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.


Buffalo and CBC News

January 29, 2008

Canadian Maple LeafHow 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.

Death by Sneezing

January 28, 2008

SneezeI 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.

Delaware Avenue

January 27, 2008

Delaware AvenueThere 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?

Buffalo Propspectus

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.

Light at the End of the Tunnel

January 26, 2008

Maxwell Truth

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.

New Horizons – Two Years and Counting

January 20, 2008

PlutoTwo 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.