Past Rants: 2003

    I am finally writing that Rant that I feel obligated to make at least once every year. I was out of the pool for nine months so I'd had a chance to rest and recuperate, and therein forget what had been seered into my brain for the previous three years of working in ISP tech support. It's all coming back to me now as I muddle through a short stint in customer service for a huge retail dot-com, and it does reinforce my respect for the people who worked in the floor above me at the ISP for having to deal with more $#!+ for less pay than I was making as a tech...

Some people are absolutely incredibly fscking STUPID!!!

It's amazing how many people don't read instructions, make huge messes then expect someone else to clean them up, or will not take responsibility for their own actions. Having not been in the Customer Service sector of a retail business like that in many years, I'm surprised how many people will cry "fraud" when they blame the wrong party for a problem or miss all the legal jargon attached to something which was specifically put there to avoid lawsuits. And then there's that law of physics that says if you don't have something, you can't give it to someone which some people can't take as gospel, leading to how some people would like me to hop into the Way-Back Machine. Okay, it's bullet-point time:
  • This company will let one pay by check, and the item is sent once the check is received but it isn't put into a holding tank anticipating payment (this isn't layaway). I had a woman that ordered something in mid-October, then two weeks later in early-November ordered something else, both cost the same and both were listed to be paid by check, then in late-November she finally got around to sending a check for one of the items, intending it to be the first. In her month and a half of dawdling the first item (a limited-edition collector's doll) was sold out so she was sent the second item. Honest to Jah, when I told her we were out of that item, she screamed, "No, you are NOT out of that doll, you WILL find me one and send it to me! NOW!!" What more, she said she had "never wanted the second item", yet indeed ordered the second item "because I wanted it." in the same breath.
  • A guy ordered an expensive bit of electronics to be sent across the country to a relative and wanted to take advantage of the rebate. Like most rebates in the world, it required the UPC code on the product's box for redemption – which as stated was sent cross-country. And as an added note, the box was requested to be gift-wrapped. We're reasonable so far. The man's request: that we somehow impliment a way that someone at the warehouse could cut the UPC code off the box, then wrap the box and ship it one place while mailing the clipped code to him. And he was serious, he didn't see why we didn't have a system in place for doing just that, and wanted to complain to Higher Powers about this flaw. (How would YOU feel if you received a gift with a big chunk out of the box?)
  • This company allows third-parties to sell things through its site, and when someone makes a purchase the money is instantly taken out of the buyer's credit card, and once paid for an email is sent to the seller to tell them what item to ship where. Imagine the havoc that happens when the seller doesn't get that 'paid' email due to their spam filter blocking anything from the company's domain. (It's a known issue with AOL users, the filtering in AOL 9 software is sometimes too good. My former ISP-job's server-side filtering can be set so high that you have to manually add senders to an accept list or you won't get anything at all.) This woman was drunk and furious about how she hadn't received her stuff yet because the seller hadn't got the 'paid' email, and it wasn't until she wrote the seller claiming I was making up bullshit about the filtration that the seller realized the problem, lowered the shields, and got the 'paid' email I had re-sent. (Yes, the customer did me and herself a favor unwittingly!) That's a valid issue but she was running off the end of the earth with it, including saying that #1 every spam filter will send rejection messages back to the sender [no...] and #2 that it's our spam filter that is at fault because we didn't get the rejection message [you could have fooled me, judging by the quantity of garbage in my box I'd say we don't have a filter!]. Twice she screamed, "Do you think I'm a neophyte?! [yes...] My husband is a programmer and a webmaster, I know how things really work so you can't BS me!" [you could have fooled me, perhaps you should ask him if I'm telling the truth then!]. I did prove her wrong on one thing: she insisted I wasn't going to hang up on her. :)
  • If you received a gift certificate in 1999, it expired in 2000, and it's now 2003 when you finally dig it out of the junk drawer, you're going to have a hard time convincing anyone you have a pressing need to make it work. It's the same story for refunds; no amount of neeping at me is going to change the fact that it will take 3 to 5 weeks to issue the payment on something which was returned because of buyer's remorse not defect. It's right there on the how-to-buy page as well as the invoice.
  • I can't tell you how many times I've told someone, "I'm sending this item by overnight shipping, so you should get it by tomorrow" (or whatever soonest humanly or supplywise possible estimate is given by the computer) and the person responds, "Can't you get it here any faster?"  Related to that is someone who bitches about how they're paying for overnight shipping so they should be able to get the thing tomorrow, when the item in question is a special-order thing listed in the catalog as "ships in one to two weeks" – and the people who complain loudly about how we can't send them a videogame or DVD before Christmas, which it turns out has not been released by the manufacturer yet.
    I think my friend Steve was right, that I should go into networking or some similar behind-the-scenes, not-accountable-to-others, no-public-access, yet still very much involved with computers gig. Much as I like helping people, it's the people that I have to help that are killing me. And I've never met a network administrator who wasn't enjoying his life immensely, except for during those rare occasions he actually has to fix anything or deal with coworkers, in which case he's still enjoying himself because he's allowed to be openly surly about being forced to do his job. I could use that kind of catharsis!  --#2

    I swore, swore, SWORE to myself that I wasn't going to be political this month. Surely I must have something else that irks me beside the pretender on the throne, something personal and integral to my life. If that's the case, someone please tell me what pisses me off around me because I don't know. I've survived the roughest thing I've encountered lately, classroom training at I haven't crossed paths with anyone terribly stupid, though I concede I'm overdue on my yearly gripe about them (mostly due to not having to deal with them at work for about 9 months only because I haven't had customer service work in that long) and it's only today that I've spoken to anyone who doesn't take the phrase "supplies limited, one per customer" as gospel. But I have to reneg on my personal pledge because a glimmer of hope came through my window today.
    During the 'hot' war in Iraq, as though that ever actually ended, we heard a lot of stories regarding one Private Jessica Lynch. She was described as a true American Hero, which she undoubtedly is to some degree but I had my doubts that everything being said about her was true. Word started getting out that certain details of her time there were exagerated or even fabricated, and I think I Ranted once before about how the rest of her group saw more actual trouble than her (she was in the hospital, they were taken prisoner) but received almost no press. I'd exchanged emails with my revolutionary friend Tom Larson at that time, and we speculated how long it would be until Pvt. Lynch herself tried to set the record straight. The time, it seems, has finally come, now that the TV movie "Saving Private Lynch" has aired: She's PISSED at how inaccurately she's been portrayed as the Iraq War poster-child, and she's making it known on the speaking tour for her book I Am A Soldier Too:
Click this for news article
    So today it's the logical aftermath of a Rant – it's an I Told You So. Stay tuned for more as the tour progresses and the book hits the shelves in time for Christmas. Maybe by this time next year people will realize the error of their unelected leader's ways and prevent him from staying in office?  --#2

    It's good to see Al Franken's new book, LIES and the Lying Liars who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right, is out in the bookstores with its cover images and subtitle, both the subject of lawsuits, intact. Even though I don't read Franken's work myself because he's too smarmy half the time, he's on the right track. (And it's amusing to see that a judge's presumtion that people won't mistake this book for a publication from FOX News has been proven wrong; "they don't call themselves 'Dittoheads' for nothing," indeed!) It's even better to see that most of the media is 'fessing up that they either misinformed the public or were misinformed themselves and thus passed BS along, after the last year or two worth of complete horse-hockey being excreted from the press organ. There were no weapons of mass destruction, just as Colin Powell told his supervisors a year and a half before his supervisors insisted they existed [likely because they had the receipts from 10-15 years ago when the US and UK sold them to Saddam stashed in a drawer], and Iraq was not buying African uranium, just as Joseph Wilson told his supervisors a year ago before Karl Rove allegedly blew Wilson's wife's cover in the CIA to Robert Novak [can you say they both committed treason? someone really needs to say it]. And duh, Bunnypants wasn't elected by the people, yo.
    But the truth still has far to go to catch up with the lies. Inevitably it will, whether it's shredded and buried during the current administration yet surfaces years later, or it all blows up in the campaigning president's face by next November. And now that the media has realized it's been duped (or it's now common knowledge the media was doing the duping, we're talkin' to you FOX), finally we can hear something closer to the truth when we open the paper or turn on the television. It comes a little late for dead Western soldiers and Iraqi civilians, but it's no less valid. Someone pointed out how strange it is that a dozen major Republican commentators, in unmistakeably right-wing news organs, insist there's a "liberal bias" to the media... yet you never actually see it in the mainstream since the conservatives own/run those news organs. There's another lie that's fun to watch fall, or with a bit of spin can be said to finally be coming true albeit post-facto.
    And speaking of spin, the other day there was an article in the newspaper about how there are some jobs opening up lately, and there was a photo of GW Bush next to it, wherein he claims he's responsible for creating them. Bullshit! It's October, businesses are hiring for the Christmas season, and by the middle of January most of those 'gains' and jobs will evaporate. I'd really prefer not to hear what kind of hero the clown is since the calendar is the real saving grace here.
    Enough of national politics, I have a few words on California politics: I don't give a flying Fig Newton. It looks like most voters in the recall election prefer someone with no political experience (other than consulting with various presidents about physical fitness matters, being a Hollywood connection to the Oval Office, or marrying into the Kennedy clan and – if there's any truth to the scuttle, which garners another BFD! from me – acting like a Kennedy) but a popular name over anyone whose life's work has been governmental (thus is qualified for the job). Always remember that you reap what you sow, California... which afterall is why you're trying to oust Gray Davis in the first place, right? I live in Washington so this shit means nothing to me (we have enough laughs with Maria Can't-Well, Slade 'Skeletor' Gorton, and the guy whose name I've misplaced who bailed out of office immediately at the mere hint of sexual impropriety... musta wanted to avoid smelling like Bob Packwood!). The rest of the country who has tuned out the Ben/J-Lo nonsense feels the same: CA, STFU!  --#2

(was lazy in September)

    Today's rant is about family. Not mine (or my wife's), but my best friend's. I must qualify something out front: None of what I'm going to say is really my issue to speak on, and I hope Chrome is okay with my taking to the pulpit. (He left my house around noon yesterday so I didn't ask ahead of time.) But to a small extent, since this is my bretheran and I've come to know to some degree his family, this does affect me albeit in the twitchy "I can't believe what this person is doing" way. I am constantly surprised and shocked when I find out what's been happening, as he is troubled and upset when he hears it in greater detail. And since this isn't my story to tell, I'm going to just speak in general (and not necessarily accurate) terms to relay why this is such a pain in the brain.
    There is one sister who seemed to have good bearings about her from my estimation, and in the course of life she and what seemed often functional parted company. In her new start, she got together with a man who is a threat to her and to her two children. It got to the point where she left and the kids were in protective custody, and she was told that if she went back to him she'd not be getting her kids back. You get one guess what she did, which I understand is fairly common among battered women but I'd hoped she was a little brighter than that. This particular sister is doing the downward spiral in such a manner that other family members have made efforts to lose contact, to keep her cloud from darkening their doorways.
    The other sister I met when she was a troglodyte wallflower in the back of the house, and we sort of got along in our shy way. Still waters run deep, as we discovered when she got in trouble with the law for passing a check which wasn't hers to collect on, but that was merely a bad choice of ways to get a few dollars. The trouble actually started a few years later, when she started going out with the wrong men, producing children by them, and living in the disarray that accompanies. I'm told that she's grown a little more stable and wiser, yet hasn't really attempted to elevate herself to the potential her brother and I am positive exists. The greatest thing she's ever done was birthed this red-haired wonder-child, whom her mother has custody of and her brother foots tuition at the local parochial school for, thus none of the girl's success can be credited to her mommy. It takes a village to raise a child, as the proverb says.
    His mother I like, and it bears mention that when I said something like that to him many years ago he pointed out that I didn't grow up with her. I smiled and replied that the same can be, and has been, said about my parents too. She's always struck me as someone who did her level best to raise three children mostly alone, and as someone who has just as much noise in her head (if not more) when things are not going well, the sort of noise that requires medication to lower the volume on and others have had to get out of the way when her mental fuzzbox was up too loud. My bride and her mother are bipolar; I'm not unfamiliar with the patches of broken glass found among the balanced spans.
    Chrome himself penned the next two paragraphs (as seen in the 8/7/03 Daybook entry) in describing what he will be hitting the highway to face tomorrow:
    Ah yes, family ... the reason why Mush & I have had the opportunity to catch up these last couple of days. I'd made arrangements to take a few weeks off and depart from Yakima to Chicago for the sake of meeting my younger half-brother. It was about three years back when he found out that he had siblings of any sort, and we tried to make arrangements for me to come visit. No dice. Now I'm in a position where this is possible. Arrangements have already been made and paid for, but it's hard to be sure if this is a good idea. Brother wants to go visit with our father, who has been (partially) responsible for the ongoing trainwrecks that are my sisters' and mother's lives. Bah. Somewhat more immediately, what will we have in common? What will we have to talk about? What reasons will we have for associating other than (half of) a common bloodline?
    Crosses. What crosses we bear. What crosses do we bear? Neither of us needs to look far in order to see those who bear crosses that crush them. We know some of the burdens we bear are inconsequential in the larger picture, or even completely self-imposed. Yet I still feel this burning (as in acid reflux or bleeding ulcer) desire to drop the cross and leave. It's nothing like the desire in the last eight months or so prior to leaving Ft. Lewis, yet it is still there, undeniable and unwilling to be ignored. So I feed it small parcels by doing things like taking a (very probably) completely pointless cross-country trip.
"And yet you're still going," I said, "for reasons deep within you."
    Though it may not be my issue to dwell on – and certainly not my battle to fight, so I don't – these are still folks I have some interest in, and more directly people who have an influence on someone who means a lot to me, thus trouble in his home bleeds into mine when he lets the cork slide out. I don't deal with my own family's issues, whatever they may be ("ahhh-I have become comfortably numb" - Pink Floyd), so other people's family issues and my household's finances are all I have to wrangle. Karmically I like to think that whatever frustration I feel could be wicking some frustration away from someone else who could use a little relief.
   --#2 with material from and subject matter due to #1

    When I took a job in the janitorial arts at the beginning of this month (ergo my being two weeks late in posting this, but at least I have some material now!), my supervisor's first interview question was whether I could handle feces-smeared walls. Because it happens, and some people are substandard subhumans. Oh sure, I made it through the college dorm, worked with cattle as a youth, and spent three years in ISP tech support – cleaning up messes made by dumb animals is nothing. Though I will say that I'm glad I wasn't the attendant at Sharkey's Tavern, the night there was no paper and the toilets didn't flush yet no one stopped using the facilities (including me, who had the Hershey Squirts from a seven mile run, and found the only piece of hand-towel left in the trashcan). So far I've been lucky on that score; I've encountered a few bathrooms which are basically clean but stink to high heaven, and nothing is going to change that fact for others have tried. And there's always someone who forgets to flush the potty like their mommy always told them to do, contributing to the olfactory assault when one walks through the door. C'est la vie. No feces pieces or flowing piss puddles yet.
    The other day the local Radio Club was using the meeting room of the building I was cleaning, and I was warned by others that the old duffers have lousy aim. I hadn't any doubt about that; I'm never been confident about the hygiene of tube geeks, and avoid them more than I do geneology buffs (though there sometimes is an overlap). But no, the men's washroom was fine after they finally took their toys and left. But as for the women's washroom, which had been used by a professional/government group earlier in the day... Here's my gripe, yo. My mother spent eighteen years telling me how boys make messes in bathrooms and girls leave the potty spotless (and admittedly the mirror and sink are another subject). My wife constantly tells me how whatever mess the toilet is in has to be my fault because women aren't capable of such messes due to the plumbing (though menstrual blood on the the underside of the seat is definitely another subject). Back to the washroom... I know it's common practice that if one doesn't trust the seat of a public toilet, one hovers or squats over it. I also know that there's a full package of paper shields – ass gaskets – in the dispenser over each of the toilets, part of my job is to make sure of that. But apparently some well-dressed and upwardly-mobile woman trusted neither the frequently-sanitised seat nor a sanitary seat cover – paper cowboy hat – and she whizzed all over the seat, thereby confirming all fears that the seat may be dirty. (Astute members of the public may point out that young children are frequently taken to the ladies' room by their mothers. There were no young children along for the ride that day.) This blew my mind, because it proved everything I'd been trying to tell my mother and wife for years: women are slobs with lousy aim too! (Which I already knew, see the aforementioned reference to the underside of the seat, an area many women insist they should never be exposed to. It took me ten years to convince Paige that the notion of men having to put the seat down after use is completely sexist. Why should guys be the only ones who have to look before they leap? It's your own damn fault if your warm ass meets cold porcelean in the dark, you didn't check first.)
    If you thought this month's Rant was fun, tune in next month when I go on about bad choices in carpet for public areas... like grass-green low-pile which could be mistaken for Astroturf and shows off every bit of dirt, or a light-brown fuzz which when stepped on looks like someone tracked mud across it therefore must be vacuumed twice so the beater-brushes can raise the nap again.   --#2

As you may have noticed from previous Daybook entries and Rants, I'm not marching lockstep with the recent wave of stupidity that says criticism of one's government is tantamount to being unpatriotic. (And remember, patriotism is the last refuge of scoundrels.) I am seeing, or hoping to further see, this veil lifting. I mean, you still don't have late-night talkshow hosts cracking jokes about the President, so there's still plenty of work to do (and blessed be "The Daily Show" for not losing their testicles like most of the rest), and there are still plenty of people who give the Dixie Chicks flagons of shit for expressing an opinion. But the truth is coming out in the media – that the justifications used to go to war were complete fabrications, that the stories about what Pvt. Lynch went through were complete surprises to her because she followed a different script, that the number of lies the administration has told the people has made Lyndon Johnson's getting into Vietnam and Richard Nixon's getting out of Vietnam look pretty tame. (Comparatively, Dick Nixon indeed was not a crook. He wasn't on the take like Dick Cheney is, and it's more than 13½ minutes this president would like to erase from the tapes.) And as for personal freedoms... two Patriot Acts honestly make the House Un-American Activities Committee and its revised McCarthyism look like an open-mike night at the left-wing poetry bar. Arundhi Roy phrased it succinctly by saying that the US is trying to establish a New Democrasy elsewhere while dismantling a real democrasy at home.
What's goading me is that the Democratic Party is being lame. And I mean in the original sense of the word: unable to walk. To my way of thinking, it's the perfect time for them to propose a candidate for next year's presidential election, and the opportunity gets more ripe with passing days as more lies get exposed. I figure some guy with a donkey on his lapel could step up to a podium and say, "You remember how Bush was going on and on about finding 'mobile germ labs' when he couldn't find any actual weapons of mass destruction? Did you happen to catch the news story about what those actually were that they'd found? You can look this up for proof: they were hydrogen production facilities, which were sold to Iraq by the British in 1987 as part of a defense system in their war with Iran, much to Tony Blair's embarassment. Do you wonder why Bush was so quick to tell people they were bio-weapons?" After presenting a few other niggling details, like repeating that no WMD have been found in Iraq and citing other 'bad intel' used for justification of aggression, and the mention that 90% of the world's citizens were against this war but Bush saw fit to pursue it alone, he'd get a standing applause and something short of a lynch mob to make sure that this clown doesn't get back into office (elected legally or not). [p.s.: don't get too at Britain; George Bush Senior sold AWAC spy planes to Iraq in 1989 for the same reason. Everyone's hands are dirty. The Coalition Forces' governments believed there were weapons because they sold them to Iraq, they just dug up the receipts to prove these things at one time existed.] Pretty much any Democrat that wasn't a flake could win with enough truth presented. But this guy would have to jump in right now, because it's pretty easy to predict that Bush et aliis will try to pitch another unjustified war before the end of his term to raise his approval rating. I say the Democrats are acting lame because I haven't heard of them producing a candidate yet, and some sources say their strategy is looking toward 2008. Two thousand eight?! Don't give up so easily, guys. Remind everyone that there is no mandate which says a president must serve two terms... Bush Senior didn't because the people were tired of the previous 12 years of bullshit (Reagan's 8 where Bush was veep and George's 4), and his son needs to meet a similar fate, having undone so many of the good things previous administrations worked hard to set up.
Now mind you, I believe in other political parties beside the two main ones – I voted for Nader, afterall – but little did many of us suspect that we needed a united vote against someone instead of voting for whomever we thought was the best candidate, as reason for elections has historically been. Ralph Nader should have said, recognising that he was going to draw 5% to 10% of the popular vote, that he was going to concede defeat and request we all give our vote to Al Gore. Yeah, I know, an idiot and a scarecrow vying for the highest office in the land (it coulda been worse – two idiots, Bush Jr and Dan Quayle), and the election winds up being purchased by one idiot's brother because the margin was slim... that was wrong. Every election it gets more accurate to George Hayduke's statement that voting for a president lately is like trying to decide which spitoon to drink out of. Why are we offered idiots?! But back to the original gist of this Rant: at this moment, we haven't been offered an opposition candidate (idiot or not) and we need one. The system itself failed the people once, it doesn't have to do it again by proxy or by laying down and playing dead. All those people who smoke their clove cigarettes and say that voting is a waste of time have a stark reminder in office right now that they were very much wrong.   --#2

Before and during a certain armed conflict which recently transpired, a certain coalition dropped zillions of flyers on the target country to win the hearts and minds of the citizenry. Some of them stated that this coalition was seeking to remove military targets, but civilian locations and places of historic or religious importance would be spared. The conflict does its thing, the stated goal of toppling a bad leader was attained, and what happens?
The citizens themselves burn and loot the libraries and museums.
After I got over the initial wave of nausea which happens to sensible people when they find irreplaceable works of literature and art, some as old as 5000 years, have been rendered asunder or plundered, the news organs began reporting (as they are wont to do) that various officials and experts from that land are criticizing the coalition for not working harder to protect the libraries and museums, which was focusing on other areas. I have two thoughts:
a: Of course the attention was on the oil wells, banks, and similar popular targets of attack. Who would expect one's own people to destroy their own cultural heritage? Western minds never saw such a thing coming; riots here tend to involve Starbucks' windows and truckdrivers, not anything of value to all citizens.
b: To me, this is like saying "It's your fault that you didn't stop me from doing something stupid." Also, it seems the people going on the airwaves to criticize the lack of foreign protection should have instead been on the airwaves trying to secure domestic tranquility (a.k.a. telling their own people not to be dumbasses). They should put aside decrying others long enough to say to their own, "Ha ha, my countrymen; you had your fun, now bring the goodies back please."
In the words of Pogo, we have met the enemy, and he is us.   --#2

    It seemed I covered my biggest Rant of the recent past in the Daybook, so I'm going to rephrase and elaborate upon that entry. There's no law that says you can't plaigerise yourself so thus I will. What really set me off is a guy who is responsible for a lot of other Rants, comedian Dennis Miller. For many years he was one of the best stream-of-consciousness eclectic/arcane humorists around; you practically had to be a Jeopardy! contestant to follow his schtick. But somewhere in the last few years, he switched sides: he went from attacking stupid government to siding with the government (and its stupidities) and attacking people who disagree with stupid government. As a friend put it, he found more money in GOP-ville. [Some say he lost his edge when he became a commentator for Monday Night Football. Nah, I think it was when he was up on stage with Tipper Gore during the presidential election he was covering for MTV News years ago, dancing around to Fleetwood Mac, and did not point out the obvious contradiction of the scene (Tipper was slamming on rock music in the mid-80's with her Parents' Musical Resource Commission, the reason why we have those lovely parental warning labels on albums). To quote her as she quoted The Mentors, Sniff my anal vapor!] So here's my bitch:
    I'm getting rankled by the variable reactions I see around me from people about the concept of war, and how the concept and resulting actions are reported on variably, making me wonder what is truth and what is convenient fiction, and what is the best response and how many people aren't doing whatever that response is. Or to state it more clearly, it's pissing me off how some people think and speak about things lately – there are a few too many unrelated items people keep heaping together, and a few too many quantum assumptions. One of the things stuck in my craw is the recent reaction people are having about a comment made by Natalie Maines of the country group The Dixie Chicks to a British audience, where she said she was embarassed that the unelected President of These United States was from her home state. Country music fans are shitting their pants. Fellow Texan political critic Molly Ivans has been saying the exact same thing for years, but is there any hooplah? Here's my point of view, which explains why the subject bothers me:
    I'd like you to draw a Venn diagram, you know the one; you draw a circle and say that everyone in this circle is people who have been calling GW Bush an idiot since at least mid-2002, then you draw another circle and say that everyone in this circle is people who have been claiming for the last month or two that everyone should respect the President's authority and judgement since there are troops deployed to the Gulf. There's an overlap between the two circles. In an oddly symbolic gesture, you should lightly shade in that football-shaped intersection; it's this grey area I'm concerned with. How many millions of Americans are in it?  AÇB=H where H is Hypocrites, and that's my issue.  Never mind the French government's stance (or any country's let's-stay-out-of-it stance) on getting into the fray; it's the local people who had no faith in the man's judgement until he picked up a club, then suddenly they have blind faith in him, who are irking me.
    I'm also a little bunched up over how "patriotism is the last refuge of scoundrels" [Dr. Samuel Johnson] as people equate being against warfare as somehow being against one's country; there is middle ground between "love it" and "leave it", and some people (those typically NOT doing the fighting and dying) miss that fact. Remember that it is civilians and not seasoned military minds who are in D.C. spearheading the war. (We need "Stormin'" Norman Schwartzkopf back, he was good at calling 'bullshit' on ignorant armchair quarterbacks. We could also use Colin Powell's spine to return; this was the man who twelve years ago said that one must be able to kick ass and have an exit strategy before starting a fight, and now he got pimpslapped by his bosses for trying to tell them they could do neither effectively presently, so he shut up and started saying what they wanted to hear. Bush Sr swore the first Gulf War would not be another Vietnam; Bush Jr skipped that party then went at it in the same manner as Vietnam. Pappy, teach your kid how to fight! But anyway...) A problem I noticed the other day, via a country song (not by The Dixie Chicks, who wrote a great song about a girl who fell in love with a young Vietnam soldier who did not come back), is the government-sponsored mistaken assumption that Hussein and bin Laden are somehow connected. This song, and a lot of people before I heard it, said "remember 9/11, protect American freedom, that's why we're fighting". Nooo... Attacking Iraq has nothing to do with American freedom, they were not threatening the USA. Iraq has nothing to do with terrorist organizations who have attacked us, in fact bin Laden is on record as having told the Iraqi people it is okay to draw Hussein's blood because, Iraq having a secular government, he's an infidel. (The American press, without having correctly translated the videotape initially, reported that because bin Laden mentioned Hussein that he was speaking in support of Hussein, ergo the "ties" Bush had been searching for as to why Iraq should be attacked.) It annoys the piss out of me when unrelated events are linked like that. Not since "Remember The Alamo" as to why Mexico was bad a hundred years ago and "Remember Pearl Harbor" as to why Japan was bad 50 years ago has there been so much oblique justification of xenophobia.
    A friend pointed out that during the Clinton presidency, people had a grasp of dichotomy: that it was okay to dislike the president but be in support of the things he was doing. And that man did get hammered on from all sides, mostly about stuff that had nothing to do with his job... he needed a divorce, not an impeachment. Somehow that separation has blurred, mostly because it was the people who hated Clinton for being a smart Democrat who like Bush for being (merely) a Republican, and it's irrelevant he functions without a brain. Now it seems that disliking the president but being in support of one's country, one's military force, and one's intellectual power to reason is considered impossible. This must be some extention of Bush's statement "you're either with us or you're against us," as though absolutes are the only way to go. (Recall this was from the same mouth that said, "I'm a uniter, not a divider" then proceded to alienate all these countries previous administrations busted their humps to try to make friends with.) Sorry, most protestors do love their countries and wish the Coalition troops safety, but haven't forgotten that the commander-in-chief isn't a bright man and was not elected, and that this war isn't about national defense. The two concepts coexist, folks. The biggest threat to American liberties is the American government itself (see the two Patriot Acts – I mean it, go read them, right now).
    Conclusion: I hope this war is over soon with as few casualties (on every side) as possible, I hope the national IQ will go up ten points, and I hope that people will make damn sure not to let a debacle such as the last presidential election take place ever again. But I can only expect a quick war, judging by the weapons we have... the other 2 out of 3 ain't soon to happen, sigh.  --#2

    I'm still unemployed a month later. Since Jan 7, no one except Microsoft has responded to my submissions of interest in their jobs, and even then Microsoft cancelled my interview on the day of then didn't call back (or reply to my call to them) as pledged. 200 or so fellow techs have now flooded an already not-very-open market. And I'm going to apply to be a pizza delivery person tomorrow because I can't fucking find a job and haven't paid bills in a month. Need any more rant?  --#2

    Corporate America (and I'm sure other civilized places) has come up with a new trend. Maybe not new, per se, but more embraced than it was. It's called outsourcing, which is farming out one's menial tasks to another company. Financially it makes sense to business because instead of having to pay the usual scale to corporate employees, the business pays a pile of money to another company who gives their employees a paycheck. Depending upon the outsource company, the people range from the unskilled making about minimum wage to serious professionals who like freelance labor over being locked into just one employer. And there's nothing inherently wrong with using outsource labor to save one's bottom line. However...
    The technology sector has recently been following what has happened for the last twenty years in other markets (automotive, manufacturing, textiles, etc.) and outsourcing its support mechanisms. If you email the support@ address of your ISP, there's an increasing likelihood of that mail being read and responded to by someone in India. A call to the toll-free number to ask about your billing or what the mail server names are might be picked up in The Phillipines. One could use the same logic that some 'organic' companies state, that you are helping to support a developing nation (read: shockingly poor country with an eager work force), but there's a little problem with that: we now have unemployed smart people here, because of this policy. Tech support isn't unionized so can't go bitching about NAFTA (and Canada, bless them, is one of those countries which is rich in outsource labor as US companies export their jobs) or do anything about how their duties have been relegated to someone who speaks pidgin-English while they with knowledge and certifications go on the dole. I saw a bumpersticker today that made me smile: it was an American flag pattern, but instead of the usual war chants it said "Fix America First!" Damn straight!
    The company I used to work for has been using domestic outsourcers, and the major complaint we corporate clowns have about this fact is the quality of service; customers would sometimes call in 3 to 5 times to get a simple problem fixed because whomever they talked to didn't use the tools or know the answers, and were paid to crank through calls where the corp corps believed in sticking to the problem until it was fixed. Minimum training plus minimum wage equals minimum labor, we derived. But we never questioned our job security, and we didn't feel any ill toward the company or the outsourcers as people because they were all Americans... we knew that while the customers may get the wrong answers, they'd still be hearing the answers in English because the calls went to Omaha, Albuquerque, Las Vegas, and even my untechnological homebase of Yakima [in which case it'd be English with a Hispanic accent <snicker>]. The buck stayed here. But that's in the process of change. Email support was moved from domestic call centers to a factory in India a year or two ago, staffed by "college-educated English speakers" (according to the press release), and while there have been occasional issues they're not an overwhelming number since if you can get onto your email you have a working Internet connection, and you are asking a question which there's probably a FAQ or canned answer for. As of mid-February, four corporate call centers (involving 1300 people) will be closed at a time when there's often a ten to fourty minute wait for a warm body, and mathematically those calls have to go somewhere so it couldn't be only to the few domestic outsource centers or their hold times would be over an hour... rumor has it that place is Manilla. Okay, so only three call centers which focus on broadband calls are left, and rumor further has it that those centers will be stripped down and eventually broadband duties will be exported too. [If any of Blinky's muckety-mucks happen to be reading this and wish to deny rumors: What's a nice way of saying "tell me another?" Seattle was told in December of 2002 that it would absolutely not be closing in 2003. Something changed in a fortnight apparently, and Sky keeps making liars out of you. Don't email me to 'clarify', instead email your résumé to your next prospect before you have no choice.]
    We're all opposed to sweatshop labor, I'm assuming. We're all opposed to losing our jobs to countries that pay a handful of rice a day, am I correct? We all believe that xenophobia is a bad thing, yet it seems justified when we can't afford the products we used to build ourselves because our factories closed and our companies are building the products over there... and this applies to knowledge workers as well, we in technology have families to feed too and our jobs keep disappearing. A good paragraph poses a question and offers a solution, according to my education. I'm not sure what the solution I should propose is, because I feel that just stating the problem should make the reader think, "Hey, there's something wrong with this picture" and figure how they can contribute to the solution. Possibilites include contacting the figures who are exporting the jobs and voting with your dollars. It used to be, twenty to thirty years ago, the flag-wavers would get nasty if you bought a Japanese car instead of a Ford or were wearing a shirt made in Indonesia instead of Alabama. It's time for them to be more vocal (and I mean in mass media instead of just union newsletters and county fair booths) about who is only domestic in name and where you send the payment, when the jobs and that payment go elsewhere, leaving their families and friends in the cold.  --#2

    My biggest rant of the moment is that I've forgotten the really good Rant topic I'd thought of a few days ago. Maybe it will come back. You'll be alerted if it does. Meantime, here are a few things that upset me, in no particular order:
• People who don't take the experts' word for it. I can understand not taking a mechanic at face value if he's telling you that there are eight things wrong with the car and that you need to give him $1500 to fix them, especially when you just came in for an oil change and the car runs fine. I can also understand not taking financial experts seriously since most of the time, they're another form of weatherman who tells you which way the money blows today and what things will look like next week, thus prone to be wrong and won't be acknowledging their mis-speculations later. I can even understand doubting an ISP tech who says you must reinstall your modem drivers if you are getting a No Dialtone message from your computer (especially when you can pick up the phone on that line and find, indeed, there's no dialtone!). But generally speaking, if you are in need of help and you go to someone who works professionally in a help capacity, and you know either nothing about the subject or just enough to get you into trouble (ergo your needing help now), don't argue. You came to them. You're welcome to ask questions to learn more or verify the person is on the right track, helpers prefer dealing with smart people and learning more is a step in the right direction, but don't make it obvious that you're blowing the advice you asked for off.
• Women who raise their hand up to their throats when they are leaning over, and not just because I like to see cleavage. Some may call it ladylike, but I call it egotistical and inconsiderate. I've even seen women wearing turtlenecks do that manoever out of habit. And doesn't that make it hard to do whatever it was that you bent over to do if you only have one hand (typically the weaker left hand) free? C'mon, enough of the false modesty, just let the chips fall where they may. Unless of course you're over 50, then I'll loan you a roll of duct tape to keep stuff secure, 'k?
• People who can't handle a joke based on one's deepest fears. I pissed someone off the other day by pointing out that this woman on a p0rn site looked like his girlfriend. Which she did, except website girl's face didn't look like she'd been dragged backwards through gravel, so it's obvious I'm just pulling his leg. But he got really mad, then came back to take a second look to verify it wasn't her. I guess the seeds of doubt are there when the person herself always uses the prefix "ex-" to refer to him but he speaks in the present tense, and without much notice she moved a thousand miles to get away from him. I apologised for upsetting him, since that wasn't my intention per se, once he regained his bearing and confirmed it wasn't her.
• How the Puget Sound Computer User (and I presume all its sister CU publications across the country) seems to write for Information Technology folks who know nothing about information or technology. That's the only reason I can think of why every acronym has to be explained, since anyone who actually understands IT knows what most of those words mean. I'm just sitting waiting for something to happen, since that publication changed editorial staffs two or three times in the span of a year, and of the 32 pages in the last issue, 10 of them have text to read while the other 22 are advertisements... and the previous two issues contained 28 pages. The thing that makes me smile about that publication is the linedrawing of a hand on an Apple //e keyboard they use as the masthead of their BBS listings. Call the times lean, but you'd never know it reading their competition, the Computer Source because it's just the opposite – more (and better) articles to accompany their requisite advertising.
• Complaining about stupid things that politicians say, yet still voting them into office. Okay, Patty Murray asked a valid question: why do people elsewhere think Osama bin Laden is so swell? It's a question I've wondered about for a year or so, since by Western thinking killing innocents is a big no-no which would preclude someone being worshipped, so what's the attraction here others feel. And she answered the question, essentially saying that he gives the people what they want when they can't get it any other way. (Adolph Hitler had the same thing going: in Mein Kampf he notes that inflation is out of control in Germany and the people have no clear focus. The first thing he did after he got out of jail is fix those two things. Everything else after that is reprehensible. Don't give me any shit about pointing out the two things Hitler did which were beneficial to others; people always use the phrase "At least the trains ran on time" about another otherwise hateable figure, Benito Musselini, but they aren't accused of being traitors.) And people are up in arms that she'd have something upbeat (factually) to say about such a murderous headcase. On a smaller scale, you could have some police force who systematically discriminated and harassed minorities, and even had been videotaped shooting an unarmed taxi driver who was walking out of his house then later that day throwing a black youth through a plateglass window while handcuffed, yet got good press because it was always generous to the orphans... The truth isn't pretty, kids; how often have you heard of some TV/movie star or sports figure who was made out to be a god by the media one day for a good performance then was portrayed as a devil the next day for NOT acting like a god? Then there's Trent Lott, who should have been out of office a long time ago for being a dickhead, but finally said something that everyone could latch onto. Gee, saying that Strom Thurmond should have been elected president long ago makes him a racist; what does the fact that Strom Thurmond is still in office, sixty years later, say about the voters? That they dig racists? I dunno, but to me it says the same thing the voters who keep putting Jesse Helms back into office say. Ted Kennedy drove off a bridge around the same time that Man landed on the moon in 1969, but the article about the death of Mary Jo Kopechne at his hands was one column inch while the rest of the front page was devoted to Moon Day. (Yes, I have that issue of the Yakima Herald-Republic.) And that fat fool is still in office, courtesy of the voters.
• On a note related to the previous, my Rant of November 2002 has had some returns: The local library system has had to cut back on the services it has historically given due to funding being cut by a really bad ballot issue that stupid people voted in favor of (because it would "cut taxes"). So patrons come to my wife every day to ask about / complain about some service no longer being offered, and they ask how this happened. And she has to tell them, "because you voted Yes on 697."
• Credit card solicitation over the phone. We get called five times before noon some days, and I sleep until noon half the time so this doesn't make me happy. There are these fairly amusing ads from [one card company] which say that if you get their card, they won't telemarket you. Bully, but how's about you stop telemarketing me twice a day right now? I'm hoping my new method of answering the phone will work: if someone doesn't reply to me within two seconds, or they are there and give me the introductary shpeal about a credit card, I scream "Nooooo!" in my loudest and most soul-wrenching wail and hang up. They must be onto me because their new method is to leave a message, instead of hanging up when they get my answering machine. They did that twice in a row last Saturday.
And the only gripe I can hope to resolve in this lifetime is the second one. Ladies, please, hands down!  --#2


...back to today's Rant...