Archive for the “Stories/Observations” Category

Tonight I cleaned my “apartment”. It looks better, but not too much different really. Hmm…I think I’ll take a picture of it.


So…here is a rundown of the things you see in the picture. Are you excited? I bet.

Item #1: The acoustic guitar is from Austin. It needs one of the frets fixed. I’ve had it since college.

I have been saying that I am going to play at an Open Mic night, so last week I went to one to see how good everyone was. It was out in the middle of nowhere at this seafood restaurant. I sat down and had a beer and saw this guy that looked like a lounge singer. It was Scottie Mitchell who I used to play music with at Clemson. I hadn’t seen him in a decade. Crazy!

He was still playing all the time and had several bands going…told me to come hang out. I think I will, but don’t think I will be playing any guitar with him. I’m not better, and probably worse, than I was in college. If he’s been getting better for the last decade, I don’t deserve to play with him. I can watch and drink beer though. His friends were nice.

Item #2: The blanket I slept with in college and took with me to Taiwan. It is a handmade quilt given to me by my relatives that live in Atlanta. Thanks! (Sorry I don’t call more.)

Item #3: An ugly lamp that used to sit in the living room of the house where I grew up in Easley. Of course it doesn’t really give off light like that….trick of the photo.

Item #4: My computer monitor where I am now writing this post. Next to it is my other computer monitor. Sometimes I have both of them on at the same time. When I got the other I figured it would be cool to be able to surf the internet on one screen while having a file browser up on the other. In the end though my brain doesn’t process like that. I’m too accustomed to one screen so I usually leave the other one off.

Item #5: The chair I am now sitting in. It is a Recaro seat designed for an 18 wheeler. Someone my dad sold fabric to gave it to him, and he, in turn, gave it to me because it was just as comfortable as the other chairs I was looking to buy. I’m still holding out for an Aeron though.

Item #6: A throw rug from India. I got it to give away to Jeffrey Galloway, but I ended up giving him one I liked much better. I bought it from Dilli Haat.

Item #7: A Sam Adams beer. Said beer is now empty and I have replaced it with another one which looks pretty much the same.

Item #8: My electric guitar. I play it sometimes, but not as much as the acoustic since I like to sing while I play.

Item #9: To the left of the #9 is the box of organic granola bars I mentioned buying in my last post. They taste ok. The soy chips were much better (which is why they are now gone).

Item #10: A picture of me in Taiwan about to jump off a rock over rushing water onto another rock. I think Ross Donaldson gave me the picture in a frame he got from a night market.

Peter ran into Ross out of the blue in the Delhi airport not too long ago….that’s nearly a decade since Taiwan. It isn’t as much time as had passed between Scottie Mitch and I….but it sure is a lot further away. What are the chances? Seriously…that’s freakish.

Item 11: There is no item 11. I think I’ll go to bed for the night. I’m tired. (The bed is on the far right of the picture on the other side of the chair.)

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I knew if I were just patient enough that eventually something good would happen! Its like a miracle….with poor grammar. Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth though.

I will respond promptly with the following message:

Date: Wed, 28 Mar 2007 14:12:14 +0200
From: “vider Amachina”
To: ME
Subject: urgent feedback

From: Vierder Machine

Good thing to write you.

[Me] Yes…good thing. Thank you.

I have a proposal for you- this is however not mandatory nor will in any manner compel you to honour against your will. I also thanks you so much for your mail and your willingness to know what I want to discuses with you which is very important.

[Me] I don’t remember mailing you but it is important so I won’t keep you from explaining to me this important matter.

Mean while I want you to go through this my proposal and get back to me with your urgent response through my private email contact. I must not hesitate to confide in you for this simple and sincere help. I am Vierder Machine

[Me] Great name!

the only daughter of late Mr and Mrs Joseph Machine. who was a very dealers and wealth coco merchant in Abidjan , the capital of Ivory coast.

[Me] I’ve never been. I wonder what it is like to deal in Veries though. Ivory Coast must be a strange and wonderful place.

he was poisoned to death by his business associates on one of their outings on a business trip.

[Me] Maybe not as wonderful as I thought =(

before his death of one private hospital here in Abidjan he secretly called me on his bed side and told me that he has the sum of US1.500.000(one million five hundred thousand united states dollars) left in a suspense account here in Abidjan cote Devoir. He place my name as next of kin, and also gave the documents pertaining the consignment to me.

[Me] Did he have a fax machine by his death bed as well?

He also explained to me that it was because of this wealth that he was poisoned by his business associates, that I should seek for a partner in a country of my choice where I will transfer this money and use it to invest in a profitable ventures.

[Me] Vierder (or however you spell it)…..I’ll go ahead and tell you I’m not one of those gullible types. I’ve heard of those schemes from Africa where they try to sell some poor sap a sob story to get their money. Those schemes are usually from Nigeria though, so I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt for now.

I am just 25 years old and a university undergraduate.

[Me] Let me guess…..not an English major? Oh well, I won’t hold that against you in light of the fact that you’re about to send me 1.5 million bucks.

I have suffered a lot of set backs as a result of members of my late father’s family who has not stop disturbing me about the where about of this fund after they have succeeded in claiming almost all the valuable properties that he left behind for me, coupled with incessant political crisis here in Ivory coast. The death of my father actually brought sorrow to my life I will like every thing to be conclude soon so that I will join you for me further my study and also prefer to go pastoral school in your country.

[Me] A man of the cloth huh? Your proposal must be sincere then!! And you’re not even from Nigeria…how could I have doubted!

[Me] Also, you’d do better to call it “seminary”, “theology” or something of the like. If you try to enroll in pastoral school you might end up being a shepherd….not really a lot of demand for that in the US.

I am honourably seeking your assistance in the following ways. 1) to help me transfer the found into the destination account in your country

[Me] Absolutely, immediately. I accept checks, money order, and I have a pay pal account too. (Cash is preferable.)

(2)To serve as the guardian of this fund during and after the transaction. since I am just 25 years (3)To make arrangement for me to come over to your country after the money has been transferred and invest.

[Me] Hey man….you send me a million and a half dollars and I’ll make whatever arrangements you want to come to my country. In fact, I just checked. Delta flies round trip to Abidjan, Cote D’Ivoire for about $2500. It takes 22 hours, changing planes in Paris. Stop for a few days if you want. I’ll pick up the tab.

[Me] I can’t believe you chose me man!!!!! Just think, I didn’t even write you that email….its just pure, dumb luck!!!! Completely awesome!!!

Moreover, I am willing to offer you any thing as compensation for your effort / input after the successful transfer of this fund to your nominated account. Furthermore, you can indicate your option towards assisting me as I believe that this transaction would be concluded within some days you signify your interest to assist me.

[Me] Super interested. Transfer away. I can’t quite figure out the tax implications yet….but after I quit my job I’m sure I can look that up on the Internet.

I will appreciate your early. I will be more appreciated if you contact me through my private email for security reason.
responds. Anticipating to hear from you soon.
Thanks God Bless. ks and
Best regards,
Vierder Machine.

Who’d have thunk it? And they say it is hard work and education that pay off? I’ll tell you what pays off: bank transfers.

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I met an Oxford philosophy major in Morocco in 2000. We were in Chechauaouene in the mountains, walking around trying to clear our head of Tangiers. I have some pictures of that actually. If I get up the motivation, I’ll post them.

I was mostly out of my “thinking” phase by then and all the happier for it….but, as I’ve said before, I attract anyone interested in philosophy, psychology, or literature….so I usually indulge them until they get frustrated with me for not participating in poking holes in everything.

I explained to him a little of what in the intervening years became the way I see the world….a carefully crafted, incredibly flexible filter of self “suggestion” that curves reality to make up for my genetic predisposition to deconstruct everything and everyone until they become ridiculous, stupid, and useless.

He was interested….if only because, even by then, the web of my worldview had become so nearly airtight as to be amusing and simple…..even if I admittedly used some circular logic. But everything is reduced to belief at some point……even something as absolute as geometry…even if you call them axioms or postulates instead of dogma or commandments.

Remember “proofs” in geometry….where you used other rules to validate new ones? There were a few that couldn’t be “proofed”….they just had to be taken for granted… “Two parallel lines never meet” or “between two points there exists one straight line”.

For the mathetmaticians out there, forgive my butchering of Euclid’s Postulates. The point is that everything of consequence is eventually reduced to some kind of belief or non-provable assumption. Call it science…or call it religion….they are all based on something unreducible. Science just tends to be based on things much more unreducible, while we’ve reduced many of the assumptions religion started with.

So…as he got closer to my unreducible assumptions, he told me the story of Plato’s Cave.

In the story (which I suggest you read if you have time), there are a group of people immobile, who cannot turn their heads. They stare at a cave wall all day and that is all they have ever known. Behind them is a raised platform where puppeteers carry objects across for the prisoners to see and behind that is a fire that casts shadows of the objects on the cave wall. The prisoners, having nothing else to do, name and talk about the objects they see.

One prisoner escapes, and turns around. He is blinded by the fire, and eventually gets of out of the cave and is blinded again by the sun. He is confused and does not understand his new surroundings.

Immediately he thinks of the others who are still in the cave. Should he go back and “free” them?

That was the question asked to me: Would you want to be free, or would you prefer to stay in the cave?

I think most people would chose “freedom”….but I think it is not so clear cut. What were the conditions outside the cave? Did it rain all the time? Was it cold? Was food hard to come by?

Let’s keep in mind that the “prisoners” in the cave did not know they were prisoners. Plato never said they were unhappy or mistreated. They simply knew only a life of shadows on a cave wall.

That didn’t mean that their lives were not rich in their own way. They could have felt love with the other voices they heard…shared things in common with others in the way they described the shadows. Perhaps one was a good singer, and entertained the others with his/her beautiful voice.

So let’s draw the extreme scenario…that the cave was warm and the shadow shapes were varied and beautiful….that the other “prisoners” were friendly and a life looking into shadows was rich in its own way…….outside the cave was dark, and it was a struggle to even survive. There was no comradery like in the cave. The cave is the truth to those who live there.

If the escapee goes back and releases the other cave dwellers, he has not freed them… they simply all have to participate in a different game, one not as beautiful and more difficult than the cave shapes. Outside the cave becomes the new prison.

You are never truly freed. You can never escape from yourself. My guess is that those who were happy with the cave shapes will find ways to be happy outside the cave. Those that hated the shapes, will also hate the fire and the sun when they see it.

In 2000 I think I would’ve chosen the cave….at least theorectically, although I do realize that someone was asking me that question high in the Atlas mountians in Northern Africa….I wasn’t exactly a cave dweller I guess. Now I think I would answer, “What difference does it make?” Cave or no cave, “free” or not “free”….you make your own prison, and it will follow you wherever you go if that is your choice.

Which one would you choose? Cave or no cave?

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The “Budweiser – True” ad campaign is one of the all time greats…up there with “Where’s the Beef?”, “Tastes Great/Less Filling”, and my personal favorite “Only you can prevent forest fires”.

It depicts young, skinny, good looking men and women of all races enjoying Budweiser, becoming best friends, preparing to fornicate with each other, laughing, winning, and drinking in moderation.

But we all know that drinking isn’t like that. Budweiser’s core audience is a trailer park, gunrack-in-the-pickup redneck (no offense to the rednecks….Budweiser is a decent beer). Yet there are no commercials like that.

One step further and we know that drinking will not make you clever, or liked…..and it may allow you fornicate (provided you don’t drink too much), but you probably won’t like the partner you end up with. You will not remain young and skinny for long as a loyal, frequent Bud customer.

You will have terrible hangovers, forget where you left your credit card, where you parked your car….you will blackout for long periods and only assume assume you had a good time when really you made a complete ass of yourself….you will have extraordinary bar tabs from buying 10 dollar shots for people you’ll never see again….you will wake up in strange places with ugly people, nauseous with a blinding headache….maybe even in an ditch or gutter.


Make this commercial bitches. True.

Yes….that is me.

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I’m losing pretty badly to India. It is a tough competitor, difficult to pin down exactly the strategy its using to humiliate me over and over. Everytime I think I score a small victory, India finds a way to snatch it from my grip.

Take today for instance:

Everyday we are driven to and from work. Everyday I wonder whether someone will be there to pick me up. We all complained because very often we get left without transportation, so (to my company’s credit) they changed our transportation vendor after many useless meetings and broken promises. Regardless, I was rid of Routes (the name of the vendor)……..but then India stepped in to thwart me.

Before it was just Routes, so if anything went wrong I could call them and lose my temper…not that it did any good since they still never showed up, but there was at least the illusion that it might have an impact.

The new arrangement is that if you are on a fixed schedule you go through the hotel, if you need something different you will get a spot rental through a new vendor. If you need to get yourself on a schedule you send an Excel spreadsheet to either the secretary, or one of the two travel desks, who then communicate the information to people at the hotel or new spot-rental vendor. Thus far there is no way to contact the car companies directly so outside of business hours if your schedule changes you just need to pray that a car shows up. And remember, this is the IMPROVED way of getting to and from work.

So we complain that transportation sucks and it gets changed, but then India steps in and ensures that the new arragement is actually worse than the original. But the real kicker is this: The hotel actually subcontracts its transportation as well…….to Routes.

So we replaced Routes with Routes and added a few layers of complexity and more points of contact in the process. Now I don’t even know who to yell at when things to go wrong…and they always do. Like this morning: 1 car for six people.

On the way out the door I give detailed instructions to the smiling vacant faces at Guest Services on where I want to redeem my Taj Inner Cirle Rewards points. I could write a whole book on the Taj points debacle. By the way, debacle and fiasco have become my new favorite words.

The girl promises me everything and I tell her in advance, “Don’t call me and tell me that you’re sorry, but X or Y and Z. That’s all you people ever do is tell me what you CAN’T do. I have like a billion Taj points but I can’t redeem them anywhere. What good are they then??” My ire is already up. That is before we fit into the car like clowns into a phone booth.

We stop at Citibank at the ATM. It is out of money. We stop at a different one. It asks you to swipe your card and then you put in your pin number and then at the end right before the money comes out, it asks you to swipe your card again. Why??? Has my card somehow changed in the intervening 13 seconds since I inserted it the first time?? Did it expire maybe? India….that’s what it is. Complicating everything, with cable TV in the ATM booth but no trash can to put your receipts in, so everyone just throws them on the floor.

I have alot of papers on my desk at work in a very Elliott-centric filing system that works for me, but falls apart if someone moves my stuff… I got someone to write a post-it note in Hindi for the cleaners that says “Don’t touch the papers on this desk while cleaning.” All the cleaners know how to read Hindi….I asked.

Every flipping day my papers are moved, stacked neatly in weird places, far away from where they were the day before. They even pull up the post-it note from where it is taped and stack that too, so they obviously look at it. I got someone to write the note on a large piece of paper too and highlighted it with stars and tacked it up on the wall of my workspace….no dice. It isn’t the cleaners that move my shit everynight…..its India. It sneaks in and mocks my puny efforts to get something done……and it steals my damn pens.

So a Fortune 500 company should have more right?? Nope. We’ve all got great new computers and videoconferencing and ergonomic chairs….but nothing to write with. Pens are like currency in the office they are so scarce. I’ve only found one place on our two floors that has them, and they are locked up. They used to be in a different place when I first arrived, but India moved that and now I have to find someone to unlock the secret Pen Cabinet.

You think I’m making this shit up, but I’m not.

So they give us cell phones too. Mine sucks and the battery dies after less than 24 hours, so I can’t ever call anyone at night to fuss when my car doesn’t show up. I just borrow someone else’s phone. So I asked about getting a new battery thinking I would get the upper-hand, you know, score 1 for Elliott……how do you think that ended up? I got the battery….but it dies in a day too. They just replaced one old crappy battery with another one. I know how they got the replacement battery too. It was one another person had given back to them after making the same complaint I just had. Score another one for India.

Then there is the meeting room fiasco. You’re supposed to reserve your rooms in advance through this computer system we have that is fairly easy to use. Indians don’t do well with the concept of “in advance” so they just squat the rooms, or put a post-it note on the door saying its reserved like 2 minutes before they’re about to use it. This adds to my general feeling of panic during the day when I know nothing will ever happen in India.

Since I coach lots of people, I need large rooms…usually with projectors. I schedule these meetings days in advance and prepare and everything is ready, but then some group is in our fucking room when the time comes. It never fails.

So I started reserving through computer and with a post-it note. They don’t care about the computer reservation and they remove the post-it note….smiling the whole time like they’ve accomplished something just because they were able to get everyone together in one place, never mind they stole my room.

Then I got someone to be accountable for the rooms, so I would have someone to yell at when stuff went wrong. It doesn’t matter though, people are still there. They were there today too…..and the projector didn’t work. Nothing ever works. These rooms have hundreds of plugs and outlets….all useless. They like run an extension cord from the utility closet next door, and want you to thank them when they drag in a ten pound voltage converter from 1950 to help you plug in your American laptop, when the entire room is wired with American plugs….if only they worked.

So I kick the other people out of the room, and we start and then my phone rings. Everyone leaves their cell phones on in India, even in meetings, and they always answer them, no matter what. So I’ve started doing it too.

Its one of the Guest Services minions. They are useless, so I brace myself for what I already knew was coming: They cannot book my room with my inner circle points. That hotel is booked till next year. Which is complete bullshit.

Its like when I went to Amritsar and tried to buy a train ticket back to Delhi and they told me every train was sold out….impossible. We were booking two days in advance and Indians never do anything in advance. Of course we did catch the train back to Delhi….and of course it wasn’t full. India had temporarily bought all the tickets and was laughing at me. India squats my rooms too, and is hoarding my pens. I bet it runs Routes as well.

I “talk” to the Guest Services girl for a while and give her more detailed instructions which I am sure she then promptly forgot….I’m still waiting to see what happens. I can already say for certain though that Taj Inner Circle is the devil and I’m not even sure the program really exists. Last Saturday we were out at a bar jamming to a techno version of Livin’ On A Prayer by Bon Jovi with the guys from the bomb squad and we met a girl that had just been hired by Taj Inner Circle. I could not laugh hard enough. I told her to run…quickly.

So I’ll skip stories about my actual work day…which should be the most stressful time of day….but it certainly isn’t. Work is easy compared to everything else.

Its time to go home then….so I get on the elevator. The elevators are great. Like everything in India, there are a great many of them, but which one will actually get you what you want?? There is the rub.

There are 8 elevators but the buttons to call the elevators do not call ALL the elevators, but just some of them. So you have to go press all the buttons. The elevators, in true Indian fashion, are spaced in such a way that you can’t see them all from one location, so you never know if one of the doors is opening or not. You have to keep turning around and walking back and forth to know if something arrives.

Well…the bell dings if a door opens, but it also dings if the elevator changes floors, and the walls are thinly insulated so you can hear the bells dinging for the floor above and below….so basically the damn thing dings all the time and never know if an elevator is there or not.

Also, only 4 of the elevators go to the parking garages, but everyone gets picked up/dropped off on these floors, so really only 4 elevators are useful. I find it quicker to take the elevator to zero, get out, walk outside, and then down some stairs to the parking levels. Score another one for India.

But what good does it do me to get to the parking level, because the car is never there. So you have to start making phone calls to all the foreigners and then the car people. I don’t even know who to call about the cars anymore….and my battery is always dead anyway and recpetion is shit on the parking levels. I usually just take my anti-seizure medicine and rock and back and forth in the corner like an invalid. Score some more for India.

Today the car actually showed up, but there were three of them instead of one. And one of them was for a girl at another hotel, but they called us to say the car was here…..or maybe India called.

Yeah…the ride home. That’s great too. No one obeys the traffic laws. No one drives in the lanes. Indian drivers seem to think its some kind of race or video game. They have these nifty street signs that say “Lane Driving is Safe Driving”, as if people need to be reminded that it is dangerous to fit 4 cars across on a two lane road.

And all the trucks say “Please Honk” on them. That is how they keep from hitting each other when they drive with a death wish. They constantly honk as if to say “Hello, my horn still works”. I saw two transfer trucks hit each other tonight in a fit of glass and bent metal. It was a non-incident. No one cared.

To give an idea how bad it is, you just have to look for the puke. The driving is so erratic, so stop and go, the roads so full of potholes….that people often get carsick, and they just puke out the windows and you see it on the sides of cars, buses, and public transport. Unless the view is blocked by the cows, or people peeing on the side of the street, or the family of 5 balanced on the scooter beside you all staring like they’ve never seen a white person.

When I get back to the hotel the girl who is now working at the Guest Relations desk knows nothing about the conversation that happened earlier and asks that I wait till tomorrow. Tomorrow I bet I get told the same thing. India is stuck in an eternal present.

Then I go back to my room and the Internet is out…again. Guess who I have to call to get the IT guy up??? Guest Relations. After calling them two more times, them replying “The guy is there” or “He already called you” when obviously nothing has happened….the guy finally shows up.

Its the same dude from yesterday and he immediately offers me the same crappy temporary fix he did yesterday with great satisfaction. I say, “So am I supposed to call you everyday for the next two months to come up here and rig my internet to work? Wouldn’t it make more sense to REALLY fix it?” I guess not though. He is definitely in cahoots with India. It is useless to resist. I am beaten again.

I know it seems like I am making all this up, but I’m not. I will get the upper hand eventually though. Even a broke clock is right twice a day…except in India.

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It seems we take for granted that technology is moving forward at a breakneck pace. Everyday there is a new discovery, a new gadget, a new medicine…all better, faster and, of course more expensive, than the ones before.

I admit I get caught up in it too. I mean shit…we’ve got robots on Mars, animal cloning, genetically modified foods, infinitely fast computers, new drugs hitting the market everyday, commercial space flight, nuclear power, and cell phones the size of a credit card.

Do you guys remember few years ago they grew a human ear on the back of a lab rat?? They put human genes in a rat and made it grow a flipping ear on its back!! Even I have to say that is really freaky.

Anyway, I could go on with gazzillions of examples of all the unbelievable things technology and science are doing, but I’ve already listed enough to make my point: What freaking good do any of them do us?

I’m not discounting the value of science or saying that one day some of it might not produce significant results….but right now, all the “unprecedented progress” of the past 30 years is just so much HYPE.

I like my computer. I like my cell phone better than a phone attached to a wall….but my life is not really improved because of these things….and that is the real point. Life is not significantly better because of these dizzying science fiction advances.

Here are some real inventions:


I mean with a refrigerator, we go from eating spoiled, rancid food which will eventually kill us, or gorging on whatever fresh food we occasionally find, to being able to regularly get fresh fruits, vegetables and meat. It transforms life from “Feast or Famine” to “eat whenever you feel like it”.

The first known artificial refrigeration was demonstrated by William Cullen at the University of Glasgow in 1748. However, he did not use his discovery for any practical purpose.

In 1805, an American inventor, Oliver Evans, designed the first refrigeration machine. In 1876 German engineer Carl von Linden patented the process of liquifying gas that is still part of basic refrigeration technology. Finally, in 1918 Kelvinator marketed the first practical home refrigerator.

— The moral is that it was over a hundred years before the discovery made it into the lives of popular folks, thus improving our lives…alot.

Indoor Plumbing/Public Sewage:

Man…this one was a master stroke. We go from shitting in the woods, polluting our own water supplies and dying of thirst… porcelain flushing toilets and a near unlimited supply of clean water. That, my friends, is real progresss.

Over 2,800 years ago, the fabled King Minos of Crete owned the world’s first flushing water closet, complete with a wooden seat. The Hanging Gardens of Babylon, one of the 7 wonders of the ancient world, was made possible by a sophisticated irrigation system. In essense, any ancient civilization worth a crap (no pun intended) was capable of public water systems.

It seems the idea of toilets didn’t materialize again (on record at least) until thousands of years later, in 1594. Sir John Harington built a “privie in perfection” for his godmother, Queen Elizabeth, to use in Richmond Palace, and one for himself at his humbler estate.

Then a few hundred years goes by again, during which time only royalty had access to private toilets and sewage systems. The idea of public water/sewage popped up again in England, and then in the US in the early 1800s.

Engineer Julius W. Adams provided the framework upon which modern sewerage is based. In 1857, Adams was commissioned to sewer the city of Brooklyn, which then covered 20 square miles. Chicago is credited with having the first comprehensive sewerage project in the country (designed by E. S. Chesbrough in 1885), based on the New York model.

Although the country’s first bathtub was commissioned in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1842, it wasn’t until the 1920s that bathrooms finally began to take off for regular folk. Even in 1950, 35% of dwellings lacked full indoor plumbing.

An outbreak of amoebic dysentery in Chicago during the 1933 World’s Fair was traced to faulty plumbing in just two hotels. The tragic results were 98 deaths and 1,409 official cases.

So let’s rally around toilets. They’re the shit….even though this time it took thousands of years from the time of conception to the time the average person got to take advantage.


I love this one. The next greatest drug is introduced every single day. However, as I am quick to remind people, the death rate of humans is holding steady at 100%….despite the multi-billion dollar drug industry.

Alexander Fleming “invented” penicillin in 1928…or rather he noticed that a blue mold killed bacteria in a petri dish in 1928. However, it wasn’t until 1940 that it was isolated for medicinal purposes. It was first widely used in WWII.

I studied Microbiology in college. Want to know what human achievement has saved more lives than all drugs combined? Sanitation.

Clean water and unspoiled food are the best drugs we’ll ever invent.

Get your head around this:

Notice that life expectancy is relatively high (around 50 years) in the paleolithic era and then it drops. Why is that? Well, the “invention” of agriculture allowed us to move closer to each other since larger concentrations of food were, for the first time, possible in the same area.

That was bad. People died earlier. Why? Simple….people get sick and when there are a lot of other people around….they get sick too. People are hazardous to your health.

Also notice that, despite prozac, lipitor, wellbutrin, celebrex, kryptonite, megatron, bowflex, and any other number of modern, and very expensive, medicines……the average life span has not skyrocketed.

The fact that it has gone up at all is mostly lifestyle and nutrionally related… has little to do with pills or surgeries.

The Car:

The freaking car!! I might accept a bit of debate on this one; however, overall this has been an awesome advance. This is the beginning of transportation, the beginning of availability, and an integral part of what makes modern life possible.

Horses work well, but cars make us go…and more importantly the internal combustion engine makes transport of goods possible. What good is a refrigerator to store fresh foods if you have no method of transport to get them to you?

Karl Benz (of Mercedes-Benz fame) was the German mechanical engineer who designed and built the world’s first practical automobile to be powered by an internal-combustion engine in 1885.

Henry Ford incorporated the Ford Motor Company in 1903, proclaiming, “I will build a car for the great multitude.” In October 1908, he did so, offering the Model T for $950. In the Model T’s nineteen years of production, its price dipped as low as $280.

Cars are very modern by most reckonings, but really most of the significant inventions mankind ever made all happened in a very small time frame…from the late 1800s to early 1900s.

The Telephone:

Uhh…this one is a no-brainer. I wouldn’t say the telephone lineage that makes it possible for us to talk on our cell phones while stuck in traffic is a particular boon….but the telephone is the beginning of the communications revolution….forget the Internet.

What good is an engine to transport goods to your refrigerator (which itself is no good without public water) without a telephone to tell the fruit farmer in California or the meat broker on the midwest plains that you need it? Although at that time, it was likely the telegraph, not the telephone that was doing the communicating.

In the 1870s, Alexander Graham Bell patented, not invented, the telephone. It seems Mr. Bell was standing on the shoulders of giants because I can’t find much history to this invention.

Antonio Meucci was the real inventor. He was a doctor by trade and through medical research realized that one could transmit voice via wire, and between 1850 and 1862 he developed at least 30 different models of telephone, although he was too poor to protect his inventions with a patent. I can’t find any history before that.

I think I’m beginning to see a trend….all these inventions depend on each other in large part to be useful. By themselves they are just mildly interesting. In conjunction they allow us to move from death by malnutrition to death by obesity in 100 years.

Actually, it was only about 50 years around the turn on the 20th century. We haven’t done jack shit that has paid off in the last 50 years….although based on the timeline of the other inventions, the latest wave won’t really start to pay off for the average person for a few decades yet. Right now we’re just muddling about, stiring the same tea cup of old discoveries, looking for a way to grow a fucking ear on a rat’s back!!

My point is that these technologies are not producing significant improvements in the quality of life of the average person. They are incremental advancements at best. Their “whiz-bang” factor is off the charts, but their value is debatable.

What does the discovery of water on Mars have to do with me?? Absolutely nothing…and those dying of thirst in Africa have about as much use for the water on Mars as they do for space flight, global positioning satellites and any other number of modern wonders. They might be interested if the water could somehow find itself from Mars in the spaceship using GPS and then wind up in their desert hut….they still wouldn’t have a refrigerator though.

And don’t think I have the rose colored “good ol’ days” glasses on. I don’t think past inventions are inherently better than the present ones anymore than I think music, movies, people’s values, or any other number of things were nececssarily better in the past.

I’m just saying when you get right down to the old “what is this doing for me” litmus test……today’s science is just so much volleyball.

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I predict that in the next 10 years all food will be found to cause cancer. The other day I read about a new, obviously well meaning, group called the Breatharians. Their ultra restrictive diet excludes food altogether. They maintain that human beings can exist on light alone. I maintain that this will be a very short-lived diet plan, no pun intended.

In a related story, life will be found to be hazardous to your health and, despite the bewildering advances of modern medicine, I predict that the death rate of humans will hold steady at 100%.

I predict human cloning. Consequently, after people hang out with their “other self” and find out how freaking annoying they really are, I predict a concurrent rise in clone murder…or would that be considered suicide?

I predict an increasingly accelerating augmentation of the bulk store and supply of utterly superfluous, wasteful and unneeded quantities of consumer market goods and services for the end-user client. I further predict that people will lose the ability to think in complete sentences and will convert to the more “user friendly” slogans, tag lines, and bullet point sentence fragments. People will be paid a small fee every time they can naturally work in a plug for a multinational’s product. I say “Just Do It

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Yesterday one of my favorite people at work got fired. He wasn’t great at his job maybe, but he wasn’t terrible either. Besides the particulars of his work, he was a pleasure to be around and always willing to help out if you needed. I figure that counts for something.

But he got fired anyway, and out of the blue as he tells it. He said my boss cried when she had the meeting, which isn’t surprising since she is a girl/woman, but crying doesn’t make it any more heartless to send a hard worker packing.

Firing affects my morale. It makes me more apprehensive about my job. I’m sure others are thinking the same.

They said things like, “He left to pursue other opportunities,” or “He felt his best talents weren’t being utilitzed.” That is just garbage.

And while we are on topic of corpra-speak, do you know how many times a day someone “touches base” with me? I feel a little violated. I used to try to “touchbase” with girls at bars and it usually got me a slap in the face.

And keeping with the baseball theme, it seems people are always “knocking it out”. “Sure, I’ll knock that issue right out and we’ll touchbase about it in the afternoon.” I never was very good at baseball. It is a silly sport where people stand around most of the time and there is very little action. Actually, I guess it does sort of resemble work…

Yesterday at the weekly status meeting I caught myself saying that the issue was in “in my court”. “Yeah, I think the ball is in my court on that one. I’ll be finishing up my initial analysis today (meaning I haven’t even looked at it yet) and I’ll update the status memo before we touchbase again.” See….I prefer the tennis analogy since I am much better at that than I am at baseball.

Of course I actually like Basketball best, but I never really do an overwhelming job at anything so I haven’t had an opportunity to make a “slamdunk” on a particular issue yet. I might be a bit closer to “dropping the ball.”

Why all the sports analogies anyway? Everyone sits in front of a computer all day. The most excercise we get is walking to the bathroom.

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This is funny:

When I first started looking for jobs over a year and a half ago I did a little reading: “What Color Is Your Parachute?”, “Crossing The Unknown Sea”, and endless articles with advice on landing a job.

What I noticed is that, while jobs themselves were scarce, articles and books about jobs were plentiful. Imagine that?

So I did some research and wrote a very good and informative piece on how to get a job. And just as I suspected, I was far better at writing about it than acually doing it.

I never got the article published because writing is a very insular industry and major newspapers are generally unionized. This means that freelance submissions are not permitted.

I asked Woody White from the Greenville News about that very issue when I called him to gauge interest in my article. He promised to “take a look at it”. This meant that I would take the time to write the piece and he would take the time to tell me he couldn’t publish it.

Well….we see who gets the last laugh!! It seems I am now an expert in job hunting (although I am still unemployed). Content from my article, published nowhere but on this site, is quoted alongside other reputable sources at as providing “professional” insight on the art of job-hunting.

Here is the link: Mine is the third quote.

Anybody else need any expert advice??

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Dear Readers:

I have been lazy about writing lately. Corina complained that my posts are too long anyway. I contend that her attention span is too short.

Greenville is much the same as it ever was. I am still looking for work and have a few things on the horizon, but it is useless to talk about it until something actually happens.

I have twice written about obesity in this journal, both times as a response to Mr. BigFatBlog who maintains a website promoting fat acceptance.

He wrote me again today. The exchange is posted in the Comments section of these two posts: 02/08/03 and 02/26/03. The rest of today’s entry is better understood if you’ve read the other two, but it isn’t absolutely necessary.

I have always meant to write a piece about the obesity epidemic in the US. Everyone knows I have been to a lot of countries and I can easily say Americans are noticeably fatter than the rest of the world…although other countries are catching up.

Here is my opinion as to why we are so fat and why the rest of the planet will become more so in the coming years unless something is done. I wrote this email to Paul today. He maintains


Everyone has that idea for which they are willing to go down with the ship. This seems to be yours.

You skill with rhetoric is admirable. You seem to have well developed opinions and you express them well…..but no amount of skill will persuade the world that fat is ok. None. Give it up. If this is the idea for which you are willing to go down with the ship….then you just bought your ticket to the bottom.

In fact, the fatter the general population gets, the more desirable it will be to be thin.

Can you change the opinion of the world? I don’t think so, but you are welcome to try.

I stand by the statement that your time is much better served in losing weight than in trying to shift world views.

I am sure you’ve tried. You say diets don’t work. I agree, the research is extremely clear on that point.

But the fact is that our caloric intake has not changed much in the past 50 years. Yet we are much fatter.

The difference is in our lifestyles. 50 years ago over 90% of folks worked in manufacturing or agriculture. These jobs required manual effort and burned calories. Kids played outside because there was literally nothing else to do.

Now 70% of the economy is in the service sector. We do nothing at work more physical than walk to the bathroom. Kids play video games and chat online. Our lifestyle no longer burns calories.

I am not much into placing blame, but the epidemic of obesity and the myriad of health and social problems that come with it has been caused by the monetization of America….and the time poverty that comes with it.

40% of the US labor force works 50 hours or more a week. We work more than any other industrialized country in the world: on average 9 weeks longer per year than Western Europe.

We’re too tired at the end of the day to take exercise and our jobs no longer require us to do anything but punch keys or answer a phone. We went from 8 hours of manual labor per day to 10 hours of sitting on our butts at an office. No wonder we are fat.

And as for children, they used to play outside. But playing outside is cheap. It doesn’t cost anything to go play catch with a friend.

At some point marketing identified kids as a demographic with disposable income and pushed them an endless stream of diversions that compete with outside play. These products simply didn’t exist in the past.

Their parents buy them the crap because they feel guilty about not spending enough time with their kids because they’re at work all day. The fact is they have the money to spend on useless diversions, but not the time to make sure their kids live a healthy lifestyle. In many Western European nations it is illegal to advertise to children.

In short, forget changing world opinion and forget diets. Go join a basketball league or a runners club….if you can find the time to do it.

If you trade all the time you spend defending fatness with time spent exercising, you’d find you no longer needed to make such a defense.

If you prefer your current lifestyle, by all means, continue it…and I will continue to enjoy your website =)

Happy Holidays,

Elliott Dykes

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