DiplomatiCat the Talking Beast

Inspired By Ire, Impelled By Ideal … "Never a TAME Lion"

Ebay shenanigans over some shoes

(Warning:  Some swearing will occur in this diatribe.  Deal with it or move the fuck on… )

REALLY PISSED AT EBAY right now, as they are clearly suffering form the effects of hiring people in other countries for slave wages to deal with their customer service issues and frankly these people are only interested in the volume of issues they can close the book on,. regardless of whether they are actually resolving the problem. I opened a case this morning and found it closed with a final decision this evening along with two responses from the (shifty!) seller who took it upon himself to escalate it in order to try and shut it down by asking them to rule on the issue before even giving me any time to respond to his absurd accusations that I had altered the product I was trying to return.

Background:  This morning,  after much internal debate over whether it was worth the effort or if maybe my appreciation of their aesthetics was enough to outweigh the disappointment in their composition,  I finally  decided to hassle the return of a very pretty pair of western boots that I bought on auction last week which, contrary to the information in the description, turned out to be synthetic, ersatz, man-made, PU, or some other kind of composite material instead of actual leather. My first clue to this fact was the plastic smell of the shoes, and the cold smooth texture of the material. I was immediately suspicious, but unsure, as there was no way to examine the nap of the stuff without disintegrating the boot to see the backing, as  the embroidery and the outer shaft had been stitched through (and possibly glued) to the lining.
But I wanted to believe, I really did.

They were listed as “Vintage,” so I guessed it might be possible that their stiffness and mothball-like smell might be attributed to storage issues and lack of conditioning/maintenance.  I hoped that perhaps an application of some mink oil would restore some of the suppleness that I might have expected from leather, but that hope was short lived, as the liquid form just sort of smeared over the surface like a clear coat and didn’t absorb at all.  I thought maybe it was a product of some polishing wax or maybe it was just really CHEAP leather, wanting it to be so badly because they really were quite attractive to look at and I had passed up other BIN items of known good quality  construction and composition  to wait an additional four days in risky auction bidding to acquire these at a price that was still cheap enough but five more bucks than the one that had made them more attractive than those more expensive items in the first place.  Even though they felt pretty awful to the touch and  to wear, had they been actual leather, the oil should have rectified that to some degree.

I was not awfully surprised that the oil had no effect whatsoever.

Still desperate to hold out hope that I had not been had, I tried a bit of rubbing alcohol, also known to be an effective aid in softening neglected leather, but that also appeared to be in vain, although it did reveal that the shoes were either coated with some black polish wax or had been painted to appear to have more color depth.    I had hoped it was the reason that liquid beaded on the surface of the material instead of absorbing, as it might mean that leather pores were simply covered by that instead of just being non-existent because it wasn’t really leather.   I even switched to a bit of mink oil paste hoping it might have better effect, and that only seemed to leave a waxy haze that went away after heating a bit with a hair dryer, which made me pretty sure in the knowledge that I had been had since I had never had that happen to leather at all, but a plastic?  Yep.

Unfortunately, subsequent self  interne-ducation about how to discern real vs fake leather  eventually led me to the conclusion that it was a bad investment in synthetic shoes,  and a subsequent waste of quite a bit of mink oil that could have been put to better use.  They were pretty enough that I still considered avoiding the fight with the ebay seller (as they didn’t offer returns), but the idea that someone might be trying to get away with scamming people bugged me. I couldn’t see how someone who sold such a large volume of boots could possibly not know real from fake leather, which meant that it would have been a deliberate misleading, in the hopes that most people are not informed enough to know the difference.

And besides, if they weren’t leather, I wasn’t going to wear them so it really didn’t matter how cute they were, and then there was the fact that I had been very deliberate in only considering leather items even though used (or rather this new “pre-owned” bullshit that  somehow is intended to make one forget that someone else has had their foot sweating in it first) leather boots of good quality are frequently twice as expensive as brand new synthetic ones that will still not last a third as long as those second hand kickers.   Usually, in order to get the most selection and therefore the best deals on some items that are poorly worded or incorrectly categorized, I try to search in the ways that will include more potential to be what I want than just searching for what I want even though it means digging through more unwanted junk to find the treasure.  I check the “not specified” items as well as suede and leather since many times a leather shoe is only identified in the text of the ad,  not mentioned in the title and description which are the only parts that are indexed by the search engine.

But I had not wanted to be tempted by lesser quality goods at all,  so this time, I even limited my search to just those that were actually filling out the product descriptions  to specify them as leather material, as there were simply too many to sort through with the wide parameters I had set for style and type and color to browse through since I was more flexible on those particulars.    The one thing I had set in stone that would safely ensure that  the shoes would be worth my price point in consideration was that they be made of leather.     So I was not going to let that slide when I got a super cute pair of vinyl boots, gotdammit…   Had they been leather and in much worse condition than advertised, though, I would have been content to keep them.   But keeping these meant that I would still need to buy another pair of leather boots anyway, and if I wanted to spend that much on top of what these had cost to do that, I would rather have a better more expensive pair of the fucking shoes I wanted in the first place rather than compromising the ones I needed for these fake ones.

So even though it was sure to be a pain in the ass, they had to go back.  HAD to, because I want to get what I pay for and this was not it.  And a little glimpse at the way the seller had responded to other buyers negative feedback (which seemed mostly to center around items not being what they were purported to be  – *cue sinking feeling* as I read those even before the boots arrived at my door) already had me feeling like the person was not entirely honest in his representation, nor polite to customers who were dissatisfied.  I prepared my statement of why I was returning the boots to be irrefutable in evidence that they were not leather, so as to leave no room for accusation that I might be mistaken.

True to form, the seller responded with hostility and defensiveness in the two emails I found waiting for me less than twelve hours after I submitted my request to return the items, along with the unexpected notification from ebay that the seller had immediately escalated the claim to their judgment for resolution  (by calling on the phone and stating his case without waiting for a reply from me to said emails at all, when I couldn’t even escalate the claim until after the a period of three days wait time to allow them the opportunity to respond to my case – how does that work that they can close it without giving me six hours to answer his bullshit?) and that their “final decision” was in HIS favor and I could not get a refund because I ALTERED THE ITEM so they couldn’t be returned.

Wait… WHAT?

Pardon me for a moment while I take a breath to contain the rage that this idea induced.

Oh, I see…Let’s be clear here, now:  Had the oil actually had any effect at all on the damn things,  I wouldn’t have any reason to return them in the first fucking place. .   The jackass claims that because I explained in my evidence that I had applied mink oil (which did NOT actually penetrate the plastic coating, and didn’t have the intended effect of actually being absorbed by said shoe and simply ended up being wiped off again since it didn’t actually DO anything )  to the boots (as one would do to care for leather shoes properly, mind you), now they cannot be resold this way because of my  altering them.  Riiiiight.

So I call the appeal number to explain that the shoe is not in any different state from the way I received it, and it was not painted or distorted from its original condition any more than the shoe polish that had been applied to it made it a different color.  But according to the people on the other end of the phone making a whole 6 cents an hour to solve my problems, putting something on them constitutes “altering” them.

And here is where that “Pre owned” cocknocky crap begins to affect things, because it allows us to forget for a minute that we are not trying to return this brand new spiffy shiny thing that is now not able to be sold because I broke the seal on it and it is no longer the same shiny new item   Remember that these boots are purchased by me are described as  “vintage pre-owned condition with scuffs” and scrapes and torn fringes not to mention warped and half worn soles because they are USED SHOES.  GARAGE SALE FODDER.  SECOND HAND. BEATEN AND WORN AND TORN ON THE FRINGES AND I ALTERED THEM BY PUTTING SHOE CREAM ON THEM???  WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK IS GOING ON IN THE HEADS OF THESE PEOPLE WHO MADE THIS DECISION?

I assume by this logic that if I bought a dusty ass antique table and wiped it off with some pledge before I set my fruit bowl down on the middle of it and it collapsed from the termite damage that was not evident until something was placed on it,  that would also constitute the item being “altered” then, eh?   Or say,  getting my newly purchased used car washed and gassed up before learning that it was lemon when the mechanic got under the hood would also constitute having ALTERED the thing so it couldn’t be sold as a non-lemon to the next fool to come along after I bring it back and demand a refund?   Of course,  how can you sell it NOW with the little pine tree doohickey making it smell nice and the now shiny tires that I ALTERED with some armour all???

No,  wiping a shoe conditioner onto a SHOE is not altering the fucking thing.   Okay, maybe it is altered by wiping the DIRT off the outside of the thing that made it appear to be darker than it was, but I can put it right back on and un-alter them by rolling them in the fireplace soot for a minute too…  They are in the same condition they came to me in, if a little cleaner.  And let me reiterate,  had they been altered by the addition of this product I applied, I would have happily kept them and been satisfied with my used leather boots.  It is precisely because they were UNALTERED that I had any reason to seek a refund of my money because I didn’t get what I paid for.

I predict that I will be doing some yelling at some very stupid people on the phone in the very near future.   I already called the appeal number and all I got was Dione, the heavily accented useless idiot whose job it was to tell me that the reason I wouldn’t be getting my refund (or be able to return this fake shoe to this scam artist  who leaves abusive and disrespectful feedback responses to any buyers who are unhappy that they got a size 6 when they bought a size 8 or their used shoes were more used than the pictures and description let on when they arrived) was because my application of the mink oil meant I had altered the shoe.  She put me on hold twice to  tell me she was unable to do anything more than report what I had already known from the email informing me of this ludicrous shit.   What do they pay her for?  Transferring me to the unavailable supervisor because I am irate enough to seem like I might blog about it and tarnish the company reputation or something?   Or just telling me that the entire phone call is a clear joke, likely because they are going to close in half an hour  and she’ll take my number down and have the supervisor get back to me within 24 hours….

Yeah, I’m not betting on that one, either…

But you can believe that someone is going to hear from me before that time is elapsed, most definitely.   This is unjust that I can purchase something that I treat as my own to care for it and improve its condition for myself only to find that it is not what it claimed to be when that process has no effect in improving it, nor does it worsen it at all and then when I ask ebay to back up its guarantee to protect me from shenanigans I am told that I invalidate that protection by making the discovery that the item is fraudulent because I treated it as though it were authentic  as promised?  FUCK THAT NOISE.  I AM GOING TO BE A PAIN IN THE ASS ABOUT THIS OVER MY SHITTY SHOES.  I want every fucking penny of my 38 bucks back including shipping regardless of whether I even give them back at this point.  I am gonna ALTER them along with the ASS of whomever tells me that I have nullified the protection ebay promises by shining my own damn shoes as I put them where the sun don’t shine on their hindparts….

I was mildly irritated at the inconvenience of having to explain why the shoes are fake at first, but now I have that righteous anger that means someone is going to regret telling me no, if they dare…

We’re talking Miss Piggy level : “That DOES it… Hiyyyyyyyyy- YAH!!”

I don’t like it when shady people are encouraged to be shifty.   I will become a nuisance just to make a point if I have to.    Look at how much time and energy I have already spent in telling the story – do you really think I am going to just say, ok, and enjoy my fraudulent purchase because your people are stupid?  I will harass folks until they just give me my money back to shut me up even if they still think I am wrong.

Because I am NOT wrong.  THIS is wrong.

Oh and just fyi:  the ebay sellers id is saulwaldo123 and they are currently offering up  275 pairs of used boots and 3 new ones according to my search.  I think that this person would know which ones are leather and which aren’t.  And also should know perfectly well that mink oil is not going to make them suddenly transformed such that they are ruined now.  He knew they were shit already and doesn’t want to pay for them to get sent back to him, I’d wager.  I would suggest being very cautious about dealing with this  seller, as you may end up dissatisfied with what you think you have purchased not living up to the expectation .  Forewarned etc etc….

PSA – Dear Droid Devs: Dessert Does Not Quantify (Announce/Rant 2015.0814)

OKAY that does it. ENOUGH with the acronyms and codewords in the tech already!! Not everything has to have a cute fuzzy name that makes it impossible to know where it fits in the context of software development hierarchy.

It USED to be perfectly reasonable to understand whether or not your device met the minimum requirements when things wee sensibly ordered and named accordingly. If something said your system needed to be at least as advanced as OS 6.2 and your machine said OS 7, you were good to go. NOW, how the hell am I supposed to pick up a software box that says it will only run on systems running LION or above and I am not even sure if my own machine is TIGER or SNOW LEOPARD or whether it came before or after FUCKYOUVERYMUCHKITTY??

WHO decided this would be a good idea and WHY?

And now Android is just as bad. It was always an irritation for me not knowing if I was dealing with Ice Cream or Candy when trying to look up information about a device that I had interest in, but after reading this utterly nonsensical paragraph and the absurdity of it all hit critical mass for me:

“This change actually went live in Honeycomb 3.2, but it received fairly little attention. We can attribute that to a few factors. To begin with, Honeycomb’s source code only became public with the release of Ice Cream Sandwich, meaning this change was buried amidst thousands of others. Further, the Nexus One never received an official OTA to Ice Cream Sandwich, so access to the SD card was never visibly lost. In fact, the only device known to be affected by the change was the Motorola XOOM. But the XOOM launched with a disabled SD slot, and by the time it was enabled in 3.2, the issue was usually disregarded as a bug.”

Seriously? A professional person wrote that like it ought to make sense. How’s this for an acronym : **RUFKM?!?**

I swear, I share the same creative spirit that you marketing folks have, but GTFO of the technical specs already. Give your product a cutesy or edgy image and name that conjures the feelings that should go along with it, but please let us stick to the sensible and inherently structured ordinals that mean I don’t have to do goddamn research to understand which things are what in order to compare them. I already KNOW that C follows B and that 3 precedes 4. But I am not going to make comparisons of software based on sugar content.

There is an entire article that is practically useless to me despite the fact that it probably contains the answers to the questions I have that sent me looking for it in the first place, but the only reason I might know it does is because Google spit it out as a likely match for the query. I am pretty well educated, and even have a bit of a .knack for the technical stuff and hyper-developed reading skills and I can’t find anything in that paragraph that makes a lick of sense.

It’s time to let the nerds do their nerdy thing, and the cool marketing slicky sales people need to get the fuck out of the way because they are actually not helping things at all. I am now even more inclined to stick with my feature fucking flip phone just because of how stupid that paragraph was…

Please stop.  If you must get fancy,.then at least pick some symbols which are intuitively obvious in their hierarchy so I don’t have to feel like I lost IQ points trying to understand which generation or iteration of a product you are talking about.

Personalized and Optimised to Petrification

I am already hyper aware of the way Facebook can really exacerbate confirmation bias and polarize politics and sort of give us a weirdly tweaked perception of our lives in a kind of idealized mirror view of ourselves, so an article warning about that filter bubble created by such parsing of news feed items according to FB algorithm was less alarming to me than the one that popped up as related to that one.  THAT one goes a bit more into how some of these personalized results can get rather insidious in ways we don’t even realize until it is much too late on even more supposedly neutral or unbiased sites, because the biases that are built in to the filter aren’t even recognized until something gets personally noticed as a really fucked up result. And they won’t even know what bias created it to fix it!    .

(read about that some more here:  http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-intersect/wp/2015/03/23/what-you-dont-know-about-internet-algorithms-is-hurting-you-and-you-probably-dont-know-very-much/)

I think that anything that shapes our thinking by culling the information we get exposed to needs to disclose the process by which that information is selected to be excluded – as well as being very up front and open about how much is actually getting cut being very prominently displayed up front when the information is requested,

But I do want the burden of filtering out the garbage to be left to me to do myself by default and allow others to ask me if I want to be optimized by analysis of the past behavior rather than it being applied as a filter before I get to see what I might want to see and they don’t let me see it because I didn’t know I wanted to see it before I saw it – you know?

Me, personally – my best optimization algorithm for personalized results


One of the most important factors in the optimisation of results is the question of for whom exactly the results are supposedly optimized to benefit. If it is supposed to be for ME, well then how does the algorithm determine what I want NOW based on what I wanted before?
This is obviously interpreted incorrectly by Google’s search function, since they did away with the “search within results” option that used to appear when the damn thing was far more useful and relying primarily on boolean logic and the searchers particular skill with keywords and their own ability to reason and apply that boolean logic to hone the results as they saw fit. I was very good at that for my purposes, and for finding what others wanted to find better than they could find it themselves.
My success was greater because of a particularly useful set of skills to that purpose that is purely contextual knowledge of words and people and how they might habitually behave even if it isn’t how they logically should. Such as a broad vocabulary which allowed me to search common words that most would search as well as less popular but highly specialized and specific words in nuance or synonymous meaning that differentiated the results from less desirable but accurate matches returned by the more common references, coupled with some insight to people’s personality quirks which allowed me to search for things based on the mistakes people would commonly make if they were not native to the culture or outside the usual demographic (think grandparents trying to google a video game to get for their grandkids and not knowing the specs of the jargon which would most likely get them what they would really want, and avoiding some of what they might actually get that they really wouldn’t want to give to children at all that might have adult content without their realizing it – OOOOPS!)
This is not just because I can recognize patterns in behavior, but also because I can intuit or reason out WHY those patterns exist and adjust accordingly when the pattern alone doesn’t generate the correct result. That is a particular analytical ability that the algorithms cannot match without being told to do so by someone who has realized that the results were poor in the first place. FEEDBACK to the algorithm about its results and their usefulness is not immediate enough to adjust for in a subsequent search, but a person knows immediately when they didn’t get what they wanted. Without the ability to know how the information is filtered, even someone who would be able to alter their search to find a better answer cannot do that because they have no idea what variables are in the equation and how they are weighted to produce the bad results they got and it ends up an exercise in futility and experimental frustration.
Another plus in my column as internet sleuth and hunter of all things obscure extraordinaire is my own technical understanding – and the awareness of how the people who programmed the tech might think differently than people who USE it can also be a factor – and my somewhat unusual ability to interface with both people and machines with pretty equal fluency, when many are usually much stronger with one or the other the way someone is right of left handed. This means that I not only understand how the boolean logic terms and ordering of the search will affect results depending on how things are grouped and that it matters where you put the OR’s AND’s and NOT’s much more than people realize when you are talking to a computer program as opposed to your English professor. The computer will not adjust for what it understands you REALLY meant when you input something that you thought you wanted the way your prof might, it will just give you what you actually asked it for, which can often differ GREATLY from what you wanted to get.
And that is really the thing I miss most about that Search within results action, in that it was much easier to start with what you KNOW was actually working and then be able to eliminate the things that were not in a sequential manner of paring down by subsets. It was the process of combining exact boolean reasoning with the more nuanced variables to adjust the formula to get custom results for each and every different reason for each search and was a very efficient method of separating the wheat from the chaff regardless of however that wheat variety changed from search to search. An algorithm sees wheat as WHEAT, and sorts accordingly, without the ability to alter the grain’s texture or choose different strains according to whether its to be made into something else as an ingredient or whether it is to be of the best quality for its own standalone value for direct consumption, nor does it account for the fact that the premium wheat may be much more expensive and impractical for someone to use if they intend only to pound it into a flour to make some kind of natural adhesive paste that only needs to be non-toxic and not necessarily tasty.
Reasons for what we want what we want change as well as what we want, but the formulas are not equipped for guessing our motivations when we ask it a question at all. And people are often not even always aware of their own reasons for wanting something enough to tell an algorithm that might be clever enough to ask for that information to aid its selection even if there were one that dared to do that. I could do better than many people could do for themselves with that old unadulterated by personalisation boolean slave that Google search used to be because I am intuitive and curious and highly empathetic and well educated and articulate and have pretty good reasoning skills for critical analysis as well as broad exposure to various cultures and diverse cross sections of the population outside of my own comfort zone and familiarity, Awareness and objectivity are not the same thing, and though I may not always be able to tap into both at once, I do have the understanding that sometimes I might confuse them and what that might do to my perception.
An algorithm just is never ever going to get that fucking personal. People can’t even get that personal. But maybe one person can get that close to themselves to find what they really need if they look for it. I don’t mind overwhelming amounts of garbage I don’t need coming at me when i first sit down to look at it, because I was really good at knowing how to tweak my inquiry just so and eliminate the majority of the unwanted stuff myself right away, So in an overwhelmingly impossibly sized haystack with a mountain of needles buried in it, I’d essentially be an electromagnet that only attracted needles made of a particular alloy – leaving me to search for a needle in a moderate sized pile of needles if I wanted one that was a rare or unusual blend of elements, But the algorithms can only make a really unwieldy pile of needles that is just as impossible to go through one needle at a time or maybe an unwieldy amount of smaller specific haystacks with needles that I have to do specific searches in each one to find what I sek making that equally inefficient.
Finding a really obscure needle is easier my way. So I want to be able to search for information MY WAY. Cause I;m better at it than any algorithm that can ever be devised by anyone anywhere ever…I am a big girl and would prefer that I be allowed to decide for myself what kind of results I want to see without the helping hand of personalization.  It seems like those results eventually have the actually opposite effect they intend by trying to filter according to whatever it assumes about me or why i want to find anything.
I LIKE to grow and change, so it only makes sense that I will not be content by the answers selected and filtered by any function that might generate any algorithm to do my choosing for me. since it lacks prescience to see the future. That actually is a pretty good way to ensure that I don’t change by repeating the past.
Because by definition, things that don’t grow or change don’t LIVE.

There is only ONE reason to attend any college: taking the classes that are offered there.

So I read this the other day:

http://www.pbs.org/newshour/updates/colleges-ratchet-recruiting-applicants-just-turn/

There are so many things wrong with this article, I am not even sure where to begin.

Actually, no, I DO know. It starts on the whole wrong premise of why anyone should even be applying to college in the first place. I WISH I had known what I know now about selecting a school the first time around. You see, I was raised to think of college as part of the compulsory education, not as a separate specialized study for greater depth in field of interest, I figured I was expected to go to school (Kindergarten through College) and that once I had my degree I would be free to do what I wanted with my life.

What I did not understand, was that my mother envisioned college as the magical job ticket, not as having any value in the actual education I might receive, so my dutiful attendance of college was ultimately a misguided effort at best since I had no idea at all what I wanted to do with my life by the time I was applying to schools. This is important: I should not have gone to college, at least not right away. Not until I had a reason to go, and could select a school that best fit that reason. When your reason is because its what you’re supposed to do, then you have no idea how to select an institute to give you what YOU need.

Which brings me to the next point – these schools and the idea that you are somehow trying to clamor and fight for the right to attend their institution because THEY are such hot shit is fully idiotic. No student needs to be concerned about heartbreak or self worth thanks to rejection from a school that encouraged them to apply! And these counselors are the ones doing that damage, since they are not making the selections they don’t actually know what any school might want out of any individual because the problem is they are trying to sell the individual to the school and the reality is that it should be the other way round.

Students with a solid enough academic record are plenty well capable of gaining acceptance into any institution if it is one that genuinely has something to offer the STUDENT. A student should be looking at the schools that can fit the needs they have and then go about informing the school exactly why you as a student can benefit from what they have to offer rather than what they can get from you. They will get the tuition from you, or someone else, that is what they are in it for, and that is why they reach out to students who show enough academic promise to meet a baseline, The shining out is not done on the report card, it is done in the interview process and the personal essay and the reasons you give the selection committees to believe that you will find a reason to stay there and continue to pay that tuition for several years and then represent them well on the other side of that.

COLLEGE IS A TOOL TO BE EMPLOYED TO YOUR NEEDS, NOT A PREREQUISITE FOR LIFE. YOU SHOULD KNOW EXACTLY WHAT YOU WANT OUT OF YOUR LIFE BEFORE SELECTING A SCHOOL TO BEST HELP YOU ACHIEVE THAT IF AND ONLY IF THAT IS NECESSARY TO WHAT YOU WANT TO ACCOMPLISH! Don’t waste your money and energy on it just because that is what you’re “Supposed” to do. NO one knows what anyone is supposed to do to achieve success, The ones who achieve it frequently did it through perseverance in pursuit of something specific, not because they got a degree in it, but because they wanted to do it they learned about it and studied it to a depth of knowledge which helped them do something with that knowledge they could apply.

Unless you are going into medicine or law, you may not necessarily benefit from four or more additional years of schooling. Particularly not if you are bright and capable and already had a good prep school education gearing up for that college experience, I found that I was vastly disappointed in the college level of education because it failed to exceed the quality of teaching I had already received in high school. I ended up choosing a liberal arts college (which is now considered one of the new “ivy leagues” as it is New England wintery and old and small enough to do that, I guess) and after a year I realized I was going to have to transfer because there was NOTHING at all in the course catalog that even looked remotely interesting to me and filling four years of credits with that which was available was going to be an arduous and unpleasant task.

It was a GREAT school , mind you, with all the high marks in the Fiske guide to snobbery and pretentiousness that make it impressive as a name to drop. but there was nothing there for me to LEARN. And the kicker is that my counselor had “advised” me that particular school was a “reach” for me to apply to! Seriously? Based on what? I knew that was my first choice though, by the first round of deadlines so I applied early decision. I got my acceptance and that was that, one and done, and the rest of my senior year was nothing to sweat since I had my admission to college in December already, reach or no reach.  What a load of puckey! They wanted me because I wanted them and had a decent enough academic record. What set me apart was most likely the passion and personality I put forth in the things that were not quantifiable by grades, but conveyed by my recommendations and my own expression. They would have been foolish not to take me, and I knew that despite my academic record being only solid and not uber-exceptional. And it really didn’t matter if they said no, because the point was to apply to put your best foot forward and if they said no, it was pretty much their loss as there were other schools that could do for me the same if not better than they could. You don’t recruit only those who are the most obvious academic powerhouses, you recruit those with the potential to find greatness with what they can give. Those are not always the 4.0+ GPA’s because not everything in life is a test to be graded. It depends on what the college is selling and what the student is looking to buy. “rating” only matters if the selling point of your degree is going to be based on the BRANDING of the institution on the diploma rather than the quality of the knowledge a candidate has. Unless you are looking for the school to sell you as a hire, who cares? Find a school that will teach you something useful, even if it is a community college because the reason to learn it should be for the knowledge not the label.

Now as to the idea that schools are bruising these fragile children with these recruitment strategies, GIVE ME A BREAK. Rejection is something they better get used to in the real world anyway, so I don’t see wny that should scare anyone off. Get tough now so you don’t get knocked so far down on your ass the first time the real world gets a shot at you. This is asinine to blame schools for reaching out to students who might benefit from what they have. You don’t know someone just by looking at their highschool transcript. IT is a PASSION and a DESIRE that drive the driven to excel . If a student wants something badly enough to pursue it with their whole effort, then get the hell out of their way, don’t judge them not good enough on paper. SHEESH, I did a ton of shit when was younger just because I had no idea it wasn’t possible half the time.

The real irony in my case is that I had a summer job at a temp agency right before I went off across the country to attend my freshman year of college. It was as the personal assistant to the main account holder on one floor of the downtown Deloitte and Touche office in L.A., and I was doing a lovely job for them, much to the relief of the other secretary who usually handled the rest of the floor and who had been burdened with the work of my job for some months as they tried unsuccessfully to find someone half capable to fill the position when the regular hire had left to start a family. I could hot understand why anyone found the job so challenging as I was managing just fine, well enough that I was soon offered the permanent position once my contract with the temp agency was completed.

The woman who delivered the offer was just about floored when I explained that I was due to leave for the opposite coast to go to school at the end of the summer, so I could not accept it. She blinked and seemed puzzled at the notion of “school” and in a bewildered voice asked, “…Wh-… Bu-…. How OLD are you?” and her jaw fell open when I responded, “Seventeen,” as if that were only natural. I had no idea that it was not, and so I went off to school in September, leaving behind a job that would be the envy of any entry level applicant trying to get a foot in the door of that company without a blessed CLUE as to the career I likely would have excelled at and become well compensated for. It was, in short, the precise sort of position that my mother hoped to assure me securing with this degree I went off to get. How stupid. I could have just stayed there, and become indispensable and saved her a hundred grand of tuition fees and myself a lot of stress. If I had wanted to get higher up the ladder, I am sure I would have found a way to take courses while working to increase my knowledge, but the practical experience I had would have already put me ahead of the game against any four year graduate down the line, but I left to go to college because that is what I was supposed to do to get the job. HAH!

Asinine, right? And if only I had understood that I was not going to school to learn anything, but to get a job ticket, I would have just stayed put and been wildly successful. Currently, I have a Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies and no job and no idea what the heck to do with myself, while had I skipped the whole college crap, I’d be either the right hand of the Director of Ops at one of the largest accounting companies in the world, or well on my way to being that Director myself just for sticking with the summer job I took to get some extra cash because it offered 12 bucks and hour, which was way more than minimum wage for skills I already had at the end of high school. GOOD skills that apparently are in short supply enough that they couldn’t find an adult with a degree to do the damn job half as well as a seventeen year old HS graduate.

So figure out what you are doing and make sure that going to college is worth the time and money to you to achieve your goal. You might be surprised to find that it is not serving that ultimate goal to go at all and there may be other paths that are more direct. College is not for everyone, nor should it. be. The world, and the job market, needs skilled people that can DO something well, If college is not going to further your capability to do something well then aren’t you just some kind of designer label that costs thousands of dollars to try and impress people with? Sure some few people can afford the 80 thousand dollar handbag made by Chanel or whatever, but most of us just need something to shove our crap into so we don’t drop it and a simple handbag from Ross will suffice for that. Why bother with the hassle of the label when you are only going to drop that sucker into an office drawer when you get to work and never look at it anyway.

There is only ONE reason to attend any college:  taking the classes that are offered there.  If a school offers classes  that you would benefit from attending, then apply there and attend if they accept you, and if they don’t, apply somewhere else that will offer similar courses and will also let you attend them.  Or audit them.  Or apply again to the school that rejected you if they are the only one that offers those types of courses.  The name of the institution is not so important as the quality of information presented, and don’t be fooled into thinking that the biggest names provide the best education at all.  It’s a game you can never win if you start evaluating life through the value of a name brand.  The advantage provided by the degree is more than the advantage provided by the pedigree of the degree, but the reason the degree is of any value at all is because it is supposed to indicate that you have been exposed to the requisite information to get it.    Don’t make the mistake I did in just thinking I had to go to college because it is what I was supposed to do.  I wish I had decided what I wanted to DO first so that I could apply to schools best equipped to help me achieve that and better avail myself of the opportunities within that environment too.

All I have now is a piece of paper that means I got a higher education, but the stuff of real value came from a few classes in the form of wisdom.  I’d rather have that and the paper hasn’t helped me get anything anyway.  Most jobs I would be interested in having would require a whole different background and even further schooling anyway.  Not sure it couldn’t have been better doing something else with that time and money instead.  But thank GOD my parents paid for it all up front.  At least I don’t have student debt….

The value of IVR (Interactive Voice Response) Systems from THIS side of the phone line

When I have little patience as it is for the fact that I have to suffer the indignity of talking to a machine instead of a person that insults my intelligence with its programmed courtesies and pleasantries that are negated by its lack of cognitive ability to mean them in any way at all and therefore makes them an additional irritation rather than a courtesy and a ridiculous waste of time at best, it is even MORE absurd that the monotonous droning vocal facsimile insists on rattling off any number of useless bits of unsolicited info at the speed of slug that I do NOT need to know before I am presented with the menu option of what I wish to achieve by calling in the first place which is where I ought to have been offered a selection to hear it if desired. It then add further fire to my ire when upon finally having the option that I seek presented to me to select, I am given another phone number to call so that I can listen to THAT automated intelligence insult machine to repeat the process all over again.

I AM IN A HURRY DAMMIT. I don’t want to exchange pleasantries with electronics nor do I desire a recounting of all the recent interactions I have had with my account, I just want to pay the damn bill. It should be a simple procedure of dialing, entering my account number, pressing a selection to pay that is immediately offered , and then continuing with the necessary prompts to find out how much I want to pay and with what payment method and hold for confirmation BEEP DONE THAT IS ALL.

It ought to take me longer to type this rant about it than the entire process of paying that bill. Sadly, I would say it was at least a 4x longer effort to hear out the drone to accomplish it. AT LEAST.

If I have to deal with a machine, fine, then allow me to be efficient with it the way a machine would interact without all the unnecessary code that gums up the works, but don’t make me deal with it like a person I can’t even interrupt to ask what the fuck number to press to get shit done, okay? It’s not fooling me into thinking its being polite Its rude to force me to show courtesy to something that doesn’t recognize it and its rude to think I will be convinced by the imitation of a person that is clearly a program and It’s wasting my time and seriously pissing me off.

Who has time for that shit?

Does ANYONE find that interaction anything but a distraction and a disservice when a machine is programmed to say, “thank you” or ” I’m sorry” ? HIRE A FUCKING RECEPTIONIST AND HELP OUT THE ECONOMY FUCKTARDS!

My KINGDOM for a properly useful real human being to field and direct incoming phone calls!! The company that decides to lose a bit of profit margin for the sake of sanity and ACTUAL respect and courtesy instead of imitation cheapout-fuck-you-they-won’t-know-the-difference (oh but I sure as hell CAN believe it is not butter, Bitch!) ersatz courtesy bot-vox facsimile nonsense will be the company that indicates society is actually worth saving at all.

SHEESH.

“Beware Greeks bearing gifts….”

Sooo I got a notice in the mail from TWC (my fairly recently re-acquired ISP) which informed me of the fabu news that I, like some winner of the internet lottery, was the lucky recipient of a no-hassle upgrade to their services. It seems that my internet speeds shall be increased upwards of threefold at no extra charge!

Interesting that when the service entirely disappears this last weekend, there is no admission on their part that the upgrade might have anything to do with that. This, however, might be due to the fact that support available from whatever third-world country to which TWC has outsourced its unhelpful brand of read-the-script-which-is-useless-to-solve-any-actual-technical-problem-besides-user-stupidity-and-unplugging-the-equipment non-technical “help” does not actually have the ability to do anything other than waste 45 minutes of my time going through the motions just to get to the point where the heavily accented individual on the phone can confirm that my modem is not online despite there being no bigger area-wide outage.

(REALLY? I’m not online? You don’t SAY!… Funny, I thought that I WAS and just needed to call tech support to be sure it wasn’t my imagination and sure enough it IS! So, what can you do to fix that? I can make an appointment for a tech to come inspect the modem FIVE DAYS LATER even if the problem might be solved or at the very least diagnosed by simply exchanging it for another one myself tomorrow? GREAT! Let’s do that! Meanwhile, you can also tell me some helpful things I can do without having internet access by visiting websites and downloading tools to check on the status of things….you know, when I finally get back online!) **SUPER RUFKM FACEPALM**

Fortunately, waiting for a visit or replacing the modem has proved unnecessary since the problem appears to have rectified itself of its own accord, perhaps because TWC has fixed whatever was causing the outage at the head end, despite having it firmly lodged up their OTHER end…

I will note that while speedtest does reflect the new improved bandwidth, I have not noticed any appreciable difference in practical use. That may be that there is just no real time savings in the jump from instantaneous to superinstantaneous and the plateau of what I might really care about was hit somewhere back around the 10 Mbps mark, making the jump from 15 to 50 somewhat less exciting than it would appear to be on paper. I might actually feel improvement, though, if I have to upload something given the jump from 1Mbps to 5Mbps (in case I decide to try my hand at youtube celebrity or distribute my media library to the world via bittorrent or something.)

Still, my initial reaction to such a boon coming from TWC unbidden and without a price hike is less one of gratitude, celebration and joy than of wariness and suspicion. ALL of me knows that TWC is not a benevolent being which aims to earn the hearts and charitable thoughts of its market base but a conglomerate of profit seeking machines that are not above extortion of that same market base. Why do you suppose I don’t trust this upgrade as being as ostensibly free of charge as they claim? Is this some kind of requirement they had to fulfill as a penance for a merger with Comcast or what?

I am waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Thoughts on (legit) Pole dance and the “stigma of the strip clubs”

Today, I read something that wanted a reply in a FB group that I have just joined, and since my membership request to the group has not yet been accepted, I was unable to post my response to that comment directly in the thread. But then  I figured it might make some good blog fodder anyway, so I figure I will go ahead and speak my mind here, and then just link to this in that thread once I am allowed to participate so I don’t forget to go back to it later.  It reads:
“I was wondering if any of you other polers face a stigma of “pole dancing” when you tell family or friends that you pole. My mother hasn’t seen me on the pole but when we chat she makes it sound like its something nasty. My husband is beyond proud of me but when his friends find out that we have a pole in the house there are always comments with a sexual inuendo. This irritates me. I pole for me! For health, strength and confidence. Any tips on how to gently (or not) set these people straight?”

(https://www.facebook.com/groups/355230507989064/)


Now, This is interesting to me from the standpoint that it is a part of the artistic world, and that just because there are poles in strip clubs, having a pole at home isn’t necessarily anything to do with sexuality, but also interesting because I happen to know the sexy side of things from actually having been a stripper. The first thing that I note is the negative connotation that is associated with that concept of a strip club is generally perpetuated by people who have never actually been INSIDE of one.

It might surprise many to learn that first person I met who was a member of MENSA and also was the first to put the idea in my head that I would also qualify was someone I met while working in a strip club. And it may further surprise folks that it was not a customer, but another dancer a few years younger than me. It is because of that young woman that I became more aware of how much brain power I really had, and also by extension how that then really ramped up my sense of social responsibility and speaking up about politics and community leadership when before I had never considered myself at all qualified to say anything.

My own mother recently made a rather reflective comment about how “it isn’t like how people make it seem,” when I mentioned that day she utterly shocked me by coming to visit me at my place of work, to comfort me after finding me very distraught with her phone call. She had long been disapproving of my choice of work, having made all sorts of assumptions about it based on reputation of seediness, but this instance she must have felt the need to come and rescue her baby, because she came to the club that afternoon, bearing a care package.

Once she located me, which was difficult for the fact that she didn’t recognize me in my dragon robe and thigh high boots and hot pants and blonde wig, she looked around at the mostly empty place as we sat on a couch near the entrance and noted, “I don’t see a lot of fake boobs!” as though she found it rather baffling that the women who worked there were actually real people and not Barbie dolls. And then “Chanel,” one of the more outgoing dancers, came over and started to chat with us, putting her even further at ease, and we all ordered lunch.

When the time came for my own turn at bat, I assured my mother that the management would allow me to skip my scheduled turn on stage, as I didn’t want to make her uncomfortable watching me do my strip show in a nude club, and having now had the opportunity to reconcile the real me with the world she had not understood before, actually threw me for a loop by saying, “well, I don’t know… I think YOU’D probably do something more interesting than just walking around the pole…”

Okay. Challenge accepted.

I made my way to dressing room and gave the DJ my set instructions, and pulled out all the stops on the stage show with one of my many “theme sets” which comprised of a fantasy costume and music combination and usually some Circque du Soleil inspired pole ballet some 18 feet above ground on 4play’s exceptional pole that stretched all the way to the ceiling of the second story. As surreal as the idea was that I was putting on the show primarily for my MOM since there were only two or three other patrons there, I still love to perform, so she got the full treatment. And then she couldn’t stop being impressed and amazed. By the time she left that day, she not only had a transformed opinion of strip clubs and what I did there, when she met my manager before leaving, she actually leaned over the bar to whisper proudly and confidentially to him as she patted me on the small of the back with one hand. “She’s very good…!” She even paid for Chanel’s lunch along with ours.

So when you mention the stigma of pole dance that comes along with the association of the naked places, perhaps the first thing to call into question is not whether the pole is being blamed unfairly by that, but whether the whole branding of female sexuality as a whole has been maligned in this negative light, along with the clubs and the people who frequent them for work or pleasure. I can honestly say the one place I could not hope to classify into one homogeneous group label all of the various sorts that cross paths there, are the strip clubs and nudie bars I have been in across the country. One of the best things I enjoyed about such work was the thought at the beginning of each shift, “I wonder who I will meet today?”

There is apparently one thing that seeming every single type of human, male or female, single or married, old and young, rich or poor, the lonely and the adored, smart and educated to not so much, from black to white and all in between ALL seem to have in common there too – an appreciation of beauty and the opportunity to witness it for the price of a 2 drink minimum. So if pole dancing is anchored in that – it is a stigma I don’t mind. Viva la topless joints and Nudie bars of the world!!

Horrible Hamster Tales

Just watched this rather amusing and somewhat familiar feeling youtube video, “The Story of My Hamster” where a gentleman recounts his experience with his very first pet of his very own.   

It inspired me to comment on it,  as my experience with hamsters is probably why I am a dog person:
(And before continuing I should note, this story doesn’t end well, so fair warning if you are faint of heart…)
I think his is a reincarnation of my hamster, Nibbles- same kind, orange-y brown fur just like that  ( I think they are called Golden Hamsters) and she too was highly intelligent, and I only had her for a much too short while due to her tendency to do some very convincing Houdini impressions.  She must be designed to bring young tweens to their coming of age through heartache of loss!  She was also my first pet of my very own, and I got her shortly after turning 12, I think maybe even for my birthday as a present.  She was very tame and I loved her so much I took it with me when we went to visit my aunt in Cupertino for a week.  Of course, she escaped and we couldn’t find her for a few days and I was heartbroken because we were about to leave to go back home and she hadn’t turned up.

SO my mom tried to console me by buying me another one.  He was uninspiring, so I just called him Ham,. That one was not nearly as cute and rather mean and nippy and tried to bite, where my Nibbles was so sweet and tame and let me handle her all the time, but I was so miserable that they had to try something. That night was the last one we would be there, but around 2am my mother heard scratching noises coming from beneath the sink in the bathroom and we knew she was under the cabinet there, but it seemed that she had crawled into a hole that was too high to reach from the other side of the floorboard and we couldn’t figure how to get her back out.  My mom finally got some chopsticks and shoved them into the crack where the floorboard met the wall,  and made a sort of ladder for her to climb up on the other side and we got her out and took her home and I was happy…

EXCEPT

Then when the two hamsters were together in the tank when we got home, as we now had another one as well, they got into a horrible fight and I had to separate the two of them and didn’t put the books and stuff back on the top of the cage after doing that.  She got out AGAIN that night, despite me thinking she was too injured from fighting with the other hamster.  But this time was tragedy, as she had crawled again up something that she couldn’t get out of – after climbing up the wicker trash basket next to the toilet, she had apparently fallen in and drowned only to be discovered by my mother floating there in the morning.   I got my lesson on death way sooner than I wanted to as she was only with me for a few months overall.

I cried for months, longer than I had her, I think.( I’ve never been sadder to lose another pet, I don’t think.  Not even my beloved Frankie-dog who I had for 14 years of best-pal-ness like Shaggy and Scooby. At least he got a full life, and died of old age while she was taken by a thief in the night by bizarre accident so unexpectedly and after just having gotten her back… )   I wasn’t the only one who was very sad though, because she was really a sweet hamster.  Still makes me a little sad when I think of the tragic end she met.  We buried her in the garden – several times, actually, because the dog insisted on removing her from her place of rest over and over again until we finally put her under some screen as well to prevent him digging her up.

The OTHER hamster didn’t fare well either, having gotten a small wound in that fight.  Nibbles got her vengeance though, in a spectacular way for his being the instrument of her escape and undoing that night, because at some point shortly after that a housefly laid eggs in that wound on the other one.  THAT was a whole ‘nother traumatic lesson in death I got when they hatched and began to consume the beast from inside while it still lived.  I awoke to feed him before school one morning and it looked like all the fur and some skin was gone from about a quarter sized ring on his side, which looked like a bunch of fat cells or something instead.

Well, we thought we ought to put some disinfectant on it, only to discover that what we thought was a lower layer of dermis on the hamster was actually like looking at a handful of  dry spaghetti noodles  lengthwise  (so that from one end there might be only a square inch of area when looking at the ends next to each other, but from sideways you can see that they are spaghetti)  where each dot or “fat bubble” turned out to be the ass end of a maggot that was eating its way into the hamster. They were stacked on top of each other and packed tightly together enough to make it look like a solid flesh until we put disinfectant on it and they all abandoned their meal to escape the alcohol.

It.
Was.
Horrible.

Wormy maggots each one maybe a little less than a centimeter in length, hundreds of them now wriggling out of that wound, and now no more abdominal wall since they had eaten through it, once the worms evacuated, so did the hamsters innards, now bursting through the hole in his side.  I couldn’t fathom how horrible it must have been for the poor thing to still be alive, although it didn’t really seem much different until we tried to help it.  I thought it was terrible to leave it to suffer with its guts out, so I tried to break its neck, only causing it to squeal in pain and fright and it was still amazingly strong…TOO strong for my little pre-teen hands to have much effect, actually, so I think I ended up wrapping it in some newspaper and putting it in the garbage still alive –  I don’t really remember much after trying unsuccessfully to kill it though… Consequently, to this day, there is no insect I hate more than a housefly.

I got one more hamster after that, and it was still the same year as the first. It was a golden hamster with the same kind of markings as my beloved Nibbles, but I didn’t get to bond with this one much, because he hadn’t even been to my house.  I had only acquired him through the science project of my friends, which they each also had one hamster and experimented with training all three of them to find food in a maze, and I would get to keep him after the science fair was judged because their project had made it to the finals and the money round.  They spent a lot of time on display with the project in the school library, along with all the other candidates for the science fair, such as my other friends project on the density of mercury.  Her project included samples which she had ordered from industrial supply and many children and adults alike were fascinated with the quicksilver and the way it pooled a the bottom of every liquid in the various vials, even dish soap, and how it could roll around in the tray breaking up into tiny balls and gathering back into one again, and how it did that in the palm of ones hand as well!  …

Yes, the kids were playing with elemental Mercury.  In their hands, in the library at the school, where the science projects were on display and where they also enjoyed playing with the hamsters from the maze.  In their hands.  Where the Mercury would roll around so delightfully…

At some point men came to the school from the EPA with their  buzzing detector wands and their Hazmat suits on and started pulling people out of class to wave wands over their belongings and their persons and some students had to forfeit their backpacks, textbooks or sweaters, some shoes… The library was closed for a while, and my pal’s parents were none too pleased with her project in science that cost them carpets and drapes and furniture when the men in the suits went to their house with the wands too… Oh and the hamsters, being handled by the same kids who were playing with the Mercury and who had all had belongings confiscated due to contamination, well, they  had to go with the men too, so for me that was hamster #3 gone in less than a year.  I hadn’t even gotten to name that one yet.

The universe was clearly trying to tell me something.  Apparently, I was not meant to have hamster companionship.  I decided I would not try to have any more pet hamsters.  Ever.  It was too traumatic and clearly not safe for hamsters to be in my care.  I have never met another as sweet as my first Nibbles anyway,  to this day.

And on my thirteenth birthday, I was given a puppy instead.

Yep.  Definitely a dog person

I do intend to steal my mother’s chinchillas from her though since I have already been taking care of them pretty much since she got them on a whim off of Craigslist a few years ago.  They are totally awesome and don’t seem to be as death prone as hamsters – in fact, we sort of had the opposite problem since the pair she got were supposed to be both male.  I was housesitting for her and made a mental note to tell her we should change their diet or cut out the treats because one of them, Max, was looking rather overweight to the point of not even exercising much and just laying there looking huge, but when mom got home from her trip she called me to tell me the news that Max, apparently, was not fat, and apparently probably should have been named Maxine. Instead of the two Chins she started with, we now had four!  Two little carbon copies of Max and Peanut !  To be fair, it IS really difficult to sex them and I wasn’t sure if we weren’t going to end up with more if we kept more than one, but we gave Max away a few years ago and still only have three left…  But we DO still have those three, so I don’t think the hamster curse extends to the whole rodent family….

Paul Simon & Sting at the Forum 02/15 2014

My thoughts on the concert at the Forum:

As most of you know, I don’t do that whole “kids” business, so let me impress upon you all how significant it is that I say this in all honesty and conviction:

I. Would. Bear. Sting’s. Children.

TODAY.

(We could get started on that right this very minute, in fact. How can he still be so unbelievably rock star sexy after 30 years? I don’t remember thinking he was THIS hot when I was still a TEENAGER, and yet I know I thought he was hot then too. DAAAAYM! YE GODS I can’t believe I didn’t know it when I met him … but who is ever prepared for meeting one’s idol in the middle of their workday, you know? It’s just not something you EXPECT to happen, even in my line of work. Anyone but him, I would have taken in stride. Clooney, Sheen, Cage, Van Damme -NAKED Van Damme- Magic, Shaq, Eminem, OKAY SURE WHATEVER…. But STING??? DOH! *superfacepalm* *x2*)

First of all, I think this is an odd duo for a tour. Not that both of them aren’t ranked in the top 5 on my list of musical genius, but they are different flavors of music. It seems that they share perhaps the same spice rack in that regard, but their recipes are significantly original in the way that they blend those ingredients together. Not that this means it is an impossible thing for creating something totally new and delicious, mind you…It’s actually rather like that extraordinarily expensive restaurant that I was taken to on a date once which combined the oddest cultural familiars with each other that didn’t actually appear appetizing when described on the menu (there were combinations akin to sushi GUMBO, or maybe sweet and sour soul-food…Perhaps chicken teriyaki ahi tuna burritos or fried calamari with oyster sauce and hummus) but when I actually picked something that I figured I might be able to eat PART of, turned out to be truly amazingly exquisite.

Well, that isn’t really fair either, since for me anything with Sting will be exquisite anyway. (I was so excited about seeing him again that I kept forgetting that one of my other favorite gurus was going to be there too. It always seems like a bit of an afterthought and a special treat like a cameo or something despite Simon actually having first billing.) But still it WAS a surprisingly tasty combination in some spots, while others maybe needed a little more adjusting of the mix.

Vocally, I think that Sting’s personal explorations into the unknown genres have done nothing but wonderful things for him. He is a much better singer than he was in the 80’s when I was first introduced to The Police. A LOT better. Paul hasn’t been working on that much, I’d say, but I never saw the side of him that came out when he wasn’t singing before. I think maybe he will improve before the end of the Tour too though, as both of them admit that they are still working on the experiment and getting to know each other better together. There is a lot of respect there between them, and well deserved by both, even if it isn’t quite the buddy-buddy at ease with my pal-y energy that was such a nice balance with Simon and Garfunkel. It may grow closer, but I think Sting is just too much of a goddamn ROCK STAR to be that entwined with anyone, and his voice is not the melodic blend-y sort of sound to do that with anyway. His expression is so personal it almost HAS to come at some cost to a smooth blend. But that is one of the things I particularly love about his live performances, which are all so different even when I hear the same songs.

Paul Simon is quite enjoyable live as well. Very cute. Surprisingly, it was less his vocals than his playing that really shined though. (He does quite a bit of conducting, directing the band specifics, cutoffs, concentrating on that background stuff going on behind him more than his own thing and seeming to forget the words of his own songs from time to time. His presence is more that of a maestro than a minstrel in this setting.) But he really gets into the GROOVE when he starts playing, though, and as he forgets about leading the band through every phrase, the musician in him takes over and turns back the clock. The JOY becomes more evident and it is really fun to see how he can’t help digging the jam once he gets to strumming. Watching him boogie down with the guitar just makes me want to get up dance!

Watching Sting play the guitar, though… well, THAT… Oh LORDY THAT… Oh myyy…that’s entirely different. Sting has a masterful touch with the stringed instruments, there is an almost palpable purity in the tone, so resonant it is almost in harmony with itself. You know immediately who is playing with the first note struck (and its not just a fangirl thing, either – the fella next to me made that same observation at the first chords of Fields of Gold. OH MERCY can he make that thing SING!)

Let me put it this way: I have never wanted to be a guitar so badly in my life. (And really, who would want that? But Hubbabhubbahubba… ) Hounds of Winter. Aaaaahhh-whoooooooo!

Some songs chosen by both artists were a little out of place, either in the order or in the whole of the overall tone, such as Desert Rose, which should have come much earlier if it was to be there, and Roxanne, which should have been omitted, as it kinda needs the whole of that badged band to carry, imo. He has such a tremendous repertoire, I doubt it would have been missed with so many excellent alternatives. For Simon, I would have preferred Born at the Right Time over The Obvious Child which was an uncomfortable rhythmic detour that didn’t mesh well with the surrounding tunes. There was another tune that didn’t quite strike the right note with me too, but I was not familiar with it so I can’t tell you what it was called.

Those little things sort of tripped up the build of the energy overall, which in an already somewhat apathetic Los Angeles to begin with, didn’t help the awkwardness of some moments where I could actually see the artists wanting more from US to fuel their performance a bit (a drum solo or two that was too rushed when it should have been given a little time to draw us in to the foreplay, a call and response that didn’t get answered, a solid beat that few people were clapping to – that kind of thing.) It didn’t help either that the crowd is also on the older side of things (not yet over the hill, but possibly in view of the summit, let’s say) and a bit more wont to stay seated than to stand if there is an option.

I was surprised that there weren’t more people taking advantage of the open spaces available scattered around which were clearly better than their assigned seats like the first row of the section that tempted me to abandon my own horrible vantage point by the second song. I pointed out one such place and told my mother (who was kind enough to buy the tickets for me when I expressed concern some weeks back about getting tickets as the costs were pretty astronomical, but who didn’t tell me until after she bought them and didn’t know the finer points of seat selection at the time) “I am gonna go stand right there until someone makes me move. Wanna come with?”

I actually ended up in bit of a better spot for that though, since we were absolutely on the tippy top of the last section that was looking at the backside of the stage and the performers for the entire show, and didn’t even have the jumbotron advantage, as they were pointed forward and we got the profile of that as well. It was that screen I wanted to take advantage of, as it didn’t really matter much to me to get a closer view of their backsides on stage. While I did get shooed off the initial spot I had headed for, as it was blocking the stair/exit a bit, I noticed that they did NOT care about a few folks occupying that empty seating directly next to it.

I made my way back up to my Mom during Simon’s appropriately singing Mother and Child Reunion and smuggled her off with me to situate ourselves there instead. Much better, if still a bit less balanced in sound. At least being in the front there meant I could stand without blocking anyone else, which I did, as I just can’t sit still when there is a beat to bounce to. I don’t know how anyone could do that, but a lot of folks did, Mom included, which kinda had a tendency to kill my buzz when I noticed the distinct lack of energy and motion. Closing my eyes was a reasonably effective remedy for that however, and eventually the beer did start kicking in a bit for the crowd a little more. Or maybe it was the “funny smell” Mom noticed that was responsible for that, but whatever. =)

Me, I had my excitement on just from being hopelessly in love with Mr. Sumner. (He’s totally got that whole Jean Luc Picard thing going on with the no-hairdo now, which is a completely other kind of hotness working for him on top of the whole bloody ROCK STAR  even at 62, plus that whole Tantric/Yoga thing, SHEESH, Give a girl a break!) So fuck it – I was dancing. Me and the other girl that was kind enough to scootch over so my mom and I could sit together had our party by ourselves in the corner there. (And I, of course, savored the idea of repeating the best parts of the evening all over again from a different vantage point yet to come… heee wheeeee! One of these days, if I ever get rich enough, I am just gonna follow him around like a stalker from venue to venue all year till I get sick of it. Okay, maybe TWO years…. )

Anyway, the rest is kind of a euphoric blur now, with a notable highlight that was pretty fucking exquisite – like that meal I was talking about before. It was such a delectable surprise I didn’t have a bite left over and was rather amazed at the way the description sounded so awful but tasted so amazing. I had read reviews of it from the earliest shows, but I dunno if the people were not treated to the same experience or if they were simply not having ears attached to their head when they said it didn’t measure up to their liking. The crowd had livened up enough to coax the requisite encores, if not beyond that, but HOLY WOW — when Sting started off “Bridge Over Troubled Water” it just about made me faint tonight -with that uniquely gritty voice of his, with the gospel organ-y sound behind it that almost felt like CHURCH? OMG – I could just die.

*SWOONS*

Reality vs. Religion: MUST it be one or the other?

“Thought you’d like this”  from Lee Zim, via Facebook:

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And then this happened, again. What began as comment outgrew that mental space and become commentary, more suited to blog post than message reply:

LoL – I don’t think that is even an excuse for Palin, since she probably hasn’t even read THAT one. ( Certainly not too carefully, if she thinks the POPE is too liberal. Just wait till she meets JESUS! =D )

I opened the door to someone canvassing for prop 8 support some time ago, and as some of my best people would be directly affected by that law, and I would find anyone who would hurt my friends to be offensive, I was so appalled that someone had dared come knocking on my door to ask me to support such nonsense that all I could do was splutter at them for a moment as I had no words and just ended up slamming the door in the their face rather than tell them what I thought with some choice language. Still, I spent the rest of the day muttering to myself in anger and disgust at the audacity and generally in a foul mood.

It occurred to me that there might have been a better way to handle that, instead of me being po’ed for hours afterward and probably leaving that person thinking I was some rude dyke who didn’t deserve to be treated like a real person since I couldn’t even be kind to them and strengthening their resolve. I wondered what would have happened if I had tried talking with them and explaining why I didn’t agree with that particular idea, and at first had a bit of a panicky reaction too when I said to myself that, to be fair, I would also have to listen to their reasoning behind why I should support it, and OMG what if they actually managed to change my mind? But then I realized that in order to actually do that , they would have to present a sound argument that made sense enough for me to do so, and if it did that, then it was probably alright if I should change my mind anyway, since that would be the stronger position. I realized that as unlikely as that was, I still needn’t be afraid of it happening should it be that one in a million chance.

Armed with that reasoning, I concluded that the next time someone should come knocking and propose some outrageousness, I would NOT angrily slam the door in their face without a word, but instead engage the enemy on the field of reason and discussion. I figured that way, one of several things could happen: 1) they could convince me of their position and I would change my mind (unlikely, but possible). 2) I could convince them of MY position and change their mind, (also unlikely but possible) and 3) even if neither of us would budge, at the very least they would have spent the time talking to me instead of getting further down the block and the very delay might stop them from gaining some additional support for their nonsense, so it was still a win for me in that case. And thus, no more muttering to myself about the NERVE of those dipshits to come asking me for THAT…

So when the Jehovah’s Witness came by about a year ago, despite waking me up to answer the door on a Saturday morning, instead of saying no thanks, and not interested, I said, “Okay, sure, why not? ” and sat down to chat a bit. We’ve developed a nice acquaintance, and I do actually enjoy our discussions when she stops by from time to time. I can say that at least this particular group doesn’t discourage the questions and challenges, which is more credit than I would have previously given them. I was impressed too to find things that others don’t point out in the scriptures which, surprisingly, also might encourage some critical thinking and open mindedness right there in the Rule Book too. It’s been an enlightening experience thus far, and LaKeisha is actually someone I don’t mind knowing. I try to make time to talk with her even when I am not in the mood, because it is usually a learning moment about something no matter what.

I had a conversation with my Jehovah’s Witness friend last week, and she brought another member of the Church along with her this time, that was a bit older. We got to discussing the origins of Satan and the idea that Satan created himself with the evil thoughts and the pride and the greed, and essentially taking himself off the path of righteousness. And because Adam and Eve were essentially the mold for humanity, and because they were tempted by him and led astray, that we all were going to be inherently imperfect as any bread from a dented mold will be dented. This concept was applied as to man, how we might become obsessed with evil thoughts and then act upon them given the opportunity if that is what we spend our minds energy concentrating on all the time.

What was most interesting about this to me, as I have found a lot that I can relate to general philosophy as well as some of the more specific Buddhist ideas that I am familiar with through my Dad, was that what it essentially comes down to is, like anything else, cause and effect. The concept of Karma is essentially cause and effect as well, even when discussing a Karma spread out over several lifetimes, or even kalpas of lifetimes, as the Sutras say.

I am always careful not to tread heavily on the beliefs of the very dedicated to their faith, as that never ends well, but I have found that I do like to test the edges of those beliefs a bit, especially when dealing with those who take the Bible at face value as though it were a strict accounting of fact from the hand of God, rather than the product of man and allegorical collection of wisdom combined over the ages. I think there is room for something in between the bearded fairy father in the sky and the idea that it is all some random uncontrolled explosion of matter and energy that has no other purpose except to be fleeting chaos. And I try to challenge some of the literal interpretation with something that is equally meaningful and holds the same lessons of why some behavior is self destructive to try and loosen the rigidity of the zealots who don’t appear to be able to recognize obvious horse puckey for what it is when they say it is all written exactly as it happened LITERALLY. (Mind boggling how otherwise seemingly rational folks can’t allow for the possibility that God is not some dude on a golden throne on the clouds, but more all encompassing than some patriarchal OTHER consciousness entirely that we have to OBEY or else.)

At any rate, this was one of those opportunities to try and temper some of the inherent idiocy in the folks who are so deeply indoctrinated in their religion. They are talking to me, trying to convince me that theirs is the only way to believe, and they don’t know that I am there talking to them to try and show them it is not. I figure its an opportunity to learn and spread intelligence and a seed of open mindedness, should the ground be fertile. If not, at least its a good way to keep my reasoning sharp and also is surprisingly supportive of my own spiritual understanding, and remains a challenge to keep my own faith grounded, and I found some affirmation in the things that seem to resonate in reality and spiritually equally well.

Such was the case with this notion of we shall reap what we sow, and I tried to say so to my guests, by gently explaining how there are many religions that believe in reincarnation and the how the concept of Karma was applicable to this same idea of this evil creating itself rather than being of God’s work to inflict it upon us (which would paint God in a rather cruel and unfavorable light.)  Even though I never even validated the idea that one might experience an actual reincarnation, my point was that the concept of what we put in motion is what follows us with consequences of that action is something more than just a Biblical construct of Satan, but one that is founded in reason and science and other worldly philosophies as well .  I try to do that wherever possible, as an illustration that perhaps the reason to follow some of the precepts of the Bible is not (or not JUST) because God has decreed it so, but because they are in fact reasonable ways to behave so as not to end up destroying ourselves.

And sure, perhaps that may be why God decreed it so, but really as a reason to do something it lacks impetus for any non-believer.   It is my hope that I shall encounter more frequently in life more people like my friend from MIT, who is living proof that religious faith and critical thinking skills need not be mutually exclusive.  Since it is notoriously difficult to sway the critical thinker to a faith, I am hoping to inspire some faithful to embrace their minds as well as God.

But anyway, as this entire point was brought up with the discussion of Adam and Eve chatting with Satan in the form of a snake in the Garden, then, I had to repress a rather exasperated smirk when the older woman’s reaction was to frown and insist, “Well that is different, than what WE’RE talking about. THIS is REAL.”

*sigh*

And THIS would be why intelligent folks are so often atheists.

But I stifled the urge to shake my head and roll my eyes, and kept quiet. The younger one, there is possibly some hope to find a middle ground there, and even more so with her daughter, but the older one is pretty well rooted in the literal word there, and I am not likely to do more than annoy her if I push.

This Pope Francis now, though… he gives me some hope that not all who are deeply religious are also deeply idiotic. I LOVE what he’s done with the place… =D