Friday, December 21, 2012

Sustainability in God's Creation - Don't Imagine its a Benign State!

My sister, a gifted poet,  and artist shared the following with me, not long ago.

Cruel crow!
You punctuate the sky.

You reave the nest of chicks,
Their gaping mouths
And tender throats
Glistening pink,
Swift morsels to the surety
Of your precise beak;
Fleet sustenance to a gravelly gullet.

Succulent bunnies
Plucked from their mother-fluff,
Who, like the Wrights,
Were never made to fly,
Discover flight, 
Then fright and then extinction,
All in the blink of a sharp yellow eye.

Your proud, coarse, sandpaper cry
Leaves no doubt
That you are about
Following God’s design
Of winnowing.


Saturday, December 15, 2012

On LIne Vendor Upgrades - How Often has this Happened to You

In an era when travel agents may soon share the fate of the passenger pigeon, I have one of the best.  For more than twenty years, she has been my partner in booking complex international trips and ensuring that I obtained reasonable rates, plus schedules that fit my needs.  Our partnership takes into account differences in airline quality, airport idiosyncrasies and the potential vicissitudes of weather.  I have recommended her to many friends and colleagues and continue to do so.  I always look forward to our conversations.  We are friends. 
In recent years our collaborations have been made easier by an online booking service.  My colleague would make a tentative reservation and I would be notified by email.  I would print it out.  We could discuss the booking, make changes if necessary and confirm the arrangements. A further email would follow with the updated details.  I would print out the ticket and be ready to go.
Last night, there was a change.  Not in the skill, efficiency and congeniality of my travel-agent colleague, but in the online system that had served us so well for many years. (Incidentally you will note that I am not using the names of the online providers because I have learned that many are now responding to online critics not with improved services but with lawsuits for defamation.)  Here was the scenario that consumed more than an hour of my evening.
(1) When opened the email on to view and print my bookings  – it informed me that there now was a new provider whose improved services were intended to achieve stress free travel.
(2) The message was accompanied by a log-in page, requesting my name and email, that was also larded with commercial messages, touting services for which I had no use.  When I logged in I was informed that a “confirmation” would be sent by email.
(3) Often, with such procedures, the confirming emails come quickly; in this case I waited… and waited…and waited.  I turned to other work, checking periodically. No email.
(4) Finally it occurred to me that the message might have been picked up by one of my spam filters.  Checking my spam files, I was able to find the message.  Opening the message I was able to access a second log in page.  This called for a username  email and password, which I duly recorded in my already voluminous files of usernames and passwords.
(5) I was then informed that in order to access my booking I would have to accede to “terms and conditions.”  These included the usual multi-pages of legalese though which, typically, I essentially “agreed” to absolve the provider from all accountability and responsibility. I actually took time to read them all however of course there was no recourse but to “accept.”   In a particularly noteworthy passage, I was required to “agree” to be bound by any future changes in the agreement that the provider would post on the website without notice.  Checking the site periodically to detect changes, reviewing the changes, and opting out of the “contract” if I did not agree would be my responsibility.
(6) Having agreed to this Kafkaesque “contract” I was directed to look for a confirming email that would provide my reservations.
(7) Several iterations later, I was able to detect the site where tie reservations were posted, again larded with commercial messages.  However it provided only the most minimal information regarding my bookings – no class of service, no terminal information, no seat information, no detailed code information, no charges.
(8) After further scrutiny, I noted that “print as PDF file” was an option.  I clicked the appropriate button and a PDF file appeared with the most of the information that before implementation of this no stress system, I had been able to retrieve with a single mouse click.
(9) However the no stress software of my new provider had not properly synched the screen image with the Adobe PDF software.  It would print out only a single image, not multiple pages in a single file.
(10) After experimentation, I discovered a work-around. If I displayed the two pages of the file separately, I could print them out as separate, single files.  At last I had a print-out of my bookings to review.
(11) More than an hour had elapsed as I negotiated a process that, in the past, had taken less that five minutes. Meditation was not enough to quel my mental turbulence.  I needed a glass of wine.  
(12) On Monday, I will have to encounter the system again, after my travel colleague and I discuss and confirm my plans. I know I must budget at least a full hour for each bout with this “no stress” software – and I await  the process with trepidation and loathing.

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Saturday, December 01, 2012

Some Daily Tweets - moarly on the need for self improvement - and humility

I used to find time to post a blog nearly every day.  Committing to a disciplined daily practice of meditation and of system dynamics modeling has taken its place.  In adopting this regimen  I have been inspired by an acquaintance who has disciplined himself to practice a demanding athletic endeavour, without fail, three to five hours, at least six days week. Nothing is allowed to interfear. This reminds me of the “walking meditation” practice of a Thai Buddhist “forest monk” I have been studying.
In any case I have decided that a daily – or near daily – tweet is better than nothing.  And today, it occurred to me that a collection of daily tweets, which I keep on file, could provide a sort of composite blog, which follows.
(11/22) Theoretical understanding, acquired from learning differs from understanding based on wisdom as the earth differs from the sky. AM
Tweets marked “AM” from the biography of Thai forest dwelling Buddhist monk,
Ven. Acariya Mun. By Acariya Maha Boowa. Forest Dhamma (2010)
Two wolves are at war for my heart.  One loving and compassionate.  The other angry and resentful.  Which wins?  The one that I feed.
A Thanksgiving holiday reflection.
Family holiday gatherings, if long enough, provide opportunities for communicating unshared grievances.  Family bonds can be strengthened.
(11/24) The degree of success we have will depend on the amount of time and effort we put into practice.  No practice - no results. (AM)
(11/25) Buddha taught that we should never look down on others, holding them in contempt.  One day, our circumstances may be similar, or worse. (AM)
Kilesas - These mental defilements include include greed, hatred, delusion, passion, jealousy, envy... banish them!  A worthy goal.
Buddha teaches that we must fix ourselves before seeking to fix others.  This may take many lifetimes. The first step: Banishing Kilesas.
(11/26) A pathology of emails, social media, internet advertising - habituating us to lives that are entirely reactive. No intrinsic life purposes!
(11/27) A lifelong challenge: how to balance between helping others and working on oneself to be able to help others meaningfully
(11/28) To change the world, I must first change within myself.  That is the essential first step, the essential catalyst to changes without.

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