January 19, 2010

UPS Tracking Number 41133182

Buona sera. I haven't been thundering here much lately, and now it's time to make up for it. Pay attention, willya? This is important, and I don't care what your political leanings are, we can sort that out later.

I was sent a virus today. A virus will stop all of your uncluttering and productivity efforts right in their tracks. This one arrived at one of my throw-away accounts. That got my attention because I do not use that account for anything serious. My main indication that this was something to be on guard against was that Thunderbird 3 told me, "Hey, this looks like spam!" Click on the picture to see it enlarged (better yet, use Firefox, right-click, open link in new tab).
Also, it had a Zipped file attachment (bottom left). Alarm bells are going off in my head.

Now, I understand that most of my readers are careful, but some things are worth saying over and over anyway: Never open an attachment from a stranger! The attachment is the virus. That's what happens most of the time, capice?

People like me get suspicious and want to check things out more. So, I clicked on Thunderbird's "Show Full Headers" function (very annoying unless you're looking for something, and the default is "normal" headers). Although it claims to be from a UPS manager (and sometimes they pretend to come from the US Postal Service) , the sender is lying. The headers are not faked very far, and some of the domains end in "de". Uh, that's Germany, and I don't think UPS is sending me mail routed through Germany.

The actual letter is below. Note the awkward wording ("please attention") and the use of "our post office" at the alleged UPS:


The courier company was not able to deliver your parcel by your address.
Cause: Error in shipping address.

You may pickup the parcel at our post office personaly!

Please attention!
The shipping label is attached to this e-mail.
Please print this label to get this package at our post office.

Please do not reply to this e-mail, it is an unmonitored mailbox.

Thank you.
United Parcel Service.
Strange thing about this is that I really was expecting a package.

Now that I have my information and my anger, I can post this and warn you. If you
click here, you can get more information on the virus, including how to remove it.

January 16, 2010

Bad Day at Work

Here's a great song for a bad day at work. The video is eighteen seconds long. But you probably can't watch it due to workplace firewalls, so save the link and come back here when you get home. After that, I put the original (running at a whopping minute and a half) and its link as well. kthxbai


And now the very cool, soulful original:


January 15, 2010

Time Wasters: Arguing with Atheists

Buona sera. This will be an odd lesson in personal productivity, I guarantee it. Yours truly took a while to "come down" after some "discussions" in a forum with some arrogant atheists. (It wasn't even a forum that is set up for religious debates; they kept interjecting their snide remarks in the other discussions.) Flames were shooting out of my eyes when I was done.

Readers of this Weblog know that I have written up my problems with their "logic" and their antagonistic attitudes. You should also remember that I really do not care what someone believes
as long as they do not attempt to destroy the faith of others. These people who try to destroy the faith of others are the same ones who cry, "Stop cramming your religion down my throat!" A Christian is offering their message of hope because they are motivated out of concern for where the other person is going to spend eternity.

By the way, do you know what the atheist offers? To strip away a believer's hope and replace it with the belief that there is no God, the universe happened by chance, life happened by chance, you have no purpose in life and when you die, you're worm food. Let me see...Heaven with God, friends and family who have gone before, or — nothing. Tough choice, huh? Love that atheistic message of hope!

Anyway. In that forum, I got tired of the atheists getting smug and condescending, putting down people of faith — and I went off! I posted a long rant taking them to task for being uncivil and discourteous, pointing out their bad "reasoning" and railing in general. These lovers of logic had poor answers for my statements (although they ignored most of them) and they responded with emotion ("You just hate atheists!"). One pretty much threw a tantrum, could not take my response to his reply and went crying to the other atheists. Naturally, I was judged to be a bad person, Scripture was misquoted at me, their double standards were evident (you know how I love double standards) and I was wrong for speaking up in the first place instead of tolerating how they abused other believers.

Articles that I have written here served two purposes. First, they helped me clarify my thoughts. Second, I hope they gave people something to think about so they can see how the arrogant atheists will act. OK, a third purpose was so that I could vent. After all, it is my Weblog.

All of this is because I want to point out a few things to Christians.

  • Know what you believe, so you can "give a response to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you".
  • Know why you believe it, get a working knowledge of some of the science and history that supports the Bible. You probably won't be able to quote anything "on demand", but you can be more confident in your own minds.
  • When you are confronted by an arrogant atheist, walk away. It is a waste of time. These guys only want to debate and try to play "Gotcha" by playing head games. But note this, if someone is an atheist or agnostic and is honestly inquiring about your faith, by all means, give him some time and discussion. If he or she is just playing you and dragging it out, it's time to graciously end the discussion(s). You can discuss it again later if you think your friend is being sincere later on.
  • Pray for them. It's your duty as a Christian.
I am pretty much done participating in that forum, by the way.

Life is short, and we do not need to waste time with people who are unwilling to listen to what we have to say. We have better things to do.

January 12, 2010

Was It All Lost?

All the time that's lost,
what's the final cost?

"A Light in the Black" by Blackmore's Rainbow

Buon giorno. Have you ever had the experience of reading or hearing something that made an impression on you several weeks earlier, and then have it continue to come back to you? Sure you have. I'm going to share my latest.

Unfortunately, I do not have the source material. It was a link from a link, one of those things that you chase down. And this thing made me feel better.

This is a bit difficult to set up, so I hope you'll bear with me.

I was remembering (lamenting, in a way) all the time that I have lost on projects and interests that I did not complete. (In fact, I have Soviet Union badges and other memorabilia in storage even now from when I was deeply involved in studying their history. I want to be rid of them. Any takers?) Time spent, and also money spent. My interests changed, and I felt foolish for having spent time and money chasing those interests. After all, I had left things unfinished.

This article pointed out that it is not a waste. We have to try things out, and we usually cannot know right away how long those interests will last. Spending money is a part of that process. And even though the interest has been left behind, there is still the growth process; we learn from our pursuits. The remarks in that article helped me stop beating myself up over what I thought was foolishness and lack of self-discipline.

As it has been said, if you're not growing, you're dying.

At this point in my life, I have become more interested in reducing the clutter in my life (both mental and material), and more concerned with how I spend my time. So this lesson came back to me again very recently, and I took some comfort in it again. I tried it on, it fit for a while, now it doesn't fit (or it is out of style for me). Are these clothing comparisons doing anything for you?

Although I am much more selective now with how I spend financial resources, I am certain that some of those "mistakes" will happen again. Learning is a process, just like growth. It's certainly far better than stagnating because I did not try to learn and do something new.

I am not the man I was twelve years ago. Thank God.

January 11, 2010

Angel, Saints, Curses and Luck

Today, I'm going to give political stuff a rest and keep to the overall topic of this Weblog, which is: Anything I feel like writing about. This time, I want to partially repeat myself about being blackmailed in e-mail. This comes from people that I think are well-intentioned, but do not bother to get rid of the conditions that are contained within the e-mails.

Every once in a while, I get mail that invokes an angel, the Virgin Mary, some obscure religious figure like "Saint Schnitzel" — or even Jesus himself. These sentimental pieces are telling me that the sender cares about me, is glad I am a friend and so forth. But then, they get weird. They often have religious pictures and prayers in them. OK... If I forward the mail to fifteen people in the next five minutes, I will have good luck within the next week. I can see by your expression that you've had these things as well. Hey, do you get them with another condition attached, that if you do not forward them, something bad will happen to you? Sometimes it is only bad luck, but even so, a kind of curse is implied if you "break the chain". Yes? I didn't think I was the only one that received these things.

Wow, you shouldn't have gotten me started on this topic! I have to say something else about angels: They are not women and/or children with wings. If you knew your Bible or Torah, you would know that angels are very powerful spirit beings. Cute artwork is actually very misleading about their nature, ministry and their power. But that is a topic for another time.

Bonus: A promise that a graphic will appear on the mail, or something cute or special will happen. That's an outright lie from other "forward this and get rich" schemes.

Other than being irritated at the "curse" for not forwarding them, I have another problem. (I mean, besides the fact that most people do not clean them up, and I have to wade through two hundred other names waiting to be harvested by spammers.) Frankly, they turn religion into superstition; it's degrading to the religious figure that is being invoked, and that they will bring you "luck". Most of these things are Catholic-oriented. I'm not even Catholic, and I am offended
for them. Also, I do not believe in luck. You want luck? Work hard, think, keep your eyes open and make your own luck.

People can send me good wishes, prayers or whatever. Fine. I do not believe that the electronic medium means anything, but if it was actually sent prayerfully and the sender is wishing the sendee well, I will spiritually accept that a prayer or (good thought) was said on my behalf. Otherwise, it's junk that is being forwarded almost by reflex.

At any rate, if I get something with conditions, promises or curses attached and I like the rest of it, guess what? Yep, I edit the thing before sending it on. Think for a moment: Does Saint Schnitzel or any other religious figure really want to be associated with some kind of luck curse from your e-mail? I didn't think so.

January 4, 2010

Have Less, Feel Better

Buona sera. Yours truly is a bit wound up about a different approach to posting. I believe that I will be posting more often, but with less text; I want to become more efficient with my thoughts and words. Sure, the occasional lengthy treatises and rants will appear, however. "I gotta be me", as the song goes.

Things may change. After all, everything is a work in progress (to use another saying). But to use one of my own sayings around the office, "We'll see what happens".

Unfortunately for people who want short messages, this is not going to be one of them. It's my usual length. But it's very good, keep reading, it'll take you about two or three

To the right is an example of extreme clutter.

Before we set our hearts too much upon anything,
let us examine how happy those are who already possess it.

—Francois de La Rochefoucauld, French author & moralist (1613 - 1680)

When Hal the Hacker gets on a project for me, he has all kinds of stuff. I try to be tech savvy, but he's way over my head, being comfortable with gadgets that I never dreamed existed. Many of them are toys, and not really necessary for his work.

How much stuff do we really need to own? I have things in storage from previous lives that I have not been able to part with, so I continue to pay the storage fees. Someday, I will be able to break the chains and set the stuff, and myself, free.

Let's look at stuff on a philosophical or spiritual level.

Benjamin Franklin did not desire many possessions and luxuries, and lived a frugal lifestyle. He believed that the best possession is a true friend. No, he did not think you could own anybody. The value of friendship is more important than stuff or material riches. And this guy whose name I can't pronounce, Francois de La Rochefoucauld, said, "Before we set our hearts too much upon anything, let us examine how happy those are who already possess it." Right. Will it make you happy? John Ruskin, 19th century philosopher (and so much more) said that "Every increased possession loads us with new weariness".

Buddhism warns against attachment. That is, getting mentally and emotionally attached to stuff, or people, or whatever. Clinging imprisons one's self. This does not conflict with my Christian beliefs. Rather, it supports them. But going deeper into that point is more than I want to do here, so if you want to read more about that, click here. The point is, Buddhists agree that gaining more stuff only increases your burden.

There are strong words about being enamored to wealth, and to things, in the Bible. Mark 4.19 mentions the "deceitfulness of riches". The Apostle Paul wrote in Philippians 4.11-12 that he knew full well how to live well and to go hungry, and "I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content." (I seem to recall Ben Franklin saying something about being content with what we have, as well.) Proverbs 30.8-9 tells us, "Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, 'Who is the LORD', or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God." Get that? A good balance between wealth and poverty is a good thing. So, "more is less", because the more stuff you have, the less freedom and peace of mind you have because you're dealing with all of it.

But why do we get so much stuff? Prestige? Impulse? The silly notion that owning things will make us happy? Mental illness? I'll tell you about mental illness, I've said long ago that getting ourselves organized is very helpful for our mental well-being. Although that is about personal productivity, it brings up the point that we need to keep our stuff organized as well, or it becomes a considerable area of stress.

But catch onto this principle that I have been learning: Less is liberating! If you have less stuff (and you know darn well that you don't need that much in the first place), you have less to deal with. Read what Leo Babauta says over at Zen Habits:
Have less. If you learn that enjoyment of life isn’t having stuff, you’ll be able to let go of it … and declutter. Having a life with a minimal amount of clutter is so enjoyable, so peaceful, it’s hard to describe. It leaves you feeling free, without the stress that comes with an overwhelming amount of stuff, and leaves room in your life for relaxation. Less of a focus on buying stuff means you also have more money, or less debt, or you need to work less in order to live the life you want. Any of those options are good.
So, are you with me on this? One more saying: Do you have possessions, or do possessions have you? Maybe it's time to stop obsessing over stuff, over how much you can get. In fact, maybe we should be thinking about simplifying and de-cluttering. That's the directiong that I'm heading. Less clutter, more organized...I'm feel better!

Addendum: Here is a great (and short) article at The Minimalist.

December 28, 2009

Power of an Employer

Buona sera. I was able to catch some of the usual Christmas movies that I like to watch every year. Now, wait a minute! I am not going to be going on about Christmas, exactly, and then I'll drop it. I'm as glad the season is winding down as much as almost everyone else. So anyway. Hard-hearted and heavy-handed employers make labor burdensome. Labor, by its nature, is seldom a joy. But treating your employees poorly, or even neglecting opportunities to bring them a little joy, is a good part of what causes labor to be a burden.

In National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, Mr. Shirley suspended the Christmas bonuses. He was becoming a miser and was more interested in saving a few dollars than in the best interests of his employees. In this case, the Christmas bonus was expected every year, and they counted on it as part of their salaries. When he had to look at the Griswold family, he said, "Look, uh, sometimes things look good on paper, but lose their luster when you see how it affects real folks. I guess a healthy bottom line doesn't mean much, if to get it you have to hurt the ones you depend on. It's people that make the difference, little people like you." I want that emblazoned on a sign over every employer's personal office door!

Now, let's go back to an older movie, Scrooge. (By the way, after hearing the audio book of the original story, I am thoroughly impressed with this version, as it actually improved on the work of Charles Dickens.) The Ghost of Christmas Past took Scrooge back to his younger days, where he was a happy apprentice. Mr. Fezziwig threw a shindig that brought him the praise of his employees.

The Ghost said, "He has spent but a few pounds of your mortal money: three or four perhaps. Is th
at so much that he deserves this praise?" Right. He spend some money to make people happy. Is that really such a difficulty? People complain about the modern economy, but they should realize the economy of people like Fezziwig in Victorian England!

Scrooge said to the Ghost, "He has the power to render us happy or unhappy; to make our service light or burdensome; a pleasure or a toil. Say that his power lies in words and looks; in things so slight and insignificant that it is impossible to add and count ’em up: what then? The happiness he gives, is quite as great as if it cost a fortune." Yes! A thousand times, yes! Learn this, employers!

I think I read that Lee Iacocca said, "Give your employees your best, and they'll give you their best". Is this so difficult? Things may look good on paper, but treating people properly and actually treating them like people has its own intangible dividends, capice?

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