"[My relationships were] like I was in these movies where the script was only half-written. When I’d get to the end of this half-script, the other actors wanted me to ad lib. But I had never gotten the hang of that. That’s why these movies were always box-office failures. Six of them in the past twenty years. I always blew the lines." ~ from my horrible first novel "Learn How To Pretend." (unpublished)(obviously)

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Irony

I've always had a problem with Alanis Morrisette's Ironic because it ISN'T Ironic.

It has been fixed.

Human Need

According to the late psychologist, Abraham Maslow, humans have a hierarchy of basic human needs which he expressed in the now famous triangle of human need. According to Wikipedia's article on Maslow, human needs were identified thus:
  • At the bottom of the hierarchy are the "Basic needs or Physiological needs" of a human being: food, water, sleep and sex.
  • The next level is "Safety Needs: Security, Order, and Stability". These two steps are important to the physical survival of the person. Once individuals have basic nutrition, shelter and safety, they attempt to accomplish more.
  • The third level of need is "Love and Belonging", which are psychological needs; when individuals have taken care of themselves physically, they are ready to share themselves with others, such as with family and friends.
  • The fourth level is achieved when individuals feel comfortable with what they have accomplished. This is the "Esteem" level, the need to be competent and recognized, such as through status and level of success.
  • Then there is the "Cognitive" level, where individuals intellectually stimulate themselves and explore.
  • After that is the "Aesthetic" level, which is the need for harmony, order and beauty.[42]
  • At the top of the pyramid, "Need for Self-actualization" occurs when individuals reach a state of harmony and understanding because they are engaged in achieving their full potential.[43] Once a person has reached the self-actualization state they focus on themselves and try to build their own image. They may look at this in terms of feelings such as self-confidence or by accomplishing a set goal.[4]
http://weknowmemes.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/maslows-heirarchy-of-needs-wifi.jpgA few days ago, a friend posted this revised version of the triangle on Facebook. As you can see this version adds WiFi accessibility to the list which is, after all, one of our modern needs.
 But after I had my laugh, I noticed something that was.... sad. Those things on the bottom? Yes, the WiFi, but also the physiological needs of Food, Water, Shelter, and Warmth? Those basic human needs? Those aren't free. If you are an adult in a developed nation -- at least in North America -- You don't get those basics without paying. 
Sure, you could go to a homeless shelter and get some free food, but of dubious quality or quantity. They'd give you water there. Likewise you could get sheltered, maybe, if there is room. And you could get warm for a bit in the winter -- again, if you can get in. But homeless shelters are not always the safest of places. And it's clients become institutionalized. 
But where can you go -- legally in the United States and get food without buying it? Where can you legally grow crops or hunt or fish or forage in order to feed yourself? Where can you safely and legally shelter on a permanent or semi-permanent basis? Where can you go to get warm or (as is the case in the summer in the southwest) cool without having to make a purchase or fear being rousted for loitering?

And water, that thing that, next to air, we can't live long without. Three days, I believe, is the usual limit on that. We have a planet covered with water. We have a nation that has plenty of streams, rivers, and lakes. But they aren't potable. In fact, if I recall correctly, there is virtually no place in the world where it is safe to drink untreated surface water. In the meantime, "manufacturers" are selling treated and "purified" water in plastic bottles that clog our landscapes, load our landfills, and float en masses in our oceans.... I'm digressing. The person on the street has limited access to fresh clean water, whether for bathing or drinking.

While Maslow's ideas have supposedly gone out of fashion, and the remainder of his pyramid has suffered accusations of being biased toward the West, there can be no arguing that that bottom row of needs is universal. That means that everyone has those needs. And food and water are required to service. Yet we live in a society that routinely denies access to these needs based on our ability to pay someone for them. Something about that sounds broken to me. Our society is, more and more, feeling broken. Irreparably so. I have a theory that this isn't a matter of just going back to the "olden" days. Get back to how it was when we were kids. I think it goes much further than that. We have some amazing learning now. We have the knowledge to help people not succumb to the diseases and epidemics of old. And we have the knowledge of how to do a lot of that without the exorbitant costs of today. But our legal, political, and economic system -- all three of which favor a small minority of humans -- is clearly broken.
How do we change it? How do we live in a way that is equitable to all?
Isn't it interesting that Maslow's Hierarchy of need is encased in a triangle? A delta? The symbol of change?

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

[UPDATED] it's all crap


I came to a realization the other day. Nothing epiphanic, just one of those moments of “Oh. Yeah.  That’s it.”

For years I had this thing where, if I were going to return a product to a store, I’d play out the big argument with the store in my head.

I’d go there and say, “I’d like to return this, please.”
 And they’d say, “Why? What’s wrong with it?”
 “It doesn’t fit right,” I’d say. Or “It doesn’t work.” Or “It broke when I tried to install it.”
“Well, if you wore it,” they’d argue, “you can’t return it. It’s got your cooties.” Or “You broke it, you bought it.” Or “You’ll have to return it to the manufacturer.”
And I’d argue back and there’d be a big to-do with cops and sirens and beefy managers trying to escort me from the premises.

Of course that never happened. I never—as best as I recall—had a huge issue returning a product. In fact, in recent years, it’s become incredibly easy. Some stores take things back without a receipt even. Yeah. Easy. Too easy, maybe.

I’m sure Wal-Mart was the driving force behind this change. Once they got their vendors under their thumbs they said, “If your products don’t sell we’ll return them to you,” it was an easy next step to say “We’re sending back all of our damaged merchandise, and while we’re at it, all our customer returns.”

On the face of it, it makes sound business sense. Easy returns build goodwill in customers. And a happy customer in the store will likely buy something else while they are there. As well, vendors no longer have the payroll expense of employees to handle customer issues—not as many, anyway.

And, since it’s so simple to accept returns, the need is not as great for quality. If a customer won’t get a hassle when he returns an item that broke or was mislabeled or had parts missing, he’s not as likely to complain about the shoddy workmanship. Who cares? And certainly making cheaper parts makes it more cost-effective to deal with returns and make the customer happy.

I can’t count the number of times Danika and I have returned products to Home Depot. Not always because there was a fault in the product, but sometimes because we got the wrong item. In fact, we’ve even gotten to the point, at Home Depot, where if, say, we are unsure of the size of something we need, we’ll buy it in a range of sizes and return the ones we don’t want.

Not the point, though. The fact is that easy returns seem to make up for shoddy quality. “No-Hassle” guarantees are supposed to make us feel better about poor workmanship among the trades. And, seriously, if I buy something for two or three bucks and it doesn’t work, am I really going to return it? How likely is that?

We keep buying stuff, keep the economy moving, but to whose benefit? Wal-Mart buys a warehouse full of shitty little widgets that they paid a dime for but sell for $3. Half of them don’t work and they sit in our junk drawers or landfills because we don’t return them and so, in essence, we’re handing over money for nothing.
Not sure where I’m going with this, but I guess you get the point. I think maybe what I’m saying is that this is another place where our society is broken. Two-hundred years ago, if someone built something for you, they stood by it because they had to. They lived in your town. They saw you at church or the store or on the street. They’d hear about it otherwise. They wouldn’t get more business.

We consumers are as much to blame as anyone. We demand low cost above quality. We bitch about paying $2.39 a pound for “vine-grown” tomatoes that taste like shit. We want tomatoes that taste like we think we remember them. But we only want to pay prices like we remember. And you can only have one of those. And we go with the latter.

UPDATE: Today (the day after I wrote this) I got to thinking about this idea in relation to food. As with the above, we've traded  quality for convenience. It's convenient to be able to eat an apple year round. It tastes like mushy shit because it's been sitting in a warehouse for months, but you can have apples all year round. It's cheap to buy, but it wasted tons of diesel fuel to ship it from New Zealand or Chile, BUT you can have it all year round. Same thing for tomatoes or other fresh fruits and vegetables.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Le Marriage de Moi

I got engaged this weekend. I'm 55. My fiancee is the woman I've called my 'wife' for pretty much the last 6 years or so, though it's never been legal. The woman I love. We wear rings. We're (re)committed. I refer to her in this blog as La Esposa. She's also known as Danika de la Cruz. She's the woman I talk about when I talk about a breakup a year ago. In fact, it's been about a year since she asked me to move out of the house.

On Saturday we get a joint checking account to pay the bills with, do the grocery shopping. This way it's not just her doing that stuff. That evening she asks me when Fall break is at for the University where I teach. "The eleventh," I say. "Tenth and eleventh of October. Why?"
"This is going to sound a little weird," she says.
"Why?" I ask. "Do you want to get married that weekend?"
"Yeah. I do."

And so it is. We begin the planning. Nothing ostentatious. This will be my third. For her it will be the first she's gone through with, having narrowly missed things about 10 or 12 years ago.

I'm reading back over this and realizing I sound... blase about it all. Not true. I'm thrilled! I'm happy and content and excited about the direction my life has turned in the past year -- though I'm dismayed about the fact that we've not yet sold our house and moved to Colorado.

I've been thinking about it all and what it means. I keep feeling like the Colorado move hasn't happened because we (I) haven't yet accepted the current situation, haven't found happiness in where we are. Haven't come to terms with the greenness of yonder grass.

But, what is marriage after six years of living together if not "acceptance"? Is this not accepting that we belong together and will be together for our remaining years? Is this not accepting that the grass over there is precisely the same shade as the grass on this side of the fence? Doesn't it mean that I can accept that I deserve happiness and that I can find it right here? I think so.

I am happy. I am content. This is where I belong. This is where I shall stay.

Relationship-wise anyway. New Mexico is for the birds.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Tall Grass Prairies



From Chipotle




Chipotle is one of the few restaurants I feel good about eating at. Plus, it's inexpensive as hell!

Monday, August 12, 2013

I'm trying harder

http://www.yoganonymous.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/recovering-yogi.jpg

Neither Respond Nor React

And the more you judge others as rude, critical, and argumentative, the longer it will take you to find peace.

And I Quote: Anne Lamott

"I thought such awful thoughts that I cannot even say them out loud because they would make Jesus want to drink gin straight out of the cat dish."
Anne Lamott

Monday, August 05, 2013

Where to be happy

According to HuffPo. Look! There's Fort Collins right in the middle of the happiness!
Click the graphic or go to Huffington Post for the full story.
http://big.assets.huffingtonpost.com/2013_08_Happiness_0.png 

Friday, August 02, 2013

Right?!


But it's HARD!!


Destiny? Is that you?

Selling Off The Farm

We first put our house on the market back at the end of May. Fully expecting it to sell fast, we ordered up a POD and had it dropped in our driveway. If you aren't familiar with PODS (Portable On-Demand Storage), they are, in essence, large plastic shipping containers -- the size of  U-Haul box truck -- for moving, with roll-up doors that you load yourself. The company comes and picks up the container and trucks it to wherever you want. We used one several years ago when we were building an addition in our garage and needed to clear out some stuff during construction. That one just sat in our driveway the whole time, but it worked great.

This time, we loaded it up with the type of things we thought we wouldn't need for a few months. A few extra bits of furniture. Boxes of books. Winter clothes and Christmas tree decorations. Beyond that we had an eye for clutter. What were the things, we asked, that might make our house seem muddled? 

Now, we've got a pretty minimal decor sense anyway -- at least La Esposa does -- so this took a bit of work. Furniture pieces that we kept on hand for visitors were loaded into the POD. As were some kitchen items. An extra set of dishes. Photos, paintings, tchotchkes. Some of the kid's toys. The idea was that when potential buyers came to look at the house, there'd be enough there to give a sense of how furniture might fit, but not so overwhelming that it made the rooms look cramped. The POD loaded, the house looked bare. I was almost embarrassed, wondering what buyers would think of us. How poor we must be. They would think we were selling the house because we were avoiding foreclosure. We'd sold our furniture and now all that was left was the house.

The truck came and moved the POD and the moving sign went up.

In addition to the above reasons, we were looking at this as an experiment. Of those things we'd packed away, what things would we miss? What things would we forget we even had?

There were a few that popped up in a matter of days. La Esposa and I had just gotten back together -- I'd just moved my stuff back to the house from my apartment a week earlier and much of it remained in boxes -- boxes that were just put away into the POD. I had an inkling I'd be teaching a few classes during the summer, so there were some things I kept out for that purpose. And even now, I can't tell you what any of the things were that I wanted. (The exception being a sweet-sage smudge stick that we thought of using to clear the negative energy out of a few rooms.)

And as the time went by and the house was not selling, we came to realize that most of it was stuff we could live without. And, in fact, a lot of the stuff that remained in the house could go. As I said, we were pretty minimal before. Having the stuff gone made us realize how well we were doing with much less.

At the point where we were considering throwing in the towel on selling -- at least for the school year -- we called up the PODS people and had them return our stuff. We unloaded everything, putting it back where it was.

And, holy crap, it was a lot of stuff. You saw that coming, though, right? Suddenly our house -- which had once seemed minimal -- now felt jammed full. Nothing seemed to fit right. It was cluttered. We had to get rid of a lot of the things that had been in the POD. We held a yard sale the following weekend. It was a cleansing experience. Furniture and things we'd dragged around with us for years, holding onto "just in case," went up for sale. Slashed prices. Given away. Given to thrift stores. 

There's not a point here, really. As I said, you saw it coming. But, much of it was hard. I had a boombox cd/cassette combo that I'd lugged around since the late 90s when my second wife and I separated. I used it when I worked in the garage or 
out in the yard. Since then, though we'd gotten Bose portable iPod player that I used instead. I used it to make cassettes from CDs because I still had a cassette player in my truck -- though I used the player as an adapter to play my iPod. There was really no rational reason to keep it. It went to a piano teacher for $3 and I felt better about it.

My whole time with La Esposa has been about downsizing and minimalizing and letting go of things. It's been a sucky, painful, angry, humiliating, and mostly enlightening process.