Terra Nomad

Every day is like survival. You're my lover, not my rival.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Today's Memos

To: the guy at the next table
Shut Up. Not only are you loudly talking about politics, you are not saying anything remotely original.

To: my future self
Have you taken the first test to become an actuary yet?

To: Grumpy Gus
Stop sighing every three seconds. If you have something to say, say it!
Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T


Saturday, December 06, 2008

Count again

Metropolitan State University claims to be convenient and accessible because "Five convenient metropolitan locations serve as class sites." Except that they don't make a point to hold general classes at each site. Want to take any Math class? You must got to one of the two St. Paul campuses. Art? Every class but one is held in the same building in St. Paul. Chemistry or Biology? Let me give you a map to St. Paul.

I am very annoyed by the lack of any official statement about this. Put it the handbook, note it on the locations page and make it clear on the information pages about each major. "The Math Department is located in ST. Paul and holds classes in St. Paul and Midway." If they were more upfront about it, students could make an informed choice instead of being mislead. I feel mislead.

I've emailed people at the school, complained in class and asked a Metafilter question about it. While I know it can be hard to get an answer to a Why question, I find this one particularly difficult. Several times they have just restate the policy instead of offering a reason. If I did that on a test, I wouldn't get credit for it.

Reasons I have been given:

Lack of students willing to take a class in Minneapolis, due to parking costs or other reasons: Parking is only $2 more here and it's not an issue for College of Management students. If you don't hold classes here, how do you know if students want to take them? The last three classes I took here were full on the first day.

Due to an agreement with MCTC, Metro will not hold 100 level classes in Minneapolis so they won't be in competition: What a crappy agreement. The co-location was nothing of the kind then. It turned Metro into an unwelcome guest, and not a roommate.

Lack of space: How many classrooms are empty in Minneapolis? I'm not just talking about in the CoM building, but in all of the MCTC buildings. An Algebra class needs seats and a whiteboard and I think they have some of those hanging around.

It's! so! easy! to take an MCTC class for Metro students: No it's not. You have to apply, get transcripts twice and you have to take MCTC assessment tests. How is that different than attending any another school?

The bottom line is that you are not filling your customers' needs and I have tried to point this out. Apparently there are too many layers of bureaucracy to get a point across.

I'm so frustrated by this that I have decided not to continue trying to take Metro classes. I haven't decided what I am going to do yet. I have checked out other schools, including MCTC, and might go to one of those. It seems like my job will pay for Associate's degrees now, too. For now I plan to take a CLEP or two this spring.

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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

No School For You

I am not taking anymore classes at Metro State. There are two more meetings of my current class, and after that I am done. There are many reasons, but chief among them is that they don't hold enough classes in Minneapolis. I asked why and was told that they don't hold 100 level classes in Mpls because they have an agreement with MCTC due to the colocation. There was no answer about 200 and higher level classes. I asked for one, but there has not yet been a reply.

I would like to call shenanigans on this agreement. It is not any easier for a Metro student to take an MCTC class than for them to take a class anywhere else. The only difference was no application fee. I still had to pay to have my transcripts sent, take MCTC assessment tests, etc. The only cooperation I see is that we sometimes get a classroom in their buildings. In my opinion, they are not very nice rooms.

Going to school is hard enough without having to deal with the non-answers I have been getting. You might say that college is supposed to prepare you for the real world and there is plenty of bureaucracy to deal with there. Well, I work for a giant corporation and live in a big city, and this is a new level of it.
I am going to try emailing my adviser. I have never talked to her, so this will be a lovely introduction.

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Monday, December 17, 2007

Winning the Cold War at What Cost?

“What is most important to the history of the world? The Taliban or the collapse of the Soviet empire? Some stirred-up Muslims or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the cold war?” argues former National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski in a 1998 with French newspaper Le Nouvel Observateur (qtd. in Blum 1). In this interview, Brzezinski is defending the Carter administration and the CIA for funding the Afghani mujahideen in their resistance to the Soviet invasion of 1979-1989. This funding, that began in secret, was meant to draw the Soviets into a conflict that would drain their resources and hasten the fall of Communism. Now nearly 30 years later it is clear; the seeds sown in Afghanistan grew into to the resurgence of Islamic Fundamentalism and the formation of terrorist organizations including al Qaeda. This essay will follow the trail from the Cold War to the current War on Terror.

In December of 1979, The Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan and met a resistance that drew them into a decade-long war that ultimately contributed to the fall of the USSR (Reuveny and Prakash 696). The Afghani mujahideen, literally ‘Muslim warriors fighting a jihad’ (“Mujahideen”), were the resistors but they were not alone. Journalist and documentary filmmaker John Pilger explains, “For 17 years, Washington poured $4 billion into the pockets of some of the most brutal men on earth.” (Pilger 2) In the interview with Le Nouvel Observateur, Brzezinski admits that the stream of money started almost six months before the Soviets actually invaded. He says that President Carter signed a secret directive for this aid to begin in July of 1979 and that he and the President did this to increase the chances of a Soviet invasion (qtd. in Blum 1)

In the summer of 1980, US Representative Charlie Wilson read an AP article about the Afghan resistance and was moved by the descriptions of the mujahideen resisting the Red Army, despite the Soviet’s technical superiority (Crile 19). Wilson had recently joined the Defense Appropriations subcommittee, which allowed him to make a single phone call to the staffer in charge of CIA funds and order that the aid to Afghanistan be doubled from $5 million to $10 million (Crile 20). Wilson visited Afghani refugee camps in Pakistan on an official fact-finding mission in 1982. He saw first-hand the horrors of a whole nation fleeing the Communists and that there were few men among the refugees, since most had stayed behind to fight. He spoke with tribal elders who asked not for food and medical supplies, but for “a weapon to destroy the [Russian helicopters]” (Crile 110). Later that year, Wilson actually told the CIA Chief of Station in Islamabad, Pakistan that he would “see to it that Congress approved whatever amount” the chief wanted for the mujahideen (Crile 123).

George Crile summarizes the CIA’s role in the Soviet-Afghan war: “Afghanistan … was not just the CIA's biggest operation, it was the biggest secret war in history. In the course of a decade, billions of rounds of ammunition and hundreds of thousands of weapons were smuggled across the border … At one point over 300,000 fundamentalist Afghan warriors carried weapons provided by the CIA; thousands were trained in the art of urban terror.” John Pilger explains that Operation Cyclone, the code name for the CIA overseeing camps training Islamic Militants, did not end when the Soviets finally left Afghanistan. Many of these militants would later join Al Qaeda or the Taliban (Pilger 3).

Congress continued approving millions of dollars in aid to the mujahideen after the Soviets left in 1989. In 1991, the CIA received $250 million for Afghanistan and in 1992 it was $200 million, hidden in a $298 million defense bill, and Saudi Arabia was matching this money. (Crile 514, 519). The CIA money was funneled through Pakistan's Inter Services Intelligence agency (ISI), so that the U.S. could have plausible deniability, and the ISI funded specific factions within Afghanistan. But the Saudi matching funds, which had been initially negotiated by Brzezinski, overwhelmingly went towards supporting, arming and training Arab mujahideen, fighters who came from other countries into Afghanistan to help fight the jihad (Blackton 1). The CIA considered but ultimately decided against training any non-Afghani fighters, mostly due to the problems and animosity between those fighters and the Afghani mujahideen (Lansford 139).

So, what was Afghanistan like after the Soviet withdrawal? Crile answers “By the end of 1993 … there were no roads, no schools, just a destroyed country -- and the United States was washing its hands of any responsibility. It was in this vacuum that the Taliban and Osama bin Laden would emerge as the dominant players.” (Crile 522). Lansford claims that the U.S. had no real plan to rebuild Afghanistan after the Soviets left but began to realize the effects of a weakly governed Afghani state in the mid-nineties. Terrorism by Islamist extremists and a sharp increase in the amount of heroin coming from the Afghan-Pakistani border signaled trouble (Lansford 144).

The Taliban took over various parts Afghanistan from late 1994 to September 1996, when it was able to capture the capital city, Kabul. They instituted a series of strict, fundamentalist laws and punishments that they claimed were based on their interpretations of Islam (“Taliban”). The atrocities that were carried out did not prevent U.S.-based Union Oil Company of California (Unocal) from entertaining members of the Taliban in Texas in 1997. They hoped to build a pipeline across Afghanistan and turn it into an “oil protectorate” (Pilger 2). It might have happened if not for the incidents of August 7, 1998. Rossi details the events: On that day, the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania were bombed, and later Osama bin Laden was named the prime suspect. It was discovered that bin Laden was running Al Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan with the approval of the Taliban. In retaliation, the United States bombed these camps in late 1998. The Unocal pipeline deal would not happen (Rossi 134-139).

The situation repeated itself on September 11, 2001 when New York and Washington, D.C. were attacked with commercial airliners and the U.S. demanded that the Taliban turn over bin Laden. They refused and the U.S. invaded Afghanistan with renewed fervor (Rossi 138). Bin Laden remains at large today, and it is suspected that he is still hiding out in the caves along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border (Thomas 1).

While not contributing money directly to the non-Afghani mujahideen, the CIA’s “secret” war and the United States’ subsequent abandonment of Afghanistan contributed to the Taliban’s rise to power in Afghanistan. It can be argued that only Pakistan and Saudi Arabia played a bigger part. But Pakistan was the middleman for the CIA funds and the Saudis were matching our money at our request. Crile laments, “What no one involved anticipated was that it might be dangerous to awaken the dormant dreams and visions of Islam. Which is, of course, exactly what happened” (Crile 520).

Works Cited

Blackton, John Stuart. "The CIA on "Did the CIA create Bin Laden?" TPM Cafe. 21 Jan 2006. 15 Oct 2007 .

Blum, Bill. "CRG - The CIA's Intervention in Afghanistan." Centre for Research on Globalisation. 15 Oct 2001. 10 Oct 2007 .

Crile, George. Charlie Wilson's War. New York: Grove Press, 2003.

Lansford, Tom. A Bitter Harvest: Us Foreign Policy and Afghanistan. Hants, UK: Ashgate Publishing Limited, 2003.

"Mujahideen." American Heritage Dictionary. Fourth Edition. 2007.

Pilger, John. "What Good Friends Left Behind." The Guardian 20 Sep 2003 11 Oct 2007 .

Reuveny, Rafael and Aseem Prakash. "The Afghanistan war and the Breakdown of the Soviet Union." Review of International Studies 1999 693-708.

Rossi, M. L.. What Every American Should Know About the Rest of the World. New York: Penguin Putnam Inc, 2003.

"Taliban." Microsoft Encarta Online Encyclopedia 2007 .

Thomas, Evan. "Into Thin Air." Newsweek 03 Sept 2007

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Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Condiment of Evil

I am the one who hates ketchup and mustard.

My friends all know it. BBQ sauce is almost as bad. Mayo is acceptable,but horseradish? Um, no. I find most marinara sauce to be a sad, watery excuse for Italian food, but I hate ketchup and mustard the most. Once I was at McDonald's with my mom and we were grabbing food for a bunch of people. I reached for a straw or a lid and my shirt sleeve got a small bleech of ketchup on it. I was horrified, especially when I looked around the "dining room" to see there were no napkins in sight. I ended up using a small piece that I ripped off one of the bags.

My nightmare job would be to have to clean up or refill condiment dispensers. Errant globs of ketchup or mustard make me recoil. I rarely eat burgers, so I don't have to worry too much about ketchup, but many places have begun putting mustard on chicken and turkey sandwiches. Arby's is the main offender here, so now I have to ask the cashier what sauce comes on a sandwich. If it's not mayo, please skip it!

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Friday, November 16, 2007

If you catch me at the border, I got visas in my name.

I am sorry this is so long.

The Passport drama lives on. As you may recall, back in May I had to go to a passport office in person to get one in time to leave the country. A few days later, UPS tried to deliver a passport to my house, but I was already on my trip so they returned the package to the Charleston office where my original application was processed. This all happened in mid-May.

Fast forward to early November, nearly six months later, and I get a letter in the mail with a return address of "US Government". They seem to think I received two passports, the one I got in Chicago and the one they mailed to me, and they'd like the one I got in Chicago back. They even go so far as to cite Federal statutes that say you can't have more than one valid passport and threaten that if I try to use the Chicago one I may be "detained by the Department of Homeland Security, Customs and Border Patrol." Remember, I never got the one they mailed to me, my Chicago one is the only one I have.

I call the number, that same evil number I had to call every day for two weeks in early May, and speak to the same woman who told me to mail them a letter to get my Birth Certificate back. She tells me I should mail them a letter to explain my situation. Why do you have a phone number, email addresses and a website if you are going to insist that every request is made in a letter? She also tells me that she can see that the original passport was returned to the Charleston office. I ask her why the people who sent me the letter can't see the same thing. She says, "Washington DC doesn't know it was returned." Okay, I guess computers haven't made it there yet.

On this letter from the Feds, there is actually a form that you can fill out to tell them that you only received one passport, so apparently this is not a rare occurrence. I fill out the form and mail it back, but I also include my own letter, which I copied to the State Department in an email. The only reply I got to the email was to please fill out the form and mail it in.

Shortly after getting this letter, I had a dream that I was actually in a Passport Office and I was yelling at some woman about what had happened. In the dream, I was was planning to take a short trip to Canada to make sure my passport was still valid. When I woke up, I realized that is actually a good idea.

Here is the letter I sent them:

Dear CLASP Unit,
My records indicate that I have only received one passport, the one numbered chicago#, from the Passport office in the Federal Building in Chicago. I had to go there to get my passport because the Charleston office did not send it to me within their promised time frame of ten weeks. After repeated phone calls advising that my travel date was fast approaching, I still got no assurance that my passport would even be in the mail by the date I was leaving. So, I went to get it in person.
Once I left on my trip, there were attempts to deliver an express mail package to my residence but they failed since I was not at home. According to the woman I spoke with yesterday at the phone number 877-487-2778, this package was returned to the Charleston office. I assume this package contained the passport number charleston#. If she can see this in her computer system, why can’t your office see the same thing?
Your letter indicates that my passport number chicago# is “in the process of being invalidated”. Please do not do this, but invalidate number charleston# instead. I never received that passport. It was returned to your Charleston office. If you insist on invalidating chicago#, I must insist that you send me charleston#. I paid my application fee, plus many other travel expenses to get to Chicago, so I deserve to have one valid passport.
I also request some kind of assurance that whatever passport you decide to keep valid will not cause me to “be detained by the Department of Homeland Security, Customs and Border Protection” as your letter threatens, since I have done nothing wrong.

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Friday, June 08, 2007

Passport Saga - a whole new wrinkle

When I first submitted my application for a passport, I gave them a ceritified copy of my birth certificate. I got another one when I went in person to get my passport back on May 16th, and they gave me that copy the same day. Now I expected that the first copy would be sent back to me as soon as the Charleston office realized that my second application had been processed. Well, it is now 23 days later and I still don't have any mail from them. So, I sent an email on Monday and another on Wednesday and there has been no response from them. So, I call them today and wait in the queue that likes to hang up on you, using the 3,1,9 prompts. I actually get through to two different reps who hang up on me because their systems are not working. I finally get through to a rep who talks to me and I explain. She says that she's sure they won't hold on to my birth certificate and that I should send them a letter asking them to send it back to me. Um, why do I need to send a letter if she's sure they won't hold on to it? She also says she can't send them a message to send it back to me because her messages only ask them to expedite existing applications (and we all know how well those work). There is no time frame she can give me as to when I can expect my Birth Certificate back.

I really wish I had gotten the first FedEx package that might have contained both my Birth Certificate and my original Passport. Because then I could have put it through my own 10+ week "processing" before sending it back to them. I would have made a webpage for them to look at each day to see when they could expect to get it, except there would never be an actual date, just some nonsense about how they should get it within my promised timeframe.

Update: It came in the mail on the 9th. I think they need some better notes so they can actually tell you what is going on with your "account".

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Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Italy Trip - Day One

Wednesday, May 16th

I was supposed to be flying to London at 11 AM today, laying over in Chicago and getting there about 6 AM London time on Thursday. Instead, my passport has not reached me in time so I flew into Chicago last night at about 11:30 PM. The Passport Agency gave me a 9 AM appointment at the closest Federal building (still a 6 hour drive away). I took the El downtown from O'Hare and got to my ($180) hotel around 1 AM. Wednesday morning I got up and went to the Kluczynski Federal Building in downtown Chicago. I felt lucky at this point that I had actually been to Chicago three times before, so I was familiar enough to get around the city.

The whole in-person appointment was rife with bureaucracy. First, a security line to get into the building and then you wander around the second floor to find the right room. There are a total of three separate rooms, all with lines and seating areas. The first one has a line, two seating areas and then another line where you wait "up against the wall" after your name has been called. From this room, I called United to cancel my flight and the woman actually said, "You were going to fly overseas and didn't have a passport?" I was not amused and told her a very short version of how it never came and I was actually in line to get it in person.

After you leave the first room, you go in an elevator and wait outside the second room. At this point, you are threatened by an armed guard that if you eat, drink or use your cell phone inside the second room, you will be physically removed from the building and will not get your passport. I never knew that Diet Coke was such a security threat! Inside the second room, there's another line for them to check that you do have an appointment, that all your documents are there and to give you a number. Then you sit and wait for your number to be called. While I was in the two lines for the second room, I commiserated with two other girls in line, both from Chicago. We all made fun of the pictures on the wall, which are of Bush, Cheney and Rice, all grinning/smirking at you. Those pictures seem to be in every room.

When my number was called, I went to the window and the woman behind it asks, "How are you?" Normally, I know that's a rhetorical question, especially from a stranger. But this time I answered, "Not well. I was supposed to leave today and instead I have to come here in person!" One of the girls I was talking to in line was at the next window and she thought that was funny that I gave the woman attitude. The woman helping me takes my stuff and does things behind the counter while the woman helping the girl tells her that she must have exact change for the $157 fee. I guess the State Department must not know how to make change. The girl only has two $100 bills, but luckily I have change for one of her hundreds. I am not charged again (thank God) and told to come back around 12 or 12:30 and go to the third room. At this point it is just after 10 AM.

So I have a couple of hours to kill in Chicago, which I would normally love, but I am a bit stressed out. I wandered around downtown seeing a Falun Gong protest, Grant Park, the outside of the Art Institute and a Tenant's Association rally. I go back into the building about 12:30 and wait in line for the third room. I hand in my receipt and sit down for what turns out to be nearly an hour wait. As I am waiting, people are constantly being told where to stand and where to sit and that they are in the wrong line. I hear many people in the room say they'd originally applied in February! At this point the day reaches it's most ridiculous point when one of the guards comes in and stands by the window to take a phone call. A PERSONAL phone call on his CELL PHONE! I laugh out loud at him. Finally my name is called and I actually have my passport in my hands.

I continue wandering around Chicago, getting lunch at the Corner Bakery, seeing the Cloud Gate again, shopping and walking over the river. I take the El out to Midway and get home by midnight.

Day Two

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Passport? No, but thanks for playing

Actually, I do have my passport in my hands!

Now to get it, I had to
  • cancel my original flight ($200 change fee + higher fare for new flight)
  • fly to Chicago ($200 fare)
  • rent a hotel ($180 last minute rate)
  • wait in line for over an hour two different times (once for the application and once for actually picking up the passport)
  • and fly back to Minneapolis tonight.

I also had to pay another $16 each for new pictures and a new copy of my birth certificate. I am spending money to get around Chicago and am taking this whole day off of work.

I cancelled my first night in London ($28 charge).
My first Rome B&B cancelled on me because they had a pipe burst.
My hotel in Florence is expecting me on Tuesday night.
Airone is expecting me to fly out on Friday, that another $200+ that I may or may not be able to rebook.
Let's hope I get there.

Hey, Condi and the rest of the State department, thanks for taking my money and giving me nothing but lies in return! You could have just told me it wouldn't be here when I called the first time, back on April 30th. Or maybe you could have given me a real estimate of how long it takes. Stop lying to people and telling them they will have their passport in less than three months.

Due to the new requirements, don't expect to get a normal turn around on your appliation unless you expedite it. The last of the new requirements could go into effect as late as 2009. It's going to be a bad couple of years.

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Wednesday, February 07, 2007

When the Children Cry

White Lion's "When the Children Cry" came up on my iPod today. I was transported back to fifth or sixth grade when we learned the song in Music class. We were practicing it for an upcoming concert, and were given sheets of paper with the lyrics on them. Those lyrics include the line, "No more presidents, and all the wars will end, one united world, under God." Somehow, the principal found out the song would be performed and told the music teacher to pull it, because of that line. It wasn't because of the anti-war or religious parts, but the "anarchistic" bit about no more presidents. That teacher was one of my least favorite to begin with, and I remember her telling us about pulling the song and implying that it was our fault. She said one of us must have left the lyrics sheet somewhere to be discovered by the person who eventually complained. That same teacher refused to let us sing the Beach Boys "Kokomo" because of the line, "Come on, pretty mama." I hated Music class, almost as much as PhyEd, and I think part of the reason was the cheesy songs we had to sing.

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Monday, January 01, 2007

Bus Stop, bus go, she stays, what grows?

Wow Metro Transit's #11 route has been horrible lately. On both December 21st and 22nd, the southbound bus I was on drove right past the stop on 3rd Ave and 14th Street, even though there were people waiting there. The second time, I pulled the string and yelled up to the driver that he had missed the stop. He just gave me a dirty look and kept going. Then on Saturday, I was waiting at the stop at 3rd and 19th at 7:20pm to go downtown and the bus drove right past me, even after I waved at it. I hauled it over to Nicollet and got on the 18, which also blew past a stop with a waiting passenger at Grant street, but at least the bus hit a red light and the person was able to catch the bus. Then last night, I waited for the #2 to go Uptown and was about to drive instead when it showed up ten minutes late. Yes, it was snowing, but I have seen drivers refuse to wait 30 seconds for someone who is running for the bus, even after their friends have asked the driver to wait.

I'm really sick of rude drivers, especially when they pull away from the stop before you can sit down and then have to slam on the breaks because they were pulling up to a red light anyway.

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Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Playing to win

After reading this post that points out the stupidity of saying "I like to have fun," I was reminded of my own hatred of the soundbite that no reality show can pass up, "I am playing to win." Really? You mean, you are on a show that is giving away a big prize and you are actually going to try to be the winner? Wow, what a concept!


Thursday, June 08, 2006


I drove over a screw that stuck in my tire on Sunday, so I had to put my spare tire on last night. Last time I needed a tire change, Ombre De Chevalier was nice enough to do it and give me lessons. So, I loosened the nuts, jacked up the tire, removed it and put the spare on. Tip: to tell which side of the tire should face out, check for the inflation valve.
Anyway, I was a filthy mess, but I had to run to the corner store after that to get some cash so I could do two loads of laundry. As I am getting cash and buying a soda, I hear a rather strange conversation between one of the workers there and a customer. My friends and I started a blog called Overheard in Minneapolis, which is a blatant rip-off of Overheard in New York, so I posted it on that blog and you'll have to go there to read it. We certainly aren't the only ones who had that idea, and there is a list of other Overheard blogs on the sidebar, which are great mood elevators.

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Friday, February 17, 2006

The goverment changed my birthday

While trying to file my taxes online this year, I find out that Social Security has my birthday wrong, so I had to go the local office yesterday and show them my birth certificate to prove it to them. I had been to that same office two years ago to request a new card, so I knew what to expect. Or did I? My memories from last time included a metal detector and a room full of about 50 adults and 60 children. The first thing you do is stand in line to see a receptionist, who gives you a number and verifies you have everything you need. When it came time for me to get my number, both of the women working the windows got up and walked away. So, there I sat for a few minutes looking at 5 empty windows, until a woman returned to give me my number, look everything up and glance at my forms.

Then it was time to sit, wait and enjoy the people watching which consisted of:
A man who sat right next to my niece despite at least 15 other seats being open
An angry older couple with a man who nearly went into the woman's bathroom
A worker looking at her computer screen as if everything was suddenly written in Russian
A cute little girl who kept handing us brochures
In those brochures, there are such useful definitions as "Retirement - when you retire" and "Death - when you die"
More than one conflict over the line and usage of windows
A building worker replacing nearly every light bulb in the place
A man wearing a hat that was way too small for him

An hour later, my turn came and I explained the deal. They assured me no one would be able to apply for anything in my name, which doesn't really comfort me, since you hear about people getting welfare checks for dead people and collecting 5 SSI checks through fraud. But, they will be investigating what happened, and I may or may not find out why the date was changed. It's funny, since I have to go through all of this to correct it, but it probably just took a keystroke for it to be changed in the first place.


Saturday, December 17, 2005

Information wants to be free, aka My Utopia

This needs to happen more often: "More artists take a stand against DRM".
Doesn't it seem wrong that an artist can't even legally burn a CD of their own work? The RIAA, MPAA and their evil ilk are justifying all of this bullying by pretending that they are protecting the interests of the artists who created the work. In reality, they are protecting the profits of the corporations who now own that artistic work. So, what needs to happen is that more artists (movie makers, actors, musicians and authors) need to harness the simple distribution that the Internet now allows instead of relying on the studio's current ways of force-feeding work to the public (radio stations, entertainment "news shows", and advertising). They retain the rights to their work and choose who and when to sue in order to protect it instead of turning the job over to the studio who then hides behind the RIAA. The more quality artistic work that stayed owned by the artist and freely available, the more people would reject the inferior force-fed Hollywood product. Discerning consumers would learn to seek out the quality art they want, and the lazy ones would be left with the peanut shells.


Friday, June 10, 2005

laugh to keep from crying

Guess what? You'll never guess, not in a million years! Go on, guess!

How the [bleep] did you know? No, Earthlink did not fix the problem, but the best part is that when I inquired about the escalation, it was mysteriously missing. One would never expect that, now would they? This time they put in a new wrinkle, "Due to a system issue, I will not be able to transfer the chat to a supervisor." Wow, that's a new one! Did you think one up just for me?

I was finally able to extract a "case number" and a promise that a Senior Technician will call me tomorrow evening. I got about 15 apologies, but I still doubt my phone's gonna ring anytime soon.


Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Earthlink hates me

Irate consumer below - feel free to skip if you don't want to hear ranting:

In March, with my shiny new computer, I got to choose six months of free dial-up access from either AOL or Earthlink. I've had AOL and not been impressed, so I picked Earthlink and I continue to be unimpressed. My problem with Earthlink is that I get randomly disconnected in the middle of surfing, sometimes after 30 seconds, sometimes after 90 minutes. I've gone through about 15 different remedies that they have suggested and nothing has worked. I started off emailing them, called once and finally started chat sessions. They keep asking me to do the same things and I have to tell them that I have already tried that. Finally towards the end of May, a rep tells me he will escalate the issue to his engineers. On June 2nd, I chat to inquire about the escalation and the rep tells me she will reescalate since it is still happening. Yesterday, after the 72 hours she told me to wait, I chat again to find out the status, at which point I am told that I need a ticket number, which was never given to me. She gives me another thing to try and says that will fix the problem (it didn't - big surprise). This evening, I chat for the seventh time to check on my problem and am told there was never any escalation put in. I ask for a supervisor who tells me he will escalate the issue. I ask him for the ticket number and he tells me "no ticket number is generated for these escalations"!

This is driving me insane, one "brush off" at a time. I have a number for Complaints (404-815-0770), which I will be using on Thursday - the day the supervisor assured me the problem would be resolved. The reason they offer you 6 months free is to get you to keep their service after your trial period. If this ISP is not even good enough for me to use when it is free, why would I pay for it?


Sunday, January 23, 2005

Marriage and Kids

The third and final rant from my Writing class:

People often say the greatest days of their lives are their wedding days and the days their children were born. There is an attitude that the right way to live life is to grow up, get married and have kids. Any deviation from this path is seen as selfish, a result of poor planning or something to be pitied. The prevailing assumption that everyone wants to get married and that most people want kids is just not true. Marriage and kids are not for everyone, and even if you want one of them, you don’t necessarily want them both.

I love spending time with the children of my friends and family, but I don’t want any of my own. I am busy enough without having to take care of another person. I enjoy being able to do things on the spur of the moment and the freedom from responsibility that I experience by not having children of my own. Constantly taking care of another human being is a huge responsibility and takes a lot of energy. I choose to put my energy into bettering the world in other ways.

Not having children is beneficial to the planet, since there are far too many people in the world already. I don’t want to be responsible for adding to the excessive population. Estimates of the world’s population in my lifetime are as high as 9 billion people! Where exactly are we going to put them all, Antarctica? Seriously, we are running out of room and resources and we don’t even have 7 billion people yet. Our effect on this planet is not limited to our own over-consumption, but includes the consumption of our progeny as well.

The pressure that society puts on its twenty-something members to have children can actually result in a bad parent-child relationship. Consider those who don’t have a strong desire for children but are socialized to believe that it’s the right thing to do. They may have children and be neglectful because they never really wanted them to begin with. Lack of desire can equal lack of concern. In a more extreme situation, they may even end up resenting the children because of the things they had to sacrifice in order to raise them. Unwanted or resented children will often grow up to be a blight on society.

Speaking of society and its well being, let’s look at the divorce rate in America. I have heard recently that it hovers around fifty percent and also that such a figure is overstated. I am not against marriage, far from it, but it is not the ideal situation for every person. Many a divorce has occurred because the couple got married too quickly or felt outside pressure to just find someone and settle down, already. Divorces can have a high cost to both parties involved both financially and emotionally. While pairing off and procreation are necessities for a species as a whole, they are not necessary for every individual. It is wrong to make people feel as if they are required to have kids or that it is selfish not to have them. There are other valid contributions that people make to the world. Examples of people who contributed to the world and yet never had children include Jesus Christ, Plato, and Frida Kahlo.


Thursday, January 20, 2005

The Best Things in Life Are Free

Again, a rant/writing assignment:

America has an ever widening-wealth gap in which a family of four with two incomes cannot always afford to buy a house. The costs of things like education, health care and housing are increasing at a rate that outpaces inflation and wage increases. Americans see wealth as an accomplishment and afford more privilege and opportunity to the rich simply because of their wealth.

Contrary to popular belief, America is not a meritocracy. People are not always rewarded according to their talents and how hard they work. There is so much built into the socio-economic structure of our society that keeps the “wrong kind of people” from getting ahead, or even being able to earn a decent living. Discrimination is big part of this system. People like to think that racism, sexism and other forms of discrimination are all in the past. They even hold up examples of minorities that have been successful and hold positions of power. They do not notice the multitudes of poor people of color that are forced to live in dangerous housing projects and afforded little opportunity for a better life. They do not notice the woman that is looked over for the promotion because she’s not part of the Good Ol Boys’ club. They do not notice the immigrant that is branded a terrorist out of fear and misunderstanding. They do not notice the disabled man that isn’t able to get a job or even run his errands due to lack of mass transportation in his city.

Wealth often brings about power, which in turn brings about even more wealth. It’s a classic case of the rich getting richer. When a family can’t even earn enough to make ends meet, they certainly don’t have money left over to put into savings. They are not able to purchase a house or help finance their children’s education. This is where the poor get poorer. Compound interest works for those who have money and against those who don’t. This trend carries over into the next generation. Wealthy people leave their excess to their children, who have already grown up with privileges, while the poor have not been able to send their kids to college and have no savings for their own retirement, much less anything to pass on to their children.

There are many obstacles to obtaining wealth and there are also many ways that people obtain wealth they did not rightfully earn. When you take these two ideas together, it becomes ridiculous to judge a person’s intrinsic value based on their net worth. Celebrities are a prime example of people judged superior to the average citizen because of their wealth. Some would argue they usually have talent that sets them apart, but I beg to differ. The number of people famous because of their parents is growing by the week, i.e. Paris and Nicole. Most celebrities do have acting or musical ability, but something else happened to catapult them from being the good singer or great chef into celebrity status. They got paid a ridiculous amount of money to star in a movie or they opened a chain of restaurants that are the height of popularity. Most of the time, they had rich parents to support them while they went to acting school and then spent years auditioning, or they were able to ask a wealthy family member to finance their first album as well as the promotion necessary to become a well-known recording artist.

The effects of such a wealth-obsessed society are many. When people think that everyone with money is a worthy person, it follows that those without money are lacking in skills, talent or morality. People get caught up in the trap of believing that they must provide luxuries for themselves and their families, and that they are bad people if they can’t make the money required to do that. This leads to epidemics of low self-esteem and even depression among the working class, which puts them even further behind the elite. All of this adds up to a society where the few people that are lucky enough to be wealthy are looked up to by the masses of people that aren’t that lucky. Children get the wrong message as they grow up and see how much easier life is when your parents have money and/or power. Unconsciously, they begin to place an inordinate value on wealth just like those around them and the cycle continues.

When a society becomes competitive instead of cooperative, some people get left behind. It gets harder and harder for them to catch up, since few people will take the time to stop and help someone when they feel they are losing the race as well. It seems to me there will become a time when the race will not become worth running if too many people are unable to reach the finish line.


Saturday, January 15, 2005

The Game of Life

The following is one of the papers I wrote for my Writing class this past summer. They all fall under the category of Rantings.

This paper had a different introduction, but it is essentially life lessons I wish I could teach everyone:

Know who you are both physically and mentally, which will enable you to behave properly and avoid danger. You need an abiding knowledge of your mind and personality and the ways in which they affect your life. Self-knowledge is essential to making important life choices, such as career or marriage. The best way of getting to know yourself is to spend time in solitude. People enjoy different amounts of alone time, but you must be comfortable enough with your own thoughts to spend time alone. It’s easy to get caught up in the roles we take on when others are around, so it is useful to step outside those roles for a short time. Being able to spend time alone implies maturity, as Einstein once said, “Solitude is painful when one is young, but delightful when one is more mature.”

While comfort with being alone is necessary, you must also learn to work as part of a team. In working with others, you learn to deal with problems and that differing points of view can both be correct. The strengths of some members can make up for the weaknesses of others. It is important that all team members exert the right amount of influence on the team. So while there may be a leader, all members still need to have input and decision-making ability.

Cultivate the discipline to set meaningful goals and the creativity and resourcefulness to find a way to reach those goals. When you set, strive for and reach a goal, you have not only accomplished what you set out to do, but gained some pride and self-assuredness along the way.
Keep your common sense, street smarts and critical thinking skills in shape. All the factual knowledge in the world is not useful unless it can be applied to the real world and used to solve problems. We have computers to calculate, record and sort information for us. We need people to utilize this information in new and innovative ways. Being able to think this way will help you discern what you can believe and what you should skeptical about.

Know that you are self-reliant and have an independent sense of responsibility. Being able to take care of yourself and maintain your own household is remarkably empowering. Knowing that you don’t have to rely on someone else to take care of you will prevent you from having to compromise your self-worth or values to keep the relationship intact.

Appreciate the accomplishments of others. It’s almost the opposite of jealousy, which puts us at odds with another person because they have something we do not. If we can step back and realize they are successful for many different reasons, it’s easy to see how we can reach success as well. Luck, skill and determination all play a part in accomplishment, although many people see just one of these as the reason that others are more successful.

Respect those with other points of view and tolerate people who are profoundly different from you. People often feel threatened by those who are different because they see them as competition, or they think only one way, race or religion can be the right way. There is no need to compete with everyone, since someone else’s gain is not always your loss. For the most part, we have evolved beyond ‘Survival of the Fittest’ and live in a semi-cooperative society.

Find and nurture your creative abilities and also your sense of humor, especially if it is unique. These are some of the most diverse qualities of the Earth’s population. Some of the most highly prized items in the world come from someone’s creativity, sense of humor or both.

Have the humility to recognize your own weaknesses and room for growth. Humility is often underrated or misinterpreted as a weakness. Actually, it is the stronger person who can recognize their flaws, because only then can true improvement begin. Posturing and intimidation work well in the animal kingdom, but not when dealing with people. Humility is also the lack of selfishness, realizing that there is a greater good to be served than oneself.

I suppose we all have life lessons we wish we could impart to others. But usually, people can’t learn a meaningful lesson without having a difficult experience themselves.


Saturday, December 04, 2004

My Series of Unfortunate Events

Bad - I miss the bus this morning
Good - I drive into work
Bad - I leave my cell phone at home
Bad - The line at the bank is too long for me to make a deposit
Good - I go out after work, but only have 3 light beers andthen I see 'Closer', which is an excellent movie
Bad - I realize my keys are on my desk when I go back to my car at midnight
Good - The cute parking guy gives me a lift on his golf cart back down to the skyway
Bad - The guard won't let me up to my floor without my floor code, which I do not remember. I would call someone who knows, but don't have my phone
Good - I can just take the bus home
Bad - No keys means I can't get in my apartment, and no phone means I don't have the emergency maintenance number
Good - I can just go to Shannon or Gee's house, which are only blocks from mine, and call a coworker or maintenance from there
Bad - It is midnight on the day the bus route is changing, so I don't know where to catch the bus
Worse - I realize I still have $300 dollars in my wallet because I couldn't wait in line at the bank. At this point, I am convinced the stars have aligned to have me robbed on my way home
Good - I walk home and it is not very cold
Bad - I hope either Gee or Shannon answers the door, since it will be 12:30 by the time I get to their houses
Great - Right before I buzz Gee's apartment, I remember to look in my wallet for my spare set of keys. Guess what is under my $300?

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