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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Monetizing my site: Amazon Instant Video

In an attempt to support my blogging habit and make it profitable to write, I have added a few ads to my sites.  I have found that several online stores have affiliate programs that allow you to place advertisements on your site, and if your readers use the ads you've posted, you get commission from the sale, or a flat rate for certain promotions.

I won't put ads from just anyone on my site, which is why I'm considering dropping the AdSense ads.  In any case, I became an affiliate of Amazon.com today, and used their Instant Video banner.  I use this product myself, and I have found that they have most videos either available for free streaming or rental, whether it's a movie or a television show.  They seem to have more variety than other streaming sites I've tried, so I dropped others and paid for the Amazon Prime membership.

I strongly recommend their service if you really love watching movies or catching up on seasons of television shows you enjoy.

I guess I won't be eating Jelly Belly jelly beans anymore...no great loss

I'll admit it: I love Jelly Belly jelly beans.  However, since the chairman, Herman G. Rowland, Sr., seems to think that not everyone deserves equal rights, I will no longer consume them.  They're really empty calories anyway, and it's a sugary snack that is only bad for me--and everyone else.

What I don't understand is why people give time and energy to depriving people of rights and making life harder for people who are doing nothing to hurt them.  I don't care what your idea of "sin" might be; that's your belief, your matter of private conscience, and you are malicious for enforcing your beliefs on the rest of society.  Your legislation of sin does nothing to improve the quality of life for anyone, include you.  You're only doing it to harm other people.  Oh, you think you're saving them from a life of sin and eternal damnation, but the only life we know we have is the one you're making miserable for other people, and all over a faith-based belief in what you think a mythical deity wants from you.

LGBT people being who they are and loving whom they love does nothing to harm anyone.  What happens between consenting adults in relationships or in the bedroom is neither your business, nor should you be spending energy and money on this sort of cause.  You could feeding starving people.  You could be investing in the economy.  You could be doing something positive with that money, but you choose to be a malicious jerk.

Transgender people have it hard enough.  They have to struggle and come to terms with their gender identity in a society that largely does not accept them for who they are.  Acting to make it more difficult makes you a bully and a coward, because you are pushing people to conform to your idea of what is "normal", while trying to keep things you fear and don't understand out of your view.

Face your fears.  Stop pushing people around.  Use your money to achieve positive goals.  Do things that actually help.  Make the world a better place.  Stop picking on people who aren't causing you any harm and wish you no ill will.

Selfishness should not be government policy

A disturbing trend seems to be pervasive in the United States.  Local government after local government falls prey to the economic religion of the unregulated market.  This philosophy, without evidence or working model, asserts that the market always displays more efficiency than the government.  The truth behind the privatization of government services ultimately manifests as selfishness, not efficiency.  The replacements for the government services do not represent the best services the free market can offer; it's not even representative of free market capitalism.  The private entities represent selfish capitalists parasitically draining funds from communities to serve themselves.  The citizens of the Unites States must stop this trend for three important reasons.

First, low-paid workers with no benefits replace workers earning a living wage, making the savings to the communities null and void. I've written about school transportation and private prisons in the past, but the same principle rings true for all services.  Waste management companies have largely taken over in every community.  Most utilities belong to private entities.  Some communities have even privatized fire departments.  In all cases, workers who were solidly in the middle class were either fired, then rehired with less income and no benefits, or were replaced completely by new workers, who were willing to take the jobs at the lower wage.  People who could afford to both live and work in the communities suddenly had no income or less disposable income.  Either way, they could do less to support local businesses, such as convenience stores, restaurants, grocery stores, and various specialty shops.  They could afford to do fewer recreational activities.  In short, money that the community paid for services that used to come back in the form of local consumer spending now goes out of the community, which brings me to my next point.

Shareholders and executives not living in the communities receive the greatest share of taxpayer money for the services. Where the workers, who are more numerous, and therefore more able to support local businesses out of sheer quantity of goods and services they require and desire, were receiving the majority of the taxpayer dollars paid for services, people who have no interest in the communities where they are making their money now receive the largest portion of the money taxpayers pay for the private contracts.  Communities are shooting themselves in the foot with these contracts, because they are creating a parasitic drain on taxpayer dollars, rather than recovering some of the money through local consumer spending.  People collecting dividend checks and executive salaries in other states--or, as the case may be, other countries--will be spending the communities' tax money elsewhere, and since there are fewer of these people than there are workers, the economy overall suffers, because the disposable income is in the hands of fewer individuals.

Finally, government should act selflessly for the people, not as a conduit for selfish people to set themselves up as community parasites.  What these privatization policies have done is effectively create a welfare system for the wealthy, or at least the well-to-do.  It's not the average consumer who has a stock portfolio, unless it's part of a retirement fund they can't touch without penalties or severe restrictions until they retire.  Local governments should, in the interest of their local economies, employ as many workers at a living wage as they can with the money they've budgeted for services they need anyway.  The only time a private entity should ever be employed by a community should be to offer a temporary service.  Communities always need utilities, police, fire departments, waste management, schools, school transportation, and water treatment, to list a few, and these services should employ living-wage workers who are likely to live and spend in the community, supporting local businesses, and therefore receiving back in property tax at least some of the money they've spent on the services in the first place.

Citizens of the United States must become actively involved in the future of their local communities, putting a stop to this trend of parasitic selfishness.  It extends into higher levels of government, but all politics begin locally.  Politicians begin their careers in local government, and we citizens should only elect people who care about the citizens, not about supplying a stable income for wealthy friends or campaign supporters.  I encourage people who care about the futures of their communities to run for local office and help reverse this trend, or support people who are willing to represent us in this fight.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Complications of delaying divorce

My divorce becomes final on May 14th.  It should have happened a few years ago, but nothing can change what's done; it's simply important that we move forward.   However, I would like to point out one complication that may arise from delaying a divorce too long.   Reasons exist, and I don't want to go into them; the important thing to learn from my experience is whatever you do, don't delay.  Get it done.

After we decided to break up, my ex-wife ended up getting together with another man.  She had two sons by him.  Because the way states write family law, courts tend to consider them a "product of the marriage", even though there's no way I could have fathered them, and their mother freely admits they're not mine.  The separation agreement says they aren't mine, and my ex is not asking for support for her sons.  However, the court is now asking for DNA evidence that the sons aren't mine.

Say what?

Let me repeat it, because it bears repeating: my ex is not asking for any support, and the separation agreement clearly states that the boys are not mine, but the court wants DNA evidence to prove it. 

So...who pays for the test?  It's going to be up to me.  I had no part in the production or the raising of these children, and they live with their mother and father, but I am going to have to pay for a DNA test to prove the boys aren't mine.  

What's the reasoning here?  It makes no sense to me.  

In any case, I'm doing it and getting it over with so we can follow through with the dissolution on May 14th, but the idea of it has me boiling.  

If I had my head together when she asked for the divorce, I could have ended things with my ex in court before she had the first boy, so heed my advice: do whatever you have to do to make your divorce happen quickly.  Don't get caught up in "product of the marriage" nonsense--you could actually get stuck paying for support for children who aren't yours.  Ohio seems to care about paternity, but not all states are the same--some will not care who the father is, as long as the husband has an income.  

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

What matters most in life

As I experience the pain of another kidney stone passing, I reflect on what's important in life. 

People think we're special.  We're miracles.  That some entity created us special and cares about what we do.

This pain makes me think otherwise.  Even if I had not examined the sources of the myths regarding this entity--and other, similar entities--I would call into question the notion that a being, allegedly perfect, had intelligently designed us with such flaws as creation of painful kidney stones.

Then there's children with cancer, parasites that devastate whole populations, birth defects and congenital conditions that debilitate, and neurological conditions that last a lifetime and affect quality of life adversely, or at least making intensive therapy necessary.

I don't blame the entity, because I don't believe it exists.  I don't blame some man and woman who allegedly lived in a garden paradise and ate from some magical tree.  I don't blame deities or the "sins" of man--I only recognize life as the struggle it is.  Life is full of pain and work, and you'll experience plenty of both before you die.

But then there's happiness.  There's love.  There's silliness. There's beauty for all senses to experience.  These are the important things in life, and these are the things that make bearable to live, that make it desirable to live.  We persevere because even though life is pain, struggle, anxiety, and all sorts of negative things, it's also the things that make us smile, laugh, tear up with emotion, and feel needed, wanted, and important to at least one or a handful of other people.  

I live for these things.  I live for the love of the woman in my life, my child's laughter, my mom's unconditional love for me, her adopted son.  I live for the friends who value my opinion and my company.  I live for the people I barely know who compliment me on my relationship and my writing.  

So I sit here in pain, smiling. 


Sunday, April 6, 2014

Why it bothers me to say I'm an ally

I had a thought yesterday that's been nagging at me.  I've been called a "straight ally" before, and I've called myself the same, but yesterday, I thought it sounded like I'm in some other class of people, and I don't have a stake in the fight for civil rights for people with sexual orientations and gender identities different from mine.

I have friends in my life who don't have the same rights I do.  I do have a stake in this fight, because the fight for civil rights involves the happiness and well-being of my friends.  If they have to go through hardships and discrimination, the resulting turmoil affects me, too, because I care about them.  I care what happens to them, and when they can't do the same things I can because some people believe that the way they love is a "sin", it saddens and angers me.

Let's say someone I've known for ten years has a same-sex partner who gets in a tragic accident.  That partner ends up on life support, and the friend of mine can't make the decision to pull the plug because he's not the spouse, and he hasn't jumped through the legal hoops necessary to be in a position to make the decision.  That's not fair at all--especially if family comes in and makes a decision contrary to the wishes of my friend.

We don't have to go to extreme examples.  There are tax benefits to marriage.  There are legal benefits.  Credit benefits.  A person better versed in all of the rights one can't have because one cannot get married can give a large list, I'm sure (I've heard it's around 250 items long), but the point is that these are things people can't do because other people--people who aren't affected by the relationships at all--believe that legislating what they believe to be a "sin" is appropriate.

Anyway, call me an "ally" or whatever, if it suits a purpose, because not everyone who has had their rights denied is a personal friend, of course, but I'm on their side anyway.  However, I'm more than that.  I do have friends who are being denied the rights I enjoy, and, as a friend, I want to see them treated equally under the law.

How do you know when it's love?

I didn't think that I would find love in my life.  I thought I'd found an approximation of it when I got married, but hindsight has taught me that it was more a relationship of convenience, and less something based in love.  

So what is love?  How do I know I've found it?

Here's what the dictionary says about it:

love

  [luhv]  Show IPA
noun
1.
a profoundly tender, passionate affection for another person.
2.
a feeling of warm personal attachment or deep affection, as for a parent, child, or friend.
3.
sexual passion or desire.

The dictionary has these definitions separate, but I think they all fit together.  When you have a tender, passionate affection for another person, when you have a warm personal attachment, and when you have sexual passion and desire for an individual, you've found love.

How do we tell love from strong infatuation, though?  A person could feel these things, but not really be in love; it might just be a strong, fleeting, desire that feels like attachment.

Here's how I recognized my current relationship for what it is:


  • I was happier than I'd ever felt in my life.  Again, could be a sign of infatuation, but I'd never felt happier.
  • I could list reasons I felt the way I did, rather than describing a general, nebulous feeling that  couldn't be defined. 
  • Nothing was awkward.  Not our conversation, not our first kiss, not the first time we had sex, nothing.
  • Her passions interested me, whether or not I shared them completely.
  • The "chemistry" was there.  Looking into her eyes triggered deep emotion.
  • I went out of my way to make time to talk to her and see her.  I did everything I could to make sure I kept getting together with her, and she did the same with me.  More so, even, because she drives to my place a lot more often (it just makes sense for us right now).
  • We were incredibly sexually compatible.
  • We were both contributing to the relationship in lots of different ways, and the efforts we made didn't feel like effort at all, even when we were making sacrifices to see each other and do things for each other.  
  • She's constantly on my mind.  Still, six months later, my every decision involves thoughts of her.  
I define what we have as love.  If love can't truly be defined, let's call it incredible compatibility, resulting in intense pleasure and prolonged happiness.