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UPS Update – Credit where credit is due

A couple of months ago, I had a fairly public dust-up with the UPS over the fact that our building security cameras had caught the driver throwing the package over the fence, and then signing our name. Those packages were subsequently stolen.

Here’s the video again, in case you missed it the first time around:

So, so many people shared and retweeted that story, which I appreciate. Naturally, making a big stink is the only way to get any attention; it is an unfortunate fact that the squeaky wheel gets the grease. Anyway, I felt I owed you all an update as to what happened next.

The official response from the UPS was distinctly underwhelming. I received a voicemail from a customer service representative who had seen the ruckus online. She left no phone number or other way to contact her, and instead just said she’d call back later.

She did call back, and I think a 3rd time, at which point her tone of voice made it clear that I was trying her patience by not answering her call in the middle of the day while I was at work, and implied that they were doing everything they could because they were just so gosh darned upset about this, and why didn’t I have the decency to do this on THEIR timetable, when it was convenient for them? She did not call a 4th time.

I honestly forgot about the whole thing until last week.

I was walking with the kids not far from our house, when a UPS truck pulled over and the driver yelled out, “Hey!” I looked around, but he could only be talking to me. “I just wanted to say that I’m really sorry about what happened,” he said. “Were you able to get the items replaced?”

I was completely flabbergasted. I had no idea he knew who I was, I didn’t even know for sure if the message had even gotten all the way down to him. I have to admit, it kind of creeped me out a bit to know that he knows who I am, and that I am the one who possibly got him in trouble.

That being said, it is really, really, really hard to give an apology like that. This is clearly something that had stuck with him for the past few months, and he as clearly been waiting for an opportunity to bump into me and apologize. It would have been the easiest thing in the world for him to just keep driving by, and I wouldn’t have given it a second thought. To be totally honest, if I were the one in his shoes, I don’t know if I would have the guts to do it. You know how hard it is to apologize to someone you know, much less a stranger, and while I complained from the comfort of my computer chair, he apologized in person, to my face.

So, while the official UPS response left a little to be desired, and knowing that I will do anything in my power to avoid shipping with UPS, I’ve got to give props to the individual driver. If nothing else comes from this, I have a feeling he won’t be a repeat offender in the future.


Let’s talk about “dash” buttons

So, it has been brought to my attention that Amazon is now marketing these dash buttons. They are little branded buttons that are hard-wired to order a certain product from Amazon. The idea is that you sprinkle them around the house in convenient locations, and when you realize you’re out of some essential item such as dish detergent or toilet paper (or Doritos™, Gatorade™, or Ice breakers™ mints, or whatever other trivialities you can’t live without), you press the button and Amazon immediately ships you another one, ensuring you never have to have to live for even a single second without your precious Burt’s Bees™ lipbalm, or contemplate just how empty and meaningless your life has become.

Of course Amazon makes these little beauties free, and why wouldn’t they? They are bypassing your Superego, and wiring a button directly between your Id and those tasty, tasty Doritos™. Once you have that button there, you’re never, ever going to stop pressing it. Forget price comparison, forget avoiding impulse buys…those puppies are guaranteed delivery in under two hours with Amazon Prime Now™!

When I first heard about this, my reaction was something like:

I mean, this is it, right? The end of humanity? This is where we slowly sink into the abyss? Full on Idiocracy?

I mentioned this to a few friends and neighbors, like, “Hey, aren’t we all horrified by this? Isn’t this the worst of American consumerism on display??” and actually…everybody disagreed with me. They thought this was a great idea, and in fact, one co-worker has already installed several in his house.

So…am I off base, here? Is this not the worst thing ever, and actually just a convenient way to get products you need with minimum effort? Can I look forward a whole wall of these buttons and I just do my shopping by pressing whichever ones I’m in need of?

I mean, I guess being able to order any product on earth from the Internet in our pockets was just too much effort for some people? I don’t know. What do you think?

(Horrifying concept via Keffy)


UPS Caught on Camera

Recently, we realized we had never received a couple of packages we had ordered. Thinking it was a little odd, Sara looked up the tracking info and found, not only were the packages marked as “delivered”, but in fact they were signed for by Sara.

Only problem? Sara wasn’t even home that day.

“Wait a minute!” I said. “We have security cameras!” Anybody want to guess what we found?

Anybody see Sara sign for a package in there? Or did you instead see the packages scanned and thrown over the fence, and the buzzer only rung after the packages were already tossed, not giving ANYBODY a chance to sign for those packages?

Of course those packages were eventually stolen, which is why YOU HAVE SOMEONE SIGN FOR THEM RATHER THAN THE DELIVERY DRIVER FAKING YOUR SIGNATURE.

The irony is that this is the absolute most common occurrence at our building. In fact, when we had the security cameras installed and the security guy was giving us a demo, he picked a time at random, and there was a UPS guy throwing a huge package over the fence. We all laughed because we all know: if you randomly pick any time on any day, you will probably see the UPS or the Post Office throwing packages over the fence.

I’m so used to that part, that it doesn’t even bother me anymore. In this case, it was the forging our signature that was especially egregious. What is the point of “signature confirmation” if the package is treated no differently than any other package?

Quite frankly there is a word for forging signatures, and that word is “fraud”.

We sent the video to the UPS and of course they ignored us. Hey, this is 2016: the only way to get any customer service is to shame a company on social media! So share far and wide, my friends. Share far and wide.


Little Pitchers Have Big Ears

It seems like there is no way to avoid hearing about Donald Trump these days. He’s on the news, on the radio, and on the lips of anybody discussing basically any possible topic. I mean, I can’t blame anybody for that; I am as terrified disgusted transfixed by the circus shit show spectacle that is Donald Trump as the next guy, and as I try to process my utter terror absolute disgust complicated feelings, I’m sure some of that has leaked through to the kids.

Kids are excellent at picking up on this sort of thing. When I was a kid, there was a phrase: “Little Pitchers Have Big Ears”. Basically, little kids hear more than they should. My parents would use it as a reminder to each other to tone down the “adult talk”, usually because there was a kid nearby standing with their eyes wide and their mouth agape, having the curtain of their innocence violently ripped back.

The thing is, as a parent you are hyper-aware of your kids at all times. You hear things through their ears, and you know their ability to handle things. Therefore you try to be a bit more careful about what they see and hear. People without kids…not so much. Used to being immersed 24/7 in online worlds that have been carefully curated to echo exactly their world view, you’d be surprised at the number of people who forget that they are not always among peers. They forget that impressionable kids might be hanging around with their eyes wide, their mouths agape, suddenly realizing that their parents are worried, that adults are not always responsible, people don’t get along, and that the world is more or less a complete disaster that is one small step away from an utter meltdown.

When it comes down to it, we teach our kids an idealized version of the world. We teach our kids that the people in charge are kind, caring, and competent, but we know that’s not true, don’t we? We tell our kids they need to get along with people they disagree with, and then talk about those idiots on the other side of the aisle who we just can’t stand. We teach our kids tolerance, but suddenly they’re hearing story after story of intolerance. Because of this farce of a primary season, they’re learning the world is a lot uglier than they’ve been led to believe.

Donald Trump is a *CONSTANT* source of questions around the house. They want to know who we are voting for, what would happen if Donald Trump “wins”, etc. The kids talk about it at school *INCESSANTLY*. You know how school goes: it only takes one kid to overhear a conversation, and now everybody knows.

In Evelyn’s class the teacher banned the words “Donald Trump” because they kids couldn’t stop talking about it. Evelyn said, quite uncomfortably, “I don’t like Donald Trump either, but I don’t like to say bad things about people!” Ollie has broke down crying several times because he’s afraid Donald Trump is going to start a war.

These are things they’re hearing, our little pitchers with their big ears. Kids are very sensitive to moods, and the mood of this country is not…right. They know that, but they’re missing the context around it. Missing the necessary maturity to handle this information, and process what they’re hearing, and be able to put it into the context of their lives. They’re making incorrect assumptions based on incomplete information, as all kids have and always will.

Anyway, all of this is to say that this video hit me pretty hard, because it absolutely represents my experiences. And it breaks my heart that this is happening.

Please think about the little pitchers around you when discussing murder, or Flint, or racism, or any other complicated issue. I firmly believe that when it comes to kids, these things require a full, rational discussion and a deft touch rather than an overheard clickbait news headline read in the heat of the moment.


Learn from my mistake — Chicago now just trying to trick you for money

I got a ticket in the mail the other day for expired plates. “Are our plates expired?” Sara asked me. I literally had to go outside and check. Yup, sure enough, they were. I guess maybe the city’s vast network of surveillance cameras just scans for expired plates and sends tickets? I don’t know.

“So, did we like, just ignore their warnings? How did this happen?” Well, it turns out that the city decided to stop sending notifications last November as a “cost saving measure”. More like a revenue generating measure, amiright?

I guess this $60 ticket was our notification.

I have no problem paying for my registration. Happy to do it. Only the government can get away with not asking you for money, then fining you for not paying the money that they didn’t ask you for.

Of course, there was also a $20 fee for late registration as well as “convenience fees” both for paying the ticket AND paying the registration.

If someone is not paying, or ignoring your notices or something, fine, send them a ticket. But if you penalize people on a technicality, people who are actively trying to do the right thing, then don’t pretend you’re all above board.

Only the government can get away with b.s. like this. I mean, if the stamp to send the notification is just costing you sooo much money, tack the $0.49 on to the registration fee.

Governments should not be shady.


In regards to Syrian refugees, and modern day pharisees

I normally steer far, far away from politics on this blog. However, I am just so very upset about this Syrian refugee thing, and I just can’t keep my mouth shut.

In the past few days I have seen so many so called “christians”, including every single GOP presidential candidate, say that we should disallow Syrian refugees from entering our country.

Let me be blunt about this: if you think we should turn away refugees, you are not a follower of the teachings of Jesus Christ.

Here’s the thing: I have seen the bible twisted around to support just about every conceivable position. It’s a big book, and there’s a lot of scare quotes in there. By selectively applying it, we can make it sound as if it says just about anything. But the New Testament is VERY, VERY clear on one point: Jesus is about love. Love they neighbor as thyself, do unto others, the meek shall inherit, turn the other cheek, the Good Samaritan, love, love, love.

The book is *very* explicit on this point. What should we do with the tired, the poor, the downtrodden? Do we help them? Jeez, I wish it said somewhere.

I mean, for all the quoting of the bible and quoting of the quran these biblical scholars do, I’m not sure they’ve ever really read the thing. If you read the New Testament and you got anything out of it other than, “‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself” then you missed the entire point.

I mean, literally, every time the dude had a chance to speak, he reiterated. “For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me;” Very explicit.

“But wait!” you say. “If we let in these refugees, we’re at risk! They could be terrorists!” Yes, they could be. And I’m sure Jesus would say, “Oh goodness no, I didn’t mean for you to follow my teachings when it caused you risk! I certainly don’t reward anybody who is hurt or killed while following my teachings!”

No, of course that’s not what he’d say. He’d say, “Hmm, oh really? Well, I do remember VERY EXPLICITLY telling you what you should do when you encounter someone who needs help. Like OVER AND OVER AND OVER again. But remind me where I said you can ignore all that when it might be risky? Did I say that while I was working with the lepers? Or was it when I was refusing to fight against my enemies, instead allowing them to kill me in the most painful and humiliating way possible?”

Do you know who let a guy in, even though he *knew* the guy was going to betray and kill him? JESUS %^&$ CHRIST, that’s who! (You guys really should read this book; helluva plot twist, this Judas guy.)

I saw this meme going around the other day, and it went something like this:

Find someone who doesn’t believe we should kill Muslims and ask him why not. When he says, “Because killing is wrong and we should strive to be better,” punch him in the face. If he tries to retaliate, explain how violence is wrong. When he agrees, punch him in the face again. Keep doing this until he finally understands he is wrong.”

That is LITERALLY EXACTLY THE OPPOSITE OF THE TEACHINGS OF CHRIST. If you know even the first thing about Jesus, it’s that he’d be the one advocating for peace, and getting punched repeatedly in the face, turning the other cheek and getting right back up.

Why would you spread that meme, unless you absolutely reject the teachings of christ? Why would you want to proclaim that you want to punch Jesus???

“But wait!” you say. “If we let in these refugees, they’ll bankrupt us! They’ll all live off the dole for the rest of their lives and never contribute anything to society.” Yes, they might. And I’m sure Jesus would say, “Store up your wealth and never give it to anybody! I certainly don’t reward anybody who gives away all their Earthly goods to the poor!”

Think of every religious person you’ve ever admired. Mother Teresa, every saint, every nun, anybody even a little bit holy. Why are they revered? Because they gave of themselves tirelessly in the face of insurmountable odds, regardless of their own personal risk? Or because they were really good at pre-emptive strikes?

“But wait!” you say. “These people are *different* than us! They dress different, believe different, have a different skin color. They’re inherently violent, and they’re not even Christian!” All of that is true (I don’t believe the inherently violent part, but for the sake of argument let’s say that one’s true too). And I’m sure Jesus would say, “Ew, yuck, they’re different? Keep them out, I only love certain kinds of people. Make sure you don’t lead a good example; I don’t want any of the wrong kinds of converts.”

Like, you know at one time Jesus as literally the only Christian, right? I mean, even after he got his disciples and everything, 99.999% of the world was not-Christian. If Jesus had said, “Hey, we only help Christians over here” he really wouldn’t have had many hungry people to feed, or homeless people to shelter. Are you not glad that he opened it up a little bit from that original handful of people?

Look, there were a bunch of guys in the bible who were more concerned about money, politics, power, and displaying the trappings of religion, all the while doing the exact opposite. They were called the Pharisees. Spoiler alert: they are the bad guys in the story. These are not the guys you want to be aligned with. One could argue the ENTIRE POINT of the New Testament is a rejection of these guys; Jesus basically exists as a counter-example to people who pretend to piety, while turning away the tired, the poor, the displaced.

Evelyn’s doing this Christmas play, right? So the whole Christmas story has kind of been on my mind lately. So you have Mary and Joseph, poor and displaced, ready to give birth, and nobody will take them in, give them a place to stay, so they end up having a baby in a barn. I don’t need to spell this out for you, here…

To recap: Christ is VERY, VERY explicit on whether or not you should help those who need help, regardless of any personal danger it might put you in. Leaves no room for doubt.

“Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it.” – Hebrews 13:2


School is putting advertising in front of my children, and I am not okay with it

My daughter told me a very interesting story the other day. The children were given iPads so they could use them as thesauruses to look up synonyms during writer’s workshop. The problem was that there was a video that played in the sidebar of the thesaurus webpage, and it was distracting her. The students were all laughing about the ad, because it just kept playing over and over again, and they found that really funny. Finally, Evelyn got curious about what the ad was for and watched it until it said, “Toyota: Let’s Go Places”, and then she paused it so it would stop looping.

She told me this as she would tell me any anecdote from her day, but it made me profoundly uncomfortable. The teacher, in her position of authority, put advertising in front of the kids. Okay, okay, so Evelyn is not likely to buy a Toyota, but who is vetting these commercials? Nobody, obviously. I mean, I’m not worried that the thesaurus page is going to start showing porn or “Miley Cyrus twerks the hits” ads or something; I’m not really comfortable with school giving my children *any* advertising. I don’t want school endorsing-by-proxy that you should buy legos, or eat at McDonalds, or watch “Murder McGunshot tonight on NBC!” Even aside from any specific product, I don’t like my children to have someone whispering “BUY BUY BUY BUY” in their ear while they are supposed to be learning.

Quite frankly, I’m starting to think these advertisers don’t have my child’s best interest at heart.

I wish my children didn’t have to see advertisements anywhere, but I’m not COMPLETELY naive. Still, I thought school was at least an ad-free zone. But again, it’s not necessarily about the advertisement (I highly doubt the Toyota commercial was objectionable), but it is about the advertising itself. It’s about the TECHNOLOGY itself.

Evelyn told me that one of her friends lost iPad privileges because she just plays with emoji. OF COURSE she just plays with emoji! These kids are 7 and 8 years old. I’m a 35 year old man, and when I sit down to check the weather, 10 minutes later I’m on Facebook and Twitter and 5 tabs deep on a wikipedia article about robotic jockeys racing camels. The computer is a distraction machine. We’re in the middle of an ADHD epidemic, and you want kids to pay attention to the thesaurus while a video ad plays in the sidebar? That would be like trying to teach the kids math while I stood in the corner waving my hands and shouting “HEY HEY LOOK AT ME HEY”. You can’t give the kids the Internet and then blame them for watching the ad. You can’t give an 8 year old the Internet at all, if you want them to pay attention. It’s like dropping them off by themselves in downtown Las Vegas and making them promise to go straight to the library.

Look, ya’ll, we’ve been on the Internet. It’s generally a terrible place. I’m not just talking about all the porn and racial slurs, I’m talking about everything. I’m talking about the average comment thread at the bottom of the average news article. I’m talking about body shaming, and cyberbullying and consumerism. I’m talking about knowing the difference between Buzzfeed and a legitimate news site (or for that matter, the difference between The Onion and a legitimate news site, something that a few adults I know haven’t mastered yet). I’m talking about not knowing that advertising in the sidebar is not part of the article, and should be ignored. I’m talking about them not being an adult.

Despite that fact that there is practically nobody sorting the apps that are actually educational from those that actually hinder your intellectual growth, there doesn’t seem to be any thought whatsoever given to how to use technology in the classroom. Technology seems to be the end goal in and of itself.

School: “We’re excited to announce that every classroom is going to have iPads this year!!”
Me: “Why?”
School: “Did you not hear us? iPads! Why do you not look excited right now?”

The time the kids skyped with the biologist about butterfly lifecycles? Awesome. The time the kids talked to their pen pal class in India? Awesome. Watching cute baby animal videos? Okay, maybe of some use? Somehow? But if you want me to accept the fact that the thesaurus is going to distract my kid with ads in the sidebar, then explain to me the big advantage of using a thesaurus on the Internet versus in an ad-free book. You can’t. There isn’t one. If anything, learning to use an actual thesaurus teaches you things that using the iPad cannot (how to spell without auto-correct for starters). So I’m being asked to let you distract my kids with ads so that they can *also* not learn how to spell?

I don’t think this is being done maliciously, I think people just don’t think about it. I think adults don’t notice ads anymore, and know how to navigate the Internet to avoid the things they want to avoid, and how to focus on the right thing and ignore the rest. I think they expect 8 year olds to be able to do the same (while also complaining that kids grow up too fast these days). I think that‘s not fair to our kids.

Might be time to donate a bunch of thesauruses to school.