Monday, February 22, 2010

Terrorist Act or Suicide?

Although Tiger Woods' pitch to the public and advertising agents to "please be able to respect him [e.g. promote him/buy things with his face on them] again one day" took front line in the news last week, the more important story to me was the story of Joe Stack.

Andrew Joseph Stack, was the man who flew a small plane into an Austin building housing IRS offices, killing himself and one other person, Vernon Hunter, an IRS worker and Vietnam vet. From all the photos, Stack looks like an average dude about my parents age, who ran a software consulting business. But from his manifesto, or suicide note, which can be seen at Smoking Gun ... it appears there was more going on in his head.

A lot of folks I know are calling him a "home grown terrorist" ... and while I feel what he did was despicable, I'm not sure I agree. Terrorism I feel is defined pretty well in the non-definition given by Wikipedia... "Terrorism is the systematic use of terror especially as a means of coercion.[1] At present, there is no internationally agreed definition of terrorism.[2][3] Common definitions of terrorism refer only to those violent acts which are intended to create fear (terror), are perpetrated for an ideological goal (as opposed to a lone attack), and deliberately target or disregard the safety of non-combatants (civilians)."

I'll grant you that Mr. Stack targeted civilians, but he certainly wasn't trying to coerce anything, nor did he seem to have a coherent ideological goal. He was very upset at the tax system in our nation, and convinced that unless there was a body count, no one was going to notice his need for change.

I go back and forth on dubbing him crazy or not. Sure we would all love to pay less taxes. And sure we would all love to see the extremely wealthy pay their fair share. But from the photos in the news it looked like he had hobbies, a house, children, a paying job. Paying income tax didn't give him diseases or make him homeless, or even cause him to not be able to afford a guitar. He merely wasn't one of the wealthy elite. He may not have had enough money to travel to exotic locations or to buy a Mercedes. Maybe he wasn't going to be able to retire as early as he originally would have liked. That doesn't seem like the most hard up life that there is out there. And it doesn't seem like a reason to off oneself. So on that line of thinking, I do think he might have been a little unbalanced.

But he also makes good points. After the Great Depression, a lot of bankers did off themselves. And now, if our bankers and Wall Street screw up royally, they get a bailout, and then they get their bonus, while laying off the people who make a fraction of what they do who will never see a bonus. The people to whom that bonus would have been a lifetime of salaries... and to whom it may mean staying in their home, feeding their kids, etc. Not just whether or not they're going to remain a millionaire that year.

And while Stack's manifesto did say he's sure he wouldn't be the first or the last to feel this way, it did not encourage everyone to go out and attempt to blow up their IRS office. So in short, I don't feel that he's a terrorist. I feel that he's a tragedy... He had some good points, and it looks like at one point in time in his life he tried to be an activist and get people to hear those points, but failed. I think it's sad that he felt he had to end his own life. I think it's sadder still that his daughter calls him a hero to the press. That adds insult to injury to the Vernon Hunter family. But saddest of all is that a man who could have really just used a good shrink and a raise is getting dubbed a terrorist.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Resolutions Update 2/17/10

Well midway through February lets see where I'm at

1 - Lose (AT LEAST) 25 pounds. = Nowhere, working two jobs makes it real hard to diet. I am eating 5 or 6 salads a week, but I'm eating crap too. Boo.
2 - Get toned in addition to losing the weight. = Nowhere, working two jobs makes it real hard to find time to exercise. Hopefully I will be able to quit one, or reduce hours at it soon and make gym time.
3 - Start waking up earlier. SUCCESS - I've been out of bed each morning by 7:15 ... I don't know how much more I'm getting done, but I feel like I'm more up on my blogs, and that I've had time to pack lunches!
4 - Start saving more money. Some success - since I've been packing money, I've at least been saving on lunches, but I haven't really been putting much away.
5 - Start being more positive. Some success - I'm trying to stay positive. I think the healthy eating and maybe a raise might help
6 - Stop biting the nails. = Nowhere. Man this is a ridiculously hard habit to kick.

Ok, having an update helps, because maybe it will help me to get back on track. I appreciate all diet and any nail biting tips as always!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Fat Tax ...

... we've all been there. You get on the airplane, and the person that is seated in the seat assigned next to you is already halfway into your seat. And the flight is going to be 6 hours. Great.

However, it appears that some airlines have been going out of their way to make things more comfortable for the little people. Pun intended. Air France for one... has made its move. It will be charging passengers over a certain weight for a second seat at 75% of the cost for the first seat. The passenger will then accommodated by linking the two seat belts across the two seats to form one seat belt for the larger passenger. And Air France is quick to point out that this will only be done for fully booked flights, overweight passengers will be refunded the second chair price for flights that happen to miraculously have a spare seat on them.

Now I know this may be unfair for certain passengers. Say you're just extremely tall. 6'8" and 300lbs. By no means are you unhealthy, however, you probably do not fit in the seat for a variety of reasons. I mean there's no way your legs will fit in the extremely small space provided. Are they going to charge you for an extra chair? Maybe the one in front of you? Perhaps they can remove it and charge you for extra space for your legs?

I believe that all airline seating should be redone, with human beings in mind, instead of 8 year olds. However, until that is done, I would say that I am probably in favor of the fat tax. I have been smushed all the way into a third of my seat flying home from Europe. And it was one of the most horrible experience of my life. When the guy got up to use the bathroom the girl on the aisle seat, who was practically sitting in the aisle begged the stewardess to move us... alas, it was a full flight.

Southwest, however, in true Southwest form, appears to have gone overboard. It appears Kevin Smith, creator of all things Jay & Silent Bob, was forced to leave a Southwest flight. Smith was told that he must be able to fasten his seatbelt and lower his armrests in order to remain on the flight... after doing both of these, and asking the passengers around him whether they objected to his presence... and receiving negatives from everyone, he was STILL ejected from the flight. I think this is kind of ludicrous. From the photos I have seen of Smith, he is not the passenger I would object to, in fact, I think he is significantly smaller than most of the folks I object to. Smith has been accused of a publicity stunt to promote his new movie... but I don't think so. For one, Bruce Willis stars in it, and for two, Southwest is good at hating: both slutty dressers and moms. And third, do you really want to be called fat by the entire nation just to promote a movie?

Smith has also been criticized for not flying first class or in a private jet. And I agree with him... yeah he has money, but he's not going to hold on to lots of money if he pisses it away on things he feels he doesn't need. He's also been criticized because he has bought second seats on Southwest in the past, and had done so for this flight, but had changed his flight schedule to go home earlier. Just because a man buys a second seat in a flight for comfort reasons, does not mean he should be FORCED to on all occasions. If I ever have boatloads of money, you can bet I'm buying a second seat on all of my flights, because I don't like strangers touching me. Hell, I'd probably shell out for the private jet.

And Southwest's one concession after throwing Smith out of a chair that he fit into, with no complaints from his fellow passenger, was to offer him a $100 voucher. Which I'm pretty sure did not even cover his flight.

But I think the best point Smith made was in his twitter account, where he asks if Southwest treats its STAFF the same.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Video Killed the Radio Star

So Google Buzz has made its appearance. Touted as "one part Facebook, one part Twitter, one part YouTube and one part Flickr," many seem to think that Google Buzz is out to get Twitter and Facebook. I think that's a bit harsh. Google just wants its share of the market. The Droid phones look surprisingly like the iPhones but I don't see anyone freaked out that Verizon(HTC) is trying to push AT&T(Apple) out of the market. Matter of fact, it seemed to be expected that Verizon would find something to draw people away from the iPhone. I don't even remember there being this much outrage when facebook killed myspace.

So the pros.
1 - it automatically loads all of your google contacts as contacts for you.
2 - it puts up your google photo, no uploading.
3 - it constantly runs in g-mail, so you can keep both things open at once, in one window!
4 - there's no annoying character limitation as with twitter
5 - it's something new to try, and new procrastinations are always welcome in my life
6 - when people are "buzzing" it makes me think they've thrown precaution and work to the wind and are daytime drinking. this makes me giggle.

And the cons.
1 - the automatic follow thing, not so cool if you've ever e-mailed a boss from your personal e-mail
2 - it broadcasts your location to the world, "buzzing" at work - your boss now knows, "buzzing" from your phone from a sporting event on a day you called out of work - double bad news
3 - the order in which things update is confusing ... there's no "most recent" vs "most popular" as there is in facebook
4 - it's a little harder to figure out how to change your settings than the rest of google's products
5 - it apparently can grab photos from your phone without you uploading them. this can be disastrous, especially if you taken drunken phone photos
6 - it's getting kinda spammy with all the e-mails it sends me, I can see the buzz notifications right alongside my inbox, no need to e-mail me too google
7 - I still prefer facebook's ability to write on people's "wall" and such

All in all, I'm gonna give it a go. I'm a social person, I like social networks, I also like new technologies. And hey, it may lure me away from twitter for good. Because it looks more twitter-ish than facebook, and more interesting than twitter too.

Well that's me, anyone else have pros & cons to add?

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

I am a Frequent Flyer Mile Whore...

... yes, I know the language is inappropriate, but it's true. I will do ridiculous things for frequent flier miles. I am a member of two programs. Continental Airline's frequent flier and United Airline's. Continental is attached to my bank card, so for every dollar I spend on the card, I get a mile. Awesome. They also e-mail me other offers, like "change my electrical provider and get 3,500 miles" which also helped, because the electrical provider was 1) cheaper than NiMo, 2) local, and 3) offered a green energy option. Again, awesome. Continental has sent me on 3 free flights in the past 7 years. I <3 them long time.

Recently, I have discovered two online programs through Continental's frequent flier

1) E-miles
2) E-rewards

These programs both allow you to earn frequent flier miles without purchasing anything or really doing much at all. E-miles has you look at offers and gives you 5 frequent flier miles for every offer you look at (you don't have to buy any of the offers or sign up for anything, but if you do, you get MORE miles) and E-rewards give you money/miles for filling out surveys, none of which have taken me any longer than 8 minutes. And both programs partner with more than just Continental. I have earned 750 flier miles from E-miles and 1,000 from E-rewards already.

With United, I am only a member, because I am a member of, where I can redeem my points for miles with United, which I then either sell on e-bay or trade with someone who wants those for Continental on any number of various trading sites.

I am sharing this information with the hope that some of y'all might know of other survey/offer/what have you programs out there where I can pick up more frequent flier miles. I blame the crazy snow storm and all your photos thereof for making me stir crazy and feeling a need to fly off to various and sundry locations. But seriously to have earned 1,750 miles through two programs which eat up no more than 1/2 hour of my week... I want to know if anything else is out there, cause I will sign my tuckus up!
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