May 13, 2009

Some Questions for Atheists

No time for gay banter, I'm simply going to launch.

I would like to know something. What foundation do atheists have for their morality? (I'm not talking to the arrogant atheists that simply want to destroy the faith of others and prove that they're so much smarter than the rest of us. This is for honest atheists that are capable of rational dialogue.) Since you believe that there is no God, what is your basis for any sense of right and wrong? You can't base it on "civilization" for several reasons, especially the fact that the values of individual countries in a civilization change over time, and differ over distance as well.

You can't base your morality on your own conscience and beliefs, because it's highly subjective. You may feel that it's wrong for me to put a bullet in your head, and I may feel that executing you is for the good of humanity. No, we have to appeal to someone higher up to settle that dispute.

Also, I'd like to know how atheism has made you a better person. Does it give you comfort? Does it make you worthwhile for humanity? What motivation do you have to do good to others? Do you have something to pass along to your children to cling to after you're gone?

These things frequently burble inside me, and reading Bill O'Reilly made this part burst forth. On Page 254 of A Bold Fresh Piece of Humanity, Bill made some interesting comments:
Also, I say prayers of thanks for the miracle of the life I have lived. No kidding about that. Next time you meet an atheist, tell him or her that you know a bold, fresh guy, a barbarian who was raised in a working-class home and retains the lessons he learned there. Then mention to that atheist that this guy is now watched and listened to, on a daily basis, by millions of people all over the world and, to boot, sells millions of books.

May 11, 2009

Rating Hotels

Buona sera. Nothing to thunder about this time, just some speculation.

I had some things to deal with in Michigan, so I left Lela and Nicky in charge of operations in my absence. (I'm not blaming them for the CD/DVD on my primary computer not being able to "recognize" CDs, but still play DVDs. Any advice out there? And the external hard drive quit right after I got back, so my collection of hot cowgirls is gone. No more Western Digital products for me!) Things are running well, so my confidence in them was well-founded again.

You've seen those commercials saying, "We know why you fly" for one of the airlines. Cute, but unrealistic. It would be nice, though. And it would be nice that hotels and motels knew why we used their services as well. The main thing that most of us expect is a dark, quiet, safe place to sleep. Other things come secondary. But the reasons we end up at a sleeping establishment are as varied as there are individuals to have those reasons, capice?

The hotel people have no way of knowing what's going on in people's lives. They hope and expect that we travel for a good time, to meet friends (and my goomahs), have a holiday, whatever.

In my case, it was a mix. First of all, we were there because I came to bury my oldest brother. It took about fifteen hours to drive to Michigan, so we're dog tired. And stressed. After the ceremony, there was more family time, some recreation, some catching up with old friends.

Again, the hotel people can hope for people to be doing well when they arrive, but they really don't know why people travel. So what are they supposed to do? They perform their duties to make the stay as pleasant as possible.

I used an online service to book this Best Western hotel. The reviews were confusing, because the service did not rate them very highly, but "real people" did rate them highly. My opinion is that they performed their expected duties very well, and there were some extras that I did not expect.

Perhaps the people that review hotels that are not "real people", but are professional critics are expecting too much. No, there were no mints on the pillows or other amenities that some people may be expecting from hotels that charge in excess of $200 a night. (For that price, I almost expect some, uh, "extra" services from the hotel's hotties.)

In my years of travel, I've had some very unpleasant surprises at hotels and motels. So when I get what I'm expecting, and more, I'm very happy about it. (And I'm not just saying this because this hotel has some babes working there.) The staff performed their jobs well, even the woman that had to keep the breakfast service running each morning. Sure, I could be ultra-picky and find things to complain about, but I have had those bad experiences elsewhere to put things in perspective. And people could find things to complain about with the extremely expensive luxury hotels.

My advice to you is to be happy when you get the service you're expecting, and be very happy when the service is more than you expect. I know I was, and I'll go back to this Best Western. Remember, I'm a cowboy at heart, and cowboys love westerns. Ha! I made a funny. The truth is, I did not choose it for the novelty of the name, but because of what the online service said I could expect. Also, Best Western has a good reputation. And you know how I am about reputations!

May 7, 2009

Cosmic Justice?

Buona sera. Yours truly had an interesting trip. Oh, you didn't know I was going away? Right, I neglected to mention it. Almost 2,000 miles by car. (And for that stronzo on US-131 between Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo, you're damn lucky I was in too much of a hurry to pull over and explain a few facts to you.) Anyway, had a safe and productive trip.

OK, gang, Uncle Bob is going to reveal some personal history to you.

Way back in the mid-1980s, before my activities became both confidential and occasionally underhanded, I was married and we had a young child. And we were very devout in our Christian beliefs. (I still believe, but I'm much less active today.) We were also down on our luck. After much searching, a job offer came in. We were going to be co-resident managers of a self-storage facility. Back then, we were living in the town of Ionia, Michigan (which is a situation that I do not recommend for anyone), and the job was in Grand Rapids.

Or so we thought. The owner was a big-time liar, as we found out later. Do you have any idea how difficult it is to refrain from giving names?

The job was not in Grand Rapids. Instead, it was further south, in Kalamazoo. So, we set up shop and tried to make a home there. My then-wife was doing office work, and I was cleaning up the empty storage units. During our time there, the rentals went up to about ninety nine percent. We were supposed to eventually give instruction for other managers in the self-storage empire that this nut case was planning on building.

Then, my supervisor disappeared. I found out that he had resigned. The owner became the supervisor, and started making impossible work demands and did not furnish the money to buy the materials I needed to do the upgrades and "repairs" that he wanted. We thought he was nuts, but it was a setup. While he was telling us that we were doing a good job, he was training our replacements behind our backs. Our entire job was really a quick fix for him.

We were a quick fix for him, too. They had purchased the company and dumped the existing resident managers, one of whom was terminally ill and dying. No way would we have taken a job with a cazzo like that if we had known what he was like!

One day, bastardo came into the office (on our day off, yet) and said, "The work's not getting done, so we're firing you." I hope none of my readers ever have the experience of losing their jobs and homes in the same moment, living in a strange city! Remember, it was not just the two of us, we had a young daughter at the time. I think she was about two or three back then. It's a good thing that the weasely boss loser dude did not come by, because I was learning that I was capable of great physical violence. Watching the wife that I loved at the time sitting on the floor, packing and sobbing...

||>>> Fast forward a few chapters. I'll simply add that there was much praying at the time, and a series of what I consider miracles that took us out of that dark time. Oh, and our replacements? They dumped them, too.

About fifteen years later, I took a trip to Kalamazoo and drove by the place. It had a different name. Now, I seriously doubt that the company changed its name. I think he sold the business. Ha! Loser!

It had been over twenty years since I saw their headquarters in Grand Rapids, but I wound up driving by there just the other day. Even had a small anxiety attack from the deeply-rooted trauma of that time. The sign looked...different. I turned around to drive by for a closer look. Guess he couldn't hold onto the business at all. I was very glad to see that!

But it was even better. A name I did not know even existed was now there: Uncle Bob's Self Storage! Ha! My name is up there! Was that a bit of cosmic justice? God showing a sense of humor? Remember, at that time, we were both very, well, devout in our beliefs and practices. And I recall a fragment of a Bible teaching that essentially said, "You don't touch God's people." We were actively God's people, and he did us wrong. Very wrong, very big time. He's out of business now.

Just wondering.

April 24, 2009

Being Politically Incorrect

Nicky got himself a nasty glare when he referred to a woman as a "broad". Funny, I've heard women use the word for other women. But the woman was built like a UPS truck, and neither of us cared about her opinion.

A while ago, I learned that political correctness is a threat to free speech. And it becomes a tool for someone with a chip on their shoulder or is looking for some kind of a fight. If you say the "wrong" words, say something the "wrong" way, or even look at someone crosswise, they'll run crying to their advocate and file a lawsuit.

Too bad the more accurate term, "culturally correct", did not catch on because it's not always about politics. But I suspect it's always about seizing power.

You have to essentially walk on eggshells because you'll offend some cafone. And then you'll be in trouble for walking on eggshells! Somewhere, somehow, no matter how careful you are, someone can be offended. If people could get into our heads and read our thoughts, we'd all be in serious trouble with the PC fascists.

I've really had enough of it, and having to watch myself because "someone could be offended". Sure, I'll follow the cowboy rules and try to keep the profanity away from women and children, and do it around men, horses and cattle. I'll also try to be sensitive to real things that may be offensive. But the "every little thing" bit is way out of hand.

Some of us seem to be rebelling. More people are being provocative in their speech just to provoke a reaction. Some of it is overreaction, sure. But I think a PC rebellion is overdue. As long as we keep some sensitivity (I'm showing some right now by avoiding examples that some people would be honestly offended with). I don't like to hurt, or do the hurting.

I'm politically incorrect and value free speech. Being sensitive? I don't care.

April 21, 2009

Being Remembered

"Don't get too high on a bottle,
"Get right with the Man, son.
"Fight your fights, find a grace,
"And all the things that you can change,
"And help somebody if you can.
"And get right with the Man."

— Van Zant, from Get Right with the Man

Buona sera.
No, I'm not going to go on about the passing of my father and my oldest brother again. Yes, I'm going to go on about how we're remembered.

Some of the things I've been reading and hearing lately have been coming together. Naturally, because of my experiences in recent months, I've been thinking about how I hope I'm remembered. My crew will remember me as a strict disciplinarian, but I hope they know that I'm that way because I want them to survive. Also, I hope they've learned a few things from me that they can apply to their lives. And I hope they remember the jokes and fun times.

With this thinking going on, my old buddy Neil has had some bad times lately. His father-in-law is a mean old man, to be blunt. (To be further blunt, his mother-in-law has the IQ of a cucumber, doddering around, open mouthed and saying, "Hah?") But Neil tells me that his wife has stories about being beaten, the old man's overall meanness, extreme selfishness and overall childishness. Sure, most people want to be the center of attention, and maybe brag a little, but this guy has to be adored around the clock.

Neil's father-in-law is old, in poor health and mostly crippled. When Neil's wife's aunt died, he asked his wife if she would have kind words to say at her father's funeral. She was unable to think of anything.

I associate with people on both sides of the law, so I've learned a few things. Most of them I won't tell you. But people in the Families, like Gambino and Genovese, will tell you that they would like to be loved, but fear lasts longer than love. (This was brought out in A Bronx Tale, by the way. Watch it in front of the kiddies and they'll learn some new words that you'd rather they didn't learn just yet.) In their "business", fear is an essential component of respect.

By the way, another expression those people use that was popularized by the Corleones is, "It's only business, it's nothing personal." That's a cazzo's excuse for treating someone like merda. If you're on the receiving end of some kind of business — whether it's criminal, corporate, government or whatever — yes, it is personal.

The fear capacity of Neil's father-in-law is mostly diminished in Neil's wife, and has never had an effect on Neil. But I've noticed from hearing about the old man and knowing about people like Gambino that fear fades. When respect is rooted in fear, then there's not much respect left over when the fear is gone. This old man never generated love, either giving or receiving. And the fear that by which he ruled his family has mostly evaporated.

How rich you were, how powerful, how you sold your soul to a company to be successful in your business, what kind of car you owned, all are all going to fade (especially if you were ruthless and worked through fear, intimidation and bullying). They certainly do not impress God. When we show kindness to others, do good for others, help out someone in need, develop our spiritual values, show love in general — those things are fondly remembered. And I do believe that they count in the next life.

I hope I'm building something worthwhile that will last after I'm gone.

March 24, 2009

Losing Trust

Buon giorno. I have talked to you about gaining and building trust. Today, I'm going to go in the opposite direction: How we lose trust. And in that negative, I'll make it positive. Trust me.

I need to point out something fundamental. Different people will have their own experiences and "emotional baggage" or psychological scars that they bring into a situation. Someone that has been hurt and betrayed often and/or deeply will be less likely to be trusting. For instance, I am very suspicious of people at the top of The Organization because of harsh experiences that I've had. (I'm also suspicious of that guy hanging around outside, wearing the dark glasses and a long coat, but never mind about that now.)

The opposite is true as well, that if someone has had successful experiences with trust will be more willing to trust again.

When someone wants to be trusted, they can be in for a disappointment when that trust is not forthcoming. You can demand trust all you want, but it won't help. Why? Because trust has to be earned. Slowly.

"Can you give examples, Cowboy Bob?"

Soitenly. Let me pick on one of the guys in my crew, Tommy the Knocker. Tommy wants to be trusted. We'll say that Tommy has climbed up my trust ladder. Then he lost my trust again. What did Tommy do that was so bad?

First of all, he lied to me. When I ask people what they consider the first item to ruin trust, they usually come up with "lies". This is not difficult. Lying not only takes away someone's ability to make a choice, it is demeaning and insulting. Further, if Tommy lies to me, it implies that he either has something to hide, or that he doesn't trust me, either. His loss, I'm a trustworthy guy.

Second, he lied to other people. When I see Tommy lying to other people (unless he's doing it on my instructions), my suspicions kick in and I wonder if he's lied to me. Then, I wonder if he is willing to lie to me in the future. Watching how someone relates to others gives you insight into their overall character, and you may find out what a true weasel he can be, capice?

Third, he stole something. Lying and stealing are evil twin brothers. If it was from me, that's very bad. If it was from someone else, the above principle applies, and I wonder when he's stolen from me, or if he's going to steal later.

Fourth, he wouldn't stand up for me. I want loyalty from my crew. And I give loyalty. As I've said before, I'm not casual about friendship and I treat it like a commitment. If you're loyal to me, I'm loyal to you. And I think most people feel that way.

Fifth, he used manipulating behavior. My articles on control freaks get quite a few visits, and I hope they help some people. Anyway, I know quite well about manipulating behavior. It involves lying, shading the truth, hiding the truth, using emotional influence to obtain obedience — it's subtle and insidious. It's difficult to put into words, but those who have experienced it know what I'm talking about. People who pull that stuff on me, or on my friends, lose trust points with me.

Sixth, he cheated me. First, it was at cards and shooting dice. Then, he tampered with the books. After that, he borrowed my car without permission, and didn't even have the good graces to fill the tank again.

Addendum: I was so excited about doing this article that I left something out: Seventh, he hangs out with people that lack good character values. In other words, these people lie, cheat, ridicule, steal, manipulate, burn down empty warehouses, don't tip their waiters and waitresses for good service or whatever else. If your friends and associates are lacking in character, they're likely to bring you down. After all, people with good character are dragged down; you seldom hear about someone with bad character being pulled up. Bad company corrupts good morals, you know.

I've been lied to and stolen from by The Organization. Then they have the nerve to tell me to act "with integrity and honesty", and to work harder. But it's difficult to give trust and respect when I've been stabbed in the back. At least, I can gauge my trust levels with my own crew. Even thought I'm picking on Tommy, I know he's a stand-up guy and would even take a bullet for me. (Nicky would also, and he shoots back very well.)

Just remember that the old adages about trust are true, that it takes a long time to build it up, but trust can be destroyed very quickly. And people remember when they've been lied to, stolen from, betrayed, cheated, hung around people with low character, and watched someone's lack of character.

Build up your own integrity and rise above that nonsense, willya?

March 19, 2009

Hey, Britain!

Buon giorno. Although I haven't had Earl Grey tea in a few days (I've been renewing my acquaintance with the Daniels Brothers, Charlie and Jack), I'm disappointed in the American "leadership".

To say that giving back the bust of Winston Churchill (someone that I have personally admired for decades), given to the United States in a gesture of solidarity after the September 11 attacks by murderous cowards is in poor taste is an understatement. Listen, Britain, I didn't vote for the guy that just gave you a rude gesture. Millions of us did not vote for him. And I bet even more are appalled at the rudeness given in the White House to the Prime Minister.

When Tony Blair was the Prime Minister, I sent him a letter. There is a song that is popular here that says, "God bless the USA". And I told him my feeling is, in addition to the USA, "God bless the UK!". So, please don't hold the actions of a weasel that is a closet Muslim, intent on destroying this country, against the real people here. Some of us do have a bit of class.

Great Britain, I thank you for your friendship and support through the years. When we have real leaders, I want this to continue. I want it very much. And I want to visit you again. So, even if the so-called "leader" of the USA is a rude sod, please don't hold that against the rest of us. The people want to be friends. And it's not just because my favourite programmes and musicians are British, that's incidental.

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