Thursday, July 26, 2012

You can't elect a leader

Do you think any major corporation would ask all of it's employees to vote to pick their next CEO? Or, do you think any successful business would pick someone who has never had any experience running a business to run that business? So why do we continue to choose people to run our various governments by popular vote?

That being said, I am not one of those people who refuses to vote because they believe their vote doesn't matter (although I tend to feel that way). I have voted in every election I could since I was 18. Jimmy Carter was the first president I voted for.  I try to use my vote to at least minimize the potential damage any single elected official can cause by selecting people who at least appear to be mentally competent and don't say stupid stuff in the voter pamphlet write ups.

This rules out 99 percent of the Republican and Independent candidates.

If a candidate uses the term "Obamacare," they are toast.

I will not vote for people who include website addresses like:;;;

I will not vote for people who state that they have no experience as an elected official but have been self-employed as a hair stylist for 19 years. I have nothing against hair stylists, but knowing how to color and perm hair doesn't qualify you for the Senate. Congress maybe, but not the Senate.

Having less than no experience is worse:

As an hourly employee I have developed the skills to lead and plan. The future will have many challenges and respect for many cultures is a part of my life and our communities. For a month the privilege to severe, would be a great honor, I sincerely would appreciate your vote.

Apparently you also don't need to know how to spell to "serve" in Congress.

I don't think being good with your hands qualifies you either:

I am hardworking, mechanically inclined and very detailed.Your vote will make the difference. Elect me to be your champion and get you back in charge.

I will not vote for anyone who includes nicknames like "Doc," "Stocky," or Goodspaceguy.

I also weed out candidates based on their voter pamphlet photos. I never vote for anyone who wears a hat in their photo, especially a cowboy hat or beret. I also don't vote for people who look constipated in their photos. Although I have a beard, I am not inclined to vote for people with beards (especially women).

I will not vote for people who use vague, hackneyed statements like, fight for you." Or, "carefully and constructively – securing a safe future for citizens of all ages, especially our children." And, "Our country has long been admired by the restof the world for her great example of liberty and prosperity—a light shining in the darkness of tyranny." (The guy who said this also had a goatee without a a double whammy.)
I will not vote for people who state mindless drivel like:

I believe the number one issue in the 2012 U.S.Senate election should be impeaching President Barack Obama specifically for Obama’s decision to give America’s state of the art military spy drone technology to Iran (and through Iran to China and Russia).

I will not represent you, I will represent us. My experiences are vast and varied giving me a balanced perspective. I have military background, formal education, farming, travel and hosting of a hundred youth from around the world.
Our moral compass is so far out of whack Americans don’t know North from right or left from down. I believe we have to return this great Nation to our Judeo-Christian values and beliefs in our God given rights. (This guy wore a cowboy hat in his photo.) Or:

I’m running for Governor on a single platform: I want to raise the tax on a pack of cigarettes by $10.00 per pack. $5.00 will be added in 2015 and an additional $5.00 in 2016. The tax increases will reduce current consumption and stop kids from starting.
I run to raise issues others avoid. For example, many water districts add industrial grade fluoride to drinking water – fluorosilicic acid. It contains lead and arsenic and leaches large amounts of lead from pipes. The body excretes these chemicals poorly; they accumulate lifetime. They are most harmful to fetuses and infants (reducing IQ), diabetics, those with arthritis and thyroid, kidney, and heart disease. Blacks and Hispanics are impacted more than Whites.
I believe that all humans are good by nature. It takes a lot of hard work to turn bad. Here in Washington we must find good people to govern, we need to fulfill our destiny of justice and equality. I believe the time has come to speak of kindness and love. Those who speak of despair are practitioners of hate. They should keep away from our highways, from our homes, from us. (This guy wore a beret and had a beard.)
Let's face it, voter's pamphlets are about as chock full of BS as personal ads on the Internet. I wish someone would just say, "I want to be Senator because it sounds really cool and you get your own office in Washington D.C. with people to bring you coffee and you don't have to pay for it (the office or the coffee). I don't really plan to have any impact on anything, but I'll do my best not to fuck things up any worse than they already are. Oh, and I want to eat in the Senate cafeteria any time I want. I hear it has pretty decent sandwiches."

I'd probably get elected if I shaved my beard.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Failure to communicate

"What we got here is...failure to communicate."
--Strother Martin, Cool Hand Luke
I'd like to think I am a fairly decent communicator. I've spent my entire career distilling words to make them understood by the lowest common denominator. But I'm beginning to believe that the Internet and electronic "communications" has destroyed most people's ability to actually communicate.

Case in point, Craig's List. For some reason, I got it in my head that it would be kind of fun to buy a moped to drive the mile or so from my home to the train station for my daily commute. Well actually the reason I had that idea in my head was a Groupon e-mail about half off on an electric moped. Even half off, the electric scooter cost about $1500 plus shipping. Even for an obsessive compulsive personality such as mine, $1500 is a bit steep.

So I did what I normally do, I Googled moped and opened up a new universe of transportation options using vehicles that reach maximum speeds of 35 mph but can get 90 miles to the gallon of gas. The electric versions only reach speeds of about 20 mph but eliminate gas altogether.

Why not just get a motorcycle? I don't want to go through the training required to license and ride a standard motorcycle and I don't really have any desire to be a middle aged man on a chopper picking bugs out of his teeth. Plus everything in the Puget Sound Region is either at the top of a hill or at the bottom of a hill. I've mastered driving around in a car, but I just don't have the energy to figure out how to master the local hills and freeways on a motorcycle. A moped/scooter that can't go over 35 mph and doesn't require any special license or training just seemed a more reasonable option when all I want to do is make a round trip to the train station.

Anyway, I set off on a quest to find a moped/scooter, gas or electric, that didn't cost an arm and a leg (or risk losing one). The prices were all over the map, but the cheapest vehicle I could find new was about $750 and still involved shipping. So that brings in Craig's List. I figured someone would be selling one locally at a bargain price.

One of the many downsides of Craig's List is that you have to do a lot of sifting to find what you are looking for. You can search for scooter or moped and get an ad for a Bowflex exercise machine (I'm not kidding). But I did manage to find quite a few scooters/mopeds including this ad:

2010 tao tao 49cc Runs Great pushstart and kickstart well kept, minor scratches from a fall goes 30-35mph depending on riders weight motorcycle helmet included comes with two keys just recently had them ordered must sell soon $500 for pictures text or call: Dell xxxxxxxxx
Not being a text or call kind of guy, I used the e-mail address provided by Craig's List and sent the following message:

If the scooter is still available, could you send me photos? 
The next day I get this reponse:
whats ur mobile phone number
That's it. No photos. No "thanks for your interest in my scooter." So I reply with my cell phone number assuming the seller doesn't know how to send photos via computer but can send them via a cell phone. 

But I don't get any reply.  So a couple of days go by and I decide to text the person thinking that perhaps they don' t check their e-mail often and are more comfortable with text messages. I send the following text:
Could you send photos of the scooter listed on craigs list? Thx
I threw in the "Thx" as a concession to the moronic text language I believe this person was used to. In a few minutes I get the response:
There already posted.
Okay, I had checked Craig's List the night before and there were no photos with his ad. But I go back and sure enough the seller has added two blurry photos of a scooter. Plus he had lowered the price he was asking.

I realize that I am in marketing and take for granted that anyone selling something would go out of their way to be at least polite to a potential buyer. But this was ridiculous. Would it have killed this person to have responded with something like, "I've posted a couple of photos on Craig's List. But I've attached some as well. Just want you to know that I've reduced the price and it's a super bargain. Let me know if you have any questions or want to schedule a time to see the scooter."

I really wanted to text the person back and say, "Gd luck sellin ur scooter moron :)." But I imagine the mental midget would have responded with "So ru goin 2 mk offer?"
Anyway, I've pretty much given up on the scooter idea. I've done enough research to determine that owning a cheap Chinese scooter without a minimal mechanical aptitude would probably be a move I'd regret. Apparently you have to adjust carburetors and clean spark plugs a great deal to keep the things working. I have difficulty keeping my Sonic Care toothbrush running. So I don't want to spent each morning trying to kick start a scooter and then give up and drive my car or walk anyway.

I have had many similar experiences with Craig's List. I realize it is free, but I wish they would require people posting to take a rudimentary literacy test. In the meantime, I'll stick with eBay.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Out damned Spotify!

Actually I like Spotify. And in case you don't know what I am talking about (which is highly likely), Spotify is an application that let's you listen to what seems like an endless supply of music on your computer for free. Sounds like Pandora you say? Not. Pandora only lets you type in a song or musician you like and then plays stuff like it. Spotify actually plays what you want when you want it.

I haven't a clue how it works. You download an application (that so far our IT people haven't forbidden) that pops up when you log on. It looks like a media player. You can browse new music or type in your favorite musician or song and it will pull up an amazing number of songs by that artist or cover songs of that artist's work. You can then create your own playlists.

For example, when Doc Watson died recently, I had a hankering (country word for urge) to listen to the song "Tennessee Stud." Not only did I find Doc Watson's version of the classic blue grass song, I found 21 other versions by various artists. Now I can listen to an hours worth of "Tennessee Stud" non-stop to satisfy my OCD nature.

I also have a playlist with twelve versions of "Con Te Partiro" including one by Donna Summer (which is pretty sucky). Right now I am listening to the Beatles. Well, actually, it is Beatles cover music, because apparently not all artists have bought into the Spotify model and allow their works to be played for free. This can be kind of annoying when you are trying to listen to Pink Floyd and all you can find is versions of the Wall played on pan flute.

I am not sure how Spotify makes money. They do have premium versions that allow you to play the music without ads, offline and on your mobile device. But I don't really have the need to pay $9.99 for the premium when the free version works just fine for me. Why buy the cow when you get the milk for free?

I suppose I shouldn't say that. They may take away my free version. And what would I do without 40 versions of Cotton Eye Joe?

Friday, July 06, 2012

Pondering the grim reaper

There is nothing like going to a funeral to make you think about the inevitability of death. Technically it wasn't really a funeral. It was a memorial service. The person had died a couple of weeks earlier and had already been cremated.

I did not know this person well. They were not a a close friend or family. I had worked at the same company with them at one time and had mutual friends and acquaintances. But I had known the person for years. And then one day I heard that she had died unexpectedly in an accident in her home.

The term "died unexpectedly" seems so odd. We all know that eventually we will die. We just don't expect to die. We don't wake up in the morning expecting to die that day.

But I digress. Bottom line, I went to the memorial service for this person I knew but hadn't seen in years because I couldn't really fathom that in the blink of an eye she was just gone. I stood in the foyer of the church greeting acquaintances who also knew this person, chatting awkwardly trying to ignore the reason we were all here.

It was an abbreviated Catholic service interspersed with hymns, Bible readings and incense. I am sure it was a standard type thing organized by a shocked family not prepared for an untimely death (Untimely death. Now that is better than "dying unexpectantly"). Even the memorial program was obviously developed from a template. It hadn't been proofed and contained the name of some other person from a previous memorial service.

The priest checked his watch throughout the service and wrapped it up. I imagine the chapel was booked for the next event and he had a schedule to keep that couldn't be thrown off by death, untimely or not. We were herded into a reception hall where cookies, coffee and tea were served by church volunteers.  And then the testimonials began.

I looked around the room at the people in a circle beginning to tell their stories of the person who had startled everyone by passing. And almost all of them were people from her workplace. Like me they had passed her in the hallways or sat in meetings with her and were concerned when she didn't show up for work as expected on Monday.

But I noted sadly that outside of work acquaintances and some distant family members, there was no one else. Where were her friends? Oh, I realize that people can work together and be friends, but I've learned over the years that these people are only temporary friends. You are thrown together more often by circumstances than choice. So when someone leaves a workplace, people rarely stay in touch.

I left after someone noted that the deceased had always brought pastries to the parking attendants in the building she worked at.

People say that funerals and memorial services are for the living, not the dead. It is supposed be an opportunity for people to come to closure over the passing of  friends or family. I can't help but think that they end up just making us focus on our own mortality. So when we walk out the door of the church or reception hall, all we want to do is wrap ourselves with that comfortable denial of our daily routines that keep the inevitability of death safely tucked away where it should be.

Because life is about living, not about dying.