The Lesson iPhones Teach Us

If you find yourself with nothing to do one day, take a little fiber optic field to trip over to ebay and do a search for Commodore 64 computers.   Some of you might not even know what a Commodore is, because by the time you were able to suck your thumb, they were stashed away in your family’s garage or attic, like some heirloom, sharing space with wedding dresses and photo albums.    It’s also quite possible that your parents don’t even know what a Commodore 64 is, since it’s been 35 years when they first appeared on store shelves, being one of the first affordable home computers of their time at around $600.    The 64 doesn’t stand for bit or gigs by the way,  it stands for kilobyte.   To put that in perspective for all the Glee kids out there, it would take over 120 of them to have enough RAM to store an average song from iTunes, or 256,000 of them to have the same memory as a pathetic 16GB iPhone.   Like OMG WTF?  Like, who buys a 16GB iPhone anymore, like whatever.     Yet the most interesting fact about these 35 year old machines with lots of moving buttons and springs on their keyboards, is they still work as good as the day your family brought one home.     Which is why you can still buy one and they’re pretty popular as collectibles.

photo credit – gabtavian1, ebay user

Around the end of the millennia (holy fuck I’m old), I was attending a training class in Melbourne, a racist part of Florida otherwise known as the Space Coast, for a new content management solution we were deploying at work.   During my initial visit I learned that many people there were connected with the aerospace industry in some way or another, which made perfect sense considering their proximity to Kennedy Space Center.    After all, that’s where most of the Space Shuttle missions were launched.   I also learned that Taco Bell in Melbourne closed at 9 PM on a Saturday night and that yes, I do look Latino, so much so that the very smiley and very nice lady at the Deli counter in Winn-Dixie stopped being so nice when she turned and looked at me, angrily asking “can I help you?”   When I took my purchases prepared by racist white lady to the young cashier, I was told in a creepy horror movie sort of way “you’re not from around here are you?”  Okay so I’m losing myself here… where was I before this took a Stephen King turn… oh yes… I also learned that NASA was buying old IBM PC computers on our friend ebay, because they needed the chips for the fleet of aging Space Shuttles.  Yup, they needed spare parts and turns out, computer chips last a pretty darn long time.  

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Wake Up – Your Thumbs Won’t Save The Planet

It’s a rainy day and you’re sitting comfortably on your couch, wrapped up in a snugly blanket you bought from an ad on your Facebook feed… a nice cup of chai tea latte is right by your side.   All is well in your world.   Suddenly and without warning, your eyes magnetically focus and zoom in on the horrible video displaying on your screen, your heart begins to palpitate as you rush to un-follow or block the person that posted this gruesome message regarding animal abuse in a land far far away.    They have succeeded in not only invading your cozy little space and destroying your perfect zen moment, but they have also damaged you temporarily as you struggle to get these images out of your head.    Their reasoning?    You should sign on an online petition and stop what you just witnessed!  Yes!  How dare you take one more sip of that chai tea latte, while animals suffer needlessly, before your thumbs do all the work of filling out that digital roll call of those with moral and just values.    Jumping into action might also help erase what you just saw, and you can return to your kindle, tea, and life of ignorance…yes this thought actually crosses your mind.  But did you ever realize what’s actually occurring behind the scenes of these online petitions?    Do you think someone actually manages servers and technical infrastructure for free?  Of course not. Hang onto your chai tea latte because online petitions are actually a multi-million dollar business and those ugly videos are helping people to make some serious money.

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Taking A FaceBook Vacation

Sunset in the Florida Everglades

When’s the last time you had a vacation?  Before you start describing your most recent trip to a far off place dotted with palm trees or ancient buildings, let me be more specific… when’s the last time you vacationed from FaceBook?  You know, that wonderful destination you hold in your hand that you escape to while on the train, laying on the couch or even dare I say in the bathroom?  When’s the last time you dared to disconnect from all the noise, the pictures of friends enjoying dinner without you, the cat videos, the ads for things you’ll never use, the secret data miners collecting analytics designed as clever surveys, and the people you didn’t realize were Trump supporters?   Have you ever even thought of it?

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Constantly Seeking Approval

“Please like me.”

“Please like what I have to say.”

“Please love me.”

“Why do you only like what I have to say, why didn’t you love it?”

“I think you suck for not liking me.”

Looks sort of mental doesn’t it?   Did some emotional crippled person write this before going into a manic episode?    Didn’t Glenn Close say this in Fatal Attraction?

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So This Is Podcasting

A little over a week ago, my friend and co-worker Nzinga told me he was listening to a podcast and thought I’d be really good at doing one myself.    He even took it a step further and said he had this “strong urge” to tell me.  Of course this pushed all my spiritual buttons about diving timing and law of attraction, so I just had to do it.   It’s not too far a reach from my other hobby, video production, so I’m pretty familiar with the editing, software, hardware, etc. associated with putting something like this together.   It was just a matter of slightly shifting my perspective.  Less than a week after the conversation, I was recording my first podcast, the energy behind the idea had gained so much momentum, I wanted to do it before I convinced myself it was a bad idea.    So I took the leap and didn’t look back… yet.

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Journeys: How Winn-Dixie Changed My Life

Life wasn’t easy when I was in my late teens.   I was 17 and completely lost.  I was sleeping all day and awake only at night, a soon to be high-school dropout fighting depression and the realization that I was gay.   Therapy was gradually helping me out, but there were many days when the thought of living life as gay man would churn my stomach.   Those days were extra dark, mostly spent staring at the ceiling, contemplating the best way to end my life.  Sometimes I’d be on the phone well into the night and early morning, talking to one of the few friends I had. Unfortunately, she was also suicidal and shared a very dark place.  Instead of lifting each other up, we’d compare notes on the best and least painful ways of making it all go away.   My mom picked up the phone once and overheard the conversation.  Unable to process what was going on in my life, she started yelling at me… screaming… words of desperation… saying I was “sick” and then she broke down crying.   Mom was fighting her own demons, trying the best to raise us without our father around, while her youngest son, her baby, was slipping through her fingers before her eyes.

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The Toxicity of Social Media

I’ve only been on Facebook for a short amount of time relative to most, a couple of months has gone by since I made the leap into this digital equivalent of humans in herds.  I administer content management systems at work (ECM), so the least thing I needed was a personalized version.   Then my blog came along and I gave into the temptation of having a platform to share my articles.   While during my first week on Facebook, I was amazed by this unified form of consciousness I seemed to be observing, I quickly became aware of a darker side to this mass method of communication.  Unlike social interactions in the flesh, people feel free to act or react in ways that they wouldn’t do so in public.  I used to teach an orientation class at work on cyber manners, back when this new thing called the Internet became a tool for business.   It was then that I was first introduced to the analogy of people acting the same way online, as they do in their cars, especially during incidents of road rage.  The comparison was made of someone getting in front of you in the movie line, to if they did the same action in their car while driving.   In the later example, you might scream and yell at the person, shoot them the bird and hold your hand down on the horn.    While if you acted the same way face to face, you’d probably scare the shit out of everyone around you and might even get arrested.

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My First Week On Facebook

Many of you have never known a world without Facebook.   By the time you were old enough to read and use a computer, this revolutionary technology of communication and complex algorithms that identified friend or foe was already around.   You’ve never known a world without a friends list, a world without a wall or timeline, a world without this connection that spans continents, age, sex or sexuality.   You’ve been born into this arena of mass communication that I never knew.   Until now.

I decided to join Facebook only for selfish reasons, I was a frustrated writer and I wanted the world to see what I had to offer, wanted an audience that would appreciate what I had to say.    I wasn’t prepared for what I would find.  Initially it was much of the same, guys looking to hook up.  After all, I was fresh meat as my partner Eric put it, the new kid on the block people had somehow missed while looking for new friends to add to their ever growing list.

But what I found was humanity in it’s best and worst forms.   I found people bearing their souls, telling anyone that would listen about the darkest times in their lives.  I found people sharing stories of hope and love, and I found the in-between… people neither happy nor sad, just those content with telling others about the remains of their day.

In this first week of Facebook I’ve seen some pretty intense drama but I’ve also seen a global community seeking change.    I’ve seen a collective consciousness crying out to the Universe, wanting its voice to be heard, needing empathy and compassion, love and respect.    I’ve seen hearts broken and families reunited.   I’ve seen way too many puppies and kittens and other furry creatures that still manage to make me laugh.  I’ve seen what it is to be human.    The good, the bad and the not so certain.

While the technology is old in industry terms, and some would argue its time has come and gone, I think there’s a more important ideal it brings to those seeking truth.   It’s our message in the bottle, our representation of what the human race considers dear and precious, no matter how obscure the author is or was.

Perhaps in a millennia or so, the Earth might be a charred cinder, floating in space, the end result of occupants too intelligent for their own good.   But in the ash, perhaps a server or two will survive and provide some passerby a glimpse into what it was to be human.   That in itself is priceless.

Thank you Facebook.

Siri Is A Psycho B—-!

The other evening, as I was getting ready for bed, I remembered I had a doctors appointment coming up so I asked Siri, my iPhone assistant, when it was.

“Your next doctor’s appointment is at 10 AM tomorrow.” she said in her Australian female voice that always sounds like she’s grinning.

“Oh shit” I thought to myself, that was close, I almost missed my appointment, thank goodness for Siri! I tucked myself into bed and drifted off to sleep feeling like my world was perfectly organized thanks to my faithful digital companion.

The next morning was one of those you tend to remember for the next couple of weeks. I was rushing to get out the door and the forces of nature were clearly working against me. Everything from my dogs being uncooperative during their walk, to crazy drivers, to a lady literally sitting in her car at the parking garage entrance, waiting for an attendant to push the button for her to get a ticket. Maybe she was a germaphobe but seriously what else could go wrong? It was already 10 AM and I had to find parking in this very strangely laid out garage. I ended up finding a spot almost instantly, but of course the young girl in the car had to check her Facebook before driving away, fully aware of me waiting patiently. I’m sure she was basking in the temporary sense of power the Universe bestowed upon her.

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Where Shopping Should Be A Pleasure

Our society has changed lots in the last 100 years, technology is often the focus of these changes and many times blamed for them.   From workplace automation killing jobs formerly filled by humans, to the decline of bookstores thanks to e-readers, technology is almost always left holding the candlestick in the library with some rope for good measure.  Recently Amazon.com and other online retailers have been designated the destroyer of brick and mortar stores, the likes of which we haven’t seen in decades.    Macy’s, BestBuy, Sears and even Walmart aren’t immune to the sting of e-commerce.    But what if this change or evolution in the way consumers buy goods is only partially due to technology and more of a symptom of something bigger and greater?  While everyone is trying to compete with online giants like Amazon and increase their online presence, perhaps they should be looking no further than their own stores and realize they forgot how to do something.    Customer service.

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