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The “Evils” Of Advertising

Posted by Jeff Hendricks


If you've followed my blog or known me for any length of time, you probably know that I'm not a huge fan of advertising in general. And sadly, in our day and age, there is more advertising than we can reasonably cope with on a daily basis. But is advertising itself evil?

Advertising, in all its forms, is a tool... it's not a person with evil motives. You can't punch advertising in the face (as much as I wish I could!) In the end, it's a product of the companies that spend money on it. And companies, as much as I despise their operating methods, aren't people either (in spite of the government's attempts to make them so). And neither is the government, for that matter.

For all intents and purposes, non-people entities usually have a singular focus: survival. Much like a panther that kills a Bald Eagle for food, they don't necessarily care what rules they break to keep money coming in. Companies and governments are creatures that are sustained by money, and if the money dries up, they die.

If you were in a place where you had to break the law or do something unethical to survive, I have no doubts you'd do it. The instinct for survival is very deeply rooted in life itself, and the mechanism has been carried over into companies, lock stock and barrel. They will do whatever they think they can get away with to survive, because money is the lifeblood of the modern world.

The question we should be asking ourselves is "what can we do to put ourselves in a place where advertising works for us instead of against us?"

Simply put: advertising is designed to get you to buy stuff. It's ridiculously efficient at it, too. If you're content with what you have, it stands to reason you don't need more stuff, i.e. you don't need advertising, and it has no power over you. It's artificially making you feel like your well-being, happiness, and survival depend on buying that product, when in fact, it doesn't.

Have you ever stuffed yourself at a buffet (come on, be honest) and then someone offered you a really nice treat? At first you might say "Sure!" but then you realize there's no more room! You like the idea of it, but you just don't need more food.

It's not uncommon for people to binge eat and then empty their stomachs, so they can continue eating. This is called a "binge and purge cycle" and it's extremely unhealthy. So why do we, as consumers, do the same thing?

We buy stuff we don't need. If we run out of money, we try to sell it, get credit cards, or take out loans to be able to continue the cycle. People are force-feeding themselves "stuff" until they have no more room for it. (There's a reason self-storage units are one of the fastest growing businesses around.)

So how do you stop the cycle? Its a two-part process.

1. Understand how to be content with what you have

If you're like most people, you get a "rush" from buying some cool new thing. But the truth is, we are in one of the most affluent countries in the world. Even on minimum wage, you can earn a living and live simply. Compared to places where poverty is rampant, we don't have it that bad. You have to understand our fixation on material possessions is entirely psychological, and it can be broken.

The ancient Stoics were masters at self-determination, i.e. choosing their own actions based on the known outcome. They also understand that what other people thought didn't (and couldn't) directly affect your mental process unless you let it. Quite simply, they only cared about things they wanted to care about, and they chose when to care to maximize positive outcomes.

A large part of why we buy things isn't just the buyer's rush, it's the feelings we get when we receive positive response from people around us. When you buy a new truck, and your friends all go "Oooh! Ahhh!" it makes you feel awesome. The problem with that is twofold: 1. They like your truck, not you, and 2. You have to constantly seek out more positive reinforcement, because it's not long-lasting.

Stoics would tell you that if you put yourself in the right frame of mind, there's no reason you can't be happy with what you have. You know the old saying "I was sad that I had no shoes, until I met a man with no feet"? Perspective is the key. There are people in third-world countries that would literally kill to be able to have a fraction of what we have. When you realign your standard of what is "good" and "happy" and stop running on the Hedonic Treadmill, you suddenly realize you probably already have everything you really need to be happy.

2. Reinforce your happiness with things that are self-improving

Once you've shaken the need to buy everything being advertised (because it doesn't really make you happier) you are free to do things that can make you happier. You'll find that removing advertising from your life leaves a LOT of space for other things. Reading books from the library. Practicing a foreign language for free. Exercising, and cooking healthy meals. Journaling. Visiting with friends face-to-face. Enjoying the great outdoors. These are all things that have been repeatedly proven to increase happiness, and improve who you are as a person.

When your happiness and self-worth are tied up in stuff, you are a slave to advertising. You are constantly driven to consume, in order to satisfy your Hedonistic Adaptation. But when you break away from that, advertising no longer has real meaning for you: you're not looking to buy something unless you actually need it. (This also has the benefit of making you immediately more wealthy, but that's just an added bonus!)

When you realize becoming happy starts on the inside, and you begin taking steps in that direction, you'll find advertising seems pointless and wasteful (and quite hilarious), like someone offering you more dessert when you're already stuffed to the gills with cake. Contrary to popular belief, Stoics aren't simply grimly enduring adversity- they are actively choosing when and where to spend their time and energy to maximize happiness, and as a result they're also choosing not to spend it on things (or feelings) that are counterproductive.

There are plenty of other people writing on this topic, but what it boils down to is this:

It's cause and effect. If nobody wanted those things, advertising wouldn't work, period. You have to look past your wants, to why you want it, and decide what's worth it. Advertisers are just doing what works, they cannot make you buy something you don't really want.

Advertising can only affect you as much as you let it. As long as you're wanting what they're selling, you will fall for it every single time.


When You Give Your Life As An Offering

Posted by Jeff Hendricks


Have you ever gotten a gift you wanted to return?

Maybe it was one of those horrendous Christmas sweaters. Or a pair of jeans that were two sizes too small. But at some point, you realized the gift wasn't practical.

Have you ever given someone a gift that wasn't practical? Did it offend you to find out that the precious silver gravy boat you gave them for their wedding shower was sold on Ebay to afford their first car? Did it shock you to find out that the kittens t-shirt you gave your brother ended up being a shop towel? You have expectations on how you feel your gift should be appreciated and used.

What about when we give a gift of money to a church, charity, or person? We put expectations on how we think that should be used, and there's some reasoning to that. But if we specify how the money is to be used, can we honestly say it's a gift? No, that's not a gift... there are strings attached.

What about when we give our lives to God? When we decide, for better or worse, to give our lives over to Him. What usually happens (at least I know it did in my life) is that we give our lives as an offering but with strings attached. We want God to be in control, except when it's inconvenient. Or something bad happens. Or I get sick, or hurt, or offended, or any other number of things.

If you find yourself trying to live for God, but are always finding that there's strings attached, I've got news for you:

You don't get to choose how that offering is poured out. Once you give it to God, it's by definition out of your hands. You don't get to dictate to God how He gets to use you.

But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.

2 Timothy 4:5-8

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Tasker And MyTracks

Posted by Jeff Hendricks


As part of my Constant Struggle To Simplify, I wanted to track my cycling miles without having to jump through hoops or do anything crazy. Up until recently, I was using Endomondo to track miles (and before that I used MapMyRide). These programs promise all sorts of features; social commentary, audio coaching, ANT+ and Bluetooth connectivity, route planning, etc. etc. But really, I found I didn't use any of these extra features. I just wanted a simple, automated way to track my mileage that I could keep in digital form. And with Endomondo's recent feature creep I was having to tap 3-4 menu items just to get to where I could record a ride! Nothing wrong with my Cyclecomputer, either, but I like analyzing numbers and stats.

Keeping with my wanting to use Tasker to automate stuff, I found a Tasker Plugin that allows it to start and stop Google MyTracks recording. MyTracks doesn't have all the fru-fru social stuff, but it supports ANT+ and Bluetooth if I decide to go that route later (and Tasker can automatically connect to them). Plus it automatically syncs with Google Drive, so the potential for 100% complete automation is there. Let's get busy!

There's a couple of plugins I use to do this: AutoActivity, and the MyTracks Tasker Plugin.

AutoActivity is a service that runs in the background that guesses what you're doing (walking, cycling, driving, still) based on GPS and inertia input, and assigns it a "confidence" score percentage of how sure it is you're doing that. You can use it both as a trigger (i.e. "when you detect me driving, do this") or an active variable (i.e. "Do this only IF activity=xxx")

Tasker is so ridiculously flexible, it takes some playing around to figure out the best way to accomplish something. Sometimes the "best" solution isn't immediately obvious. This is definitely the case with this problem. So, let's look at what we want to accomplish, and how we can go about it.

When I first started looking at this, I didn't trust AutoActivity enough for it to solely control starting and stopping MyTracks based on cycling activity. I had several rules made to where it detected what WiFi networks were near, what the time of day was, and so on. This technically worked for 99% of my rides, but if I took a trip to the store, it didn't work, because the stop/start point wasn't known. Once I was outside one of my predetermined scenarios, it didn't know what to do.

I was originally running GPS apps with a Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 (7") but man that thing is huge, and I recently upgraded to a Motorola Moto G phone. The problem is, I can't root my phone! So Tasker has limited access to the system options.

Now, if I wanted to, I could add the Mytracks widget to my phone's lock screen, and that lets me start/stop a ride with a single touch, without having to even unlock the phone. That's awesome! But say I wanted it to start/stop automatically without having to do anything?

This will take some coding. First, if I'm only commuting, this mkaes it a lot easier. I can use Tasker to automate my commute recordings based on time, starting and stopping point, and mode of transportation.

Every time I ride to work, I start from home... that's a fairly good assumption. I also usually start riding a lot earlier than I drive, but not always, so I can't use that as a condition except to determine if I'm going to work or coming home.

So, let's say: I set a GPS radius around my home, and if I leave that radius AND my wifi connection is down, then it assumes I'm leaving home (can't do just one condition, in case GPS or wifi hiccups and triggers a recording). I could also add a condition for the time of day, or day of the week. So the flow would look like this:

WHEN NOT within 100m of home, Run task "Start Mytracks" IF not near home WiFi AND IF Time% < 5:30am
Start Mytracks:
Turn GPS on IF GPS = off
Open MyTracks
Start Recording IF Activity% = cycling

I also have a condition that detects when I'm within 100M of work, so the script basically runs like this:

IF within 100M of work, AND IF near Work WiFi, AND Activity% = cycling
THEN stop MyTracks recording

And this finished the record for my work-bound commute. I've added several other modifiers to it, i.e. a Boolean variable "Riding%" that I can use to check if I'm running a script on the bike. I can also have it play music from my Google Play music playlists, I can add conditions to record the ride home, and several other things if I want.

Ultimately, the flexibility is there to do just about any kind of automated task you can think of, though with MyTracks, the lockscreen widget makes it practically unnecessary. Experiment with it and see what you come up with!


Upcoming Posts

Posted by Jeff Hendricks


Sorry I haven't been posting as often as I'd like. My work schedule has fired back up, and I'm working on the shop floor for another 3-4 weeks. Until then, I won't be able to get much writing done... most of my energy will be used for resting, and required family things. At this point, I've pulled a whole week of 11-hour days on my feet, so I'm pretty tired.

However, I've got lots of material in the queue for the near future. I want to fire up my next "Retro Game of the Month" feature. I'd like to do a hands-on review of the Adrenalinn III pedal, which will take more than one post. I've got some good theological ideas I want to flesh out and share with you, my loyal readers. I've also got a few pieces I want to write on Christianity, Magic, and Role Playing Games (which is something I've been wanting to write on for quite some time). I also want to do some more work on highlighting Linux-based guitar software, and I've even got a domain name set up for that... just haven't gotten to it yet.

All in all, there's plenty of writing to keep me busy, but it will take some effort for me to get around to it all. Please be patient, and I will try to make the best quality content for you I can. Believe me, I want to write it all. It's just more time-consuming than I'd like.

And if I haven't said it before now, I want to thank each and every one of you for reading. It really means a lot to me, and I appreciate the time you spend reading my thoughts. It really does motivate me to do more, and to do it better.

So thanks, and stay tuned.

Filed under: Signs Of Life No Comments

Solitude, And Decisions

Posted by Jeff Hendricks


Throughout many times in my life, I've tried looking for direction. I had to make some sort of difficult decision, or do something I despised, or maybe I was just confused and looking for guidance.

Usually, I struggle through these kinds of things. Up until recently, I couldn't really think of why... it just never crossed my mind. I just assumed every time I tried, I sucked at making decisions. This kind of thinking sets us up for constant failure.

Instead of just giving up, I needed to step back from the situation, and apply a bit of logic. I know that God's direction for my life can be discerned, albeit if God is willing to show me. But I had become so accustomed to failing, I got to the point where I quit trying.


Finding Your Sweet Spot

Posted by Jeff Hendricks


First: Happy 2015!

I've spent the last few years trying to redefine myself as a person. I found I'd been wandering through life, just kind of going through the motions. But we know that God has bigger plans for us... not bigger in the sense of "larger" but bigger in the sense of "having more impact on the world."

And let's be honest: the only thing we're here for is to serve as an example of God's love. We have to balance "dying to self" and living out God's plans for our lives. Where do we draw the line? How can we balance our own passions and God's passions?

The answer is simple. Our passions are put there by God. I'm not talking about our wants and desires; I'm talking about what things make our souls fulfilled. Things of value, things that make our hearts glow with purpose.

For me, it wasn't a matter of figuring out what I like to do, or what I'm good at. There's a never-ending list of things I'm interested in! What I needed to ask is "which of my interests is both spiritually fulfilling, and can meet a need in God's kingdom?"


Truth Is Offensive

Posted by Jeff Hendricks

i quees la veritat

"In a time of universal deceit - telling the truth is a revolutionary act." - George Orwell

People don't want to hear the truth. If you doubt this, try telling everyone the truth... and nothing else... for a week or more. You'll find out very quickly that we've trained ourselves to expect lies when we ask certain questions. Sometimes, pure unadulterated truth can be hard to swallow.

Almost every single person knows deep down that lying is wrong, and yet we do it anyway. Why is this the case? Why are we so willing to tell and expect lies?


Corporate Emo Poetry Monday

Posted by Jeff Hendricks


The bitter cold snaps through my thinning exterior
As I spend another day on my posterior
Crunching through numbers and tables and graphs
When I should by out cycling I sit on my... plush office chair.

Forever ago when I still knew my name-ish
I swore that I wouldn't become what I came-ish
Now to my chagrin I am choosing to sit
And listening to people who are all full of.. non-value-added information.

Yet even with corporate methodical junkle
I know deep inside their theories are bunkle
That someday I'll willingly fly from this dirge
And fly south for the winter: corporate life's for the birds!

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Relationships In The Age Of Social Media

Posted by Jeff Hendricks


After a particularly good day of relaxing, I found myself feeling bad about not spending enough face time with my wife. There's of course a limit to that, but my Attention Defecit will not allow me to just sit for any significant length of time. This causes all sorts of relationship problems for me. Because people talk small talk, and I just tune out. I'd rather be blowing up aliens, or hacking the Matrix, or skydiving, or... something. Not fixing a broken shower head or remembering to feed the cats.

But we are happier when we have face-to-face interaction with people. Isolation draws us inwards, and if you stare inwards _too_ long, you won't like what you see. The reason for this is that we're our own worst critic. We are intimately familiar with our own failures and shortcomings, and we know exactly where they are. We put on a facade of "cool" to convince people we're not as messed up as we are, but the truth is, everybody's messed up- and we know it all too well.