Friday, February 18, 2011

Living Conservative in a Liberal World (part 13): I Can't Believe it Has Come To This!

I became a teacher to help kids. Period. I didn't want to do it because of summers off. I am in favor of year 'round schools. I didn't do it for the benefits, and I am grateful for them. I did it for the kids.

I am at home right now. I am at home because over 600 of my colleagues have called in sick out of protest over our Governor's budget repair bill which severely restricts the bargaining rights of public employee unions. It also puts in place a definite employee share to pension plans (right now I pay nothing ... Zero, zilch, nada) and to pay a percentage of the premium for my health plan (at the moment, I pay nothing, but I have to give credit to my union in that they had taken a baby step towards helping that situation in negotiating a 1% salary giveback to help pay for our benefits).

Now, my district is closed, many teachers are on their way to the state capitol to protest, and I am at home instead of where I should be: at school teaching my students.

I sat down last night and posted something overtly political on Facebook ... something I had never done before. I don't hide who I am: my political status on Facebook is "conservative, but not the scary kind." However, I see Facebook as a place for fun, not politics. Sadly, politics has invaded my Facebook. I am sure my rather strongly worded comment caught people off guard, but I am just that disgusted by this.

I have the greatest students I could ever hope to have. Even the ones who are more challenging are students with a bright future and they deserve better than they are getting from us at the moment.

So today, I sit at home, I write my blog and I wish that things were different.

8^) Jim
- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Some Illuminating Thoughts About Part 12

So I re-read part 12 of "Living Conservative in a Liberal World" and realized that some people out there might be wondering, what the heck does this have to do with being conservative or liberal? How does this post fit the theme I had proposed the first time I wrote a post under that title? It has to do with the conduct of the parents.

Conservatives believe strongly in self-reliance. They believe in taking care of themselves and their families. However, along with self-reliance comes self-control. Conservatives believe in the idea that one's actions and behaviors should, as much as possible, be appropriate and above reproach.

I have often watched people in the world be disrespectful of others. In an audience, the disrespectful person is carrying on a conversation during a performance, diminishing the enjoyment of the people around them who are trying to watch the performance. Then, when you dare to try to correct the poor behavior, they act as if somehow, by demanding appropriate audience behavior from them, you have offended them to the core of their very being.

This is the liberal/conservative issue here. Sadly, the problem is not isolated only to liberals. More and more conservatives have joined the cult of rudeness. In this time where people are begging for civility in public discourse, perhaps we could add a little less rudeness to the message.

8^) Jim
- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Living Conservative in a Liberal World (Part 12): Now That's Entertainment

As I write this, I am watching a group of kindergardeners of Chinese descent perform in a school pageant of sorts. It is a Chinese New Year party put on by a Chinese Cultural Organization. I don't understand a word of it. I am simply the technical support. As the stage manager for my school, any time another school uses our stage, I have to be present to run the systems and provide technical support.

As I watch the performances, I am reminded of certain universal facts:

- there is always one kid who is up on stage mugging for the crowd. It is always cute.

- the kid who sings loudest is invariably the one closest to the microphone. It, also, is always cute.

- teenage girls will become shy and coquettish on stage. Teenage boys turn into blushing wrecks incapable of intelligible speech when paired with one of these coquettish girls. The interactions between them are cute.

- a five year old singing a song in her tiny five-year-old voice will melt the heart of the most stoney-souled person. Need I mention the cuteness?

- parents at a school production are some of the rudest spectators in the world. There is no cuteness to behold here.

- Chinese paper lantern decorations are beautiful.

- listening to parents talking to each other when the kid on the stage is not theirs, making it hard to hear the kid up on stage, drives me absolutely up a tree.

- children of Chinese descent are some of the most polite children I have ever encountered. Their politeness is cute.

- I swear, that guy over there looks like Kim Jong Il. Scary, not cute.

- this has been a great experience for me, and I am thankful I had a chance to witness this.

- hearing Frere Jacques sung in Chinese causes a bit of language dissonance on the part of the monolingual. Oh, by the way, it is cute.

- there are Chinese words that sound like the "F" word.

- the Chinese language has a lot of hard accented syllables in it. As a language it is about as subtle as a machine gun.

- a microphone that suddenly stops working in the middle of a performance is enough to make me want to pull out what little hair I have left.

- children make adults smile far more than they make us frown. I think they are God's Way of bringing more joy into the world, and I am thankful for them, even though I have none of my own.

8^) Jim
- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Saturday, February 12, 2011

On being a blogger ...

I find myself sometimes envying those other bloggers. You know the ones. The ones who get mentioned on talk radio, the ones whose blogs get mentioned in magazines, the ones whose blogs pay their bills.

But then I wonder, what would my life be like if I were one of those bloggers? I would probably be working harder on my blog. I would be reading more. So far, so good, right? I would have to be more on top of the news. What makes or breaks a blogger is being the first to mention or analyze an important news story. Well, if I were one of those bloggers, the mentions on the wider media would cause other media types (think the MSM), to notice me. If I were to happen to have a bad relationship that ends poorly, it would become something that would be used to discredit me.

I like my little blog. Sure, I could monetize it and put the effort into it to promote it and try to push myself to be on the leading edge of the news. To be honest, I don't think I could handle the strain. Maybe once, but now ... no, not so much.

Monday, February 7, 2011

The Superbowl Halftime Show

Superbowl XVL had everything a superbowl should have. Superb athleticism, plays that make you ooh and ahh, errors and mistakes that make you stomp your feet, and a finish that made you jump off the sofa. What it lacked was a decent halftime show.

The Black Eyed Peas. Seriously? Puh-lease! OK, they are hip and trendy, but their performance was ... well, weird.

First off: the costumes. What the heck were they wearing? It looked like they found the rejects from Tron: Legacy at a thrift shop. And that helmet was wearing ... is he losing his hair and going plastic?

Second off: Fergie's microphone. There is a now-unemployed sound tech who forgot to turn it on. She is the best part of the group, both in looks (insert plastic joke here), and vocal ability, but even she sounded flat and hollow. Maybe they were out late partying with Ben Rothlisberger?

Third off: guest stars. Slash was ... well, showing his age. He stood still as a manequin while Fergie absolutely butchered one of the greatest songs ever. Oh, and by the way Fergie ... you are NOT Axl. Don't even try to copy his vocal stylings, it won't work. And Usher? Ummmm, Fergie, it is usually good manners to let a guest vocalist sing their own song.

Fourth off: new lyrics? Since when was "Where is the Love" a song to President Obama? The opening lyric was changed to a politically charged “In America we need to get things straight / Obama, let’s get these kids educated / Create jobs so the country stays stimulated.” Yeah, I get it, you think that President Obama is the salvation of America, but obviously you didn't hear his comment before the Chamber of Commerce where he said that corporate profits "have to be shared by American workers," not twenty-four hours after the interview with Bill O'Reilley airs in which he flat out denies being a socialist.

In the final analysis, the superbowl halftime show was about the only thing that could make me forget about the absolutely horrid botch-job Christina Aguilera did on the National Anthem.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

After years of crying "no fair" Apple becomes the bully

Lets talk monopolies for a moment. There are two ways something becomes a monopoly. The first is through unfair business practices. The second is through offering a product noone else offers (or competitor's offerings do not satisfy consumer demand). Take Mac OS vs. Windows, for example. Consumers want computers. They want choices, and they want the content and software that they had on say, their Dell, to work when they upgraded to a Gateway (think before the internet and cloud computing).

On the one hand, Microsoft offered Microsoft Windows, which despite it's quirks, functioned nearly flawlessly on pretty much every machine out there. Why? Because they were all COMPATIBLE. on the other hand, Apple has the Apple OS, which works on ... well, an Apple computer. That's it. You couldn't install windows on a Mac, and you couldn't install Mac OS on a computer that was not built by Apple. Which one gives you the most value (read compatibility) for you money? Windows wins, hands down.

Now Apple uses Intel processors in their computers. You can now put windows on a Mac. However, you still can't install Apple's OS on any computer not manufactured by Apple. As a matter of fact, Apples End User License Agreement (your permission to use the software when you buy it) expressly forbids installing OS X on a computer not built by Apple. Now THIS is a strongarm, anticompetitive tactic if ever I had seen one. However, it only affects a very small proportion of computer users, so noone is crying foul.

HOWEVER, Apple is now turning into a content bully with the iPad. Apple is seeking to restrict all content purchases that do not go through their App Store. An app will not be able to be used to purchase digital content independently of the App Store. Apple recently told newspapers that they could not allow print subscribers to access a free iPad edition, but instead had to offer the iPad edition separately from the print subscription so that Apple would get their 30% commission for selling the content. Apple also rejected the Sony eReader app, because the app would allow readers to purchase ebooks from Sony without going through the Apple App Store, thus cheating Apple out of their 30% commission.

I bought a first edition Kindle. I loved the Kindle, and was quite torn between upgrading to the Kindle 3 or buying an iPad and getting the Kindle app. I finally decided on the latter instead of the former. I like the versatility of the iPad, and I get plenty of use out of it, but a large part of the function of iPad for me is its usefulness as an ereader.

Now at this point, I have to make a couple statements about Apple products. I own the following Apple products: iPhone 4, iPad, Mac Mini (generation 1, bought used). I bought the iPhone because I thought it was cool. I was already an AT&T subscriber, so that wasn't a big thing for me. I bought the mini because I wanted the ability to cut my own ringtones and have them compatible with the iPhone, and the easiest way to do that is with Apple's Garage Band. Sure there are other ways, but they all involve using various (and sometimes expensive) third party software, and importing into iTunes, and ... well, you get the idea. The iPad I bought out of the desire to upgrade my first generation Kindle.

I spent years hating Apple. I adamantly refused, for many years, to buy their products. Now that I owned a few, I was slowly starting to soften that stance. Apple makes great products. I like their products. I still hate their corporate culture and attitude. The corporate attitude of Apple is that THEY should control your consumer experience when you purchase one of their products. They think that since they make the best product (in their minds at least), they can charge what they want, and people will pay it because they want the best, and if you don't like paying the price or allowing them to control what you do with a piece of technology they sold to you, then you don't have to buy their product. The slavish devotion they inspire in people is more reminiscent of a cult instead of a company.

Amazon's Kindle app allows you to search Kindle books from within the App, but when you want to buy the book, it takes you out of the Kindle app, and launches Safari and takes you to the product page where you can complete your purchase with a few taps, then return to your Kindle app and start reading. Alternatively, you can go to your PC and make the purchase, and then read the book on your iPad. If Apple restricts the first method of buying a book, I will switch to the second method of buying a book. I refuse to have Apple control my purchasing experience, and I suspect that a good many other consumers will feel the same way. This is why I prefer the Kindle app to Apple's iBooks app. If Apple tries to restrict the second method of putting Kindle content on my iPad, I will just buy a new Kindle, and Apple can be assured that my iPad purchases will stop at the first generation. I will also join in any class action lawsuits that may arise from Apple's noncompetitive practices for which I may be a member of the class.

I don't like bullies. I was slowly overcoming a long-term hatred for Apple and was willing to give them a chance. Don't blow it Apple! You are the ugly stepsister I was finally starting to like...