Aug 242009
 

I have to be honest with you.  The title of my post here is pretty much a bait-and-switch.  I don’t think Capitalism sucks.  At all.  I love making money.  Money is good.  Money lets me buy stuff, and I like having stuff.  Money lets me do things like take my son to GenCon or join thousands of insane geeks like myself for Dragon*Con in Atlanta.  Money lets me purchase memberships to Dungeons and Dragons Insider and spend hours upon hours trying to re-capture my childhood.  I’m a materialistic fool who doesn’t wanna share and capitalism is the way to go for me.

That being said, there are things about Capitalism that make me very sad in our current times.  Some of that, of course, focuses around the health care debate.  This post is NOT about the health care debate, but I feel this is worth mentioning at least in passing.  As much as I think he does more harm than good in regards to being the public face of liberalism, I do have to agree with Bill Maher when he says that there are certain things that simply should not be profit driven.  Health care is one of those things.  A system in which you are worth more if you are sick and dying is a broken system.

But, no.  This post is not about health care.  This post is really about something that has a much bigger impact on my daily life.

This post is about the internet and about how a bunch of greedy, lazy people are fucking it up.

I make no secret about the fact that one of the main reasons I started ShrinkGeek was to make money.  Allow me to re-direct you to the opening paragraph of this post.  I like money, and the idea of making money while helping people and writing is just delicious to me.  The thing is, we made a commitment when we put ShrinkGeek together that we weren’t going to sell our souls in order to turn a profit.  We want people to click on our advertisements.  We want people to click on our affiliate links.  We want to be attractive to advertisers so they give us lots of money to put their banners up on our site.  We’re not going to get there, though, by tricking people.  We’re genuinely trying to offer a valuable service to our readers.  We’re not doing article swaps or posting fake reviews that are supplied to us by PR firms.  We’re not using automated programs to get thousands of followers on our Twitter account.  We’re not trying to game the system.

As a result we’re also not making much money at this point, and there is frankly no guarantee we’ll ever end up doing so before we decide the effort is not worth the investment.

What has me thinking about this recently is the absolute proliferation of bots and marketers on Twitter.  It’s getting to the point where it is difficult to sift through the noise in order to decipher the signal, and that depresses me.  Twitter is an amazing tool, but at the rate the garbage is filling the stream it isn’t going to be long before people who genuinely want to use the service to connect with others are going to move on and all you’re going to have left are people who are trying to sell you something.  The same thing is happening with a lot of blogs these days.  What started as a genuine movement is rapidly devolving into everyone and their brother attempting to get rich quick by either recycling content that was written by someone else or tricking Google to visit your web site instead of Amazon.com.

And I get it…I really do.  I get the desire to make money without doing any real work.  I’d love to get rich for doing next to nothing.  I really would.  But on the flip side it makes me really, really sad to see so much potential in the form of communication getting lost in a sea of…shit.  There really isn’t any other way to put it.  The internet is becoming more and more polluted, and eventually I fear we’re going to get to a point where the only way you’re able to find real content is by paying a third party to filter through the shit for you.

Premium internet – where nothing of quality is available unless you’re paying for it.

Maybe that’s the plan.  I know the big media companies would really love for all of us to be paying to get to their content.  All I know is that more and more it seems like Twitter, in particular, is predominantly dominated by a bunch of Marketers trying to sell Marketing techniques to…well..other Marketers.  They aren’t offering anything new at all, but instead continue to re-package the same “10 sure fire ways to make money on the internet” and sell them to someone else, who is just going to try and re-package that information and try to sell it to someone else.  In the mean time these people set up spam bots trying to trick folks into clicking their links and start to scare away some of the people who are genuinely trying to use Twitter as a means of building networks and/or communicating with their Fan Base (folks like Wil Wheaton and Felicia Day, both of whom have complained about this recently).

I see so much potential out there.  We’re standing on the brink of a revolution that has the potential to fundamentally change the way we look at entertainment and information, but that potential is being watered down by sloth and greed.

I know that there is this ideal image of capitalism in which people who work hard and have good ideas are rewarded financially for that, but I don’t see that happening so much these days – especially when it comes to the internet.  That is why, in this regard, I kinda think capitalism sucks.

Aug 202009
 

Ok.  Yes.  I suck at updating.  I’ve gotten used to doing all my updates in 140 characters or less over the course of my day and have spent all of my verbose writing energy over at ShrinkGeek.  You caught me.  I’m a horrible person and it’s perfectly justifiable that the number of people who visit my site every day has dropped to about 6.

I fail at internet celebrity.  Seriously.

I could say that my life has been exceedingly busy lately and I wouldn’t be lying, but I’ve used that excuse before and promised that I would change.  I mean it this time, though, baby.  Come back to me.  It’s going to be different.  I love you more than I love that silly old Twitter business.  She means nothing to me.  All I give her is a bunch of cheap, quick hits.  You?  You get all the depth and breadth of my soul.  My innermost feelings.  The very essence of what it is to be ME.

Just ignore all those workout posts.  I was going through a phase.

Umm…Did I just anthropomorphize my blog?

Is that even a word?

So anyway.  Updates.  Right.

Got back in town on Sunday from the (now) annual excursion to Indianapolis to attend GenCon with Alex.  We has an absolute blast.  The highlight of the con was our participation in the NASCRAG tournament, and I’m proud to say that our team managed to snag both the best name category (“We Have 3 Virgin Men”) and Third Place overall.  Not only that, but Trish took home the prize for MVP in her portrayal of Sexy Kobold Left…or was it Sexy Kobold Right?  It was really hard to tell.  For those of you who are too lazy to click the link, NASCRAG is an annual role-playing tournament at GenCon in which rules take a back seat to having fun.  The focus isn’t on who knows the game mechanics but more on who plays their character the best and puzzle solving.  We had so much fun we’ve already determined that NASCRAG is a definite for next year already and our team is already starting to form.  We also managed to snag a few spots in a Second Edition Paranoia game loosely based on the Star Trek universe called Paranoia Trek (a GenCon tradition, apparently).  I managed to win a prize for role-playing in that one for my stunningly accurate portrayal of Kate Mulgrew as Kathryn Janeway.  I’m not entirely sure if I should be proud of that one.  We continued the silliness in a rousing game of Luchador : Way of the Mask, and Alex enjoyed that one so much he actually purchased a copy for himself and wants to run it at some point.  Finally we got to try out the latest edition of Call of Cthulhu in a scenario known as “Beatings :  The Musical” (which was, apparently, the censored title….the original title was “Buggery Hoedown on the Gaza Strip.”).  That was a very entertaining mix of the silliness we’d been participating in all weekend with some good old fashioned Cthulhu chills.  Yes, we died at the end of the adventure.  But, hey!  We did NOT go insane AND we managed to prevent the world from being destroyed for another 100 years or so.  Go team!

Negatives of the con?  I attempted to pick up a copy of Call of Cthulhu along with a few GURPS supplements from Atlas Games and had the very embarrassing experience of discovering the Chase had decided to cancel the credit card that I took along for goodie purchases the night before (after I had used it to pay for dinner).  This is not the first time the Chase has screwed me over, but it was the worst and will be the last.  I have one card left with them that has a zero balance, and as soon as I’m able to make sure I have another “emergency” card on hand to take its place I’m canceling that one.  We also had a lovely experience with Alex’s blood sugar on Sunday morning due to the fact that he ran out of one of his types of insulin and didn’t tell me about it because he thought I’d be mad or something.  He had high levels of keytones in his blood and was vomiting before we got on the plane to come home.  I was able to get his blood sugar down to a reasonable level with what we had on hand and we made it home without incident, but it was a real pisser of a way to end the vacation.  It was also another reminder that he is not completely mature enough yet to handle his blood sugar related issues without being monitored closely.  I know he hates that, but until he proves we don’t need to anymore it is how things have to be.  There was also a snafu with the hotel bill that caused my bank account to be overdrafted, but that managed to get fixed and I’m being sent a coupon for a suite upgrade for next year.

Overall, though, it was a fantastic time and as usual I have come home with a renewed desire to get together with the family and friends to do some more table top gaming.  I have also walked away from the weekend finally able to see a picture that has been forming in my head ever since I made a concerted effort to actually read the Fourth Edition Dungeon Masters Guide from cover-to-cover.

One of the things they pointed out in that book is that a good Game Master never says “No.”  On the surface that seems like a truly disastrous statement to make, but the more I thought about it the more I realized that it was a completely true statement.  The fact of the matter is that in many ways a role-playing game is just an improvisational theater game.  You have a set of rules, you have an established character, and you have one person setting up the scenarios you will encounter who has an outcome in mind.  The fun comes in the getting there, and as part of that the players are just as important to telling the story as the game master.  Accepting that an RPG is a form of improv theater it makes sense that the “never say No” rule of improv carries over to table top gaming.  This is not to say that you let your players get away with completely running over your story, but it’s imperative that you let them actually take part in shaping it.  The best game masters I’ve ever played with did this, and I saw many fine examples of it this previous weekend as well.

I am inspired to do the same.

On another acting note we’re still in the midst of casting the 2010-2011 Jobsite Season with all the angst and anxiety that goes along with it.  I have at least one more show to audition for on August 31st and I’m still waiting to hear about another one.  I have already landed a few roles and gotten very close on a few others (including one that, unfortunately, I REALLY wanted…and not just because I could use the extra paycheck).  I am thinking that, next year, I need to at least go to the Tampa Area Unified Auditions at the Gorilla Theater.  Jobsite has been my theatrical home for the last 7 years and as far as I’m concerned they will have my eternal loyalty but I wonder sometimes if I’m doing myself a disservice by not at least seeing if anyone else would like to use me.

I was, however, reminded of something yesterday by a fellow actor and parent.  Every role that I miss out on is one more opportunity to spend time with my son before he’s grown up and out of my house.  I have plenty of time in my life to act after he is gone, but I will never get these years back.  The role I was gunning for hard this year would have prevented me from going to GenCon with Alex in 2010, and while I was prepared to make that particular sacrifice I think in the long run the time Alex and I spend together will be a much better investment.

Aug 022009
 

My son suffers from diabetes.  A little over a year ago he went into a state known as diabetic ketoacidosis.  He almost went into a coma and if we had not gotten him to a hospital there is a good chance he could have died.  When he got out of the hospital he was told to follow up with his specialist, so I called to make an appointment.  The earliest I could take my son in to see his specialist was four months later.

I have been using Prevacid for years to control my acid reflux.  A condition that, if let unchecked, can lead to Barret’s esophagus and, subsequently, cancer.  This is the condition that killed my Father.  When my insurance providers switched at the beginning of the year I was told that my medical provider would no longer cover Prevacid, the medication my doctor wanted me to be on, and that I had to switch to Aciphex.

I have also been using Metrogel for years to control my Rosacea.  Recently my insurance provider decided they would no longer pay for that medication either and I had to switch to another one.

There is no generic equivalent available for the type of insulin my son has to take for his diabetes and my insurance provider considers it non-formulary.  That ONE medication of his is $60 per month.  This does not include his other insulin, his needles, or his test strips.  There IS a generic equivalent of his second type of insulin, but it does not work as well and we will be switching back to the non-forumlary kind after his next appointment with his endocrinologist.

Alex had a problem throwing baseballs and was diagnosed with a condition called little league shoulder.  My insurance company would only pay for about half of the visits that his physical therapist suggested.  After we had run out of therapy his condition still persisted and he still cannot properly throw a baseball without causing himself some pain.   At this point we’re holding on to hope that he will grow out of it.

Should I go on?

All of you people who think this shit only happens in countries where they have “socialized medicine” are fooling yourselves.  Insurance companies get in the way of you and your doctor all the time. They deny treatments.  They deny medications.  They tell you what doctors you can and cannot see, even if said doctors have huge waiting lists.

Is socialized medicine better?  Damned if I know.  What I DO know is that all this bullshit being spouted about how there is nobody between you and your doctor right now is a bunch of lies.