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Criticism and Compliments

One of the things I dislike the most is how unbalanced online reviews are, and how people intentionally malign honest sellers trying to eke out a living on the internet. It is a real pet peeve. Why do they always want to write about bad experiences instead of seeking redress and maybe a refund first. Customer service is vitally important but seldom mentioned. When I was looking for a new tankless water heater, I found few helpful reviews at Tankless Center. I want an honest opinion and not a tirade. Just tell me that it works properly and meets your demands. When it comes to criticism versus compliments, it pays to read between the lines. Look at the average rating for a product. Eliminate the bottom five or so—those from bitchy people. I am amazed at one-star reviews for some of the most well-known and praised items. This is my proof of the problem.

I like long reviews because I know the purchaser took the time to tell the whole story, good and bad. If price is an issue, the reader understands, but also tell us what it does for the money. Does it look and work as expected? Did it malfunction too soon? When it comes to a tankless system, I want to know how much space you need, how easy is the installation, and does it save on electricity bills.  Does a manual come with the water heater and is it easy to use, especially the new computer models?

Navigating the net is an art and it helps to know when and how to separate the wheat from the chaff. Shopping on line is so prevalent (Amazon thanks for carrying everything in the universe) that judging reviews is a daily task.

Why I’m All For Adoption

One thing that I’ve been pretty clear on with my wife is that I want to adopt. I would like to have a child that is biologically mine, sure, but I also think that there is something really worthwhile about adoption. It is a tough process, I know. I’ve heard stories of heartbreak, where people pass all the screenings and then wait years to get a call. Others get notified that their child is going to be available and then the parents change their minds. Or they bond with the child only to have to go to court and find that the judge sides with the biological parent and you have to give the child up.

But those are really worst case scenarios and I have no idea how often that even happens. If you go by tv movies, I’m sure you think it happens a lot – they make for great dramas. But I imagine real life is not quite like that. When I was in college, two of my best friends were adopted. One knew her bio parents and the other one did not. One had adopted siblings and the other one didn’t. Anyway, my point is this: their lives were made better because someone chose to adopt them. The lives of their families were also forever improved because they now had these people in it that they would not have had otherwise.

And as I said at the beginning, I get it. I understand people’s desire to pass down their genetics and have a piece of themselves live on. That is important. I’m not denying it. But sometimes life does not work out that way. Maybe you meet someone too late in life or it just doesn’t happen for one reason or another. Adoption can be a time consuming and expensive project, but so are reproductive procedures like IVF. Neither one of them comes with a complete guarantee, but adoption seems like a better choice to me – I mean, once you’re approved, there are already kids out there waiting for you. There’s no hormone shots, no surgeries, and no medical procedures. And a lot of the stuff that the agency will make you do, like having a pediatrician and a daycare and a safety plan, are all things that every parent should do anyway. I wish it was required before they let you take your kid home from the hospital. You see all those commercials about animals at shelters and your heart breaks. And then there are kids, actual babies and children and teenagers, without a family to call their own. How does that not make you want to do something about it?

I think it does not matter where we come from, but how we feel about each other. I think that if you have the love in your heart and the ability to, adopting a child is about the greatest thing you can do. Everyone wants to feel loved and like they belong somewhere. You can adopt and give that to someone. How amazing is that?

What’s Normal?

I have been thinking a lot lately. With everything else going on in the world right now, why do we still have to say that certain people aren’t “normal” like it is some kind of bad thing? Personally, I try not to categorize people. I am not dumb enough to say that I don’t see differences in people, but I try to treat people in an equitable manner. It doesn’t matter to me what you want to be called, what color or religion you are, or where you’re from. I don’t care. Really, when I think about it, the way somebody else looks, believes, or identifies themselves has no bearing on me whatsoever.

Maybe I am missing something. But I honestly think that people being different makes the world more interesting. It would be impossible for us to all look the same – we’re shaped differently, for one thing, and different experiences have altered our appearances (everybody has scars, or freckles, or something). For another, how boring would it be if there was a “normal” haircut and “normal” clothes that we all had to wear? Can you even imagine? I like my hair short, I think it looks better that way. But girls can have short hair, and guys can have long hair. Does that mean one is normal and one is not? Does it even matter? You can’t even say that traditionally men had short hair, because you know that it was not always the case. Or at least, they wore fashionable wigs that were considerably longer and fancier back in the day. If I started wearing a powdered wig when I was out and about, would people think I was a weirdo? Wasn’t it normal at one point, though?

When we’re kids, we think everybody is like us. We assume that everyone eats the same kinds of food we do and maybe even has the same living arrangements we do. We have no idea that there is some kind of ideal or normal out there, we just know what IS. As we get older and our world expands, we start to learn that not everyone is the same. They may look different, love differently, speak a language we don’t understand, or practice another religion than we do. Maybe there are more variables nowadays – for example, I’d imagine that the mixed-race population is just going to continue to climb as the world becomes an ever-smaller place – or maybe people are just finding out that it isn’t so bad being who they really are and have stopped hiding. Or they’re tired of hiding, period. But when it comes down to it, don’t most people want some version of the same things: essentially to be happy and loved, to feel safe, and to live a comfortable life? Does pursuing those things make us normal? I have no idea.

If everyone judged other people using themselves as the yardstick for normal, then it’s pretty safe to say most people would not fit the bill. I think we should give up on this idea of normal. Normal’s boring. Instead, we should be celebrating our differences and learning from one another. We might find out that we’re different, yet the same.

Driving MINI: A Small Car in an Oversized World

I don’t really know why I wanted a MINI Cooper. It’s not big (obviously) and it doesn’t have a whole lot of room, but it is just so cool. First of all, they look great. You recognize them immediately. They just look like little racecars with their bonnet stripes and roof colors. Mine’s blue and it has a white top and mirrors – named Alice (Alice Cooper, get it?). You get to pick the colors and there is so much customizing involved, I felt like I built the car myself by the time I was done choosing options.

For the price, I’m sure I could have gotten a lot more car. But it is fun to drive, so I don’t really care. It is really hard to explain without using words like fun and awesome. It drives like no other car I’ve ever been in, and that’s a good thing.

You do have to get used to driving it. In addition to it being a lot of fun to drive, there is a size issue. When you’re on the highway and everybody else is towering over you, you sort of feel like a bug about to be squashed under someone’s shoe. I have been driving since I was 16 years old and I don’t think I was ever afraid behind the wheel, but the first time I came up on a tractor trailer, I thought he was going to drive right over me or slam me into the guardrail. It’s a safe car, with some great safety features (thanks, Cornering Brake Control!); that’s not the problem at all. It’s that everybody else is in these giant cars. But the more I drive it, the more used to it I’m getting and the more comfortable I feel passing huge vehicles on the road. Because I’m in a little race car, and they aren’t!

I will say that the MINI is bigger than it looks when you’re inside it. It’s like magic that way. You don’t realize it when you’re just looking at the car, but the wheels are all the way on the end of the car. It both adds room and makes the car easier to handle. There’s no wasted space (case in point: the engine is sideways) so you can use the room you have. It’s very efficient that way. I’ve met some other people who drive MINIs, and some of them are surprisingly tall. Others have kids and fit car seats in the back and everything.

Anyway, if you’re in the market for a new car, you should really check out the MINI. It’s safe, it’s got all kinds of technology packed inside, it’s surprisingly roomy, and it drives amazing. Plus, you will be the coolest looking car on the road, no question!

What a Nice Day!

I try to stay on the positive side of things, even when things aren’t working out in my favor. I tend to handle things better when I am in a positive mindset, regardless of what is being thrown at me. It is not always easy, because getting angry or frustrated is a much more satisfying (at least in the moment) way to be. However, today was not one of those days.

I had a really good night’s sleep, which probably helped. My alarm woke me up and one of my favorite songs was on the radio. I stayed in bed to hear the rest of the song, which is a great way to start the morning. I had breakfast at home. My wife and I had just gone shopping yesterday and I love having that first bowl of cereal from a fresh box. It’s just so good! I took a shower and got ready for work. The drive in was surprisingly uneventful – no accidents, nobody driving twenty miles below the speed limit in front of me and nobody tailgating the crap out of me either. Just the usual traffic and nothing more.

I got in to work and settled down at my desk. I had a few things to do straight away, so I started in on that stuff. Sometimes things are like a big snarl at work and it takes me forever to untangle the mess: who is doing what, where is this thing, who has that piece? It can take me all day sometimes to get just a few questions answered. Not today! I miraculously had all the information I needed to complete my to-do list. And my boss didn’t send me any of those annoying “drop everything you’re doing and do this for me right this second because it was due yesterday” kind of projects. It was somebody’s birthday at work, so we had a party in the break room with pizza and cake for lunch. Getting paid to eat cake is my idea of a great time.

My ride home was the same as my ride in: not a whole lot going on. I listened to the satellite radio in the car and got to hear some songs I had nearly forgotten completely about, the last time I heard them was so long ago. It was a nice change from hearing the same few songs over and over again on the radio. I came home and my wife and I made some dinner – hooray again for grocery shopping! – watched a few episodes of a show we like and are behind on, and then I decided to blog. Some people might call this kind of a day boring at worst or uneventful at best. I just call it nice. A couple more days just like this would be great! OK, since the day started so good because I had a good night’s sleep, I’m going to stop here. Goodnight!

I Really Hope All Dogs Go to Heaven

I lost my best friend, my black lab Varjo, a year ago today. I miss him every day, still. There will be times that I forget he’s gone and I go to put food in his bowl. Then I see the empty spot where I kept his food, and the empty place where his bowl was, and I remember all over again. He was a great friend, and I really hope that I get to be reunited with him again one day.

I adopted Varjo when he was about a year old. He wasn’t a puppy anymore and the family who had gotten him from a breeder decided he wasn’t cute anymore now that he was so “big.” I don’t know what they were thinking, labs aren’t known for being small dogs. But their stupidity was my gain, because Varjo (which means Shadow in Finnish, which seemed to fit him because he went everywhere with me) and I bonded immediately. I mean, dogs are so great. They just love you no matter what. You can be funny looking or tell bad jokes or smell, all things that might put off other humans, but your dog loves you and misses you with their whole heart even if you’re gone only for a few seconds. Sometimes the best part of my day was seeing Varjo’s face at the window and his tail wagging while he waited for me to get out of my car and come into the house. He and I went through a lot together over the twelve years we had each other.

I’ve bene thinking lately about maybe adopting another dog. I think about all the dogs in shelters looking for good homes and how I was a pretty good owner for Varjo, and it just makes sense. It is a little hard, knowing that I will probably wind up in the vet’s office (hopefully many) years from now, in the same position I was in with Varjo, but then I think about all the good times we had before that. And it just makes me feel like it is something I should do. And if there’s another furry friend waiting for me in heaven, that wouldn’t be so bad either.

How could you not love something that thinks you’re probably the best thing ever next to food? Anything with a heart that pure, that so able to love without condition, deserves to have something great happen in their next life. Or the afterlife, or whatever you believe. Personally, I believe in a heaven, the kind with the harps and the heavenly choir and the family reunions and the serene peace. And I really do hope that we’re reunited with not just our loved ones who have gone before us, but our pets too. Personally, I don’t think it will be heaven without him. I know a lot of people would agree with me on that, too. Do you?

If anybody is worthy of eternal love and happiness, it is a dog.