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Normally I try not to engage in political discourse in my blog. Lately however, the shear magnitude of news simply makes me want to scream. Some may remember my post regarding the closing of Pontiac leading up to an anticipated bankruptcy of GM. That’s about as close as I got to making a political statement. This time, it’s the Occupy Wall Street Protests (OWSP) I take issue with because I’m having trouble reconciling their position.

In my post about Pontiac, I eluded to the idea of corporate greed being the impetus for so many car choices. A ridiculous number of car choices, just from one manufacturer. Even though I may not be a fan of some unions, this situation just seemed more corporate in nature. What eventually happened is the US administration gave billions of dollars to the car companies and banks. At the time I didn’t think that was a very good idea. Apparently the OWSP don’t think so anymore, or is that even part of it?

If the objective was to put money in the hands of the people, how was giving it to the car companies and banks going to do that? Sure enough, almost immediately afterward, the press reported on big salaries, bonuses and other money being given to corporate executives, contractors and others. Shocking! That was sarcasm for those that didn’t recognize it from me. Did anyone expect anything different?

What happened?
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This is a delayed post. I originally wrote this on a plane in August of this year. I’m just now getting around to editing and posting it.

The last time I had wine on a plane was in 1986. It was February, The Space Shuttle Challenger had recently exploded shortly after launch. I was on my way home from a follow-on technical school at Keesler Air Force Base in Mississippi. The school was for the AN/TSC-60(V) series communications shelter. I was flying first row coach with another airman from a nearby unit who had also just completed the school. We decided we should celebrate so we purchased a glass of wine. Today seems a little different and I got to thinking about where I am now, versus where I’ve been.

I’ve been working for Itron, Inc. for about 15 years. My most recent job move with the company was into Product Marketing. I’m now playing the role of a Product Manager, for our Mobile Collection systems. I travel some in this new job and I’ve gained a frequent flyer status with Delta. Today I received an upgrade to First Class. I decided to have wine.

It’s a white wine, a good blend, tasty, not too tart, not too sweet. It’s smooth and puts a warmth into my chest and belly. It makes me melancholy. Perhaps that’s why I’m writing. The seat is roomy and comfortable. I feel all warm and fuzzy. It seems a nice way to top off this trip.

In addition to the wine, I’ve received the honor of being served a dinner. I’m on a flight from Minneapolis to Spokane. It left about 5:40 in the evening and will get me home about 6:30 or so, with the time changes. After a heavy lunch, I wasn’t sure I’d consume the entire dinner on board the plane. But it went down easy. I saved the peanut butter brownie for later and asked for a short (half glass) top off of white wine.

I’ve only had the privilege of traveling first class a few times. Once was when my original plane turned out to be too small for the bookings and they had to re-route me on different flights. I got the first leg in first class which was kind of nice. No meal though. The next time was on a quick trip at the last minute, that one had a meal. I didn’t book it, a fellow employee did and I think we both managed to get upgrades. This time seems more special.

On this trip I finally had my status upgraded so I’m not just accumulating points (miles) while sitting in coach. This trip I was actually eligible for priority boarding and first class upgrades. I can also choose better seats in coach when booking. Yes, it’s all a “perk” that comes with my new job. So why not have a small (and the glasses really -are- small) glass of wine to celebrate?

Asa Jay

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This is a delayed post. I originally wrote this on a plane in August of this year. I’m just now getting around to editing and posting it.

It’s 2011, I’m 47. Where did the time go? Mentally I still feel like that testosterone filled young man of my 20’s; looking to fast cars and gorgeous women. Physically I feel like I’m in my 30’s. In reality, I’m married with a son who turned eight this year. I think the angst has changed.

Sometime after 16, when I got my first car and it opened more of the world to me, there was so much I wanted to do. I needed money and I needed to figure out how to be “smooth” with the ladies. I never really developed either one at that age. Does any kid? Instead I trekked along a long series of years that found me fawning over very few women and always trying to figure out the next step in finding good work to make money to take girls out. It found me working jobs that didn’t much seem like they had a future and I wasn’t very much sure where I wanted to go.

The one thing that brought stability to my younger years was being in the Washington Air National Guard. There was a commitment there, a one weekend a month and two weeks in the summer kind of commitment. It gave me some education, a place to be and people to know. It helped me build relationships and find jobs. It never really helped me find love though, that had to wait.

I still didn’t have a full time civilian job, and without one, I just never felt like I could support a wife, much less kids, and at the time I never really wanted kids. The angst was how to find a woman, how to date, how to make it to third base and what to do when it came time to hit a home run. The quest for a woman gave me angst. And oh what an angst it was.

My angst was driven by the lust for beautiful women; the desire for companionship from someone who cared for me, was gorgeous to behold and generally could satisfy my desires and whom I could satisfy in return. Even so, long ago my dad had impressed upon me the chivalry I should carry into my relationships. As I look back, I know it held me back some. My fathers words to me still ring true today, he said I should never do or say anything to a girl (woman) I wouldn’t want some man doing or saying to my little sister. Yea, -that- stuck in my head because I was protective of my little sister. It helped me treat the opposite sex with a bit more respect, and it sometimes kept them at arms length.

It was no wonder I really didn’t take my quest more seriously until after my sister was married. After that it just felt better as I tried to gain the confidence of the women I dated. Still, the angst was there. Some of that angst can be found in the poety and short stories I wrote in my younger days; things I’ve not done for years and sometimes wonder if I ever will again. I no longer have that same angst that drove the emotions and writing of my younger days.

Eventually I met a women and we saw the value of loving each other. We dated for about two years and finally got married. It’s like the quest was over, the dragon had been slain. The angst disappeared. I don’t wish to make it sound like marriage has subdued me, because I do have a loving wife and we enjoy many things together and separately. I still like fast cars, car shows, and other things. It’s just that now I share those things with my son and wife. Still the angst seems to be gone. I’m not pining after the affections of a girl anymore, because I have my wife now. Without that old angst I don’t seem to have that same lustful creativity I once had. It’s like marriage killed it, but I must it’s more than that. Perhaps it’s only suppressed, waiting in the wings for something to trigger it all again.

I now have a good job and a stable income (thank the Lord). I have a wife who takes care of me and a son who loves me. It’s like life is complete, yet sometimes there’s this empty hole. I think my angst fits in there, but it’s missing and it took a lot of my old creativity with it.

Have you seen it?

Asa Jay

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This is a delayed post. I originally wrote this on a plane in May of this year. I’m just now getting around to editing and posting it.

What kind of a world would we be living in if we had no emotions? Would we be alive at all? What drives our emotions? Are they useful to us? Does religion play a part in our emotions? Does it define who we are, even if one doesn’t believe in a God? Let’s explore that by way of an encounter I had recently when traveling.

It all started at the airport as I was leaving for a trip to Orlando. As I normally do, I picked up a bottle of water to keep myself hydrated on the flight. There was nothing unusual about that, it was the same brand of water, purchased from the same airport store and the same man behind the counter took my money. In idle chit-chat as I decided to pick up a pack of gum at the same time, he quipped that we weren’t supposed to be here anyway.

To put that statement into context you would have to have known about the “End of the World” prediction for 21 May 2011 at 6 PM. This apparently didn’t come true as here I was on the 22nd, buying a bottle of water for my trip. Those of us who are diligent in understanding The Bible know that no man will know the date or time of the second coming of Christ, or the end of the world as some people would say. I said as much to the man behind the counter, who then postulated that we’d all be better off if we had no emotions. So this is where it gets strange.

I’m not sure how or why this gentleman made a leap from faith to emotions. He said emotions are why we still have wars, why we still have killing, hate and in that statement he lumped all “bad” things of this world. My feeling was that he was presuming if we had no hate in the world it would be a better place. By that he would have been correct, but his statement was seeking a world without emotion. So let’s study that for a moment.

What are emotions? Love, hate, desire, sadness, gladness, madness, happiness? There are probably more which can be covered by those basic ones off the top of my head. What about want, is that the same as desire? How about care, is that the same as love? Is need an emotion? I don’t see it as such as need is something driven more by self-preservation. But isn’t that driven by emotions of hunger and pain, survival? I need food to stay alive, or shelter to stay out of the weather. Let’s remove emotions from some situations and examine their outcome.

Let’s say I have no want, I have no care but I do have need for food. If I have no food, and you do, how do I get it? Do I ask, or do I simply take it, or maybe even just kill you for it? That’s no less than an animal would do to stay alive. I would have no remorse over your death if I had no emotions. I wouldn’t try to hide it as I would have no shame. No one else would have emotions, so no one else would care. Your carcass would simply rot where it lay. There would be no repercussions, without emotions no one has made any laws to govern us as a people.

Let’s say I’m walking along the street and I see people in need, they are probably more hungry than I am. If I have no emotion, I have no care. My focus is on preserving my own life, not others. But what is to prevent them from killing me if I have food? Perhaps only my own strength or other means to defend myself. But isn’t self-defense driven by emotion? But in this example, I have no fear, I have no emotions. I am not fearful of them killing me. For that matter do I have an emotion that drives self-preservation? Is there emotion tied to that?

If I am hungry do I experience pain? In a world without emotions is pain allowed? Is pain an emotion? In a world with emotions we sometimes equate pain with sadness, grief or loss. In that respect it -is- an emotion we experience. In a world without emotion, would we then not experience pain, would we not feel a need to eat, to preserve ourselves? I’ve drawn a parallel to the animal kingdom, but that’s not a fair comparison as animals do have feelings as well.

There is simply no way I can draw a clear example of the human race not having emotions. Under just this simple example given here, I think it can be quickly seen that humans would probably not exist without emotions. We’d probably kill each other off rather quickly and more so than we do now. So our emotions are key to our existence, and I would propose it’s why we -haven’t- killed ourselves totally. Where then does that leave religion as it relates to emotions?

There’s a little thing many of us call “morality.” Those without religion also have a morality though it may not have religious ties. It’s been something they were raised with in one way or another. It’s a defining line between right and wrong; what we feel good about and what we feel bad about. There’s that “feelings” thing again. Religion, when it’s taught and accepted as its founders expected, can be a strong driver for the good of man. When it isn’t studied properly or those of a weaker mind are bamboozled by charlatans and false-prophets, it drives a deep divide between those who understand religion and those who accept the fact others believe even if they themselves do not.

There are many people in this world who do not believe in God and they manage to get along fine with the rest of society. They even give to the poor, support charities, raise their kids right and contribute positively to the human condition. Are they living without emotions? No. In a sense, in America, it is the religious background that has set the stage for such high morality in our society today, preventing all out chaos. Religion has helped define the right and wrong, the good and the bad, and I’d almost bet those without religion can recognize that.

Would we have, could we have, emotions without religion? Certainly we could, in fact I’d say we would. And in having emotions, we would feel the good and the bad, and by that it would assist us in the right and the wrong. When things make us feel bad, we think of them as wrong. If I am hungry, I feel pain, I feel bad and I feel it is wrong that I am hungry. Once I eat, I feel better, I feel good. And in that personal experience I can understand how other people feel when they are hungry and in need.

If a person close to me dies, I feel pain, I feel bad, I feel it is wrong that the person has died. I therefore feel preserving life is good. Just that little bit of emotion can shape morality, even without the benefit of the 10 Commandments. Now I suppose without religion our feelings could have been defined differently, such that we don’t feel bad when somebody dies, but doesn’t that lead to the same chaos as our supposition of no emotions? If killing people feels “good” we’d do it until there is no one left.

So in a sense, religion has helped us as a society define right versus wrong, good from bad and has in many ways helped prevent war; kept war and killing to a minimum. Now if we could spread that feeling around more, maybe we could prevent it even more. I think religion has a powerful part to play in it all, as long as the morality being taught is to respect life and not take it in the name of “religion.”

Spread the word.
Asa Jay

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Shelley, Sam and I just got back from an extended vacation. I didn’t take a laptop, I didn’t take my cell phone. We slept in tents, cooked outside, endured rain, wind, cold and general unpleasantness. Of the four days at the campsite, one was comfortable, sunny and warm.

We survived.

After a total of about seven days, I got home to an inbox brimming with about 320 new emails. Not bad actually, that was just my personal account. A quick check of my cell phone (for work) and I find about 100 more. Seems about right. It’s time to get back into the swing of using technology to improve my life. But is it really?

For seven days, we went without most modern conveniences. I didn’t really miss email, or my cell phone. Having email has opened communications to a new level, but do I really need it that much? It helps support my hobbies and my work. Do I really need it for my hobbies? Well, a question beyond that really is, do I really need my hobbies?

Amongst my emails are the standard daily notices from the Barracuda Spam and Virus firewall. Prior to my vacation I was probably getting maybe 5 to 10 spam messages in there a day. After my vacation, it’s brimming with over 100. Since coming home the daily total is hovering around 30. What just happened?

What probably just happened is a bunch more computers out there got taken over by a spam zombie program and are sending out emails out the wazoo. The authorities find and shut down one spam house… and there are several more waiting in the wings to be top dog. It’s an ebb and flow of sorts, it gets heavy for a while, the somebody gets caught, computers seized, accounts frozen, servers taken down and the spam load goes down. A little while later, it starts coming up again, and usually heavier than before. Rinse and repeat, only it never goes away and it only gets worse.

With the modern convenience of of the computer, email, web sites, etc. I also now have the added -inconvenience- of having to sift through crap just to find the valuable content. It’s rapidly coming to a peak where the inconvenience of it all outweighs the convenience. Let’s take a look:

– I have anti-Virus software installed to try and catch nasty things hoodlums try to send me in emails or downloads. Sometimes it’s silly. I’ve recently been getting emails from a noreply address at my -own- domain. I -own- the domain; I -am- the administrator; there is no “noreply” address in my domain. The emails are trying to get me to open a file with a virus in it in order to compromise either my computer or my domain. My virus software scans the emails on incoming and removes the virus. It’s safe, but it’s a damn bit inconvenient that I have to put up with it.
– Anti-spyware software. Same reasons… jerks who have nothing better to do than try to take over the world by using my computer. Increases the time it takes to boot my computer; increases the time it takes to load web sites, increases the time it takes for me to browse, learn, buy, whatever. A brand spankin’ new fast computer and it’s been slowed to a crawl by all the anti-this and that having to scan every bit that flows through in order to keep cretins out of my system. That’s all a damn bit inconvenient if you ask me.
– Parked domains for sale. Here’s a good one. I did a search for something today at work; I used my favorite search engine. One of the hits appeared to be just what I was looking for. Nope, turned out to be a scam site that appeared to be everything I wanted, but in reality only linked to a bunch of ebay auctions with similar key words, and pasted in various places on the page were offers to have me buy the domain. That wasted a few minutes of my work time; don’t believe that was convenient for a second.
– Spam, not the kind that comes in a can, but the kind that clogs my Barracuda spam firewall. Sure, it’s nice that I don’t get all the extra crap in my inbox, but I still have to go out once a day, scan the subjects and “from” lines in the quarantine and either verify they are spam or friendly. That wastes several more minutes of my day. It wouldn’t be so bad, but it keeps classifying as spam, several email addresses I’ve whitelisted. So it’s not perfect. And those I’ve blacklistd keep showing up in the quarantine too. If I’ve blacklisted them… I don’t even want them in the quarantine, throw the damn things away.

Should we talk about the cell phone? No, let’s not go there. Just focusing on email can get me pretty riled. Sure it used to be a great convenience, but now with all the extra hassle, I’m not so sure. And it’s all because some dirt bags are either trying to scam things out of me like bank account numbers, logins and passwords, or they are trying to plant things on my computer to use it as a zombie to do their dirty work, like spam other users, or run denial of service attacks on others, or attempt break-ins at banks, or military installations. It makes me want to scream.

My wife, who runs a work at home business, nets over 100 spam messages a day. That can really eat into her day especially if she’s trying to make sure a legitimate customer didn’t end up in the spam quarantine. Our time is worth something too. It’s like I have to -work- in order to use these neat little conveniences. All I really want to do is use the computer as the tool it’s designed to be; not have to keep one step ahead of the criminals by constantly upgrading, scanning, checking, verifying, wondering, worrying, etc. I’m rapidly becoming sick of it, entirely.

For all the conveniences of the modern computer to bring me useful information, news and entertainment, I’m just not sure it’s worth it anymore.

Asa Jay

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Copyright 2014, Asa Jay Laughton