Sunday, December 5, 2010


For the last few years, I've worked with credit cards from different banks in either customer service or collections. I've heard all the stories. I've seen all the procedures. If you ask me, credit cards are the ultimate evil. This is because they have taken the greatest evil, usury, and made it even worse. Take into consideration this excerpt from Wikipedia:

Usury ([…] from the Medieval Latin usuria, "interest" or from the Latin usura "interest") originally meant the charging of interest on loans. This included charging a fee for the use of money, such as at a bureau de change. After interest became acceptable, usury came to mean the interest above the rate allowed by law. In common usage today, the word means the charging of unreasonable or relatively high rates of interest. The term is largely derived from Christian religious principles; Riba is the corresponding Arabic term and ribbit the Hebrew one.

Back in the day, charging interest (at any rate) was considered evil, but somehow the meaning of the word changed. Ah, the power of money! On first sight, charging interest seems like a great thing. People can buy things they can't afford by borrowing money, and then pay a little for the favor. Poor people get their instant gratification and the wealthy get more wealth. It's a win/win, right? No wonder it eventually became acceptable. Imagine if the meaning of "murder" eventually changed to something like "to kill more than 10 people within a week".

While I no longer consider myself a religious type, I still observe Christian values. Whether you believe Jesus is the son of God or just a really neat guy with great ideas, fabulous abs and a riding velociraptor, you can't deny most of his teachings are plain common sense (emphasis on "most", as in "not all"). You see, I believe in ancient wisdom. Our ancestors learned from their mistakes and put their findings in writing, and although most of the time they don't explain themselves clearly, upon deeper analysis you can find there are good reasons for these laws; even if you find said reasons are obsolete today.

Take pork, for example (mmmmm pork). Many religions forbid eating pork. I'm sure most people think this is pure superstition if not downright stupid. Then, there's also bacon (a very valid point), but let me share a little anecdote with you. I live in a country that still employs the tradition of cooking whole pigs over an open fire. While it's certainly good eats, even with modern-day sanitation standards I have gotten sick from eating pork cooked like that. Once it was so bad, I couldn't eat pork like that for years, and still won't do if I don't trust the source. If it hadn't been for modern-day medicine, I could have possibly died. It was definitely a bad idea to eat pork 2000 years ago, but it was very hard to explain why.

It was a bad idea to charge interest 2000 years ago. It still is today. It's still somewhat hard to explain today. I'll still try.

Many of those against usury believe charging interest is wrong because you'd make profit without working. Here I am, all rich and fat, charging interest from the poor, getting richer without moving a muscle. To me that's not really it. Sure, it sickens me, but you can't blame them for trying! Besides, lending (and collecting) money is hard work! Remember, I'm in the business (although it's not my money). In addition, the renting of land, buildings and the ownership of intellectual properties are honest ways of making money out of having something, without doing much work.

Others believe the real problem is that of abuse. The most obvious example would be lenders rising rates in times of need or applying excessive penalties. In some countries, even today, people who can't pay their debt have to work for the lender; they become slaves. On the other hand, delinquency can drive a lender bankrupt. Abuse only happens in extreme cases, and the authorities can regulate it. Besides, one can see similar abuse in regular commerce (high prices, shoplifting), so one should always be careful about giving more power to those who already have more than enough. Close, but no cigar.

What is it then? Put in the simplest of words, usury makes it profitable to be rich and expensive to be poor. Therefore, the rich are bound to get richer just for being rich while the poor get poorer just for being poor, this effect reflects collectively regardless of the individual's efforts. This comes with other serious side effects. For the rich it encourages hoarding; amassing large amounts of wealth solely for lending with the goal of eventually living entirely off interest. Many wealthy people live frugal lives and never really enjoy their fortunes and even those with more flamboyant lifestyles do not spend in proportion to their income. This, in turn increases the ratio of people being born rich. In the case of the working class and the poor this encourages the opposite: excessive spending, probably because of a false perception that one can always borrow more, as a way to compensate for certain things one is perceived to be deprived of or as a way to attempt to live the lifestyle the born-rich portray as normal though advertising. The flow of goods, services and wealth becomes entirely unidirectional and as a result, the value of money for the hoarders, the born rich and the indebted is different and the line between necessity and luxury is increasingly blurred. This blur is relative to the degree of separation between the higher and lower class.

Another secondary reason I believe usury is wrong is because lending is a form of gambling. You give money to a person hoping they pay back with interest. You adjust the rates according to the possibility of the borrower actually paying. Now if a rich man makes an unwise loan and ends up losing the money, we can assume he knew the risk and he probably still has enough to feed his family. Besides, given the concern that his family's well-being is at stake he'd only lend to someone he trusts. Is it the same way with corporations? When a corporation with thousands of employees makes thousands of unwise loans that aren't paid, they just start kicking out employees and rising rates until they're back on the black. The ex-employees in turn have to default on their loans and before you know it, you have a mayor crisis across the country. I don't mind a little gambling here and there, but that shit ain't funny.

What can be done to correct this? Well, since we can't ask banks stop charging interest, perhaps we can just stop handing it to them. I learned how to do this the hard way. About 5 years ago, I decided to apply for a credit card; it was my very first so it had a very small credit line and ridiculously high rates, but I needed to get some stuff for my new job from which I was fired before I could do the first payment. Besides that card, I had also borrowed on a few other places. My credit was ruined before it was even established! All the accounts were charged off. I had to learn the hard way to pay up front or realize if something is too expensive then maybe it's not for me. When I look back, I'm glad it happened; otherwise, right now I'd be up to my eyeballs in debt.

The good news is that you can learn from my misfortune/mistakes. The first step is to re-establish a clear boundary between necessity and luxury. Once this has been defined, you know when it's OK to borrow and when you should just save and wait. In my opinion, a middle-class family should only take two loans in a lifetime: one for a house and one for a car. Everything else can be covered paycheck-to-paycheck and with savings. A big screen high-def TV is definitely not worth getting in debt. If you REALLY want it, you certainly can have it, just start saving for it! In the end, you'll value it more and it'll cost you a lot less.

If you still insist you need it NOW, then under no circumstance use a credit card. Credit cards are too volatile, at any time they can change your rates, credit limits, fees or services. In addition, even the most reputable institutions will occasionally send you an invitation for some obscure "service". By invitation I mean a letter that congratulates you for been selected and advising you to call as soon as possible if you wish to opt-out; by the time you find out it's too late to object. Instead, take a loan from a small bank or, better yet, a local credit union (at least that way you're not making the fattest man fatter) with a fixed rate, due date and balance. Make sure you read the small print and compare all the choices before you sign and keep a close eye on any piece of paperwork they send you.

That's all I have to say… o yeah, post a comment!

Broken Democracy

The first time I ever voted was in 2008. I attribute this to a lack of interest in whatever any of the running candidates had to offer. You see, politics in my country are pretty messed up.

Contrary to what you'd see in most democracies, where different parties pick a side (left or right) based on their ideals on how the country should run, we have 3 parties which differentiate themselves solely by the kind of relation they want to have with the United States. Right after breaking free of the Spanish monarchy these options made a lot of sense; this seemed like an issue that needed to be resolved immediately, so the population set all other differences aside and picked a party. The only problem is that things have been the same for generations. That's why I was not interested in either, but at the time, I wasn't quite able to put my finger on it, probably because I didn't really care. All I knew was that they would promise to lead us in the right direction only to have four more years of nothing happening and I got bored of it. I also remember arguing with other kids at school over politics, actually, over our parents' views on politics. We'd sing parodies of the other guy's campaign jingles and attend rallies for fun.

On the last election year a fourth party was formed and, always being one to root for the underdog, I started "following" it. I'd pay closer attention to debates on TV, listen to the news and read the paper. It all made so much sense now. Their point was exactly what I had been thinking, we need to start worrying about the real issues and then we'll be able to make a better decision regarding colonial status. Suddenly you'd see candidates bring deeper topics forward, caring more about the economy, the environment, social and moral issues - subjects they'd never bring up when it was just the usual suspects. I was really pumped.

My party flopped so bad it wasn't even funny. I haven't heard about them ever since. I wasn't really surprised. What surprised me was that once the dust settled, everything was back to normal. I was really hoping for some change in the way politicians went about themselves.

Well, all that reading and listening wasn't a complete waste of time. I realized the same people have toyed with my entire country for the last century. The two major parties (pro-statehood and pro-status quo) have had a perpetual tug-of-war for power that only seems to fuel the loyalty of a fanatical legion of blind followers. It doesn't matter how corrupt their candidate is, or how much potential the adversary has, voters are taught that if they let the enemy win, in the blink of an eye, their "ideal" wins forever (even though that has never happened). They make such a great spectacle that nobody ever suspects that both parties share the exact same ideals and that in order to keep the fear of each other alive, nothing will ever be done in regards of our colonial status. Things will remain unchanged as long as they are allowed to continue taking turns stuffing their pockets at the people's expense.

Speaking of fear, I'm pretty sure half the people in this country have no idea what a republic is. I kid you not. Up until the nineties, the word "republic" was used by those against independence to scare the others into believing that "without the US we would become a republic". I guess they, being so fond of the states, didn't know that it is a republic. So you can imagine what the general understanding of any other forms of government is. It's not because people can't understand or don't care, it's because their eyes have been shrouded. In public school, history class is always very vague and always skips decades of important events. Kids are diverted with fairytale-like stories about the native Tainos and the Spanish conquistadors. From there to the present, it's all fuzzy. Moreover, we're never taught the history of the United States. What could it be that those in power don't want the people to know? Is it maybe that they're all a bunch of borderline far right-wingers?

Year after year the news covers countless stories of corruption, bribing and embezzlement. Year after year, they prove their allegiance to the wealthy. And every four years the people either "revolt" out of anger for a terrible administration or re-elect out of fear the "opposing" party may be even worse. Every debate is based solely on their plans to resolve the colonial status and a few pressing issues, every other subject is avoided or discussed as politically correctly as possible. Every four years they will belittle their real opposition by totally ignoring them and making the public believe a vote for them is a vote wasted, that there are only two real choices. Every four years they teach us to vote defensively by identifying the worst candidates and voting for their closest competitors. Every four years they will point their fingers at each other and call "thief". They are usually right.

I understand any other country ending up with just two parties, but we've been forced into a bipartisan system in which both alternatives are the same. By law, we are entitled to a referendum to choose between independence and statehood (or anything in between, I suppose). A referendum is a vote by the people, regardless of who is in charge; direct democracy at its finest. In the end, however, I believe we have no say in the colonial status issue, just like a slave has no say on his freedom, and a stranger can't decide he wants to live in your house. There have been a couple of these since I can recall; the result is always inconsequential. Both major parties sabotage the results by adding shady options or diluting the most popular alternative. The last time around the winning option was "none of the above" I shit you not. One of the parties even campaigned for this option.

If you want to know, I am mostly undecided (regarding colonial status); probably because I know I had been looking at a few details from the wrong perspective. I believe most of us have taken a side for the wrong reasons. Many statehood supporters see it as an opportunity to tap into an infinite source of wealth. Many independence supporters believe statehood will entirely rid us of our culture and identity. The rest are just afraid of change. In a way they all make sense, thus we have a very un-debatable subject. This is where democracy comes in. If we can't all be happy, well, then let's try to make the most people happy! I've been reading a lot lately, studying different forms of government, reading the untold story of our country. The best part so far is that now I understand political jokes on TV talk shows. I can't wait until the next election year, when I hope I have a few opportunities to make a few people realize they've been made fools of. People have to realize what they stand for, what they REALLY want for their country. The colonial status-based party system has to end.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

This poo shall pass.

Warning: This post contains graphic depictions of potty business.

There comes a time in a man’s life when the call of nature is so strong that one must break free of any comfort zones and venture into the darkest of places: the public restroom. It’s a known fact that one must be cautious in these environments in order not to become diseased. However, the truth is that the entire process would be a lot easier and safer for all of us if everybody stopped being so stupid about it.

Consider this: How often is a public restroom cleaned? How often do you thoroughly clean YOUR bathroom? The first fact of the day is that a properly maintained public restroom is probably cleaner than its domestic counterpart. If you don’t trust the maintenance workers maybe it’s because you know you’d leave behind a mess that you wouldn’t clean up yourself even if you were paid to.

The first step for cleaner bathrooms would be for owners to provide sanitizing wipes rather than those waxed toilet seat liners. The only thing stupider than one of those is when someone uses toilet paper to line the seat. Then they proceed to bend the laws of physics in order to sit down without moving it. I guess they’re pretty confident that it won’t fall in the water and slowly wick the water towards their unsuspecting behinds. What makes them think these liners are sterile, anyway? Are they aware that after each and every flush there are hundreds of drops of toilet water splashed all over the stall (including the TP roll and that liner dispenser)? Of course, now that you're all done, the liner is too gross for you to dispose of properly. Hopefully it’ll eventually get tired of being there and hop into the toilet all by itself when you're not looking.

Then there are those who are way smarter than that, they know liners don’t work. Yep, I’m talking about those douchebags that will somehow get their #2 all over the place but the toilet to avoid sitting down. I guess they believe they can somehow aim their torpedoes from any distance. People who think like this should die of constipation. Think of the employee that is going to have to clean up after you! I swear if I ever find myself in that situation I will quit on the spot. Screw it.

Back to the TP subject, did you know this kind of tissue is designed to be water-soluble? What I’m trying to say is: you’re supposed to flush it (no, it’s not going to clog the toilet, and if it does, then the owner of the building should upgrade their plumbing)! Doesn’t depositing your poo in the garbage bin defeat the purpose of indoor plumbing? You might as well just go in the garbage bin!

I guess all of these principles apply to #1 as well. Even when there are urinals, there’s always the one shy dude that needs to lock up in case he breaks into dance (that would explain the mess) in the middle of his business.

In the end, it’s all a vicious cycle of people that make the bathroom scary because they’re scared of it. Think about it. Keep some sanitizing wipes with you and wash your hands thoroughly when you’re done. Simple.

Looks like I'm not the only one worried about this subject!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Nine Eleven

I originally thought of tweeting this, but there are times when 140 characters are not even close.

It’s about the events that occurred in Tuesday September the 11th, 1979. A beautiful boy that would eventually be known as teh 201d was born that glorious day. I’m positively sure many people were also born that day and even more followed the next year, and the years after just like many will be born next Friday. I attribute this to it being nine months after the first week of December, when couples around the northern hemisphere find the lowered temperatures most opportune for cuddling.

Of course, that would only be important if you were me, which you’re not (because, clearly you are you). Nevertheless, there are also several momentous events linked to this date, for example, according to Wikipedia; Stephen Foster's well-known song, Oh! Susanna was first performed at a saloon in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in September 11, 1847. Is that neat or what? But let’s assume, for a moment, that you actually care about me. Let’s say you know me, even.

Why on earth would anyone approach me upon this date, with a comment about how my birthday is on “nine eleven?” I can’t possibly think of any reason for this except for being an evil, uncaring jerk… or perhaps… HA! That’s it! My friends and family are not evil; they just don’t realize the implications of such comments! Okay, then, what I’ll do is I will compile a list of phrases you “might as well say” (that way I won’t have to spend my 31st birthday hiding from the people I love)!

Things you might as well say:

  • I have brought you all the medicines I don’t need anymore for your birthday. Take them all with a tall glass of water and die quietly.
  • Wanna come over and burn some Qur’ans?
  • Why aren’t you watching the 24 hour special on TV today, you jerk?
  • The attacks did not happen on your 22nd birthday; you were born 22 years before the attacks, you evil terrorist!
  • Aren't you ashamed of having your birthday today?
  • Don’t you even care about the people who died?
  • Are you a terrorist?
  • Wanna come over and burn some Bibles?
  • What is wrong with you?
  • Admit it; you are happy all these people died!
  • Wanna come over and burn some people?
  • I hate you.
  • I poisoned your cake. You’re welcome.
  • Yo 201d, I'm really happy for you, I’m ‘a let you finish your birthday cake. But 9/11 is one of the worst days of all time! OF ALL TIME!

Every year on my birthday I can’t help remembering that day. I remember it like it was today. I would forget my anniversary or my kids’ birthdays if they were not recurring events in my calendar, and I may get their baby pictures mixed up, but this one I can’t forget. It was my 22nd birthday and I had taken the day off from work. I spent the whole day glued to the TV, shocked, hoping things would turn out alright and watching things get worse and worse. I called everyone I knew. I was lucky nobody I knew was there.

I don’t expect people to stop caring, but I would really, really like people to stop bringing me down in a day that’s already sad. It’s sad not only because of the memories, but because of the blatant bigotry that is launched year after year that only seems to worsen with time. I have been cursed by this even though I had nothing to do with it. One thing is not related to the other. There are 8,036 days and about 2,000 miles between one and the other. Please consider this. That would be the best birthday gift EVER.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Facebook: I'm doing it wrong?

Someone told me the previous post came off as a bit rude. I admit I was pretty upset when I wrote it and I'm sorry if it made you cry. Here, I edited it.

When I say I'm blocking someone it's because I know this person isn't really like what I'm seeing on screen. But I still like the person!

Can we be friends again?

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Facebook: You're doing it wrong.

Let me tell you a little about my general experience with this Facebook service you’ve probably heard of. Back in the day, when MySpace was still relevant, my wife would spend a great deal of time in these social networks. Every once in a while she would call me to show me something neat she had found, or would tell me how she got back in touch with someone from elementary school. I would say “heh, cool” then go about my business, for I knew that behind the social connections, and the sharing of information, lied a vast network of spam and douchebaggery.

At one point I decided I’d give it a shot, chiefly, I guess, because I don’t really “keep in touch” with any of my friends. I am a human being; therefore I get lonely at times. I figured I could disable all the email notifications and carefully adjust the page’s settings to minimize spam and other annoyances. The result of this experiment has been quite satisfactory. I certainly spent the first few weeks blocking applications left and right, and I was extremely careful as of whom to allow the privilege of my electronic friendship.

I would, and still do to this day, befriend only friends, family, and trusted acquaintances. I have declined many a request from people I actually know, just not that much. I also intentionally let out people who could use my information against me, namely supervisors and elderly relatives.

One of the most satisfying circumstances is when friends from very different circles interact when commenting on my posts.

That being said, the true purpose of this post is to point out the different ways in which my friends are ruining this Facebook experience I enjoyed so much, a series of irksome trends that are growing in popularity.

  • General inappropriateness: Cursing, posting tasteless pictures, that kind of thing. I mean, seriously, we’re grown ups now. Also keep in mind that it is a growing trend to open accounts for minors, although it is forbidden by the terms of service.
  • Improper spelling and grammar: I am not a native English speaker, nor was I formally taught beyond the basics in school (ask any Puerto Rican of my generation and they will agree public school English does not make one bilingual). I put a lot of effort not only on expanding my vocabulary, but also on making sure I did not speak with a silly thick accent. Those of us who have made this extra effort take particular pride on it. I am equally passionate about my native tongue, Spanish. It really bothers me when an American mixes up “your” and “you’re”, and it bothers me because I know they know it's not correct.
  • Excessive shorthand: On the same line of thought as the previous, I believe this butchering of the Queen's English is mostly due to the perceived need for fast and furious typing, along with misguided Internet acronyms and "smileys". If you're going to use an acronym, make sure you know the meaning of it and picture it in it's long form. A phrase like "OMG what are you doing?" would make sense, whereas "LOL what are you doing?" would not. Also, a "smiley" can add a lot to a message but should not be part of a sentence.
  • Passive-aggressive posts: Look, if you’re mad at someone, but think confrontation would be unwise, try the following: punch a wall, write an angry letter and burn it, stab yourself… but please, do not post an angry note aimed at a second person (i.e. the reader). Eventually a handful of your friends will suspect the post was aimed at them. I, for one, will automatically assume the aggression is indeed aimed at me and will proceed to block you, just to be safe.
  • Marketing: So you have joined this shady pyramid scheme great marketing network and need people to join your network in order to make profit. You decide to dust off the old Facebook and tell your neglected friends about all the money you’re making and how financially independent you are. That’s sad, really. I block sad posts. I don’t mind you trying to sell me something just as long as you continue addressing me as a friend and not as a potential customer/recruit/money tree.
  • Preaching: I respect your faith (or lack thereof) just as much as I find it disturbing. Keep it away from me, please. This includes all the raging, fanatical, atheists. Also, the word “Amen” is not a substitute for the period at the end of a sentence.
  • Tagging: Use tagging to put a square around my face if I indeed am in the picture. If you want to show me the picture use the “share” feature. The same applies for the faces of other people in pictures I have posted. Don’t make me revoke your tagging privileges!
  • Profile pictures: Do not use avatars, pets or your own children. Some people aren’t good at remembering names and really rely on the profile picture for reference. Also, your baby is ugly.
  • Applications: I don’t really mind the use of applications (however stupid they are) as these can be easily blocked. Some people, however, seem to discover a new, unblocked application on a daily basis.
  • Gaming: This is my greatest pet peeve. I have already written about how Facebook games are evil, but to recap: These are crappy games designed to ensnare poor fools into believing they’re having fun while in reality they are only addicted. Luckily, Facebook games are also applications, therefore posts coming from them can be blocked. The new trend is introducing systems that require you to beg other players for items through regular status updates. I will instantaneously block anyone requesting nails, boards, bricks, or widgets. Use the in-game messaging for that.
I hope this explains why I never seem to notice your posts.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Apple's bitch

Ah, music; It can have a very powerful effect on people, but only when timed right (try humming the Star Wars cantina theme at a funeral). I own a very large music library but having it shuffled certainly throws off my mojo. I rely in tools such as smart and pre-made playlists, carefully setting id tags such as Genre, Mood, BPM and closely watching play and skip counts to make sure listening is a satisfying experience. About half of my library is composed of songs I don’t really love but I keep for the sake of variety and because I like to hoard stuff (among other uses). This is why I’m so picky when it comes to using the right player, both at home and abroad.

About 4 years ago I didn’t really have much of a “library”. Half of my songs I kept in the “My music” folder (Windows XP) and the other one at the office. I was lucky back then to be allowed to play music at work. They had a very strict IT policy, but it was perfectly OK to bring audio CDS, eventually one of my superiors suggested I rip them into Windows Media Player when he saw me swapping disks. I remember One day I had WMP scan the entire building’s network for music. I found the entire Green Day collection! I used to take the bus so I got a portable CD player that also played data CDs for the trip.

Eventually I got tired of burning disks and got myself an iPod. Being the underprivileged cheapskate that I am, I got the 512Mb shuffle. At the time it was a cheap alternative, and although there were other players that did more for less, I just didn’t trust the other brands. I installed iTunes with the CD that came bundled-in and decided to allow iTunes to manage my music library.

I switched jobs and I learned the joys of Peer to Peer file sharing. It wasn’t long at all before the library became pretty big and I decided to have iTunes “consolidate tracks” and have it completely manage all my music. I started playing with smart playlists which slowly had me become very anal when it came to have all my tracks organized; I needed to have the right genre, year, track number, artist and it had to be accurately rated, specially with downloaded music. It was all legal, if you’re wondering; Free-to share music and whatnot. Yeah.

One day the shuffle just broke. I went to unplug it and half of it remained plugged in. I had no way to disassemble it or anything. I went a couple of years without portable music (except for the occasional burnt CD) until I started researching MP3 players that were not Apple brand. Long story short, I went through several players, all with all sorts of neat features iPods never had, for a fraction of the price.

Just one issue: iTunes only syncs with iPods. The horror. I had fallen in Apple’s trap. I had to manually copy the files and when I did it didn’t really make a difference in the library. I figured the problem was the software and went looking for alternatives. WMP? Yuck! The interface is ugly, it sorts the music wrong, and they mess up the “artist“and “album artist”, erratically turning them into “artist” and “contributing artist”. I tried a couple more but they were all missing one or two key features. Most recently I tried Songbird, after reading it promised to be the ultimate iTunes killer. Well, this bird needs to grow feathers before it can learn to fly. It was (and is) a bloody mess. So sad, really, because had it worked, it would do everything iTunes did, then some, then sync to my non iPod player.

Last week I was trying to sync it and I was in a hurry to an appointment. It kept freezing up and saying it was full. I was so frustrated I yanked it off the USB port and hurled it at a wall. Poor Sansa c250 went to music player heaven. Why was I so frustrated? Was it the software? The hardware? No. It was because just then I realized I had been Apple’s little bitch for all these years. I had spent countless hours trying to figure out a way to break free, all for naught. There I was on square one.

I broke my piggy bank, took it to the Coinstar and bought a last-generation shuffle. It truly is a wonderful thing. With a built-in speech function, it doesn’t really need a screen, and also, it can now play playlists. It’s so tiny you forget you’re wearing it, and it’s just… so fucking cute! Have you noticed how apple products always look so awesome, and how they always make the previous generation look like crap?

Here I am listening to my new baby as I type. The circle is closed, for now. I can stop researching players… I can finally enjoy music. I am such a crack whore. There is just one thing. These earbuds… they are evil! They are ergonomically sized and shaped to fit the average African elephant (sorry Asian elephants, your ears are too small). I get a headache from wearing the suckers, but I have to if I want to be able to use any features the player has, because the controls are set ON the cable! Whose idea was that? I can use my old noise isolating earbuds just fine, but I can’t do anything but listen. I can get an adapter for about $15, or I could buy the apple-branded alternative for about $90. Almost twice the cost of the player (with earbuds). Genius. Evil genius. I’d smash the iPod against the wall, but it’s so cute…

Monday, March 8, 2010

What Google knows about me

As the dust clouds left by the Great Google Buzz Snafu of 2010 (an actual historic event) fades and the hate posts from blogs across the world begin to diminish I stumbled upon an ad banner that made me want to write about Google too.

Now, before I continue, a few points must be made clear:

  1. I love Google
  2. I do not wish to have my Gmail, Blogger, YouTube, Picasa, Reader, Wish list, Google Docs or Google Calendar deleted
  3. I would die of any of these are deleted
  4. I do not think Google is an evil corporation trying to take over the world
  5. If at any point Google decides to take its rightful place as ruler of humanity I will not join the imminent rebellion
  6. I love Google

At first I thought I’d stay clear of this trend of criticizing Google after the Buzz screw-up, then I thought I’d join in, then I got distracted and forgot about it. If you were not following, what happened was that Google decided to add an entire social network to every Gmail account, and to incorporate the use of every other Google product to this system. If you ask me, it was a very clever idea. The only problem is the way it was implemented. Suddenly everybody had a Buzz account, their friends were selected for them, and lots of information about them shared with these new “friends”. Lots of people went berserk over how, suddenly, because they send a lot of emails to their boss, Google decided their boss wanted to know what they’d been watching on Google Reader. I’d flipped out too if it weren’t for the fact that I don’t email a lot of people. Well, in the end Google realized their mistake, apologized, and fixed it.

Right after this incident, lots of upset users started venting their views on Google’s apparent information monopoly. This is because how Buzz exposed a lot of information about ourselves that many thought was unrelated. Suddenly people realized how much they’ve told Google about themselves throughout all these years. Many panicked, and the truth is that it is a little scary.

Google knows who you email and what you’ve sent them. Google knows what you search for on the internet, and how much you like what you like. Google knows what you do for a living and what you do for fun. Google knows all of your ailments (like when you searched “explosive diarrhea”) and exactly what kind of porn you like best. Google knows you.

My question is: What’s wrong with that? Hey, if Google’s going to post an ad banner (which is what pays for all those free websites you visit) at least it posts something relevant! Google also uses this knowledge to fine-tune your search results. It’s all really awesome. What if it knows what kind of video games I like? That just makes it easier to me to search for video games!

Second, you have to realize, Google is an it, not a he, she or a them. It’s a computerized system. Sure, it’s run by people, but don’t expect to have a human being on the other side of your monitor furiously writing your deepest secrets on a scratch pad. That’s just silly. It’s also silly to assume that Google gives a damn about your darkest secrets. It’s not like the company’s CEO occasionally prints your statistics and shows them to his friends to have a good laugh. It’s not like these statistics can even be printed in a readable format.

There are only two things you should worry about. I shall discuss them even when they are already covered by common sense:

The first is the risk of this data being hacked. Hey, it can happen! Just make sure not to share vital information over the internet, not just Google. Never share your password nor make it anything obvious (and if it’s by any chance “12345” please slap yourself). Follow basic Internet security guidelines and the possibility of your stuff being broken into roughly the same of your house being broken into, you know, where you keep all that delicate information.

The second is mistakes like the implementation of Buzz. To prevent this, well, don’t post anything on the Internet that you would not say in public and adhere to the “nothing nice to say” policy. If you REALLY need to remain anonymous, create separate accounts for those uses and do not use your real name.

See, it’s all common sense, like I said. You can’t expect the Internet to be perfect, after all, its run by humans.

After much deliberation I have linked my actual name to this “201d” persona. Simply put: I may not have much to show, but I have nothing to hide. I am aware a Google search for my real name can lead to thinks I have posted as 201d, and vice versa. I don’t really care.

All this is only to present a setting to the real issue of my post: Why does Google think I’m gay? If Google is supposed to show only relevant ads, why do I only get ads for Gay dating services? Honestly, guys, do I look gay? I promise I will never wear those pants again, it was laundry day and I had nothing else to wear, I swear. Is it maybe because my daughters had been searching for Jonas Brothers pictures without me logging off? If so, so help me God, they’ll be grounded for life, I tell ya.

I just hope the Google Bot crawls trough this page and reads this:

I am a heterosexual male currently married to a heterosexual female. I am not interested in dating, period. I have been feeding you information for over a decade now, and I honestly expected you to get this one bit of information right. Please fix it.
Thanks for reading.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Naught but a dream

Note: This was originally written on Wednesday, September 10, 2008. I was sorting through my documents and found it. Just a couple minor edits and here it is. Even though it is sort of embarrassing, I find it worth sharing mostly because it is a rare occurrence when I recall my dreams, specially the good ones.

Last night I had this most delightful dream. I got up in the morning feeling quite good, but at the same time I was grumpy because it was over.

That’s how you mess up your mind’s simulator, by waking up. Before it has a chance to transfer all the data to your subconscious, where it will be used to make faster calculations in the future, you regain consciousness, cluttering your system with useless data that is still being shuffled around. The data will be eventually sorted out, and eventually you forget the dream, being awake just slows down the process. Like defragmenting your hard drive while you’re using the computer. Besides that minor glitch is quite a splendid system. If you ever find yourself completely naked in front of an audience, you will know exactly how to react, or at least you will double check you are decent before stepping outside.

In my dream I was back in what felt like the early nineties. I must have been in about 8th to 10th grade. I was feeling a lot more confident than I did back in the day, and even though I couldn’t see myself in the dream, I knew I looked better, I felt healthier, like I feel now (back in ‘08 after losing about 30 pounds and gaining the ability to do pushups). Yeah, most probably my teenage years would have been better if I had laid off the videogames. It was dark outside, and there were a couple drops of water on the windows, like it had rained before. I was sitting in the back seat of a brand new SUV (back in the day SUVs were the bomb), right behind the driver. At the wheel there was a nice looking middle-aged man (upper-middle class, judging by the ride), to his side a female of the same demographic. They never looked back, as if they trusted me. I could feel they liked me, but they were not my parents, they were the parents of the lovely girl by my side. She was also in her early teens, athletic build, long, straight black hair, and a great smile. Yes, she was smiling, but that’s all I remember, that and that she was pretty, but I wouldn’t be able to tell you how.

This is just the setting. It was like me and the girl were on some kind of date and her parents had come to pick us up and were on their way to take me home. What puzzles me is why my mind would place me in such a situation. Whatever I learned from this simulation has little or no strategic value. Maybe the lesson was that I should keep an eye on the rear-view mirror whenever I pick up my daughters from a date? Nah, that would be absurd, my daughters will not go on dates until they’re at least 30.

Now here’s what happened. We were riding along, and everyone was quiet. My right hand was lying on my knee, and with her index finger she scribbled something on the back of my hand. It felt like she was being shy about it, like she didn’t want me to notice. She wasn’t even looking at me. I was actually looking so I followed the movement of the finger and actually made out what she wrote. And just like my narration paused, the dream itself paused for a moment (I’m pretty sure my brain must have taken hours just to figure what to do next). So I put my other hand on top of hers. I held her hand and stared blankly out the window. I was holding my breath trying not to sigh, or to giggle. Like I didn’t notice, but kinda like maybe I did. I was sitting there thinking how my life was so great… then I woke up. 10 seconds of action, yet it felt like hours.

So today I was lying in bed about to fall asleep, when it all came rushing back. I thought I’d write it down before my brain finished defragmenting.

Will I ever be in a situation in which teenage romance will save my life? I highly doubt so. Still I am glad I had this dream. I had a very depressing adolescence, and this is certainly what I would have wanted it to be like. It’s something I never had and never will have, and it felt like I was really there, like I was really 15 years younger and things were going my way. It felt really nice, and I don’t want to forget that, even if it never happened.

Well, that was random. I gotta go back to bed.

TMI? Probably.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Twenty Ten

Say it out loud: "Twen-ty-ten"

Sexy, huh? I haven't met a soul who's not glad the whole "Two thousand and..." decade is finished. It even looks like 201D! The question now is, what shall we call this defunct decade when making cultural references? The Two-thousands? The 2Ks? The double-Ohs? My proposal is we skip the decade altogether, let's talk about the eighties, the nineties, then the tens.

Anyways, I want to start this decade wishing my readers an epic 2010, full of win and awesome. I've also redesigned the blog (or rather un-designed it, as I've moved from a hand-made template to one of the simplest defaults) and added Facebook functionality (see sidebar) in hopes people will read it. There will be new stuff to read as well, so tell your friends and don't forget to subscribe to the RSS feed or become a fan in Facebook (you can also set this blog as your homepage if you REALLY like it) and stay tuned for more Undeniable Logic.