Thursday, October 30, 2008

Balance? I don't think so.

I was perusing the CNN website and saw these two headlines juxtaposed:

Exxon Mobil Breaks Profit Record
American Express Cutting 7,000 Jobs.

Boggles the mind, doesn't it? On the one hand, people and companies are struggling economically and fuel costs are a big part of that. Then, there's the biggest oil company making the biggest profit ever. I know, I know. Capitalism works that way. But it's insane.

By reducing their profit margins and keeping fuel a bit lower in cost, the oil companies can *help* the general economy. Maybe we'd see fewer job cuts. Certainly costs of food and goods would be lower. But greed...greed is the name of the game. It was one of the driving forces behind our mortgage/lending debacle, our stock market fallout, and so much more. And the oil companies have no shame. Sure, *their* employees are comfy...especially those executives with their huge bonus and such. But at what cost? No, I don't expect a lot of altruism in the business world. But some decency wouldn't hurt, would it?

I love my country, but stuff like this just drives me nuts.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Success and less than success

Balance....we all know that balance is necessary in our lives, personal and work.

I have an odd sort of balance going on today. The web portal that I built using Joomla (which almost drove me to poking a stick in my own eye because the documentation for open source products is seriously lacking) is having moderate success. People are asking to post their content there and, little by little, it's becoming known. I chatted with the President of our organization this morning and he is quite pleased with our little grassroots effort. The blog is chugging along.
So, yay, something successful.

On the other hand, the other web site that I keep an eye on (and it's a customer-facing site) is broken and I'm totally baffled as to what's going on. Something was deleted from the database...a totally innocent accident from someone else who was trying to do the right thing. Yesterday, I spent half a day getting things back into shape, only to discover that I hadn't looked closely enough and the site is still very broken (links going to the wrong place, etc.). I'm totally baffled and will have to step through individual documents to change mappings and so forth. Not something I really have time for today, but, since it's a public site, it has to take top priority.

So, for today, one plus and one minus. Is that balance? I'm not sure. All I know is that I have a busy and perhaps frustrating day ahead of me.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

FIOS, yes!

I hate my cable TV company. They keep moving channels around, keep raising prices, and in general, just annoyed me.

But, changes are a-coming! For months, we've been hearing that Verizon was negotiating with the town to bring FIOS in. Over the summer, all of the condos in my complex were wired with the basics for bringing FIOS to our little homes. I just saw an announcement that the town and Verizon have come to an agreement and FIOS is now being offered as a service.

I am assuming that since we have the basic connections in place, my address will be one of the ones that can get the service installed sooner, rather than later. Hooray! I'm going to go all the way...Internet, TV, and phone. It will be a lot less expensive (at least in the know how these bundled prices tend to increase after the first year or so...a bit of bait and switch, but what can you do?).

I've been dragging my heels about getting Digital TV...first because of the price and then later because I really hated the idea of having a set top box TVs were always cable ready so I never had to have the extra box. But, I guess I might as well get over it and go for the new system. Think I'll trot over to the Verizon site and see if I can sign up now for installation.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008 heart grieves for you...

Last year, I took some vacation time and went to Iceland. I love's an amazing place, very friendly to English speakers, with scenery that is about as spectacular as it gets.

So, it's with a heavy heart that I read about how the current economic mess has brought this country of hard-working, community-minded people to its knees. The UK actually invoked anti-terrorist laws against an Icelandic bank, seizing all of the UK assets. And this help cause the bank to dissolve.

Yes, the UK wanted to protect their money that was in the Iceland bank, but really...if any country could be counted on to meet their obligations, it's Iceland.

Not like my own, dear country. Our banks and investment firms were full of liars who sold bad debt to foreign banks, singing sweet promises of financial gain. How humiliating. Those foreign banks TRUSTED that the US investment folks were being honest about the risk involved with purchasing these assets. And they weren't. And the effect has been global...I don't know why I didn't expect that. I figured that our housing/mortage problems were ours alone. But I suppose no one country can work in a vacuum. A financial mistake (or blunder, or just idiocy) made in one country is bound to affect someone else.

Now, don't get me wrong, I choose to live in America, I still believe that there is the potential of greatness here, but when we go wrong, we go very, very wrong. The American Dream of owning your own home is wonderful, but encouraging people to live beyond their means is more of an American Nightmare, than a dream. What were people thinking? Both the people who lent money without restriction and those who actually took those loans.

What a mess. I've been hiding from looking at my 401K statements...I just don't want to see how much money I've lost. Or to think about the fact that I may NEVER be able to retire.

Monday, October 6, 2008

The Judge and the General - Pinochet and Judge Guzman

Last night, I watched the PBS Point of View documentary, "The Judge and the General." This show aired back in August but, since my cousin was one of the Producers, I have my own personal copy of the show.

This show is a fantastic glimpse into the investigation of Augusto Pinochet for crimes against humanity. The other story line that is just as fascinating, is how this investigation changes Judge Juan Guzman, the judge assigned to the investigation. As he says in the film, the work he took on, "...opened the eyes of his soul."

To be honest, I knew very little of the tragedy and turmoil that occurred in Chile during Pinochet's regime. In a way, I was like Judge Guzman, who had lived in his own world, oblivious to the horrors taking place around him. But, unlike those who, even when the facts are so obvious it's like being hit on the head with a 2x4 , continue to deny reality, Judge Guzman saw, really saw, the evil around him and did something about it. He was a true judge, a seeker of justice. And, for me, watching this film, I was reminded, once again, of how heinous people can be when they are focused on their own desires for power and personal validation. It happens again and again; still, as a society, we allow, ignore, or participate in these horrible crimes against our own. Chile, with the legacy of the "disappeared" (estan donde?), the unlawful torture, the murders, and the horror, is not a topic I often hear people discuss.

We should not forget. We must, must, take the time to remind ourselves that these horrible crimes have occurred and that we must always be vigilant to try to stop them from happening again. Even today, after all that we've seen in the past, the Armenian massacres, the Holocaust, Darfur, Somalia, and so many other events, our society continues to find reasons to justify genocide and power grabs that lead to nothing but pain, suffering, and an endless cycle of violence.

If you haven't seen the Judge and the General, take the time to find it and watch. It is very well done, very informative, and a reminder that in the midst of evil, there are those who have the courage to stand up and seek justice. I am glad that I'm a little bit better informed about such a dark time.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Schmap accepted my photo!'s really not a big deal.

But, I think it's kind of fun.

In a previous post, I mentioned that one of my photos on Flickr was short listed for publication in an online travel guide site called Schmap. I received email the other day that my photo of the Cutty Sark was indeed included in the guide.

So, I'm a published photographer now :-)

Of course, my photo isn't the only one. They are using a number of photos from other people. And, I still think I have better pictures of London than the one I took of the Cutty Sark.

Here's a link to what my picture would look like in the Schmap Guide on an iPhone:

Schmap London Guide

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

I hate Joomla less these days

After struggling and just being plain miserable with trying to build a website with Joomla, I finally managed to achieve some level of success. I was able to get some basic components functioning and although the site is obviously lacking in content, at least the mechanisms are in place to build out.

We announced the site yesterday and a few people have looked at it. In general, the reaction was positive. Even got a few volunteers who want to be part of the blog effort. Still waiting for someone in the developer world to step in and offer help. I do not know PHP and I have no interest in knowing PHP. But, to really make the website feature rich, I'll need a real web developer to make it happen.

So, although the struggle to get to this point was painful and I spent a lot of time way out of my comfort zone, there is a vague sense of satisfaction that I did something of some value at work.

It's been awhile since I felt that. It's nice.