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    My daily writing--emails, journal entries, marginalia, more emails, blog posts, and tweets--shapes me as a writer, helping and hindering the big stuff I'm trying to accomplish. Every word counts.

    My name is James Black. I'm on Facebook and Twitter. Friend and/or follow me if you like.

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Starts with a Queue

We killed our satellite TV. A few weeks ago, we realized that most of the stuff we watch is available on Netflix or DVD. We even own the entire series of The Golden Girls (duh), but we’ve usually watched it when it’s on one of the networks that syndicates it, an old habit that we can break now. Actually, we have no choice now. The subscription was canceled as of Tuesday, and the signal has turned to (a subtler) noise.

In recent years, I haven’t watched much TV on my own. When I travel for work, I rarely turn on the obligatory television in my hotel room. At home, I watch what Doug watches, and when he’s out of town, I might turn it on for background noise, but I usually haven’t bothered.

After 28 years with either cable or satellite TV, I no longer have that connection with the wider world. Continue reading

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I Hit the Paywall. It Hit Back.

I’m not one to complain, but–

Okay, I couldn’t even type that with a straight face. Let me put it this way: Complaining isn’t a hobby of mine. I simply find it impossible in some (read: many) situations to suggest complicity through silence, to let jerks get away with shit, etc.

A fresh if admittedly minor example is my recent attempt (and partial failure) to get a refund for the New York Times digital subscription I cancelled over a month ago. In late March, I signed up for the 99-cent trial to see if I might find full digital access interesting and/or useful. By April 24, I had not logged in to read the NYT, not even once. I figured the allowance of 20 articles per month without subscription would be sufficient, so with two days left before the next pay period would begin at $35 per month, I used the NYT’s online form to cancel.

But on April 26, my credit card was charged. A customer service rep said she could cancel the subscription and refund the money, no problem. On May 3, noticing the refund hadn’t posted to my credit card, I called and was told the refund could take 7-10 business days to go through. On May 11, still no refund. The customer service rep said whoever had claimed to cancel my subscription earlier in the month must not have done it properly, and it was too late in the billing cycle to grant a refund. I asked to speak with a supervisor, who called me back an hour later to tell me she’d taken care of it. Continue reading

Open Letter to Target’s CEO, Gregg Steinhafel

Dear Mr. Steinhafel,

I am contacting you regarding Target’s recent contribution of $150,000 to MN Forward, a PAC that supports anti-gay gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer. Your public responses to this situation have emphasized that Target “supports causes and candidates based strictly on issues that affect our retail and business interests,” which, you’ve claimed, does not take away from the corporation’s commitment to LGBT people, including its employees, as demonstrated by various efforts enumerated in your 27 July message to Target team members.

However, in this situation, the contribution you’ve made to support your business interests could easily make things worse for your employees in Minnesota if Emmer is elected. Emmer has a well known record of supporting legislation that prevents LGBT people from gaining equal rights. You must realize that what you’ve characterized as an apolitical action is actually quite political and threatens to undermine the quality of life experienced by LGBT employees of Target outside their inclusive workplaces in Minnesota.

Furthermore, your fixation on “business interests” as the reason for the contribution comes across as shallow and dismissive. Speaking only for myself, I understand that a corporation’s actions are designed to increase profits. I wouldn’t expect a CEO to prioritize LGBT rights over increasing the value of a corporation’s stock. I’m impressed when a company finds ways to make positive social change profitable, as Target seems to have done. But your recent words and deeds confirm the most calloused suspicions that Target’s reputation as an inclusive place to shop and work has been nothing more than a business move.

As a result of all of this, Target risks losing customers (including my partner and me), i.e., business, i.e., money, and since money is what motivates, Target’s sizable contribution to MN Forward suggests the corporation has a lot to gain from Emmer becoming governor of Minnesota. If not, and there’s some less important reason for the contribution, the smartest business move at this point would be to take back the money.

I don’t want to boycott Target. Trust me; there aren’t many shopping options in my area, so this will be more difficult for me than for your corporation. But if you’re going to support candidates who believe it’s fine to discriminate against me, then it’s in my best interest not to support your corporation, which, I have no problem admitting, is very personal.

But I’m willing to forgive. I’m human, as is Target, according to the Supreme Court. So just take back the donation and exercise your newly granted right to free speech by apologizing.

James Black

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