Sunday, January 27, 2013

A bullied past

Better late than never I suppose. But bullying has finally became an issue that is getting some actual attention. Some schools are starting to crack down on bullies, and I'm glad to see that. However, there are those who trivialize this very real problem. They may say that 'kids will be kids', or 'that's what kids do'. Worse yet they may blame to victim by saying that the bullied just needs to 'get over it' or 'grow thicker skin'. Those types of responses are simply unacceptable and should be called out as such. To me it stinks of the same BS of blaming a rape victim for the way they were dressed. The sad truth is that sometimes bullying ends tragically. Yet in these cases, some will try and pin the outcome on the one subjected to endless bullying  from his or her peers. Inexcusable!

Some say that it's an imagined problem, or only a problem for the weak. As a past victim of bullying, I can tell you that the problem is very real, and that 'weakness' has nothing to do with it. If anything, my strength is a good part of why my story isn't a tragic one. But more on that later. No, I was never stuffed into a locker, beat up, or robbed of my lunch money (of which I had none). My experience was mostly non-physical, but was none the less hurtful. My history of bullying had a very unlikely start. I was a victim of racism... in elementary school... from a teacher! Yeah, how screwed up is that? First, you must know that I was the only white student in an otherwise African-American class. You guessed it, the teacher was black as well. That in itself obviously wasn't a problem. At that school, all my other classes were a very similar mix of students, and I had more black teachers than otherwise. However, this class would be very different than the others. Well, not completely different anyway. One thing that was the same is that I excelled. Unfortunately, that wasn't something this teacher was happy about. When asking who knew the answer to the question, there would be several times I would be the only one with their hand up. Rather than call on me, she would call on other students that were sitting back showing no sign of knowing the answer. In fact, I can't remember ever being called on when I had my hand raised. Yet, if I didn't have my hand raised I would be called on, and sometimes berated for not answering correctly. You could argue that was simply her teaching style. Calling on those with hands down to try and spur them into being more involved. But when You consider that she did call on people with their hand raised when they weren't me, and that argument falls apart. Luckily tests mattered more, but her bias showed there as well. A (black) friend of mine in the class and I would often share out test results when we got our papers back. That's when an odd fact came to light. He would get a lower grade than I, yet his paper would be marked with kind comments. Meanwhile, I would hardly miss any answers, yet would still receive negative messages on my paper that would make you think I was the worst student ever. There would also be times when I would have to use the restroom, so I would raise my hand and ask to go. Each and every time, she would disallow me to go. Being young, and taught to listen to the teachers, I didn't question (even though other students were allowed to go). This often lead to me holding it until class was over. At that time I would rush to the restroom and make it (as it would seem) in the nick of time. Embarrassingly enough there was one time I didn't make it in time. Yes, it was very embarrassing, but it also worked out for the best. I was young and didn't understand what was going on, but thankfully my parents did. This was the final straw, and my mother came to have another talk with the principal. They had talked before about her singling me out, and they in turn had talked to her. Things would improve for a short while, but always return to normal. This time the principal agreed that this had gone too far and immediately moved me to a new class and all was well after that. I don't know what happened with that teacher after that, but I can tell you that that experience did drive me to be a bit more shy. Something that would plague me for years.

Luckily, my family moved in time for the start of middle school. This school was the absolute opposite of elementary school, student wise. It was a sea of white with a token minority thrown in here and there. But there were three distinct groups... the athletes, the country boy/farmer types, and those with rich parents. I didn't fit any of those groups however, and middle school would be the closest I would come to physical torment. This is where I was 'pantsed' in front of the entire gym class. I had a couple kids break into my locker and scoop toilet water into the travel cup in my lunch (luckily they got a guilty conscience). Gym class struck again when we were playing dodge ball. I was still in play, but was all of a sudden struck square in the face with a ball with quite some force. I went down and a lens came out of my glasses. Luckily my nose was okay, the glasses didn't cause any damage to my face and after resetting the lens and bending the nose pads back into place, my glasses survived as well. You may be asking, "So what? You were hit by a ball while playing dodge ball. That's the game". Usually I would agree. however the ball was thrown very deliberately at my face from a distance of four or five yards by a member of my own team! That's no accident, and his joyous cackling showed that he was proud of blindsiding an unsuspecting lightweight. I obviously reported this event and ended up talking with the principal about it. He said that he'd talk to the other boy and see what he had to say and get back to me later. After a week or so of no word I asked him how the matter was progressing. That's when he said that he thought I had said that it could have been an accident (a lie) and filed it as such, and that there was nothing he could do about it now. He then tried to bribe me to stay quiet by offering me some of the leftover (cheesy) prizes they gave out for character counts and honor roll. It wasn't until later that he knew the family of the offending child. As for physical, those events were the full of what I experienced. However, the verbal bullying is what I mainly experienced. I am, and have always been very skinny. I just have a very fast metabolism, so gaining weight is a challenge to say the least. When we moved, I was already shy, and going into someplace new didn't help that any. I mostly kept to myself because of this. Unfortunately, being new and staying to myself drew attention. Noticing how skinny I was, students started rumors that I had an eating disorder. Then they noticed that I didn't buy lunches (because packing was cheaper), and that my packed lunches weren't as large as my classmates with more wealthy parents. Some would claim my lunches are small because I starve myself to stay skinny, and others argued that I didn't eat big lunches because I was just going to trow it up latter. These accusations and fairly often teasing due to my shyness only further cemented me into a pattern of isolation.

Come high school I was an introvert plain and simple. I mostly kept to myself, and again drew teasing because of this. My surname was worked into taunts and became the butt of many a joke. I was teased because I rode the bus my entire high school career. I simply couldn't afford to buy a car yet (I was saving up), and didn't have the luxury of having rich  mommy and daddy buying me the brand new car of my choosing. The regular verbal bullying actually played a part in me turning down an offer from the track coach for me to join the team (twice). I was far too self conscious and even though I was very fast, turned down the offer because I was sure I would be giving my taunters more ammunition. Dating was another thing that got me in trouble. Or rather, the fact that I didn't. It's not that I didn't have my options. For a while I was regularly approached by girls who would ask me out. I was young and didn't understand that 'would you like to go out with me' meant be a couple, rather than go on serious dates. I simply wasn't ready for a relationship of that sort since I've barely had friends let alone anything more than that. So I would always politely turn those offers down. I even had the same girl ask me a few times in some occasions, always garnering the same answer form me. Surprisingly enough, some of these girls were actually the popular girls in school! I didn't know what to think at first, but the fact that popular guy tended to be the ones that made fun of me the most, I concluded (probably falsely) that they were trying to trick me into some sort of embarrassing trap. Sadly, after I turned all these girls down, things got worse. The conclusion that many came to was that if I wouldn't go out with any of those girls (especially the popular ones) that I must be gay. I wasn't. But despite my denials, the accusations and taunting continued. The day I graduated was a wonderful day because that's the day the taunters were gone and the bullying stopped... although some effects remained for a little while. More on that latter...

So, why didn't my story end in tears? Why did I not end up with inescapable depression? Why didn't I end up taking my own life like many that are the victims of endless bullying do? Why didn't I snap and take revenge on those that were tormenting me? Part of it could be that, while my bullying was pretty regular, it wasn't non-stop. It did effect me, but many have gone through much worse. Maybe it was the few friends I did have. In a way, I actually feel bad about those friends. They granted me the greatest kindness, yet we never really became close friends. I had seen people picked on before, and someone come to their aid only for them to be included in the abuse from that date forward. Because of this I didn't want them to go through what I was going through and rather treated them like acquaintances. To them, I'd like to say I'm sorry, but also offer so many thanks. But the biggest thing that helped me through it all was my parents. I truly have the best parents I could ever ask for. They have been and still are always there for me. Always there to support me and to offer advice and help. I will never be able to properly thank them for all that they've done for me, even without the financial advantages that others may have. They helped me deal with my problems (when I didn't try and keep them to myself) and helped me realize ways to cope with my school days. Sadly, may kids that have to go through what I did, and even worse do not have that same support and safety net that I had. So I call for everyone to raise awareness, call for kids to stand up for classmates, and for schools to offer counseling that I can tell you is needed.

But back to me dealing with these bullies. I realized that the skinny, pale, kid who is always quiet was an easy target. So that fact that they were gunning for the easy victim told me that they may be compensating for their own shortcomings. Thy were laughing at me now, but if I could stay strong and not give in, I would be the one that 'wins'. So I focused on my school work and, as always, excelled. I did so well that I graduated Valedictorian with a perfect 4.0 GPA. That was all well and good, but I would not be free of the effects of my taunting quite yet. That came when I joined the workforce. I got a real job, met new coworkers and got to know one another. I was still shy at first, but before I knew it, I was shedding that shell. Now I am far more open then I once once. I'm no extrovert by any stretch of the imagination, but I am no longer the painfully introverted person I once was. So to those going through similar torments, I ask you to stay strong, get help where you can, and that if you can stay the course or get help that it does get better. As for the old saying that 'sticks and stones may break your bones, but words can never hurt you', I say BS! Words can be very hurtful. Especially if the same disparaging remarks are peppered on you regularly. When you are verbally bullied like I was, there are psychological effects. When you walk by a group of people and then hear them laughing, you instantly believe they are laughing at you. You are afraid to do things or go places for fear of more taunting. I didn't go to my own homecoming or prom in order to avoid those that jeered at me... so on and so forth.

Now , I am not writing this for sympathy, rewards, or to be congratulated for persevering as I did. To me, that things ultimately turned out okay is it's own reward. Plus, as I said before, others go through far worse that I went through. My aim here was to show that bullying is a problem, that verbal bullying is as equally serious and physical, and to hopefully inspire people to help or even show those going through this themselves that they can get through this, they are not alone and that it can get better. So please, stand up for those that feel alone and powerless. They are unfairly targeted, and deserve the same chance as everyone else.


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Friday, January 25, 2013

Work, gone to the dogs...

I'm actually a bit sick and tired, so I'll be cutting this one a little short, but I've noticed pets in the workplace getting more common. There are many reasons why someone would bring their pet to their business. But there is a time and a place. Some businesses lend themselves to being okay for an animal to be there, and others don't. Also, some animals are okay, and some aren't well enough behaved to be in a professional setting. I've seen garages, offices and shops with an on site cat 'mascot' that they have taken in. As a cat guy, I like the surprise of finding a friendly kitty greeting me at the door. Kitties aren't very destructive, so they make good shop animals. Dogs require a bit more out of you, but can be nice to see in a store. There is one local store in particular that brings in two old Labs everyday. They mostly just lye around when you are in the store. But they will occasionally get up and walk over slowly to get pet. Friendly, not pushy or wild, but above all they are lazy.

But there are some animals that should not be in stores at all. One such example is in a store that I am forced to frequent. The owner of this store brings a dog in daily. This dog has way too much energy and has no place in a setting like that. This dog also appears to be a Lab, but unlike the two lazy ones at the other local store, this one has to be in the middle of everything. From the second the door opens, this door is on you. First he may try and lay on your feet, or he may decide that he wants to eat your shoes and shoe laces. Then he will usually decide to try and jump up on you. He isn't fully grown yet, but it is still a big dog. I have witnessed this dog almost topple an elderly customer as they come in the door. If he doesn't try to climb you like a tree, he will assume you are his personal chew toy and start biting at any loose bits on you shirt, parts legs or sleeves. I have also been there to witness this dog tearing someone's sweatshirt  pocket almost clean off! And don't make the mistake of giving him any attention, otherwise it all gets ten times worse. So you may say to just ignore him all together. Well, I tried that but it didn't work either. All that gains you is the dog still tugging at your cloths and then he'll just start barking at you to get your attention. Obviously this dog has more energy than it knows what to do with, and is cooped up in a store all day so I have to sympathize with it to a degree. I do have to blame the owner though. I'd say that this dog has been coming into this store for a year, and his behavior has hardly improved. Yet, even though I've heard that some customers won't come in without the dog being closed in another room, he's always still there. Also add in the fact that there is dog hair on just about anything you buy there and it really makes you wonder how someone can think it's a good idea to have the dog with them all the time. To me it just seems like a detriment to business. Office animals can be nice, but I just wish some were more responsible about it.


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Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Second Amendment, second thoughts...

I wasn't going to write about the current gun debate, but a rash of ill-informed facebook status' has caused me to break my silence. These vacuous musings always try to claim that Obama is trying to repeal the second amendment, or that he's coming to take everyone's guns. This isn't the case though. Thirty seconds of fact checking would have revealed this fact to them. But facts don't matter to these people, only the pushing of their personal delusions. So, what is President Obama actually proposing? Here's the rundown:

•A background check for all gun sales.
•Renew the assault weapons ban.
•Ten round ammunition limit.
•Ban armor-piercing bullets.
•Provide mental heath services in schools.
•Hire more police.
•Institute a federal gun trafficking statute.

So where in all of that is Obama trying to take everyone's guns away. Requiring that everyone who buys a gun (legally) undergoes a background check makes perfect sense. Certainly no one has a problem with stopping someone with a history of mental illness from taking advantage of the gun show loophole. And what of the assault weapons ban? That wouldn't take everyone's guns away either. Remember that assault weapons were already banned from 1994 to 2004. Last time I checked, the second amendment was still alive and well from 1994 to 2004. I also think that most agree that no one needs an assault weapon. However, crimes using assault weapons make up a tiny percentage of crimes, so banning them again probably won't impact crime figures much. But I think that banning something that no one needs is understandable, and could save a few lives to boot. The same is true of magazines larger than ten rounds and anti-armor bullets. They aren't widely used, but the average citizen has no real use for these items. Mental health services: Sounds good to me. Providing this service could stop would be shooters before they get to that point. More police... I don't see how more police can be bad. And finally, how is it bad to punish those illegally trafficking guns? As you can see, none of Mr. Obama's proposals are aimed at repealing the second amendment, nor to 'take everyone's guns away'. But cue the overreacting and illogical claims about gun violence...

One thing being blamed for the recent gun violence is video games and movies. The claim is that they are far too violent and and cause kids to mimic the games. Oddly enough, my childhood video games didn't cause me to be a plumber who stomps mushrooms, kicks turtle shells, and throws fire balls at Venus Flytraps in order to defeat a giant spiked turtle in order to save a princess. A game is a game. And when you look at the stats you will find that there is no data to actually suggest this to be true. A comparison of the ten largest video game markets shows that the United States is an outlier in the group. Even though all ten have the same access to games, and some even spend much more on games, yet the United States sees many multiples of gun murders as the other nine nations. This suggests that there is a different cause since these industrialized nations all have the same access to movies and games, yet the US sees more gun related murders.

Image courtesy of The Washington Post

People have also begun overreacting to anything that is even remotely related to guns. Case in point, a girl was suspended from kindergarten in Mount Carmel, Pennsylvania for what were deemed "terrorist threats". That seems fine. Well, until you find out what they are considering a "terrorist threat". The five year old girl had brought a Hello Kitty bubble gun to school and had mentioned that she and her friend should shoot the bubble gun at each other. They deemed that a "terrorist threat" and suspended her from school. She has since been allowed to return to school, but the school has yet to apologize for such an outrageous ruling.

Closer to home, there have been similar overreactions here in Maryland as well. Twice recently, boys have been suspended for making the 'gun gesture' with their hand/finger. In one instance, a six year old in Montgomery County was suspended for using his hand as an imaginary gun whilst he and some friends played cops and robbers. The same was true of students in Talbot County. Seriously!? A bubble gun and an imaginary gun are harmless. These kids were playing and nothing more. The 'gun hand' gesture could be construed as a threat in the proper context though. If someone made the gun gesture at another and threatened that they were going to come back with a gun and kill someone, then you could say that the gesture was threatening. But even then, that's a serious threat, gesture or not. So with these examples you see people overrating in the direction that any slight reference to guns is bad. What you end up is ridiculous stories that distract from the real issues at hand. And that really is a shame.

And of course there are those that are saying that the problem with gun violence is that there simply aren't enough guns. How can that be? When you look at who has the most guns, the United States already does at distribution of 88.8 guns per 100 people. The top ten (and a few notables) looks like this (per 100):

1) United States  = 88.8 
2) Yemen = 54.8 
3) Switzerland = 45.7 
4) Finland = 45.3 
5) Serbia = 37.8
6) Cyprus = 36.4 
7) Saudi Arabia = 35
8) Iraq = 34.2 
9) Uruguay = 31.8 
10) Sweden = 31.6 
11) Norway = 31.3 
12) France = 31.2 
13) Canada = 30.8 
16) Germany = 30.3 
88) England = 6.2 
111) Netherlands = 3.9 
165) Japan = 0.6 

As you can see, the United States has far more guns than anyone else per-capita. But how does that relate to crime figures? The data differs depending what year you find data for, but the US actually does not have the most gun deaths per 100,000 despite the lead in the number of guns overall. In 2000 the US ranked ninth with 2.97 gun deaths per 100,000 people. A 2007 survey also put the United States at 2.97 gun deaths per 100,000, but this time in twenty-eighth place. One factor that was interesting is that in both, the nations that had higher rates than the United States were either not industrialized 'first world' countries or are heavily influenced and involved in the drug trade (the worst having far more murders by gun that the USA). If we omit those results, the US does come out tops among developed nations. Here are some from that list (per 100,000).

United States = 2.97
Switzerland = 0.77
Canada = 0.51
Finland = 0.45
Sweden = 0.41
Netherlands = 0.33
Germany = 0.19
England = 0.07
France = 0.06
Japan = 0.01

2.97 gun homicides per 100,000 really isn't that bad. But when compared to other industrialized nations, things could be much better. Granted, there are nations with less guns than the United States that have much more gun deaths. But due to the 'status' of the country, or how ingrained the drug problem is, they are not necessarily accurate comparisons. In fact, if it were not for the United States' war on drugs, I feel that our figure of 2.97 could easily be brought down more. The NRA would have us believe that more guns would fix the problem, but would it really. Sure, an armed teacher may be able to stop a school shooting, or stop it sooner. But guns in the school could also lead to the odd accident here and there when a kid gets a hold of the gun that wouldn't have been there before. Also, would everyone being armed bring down shootings? I actually think it could increase them. A criminal is going to be a criminal no matter what. If he tries to steal a woman's purse, he may just use the gun to scare her if she is not armed. But if everyone is armed, it is more likely that the thief would skip the threat and just shoot first. Then you have the problem of gun yielding good Samaritans trying to 'stop' the criminal with their firearm. This could lead to a crossfire that leaves even more needlessly shoot due to people missing the target. Personally, I'm amazed at the stats for Japan. Just 0.6 guns per 100 people and 0.01 gun deaths per 100,000 people. That quite frankly makes Japan sound utopian. To compare, the US had 12,000 gun related deaths in 2008, while Japan had only 11! And in 2006, the number for Japan was only 2! Granted Japan does have very strict gun laws, and guns have never been as big an part of Japanese culture as they have been in the United States, but the figures are astonishing none-the-less.

So I truly believe that the surge in gun sales following a terrible gun related tragedy is not the answer. Perhaps you are buying piece of mind. But I don't think sheer numbers of guns is the problem. I support the second amendment, but intelligent choices need to be made if we are to bring our gun related death toll in line with most other industrialized nations. We need universal background checks. Keeping an eye on mental health can stop gunmen before they develop into gunmen. Ending the war on drugs would likely slash gun violence. And finally, responsible gun ownership with full training. I feel that reducing the number of guns would be an even more serious step toward a less violent country. But at least doing the rest should leave us in a much better place, and hopefully bring our gun death numbers more in line with Europe's without any serious work or concessions.


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Sunday, January 20, 2013

The Chinese are coming, the Chinese are coming!

Okay, here's the deal. The Chinese are involved in a secret mission to poison the citizens of the United States so that they may overthrow and take over the country. Well, that's according to someone I know anyway. She will only buy American made products and is increasingly wary of anything made in China. Now, only buying US made products isn't a problem in and of itself (though it can be a challenge), but why someone only buying domestic can raise flags. If you feel it's your patriotic duty, or you feel that's the best way to help your local economy. Or maybe you just perceive US made goods to be of higher quality. Those are perfectly valid reasons for a person to make that type of buying decision. However, the idea that China is actively trying to poison Americans through the products they make is one I can not justify. If it were true, that would be one thing. However, this claim is one that simply doesn't stand up to the test of logic. There is no doubt that China hasn't had a stellar track record when it has come to recalls, but does that really suggest that there is a nefarious plan afoot? Whether it be the lead in the paint on products, products being toxic, radioactive steel, etc... these are real issues to worry about. But are they proof that China is out to poison America? I don't think so. If the Chinese government or Chinese companies were out to poison Americans, don't you think that food items coming from China would be the best things to poison? I can go around the corner and purchase any manner of novelty candies that are made in China. Yet, that stuff and the majority sold is safe for consumption. If there was a mass plot to poison American, you would think that all food items from China would be tainted. You would think that making sure the food that they send here would be toxic rather than drywall, or lead paint on a toy that someone may or may not stick in their mouth. Seeing as the toxicity of Chinese items is so hit and miss, isn't it more likely that the issue isn't a mass plot, but a problem of regulations? I think so, but more on that latter... Another area where I hear that China is trying to poison us is the claim that they are regularly poisoning the very air and soil around us. These would be the chem trail nutters. You know... They ask why some contrails left by airplanes dissipate quickly and why some stick around for a while. They claim that the obvious explanation is that only some are contrails, and the others must be chem trails. That there are Chinese aircraft flying above US airspace spraying toxins that are meant to poison the ground, the crops, the air, the people... or whatever they feel like claiming that day of the week. But does any of that even make sense? No, no it doesn't. First off, how do they figure that Chinese aircraft are secretly flying above United States airspace? Second of all, these 'chem trails' are at cruising altitude. Any chemicals dispersed at that altitude would be far from pin point accuracy. That payload would would be distributed far and wide. Not to mention that the chemical would be highly diluted by the time it reaches the ground. The claims just don't make sense. But what about the two different kinds of 'trails' that planes leave? Well, the fact is that they aren't different trails at all. Why some contrails dissipate quicker than others has nothing to do with what they are 'made of'. But it does have everything to do with the altitude. Two aircraft at different altitudes may leave contrails that look similar from the ground. However, the prevailing winds differ depending on how high or low you are. So if one aircraft if at a different altitude from another, and the winds are blowing at different rates, than one contrail will stick around longer than the other will. As you can see, it's not a matter of aerial poison, but one of weather patterns.

But back to that matter of regulation that I mentioned earlier. The issue with toxic products from China is not a conspiracy, but a problem with regulations. Oddly enough, the conservative politicians around these parts made it a point to vilify China in their campaigns. Yet, these are the same Republicans that think that there is too much regulation in the United States. That if we just let businesses do what they want, they will do the right thing. That somehow they would grow a conscious and not cut corners in the name of profits. Remember, lax regulations is the reason that as many tainted products have made it to our shores. Yet somehow, some politicians (and many businessman) thing deregulation is a great thing. When the horrible regulation in China has led to potentially dangerous products, how can anyone think that it's seriously a good thing to let all businesses self govern and do whatever they want? Short answer, it's not! The majority will simply choose to make their decisions based on what will make them the most money. Just like they have when so many moved production to China as well. Now if you really want, you can try to blame China, and the cheap labor (through questionable labor practices). But with the cheap labor, the business didn't have to go there. They could have easily kept production in the United States, but they didn't. They decided on the feet of profits alone. So while I can not condone working conditions in Chinese factories, I have to ultimately blame the walmarts of the world, and the culture of anything for a buck. If anything the same is true of Chinese companies. They are becoming increasingly capitalistic, and we are a huge market for them. So I really don't see how snuffing us out is either plausible, or if their best interest.


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Friday, January 18, 2013

Keep Calm and Think Before you Speak

English… a language spoken throughout the world. Yet here in America, there are those who act as if the USA owns it. I know one of these people. Whenever he comes across a video from a British source, the criticisms fly fast and frequent. Some of his gripes revolve around him they ‘talk funny’ in regards to the accent. Personally, I love the British accent and wish I had one. But that’s not important for this discussion. The other gripe he has is when a Britain, buy his standard, pronounces a word incorrectly. Of course he ignores that some words are just pronounced differently in different ‘versions’ of English. Sort of like in the USA aluminum is pronounced like ah-lew-min-um, and in the UK it’s more like, al-ew-min-e-um. He (and others of the same mindset) don’t chalk this up to regional differences, but rather that the British are just wrong and that American English is the ‘correct’ English. Wait, what!? Does anyone else see the problem here? There really isn’t one correct English anymore. But if there was, it wouldn’t be American English. The de facto English would have to the ancestral English that all modern versions of English are based on today. But that version has long since passed. Like all life on Earth, languages also evolve. Proto-English its self was drawn from other inspirations, but the language gained it’s greatest foothold it what we now call England. Over the years English evolved until the British Empire began to spread it throughout the world. By this time, the English they spoke wouldn’t be very hard for us to understand today. It was through the British colonization of what would become the United States, that English was brought to our shores. Somewhat isolated (geographically) as the USA was, a different version of English slowly started to evolve in a somewhat different way than it was evolving back in England. Because of this separation, American English and the Queen’s English are somewhat different in some ways. The same is true for other areas that Brittan colonized. Australian English is also somewhat different. Same with South African, and so on. Seeing how the USA got English from England, how can anyone seriously claim that American English is THE English? If you want the best German, speak to a German. The best French will likely come from the French, the best Swedish from the Swedish, the best Japanese from the Japanese. The roots of all these languages may be long past, but they are names as they are for good reason. So if you really want the most correct modern English, you have to give the nod to those that have been using it the longest… the English!

But while language evolves, there is a digital threat risking its devolution. Message boards have become a place where people choose to showcase their inability to use the correct there/their/they’re for the context of their thought. But I can get by this since most posts are made on the fly without much thought. I’m sure you’ll find an error here and there in my blogs as well. I have a bad habit of writing these while I’m half asleep, and don’t bother proof reading. No… the scourge I’m speaking of is the spread of typing messages everywhere as if it were a text message.  Personally, I spell out my text messages properly, yet more and more I’ve been seeing people post in forums as if they were limited to just a few characters.

‘n’ to replace ‘and’
‘cuz’ to replace ‘because’
‘b4’ to replace ‘before’
‘dat’ to replace ‘that’
‘da’ to replace ‘the’
‘r’ to replace ‘are’
‘jus’ to replace ‘just’
‘u’ to replace ‘you’

and so on…

Seriously, most of these only save you one or two letters. Is that miniscule amount of time savings really worth looking like you don’t know how to spell such simple words? I’ve never understood the need to type in this sort of shorthand. It just looks sloppy and uneducated. Interestingly enough throw in a word or two above grade school level and they either get confused or accuse you of being a show off. As if knowing a little vocabulary is a bad thing. Sorry, but I see nothing wrong with expanding one’s vocabulary. Furthermore, there is one pet peeve of mine that I’ve disliked since I was young… Purposely misspelled words. Xtreme, wrapz, boyz, etc. They all just annoy me. Shamefully forcing an ‘x’ or a ‘z’ into a word in the vain attempt to appear hip and edgy.
With horrible examples like that, I certainly don’t want ‘our’ English being help as a standard of any kind.


Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Climate of denial

It's Winter time again. The time when it seems like the climate change deniers come out of the woodwork to stroke their own ill formed conclusions. Why is that? Why, snow of course. Not a Winter goes by these days without someone claiming that a bad snow storm is proof against global warming. The simple fact is that such a claim proves that they have no idea how climate models are made or what forecasts predict. First lets focus on the fact that weather and climate are not the same thing. it is true that climate can influence weather, but the two are on much different time scales. Weather is of the short-term variety. Will it rain this week? What will the high temperature be tomorrow? Weather is concerned with the present and short term future. Climate is a long-term construct. By averaging the weather and temperatures over long time periods, you can start to build a picture of the climate of and area, and of climate trends. For this reason, a cold Winter, or a Winter storm is not proof against a warming climate. You must factor that data into all the surrounding data and average it to find the trend. That is why a blizzard does not counter climate change. Yet the counter argument is often dismissed out of hand. If someone claims that a summer heat wave proves warming, many deniers will simply say, "It get's hot in the Summer. That's what happens", and then say that it does not prove anything. While it is true that one heat wave does not prove climate change, it can certainly paint a clear picture when factored with all the data. Interestingly enough, they will accept "Summer is hot" to explain a heat wave, but not "Winter is cold" to explain a severe cold snap. When do they do as such, they show how intellectually dishonest they are being. A heavy snow is also a favorite target. "Oh, global warming must have flown south for the Winter", is one mock I've heard. But again, this is an illustration of ignorance for what the predictions are. Global warming leads to higher temperatures. Higher temperatures leads to more water evaporation. More water evaporation supplies extra moister for storm systems. More moister in a Winter storm means more snow. So no, a heavy snow doesn't go against global warming, but is actually consistent with the predictions. Remember, climate is concerned with long-term data. a cold or warm patch here and there will have minimal impact on the overall picture of the climate. But that overall picture is one that is getting hotter. 2012 was officially the hottest year on record, and every month since February of 1985 has been above average. The Earth is warming, that much is certain.

Then there are those that are not satisfied with claiming that climate change isn't happening. These mental 'gymnasts' claim that it's a vast conspiracy that is just made up for the money. The claims go like so: Scientist's are involved in a mass scam and have invented global warming for research money and the money that's to be made in 'green' industries and alternative energy. Paranoid much? This claim is so out there it's laughable. First of all, if money was the driving factor, the scientists are on the wrong side. Big oil and conventional energy is where the money is. Renewable energy sources can only dream of having half the capital that big oil and coal do. If money and market make you wary of global warming, than you should be convinced that oil is a scam as well! Onward to the claim that scientists are making it up so they can get paid for research... Congratulations, you've proved that you have no idea how science works. Science starts with a question, and then looks for an answer. Not start with a answer and try to prop it up from there. Furthermore, if money and fame were driving factors, disproving climate change would be the thing to do, not supporting it. This is because (much like anyone who would disprove the big bang or evolution), proving climate change would lead to instant fame, the Nobel Prize, and funding for life. If you want to be swimming in the greenbacks, the 'green' industry isn't the greener side of the fence. That said, it is the future, and one we desperately need to invest in.

But then there are 'deniers' that will admit that the Earth is warming, but claim that it is the Sun's fault. Big hot orb of plasma... Surely that could be the cause right? Wrong! There was a recent survey that compared solar activity to terrestrial temperatures here on earth, which is represented in the above plot. The top chart shows the temperature trends on Earth (red = actual and green = average), while the bottom chart shows the Sun's activity. As you can plainly see, the climate trend is one of ever increasing temperatures, while the solar activity has remained predictably regular and flat.The court finds Helios not guilty on all charges! 

Another group in the 'global warming is natural' camp are those that say it's all just a cycle. They will say that the Earth has been much hotter before, and much colder before. That most areas once had palm tress growing at one point, that there was a glacier there at another point, and right now we're just in the middle of one of those climate swings. While it is true that the Earth has seen it's share of extremes, the current trend does not have any natural causes available to explain our recent warming. Climate changes look at a long time scale. But the problem with the current warming is that it's happening too fast (much faster than ever before). There is simply no natural explanation for warming of this pace. However, our output of greenhouse gasses neatly fills that gap and explains the warming we are seeing. Like it or not we do know for a fact that greenhouse gasses have a warming affect when trapped in a planets atmosphere. To see an exaggerated example of what can happen, take a look at Venus. Venus is the second planet from the Sun, yet is by far the hottest planet in out solar system (even though Mercury is much closer). The average surface temperature is a sweltering 863° F. This is because Venus' atmosphere consists of mostly carbon dioxide. The greenhouse effect on Venus is an extreme example, yet it does show us that higher greenhouse gas levels mean higher temperatures. Life on Earth would die far before we ever got to Venus levels, but we should hold it as an example of what we don't want to be, and try to transition to clean fuel sources as soon as possible.

But lets pretend that it is just a natural cycle. I've had deniers as me "What if we spend all this time and money and climate change turns out being fake or just natural?" Let's answer that in two parts. First, "What if it's fake". We know this isn't the case. But hypothetically, we would still be left with a better world. We would have advancements in technology across the board. Clean energy sources would be further perfected, allowing us to rely less on, or transition away from fossil fuels. Ignoring the fact that this would slash our production of greenhouse gasses, it would also lead to cleaner air to breath and cleaner water to breath due to the overall reduction of pollution. We would also be living more efficient lives where we waste less and make the most out of what we have. Overall, I see now downside. If there is warming, we try and make things as best we can for future generations. If there is no warming, we end up even better off. The second half of the question asks "What it climate change is natural?" My response to that is "So what!?" A hurricane is natural too, but does that mean you should just ignore it and not get out of the way? Of course not. Even if climate change is natural, does that mean we shouldn't change a thing? I emphatically say no! Supposing that the Earth were warming naturally, that doesn't change the fact that we are introducing greenhouse gasses at an amazing pace. We know that this causes a greenhouse effect. So even if the Earth were warming by natural pressures, we would be accelerating the process. So, shouldn't we still act to reduce our impact in this hypothetical case? Otherwise, we are dooming future generations that could have been saved. Remember, climate change is something that takes a long time to show real consequences. In the short term, it will manifest as melting ice caps and more severe weather. But in the long term, the rising temperatures also leads to rising sea level. We won't see that, and our kids won't either, but future generations will. We shouldn't sacrifice the futures of our future generations simply for our own convenience and laziness. Now is the time for real change. We may not be able to stop global warming in it's tracks, but we can certainly have a go at minimizing it. And I think that is a fight worth fighting.


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Sunday, January 13, 2013

Thirsty for a cure.

Would you pay $423.64 for a 20oz bottle of water? Well I basically did, and many more have unknowingly done the equivalent as well. Let me explain... You see, my wife's ear had been bothering her, so we went to Target to get some ear drops. They only had one brand available, Hyland's Earache Drops,  so we grabbed a box, paid our $6.99 and were on our way. Flash to this morning... I'm watching the Manchester United v Liverpool match (Glory, glory, Man Utd) and I decide to take a closer look at the box. That's when I saw it; 'Homeopatic, made in USA'. Shit! The lettering was so small on the box, that I didn't notice that it was homeopathic while we were still at the store. Then I looked at the drug facts on the back of the carton to find the 'active' ingredient dosage. All four were listed with a potency of 30C. What's wrong with that, you may ask. How about the fact that homeopathy is bullshit! Allow me to explain. Homeopathy is the belief that the more diluted a medicine is, the stronger it becomes. Crazy, I know. A dosage of 30C tells you exactly how diluted it is. The 'C' in '30C' tells you that it's a 1:100 ratio. That means that for every one drop of the active ingredient there are 99 drops of water (or alcohol). They then shake that solution and take one drop of that and place it in a new batch of 99 drops of water. Shake, take a drop and add that to more water. Repeat that until you have diluted it thirty times, and you will have the 30C potency. So you start out with only 1% of the solution, and by the time you've diluted it thirty times, you're left without a single molecule of the original active ingredient. Ironically, the homeopathic potency of 1X is considered a much weaker potency than 30C, even though 1X translates into one part medicine diluted into nine parts water (or alcohol). So they have it backward! 30C contains only water, while 1X is 10% medicine, yet homeopaths claim 30C to actually be much stronger. You have got to be kidding me! So I ended up paying $6.99 for 0.33oz of water. Scale that up to your standard 20oz bottle of  Dasani, and that's an equivalent to paying $423.64 for a 20oz bottle of water. To put that into perspective, a bottle of water is usually around $1.00, and my tap water costs me $1.40 per 1,000 gallons. So $6.99 is a lot to spend for zero medicine.

Some people may wonder what the big deal is. Okay, I made a mistake and wasted $7. Just learn from the mistake and don't buy it again. The science quite simply tells us that it is bunk! Any claims of success are down to the placebo effect. How do they claim the solution can remember a tiny infinitesimal portion of medication, yet this water somehow doesn't remember all the times it's been urinated out or had poo in it.  But the problem is that many people don't know what homeopathy is, and will rely on this fake medication the heal real ills. Many people will waste money and time on nothing more than a tiny bottle of water. At times, this will lead to their condition worsening through non-treatment. Amazingly, one of the things these drops are supposed to treat is swimmers ear. That's right, they are prescribing the treatment on a condition that is caused my moisture in the ear canal, buy applying drops of water! That's like treating alcoholism with a beer. Speaking of alcohol, here's an experiment you can try at home. Take one glass of whiskey and another glass the same size filled with plain old tap water. Then mix one drop of whiskey into that water. Have you and a friend drink until one of you starts to feel a buzz (don't drink and drive). By the rules of homeopathy, the one with the glass of mostly water should get a buzz far before the one drinking straight whiskey. I think we all know that's not what's going to happen though. Homeopathy is a scam. Simple as that.


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Thursday, January 10, 2013

Unatractive Iowa.

I'm a bit late to the party on this one, but here we go none-the-less. The story I'm referring to is the one where an Iowa dentist fired his assistant of ten years for the crime of being 'too attractive'. The claim was that he found her irresistible, and was afraid he wouldn't be able to control himself much longer. Prior to this, he (James Knight) described her (Melissa Nelson) as a model employee. Then one day Knight fired her 'in the interest of saving his marriage'. It is important to note that Knight's wife also worked at the same office as well, and was becoming unhappy with her husband's interest in Nelson. End result, Knight told Nelson she was out of a job because she was too attractive. Seriously!? He claimed that she had dressed provocatively, and even told Nelson not to be surprised if she saw a lump in his pants. Yet Nelson has said that she only wore scrubs to work. If it were true that she was dressing in a revealing manner, then he would have been free to terminate her employment on the grounds of inappropriate dress. But he didn't. He fired her for the reason of being 'irresistible'. He also asked Nelson how frequently she experienced orgasms in a text message.Unfortunately, Nelson did not complain of sexual harassment at that point, as questioning her on orgasms, and referencing the erections he was getting from her are clearly harassment.

But lets remember that he terminated her employment because he found her irresistible. Knight claimed that he would have to act on his infatuation, that he was going to have to have an affair with Nelson, and even referenced Nelsons sex life by saying "That's like having a Lamborghini in the garage and never driving it." Sadly, I also read a defense of Knight's actions that argued, "You can't put a piece of meat in front of a lion and expect them not to eat it." What!? Comparing her to a car and a piece of meat? Talk about demeaning! There is a huge difference between a car or meat and a person... in this case a woman. Unlike the car or steak, Nelson is a living being that is capable of making her own choices. Where a person can just drive the car or eat the meat, Knight can not unilaterally have an affair with Nelson (without raping her anyway). So, no. It's nothing like a car or a steak being claimed by whomever desires it. Add to the fact that Nelson is reported to be happily married and a mother. She even added that she only viewed Knight as a father figure, and never romantically. The way I see it, Knight is a primal male that was objectifying Nelson with only his own desires in mind. This is important to remember when we discuss the court's ruling. You see, Nelson did take her expulsion to court. Yet for some reason Nelson filed suit and claimed sexual discrimination. An odd and poor decision since Knight only employes women, and her failure to report the harassment was a mark against her case as well. Ultimately the (all male) jury in Iowa, ruled in Knight's favor. A big part of that ruling was the precedent of previous cases where employees were (rightfully) terminated for inappropriate relationships and flirtatious conduct. However, in this case, the only record we see of flirtatious conduct comes from Knight, not Nelson. If Nelson truly had no sexual interest in Knight as the information suggests thus far, I feel that the stated precedent is void, and that Nelson was wrongly terminated. I have heard that the case could be taken higher, and if the facts are as they seem at the moment, I hope they will find in Nelson's favor.

But what led to his deciding to terminate Nelson's employment? Knight reportedly agonized over the decision, so he and his wife decided to meet with their pastor. When they met with him, the pastor said that even though there was no affair, their relationship was a 'detriment' to both families and suggested that her termination. Talk about shifting responsibility! Him finding her attractive isn't a detriment to either family if she's not interested. Knight has even stated that he didn't want to fire Nelson, but that he had to to save his marriage. No, what you have to do to save your marriage is to control yourself! The proper course of action is not to remove the 'temptation' (that wasn't interested in you), but to be an adult and control your urges. Removing Nelson from his employ doesn't suddenly cure his ills. If he was considering an affair, his 'options' need not be employees. Knight could just as easily pick someone up at a bar, or hire a prostitute. If one is of the mindset that they are considering cheating, they will find a way eventually. When it comes to one sided attraction, sole responsibility falls on that party. In this case, that's Knight. Yet this pastor suggest that Knight eschew responsibility when he is the one ultimately responsible for if there is an affair or not. Not surprising to see such an opinion coming from a religious figure. Religions have a long history of shifting blame in all manner of directions. They claim that good acts are thanks to their deity, and not to your true nature. The claim is that you can't be good without God. That is an obvious load of rubbish of course. Same as when theists try to blame, so called, sin. In my opinion, this dodging of personal responsibility is a problem that has become pervasive in our society. Nothing is ever anyone's fault, but is somehow someone else's. But very rarely is this claim actually true. Knight is showing a perfect example of this when he blames Nelson's appearance for his worry of an affair, rather than his own inability to conduct himself in a responsible adult manner. So if he is truly worried about his marriage, I suggest he take a long look in the mirror before he starts blaming others for his own shortcomings.


Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Irrational fears.

Here we are at my fiftieth entry. To mark this I thought this would be a fun time to discuss something that will allow me to reveal something personal. That topic is irrational fears. While I can't say that I have any irrational fears now, I did in my youth. There are two such irrational fears that I still remember to this day. When I was still in elementary school one of them involved vampires. It's sort of hard to explain, because I'm pretty sure I didn't fully believe in the existence of vampires. But even considering that, there was still some unexplainable fear that I had. The funny part was how I dealt with the fear. When I would go to sleep at night I would always have to have my covers pulled up and around my neck, as if to protect it. It's funny to look back at now. I kind of have to laugh at the logic that a thin layer of cloth would somehow protect me from the razor sharp fangs of the undead. But this is the point where I must shatter the dreams of tweens the world over fantasizing about being swept into a sparkling eternity. Obviously, this vampire fear was irrational because vampires simply do not exist.

The other one I remember also involved sleep. Again, while I was still rather young. In those days all my familiarity with death or dead bodies was from funeral scenes on TV or in movies. We've all seen those scenes... The body lies in the casket with the arms folder just so. For some reason, I was fixated on the posing of the arms/hands. You see, I was already somewhat familiar with rigor mortis at that early age. However, I thought that rigor mortis caused he body to freeze solid as a rock. With that in mind, I had concluded that those individuals posed in the caskets had died in that very position. Once I made that connection I thought that was a magic position of death. Every night I would have to bundle up tight, lay on a hand, anything to make sure I didn't accidentally fall asleep in my assumed magic arm fold of death. The obvious truth is that there is no magic hand fold that causes automatic death, making that fear irrational as well.

One irrational fear that I surprisingly didn't fall into was that of Hell. Back when I was still a believer, I don't remember ever seriously fearing Hell. Maybe I rationalized it by thinking that if he was as loving and forgiving as I heard he was, that I would be okay. That the life I lead would earn me forgiveness for anything 'wrong' I may have done (whether I was aware of it or not). I still don't worry about Hell, but for different reasons. My reason now is the fact that Hell simply does not exist. Yet this irrational fear of Hell is widespread. Far too many still believe that Hell is a real place and allow this belief to rule their life. This fear and will to avoid Hell causes them to remain faithful both because they believe, but because they are fearful of Hell. But it is still just an irrational fear because Hell is no more real than vampires or the magic arm fold of death. In situations of irrational fears, the old saying really is true. There's nothing to fear, but the fear itself.



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Saturday, January 5, 2013

Lesson learned?

I was recently posed with the question of how the world would have been different if the myth of theology had never existed. The questioner was a theist of course, had the usual transparent and ill formed conclusions. But lets tackled his question anyway. How would the world be different had history been different?...

To be perfectly honest, I don't care if there has been myth in the past, or for a hypothetical past where there never was any. I care about now. The myths of the past may have been inevitable. Early man did not posses the knowledge that we do now, yet they had so many questions about the world they saw. They tried to answer those questions in terms they understood. They knew that people made things,
and did things, so a really great being must have made the things they can't make, and cause the things they couldn't cause. Considering what they knew, I can't really fault them for 'making sense' of the world in the way that they did.

However, that doesn't mean that we should continue restraining ourselves to that line of thinking to this very day. We have learned so much since those days. We have done the testing and the real work to expand our view and understanding of the world, and cast that view into the stars. So the question of if things would have been better if there was never myth is unimportant to me. The question that matters is, have we learned our lesson?

We live in an exciting world where we need not attribute lightning to an angry deity. But that doesn't mean that all myth is bad? The stories of the Egyptian, Greek/Roman and Norse gods are very interesting and intriguing. They are fun reading today even if people did once think they were actual truths at one point. I don't mind that the days of the week and most months are named for Pagan gods. And I enjoy the Pagan festivities that surround the holidays that eventually became Easter, Halloween, and Christmas. But I can do that without believing the mythical parts of them as truth. Again, what have we learned?

What the festivities mean to me now, need not be identical to the ones who started the traditions. There is a lot of wonderful art with religious subject matter, but as an appreciator of art, I don't let that stand in the way of me seeing the wonderful skill and vision of the painter or sculptor who produced it. I can see an oil painting of Jesus and see it as a well done work, without the need to bow down and worship him as my savior. The past is important. It shapes the course of many things. But it isn't everything. Remember, if you don't know history, you'll be doomed to repeat it.

So the question is not how history would have been different, or if it would have been better. Rather, the question is whether we have learned from history. And if we have, what does that history mean to us now? The same goes for personal history. Suppose that you went though your life having never hurt someone (physically or emotionally). Are you a better person having never hurt anyone by chance? Or are you a better person for realizing the impact those actions had, learning from them and choosing to avoid such actions in the future? I would wager that the one being consciously 'good' is superior to one accidentally being 'good'.

Remember that religion is not necessary for a moral and productive society. Maybe some people were 'good' to stay on a deity's good side. But such is not the origins of morality. We needn't be burdened by the errors or misunderstandings of the past. It's time more people realize that we can and do have productive and thriving societies through the hard work and cooperation of very real, and very alive people. No need to muddy the waters by trying to claim that it has to be based on any form of theology. So, what have we learned, and where will we go from here?

-Brain Hulk

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Thursday, January 3, 2013

Designer drama.

Being a graphics designer can be an enjoyable and fulfilling job at times. When things are going good, the wide variety of projects and the challenge they may present can become a playground for the creative mind. But as good of a gig as it can be when things are going well, it surely isn't free off frustration on lesser days. Sometimes they are minor issues, but other times you just want to step back and stare in disbelief.

Some of the simpler things are contradictory revisions, or incredibly vague requests. There are often times when I need to request artwork from clients. Be it their logo, or some other artwork that they would like to include in their project, I will request it in a specific format in order to save time and to save the client the money of having me recreate artwork that has already been done. Invariably, I'll receive low resolution jpg files instead of what was requested. When I then request the artwork in a different format, I then get the same files again, asking "How about these?"... One time I had a customer send the same files three times until they realized that they didn't have what was needed. Other times customers will simply change the extension on the file and think that will magically transform the artwork from the raster format the artwork was in, to the needed vector format. Other minor frustrations come up when proofing design options to a customer. Often time we will provide clients with multiple options to select from. Yet from time to time, I will receive a reply that simply says, "Looks good!". No selection, just 'looks good'. Other times still, we will provide a proof that is exactly what the customer asked for, and others that are more along the lines of what we think would be best for their project. Yet, even though the options I came up with are improvements over what they requested, and often one will be head and shoulders the best option for them to select, the client will still approve the proof that is what they asked for originally. While this may be disappointing, as you feel the customer isn't getting the best product, or that you wasted time working on those other options, that's just the way the cookie crumbles. The client is the one paying and making the final decision, you come to live with those instances. There's other things that can cause annoyance, like the clients that act like they are the experts and know more about design than anyone, but the biggest issue can come from internal conflict.

Recall that instance where the client approved the proof that I would deem as substandard. I've worked with a coworker before that could not simply accept the client selecting the proof that they did. To him, which proof he liked best was more important than what the customer wanted. He would go to the point of contacting the client again to ask them if they are sure they wanted the proof they asked for and suggesting they should go with the one that he likes. That is something you just don't do in the design profession. By doing that, you are running the risk of insulting the client, and sounding like you know better than them, or as a slight to the client's taste or intelligence. Design isn't purely art, but like art it is subjective. What the client likes, is what they client likes. What you like may not be what I like. One thing that is important to remember is that the customer is the one paying, and that they are the one selecting the design they like and will use for their advertising needs. One time we actually had artwork provided by a client. All we had to do was print it, yet this coworker didn't like it. Again, even though it was customer approved (and provided), he wanted to try to get them to let him change it even though it was already printed and up against he deadline. Another instance with this co-worker revolved around editing a customer's logo. There is one thing to recognize to be true in the design world. You do not screw with someone's logo. A logo is the centerpiece to a company's identity and advertising. It is to remain consistent and unchanging in order to build brand equity. All that considered, we had a job that was a sign of the client's logo. Yet this coworker once more wasn't happy with it. The logo didn't meet with his preference. Never mind that the paying customer is happy with it. Ignoring the fact that the customer incurred expense on the logo, took the time to craft the logo, is happy with the logo, and that the don't screw with someone's logo, he decided to go about changing it. Changing colors, removing elements, adding strokes, changing positions or elements, until it was noticeably different than the logo that the client started with. Personally, I also felt that the original was better than his unrequested edits. To make things worse, this customer was very particular to begin with, so you can imagine that they didn't take it lightly when he received that proof that included wholesale changes to his logo.

Being a designer can be rewarding, but it certainly isn't all the time. Especially when you face difficult customers, or coworkers that seem determined to break 'the rules'. Luckily those people are a minority of those you will interact with. But when you do they can certainly try your patience. The best you can do is deal with them when you face them and enjoy the times that you don't. Do those things and a creative mind will stay creative, and stave off frustration.