Gah, Politics

Ah, another day, another political post on Facebook. Another one that makes me frustrated, and demands me to respond.
Here was today’s item of note:
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Sounds like Congress in general, really.

Let’s take a step back, though. They were “doing nothing” because the Republican speaker of the house ended the session, rather than doing the work that the Democrats were asking them to do. It wasn’t difficult work, either. All they wanted was to vote on a bill. A vote they knew they were probably going to lose, but a vote they wanted to occur nonetheless.

Since that’s their job, to write, debate, and vote on legislation, one could argue that the Democrats were more about getting their job done than the Republicans.

But no. Instead of allowing the vote to occur, the speaker prematurely ended the legislative session and left. So, who is choosing to be “doing nothing” in this situation?

Look, I get that both sides suck. They both play political games, they both game the system to get done what they need to get done. More often than not it’s using childish tactics to stop things they don’t like from happening. It doesn’t get us a functioning government. It gets us polarized and gridlocked politicians, which leads to polarized constituents who will de-humanize members and supporters of the other side. And once your opposition doesn’t have a normal human face anymore, it’s far easier to attack them.
 
It’s far easier to attack the faceless monster in Washington DC, or the faceless slut, or the faceless fag, or the faceless moron, or the faceless clown. What does it matter, it’s just a Facebook post, right? “If you disagree with me, why don’t you just unfriend me!” Because then you live in even more of an echo chamber, regurgitating the same views that everyone else around you has, despite being in the minority overall. “Everyone I know thinks ….” How many people do you know? Do they all agree with you on almost everything? Maybe you need to meet more people, find some people with whom you disagree. Get to know us, we’re not all monsters or clowns. Morons, maybe.
 
What I find frustrating is the constant implication that one side or the other is un-American, or worse, anti-American. I believe, quite firmly, that most Republicans in politics are firmly committed to doing what they believe is best for the country. I do. I believe the same for the Democrats, and for the independents. The problem is that those views are so opposed in many ways that they are directly incompatible. If we could just shut up for a few minutes and actually have reasonable conversations about the issues, we might find consensus and common ground. I’ll bet a lot of gun-rights activists could find common ground with those who are vehemently anti-gun if they would put away the rhetoric (and possibly the guns, at least holster them ;)) and talk. The same goes for the abortion debate. The same goes for the religious rights debate, for healthcare, for drugs, for gay/lesbian/transgender rights.
 
Stop de-humanizing the other side. They have thoughts, feelings, and opinions too. They’re just as valid as yours — you might even agree with one or two of them.

My Beef with Comcast

Wow, has it really been 6 months? I need to update more often. I know, I know, I feel like I say that (to myself at least) every time I update, but there really hasn’t been much happening to write about.

It seems to me that everywhere I look, someone is complaining about Comcast or Verizon and their terrible customer service. I know that “the squeaky wheel gets the most …” blah blah blah, but I’m curious what their ratio of satisfied to unsatisfied customers is. Because really, there are alternatives. Not so much for cable or phone, depending on where you are, but with mobile phones at least there’s really not a whole lot of reason to stick with your current provider if you’re unhappy, and yet somehow these companies remain in business – they must be keeping someone happy.

Now, part of the problem seems to be that people call support for stupid reasons. If your cable goes out at 2am, call support but don’t be too mad if it doesn’t get “fixed” for a couple of hours, because chances are they were doing maintenance while most of their area was asleep. It sucks for those of us that are online at 2am because of our schedules, but we’re statistically few. On the other hand, if it goes out every day at 2am, that’s a good reason to call and start complaining.

My interactions have been minimal. In the last year I have been the owner of a Comcast Account, I have called them twice. The first was a year ago, to set up my account and get online with my purchased modem. The second was today, when I called to upgrade my account to add TV service. Both occasions were relatively quick, I was given the information I needed to make an informed decision (combined with research earlier in the day), and so far I’m happy. They were a little pushy for a couple of addon services that I neither can afford nor have desire for, but their goal is to make money. The tech is coming out to get us set up for TV on Friday and I’ll update if that doesn’t go well.

Am I in the minority? Are there really so few of us that have positive interactions with these large, terrible companies? Really, my only major complaint in this situation is that I had to call to make the change. Comcast’s website knows that there is an active account at my address when I enter it in looking for deals, but then it just tells me there are no deals and that it can’t find my address in the system to make changes to the service. That, to me, is the epitome of frustrating.

In closing, Comcast, please fix your website’s backend so that people like myself don’t have to call to make changes to our service. Let the customer service team know that they did well on at least these two occasions. And if you want to reward me for giving you a good review, you can always lower my bill a few dollars a month. You really don’t have to though, for now I’m a satisfied customer and expect to stay happy until we move to a location that forces us to switch provider.

Five

moiI didn’t note the day or the month, or even the year, for that matter. We say “when we were twelve” because that’s our best guess (though she probably remembers better than I).

It doesn’t really matter, the specific date, or even the year. What matters is that we met, and talked for a while one random, long-forgotten night. And then again another night, and another.

It was lost for a while, changes in life, adjustments in time zone, we didn’t connect at all and eventually lost touch completely. Until another random, long-forgotten night, when I decided to clean out my contacts list. She happened to be online, so I asked who she was. We talked some more, and eventually made a connection to an event we both remembered (something about underwear and pyromania).

Even for this, it doesn’t really matter, the specific date or time that we found each other again. What matters is that we did, and that we talked again, and again, and again, and then some more.

312570_10150300651507539_1218378609_nTime went by, and the story evolved in the way so many do. Boy meets girl, boy decides he likes girl and girl decides she likes boy, they get together and make the best of it. But that’s where we are a little different, because we are so far separated. Not in a Romeo/Juliet kind of way, our families didn’t hate each other – they didn’t even know each other. We faced a different challenge: isolation. I lived in Wellington, New Zealand, she lived in a small town somewhere in Virginia.

Somehow, though, we made it work. Through plane tickets and immigration paperwork and moving and money and more immigration paperwork, we made it work. And so here we are. Today marks five years since we committed to what we had in front of friends and family, what we had essentially committed to a few months before that by beginning the application process to USCIS, what we had almost committed to just by stepping foot on the planes the very first time, flying to meet the other, meeting the friends and family, seeing the home towns and environs.

Kelly, I love you. Here is to another five years, and then another five, and another five after that, until how long it has been doesn’t really matter anymore, until what matters is that we met that random, long forgotten night, so many years ago. You were, are, and maybe always will be the best decision I ever made – to ask who you were, and not to just hit “Delete.”

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Adjusting

12:46am, Thursday January 3, 2013.

That’s going to be weird, 2013. It’ll take another month, and then it will feel normal, but until then, it will be hard not to just type or write 2012. One of many changes this week.

I also have another eight hours before I will allow myself to sleep. My work project this week is to move my sleep schedule so that I can work 3am-11am, Saturday through Wednesday for the next two months. I have 3 Red Bulls remaining, and 7-11 is a short drive away should I need anything that isn’t already in the house.

Not so much an adjustment, but a change nonetheless, I managed to successfully change the oil in my new car for the first time today. It was a few hundred miles overdue, but after much wriggling under the vehicle I finally emerged victorious. I must say, Honda did make it very difficult to get to the filter in that model – it was a perfectly reasonable and logical place on the engine and then they put all the front-wheel-drive junk in the way. So it’s impossible to reach from the top, and almost impossible to reach from the bottom.

My only problem now is what I’m going to do for the rest of the night. I don’t trust myself driving very far (and Kelly wouldn’t approve even if I did), but I need to do something or I’ll put myself to sleep out of boredom. Oh well, I suppose that is my problem to solve. Maybe I’ll make Infinitely-aLive properly IPv6 supported, or something.

Road Rage

 

For the last month I’ve been commuting to and from Northern Virginia, by state and national highways. Because of mechanical issues at high speeds I have been avoiding the interstate system, meaning I am often on 2-lane roads (one each way) through middle-of-nowhere towns. Over the course of this time I’ve come across several small frustrations which I would like to address.

DISCLAIMER: This post contains some language that people may consider strong or unnecessary. I’ve tried to limit it. I don’t use it liberally, but in an effort to emphasize a point. Chances are, if you’re old enough to drive, you’re old enough to read this.

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China’s High Speed Rail

Below are some cool photos of China’s High Speed Rail network that I received via email today. I was intrigued, however, by a comment at the bottom.

It read as follows: “HOW DID THEY DO THIS? THEY COPIED THE USA IDEAS OF THE 40’s & 50’s AND COMBINED THEM WITH TODAY’S TECHNOLOGY”

Here’s my quibble with this statement. In the 40s and 50s America and Europe were both big into rail transport and the networks weren’t doing too badly. But the whole thing with “progress” is that things don’t always stay the same. Things are replaced or upgraded. In the case of Europe, they elected to subsidize public rail transportation options and thus the Swiss have great public rail transport, the French have great high speed rail transport with the TGV, as do the Germans with ICE. Even Great Britain is doing pretty well with their HSTs and the Eurostar and other similar trains.

But the United States elected to neglect it’s passenger rail system in favor of cars and planes. In the 70s several passenger routes were doing so badly that the government had to step in and save them – a decision which is still debated to this day – forming Amtrak, a thriving railroad in the North East of the country, but that’s about it. Everywhere else is underutilized and largely noncompetitive against road or air options.

So yes, it’s probably true to state that China’s High Speed Rail is a “copy” of the USA’s rail system of the 40s and 50s, but it’s more accurate to suggest they took the ideas of Japan, France, Germany and Great Britain and did their own thing. It’s hardly fair to blame Communist China for copying the discarded ideas of Capitalist America.

Anyway, enough ranting. Here are some cool photos showing how far China has come in it’s development of high speed rail, setting the standards high for sure.

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Color IQ

My wife and I have a tendency to listen to public radio, essentially whatever our local NPR affiliate plays which also includes a number of Public Radio International shows and other local shows too. Some of our favorite weekend shows are Radiolab and This American Life.

This week’s RadioLab was a replay of an older episode about color. “Our world is saturated in color, from soft hues to violent stains. How does something so intangible pack such a visceral punch? This hour, in the name of science and poetry, Jad and Robert tear the rainbow to pieces.”

Apparently a group has done research on various creatures and determined from their eyes what color ranges they can see. Monkeys, for example can’t see red. During the process it was mentioned that many people have the physical ability to see more colors but lack the psychological ability.

Which brings me to ColorIQ. Kelly tested first, and she scored 4 (with 0 being the best, and an as yet undetermined low). My mum tested and scored 61, followed by another friend who also scored 4. Tonight I did mine and scored 15! I’ll take that as “not bad”!