Category Archives: Wyatt’s Rants

I Care Too Much!

Caring can get exhausting. I can see why so many people choose not to care.  After all once you start caring the amount of things you need to care about, the sheer number of causes, injustices, and personal tales of grief, increases from that very first thing that pulled at your heart strings to become an avalanche of cares to bury you over your shoulders.

It’s worse with the internet.  Before they had to call you or send a letter to your home.  You had to either actively seek out, or know about, or have a real live person, activate your caring mechanism.  Now it comes at you from all directions: twitter, Facebook, email, Google’s attention to your every little click so that it can feed you more content you might like.  You could literally spend all day supporting causes, sharing links, ‘liking’ content, signing petitions, and emailing all your friends so they can share in the collective guilt and resolution.

Or you could go picket your local bank or civic center, or even Wall Street.

All of which is time-consuming and distracting from other things in life like: work, play, paying bills, and writing your great American novel.

So what do you do?  I assume the best method would not to be ‘sweeping it under the rug’ because I have no need to remind anyone, least of all myself, that the world is going to hell in a hand cart faster than I can say “Jiminy Cricket”, but perhaps to pick and choose?  Ah, but therein lies the rub?  How do you find the one or two defining issues?  How will you choose between saving the polar bears or the American mustang, or greenhouse emissions, or fighting the banks and corporate greed, or campaigning for your favorite political cause, or organic food, or gun control, or genetically modified organisms, or… or… or… you can fill in any of your favorite causes here, even if they differ from mine!  The result is the same.  We are overwhelmed.  How do we take action, make a difference, and yet, still have a life, creative or otherwise, at the end of the day?

Tell me, how do you choose?

Spinning Out of Control

Spinning out of ControlLife has a way of getting in the way of art.  It sometimes seems to me that either you make your life all about art, and to hell with the rest, or you valiantly struggle through your life, crossing all your t’s and dotting all your i’s, and you never get a sodding bit of art done at all.  And then there is all the drama and chaos.  I’m feeling hemmed in right now.  I, me personally, am fine.  But between the time I spend trying to live a sane sustainable life, and the shit storm that is constantly battering the glass walls of my personal bubble, I’m finding it harder and harder to be creative.

And it’s like this shit storm just keeps getting bigger and bigger, picking up debris in its wake and spreading it across the face of my world.  You know when you buy a new car (new to you) and say it’s a Volkswagen Beetle or whatever (you pick) and suddenly you just see them everywhere on the road – or it’s because you’re playing Punch Buggy, but the point is that they go from being invisible to almost all you can see?  Is that what this storm of disaster is all about? Or is the world really going to hell faster and faster, like the spin cycle on a washing machine?

I don’t honestly know.  For me things are very much the same as they have always been: slightly better maybe, but with slightly less time.  I’m trading time for comfort.  But that’s just me.  Everyone else and everywhere else seems to be blowing apart at the seams, or at least in need of a few denim patches.  Oh yeah, and that time thing, it’s a bitch.  It brings me back to the first thought.  I spend more time working, more time fretting about things I cannot change in the lives of people who seem bent on destruction, and less time doing the things I really love: making stuff.

For me, making stuff is a huge area.  It’s writing, it’s creating Pan Historia, it’s painting, it’s learning new skills, it’s books, and museums, and pulling in inspiration from all around me to turn it into moments of insight and art.  But when life starts to feel like a buzz saw, saw dust flying until it chokes, and your eyes start to blink and tear up, where is the time to be found for the creativity?

My reaction?

Take a nap. Play a mindless game.  Lose myself in some meaningless movie made for TV.

Waste the precious moments even as I scream about losing the time: it was so hard to find, and as I get older it is an ever vanishing resource.

Killing, It’s the American Way

I’m finding it really alarming how fast the discourse on the recent tragedy in Arizona is retreating to safe ground.  Only the FBI seems to be taking the young troubled man who sent a bullet through Congresswoman Gabrielle Gifford’s brain, before turning it on the crowd, seriously.  At least they have charged him with attempted assassination.  Right now pundits of the left and the right are quickly dismissing the act as that of a senseless madman.

You know why?  Because it’s far safer that way, it’s far less troubling.  We can all remain in our comfort zone, and once the furor has gone down and we have all issued sufficient sincere platitudes towards the families of the victims we can go back to business as usual.  In this country we seem to be digging a huge divide between red and blue, left and right, conservative and liberal—only it’s a divide that has always been here.  Even the briefest glance at history will reveal to us that we once had a little war between states.  There were over a million causalities in that war, 620,000 deaths, which was significantly more than the number of American soldiers that died in WWI, WWII, and Vietnam combined.

In other words we have died more fighting amongst each other than we have in all the other major conflicts we have been involved in.  In some ways that battle still rages on.  The lines have shifted but at core it seems that there are two extremely different views of America, and we seem no nearer to drawing those two visions closer together than we ever did.

So Loughner was troubled, a loner with issues?  Does that absolve him or us of complicity in his actions?  He was certainly of sound enough mind to carefully fill out forms to aid him when he attempted to buy the weapon.  Did he have a history of mental illness?  Perhaps, but surely the toxic environment we are all living in these days is just the right kind of Petri dish to grow hate, violence, and home-grown terrorism.  Just because he was less competent to reason between right and wrong does that mean we can all just go on spouting hate speech, intolerance, and drawing crosshairs over the names of people we disagree with?   It’s ok – keep hating, America— because it’s all just the work of a lone madman.  The rest of us know the difference right?

Or is it?  Perhaps it’s just a harbinger of things to come?  After all rhetoric, historically, has proven to be powerful stuff.

I have to stop here.  I was going to post some examples of rhetoric influencing nations and creating wars when I was stopped in my tracks to the point of physical nausea by the amount of ignorance and hatred that exists on the internet masquerading as free speech.  Is it all from crazy loners?

It’s the human cancer, and it’s growing deep.

Big Organics is Lying to You

Aurora cows 'enjoying' access to pasture

Aurora cows 'enjoying' access to pasture

I read a particularly shocking piece of information the other day in my copy of Newsweek. The article was about the shameful practices of ‘puppy farms’. I use quotes because the outrageous practices on these so-called farms are more akin to the atrocities of factory-farmed meat than what we would imagine by the bucolic word ‘farm’. While I was appalled at the treatment of our canine companions it was not their abuse that caused me to throw down the magazine and come to my computer, open up Word, and commence to rant again. It was the fact that many abusive puppy farms are run by the very same farmers that supply Horizon with ‘organic’ milk.

It is the whole Horizon saga that burns my britches. The story is not only shameful in the way that this company cynically abuses the organic label but in how the public, including respected natural food stores everywhere, allow them to get away with this travesty. The sad fact is that it’s just the visible cold sore on the face of corporate organics. The whole body is riddled with disease, and we turn a blind eye to it so that we can believe we are doing right, helping the environment, helping out the poor animals, by buying brands like Horizon. Here is a link to an article about the complaints The Cornucopia Institute, an organic watch dog group, brought against Horizon, owned by Dean Foods (a huge corporate giant).

Part of the problem is perception. While there are large numbers of people who can neither afford organic foods nor understand the need for organic agriculture, there are large numbers of people forking out lots of extra cash to do what they think is the right thing. Their perception of organic is actually probably decades old. They imagine a real farm with committed, idealistic people, happy cows, and green grass.

Indeed when the organic movement started it was just such idealistic people that headed to the country and started small farms to do something radically different. Agriculture and traditional farms had been swayed by the claims of chemical giants long before and America’s farmlands were toxic leach fields with the cocktail of pesticides and herbicides poured out upon them. The hippy farmer in the seventies, driving his VW bus, was bucking the concept that better living came from better science. Early attempts at organic growing yielded small malformed vegetables with bug bites and high price tags due to the small scale and the high level of labor needed (ever tried hand picking Colorado potato beetles from an acre of potato plants? I have).

But that new-age peace and love granola eating hippy persevered until he or she became a good and innovative farmer offering vegetables and then meat that was every bit as beautiful as the conventionally grown offerings but was often more nutritious, better tasting, and wasn’t destroying habitat for wild animals, or stripping soil of its valuable nutrients. Sure it cost a little more at the checkout but it was worth it.

horizonOf course for organics to truly make a difference in the world they needed to be more than a niche market and therein lies the rub. Today the business of putting organic food on your table is more and more just that: business. Big business like Dean Foods, Unilever, General Mills, etc is in the business of organic and they have rapidly changed the face of organics, diluting standards so that they can make bigger profits. It would be naïve to think that Dean Foods got into the business of organic milk so that your children could drink healthier milk from happy cows. They got into it because the profits are larger. What does that mean? That means that organic doesn’t cost that much more to produce anymore, but they can jack the price up because of that organic seal on the label. You’re not paying some small family farms with enlightened farmers and a back to the land ideal when you grab that cartoon with the cute black and white cow on it. You’re buying agribusiness for twice or three times the price of the same product next to it.

Oh sure, it has some organic standards in place. But most of the ideals and benefits of organic are lost when you have a huge mono-culture conventionally grown, just without the harshest pesticides. Many Horizon farms, like Aurora, are huge feedlots. Cows have ‘access’ to green pasture, on other words some times some of their sisters get to graze outside but most of the time they are in huge sheds, up to their knees in shit. And to just prove how cynical these ‘farmers’ are now they’re raising puppies in cages of their own shit to sell to you for hundreds of dollars a pop.

If you still want to buy organic milk I suggest Organic Valley as they are an organic Farmer’s Cooperative, or better yet, find a farmer. Visit the farm. See the cows in the pastures, because labels lie. Big business Organics is all smoke and mirrors.

Gullible Consumer Rant

You hear a lot about how we are a consumer society, a throw away society, and how we keep buy buy buying. But what I want to know is when we became so totally undiscriminating about it? Has Homo Sapiens Americanus lost the ability to question and reason? Ok so I’m watching cable TV these days (it came with the cave – I have ants and cable TV). I’m being exposed to mainstream advertising in a way I have not had to put up with for twenty years. Most of the ads are terrible. People are paid to write and perform this shit? It’s awe inspiring, really. And since the ads are so deplorable you ask yourself why do companies pay for them?

It is because, just like the “please let me send you a billion dollars, just send me your bank info” spam emails from Nigeria, they WORK. Now that is truly frightening. Ever asked yourself why you get so many telemarketing calls at dinner time? Because some people, instead of hanging up and eating their dinner and talking to their family, actually buy the crap the telemarketer is selling.

One of my current peeves as far as ads go is the one for some Oil of Olay skincare cream where they promise you if you buy this cream you can stop having dry skin and stop using so much cream. Well duh. If that actually happened Oil of Olay wouldn’t be able to sell any more product. I won’t even go into the pharmaceutical ads (except to say is possible DEATH and EXCESSIVE GAMBLING actually worth it to clear up your skin?).

Ok, so we get past the ads and we buy the product. Most of the stuff is utter and total crap. Remember the days you could buy a tea kettle and it would last long enough to leave to your kids? I’m not even talking high technology here, just a kettle. How difficult is it to make a kettle that holds water, looks nice, and whistles when the water boils so you don’t burn your house down (or at the very least don’t melt the kettle all over your stove top, been there done that). About six months ago I stupidly didn’t put the whistle on my kettle… you get the idea. I have bought three kettles since then. The first one was so cheap it didn’t whistle even though it was supposed to, the next was expensive but too small, and the third now reposes on my stove. It’s black, it has a whistle, it’s made by Kitchen Aid. It sucks. Really it does. The whistle is so faint it’s more like a slow leak and there is physically no way to pour boiling water out of it without sloshing scalding water all over the place.

Will I take it back? Probably not, it’s not worth the trouble, right? Right – and that’s why they can get away with making schlock.

Back to the cable TV for a minute: last night I watched a movie on one of the stations. The commercial breaks were so long that I had time to read five pages of my book without missing any of the movie.

Isn’t it time not only to question how much we buy, how much we spend, but stand up and demand that we get quality for what we spend? Remember cable TV isn’t free. I pay for the privilege of being sold to in my own home, interminably.

Quick Comcast Update:

My local technician arrived within the time alloted and was great. I don’t know yet if his fix solved the problem but he did find that I was receiving too strong of a signal. He gave me his personal number so I could follow up with him and asked me to keep a log if the problem reoccurred so he would have sufficient data to troubleshoot. Really nice guy.

I’m also impressed that Comcast monitors the social media. I received a good comment on my blogger post and via Twitter so that I could contact someone to help me further. I will only do that if I need to as I’m satisfied with my local technician at this point.

Comcast Rant

It started so well.

I had never used a cable company for my internet services before so I was very pleasantly surprised when Comcast immediately sent around a tech with a cable modem for my cave in the woods (more about that in another blog). It’s quite a hike and in other parts of the country I doubt I would even have internet service in such a situation. My new modem was installed in minutes. The setup with my static IP and my Linksys Router didn’t go quite as smoothly but it wasn’t Comcast’s fault and I got a charming woman on the line for tech support that though not able to help me was incredibly friendly and professional. When I did figure out the problem and called her back to have my IP reset (yes, I was part of the problem) I got the same woman and she quickly had me up and running.

For those of you new to my blog let me tell you that I pay for business high speed internet and a static IP because I host my own server for my web site and while I’m not Facebook or even one millionth of the size of Facebook I have a loyal and vocal customer base. Without the funds to run a mirror server if my internet is down my web site is down. I have to maintain a Yahoo group just to make sure that my membership can be informed if there is a power outage or any other disruption of service. When my site is down I’m just like that cat on the hot tin roof or even me barefoot on black tarmac when the mercury hits the nineties and I left my shoes in the car. It’s not a pretty sight.

Three days ago I started having problems. People were having times when the site was running extra slow to the point of timing out. At first I was unaware as I was navigating the site fine, and my Twitter and ICQ messaging software was functioning just fine. Suddenly people started dropping off the server. Disaster! Then I found I was unable to browse the internet. I get on the horn to Comcast pronto. Only I have a little problem – due to my move and all the organizational issues of setting up in a new location I’m out of minutes – my call is going to cost me 45 cents a minute. Not a serious problem because of my priorities, which is to get my site back up, but it does mean I don’t want my time wasted.

I could rant about automated answering systems at big companies, but why bother? You have all been there. Choose the wrong option and you’re caught in a cycle of spiraling despair as you get routed to the wrong place again and again. Finally I get somebody in tech support. I assume, since I had to punch in my zip code time in and time again, that they are in my area. That was my second mistake. My first mistake was still having a Vermont cell phone number. They wanted to route me to Vermont.

“No, I moved. I live in California but I kept my cell phone.”

“So you’re not at the computer that is having the problem?”

“Yes, I am at the computer that is having the problem. I have a cell phone.”

“You’re in Vermont?”

“No, I’m in California; I have a Vermont cell phone number.”

“Can I please have the phone number that is associated with the account?”

“This is the phone number associated with the account. I don’t have another number, just this one. This is my only phone, I don’t have another.”

“So you’re not at the computer associated with the account. Can you get to the computer?”

Ok, you get the gist of this conversation.

Now just before I finally got this genius on the line the automated message had informed me that there was a higher than normal volume of calls due to interruptions of service in my area. This was satisfying to me and I assumed that was all I needed to know but I just wanted this guy to confirm it – only he was in Denver and knew nothing about the status of service in California and apparently had no way of knowing.

Oh, and he couldn’t help me because he was home tech support not business tech but could he just take some notes? I was begging him to transfer me to the right line because it was costing me 45 cents a minute and he just kept scribbling and asking me the same questions over and over. Finally he was ready to transfer me to the correct tech support line, but first he said:

“Would you like our digital voice services?”

Bear in mind he’d already had me on the line for 15 minutes at this point. He would have been in danger of his life if he’d been in physical proximity.

“No, and I don’t want to hear about them as it’s costing me 45 cents a minute to talk to you. Please transfer me to tech support.”

“But if you had our digital voice services you could…”

I think I was rude at this point in the conversation.

The next guy insisted there wasn’t any problem in my area and it had to be my modem and scheduled me for a Sunday after 5pm appointment.

So Sunday I sat around and waited at the appointed hour. My connection had been good all day, but the tech guy didn’t turn up. At 6:15pm just when I was wondering if I should call and find out where he was my connection dropped again.

I called.

“Oh yes, we recalled him because the outage is actually in your area and not you at all. It went down at 6:15pm. It can take them up to 4 hours to fix the problem. I’m sorry he didn’t call you to let you know he wasn’t coming.”

Wow – it was them after all! At last something concrete!

At 7pm I got a call.

“This is Comcast; we’re sorry that we’re running so behind but is it ok if our technician comes this late?”

“Uh, sure, but I thought he had been recalled?”

“I know nothing about that sir.”

At 7:30pm another call:

“We’re running two hours behind can we reschedule for tomorrow morning?”

“But the last call said he was on his way?”

“They recalled him. It was the wrong technician.”

Now I’m waiting again.

I’ll let you know how that goes.