January 30, 2008
If I get a $1,200 rebate this Spring from Uncle Sam (and it looks like I might) I will probably use it to offset some of the cost of my sons’ college tuitions. However, I might just go shopping with it as the rebate, I believe, is meant to help stimulate the economy by increasing my purchasing power.
If I spend it I will try my hardest to spend it on products made or services rendered in the U.S. A vacation to some city not close to where I live might be appropriate. Or perhaps a down payment on a GM car. Or 10 cords of wood to burn next winter.
I will try my best not to spend it on goods manufactured in Asia, because Asia is certainly from whom we are borrowing the money in the first place to pay for the rebates. And it strikes me that if Americans spend most of their rebate checks purchasing electronics or anything from Walmart, Asia will reap the benefit twice while we merely stick it to our next generation.
The U.S. chooses to go into more debt in an attempt to get itself out of an economic stall. I feel like this will be a Pyrrhic victory for us, at best.
January 29, 2008
How lucky we are to live near the Canadian border, where we can receive news that is not colored by our own cultural biases. Rather, we can watch and listen to reports about how a foreign country views our actions and the actions of the rest of the world. These views are often very different than what we get from our news outlets. Generally, I find Canadian news content more worldly, less xenophobic and more varied than what we get on our news channels.
If you’ve never watched it, go tune in CBC’s The National, on at 10 PM; it is well worth viewing. The news program is much more than just about Canada.
January 28, 2008
I simultaneously strained my right pectoral and lateral muscles about 3 weeks ago, leaving me very uncomfortable and downing a lot of Aleve. Sneezing was profoundly painful, as if the right side of my chest was about to explode, and it made me wonder if anyone ever died from sneezing by breaking ribs. I imagined that frail, elderly people might be susceptible to this.
This is about as close as I could find.
January 27, 2008
There are 7 lights on Delaware Avenue between North Street and Niagara Square. Three out of three times, in the last 2 weeks, with virtually no traffic on the street (that’s a whole ‘nother topic), I watched 6 of 7 turn red on me as I was approaching them.
What’s wrong with that? The extra few minutes of wait time wasn’t what bugged me so much as the unnecessary gasoline my car and the cars around me burned while braking, idling, then accelerating at each intersection.
Coordinated timing of traffic signals is not rocket science. I’m surprised that the Delaware lights are so badly out of sync. Aren’t these the types of things our state DOT should be able to correct in a day?
January 27, 2008
Saturday’s Buffalo News Prospectus gave its readers 64 pages of all of the great job happenings in Western New York. A sampling of this year’s article headlines – focused on talent – reads:
- “Building with Talent – Western New York’s capable and dedicated people fuel economic growth”
- “Take a look around, there’s talent at work”
- “Networking helps nourish, retain black talent”
- “WNY’s Secret Edge”
- “Buffalo Niagara economy is growing, but slowly”
These are from just the first of 8 sections in the Prospectus. All told I counted 40 headlining articles with positive statements about the area and its potential for growth. Most importantly, it cites several articles from where future jobs are coming and how to get the training needed to qualify for them. The optimism oozed off the pages.
The Buffalo News already has the content it needs to infuse this type of optimism on a daily basis into its paper. The Prospectus should be repeated as front-page articles, one each day, for the next 40 days.
It would do the area well.
January 26, 2008
The January 10th edition of the Toronto Star had this article on Buffalo becoming a hot destination spot for “those in the know”. Buffalo Rising repeated it that day. The article is mostly a tour of the city bar scene by local comedian Maxwell Truth (Eddie Dobosiewicz, of Off-Beat Cinema fame), but it contains enough upbeat statements that it easily exceeds the daily upbeat statement quota in one article.
To wit: “After several decades of economic hardship that saw the closing of its major industries, this rust-belt city has become a hip destination for those in the know. Even New York magazine has declared that Buffalo is “on the verge of a moment … with cool bars, shops and galleries.“
Wow. New York Magazine even says neat things about Buffalo. It’s a funky place (and many of us have known that for years).
One thing I learned about marketing is that it pays to hammer home the message. Buffalo Rising certainly tries to do this, although its audience is somewhat limited. How do we encapsulate and distribute articles like this to convince all Western New Yorkers that there is light at the end of the long tunnel we’ve been in? The Buffalo News and other community papers might serve the community well if there were front page articles like this, day after day.
The local populace needs continuing attitude adjustments before we’re ever going to convince the rest of the country that we are something other than a depressed rust-belt city. Getting a large dose of upbeat news like this, on a regular basis, might help.
January 20, 2008
Two years ago this past Saturday the New Horizons spacecraft was launched toward an eventual encounter with the
planet Kuiper Belt object Pluto on July 14, 2015. The spacecraft used a gravity assist from Jupiter last February to shave a couple years off its transit time. New Horizons was the fastest spacecraft ever launched, and gained an additional 9,000 mph as Jupiter slingshot it toward Pluto. It is now in coast mode for the next 7 years until the flyby of this enigma and its three known moons.
I’ve been searching for a good answer to the question “Why go to Pluto?” Alan Stern, the mission’s principal investigator, says “Past experience in planet exploration has consistently proved the value of reconnaissance missions for revolutionizing our view” which doesn’t really address the why part of the question. This was, however, a mission that gained the public’s imagination and public support was credited as one of the reasons the mission was funded.
Orbital mechanics have always fascinated me, and even though I understand the mathematics enough to understand how we can hit a moving target from 3 billion miles away, it boggles me that we can actual do it with confidence.
January 13, 2008
Although this article is written with a bit of Frankensteinish flair, it’s impressive that scientists are able to essentially use the heart of a dead rat as the scaffolding to build a new one that actually pumps!
Major organ transplants generally involve the death of someone less fortunate, in a way that preserves the integrity of the organ being transplanted. The need for organs far outnumbers the availability, and transplants of foreign tissue require that for the rest of the recipients life, clinicians must carefully balance weakening the recipient’s immune system and running the risk of opportunistic infection with avoiding outright organ rejection. The article introduces an approach that mixes recipient stem cells, converted to heart tissue, with the collagen scaffold from the original heart to grow an organ that shows at least some coordinated heart function.
Ethics issues are openly (and hotly) debated because the scarcity of suitable organs leads to difficult and sometimes controversial decisions. I see this current research success as a small step to giving hope to those who will not survive the usually long wait for a donor organ.
Until we can grow new hearts from old the only option is a donor organ. I signed my driver’s license to allow my organs to be donated. More people should do the same.
January 10, 2008
Bush predicts Mideast peace treaty by end of term.
I’m sure this will raise the President’s job rating by a percentage point or two, maybe into the low 30′s. I did find it odd that someone as hawkish as the President has been, that he would suddenly make peace talks in Palestine a priority. And given his not-so-diplomatic remarks about some Arabs, some Muslims and some Middle East countries, making such a prediction seems outright ludicrous. The thought of a Bible-thumping Jesus believer who embroiled his country into two wars, trying to be a central figure in an Arab-Jewish peace negotiation is satire at best.
The current Administration has not had a good track record on predicting future history, and I would have thought that by now the President would stop trying to give himself yet another black eye. This type of rhetoric seems to be meant only to deflect media attention away from more pressing issues, like the Iraq War and our current economic situation.
Ronald Reagan (The Great Communicator) was very good at being a calming influence on the country; GWB just does not have that knack.
January 6, 2008
After watching the Roger Clemens interview on 60 Minutes I drew the following conclusions:
- I’ll continue to give Roger the benefit of the doubt (his word against his former trainer’s word) until hard evidence says otherwise.
- It is not the use of steroids that has ruined professional baseball (and professional cycling, too); it is the fact that players took them and then lied about it. All it takes is one or two liars to ruin the credibility of all the other players accused of taking steroids, and those other players – like Clemens – are now publicly condemned: Guilty until proven innocent. Baseball may recover; professional cycling probably never will.
And this leads me to think that the lack of credibility in government (“We’re the Government, we’re here to help”) is the result of perhaps only a few dishonest politicians who have ruined it, and continue to ruin it, for everyone else in politics. All politicians are guilty until proven innocent.
There is a new MRI technique that images the brain and can actually tell the difference between the truth and a lie, based on specific regions of the brain that light up in the machine when one is lying, and different regions that light up when one is telling the truth.
If we’re ever going to bring credibility back to baseball – or politics – maybe it’s time we revert to modern measures such as this.
January 5, 2008
Only rarely do I write about me, my innermost feelings. I have been trying to comprehend why that is. Most likely it’s because
I find myself boring.
But it also has to do with not taking much time to think about where my own life has headed, or appears to be heading. Far too often, when those thoughts come to mind, I stare blankly for a moment, shudder, and then get on with the business of the day.
And there is always business to attend to. From the moment I awake – and often, that’s before 4 AM – to the moment I fall asleep, my mind reels from the number of pressing needs related to my business, my employees, my family, some organization or some person that is not me.
When I do get time to myself I almost immediately try to fill it with something other than introspection. Usually it’s Internet-related, often science or politics or religion. When I do get time to myself I generally do not like what I see. Hence the mental diversion to elsewhere.
I don’t hate my life but I can’t avoid all those thoughts of lost opportunities. Not thinking about them (by exhausting myself thinking about other things) seems to be my usual way out.
January 4, 2008
Paul Wolf, who until the first of the year was Chief of Staff to the Buffalo Common Council, has this web site called Buffalo Ideas. When he first started it I sort of poo-poo’d it as something shlocky written by a typical politico.
However, I have come to admire his blog and look forward to his posts, which always ask for his readers’ ideas about local issues.
Paul has taken a very pragmatic way of getting the public – or at least his readership – to brainstorm about specific problems or issues. I think this is a great mechanism to perhaps bring fresh thought to stale subjects.
Regardless of his loss of position within the Common Council, I hope that Paul continues his blogging. I, for one, will continue to provide opinion and, hopefully, occasional levity.
January 3, 2008
…Is virtually nothing of consequence, nor of interest. The news stations are spending an inordinate amount of time on the Iowa caucuses – soon to be New Hampshire primary – which for several election cycles now continue to lose overall influence. And the local music stations – never mind. The loss of distinctive over-the-air music in the U.S. is now complete. Citadel and Clear Channel have won that race, and airwave radio is as vanilla as it can be, save for the occasional college station blasting out at all of a hundred watts.
With two sons in college I have no hope of upgrading to satellite radio for at least a few years so that avenue is closed to me. What to do, what to do…
Luckily, in our area there’s Canadian radio. CBC radio (104.1, I think) out of Toronto provides a great perspective on both world and U.S. events. As a news radio station it has significantly more variety than NPR – it’s also got a tendency to sound a bit more amateurish but hey, you can’t be great at everything. Even CFNY, which has gone through a dozen gyrations in 20 years, still plays more unique modern music than any other radio station that I can pick up. For more classic rock ‘n roll there’s always 107.1 (Q107) and there are numerous other stations, across all musical genres, that require a significant fraction of Canadian music content – hence the increased variety over their contemporaries on this side of the border.
Especially for news listening, we have great luck to be living so close to a foreign country. It is worth tuning in just to get that different perspective on what’s really important outside our own country.