Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Well, it is a cool (bordering on cold) morning here. Not a record but still very near it. The weatherman yesterday said that August was the fifth coldest in the last 40 years. Can't make comparisons before that because that was when the Weather Service moved the official weather station away from Lake Michigan. He also remarked that the temperatures are more like those we expect for early to mid-October. Nothing seems to be happening in season this year. When we went on our weekly grocery shopping rounds yesterday I saw trees already starting to turn and some have even lost a lot of their leaves. I am already staging the garden clean ups--which plants will be pulled and when. And we are already thinking about cold weather meals--soups, chili and casseroles. I remember when late August and early September brought some of the hottest weather of the year. Not lately.

I tripped on this little item on MSNBC this morning. We faced something similar a while back when we started paying most of our bills on line. Some of the companies had arrangements with our bank to accept electronic transfers with no charge to us. Others wanted us to set up things so they could automatically transfer payments from our accounts and they wanted to charge us for their convenience. Well we went with the first ones and set up things so that our bank sends paper checks through the mail to the others (which they will do for free because we both have a senior checking account which includes free checks). We resent the notion that we should 1) pay for the convenience these companies want to enjoy and 2) that they should enjoy the freedom to play around in our accounts. Too many things can go wrong and then there is a hell of a mess to clean up. As the old saying goes: to err is human but to really f###k things up you need a computer.

The story also contains the kernel of another issue and it is one that makes me very ambivalent about the moves to reduce mail delivery because of the massive deficit the Postal Service has racked up. There are people who depend on that service. One of the people interviewed in the story did not have internet service at home so he needs to be able to both get his bills via snail mail and to pay his bills that way. It seems that we are creating a new 'disadvantaged' class--those who have neither internet service and limited mail service. And going to a public computer at a library (if your local library is connected) may not be a viable option. Every time we change anything about our on-line service we have to reconfigure our system so that the bank's computers can recognize the computer. If we go in through a different browser or if we go in through a different computer, it doesn't matter. We have to reconfigure the whole thing. It is part of the security system.

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