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Three Forms of Self-Expression I’m Not Really Down With

9 Dec

I’m pro-self-expression. I love that I live in a society where I can say babies look like little old people and not experience any repercussions (minus the hateful looks from my wife). However, there are forms of self-expression that I find just don’t really do it for me. It’s not that I think you shouldn’t be able to express yourself, I just think it should stop being done in the following ways.

1. Tattoos

When I was 4 years old I had a favorite toy. It was a plastic Tyrannosaurus Rex that I named Bagel. I absolutely loved Bagel. Me and him were like partners in crime running ’round the house creating ruckus.

Tyrannosaurus Rex and me

Me and Bagel posing for the camera.

Fast forward 16 years and I’m on my first solo backpacking experience. I’m talking with a French Canadian outside a beach hostel about my incredible idea for a tattoo I’d like to get. I’ve drawn out a killer sunset over the ocean done in black in this crazy tribal pattern that I’d like centered on my back, and though I don’t understand a thing he says, I’m pretty sure my new French Canadian friend agrees that it sounds awesome.

Guess what you won’t find on my back today? A big @$*#ing tattoo of an ocean sunset.

Indiana Jones and Spiders

Also this.

The lesson here has everything to do with Bagel. Do you know where Bagel the plastic T-Rex is today? Do you have any idea where Bagel, the toy that I loved like a brother and would kill for if it were possible as a four-year old, could possibly be? No. And you know what? I have no clue either.

Jurassic Park T Rex

I'd like to think he's become a big Hollywood celebrity.

The fact is, we change. Our opinions change, our notions of “what’s cool” change, and our priorities and values change. Even really unyielding convictions change. I had immensely strong feelings for Bagel, and yet, here I am today writing about how he’s probably been reprocessed into tires.

Flashback to the beach house and I’m about to pull the trigger on my terrible decision before I asked myself, “Hey Max, do you think this will look as awesome in 10 years as it’ll look tomorrow?” Not surprisingly, the answer was a resounding no.

Old Wine Bottles

Your ten year old tattoo is not considered a vintage.

And guess what? I was right. I’m immensely proud of 20-year-old Max for deciding not to go through with it. He understood that even though surfing and sunsets were now the two most important things to him, like Bagel, he might lose touch with those priorities.

I have a friend that has three of his ex-girlfriend/wives’ names on his arm. THREEThe first two are crossed out. I can’t italicize that enough. He somehow managed not to make one poor tattoo decision, but three. He thought getting girl #1’s name tattooed on his arm was romantic, so he inked his arm up, and then the romance died. Cue second girl. She bothered him about loving the first girl enough to get a tattoo, so he had to get a second. Then the third girl followed suit, and he ended up with three names. It’s like he applied an old wives’ tale to important relationship decisions. Lightning never strikes the same place twice right?

Two lightning bolts

Wrong.

So it’s not that I don’t agree with tattoos. It’s that I don’t agree with their longevity. Some look awesome (and many look terrible), but there’s rarely something so unique and so powerful that I must announce it to the world permanently underneath my shirt.

There are of course exceptions. If a tattoo is meant to memorialize something timeless then by all means, this doesn’t apply. For the others, I don’t buy that you got the barbed wire because it symbolized the cage of your existence.

And just in case you think this isn’t a real story, here’s a drawing I keep to remind myself that no matter where I am in life, in 10 years, I will always look back and think I was an idiot.

Drawing of sunset tattoo

Please invent a time machine so I can go back and punch myself in the face.

2. Bumper Stickers

I’m not sure what it is about the bumper on a car that causes people to assume that it’s an appropriate place to have serious political discourse or borderline offensive remarks.

choking bumper sticker

Oh I get it! You're a serial killer!

For some reason, people feel it’s appropriate to say things on their bumpers that one would never repeat in a conversation with a stranger. Could you imagine if the next time you introduced two friends the conversation went like this?

You: Hi Rick, I’d like you to meet Linda, we’re old friends from Vegas.

Rick: Hi Linda, my child is an honor student at Green Valley High School!

Linda: Hi Rick, my Boston Terrier is smarter than your honor student!

Didn’t that feel awkward?

The thing to remember is, when you have a bumper sticker on the back of your car, it’s quite simply the first thing you’re saying to every stranger you see on the road.

way too many bumper stickers

This says, "I'm #@*$ing crazy."

And that’s not even mentioning the people you do know. Would you go around to every co-worker at the office and let them know that their support of their favorite political candidate is akin to treason? That’s what it sounds like when you silly glue your “Screw Liberals”/”Screw Conservatives” sticky note to the back of your windshield.

3. Dance

I’m totally cool with dance as a concept, especially by people who enjoy it enough to be good at it. But we start getting into some pretty funky areas when people use dance as a form of self-expression in situations that are probably not dance-friendly.

Dance fighting

During a violent brawl, for example.

I went to a music festival in Seattle that was pretty fantastic. I enjoyed the “sit down” style of melody as did most the audience. There were about 2 or 3 people in the crowd who couldn’t handle their excitement and just had to move their body semi-rhythmically to the beat. Every one of those people looked like they were trying to have sex with a ghost.

casper the friendly ghost

Which in this case, seems totally inappropriate.

I tried to focus on the music, but the weird hip thrusts were quickly becoming prominent in my field of vision and I ended up kind of watching that for the rest of the set. And what does that say about me?

squirrels playing cards

Some pretty strange stuff I would say.

I truly do admire people for dancing “like nobody’s watching,” but the fact is that most of the time, there are dozens of people watching. And I gotta say, you’re making us pretty uncomfortable.

guy naked and darth vader making woman uncomfortable

Yep, just like that.

So just remember, that chinese symbol for “pride” that you’re getting right above your crack is probably going to look like a mistake when your first-born hits 12. And remember that ironic bumper sticker about eating babies you put on your old Corolla? Yeah, your boss walks by that everyday. He’s trying to figure out how to fire you.

And the dancing thing? I’d appreciate it if you’d stop making me feel like such a damned square.

Feel free to disagree in the comments below. Yelling can be done in CAPS.

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Four Awesome Problems to Have After Getting Freshly Pressed on WordPress

1 Dec

Yesterday afternoon I uploaded my second post to my blog and threw it up on Facebook to start awaiting the handful of views to trickle in. About an hour later, I received Willy Wonka’s golden ticket in my inbox:

“Congrats! Your post has been Freshly Pressed on the WordPress.com home page.”

Golden Ticket
Charlie knows what I’m talking about.

This sent me into an Internet induced tailspin that has given me some awesome problems to complain about. Here’s a brief description of what my Freshly Pressed experience has been so far…

1. You Will Call Every Person You Have Ever Known. Ever.

After contacting every one of my family members, I started scrolling through my phone contacts and texting every single person I know in alphabetical order. Ever wondered how to piss off your 7th grade english teacher at 1AM? Blow that phone up.

Math teacher at chalkboard
Nobody #*%$ing cares that I use comma splices!

For some reason, no one seems quite as enthusiastic as you, even if they are legitimately excited for you. And it’s not because they’re not totally hyped about your new found exposure, only that you’ve just snorted the internet equivalent of Scarface Brand Cocaine.

Scarface with cocaine
Perhaps he should’ve just started a WordPress site.

Then comes the moment you run out of people to annoy. Once you’ve exhausted your entire network…

2. You Will Do Nothing But Constantly Check Your Comments, Likes, Links, and Statistics.

I haven’t eaten for 17 hours. I can’t do anything but click between email, Facebook, WordPress, Twitter and my phone. Sixty minutes after receiving my first email from WordPress, I had almost 50 blog related emails waiting to be read in my inbox. And it’s awesome. I had a bunch of plans last night and I didn’t do a single thing because I was obsessively waiting for each individual comment and response.

Guy staring at paint drying
Define “a bunch of plans.”

After I saw the number of visits jump past the 1,000 mark, I suddenly realized I hadn’t planned for the next problem…

3. You Are Totally Unprepared for This Large of an Audience.

I originally wrote the article as a satirical look at my recent experience with the health care system (it’s all very true). So imagine my surprise when all the sudden I find that the post is actually hitting home for thousands of people. Now I’m reading and rereading my work with my new found text-induced neurosis and rewriting my “About” page like it’s my status update on Facebook.

Guy thinking hard about something
Wait… Is it “your” or “you’re?” Probably doesn’t matter, no one’s going to read it anyway.

My other big issue is that I just started writing last Monday. This means I have exactly one post other than my Health Insurance piece to offer this totally incredible audience. Two posts. I have a total of two posts.

Guy selling two beers
“Hey! I know everyone’s thirsty, but don’t worry, I brought these two beers!”

Regardless, you’ve updated as much you can, now it’s just time to sit back and enjoy the ride right? Welcome to problem four…

4. You Will Now Live In Constant Fear That You’ve Just Peaked as a Hobby Blogger.

You know those moments in life when you’re having so much fun you just have no idea how things could possibly get any better? This blogging hangover feels kind of like the day after those moments. You’ve just written about an experience that seemed to have a pretty big impact on a bunch of people, how are you possibly going to top that?

Screenshot of blogpost
Hint: Not with this.

You’re slowly getting bumped off the Freshly Pressed page and you’re getting fewer and fewer likes/shares… You start to wonder, “Did I just hit the absolute top of my game only five days after starting?”

K Fed Douche
Ask K-Fed, he should know.

And so begins the pity party.

In the end, it’s so absolutely cool of WordPress to float blogs of interest up where people can see them regardless of how long the person has been blogging or how many posts they have. I think it’s a pretty awesome incentive for anyone and everyone to just get out there and start writing, because you never know when an opportunity might arise that gives you the chance to be heard by thousands of people. I really appreciate WordPress for giving me that chance and of course all the  bloggers and readers who’ve shared a few minutes of their day to read a few thoughts from a fellow Interneter. I’m incredibly fortunate and lucky, because I know that there’s a randomness to it all. It feels like winning the lottery.

Celebrating with money
At least, what I imagine it feels like.

If you like the blog, make sure to follow up top! And if you’re into the “Twitter” you can always follow me at @MacsJF. I know, it’s shameless…

Thanks for reading!

Three Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me About Health Insurance

1 Dec

My experience with Health Insurance companies for the last five years has been mildly benevolent, in that I made sure to pay them X amount a month and they made sure I was covered if my feet fell off. Things went decidedly south about 6 months ago when I decided to, god forbid, move.

Stern Looking Doctor
“Perhaps you shouldn’t have moved to Oregon, hippie.”

I’ve learned a lot of crappy things about the Health Insurance Industry in the last few months, and I feel like a lot of it was avoidable if I had known just a few key pieces of information before making some health related decisions. I’d like to share those lessons with you now so you can dodge some of these complications and headaches in your future dealings with the Healthcare system.

1. Health Insurance Companies Want to Eat Your Family.

After moving, I called my insurance broker and let her know my new address in Oregon. She went ahead and did her magic, and a month later I received my bill. Surprise (was it though?), my new premium for my wife and I just about doubled from $270 to $499.96 per month. I wanted to make sure my new donations were going to a good cause (like paying for the CEO’s stripper mistresses) so I called their customer service to find out what the deal was.

Turns out I was now out of network, so my premiums went up accordingly.

Customer Service Woman
I’d love to help you, but I’m kind of busy with my modeling career.

That would make sense, except that the quality of my plan went in the other direction (down). Since I was out of network, the percentages the insurance company contribute towards my expenses dropped from 80% to 25%. The 75% I was contributing was now going towards a deductible that had also doubled from $1500 to $3000.

In all fairness, all the info’s right there in the 60 page document they gave me when I signed up. I should have chosen to be a bit more curious and it’s all pretty standard operating procedure stuff for health insurance companies.

Piles of Paperwork - Lots of work
It was filed alphabetically between “Screw” and “You”.

Fine right? No worries, just switch your insurance to a company that considers Oregon in-network… This leads us to lesson 2:

2. Don’t You Ever, As Long As You Live, Switch Insurance Companies.

Remember that one time you went to the doctor to get that insignificant thing checked out? I know, it wasn’t a big deal, but you’re going to have to include it on the application.

Remember that application for coverage you just sent in? Yeah, it got rejected because of that thing.

Last August, I ruptured my eardrum while Scuba Diving (because I make terrible decisions). I went to the doctor so that he could verify that I was an idiot, and then I was all done because this is an injury that heals all by itself like a cut. While we were there, we decided to check out an issue my wife was having which was some blockage in her salivary duct. I know, way too much info. There’s a reason I’m telling you though. The doctor suggested we get a CT scan to pinpoint exactly what’s going on, and then we went on our merry way.

Like the honest folks we are, we mentioned both events on our application to ODS with some assurance from our broker that he never sees anyone get rejected for such small issues.

We were both promptly rejected for coverage.

What blows me away, is that my wife is 26 and I’m 28, we’re both in good health (we stay fit, we don’t smoke, don’t drink, don’t eat fast food, don’t have any chronic conditions), and we’re honest on our applications for coverage. What is the health insurance company looking for? I was rejected for a condition that was completely resolved.

Doctor looking in an ear
“I think I left my daughter’s tuition payment in there…”

We appealed the decision. I had to go back to the doctor so that he could verify that everything was fine with my ear (4 months after the accident) and I typed a 4 page document attached to the doctor’s chart notes to try and let the insurance company know that my ear was fine, and that my wife’s issue was a minor annoyance that occurred maybe twice a year.

They accepted me and rejected my wife.

We’re now going with the statewide insurance plan for my 26 year old healthy wife because ODS is not willing to cover her. This is the Oregon plan that is the failsafe for residents who cannot otherwise get health insurance.

We’re now in a bad position because we wanted to check out a minor concern with a preventative mindset (and we were already at the ENT Doctor) when we would’ve been better served just ignoring it.

This leads me to point 3…

3. Don’t Ever Tell the Truth About Anything, Ever.

Seriously. If there’s one take away from any of this, remember that everything you tell your doctor will get marked down forever on your chart notes. Some day, if you even get individual health insurance, when you’re arguing with the company about your claim, they’ll point to it and say you never told them, or alternatively, that it was a preexisting condition. So don’t tell anyone, anything, ever.

Black and white photo of dr. dre
Just don’t lie to this Dr.

I don’t actually know too much about the current state of the health care system, but I don’t think I ever realized how crippling the system is until I finally had to deal with a different side of it. I’ve always been healthy, employed, and stable, so this was never (selfishly) a concern to me. One of those things changed, so now I’m in a different boat. I’m very lucky that I have a variety of resources and a bit of income and savings to handle the complications, but I can only imagine how difficult this must be for someone in a different situation. How broken is a system when young healthy people can’t even get affordable health insurance?

My wife and I are incredibly lucky to be physically sound and capable, so I know there’s a light at the end of the tunnel for us. But I have no idea how people are dealing with similar situations who have actual problems that need actual care.

Clown Doctor - Humor
They go see this guy.

Knowing what I know now, I would be much more selective about what I would reveal to the health care system, which seems like a terrible solution to a ridiculous problem. I would rather risk my health by not getting something checked out than risk being denied in the future or seeing my rates jump astronomically.

Does that not sound crazy?

UPDATE (11/30/11 21:12): I’m incredibly blown away (sorry I keep using that phrase) by all of the comments! I’ve been a bit frustrated with my experience so far, but it’s certainly far more interesting to hear that it’s a commonly felt sentiment. And sad. Mostly sad.

It’s pretty striking that for such a developed country, we still have a healthcare system that seems to function pretty terribly, evidenced more by the disposition of the responses rather than the statistics you can find here or there. Originally, the post was meant to be a satirical look at what felt like a ridiculous situation, but I’m quickly finding that this story is hitting home for a ton of people, which again, blows me away. And again, feels pretty sad.

I started out trying to reply individually, but I’m quickly realizing that it’s a losing battle. Thank you so much for all the responses and I really appreciate everyone taking the time to read my blog, which I know is one of… Billions? I know there’s a lot of them, so I appreciate you spending some of your reading time with me. If you’d like to do it again sometime, please feel free to hit the follow button up top. Or alternatively, follow me on twitter, @MacsJF. (My apologies for the shameless self-promotion).

Thanks again!

-Max

Three things I’ve realized after joining Twitter.

29 Nov

I’ve just recently started getting involved at a higher level with web development and the tech world, and I’m quickly finding that not having a Twitter page in the tech world is like checking the basement in a horror movie.

Walking Into a Creepy Basement
Spoiler Alert: You’re dead.

What annoys me most is that I was under the assumption that Twitter was a social media for narcissistic introverts who don’t actually read anything other than their own posts (totally different than blogs); so I’ve been mostly ignoring that section of the internet. Turns out it’s essential to being awesome at the Internet.

Here are three things I’ve learned about Twitter after jumping in this late in the game.

1. You will be judged harshly on the quality of your Twitter account.

I tried to join a website by the name of Forrst which is a community of developers and designers, but in order to create an account I need to be accepted. In order to be accepted I need to fill out an invite and fulfill some requirements. Although not required, guess what’s recommended? Twitter Account.

Signing up for Forrst
It’s recommended because fuck you.

Three days before the start of high school, my friend Charlie hit me in the forehead with a rock. This meant that the first two weeks of the most influential year of my youth were spent walking around with Frankenstein stitches on the front of my face. Thank you Forrst for making me feel less cool than those first 14 days of freshman year.

I have a little over 20 followers (see lesson 2) which is roughly 0.00013% the volume of people following Justin Bieber, a pop star best known for his impersonations of a male singer. I have as many followers as I have fingers and toes. I could do one sit-up for every follower every day and still become morbidly obese. I’m just terrible at having followers.

I don’t deal well with rejection, so my application to become a member of Forrst is now on hold while I sort out my insecurities. I couldn’t get past step one because I feel like the internet’s version of the weird emo kid that cuts himself. Ironically, Forrst has made me feel like other Forrest:

Can't Sit Here
“Can’t tweet here.”

2. Most of your followers are spider robots trying to have sex with you.

I get an email anytime a new person starts following my twitter feed (read: once a month), so imagine my surprise when I received three followers all in the same day! On further inspection, all three were morally questionable females that had dirty things to say about themselves in their bios.

Twitter Sex Robot
Definitely not a spambot.

I like to believe that I’m not the most horrendous looking thing on my block, but I doubt very highly that three scandalous dressing chicks saw my profile while browsing through Twitter and decided they wanted to know more about my thoughts on cottage cheese.

What blows me away is that there are 125 people following Yelena Saintfleur. That means there are 125 people out there who are web savvy enough to create a twitter account, but not savvy enough to understand when an internet whore is a fake thing.

I have yet to delete the spambots as I desperately need followers if I ever plan on making another pass at Forrst.

3. You’ll never truly understand what Twitter is for.

This is the third time I’ve joined Twitter and the third time I’m confused by it. It’s like an ex-girlfriend that I keep getting back together with forgetting why we broke up in the first place.

Getting into a fight with your boyfriend or girlfriend
Hint: It’s because she’s racist.

I just have no idea what the value is, and I keep assuming that it’ll kind of just dawn on me as I use it more. Right now, it represents how badass I am on the internet (note: not very) and how slutty robots are. Which, for all intents and purposes, actually sounds pretty awesome.

Follow me on Twitter @MacsJF. I need to feel accepted.