Tuesday, April 03, 2018

Welcome to the Jungle

"Welcome to the jungle we've got fun and games
We got everything you want honey, we know the names
We are the people that can find whatever you may need
If you got the money, honey we got your disease"
Guns N Roses, "Welcome to the Jungle"

It is a jungle out there, indeed, and many apologies for the exceptionally unoriginal and punny title for my thoughts about Amazon - the company and the drama about it at this time, thanks mostly to Trump's criticism of it.  I'm not so interested in the political aspects of this story, though I understand the concerns some have about the President "picking on" any company in particular.  I tend to see Trump's approach of agitation as similar to shaking up a snow globe.  It upsets things but eventually they all fall back into place but sometimes in a better arrangement.  But I'm not really here to talk about Trump.

The first time I ordered books from Amazon they included a little logo sticky-note pad and bookmark as thank you tokens.  It was nice.  A lot of the early e-commerce sites did that.  I had ordered a pan from cooking.com around the same time and received a cute set of magnetic measurement conversion charts that are still on my fridge while that company is long gone - probably a victim of Amazon's better business as it expanded its product offerings.  I do enjoy shopping on Amazon and have been a regular customer since 2000 (according to my account profile but I want to think I actually first ordered things before that, but I'm not sure).  I'm not a Prime member, yet, but my oldest son is and he uses it all the time.  He's more into the streaming video and stuff than I am and actually uses more of the Prime benefits than I would.  I'm old school and like my directv, even though it's ridiculous expensive.  I like turning on the TV and channel surfing.  It's a generational thing.  When I was a kid we only had three channels to choose from on the best days, and only one on the worst and just had to watch whatever was on.  I like the serendipity of finding a good show to watch.  There's something about having to be happy with what you're offered as opposed to always getting exactly what you want.  

The online shopping experience is like that too.  It's hard to imagine that brick and mortar stores will disappear completely because it's pretty fun to go shopping just to see what they've got and finding that awesome impulse buy.  If you hadn't looked around you would have never found it.  And I'm a tactile person.  Sometimes I buy something just because of its texture or because of its cute, clever, or high quality packaging - things not often conveyed on an electronic screen.  However, several years ago online retailers figured out that shoppers like that surprise/impulse/discovery experience so they started those daily "flash" sales where you had to be invited or sign up by email to participate.  At first they were pretty exclusive with only high-end designer items, but as their popularity exploded so did the variety of flash sale sites and the products offered.  Even Amazon started their own called My Habit.  I was "invited" by Amazon to join and boy, did I.  Some of my favorite buys were the Versace and Missoni scarves I got for $99.  I never would have bought those in person because the kinds of stores that sell them make me uncomfortable because I'm not a fancy or rich-looking woman and I don't like the pretentious people who work in those stores because they either ignore me or look at me like I don't belong in their world.  Online it didn't matter what I looked like or wore, and the prices were attractive enough to justify some indulgence.  In those few years I bought so much from My Habit that I was surprised and disappointed that Amazon discontinued it a couple of years ago.  But most of those sites are now gone.  Retail is a hard business.

I'm not sure why Amazon was named Amazon in the beginning, but it certainly has grown into this huge ecosystem around the "river" of product movement within a jungle of producers and sellers.  You can find pretty much anything you want or need, and they seem to have done fairly well at weeding out any unscrupulous sellers.  I'm sure it's a constant battle, but in the many years I've been a customer I haven't had any fraudulent experiences.  Part of that is probably my own being rather suspicious and cautious about things too.  Online security is a huge issue these days and I am curious about the extent of Amazon's efforts to protect customer and seller data.  I'm guessing it's pretty extensive.  It seems there have been problems in the past with hacks into Amazon's system but I don't recall hearing of any recent massive breaches there like the Equifax and Facebook issues within the last year.  Honestly, I just don't know why people are so much more upset about Facebook's data vulnerability than they were about the Equifax breach which has resulted in my own and many of my friends' credit cards being hacked.  Luckily my little local credit union flagged and stopped the fraudulent charges before they went through, but my friends who use bigger name brand banks weren't so lucky.  

But let's get back to Amazon's huge river of product movement.  One of Trump's complaints about Amazon is that he thinks they are taking advantage of the US Postal Service.  Well, I don't know the details of the deal between Amazon and the Post Office so I can't really know if it's a "bad deal" or not.  I think we all realize that the postal service has struggled for decades and even more so with the advent of email.  Amazon's use of the postal service has surely helped it survive and evolve, and now it even offers Sunday deliveries.  My son has had many of his Prime orders come on Sundays.  But, I do want to emphasize that I do not know the details of the Amazon/Postal Service agreement, so I have to acknowledge that it is possible that it is not the best deal for the Post Office.  This is something I've noticed about Trump's method of bringing about changes.  He shakes up that snow globe and sometimes even knocks things out of place, and then people lose their minds and have fits and foam at the mouth in fear of imminent disaster.  But then somehow, out of sight of the hysteria, negotiations are happening that end up making things better.   I think Trump is looking at Amazon as this big, healthy, wealthy youngster taking advantage of the old poor man of the neighborhood by paying him as little as possible to run from house to house to deliver the newspapers he's supposed to be delivering.  Trump sees Amazon as exploiting the weaker and poorer business, and since he as President represents the interests of government agencies he would like to see a more "fair" deal in which Amazon pays the postal service more for its services.  I'm not convinced that would be a bad thing.  Amazon could afford to pay more.  Its stock price has basically doubled in the last year and is so high that it looks kind of greedy and stingy, especially since Amazon has never paid any dividends to its shareholders.  Yes, it has created this awesome, enormous technological and logistical ecosystem, and I understand that shareholders get more from their investment than just dividends, but let's be objective and fair and not let our love and admiration of Amazon cloud our perception of its lesser qualities and actions.  And let us not allow our distaste for Trump's manners and methods to cloud our ability to be reasonable and logical.  

I am a Trump "supporter" and do not especially appreciate the constant negativity in response to his every move.  I feel like people just don't know how to take him.  They don't understand the method to the madness.  They are used to the scripted and practiced and artificial.  Trump is real and gritty and unscripted and sometimes yucky, but he is that guy who's forcing people to see what they don't want to acknowledge.  We elected him for that reason, not because of all the other bullshit garbage about race and whatever other low imaginations the elitists come up with.  I don't always agree with him, but I also try to step back and observe and give things some time to settle.  So much of the instant reaction to every tweet is just wasted energy.  I would recommend anyone who does not understand Trump to watch a bunch of the old James Bond movies, the ones from the 1960s and 1970s.  (I'm sure Amazon sells them!)  He is a baby boomer man, and the ways and manners of those men has become rather unpopular and misunderstood by our society.  That James Bond character was a role model for that generation of men and his ways influenced those men whether they realize it or not.  That early James Bond character would in today's world be condemned as a male chauvinist, sexually predatory asshole, but at that time he was the epitome of masculine strength and virility.  Just go watch some of those movies and you'll see how he "man-handles" the women and how he forces himself on them (they resist only because they were expected to resist due to that time's expectation of feminine coyness) and how he forces issues and resolutions.  I'm just trying to put some perspective into the way he is.  I grew up hearing about Trump's exploits and successes and failures.  I remember Marla Maples and all the tabloid sensationalism.  I have long known he is a man who loves women and fame and has a certain kind of abrasive personality that takes chances.  Those things don't really bother me.  I don't care how many porn stars he was with before he was President.  As long as he's not sexing it up with White House interns in the Oval Office then it's none of my concern.  

So back to the jungle, there are always going to be changes and evolution, and we have to expect that within our financial and social networks as much as in the natural environment.  I'm not a big investor or expert in market machinations, but I like to understand the way things work overall.  I suspect that Amazon is going to be very resilient and important for quite some time even with these small "attacks" upon it.  We should be careful not to put any company or entity so high upon a pedestal to be isolated from criticism or correction.  We should be as willing to see the faults of our favorite investments as we are our least favorite politicians.  After all, in the jungle the howler monkey might be loudest creature but it's far from the most deadly.      

   

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Hot Stuff Buffet

"Looking for your hot stuff
Baby, I need it
Looking for your hot stuff
Baby, tonight
I want your hot stuff
I got to feel it
Got to have your hot stuff
Got to have your love tonight"

sung by Donna Summer


The other night I had one of those bizarre moments when everything just struck me as a hilarious irony.  We were eating dinner at Shoney's.  Now, I know a lot of people scoff at Shoney's, but I've found that most of them have never actually been to a Shoney's - they are just on some anti-Shoney's bandwagon because they don't have the guts to go against the "cool" crowd who loudly hates certain things they've deemed "uncool."  The Shoney's we go to has a top-notch salad bar with three times the variety of fresh cut veggies than other uppity places offer (Ruby Tuesday, for example, has a rather limited salad bar in comparison).  This Shoney's even has the premium spring mix of baby greens and "fancy" lettuces and spinach in addition to the standard iceberg and romaine mix.  The salad bar also has chick peas and a wide variety of fruits, nuts, raisins, etc.  Anyone who claims that there is nothing good at Shoney's is just showing their own ignorance.  There is also a hot food buffet with a variety of cooked veggies and meats including fish, chicken, pork, and beef. There are soups and breads too.  It's not all fried fast food style junk, nor warmed up canned stuff. Honestly, I just love Shoney's because it's quick and good and satisfying.  I sometimes crave the variety of salad and hot stuff without having to cook it all and clean up afterwards.  Besides, when I was a kid my dad was the manager of the Gatlinburg Shoney's so it has always had that nostalgic aspect.  Back then it was still called Shoney's Big Boy, and they did not have a buffet but just a menu.  I have lots of fun memories about that Shoney's.  Some time after my dad moved on to another career the Big Boy company parted ways with the Shoney's company in this part of the country.

So, back to the bizarro moment the other night.  We had just sat down with our plates of steaming hot goodness, and I noticed that Donna Summer's "Hot Stuff" was playing in the background.  I looked around and saw that we were, at 50 and 52, the youngest people in the restaurant other than some of the employees.  I wondered if all those older people noticed the music.  It seemed so strange for such a song to be playing in a place populated by people with oxogen tanks, walkers, wheel-chairs, and canes.  Then I realized that all those old people were probably in their disco partying primes when that song first came out in 1979.  Wow!  I couldn't help but laugh out loud.  It was similar to the feeling I got when I first heard Nirvana on the "classic rock" radio station.  Getting old can be weird and surprising, and I wonder if other people are as struck by the oddness of these moments of in-your-face passage of time.  Did their hearing Donna singing about wanting "hot stuff" bring about memories of their youthful pursuits of hot love?  Or were they like me and the only hot stuff they were thinking about was sitting on their plates?        


Wednesday, January 31, 2018

On My First Half Century: Maiden, Mother, Crone

The other day I celebrated my 50th birthday.  I had fretted about it for several months prior, just trying to grapple with the whole concept of having lived a half century and getting older and considering that I most likely had much less than another half century of living to come.  But I feel fine now.  I mean, what else would I do?  I'm happy for each new day I'm given even though sometimes I complain or worry about generally trivial things.  Life is good.

When I first started this blog I was in my mid-thirties, my children were still quite young and the future was still wide open, at least in my mind.  I have lived a large quantity of experience in these last dozen years.  Most of my intensive mothering life has happened as my children are now young adults.  My youngest will turn 18 later this year, and that freaks me out almost more than my own turning 50!  As mothering goes, the hardest part for me was about the time when my previous blogging slowed significantly.  I just had less time to write as my family needed more of my attention.  The kids were involved in school band, and my oldest particularly excelled and required much more of my involvement with his success and extra activities.  I absolutely love that I got to be his mom during all of his experiences and accomplishments.  I've enjoyed my teenaged children most of all their growing up stages.  

To be totally honest, motherhood was a bit of a struggle for me at the beginning.  I loved my babies more than anything, but it was so hard for me to reconcile my maidenhood and motherhood aspects.  By maidenhood I mean the youthful independence and freedom of self that comes from not having the responsibility for another's life and well-being.  Losing my own mother to cancer less than a year after becoming a mother myself was especially difficult.  I had no guidance and no motherly direction or support.  I was on my own and had to just figure it out.  Books were of little help, frankly, because every child and family is a bit different and no "authority" of parenting and mothering fits everyone.  I did get help from my mother-in-law, but that was more relief than anything else because she would babysit while I tried to keep my sanity.  Those breaks allowed my inner Maiden some time to finish some of the things she needed to do before passing the full-time baton on to the Mother.  Blogging was one of those things, as was dabbling in digital artwork and physics and some other random interests.  Eventually, life demanded a full-time Mother so the Maiden laid to rest in hibernation.    


(Gustav Klimt, "The Three Stages of Woman")

All females have these three stages of life - maiden, mother, and crone.  The youthful Maiden will surrender to the Mother as life requires us to focus on new roles, needs, and goals. And as the Mother's responsibilities of raising children into adulthood are fulfilled the Crone is allowed to emerge.  But all three aspects co-exist within all females throughout their lives.  It's just that the changing demands and expectations of life will require the prominence of one over the others.  Oftentimes in young girls the Crone will be there in the back of the mind with her wisdom and intuition.  She can also be there for the Mother.  I think my innate Crone helped somewhat in replacing my own mother when I was just a young mother myself.  As my Mother aspect has grown and matured the Crone is emerging with a renewed sense of Maiden-like freedom from the heavy responsibilities of young motherhood.  Once a Mother, always a Mother, but once the children are grown we can again begin to look at our own hopes, dreams, and goals.  I'm not saying that mothers can't have their own lives.  That is not my point at all.  This is just the psycho-social-spiritual idea of changing stages of female development throughout life.

So now that I have turned 50 I've decided that I am glad to welcome the Crone.  The truth is the Crone has been eagerly awaiting for her time to shine.  I've always liked my prematurely graying hair.  I have already accepted the physical changes that come with "middle-age."  I really could not care less about being sexually appealing to every man I meet.  The Maiden's need to be desired in that way has expired, thankfully, and what a relief it is.  There is a lot time and energy gained with the freedom from constant sexual thought.  I don't know if men ever have that freedom even at an advanced age.  It is an idea that my youthful Maiden certainly would have difficulty understanding or even seeing as normal and acceptable.  But there are stages of to our lives and normal changes in desired activities.  Just as little girls eventually lose interest in their dolls and toys, it is normal for grown women to lose the need for other youthful impulses and activities.  I do worry that my husband misses the sexually spirited Maiden/Mother aspects, but good lord, it's not like he didn't have many many years of fulfillment and if he didn't get enough then that's his own damned fault.  He got the best of my youth and beauty and vitality, and now he needs to honor his vows to make the best of what is left of me.

Our society worships sex and its obsession with youthful virility has caused widespread depression, divorce, and other dysphoria and dysfunctional aging.  The whole "anti-aging" industry is worthy of its own damning blog entry.  The measures people take in attempting to recapture or artificially maintain some unrealistic ideal of youth and sexual prowess are costing too much in money as well as healthy aging.  To each his own, I suppose, as long as those who refuse to accept the natural life stages don't judge and mistreat those of us who are fascinated and enthusiastic about getting to know all of the wealth of experience that our changing lives provide.  This hard-won wisdom is something our world desperately needs in these days of instant gratification and virtual reality.  The arrival of the Crone and her age's cogent perception, intuition, and testimony are welcome in my life.

The one life experience I hope to enjoy before my time is finished is to be a grandmother - the perfect blend of Mother and Crone with a little Maiden thrown in too sometimes.  My own mother was a reluctant grandmother who feared and rejected the Crone aspect of herself.  Her favorite scene from the movie "Terms of Endearment" is the one where Shirley MacClaine's character screams "Why should I be happy about being a grandmother?!?"



I really don't know why being a grandmother seemed so objectionable to her other than that she associated it with being old.  It's terrible and ironic that she died at a young 54 and less than a year after becoming a grandmother for the second time with the birth of my oldest son.  Her first was 11 years before when my sister had her son.  By the time I had my first baby my mother had been a grandmother for quite some time, but she still seemed reluctant and even a bit uninterested.  She had her job and didn't have time to babysit or just come and help me learn to be a mom.  As an early feminist she generally put her needs first.  Probably part of my embracing of the Crone is in opposition to the way my mother approached aging.  She almost seemed relieved that cancer would take her before she had to get very old.  That just seems sad to me and maybe the two decades without her have hardened my memories of her.  Maybe my mother just never learned to reconcile her own Maiden, Mother, and Crone aspects.  But I do know that I want to live much longer than she did and I will accept whatever aging brings me in exchange for the time to continue to enjoy my children and hopefully their children.

So here's to another half century, or at least another quarter century!  

Friday, January 19, 2018

I Can't Quit You Baby

"Well, I can't quit you baby
But I got to put you down a little while"

-Willie Dixon 



I really, really, really would like to quit In-Your-Face-book, but it unfortunately has become an almost vital outlet of communication in our world.  It is pretty useful in getting party invitations and other social information distributed quickly and easily, but I do hate all the other garbage that swirls around the bits of important stuff.  Yes, I've contributed my share of political crap to the mess, and I'm sure that more than half of the "friends" on my list have either unfollowed or otherwise filtered me out of their feeds.  What kind of friendship is that?  But I have unfollowed and filtered out people too, and I don't really feel any guilt about it because I've finally admitted that I am not an introvert but a misanthrope.  I bet a lot of self-proclaimed introverts are actually not introverts at all, but are, like me, those who just pretty much dislike most other people.  There do seem to be a lot of loud introverts on Facebook - so many memes proclaiming introversion and how to "deal" with it and so forth.  Well, screw that.  It's just another politically correct term for misanthropic and antisocial tendencies.  


Facebook is all the worst of high school, and I hated high school too.  I do have a few real friends and people I truly care for and whose company I enjoy online and in real life.  But sometimes it really strains positive relationships when we have to see the snarky, hostile comments that our friends make about people and issues that we might care about, even when those comments aren't meant for us.  It's like reading the worst entries in our friends' diaries.  Facebook puts all of those things In-Your-Face and that has fostered a huge increase in sarcasm, passive-aggressiveness, and paranoia.  And on the other hand are the braggarts and boasters who try to make their lives and relationships look perfect.  I know some people use Facebook as a kind of accountability journal so that they can keep up with tasks and responsibilities, but sometimes it looks like boasting.  And then there are the couples who seem to put all their love on Facebook and brag about every aspect of their partner and relationship.  It can be nice to have public validation and recognition, but I have to wonder about the real health of a relationship that measures itself by its Facebook presence.  

I've always been a bit antisocial, and today's prevalence of "social media" has been a struggle and challenge.  The antisocial feelings have always been a defensive response to the meanness and ignorance of people in general, and now our society has become even more hostile towards those of us who don't fall lockstep into the common mindset.  I've found myself severely self-censoring ever since Trump was elected because the world has become so hostile towards anyone who thinks for herself and questions the validity and reliability of mass media.  I cancelled my NYT subscription because every time I read an article a day or more after initial publication there were notes of correction where they had failed to adequately fact-check, edit, and/or proofread the original articles.  There's no excuse for that kind of incompetence, especially at that level.  Journalism has become a sad joke of unacceptable lack of quality and accountability.  Anyone who looks truly objectively at what is happening will have to admit that "fake news" is a real thing, and that it is an enemy of free people because it is seeking to control and manipulate the narrative and create its own reality instead of reflecting the actual reality.  We had hoped that Trump's election despite all the horribly wrong polls predicting otherwise would have opened more eyes to the problem of fake news and the media trying to create reality instead of reporting it.  But I guess people love their blinders and don't want to admit that they were fooled by a bunch of unscrupulous "journalists" who have abused the concept of free press to their own ends.  That is the real danger in this fake news movement - it truly does weaken the freedom of expression and the trust in the validity of information.  I would consider that an enemy of the people just as much as anyone else who abuses their power and position for personal gain or for the effect of weakening the people's chosen leadership.  I have been truly afraid of expressing my support for Trump because of the vicious attacks agains anyone who stands up and defends him. Accusations of "racist" are the witch-hunt of today.  The last time I was so afraid to speak my mind was in high school, but at least back then it was only the class bullies who could hurt me.  Now it is the whole of the internet and Facebook itself that can label and punish me for saying something that others might not like.  No wonder the antisocial feelings and paranoia are rising in me and many others.  

Although I think about quitting Facebook I most likely won't, more due to my hoarding tendencies than to social obligation.  After all I still have my landline phone (another thing I hate - talking on the phone).  I keep it because it might need it someday - the typical justification of all hoarders for their keeping everything.  I will keep Facebook because I will need it sometimes to communicate and to send birthday and holiday greetings.  Eventually, Facebook will be as relevant as the landline phone, and even then I'll probably still hate it.  To the friends and loved ones who might find these words, please don't take them personally, but I'm guessing you already knew these things anyway.

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Obamacare, Mental Health, and Guns

This is directly from the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare, iow):

PROTECTION OF SECOND AMENDMENT GUN RIGHTS.—As
added by section 10101(e)(2) 
‘‘(1) WELLNESS AND PREVENTION PROGRAMS.—A wellness and health promotion activity implemented under subsection (a)(1)(D) may not require the disclosure or collection of any information relating to—
‘‘(A) the presence or storage of a lawfully-possessed firearm or ammunition in the residence or on the property of an individual; or
‘‘(B) the lawful use, possession, or storage of a firearm or ammunition by an individual. 
‘‘(2) LIMITATION ON DATA COLLECTION.—None of the authorities provided to the Secretary under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act or an amendment made by that Act shall be construed to authorize or may be used for the collection of any information relating to—
‘‘(A) the lawful ownership or possession of a firearm or ammunition;
‘‘(B) the lawful use of a firearm or ammunition; or
‘‘(C) the lawful storage of a firearm or ammunition. 
‘‘(3) LIMITATION ON DATABASES OR DATA BANKS.—None of the authorities provided to the Secretary under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act or an amendment made by that Act shall be construed to authorize or may be used to maintain records of individual ownership or possession of a
firearm or ammunition.

http://housedocs.house.gov/energycommerce/ppacacon.pdf …  Page 20

So, attention: all you TV talking heads and stupid politicians who passed a law that you didn't read,

Before you go spouting off about "what to do" about the "mentally ill" being able to "get/have guns" do a little research!  Lord have mercy.  I'm just a middle-aged, nobody-reckneck housewife and don't get paid to look up this stuff and don't have assistants or interns or "fact-checkers" to help me out.  Do your freakin' jobs already!   

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Necessary to the Security of a Free State

A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed. 

What it says and really means is that individuals' rights to keep and use weapons shall not be taken away or reduced because the security of a FREE state depends on the government's military powers being balanced by a citizenry that is capable of defending itself from a government that has become oppressive, like the one that the Revolution defeated.          


Friday, October 05, 2012

Don't Cry for Big Bird - He's Rich!

According to the financial statement of Sesame Workshop their total revenue for 2009 (most recent year available) was a whopping $130,606,413.  Don't believe all the whiny "poor" Big Bird nonsense being spouted by mindless bots in response to Mitt Romney's statement about ending federal funding for PBS.  But back to the numbers for a moment, according to USAspending.gov Sesame Workshop received $5,000,000 in federal funding in 2009.  Clearly, Big Bird isn't really relying on federal funding for his income.  I think maybe he needs to be audited if he's trying to convince people otherwise.  Another interesting figure from their 2009 form 990 Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax (because it's supposed to be a 'non-profit' organization) is that the list of highest compensated officers, directors, employees totals well over $5,000,000.





Can I get a job at Sesame Street?  They sure do pay well for a non-profit.

So don't cry for Big Bird because he's looking a lot like a top 1% greedy rich guy.  He sure as heck doesn't need any of my money!  And how about that writer making $658,789?  Dang, I wonder how his personal tax rate compares to Romney's.

 
Typical street thug.