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.  

Maybe you’re starting to understand what I’m getting at here, maybe you’re starting to see the pattern.    Or maybe not because you’re texting like five of your friends at the same time, having the typical attention span of anyone born in the last 20 years.   So here’s the deal, your iPhone is made mostly of solid state chips and components, far more advanced than what was made 35 years ago, it’s water and dust resistant, and it should last forever.    Plain and simple.    Yet this morning my two year old iPhone 7s started doing something interesting, adding to a growing list of symptoms that have slowly started to manifest.  The screen goes dark if I’m playing video, turn the phone sideways and touch the screen.   Just one more behavior in a long list of weird shit such as music skipping like an old record player when I’m receiving data or text messages (I wonder which Apple engineer thought of that one), my phone suddenly locking up or not recording audio half the time, or keyboards suddenly going away when I want to input text.   Since we know by my previous examples that chips last forever and technology and devices are only getting better and sturdier, then all of these issues point to software and how the code is being deployed.   Interestingly enough, code doesn’t go bad either…unless intentionally messed with.    

Almost a year ago Apple announced that it was intentionally slowing down phones and that’s the part they actually told us.     They even offered up a wonderful excuse, because of battery life and how they were trying to preserve the phone’s resources.  Yes, they were actually trying to help all of us and we were being such ingrates!  Gasp!  And millions of you fell for this lie, accepted it, and continue to line up in front of Apple stores every day… no doubt why they’ve just become the world’s first trillion dollar company.    Yes a trillion dollars, not even an oil company has done that.    And yet we continue to say “More please, more! When’s the new phone coming out?!? Please I want more digital crack!”   Interestingly enough, according to the International Data Corporation, a market research firm, Android based phones take up over 85 percent of the market.    Wait a second here, how can Apple and iOS be a minority in the market and at the same time be so damn wealthy?     Because we wait in line for hours and pay through the nose for the opportunity to be lied to,  and do it again and again and again.     We buy their phones with planned obsolescence as part of their business model, we buy their music, we accept their repeated privacy violations, all because we want to show everyone else we have one.   And that’s all they need to succeed… our vanity and our desire to belong.   You’re not even paying for quality in this case as you would with some other major purchases, such as a car.   Don’t even get me started on their completely overpriced laptops, tablets and desktops.  

photo credit – statista charts

It’s not a stretch to see this bleed over into everything else we see nowadays.    We accept lies all the time, we make it okay somehow because we want something more… we’re willing to sacrifice truth for power, status, or simply to feel like a part of something bigger.     Our political and religious structure is based on lies and untruths, we make exceptions all the time when it’s convenient for us.  We point fingers at gays and lesbians and say they’re destroying the values of love and marriage, yet when a priest molests a boy or a pastor steals from his church, we’re told to show love and compassion…  because Jesus did.  The same love and compassion that’s not being demonstrated to others.    iphones teach us that as a culture, we can be bought, manipulated and lied to without consequence, provided we keep getting what we want,  even when the overwhelming facts might tell us otherwise.   Yeah, like a cult.   iphones tell us something about ourselves, a canary of sorts, an indicator of how far we’ll let the truth be twisted and the facts ignored, even when associated with great cost and effort.    It really is an amazing hand held device, telling a much larger story about the person that’s holding it and the culture they belong to.  

 

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.

Yulin is a city in China with a population of almost seven million people according to Wikipedia.     Tourists flock there to bathe in hot mineral springs and the city is rich in natural resources.    Part of their economy is agricultural based, growing everything from tea, bananas, oranges, mangoes, pigs, chickens and dogs.   No that wasn’t a typo, yes, they raise dogs for food.    Relax, there will be no gut wrenching photos or vivid descriptions in this article, in fact, the exact opposite.   What you need to know is that there’s a business model here for people to react, and when they do, money is exchanged.    Yes, your emotional response is generating income for a company that has little or no control over anything that happens in China.   If you can get past the gruesome video to change.org, or any other petition based website, the advertisements you see, and subsequently click on, generate revenue for the company.  This sort of model is pretty universal on the Internet, everyone uses it because it works. But it doesn’t stop there.

According to the Direct Marketing Association, your email address has an ROI (return on investment) of %4,300.    That means for every dollar spent on email marketing, you will potentially earn $40 in return as described by the marketing website justuno.com.   Yeah, that’s a really nice return!   When you’re emailing the right people about the right things, it’s a cash cow.    I bet you didn’t realize how much money crazygirl30513@aolbiz.com was worth, did you Cathy?

So in general here’s how it works.    A charity or cause pays a petition website to show gruesome videos or imagery on FaceBook in the hope someone will respond.   Many of these sites, including change.org, are for profit companies (as explained in the change.org FAQ), yeah no 501c there people.  They treat these “promoted petitions”  just like advertisements.  Same deal as promoted tweets on twitter…. it’s free unless you want mass exposure.   As part of their contract, the charities are “given” your information.  Makes sense right?   You’d want to know the name, address and email of every person that supports your cause.    Only now the charities or organizations can also sell your contact information and make more money, something you’d should feel comfortable about… right?   After all, it’s for charity.   Think of the dogs folks… works doesn’t it?

Okay so now you now that dogs in Yulin help make people rich in the United States.    Who cares right?    As long as your petition can effect change!!! But where does that petition go?  We hope some huge official in Yulin will see that petition sent to his inox and won’t delete it.    Perhaps it’s actually mailed in a big box?  I bet he’ll take that stack of paper out to the streets and shut down the entire dog eating thing right then and there.   Or maybe he won’t.    Maybe he eats dogs himself and thinks it’s pretty yummy, especially with some American BBQ Sauce (don’t tell his parents, they always made fun of him for eating KC Masterpiece).  At the very least I’m sure they’ll stop killing chickens, pigeons and goats in “religious” sacrifice…oh sorry that’s Miami… you know in Florida?  Yeah there’s hundreds of “Botanicas” that sell these animals for that very purpose, Google it for the one nearest you.    Bet you didn’t know that either.  Where’s the petition to make that stop?  Take a sip of your chai tea latte, you’ll feel much better… or maybe you won’t.

The simple fact is that signing these petitions usually does little unless there’s plenty of national or international exposure to go along with it.    It’s icing on the cake of something big, it’s not the ignition switch to effect change.  What it is doing, is making a whole lot of people lots of money.  And then there’s those decrepit humans on Facebook that are actually getting a rise from spreading these videos, knowing that your chai tea latte is gonna lose all the attention it worked so hard to deserve.   They don’t care about the dogs, the cats, the whatever… they only care about ruining your day.   It’s masochistic and your reaction fuels their desire to do it even more.

The way to effect change is to hit people where it hurts the most, their wallet.    So you go to Wikipedia like I just did and you research the country that’s known for their dog eating and you don’t go visit their fabulous springs.   You send a receipt of all the money you just spent in the neighboring prefecture to their head of tourism and explain why.   Yeah you actually have to write a letter and mail it as opposed to taking 4 seconds to auto-fill a petition.  You tell your friends and neighbors about it, you knock on doors.  Yeah you actually have to get off that couch, stop drinking your chai tea latte and do something!  Imagine that? Eventually, someone there in Yulin might notice they’re not getting as many visitors, losing lots of cash and do something about it.   Do your part.  Your thumbs aren’t going to help dogs in a country half way around the world, with folks firmly grounded in their culturally accepted practice… which is actually a huge festival.   This is like someone trying to shut down the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade because they love their pet turkeys over in you know where Egypt.    I’m not saying give up the good fight.  Just fight in smarter ways, that actually make a difference, and stop creating a market for what you hate.   That’s how you really help your furry friends.

 

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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