Monday, March 20, 2006

Dear Esther Dyson: BUTT OUT OF MY EMAIL

I've met Ms. Dyson. It's not the first time I've disagreed with her. She's smart, but she has a marked inability to find more than one side to an issue.

Books in foreign languages, for example; what a shame there aren't more being translated to English, given the current political climate, she opined.

Um, no. The real shame is that Americans are too gawddamned Ameri-centric to learn to speak and read in any other language. Those of you who are fluent in more than one language can attest to the volume of content we miss when movies are dubbed or subtitled; books are not condensed in the same manner, but we miss much in the way of nuance because we cannot be bothered to learn more than American English. That's not political; it's simply ignorance and selfishness that we are so arrogant.

But that's only one more perspective...what about technology? Why are there not more and better translation tools available? Why are we not encouraging development of more tools to allow simultaneous writing in more than one language? We're so damned we simply lack the impetus that A-list technology evangelists could supply to make translation more ubiquitous and seamless? Or is technology evangelism political?

Perhaps it is. Maybe that's why Ms. Dyson believes the proposed "email tax" is a good thing, that bulk mailers sending to folks with accounts on AOL and other ISP's should pay for the ability to send in quantity. The most vocal proponents of this so-called good thing support this tax to the detriment of non-profit organizations like PAC's, 527's and 501c3's because these groups overwhelmingly run counter to their own political positions.

I say butt the hell out. It's MY email. I'M ALREADY PAYING TO HAVE IT DELIVERED, hence the email address and storage. Hence the addition of specific PAC's, 527's, 501c3's to my addressbook as authorized email senders. I don't even use the ISP in question except for email because I've had the same address for 10 years and all my friends and family know it by heart.

And I've more than paid for this account many times over. This ISP is nearly twice as expensive as any other offering comparable email service; this ISP has also caused me a lot of lost time and aggravation due to poor service over the last decade; it also sucks for speed. Keeping my email address was important to me, though, worth paying extra for the hassle. But to ask non-profits to pay more to send to me after I've already paid for the email service, already registered with the non-profit, already approved them to send me mail?

Total bullsh*t.

You want to charge folks who are spammers? Fine. No problem. Unsolicited email is a HUGE waste of my time and resources. But there's the key: unsolicited. Unrequested. Unapproved. Unasked for. You can tax the hell out of that mail, and I still expect not to receive it in my mailbox if I didn't solicit it.

The crux here is my contract with an internet service provider. I've contracted with them to deliver my mail. Not junk mail, just my mail. Unlike the Postal Service, I'm not paying a pay-as-you-go fee, a stamp bought for each transmission; I've paid a lump sum under the terms of my contract for month-to-month service. That's MY contract with MY provider. I do not appreciate people trying to negotiate the terms of my contract for me when they are not party to the contract. I truly resent infringements on my rights to enter contracts by anyone.

There's also this nasty suspicion about the rationale behind the email tax. Somebody is asking for more money for the same service I'm already paying for now...who's getting a cut of that extra money?

Ms. Dyson?

Heads up, probably be getting a Change of Email Address announcement from me whenever this "email tax so-called good thing" is implemented.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

RIP Superwoman

What a heartbreaking shame, the passing of Dana Reeve of lung cancer. It's almost too much, although these things happen to ordinary people out of the spotlight of celebrity every day. Tragedy follows tragedy and we never hear a thing about it if the tragedies befall a person less fair and less gifted.

I think about the son left behind by both of these super parents and a grandparent; who will guide him through this horrible time? He's already deep in the throes of puberty, painful enough for the average American child. Will the super-ness of his parents help? or will he suffer even more for it? I pray for the best.

But I pray for others now; with Dana's passing, a niggling question at the back of my mind grows louder. We lost Peter Jennings to lung cancer, and no one thought much of the cause because of his history of smoking. We also lost Don Knotts to lung cancer, and no one thought much of it because he was in his eighties. Memory fails me at this point, but I believe there've been other celebrities who've succumbed to lung cancer in the last couple of years.

How many of them were in New York City during or post-9/11? And are there others who have been or are being treated for lung cancer even now?

Just a niggling thought.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Cosmic message

The snow was coming fast, really more of a mixture of sleet, hail and chunky snow, laying itself down in globby driftlets over a fresh coating of ice. Hubby only saw the layer of just-setting ice as he left the house at 6:00 a.m. By 7:20 a.m., another inch and half of thickening precipitation had fallen. Ugh, what a mess.

The boy was not particularly cooperative, either; he'd not packed his snack, couldn't find his shoes, forgot to brush his teeth, misplaced his gloves, spilled his breakfast. You name it, it was going wrong for him and by extension for me as well. By the time I got out to start the car and scrape off the accumulation, it was already time to pull out of the driveway under normal conditions. The scraper broke as I reefed on the quarter-inch glazing of ice beneath the chunky snow; thankfully there was another scraper in hubby's cruddy utility truck so I could finish the job. The boy whined that he couldn't open the car, the ice having sealed the opening and the door mechanism. We were officially late.

Not a good sign; the vehicle slid out into the main street from our side street even though my foot was off the gas. The road surface was pock marked, heavily packed ice more than an inch thick interspersed with the occasion patch of soft slush. The boy was overtalkative and fraying my nerves with a rat-a-tat-tat rap about Pokemon this and Yu-Gi-Oh that; I asked him to hold the unfocused chatter until we pulled into the parking lot at school, concentrate on drilling on spelling words instead since he'd neglected to practice the night before for that day's spelling test. Traffic was slowed to a 10 mph crawl, oozing along towards our destination. School should have been called off, I think to myself as we wait in an unusually long line of cars stopped in front of the school drive, hoping that no one would slide or get pushed into me or into cars and children disembarking in front of us. No one could get out of the parking lot because traffic was moving too slowly, and no one could get in the drive, either. I could hear first bell ringing, then second bell; I warned my son he was going to be late and that he should plan accordingly. No problem, though; it looked like half the school was going to be late.

It took another 15 minutes to get into and out of the driveway. I felt like I was going to pop, so stressed out, anxious that I'd not been able to get back to the house in time to give my daughter a lift to the bus stop. I slid to a stop at the next light and tried to relax my grip on the wheel and cleanse my mind.

The vehicle next to me in the thru lane slowly crept past me and through the intersection as I waited to turn left. The license plate caught my eye, though, and I had to laugh.

"Angst", it read, in big white letters in a field of blue on the back of the slowly moving SUV now receding into the distance and the falling snow.

Hah. As if I needed a reminder...but apparently I did. I took a deep breath, unclenched my jaw, relaxed my grip and turned towards home.

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