THAT BORING STUFF YOU IGNORED IN SCHOOL

75-ElectionNK-6

Back on Facebook, the site I love to hate. Someone who ought to know better is saying “Here’s a suggestion: To solve all our problems, we should call a general election and let the people decide what should be done. Let’s go back to running the government by the people! Sounds simple to me!”

And getting the response:  “What’s simple to us is hard for our elected officials!”

Your Vote Counts

It sounds moronic to me, but hey, what do I know? Because it’s not hard for our elected officials. It’s impossible and illegal for our officials — elected and otherwise. There is no such thing as a national general election other than the regularly scheduled ones in November.

Nor have we any mechanism to allow a plebiscite in which everyone gets to vote his or her opinion and The Government has to Abide by That Vote. How would that work, exactly? To which part of our legal system does this election belong? Judicial? Legislative? Executive?

I’m pretty sure — feel free to correct me if I’m wrong — we have to pass laws via the legislature. To change laws, we have to get rid of old laws via the judicial branch and/or enact new laws through Congress.

If you don’t like the bozos in congress, don’t vote for them. What? You didn’t vote? Well then. I guess you got what you deserve.

The executive branch (aka The President) can’t enact laws. He can use his influence to try to get Congress to create laws he likes. He can veto proposed laws although presidents do not use their veto much. It’s a thing. Oh, and congress can overturn a veto if enough members of congress can agree. Like that’s going to happen.

So — after we have this entirely illegal “public opinion election,” who will enforce “the will of the people”? The National Guard maybe? Guns and tanks in the street?

VotedDry

Returning to Facebook, I post a little something. Because I love it when I absolutely, positively know no one is going to pay any attention to me. I say: “You can’t just ‘call an election’ in the U.S. We have scheduled elections. The Constitution specifies how and when elections will be held. You can vote down a government in England and in other parliamentary systems, but you cannot do it here.”

Everyone ignores me. Probably because I’m so smart.

So what can you do about all the stuff you don’t like? Between scheduled elections, you are free to gripe, whine, wail, argue, rant, piss and moan … but you can’t vote until the next scheduled election.

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It’s one of several fundamental differences between our form of government and parliamentary governments (most of the rest of the free world). Americans are always saying how superior our government is, yet they don’t seem to know how it works. Hmm.

I love it when folks call for an election to change something they don’t like. As if the United States has ever or could ever “just call an election” and “let the people decide.” Even in a parliamentary government — which is nominally more responsive to public opinion — you can’t just “call an election” anytime citizens are displeased with what’s going on.

Somewhere in every government throughout history a lot of citizens are/were/will be unhappy with whatever the government is or isn’t doing. If you had an election every time a bunch of people were mad at the government, we’d always be in the middle of an election. Wouldn’t that be fun!

You are not required to like what’s going on, but if you want to participate, you need a fundamental grasp of how your government works. The boring stuff you ignored learned in grammar school. Today, you’re all grown up. Your government may be boring, but it’s the only one you’ve got. I know. It’s not fair.

Feel free to ignore me. Everyone does. I should never read anything on Facebook. It just pisses me off.

A SERENDIPITOUS PHOTO STORY BULLETIN UPDATE

ANNOUNCEMENT, ANNOUNCEMENT!

Next Tuesday will occur on Wednesday. In the name of keeping myself sane, I’ve decided to do this prompt a mere once per week. On Wednesday. Because Wednesday’s child is full of woe and it’s the middle of the week.

WARNING: TODAY IS NOT WEDNESDAY. TODAY IS SATURDAY. THIS IS NOT A PROMPT. IT IS AN UPDATE TO THE PREVIOUS PROMPT.

A NEW PROMPT WILL APPEAR VERY EARLY IN THE MORNING ON WEDNESDAY, APRIL 29th.


I like telling stories linked to pictures. To help the process along, every Wednesday, I’ll publish a picture and write something about it. You can use any of my pictures if you like, or any of yours. Link it back to that day’s post (ping back) so other people can find it.

You will have to forgive me if I miss a day here and there, or if Thursday is comes out on Friday.

Feel free to jump in.

What do I mean by “story” and “pictures”?

Story. Words. Poetry, prose, fact, or fiction. A couple of lines, a fanciful tale.

Pictures. Video if that’s your thing. Scanned pictures from your scrap-book. Weird pictures from the internet. Cartoons. Pictures of your family vacation and how the bear stole your food. Any picture you ever took and would like to talk about

What to write about?

Your trip to Paris. You flight from Irkutsk. You favorite dog, cat, ferret, cockatoo. The weird boyfriend you had in high school. The last book you read, the next book you plan to read, why you don’t read books (but you write them)(don’t write them)(would like to write them).

Television shows, movie stars, classic film, history, language. Fiction, non-fiction. Everything, anything as long as you include a picture and some text.

SIMPLE

It sounds simple because it is simple. Every picture has a story or ought to. There are no rules. You are free to follow my lead, ignore me, follow someone else’s idea. Any picture plus some text will do it. Short or long, truth or fiction. Prose or poetry.

One final thing: If you want to get notices of these posts, you’ll have to subscribe to Serendipity. I’ll try to title relevant posts so you can easily recognize them.


So as not to waste this space, I give you the pictures I took this morning of a vase containing my very own, fresh-from-the-garden daffodils sometimes accompanied by Robbie, The Robot. Robbie loves flowers. I couldn’t keep him away. He quite insisted on being included.


  1. GENERATION GAP – GROWING UP BOOMER – Tuesday, April 21, 2015
  2. FIVE PHOTOS FIVE STORIES: Let’s start with a Serendipitous Bang (DAY 4) 
  3. MAKING MARIJUANA LEGAL – Thursday, April 23, 2015
  4. Photos and Stories behind them – day four – The secret places in Bern the capital town of Switzerland
  5. I Went To A Carnival, And A Baseball Game Broke Out!
  6. A SERENDIPITOUS PHOTO STORY PROMPT | A Day In The Life
  7. A SERENDIPITOUS PHOTO STORY #2 – MEET TILLY 
  8. Spam-Bam Thank You Ma’am | Cordelia’s Mom
  9. And on the Eighth Day, God said … | Cordelia’s Mom
  10. FIVE PHOTOS FIVE STORIES: Early Peacock View and tiger spotting
  11. Size doesn’t matter… | The Happy Quitter
  12. Photos and Stories behind them: Day Five – The Birds
  13. Life’s A Ditch | Evil Squirrel’s Nest
  14. Of mountains and things | Willow’s Corner
  15. A Serendipitous Story
  16. Statue of Limitations | Evil Squirrel’s Nest
  17. Tradeoffs | Willow’s Corner
  18. oddments | Willow’s Corner

A SERENDIPITOUS PHOTO STORY PROMPT – 2015 #2

This could be a hit or a flop, but it’s worth a try.

I like telling stories linked to pictures. To help the process along, every Wednesday, I’ll publish a picture and write something about it. Sometimes, it may be a relatively long post. Other day, you’ll see just a couple of sentences. You can use whatever picture I post  or any picture I have posted — or any picture of your own — as a prompt. Link it back to this post (ping back) so other people can find it.

You will have to forgive me if I miss a day here and there, or if Wednesday turns out to be Friday (occasionally).

Feel free to jump in.

What do I mean by “story” and “pictures”?

Story. Words. Poetry, prose, fact, or fiction. A couple of lines, a fanciful tale.

Pictures. Video if that’s your thing. Scanned pictures from your scrap-book. Weird pictures from the internet. Cartoons. Pictures of your family vacation and how the bear stole your food. Any picture you ever took and would like to talk about

What to write about?

Your trip to Paris. You flight from Irkutsk. You favorite dog, cat, ferret, cockatoo. The weird boyfriend you had in high school. The last book you read, the next book you plan to read, why you don’t read books (but you write them)(don’t write them)(would like to write them).

Television shows, movie stars, classic film, history, language. Fiction, non-fiction. Everything, anything as long as you include a picture and some text.

SIMPLE

It sounds simple because it is simple. Every picture has a story or ought to. There are no rules. You are free to follow my lead, ignore me, follow someone else’s idea. Any picture plus some text will do it. Short or long, truth or fiction. Prose or poetry.

One final thing: If you want to get notices of these posts, you’ll have to subscribe to Serendipity. I’ll try to title relevant posts so you can easily recognize them.


My entry for today:

A SERENDIPITY PHOTO STORY – THURSDAY APRIL 24, 2015

The headline in Boston Globe:

MARIJUANA ADVOCATES EYE LEGALIZATION IN MASS.

An effort has been launched to both get a question calling for the drug’s legalization on the 2016 ballot and to raise enough money for victory.

What happened?  Massachusetts passed a referendum making medical marijuana legal more than two years ago. After which, as so often happens, it vanished.

I bet legalizing it would have the same result. Nothing. Nada. Maybe they would stop busting people for smoking a joint at a concert … or would they? I suppose it depends on how the law is worded. I’m sure legalization would not make dope cheaper or more available.

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Why not? Because this is Massachusetts. Not only (to quote Tip O’Neill) is all politics local, but absolutely everything is political. Everything is a power play between dueling egos.

They can “eye legalization” all they want, but it won’t help me or my buddies. They’ll find a way to keep us from getting any. By the time they finish with the legal gobbledygook, it will be easier to buy it illegally. Like always.

I figure the process will be like applying for MassHealth. Fill out a thousand page form. Mail it in. Call six weeks later to learn they lost it. Fill in a another form. They’ll tell you it’s too late to meet the deadline (because they lost the first one). Eventually, they will start to process the application. If you don’t die in the interim, a year or two down the road, you’ll get fantastic medical benefits.

Weed? The price will be too high. You’ll realize what a bargain the illegal stuff was. Taxes alone will exceed the original non-legal price by hundreds of percent.

Dream on, you aging hippies. It ain’t gonna happen here. Not in our lifetime.


  1. GENERATION GAP – GROWING UP BOOMER – Tuesday, April 21, 2015
  2. FIVE PHOTOS FIVE STORIES: Let’s start with a Serendipitous Bang (DAY 4) 
  3. MAKING MARIJUANA LEGAL – Thursday, April 23, 2015
  4. Photos and Stories behind them – day four – The secret places in Bern the capital town of Switzerland
  5. I Went To A Carnival, And A Baseball Game Broke Out!
  6. A SERENDIPITOUS PHOTO STORY PROMPT | A Day In The Life
  7. A SERENDIPITOUS PHOTO STORY #2 – MEET TILLY | MY OTHER BLOG – Living in Tasmania and loving it.
  8. Spam-Bam Thank You Ma’am | Cordelia’s Mom
  9. And on the Eighth Day, God said … | Cordelia’s Mom
  10. FIVE PHOTOS FIVE STORIES: Early Peacock View and tiger spotting
  11. Size doesn’t matter… | The Happy Quitter
  12. Photos and Stories behind them: Day Five – The Birds
  13. Life’s A Ditch | Evil Squirrel’s Nest
  14. Of mountains and things | Willow’s Corner
  15. A Serendipitous Story
  16. Statue of Limitations | Evil Squirrel’s Nest
  17. Tradeoffs | Willow’s Corner
  18. Oddments | Willow’s Corner

REGULATE GUNS — LIKE EVERYTHING ELSE

I’ve been listening to arguments against gun control since I was a kid. As a child, I didn’t understand why anyone would object to sensible gun regulations.

I mean, Wyatt Earp did it in Tombstone. Should we be doing less in Boston or Austin?

ColtSAA04

YOU NEED A LICENSE FOR THAT

Virtually every aspect of our lives are regulated.

Without a license, you can’t cut hair or sell insurance. Drive a car. Most places, you need a license to build an extension on your house, change the wiring, remodel your kitchen, or replace your roof. You need a license for your dog. A permit to hold a parade. Or sell booze.

So what’s the big deal? Why are guns different? We control and limit more or less everything, so why are guns off-limit? The answer is obvious. They aren’t, not really. What makes guns off limit isn’t the Constitution. It’s a powerful lobby group that has caused generations of politicians to fear for their congressional seats.

To me, it’s simple obvious. If you can’t hold a scissors in a barber shop without a license, you should not be allowed to carry a loaded rifle in Walmart without requiring at least as much accountability.

The arguments against sensible gun control are specious. Stupid. If can’t drive drunk, how come you can walk around drunk — with a gun? I would never limit anyone’s right to own a car without good reason. Like bad eyesight. Driving under the influence. Lack of insurance. A flunked driving test. Surely we should require at least this much oversight for guns.

A COMMONSENSE GUN CONTROL PLAN

If you want to own guns, you have to pass a licensing test which makes sure you know how to shoot and care for weapons. You are obligated to keep it out of the wrong hands. Your eyesight should be good enough to hit a target. You need to pass a background check to show you aren’t a felon. Or nuts.

You have to register your guns. All of them. You are obligated to keep track of your guns, to know where each of them is. You may not lend them to anyone who is unlicensed any more than you can loan your car to an unlicensed and/or uninsured driver.

If your gun is lost or stolen, you absolutely must report it to the cops. None of that “Gee, I guess it must have been stolen” crap. You will carry liability insurance on every weapon. Should a weapon registered to you be used in an illegal act — with or without your consent — you are responsible for damages. If you don’t go to jail, you will still pay. As you should.

The nation, as well as individual states and counties can tax your weapons and refuse to license weapons deemed inappropriate for private owners. If you want a weapon deemed unsuitable, you will have to get a different license, not to mention explain why you need it.

Simple, isn’t it?

auto inspection sticker texas

LICENSE AND REGISTRATION, PLEASE

We license cars because cars are potentially dangerous. Which doesn’t mean we don’t own cars. Obviously we own millions of them. We try to control who drives while maintaining reasonably accurate records of who owns what. We can’t keep every drunk off the road, stop cars from being stolen, or prevent accidents.

We do the best we can. For the most part, the system works. It would work for guns, too. Equally well, equally badly. Imperfect, but a lot better than the nothing we have in place now.

I have yet to hear a coherent argument against such a plan — probably because there isn’t any. Any reasonable person can understand we need to regulate guns. Like everything else.

Obama To Disband the Marine Corps (NOT)

I’m not sure if this is a new rule or it should be a corollary to the Murphy’s Law which states “Anything that sounds too good to be true is probably untrue.”  This law, simply stated, is “If it sounds unbelievable, don’t believe it.”

See on Scoop.itIn and About the News

You didn’t know this, did you?

On a flight home I sat in between two individuals,  a Marine and boxing promoter. The boxing guy was an older gentleman, and told interesting stories, such as meeting Don King. Both men were very pleasant and that helped make time pass on the flight. We were all combat veterans and all Southerners, so we had a lot in common. Then the discussion, inevitably, turned to politics.

The older guy turned to the Marine and said “You know Obama is getting rid of the Marine Corps, right?”

Source: www.dailykos.com

 

AMERICANS ARE FAT … AND GETTING FATTER …

Doobster at Mindful Digression wrote a piece today about how fat Americans are. He noted, among other statistics, that poverty food tends to be unhealthy. Duh. Being poor and eating well are contradictions in terms. If you live on a very limited and/or fixed income, you can’t eat a healthy diet. You can’t afford it.

Let’s start with who is poor.

Old people are poor, or at least a large percentage of them. Also poor? Some very hard-working but low-income workers. The people who serve you in restaurants, pump your gas, do all those jobs you don’t want to do and probably never think about — if you can help it.

You might want to read Senior poverty is much worse than you think, or Senior Poverty: Action Needed to Address A Growing Problem even though these studies are not really up-to-date and the poverty scenario for older people is worse now than when these studies were published. A State-by-State Snapshot of Poverty Among Seniors: Findings From Analysis of the Supplemental Poverty Measure is pretty interesting too.

Nationally, nearly half of all seniors (48%) live with incomes below 200 percent of the poverty threshold (under the supplemental measure), compared to 34 percent under the official measure.3 The share of seniors with incomes below 200 percent of poverty is higher under the supplemental measure in every state than under the official measure.
Under the supplemental measure, at least two-fifths of seniors (40%) have incomes below 200 percent of poverty in 48 states and in DC; using the official measure, this is the case in only six states.

At least half of seniors have incomes below 200 percent of poverty in 10 states and DC based on the supplemental measure: DC (59%); California (56%); Hawaii (55%); Georgia (54%); Louisiana, New York, Rhode Island, and Tennessee (52%); Florida and Mississippi (51%); and Arizona (50%).

In terms you might understand more easily, 100% of the government poverty “line” for a couple in Massachusetts is $12,000/per year. You can get some kind assistance — senior housing, for example — up to 400% of that amount. After that, no matter what the actual cost of living or your personal circumstances, even if 75% of your money goes to pay for medicine you need to survive, you’re out of luck. And the total amount is much less in other states. Poverty is relative to the cost of living based on where you are.

Poverty food is high in fat and carbs, low in protein. No fresh vegetables … or anything that isn’t prepackaged or canned. Mac & Cheese, the fallback position of poor people throughout our land, along with every other kind of pasta and rice, not to mention instant mashed potatoes — offer no real food value. But at least you don’t have to be hungry.

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LET’S TALK ABOUT FOOD

Eating healthy is more expensive than “poverty food” — carbohydrates, sugar, and fat. The price of eating healthy keeps going up, too. There are no options for those on limited incomes. We (personally) choose to eat less so we can eat better, but our cupboard is often bare. We buy just enough for dinner, a light lunch, and coffee in the morning. There’s no spare. Not going to be doing any entertaining in the foreseeable future.

As social security and pension money does NOT rise — ever — and the cost of living ALWAYS rises, we can but hope we need less food.

The price of chicken and fish is easily 50% more than it was a year ago, but the money on which we live is the same. Chicken? Really? Has chicken feed risen that much? It can’t be the transportation costs, because that’s way down in the past year. So you figure maybe it’s price gouging?

I know all you Republicans out there think we live on government handouts, high (as it were) on the hog. But those governments handouts are pretty hard to come by. I don’t get any and neither does anyone I know. Even those who technically qualify don’t seem to be able to get what they need.

We don’t qualify for any help because although we do not have enough to live on, we are “rich” by government standards. That means we do not get help paying for medications and I specifically do not take medicines that cost a lot. I can’t afford them. Medical conditions go untreated or are treated using less than the best medicines. There’s nothing to be done about it. Dental care is a crisis. Needing new glasses is time for fear and trembling.

All we can do is keep tightening our belts and hoping that we won’t outlive our money. The government levels of “acceptable” poverty for senior citizens is so low no one could live on it at all, much less in dignity. Or afford proper medication, food, and utilities. Or have any fun at all. But hey, why should the poor — grandma and granddad — have any fun? They are old, so all they need to do is survive. If they die, so what? They had their lives already.

The food the poor can afford — most of them working poor who don’t earn enough to feed themselves or their family — rely on food pantries to make up at least part of the gap. Food pantries try desperately hard to help and without them, there would be even more starvation than there is. They deserve a lot of credit for their efforts.

But what do they distribute? Lots of carbs. Boxes and boxes of pasta, beans, mac & cheese. Canned vegetables (past date, mostly) because that’s what gets donated by those with plenty. Nothing fresh, nothing healthy. The poor are not entitled to eat well. In the opinion of many, they are not entitled to eat at all. And it is the mainstay of every comedian’s best monologue about how FAT the POOR are. Really terribly funny. I’m laughing all the way to the food bank.

While everyone is busy laughing heartily at the Walmart crowd, consider that they represent a rather broad cross-section of America’s poor of whatever region you care to name. Fat? Yes, they are. Given their diet, it’s inevitable. They aren’t going to their gyms. They have no gyms for people without discretionary income. And when these people get through with their poorly paying no-future jobs, do you figure they go exercise on that machinery they got with the spare money the government throws at them?

We should be a lot more ashamed of ourselves than we are, but we are so busy blaming poor people for their own problems, how the poor are lazy and unwilling to work because they are busy stuffing their faces with junk food. The working poor I know … and sadly, I know a fair number of them … are hard-working and ambitious. They just don’t have anywhere to work which will pay them a living wage. No one is interested.

So if you had to live on what they live on, I bet you’d stuff your face with junk food too. Because junk food is better than no food. Even if it makes you fat.


I Got Skills – If you could choose to be a master (or mistress) of any skill in the world, which skill would you pick? I have skill at writing. Today I am trying to make use of it to highlight a social problem, a growing injustice, an issue of reality.  I never chose writing. It picked me long ago.

Explainer: How Democrats and Republicans ‘switched sides’ on civil rights

Or, how the “Party of Lincoln” became the preferred party of racists everywhere.

I just about lost my damn mind this morning after coming across this piece from the National Review about how Barry Goldwater totally wasn’t all that racist or anything.

As a history nerd, this weird thing the Republicans are doing now where they are trying to pretend that they are the true heirs of the civil rights movement is starting to drive me up the wall. Like, f’reals, Frederick Douglass and Martin Luther King would not freaking be conservative Republicans today. For that matter, neither would Susan B. Anthony. It’s absolutely absurd. It doesn’t even sort of make sense because at all times throughout all history, all civil rights issues are progressive issues regardless of party alignment.

READ THE ORIGINAL: www.deathandtaxesmag.com

FROM SERENDIPITY, A LITTLE BACKGROUND MUSIC:

This is flippant and funny, but it is a not half bad summary of American politics for the past hundred years. Give or take a lie or two. And it adds some much-needed perspective to the lies we hear on the radio, see on television, and read on the Internet.

It’s always a good thing to add a little truth to an ongoing debate, though considering the incivility, name-calling, mud-slinging, and general bad manners and ill intent of participants on both side, but in particular the “right” side … one can only wonder if Truth and Facts actually have any role to play in this ongoing melodrama we call politics.

See on Scoop.itIn and About the News

YOUR BUSINESS IS IMPORTANT TO US

It’s an epidemic, a pandemic  — of bad service.

Do you remember when the customer was always right? I do. It wasn’t that long ago.

Customer satisfaction and service was the norm until approximately 2002, at which point everyone — more or less simultaneously — decided to save money by “automating” customer service, eliminating it entirely, or shipping it overseas to be handled by people who speak heavily accented English and don’t know anything about the products they are supposed to be supporting. That was when you and me, the customers, the ones who spend our limited, disposable income on their products or services, became unimportant.

outofserviceThat was the year when we all became not worth the effort of answering a question, or supplying documentation. The gold standard for customer service became … nothing. These days, after slightly more than a decade of working out the details, most organizations do not offer any service to their customers. At all.

The overall attitude is “do the least you can — nothing, if you can get away with it. All customers are liars and thieves. Treat them as such.”

Customer disservice. I think I’m permanently pissed off. Even thinking about calling a customer service department gets my blood boiling. I’m shocked if I’m treated well. Delighted, but shocked.

SO WHAT DO I HATE?

Recorded phone solicitations that interrupt your sleep, meals, conversations, and the show you’re watching. Calls that display on caller ID as familiar phone numbers, but they’ve hacked your data or bought it from someone from whom you bought something.

waiting

Fake charitable organizations, many supposedly in support of breast cancer research or some other form of advocacy. Who take your money and use it to line their own pockets.

“Surveys” that are nothing but scams to collect your private data for sale and misuse.

“Discount cards” for every shop you go to, all of which are a way to collect your personal information so they can sell it. Because you may not be worth much as a customer, but your buying habits sell for big bucks.

Voice-mail systems at doctor’s offices with so many options you can’t recall the first option halfway through the message. The recordings go on and on, until you are ready to scream. Worse, you have to listen to the entire spiel every time you call. The message starts with “Please listen to this entire message before making your selection. Our menu choices have recently changed …” Recently was 10 months ago … or a year or more. You can sing along with the recording because you’ve heard it so many times.

CustServCartoon

Many places no longer offer any option of speaking to a live person. Try to find a live human being at your electric company, cable provider, or credit card company.

Our electric company had customer service. Today, if you can find their phone number, a recorded message will tell you to visit the website. Online. Not quite what you need when the power’s off. Make sure you have their actual phone number on your device. You can’t look it up online when there’s no electricity because if there’s no electricity, there’s also no cable or WiFi.

If your whole life is online, it’s over when the power goes out.

Death cust serv

Assuming you can worm your way through voice mail and finally push the magic number to connect you to a live agent, you hear: “Your business is important to us …” followed by Muzak and a 40-minute wait on hold. Better yet, it’s the long wait, followed by a disconnect and dial tone.

96-Waiting-Worcester

Bad (automated) service is particular noxious when it’s a local company. You know both office workers are probably playing games on Facebook while you listen to their 5-minute voice-mail message. All you wanted to do was ask on which night they are open late. By the end of the message, you no longer care.

THERE ARE STILL SOME GOOD ONES OUT THERE 

Amazon and Audible. Audible is an Amazon company now, but they always had terrific customer service. The more I deal with Amazon, the less I want to deal with anyone else. They are proof getting service does not have to be a nightmare. Trauma need not part of all interactions with vendors, medical facilities, utilities, or other corporations.

AT&T is good. Not as good as Amazon, but you can eventually get a real live person who knows what they are doing. And oddly enough, Medicare and Social Security. Though you may need to wait on hold for a while, you will get a live person in the end — and they will speak your language. They will stay on line with you as long as it takes. Credit where it’s due. These underpaid public servants try hard to help you.

L.L. Bean has wonderful customer service. Land’s End is good too.

To everyone else, I offer a big raspberry and a Bah Humbug in honor of the season.