The Learning Curve

by M. Scott Douglass

So what has our recent experience with shutting down the government and flirting with default taught us about Ted Cruz and his cadre of crazies?

It’s taught us that there are still those who would gladly, even thankfully, drink the Kool-Aid and hold a gun to the head of those who did not voluntarily join them.

It’s taught us that even the kid in Pee Wee football who gathers a fumble and runs to the wrong end zone has fans in the stands jumping up and down, waving pom-poms because they don’t understand the rules of the game well enough to know their kid just scored points for the other team.

We’ve learned that there are districts in America with constituents willing to proudly walk around in clown face as though it were the natural thing to do.

And the list goes on—if you are paying attention. Too many don’t. Too many will be cheering again in January for another government shutdown, another embarrassing slap from the right that will reinforce to the common sense folks that, hey, this was a really fun party, dude, but whose going to clean up before the parents get home?

On a personal note, I’m gratified that the Tea Party and Republicans in general have acted predictably and will do so again in January. This is the Boehner/Rove/Koch brother legacy. The biggest question I have is: Are the voters whose representatives forced us in this direction smart enough to realize this is the wrong way to run a government or will they continue to send the same chuckleheads back to behave the same way?

If they do, I’m fine with that. I can do my best to avoid buying things made in Texas and other places that support this kind of radicalism until they come to their senses. After all, that’s what they promote: a shutdown of commerce on the basis of philosophical beliefs. Happy to oblige.

We’ll know soon if we have learned anything from our experience with incompetence. In the meantime, I’m careful how I tie my shoes. I don’t want to give anyone the opportunity to Ted Cruz me.

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THERE ARE NO FAILURES by Beth Browne

Home Sweet Home: Willadine at anchor in Lookout Bight

Home Sweet Home: Willadine at anchor in Lookout Bight

My partner Eric and I are passionate about sailing. When we are not actually sailing our 24-foot sailboat, we like to talk about sailing, search for the next (bigger) boat and look at sailing blogs and forums. One of the forums is on the topic of living aboard your boat and one of the threads really gets my dander up. It is all about how people “fail” at living aboard. “So-and-So-Sailor only lived aboard for three months!” someone posts. “Epic Fail!” they cry.

I lived on my 37-foot sailboat for over four years and when I decided it was time to sell the boat and move inland, I had no sense of “failure” at all. And why should I? We lived very happily at a marina in Puget Sound, cruised south to San Francisco and ended up living on a mooring in San Diego Bay for a year. I loved living aboard, but when I was done, I was done. Now, after nearly twenty years of shore-side life, two kids and a divorce, I’m ready to move back aboard. Did I “fail” at living ashore?

It is my strong conviction that there are no failures in life, only new things to experience and ways of learning about oneself. I have a friend who completed a novel, strenuously revised and edited it, searched extensively and unsuccessfully for an agent or a publisher and finally decided to self-publish it so she could move on to the next project. Did she fail? Or did she write and publish a great book? Why do we as a culture put so much emphasis on success and despise what we call failure?

People who grab life by the throat and ride it screaming into the sunset may fall and be hurt, but they can also pick themselves up, brush off the dirt and hail the next taxi. Let’s pay more attention to those who boldly take risks, step outside their comfort zone and try something they always wanted to try. Bolster them up, encourage them and pat them on the back when they say, “I’ve had enough,” and they give it up. Don’t snicker behind their backs and whisper about failure. Not every path will work out, but changing course is not something to regret or revile. There are no failures in life, but there are plenty of people who never try. Maybe if they knew they couldn’t fail, it would be easier for them. We’ve added a ton of new words to the dictionary in recent years. Let’s just take this one out. Failure.

Think about it: What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?

ECONOMIC TERRORISM

By M. Scott Douglass

 

I had a piece that focused on writing all set to post, but shutting down the federal government…  sorry, that requires a response.

I’m glad the Republicans forced this shut down. No, I’m not a right wing fanatic. I am a proud supporter of the Affordable Healthcare Act.

No, I don’t think we need a further demonstration of dysfunctionality within our two party system, but ineptitude can breed new and better things. And what might they be?

For one thing a moderate third party. All these Republicans who are running scared from Senator Cruz and the crazies within their own party, who are afraid of getting primaried, should just concede that their party doesn’t want them anymore, band together with conservative Democrats and form a party that is willing to do what it takes to do the nation’s business as it pertains to ALL of the nation’s citizens, not 10% who gerrymandered their way into office.

Second, if John Boehner is so afraid of people within his party, then he should step aside and let someone else do the job; someone who would be willing to call a vote on a clean bill and let the chips fall where they may.

We’ve allowed elected government positions to become an oligarchy to the point where we now have families whose chief trade is politics. Examples: Kennedys, Bushes, Clintons, Pauls—and the list goes on. So, losing a seat, a job in either house of Congress, is like a black mark against the family legacy. Is this how we want our representatives to decide how the government should be run? As a matter of whether they lose an election as opposed to doing the right thing?

Immediately after forcing a shutdown, House Republicans started a series of political stunts to show the public that THEY are not the bad guys here. These stunts would be amusing if they didn’t use veterans and sick children as tools in their battle to defund Obamacare. That’s what it’s all about—and they believe we’re too stupid to understand what they’re doing.

I heard one Congressman—I believe it was Robert Pittenger—ask the question, “Why can’t we wait another year to enact this law so we can at least see what’s in it?” Which begs a question: “If you couldn’t figure out what it says in four years, what will waiting another year do?”

What it will do is prevent Americans from getting the healthcare they need and being happy with this program. Having people happy with the program will prevent Republicans from ever taking it away.

Waiting a year would allow Republicans something to run against that is ethereal as opposed to real with measurable results. That don’t want math entered into the equation because they would be on the wrong side of it. They don’t want this program to see any measure of success and THEY KNOW, if enacted, it will work and that would make their task of getting rid of it that much harder.

So, why would they want to get rid of it? Aside from the fact that it’s yet another government program and a redistribution of wealth—two things that are against their religion—it would bite into the wealth at the top of the healthcare pyramid and those folks are their contributors. Remember, a recent study showing a breakdown of who actually made up the top 1% of wage earners in America showed that, at the time Ronnie Reagan passed a law to allow hospitals to be for-profit thereby causing healthcare costs to grow 300% faster than the rate of inflation of ALL other sectors in our economy, AT THAT TIME only 6% of the top wage earners had anything to do with the healthcare industry. Today that number hovers near 20%. Tell me, to whom are the Republicans beholding?

Now Republicans in the House have proposed funding bits and pieces of the economy rather than passing one whole thing and they are blaming Democrats in the Senate for not approving these token offerings. This is where they are wedging veterans and children with cancer to tug at the heart strings and show that they are the compassionate dealmakers who want to negotiate, not Democrats. Why shouldn’t the Democrats take this deal?

Have you ever heard the term getting back-doored? Remember the Republicans’ stated goal:  to defund Obamacare. Well, if you piecemeal everything out, it’s the same thing. The Republicans will only approve for vote on items they want to fund and NOT vote on items they don’t want funded. They could go through a checklist until the only thing remaining is Obamacare and then they do nothing.

That’s the plan. That’s why funding the government has to be ALL or NOTHING.

This is no less than economic terrorism. Forty House Republicans cannot be given that much power to dictate what the entire nation wants and whether it should be funded. If we let them, then that favored phrase of We do not negotiate with terrorists will no longer have any meaning.

HOMEMAKER by M. Scott Douglass

Silly Scott

Before I committed to opening a publishing company and doing this full time, I’d done a variety of things to pay the bills—aside from the 22 years I spent as a dental technician. My first jobs were lawn care and dog sitting. Before I had a driver’s license I hustled peanuts, popcorn, coca cola, and hot dogs in the upper deck of Three Rivers Stadium. For two and a half years I worked in a hardware store where I learned there are usually a thousand different names for the same part. I’ve done construction and demolition, worked retail and security, even done some less than savory jobs like breeding rats for the Pathology Department at the University of Pittsburgh. I’ve produced with my hands as well as my head.

So, imagine my surprise when I was reviewing the paperwork for refinancing our house. Aside from the fact that they used three different versions of my name, they had my occupation listed as homemaker.

I have nothing against the hardworking homemakers of the world and while I realize there is a certain amount of uncertainty involved in the publishing field these days, listing me as a homemaker just didn’t seem quite accurate.

But that’s only part of the story.

We started this process back in May with the bank where my wife works. Because she works there, we were being very careful not to step on any toes. In fact, I sat in on the initial phone call and from that point on, let my wife handle it because she is more patient and has a more pleasant demeanor and this was the company where she works after all.

Through June we went back and forth. The paperwork I offered them in May (which they said they wouldn’t need) was requested one   document   at   a   time over the course of three weeks. It was agonizing and the team that handled it was incompetent. There is no other way to put it.

We were finally scheduled to close on Monday, August 5. They brought the paperwork right to the house, but what they brought was the exact package that we had rejected and asked them to restructure the last week of June. They had ignored everything we said. And so, they were forced to deal with the less patient member of our household:  me.

I’m an ultimatum kind of guy. You’ll get it right, or I’ll take my business elsewhere. I won’t go into the details of my exchange with the office, but the paperwork they had spent 10 weeks screwing up was rewritten and signed by Friday, August 9, but here’s the catch: They still had two different versions of my name on the document only this time they used one I’d never used—ever. It’s something they apparently made up. BUT—on the good side—where it appeared, it was listed as an AKA.

It really rankled me to have to sign my name this way and I do wonder if there was a person with this name and if he has done things that might now cause me grief, but we were anxious to get this over with and, given my experience with their vast abilities to screw things up, I had no faith that they would get it right if we kicked it back to them anyway. So we signed. The deed is done.

But then there’s that matter of occupation. I asked the contact person about it. I told her I realized that being a paperback book publisher may not ever put me on the Fortune 500 and asked how I’d become a homemaker. She said they were not using my income because self-employment makes for more complicated paperwork. So—in short—I am a homemaker on the paperwork for my new home loan because my job does not make a significant enough contribution to the household income to be considered.

Homemakers of America should be up in arms over that statement, but me…  I learned back in my hardware days:  There are a thousand different names for every part. I see they’re still inventing new ones every day.

HANDY WORK by M. Scott Douglass

I’ve said on more than one occasion that America’s economic problem revolves around the fact that we don’t make anything here anymore. We’ve spent an entire generation shipping production overseas and importing laborers to do the work that we don’t want to do while at the same time teaching our children to believe that manual labor is beneath them, that working with your hands is what you resort to when you’re not smart enough to get a real job.

This came back to bite us recently when the economy tanked because the folks with money were making it through the stock market and the stock market tends to reward companies that cut their costs while increasing their profit. Since that is the model and labor is cheaper overseas, most of our production jobs (and the income that accompanies them) disappeared. When you have manual labor people out of work, you have a whole segment of society with limited income to spend. That stagnates the economy. And here we are.

The interesting thing is: when retirement comes around, what are we expected to do with our time? We could golf every day—if we could afford it—and that will take up a few hours. There’s always reading. Exercising, if we are still able. Volunteer work is a worthy use of time. All of these and more are physical activities. If we choose to knit, paint, build knick-knacks, garden—these all come under the heading of manual labor—the same things we are teaching our children are not skills of value when they are growing up, become our fallback position once the earning period of our lives expires.

And when you talk to people who have taken up a new activity, a new hobby, you find how gratifying the work is. The joy derived from doing something.

I’ve written in this blog before about buying tools for woodworking, about building shelves and doors for the man cave I have in the back yard—now being dubbed The Cycle Shack. I could spend hours out there fussing with tools, trueing bicycle wheels, repairing something that didn’t work or making something new from scratch. I get so much enjoyment out of visualizing a concept and bringing it to light, that much of my spare time activity has shifted from writing poetry to working with wood. This is the same kind of enjoyment I get when I design a book, then print it, then bind and trim it.

Working with my hands is not a new concept for me. I have construction and demolition in my resume and wood carving has been an art form of choice since my grandfather first taught me to whittle when I was eight-years-old. Regardless of the quality of the work, the act of doing, of making something, provides an outlet I don’t get anywhere else.

The problem is: We don’t value these skills and activities enough in America. We make jokes about things like basket weaving or knitting, but have you ever tried either? It takes manual dexterity, skill, practice, an eye for design. And yet, we often reserve the latter part of our lives for these activities and view people who take them up at an early as not doing something financially worthy or productive with their time. To those who feel this way, I have a question: Whose value system is off-kilter, the person who invests his or her time in the joy of making or the person who looks at the end product and tries to find a way to get it made for less?

INTERNSHIPS Guest post by Jennifer Santiago, Summer Intern at Main Street Rag

JenniferSantiago_2

Interning can be a memorable experience. Many may find it terrifying when no number of applications gains response, no matter how many resumes you sent out. Being accepted by The Main Street Rag would end up being not only a great relief, but also an incredible learning experience, as it was for me. I’m sure that all future interns will find it the same. After nearly 170 hours of work, I’m happy for the opportunity to give advice to future interns, even as I know that everyone’s situation would be different. Hopefully, you can still benefit some of my learning.

1) One important thing to remember when interning is time management. It is important to develop these skills before beginning, use them, and continue to develop them while working. Make sure that absolutely every second is used toward quick progress.

2) Remember that those around are doing you a favor and contributing to your education. Be grateful and try not to burden or cost the business.

3) While you will struggle at some points, that is an unfortunate and vital element of learning new things and testing limits, make sure to do well wherever you can. You won’t be perfect, but you can still make a good impression.

4) Seek new experiences every day. Your time as an intern is limited, so you won’t get to learn everything there is to know, but you should still try to learn the greatest amount possible by taking on a variety of tasks instead of sticking with what you’ve learned or are comfortable with.

5) Observe anything around you and try to learn things that aren’t specifically taught to you by being aware, making connections, and finding examples.

6) Check your work and double check that you are on the right track. At school, you can easily recover from a bad grade, but mistakes as an intern can potentially cost people money.

7) I’d also like to pass on some of the advice that I was given and followed that I feel were important to my experience in looking for internships, preparing for being an intern, and in the actual internship: Be professional. Dress appropriately. Always be on time and don’t try to slack off or leave early. Do some research to learn about your rights and the laws of an internship, since there are many people who aren’t giving real internships but are simply looking to take advantage in ways that are both unethical and against the law. And finally, have fun.

In these past few weeks, I have found my skills tested and strengthened, but I’ve also been fortunate to have a supervisor patient enough to teach me each of the various skills and help me with the many problems that I don’t have the skills to move beyond. This experience will hopefully help me greatly with all of my future jobs, wherever they may be. I hope the same for anyone else with an internship and I wish everyone that next interns at the Main Street Rag all the best.

WHY I WATCH WHAT STUDENTS ARE READING By Karen Weyant

ChapWearingHeels

I teach at a small community college in Western New York, and I have been known to walk across campus to an unsuspecting student whose face is buried in a book, and say “What are you reading?”

I wish I could say I do this because I want students to read.  But I have to confess that’s not the real reason I stalk student readers.

When I see a student read, it brings me back to my days as a young reader.

I grew up in a tiny town in rural Pennsylvania. Then, of course, we didn’t have Amazon.com or Kindles.  Forget any big bookstores.  My little town didn’t even have a used book store.  So, what was a reader to do?

I didn’t have a lot of choices.  The local library couldn’t keep up with me, and when I had worked my way through the children’s room (which contained young adult books, as well), I went back and re-read my favorites, including the novels by Judy Blume.  My mother would search out Thrift stores and yard sales where she once found the bargain of a complete Nancy Drew set for $25.  On days I was desperate, I would walk up to G.C. Murphy’s to purchase cheap Teen Harlequins.

Then, a miracle happened. Waldenbooks opened only 45 minutes away, and suddenly, I had a whole bookstore full of BRAND NEW BOOKS.  Here, I was introduced to the Sunfire series, a collection that explored American history through fictionalized accounts of important events.  The stories all featured strong and beautiful women who were caught up in both history and love triangles.   I also found Twilight: Where Darkness Begins, a series of horror books that featured teenagers battling supernatural forces.  Then, there was my favorite: Chrystal Falls, a series that took place in a mill town in Pennsylvania.  The setting was hauntingly familiar to me, and I could relate to the way the fictional town of Chrystal Falls was split among class lines.  It was at Waldenbooks that I also fell in love with works of S.E. Hinton, Lois Duncan and Norma Fox Mazer and Robert Cormier – writers who portrayed the world of teenagers without passing judgment.

Today, Waldenbooks is gone, and most of the books I grew up with are out of print.  While Judy Blume is still popular, many of my students don’t know my other favorites.  Duncan seems to be only known for the horror movie, I Know What You Did Last Summer, that was based (very, very loosely and poorly) after her book.  And sadly enough, Mazer and Cormier have both died, with little acknowledgment in the publishing world.  (Although, Cormier’s book  The Chocolate Wars continues to be challenged in school districts across the nation.)

Now, I watch as my students read The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins or Twilight by Stephanie Meyer or any number of zombie books or dystopian novels.  Stephen King is a favorite, as is J.R.R. Tolkien.  Many like Jodi Picoult. My colleagues bemoan the fact that today, students don’t read.  (And as a poet, I bemoan the fact that I can’t get people to read poetry).  Other people argue that students don’t read what they should be reading.  This is where I have to confess that I didn’t really read what I should be reading (at least my Academia standards) until I got to college.

But, I was always a reader.  And I’m always looking forward to what my students will be reading next.   I believe we have readers now and we will have readers, although they may be reading ebooks and not physical pages, and they will be entering realms that are a bit different (but yet, somewhat familiar): worlds where zombies have taken over society, dystopian lands full of clones or robots, or apocalyptic  places where manmade technology has run amok.

 

Karen Weyant is the author of Wearing Heels in the Rust Belt which won the 2011 Main Street Rag Chapbook Contest available through the MSR Online Bookstore.

HALL MONITOR, PART I, By M. Scott Douglass

Sometimes being an publisher and editor is like being a hall monitor in a middle school. I’d say it was like herding cats, cliché aside, I’ve learned that you CAN herd a cat if you offer the right incentives. Our cat, for instance, is an indoor cat. She loves going outside, but knows she doesn’t get to go there unescorted and WE decide when it’s time to go back in. Simple rules.

But this isn’t about my cat. It’s about trying to keep order in the hallways among groups of individuals who are easily distracted by the publishing process.

Oh my, did I just paint with a broad brush (yet another cliché)? Maybe, but think about the hall monitor metaphor. You have stragglers, scufflers, pranksters, princes and princesses who need to be prodded to class, and all you, as hall monitor, are trying to do is preserve order.

Recently, an author received the first copies of her chapbook. Less than a week after they arrived, she emailed to ask whether including poems used in her chapbook in a full length later this same year would violate her contract.

The truth is, the average Main Street Rag chapbook sells about 250-300 total copies in the first 6 months to a year—the primary selling time. When you take into account time investment and materials, our break-even point ranges between 150 and 200 sales—depending on how and where copies are sold. But we don’t want to just break even and 50 sales is not a very wide profit margin. So, as a publisher, I try to ensure our share by asking authors to wait at least 9 months before releasing another book.

But this author’s request was slightly different and it was the fifth time in the past year that I’ve had a similar request: An author wanted to know if it was okay to include a large portion of a book I had just published in another book. I even had one well-known local author take more than half of a full length book and combine it in a Best Of collection with another publisher. Neither asked if there was a contractual conflict and although I had legal grounds to go after him and the other publisher, I did not.

There have been multiple cases of this kind of activity over the years and I have never gone after anyone or prevented authors from re-using their own work, but as hall monitor, let me tell readers what I’ve told a few of my authors when they asked for permission to reprint the same material in a new format.

I tell them they are welcome to do so. If their MSR book did not meet costs, I may ask for a small buyout ($2/book). I also ask them this question:  If you bought a book of poetry from an author whose work you liked enough to buy his or her second book, but discovered that more than half of the poems included in the NEW book were also in the first book, what would you do? You might tell others so they didn’t spend twice the money on a product that was much of the same thing. You might also be wary of the next book this author tried to promote to you and not buy it.

If we are writers, creators of literature, don’t you think we owe it to potential readers to offer something fresh when we are asking them to spend money? Sure, we can keep re-packaging and selling old stuff in a new wrapper—musicians did it all the time (when they could get away with it)—but if we want to expand our readership, it might not be a bad idea to expand and grow as authors as well.

That’s this week’s tip from your friendly neighborhood literary hall monitor.

My Wife’s Fashion Consultant, By M. Scott Douglass

We have a wedding in California in two weeks and I’m not sure what to wear. Goodwill and The Salvation Army love my diet. To date, it’s cost me (at least) 20 pairs of pants, 20 pairs of shorts and a garbage bagful of shirts from which they have benefited. Among the things that no longer fit are all four of my suits. My newest suit would still fall off with a pillow stuffed in front. My oldest one fits best, but the pants are too big, have cuffs, and aren’t worth adjusting since it’s more than 20 years out of style.

We’ve been putting off buying a new suit because it would be expensive and we would be buying it while still in the middle of a diet. I’ve lost 36 pounds, but have another 14 to go to meet my goal. Being as close as possible to that goal was important from an economic perspective. After all, who wants to buy something that expensive and not be able to wear it three months later?

June 15 was shopping day. We went to ALL the local stores, then the mall before visiting Men’s Warehouse, where I expected to get the best deal. You know: “Buy one, get the second free,” and “You’re going to like the way you look.”

I’ll come back to that part of the story, but first, a little side-tracking.

I am my wife’s fashion consultant. That will surprise those who know I wore a peach-colored pimp suit to my high school prom, I shop with her and for her. We both believe in frugal and practical, but the truth is, everyone who shops for clothing sees it on them filtered through catalog model lenses. I help my wife see what works best for her body shape, not the person in the catalog. This seems to work well.

I was an original mall rat as a teenager. I avoid malls now because the current crop of mall rats make me laugh. I see too many things that make me ask, “Really, did you look in the mirror before you left home?” Such was the case at South Park Mall on June 15. As a result of my experience, I offer some free fashion advice to lady friends everywhere in the blogosphere.

First, spandex is great for yoga and exercising, but if a woman isn’t a fitness guru, she should pair them with a skirt or long t-shirt covering her behind. After a few years, spandex loses ALL shape and density and tends to grip best to cellulite.

This also applies to men whose primary workout is lifting beers while watching their favorite sporting event and believe Under Armour fits them as well as their favorite pro athlete.

Second, if you have to shave to prevent a skirt or shorts from revealing natural hair color, your underwear, or a quarter slot, it might be hanging a bit too low.

Third, wearing sheer bottoms or tops with contrasting undergarments is not sexy, it’s trashy. Speaking strictly from a male perspective: Trashy works best for spontaneous, one-time events, but seldom racks up frequent flyer miles.

Finally, for the young lady seen carrying a pair of Daisy Dukes to check out as we left: If they’re shorter than they are wide when held in front of you on a hanger—by a wide margin—they may not be designed for your body type.

On to Men’s Warehouse. George has a good gig here. You hear, buy one, get one free, that prices are better than department stores, but the mark up is so high ($100 for jeans), it ends up being comparable after cost-averaging with a free second suit; you just buy twice as much.

What Mr. Zimmerman doesn’t tell you in his ads is that there is a charge for everything in regard to alterations. It’s $20 for coat length, $30 for pant tapering. By the time we were done with alterations on two suits, we spent almost as much on alterations as we did for one suit.

But this piece is about fashion consulting. For the first time, I let someone pick out matching shirts and ties—since none of those fit me anymore, either. I did it because the young lady who waited on me was Asheville funky and I wanted to see what she thought was me and it was interesting. One suit was solid earth-tone, the other gray with a quiet blue stripe.

What were her choices?

I really like periwinkle and orange together, but I’m not sure they fit the occasion or the subtlety of my personality. A paisley silver/gray/black tie on white—yeah, man, that’s me. Dark brown and blue pattern tie with a solid blue shirt—right again. Ecru shirt with a black, gray, brown plaid tie… yep. A checked shirt in white and blue-gray paired with a tie in shades of purple stripes and polka dots of silver/gray garnered the most attention.

I don’t yet know which I’ll wear. Purple has never been a color of choice, but it’s tugging at my sleeve (so to speak). I guess we’ll see come July 6.

As for you, readers… I’ll catch you on the runway.

A Hermit in Social Media Land, By M. Scott Douglass

I have friends. I go to breakfast or lunch with them sometimes. Visit with them—at our home or theirs. I talk with them on the phone and exchange cards and emails. So, I’ve always found the concept of Friending on Facebook or other social media a little amusing. Social media is about networking and making contacts. You can call your contacts friends if you like, but let’s face it, most of the folks we meet and exchange messages with through social media are acquaintances at best. In most cases they are marks: business cards we pick up at a conference to solicit later to sell them something.

Sorry if that tidbit of truth is off-putting or crass to some, but it is what it is. If you are out there in cyberspace posting the things you like, pictures of your family, places you’ve gone, in short, throwing your life online for all to see, what you are really doing is filling out a survey for solicitors and telling what items you may be a potential buyer of.

Google, Yahoo, Bing—all search engines—make money by selling where you’ve been to someone so they, too, can solicit their services or products to you. Go to an online store to buy something specialized like car parts and see how the flavor of the pop-ups you see when you go to that search engine changes.

I’m not trying to denigrate the internet or social media. I think the internet is the greatest invention in the history of civilization and social media is the best and least expensive way to network with like-minded people, but I also think that we must be mindful of how they work. Everyone from marketers to psychologists have been consulted along the way to figure out how to tap this resource of information they have about me and all of us to generate commerce. That’s what makes the internet work and the world go ‘round.

Being a private kind of guy, there are certain things about me I’d like to keep to myself. Given the transparency of how the internet works, I’ve always limited my exposure to social media, but as a business person, I recognize the importance of it. So, I pay someone to be my company rep on Facebook and Twitter. Sorry, but there are only so many hours in a day and frankly, I’d rather be windsurfing on two wheels than sitting for hours in front of a computer or handheld device. I do enough of that already as a graphic designer.

Anyway, as is my habit (ask Google), I’ve taken the long way around what I really want to say. Last week a story broke about our government monitoring phone calls and emails. There are so many things to say about this story, I doubt there’s enough space to cover it all, but let me try.

First, I thought everyone knew that phone calls and emails were subject to monitoring in the post-9/11 era. If you’re using these mediums to share things that might embarrass you (or get you arrested), perhaps these things are not meant to be shared this way (Mr. Weiner).

Second, between the crap some people are willing to put on social media and data mining by search engines, our whole concept of privacy is a perverse joke.

Third, am I the only one who feels inundated with other peoples’ lives at the grocery store, restaurants, even the Post Office? Rarely am I not privy to a personal conversation in an outdoor voice by someone I don’t know. And I suppose these folks are among those outraged by the fact that the government might be listening in. Given where they talk and how loud they talk, how could anyone NOT listen in. This is where I say, Thank God for texting.

And then there are the members of Congress who are offended by this story. Please!!! As if they didn’t know. As if they don’t read those bills they vote on. I’m offended that these yoyos live off the public dole in one of the most expensive and inefficient cities in the world with the express goal of doing nothing.

The bottom line is: If you’re really concerned about privacy and the government listening to your calls or reading your emails, you need to become a techno-hermit. That is: you need to throw away your cell phone and get off the internet altogether. Which is what I intend to do as soon as I’m done posting this blog.

Until the next time I post this blog.

Or read my emails.

Or text my son.