Tag: rant

The fine print

I am one of those people who tries my best to read the fine print. When I sign something, I will read the fine print, often to the dismay of the person behind the counter who has to wait for me to read the fine print. I do it for two reasons: (1) it’s sensible; while much of the fine-print is standard leagalese, I like to know to what terms I am agreeing; (2) I often find it interesting what people are willing to agree to, without reading something thoroughly.

But even I have my limits.

Today, I received a “Terms and Conditions Update and Notice of Amendment” statement from Hertz #1 Club Gold, of which I am a member. There was a covering letter which outlined the highlighted changes they deemed important to note, and I read those changes in the matter of minutes. Enclosed, along with the letter, however, was the complete “Program Rental Terms & Conditions” effective January 1, 2006. This “pamphelet”, about the size of an airline ticket, is 52 pages of fine print, almost all of which is written in the stogiest of legalese. For instance:


Incidentally, for some reason, this legalese almost always appears in ALL CAPS, except for the subparagraphs, which seem to use normal capitizalization, except when referring to You or the Car. I wonder why that is.

In any event, there is no way I would even attempt to read all 52 pages, as fascinating as it might be. While I envision this taking a lot of time, I am more concerned abou the damage such an attempt would do to my brain and sanity.

Who are these guys kidding?

Field trip flashbacks

Every spring, the mall upon which my office sits fills up with tour groups of kids visiting the Washington, DC area on various field trips. The lunch lines grow to exaggerated lengths and the noise and voluability is almost unbearable.

But the kids all look like they are having a great time. In fact, they look very much like the mall is the place that they want to be. Forget the Air & Space museum. Forget the Washington Monument. The two and a half hours they spend in the Fashion Centre at Pentagon City seems to be the height of their trip.

It got me thinking. Were we like this on our field trips when we were in junior high school (or middle school)? I think the answer, at least in my case, is yes. I remember going on a trip to the Rose Bowl. I don’t remember the purpose of the trip, but I remember lunch in a park afterward as being the highlight. Trips to the LACMA were boring, but the noontime festivities made up for that boredom. In fact, on looking back on it, lunchtime was the highlight of nearly every field trip I can remember, with only a few rare exceptions (Sturbridge Village in grade school, and our downtown L.A. trip in 11th grade).

It makes me wonder if there is a dual-purpose to these trips. One the one hand, the trips please parents because their children are being introduced to “culture”. On the otherhand, the trip provides a way for kids to get out of the classroom and blow of steam. Especially since most of them could care less about culture.

Free verse?

I don’t like free verse poetry.

I think that I’ve known this subconsciously for some time, but it hit the surface tonight while I was skimming through the most recent NEW YORKER. (Although I am a subscriber to the NEW YORKER, I rarely do more than skim each issue.) Each issue has several poems in it, and I find more and more that they are free verse poems.

Now there’s nothing inherently wrong with free verse, I suppose. In fact, while I don’t know this for sure, I suspect that free verse was a reaction to the rigid rules of rhyme, scansion, and meter that defined poetry for centuries. Poets rebelled and free verse was their coup d’etat.

What I realized tonight was not that I just don’t like it. I can’t stand it.

The challenge of poetry, to me, is fitting the imagery and metaphor within a tightly regulated medium. There are rules to follow, and the rules, in my mind, make the poem more difficult to construct, and yet makes the result all the more powerful. I think it was Robert Frost who said that free verse poetry was like playing tennis without a net. Give me a Shakespeare sonnet with it’s 14 lines and 10 syllables per line over the free verse any day. Heck, give me a limerick over free verse! In a way, I feel like free verse is cheating.

Lest you think I am snubbing the slicks, like the NEW YORKER, let me say that free verse is showing up more and more frequently in the science fiction magazines too. All three of the major SF magazines publish poetry in each issue, and more often than not, I am seeing a trend toward free verse.

Is this trend actually a metaphor? Is it reflective of some change in our society? What is it that causes people to rebel in this way? I asked myself this questions while considering the verses in the NEW YORKER and I may have come up with an answer. It seems to me that perhaps it is, in fact, trendy now to write free verse. If this is so, than poets aren’t rebelling at all. They are, in some sense, selling out, jumping on the band wagon, watching American Idol. Free verse, perhaps, is no longer that cutting edge sign of rebellion and anarchy that it used to be. Instead, it’s a label like Gucci or Prada or Kate Spade. If this, in fact, is true, then it’s good news for traditional verse lovers, like myself, for as with all things the pendulum eventually swings back, and perhaps we are not too far away from order once again.

I will make one exception to my distaste for free verse poetry: Walt Whitman’s, “When I Heard the Learned Astronomer”. That particular free verse moves me. But then again, I am biased by the topic. Still, it is an exception. Give me Leigh Hunt’s “Abu Ben Adam” any day of the week. Or Oliver Wendall Holmes “Old Ironsides”. Or Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken”.

Does this mean I value order over chaos? I suppose it does. In poetry as well as in the Universe as a whole.

But you already knew that.

The world of high finance

I have stock in an energy company. Energy companies (gas, electric, etc.) are supposed to be very stable companies in which to invest and this company has been very stable, with steadily increasing stock prices, right up until the time I obtained my stock. Since that time, the stock price has fallen (plummeted would be a better term) by nearly $8/share, or nearly 17% of its value.

Today I received the annual report for this company. Seeing as how I own a small part of this company, I feel obligated to try and read these reports when I get them. It is my understanding that most people do not try this, and I can see why. These things are impossible to understand.

Granted, I never did well in economics (I received a D in macro econ in college, even while I read the text book and attended every lecture. It was a mental barrier I have never been able to overcome.) You would think these things would be written in a language, as Living Colour would say, that everyone here can easily understand.

The main part of the annual report is some 50 pages long, with lots of tables. What is incredible about this is that the “footnotes” to the annual report are some 26 pages long, making the whole thing close to 80 pages of very small print. Reading it is bad enough, but I feel sorry for the person who has to write these things.

The annual report that I received today was the first one I’ve ever received that had a reader card in it, the way magazines do. The card asked several questions about how I enjoyed reading the annual report and how much time I spent reading it. Did I read it at work or at home? Well, to be honest, the time that I spent reading it so far was in the bathroom (multitasking). Interestingly enough, there are no questions about the clarity of the report.

I say all of this as preface to the fact that I believe I just wasn’t made for the world of high finance. Gross incomes, net incomes, operating expenses, pre-tax operating income, nuclear fuel tax credits; it means nothing to me. The entire document could be written in South Martian for all the sense I can make out of it. As someone who feels he is a reasonably intelligent person, my inability to understand a document such as this tears at my ego. But it is nonetheless true; try as I might, I simply can make no sense of the annual report.

They also sent some paper work asking me to vote on something which I also don’t understand. I don’t mind doing that for two reasons:

1. It’s the American Way to vote for something for which you have no understanding.

2. I always vote against what I think the majority wants. It’s my feeble act of spiteful rebellion against their stupid annual report.

UPDATE: Since posting this, my stock closed nearly 2% higher today, it’s single highest one-day gain since I’ve held it. I need to bitch and complain more often.

Posting comments

Hey, when you post a comment, can you at least indicate who you are, you know, maybe sign your name or something. I’ve got anonymous comments turned on, mainly so that people don’t have to get a livejournal account to post, but it would be nice to be able to tell who is posting what.

Of course, maybe you don’t want me to know who you are, but come on, we’re all friends here.

Psychics search for missing dog

I caught this on Yahoo! news a few minutes ago (see news article here. Now they’s got psychics out looking for this dog that went missing last week at a big dog show in New York City.

Apparently, the psychics have been useful. According to the news reports, there are about 12 psychics that are counciling searchers and they are saying that the dog is alive and warm.

I have so many problems with this I simply don’t know where to begin, so I’ll start with the “alive and warm” statement. Anyone who knows anything about basic probability should understand that based on nothing more than the law of averages the statement has a 25% chance of being true (the dog is either alive or dead, that’s .5 probability right there; and the dog is either warm or cold, that’s .5 probablility as well. Multiplied together you get .25 or 25%) You don’t have to be a psychic to be helpful there.

The psychics also seem to indicated that the dog is in a building. Well, if the is alive and the dog is warm, then it would make sense that the dog is inside, because it’s pretty cold outside. And why “a building”? In NYC, you are either in a building or you are out on the street. Chances are pretty good that the dog found its way into a building.

What would impress me with all of this is if the psychics (a) all agreed with one another on their predictions, and (b) were able to predict the outcome of the search, before ever getting started.

I guess the laws of psychics (as opposed to the laws of physics) just don’t work that way.


Minor rant follows:

How do people decide how many elipses to use, in particular when composing an email or instant message? Is there a different set of rules of which I am unaware?

I often see people write things like:

You’ll never guess what happened………..

Now, what made that person decide it was okay to use 11 “dots”? When did elipses stop being three dots…? Am I missing something? Four dots is okay if you are ending a sentence. But eleven?

I give up………….

Why lyrics?

Was browsing the latest posts again and I’ve noticed another trend: a lot of people post nothing more than song lyrics. Why is that? Don’t people have anything original to say? Posting song lyrics, to me, is like buying a Hallmark card; a canned way of saying something you can’t think of stating originally yourself. I can see the day in the not-too-distant future when that’s all we do with one another, quote music lyrics, or lines from movies; it’s the way people will communicate in the future.

A possible lack of wisdom

For the last week or so, my upper-left gum, at the very back has been sore. I think it’s because my wisdom tooth up there has grown out some more, or something. It’s been bugging me on and off. It’s not so bad today. It’s worse when I chew. I have never had to have my wisdom teeth out. Actually, I only have three wisdom teeth; I think it’s genetic. I’m missing the upper-right one. The other two are fine.

This is somewhat of a nuisence right now because I don’t have the time or the energy to go looking around for an oral surgeon. Also, I’d rather do just about anything than visit a dentist or oral surgeon. Being completely honest here, I think I’d rather sing naked in public than get my wisdom teeth removed.

It’s possible that I’ve just irritated my gum (and all of this is a coincidence) so I’ll see how things go over the next week or so. It doesn’t really hurt that much and is more of an annoyance than anyone else. Yet another thing over which to stress.

Other random blogs

I’ve just spend the last 30 minutes or so reading through the most recent posts to LiveJournal to see what random people write in their blogs. It was a depressing 30 minutes. Keep in mind that my blog is a replacement for a diary that I have kept for nearly 10 years now. My diary has always been more of a social journal and never one of those cliche introspective things. I never write down anything that I wouldn’t care someone else read.

Anyway, I skimmed through a few hundred blog entries that had been posted in the last minute or so and I have decided that in most cases, blog entries fit into one of the following categories:

1. Teen angst and/or adult depression
There are a lot of depressed people out there and they all seem to feel the need to tell the world about it in their blogs. I wonder if there is some kind of correlation; depression -> blogging or vice versa.

2. Poetry
Regardless of mood, everyone seems to be a poet. There is a ton of poetry out there. Unfortunately, most of it is free verse, which I don’t like. I like poems with rules you have to follow, you know, meter and rhyme and scansion, etc. The poetry that people post to their blogs reads more like a mind-dump than anything else.

3. Long meaningless survey questions and their responses
Many people seem compelled to copy surveys that someone emails them and paste the questions, and their answers into their blogs. The questions are supposed to draw out answers that allow others to learn something about the person. Unfortunately, answers to questions (like: “sex before marraige?”) are often things like: “hehehe”. If that’s an SAT word, it’s one with which I am not familiar.

4. Psychotherapy sessions
Lots of talk about moods (see depression above) and medications. Also includes obvious teens complaining about their parents.

5. X-bashing
There seems to be a fair amount of this going on, often with lots and lots of profanity.

Maybe I shouldn’t be critical of other people’s blogs, after all mine is nothing to write home about. But then again, mine is like a reference book for me, so that I know when I did X or who I was with when I did Y. With an occasional rant here and there.