30 August 2011

Nine Things...

I received this email from a friend this morning: 
9 Things That Will Disappear In Our Lifetime

Interesting to note...Whether these changes are good or bad depends in part on how we adapt to them. But, ready or not, here they come...
 1. The Post Office
Get ready to imagine a world without the post office. They are so deeply in financial trouble that there is probably no way to sustain it long term.  Most of your mail every day is junk mail and bills.
2. The Check
 It costs the financial system billions of dollars a year to process checks. Plastic cards and online transactions will lead to the eventual demise of the check. This plays right into the death of the post office. If you never paid your bills by mail and never received them by mail, the post office would absolutely go out of business.
3. The Newspaper
The younger generation simply doesn't read the newspaper. They certainly don't subscribe to a daily delivered print edition. That may go the way of the milkman and the laundry man. As for reading the paper online, get ready to pay for it. The rise in mobile Internet devices and e-readers has caused all the newspaper and magazine publishers to form an alliance. 
4. The Book
You say you will never give up the physical book that you hold in your hand and turn the literal pages. Once you start flicking your fingers on the screen instead of the book, you find that you are lost in the story, can't wait to see what happens next, and you forget that you're holding a gadget instead of a book.

5. The Land Line Telephone
Unless you have a large family and make a lot of local calls, you don't need it anymore. Most people keep it simply because they've always had it. But you are paying double charges for that extra service. All the cell phone companies will let you call customers using the same cell provider for no charge against your minutes.
6. Music
This is one of the saddest parts of the change story. The music industry is dying a slow death. Not just because of illegal downloading. It's the lack of innovative new music being given a chance to get to the people who would like to hear it.  To explore this fascinating and disturbing topic further, check out the book, "Appetite for Self-Destruction" by Steve Knopper, and the video documentary, "Before the Music Dies."
7. Television
Revenues to the networks are down dramatically. Not just because of the economy. People are watching TV and movies streamed from their computers. 
8. The "Things" That You Own
Many of the very possessions that we used to own are still in our lives, but we may not actually own them in the future. They may simply reside in "the cloud." Today your computer has a hard drive and you store your pictures, music, movies, and documents. Your software is on a CD or DVD, and you can always re-install it if need be. But all of that is changing. Apple, Microsoft, and Google are all finishing up their latest "cloud services." If you save something, it will be saved to the cloud. And you may pay a monthly subscription fee to the cloud provider.

9. Privacy
If there ever was a concept that we can look back on nostalgically, it would be privacy. That's gone. It's been gone for a long time anyway. There are cameras on the street, in most of the buildings, and even built into your computer and cell phone. But you can be sure that 24/7, "They" know who you are and where you are, right down to the GPS coordinates, and the Google Street View. If you buy something, your habit is put into a zillion profiles, and your ads will change to reflect those habits. "They" will try to get you to buy something else. Again and again.
My first reaction to this is "how depressing." But I disagree with the majority of the claims here. I have no idea who wrote it, an author is not named in the email as it's one of those forwarded forwards.
1. The Post Office will change, drastically, but it will not disappear. Delivery will be cut but the government uses the USPS on the cheap and cannot afford Fed Ex.
2. The check may actually be discouraged, yes. And now Wells Fargo has announced they will charge its customers a fee every time they use their plastic debit card. They're going to gouge you every bit they can for you to use their machines. The alternative? Cash. (Which will tie in with number Nine...)
3. The paper-print newspaper will indeed probably be greatly reduced. Already USA Today has cut back on the number of copies distributed to stores and a good many venerable papers have closed their doors after more than a century in business. But will everything go digital? I'm not so sure. 
4. The Book. NO NO NO NO NO. Call me old fashioned but I firmly believe in real books and their permanence in society. Digital readers are handy, yes, but how long will they last into posterity? Books have survived since the Egyptians used papyrus, and anything truly worth saving will be put into print as well as electronic formats. Cost will be a publisher's deciding factor so in the future you won't see crap like Snooki's in print, but is that really such a bad thing?
5. The Land Line. Cell phones don't work everywhere, especially in the rugged mountain ranges along Arizona's border with Mexico. Land line phones are more reliable and we went ahead and reinstalled one in our house since Verizon thinks everywhere other than the fourth tile left of the refrigerator is a dead zone.
6. Music. Are you kidding me? Music is exploding into independence! People can put out their own videos on YouTube and make their own CDs. Artists will always find a way to share music. What hogwash to say music will disappear! Pah.
7. Television Change does not mean disappearance. People will still have televisions, networks will still show crappy shows and sporting events. Not everyone on the planet owns a computer, iPad, or smartphone.
8. Owning "Things" This is pure unadulterated fertilizer. Again, not everyone owns a computer, nor do they want to store things in "the cloud" that can evaporate at the first blackout of the electric grid. I would never store precious photos other than on CD or hard copies I have in my immediate possession. In my opinion, anyone who relies totally on "The Cloud" has their head up there too.
9. Privacy Yes there is less of it, but you can safeguard what you have left. CASH MONEY works wonderfully to keep corporate America from tracing your every purchase. You don't have to do everything on a computer. Don't get a smart phone or a GPS if you don't want to be automatically tracked. Don't use plastic for everything. You don't have to make it easy for "Them." 

I may be an old bat and you can call me stuck in the past, but I firmly believe that at some point in the future all the electronics we are encouraged to rely on so heavily will crash. Maybe when the electronic grid crashes, or some wild sunspot activity will throw an electromagnetic pulse out there to screw it all up. Call me crazy but I'll stick with my real books, cash, and stupid phone.

16 August 2011

Odious August

I hate August. There is nothing redeeming about the month. No matter where you go in North America, it's hot, sticky, slimy, humid nastiness. While Arizona doesn'tt have as many flying insects as back East, the ones we do have come out in August.

August truly is a psychological hurdle for me in the same way some people suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder--the lack of sunlight causes depression for them. This month does the same thing for me.

As a child, August meant impending doom: the start of school. You spend the entire month girding your loins for battle. Shopping for material to make new clothes (store-boughts were too expensive and never fit Hobbits like me anyway), buying new shoes and sneakers for gym class, finding out who your teachers would be. (Eww, you got Mr. Greasy Hair for math? Nooooo!)

August meant baling hay at its worst. The chaff would stick to your already sweaty skin with the first step into the field. Every little bit of dust hung in the air, clogged your nose, burned your throat. Then the bugs would come in hordes, mosquitoes and deer lfies the size of Stealth bombers, leaving huge welts wherever they bit.

The good things in August had begun in July: fresh watermelon and sweet corn, swimming at the lake. But now they were foreshadowed with the clouds of portent. Mr. Greasy Hair would make you suffer for what your sister pulled in his class last year...

August's final hurrah was the start of the Fair season. Friends showed their livestock or maybe you had entered something in the crafts competition at various country fairs or small town events. The Fair started the last few days of the month and always ran through Labor Day, the first Monday of September. Candied apples, fresh pulled taffy, Ferris Wheels and Tilt-a-Whirl rides, the smell of roasted peanuts and the carnival barkers hoping to garner your nickels and quarters. Politicians started their campaign stumping: the Republicans and Democrats at opposite ends of the walkway between the exhibition hall and the midway of rides and games. They all sounded the same to me: promises, promises, shrill and desperate. Nothing's changed as far as that's concerned.

Still, there was a bittersweet tinge to the Fair. School would start the day after it ended and already the social strata system was in full evidence. Cheerleaders with football players, greasers with other "bad" kids, the nerds and socially awkward: layers never truly mixed. You were forced to in school; invisible barriers kept you apart everywhere else.

Now August is still sticky and humid, but I no longer go to fairs. Besides, the Arizona State Fair isn't until November and the Pima County Fair is in the spring.

Someday I hope to go to Australia. I think I'll plan to go for the entire month of August. Yeah! Now, to win that lottery...

07 August 2011

Procrastination Isn't Evil...

Procrastination can be the bane of writers, true enough. And yes, I am delaying the finish and submission of my nonfiction mss at the moment. But one thing we have to realize is that sometimes it pays to put things off for just a bit.

I've had a lovely unscheduled, unscripted morning with a dear friend. We had a lovely light breakfast (yogurt & granola, thank you), went on to a nearby Farmers' Market to get chilies for salsa making, and came back to my house to watch a couple of new episodes of Torchwood. Got to totally relax, revive, and reset. Now I'm ready to tackle the last bit of that Manuscript with energy. Yes!

What recharges your batteries, and do you ever feel guilty about it?

01 August 2011

Off the Radar

I'm off the feds' radar. Yep, I'm underground, off the charts, nonexistent in the computer files.

I found out I have no credit score.

An interesting phenomenon amidst the national debt debacle is the discovery that the determination and ideal to pay all your bills is now considered bad. You are "rewarded" with a high credit score if you amass loads of debt and keep up the the payments. You are punished with a bad credit score if you amass loads of debt and are late or default on the payments. But here's the kick: You are punished by having no credit rating at all if you pay every one of your creditors in full and stay out of debt for more than seven years.

Why is this a big deal? Credit ratings are what banks and lending institutions use to decide if you are worthy of a car loan, a house mortgage, a business loan, and other loans. If you pay them all off, these institutions make no money from you because you aren't paying their interest rates. I've learned that my car insurance company charges me a higher premium because I have no credit score. They punish me with a higher rate for paying my premiums in full every six months as well. Uh, isn't that backwards?

This same insurance company also recently denied coverage to an author friend for house insurance because... he writes a blog and someone might read his blog and may do some nefarious thing he suggests (like take a walk through Sabino Canyon), twist their ankle and then might decide it's all his fault and maybe sue him. Therefore "Flo" (who isn't very progressive at all) totally refused to underwrite a house insurance policy for him.

If you're scratching your head and saying, "What the hay?" you aren't alone. I'm thinking their lawyers were smoking hookah when they wrote that clause, or maybe the agent had funny mushrooms for lunch. Do you mean to tell me they would refuse a policy to Stephen King or Nora Roberts because they blog? That's just silly.

Some credit card companies charge a fee if you pay your entire balance each month. Needless to say, I made sure to shop around and get one that not only doesn't do that, they don't charge an annual fee just to have the damn thing to begin with. 

What is up with the "debt is good" notion? Whatever happened to the ideal of financial responsibility? Did you know that the main selling point for life insurance is that it might pay "most" of the debts you leave your loved ones when you're gone?

It takes discipline to resist impulse buying, to choose not to buy into the media hype of purchasing a new everything every few years. If the cash isn't in the pocket, the purchase can wait most of the time. It's called "Living Within Your Means." And what the Establishment doesn't want you to know is that it's doable. Honest.

No, it isn't easy to run under the radar. But I feel rather subversive, a little rebellious in not having a credit score. Like, I'm underground, man.