Upstream Amazon, but now with a paddle, finally

I wrote about my (now) 3-week ordeal when a tech over at Amazon.uk (Vishnu, you should be fired) for cancelling BOTH my UK and US account when I asked him to leave the US one alone. Three times.

My 5th attempt I tried using some ALL CAPS while writing in the chat with the support tech person. When the final result was another promise to email me with the login details, 4 times before without results, I asked who the boss was, and got a name. THIS time, I actually DID receive and email. But it directed me back to support. I click on the link, and I am back at square one. I go through the same process with the new tech, hoping this time something different would happen. Nope. SO I START YELLING FOR THE BOSS, FLIPPING OUT and pointing out this was my sixth attempt. The tech finally put me in contact with his boss, who discovered the problem and had my old account reinstated in less than 3 minutes.

The lesson from all this? I am going to find a way to save all my Kindle books locally, so I am not dependant on Amazon su- su- su- sucky support. Also, I am downloading all my highlights from books past. You never know how much you depend on something until you lose it. I was fortunate to get it back.

Weakly Post #3

Media: Marie Kondo (or in Japanese, Kondo Marie) is famous for her technique of tidyng up. She has a new show on Netflix. I am not sure what to think of it. She is a small bubbly (yes, bubbly) woman who speaks little English, giving advice to families in the USA. I’m not sure if her ultra Japanese-ness is affected or genuine. The families seem to eat it up. The real star of the show is the translator. Maybe something to use in class as an example of how people do simultaneous translation. You only need to watch one episode. I watched 2 and they are the same. Unless you want to see more cluttered homes (voyeur!). Evidently organization porn is a big hit.

Politics: Crazy stuff when the American Taliban prosecute a woman for having a miscarriage. (NYTimes). And other countries might start thinking about tourists from America trying to emmigrate, because of health care. Pet stores in California can only sell rescue dogs and cats (NYTimes). You have to go directly to the breeder if not. Designed to limit puppy farms and animal cruelty, and reduce the state animal shelter budget, this has me wondering.

Business: Amazon is the place where America shops online. Following up last month’s link about how opaque the marketplace (The Verge) is on Amazon, where 3rd parties (small business) sell through Amazon, you can also make money by giving advice to new sellers. But is it legitimate? (Atlantic)

Media: Elsevier owns 2,500 academic journals, publishing articles by unpaid faculty, and charging over US$30 to access each article. Sci-Hub pirates these articles, much like the torrent network does for TV, movies and music. Meanwhile in Europe Open Science is gaining support for Plan S to require all government funded research to appear in Open (free) publication immediately. Publishers are worried, but this really needs to be a global concern to succeed, and this is the first step.

Writing: Is the exclamation point (!) an intensity marker or a sincerity marker? That and more, in how we overuse them!

Looking at this post, I don’t like the mish-mash of topics. I am going to start separating the posts and let the Categories help you find what you need, along with a much shorter Weakly Post each Sunday pointing to the other stuff I posted during the week. Check back here often (or better, add me to your RSS feed reader), and make a comment. I may even start an email list to notify people of Weakly Posts.

War and God

I was recently messaging with old friend Barry Mateer who is now in Iowa about his time 50 years ago when he was a Peace Corp volunteer in Nepal. He was there for a couple of years, returned to Iowa, got sick from a disease contracted over there, almost died, and when drafted, he filed for Conscientious Objector (CO) status. He was required to do some Alternative Service instead of serving in Vietnam. He elected to return to Nepal, and his parents, although concerned, did not object.

My tennis buddy and teaching colleague in Barcelona was about the same age. He too was a CO, did his Alternative Service cleaning toilets at a state hospital (mental institution). I was a bit younger, was in line to be drafted, but by then the war was winding down. Nonetheless, I also applied for CO status and was accepted about 6 months before Jimmy Carter ended the draft, so I didn’t have to do any Alternative Service. (I did end up volunteering for my church in China for a year, similar to AS, but many years later.

Which brings me to this story in the Smithsonian magazine, The Priest of Abu Ghraib. It is a long piece about Joshua Casteel and his time in Afghanistan. Another war, same story. Casteel was raised in a very religious family and volunteered for the war. I will let the article tell his fated and tragic story, a story where he struggles mightily to be a good Christian as well as a good soldier. He fails. With terrible consequences.

We switched as a family from the Catholic church to the Church of the Brethren when I was a teen. I was never sure whether it was because it was such a great church (it was) or whether it was because it was a peace church. I certainly am grateful, though, for the move. While my family has moved cities and congregations (they are now Presbyterian), I have wandered away from a formal religion and accepted a happy agnosticism like those around me here in Japan. I still volunteer, though, and I still think about war, killing and god. But nowhere like Joshua Casteel.

Who is lambasting whom?

I was reading my RSS feed and came across an article in The Hill (a neutral rated news outlet that is good for news titles). It said, in paragraph 3 or so, that “Trump lambasted Democrats on Twitter earlier Tuesday” That got me curious about lambasting.

Now, for my students, (look it up!) lambasting means to criticize strongly. (Dictionary.com has it as “criticize harshly”. Merriam Webster has it as “assault violently” or to “attack verbally”. Growing up in the age of Nixon, I got the impression that it was strong criticism with a note of sarcasm and an element of truth. Most of the lambasting going on then was directed toward the President who had to claim he was not a crook.

So I started to think. Which direction is the lambasting going these days? A search for trends does not yield any significant results. But a simple search for “Trump lambasted” gets 23,300 hits (using the incognito window, so it is not filtered for my previous searches). A search for “lambasted Trump” drew about half that, with 11,800 hits. Now searching inquiries to Google is not a great measure, it is pretty much all we have. (Any suggestions for other search engines?)

It might be the media, attributing a more violent verb to our current President who claims no collusion. Still trying to check out that avenue. Which leads me to wonder if the rest of us are being too nice. May I suggest we “politely” lambaste away? My other question was whether you can really lambaste by Twitter.

Ukraine, Europe, the UK, and the US

Image from artidea.org

I am reading Timothy Snyder‘s book The Road to Unfreedom: Russia, Europe, America (GuardianNYTimes review). It is incredibly depressing. I keep coming back to it because, as the Guardian says, it is “unignorable.”

Snyder is a Professor of History at Yale, longtime chronicler of Tyranny. I bought his book after listening to a very insightful interview at Slate with Jacob Weisberg.

Snyder outlines the tactics Vladimir Putin has used to gain control of Russia through destabilization and othering, and then export chaos around the world. Snyder postulates a dichotomy between nations and groups. Those that think progress is inevitable (like the EU proponents and US liberals) and those that feel we are running in circles for eternity (Russia and US conservatives).

I won’t get into details here on how Putin has risen to power and what the ramifications are. I am now reading the historical view of the Ukraine, the Crimea, and Russia and how Putin was able to start a war and take parts of the Ukraine. Especially depressing is looking at how all this starts to destabilize Europe, especially because they are not responding.

Putin tried the tactic that worked in Russia, demonizing homosexuals as agents of the West, bent on violating the “pure” Russia (Rus) built 1,000 years ago by Valdamarr (Volodemere) and rescued by the current Vladimir. (Funny, though, Valdemarr was from the Ukraine.) Since the Ukraine had enjoyed almost 2 decades of peace and was working on the rule of law, they (especially the young) were looking toward Europe. But as soon as Paul Manafort got Yakunovych into power, Russia tried to strong-arm then bribe, then worked to depose him. The people resisted, and continue to resist with a war that hobbles on. Putin’s main goal of destabilization and distrust of authority of the rule of law is slowly working, as we can see from this recent VICE account below.

If we look at the actions of Trump through this lens, it becomes clear that the main goal of Putin is extended, whether there is any collusion or not. More when I finish the book.