Saturday, April 30, 2011


I must say I have enjoyed writing under self imposed deadlines. I wish I could say that the output was more successful, and yet still I have had my moments. This blog was originally started to counterbalance my other blog with amiability. Those who wanted a more friendly blog were taken into account. Freedom of speech is such an elusive thing and I found that I had very little to say that would seem to please everyone.
Both blogs were grand experiments and taught me much about writing quickly while sacrificing quality for sheer quantity. While this seems like an illaudable goal, this was the style that always alluded me. Being a flawed perfectionist, in the past I would begin to write short pieces, poetry and novels, but never conquer the fear of not being perfect. That fear would cause me to discontinue things before they were finished. That fear has now been put to rest and is behind me. While I did spend some time polishing a few entries, never did I take the full amount of time necessary to make things perfect.
Back when I spent over a year teaching English as a Second Language classes during a great deal of my off time, I found two types of students, different seemingly because of cultural differences. As a general rule, the Japanese were more perfectionist because of their culture of politeness. Things had to be said in a way that was formally polite. They would stumble in their speech and would take an inordinate amount of time in the learning process. This hampered their development.
On the other side of the continuum were the Chinese students who could speak quickly and get their point across. Less worried about grammar they would forge ahead. Their energy was infectious. While I loved the Japanese for being like me, I longed to be more like the Chinese. This is what I hope I have accomplished.
I have written about religion in one or both of my blogs. I have also written about politics. Anyone can tell you these are not subjects for polite company. While the ancient Greeks thought these subjects to be more vital to life than any others, we today do not easily converse in these topics. For those of you who were offended you have my deepest apologies.
While I am giving up these two fledgling efforts, I am more than a little sorry I have to do so.  The readership was just not there which was my fault entirely for pushing quantity. While I actually care little about my readership levels, the effort that goes into massaging each piece for a general audience “just in case”, was too much of a constriction.
I do plan new blogs. My subject matter for the individual blogs will probably be photography, a continuation of The Meadowview Project,  a catchall  blog for politics, economics, philosophy, religion and current events, a personal blog and a video blog on CNN backhaul feeds and early Beatles television events. All will be anonymous. With the exception of the video blog, I expect my readership to be basically only me.
I will also be writing a book someday, God willing. Now that I have broken the ice here, I see that my writing has become so much more natural and flowing. For those of you who have followed me, especially my Hungarian friend, I thank you very much. While I was writing my blogs mostly for myself, knowing that some of you were out there was very influential.
As a side note, the blog entry that got a readership far above the norm was my entry “My Instant Hero Worship of Brooksley Born” in the aimless blog. The stats were astounding really. And there can be no better subject to write or read about. The financial crises is still not recognized for what it is, and if that happens it may well be far to late. Public official heroes like Brooksley Born are few and far between. May God bless her for trying.

Friday, April 29, 2011

The Great French Door Controversy

Can there be one french door? Can a door which has no partner truely be described as French or at least Frenchified? This controversy has raged on for some time in my house.

Apparently there is some debate amongst the academic community, to whit
"When most people think of French doors, they picture a set of two doors that swing open from the middle. There is some debate in the world of architecture and home building as to whether you can have a single French door, but the double-door concept is still the most popular."
How can the "world of architecture" not vigorously debate this subject? "Some debat" indeed. And they call themselves a "world?" The popularity of the "double-door concept" doesn't mean that all reason must be thrown out the French door doggie flap. I say that "most people" are not always right, and in fact, most people are often wrong. That's just my personal opinion, however, as I am often wrong. I certainly don't want my personal opinion to stand in the way of popular progress, but how can we live in a world where the individual is subjugated to the group? Before I shuffle myself off the popular stage with my rubber chicken in hand, I want to give you popular folks a little something to think about. I feel this is in my rights as a member of the minority, or the architectural biosphere as we prefer to call ourselves.
Here I offer as my evidence - the dictionary definition, well, the Internet thingie one:
French door: (noun)   -a door having glass panes throughout or nearly throughout its length.  Also called casement door. Origin: 1920–25
french door: (noun) a light door with transparent or glazed panels extending the full length
WordNet® 3.0, © 2006 by Princeton University.
This is not an argument as to whether half of a pair of scissors is a scissor. It is not even an argument that of whether one sock can be called a sock, or that a horseshoe is the same as horseshoes to a one legged horse. I say the french door stands alone proud and illuminating. Light is it's function and in the world of darkness in the architectural void, as we in the biosphere like to call them, light should be appreciated as more important than simplying pairing off willy nilly. A french door stands alone even if popular wisdom is to pair it. Oh the humanity!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Netflix Customer Service: Cat Chart Level 2

Schizophrenia indicator value: Cat 2:
Lessons learned: Supervisors can and will do things when front end reps say that supervisors will have the same power as them so there is no point to talk to one. The thing supervisors have that front line employees don't is the support from above when they make a decision. Front line employees are rated for the amount of people they don't have to give money to. And at Netflix in particular, they apparently don't care if you cancel.

Netflix has now reached a monopoly status. Netflix has rendered inert such giants as Blockbuster and Wal-Mart. When you beat Wal-Mart's deep pockets, you really have accomplished a step towards power. Meanwhile, it seems Netflix realizes that their customers depend more on good customer service (their only connection point with the customer) rather than bad customer service. To that end, they have obviously taken pains not only to supply American customers with American telephone customer service reps, but good ones at that. However, a particular moment of telling schizophrenia may have just occured.

Playstation 3 owners have suddenly found themselves without Netflix. Sony, PS3's blunderbus owner, is apparently entirely at fault for this interuption in service due to, once again, the inability of an Internet dependent company to spend the money necessary to do something about hackers. Instead, Sony has been baiting hackers by heavy handed tactics to keep their PS3s running official rather than hacked operating systems. Sony thumbed their nose at hackers, basically.

Hackers, who have rather large egos considering their parasitic nature, felt that harming Sony's network would command a little respect. Sony Network has been down for over three days now illustrating their own incompetance in deploying proper defensive strategies. Enter Netflix, which depends on this network to deliver movies to my TV, although there are other ways, such as computers or laptops.

Two separate calls to Netflix got the unreal response that no credit would be given. Both Reps had hard times defending this stance. Netflix was working fine, it was Sony. "Umm, yes but you aren't providing me the service. Why should I pay?" Friendliness oozing from their pores they attempted in every way, shape and form to uphold the policy that had me paying for services not rendered. "Your laptop would work. You pay in advance. It's not our fault. "  But I couldn't watch movies on my TV, bottom line.

I asked to talk to a supervisor but was disuaded. Finally I did get to a supervisor who basically said, "They do what the company tells them to. He said to wait it out and he expected I would receive compensation from either Sony or Netflix. It was an ongoing problem and at the end it would be easier to figure out what to do, rather than deal with partial refunds to customers here and there and have that complication in the equation." Why had the frontline people not presented me with this reasonable solution? There was no satisfactory answer to that question, really, unfotunately.

I tried analogies, the best of which was this one: I go into a grocery store to by skim milk. The grocery store does have milk but, due to dairy farmers whose milking machines have been hacked, no skim milk. I having a weight problem choose to buy no milk but when I get to the register I am charged for milk anyway. It was a great analogy and somehow I managed to get 23 days of Netflix free. (YMMV) Now if I could only view it...

Schizophrenia scale:

AT&T is the known only company to reach level 4.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Earth Day

This is that future generations thing that gets all suspiciously neglected...

My iBag, Redux

Check this out, accordingly, I can now reason that I multitask better than people who spend their lives multitasking. Is this not sweet irony?  :)

This is not to say that the guy they have pictured doesn't have a lot of useless items for the ardent multitasker. His phone would do all of of that except the dog.... the iPhone also has a pair of scissors next to the nail file, doesn't it?

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Job of Thinking People

It is the job of thinking people not to be on the side of the executioners. - Albert Camus
   More than occasionally, I have come across television commercials that do little more than try to make me accept what would be charitably described as a half-truth, one coincidentally that would enrich someone else at my expense. I have an unique viewpoint on commercials. I have not been at their constant beck and call since I was about 20 when I bought my first VCR. From this age onward, when I wanted to, I would skip commercials. At first the task was arduous. The earliest VCRs had only a fast forward button (unlike the "scan" that we assume is fast forward today). Fast forward on a 1978 VCR was almost exactly like the fast forward on a 1978 audio cassette recorder. I know I have entered the realm of dating myself significantly when I can think of no current analogy to the old Fast Forward (FF) button but only can reference other antiques. Here is a picture of my first VCR, if that is of any help:

Note that the tuning controls are on the right side. These could not be changed automatically by the timer. That is, one had to set the channel and set the timer. One could only record one channel at a time for a certain length of time. 

The tape popped up from the top in a tray. My memory is a little hazy so I might not get these right. From left to right these buttons were "eject" (a very tactile button in which the force on the button actually pushed the tray upward), "rewind," "stop," "fast forward,"  "play," and "record." You had to stop before you could eject. If one wished to record, "play and record" needed to be pressed at the same time (just as on the antique audio cassette recorders.) The two tuning dials are VHF and UHF. Both clicked to the next channel. This was an improvement over the old UHF tuner that had no clicks. The old kind was sort of tuned like an antique radio dial. It was very hard to lock in the correct signal. So the VHF tuning dial clicked harder because it only had 12 stations or settings. The UHF had many more and the clicks or cogs were numerous. It always felt like you might strip the cogs if you turned it too fast. One setting on the VHF dial switched on the UHF dial. The FCC had mandated that tuning UHF channels must be easier and done with the same system as VHF to help out the less powerful and obscure UHF channels and insure programming choice for communities. Later when cable came out UHF channels were required to be carried, the "must carry" rule and forced these stations into the first 12 choices on the dial. Thus channel 32 might become channel 4, and so evening out the playing field even more, local channels being grouped together rather than spread as their actual call numbers would have had them.

So, to record a television show one had to set the tuner, then set the timer, then press play and record at the same time. The timer would hold off the recording until the set time and would stop the recording at another set time. Only one event could be set at a time. For my part this involved marking the TV guide for what shows I wanted to record. Keeping it on top of the VCR and setting the timer when I saw that it had finished the previous timer. There was no provision for watching a program while one recorded, but one could easily split the cable before it entered the VCR and send one line to the TV. Thus, one could watch regular TV while recording a show on a different channel. In practice I tried to keep this at a minimum. And when I did watch regular TV, I would carefully keep track of when commercials stopped and started. More on this later. I should just finish off explaining the buttons on the picture. From left to right around the mass of buttons I have described before was the flip button that chose the speed. One could record SP or LP, that is short play or long play. On the longest tapes this would be 2 hours on SP and 4 hours on LP. SP was better quality because the tape moved faster. The other buttons on the top were the counter reset push button, which reset a counter to 00000 which presumably would help one in finding the placement of a show on the tape but in practice was basically useless. To the right of this button was the "timer" flip button. When this was flipped on, nothing would happen. This was the purpose of it. It would only turn on the electricity when the timer reached the time set. At that point it would record your program IF you remembered to press play and record after flipping timer to the off position.

Recording shows was difficult but with time this became commonplace and a habit. Every time I came home or thought about it, I would check the VCR to see if it had recorded a program (the play and record buttons would pop up at the end of a timed recording) and I would look in the TV guide to see what the next program was that I had marked. Oh it was fun to watch things out of sequence. I was fascinated that I could watch the Tonight Show (known more commonly as Johnny Carson)  in the morning or I could watch the Today Show at night. This real impact wasn't time shifting though it was the ability to skip commercials. I had little time to watch TV with all the books I had to read for school and TV was after all my favorite hobby.

Today we think of Fast Forward as the ability to move forward very fast while watching the picture on the screen go by. One can very easily see where commercials begin and end. Technically this is "scan" rather than Fast Forward. DVRs have an even cooler function called the 30 second skip and a 10 second backward skip. With these two additions it is a piece of cake to skip commercials. One just skips forward until the program is seen again, then skip backwards until the commercial. At most one would see 10 seconds of commercial. That is a perfect day for me.

However the first VCR had none of this ease. What I had to do when a commercial came on was to get up (the remote was wired and limited to the button "pause") go over to the VCR and press the stop button. The tape would unwind from around the reading head (maybe 5 seconds). Then I would press the Fast Forward button. Nothing would appear on the screen and I would count in my head "1...2...3" then press stop to stop the Fast Forwarding. Then I would press Play and the VCR would wind the tape around the VCR head ( longer than the 5 seconds it took to disengage) and it would play. Then I would deal with the result of my guess. Perhaps I would get lucky and only have to watch another minute of commercials. Or I could have overshot and fell upon the show missing some of it.

I got better as time went on. Keep in mind that the VCR had cost me $700 or over $2000 dollars in today's money. I had to play with this machinery constantly to skip commercials. Videocassette tapes were also about $22 a piece or $77 today's money. When a tape broke. I carefully took the cassette apart and spliced it back together. If it broke at the beginning or end, I would throw away the smallest amount of tape so that I could directly splice it to the spindle. The reason, the splice if passed over the head could hurt my expensive machine.

Similarly sometimes the machine broke. I had no money to buy a new one but in those days when something broke it was usually very physical and easier to fix. Often the problem was in replacing the belts that turned things.

To get the commercial skipping just right I would time commercials of everything I watched live. Patterns would emerge which could be calculated into how many seconds I held down the Fast Forward button. I used a stopwatch that I had had since childhood. I really wish I had that old stopwatch. Electronic ones are way to complicated. I had charts of commercials for prime time, charts for late night, charts for variations in types of shows. Of course the more time I spent watching live TV the more commercials I had to watch to find out the timing. Since only one event could be set to record at a time, I would often have to watch live programing while the event recorded, though. I made good use of the time wasted with my stopwatch and charts.

The problem with commercials are that they are the basis upon which we accept lying in our society as a natural and legitimate course of action. In my childhood, my mother forced me to accept the fact that hot wheels toy cars would not flip and do the tricks they were portrayed as doing on television. At McDonald's, the trash can would not talk to me. Nothing was wrong with the commercials, no one said that. Mattel, McDonald's and pretty much every other advertiser can lie on television without losing respect. Lying is accepted in the most public forum I knew of at the time.

Salesman, corporations, politicians and pretty much anyone was allowed to lie. President Richard Nixon was pardoned for lies and illegal activities we knew about and whatever we might not know about in the future. The most powerful man in the world could lie, get caught, and suffer no consequences.

So, since I have led a rather commercial free life, have I missed the moments when I could have spoken out? Have I unwittingly sided with the executioners by just not paying attention? By the time I actually started to pay attention lawyers were advertising for clients by reminding them that they might make money by feigning injury. Drug companies and medical equipment manufacturers were encourage people to basically invent diseases that needed their drugs. Infomercials encourage people to invest in all kinds of shady deals.

Lying is part and parcel of our system. It is it's heartbeat. It is the job of thinking people not to just be smarter than the commercial but to skip them, make them non-productive, and support laws that limit them in moralistic ways. Above all, don't decide who to vote for based on their evil.



and Cream

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Saturday, April 16, 2011

My iBag

My best friend and I often have the discussion about how music has changed from the old days of a search for higher fidelity to a search for convenience. I cannot deny my inability to carry around a great sound system as I walk, but oh the joy of walking, looking at nature, and listening to my mp3 player. As I tried many different headphones, I finally decided on the pair I have now. Oddly, similar to stereo systems (and oddly to C-Span's coverage of the big debate today) much of the problem is in getting good speakers.

I found this article above to be fascinating for a few reasons: 1) my wife wanted me to stop talking politics after the vote in congress today which anyone approaching their senior years not expecting the extra thousands of dollars to pay for their own health care insurance needs should look into carefully, 2) I have had two days off and my mind is in an expansive mode, 3) I have been reading more of The Case for God and am not only in an expansive mood but one of wonder and enduring mystery, and 4) the HuffPost article wasn't bad (actually a rarity, unfortunately.)

I carry around this bag of objects which includes my phone (now with a keyboard for texting), my 2 mp3 players (backups are really absolutely necessary), my camera, my netbook laptop, my ebook reader, and my flip type camcorder. All are the quality I want them. I want no more out of my phone than something to talk with and now text with.... (I have to admit that my computer won't beep me when an email comes in, nor is it constantly online, so, I'll go with the dinky keyboard on the phone for now.)

Electronic gadgets are always transitional things to me. Nothing is ever perfect and while I always seem to have the right ideas, it takes other people a while to get around to inventing and marketing things for me. No problem, I just do what I can with what is available. Someday, and I know it will be within the next ten years, the music industry will probably find that high fidelity is all they have left to sell and mp3 players will play better files, but in the meantime, I have the mp3 player and headphones I like. All the other electronic gadgets I have will get better too. Quality will not lose in the end, I'm more positive than ever. These are dire days for quality for sure, but sooner than you think, quality will come right back.

My bag is a bit of a burden but I can do things better than you... too bad your little multitaskers can't do things as well. I feel for you, but it's your own fault. "It's raining, it's pouring....." Oh gosh those data packages are so expensive..." nanny nanny boo boo."

I'm still writing long haired and long winded blogs about things that are real to me on a real keyboard. I feel better than ever about my decision to blog rather than facebook. I feel so much better after writing even if no one gets it.

I read a lot of psychology books as a teen and at least 3 of them had the cat thing :

This supposedly chronicles the descent of the artist into schizophrenia. Someday my blog might well be in a textbook, hopefully my descent will be into something easier to spell at midterms.

And as for The Case for God, I'm not sure I'd recommend it to the faint of heart. The search for God has been a long one. :) I think this book really should be entitled "A History of the Case for God". Yet I'm in wonder about the fact that the book moves along (very very painstakingly) a path that comes closer and closer to my personal understanding of God. I'm happy... that I have not been wasting my life in my own search for meaning, that others have gone down the same experiential paths.

As I read books in dribs and drabs, switching around when I feel like it, perhaps there is hope yet for multitasking and perhaps convenience. Yet.... nope, the small screen of that iPhone will never do."iPhone" is a pretty good metaphysical name for the product though, all it needs is a capital "I" to make it's name grammatically correct when beginning sentences and theologically descriptive of it's nature in the eyes of it's converts. :)

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Up In Blue, by me

It was a dark and stormy night
I was restin’ my head
The rain just kept rollin’ down
The broken down cow shed.
My billet, it seemed a mile away
I let it flow downstream
They never did like just what I said
Along the same old theme
As I antied up a chunk of myself
Fallin’ for the cheap card tricks
I found myself spendin' time
Snapping these age worn sticks in two
Tangled up in blue.

Snake in the grass was the phrase she used
Rammed it down my throat
As if I was worthy somehow
To be tossed like an overcoat.
Her face was screwed into a spirtual rage
Neck strained forward, tense
Like a shore of jagged rocks
Unseen before or since.
The day she left, her minions paused
And resumed their austere work
Survivors of a clash between
Their lonesome god and their kneejerk views
Tangled up in blue.

Later on as I slithered on down
Blinded by the best foresight
I basked and wallowed
On the trail of the new daylight.
Kings and queens, they took the stage
Playing to the mezzanine
Timely noting if I were impressed
But I fluffed my old blue jeans.
Finally I saw in the offing
There would be a dearth of choice
A familiar mockingbird singin' lies
Countin' on my throat to voice them too.
Tangled up in blue

Sunday, April 3, 2011


Traditional Disney story telling married with CGI. This is one of the best Disney animated movies. How high it ranks I cannot guess but I know a classic when I see it. Tangled is everything I could hope for in a Disney movie. A seemingly limited fairy tale plot is transformed into one of the most beautiful and heart tugging movies I have ever seen. The CGI reminds one of traditional animation more than it does of CGI. The characters are tremendous. The story is unique and yet beautifully crafted from traditional dramatic elements. The attention to detail is unparalelled. There is wonder in this film. I'm so happy to have experienced it without a newfangled 3D set.  No distractions were needed. No doubt my second viewing will be on the Disney Magic, in state of the art 3D with a bag of popcorn by my side. Disney is in my life to brighten my very soul.