Wednesday, July 31, 2013

What does a Bicyclist Say to a Person Exiting a Parked Car?

Hey, person in the car. I cannot see what you are doing with your hands.  I cannot read your mind. And with your dark tinted windows, I can’t even see you in there.  So, how am I supposed to guess when you are about to swing your car door open right in my path?

I’m a geezer.  I tend to think that young people aren’t as smart as they think they are.  I remember the mindset. But I would never have sassed a geezer the way that young man just sassed me.

Here I was, biking carefully in the bike lane, which happens to be between the traffic lane and the car parking lane. If a driver in a parked car decides to exit, his or her car door opens into the bike lane.  A young man in a car swung wide his door with a dark tinted window. I squeezed my brakes.  I didn’t hit him. He nonchalantly stepped into the street.  Using my most polite voice, I said, “Please look for bikes before you open your car door. I almost hit you.”  He looked at me as if I hadn’t spoken English.  I repeated myself.  He scowled and then said, “You could look for people opening their car doors.”  Then he huffed off.

What am I supposed to look for?  And even if he is right – even if avoiding the accident is my responsibility – does he want to be right as he lies in the hospital. I tried to give him advice that might save his life. I can’t talk to young people any more than I can talk to Republicans.  What good have my years of experience done me? 

Monday, July 29, 2013

Tomatoes and Habits



Yesterday morning, I went to the back yard and picked a ripe tomato.  If it had been the afternoon, I’d have bitten into it right there in the sunshine.  But I was fixing breakfast.  I brought it into the house, put it down on the cutting board, and did what I’ve been doing with store tomatoes.  I turned it over to look for the sticker.

Habits can be time wasters.  But in this case, my habit helped me appreciate what I have – a home grown tomato.

It doesn’t have a sticker. It has not been grown to withstand machinery. I don’t care if it is easily bruised, or if it has a long shelf life. I pick it today and I eat it today.  It tastes fresher and yummier than a store tomato.  

I put it into a flower pot to take its photograph.  I picked a pepper to put with it.  I’d never noticed before that my peppers have little thorns in a ring around the top.

This is what “being in the now” is about – not some impossible spiritual practice. It’s enjoying my garden.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Bureaucracy

Bureaucracy.
I get it. Somebody is in charge of details every where I turn.
And that somebody doesn’t answer to me.

I finally talked with somebody at Mural Arts which painted that messy clip-art flag on a building near me without a neighborhood meeting to discuss what (if any) mural we in the neighborhood want.  The woman admitted that she goofed. But she doesn’t have the budget to fix it.  

There is no way I’m going to ask people to donate to this organization on the off chance they might use the money to fix their mistake.  I tried a compromise.  Suppose that scenes from the neighborhood get painted around the flag.  There’s not much room, but something could be done to help the mural say something..  The woman agreed to send an artist from the bureaucracy out to look at the wall and see if that’s possible.  She says she’ll get back with me in two weeks.  

Then silly me – I suggested that a client buy a refurb computer.  So many new-out-of-the-box computers have problems I thought the odds of a refurb arriving in working order would make the purchase worthwhile.  Lower price, repaired, and inspected.  Looks like win-win-win. Plus I suggested she pay $70 for the 3-year-warranty.

The wifi on the refurb computer doesn’t work.  And the retailer says the warranty doesn’t start until the computer is 3 months old.  We have to contact the manufacturer, who did the refurbishing.  So, I called the manufacturer.  They took the serial number and informed me that this is not a refurbished computer. It has been sitting on the shelf at the retailer’s since 2010. And it did have a 3 year warranty, but that has expired, while the computer sat on the shelf.  

If I disagreed with this, I should talk to the warranty division.  The warranty division said that if I could send a copy of the sales receipt showing a recent purchase they’d reconsider. I sent the receipt. They said I’d sent it too soon and I needed to wait an hour until they were ready for it and send it again.  I set up the email with the attachment and my client agreed to push the Send button.  I await their verdict.

Meanwhile, since I now knew that the store had misrepresented the computer, I called them.  They agreed to take it back and credit my client’s credit card with a refund.  All this will take weeks.  I’d rather swap for a working computer.  But meanwhile, I asked the store to send us a postage paid mailing label by email.   At least she’s not going to be stuck with this bad machine.

Since these things tend to come in threes, I didn’t have to wait long for another bureaucratic mess. We discovered tht the power inverter (the box that converts the DC current from our new solar panels into AC power that we can use) doesn’t work during a brownout.  So,  just when the power company most needs the power that my panels can generate, they sit idle.  I called the power company. They said we need to set up a meeting. But the person at the power company who talks on the phone can’t do that.  I have to go online and find a form with which to formally request a meeting.  And the solar panel company wants to be involved, so they want it to be a 3-party phone meeting.

The name of the game is hurry up and wait.  All I can do is request that other people do things that will cost them money to do.  If nothing happens in two weeks, my next step is to look for supervisors and higher up bureaucrats at higher up agencies, who can convince these bureaucrats to help.   

Friday, July 12, 2013

The New Thirty???

This is a guest post by Jean Lorrah

Last February, a news release appeared all over the media, claiming that 72 is the New Thirty. I noted it in particular because I am 72, and suddenly things are happening to me that should have happened when I was 30.

I'm a writer of science fiction and fantasy. When I really was 30 I had not managed to get even one book published yet, though I have published more than twenty since. I started out as what used to be called a midlist author, not a best-seller, but someone whose books had a following and sold a respectable number of copies. For years I didn't have to worry whether my next book would be published--it would be. Of course I longed to be a Big Name, but I had security as a writer.

In the 1990's all that changed. Big publishers were gobbled up by bigger publishers who were gobbled up by huge conglomerates, and publishing became a business like any other as the marketing departments took over making all decisions. Their biggest decision as far as writers were concerned was to kill the midlist, not because it was not profitable, but because it was not profitable ENOUGH. They could make more money by selling more copies of each of a much smaller list of books, so that is what they did. Everyone whose last book did not make the best-seller list was told to go away and not come back.

If I had been born one generation--thirty years--earlier than I was, I would have died a failure, pushed out of publishing and forgotten. Instead, thanks to modern medicine and lifestyle, I have survived two different kinds of cancer and then just last December was able to have my afib corrected through a procedure called an ablation (so it won't kill me with a stroke as it did my father, his brother, and their mother).

Staying alive gave me time to look around for a different outlet for my creativity. Watching first cable/satellite and then the internet develop a voracious need for programming, I studied screenwriting during the years when the promise of the ebook didn't happen and didn't happen and didn't happen. Eventually my writing partner Lois Wickstrom and I got good enough that our script, Coal for Christmas, won a Gold Remi in the family category at WorldFest in 2012, and now our film is in preproduction. Movies should have been made from my works when I was 30--but I'm not going to turn it down at 72!

And I was still alive when Amazon finally made the ebook revolution happen. All my books came back into print with requests for new ones. After twenty years of no one but frustrated fans wanting new work from me, I was writing again--and COULD because I had outlived the drought period for writers, and am around to take advantage of the renaissance of publishing.

To top it off, Jacqueline Lichtenberg (my partner in Sime~Gen) and I were approached a year ago by a game designer--something else that should have happened when we were 30. But it's happening now:

Am I going to complain? Certainly not! Oh, I could wish that some of this bounty had happened when I was younger and had more energy to do the work and enjoy the fun. But mine is just one of millions of stories that now can happen as people live longer: we have new opportunities to weather the ups and downs of life, and enjoy a life of not just second chances, but thirds, and even fourths.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Progress on the Misbegotten Mural







I’m mad that the new mural in my neighborhood is going to be a US Flag. Not a real mural. A flag in a context. Just a clip art flag, slightly rippled as if blowing in a gentle breeze.

They’re putting it up with a computer program that paints square of about a meter (excuse me yard – these are Americans) on a side.  The computer program is messing up. The stars don’t have points – instead they are blurry smudges.  The stripes smudge into each other, and the paint drips red at the bottom right corner.

I remember the motto “these colors don’t run.”  On this mural, these colors DO run.

So, yes, in a sad way, this mural does tell a story.  About bureaucracy gone wrong, about a few WWII veterans in a hurry to have a flag on the wall because the sister of a dead veteran suggested it (probably as a free way to get the wall painted) – I think they wanted it by July 4, but on July 4, the park was unusable – completely roped off and the painting machine blocked the sidewalk. And about the sad state of patriotism in America today.  The NSA is reading all my email. The USPS is photographing all my mail. The phone company is recording all my calls. All without a warrant. Clear violation of the 4th amendment to the Constitution. All violations of my freedom.

One woman told me that she thinks the flag means Safety.  Nobody waves a flag and says “Let’s go to war!  For Safety!”  I thought that the flag means Freedom.  But if we had freedom, we’d have had a neighborhood meeting about what sort of mural we who live in this neighborhood want.  Safety must mean “we get our way and you don’t.”

I have no idea how long this mess will take to clean up – but nobody has learned anything. When they’re done it will still be a flag, standing alone by some old men who will soon be dead without having told their stories about why they went to war.