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Just tired. Long day at work. Semi productive though. Normally lately I'm so swamped with taking customer calls I have no time for actual manager crap-er, work. Yeah, that's it. Work.

Anyways, I promised people a pic of the lacy thing I was working on. Here you go! This one I didn't choose the right beads for, they don't stand out well, but you get the idea. It's surprisingly warm. Ciao!

Knitting Question

Hey Knitters!

I'm having some confusion with a pattern I'm working on. It's using a circular needle with 156 stitches cast on. I do a round of purling, knitting, then purling. Then it says "work rounds 1-20 of the chart. chart is repeated 6 times in each round ... when round 20 is complete 108 stitches remain."

When it refers to repeating the chart, does that mean I repeat row 1 of the chart 6 times?

Row 1 in the chart is only 24 spaces, so repeating 6 times gives me 144 stitches instead of the 156. Think it expects me to decrease all those stitches on each side? The chart does have gradually fewer stitches on specific rows, but usually only a difference of 1 stitch each side.

Any advice? This is my first project with the circular needles and chart reading.

Red Cross seeks military call center volunteers
Tuesday, July 08, 2008

SPRINGFIELD - The American Red Cross Pioneer Valley Chapter is looking for a few good men and women.

Volunteers are needed to help keep its armed forces emergency call center doing what it does so ably, helping military personnel and their families in times of crisis.

The center fields thousands of calls each week, helping families not just from New England but also those served by Red Cross chapters as far away as Chicago and Los Angeles.

Those who work here say it can be an intensely emotional as well as deeply rewarding experience.
"It gives you a sense of fulfillment, and you empathize with people on the phone," said Thomas J. Roe III, of Chicopee, a case worker.

It's also a very busy place. The call center, tucked into a corner room at the chapter house on Cottage Street, handles some 100 calls a day - that's seven days a week, 24 hours a day.

"The center never closes. The phone calls never stop," Pioneer Valley Red Cross Executive Director Richard A. Lee said.
It's a bustling place, with maps on the wall, an array of clocks delineating the nation's time zones, people talking on headsets as they stare intently at computer screens.

The program staff patrol a front-line of anguish - bridging the gap between between families in crisis and their loved ones serving overseas. "Each call is the worst day in that person's life," Lee said.

The families they help come from all over the country. The Pioneer Valley chapter functions as a contractor that provides emergency telecommunications to more than 90 fellow chapters across the country. Areas covered include New York City, Boston, Chicago, the Los Angeles basin.

"They are essentially outsourcing their work to us," Lee said of the chapters in those cities.
Last year the center, which has anywhere from three to 15 people working its three shifts, handled a mind-boggling 26,000 cases, Lee said

On any given day caseworkers confront such things as a dying parent or an ailing child, and see to it that the military member of each family gets information that he or she needs.

"You almost want to reach out to them on the telephone, hold their hand, pat them on the shoulder, give them a hug," said Roe, who recently retired from 31 years in the Air Force.

Cases that Roe has recently handled include striving to convince a sergeant to allow one of his soldiers to return home to see his terminally-ill grandfather. "I pleaded his case to the sergeant, and he changed his mind," Roe said.

More difficult was the time Roe saw to it that that a soldier stationed overseas got word that his days-old child had suddenly died.
The satisfaction comes in making a difference in other people's lives, Lee said. "By the time we get off the phone with them we have made things a slight bit better, sometimes it's a lot better," he said. "It is just a room with phones and computers and people in it but what happens in there is very compelling."

The government does not pay for these services; they are funded through donations from the general public, Lee said.
Volunteers work in the same call center as the paid staff members, but most don't typically deal with families in the heat of crisis. Instead they make the follow-up calls to families some time after the crisis has passed, Lee said.

Such work, however, is not for everybody. "It takes a special breed of person," Lee said. "You need to have a balance of empathy without being paralyzed by the human suffering they are dealing with."

"They step up to the plate," said call center manager Cindy M. Bocash of her personnel's commitment to helping others.
Although the center here has been around in some form or another for 20 years, it really didn't start expanding to its current form until after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on America. Today it shares call center duties with similar operations in Louisville, Ky., San Antonio, Texas, and San Diego, Calif.

Some chapters still handle their own military social service casework, but more and more of them are signing on. "It's simply good business," Lee said. "They are saving money and getting good casework."

It's also good for the Pioneer Valley Chapter. The call center operation here yields some $150,000 in revenue each year, Lee said. Those funds are used to help finance the center's operation as part of the overall chapter budget of about $2.3 million.
The American Red Cross opted to place the centers in such places as Springfield in part because they are not considered to be prime terrorist targets, Lee said.

Aside from its military work, the center handles casework for all of Arkansas, save for Little Rock. "We literally do all the casework over the phone," Bocash said.

The Pioneer Valley chapter has taken on Little Rock for a year at the request of the national organization, Lee said.

The call center also provides emergency dispatch services for 18 chapters across the country.

-taken from The Republican

Mar. 31st, 2008

Apparently WEBS has an annual tent sale Saturday & Sunday, May 17th & 18th, 10:00am-5:30pm.

It's Daylight Savings Time Folks

Fall back, Spring Forward. Onward!

And in the famous words of Tim dunn, "Make it work!"
So a few more have come in. Kudos to the interns for Elizabeth Dole for pasting a response vaguely relating what I wrote about. Unfortunately, her letter indicates she has absolutely no plans on changing the industry's actual practices. Ed Perlmutter didn't actually say anything. Dan Boren's response is the most amusing to date. So far, they haven't learned the art of customizing the pasted text to more appropriately address the issue at hand. These places should hire me to train the interns.

Ed PerlmutterCollapse )

Elizabeth DoleCollapse )

Dan BorenCollapse )
Response letter from Albio Sires:

"Thank you for your recent correspondence to my Jersey City Distric office. However, you currently reside within Congressional District 1 of the state of MA, under the congressional representation of the Honorable John Olver. Therefore in an effort to have your inquiry reviewed, I have taken the liberty of forwarding your correspondence to John W Olver, who I am sure will try to assist you. Congress has a long standing tradition of congressional courtesy, which dictates that all members of the Congress should serve only the constituents of their district and provide the other members of Congress the opportunity to assist theirs. For your convenience I have listed his contact information below....."

This is the most interesting response I've gotten to date, and it's from David Scott:

"Thank you for contacting my office for assistance. I am sorry, to hear about the difficulties you are experiencing. While I would like to be of help in this matter, the House Ethics Manual states that Members of Congress should not devote official resources to casework for individuals who live outside their district. Therefore, I am forwarding your letter to Representative John W Olver, who represents your district, If you would like to contact Representative Olver in District 1, you may do so at the following...."

This boggles the mind. Just think about what he's stated. No wonder lobbyists are spread so thickly. Can you imagine, Congresspersons can't talk to a person, whether it's about reducing emissions, education, the 'war in Iraq,' etc, even if they're on the appropriate committees to do something about it, unless that person happens to be registered to vote from their district? What does that mean for currently elected officials campaigning everywhere right now in their effort to be elected President? Should McCain, Obama, and Clinton all be brought up on ethics charges? They're actively pursuing people outside of their fiefdom.

So far my effort to engage Congress has fallen flat. I had realistic expectations this would be the case, but I had high hopes that it would be otherwise. Damn that rubber tree plant after anyway. (Kudos to those of you who got that reference. You should post a response and let me know!)

I guess my letter wasn't so well written after all. Everyone who has responded has missed the point, which was that credit card companies and their practices should be regulated. I included my own most recent experience not to ask for help for myself, but just to answer the immediate question people have as they read letters like this about people's motivations, and to provide a real life example. Instead, they took it to mean that I wanted help with my particular experience. I don't need help myself. I just want them to take a look at the situation on a federal level. Was the letter really that poorly written?

Political Responses from Congress

So to date I've received 2 more responses from Washington in response to my letter requesting something be done with credit card companies and their activities.

One was from Senator Tim Johnson who was "sorry to hear of [my] concerns" and "Since you are a resident of Massachusetts, I have respectfully referred your letter to Senators Edward Kennedy and John Kerry." The letter even provided the addresses and contact phone numbers for them! Wow. Providing the contact info is a big step up from the last letter and really improves its coolness factor, even if it still says 'hey, you're not in my district; talk to your own senators.'

The 3rd response is from John Kerry, dated the 13th - probably the same day his office received the forwarded letter. Quadruple wow! for Senator Kerry's office! Either the office is incredibly managed, or they don't get much mail. Even so, the office manager who makes that happen should be given quadruple bonuses at the end of the year, whoever it is, he/she is definitely worth it. This response went:
Senator Johnson has recently contacted me in regards to [aaa! bad grammar! bad grammar! No no grammar nazi, down!] your difficulties with Bank of America. The issues that you brought up are clearly the concerns of many throughout our state. In order for me to serve and represent the citizens of Massachusetts in the most effective manner, it is vital that I know the concerns of my constituency. If you would like to further discuss this matter, please contact..."

I left his staffperson a voicemail today warning her to expect more forwarded letters (probably at least 104 of them) and that while I used Bank of America as an example, I was really concerned with the general practices of the industry as a whole and that I'd sent letters to members of committees I'd judged most likely to be involved.

Note to self - the next time, if there is a next time, you write to committee members in government, include the committee as part of your address to them.

Thinking about thought and Buddhism

I'm reading the Dalai Lama's book "Kindness, Clarity, and Insight" off and on - I'm about 1/5th of the way in. It's a collection of his lectures and speeches explaining the outlines of Buddhism and how to understand the concepts within it. I have a lot of respect for the Dalai Lama. There are very few people in the world who have had such an impact, just through inherent personal charisma and power. Oddly enough, pope John Paul also had a similar impact. I wonder if they ever spent any time together? Anyways, back on topic, I've never heard of anyone else able to discuss deep philosphical matters, religious matters, public management and governance matters, _and_ attend seminars on things like quantum physics and ask questions of the experts that gave them a run for their money. I don't know how people do these things. Where do they get the time, the insight, the sheer memory power to retain the concepts and vocabulary?

One thing I'm coming to realize as I read this book is that I don't necessarily agree with a lot of the tenets of Buddhism. "If afflictive emotions, such as hatred, were in the nature of the mind, then from its inception the mind would always have to be hateful...Hence the foundation of the mind of hatred is not valid" - what is valid are things that bring a good foundation such as good attitudes and good motivations, which bring happiness and pleasure to yourself. Now, if I take this, I can't say that the mind is either hateful or happy, because the mind is not always happy either.

He states later that one can not feel love and hate at the same time, they are mutually exclusive feelings (this is part of the "only one can be a valid foundation for the mind" point. The idea is if you focus on one path, the other tendency becomes weaker and weaker.) He connects anger with hate as a source or affliction of the mind. I disagree. There are plenty of times where I am incredibly angry and yet I'm still perfectly aware of the love I feel for the object of my anger. Ever felt so strongly both love and anger that the conflict makes you burst into tears? It happens. I don't know that I've ever actually felt hate, true hate. Would I feel the same way if I had? Wow, I don't even know how to speculate on that one.

The thing is, if hatred and love are the two main pushing/pulling forces which informs our lives, and if those things don't come from the mind, then where? The heart? What is the heart if not a set of feelings within the mind? The soul? Is this a way that the soul interacts with the body? If the mind isn't feeling strongly in either of those directions, does that mean it is only loosely tied to the soul, that you're only loosely tied to yourself/only loosely know yourself? Does the mind actively engage the soul to help determine the path to take?

Another portion of his lectures deal with karma, and how it impacts your life. If you murder someone in one life, your next life may be short because you cut short the life of another. This example got me thinking about how so many people are living longer and longer lives. Does this mean that as a species or even just as a global community that we're doing more good towards one another than we ever have before? We keep thinking about all the problems societies deal upon one another, and how much death and suffering is in the world. But millions and millions are living longer and longer lives, unprecedented ages in unprecedented numbers (at least if you view the old testament Bible with a grain of salt.) Does this show that there has been an aggregate improvement despite the news we are bombarded with on a daily basis? A lot of religions and occult/alternative practices continually state that humanity is coming to a crossroads. Maybe that crossroad isn't whether we're going to destroy ourselves as whether we're going to reach some kind of "critical mass" with working to improve our species lives through our group actions or if we will instead back off from those improvements. Suddenly, the world doesn't seem so dark, does it?