Mulligan’s and Memory Lane

August 31, 2007

Disco ShirtThe Mulligan’s Reunion is tomorrow night at Di Giulio’s Restaurant, the restaurant on Mulligan’s former site on Hertel Avenue in Buffalo.

The reunion is being advertised as a trip down memory lane back to the ‘70’s, when Danny Gare and OJ Simpson used to stop by to breathe in the disco atmosphere. It is expected to recreate those good times thirty years ago. That’s the way, uh-huh, uh-huh, I like it.

I think the ‘70’s should rest in peace. We should kindly reminisce about the ’70’s about as often as we kindly reminisce about polio.

It is forever tainted by the fiasco of Vietnam and the post-Vietnam recovery for millions of disenfranchised young adults, and flower children searching for direction and a way to grow up. It was the time of Watergate. Polyester was the clothing material of choice, earth tones and bean bag chairs were everywhere. And worst of all, disco was one of the most unoriginal, dead-ended forms of rock and roll music (obviously; it was a flash in the pan) yet that was all that commercial radio played for years. Historians have not been kind to the ‘70’s and future historians will be even less kind. Many of those with whom I hung around breathed a collective sigh of relief when 1980 arrived.

The decade had virtually no redeeming social value. I am embarrassed for it.

Biting My Lip

August 30, 2007

Canker SoreI accidentally bit the inside of my lip a couple days ago, which usually means that by now I would have had a full-blown canker sore. Lysine supplements seem to help shorten the canker sore’s lifespan, as does avoiding chocolate, peanut butter, apples and pineapples for the next week. For once I was able to do all the right things and avoided having the inside of my mouth ulcerate for the next two weeks.

So why am I writing about canker sores? Because other than being painful to have around, they have nothing to do with the almost limitless fusillade of dreadful news that’s been spewing out of my Internet connection this past week. Both national and local news sites – and national and local blogs – have gone out of their way to develop up to the minute coverage on the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, Congressional ethics violations, campaign skullduggery, Bush Administration double-speak, bleak Iraq War progress reports, Virginia Tech, New York State government abandonment, Brazil train crashes and finally, an Iraqi weapon of mass destruction found, in all places, at the U.N. building in New York City.

This has been such a demoralizing news week that my generally Pollyannaish attitude is taking a back seat to some of the harsh realities of current events. I have to do something to get out from under all this funk.

So this week I spent my evenings rebuilding the storage shed in my back yard, and this weekend I will finish it. It has been my therapy, the way in which I put aside all the crap that’s going on to accomplish something beneficial, even if it’s just for me.

Possible Buffalo Pundit Story #8

August 29, 2007

WNYMedia LogoOnce again, Buffalo Pundit has been forced to take an unexpected vacation from his always eloquent, grammatically correct and sometimes witty writing.  But if BP were able to write, he’d possibly have recorded something about Alberto Gonzales’ resignation as U.S. Attorney General.  BP might possibly say that the AG’s resignation has brought glee to the hearts of many Democrats and perhaps a sigh of relief to as many Republicans, who now have one less issue to worry about during their upcoming election campaigns. 

BP might also relate AG’s resignation and the Republican Party’s ongoing ethical struggles to Idaho Senator Larry Craig, whom we all know now is not gay.  A hypocrite, and perhaps an idiot, but not gay.  Or perhaps to the ethical struggles of Rick Renzi or Ted Stevens.  Certainly BP might possibly write that the Republican Party and conservatives in general don’t have much of a claim anymore to having the better moral compass, so they’d perhaps better come up with a new campaign platform if they intend not to lose even more Congressional seats.  Traditional Family Values for Everyone but Elected Officials just doesn’t cut it.

BP might just say that it is clear that if the Democratic Party had any brains (and some might strongly argue that they do not), they would learn from the recent Republican Party missteps and

  • Keep their noses clean
  • Immediately castigate any member of their own party who does not.

In Katrina’s Wake

August 29, 2007

New Orleans Under WaterWhat has two years and $114 billion in government largesse brought to the region affected by Hurricane Katrina?

  • 13,000 Mississippi families are still living in FEMA trailers, down from 48,000 a year ago. Governor Haley Barbour expects them to be all out of temporary housing by this time next year.
  • Better days are ahead” George Bush said as he spoke to a gathering in New Orleans’ Lower 9th Ward. But grants are contentious, and money is being tied up in Congressional, Administrative and State battles. The President had plenty of words but not a lot to show for it. Those who heard the speech must have been wondering if the President was referring to New Orleans, or to Iraq, when he made that comment.
  • The Port of New Orleans and tourism, the two largest revenue-generation sources for the area, have almost completely recovered to pre-Katrina levels.
  • On the downside, New Orleans’ homicide rate of 70 per 100,000 is the highest in the country, and fully one-third of the population has not and cannot yet return.

This recovery has taken too long, not only because of Government bureaucracy and mismanagement but because it probably shouldn’t have occurred to the extent that it is occurring. There are a number of issues that will remain unresolved, with disastrous consequences, and I for one think that it is unquestionably foolish to re-create the city as it was:

  • New Orleans is already 8 feet below sea level and continues to sink another inch every three years. The Lower 9th Ward is 11 feet below sea level.
  • The levees have not and probably cannot be built to withstand a category 5 hurricane within either a reasonable time frame or a reasonable budget. (2006 estimates were $32 billion. Only $7.6 billion has been authorized with virtually none of it allocated, and completion estimates take the rebuilding phase out to 2015). It only takes one weak spot in the miles of levees to re-inundate New Orleans again.
  • No housing regulations have been established to force homeowners to elevate their homes above sea level.
  • An unintended consequence of the Old River Control Structure, which is the only thing holding the Mississippi River from completely diverting to its natural ocean course (the Atchafalaya River), is that Mississippi River sediment settles within the river bed, continuously raising the river’s elevation above and through New Orleans. Already a billion-dollar structure, the Old River Control Structure is costly and growing more difficult to maintain as the elevation differences between the Mississippi and the Atchafalaya increase.

The insurance companies who refuse to provide flood insurance to New Orleans residents are an indicator of how unwise we are to throw so much good money after bad. It was a dreadful decision to rebuild any part of The Big Easy that’s below sea level.

The End of the Penny

August 27, 2007

Lincoln CentAside from substituting as a fuse, the penny stopped serving a useful purpose years ago.

With the cost of manufacturing a penny at somewhere around one and a half cents, It’s only a matter of time before the government gets religion and stops minting them. One economics professor estimates that the U.S. loses about $900 million a year in production costs and handling. I think ending the production of a minted coin is more a political issue, but prudent economics would indicate that anything costing one and a half times more to make than it can be sold for is probably not worth making.

The Lincoln head penny has had 99 years of quasi-useful life since first being minted in 1909. Celebrating the Lincoln penny’s 100th anniversary next year and ending production forever would be historically poignant.

I rarely take pennies in my change and when I do they end up in a container in my car, on my office desk or in a big metal bucket at home. That metal bucket is overflowing with close to 30 years of pennies, which I have been reluctant to trade in because I’m sure that there are several coins that are worth much more than face value (like that 1910-S), and others that are worth, well, a pretty penny. The face value of my stash is about $90, maybe just a little more. If you have a stash and want to figure out about how many you’ve got without counting them, try weighing them. 100 pennies average 0.58 pounds (pennies vary in weight because their metal content has changed over the years, but that number is pretty close).

I have no rationale for hoarding my pennies except to perhaps melt them down someday. Or maybe give them to my future grandchildren.

Alberto Gonzales’ Legacy

August 27, 2007

Attorney General Alberto GonzalezLots of bloggers will be writing about Alberto Gonzales’ tenure as Attorney General.

I am not one of them, other than to say that I’m surprised no one called him AG AG.

Lessons from the IPhone Hack

August 25, 2007

George Hotz IPhone HackGeorge Hotz, now a student at RIT, was highlighted in the press for hacking Apple’s IPhone to work on any GSM-enabled network.  [From a business perspective Apple is probably overjoyed, but Apple’s business partner, AT&T, is most likely pissed.]  George’s blog on the steps required to unlock the phone is a fascinating technical read.  The link takes you to his summary explanation of the hack; and all subsequent steps follow, starting with “Step 1” in his blog archive.

For anyone really technically savvy about electronics and software this will not be a hard read, but that’s not what’s interesting, anyway.

Lesson 1:  It’s the eloquence of George’s instructions.

Read any step in the instructions.  Then read the blog comments, ignore the shorthand geekspeak and note how poorly most of these comments flow:  bad grammar, atrocious spelling and a worse than elementary grasp of the English language.  George is more than just technically astute.  Relative to his audience he’s also a great communicator.

George does not take solo credit for this hack; on the contrary, throughout the blog he compliments those who helped work out the hack.

Lesson 2:  Teamwork rules the workplace.

The best employees are not necessarily the most intelligent.  The best employees are the ones who are able to constructively participate in group developments.

I understand that corporate trade secrets are necessary in a capitalist society, but I wonder how much further along we’d be in technology and especially medicine if information sharing were the norm rather than the exception.