Saturday, September 08, 2018

So Here We Are (or 'Assumptions and Hypocrisies')

We find ourselves, fellow Americans, at a time in our country when there is no right answer. There are expected answers, dependent upon with whom it is we're speaking. There are canned responses, to be trotted out whenever we're confronted with various situations. There are narrow bands of opinions from which we may feel free to choose one in a given conversation, but the one we choose will come with an attached set of assumptions to be used by those who are sitting in judgement - and judgement is in ample supply even from the most unlikely quarters.

Assumptions abound in the current social climate, and we all know what AssUMe-ing makes of you and me, but the antidotes for it are to ask questions and to be able to believe the answers we're given. In a PC world, however, both questions and answers must be carefully crafted in order to avoid, ironically, judgement, therefore everything has begun to be taken at first with a grain of salt and lately with huge, toxic doses thereof. Interestingly, one of the posited origins of that phrase indicates that the grain or pinch of salt would help to counteract a certain poison, and yet we all know that too much salt is itself toxic. Again, irony.

In Genesis, the very first thing Jehovah* told his people (who are, let's keep in mind, the Jews, as much as some other groups might like to usurp that claim) was that everything he'd created (all of the Garden of Eden, not the world) was for their benefit, but not to eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. This is often misstated as simply the Tree of Good and Evil or the Tree of Knowledge. Both are misnomers. This very specific directive was not about remaining ignorant, nor about simply committing or not committing good or evil acts, but rather speaks to refraining from judgement. In order to judge, one must first determine whether a thing is right or wrong (in one's own opinion, which is then often presented as the opinion of the judging person's god figure, whom- or whatever that may be). Jehovah's instruction was to eschew seeking to determine whether actions were right or wrong, and to live without judgement, an instruction echoed in many philosophies and religions.

Humans who are just living will do the things, as do other animals, that best serve themselves and those around them (not only of our own kind, but of all kinds) without spending time or energy on what's being done or not done by others, and without the expectation of reward or fear of consequence. Those who behave otherwise and can't mind their own business (as in both paying attention to what they themselves are doing and need to do, and in keeping themselves out of the way of others who are doing the same unless those others should need, want, and ask for help) will soon, in such a society, be naturally shunted to the edges of any healthy social group. This doesn't preclude love, happiness, fear, or hatred, but does mitigate the consequences and multiply the rewards thereof. Nor does it prevent change on the part of those who go through a phase of, say, selfishness or arrogance, but then come to understand the benefits of setting those things aside.

Instead, here we find ourselves, living in a world where anything you or I say can and, with or without reason, will be used against us and we don't need no stinkin' court of law. I mean, trial by a jury of our peers? Sure, if we count everyone we come across as a peer and consider people walking down the same street to be a duly-appointed jury, and a sufficient judge as well. Even when we do speak honestly and from our hearts, those who believe it will be those who are predisposed to believe it, and those who reject it will do so because it doesn't fit into their own belief system, not because they've examined what's been said and found it enlightening or lacking in insight.

In 2012, we were given a clear view into part of what got us here when the Texas GOP specifically stated that they, "... oppose the teaching of Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) (values clarification), critical thinking skills and similar programs that are simply a relabeling of Outcome-Based Education (OBE) (mastery learning) which focus on behavior modification and have the purpose of challenging the student’s fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority." We were already at that time, and had been for many years, in a place where 'thinking outside the box' was strongly discouraged, to the point where we had to tell people - humans, who under normal circumstances literally can't rein in our curiosity to save our lives - to do so.

That lack of critical thinking has fueled a situation in which we've forgotten en masse the lessons of history, we've fallen prey to left/right, black/white, good/evil thinking, and we're all thoroughly convinced that what we believe is what everyone should subscribe to, to the point where we're blind and deaf to those whose opinions may differ, and any potential reasons why. "You disagree with me? Well, you're wrong!" is the refrain. And just to prove it, we elected (or rather allowed to take office) one of the most egregious examples of this sort of thinking into the highest office in our country, and arguably the world.

The people who voted for him and will defend him to their deaths are those who hold most dear the supposed set of ethics that he violates on a daily basis. But if we go back to the Bible, we find that the old adage, "Judge not that ye be not judged," actually goes on to say, "For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again." In other words, "Karma, motherf--ker."

Of course, 'karma' only seems to be recognized when we see something bad happen to someone we're angry with or dislike, or these days, merely disagree with. Karma's used as a curse. Well, what if we're not concerned with being judged? What if we don't judge the judgement, or what if we choose to see all outcomes as karmic, and rather than judging natural rewards and consequences as good or bad, they simply are what they are? What if we come to understand that what looks bad today is the start of something good (since, as humans, we're incapable of stepping outside what we see as the duality of our universe)?

Well, then, suicide rates decline. Hate crimes disappear. Use of resources balances out and humans begin to realize our full potential. That would be fun. We'd like to see that. But at the moment, here we are, deep in the muck of our own judgement, made manifest through the assumptions we make about people we don't even know, which inevitably leads to hypocrisy because none of us can live up to the standards to which we hold other people.

So maybe in our lifetimes, things will decay to the point where we have no choice but to start rebuilding. When that happens (and it will, whether in the short- or long-term), we'll have to shift back to the kind of thinking where we appreciate that someone is doing something, and leave behind the part where we think it's up to us to determine the worth of what it is they're doing. Without those who've done what others thought was 'wrong', we'd still be living in caves and off the land, which wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing - the world would be in much better condition for the continued survival of the human specie - but it'd be less fun, at least as we think of fun today. We'll see. For the time being, here we are. We brought ourselves to this place, and it'll be up to us to move out of it. Are we anywhere near ready?


* Jehovah was probably an II (inorganic intelligence) with the means to build a human life form out of this planet's elements and to manipulate the environment. He probably used remote communication of some kind, maybe based in some technology with which we're very familiar today, maybe through means we can't even imagine, but regardless, he clearly intends to take away his people and those who will be their servants in a 1500-mile-cubed spaceship. More on that another time.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

A Shout-Out to Jerry Strother of Dell Financial Services

Jerry Strother (strä-thər) from Dell Financial Services called me today. I'd had an issue with their website recently and, while it was a simple fix, it took several hours for me to come 'round to it, ultimately on my own. The service rep I chatted with after too much time spent trying to reach a human via their customer service phone line wasn't in a position to help through no fault of her own, and reaching customer support on the website was impossible as the problem was that I couldn't log in.

My first instinct upon seeing an 800 number listed as 'Toll Free' on the caller ID was that whatever bot was on the other end of the line would be greeted by an immediate hangup, but as I always do I answered just to ensure that it wasn't a call we needed to take. A human voice asked for me politely by name and responded with his own when I asked who was calling. Because I'd just gone round with Dell I didn't immediately hang up, but still expected the scam to begin any moment. I'm always interested in hearing the latest hokum - gotta keep up on this stuff, ya know - so I listened as he explained that he'd become aware of my issue and that he and Dell's technical staff would very much like to address it.

Still skeptical, I explained in the vaguest terms that I'd tried to make a payment, but had been unable to until I went to a different computer and used a different browser, which had at no point been suggested. He stated that Dell's technicians had been unable to recreate the problem, at no point taking a tone of blame toward me, just seeming genuinely flummoxed and eager to get to the bottom of the thing, and asked if I had any screenshots of the issue that might help them identify what went wrong, even though he realized that was very unlikely. If I'd had screenshots I wouldn't have immediately shared them, since they capture an image of various extensions and who knows what nefarious scheme may be in play by someone trying to glean that information (not to mention what browser and OS I use and anything else that may be on my desktop at the time), but he didn't ask for anything more, didn't seek any PII (personally-identifiable information), didn't press me for anything other than, if it wasn't too much trouble, would I please contact him should I have the same issue again and we could try to get to the bottom of it.

Mr. Strother asked if he could give me his extension, not just for my sake but that of any other customers who might be having the issue(s; there was also the problem of not being able to reach a human via their customer support line). I agreed, but in any case like that my agreement is contingent upon first having done some research to see who I'm dealing with. If they're legit as far as I can tell, then yeah, you got it, but if not, their deception negates any contract.

I looked him up, [jerry strother dell], and found a few complaints including his name. Went to look at them and with the exception of one young lady whose family had fallen on hard times for a bit, and who was trying to make payments and was honest about her situation, most were from folks who sounded as though they were excusing their own oversights and in some cases outright deceptions, or who thought that unavoidable occasional equipment failure absolved them of their responsibility to see through with due diligence the separate processes of dealing with said failure and with the contract into which they entered willingly in order to purchase the product. Those are two separate things. While we've had issues with the DFS website in the past, and in getting payment problems resolved (years ago), they've always been quite good about responding with regard to product issues.

One person had actually spoken with Mr. Strother, but was unsatisfied with her result as it didn't end with her getting her money back and keeping the laptop she loudly insists is a lemon. (It could be. Having worked in semiconductor fabrication, there are always going to be those components that get through the process without being up to the manufacturer's, seller's, and consumer's expectations. Shouting about it rarely solves anything.) The rest of the complaint pages contained his name because he had responded in their comments, even-handedly and with respect, to their complaints with an offer to try to help. On each page, at the end of his third attempt to contact the individual, he would say that if he didn't hear back by the end of business the following day, he'd assume their matter had been resolved, which seems perfectly reasonable to me.

If I were a 'pissed consumer' or posting a complaint on a public message board, I'd probably be skeptical of this person so eager to have me call him, but the numbers he gives are Dell numbers and he has a email address. I just want to say, if you have an issue about which Mr. Strother tries to contact you, give him a listen, see what he can do. Be reasonable. He probably can't absolve you of your credit burden (that's of your creation and remains your responsibility) and he probably can't fix your computer, but he can probably escalate your issue to someone who can either fix it or help you get to a satisfactory resolution, and from my dealing with him today I'd say he'd really like to.

Of course he wants to keep business for the company - given DFS interest rates it behooves anyone who uses their service to check around for a lower one, as I informed my service rep I'd be doing (and still will, although I'll wait a month now and see if I can help out Mr. Strother) - but he also gave an impression of actually caring about customer service. Even if it's only an impression, in this day and age and having done what he does for as long as he apparently has - several years at least - I appreciate his approach. Thank you, Jerry Strother, for doing well what can't always be a fun job.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

An Opinion Regarding the Universe's Dark Forces

Dark matter and dark energy are the negative imprint left by those parts of reality that exist in the same spacetime as ours but in different dimensions and/or at different frequencies than our own. Black holes act as alveoli, transferring matter and energy between realities in a respiratory process, while the 'dark' (i.e., invisible and almost entirely without physical effect in our universe, or one might say, 'unknowable', although the line of what can't be known will shift with each new discovery) components give form and structure to the spaces between everything from electrons and their atoms' nuclei to galaxies in the universe.

The wave does not become a particle, but exists in every part of every possible spectrum and continuum at any given time, while any observer sees only in a finite spectrum, comprehending the portion (particle) of the wave existing in their own continuum. However, as the observer is moving across time, the particle - constantly moving along its waveform, but always only visible where that waveform resonates harmonically with what any given observer is equipped to receive - appears largely motionless but fluid and shifting.

Sometimes resonancies shift, either temporarily or permanently, which might result in various anomalies that may be interpreted as, for instance, ghosts, or aliens, or manifestations of mental illness, or some kinds of random inexplicable disappearances or displacements. There's no reason to believe that there aren't intelligences similar to our own, and even those among us, who by chance or by choice have learned to utilize (or exploit) the properties involved for any number of purposes.

Reality(ies) is(are) infinite. We humans need never worry that we'll run out of puzzles to solve in nature, but as our ability to observe, measure, and define on both macro- and microscales increases and - provided we don't get blown back to the Dark Ages (again) by our own hand or the effects of any number of natural cycles - before too long the universe will become an increasingly more colorful and lively place in our collective perception, with only a few dark corners that remain beyond our comprehension. If we ever find ourselves having illuminated every last mystery in the Universe, we'll once again be the God/Source/Universe-Itself from whence we came.

Saturday, March 03, 2018

'Fit of Anger'

Of course President Trump imposed these tariffs in the course of a 'temper tantrum'. Can't claim insider trading if it was just a spontaneous outburst.

Tuesday, February 06, 2018

Updating the Viking Cartoonafert

The Making of a Cartoonafert: Viking

Thursday, January 11, 2018

The Making of The Cartoonafert

The Creation of a Chibiguana: Cowboy

The Creation of a Chibiguana: Italian Assassin

Saturday, December 30, 2017

The Creation of a Chibiguana: Power Armor