Sunday, November 14, 2004

some inconsistencies I've noticed...

I heard on TV the other day about "50 million Americans who
don't have access to health care". The statement is simply
a lie. By law emergency rooms can not deny access.
I think what they were trying to say is 50 million Americans
aren't covered by health insurance. That though, is also
not what it seems. Many people don't want health issurance,
they self-insure, others decide it is too expensive and take the
risk themselves, and still others decide they would rather their
kids have $125 Air Jordan shoes, cable TV and flip-top camera
cell phones.

Since the election, I've noticed a number of Democrat losers
whine that Bush voters are ignorant or don't know the "facts".
The implication being that if they just knew, they would have
certainly voted for Kerry.
These same losers earlier complained that their voters are to
stupid to know how and when to register, where to vote and
how to vote or even read the ballot.
My take then is that no matter who you voted for, many
Democrats think you're stupid.

Yassar Arafat lived and died a terrorist. He was corrupt as
well, but that didn't start until the money start flowing his way.
How can one "pay their respects" so such an animal?
What is there to respect? That he lasted long enough to
die of natural causes instead of dying from "lead poisoning"
long ago? That he sent others to kill women and children at
bus stops? That he denied "his people" peace and security?
The only person the civilized world should have sent to his
funeral, was someone to make damn sure the monster was
dead.

comments on parenting

I think we should write a book...you know if you are part of the we...the title...
"Good Advice Your Kids Could Use, Since Mine Just Ignore It"

Let's start with some of the things I have learned over the years.
First there are three levels of intelligence.
1. Stupid, you don't learn from your mistakes
2. Average, you learn from your mistakes.
3. Smart, you learn from other's mistakes

Of course level 2 breaks down into sub-levels A and B.
A. You generalize what you learn, i.e. "Hey, I put my hand on the burner,
it was hot, maybe the other burner could be hot too"
B. You only learn the specific lesson at hand, i.e. I put my hand on the
burner, it was hot. I put my hand on the other burner, it was hot, and in
the case of our stove, there are four burners, so the lesson is learned
four times.

I suspect my oldest son is in category 2B. I'm not sure, but I also suspect
that a lot of other 18 year olds keep him company in that particular
category.

One of the reasons I believe many kids fall into the 2B category, no matter
how many times their parents are proven right, the teenagers continue to
1. think we're stupid, and therefore
2. ignore our advice.
This proves that they are not in category 3, Lord knows we've made heaps
of mistakes, but the kids sure don't seem to want to learn from them.
I think it also proves that the kids aren't in category 2A, you'd think they
would see, "hey my parents were right about that, maybe they are right
about this..." In fact, it might be more accurate to say, "hey my parents
were right about these 10 things, maybe they are right about this thing
here". Nope. I guess they think we're just lucky...EVERY DAMN TIME!
If I was that lucky kid, I'd be buying lottery tickets!

I'll get to the actual advice in another blog...

Saturday, November 06, 2004

Why companies who outsource overseas lose money

Companies can't possibly be saving money outsourcing their tech support
overseas.

No way, no how.

Here is my story, part of which is a continuation of the computer dying.
I will pick on two companies, HP and VONAGE, but rest assured that they
are not alone.

HP- Our family has 3 HP laptops, a HP digital camera and one of their
desktops, which has been the subject of earlier blogs.
You could correctly guess that I have been generally pleased with HP
products.

In the course of trying to get the desktop up and running (its still not
in case you care) I have had to deal with HP support via telephone. The
first instance, when I finally talked to a human, she was what I say (euphamistically) a "non-native english speaker", henceforth NNES.
Speaking plainly...she could barely understand american english, and she
could barely speak english at all. Having travelled a bit, I'd guess she
is from (and may still be there) the asian subcontinent...Pakistan,
India or Bangladesh. The conversation took a long time, probably a little
over 30 minutes. I needed to have HP send me recovery disks.

A few days later, the FEDEX package arrives...it is labelled with the correct
address, but a person who is not me. Bottom line, I can't take delivery of
the package. So now I wade through voice automated hell to get the privilege
of speaking with another NNES. I'm trying to explain the problem, after a
while, again I'd guess 30 minutes or so, the NNES gives up and passes me on
to a american speaking...AMERICAN! Holy cow! and everything was
straightened out in just a few minutes.

VONAGE a IP phone company that competes with Packet8 (which after this
experience I HIGHLY recommend over VONAGE if you just want simple phone
service). Friends of ours got the VONAGE phone. I spent a couple hours
at their house a week ago trying to get it working with no real luck. Last
night, I went back to finish the task. At my wits end, I call VONAGE tech
support (ironically using my Packet8 phone:). It takes a couple tries to get
through at all, when I get a NNES, probably from the same part of the world...
maybe HP and VONAGE share a call center... I spent well over an hour on the
phone with this guy. His pronunciation is so bad, I can't understand him when
he asks me to do a 'tracert' so he spells it...I can't even understand him
saying the alphabet (and he thinks I don't know what a 'tracert' is, after
I've already ripped thru various commands, IP settings etc.without his
prompting). I'd guess just the tracert thing lasted at least 10 minutes.
Anyway, after 2 1/2 hrs, of which at least an hour was on the phone
with this guy, I get the thing working.

Now, here is why these companies can't possibly be saving money with these
out-sourced call centers. In HP's case, they used about 1 man hour to do
something that with a native english speaker took 10 minutes...they have to
be paying the NNES a mere 16% of what they pay an American to break even...
and that is not counting...
- they incurred the cost of the incorrect shipment
- they lost some of my "goodwill" which is hard to put a value on.
- the expense of setting up an overseas call center
- including risks inherent in basing operations overseas, such as:
- political instability
- currency/banking instability

The numbers for VONAGE work out similarly, I think we could have solved the
problem in about 15 minutes with a native american english speaker as the
tech. Plus, in this case the goodwill costs are measurable and HUGE!
I recently wrote a small article in a newsletter about the great success
we've had with our IP phone. A few people that have bought IP phones as a
result and a large number have asked more specifically what to get etc. I
have recommended the Packet8 over VONAGE in all cases. I know at least 2
people have bought Packet8 and another 2 or 3 are seriously considering it
because of my article and after talking with me. Each one of those people,
if they end up having the sucess with Packet8 that I have had, is very likely
to recommend the service to others, especially as they rotate to other overseas
assignments. VONAGE lost real business, real money for 2 simple reasons,
their product is difficult to install compared to the competitor, which makes
it likely you will have to talk to tech support...and they barely speak
english.

Saturday, October 16, 2004

Letter to the editor

The internet and technology are great...have I said that before?
Anyway, I get to read newspapers from all over the world, and
one I frequently read is the Cincinnati Enquirer...I grew up there.
When I first connected up to the internet (1997), I'd read papers
from places I'd lived, I'd visited, or where something interesting
was happening. Frequently an article would catch my eye and
ruffle my feathers, and I'd quickly (well for me, 30 wpm is quickly,
Elesa probably doesn't think so at 100+ correct spelling and
grammer wpm). Anyway, I eventually got a life, or the novelty
wore off, and I can't remember the last time I wrote to an editor.
Although, thinking about it, I have written Senators, congressmen/
women , a couple of radio talk show hosts, and an occassional individual
newspaper columnist in the past year.

Well today an article caught my eye
<http://www.enquirer.com/editions/2004/10/15/loc_islamic15.html>
It's not the first time I've seen articles, or pieces on television with
this general tone. If you don't feel like reading the article, the
general tone is, Islam is so misunderstood, its a peaceful religion etc.
The news pieces generally use a U.S. source and examples. This time,
"I couldn't take it anymore", and I wrote the following letter...(another
cool thing about the internet, if they don't publish my letter, I can!)


Letter to the Editor, Cincinnati Enquirer:

I was born and raised in Cincinnati, but as an adult, I have travelled
extensively throughout the world. Unfortunately this article (and the
Islamic Center) aim to perpetuate the myth that Muslims and Islam
in the U.S. are representative of Muslims and Islam the world over.
Nothing could be further from the truth.

The average Muslim is dirt poor by U.S. standards, is far younger than
the U.S. average, and so poorly educated, they are likely to be illiterate
(far more so if female). The average Muslim lives in a country like Pakistan
(about 13% of world's Muslims), Indonesia (over 17%), Bangladesh (over
10%), not the U.S. nor even the Middle East (another myth). The most
populous Arabic country, Egypt only accounts for about 6%. But in ANY
of these cases, the per capita GDP is in the neighborhood of $2000 or in
some cases far less. Literacy rates are reported as less that 50% for
Pakistan and Bangledesh (and that is being generous).

Abaya (the robe part of the clothing) is essentially required in Saudi Arabia
(1.5%) even for visiting western Christian women. Once you add in the
number (a number that is growing) of women wearing Burqa in Afghanistan
(2.4%), Pakistan, Turkey (5.6%), Malaysia (1.3%, and where after a string of
rapes and murders in 2003 there were calls for all women to be covered),
Iran (5.7%) and Iraq (2%), its quite evident that significantly more than
"less than one-half of 1 percent of Muslim women worldwide wear the burka"
as the article states. In many cases, but unfortunately not all, the article is
correct when it states "Those who wear a hajab - scarf - do so for modesty".
In far to many countries and cases these days, the abaya, burqa, and hajib
have become symbols of totalitarian oppression.

Islam in the United States may be a "non-violent religion that respects peace",
I've never been to a mosque in the U.S. to be able to say otherwise. However,
in a number of the countries mentioned above, I have personally heard the loud
speakers from the mosques blare, I've read the newspapers, and seen their TV
...it was not "peace love and understanding" blaring, they were not kind
words that I read, and it was not a pretty picture on the television.

All percentages after a country name are the approximate percentage of the
world's Muslim population in that country.
The United States accounts for less than 1/10 of 1% of the world's Muslim
population.

Last, I'd like to point out that Islam does not have a monopoly on illiteracy or
poverty. Illiteracy and poverty abound in much of the world, no matter what
the religion.

Sincerely
John Labanz

Friday, October 01, 2004


war cemetery in winter Posted by Hello

still bummed...

it's the hard drive...wouldn't be too big of deal except my computer
did not come with "recovery disks". I don't know that they still do
it, but in the early days of XP, you were never going to need recovery
disks again, so manufacturers did not supply the disks and instead
hid a recovery routine and the basic load of software on the computer's
hard drive....which is now dead, on an otherwise decent computer,
512 Mbytes RAM, 19" monitor etc. all useless without a harddrive
and an operating system.

I've started the process of trying to get recovery disks from HP.
Its a long tedious process...the web page ends up sending you in
a loop, if you need recovery disks, you click on a customer service
link, its link for recovery disks sends you back to the page about
recovery disks, where you can click on a link that sends you to
customer service...and back....and forth. The "voice activated"
customer service phone line is not much better...I think at the
4th or 5th level I spoke to a human, unfortunately she wasn't in
this hemisphere, and English wasn't even her second language.
She seemed to know what to do though...forwarded my call to
a section that is only open "business hours", and the recording
was kind enough to tell me so before it cut the line. I'm now in
the midst of step 3 of this process, I tried to email tech support,
all I want is recovery disks...

In the meantime, Elesa was kind enough (or unfortunate enough)
to take a nap at one point this weekend, at which point I loaded
my scanner software on her laptop. It has been lots of fun :)

anyway, I'm posting one of my scans...in memory of the hard drive.

Monday, September 20, 2004

bummed out (and whining about it)

I got my fancy scanner Friday, got home from work eager to scan
some of my best slides, learn a little about photoshop and generally
mess around with it between unpacking chores we still have left
to do...

I put the computer desk together (which counted as a unpacking chore)
read some of the scanner manuals (messing around)
found all the computer parts and put it together (two birds, one task)
broke down and put some of the empty boxes out in the garage (doesn't
sound like much to you, but you didn't have 390+ boxes in your house last
monday, did you?, unpacking chore)
meanwhile, booted up the computer...and the downward spiral began...
computer wasn't quite working right, incredibly slow.
So I wiped out all the programs the kids have added over the four years
or so we've had it, ran spybot etc.
computer got slower...
"How slow?" you ask...
it would take an hour to boot up, maybe 3-4 minutes to show me the
"start" menu after clicking on it.

So I thought about it (can't remember the chores at this point...I think
it was hanging pictures, or maybe the bird cage in the atrium)
and said (in my head), "well I'll just format the drive, go back to the
factory settings, the original software, wipe EVERYTHING bye bye and
start over. It took a LONG time, and when the little XP man started
talking at 2 am Sat morning about a tour of XP, Elesa almost hit her head
on the ceiling.

In the morning (Sat) it was even slower.
I won't bore you anymore with a blow by blow, as to what was
tried, done, not done, checked, run etc.
Suffice it to say that in the end (if I am at an end???)
Saturday evening, I decided to run chkdsk figuring it can't be software
because by now I've pretty much wiped everything out.
I started chkdsk well over 24 hrs ago...its still running...

Elesa is sympathetic, "if you can't get it working right, buy a new one".
(as a guy, I gotta love that attitude (and her!)).
Still, something ain't right with the world when dad has to ask to
borrow the kids' computers. And ultimately, I'm bummed because
all the time I've spent trying to just get the computer running should
have been spent playing with my new scanner.

Now another work week is starting, and I have neither, I'm bummed
and I'm whining.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

my new toy

I have a keen interest in photography...and just the other
day, someone who is moving had a nice slide/negative scanner
for a mere $20, I was already going to get one anyway (and
in fact, I have since placed one on order). But for $20,
I mean it was a deal, especially if it works. Well, after
some messing with getting XP drivers, then getting them
to actually work, I now have a HP PhotoSmart S20 with 2400 dpi
optical resolution...not bad for 20 bucks. I'm hoping to
make my photography a much more serious hobby, something I
have not really forced myself to find the time for when I
was in Maryland. In Hawaii, I tried to spend at least one
evening a week in the darkroom...now I can spend every
evening on the computer...scanning!

a couple of practice photos from my first scanning efforts...I may need more practice with the publishing than the scanner... Posted by Hello


Thursday, September 09, 2004

Terrorist or freedom fighter? and the course of History

Maybe the Chechens, or the Palestinians, or the Kurds, and
certainly the Iraqis, have a legitimate cause, a country or
"homeland" of their own, free from outside or "imperialist"
influence. Where these "freedom fighters" clearly cross the
line and become terrorists, worthy of no one's respect is when
they kill randomly for the sole purpose of causing terror and
chaos.

Children in a school are not a legitimate target,
Clerks and school kids on a bus are not a legitimate target,
A disco is not a legitimate target
A non-military truck driver delivering medicine to a hospital
is not a legitimate target.
A soldier is a legitimate target.
A tank is a reasonable target,
I would even go so far as to say the political leaders of the
"occupying" force are reasonable targets,
To have any hope of success, the freedom fighter needs to be
able to take the fight to the enemy,
so I'd think that a military installation in Turkey would be a
legitimate target for Kurdish "freedom fighters"...you can
extrapolate from there...but yes, that would make the Pentagon
a valid target.
(None of this would legitimize Al Quaida actions against any
target, military or civilian. Al Quaida just basically wants to
kill lots of people because these people aren't like them
and don't want to live like them. Al Quaida isn't fighting for
a homeland, nor for rights, but for hatred of those different
from them)

What has happened to get set the world all askew?...
where mothers and their children have become targets in war?

I think it all began once terrorism began to pay, once terrorists
were rewarded...

In 1972 a bunch of Palestinian terrorists took Olympic
athletes hostage and killed them...the civilized world
did not react by hunting every single one down and
exterminating the disease, no instead, some of that
vermin is now treated as "statesmen"...terrorism pays,
the terrorist leaders are ultimately treated with esteem.

and once the civilized human world began to call actions that
were clearly not terrorism, "terrorism"

Calling an ambush of a military vehicle patrolling recently
captured territory "terrorism" for politcal impact, in an
attempt to leverage the disgust and horror that went with
the word "terrorism", has caused the word to lose its edge....
now anytime an action is called terrorism some are likely to
assume its just another "spin", part of a Big Lie.

What can be done to free the world of terrorists and their acts?
Hunt the vermin down and exterminate them with no mercy.
No negotiation - ever. If hostages are taken, attempt a rescue as
soon as forces can be put in place.
Be clear and concise as to what acts are called terrorism. There
are no shades of gray, if you see gray, you are not looking clearly
enough...look close enough and you will see the pixels are black
and white. The military is a reasonable target and we must
accept that. A children's hospital, even of the enemy or
occupying force, is not.

But doing those two things alone is unlikely to stop terrorism.

It is ironic that the United States and other advanced military
powers have developed incredibly destructive, yet precise
weapons of war, allowing "war" to be fought with minimal
"collateral" damage, minimal civilian casualties. It ironic that
when non-combatants are injured or killed by one of these
advanced military powers, its big news, restitution is sometimes
made, inquiries are held, military commanders lose their job.

Its ironic, for our enemies show us no such consideration, in
fact they purposely kill as many civilians, children and women
included, as they can.

Perhaps we should not be so discriminate, not so precise, maybe
take the fight to their neighborhood like they've brought it to
ours, where it can be their mother, daughter, little brother
threatened in the crossfire.

I'm sure someone is Russia is thinking now thoughts similar to
what I thought after 9/11...why do we have these nuclear
weapons if we can't/won't use them to defend ourselves and our
children? Maybe we should be like King Solomon in the bible
with the dispute over a baby, make it so the terrorists have
nothing to fight for except a nuclear wasteland. The world could
practice with Kashmir, nuke it, then India and Pakistan would
have nothing to fight over. If that works, perhaps Palestine.

Unfortunately, historically it seems that the only victories that
have not come back to haunt the victors, have been the absolute
victories. Romans were victorious over Carthage...they raised it
and salted the earth. We don't see Carthinagens on CNN blowing
up bus stops for a homeland. European settlers of Tasmania,
hunted down and killed all the aboriginals, again the Hobart
chocolate factory has not been suffered a rocket attack anytime
recently. Most everything else has turned out like World War I...
...which basically caused World War II
... which led to the Cold War
which leads to what no one yet knows...
and now a different, longer term cycle based more on religion and
culture (as opposed to states/territory) is again taking the stage on
the forefront of history and perhaps the west (including Russia)
somehow instinctively knows this and dare not give that enemy a
foothold in the Chechnaya's and Palestine's of the world.

Different but the same...

This is another reflection on marriage... 9/4

Background: those who know what Myers-Briggs (MBTI) is,
Elesa and I are polar opposites...especially, when it comes to
the T vs F. I have consistently through the years scored a
perfect T (rational Thought as the basis of my decisions) while
my significant other of the appropriate sex, (I'm told a that's
the new phrase) is a pretty much a perfect F (irrational Feelings
as the basis of decisions). This, of course never causes conflict but...
Sometimes we (as in my wife and I) get into a discussion, it
basically goes like this:
We don't have anything in common
Yes we do
Like what
Well, the kids...
But what happens when they leave.
We like to read
But you don't like the same books I like, and if we both sit here
and read that's hardly interaction
Well, we play games...
and the discussion dwindles away...we're both working on a book :)

Anyway, I've recently noticed that we have way more in common
than we sometimes imagine and that MBTI covers just a small
facet of our personalities.
Over the summer time, a number of families move into/out of
the embassy communities. We came here on the same plane as
another couple. Similar age, family situation, kids, dog, etc.
We've watched them adapt to life here, find a house, get the
kids in school, wait for their "stuff", just as they've seen us go
through the same.
The things that cause them stress, the things they choose to
complain about are so very different from what stresses us,
what we complain about.
Sometimes, after hearing one of their "whines" as it seems to
us, we just look at each other and we're both thinking (because
after 20 yrs, we KNOW what the other thinks, except of course
when we don't) "can they be serious? I mean who could possibly
care?"

Our threshold for what is worth complaining about seems so
different when we're by ourselves, and have a complaint about
each other. Yet, once we look outside our (I'm struggling here to
avoid the 'R' word) ....we'll just skip the 'our'...Yet, once we look
outside, at others, their complaints, stress points etc. are truly
different. In that light, it is easy to see how much Elesa and I
have in common.

Battles others engage in so earnestly, are battles neither I nor
Elesa would ever choose to fight, and I'm sure others look at us
in a similar manner, as we fight battles, or avoid them, there
are other couples are looking at each other, knowing their
partner is thinking..."can they be serious? I mean why let
themselves be taken like that?"

Reversion

catching up, originally typed this up 9/3

We just passed the 20 year mark on our marriage. I'm not sure
which of us should be nominated for sainthood. To last 20 years
at anything, much less living side by side with someone requires
a lot of work and compromise. We've learned to accommodate,
change, ignore, pick our fights (as in is this something to worth
going down in flames over).etc.

Some of the things that didn't meet the my threshold over the
years... (I'm sure Elesa has an extensive list of her own, because
despite my public personna, I'm not perfect)...
squeezing the toothpaste in the middle...
not emptying the car of stuff when she gets out...
half drank drinks left around...

Other habits we changed in the spirit of love, (its easier of course
to remember the habits I've changed, but I will give Elesa her due),
Some that have changed:
toilet seat...DOWN (me)
toilet seat...down quietly (Elesa)
if the gas tank is empty, get gas (Elesa)
if you can't sleep, don't ask if I'm sleeping (I was) (Elesa)

Somethings remain a stalemate, quietly accepted by each,
basically the rule is, if you want the other person to do it fine,
but if you want it done "your way" do it yourself.
trimming bushes is a good example,
(but now we have a gardener)

Now to the reason behind all this blog...we both like ice...
I like lots of ice in my drinks and so does the whole family,
Elesa included.
One of those "irritants" of married life...Elesa used to steal
the ice out of the trays, and horror of horrors, would fail to
refill the tray. Sometime in the neighborhood of our 15th year
together, Elesa changed that habit, perhaps because I
was frequently gone for extended periods of time on business
and if she didn't make ice, she had none. Then we bought a
new house, which came with a refridgerator/freezer with an
automatic ice maker...

Now we have moved again. I think we have an automatic ice
maker, but its not hooked up, the tap water is not potable.
We've reverted to the trays....and Elesa has reverted....
to stealing the ice!

Saturday, August 28, 2004

rambles and rambles

So much to say so little time....

should I talk about the security guard that got shot and killed
last week guarding one of the U.S. facilities here? We drove
by on the way to work as the ambulance pulled up. He died
later that day...for trying to help a woman being mugged for her
laptop....

or the electricity here...the housing is so nice, but I wonder
about the electricity, light bulbs burn out as fast as you
replace them. The current is a bit unstable and the electricity
will drop out altogether for a few minutes every couple days,
the battery alarm clock will be my future...

or that everything takes so long...I may have internet again
for the family...someday, if not soon enough the family may
revolt....

I can´t get our tv working, but I don´t have time, nor a U.S.
phone number to call from to fix it, if that will even be possible...

I´ve gotten the hang of driving, Elesa insists I´m too aggressive,
but she has not volunteered to wait until the traffic dies down
at 2 am before we pull out into an intersection either. The one-way
streets remain a challenge, but I´m to the point I have a pretty good
idea which direction a street is going to go...but how far remains a
mystery until I actually take it...discontinuity seems to be a theme
with street design around here...

The keys and cages to get into and out of housing here are incredible.
I think it could get you down, but I´ve decided that the huge windows
in our house that offer spectacular views of the volcano...once you look
past the ironwork bars...offer us a sort of mosaic or patchwork view of
the world outside, this rectangle has the flowers, that one has clouds,
another the volcano top, and when you put it all together, its still a
great view. Plus, its not the jail it seems....not many jails do the inmates
have the keys...

there are hummingbirds, I´ve seen a bunch, even in our backyard,
I can´t wait until our household goods (HHG) shipment arrives and
I can set up my feeders....

a few comments on the world outside, keeping in mind that I
have limited internet access, no TV and no english newspapers...
missed the olympics (not that I´m a big fan though, I find the
U.S. network coverage terrible),
don´t know and frankly don´t care a whole lot about an election that is going
on, I honestly see very little difference anymore between the major parties
both spend tax money way too freely, just a different emphasis on what it
is wasted on, and neither has expressed an interest in protecting the U.S.
borders...

that´s all folks...

Friday, August 13, 2004

jeff in a suit

Anyone that knows me, knows I'm most comfortable in jeans and a casual shirt.
And I like to be comfortable. I wore a tie all through grade school and then
high school, and really have only worn one a handful of times since, like sisters'
weddings. In fact, I think I went 10 years only wearing a tie once, to a friend's
wedding in Germany, I had to buy one (and a shirt with real buttons and a collar)
for the big event. My basic feeling is that the tie is the one piece of evidence that
perhaps women truly rule the world. (In contrast, heels and hose suggest that
it is a male dominated world, although women have told me that heels
and hose are there merely to make men think they dominate the world, but I
ramble...)

My current suit was purchased in the summer of 1999, by my mother, with the
advise and consent of my wife and my mere presence. One shirt and two ties.
The occasion was my grandmother's funeral and the honor was clearly
appropriate. I can name every other time I have worn the suit; a high school
reunion, a father-daughter dance, and a friend's wedding (where photographic
evidence was obtained by paparazzi).

I can now add tonight to the list.

My wife and I were among those invited to the Ambassador's residence for
"a musical evening with the Symphony of the Americas".

I am uncomfortable enough in a suit, add the social niceties required in
situations like this, and you have me miles away from my comfort zone.
Anyway, the evening began with about a half hour of "socializing". You
talk with someone, but only for a minute or three and then move on...more
like musical chair socializing with 60 or so people. They must teach it in
Foreign Service School, and I never went there. All the men were in
conservative dark suits, a few of us (myself included) added a splash of color by
wearing a darker blue shirt. (I bought a few more shirts with buttons and collars
about a month ago in anticipation of my new job...but still two ties...I may be
needing more ties soon though). The women's dress was much more varied.

At the appointed time...like when the Ambassador said so, we all went into a
side room and took our seats. A group of about 18 Czech and Slovak musicians,
about half of which were violinists, some cello, some bassists and a harpsichord
filed in and did a quick tune check of their instruments. I'm hot, (but my wife was
clever enough to sit us near a window), worried I might yawn and nod off, and
thinking "as much as I like live musical performances and classical music, can
this possibly be worth...wearing a suit?"

Fifteen seconds into the first piece, Arcangelo Corelli's Concerto Grosso
In D Major, Op 6, No.4, I had my answer...most definitely yes.
It was one of the finest classical musical performances I've heard, and I sat
enthralled for the next hour. It was nice to be so close. I could watch the
individual musicians fingers, expressions and hear the slight difference
in the various violins (the guy with the thinning hair, his violin was a little
warmer sounding to me than the first violinist's, whose violin was a bit
bright). I thought at the time that it is not many people who get to sit
15 feet in front of the music like this, I also wondered if they could just
set up and play at my house for an hour or so every evening....

Then it was back to socializing chairs for another hour or so. We did
get to talk to some of the musicans. They seem to be having a good time,
but they have a gruelling schedule as they perform through Central
and South America. I believe tomorrow it is San Jose, Costa Rica.

The bottom line though...I'd wear a suit for them again, and that is a
pretty decent compliment in my own way.



Sunday, August 08, 2004

technology is great

We just moved to Guatemala, not even been here 48 hrs yet.
It has been a long, drawn out process since it started over 15
months ago with the decision to take this overseas job.

I'm 43 years old, I dragged my wife and 2 of 3 teenage children
along for this adventure. I learned to program computers using
card punch technology and card readers. As part of the bribery
process, so that the children might not mind leaving their friends
so much, I bought them each a laptop (and one for the wife!),
and set up a wireless lan. I would venture a guess that the computing
power in these 3 laptops, and the network capacity of the router
represents more computing power than existed in the whole world
when I was born.

I also bought a IP phone (packet8.net, check it out!). We lugged all
this stuff from hotel to hotel, to grandma's house, to the beach, another
hotel and finally to a Guatemalan hotel.
Each stop, I would do what I could to hook it all up. Some places more
successfully than others. The computers and the internet are my
kids link to their old friends, and the link used to meet new friends.
Today, my daughter finally got to meet in person, one of the girls who
will be attending the same school. They started talking as if they'd known
each other for years, they had been "chatting" via the internet for many
months
.
Other people already living here, sent us pictures of the area, pictures
of housing, information on schools, what to bring, and what not to bring.
Much of the school registration process was done via email. And now
that we are here, if we didn't bring something...we'll probably order it
off the internet.

I hooked up the IP phone to our router (which is plugged into the hotel's
DSL). We called back to family to tell them we had arrived safely. This
morning, I talked to the son we left behind (that is a blog all by itself). For
the most part, the connections are better than placing an overseas call
through the hotel's phone and the PBX, (as the landline telephone system
is known here.) The phone has a U.S. number. My parents and extended
family dial as if it is a local call. We call anywhere in the U.S. for the low
price of $19.95 a month and the inconvenience of dialing a 1 followed
by the entire 10-digit phone number. What a deal! I once was on an
extended business trip overseas and missed Thanksgiving. Our phone
bill was in the neighborhood of $1500, $9 per minute. ATT of course
would insist it was only $7 per minute, the rest was taxes.

When something can provide the instant information, easy
communication, and save me money like that, it is great.

Technology is great.

Thursday, August 05, 2004

our cities, our borders

I was listening to the radio driving around this evening and
heard the complaints about closing streets, checking cars
in our nation's capital due to the latest terrorism threats.
I thought...you know they have a point...why would we
try to control streets and access, in cities across the entire
country, yet make no effort to control our country's borders?
It has got to be cheaper and easier in the long run to stop the
invaders...at the border, as opposed to wait until they get in
position and then be forced to fight a war on our own turf.

If we are not willing to control the borders of our country,
will the U.S. remain a viable country in the the long run?
I don't think so.
For centuries, wars have been fought (and are being fought
today!) between countries trying to keep the integrity of their
borders. History has not been kind to countries that left their
borders unsecured, and even today other countries know that.
It is time our border are secured and we fight for the territorial
integrity of the United States of America.

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

blogger hell

I didn't know what to say...too much to spit out.
Then I was saved! It took me an hour to log in.
Blogger wouldn't acknowledge my password. I had to
"recover" my password, wait for the email. It sends
me a link to click on...I do...the computer freezes up
compliments of Microcrap. I get on another computer,
now the link won't work, it can only be clicked on once.
I reset again. It keeps sending me back to the login
page. The only thing that saves me from frustration
with it all...I didn't know what to say anyway. Mysteriously,
I get a third email with a link....I don't remember asking
a third time. I click, it works, maybe because I now have
something to say.

After a tough week (...my week is over, I'm moving tomorrow)
its far too much work to assemble something that is eloquent
(and not boring!) yet relaxed enough for a blog. As Anonymous
said earlier, it is a challenge to write anything, blog or book,
that doesn't induce yawns. I'd also like it to read as if it was
effortless to write (its not).

Last thought for myself, who is my audience? Do I blog for myself? To
some imaginary perfect world of audience? To "the choir" or to
the heathens? A tirade on taxes may stir some to a froth (count me
in that crowd) while inducing coma to most others. You can't
please all the people, and you can't fool all the people, because the
bottom line is; you can't reach all the people.

Monday, August 02, 2004

is blogging scream therapy for the masses?

I started thinking..almost always a bad sign...first about this blogging stuff...
that could be fun...
I can do that...
wonder if people would read it...
man could I get a load off my mind!!!

That last thought got me thinking some more. So much so, that at one point on an airplane a few months ago I filled a couple pages with possible "subjects" for my rants:
taxes
terrorism
religion
taxes
schools
politics
taxes
iraq
service at retail establishments
taxes
gay marriage

Besides the fixation on taxes, I basically had a list of topics butchered in any local newspaper on any given day in the U.S.A.
Topics that may be discussed at work.
(if your workplace is not so diverse as to make any topic beyond
the weather and the Redskins is too sensitive for discussion)
Topics that might be discussed outside with the neighbors.
(if you have even met them)
Topics that may prompt a letter to the editor of your paper.
(if you have the time and a stamp)
Topics that are the fodder for AM talk radio and Sunday morning TV shows
(that you don't have the time, the inclination or the patience to call in and be on hold for 26 minutes just to have the host shout over your comments or cut you off for commericial break)

I think most people have a need to have an opinion, not just express it. Why else would so many people have opinions about topics they know absolutely nothing about? When a person expresses an opinion, they want people to listen. I would go so far as to say many want to MAKE people listen. Especially those in the entertainment industry, who tend to confuse their right to free speech as a right to force everyone else to listen. Further confusion reins as they interpret others' failure to listen as censorship.

Expressing opinions vents a little steam on topics that rile you up. This day and age, you can't do that venting at work, with the neighbors, or to the media, but we do have blogs. I think blogs provide a valuable service, a sort of scream therapy for anyone with access to the internet. This makes the world, certainly McDonalds, post offices and workplaces in the U.S. a safer place.