I know that I am guilty of driving past a stranded motorist on the side of the road.  In the age of ubiquitous cell phones, I can almost safely assume that a person sitting out of traffic has called a friend or AAA or a towing service, or in the Atlanta area on the highways that a HERO vehicle will be along shortly.  I consider this to be acceptable.  Especially in the middle of the day, off the side of the road, this person is very likely to be okay.

However, when a car is stalled and is blocking traffic, I usually pull up and ask if they need help.  Most of the time they say no, whether because they don’t need help or because the bald goatee’d strange guy is asking I don’t know, but at least I’ve asked.  Occasionally, people even say yes, and I help them.  Not often, because the truth is that it is fairly rare for a car to actually die completely in traffic and not be able to get off the road.  I’ve had cars die a few times, but in almost every case I was able to limp them off the road.

Yesterday, the wife’s car died while waiting at a stop light.  She called me, I told her to call the service station we use and have them send a truck, and then I packed up my stuff and left work to go help.  In the time it took me to get there, more than 20 minutes, many cars had gone by her honking and yelling.  One guy did help her slightly, and pushed her car forward enough that people could get around her easier, but didn’t help her get out of the road.  After I got there, I witnessed a large number of people continue to honk and yell and drive around.  I tried to move the car myself, but it was slightly uphill and I wasn’t going anywhere.  Then a guy in a truck towing a trailer asked if we needed help.  I said yes, he actually drove to a nearby gas station, parked, and ran back over to help.  The two of us pushed the car through the intersection and into a turn lane out of traffic.

For well over a half hour, the wife sat in traffic as people honked and yelled, complaining and upset at the jam her dead car was causing.  Out of all of those people, only two bothered to help.  I find this indicative of most people in general.  They would rather sit and complain about something being crappy rather than to actually take action to try to make it less crappy.  So many people would rather be the victim than the hero if being the hero means they have to actually do something.

Lifetime Subscription Realms

At launch, I was a big fan of Free Realms.  It was a nice looking, well crafted game, and it was free.  I played it a few hours a week right up until they moved the velvet rope.  Originally, some professions were fully open up to level 20 and other professions were closed unless you paid.  I really liked this because it allowed you to see the game from the bottom to the top, at least in part.  The new model allows you to get up to level 5 in every profession, with further advancement behind the pay wall.  Because of the switch, I quit shortly thereafter, because frankly, even though I was enjoying it, it wasn’t worth $5 a month to play.

Right now and until August 2nd, SOE is running a special, $30 lifetime subscription for Free Realms.  Due to a few freebies and other gifts I’ve gotten over the last year, I had accumulated 2800 Station Cash points, and the store said I could buy the lifetime subscription for 2999 points.  I cracked open the wallet, bought $5 worth of points and bought my lifetime membership.

Sadly, this means that Free Realms technically doesn’t belong in the Freeloading category anymore, so this will be my last post on this game under this heading.

I think the game is totally worth $30.  Especially if you have kids.  Sure, there are still many items in the cash shop, and so your spending days may not be over, but the game will have no fixed costs, which is nice.  And you can always dole out Station Cash as allowance and/or rewards.  Personally, I like the game for the same reason I still like Puzzle Pirates – I like short arcade-style mini-games, but I love that doing them contributes to an overall game and world.  Sure, I could play Bejeweled or other matching games over at Popcap or on Facebook, but they don’t earn me anything.  In Free Realms, when I do well at mining I get ore which I can smith into weapons that I can use in my fighting professions and so on.  Plus, I like running around in huge worlds and seeing stuff.

Now, the only issue I have with Free Realms is their silly 1024 x 768 minimum resolution limitation that prevents me from being able to play on my 1024 x 600 netbook.  Puzzle Pirates is still the winner on that device…

Doing Your Part

So, for the first time ever on this weblog, I’m posting something that is going into multiple categories. This is going to be a long one, so, bear with me.


Butts in the GrassI don’t dislike smokers because of cancer. If people want to kill themselves, fine. What I find distasteful is their impact on me.

1) Smoke stinks.

Even if you aren’t blowing it in my face, I can still smell it. And it is fairly putrid. You know that phrase “smells like a dirty ashtray”? There is a reason it is considered a bad thing. Along those same lines, smokers stink too. Most of them don’t realize that they trail a pungent odor around with them, that their clothes are dripping with stench, because they have become accustomed to the smell. The smoke gets in their clothes, the walls of their homes, the pulp pages of the paperback novels they own, and everything else. It permeates their very lives.

2) Cigarette butts.

The picture I have included with this tirade is of the grassy area just outside the Doraville Marta station. There is a good ten foot by fifty foot grass area with a couple of trees that parallels the kiss ride drop off. The entire area looks like that photo. There are probably quite easily a few thousand cigarette butts in the grass, and they clean this area when they mow the grass, which I think they do monthly, perhaps more often. All this despite there being at least four trash cans around the entrance to the station.

And this isn’t an isolated incident. It is the same just about everywhere. Ever looked at the side of just about any major road? Chances are it’ll be covered in butts from drivers flicking their’s out windows as opposed to actually using the ashtray in their car.

So, if you are a smoker, at least try to do your part… I won’t bitch at you for smoking if you promise not to be a jackass and litter.

And that leads into the next point about litter in general. Most people don’t want to live in a shithole. But they seem to have no problem with contributing to making the world a shithole.

I ride the bus and MARTA most days (some days I work from home, and some days I’ll drive to work because its faster), and the number of people who will leave behind trash is pathetic. Want to know how to shame an entire train car load of people? If you see some newspaper, plastic drink bottles, or fast food bags on the train rattling around on the floor as everyone pointedly ignores it, at a stop where a trash can will be relatively near your door, pick up the trash (be loud about it, crinkle the paper or bottles), ask someone to hold the door (using a loud voice, project from the diaphram to ensure people hear you), and step out to throw away the trash. When you come back, thank the person who held the door and say something like “Just couldn’t stand seeing that trash on the floor. People should throw out their own stuff.” Then enjoy as the entire car of people shift uncomfortably and avoid eye contact. Oh, there might be one or two who smile and even say something to you about how you did a good thing, but probably a good thirty percent of those people will have left trash on a train car before, and the rest of them have seen trash and never done anything about it. The best part about it, though, is that you will feel good. First off, it feels good to be part of the solution and not part of the problem. Secondly, rubbing people’s noses in their own indifference is its own reward. Remember, they wouldn’t be shifting uncomfortably and avoiding eye contact if they weren’t guilty of leaving trash or ignoring trash.

Outside of making people feel like crap about themselves on MARTA, its generally a good idea to always try to leave any place better than you found it. If you go to a park, or camping, or even to a movie theater, be better than other people and throw out your trash. Yes, they have people they hire to do that, but where do you think the money comes to pay the people who clean up after you? Movies don’t cost $9 a ticket for shits and giggles. Federal and local funded parks, it comes from your taxes. So, like the title says, do your part, don’t litter and maybe pick up a piece of trash every now and then.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled blogging…

Gangsta Scouts

I’m riding MARTA minding my own business when three young African-American males board the train. These men were garbed in traditional “street” attire: pants hanging low, shoes with the laces out, Starter jackets, baseball caps on at angles other than forward or backward. One sat and two stood. And then, they spoke:

Gangsta_1: Yo dawg! Check it. I gotta get home an’ get me some of them cookies, yo!
Gangsta_2: What kind you got?
G1: I got me some thin mints just chilling in the freezer waitin’ for me, yo.
G2: Yeah.. thin mints are da bomb yo. But I didn’t get none this time round.
G1: What you get, dawg?
G2: Listen to this, yo. I got me a couple of boxes of Do-Si-Dos.
Gangsta_3: Man, them peanut butter cookies are good. Damn good.
G2: I know, yo. I gots to find me a way to order more.
G3: I think my sister has some friends who be sellin’ cookies still.
G1: Get some thin mints, yo. And Tagalongs. That shit is crazy good!
G2: Damn, I forgot about them. Shit, I think I could eat nuthin’ but Girl Scout Cookies.
G3: True dat.
G1: No doubt.

The doors opened at the next station and the three young men left, and as they did, one of them said, “Man, I’m hungry now, yo. I don’t think I can wait until my lunch break to eat my cupcakes.”

As the train pulled away from the station, most of the passengers, me included, burst into laughter.