June 30, 2007
The recent attention given to adulterated toothpaste, poisoned pet food, plywood and defective tires manufactured in China has led to some media hysteria about poorly-regulated Chinese quality controls but little concern in terms of the general population. People are still shopping at Wal-Mart.
Not that the U.S. hasn’t been the bastion of quality perfection, either, but in our xenophobia we will naturally magnify the problems that other countries have out of proportion to our own. This hasn’t yet driven us back to purchasing domestic-only products. When was the last time, in fact, that “Made in the USA” carried any real weight?
It is noteworthy that U.S. interdiction (in the form of placing blame) ends with the importer, and that Chinese companies are under no obligation to pay for any recalls of any kind. I doubt, for instance, that the importer of all those defective Chinese tires will survive any lawsuits; the company is just too small to handle either the recall or the inevitable legal actions.
This will be an interesting subject to follow. Over time, Chinese quality control measures will likely improve because the Chinese have too much to lose should they be regarded as poorly-regulated with respect to Western standards. I highly expect China to follow in the footsteps of Japan, a country whose attention to manufacturing quality is well-established. In the interim, however, this may be an incentive for a few entrepreneurial types to move some types of manufacturing back onto U.S. soil.
June 30, 2007
What’s got at least one capital letter, one lower-case letter and one number in it?
My password. In fact, all of them of late. As password protection becomes an absolute necessity, most of the computer accounts that I access require what are called strong passwords: No formal names, no dictionary words, no common expressions. My login at my own company is this 13-letter mix of upper and lower case, numbers and a punctuation mark thrown in for good measure.
Hindsight being 20-20, it would have served Microsoft and every financial institution well to have demanded strong passwords from the beginning of the computer revolution, as by now we would be all accustomed to it. As it is, however, the biggest flaw in all of this is our inability to remember more than perhaps two or three strong passwords.
I have many passwords on various accounts, so hence, I have to write them down someplace.
Last week my company moved to a new building. I can’t for the life of me find that sheet of paper.
June 25, 2007
Virgil’s Micro Brewed.
Decent flavor, only lightly carbonated, doesn’t burn when it goes down. I had to drink two bottles because the first one wasn’t enough.
June 25, 2007
Another cloudless day.
Are we in Western New York? If this is what global warming is going to do to the area, then bring it on!
I cannot recall a more cloudless spring and summer like the one we are having this year. I want to quit my job, take the summer off and start in again maybe in the Fall. This weather is just too good to pass up.
Tomorrow it will be 90. I will not last past lunch in my office.
June 24, 2007
Hollywood sex and glamour drives an industry that not only knows media penetration, it defines media penetration. The glamour of sex is apparent not only in a relatively liberal country like the U.S. but even in extremely conservative countries like Afghanistan, where child prostitution and pornography can be found with relative ease, and where Chinese restaurants are utilized as fronts for Chinese prostitutes. Much of the time the West is blamed for bringing its decadence to other parts of the world. But really, as long as there is testosterone there will be sexual desire. The availability of film just helps it along.
Back to Hollywood. Without Hollywood, as a society we would still be curious about sex, curious about drugs, and curious about violence. Hollywood’s exposition of our seamy underside, however, has really pushed the envelope to the point where the line between acceptable and aberrant behavior has become terribly blurred. How many killings and implied sex scenes per night do we average today on television? I love to laugh over a sexual reference, but when Scrubs is on Comedy Central at 7:00 I have to wonder how many kids who aren’t old enough to grasp the concept get the wrong impression about relationships.
And in the end it’s relationships that I’m worried about. Long-term ones seem to be going to hell in a hand basket.
So what came first: Our sexual freedom or Hollywood’s image of it?
June 24, 2007
Why do people get so crazy with baby names? Why are they getting crazier? This recent article in the Wall Street Journal makes me think that some prospective parents are on the road to neurosis.
It seems a bit over the top to pay “specialists” by the hour to come up with an appropriate pick list of names to choose from.
I can’t wait to find out what these same parents will do for their kid’s Kindergarten graduation or 18th birthday. Some people have way too much disposable income.
June 24, 2007
If you have, call the nearest highway or parks department and have them poison it. It’s Giant Hogweed. It’ll grow over 8 feet tall, and the sap in its stalk reacts with sunlight on your skin to cause bad cases of photo-dermatitis. It’s a really bad plant; the skin disfiguration from it lasts years. The clusters of white flowers are each about a foot across. It’s a big plant.
It’s also one more example of an invasive species. This particular plant was imported from Asia as an ornamental, and like many foreign invaders, spread way beyond what was anticipated. It is a public health hazard.
There’s some growing just off the road within a few hundred yards of my house. I called the town to hopefully get rid of it by tomorrow, before any kids get into it.
June 22, 2007
There’s been enough commentary on the Canal Side / Bass Pro controversy to indicate that someone will be completely dissatisfied with whatever finally gets built.
So build the damn thing. Except for the plot of land containing Bass Pro.
Nothing changes Canal Side if you start building today, except for the start of a Bass Pro store. The street layout is essentially the same, the (historically irrelevant) park still gets built and *most* of the land remains available for development by whatever market forces (free or otherwise) rise up to build there. And when the civil suits over that plot of land are finally done, Bass Pro will or won’t be able to build on their cherished piece of property. Either way, at least the rest of the Canal Side can get started.
So do it.
I’m dismayed that Canal Side has become an all-or-none issue.
June 21, 2007
President Bush has an interesting quote in today’s Buffalo News: “Destroying human life in the hopes of saving human life is not ethical, and it is not the only option before us.” The President is, of course, talking about stem cell research.
It is also poignantly ironic given his zeal shown for the war in Iraq.
June 20, 2007
I’m sure that Buffalo Pundit, Buffalo Rising and BuffaloGeek, along with several other bloggers, will have covered Wednesday night’s Bass Pros and Cons debate at Canisius College. Since they’ll probably get into the guts of the debate I’m not going to bother writing about that. Rather, just a few short observations:
- I think the panelists were all at different debates. Was this about Bass Pro? Or the Inner Harbor? Or Central Wharf? Or Erie Canal? Or bad government? Or high taxes? Or 47 years of bureaucratic Authorities? The debate needed a focus and didn’t find one.
- Far too many long-winded answers to far too few questions.
- Moderator Stefan Mychajliw struggled to control the animals in the zoo.
Here’s my take on the panelists.
- Scott Fisher – Lots of emotion, not good with the historical details and very loose with the facts. Spoke in generalities. Fisher’s “historical” argument is so weak that I think the only reason he’s still pushing it is because he’s been barreling on his train for so long, he can no longer get off without hurting himself.
- Jim Ostrowski – Free markets, not government subsidies. Thoughtful, not emotional. Seems to like China way to much. He’s maybe one of them closet free-market communists.
- Larry Quinn – Most knowledgeable and thoughtful or at least came across that way. Like Ostrowski, he kept his emotions out of it. Of course, knowledge and thoughtfulness still don’t count for much in Buffalo.
- Carl Paladino. Anecdotal and emotional. Lots of complaints about mistakes of the past and the people who made them. Winner of the “Most Obtuse Debater” award. Never did get to the point – any point.
If these guys were on Celebrity Deathmatch, Quinn would have won unless Fisher were able to tie an anchor around his neck and drown him in the Erie Canal.
June 20, 2007
So Homeland Security’s computer networks are being hacked at a rate that could choke a horse. Airport screening hasn’t been going very well, either. There are still tens of thousands of people living in FEMA trailers two years after Katrina hit, and the levees aren’t fixed. The first responder communications problems that New York City experienced after 9/11 still haven’t been resolved. And DHS is demanding that passports be used by any U.S. citizen traveling to Canada, even though none of the recent eventful border crossings would have been prevented by this requirement.
Is there anything that this department can do with any degree of competence?
Security agencies need to be nimble; they need to be able to react in a moment to the changing winds. DHS is anything but nimble. They plod along until a national crisis occurs or terrorist plot du jour is discovered, and then institute knee-jerk policies in the face of sudden media attention and White House demands.
DHS is a great example of how a bloated bureaucracy only steps on itself trying to do a job. Creation of the DHS was the result of the government believing that the statement “We’re from the government; we’re here to help” is not an oxymoronic expression.
My guess at future happenings: Before he leaves office President Bush will be present Michael Chertoff with the Medal of Freedom for the superb job he’s been doing.
June 19, 2007
There’s more sex, and more violent events on television than there is in real life, right? I mean, the daily lives of TV characters are exposed to a seamier underside, much more often, than the average citizen, aren’t they? How many references to sex or sexual relations do we get in an evening? Lots, actually; the number has doubled since 1998.
It begs the question about cause and effect: Is the exposure to the hairy edge of morality and ethics caused by Hollywood’s attention to it, or does Hollywood show more to society because more of society is moving to that edge?
We keep pushing the sex and drugs and violence envelope to a younger age. I would not want to be the parent of a 14-year-old girl. It must be a very hard task.
June 18, 2007
I just blew off a beautiful June afternoon and evening to justify why my 2005 tax return is correct, and that I do not owe the IRS $1,700 in back payments and interest.
This is my very first tax audit ever. Since I do my taxes using Turbo Tax I also have very detailed records of exactly what got entered on the return. Turbo Tax is great when it comes to worksheets, and I highly recommend it for anyone who’s even a little adept with a computer. And unless the IRS changed the rules on the tax-free 529 college funds I believe that my return was correctly prepared. Tax preparation is needlessly complex and error-prone, but that’s not the IRS’ fault; they’re just doing their jobs. We need a better tax system.
So far, work on the audit has only taken five hours of my life. My next step is to mail back my response and await the inevitable phone call from some agent, requesting a date during which we can meet to go over my tax return in its entirety.
I can’t wait.
June 17, 2007
My 18-year-old stopped going to church. He hasn’t really been interested nor inspired by our priests or the Mass in a long time. It has not been much of a spiritual experience for him.
And of late, for me neither. Not that it has diminished my faith in God; it’s just that instead of a celebration I feel like I’m attending a dirge. It doesn’t help that our church has traditionally upheld the more solemn, traditional Catholic Mass – to the point where, excepting perhaps an occasional Picardy third, virtually all selected hymns are in a minor key. It doesn’t help that when those rare celebratory hymns are played I get a feeling of embarrassment at the hand-clapping.
It’s been great that the Catholic church has been slow to change with society, as the Church’s foundation is its strength and source of longevity. Changing my own impression of the Church might be as easy as changing which one I go to, but with a new priest coming on board I’m holding out for perhaps new traditions to start right where I’ve been for the last 15 years.
Is it for churches like mine that so many people have left to find better use of their time on Sunday mornings?
June 17, 2007
Ronco filed for bankruptcy. According to today’s Buffalo News, Ronco just isn’t selling enough Veg-O-Matics and Ronco knives (can’t compete with Ginsu, I guess) to support the costs to manufacture and advertise them. They should’ve gotten some MySpace friends and gone after the kids who needed to buy something for mom and dad.
June 17, 2007
Dunkin’ Donuts is definitely taking over. In some parts of the Northeast there is a shop on almost every other corner. They are springing up like Baptist churches in Georgia. If you Google Dunkin Donuts Warwick, RI, for example, you’ll get maps showing 20 of them within a 2-mile radius. Starbucks still has more stores nationally, but it’s only a matter of time before the Dunk overtakes it.
Around Western New York, the Dunk’s only real competition is Tim Hortons, with Starbucks probably running third in popularity with the crowds I hang out with. Most of my acquaintances might argue about whether or not Dunk coffee is better than Hortons, but pretty much everyone agrees that Starbucks just doesn’t cut it when it comes to plain old Joe.
I understand that McDonalds also makes really good coffee. I need to make a mental note to remember to try it some day.
June 15, 2007
Over the next few weekends various school districts will hold the Relay for Life, a walking event to raise money for cancer research.
If you get the chance, head down to your school and support the kids. Our school district’s was tonight, and the kids will walk until dawn. It was a festive atmosphere, with bands, a small carnival, lots of food, jugglers, cross-dressers and even a hot air balloon. And lots of
kids people walking the track.
Yet one more great Friday evening in Western New York.
June 15, 2007
Like the abortion controversy, gay marriage is one of those issues that 10% feel strongly one way, 10% the other way and 80% just wish it would go away.
I cannot get excited about gay marriage, pro or con. To those who call it an abomination, I say: Clean up your own act, first. There is something terribly wrong when half of all marriages end in divorce, and I don’t think it has anything to do with gays. To those who pursue gay marriage with militant zeal, I say: Try taking the high road and work on strengthening the relationships among all domestic partnerships. Show by example, and the arguments against gay marriage will fall like a house of cards.
To the other 80%, which includes me, it’s like: Ho hum. Don’t we have more important things to get riled up about? I find it discomforting that our society has more of a problem with gay marriage than our society does about poverty.
And for God’s sake, stop trying to label queers as child molesters. Nothing could be further from the truth.
June 15, 2007
At the conference that I attended this past week in Long Island, the topic of Resveritrol came up. Resveritrol – which is found in red wine – is being touted as a potential fountain of youth. It belongs to a family of compounds that appear to increase the expression of SIR2, a gene implicated in the suppression of age-related diseases. The result – potentially – is longer life.
The speaker made the comment “Future drugs that enhance SIR2 expression, like Resveritrol, could increase the average human lifespan by 50%, from 80 years to 120”. The attendees were asked to think about what we could do with 40 extra healthy years of life.
My thoughts focused on the application of anti-aging medicine to a select group or nation. Who decides who gets this type of drug, anyone who wants it (that would be just about everyone, certainly)? What if it’s expensive? Do only the wealthy get it? Or will society rise up against the wealthy and demand that such a drug be federally subsidized so that all can get access to it? Would such a drug be restricted to wealthy nations only or do all nations get access to the drug?
And what would 40 extra years of life do to the retirement system most have come to rely on (I think it’s called “Social Security”)? What about the concomitant growth in population because of a suddenly reduced mortality rate?
We have already divided drug delivery around the world into more or less have and have not groups, with the poor, and poor countries, getting the orts. As newer and better wonder drugs get invented, at what point does the proletariat uprising begin?
June 15, 2007
Prediction is very difficult, especially about the future.
At this point in the Bush Administration’s troop surge it is evident that little if any change in Sunni, Shiite and Al-Qaeda violence is occurring save the random ups and downs you might expect from terrorist bombs and sporadic but frequent attacks. From the very beginning, the Bush predictions about the war – its cost, its duration, its estimate of the U.S. troop strength needed, the appeal of a democratically-elected Iraqi government, and the attitudes of the Iraqis toward their liberators – have failed to come true. The military can’t even keep the lights on.
The Administration is overdue with a propaganda report that will identify the areas of progress, exclaim that there’s still work, hard work, to be done and that the U.S. needs more time – and more troops – to succeed in Iraq (and by the way, what’s the flavor of the month definition for succeed in Iraq? Doesn’t matter, it will change next month). I expect, as do most of my colleagues, that other than the rhetoric little will change before the next President takes office.
With 3,519 troops now dead and more dying at a rate of 95 a month, by January 20th, 2009 we will likely have 5,300 troops buried in the ground, not to mention all those civilian contractors who also paid with their lives. I am certain that these people have died in vain, in an unjust war. I am certain that they are never coming back.
Funny how this country has held a cigar used as a sex toy and a lie about a private moment so much more politically important than what our current leadership has done to thousands of lives.