Month: September 2018

I’m Going to Walley World

The Amazon is a jungle, and I’m not referring to the rainforest in South America. I’m referring to the internet Amazon. Amazon has been my favorite online retailer for about two decades now, but after all that time my loyalty is slipping from the grapevine.

Amazon scams seem to be on the rise. Not long ago I never worried much about ordering from this retail giant. I’d never been scammed. I had great faith in Amazon’s integrity. I always got the product I paid for, and it always arrived in a timely manner.

But a few years ago some of my faith was shaken when I discovered that some Amazon vendors were providing free products to customers who would write a review. I wrote a post about this, hoping it would get the Amazon corporation’s attention and cause them to make widespread reforms. And who knows, maybe it was my meek little voice that motivated Amazon to make some changes, because they apparently ended the practice of biased reviews.

Alright, I’m sure it wasn’t little ol’ me. But just in case it was me, I’m writing this post to encourage further changes. So Amazon, with the might of my meek little voice I command you: Stop the scams, now! (Cue Tarzan call.)

Because it isn’t just biased reviews. Lately I’ve encountered additional predators in the Amazon jungle:

FALSE ADVERTISING PREDATOR:
THE CASE OF THE COLOSSAL SUITCASE

Early this year I ordered a suitcase. I wanted a portmanteau that would be just under the size limits allowed by United Airlines for checked bags, which is 62 linear inches. The product description said this trunk was 61 linear inches. But when I received it, I found it was 64 linear inches. That could subject me to some hefty extra fees by my airline if they happened to notice and make an issue of it.

So I returned the suitcase and got a refund. No big deal, but the misrepresentation wasted my time and left me feeling irritated.

BAIT & SWITCH PREDATOR:
BAD CALL BY A TELEPHONE VENDOR

About three months ago I ordered a telephone. I wanted a nice fancy one that would allow me to block lots of phone numbers. I was sick of all the junk phone calls I constantly get and was going for overkill in my defense weapon of choice. I decided to splurge and get a phone that cost $269.99, rather than a different phone offered by the same vendor for about $85.

Both phones looked very similar.

A few days later I received the phone, unpacked it, and set it up. It worked great. But as an afterthought I checked the model number against my order. It was the model number of the $85 phone. Yet the vendor charged me $269.99.

I immediately contacted the vendor and complained. They apologized and claimed that their more expensive phones had been water damaged, so they were only able to send the cheaper phone. But if that was so, why did they charge me for the expensive phone? And why didn’t they contact me before shipping the cheap phone, to give me a choice? This seemed like a bad call on their part.

I had already set up the cheap phone, so I went ahead and kept it, and accepted a refund for the difference in price. But if I hadn’t noticed the different model number, and had not complained, I believe I would have been scammed. And what a sneaky little half-legitimate scam it was.

REFUND HASSLE PREDATOR:
THE BED THAT WOULDN’T GO TO BED

About a month ago I ordered an adjustable bed frame from Amazon. It did not arrive on the day the tracking information promised it would arrive. But the day after, I got an email apologizing that the shipment had been delayed, and advising me to wait another 10 days before making any inquiries.

I wouldn’t wait. That’s because the tracking information showed that the bed frame was in the shipper’s facility just 70 miles away. Why would that take an additional 10 days to deliver?

So I contacted the vendor through Amazon’s chat service. After a little research, the vendor told me the bed frame had actually been damaged in shipping and was being returned to the vendor by the shipper. Gee, it would have been nice had their tracking information told me that, rather than leave me waiting all day for a delivery that was never coming. And why did the email say the shipment had been delayed, rather than returned? And why was I advised to wait 10 days before making an inquiry?

The vendor offered me a refund, which I accepted.

But after a week the refund had still not appeared on my credit card. So I contacted the vendor again. They again promised me a refund.

But the next day I got an email from a trucking company saying they were going to stop by my house and pick up the bed frame. This left me feeling alarmed, because I had never received the bed frame in the first place. I worried that my refund depended upon this trucking company picking up this nondelivered bed frame from my house.

So I took the time to contact the vendor again. They called off the pick up and again promised me a refund. And a few days later I did, indeed, receive the refund. At last, I finally put the bed problem to bed.

But what a time-consuming hassle to get my money back on an item I never received. I’m not sure if this was an attempted scam, but even if it wasn’t, the incompetence has left me feeling nervous about Amazon.

MORE PREDATORS, AND MY SUMMER VACATION TO WALLEY WORLD

Apparently I’m not the only one. Here’s an article from Forbes about Amazon scams on the rise:

https://www.forbes.com/sites/wadeshepard/2017/01/02/amazon-scams-on-the-rise-in-2017-as-fraudulent-sellers-run-amok-and-profit-big/#493cf87a3ea6

I’ve revered this company for years, but no longer. I’m now actively seeking a replacement for Amazon. I love shopping online, but only when I can trust that I’ll receive what I’ve paid for.

I’ll still make some small purchases through this jungle, as I transition away. But right now I’m sizing up Walmart as a replacement. I checked out their website and it seems they’ve greatly improved their online service from what it was a few years ago. So I opened an account and plan to give them a try.

Walley World seems to be the first to give the Amazonians a serious run for their money. I hope they hang in there and stick around. I believe online retail needs better competition, to battle the scams.

Now I just have to keep my fingers crossed and hope Walley World continues to hold their own against the gigantic jungle of Amazon, and maintain their online presence. I’d sure hate for them to be closed when I go to place an order.

A Guide to Political Correctness

It seems like every day someone famous says or does something that is considered politically incorrect. And predictably, they lose their job. Or they’re vilipended throughout the land and savagely excoriated in the press. Even after they apologize.

It happens to us less famous citizens as well. One carelessly spoken word or sentence that treads upon someone’s sensitivities can end a career or ruin a relationship. Because what happens on the global stage tends to be emulated at the local level.

In this day of extreme political polarization we all have to learn how to be politically correct. For some this is easy. They just keep their mouths shut. But others seem to have no clue.

Sometimes I can be clueless myself, as evidenced by this post. But I’m just trying to help. I wrote this guide to political correctness because I’m trying to eliminate confusion as to what is politically correct, and keep everyone gainfully employed and in rewarding relationships.

I’ve found that one way to stay PC while opening one’s mouth is to keep abreast of current events. That way you know what is currently in vogue and considered correct actions and speech. I’ve been doing just that, avidly watching both FOX news and MSNBC news, so that I can learn from both sides of the political spectrum just what is considered politically correct.

The following are some lessons these TV news networks have taught me:

It’s politically correct to kneel while the National Anthem is played, to show that black lives matter and police can be brutal. But at the same time you should always stand with your hand over your heart, because to do otherwise is disrespectful to the flag.

It’s politically correct to stand up for your religious beliefs and refuse services to homosexuals, if homosexuality is against your religion. But it’s also politically correct to have no religious beliefs against homosexuality, and to offer services to everyone, regardless of sexual orientation. Because to do otherwise ignores genetic science and discriminates without good cause.

It’s politically correct to discourage all forms of gun ownership, as guns are a major cause of violent deaths in our country. But it’s also politically correct to own and carry the latest and most powerful assault rifles you can afford. Because otherwise crime will run rampant, and we also will have no way to rise up in armed revolution when Armageddon arrives and Satan takes over America.

It’s politically correct to protect the lives of unborn children, by requiring women to carry their pregancies to full-term. But it’s also politically correct to give women the right to choose what they do with their bodies. Because to do otherwise allows men to control women and helps maintain a patriarchal society.

You see? All you have to do is watch both FOX news and MSNBC news, and you’ll eliminate all confusion as to what is politically correct.

But here’s what I believe is the most important lesson in political correctness:

You may have noticed that some of the examples listed above tend to slightly contradict each other. Of course they contradict. Politics by its very nature is contradictory. Politics is about disagreement and debate. It’s about people thinking differently and expressing their differences. It’s a forum for hashing out issues, as humanity seeks answers.

And when you look at it that way, the contradictions above are not confusing, they’re enlightening.

Healthy debate enlightens and ultimately unites. It’s unhealthy debate that leaves us struggling endlessly for answers, over issues that could have been resolved long ago. And it’s unhealthy debate that divides and polarizes, and leaves us fearful and suspicious of each other.

Healthy debate makes every example I listed above, politically correct examples. But unhealthy debate renders them politically incorrect.

Healthy debate becomes unhealthy when someone says or does something we disagree with, and we take offense. Then we demonize that person. We act like victims and treat them as perpetrators. And we attack them personally and may even attempt to put their jobs and relationships in jeopardy.

This drives many who would debate, into silence. It slows the free exchange of ideas. And it makes everything that would otherwise be politically correct, politically incorrect.

But we, ordinary citizens, don’t do this alone. We get a lot of help from political pundits, who profit from unhealthy debate. They are the ones who publicly foster and encourage the demonization of those who hold views they disagree with. They are the ones who turn the politically correct into the politically incorrect. And they are the ones behind the schisms and polarization that currently paralyzes our politics.

Political pundits work in a big industry, for big money. And there’s so many of them, I can’t name them all. But here’s one or two that come to mind:

Rush Limbaugh
Al Sharpton
Gloria Allred
Sarah Palin
Howard Dean
Rachel Maddow
Glenn Beck
Sean Hannity
Arianna Huffington
Ann Coulter
Keith Olbermann
Laura Ingraham
Maureen Dowd
Alex Jones
Tucker Carlson
James Carville

Many of these pundits have their own separate talk show, column, or other forum. They’re lone wolves scavenging off the political landscape. Wouldn’t it be better if they were all put together to debate in the same venue?

Then they’d either kill each other or learn how to debate in a healthy, diplomatic manner. And if the latter came true, we’d have an example to learn from and follow. An example that could improve the health of public debate, and turn that which is politically incorrect into political correctness.

What might happen if all the political pundits had to debate each other in the same room. If they didn’t kill each other, instead.

[ Note: This post was inspired by a recent interaction I had with GP Cox. GP Cox has an excellent, well-researched blog about the Pacific Theater of World War II, which you might want to check out if you’re a history buff.]

Great-Grandma’s Dirty Jokes

My Great-Grandma Florence Jackson. “Flojack.”

I was fortunate and cursed enough to be around several of my great-grandparents while I was growing up. That’s because my family is blessed and cursed with longevity in our genes. We tend to live a long time, but when we finally expire we die of long, lingering chronic illnesses.

My great-grandma was born in 1889. She drove a crankstart Model T when she was young. It gave her a great scare when it chased her around the yard one day, after she crank-started it while it was in gear.

She made it through two great world wars, struggled through the Great Depression, and survived the Great San Francisco earthquake of 1906. So by the time I met her, she had quite a few great tales to tell.

She’d come visit us about once a year, when I was a kid, and stay several weeks, all the while reminiscing about the past. I found her stories fascinating. I learned a lot of history from her, and for that I’m great-ful. I sure wish now I could remember all of those stories.

One day I asked Great-Grandma if they told dirty jokes back in the old days. And with that she surprised me by relating a few she had committed to memory. I immediately recognized this as an historic discovery, and surmised that these jokes must be preserved for posterity.

I hardly remember a damn thing about most of the historical accounts I heard from Great-Grandma. But I made it my duty-bound pledge to memorize her antiquarian dirty jokes, so that one day I could pass them on to newer generations.

And so, for your edification and academic study, here are Great-Grandma’s dirty jokes:

ELECTRICITY

Back in the early days of electric utilities, when a storm knocked down power lines, electricity would be out for long periods of time before those lines could be repaired. That’s exactly what happened to a little old lady who lived way out in the boondocks.

Finally she managed to call the electric company and alert them to her problem. But her message left them kind of confused. She told the dispatcher, “I need you to send a man to my house right away! I’ve had to use a candle now for two weeks.”

PERIOD

A young schoolgirl and her classmates were being instructed by their teacher on proper use of punctuation. She seemed a little distracted, as if she wasn’t paying attention. So the teacher pointed at her and said, “Young lady, what can you tell me about the period?”

She answered, “Well teacher, I know that periods are dangerous.”

The teacher thought she was being a smart aleck, so he decided to put her on the spot.

“That’s nonsense!” he scolded. “Young lady, I want you to stand up in front of the whole class and explain why periods are dangerous.”

The schoolgirl did as she was told. She stood up, faced her classmates, and said, “This morning my big sister came down the stairs and announced, ‘I haven’t had my period in two months.’ My mother fainted, my father had a stroke, and the boy next door shot himself.”

SUPERNATURAL

One evening at a prayer meeting the topic turned to the supernatural. The preacher was lecturing about the dangers of the occult, and especially the evils of attending séances and intercoursing with the dead. At one point he asked, “Has anyone here ever had intercourse with a ghost?”

A little old lady in the back raised her hand. “I have!” her crackly voice declared.

“You have?!” the preacher replied with astonishment. “You . . . you’ve had intercourse with a GHOST?!”

The lady quickly lowered her hand. “Oh,” she corrected, “I thought you said GOAT.”

Home Repair

You can do anything with one of these.

Most home repair jobs can be handled without hiring professional help. All it requires is a certain attitude. First you have to believe in your ability to accomplish a somewhat complex task. You must also be willing to risk making a problem worse rather than better, because that will occasionally happen. Though it’s rare. And you must maintain a level head, so that you can assess the repair situation, and any contingencies that may arise, in a logical, common sense manner.

For example, our bathroom had a minor plumbing issue. Water would leak out the faucet handles of the shower whenever the faucets were opened. No big deal, but after a while I got tired of it and decided to fix this problem.

I logically and correctly assessed that the compression washers and valve seats in the faucet valve stems required replacement. Pretty easy job. And I’d done this before, so I knew how to fix it.

I started with the hot water side, on the left. I got the old faucet seat out with a bit of a yank (it was in there pretty tight). Then I put the pipe dope on the new one, and confidently inserted it into the pipe head and turned the nifty little seat wrench I had just purchased from Home Depot.

But it wouldn’t thread into place. I tried and tried for about 15 minutes, but I just couldn’t seem to get it onto the pipe threads in the exact proper position, so that it would start to screw in.

It’s a must to remain level-headed and logical in these situations. So I attempted to keep my cool while assessing the situation.

The shower wall on the left, and the cold water faucet handle on the right were complicating things, because they were getting in the way of my seat wrench, forcing me to go about a third of a turn, then pull the seat wrench out, reposition it, and put it back in.

This short turning radius was frustrating. But after I calmed down and my hands stopped trembling, I decided I’d have to pull the cold water faucet out, so that I could get close to a full 360 degree revolving bite on the seat wrench, and get that dilly of a faucet seat threaded into place.

But the screw on the faucet handle was frozen. I struggled with it, while a few feelings of apoplexy kind of popped through my skull. Finally, after several cerebral hemorrages, I stripped the head of the fucking screw. So then I had to spend the next goddamned hour drilling the asshole screw out, and ruining the friggin’ valve stem in the process.

But after much drilling and swearing I finally got the muther-fucking stubborn, shithead, ass-wad valve stem out, and at last had a nearly full circular muther-fucking swing available for installing the goddamned, muther-ass, stupid, pissy-assed-bastard hot water side faucet seat.

With this near full-freedom swing, blazing eyes, and a breath of desperate hope in my flaring nostrils, I attempted to thread this shitty-ass faucet seat one more fucking time. But wouldn’t you know? I still couldn’t get the cocksucking, ballbusting, jackass, stupid, damned son-of-a-bitch to go in!!!

I stormed away. Stomped into my bedroom. Closed (slammed) the door. Slapped my head a bunch of times. Called every plumber who ever invented plumbing a dumb-assed mother-fucking son-of-a-bitch.

But after a bit I finally calmed down. And then an idea occurred to me. What would happen if I tried turning the seat wrench clockwise, rather than counter-clockwise?

So I gave that little ingenious trick a try.

Instant success.

And so you see, I can handle home repair jobs. I don’t need professional help.

About My Somewhat Free Book

Click the Unikonics book cover image above, to skip the nonsense below, and go directly to my book.

I’ve written a book called Unikonics. This book won’t cost you any money, but it will cost you some time. So it’s somewhat free, but not entirely. It’s only 18,000 words, but if you’re a slow reader like me it will require about three hours of your life to complete.

I first wrote this philosophy and self-help book in 2014, and true to self-help form, self-published it on Amazon. I can count on the fingers of one finger how many copies it sold. And that poor bastard who paid 99 cents for it must be kicking himself, because now I’m giving it away free.

I recently had a very boring experience. I was called in for jury duty and had to sit around for hours in a courtroom, waiting for some lawyers to not pick me for a trial. I handled the monotony by bringing along a copy of Unikonics. I hadn’t read it in years so it was sort of fresh material for me. And as I read I realized that, hey, this book might actually be kind of interesting if I made a few revisions here and there.

And so I did, and now I offer it for your consumption. Or at least, I think it might make good blog filler.

The original Unikonics was such a failure that I decided to make a joke of it in 2016, by starting this blog called Chasing Unicorns. The joke being on us writers. We know from experience that catching fame and fortune from our works is about as elusive as catching a unicorn.

Unikonics is derived from the word “unique”. It’s a philosophy about life and change, and how the most unique changes can help us to get the most life out of life. But this blog, Chasing Unicorns, is a devolvement from Unikonics into something a little less dry and hopefully a little more fun. I’ve tried to use this blog to show that chasing after anything unique is where the fun is, whether we pursue elusive things, like fame and fortune, or more catchable unicorns, such as a hike in the wilderness.

It’s been over two-and-a-half years since I started this blog, and up to this date I’ve made no mention of my Unikonics book. I wanted to avoid boring you. Besides, Unikonics is a philosophy, and philosophy can easily come across as tedious or proselytizing.

I wanted to have fun, rather than preach gospel to deaf ears. And so I put the philosophy of Unikonics into action, by trying to keep my posts as unique and enjoyable as possible, without mentioning the skeletal structure that supported my thinking behind my posts.

I even made light of my philosophy by turning it into unicorns, and equating my pursuit of unique experiences to chasing unicorns. And I changed the name of the philosophy from Unikonics to Unicorniks. Because it sounds corny. And it sounds like unicorns. And I just wanted to have fun, and wanted you to have fun also. I still do. Because no philosophy is worth anything if you can’t have fun with it, or make fun of it.

But I do also take the philosophy seriously. I love Unikonics. It colors my life with rich variety, attracts the needle in my compass, and takes the sting out of empty existence, by giving my life meaning. It may not be for everyone, but it’s just right for me. And I hope that the dude who paid 99 cents for it at least got his money’s worth.

Philosophy is personal, and so is our journey through life. I want you to be as free as me, so I’ll never pressure you or expect you to read my book. But just know it’s here for your perusing in case one day you’re so overcome with boredom that you’ll do anything for relief.

The way to read Unikonics is to click any word in this post that says “Unikonics” in bold blue. Or you can click on the image of the book cover, found at the top of this post or on the front page of this blog. This will open a PDF file that is the book. You can then start reading right away, or you can download the PDF file and consume the 18,000 words at your leisure.

Unikonics was recently published at obooko.com, which is a website that offers free electronic books. So another way to read this book is to download it in Kindle, E-pub, or PDF format from the obooko.com website, by clicking this link: https://www.obooko.com/free-mind-body-and-spirituality-books/unikonics. You have to sign up as an obooko member to obtain the download. But membership costs nothing and entitles you to free downloads of any of the wide variety of books they offer in their collection.

I’ve released most of my rights to Unikonics under a Creative Commons BY-ND 4.0 License. This gives you the freedom to distribute it to anyone you want, or even sell it for profit (who knows, maybe you can make more money from it than me). You just have to give me attribution (so I can achieve the fame I so desperately desire). And you’re not allowed to modify it (though you’re free to write your own book about Unikonics, using your own words, and own name as the author). And there are a few other rules, so obscure that most people don’t have to worry about them.

But in case you’re wondering about those rules, the following is a link to the legal code of the license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/4.0/legalcode.