Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Preemptive gift returns

Amazon will soon have a new way to return gifts preemptively.  Seriously.

Amazon patents incredibly heartless and useful idea (NPR)

Amazon has a Wish List where I can put items that I would like to receive.  During Christmas time (and around my birthday?) they don't show which items have been purchased, so I won't know what I'm getting for Christmas.

With this new feature in place, I would know some of the gifts I would be receiving.  Is this progress?

When I read the article, I wondered if this would really happen.  Would Amazon really put this on their site?  Then I started to think of who I would put on my list.

My second thought was what would happen when Wikileaks publishes the list.

My third thought was how many lists *I* would be on.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

It's a man's world

It's a man's world.

Many women reading this would probably say Duh!  While progress has been made to level the playing field, there are still many areas and instances that show there is still progress to be made.

Pay, of course, is a high profile issue and has never been any where near between the sexes.  In 2000, women earned about 76% of what men made for the same jobs.  The gap is smaller now, but not all of it is equality in the work force.  The current recession has hit men harder than women.  Gender pay gap is smallest on record (USA Today).  Another reason women are gaining is more and more are entering typical male-dominated professions.  Almost half of all science and business majors are women.  Census: Women closing in on male-dominated fields (USA Today).

It's not all about money and professions.  Much of our language is not gender neutral.  I understand that 'tradition' plays a large part in our lives.  We still say mankind and Father Time.  We usually say words or phrases because that is what was used before and we grew up with it.  But things are, indeed, changing.  We now say Mail Carrier and Steward and Chairperson.

There are exceptions, of course.  We call ships 'she'.  But for every Mother Nature, there are probably dozens of male pronouns. 

What had me thinking about all of this was a few days ago I was walking my dog around the neighborhood.  A man who was walking down the street saw her and, not knowing her gender said something like "hey there little fellow."  This is usually the way it goes.  They ask "what is his name?" assuming our little Maddie is a boy.  I normally answer "her name is Maddie", giving them two pieces of information at once.  But as with all things, there are exceptions.  About a week ago, someone else in the neighborhood asked "what is his or her name?"  I smiled and simply said "Maddie."

It's progress.

Interesting article on why words should NOT be changed.  Mother Nature (Wordwatch)  Make sure to check out the comments also.  People chime in from both sides of the aisle.

Video: Facebook COO Sheryl Sandbert talks about Why we have too few women leaders (TED)

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

'Tis the Season, for Reason, and Peace. Atheists AND Religious groups

It's Chrismas time.  And God is more prevalent than any other time of the year.  Many homes put up nativity scenes, showing Mary and Joseph around a crib with a baby Jesus, and some have Wise Men and maybe animals to complete the scene.

A local church has an event, open to everyone, of a Bethlehem, including Roman soldiers, a census taker, two inns, a stable (or manger) and animals such as sheep, a donkey, and camels.  They tell the story of Jesus birth and finish with beautiful Christmas music.

Christmas music is heard most everywhere, in stores and on the radio.

Is this a problem?  Should any or all of these be eliminated or 'outlawed'.  Of course not.  These are all done by people and businesses and not mandated by government.

Now look out at the street and look at the ad on the bus going by.  It says "Millions of Americans are Good without God."  Are you offended?  Perhaps.  Does the ad stay on the bus?  Of course.

The Metroplex Atheists of Dallas-Fort Worth placed the ads because "we want to tell people they are not alone."  During Christmas time, many people feel alone or alienated because they don't have someone to share the 'holiday spirit' with.  The Metroplex Atheists are reaching out to people.  "It can be pretty lonely for a nonbeliever at Christmas time around here," says Mr McDonald, chairman of a local Atheist group.

Some religious groups have tried to boycott the buses or get the bus line to stop advertising any religious ads.  But all ads are welcome (excluding tobacco and alcohol).  As they should be.

Mr Edwords, national directory of the United Coalition of Reason says of the money spent on the ads, "That's more brouhaha for the buck than we have seen anywhere."  Which only incites more anger from religious groups.

Both sides need to relax, take a deep breath, and go about their business.  Both sides can advertise to their hearts content, and talk to people, and keep everything on a positive level.

Peace.  What a concept.

Atheist Ads on Buses Rattle Fort Worth (New York Times)

While I agree with the sentiment, the New York billboard, featuring a nativity scene, is over the line.  For the Holidays, an Atheism Billboard (New York Times)  This one is part of a 'war on Christmas'.  Nothing good will come of it.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Give a Gift Card or Money as a present?

As part of our company holiday party, we were to have a White Elephant Gift Exchange (Wikipedia).  This is where everyone brings a gift up to a certain value, wrapped, and we all take turns opening a gift or stealing from someone else.  One of the rules for the game was that no one could use a Gift Card as a gift.

The day before the party, one person offhandedly mentioned they would bring money as a gift.  They were joking, but it made me think about the 'value' of gifts.

We are all used to having gifts to open on christmas morning.  Usually it is something you have expressed an interest in, or it is something that someone knows you would like.  If I don't know what someone would like, then I consider getting a gift card for them, since I usually know at least what type of gift they would like, such as clothing, or comic books, or dishes, or computer-related.  With a gift card, they can get just what they want.  But when I get the gift card, I usually get an amount over what I would have spent on a gift.  In other words, if something I would have purchased for them is $30, I might get a gift card for $40 or even $50.  I think this plays into the 'feeling guilty' that I didn't get a 'real gift' for them.

If I give money, instead, as my co-worker mentioned, I would probably go for at least the gift card amount or even more.  I feel even more guilty, because, now I haven't even given them something in a category, such as electronics at Best Buy or books at Barnes and Noble.  So money in the envelope might be $50 or $60.  There is no thought to giving money.  Sure, they can spend it anywhere, but there is nothing 'special' tied to the giving.

Lastly, I can make a gift for them, which I do on occasion.  I know what the person would like and I make it from craft store materials, usually.  And the cost?  Not normally as much as the gift card.  Maybe $15 in materials, depending on the gift.  But that isn't the point with making a gift, is it?  The point, in case it isn't obvious, is that the gift comes from the heart.  I have given my time to create something special for them.

So, the point?  If you are even moderately creative and know something the person would like, consider making a gift for them.

Not creative enough or can't think of something to make?  The normal 'gift giving' of something the person would like is perfectly acceptable.

Can't think of what to give the person?  A gift card, while not as good as a 'normal gift' is okay, especially if it is someone not as close as a spouse or close friend.

And if all else fails?  Forget the money.  No matter how you dress it up.  Decide on which gift card to give them.

Homemade Christmas Gift (SaverQueen)

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Do we really need more laws?

If you live in California or Illinois (6th district) and you don't think we have enough laws, you can contact a state Senator and suggest a new law to them.  They will take the ideas they think are best and submit them to their state Legislatures.  Since 2001, 16 ideas have become new laws in California.

New laws can range from businesses honoring gift certificates even in bankruptcy to fines for debris falling from trucks with proposed laws such as an energy deduction for companies who supply power for employees electric vehicles.

While I laud this idea I can't help but think of how many laws are already on the books.  Do we really need new laws?  Some of them are 'good laws' such as deductions for this or that, but other are 'punitive laws' such as fines for one thing or another.

Along with 'there oughta be a law' should be 'we oughta get rid of a law'.  There are plenty of laws cluttering up the books that are so out of date as to be laughable (Weird and out of date law in US).

'There oughta be a law' movement lets fed-up citizens write their own laws (Christian Science Monitor)

Illinois Senator Roskam institutes his own There Ought be a Law program in 2008.