Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Complying...


... I don't have a porch but if I did ...

The Observer arrived...


...and just in time, too! The bird is going thru this messy "nesting mode" thing and is chewing up the newspaper on the bottom of the cage. With the arrival of December's Ann Arbor Observer, I have enough material for at least two more cage cleanings. Gimme a friggin' break - like Zingerman's needs anymore free advertising in this town.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

I get a phone call ...

... every day or so from a debt collection agency located in Texas. The phone rings, my answering machine picks up, and a recorded message begins. "This is not a sales call. Please call Pentagram Kay at 1-800-****." Even when I pick up the receiver, I get this recorded message, never a human being to talk to.
... I don't have any outstanding debt so they really have no reason to be calling me. They agency is looking for someone named "Eddy Something-or-Other". I got a phone call last spring asking for him. "No one by that name lives here," I told the woman on the other end of the line. I got a second call a few months later from the same woman and I repeated it for her, "No one by that name lives here nor has ever lived here!" A little while later these phone calls started coming in.
...I read some information on debt collection harassment and could call and force these people to stop calling me but I just can't see putting any energy or effort into this. I'm usually at work when the phone call comes and I don't mind coming home, finding the message, and promptly deleting it. In fact, it's kind of satisfying, in a strange way. Whatever this "Eddy So-and-So" got away with, I hope he's enjoying it. I wonder if it's bad karma to wish herpes on the woman who put me on that call list?

Monday, November 28, 2005

1% Inspiration

... I wasn't one of those "shopping fools" that made the news this past weekend.
No, I wasn't standing in line in front of Walmart, Best Buy, Circuit City, or
CompUSA at 5 o'clock in the morning on Friday. My credit card stayed in my wallet. I let other people fuel the national economy and rack up even more consumer debt. In mid December, when the credit card bills and the utility bill arrive in the mailbox on the same day, I won't be the one sweating.
... my intent was to slip quietly and peacefully through this holiday weekend. I
planned on nothing more than working my regularly scheduled shifts, an "after work"
beer, and returning to the comfort of my cozy little apartment. This may sound a
little boring but something came out of it - something incredible, actually.
... I was relaxing in the livingroom with a CD playing softly in the background, my feet propped up on the coffee table. Grabbing a book that I bought last month at Borders, The Animator's Survival Kit,I started to study, reviewing the chapters I already finished, and moving on to fresh subject matter, until I grew a little sleepy. I put my head back and closed my eyes and that's when the incredible magic happened. A white screen appeared in my "mind's eye" and a simple line drawing "character" faded in. The character began to dance on that screen, making repetitive moves and gestures with his head, body, arms, and legs, in sync with the music I was listening to. I opened my eyes again, grabbed a sketchbook and a pencil, and quickly recorded what I had just visualized on a page of the sketchbook. In a matter of about 5 minutes, I had 6 sketches that will evolve into key frames for a cartoon that's been in my mind for a while now. It was another "Aha!" moment where ones subconcious and concious mind meet and produce.
... I believe it was Thomas Edison that said, "Invention is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration." I experienced the 1% inspiration in that sleepy vision and am now in the process of doing the actual hard work required to produce the physical cartoon. When I am done, I promise to post it here.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Leftovers

... the first time I woke up today, the clock read 3:44 a.m. I seriously considered
staying up, making some coffee, firing up the laptop, and going online. Instead,
I crawled back under a mountain of warm quilts and went back to sleep. At 8
o'clock, I opened my eyes to a strange phenomenon, a brightly lit bedroom. The
sun was actually shining (through a few scattered clouds) and the sky was blue!
...my resolve is strong today and I am determined to tackle the growing list of chores that I've been ignoring all week. The first load of laundry is in the washer already. I'm ready to take two trash bags to the dumpster and go to the carwash for more quarters to finish the washing. The sink is empty, no dirty dishes hanging around, and I don't even to cook - just heat up the leftovers and make a sandwich. Both "winterizing" the windows and taking care of the aquariums are both very reachable goals for the afternoon.
... I'm thanking God that I'm not working at the mall right now. I remember the year that I did work there at Christmas and how it completely ruined my holiday season. It was an absolutely miserable experience that showed me the most evil side of the holiday. While Christmas songs heralding the birth of Jesus rang out in the background, greedy shoppers literally fought over merchandise, parking spots, and even their space in line to visit Santa Claus. In the quest to create "the perfect Christmas" for one's own family too often overrides civilized and polite behavior - especially at a "50% Off Sale" on Christmas Eve.
...I'm giving up on the OurMedia Publishing Tool for uploading any large video files for use on this site. I had the same trouble that other users complained about with this uploader tool. Once installed, it never loaded. The publishing tool's creator posted a set of instructions that would supposedly fix the problem. After carefully following these instructions, the tool would still not load. Instead, I went to Creative Commons to download and install their tool. It loaded right away and although I haven't published anything, it appears to work just like the Our Media tool did the first (and only) time it loaded. Perhaps this will now motivate me to produce some "meatier" video posts.
... I made my December calendar and it is hanging on the corkboard by my desk. The important dates, appointments, and "due dates" are noted and new things can be penciled in. It looks like a very busy month from start to finish. Better hang on to my hat (and gloves)!!
...I checked the "Who Links to Me" link at the bottom of this page and was surprised to see that my blog is linked to a couple of online gambling/casino sites. I am going to defeat the purpose right now and clearly state DO NOT GAMBLE ONLINE. If you want to play slots, blackjack, or poker, go to your favorite casino - the real world ones, not this online "virtual casino" crap.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Waking up ...


... and looking out the window, I see that winter has officially arrived! There's a
white blanket of snow covering the trees, lawns, and roads. And now, it really does feel like the "holiday season" is here.
... realistically, the snow that fell last night is just a dusting. A whole lot more will fall and accumulate over the next four months. Today, I love it like only a true "born and bred Northerner" can.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

A Silly List

First Grade Teacher's Name? Ms. Kleinman
Last Words You Said: "Have a Happy Thanksgiving!"
Last Song You Sang? "Quiero Saber de Ti"
Last Person You Hugged? Alicia Muser ! Yeah, Baby!
Last Thing You Laughed At? My bird doing acrobatics
Last Time You Said 'I Love You' And Meant It? To my dad today
Last Time You Cried? Today, thinking about my mom's funeral.
What's In Your CD Player? 5 CD's including: The Rolling Stones, Latin Pop Hits, and some homemade mix CD's
What Color Socks Are You Wearing? Two pairs - a white pair underneath a pair of gray boot/hunting socks.
What's Under Your Bed? A board.
What Time Did You Wake Up Today? 11 a.m.
Current Taste? Pumpkin pie
Current Hair? same as always, more grey
Current Clothes? Levi's and a thermal undershirt (long sleeve)
Current Annoyance? The new sidework chart at work
Current Longing? To get a call for an interview from the company I sent a resume to recently
Current Desktop Picture? A mural from a train tressel downtown
Current Worry(ies) Making rent and car payments
Current Hate? "Latino Night" at the club downtown
Favorite Physical Feature Of The Opposite Sex? Tits and Ass
Last CD You Bought? 30 CD R's! LOL!
Favorite Place To Be? The lake on a hot August afternoon
Least Favorite Place? DUH! A No-Brainer, there.
Time You Wake Up In The Morning? Usually around 8:00 a.m. if I get to sleep before 5 a.m.
Favorite Color? Blue
Do You Believe In An Afterlife? Nope
How Tall Are You? 6' 1"
Current Favorite Word/Saying? Orale, vatos!
Favorite Season? Autumn
One Person From Your Past You Wish You Could Go Back And Talk To: A couple really, Rockwell, Jeff H., Andy L.
Favorite Day? My Day Off
Where Would You Like To Go? Brazil
What Is Your Career Going To Be Like? Short and sweet
How Many Kids Do You Want? None
Favorite Car? No cars, TRUCKS!

Sunday, November 20, 2005

There's a Hair in The Soup

After 20 years in the business, I thought I'd seen it all. In fact, I was certain that nothing a customer could do would surprise me ever again. I was wrong. I was actually astounded on Saturday night.
The last home football game of the season is always between two arch rivals and is the biggest homegame of the year. The customers began flooding in and it didn't slow down. The hostesses used a "wait list" for over 2 1/2 hours and the manager finally cut the floor around 9:30 p.m. I took the first new table in my section and was delivering their salads when the surprising incident occurred.
On the other side of the diningroom, our manager was talking with a customer, a man about 45 years old. The man's wife and young son listened in on their conversation. The man suddenly stood up, his wife reached out to stop him, and our manager stepped back. The guy turned toward the other tables, and in a very loud voice, began an obnoxious and embarassing speech.
"I want you all to know that I just had dinner with my family," he began, "and
I found a long blonde hair in my food." He gestures with his hands to show the length of the hair he found. "I'm not the type to complain but..."
Before I go any further, I have to fill in a few relevant details. First, their server is definitely not a blonde. In fact, not one of the waitstaff working that night was a blonde. Our entire kitchen is "latino". They sport flat-top fade brush cuts, hidden beneath bandana's and turned back ball caps. The man's wife, however, did have blonde hair that reached the middle of her back. His son was rolling his eyes as his dad went on.
"I really feel that my entire bill should be free," he announced. "And this guy
only wants to take my dinner off the bill. This is the worst example of customer
service I've ever seen and this manager is incompetent." He flashes a glance at the
boss. "I have about 350 friends and business associates that I'm going to tell about
this and none of them will ever come here again."
When he first began his speech, a few people leaned out of the booths, curious to see what was going on. Between the background music and the normal diningroom
din, most could not hear what he was saying and thought that he was announcing a
birthday. They quickly rejoined their conversations and paid no attention to this guy. Fortunately, the two closest tables were "regulars", affectionately nicknamed "The Horse People" because they run a horse breeding and boarding farm a few miles outside of town. One of "The Horse People" retorted, "I eat here all the time! The food is always great and the service is excellent!" From the corner, another regular customer chimes in, "Cut him off!"
"Enjoy your hair food!" the man bellows as he finally surrenders his debit card to the manager. The family mills around the table while being cashed out and both the wife and son are trying to hide their faces. He signs the receipt and is escorted to the door.
As the table is being cleared, I notice that they've left three carryout boxes on the table. I quickly collect them and put them in a bag. I walk up to "The Horse People" and ask if they still have Wilbur, a pig they've been growing out for sometime now. "We sure do!", the lady responds. I present her with the bag of food, telling her that Wilbur's dinner is "on the house" tonight. Waste not, want not.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

A Sketchy Public Service Announcement



*No animals were injured while creating this video*

Friday, November 18, 2005

Panhandling, Homeless, and Hustling

It was extemely cold yesterday, windy and snowing also. Restless, and
unwilling to fire up the furnace in my apartment, I threw on about 5 layers of
clothes, including my thermal underwear "union suit", and headed downtown.
Intent on walking around, taking pictures and filming, I got on the Transportation
Authority bus, paid my one dollar fare, and was on my way.
The bus was warm and I engaged in a pleasant conversation with another passenger during the ride. We parted company at the Transit Center, heading
off in different directions. I walked two blocks to Main Street, drinking
in the sights, thinking about the camera in my pocket and what I was going to
photograph. My stomach was beginning to growl and, out of habit,
I had a craving for a Fleetwood Diner cheeseburger. And then "it" happened,
right at the crosswalk at Main and Liberty.
"Hey Mister!", I heard a voice call out. I cringed, instinctively knowing what
was coming next. "Got any spare change, dude?"
Looking to my left, I see a guy, about 27 years old, dressed as normally as
anyone else on the street, with his hand out. "I just need a buck or two," he
throws in, as if that's going to make it easier. Just last month, I wrote about a scary experience when I felt threatened by a panhandler in nearly the exact same location. In fact, according to a local paper's monthly "Crime Map", this is the same location where numerous robberies, including daring daylight capers, have been happening over an extended period of time. Quickly and abruptly, I brush past the guy and am at the Fleetwood in two minutes.
While Elvis is cooking my burger, I start to think about this experience and to
discuss it with my waitress friend, Nola. We're both "streetwise townies" and it's
something that has hardened us to the growing panhandling situation in town. We know a lot of the "real" street people that are out there. We know them by name.
We know a little bit about their histories. We know where they hang out and the
games they run. And, we know their vices.
"Mary" is the Queen of the street people. She's been around forever and is
well known to everyone, including the police. I know her real name, that she is in her 60's, and that she's turned down offers that would get her off the street. She carries her belongings in plastic bags and when those bags get full, she fills a shopping cart with those bags. When one shopping cart is full, she fills another. When the second shopping cart is full, the police confiscate it. The contents end up in the dumpster behind the police station. Losing her precious boxes and newspapers infuriates Mary and she is always ready with a scalding "Anti-Law Enforcement" tirade after such an incident. That's when I know to avoid her.
There's "Danny", who, at one point in his life, was well on the way to collecting a pension from the local school system after spending more than 10 years as a janitor. He was pretty normal until his mother died. He lost his family, his home, and his job, hitting the streets with a bottle of hard liquour and a taste for crack cocaine. I saw Danny sprawled out on the Diag this summer and, after a short conversation, I gave him $5. He dissappeared into the liquor store with one of his street buddies as I watched from a distance.
In a west side park, carefully concealed beneath a tall, steep set of stairs, there's a old mattress, some filthy blankets, and plastic sheets to stop the rain. It looks like a kid's "fort" but it is home, at least for most of the year, to "Eddie", a guy that "Mary" helps and looks out for. Every morning at 6:30 a.m., Eddie sits through the required Bible reading, and then gets hot oatmeal, toast, coffee, and orange juice for breakfast at the Presbyterian food kitchen. Eddie earns extra cash by hustling. He very subtley let's people know that he'll "fall from grace" for a few bucks, meaning that he'll masturbate in front of you. For a few more bucks, he'll allow you "to fall from grace", meaning he'll let you do it for him. I've seen him run that game on a few desperate old gay men more than once. I guess all the Bible readings have taught him something.
The names and descriptions and descriptions could continue - "Moose" and the posse of teenage runaway boys he pimps out, the "Liberty Plaza Crackheads", eating out of the dumpster to envoke sympathy from tourists, "Nitrous John", and "Junkyard Johnny". I've met more than I care to admit. So when the normal looking 27 year old hit me up and I brushed him off, I don't think that I was being callous and uncaring at all. I was saving myself from inviting any more sadness and misery into my life. Maybe the next time, I'll spring for some hot food and coffee, set up my little video camera, and record an interview.
The attached picture is a quick sketch I did of Mary, without her knowing, in the Fleetwood a couple of years ago.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Wednesday Links

I don't usually like to send people away from my page but, in the interest of service to my readers and "blog-ma", I have decided to provide a few links to other blogs that I've come across.
This first link is to "River Rant", a blog coming out of Dexter, Michigan. Keep that fact in mind while you're reading. The writing style is unique and he reminds me of someone that I met over a few cold ones at Dexter's Pub. If I showed his picture to my friend, Lisa, she'd most likely say that she went to high school with him or something. This guy doesn't like Kwami Kilpatrick, Geoffrey Feiger, or cats, so he can't be all bad. His major fault is admitting that he went to Michigan State.

The second link today is to "So, Cat Tacos?", an art blog with some really cool illustrations. Check it out if you like to draw.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Sketchy Lessons

Apparently, our world is in desperate need of some help. I can provide that help, so let the file download!

Monday, November 14, 2005


Sweatshirts, Jalapenos, lasagna, and traffic lights ...

... I purchased a sweatshirt from Ourmedia.org this weekend. It's a white hoodie that has the Ourmedia logo on the front and says "Join the citizens media revolution" on the back. It was a bit expensive but I believe in the site's purpose and future and wanted them to benefit. It was just my way of contributing for the services they provide. I really want to see Ourmedia succeed.
... I've never met an American president.
... I've met a few celebrities though. My "life list" includes Bob Hope, Barbara Eden, James Taylor, and Madonna.
... this weekend was really busy at work and I earned good money. With one more "home game" left in the season we exit "football Saturdays" and head into the "holiday rush".
...all three of the latest (new) servers have now quit. The latest, "K", called up last night from home, after her shift, and said she wasn't coming back - ever. "K" was the best of all three but once she was on her own and it got busy, she started to make mistakes and have problems. The job only looks easy. It isn't. I'm the only "waiter", again. The rest of the staff is all female. Furthermore, I'm the only male that has lasted in this environment. Scott (another "newbie") quit when he found out that it wasn't just "quick and easy cash" and that skill and knowledge were required.
... tips on Friday and Saturday nights average between 15% and 20%. On Sundays they always are around 11%. Why the difference? Moreover, why do I continue to work Sundays?
... I'm planning on having lasagna for my Thanksgiving dinner. Am I a good Italian boy, or what?
... I eat at least one Jalapeno chilipepper a day and have done so for a long time. This past summer, I didn't get one mosquito bite while in the woods or at the beach. Even those big blackdeerflies never attacked me. Who needs chemical insect repellants?
... I always want to bitch slap the driver who sits at the intersection and fails to notice that the traffic light has changed from red to green. The force of the slap should be in direct proportion to the length of time before he notices the change.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Friday Moanin' -- A Cumulative Post

...I've got things to do today before I go to work but there's lots on my mind. I'll keep adding to this post with bits and pieces as the day wears on. Let's start with this for fun.



... Here's my opinion :


... fast food places always piss me off. I hate this chain's advertisements and
think that their new campaign is absolutely ruthless. How 'bout a little truth in advertising for a change of pace.



...The train tressels near town always seem to attract "taggers" that leave the cement walls messed up with obscenities. In the warmer weather, artists can go get a permit at City Hall and paint over them. The city even provides the paint free, you just have to go pick it up from the recycle center. Have a look:





...have a fun and safe weekend everybody! Drive Right!

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

I'm enjoying a little fantasy this week...

...and, believe it or not, the fantasy is about work ! Is that
sick or what?!!
I nearly fell out of my chair when I stumbled across a job
listing in the classified section of the Sunday edition of the
local news. It is my "dream job" and when I read the ad, I
realized that I possess all the qualifications the employer is
looking for. I have the exact educational background
required, the managerial, administrative, and customer
service experience necessary, I am familiar with their
products, having used them in a previous work environment,
and (a very important point here) I am bilingual in both
Spanish and Portuguese, an essential skill for dealing with
the company's Latin American clients. The home office is
a short, easy commute and I am available for occasional
travel in Latin America to meet with clients. Immediately,
I wrote out a cover letter, printed my updated resume, found
an envelope and stamp, and mailed my documents to the
human resources contact in the ad.
Prior job hunting experience tells me that it takes a little
time for the ball to start rolling in situations like this. My
documents need to arrive, and, along with those coming from
other applicants, they needed to be reviewed and evaluated.
Then, there is the first, and hopefully, second, interview, the
decision making process, and the notification. I suspect that
the company plans to fill the position at the start of January.
And that is exactly why I am indulging in the "fantasy" part
of this whole experience right now. In all honesty, I can not
imagine that many people have better qualifications for the
job than I do, especially because of the languages required.
While at the sink, washing my dinner dishes, I see myself
going thru security at the local airport and boarding a plane
headed to Buenos Aires, Argentina for a week. I snap a
few pictures from the airplane window as we pass over
the Amazon Basin on the way there and the snow capped
peaks of the Andes Mountains on the way back. I imagine
the frigid February days when the temperature fights to hit
zero degrees and a week of meetings in tropical and warm
San Juan, Puerto Rico. I see myself posting to this blog
from a hotel room in Mexico. What the heck, they say that
visualization is the first step toward actualization, eh?

Friday, November 04, 2005

A special gift for a friend ...

...will occupy some of my spare time this weekend. I want to get it ready
to take to the post office on Monday morning.
I am sending a CD that I downloaded and burned to a disc. It's mostly
Latin music, reggaeton and bachata's, with a cumbia and a mambo thrown
in to break things up. Other friends have listened to it and think it's a good
mix.
There's something else special about this CD though - the jewel case.
Recently, one of those "expensive ISP's" sent me a disc containing the
latest version of their software and a "10,000 hours free no risk trial". I
believe you know which ISP I am refering to. Anyway, having been burnt
once by that company's fine print and disclaimers, their CD went into the
trash. I kept the jewel case though. As much as I dislike this ISP, I have
to say that they send out the coolest jewel cases ever. This particular
one easily splits up into three plastic pieces so their advertising inserts
can be removed. Snapping the whole thing back together is, well - a snap!
The inserts got scanned into my photo editing program as templates for
the linernotes that I am personalizing.
The friend receiving this gift is living down in Cocoa Beach, Florida and
has been there for a couple of years now. He was a good friend, neighbor,
and constant companion before his departure. Regardless of how necessary
the move was, I was sad to see him leave. So far the linernotes look pretty
good as I try to design the accompanying booklet just as if it came with a
"real" CD. I have more than enough photographs of familiar faces and places
and faces to make it really personal and something that my friend will enjoy
looking at and keeping.
Everyone enjoys getting a little surprise in the mail every now and then, but
I noticed, as I started putting the project together, that I am enjoying the act
of "putting it together" also. It's amusing to look at those pictures, to use them,
and remember good times with my buddy. And the music isn't bad either!!

Thursday, November 03, 2005

I'm getting so "trendy"...

...good Thursday morning! In my usual a.m. "mood to write" mode I've decided to comment on my own blog. I checked on the "monetary value" of this site and was shocked to find out it isn't worth a damn thing. The official "html proclamation" of worth has been added to the template, forever changing the face of "Ten Megabytes".
Did you also notice the ClustrMap? I am now read "Internationally"! To my BlogFan in Brazil :

"Muito Prazer! Bem Vindo! Espero que voce chega a ler muitas veces mais!"

You see, I can write in either Portuguese, Spanish, or English. I choose to write in English, however, because there are Canadians reading this blog as well.

See you all later this afternoon!

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

It's becoming "trendy"...

...for many retailers to hand out a magnetic stripped, plastic
"discount card" for use in their establishments. The businesses call them
"Rewards cards", "Plus Cards", "Bonus cards", or "Loyalty cards". I call them
a privacy invading nuisance.
My local grocer uses such a card and made it essential for the shopper to
sign up for one. The card found a home in my wallet, right next to my driver's
license, my credit card, and my bankcard. Now the gas station down the street
has their version of this card. So does the butcher, the baker, and candlestick
maker. Shheeeesh, my wallet is getting thicker by the hour.
I went to lunch the other day and the cashier's first question was, "Do you have
your Biggie Burrito card today?"
"I seem to have forgotten it", I admitted, almost ashamed of my lack of planning.
"Too bad!", the cashier lamented. "Your drink would have been free with it today."
She was almost scolding me!
At the grocery store, signs touting the advantage of being a "Plus Shopper" are
everywhere. Items are advertised as "10 for $10" or "4 for $4" on every shelf. At
the checkout, you scan the card, scan the items, and the price is adjusted accordingly.
What's going on behind the scenes seems a whole lot more sinister.
Most people forget that they filled out an "application" for their card when they got
it. It asked for detailed information and I seriously doubt that the majority of shoppers
ever questioned why a grocery store would ever need information like that. They just
answered the questions, turned the application in, got the card, and went along their
merry way. This is especially true of the older shoppers.
It is called "Information Gathering". Someone entered all the information you
so generously provided into a database and the grocer now has it saved. And they
are using it. They know your address, quite possibly your phone number, your account
number, the day you shop, the time you shop, what you buy, and how you pay. It is
privacy invasion, pure and simple, and you agreed to it.
Honestly, the system has some merit and benefit to the consumer. It helps to control
inventories and in selling the freshest product possible. It helps in having the right number of
employees ready to serve you during the busiest hours. However, any such "Plus" or
"Bonus" program is designed to benefit the retailer, not the consumer. Furthermore, it is
the use of the gathered information that concerns me the most. For the sake of example,
let's say that on August 23, I purchased a Walt Disney, "Tarzan II" DVD because it was
on sale. A month later, my mailbox is being filled with junk mail containing offers from
Colombia House Records, every local or national video rental store, video
game specialty stores, and more. At the same time, my phone is ringing off the hook with
telemarketing calls from travel agencies wanting to offer me discount rates to DisneyWorld
in Florida. I thought that I signed up for the "do not call" list! Guess again! When I signed
up for that "Plus" card, my signature gave the grocer the right to sell my information
to other associated retailers and vendors. I signed away my right to privacy and my right
to eat dinner undisturbed in a single stroke of the pen.
I didn't sign up for a card at the gas station and don't intend to. "Do you have your
rewards card?", the cashier asks when I make a purchase. "You can save 2 cents per
gallon on gas right now!", she chirps. It confirms my suspicion that their gasoline, like most
of the products they sell, is overpriced. Down the street I pay 20 cents less per gallon and
keep my private information private.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

"Forums", "Message Boards", or "Groups" ...

...caught my attention back when I still had "Webtv". The internet was "new"
to me and these were a fascinating way to communicate with people who shared
common interests in sports, hobbies, or fetishes. Much like a blog, publishing my
essays, photos, or art, and viewing what others
published, was interesting, educational, and entertaining. Somewhere along the
way, however, my opinion about these vehicles of communication changed and
I stopped frequenting them. I've pretty much deleted all my accounts on these
forums.
The change began after noticing the abundance of "trolls" and "flamers". Like
the legendary creature lurking under a bridge, the "trolls" would wait in gleeful
anticipation of a post or entry they could jump on and rip apart. It often got very
mean spirited and ugly. The same was true of the "flamers" but this type more
frequently attacked a specific target using the same tactics. Flamers seemed
to get more personal.
One group I frequented was dedicated to creative writing and contained essay,
prose, and more. It was created and hosted by a Florida woman using the screen
name, "Dreams and Chains". The group was flourishing with many new members
and contributors when "Dreams" was attacked by both the trolls and flamers. At
first she resisted taking the bait, but when the attacks became more frequent and more
personal, "Dreams" gave in and fought back. All too quickly, the group lost all its
solid content and was filled with rancid, hateful posts and membership dwindled.
"Dreams" thought that those attacks would be short lived but they eventually choked
the life out of her group. It was an formulated attack strategy I saw play out over and
over again.
I naively thought that, somehow, things would be different in the "computer world".
Recently, I "pulled the plug" on all the "hobbyist forums" I participated in, hitting the
"delete account" button on each one. I had the unpleasant experience of watching
the forum undergo a "coup", a power struggle for control that was planned and
executed from the forum administrator's basement. A psychotic housewife from a
backwoods Wisconsin town, she had her own agenda and stooped to unbelievable
depths to easily wrestle control out of the hands of an overburdened and apathetic
owner. She used many unscrupulous tactics in her plan. She was a convincing liar
with deceit, slander, and sabotage in her arsenal. The worst part of this was the fact
that she disrupted real lives when she actually met people at their homes, at club
meetings, or conventions when she traveled. The telephone and instant messaging
were among her favorite weapons. She seemed to have an "enemies list", targeting
members who would not go along with, or assist in, her nefarious plans for that forum,
one by one, causing them to leave. She would express public sadness at the departure
while taking secret delight in the success of her plan. To finalize her takeover plan, she
decided to "wipe the slate clean" and changed the web server, forcing everyone
to "re-register". A calculated move, many members never returned and she "grew" a
new membership.
This event touched me personally and when I deleted my account, I vowed that
I would never get involved in such a fiasco again. When using a forum to learn or
research a topic, I now "lurk" and never post. I use an e-mail address set up specifically
for forum membership purposes, I don't make "buddies". It's all very anonymous and
sterile.