Voting – Holy Crap!

I just got back from my sad, sorry attempt to cast my votes for this election. At the advanced voting station, in this frigid weather (showing 34 degrees by my thermometer), there was a line out a couple of hundred yards and 4-5 strong wide outside of the building.

How incompetent a system are we running that it’s going to take me *how* many hours, business hours, to cast my vote?

I’m originally from Canada. A country which, in many ways, is not as sophisticated as the United States. But in some ways – consumer oriented banking and voting. Was VASTLY ahead of us. I cannot recall EVER having to wait more than 20 minutes to get into the polling station and then be on my way again. Maybe I was lucky, but I was then, as I am now, on the outskirts of one of the larger cities in Canada. If anything, I’m now *farther* away from the urban core. And yet we can’t figure out how to do this efficiently?

Come on! It’s not like this is unusual or a surprise. We have a MAJOR election every 4 years! And zillions of minor ones it seems all the time. Who’s the genius who thinks this is acceptable?

*sigh* I’ll try again at 3 pm… and probably again nearer to 6. I’ve invested the time to be aware of the candidates and the issues, I can’t believe I’ll be stymied by bureaucratic incompetence… oh, wait… that’s what bureaucratic incompetence is all about…

** Update 4:00 pm **
Just got back, the line looks a *little* thinner but was longer yet and, at over 2 hundred yards, was still ridiculous.  I guess this means that only the retired, the unemployed and convicts are able to vote these days?  That could go along way toward understanding the caliber of congress we have…

** Update November 4 **
I have to say that I was impressed. The polling station was open and uncrowded, direction was excellent and it only took me about 15-20 minutes to get in, vote and get out.  So I have to take back some of what I said above. I cannot at all understand what the frenzy surrounding advance voting was all about but I’m glad to see the fears were unwarranted.
Kudos. And yes – regardless of who wins the election, this IS THE BEST COUNTRY THIS PLANET HAS EVER SEEN.

Posted under General, Opinions

This post was written by Marc
on October 28, 2008 at 11:01 am

Georgia Voter Guide

I just took advantage of the AJC’s “Georgia Voter Guide” to prep myself for the ballot items I’d be facing for this year’s election. It was great to be able to sit back and review each of the 44 (!) items in the comfort of my home with access to Google to help me look up items with which I was unfamiliar.

I urge anybody who matters to be sure that you a) vote and b) vote for things you understand. If you’re just going to pick the prez without any consideration of the zillions of other more local and, honestly more relevant to you, items then why not just save yourself the time and stay home and watch Nascar or WWE reruns instead…

Posted under Opinions

This post was written by Marc
on October 28, 2008 at 12:11 am

Healthier Lifestyle – October 2008 Update

day004Back in January of 2007 I posted about a healthier lifestyle that I’d adopted.

In my visit up to Toronto this past July I found I was becoming pretty overwhelmed with being so full all the time. A part of many visits with friends naturally ends up enjoying a meal together. Light foods or not, I was finding myself perpetually and uncomfortably “topped up”.

So when I came back I determined that I would make some additional changes. To that end I stopped eating all sugary snacks, all chocolate and sodas. Otherwise it was business as usual. The same meals, the same restaurant visits with friends but just having water with lemon instead of a coke. Also, when I feel even vaguely full or approaching full, I just stop eating my meal. 

The difference has been dramatic. After the first few days I had lost that constant “full” feeling. Then it migrated to that wonderful “ready to go” feeling when I’d wake up. It’s hard to describe but it’s that satisfying feeling you get when you’ve spent your day doing productive work and taken care of yourself on top of that. Like I said, it’s hard to describe.

Anyway after several days I began to lose weight. I like to weigh myself at the same time each day so that circumstances are as similar as possible, so I do so right before getting dressed in the morning.

The weight loss has been fairly consistent about 1 1/2 pounds a week. When I saw that I was starting to lose weight faster than that, I adjusted my diet and just ate a little more.

I do not and I have not had cravings for the sweets although I will admit to craving salt more than usual. And those of you who know me know that *that’s* something…

Here I am 3 months later. When I began losing weight too fast and modified my eating to compensate it resulted in my plateauing a couple of weeks ago but I have since started losing weight again. As of today I’m about 15 pounds down from where I began. I’m anticipating another 9 pounds will put me where I think I should be. So in another 6 or so weeks I’ll be reevaluating whether to move into maintenance mode yet.

My ideal “weight” isn’t predicated so much on the weight but on how I feel overall. Weight vs height can be pretty misleading as it doesn’t take into account your muscle mass if you’re anything but a pasty corporate drone who doesn’t exercise at all. So I take the “ideal weights” with a huge grain of salt (mmm… salt…). But it is the most convenient objective size measure available to me so I have chosen this as my indicator.

Of interest was the fact that, as I lost weight, I noticed changes in my gait both when when walking and running. Even more unexpected was that the amount of “material” on the base of my feet decreased leading to greater impact when running and necessitating a change in my technique to smooth things out.
At first I had thought that my sneakers had suddenly worn out, but I noticed a similar change with all my shoes. It was simply more pronounced when I ran.

Maintenance mode will require some thinking. I really *love* coca cola. I’m thinking of how to relegate it to where it belongs in a meal, as a dessert, and how to do this conveniently when eating out. The quantities provided are so huge that I’ll be forced to leave so much behind it will be galling.
Also, I *really* love my chocolate and chocolate chip cookies. How to reintroduce them so I can enjoy them as a treat without falling back into old patterns? In the past, I could *easily* sit down and eat a couple of rows of my favorite chocolate chip cookies and not blink an eye. Is it possible to enjoy one or two and be satisfied? Or am I like an alcoholic in that I’d be incapable of stopping at a reasonable amount?

Suggestions? Comments? Oh, don’t suggest diet foods. I’m not interested in sorry-ass substitutes. If I’m going to indulge in something enjoyable I’m not interested in a poor cousin and trying to “trick” myself into enjoying it. I’ve sampled the diet offerings out there and, if I never taste one of those again, it’ll be too soon! 🙂

Posted under Fitness, General

This post was written by Marc
on October 26, 2008 at 7:36 pm

Trust and the customer

I recently had lunch at the Atlanta Bread Company (the one on Old Milton near Northpoint Parkway). The food was good and the experience enjoyable enough. Later in the day, when I was cleaning out my pockets, I happened across my lunch receipt and was about to discard it when I saw that they had overcharged me for both my meal and for my drink. The amount was not great about 40 cents for the meal and 20 for the drink, but it irked me that they should be so cavalier or careless with one of their customers. Admittedly *I* was also careless in not double-checking my receipt but the price was in the right ballpark and I was thinking about other things at the time.

Even though the amount is not great, I do not like dealing with people and businesses on whom I need to keep a watchful eye.

For me, this is not limited to being overcharged. I’m also not at all happy when the error is in my favor. If I look at a price-list and the final receipt is for less than I expect. I am left to wonder if we both are agreeing to what we think we are agreeing to. Certainly if the other person tells me “We’re having a 10% off promotion for these items today.” and then goes on to apply it then I’m satisfied (ok, ok pretty happy that I lucked into their offering) but the mystery is gone and I know with certainty what is going on.

That fast food drive-thrus began using those confirmation screens where you can see your order forming as you place it is great boon. I’d say probably 1 in 4 times using it I end up making corrections since I can see where they have either not heard me correctly or they have made bad assumptions about my order.
Recently, the Wendy’s restaurant that I eat at a couple of times a week for lunch has stopped using their confirmation screen. Now I’m finding that my order is wrong about a third of the time and I need to check it at the window before driving off. Little things like cheese on a hamburger, wrong condiments, etc. But the point is that now it’s something that I need to be alert for.

My expectations have been raised over the years and those expectations are:

  • I’ll get what I paid for
  • I’ll pay what we agreed (based on price tags or posted prices)
  • I’ll get it when we agreed

If I detect a problem, I’ll correct it or have it corrected by speaking up to the person with whom I am dealing.
If I don’t notice the problem until later or if it will be awkward for others with me I’ll often send a message to the business involved to let them know. Where I receive a satisfactory response, and even a “we’re sorry, here’s what happened” can be sufficient, I can be mollified.

But violate my trust or ignore my complaint and I simply vote with my dollars. The Atlanta Bread Company item above is a situation where it’s not worth my time or the hassle of rectification, I simply will not go there again for a long time. Probably 6 months or a year. It’s not a matter of holding a grudge, it’s a matter of not wanting to feel irked and there are plenty of other places with which to do business that there is little loss to me in simply eating somewhere else.

I like to think that others do likewise and that businesses that do not treat their customers respectfully ultimately feel the pinch as other folks likewise elect to patronize places where they do not need to be on their guard and can devote those energies to other, more productive aspects of their lives.

Am I being OCD on this? What do YOU do?

Posted under Opinions, Retail Experiences

This post was written by Marc
on October 25, 2008 at 9:20 am

Tag Galaxy

Tag Galaxy is a very cool way of visualizing tags from the Flickr-verse.

It’s a tad non-intuitive at first (at least for me). Clicking on the planets around your current tag will add those to the tag selection. Clicking the current tag selection “star” will bring up some of the pictures associated with that selection. Dragging the resulting “picture Globe” allows you to see pictures from the other sides of it.

Posted under Utils / Tools, Very Cool

This post was written by Marc
on October 20, 2008 at 10:51 pm

DirecTV or not DirecTV (or Netflix is in the wings)

I received an email today from DirecTV listing the current pay per view offerings for this week and saw a movie that Michelle said she wanted to see. OK, OK it’s Mike Myers’ “The Love Guru”, call me a wuss but I’m gonna enjoy it too.

So I went to my Tivo to set it up to record and I noticed a new flag on the confirmation screen indicating that the PPV movie will expire at Noon tomorrow. Since I seldom watch a movie I’ve recorded in even the same month I recorded it much less the next day, I was somewhat perturbed.
So I went to the DirecTV website and looked this up and can see that my recording will probably last for a long time provided I don’t view it. Once I begin playing the movie, the clock starts ticking and I will have 24 hours within which to finish viewing.
There are plenty of movies that I will start to watch and then decide to finish days or weeks later. I don’t have an issue waiting to see the ending and I can remember the beginning well enough that I don’t lose anything across that gap.
What I have now is my satellite company (or, more probably, the content provider behind them) dictating how I will view my recording.
One of the reasons I use PPV is for exactly this freedom. Renting a movie from a Blockbusteresque source comes with the explicit contract that I need to return this item in a day or a week depending on popularity. But PPV has always been more ephemeral than that and the added flexibility (plus the lower cost and avoided trip to the store) have always been of great value to me.
Read More…

Posted under Movies / TV, On the Home Front, Opinions, Retail Experiences, Tech Stuff, Utils / Tools

This post was written by Marc
on October 19, 2008 at 3:59 pm

Kill A Watt EZ P4460 – Testing on a Known Power Consumer

I’m quite pleased, after leaving a single 60 Watt bulb on for nearly 10 days, here are the results from my Kill A Watt EZ P4460.
They confirm that the unit appears to be functioning correctly and that my last couple of posted results are probably accurate.
I was worried that the unit was under reporting.

RESULTS

Elapsed time: 237 hrs (I left the bulb on continuously for this test)
Measured Consumption (Watts): 60 <– this is what I was a little concerned about.
Measured Consumption (Amps): .5 <– also consistent with what I would expect.
Total Consumption (kWh): 14.6
Cost –
     Actual (for duration of test): $1.55
     Daily: $0.15
     Weekly: $1.08
     Monthly: $4.65
     Annual: $56.64

This puts a concrete dollar value on “we’ll leave a light on for you”. 🙂

One 60 Watt bulb, in my neck of the woods. With power supplied by Georgia Power, just under $57 per year.

Next, I’m hooking it up to my 12 year old Whirlpool refrigerator, I am almost scared to see what I’m paying to keep that running.

Posted under On the Home Front, Tech Stuff

This post was written by Marc
on October 14, 2008 at 8:34 pm