(For Squeezie: What should have been my college entrance essay if I were smart. For ideas, not for taking.)

I'm sorry, but I can't sell myself to you.

I'm eighteen years old. I spent the last four years as the only kid in my class who cared more about what my teachers thought than what my classmates did, and I was ridiculed for it. I know I know things; I have absolutely no idea who I am. That's what the next four years are for.

I'm probably going to spend the next four years, maybe five, drinking beer, smoking pot and getting laid. I'm going to go to classes when I can, probably get a job, get my heart broke and figure out what, exactly, my tolerances are for practically everything I can absorb. I'm going to spend most of my time writing, and your professors will never see most of it.

If I'm very lucky, I'll discover exactly how transient my time with you will be when I'm twenty credits away from my degree and I'll probably finish it because that piece of paper will be absolutely fundamental to me being able to support a family.

I'll realize that college isn't for learning, it's for learning how to learn and that it's what I read that I don't have to will be the defining characteristic of my education.

I'll do some math and figure out that I'll be giving your school money until I'm 30, and I'll realize that I could have spent the last four years absolutely anywhere that wasn't home.

This is wrong. You should be selling yourself to me - All I can offer you is preconceptions and voice.

Make me an offer.

Man, I could've gone anywhere.

Would you like a little cheese with that whine?

Whining and complaining are something I have little time for. So instead, I'll just laugh at whatever fate, or God (Buddha, in my case) has decided for me.

It is the evening of the laptop disaster. I'm printing Chinese New Year special menus. The huge box that contains my office computer and server started beeping. The noise was a high/low beeping sound that was downright annoying. Now, of course, something must be wrong.

My hope was that some trickster had somehow managed to violate the layers of anti-virus protection and firewalls installed in the system. It wasn't that. I was forced to resort to something that I really hate to admit having to do. The cause of the sound could be discovered by shutting the whole thing down, and then pressing the DELETE key while booting to go into some sort of diagnostic mode.

The "system health" screen revealed to me that the fan which cools one of the chips had stopped turning, and even though the chip wasn't anywhere near its shut-off temperature, the alarm was there to alert me to the fact that the fan was no longer turning. That cooling should be a concern is particularly ironic in my case because the office I keep this device has no heating vent. To bring it up to even 60 degrees in this weather I must keep the door wide open. Else it occasionally gets below freezing in this room.

Ridiculously funny are the only words to describe the sight of me, with server pulled out, bending over cables and office furniture in the tiny room, in a futile attempt to get the thing to spin by removing the dust which encrusted all the fans by vacuuming them. Words cannot describe the look upon the face of the employee whom, seeing me dragging the vacuum into the office, decided to help. I can only imagine that, given my precarious position, and the fact that my back was arched and the carpet wand removed from the thing, he thought that I were committing some unspeakable act with the vacuum hose.

So tomorrow, the day before Chinese New Year's Eve (a very special event around our restaurant), I must remove the errant cooling fan, drive it 20 minutes over to the only serious electronic parts store in the area, and pray to all things Holy that they've a fan that will fit. Else I guess I'll have to super-glue the thing in. And given my penchant for wanting what I want when I want it, I'd hazard a guess I'll resort to that (unless my run of good luck is done with tomorrow, and such fans come in standard sizes).

More importantly, something in the scheme of karma is trying to keep me away from my computers. Two down; two to go (God forbid!)

To whom or what does one pray to rectify such a run of bad luck? I'm pretty sure that Buddha isn't interested whatsoever in my computer troubles (and may even be visiting these problems upon me by way of getting me to rest my eyes). So I'm going to leave this terminal now, and shut the thing down before the beeping noises push me over the edge and I get carried away from it, perhaps drooling and mumbling nonsense to myself.

But you can bet the farm that when I get that damned fan removed from the box tomorrow, when I'm done at the electronics store, I'll probably do a jig upon it that would make "Riverdance" look like a three-year-old trying to tap dance.

Today I messaged another noder about how we share good karma and don't allow the poison of hatred to invade our souls. Dislike, yes, occasionally, but no room for hatred. So I lied. Right now I'm basking in a hatred so foul that even the most profane words known to English scholars cannot describe it. And I don't know whether it's aimed at the fan, or at computers which don't work the way they should, in general; or perhaps myself, for not investing a little time in loving care (cleaning the fans). Perhaps tonight's rest will cure me of this horrible condition. I can only hope.

Today, February 17, is my birthday. Today I am 50 years old. The big 5-0. There, it's in print and that helps me believe it. That helps me internalize it, as the people who write pop psychology books might say. I've been repeating it again and again to myself for over a week now. Isn't turning 50 something that happens to other people? Something you read about?

Every cliché you've ever heard springs to mind, including the old one about how 'I don't feel 50'. Friends tell me I don't look my age, and having seen quite a few men in their 40s that appear old enough to be my father, I can certainly believe the friends. Most definitely I do not "act my age", whatever that might be. Once I hit 30 or so, I decided that was good enough and I think I've held the line there ever since. Let's pull out another cliché: truly, age is just another goddamn number.

I don't have a list of "things I wanted to do before reaching 50" or any such thing. Hell, I've made it up as I went along and done quite a few of the things I discovered I wanted to do; which either means I've been extraordinarily lucky, or didn't set my sights very high! Or perhaps it's that many of the things I might have wanted to do can't be done – I mean, one can't spend a day with Benjamin Franklin or attend one of Winston Churchill's great speeches in Parliament. Nor can one take a ride in Doctor Who's TARDIS or hear Latin spoken by Cicero or dear old Julius Caesar.

Nevertheless, I've traveled far from my birthplace in Kentucky to many parts of the world, worked a few interesting jobs, met some fascinating people (many right here at E2), seen some things nice people aren't meant to see (I love saying that), and been fortunate enough to find and marry the love of my life. I learned as a child that to stop learning, to stop being curious, to stop wanting to know – that was a form of death.

With all its ups and downs, the first half-century has been a hell of a ride. A damn fine ride. And I have every expectation and hope that the next 50 will be even better. I'm happy where I am and with who I am, still learning and growing. Just a few more clichés: while there's life, there's hope, and there's a lot of life in the old boy yet.

Just give my rocking chair a little push as you go by, would you ...

I wasn’t really thinking of writing anything for HateQuest. It’s not that I hate the idea, I just have too many non-HateQuest items on the drawing board right now.

And then my internet connection failed. Again. For about the sixtieth or seventieth time since November. I’m not exaggerating. I found myself stomping though my house saying “I hate Time-Warner Cable. HATE THEM!” and an idea came to me.

"Hey," says I, "this could be a good daylog for HateQuest."

Sometimes my train of thought is a little underpowered, but it usually reaches the depot, given enough time.

A Tuesday—my day off. Cold, grey, windy … the perfect weather to make a pot of tea and spend the day playing Kingdom of Loathing, catching up on my friends’ blogs, and reading webcomics. Oh yes, and there are hours of happy time that I can spend on the new, speedier E2.

Oh, sure, there is laundry to do, bills to pay, catboxes, and a kitchen to clean, but those are easy chores. A simple matter to fit them between fun tasks.

With my damnable enthusiastic optimism, I forgot to factor in Time-Warner Cable Internet and their frightening unreliability. Silly me.

My Platonic life partner, Suzi has to work an extra-long day (she’s a floral designer, tomorrow is Valentine’s Day, 'nuff said), she woke me with bad news:

"Time Warner has been called. With any luck you’ll be online in a few hours." I slept for another hour.

As I write this, I have been awake for about nine hours. The net was up for about three of those hours. Just long enough for me to get a few things done, then it went right back down. It hasn't returned.

Some months ago, after suffering through a horrible spell of having almost no Internet connection at all for over three weeks, Suzi wrote a letter to the local head of Time-Warner Cable. It is as funny as it is acid, and I would like to share it with you. I suggested she might get an E2 account just to post it, she suggested something like this. I’ll block out the fellow’s name just in case these unresponsive ignoramuses suddenly decide that I’m somehow slandering him by telling the truth. So here it is:

Mr. C——

(This is a long letter. I hope you read all of it, I'd like to hear a response. Or I could just post it on a series of public internet consumer sites. Your call.)

I want to share a bit of customer history with you.

Back in the summer of '06, we had Comcast cable and internet service. Our friends would gather at our home on weekends and we would watch Something Weird On Demand, TV Time On Demand, or just leave video music station The Tube on in the background while we talked. We were complimented on our digital cable television. The internet was steady and reliable, with only an occasional hiccup in service. During the week, my partner and I would peruse Discovery On Demand or any number of the wide variety of channels offering such service. It was a simpler, easier day. People laughed more then.

It was before the dark times. Before Time-Warner.

The changeover would be swift, painless, they said. Why, we would not only have the same quality, but it would be better! What marvels of customer service we were promised! Then, as I watched, my beloved digital cable turned into a stranger. I asked Something Weird on their website if they were to be included in this new regime. They thought they were. Alas, no. Also gone were TV Time, Discovery, The Tube and at least half of the On Demand channels.

What was left was a shambles.

Aside from incorrect listing information and uninformative program descriptions, what paltry remains of the On Demand service there were stopped updating. From, what was it? September? until now, there has been one update to the On Demand content I still use—Cartoon Network and Adult Swim. One. In nearly four months. Last I was able to check (did I mention that On Demand has gone down with my net service.. again?) Adult Swim Comedy was down to four single programs that have been listed since the summer. On Demand is now relatively useless to me and that makes me sad.

But I knew nothing of true horror until what has become known as "The Upgrade."

It was a Wednesday back in October. The notice on the door announced that the service in our area was being "upgraded." This seemed wise, at first, because despite it supposedly all being the same equipment, since the Time-Warner takeover every time it rained our net service would go down. The flyer said that the work should be completed by that evening. Fine.

Of course, it wasn't.

The digital cable TV came limping back after three days and 5-6 calls to customer support. It was almost amusing how one person would tell me to switch the cables around in the back and then another would tell me I needed a technician. Yet another just had me turn it on and off a lot. I think he was new. A tech did eventually come to the house and fix the converter box. Then it only took 2-3 more calls to customer service to get it loaded properly. Finally, I could go back to taping a show I had already missed two episodes of due to the disruption.

The internet service, on the other hand, had just begun its nightmarish plunge into a hoary netherworld of equipment failure, miscommunications, tech appointments and incredible frustration.

After the start of The Upgrade, it was a full week before net service was restored at all. I believe there were two techs in a couple of days that time. One dutifully checked the modem, replaced the cable indoors and checked everything before saying it was "a line problem." I already knew that. Everything had worked before The Upgrade. The second tech did something about the line problem.. I think... I'm not sure I even saw him. The only people giving me reliable information at that time were the subcontractors doing the actual Upgrade. I attempted to speak to Time-Warner supervisors twice, but they never called me back when they said they would and, hard as it may be to believe, I do have to leave the house from time to time.

The internet worked for us for a few days before conking out again, and again, and again, and again. If you look at my service history, you will see that we went to the office and got a new modem, which worked briefly until the switch over to the RoadRunner service. Then *pause to chuckle bitterly* the modem we had just gotten the week before was no longer compatible! So a tech came out on November 2nd, and replaced it. Yay. For fun, I started trying to keep track of the number of different people I had spoken to at your company. About then, it was up to fifteen.

Keep in mind that during this time, both my partner and I were attempting to conduct business over the net. As the weeks progressed, my partner was growing increasingly furious as he missed client emails and therefore meetings. I was having a hard time sending graphics to a new client. We spent forty dollars on T-Mobile service at Starbucks, just trying to keep up. I forbid my partner from speaking to Time-Warner representatives numbered 16-23, as he was beginning to froth at the mouth.

Junkill notes: Those of you who’ve met me will have a hard time imagining me that angry. It doesn’t happen very often. You shoulda seen it. Or, y’know, not!

I, myself, was close to snapping. It was the constant having to phone, wait on hold for ten to forty five minutes and restate my situation to a new, clueless rep (my name, address and last four digits of my social just started coming out as a stream). It was the inconvenience of having to try and scrounge net service at other places—not to mention paying $45 a month for the privilege.

Junkill notes:We have since found a wonderful little Mediterranean café in our neighbourhood which has free wi-fi, but the point is we should not have to do this at all!

Eventually, even though I was trying not to take it out on the poor saps who answer the phones (they didn't make the decisions), after being told that the soonest a tech could come out would be five days from then, my tone must have spooked someone around representative #27. She "escalated" the issue and, despite it being a Sunday, said someone from the administrative offices would call me back by 3 pm that day. When 3 pm came and went and we packed up the laptop for Starbucks, I called Customer Support. Rep #28 told me that those offices just aren't open until Monday and I had been misinformed. At Starbucks, we looked over satellite dish brochures. While we were away, Representative #29 from admin DID call and left a message at 5 pm. My partner wanted to ask him if Time-Warner would pay for us to install a competitor's DSL line, but I grabbed the phone.

Junkill notes: *bitter laugh*

Monday, November 20th, I eventually spoke to Admin Rep #29 and he said he would take care of it that day and customer service would give me a month's credit for net service. At long last, a "super tech" came out in the evening. He checked up and down the lines and finally located a problem in the ground block. He replaced it and both the tech and I, weary from each of our long battles with The Upgrade, wished each other well.

The two weeks that followed seemed blissful. Oh, sure, the digital cable service was still awful, but at least the internet service was working. Maybe it would stay that way... maybe it's not so bad.. or maybe I was just fatigued and hallucinating.

The Upgrade would not give up so easily. The Upgrade will not die so quickly. The Upgrade merely waited, lulling us into a false sense of security until a weekend neared, rubbing its allegorical hands together and cackling. I like to imagine that it also twirled its moustache.

This past Thursday, December 7th, the internet became intermittent. Okay, alright, no need to panic. It came back in the evening. Its not like that. It won't happen again. It can't!

Friday: The net works sporadically. The Upgrade waits until I am talking with someone about a banking issue and checking my account online to flatline. It comes back in the evening. A migraine begins to roost behind my right eyeball.

Saturday: I call Tech Support and speak to #36, who passes me to Tier 2 #37, Andrew, who obviously knows what he's doing, but finds the diagnostics "puzzling." He says I need a tech there and transfers me to #38 who tells me that it will be next Thursday before a tech can come out. Perhaps I could go to a local office and replace the modem? Oh. They aren't open on Saturdays.

That evening I determine that it isn't the modem. On Demand, for what little it is worth, is also out at the same time, giving only an error message. I call Customer Service back and attempt to get the name of Admin Rep #29 and his phone number. They can't find it in my customer history and tell me someone from the records research department will call me before 10 am Monday morning. Sure. Sure they will.

Sunday, December 10th, 2006: I sit here, writing to you. The modem blinks the ready light at me impudently. Later, my partner and I will go out to a local Arabic café that offers free wireless service. The Upgrade snickers.

My partner has decided that Time-Warner internet service is a contender for the most shoddy product he has ever paid money for. (Keep in mind that the closest competitors are a 1975 Toyota Corolla he got for $200 that had the ceiling stitched back on with leather cord and a $10 naughty video tape he bought in college that was so bad it now travels the world as an absurdist party favor.) Myself, I'm trying to think of any product or service I've ever dealt with that has been this stressful, slipshod and unreliable.

So, at this point in my saga of the War Against The Upgrade, out of a month and a half to two months, I have had uninterrupted internet service from Time-Warner for two weeks. Tell me, would you pay for a car that only started one third of the time? Would you be happy with electrical service one quarter of the month?

Would you pay over a hundred dollars a month for all of this? Would there be any reason to stay with such a company? Any redeeming feature to the service at all?

Tell me.

I'll be here. Waiting.

Only, don't try and email me - my net service is kind of unreliable.

Suzi E——

For the record, he never got back to us. Maybe we were a little slow, but their competitor is coming out this Friday to install DSL. It might be a skosh slower, but it can’t be less reliable.

Their other competitor is coming out next Wednesday to install a satellite dish.

I’m going to send Mr. C. another copy of Suzi’s letter. I’m going to attach a Post-it note that says “DirectTV and SWB DSL thank you for not responding to this letter 2 months ago.

Time Warner Cable: Evil incarnate? Maybe not, but the depths of ineptitude and incompetence they’ve demonstrated taught me new meanings for the word spite. I don’t think I’ll miss them.

Update: And our service never did come back. Time-Warner called us this morning to schedule a service call to fix it. We very happily told them that we would not require that, as we were having a DSL installed from their competitor. We did, it works, and here I am, happy at last.

Thanks to paramnesiaclete for letting this into HQ despite missing the deadline. As paramnesiaclete said: "(it) has an extra element of beauty from the fact that the object of hate prevented you posting in time!"

Let’s –n talk spelling. Now I’m not one to be all high’n’mighty ‘bout this in here spell’n shit ‘cus I can’t spell worth-n a damn. Right shame really, when the word prosses’n magic goes all giggly-whompus I is lost, like, hardcordian. My furstrations with this-n Microsofty Wordthing has reached a-n all time high as I stugular to put in the right letters to these-n words and shz.

But don’t let that-n there fool you! I can discuss coherently! And right now there is a pluage-hiss sweep’n the country particularly in the retail section of the globular globe. Now, I hate many things and perhaps’n I should have-n tryed out mine own hands at a Hate Questing, but I didn’t-n think that that ‘ould have been a portperationary. Rather this surely is Daglog-hiss matterial.

The worst word in theee world is that-un which goes “Signage.” Now I ain’t-n a scollarly gent, but I do believe that this-n here word is really a long way to spell “signs” only with out the S-n and at three-ninty a gallon. Sings may not be really able sell, but this-n word signage sertainly is. Spell’n ain’t-n no big deal-e-O. We all know they-un mean a large quantity and suchlike of signs. There ain’t really no need to conform to propor grammar-like. Things like Good can be adverbthings and Well can be objective things, cause we all-n-us speeking English like-n not so much the Queen but rather-n like theee nightwatchmen who sits-n down by theee-n the Universtiy-thing and tells me most undiciferly that he-n wants me to “Catch my way home ‘cause I can’t watch-n them birdies with-n you in the way.” Oviously it makes the sense so.

So, rather than bee-n made about this alteration of theee id and ego of this in the Englishthing I rather suggest we-n brace such use less alterations that make-n all of us here in ineffecant and ignorant and dumb-such-like. Propriaty suggest-ns that we do thing in the right propor fashonary, but I say to Hell with that-n. Rather we ought-n t do as we hellplease and for our hidden-isk agendathing. Propriaty suggest-n what to do and not to, where it get off? I like-n my letters where I put them.

F-n K Propriaty and let us-n brace signage as we do the cleavagethingy.

A wonderful utopia where little bunnies never die.

In doing a daily meditation routine, I had certain expectations to be sure. It's not as though I've never meditated before but I have not previously been as consistent as I now am. It makes a world of difference. I had first supposed that there is a certain point. Of peace or bliss I was not entirely sure, but I thought that there would be this same point to strive for each time one quieted the mind. It was not disappointing in the least to find out that, at least for me, this is not the case.

One session seems to overlap and affect the next, and its as though no time passes between each once you arrive at the quiet. Possibly it is because of this that meditation seems like such an adventure to me. I never know quite what is going to happen next. I have certain goals that I concentrate on before each session but this may or may not have any bearing on what actually plays out.

For example, I have been doing my meditations lately focusing on my chakras. I focus on each one, examining for strength and defect and then attempt to focus energy. I've discovered a nice visualization is to then hurl the chakra into the sun where it explodes and is reborn. One time, however, I had just finished with Manipura or the solar plexus chakra and when I sent it towards the sun it kept on traveling until it eventually reached the center of the universe. Upon visualizing its return I was suffused with such wild energy that the air around my skin seemed to tingle and I was rocked from my stationary position a bit. I tried to continue with my chakra meditation and utilize this new and wonderful energy, but I was mostly overwhelmed and simply enjoyed the moment.

In another session I became a rock.

I sometimes meditate with my eyes open in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition as it allows for a different experience. During one of these sessions I was visualizing myself as a rock on a beach simply being and soaking up the sunlight. Suddenly I broke into two pieces and for a second was distressed as to whether I was still the rock. But in a moment I had a wonderful realization that I was exactly the same in every respect, being a piece of everything, including the rock before being broken, the entire planet, and indeed all creation. I could not ever separate myself from this unity, regardless of breaking or the passage of time. This may be a simple realization, but feeling it so profoundly brought on such feelings of bliss that I spent the rest of my session simply basking on that beach in sunlight that had been transformed to beams of pure pleasure.

I cannot wait to see what the next meditation will be.

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