Customer Service (and its lack)

May 24th, 2011

We just got home today from one of the worst travel experiences in my life. We flew through Denver on United, connecting to Colorado Springs in order to visit my brother’s family in Pueblo and attend my niece’s wedding. It was less expensive than flying directly into the Springs or into Pueblo, and we’ve done it many times before with no problems or at worst delays. Going to the Springs on Thursday, we were delayed an extra two hours in Denver, but made it to Springs tired but happy to get in and see family, and enjoyed a wonderful weekend staying at the Pueblo Marriott, with a really good experience there, and visiting with family I hadn’t seen in twenty years in some cases. It was a great trip.

Until we tried to come home. There were several hours between our Springs flight and our Denver connection, so we didn’t anticipate problems. We got out of Springs late with about a half hour to connect. Then the troubles began. We ended up having to run sixty gates to try and make our flight. The airline knew we had just come in, and the gate attendant when we arrived assured us they would hold the flight. United’s policy is to close the doors ten minutes before a flight, but we were told the zone manager has the option to hold the flight for connections.

We got to the gate just as the doors had closed, running as hard as we could. Twelve people were standing there waiting, and United would not let us on the flight. I suppose they had already given our seats to other stranded passengers. And now we were the stranded, for not being able to run sixty gates in ten minutes. Our luggage was on the plane and going to San Diego. But we couldn’t get on the plane, since they had closed the doors.

I understand people miss connections, and airlines have to do what they can. But knowing customers have just come in a flight, and then leaving them stranded at the gate, is pretty inexcusable. Refusing to do anything for them when this happens is the totally unacceptable part. They wouldn’t book us a room, give us a voucher for a meal or anything. And were telling hundreds of other people in the airport the same thing, using the excuses that their United-Continental merger wasn’t complete, so they weren’t responsible for a Continental connection, or that it was our fault for not running sixty gates fast enough. We were all stuck, in dirty underwear in many cases and with no toiletries. But they didn’t care.

So we called Marriott, who booked us a room at the Residence Inn (using the United corporate rate code, which we found amusing.) We had a nice dinner at Applebees, who fed us efficiently and treated us well. We got breakfast the next day at Residence Inn, included with our room, deodorant, at a minimal cost, and free shuttle service to the airport. We got outstanding service — from everyone except the company that created the problem.

We traveled home today with many of the stranded — the mother with a young baby, who they had done nothing for. We had dinner at the Applebee’s the night before next to the man they had stranded from Grand Junction, who had now canceled his San Diego trip for business and now only wanted to go home. They couldn’t get him home that night either. The waitress told us that they heard these stories about United every. single. day.

And now, for want of a nail, the shoe has come off. We will never fly United again. We will never connect through Denver on a trip again. We are looking for a charity to donate our United miles to — all 70,000 of them. We will not use this company again.

I don’t blame the employees. The rules are set by the company, and the employees have little leeway. No wonder they stop caring after a while, and just do the job as best they can. I blame the management, the millionaires and maybe billionaires who run this company, set its policies, and every day, strand hundreds or even thousands of people. And don’t care. Not at all. Not even enough to hand out a package with some underwear, deodorant and a toothbrush, and eat the cost of a hotel room. Would that really be so difficult? Really?

I don’t give this airline long to survive. Others can do better — and do. Or at least care if they don’t.

Going Home

November 13th, 2010

Well, going to where I grew up, at least. I’m off to Scottsdale, Arizona today to visit family and friends. My mom left me a timeshare there so I am headed there this week.

And I just got the book, “Journey from the Heart” from paperbackswap.com. This is the post for today:

You’re Almost Home

I only had a few hundred miles to go, but the stretch ahead seemed endless. I was tired and near the end of this adventure. I remembered the meditative words of a friend, words that had helped me several years ago, words that helped me again now.

“The life force is a force within you. You have the power to fire it, stoke it, expand its energy throughout your body. Don’t clench up, tighten up. That limits the life force within you. Stop cramping your muscles and telling yourself you can’t. If you say it long and loud enough, you’ll begin to believe it. Relax. Relax your arms, your legs, your neck, your body. You’ve come so far. Look back at all the miles you’ve traveled. What lies ahead is a small portion, such a small portion of fear.”

“Breathe deeply. When you become afraid or tired, your breathing becomes shallow. That inhibits the fire. It keeps the life force from reaching your muscles, your vital organs, your brain. Breathe deeply. Stoke the fire within.”

“Take a moment now to picture the core of light within you. See it in your solar plexus just inches below your navel. Picture it as a glowing coal, a candle, a flame. With each breath you take, picture the flame getting stronger, glowing more brightly, until you feel the vital life force begin to surge through you.”

“Feel yourself being filled with healing, life-giving energy with each breath you take. Feel the flame burn more brightly within you. Inhale deeply. Exhale deeply. Feel your power spread through your body. Feel the power of the universe come in through your breath. Feel the power connect with and flame the burning coal of energy that is within you.”

“You’ve come so far. You’ve almost mastered that lesson, accomplished that task, unveiled that insight, the one you’ve been struggling with. Of course you’re tired. You’ve been working hard. Take a moment now to light the fire within you. Let it give you the energy you need.”

Don’t stop now. You’re almost home.

So I guess that’s an appropriate message for my drive today…

For the Traveler

July 14th, 2010

For the Traveler

Every time you leave home,
Another road takes you
Into a world you were never in.

New strangers on other paths await.
New places that have never seen you
Will startle a little at your entry.
Old places that know you well
Will pretend nothing
Changed since your last visit.

When you travel, you find yourself
Alone in a different way,
More attentive now
To the self you bring along,
Your more subtle eye watching
You abroad; and how what meets you
Touches that part of the heart
That lies low at home:

How you unexpectedly attune
To the timbre in some voice,
Opening in conversation
You want to take in
To where your longing
Has pressed hard enough
Inward, on some unsaid dark,
To create a crystal of insight
You could not have known
You needed
To illuminate
Your way.

When you travel,
A new silence
Goes with you,
And if you listen,
You will hear
What your heart would
Love to say.

A journey can become a sacred thing:
Make sure, before you go,
To take the time
To bless your going forth,
To free your heart of ballast
So that the compass of your soul
Might direct you toward
The territories of spirit
Where you will discover
More of your hidden life,
And the urgencies
That deserve to claim you.

May you travel in an awakened way,
Gathered wisely into your inner ground;
That you may not waste the invitations
Which wait along the way to transform you.

May you travel safely, arrive refreshed,
And live your time away to its fullest;
Return home more enriched, and free
To balance the gift of days which call you.

~ John O’Donohue ~
For the Traveler
July 14th, 2010

For the Traveler

Every time you leave home,
Another road takes you
Into a world you were never in.

New strangers on other paths await.
New places that have never seen you
Will startle a little at your entry.
Old places that know you well
Will pretend nothing
Changed since your last visit.

When you travel, you find yourself
Alone in a different way,
More attentive now
To the self you bring along,
Your more subtle eye watching
You abroad; and how what meets you
Touches that part of the heart
That lies low at home:

How you unexpectedly attune
To the timbre in some voice,
Opening in conversation
You want to take in
To where your longing
Has pressed hard enough
Inward, on some unsaid dark,
To create a crystal of insight
You could not have known
You needed
To illuminate
Your way.

When you travel,
A new silence
Goes with you,
And if you listen,
You will hear
What your heart would
Love to say.

A journey can become a sacred thing:
Make sure, before you go,
To take the time
To bless your going forth,
To free your heart of ballast
So that the compass of your soul
Might direct you toward
The territories of spirit
Where you will discover
More of your hidden life,
And the urgencies
That deserve to claim you.

May you travel in an awakened way,
Gathered wisely into your inner ground;
That you may not waste the invitations
Which wait along the way to transform you.

May you travel safely, arrive refreshed,
And live your time away to its fullest;
Return home more enriched, and free
To balance the gift of days which call you.

~ John O’Donohue ~

(To Bless the Space Between Us)
( © John O’Donohue. All rights reserved)

Aloha!

June 9th, 2010

Leaving in the morning for Kauai — back in a week!

Aloha again

June 4th, 2010

We’re going to be headed to Hawaii in less than a week! I’m hoping to be able to revisit this beautiful beach, the one where I dropped my parents’ ashes into the ocean. The current off this coast runs straight to Tahiti, so I thought that might be a nice place to let them go. Don’t know if they ever made it to Tahiti, of course, but I like to imagine them there, as part of some gorgeous reef perhaps.

We’ll only be visiting the island of Kauai, where my parents’ timeshare was located and that I inherited. So no exploring the big island this time and finding its farthest reaches. I actually kind of like the more limited location trips. I really enjoyed going to Paris and just seeing the city last year, not feeling like we had to get out and see all of France or all of Europe or whatever. I think it made us feel more connected to the place we were visiting. So this time, we’ll really get to know Kauai well and connect there, and find the less traveled spots that we will enjoy even more.

And I’m taking along my best friend from grade school and high school and her husband, so this will be a fun trip indeed! Can’t wait!

Off to San Francisco

March 5th, 2010

Weekend in the wine country and then in San Francisco for the Game Developer’s Conference — probably won’t be posting til I get back to San Diego.

“A good traveler has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving” — Lao Tsu

Giverny

July 13th, 2009

giverny

Sorry, haven’t been posting Paris pics for a while….

It’s easy to see why Monet loved Giverny so much — it is beautiful. Crowded and full of not so wonderful English tourists, but beautiful. More Giverny pictures are here.

Careful, they spit!

June 20th, 2009

Obama

President Obama took a jab at Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel at the Radio and Television Correspondents’ Dinner last night:

“In Egypt, we had the opportunity to tour the pyramids,” Mr. Obama said, referring to his trip earlier this month. “And by now, I’m sure you’ve all seen the pictures of Rahm on that camel. I admit, I was a little nervous about the whole situation. I said at the time, ‘This is a wild animal known to bite, kick and spit. And who knows what the camel could do.’ ”

Via Kos.

it’s woodka-one touch more

June 19th, 2009

woodka4

Apparently I need to make a road trip to Germany. I must have this!!


it’s woodka – one touch more®

INTENSIVE FULL FLAVOUR, DRY, POWERFUL AND MASCULINE JUST AS THE SHAPE IMPLIES, WITH A VARIETY OF TASTES, GOING FROM VANILLA TO ROASTING FLAVOURS AND A NUANCE OF SWEET WINE PROVIDES YOU WITH THE EXPERIENCE OF A LONG LASTING PLEASANT TASTE.

PIONEERING SPIRIT, ENJOYMENT AT INVENTING NEW EXCITING WORLD PLEASURES, THE UNKNOWN CONTACT OF CRYSTAL CLEAR VODKA WITH THE NOBLE WOOD BARRELS, GIVES THE WOODKA ITS EXCLUSIVE AURA.

MAGICAL MOMENTS. TAKE OFF ON A CLOUD OF PLEASURES AND FEEL CONTENT.
RECOMMENDATION: ENJOY AT ROOM TEMPERATURE, NOT COOLED, A REAL SHAME TO MIX AND LOSE THE INTENSITY OF THE FLAVOUR.

Chocolat!

June 16th, 2009

chocolat

One of the best things about Paris is the abundance of fine chocolate makers. The creativity of many of the chocolatiers is amazing. This is at Patrick Roger. (Be sure to check out their site — some of the other stores are even more amazing.) Oh, and they deliver

chocolatbears

Yes, they’re chocolate! These are at Jean-Charles Rochoux, who was amazing. We got some chocolat liqeuers there that were just wonderful. (Their web site is cute but utterly useless). There’s a nice review of his shop here.

John-Charles Rochoux
16, rue d’Assas (6th)
Tél: 01 42 84 29 45
Métro: St. Sulpice or Rennes
Closed on Sundays and Monday morning

chocolatfigures

parisdinner

So this was our dinner in Paris that evening, in our hotel room, with our 25th anniversary bottle of wine from the hotel staff. Chocolat, bread from Poullaine, charcuteries and local cheeses, and Laduree and Pierre Hermes macarons for dessert!. Would you believe that with all the walking,  we even lost a couple pounds in Paris?!

More chocolat photos here.

Oh, and check this out — chocolat stamps!

Musee Rodin

June 11th, 2009

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In some ways the Musee Rodin was my favorite — the former Hotel Biron where Rodin actually worked, the beautiful gardens full of Rodin’s sculptures, watching people interact with the sculptures — it was all beautiful and fascinating. There’s also an excellent little garden cafe here which was very pleasant. It’s very fortunate that Rodin’s plan to save this place as a museum for his work succeeded — I think he would have been pleased at the result, watching people interact with his sculptures in such a great setting.

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The gardens are really stunning, and very enjoyable to wander through and visit with the sculptures.

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Even the Gates of Hell become beautiful in the right setting…

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More Musee Rodin photos here.

Musee d’Orsay

June 10th, 2009

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Not only is the Musee d’Orsay full of wonderful art, it is wonderful art itself. The building is absolutely gorgeous.

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Something here seems to inspire the visitors to become art themselves. This girl was posed just like the statue, but I missed the shot that her friend was taking and caught her as she was getting back up. I love how the boy in the background is posed, too. The sculptures here are all so elegant, and I loved watching the crowd interact with them.

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It’s difficult to not feel beautiful when surrounded by so much beauty, though.

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Especially when so many of the lovely ladies are curvy like me!

Lots more Musee d’Orsay photos here. And here.

Out of Town Again

June 5th, 2009

Off to a friend’s son’s wedding this weekend — back Monday…

Coming up next when we get back  — the gorgeous Musee d’Orsay! Chock full of lovely ladies built like me…

lovelylady

I like art where the women aren’t stick insects!

Cats of the Louvre

June 5th, 2009

lionwithball

I suppose one could go on for days posting “X of the Louvre” posts… eldest son has a thing for the big cats, though, especially tiggies, so I’m now drawn to them when I see them and ended up photographing lots of kitties. And dragons for younger son, but in France most images of dragons involved killing them which I thought was just wrong.

delacroixtigers

These are Delacroix’s tigers which are just stunning.  Delacroix is an amazing artist, who I think is often overlooked. Fortunately the French are crazy about him, since he pretty well documented the French Revolution, so they have a lot of his work on exhibit. I must post the picture hubby took of me taking the picture to give you the size scale, though. Hubby’s other Louvre photos are here. Many of Delacroix’s works are just huge, far larger even than this.  The Louvre is chock full of huge paintings, though, since a lot of these works were done to fill large palace and church walls and rich people’s mansions. Artists were supported by the church or royalty or wealthy patrons, and mostly did commissioned works for them. So they are BIG.

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Delacroix seemed to really have a thing for cats — they show up in a lot of his work. And they are beautiful, always. The detail is fabulous, too.

delacroix-tiger2

This last little guy was one of my favorites. The big googly eyes just made it for me. And he’s really ancient, too!

lionlouvre

Statue of a lion
Beginning of the second millennium BC
Mari (Tell Hariri), Syria
Beaten copper; eyes inlaid with shale and limestone
H. 38 cm; W. 70cm; D. 50 cm
André Parrot excavations, 1937
AO 19520, AO 19824
Near Eastern Antiquities

Ladies who Louvre

June 4th, 2009

2009-05-22-paris-dlw-075

Well, obviously the Mona Lisa, the Venus de Milo and Winged Victory are the most famous ladies of the Musee de Louvre.  They weren’t the ones I enjoyed the most, though. The Mona Lisa is very difficult to even get close to, with the crowds, and poor Winged Victory stands in the hall with people rushing by her everywhere. Poor Venus is damaged, of course, as is the Winged Victory, and that limits their enjoyment a bit for me. I cringe at the very thought of anyone damaging such magnificence, or letting it deteriotate due to age and neglect. It makes me sad, even understanding how ancient they are.

The ladies I enjoyed much more were those of the gardens, the lesser known works, and the gorgeous, stunning nude sculptures that are just about everywhere. This one had so much power and energy, I just had to copy her pose.

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Grace, elegance and beauty, and with dogs, too!  The hound under her leg on the back was a nice touch.

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The ladies who were painting, copying the masterpieces of the Louvre, were intriguing, too.

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The Louvre is an exhausting place to visit — we were glad to go on a day when it was open late into the evening, and took a break mid-day to stroll the jardin de Tuileries and get sorbet:

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visit the Musee de l’Orangerie, and wander some nearby streets looking at the haute couture shops, visiting Pierre Hermes and Michel Cluizel and just enjoying the beautiful day. Even so, we were quite worn out trying to take in as much as we could.

Many more Louvre and Musee de l’Orangerie photos are here.

Oh, and the Paris Museum Pass is the way to go here — skip all the lines for tickets and walk right in. With the two-day pass we skipped the lines the next day at the Musee d’Orsay and Musee Rodin too!

Tour Eiffel

June 3rd, 2009

eiffel

Nothing really says you’re in Paris like a view of the Eiffel Tower. It appears in your sights all over the city — I took a lot of pictures with it popping up in various places throughout the city. But your first view should be, well, spectacular. So, we waited until the first evening we were there (after hubby took a brief nap, in fact) and then took the Metro over to the Trocadero. That way you come up on the tower from around the side of the large exhibit buildings and suddenly there it is, all magnificent. Especially in the last light of the day, in that full on Paris evening blue sky.

toureiffel

It’s tough to take any shot of the Eiffel Tower that hasn’t been taken before. It is such a classic image. But still fun to see what you actually capture of it. We decided not to go up the tower — crowds were large and lines were long and we were very tired after a long travel day and sightseeing already. So we just walked around and enjoyed the views and the crowds, more observing the tourists than being one. I have an aversion to doing touristy things anyway, and the hawkers of small junk were particularly obnoxious here, shoving their wares in your face, which greatly annoyed me. So we got out of the immediate tower area pretty quickly, walking on down the Champ de Mars and enjoying the crowds. It seemed a lot of the younger crowd was hanging out here, drinking and playing soccer and waiting for the tower to go into “glitter mode”, as we called it, where twinkling lights on the Tower send everyone into seizures for the first five minutes at the top of every hour at night, which set everyone to cheering and singing. They were a happy crowd.

glittermode

After that, we stumbled on through the streets to find a metro stop to take us back to the hotel and crash for the night.

Jardin du Luxembourg

June 1st, 2009

fountain

“Fountain of the Observatory”, also known as the “Fontaine des Quatre-du-Parties-World” or the “Carpeaux Fountain”, for its sculptures by Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux . It was installed as part of the development of the Avenue de l’Observatoire by Gabriel Davioud in 1867.

After we got our Berthillon glaces at the lovely little cafe, we walked on up the boulevard towards the Jardin du Luxembourg. The Fountain is the first thing you see as you enter the garden from the south. The sculptures are magnificent, as are so many of the sculptures around the city — one of the things that I found most beautiful in Paris, with so much art everywhere.

horses

figures

In the large garden itself, there are so many people playing, lounging, walking, playing tennis, children on the playground equipment, walking, eating, shooting wedding photos, or riding bikes with dogs in their baskets. We met this ex-pat with his dog “Yoyo’”, I kept calling the dog Toto for obvious reasons.

yoyo

yoyo2

This was the couple having their wedding photos done. The ex-pat and I and several others were also taking their picture as well as their photographer.

wedding

So this was just the start of our first afternoon in Paris — wandering around this beautiful garden, seeing how the real Parisians live their lives and enjoying it the way they do. Paris is full of these wonderful parks, this one being the biggest and one of the most beautiful. There are more Jardin de Luxembourg photos in the gallery pages.

Berthillon Glaces

May 31st, 2009

cafe

berthillon1

As much as everyone raves about Berthillon, it’s important to remember that it really is that good. The first day we were in Paris, I had the chocolate and mango glaces at Le Cafe Gourmand near the Jardin de Luxemborg. The last full day we were in Paris, we went to the Berthillon near Notre Dame, and I had to have the mango again, but with the amaretto praline. And a sugar waffle. It was amazing, again.

Later in the day, we went to Amorino, to compare the gelatto. I had their mango, which was very good, but didn’t really compare to the exquisite taste of the Berthillon. But still a very good treat!

Paris jewel thief takes $8m haul

May 30th, 2009

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Taste test comparison between Michel Cluizel and Pierre Herme macarons. Pierre Herme wins big…

As noted by my husband, we have an alibi for the robbery yesterday, as we had already left the country by then. However, we were in the Place Vendome area last Friday, though, and walked around there in between sessions of our marathon tour of the Louvre on its late-evening day.

Jewellery worth more than 6m euros (£5m, $8m) has been stolen from an exclusive Paris store in broad daylight by a lone gunman, reports say.

The suited robber entered Chopard on Place Vendome and threatened staff into handing over 15 pieces of jewellery, a police source told Reuters.

He calmly walked out of the store after the hold-up, which happened just before 1500 (1300 GMT).

Chopard jewellery is worn by stars at the Oscars and Cannes film festival.

Place Vendome is an elegant old square known for its luxury hotels, and is also home to numerous jewellery stores as well as the French justice ministry.

In December, armed robbers stole jewels worth at least 80m euros ($102m) from a store near the French capital’s famous Champs-Elysees avenue.

As many as four robbers, two disguised as women, raided the Harry Winston’s store and stole nearly all its valuables.

via BBC NEWS | Europe | Paris jewel thief takes $8m haul.

ViedeMerde and FMyLife

May 30th, 2009

The Parisian attitude towards life really is a lot like this — riding on the Metro you could simply see the long-standing suffering in the looks on the Parisian faces, the men standing with their pointy-toed elf shoes that must have been killing their feet, and the women with their beautiful scarves and jackets who didn’t give the least hint how overly warm they actually were on the Metro, just suffering patiently even as I would bail out of my jacket or take off my scarf and stuff it in my bag or whatever. The exception to the ever-tolerant suffering attitude was the young lovers, who were really cute, but even then you could often see young couples arguing very dramatically with scorn on their faces.

Viedemerde.fr (VDM) is a French site devoted to the truth that life is suffering. Vie de merde means — well, use the Babel translator. In the French way, VDM is devoted to offering the truth of suffering as short, tight exemplary narratives that are classified by subject — Amour, Argent, Enfants, Sexe, Travail and my favorite, Unclassable.

Viedemerde often has a rueful or droll touch:

Today I brought my lingerie home from my boyfriend’s place and found some that did not belong to me.

Today I had a big argument with my girlfriend who accused me of being narcissistic. Leaving home, I decided to write a text message to get her to forgive me. Lapse or inattention? I signed off with “I love myself.”

When you post on VDM it is rated with a little benediction: “It’s true it’s a VDM, it’s confirmed.”

Since Americans wanted to celebrate the Buddha’s dark diagnosis of the human condition in their own language, FMyLife.com arose. FMyLifes are postcards from Delusionville, narratives of failed hope, more emo and histrionic than Viedemerde.

Sometimes FMyLife is a miscellany of simple complaints, but the ideal post depends on a mapping problem, an irretrievable misreading of a situation:

Today, I was waiting in the car while my mom went into a store to get beer. A few minutes later, some random guy was knocking on my window telling me to open the door. I started cursing him out, thinking I was getting attacked. Turns out he worked there and was putting the beer in the car.

Today, my brother came out to our family as being gay. My mother starting crying because “She wanted grandchildren.” I told her that I was planning on having children. She started crying harder.

Today, I was on the bus home and on the phone with my best friend discussing my sex life with this new guy I’m seeing. I was telling her all sorts of raunchy sex things we’ve done until someone taps my shoulder and says “I’m sure he doesn’t appreciate you saying this in public.” It was his mom.

The site is intended to prove and even relish the idea that the cards are against you and your life really is a soap opera.

FMLs are rated by clicking on the message, “I agree, your life is f***ed,” which is perhaps taken as empathy, or clicking on “You deserved that one.” FML provides a dose of despairing chaos in case that is what you need to tune your day, your job, your mind. You could say FML’s purpose is consolation by diagnosis — Things are out of whack, dude, which is the first noble truth of Buddhism.

via Shambhala SunSpace » John Tarrant’s “Escape Arts in Delusionville”: My Average Life.