The Tenderest Moments

February 27, 2009


The most touching moment of my life was looking into my fiancee’s eyes as she recited her wedding vows to me.  Witnessing the birth of our children were close seconds.  Those tenderest of moments embody humanity’s great beauty and are unforgettable.  They are as clear to me as the day they occurred; I have but a handful of them to cherish.

Last Saturday I walked a young woman down the aisle and gave her away to her husband-to-be.  This was an unexpected gift – one that a father of boys does not normally receive.  And looking into her eyes as we reached the altar, I realized that she had just added one more tender moment to my life.

Thanks, J.


Missing the Boat

February 16, 2009
Commercial Plug for EG Tax
Commercial Plug for EGTax

“I’m Esther Gulyas the Tax Lady.  I understand people are doing some pretty unusual things to save money this year.”

EG Tax’s television commercial “Frugal Me” follows that quote with Benny Hillish sketches of

  • A family decked out in winter regalia warming themselves by the fireplace (a fake one at that)
  • A goofy guy riding to work on a bicycle
  • A voice demanding that all the lights be turned off

No offense to Esther Gulyas’ wacky commercials; I hope the business they attract pays for them 10 times over.  But the pretty unusual things are essentially

  • Lowering the heat
  • Using alternative transportation
  • Conserving electricity

The commercial could have emphasized that doing these things and going to the Tax Lady would save oodles of money rather than playing one against the other, particularly in light of how silly energy conservation is made to look.

We need to collectively learn to conserve.  This could have been a great business ad and public service announcement rolled into one.  EG Tax should consider that next time.

About that Satellite Collision…

February 16, 2009
Space debris in low-Earth orbit (courtesy NASA)

Space debris in low-Earth orbit (courtesy NASA)

So, what was that satellite collision really like?

Glad you asked.

Two satellites with a combined weight of 3200 pounds met in a broadside collision at a closing speed of about 5 miles per second.  The kinetic energy of that collision generated around 18 billion joules, the equivalent of 4 tons of TNT.

Most of that energy was imparted on all those pieces that are now dispersing in the most crowded orbital volume, increasing the likelihood of another collision and an eventual chain reaction that creates a 500-mile high debris cloud dense enough to render that volume unsafe for any spacecraft.

I frankly don’t care if the U.S blames Russia or Russia blames the U.S., but imagine the consternation had this happened in 1985!  Today it’s merely a serious inconvenience; tomorrow it could completely change the way we launch and protect our billion-dollar satellites.

Irrational Fears

February 13, 2009


I was going to write a snarky post about that hotel that burned to the ground in Beijing because of errant fireworks, but then the plane crash in Clarence Center happened, which put things into a different perspective.

The perspective is this:  From the crash to the time that it took for delivery of the flight data recorders to Washington, more people died on U.S. highways than died on the plane.

We have this obsession with calamity and great fear of mass death, and we will force changes to the system to reduce that chance of death to almost zero; yet we will still use our cell phones while we drive, and we will drive under the influence, we will drive in bad weather, recklessly, and over the speed limit.

Want another example?  We have spent billions and billions fighting the war on terror to make sure that those terrorists don’t get us, but we won’t change our diets to prevent a much more likely fate:  heart disease, the number one killer in the U.S.

We have irrational fears.  We force the government to spend money in places that do nothing to prolong our lives and ignore the villians most dangerous to us.

And the media plays right along, because calamity sells.

The next time you think about that plane crash, think about your driving habits and that double-cheese pizza you just ate.


February 5, 2009


As much as I enjoy reading the newspaper and hoping that print media doesn’t go the way of the dinosaur, yesterday’s notice that the Buffalo News is raising its weekday price from 50 to 75 cents is yet another nail in its coffin, probably one of the last nails at that.

No one under the age of 30 reads the newspaper.  Well, not really, but it was down to 33% in 2007, down from 40% in 2002 and way down from a generation ago.  Pick any age group and the trend is the same:  Print readership continues to decrease.

Newspapers have become vanilla shadows of their past.  And now they are becoming expensive enough for even me, a newspaper junkie, to question their value.  How does one justify the cost when the online version is free?

The joke “What’s black and white and read all over?” will soon be lost to the ages.

Sexual Predators and MySpace

February 4, 2009

Today MySpace announced that it had removed 90,000 sex offenders from its site over the past two years.  About 75 million Americans (half of whom are over the age of 35) have MySpace accounts.

While that works out to 1 in 800 members, these are names only from the U.S. database of registered sex offenders and does not include others around the world who may have nefarious inclinations.

This is probably just the tip of the iceberg.  It also begs the question of just how much sexual abuse is hidden – unreported, buried behind closed doors.   I would hazard a guess that the actual number is closer to ten times the number of convicted predators.

Sexual predation has been around forever, but before the Internet it was hard to fathom just how big the problem really was.  With those numbers and the speed with which they are disseminated we now know it’s in every town, everywhere.

Teach your kids to be on guard.