Decisive Even If on the Wrong Course?

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(c) Bado (Guy Badeaux), Le Droit, www.cyberpresse.ca/droit/

This political cartoon has got to the best at encapsulating the U.S. election this coming Tuesday. Those Americans who support Bush often cite their belief that he is clear about where he is taking their country (À la “Either you’re with us or you’re with the terrorists” manner), whereas they see Kerry as being undecisive — a “flip flopper.” On the other hand, those who support Kerry consider his ability to see shades of grey to be an asset, and Bush’s either/or-ism a liability. While I agree that the “liberals'” propensity towards overly nuanced analyses can overemphasize process over action, I also think that weighty issues such as those America (and indeed “The West”) is facing cannot be reduced to simple dichotomies.

Friday’s release of the latest bin Laden video was certainly a zinger, although there’s no way of knowing how it’ll play in the mind of the electorate on Tuesday, which I predict as many others will be one very messy affair. Imagine the shame that’s probably being felt in the States as a result of this election being monitored by international observers from such beacons of democracy as Zambia and Nicaragua! (See story) But whatever the outcome — even a clearer than expected majority one way or the other on Tuesday — the cleavage in American politics will remain. Indeed, no matter who wins, we can expect the losing side to accuse the winning side of stealing the election, as well as four more years of bitter (and destablizing) divisions.

Side notes
¤ I wish Nader would have fuckin’ stayed out of the running. If we accept his claim that he is not doing it to favour Bush (which I believe he isn’t), then obviously he’s only doing it for himself and not for the Americans he proclaims wanting to protect along with their freedom. While polls show he’s not likely to be as big a factor as he was in the 2000 election, he could still be the spoiler.

¤ Funny how red is used to depict Republican states and blue for Democratic states. It’s precisely the opposite in Canada (conservative = blue and liberal = red).

¤ I get queasy each day when I visit this site because polls show that the numbers are always shifting. This only reinforces my belief this election is going to be a mess.

¤ Clearly the U.S. is big on decentralization, even when it doesn’t work. Especially after the 2000 election, isn’t it obvious that elections shouldn’t be run by states and, in turn, counties? And what about those jurisdictions using voting machines that leave no paper trail! Christ on a stick! Is it really impossible to make those machines work like ATMs?

So Long, Senator Samson

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Hiker and his partner Bello lost The Beautiful Samson last Tuesday.

Samson was possibly my favorite dog in the whole wide world. Gentle and very distinguished, I would call him The Senator (in the Canadian sense) since it just seemed to suit him.

“You’re certainly right about Samson’s gentle nature,” Hiker just wrote to me. “Everyone who met him seemed to fall for him. His presence alone provided me with a sense of peace that is truly undescribable and it’s terribly difficult to adjust to the loss.”

Samson was having a nice romp in the backyard with his canine roommate Kaizer when suddenly he fell limp — “possibly a heart attack or a ruptured tumour,” Hiker explained. He died naturally shortly after getting to the vet’s. But all who fell for his charm will long remember him.

Marketing Versus Real Action, Take 2

Well, it took just a little bit over 24 hours, but I got a response to my cranky missive. I’m not satisfied with the response, but I’m not going to engage in a useless and meaningless exchange.

From: Mike Agent 1234 at [Telco] Member Services
To: Maurice
Subject: Re: Less Marketing, More Action
Date: Sat, 23 Oct 2004 16:09:30 -0300

Hello Maurice ,

Thank you for writing. We regret to hear that you do not wish to receive [our] Newsletter and find is to be “a mindless market target”. However please keep in mind that a majority of our customers enjoy our newsletter and wish to receive it. [Ed.: Oh, bite me! Although I don’t have any hard evidence, I seriously doubt that “a majority of … customers enjoy” the newsletter. Furthermore, I didn’t call the newsletter “a mindless market target”; I claimed that Member Services view so-called members that way.]

The […] Newsletter is sent out to all of our customers, and is simply a way to communicate and inform our customers of events, new products, promotions and a variety of other information that is of use to most of our customers. All [Telco] internet customers receive the […] newsletter unless they unsubscribe to it. [Ed.: That is precisely my point about PIPEDA: Telco, I believe, is in breach of it. Customers should be given the opportunity to opt in and NOT be opted in by default. Unfortunately, I haven’t the time to file a complaint with Telco’s privacy officer, but I verily believe I would have a case.]

As for the issue you are having with Spam, we cannot filter out all Spam. Spam that is filtered out arrives in large numbers, it would be impossible to target the spam that arrivers is smaller number intended for specific email addresses. [Ed.: The point Mike seems to be missing is that Telco did have, prior to the strike, efficient server-side spam filters. I recognize that no such filter is bullet proof and that spammers are extremely creative in finding ways to evade filters, but that is why the filters have to be updated regularly. The number of spam messages I receive daily from my other addresses combined, all hosted with Hosting Matters and using Spam Assassin, is far lesser than my single Telco address. MT-related comment spams are the only exception, and that’s something I’m prepared to accept if I persist on not upgrading MT but still want to leave comments open.]

You can configure your email client to filter your email so that messages containing certain words or email addresses are deleted before you see them. This will not stop the email from being sent, but you will not see it on your computer. [Ed.: Not acceptable. It’s not that I don’t want to see the spam messages; it’s that I want them weeded out as much as possible at the server level so that I don’t have to download them.] Be careful when using this feature. If you are too specific with the filtering criteria, you may delete messages that you did not intend to delete. [Ed.: That can also be a problem with server-side filters.] For information on setting up mail filters in your email program, refer to your program’s help files under Message Filters or Message Rules or visit the following websites:

For Netscape Communicator
For Outlook Express

Please note that this process is not supported by the helpdesk. This information is provided for use at your discretion only. [Ed.: I’m also aware, and I accept, that Telco does not support the e-mail program I use, namely Eudora. It still doesn’t change the fact you’ve missed my point.]

I hope that I was able to help. If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact us again at any time. [Ed.: No, you were of no help whatsoever. But I won’t be wasting my time with you since it’s clearly not going to go anywhere.]

Kind regards,
Mike

Marketing Versus Real Action

I must have gotten out the wrong side of the bed this morning, for I just fired off this message to my ISP in response to their online newsletter which came in today.

From: Maurice
To: [Telco] Member Services
Subject: Less Marketing, More Action
Date: Fri, 22 Oct 2004 13:07:00 -0300

Good day,

I’m getting rather annoyed with [Telco]’s “Member Services.” Why? Because it seems to view me, a so-called “member,” as a mindless market target who waits to receive with baited breath the next issue of your online newsletter, from which I’ve gleefully unsubscribed today. I’m pretty sure that unless I took leave of my senses at one point, I did not voluntarily subscribe to receive such tripe, and if I did, I doubt I would have asked it to be sent as a HTML-formatted e-mail message — unless that’s the only form in which you publish the darned thing. If the only reason I have been added to your distribution list is, as I suspect, the fact that I use [Telco] as my high-speed ISP, then I fear [Telco] may be crossing the line as far as Canada’s Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA) is concerned, as such a distribution list should be an “opt-in” and not the other way around.

But even more annoying than that is how there seems to be time to produce a useless marketing brochure when there needs to be action taken to curve the amount of spam I receive at my [telco] address. [Telco] used to have a decent server-side filter that cut most of it out. But the effectiveness of such filters is contingent on their being updated regularly on the server. I could understand why it wasn’t being updated during the lengthy strike that plagued [Telco] this year, but the strike has ended more than a month ago and clearly this VALUABLE SERVICE has not been updated yet. I have even sent, shortly after the strike concluded, a suggestion that it be done as soon as possible. I got no response whatsover to this suggestion, yet today I received yet another issue of that newsletter/tripe that pretends that [Telco] is the best thing since sliced bread.

A bit less marketing and a bit more action, people! Updating spam filters is a valuable service. A marketing newsletter is not.

Wind (and Constant Noise) Can Drive You Crazy

Unlike some people, I don’t like the wind. The sound of it makes me nervous for some odd reason. So I remember not being at all surprised when I learned that there’s a tiny place in Saskatchewan — I don’t remember its name, so I’ll call it Pancake, SK — where there’s always some wind. Always. Sometimes maybe just a tiny breeze, but wind nonetheless. And in that place in Saskatchewan, the rate of suicide per capita is off the scale compared to the national average.

The relentless wind, quite literally, pushes people there over the bend. Not that there’s such a thing as a bend in Pancake, SK.

Late last January, I wrote about this new ventilation system that was installed directly above my apartment. And I wondered back then if I would get used to it, if it was to become my “new normal.” Well, it’s been 9 months now, and the blasted thing actually gets turned off automatically from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. daily. But I’m still not, and never will be, used to it.

The fan is driving me over the bend. And while I know that the stress I’m under due to my work is the main reason why I’m feeling so damn tired these days, I’m now convinced that the fan is an irritant. When it turns itself off for the night, I immediately feel myself relaxing a little bit.

Just to give you an idea of magnitude, as the beast is obviously not exceeding acceptable decibel values… I would compare it to living directly below a laundry room where 3 dryers and 3 washers are running non-stop for 16 hours each day. But the problem is that what’s separating me from the fan is 6 inches of void and two planks of wood, not a roof made of sturdier material. On some days, things rattle in here; I’ve even had to permanently stick crunched up empty packs of cigarettes between some windows to stop the rattling.

It won’t happen tomorrow or next week, but this is a deal breaker for me and I’ll have to move out. I’ll be celebrating 10 years in the same apartment on Feb. 1, 2005, and since I hate moving so much, I assumed I’d stay here as long as I’m in Halifax. The only thing that’s holding me back right now is the rent. It’s as cheap as I’ll ever get in Halifax and, really, the most I can afford right now. One possibility I’ll look into, though, is co-op housing, of which there is a lot in this city. I know other freelancers in town who have followed that route and it’s sensible for people whose income is so intimately linked to the receivables folder. Knowing exactly when the next payday will be is the only thing I envy salaried people — that, and the benefits.

The fan just turned itself off for the night.

It is blessedly quiet in here, just as it used to be once upon a time. The only sound I hear is the quiet humming of the computer and the clicking sound from my keyboard as I type. And right now I’m thinking about how I really must try to fall asleep before the Fan from Hell comes back in service for another day.

Oh, how I miss this silence!