The official blog of Susan Landis-Steward, writer of whatever she likes, and co-founder of Puddletown Publishing Group

Posts tagged ‘outsourcing’

Tall Grass

I live in Oregon. For those of you who know Oregon, that probably says it all. Oregon is beautiful, lush, green.

And there is a reason for that.

It is not good karma. Like most states, Oregon is abusing its state workers to balance its budget, “weed” is the number one unregulated cash crop (jeez, can’t we just tax the shit out of the shit so the state workers can get paid?), and the weeds here are big and strong and totally indifferent to my wishes. Because of freaking rain!

Three days ago, I left my sick house (bronchitis being the primary object being passed around inside) to venture out into the sun. Yes. Oregon does get sun. In August.

Oh, the gods tempt us with moments of beauty, but they are fickle bastards, and we have to wait until they leave the state for their annual retreat on Olympus or wherever they go to to escape the heat before we can enjoy a moment of peace and sun.

No. Here in western Oregon, rain can be mind-numbing depression fodder. So, with great joy, I stepped out into the sun a few days ago. And was greeted by grass as high as my head.  Well, maybe it wasn’t QUITE that tall, but it was pretty damn close.

But the sun was shining, the warmth inspiring, and I said “PREPARE TO MEET THY DOOM” to my lawn. I planned a date with a weed whacker. Just as soon as I got back from my mammogram, an eye appointment, and some much-needed grocery shopping, not to mention the humiliation of having to send my car payment by Moneygram because my number problems finally caught up with me.

I looked at my car payment online, in early May, because I can never remember a) how much it is and b) what day it is due. It said 4/28. Great, I thought, I still have several weeks. You see the flaw, I suppose. Some people can actually see the problem here. Not me. Even when the guy from Wells Fargo called me and told me my payment was way past due. I blithely said, “No, it’s not due until 4/28.” He said, “Right. And that’s the problem.” I sweetly said, “But that’s still two weeks away.” Yep, it was. In the wrong direction.

Now, remember, from the post you probably haven’t read yet, that I had bronchitis a few weeks ago. I took heavy duty drugs because I have a tendency to break ribs if I cough too much, and I lost a week or so. I also lost control of all cognitive functioning and especially lost control of the part of my brain that is numerically challenged. He was right. I’d missed a whole month in terms of that dang car payment. Don’t ask me how. I don’t know. No, I don’t have early-onset Alzheimers. I’m just easily distracted by other things. Flash some bling or an aluminum can and I’m gone…

Anyway, the humiliation. Being poor in America must be a royal bitch. We’re solidly middle class, some might even argue that we’re borderline upper middle class by US standards, filthy rich by global standards. Sort of fits with being upper middle aged, I guess. I had never before had to make a payment by Moneygram. In fact, I had to go several places before someone at a bank pointed out that the Western Union form I’d completely filled out had NOTHING to do with Moneygram. But it gave me some new awareness.

First, the payment was late. So there were late fees and penalties and stuff. Because it was late, they wouldn’t let me pay on the website as I normally do. So, it cost me an additional $9.99 to send a freaking Moneygram, and I had to do it in Albertsons which was ridiculously noisy for a grocery store, and I had to do it over a phone with a guy in India that I couldn’t I understand and who refused to speak loud enough for me to hear him. So I kept saying, “What?” and practically yelling to make myself heard. All the while wondering what it must be like to have this be a regular occurrence. My calendrical error cost me over $50 more than the payment by the time I was done.

Obviously, there are so many things wrong with the last paragraph. Albertsons, alone, I could write a book on. Outsourcing of American jobs. My aging ears. Extortion. Banks. Extortion by Banks. Fees on the backs of the poor. The way we treat the poor.

I could wax poetic on being poor in America (read Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich, if you haven’t. Should be required reading for all middle class folks) (also read the Bible, if you think this country is based on Biblical principles. It ain’t. Especially read the parts on how to treat the poor, usury, gleaning, Sabbath practice, and Jubilee years) (And don’t give me that “It’s OT” crap because JESUS, the main man according to Christians, has a lot to say about how we treat the poor as well. And NOTHING to say about homosexuals. Just saying.) (Then, if you want a real education, you might want to notice that the Qur’an teaches, and Muslims practice, giving money to care for the poor. Not just a box of $.39 Mac and Cheese on food bank Sundays).

This Great Depression Recession is being felt by a lot of us, even those of us who thought we were invincible due to education, training, jobs, unions, seniority, and all that. Here at the farmette, we’re feeling it from the cuts state workers have had to take in wages and benefits, and in the decreasing amount publishers are willing to pay for indexing. And we’re the lucky ones. We still have jobs. We still have options.  We still have health insurance to pay for the mammogram, eye glasses, and that stupid codeine that allows my ribs to stay in one piece.

Okay, so I’m ranting. But the way we treat people, especially vulnerable people, in this country is racking up some serious bad karma for this country.

I’m pretty sure it’s not the cause of the bad weather karma, though. Oregon just has a lot of rain. We don’t have big floods, tornados, hurricanes, blizzards, raging wildfires. Well, we do, but they tend to be finite and well-contained and infrequent.

So, by the time my boobs had been mashed flat in a machine that repeatedly poked at my most recently broken rib until I was in tears, and my new eyeglasses were making me see the world just slightly “off,” and I’d been humiliated by some guy in India who probably has YOUR job if you’re now unemployed, I was in no mood to deal with the weeds in the front yard.

Besides, it was raining and has been ever since. The weeds now ARE as tall as I am. That would be 5’3-3/4″ tall. Unfortunately, we have several unemployed young people in our family. Guess it’s time to put some of them to work for a day or two whacking away at all the problems in the yard. Wish I could whack away at theirs.

Apple Goes Microsoft

I’m quite familiar with Microsoft’s rush-to-market philosophy. I had long suspected that they threw software, especially operating systems, at the public. After we plunked down the dollars, we got to do their beta testing on our nickel. After Windows XP brought down everything in the house, I vowed never to buy another Windows machine. When we were Peru a couple years ago, this was confirmed by a Microsoft engineer sitting across from me on the train to Machu Pichu.

I went back to the dark side and bought another Apple. My MacBook worked just fine. It came with whatever came before Leopard (Panther? Tiger? Pussycat? Some feline thing anyway.) But, I finally outgrew it. Or rather my business did. Besides, laptops are meant to roam free and mine did not like being stuck in a hole in my desk, running a large screen monitor (can you say presbyopia?) and a Microsoft keyboard/mouse setup. Have to admit, I don’t like Apple keyboards and mice.

Last week, after a scary moment when my laptop announced it would no longer charge, I took the plunge and bought another Mac. This time, a Mac mini because I didn’t need any peripherals. (BTW, my laptop problem was solved by a late night trip to Cold Stone. I don’t think Apple support will mention that, though),

So I hooked it up, got my laptop sharing files with it, went back to work. All was good. Except, did I mention I got a free iPod touch with it? Having ties to education gets you cool deals this time of year. Being an iPod junkie (teenager in a middle-aged body, need I say more) I hooked it up. Worked fine for a few days, then iTunes started crashing. Shortly thereafter, the Touch started freezing and showing the Apple screen, Apple’s equivalent of Microsoft’s blue-screen-of-death.

Then, to make matters worse, my WORK files disappeared. No problem. I’ve had good luck with Apple support up there in Seattle. But I got India. Now that’s a whole other story, my feelings about outsourcing and living wages for Americans, and all that. I won’t go there. Right now, anyway. So, I’m talking to India, to someone who keeps giving me the “please hold for two minutes while I check on something” routine which is a large East Indian word for “I have no idea what you are talking about. Let me call Seattle.” Her troubleshooting skills were next to nil and I know because I used to do troubleshooting. I gave her all the information she would have needed to solve the problem but SHE KNOWS NOTHING. But she does make a living wage by India standards although she is paid crap by our standards.

Eventually she makes me an appointment with the Genius Bar at a local mall. I say local only in the sense that it’s on the same side of the continent. We live in BFE. (If you have to ask, you don’t want to know.) The nearest mall is an hour away. Thank God/dess. That’s part of the reason we live in BFE, to get away from things like malls.

So I jump in the van, being the only freaking car available although I’m reasonably sure the Prius is parked at the carpool pickup site but that’s at ANOTHER mall that does not have an Apple store and is in the other direction. I waste most of velocaraptor driving to the mall, can’t find parking, and then have to walk about a mile to the store which is in the very bowels of Washington Square, my least favorite mall on earth and I hate ALL malls.

The Genius takes one look at my Mac mini and solves the problem immediately. So far so good. Then I drag out the iPod Touch. He takes one look at it and says, “Well, the software 2.0 is for the iPhone and this is an iTouch. It doesn’t really work well with the iTouch. But there will be a new release soon.”  So I start with the questions: Why did you release software for the iTouch that doesn’t work with the iTouch? Why, if I bought my iTouch last week, did I have to pay $10 for the software, which doesn’t work, and was released before I bought the iTouch? Why does iTunes keep crashing? Are you guys being taken over by Microsoft?

The guy gave me bogus answers along the lines of well, it would work if you had the new release (which I loaded on last night, BEFORE I went to Apple). And, well, let me make it work for you. He got it to work, it took an hour to restore and sync, and was frozen again by the time I left the store.

The only good news is that my work files are safe, and I’ll get the book done on schedule. However, I bought a new external hard drive to use with Apple’s Time Machine feature, and it is currently spending several hours backing up. Since I REALLY don’t want to mess with anything that might remotely lose those dang files (which hopefully are now on both computers AND the external drive AND iDisk (which is another whole story in the Apple Goes Microsoft saga), I am not going to play with those files until Time Machine finishes its job in, oh, about 3 more hours.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Apple products. For the most part, they are stable, they are stable, they are stable and they NEVER give you the blue-screen-of-death. But I think the whole iPhone thing has their greedy little fingers twitching and they rushed to market without making the software compatible with the iTouch (although their website says it is). In fact, the iTouch is supposed to be just the iPhone lite (as in no phone but everything else). (Don’t get me started on why they made an exclusive deal with the WORST cell phone company on earth. Wait, I take that back. Nextel/Sprint is worse.) I will not get an iPhone until T-mobile gets them.

Oh, and support? Worst dang online support ever. Apple doesn’t want to admit to REAL problems. So if you look up, oh say, “ipod touch freezes at apple screen” you get a bunch of crap about how to fix other problems but no mention that it EVER freezes at the apple screen. And just try to find how to reboot or restore your ipod. No documents come with them. In fact, no documents come with Apple products at all, and finding things in the help files is ridiculous. Thank God/dess for Google and all the Mac and iPod forums out there.

Rant off.

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