Zombie Pedestrians

Once upon a time in a land called America, schoolchildren were taught how to cross the street by their parents or their older siblings. Red light means the cars stop, and green light means the cars go. Wait for the red light and make sure the cars have stopped, look both ways, carefully cross the street. For decades, first graders across the nation successfully crossed the street without tens of thousands of dollars' worth of flashing lights and annoying beeping and counting and pictures of a cute little walking man at every stinking intersection.

Those early pedestrians understood that the cars were bigger than they were, and that they needed to pay attention to the traffic and what was going on around them; a grasp on reality that many of today's pedestrians have not yet achieved. As more and more laws are enacted on the pedestrian's behalf giving him the 'right of way', fewer and fewer pedestrians are taught what the right of way is or how it works. The phrase itself is frequently reduced to a weapon, something righteous for disgruntled have-nots to hold on to and disparagingly yell at those they perceive to be the haves.

Being granted the right of way means the legal right of one entity to proceed with precedence over others in a particular situation or place.

Here are some things that having the right of way does not mean:
  • It does not mean that cars can't crush you and bikes can't run you down and that you are invulnerable.
  • It does not mean that you have no-fault insurance; that you can't be held liable for an accident.
  • It does not mean that it is OK to dawdle your way across a six lane highway while twelve cars are waiting in the left turn lane, eight of which will have to wait for another light cycle because you are poking.
    Pedestrians expect drivers to be courteous toward them but seemingly never consider returning the favor. Hustle across the street when you can! It is OK for pedestrians to be considerate too.
  • It does not mean that you can stop paying attention to the world around you. Walking down the street staring at your phone, crossing intersections and parking lot entrances without ever looking up is both dangerous and stupid.
A wise man once noted that the only thing you know for certain when you see another driver's directional blinking, is that his directional is blinking. Similarly, the only thing you know for certain while blindly walking down the street empowered with the right of way, is that you are entitled to the right of way. You do not know if every driver and biker sees you and is willing and able in that moment to accommodate you. It is reasonable for pedestrians to expect drivers to be paying attention and it is just as reasonable for drivers to expect pedestrians to be paying attention.

Pedestrians are a part of traffic, not above it.

Not everything that looks like progress automatically is. Do the crosswalk lights and timers make us a safer society, or just lazy? Or worse? Early in the morning in Any City, USA you can find people waiting for the little walking man to give them permission to cross the street, though ten minutes have passed since the last car did. Is it a fear of getting caught crossing against the light that maintains them on the corner like zombies, or more frighteningly, did crossing against the light never even occur to them?

Perhaps the issue is neither safety nor laziness, but conditioning. Law enforcement and government routinely use tricks like pulling drivers over for not using their directional to change lanes although there was no other driver behind them to see it, to turn citizens into less thoughtful beings.

Always use your directional.
Always wait for the walking man.
Don't think.

Pedestrians have the right of way.
Don't look.

Always do what the officer says.
Don't question.

Question everything!
Look around and around!
Most of all, think, think, think!

Cross when it's safe.
Blink when it is necessary.
Enjoy the right of way and be considerate.

We're all part of the same big traffic jam. The sooner we stop honking at each other, the sooner the traffic will clear.

Software Abuse

Children that grow up in abusive households assume that everyone gets slapped around when they make a mistake or spill their milk. When it's all you know, you believe it's normal. It never occurs to them that their parents are being mean - just loving them in a way that hurts. Like software companies treat us.

Software abuse is rampant and pervasive. It is being perpetrated by every software company - the bigger the company, the more severe the abuse. If you are thinking, "I use software, and I don't feel abused"; exactly. You are that kid being slapped around, and you think it's normal.

Windows 10 includes many 'apps' that are redundant or toys or attempts to unseat established 'common usage' applications, including Groove Music and Photos. There's also the lovely Cortina, meant to lure you away from Siri like a siren on a rocky shore. The problem isn't so much that they're there, but that you cannot get rid of them - not without editing the Registry, and who wants to do that?

We can't blame Microsoft for trying to get us to switch to their versions and buy their toys, but the way they are going about it feels like a large, unpleasant-looking gentleman is handing you a shirt from his new fashion line, informing you that you will wear it every day. Apple is just as bad, if not worse; iPhone includes many unremovable apps, most require giving Apple more money in order to use them.

The point is that we pay good money for these operating systems, but they aren't really ours. We are not free to use them as we please, and are constrained to being subjected to these internal, downright sneaky 'product placement' and marketing tactics. We are being programmed, by our computers. Whoop!

  • The switch from buying software to renting software was forced upon us. This is crapola of the highest order. It is easy to understand from the software company's point of view - they need recurring revenue to stay in business. Honestly, that is not our problem. The period when software upgrades were based on actual improvements and/or the addition of truly new groovy features ended around the turn of the century. While a few users utilize a small portion of the advanced features in MS Office for example, the vast majority of people writing letters and creating docs in WORD 2013 could do it just as well in Office 2003 or even Office 2000. Is the new version of Office better? Not really, although it is packed with 'features'. Are the icons cuter? Sure. Should we be able to pay one fair price to purchase MS Office and install it on our computer and use it as long as we like, until it no longer meets our needs? Damn right. If the software companies need recurring revenue, let them give us upgrades worth buying, instead of coercing and trapping us into giving them money every stinking month for the rest of our lives. Adobe is the worst in this category.
  • The software industry is replete with monopolies now. Applications and companies that once competed with MS and Apple like Word Perfect, Quatro, Astound, Netscape, Macromedia, and Netware, to name a very few, have been scooped up, knocked out, or sidelined. It may look like a free marketplace, but it is Standard Oil and AT&T. Not having a real choice kinda feels like a kick in the pants.
  • The 'terms of use' agreements are ridiculous. They are 100% in favor of the software companies, which absolve themselves of any wrong-doing or responsibility from anything having to do with their product, and place all the risk and responsibility on us, without giving us any options or choices. They are a huge 'Our way or the highway, SUCKA!'. Feel that slap across the face?
And then there is the data mining. Microsoft is calling Edge a browser, and trying to steer you to use it instead of IE. As a browser, Edge is clunky and slow and not very effective. However, as a data mining tool it is just wonderful! Many of the 'news' offerings are ads, and the others usually lead you to pages filled with ads. Every click is tracked to 'customize your experience'. Many search engines also track your clicks. Google (Alphabet) is especially adroit in this area, utilizing another 1984 tactic called 'digital viewscreening', by which they constantly monitor and track your online activity, if not directly from google.com, then from companies and websites you don't realize they own, like youtube and Avast, and from applications you do know they own, like Chrome.

Apple wants to track not only what you click to and what music you like, but also where you are 24/7. And Apple is the worst at dealing with updates, hounding you like an ex that kinda scares you now, until you install them. Again - no real choice. Feels like a kick to the shins.

Have you wondered if the companies offering 5 GB of 'free' online storage space are doing so to be nice? Do you believe they are spending millions on server computers, routers, firewalls, gobs of bandwidth, and salaries for thousands of administrators without ever taking a peek? Really?

So many men and women struggled and fought, and were wounded or died, to protect our rights, one of which is a right to privacy. How have we so freely abdicated that hard-earned right to privacy in order to order a pizza using a toy? How can we smilingly let giant companies abuse us until we become convinced that privacy is a thing of the past? Privacy is only a thing of the past if we let it be; if we continue to enable MS and Google and Apple and Adobe and blindly obey prompts to 'stay logged in', and 'sign in to get definitions', and 'enter you cell phone number'.

It isn't realistic to think we can make a difference by not buying software, as many of our livelihoods now depend on software to a greater or lesser degree! Change can only happen when laws are written that protect software consumers, and so our hope lies with our elected officials.

Almost all of our elected officials have websites through which you can voice concerns. The Senators and Congresspeople don't read them, but someone or some computer application tracks them. If enough messages come in with "Please legislate in favor of software consumers", in the subject line, they will listen. It is quick and easy and at least you didn't do nothing.

The longer we let the abuse continue, the worse it will get. Software companies will keep probing and abusing until they are either forced to employ reasonable business practices, or they convince you to install real viewscreens, like Google Home, Echo and HomePod, in your home and office. Big Brother is alive and well and he has Apple, Amazon, Microsoft and Google keeping an eye on you for him.

A graduate of Portland State University, Steve (Reeno) Kloser is the author of Beginning Band - A Guide to Success and Let's Make Music - Classroom Recorder Course. He is also an accomplished teacher, conductor and composer, having penned numerous pieces including La Vida and Fly With Me.

Teacher, web developer, Packers fan and proud American, Reeno's usually slanted outlook often presents an unlikely perspective on issues old and new.
Reeno currently lives in Portland, OR.

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