Sunday, January 30, 2011

Really, rich just wanna stay rich?

I was just starting out in the work world when the Reaganomics economic theory was embraced in the US. What an attractive idea for the wealthy to push - make us RICHER and we'll take care of you. How had that worked out before? Well there was the French revolution but those were aristocrats not the USians who had pulled themselves up by the bootstraps. I didn't think the rich in the US are more generous about sharing their wealth; traditionally rich have built their fortunes on the backs of people less well-off whether they were slaves or minimally paid workers but …

I thought it was a poor idea just based on human nature and that it was a pity it would take a generation to see the effect of that economic policy. Then I went merrily on my way working through the ups and downs of the Canadian/Alberta economy. I bought a car when interest rates were over 20% because I needed one. We bought our first house when interest rates were over 12%. We both came from frugal families and while we were not as frugal, our financial plan has always been to be net positive if something catastrophic happened to us. Calgary was a strange place of wealth and layoffs so we've always been aware of our debt load which stood us in good stead in the early 90s. We didn't upgrade our lifestyles (much) as money became more available - we hoarded (aka saved).

How has Reaganomics worked out? This article at the Atlantic seems to indicate - not that well for the US middle class. And that would be okay - for the most part USians have brought this on themselves through prosperity churches, sub-prime loans and rampant consumerism - except that these are actually people not just number that are going up and down. Not only do USians not have much of a social net but they seem convinced, individually, that they aren't going to need it so they give tax breaks to the rich and protest about any kind of financial help for the poorer among them that doesn't include a way for the rich to profit. Universal health care? Only if we can make sure private insurance continues to reap profits. Financial regulation? No way. In spite of bank bust cycles (I can remember 3) people insist the rich have to remain on the leading edge of profit just in case they get rich. The economy has bounced back but employment hasn't. Now more than ever, the mid-income earners are going to have to be innovative in order to even stay in place and the poor will become more vilified and touted as a drain on the economy. 

Money has a strange effect on people. The more you have the more you want and the easier it is to justify keeping it to yourself. After all, it allows you to do everything you want without worrying about cost. What if you need that money for something else and you’ve given it away? What if you give that money to – let say health care – and it’s used to give a smoker a lung transplant or an alcoholic a liver transplant or a marginally viable infant a life? What if you disagree with those decisions and you don’t get to be the judge?  Better to just keep it. And it doesn't matter if someone else would judge *you* as unworthy of having that money, you think you’re worthy and that’s all that matters.

This is not a call to massively redistribute wealth but I am glad that Canada does have regulations that protect the people just trying to live their lives the best they can while rewarding the innovative.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Bathing Suits and body image

This is the 5th year we're going to the South Pacific at the end of winter. It's fun because plan past the horrid cold winters we have in Canada. It also provides us with an excuse to get new summer clothes that aren't for golfing. The big thing is bathing suit shopping. This year I am getting and existing suit altered rather than buying a new one because I wear one type of suit at home and one when on holidays and I don't spend much time in a swim suit at home anyway.

Guess which is the holiday suit
I'm kind of curious as to how I even got used to wearing a bikini.

Like most women, I stand in front of a mirror with a critical eye. Even with extra good posture my tummy isn't flat, I don't have 6 pack abs and most likely have cellulite. If you want to go in the water, your bathing suit bottom makes panty lines or the suit will ride up. In stores you stand very close to a non-flattering mirror (and they could be hung at a flattering angle) and who wants to go into the more open part of the change room. It's not even the "no one will know me" effect because we go back to the same place every year and the islands are small enough that we run into the same people all over the place.

It's all part of a mental trick of ignoring parts of your body that create a unproductive critical internal talk. First I got used to exercising in front of mirrors. Sure I had to start by focusing on my shoes but now I prefer access to a mirror while exercising. I can see my posture and make sure I'm working the right muscle groups. Then I started wearing matching underwear so I got used to seeing me in a mirror. It helps that I only wear my suit for water activities. For other activities I may have a bikini under a dress or board shorts.

Now when suit hunting I can focus on whether the colours look good and everything I want covered is covered when I move around and feels comfortable. I've gotten comfortable enough that one year our Xmas card had a picture of me in a bikini ... with the Merry Christmas sign startegically placed of course:)

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Testing - blogging from Galaxy Tab

Over time I'd like to use my new tab for more and more stuff so I'm trying some the Blogger-droid app and seeing how comfortable it would be to hold and type over a period of time. I could get a Bluetooth keyboard that will work with my Tab and Galaxy S Vibrant.

I'm amazed at the strangers who took the time to respond to my tweet by telling me how awful Samsung is for updates. Thank you for the warning but I may have been buying tech since before you were alive. I say that because anyone who's been around for a couple of decades remembers slow, expensive upgrade cycles. The joke around here is the $1200 alarm clock my Sony UX 50 has become because you can't rip tunes in that poor quality and it needs a new battery although everything else works fine. I like shiny things so I thought hard about what I would use a tablet for, what size I would like and even if I wanted it to have 3G. I did a lot of ooing and ahhing over CES announcements and will be watching the Barcelona reports with interest. I'm not interested in updating. I'll just purchase a new device if it comes to that-which I doubt it will.

What could make me regret what I have? A device at the 1/2 weight of this one with twice the battery life available within 3 months totally unlocked for the same price I paid. I didn't see anything like that at CES and devices from the Barcelona won't be in Canada that quickly.

I'm pleased with how the Tab is working out so far. It will easily replace taking my laptop places, is very comfortable as an e-reader, love the Readerhub, and the GPS is great. There are apps for reading feeds and tapatalk for responding on boards. It's not super heavy or large. My only desire is for Bell Mobility to come up with a data share plane between my phone and tab.
Published with Blogger-droid v1.6.5

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Lifestyle assessment - post Xmas edition

Studies have shown that , while you don't really gain 10 lbs over Xmas, the weigh gained tends to hang around. Combine that with New Year resolutions and it's often a recipe for failure as you cast around for activities - any activities - to help loose weight. I like the straight shot from Jan 1st to Easter break because I'm usually home which means I can control my eating with minimal will power and get to all the exercise classes I want to.

As our (mine and spouse) parents get older we can really focus on what our goals are. We watch as they become less mobile and needing more pills to normalize their metabolism. High blood pressure, cholesterol, blood thinners, gout - it's a lot of pills to manage. Our target is to reduce the time we have to take those pills by managing our lifestyle now. The hardest thing for me to wrap my head around is not trying to use exercise to compensate for poor eating habits. So why am I exercising again?

I'm working out to maintain bone density and flexibility. I also want to reduce the chance of back injury by ensuring I have abdominal strength. And I want to have fun - never forget that! So I've drastically cut back. Last year I was going 7 times a week and the majority of that was step aerobics. This year is a big change. I asked the main instructor at NRG4Life what she would do if she could only do one activity. She said yoga as the type we do incorporates strength and aerobic elements. So now the only full aerobic class I'm taking is Zumba -  because it's fun. All my step classes incorporate weights and abs and twice a week I head out to do 60 minute yoga session. To reduce sedentary behaviour at work, I'm making more of an effort to walk around a little each hour. Not that hard since we stand and walk a lot as part of the job.

Our eating habits are good but we were slowly sliding into skipping our home made lunches for eating out.  So getting more variety at lunch is essential as it will help us eat less.

It will be interesting to see how this affects us.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

The Bell Mobility/Samsung Vibrant debacle

It's been very interesting watching the Bell/Samsung debacle unfold thru the members at XDA and it's hard to escape the conclusion that there are a lot of young entitled males using the i9000m Vibrant. No doubt about it, Samsung made a HUGE mis-step with it's release of UGJK4 and Bell Mobility, with it's varying customer service isn't blameless either. But when one takes a cutting edge device, twists it until it breaks then goes looking for blood it's hard to have sympathy. As always, the innocent user with the spontaneous failure gets stuck in the pool with the tweakers.

Parts/devices seemed to be in short supply in September/October. Some users root, lagfix and install different ROM on their devices, always with the caveat by the chefs that they are not responsible for bricks. So when they brick they send it back to Bell with a "one day I woke up and this stopped working" story and Bell seems in no rush to fix them. It IS outrageous that Bell would hold devices for over a month without any suspension of service rebate, replacement item or even an explanation. Users seemed sure that the i9000m had special problems that caused it to break down more often.

Then came the update. OUCH. I understand that they probably wanted to meet the 2010 update deadline but the timing was truly horrible. The UGJK4 update changed something in the phone and, any time from immediately to never, the phone crashed needing repair. Bad Samsung/Bell. The only reason I can think that a company would release such a flawed update was that there was no other way to find the flaw. OK the other reason is short term memory - after all, most people have forgotten just how bad the XBox was when it came out.

Hand off to Bell and I have to say - really? What's the deal with your customer service. Some people are charged to send the phone in. Some people are charged for a loaner. Some people's phones apparently sit in a back room for a long time as a penalty for being a Bell customer. Get information to your Bell stores, be clear about what you are charging for and tell your customers the options. Have you taken NO MANAGEMENT COURSES? Happily the location I deal with DOES have good training. They fiddled with the phone then said to see if I could connect to my computer and if not then call call tech service. Great, maybe it doesn't have to go away. Oh yes it does. The one repairs clerk (yes ensure there is a clear chain of custody) said it could be 6 weeks but Samsung had been good so it would probably be more like 2 weeks. 2 days to get there, 2 days repair, 2 days back. Add a couple of days on each end for store stuff and that's about 2 weeks.

While my device was away users on XDA started a complaint or something. What was the complaint exactly? The phone was being repaired or replaced and the companies involved would always say it was as timely as possible. In the same time frame Bell and Samsung figured out their strategy - pull the update, exchange devices for a new one and get a $100 credit, release another update UGJL2 that is very solid. This doesn't do anything for the people in the system but with the end of the Christmas break, the trickle was about to turn into a flood. This gets rid of many who would sign the petition. Not to mention this is what big business does best, stifle complaint by throwing money at the end user.

I don't comment there much because I'm tempted to throw up my hands too often. Sometimes I think their phone is a slim black box - make that sometimes they make it very apparent that the phone is a slim black box to them. We have thin light micro-electrical components in a plastic case. Metal would not make it better. Not only do all the connections have to be precise but all components have to have programming to talk to each other then there is the ROM that coordinates it all to add functionality. One slip up in programming, one poor solder, any little glitch anywhere can have dire consequences for the device. Of course users are mad because the system's been closed a little with the new update even though it makes the i9000m very difficult to brick. Sigh - I can see why MS and Apple have been so closed with their hardware.