Prosperous Integrity, Part II

Experimenting with this and thatFor a number of reasons, using the Web as the vehicle for my experiment makes perfect sense. To those who've never really experienced life without it, the idea of not using the Web—and the electronic tools that provide access to it—is probably similar to rejecting the traditional telephone, or television. Sure, it's been done, but not by any significant number of people, especially not here in the USA.

I don't mean to imply that art isn't necessary, but unlike art, the Web doesn't just imitate life; it's gone beyond that, and into the realm of life support. No longer the crude, cartoonlike approximation of life it once was, the Web—in concert with the underlying support structure affectionately known as the Net—has now become a keystone of commerce, even as it levels the playing field for small business.

In fact, the Web has made possible an entirely new caste of small-business owner. Once unthinkable, business on a global scale can now be successfully accomplished by the bathrobe entrepreneur with little more overhead than a computer, rudimentary software, and a connection to the Internet. But this is where the road forks. Lots of people sit around in bathrobes staring at Web-connected computers, and no doubt many are running a business of some sort, but there must still be significant resistance to the idea or there wouldn't be so many vehicles on the road during rush hour.

I know. It's an oversimplification; there are more elements in that equation. Still, assuming relatively equal portions of inspiration, perspiration and time are available to large and small business alike, and factoring in reasonable accessibility to modern hardware and software, any lingering resistance to the idea of remote employees—workers who aren't physically there—may have more to do with tradition than practicality.

There are jobs that demand physical proximity to coworkers, clients, or both. But many simply do not, and if mere tradition isn't the culprit—nor the Web-induced cynicism mentioned in the previous monologue—there must be another reason, and maybe more than one.

The experiment continues.


Prosperous Integrity, Part I

Onward, and upward. Since its inception, the Web has struggled to find a place in the hearts and minds of consumers. But after a couple false starts—and lingering resistance to the idea of Online Everything—the concept has gained considerable traction, and now it's difficult to imagine life without e-books and magazines, e-news, e-banking, e-music and video, and in fact almost anything that can be digitized and sent through the virtual pipelines of the Web.

Sadly, it's equally difficult to imagine our online world without all those in-your-face advertisements, scams, and offers for services that cost real money, but don't always solve real problems. The Web is an illustrious marketplace, and naturally some will use it to sell snake oil. Same as it ever was, virtual presence aside.

Still, I couldn't be more frustrated. I have an agenda, too, but it's benign, and altogether ordinary. My agenda is simply to provide a useful—and arguably necessary—service, without the chicanery and gouging that have now become all-too-common features of so many Web-based enterprises. I want to make a living, but not at any cost.

Nearly everyone who has ventured out onto the sticky strands of the Web has discovered its dark side. Some have been victimized by scams, disappointed by unkept—or underkept—promises, or maybe just appalled by the sheer volume of trash blowing about the virtual landscape. In that sense, the Web mirrors real life. Of course, both sides of the mirror also have a much brighter side, but a degree of cynicism is understandable.

Maybe even inescapable, although I'd like to believe that isn't the case. I'd like to believe that, just as in the more tangible world on which the Web is patterned, there remain pockets of resistance—resistance to crass commercialism, and the resulting perception that every new Web presence is out to make a quick buck, and nothing more. I'd like to believe that integrity can prosper, too.

So I'm going to conduct an experiment. My hypothesis is this: Integrity can prosper, and will, given the opportunity to express itself on its own terms, free of the unnatural constraints imposed by expectations of normalcy. The Web will serve as the test apparatus for this experiment. There will be no bell jars, and certainly no bell-shaped curves.


Three Windows

Three windowsIf the eyes are the windows of the soul, what vista does the third eye allow? A view beyond the grasp of physical senses, to be sure, but the soul inhabits that domain already.

Perhaps it's the panorama of infinity, beyond the mere unknown. Not the unknowable, but the space between the unthinkable and the edge of creation, where everything goes.

On the other hand, who says we can have only three?


Hugging the Alien

Don't do this if you're an alien.I think I might be alienated. I don't mean just different, or even utterly separate from humankind in general. I mean it in the more literal sense of being permeated with DNA that isn't like my neighbor's DNA. I haven't been blessed with a full-scale DNA analysis lately, but that doesn't mean there's no evidence to support my conviction that I'm not really human.

One example is the way I interact with my food. When I feed, I don't just pack groceries in my cheeks the way ordinary humans do. Rather, I sense my lunch is being integrated with the very essence of me; I feel my food and I are becoming one. I don't think most people feel this way, unless they're aliens.

Another reason I don't think I'm human is my sense of humor. When someone tells me a funny joke, I don't laugh. Instead, I immediately begin telling a similar joke, except I begin with the punch line. I don't like waiting until the end to say it, because to an alien, that would be stupid.

If you've ever watched aliens for a while, you know they don't like hugging each other. They like to hug themselves, which is exactly how I feel when my arms are hugging my shoulders. I'm pretty sure humans don't feel that way about hugs, because if they did, they'd probably be aliens.


One Delusional Minute

Tick tockWhere I live, the sun currently sets one minute later every day. This happy, incremental increase in available late-day sunlight continues into the middle of June, where the whole thing stalls and then begins to collapse. It's disappointing, and I'm not looking forward to it at all.

In the meantime, I'm going to delude myself with the greening lawns, the newly unfolded leaves, and all the bugs I haven't seen since last year. Yeah, I still know how to dream.


Into Light

Illuminating 15 grey lifetimes, one word at a time.How do we learn to communicate? Like subtle hues from the primary color, shades of meaning draw the listener — and the reader, too — toward a finer, more complete understanding of darkness and light.

How does communication cease? When words remain forever in shadow — unspoken, unwritten, and sealed inside — black and white become the only colors from which to choose, and shades of grey the irrevocable perception.

Who will bring 15 grey lifetimes into the light, and color their lessons with a newer, brighter purpose? Perhaps you will, blogger.


The Girl with the Multicolored Hair

The Girl with the Multicolored HairThe last time I saw the girl with the multicolored hair, she was following sunbeams through the kitchen door and ran, laughing, out into the world to find another bright friend.

The last time I saw the girl with the multicolored hair, she flew above the treetops where the wind blows warm, and clouds were not allowed to interfere with such a perfect sky.

The last time I saw the girl with the multicolored hair, she sang to the sparrows and the green, green grass, and rain was always welcome, but only after noon.


Blogger's Hell

Press the red down button, please.I knew I was going to hell, but maybe I just didn't care. The nightmares — the ones in which I stood before the throne of judgment — began to intrude on my waking hours, but still I procrastinated. By the time I began to seriously rethink my position on writing — or more to the point, my avoidance of it — it was too late. In these dreams, I had committed the unpardonable sin. I had neglected my blog for months, and the sentence was eternity in a place with insignificant site traffic.

Sure, I had my reasons, and in my dream I said so. But the Creator dismissed my protests with the wave of a red marking pencil, causing a ripple of laughter from the throng of winged creatures fluttering about overhead. My attorney laughed, too.

I began to make irrational promises. I said I could meet impossible deadlines, and vowed to memorize every word of the Chicago Manual. I pledged to improve my vocabulary. I even promised to be more serious, but that brought howls from the little winged creatures. Even the Creator smiled.

"Tell me," said the Creator, slipping the red pencil behind his ear. "If you had it to do over, what would you do differently?"

The winged creatures stopped their fluttering, and turned toward me. The lawyer chuckled.

"I . . . might put ads on my blog?" My voice was hoarse.

The winged creatures burst into laughter. Some spiraled into walls, while others simply fell to the floor and lay heaving, overcome with uncontrollable mirth. My attorney rose from his chair.

"See you around, blogger," said the lawyer.

"See you around, blogger," said the Creator, pulling the lever that opened the floor beneath my feet.

I screamed.


Predatory Classifieds

The gaping maw of the e-predatorIf you've ever posted an ad on the Internet, you know it's a great way to attract the attention of scoundrels and thieves. Fortunately, their tactics are often so comical that they're likely to generate laughter, but little else.

Here's an actual reply — generated, no doubt, by a bot — to an ad I posted recently. Amazingly, the font "Mike" chose to reply to "Ricky" was . . . wait for it . . . Comic Sans!


Hello Ricky,
Thanks for the email and everything about the (insert verbatim subject line from ad here) description on the internet ad it's okay with me.Here is my offer,i would like to purchase the (insert verbatim subject line from ad again) and my payment method will be through a cashier's check and am going to make $4,800 because i have man that wants to pay for the house i just got for him and his family .Am an estate manager by profession.So i think it would be preferable if you can cash the money because am out of town actually in the united kingdom for now and i still have a lot of work to do at hand,so you can have a $800 and extra $50 to keep the item for me,then send the balance to me so i can pay the owner of the house because that money am using to pay is from my own gain out of the money as an estate manager..........Please bear with me because i want to buy the time from you and due to my absence in town thats why i don't want to loose the item so thats why i said you should cash the check get your money in order not to waste your time okay.
Just get back to me with your name,address and phone number so i can instruct my client to issue out the cashier's check in your name and you don't have to ship until the payment clears okay.

Sometimes the response has even less to do with the ad. In the following example, the e-mail address I used in the classified ad was harvested for a much loftier purpose.

Dear Friend,

Good day,I sincerely seek your assistance.

My name is Mr.MUHA OJO whom his entire family was wiped out as a result of Airlines that crashed into the Red Sea in cairo and I am the only son Before the accident my Father deposited the sum of 13.3 million U.S dollars cash in a Bank in my name.

I am with all the documents that covers the fund and as an asylum seeker it is not in my legal capacity to put up claims to this fund This is why I need your assistance as my late fathers foreign partner to put up claims to this fund I will forward to you all the documents that cover this fund.

I will offer you 20% of the fund for your assistance and If interested and capable to assist me in this transaction please get back to me immediately.

PLS REPLY ME WITH THIS MY PRAVET mailto: Yours sincerely.




This email is send by "Demo Software"

There were a couple others, too, but they lacked the sophistication exhibited above. They also lacked actual words, but that's another matter entirely.


My Underling


It's good to have an underling. I've never had an apprentice, either, so my new underling has decided to also act in that capacity for now, until something more profitable comes along. This is fine with me, because good underlings are hard to find. His name is Styx, possibly because he likes water but isn't a very good swimmer, so he's always in danger of crossing over to The Other Side. It's also possible the person who named him wasn't sure how to spell Sticks, or Stinks, but I'm just guessing.

As I mentioned a couple days ago, I already liked the dog who lives here, but I like Styx even more now. I suspect Styx feels the same way, because he watches me when he thinks I'm not looking, in order to memorize the way I carry myself and the look in my eye. Imitation is the most important facet of apprenticeship.

Whenever Styx sees a cat, he growls and rushes at it, because that's what I would expect him to do if he didn't love cats so much. He thinks I don't know about that, but I do. Styx used to have a cat of his own, but the cat died.

Styx doesn't have a lot of hair, so he's prone to clinginess and shivering when the weather turns cold. When he isn't warm, Styx forgets his obligations and tries to jump in my lap, or goes off and looks for someone with a blanket or a heating pad. When he's cold, Styx isn't a very good underling.

But I still like this dog. Styx does his best to be a good apprentice, and most of the time he does a fine job of it. I know he cares, except maybe when he's cold.


Third Watch

Watching it all unfoldMy new neighborhood is my old neighborhood. I don't remember the first time I lived here; I wasn't even a year old then. The second time was exactly four years ago, but I didn't stay. If there's any charm to the idea of the treble cycle, this ought to be the one that matters, because I've never heard interesting stories about four repetitions of anything.

This may be due to the principle of diminishing returns, which predicts the increasing futility of revisiting past circumstances — and the people, places, and things that characterize them — more times than is reasonable to achieve insight, and wisdom.

If the third time isn't the charm, what luck might a fourth iteration bring?


A New Accumulation

Home on the rangeI love moving as much as the next guy, which is to say, not that much. Stuff accumulates, and that stuff has to be put in boxes, carried out, carried in, and then unpacked again so it can serve as the foundation for new accumulations. Lists must be made and schedules adhered to, and of course there's the cleaning ritual at the previous address. Then there's the settling-in period at the new place, where nothing is where it ought to be anymore, causing the brain to forge new connections in order to locate things like toothpaste, and food.

But I'm getting used to my new environment by and by, and I've managed to locate most of my possessions now. There seems to be some new stuff, too — things I don't remember seeing before. A dog, for example, and also a vegetable patch. I like the dog very much, but it's still too early in the season to know how I'll feel about the proceeds from the garden.

They say location is everything, and although I'm still not entirely sure where I am, the mountains are almost certainly larger than they were before. I consider this a good thing, because it means (1) I haven't accidentally moved to Kansas, and (2) I won't have as far to go if I decide to become a mountain man.

At any rate, I'm generally optimistic about the new place, and I hope I don't have to move again for a long time. Change is good, as long as it doesn't happen too often.