Of TB and Mankind

May 31, 2007

So there’s some guy who is diagnosed with a hyper-resistant form of tuberculosis but gets on a plane anyway to get married in Greece.  The CDC tracks him down in Italy and tells him under no circumstances should he fly back home.  He does it anyway.  Now he’s in quarantine back in Atlanta.

For trying to emulate a modern-day Mary Mallon, the guys’ an asshole and he’s put people’s lives at risk because of his assholiness.  But I sense that we’re about to embark on a much deeper problem than that caused by a single idiot, that will change our lives:  Legislation to restrict unhealthy travelers in order to “protect” us from guys like him.

I’m worried about the fear-mongering aspect of this event and where it will lead.  NBC Dataline will write an exposé about it, followed by Fox News and Time Magazine.  Pretty soon Congress will start proposing restrictions on dangerously unhealthy people.  And then the first time a potential flu pandemic or some other medical scare hits the airwaves additional restrictions will be applied to what will be slippery slope legislation.

The Patriot Act was sold on protecting us from terrorists.  It has been commandeered into a vehicle by which we can be searched without warrant and have our phones secretly tapped.  In Buffalo, we’re about to have our travel to the closest economically prosperous region to the area – Ontario – burdened by another layer of not so cheap paperwork.  All this to protect us.

I can envision the same thing happening with the U.S. version of the Contagious Disease Act as well.

We are on the cusp of becoming our own pariah.


Tour de Cure

May 30, 2007

This coming Saturday, June 2nd, is the Western New York Tour de Cure, a bike ride for the American Diabetes Association.  Last year it was 45 and raining the entire trip (we did the 65-miler).  I was cold and miserable and still felt great, like I could’ve done 100 miles.

It’s not too late to sign up.  There are actually 5 different routes – 6, 16, 30, 65 and 100 miles – inexperienced cyclists tend to do the shorter runs, but even the 65-miler is so flat than anyone who can do 30 up and down hills can do the 65-miler.  This year our group decided to do the 30-miler, and since the weather report calls for questionable conditions I think this was a good idea.  We’ll finish in two hours, eat some grilled food, hang out for a little while and head home knowing that we benefited a good cause.

The Amazing Digital Universe

May 29, 2007

I probably just violated the warranty, but hacking my cell phone was one of the more fun things I’ve done in a while.

The Motorola V325i can be hacked with a number of programs (check the Internet); all I really wanted to do was to transfer camera photos to my PC without emailing them from my phone.  The software I found does quite a bit more than this, including giving me complete access to all registers.  I don’t know what they all mean yet – most of them do not have descriptors but yet various bits are set – they must do something! – so now I have to traipse around the web to find out more.  Careful!  Setting or clearing the wrong bit can and will render the phone unusable.  This is shaky ground.

The digital universe is filled with a cacophony of digital stuff.  It never ceases to amaze.

The Cost of College

May 29, 2007

Both of my boys will be going to the same university next fall.  I was unable to get a “two-for-one” deal, so this afternoon was spent reading lots of directions and filling out yet more financial aid forms, signed copies of tax returns and other paperwork needed to complete the requirements for financial aid.  To get my boys through school requires a combination of scholarship, savings, student loans, parent loans and work study.  In January I will repeat the process with the FAFSA forms (one for each child) and in May do it all over again for the loans and work study applications.

I can’t imagine what parents with three or more college-bound kids must go through; two is a jolt.  We set aside money for college the day each of the boys was born, and that has saved us today.  Even though we’ll eventually have to borrow in order to finish paying for their education, it will be *reasonable* compared to the debt that some parents and their children will incur to get through four years of university.

The cost of a private college education has octupled since I went to school, while salaries have not quite tripled.  For a newborn today the cost of a public four-year education, in 2005 dollars, is estimated to be $92,000.  This article didn’t even bother to estimate the cost of a private education but the general rule of thumb would be to increase the costs by a factor of three, to roughly $270,000.  By that time there will be no such thing as a poor college students, as poor students will no longer be going to college.

The college inflation rate must come down soon, or institutions will price themselves out of existence.

Better start saving today for your yet unborn children.

House Cleaning

May 28, 2007

Decrepit HouseMy House



I have two gutter-cleaning products that I recommend: Streak Getter, which I found somewhere on the Internet, and Krud Kutter which I purchased at Lowe’s. Both work about equally well. All it takes is a sprayer, a rag and some elbow grease followed by a water rinse. My streaked, gray gutters are nearly as white as when they were put on the house, 10 years ago. It’s clear that over time, tar and debris from the roof shingles greatly discolor the gutters, and the years do a number on the siding as well.

After the gutters were done, out came the vinyl siding cleaner, Olympic House Wash. This did not work very well when following the directions (spray on, wash off with a hose) but by using a rag and hand-washing the siding after spraying it on it all ended up much cleaner. What a difference!

I know that many homeowners will hire crews to do this kind of work, and many other homeowners won’t even bother to ever clean the exterior of their home; but to some of us it’s a labor of love. I needed a long weekend to get psyched to do the work, but the result is a noticeably brighter exterior.

Now I need to find a good cleaner for the brickwork on the front of the house, and maybe those pesky building inspectors will stay away for a while.

Cast Away

May 27, 2007

My family is watching Cast Away.  I cannot join them.  For me it’s not a movie about perseverance and overcoming the odds.  For me its about being an island in a sea of humanity.

Cast Away hits me hard.  For many years I felt like I was on a deserted island.  That the movie ends in yet another form of isolation is what messes me up.

I’ve told my wife many times that “I’m going first”.  This movie is a harbinger of how I’ll feel if I’m wrong about that.

In Memoriam

May 27, 2007

FlagI hope everyone who reads this pauses for a moment to remember our soldiers who have died not just in Iraq but in all past battles.  They are rarely part of the battlefield decision-making process, yet they followed orders anyway and paid with their lives so we could continue to live ours.

This Memorial Day will see roughly 1,000 more dead soldiers than last Memorial Day.  Right now I can’t help but think that these brave men and women died in vain.  I hope and pray that years from now, historians will prove me wrong and will prove President Bush right, so that the sacrifices made by our military will have been worth the effort.