Sunday, March 15, 2009
This morning I finally got around to watching last Friday night's episode of "Bill Moyer's Journal." I normally never miss his program but when I read the show summary I was quite sure I'd find it boring: "Religious scholar Karen Armstrong discusses human commonalities and her work on an international charge for compassion." Yep, "Pretty dry..." thinks I. Having been wrong about first impressions or first readings, I chose to trust my past experiences with learning from what Bill Moyers' discusses on his program. "I'll give it 5 minutes, then it's 'Da Vinci's Inquest' if it's a snooze-fest." sez I to the dust bunnies. Yes, I live alone with my coven of dust bunnies. I launched into the show and about 75 seconds later I was totally hooked by the interview and her intelligent, exploration of religions. I learned that Karen Armstrong is a prolific author of numerous books, one of which, "History of God," I sent as a gift to my dad, who's on a kind of theological inquiry of his own. I bought the book based on a review, not because I read the book myself or knew anything about the author. I really do need to pay more attention! For someone like me, who sees the worlds religions as cauldrons for politics, ego, violence and hate mongering -- some of the most ethical, compassionate and righteous people I know are atheists -- Ms. Armstrong's knowledgeable writings seem to be a quest for a universal higher meaning and the deconstruction of compassion. She asks, what is it to really be compassionate? She suggests, to paraphrase, it is the ability to feel and acknowledge another's pain, wishes and desires -- which brings us to: do not do unto others that which you would not have done unto you. To that end she organized a "Charter for Compassion," a multi-faith effort to define compassion as it's expressed in the various religions. As I understand this, she sees compassion as a unifying, universal human expression that may mitigate our baser tendencies toward the destructive excesses of greed and power -- but perhaps that's my interpretation. In 2008, the Oxford educated Ms. Armstrong received a $100,000 "TED" (Technology, Entertainment and Design) prize (TED.com/) for this project. I don't do her justice in this writing and recommend viewing the episode. It's stimulating and thought provoking and better expressed through the program's episode which can be viewed on Bill Moyers' PBS web site:
. And no, I didn't switch over to "Da Vinci's Inquest" (more about that in another blog entry).
This is a photo of my cousin, Cecilia (right) and me in deep, deep, passionate conversation. Or, more precisely, she's in deep "I get it! I GET it already!" mode and I'm all, "Let me tell you what's up..." mode. We were about 3 years old at the time and it's a visual representation of our relationship to this day, even though we no longer fit on the same arm chair and she lives in Chicago. Personality traits start very early and this photo is an example. We talk on the phone at least once a week now -- sometimes more if political or world events need our attention or I just HAVE to get her advice. Honestly, 99% of the time I talk and she listens. I like to make her laugh -- I think I'm her Tuesday phone-fun -- and she always makes me laugh. Fortunately, my darling cousin, whom I love dearly and have always considered as my sister, listens and then gives me really sage advice. To her great credit, she has never, EVER, just said, "shut up", or "it's my turn to talk now" or any variation of that sentiment, even though I'm sure she should have. I'm not particularly proud of my ability to gab but I am very proud of Cecilia. She's is a single mother who raised two wonderful daughters, is a great film critic, treats everyone with compassion and respect and is someone I look up to. I regret the physical miles between us but I'm so lucky to have such a gem of a relative. Our respective mothers were sisters who had some kind of jealously or competition thing flowing between them and tried, consciously or not, to imbue that sense of relationship in their daughters. My mother repeatedly told me she wished I was more like Cecilia (who was demure, quiet and whose slip never showed or socks ever fell into her shoes). I wished I was more like Cecilia too! Cecilia's mother repeatedly told her she wished she was more like me (because my mother taught me to always say "Thank you" when adults gave me compliments -- where Cecilia felt embarrassed by compliments)! Yikes! I wouldn't wish "being like me" on anyone. Psychologists might have predicted that Cecilia and I would feel antagonistic toward each other based on our mother's input. It never happened that way for either of us. I always admired Cecilia and she seems to have the same regard for me. As I said -- I'm one lucky gal!
Oh, yah, I got an iPhone -- I can tell `cause it looks just like the photo on the cover of the book, "iPhone, Fully Loaded" by the fabulous Andy Ihnatko (Google his name if you don't recognize it -- and if you don't recognize it, you're not a Mac addict). The iPhone was a gift from my always-generous daughter who is the source of all my computer-ability, and from whom I'm borrowing the book. If it weren't for her, I'd still be using an Apple IIc and eating food with stone-crafted tools. I think the term is: luddite, although I prefer, Neo-Luddite. Thanks to Nia, I am the wildly happy owner of an iPhone. I've loaded it with free "apps" -- many of which I'll never use and/or never learn to use -- but the little app icons look pretty! Besides the phone feature, I've downloaded email, text-messaged, Twittered, browsed/searched the webnets (which came in handy when the dreaded "Triangle of Death" warning light lit on my Prius dashboard last December and a quick check via a Google search led me to discern -- rightly -- that I hadn't closed the gas cap tightly enough after the last fill-up). I've used the iPod/podcast feature extensively, and consulted Urbanspoon (to find a vegan restaurant), Yelp, Weather Bug, NetNews, RTM (Remember The Milk), TipStar and Handy Level (which I love to play with at restaurants to make sure the table is level... doesn't everyone?). It's an amazing device although I've never used a Blackberry, so my opinion is pretty biased. Still, I like it.
Just before my birthday I received an email with the attached video. It kind of put "aging" into perspective for me. The next time I start a thought with, "I'm too old..." I'll think about this woman. I love the spirit and joy of this 80-something woman, who puts me to shame when it comes to flexibility, attitude, sexiness and dancing! Where'd I put my "Dance, Dance Revolution" mat?
March 9th was the second anniversary of my 30th birthday. It's also the 147th anniversary of the battle of Monitor and Marrimac, but I seriously digress. The "surprise" birthday bash was undoubtedly the best, most unforgettable birthday ever -- and I should know, I've had my share of birthdays. Despite my intention to take lots of photos, I took exactly none. However, my dear friend and expert photo-taker, Elena, took many with her high-fallutin'-multi-fangled-photo-makin' contraption (apparently, I'm suddenly channeling an old prospector from a Bugs Bunny cartoon) all of which she posted on Flickr
Tuesday, March 3, 2009
Believe it or not, this is not a horror story. My address book lists TimeWarner as: "TimeWarner Sucks!" -- an expression of my opinion of their service. I've made about ten times as many repair calls to TimeWarner as I did to Adelphia before it was acquired by TimeWarner. They tell me it's the same infrastructure as Adelphia -- but the service is worse. Today, a repair rep was scheduled to arrive between noon and 2pm to repair a combination of two different broadcast glitches I'd reported on Saturday. I won't go into the details of the repair -- suffice it to say the person to whom I reported the problem had never heard of anything like it -- neither had her supervisor. The point of this jabber is, I have a very low opinion of TimeWarner cable service -- and I only have their overpriced TV broadcast service -- but I have always been impressed with their employees. I don't know any of them personally -- I've never met a TimerWarner employee at a party, in a grocery line or while waiting to cross the street (perhaps I don't get out enough) -- but my experiences with them have all been very good. REALLY! The only exception was the snippy New York customer service rep with whom I spoke shortly after TimeWarner's acquisition of Adelphia and 5 days of no service. But those were "dark" days for everyone with TimeWarner service. I must tell you, Gentle Reader, I hate those scripts TimeWarner (and Verizon) makes their operators read. You know -- the ones that are delivered with an unearthly cheerfulness and sound something like this: "Hello! My name is (fill in the blank)! How may I provide you with the world's most excellent acts of perkiness that will burn a hole in your brain so you won't remember how angry you are with our company?" I always wonder if the person who delivers that script makes "Gag-me-with-my-own-finger" motions to their fellow operators once they've deliver the disingenuous babble. Other than the phony script thing, the folks they hire, in my opinion and experience, have always been outstanding. Today, the repair rep called 15 minutes before he arrived, then arrived on time, was friendly yet professional, did the repair quickly and with no fuss or muss. Plus, he didn't ask to use my bathroom before he left (always a gold star i my book)!
Now, if only TimeWarner's service could equal the excellence of their employees.
Oh -- and one more thing: if only TimeWarner would offer their packages based on how many channels are actually viewed. I only watch about 10 channels almost all of which are cable channels like Comedy Central, Discovery, PBS, History, USA, TNT, Sleuth and a couple more. Yet I pay for over 200 channels. Basic cable -- and its 3 dozen or so channels -- doesn't include any of the cable channels I watch so I have the next package up from basic. Their packages go from 30 to 200 (or something like that). Bundled services are like an all-you-can-eat buffet: you pay for food you don't like, would never eat and there's way more food on the table than justifies the cost in comparison to how much can be eaten in one meal.
Whew! Glad I got that off my mind.
Monday, March 2, 2009
I'm enrolled in Accounting 101 (online) at Santa Monica College this semester. I've been enrolled at SMC and Irvine Valley College (IVC) since before the first protozoa formed. Or so it seems. I'm taking this class as a prerequisite course for their Quickbooks 101 class which I need to take because I use and have used QB Online, in my work, almost every day for the past 4 years and don't really know what I'm doing. Of course, taking this class doesn't guarantee that I'll "know" what I'm doing afterwards, but it's a start. I've never had the same respect for accounting as, say, for algebra, calculus, trig -- all of which make my teeth itch and my deodorant fail. Accounting, on the other hand, has always inspired a quick roll of my eyes, a half-yawn and an involuntary utterance that sounds something like: "ffffffsh". Then I saw the 3" thick textbook with its accompanying cd...
-- and my teeth started to itch. I suppose one shouldn't judge the difficulty of a subject based on the thickness of the textbook, but accounting and all its accompanying terms are an arena I've assiduously avoided until relatively recently. I've had computer networking textbooks that cast as large a shadow as this accounting book but I had some prior familiarity with that topic so I wasn't as intimidated. What I know about accounting could fit inside a baby pea. I think I'm in for a humbling ass-whooping -- or brain-whooping depending on which part of my body actually absorbs new information.
I hope the cd has some fun music I can listen to while struggling with concepts like transaction analysis and return on assets. I'm getting queasy just typing those phrases.
While I prepare myself with self-assuring reminders like, "I was the single parent of a teenager -- I can do this...", nevertheless, wish me luck!
Sunday, March 1, 2009
Today, I'm fulfilling a promise made to several friends and family, that I'd start a blog. Given how many worthy, readable, fun, serious and informative blogs there are "out there", I'm not sure extracting my promise is because they believe I have worthy ideas to share or if they see a blog as a form of self-defense -- like telling a child to go play outside -- an activity that will save them from having to hear me yap away at them and redirect my oratorial exuberance into the passive bowels of internet blogging.
In any event, I believe words are powerful and can create -- not just define -- who we are and what we do in the world. So, here's the start of a promise fulfilled.