Tag Archives: books

I had my own little Pickup Artist / Brazil day

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I’ve been reading The Pickup Artist, by Terry Bisson. There’s a point in the book where Shapiro (the main character) is calling to find out how his sick dog is doing. There is so much bureaucracy in his world that he gets in this ridiculously long series of phone calls in which he gets the run-around about how his dog is doing, hears recorded platitudes, has to be transferred to grief counseling before he’s even told his dog has cancer, is upsold on a new miracle life-extending drug for his dog which would keep her just barely alive for up to two years (HalfLife™), in case a cure is developed within that time-frame, but then is told his insurance won’t cover it, and has to wait so long on hold to get through to anyone that he dials in the morning, and then carries the phone around with him all day on speaker phone, waiting for somebody to pick up. This is a futuristic story, but so painfully true. The novel reminds a bit of Brazil.

I had my own little Pickup Artist / Brazil government bureaucracy going on today. First of all I spent an hour and half or so waiting patiently at the DMV, just so I could pay them $40 to spend 30 seconds glancing at my  paperwork and various forms of i.d., have me double-check their data entry (twice), and take a new photo. They were, to their credit, very friendly and efficient once I got to the counter. As a bonus I got to try to read while crammed in a room with about 60 other people, many of whom had also been waiting for a couple of hours and had brought along various loud and/or obnoxious family members. I’m surprised nobody busted out a picnic basket. At least I didn’t get picked by the lonely and somewhat confused elderly lady who talked the ear off of the teenage girl next to her. But I did have to listen to her, because, well, she was shouting.

Then, because I’m masochistic, I decided I also needed to call the IRS today. I had already tried to fill out an online form with them on multiple occasions over the last week or so, only to receive an unhelpful error message. I had also tried to call several times over the last week, only to be told that the wait would exceed ½ hour. Today, I thought I better bite it and just wait on hold. So, I put the phone on speaker and carried it around the house with me while doing various things like feeding the animals, going to the bathroom, preparing lunch, etc. Over 45 minutes later an agent finally answered. Things were going along just fine until the IRS employee decided to give me a canned lecture on the importance of remembering that money owed to the government is owed when it is earned, and what did we plan to do differently next time, seeing that we were being gifted this magnanimous extension plan? And no, getting a job wasn’t the right answer, and if I didn’t indicate “compliance,” or basically, state that we had learned our lesson, he would have to put a note in our file. Say what?! {And this is over a very small amount of money owed.} It was condescending, to say the least, and I told him that I knew it was his job to say his script, but that I did not appreciate being treated like an idiot. Poor guy. How would you like a job that required you to be a jerk to people who are unemployed and just doing the best they can to pay their tax bill?

{This upset me almost as much as the day the lady from the unemployment office called to harass me because I hadn’t responded immediately to a job possibility she had emailed me—for a job with a company that I had previously interviewed with and been rejected by. Of course I wasn’t going to apply with them again! “Well, are you even looking for a job?!” she said. Uh, yes. In fact, I had just gone through an interview the previous day. “You’re supposed to get back to me right away, every time.” She sends me another job opp—I email her back within a half hour. Never hear from her again. I have other examples. Here’s a classic from another agency: Me, “Let me check my calendar really quick to make sure I can make that appointment.” Agent, “You’re supposed to be unemployed, so you shouldn’t have anything on your schedule.” OK… so I don’t have 3 step-kids to juggle and a ton of volunteer work. And one car to get 5 people to all of their various activities. If I’ve made an appointment with somebody, I’ve made an appointment—I can probably reschedule, but it doesn’t mean that I don’t have commitments. WTF?}

In spite of the above, over the last 6 months for every one bureaucratic cog that has made me want to cry or pull my hair out, I’ve probably dealt with 3 that were kind, efficient, had a sense of humor, or went out of their way to make things go as well as possible.

What’s your favorite bureaucratic interaction story?

jacket on, jacket off; prepping for the annual Butte burn; Rosecrans

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I just watched The {new} Karate Kid with the kids. Earlier, we walked Pilot Butte. Well, part of it. I really slacked off in June on any type of exercise other than gardening, but I’m determined to add Pilot Butte and yoga back in on a regular basis. Leave it to me to pick this week to get us motivated—they had the top ¼ of the Butte roped off to start setting up the fireworks. So we had a shorter walk than normal, but at least is wasn’t closed altogether. We probably can’t go again until Thursday.

It looks like the weather will be nice during the day for the 4th, but chilly at night (typical for Central Oregon). It feels weird to have holidays that I used to have as “vacation” days. Now I almost feel guilty having a day off… from nothing. I know it’s a little ridiculous, but I still feel that way.

Now I’m off to check out the Rosecrans Baldwin novel (You Lost Me There) that I picked up from the library earlier. I hope I like it as much or more as his Paris memoir.

On my reading list… Robots!

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Robots: The Recent A.I.

Robots: The Recent A.I. edited by Rich Horton & Sean Wallace

There’s nothing like some extra sci-fi stories to keep me going between Fantasy & Science Fiction editions.

Funny, I see a short story anthology and I sigh, even if it’s by an author whose novels I love.

But there’s something about sci-fi short stories that just clicks with me.

Robots!

Worms, Reading List, Goose Count

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On my reading list this week:

Also, I found a local source for worms for the compost bin. Now I just need to coordinate a time to pick them up and maybe I’ll actually put the bin together this weekend (although I was kind of hoping to have the kids help construct it, and they’ll be at their mom’s this weekend. I guess I could wait until Monday). I’ve been saving veggie scraps, tea bags, etc. for a week and the amount is surprising. I mean, we are vegan, and we do cook mostly at home, but still!

Tomorrow I’m getting up at the crack of dawn to help with a Canada Goose bird count. So, most unfortunately, I have to attempt a highly unnatural bed time. But I feel it’s important that I help on this one—put some action behind my words.

Meditative, dirty, and just what I needed

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It finally warmed up a bit today. And I took advantage of it by spending a few hours planting some carrot, pea, and bean seeds, weeding as I went. I wish I had planted them a month ago, but the weather has been uninspiring, to say the least. Hopefully we’ll get some harvest by September before it starts freezing again. I can still fill in with some starts as I find them. Most of the kale starts are hanging in there—they’re hardy—except I can see that somebody munched on a few (probably the lone young male deer that’s been hanging around lately). Many of the kale seeds have germinated as well. We’re probably going to have more kale than we know what to do with at some point.

I also assisted my step-son in clearing a weed pile from the middle of the front lawn {adjacent to the veggie beds} so he could mow the lawn weeds. We started a good compost / weed pile at the end of the raised beds, with the aim of killing more grass and eventually extending the beds into that area. I also finally gave in and turned the sprinklers on and tested them: They’ve survived another winter. I don’t feel like we can afford to water the lawns right now, so I’ll can keep it to a minimum and concentrate needed water on the veggie beds.

Planting and weeding today was meditative, dirty, and just what I needed. I also did quite a bit of leisure reading this weekend, which I haven’t made a lot of time for lately, so that felt good. I didn’t get to constructing the worm bin, but I did start collecting veggie scraps. I’m waiting to hear back on purchasing some local worms (I have worms in the raised beds, but not enough to borrow for the compost). Late this evening, I spent a few hours editing our news for the next show. Tomorrow will be crunch day for that, as we have a show coming out Tuesday.

This will be a busy week: Some consulting work, last day of school for the kids is Wednesday, and I have several lunches and user group events on Tuesday and Wednesday. Also juggling summer kid plans and trying to figure out driver’s ed / insurance for the about to be 16-year-old. Yikes.

Atmosphere and inference, absorbing omissions

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What they have in common: Atmosphere and inference. An absorbing story. Omissions telling more of the story than the story itself.

All Things Vegan: Our interview with Ocean Robbins

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Here’s an overview of our April 24 All Things Vegan show. I spent most of my day getting the show notes together.

Join the Food Revolution with environmental and peace activist Ocean Robbins.

In this episode, we talk with Ocean Robbins, an internationally known speaker on the topics of peace and the environment. He tells us about the upcoming Food Revolution Summit, a free online event organized together with his father John Robbins, author of Diet for a New America. The Food Revolution Summit brings together revolutionary thinkers and visionaries to talk about today’s food crisis and healthy eating and living.

We also warn you about a con artist who sets up bogus organizations targeting animal welfare, health, and environmental groups. And, we give you an update on our Earth Day celebration.

And, of course, we highlight the latest News from the Vegan Frontier, let you know about vegan related happenings in and around Central Oregon, and more!