Monday, March 31, 2008

Bordering On Autocracy: This American Life

Do people matter?

Ira Glass examines the Bush administration's abuse of power in relation to the maintenance of the Canadian border and to widows of U.S. citizens. Do the little people of this modern American life matter?

Click on the Full Episode link located on the left side of the Web page to play the program audio.

I'm one of the little people. I don't know anyone but little people. Citizenship has been reduced to a spectator sport, where corporations and monied power brokers pretend to do the people's business; Virtual-reality democracy.

Several generations of expansion of democracy has been brought to an abrupt halt. While pretending to expand democracy abroad, the U.S. government retracts rights at home. During the past 100 years women fought for the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution (1920) that gave them the right to vote. Laborers fought for the eight-hour day; how many thirty-somethings marching off to the San Francisco financial district know that laborers died for the 1938 Wage and Hour Law?

Blacks, long disenfranchised notwithstanding the provisions of the 14th Amendment, fought in the streets for the right to vote—a right abridged by poll taxes, literacy tests, and physical intimidation in the South. Blood in the streets brought passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Having enjoyed the benefits of sacrifices made by others, so few young Americans understand that human rights are not a privilege handed down by authorities, nor is it all said and done with.

Our nation has waddled into an absurd, but historically brief, luxury of innocence. The legacy of expanding human rights leads not to more human rights but to cultural amnesia. The U.S.A. – United States of Amnesia, as Gore Vidal observes.

The nation has no progressive movement of any kind. The end of education has arrived, where there is nothing left to read or discuss of any significance because all is well with the universe of humankind. Our leaders will take care of us. We seek testosterone governors and pip-squeak presidents with penis envy.

Americans, now isolated in the Mojave of the mind, are left only with a slight hollow feeling, staring blankly for hours into the forgotten glow of HDTV. LCD cultural death comes in the form of Pleasantville where patriotism is defined as silence, and duty defined as shopping.

The conformity of the iPhone assembly line reflects in the mirror as conformity in the workplace, and conformity in the vanishing horizon of political space.

The luxury of ignor-ance will be brief.
Fire, or Ice?

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Photoshop Express: Web Photo Editing and Display

More tools once found exclusively in a desktop computer are making their way to the Web.

Adobe has opened the doors on Photoshop Express, an online photo editing, storage, and display web site.

Mac fans have iPhoto, an easy-to-use photo editing tool. Adobe's new, initially free service will be pressing to beat out the combination of iPhoto and the recently released Photoshop Elements 6 for Leopard.

Requiring Flash, and apparently compatible with Safari and Firefox. Photoshop Express does offer pleasing slide show and other display options within, and upload to other online galleries as well.

Mac users now have many options for nonprofessional photo editing and management. Pros will continue to use Photoshop for commercial graphics production.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Ehrenreich: Blaming the Victims of Corporate Power

Barbara Ehrenreich relates her experiences as a white-collar job hunter in her 2005 book, Bait and Switch.

An interview with Barbara Ehrenreich published on the Web provokes more questions than provides answers about corporate culture and the abuses of corporate power in America. Whether it's 10-year-olds working in garment=industry sweatshops in India for The Gap, or Wal-Mart chiseling money out of a disabled employee, something is broken deep within the American economic system. The problem isn't Wal-Mart or The Gap. The problem is systemic.

Corporations exist to make money within a context devoid of human impacts. The very institution, the corporation, is fundamentally without any socially redeeming value. Why we tolerate their existence is the next phase of cultural evolution. The economic institution of slavery had its apologists not solely in the houses of the plantation masters, but throughout the American social fabric, not excluding the religious institutions and "science" of the day.

Social change comes from the bottom up. Massive fictitious justifications for the most obvious social abuses will always permeate the mass media, which is controlled by the corporate modern-day economic equivalent of slavery. 2008 differs from 1808 in that the economic abuses of millions of people persists in subtle linguistic subterfuge instead of iron chains and leather whips. Social progress is the process of forcing the power elite in the United States to resort to more subtle manipulations. The corporation can't get away with outright chaining you to that cubicle; and "freedom" is posited as the freedom to choose one cubicle over another cubicle while the underlying power structure remains unspoken and unchallenged.

Democracy is a good thing. If we accept this premise, more democracy is better than less. During the past hundred years, corporations have moved from employing about five percent of the workforce to about 95 percent today. The institution is undemocratic. Funny; we think ti's a good idea to vote for power managers in government (elected officials; president, city council members, etc.), yet no one thinks twice about spending 40 hours per week within the confines of a publicly-owned institution that isn't managed democratically. Why don't corporate employees elect the managers? Why are corporations accepted in their present form as tyrannies run for the express purpose of making profits for the wealthy investors? The only reason corporations are run autocratically is because we, the people, let them.

Corporations are not objects of the natural world. They are wholly arbitrary associations of individuals. The institution of plantation slavery was ended by people who decided that the dominant economic institution of the South was wrong. Corporations exist only because we tolerate them. They nave no natural right to exist in any shape or form. No social institution has any rights whatsoever. People have rights.

We have the right to put an end to any social institution. The notion that the corporation as we know it is a natural, inevitable, and desirable organization of the American workplace is simply false. America is not synonymous with the corporation. The term, corporation, doesn't appear in the U.S. Constitution. They didn't exist in any substantial form in 1776, and they don't have any divine right to exist today, either.

Here, again, is a link to the interview with Barbara Ehrenreich.

Big business is not small business writ large. The topic warrants further consideration elsewhere.

Working with nonprofits and small businesses can be an honorable path.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Beyond Iraq

Martin Luther King, Jr.
4 April 1967

Beyond Vietnam

Monday, March 17, 2008

As the Computer World Turns

What never ceases to challenge each week is the inescapable gulf between the dynamic world of computer technology and the steady flow of calls and e-mails from the distant past.

I live in a world where computer technology resides in a conceptual landscape of rapid disposability. This is one field where practicing Buddhist non-attachment bodes well with the realities.

I spend good money on expensive computer hardware and software, knowing that soon it will be dropped in the trash. It's junk, or soon destined to be such.

Calls and e-mails come in each week with questions directed toward, "Can you fix my broken nine-year-old Mac?" The answer is, "I probably can, but why would you want me to do so?"

Every week I turn away potential clients quite happy and willing to otherwise pay me to fix computers that belong in the trash bin. Really.

Why spend any money putting RAM and a new hard drive and a new operating system into an eight-year-old G4, that will still be a turkey when it's "upgraded?" I invariably leave some callers stunned. I can hear their jaw drop silently on the phone in the context of a massive conceptual disjunct. Really---It is my opinion that your ten-year-old iMac....... "Uuuummm,....are you sure you want me to work on it?" I beg them not to hire me. "Better you go buy lottery tickets, okay?"

I turn away potential clients every week. I can't bring myself to do work, for which i charge billable time, to fix a '56 Ford.

Computers are disposable technology, reduced to the trash heap in five years, and not worth a dime in investments after about two years.

Many computer users have it turned around backwards. They buy a new computer, then don't spend a dime on upgrading the RAM (see previous posts), then when the Mac is eight years old, they suddenly want to throw a handful of money after it---buying RAM, a new hard drive, and purchasing a new operating system. Backwards.

Spend the money---up front---on your computer system now. There is no tomorrow. I bought a brand, spanking-new MacBook Pro about a year and a half ago of which I'm already beginning to think about when I will dump it off to someone else. It is certain I will replace it within this calendar year.

The rate of technology change is astounding. I can barely remember when I invested a lot of money in a Zip Drive and a stack of Zip disks. I spent hundreds of dollars on this data storage system---which I summarily dumped in the trash some years ago.

Love your Mac, but practice the art of letting go within two years.

The differences between a G4 Mac made in 2001, and a MacBook made in March 2008 are real, not imagined. Imagining that I can upgrade your G4 from 2001 to a satisfactorily usable condition in March 2008 is an illusion. Yes, it's true; the shades of gray span out between the years two and five, depending on the purposes to which you apply your Mac. Checking email but once a day? Keep that G4, but don't put a dime into it. Just leave it be. Running a full-time home office or small office? Dump it!

Wine and good friends, may age well, but computers do not.


Monday, March 10, 2008

SOHO Bookkeeping Referral

The most requested service for SOHO's I receive, outside of computer technical support, is for accounting and bookkeeping assistance.

Clients can now be referred to professionals providing a wide range of accounting services. Contact me for a referral. Services from tax accounting by an EA (enrolled agent) to economical bookkeeping are now in my virtual Rolodex.

Road Warrior Security Tips

Here's a security tip or two for mobile computing with a Mac. Sending e-mail, making purchases online, and chatting while using a public WiFi hotspot has its security risks.

For the iPhone do use a password (PIN)! Your iPhone is loaded with personal data in address book and calendar. Surely, you don't want just anyone picking up your iPhone on the street perusing, and using your iPhone information.

As I have mentioned previously here, and endlessly with clients, do not use auto-login during start-up. Use the full login process on your Mac laptop. The longer start-up time is worth the added security, although bypassing the login is not difficult for the average high school student. Ensure additional security by using an encrypted PASSWORD storage application. ......

Do Not Store Passwords on ANY COMPUTER in a text file such as a MS-Word document, or in any other unencrypted format. I find perhaps 90 percent of my new clients storing online banking passwords, credit card information, social security numbers, and other information that forms the core of identity theft data, sitting on the desktop or in the Documents folder as a file named "Passwords!!!!"

Storing passwords in a text filed buried deep in multiple folders, and cleverly named "Chocolate Cake Recipe" won't cut it either. The power of Spotlight which is there for your own convenience, makes finding words like bank, visa, SSN, and password, anywhere WITHIN any user document on your entire hard drive discoverable within seconds by the wrong people. I've stunned more than one new client by producing their online banking URL and password within seconds of sitting down to their Mac. Easy. Any nine-year-old could do it.

Clients treat their laptops as if they were an imaginary physical appendage of their own body. Computers, both desktop models and laptops are stolen by the truckloads each year, and can also be accessed in other ways without your knowledge or consent. Is yours next?

Security Summary:

Saturday, March 08, 2008

The Four Noble Truths of Apple

The big story in the high tech media this week pertaining to Apple Computer was about Steve Jobs.

I am wondering if the story that matters, where people matter, lies submerged. When I read what passes for news in the American press, I have learned to ignore the headlines and look for the real story. The real story is usually staring, glaringly, back at us. One opens the eyes allowing the outside words to refract freely within.

Wandering too late amidst the cold, mountainous wasteland of paper words, the red maples interrupt the reluctant sun.

Fortune Magazine could be expected, almost by definition, to be ignorant about the value of people. The Trouble with Steve Jobs, relates facts about Jobs' pancreatic cancer and the many months passing without having notified Apple stockholders. Okay. Fair enough. It's a story. The stockholders, presumably, would have been angry with Jobs' had he suffered a demise without declaring beforehand his "demisable" condition. Fortunately for Apple, and the stockholders, and Apple people like me who not just use Apple products but live by them, he is still among the quick. Fortunate for himself and his family, foremost.

Another story lies somewhere on the surface of any corporate media reporting, found floundering, just itching to be read. Where people matter. Corporate feudalism among the cubicle tenant farmers pounding out programs at Apple lies beneath a transparent veneer of power, and the abuse of power.

The assertion in the Fortune Mag article that Jobs is a Buddhist poses a conundrum.


In one sentence? Isn't that rather like combining the words "Bush" and "humanitarian" in one sentence? Makes you scratch your head.

Do words have any on-the-ground meaning anymore? Did they ever? The most powerful, and insidious, propaganda isn't what we think it is. It's not posters proclaiming "War is Peace" but rather the unconscious, or deliberate, use of language in a context where that expression has no meaning. The accidental oxymoron is a direct path to discovering the foundations of cultural power relations. Human consciousness is an instrumental, illusory veneer smeared over bubbling biology.

None, yet the words roll on as if we address the subtext as real, when it's not.


What does it mean to be a Buddhist?
What does it mean to assert that Steve Jobs is a Buddhist?
Do the two landscapes of language intersect? and if so, how?

Not knowing Steve Jobs. Never having met the man, I must resort to hearsay and "reports." That caveat plopped down here and now, yet no one would characterize Jobs' middle name as compassion. What has been said about this very public figure strays far from what one associates with Buddhism. He has been described as a tyrant in the workplace, as a man ready and willing to dish out in generous portions, verbal abuse directed at employees. When software programing at Apple doesn't follow the Diamond Sutra path of perfection, Jobs' cosmic job seems to more closely approximate Shiva, than a Bodhisattva.

The Four Noble Truths of Apple
  1. Life is suffering—and if you work at Apple Inc, you can count on it.
  2. The origin of suffering is attachment—to Steve Jobs.
  3. The cessation of suffering is attainable—the Infinite Loop is an illusion!
  4. The end of suffering is along the Eight-Fold Path—down the hall, make a left; exit.

Where in Apple Inc, or in the larger context of our culture, do we publicly acknowledge that people matter? Never take the corporate media seriously, says the plastic Laughing Buddha!

Thursday, March 06, 2008

The Tao of SOHO

I spend your money.

Let's call a spade a spade. Just calling me in to your home office, and dollars vanish from your wallet. Why should you do this? What's in it for you? Where is the value?

My goal as a SOHO (small office, home office) technology consultant, is to enhance your business productivity, and therefore make your life better. There's no other reason to bring in a consultant for hire.

If I'm not achieving that goal, then I'm wasting your time, and money.

To achieve that goal, the foundation of a consulting relationship is in my efforts to understand your home office needs, and in gaining your trust in my professional judgment.

The most challenging task for a home office professional, is building what I call the "Original Home Office Mind."

To work efficiently, and effectively, is not to push yourself to work faster, or harder, but to work more wisely. The Tao of SOHO.

Forget the clock. Forget the computer. Forgetfulness has its place.

Home office professional or hobbyist? There's a conceptual, "Original Home Office Mind" difference.

If you're a hobbyist, then you will most likely look for a computer "repairman." Get in; fix it; get out.

If you're a professional working at home, working with me, we may be able to transform your computer in the home, into a true home office.

The first step has nothing to do with computers, and everything to do with the "Original Home Office Mind."

Pushing on a rope. Tugging on a cloud.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Living in the Country with No Name

Nobel-prize laureate economist Joseph E. Stiglitz, and Harvard professor Linda Bilmes have published an authoritative analysis of the cost of the Iraq War, The Three Trillion Dollar War.

What can I say here that hasn't been said more cogently elsewhere, and years ago?

The IRS tax withholding system hides the very real process of money flowing out of your pocket, and mine, directly into concrete weapons of mass destruction---wielded by the U.S. government in the name of the American people. Guns, tanks, bombs, et cetera ad infinitum, are purchased with real money that was taken out of our pockets.

When I consider the three trillion dollars, a considerable portion of which is being spent on money borrowed by the government (and may not be repaid for decades), my thoughts are left with concrete needs here that are not being met. I won't try to calculate the cost per person killed in Iraq, which by most estimates is well over a million people, and counting.

When I travel about, flitting from one home office to another, I catch something few others experience. I discover the quiet ones; some doing good things in small-scale ways that create a better world flowing from the convictions, and efforts of a few. What wonders of love such people do with dimes puts the profligate waste of lives, and dollars, to shame.

I do not live in the United States of America. I have disowned it, or should say it has disowned anyone with any compassion and grasp of simple realities.

I live in the country of good deeds done quietly in tiny home offices and nonprofits, a country that has no name, no leaders (unfortunately) and no time for the sewer of national, and state politics. A country where dimes are turned into bread on a table in the Bay Area for the hungry, and seeds for farmers in Africa. One dime, two dimes, three dimes, four. Take what they can to build what may be, each day, each deed. One person, two. Two people, three...

The country to which I belong knows no artificial boundaries, by either blood or barbed-wire border. The boundaries of the free are fashioned out of principles of concrete action, not imaginary distractions of culture.

There are no patriots in the country with no name. No Patriot Act, no bumper stickers screaming "Love It or Leave It"

Homeland Security in the country with no name is knowing that, as Pogo proposed, "We have met the enemy, and the enemy is us."

Corporations: Good people in bad institutions.
Nationalism is the scourge of the human species.
We are of the Earth. Only fools do not understand that to destroy a forest, or to destroy another people, is to destroy the self.
Democracy at gunpoint.
What is civil about civilization?

Here we are, entering the election year with not a single candidate talking about ending the death and destruction in Iraq. One candidate, McCain, is a war criminal by any reasonable standards, having killed Vietnamese. He is a war criminal. Instead of living in shame, he's a proud candidate for President. Crazy world it is.

The Country with No Name exists because the country on paper has no connection to the real world. It's a fiction crafted by the hegemony of the super-rich who own, and manipulate the frightening monoculture that passes for news.

Beginning with the concept of "separation of church and state," Meet the next, inevitable amendment, "the separation of corporation and state?"

I have devoted most of my adult life to unlearning what I was taught in school.

Learning begins when the TV is turned off, and the heart is turned on.

Any damn fool can start a war. All it takes is the well-educated White House Press Corps.

Where is my country? The Country of No Name? It is hidden in the interstices of red earth furrows where the poor farmer plants a new seed, to be freed in dirty pots and pans at the food kitchen.

Every human act is a moral statement. This defines the human species.

There is no act that escapes. Business is fundamentally an immoral activity that we tolerate, not an paragon of virtue. Attempting to pass as amoral, distanced from the suffering, we must reject this notion. Business, as we know it now, as incorporated in the concept of the corporation, is fundamentally destructive to the concept of the greater good. If there be any reason for a people to associate under a shared identity, what shall be our organizing principle? Should it be the falsehood of the "free market" or should we choose to form a body of one, out of the many, with other purposes?

Why should we have any society, any state, any political entity? What is the purpose of our association as "Americans" in the country named "The United States of America?" These associations are artificial constructs that we may choose to accept, modify, or reject wholly.

Is nationalism a dangerous, dysfunctional anachronism? Is it a passing phase in the dangerous, self-destructive human socio-political adolescence?

How shall we mature beyond the twin tyrannies of the corporation and nationalism?

I reject the standard business model crafted on the premise that business can be conducted within an amoral landscape independent of the social fabric of human society.

Silence is complicity.
It's not only the owner of the bullet factory, but every business-owner with the pretense of isolation has his name written invisibly on the bullets, as well. The great shock to the world brought by the Nazi's of Germany wasn't that some people are capable of immense acts of cruelty, but that so many people stood by, watching, doing nothing to stop it.

You can't be neutral on a moving train. ~Howard Zinn

What hope remains for the survival of the republic resides not in the coming national election, but in the quiet places where one, two, three people feed the hungry. How shall we as a people plow past the corporate death-wish illusions, past the political Punch and Judy show now before us?

Stumbling into paradise, we discover the honorable hidden on our very own street, in a timeless, and timely, place called the Country with No Name.

Thanks, for the Memories!

Memory, Memory, Memory, Memory
Memory, Memory, Memory, Memory...

Random Access Memory


Computers do not ship with enough....MEMORY.
How do you know this? Add some and find out.
Why aren't they sold with enough memory? Aren't you just trying to spend more of my money?

Apple didn't put enough memory in your Mac because, like all other computer companies, they want to squeeze a few more pennies of profit out of your pocket. It's a scam.

You should know by now that all corporate operations are a balance between fraud and public outrage. If Apple could get away with it, they would ship Macs with no memory, but they can't. You wouldn't like that. What Apple can do is split the difference. Macs are shipped with some memory, but basically, you're getting screwed. To own a Mac that functions as designed, is to run out and buy more memory immediately upon purchase. Enron had the most envied corporate profile. Don't make anything and don't provide any services. Then, spend gobs of money on university-trained public relations staff who put up smoke and mirrors. Then, tell stock holders to "believe in us" by pouring gobs of money into the corporate bank Then, sit back and rake in the dough.

Enron was an extreme form of NORMAL CAPITALISM-- not some bizarre anomaly. The differences between Enron and Apple are only matters of fine details and degree. (Small, locally-owned businesses are fundamentally different from large corporations, though).

Public non-commercial TV---isn't. That's another story altogether, but KQED is running TV commercials, using a newspeak term for them, "30-second credits for major underwriters." This is pure Orwellian destruction of meaning in language. It's a lie, a fraud perpetrated on the increasingly gullible public. KQED is running commercials, and by definition, is no longer non-commercial public TV. The presumption is that the American pubic is either too ignorant (because schools don't really teach anything of value), and/or citizens are too frightened to appear "strident and not a team-player" if they allow themselves to acknowledge the fraud.

Thus, as a consultant, I am stuck between a cultural rock and a corporate hard place. My message goes far beyond Apple, or even the high tech industry. It's the real world. Billions of dollars are spent on advertising. Advertising is propaganda. Advertising is intended to keep you stupid. If I were to design a high school curriculum, the most important class would be, Advertising as Corporate Propaganda.

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Ninety-percent of computer consulting has nothing to do with technology, it's education. Any honest endeavor in a culture bombarded with efforts to prevent people from thinking, is subversive. Teaching is the most subversive act imaginable, indeed, it brought Socrates the final grief.

Lesson One: We are not consumers. We shall not define ourselves as walking wallets.

So. when I push memory on clients, my most challenging task isn't how to install RAM. Gaining your trust, counter to massive corporate disinformation, is my goal. I strive to be worthy of it.

For those clients who have been with me for some years now, I can only say, "Thanks for the memories." be continued right after this important message from our sponsor.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Battery Low-Down

What to know about Mac laptop batteries? Like most other battery-operated devices, the devices long outlast the batteries.

As a rule of thumb, batteries will last about a year and a half. Now that I've made a categorical statement, I will demolish it with the proverbial, YMMV-- Your Mileage May Vary.

The variance can be considerable. The principal factors in battery performance are: how many times it is cycled from high to low charge; age of the battery; how has it been used? Laptop batteries have finite power-cycle lives. They won't take a charge repeatedly forever. Shelf life is also limited. Even if you rarely use a rechargeable laptop battery, it will lose capacity over time. How you cycle the battery influences battery life.

Rechargeable batteries progressively lose the capacity to store energy. Rather than outright stop working, batteries asking for replacement lose the capacity to run a laptop for as long as it did new.

Some road warriors purchase spare batteries allowing them to swap batteries for additional battery-powered use.

Apple offers suggestions for battery use that can extend the life of Mac laptop batteries. The principle advice is to cycle the battery from full charge to dead at least once a month

Battery technology is changing. The current crop of lithium-ion batteries (LION) can power a Mac from two to four hours. Turning off unused power-grabbers such as Bluetooth and WiFi (when not in use), and turning down the screen brightness, will extend battery life. YMMV.

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