Friday, July 30, 2010

Consumer Warning

Poor Kumar - I doubt if Microsoft pays him well enough to take the abuse I heaped on him yesterday  but somebody had to hear it and he was the only one available.

Here's what happened. I bought a new computer a month ago. Bob, at Radio Shack, asked if I wanted the latest Windows 7 operating system  or to stick with XP. I asked what the difference was and he said, not much, but he'd advise going with Windows 7 simply because it was the most recent version and eventually various downloads would become incompatible with XP. So, that's what I did. I also paid about $150 extra to have Microsoft Office 2010 installed.

Twenty or so days later, I got a screen that said my "30 day free trial" was ready to expire and if I already bought what I thought was the Office program, I needed to plug in my product code to activate it. I called Bob who said he thought sure he'd already activated it but he told me where to find the product code. I retrieved it and entered it into the space provided on the screen. My code was validated and I thought I was good to go.

But the same screen kept popping up and I kept putting in my product code. Finally on the 30th day, Microsoft informed me that my trial offer had expired and my e-mail program shut down. Huh?

My first problem was that Microsoft told me that I could activate online via the Activation Wizard or by making a phone call. Unfortunately, I also had to get the required phone number from the Wizard (because, you know, posting it right there on the Help screen would be too easy). Since I couldn't access the Activation Wizard, I was stuck in Microsoft hell.

I'm not a computer expert so I plinked around on various MS websites trying to find a number to call Tech Support. After a couple of hours, I discovered it tucked away in a place few people without the patience of a saint would ever find it. It turned out to be 1-800-Microsoft...duh! If my brain hadn't have been on total overload by then, I might have thought of that myself.

I called and eventually (after hundreds of prompts), I was put in touch with Kumar. I told him my problem. He explained that it wasn't Microsoft Office that had expired, it was Microsoft Outlook, the e-mail program - however, I could purchase it for $139 (plus tax).

First, I was stunned and then I was livid.

"Let me get this straight," I asked him, "I've had Windows-based computers for the last 25 years and every single one of them came with a free e-mail program installed but now, with Windows 7, Microsoft in all its greed has decided its loyal (albeit, usually, involuntarily) customers have to freakin' pay to have an e-mail program?"

Kumar allowed as to how that's the way it was. He then, very politely, listened to me rant and rave and curse. I told him that Bill Gates' vaunted generosity in giving to charity was a farce because he was donating with one hand what he was stealing with the other. I told him I thought it was a freaking (only I didn't say freaking) outrage. I said lots of other things too but I don't remember them all.

Kumar kept apologizing and saying he had nothing to do with it.

"I know you don't but you're the only person from Microsoft I have access too so you have to listen. And I was told that this recording could be monitored and I hope it is monitored because I want Microsoft to know that I think I've been totally screwed by them, not only by what they did but how they did it."

I know Bob at Radio Shack wasn't aware of this new development or he'd have told me. He couldn't figure out why I was getting a "trial program" screen. I'll call him on Monday so he can warn other customers that if they order a computer with Windows 7, it doesn't come standard with an Outlook program. That's sort of like discovering you have to pay extra if you want to keep the tires on your new car after 30 days. I expect there will be millions of other Microsoft 7 users whose e-mail program will suddenly go gray after 30 days. Then it will be, "pay up or else". So, Kumar will probably have to endure lots of curses directed Microsoft's way.

And it's not that I can't use another e-mail program. I can access the one that comes with Comcast. I guess I could use Yahoo, Hotmail or Gmail. But that's not the point. The point is that I'm used to Outlook and all its features. It's right there on my desktop. Everyone knows my e-mail address and I don't want to change it.  I had already transferred all my information over from my previous Outlook program. My address book and stored files were there.

Bottom line - I feel like I've been sucker-punched by Microsoft.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Top Ten Reasons I'm a Jimmie Johnson Fan

Top ten reasons I'm a Jimmie Johnson fan.....

10) Nobody looks as good in a red firesuit as Jimmie.

9 ) Kobalt Tools commercials - "what are you doing, Jimmie?" "Pipefitting, Chad."

8 ) Close as I'll ever come to having a golden horseshoe of my own.

7 ) Getting to watch new baby Genevieve Marie grow up without ever being asked to babysit.

6 ) "New leader, the 48".

5 ) Extreme cardio workout whenever JJ is contending for the win.

4 ) Only have to remember one sponsor name - all Lowe's, all the time.

3 ) Thrill of seeing Jimmie slice and dice his way from the back of the pack.

2 ) Chad Knaus - Cup's coolest crew chief.

1 ) More bang for your buck - "five straight for the 48!"

*Re-posted from my NASCAR.com blog

Friday, July 16, 2010

When Did You Learn About Sex?

Being in my middle 60's now, I grew up in a relatively innocent era. I remember whispering with my two cousins, when we were around 7 or 8, trying to figure what sex was all about. We knew vaguely that men had penises and that they put them in the Mom when they wanted to make a baby. The actual visuals were sort of blurry though. Then came that day when we found a tiny booklet belonging to their older brother hidden in an encyclopedia. It was a book of cartoons about sex, more or less correct, except that the men were endowed with grossly enlarged members. (In this particular one, the "hero" was Popeye). The expression on the faces of the female partners may have been supposed to represent ecstasy but to us, it looked more like terror. Scared the hell out of us and we vowed then and there to swear off what the pamphlet so delicately referred to as "'fucking" and "blow jobs".

Would it have been healthier for us to have gotten our sex education somewhat more gently in school? Well, yeah, probably although I don't think the 7-page bible (I do believe that's what these little books were called) did us any lasting harm either.

Helena, Montana is proposing to do just that. Their new curriculum introduces different aspects of sex at different ages. For instance, students learn the proper terminology for body parts in kindergarten (penis, vagina, breast, nipples, testicles, scrotum, uterus), first-graders are taught about homosexuality, fifth-graders about the different types of intercourse (vaginal, oral, anal) and high schoolers discover erotic art (hopefully of the more anatomically correct variety than our friend, Popeye).

Well, of course, as you might expect, a substantial number of parents are incensed, horrified, offended, etc, etc. and, as always, the enraged ones make the most noise.  These are the parents who believe that it is possible to keep their children bound in a mummy wrap of ignorance. Much like my cousins' and my own parents, as a matter of fact, until they were confounded by a pre-teen boy's penchant for pornographic comics. (And actually, he probably wasn't seeking titillation so much as enlightenment himself.)

What always amazes me is what hypocrites we are as a society. Parents are worried about their kids being introduced to erotic art when they idolize and imitate the flamboyantly sexual Lady GaGa? Seriously? They are concerned about their children hearing the scientific terms for body parts instead of the lyrics in much of popular music (ho's and bitches and cunts)? Are you kidding? They are opposed to fifth-graders being informed about types of intercourse when they've probably seen them illustrated in any number of websites and YouTube videos and movies? Get real! And learning about homosexuality? Do you honestly think Bubbie and Sissie haven't heard about the Rosie's and Ellen's who came proudly out of the closet or the senators and governors who were outed involuntarily?

And don't tell me you shield your offspring from all that - not unless you have them caged on a desert island somewhere. If my parents couldn't do it in the 50's, you sure can't in the new century. Children these days live in a world of satellite dishes and cell phones and computers where they can see and hear it all. If not on their own cell phone and satellite dish and computer, then on those of their friends and neighbors.

Denial doesn't work, People. Teenage pregnancy, abortion, divorce and suicide - the rates are higher for all in red states that try to ban education, contraception, abortion and homosexuality.  Fact is, honest information always trumps misguided ignorance.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The War on Drugs - A New Twist

Well, guess what? We have a nice new mood-altering substance available right here in our area for those looking to get high. Perfectly legal even for juveniles, it is sold over the counter at some tobacco shops and convenience stores (as well as on-line, of course). It is called K2 Incense. I was told about K2 by a friend.

According to the underground, K2 mimics the effects of smoking marijuana. A former pot smoker who tried it to see if, in fact, this legally obtained stuff could duplicate the high she used to get from weed said it totally "messed her up". She was still experiencing the after-effects the following day.  As I understand it, K2 looks rather like confetti. You put it in a bowl, fire it up and inhale or you can roll it into a cigarette.

At a message board I found where people who tried it gave their reviews, these statements were made:

"caused me to have manic-like symptoms."

"realistic compared to weed but effects last longer."

"had hallucinations and speedy, racing thoughts."

"bad-ass stuff".

"experienced anxiety and labored breathing."

K2's manufacturer, K2 Botanicals, calls it an "herbal blend" that includes but is not necessarily limited to: Canavalia rosea, clematis vitalba, nelumbo nucifera, pedicularis grandfolia, helma salicibila, leonura sibiricus and ledum palustre, There, do you know anymore than you did before about the safety of K2?

There are six K2 fragrances: Standard, Citron, Blonde Incense, (targeted specifically toward women), Pink, Summit and K2 Ultra  and of course, let us not forget K2 Sex, also known as "Sex on the Mountain" which contains Horny Goat Weed to guarantee sexual ecstasy.

Prices of the fragrances vary. K2 Blonde, for instance, costs $79 for 9 grams. K2 Sex sells for $59.95 for 3 grams. Geez, that makes smoking cigarettes look cheap!

K2, on its website, cleverly makes no particular claims for its product (except for the sexual ecstasy, of course!) and no particular guarantee of safety either.

I have long believed that, not only are we not winning the War on Drugs, we are not even holding our own. We devote millions of dollars, millions of law enforcement and judicial resources and millions of of years of collective incarceration into rolling back the tide but it continues to overwhelm us.

When I was a kid, lots of people I knew smoked pot. Possession was a misdemeanor then, I believe, but it was the rare cop who bothered to enforce it. Most of those former smokers emerged none the worse for wear to become your butcher, your baker, your candlestick maker although it is true that some fell off the edge into addiction, probably about the same percentage as drinkers who become alcoholics.

I expect the weed we smoked back then was puny stuff compared to what is out there today, sort of like 3/2 beer compared to 151 rum. But newer and deadlier drugs were making their appearance. For a while there, we were losing rock stars to overdoses left and right. The Swinging Sixties were followed by the Psychedelic Seventies (which implied getting high right there - we were inhaling, huffing, injecting, freebasing, swallowing).

Society responded by taking a turn toward the authoritarian. We would, by God, get tough on drugs. We appointed Drug "Czars" and created Drug Task Forces. Nancy Reagan made "Just Say No" the theme of her First Ladyhood. We raided marijuana plots and sprayed Columbia's coca farms. Arrests went up and so did the numbers of prison cells filled with drug users, abusers and dealers. Drug rehabilitation programs popped up, mostly for the more affluent of us (and mostly, with approximately the same sad rate of recidivism as incarceration).

Meanwhile, new and ever-more addicting and lethal drugs continued to rise in popularity - cocaine to LSD to PCP to Crack to Meth to Heroin (an old drug that has recently gotten a seemingly new lease on life). And when those are unattainable, we turn to abusing prescription pain pills, most notably, Oxycontin. Or we pretend that replacing "real" drugs with Methadone is an honest solution, although the only thing I can see that's different about it is that it is approved by the State so that the authorities get their cut.

I know all the guys on our local Drug Task Force and they work their butts off but for every dealer they take down, two pop up to replace them. I know how our judges agonize to come up with creative solutions, such as Drug Court. Most of our citizens have no clue just how tragic the situation is in our rural county. They'd be astounded to know how many over-doses happen here. Unfortunately, the drug producers become more creative even as the enforcers do.

So, over all, I'm pretty pessimistic about our ability to have much impact on drug use generally. (I have long believed that marijuana should be legalized, regulated and taxed).

But, this K2 is a completely different situation. It is nuts to allow mood-altering substances to be sold to our kids right over the counter in the freakin' neighborhood convenience store.

If you agree, you can do two things:

1) Contact your legislators and tell them you believe they need to get on the ball and make K2 illegal in Indiana.

2) Ask the stores you patronize if they sell it and if they do, tell them you won't be back until they remove it from their shelves.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Deliver Me From the Good Old Days

I received a "forward" from one of my e-mails pals that waxed nostalgic about the so-called "good old days". In it, "Grandma" remembered life before "television, penicillin, polio shots, frozen foods, Xerox, contact lenses, Frisbees and the pill".

She recalled that she and Grandpa had got married first, then lived together and that every family had a father and a mother. This was all pre gay rights, computer dating, dual careers, daycare centers and group therapy, when lives were governed by the Ten Commandments, good judgment and common sense, when people knew the difference between right and wrong and took responsibility for their own actions.

Back then, Americans thought serving their country was a privilege and they'd never heard of cds, yogurt and guys wearing earrings (among other things). They listened to the Big Bands and, Grandma said, "she didn't ever remember any kid blowing his brains out listening to Tommy Dorsey".

Well, this forward went on and on but you get the picture. The past = good; the present = bad.

God, this is wrong on so many levels, I don't even know where to start.

First, no, even then, not every family had a Mommy and a Daddy. And even if they did, a Mommy and Daddy did not necessarily guarantee happiness. Some Daddy's were drunks or batterers or cheats, just like they are now. Some Mommy's took too many medications or mistreated or neglected their children, just like now. Those families are better off apart, just like they would have been then.

The population as a whole then paid a lot more lip service than attention to the Ten Commandments, just like today and oddly, it is/was often the most devout church-goers who are the worst offenders when it comes to living the philosophy their Savior personified.

I don't know about you but I love cds and computers and televisions and microwave ovens. I say, hurray for modern heating and central air. I don't even want to get up in the middle of the night to stoke the old coal furnace or, even worse, have to chop wood for heat. I'm a thermostat girl all the way!

I'm also a rock and roll devotee and I'm a supporter of gay rights, and guys who wear earrings. I'm not much for yogurt, but that's a personal choice. You probably think gay rights is a positive too if someone you love is gay. There were suicides back in Grandma's era, (which happens to be my era too). Perhaps no young person blew their brains out listening to Tommy Dorsey but he or she may very well have because of  being part of a discriminated against minority - such as being gay - or pregnant with an illegitimate child in a time when that was an occasion for shame and shunning.

I guess I'd have to say that Xerox machines (because I remember the awfulness of making copies via carbon paper) and polio immunizations (iron lungs make me shudder) and contact lenses (with laser surgery being even better) are all good things. And bless whoever invented the birth control pill!

I'm not like the Grandma in this article. I don't look at today through rose-colored glasses. We have lots of problems in the 21st century. Drugs, for instance. Glamorizing sex. (But whose fault is that. It isn't children that pay for and produce the soft core porn that passes for popular entertainment. We adults could stop that any time we wanted by avoiding those movies and television shows and products.)

Every generation has it's challenges but you don't overcome them by looking backward and pretending a perfect past.