Category Archives: rant

Why Do We Encourage Breeding?

This has been a long-standing pet peeve of mine, along with disproportionate emphasis on families (as opposed to individuals, people, humans, citizens), particularly by government and politicians.

Don’t Hate Me Now

I suppose I should start with a disclaimer,  lest I be thought of as some evil child-hater or something. I don’t hate children. I often like them, in fact. Of course that’s irrelevant because like them or not, if people stopped having children, it would mean the end of the human race. Nor do I hate parents. While I can’t understand what motivates some to want to have five, ten, twenty, or more children, I think everybody should have the right to raise children if they so chose, provided they are physically, emotionally, and financially up to the task.

Once Upon A Time

What I object to, however, is the encouragement we give, as a society, to reproduction. There might have been a time in history when it made some sort of sense to attempt to “go forth and multiply,” making as many of “your own kind” as possible to populate the earth. That’s probably why governments and religions alike originally got into the business of encouraging  breeding as well as frowning upon recreational and other non-procreative sex.

Biological Programming, Or Social Conditioning?

Now, however, we have plenty of humans on this planet. Some might say we are on the way to having too many, or are even there already. All the while, the world’s population continues to grow at an exponential rate. Yet we’ve been socially conditioned to ooh and ahh and coo and congratulate people for simply doing what most humans have been biologically programmed to do. Those of us with different programming and those who intentionally don’t have or don’t want children are looked upon like there is something wrong or we are somehow shirking our duty as humans.

Governmental Encouragement

While some governments actually attempt to control the birthrate by limiting their citizens’ reproductive rights, we here in the US do the absolute opposite. We offer financial incentives for breeding, in the form of tax deductions. We all subsidize babysitting (“child care”), education, and medical care for children.We have laws that favor breeding (or even just potentially breeding) families over single individuals or non-traditional family units. We even have laws that attempt to limit birth control, making it more difficult for responsible citizens to plan if, when, and how many children they’d like to have. Perhaps it is time for the human race to start practicing minimalism with regard to reproductive habits.

Am I Alone?

Am I the only one who thinks this way? Or am I just the only one willing to actually say so? With all the financial difficulties our government has, why has nobody suggested eliminating all child-related tax deductions? How much money would that save? Are they afraid that people only have kids for the tax write-off, and once we stop subsidizing breeding, nobody will want to anymore? Should I start looking over my shoulder from now on because I’ve spoken out against America’s sacred cow of incentivized breeding?

What’s Your Take?

Where do you stand on this issue? Should government stop rewarding people just for proving their fertility? Should we encourage responsible parenthood and smaller families? What would you do if you got to make the rules?

There’s An App For That – But Why?

This isn’t about all the silly little time-wasting games for your phone (though there are plenty of those). Nor is it about all the various programs that let you perform useful tasks with your phone or tablet, such as calculators, photo and video editors, and other standalone applications. It’s about all the “apps” that do things you can easily do with your web browser (remember the web? if your phone has apps it certainly has a browser, too).  Those of you thinking “I don’t have a smartphone or tablet, so why should I care?” — keep reading. This trend of using proprietary software to access and use information and content that is (or should be) readily available on the web is starting to spill over from phones and tablets into the realm of traditional computers, too.

Apps vs Websites

There are apps for all sorts of things that don’t need to be apps – reference info, just about every newspaper and TV network, weather, movie and restaurant reviews and more. What do they offer that can’t be had on their websites? Usually nothing, or else it is something that is intentionally withheld from the website to coerce folks into using the app.  There’s another bunch of apps that do little more than stream audio or video from the web which, again, is easily accomplished with any standard web browser.

Who’s In Control?

I think part of the attraction for content providers has to do with control and metrics. A piece of proprietary software gives the provider total control. While a web browser allows the user some control over appearance (resizing windows, changing font size, filtering graphics), an app gives the user only the exact options its developer chooses, making for tighter control over the “user experience.” An app can also supply much more accurate and detailed feedback to the content provider than a website can.

Media Management

The app environment also gives the provider more control over multimedia content than might be possible within a web browser. Some providers are afraid of their content being “stolen” (is something missing?); they use apps as a way to avoid less secure but more common file formats and modes of data transport.

All About Advertising

The ability to deliver advertising, or more precisely, the inability of the user to block advertising is probably another factor. In fact, the new-to-USA Spotify music service makes you to install their program to use it, even on a computer, despite the fact that most other music streaming services work in any web browser. Of course Spotify officially supports only Windows and Mac, so they have nothing to offer me. Or do they? It seems there’s a beta version for Linux, so I thought I’d see what it’s all about. Here’s where it gets interesting: their Linux software only works with a premium (paying) account. Why? “As we haven’t found a reliable way to display ads yet, this version is only available to Spotify Premium and Unlimited subscribers.” So, because they can’t figure out how to push ads, I should pay for a subscription, while users of certain operating systems can use it for free? I think not. Groove Shark does essentially the same thing, in any browser, for free.

Forced Browser Choice

Recently I encountered a variation on the theme. Until very recently, Amazon has required that you either use an actual Kindle or their proprietary PC, phone, or tablet software “app” to read the eBooks that they sell. I own a Kindle, but sometimes it would be nice to be able to read my Kindle books on my netbook or laptop. Of course, even though the Kindle e-reader runs Linux, Amazon doesn’t have Kindle software for desktop Linux — only Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS. Just the other day they released a “Cloud Reader” that would let me read my Kindle books on any device with a web browser. Almost. It actually works only with Chrome and Safari. So while they no longer force their software on you, they do insist that Windows and Linux users install Google’s Chrome browser. Why do they not support the more common and popular Firefox for Linux and Firefox or IE for Windows? They promise “Support for additional browsers coming soon.” We’ll see. Interestingly, the reason they went to a web app was to sidestep the iPad Kindle app and the 30% Apple gets from each book purchased through it, so that explains why Safari is supported. Guess I won’t be using the “Kindle Cloud Reader” anytime soon.

What About You?

Are you annoyed by the trend of proprietary software replacing universal open web access? How about other “walled gardens” like Facebook? I am, and avoid them like the plague. If I have the choice between using the web or using proprietary software, I’ll use the web. If I have to download proprietary software or join a social networking site just to see, hear, or read something, then I probably won’t be seeing, hearing, or reading it. What about you?

IMPORTANT – About My Home – Clutter Porn

Well, maybe not that important. Just a mini rant about the overuse of the word important, along with its close cousin, urgent, in communications and especially on mail items. They seems to be cluttering half of the envelopes that arrive in my mailbox, yet their contents are rarely important to anybody except the sender.

Why do mail marketers and others continue to use this tired old trick? I suppose that’s rhetorical — they use it because it works. After all, even though we know the odds are it isn’t important, and may be of no interest to us at all, we don’t dare throw it away unopened just in case it actually is important.

More Tricks

Sure, sometimes you can tell from the return address who it’s from, but sometimes there’s no name; just an address. Or worse yet, the return address is misleading. Bank Of America (or its “marketing partners” – euphemism for “companies we sold your name and address to”) sends all sorts of things in essentially identical envelopes, all with the bank’s return address. Usually it’s an offer for some sort of insurance, or trying to get me to apply for some sort of loan or another, but I am forced to open each and every one and give its contents at least a cursory glance, lest I discard my statement or other legitimate communication regarding my account.

OK, now that I have that mini-rant out  of my system, and just to show you my headline isn’t totally bogus, let’s move on to something that, while it might not be too important in the overall scheme of things, you might enjoy.

About My Home

With all that describing of different kinds of RVs in my last post, I didn’t even tell you what I live in. My home is a 1979  Georgie Boy Cruise Master  CM20RB. It is a 20-foot class C motorhome. Interior space  is 18 feet long by 7 feet wide, or 126 square feet.  Here’s the floor plan:

Here’s what it looks like on the inside…

…or at least what the one in this brochure did when it was new:

If you’d like to learn more, or are just into 70’s advertising or shag carpeting, you can click the brochure cover for an eight-page PDF.

Ahhh, but what does it look like now, 32 years later, you ask? Time for…

Clutter Porn!

I know that at least one of my readers (Hi Tanja!) has been patiently waiting for me to post some photos of my clutter. While I’m not quite ready to offer a full portfolio yet, I’ll dip my toe in the water with this small offering:

As you can see, I still have my work cut out for me. In my defense, pretty much everything I own is in here, in 126 square feet. I’m still plugging away at it, and I’ll get there eventually (and post more photos, too).

Oh, and here’s what the outside looks like:

Yeah, even the outside is cluttered, but the stuff on top of the table and the boxes and pile near the rear wheels are stuff to be sold or donated, so it’s not quite as bad as it looks. Why’s the hood open? Mechanical trouble? Naw, it’s just open to discourage the packrats (the 4-legged kind) from nesting in there. They’ll make a mess and chew through hoses and wires, too.

What Do You Think?

Are “important” and “urgent” overused? Is 126 square feet too big? too small? just right? Want more clutter porn? Comments are always open.

Successful Shopping, Counterfeit Condiments

I had a successful grocery shopping trip today. I took a written shopping list with me, and stuck to it. Well, I actually did buy two additional things, but they were not impulse buys — they were needed items that I’d forgotten to write down, and was reminded when I saw them in the store. I even added them to the list before actually picking them up, just to make it official.

Lunch Before Shopping

Maybe the most noteworthy part of the outing occurred before I did my grocery shopping. Since it’s a bad idea to grocery shop on an empty stomach, especially when trying to avoid impulse buying, I decided to have lunch first. I stopped at KFC. Perhaps not the healthiest choice, but hey, I could do worse than chicken.

Honey and Butter?

The person behind the counter asked “Would you like honey and butter for your biscuit?”  “Yes, please” I replied. When it came time to eat the biscuit, I searched my tray for the honey and butter, but the closest things I could find were these:

“Honey Sauce” and “Buttery Spread” according to the packets. Click the thumbnails for a look at the fine print and you’ll see that the first three ingredients in “Honey Sauce” are high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, and sugar. Oh, there’s a teensy bit of honey in there somewhere — “7% real honey” the package brags. As for the “Buttery Spread”, who knows what’s in it. Probably no butter. Lacking an ingredient list, the only clue is “artificially flavored”. I’m guessing  whipped vegetable oil and fake butter flavor. I suppose  fake butter is nothing new, but fake honey? I guess that’s one more reason to eat at home. At least I have honey and butter. The real kind, that comes from bees and cows.

Poorly Packed Shipments

Be forewarned. This will be a bit of a rant.

Is it just me? It seems anymore when I buy something online there’s a better than 50% chance the item will not be properly packed when it is shipped to me. This seems to be a growing trend.

How Not To Pack An Item For Shipment

I’m sure different people have different ideas of what constitutes secure packing, but I’m receiving packages where apparently no thought whatsoever went into the process. Surprisingly often I will find that a box significantly larger than the inner box is used, with absolutely no packing material whatsoever added to take up the space. No polystyrene peanuts. No bubble wrap. No shredded or crumpled paper. No plastic pillows. Nothing. The merchandise is free to rattle around in the box as it travels across the country or, in some cases, around the world.

They’re Not Amateurs

The most surprising thing is that it isn’t the amateurs, like first-time eBay sellers. I’ve actually had pretty good luck, overall, on eBay, with a rare exception or two. It is major mass retailers who should know better. Like Amazon. Not just the third-party sellers, but even shipments directly from the Amazon warehouse. In fact, more often than not Amazon shipments have no or insufficient packing and the product bouncing around inside.

But Why?

It seems everyone is doing it. Are they trying to save the nickel that the appropriate packing material (bubble wrap, peanuts, or paper) costs? Or the few seconds it would take to stuff it into the box? Maybe they should have an option on the checkout screen: “Please pack properly and securely (add $0.25).”

Recent Reminder (Rant Trigger?)

The latest example was received just yesterday. It was a lens for a DSLR camera purchased through Amazon from a third-party seller. The lens, in its flimsy manufacturer’s box (designed to sit on a store shelf, not to protect the lens) was stuffed into a box that was much too large in two dimensions, and too small in the third. And (as is not uncommon with photographic gear) the box was not secured closed from the factory, and the shipper had not secured it either. During shipping, the constant pressure from the wrong sized outer box, combined with the weight of the lens inside the inner box, and the lid had popped open. What I received was a large box containing a smaller squashed box plus a loose lens, now escaped from its own box, moving about freely inside the larger box. Of course there was no bubble wrap or stuffing of any kind in there. GRRRRRRRR. It managed to survive unscathed, somehow (miraculously?), as best I can determine.

How’s Your Luck Been?

Thanks for letting me vent. I feel a little better now — until next time. Feel free to use the comments to share your own horror story about improperly packed merchandise.

Quantitative easing?

Euphemisms – I dunno whether to love ’em or hate ’em.

Xtranormal gives this discussion about the financial world a certain surreal character.  The subject, however, is tragically very real.

Thanks to Ajo for turning me on to this clip.