Saturday, December 29, 2012

Canned Asperagus

Some folks will tell you money won’t buy you happiness.  Funny, isn’t it, how these are the same folks who want to ‘relieve’ you of your money woes?  Bah.  Money can bring you plenty of happiness – but it all depends on what you do with it.  Sure, throwing it over a crowded football stadium could be fun.  So could flying to outer space.  Maybe even building a mansion at the bottom of the sea could be a hoot.  Maybe even building a football stadium under the sea that could be seen from space.  Wait, hold on…   need to patent that real quick…


I’ve found the most enjoyment I get from my money, though, is by spending it on someone who is truly grateful.  I’m a big fan – especially around the holidays – of loosening the coinpurse.  No, that is not a metaphor for freeballing.  I had several holidays growing up where either the food wasn’t there, the gifts, or both.  I was never disappointed by the lack of gifts – I’ve always found holiday gift-giving as being a vehicle for spending time with the family.  Honestly, I could do less with more ‘things’ and more with people.  But, I digress from this rant.

Something I’ve done with my age is to correct that for others.  I won’t say this insight was brought about from my wisdom or maturity, because I don’t think either is required to know how to bring a smile to somebody’s day.  Maybe a youthful optimism in humans combined with my adult income.  No, that’s not a joke.  While I dislike the more adult version of humans – they’ve lost the ability to view life with that singular joy of having seen something for the very first time – I find the fire of the smaller ones absolutely worth the effort to feed and grow.

It’s not that hard, really.  A few extra bucks at the grocery store nets a few tins of food that someone out there can’t buy for their family.  A ten dollar toy is worth a hundred dollars to a child that has none.  Hell, here’s a REAL easy one – you know how grocery stores offer those free turkeys for Thanksgiving and Christmas?  But you never really use it because you’ll be chowing with friends and family?  Why not donate the bird to your local food pantry? 

One of our holidays in Hammondsport – maybe it was Christmas; could have been Thanksgiving.  It was cold, I sure as hell remember that.  It was another winter when ends didn’t always meet reliably, leaving more than a few days each month without hot water for showers.  I tell ya, it’s a bloody bitch to wake up cold, take a cold shower, then walk a half a mile to school in the – you guessed it – cold.  For all the whippersnappers out there: this was not up a hill both ways, nor did I live in the sticks.  Anyway, the great day was drawing nigh, and I will always remember the look on my mother’s face when she brought home that basket from the food pantry.  There was stuffing, and tinned cranberries, some green beans – so much for the holiday, and even beyond.  All we needed was some meat, which wouldn’t be too hard (I recall chicken being used and it being FANTASTIC). 

The look on her face wasn’t pride nor shame.  It wasn’t boastfulness or a general gratefulness.  It was relief.  The kind of soul-rending relief that peace of mind and the full stomach of a child can bring. It was one less holiday worry, now turned into one more holiday miracle.

I don’t remember that many holiday meals with my mother.  I think the divorce took its toll there with so many spent visiting my father and his family.  That, or the offerings were not always of a Dickensian affair, what with beggar-sized birds and the like.  But, I will always remember that year: the year several people contributed just a little bit to give our family so much.

So, I may be off my nutter.  Well, fuck you very much: it’s my nutter to be on or off of.  However, there are those that have no nutter to speak of, and for them, I’ll keep clearing my pantry every few months and heading down to the local food pantry.  It’s in a church.  It does not burst into flames when I cross the threshold (provided I’m in an out quickly enough).  I’ll grab two of a toy when shopping, just to donate one – doesn’t have to be big or anything.  I’ll give a dollar to feed hungry children, or whatever the most local charity that collects at the grocery store checkout is.  Ultimately, it’s just a few dollars that someone out there can use so much more and so much better than I can.

Besides, if it gives these kids at least one great memory like it did for me, it’s worth a million dollars in my book.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Spanish Blankets

Let me engage you on the ending of the Mayan calendar.  Don’t worry, though, this won’t be my last post.  Not because I think it’s a malarkey, but because I know that it is not.  The more you know, man; the more you know.


Here’s the thing: the Mayan calendar was not counting down to the end of the world- They didn’t have a concept that included the world ending.  Think about this for a moment: an entire civilization that had no recurring fears of impending doom.  No cause to believe things as we know it were going to just stop one day.  And look at what they achieved in their time: massive temples without metal tools or wheeled carts or pulleys; multicolored paints (there was a time brown, and browner-er were your only choices); even fabric looms – that’s right: no simple loin clothes for these kooky cats.  Hell, they were the first to employ vulcanization.  No, not the logical sci-fi hominids of pointy-eared and eyebrow fame.  They would combine elements from the rubber tree with cloth, glue, paper - even their toys - all in an effort to make a stronger, longer lasting product.  They were also geniuses at math, given that they had no previous exposure to Eurasian mathematics.

Which feeds back into their calendar.  Now, while they had no concept for the world ending in its entirety, they did believe that all good things must come to an end, so that more new things can begin.  The found this in the world around them: seasons, life, the cycles of the moon.  They found it such a good thing that there religion and deities mirrored this observation in natural life.  This led to their carvings, and eventually to their chronicling of the various ages.

See, that’s why their set calendars ended – it wasn’t ever meant to be the end of the world, just the end of one cycle.  One age ends, and another begins.  I mean, fuck all, people: you believed there was a Third Age when Tolkien wrote about it.  There had to be previous ages leading up this.  The world didn’t end when it did.  Well, sort of.  I mean, we haven’t seen any orcs or uruk-hai that I’m aware of – although, Honey Boo Boo and Snookie could be their second coming.  Who knows, maybe this new age will be their return, and Tolkien was the herald.  Could just as easily say the era of terran man is coming to an end.  Or the beginning of world where Harry Potter-esque fantasy and magic are real.

See, they kept their shit straight, and always in perspective: life will go on.  It will get better, too, if contributed to.

Now, in all fairness, while they charted a comfortable number to plan an oncoming era, they were not geniuses of prognostication.  I think if they were, they’d still be around.  Better yet, they’d know to never trust a travelling blanket salesman who isn’t charging for his wares.

Here we are now, though, among the height of our post-Roman civilization.  Within perspective, we have the same percentage of civil unrest globally.  The same to be said of our political structure, economy, even our social welfare is an eerie carbon-copy of the late, great thriving empire.  Yet, in what seems to be a yearly occurrence, we are bombarded with doomsdays and apocalyptic warnings.  When that empire fell, the world didn’t end.  They didn’t fall into the sea.  They just fizzled out – poof! – gone in under two hundred years.  No clean breaking point where one can say, “This is the exact day that the Roman era ended.” 

And that feeds back to all good things coming to an end, to make way for more good things.  But how does this constant doubt and fear get introduced into our culture?  The easy scapegoat is religion, but let’s be honest – the only ones responsible for thinking and behaving however we choose to, is ourselves.  To blame a religious body (whether in text or as a congregation) that simply provides the information is like blaming the fork for putting food in our mouths.

For a moment, folks need to step back.  What is it that makes you so afraid to live that you have to hang your hat on global catastrophe just to get out of bed every morning?  I mean, hell – there used to be plenty of days I’d wish someone’s car tire would explode while they would breeze by me on the median at 87 miles an hour, in heavy traffic, while everyone else was barely pushing 30 - but that’s just me being an asshole.  Of course, in this fantasy their car would hit mine.  I’d be fine, but their corpse would have been mangled in a side railing or something.  Oh, and because of the trauma I couldn’t go into work. For, like, a week or something.

Fuck you if you haven’t ever wished something terrible would happen so you wouldn’t have to do something just once in your life.  If you’ve never been there, you’re fortunate.  It’s a hard place that you don’t realize for what it is until you’re looking back, rationally and mortified.

And that’s just what this is.  A bunch of people, afraid to make their lives mean something, clinging to the “fact” that the world is going to end in their lifetime.  Apocalypses become the new excuses, along with a flimsy validation for becoming an armchair politico on how to fix everything that’s wrong with the world, and, in the end, their solution is to bugger it all – it’s just going to end next year.  Or the year after that.  Or maybe five years from then – and so on.  They quiver, afraid death will take their last, great dream from them, but they’ve done nothing to achieve that dream, save spread their fear and ignorance as fact and faith.

I have no further words on this cowardice, save this:  If you are afraid to be alive, you have not right to be afraid of death.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Flame Wars, a Digital Economics Primer


There’s a standard for arguing any valid point with any one person on the internet – well, for expressing an opinion on the internet in general, really.  Simply put, DON’T.  I’ve yet to encounter a sane and rational opine from folks who are seeking camaraderie in the sharing (or slinging) of their miserable disenfranchisement, along with whatever tangy musk of disappointment and teenage angst they decide to foist upon the internet on any given day.  I’m starting to feel as if this virtual landscape – once a bastion of humanity’s glowing achievement in intellect and goodwill towards all men – is starting to resemble a receptacle for the lowest end of a human’s digestion.  I suppose as humans we have this innate ability to change everything we touch to match our surroundings, and in doing so, have spread our real world issues onto the internet.  All the while neglecting that the tangents brought forth are - after all - real world issues.  You know, things that involve real people, real time, real money – those kinds of things.


Yes, we’re going to avoid the argument of what makes money ‘real’ today.  Please.  I can’t go that deeply back into the rabbit hole.  I barely came out of this one ass first and head over heels.


So, in my effort to instead present a collective cross-section of my brilliance - or me brilliantly talking out my ass - I’ve decided to recompose some of that discussion here.  I think it’s important that we start with consumers.


Those who have read my thoughts from the beginning know of my feelings on consumers.  As a very brief primer for those new to the program: the ones who have the money didn’t take it, it was given to them – by you and I.  This is not an evil: this is how it works.  Consumers are the start and stopping points of any business – hell: any economy.  If you expect to make money by doing or making something, you need people to provide you that bit of coin.  And if you, the consumer, should expect a better product in return, you have to work WITH these folks, not just scream AT them.  Not just flock to the internet in mass drones, honking like a flock of seagulls over what you think is your due diligence.  The product will match what the manufacturers hear, because they want your money.  While they may pretty up the whole thing like a seven dollar hooker in a tutu, they will act as if that’s not the case – they will present it as giving you exactly what you needed.  They are simply catering to the loudest cacophony of clusterfucks.  So it falls to the consumer to evaluate if you’d want to work with the person creating what you want to buy, providing constructive feedback either in direct, constructive vocalization, using your true  potential as a consumer – that of the purchase - to aid in creating better product by putting your money where your mouth is.  Should that sound like too much work, well, then I’m sure they’ll happily sell you someone to hold your hand while you whine and throw a tantrum like a three-year-old in the Lego store, all the while forking over dollar bills for a cheap, plastic, breakable thrill, and a side of Hep C for good measure.


The old adage “You get what you pay for,” works in any age.  Coincidently, it goes hand in hand with “Nut up, or shut up.”


The discussion began over on a Gameloft forum.  They have a bunch of nifty handheld games for mobile phones, and people were getting rather uppity at the seeming lack of support for Android devices.  Better put, they were being complete ass-scrapes about it.  There are, currently, an estimated 12,000 variations on the Android mobile platform’s hardware.  After you factor in software and such, well, there are as many variations as there are consumers (over 500 million Android device activations to date.  In terms of mobile phones, the platform now holds 75% of the global market).


On Apple? – one iOS, six  handsets, and five tablets (generations; letting alone individual storage/chipset capabilities)


However, the same issue is present (albeit not to the same extent) for software variations with iOS systems.  The closed architecture certainly helps - on paper - in maintaining system integrity.  Funny thing is I’m pretty sure the same thing could be said about hair nets, and yet, you always manage to find somebody’s fur in your morning omelet.


The insistence is that publishers favor production for Apple’s devices.  From the appearance of software first on their platform, down to updates, and accessibility, this notion has made Apple the perfect effigy for this cop-out.  While it is partially true, it’s not the whole truth.  I can understand why a developer would seek to finish their work within the iOS platform first and then move on to Android - When you have a huge list of crap  to do around the house, do you do clean, re-secure, prime, and paint the gutters first, or do you take the trash to the curb?

Yeah, I do the easy shit first, too.  Then I lord over everyone how productive I was all the while.

The problem is that it isn’t just development difficulty, though.  Apple has a lower-cost licensing process for applications.  Higher quality assurance testing.  They don’t give away their development software, and they offer many layers of support for it.  Oh, and they aren’t releasing drastically different builds of their close-structure software every ten months.

Hell, anyone out there actually have Windows 8?  Aaaaaaand how much of your Windows 7 software works on there?  Not saying it’s an inferior product.  Really.


The Google market is a strange and magnificent cock-up of a wonder.  The fees for publishing anything with a charge, is intense.  The development software for the Android market is free, but it’s on the user to know how to use it.  There’s nearly no quality assurance for applications.  Likewise, there are no specifics regulating how or in what way an app is supposed to function on an Android device.


The issue against Gameloft was all of this.  The big beef, as I presented it (rather politely, even by my own standards),  was more Gameloft’s lack of communicating anything with their customers.  I can handle if it’s going to take you a year to change the way a tree blows in the wind, just let me know you’re working on it.  Hell, let me know you’re working on ANYthing.


Transparency can make or break a company’s public perception.   New businesses are relying more on telling customers exactly what is happening with the products they’ve invested in.  Take Seth Priebatsch from LevelUp (https://twitter.com/sethpriebatsch) – he’ll talk about how is business model has expanded, why, and what makes it profitable, all from his Twitter account.  THQ , a video-game software developer, recently filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy after years of notoriously shutting out consumer input.  They’re turning it around with the new president, Jason Rubin, hitting the streets and talking about what a Chapter 11 means to them, their employees, and the gamers.  Among a long and impressive laundry list (well, impressive if they can pull it off), they’re expanding their support opportunities, allowing little old you and me to call in and provide feedback on their products. Well, to use their forums.  Who really uses a phone to call anyone anymore?  Even Goozex – the little game trading website-that-could – has undergone huge overhauls after months of stagnation, breaking through their silenced gates with a public announcement, and a call – not a light request, but a demand - from its user-base to talk about how they can make a better product.


I have said repeatedly: I will always take a good product with great customer service over a great product with mediocre support.  The ability of a company to tell me how my investment in their resources and products will further benefit me for the life of my ownership of that product far outweighs the value of a product that could – potentially – never have an issue.  That’s just the rub – ‘sure things’ don’t exist.  There’s no guarantee that any one thing is going to be 100% perfect start to finish.  A manufacturer can (and usually will) say the product that leaves the manufacturing facility is, but there’s no telling what kind of issues can occur after that.


This same attack on a company’s ability to deliver products that functions 100% on devices that can, feasibly, never be tested 100% to the end-user's configuration is the very same reason so many companies are going free-to-play. In the end, the user will get what they pay for - even the whales (http://tinyurl.com/c4ng2jn), really. I mean, at that point, you'll have vested hundreds of dollars in the product, and the onus will the lie on the consumer for their investment - not the company that produced the product - as the product has been given away to everyone.


Consumer-driven macro-economics are being read their eulogy, and the mentality is that era is still a thriving titan. Businesses that can model themselves to remain buoyant in the current economy of any electronic programming/entertainment need to have a steady source of income that is not set at a fixed rate.  The product - while consistent in code - cannot remain consistent across every device with every myriad number of configurations, apps, tweaks, roots, system permissions, and hacks. Free-To-Play games have provided just that flexibility, much the same way large companies working with various APIs (application programming interfaces) are now 'renting' out the access to their black box setups, rather than charging a flat-rate for full ownership. The liability to play the patching game is diminished, allowing a standardized end-user product refined by the purchaser, while the cash flow continues from all the various tiers of users.


In short, it is wholly unrealistic to set an ETA for patches and beta builds because there are, literally, an infinite number of variations to which an end-user's hardware and software configuration could feasibly support the publisher's base build. Even with the iOS platform, there have been issues with various licensed and unlicensed software contributing to games having game-breaking faults on iPad (1st and 2nd gen), as well as on the 4S. But, on the basic iOS, the software may run perfectly. It was even certified and approved for the iTunes store as such!  The same could be said for the Android software - rooted and modified far more often than Apple products (if XDA is to be believed in their hyperbole). This may have been one contributing factor with 99.9% of the issues with Temple Run when it launched – on 707 supported devices (http://tinyurl.com/cnkr9y7) .  While a global approach to project dates - such as new game launches - is a very nice panacea, they are not the final word. To boot, with consumer demand being very much "leave it or lump it," how long was it expected to persist before a publisher turned the same mentality back on the customer?


As a consumer, the onus of eliciting better products rests solely on us.  Behaving as a petulant child, proclaiming you have spent your money and that's why the world should listen, is the same as if you were five and your ice cream fell off the cone and onto the sidewalk.  They have no obligation to put the ice cream back on the cone, nor to provide you more ice cream.  But - BUT - you have the unique opportunity to work with them to build a better cone that everyone can enjoy. 


Yes, the consumer can do the most damage or the most good to a product they purchase - especially if they find something particularly egregious.  First, though, we have to discuss a solution to the problem, instead of simply complaining that it exists.


Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Baby's Mama



Look. I'm married, cook, do the window treatments, landscaping, painting, and hold a 9-5.  and i'm a dude.  My lovely lady also keeps a tight ship around here.

And we both don't want kids.

Point of fact, that was one of the many reasons we got married.  I'm going on thirty now, and she's - well, a lady should never reveal her age, so why should I do it for her?  Better put, we've been together for twelve years now, and in all that time not ONCE have we toyed with the concept of having kids.  No false positives, none of that.  I enjoy this article (see end of blog post) and will be sharing it, because I don't believe the public accepts those that choose to live a child-free life and, frankly, I'm exhausted of always having to "accept" those that have kids - and their insistence that I WILL have some myself in this fictional future they've concocted. Now, provided I haven’t incurred any brain altering trauma, I plan to continue trudging the course, as does m'lady. 

Is there a magic to it?  Are we just selfish assholes?  No, and, possibly.  I mean, sure – we are affirming that we would either be awful parents, that we don’t want to give up our lifestyles, or that we don’t want to care for one more living creature in this house. We do, however, both volunteer at an animal rescue (she, twice a week, even), and I like to run for different charities, while joining her on these shelter expeditions.  Do we have any medical restrictions? - nope.   Well, none that I’ve had any need to have my equipment checked over for.  My boys are good, as are her.. um... inner boys?  whatevs. 

Bottom line: it's not a matter of now and then, physiology, or some weird psychology.  I am just completely apathetic to the cause of having children.  I, literally, want nothing to do with any of them.  She is the same.  Why am I taking the time to even talk about it if I don't care? - To provide perspective.  No understanding is complete without all sides.  Could my upbringing in a sub-par educational standard by drug-addled parental guardians have anything to do with it? - given that the modern alternative is hipsters, the answer is squarely "no."  I just don't care for kids, nor the concept.   The only twist to the standard models of deviation that I could offer is that I am very absurdly domesticated, but I view that as more a matter of independence and survival, than a paternal patterning.

And that's about it - some people, really, just don't want kids.  This is something she and I have always agreed on.  It does not form the basis of our marriage, so there's no fear if that were to change, but, there's simply no desire for children.  It's almost like a subconscious awareness that the world is sitting on more kids than adults to tend them that shuts down my desire to want them.  Who knows? - I, for one, am not inclined to care.