Archive for the Uncategorized Category

Financially simple, remarkably strange

Posted in Uncategorized on 02/17/2015 by Fox

What was I doing here? What was the meaning of this trip? Was I just roaming around in a drug frenzy of some kind? Or had I really come out here to Las Vegas to work on a story? Who are these people, these faces? Where do they come from? They look like caricatures of used car dealers from Dallas, and sweet Jesus, there were a hell of a lot of them at 4:30 on a Sunday morning, still humping the American dream, that vision of the big winner somehow emerging from the last minute pre-dawn chaos of a stale Vegas casino.
~Raoul Duke, “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas”

I was applying for a mortgage loan at my credit union. The counselor printed out my credit report, and upon looking at it, remarked that I had just enough lines of credit to qualify, and no more.

“You must lead a very simple life,” he said.

I don’t know what I said in response. I should’ve asked why everyone else chooses to lead such complicated lives. Is it really that hard to know how to decline the allure of credit, or to say “I’ve spent enough,” or to realize that living at or above your means isn’t sustainable? I would’ve thought the latter, at least, is self-evident.

I know it’s easy to just slide into bad spending habits, or to have unforeseen circumstances ruin your plans. But how is it that financial simplicity is remarkable? How is it that most people choose to complicate themselves in one of the most excruciating ways?

I have no answer for this. Perhaps I should stop drinking while watching Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. It does things to my head.


It’s been a long time…

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on 08/03/2014 by Fox

There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered.
~Nelson Mandela

Hello internet. It’s been a long time. Over two years, in fact. My last post was in January of 2012. Here we are, August 2014.

I ran out of things to say, honestly, at least things that would just be parroting what I’d already said. Intended to write some, didn’t, got busy, forgot.

I’d been getting the writing bug again. Thought about writing on Tumblr, thought about reviving the Ouroboros, thought about starting up something new. But then someone (they know who they are) just…asked. And I know myself of projects left uncompleted that I wish the authors would come back to. “Be the change you wish to see in the world,” as that tired old quote goes.

And you know what? This feels right. Like coming home after a very long time. Everything’s a bit dusty, and things aren’t the same. But the bones are still here.

I can’t honestly say that things will go back to the way they once were. I find myself with many things to say, and some of them may not be the bread and butter of the Ouroboros. But we’ll see. It’ll be an adventure.

The last time I wrote, I was still living in a 600 sq. ft. apartment with a roommate. If I wasn’t still working two jobs, it hadn’t been that long.

I’m living alone now, in a one bedroom apartment of comparable size to the old one. Not for long though…I’ve just closed on a home (well, half a duplex) of my own, and I’m in the (very busy) process of making it ready for my habitation.  It’s a fixer-upper, naturally.  :P  Nothing like sweat equity!

I have a new car. More on that, later.

I also have a Roth IRA, which alleviates some of my fear of being old and poor.

My income has improved, but not by terribly much. Maybe a couple thousand more a year. I’ve accomplished what I have by force of frugality, not by an increase in income.

I have more shit, including some things that serve absolutely no purpose other than to collect dust and cat hair, but I still have a lot less than almost everyone I know.

So, expect some stuff coming down the pipe. Stuff about buying houses in general, buying houses while low-income in particular, why the hell I have a new car and why it’s not used, lifestyle creep, Obamacare, and god only knows what else.

Since I can’t black the site out…

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on 01/18/2012 by Fox

The Internet is the first thing that humanity has built that humanity doesn’t understand, the largest experiment in anarchy that we have ever had.
~Eric Schmidt

…I’ll just rant instead.

I should hope by now you’ve heard about SOPA and PIPA. SOPA has apparently been shelved for the moment, but PIPA is still kicking around in the Senate.

Others have already done a better job of dissecting SOPA than I, but here’s the kicker, if you’re unfamiliar:

“An `Internet site is dedicated to theft of U.S. property’ if [a portion of the site is US-directed] and is used by users within the United States and is primarily designed or operated for the purpose of offering services in a manner that enables or facilitates [copyright violation or circumvention of copyright protection measures].

Still doesn’t sound that bad, but consider this: Any site that allows users to post content is “primarily designed for the purpose of offering services in a manner that enables copyright violation.” The site doesn’t have to be clearly designed for the purpose of copyright violation; it only has to provide functionality that can be used to enable copyright violation.

This means that YouTube, Facebook, Wikipedia, Gmail, Dropbox and millions of other sites would be “Internet sites…dedicated to theft of U.S. property,” under SOPA’s definition. Simply providing a feature that would make it possible for someone to commit copyright infringement or circumvention (see: 09 F9 11 02 9D 74 E3 5B D8 41 56 C5 63 56 88 C0) is enough to get your entire site branded as an infringing site.

Furthermore, you may be painted as infringing if you, the site owner, “take deliberate actions to avoid confirming a high probability of the use of…the site to carry out acts [of copyright infringement or circumvention].” This means if you deliberately decide that it’s not cost-effective to screen every piece of content and determine whether or not it is copyright-free before it is posted to your site (whether there is infringing content on your site or not), then you are labeled as an “Internet site…dedicated to theft of U.S. property.” Simply the act of not actively screening every piece of content makes you a criminal under SOPA.

Basically, these bills give the US government and copyright holders (namely, the RIAA and other assholes) the ability to effectively shut down websites for the most vague of reasons.

Let’s take, for example. He does a hilarious show called “Nostalgia Critic.” Recently, he reviewed “Star Trek: The Motion Picture.” It was not a favorable review. What if the company who owns the franchise decided they didn’t like that and took action against That Guy With The Glasses? Well, with SOPA or PIPA in place, all they’d have to do is yell and his site would be removed from search engines, have any and all advertising removed, and be blacklisted by such entities as Paypal. Because his site allows comments, basically. And hell, if what I was told was correct, he already had to fight off this type of bullcrap once when he reviewed “The Room,” based on his use of clips from the movie in question during the review. The review is back up, since his use of clips is fair use.

Something similar happened with YuGiOh: The Abridged Series, which was removed from Youtube for a while for copyright violation DESPITE the fact that parody is also supposedly protected.

The TL;DR version: the intellectual property protection guys are fucking nuts, have a lot of money, and want the internet on a very short leash. Tell them where they can shove it.

I’m moving away from a structured posting schedule

Posted in Uncategorized on 12/12/2011 by Fox

Yep. Pretty much what is says up there. I’ll no longer be posting on a predictable basis.

Mostly I’ve just run out of things to write about twice a week. I worry that what I’ve been writing is second-rate stuff because I’ve been writing simply because it was Monday or Saturday and not because I had something I genuinely wanted to write about. Part of that is because, well, it’s hard to not just parrot the same thing over and over again regarding my preferred method of green living. I could go for a more personal-blog feel, but often there’s not much to say on the home front. I don’t have any exciting goals or limitations on myself that would make blog fodder. I just do what I do.

There will still be posts. Not nearly as many, though. I still enjoy ranting and raving about things. I just don’t want to feel that writing is an obligation and I want the posts to really shine again.

That’s all for today. I figured I’d let those of you who are regular readers know what’s going on. I missed last week mostly because, well, I had a birthday get-together on Saturday and there was much to be done. The get-together was glorious, though, and lots of fun.

Thank you all, and I hope to be back with more exciting posts soon.

Myth of the man-eaters and the malleability of species

Posted in Uncategorized on 10/10/2011 by Fox

If all the beasts were gone, men would die from a great loneliness of spirit, for whatever happens to the beasts also happens to the man.
~Chief Seattle

I was recently listening to an episode of MonsterTalk called “The Big Bad Wolf.” In it, they interview an author who is firmly convinced that the infamous Beast of Gevaudan was in fact a wolf or wolves. At the beginning, the show’s host asks listeners who are disturbed or concerned about the show’s contents to write in. I found such a warning interesting.

What I found even more interesting was a co-host’s question/comment about creatures, other than humans, with histories. Wolves in 18th century France were likely different animals with different behaviors than the wolves we know from 21st century Alaska or Canada. The basics, of course, were probably the same. If an animal changes too much, it becomes something different. But I don’t think anyone can deny that the human factor at work in 18th century France and 21st century Alaska is very different. Such differences may cause different behaviors. For starters, the peasants who dealt with the Beast of Gevaudan lacked guns. The frontiersmen of early America were well versed in their use.

The coyote of Texas is very different from the coyote of New England. The coyote I know is native to my area, long-legged and small. The New England coyote is a recent immigrant, less leggy and larger, suspected of having wolf genes. And even among those populations, a coyote living in Mason County, Texas, is different from a coyote in Harris County, Texas.

After all, if we see marked differences in the behavior of individual pods of orcas (the fish-eating residents vs. the mammal-eating transients), then I don’t think it’s so much of a stretch to say that the behavior of 18th century French wolves is different than that of 21st century Alaskan wolves, or even Mason County coyotes and Harris County coyotes, nevermind Harris County coyotes and New York state coyotes.

Humans are animals, and most of what we are is merely highly developed variations of what we see in other animals. No one will say that humans are the same no matter where you go and no matter what time period you refer. I don’t believe that other species are frozen in time and space, either. Animals don’t just adapt physically or spatially. They also adapt mentally.

So to say that wolves never kill people simply because we have few, if any, documented cases of modern wolf attacks is a fallacy. Wolves are predators. If other wolves and even bears have been attacked, there is no reason to say that we cannot be attacked (or haven’t been attacked) ourselves. I believe it was Barry Lopez, in his book “Of Wolves and Men,” who suggested that we ask the Native Americans if they have any tales of wolf attacks on humans. As much as some of us (I, in particular) love wolves and seek to undo some of the psychological damage of early American history, we cannot turn a blind, optimistic eye to the facts.

Protecting my privacy in the information age

Posted in Uncategorized on 08/27/2011 by Fox

Sarcasm: the last refuge of modest and chaste-souled people when the privacy of their soul is coarsely and intrusively invaded.
~Fyodor Dostoevsky

I’m a bit of a privacy nut when it comes to my personal information. My soon-to-be-deleted Facebook account is under my cat’s name and has my cat’s information on it, including her birthday. I regularly tell websites I was born on January 1st, 1900. And last week I got into a fight with AT&T regarding my refusal to give them my phone number in order for them to put me on the opt-out list for the phone book. I ended up giving them a fake name and a fake number. For the sheer amusement of it, I said my name was Jesse Custer (lead character from Garth Ennis’ “Preacher”).

Part of my problem with AT&T springs from past dealings with them and phone numbers. They request my phone number anytime I call them, even for something so simple as “Am I able to get broadband at my apartment?” The other part was also because they refused to tell me why they required my phone number. I got the same answer over and over again: “We need it in order to process your request.” Upon receiving the number ***-867-5309, and finally (and temporarily) adding me to the opt-out list, I discovered they “needed” it so they can call me once a year to “confirm [my] opt-out preference.” I call bullshit on that. I’ll leave out the story of trying to get in touch with someone higher up than the call center junkies.

I’m becoming more and more reluctant to hand out any little bit of information to anyone who doesn’t need it. Sure, a website needs my age to verify that I’m not stupid enough to actually claim to be under 13. They don’t, however, require my actual date of birth. And I’m willing to bet any intelligent 12-year-old can bypass it as easily as I add eighty-some-odd years to my age. Sure, they probably don’t bother hanging on to my birthdate, nor do they have some nefarious purpose in mind when collecting it. But nor am I willing to risk handing out my phone number or address to any schmuck with a piece of paper…this is why I get so little junk mail. I get enough junk phone calls as it is, and finally had to disable texting altogether on my phone to eliminate the spam texts I got almost constantly…many from AT&T themselves.

A friend has had issues in the past with signing up for things like a gym membership…they wanted his bank information so they could charge his account directly. He said no and finally had to pay for his gym membership entirely up front. I, frankly, would have done the same.

No one questions the need for these extraneous bits of information. And when someone does, they get hit with some stupid machine-like answer such as the one I got from the call center folks. “We need it because we need it” (effectively). In my opinion, if the process does not absolutely require the information (such as my address in the case of phone book opt-outs and broadband access inquiries) then first I’m going to tell you no, and if you jack with me long enough, you get a fake. And ***-867-5309 is a disabled number in many area codes.

I don’t trust companies and corporations to not sell my information. I don’t trust them to not use it to flood my mailbox and my phone with advertising. I don’t trust them to not get hacked (such as the Sony Playstation Network fiasco). The fewer times my information gets passed out, the better, as far as I’m concerned.

The president should be impeached

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on 04/16/2011 by Fox

People should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people.
~”V for Vendetta”

I understand that what may have happened in Libya would have been an immense tragedy. But that’s no excuse for President Obama to break constitutional law by failing to receive congressional approval before committing our people to a war (the difference between war and “military action” is meaningless semantics). Yes, I know of the War Powers Resolution. That fails to change things as it’s unconstitutional as well. I believe in a strict interpretation of the Constitution…one that does not allow our president to unilaterally charge off into yet another conflict. Obama’s move was unconstitutional and therefore he should be impeached. End of story. Yes, previous presidents have done the same thing, but that doesn’t make it right. Just because Joe Bob got away with murder last year doesn’t mean Billy Bob can get away with it now.

Whatever happened to our neutral position in World War II? We went from being uninterested in helping the Europeans fight their battles (until Pearl Harbor, which in my opinion, did justify our entrance into the war) to just jumping feet-first into places we had no business in. I’m no military history buff, to know all the bullshit behind each of our conflicts, but it seems precious few of them involved us getting attacked first. I hesitate to bring up the military-industrial complex, but there you go. And who died and made the U.S. Supreme Policeman of the Universe? The UN could have found some other gullible country to take care of it while Obama followed constitutional law and asked Congress for approval. Which he no doubt would have obtained, see earlier mention of military-industrial complex.

This is another example in a long line of affronts against the Constitution. And apparently my insistence on sticking to that document and criticizing the government when said document is violated makes me anti-American (at least here in conservative-leaning Texas). Fuck that, I’m tired of sitting back and allowing someone else to tell me I’m evil. I don’t need to be a flag-waving, “Support our Troops” stickered, blinkered imbecile in order to be patriotic. Patriotic Americans should uphold and defend the Constitution (gee, where have I heard that before…), not blindly swallow whatever lies the government deems to feed us, which is apparently my mother’s stance on what makes an American.

My mother, for example, is one of those people who believes that flag-burning should be made illegal, as it’s “unpatriotic.” I’m of the opposite opinion…flag burning is free speech and should be protected as such (not only because it can be done in a patriotic manner). Even now, most states have laws against desecrating the national or state flag. Texas law covers both, but all states with such a law are in direct violation of the Texas v. Johnson ruling. Of course, if one goes to the Supreme Court now you likely won’t see Texas v. Johnson upheld.

And while I don’t support the three wars we’re fighting, I do support our troops. However, I feel that supporting our troops means getting them the fuck out of two wars we can’t win and another war we have no business being in. Two wars we have no business being in, as I can’t even remember what we’re in Iraq for other than the whole weapons of mass hysteria bullshit.

I’m going to stop now before I end up burning an American flag on my mother’s back porch.