Digital Laze: My Fingers Need Discipline

I’ve always been a writer, such that I’ve always had an awareness of what I’m writing above what I think is probably normal. It all began when I was quite young. Being from a broken home, a large portion of my relationship with my mom was conducted by mail. We put a lot of efforts into our correspondence, which was great fun, and my mom even bought me a book to help my inspiration. I might even still have the book, now that I think about it. It didn’t stop with my mom, though. When she moved not so long ago, she mailed me a box that was filled with letters I had received in return for letters sent to quite a large number of people, some of whom I had completely forgot. I was quite impressed with myself for the achievement. Today, I can barely get a reply to a text message (exaggeration!).

My attention to the written word continued into my professional life, where much of my business is done through email with people on the other side of the world. From the start, I made a point of carefully constructing my missives to be as clear as possible to the readers. While they are all English speakers, they aren’t American so there is always a chance for confusion. One person I have worked with over the years writes (especially in the earlier years) in extensive abbreviations, a hold over from the telex days when every character counted, literally. It took me some time to decipher, and so in response I pledged to myself to write out every single word always. I’ll admit I’ve gotten a bit lax. There are a few words I always abbreviate. But I still make a point of writing complete sentences, with proper punctuation and capitalization (as a result, my personal emails are practically devoid of these things). I pride myself in it. I have therefore been chagrined this week by the discovery my fingers have become quite lazy.

I was issued a new computer at work this week and have spent some time customizing my settings. I’m generally opposed to auto-correct, and have turned it off. What I discovered, however, is that on my old computer, I still had the “capitalize the first letter of sentences” turned on. Now, it seems at least half the time, I’ve been having to go back and fix my capital letters! Since when did it become so difficult to hold down the Shift key? Am I really in that much of a hurry? It has brought a new found awareness to my typing. I read an article recently about the growing disuse of periods as a signal of sincerity in typed messages. I pray I don’t fall victim to this herd mentality. It would really get my goat to have my behaviors defined by generational norms (I’m fairly safe as I’m not quite young enough to fit into the millennial range).

What does this all mean? Well, it means I’ll be paying more attention to my punctuation, in the traditional sense. So, if you get a text from me that ends with a period, there’s no need to read anything into it. When I’m being sarcastic, you’ll know it by the look on my face.

Will Raising the Minimum Wage Solve Our Problems?

Today Seattle approved a hike in the minimum wage for the city. I’m really torn on whether this is a good idea. My feeling is that there are other ways to help the economic gap, such as rent control/stabilization and improving public transportation. If we can make life more affordable, we don’t necessarily have to pay everyone more. Some may say that is a case of “six of one” but I really feel psychology will play a heavy role in whether a higher minimum wage will be a help or a hindrance.

Also, I see statements like the one below, and I think to myself, “this is an issue between you and your boss, not an issue for legislation.”

Crystal Thompson, 33, told The Seattle Times she has been working at a local Domino’s Pizza for five years and still makes minimum wage. She says her responsibilities have grown, and she sometimes is responsible for opening and closing the store.

“I think I deserve a raise,” she told the Times.

If you’ve worked some place for five years with no raise and accepted increased responsibilities to boot, that, my friend, is your problem. Sure, this is an isolated case, but if it is any indication of the “problem” as a whole, there are better solutions than just forcing employers to arbitrarily raise wages. Market forces, and the individual employees, should help dictate wage increases.

Raising the minimum wage is a mere bandage. Here in Seattle, at least, there are many factors in play that make wages seem inadequate, factors we are not addressing. Developers build apartments unfettered, raising property values to unreasonable levels. Lower wage earners cannot afford to live in the city where they are employed, making their lives even more expensive as they have to consider transportation into their daily costs. It’s great that computer programmers can walk to work, but do they care that their janitors and baristas have to commute an hour each way on an unreliable bus or spend hundreds maintaining a jalopy just so they can serve their pasty selves? (yes, yes, I know not all programmers are pasty)

Anyway, my point is that the issue is way too complex to be remedied by an across-the-board wage increase.

My Postal Solution

I recently read yet another article about the US Postal Service hemorrhaging money, and after I successfully blocked awful images out of my mind, I got to thinking. I have a soft spot for the Postal Service, and would really hate to see it go away or become privatized, and so I came up with an idea to keep it around. At the moment, the Service is asking Congress to approve ceasing Saturday delivery. I say cease all residential mail delivery. I got a postcard in the mail with an offer to rent a post office box. But shouldn’t a post office box be free, and delivery service be for a fee? Let us return to the days of picking up our mail at a post office, and let businesses pay to have their mail delivered to their premises. It could be charged on a monthly basis, by the pound. Businesses could include property management, i.e. apartment buildings and condos (sorting for individual residences would be the building’s problem). We wouldn’t need to expand the extant post offices, but could build centrally located, unmanned mail box centers if needed. I haven’t crunched any numbers, nor do I have the numbers to crunch, but I think it’s an idea worth considering.

A Cinematic Plea, in Two Parts

Part the First

I beg of you, my fellow wage earners, please spend more of your money seeing films in theatres. The more we go to the actual theatres, the less they’ll need to charge us to remain open. Sweet little Uptown Theatre has already closed its doors this year, and more closures could be coming to Seattle. I went to see Red at the Admiral Twin yesterday, a so-called “dollar theatre” for 2nd run movies, and the ticket price was $5.50! The movie was pretty fun, incidentally, though I spilled half of my small popcorn on the floor before it even started. Which reminds me, the film at the Admiral was preceded by about 10 commercials (including two for Bod Men and two for Chevy trucks) and NO MOVIE TRAILERS. It’s a sad state of affairs.

Part the Second

I beg of you, Hollywood and indie filmmakers alike, don’t make so many movies! I suppose this plea is especially toward Hollywood corporate film studios. I know the point is the bottom line, but I’d kind of like to see the collapse of at least a couple of you giants. It’s called market saturation. People don’t appreciate movies anymore because there are so many of them. If they don’t have appreciation, they won’t go to the theatre to see them. What’s the point? If they miss it, they can see it on video. If they miss it, there will be another similar film being released months, weeks, days later. Instead of remaking a film, why not have a second theatrical release years later? Cheaper to make and easy revenue. Instead of remaking a foreign film for the (apparently stupid and/or blind) American audience, spend a fraction of that money heavily promoting the original foreign version.

P.S. Give the comic book adaptations a rest for a few years, please. Let people read for a while.

Pharmacy Adventure: Long Story Short

So yesterday I stop by my local Bartell to ask for a refill of my allergy medicine, telling them I’ll come back later to pick it up. I forget to pick it up last night so plan to pick it up on my way home tonight. In the meantime, this afternoon I entered my “authorization code” on my new insurer’s website so that I can avail of their mail-order pharmacy service, and then I fill out the little form to transfer my prescriptions for future ordering. I go to Bartell tonight to pick up my medicine only to find they already got my transfer request (it was like two hours prior!) and have canceled my prescription! Talk about efficiency. However, I don’t want to wait and see what happens with the online thing, so when they say they can re-fill it, I say “go ahead.”  Then – when I get my medicine, the charge is twice what I’m expecting, so I look at the pill bottle, and they’ve filled it for 90 days instead of my usual 30! I feel a little bamboozled, but at least I don’t have to go to the pharmacy again for a while. . .

A Thought or Two on the Election

In the last couple of weeks I’ve been watching Jeopardy! upon my return home from work. In general, it’s been enjoyable, but unfortunately it means I’ve had to watch a lot more commercials than usual. And since the last couple of weeks have been leading up to the general election, it means I’ve had to endure campaign ads up the ying-yang. One commercial break would be dedicated to skewering Dino Rossi, and the next would be skewering Patty Murray, both camps accusing the other of practically the same things. In addition to the personal attacks, there were also the ads for and against the various state initiatives. One initiative in particular really inspired some doozies – number 1098 proposing an excise tax (or income tax, depending on your angle) on larger incomes. Anyway, the point is not really what it was for, it was the substance of the ads “against”. All were saying the same thing – “I don’t trust the legislature” – literally. Think about that. The people don’t trust the very officials whom they voted into office. I think to myself, “so why the —- did you vote them into office?” If we don’t like who’s running, why are we voting for them? And I guess I don’t blame these Doubting Thomases, I have a really hard time finding any politician I feel like is actually doing their job, or even trying. It seems like the “public service” has been taken out of public office these days. The politicians are too busy talking about what they don’t like about everyone else instead of focusing on What Can Be Done To Improve Things. If we really want to shake things up, as citizens, we should invoke a vote of no confidence. Oust the whole Congress. Anyway, we’ll never do that. Instead, we’ll just keep voting for the Lesser of Two Evils, campaigns will continue to be so expensive so as to exclude the normal person who actually wants to do a good and fair job, and everyone will just keep on whining instead of doing anything. And now, I think it’s time for Jeopardy!

Where is All the Money? And Why?

I got an email today from my pal Joe Biden.

Friend —

See? We’re pretty close.

$200 million.That’s what Republican-aligned special interests have pledged to spend on the 2010 election. Just to put that in context, that’s nearly $40 million more than every interest group spent on the 2008 presidential election — combined.

I have to wonder, if those numbers are even half right, what is wrong with this scenario? Why, if people/companies, have such large amounts of cash they are willing to give away, why do they waste it on campaigns (no matter which party)? Wouldn’t it be better served by investing in communities? In real projects to better our infrastructure, grants for schools and libraries, food and shelter for those not able to provide from themselves? They could get their name in giant letters across the face of a public hospital they paid to build, in blinky lights on a much-needed South Park bridge replacement.Millions spent on political campaigns is such a fruitless, impractical endeavor. What’s the expression – pissing in a river . . . (or maybe watering your lawn while it’s raining)