Wednesday, December 31, 2008

2008 Recap

So there is less than 2 hours remaining in 2008 and I'm sitting in the data center of all places. By this point there isn't anywhere that I'm going to make it before midnight to celebrate so I decided to just write a recap of 2008 in the life of Bob K Mertz.

The 2 biggest highlights were of course that I officially and legally founded my company, Ransom Tech Services, this year and the second is that I joined the Linden Volunteer Fire Department. Both of these things have been really great moves but both of also come with their downfalls and frustrations.

If you've ever thought that it would be really awesome to be self-employed, you really might want to rethink that. Sure its nice to be able to set your schedule but many times the downfalls outweigh the benefits. Want an example? Well, I just said that I'm sitting in the data center, right? I decided that Christmas Even until New Years Day was going to be my vacation time and this is the second time I've had to come to the data center. Sure, I can come in at the time of day I want but there is no escaping the job. Overall, I do like what I do and I hope to see Ransom Tech Services grow in 2009.

Unlike being self-employed I would encourage just about everyone to join their local fire department. Being able to help people and serve your community is an absolutely awesome feeling. I haven't seen a whole lot of action yet but it is certainly an exciting job. I've been to a couple accidents and to a couple medic calls and this year I saw my first dead body as well. There are times that you have to sit back and think about what you're doing and why you put yourself through some of the things you go through, you see, and you experience. My emotional moment was a few weeks ago when we were called out to a gunshot wound call. Details became clearer as we went up the mountain and when we were told to stage for law enforcement we knew things weren't good. When we arrive on the scene our medic walked over to the body and shook his head and shortly after the sheriff's office brought out the yellow tape. The guy had committed suicide in his driveway by shooting himself in the chest with a 12 gauge -- seeing the dead body didn't make me an emotional wreck like I thought I was going to be (tho the image of him laying there will be in my mind forever I think) but what really had me processing my emotions was the wife and 15 year old son were home at the time. It was tough to process but eventually I realized that there are a lot of hurting people out there and I do what I do because I want to help them. I'm finishing up fire school in the next few weeks and will be a fully certified firefighter and I'm hoping to be able to watching LVFD grow in 2009. We are a very small department and have almost no members or technology but I'm hoping to be a big part of growing that this year.

Early in this year brought some major changes of who I was. I've learned a lot and I've also realized a lot about who I was. I've realized that some of the ways I felt about things didn't always reflect what I said. I've come around and I'm trying to make sure that my beliefs and my actions are synonymous with each other. A lot of these had to do with politics and religion but mostly, it all boiled down to the core of who I was.

On a sad note, 2008 brought a lot of pain towards the end. A very special 2 year old in my life grew extremely close to me and I close to her. Unfortunately, some things take time to heal and circumstances went way beyond my control and I realized that even though I was directly helping that little girl I was ultimately making another situation very stressful and I had to back away. Not a day goes by that I don't think of her and feel like I've let her down but I ultimately do realize that I needed to do what I did. I pray that things turn around in 2009 and the changes that need to happen do happen but all I can do is know that I absolutely love 2 people that were in my life and continue to pray for both of them.

In the pissed off department, 2 new houses were built next to me and we lost a few acres of trees which happen to be a huge reason why I moved to where I did. Additionally those houses STILL remain empty and most likely will stay that way for a year or two... or more? It's really irritating that people are always out just to make the buck and get ahead and have no respect for what or who they destroy in the process. Our whole society is really self-centered anymore. Warren County is growing and I'm not happy about it. Sure, maybe my property value will go up but I really don't give a crap because there are some things that are much more important to me than money.

May brought a few headaches my way which involved a good amount of stress from Comcast (which recently has become a frustration again which I may touch on in a week or so) and another was some stress related to my church. Unfortunately as we close out 2008 I still really don't know what my place is as far as churches are concerned. I absolutely love the church that New Life was but it just isn't the same anymore. Lots of people left the staff and the church seems to have reverted back to a traditional church which was the exact opposite of what I fell in love with. I'm still involved with doing some of their tech stuff and I really do care about the church but May brought a lot of stresses and that changed a lot.

August brought the next round of stresses but most of these were of a decent nature. I began fire school around that time and, at the same time, my workload increased a TON. A lot of stress was put on me but as we end 2008 it looks like I made it through and that is a really great feeling. I learned a lot about taking life as it comes and became a lot stronger in dealing with insane amounts of stress. I'd say it was great in the end.... but man did it hurt for a while :)

While it's true that I'm kind of down about not being able to celebrate the new year with anyone and I'm feeling the pain of still being single and somewhat ending this year feeling down and out the year really has been a good one. I pray that God leads me in new and exciting directions in 2009 and that as I close out that year I'll be able to say the same.

God Bless all of you and your families and I hope you have an awesome 2009!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

In honor of 2 Virginia firefighters

This past weekend Virginia lost two of their firefighters to two seperate incidents. Please keep that families of
Cecilia Turnbough
and Roy Smith, Jr. in your prayers. Roy, a member at McGaheysville Volunteer Fire Department, was 17 years old and was killed while responding to a structure fire in his personal vehicle. Cecilia had been an EMS technician for 8 years at the Dale City Volunteer Fire Department and had recently begun training to become a firefighter and became the victim of a heart attack during a routine training exercise.

Please remember all of the firefighters that gave their lives in serving their communities. There have been 99 firefighter deaths in the United States this year (2008).

Monday, November 10, 2008

Quaker Parakeet Saves Toddler's Life

One of Cracker's distant relatives helped save a 2 year old's life by alerting her babysitter that she was choking. I literally had tears in my eyes watching this clip.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Obama and Coal

I am appauled but not surprised at the latest "media leak" against Obama. In a YouTube video Obama said that he will bankrupt the coal industry.... And the sensationalist republicans go wild without, of course, actually thinking about the entire context of the conversation and the plan.

I am from Pennsylvania and I know that coal is a huge part of that state and that the state is already in a lot of trouble because of lack of jobs... I also know that the destruction of jobs in that state was more linked to a failure of government than anything else and I know that complacency is a real problem in Pennsylvania as well as other states. I am PROUD to be from Pennsylvania but that doesn't mean that I hold Pennsylvania blameless for issues that are occuring. We have an issue with greenhouse gasses.... this isn't really a debate. Additionally, coal adds to these.... there also isn't any debate about that.

What Obama said in the interview is that anyone is welcome to build a coal plant but that it would probably end up bankrupting them because of the fact that his plan would charge the polluter for the polution. This plan is one of my favorites because it doesn't make it illegal to keep doing what your doing but it does give you incentive to grow your industry and improve our well being instead of just creating more problems while you collect your money. There are amazing new improvements in clean coal technology and a lot of people in PA have been working hard on this for good reason.... and those people are the people that will be rewarded because if they are not emitting as much pollution then they will not be hit with these fees/taxes. I think this makes a lot of sense.

The problem with the general public anymore is that we don't want to have to work to improve anything but we also don't want to have to accept consequences for not working towards improvement. Corporations are the paramount of this attitude and when things get bad enough they just go crying to everyone because "they've work too hard" .... *cough* banks *cough* ..... How long do we carry people? How long should we? Remember this quote? “Give a man a fish; you have fed him for today. Teach a man to fish; and you have fed him for a lifetime” .... Thats essentially what it boils down to. If people come to you for help then you should help them.... but what if they keep coming to you for help? Do you keep helping them? Do you keep giving them money when they aren't doing anything to solve their problem?

I applaud any effort that encourages people to improve themselves and the life around them. If Obama's plan bankrupts the coal industry then it's not because Obama had it out for them but because they failed to keep up with changing times. If you disagree with this effort then you better not say that you are for a greener enviornment or that you are for progress.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

T-Mobile G1 Review (HTC Dream)

Yesterday it came... my T-Mobile G1. After having used it for a little over 24 hours now I have to say that it definately is worthy of all of the hype. I had the phone fully set up in less than an hour. The interface was extremely easy and made a lot of sense. I had never touched the android emulator and I didn't even open the instruction book -- it just was all extremely natural. I'm just going to go through this one thought at a time.

Physical look/feel

A lot of people had been saying that the G1 looked too flimsy and unattractive. To be honest, I really saw that point -- until yesterday when I held one in my hands. It's true that its plastic but the phone is built extremely solid. It doesn't feel like it's going to crack on you and the sliding screen is smooth and well built. I also have to say that the phone really does not look as bad as people had been saying it did. I think maybe the photos didn't do it justice?


I was a bit concerned leading up to the delivery of my G1 that I would somehow have to route my IMAP accounts through my gmail account (which I don't even use). I was very pleasantly surprised when I found that that is absolutely not the case. It's true that things like your contacts sync with your gmail contacts but the email is an actual real client.... oh, and it's TRUE IMAP unlike what BlackBerry calls an IMAP solution. I am able to access all of the folders in my IMAP accounts and I can use my own outgoing SMTP server which is yet another thing that BlackBerry can't do. There are only 2 things that I miss from my blackberry and these really aren't drastically important. The first is I liked that BlackBerry pushed the email to the device. Now, in using IMAP on BlackBerry it wasn't always an instant push because the BlackBerry servers would only check your IMAP account every 15 mins but the advantage this did have was saving on battery life. When setting up an IMAP account on the android platform, you are given the option of having it check every 5, 10, 15, or 30 mins. This is really the normal way email apps on phones work so its not that this is a bad thing but it does take a toll on your battery life which is important on a device like this. The other option that you had in the BlackBerry email system is the ability to set different alerts for each email address that you set up. This is actually something that I really miss but something I can live without. In all honesty, it's probably something that will have a solution once more and more developers get on board.

Battery Life / Power

This device consumes a lot of power, no doubt. I drained my battery last night in about 4 or 5 hours of using it -- but that was, of course, constant use. That is a lot less than my BlackBerry Pearl but definately within range for a phone like this. The iPhone doesn't do any better than this. Oh, did I mention that the G1 has a replaceable battery? Carry a few spares and laugh at your friends with iPhones that either run their phones dead or have to walk around connected to an external brick battery.

One thing about this phone that is, by far, one of the MOST important things for me in a phone is the USB charging. This phone can be charged anywhere with a standard mini-USB plug. This also means that you do not have to buy 5 new chargers to replace the 5 chargers you had for your BlackBerry.... If you had a Nokia phone, well, sorry.... Welcome to truely open charging. MiniUSB cables are about $2 online and you can find chargers (AC and car) for less than $10. No need to buy specific HTC or T-Mobile chargers.

Another thing worth noting is that, as of yet, I haven't been able to locate a place to buy an extra battery. I'm sure that with the 1.5 million units that T-Mobile pre-sold, HTC is putting emphasis on getting the phones out the door. I'm sure extra batteries will be readily available soon. I did see a link on Google Shopping for a battery for $49.99 but it was the only place and I wasn't totally sure if it was the correct battery.

Today is the official release of the first Android phone and I've ALREADY installed all of the applications that I need. An SSH client is the most notable need and that was filled by an SSH client called ConnectBot. It does it's job just as well as any mobile SSH client. On the same token I also saw a VNC client (and server!) that is in development. Apparently they work fine already but don't support authentication yet which rules out the usefulness for me at this time.

Ready for the cutting edge? There are 2 applications for the Android platform that is straight out of sci-fi... well, sort of. These are Compare Everywhere and Shop Savvy. Both of these programs do essentially the same thing which involves using the camera on your phone to read UPC bar codes off of products and then return a list of the prices it finds for that product both online and locally! Now when you're in a store and see a "too-good-to-be-true" deal, all you have to do is scan the bar code and see what the REAL price should be. This one will DEFINATELY save you some serious cash -- and it's just oh so cool to use too. There is also the option of building wish lists and shopping lists in the same fashion.

What about Twitter? Of course! I'm currently using an Alpha release of a program called TwitDroid which is phenomenal. It even has the ability to post photos built right in to the application. It's really just like Twitterific on a whole lot of steroids. As far as stability goes, there is some room for improvement but it IS an alpha release. It definately fills the need.

Any Cut .... This is a program that you NEED to get. It allows you to put lots of features and shortcuts on your desktop that are not options built into the operating system. I was able to put 2 icons on my desktop, one for Twitter and one for BrightKit, that open up a window for me to type a text message directly to that service. This is insanely convient.

Ready for more Sci-Fi? There is an awesome program called Locale which allows your phone to configure it's self based on where you are, what time it is, and a whole list of other scenarios. The program even has a built in ability to post to Twitter. You can let the phone read your location based on cell towers and/or GPS and have it automatically change your ring tone, your network, and a host of other amazing things.

There is an extensive list of applications that are available in the Market (Google's App Store) and available online. Installing applications is simple. We're only in the beginning of Android and there are already enough applications to meet your needs and even some that meet needs you didn't even know you had.


The interface for SMS and MMS is really awesome. Messages are threaded by contact which is really nice because you can easily go into Messaging and click on the entire conversation rather than having to click through messages from other people as well -- this is really important if you use Twitter via SMS. A huge step up in moving to this phone from my BlackBerry is that Android is smart enough to realize it doesn't have signal and it will queue messages to be sent whenever it does. This is a HUGE thing for me since I work in a data center that has spotty coverage inside not to mention I drive I66 through an extremely rural area where signal drops frequently.


I don't have any hard data on this yet but I have definately noticed that the fringe areas that I drive through are a lot smaller with this phone than compared to my BlackBerry. For example, there is one notable area near my house where I lose signal and with this phone I was able to drive a lot further into that area before I lost signal. I've also noticed that it seems to have a much stronger signal inside buildings than most GSM phones do. In short, this phone definately has no shortage of radio strength.


The browser that comes with the phone is unbelievable. It's true browsing and it supports a lot of extra languages that very few mobile phones do. I was, at first, a little sad that there wasn't a Facebook application for Android but after visiting the Facebook page (not the mobile -- the real one) I realized that there really isn't a need. In fact, Facebook loaded much faster and I was able to do things much quicker than I could on my desktop machine! If speed and real browsing isn't enough to get you it has multiple windows! That's right -- you can now browse multiple web pages at the same time and swap between them effortlessly. This is one aspect of browsing on mobile phones that I always thought was missing.

User Interface

People said that the iPhone had them at scrolling.... well it's true... The android interface is very easy to use, much like the iPhone interface, but that addition of a keyboard was a much needed improvement. The screen is very responsive and very precise. There is no need for a stylus and moving icons and rearranging things is just as easy as on a desktop computer. The interface is very intuitive and it doesn't take a lot of figuring out, if any at all. It's also very customizable. There is nothing not to love about it!


When I started using Compare Everywhere and scanning barcodes with my camera I noticed something interesting.... my phone was making some clicking noises. I eventually realized what was going on. This phone actually has the ability to focus on objects and the clicking was coming from the camera when the application was refocusing the bar code so it could read it. I don't know that I've ever seen anything like this in a phone before. The quality is more than what you would expect from any 3 megapixel camera and it also does quite well despite my nervous hands that always seem to shake when taking pictures. I think about 50% of the pictures I took with my BlackBerry were blurred but that isn't the case so far with this phone. Absolutely no complaints about the camera. I haven't yet seen a way to capture video but I'm thinking that may be an application that comes later.

Google Maps

There isn't really too much that can be said about this because it's something that you just have to experience. Street view is extremely awesome on this phone and the new compass view is really cool. It's extremely stable and fluent (even on EDGE, which I am). It really is bringing the full version of Google maps to the mobile arena. The Google Maps experience on this phone is really something that you need to see -- it's that good!

Other thoughts

I think the T-Mobile G1 and Android is taking us closer to the place where we can replace most functions of a laptop computer with a cell phone. The power of this phone is unbelievable.... it is extremely fast -- faster than any phone that I've used before. It's surprisingly stable for all the crap I threw at it last night. I did have 2 spontaneous reboots but that was after I was mucking with an application that obviously had some serious issues. What I think is extremely impressive is that Android seems to deal quite well with faults in applications. It seems to have a real solid ability to kill processes that go nuts and, therefore, prevent the entire phone from crashing. The sound quality is great and it seems to deal with echo and background noise extremely well. From what I've seen of the iPhone and of this phone I would take this one over the iPhone any day (and that's excluding my dealbreakers of being stuck with AT&T and not having a keyboard). I am totally in love with this phone and can't wait to play with it some more. I honestly find it hard to believe that we are only on the horizon of the Android platform. It's truly exciting to see what the future brings.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Unconformed Rebels

Ok, I'll admit it. I watch Nascar sometimes hoping to see a good wreck.... Who wins? Well, thats not that much of a concern to me. There is at least a little bit of this person in everyone. Have you ever wondered why? What makes a Nascar wreck so interesting? I think there are actually a few different things that come into play.

The first and foremost is that in most cases no one is seriously injured. This is a primary reason why someone who sees a wreck happen in front of them on the interstate will have nightmares about it and yet that same person loves the carnage of a Nascar wreck. This will, of course, vary between person on how the respond but at a very base level there is a part of every one of us that has a huge respect for other human beings and care about their well-being. I don't think that in today's age we make that very evident because there are so many things in our enviornment that lead us in a different direction than what our base selves are trying to be but I'll touch on that a little later.

The second thing that is extremely important is that it is totally unexpected. Did you ever wonder why a wreck seems so much more exciting when you're watching the entire race as opposed to just seeing a clip of the wreck it's self? It's the element of surprise. If someone is showing you a clip of a wreck then you are expecting it.... but if you're watching the race and it happens live, it's unexpected and it's just that much more exciting.

The third important thing is that it's a break from the norm. If you look at a typical Nascar race, all of the cars race around a track 200 some laps. It's the same thing over and over again and why there are a lot of people that just simply can't stand watching Nascar. Some people take notice of the details of that race regarding who is in what position and they may know stats of who is expected to win and it's exciting to them when they see someone else taking the lead -- the more unexpected that person is to take the lead, the more exciting the race is. A wreck is the ultimate break from the norm.... instead of cars going around laps on all 4 tires, suddenly, it's different... things going in different directions.... We are designed to break from the norm so when other things break from the norm, well, then we almost "relate".

So we relate to chaos? Actually, I think we do in a very abstract way. Why are horror movies so popular? Thrillers? Comedies? Drama? Did you ever stop and realize that every single one of these genres of movies have a very important element -- the element of surprise. Why is it that Drama tends to be a less "popular" genre of movie? If you think about the typical genre, there isn't always a lot of surprise. There's the boy meets girl, boy and girl fall in love, boy and girl get married.... we except these things to happen. A good drama is hard to build because dramas all tend to be based on the same thing and it's hard to integrate these unexpected things.... that's why we've started seeing so many more "romantic comedies" ... We just can't simply have the same romance films and be entertained and the best way to mix in unexpected happenings is with comedy. That's really all comedy is.... something that is unexpected.

Since I have been working on my TV system (MythTV / LinuxMCE) I have started relaxing more with and ended up starting to watch Fringe. This show has gained a lot of popularity and its not hard to see why.... the confusion, the thinking, the mystery.... these are concepts that our lives were designed around. Fringe has made me realize a lot of additional things than just these elements.... things that may exist in me and not many others.

When I was a kid I had a matchbox city set. It was a little town that folded up and had streets, police department, fire department, some stores, hospital, etc. I remember it being entertaining to me to cause accidents between cars on the streets... sure, every boy did. The more I have been thinking about how my life has been going and the directions God seems to lead me in I'm starting to remember something very interesting that I used to do when I played with that town. When an accident occured I would, of course, bring in the fire truck and police car.... but I always did something interesting.... I would build temporary roadways and find ways of directing traffic around that accident. For me, it wasn't so much the accident it's self that was exciting but it was trying to find a way around that accident.... how can it be taken care of?

Now, I don't think you'll run in to many people that could say they built temporary roadways on their matchbox playset. I guess you really don't meet many people like me either. I remember looking around my room and finding things that I could use to build roads with.... I'd often use paper and cardboard and every kind of tape you'd imagine... straws were useful... The thing was, I always needed to look at what options I had and use them the best way I knew how. Hey, I was a kid that couldn't drive and had no money so was I going to go to the store to buy something? Not a chance. I was forced to use what I had instead of taking the easy way out and getting what was needed.... and I had a lot more fun in doing that anyway.

So what is it that is happening in our society? If you look at corporations that grow larger and larger you'll notice a general trend.... those companies lose their creativity.... they get comfortable.... they grow bored. Oh... they get greedy too. Is it all greed? Well, maybe not. I can imagine if I was an accountant I'd probably get bored of the same thing over and over again... there is that part of me that wants to think and be creative.... but I've got people holding my hand and watching everything I do... so the creativity has to happen in secret.... all of a sudden it's "Can I actually get away with this?" more than it is "I really want to have that money"..... Don't get me wrong, money is driving a lot of disaster but what is the motive to do wrong to get it? Quite possibly it's the lack of creativity.

We, as humans, were created into uncertainty. You can see this in watching a child grow up. Everything is amazing to them.... we're not sure of much at all when we are born.... but we learn..... The problem is how we learn. Are we told "this is the way things are" or are we guided through our experiences and left to figure out things on our own? If you talk to any child psychologist they will likely tell you that you need to give your child options and ask them what they'd like to do rather than tell them what to do.... it's important in their growth. But while the child psychologists have this it seems a lot of parents don't.... most of that is out of frustration..... you want your child to do something because you need a break...... Another place that you start seeing this "do it this way" is in the school systems. I remember in middle school math being told to show my math. There were many times on a test that I lost points not becuase I didnt have the right answer but because I didn't show how I came to that answer. The more I think about this, I wonder if this is why I hate math so much. I remember that I used to love trying to figure out equations but anymore, I can't stand it. It kind of makes me wonder if that's part of the reason my math scores started dropping.... I had my way of doing it.... I figured it out for myself.... but I was punished because I didn't do it the way the school system said I needed to.... It seems to get worse in college.... there is such an emphasis of the way things are that they really no longer cultivate the creativity that we need in order to go beyond where we are now.

We go through our lives in social situations. We're taught what is acceptable and what is unacceptable.... and every single one of us is deadened to at least some extent. If we are raised in a family that is prejudice then we have a greater tendancy of being prejudice as well because, well, we're taught that this is the way it is. We don't have a change to realize that a black person can be extremely smart and that they are just like a white person.... these are things that "any idiot" can figure out.... but we're learning based on what we are told first and then we'll figure out what we're not told.... this, my friends, is why laziness is such a bad thing. We're so lazy that we will take anyone's word on any situaiton rather than looking in to that ourselves.

Take a moment to think of the stereo typical things that you are taught. What child has not heard "when you grow up and make lots of money....." You see, its comments like that that flat out tell us that money is important to our happiness. We stop taking the time to figure out other things in life because our entire world revolves around money that we are essentially told that this is the way it is.... the longer that goes on the more focused we become.... We see the patterns that have made many businesses lots of money and we take those as being told how to do things -- rather than figure out a new way on our own. Then we see businesses making these same moves and even when they are totally wrong us consumers go "well, hey, they are a business".... This horrible cycle repeats it's self. Sadly, that pattern gets worse each time it repeats it.

As a result of these processes and cycles we are not given the chance to figure out who we really are... from the time we are born we are surrounded by this world that is showing us everything the way that it wants to be and because of our internal laziness, we don't take the time to figure it out. We quickly lose who we are as humans and we become part of the problem. If we decided to think on our own we become a "rebel" or told that we just live in a dream world and, in many cases *ahem*, we end up in mental care because we're not conforming to the world is. All of this happens while the world continues to decide that communism is bad. Whether our government is communistic or not we live our lives in such a horrible hippocritical way and we show our own little communism to anyone who doesn't conform to our standards.

I believe that the only way to really save our nation and our world is to break free of the comformity. We need to quit thinking that throwing money at the economy is going to solve the problems. We need to believe that some crazy ideas might actually be the solution..... And maybe we just might need to think about the person that we wrote off our entire life as being totally crazy and psychotic might actually be the uncomformed rebel that we need to help all of us find ourselves.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

"American Dream"

All work no play may have made Jack a dull boy
But all work no God has left Jack with a lost soul
But he's moving on full steam
He's chasing the American dream
And he's gonna give his family finer things

“Not this time son I've no time to waste
Maybe tomorrow we'll have time to play”
And then he slips into his new BMW
And drives farther and farther and farther away

Cause he works all day and tries to sleep at night
He says things will get better;
Better in time

So he works and he builds with his own two hands
And he pours all he has in a castle made with sand
But the wind and the rain are comin' crashing in
Time will tell just how long his kingdom stands
His kingdom stands

Well his American Dream is beginning to seem
More and more like a nightmare
With every passing day
"Daddy, can you come to my game?"
"Oh Baby, please don't work late."
Another wasted weekend
And they are slipping away

'Cause he works all day and lies awake at night
He tells them things are getting better
Just take a little more time

So he works and he builds with his own two hands
And he pours all he has in a castle made with sand
But the wind and the rain are comin' crashing in
Time will tell just how long his kingdom stands
His kingdom stands

He used to say, "Whoever dies with the most toys wins"
But if he loses his soul, what has he gained in the end
I'll take a shack on the rock
Over a castle in the sand

Now he works all day and cries alone at night
It's not getting any better
Looks like he's running out of time

'Cause he worked and he built with his own two hands
And he poured all he had in a castle made with sand
But the wind and the rain are coming crashing in
Time will tell just how long his kingdom stands
His kingdom stands

All they really wanted was you
All they really wanted was you
All they really wanted was you

"American Dream" by Casting Crowns

Sunday, October 05, 2008

National Fallen Firefighter Memorial Day

Just making a post in honor of all of the firefighters that gave their lives helping the people of their communities. Today is a nationwide day of rememberance. Please remember them today as well.

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Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Balanced Customer Service Reporting

Tonight I had an extremely bad experience at the KFC/Taco Bell in Ashburn, VA. I waited in the drive through line for approx 10 mins before giving up and going inside. Once inside I waited 8 mins and not a single person said anything to me.... oh they saw me alright.... at least 2 people (including the manager) pointed at me. I grabbed a recipt that someone threw on the floor in order to get some kind of customer service number and was shocked that the recipt had a time stamp of 5pm on it and it was now 10pm.... trash sitting on the floor for 5 hours?

Typically I try to give people the benefit of the doubt -- I used to manage for Pizza Hut, after all. I've been known to call customer service hotlines to tell them what a great job someone did -- and on multiple occasions. I know how important to hear your doing a good job is, not only as a manager but as a human being.

After blowing 20 mins of my life trying to get a taco I went to McDonald's. I wanted to go through the drive through but they were getting a delivery and their truck had it blocked so I decided to go inside and, since I was in there, eat inside. It wasn't until I was sitting down and the manager went and locked the door that I realized the dining room was supposed to be closed at this time of night but apparently they left it open since they knew people couldn't get to the drive through. Aside from this, the manager was so extremely polite. Stepping back and thinking about this from a psychological point of view I think two things can happen after you've had a bad experience. The first is you're in such a bad mood that no one can do right for you and the second is that even poor service can seem awesome in the light of the experience you had.

So here is the problem. Companies have to monitor their customer service lines with a real grain of salt because ALL they hear is the bad. If you have a good experience somewhere you feel there is no need to tell them but if you have a bad one, well, you need to make sure someone is held accountable. What ends up happening is us consumers create a situation where our complaints get taken with less sincerity because, well, what is there to base how bad the situation is since the customer service team isn't getting any good reports. What's worse is the companies that are doing an incredibly awesome job just simply don't realize they are doing something right and it also reduces their motivation to keep doing that great job.

I don't know if there is a solution or not but I want to make a challenge to everyone (yes, this means you). Aside from the need to sometimes realize that everyone has bad days I think there is a real huge need for customer service hotlines to have a balanced report. I think an easy way for us to start turning this around is for us to set our own personal goals that anytime we feel that we need to report a horrible experience we pick another experience in the same week (or even day) that we also call someone's customer service hotline and tell them about an awesome experience you had with their company. So maybe on Monday you have a horrible experience at Taco Bell but on Wednesday you stop in at Target and an employee does something really great to help you out. Give Taco Bell a call and tell them the situation but then also call Target and tell them about that situation as well. If you have 2 bad experiences in a week that you feel like calling a company about then also pick 2 good experiences from the same week and call those companies and tell them what a great job they are doing. If all of this catches on then we might actually see huge corporations having incentive to keep doing good and seeing more action taken for the bad reports they are getting.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Gee, I'm glad it's raining

Gee I'm glad it's raining
There's always something to be thankful for.
I'm awfully glad it's raining
Cause no one sees your tear drops when it pours.

And no one knows the thunder
Is your heartbreak in disguise,
They think the rainy nights
What put that sad look in your eyes.

Sure am glad it's raining.
The gentle rythmn soothes the pain inside.
I'm glad the stars aren't shining.
A wounded warrior needs a place to hide.

I thought I had found someone
I could count on til the end.
What they wanted was a hero,
All I needed was a friend

Gee I'm glad it's raining.
I hope the morning sun won't come up soon.
As long as it keeps raining,
No one knows my heart broke right in two.

I thought I had found someone
I could count on til the end.
What they wanted was a hero,
All I needed was a friend

Sure am glad it's raining.
I'm awfully glad it's raining

"Gee, I'm Glad It's Raining" by Jim Varney / Ernest Goes to Camp

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Maybe T-Mobile does care

After all of the stuff that happened today I decided about an hour ago that I was going to call T-Mobile and cancel my order for the G1 and then when my contract was up I would get the Android phone that should be hitting sprint soon and move my service over to them. I went ahead and called to do just that and customer care transfered me to the customer loyalty department. I pleaded my case and we talked for about 30 mins and, while she explained her point, I still was not happy about the fact that the press conference promoted the $179 price. She looked into a lot of things and said that because the G1 is a pre-order it actually isn't even in their system and they can't do anything with that phone as far as ordering..... so we got creative.

The end result? Let's say I'm pleased as punch (whoever said punch was pleased.... anyway) at the arrangement. Currently I have a $49.99 myFaves plan with 600 mins so we played with that. She switched me over to a $39.99 myFaves plan with 1000 mins and she also deleted my blackberry internet service and readded it with a 30 day free option. So how does this work out. Well, the blackberry internet swapping is getting me about $20 off my current bill and then if you figure the 2 year contract that I am now in and I'm saving $10 a month on that then that comes out to be $240. Over the next 2 years I will have saved $260 because of a phone that I paid $300 for..... So basically I'm paying $40 for the T-Mobile G1.

I think I can honestly say that I heart T-Mobile again!

T-Mobile G1 = Good / T-Mobile = eh?

With all the anticipation of the T-Mobile G1, formerly HTC Dream, formerly the "G-Phone" and I couldn't wait for the press conference today. While watching it I was completely floored by how intuitive this phone was. I became more and more pumped about it and finally, it was time.

About 20 mins ago I completed my order for my G1 and I got my confirmation and the invoice that would be charged to my next bill.... $333.... What?! They said in the press conference that the price for existing T-Mobile customers would be $179. Why was I being charged $299?! I called customer service and they told me it was because I was not eligible for a full upgrade until Feb.... Huh? Oh, it was because I signed on to a 2 year contract in April of 2007. But wait... I didn't. When I went into the T-Mobile store I SPECIFICALLY paid the extra money for my phone in order to get only a 1 year contract. Now the burden is on ME to prove that. This isn't all that shocking because the store that I dealt with (In Dulles Town Center, Sterling, VA) were complete idiots. They screwed up every single aspect of my account and apparently they even snuck something else shady by me that is now costing me more than $100. I've always dealt with T-Mobile customer service rather than going to stores since that time but just setting foot in the store as my first experience is STILL haunting me.

But here is the kicker.... A friend of mine is being charged $299 for her phone as well.... and she is only a couple months from her 2 year contract being up. To me I think this is an EXTREME mis-representation. If a company "gives" you free phones when your contract is up in order to renew you with them then what percentage of T-Mobile's customers are actually NOT under a contract. So when you say in your press conference "T-Mobile customers" you are incorrect because really you should say "A small percentage of T-Mobile customers" since that is the better story.

I'm upset on a variety of levels with T-Mobile. Last night I considered not getting the G1 simply because I was concerned about locking myself into a 2 year contract with T-Mobile.... and now I have to be worried that maybe I made the wrong decission? Don't get me wrong, I am excited about the phone and can't wait to get it.... but each month that goes by I get less and less excited about T-Mobile.

UPDATE: I'm now hearing rumors that NEW customers are ordering the phone and getting the $179 price..... But according to the press conference ONLY existing customers are able to order the phone now.... Way to treat your CURRENT LOYAL customers! This is very upsetting and they had BETTER fix it.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

I think I'm dead....

If it wasn't for the fact that I am typing this blog I really might think that I was dead. Today was the first practical skills class in Fire Academy which I started on Monday. There is absolutely not possible way to explain to you the things that we went through.... Did I have fun? I think so.... but sitting here now I am wondering if I am up for this challenge. The only thing that is somewhat keeping me going is that I remember how I felt the first few times that I was in the Buzz Lightyear costume when I worked at Disney and how much I just wanted to collapse and thought I wasn't up for it...... when the next month came I was doing just fine and absolutely loving that job more than you can imagine.

If you think you're strong and able to take on anything, join your local fire department and I'm pretty sure you'll be forced to think otherwise. Not to say that it's not worth it.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Mice have expensive taste

Some people think that mice will just eat any old garbage but the truth is that they have a very expensive taste. Apparently gasoline is a very sweet taste to them and our cars have this amazingly tasty treat. Thankfully, mice are very good at chewing because if not, how would they be able to get through those thick rubber hoses in our cars that hold this bountiful treat?

This morning I went out to the Honda and threw everything in it to leave but when I went to get in the driver's side there was a nice little puddle of water on the floor.... I decided that with the rain and wind from the tropical storm coming through I should probably take the Grand Vitara today anyway. When I started the car I could smell gas really strong but it eventually went away -- or so I thought. This whole morning I had been feeling kind of out of it. Finally my customer and I decided to go to lunch and I drove.... he got a headache from the fuel smell so when we got back to the data center I popped the hood with the car running and saw gas spraying all over the passenger side of under the hood. Thankfully the fuel line that was spraying the fuel was right on top so I took it off and after looking at it it was very evident that a mouse had decided to have a feast on my fuel line. The problem is fixed now but I thought this was an interesting story to share.

Does anyone have any tips on keeping this type of thing from happening again?

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Prayer Needed

I could really use some prayer right now. As much as I don't want to have to admit it I am really falling into a deep depression and I have absolutely no support system. These are really hard things for me to admit because I like to think I was over this and I'm scared that ill end up back in 2003 and 2004 but I need to face the facts and admit I'm headed in that direction and I have no source of encouragement.
Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

Monday, August 18, 2008

Where am I?

It's been a hell of a couple of weeks and it's not looking like its getting better anytime soon. I know I have been unresponsive to a lot of people recently and I do apologize for that. Currently I am finding it very difficult to keep up with my work load. This is, for the most part, a good thing. While that is true from the business stand point my body has been begging to differ for quite some time. Yesterday was my first day off in a while and I literally slept all day. I got home somewhere around 5:30am Sunday Night and the next thing I remember is waking up around 3pm. I remember getting a bottle of water and starting something off of my PVR but the next thing I remember is waking up at 4:30pm..... and then the next thing I remember is waking up at 6:30pm and realizing that I needed to be at the firehall at 7:30 for the membership meeting. The membership meeting went well and it also marked the end of my probationary period and they voted me in as a full member. I'm still trying to get into Loudoun County's fire "academy" because its really the only one that semi-fits my schedule and since its in Leesburg it's only a town over from the data center so I can make it to the data center before and/or after class. If they have room I will start that next month. Once I complete that (which would end in December or January), I will then be a certified firefighter and will be able to enter buildings, etc.

The week ahead of me is just as busy as last week. My one customer is still progressing in their move from one Equinix facility to another and that's been consuming a lot of my time. My other customers have had a steady flow of tickets as well and, thus, I am still behind. If this keeps up I may be hiring someone a lot sooner than I had ever dreamed. I guess this is a good thing but I really could use a vacation.

Saturday I went to the Prince William County Fair with Sophie and Amber and that was really a good time to relax. I had a little bit of a rough time in missing my sisters.... that may sound odd but it was always a big deal when my sisters went to a fair or an amusement park and since I've moved to Virginia we haven't been able to do any of that at all..... I actually havent even made it to a park myself. The highlight of the whole day (and maybe my month) was that I took Amber on the Merry Go Round before we left. Seeing her smile was.... well, it was just awesome. At first I was afraid that she was getting scared and when the gears settled on the horse she was on and the horse jumped I was bracing for a scream.... she looked conerned for a brief second and then she just started laughing..... she loved it.... and I loved it.

Please keep me in your prayers. There has been a lot on me and it looks like there will continue to be.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Improvising Life

I find it a very interesting thing that the root of any kind of Improv group is this concept of agreement. Tonight I listened to the first part of "Blink" by Malcolm Gladwell which is a book that I would highly recommend to anyone. A chapter covered an improv group in a lot of detail and used many examples of this agreement concept. While the outsider believes that improv is pure chaos there are actually some very important rules of conduct that are vital to sucess. The most important of these is that you can not turn down anything that is suggested. The example used in the book was a skit where a doctor and paitient were discussing a problem with his arm. The paitient said "you can't amputate it. I'm rather attached to it" and in the next line the idea was shot down and the skit abruptly ended. The basic reason for this is that there is a need for a smooth flow of ideas and improv is constantly working with what you got and when your in a live performance you simply can not take something back. It is crucial to go with the flow and to build upon what was done and let the ideas of each person involved in a skit to flow uninterupted. This is a very small description of the rule of agreement.

Recently I had a phone conversation with a friend of mine that scared me in that I saw so much of myself in this person from a dark time of my life and I realized that the majority of the things this person had been doing that upset me were completely justified in their mind and in the same state of mind I would have responded much the same way. Perhaps scared isn't the proper word but startled would be a better description of the way I felt. Realizing that this friend of mine has been trapped in a position with their hands tied and not being able to do what they believed they needed to do and then thinking about the situations that I went through 4-5 years ago in my life made me realize the similarities were overwhelming and realized that, while things did need to change, I could not fault this person for the reactions they had to many different things. This added to the desire to understand what it was that made me better a little over 3 years ago which I explained in an earlier blog. I think this concept of agreement helped answer at least a small portion of that.

At the end of 2004 I was undergoing some different treatments through Western Psychiatric in Pittsburgh, PA. On of these was a program that was based upon the research of Marsha Linehan. Just a few days ago I was reminded of her concepts from a podcast that I listened to, Wise Counsel. Listening to the interview was very interesting for me because this was looking at what I went through as a paitient from the eyes of the psychologist and the concepts became a lot more real to me. The most important concepts in the program I went through was "it is what it is".... The example that I remember the clearest was the story of a boy on a bike who is going down a hill and is out of control. At the bottom of this hill is a very busy intersection and, ultimately, the boy runs into the intersection and is killed. The typical response that everyone has is "that shouldn't have happened" but, in reality, yes it should have. It's not to take light the tragedy that occured because it is devestating. The reason why you can't say that it shouldn't have happened is because of the events that led up to it. The stage was set and it was ultimately what had to happen. Realizing this reduces a lot of stress and anxiety we place on ourselves. If we do not accept the fact that this had to happen because the events led to it then we find ourselves trying to explain why they happened and we start blaming people while our another part of our brain is trying to scream to us that it is not their fault. We don't make anything better when we can not accept what happened and what events led to that. We can look to the future and possibly prevent it from happening again but the bottom line is that what happened is what happened -- it is what it is. It wasn't until I listened to the podcast that I realized that there is an entire field of "acceptance therapy". What is interesting about Linehan's work is that it takes a slightly different approach in that it mixes acceptance therapy with adding some possibility of change but only after you accept that you can't change the past. This is a little deeper than I need to go in to right now so let's just leave it at acceptance therapy.

When I was about 16 it seems that a long series of events happened that really pushed me into situations that I could not control and what made it worse was that many of these were things that were absolutely not fair. Not to take lightly the fact that I made mistakes there were situations where people acted more immature than what I did in response to my immaturity. My life started to go downhill a little more with each step because my motivation was to change that which occured and convince these people of their immaturity. I spiraled more and more out of control because these were just simply situations that could not be changed or improved upon -- the problem was that I didn't know this, or at least I didn't want to know this. I became more and more incapable of accepting things as they were and moving forward regardless. This entire phase of my life is an almost carbon copy of the concepts involved in my friend's current struggles.

So what was it that changed me? Was it this program I went through? Not eactly. Actually, I still don't know but I think the concepts that I learned in the program that I went through were a vital part in whatever it was that made me better. More so, I think other concepts that have already been brought up in the book, "Blink", play a vital role. There was a huge need for my unconscious to be retrained. It was important for me to accept the things that had happened, no matter how horrible they were, and to continue the flow of life. I had to improvise. Its interesting to find that acceptance therapy is becomming well known as a highly effective therapy and I don't think its a huge leap to understand why.

Its interesting that all of these improv comedy groups have had the answer all along. Never deny the fact of something that happened and agree with the other people involved and move forward and build off of each other's ideas. Everything stated in an improv skit needs to be used as a springboard for more thoughts and, in the same way, everything that happens to us in our lives needs to be used as a springboard for the rest of our lives. No matter how bad something was that happened to us we need to accept the fact that it happened to us and we need to move forward. Bad things are going to happen to us and bad people are going to hurt us but if we can not move past that and we obsess on "getting even" it isn't that other person's life that we hurt but, rather, it is our own life that we hurt because we are failing to progress. We refuse to agree that the events that led up to the negative event that harmed us had to end that way and, thus, we hold ourselves back because we are trying to change events that, well, had to happen. The most important part of all of this is to realize that accepting that events happened does not mean we accept that they were right. We need to accept that it is what it is and to move forward from there. If we don't agree then we end up killing this amazing improv show that is called -- life.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Throwin' Out Tha Wicked

Gosh I hate demons
I rip ‘em in half
Grabbin ‘em
Than I be stabbin em with my lyrical dagger
I’m getting madder like every single minute
Cuz every time there’s trouble demons try to get me in it
There always doin something to try to hold me back
From serving Christ
So I hit ‘em with a spiked bat
The devils on the ground so I kick him
Cuz this is one Christian that aint gonna be another one of the devils victims
Shake ‘em with my rhyme in the spine
Vengeance is mine sayeth the lord
So I don’t live by the sword
And if you got beef than I leave it alone
Cuz I’m saved to the bone
God is on the throne
He set me free glory hallelujah praise the lord
And now I be hangin demons by they necks with my mic cord
And you can punch me in the lip
But I still won’t quit
Preachin the word of god
So step the heck back cuz I spit
When I be rappin upon the microphone
Cuz I’m a cyclone pelon
T-Bone is the one who be known
For jackin demons with a chrome bar over the head
They keep on beatin him down till they swimming in a pool of red
Then ill spit on him
Laugh at him
And step on him
And let him know I be that redeemed hooligan
The one who’s known to put demons in check
Break they necks
And at the same time catch wreck
So if I see a quija board you know I’m gonna kick it
Cuz I don’t play with sin yo
I’m throwin out the wicked
Throwin out wicked like god (4xs)
All the homies know
Us got the beats and
I got the rhymes
And in my scriptures every single day you know that I climbs a
Little bit higher becuz all of these demons on my trail
And I don’t wanna fail
Cuz the nails went right thru his hands
But some people don’t understand all the pain that he went thru
But what if it happened to you?
What would you do?
If they ripped your dirty nanzas with a cat of nine tails
And stuck a crown of thorns in your held till ya bled
Then drilled your hands and feet to the form of a wooden cross
I thank god that the blood he shed wasn’t lost
They whipped him
Kicked him
Spikes were driven thru his hands and feet
So that I can be forgiven
The blood of Christ was a sacrifice that set me free
So for eternity I wanna be livin in misery
But people swearin hells gonna be fun and games
But wait till the judgment day when everybody’s burnin in the flames
They’ll yell
Cuz hell is a place
Of fire and brimstone where the skin melts off your face
So you best throw the wicked out ya life
Accept his sacrifice
It’ll bring you back to life
But in a whole different place this time
Where there’s no pain sorrow gains getting mugged is a crime
But there will only be streets of golden mansion
And won’t be lunatics like that vato Charles Manson
The only lunatic in all of heaven will be me
I’m jackin demons (speaking in Spanish)
I’m knocking out the devil like Julio Cesar Chavez
Then I’ll kick him in his face till his nose is broke
Blood be flyin everywhere
This fogs from my gun smoke
Cuz I stuck my double barrel down his mouth and I click it
(Gun cock sound) POW!!!
I’m throwin out the wicked
Throwin out wicked like god (8xs)
Straight from the slums
I comes with drums
And beats demons over the head with clubs
Bats brooms sticks chains
I’m going insane
I got no brains
I’m obsessed with slaughtering all these demons everyday
The only way to do that is to get on my knees and pray
Then find the devil and say (speaking in Spanish)
Then spray him with my tag up against the wall like graffiti
I never ever celebrate the day of Halloween
Becuz I’ve been redeemed
My slates been cleaned
I’m throwin out the wicked like the witches of east wick
And when I do that yo it’s more brutal than a Jason flick
Attacking demons like a pit bull full of wool
Cuz I’m the lunatic that escaped from the mental ward
Tying demons to my truck
Than I drags
‘Em down a jacked up freeway while they laying in they body bags
The devil tries to run
But I’m gonna find you
Huh yea
Cuz its through prayer that I bind you
(Crowd yelling)
You’re bound in the name of Jesus
I’m the hunter
And the devil be the prey
I’m taking out the devil like a renegade
Throwin out wicked like god (till fade)

"Throwin' Out Tha Wicked" by T-Bone

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Be there for someone, no matter what

Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. --Galatians 6:2

It's often hard to understand what it is that we are accomplishing and I think many leave this life without knowing half of the good that they have done. My 2nd cousin's wife, Becca, had a long fight with cancer and it ended last week when God took her home. She grew up in the same church that we grew up in. I didn't know her like a close friend but we did, of course, know each other. She always was an understanding person and someone that you just wanted to be around. It's quite possible that no one knew just how great of a person she was until last week.

Last night I called my mom to let her know what was going on with me and with my friend who has been dealing with this horrible custody battle and harassment from her ex. It was supposed to just be talking but I ended up in tears at least 3 times. It's a really hard thing when you know you're supposed to be somewhere, and you actually are there, but you just simply don't know how much of the pressure you can take. My mom and I ended up talking about various different things and she told me about Becca's funeral. My mom said that at at least one of the viewings people were lined up the street about 5 blocks.... I'm not talking about cars but people standing in line to go into the funeral home. My mom said that the service was one of the longest she had ever been to because when they asked if anyone had anything to say or share person after person stood up and explained how Becca impacted their life. You have to wonder how much of this Becca actually knew about.

It's continually hard to stay focused on doing good and trying your best to be a good person and being there for others. When these people are hard to deal with thats when they need you the most because everyone else will start giving up. Another thing that my mom and I talked about last night was how years ago I was the person that no one could deal with. I still think back over that time and I realize how much pain I put Tiff through. Sure, Tiff had her problems too but the way that she stood by me in times that I would have shot me had to be extremely tough on her. Ultimately, I don't know if she realizes how much she helped me. I wonder if she realizes that what I was going through was an important thing for me to experience because I believe God was preparing me to help others. I wonder if she knows that it's highly possible that an adorable 2 year old has been powerfully affected by her indirectly. All these people that helped me along the way -- do they realize that I may be impacting people's lives that I wouldn't have been able to if they didn't deal with me. My mom told me how years ago she would read my blog at night and just cry and realize that there was nothing more she could do than pray.... I have to think that in a way my parents are like Abraham and Sarah.... My mom loves kids but she still doesn't have any grandkids. Things just haven't been going in that direction for myself and my sisters.... I guess my youngest sister is the closest since she's getting married soon but sometimes if we focus on what we don't have we totaly lose sight of what we do. If my mom focuses on the fact that she doesn't have grandkids then she misses the fact that, because of her, hundreds of kids are being affected positively. Both my sisters are gymnastics coaches and they impact the lives of toddlers through teens about every day of their lives. One of those sisters is a special education techer in elementary school.... So maybe I don't have a job that is impacting hundreds of children but what I do have is a great friend who has an adorable 2 year old who I adore and she adores me..... and while I miss Eli greatly, I like to think that I did some good in his life..... and the brushings that I have with my other friends that are single mothers.... It's my hope that I have at least been some type of a positive impact on a child's life.

The hardest things that happen are almost always the things that make the biggest impact. More often than not we don't know the impact that we are making but its important that we keep making that impact because we may end up being remembered for more than one generation as "the person who really was there for me" .... or "there for my dad" ... or "there for my grandpap" ......

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Dealing with tough times? Don't place blame!

I think lots of us have these little defining moments in our lives (especially from childhood/teen years) that direct us in a different direction whether we realize it or not and something from that moment sticks with you your entire life. One such moment in my life was in 10th grade when we had a substitute teacher. Not just any substitute but the infamous Mrs. Stewart.... she was probably the most abused substitute but mostly because of her own doing, I think. We got nothing accomplished in that class except I made a perfect paper airplane and sucessfully delivered it to her.... by express air, of course. This landed me in the principal's office which, actually, is the ultimate goal of just about everyone in a class that she is subbing for so this wasn't a punishment but a reward and when I went into the office and they asked who the teacher was they just kind of laughed and said "go ahead and sit over there" .... the office staff knew this was the goal and they, at least seemingly, understood.

There wasn't much to do in the office but listen to the secretaries talk. They started talking about a student (cant remember his name) who was just always extremely polite and caring about people. One secretary said "With all that he has been through it is simply amazing that he is the person he is".... I realized something very important then but I didn't really take it to heart until just a few years ago after I realized that my mistakes with Tiffany were related to the opposite of what this person was doing. Right now I am in a situation where I am watching someone go through the same type of struggle and failing at it the same way that I always did -- a way that this kid in high school learned very early to avoid.

There is no secret that some of us have more pain than others and there are various reasons for why this is the case. We don't know the reasons and we may never know. Another thing that is certain is that there will always be someone there to care for us.... for some people it may only be a single person while others have an entire army. Again, we don't know the reason for this. Regardless of how many people care it is important on how you handle your attitude toward the negative situations that are in your life. The way you RESPOND to a situation means a whole heck of a lot more than WHAT the situation is.

I have had a lot of emotional pain in my life. A lot of it was self-inflicted, I'm sure but there was a good portion of it that was completely out of my control. The reality is that I deal with the same approximate amount of pain now than I did 5 years ago but yet I am handling life a lot better now than back then. I find myself trying to process what it was that changed. Where was the defining moment that my life "got better" even tho I have always been dealing with the same stupid crap that seems to happen in my life. I don't have the answer to this. I know there are a lot of things that happened right around the same time like moving to Virginia, getting a new job, being treated for ADD, etc..... I don't, however, think that these were the biggest influence on things. It leaves me still asking the question of what happened that made things better and what is it that I can do to help someone thats feeling the same way through their time of pain and help them deal with it..... Unfortunately all that I'm learning (first hand) is how much pain that I must have put so many people through during that time. The only thing that I'm leaning towards is that there really isn't anything you can do to help people in this scenario because its something that they need to figure out themselves -- as much as I'd like to be able to fix it for them.

What I've been noticing recently is how much guilt plays a role in the way people operate now. Even looking at the way people drive in Northern VA shows a subtle guilt motivated attitude. If someone pulls out in front of you your instinct is to tailgate them. Justice isn't really being done but I think a hidden motivator is to make sure the person in front of you knows that they screwed up and to make them feel guilty. We're also getting better and better at being a dickhead underneath a calm and collected "its ok" ..... Phrases like "oh, that's ok. It's not like I really cared about the fact that you hit my car and now my family has no way to get around" .... Again, it's the guilt card being played. I think the same type of thought holds true in situations where people are going through an extremely tough time.

Let's, for example, say you called "Joe's Car Shack" about a problem with a car that you bought from them. This car dealership typically has about 600 cars in it's lot and you get the image of a large car dealership. Someone named Joe answers the phone and tells you that he just isn't able to help you.... as a result, you get pissed off and think you're just being bullied by some big car dealership. You hang up the phone but a week later someone tells you about how this guy who runs a car dealership by himself just lost his entire family in a house fire and he's on the verge of bankruptcy. Suddenly, you feel a lot different about the scenario and when he calls you back a few days later and tells you that he actually found a way to help you out, you are completely amazed by the fact that he actually did keep working on a way to take care of his customer despite everything that had been going on in his life. Sure, Joe could have told you all of that on the phone but if he told you all of that, how would you really respond? I imagine not too well.

The problem with being in horrible situations is that we naturally want to tell the world how bad things suck for us right now and basically tell the world to back off because you can't deal with it. What happens when we let this surface is we become tagged as a complainer and/or someone that just simply can not deal with life. The most important thing that we can do in these times where everything is going wrong is accept the fact that there is no one, including ourselves, that can do anything to change the scenario and focus on what is going on in other's lives. If you take the time to find out what is going on in someone else's life rather than complain about your own you very often will find out that you are not alone and you'll find yourself in a conversation that goes both ways and your story gets shared in a positive way because its a two way conversation rather than a one way complaint. What ends up happening is that person that your talking to may talk to someone else and tell them that its amazing how well you're holding things together despite all the crap you are going through. This process may continue and you'll find that you end up with a lot of people that respect you in ways that you never imagined they could but the important thing is that you don't complain about the situation your in because these people have seen you in a light where you are bigger and more powerful than your problems -- which is really the way that we all want to be seen.

Of course none of this directly makes the pain any better but, I suggest, what it does do is prevent a good amount of extra pain being dumped on top of you. Eventually you find that you have a lot of other things to focus on rather than the pain your experiencing and you'll find that you're better able to deal with the horrible situations in your life because you're at least getting a break from them. If you'd rather complain and MAKE people feel bad for you you'll find that it pushes the people that really DO care away and, aside from that, you're focusing on horrible things 24 hours a day which just leads to an endless snowball.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Walk It Off, America

I love this graphic that appeared on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart on July 14th, 2008. It really depicts what is happening in the Republican camp. The stance seems to be that if we ignore the problems, deny the problems, and convince ourselves there never was anything we did wrong then things will get better and we won't be held accountable for them. It seems like Bush and McCain need to go over some AA coursework. The first step in fixing a problem is admitting there is one.

Its ok, there is a plan B. If there is no way to make a problem vanish then we make it look like its not a problem. Recently Bush made a statement saying that Americans are in control of what they spend and the rising gas costs are only helping America because its reducing the amount of driving. Seriously? I guess maybe in his world this is true because he hasn't admitted that there is a problem in the economy so he can't see that no one can afford anything. Jon Stewart put it best by extending this stance and saying that the collapsing mortgage industry is good because its getting Americans to live outside.

People that have known me for a while know that I have been a very strong Republican primarily because of the moral aspect of things but I'm now realizing that the moral card is only played by republicans to get votes. They really aren't doing anything good for morals but, actually, are setting an extremely corrupt moral example in the name of morals. It may be true that the democratic party has no morals either but if I have a choice between bad morals or bad morals in the name of good morals then ill just take the plain old bad morals.

Its also true that I am struggling with Obama's vote for FISA and I'd much rather see Ron Paul in office but when I come back to reality Obama is the only real option against McCain and I think the biggest part of this election is stopping America from continuing this path to destruction.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Thoughts on Viacom

A friend of mine, @edroberts, posted his thoughts on Google and Viacom to his blog and subsequently received a comment from Viacom. I added a reply to that comment that I wanted to also post to my blog. You can view Ed's post at

Actually, there are quite a few of us that know it's out there but we are unable to use it in a way that we would enjoy. There are times that we want to take shows on the road or watch them on a machine that may not be compatible with your website. We also don't want to have to go to a website to see if a new episode is available but we want to be able to use an RSS feed and download it into our network so that when we sit down to watch something it's there ready for us.

Let me share my story. I never knew who Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert was until the Net Neutrality debate arose and I caught Jon's clip on youtube regarding that issue. I instantly became a fan and over the next few weeks I became addicted to those shows. I use MythTV for watching shows and I set it up to record every show. A couple months ago Comcast really screwed their subscribers in my area over and as a result I dropped my cable TV service. I've since switched to watching shows off of sites like because I am able to program my mythtv system to look at their RSS feed and download the show. When I sit down on the couch I grab my remote and can see all of the shows that are ready for me to watch.

Your viewers are all very unique people and they have different habbits and different preferences. The one thing that we all have in common is that we want to enjoy your shows in the way that we like to enjoy TV in our own ways. Requiring someone to watch your show at their computer reduces their attention span and, quite frankly, causes many of them to bail out as soon as the first commercial hits. Now if you put that in a video stream that can be downloaded to a PVR or other device that can be connected to a TV, people are more willing to watch the commercials. I certainly know that I am. The answer is not tying people's hands and telling them how they are supposed to enjoy your content but it's allowing them to enjoy it - period. Three years ago I knew a lot of people that had the stance that music piracy was wrong but after the treatment that we have received from the RIAA I now don't know a single person that respects the legal rights of the music industry simply because the RIAA has abused those rights.

Now, I am not saying that you should not pursue the lawsuits that you think you need to but you have to understand that these clips are introducing your content to people who then start watching the full shows. The majority of the clips on YouTube are just that -- clips. I can certainly understand you fighting full episodes being put on YouTube but the majority of these incidents are not full episodes. Allowing people to view your content in ways that they enjoy only provides you with more viewers.

Another thing that I want to add is that it may not be Google's fault that people don't know about your sites. In fact, people may very well know about the sites and totally despise them. I run MacOS and generally use the Opera web browser. Your sites do not work for me. Occasionally I can open up Safari and watch a show but the performance is less than desireable. The rarity of my visits to your sites are not the result of me not knowing about them but that they just frustrate me more than what I get out of them. Also keep in mind that Google is NOT the internet. Google has shown a good effort in controlling copyrighted material and, in fact, may be doing the best job of any company I've seen so far. Their methods aren't perfect and I can understand your desire to have them strive for perfect but please keep in mind what happened when the music industry shut down Napster -- it pushed everyone somewhere else to get what they wanted and now instead of it being one place that needs to be policed you've got numerous sites devoted to doing exactly what Napster was doing. The closing of Napster encouraged pirates to be more innovative. This is the internet that you are dealing with and no matter how hard you fight there will be people that will continue to break the law. It's a sad truth but its still the truth. Instead of pushing these people more underground why not look for a compromise?

Ultimately it is your copyrights and you are entitled to control those -- that is your right. I would just encourage you not to alienate your viewers by forcing them to play by your rules and watch things the way you want them to be watched because you'll ultimately end up pushing many viewers away and many of us already have a very sour taste in our mouths from the RIAA.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Obama's Last Chance?

I'm not usually a fan of political pundits but there are some good points in this video. Maybe Obama still has a shot to win me back....

FCC set to punish Comcast

This is perhaps one of the greatest pieces of news that I have heard in a while and may very well be one of the first times that the FCC administration has announced something that is worthy of support. The FCC (especially in this recent administration) has almost always ruled against the interest of the consumer but less than 12 hours ago the FCC Chief announced that he believes Comcast DID violate internet rules and should subsequently be punished. Perhaps the greater excitement of this ruling would be that the FCC may be taking steps to defend Net Neutrality. It is important to note that this proposition has not been voted on but it is expected to pass and be put in to effect.

Read more:

Monday, July 07, 2008

"He's My Son"

I think this song is a prayer for at least one person in everyone's life. It doesn't have to be your son or even a relative and the pain and the trouble that person is experiencing can be anything. This song really touched my heart and brought me to tears as I thought about that person in my life that I would take all of the pain away from if I could.

I'm down on my knees again tonight
I'm hoping this prayer will turn out right
See there is a boy that needs Your help
I've done all that I can do myself
His mother is tired
I'm sure You can understand
Each night as he sleeps
She goes in to hold his hand
And she tries not to cry
As the tears fill her eyes

Can You hear me?
Am I getting through tonight?
Can You see him?
Can You make him feel all right?
If You can hear me
Let me take his place somehow
See, he's not just anyone
He's my son

Sometimes late at night I watch him sleep
I dream of the boy he'd like to be
I try to be strong and see him through
But God who he needs right now is You
Let him grow old
Live life without this fear
What would I be
Living without him here
He's so tired and he's scared
Let him know that You're there


Can You hear me?
Can You see him?
Please don't leave him
He's my son

"He's My Son" by Mark Schultz

Monday, June 30, 2008

Dear Obama

Dear Barack Obama,

I really want to express a VERY large concern of mine. I have stood behind Obama very strongly and have raised many debates between myself and family and friends. I have been a republican my entire life but this year I have really been encouraging people to vote for Obama because of various reasons but one of these biggest reasons is that I have seen the entire Republican party strip our rights away in the technology fields as well as other areas. I have watched the Republican FCC give more and more rights to cable companies and phone companies allowing a much stronger stronghold on the American public and adding to the fact that the nation that invented the internet is entirely too far behind many other nations when it comes to consumer access to the internet. I have watched our rights be stripped away by laws such as the PATRIOT act. I could continue to go on but I dont feel I need to. The point is that one of the major reasons I support you as a canidate is because I have believed that you are defending our rights in the areas that the majority of the American public isn't paying attention to. I have seen you embrace new technologies and reach the people via Twitter and Facebook. These things mean a lot to me.

It has saddened me, however, that you have voted for immunity for the telecom companies that have been instrumental in stripping us of our rights. The same companies that convinced President Bush to sign an executive order protecting AT&T have now received your vote for them to be granted immunity. To me, this is absolutely appauling and really has me in a debate with myself as to if you are really the best person for the job.

I can certainly understand that there may be benefits to your vote for this immunity but the bottom line is that you have stood against lobbyists in your campaign and you have been really putting your money where your mouth is with regards to not allowing this insanity continue but your vote for this bill has completely ruined my view that you are strong enough to stand for that which is unpopular. This is a huge concern when you have believe you voted for someone who is really interested in defending the rights of Americans and opposing "politics as usual." You have now stood next to McCain and other senators in saying that AT&T and other phone companies should have the right to spy on us if they are directed by a government agency.

I can not express the disappointment I am feeling right now. You have taken away that hope that I had that maybe we had a chance to make things better and that we might actually end up with a president who cares. I can not endorse McCain either because I still believe he is "the lesser of two evils" but I am starting to wonder if I should exercise my right to write-in my vote for president.

Robert K Mertz

Sunday, June 22, 2008

eBay = Braindead

So I closed my account at ebay a while ago because of their hatred of sellers. It's not worth selling any of my old stuff on a site that offers no protection at all to the seller. So anyway, I get this message about letting them know if there was anything that they can do to keep me as a customer...... Here's the email I sent them:

I have to say that I would also like to keep my eBay account
active, however, your recently policy changes have made very clear that
you do not value the casual seller. A few months ago I faced a buyer
who blantantly ignored the terms of an auction I had (and according to
his previous feedback he's done the same thing before). eBay offered no
protection for me, the seller, in this scenario. The only responses
that I received were form letters explaining the policies and that I
could opt to use SquareTrade which costs more than the actual price of
the auction.
As if this wasn't bad enough you recently changed your policy to prevent
sellers from leaving negative feedback for buyers. Now the casual
seller is now not only not protected from buyer abuse but they are also
now no longer able to warn others.
These are very serious issues and I can not continue to use a service
that offers absolutely no protection for me. I would certainly consider
keeping my account open if these policies were reveresed.

So after a week I finally got a response... Are you ready for this?

Dear Robert,

Thank you for writing eBay in regard to halting the closure of your

We're glad you decided to stay with us! We look forward to continuing
our successful and fun relationship. Thank you again, and welcome back
to the community!

Sam B.

eBay Customer Support

Why should you even bother to read an email from your customer? I mean, you've got them by the balls and they have no other choice so why in God's name would you want to actually CARE about what they have to say? Where did I say that I WANTED to stop the closure of my account?

Oh... maybe it was the successful and fun relationship? *rolls eyes*

Wow I was a mess in 2003

So since I have been blogging since 2003 and blogs really didn't have tagging back then I decided that I'm going to slowly start working my way through my old posts and tagging them..... Good Lord I was a freaking mess. The most popular tag so far is "tiff" .... Man, I have noooo idea how that girl dealt with me... Well, I don't know how anyone dealt with me but especially her. Now she wasn't such a piece of cake herself at the time but, well.... just if you havent known me long and you think I'm an emotional mess at times now, go back through the archives of this blog and be amazed :)

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

What I want

There have been a lot of things going on with multiple friendships and with organizations, jobs, and churches that all seem to fall back to a similar theme. They are things that desperately need to be taken control of.

The anxiety issues that I have been having are continuing on but I think it's kind of narrowing down as to what the cause of the majority of the issues are. Its a hard thing to try to understand your purpose but when it seems that your purpose is the opposite of what you are prepared and equipped to be it just makes it a lot harder. Once of the biggest things that I have realized is that I try too hard to be the person that someone wants me to be. This is true for pretty much every human on earth but I think it goes a little over the edge with me because it seems that my compassion for helping people motivates me to be there for someone and to help them with things they need beyond my abilities. In doing this I lose sight of the things that I want and need and I completely lose focus of myself until these anxiety spells start hitting. Sometimes it is very hard for me to remember what it is that *I* need and the things that *I* desire.

Unfortunately with the life that I generally end up living I constantly feel that the things I need and want are asking way too much and I silence myself when I should speak up. It's very hard caring for people in the state they are when they don't have the capacity to care for you back but that is part of compassion. The problem is that when you end up in a situation where its not just that they aren't able to care but its that they don't even desire to respect you. This situation occurs in my life over and over and over again. Why? Simply because I don't stand up for who *I* am and what *I* need.

What do I need?

I need to be loved for who I am and respected for who I am. I am not the perfect person and I'm, quite possibly, one of the worst... but I am me and I try my best. I fail... I fail a lot.

I can't always drop my entire life to help someone but it is going to kill me when I can't. I need to be able to feel appreciated even when I can't do what it is that is asked of me.

I need encouragement.... Lots of it. I try my best to encourage everyone else and I'm often left feeling that I really am not making an impact and that I shouldn't even bother anymore. Most of the time I think I end up talking into the wind... There is no confirmation that I was at least heard.

I need to be told when I am doing something right and/or helpful and not only told when I'm screwing something up. I will certainly screw things up and I do want to be told when I do but if all I'm ever told is when I'm doing something wrong then all I know is that I'm fighting a losing battle and should move on to somewhere that I can actually be making a difference.

I need to be a part of what I am working on. If I really can't be a part of the people or the project then I don't believe that there is anything that I can do that is going to be effective.

I need to be trusted. If I am not trusted then I am not going to feel a part of whats going on and I know for a fact that I am not going to be able to help.

I need cooperation. I can't do anything on my own and even if I could it wouldn't be worth it. If I am fighting for something or working towards something but no one else wants to be part of it then it's a futile effort.

Most of all -- I need people to remember that I am human and that there is a good chance that the things I am dealing with elsewhere are probably much larger than what you know -- in fact, I can pretty much assure you of that because I try, often too hard, to hide what is going on with me for the sake of the person I'm trying to be there for or the project I am working on. Even if I do manage to help in some minor way it does not mean that I am superhuman.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Out of Whack

I'm seriously worried about my health. Along with my emotional struggles ive been going through my body is just all out of whack. I've always had a small tremor but recently I've been shaking uncontrolaby. I'm cycling through periods of not being able to eat and being starved and I'm craving sugar a lot which is really weird for me. Ice been having bad neck pains and lots of headaches. I've always had sinus issues but to have your sinuses draining out of your ears? Lighthead, weak, and faint. My medicine has been responding in weird ways. I'm having small bursts of my addreall work at odd times. Sometimes ill take addreall and feel no effect and then 5 hours later I get this crazy boost for about 20 mins. I've been on these meds for a long time and I can tell you something is wrong. I don't know what to do. I have absolutely no access to any healthcare and worse yet there are very few times that people are around me. This means if something bad happens no one would find me. Who would call for help? Who is around me enough to notice that I'm hurting? More importantly someone who notices and instead of attacking me for how stupid I acted actually trying to understand that I'm hurting and I don't mean to hurt anyone.

Tonight I hit a full blown panic attack. Thoughts were racing out of control and then the breathing issues hit. Next thing you know I'm throwing up and light headed. Then I'm laying on the bathroom floor with my heart beating so fast that I thought it was going to stop and if be dead right there. .... And then I heard Lisa squealing like crazy. Everything around me disappeared and I went running into the birds room and found Lisa on the floor having a night thrash (loosely a nightmare but a little different). I went over to her and her crown was fully extended and she was wide eyed. I could see her little heart beating so rapidly. Bacardi flew over to my shoulder and then crawled into my shirt and cuddled directly in front of my heart. Lisa let me pet her. She looked so concerned. Sure she had a night thrash but she stared at me like she knew something was wrong with me. Suddenly my problems went away and she was my focus. She may well have saved my life.

I was able to get her calmed down and I let them go back to sleep. I was calm too. I took some xanax and I popped "The Five People You Meet in Heaven" movie in and lated down and I'm blogging from my blackberry.

I'm really concerned about a lot tho. I haven't been able to reach Sophie and I'm worried about her. I shouldn't have left but I really believed I was just holding her back from what she wanted to pursue. I was told by someone else that I really needed to have piercinga and tatoos for her to truly like me and she was talking to someone that met that description and someone that she said was extremely hot. I know there is no chance because, well, ive never once been called "hot" by anyone. Honestly tho, I believe love means letting someone chase their dreams even if it means you need to walk away and sacrifice your own. Maybe I screwed up but I believed I was doing the best thing for her. I guess I screwed up and now if something happened to her it'll be my fault. I can't reach her on her phone so I'm paniced even more.

I'm a wreck. I'm really scared. The tears just won't stop. I'm a disaster and I have no means for any help at all. I have no health insurance so I can't afford anything. I have no one around me and no one that wants to be around me. My chest is hurting so bad. I know my body chemistry is off really bad... But this is stuff I must live with.

This raises a question that ive had for a while. How much longer do I have on this earth? Maybe my life really is running out. Honestly, if that is God's will than I am ready and willing. I want nothing more than to be held in His arms and to somehow know that I made this world a better place. I don't know that I have but I hope. I so hope.

Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile