Friday, March 27, 2009

Rate Me

The most popular websites on the Internet these days are the ones that focus on user-generated content. Sites such as MySpace, Facebook, Digg, YouTube, CarDomain, LinkedIn, Orkut, LiveJournal, and Blogger are offering more than just "social networking;" they offer a chance for both friends and strangers to pass judgment about you and every aspect of your life. Thanks to the Internet, we have a growing population of kids and teens who are increasingly self conscious about what other people think of them.Attention Seeking Whores Desire Comments and Ratings in Every Aspect of their Lives
Let's say you sign up for an account with and post a few pictures of your car. Other users can sign your guestbook and tell you exactly what they think of your vehicle, good or bad. Most people don't sign up anticipating that they will receive a bunch of negative comments, but it can and does happen. You could work really hard on your car and make it exactly the way you like it. Then when you share it with the world, they might attack you. Now how do you feel about the car? How do you feel about yourself? Do you second-guess yourself or do you write them off as random Internet jerks?

Let's take it a step further and talk about the infamous Instead of ranking cars, you're ranking people. Yep, just a headshot or a picture of you will do. Post it on there and let the world vote for you based solely on your physical appearance. If you're beautiful it may boost your self-esteem to find yourself ranked highly, but at the same time, someone has to be at the bottom of the list as well. Unless you spend money on things like hair dye and plastic surgery, you're pretty much stuck with who you are. In the real world you wouldn't go around telling strangers if you find them attractive or not, but on the Internet it's more than okay - it is entertainment.

YouTube is a great way to show off your special talent to a worldwide audience. Whether it's playing the Super Mario theme on a musical instrument or a video of your best skateboarding tricks, the site can turn an ordinary person into an Internet celebrity overnight. There are also plenty of ways for people to cut you down through hurtful comments and video replies. What if you spent countless hours perfecting a song and everyone who watched your video said it was stupid, that it sucks, and that you have no talent? How would you feel about yourself then? Pretty awful, no doubt.

The king of all "social networking" sites is MySpace. On MySpace, users sign up and post everything from personal information about their job and their education to their private thoughts, pictures of friends and family, and information about their favorite books, movies, and music. It's like a living obituary of everything you'd ever want to know about a person. In fact it's very common for people to update their pictures when they buy a new car, move to a new house, get a tattoo, have a baby, or do something newsworthy.

In those situations, the voice of the global community is not far behind. There are profile comments, picture comments, video comments, and blog comments so everyone can tell you (and other viewers) exactly what they think of you. The surveys that people post and repost are even more intimate. Does the world need to know if you sleep with your clothes on or who the last person to text message you was? Do they want to know? Should you tell them? What judgments can a person make about you from the information you give? There's plenty of room for harsh ones.

The point is not to discourage people from having fun and sharing their interests online. The point is that now your entire life can be showcased on the Internet for all to see, to be commented on and voted for, starred, dugg, ranked, and rated in an infinite number of ways. This has given birth to a new generation of "attention whores" who have an uncontrolled desire for attention and approval. It leads to statements like "PLEASE comment my new pix" and "tell me what u think of my new haircut, shoes, girlfriend, boyfriend, tattoo, gun, car, or whatever." I wonder if the Internet is simply a gathering ground for the vain people of the world or if the Internet makes people excessively vain and self conscious?

It seems to me like some of these people's lives revolve around seeking the approval of "the community." There are now an infinite number of ways for the world to tell you what they think of you. It is easy to forget that the only thing which really matters is what YOU think of yourself, and not what other people think of you. If you like your car a certain color or your hair combed a certain way or a certain type of music, that's your personal choice. If your roommate or classmate or co-worker thinks your favorite band is lame, your best answer should be "Don't listen to them, then."

Maybe you've heard the popular saying that "opinions are like assholes, everybody's got one." Well, it's true. So here is my opinion: don't live your life by changing yourself and your values to get approval from other people, especially strangers and the Internet crowd. If you're not living your life for yourself, then who are you living for?

Just a quick disclaimer: the preceding statement does not mean I advocate going out and breaking laws if you believe in Anarchy. Please understand I am encouraging people to be nonconformist in safe and legal ways here. Use good judgement and common sense, and ALWAYS remember the Golden Rule: "Treat others as you wish to be treated." The bottom line is this: be yourself, but don't be an asshole, either.

I'm not the only one who feels this way:

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Steak: It's What's For Dinner

Maybe I've got too much time on my hands, but I have noticed that there are just too many pansy-ass chain steakhouses trying to pass themselves off as legit these days. Between Outback, Lone Star, Black Angus, and Logan's Roadhouse, the casual-dining steakhouse market is expanding faster than America's waistlines. So what exactly is the problem with these restaurants? Allow me to elaborate:

Logan's Roadhouse is an example of a lame casual dining steakhouseBy making steakhouses more accessible to casual diners, restaurant owners have increased their appeal to new markets and increased profits. On the other hand, they've filled their restaurants with all kinds of gimmicks that I don't want to see in a steakhouse. From side salads to families with little kids, steakhouses are no longer a place for adults to go and enjoy a hearty meal. They have become just as homogenized and cliché as every other fast-food chain out there.

When it comes to beverages, I think a good steakhouse should not even have a wine menu. I don't care if you fancy a glass of Yellow Tail or Shiraz with your top sirloin, go be a sissy at a bar somewhere. Steakhouses should only serve milk, water, lemonade, and beer with meals because soda is for kids and wine is for sissies.

Another thing that bugs me about steakhouses is when they try to act all intimate and fancy. You know, the ones that have an elderly couple holding hands at a candlelight table in the TV commercials. Black Angus, I'm looking at you and your high-backed booths and cloth napkins. The lights are so "romantic" and dim it's like eating in a damn broom closet. Cut that nonsense out! Turn the lights on and get real.

Perhaps the cheesiest steakhouse I've ever been to is Logan's Roadhouse. There's a brand new one by my house and the inside is so over-engineered I thought at first I walked into Chipotle by accident. The new-but-made-to-look-really-old decor does not impress me. I think the designers wanted the inside to look rustic and weathered like a local bar and grill, but it's not fooling me. I can just see the construction crews staining the wood panels to look older than they really are, as if it makes eating there more fun or something.

Every table at Logan's Roadhouse has a dish of peanuts waiting for you, and just to prove how badass you are, you can throw the shells on the floor when you're done. That's right, no napkins or trays for your shells. Come on guys. A real steakhouse like Bill Johnson's Big Apple has sawdust all over the floor. Not only is it a fire hazard, but it's probably in the food, too. That's what I'm talkin' about! I wouldn't have it any other way.

At Logan's, you can choose from no more than six cuts of meat while the rest of the menu has things like salads, seafood, and appetizers. Don't waste your breath trying to tell me that "those menu items are for the people who don't want steak." Ah, news flash, don't go to a steakhouse then!

If you want salad, go to Souper Salad. If you want seafood, go to Red f-ing Lobster. When I am in the mood for steak, I want to visit a restaurant that has a good selection of beef cuts on the menu! I want to choose from Ribeye steaks, T-Bones, Top Sirloin, New York Strip steaks, Porterhouse, and Filet Mignon! Seriously, what else do you want? A kids menu? Forget about it and get them a Happy Meal at McDonald's instead.

Probably the closest thing to a "real" steakhouse is the Miner's Camp restaurant in Apache Junction. The entire building is made of wood that looks weathered because it really is. It's been at the base of the Superstition Mountains for decades. The place looks like a strong breeze might knock it over before your food even arrives. I like that.

The dining experience is also very different from today's corporate-owned steakhouses. Instead of dining in dark, romantic booths, you sit at a long row of picnic benches with other customers. Nobody gets their own table.

The food is served on tin plates and cups which are delightfully noisy. Side dishes such as corn and potatoes come in small, cast-iron cauldrons (for lack of a better word). There's no jukebox playing today's top country music hits or any neon signs for Bud Light.

Although it doesn't have the sawdust or the best tasting food, the Miner's Camp is the realest steakhouse I've ever been to. If you're tired of family-friendly steakhouses that cater to families with small children and play piped-in Muzak while you wait for your cheese sticks to arrive, it's time for a change. Get out and find yourself a good local steakhouse where they take some pride in what they do. You'll be glad you did.

I'm not the only one who feels this way:

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Tech Support

I hate the idea of tech support hotlines. I don't like call centers, help desks, or support tickets. I don't like the idea of a person calling a stranger on the phone for help with a very technical problem as anything other than a last resort. Every time I suspect that people can't possibly get any more stupid and helpless, I am proven wrong.

For some reason, callers not only expect an easy answer to their problem, but they believe they are entitled to know the answer. They always think they are so very special and that they deserve to be told what to do. More often than not, they might have arrived at the answer if they had just tried to resolve it themselves.

The people who call tech support hotlines have the wrong attitude about problem solving. They don't even consider that 1) they might already have the answer and 2) they might be able to find the answer on their own. If it doesn't work right out of the box, they automatically assume it is someone else's responsibility to make it work for them. Never mind that the instructions are right there, these callers cannot be bothered to take a look at them.

Think back for a moment to the frontier days of wagon trains, gold rushes, and westward expansion. People during this time were much more adept at solving problems than people of today. Can you imagine if they had tech support hotlines back then? "Um, yeah, my rifle jammed up and there's a band of horse thieves coming this way. What should I do?" Ah, get the hell out of Dodge for starters!

Just the same, if your printer is not printing black ink, wouldn't your first step be to check the black ink cartridge you just installed? Wouldn't you check to make sure it has paper and that it's connected before calling someone for help with a print error? For some people, this is too much of a stretch for their minds. For whatever reason, tech support callers are not imaginative people. They never ask "What if...?" because if they did, they would not need to call.

In the frontier days, if you didn't figure out how to trade for or hunt for food, you would die of hunger. Simple as that. Being able to "figure it out" without being told the answer is a critical skill for survival. If nobody ever showed you the best way to trap food or hunt, then you had better learn real quick because the price for failure of this task was a hungry death.

Back then, people were willing to do something that people today are extremely reluctant to do: figure it out for themselves. Today, there are no consequences for being ignorant and lazy. You won't die if you are unable to set the clock on your DVD player or install your own printer drivers.

It seems like nobody these days can be bothered to sit down and read the directions. They just want to call someone up and tell them the answer. Most of the time on the phone, the technician is reading from a copy of the same manual that shipped with their equipment.

This "cannot be bothered to" mentality has created a problem in modern society: the people who are too stupid to survive do not die. In fact, they always seem to end up inconveniencing the rest of us by driving 35mph in the high-speed lane on the freeway or bringing a full shopping cart through the express checkout lane. These are the people who cannot send email attachments and blame every computer error message on a virus. Please get a fucking clue, guys. It's not that hard and you really can solve your own problems. Just TRY.

The bottom line with tech support is that it's never smart people with broken equipment who call in. It's always the loudest, dumbest, most irrational hotheads with brand new equipment that works fine who decide to pick up the phone.

I'm not the only one who feels this way:

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Why I Hate Twitter

One of the most popular social-networking sites of the past few years is Twitter. Members of the site post brief, 140-character long messages known as "tweets" whenever they feel like it. This allows friends and family to keep up with the user's activities throughout the day. Twitter is free to use, explosively popular, and utterly stomach-churning to me.
Twitter Drivel T-Shirt
There are lots of reasons why I hate Twitter, starting with the absolutely awful name. If Twitter is the name of the website, does that mean its members are all "Twits?" Last time I checked, that was a pretty undesirable thing to be called.

The second reason I hate Twitter is the nature of the service that they provide. By posting "tweets," your friends and family can know what you're doing at any moment throughout the day. I guess the telephone, the answering machine, the cell phone, the voicemail box, the text message, the letter, the handwritten note, email, instant messaging, MySpace comments and messages, blogs, and good old fashioned talking to your friends just aren't enough to keep in touch in these modern times! With so many ways to communicate with one another, is one more really necessary?

Third, the type of information that people post on Twitter is so boring, useless, and inane that I cannot believe anyone cares about this stuff. Does my cousin across the country really care that I ate a burrito for lunch today? Is it critical that my friends and co-workers know when I am procrastinating on my homework? Does anyone at all need to know that I got a new pair of shoes or got my car's oil changed this weekend?

The information people post on Twitter is beyond trivial; it has no value to anyone. If I did something truly noteworthy like get engaged, move to a new house, or change careers, I'd let my friends know with a telephone call, email message, or other form of communication mentioned above.

When people make a post such as: "Just got dressed, heading out to work now" it is really not noteworthy. What do you want, praise for accomplishing a simple everyday task? Do you expect a pat on the head for that meager accomplishment, or are you just a whore for attention?

The whole Twitter phenomenon reminds me of the popular catchphrase of the 1990's: TMI, or Too Much Information. In context, the expression is used when someone tells you all the dirty details and it makes you uncomfortable. I certainly don't think strangers on the Internet need to know that I'm heading out to the library to return an overdue book or that I was late to work this morning because I had to clean up a big pile of cat barf on the rug. I hesitate to tell those things even to close personal friends, but apparently some people have no shame (especially when it comes to very personal medical problems).

The fourth reason that Twitter sucks is its 140-character limit. With an email or telephone call, I am free to say as much as I want to, whether it's ten words or ten thousand words. I am free to add pictures, video, and anything else I want to get my message across. The Internet is all about removing boundaries on creative self-expression, unless you're on Twitter in which case you are required to stay in your 140-character corral. After all, you don't want to get too detailed or anything.

Finally, I hate Twitter because it is made for the laziest kind of people. I view Twitter users as people too lazy to place a telephone call, compose an email, or tap out a text message because it takes too much work. For them, Twitter is a quick and easy way to say "Hey world, pay attention to me!" without the effort of picking up a phone, writing a blog, or doing anything creative that takes real effort.

To summarize, Twitter has a terrible name, it is unnecessary in our thoroughly-connected modern society, it is full of useless information, its members have no shame about what they share, and it's the quickest path to becoming an attention whore ever devised. Fuck Twitter.

I am not the only one who feels this way:,8599,1877187,00.html,9171,1879169,00.html

Friday, March 6, 2009

A Look at the Flatbiller Lifestyle

Though you may not be familiar with the term "flatbiller," you have probably seen the type of people it refers to. The term is generally applied to young people who are overly concerned with looking "tough" and intimidating. The characteristics of a flatbiller make them instantly recognizable.

The name flatbiller comes from the ubiquitous baseball hat worn at a crooked angle; neither forward to shade the eyes nor backward to shade the neck. Besides being crooked, it also has a flat (unflexed) bill. This is a popular fashion accessory for many flatbillers.

Flatbillers wear clothing from companies such as SRH, Lithium, Threadless, Seedless, Ambiguous, Famous, Sullen, Affliction, Silver Star, Alpinestars, 187 Inc., and Extreme Couture. These clothes feature "splatter" patterns, spades, skulls, brass knuckles, and Old English lettering to contribute to the desired image of toughness. Other accessories include fur-lined hoodies worn year round, white-framed sunglasses, basketball shorts, and skate shoes.

Of course being a flatbiller is more than just wearing the right clothes, it is also a lifestyle. Flatbillers often use the term "bro" when speaking to one another, such as "Hey bro do you wanna hit up the dunes this weekend?" "Yeah, bro!!"

Typical activities include talking about dirt bikes and pit bikes for hours on end. This is also supplemented with talk about partying at the lake, how much you can drink, and which the tattoos they have recently gotten or are about to get.

The trucks that "bros" drive are easy to identify because they are often covered in white vinyl stickers of brands such as SRH, Fox, and FMF. The squatting devil girl silhouette is also popular. These trucks commonly have ridiculous lift kits and oversized tires, which make extra-long trailer hitches that extend down to the height of a normal boat or flatbed trailer a necessity.

When it comes to consumer products, flatbillers have a preference towards "extreme" goods and services. Because ordinary drinks aren't extreme enough, flatbillers often consume energy drinks such as Monster, Kronik, Rockstar, and Sparks. These are especially useful when recovering from a weekend of partying, or "getting faded."

It is recommended that you not point out the foolishness of getting piss-drunk on a Sunday night before work or school the next day. This is because flatbillers live an "in the moment" lifestyle illustrated by the popular slogan "no regrets." While it's supposed to convey an image of decisiveness, it is a double-edged sword that can come back to haunt those who make poor decisions such as excessive spending on "toys" like dirt bikes, rims, trucks, tattoos, clothing, and other status symbols.

Friends and family are at the core of the flatbiller lifestyle. At our deepest levels, human beings desire to be accepted by social groups. It seems like the people who become flatbillers were not cool enough to be jocks and not smart enough to be nerds in high school. Rather than face rejection, they became part of a new group and adopted an attitude of toughness and extreme activities to overcompensate for the isolation they felt in the past. Or maybe I'm reading too much into it.

At any rate, the type of people who are all about dirt bikes, lifted trucks, extreme products, and mass-produced brand name clothing are a bunch of phonies and poseurs trying to make you think they're SO tough when they are not. They should learn to be happy with themselves instead of trying to fit into a subculture of carelessness and facetiousness.

I'm not the only one who feels this way: