Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Counterfeit Life Part One: Occult, Cults, and Scams.

As I watch a friend wonder ever deeper into the bizarre world of The New Age Movement, I asked myself: "Why"? Her latest money loosing adventure has to do with specially made glass "tools" for healing. The instructions for making these tools comes to us from something on "the other side", an Ascended Master. This Ascended Master speaks to and is seen by a living human being. As a Christian, I know what this something is. This is messing around with "spirits". God condemned the practice and counsels us to stay away from all of it. The occult, communicating with the dead and sorcery.

My friend knows how I feel about all of this and held down her enthusiasm while relating the details of her latest Seminar experience. I did some web searching and discovered a massive organization of interlocking companies and practitioners dealing in the utterances of this "Ascended Master". It is no coincidence that these practitioners are also "selling" his wildly expensive "tools". What a racket!

12 glass tools for $3,000! They look like poorly shaped glass bobbles. There is the tiresome, never-ending need to buy the latest gadget suggested by the Ascended Master. My favorite by far is the "Amplifier". This is a gizmo that makes the energy you get from earlier tools more potent! The wheel of "hope" is another side splitting piece of the "equipment". I was shocked to hear that these tools average $250 a piece. They are are of such poor quality as to be easily scratched, if they "bump" things. As part of the healing process, one is required to sleep with and or carry on their person several of these tools. One good nights rest causes scratching. I can buy a $25 paperweight from an office supply store which is more durable then that!

This gal is on a fixed income like I am, but has sunk thousands of dollars into this New Age garbage. Her family is eagerly "assisting" her in a desperate attempt to "help" her. This help is expensive, averaging $300 for a 50 minute "reading". (Average cost of a Psychiatrist is cheaper). She is blind, but her readings describe her soon-to-be "manifested" husband in visual terms!

After one Pump-her-up cycle and a failed relationship attempt, she went to her HMO and they upped her anti depressants! She is absolutely sure her next husband will make her life totally complete. Hardly. I feel both angry at and sad for my friend.

I refer to all of this, including my 20 years with Dr. Scott as "A Counterfeit Life". because the draw is getting all the benefits of a successful life without having to do the work to actually achieve a successful life. Dr. Scott promised me three things:

  1. I didn't have to read the Bible, he'd do it for me.
  2. If I gave money like he taught I'd be rich.
  3. I was involved in the next religious reformation. Smarter then the rest of the pack! (glory).
How do you build a successful relationship with God, a person, an animal or a skill? You have to spend time with it and put in some EFFORT. When I finally realized that Scott had sold me down the river spiritually, I made it my business to read the Bible for myself, by myself. Yeah, its a big book, but at 30 minutes a day, you can read it from cover to cover in a year.

This process of investigation is how you get to "know" and become familiar with God and His ways from The Bible's point of view. My prayer life started to change as I learned how careful God is with details. The way He keeps His people from unseen harm and danger. Little and large discoveries which I still experience when I spend time in the Bible. I invest my time and energy and gain the dividends of knowledge and expanding faith in God.

So now some folks admire and pay attention to my spiritual life and musings. There is no gloating in this situation. I have really learned that God has given me everything I have. He gets the credit. I just show up and tackle what is directly in front of me.

A rule of life. TINSTAAFL "There Is No Such Thing As A Free Lunch". There is no such thing as easy money, easy relationships, or an easy life. Every scam I've ever studied has at its root a motivation of greed: "... after 18 months I was making $5,000 a month." Doing what, selling Cocaine? (no, Real Estate, phone services, health care or little glass tools at $3,000 a dozen.

Note how the SELLER is making money off YOU the buyer! Real life works out slowly, cumulatively and in fits and starts. (There are no freeways to success). I am achieving some serious success and public recognition at my church as a webmaster and bulletin-maker. However, I had to do put in some serious behind-the-scenes effort for these things.

What you now see is a polished, professional weekly bulletin for the church. What you don't see are the countless hours of study. I had to read about printers, inks, paper, computers and many different programs to get the job done. I had generous help from friends who knew more than I did. They shared their time and friendship with me as I struggled to "learn" how to learn and work.

You don't see the several all-nighters I put in "teaching" myself how a program "really" works. "But it says in the help menu..." Yeah, Virginia, there may be a Santa Claus, but it doesn't really work like that". Oh the joy of getting around a programs "quirks"! You also don't see my hours of praying to, pouting at and arguing with God about how "I just can't do this!" But with all of the above and a lot of help from God, I continue to deliver a needed set of services to my church.

I started really playing around with printing back in 1999. (1999 - 2008 = 9 years)! Don't have buckets of money, or fame, or even a marriage; but I do have the greatest level of contentment and life satisfaction I've ever known.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

An Economic Fairytale.

Once upon a time, I was very immature and believed what MasterCard said on its commercials.
(phalanx of business suit clad marchers. singing:) "100,000 banks behind you!" as they paraded over a giant MasterCard. I got one and used that image to fluff up my ego until...

One day I had a medical crisis. Big bad reality slapped me with $3,000 of un-planned-for expense. Reality can be so MEAN!

I LOST my MasterCard when the bank realized I couldn't pay them back. I cried and cried.
So some wealthier friends and I invested in Real Estate, Junk Bonds and a drug to make a penis grow. We got REALLY, REALLY, REALLY rich!

Then one day the government told us owners of Real Estate that it wasn't fair to exclude poor people from home ownership. 

So, the NINJA loan was born. "No Income, No Job or Assets". All of us MBA-types knew this was C-R-A-Z-Y! But it is not politically correct to protest being "open minded" and or  "liberal". We didn't want to be called "meanies".

We had all these, well, "holy and righteous" loans. What to do, what to do...?

Then one of our business associates over at The Investment House of Sock It To 'Em
solved the problem. We repackaged all this, "New" stuff with the traditional "old" stuff and sold it as a revolutionary "New" low-risk loan swap. (Wow, now whoever came up with THAT earned their commission!)

Since the Firm of Sock It To 'Em was Huge, I mean H-u-g-E. They had to be trustworthy, right? Yeah. National and even FOREIGN banks gobbled up the new investment vehicle and the market went up and up.

But then The Big Bad Bitch of Reality forced a small bank to actually LOOK at the new loan-swaps they had purchased, to show off their latest profits. To their shock, they were insolvent!

Upon serious investigation, they realized that a 6:10 ratio of bad debt sat on their balance sheet. "I know SOME people did that, but ALL of them? 

What to do... what to do...?

When the other banks, brokers and the rest of the business world got wind of this, they got VERY, VERY scared because these loan swaps were EVERYWHERE and the markets started doing swan dives losing 10% and more of their total value A DAY.

What to do... What to do...?

Then a wonderful elderly gentleman quietly held up his hand and softly stated that he would buy up all those bad-old-investments and everything would be alright.

The markets rebounded for a few days, before people had time to consider...

Uncle Sam was already in Deep Shit debt. Several Trillion, (yeah, trillion, with a T) dollars in debt and this would move him up to something like a $15 trillion deficit per YEAR!

The IMF (International Monetary Fund) and The World Bank began to check up on 'ol Sammy boy...

See children, when the IMF and The World Bank "help" a country, they make mean-old financially sound decisions. (I refer you to the history to many countries in Africa, for a review of IMF reality). The business world is beginning to balk...

But wait, Uncle Sam says that there will be no accountability as to how the pot of money will be spent... Maybe the business World will accept this. They have friends who need help too.

Stay tuned for our next exciting episode:" The Day The IMF calls US Economic Voodoo a big pile of doodoo"

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Learning To Look To The Future With Hope: Not Letting My Fears Take Charge

For a few years now, I have learned (usually through running into pain I refuse to face) to keep my head down and focus only on what is directly in front of me. This pattern has served me very well in stopping fruitless forays into suicidal thinking. If it makes me that crazy, I back off.

Lately, I have begun to feel a kind of boredom and aimlessness. Part of this malaise, I'm sure was due to another dreary two weeks of having a bad cold which never completely went away.

While fighting the above, I have also had wonderful news and interactions with friends. I have been told to look forward to next year, as I will be invited to participate in a project a friend is putting together. Because my friend knows I get easily rattled, no further details have been given.

I had a feeling something like this was about to happen. God has a way of continuing to build my life in new and exciting ways. I've learned to ask few questions, beyond finding out what I am supposed to be doing, for the immediate future.

Then the business world darn near ground to a halt with the stock market in the U. S. taking a 950 point dive in one week. Since I have heard that when government money gets tight, the poor are the first to receive the financial cuts, I got very frightened.

Understanding the facts and causes of something helps me calm down. There was a great quote in The Making of a psychiatrist. He summed up his boss as follows: "...you could set his office on fire - and as long as he knew Why, everything was alright." (!) I am EXACTLY  like that. Information is what I need to conquer fear.

I know nothing about finance, so off to Google I went.  I wanted to see a history of stock market crashes to gage what I might have to contend with, should things continue going bad.

I discovered a series of books on finance which are collectively known as "Rich Dad, Poor Dad". These books are designed to teach folks like me basic "financial literacy", from the perspective of someone who has, or is considering gaining wealth. The first book came out in the '90's and its STILL a best seller!

I found a quote about character which has helped me sort out the fight between good and bad desires and actions. For me, it is the beginning of gaining control over my own mind.
Inside each of us is a kind person, a mean person, a greedy person, a rich person, a poor person, a coward, a crook, a hero, a liar, a cheapskate, a lover, a loser, and more.

Fromm: Rich Dad's Prophecy, Chapter 1. p 18. by Robert Kiyosaki

The key here is the thought frame of reference. Am I going to think like a courageous person, or a coward? Take a situation and consider how these two perspectives color feelings and actions.

I submit my usually completely irrational and cowardly attitude toward being on Government aid:

Cowardly self:

  • its hopeless.
  •  I'm completely at the mercy of the System.
  • I will continue to get poorer.
  • I'll be spending more money to achieve less.
  • HMO will choose to pay to let me kill myself, rather then to treat my illnesses. I heard a report of this situation already being a reality in Oregon where euthanasia is legal.
  • I solve the above by taking no action on my behalf.
  • I'll just wait for life to "have its way with me".
Courageous Self:
  • No external situation can dictate my thinking.
  •  I choose to gain emotional stability by learning how to challenge the dreadful list above.
  • I am not a victim
  • What if I do get further opportunities which could lead me off the system? A wonderful female comic used to say something completely outrageous and then cry out: "well, it could HAPPEN!"
  • God is my source of supply, not the government, or any other external situation. 
  • I am not alone
  • I am not helpless
  • I'm not sure he story about Euthanasia is true, but even if it is, God is in charge of the number of days in my life. PERIOD!
  • I will educate myself to what is out there financially, to prepare for getting off the system.
  • I will let God open any doors of opportunity. All I have to do is educate myself and plan.
  • I am capable of real courage and good character. 
  • Until lead differently, I'm going to assume, my dream of true self-sufficiency is starting to come true. 
  • I will study instead of stew when life starts to scare me.
This is where the battle for success really resides, not in your circumstances, but in your mind. I wish all of you a mental victory over whatever you fear will destroy you. 

"Yeah?", I used to scream at this kind of thinking: "well, what if it is as bad as I fear and all that bad stuff actually does happen to me? Then what, Shirley Temple?"

I still am in God's hands and He has control of the length of my life. Joining the "Ain't It Awful" club only saps my energy, kills my hope and is a waste of my (and others') time. Nothing has control over my thought-life other then me. 

I choose to think positively, if nothing else, it is good for my body not to dump all the fight/flight stress into my system.

If I end up staying on the system, I have the priceless gift of knowledge and new possibilities for personal growth because of new knowledge. I will have learned how to invest in and believe in myself. It is always easier to keep a moving object in motion instead of starting something moving from a dead stop.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

When Life Styles Colide.

I am absolutely in love with my first PDA, a Palm Z22. The bottom-of-the-line for this device. It is great, except the dictionary available for it just doesn't cut it. So, if I go up to the next level $199. I can get a serious dictionary program on a memory card.

A friend alerted me to the fact that for another $30 I could get an iPod Touch with everything I want with audio/video capability. A whole 8 GB. Let the drooling begin. We wrote back and forth and I realized I'd need to go to an Apple Store to make sure I could actually read the interface. As I always do, I began to lay out the pros and cons for an iPod Touch vs the Palm Tungsten E2 Handheld.

The iPod Touch wins hands down for flexibility, functionality and total hipness.

The Palm is attractive because I am now used to how they do things and am not sure I like not having a stylus to work with. Not nearly as cool, or "hip" device.

Then I remembered a problem with iPods and hipness. A few years ago a teen was killed over his iPod. Yikes! Unlike my upper middle class exec friend, I spend my life walking on the street or riding on various forms of public transit. Theft is an issue, everywhere, but I doubt my friend seriously worries about being killed so someone can steal his iPod!

I'm pretty sure I'll go with the Palm, as I feel safer using it in public. A hell of a commentary on the current state of affairs in the big city, huh?

So, when I make my decision, my friend will be buying me a better dictionary as an early Christas present. SWEET!

Monday, September 08, 2008

Building A Life Around What You Love

People who are passionate about what they do excite me. Chris Brogan is one of those people. He got my attention on twitter.com due to his varied and always interesting questions. Actually, another friend on twitter.com referred to him as a "must follow". This was advice I took and am grateful for. Chris is offering a free ebook: "Personal Branding for the Business Professional"

As a baby-boomer (age 55), I came into adulthood before the Internet revolution. We were taught to go to college, find something we liked to do, major in it and get a job. The assumption was of a job which could last for decades. Once work was settled we set about building the rest of our lives

Those days are gone. Sadly, it is now a world where you have to assume there is no truth or trust, or loyalty or even morality around any more anywhere.

Everything is fragmented, situational and "me-oriented. We are all tied to a computer for most of our day.  Social networking on the computer was developed as the new "water cooler" experience. You don't leave your work station to socialize, you shoot off an email, IM, or a tweet. 

Brogan's book is full of good ideas on many different levels. Beautiful lists of technology and life-building tools. This book is an outline for a new kind of social and economic structure. He speaks of a new ROI (Return On Influence). I believe this concept is much more valuable than we can imagine. Just for background, ROI traditionally stands for Return On Investment. But when I invest myself in something, I have potential influence, as my input has the ability to influence someone else. It is the start of an entirely new business and social model, built on the ashes of the pre-computer worlds of life and work.

Enjoy this man and his work. Check out his blog also.

This new model lives and breathes on the Internet. Welcome to life 2.0!

Friday, September 05, 2008

An Involuntary Set Of Masks

There are two parts to me I am becoming uncomfortable with. In a large group, say more than three people, I clam up and only engage with my food. Or, a switch gets flipped somewhere and I push myself to perform grabbing inappropriate amounts of attention in a group.

Both of these states feel somewhat beyond my control. I know that is not technically true, but I haven't figured out how to break through these behaviors on my own. So, when I had my yearly check-in with my Psychiatrist, I brought these issues to her attention. Are there any groups that can assist me with these issues?

To my great relief and surprise, such groups exist. Due to my strange background, some emotional exchanges between people also baffle me. I went for an intake interview for this group and will start on a three week "try out" next week. This group may not be what I need, but after three sessions, I can evaluate and go on from that point.

I can not express how good it feels to be able to tell the truth about an issue I've labored under for years. I hide my emotional in-experience with total silence, or with hyped-up performance. These behaviors have their place, but I want the freedom to choose how I behave. I no longer want to have my fears control my behavior.

Another victory of late was my successful visit to the grand opening of Barack Obama's Northern California campaign headquarters. I really wanted to go and see what it was all about. The first time I've ever desired to see a campaign headquarters for any candidate.

My less mature behavior used to be to plan to go, but not go at the last minute. Mindlessly repeating a pattern my family had of promising to include me in something, but changing their mind at the last minute. I am joyful to share that I actually got the transit information I needed and went to the campaign headquarters.

It was very crowded and set up with a bunch of tables where a large group of people could come through, sign-up for different activities and grab a snack. I'm talking a large crowd in a relatively average sized room. After looking around a bit and signing in, I decided it was more then I was ready to deal with alone. It would have been unfair to buttonhole one of the staff member and tie them up with being my "helper". So, I got some lemonade and left.

From this experience, I now have the confidence to visit the medical supply company in Berkeley to get a different, hopefully, lighter weight walker. A walker which will fit easier into small cars.

I have had to work very hard not to break promises I've made to myself. I used to let my fear keep me from attempting to go somewhere new. Now, I check things out. If I really wanted to roll along with a big crowd, I know I could ask for and receive help from friends. What a wonderful bit of knowledge THAT is. Truth be told, large crowds frighten me. I truly fear being trampled. But I'm no longer coping out on myself by not exploring things which interest me.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

This Campaign Is Sounding More And More Like A Bad Day In The School Yard.

One of my weaknesses is a sheer love of idealism. I fall for it every time and then get upset when the practice doesn't match the theory. Okay, this is politics and by its nature its nasty, sleezy, unfair and a weird way to select a leader. But what is happening with The Republican side of things is really beginning to bug me.

The female VP quipped that being governor is kind of like being a community organizer except one has REAL responsibilities! OH, PLEASE! And it just is twirling round and round like that. All Barack has to do is just stick to his standard speeches and not lower himself to the Republican level. Where have all the adults gone?

Professional commentators are getting so frustrated, they are alluding to going off after their show and getting good and drunk! By-the-way, whose stupid idea was it to make the election season more than a year long...?

Yeah, I hear you Republican-types telling me to collect my government check and go away. Sorry, next bit of feed back please.

I went out for dinner and was totally shocked at how prices are sky-rocketing. I may just skip my planned vacation and get a tech toy instead (while I can still afford to BUY said tech toy.