Wednesday’s Wandering Thought

Twenty-nine minutes.

It doesn’t seem like much time.

It was how long he waited for Microsoft to update.

MS updates always seem invasive. Waiting for it to do its thing is the norm. This is helpful, he reminded himself. New features. Updated security. Bugs fixed.

But he was on a writing schedule. This was twenty-nine minutes of not writing, of sitting and stewing, impatience and irritation growing, while the computer did its thing. Icons didn’t appear on the taskbar. No notice was given about how much longer was required or what was going on. All he could do is sip coffee, tap a finger, and wait.

Eventually, it finished. When the browser finally opened after twenty-nine minutes of waiting, it displayed a message.

He wasn’t impressed. MS had to make up a twenty-nine minute deficit before their updates would start saving time.

Rant over. Back to the normally scheduled program.

Tuesday’s Wandering Thought

Tuesday found another tech irritation gaining momentum. Apps and search boxes always tried finishing his typing for him. They were often wrong and usually a distraction. Almost as bad was when he shoved his mouse aside to clear a view of what he was typing, only to have the cursor land on something else, amplifying whatever was in that box, whether he was interested or not. The pages were just messy with annoying ‘helpful’ distractions.

Saturday’s Wandering Thought

Emails pack his inbox. He subscribes to emails driven by his interests. But many that he subscribes to make him pay for it by sending him three to six emails per day beyond his basic requests. This season is particularly miserable, a terrible trifecta of politics, holiday sales, and dire health warnings. It drives him one more time to sigh, close his email, and think about giving that thing up.

Sunday’s Wandering Thought

*throat is cleared*

He has a small, really tiny rant today. Websites like to entice him with a headline. While he reads that article, a video plays about the same article. Then, though, another video about a different article begins.

Seriously, WTF? It’s chaotic and annoying. They must think we’re children, running around, high on sugar and caffeine, too buzzy to pay attention.

Out Shopping

Get ready for an old man rant. That’s how it sounds in retrospect. Let it fly.

“Let’s go shopping,” my wife said. “Plan a day when we go out so I can get new exercise clothes. I want to go to my exercise class in person on April first, and I’d like to do it in something other than the clothes I was wearing two years ago.”

Yes, I agreed, because I knew what she was talking about. We’ve been strong isolationists, social distancing, zooming, vaccinated, masking, almost living like recluses. Well, recluses who have television and streaming services, computers, telephones, and safe friend pods. Maybe not quite recluses. Maybe, that’s an exaggeration. Maybe.

But we went through this before, where mandates were lifted, places partially opened. We took advantage of that. Our concern is that there will be some sort of new worrying spike and mandates and shutdowns will roll in anew. So we went out shopping and ate in a restaurant. Masks were worn while shopping. We wore masks until we were seated in our isolated, plastic walled table at the restaurant. We went early, to avoid crowds, but risks remain. The masked were the minority by far.

It’s been a while since I went shopping. I think it’s been a year. I saw some blue jeans. Levi’s. I thought, hey, they’re nice. Maybe I’ll buy a pair of denim pantaloons. The price stopped me: $69.50. For jeans? Off the shelf jeans? Levi’s? I remember when they were the jeans of the poor and downtrodden. And that at J.C. Penney’s.

Looking at shoes, I was appalled about how ugly and clunky men’s shoes have become during the pandemic. Lot of red, white, and blue stuff, too. I thought, I’ll have to watch people, see how many are actually wearing these. I suppose I’ll need to focus on the young, those who have not yet counted past forty years.

Wrigley’s gums come in Peppermint ‘Cobalt’ and Spearmint ‘Rain’. WTF? I read their ingredients: they looked like gum with a new name.

My superpower held solid, so I managed to find the worst checkout line possible at Target. It’s good to know that I can depend on that power. I perused magazines at hand. Know how much a magazine costs? $12.99 USD. What? Why, that’s how much a book used to cost. Now, of course, a book is $26.00 for a hardback, $16.00 for a softback. That’s why I buy used books or go to the library. Of course, many used books are now over $10.00

Then there was my beer: $7.25 for 16 ounces of Blue Moon. My entree was $11.99. My drink was over 50% of the price of my meal. That’s frigging stunning. They asked me if I wanted a 22 oz beer, but that would’ve probably topped my credit card’s limit. It only goes into five digits.

I guess it was all a shocker. I’ve seen food prices. We laughed about paying $50 at grocery stores and walking out with two light bags. Filling the gas tank on the Mazda was $45.

Stunning. I feel for the people on the edge. I remember when I had people working for me in the military thirty years ago, and the cost of childcare. It basically almost equaled those young people’s take home pay. I hear it’s become worse. Looking at the small sampling which I experienced, I believe it.

The Healthy Stuff

Sickening, you know?

I was grocery shopping in a store during the ‘vulnerable hours’. Walking down the frozen food aisle as my wife shopped for baking supplies, I spied ‘healthy’ meals. You probably know of these. They proudly proclaim, ‘Organic!’ ‘Low Fat’ (or Lo Fat). ‘Gluten Free’. They like to tell about how little sugar they have and how much protein they have.

That’s all great. Checking out the sodium levels on the nutrition panels always leaves me shaking my head. Rare is the one that lists sodium levels that are in the twenty-thirty percent range of the recommended daily levels. Most are forty to fifty percent. That’s because sodium is not just for flavor, but is also a stabilizing and binding influence, and also helps extend the shelf life.

Well, how is it healthy?

We know that it isn’t don’t we? But, here in the United States, we play these games about what is healthy and safe, what’s a ‘good value’, and what’s nutritional. It’s been going on (and escalating) for decades. Remember when ketchup was classified as a vegetable under the Reagan Administration back in the 1980s?

Just a mid-morning mini-rant. Sorry. Do carry on. We’ll now return to our normal activities already in progress.

Just Sayin’

I think some people miss the point behind cutting the cable.

Cutting the cable has been around for a while. It’s an expression used when you decide to terminate cable service. That would’ve once been unthinkable. When I was a child — yeah, here we go.

I’m a boomer, in my sixties. I’ve seen the rise of the microwave and electronics. Cable television came to my neighborhood while I was in high school. Before cable, we were dependent on ABC, NBC, CBS, and PBS. One of those networks had two channels in our area.

Reruns were the norm. “Bonanza”, “Gunsmoke”, “Gilligan’s Island”, and “Perry Mason” came on throughout the day, along with every version of a Lucille Ball’s offerings, game shows like “Jeopardy” and “Password”, and talks shows like “The Merv Griffin Show”. As this was a rural, churchy area, so we also had a lot of gospel music sang off-key with with a twang, and plenty of Bible thumping.

Cable, then, expanded our ability to watch different reruns on other channels. We had, I think, thirty-two channels and we paid about twenty dollars a month. None were ‘premium’ channels; HBO, Showtime, and offerings like that were just being thought of and begun in those days. It didn’t come to my area until I’d left the area in 1974.

Still, cable offered us more. That was the point. Then, the point became, cable is offering the same thing over and over, or offering us things that doesn’t interest us. Upon returning to the United States after some overseas assignment, my wife and I subscribed to cable television. It was pretty good for a while. A&E was delivering fresh BBC television shows like “Ballykissangel” and “Doctor Who”. TBS provided reruns. “Original” programming was still a number of years away, along with reality shows.

Off we went to somewhere else outside the U.S. This time, upon returning, we signed up for cable, with some premium offerings.

It was no longer a sweet deal. The price had jumped to over fifty dollars a month. Pausing to put that into perspective, my income was about twenty-five thousand. Our new sports car cost fifteen thousand. Our phone bill (cell phones weren’t on the scene yet) was about twenty-five dollars a month. So fifty a month was a chunk.

Back to cable. Premium movies had already been seen, so I was paying for movie reruns, and they showed them over and over and over. The cable company boasted that we had one hundred channels. Our point was, there was nothing on that we wanted to watch.

That trend worsened, in my mind. We went to a hundred and forty plus channels, two hundred channels, dozens of premium offerings. Prices climbed, but nothing was on. By the time I cut the cable, we’d curtailed the premium offerings. No reason to subscribe because they offered so little. By then, we could rent videos, and then discs at Blockbusters and other places. Eventually, Netflix evolved.

We cut the cable ten years ago. I went with Roku and subscribed to Netflix. I remain a Netflix subscriber. I also subscribe to Hulu basic and Amazon Prime. Others come and go, usually for a month at a time. I’m not the demographic target, though; I have no interest in watching television on my phone.

I monitor streaming offerings, and frequently try them out on a trial basis. They’ve become bloated and useless. Let’s talk SlingTV as an example. They’re offering over a hundred channels for just $65 a month. But looking at them, I know that I’ll end up watching very little of that.

The same happens with countless offerings. They think signing on to more channels is a big deal. It’s not; it goes back to the same problem that plagued us when we had four channels: nothing was on that we wanted to watch.

Original programming helps the situation these days. So does stealing ideas from other countries or importing television series and movies from other countries. As we discovered with A&E, and then BBC America, the rest of the world has fantastic stuff. In example, one show that’s currently doing well in the U.S. in “The Masked Singer”. Just as “Survivor” was an import, so is “The Masked Singer”; it came from Korea.

In the end, this is another rant, innit? Just an aging American musing about the ways that the world does and doesn’t change.

At least with remotes, it’s easier to change the channel. You know what we had to do when I was in high school?

Mysterious Ol’ Facebook

A small mid-morning rant, category: technology.

Facebook notifications won’t load/display this morning. After playin’ with it five minutes as I sipped coffee and doing a few searches for fixes, I shrugged it away and reported it. Not a big deal, really.

After reporting it and sending a screen shot, I noticed my FB support inbox was showing four new messages. I opened it.

None were new. One was over sixteen months old. They were all about my violations of their community standards. They’re a laugh.

One was a Bored Panda post I’d shared about people working from home and dealing with their dogs. This affronted Facebook’s spam standards.

Whaaat? They don’t want me to share humorous animal stories because they’re ‘spam’? Geez, I think I’ve been using FB wrong lo’ these many years.

Two others were messages updating me about my protests. They’d blocked two others because they violated their community standards. I’d appealed. These were notices that they were wrong, and had restored the posts. Well, good for me. Good for FB.

The fourth was an appeal I’d put in about another post they’d removed. They were reviewing it and would get back to me soon. Dated June 12, 2019, I figured their idea of ‘soon’ and mine doesn’t match.

Now, the most interesting thing is that the notifications that I can’t see on FB, I can see when I’m in my FB support inbox. Intrigued, I went back to FB and attempted to see the notifications through various feeds. No go. But the push notifications still pop up and load.

Well, it’s modern technology, innit? When it works, it’s great. When it fails, it’s a big friggin’ mystery. In the ol’ days, we’d clean the cache, or reboot, or sumpin’. I’m going to have more coffee, and see if that takes care of it.

Are You Outraged?

Someone else wrote a blog titled, “Are You Outraged?” And I thought, am I outraged?

Let’s see. I was born in 1956, eleven years after WW II, but while the conflict in Korea was happening, and as the U.S. was getting drawn into Vietnam.

The Cold War was going strong. The U.S. and U.S.S.R. were ready to launch nukes and drop nukes at the slightest provocation.

1960 began strong, with John F. Kennedy getting elected. He promised to put a man on the moon. Meanwhile, protests and riots began. The 1960s were full of blood and smoke. Kennedy was assassinated; so was his brother. And Martin Luther King, Jr. Many blacks were lynched and murdered. Battles were fought over segregation, “Separate but equal”, and desegregation.

As races fought for equality, so did women, but the Equal Rights Amendment stalled.

The arms race sucked up resources and attention. Korean and Vietnam were ‘ended’ as conflicts, but more conflicts sprang up. War has not ceased in my lifetime, despite the fall of the U.S.S.R. Instead, it’s intensified.

As has the battle for equal rights and the ideal that skin color, sexual orientation, religious preferences, and genders should not matter, that we, as a nation, are only as strong as the weakest among us, so we must protect them.

The battle for the environment has intensified, too, and with it, the understanding that this is one world, and once again, in order to survive, we must survive together, and protect our planet, or we may all suffer, and many of us will perish, bringing our civilization to our knees.

These seem like self-evident truths, but instead, another war has arisen, this one about what constitutes truths, facts, science, and evidence. The way that numbers and words are spun to create division and distraction spins my head.

Am I outraged? Fucking yes. After a lifetime of this, I thought we’d be further advanced. But as I watch the police brutality and government response to the murders and protests, echoes of history reverberate. I’m reminded of the tanks in Hungary in 1956 as the Soviet Union crushed an uprising.

I’m reminded of the Watts riots.

I’m reminded of Tienanmen Square in 1989.

I’m reminded of the Berlin Wall.

I’m reminded of Selma and Montgomery, Alabama, and Detroit, Michigan.

I’m reminded of the American Civil War.

I’m reminded of the rise of Solidarity in Poland.

I’m reminded of Ferguson.

I’m reminded of the Democratic National Convention in 1968.

I’m reminded of Kent State in 1970.

I’m reminded of countless sit-ins and marches against war and for peace, against injustice and for equality.

I’m reminded of so many events that I’ve seen and read of in the narrow focus of my short life, and I’m reminded of so many who live in fear and suffer at the hands of those who are supposed to serve and protect.

Am I outraged?

I watch the news, play the viral videos, and read the articles this week and wonder why so many fight against others’ equality. I wonder how so many can be so cruel to fellow humans. The outright cruelty and disregard demonstrated as police officers spray, beat, shoot, and mistreat their fellow citizens, their fellow humans, horrifies me.

Am I outraged?

I am sickened. I am saddened. I am furious.

Yes, I am outraged.

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