Friday, September 23, 2005

Red Faced Rag Wrangler’s Blues

I’ll make this fast, ‘cause I want to try out a printer that someone left out by the dumpster on the paper route. People leave stuff out there all the time. So far, I’ve collected two printers, a TV and a VCR. The TV and VCR work, although the VCR is missing it’s remote, I don’t know about either printer except that one has a cartridge and the other doesn’t.

I’ve been itching to write about the honorable LTG Russell Honore’s now famous line, “Don’t Get Stuck On Stupid.” I’ve also been itching to write about how I managed to get Richard Tolan, who commented irrelevant self-promotional nonsense on my blog, un-stuck on stupid by commenting irrelevant angry nonsense on every single entry on his blog from beginning to end. Instead, I think I’ll start a whole new blog, and a new business putting together silly graphics for stupid worn-out catchphrases like DGSOS on tee shirts, ball caps, coffee mugs and so on. But first, the printer. Before that, there’s this deal with the circulation department of every newspaper in the world failing DGSOS.

While I’ve been stuck on the stupidity of DGSOS, I found Mickey Kaus’s story via Vodkapundit of how he couldn’t say NO to the LA Times subscription. Someone there failed DGSOS. The LAT? Mickey? Both? Both.

I’m going to explain, as a paper carrier, once and for all, how this works.

Several years ago, when I still had a hopeful career as a Computer Engineer, I got one of those pesky telemarketers from the Rocky Mountain News. That was before they joined forces with the Denver Post. Being a na├»ve kid, I let them say whatever they want, but never agreed to a subscription to the paper, which they gave me anyway. For six months, I got a free newspaper every day, and every day I threw it in the trash. When the customer service guy gave me a follow-up call, I said that I didn’t want it, and please stop delivery. He said he couldn’t do that, and that I should call the subscription department. Not on my dime. When they started sending me bills, then past-due notices, then threats to stop delivery, I considered it extortion and threw the bills away. I finally wrote a nasty note on the back of the bill about pollution or environmental responsibility or something and actually sprang for the cost of a stamp and envelope to send it back. The paper stopped immediately.

I’ve since learned that the best approach to telemarketers is to just hang up immediately. Be sure to hang up in mid-sentence so that they know that they’ve been hung up on. When I sold vacuum cleaners back in college, they taught us something they called “assuming the sale.” Don’t let it happen to you by submitting to your natural tendency to be polite and allowing the conversation to continue.

But better yet, there’s now this thing called the National Do Not Call Registry. After I registered, I stopped getting calls from commercial telemarketers. Go there. NOW! (after you’ve finished reading this.) Know the rules. This does not stop people who call with a survey. It does not stop charities or political orgs. It does not stop people with whom you have already done business. You have to renew your registration every year. The penalty for violators is substantial, but to get them prosecuted is extremely difficult, requiring exacting documentation of the violation. There’s also a state do-not-call registry for most states. Do your own investigation, and get on that list too.

Now, about the newspaper business. Ironically, after my previous experience, I now deliver the Rocky Mountain News, the Denver Post, the N’York Twymes, the Wall Street Gerbil, the United States of America TODAY, the Investor’s Daily Bullshit, and the Financical Times. My job as a paper carrier has given me some unique insight into the newspaper business.

It’s filled with idiots from top to bottom. They set it up to keep the various layers insulated from each other, so that the whole organization is permanently Stuck On Stupid. It does no good to do things like threaten the person you’re talking to. They’re trained and paid to only hear “yes” no matter what you say.

They don’t get their money from the subscribers. They get more money from the advertisers than from the subscribers. At least, the local papers do. That explains why they’ll let a “subscriber” go delinquent indefinitely without ever actually canceling the subscription. And the advertisers pay by the distribution numbers, so the more papers they deliver, the more money they extract from the advertisers. So, they come up with all these bogus sample subscriptions, and force sample subscriptions on as many people as they can in order to artificially boost their distribution numbers and extract more money from the advertisers.

It does no good to let your papers pile up in your driveway or doorstep, or kick them out in the street, or down the hall of the apartment building. As a paper carrier, I get paid to deliver the paper whether you want it or not. It’s your doorstep, not mine. Technically, I’m supposed to report pile-ups and note-leavers. In fact, there’s nothing in the contract about this, there was just a pile-up policy memo once. But nobody knows or cares about the papers that pile up on the driveways except the resident. Most of the time I don’t even look, because I have to drive so fast, and it’s dark at 4:00 AM. But reporting a pile-up would mean that the managers would cancel it, and I would no longer get paid to deliver it. Since I would lose money by reporting pile-ups, I never do that.

A few of us more intelligent carriers have figured out that if we know that they don’t want it, there’s no point in delivering to those people. Especially when I have to walk around the back of an apartment building, up some stairs, and down a hall, just to deliver one stupid paper that the resident doesn’t even want anyway. I’ve established my pile-up threshold as five papers. At five papers piled up, I start dumpstering them. There’s a balance between the embarrassment of being caught carrying an armload of undelivered newspapers to the dumpster on the way in to the distribution center, and wanting to maximize my income. Dumpstering the pile-up people has proven to be the best policy all around. I get paid to deliver to the dumpster. The resident is happy that they don’t get the paper any more. The managers believe that I’m doing my job. In fact, the assistant manager does the same thing, but I think the district manager (a newbie) is still stuck on stupid. And the advertisers believe that their advertising dollars are well spent. In the end, it’s just the beliefs that count.

And about those freebie papers that they blanket the whole neighborhood with, they call that “alternate delivery”. Everyone gets the freebie paper that doesn’t already get the regular paper. I did that once. Twice. Three times is a charm. Some guy threw the paper at my truck, chased me down the street, and stood there and screamed at me for five minutes. For the next week, I scattered the papers all over his yard while he was asleep, and emptied my urine bottle on his car. I know where he lives; he doesn’t know where I live. There are a small handful of names (about 0.5%) on the route list that are hilighted and marked with big bold capital letters, DO NOT DELIVER HERE! Supposedly those are the people that are so in-your-face about not wanting the papers that somebody has to make a special note. The fourth time I was asked to do alternate delivery, I let them talk me into it, then when I drove down to do it, they had crossed my name off the list and gave that route to someone else. So I swore that if that's how they're going to treat me, I'd never do alternate delivery again.

Now back to that printer that I found….

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Widespread Unrest and Grief

I previously described the effects of geomagnetic storms, and how they affect electrical and mechanical systems, human emotions, and migratory animals.  There have been some recent rather strong GMS alerts and warnings that are associated with some emotional unrest and grief.

Since hurricane Katrina occurred on 8/29/05, there was some GMS activity on 9/02/05 through 9/04/05.  On 9/02/05, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin expressed his outrage in an emotional interview that the state and federal officials, mostly FEMA, were slow in responding with rescue efforts to hurricane victims.  The blame game has escalated out of proportion.  While President Bush continues to encourage continued relief efforts, politicians see this as an opportunity to generate conspiracy theories and portray the Bush administration and FEMA as uncompassionate or incompetent.

There has been more GMS activity recently.  There have been watches, warnings and alerts from 9/09/05 through today, and forecast through 9/13/05.  There was a G3 (strong) warning Sunday morning at 5:37 UTC (11:37 MDT, Monday night, 9/10/05).  And there was a G5 (extreme) alert at 6:46 UTC (12:46 MDT).  I arrive at the distribution center at about 2:00 AM.  This morning, there was a breeze coming through the open doors, while the paper carriers were folding the papers and loading their vehicles.  This was so upsetting to one individual, who has often shown signs of being emotionally unbalanced, that he felt obliged to close the door, and shout and swear at anyone who wanted to open the door.  

He may very well be fired for his lack of self-control.  I mentioned to one of the managers how this guy was such a nutcase.  He’s the same asshole who parks his car two inches away from my truck so that I can’t get a cart in to load.  He’s always been like this, never thinks of anyone but himself.  The whole world revolves around him.

Elsewhere, there was an emotional 9/11 memorial service in New York at the site where the World Trade Center once stood.  It took four hours to read the names of the 2,749 people that were lost.  Relatives wept and made brief personal statements as they remembered their loved ones and how their lives were lost on this day four years ago.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Katrina Healing Meditation

I feel that it's time to stop the blame game for the victims of hurricane Katrina, as well as for the war on terror in Iraq, and the bipartisan politicking, and start some sincere healing. I've been working on posting a meditation from the Theta Healing technique and classes that I took recently. I've realized since then, that I have a mountain of healing work to do. Until then, I'll pass along this meditation that was forwarded to me by a friend who knows some people from New Orleans that are in need of assistance.

To answer the question that few dare to ask, "why does God let bad things happen to good people?" I answer, "So that they can have the opportunity to make a profound difference in their own or someone elses life." When there's nothing that we can do either directly or financially, then prayers and meditations such as this are the best thing to do.

Please join as many as a million people around
the world in a healing meditation and prayer
for those affected by Katrina.

Meditation and prayer powerfully affect our
world in ways we may never understand. And
when two or more join together the effects are
exponential. Lives will be saved, emotional
trauma healed, families reunited, hearts
soothed, and normalcy returned. Miracles will
happen.

1) Everyone will meet in meditation and prayer
at the same time on the same day. Simply
meditate or pray in your own space, and
imagine connecting with everyone else, as
described below.

Sunday - September 18, 2005

11:00 to 11:30 pm Eastern Daylight Time
10:00 to 10:30 pm Central Daylight Time
9:00 to 9:30 pm Mountain Daylight Time
8:00 to 8:30 pm Pacific Daylight Time.

To coordinate with your time zone, visit:
http://www.timeanddate.com/worldclock/meeting.html

If you are only available for five minutes,
please do what you can.

If you cannot join us at the appointed time,
please do your meditation and prayer at any
time, and imagine your energy joining the
group.

2) Consider doing the following meditation:

* Breathe slowly and deeply.

* Focus on your heart, and see your heart
filled with the beautiful, warm, golden,
healing light of the sun. Feel the limitless
healing energy of love filling your heart.
Magnify the feeling inside of you. See the
energy. Hear it.

* When you are ready, imagine all of the
people who have been affected by the
hurricane, all of those who are giving so much
to assist, each and everyone one of them
wrapped in this warm, beautiful, light of love
and healing. Imagine them perfectly restored.
Imagine them in a beautiful, loving setting,
free of any pain or sickness, happy, healthy,
their lives fully restored. Use all of your
senses. See, hear, and feel them filled with
hope, health, and happiness.

* When you are ready, feel the love energy
growing as your love and compassion joins the
love energy of millions of others around the
world.

* Hold this picture for as long as you can (5
minutes, 30 minutes, one hour)

* When you close your meditation, imagine this
beautiful healing light of love expanding to
envelope the entire world, every country,
every man, woman and child. Hold this vision
and know with complete confidence, with all
your heart and soul, that this healing is
taking place and be thankful for the love of
the world.

* Express your thanks to God, Jesus Christ,
Buddha, Muhammad, your spiritual guide,
universal love energy, to that which is
appropriate and meaningful for you.

(This particular meditation was suggested by
healer and teacher Chunyi Lin, creator of
Spring Forest Qigong. Feel free to meditate or
pray in any way that is right for you.)

3) Please dig deep into your pocket to donate
money to help those affected by Katrina. For a
listing of ways to donate or volunteer, visit:
http://www.cnn.com/SPECIALS/2005/katrina/help.center/

4) Please send this email to as many people as
you can. To friends and colleagues, any lists you have,
members of the media, your church, anything and anyone
that comes to your mind. Post it on discussion
forums. Consider getting together in groups,
or coordinating telephone conference calls for
everyone you know.

Thank you for joining us, for your support,
and for your love.

Most Sincerely,

Paul Scheele
Pete Bissonette
and all of your friends at
Learning Strategies

Learning Strategies Corporation
2000 Plymouth Road
Minnetonka, Minnesota 55305-2335 USA

800-735-8273
952-476-9200
Fax 952-475-2373
http://www.LearningStrategies.com




Friday, September 02, 2005

Floodwaters Receding, Emotions High

Here's a few observations of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

The New York Times had a photo on the front page of a dead body floating through the streets of New Orleans. That was in poor taste in itself. Somewhat reminiscent of when CNN aired footage of the dead soldier's body being dragged through the streets of Mogadishu in Somalia. Closer inspection of the photo of the floating body revealed what looked like a large tag with a big red question mark stapled to the end of the dead woman's dress, and apparently a poo mark seeping through the appropriate place on the backside. Rather poor taste. Inappropriate for a national newspaper.

I read a transcript of an interview between the New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin and the local TV station. Mayor Nagin was obviously extremely upset, angry, and frustrated that the federal response to the disaster was so slow. I'm sure that he's very passionate about helping the people in his city. It doesn't seem that he's done as much beforehand to mitigate the disaster as he would like for federal and state government to do afterwords. I would say that elected officials are elected more for their passion for the people that they represent, than their ability to plan, make decisions, or direct and coordinate large complex and diverse organizations of people. It's time for that man to quit ranting and raving, realize that there have been and will continue to be losses, and start coordinating the recovery efforts so as to minimize further losses.

I realized that one of the other paper carriers was saving boxes to collect food to send to the relief effort. Feeling some compassion for these people, went to my cupboards to find some unused canned food items, and took a look through my closets for some clothes that I don't use anymore. I took a container of canned food with me as I was out on errends, and stopped by a couple of supermarkets where they might be collecting donation items. But there was no collection effort! Back home, I visited the web sites of the Red Cross and the Salvation Army. Neither the Red Cross nor the Salvation Army are accepting in-kind donations of collected items such as canned food or clothing. According to the Red Cross article, it's a logistical nightmare for them to collect, sort, clean, transport and distribute such items. It's more effective, they say, to take monetary donations and purchase supplies in large quantities from local manufacturers. As I explained yesterday, because of the high price of gasoline, and how that's such a major expense in my work, I cannot afford to donate cash.

I turned the TV to some of the news stations to get some coverage of what's happening there. There was the President, holding a press conference. The Governor of Louisiana, Kathleen Blanco, wanted to put her two cents in, but there was some trouble in coordinating the audio feed, so she waited a moment while someone figured that out before she spoke. Like the President, she didn't have much to contribute except for words of encouragement. New Orleans Mayor Nagin was there, still too upset to say anything more, knowing that he'd go off on a tear and say something else he'd regret.

On MSNBC, the reporter had some field worker from FEMA on the air for a report. The guy seemed to be emotionally and physically drained. The MSNBC reporter kept asking the FEMA guy questions aimed at placing the blame. "The news stations had pictures before FEMA did. Is FEMA really that unresponsive?" "Has the response been slower this time than in previous disasters?" "How would you categorize the magnitude of the failure? Colossal? Moderate?" "Who's to blame for the lack of responsiveness?" After a few minutes of this ambush, I couldn't take it anymore, and changed the channel. I would think that with the level of destruction there, it would be near impossible to communicate or coordinate anything.

I found this on Am I A Pundit Now, by means of WILLisms.com

Thursday, September 01, 2005

The Price of Gas

I managed to get gas this morning for $2.76. My favorite gas station has always been a penny less than the gas station at the supermarket across the street, even with it's member discount card. When I passed the supermarket, it was priced at $2.79. My favorite gas station was at $2.98, up $0.53 from three days ago. I stopped to fill up, and stood at the pump for a moment, pondering. Why is this station so unusually desolate today? Is the supermarket station out of gas, like they were three days ago? Even if they are, I could go to the one down the road for $2.85, and I know they're open 'cause there's cars there. It's worth a shot. I got back in and went over to the supermarket station, and got gas for $2.79 with a $0.03 member discount for $2.76.

Three days ago, I got gas at my then-favorite gas station for $2.45.

A couple of weeks before that, I was getting gas there for $2.15.

Factors affecting the price of gas at this time are:
  • Hurricane Katrina. Refineries in Florida are shut down. There has been talk in the news of "supply disruptions." I suppose that means that delivery trucks aren't running, and oil pipelines have been shutdown.
  • King whats-his-name in Saudi Arabia died. I suppose everyone expects the new guy to turn off the oil spigot. I understand that he hasn't, that he's been the guy making all the decisions all along while the old guy was dying for a long time and nobody said anything. I also understand that the new guy has been considering turning up oil production, and that he's also saying it's the supply lines and distribution that's been making the price of gas go up so much. Anyway, I expect that it takes a bit more than a week for oil to make it's way from Saudi Arabia, through the oil tankers across the ocean, through the refineries, through the trucks and stations to my gas tank. It's just the expectation that makes the prices go up everywhere at once, simultaneously.
  • The war in Iraq. Oh boo-freakin-hoo, the Islamofascist extremists think we're stealing their oil in Iraq. I still haven't seen any sign of our soldiers seizing oil fields, operating oil pumps, pipelines, or tankers, or even having the training to know how to do such a thing if it was even their mission. They're just trying to keep the terrorist sunnis out of the faces of the honest Iraqi citizens so they can set up a new government - any government - so the oil people can get their oil production going again, and sell it at fair market prices. Iraq only produces 20% of the world oil, and the war started two years ago, which doesn't add up to the 50% increase in the price of gasoline in the last month.
  • Labor Day weekend is upon us. This is one year where I think that the traditional drivingest weekend of the year, marking the end of summer vacations, will come in as a minor blip on a hard uptrend in the price of gas.

Some personal gasoline usage facts

  • I deliver newspapers for a living. I drive two routes, for a total of 50 miles each night.
  • 20 of those miles are driving to and from the route from my house. It's exactly 10.0 miles from my house to the distribution center.
  • I have to fill my tank every three days. It cost me $30 to fill the tank now, so that's $10 a day to deliver the newspapers.
  • Tuesdays and Wednesdays, I deliver the fewest papers: 236. At $0.10 per paper, that's $23.60 income, minus $10 in gas for a net income of $13.60 for each of those two days.
  • My vehicle, a 1988 Toyota pickup, gets 15 miles per gallon on the route.
  • On the hiway, I've gotten as much as 22 miles per gallon.
  • The truck has 230,000 miles on it. I've put a lot of money into repairs and tires and oil changes, especially since I started doing this.
  • It now costs me $4 to go into town for that social club meeting. That shall now be eliminated as being a luxery item that I can't afford!
  • My birthday is this next Monday - Labor Day. Happy Birthday to me! My parents live in Fort Collins, 62 miles away. They always invite me up for my birthday. It'll cost me $20 to drive up there and back. For my birthday, I should ask for the $20 it cost me to go up there and see them. Luxery Item!
  • A friend wants me to come visit to do some spiritual healing practice together. That's 41 miles and $16 away. Luxery Item!

Some more facts, unrelated to the price of gas, that I'd like to acknowledge

I'm really sorry that so many people down in New Orleans are having such a hard time with the hurricane, and the flooding and destruction and all. There's nothing I can do physically or financially to help out. But I'll send my prayers.

I'm also really sorry that so many people over in Iraq died in a stampede. I hear that someone shouted "suicide bomber!" on a crowded bridge or something like that. It was during an important annual shiite religious festival. Some 965 people were trampled. Again, there's nothing I can do but to send my prayers.

I can't control the weather, or the economy, or the price of gasoline, or the terrorists. I can't go to New Orleans, or Florida, or Iraq, or Washington D.C.. I can't afford to send money to all those people in need, no matter how much the people on TV hold up hungry kids, begging for donations. The best thing that I can do is to send my prayers, and put all that aside, and get on with taking care of my own affairs to the best of my ability.

If you subscribe to a newspaper with home delivery service, remember that generous tips are always greatly appreciated.