A Curious Example of Corporate Restrictions

My Regular Mind, September 26, 2010 at 05h47

Years ago, the corporation I work for centralized our Internet access so that it ran through its head office in the States. They didn’t notify us of this change, not that they necessarily had to, but I only realized this after noticing my external IP address was located in Illinois. At first this didn’t affect me at all, but after a while they started restricting some web access. Again, I can’t emphasize enough that this is entirely within their rights to do, but lately it seems a little absurd.

The first sites to go were the obvious social media sites (like Facebook and MySpace) and adult content sites (like 99% of the rest of the Internet). Then they started expanding the restrictions to include streaming media (goodbye Youtube, goodbye radio), then gaming sites (including educational games, which were great fun on lunch breaks), then any sites that include certain keywords, until now it seems like its more of a question of which sites aren’t blocked.

It wasn’t until I tried researching how to donate my hair to cancer patients that I realized the extent of this absurdity. It’s funny that ‘Donating Hair For Cancer Victims’ is blocked because of its malicious reputation.

Sure makes me wonder.


Comicle #6: Marketed Values

Comicles, September 18, 2010 at 10h23

This Comicle doesn’t properly summarize what I intended it to, so if you’ll allow me, I’d like to explain my thoughts further.

Just by living in a society, we are almost always under the influence of others. In the case of the character in this Comicle — we’ll call him Durpius — he’s angry that the vegan is trying to push his values on him. But what Durpius doesn’t seem to acknowledge is the abundance of advertising all around constantly pushing their values on him! And not just any values, but the most biased values possible: companies selling their own product.

But let’s suppose Durpius is aware of this subconscious influence and isn’t bothered by it. In fact, he probably finds it comforting since this same influence has always been in his life. But if this is all he’s ever known, could it be possible that these are not his own independent, actual values?

Put simply, my point is this: there are values all over the place, but when you don’t disagree with them, you may not notice. Take a look around, identify every time someone else’s values are being pushed on you, and before you believe it, make sure you believe it.


Reflections in the Water

Storytime, September 14, 2010 at 11h20

This is a short story I hurriedly wrote three years ago in San Diego, inspired by a billboard I saw on my way back to the hotel. Included here is its submitted form to a recent writing contest. I haven’t posted in so long, please enjoy this.

I was thirty-six years old when my wife died. Thirty-six, to the day. We met at sixteen, dated at nineteen, and married at twenty. I didn’t realize how impulsive I was until I met her. I proposed to her right here on this bridge, just all of a sudden one night. She took ten breaths, didn’t even move. It scared me to pieces. But then she smiled. Said yes. And I thought I would be happy forever. But tonight, and last night, and every night since she died, I wasn’t. Forever ended thirty years ago.

I stood on the bridge, hands deep in my pockets. Trying to ignore the cold was like trying to stop breathing. Not even my heavy coat could keep me warm. I had been there for hours and I worried that I was too late.

There were footsteps in the distance. They were quiet and nervous. It was her. She moved exactly like she spoke.

She took her time getting to the middle of the bridge, rested on the railing and stared into the darkness below. We stood a stranger’s pace apart and I couldn’t bear to look at her. She was so young, I had no idea what to say. Every word had to be perfect.

“I know who you are. I know why you’re here. Please, don’t do it.”
Continued…


Straggler

Briefs of Fiction, August 30, 2010 at 10h41

Onada crept towards the garden in silence. Fallen branches bent under his step, but did not break. This forest knew him, and it would never give him away.

He paused at the edge of the clearing. Hundreds of leaflets littered his crops. There had been an airplane the day before, but Onada couldn’t tell if it was Japanese. He hoped it was, hoped that his commanding officer had come to relieve him. But of course it was not, orders were not dropped from passing airplanes. They were given in person, face to face. They were accepted reluctantly and obeyed completely.

Onada retrieved a leaflet and retreated back to the forest. It wasn’t safe out in the open, in the garden that he came to only when he must. If it were too well cared for, the enemy would know he was alive, so he let most of the crops wither, even when he was hungry.

The leaflet read: LIEUTENANT HIROU ONADA, THE WAR IS OVER. JAPAN HAS SURRENDERED TO THE UNITED STATES.

Did the Americans think he was a fool? That such an obvious trick would coax him out to be captured? His name was misspelled, his rank was incomplete! Such poor forgery! No protector of Japan would ever accept such shame as surrender! Never would the mighty Empire of Japan fall!

Onada remained vigilant. Here, on this island, to this soldier alone, the war raged on for thirty years.


Let It Go

Poems, August 29, 2010 at 03h31

this is Your last chance for doubt, so if You have any left:
LET IT GO.

You don’t need doubt where You’re going, You don’t want it.
it will only make You afraid:

to exist beyond just existing,
to do what You want to do and say what You want to say,
to form Your own beliefs and to believe in them.

doubt will make You afraid to fail,
afraid to succeed,
afraid to even try.

so if You have any doubt,
LET IT GO.
all of it, completely!
be lighter without it,
be the light within You,
and shine everywhere You can,
everywhere You want,
and everywhere!

You are free, You are here!


My New Leopard-Print Zippo Lighter

My Regular Mind, August 24, 2010 at 12h24

Whenever I encounter a particularly unpleasant person I generally assume they’re just having a bad day. It’s getting harder to be naive these days. I saw a girl yesterday drop a lighter, and she didn’t notice so I picked it up and approached her.

“Excuse me,” I said, lighter in hand, ready to complete my Good Deed For The Day.

“I have a boyfriend,” said Miss Derisive, her head spinning around like a demon that could never be properly exorcised.

In the spirit of the stairs, I should have marveled at how delighted that boyfriend must be with such a charming lady as she, but instead I put the leopard-print Zippo lighter in my pocket and walked away. Regretfully, of course, because now she must think she was justified, now her presumptuous bitchiness will continue unimpeded until she loses every last thing in her purse.

So it goes?

I made up for yesterday’s missed Good Deed by starting the day off with a zinger. A construction worker waiting for the bus almost forgot his hard hat on the bench. And properly, he just said thank you.


By Leaps and Bounds (and Plunges)

My Regular Mind, August 16, 2010 at 03h41

I walked to the edge, looked down, knew I wouldn’t, and jumped anyway.

The last time I dove into water was when I was 8, and even then it wasn’t really diving since I always jumped feet-first. This kind of head-first diving was something from the swimming lessons that I didn’t take because of chronic ear infections. Because of these infections, I never learned how to tread water, and only this past year have I gone swimming when I was at the beach. And with growing confidence, now I can dive into a lake from about a meter up! And not just once, but three times, and dozens of times from lower heights! If I keep this up, soon I won’t even need my water wings!

On a completely different note, one of the points I was trying to really get at with my Comicle called “Patriotism is Relative” was my belief that any two people will always be able to find common ground between them. Sure, you may have to use extreme examples — ie, the comic’s punchline — but it’s possible. I’m not a fan of division, and there are so many ways societies divide themselves, as seen with politics, or sports, or food choices. And of course, some division is necessary in order to stimulate discourse and develop new ideas, but it seems to me like when we attack or defend these differences with hostility, we’re just not being productive. So next time you’re about to get into an argument, start by agreeing that you’re both alive, and go from there.


Heaven and Earth

Briefs of Fiction, August 11, 2010 at 12h10

When scientists discovered what came to be known as God, they found the explanation simpler than they imagined. Some argued over the definition of God and questioned if this being fit that definition, but this was irrelevant. When God arrived on Earth — and He did not come alone — it was impossible to question His dominion.

Almost 72 years before His arrival, an outside planet was discovered that we came to call Heaven. Its unusual orbit around our sun was equivalent to 3741 Earth years, and because of its unusual trajectory, it was only visible to us for 218 of those years when it was closest. Its atmosphere was like ours and a race of sentient beings existed there, in many ways similar to us. We called these beings Angels, and among them — an Angel Himself — God was their representative.

Millions of years earlier, colonies were sent to populate our planet. They died almost immediately. However similar Heaven and Earth are, its geological differences were still too drastic for their species. Only their basic DNA structure remained on Earth, and over time, Angels guided its evolution into a similar species that could withstand Earth’s atmosphere and gravity. This, we learned, was the origin of humankind. No longer a marvelously unique and intelligent being in the Universe, but a primitive version of a species far greater than ourselves.

God arrived on Earth violently. Heaven was no longer habitable, its luxury stripped and its beauty polluted. The Angels came to our planet as conquerors, all of them our masters. We built their enormous cities. We built the cages we were kept in. We could not resist them.

And like that, God reined over Earth, our Lord.


Standard Line Area and Tabman

My Regular Mind, August 4, 2010 at 11h56

People are interesting creatures. At a store today, I got into the line behind a man just finishing the process of commerce. A woman standing nearby, clearly upset by my lack of telepathy, cleared her throat.

“Excuse me,” she said derisively, “but I’m in line.”

I turned around, confused because I hadn’t seen anybody there. (I’m not one of those heinous line-cutters, after all.) But there she was, as far removed from the Standard Line Area as she could be, scowling. I looked at where she was, looked back at where the line was, and looked back at her.

“Way over there?” I asked.

“Yes,” she answered, destroying villages with her scowl. “This is where the line is.”

I wasn’t especially interested in either arguing or moving, so I stepped aside to let her in since the previous fellow had left. The cashier was printing, stapling, filing, and otherwise just waiting for her, and it’s not like I was in a hurry or anything, but this woman just wasn’t moving, so I told her that she could probably approach the counter now.

“What, are you directing line traffic or something?” (Another village destroyed.)

“No,” I said, “but standing so far back just seems a little absurd.”

She then proceeded to pay for something, put it in her purse, and insist that the cashier didn’t give it to her at all. For context, she was maybe in her late thirties and gave every indication of having lived in the posh part of Vancouver her whole life. We didn’t speak again even though I was very curious about her understanding of how local procedures of commerce worked.

And on an unintentionally-somewhat-related note, weeks ago I was groggy and doodling and whipped up this aggressive little dude. It started out as a can tab, but then grew a weird tablecloth body and wooden fists. I call him Tabman. He looks odd, I know, but he obviously doesn’t like you staring at him, so please stop. Thank you.

I’ve been awfully busy these days taking advantage of the warmth of the sun. I’ve been on the beach, in the water, in the woods, and doing everything summerly that I can. Because of this increase in fun personal activities, my updates have been more and more infrequent. I know you understand, because you’re swell like that. You’re a great big steaming pile of awesome, and you know it!


No Questions Asked

Briefs of Fiction, July 29, 2010 at 03h25

The 30’s had a lot of hard-working folks who just couldn’t find honest work, but then there were guys like me who avoided honest work completely. That’s why I moved to the coast, it’s the easiest place to live without really trying.

I’d been in town long enough to know who the strangers were, and one day this ship came in looking for crew, a guy I’d never seen before. Says he’s looking for two men, three nights, no questions asked. The pay is great so I get a friend, and no questions asked, we load the ship up around midnight and set sail before sunrise.

Right away I get into it with the boss. Won’t tell us where we’re going or what we’re carrying. Big heavy crates, no labels, doesn’t even say which end is up. I must’ve asked a dozen times what was in ’em, nothing. Could be dangerous, I tell him, allergies and all that, but he doesn’t care.
Continued…