"Hey Geek! You spend all day in front of a computer. You're a Systems Analyst, you write programs eight hours a day. Don't you have something better to do when you get home?"Actually, nobody has ever asked me this. But if anyone ever noticed that this is how I spend my evenings, five nights a week, they might wonder.
The thing is, you can do a lot of 'stuff' with a computer. There's games like Minesweeper, etc. for those times when you're just bummered out and want some totally mindless thing to do and you don't feel like reading.
But you can do some social things, too.
For example, I spend some time every night writing emails. Sometimes to my family, and often to The Unofficial IPSC List. (In fact, it was to reduce the level of Geek-Length Posts to the IPSC List that I started this Blog.)
Sometimes, during the day, I think up questions that can easily be answered via the Internet. A few of my favorite links are listed on the sidebar. For example, I can look up the results of the latest IPSC match I shot, by calling up www.columbia-cascade.com. Or I can check to see if I've yet made GrandMaster in Open Division at www.uspsa.org. (Hint: I'm lucky I'm still a B-class shooter!)
Also, since I don't have television and my radio-listening hours are limited by the requirements of working for a living, and I refuse to pay those leftist-pinkos who write for the newspapers in Red-State Oregon, I can check out the news at a world-wide selection of news websites. In fact, if I'm curious about politically slanted interpretations of the breaking news, there are a number of commentators who are woodified in hopes that I'll check their website to find out what THEY think. (They're entertaining ... especially Anne Coulter ... but they don't form my opinion. Rather, I look to see if THEY know anything I don't know; more often, I check to see if have achieved the zen-state of understanding which compares favorably with my own "God-like" talent to interpret the news.
Or, you can look up the cinematic contributions of Forrest Tucker, which is one of the oddball things I did to support my Geeky READING post yesterday ... believe it or not.
Occasionally, I put the resources of the Internet to more productive purposes. Tonite was one such night. Here's what I did:
April First. Tonite, I pay my bills. Mostly, I make payments online.
AOL is an automatic deduction, as are car insurance, life insurance, and renter's insurance.
Credit card ... paid it.
Electricity ... not due yet. I'll pay it next week.
Land-line phone ... paid it.
Cell Phone ... not due yet. I'll pay it next week.
All of these bills are paid online. I also checked my bank account to ensure that my paycheck had been credited.
Car payment ... not an issue any more, Brother. Paid it off early ... online.
Rent ... wrote a check. I'll put it in the landlord's mailbox in the morning. It's easy to forget this, but I just write the check when I pay my other bills. Some of the websites load slowly, there's enough time to write a check and stuff it in an envelope.
Water and Garbage: included in the rent. Oh, the joys of non-home-ownership!
Gun Club Membership ... wrote the check and put it in the mail.
Othe bills: there ain't none. I live a minimalist life. Money for Nothin' and Checks for Free (which I order from my bank ... online.)
There are a couple of new things this month, tho.
Income Taxes ... paid it, online, for a $5 fee. My bank has a deal with TurboTax which accepts online tax filing requests from bank customers at a reduced rate. Unfortunately, I could only file my Federal taxes with TurboTax. When they calculated my State Taxes, they decided I owed the state of Oregon another $1680. By my calculations, I owed $106. I wrote TurboTax a curt note on their "feedback" website, indicating most graciously that I couldn't afford their services in this area because it would require that I overpay by 1500%. I'll do my state tax return tomorrow, on paper, and still grumble about the absurd socialist tax structure in Oregon.
At least I don't have to pay Property Taxes anymore, since I'm renting. Oh sure, I DO pay Property Taxes, because it's part of the way my rent was calculated. But I've lived in the same place for 9 years now, and my rent hasn't gone up one penny. Tell me, you folks who own your own home ... habe your property tax, maintenance fees, garbage service and water/sewage bills stayed the same for the last 9 years? And when your diswasher breaks, do you have to buy a new one? Or does some kind neighbor (in my case, the owner) replace it for free?
That's what I though. Oh, the joys of non-home-ownership!
Next, my car registration is due to be renewed.
Paid it ... online ... in the comfort of my home and on a secure website. Computers are better than hanging around the DMV waiting for your number to be called. Did you know you can't smoke in a public building in Oregon? Screw them. I smoked a cigarette while I renewed my car registration. Life is good when you're a Geek.
Finally, I received an email telling me that a bill has been introduced simultaneously in both the House and the Senate (by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and Senator Lamar alexander, both of Tennessee), intended to help the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) with their fund-drive problems. You are probably aware that, thanks to the American Civil Liberties Union, the United Way fund-drives no longer support the BSA in fund-raising activities. Further, the ACLU has taken direct action to insure that the BSA can no longer hold meetings or conduct recruitment campaigns on school grounds. The have lost access to many of the public venues where they once held "Jamborees" and meetings. This bill will, hopefully, return their right to use these public facilites.
The “Support Our Scouts Act of 2005” guarantees the Boy Scouts’ right to equal access in a number of ways. The legislation removes any doubt that Federal agencies may welcome Scouts to hold meetings and go camping on federal property. It ensures the Defense Department can continue providing support consistent with U.S. law. The legislation also ensures state or local government entities do not deny Boy Scouts equal access to public facilities, programs, or forums. Finally, the act clarifies that federal agencies cannot provide less support to the Scouts than the agency has in the past.So I wrote to my Senators, Ron Weyden and Gorden Smith. And I also wrote to my Representative, Peter DeFazio. (You gotta love FIRST.GOV)
I told them that back in the '50s and the '60s, when I was growing up, it was EASY to be a kid. My parents were married. We had scouting, where we could go places and do things with other kids, and we didn't have to wonder if whether the scout-master was there to help us or to do bad things to us. We knew we could trust them.
I told them that kids today don't have it so good. Their parents are making babies, then going their separate ways. Children aren't 'given' good role models, they have to take 'em where they find 'em. I said that the BSA is finding pedofiles in their upper ranks even when they try real hard to weed 'em out. The Catholic Church in Portland, Oregon, has declared bankruptcy because of the civil suits they had to pay out due to the predations of pedophiliac priests ... PRIESTS! For Christ's sake, can't we do better than that with the Boy Scouts of America? These people are trying to hold the line, to protect our children and teach them the values of common decency, but there are people out there who want to put our children at risk for the sake of chimera .. a freaking PHILOSOPHIC CONCEPT ... called "diversity".
And I said that there wasnt' a damned thing I could do about it. I'm nothing but a balding, over-aged misanthropic Geek, and all I can do is write letters to people. But this bill could help the Boy Scouts at least regain some access to facililties which were available to them before the 'diversity' thing got blown out of proportion, and I think it's worth the effort to support it. Maybe they could do something to help a worthwhile cause.
Do it for the children.
Of course, I didn't put it quite that way, but that was the general gist of my comments.
. . . . . .
So there it is. How I Wasted My April Fools Night, Sitting In Front Of A Darned Ol' Computer.
How did you spend YOUR evening?