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Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Here is a good example of how assumptions make for bad policy.  The lady who wrote this poem is as thin and healthy as you can get.  By the sound of this poem, she doesn't stay that way by eating a government recommended diet:

No “Thanks” for Thanksgiving Dinner (2014?)

A timely piece of poetry by Cari Bieter

Thanksgiving Day is coming
And I can easily wait!
The tofu turkey’s in the oven,
So I’ll be good and late!

How times have changed, my darlings—
As I remember well
Aromas from the kitchen,
Oh, how I loved that smell!

Mom was in her apron,
All day fixing stuff!
Pumpkin pies and candied yams—
I could never get enough!

A great big bowl of dressing
Was stuffed into the bird.
I watched her pop it in the oven
Without saying a word!

Our relatives would pile in,
The house was such a clutter!
I could hardly wait to taste
Those rolls with lots of butter!

Our table would be groaning
With sweets and fatty food!
No one cared—we dug right in
Because it tasted good!

Heaps of mashed potatoes
with gravy thick and tasty;
Drumsticks plump and juicy,
 Pumpkin’ pies & pastry!

Alas, those days are over,
My taste buds dormant now.
The tofu turkey’s roasting,
And I shall take a vow:

I shan’t enjoy my dinner
On this Thanksgiving Day!
Without the buttered, candied yams
And mincemeat pies—no way!
Here comes Uncle Herbert
A bottle under his arm.
Is it wine? Or champagne?
No! They might do us harm!

“Bottled water is my gift—
A welcome change of pace!”
We sit down at the table,
No smile on my face!!

The government has told us
In no uncertain terms—
To gain an ounce is evil,
As bad as getting germs!

No sweets, no fat, no real meat,
And butter is the devil!
I’ll fixate on the good old days,
In those memories I shall revel!

Tofu turkey, sprouted bread,
Organic veggies too.
And for dessert? There’s no dessert—
Sugar is taboo!!


Happy Thanksgiving, my dears!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Elections are over and my choices didn't win.

Post vote challenge:

Are you disgruntled that your vote didn't count for as much as you wanted it too?  Are you worried that the election is over and the country is still doomed for more decline?  

Here's an easy way to make a difference.  

It will take even less effort than driving to the polling station and waiting in line for 30 minutes to cast your vote.  

Do you really care enough to make our country better for the average tax paying citizens?  Here's what you can do:

1. Go to www.congress.org

2. Select the option to write to your representatives, remembering that they are supposed to represent you whether you voted for them or not.

3. Drop them a quick note to let them know that you are watching them, even if it is a bluff.   Here's what I sent to my reps:

Dear Representative,

I ask simply for your support when writing and passing laws.  I encourage you to always put the interests of individual Americans ahead of the interests of those who petition you constantly via lobbyists.  We the people have been neglected for a while now and the whole country is suffering for it.  Please empower us to succeed and we will help the whole country succeed.  

As requests are made by lobbyists, please take the time to consider the real impact those requests will have on individual Americans.  Will the policy in your consideration help one group at the expense of another, or at the expense of individuals?  The lobbyists will always make it seem fair, but I'm asking you to see through their persuasions.

We need a break, and I'm counting on you to give it to us.  What is best for the MPAA, GM, Exxon, Boeing, and Goldman Sachs, is NOT best for the country.  The last few years have proven that.  Please represent the people for a while at least.   

I voted, I care, and I'm watching how you represent me.


4.  Fill out your name and address and the website will send your letter to your correct representatives.

This will have more impact for the good of the county than your vote did, and it will take you less time than it did to drive down to the voting station and wait in line.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Travesty of a Failed Traffic Stop

At 10:35PM on Interstate 35, a routine traffic stop went horribly awry.  Williamson County Deputies, Johnny Ray B. and Billy Bob M., stopped a car for a moving violation.  They claimed that the driver failed to give a turn signal prior to changing lanes.  In actuality, the officers suspected the driver of being intoxicated because he was only going 73 mph in a 75 mph speed zone.

Upon approaching the vehicle, the officers noticed absolutely nothing as being out of place.  The driver appeared to be completely clear headed and there was no smell of liquor on his breath.   They spoke to the young man, asking him where he had been, where he was going, and why was he driving so slow.  Unsatisfied, officers B. and M. began to direct their questions more specifically about exactly what did the young man have for dinner.  The driver grew agitated and appeared suspicious when officer Johnny Ray B. informed him that "fries" were not a particularly healthy choice to go along with his chicken fried steak entree.  The deputies then admonished the driver for not getting steamed vegetables instead, and then ordered him: "Please step out of the car, sir."

The driver reluctantly complied with the politely stated command and stepped out of his car.  To the growing dissatisfaction of the officers, the driver walked perfectly normal, and his demeanor was calm and collected.  The officers then proceeded to question him further, getting in his face a little and watching to see if he would stumble backwards.  Officer B. went back to the cruiser to run the license and registration while Officer M. proceeded to question the suspect.  "Sir, how often exactly do you go to Twin Peaks for dinner?  ...and why has it taken you until approximately 11pm to get headed home?  ... are you hiding something from me son?  ...do you have any drugs in your car?  ...are you sure you didn't have one drink with your dinner?  If you're hiding something, it'd be a wholes lot better if you just go on ahead and tell me right n...."

Officer B. returned with an imperative look on his face, and then he began to interrogate the driver.  "Our records show that you have two drivers licenses, this one you gave me from Florida, and another expired Texas license on file.  Do you realize that it is illegal to have two licenses ...you care to explain why you have two drivers licenses for me son?"  

The young man began to explain,

"I just moved back to Texas, but working full time and studying for a very important exam, I haven't had a chance to take yet another day off work to get my Texas drivers license renewed.  I thought that I only needed to turn in my old license and then get a new Texas license, but after the 3rd trip to the DMV, I was told to bring in either a birth certificate or US passport.  Then they also said I would have to schedule an 'in-car' driving test."

Officer B. replied,

"Son, you've got to do what you've got to do, but just remember that I'm gonna be watchin' you. Comprende?  I'm going to give you a warning this time, but if I catch you again with that Florida license, it's gonna be bad.  I'll give you until Monday to get that taken care of, sir."

The officers nodded and gave the driver a warning ticket for failing to change lanes in a safe manner and then they left.  The young man was still nervous as he got back into his car.  The whole event was quite unsettling. But, he managed to merge back onto the freeway and get home.   He was still shaking as he got home and removed a small box from his car.  He carried it in and sat it on the table in front of him.  The anxiety and fear from the traffic stop swelled in his veins as he lifted what was in the box up to his head.  With shaking hands, he placed one end of what he had in the box into his mouth and spun the cylinder on his favorite pistol ... lighter.  He took a deep breath and drew the flame in from the other end of that rolled up paper that he just gotten safely home with.  He thought, "whew, that was close," and laid down giggling.  Later in the night, he had an uncontrollable urge to heat up a frozen pizza and eat the whole thing himself.  Then, he fell asleep, full and happy.

If only those officers had done a better job, that young man could have been saved from his pizza binge happy evening.   If only it were customary for every vehicle to be searched at every traffic stop, not just vehicles driven by Mexicans; this travesty could have been prevented.   That young man could have been arrested and thrown in jail as he rightfully deserved.   His car could have been confiscated and sold by the county, and thousands of dollars in fines could have been raised for the county as well.  That's not even to mention the lost opportunity to have this young man's record permanently tainted so he would have problems finding and keeping jobs.   Such travesty, all because officers B. and M. were not quite diligent enough to discover the hidden contraband.

Well, no worries; deputy Billy Z. has a new prospect.  They just pulled over a Mexican looking woman because it appears that her rear license plate light is not sufficiently illuminating.  Deputy officers B. and M. are almost as happy as a fat man taking a dump because this girl is about to crack.  Deputy Johnny Ray is lookin' for his flashlight; they gonna get to put somebody in jail tonight!

Friday, May 25, 2012

The cost of banking fraud and the butterfly effect

Let's talk about shooting yourself in the foot, or rather, avoiding that uncomfortable limp.  Please open your mind to the impossible. Let's talk about how "always" and "never" almost always have exceptions.  For example, we might think that catching a burglar is "always" a good thing, right?  Well, let's consider the possibility that allowing a crook to rob a bank might be good for us all in the long run.

To understand the concept that is about to be presented, as it applies to the banking industry, please first consider the value of the internet and the value of our recent digital revolution to the banking industry.  Computers and online banking systems save banks from needing as many tellers, agents, and other staff.  Depending on the size of the bank, their Information Technology department (IT) might save them 50 million dollars per year in employee costs.  Also, that same infrastructure might drive new profit for the bank, possibly another 50 million per year.  Out of this windfall profit/savings of 100 million, the bank might spend 40 million per year on IT services and hardware.  That leaves the bank 60 million ahead thanks to their IT department.

Every year, the bank evaluates the performance of their IT department and the profitability of their online banking services.  They might discover that they can spend 50 million on IT and make an extra 100 million dollars as a result.  Now the bank is 150 million ahead.
Now let us consider cyber fraud.  With no security, the online banking system could not function at all.  Crooks would steal all the money, duh.  Cyber-security is just as important to the operation of online banking as the computer systems that process all the financial transactions.  No security system is perfect however, and losses due to fraud will continue at some rate.  A bank might spend 10 million per year on cyber security and still lose 50 million per year on fraud.  That still leaves the bank 90 million ahead vs. if computers and the internet did not exist.

Are you following this?  

If not, here is a chart of what we have described so far:

Profitability from internet   +200 million
IT costs                                 -  50 million
Security costs                        - 10 million
Fraud costs                           -  50 million
Net profitability                      90 million

Now suppose that the bank spent 1 million more on IT security and only lost 30 million from fraud as a result.  The bank would do this because it leaves them 19 million better off at the end of the year, getting their total back up to 109 million per year.  This is their net benefit from Information Technology (IT / "the internet").

To summarize the free market approach:

Profitability from internet   +200 million
IT costs                                -  50 million
Security costs                       - 11 million
Fraud costs                          -  30 million
Net profitability                    109 million

Easy as pie, right?

The same bank might try to spend 2 million more the next year on security, and find that they are still losing 30 million to fraud.  That would leave them with a profitability of only 108 million now, so they decide it is best to stay at 11 million on security spending for now.

The point of this whole example is simple:  A bank plus computers and the internet is way more profitable than a bank without these.  Keep in mind that when all businesses in an industry profit more, as long as there is healthy competition, those profits eventually find their way back to you and I in the form of better services and lower costs.  Of course the numbers are relative to the size of the bank and other factors; so please think about the logic here rather than the actual numbers.
Now let us look at a regulatory approach.  We often focus on the negatives in a situation, like that 30 million those nasty thieves are stealing from the bank.  After all, those costs are being passed on to we customers in the form of higher fees and lower interest payouts.  We forget that we are still many times better off than before IT, even with the rampant robbery.  So, we decide that we need the government to lock down the internet, make it "secure", and catch all the bad guys.  It sounds like the fair and just thing to do, but it ends up making the world a worse place for all of us.  Here is how:

The government passes regulations that were lobbied by IT security firms and the law says that our bank must have top notch IT security spending of 15 million per year.  We already know that the bank has figured out that the extra spending won't benefit them much, so now their profitability is down to 105 million.  There's just an extra 4 million padding the pockets of the lobbyists and executives at the IT security firms now.
Also in the new regulations, the government is required to form an agency to enforce bank compliance, and that might cost another 5 million for that bank.  There goes another 5 million of profitability in the form of tax increases and so we are down to 100 million.   The train wreck of regulation does not end there.  The bank must form a department to ensure compliance and communicate proof of compliance to the government agency.  That might cost another 5 million annually, and so now our bank is down to 95 million in profitability.
Of course, the government will also form a task force to investigate and arrest the criminals.  that might reduce fraud costs (proportionately for the bank in our example) by 10 million per year, but cost we the people 20 million for the task force.  So, now we the people are out millions to subsidize the bank's security whether we bank there or not.  That's money out of our pockets directly, but let's just charge that cost against the bank's profitability for now.  The net effect here is a decrease of another 10 million in profitability.

Now we have to jail the criminals, another 5 million loss to we the people in the form of taxes, and we're down to 80 million.  And consider the losses of freedom of all internet users because of the extra security.  There's no way to begin to figure that out, but just say it's another 10 million and that leads us down to 70.

So, to summarize the regulatory course of action:

Profitability from internet              +200 million
IT costs                                           -  50 million
Security costs                                -   15 million
Fraud costs                                     -  20 million
Compliance costs                            -   5 million
Govt. enforcement (bank facing)    -   5 million
Govt. enforcement (people facing) - 20 million
Incarceration                                   -   5 million
Loss of opportunity on internet       - 10 million

Net profitability                                 70 million

Well that sucks, especially when you consider that some of the costs above come out of our pockets whether we us a bank or not.  We were better off letting the banks decide how much the crooks were costing them and subsequently how much they should spend to counteract the thievery.

Let's not forget where the butterfly effect comes in.  Consider the chance that we arrest a teenage prodigy who might have otherwise grown up and revolutionized security or the banking industry itself by developing Bitcoin II.  We might just accidentally prevent technology that was scalable, secure, and capable to handle worldwide transactions for free.  Please see that freedom can be invaluable and it might have tripled the profitability of the bank in our example to 600 million.  When we promote creativity and motivation, there will be benefits for all in the long run.  The alternative is to choose government regulation, security, justice, and mediocrity for all.

The information technology industry and the internet are shining examples of why freedom works best.  The growth, opportunity, job creation, and improvement to everyone's standard of living all occurred without government regulation.  People were free to be creative, productive, and to profit mightily for their efforts.  That environment proved that freedom generates more benefit for us all than does regulation.  The last great example before that was the rise of American prominence in the world.  We went from nothing to the greatest nation on earth because of a void in regulation and government intimidation, rather than because of it.  

We should focus on information rather than regulation.  When information becomes available that there is a better way of doing something, the people and businesses who adapt to the new information will succeed.  Regulations merely force everyone to follow a particular course of action whether it is the best action or not.  Regulations hinder progress; only freedom and creativity advance progress.  The only time regulations contribute to progress is when they drive people to be creative about how they get around the regulations.

Disclaimer:  The numbers above are completely fictional.  There is no way to project reality.  For example, there is no way for a bank to determine how much they would have made one year without the use of computers.  Suffice it to say, they would not have to because they would not be competitive enough to stay in business without computers.  While my numbers are fake, please agree: values and projections made by those who advocate more government regulation are equally fallible.  I'm merely offering a picture of the costs and benefits of two particular courses of action: freedom vs. regulation.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

I saw mayhem today! 

Her left front blinker, hanging by its wires, first caught my attention. As her Volvo passed me, weaving, I could see the driver paying more attention to her journal than to the view outside of the windshield. I watched with anticipation as her car rolled inches from the curb and then swerved back to the left. 

About the time I noticed that the left blinker still worked, because it was blinking, she turned to the right. Ah, and to my amusement but not surprise, I could see that the metal cover over her gas cap had become afraid some time ago and ran away.

That was the closest thing to the commercial I've ever witnessed live!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

What Do We Want?

Peace!  When do we want it?  Now!  Who will give us peace?  Ron Paul!

There was just a little bit of excitement as over 6000 people gathered near LBJ fountain on the University of Texas campus to hear Ron Paul speak.  As an active supporter of Ron Paul, it was very nice to see so many other people of like mind.  Maybe there is hope for our country after all.  Ron Paul has been criss-crossing the state of Texas to get out his message of liberty and hope.  He's having to spread his message, 6000 people at a time, because the main stream media is doing everything they can to downplay this movement.  People are catching on anyway; after all, the principles that Ron Paul teaches are the same as those that led to the formation of the most successful nation throughout all history.  Ron Paul teaches the principles of individual liberty, of peace, of doing the right thing and following the law of our land.  These are the principles of our Constitution!

The speech was a great one, and he covered topics ranging from "raw milk" and individual liberty, to war and why we need to end the Federal Reserve system.  I got to see him make the funniest joke that I've ever heard out of the man.  Right after the crowd finished chanting, "End The FED!!!" he says, "Why yes, I agree, that's a great idea, let's do that."   ...you had to be there:

As soon as I finish breaking his speech up into specific topics, I will post them here.  Then everyone can just watch the parts of his speech that they are most interested in without having to watch the whole 40 minute presentation.  So, please come back soon with your liberty hats.  More Ron Paul 2012 action to come!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Austin Really is Weird

As mentioned in the previous entry, I've been ranging into new areas of the forest behind my work ... due to "NO TRESPASSING" signs in my usual "work break walk route."  My most recent discovery has re-affirmed the notion that it is always good to try a new path.  I discovered something that I had been driving past for over two years now.  Here's a picture of it from the road; do you see anything?  It's underneath that big oak tree there behind my mirror.

When I made this discovery, I was walking underneath that power line that you see there.  Below is a picture from the angle of my first approach.  The thing I noticed first was that post there holding up that branch.  That just didn't make any sense to me why someone would have put that there in the middle of nowhere.  That is what made me stop to look closer, but do you see my discovery there in the background?


Yeah, me neither.  In fact, I got so close before I saw anything that the old saying is true: "If it were a snake it would have bit me."  The purpose of the post did become apparent; it was to hold that tree up and out of the way of a path up into this hidden area.   I still didn't see anything particularly interesting.  Do you?

Ok, well, then I turned the corner and what is this?  It's a freaking house.  It is made of cedar posts that form a lean up structure, but they are secured with wire all around to keep animals out.  Then, on the ends, it's got welded up steel grates and a door with a padlock to keep people out.  In the yard, there is a bucket to either sit on or collect water.  Also, there is a little feeder for the animals.

The plaque over the door says that this house was established in 1994.  Whoever built it has some animal bones and horns to keep the evil spirits away.  Inside, there is a small tent to keep the sleeping area clean and dry.  I just had to imagine for a moment how much money I could save if I lived in a structure like this since it was so close to my work.  I could use the shower in the gym at work, and I could eat breakfast and lunch at the little cafe in my office building.   All I would need is a bicycle to get to all sorts of places to hang out at in the evenings.   Heck, I could even dress up as a homeless guy and panhandle some very popular nearby intersections.

This has been literally under my nose for the last two years ... and I've been out in these woods exploring.  All the people driving are totally oblivious, even if they almost drive into it, as someone apparently did.  If you look close at the picture below, you can see car parts from where someone ran off the road and crashed into the brush at the back side of this house.  I just bet that even though they were only 10 feet from this structure, that they had no clue it was there.  The things you find in this town, Austin really is weird!
Close up view from road side, and where a car came to rest recently.

I'm Never Going to be "Nice" Again!

I've been hiking around in different areas of the woods behind my work lately.  One of my favorite places has been marked off, "NO TRESPASSING."  Before you judge, it wasn't me that inspired the signs.  Some other folks whom I have not met have been enjoying my secret garden.  I know this because they have been leaving behind large quantities of beer cans for some time now.  In fact, they act as if it were their secret garden, leaving behind chairs and other trash as well.

The other day I was walking through and I came upon a blue tarp that was wrapped neatly around something.  As you can see, even though they put this tarp behind a landscape wall, they didn't even do a very good job of hiding it.  Anybody walking through the area could plainly see it, and who wouldn't be curious about what is under there?  So, of course I checked under the tarp.

Sweet, these guys have gotten too lazy to carry all of their booze in and out of the woods.  What do we have here, only a 5 minute walk from my desk at work?  Ahhhh, half a bottle of rum, half bottle of tequila, plastic beer chugging tube with funnel, cups and beer pong balls.  Hmmm, whatever could be in the cooler?

 Beeeeeeerrrrr!!!!  Cheap beer, hot beer, but potentially free beer.  I swear, this is like a year's supply of cheap beer for me.  As tempting as it was to load all this stuff up into my truck after work, alas, I'm a "nice" guy.  I'm not going to deprive these messy, but creative folks of their good time.   So, I wrapped everything back up as I found it and went back to work.
Now, in the course of time, a rain storm came and the creek below swelled with water.  I could still get to area from work, but I surmise that the owners of the beer were cut off from their stash by the high water.  I refrained for several days, walking by and seeing that the hidden treasure was undisturbed.   There were a couple of days at work when I just wanted to carry a glass of ice and coke out there and at least enjoy some of that rum.  But, I'm a "nice" guy and I'm not going to steal from somebody's supply like that.

Imagine my disappointment when I went out to the secret garden one day only to find a construction crew clearing brush and picking up trash.  I wish I could have been there when they opened up that tarp.  That must have been a nice surprise for them.  I wonder if they were smart enough to hide the find from their boss.  Oh well, the messy people taking over the secret garden didn't get to have their party, nor did I.  And, now there are "No Trespassing" signs everywhere too.  So, that's it, next time I find a pile of beer in the woods, it's going straight to my truck!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Please write your representatives today -- NO to SOPA

Today is a great day to register at www.congress.org.   In one fell swoop, you can send a letter like this to all of your representatives:

Dear ,

The internet has grown into a massive provider of jobs, services, and a richer life experience for people all over the world.  The freedom of communication has created opportunity for poor and rich alike.  There are countless ways for anyone to derive revenue by providing services on the internet. 

Since there are so few rules, a person only has to worry about providing a good service.  The bar for business entry is low.   Commerce on the internet is thriving because of this.  If we increase regulations, fewer people will benefit from commercial activity, this is a simple but absolute fact.  It will be more difficult for the average citizen who you represent to derive revenue.

There are liars among us who claim that they are "losing" money because of the internet and the freedom of exchange of digital media.   This is a ridiculous argument because without the success of the internet, a hugely lower percentage of people would ever even know that their media existed.  Profit in media is derived from audience size.  Which would you rather have, a penny from 5 billion people, or $10 from 100,000 people?   If some businesses are losing money, it is because they need to adapt their business model, NOT because the internet needs to be regulated.

Please, I implore you, protect the freedom that exists on the internet. People in every corner of the world are counting on your opposition to SOPA and PIPA.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Redneck Art?

Worshiping the beer gods?
It is colorful.  It is eye-catching.  Hell, I'd even go so far as to say it's provocative ... or, maybe I'm easily entertained, but I did stop to take a picture.   Some might say it's trash, or maybe a redneck version of a totem pole.  Is it art?  Who am I to judge ... though I must say that I have a preference for angles carved into rock.

My secret garden is kind of an interesting social experiment now.  It's like a little "un-controlled" park.  More have been coming to enjoy this place lately, and I'm happy for that.  Unfortunately, people are freaking messy.  There are beer cans and trash everywhere now.   This is odd to me; people come because the garden is a pretty place to hang out, but people leave their trash everywhere and make it NOT a pretty place anymore.  Oh well, at least I know that if I'm ever homeless and destitute, I can come here for a steady supply of aluminum cans to cash in.

I'd give anything to hear the thought processes that led up to the decorated tree.   "...damn, Bubba-John, this place looks like shit.  We oughtta try fixin' it up a little or somethin'."  "...yeah, that dead tree over there depresses the hell outta me ... it needs some beer-corations."

Monday, January 2, 2012

Ron Paul 2012 - Phone From Home Volunteering

If you really want to get involved in politics this year, please consider joining Ron Paul's phone from home army.  You can sign up for it here:   http://phone.ronpaul2012.com

I just finished my first session.  It's pretty easy, and you can even play games on your laptop while you do it because very few people actually answer the phone.   Most of the time you are just sitting there listening to a phone ring.  I definitely recommend a headset though.   My old elbow got tired pretty quick while holding a flip phone.

I only found 2 people to complete the survey.  One guy was firmly voting for Newt, and another lady was undecided.   I was sad about her because she said that she lost a cousin in Iraq.  She was also firmly convinced that we need to keep Iran from getting nukes.  That made me even more sad because now someone else is going to lose a cousin.   Many more people in Iran are going to lose cousins, and that makes me even more sad.

Couldn't we at least try leaving them alone, and just see if they leave us alone?  I know 9/11 was what got all of this started, but where does it stop?  Someone I think a lot of once said, "If an angry person backhands you up side the head, take a moment to think about why they did that."  It is hard to swallow one's pride and admit that the anger was deserved, but that is the only path to peace.   The world expects nothing less of a strong man, or a strong nation.  We must acknowledge our wrongs, even if we did not personally commit the crimes against others.  America has brought much death to the Middle East over the last few decades; this cannot be denied.

It is time to leave the Middle East.   It does not matter if our armies occupy their lands because of oil or because of our good intentions.  Their people believe that we are there for our own benefit, not theirs.  We can never avoid the conflict of interest or the appearance of evil as long as our troops occupy their soil.  If they bring war to us, we have the right and the duty to defend ourselves.   We do not have the right to bomb a people just because they won't succumb to our will.


You don't ever have to hang up your phone once you start making calls.  It took me a bit to figure that out.   If no one answers, the system will automatically disconnect you and call the next person.  If you get an answering machine, there is a button to click for that.  Then you click 'leave a voice message' when you hear the 'beep'.  The computer gets confused if you hang up, so always let it disconnect you and then it will call the next person.   When you need to take a break, there is a little check box you can click when you confirm the results of the call.