Monday, March 26, 2018

The Wisdom of Old People

I firmly believe in judging people by who they are instead of what they are.  It seems easy enough in principle, but then life gets in the way.  You absolutely can judge a book by its cover sometimes.  That's why books have covers.  It just isn't fair to the person being judged.  Which brings me to old people.  Many people believe age comes with wisdom, and respect for those wisened older people is a virtue.

I think you definitely can parlay your time on this planet into wisdom.  You'd be wrong to assume everyone does.  A lot of our learning is as a collective.  Judging people by who they are, for example.  Someone who is old now, grew up in a time when racism was much more acceptable.  They are much more likely to hold onto this belief, in my opinion.  That is not wise.

Another example is a call I got from my mother's husband yesterday.  People pressured him into calling me.  He had called a phone number in a popup on his computer, gave this stranger access to his computer, and all of his bank account information.  He was still in his computer when he called.

You might be thinking, this is not a wisdom issue, he's just ignored the technological developments made over the last 30 years.  How is that not unwise?  Computers are clearly powerful tools.  He is definitely bad with technology, but he's had access to computers longer than I have.  He resisted it, while I embraced it.

But is it really a technology issue?  He's had a bank account much longer than I have been alive.  He knows not to give out that information.  He knows it can be used to transfer funds out of his account.

You might be thinking, he comes from a simpler, a more trusting time.  He became an adult in the late 60's.  The 60's and 70's had much higher crime rates.  This is a man who thinks George Bush Jr. took out the twin towers, and there is a cure for age related hearing loss that big-hearing-aid doesn't want you to know about.  He's capable of suspicion.

And you might be thinking he's an outlier.  He is not alone.  These people prey almost exclusively on older people due to their lack of wisdom.  My friend's mother gave a similar attacker access to her tax information the same way less than a year ago.

I am not suggesting we start labeling a person as unwise just because they are old.  I'm saying we need to stop labeling people wise just because they are old.  Label people based on who they are, not what they are.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Involvement with Politics II

Nobody is perfect.

As reported last time I was doing volunteer work with centrist political organization No Labels, and was about to join the political fray in the United States. Didn't happen.

Oh, I did as I was asked and downloaded the texting tool they had discussed in the conference call which sold me on the notion of helping. I was eager to give it a try but slightly apprehensive, too. I was exiting my comfort zone. I had never ever just started talking politics to a person on the street. Even though this was to be via texting, which would mediate the interaction, the possibility of touching on sensitive issues seemed quite real. I went into my office, figuratively closed the door ( doorless office ), took a deep breath, and opened the texting tool ( called, perhaps appropriately, Hustle ). I got a straightforward message, loosely translated as, "You have no marching orders; see your organization's Hustle administrator."

Figure 1 - Hustle Screen

Being technically inclined, I gathered this meant that No Labels had added neither targeted phone numbers nor text to send to those phone numbers to my specific Hustle tool. ( Back in my comfort zone, I admit a breathed a small sigh of relief … "Ah, a reprieve." ) I sent a text message asking for help back to the person ( phone number? ) that had texted me the instructions for downloading the tool.

A day or so went by, and I had heard nothing. I sent another text, this one to the other person who texted me after I signed up. This time I included a screen shot ( Figure 1 ) of the message I was getting.

Another day or so went by, and I still heard nothing. Though out of my comfort zone, I was eager to start, aware that the election was fast approaching and annoyed at what seemed like incompetence. I sent an email to the one person with whom I had previously corresponded, and who was touted as the 'go to guy' for issues of all sorts. No response.

Eventually I got a "thanks for your great help" e-mail, sent to all people who had volunteered to send text messages.

The next day I got two emails from the "go to guy" to whom I had emailed for help; the first said he was "looping in my colleague" who could help with texting issues without actually looping him in and the second one said the same thing and did so. I have still gotten no meaningful response about the texting problem.

Rep Lipinski won the primary by a narrow 2,000 votes out of approximately 90,000 votes cast. The campaigning of No Labels certainly made some difference, and some political writers are beginning to note that. I would like to have participated and have a sense that I might have made a difference. But I was on the sidelines ( again ).

Nobody is perfect; everybody makes mistakes. It discourages me that this organization, in whom I've placed a fair amount of my hope for a viable political future for our Democracy, failed to both provide what I needed to do the work for which I volunteered and to even notice that it failed to do so.

I am discouraged, yes. I am angry, yes. Will I volunteer for No Labels again? I intend to write one more email to provide feedback about my experience and how I feel about that experience. Time will tell whether I volunteer again; a lot depends on their response to my feedback.

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Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Selling Myself an Ipad

I don't need a new tablet.  In fact, if a piano fell on my ipad mini tomorrow, I wouldn't need to replace it.  I would really want to replace it.  I use it all the time.  But it does everything I really use a tablet to do.  And if it was time to replace it, a $150 tablet would do the job just fine.  But then I saw the newest ipad pro.

It's thinner than my older ipad mini 2, and not a lot heavier given its bigger screen.  But it has a fingerprint sensor, an amazing display, and a better processor than any laptop I've owned.  Although, I have had my laptop for 15 years, and it wasn't the newest model when I bought it.  It does still get the job done.  People still comment on how thin, light, and fancy it looks.  Apple is good at that.  Then I played with its stylus, and it was all over.  But how can I justify a $701.08 tablet I don't need?  Here's how.

First, I shop around.  I was able to find an open box one on Ebay for $550, no tax.  And it has the cellular connection, which would be $841.51 buying new from Apple.  That's almost $300 savings right there.  It would practically be a crime not to buy it.

Then I hunt around.  It looks like Amazon will give me $80 for the one I have.  So it's really only a net expense of $470, if you think about it.

And my wise spending has meant I haven't needed to buy a new laptop in a decade and a half.  And this ipad pro does most things a laptop would do.  And I'll actually take it with me, unlike my 3 pound laptop.

So it was definitely a good idea to buy the ipad pro that I definitely didn't need.  Now onward to justify a $100 stylus I definitely don't need.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Involvement with Politics

If that's how they're going to be, the heck with 'em.

Illinois's Representative Dan Lipinski is a Democratic member of the Problem-Solver's Caucus. He is running in a primary election and is being challenged by a candidate supported by the left wing of the Democratic party. No Labels is staunchly supporting Rep. Lipinski, and pointed out that, much as the Tea Party successfully rooted out moderate Republicans a few years ago, the left wing Democrats are attempting to do that to moderate Democrats. They've identified bipartisan Democrats as targets.

Consequently, No Labels is attempting to fight back, or so an email I recently got from them said. The email invited anyone who wants to get involved by either sending text messages or going to Chicago and knocking on doors to reply. I want to help. I am very concerned about the partisan divide that is not only making it virtually impossible for Congress to do anything ( some people think keeping Congress from doing anything would be good news, but I am not among them ), but also making rational, civil and reasonable conversation about political disagreement almost a thing from a quaint and bygone era. I thought sure, I'll click the link in the email. Knocking on doors and speaking politics is not my cup of tea, but I can and am willing to send text messages.

The signup page to which the link took me asked for my Cell Phone number. "Hmmmm," I thought, as though it hadn't occurred to me if I'm going to send text messages my cell phone number might get out. "I'll have to give this some more thought."

While I thought about it, No Labels published another email, inviting those interested in helping on this topic to attend a telecon about the process on the following day. Naturally, I attended that telecon. I learned quite a bit. Bernie Sanders is leading the left-wing Democrats supporting the candidate opposing Rep Lipinski; No Labels had found an app for the texting process, automating almost all the work; No Labels had demographic data and the text messages would target likely voters not already committed to Rep Lipinski; my cell phone number would be invisible in this process; I might get into a discussion about the election with the recipients of the text messages, and the app provides ready responses to many anticipated questions and comments.

Prior to the call, I had wondered whether No Labels is worthy of my support if I am afraid of providing it my cell phone number. Conversely, I wondered if I am way too suspicious of everything and everybody if I am unwilling to give this political organization, to which I've already given money and lots of verbal support, my cell phone number. I had pretty much decided I was in even before the phone call; the phone call cemented it.

As soon as the call was over I went to the provided web site and did as instructed. The next page was a donation page. "What the heck … I'm a dues paying member of this organization." I closed the tab … and nothing happened.

"If that's how they're going to be, the heck with 'em," I thought. I went to bed, feeling I had done my best to get involved but was denied for not wanting to donate … "not wanting to pay to play," one might snidely say.

The next morning I received two significant text messages … one welcomed me to the pursuit and provided a URL to get going and the other a welcome with some helpful directions. I am about to join the political fray in the United States.

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Monday, March 12, 2018

Japanese is not Easy #3

It's rare something academic will hold my interest this long.  The last thing I can think of is computer support, and I ended up going to school for that.  So, I've decided to invest.

I started with Duolingo.  That's a free phone app that teaches language.  It was great for about two weeks.  I did notice that it lists "sayonara" as "goodbye" when I believe it means "goodbye forever."  Then the app took a steep climb in difficulty.  In my opinion, at least.  I was completely failing at the sentence structure, when it hadn't even covered the entire "alphabet".

I put alphabet in quotes, because they actually call them phonemes.  Japanese has no "H".  It has ha, he, hi, and so on.  That's a little more to memorize for learners.  The plus side is it's mostly a phonetic language.  But that leads me to TinyCards.  That's another app, but a simpler one.  It just has flashcards, and a mechanism to test if you remember them.  It's more limited, which actually makes it easier to use it on the go.  It's great for simple things like memorizing phonemes and words.

I also bought this a book called Japanese from Zero! Volume 1.  It wasn't a huge investment.  It was $30, but I can surely sell it for $10 if I don't like it.  It does seem good, but I'm really concentrating more on the apps right now.  They're more my style, and fit into my life better.

And since I'm still investing my time, I went ahead and invested a little more money.  I found someone reselling an individual account with Rosetta Stone.  I have tried Rosetta Stone a little for Spanish, and it was great.  This hasn't arrived yet.  It's a 24 month subscription for one person in the one language of my choice.

My plan is to stick with a mix of all these methods, and if all goes well, try Italki.  That's a web service that matches people who want to practice a language with a native speaker of that language who wants to practice your language.  I couldn't think of an easier way to say that.  This service also allows people to sell language lessons.  It's way cheaper than finding someone locally.  I was recently reminded of it by a youtuber living in Japan, who still uses it because it's so convenient and cheap.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

A GIft of Love

"Happy Valentine's Day!"

I was writing for my blog for the first time in a while. I was writing in an actual journal for only the second time since the first of the year. I was using a practically brand spanking new bamboo fountain pen. Practically only because I had used it already, having come into possession of it only slightly less than one week prior ( Valentine’s Day, actually, if you want specifics ). It was brand spanking new then.

I play Words with Friends
( this is related ) on my SmartPhone, mostly but not only with my wife, Ellie. It's a fun game but it presents loads and loads of ads - an ad after each word that's played. A large percentage of the ads in this game are by Amazon, and in viewing these ads I discover why Amazon is so successful: 
Amazon has

determined my number and it really pushes on it. A very large percentage of the ads it shows me are for - can you guess this? - fountain pens. And nearly all the ads recently have been for a bamboo fountain pen and its bamboo case. As you know, fountain pens are my weakness, and this is a very nice-looking pen. Amazon shows several bamboo fountain pens, ranging in price from around $15 to around $65. My wife, of course, knows I like fountain pens, too, and has pretty much sworn off feeding what she refers to as "your addiction." No pens, no paper, pen cases, etc. She is capable of being quite strict. So, naturally, I play with her about this.

The advertisements shown after each word played usually are not very long and, thereby, not terribly intrusive. I prolong an ad for a bamboo fountain pen by showing it to my wife, "Look at this nice pen Amazon is advertising to me." I might say this as I show her the ad on my phone. Sometimes I'll just murmur something like, "Ah, what a nice-looking pen," but just loud enough for Ellie to hear. Sometimes I'll tap the link, say one of those things, and show her the Amazon page, which has both more detail and more images. I'll occasionally pass her the phone. While I do this mostly for fun … the bamboo pen is a very attractive instrument and the reviews of it are good …  there is at least an element of insight if you were to call this a 'hint.'

In the middle of the day on February 14, Ellie gave me a wrapped box, smiled, and said, "Happy Valentine's Day!" I unwrapped the box with trembling fingers ( somewhat trembling ) to find a very attractive bamboo box inside of which was an attractive bamboo fountain pen … one of the pens Amazon had pushed at me … and I at Ellie. She had ordered this pen for me despite her hard line about my addiction. I found myself falling in love … after 35 plus years … with my darling wife all over again.
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Tuesday, March 6, 2018

The Grandest of Canyons

I had a lot of fun in Vegas, and did a lot of the things I wanted to do.  One thing I did, but would never have chosen for myself, was an airplane tour of the grand canyon.  I'm glad I did.

My cousin suggested we see it.  And he immediately started talking about renting a car, and which areas we wanted to see.  I stopped him right there.  The grand canyon is a beautiful place, but I was not going to spend a full day of my vacation driving to and from it.  But I suggested we look into an air tour.

It started with them picking us up in a shuttle from our hotel.  The hotel had changed pickup locations due to some construction, so that got messy.  The driver went above and beyond making sure we all got on.  He could have easily left earlier, told us we were out of luck.  We regretted not having smaller bills to tip him.

They dropped us off at a small airport in Bolder, where we met our pilot.  It was a small craft, just the four of us, and a couple of others.  It was very professional.  I felt very safe, and saw much more of the grand canyon than I could have in a car.  We even saw people rafting down the river.  It was remarkable how the whole seen shifted from minute to minute.

The only person not taking photos was my cousin, who had left his phone on the shuttle.  That's where they really went above and beyond getting it back to us.  The driver actually called a couple of times to coordinate, and brought it right to us.  I still didn't have any small bills for a tip, but that didn't matter.  There was no way I was tipping this guy less than $20 anyways.

What I'm trying to say is, Papillon air tours.  Five stars!