Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Problem of People

I'm not a huge fan of people. In fact, you wouldn't be wrong if you called me a misanthrope. Don't get me wrong, I like individuals just fine. Well, at least, I can like individuals just fine, but the mass of humanity... not a fan. I don't believe in the inherent goodness of humanity or anything close to it. I think people are pretty not-good, and it's closer to the truth to say I believe that humans are inherently selfish morons. This is not to say that I don't believe that people have the capacity for good. I do. I believe that (most) people have great potential for goodness. But that's all it is. Unused (or rarely used) potential.

I'm not saying any of this to imply that I'm any better, either. I'm sure that I'm not, but, at least, I'm aware of it, which is more than you can say for most people. It's like that whole thing about wisdom beginning when you realize how much you don't know.

Yes, I have examples:

1. I was driving the kids to school yesterday morning. Driving to school is not something I'm really enjoying having to do, at the moment, although I'm sure my kids are. But the dog isn't crate trained, yet, so she has to go with us, and I haven't been able to have the work done to my bike that will allow her to ride on it with me, so we've been in the car since the dog acquisition. (I'm hoping to get that changed after the new year.) Anyway... We were running a bit later than normal (yes, it was my fault, but I'm blaming the dog :), so I was feeling rushed. However, let me just be clear: I don't speed. (There's a long story about that and being late to a final during college (NOT my fault).) We're coming up the street to where we need to make a right onto the street their school is on. The light is green, and the crosswalk had the big red hand up barring pedestrians from entering the intersection. However, I see on the sidewalk on old woman with a bundle of sticks on her back (yes, I'm totally serious) making for the intersection with no signs of stopping. She didn't look around, she didn't slow down, she didn't act as if she realized she wasn't out in the middle of the woods gathering said sticks on her back. She also didn't stop at the corner. She walked straight out into the intersection and proceeded on her way. This is the kind of behavior that can kill you (you may now refer back to the "selfish morons" comment). Let's pretend that I was driving the same way that she was walking, especially since I was in a hurry. What we would have had was a dead pedestrian, a wrecked car, injured children (and dog), and sticks all over the street. But, as it was, I gritted my teeth and mumbled something about stupid people as I came to stop at a green light so that someone could cross against their own light.

2. Some of you may have picked up on the fact that we're big Star Wars fans in this house. Some of you may also know that Star Wars was recently (I use that term loosely) released on blu-ray. This was a cause for much debate and angst in our household. On the one hand, we own way more copies of Star Wars than anyone needs. I have a very special limited edition collectors set of the movies on VHS that have a leather case, a holographic cover, a book that only came with this edition of the movies and a 4th tape that was also limited to this edition. These are quite old at this point. I also have the last release of the original trilogy on VHS before Special Edition came out along with the Special Edition release of the movies on VHS. And we have them on dvd (it was the dvd release that actually prompted our first dvd player purchase). The original trilogy and the prequels (and The Clone Wars movie and the first two seasons of the show and a bunch of spoofs and parodies (Thumb Wars, R2-D2: Beneath the Dome, Hardware Wars, etc)). As my wife put it, "we don't need another set of those movies. Which is, objectively, true. But there's supposed to be all of this special, never before released stuff on the blu-ray edition, so "I wants it, my precious." (to mix a metaphor (except not)) My kids also wanted it. Hence, debate and angst. Not to mention the complication of the 3D versions which begin coming out next year, and I know I will want to buy those, even if I can't watch them in 3D, at the moment. So... do I buy the blu-rays knowing full well that I'll be repeating that purchase in the near future when the newer versions begin coming out on blu-ray 3D?

I began doing some research into the reaction of people about the blu-ray collection. I also mentioned to a friend of mine the dilemma we were facing, and his response was, "Oh, we pre-ordered them. You can borrow them when we get them." This was awesome. So we're in the midst of "borrowing," right now. But I was still doing research.

When the blu-ray collection came out, people began to immediately complain about Lucas tinkering with the movies again and all of these scenes that got added back in and how they all sucked and how Lucas has just continued to ruin everyone's childhood by messing up a good thing. There were even references to specific scenes in some of the reviews and how they sucked and made the movies suck. Because the implication of every review that I read was that all of these scenes had been edited back into the movies.


The collection is 9 discs (which could  have been reduced to 7, thus reducing the price by $20): 1-6 are each of the movies, 7 is special features (including deleted scenes) for the prequels, 8 is special features (including deleted scenes for the originals), and 9 is documentaries and featurettes. There are no new scenes in the movies themselves. The only tinkering is with the sound in a few places, the removal of the scream as Luke falls down the shaft in Empire (which was the only thing added in the Special Edition that I really couldn't stand, so I'm glad they took that back out), some bits of dialogue between holo-Emperor and Vader in Empire (which is the only thing that's a significant change), and a cleaning up of the blaster exchange between Greedo and Han so that it's less clear who shot first (that change having already been made, this new version is better than the first). None of the deleted scenes are added into the movies. They're on completely different discs. In fact, they are no different than deleted scenes from every other movie, and it's just stupid to get all upset that Lucas is letting us see them. Personally, I find it interesting to look at what was cut from a movie, especially if there's an explanation as to why it was cut. (And some of those scenes I've been waiting since I was 7 to see, so I think it's awesome that Lucas finally put them where we can see them if we want to do that. There's nothing to force anyone to put that other disc in or to watch the deleted scenes if you think it will shatter your delusions.)

In the end, the uproar over the deleted scenes is another example of the stupidity of people.

And, although I'd really love to own the blu-ray edition (mostly because of the Luke/Biggs scenes that are FINALLY included in the deleted scenes), I've decided to save my $90 and wait for the 3D releases.

3. Have you seen the news about the post office? In an effort to become more competitive in these troubled economic times, they will be lowering the quality of their service. Not that it will become cheaper.

It's no secret that the post office has been struggling due to loss of business to the internet. Why send a letter when you can send an email. It's both faster and cheaper. Physical letters are on the verge of extinction. Even cards are becoming endangered. Starting next year, in an effort to save money, the post office will be doing away with 1st class, next day delivery. Even if it means holding the mail because it's within the same city. In fact, they're kind of saying that delivery times will be sporadic and unpredictable. This whole move strikes me as something more along the lines of punishing us for not sending enough mail. A move of smite.

See, the smart thing to do here would be to figure out how to become more competitive. But of the three main shippers in the US: USPS, UPS, and FedEx; USPS is the worst. They cost more and offer less already for any kind of service that allows you to track your package. And for anything of any real weight, they cost quite a bit more than UPS, and UPS offers FREE insurance. However, instead of looking at ways that they could, you know, become viable, they decide to stick their tongues out at us and take their ball and go home.

It's a good example of the power of the dark side. Reacting in fear is quicker, easier, and this shows every sign of a fear reaction, which is the general way that people react to these types of situations. I'm not going to start making a list of historical examples of people reacting out of fear due to economic upheaval, but, if you want to do the research, you should quickly find enough on your own.

4. Which brings us to the publishing industry. I only mention them specifically, because their way of reacting in fear to the decline in traditional publishing affects many of you guys out there. They're being the same as the post office in many ways. People are buying less books, so, instead of figuring out how to be competitive, they hike prices and squeeze their authors. This, of course, prompts people to buy less books and the authors to start looking for alternatives.

Fear is the path to the dark side, people! Go back and watch Star Wars again!


I could go on with this stuff all day, I'm sure. As you can see, I'm not overly impressed with people.

Let's just call this post practice for Grumpy Bulldog's upcoming BlahgFest
You know, in the spirit of the holidays.

Merry Bah! Humbug!


  1. The post office does employ 500,000 Americans with good paying jobs. These layoffs are going to hurt the economy something fierce. I think that the post office is important. There is a debate going on right now about this very thing on NPR that I was listening to and I hope that the solution isn't just to lay people off and shut down offices although that looks very likely.

    I'm not a fanatic of Star Wars but I did like the movies and loved playing the RPG from West End Games as a kid.

  2. The post office's other problem is like the Big Three they've been around long enough they've got all these retirees they have to pay for. With declining revenues those costs become more of a concern.

    They seem to get locked in this downward spiral though of they raise prices on stamps so fewer people use stamps (I'm down to about 2 a month for my bills) so they get less revenue so they have to increase prices and it just keeps going. Plus people keep retiring, gas prices go up, etc.

    I think in the end the government has to accept the post office is no longer a moneymaking business. If nothing else, the government should pick up the retiree costs, which would allow the post office to be more competitive with UPS and FedEx, much in the same way the Big Three spun off much of their retiree debt into a trust so they could be more competitive with foreign car makers.

  3. Oh man, an old woman crossing the road with a bundle of sticks on her back? You totally should have stopped the car and offered her your lunch or something. Then you would have gotten a wish granted or been given an invisibility cloak or other magical artifact. What an opportunity missed!

  4. We have similar issues with the Royal Mail here in England. I think I've had about five postmen this year.

    Your post just got me all excited about a new MMO that I'm trying to justify subscribing too. Haven't managed yet, but I'm still trying :-)

  5. I think the postal service is a bit antiquated. You're are dead on that sending an email or IM'ing someone is way easier than writing a letter. I don't think there is an easy answer as to what should be done. Right now it's not really fair to compare them to UPS or FedEx though, the USPS provides a service to every American with a postal box every day. I get something from UPS or FedEx a few times a year (maybe more than a few, but still), the volume is way different.

    It's like when UPS went on strike a decade or so ago, FedEx had to stop taking new customers because they could not meet the demand (UPS is way bigger than FedEx). Lots of people were stuck without the ability to ship their packages. My employer now uses both UPS and FedEx so if something like that happens in the future they won't be stuck like they were last time. It was disastrous.

    I'd rather see the postal service go to a 3 day a week delivery/pickup schedule and see how that goes.

    Oh, and don't get me started about the 3D at home stuff.

  6. I hear the dark side has cookies. I like cookies.

    So this post made me laugh a lot. I loved that in the story about the old lady and the sticks you ended with "sticks all over the street." I just want to say that I speed. A lot. Unless a police officer is reading this. Then I don't.

    And the Blue Ray discussion is timely because my significant other and I are about to make the leap to Blue Ray and have been having the discussion about whether I need to upgrade everything to BR because how many versions of Firefly do I really need. Answer: all of them.

    Thanks for the laugh...

  7. Michael: Yeah, I also believe the post office is important. It's more than just a business; it's a symbol. We've forgotten a lot of those kinds of things in the last couple of decades, though.

    You know, I never played the RPG. I do own many of the miniatures, though.

    Dr. Grumpy: I understand the downward spiral thing, but that happens because people refuse to look beyond the spiral, which is what they're doing now. (And what the publishing industry is doing as well) I know it's easy to say, but they need to look from outside of what's going on to see what's working elsewhere and what's not being provided anywhere. That's always the key to business success: filling a need that's not being met.

    Sarah Mc: You know, I didn't even think of that. Of course, I didn't have a lunch to offer her other than my kids' lunches for school, and I couldn't have brought myself to offer her those. I think I should get a wish just for stopping my car, though! I did, after all, have the right of way.

    Sarah P: Hmm... Now, I'm all curious as to the MMO you're talking about. Is it the new Star Wars one?

    Rusty: I'm only comparing USPS to the other two in package delivery, not everything else. Theoretically, the USPS should be offering the -best- service for, well, everything, because they've always had the best infrastructure for it. But they were complacent and allowed UPS to come in and just do it better. Way better. Not to mention that UPS and FedEx will come to your house and pick packages up. The USPS needs to make some changes, but they're making the wrong ones.

    What? You don't want a 3D TV? Actually, I don't. Yet. But I will one day, I'm sure. They're still too new, though.

    M.J: No, the dark side onle -says- they have cookies. To lure people in. But it's a lie. Ask my son; he can tell you all about it.

    We only have a blu-ray player because someone gave one to us. A friend of mine had an extra one just laying around, so, when I mentioned to him my dilemma over wanting to see the blu-ray Star Wars stuff, he gave me his extra player.

    We have Firefly on DVD, just the one copy, but we do have multiples of Serenity. Because, you know, they waited till months later to put out the cool collector's edition. >:(

  8. We are also huge Star Wars fans here in this house! I am not that impressed with Blu-ray so I think I will stick to my DVD and even my occasional VHS for those that need to be viewed in that format. That sounds like an awesome blogfest!

  9. I can't get past the woman with the sticks on her back. Was she wearing a hooded cloak? Because that is how I see her. Although my next thought is to wonder if she has Alzheimers because that is a wierd thing to do.

  10. ...yeah, I'm with Nancy there, my first thought was to wonder if the old woman had dementia or was otherwise mentally ill.

    I wonder if her family knew she was out gathering sticks :( as someone with a close family member who is showing signs of such odd behavior (and with the ability to do nothing about that person being allowed to wander off on their own) it worries me. I hope that someone realizes there's a problem there.

    I'm gonna worry about her now even though I don't know who she is...

  11. Jennifer: I'm not that impressed with blu-ray, either, except that they're offering a lot more in features with it. There is one thing, though: if you're watching a movie on blu-ray, and you take it out before you finish, when you put it back in, it will ask you if you want to start where you left off and go to that place. That, in particular, is pretty nice.

    Nancy: No hooded cloak. Just an older Asian woman with a white bag slung over her shoulder filled with sticks.

    bru: You know it's hard to say. She didn't look homeless, though, even considering the sticks. With older people, though, odd behaviors may not mean something's wrong. My mom used to go out and gather all sorts of things for craft projects, and I imagine people thought that more than a bit odd, too.