Monday, December 13, 2010


The story of my desktop computer has always been an odd one. It started out its life as a server for Chevron. When they upgraded their servers it went to Rice university, along with seventy or so clones of itself. It found its way to me because Rice actually only needed seventy of them. And so for the last 3-4 years it's been serving as my principle computer. It did a solid job of this, with the only real issues being the incredible size and noise it made, which earned it the name Goliath.

Goliath has had problems with spyware of various sorts at various times. Since one of its principle uses was collecting things from the net through various differently legal channels it's only natural that it was exposed to these things. A few days ago I encountered something that was so bad that I finally had to pronounce goliath defeated.

Problems had been mounting. Redirects, slow down, any number of frustrating and taxing problems that made the use of the machine more and more of a burden. The blow the slew it was part of a standard set of spyware types. This particular type hijacks the machine, telling you that anything you run is "infected" and saying that you need to buy whatever program this particular virus is trying to sell in order to disinfect your machine. In essence it hijacks your machine and turns it into one big ad. I've dealt with these before, but this one is so aggressive that every trick I have for resolving it is undone. No prompt can be open, no other program can be run, no configuration tool can be accessed. Everything you do that doesn't involve giving them $70 is blocked. With that, on top of the problems the machine was having, on top of the noise, on top of the energy consumption. At this point the only thing left to do was call the machine dead.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Nomad (part 2)

I've got an interesting history of getting repeating speeches from the various authority figures in my life. These started with the kind of praise that tends to be given to young children, and I think these speeches may have been actively bad for me since I got used to being able to win without trying. This naturally leads into the recurring drone I got throughout most of middle school. The chant of "you have so much potential," was a genuine attempt to help me but it fell on dead ears. Recently there has been another kind of message, usually from my peers, but today I got it from my program leader. I think of this particular speech as the sorting hat speech, because it reminds me of a scene in the harry potter novels where the protagonist is questioning the hat, and instead of the affirmations he sought he simply gets the message "You would have made a great Slytherin."

I liked that scene. It's that kind of truth that can ignite potential into greatness. It's a reminder that you chose your path because it matters to you, not because of the simple rewards.

This last quarter has been amazing. It has also been overwhelming and challenging in ways I didn't realize it could be. It's been healing to wounds that I didn't even know I had. I've grown an amazing amount as a person, but I haven't yet reached my goal of pulling up my grades. And this is where the sorting hat speech comes into play. I was talking with my adviser today and she said something interesting. That I could be sitting in a political science class (In this speech it's normally a programming class) turning my mind to something it's already good at and getting a degree and a job and a paycheck, but what I'm doing here could be more then that, it could be a lifetime. It could be the answer to the passion that has always put me at odds with myself.

That phrase "passion that has always put me at odds with myself," is something I just made up but I think it might end up being an important phrase.

Years back, I forget in what context, I was talking with my dad. I don't recall what I was saying at the time, but I remember the way he paused and then said "I wonder if someday you'll wind up being a spiritual leader." My answer at the time was something about how I couldn't logically pursue that path because I wasn't actively part of an organized religion. It's almost funny to look back on the way I used to think about these things. The interesting thing though is that no matter how far back I'm looking I can look back on my thoughts on this. I've spent a great deal of time thinking about a great many things, but there isn't any point in my past where I wasn't thinking about things that fall into the overarching umbrella of spirituality. Until recently I believed that my lifelong passion for mysticism wasn't going to go anywhere, but I've been put back in touch with things I've honestly always believed. It's been a reawakening, and it's amazing, and a certain part of me is terrified by it.

The fear is that fear of success I mentioned in the last Nomad post. Things like Reiki, EFT, QiGong and the mind-body gestalt don't really fit into my scientist background. The entire principle of intuitive wisdom, which I believe in largely because of how many times I've experienced it, is kind of at odds with the scientific community. Except it isn't. These kinds of techniques are being integrated into hospitals every day. I could say that I fear being alienated from my own family, but I love my family and I have faith in those bonds. I'm sure if I put effort into it I could keep inventing reasons I'm afraid, but the truth of the matter is that the fear is inside me. My brain still can't fully trust my soul.

And maybe that's it. My entire life I've been a brain person. From the first years being called a gifted child to being my high schools token science nerd. Perhaps this fear stems from breaking that mold, and pursuing the soul.

The fear isn't something I'm going to resolve in one blog post. It's going to be part of the journey, because the more I've learned about myself the more I've seen that fear is the root of all of the other challenges in my life. That's okay though. The important thing is that I'm starting to accept that my life is going to be journey, not the career path. It may mean that I'm never going to achieve the traditional model of success, but honestly, I'm not afraid of that.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Fiscal Evil

I'd like to relate to you two quick stories which will inform the story that is my ceaseless distrust and antagonism of most major institutions. The first is relatively simple and has to do with why I am no longer a patron of chase bank.

It starts with the fact that I was never voluntarily a patron of chase bank. I was a patron of Washington Mutual, a local bank, which was then devoured by the chase financial Goliath. At first this consisted mostly of a logo change, but after they were done changing all of the decor at all of the numerous WaMu locations they began to annoy me with an unceasing barrage of what is best described as bullshit. They called it offers and prizes and deals and contests and interesting new ways for them to take more money from me, but I'm familiar with the workings of capitalism, and know that if they were investing this much money into getting me to do something then it must be because they think profit will result from it. This on its own isn't a bad thing but if you zoom out one more level you'll see that the origin of what they're calling profit is what I know as "the means by which I continue to feed and house myself."

The last such act of fiscal terror I received from chase came when I was woken up by a chase telemarketer to inform me that I owed them fifty dollars. I was a bit surprised by this because a full three weeks before this call I had cancelled my chase account entirely. As it turns out they were assessing automatic charge from netflix to the card of the account that I had cancelled. This then lead to a forty dollar over draft charge. I found this last bit particularly surprising because chase had attempted to get me to consent to overdraft charges with all of the kindness and patience you expect from a hyena tearing flesh and marrow from the corpse of a Gazelle. I had, in fact, told them that I did not consent to overdraft charges five times. Two of these were during unsolicited phone calls, two of them were via mail and one of them was in person where the subject was brought up three times and I said directly, bluntly, and towards the end with undertones of violence that I have absolutely no interest in that service.

I went to the bank that day, something I try to avoid as chase banks reek of false comfort and over engineered kiosk design. Because the chairs at chase are intentionally uncomfortable, and old negotiating trick, I chose to to stand, or more accurately loom, over the woman while she explained their devilry to me. I think the fact that I went through the effort to menace a completely innocent woman in her mid forties is the only reason I was able to get them to revoke those charges, after which I went through a process of bullying her into actually closing the damn account. I expect to have to deal with even more bullshit from them any day now.

The second story, the one that is about to cost me four hundred dollars, goes something like this. When I lived in west Seattle I was a regular attendee of an Allstar Fitness gym. It was a good gym, and when I made the deal I was told that cancelling ahead of the one year contract wouldn't be a problem. This was particularly important because I would be moving to Olympia well before that year expired. In may of that year, right around the time I was moving to Federal Way, I told the person at the front desk that I would need to end my contract. She said that was fine and that it would be handled. I was surprised by the simplicity of it, but she assured me it would be taken care of.

To put it most simply, that bitch lied to me.

This morning I received a message on my phone threatening legal action and saying something about seven months of delinquency. I returned the call, as I do with most calls which mention state attorney generals and collection through legal channels, and talked with a very tired sounding woman who explained to me just how the aforementioned bitch had lied to me, and what would result from it. This leaves me at an interesting point where I'm right, but I can't prove it, and I don't have the means to fight it. Any means of fighting it would probably cost me even more then I'm paying now. All it means is that my recent financial freedom is going to take a serious hit. Luckily we're at the start of the month, so my finances have the leeway to take said hit, but it still puts another on the long list of reasons I revile most major corporations.