Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Going to my happy place

I just returned from a family vacation at the Disneyland and California Adventure resorts. It was the third trip for to the parks for my family and about the 13th for me (including one trip to Walt Disney World when I was in college).

I have mixed feelings about Disney. When I was a kid, one of my favorite programs was Disney's Wonderful World of Color. It came on every Sunday night and was hosted by Walt Disney himself. Occasionally the theme of the program would be Disneyland and they would showcase some of the latest rides or show celebrities like the young Michael Jackson exploring the attractions.

I remember one of our neighbors had been there and lent my father a copy of a map of magic kingdom. I'd sit in my room with the map on my bed fantasizing about actually being able to go there on vacation. Since our annual family vacation was two weeks camping in the mountains of Idaho, I never really thought Disneyland was an option. Even back then, Disneyland was too expensive for many lower middle class families like mine.

When I was 15 and a sophomore, my high school marching band raised money to travel to southern California to march at the half time of an LA Rams and San Francisco 49ers football game. We flew into San Diego (my first time on an airplane) and went to the San Diego Zoo and then Sea World. From there we boarded tour buses and drove to LA. Before performing at the football game we were also booked to march down Main Street in Disneyland. We made it to Disneyland, but we never got to perform. It rained too hard for us to risk ruining our band uniforms before the football game.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Forgetting to remember

I used to pride myself on having a great memory.  I could vividly recall experiences, people, places, and things people said. I've never been so good with names, but faces I would pretty much always remember. And having been semi-invisible most of my life, I have often remembered people who I've met or seen even when they don't have any memory of me.

I still remember things. But unless I make a conscious effort to dig up the memories I've discovered that more and more they have soften and become a bit fuzzy around the edges like and old school room film about "A Day at the Beach."

Of course part of it is due to aging. That's stating the obvious. But I think part of it is deliberate. Or subconsciously deliberate. Several months ago, I downloaded a meditation APP that guides you through a ten-minute meditation that in theory you are supposed to do every day. It has lots of different meditations to help you in lots of different areas. But I just do the same six or seven free ones over and over because I'm too cheap to pay an annual fee to unlock the rest.

The underlying message in the meditations is that you are working to stop the mind from thinking for ten minutes by just concentrating on your breathing (and the meditation narrator's voices and the sounds of frogs, flowing streams, birds and crickets in the background of the meditation). It makes you aware of how often in a given day your thought process pulls up a memory and puts it on replay in your head, repeating a thought or event over and over again.

The problem is that many of those types of thoughts or memories are about things you regret and can't do a thing about to change. Plus each time you replay the thought or memory in your head, you are making it real again even though it really no longer physically exists.

I think of this as dwelling on a mistake instead of learning from it. It's like watching the same movie over and over again and hoping the ending will change.

It doesn't.

So I think of the meditation as a way of training my brain to remember to forget. Or forgetting to remember. Because it is such a wasted effort to focus on a past you can't change instead of focusing on a future where you have a choice.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Cable, the final Frontier

As with many people, I've been frustrated by the high cost of cable television, especially since most of what I watch anymore is streaming video through Amazon and Netflixs. I have cable bundled with telephone and Internet through Frontier. I've used their services for about eight years since we moved into our current home (and it was the only option). My cable package has included just about every premium channel out there and I've paid dearly for it over the years.

A few weeks ago I was shocked to see my bill had increased by almost a $100 over the monthly bill I was used to. Reviewing the bill didn't shed any light on why. It was full of service charges, taxes and unintelligible components. So I reached out to Frontier's customer service for an explanation. It launched a saga I'm sure many people who deal with cable companies are familiar with. But here is a sample of my chat sessions with Frontier customer service and tech support. I apologize for how long it is, but I wanted to give a true sense of how bad Frontier's customer service really is. The only customer service I have experienced that is as bad as their's is Boost Mobile.

My first session with Frontier was on July 31, 2018. Frontier's comments are in gray. Mine are in blue. My unarticulated thoughts are in parentheses. 

When you chat with us, you grant us permission to review your services during the chat to offer you the best value. Your current services will not be affected if you refuse permission by not proceeding with chat. Frontier has the duty to protect your information. This is your right under Federal law. For quality and security purposes, your session is recorded and may be monitored or reviewed.
1:17 PMTime H
My bill has increased almost $75 over the past two months. I'm trying to determine why? What is a Directory/Non-Reg charge?
Jade1:18 PM
Thank you for chatting with Frontier, Time. My name is Jade and I'll be assisting you today.
May I confirm your billing telephone number xxxxxxxxxx and this is the account we will be looking at together? 
1:18 PMTime H
Jade1:18 PM
Thank you. 
Please bear with me while I'm reviewing the information on your account.
I see here that you have Phone, Internet, and TV services.
1:22 PMTime H
That is correct.
Jade1:24 PM
I have reviewed the account.
I noticed that your discounts expired in your June statement.
1:25 PMTime H
What discounts were those? I have had this service for eight years.
Jade1:26 PM
They were discounts for Internet, and TV services
While we are taking care of your services I will review your account to make sure you are getting the best value. 

(Translated this means Jade will review my account to see if she can get more money out of me and distract me from the real reason I had contacted Customer Service.)

Wednesday, August 08, 2018

The Great Cornholio Tournament

"I am the Great Cornholio!"

I just received an e-mail that started out:

"The Everett Clinic Beer Garden Cornhole Tournament in its 2nd year will be held at Taste Edmonds. The tournament will take place the first 3 hours each day in the Beer Garden, teams of two square off in a best 2 out of 3 single elimination competition. The top teams from Friday and Saturday will play until the winners are crowned."

Do they not realize this is wrong on so many levels?

Okay, I realize the well intentioned people at the Taste Edmonds are talking about a game where people toss a bag filled with corn at a board with a hole in it. But (butt...heh-heh...heh-heh), anyone who has ever watched Beavis and Butthead remember the Great Cornholio and are aware that Cornhole is slang for the anus. And Cornholing is slang for anal sex.

From a marketing standpoint, naming something a cornhole tournament is really an unfortunate choice  unless you are targeting an entirely different demographic than I think the Taste Edmonds people are going for.  I think a safer choice would have been to call it a bean bag toss tournament.

Though there is an American Cornhole Association. So maybe I'm being totally sophomoric about this. But (butt...heh-heh...heh-heh) even the fact that there is an American Cornhole Association cracks me up (he said, "crack" heh-heh...heh-heh).

Regardless, I'm going to skip the Everett ClinicBeer Garden Cornhole Tournament. It's not something I want watch.

Thursday, August 02, 2018

No views is good views?

I'm convinced that there is very little chance that I will become the next YouTube sensation. Day after day I open my YouTube channel and am taunted with the "No Views" message on my posts. And there are no"likes" for the one or two videos that have been viewed.  In addition, no one has subscribed to my YouTube channel.

On the plus side, I haven't had any negative comments on my YouTube posts. Of course there haven't been any comments on my YouTube posts.

Over at the Medium I've had 116 people view my posts in the past month. But only 55 of those people actually read all the way through a post after viewing it. And three people became fans. I've signed up for the Medium's program that monetizes your posts if paid subscribers read them and like them. So far I've made $0.00. Their projections show that by the end of the month I should earn $0.00.

But hey, I'm not in this for the money. Though I also am in the Google Adsense program that randomly puts ads on my blog for which I am paid if people click on them. Although I've racked up almost $40.00 in ad revenues, it has taken five years to do so. And they won't pay you until you accumulate at least $100. At this rate, I should collect my earnings in another ten years.

It is a good thing that I never tried to truly make a living off from my writing. Something tells me I'd be behind the counter at a Starbucks taking fru-fru coffee drink orders to supplement my writing income.

Just for the record, I have a degree in Journalism and have spent a bulk of my career making a living by writing. It was just not writing things I wanted to write. Which goes to show you, when you write about stuff that you want to write about instead of what people want you to write about, your odds of getting read are substantially reduced. Though I seriously doubt many people were reading what I wrote when I was writing brochures and newsletters for a government agency. But at least I was getting paid.

I think I am a good writer. I just don't think I am a mainstream writer.

And don't think the irony of me writing yet another unread post about no one reading what I write escapes me.

Wednesday, August 01, 2018

I want my MTV

Listen here, now that ain't workin' that's the way you do it
You play the guitar on the MTV
That ain't workin', that's the way you do it
Money for nothin', and your chicks for free
Money for nothin', and chicks for free
--Money for Nothing, Dire Straits

 I miss MTV. Oh, I imagine it is still around, but it can't be the same as it was when it launched back in 1981.  I had high hopes for it back then when I was 23 and had high hopes for lots of things. They mainly played music videos introduced by Video Jockeys (VJ's).

Music videos were unique back then. It added a whole new dimension to music. The videos added a visual storyline to the songs. It turned the singers and bands into screen stars. I really liked videos like Mexican Radio by Wall of Voodoo (I wish I was in Tijuana, eating barbecued iguana).

And there was Devo (Crack that Whip), Billy Idol (White Wedding), Cyndi Lauper (Girls just want to have fun), and Corey Hart (Sunglasses at Night). The stars didn't last long, but their videos are still etched into my brain.

It is hard to describe why music videos were a game changer at the time. I'd grown up listening to vinyl records and the radio. I loved the music, but it was one dimensional. Oh, there were some artists that had created things akin to music videos before. The Beatles had movies that bridged the gap between the songs and the performances (Hard Days Night and Help).  And there were the Monkeys who were a fictional band created for a television series in the late 60s.

But music videos seemed like the music vehicle of the future. I liked that MTV treated music videos like visual records and even had top 10 countdowns. I think the VJ's were even former disc jockeys.