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Local.

So the folks at Bank of America have decided to start charging $5.00 a month if you use your debit card for purchases. If I do the math correctly, that’s $60.00 a year, or in layman’s terms, a tank of gas.

Quite frankly, I think the folks at Bank of America are a bunch of bastards. Because now that they’re doing this, the rest of the banks will jump on board and start doing it too. I’m so happy that we bailed them out of bankruptcy.

I asked Earl if he had any interest in moving us to a local bank. I was surprised when he agreed. Since we have two sets of accounts at BOA and HSBC (the world’s local bank!), there will be some legwork involved with direct deposits and the like so I’m going to wait until HSBC’s planned desertion of the area is completed and then we are going to move everything to a more local bank. Maybe a credit union. Maybe we’ll just start paying everything with money orders or PayPal or something. I just love the fact that the banks have been pushing to move everything to debit and credit cards and now they’re going to start socking us with extra fees.

It’s time to start stuffing the mattress with the millions.

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Pause.

I just deleted the blog entry that originally occupied this space because it was overly indicative of my frustration level today. Writing down my thoughts sort of made me feel better but I didn’t really want to burden my gentle reader with the tedium.

I have been chastised in the past for commenting that things in the U.S. seemed better in “days gone by”. I’m talking about the days when people dressed up to board an airplane or wore a full set of clothes at the dinner table and actually sat at the dinner table. Folks remind me that the gays present at those dinner tables usually had a fake girlfriend or wife and they hid in the closet. Maybe that’s why so many people drank. But honestly, I don’t give a flip about that part of it, we all know that we’ve made progress in the diversity department and that’s great. What I’m talking about is that people had class back then. There was respect. You were nice to each other. “Thank you.” “You’re welcome.” Cashiers counted the change back to you without handing you a bunch of wadded up bills stacked helter-skelter. There was conversation between people. Quality trumped quantity in your work most everytime. “Made In the USA” meant something.

I must be getting old.

Fly.

We have recently discovered the new series “Pan Am” on ABC. Having enjoyed the pilot episode, this series has a new spot on the DVR.

If you haven’t seen it you might want to give it a try. Enjoy the days when flying was classy instead of riding a Greyhound with wings.

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Unsettled.

I have this unsettled feeling going on with my chi that has me in a little bit of a weird funk. This isn’t an entirely bad thing because it’s good for the soul to have some uncertainty in your life, but this unsettled feeling is a bit, well, unsettling.

Last night I had one of my elevator dreams again. The elevator dreams vary but there’s usually a common theme, things are happening that I can’t control. At times the elevator starts to rotate and I have to try to keep up. Other times the elevator opens to an abandoned floor where the halls have been replaced by wall-less corridors and if I fall off the resulting beam I’m going to plunge somewhere that isn’t good. Last night the elevator just stopped and I was stuck but as long as I kept contact with someone on my cell phone I was going to be okay. Well, actually, as long as I kept in contact with Earl on my cell phone I was going to be okay. I think the symbolism in that part is self-evident.

I hate the elevator dreams because they’re just amplifying what I am really feeling in this world and last night was no different. Work is getting busy and I’m feeling overwhelmed, but hearing a few words from Earl, even though he’s out of town, makes it better. The elevator dreams have gotten to the point where I even say out loud, in the dream, “oh God not this again.” I do that a lot, realize I’m dreaming when I’m still in the dream and then try to steer where it’s going, but the psyche usually wins. Sometimes it doesn’t though and I wrestle control of my own elevator dream and jump out bionically or something. There’s even a ch ch ch ch ch sound.

I wish I could do that when the impetus for the dream is really happening so I could just avoid the unsettling elevator dreams all together.

I’d be such a gas on an analyst’s couch.

Road Trip.

I am currently sitting in a Panera in Horseheads, New York. Today is my comp day for working the weekend, so I’m celebrating the event by going on a road trip. It’s my first time doing one of these road trips in the new Jeep. I am loving it. And I am eating healthy by eating an Asian Chicken Salad. I find it tasty.

My route of choice has taken me through the Southern Tier of New York State, mostly along the Susquehanna River thus far. Shortly, when I reach Corning (home of Corning Glass Company), I’ll turn right and head up through the Finger Lakes and then head home.

Driving along the banks of the Susquehanna River has been an eye-opening experience, and one that I was not anticipating on this trip. They are still in the process of cleaning up from the recent flooding of the river. Since I mostly avoid the interstates and drive the back roads, I am seeing a lot of homes with huge piles of what appears to be most of their belongings out by the road awaiting garbage removal. These piles include countless toys, tons of insulation that has been pulled from water sogged walls and, a little surprisingly to me, beds and mattresses, evidence that the water was high enough to flood second-story bedrooms.

While I didn’t drive into Binghamton (I try to avoid the cities on these trips as well), I was stunned by the amount of destruction in the Village of Owego and the hamlet of Tioga Center. Whole shopping centers are closed, downtown book stores are throwing away everything and boutiques and the like are dumping their contents and by the looks of it, trying to start anew.

Tears welled up in my eyes when I saw one of many banners hung from houses that were in the midst of cleanup: “We R Owego, We Will Rebuild.”

I have all of my photo and video gear with me today but I can’t bring myself to take photos of what I’m seeing. Photographing this to share on the internet seems to be callous in a way. Instead I stopped at an open snack counter, noticed one of several jugs collecting donations for local residents, and made a deposit in the jug.

As you head west out of the downtown area of Owego (which, by the way, is quite a quaint village if you’re looking for a little out of the way place to spend an afternoon sometime), there’s an area where there is just piles and piles and piles of household belongs and the remnants of buildings. I couldn’t decide if this used to be a shopping center something but now it looks like everyone is bringing their stuff here and then big trucks are taking it out. At least that’s what it looked like to me.

As I look out the window here in Panera in Horseheads, I notice that it’s raining again. And it’s raining quite hard. I’m guessing this is not the type of weather these folks need right now. I hope they continue to stay strong as they clean up and get their lives back in order.

“We Will Be Owego Again!”

All signs show that these folks are going to do just that.

Intensity.

The Big Project™ at work is coming to the crunch time for the next 40 days or so. Luckily, the Powers That Be™ are completely understanding when it comes to our wedding so I don’t have the stress of having to a do a wild juggling act. This is a good thing, because they don’t really have a choice in the manner.

That’s the way I roll, baby.

I worked this past weekend as it was my on-call week and on Saturday I found myself getting way too stressed out about work. Saturday night we went out to dinner where we talked and relaxed and I was able to find my center again. There’s no reason to get stressed out about this stuff. Life is suppose to be enjoyable so I might as well start enjoying it again. It’s still the best gig for me at this time in my life and my career path shows a lot of promise if I just do what needs to be done, so there’s nothing really to get worked up about.

I’ve had several Mac users dump me from Twitter since I’ve been talking about my Linux obsession more on there. I still think Macs are great products and I encourage people to get them. Personally I’m liking Linux on my ThinkPad and I like sharing my experiences with this on Twitter. Hence the username, “TheTechBear”.

On the other hand, maybe these people dropped me because I talk about tech instead of bearish and/or flirty stuff. I love me some bears, but I have plenty of other ways to indulge in that sort of discussion. I use Twitter as a broadcast medium more than anything, though I do enjoy chatting one on one with likeminded people from time to time (and did it ever cross your mind that I might have more than one Twitter account? I have like five or something like that.) One thing that I don’t enjoy is when people try to use Facebook (and now Google+) as a hookup site. There are plenty of sites out there for that sort of thing and I tend to save my Facebook and Google+ connections for my family, friends and folks I plan on meeting in real life someday, so don’t get offended if you can’t find my underwear shots on either of those sites. Besides, the underwear shots are very old. They’re even in black and white.

There is the one shot I took a few years ago of me naked with my PowerBook G4. Perhaps that would please the masses, though the PowerBook is strategically placed.

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Ticker.

I’ve been writing some pretty heavy blog entries this week. I guess it’s reflective of the mood I’ve been in. There is one thing that has really been bugging me that I haven’t talked about yet, though. I need to get it off my chest.

What the hell has happened to Facebook?

I logged in early this other morning and things were different. My chronologically sorted timeline was gone and replaced with “Top Stories”, items that someone deemed were important to me. The birthday list that I review everyday had been shoved down to the bottom of the page and replaced with a scrolling, blob of uninteresting drivel that I couldn’t move and couldn’t delete. If I scrolled the page, that blob of uninteresting drivel remained, slowly recounting what my friends were doing to other people that I don’t know. “Mandy likes unicorns.” “Bobby responded to Edgar’s post.” Who the hell is Edgar?

As a web designer by trade, that unmovable blob of uninteresting drivel’s presence irks the hell out of me. The fact that it’s just shoved there and that everything scrolls around it is just wrong. Bad, bad design. It’s like a fly landed on the screen and started pooping. Hate it.

I know that I’m getting rather on in my years but I thought that a timeline was suppose to be presented chronologically? Why is Facebook trying to tell me that my friends losing at Mafia Wars (what the hell is that?) is akin to a newspaper story? If I wanted to read a newspaper I’d buy one. If people are telling stories then they need a life and to get out of the house more. I’m looking for a chronological view of what’s going on in the people I’ve selected to care about lives.

Honestly, I want to dump Facebook completely. It’s reminding me more and more of MySpace and the reason I left MySpace is because it looked like someone was serving shit on a stick. Facebook is becoming awful. I think the ONLY thing that’s keeping a good chunk of the people engaged in the service is the fact that they and millions of their friends and family are already on there.

Sorry, I’ve never liked a hostage situation and I’ve never liked being told what to do. I might still bag the Facebook thing completely and do something drastic like write a letter or dial a phone. Hell, I might just hang out on Skype and talk to people face to face and leave me witty one-liners to Twitter. And unless someone invents a solid way to import my contact lists from Facebook to Google+ and a lot of people follow along with the conductor, Google+ ain’t gonna do much for me. I know it’s in beta but I’ve seen people take less time to build a rocket to get to the moon. (I don’t know why I selected that outdated metaphor but I did.)

To sum it all up: Facebook sucks and it’s time to Dial-A-Visit. One ringy dingy.

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Embarrassing.

Am I the only one appalled that there were “boos” at the Republican debates last night when a soldier, who happens to be gay, asked a question via YouTube? Really? People that scream about being patriotic and the constitution and all of that were booing a soldier simply because he’s gay?

Wow.

I’m sorry, but the way I see it, you can’t get more patriotic than to put your life on the line defending your country and it’s constitution. I don’t care if he or she is white, black, pink, purple or beige. I don’t care if they sleep with women or men or get their pleasures riding a washing machine. They’re doing their patriotic duty and anyone that boos them for upholding the honor of being a soldier is a shithead.

I am starting to become embarrassed by my fellow citizens. Worse yet, I can’t even identify with half of them anymore.

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Impressions.

Earl and I still have the death of Jamey Rodemeyer, the 14 year old teen that committed suicide last Sunday as a result of bullying because of his sexual orientation, on our minds. Because the death took place relatively close to home with business connections with Jamey’s mother, Earl and I (and Jamie and Scott) have been wondering what we can do to help make the world a better place. Earl has organized donation efforts within his company and I am helping out in that department as well. We’ve agreed that perhaps the best thing to do is to continue be who we are with no apologies and for me to contribute where I can, even through this blog thingee here. Many others do the same thing, I am hardly unique, and hopefully the right words will reach the right person at the right time and a fatal loss can be averted. Education is always important.

I have been thinking about my high school years a little bit. As I mention on the “It Gets Better” video I made earlier this year, I don’t remember having an awfully rough time at it in high school. Yes, I was teased and I sure didn’t have much in the way of self-confidence, but for the most part I was able to shrug off how people were taunting me and exist in my own little reality until those that taunted me grew up. I also surrounded myself with a good group of friends. It’s a common path for gay teens and luckily the majority of us make it to realize that it does indeed get better. There are two particular incidents that stick out in my mind, though, that I don’t know that I have ever written down.

The first one I remember took place when I was a sophomore. It was the beginning of sixth period and biology class was just starting. The teacher was a man in his mid 40s with wild hair and a disheveled appearance. He was undoubtedly a football player back in his glory days. He used the same overhead projector slides every year and his dittos were always so light because he recycled the same material year after year. He was mechanical in his teaching and I didn’t really connect with him very well. Animals in the biology room were rarely in their cage, we’d often see guinea pigs crawling around on the floor during class.

The clock over his head said 12:21 and he was kicking off the lesson of the day. In a big booming voice he said, “Mr. Wing. Do you know what a homosexual is?”

The eyes of the 25 classmates around me all shot in my direction and there were several smirks. I instantly turned beet red and stammered and stuttered a little bit. An anonymous voice tittered, “of course he does.”

The eyes remained on me as did the those that belonged to the teacher. He wanted an answer. The moments seemed like they went on for hours. I started to speak and the disheveled man answered for me, “A homosexual is a human being that enjoys the sexual company of the same sex.”

I have no idea what he said the rest of the class. Small wonder I missed passing the state exam by one point. Not only was I very embarrassed by this small exchange, it was the talk of the rest of the afternoon. I decided I would never like this teacher nor if his wife wasn’t out on maternity leave, would I ever like her. I never spoke about this to anyone. Not my folks, not my friends. The person that shared the lab table with me leaned over at the end of class and simply said, “That wasn’t very nice of him.” We’d been in school together since kindergarten. She lifted my spirits from zero to 10 on a scale from 1 to 100. Her comment made me not be afraid of ever going to school again, for I felt like some sort of marked man.

Like many college bound high schoolers in my class, I took the accelerated social studies program my sophomore and junior year of high school. To make up for skipping World History I and cramming American Studies I a semester early, we had to make up a missed credit by taking our choice of either Ethics or Psychology the latter half of our junior year, as long as it was Ethics.

The discussion was about our personal ethics and the teacher, a hippie of the 60s and 70s generation, after a lecture about personal ethics and forming our own code that we would live our life based upon, had us put our desks into a circle so that we could have a round-table discussion. We would go around the room and discuss our beliefs and interject comments about each other. I was the first one up.

I started by saying that I was a good person and I believed that one could do anything once they put their mind to it. A classmate spoke up, we’ll call him Fred to keep him anonymous.

“John isn’t really going to go far in this world because of the way that he is.”

I looked down. I knew what he was talking about. There was no guinea pig walking across the floor this time.

“With this new disease and the fact that no one would really hire a sick person, he’ll never be a teacher. Who’d trust a guy like that to be their kid’s teacher?”

Another classmate spoke. The girl next to me said, “Just look at the way he talks and walks. You can hear it in his voice. Who’d elect him for office?”

I reached for the class ring that hung around my neck. It belonged to my girlfriend at the time, but she was more friend than anything. I had no interest to go any further. It was evident that I wasn’t fooling anyone.

A third chimed in, “It’s not like John can join the military or even work as a farmer. Unless he’s a florist.”

I looked down at my hands. I tried to steal the glance of another boy in the room, another one that I just knew was like me, but he wouldn’t look at me. He was looking out the window. The teacher spoke to gain control of the conversation.

The next thing I remember is the bell ringing. I was still looking at my hands. Everyone made a bee-line for the cafeteria since it was lunch time. I got up to walk out after everyone had left and I felt a hand on my shoulder.

“C’mon, let’s talk”, it was the hippie teacher. He made his way to the office.

“Are you okay?”

I burst into tears. Within two minutes, another teacher was in the office with me. She was the special education teacher for the entire school. I didn’t know her that well but apparently she had been briefed on what had just transpired.

“You know, you are very special in many ways, John. You are one of the most talented students I’ve ever seen in this school.” Our paths had crossed only once before, she had helped out with the school musical. The only other words she had ever said to me directly were during rehearsals, “wow you can fill this auditorium with your voice.”

“It’s okay to be different. I’m different. I’m in love with Herman and he’s the plant on my desk.”

I sniffled back the tears and laughed a little.

She said some more words to me that made me feel better. “Just be true to yourself. You’ll find your way and people will finally get you. Look at me, people get me and I’m nuts.”

I never had that teacher named Karen, but she probably made the most impact on my high school career. It’s funny about those teachers named Karen, another by the same name got me for who I was. It’s a good thing that she filled in for the regular teacher on maternity leave the year before.

I went into the cafeteria after grabbing my lunch. The other classmate that I had spied looking out the window asked if I was okay. I told him I would be fine and let it lie at that.

We never did continue that personal ethics discussion. The next day we moved on to something else and I have no idea what it was.

All of those impressions have lingered with me. Being singled out by a teacher, the confidence rattling of the comments of my classmates. But the one thing that stuck with me the most was what the teacher I never had said to me, “Look at me, people get me and I’m nuts.”

It’s okay to be me.