Thursday, September 25, 2014

Turn A Gain

Streaming clouds, ad impressions, obsessions
Television waving banners
In the face of ancient hatred
Excavated restated to fire desire
Inspire madness in the muscle

Nothing new said the prophet every reason has a season

To everything
There is a season
To everything
There is a season
And a time.

Your eyes are the stock in trade
You’re made by trends, your friends
Your gut desire, you wire
Bitter children with hate, they wait
To make their killing

Willing madness in the muscle
Bitter fingers on the triggers

To everything
There is a season
To everything
There is a season
And a time

Nothing new said the prophet every reason has a season

Turn again.

Copyright 2014 by Howard Owen

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Video Ads

An update to the mobile Facebook app on Android dropped a little bomb on me the other day. It told me they were about to push video ads that would play without my permission. There was a "learn more" link that I clicked through to learn that they would download these ads over my mobile data connection unless I twiddled the option in my preferences. I learned that despite expressing that preference, Facebook would download ads while I was on WiFi and play them back later while I was mobile. After twiddling the option, they asked for my opinion. I left feedback to the effect that evoking impotent rage among subscribers was not good business. (There's a possible work-around to getting ads shoved down your throat. See below.)

I'm old school. I first saw the Internet in 1986, just before Al Gore invented it by helping to pass the legislation that created NSFNET. When I first saw the WWW in the summer of 1993, I knew it would change everything. The fact it bridged all the other information protocols and services into a simple, uniform interface meant that ordinary users wouldn't have to telnet to an Archie server to search for a file accessible only by FTP. Gopher was obsolete. UUCP would be shortly.  After playing with xmosaic a bit, I realized that the new protocols were far more powerful than the old ones I was used to. Moreover, the tools to create pages in the new medium were in principle available to anyone.  I dreamed of a future in which democracy would reign in a flattened hierarchy that allowed anyone to produce information as well as consume it.

I got disabused of many of my idealistic notions over the coming years. The idea that the Web would change everything was true beyond my wildest imaginings, but I didn't see all that commercialism coming.  In the face of the cold light of reality, I learned to accept advertising as a mechanism for funding a lot of the utility and content on the Web. Even so, I hated a the way that companies tried to push ads in front of the content. When Google came along, I was primed to love their less intrusive approach to advertising. (I also loved it that they seemed to share a lot of my idealism about the Web.) 

Despite the disillusionments, I retain my general optimism down to the present day But it’s  tempered by 28 years of experience of the web and of life in general. Nonetheless, my attitudes and prejudices toward the Internet are inescapably wound up with my early dreams of a golden peer to peer nirvana, and some of my prejudices have refused to yield. I still hate having ads or content shoved down my throat. Videos that play without my permission still annoy the hell out of me. I stopped watching television because of the incessant bombardment by manipulative ads. If someone wants me to sit through the same sort of experience on my desktop or my phone, I can always close the window. I have choice, dammit! My policy is to stop using a service or resource that tries this sort of thing. Formally, the only exception to this rule is when I seriously can't avoid dealing with the product or service. In reality, I keep using sites I like a lot, albeit with a measure of disgruntlement. I'm about to find out if Facebook qualifies under that exception. 

I don't idly threaten to stop using Facebook, I know how deeply addicted I am to the service. But I log off the minute I see a video ad on the desktop. I'm cheating because so far, Facebook on my phone hasn't shown me any ads, so I can stay in touch despite my microscopic protest on the desktop. (This may work because I never connect to WiFi with my Nexus 5, or maybe they listened to my feedback.) So I haven't cut the bonds that tie me to Facebook, but I've loosened them a little. I'm spending a little more time on services I used to frequent quite a lot. Slashdot and Ars Technica are pretty fun to browse. I'm also using Google+ a bit more.

Aggregate me, spy on me, sell my eyeballs to the highest bidder, I'll tolerate all of that. Shove video ads down my throat and I'll revolt. Wow, is all that other stuff really acceptable too?

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

A friend asked me where I was going in life. I couldn’t come up with an answer on the spot, and that bugged me.  I'll attempt to answer that question briefly and succinctly. This will necessarily involve where I’ve been and what happened.

I was obsessed with myself and my work. I was isolated by choice. I was oblivious to others, regretful of the past and neglectful of my health. These choices eventually led me to the gates of insanity and death. I was committed on a 5150 for suicidal depression. 2 weeks later I had a major heart attack. I was down and stayed there for 3 years. Then my fear of death, which was all I could think of, was relieved by a power greater than myself.  I turned the corner spiritually, emotionally and physically. I feel I’m back on a spiritual path.

So I’m open to God’s will. Where do I feel that is leading me? I seem to attract people with addictions and mental health problems. My experience allows me to be helpful. I get huge satisfaction from this  I’m being taught to get out of my own way. I’ve been exploring my creative side, with music and visual design. What’s going on here? All those enthusiasms seem to add up to carrying a message. I think I have something to say, and I’m being given the opportunity to say it. 

What do I have to say? 

Today matters. The past and future are imaginary. Forgiveness is freedom. Spiritual growth is about spiritual experience. Words get you part way there, but words are not the experience. Meditation involves silencing the articulate mind.   Logic and analysis, separation and ego must be stilled in order to experience wholeness and connection. That consciousness lives in me. God is in me, and in everything else. 

But I struggle with faith. I get pissed off at God and slam the door of consciousness shut. When I do that I’m in grave danger. Anger at God will drive me right into a pit of despair and self-pity. If I revel in logical/philosophical objections to God, that's where I'll go. That will kill me quick. This is not a theoretical proposition. I have to find my way back as soon as possible. So I have a practical argument in favor of God consciousness. I can sometimes help people who, like me, have intellectual resistance to that sort of thing.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Semi-sometimes Journaling

Keeping a journal has never been something that I’ve ever done successfully over the long haul. I have ideas about why that is but none of them fully satisfy me. It’s true I’m lazy, and it’s true that I have trouble regulating my time. Be that as it may I’m more motivated this time around to write on a daily basis. I don’t want to the track minutiae of my daily routine or the goings-on of my friends, I have Facebook for that. Here I’d like to leave thoughts that pass through my mind and disappear. Sometimes I think some pretty interesting thoughts. (Interesting to me at any rate.) I’d like to hold onto them a little longer than just  until my short-term memory gets wiped. 

It’s not just a matter of recording my thoughts directly. I want to find a way to articulate the ideas beyond merely putting them down on paper.

I’m thinking about discipline. My perception of myself is that I don’t have any. Like many of the unexamined opinions I hold about myself, this judgement is black or white. I either have discipline or I don’t. That’s nonsense. I do have discipline in a lot of things. I’m a disciplined thinker when I want to be. I adhere to schedules that I almost entirely set for myself. In other matters I am not so rigorous. I have little discipline when it comes to my physical surroundings. I live in my head a lot, and I use this as a way to avoid unpleasant things. Using my license not to be coherent in this narrative, I’m going to shift focus over to that live in my head thing. This is, of course, very undisciplined.

I am a thinker. I spent a lot of time in my thoughts. There are various reasons for this. One reason is that I have an active and powerful mind. I believe I was born with that, and that it was nurtured by my parents. Another reason is that an unpleasant childhood prompted me to live in fantasy. Let’s try that again. I have always lived in fantasy. I’ve always had a very powerful imagination. I have often been able to think of things that are more interesting more engaging more pleasant and just happier than what is happening to me right now. These abilities are not good or bad. I can use them to create worlds that are interesting to others as well as myself. I can make models of reality when I’m trying to solve a problem.  I can also run away into my fantasies, as I did with Second Life, and World of Warcraft.

These are all, good and bad, examples of very obvious, all-inclusive forms of fantasy. My imagination works on a smaller scale as well. I look into the future to decide where my next foot will fall and how to get from appointment A to appointment B. But I also take present upsets and injuries into the future, projecting them into a model in my mind. There I direct puppet show wherein a person who has injured me, say, shows why they are such an asshole and why I was right all along. 

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Science of Consciousness

a·nal·y·sis /əˈnaləsis/
1. Detailed examination of the elements or structure of something, typically as a basis for discussion or interpretation.
2. The process of separating something into its constituent elements.

My analytic mind takes the universe between my ears apart, dividing ideas into ever simpler constituents in an attempt to understand the whole. This is the scientific approach to consciousness. I notice that my awareness consists of my sensoria, my drives, my emotions and my intellect. From these elements emerge my holistic experience.


1. Characterized by comprehension of the parts of something as intimately interconnected and explicable only by reference to the whole.

At the holistic level, I start to perceive something that none of my categories seem to contain. I hear echoes of Spirit bridging all the categories and binding reality together into an awesome whole. This is the physical->mental->spiritual hierarchy that seems so obvious and correct to my analytical mind.

But what if it’s the other way around? What if Spirit is the primary reality, and the parts are merely ramifications of that Whole? Perhaps I can approach an awesome Unity. Maybe I can feel holy fear in the presence of God.

If I stop trying to divide my reality into pieces. I can approach this Experience. But I can’t get there through description. Language is the tool of my analytical mind. My descriptions of God refer to aspects of his Consciousness and cannot convey His actual presence.

The dao that can be told
is not the eternal Dao
The name that can be named
is not the eternal Name.

Lao Tzu - Dao De Jing

I must allow the unnamable God to seize me. I must abandon myself to the fearful hurricane of Spirit in order to experience peace.

Who am I to Doubt the Power of God?

If I’ve undergone the radical shift of step three, then I know that my ideas are the only thing standing between God’s will and its mental and physical manifestation in my life. 

My doubt is my ego defending its sovereignty. The ego centered fear I feel when I contemplate letting go of my character defects, of making my amends, of turning over my will and life right now is actually the awareness of God’s power. The fear is a blessing that draws my attention to the next step in my spiritual growth. Here is where I must surrender to move forward.

Radical Shift

Radical Shift

Listening to Ron on step 10 got me thinking. Steps one, two and three result in a radical shift of perspective from an ego centered universe to a God centered universe. In a sense, that’s the whole deal. The rest of the steps are a concrete plan to manifest the consequences of that shift in my life. Ron talked about the shift in radical terms. Not only do I change my view of where my problem lies - within myself and not in other people, places and things - but my ideas about the whole order of the universe radically change. The obvious hierarchy of physical->mental-> spiritual is inverted. Now I see God, as I understand God, as the primary reality. From this Spirit arises mentality, Then my ideas create the world I inhabit. 

I’ve heard this message over and over throughout my life, but somehow I made a breakthrough in understanding it this weekend. Thanks Ron and Primetime!