Monthly Archives: March 2009

Thanks for the money, not get the hell out.

Cell Phone Sales Person: Hi. What can I do for you?
FC113: I’d like to buy an expensive phone and pay you more each month to use it.
CPSP: No.
FC113: My phone is crap. It’s on fire right now.
CPSP: You have to wait two months for your cycle to end.
FC113: You’re telling me I have to wait two months for the privilege of giving you more money.
CPSP: That’s not what I’m saying.
FC113: It’s what I’m hearing.
CPSP: Sir, those are the rules. Please stop waving your flaming phone around.
FC113: Surely there must be some way to bend the rules for such a long time customer as myself.
CPSP: Please leave.

This is an abbreviated account of our exchange (minus my swearing and his back peddling), but you get the idea. Folks, customer service is dead. It died sometime ago when all corporations realized that if none of them treated their customers well, then no one would loose a customer to another company because of service. Every sector of business was affected. Especially businesses that know you need them, like banks and utilities. Live people have been replaced by a labyrinth like phone trees. There are no more armies of sycophants manning the phones to make us happy after an error on their part. Only hold music and an automated voice that sounds as board as you are.
I’ve been a customer with this cell phone carrier for over ten years. I’ve had my hair cut by the same shop for fifteen years. I go to the same bar tender at the same pub. I like consistency. It keeps me from having to repeat myself.
I work in a company that prides itself on our customer service. We actually do pretty well at it. It may have something to do with the fact that our entire senior management staff are terrified of confrontation, but the end is the same. Our customers are happy and return often. That’s why I’m baffled by the fact that nearly everywhere I go, it seem like that business would prefer that I wasn’t there.
I’ve considered the fact that I may be a huge jerk, but that apparently has nothing do with it since everyone I talk to feels the same way (surely not all of my friends are jerks to). I see news reports about how brick and mortar stores have declining sales while online stores are seeing an increase. Could it be because the sales staff have no interest in actually making a sale? Seriously, unless you go into a really high end store they look completely disinterested in doing their jobs. Even on my worst day, I can at least fake helpfulness.
So, I go to war with my cell carrier. I will fight my way through the phone tree labyrinth. I will write letters and send emails. I will draw a line in the sand. I will get what I want, it’ll take longer than the two months I could have just waited, and I’ll probably not even like the damn phone. Principles, man can they be a bitch.

FC113


Anonymity, I hardley knew you

Being a standard model human male in his thirties, I have all of the normal stresses the come with said station in life. Full time job, wife, dog, pub, all responsibilities that I owe some manner of attention to. A large problem is that all of these areas are interconnected. My wife knows a lot of my coworkers, who in turn drink with me. Secrecy is just another form of mass communication here.
There are times, often (very), that I must hold back the thoughts fighting to spring board off the tongue into the ears of the easily offended (most everyone I know). I bargain with these eager thoughts. I tell them that if they just stay put a little while longer, then they can get fly free into the ether on the virtual wings of the internet. There they will be free to offend millions of people, who (most importantly) I do not know.
Anonymity on the web was the answer. I’ll blog about the people in my life. Their wacky antics should have the opportunity to amuse the wide world as they have amused (or annoyed) me. Obviously Faultcode113 is not my given name. In fact, if you Google search my real name, you get doctors and architects (of which I am neither).
I have clearly underestimated the resourcefulness and available free time of some people I know. It’s not that I don’t like the people in my life. The cherished few that I keep close are the best you could hope to find. However, they don’t need to be privy to the torrents of steam that needs to be blown off at times. I like them too much for that.
Then there are those who pass through your life. I’ve meet lots of people in the wide world, and keeping in touch with all of them is as unappealing as would be exhausting. If the two words that I’ve said to you in the last decade happened in two different conversations, then I’m probably not interested in keeping up to the small talk. It’s not that they are bad people (though there are some), but I just don’t have the time. I can have literally a thousand acquaintances, or I can have a few really close friends. Not both.
I choose anonymity on the web for these reasons. There are, however, those who feel they have to know about everything you do and say. They are uninvited. As well intentioned as they may be, they represent a threat to a convenient outlet for my frustrations. They know too many of the people who know what this stuff is about. They also can’t keep secrets. Ever.
I write in generalities for a reason. Names are easily searched, so are places of employment and events. It frightens me how many people I know who now may have access to this blog. My readership has gone up dramatically. From the one and only person the even know about it, to several a day. Coincidence? I don’t believe in that, since it coincides with being found on two social networking sites (one under my real name, the under under this one).
How can I vent about work if I think my boss is reading. The wife, she doesn’t need to know the dark thoughts in my head when we fight. Coworkers probably don’t want our major fuck ups broadcast all over the world. Let’s not get into family. Now I must resort to flat out denial should the topic come up, and lie to everyone I know.
If you like the content, forward it on. If you have a comment, say something. To my peeps, I love you even if I have to rant about you on occasion.

FC113


If I had known it came with a tattoo…

I’ve been in a contemplative mood lately, and I started thinking about the things we carry with us. I’m not talking about memories or influences. Those are things that we have little choice in. I’m talking about the constant barrage of media we inflict upon ourselves, and specifically the gems that we pull from that never ending mudslide. I’m a fan of all forms of entertainment, and I’ve probably spent too much of my life in front of a screen or behind a book. I regret none of it, because every now and then something come along leaves it’s mark on you.
I’d like to share a few examples. A rare glimpse into the inner mechanism of FC113. Here are some songs that resonated in my soul, some written words that rewrote themselves on my heart, and few kick ass movies and TV shows.
Igor Stravinsky, master of the tone poem. Stravinsky’s music in The Right of Spring is raw emotion. It wasn’t well received in it’s time, but thanks to Fantasia, you can see dinosaurs stomp around to it. His Firebird Suite is also one of my favorites.
Carl Sagan put a face on astronomy for a generation. His books and TV show opened up the universe for the average person. His one fiction book, Contact, opened my eyes to my own soul. It helped me with my struggle between my passion for science and my Catholic beliefs. They would no longer be mutually exclusive, and I find new relevance every time I read it. By the way, his son Nick isn’t a bad writer either. Check out Idlewild and it’s two sequels.
Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere. Listen, just read it. I promise you’ll never look at a subway the same ever again. If you long for a bit of fantasy in your everyday life, then this will do you wonders. After all, What if?
Vampire$ by John Steakley. This isn’t some glittery teen vampire novel. These guys suck, bite, and utterly ruin you life long before they finally drain you. It’s a good thing there are people who kill them for lots of money (I mean why else would someone do something that stupid?). Be prepared to hate vampires as a species, but love the genre.
Watchmen, the graphic novel and the movie. I’m going to commit blasphemy by saying that the movie’s ending worked better than the book. Both were supremely dark and did a fantastic job of stripping the glossy veneer off the super hero’s image. It pretty much shows you what kind of person in this world would put on a costume and fight crime.
The now finished Battlestar Galactica. Last night was this amazing show’s series finale. I’ve got say, it was like saying good bye to an old friend. The fact that this show was science fiction was besides the point. It could be any group of people in that situation. It was gritty, unapologetic, and intensely emotional. I’m considering giving up tv now that’s its over.
Other notable mentions. Jasper Fford, read anything he writes. Richard Strauss, fantastic composer. U2, Queen, Flogging Molley, The Tossers, you can’t go wrong give them a listen. The movie Equilibrium, imagine Orwell’s 1984 and The Matrix combined. Garden State, Finding Graceland, and Almost Famous if your feeling a bit lost.
If you have suggestions, send them my way. I’ll read, watch, or listen to anything at least once.

FC113


Hopefully there’s an alternate universe where this worked out.

We all have dreams and things we strive for. Family, fortune, early retirement, that one big brake, or maybe just a stool at the pub with good friends. However lofty our dreams, they are ours and we cherish them. They deserve our best effort, our continued commitment, our steely determination.
They are our future selves, and when they die we mourn them as a lost love one. We go through the stages of grief as though a real person has passed. We remember the things we did for them, to ensure that they will be there when we need them. The pain is as real as any for a person gone before us.
We deny at first. Shit, did that just happen? Surely there is still hope. It’s not that bad. It’s salvageable with a few easy changes. We can keep them alive if this one specific miracle happens exactly as it needs to. Reality plays no part here.
Then the anger sets in. Shit! Blinding, burning, bursting rage grips our hearts. We want someone to blame, anyone, even if it’s our selves. There has to be some responsible party that will pay the price. Whom do we punish? Fate? God? The road not taken that we thought would be an adventure?
What a minute. God! Surely this must have slipped past his attention. It was a mistake. I just have to pray real hard. Hope real hard. Beg the almighty with every fiber of my being, because surely he wants me to be happy. I’ll go to church twice a week, read the bible (every word I swear), give to charity, just give me back my beloved dream oh great and merciful lord.
Shit. That was a waste of time (“…he who helps themselves”. Forgot, sorry). Now what? What does one do who’s dreams have shattered. We lose direction, purpose, drive. If we have the will to start over, where do we start? Our whole drive has been to one destination, but now the road is dark. There are no signs or markers or arrows to point the way. There is no metaphysical GPS, so we despair. Hope has left us and our hearts are mired in depression.
Well we’re not dead, so sitting around on our ass won’t help. The dream is gone. We all know it, and now we have to put it behind us. It’s still painful to look back. It probably always will be. But now we look ahead. We don’t know where we’re going just yet, but forward is better than backward. There are people who will help us. On the horizon, indistinguishable and hazy, there is new dream beginning to glow. We’re not close enough to see it clearly, but we know where to look.
I’ve had three such diversions on my path. The last occurred this week. I’m not happy about it, but I’m not supposed to be. There was no way of knowing at the time, but the last two turned out for the best. Maybe this one will as well. The only way to be sure is to keep moving, keep my head up, and walk confidently into the pub and drink myself stupid. Then, with that out of my system, set a new course for that new dream. I will do this always, until finally the dream is real.

FC113

ps- Shit.


Electronics don’t have a spine.

I had an interesting conversation today while at work. It was in one of those rather eclectic groups that could only be forced together by the randomness of scheduling. The discussion was about reading. The participants were: one 40 something sports guy who reads only sports related material, one 20 something sports guy who reads only the highlights, one 20 something guy who doesn’t read anything, and a 30 something dingbat who I didn’t think could read but reads popular fiction.
The subject of subject matter didn’t come up, but the medium of reading did. We were discussing the merits of books in their physical form versus in an electronic form. E-books allow you to download and store all of your favorites on one convenient device. Physical books, let face it, can be a pain (take it from someone who just moved his library). I expected opinions to be fall in with the age groups, but was surprised to find no correlation to either age or subject.
It comes down to the actual reading experience. Can one truly say they read a book if they read it off a screen rather than a page. Now, before we really get into it, let me say that I’m a huge technophile as well as a bibliophile.
Let’s start with the e-book. A file stored on a laptop, smart phone, or dedicated e-book reader. You have the option of switching books on the fly if you desire. You don’t have a lot stuff taking up space in a living room or spare bedroom. An e-book is convenient.
However, it is not perfect. It requires batteries, or at the very least electricity. Dropping it’s device from a decent height would cost you much more than the average paperback. It is dependent on at least a rudimentary understanding of technology. You have to know where to find an e-book for sale (let’s assume we all pay for our entertainment).
Paper books aren’t without their flaws either. A good sized one can be heavy, especially when it’s hard bound. A misplaced book mark and a windy day can lead to a tragic loss of ones place. They take up a lot of room (I have a library, I know this to be true). Closing them doesn’t make them go away.
Paper books are an experience though. They’re something you can touch, smell, and feel the weight of. It lends a certain physical sense to reading experience. There is a sense of accomplishment with every turn of the page. They are free from a public library (Your tax dollars at work).
Book are off the grid. I don’t need batteries, or a charger to enjoy them. I don’t even need electricity. Reading a book by candle light has been done for ages, and reading by a fireplace is simply wonderful. Park benches, beaches, camping trips are all prime reading opportunities.
There’s a social aspect as well. I like knowing that anyone in front of me knows what I’m reading. I’ve had great conversations with complete strangers because they could see the title on the spine. Just ask any person reading any Dan Brown novel. It’s alright, in fact it’s almost expected (those things are practically chat rooms).
Not long ago I was out at lunch, and I noticed that everyone was either on a phone or a laptop. Everyone except me and my book. During the cacophony of key strokes and one sided phone conversations, I realized that I had escaped my work day. I would not be tempted to send a few emails on my laptop, or make a quick call between sandwich bites. Work would wait for me (or it would not), but at that moment in time London Below was my priority.
Oh, the distribution of preferences? The dingbat sided with me, the others grunted and went back to their food.

FC113


Entitlement- The Myth that you are owed something.

So, you were born. Welcome to Earth. Feel free to use our complimentary oxygen around the clock, and our complimentary sunshine during prearranged hours. All other amenities will require an additional fee. We do hope you enjoy your stay with us.
Whether you remember that welcome or not, it’s something that certainly should be part of every young human’s upbringing. It’s also something we as Americans have lost sight of. We get caught up in our “certain inalienable rights”, but we’re not clear on how they are provided. We confuse wants with needs, and needs with rights. In our society, what we perceive as something that is owed to us, is in fact something we have to pay for in some manner.
We are promised the pursuit of happiness, but we are by no means guaranteed that we will achieve it. We have lost sight of this fact. The American people have lost something in the last century. I believe it to be a sense of common purpose. A common goal which not only bound together our people, but enchanted other to come form far away lands to participate in it.
At first it was the cause of freedom. Freedom we thought we were entitled to, freedom we gladly paid for in blood, and do to this day. Next we became divided over who was entitled to that freedom, and more blood was spilled until it paid for everyone’s freedom. We then expanded to the other coast. Our cost was some more blood, and some of our soul. The 20th century brought two global wars in which our unity was our strength. We made the necessary sacrifices in blood, but also in our isolation. Never again would we be able to simple look the other way, not when the world looked to us for leadership.
Since then, we’ve had precious little to unite us. Technology has made the world smaller, more convenient, and more accessible. Nationality is lost in the face of international corporations, and our varied lineages. We take for granted things like food, shelter, and clean water. After all, those things are within a twenty minutes drive.
Now we have a recession. The result of people taking more than their fair share, taking what they thought they were entitled to. Well, you are not entitled to a six bedroom house, or a hummer, or a flat panel TV, or broadband internet, or and iPod, or cable , or seeing the latest blockbuster movie. You are entitled to pursue these things. You are entitled to work for them, to earn them, to pay the extra fee.
Our climate is changing because we thought we could pollute without end. Now our clean water, clean air, and fertile lands are going to start chipping away at things we thought we were entitled to. Food, drink, and breathing. We Americans could have lead the way to change the course of this ten years ago, but we thought we were entitled to our cars, cheap electricity, and a wasteful culture. We take advantage of and literally throw away that which we feel we’re entitled to.
This entitlement extends to everything in our lives. Promotions, raises, significant others, green lights, are all things we feel we’re owed. I learned one thing in my life, and that’s nobody is going to give you anything just because you think you deserve it. You have to work for it, you have to earn it, and you have to pay for it one way or another. I don’t know how to fix the economy, or the environment, but I’m pretty sure losing our sense of entitlement will be a great start.

FC113


Hello world!

Hello world?  I’m not nearly that self  important.  Those of you who know me have probably heard all of this before.  Those of you who don’t, well all I can say that I’ll grow on you.  Eventually.  Like it or not.  This blog will be random.  It will be inconsistent.  I’m just learning.  The internet has given everyone a voice, but not all of us can sing.  Hopefully you’ll like the song.

FC113