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November 23, 2010

First Snow

There is something almost magical about the first snowfall of the year
The world grows quiet and sounds of everyday life are unclear
Even the children's howls of joy seem somehow subdued
White powder covers the world and everything seems new
Fresh and clean and with my worries and cares
Held in check as gossamer flakes fall through the air
Cold seems less a hindrance and I breathe in the crisp morning
Standing just inside my door with thoughts of snowmen aborning
Images of lopsided snow angels and stout forts dotting the land
With a sigh I shut the door and return to the work at hand
The passions of youth must be delayed at least for a time
As toward work and bills and mature endeavors I turn my mind
But with a rueful grin and one more backward glance
I promise swift return to this snow covered world that entranced
Me into rolling back the years the aches the lost chances and with youthful glee
I will return to this winter wonderland and, in turn, the child inside will return to me

November 12, 2010

Amazon Item Grouping

I simply don't understand why even has the "group my items" selection available during checkout. I have not had one order with multiple items in it ship together since September 2009.

My wife and I order using Amazon quite often. When the item(s) are for us, we have to drive a fair amount to get to the location where we can have them delivered. I know we're not alone in this, as many rural people, near-border individuals, and even apartment dwellers often cannot ship directly to their homes and have to have a PO Box, package delivery location, or similar and some just aren't close by. When the items I've requested to be grouped ship separately, this often means separate hour-long drives to the pick up location, costing me time, gas costs, and other frustrations that could be minimized if the items were actually grouped together.

What is further irritating is that Amazon shows me the items in question as "in stock" but doesn't tell me that they are in stock in separate locations. I'm certain that Amazon moves stock around between its warehouses, which are located all over America. If item X is selling strongly in the western states, but the main bulk of the product is held in a warehouse on the east coast, it makes sense for them to move stock to a central or western warehouse to better serve the demand. Assuming this, then they could also move items around for customers.

Frankly, if I ask for all items to be grouped together, I understand (and Amazon can make abundantly clear online while you are ordering) that this may delay the shipping of the bundled package. I accept that. That is part of the choice I'm making. So, if there is a day or two extra while they move the stock from a farther warehouse to a nearer warehouse while they get the order together, I've already agreed to it because I've accepted the consequences of my choice to have the products shipped together. It would seem obvious to me that the time frame is not the important factor based on the selection that I chose.*
* This is granting that the item(s) in question aren't being sold from a private vendor through Amazon. I recognize that sometimes, if, for example, you order two items and one is from Amazon and one is from a private vendor, the items cannot be grouped together as the private vendor does its own shipping typically. I'm talking about only those items that Amazon can control shipping on.
As a side note, I ordered enough that I'm getting free shipping. And, since they provide the free shipping regardless of whether they ship it as one package or many, if I request 1, they should provide it. I don't care if it takes longer or costs Amazon more money to ship everything to one location, repackage and ship to me in one package-- I'm not paying  for the shipping, so I don't care what hoops the company has to go through.

Luckily, my wife's eagerness to have our Christmas shopping done early this year has kicked me in the butt to start shopping for her earlier. So the fact that I may have to make up to four different trips for the four different items (depending on when they arrive and how long the post office holds things before sending them back, of course- I may cut it to only two or three trips) isn't as imperative. If I had waited until the last minute like I so often do, then having them come at varying times would mean gas, time, and effort wasted while I hurried down to get them so that I had something for her to unwrap Christmas morning.

In the end, I wonder why they even bother having the option if they (at least in my case) seem to never use it.

November 10, 2010

To Cry For

I'm not the most emotional person you could meet. I keep most of the "big" emotions locked down tight and don't share them or show them often. Oh, you'll see me laughing and smiling often enough, or possibly angry, but you won't see me sad or hurt very often.

Movies and stories in a very specific area do bring out the tears in me, though. If I'm watching a story where the protagonists are making the choice to sacrifice themselves or purposely do something knowing they will fail but choosing to do it anyway, the action stirs something within me.

Last night, my wife caught me with tears streaming down my face. I was watching an ESPN E:60 story about a child who simply loves baseball but was born with progeria. The child was 7, but had a body of a 60-70 year. He only grew to be 27" tall. He had to overcome almost dying in the hospital at birth, and a host of illnesses and trouble since then. But all the child wanted to do was play baseball, so the parents talked with a little league coach, got him the gear, and he "played" a game. By his last game in the league, other teams came to watch him play and cheer him on. While they had to cheat a bit to allow him to play (being so much smaller and weaker than all the other children), no one seemed to be doing it from any where other than a place of love and hope. He isn't expected to live more than a year or two more at the rate his body is aging.

When we went to watch Rocky Balboa in the theaters, I got misty eyed at the end. No, it isn't great cinema, but they played my emotions just right having the aging Rocky taking on the Young Stud boxer in an exhibition match and, while not winning, going the distance when no one thought he could and allowing him to leave the ring on his terms.

One scene that always gets me is in the John Boorman classic Excalibur. When Arthur and his very few remaining knights ride out to take on Mordred's army. The classical operatic music is playing in the background and, as they ride to a hopeless battle, the trees bloom and flower around them.

Another scene that gets me every time is the end of A.I.: Artificial Intelligence. The robot, just wanting to find the family he is programmed to love unconditionally, finds instead the "blue fairy" and sits, frozen in ice for a millenia waiting for his miracle and to become a "real boy". Soon, the aliens come and extract from his memory knowledge all about those who used to live on the planet and give him his hearts desire just before his battery runs out and he "dies."

I'm not sure what it is about these hopeless situations that stirs something in me, but they get me every time it seems. I'm wondering if I was part of a hopeless cause in some past life and those situations now speak to me in this one. Or maybe those situations are just the key to the lock on the black box where I keep my emotions.

November 3, 2010

Republican "Victory"

The Republicans and Tea Party got what they wanted, victory over the hated Democrats in Congress and a narrowing of the margin in the Senate. They also won a number of governor positions in many states.

However, looking at it historically, this may not actually have been what the Republicans wanted.

In the last 100 or so years, every President who lost the House and or Senate during mid-term elections has won re-election. This bodes well for Obama's presidency.

The Republicans, who brought us to a recession and nearly a depression over eight years of spending, tax cuts, and blaming Democrats, will now have to convince the public that the fact the economy has stabilized in the last two years is somehow their doing, even though they fought the Democrats every step of the way in some of the most contentious battles in recent decades. Will the American public buy into it?

In the past, cross party mid-term changes have allowed for some of the best compromises to be passed into law. Just look at the accomplishments of Bill Clinton after he lost Congress.

Obama has, from day 1 and contrary to what the Republicans have been saying for two years, met with Republican leadership weekly to hear their thoughts and try to get bipartisan support for his plans. He has repeatedly and publicly asked for Republicans to provide insight and thoughts into nearly all of the plans he has presented, which they have refused to do and then complained that they have no say. Now, if they so choose, Democrats can pull the same stunt on them with the added knowledge that the President has their back and will veto any bill that gets by them.

Historically, trickle down economics have never worked very well, causing the government to either spend money to balance things out or provide tax refunds to give people the money that isn't trickling down. The people get fed up with this and elect Democrats into office to solve the problem. They do and, the moment that the economy stabilizes and the things turn positive, the people kick the Dems out of office and go back to what didn't work before. Gee, sound familiar?

Now, the President has a chance to move even more toward the middle, has a clearer way to show the American people the rancor and refusal to cooperate of the Congressional Republicans if they continue to do what they did during the first two years of his Presidency. If anything, the Repubs winning has played right into his hands.

Hopefully, the Repubs and the President can form a good working partnership and continue to stabilize and improve the economy. Hopefully, the Repubs will start participating in the those weekly meetings with the President and offering their insights and opinions on his plans to help the country. Hopefully, we can move beyond the bickering, infighting, and childish behavior we have seen on both sides and get something done.