Saturday, May 24, 2008

NPR - What I hate

Ok, we all love to hate something. I try not to hate someone, but there's always the reality that there are people you encounter or get to know in your life who you really hate. Not hate somethings about them but hate them for who they are, what they did or what they stand for. You hate almost everything about them. But that's not the focus of this entry, It's about hating other things. Like?

Comcast. Ok, everyone loves to hate the cable or satellite TV companies. There really is little difference between them in terms of prices and channels, and each have their problems. Either you're plagued with satellite communications problems from weather, satellites or communications or you're plagued with cable network or equipment problems.

And my story. I live in an area that routinely loses anywhere from half a dozen to two dozen channels, many the HD channels Comcast touts, including their "On Demand" service which frequently isn't available. But what I really hate is their service. Twice I've had service calls about the bandwidth where channels go down and it's been verified by the technician's visit, but I can't convince them it's not my fault or the cable box.

Why? When you call it's always, "Did you recycle the power on the cable box?" Why do they always assume you're an idiot and the problem is the cable box? Then it's, "We'll recycle the box from here." Pause of 2-3 minutes, "Is it better?", to which the answer always is, "No." and they respond, "We'll schedule a technician to check out the box." The technician always replaces the box and then announces, "It's the router, line or bandwidth."

Gee, like I can't figure that out? So they go out and reset the router and things work, for a day or two, and then go back to normal. I've talked with communications specialists, and they all say it's simply too much signal serving too many people. They're putting telephone and Internet communications on top of television and audio signals, and despite what they say, it's just doesn't work.

Anyway, when they have a monoply, you're stuck. If I swich to satellite service I'm still stuck with their problems for the same price. And with satellite you're not dealing with two companies but also the independent service companies, as the satellite companies don't service their customers.

Landlords. This is another of those love to hate catagories. But I don't hate them entirely, just the newest owners, a company which bought the property and complex to run a real profit. And they outsource everything, even the management of the complex. My gripe? This year they moved the communal charges for water, sewer and trash (both dumpsters and recycle center) to the tenants, except they don't bill us directly, which is my anger.

The complex is billed monthly for water and trash. Water is metered at the building, not each apartment. We're on septic systems, so there is no sewer costs, only the annual septic service. It started when they decided to move those costs to the tenants to save $10-12,000 per month because our rent on leases includes paying for these services.

The water fee is the average for each apartment based on the number of signees on the lease. The trash is the average for both services for the whole complex. Except it's a neighborhood recycle center and sometimes neighbor use one of each apartment building's dumpster for their excess trash, especially at Christmas.

What I don't understand is the landlord gets the bill and enters the information into the contractor's on-line database. The costs are entered for the complex or each building. The landlord pays their costs for the common building, lighting, etc. and leaves the rest to the tenants. The contractor then compiles and computes the individual costs which they enter into another company's on-line data who pays the bills and then bills us to repay them.

So why can't the landlord do this themselves as part of their management of the complex? Beats me. The software exists and they're here where they can inform tenants who don't pay. They have legal clout to enforce payment with the lease. So why do they contract to a management company who then contracts to a collection company? I don't know but it sure sucks.

Software companies. I hate it when you buy a software package and the company charges for updates. I'm not talking upgrades, which almost all charge for, but simple frequent, routine updates where the version number only changes by a tenth decimal, eg. 3.1 to 3.2, or worse a hundredth decimal, eg. 3.1.1 to 3.1.2.

And what I don't understand is that on top of that companies only charge a small amoount, like $15-25 for the pacakge but then $15+ for updates. What's the point? Why not charge $40-50 for the package and give updates for free and $20-25 for upgrades? I won't rant against companies that simply charge full price for every new version without regard if it's an update or an upgrade.

And I won't touch the subject of hardware companies who didn't develop a new version for Mac's Leopard without having to unistall the Tiger version. After updating to Leopard, all but two packages still worked and if the company had an update for Leopard, it's simply installed over the Tiger version.

But two companies didn't do that. Their Leopard version had a 2+ page instruction which required acting like a Mac is a PC with upgrading Microsoft XP to Vista. One company didn't even produce a Leopard version for 6 monhts after the public release of Leopard, and then they did the same thing, uninstall everything, reboot, and then install the new verson.

Newspapers. This is an unfair one in light of the on-line version of newspapers. But I like paper versions. I love getting a bunch of them and sitting down with lunch and read each one a page at a time, except the classifieds. It's a good way to see the world through the eyes of the print media. Except some of the national newspapers don't print locally. They offer subscriptions delivered to your home. But the papers aren't available at a local newsstand.

If the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today can print and distribute their daily papers locally, why can't other national newspapers, like the Washington Post? I don't subscribe to any papers for several reasons, but mostly I like going to the newstand getting my papers and coffee and engage people in conversation. And I don't have to deal with delivery people when I don't want the paper or will be gone.

Pro-Life advocates. Ok, a politically touchy issue. Except it's not about life, they want control over women for reasons that don't make sense. If women exercised the same degree of control over men and women who are anti-abortion advocates, they would rebel and sue for their rights. Their position is simply absurd.

What don't they understand it's about the right of women to control their own reproductive choices and rights. And abortion is a choice, a decision between the woman and her doctor. No one else! Not even the father, who has a say but not control over the women. And no matter what the anti-abortion folks say or do, abortion has and will always be avaiable, and I would rather have it done under professional medical care than the ways history has shown it's done.

It's about caring for the woman, not the total disregard the anti-abortion advocates profess. They make the conception of birth more important than women. If men could be pregnant do you think the anti-abortion advocates would still preach and profess against abortion. No, they would demand the right to control their own body. So, stop being hypocrites.

If you want to profess values for life, work for adoptions of the many unwanted or abandoned children, those already born than the idea of the unborn.

ok, I wandered to hating aspects or facets of people or groups of people. And yes I know sometimes it's a decision made by a group of people. But it's the thought.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

A real big Huh

Click on photo for Article

I was reading today, Sunday May 18th, Seattle Times-PI (combined edition) and they had a headline about the Washington State ferry system, especially view the photo gallery. Ok, it's a story with some interesting photos. So, why the interest?

Well, I reported last August getting stopped by the Captain of a ferry on one ride and by the Washington State Patrol (WSP) on another ride for take photos of the ferry while enroute. After a few questions and showing them the images in the camera (I never showed them my film camera), they let me go, as one WSP officer said jokingly, but out loud, "Just another stupid professional photographer."

On a later trip I found a brochure for tourist to report "suspicious photographers", except they don't define what that is or who to diffentiate between a suspicious terrorist(s) or just another photographer. After 4 months of repeated e-mail and phone calls to the WSP and State Ferry System about to the WSF's public release about photography on ferries, I haven't received an answer to my questions about the freedom to photograph on a ferry.

I've even sent them the URL for my photo galleries of the ferries, see "WSF..." galleries. I asked them if we, photographers, could get a pass or letter, do we have to contact the captain before we photograph, or what. All I've seen is a public announcement, except they keep publishing and distributing the brochure and giving workshops to employees about photographers and terrorists.

So, when I saw the gallery with this story today, with the two photos of working on a ferry and the engine room, which are not new, since the WSF have routinely invited photojournalists to photograph or videotape the inner workings of ferries, I'm stupified why they teach the ferry workers and invite tourists to report suspicious photographers. Not really. I understand the reality of things, but it's just irritating and frustrating to be hassled for taking photos they invite photojournalist to take.

It's a go firgure, except it's pure and simple public bullshit. But hey, it's our government at work, don't trust the public but trust the media when they want their help.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

JMO - 2013, really?

I was reading the article about John McCain's speech in which he said, "By January 2013, America has welcomed home most of the servicemen and -women who have sacrificed terribly so that America might e secure in her freedom. The Iraq war has been won." I'm sorry I don't buy this and don't believe it. Did John forget Richard Nixon's promise in 1968 to end the war in Vietnam before the end of his first term, or he didn't deserve being re-elected?

And John McCain is really promising victory in Iraq? And by 2013? Really? And the details please? How do you propose to do this from where we are right now? You expect the Iraqi government to suddenly wake up and become democratic, and better yet, a government of the people, by the people and for the people? And how do you propose to end the civil war there?

I'm sorry Mr. McCain, this is pure political bullshit meant to buy votes and sell the oppostion as weak on fighting terrorism and terrorists. So why are you doing this? Ah, to sell your candidacy to the far right who don't like and trust you? You're selling the very thing they want and like, war. They love war to prove our might and right, and you're pandering to them.

I can't think of anything positive about your claim. To accomplish this goal you'll have to sell the war to the American people, to Congress, and the world. You'll have to justify the costs in terms of our military, the taxpayers money you'll you be using, and the soldiers whose lives who'll die or be permanently injured. How many troops will it take? How and where will you get these troops? How much equipment will it take? How much will it cost? What domestic progams will you sacrifice for this?

Answer these first and I'll think about it. For about 5 seconds. I saw the war coming in the January 2003 State of the Union address, I was against it then - there were better and less invasive ways of overthrowing Saddham Hussein, and I want the troops home. It was a war for oil and geopolitics. Nothing as we were told or sold. And nothing as justified. It was a lie from the start, going back long before the war and before 9/11. It's been a lie all along too.

And now you're lying. You're not mis-speaking, you're not talking about reality, and you're not telling the rest of the story. You're simply setting the stage for your election campaign. Nothing more and a whole lot less. The stuff found in the fields you step in and have to clean off your shoes later. And worse, you turned into an ad on the Web. Packaging war as a product, except you don't list the ingredients nor the price.

Except, at least the in fields stuff has substance. Your words are hollow, but they still stick and smell as bad. And when, if you're elected President, will the other shoe fall and you tell us the reality? Or will you try to soft pedal that to, wrapped in the same words you're saying now?

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

NPR - Nuala O'Faolain

This week I heard and read about the passing of Nuala O'Faolain. If you're not familar with her books, they're worth the read, if only to catch the idea of writing about your life. I listened to an interview with her years ago after her first book, "Are You Somebody?". The interviewer asked why she wrote the book, and she responded, "Why not?"

She went on to explain that she simply got tired of writing for someone else and decided to write for herself, and that if she could write such a book about their life, then anyone can. After watching my Dad pass away a few years earlier, not writing, or even saying, anything about his life - meaning he took it to his grave, I decided that I wouldn't leave people wondering what I wanted to say to the world.

It took another few years until I retired and decided to start these blogs about my life, my passions, my ideas, my opinions - albeit as they are, just mine, and everything else I wanted to say in the style I wanted to express. I hated working for an agency with scientific-speak as the only accepted way of writing, and being subtly criticized by my boss for being a "stream of consciousness" writer.

And so here is what I have to say. I'm just one voice in the sea of 6-plus billion voices, but it's mine, spelling errors, typos, grammer mistakes and all. I wasn't born with the gift of writing and I envy writers and authors for. I'm only decent at speaking and writing English, which isn't entirely my fault, but partly the education system and my life out of my control.

Ok, why is that? Well, in the twelve years of elementary, junior and senior high school I attended 13 schools, one grade in 3 schools during the year. I was able to get through by writing just enough to pass, but in those 12 years of school I never had a formal English class in writing. Yes, not one. In short, I never learned to write.

When I was in College I had an excellent English professor for my first writing course. After handing in my first essay, she wrote a note on it, "See me" when she returned it. We spoke and she understood my situation. Her advise was simple, and one I continue to this day and will as long as I can write. After hearing what I wanted to say, she said, "Ok, imagine you're making a speech and write what you say. And then edit that."

That's it. I speak in complete, coherent, proper English, in expressing my ideas, thoughts, opinions, etc., so she told me to write that way. And it got me through college, work and life, until graduate school, when I found another professor who taught me to organize and edit and a friend who taught me to proofread for continuity and thought, along with the proper use of pronouns.

I'm always grateful to these three people. And while my bosses and other scientist criticized my writing, I found a voice along with an audience. I became a good editor and proofreader and a good writer of instruction manuals. I learned to think like a speaker and a reader than a writer. And I learned to appreciate being a stream of consciousness writer. I still don't think in terms of words and sentences, but I have learned to write.

NPR - Finding Peace

On a forum someone asked if, and if so how, did we find peace in our life. Were we at peace with ourself and our life. After reading the responses, I wrote the following for myself.

"I haven't found peace with my life, but I do have days I'm ok with it. And surprisingly, I hope I don't find peace before I die. It's what drives me to do and be better, and to be concerned about the world and my contribution to it in whatever small ways I can do with what I have and who I am. It's the reality I know.

A few years after I turned forty I and went through some stressful times at work and in life and fell into my second major depression. Coming through it I decided every day you have two choices in your life. You can get better or get worse. You don't stay the same because you aren't the same and the world you're in isn't the same as yesterday. So, you have that choice.

That doesn't mean that every day is one or the other consistently, but it's the overall difference between the two that matters. And every year at my birthday I review where I was the year before and where I am now, and am I better and did I do better. A simple snapshot, but worth it to assess what I do in the next year.

Anyway, that's my view of it. There's more but this is a good summary."

Well, after some time after writing it, I still believe it.

And while I'm a lazy student of Taoism, where the road you're on is to find peace in your life and the world, I find times I'm comfortable with myself so far. It's not the best I could do, as having genetic Dysthymia, I all too often fail at doing much beyond existing in life and getting by in the world. Or at least I tell myself it's a handy explanation or excuse, which I haven't yet determined.

And folks have asked, if not just wondered and haven't asked, why I don't take anti-depressants, as there are several on the market which address the symptoms of Dysthymia, since they can't adress the underlying condition as the permanent structure of your brain. I explored them over a decade ago and opted not to pursue them for a variety of reason, meaning the side effects, lifelong necessity of them, and the frequent adjustments of dosage as the drug's effects wanes.

But mostly for two reasons. I wouldn't know if what I am or am thinking is really me or the drugs. And I find I do and think better when I'm mildly depressed, a clarity of thought I don't get when I'm happy. When I'm happy I find I get angry easier and faster when things don't stay well, but when I'm mildly depressed I understand and accept it better, and can better deal with it to find solutions.

When I'm mildly depressed I see the irony in life. I find the humor in the existence of both sides inside the whole. And in that thought I can instinctively find something funny. It's the nature of the humor I see, a hybrid of Gary Larsen, Robin Williams, Mark Twain, and Will Rogers, in my own small(er) way. I find peace in being that person, a jumbo of human emotions and feelings in constant change living in a dynamic world.

And as James Lipton would ask about going to heaven and meeting God at the Pearly Gates, what would you want God to say, to which I would answer, "Welcome. We're sorry we're fresh out peace, but would you accept some challenges?"