Saturday, January 30, 2010

Metal Storm of Destruction

When Alfred Nobel developed a way to control nitroglycerin for explosions, his intent was to make construction and blasting rock safer. He was a man with strong interest in social and peace-related issues and his invention of dynamite was intended to promote industry and progress - not as a giant step in the arms race. As a result, his fortune was used to begin the legacy of the Nobel Peace Prize.
I was reminded of Nobel's story upon learning of Metal Storm, a company that is developing new technology in weapons systems. Their concept is impressive and powerful, as shown in the video below.
Radical idiots in other countries have proven the need for defense, so I don't question those necessary, yet loathsome, tools. However, I am terrified of this next generation of weaponry. I can only wonder what these devices can do in the wrong hands, and I question if they are in the right hands now. The term "boys and their toys" also comes to mind when I consider that no women are on the executive board of this company. Men like Nobel and Gandhi head the list that proves men to be peaceful, yet it seems to take a great deal of testosterone to develop destruction. (Oxymoron intended!).
The U.S. Department of Defense may be ecstatic about the progress, but do they have the technology to defend our soldiers when these weapons are turned against our own forces - and do local police forces have the funding and know-how when these guns are in the hands of gang members and other criminals?

Monday, January 18, 2010

Technical "Support"?

God bless the technical support person that has common sense as well as knowledge of their product. I presume they are few and far between, leaving their jobs due to frustration with the multitudes of co-workers that have absolutely no sense at all. These imbeciles can’t find their way through a conversation, much less deal with the average person. Yet, the tone of their canned rhetoric often is demeaning or condescending.
My experience tonight was a carbon copy of prior encounters. The textbook I use to teach a community college course has an instructor’s companion site, and I was having trouble gaining access. To contact tech support online chat, a form must be completed that includes the ISBN for the book, the URL for the site and a statement of the problem.
I stated that I was unable to access the instructor resources at xyz.com, giving the exact URL.
The conversation is self-explanatory, but I’ve added comments in parentheses:

You are now chatting with robert r
robert r: Thank you for contacting (Name of Company) Tech Support, my name is Robert. How may I help you tonight Iris?
Iris: Hi Robert - I'm trying to go from the url and click on Instructor Resources but am getting an error code Perhaps I need to re-sign in but can't find the sign in screen either
robert r: May I ask what website you are trying to do this on? (What happened to the info I just entered?)
Iris: oh yes - let me get it again I had it on the form to fill out for chat ... just a sec
Iris: http://(complete address) /ins_resources.html (five minutes pass)
robert r: Thank you, just one second please. (another five minutes)
robert r: May I ask what you are trying to access when you get to this page? (And I filled out that stupid form because ...?)
Iris: instructor resources
Iris: the first thing on the center of the page (tick tock tick tock … several more minutes)
robert r: Does it take you to a login page after you click that? (Did I mention that I might need to sign in but there's no sign in prompt???)
Iris: no i get an error message
robert r: What does the error say? (Ok – you asked for it …)
Iris: It says an error has occurred while processing your request. Contact technical support Error details: (I sent about 20 lines of technical lingo)
robert r: Ok, Just one second please. (10 minutes pass)
robert r: Have you cleared your cookies and cash from the computer?
Iris: yes (Stumped again, I suppose … another five minutes)
robert r: May I ask what web browser you are using?
Iris: not sure - IE 7 or 8 (That was in that form, too!)
Iris: I accessed the site earlier today without trouble
robert r: Have you tried to restart your computer since this problem started?
Iris: no
robert r: Ok, go ahead and try to restart it. If it still having the same issue, you can chat back and ask for me and we can go from there.
Iris: ok thanks

It seems rebooting is the universal cure-all. I don’t mind, but did he have to take 30 minutes to figure it out? And would someone please tell me what these folks are doing when the consumer is waiting? I used to give them the benefit of the doubt, thinking they must be juggling several calls at once.
Now, I think they must take coffee breaks, play solitaire, or yell, “Hey Stan … This lady has a problem and I can’t figure it out.” Stan then replies, “Tell her to reboot!” That’s a sure way to make a problem disappear!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Haitii profiteers

While I acknowledge credit is a priviledge, the credit card companies also are in business for profit. Perhaps recent interest rate and policy changes have them scrambling for creative ways to pull profits, but dipping into Haitian relief efforts is like making change from the church offering plate. With millions of dollars donated by credit card, a 3% transaction fee adds up quickly. Don't fall for the news that some card companies are waiving fees for specific charities - the lists are missing major groups such as Doctors Without Borders. Taking advantage of tragedy and goodwill is wrong. No one should profit from disaster. For more information, and to sign a petition, please visit http://pol.moveon.org/nofees/?r_by=18607-17295176-WJw6Akx&rc=mailto.


Automated Teller Machines

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Tommy Wrenn takes on Laramie Project

On Oct. 12, 1998, Matthew Shepard succumbed to injuries sustained as a victim of a hate crime. Details of the case spread around the world, and news crews descended on Laramie, Wyoming. Even though his assailants attacked because Matthew was gay, the murderers could not be charged with a hate crime since no federal or state laws were in place. Almost immediately, efforts were made to create hate crime legislation yet, thanks to "politics," it took 11 years to succeed. In October 2009, President Obama held true to his word and signed the legislation named in honor of Matthew Shepard and another hate crime victim, James Byrd, Jr.
The Laramie Project is a collection of statements made by people in the town of Laramie, documenting details, recollections, and reactions to Matthew's attack. Moise's Kaufman and fellow members of the Tectonic Theater Project conducted more than 200 interviews over the course of a year and half. The resulting play has also been produced by HBO as a feature film.
Thanks to Tommy Wrenn, Laramie citizens were portrayed on a local stage by high school students. Just 17 years old, Tommy directed the play for his senior high school graduation project. The students on stage were only a few years younger than Matthew was when he died; many of them are headed for college just like Matthew was enrolled in the University of Wyoming. The actors told a story of a peer.
Their performance this weekend was astounding, conveying much more than dialogue of a play. The audience cheered, clapped, and offered a standing ovation to the cast and director for a job well-done, yet the energy conveyed seemed to honor Matthew and The Laramie Project as well. Hate is everywhere, and though Tommy Wrenn may or may not realize it, he stared down the monster when he chose a labor of love. The countless hours devoted to his senior project came to fruition sending out positive energy for the Greensboro, NC community. Our town has had its share of history laced with hatred; kudos to the school administrators that allowed the production, and thanks to Tommy for sharing the love. Matthew lives on in the hearts of those who have shared his story.


Sunday, January 3, 2010

Sense-ational


As people hustle through life, someone inevitably sends out the reminder to "stop and smell the roses." Yet, how often does each person take heed? Taking time to use each sense - touch, see, smell, taste, hear - is the opportunity to relieve stress and literally take time for oneself. The additional benefits can include creating precious memories from such experiences, noticing something that is ordinarily not perceived, connecting with another human, or finding humor to lift the spirit.
Often, life can be overwhelming, and it is easier for me to slip into routine or hide away as much as I can. Yet, if I take time, (e.g. force myself) to get out of my comfort zone, my life is enriched because of new sights or sounds.
I treasure the way sunlight plays with shadows on a tree-lined street; the smell of fresh mown grass or a crisp autumn morning delights my nose; the sound of my granddaughter's voice on the phone is a gift from heaven.
I have fallen into ruts, but I also have risked being caught by the sanity patrol for seizing unusual moments. My son and I laughed while jumping through the produce section of a grocery store avoiding dark colored tiles; I have used a different door to enter my house, not wanting to destroy a spider's work of art; I have carried on intriguing conversations with complete strangers; and done everything conceivable to embarass my children in front of their friends.
Asking questions and finding answers is another way I have found to expand my senses. Just recently, I received an email about an experiment where a famous violin player performed in a subway terminal. The goal was to see how many people would stop and listen. I was curious for more details than the email provided, and in the process found out The Washington Post earned a Pulitzer for "Pearls Before Breakfast." That article then referenced a movie I had heard of, but never had the opportunity to watch. Another quick search divulged that Koyannisqatsi is available in its entirety on YouTube.
I have every confidence that if I had been in that subway, I would have stopped and listened. If my children were younger and with me, I would have sat on the floor and enjoyed it with them. I also know that, in the future, I will not escape such an opportunity. Hopefully, dear reader, you will take time to enjoy a few of the gems I have provided here. At the very least, do stop and smell the roses.