Sunday, December 21, 2014

A Time of Change

At something amazing will happen. The tilt of the earth with respect to the sun will be as far as it's going to go in this direct this year. In the Northern hemisphere, we call this event the Winter Solstice (it's the Summer Solstice in the Southern hemisphere). Tonight will be the longest night of the year. Tomorrow night, will be shorter, and the next shorter still, and so on until mid-June at the next solstice. Though the shorter nights won't be noticeably shorter for a few days yet.

All over the world, for as long as people have looked at the sky and took notice of the changes, they have recognized this time as special. We place significance on this time of year. Those from more northern areas celebrate the return of longer days, while those closer to the equator can see the change in the movement of the stars. Many believe this is a time of miracles and magic. Others celebrate the birth of their god. Christian faiths teach that it was at this time that the magi noticed a new star in the sky, geosynchronous over the area of Jerusalem - there is a reason these men were looking up.

No matter what faith you claim, if any, this is a time of change, a time of interest. Recognize it how you will, and realize others may recognize it differently. If they wish you well, accept it for the intent, and return the well-wishes.

  • Merry Christmas!
  • Happy Hanukkah!
  • Glad Yule!
  • Happy Holidays!
  • Good Afternoon!
  • Happy New Year!

Each of these, though framed from different points of reference, mean the same thing - a sincere wish of better times for you and yours.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Tech Support Charges

It has been 10 years since I stopped doing professional tech support. So here's some new policy for calling me with tech support issues:

  • If you're one of my grandparents, none of this applies to you - we have (or will work out our own arrangements)
  • If you work for my employer, and this is an emergency issue, and I'm on call, you're in luck, they pay me to fix your issue, though be ready to hear that it might have to wait until morning.
  • +$80/hour, 1 hour minimum, 15min intervals after the first hour
  • +$5/mile if I have to actually drive to your house to fix it
  • +$50 if there is an error, I google the exact error message, and the solution is on the first page of results (an extra +$50 if it's in the top 3 non-paid results)
  • +$50 if you wake me up. My alarm goes off at 4:30 every morning, I need what sleep I can get (an extra +$50 if it's not an emergency)
  • +$50 if it's your own fault and you should have known better
  • +$50 if there is no way I could know the answer ("what's my password")
  • +$100 if there is a free help desk included with the service and you haven't even attempted to call it (if you tell me you have, and I have to call them, I will ask, and that will cost you another $250 for -really- wasting my time if you lied to me about calling)
  • +$50/device involved, if I have to actually tell you to restart or turn it off and back on again and that solves the issue

There's a chance that I'll just tell you how to fix it and will wave some or even all of the fees, it depends on multiple factors, including your history as a client. This is not a joke, if you get a bill from me listing charges at the above rates, I fully expect payment.

Rates subject to change. 

Friday, July 04, 2014

Independence Day

July 4, 1776 is the date 13 newly independent States placed at the top of their divorce paper. The decision had been made two days earlier on July 2. The war had been going on for over a year at this point. Work had already been started drafting the "Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union", which we operated under until they were replaced wholesale by The United States Constitution in 1788.

Most people today who were raised within these united States were educated in schools run by the States and regulated by Union. As such, we are led to believe that the Revolution was supported by the majority. It was not. It was supported only by a vocal minority, with an even smaller active minority. However, those vocal (and active) about continuing the existing relationship with the British Empire were a similarly sized minority. The vast majority of Americans grumbled about taxes, but didn't much want radical change, either; they were concerned with their own lives, keeping their families fed, and not being dragged into the war raging on around them.  To most people, it didn't much matter who was in charge as, to their eyes, it didn't much affect their day-to-day lives.

This day, we celebrate our independence from the British Empire, officials of our current government will give speeches telling us how good it is to be "Free". To have liberated ourselves from such an oppressive government. The officials of the modern governments of this union should be hiding in shame. They give speeches today to distract us from the fact that our current government is worse than the one from which that minority declared independence (and I am not just talking about the current POTUS, as things were bad long before he or his predecessor took their Oath of Office).

Today, go forth and spend time with your family, friends, and neighbors; remember that today is the date we filed our divorce papers with our oppressive government and that if we hit that tipping point, if thing get bad enough, if the oppressed realize they have a common enemy, it may become necessary to dissolve the political bands that bind us, to alter or abolish the current government and institute a new, to file for another divorce.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Inward-to-Outward Focus

One thing that continues to amaze me is how different things could be if we changed our [individual, and [various levels of] collective] focus. Right now, we are too focused on trying to fix (or give the appearance of fixing) everyone else, with the further away the better.

If we reorder our focus, many things could be improved, including the lives of those further away.  Focus first on the self, you can't help anyone (at least well) if you are in lacking in that area yourself. Then your family, your neighbors, your local community, your city, your greater local community/county, your state, your nation, and then finally, those in other nations.

Different levels of assistance can be at different stages depending on needs and what's covered; for instance, we're pretty good on fresh+clean water in most of the country, so we can assist other countries with getting fresh+clean water.  Food, on the other hand is a little different. We have people that will donate money to purchase food for other countries (too much of which never makes it to the people who need it) while their neighbors are living on ramen noodles and peanut butter.

If you want to feed the hungry, reduce your spending, increase your health, increase your happiness, and improve the environment, then grow a garden. By doing so, you remove your demand on the food supply systems, increasing supply and lowering costs for those who need it. Additionally, you will have surplus you can give to neighbors or the local community. By producing your own food, you lower the cost of feeding yourselves and potentially gain an income. Food is never better for you than when it is harvested and consumed at it's peak; by growing your food, you increase your nutritional intake greatly. Further, gardening can be a constructive, stress-relieving activity, increasing psychological health and happiness. Finally, growing plants is beneficial to the earth, especially if done so with keeping care of the earth in mind.

When it comes to finances, this inward-to-outward approach is even more critical, especially in our modern money-centric society. If you are in debt to your eyeballs, you can't help anyone financially, at least not in any significant manner. Once you've squared yourself and your family away, focus on the local community. The less is needed at one level, the less of a burden it places on the level containing it. For instance, if your city/community has few demands on it, then it can begin paying off it's own debt, as well as planning for more solid investments (for instance, being able to pay the extra money for park equipment that will last 25 years as opposed to 10). It also places a lesser financial burden on the county at large.  As the county approaches a similar position, it has the same effect on the state.

The best thing about this method is that it only requires individual action. It coerces no one. If you grow a garden and pay off your debts, you improve the lives of those around you, even if they make different choices. You begin to lead by example, and can share your methods (as well as produce, or surplus funds) with others without worry of negative impact on your life.

There is no downside.