Friday, October 29, 2010

1365 High Time

If you’re interested in extending your life, Albert Einstein may be able to help.
Physicists have long known that one of the peculiar aspects of Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity—that time changes with the position of the observer—is true. For example, the perception of time nearly stops for an observer on a rocket ship going the speed of light, relative to an outside observer
Or if you’re in a black hole, or the bottom of a mine or something. Boy does time seem to drag then.
Here on earth, or not too far above it, the same thing happens. Time ticks slightly slower on a fast-moving satellite than a stationary one.
Great if you happen to be living on a satellite. But recently, using ultra-sensitive atomic clocks, scientists have determined that clocks run slower and faster on a smaller scale too. A clock put just one foot above the floor ticks slower than one actually on the floor. And a clock put in a car going just 20 mph ticks ever so slightly slower than a non-moving clock.
Hey hey. That means living in the city makes you live longer. Assuming traffic is moving relatively quickly. Another reason for good transportation planning. Slower moving traffic, not to mention gridlock, is now scientifically proven to shorten your lifespan.
Add that to where you live. If you live on the top floor of a skyscraper, you’ll live longer than the folks on the ground floor. That’s right. Over a lifetime, people who live on top age 100-millionths of a second more slowly than folks on the bottom.
There you have it. Science tells us indisputably that it’s high time we embraced high living.
Hey, every 100-millionth of a second counts...
America, ya gotta love it.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

1363 Star Warped

There’s been lots of talk recently about the new update of Star Wars. It’s partially because 3-D technology has got to the point where it may be worthwhile.
But I think it’s also possibly because George Lucas can’t find anything else to do. Aside from his participation in the Indiana Jones thing, Star Wars and related technology has pretty much been George’s oeuvre. Could have been worse I suppose. He could have only done the Twilight series and it would have been his horror d’oeuvre.
Some of the talk about Star Wars has been about updating some of the cultural tie-ins and references for a new audience. Things like having handheld communications devices also feature texting and touch-screens. Or have the people on the planet of Tatooine actually have multiple tattoos.
But most important, fix everyone’s hair. What Carrie Fisher wouldn’t give for a digitally remastered bob. Goodbye cinnamon roll head, hello hirsute self-respect.
I hope they keep R2-D2 and C3PO essentially as is though. Having a robot that looked like a fireplug was quite attractive to my dog. And being inside gave Mary Lou Retton a nice job after gymnastics.
How’s that for an obscure cultural reference in need of updating?
I did like C3PO’s cheesy trophy-brass finish. It contrasted so nicely with every other color in the entire saga. But maybe they should think about toning it down. It made little sense when everyone else was in camo for C3PO to be a gleaming beacon of brass. “Yo, we got a battle going here, someone put a lampshade on that guy.”
What I really hope though, is they’ll update the Millennium Falcon. They’ll have to call it the Windows 7 Falcon.
I’m guessing it will still break down and have to be restarted frequently.
America, ya gotta love it.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

1362 Camo Kids

I heard an interesting ad on the radio recently. It was for a gun and knife show. What was interesting was how at the end the announcer in the commercial shouted out, “Kid’s under 12 free!”
How lucky for the single dad looking for something to do on his child custody Saturday. A nice low budget outing. “Hey kids, let’s go to the gun and knife show!”
I suppose with the populist revolution brewing and all, it’s a good idea. And it’s long been a tradition in our country for kids, especially boys, to emulate fighting and war and suchlike with their toys. I say boys because I don’t remember seeing a Desert Camo Barbie.
But that has problems. The other day I saw two young fellows on bicycles racing around a fairly congested street. They were ignoring the bike lanes and darting across traffic, obviously engaged in a heedless game of chase, dodging obstacles and so on.
They were wearing bike helmets. Sort of. Now I know it’s important to have a helmet a kid will actually wear. So plastering a bright orange daisy decal on it is probably not the answer.
Still, I think it’s a bad idea to have a bicycle helmet done up in camo. I mean, the basic point on a bicycle is to be seen. The problem is exacerbated because most of the boys also wear camo clothes. And that, while making for a good game of guerilla warfare, increases the risk when they start biking around blind corners in neighborhoods.
Maybe skip the camo clothes and the problem disappears. Along with their camouflaged head. It would definitely get a motorist’s attention to apparently be seeing a headless bicyclist.
On his new Ichabod Crane BMX, perhaps?
America, ya gotta love it.

Monday, October 25, 2010

1361 Imm-security

There are three big reasons we had a deep recession rather than a full-blown depression this time around: Social Security, Medicare and Unemployment Insurance. None was in place during the great Depression. Consequently, liquid money completely evaporated from circulating through our economy.
Can you say clot?
Now one of them is in serious trouble. Social Security ain’t so secure, and it’s partly because neither are our borders.
Here’s why. Social Security was founded on a couple of shaky assumptions. First off, the government trusted the life insurance industry to give them accurate mortality tables. Little did they know the life insurance industry was at the time gouging the public by basing those tables on figures from WWI and The Civil War.
Great for them, it meant higher premiums, but bad for the Feds, as it meant they expected people to die quicker. So if you pay Social Security tax all your life, your actual amount paid in, plus interest, would carry you to about age 75.
Um, most retired Americans live to 85 or longer.
That’s actually okay if the other assumption was better. That there would always be lots more younger folk paying in than older folk drawing out. Bad assumption.
Can you say baby boom bulge?
Add to that the last problem the na├»ve Feds never counted on— outsourcing. Remember all those profit-enhancing jobs American companies sent overseas? That cheap labor isn’t paying into Social Security.
Nor are illegal immigrants in the US.
So here’s the controversial solution. Especially to all the cranky anti-immigrant oldsters currently living past their contribution and actually on the government dole. The only way to save Social Security is to give illegals amnesty.
And get a huge windfall as they start paying in.
Call it immigrant in-sourcing. Or imm-sourcing.
Or imm-security...
America, ya gotta love it.

Friday, October 22, 2010

1360 Red and Blue Tarp

I read an interesting headline the other day. It said, “Stock Market Up as Wall Street Expects More Government Spending.”
Interesting, because I think it’s fair to assume Wall Street has more Republicans than Democrats. And the current run-up to the election has the Republicans devoting a lot of lip service to the evils of government spending.
How interesting that as business people they actually like the idea.
The enthusiasm was caused by, of all things, a poor job report. Wall Street expects the government to spend more stimulus bucks, and that means more bucks for them. Notably, the job report also showed many private sector jobs being created. The only thing that continued to hold the job report down was all the state and federal government jobs that had been lost due to budget cuts.
So, let me get this straight, the government is shrinking as it spends more money on the private sector to create jobs.
Sounds like a Republican campaign promise to me. And a good time for a celebratory party. Tea, anyone?
Also, the most recent news about the supposedly horrible TARP program is good—it worked. Of the 700 billion dollars spent—I should say lent—to stave off both the total collapse of our economy and the worst depression ever as too-big-to-fail financial institutions failed, almost all of it has been paid back. The government stands to lose a maximum of 50 billion dollars and may not even lose that if AIG comes through as promised.
The TARP program, by the way, was one of the last bipartisan things congress has done. And gee-whiz it worked. Government managed to save business from its own excesses, save the economy, and may actually turn a profit.
Bipartisanship can work.
America, ya gotta love it.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

1359 Licked Chicken

Once upon a time, there were a bunch of chickens. Chickens are pretty good at producing things, like eggs and stuff, but they’re not known for their depth of intellect. And they scare easy.
So when word came down about some hawks coming to kill and eat them the chickens were in dire straits. Fortunately for them, a nice fox came along and they very happily handed over the henhouse to him. Little did they suspect he was the one who started the hawk rumor, but hey, they were chickens.
The fox built up the henhouse pretty good. There were certainly more places to lay eggs. And more comfortable too. Funny, they seemed to lose an egg now and then, but after all it was now a pretty big henhouse, even if the walls seemed a little flimsy, more like a house of cards, so it was pretty easy to misplace an egg.
The fox had a solution for that too. Let him hold their nest-eggs so they wouldn’t lose them anymore. He had a special nest-egg holder that he had built on the bank near the street wall.
As I said, it was a pretty big henhouse.
Everybody was pretty happy with this arrangement. Until one day, Chicken Little went into the wall street area and took a peak at the nest egg holder. Lo and behold all the eggs were gone. Nothing there but empty shells.
Chicken Little told the other chickens, the sky fell, the flimsy henhouse collapsed, and the fox ran away.
The chickens tried to rebuild the henhouse for two years and then gave up in fear and frustration. So they had a tea party and invited the fox back.
Henhouse building was hard. What they really liked was watching the fox’s TV.
America, ya gotta love it.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

1358 Tax-cutting Labor

Let me say first off, I am totally against fiscal irresponsibility and government waste. As a businessperson, I am often exhausted by regulatory rigamorole. But I also realize there’s a place for government. I especially realize it when I try to get my fellow homeowners in my homeowners’ association to pool our resources to pull scotch-broom or something.
That’s why I’m pretty sure without government I wouldn’t be driving on a very nice road to get into my business every day.
So when I heard one of my fellow businessmen say something to another at a trade show the other day I had to take notice. He said, “We all know government never did anything right.”
One might point to the massive deregulated economic crater that took place in the fall of 2008 and be comfortable in asserting, “We all know private industry never did anything right.” The truth is, there’s good and bad, and it’s up to everyone to improve both sides.
It’s like the whole illegal immigrant thing. We hear how both Republican and Democrat politicians are getting caught with their pants down about it. Possibly because their illegal Salvadoran house helper was in the back room pressing and cleaning those formerly lily-white pants.
Sure, our borders are porous, and government should do something about that. But someone in private industry is paying these folks. And a group of those someones is paying off the lobbyists that are making sure the immigration crackdowns usually don’t happen till after harvest season.
The private agricultural industrialists are also contributing to the decline in our Social Security revenue base. When was the last time a strawberry farmer paid and deducted social security tax from an undocumented worker?
Then again, when was the last time you enjoyed that cheap strawberry?
America, ya gotta love it.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

1357 Poor-cent

The other day I picked up one of those power-bar breakfast bar thingies and read on it that it now had “20% more nuts per bar.” Wow, I thought, that’s cool, how did they do that in these strained economic times?
When I took it home, I compared it to an old one I had in my cupboard and found the answer. The new bar itself was about 20% smaller. A simple formula for profit. Reduce the size of the bar, keep the same amount of nuts, charge the same amount, say there are 20% more nuts per bar.
That’s the magic and the peril of using percentages. And also why I say percentages are why the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Poor-centages as it were.
Here’s why. Inflation hits. Your breakfast bar goes up 5%. Let’s say it was a dollar, now it’s $1.05. You and everybody you work with gets a 4% raise. You were making $1.00 an hour, now you’re making $1.04. Your boss was making $10 an hour. He’s gets $10.40. After he buys the new breakfast bar, he’s still got 35 cents. Each time you buy one, you lose a penny. That the trap.
It’s okay to base inflation on percentages. But not the Cost Of Living Adjustments. COLAs don’t factor in the difference in real cost of goods to real amounts of earning. If we all made the same amount, no problem. But we don’t.
This becomes particularly worrisome when the economy as a whole shrinks drastically. It can bring about a little crazy revolutionary behavior. Because the bar is getting smaller and the nuts that are still in it are starting to get cramped.
And cramped nuts can get a little testy.
America, ya gotta love it.

Monday, October 18, 2010

1356 Toasted Skin

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the Wifi-enabled coffee shop. Watch out for your laptop.
There have been all sorts of aliments we’ve had to endure from computer technology, but never anything quite like this. TSS. Toasted Skin Syndrome. That’s right. Your laptop may make you a s’more.
It used to be eyestrain from sitting too close to the CRT. Then it was carpal tunnel syndrome from un-ergonomic keyboards and too much mouse clicking. Then it was neck and back strain from bad posture. A host of medical ailments unleashed on the ever computer dependent public.
Computers fueled a veritable surge in the economy from eye doctor, orthopedist, chiropractor, and massage therapist fees. And now dermatologists are about to cash in too, with Toasted Skin Syndrome.
TSS can happen to people who actually use a laptop—on their laptop. The low-level heat eventually affects the dermis and causes a darkening discoloration. Some people get an overall darkening. Some people get streaks or a criss-cross pattern. One doctor reported a net-like pattern.
Or possibly web-like.
TSS is technically called “erythema ab igne,” from the Latin “redness from fire.” It’s been documented in bakers, glass blowers, and even people who gather often at a central heating source for warmth. I just think it’s another unexpected consequence of our overdependence on technology.
What an interesting thing. First computers gave us spam, then bacn. Now we’re getting toast. I was just going for the information super-highway, who would have expected breakfast.
But I think the coolest thing about toasted skin syndrome is that now I bet we’ll get one of those weird consumer warnings to fend off lawsuits.
“Caution: Do not use laptop on laptop.”
America, ya gotta love it.

Friday, October 15, 2010

1355 Pay to Party

I read this article the other day about a Tea Party convention in Kentucky. The speaker at the rally railed about cutting big government down and lowering taxes.
But the reporter noticed a lot of folks cheering in the audience were on those little motorized scooters. Turns out they’re pretty easy to get—from Medicare. It also turns out many of the folks may have been better off walking.
Some folks really need them to be sure. But there’s others who should take a hike.
Another example of government ineptitude and personal greed combining for excess spending. The cheerers were right. We do need to cut spending. But they probably wouldn’t want the spending cut on their scooters.
That seems to be the refrain. Cut my taxes, and cut spending, but make sure you cut spending on someone else.
Well maybe it’s time the Tea Party put its money where its mouth is. I read another statistic. Last year the Bureau of Public Debt received $3.1 Million in voluntary gifts from Americans wanting to help retire the 13.4 trillion dollar debt. Cool! Let’s follow their inspiration.
Tea Partiers unite! Let’s voluntarily give up our Social Security. And our Medicare. Those are just socialist things anyhow. And while we’re at it, let’s stop the two wars and cut the defense budget back to the size of the education budget. There’s another big chunk of big government spending right there.
Crazy, you say? Of course it is. Just like pretending solving our problems and cutting the budget is as easy as cutting crumpets at a tea party.
Still, I do like the idea of giving up Social Security on purpose.
But somehow I don’t think your average tea partier would embrace the term “voluntary submission”...
America, ya gotta love it

Thursday, October 14, 2010

1354 Handlin’ Pans

Sometimes the meanings and origins of words are obscure. The other day I used the term “blue” to describe a bit of literature that was a tad raunchy. I said it was a “little blue.” The person I said it to had never heard that description.
Maybe it’s falling out of favor. “Cursing a blue streak” has been replaced by people from blue states. Or feeling the blues. So to clarify: At one time, “blue” humor was what you’d expect from late-night comics in Las Vegas.
I recently had someone ask me where the word “panhandler” comes from. So I looked it up in the online etymology dictionary. It said the word “panhandle,” as a geographic description, goes back to 1856, to describe part of Virginia. Funny, I’ve never heard of the Virginia panhandle.
Most of us unimaginative folks, looking at states that supposedly have panhandles, including West Virginia, Florida, Alaska, Idaho, Texas and Oklahoma, would agree Oklahoma is the most panhandly of them all.
Interestingly, the term “panhandler,” meaning beggar, goes even further back, to 1849, perhaps, as the etymology dictionary speculates, “from the act of holding out ones arm like the handle of a pan.”
I don’t know. I don’t think the term “panhandler” really caught on until a bunch of them came west after the dust bowl. It was the Grapes-of-Wrath folks escaping the drought and depression that really brought begging up to national proportions. And they were from where? The Oklahoma “panhandle.” Ergo, they were “panhandlers.” Dumb hicks were known as okeys and poor beggars without a social safety net were called panhandlers.
Panhandlers also used blue language.
Funny…Oklahoma isn’t a blue state.
But many Oklahomans have dogs named Blue.
I wonder what that means...
America, ya gotta love it.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

1353 Non-Segway

The other day we were standing around the studio talking and one of the guys said, “Speaking of baseball, did you hear the guy who owns Segway a Segway accident?”
I said, “Man, that was a bad Segway.”
The story was he was at the seashore on a trail close to a cliff and somehow lost control. Segway was a landmark transportation device and now it’s causing a landmark legal issue. When the owner of a company dies from one of his own products, whom does his family sue?
Another bad segue: I was looking at the new Ford Flex the other day and I said to myself, “What does that remind me of?” That’s when a Mini-Cooper drove by. Aha. The Ford Flex looks amazingly like an overgrown Mini-Cooper. A Maxi-Cooper. Maybe they’ll bring one out with wings.
Another bad segue: Or lack thereof. I was watching a biopic the other day and the actor looked a lot like the guy he was playing, and they were both pretty famous—Joaquin Phoenix playing Johnny Cash or something.
And I thought, I like that. I have some other ideas. How about original MTV VJ Nina Blackwood, playing the title role in the Stevie Nicks story? Or Ken Berry in the Bill Bixby story.
No segue to this thought either: I had a friend tell me he was getting a shingles shot. He said older folks who had chickenpox when they were kids were susceptible to shingles. He couldn’t get his shot that day because they were out of shingles shot serum. He told me the closest they had any was in Westport.
So how much shingle serum should someone shoot down by the seashore?
Too much, and shortly afterwards you might shiver on a shaky Segway.
America, ya gotta love it.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

1352 R2-D3

There’s been a lot of talk recently about the new 3-D TV. Some folks are ready for it. Some aren’t. From those who have actually seen it in action the reports are that its realism really depends a lot on your position in the room. You have to be sitting in the sweet spot.
Otherwise your 3-D experience is like Princess Leia from a broken R2-D2.
The big question is, will they make 3-D better or have they reached the limits of physics? If so, in order to have group 3-D we may have to change the positioning of furniture in our family room. The confluence of 3-D and Feng Shui, is this a great country or what?
A regular melting pot; 3-D technology dreamed up by the West, Feng Shui energy positioning from the East. Plop down Barcolounger enjoyment from the West and all the technology actually manufactured in the East.
So now it opens up the question of what you’d like to see cavorting around in the center of your sweet spot.
Some folks are anxiously awaiting 3-D renditions of movies from the sexy sixties, when lots of nudity and swearing abounded.
I don’t know. I don’t think I’m ready for Bob Carol Ted and Alice fussing and cussing on my coffee table. Or having someone drop in for a surprise visit while Midnight Cowboy is playing. Everybody’s talking indeed.
But I can visualize a whole new emergence of appreciation for Monty Python. The Black Knight scene would certainly encourage me to clean up the family room afterwards.
And they’ll redo Star Wars of course. Can’t wait for that.
So will the 3-D shot of Princess Leia projecting out of R2-D2 now be in 6-D?
America, ya gotta love it.

Monday, October 11, 2010

1351 Wonderful Words

Words are so cool. I love the way they can convey so much, and often on so many different levels than what you get on the surface.
Take the word workaholic. It’s a made up word. Derived from alcoholic. On the surface, it means someone who is addicted to work. How can they tell? Maybe the person is addicted to the money he or she gets from work. But we don’t hear of coinoholics or dollaholics.
Still, “workaholic” has a nice ring and cadence to it. And it makes it easy to say that when you have a vacation for a workaholic it’s a workaholiday.
Or take the word dud. Dud is almost onomatopoetic. One of those words that sound like what it describes, like sssssnake or buzz, or yogurt. A dud is a disappointment. Or something that fails to ignite. Or something that just plain fails. So why would you name a candy you wanted to have succeed and make lots of money off of, “milk duds”?
Yeah, I’m eating a dud.
Sounds so appetizing.
Some words raise expectations. “3-D” is like that. I don’t even know if 3-D is properly a word. But since it conveys meaning I suppose we’ll have to let it in. When you hear 3-D you expect some new technology that jumps out at you.
And like the colorizing binge of the 80s, when Ted Turner said he was going to use technology to remake all the old black and white pictures, you hear now that they’re thinking of doing the same thing with the 2-D back log.
I don’t know. I’m not really ready for Bridges of Madison County 3-D. Somehow the story of a horny cornhusker and a rutting shutterbug is better described with the word “two-dimensional.”
America, ya gotta love it.

Friday, October 08, 2010

1350 Rational Ratios

There’s this big political movement starting. The moderation movement. The 70% of us people in the middle of modern political discourse are fighting for a voice.
Comic newscasters Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert are holding “Restore Sanity” and “Keep the Fear Alive” rallies in Washington DC. Even more importantly, independent figures like New York’s Mayor Bloomberg are throwing weight—and money—behind centrist candidates across the US.
Good luck. Moderation doesn’t sell newspapers or generate passionate blogs. In this day of vituperation and bloviation, quiet, reasoned arguments have no place. Which would you rather watch, gladiators coming at each other with flaming swords—or the college debate team?
Statistics show how conflicted we are. The big Tea Party mantra is for less government and less taxes. I’d like that too. And perhaps a magic carpet ride and an end to any conflict in Afghanistan.
But the figures on the ground show different. Nearly 50% of our population receives some form of government assistance—Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, unemployment insurance, food stamps. About 45% of adults pay no income taxes at all. But you hear people on Medicare railing against the new healthcare law. You see old Tea Partiers on Social Security with nothing better to do manning rallies decrying big government. The same one that’s paying their check.
So where’s the reason? Can we think this through? It’s mighty complex, and we’ll probably have to pay higher taxes. Everyone.
Even the not-so-rational 25% of our population that still believes the world literally started 6014 years ago.
Which it did in a way. The world as we know it. Because that’s actually about the time the first villagers quite reasonably pooled their resources and taxed themselves to fix the first pothole.
And civil-ization was born.
America, ya gotta love it.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

1349 Sim-i-luck

So did you ever wonder? What happened to Oral-A? We hear a lot about the Oral-B toothbrush, but I never remember hearing about Oral-A. And I’ve seen a ton of different Oral-Bs, so I don’t think we’re going to be hearing from Oral-C any time soon.
But it still makes you wonder. We get used to products improving with time and getting different higher designations. Windows 95, 98, and, um, 7. Oh sure, we get an occasional Millennium debacle but things usually get better.
So one would assume an Oral-A existed. And for some reason was scrapped. An industrial accident perhaps. The plastic chemistry messed up so they had millions of toothbrushes breaking into shards in unsuspecting cheeks. Or brushes contaminated with salmonella, or possibly rat hairs. Yum, nothing like a vigorous gum massage with rat hair.
It could happen. Look at poor Similac. Talk about a lack of sim-i-luck. Having to recall millions of portions of baby formula because they’re contaminated with beetles and beetle larvae. (Glad the contamination process caught the beetles in the middle of their reproductive cycle.)
But hey, why the panic? Babies will eat anything. They crawl over some pretty messy territory and they’re always putting stuff in their mouths. I’m sure they’ve ingested more than one beetle leg.
Besides, insect eating has a long and storied tradition. Lots of cultures eat crickets and grasshoppers and beetles. And you don’t want to miss a big plate of African grubworm larvae.
Yum...just like gnocchi.
And when was the last time you compared the anatomical similarities of a lobster and a cockroach? We eat insects of the sea on a regular basis¾crabs, shrimp, lobster.
So don’t recall, re-label.
How about Similac of the Sea?
America, ya gotta love it.

1348 Sign Age

I love going around the area and looking at real weird stuff. It makes you wonder why other weird stuff has never actually happened. It’s so thin a line...
Like I was driving on the recently redone Boulevard Road. Always a weird place anyhow...
“I live on Boulevard Road.”
“Oh yeah, I live on Street Avenue.”
In any event, they have this public art on the recently constructed roundabout. And the art looks not unlike something you would expect to see on Easter Island, or some Polynesian atoll. Like the stuff they once used to decorate 60s beachcomber lounges. Tiki torches and such like.
With all the Native Salish art in the region, you had to kind of wonder. What’s with this Tiki Tacky roundabout?
Not long after that, I was on a tour of the new LOTT sewage treatment plant. LOTT has been renamed “LOTT Clean Water Alliance.” Much better visual than solid waste filtering. But while I was on the tour, up on the fourth floor I noticed one of those emergency signs telling you which way to go in case of fire or earthquake. And it was titled “Evacuation Route.”
Seemed appropriate somehow. Hope they don’t get hit by an asteroid.
Or how about the health club grand opening sign. It offered free coffee and donuts. Now that’s a good idea. Free doughnuts at a health club. Talk about job security.
Or the town of Forks. Their claim to fame is they have more gray and rainy days than just about anyone else does. That’s why vampires can live there. So I suggest a new sign on the way into town, and if you’ve ever been there, you’ll have to agree.
Forks, Where the Sun Don’t Shine.
America, ya gotta love it.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

1347 E-Secure

Things are tough in the world of e-security these days. And there’s no easy cure. Hackers are just too dang smart. I mean heck, the other day they even hacked into Twitter.
The world is a pretty scary place when someone starts stealing stuff from something called Twitter. I hope it’s not the means to send viciously short messages. It puts the fear of God into you to imagine the havoc one could wreak sending out false tweets.
I suppose on the one hand, it’s comforting to know our youngsters aren’t bound by the bonds of propriety and are exercising the creativity to take the computer age to the next level. But it’s even more discomfiting to realize the same vandalism and lack of respect that leads to graffiti tagging underlays the amoral urge to hack.
And it’s not just regular hacking. It’s proactive phishing too. The other day a friend of mine got a call from what was apparently a woman from India. At least that’s what she sounded like. She proceeded to try to find out about my friend’s computer.
“What operating system of Microsoft do you have on your computer? Is it currently running? Then you better catch it...”
That last part was a joke. It wasn’t the old is-your-refrigerator-running do-you-have-Prince-Albert-in-the-can prank. It was a real attempt to take over someone’s computer using a fake technical diagnostic interview.
Man, the economy really has gotten bad. Now they’re outsourcing our phishing.
Things are getting crazy on the personal front too. Thank goodness I’m lucky. I had my identity stolen. But fortunately for me the guy pays his bills on time. My credit rating has actually improved.
And, bonus, he gets all my hate email.
America, ya gotta love it.

Monday, October 04, 2010

1346 Blog Psych

We live in an age where instantaneous reactions are polluting the solution of our common good. I’m talking about blogging. And more importantly the way blog psychology leads to electronic mob psychology. Witness the recent furor created by one insignificant idiot who proclaimed “Koran burning” day.
The guy is an off-kilter pastor in an obscure town with a congregation of less than 50 and yet he was suddenly king of the blogosphere¾and the world. Because the blogs picked up on his zany posturings, the news media felt they had to follow in lock-step, and pretty soon there were riots in Pakistan as fundamentalist Muslims felt threatened by American Islamo-phobia.
As a semi-blogger myself, I hope I’m not contributing to handing the villagers pitchforks.
It’s the instantaneous nature of things on the internet that helps cause the problem. No matter the subject, there are instantly legions of folks shooting off their opinionated mouths about it.
They are often uninformed opinions, and worse, those opinions become the information upon which other uniformed and unthought-out opinions are based. Blog psychology is mob psychology. We need to remember those old rules our elders taught us. Count to ten. Take a deep breath.
Come on children. It’s not always right to act on your first reaction. That’s why we have a brain, and with it, one would hope, civility and thoughtfulness. Neither of which is common in mob rule.
Just because the bloggers and the media solicit your instant reaction, and just because “comments” sections allow you to spout off, it doesn’t mean you have to say something some reflection would cause you to regret later.
Count to ten. Take a deep breath.
Put down that burning torch.
Remember, when it comes to mob rule, it takes a village to make an idiot.
America, ya gotta love it.

Friday, October 01, 2010

1345 Undepressing

I know it doesn’t feel like it now. But that mild stimulation you’re about to feel? They’re because the recession is over. Not only that, the non-partisan experts say it’s been over since June of 2009.
Of course that means one thing. The political parties are fighting over whether it’s over or not. And who gets the credit or blame in time for the elections.
If it’s over, Democrat fiscal policy and stimulus worked. If it’s not over, Republican’s insistence that doing Democratic something is worse than doing Republican nothing is right.
Hell no, let the natural economy flow.
The funny thing is, they are both pointing to figures both of them pointed the opposite way at last recession—GDP vs Employment. The recession of 2001 was similar to the current one because the moment the experts called as the low point and GDP turnaround was way behind job figures actually going up.
In the Republican recession that came after the Clinton administration tech bubble burst, job figures took an amazing 19 months to turn around after the recession was over. This despite Bush tax cuts.
In the Democratic recession after the blowout of the unregulated banking mortgage bubble of the Bush administration, job figures only took 15 months to turn around after the low point turnaround call.
At least the stock market is giddy. Because the economy, by every other metric, has been slowly improving since June of 2009, about the time the stimulus money kicked in.
Still, it hasn’t been all that stimulating for the rest of us. It’s been a far from vigorous recovery. Tepid as lukewarm tea.
How does that song go? Mildly happy sort of days are kind of here again…
America, ya gotta love it.