Happy Holidays

The pandemic has colored our lives with shades of discontent. Yet somehow we are—no doubt in various degrees—living up to the challenges. That’s because consciously or not we are using our innate strengths and resources. In doing so it’s easy to forget we become individual examples of the very qualities that make us better humans. Some call it the nobility of the human spirit, some call it better angels. Fact is  no matter what we call it our resilience, our capacity to make adjustments, our ability to help each other, our joy despite the difficulties are carrying us through this.

May these strengths continue to grace our lives with renewed depths!

Wishing you  Happy Holidays.

Fine-Free Libraries

Library fines are an institution, no less than is like going to the library, borrowing a book, having it stamped and remembering when it’s due. But times change and institutions like libraries must change with them. Right now one of the issues with libraries is whether or not they can be fine-free.  The main obstacle is budget. Libraries are funded in different ways, and for some fines have been a source of revenue.  While it would affect some libraries, it turns out that for most the revenue from fines is not that big, sometimes less than one percent.  But libraries are changing in other ways too, many like me now borrow e-books with just a few clicks, and e-books time out on their own, just disappearing from a borrower’s device, so  fines cease to be an issue. One of the main reasons to go fine-free is access and  the groups who suffer as a result of fines.  One of the main groups affected is children—presumably because of their parents and the rides they have to rely on. Another group much affected by fines are people in minorities areas. Fines sometimes make it harder not only for minorities to use libraries  but also for people in rural areas, areas with fewer libraries and greater distances.  What I found interesting is that doing away with fines does not generally adversely affect the number of people who borrow books. In these days when libraries are more than they used to be (besides e-books, they sometimes feed those in need, offer wi-fi and allow homeless in) days when we speak of racial justice and greater equality, fine-free libraries, it does seem, do have a small role to play

The Too Big Technological Background

I needed a new phone and in the process changed carriers which means I needed my number ported from the old to the new. A process which normally takes no more than 3 hours and can often be done in minutes took  72 hours over four days, from Sunday afternoon until Wednesday 3pm. I dealt with several people at the store and each were trying to do their job, each was trying to deal with a situation they couldn’t understand along with a customer who kept asking where was the problem and pressuring them to resolve it. Each day brought a new crop of people, each with their own way of dealing with the issue. But none seemed aware of the huge background of technical inputs, processes and technicalities involved. They said first they didn’t have my correct zip code,  when they did, but as I discovered it was probably entered incorrectly. Then they said there was 2 port requests, while the original carrier said there was not. At a loss for what was causing the  delays they blamed the original carrier meaning it was out of their hands, they could do nothing. The point of all this is that whether with phones, or so many other daily necessities, cable, streaming, utilities, banking, all involve a technical backdrop which may be becoming too complex, certainly too complicated for the average person or the average worker. The people I dealt with were good with people, but unaware of potential issues behind the  parameters of their jobs, not out of ineptitude or laziness, and I am not sure due to  poor and inadequate training. They were knowledgeable within the confines of  their very small sphere.  

It’s easy to berate the tech support people we speak to on the phone, to get angry at those who are helping us when they give what looks like wrong answers, it’s easy to be angry at not being helped and be frustrated by the consequences, but the problem, I believe,  is not the workers but the immensity of the technological grid. Each worker is tasked with the equivalent of a piece of the puzzle, and they do what they are  to do, but there seems to be few who can see the whole picture. And as the picture continues to get bigger and bigger, it becomes an issue of concern. It is a concern that includes a lot more than  the smooth functioning of our individual lives, but the functioning of a nation, its national security and relations with its allies.  Several international issues relying on technology and its increasing ability to link, connect, compute, track… reveal the inherent complexities. Human trafficking is one where the technology can help but also add to the difficulties. It all points to the old issue inherent in the phrase too big to fail.  Increasingly we need to keep asking when is big too big for our own good?