May 28

Horror Stories from the Digital Trenches, Part I – CCS

Sorry about the huge gap in content. I had an accident and am currently in rehabilitation, so I have been focused on physical and occupational therapy. So, to diverge slightly from my normal political and religious topics, I am starting a series of the bizarre, interesting, and sometimes horrible stories from my time as a professional computer technician.

We begin our story way back in 1996. I was a young man of 18 at the time, dating a woman named Melissa, living with my parents, trying to find my way in the world. I really wanted to work on computers, but had no professional experience in the field, so finding a job had proved to be most difficult.

Late one night, I saw a show on the public access station with a guy assembling a computer, and, at the end of it, was a phone number and the man said they were looking for people without experience who would be interested in working in the computer field. I jumped at the chance. Continue reading

March 23

Passive Censorship, Religion, and Facebook

Dislike
Not everyone you meet online is going to like what you have to say.

Recently, I was the target of what I call passive censorship on Facebook. I belonged to an MS support group. Although the rules specifically state no posts about religion, there were allowances for prayer requests, and several posts a day talking about God. However, anyone talking about atheism was warned, their posts deleted, and if they did not take the hint that secularism was not allowed, like me, they would be banned, even if they followed the other rules. One admin claimed the group owner was an atheist, although nothing was heard from them about the whole thing. So, what the heck is going on here? The same kind of thing that happens in a lot of groups, and many people accuse Facebook of doing; passive censorship.

For more than five years, I was an admin on a very successful debate group on Facebook. It was eventually destroyed when a Muslim posted an image of someone being beheaded that was not caught by the admins and he later reported it for graphic violence. That was more active censorship; he very clearly intended to censor our speech. Passive censorship is more subtle, to the point where the person censoring may not even notice it themselves. It usually takes the form of rule manipulation to try and silence speech that is disagreeable. In some cases, this can be admirable; a few years ago, a group of pastors here in Indianapolis limited a Klu Klux Klan rally to the statehouse by registering events at all of the other public spaces in the downtown area. There have been cases where people have blocked access to the WBC without breaking the law. In a way, these are, in themselves, acts of free speech and defiance. The difference is that they do not prevent the speech of another; they are not full censorship. They do not eliminate the speech, only limit its scope.

Additionally, they do not show preferential treatment to one group over another. Granted, if I were to go into a Presbyterian church service on a Sunday morning and proclaim Allah as God, I would be met with, at least, a rightful request to leave. I would be on private property. directly violating rules and upsetting the reason people are there. However, if there was to be a computer trade show, and only Christians were invited, that would be passive censorship.

People have accused Facebook of doing this kind of thing, usually for political purposes. Recently, there was a case of a twelve year old whose account was removed. Allegedly, it was because of a post critical of Obama, but anyone who has read the Facebook TOS knows that the cutoff age is 13.

The thing is that passive censorship requires vague rules to begin with. Without vagaries, there can be no errors of interpretation, and no “benefits of the doubt”. That’s why legal contracts are so specific, long, and carefully worded. Such as a Terms of Service contract.

So, in the case of the MS group that bounced me out, well, so be it. You’ve proven to me that your adherence to your religion is more important than your compassion for your fellow man… which is, ironically, what your religion is supposed to be about.

February 28

In Memory

Leonary Nimoy. Source: ABC News
Leonary Nimoy. Source: ABC News

We have seen the passing of one of my personal heroes this week, Leonard Nimoy. To honor him, I watched the first five Star Trek movies. The funeral scene in Wrath of Khan made me cry, as did several of the other scenes related to death. I told my oldest that he was one of my heroes, and I realized he was. His views on life, both in and out of character, helped me through some dark times in my life. I mourn his passing.

I have already seen people speaking of him in Heaven, and some dismissing him as an atheist. From all of the information I can gather, he was a lifelong Jew. So, yes, he may be in Heaven, but he is not hanging out with Saint Peter. Sorry to dash your hopes of playing pinochle with him. To be honest, I don’t know if that was a game he liked or not. I could see him enjoying many different types of games. Maybe that is my own projection.

I’m sorry that it has been a long time since my last update. My heath has been an issue; I got a pretty severe head cold, and, with Multiple Sclerosis, it makes everything more complex. When the fever one is running makes it hard to move or think straight, blogging sometimes takes a hit. Thankfully, I survived it, although our finances have taken a hit, with my lovely wife having also been sick and having to take some time off. So, to cover some of my ongoing medical expenses, I have had to resort to a Gofundme fundraiser. Links are to the right.

Yesterday, I woke up and my right hand had gone all pins and needles. It is a new symptom, a departure from the slow decline of my left side, and something quite worrisome. It will probably take me some time to get used to the way my right hand feels now. My typing has slowed, and I am considering teaching myself touch typing with the new condition to improve my speed. Coding will be difficult, but I have too many projects to be slowed down by something silly like a disability.

Continue reading

January 16

Projection

The Scales of Justice
The Scales of Justice

I know, I know, I should just let it go and move on with my life. But, the whole situation is bugging me, and I think I am beginning to figure out why.

The indiscretion with the estranged wife aside, one of the accusations that my former friend lodged was that I fed her information, and that it contributed to him not being able to see his kids. On the surface, this was an offhand remark that was overshadowed by the perfectly justified anger that my friend felt about the other issue. However, now that I have gotten past the previous issue, I have had more time to examine this combination claim, and realized exactly the implications of what it means. I must say, I am surprised and dismayed at what it reveals, but I think it does shed some additional light upon his mindset.

Let’s look at the first part. Set aside for a moment that, after she used me to attack my friend that I didn’t want to have anything to do with her and move on to the presumption, for the sake of argument, that I was still in contact with her.

Let’s look at the situation at the time. She had moved to her own apartment north of Indianapolis with her son and daughter. He was living with his mistress who was going through her own divorce (as far as I knew. They weren’t talking to me much, either, as they blamed me for revealing the affair to both her husband and his wife).

In the mean time, I was trying to get my life back together, and was focusing on my own business as much as possible.

In the rare incidences that I talked to anyone, I tried to remain neutral, not give anyone any information that they did not have, and basically just be a friend and not a gossip. At some point, my friend and his girlfriend moved out of town, and I found out soon after from the girlfriend it was because he had spent the night with his estranged wife, and had gotten her pregnant.

At this point, I lost a lot of respect for him. He had not only cheated on his wife, the mother of his son, but also then cheated on his mistress with his wife, gotten her pregnant, and then left town. Frankly, at that point, I would have been content to just cut my losses and let him fade into the sunset. He seemed to be in a self destructive spiral, and there was little I could do about it.

However, the girlfriend told me that I should be patient with him, that he was dealing with a lot of emotional baggage, and I should wait for him to deal with it. So, I did.

I got a message from his ex-wife, asking questions such as where he had moved to. At the time, I was not certain, only that he had left the state. I knew that the divorce had gone from messy to bench warrant contempt of court messy, but there was little I could do to help the situation, so I stayed out of it.

I got a call from the girlfriend’s ex-husband, with similar questions, as his now ex-wife had left him with their daughter. Again, I had no information to give.

Soon after, I found out they had moved to Minneapolis, but I tried to stay out of it as much as possible. Had I been called to testify, I would have had no choice but to do so, but it never came up.

So, in the end, there were a lot of factors in the two divorces, none of which had anything to do with me. First, the fact that my friend got his estranged wife pregnant may have changed the nature of the divorce. I am not a lawyer, and am not fully versed in the laws surrounding divorce in the state of Indiana, but I seem to remember having to certify that my ex-wife was not pregnant. Let’s toss that one out, since I do not know enough to say anything about it.

Next, the fact that he moved out of state without (based on the communication with both exes I got) informing the court, considering there were children involved, could be considered contempt of court.

Finally, that his ex-wife refused or is still refusing to allow him to see his kids is a legal issue that he needs to address and has absolutely nothing to do with me, and is solely between him, his lawyer, the court, his ex-wife, and her lawyer. That he is somehow trying to blame me for it is nothing more that projection.

In summation, he is trying to blame me for telling on him for 1) possibly being in contempt of court, possibly for trying to skirt the divorce laws of the State of Indiana, and 2) for not standing up and fighting for his right to see his kids.

I am sure that, if he reads this, he is going to blow a gasket, get pissed off, swear some sort of petty vengeance against me, but, since I have not once mentioned him by name, it just shows how petty the whole thing really is. Instead of standing up, being a man, and fighting for his rights, he wants to waste his energy and time attacking a handicapped man he has already thrown under the bus just to keep from admitting to himself he made a mistake.

Once again, I have been asked to be patient with him. I was once. I am beginning to think that the second chance I gave him then was all he deserved.

January 9

The importance of Friendship Harmony

Friends
Friends

I think that recent events have caused me to reflect deeply on some very serious issues and concepts in the realm of friendship. Specifically, the foundations upon which a friendship is built.

When people are young, friendships are easy to form, and can be about shared interests, location, schools, activities. As we grow older, there is less and less overlap, as there are fewer and fewer people, for most of us, that live in the same place as we do and also work in the same place, and also do the same social activities. Look at the show “Big Bang Theory”; the four male friends have jobs at the same place, similar interests, and hang out together in their spare time. This is not as common in the real world, unless we make it so. Adult friendships have to be based on conscious choice rather than happenstance.

However, many of us carry childhood and young adult friendships into adulthood. Sometimes, we have to shed these friendships as we grow and change. And, sometimes, these friends shed us before we think we are ready.

Over time, people have come in to and gone out of my life, sometimes easily, and sometimes not so easily. Recently, a person I considered to be a very close friend left my life, probably permanently. I mourned for the lost friendship. It was a hard thing to take. This person and I had been friends for more than a decade.

But, the more I thought about it, the more I examined our past and his present, the more I realized that I hadn’t lost as much as I thought I had. I’m not going to turn this into a post about how horrible he is or was, or how wrong he was, or any such nonsense. What I want to talk about is more a concept I am working on called Friendship Harmony.

If you think of each person as a complex melody, then any two given people will either be discordant or be harmonious together. One can see this in just about any interaction, whether it be work or play. Either people get along or they don’t. And, as people change, they may be harmonious far a while, and then fall out of sync and become discordant. To be honest, I think this is what happened between the two of us.

The hurt that he cited as being the wedge that drove us apart was a ten year old wound that, as far as I knew, had been dealt with at the time. Either it had, and he used it as an excuse for whatever reason, or it hadn’t, and it just took this long for him to get pissed enough to deal with it, in which case he has issues that he refused to deal with. Either way, we became discordant.

And that’s okay. He has his life, and I have mine. I do not hold a grudge, I do not fault him. Mostly, I do not fault him because I do not and cannot know what his motives were behind his sudden change of heart, nor do I have the energy or time to try and guess what they are. If, at some point in the future, when the wounds on both sides are sufficiently healed, maybe we can meet over coffee and discuss it. Until then, I have much more important things to do with my time and energy. We grew apart, and that is good enough for me.

In the mean time, I have other friendships I need to focus on and grow, friends that are close to me that I can spend my time with. Harmonies that are pleasing for both of those involved, and music to make.

January 8

An Ode to Monkeys

Sock Monkey
I used to like Monkeys

Just under eighteen years ago, I was a very different person.

I was nineteen, pretty stupid, brash, trying to take on a world I did not understand with a head full of what I thought were good ideas and a heart that, although true, was influenced more by hormones than experience. I traveled two thousand miles on a half promise from someone who made a lot of promises, many of which were just to impress, not with the intent to actually keep.

In other words, I had thrown my lot in to some bad situations.

Into the midst of this mess, I found myself in desperate need of some real friends. I found a few. One in particular helped me through that period, a good man, and odd man, a kindred spirit, someone I relied on who grew with me and, when I returned home a bit worn and wiser, tracked me down and continued our friendship.

As I said, a very good person at the time.

He was slightly bitter and cynical towards the world, and with good reasons to be. I helped him find work for the company that I had found work with, let him live in our home, in the nursery we had started to build for my unborn child, helped find a sitter for his step daughter while he worked with me, went to bat for him with that sitter when he absent mindedly hemmed and hawed about finding a way to pay her back for the service of watching her day after day. When the time came to move his family complete here, I helped shuttle his belongings here, helped his new wife, pregnant with their child, find a good OB-GYN here. I was a good friend to him, as good a friend to him as he was to me. I enjoyed his tiki birthday party his wife so lovingly put together. I watched him be kind of a pain in the ass to her from time to time, but I knew he loved her. Being a tech guy, I knew what kind of pressures he was under, and what kinds of quirks of personalities he had, as I had them myself.

I shook my head as he was so excited about one thing or another, like a kid in a candy store. For months he would talk about nothing else, then move on to the next thing as if the previous thing had never existed.

When he had a grand plan to take over the company we both worked for, I listened. Sounded good. He was a bright guy, and it sounded like he could pull it off.

Two weeks later, after the boss fired everyone involved (except for the one guy my friend had included in the plan who went straight to the boss with the information) and my friend was able to swing some piece work from that boss, I did not begrudge him. I had other irons in the fire.

When my marriage came unraveled, my friend and his wife were my strong and vocal supporters, even setting me up on a date with on of his wife’s coworkers, helping me through some of the hardest parts of the process.

The beginning of the end happened only five years after we met, even though the end happened ten years later. I had started dating a woman in Ohio, and was anxious for my friend to meet her. I had grown to be friends with the wife of the lawyer who had handled my divorce, a woman half his age, full of energy and who liked to hang out at all hours of the day or night and drink coffee and talk, much as I did at the time. So, deeply enamored by my love from Ohio, I invited them both to Denny’s to meet her. She had to head back to Ohio at midnight, so I thought we would call it a night at that point.

My two friends did not do so. In fact, that was the beginning of their affair.

Soon, the two of them were sneaking off to be together quite frequently, with me being the unwilling confidant to the whole thing. As I was friends not only with the two of them, but with both spouses as well, I ended up in a very uncomfortable position. It all came crashing down a few weeks later, while I was in Ohio with my lady love. The wife of my friend discovered the affair, and demanded that I be the one to inform the female half’s husband. As if the whole thing were somehow my fault and responsibility. She ranted and raged at me until I finally cut the connection to her, and I gave him enough information for him to figure it out on his own.

The whole thing imploded (including, eventually, my relationship with Miss Ohio, albeit for other reasons). And, of course, nearly everyone blamed me. My friend’s wife blamed me because I knew about it. My female friend blamed me because I “told on them”. My friend, I think, blamed me for a similar reason. He almost came to blows with my lawyer in my lawyer’s house (Bad idea, by the way). Everyone got divorced.

And now we come to my big mistake.

During the whole kerfuffle, my friend’s now estranged wife called me, distraught about the whole thing, nearly in tears, and asked me to chaperon while she went out looking to pick up a guy at a bar. I told her I thought it was a horribly bad idea for her to do that, considering they were in the middle of the divorce, and that she was in an emotionally fragile state, and it would just complicate things, and that I didn’t feel comfortable doing that to my friend in the first place. It was bad enough that he was cheating on her, I could not in any good conscience help her, in turn, cheat on him. She convinced me that I could help her from going too far, that she just needed some companionship maybe just needed to go out and be an adult for a while. I finally agreed, more determined to save her from herself than to help her get lucky.

Before you continue, dear reader, know that the contents that lie herein are now ten years in the past, are difficult for me to write, as they detail a betrayal I committed and am ashamed of. I have left all names off of this document and will not allow any comments that include any names to be published. The only reason I write these words at all is to clear my conscience, as a way to atone for my wrong doings to an extent. I am not looking for forgiveness from any of those involved, merely understanding.

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