Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Preemptive gift returns

Amazon will soon have a new way to return gifts preemptively.  Seriously.

Amazon patents incredibly heartless and useful idea (NPR)

Amazon has a Wish List where I can put items that I would like to receive.  During Christmas time (and around my birthday?) they don't show which items have been purchased, so I won't know what I'm getting for Christmas.

With this new feature in place, I would know some of the gifts I would be receiving.  Is this progress?

When I read the article, I wondered if this would really happen.  Would Amazon really put this on their site?  Then I started to think of who I would put on my list.

My second thought was what would happen when Wikileaks publishes the list.

My third thought was how many lists *I* would be on.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

It's a man's world

It's a man's world.

Many women reading this would probably say Duh!  While progress has been made to level the playing field, there are still many areas and instances that show there is still progress to be made.

Pay, of course, is a high profile issue and has never been any where near between the sexes.  In 2000, women earned about 76% of what men made for the same jobs.  The gap is smaller now, but not all of it is equality in the work force.  The current recession has hit men harder than women.  Gender pay gap is smallest on record (USA Today).  Another reason women are gaining is more and more are entering typical male-dominated professions.  Almost half of all science and business majors are women.  Census: Women closing in on male-dominated fields (USA Today).

It's not all about money and professions.  Much of our language is not gender neutral.  I understand that 'tradition' plays a large part in our lives.  We still say mankind and Father Time.  We usually say words or phrases because that is what was used before and we grew up with it.  But things are, indeed, changing.  We now say Mail Carrier and Steward and Chairperson.

There are exceptions, of course.  We call ships 'she'.  But for every Mother Nature, there are probably dozens of male pronouns. 

What had me thinking about all of this was a few days ago I was walking my dog around the neighborhood.  A man who was walking down the street saw her and, not knowing her gender said something like "hey there little fellow."  This is usually the way it goes.  They ask "what is his name?" assuming our little Maddie is a boy.  I normally answer "her name is Maddie", giving them two pieces of information at once.  But as with all things, there are exceptions.  About a week ago, someone else in the neighborhood asked "what is his or her name?"  I smiled and simply said "Maddie."

It's progress.

----------
Interesting article on why words should NOT be changed.  Mother Nature (Wordwatch)  Make sure to check out the comments also.  People chime in from both sides of the aisle.

Video: Facebook COO Sheryl Sandbert talks about Why we have too few women leaders (TED)

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

'Tis the Season, for Reason, and Peace. Atheists AND Religious groups

It's Chrismas time.  And God is more prevalent than any other time of the year.  Many homes put up nativity scenes, showing Mary and Joseph around a crib with a baby Jesus, and some have Wise Men and maybe animals to complete the scene.

A local church has an event, open to everyone, of a Bethlehem, including Roman soldiers, a census taker, two inns, a stable (or manger) and animals such as sheep, a donkey, and camels.  They tell the story of Jesus birth and finish with beautiful Christmas music.

Christmas music is heard most everywhere, in stores and on the radio.

Is this a problem?  Should any or all of these be eliminated or 'outlawed'.  Of course not.  These are all done by people and businesses and not mandated by government.

Now look out at the street and look at the ad on the bus going by.  It says "Millions of Americans are Good without God."  Are you offended?  Perhaps.  Does the ad stay on the bus?  Of course.

The Metroplex Atheists of Dallas-Fort Worth placed the ads because "we want to tell people they are not alone."  During Christmas time, many people feel alone or alienated because they don't have someone to share the 'holiday spirit' with.  The Metroplex Atheists are reaching out to people.  "It can be pretty lonely for a nonbeliever at Christmas time around here," says Mr McDonald, chairman of a local Atheist group.

Some religious groups have tried to boycott the buses or get the bus line to stop advertising any religious ads.  But all ads are welcome (excluding tobacco and alcohol).  As they should be.

Mr Edwords, national directory of the United Coalition of Reason says of the money spent on the ads, "That's more brouhaha for the buck than we have seen anywhere."  Which only incites more anger from religious groups.

Both sides need to relax, take a deep breath, and go about their business.  Both sides can advertise to their hearts content, and talk to people, and keep everything on a positive level.

Peace.  What a concept.

----------
Atheist Ads on Buses Rattle Fort Worth (New York Times)

While I agree with the sentiment, the New York billboard, featuring a nativity scene, is over the line.  For the Holidays, an Atheism Billboard (New York Times)  This one is part of a 'war on Christmas'.  Nothing good will come of it.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Give a Gift Card or Money as a present?

As part of our company holiday party, we were to have a White Elephant Gift Exchange (Wikipedia).  This is where everyone brings a gift up to a certain value, wrapped, and we all take turns opening a gift or stealing from someone else.  One of the rules for the game was that no one could use a Gift Card as a gift.

The day before the party, one person offhandedly mentioned they would bring money as a gift.  They were joking, but it made me think about the 'value' of gifts.

We are all used to having gifts to open on christmas morning.  Usually it is something you have expressed an interest in, or it is something that someone knows you would like.  If I don't know what someone would like, then I consider getting a gift card for them, since I usually know at least what type of gift they would like, such as clothing, or comic books, or dishes, or computer-related.  With a gift card, they can get just what they want.  But when I get the gift card, I usually get an amount over what I would have spent on a gift.  In other words, if something I would have purchased for them is $30, I might get a gift card for $40 or even $50.  I think this plays into the 'feeling guilty' that I didn't get a 'real gift' for them.

If I give money, instead, as my co-worker mentioned, I would probably go for at least the gift card amount or even more.  I feel even more guilty, because, now I haven't even given them something in a category, such as electronics at Best Buy or books at Barnes and Noble.  So money in the envelope might be $50 or $60.  There is no thought to giving money.  Sure, they can spend it anywhere, but there is nothing 'special' tied to the giving.

Lastly, I can make a gift for them, which I do on occasion.  I know what the person would like and I make it from craft store materials, usually.  And the cost?  Not normally as much as the gift card.  Maybe $15 in materials, depending on the gift.  But that isn't the point with making a gift, is it?  The point, in case it isn't obvious, is that the gift comes from the heart.  I have given my time to create something special for them.

So, the point?  If you are even moderately creative and know something the person would like, consider making a gift for them.

Not creative enough or can't think of something to make?  The normal 'gift giving' of something the person would like is perfectly acceptable.

Can't think of what to give the person?  A gift card, while not as good as a 'normal gift' is okay, especially if it is someone not as close as a spouse or close friend.

And if all else fails?  Forget the money.  No matter how you dress it up.  Decide on which gift card to give them.


Homemade Christmas Gift (SaverQueen)

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Do we really need more laws?

If you live in California or Illinois (6th district) and you don't think we have enough laws, you can contact a state Senator and suggest a new law to them.  They will take the ideas they think are best and submit them to their state Legislatures.  Since 2001, 16 ideas have become new laws in California.

New laws can range from businesses honoring gift certificates even in bankruptcy to fines for debris falling from trucks with proposed laws such as an energy deduction for companies who supply power for employees electric vehicles.

While I laud this idea I can't help but think of how many laws are already on the books.  Do we really need new laws?  Some of them are 'good laws' such as deductions for this or that, but other are 'punitive laws' such as fines for one thing or another.

Along with 'there oughta be a law' should be 'we oughta get rid of a law'.  There are plenty of laws cluttering up the books that are so out of date as to be laughable (Weird and out of date law in US).

'There oughta be a law' movement lets fed-up citizens write their own laws (Christian Science Monitor)

Illinois Senator Roskam institutes his own There Ought be a Law program in 2008.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Cell Phones are a Blessing and a Curse

A few years ago, my wife and I were attending her company holiday party.  As we were talking to another couple, the wife realized she had left her cell phone at home.  She said something like "dammit, I hope nothing bad happens at home."  She was saying that the kids were home with a babysitter and if something went wrong, the babysitter wouldn't be able to get ahold of her.  My wife said "what did we used to do before cell phones?"  We all laughed.

I remembered this scene after reading the article below from the New York Times, titled 'Growing Up Digital, Wired for Distractions.'  I also remembered thinking about the ride home after the party, where I thought about what used to happen before cell phones.  We would leave a note for the babysitter with the name and phone number of the place we were going.  If something happened they would call the number and someone would find us.  Nothing ever happened, but we all felt the pang of mild fear in the woman leaving her cell phone at home and couldn't immediately be in touch with her kids.

We gave our son his first cell phone when he was 14.  We wanted to be able to get in touch with him if an emergency happened, but also to contact him after school and before soccer practice.  Originally, we would call him, and leave a message if he didn't pick up.  Then we started texting him.  It was easier and he could call us if needed.

I remember one month, our son used almost 8,000 texts (sent and received).  And our texting has increased over the years.  Last month I used over 600.  We spend over $2,000 each year for cell phones (4 phones total on the family plan with unlimited texting).

My wife went to visit family recently in another state.  While she was gone, we would talk every night before bed time.  But during the day and into the evening, we would text each other occasionally to ask a question, but more likely to tell what we were doing.  "Dolphins jumping OUT of the water!" was one such text from the beach.  When I took a trip to see my parents, I remember my father saying, after watching me send and receive a few texts during the day "I don't want to be in touch with someone that much."  My sister-in-law and her boyfriend, do not have cell phones.  They don't want them.  They don't need them.  Work requires her to have one at times, but otherwise, they have never used one.   And don't plan on it.  They are the only people I personally know that do not have a cell phone.  See how an Iowa couple, addicted to the max, gave up their cell phones for a week.  Can You Live Without a Cell Phone? (ABC News)


Our son is wired.  While he is at home, and not sleeping, he is doing something with an electronic device.  Sometimes two or more at the same time.  He is either playing video games and maybe listening to music (and occasionally texting) or surfing the internet (and occasionally texting) or watching television (and occasionally texting).  Many of his friends do the same thing.  And he doesn't understand when I say something like "you should read a book once in a while."  When he is talking with my wife or myself, and his phone rings, he will answer it immediately.  He says "it's rude to whoever is calling not to answer the phone."  The times, they are a changing.

The article below gives the probable reason for it: there is no 'instant gratification' and 'it's boring to read'. 

His grades are poor (currently C's and D's) and he says he 'doesn't like school.'  Rarely do we actually see him doing any homework.  He is usually playing video games or watching television til the wee hours and then gets to his homework.  If at all.  And even when he does homework, he will watch television.  We have told him that he can't retain the homework information as well if television is going on, but he doesn't care.  "Homework is boring.  TV helps me get through it."

Is this the first generation that will watch grades steadily drop because of 'distractions?'  No.  But it IS the first generation that has more ways to stay connected with friends than ever before.  When the telephone came to be, you could talk with someone, even all day, but it was one person at a time.  Now you can chat on Facebook, update your status, text, talk on the phone, then play networked video games with your friends, while talking to them on your headset (and occasionally text others).

The following article talks about students, their schoolwork and homework, and the distractions that keep them from it.

Growing Up Digital, Wired for Distraction (New York Times)

Comic:  Distraction (All Things Digital)

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Playing chess in the park? Must bring a child with you.

Police have issued summonses to chess players who are 'unaccompanies by minors' in New York public playgrounds.  The playgrounds have signs that say adults must be accompanied or they cannot be in the play area.  Chess players are incensed, saying "What is so harmful with chess?"

While chess isn't really the issue, the intent of the law is plain: the playground is designed for children and 'unaccompanied adults' are not welcome.

‘Police! Step Away From the Chess Table’ (New York Times)

While I feel for the chess players, if they want to play, they can find another area or get the law changed.  And the police cannot make exceptions.  Allowing one group and not another would not be a fair way of dealing with the issue.

In the meantime, the chess players are required to go to court before the end of the year where they may pay a $50 fine.  Nothing is listed in the article, but I would think that they would be given a warning before any summonses are issued since this is a minor infraction by anyone's measure.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Is that abstract art or a diseased lung?

No later than Oct 22, 2012, all cigarette packages must carry a new graphic on their packaging and in advertising.  The graphics will be of such things as a person smoking with smoke coming out of a hole in their throat or a corpse with their chest stitched up.  These new warnings will help "in protecting our children and the health of the American public.” (HHS)

It's not enough that we have education in schools telling children the dangers.  It's not enough that we have a Sin Tax on cigarettes to dissuade people from smoking.  It's not enough that there are currently warnings on cigarette packages stating things like "Smoking Causes Lung Cancer, Heart Disease, Emphysema, And May Complicate Pregnancy."

Yes, smoking is dumb.  Yes, smoking makes your breath and clothes smell awful.  Yes, smoking kills people.  But as long as these adults are smoking of their own accord and it doesn't affect others, including children, there should be no laws or taxes to prevent or dissuade them from doing so.

Just one more step down the path of a police state.  Someone doesn't like that you do something they deem offensive, so they do everything legal to get you to stop.  What is the next one?  Photos of auto accidents on alcohol containers?  Cheese packages with photos of clogged arteries?

If people don't know that smoking is bad for you already, looking at a picture of a dying patient won't stop them from picking up the filthy stuff.  They smoke because they want to smoke or because they are addicted.  If they are addicted, and want to stop, they can seek help.  There are plenty of programs around to help smokers quit the disgusting habit (CDC).

Update: Last night as I was reading an Entertainment Weekly magazine, I came across an ad for USA Gold cigarettes (tagline: Your Spirit.  Your Smoke.).  How many children and teenagers will see the forthcoming ads with graphic depictions of dying and dead people?  Is this something you want your child to see?  These won't be 'movie corpses'.  These are real people.

Cigarette Packages in U.S. to Carry Images of Dead Bodies, Diseased Lungs (Bloomberg)

Proposed Cigarette Product Warning Labels (FDA)

Lots of good comments here:  Cigarette Warnings Go Gruesome: Did the Health Police Go Too Far?
Previous post on Sin Tax

Update: I did not realize other countries have photos on their cigarette packaging already. Cigarette Warning Labels: Brazil's More Shocking than Ours (CBSNews)

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

High heels are BAD!

Let me put this right out front: women's legs look awesome when the woman is wearing high heels.

Having said that, I would be happy to never see another pair of awesome legs if all women would wear shoes that are good for their feet.  Or at least not horrible for their feet.

There are no end of stories and studies to show that wearing high heels are bad for feet and legs.

Why High Heels Hurt Even After You Take Them Off (NPR)
Women's High Heel Shoes Lead To Same Problems As Foot Binding In China (The Fun Times Guide)

But that doesn't mean that wearing flat shoes (flip flops and the like) are good for you: The Worst Shoes for Your Feet (Web MD)

Does it deter women when they hear wearing high heels is bad for them?  Are they second-guessing buying a pair of pumps when they know their feet will hurt?  Do smokers stop smoking when they hear how bad tobacco is for them?  "Some people care more about how a shoe makes them look than how it makes their body feel. In fact, 42% of women say they’d wear shoes that are uncomfortable in order to look more stylish, says an American Podiatric Medical Association study."  (Readers Digest)  The fact that this number is so high is depressing.  The only bright spot is that more than half of those polled said they would NOT wear uncomfortable shoes just to look good.  But that number is not high enough.

So what should women wear?  It depends upon the situation, but generally something with good arch support and well-padded.

Types of Shoes (Become.com)
Selecting Walking Shoes (The Walking Site)

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Citizenship Test

The link below are questions for becoming a Citizen of the United States.  There are 96 questions.  See how many you can answer correctly.

U.S. Citizenship Test (Christian Science Monitor)

Most of the questions are good, knowing about the Constitution, Bill of Rights, and branches of Federal government.  I'm not sure about the geography questions.  Which state borders Mexico?  Which ocean is off the East Coast of the United States?   But these are quibbles.

How many questions did you get correct?  I'm curious how many people know the answer for Benjamin Franklin.  And if most Americans know who is next in line for the Presidency if the President and Vice-President are no long qualified.  The answer to that last one might scare some people.

I was able to correctly answer 95% correctly.  I missed questions 69, 34, 27, 23, and 3.  I'm disappointed I didn't answer correctly the question: "Why did the Colonists fight the British?"

Knowing the answers to all of the questions won't make someone a better citizen or get them involved in local politics.  But I'm wondering why the passing percentage is 60%?  This means that a 'new Citizen' could have missed up to 38 questions.  Canada also has a passing percentage of 60%, but they only have 20 questions which means you can miss only 8 (Canadian Citizenship Test - A Brief Overview).  Britain has a passing percentage of 75% (U.K. Citizenship Test: Too hard for most Britains).

The current U.S. test was first used in 2008.  Immigration Officials Unveil Redesigned U.S. Citizenship Test

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Reality TV? The Biggest Loser? Us.

The first 'reality tv program' is now considered to be Candid Camera first broadcast in 1948 (although the Original Amateur Hour also debuted in that year).  Allen Funt would play a practical joke on someone and film it.  The next reality tv program was Wanted, which talked to victims and law enforcement officials about crimes and criminals. 

The last two decades have seen a huge escalation in reality shows ranging from funny to exciting to disgusting.  And television audiences are eating them up.  Networks can't seem to put enough reality shows on the air.  Not all of them succeed, but more and more are added every season.

Networks love the shows because they are much less expensive than scripted television: Situation Comedies, Police Procedurals, and night-time Dramas.  Some people call these programs 'unscripted television', but note that some of these shows have more scripting that they want you to know.  Bachelor, for example, uses a loose framework for a script.  I have a cousin who appeared on a early season of the Bachelor and said they were not free to make all of their own choices.

Reality shows are here to stay.  They have and will evolve over time, but there will never again be a night on television that does not have several reality programs showing.

Here is a brief list of notable reality shows:

Documentary style:
They give us a glimpse into what it takes to do a profession and can make for dramatic or voyeuristic television.  I understand these.  They are like National Geographic documentaries on various subjects.  They just happen to be the same subjects each week.
- Deadliest catch
- Cops
- Extreme Makeover: Home Edition

Game shows:
These shows can be fun (Survivor) or dumb (Biggest Loser) or educational (Cooking).  And American Idol continues the long road that started with the Original Amateur Hour, thru The Gong Show, and Star Search.
- Survivor
- Biggest Loser
- Cooking
- Last Comic Standing
- The Apprentice
- American Idol

Marriage shows:
A type of reality television that I hope will soon run its course.  'Falling in love' on national television in some sort of perverted courtship while millions watch?  Please.  Shoot me now.
- Who wants to marry a multi-millionaire?
- Bachelor/Bachelorette

Living together shows:
Ultimate voyeur with no redeeming or entertainment value.  "Come on Honey, let's go watch the roomates swear at each other and make stupid remarks.  I feel sooo much better after watching one of these.  Because I am not them."
- The Real World
- Wife Swap

I have seen at least one episode of everthing listed above (except The Real World and Wife Swap).  I even watched an entire season of Survivor once when my office had a weekly pool on who would be 'voted off the island' each week.  But there is nothing about most of these shows I find remotely appealing.  Even the Documentary style shows are good for one or two weeks' viewing, at best.

Yes, the world turns on the fact that there is something for everyone.  But why does it have to be ridiculous Bachelorette shows?

I'll continue to do what I do:  not watch these insipid programs and read a book or work around the house or create a new family video.

List of reality television programs (Wikipedia)

Reality TV News (Reality TV World)

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Free Speech rights at funerals comes to U.S. Supreme Court

Fred Phelps, who has a church with about 75 members, mostly his family, protest at funerals.  Really?  Are they protesting the way the funeral is held?  Or the funeral company?  Or an individual?

No, they protest because the federal government (and America in general) embraces gays.  And gays are bad.  And God is killing American soldiers because he's upset about the gay embracing.

They also protest at music concerts, sporting events and even a Holocaust Museum.  Reprehensible as their proclamations and signs are ("Fags Doom Nations") they have a right to Free Speech under the First Amendment.

As disgusting and anti-Christian as they are (God DOES love everyone), someone has died.  Whether you like or dislike the person, their attitudes, or actions, they have died.  Their family should be allowed respect to bury them; without anyone disturbing them.

Phelps and his religious family are smart about it, though.  They don't protest right next to the funeral.  They are some distance away.  They don't target any individual person (dead or alive).  They protest generically, holding up signs and chanting things such as "God Hates Fags"; and "God Bless IEDs".

This case isn't about simply protesting at a funeral, it is specifically about speech directed at an individual, in this case, the soldier's father. 

Having said all of this, I know the U.S. Supreme Court will fall on the side of Free Speech, as they should.  Fred Phelps and his followers will probably be allowed to continue their homophobic hate speech.  And gay soldiers will continue to die for our freedoms.  And America will embrace gays more and more over the years, just as they did with Civil Rights and Women's Rights. 

Maybe Fred Phelps will pass soon, and his followers will disperse, with no one taking the reigns.  Then there will be no more media coverage of this loony-toon.  One can only hope.

US weighs rights for anti-gay church (The Age)

Here is a good article on Fred Phelps and his beliefs:  Fred Phelps and Goodness (InSearchOfGoodness)

Even the hatefulness of Fred Phelps is protected by this country’s free speech (KansasCity.com)

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Executive pay is too high? Maybe.

How much money is 'enough' for a corporate executive?  And for purposes of this post, let's leave the 50-person company out and talk only about the Fortune 500 companies.

For 2010, the top 4 companies in regards to revenue are Wal-Mart, Exxon Mobil, Chevron, and General Electric.

Their CEOs made (rounding off the numbers):
  • Wal-Mart - $19 Million
  • Exxon Mobil - $27 Million
  • Chevron - $17 Million
  • General Electric - $10 Million



How much profit did these companies make for the previous year?
  • Wal-Mart grew 7%.
  • Exxon Mobil dropped 57%.
  • Chevron dropped 56%.
  • General dropped 37%.
Profits are certainly not tied to company performance.  Or at least, not significantly.  But should CEO pay be tied to company profitability?  And if so, how much?  Maybe the company would have had a worse year without the CEO performance.  Maybe the economy was so bad, there was no way they could have turned a profit.  Maybe they are in a multi-year transition.  Maybe.  Maybe.

The new financial reform going thru Congress has a requirement that companies disclose the ratio between CEO compensation and the typical employee's pay.

The average worker made these amounts at the four top Fortune 500 companies:
  • Wal-Mart - $29,000
  • Exxon Mobil - $70,000
  • Chevron - $69,000
  • General Electric - $71,000
All numbers above came from CNN (Fortune 500 2010 annual rankings), AFL-CIO (Executive PayWatch), and Career Bliss.

So the ratio of CEO compensation to average employee salary would be:

Wal-Mart - 655
Exxon Mobil - 386
Chevron - 246
General Electric - 142

Does this really tell us anything?  CEO compensation is known.  Average employee salary is known.  This 'ratio requirement' will tell us nothing.  If shareholders don't like their CEO salary, they can bring it up at the annual company meeting or some other way to get other shareholders to share their view.

People complain, at times, that firefighters and police officers are paid very little compared to what they do and CEOs are exhorbitantly paid compared to what they do.  If this were a socialist society, something would be done, by the government, to 'correct these wrongs'.  But since this is a capitalist society, pay is determined by supply and demand, and city budgets, and company revenues and profits.  The government has no part in determining what CEO salaries should be and adding a requirement to disclose the 'compensation/salary ratio' is just some hand-waving to make people feel bitter against the CEOs with a false measure.

The Real Say on Pay (New York Times)

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Protitutes teaching our children?

A New York elementary school art teacher is writing a memoir about her time as a stripper and sex worker in Mexico when she was 19 years old and for about a year (ending in January 2007) she advertised as a hooker on Craigslist.  She was 'outed' after someone videotaped her reading a portion of her memoir at an open-mic event.

Some parents are up in arms about a former prostitute teaching their children.  And Melissa Petro is currently on administative leave pending an investigation by the school authorities.

Should the background of a teacher be considered for suitability for teaching children?  Of course.  No one would think that a sex-offender should be an elementary school teacher?  But what about a previous sex-worker?  What if the teacher used to smoke marijuana?  Or if they were convicted of drunk driving 10 years ago?

Everyone has some past indescretion that they probably would prefer to forget.  Small or large, few of us have gone thru our younger years (high school or college) without doing something we think better of later.  Or maybe some don't.  Just because Melissa is no longer a sex worker, doesn't mean she would do things different now.  But how does this affect the children she teaches?

Unless Melissa is espousing her beliefs that all young people should become involved in the sex trade in some aspect, what's wrong with her teaching art to students?  Where is the line that connects the two items that precludes one from the other?

If someone is currently an avid mountain-biker and teaches math to elementary students, where is the harm?  If the person tells their students they need to get a mountain-bike and speed down converted ski-slopes, then there could be an issue.  They are in the classroom to teach math.  Telling students to go and do something potentially harmful could be an issue that the school should handle.  They ask the teacher not to bring up the subject.  And if they do, the teacher is disciplined.

So, whether I like or dislike what Melissa has done in the past and however she feels about it now, as long as she isn't bringing this into the classroom, where's the harm?
Bronx art teacher Melissa Petro blabs about exploits as stripper, hooker at open-mic events (NY Daily News)

Monday, September 27, 2010

Sages? Wise Ones? JALOs?

My wife and I are both over 50 years old.  We have both embraced the term Senior and proudly show our AARP cards.  I don't recall us needing to discuss a replacement for the term Senior.

Which is why I found the following article more than a bit humorous.  Written in 2002, it talks about 'Aging Boomers' who are having trouble coming to grips with being 'Seniors'.  They are struggling to find another term that they can accept and announce to the world that doesn't make them sound old.

I san Senior, you say Señor (Suddenly Senior)

Everyone has their pet peeves.  The article above made me think of a term I dislike: Old Man.  As in "I'm gonna borrow the car from My Old Man".  I find the term derogatory and refuse to use it.  Same with Old Woman.  I would never call my wife My Old Woman.

What common terms do you find offensive or would never use?

Friday, September 24, 2010

New U.S. currency? It's about time.

In some countries around the world, paper currency has long been various sizes or colors or both for the different denominations.

Great Britain

A number of years ago, I went on a business trip to Malaysia.  I saw their colorful, different-sized money and commented on how cool it looked.  My friends mentioned how American money was all the same size and looked very similar and was hard to tell one bill from another.  I had grown up with it, so it wasn't a problem for me, but I understood what they were saying.


Malaysia

Now the Dollar ReDe$ign Project is proposing changes to U.S. currency.  I'm not keen on their reason for the change  -- "the 'only' realistic way for a swift economic recovery is through a thorough, in-depth, rebranding scheme".  It will make it easier for everyone to know, at a glance, which bills are being exchanged.  And visitors to the U.S. will also have an easier time.  As with any change, there will be issues.  But this change is the way to go.

One good-sized issue will be electronic money changers and vending machines.  These will need to be retrofitted to take the new bills.

Another issue is when the new bills hit the street, counterfeiters will take advantage of the fact that people aren't used to the new money, and do their best to pass phoney money.  A good educational marketing plan would take care of this.



Example DollarReDe$ignProject submission

Note: Having President Obama is a bit presumptuous, but I'm sure we can agree on a previous president to have on the $1 bill.


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

No, I don't drink alcohol. Ever.

I have never had a drink of alcohol.  Never.  I never 'snuck one' when I was little.  I didn't drink as a teenager.  And I don't drink alcohol now.  The typical reaction when someone finds out is 'You don't drink?  You've NEVER had a drink?'  It is unfathomable to them that someone in the world doesn't drink alcohol.  To them, drinking is almost like breathing.  It's something a person does in life.

Why don't I drink?  There are several reasons.
  • I don't like the smell, so I'm sure I won't like the taste.
  • I can see what alcohol does to people and there is no way I'm gonna do that to myself.
  • I don't need something to alter my brain/thinking or to drown my sorrows.
  • My father was an alcoholic.  Yes,  I say was, because he hasn't had a drink in over 30 years.
The following article hits it spot on for me.  She did drink and stopped at age 27, but she gets the same reactions I get.  But I've never been asked why I don't drink 'an adult drink'.

My not drinking bothers friends (CNN)

I love her husbands response.  "Listen," he said to her, "I'm a 30-year-old man. Whatever I'm drinking is an adult beverage."

Monday, September 20, 2010

Smoking? Not on my beach.

New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg is proposing to ban smoking at New York beaches, parks, outdoor malls, and plazas.  Back in 2002, he has successfully banned smoking in restaurants and bars.

Indoor smoking bans are obvious, everyone is trapped with the smoke.  Outdoor smoking bans are a bit trickier.  The smoke isn't trapped and disappates more quickly.  But according to some studies, the smoke outdoors is still unhealthy for people nearby.

Study: Outdoor smoke gets in your lungs (USA Today)

Yes, while you can move upwind from the smoker or farther away, non-smokers shouldn't have to do so.  If you are enjoying your book at a park bench, having a smoker sit next to you, or even just waking past, is distracting, obnoxious, and unhealthy.  The smoke still travels and is easily enhaled by non-smokers.

I have heard arguments about music can be played too loud and should also be banned.  While I haven't checked all municipalities in the U.S., I know there are 'noise pollution' laws around the country that prevent people from playing their music so loud it disturbs others within certain distances.  And a big difference is that music isn't harmful to your health while smoke is.

Another argument is that barbeques and campfires do the same thing that smoke from a cigarette does.  But I don't recall the last time I was even mildly annoyed with barbeque smoke or campfire smoke from someone else.  If this was prevalent, I could see the same type of ban being put into place.

Lastly, walking around the beach, with cigarettes littering the area is unsightly, annoying, and a health hazard (think babies putting cigarette butts into their mouths) and I am all for a ban at the beach.

Original article:
City Wants a Smoking Ban on Beaches (New York Times)

Update:
When Citizens (Gasp) Are the Smoking Police (New York Times)

Friday, September 17, 2010

Selling Edible Underwear? Better have a food license in Texas.

Opening your own Lingerie store?  Have everthing you need for your Grand Opening?

Sexy Teddies?  Check.
Body creams?  Check.
Colorful condoms?  Check.
Edible panties?  Only if you have a Food Permit from the Health Department.

So says the Texas Health Department when they told Shades of Love in San Antonio.  If it's edible, they require the business to have a Food Permit.  Silly?  You bet.  From what I have read, this isn't a 'lets squeeze all the money out of businesses that we can," but simply the Health Department 'doing their job'.  While I appreciate they not sitting around eating donuts instead of ferreting out food slacking restaurants, edible panties aren't going to be a large part of anyone's diet.

Texas Lingerie Store Forced To Get Food Permit For Selling Edible Underwear (LAWeekly)

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Four-day or Five-day school week?

Would a four-day school week or a five-day school week be better?

It's a complicated question that gets more complicated when you add 'better for whom?'

Note that when schools reduce their school week by a day, they increase the time in-school for the other days. So, for example, if students spend about 6 hours actually in class each day for the five-day week, they would spend about 7 to 7.5 hours in class in class for the four-day week.

Let's consider the schools first. The reason this question even comes up is the universal problem of money for schools. Schools are reducing or looking at reducing school by one day each week to save money. Infrastructure costs for school buses and electricity would be reduced.

As for students, the benefits would be more time on each subject each day. Instead of 50 minutes on one subject each day, they could spend 80 minutes. Giving them more time to go in-depth with discussions or handling difficult topics. And they would have the fifth day each week to devote to study. The drawbacks for students could be that longer classes could be even more 'boring time'. If the student isn't engaged for 50 minutes, they certainly won't be any more engaged for 80 minutes.

Impact to Parents could be positive and negative. The 'day off' could give parents a day to take kids to the doctor or other appointments without pulling them out of school. But since most parents work, this might actually be a negative since they will need to find day-care on the fifth day for the younger students. On a side note, if schools can stagger the fifth day (no reason it has to be Friday) then day-care facilities could be a beneficiary.

Here is some good information about the challenges and successes in Minnesota:  Four Day School Week

According to one poll, 65% Oppose Four-Day School Week (Rasmussen Reports).

For my money, schools should not adopt 4-day weeks.  There is no data to show that longer school days help students with their education.  And the extra day will not be used for 'extra study time'.  Government needs to find the money to keep schools open five days each week.  I am willing, for example, to give up mail delivery for one day each week if this will give more money for the Federal government to give back more money to the states and local school districts.  There are no easy answers, but we must have the determination to keep education in the top 3 priorities.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Penny for your thoughts? Make it a nickel.

Most places where I spend actual cash, as opposed to using my credit card, give change back, including pennies.  But a few places, and there are more and more over time, skip the pennies and either forgo the 3 cents of the $22.93 I am paying or give me 65 cents in change when I should actually get 64 cents.  When I actually do get pennies in change, before they can actually hand it to me, I say "save it for the next customer".

The penny is past its prime.  The current Lincoln penny (which has gone thru a few redesigns) was minted in 1909.  In 1909 you could purchase a postcard or a few eggs.  As Time Magazine says, now it can't even purchase itself.  It now costs 1.38 cents to manufacture a penny.

Yes, there will be some issues to work out, such as what to do about sales tax, which makes most purchases end in pennies.  Perhaps the rule of thumb would be to round off to the nearest nickel.  0, 1, and 2 cents are 0, while 3, 4, and 5 are 5 cents.  Not everyone will be happy with dropping the penny, but, as I read while researching this post, we used to have a 1/2 penny coin.  When is the last time you had one of those in your hand?  Unless you lived in the 1800s, never.

Is it Time to Get Rid of the Penny? (Opposing Views)

Also check out the History of the Penny (Essortment.com)

Friday, September 10, 2010

When is the word 'boy' derogatory?

My family is from Arkansas.  I don't recall ever hearing them refer to a black man as 'boy'.  But while visiting Arkansas for many family reunions, I know that the word 'boy' is not used in a good way, though usage has waned over the years.  It's not always meant in a bad way, but is part of the language spoken in the South and, when spoken to an adult, is exclusively used when talking to black men.  Some people say it because that is what their family and friends do.  Not an excuse, but rather what happens.  I'd like to believe that once most people hear that 'boy' is demeaning to a black man, they would stop using it.

Which is why I found this article about the use of 'boy' at a Tyson Foods plant in Alabama interesting.  The Supreme Court said there were 'no racial overtones' in using the term.  Read the entire article and see what you think.

Appeals Court in Atlanta Again Rejects Racial Discrimination Claim (NY Times)

My question would be, did the managers call any white men 'boy'?  If they did, then there is probably not much of a case.  If they did not, as seems the case, then the case is stronger.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

No government rememberance of 9/11...

Every year, on September 11, the country remembers 9/11.  3,000 people died in the attack and is the worst disaster on American soil.

Before 9/11, we had the Oklahoma City Bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building where 168 people died.

Currently, while it isn't an official holiday, the U.S. government remembers 9/11 with ceremonies.  Every year, the president, and other officials, talk about 9/11.

Official holidays are numerous in the United States.  Most, however, are for 'positive events' or people, such as July 4th, Independence Day (Wikipedia), and Thanksgiving (Wikipedia).  Two Federal holidays are for 'negative events':  Memorial Day (Wikipedia) and Labor Day (Wikipedia).

Why doesn't the government have a ceremony for the Oklahoma City Bombing on April 19th every year?  This wasn't done even before 9/11.  Why were 168 people not enough for the government to commemorate but 3,000 is? 

While 9/11 was a tragedy, the government should be directing its efforts to other items.  Let ceremonies for these tragedies be commemorated by individuals and private groups.

What happens when another, more terrible, tragedy occurs?  One where 10,000 people lose their lives on U.S. soil?  Will we stop commemorating 9/11 and start remembering the new event?  And if this tragedy is large enough or horrifying enough, will we someday make it a national holidy, as was done with Labor day when two men were killed by the U.S. government during labor strikes.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Do new car stickers make the grade?

Because of a 2007 energy law, the government must change the 'stickers' that are affixed to all vehicles sold in the U.S.  These are the stickers that show the Miles Per Gallon of the vehicle on the Highway and in the City.  These stickers haven't been significantly changed in over 30 years.

The new stickers will probably be one of two designs.  The first has 'comparative information' to show how the vehicle MPG and Air Pollution compares to other vehicles in its class.  The second has the same information but includes a large letter, A thru D, to show from a distance, how the vehicle rates.

I am a person who believes people should be given information about their purchases.  But they shouldn't be spoon-fed the answers.  The letter sticker should not happen.  Give people the 'comparative information' and let them make up their own mind.  If they need more information, that's why we have Consumer Reports and other information (such as plenty of web sites).



The one problem that I can see, brought up in the article below, is that Hybrid and Electric cars will not take coal-burning power-plants into account when displaying the 'greenhouse gases' the vehicle spews.  The stickers will only show 'tailpipe only' data.  I am a proud Prius owner and if I was shopping for a new vehicle, I would want to see complete information.
Then again, I can always look it up on the web.

Friday, September 3, 2010

What would your last meal be?

The article below is from the U.K. where the death penalty has been abolished.  But here in the U.S. it is still performed in nearly every state.  Put aside feelings on whether capital punishment should or should not happen.  Those put to death are allowed to choose their own last meal, though some states have restrictions.   Texas only allows food that is already within the penal system.  Florida limits the meal to $40 from the local area.

Here are some real last meals:

Texas - Patrick Bryan Knight
June 26, 2007
Fried pork chops and chicken, garlic toast, and ice cream

Oklahoma - Ernest Carter
December 17, 2002
Deep-dish supreme pizza, 7-Up, and one slice of cherry cheesecake

Indiana - Timothy McVeigh
June 11, 2001
Two pints of mint chocolate-chip ice cream

So what would I want for my last meal?  Would I go extravagant and order steak and lobster (assuming I wasn't in Texas or Florida)?  Or would I want comfort food of turkey burger and Almond Joys?

I think I would go the 'food I enjoy' route.  Probably something like a turkey burger (with ketchup and pickle relish), french fries, a whole pecan pie, and a whole pumpkin pie.  To drink, I'd go for bottomless iced tea.  Oh, and one Almond Joy.

Would would your last meal look like?

I've often pondered what to eat before I die (Telegraph UK)

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Puerto Rico as the 51st state?

Current opinion: none

Over the years, Puerto Rico has been talked about as our next State.

Puerto Rico has been 'part of the U.S.' since it was ceded by Spain in the Spanish-American War in 1898.  Since that time, Puerto Ricans have fought in every American war since that time.  Puerto Rico pays Federal Payroll Taxes (but not Income Taxes), Social Security Taxes and other taxes, are under U.S. military protection, and, as of 1941, are natural born citizens of the United States.  They also have non-voting representation in Congress.


Puerto Rico has almost 4 million people with a literacy rate of over 94% (the United States is 99%).  President George H.W. Bush, in his first State of the Union address, said he believed that Puerto Rico should become a state, as long as it's citizens voted to do so.

What would becoming a state mean to Puerto Rico and the United States?

First, Puerto Rico would have allocated funds given to them as other states do now.  The standard of living in Puerto Rico is lower, and with additional funds, this could increase.  But they would also begin to pay Federal Income Taxes which could offset this.  They would also have voting Representation in Congress (six seats in the House of Representatives).

New Opinion: Puerto Rico should remain a protectorate of the United States since there is no big advantage to either Puerto Rico or the United States to change the status quo

Monday, August 30, 2010

Government has no part in who counselors can and cannot counsel.

I agree with this opinion piece that the government does not have a say in what a person can and can't study because the student won't apply the degree the way the schools wants them to.

Julea Ward was studying for her Masters in Counseling.   When the school found out she refused to counsel homosexuals, because of her religous beliefs, they expelled her.

As the article states, it would be impossible to expect all counselors to counsel everyone in all situations.  Sometimes their biases are so strong that they would be unable to give proper counseling for the patient.

An Attack on Religion and Counseling (NewsBlaze)

Friday, August 27, 2010

Mary Bale: Evil Incarnate for trashing cat? Not even.

By now you have probably heard about Mary Bale, the woman who dumped a cat into a dumpster.  Clearly she's got some issues.  Maybe a cat bit her when she was a child?  Maybe she thinks all small furry things are disgusting?  Maybe she was having a bad day?

Regardless, while she should be chastised and perhaps even be involved in some kind of police action for her cruelty to an animal, she is not 'a monster' or 'evil incarnate' as the following articles suggests.  Nor should someone 'give her grief for the rest of her life.'

Mary Bale The Lady Who Threw Cat In Garbage: Most Hated Woman In World!

Life is Hell for Evil Lady Who Threw Cat Into Garbage Container

And for the record, I am a cat lover.

Lastly, she does NOT deserve police protection.

UPDATE:  Bank clerk 'who dumped cat in wheelie bin' charged with animal cruelty (DailyMail)
UPDATE: Cat bin woman Mary Bale fined £250 (Guardian)

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Are 'light cigarettes' better for you? Addicts rationalize 'yes'

The Feds have a new law that disallows tobacco companies from claiming one type of cigarette is 'better' for you than others; or more realistically, 'less bad' for you than others.

A colorful death by tobacco (LA Times)

I am of the opinion that if cigarettes are legal, they should be treated as any other legal product, with the exception that they should not be allowed to be purchased and used by those who are under-age.

However, if a company is claiming that one product is 'better for you' than another, they need to show this. But just because a regular cigarette is bad for you and a light cigarette is 'almost' as bad for you, isn't reason enough to prevent them from marketing them that way.

Companies who manufacture 'organic products' market their products as 'better for you'. And this isn't always the case.

I don't encourage laws that limit what people decide to do, but these organic labels make people who don't investigate to eat more. Organic Labels May Trick Dieters Into Eating More (Live Science). The problem with this article is the 'trick dieters'. People can investigate organic and read labels and make their own decisions. Taking 'organic' at it's word is the consumer's own fault.

People who decide to smoke can decide which cigarette to smoke. If tobacco companies have 'less tar' in one cigarette, they can market it as 'better' for the consumer. It's up to the consumer to make up their own mind. The only reason for the Feds to step in is if the claim is not valid. I don't see any evidence of that in this case.

Monday, August 23, 2010

You want Statins with those Fries?

A proposal in Britain will have free 'statins' available at fast-food restaurants.  Statins help reduce cardiovascular risk and, according to some, are safe, even at high doses.  If I read the article correctly, the statins will be available just like packets of ketchup and salt.  Patrons won't have to ask the clerk for them.

I agree with Dr Rubenfire, in the following article, that patrons will assume they can completely eliminate the risk of unhealthy eating by simply taking the statins.  And they may even 'super-size' their meals.

A Burger, Shake, and Some Statins (MedPageToday)

Information on Statins (MedicineNet)

Friday, August 20, 2010

Is Luck on your side?

Coincidences happen all of the time.  We walk out of a movie to find a friend who had recommended that same movie to us.  We see an advertisement for vacationing in Florida just as we're discussing where to go for vacation.  Mark Twain was born on the day of the appearance of Halley's Comet in 1835, and died on the day of its next appearance in 1910.

People forget the times when something does NOT happen.  Your family is discussing where to go for vacation and no don't see any ads for places to go.  So if you and your family discuss vacations 10 times and one time a coincidence occurs, you will remember the one time and forget the other nine.

With so many things going on in the world, it would be strange if coincidences did NOT happen.  But we only remember the coincidences and not all of the other times when things did not coincide.

Here is a good article on good things happening to good people, bad things happening to bad people, and all of the more numerous times that people forget.  Thoughts on Luck, Skill, and Coincidences (NewsBlaze)

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Do you have 'privacy' for personal messages when using company phone or computer?

Imagine three scenarios:

1) You use your cell phone at work. 
You send a text message to your spouse. 
Your spouse sends a text message to you.

2) You are using your company cell phone at work.  
You send a text message to your spouse. 
Your spouse sends a text message to you.

3) You are using your company cell phone at home. 
You send a text message to your spouse. 
Your spouse sends a text message to you.

If you were never told of the company policy about cell phones, should you get in trouble for any of these?  Using your own phone at work, to make or receive a short text is not an issue.  And as long as you didn't use the company cell phone excessively, there probably wouldn't be an issue.  You send and receive a couple of text messages a day, no one cares.

Now, what if you were told the company policy.  And the policy states you cannot use the company cell phone for personal business.  Again, as long as you don't abuse the privilege, probably no one will care.

Now, you've been told the company policy stating you can use the cell phone for personal calls and text on your own time, but you need to pay for it.  Then there is no issue if you text during your off hours.  If you use it for personal calls and texts during business, you could, and should, get in trouble.

Lastly, you've been told you can use the company cell phone for personal calls and text during your off hours, but during your off hours, you send sexually explicit texts to your spouse.  Now what?  You are using it as instructed, you are paying to use it, should the company care what type of messages you are sending?

If you are using a company phone, don't expect to have everything you text as private.  It is there phone.  Even if you are paying for the texting you do during your off hours, it is their phone and the expectation should be that they will be monitoring communications.

Here is a news item before the ruling:  Justices hear case of Ontario police officer who sent risque messages (LA Times)

And here is a news item on the ruling:  Supreme Court allows reasonable searches of private texts on work-issued devices (Jurist.org)

Monday, August 16, 2010

Prop 8, don't discriminate

Lots of talk going on about Proposition 8 being being struck down.

Much anger about 'the will of the people' being subverted. Some say "why can't we decide on validity of propositions before they are put on the ballot?" The simple reason is that if the Proposition doesn't pass, no time or money is wasted.

And when a Proposition passes, that's when the legality is questioned. Just because a Proposition is popular enough to pass doesn't make it legal. Many 'unpopular rights' were still 'legalized' because of the Constitution and Bill of Rights. Think Civil Rights and Women's Rights.

It's been over 40 years since Civil Rights legislation was adopted. 40 years from now, we'll be thinking the same thing about Gay Rights.

Someone on a site I have misplaced said the Government should give a Civil Union License to those who want to be together in the eyes of the Government and all of the legal implications. If they want to get married, they go to a church with all of the religious implications. Makes sense to me.  Separation of Church and State.

Here is an opinion piece from the Los Angeles Times with a little background on Judge Walker, who struck down Proposition 8, and some quick info on racial discrimination in the 1960's. Proposition 8, Judge Walker, and our short memories (LA Times)

And another opinion on why Republicans shouldn't stand on the wrong side of another civil rights issue.  My Fellow Conservatives: Think Carefully About Your Opposition to Gay Marriage (Fox News)

Friday, August 13, 2010

A Yop Sign? A Stield Sign?

Gary Lauder, a venture capitalist, has an idea for combining a Stop sign with a Yield sign.  The idea is that at some intersections, particular T-intersections, many times it makes no sense to have Stop signs at the top of the T, the 'thru traffic'.  A Stop sign should only be required for the leg of the T.

Overall, I like the idea, but need more information.  The article almost had me convinced that it is a good idea, but the video or Gary speaking at a TED conference left me unconvinced.  I wish he had been given more time to discuss his idea more fully.

Check out the article and the video at the bottom of the page:  Stop the Madness, Yield to Progress (Wired.com)

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

How to keep your online presence private

Privacy on the web can be difficult. Once you post a book review, or upload a photo, or join a social network, the information will likely be stored and be available to anyone for years to come.

Here is a lengthy article on web privacy: The Web Means the End of Forgetting (New York Times)

These are some ways to keep your privacy on the web.

1) Create a separate email account
You already have an email account.  Give it to family and friends.  Now create another one.  The new email address will be used when you sign up at a website or need to give an email address when you will be downloading some software.  This email account will probably start filling up with spam after a while and you can simply stop using it at some point and create a new email account to use.

2) Give false personal information when signing up
When you need to sign up at a site for a one-time experience, such as downloading a piece of software, give them a false name and address.  Nearly all signups are completely automated, and no person actually sees the information besides you.  They don't go thru their database of thousands or millions of users and see the name Fred Flintstone and cut off your account.  Choose a name and address that you will always use to make it easier to remember.  If you try to use just random letters and numbers, some forms will not let you sign up.  So come up with something you will remember.  Fred Flintstone, 123 Stoney Lane, Bedrock, AZ, 92345.

3) Use a second credit card for online purchases
Don't use your main credit card for online purchases.  If someone gets your information and you have to cancel your account, you won't have a credit card available until your credit card company sends a new card with a new account number or you open a new account.  Get a second card that will only be used for online purchases.  If something goes wrong, you can cancel that card and still have your off-line card to use.

4) Use 'private mode' when surfing the internet
Most modern browers have a 'private mode' that prevents web sites from doing things like setting cookies for long-term use.  You can see what information is available to sites by visiting this link:  Network-Tools.com

These are the top ideas for preserving your privacy while on the internet.  If you do the four items listed above, you will save most of your private information from becoming available.

This site will give you an exhaustive list of privacy areas and what you can do to prevent your data from becoming public.  Online Privacy: Using the Internet Safely (Privacy Rights Clearinghouse)

Monday, August 9, 2010

I'm Stressed! Where's my Chocolate!

A recent study says that people don't reach for 'comfort food' when they are stressed.  Comfort food might be chocolate, or potato chips, or peppermint sticks.  They say people are more likely to try something new during these times of stress.

Comfort eating at times of stress is a myth (Telegraph)

Of course with any 'rule' there are exceptions.  But I know several people who do, indeed, reach for their comfort food when they are stressed or sick including myself.  For example, I do eat chicken soup at times, but when I am sick, I reach for it just about every time.  (Whether chicken soup is actually helpful when you are sick is subject to review.)  When I am stressed, I usually reach for chocolate.  And I know several other people who reach for their 'comfort food' during similar times.

What are your favorite comfort foods?  Make mine chocolate!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Airline starts charging for extra carry-on items

Spirit Airlines is now charging for your second carry-on item.  Your first one is free (woohoo), but additional items will be $30 if you pay online or on the phone, $45 if you do it at the airport.

The good news is they have dropped prices by an average of $40.  So if you look at the total cost, there will be many cases where you could come out ahead.

Why did they do this?  Because of the charges for checked baggage, more and more people were carrying on larger and larger items to put into the overhead bins which was causing frustration for other passengers including leaving late from the gate.

Two videos at this link, a commercial for the change, and a new item on fliers reactions to it.  That's the Spirit!  Airline charges for some carry-on bags (LA Times)

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Home Schooled or Public Schooled?


Current opinion: none

I have two cousins who home school their children. One cousin has home schooled, I believe, five children and the other is in the process of home schooling two children. They both swear by it. I spoke briefly with them some years ago about home schooling and why they did it. In general, it was to give them a better learning enviornment than they could have in public or even private schools. They said their children could focus on learning while in school and not be distracted by many of the issues that affect public school children such as negative peer pressure, others' disinterest in school, and being taught 'objectionable' material, among others.

Home schooling is not just a free-for-all of teaching your child whatever you want. The state still has minimum requirements such as math skills, english skills, and science. And many of the home schooled children leave home schooling for public High School because they are more mature and can handle peer pressure better. They also usually score better on tests once they enter High School because they are ahead of other students.

Which brings up a point... Most home schooling is done by religious people who don't want certain subjects (such as evolution and sex education) to be taught to their child. And many Christians believe they are required to give their children a 'Christian education'.

When most people, myself included, hear about home schooling we ask "but what about getting interaction with other children? Aren't they missing out?" Home schooled children are usually part of an outside organization (4H club, Girl/Boy Scouts) or they volunteer or go on field trips and are on sports teams. They also get together with other families who home school and build lasting relationships with other children their own age.

Social Skills and Homeschooling: Myths and Facts (FamilyEducation.com)

So what about public schools? Are they really that bad?

The dropout rate for public schools, in the 2007-2008 year, was 4.1% across all states. While that percentage may sound low, that's over 600,000 students. Public School Graduates and Dropouts (U.S. Dept of Education) Dropout rates for home schooling? I couldn't find any statistics on it and I have never heard of children dropping out of home schooling.

Public schools have a lot of students. It is difficult (impossible?) to teach to the level that every student needs. Some students will be bored by the curriculum. Some are way over their heads.

Peer pressure is an issue, no matter where students go. But public schools have such a diverse population there are all kinds of personal influences. Apathy, drugs, violence contribute to a less-than-ideal learning envionment.

Not every family can afford the time and money (or lack of it since one parent will stay home) necessary to teach their children at home. Many are not capable of home-schooling their children in various subjects. But for those who can and want to do it, I can't find any reasons why it shouldn't be done. The children excel in most subjects and are socially involved.

New opinion: If families can afford the time and money to home-school their children, it is a win-win.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Age-appropriate Sex Education

The Helena, Montana school district will be creating a curriculum for teaching sex education from kindergarten thru high school seniors.

I still need to read a lot more about this to form an opinion. I am okay with sex education in the classroom, but am not sure it should be started, even as age-appropriate, in elementary school.

In the following article, the writer says "Look around at today’s society. We are seeing the results of years of unbridled sex education in the schools." The statement makes a connection that is only a piece of the puzzle. Sex education in schools did not cause the woes in today's society.

Save the Children, Say 'No' In Helena (Fox News)

Friday, July 30, 2010

Dude, you're overweight

If your friend was overweight, so overweight his health was affected, would you tell him? Would you let him know how unhealthy his eating is? Or that he doesn't get enough (any?) exercise? If you did decide to tell him, would he still be your friend?

Obesity is a problem in the U.S. The number of obese children has tripled in the last 25 years (Science Daily).

The Washington Post has a story about a Kentucky town that has double the number of obese people as the national average. They have plenty of fast-food restaurants, but no desire to eat healthier. Is it a problem with Lifestyle? Genetics? Peer pressure? All of the above?

Here is a summary of the article at The Atlantic with a link to the full story. Our Culture of Obesity, Embodied in a Kentucky Town (The Atlantic/Washington Post)

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Lying to a woman to have sex is rape?

A court in Israel has declared that a man who lied to a woman to have sex, in fact raped her because of that lie. The implication is that it doesn't matter what he lied about but simply the fact that he lied.

Israeli Court Calls Lying for Sex Rape (New York Times Blog)

Seems to me that the issue is really Jewish/Arab based. If the man had said he was wealthy and was not, I don't think the woman would have taken him to court. Pure speculation, of course, but racial tensions are high in the region and it seems like this was the real reason.

If a woman will have sex with someone who tells her things about himself and doesn't check on them, then who is to blame? The man is at fault for lying, but the woman gave herself willingly. Should either of them be held 'legally responsible'? Should either of them be taken to court?

One area where this could go to court is if one partner asked the other if they were 'disease free', for HIV, for example, and they were not. Then the aggrieved party could take the person to court for endangering their life.

But going to prison for 'lying for sex'? Not even.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Pink is the new Black

Back when my son was early teens, went went to the park for a family outing. We took an ice chest, soccer ball, a couple of books, and... an old pink blanket to sit on.

My son was mortified.

There was no way he was going to sit on a pink blanket. My wife and I told him it was just a blanket and would keep us from getting grass stains. He wasn't having any of it.

Now that he is over 18, he's better about it, but he would still prefer I bring a blanket of another color.

So a new item brought a smile to my face this morning about a 21-year-old boxer who wears pink.

Boxer takes fight against breast cancer into ring (USA Today)

Breast Cancer Treatment Information (BreastCancer.org)

Friday, July 23, 2010

Does God approve of vandalism?

In 1892, Francis Bellamy wrote the Pledge of Allegiance (Wikipedia).  In 1954, Dwight D. Eisenhower signed a bill which inserted 'Under God' into the Pledge.

In recent years, some peoples and organizations have objected to the inclusion of 'Under God' and have tried to have it removed to no success.

Recently, a group called the North Carolina Secular Association paid for advertising on billboards around the state simply saying "One Nation, Indivisible" showing how the original Pledge of Allegiance was written.  A minister at the Trinity Baptist Church is having his own ads placed on billboards saying "One Nation, Under God".


A vandal spray-painted "Under God" on the Secular billboard.  The vandal(s) should be caught and prosecuted for their crime.   And if someone spraypaints a big X across "Under God" on the Religious billboard, they should also be prosecuted for their crime.

Both groups have the right to their Free Speech.  If someone disagrees, they can put out their own ads.  Or distribute flyers.  Or go on their local radio station to disagree.

Billboard Battle in Bible-Belt (ABC News)