Monday, July 12, 2004

Monsoon Dreading

The other morning, on the local news, one of the anchors casually commented that she could hardly wait until monsoon season arrives, knowing that with it would surely come a welcome period of cooling rain.

Well, monsoon season is here and you'd think -- by the news coverage it's getting -- that the polar ice caps were melting or a meteor was heading our way. "Monsoon 2004: Preparing Arizona" emblazoned across the TV screen like an evacuation alert, interrupting TV shows with mock urgency.

If this was India or China where a monsoon could wipe out an entire population, I'd be worried. But in Arizona, the monsoon season is just another word for double-digit humidity. A rarity, but by no means a catastrophe.

It amazes me how attitudes on the anchor desk change so drastically in just a matter of days. Well, actually, no it doesn't. I've come to expect this kind of blatant manipulation in the name of market share. But couldn't they find a more compelling topic?

Hey Mr. News Producer: Didn't anyone ever tell you that the weather is something you talk about when you've got nothing interesting to say?

Monday, July 05, 2004

If by "symbol" you mean target...?

In a CNN story yesterday, New York's Governor Pataki stated "Today, we lay the cornerstone for a new symbol of this city and this country and of our resolve in the face of terror."

Do they really want to erect an even bigger target?

I'm not trying to knock the Big Apple. I was born there, not five miles from where the World Trade Center's twin towers once stood. I watched helplessly as the North Tower burned, only to witness a second jet plane slam into the South Tower.

I was happy to hear that a magnificent memorial and park was to be erected on the spot, rather than a new skyscraper. But, of course, grander ideas took hold. And now we have the Freedom Tower.

It makes me shudder.

Not that I would wish any bad fortune on the owners of this new obelisk (-- I assume it will be Larry Silverstein, who reaped a 3.5 billion dollar insurance award for the World Trade Center catastrophe --). But would you go to work in a 1,776 foot tower that was built on the site of the World Trade Center? I wouldn't. Not for any amount of money. And I'd be surprised if Mr. Silverstein would have an office much higher than the 6th floor.

My prediction is that the Freedom Tower will suffer from low occupancy and high insurance premiums. Not just for the building, but for every single person who works in that building. Employees who are forced to relocate to the building will sue their companies for stress-related illnesses and injuries. The building will eventually become a cash drain and Silverstein (or his heirs) will run screaming to City Hall for subsidies to keep the Freedom Tower from becoming an abandoned shell.

You heard it here first, and you can quote me.

Sunday, July 04, 2004

Mass Appeal

I'm way behind on my scientific journal magazine reading. So I really missed the boat -- or rock -- on this one:

Asteroid Scare Prompts NASA to Formalize Response

But it made me think about when I was in college, taking a course on Astrophysics. Apparently, the instructor was also an amateur theologian of sorts. One day, he claimed that the laws of physics do not dispute the Biblical assertion that the Sun rotates around the Earth. He then proceeded to draw me a simplified diagram of the path of travel of both bodies, clearly showing that a Sun-around-Earth argument would certainly be as valid as the accepted Earth-around-Sun scenario.

To both, I say "poppycock and balderdash"!

The Earth and the Sun are entwined in a gravitational dance that keeps them weaving to and fro in a fairly consistent pattern (and lucky for us!). But because the Earth is so much smaller than the Sun, it gives the impression that one or the other is the dominant body. Sure, the Sun is bigger, but the Earth is faster!

I'd like to think that I don't have to propose an argument against the Sun rotating around the Earth. That's just silly! But for those of you Earth-bound observers who still subscribe to the Copernical view...

Picture a large man walking a tiny poodle in a wide circle. A leash tethers the poodle to the man's right side and they're walking to the left. (This would be highly irregular in some countries of the world. Don't ask me why.) The poodle scampers as quickly as his little legs can carry him while the man walks at a comfortable gait. They're clearly walking side by side, but to the casual observer, the poodle is traveling around the man.

Now picture the same scenario, only this time, they're walking around the perimeter of, say, Chicago. Is the dog still traveling around the man? For those of you who say "well, technically...", I respond "oh, give it up!"

And you can quote me on that.

Have I been "put in a box"?

I just noticed that all of the Google ads that appear with my blogs have something to do with Italian restaurants. Is it because my nickname "Papa Joe" sounds like something you'd see on a pizza box?

But enough about me.

Pet-ophiles beware? Oh, bite me!

Before you pet that friendly-looking pup, you had better scan him first.

USA Today reports that a new Colorado state law "requires implanting a microchip in dogs that injure someone". Such dogs also are entered into a statewide registry.

That's all well and good, but unless there's a supermarket checkout counter really close by, how the hell am I supposed to know if this dog's a repeat offender? Will he wait around while I boot up my laptop?

In the old days, all you had to do was check for foam around the mouth.

For lack of a better (expletive)

In a story in today's Arizona Republic, a man is quoted as screaming "I'm going to kill you, you son of a (expletive)."

Unless I'm mistaken, "bitch" isn't an expletive, even when used in the heat of the moment. Yes, yes, I know that many words in certain contexts are deemed "objectionable" and editors have a right to show their discretion, but has it occurred to anyone that the reason some words are considered profane is because we shroud them in whispers, bleeps and parenthetics?

I, for one, would rather my child said "you son of a bitch" than "I'm going to kill you".

Cut off my nose to spite your face?

A report by the Boston Consulting Group indicates that the only way for U.S. companies to survive is to move their operations offshore to "LCCs", or "low cost countries". If I left it at that, it would be enough of a forehead-slapper for me. Every time corporate America invents a new acronym, it's to disguise something that they don't want you or me to notice. But anyway, I digress...

According to the Washington Post, the report goes on to say that there's "a view among U.S. executives that the quality of American workers is deteriorating." Hmm. I see. Since we Americans are a bunch of lazy incompetents, it would be in everyone's best interest if you laid us all off and gave our jobs to more able workers in China and India. Good thinking, corporate execs! Cut the legs out from under the largest consumers of American products so that you can lower your costs and sell more stuff to...whom??

How about this idea? Let's start by trimming the ranks of upper management. After all, if I save the jobs of 100 staff workers at $50K/year by laying off one VP at $5M/year, wouldn't I be making less of an impact on the U.S. economy? We would continue to sell tons of consumer goods to the worker bees and Cartier's will sell one less piece of fine jewelry to Mr. ex-VP. It all works out.

Maybe if management did a better job of training, motivating and mobilizing U.S. workers, instead of hiding in conference rooms trying to save their own jobs, the American workforce wouldn't be in the sad state it's in. Sure, I admit we're not as productive as we could be. But that doesn't mean we can't do better. It just means that we know we're being taken advantage of, and we don't like it.

The nose is in your court.

Saturday, July 03, 2004

Well, considering the alternatives...

I don't mean to be callous here. Really, I don't. But I'm tired of hearing statistics like this one, which I quote from the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review:

"...drowning remains the second most common cause of accident-related deaths for children between the ages of 1 and 14."

Okay. Here's the thing. If you were a child between the ages of 1 and 14, what's the most likely way that you might die? If you live in a house with a pool, there aren't many other more likely alternatives, now are there?

I realize that the emphasis is on pool safety but ideally, parents should take precautions to protect their children from all accidents. If, hope of all hopes, child mortality was reduced to the very minutest number, don't you think that the statistical percentage for the few remaining accidental deaths would be the same?

I'm not being a stickler. I'm just afraid that meaningless statistics like this will reduce credibility and make people apathetic to the real issue. If you're saying to yourself "aw, no one pays much attention to that stuff," then it just proves my point.

I don't care if there are 72 virgins waiting for me!

Last week, on the local news, it was reported that "there's a new weapon in the war against terrorism: suicide bombings."

W-w-what?! You're using my tax dollars to train soldiers to strap on backpacks full of explosives, stroll into Iraqi encampments, and detonate themselves?

Not hardly! What we have here is a horribly written tagline by a news copywriter who needs to retake English 101. What he (or she) might have said instead was that there's a new weapon that threatens our forces in the war against terrorism.

I would have felt sorry for the news anchor who had to read it, but I doubt that she even knew what she was saying.

Don't have a cow!

According to an AP news wire from Hanson, Mass., and I quote, "Dorinda McCann is hopping mad over a toad she found in her salad."

On Wednesday, June 16th, Ms McMann bought a takeout salad from a McDonald's in Hanson and found the toad in the salad. The incident is still under investigation, but what interests me is that the owner of the restaurant didn't materialize until the following Tuesday.

I suspect he was using that time productively, and adding "frogs legs" to the menu.