Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Stop the Bike

I have avoided writing this article for years because it will likely come across as racist. I assure you - it is nothing more than an observation.

I am fortunate to live in a very diverse neighborhood. We have people from many different cultures living together in relative harmony. Most follow the rules - but some don't. One problem in particular are the rules of riding a bicycle. Some folks just can't seem to stop their bicycle - no matter what. When they near a busy intersection, they either just roll right through - without a look in either direction - or, if they happen to notice a car coming, they simply make a quick right turn until the car swerves to miss them and then continue on. These are not just children mind you and most are young adults. It is a game to them - a dangerous game. I am honestly amazed more of them don't get hit by cars as I have very narrowly missed them on many occasions and I am a very careful driver and a bicyclist.

Where do they learn this behavior and why doesn't anyone in that culture do anything to curb it? I am totally stumped. I would love nothing more than to have someone from this culture (you know who you are) explain to me why people do this and better yet, what can be done to get people to stop their bikes and look for traffic before crossing a busy street. Many people bend the bicycle road rules, myself included, but I would never ride out into traffic without even looking - few people would! But some do and I want to know why.

UPDATE: Last night as I drove home from work shortly after midnight, I was driving down this very street I referenced above. Suddenly a guy on a bicycle going about 10mph darts out into the street without a look or pause - in fact he was riding without his hands on the handlebars where the brakes are. No lights, No hands, No brakes, No brains.

Fly Naked - Part 2

It was bound to happen - a terrorist with explosives in their underwear. I already put my shoes through the scanner after the Shoe Bomber incident - do I get to run my underwear through it now? I don't have a problem with that but Granny might.

We really are getting to the point where everyone will have to fly totally naked - with no luggage. The good news is you will save $15!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

I woke up some old people

Today I decided to make a Christmas Eve visit to a dear older friend who is recovering from a fall in a local convalescent home. I accidentally tried to enter through the wrong door and set off the alarm. Folks were screaming and hollering at the loud noise. If there was a sign warning of the alarm - I didn't see it. The nurses and some of the residents laughed it off but I still felt terrible.

Because of my error, at least the residents were awake this time. I was very saddend by my visit several days earlier. Let me start by saying this is a very well run, and clean facility as far as I could see, but it is also a large facility and I was concerned by all the folks who were sleeping in their wheel chairs - mid roll - in the hallways. They were dressed, clean, had their makeup on and they were clearly going somewhere - until they fell off to sleep. I can only imagine this can be blamed on over medication. People don't just fall asleep like that - even if they are elderly. I'm not trying to point fingers at the resident's Doctors or anyone at the facility - I just think we have an issue in the USA where people are taking so many pills that they can't even function. Its sad.

The "Golden Years" should be spent sharing a life full of experiences with Grandchildren, friends, or even just other residents of a center. The friend I was visiting is somewhat of a legend in this area. I enjoy taking him to lunch on occasion where he shares stories of famous people he has met in his life. But even he was a bit "dazzed" from his medications at the center.

I wish I had an answer on how to "fix" this problem but sadly I don't. Suggestions?

The Last Piece

My dogs love to have the last bite of anything that I am eating - and they will wait very patiently for it. However, sometimes I get caught up in a TV show and before I even realize it, I've eaten all of it. The look on their faces is total disappointment and I feel terrible. So, I've decided that perhaps they deserve better than the last piece and I've started putting aside their bit before I finish all of mine. That way when I'm done with my part - they still have theirs waiting. So far it has worked well.

I guess the lesson learned is to always think about others before yourself.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Market of Monsters

The USA has become a market of monsters - business so huge that they can control the market with their policies (AT&T, Microsoft etc.). Would these companies have gotten so huge if they hadn't been able to buy up the competition? I think not - at least not to this extreme. I have a "cure" for business gone bad (and I wrote about it before).

The concept: Do not allow companies to buy or merge with other companies.

It's simple - a company would be allowed to grow as much as they want - as they do in the current market. But, if they are not allowed to buy or merge with other businesses, they will grow slower and more controlled. A business must then use creative ways to entice customers from the competition - thereby creating a real marketplace rather than a monopoly. If a business fails, their customers and employees would be free to choose a new business to support - rather than be forced to do business with a company they would not choose. Hostile takeovers followed by mass layoffs would be a thing of the past.

There really is no downside to this concept because companies could still work together to form synergistic alliances. And imagine how easy it would be to part ways if that synergy didn't work out (think AOL and Time Warner).

This concept would not hinder the free market - but rather easily regulate it.

Bank Bunk

I keep reading about failed banks the Gov. is closing - 131 so far today. Yet I see new banks with names I don't recognize going up daily here in S. Florida. Seems suspect to me.

Monday, December 07, 2009

At Least He Gave It Some Thought

Afghanistan is a complicated issue. Whether the war was justified or not is irrelevant at this point. President Obama inherited the 8 year old war and he needed to decide what to do about it. Personally I voted for peace and I had HOPE the new President felt the same. But, there are things that we as citizens do not completely understand with our limited information. This President is smart and I am certain that he reviewed all the options available to him before he made his decision. If history shows he chose to continue the war for purely political reasons, I will be very sadly disappointed. But I do not believe that is the case.

This President gave it careful thought - and that is a refreshing CHANGE.

Monday, November 30, 2009

The Holiday Rush is On!

The Holiday rush is on! No, I’m not talking about Black Friday – I’m talking about the rush to keep current on my DVR recordings so that I won’t be seeing Holiday sales ads into March. It is the downside of time shifting your television viewing habits. This same situation occurs close to elections and it is even worse! I hate watching shows long after the election is over only to catch a glimpse of those smear campaigns as I try to zoom through the commercials. It seems like thy just go on forever. Anyway, whatcha gonna do.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Too Many Choices

One thing is certain - fast food isn't fast anymore.

It started out as a great concept - offer a limited menu with items that can be prepared quickly. Get em in - get em out. It was simple and it worked making companies like McDonalds and Burger King a huge success. But then some marketing "genius" decided that they could make things better by offering more menu choices and that's when the lines started. Have you ever been behind the Mom trying to get little Johnny to decide which of the 30 items he would like for lunch? Even grown folks have a hard time deciding what to get with all those choices. And speaking of kids, they used to have one "Happy Meal" with a fun toy for the kids - now they have several to choose from. Honestly, a kid will eat almost anything if it comes with a fun toy. Why hold up the line with all those choices? Don't even get me started with special orders.

Too many choices causes problems in the kitchen too. When you have a limited menu, you can get orders out quickly and efficiently. But having 8 different items on an order makes preparing that order much slower and the margin for error much greater. It takes some time to make a variety of different foods - it has no place in fast food chains. That's why we have sit down restaurants with varied menu options.

Some other marketing "genius" recently decided to start putting several fast food chains in the same building - a trend I find disturbing. Now, not only do you have 30 choices on the Taco Bell menu, you also have 30 choices on the Pizza Hut menu. And in my opinion, these are 2 business that don't even belong together. Pizza takes time to make - Tacos should be fast. Plus, when you walk into a Pizza Hut (on it's own) the smell of the food is fantastic and makes you immediately know you will get exactly what you are hungry for. Same for Tacos. Combined in one building it is odoriferous confusion. I also think it somehow cheapens both brands with the perception that each couldn't afford their own space. I don't like it.

I wish more people were like me. When I go into a fast food place, I already know what I want, and what size. My order should be quick and easy - but some marketing "genius" has complicated even my attempt at keeping fast food fast. Today I went through a Burger King drive thu and ordered a double cheeseburger and small fries - no drink. Just like that. I was then asked if if I wanted "small" fries or "value" fries. What??! After a short confused pause, I said I would like the cheapest fries. This got a chuckle out of the lady taking my order but I was annoyed. How can you make such a simple order complicated? Multiply that one question by the billions served and you add a lot of drive thru waiting time.

Sometimes choice is a good thing, but I really don't think it is when it comes to fast food. I wish we could get back to the days of take it like we make it and "get em in - get em out".

MJ vs JC

They practically crucified Michael Jackson while he was alive,

Now that he is dead they are worshiping him.

Sunday, November 01, 2009


Maybe I've been sent here to observe. Honey, I have seen some things!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Short Stick

Life isn't fair. So if you find you keep getting the short end of the stick, find comfort knowing you are likely the good one.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Over Priced Again

A while back I wrote an article that said market corrections in housing, oil, and other areas of the economy were taking place and we all needed to get used to the new "normal" prices. Here we are, not even a year later with stock prices over 10,000, oil prices on the rise and housing prices starting to inch back up. I think it is happening too fast. The prices of the recent past were over valued and out of control. We shouldn't be hitting those old marks again so soon. To me, this does not indicate an economy that is recovering but rather one that is still broken.

Most personal budgets are very tight and the unemployment rate is still astounding. When people are finally back to work with more money in their pockets, then we should see prices slowly increase. A truly recovered market is one where prices are within the people's purchasing power.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Cross Referenced - Part 3

In Part 1 of this series I described the process of Data Warehousing - where computer systems collect personal data about every detail of our lives. In Part 2 I describe a hypothetical but entirely possible nightmare scenario on what can happen if even a tiny bit of incorrect data gets associated with your computer profile. In this final installment I tackle the question of what can be done about it.

This should be a short article because the real answer is - nothing. There isn't much you can do - the wheels are already in motion and have been for years.

But I try not to write articles without some sort of advice or suggestion. What I'm about to describe is a theory I've been trying but it is certainly something I would NOT recommend. My theory is that if your computer profile is so messed up that it can't logically be correct, then someone - a person hopefully - will have to sit down and try to determine what is real and what is incorrect. Again - this theory is probably WAY off base and I do not recommend it - but this is what I've started doing.

Knowing that almost anything I do is tracked, I started to insert a little bit of harmless misinformation into my data warehoused profile. For example, USA Today won't let me continue to read the article I'm interested in until I complete a very short survey about who I am. So I complete the survey with obviously incorrect information. I'm an 18 year old CEO of a Fortune 500 company making $5.00 an hour. Now can I keep reading? I guarantee that somewhere in the data warehouse world I am indeed an 18 year old CEO of a Fortune 500 company. That information is going to lounge around in my computer profile for years before someone realizes that I should be making more money. I only do this when I am not logged into the site. It is their "cookie" files that will be used to connect this data to me. In my opinion, if that data really does get attached to my profile then it is as dishonest as me providing fictional data.

It is important to note that I never give misinformation on real items or when I am logged into a website. My credit is very important to me and I do not want to mess it up with something that boils down to a pet peeve of mine. But computers work on logic and anything that doesn't appear to be logical will raise a flag for someone to investigate. Maybe if more computer profiles turn up as illogical, it will start to be obvious that this cross referencing of information is dangerous and unreliable. But once more - I don't recommend others do this!

Cross Referenced - Part 2

In part 1 of this series, we learned that powerful data warehousing computers are collecting data about our private lives from the minute we wake up in the morning and check our email, to a numerous security cameras snapping our pictures throughout the day, to where we travel, what we buy and finally what TV shows we are watching. It is all cross referenced with our Facebook, Twitter and other social networking accounts and even our jobs in an effort to provide targeted advertising. All this data collection is big business in the trillions of dollars and for the most part it is harmless and maybe even beneficial to our society - until something goes wrong.

But what could go wrong? You live your life honestly, pay your bills on time and mind your own business. Well let me explain how easily it is for something to go wrong and how extremely difficult or impossible it is to fix.

I don't even know where to begin - the possibilities for personal disaster are so numerous. Lets start with something simple. Why do I, as a single male, get email advertisements for breast enlargement? Shouldn't all this targeted advertising keep that from happening? What likely happened is that I bought yogurt or some other item deemed a woman's product at the grocery store and used that little scan card that cross referenced back to my name and address. Now suddenly I might actually be a woman. OK - big deal, I can delete that email with a snicker - no harm done. Its kind of funny really, if you take one letter out of my name it could even be a common woman's name.

Later that day I'm on the phone crossing the street and a security camera snaps a picture of me which isn't particularly clear. Somewhere in the world an alarm shows up because someone of importance has just been identified by the face recognition software used on that camera. Computers are churning, files are accessed, reports are filed and I am suddenly in big trouble. What just happened? Well it seems Denise had some big financial problems for a while now and is in trouble with the IRS and several other big financial institutions. But what does that have to do with me? My name is Dennis - a man with no credit issues. Not according to the data which shows very clearly that I am a woman - after all I do watch a lot of TV programs on the Lifetime channel. My cell phone number (based on my location) now gets cross referenced with Denise. Computers continue to churn and within seconds all of my information is cross referenced with Denise including my address and (gulp) social security number. A blip shows up on the IRS computer indicating a conflict of 2 social security numbers so a person or computer makes a decision on which is the correct number using other information in the account - but they choose the wrong one. By the time I finish crossing the street and go into the store to make a purchase, my credit card is already flagged and disabled. The credit nightmare begins.

Maybe it sounds a bit far fetched - like a science fiction movie staring Tom Cruise (and I realize this hypothetical story has a few "holes" in it). But folks - sadly this type scenario is entirely possible with this dangerous practice of data warehousing. It takes only one small piece of incorrect information to immediately change who you are in your computer profile. In the hypothetical scenario above I may have received a notice from the IRS and after a bit of explaining and verifying of data they would have fixed their records and all would be well.

Not so fast! Don't forget that this incorrect information was transferred to hundreds or maybe even thousands of other computers and databases. Just like a computer virus, erroneous information gets copied from computer to computer faster than the speed of sound. Fix it on one system and that still leaves thousands with incorrect information. This type of situation would likely haunt both me and Denise for the rest of our lives, interfering with credit or even just setting up a web page for a business. It is a nightmare that has already happened to many good people. In fact in this article I wrote just days ago I explain how this cross referencing of data has virtually disabled my home telephone.

So what can we do about it? Continue on to part 3 in this series.

Cross Referenced - Part 1

Ever wonder why you need to have one of those little scan cards at the grocery store in order to get discounts? Its because your name, address and phone number are associated with those little cards and each time you buy something it is logged, analyzed and cross referenced. That data is used to help the store monitor your buying habits so they can send you coupons and "targeted" ads for things that you might be interested in. Its called Data Warehousing and the example above is the nice part of it. But there is a big dark ugly side to this practice that not only violates your privacy but can also make a lot of trouble for you. I'm going to break this topic down into several articles. This one addresses how and why they get your information.

In recent years, computers have gotten very inexpensive, powerful and capable of recording and analyzing massive amounts of data. The grocery store scan card mentioned above is just one of many ways your information is collected. Have you signed up for a drawing to win a trip or some other contest? Did you purchase anything using a personal check or credit card? Do you have one of those gadgets in your car that automatically collects your toll and deduct it from your account? Did you give to your church or a charity? All of these things can be tracked back to your name and address. But those are the obvious ones.

Did you know that your TV DVR is constantly reporting what shows you watch to the TV networks? They use this information for their rating process and again for targeted advertising. Your cell phone calls are likely tracked and because they use a network of cell towers, they know exactly where you are when you made that call. Those toll plazas on the freeway are not only deducting the toll from your account, they are also silently taking a picture of your car and license plate. There are security cameras in the stores you visit, parking lots, churches, parks, intersections - basically everywhere. And all those cameras are able to use face recognition technology to pick you out of the crowd and identify you with an amazing degree of accuracy.

Your computer is also helping a lot. There are little files called "cookies" on your computer that are silently recording every website you go to, when and how often. If your computer isn't protected properly (and maybe even if it is) it is possible that every keystroke including account numbers and passwords could be recorded. Social networking sites like Facebook, Myspace and Twitter not only collect your data but cross reference it with your relatives, friends and, too often, total strangers. So maybe you are paranoid and don't even use your computer at home thinking you are more safe on the computer at the office. Perhaps, but it is likely that now they also know where you work and all the information associated with your job, your clients, your income bracket your retirement savings, etc.

So that is a lot of information being collected on you each day. All of it is being cross referenced by powerful computers all over the world trying to figure out what type of a person you are. They want to know what you enjoy, what might you buy, what charity might you support, where you might travel, how much insurance you need, what you can afford. The result of all this data collection is the ad that pops up on your computer for exactly the kind of car you were thinking of buying. Or the coupons that arrive in your mailbox for just the things you were going to buy. Or that insurance policy that is expensive - but just within your tight budget. Its all about trying to know who you are by what you do.

So what is the big deal - they know a lot about you - but you are a good person and don't have anything to hide - right? Plus, it seems logical to target advertising money to people who actually might buy your product. And you don't want to be bombarded by advertisements that don't mean anything to you. Yes, it all seems harmless and logical - until something goes terribly wrong.............

Stay tuned for part 2!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

My Phone Has Bad Credit

I receive constant messages from credit collectors on my personal home phone. Oh they are not calling for me, I have somehow always managed to pay my bills on time and have a credit rating in the 800's. So why is my phone ringing all the time? Well, it seems I've had a few past roommates and apparently even neighbors that have some credit problems that somehow are now my problem. All my past roommates have had their own phones and didn't use my number - yet I get calls daily for these people. Why???

Even though I am registered on the "Do Not Call" list it is somehow legal for other people's creditors to call my personal phone and harass me. Worse - its not even people calling most times - but "robocalls" from computer systems over, and over, and over, and over. My home phone line has been rendered useless for me due to this harassment.

Now I ask you, if folks with credit problems don't answer their own phones, what makes collectors think they will answer mine? Has this ever worked??! Am I supposed to call these people or computers back and give them information on people I haven't seen or heard from in years? right.

Now let me be firm - you do NOT! have the right to call my number looking for someone you have cross-referenced to my address. We need a law that says you may only use the contact information listed in that person's account. If they don't answer their phone or email (surprise!) you are out of luck. A better solution than harassing me is to find some other account under that person's name and arrange to have it disabled. Maybe then they will call you back. But please, leave my phone alone!!!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Wow again!

As a Gay American - I am so very proud of President Obama! If you didn't see the speech to the HRC - please read it as soon as you can. It is important, not only for gays, but for all Americans.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Caught in the Reform

Its just my luck that I would get caught up in all this health care reform mess. In order for me to accomplish my long time goal of a cross country bicycle ride this summer, I was forced to resign from my job because my company does not give leave for personal reasons such as this. I was offered a COBRA health policy but it was unbelievably cost prohibitive. So I was forced into the nightmare of shopping for a personal health policy. The choices were numerous, confusing and costly. Anything that was remotely affordable included very high deductibles and no prescription coverage. Since my bicycle adventure was a potentially dangerous feat, I finally purchased just such a policy - after all, it would only be temporary until I returned to my former job.

Two days after my departure, my former employer declared Chapter 11 Bankruptcy and many people lost their jobs. All those unfortunate co-workers were now in the same situation I was in. The Bankruptcy proceedings were completed just before I completed my journey. Fortunately for me, someone in my old position (but on 3rd shift) wanted to voluntarily leave and so I was able to get back to work (with a substantial pay cut). But because of the bankruptcy, the company was on a hiring freeze and I was forced to work as a contractor through an employment agency with no benefits. I decided to retain the health policy I purchased. The agency I am working for then offered a group policy for less than what my personal policy cost, but also includes high deductibles. That group plan also includes prescription coverage so now I'm applying for that policy which won't be effective for almost 2 months.

Through all this mess I've had to listen to angry mobs in Town Hall meetings scream about how there is nothing wrong with health coverage and there is no need for a public option. These people are likely in a solid job with a good group policy. But there are problems - big ones. Thankfully I didn't have a pre-existing condition which would have further complicated my situation. I can tell you with certainty, if there were a public option for health coverage, I would have taken it. It is needed.

Monday, September 21, 2009


Has anyone else noticed that ants seem to be taking over the world? I thought maybe it was just a Florida thing but they were everywhere on my trip across the USA this summer. It is amazing to me how something so tiny can be really big when they all work together. They would get nothing accomplished individually. I guess there is a lesson we could learn from ants - before they totally destroy us.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Just Do It

It seems clear at this point that there can be no good compromise on health care reform. Republican suggestions at compromise completely take out any reform from the issue and protect the out of control profits of insurance companies and medical care. There is no regard for people in their plan - only profits. This is politics at its worst.

The issue of health care reform is so important in my opinion that I would rather see the Democrats lose the next election than bow to a compromise that does not achieve real reform. I think President Obama should take the bold step to make these changes as proposed with the public option even without Republican support. If possible it could be done with an Executive Order - done - period.

This action would be wildly unpopular for Republicans and even some Democrats, but the result would be real change. It may cost the Democrats the next election but would save lives, costs and the integrity of the Democratic party. This is no different than ordering a war against the will of most of America as President Bush did. But in this case it would save countless lives rather than kill countless people. President Obama was elected on the hope of change. Keep the hope alive - even if it may be unpopular. History will show it was the right thing to do.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Rescue a Child

Many precious and wonderful animals end up in shelters or pounds every day, but thanks to the kind hearts of good people many of these animals are rescued and become part of loving caring homes. I myself have rescued 4 dogs so far and they have been unbelievable companions and a big part of my "family".

What puzzles me though is why we don't show the same respect and love for children who also end up in shelters and orphanages every day. When couples find they are unable to conceive a child, they resort to all sorts of expensive fertility testing and sometimes ethically questionable means of artificial conception. Meanwhile, young human beings spend their entire childhood homeless and unloved. Why can't we show the same respect for children that we do for animals? Even gay couples go to extremes to have a "mini them" running around. I think it is tragic and selfish.

In my opinion, every fertility clinic should require their patients to first visit an orphanage before any procedure can be performed. Let the people see that there is another option - adoption. Maybe just seeing a child who needs a home would make some of them change their mind. Perhaps their precious child has already been born.

I believe childless couples, gay and straight, are part of God's plan. There will always be homeless children for many reasons. Rescuing a child should be the first choice.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

I Had to Ask

On my bicycle trip across the USA this summer I talked to a lot of the good folks who live in rural parts of the country. My opinions were often very different from those I encountered and so I stuck with a "smile and nod" technique. I listened because I was very interested in the way they saw the world, but I kept my opinions to myself. One day though, I just had to ask.

My route passed through a very small town in Wyoming - population 2. I stopped there, in the middle of nowhere, to get a bite to eat in the cafe/bar/post office/store - which was all in one small building. While I was eating my surprisingly good cheeseburger, I chatted with 1/2 of the population - the man behind the counter. The TV was on and tuned to Fox news (of course) and the elderly man scoffed in disgust at what he was hearing about the Presidents plans. He started saying how it won't be long before someone at the grocery store would start pulling things out of his cart that he wasn't allowed to buy. I was amazed at how angry he was - especially based on the benign topic that was actually being discussed on TV. I couldn't hold my tongue. I ask him did he really think that would happen - that someone would be telling him what he could or couldn't buy at the store? He replied in all seriousness that he absolutely believed that would be the case. I decided I better go back to my smile and nod rule.

I wish I could say this was an isolated incident - that not all people in rural towns are so out of touch with reality - but I heard it over and over again in the cafe booths next to mine. Their opinions seemed based on a total lack of information on the facts. Either they hadn't heard the facts or they chose not to believe them. The scary part is that these are the people who actually vote while, sadly, lots of people who do have the facts choose not to.

I share this story because I truly wish there was some way to get all the people to hear the same story. People will always have their own opinions and that is good. But the media we have today is often so skewed and dangerously misrepresents the actual facts. The town hall meetings are a prime example. Folks are yelling and screaming about "death panels" and "socialism" without knowing one single word about what is actually in the bills being considered. They heard it on Fox news so it must be true.

I know you are busy America, but you must do some research and verify what you heard before you make an opinion - and especially before you vote. Please!


If we compare President Obama to President Bush, it seems he has made 2 big mistakes since taking office.
1. Honesty
2. Accountability

On point #1, President Obama has lost some poll support because he has been forthright with the American people about how long some problems may take to fix. He has also been straight with the people about the sacrifices that we may have to endure to turn some situations around. The Bush admin would simply say nothing is wrong - go back to the mall. Obama's honesty may have cost some poll numbers, but at least we know what is going on.

On point #2, some Americans are screaming about how much all this government intervention is costing the taxpayers. Perhaps they would be less angry if we just left those costs out of the budgets the way the Bush Admin left the costs of the wars out of the budgets. Folks are angry because they know - the way they should have known how much those wars were costing.

Oh, and have you seen the protests going on at the town hall meetings? You never saw that with the Bush team. They only gave speeches in front of supporters. The Obama team seems to be letting everyone in. In my opinion, the arguments are healthy and every citizen should have the right to attend and voice their opinions (calmly).

Where Is My Soap Box?

I have been quiet for several months due to my fantastic bicycle adventure. On this trip across the USA I was pretty much shielded from the daily news except for an occasional TV in a Burger King. From what I gathered, there were really only 2 news stories this summer - Swine Flu and Michael Jackson. At least that was all I heard.

Talking with folks in rural America, I had many topics that would have fit well in this blog but I decided to just hold back until I returned to my "normal" life. Now I have so many topics swimming in my hollow head I don't even know where to begin. But I do know where I won't begin and that is on the topic of Health Care Reform. I'll get to it later but the whole thing is just crazy!

Yes, it seems the public is still revolting - so I am obliged to put in my $.02.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

TV Slackers

Why can't the folks on TV work the same schedule as everyone else? They only make about 10 shows and then they just keep repeating them over and over. The fall schedule doesn't start until late Sept. and we are already getting repeats by November. Then they don't bring back new episodes until late January and by March we are back to repeats again. Even the "live" shows I enjoy like "The View" and "The Daily Show" take very long breaks over the Holidays, Spring Break, the entire Summer and some Long weekends. These people get paid loads of money for working only a few hours a day anyway. I would expect a repeat on a Holiday weekend or maybe a vacation week but we should get new episodes every day, just like we have to go to work every day.

And here is the thing that really irritates me. The entire cast on "The View" (and other shows) all do other projects on the side! If their production schedule is so grueling that they can't do a full week of live shows, then how do they have the energy to do side projects? I feel cheated.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Lean and Mean

Your call is very important to us - please hold for the next available representative.

Sound familiar? Since the economy tanked late last year, many corporations have done huge staff layoffs to try to stay afloat. But guess what, the work those people were doing didn't go with them. The folks who were fortunate enough to keep their jobs now have to pick up all those extra duties. If my own job is any indication, we now have a workforce that is under a lot of pressure with too much to do and not enough help. With the fear of layoffs still thick in the air, most people accept this extra burden as thanks for another paycheck.

Wonder why you snapped at a coworker just now? Having problems sleeping at night? Popping too many pills or drinking too much? Customer satisfaction at an all time low? More road rage incidents lately? Yelling at your kids too much? Read about any mass shootings?

These are all symptoms of a workforce under pressure. We can't expect this situation to continue without dire results. Your company was probably already running lean after 9/11, now it has a serious employment deficit. We need to hire people now and bring sanity back to the workforce.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Karma - from my point of view

I love the show "My Name is Earl" - the characters are great and the show is very funny. On the show Earl has had some very bad luck and he believes Karma is punishing him for all the people he has hurt in his life. So he makes a list of those people and tries to make it right again. It is an interesting concept but it's not quite how Karma works. In fact the show gets that point across too.

Karma isn't a "scratch my back and I'll scratch yours" type of thing. First, one should never give of themselves while expecting something in return. Second, the person you just helped is not likely the one who will return your Karma.

A simple example: Lets say you have a sick friend who needs something from the store. Even though you are very busy, you selflessly take time out to help this friend. The friend is very grateful but may not have the means beyond a simple thank you to let you know. Years later you are driving home from work and get a flat tire on the freeway only to find your spare is also flat. A kind stranger stops to help and soon you have it fixed. You don't have any money to give in return and in fact the stranger wouldn't take it anyway. These seemingly unrelated incidents are what Karma is all about.

While it is probably true that one good deed deserves another, those who expect an immediate return for their act of kindness will most surely be disappointed. Karma happens when your need arises, not when you think you deserve it. If you feel those you have helped are ungrateful, it is more likely that your own need has not yet appeared.

Rest assured Karma is watching and what goes around - comes around.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Pope is DEAD Wrong

I cannot express how irresponsible it is for the Pope to preach that condoms are not effective in HIV / AIDS prevention. His solution, as always, is abstinence. Sure, that is a more effective prevention but it requires that people actually are celibate.

The Pope, who likes to think that he is the authority on Life, clearly doesn't understand it. Sexuality is as much a human need as water, food, and shelter. Is the solution to spoiled food not to eat anymore? Of course not. It is a fact that no matter how much you preach abstinence, people will have sex. If your message is that condoms don't work - then you have their deaths on your hands.

The Pope is wrong on this issue - Dead wrong.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

E.R. for Health Care

Everyone was outraged when they learned that the government may have paid $200 for a hammer. Yet the $100 box of Kleenex in the hospital is commonly accepted. We are all mad that the CEO makes over a million dollars a year, but is it OK for the Doctor to do so? We have a big problem in the health care industry because hospitals, doctors, and insurance companies have quietly been allowed to charge whatever they want for their goods and services. This is one of the "other bubbles" that is about to (or should be ) burst.

Because insurance pays for a lot of our health care costs, we don't really need to shop around for the best prices - we are more concerned about getting a doctor that knows how to fix our problem. Therefore health care really isn't a capitalistic business - it actually runs more like a monopoly, even in markets where there is competition. Therefore, the health care industry can't be expected to police itself the way the free market does (or should).

When I watched Michael Moore's documentary called "Sicko" the solution was so very clear and entirely possible. In fact it is working well in many other countries. "Nationalized" health care shouldn't be a dirty word just like nationalized police and fire fighters aren't. This is exactly the type of thing that tax payers should be paying for and the government controlling. It is also the only likely way to get healthcare costs down. At the same time it would put doctors, not insurance companies, in control of how we are treated. Yes, nationalized health care does have its down side too, but I think the positives outweigh the negatives.

If you haven't seen "Sicko" yet, please watch it as soon as you can. We can't afford to keep letting our health care costs go unchecked.

PS - In my opinion, the health care "bubble" will burst with or without government intervention. It is likely to be much more devastating without.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009


I never imagined I would actually ENJOY a Presidential speech.

Monday, February 16, 2009

My TV Sukz Monkey Butt

Feb 17th approaches tomorrow and some over-the-air TV broadcast stations will start to disappear eith rest to follow shortly for folks with older TV sets. I have a tiny Casio TV that I have used at work for probably 10 years - just to watch the evening news and for Hurricane updates when needed. Soon it will be useless, so I went out and got a very cool USB device that brings digital TV right to my PC. Reception inside this building is not great at best but the digital picture is fantastic - when it works.

The problem is that with digital TV - the picture is "all or nothing". Most of the time it is perfect, beautiful and sometimes even in High Definition! But, quite often it just - stops. When I was watching the tiny TV and the picture wasn't perfect - at least I could still follow the program with the fuzzy sound and picture. Now I get nothing. I can't tell you how much more irritating it is to have the picture and sound just stop until the signal is restored. It really gives me a headache.

Poor me - right? I get a headache while trying to watch TV at work. Well yes, I am irritated, but I'm not worried about myself - in fact, we have a TV in our data center that I could watch too - I just can't see it from my desk. The real problem is with all the people who are watching over-the-air broadcasts because they don't have enough money to afford cable or satellite TV. Now, not only are they being forced to buy new equipment to get what they had before, they will also have to deal with the blank screen and headache that goes with it.

While I don't think they should extend the deadline again (it only causes confusion) I strongly believe that it is way too early for this transition to be forced on people - and I'm thinking by at least a decade. When color TV came out - folks still had the option to use their black and white sets if they couldn't afford a color one - and some are still using them. This transition is for one reason only - to open the airwaves for other (more profitable) uses. The poor are the only ones really affected by this change. Tell me how that is fair - or even ethical.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

That which goes up - somehow stays up.

It occurs to me that if every business who raised their prices to match the increased fuel prices last year were to now drop them to match the now lower prices, then everyone would have hundreds of extra dollars a month. Wouldn't that be stimulating.


I still think the best way to deal with the economy right now is to not mess with it too much. I'm just not convinced that throwing a bag of sand down the Grand Canyon will stop the water from flowing. Hopefully the economists who are advising the President have more information than I do. And speaking of information, I really wish that all the details of this bailout package were made publicly available so that if we object we could contact our Senators and have our voices heard. But, I suppose that would only open the door for more lobbying and further delay the process. Lets just pray the "stimulus" works!

Friday, February 06, 2009

Where is the FDA?

No prescription drug should be advertised if one of the possible side effects is death. And, in my opinion, no prescription drug should be advertised at all - especially if the possible side effects are worse than the condition, or takes more than one page in the magazine to list. Furthermore, the phrase "ask your doctor if blaz-x is right for you" is absurd.

We need to get back to a place where Doctors decide what we need and then inform the patient, about any possible side effects. Instead, what the pharmaceutical companies have created is a society of hypochondriacs. It is a very profitable situation for them but very unethical if you ask me.

Advertise the over the counter drugs all you want - supposedly they are safe enough to be sold without a doctors advice. But prescription drugs by their very nature should only be advertised and distributed to the physicians. And, the drug should be properly tested, safe, and approved by the FDA before it can ever be an option.

Housing Crisis Solution

Politicians are thinking of ways to fix the housing crisis and most are focusing on the interest rates the home owners are paying. I don't think that lowering the interest rate is going to solve much. These people are in trouble because they are "upside down" on their homes - meaning they over paid for them and now their homes are worth a lot less than what they paid. I have a drastic solution that would be the perfect way to spend the "stimulus" money.

Home owners in a serious "upside down" situation should be able to pay for a reputable appraisal of their property. The lenders should then be able to determine what the real value of the property is. They would then offer a new loan for the true value, plus an added margin -maybe 10% (because people who make bad decisions shouldn't get off scott-free) and perhaps offer a fixed rate if they previously had a variable interest rate. The stimulus money would help the banks finance these transactions that would ultimately help the tax paying home owners.

This way, the home owner will no longer be so far upside down so as to be hopeless enough to abandon the property, and the lenders will not be stuck with a foreclosed property. This should also help stabilize the housing prices more quickly than waiting for the foreclosed properties to sell at drastically reduced rates and then slowly raise up to what should be a normal level.

Done correctly it would be a "win" situation for everyone involved.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Early (Temporary) Retirement

I learned a lot from my Dad. As a kid I used to be the one holding the flashlight while he tinkered with the engine or fixed something around the house. As a teenager I was employed at the plumbing shop he owned and learned many things that helped me in my own life. My Dad was an inventor and could fix or build almost anything and I learned as I watched him. But the most important thing I learned from my Dad he never showed me.

My Dad worked very hard his entire life and managed to raise 7 children who were all comfortably fed, warmly dressed, and always returned from a visit with a few extra dollars in their pocket. He worked long hard days in bitter cold and blazing heat digging ditches with is backhoe. When he got home he worked on a multitude of projects that kept him busy late into the night. Some might call him a "workaholic".

Don't get me wrong, he was a good father and he enjoyed his family. He took us fishing, boating, camping - he even built us a swimming pool which is quite rare in South Dakota. Still I knew that he was waiting to retire so he and Mom could enjoy some real relaxation. He couldn't have known that cancer would end his life at the early age of 60. He was still on his backhoe a week before he died. He never got to retire.

The important lesson I learned is that you must take time to enjoy today. You can't put your dreams off because tomorrow is never guaranteed. I live my life this way. I too work hard at my job and on projects at my house. But I always take time to enjoy the beach when the weather is nice and not feel guilty about it.

Soon I will embark on a grand adventure that my family and friends are concerned about. True, I may be a bit crazy to voluntarily (and hopefully temporarily) quit my job - especially in this economy. Perhaps I should wait until things improve, or until I have more savings, or this reason or that. Well, the lesson I learned is that sometimes waiting can get you in a box six feet underground rather than across the country on a bicycle. A little voice inside me keeps saying "go now" - and I think it sounds like my Dad.

Friday, January 23, 2009

They Walked

President Obama's inauguration was a day to remember. One of the things I found most significant was the fact that the new President and First Lady got out of the car and walked several blocks along the parade route. I'll tell you why I think it was so important.

Ever since 9/11, the Bush Administration has had America living in fear. This fear has proven very profitable for them as people who live in fear will allow things they would normally object to in order to feel safe. Using the constant fear of another attack, they were able to convince Senators, and the American public that the war in Iraq was justified. Fear allowed them the power to change laws to further their financial agenda. And fear allowed them to take away basic rights of privacy and liberty that this country was founded on.

Had President Obama stayed in the car, it would have sent a continued message of fear. It would have justified all the people who worry that this president is an assassination risk. But by stepping out of the car and walking freely down the street with his beautiful wife, waving to the crowd, it displayed a very positive message. President Obama does not live in fear. He trusts that his staff and the secret service are doing their job to keep him and the American people safe. And, I'll have to admit, since it was his first day on the job - it also shows some faith in the Bush administration as well.

I think we will find President Obama will be able to promote his agenda by giving us facts not fears. He has already taken steps to restore some of the civil liberties taken by the previous administration. These returned rights will not compromise our safety but rather secure it. The government will continue to exercise needed investigations - but with due process. That is the way our founding fathers intended and President Obama knows this is important to our country.

They walked tall and proud that day - and now we as Americans can all do the same.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Proud of the USA

We don't get to choose where we are born or where we grow up, but we do get to choose were we live as adults. I live in the United States by choice and I've always been very happy to live here. But today, for the first time in 8 years, I am also proud to be an American. The inauguration literally brought tears to my eyes and I, like so many others, was overwhelmed with hope for our future and pride for the good man who beat the odds to become the 44th President. His speech hit home to so many across the globe offering a fresh start and a message of peace. God bless this man and this country as we begin again.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Save Internet Shopping!

They want to tax all of the Internet? Now I'm starting to get pissed off.

First the states raised our property taxes to match the unrealistic appraised value of the over priced homes in our neighborhoods. Then they based the states budgets on these ballooned tax revenues and now that prices are falling their budgets are falling short. To make up for it they want to start taxing all purchases on the Internet. I don't agree.

Tax free shopping is one of the main reasons most folks shop online, especially if they can also get free shipping. We already have to pay taxes to those business who have a physical store in our state. Adding to that will only hurt the economy more as folks choose not to shop online.

There is also the problem of what rate will virtual sites be taxed at? And who will they pay it to - the state? The Feds? Me? Do all online merchandisers need to get a business license? If so - from what city, state, or country? It will be a big mess - no doubt.

Like the rest of us, States need to adjust their spending to match the lower revenues. And please stop the scare tactics of saying you are going to have to cut education, police and fire budgets. There are lots of other places to cut budgets. Just look back at the budgets of 5 years ago and see how you managed back then.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

The Mirror is Your Friend

One more New Year fitness tip: As part of your new healthy eating, more exercise, and weighing yourself daily as I mentioned before, there is one more thing you should do daily and that is to look at yourself in the mirror - naked if possible. The reason this is important is because fat and muscle weigh differently - a little muscle weighs the same as a lot of fat on your body. As you start to tone up with your new healthy lifestyle, you may not notice your weight dropping very quickly because hopefully your fat is being turned into muscle. But you can see changes in your body - good or bad - by simply looking in the mirror. If you have a lot of weight to lose, you may not enjoy this part very much in the beginning but you still need to do it - just as you need to weigh yourself daily.

I have found that a full length mirror in your bathroom or bedroom is perfect for this. If yours is in the bathroom, you will need to take a moment before you shower or bathe (when there is no steam) to just look at yourself - all the way around. The second benefit of this practice is that you will gradually gain body acceptance (no matter what you look like). Body acceptance goes a long way to the mental part of getting into - and staying in shape.

When you reach your goal weight, I'm certain you will actually enjoy the mirror which is good because you need to continue to see yourself each day. As with the scale, you will notice when things are starting to turn for the worst before it gets too far out of control.

Friday, January 09, 2009

I Sure Miss Rosie

Over the last several years I have very much enjoyed reading Rosie O'Donnel's Blog and I felt like part of her family as I watched the kids grow up. Rosie has decided to go "unplugged" in 2009 and that is certainly her prerogative. But, when she reads my blog (ha!) I hope she knows how much we miss her on TV and the Internet. I know she will be back on one or both soon, but until then I wish her some peace and rest in 2009.

Rosie - no matter what you choose to do - you will always be my heRO!

Very Happy Holidays

Well I had a fantastic Holiday season. For the first time in my adult life since college, I had 2 weeks of vacation in a row - during the actual Holidays!!! However, I didn't have any extra money to do any traveling. But that is not a problem when one lives in S. Florida! I can't think of a better place to be "stranded" during a vacation. I did a lot of bike riding, became a professional beach bum, and of course drank a few beers. Fantastic!

Happy 2009!

Well this year is off to a fast start - it's already January 9th!

I've mentioned in past years the hoards of new folks at the gym (for a limited time only) so I won't re-hash that. But I do have several January fitness points to make. First, I want to address something I hear a lot. Whenever I tell people that I want to lose 5 pounds I always hear the same thing - "you are so thin! Why would you worry about 5 pounds?" My answer to that is simple: It is much easier to lose 5 lbs that it is to lose 10 lbs or more. Once you let yourself get past a point where it becomes a very difficult task to get back to a normal weight, things start to get hopeless. My advice is weigh yourself DAILY if possible. Most grocery stores I go to have a scale for customers and of course there is that one at the gym (you do go - right?). You might not even feel like you have gained any weight until you have gained way too much so the only way to know is by checking it daily. What I do is pick a target weight zone and try to always stay within that zone. You should always allow at least 5 pounds within this zone because your weight will change that much for a variety of reason. But, once you start to go over that upper limit, you must take action immediately and that action is very simple - eat less and exercise more. That's it!

My next point is that you cannot get enough exercise in your home unless you are doing serious cardio work like a treadmill (for longer than 10 min.) I've noticed a disturbing trend recently that people actually think playing a video game like the Wii is good enough exercise. WRONG! Let me say that again because it is very important - WRONG! I don't care how much you swing your arms with virtual bowling, you are simply not getting a good cardio workout that your body needs. Please, do yourself a big favor and turn off the video game, or the football game and go outside and actually move your entire body to the point of heavy breathing. This is the only way you will help yourself lose weight and stay healthy. I understand it is cold in other parts of the world and it is hard to get motivated, but you must do it. Go to a mall or a school gym and get yourself moving. When you get back home - play the Wii! You can't get too much exercise.

OK - I'm done with my yearly rant on personal fitness. Why do I rant? Because it is so very important. You get one and only one body - take care of it and it will take care of you.

May your 2009 be extra fine!