31 July

Poem: The Subject Tonight Is Love

by Jon Katz
A Happy Virus
A Happy Virus

The subject tonight Is love,

I caught a happy virus,

I spun my golden compass,

while talking to the stars,

It is known to be contagious,

no treatment or known cure,

insurance doesn’t cover it,

the doctors shake their heads,

You heart sits on an easel,

for me to paint,

my virus is contagious,

love will spread so quickly,

and lighten even the heavy hearts,

of angry men.

The subject tonight is love

so kiss me, and

take some notes.

31 July

Apple 2, Google Zip

by Jon Katz
Bite Of The Apple
Bite Of The Apple

The Apple user is a very particular species in the universe of modern technology. We love computers and use them – I have been writing on Apple computers my entire life – but we are doomed to knowing nothing about them, as any true geek knows. Apple products are all about dependence, because nobody but Apple can fix them or really learn how they work. We are helpless when something goes wrong, we call Apple, they always answer, they always speak our language, they are always there to help. Apple is the Mother, we live in their comfortable eco-system, ever more dependent on 1 800 My Apple. I forget many numbers I need, but I never have forgotten that one. Apple’s genial and hip techs – I love listening to their music, very current – they are always there to take our hands and walk us through our own dilemmas.

For a price, of course. I can’t imagine how much money I have given Apple for equipment, Apple Care,  warranties, Cloud Storage and extra memory cards and ships. I have an Apple Computer, an Ipad, an Ipod, an Iphone, and I haven’t the slightest clue how any of them work. I talk to Apple Tech Support more than to many of my friends and most of my family. When my first I pad cracked after I dropped it on the road, I took it to an Apple store in Albany, they gave me another one for free, thanking me for my honesty – I said it was my fault – and for my  long and proud record as an Apple customer. Steve and I grew up together, sort of.

Apple is the control room of my creative life, the manager of my photos, the dispenser of my podcasts, the source of my music, the editor of my videos, the repository of every word I ever write. Every now and then, I get restless, chafe at the warm grip of Apple – I miss Steve Jobs, he was my advocate, my protector, the architect of my creative work  – and try and break out.  Nobody should control your entire creative life, spread it around a bit. I have my periodic rebellions.

This time it was over the trouble I had trying to get my Ipad replaced – they sent the wrong one, took hours to figure out the problem, and then told me to drive two hours to an Apple Store in a couple of weeks (next available appointment) to sort it all out. So I pouted and stewed, returned the Ipad, went online and ordered Google’s new Nexus 7 mini-table which costs about one-fourth what an Ipad does. It can do e-mail, browse the Web, help me manage my social media empire, all I need. I don’t need 800,000 apps, technology can take you where you don’t want to go. I’ll show Apple, they will be sorry.

The Nexus 7 was the first non-Apple computing device I have purchased in my life, I have it in the back of my head that it can replaced my doomed Ipad with this little machine, it does everything I need it to do, or so the reviews say. I didn’t tell Google that they had a chance to win over a life-long Apple customer, because I know they don’t really care, they just say they do.

I promised to keep you informed about how it went, and it has not gone well. The tablet arrived this afternoon in a plain box, not the stylish sleek white packages from Apple. I took it out, plugged it in. It flashed a few times, opened a Wi-Fi window and then got stuck there. It wouldn’t move, offer any prompts. There was, of course, no handbook or instruction packet, you are supposed to wade into an online forum to understand what you paid for. I poked around online – why are the online questions never, ever, the ones you have? – until I found a phone number and to Google’s credit, somebody did get on the phone.

Unfortunately, he had no idea what I was talking about or how to help me. After three or four holds while he conferred with something or somebody, he told me to push some buttons and when nothing happened, he put me on hold again and said he was out of suggestions.

I would receive a new tablet, he said, Google would contact me by e-mail within seven hours – this would be the warranty department. There were procedures, to follow, he said, but he had no idea what they were, and once I followed them, a new table would be sent to me, mine was obviously defective, and I had 21 days to return the old one. I would get a mailing label in my inbox when the warranty department declared my machine returnable. After I got off the phone with my bewildered tech supporter, I was asked to take a phone survey which explained that Google really cared about my experience. Sure, not yet. I haven’t heard from the warranty department either, just a few minutes to go. I gave them an earful on the recorded message. I will not hear back.

Yesterday, Apple Tech Support saved me from a potentially disastrous memory issue with my photographs. They were strikingly efficient, responsive and determined, we spent two hours together, it was above and beyond. So I’m not impressed with Google. I guess Google doesn’t test it’s machines before they ship them out, this one was a mess. I guess they think nobody – even first time Android users – need actual instructions. I guess their tech support is easily stymied and quick to quit.

I haven’t given up.  I want to see it through. The afternoon had me thinking I ought to start researching Ipads again, but I will keep an open mind. Life happens, anybody can make a mistake, this one probably made in the south of China. As of now, I still have no idea what the Nexus is like, how it functions, or whether I can really use it. I keep thinking if something is made for teenagers, it is likely to be good enough for me. But Google is not Apple, not yet. More later.

31 July

Country Roads. Fighting Asphalt.

by Jon Katz
Saving Country Roads
Saving Country Roads

Big government has always made me nervous, and when I was a political writer, I saw firsthand how remote legislators love to pass bills without having a clue as to their impact. I was very drawn to some elements of conservatism until angry racist and sexist Bible-thumping fools kidnapped the movement, l hear every day about state and federal regulations choking business and doctors and farmers, the issue is always drowned out by some political baboon saying some incredibly stupid thing and drawing vast amounts of pointless media coverage. This, I suppose, passes for political dialogue. Another good reason to skip the news, unless you really want to follow Anthony Wiener’s traveling penis.

I think of the old conservatism when I think of the struggle to preserve country (unpaved) roads. The true conservatives would have grasped this issue.

A slew of state and federal legislation are causing until country roads to be paved over, they are disappearing, even up here. The Department Of Homeland Security wants all roads in the country to be paved to help ambulances to reach us when Armageddon comes, and have spent billions of dollars getting local governments to do it. States want country roads paved so they can get federal dollars and turn ambulances and First Responders, around, and because big trucks can get over them, the counties and small towns want to pave country roads because it is cheaper to maintain them, and in America, there is nothing more important than doing everything in the cheapest possible way, whether or wrecks the quality of life or not. I don’t remember voting to put Homeland Security in charge of my road or spending billions of dollars to pour asphalt all over rural America. That money would have brought a lot of jobs to the country, and jobs are much more badly needed than ugly paved roads.

Although local officials claim they are cheaper to maintain than paved roadways, studies in Vermont (the only state that is curving the paving of rural roads) and other states show they are not. They are nearly twice as expensive to build and to maintain.

I spent some time researching county roads a few years ago, I helped stopped a town effort to pave over the road in front of Bedlam Farm. I awoke one morning to a platoon of men and trucks and an official congratulating me. “You are about to get your road paved.” I had different ideas, and tracked down a dozen studies various state and federal transportation departments had done, and we organized everyone on the road to sign petitions and we stopped it. We all went to a town meeting and suggesting this shocking thing: how about a vote? The town was incredulous. But we know one another hear, and a reluctant town board agreed to put it to a vote.   I didn’t move from New Jersey to live in New Jersey and neither did my neighbors. The vote was 3 to 1 against the paving.

Country roads are important. Study after study shows that  when roads are paved, twice as many people use them and drive twice as fast. Paved roads bring noise and pollution, they interfere with animal life and natural water drainage, they are ugly and eradicate much of the sense of peace and beauty that comes from living in the country,  they require salt and chemicals to melt ice and snow. This should be a choice, something my neighbors and I get to vote on, not a mandate from remote bureaucrats. I would love to explore these ideas of smaller and more connected government if there weren’t so many hateful blockheads talking about it, so I will stay out of politics and walk with Maria and the dogs every day on the dwindling number of country roads in my county.

They are beautiful, peace, they are part of the aesthetic beauty of rural life. They are worth preserving.

31 July

Silent Prayers. Every Morning, Healing, Spirituality, Connection.

by Jon Katz
Every Morning
Every Morning

Every morning, a deepening spiritual practice, this morning more than ever, a healing time, a time of connection, trust, love and communication. The donkeys are deeply spiritual creatures, every morning they gather by the barn and wait for us, they stand still, hardly seeming to even breathe, they are expectant, patient, still, past food, past their quarreling and butting. They sense our need, and it becomes theirs. We connect in a timeless way, our pastor is Maria, the point of connection for all of us, the open person, her emotions coming through her hands, her smell, her brush. The ritual is entrenched. We come to the gate with a carrot for each, an offering. We come to the barn the barn and they follow.

We muck out the barn, tidy the stalls, check on the water, and then we all gather in the opening of the Pole barn, the donkeys line up, they cluster, they lean in and there is absolute stillness, a transfer of feeling, a beautiful thing. This morning was special, I am putting up a photo album on Facebook.

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