November 15, 2007

Black E-mailed

Edit: New images added and some editing 8-16-2011

There are some things you ought to know. This old cowboy (well, cowboy at heart) is a caring sort. Sometimes I'm dreadful at showing it, and I get thoughtless or maybe even selfish at times. But I try to be compassionate.

Some of us take exception to being blackmailed with e-mail "forward this if you care" messages, and also the "share this and you'll be blessed" stuff. Do not want! / Cornfreak
Lately, I've been getting blackmailed by e-mail (hence the title of this piece). No, the sender doesn't intend any harm. These are the letters that say, "I've been thinking of you. You're one of my many friends and I'm sending this to show I care", etc. (It often has a cute poem and pictures of teddy bears or something.) The blackmail part is at the end: "Send this to everyone you know and care about, especially the one who sent this to you. If you don't send this on, then you are evil, lonely, heartless, and will burn in Hell."

The same threat comes in some of those useless petition letters that have good intentions, but demean your character if you don't participate by forwarding it. This kind of nonsense is also on social media.

I have news for you: I don't send those back to the sender. Why? Because it's a lousy test of love and loyalty, and I don't cotton to being tested like that. Worse, if you're measuring how much you're cared about by how many e-mails you get back, I think there's something wrong in your cabeza. If I like the message I received, I'll trim it up by taking out the "FW: FW: FW: MESSAGE ATTACHED" clutter and the hundred other names on the recipients list, and I'll also take out the threat (or condition) at the end. Sometimes I'll leave on a suggestion that people "pass this on", though.

Another "threat" is the promise that, if I send this to a certain number of people, I'll receive blessings or a miracle. Uh, yeah, sure. Ain't buying that, neither. Copy, edit, and paste time, if I like it.

But if you send me something that requires sending back, don't set yourself up for disappointment if I don't comply and clutter up bandwidth. And don't think I don't care because of my lack of response.

You may want to save the URL for this message and send it to people who send you those black e-mail messages. Just a thought.

November 7, 2007

Do You Show It?

This discussion is more for the men, but I think women can get something out of it as well.

"Bond, I've always tried to teach you two things", said Q. "First, never let them see you bleed."
"And the second?"
"Always have an escape plan."

Although it is wise advice for the spy world, we're going to look at it and expand on it.

"Gosh, Uncle Bob, are you a spy?"

Let's just say that I've had some dealings with, uh, unsavory characters in my time. And some of them still owe me favors. Youse guys payin' attention? (Sometimes you have to talk that way so that they understand you.)

Never let them see you bleed.
Right. If you're wounded, the bad guys will be even more ready to charge in and finish you off. And you can't show your weaknesses. How does that work for daily living? In the business world, you can't let your competition see that you're wounded or vulnerable. That also applies to office politics.

It also applies to daily dealings. If someone hurts you, don't show it. That just signals them that they got to you, and they're ready to do it again. Worse, they'll tell your enemies and the party really gets interesting — for them. Clam up about it. If someone's taking verbal shots at you, one way to diffuse it is to laugh it off. Better yet, go along with the joke and show you're a good guy:

"Say, Bill, you're really clumsy today. Are you always that way?"
"You should have seen me trying to get a job on the bomb squad!"

Now, this doesn't apply to family relationships, necessarily, and not to a "significant other" (it's mostly for dealing with enemies). Nobody likes the "silent treatment", or having to guess what's wrong. The true aspect here is not to lash out in anger. Think about it for a while, decide if it's important in the first place. If it is, then you can go back to the person in question during a quieter moment and say, "That thing you said yesterday really bothered me." Much better than whining. Nobody likes a whiner. Capice?

Always have an escape plan.
Great for the espionage world, useful for us peasants. If you have a plan, have another to fall back on if the first one goes down in flames. That means learning things and branching out. I've always believed in learning at least a little about many things, like Leonardo DaVinci did. That knowledge gives you something to make plans with. Go into situations armed with knowledge. Be prepared, like a Boy Scout is supposed to be. Bring supplies, documents, support, whatever.

Sometimes you do need to "get out". I'm not talking about relationships, necessarily, unless you've thoroughly examined your heart and your head. What are your options? What do you feel? Take it slow, brothers and sisters. You may need to get out of a bad job. Is your résumé up to date? Are you checking for opportunities? I know when to bail out when the cops are watching, that's another escape plan. Even better, have sense enough to leave things alone that will harm you or those you care about.

I get hurt quite often. No point in whining or showing it. Sure, I do show it, sometimes. Trust is rare and slow for me, but I can let some things out to friends. (I'll talk about trust another time.)

So, I'll leave you to ponder the advice that Q gave to Bond. Meditate on it.

October 19, 2007

Let Them Save Face

Today's lesson is about people skills. No, it's not a long discussion. But it's important.

There is a custom in Japanese culture that involves "saving face". (I have been told that my face is not worth saving, but this is about a cultural thing, not literal or physical.) Essentially, it's about keeping your dignity. I'm not going to discuss the details of this cultual bit, but borrow from the idea (just like I do with Buddhism).

In day-to-day dealings, we can irritate people very easily (they don't have a grasp of what is in the previous Weblog, it seems). But if we try to be a bit mindful of our approach, we can ruffle fewer feathers. We can let people save face and keep their dignity, especially in front of others. Heck, I've had bosses that do not require formal address, but in front of "company", I would be a bit more formal and even use "sir" or whatever was appropriate. Didn't cost me anything to do.

Here are some tips:

  • Give an ego stroke if you want to inform or correct someone. F'rinstance, "You probably already know this, but..."
  • Choose your battles. Why be superior-minded and correct someone when it's not important?
  • Choose your timing. Don't correct someone in public if you can help it. Events may dictate otherwise, however.
  • Sympathize. "Yes, I did (or thought) the same thing".
  • Reduce your own dignity. After all, maybe you are making a mistake. "I thought the weather forecast said..." See that bit of doubt? You're not insisting and being superior. And your graciousness will make an impression.
  • Try to work in a bit of humor. Don't be so doggone serious, Sigmund.
  • Be gentle. That one sums up a great deal, since you're not insisting on your superiority, willing to defer (or even learn), offers sympathy.
  • Pay attention. Make sure you're understanding what they're saying, and the situation.
  • Patience. You can figure that one out for yourself. Capice?
  • Be willing to learn. This fits in with reducing your own dignity; they may know something you don't know.

Hope this helps you add an element of class to your life.

October 17, 2007

Ungrateful Expectations

Sometimes it seems to take forever to learn things. And sometimes, we learn things in a relatively short time but it takes many years to master them.

I learned something important from a therapist. (Yeah, I had a therapist for clinical depression. It was good enough for Tony Soprano, so get over it.) This involves expectations, and what "should" be. He was fond of the Albert Ellis school of psychology, Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy. I don't agree with everything (I think the man's an atheist, for example), but a great deal of it makes sense.

Suppose I go into a shop. Normally, I expect professionalism and courtesy. But suppose this guy is having a bad day, and he's rude. He shouldn't be rude, he should treat me right. Isn't that awful? No, it's not. I get angry because I'm expecting something I'm not getting. Instead, I should accept the fact that it's a little thing. The world isn't going to cave in because he treats me like a cafone. Just dropping that expectation helps reduce the blood pressure and stress levels.

That dummy broad is touching up her makeup and talking on the cell phone while driving. She shouldn't be doing that, it's awful. No, she shouldn't. Drive around her or something, or tough it out. Again, no reason to get excited. Even the "dummy broad" judgment on her is an emotional investment that you're expending.

Some weird guy in the restaurant shouldn't be staring at me... OK, you work this example out for yourself.

We change what we can, sure. Certain injustices should be pointed out and rallied against, but the little day-to-day annoyances that cause us suffering can simply be acknowledged ("he was rude"), the emotions dealt with ("I don't like that") and be realistic ("I can try again, or find another shop"). One fellow used to say to me, "It ain't nothing but a thang".

"It is what it is", as the saying goes, and sometimes it's a useful saying. Something shouldn't happen, but guess what? It happened. We can't expect behavior from people. I made some really stupid mistakes expecting people to act or react in certain ways, putting those expectations on them and making them guess or perceive what I wanted. When I was able to realize what I was doing and really look at it, I saw the folly of my ways and dropped them. But I'm still learning, since emotions are not logical. They can be trained to respond to reason, however.

Interestingly enough, the Ellis approach, which is taking rational control of your emotions and your own choices, is also compatible with Buddhism. I do not accept all of Buddhism (I do have an immortal soul, Jesus did indeed bodily rise from the dead, etc.), but I have learned a great deal from it. One of the best things I got from it, and can mostly agree with (I don't see conflict with most religions in this, in fact) is a .pdf booklet on the Four Noble Truths.

You don't have to like something. But it's up to you how much fretting you're going to do. You can even influence just how depressed you're going to get over something happening that you don't like. Change it if you can, live with it otherwise. (In "Doctor Who", the Fourth Doctor said, "What can't be cured must be endured".)

But first, decide how much emotional energy you want to expend. Is it worth it? Start with the small stuff, even that helps the stress levels.

October 6, 2007

Man Bad, Woman Good

Buona Sera, class. Your not-so-humble professor has been under the weather. And irritable. And lethargic. Maybe a remedy would be to write something. And this one is going to irritate some people. Sorry, but I tell the truth as I see it. If you don't like this one, the next posting will probably be quite different. I have a track record of that.
Lately, I've been hearing the feminazi propaganda that comes down to "Woman good, man bad". You're heard it: "Girls grow up into women, boys grow into bigger boys"; men are the cause of all the evil in the world, control the wealth, destroy everything good, constantly think about sex, blather, blather, blather. That's why we should have voted for Hillary Clinton. (I had to backspace to remove my expletives just then.)

The good news is that not all women feel this way. In fact, women point out that feminists are fakes. Saying that women are better than men is a discrimination in itself! And there's a great deal of that sediment — I mean, sentiment
— in the world. I wonder if part of the problem is that these women not only hate men, but are afraid of being real women?

The worst part is when the feminazis want to castrate all men and make us all like women. Then everything would be freakin' peachy. Dream on. They'd be sorry.

This mindset is causing some men to rebel, even forming men's groups to combat the predatory female (a vicious creature that I'll describe some other time). The problem is that these guys have been so burned that they think all women are predatory. Not so, Zeke. But if you knew my ex...
I'd like to point out some things. The first one is the obvious: men and women are different. John Gray has some truth on this, but I can't endorse it wholeheartedly. Some, yes.

I won't apologize for being male, for being sexual, for being a problem-solver whenever possible, for being chemically and physiologically different, for having more linear thought processes, for being less complicated. It's part of being a man. Capice?

"Well, men start wars".
No, people start wars. Through the ages, women have been more than willing to fight and spy for their causes. And I've seen plenty of catfights, and spiteful women who were only grown up on the outside, not the inside. And the ones that love power, like Jezebel who controlled Ahab so she could get the throne. Or Eva Braun, who didn't seem to object to Hitler's methods. Men love power and strive to attain it, and women like it too; if they can't get it, they'll get next to it.

"Men control the wealth of the world and women are oppressed."
Sure, there is a wage gap in some instances, but that is because of priorities. Otherwise, get over yourself, Sunshine. I have bad news: some of the wealthiest people in the world are women, and that number is increasing. Especially in the USA. (You know the USA? People want to sneak into the country because of the opportunities. Or it's the first place that oppressed people choose for refuge.) And this "women are oppressed"'re cute when you're playing the victim card, you know that?

"But men destroy!"
Yeah, yeah. So do women. And both genders create.
Now here's something for the guys: Stop feeding the stereotypes! Jeff Foxworthy and friends have some cute stories and are great comedians. Also, The King of Queens and Tim Allen's Home Improvement had some fun moments. Guess what, Studley? They're not models for life! They are entertainment. Oh, and there are plenty of self-indulgent songs out there. They're not guidelines for your life, either.
Too many guys are guys, and not real men. Yeah, you heard me. And guess what? Aside from the loud feminazis and the liberal media, it turns out that a woman wants a real man. Not a wimp. Sure, be in touch with your feelings and sensitive to hers, but stop overdoing it. And none of this "metrosexual" crap, thank God that's over.

The slob image has got to go. How about trying to emulate James Bond a little bit? (I'm not sure about the Daniel Craig image, they're re-writing the character.) He had class. So did John Steed, but not many people in the US know about The Avengers. Besides, John Steed was a bit foppish. But classy.

Guess what? I think the Cartwrights on Bonanza, those rugged, robust he-men, had a different kind of class. They had a good work ethic, integrity... almost brings tears to my eyes that those positive role models don't exist on television or in movies anymore. Men could learn from some of the positive media images from days gone by.

Irritation note: I like the bumper sticker that says, "Stop calling women 'babes', chicks hate that."
OK, both genders are angry with me. My work for this session is done. Arrivederci.

Addendum 6-26-2008: Edited and tweaked for clarity.


September 23, 2007

I'm Sweet on You

Buon giorno. How's it going, Cupcake? Actually, I have to pass on the cupcakes. And the Milky Way bars. And the brownies...

You see, yours truly has Type 2 Diabetes. Don't run away,
you're not going to catch it, especially through a computer screen. They call it a "disease", but it's nothing I caught or can give away. "Condition" is a much better expression.

Here's something ironic: the place I work had a bake sale, proceeds to benefit the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation. Guess what? They weren't selling anything that a diabetic can have!

I'm interested in a couple of things. One is to sort of sound a warning so that other people don't develop this condition. The other is to offer some advice. (And I'm more than willing to receive advice as well!)

Everything in moderation.

"Gosh, Bob, how did you lose twenty pounds in just a few months?"

Intelligent question! First off, losing the tonnage is an important part of managing diabetes. My doctor illustrated it like a building. Your system is putting out energy for a single-level, and I've turned it into a multi-level, and it's not working. Also, the sugar thing is corrosive; that's why they had me go to an eye doctor as one of my first requirements. I've had friends and relatives lose vision, limbs, kidney function and their lives to diabetes. It has to be caught early and controlled before it becomes a hell-on-earth condition.

"Enough of that. Get on with it!"

OK, don't get your panties in a bunch.

They put me on a 2,000 calorie per day diet. Diet? Well, sort of. But a "diet" in the common sense is a guaranteed failure. What is needed is a lifestyle change and deliberate choices. I'm supposed to have 45 carbohydrates with each major meal. Those cans of mini-ravioli are poison. Nobody should eat that stuff. A serving is supposed to be half a can, but I have been known to eat an entire can as a side dish. Read the label. One can has about 90 carbs. That puts a dent in your day, doesn't it?

Always read the label! And you can't just read the carbs, you have to add the sugars. "Oh, look, 23 carbs." Yeah, and 25 sugars. That number 48 is something to give you serious second thoughts.

Diabetics have known for years things that other nutritionists are coming around to realize: eat several smaller meals a day, not just three big ones.

After choosing what I want my totals to add up to, I start the day with cereal or oatmeal, milk, my vitamins and medications. To get some protein in there, I put in a scoop of whey protein. On weekends, I take the time to have eggs (wow, almost no carbs or sugars!) and cheese.

My mid-morning snack during the week is one hard-boiled egg and a yogurt (read the label). Mini-meals and snacks are important so the blood glucose level can remain consistent (for everyone, not just diabetics), and so you don't get the munchies so bad that you trash the eating program.

Lately, I've been having a Slim-Fast with a small peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Low-carb bread, sugar-free jelly. Read the labels on you foods.

Some nifty low-carb low-sugar crackers for another snack, and/or a handful of almonds. (Love those almonds, there's fiber in them to offset the carbs.) Beef jerky is fun, too, if your teeth can take it, but the sodium is high, so be careful.

Supper is a basic balanced thing with meat, veggies, potatoes. The basic guideline on portions is the size of your fist, or what will fit in your hand.

Listen, I've found that, after a while, your stomach will adjust. When I've gotten carried away and had extras of something really groovy, I get very uncomfortable later. Slow down, eat a decent portion, and let your system catch up and realize that it's been fed.

Later in the evening, I have problems. More almonds, maybe. Cheese and crackers, but lately, I've been botching the carbs on that. When I mess up, I can adjust for it at the next meal — or even do it if eating anything sizable that day.

It's time for the list again, gang!

  • Read the labels!
  • Never skip meals, your system thinks it's starving and converts the next food to fat. Especially breakfast, it fires up your metabolism for the entire day.
  • Keep track of the carbs for each meal and for the entire day.
  • Don't beat yourself up if you miss it, try harder tomorrow. Or adjust for it later today.
  • Eat consistently, with balanced meals. Don't skip, don't pig.
  • You'll have to read elsewhere for this, but it's true: regular patterns are essential for survival. Regular eating, sleeping and exercise habits are powerful medicine. Not only for diabetes, but other ailments. I've read things on psychology for years, and I guarantee that good diet, exercise and sleep habits will straighten out many of your psychotic episodes and mood swings.
  • Read the labels!
  • Do research. And check out how fiber will help offset the carb intake.
  • Alternative, healthy snacks are available. A veggie platter with Italian dressing is good eatin'. 
  • Don't whine, realize you have to make lifestyle changes to survive.
  • Read the labels!
There's another vitally important point to be made here: carbohydrates are not your enemy. They are your fuel. But we take in too many of them, and some of us cannot convert them efficiently. More than one nutritionist has told me that the Atkins diet is junk, and even dangerous. Yes, more protein and fewer carbs. But let's not get carried away.

I know this is longer than usual, but it's important. I hope some of you will take proactive action now and develop good habits while you can so this doesn't happen to you. Sure, I miss the candies sometimes. But I've found alternatives to take the sting out of it, or even indulge in moderation.

September 17, 2007

What Do You Have In Your Head?

Frankly, too many people have horse apples for brains. Why do you think that is? To misuse a verse in the book of Proverbs, "For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he". What are you putting into your head? Crap? Well, plants need fertilizer to grow with, but your mind is not a plant.

My father was fond of saying that your mind is a garden. Plant thought seeds, water them and see what grows. If you plant good seeds, you get good results. The opposite is true as well.

I tend to think that the mind is more like a computer. Any programmer knows that a computer is only as good as its input, which is GIGO: Garbage In, Garbage Out. Also, you need to have good programming in the first place, or even the best input will give bad results. Too many software vendors do not test their products thoroughly and rush it to market, and then have to issue patches and revisions.

A simple way to show this is when you use a search engine. If you want to know the annual rainfall of Monterosso al Mare, you do a search for that, not for meteoric dust levels in Antarctica, capice? If the search engine is poorly programmed, you get bad results.

If you want to know how to think properly, you have to have good input. And you need good programming. What does that come down to? Fill your head with good thoughts, positive things, reasonable input, logic.

What's that on the television? Death, destruction, rampant sex — hey, quit watching my TV! Then check your attitude when you walk away. One-sided, biased news broadcasts? No wonder you think like a mindless sheep! Music about death, hate, suicide? Downer. (You already know how I feel about rap "music", that's the most negative and hateful nonsense I know of.) And music is extremely powerful, because of the repetition and concentration. What are you friends like? Do they uplift you, or are they negative people that bring you down, psychic vampires that sap your energy?

My advice to you is to break away. Get decent input so you can have control over your mental processes. (It only follows that your emotions will be influenced as well.) Branch out. Meditate on good things, on truth, on balance. You'll see and feel the difference. See for yourself.

Subscribe in a reader