue to digress and degrade until our ability to truly love others drowns in a cauldron of rational convenience.

Monday, January 11, 2010

"Server" does not equal "Servile"

I can't keep this to myself anymore. My wife will probably disapprove of this blog post, as the contents are less than positive, but I will ask her forgiveness later.

At the end of 2000 I left the city I had lived most of my life in, and headed east for a "Razor's Edge" odyssey of self-discovery. Yes, that sounds a bit corny in 2010, but that's what I did, nonetheless. I left behind a solid job in IT (Information Technology) and purposely entered customer service jobs for the experience of more human interaction. It's been almost ten years, and I've finally had my fill of 'the people.'

The conclusions I've arrived at regarding human beings are, oddly enough, pretty much the same conclusions I had as a network and systems administrator, before I began my journey. My desire to avoid most people was not softened by actual interactions with them in the 'real world.' The jobs I worked put me right into the trenches, so to speak, and although I was seeking some sort of positive revelation regarding the nature of mankind, that expectation was sorely beaten down time and again within depressing work scenarios.

I purposely took 'menial' labor jobs. I worked in small offices, grocery stores, mail rooms and restaurants. The restaurants being the last two jobs I've held, they also happen to be the most people-intensive. The restaurant I currently work at, which shall of course remain nameless, features Italian food, 'classy' atmosphere, and more financially accessible menu for those on a budget.

Before I begin the focus of this post, let me include a disclaimer: I have encountered plenty of kind, decent, merciful and generous human beings as a restaurant server; therefore please do not mistake the contents of this blog entry as the typical ravings of an incorrigible misanthrope. The events I'm about to describe actually occurred last night, and they occur to restaurant servers day in and day out, all across the world.

For reasons that will probably remain unknown to me, last night's shift became a preposterous parade of every sort of horrible guest that can possibly frequent an eating establishment. I'm not clear how many of my fellow servers were facing this onslaught of nonsense, but I became convinced at some point that my section was cursed for a night.

Let's jump in now, shall we?

First off, I seem to have gathered the most illiterate boob-tubers last night, because I lost count with how many times I had to explain the very straightforward and easy-to-read menu. I came close to using baby talk at times for the dullards who can't discern the difference between items they see on the menu and items they assumed would be on the menu. Keep in mind that when things don't magically appear on the menu as these guests see fit, the server and the restaurant are automatically relegated to idiot status.

We're the idiots... and yet just a month ago, I had a guest come in and get extremely upset at me and two managers for "not being very accommodating" because she was allergic to garlic (huh?) and we didn't have anything to offer her that she wanted to eat. Excuse me? We're not the ones who possess an alleged allergy to garlic and have the audacity to go to an Italian restaurant and complain that there are no garlic-free dishes. After being yelled at in front of other guests, our manager comped the entire table's bill just to get her the *bleep* out the door.

FYI - using the term "guest" instead of "customer" is a generic convention that most restaurants use, in a transparent ploy to pretend that the individuals who walk through the front doors are somehow worthy of more than common courtesy. Is it any wonder that these pampered patrons sometimes take unscrupulous advantage of their status?

My first table last night was a woman who seemed as though she might emotionally crumble any moment, and an overbearing lothario who insisted on sitting kitty-corner from her instead of across from her. Keep in mind that this was a small two-top (two person) table, so what could have been an intimate setting was instead an uncomfortable exercise in how effectively he could breach her space bubble and talk her into bed back at his hotel room.

At another table, one guest resolved to take little jabs at me all evening. Every time I returned to the table, another snide remark. He apparently had ordered something other than he actually wanted, simply because he didn't bother to pay attention to the name of the dish he was ordering. There were no technicalities or tricks here; just an inebriated joker who always has to be right, despite obvious evidence to the contrary. The ladies who accompanied him must have been genuinely impressed by his attention to detail as he chugged down his second twenty-ouncer of Michelob Golden Light.

A third table contained a bearded wonder from Green Acres and his mail order China bride, as well as daughter, hapless son-in-law and relentlessly screaming baby. While judging people by their appearance is a losing venture because people will often surprise you, this particular table held no such pleasant conclusion. I was treated to backwoods barking, shrewish micro management, ultimately uneaten (but requested) refills and continuous demands on my time that considerably ate into my other guests' experience, like hot water in a bowl for the wailing baby's unheated pabulum.

Let me pause and remind the reader that it's normally not a problem for a server to fulfill special requests by guests. However, the guests making the special requests often don't seem to have a realistic perception of the server's available time, and usually make multiple special requests. The result, of course, is that these myopic guests unduly overburden the server with time demands that inevitably subtract from the other guests' dining experience. This isn't about good or bad servers; it's about simple math. Unlike electrons, servers can't be in two places at once, let alone three or four. And by the way, apologizing to the server before you overburden him or her does not magically justify the offense.

Another table began their string of uninterrupted poppycock by demanding that the host remove their chairs and go to the other side of the restaurant and bring back some rolling chairs that are normally used for persons waiting to be seated at a table. So before I even get the chance to greet these special guests, they have already set the very busy host about three squares back, so to speak.

I finally get to greet this couple whose posteriors are too wonderful for a normal chair, and then I really get a feel for how picky they are. At his request, I take the time to explain our soup selection (information clearly visible on the menu he's holding open in his hand), only to have him settle on salad instead. I must explain, in painful detail, why the bottomless salad that comes with the entrees can't be split without an additional fee. Then I have to wait and smile while the grunting, malcontented man hems and haws over the menu selections... all the while asking me repetitive, mind-numbing questions that even a stoned teenager can easily grasp the answers to. The woman in this precious pair took great care (and joy?) informing me about all the particular special food-related needs she requires because, well, she requires them.

The man also wants some sort of "drink I had before," and these two spend a ridiculous amount of time trying to decide if it was vanillla before, and if he wants almond now. They explain to me, as though I'm supposed to find it infinitely fascinating, how he doesn't want any ice in his Italian cream soda, because he doesn't want it, it ruined his drink before, and we put too much ice in our drinks.

Then he goes on another time-eating excursion blathering about some other dish he had before that he didn't care for (at this point I'm wondering why they came back - perhaps because somewhere else, say McDonald's, Ronald himself would have firmly placed his red boot up their anal canals?). Then he wants to know if our Parmesan-encrusted tilapia can be made without the Parmesan.

His salad must of course be without dressing, and his counterpart (wife?) must have inordinate amounts of dressing on the side. He can't have black olives or yellow peppers in his salad, so there's yet another dish with extra goodies for his wife that must be provided at a table that's destined to be supplied with enough dishware for a eight-top table. They were incredulous that I brought them two salad plates and a single large bowl of salad without dressing, instead of their requested individual plates with salad that I would have had to replace every two minutes.

Two other tables of mine are forced to wait for their initial greetings and are twiddling their thumbs while these selfish, picayune patrons waste not only my time, but as a result, everyone else's in their vicinity as well.

I find myself going on non-stop miscellaneous errands for these two black holes of my shift. Multiple piles (and I mean *piles*) of cheese, freshly grated (by me) on separate plates. Handfuls of lemons (also on separate plates) for their waters and her diet soda. Bread stick requests every time I return to the table (do the math on that one). I had to box every morsel of food on the table, including the salad, which will be soggy and inedible by the time they get home.

The aforementioned drains-of-patience were not the only unreasonable guests I dealt with last night, not by a long shot. I don't want to turn this post into a novel just because I was treated to a collection of thoughtless human beings. So, just one more is 'worthy' of mention.

The capper of the evening was the obvious first date of a tightly wound lemon with the glare of a hawk, and a disingenuous cherub who found himself a great deal more interesting and amusing than he truly was. He can't just order a martini, he must order, "Stoli Martini, chilled, no ice, no vermouth, served up in a birdbath, two olives, and a side of club soda." By itself, not so bothersome; combined with his incessant pretension, one more thing to add to my irritation. The hawk-woman drank so much hot tea, for the third round I brought her an entire large carafe of hot water, instead of the usual miniature tea kettle.

This man was another time-consuming, self-important guest who seemed convinced that the best way to impress a date is to inundate her with endless pontifications about whatever happened to enter his gin-blossomed cranium. My interactions with him were saddled with fake-chuckling at his lame excuses for humor, and buttressing his desire to seem important in her eyes by bringing items to their table as quickly as possible, at his magnanimous demand.

This table stayed so long past the dinner hour that I was forced to do my final section detailing (condiments, carpet, etc.) while they continued to converse. At one point, I had the carpet sweeper (a relatively quiet apparatus), and was trying to pick up the remaining detritus underneath the surrounding tables in my section. I sensed that their oh-so-important discussion about market equities was halting due to my presence.

Not wanting to make these special, entitled, cherished guests feel uncomfortable, I made the mistake of trying to finish up quickly near their table, in an effort to give them back their vital cone of silence. I came too close to the man's chair, and his true colors came out when he turned his attention directly toward me and aggressively requested that I give him some space. I looked him directly in the eye, wanting to take the pole portion of the carpet sweeper and unhesitatingly insert it deep into that same smug eye socket, and said "Yes sir" instead, leaving the carpet sweeper leaning next to a nearby table.

And therein lies the paradox I have faced throughout this entire journey of rubbing elbows with the public. I philosophically reconcile the situation as the penance I must pay for making such a foolish decision to leave a job I am more suited for, and walk for a while in the muck that many people are forced to wallow in for their entire lives.

Make no mistake here; I'm not placing myself above anyone else. I have just learned the hard way that for the most part, human beings can be thoughtless, rude, cruel, selfish and completely oblivious to the feelings of others. It's not about crying in my beer that someone wasn't nice to me; I'm recognizing that human beings, when allowed to act out at others' expense, eventually come to believe their own delusions of self-importance are justified in the ill treatment of others.

So there you have it. Until I return to IT (which I'm actively facilitating), I am forced to serve lunch and dinner to a menagerie of mental midgets who ironically treat me as though I'm their intellectual and societal inferior.

But no worries; at least I have another path I can take. I feel great sadness for the hardworking people out there who don't feel like they have any other options than to be pin cushions for hypocrites who can't face the truth about their own pathetic lives.

And I feel a great deal of respect for my fellow laborers; much more than for those who casually stroll the 'corridors of power.'