Thursday, April 30, 2009

H1N1 is Makin Me Sick

Swine flu gets funnier every day. Apparently the pork lobby has protested to the Department of Agriculture over the use of the term Swine Flu. Our government of course immediately succumbed to this "logic" and is now using the name H1N1 flu. Catchy huh? Apparently the pork lobby was able to convince the Department of Agriculture that Americans actually believed that you could catch the flu from eating pork chops.

Even better than this, Orthodox Rabbis in Israel, have declared that the term Swine Flu is offensive to Jews and Muslims. They preferred to insult a secular organization (Mexico) by suggesting that the illness be called the Mexican Flu. It's great to see Jews and Muslims make common cause!

But wait, there's more! During yesterday's press conference with Our President a young female reporter asked the if it wasn't time to CLOSE THE BORDER WITH MEXICO. Actually I have heard this particularly ignorant and laughably stupid question on a couple of the talking head shows. President Obama politely replied that this would be like closing the barn door after the horses had already departed. I don't know why he didn't follow this with a brief discussion of the the serious economic and social dislocation this would cause.

The really great thing about Hysteria is little it has to do with the facts. Last year some 36,000 Americans died as a direct result of plain everyday flu. This year (at the same rate) we have probably lost about 12,000 citizens to the flu. The swine flu on the other hand has so far killed one unfortunate child who was visiting the US from Mexico. So where is the panic over our usual annual bout with the flu?

This is not to say there is no reason for concern over Swine flu, Avian flu or other new strains of flu virus to which we may have limited immunity and little knowledge about the potential rate of spread or possible severity. Seems like the CDC and WHO are doing a good job of monitoring the situation and advising reasonable measures we can take to mediate the situation.

But Hey! Let's face it. Panic and Hysteria is more fun and sells more crap on TV. Let's just curb the urge to act on it. One child in Fort Worth Texas was diagnosed with Swine flu and the entire school district has been shut down indefinitely. This over reaction has costs and won't necessarily provide any protection from the spread of the illness. I am less concerned about the actual risk from Swine Flu than I am from Panic Flu. If you are worried and want to know if you have contracted Swine Flu please click HERE.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Guest Post

This one comes to you courtesy of the Lady Wife.

Reminds me of the time I meant “Sorry for the inconvenience”, but spell-checked it into “Sorry for the incontinence.”

Following is a Mormon faux paux: Apostles?

Nuptials

The Lady Wife and I are over the top with joy! It seems the Handsome Camel is to wed Girl on Girl Action in less than one month's time.


To those impoverished souls unfamiliar with Seth (Handsome Camel) and Elana (Girl on Girl...) please click on and begin reading their most excellent blogs proudly linked off to the left of where your eyeballs are currently focused.


This is a marriage truly made in the Blogosphere. As it turns out Girl on Girl happens to be the niece of yours truly and the Lady Wife. We will be in attendance at the grand event to take place in the City of Angels.


In order to preserve the privacy of of the ceremony and its participants and keep the paparazzi at bay I must hold the details of this event in reasonable secrecy. Any readers with less than 2 degrees of separation seeking further information on the event please contact me through your comments below.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Anger Management


A few weeks back my wife and I purchased a new (slightly used) Honda Pilot SUV. Actually the Lady Wife bought the car for me. Pretty sweet huh? We purchased the car from Dick Hannah Honda in Vancouver WA. this is one of those mega-dealer operations which sells multiple brands, has a full service body shop, gift shop, and even a delicatessen. The Lady Wife wanted to be sure we got an all wheel drive model as I do a fair amount of driving for business around the great State of Oregon and Washington. Buying a car is a pretty traumatic experience. I have had rather negative experiences with a couple of local dealers primarily due to what I consider rather strong arm sales tactics. The salesman at Dick Hannah, Saeed, seemed a good sort and was pretty helpful in getting us through the usual 4 hour purchasing process.


A couple of weeks later I was driving my sleek new gray beauty with leather and all mod cons in the rain and noticed that when I lost traction under hard acceleration the rear wheels didn't seem to kick in. Imagine my shock the next day when I crawled under the back of the car and discovered that my new car had only front wheel drive and not all wheel drive as it was represented to have by the dealership.

My friends at work, family, and neighbors all counseled me to get pissed off, and launch a full frontal attack on Dick Hannah. I was also advised to expect nothing in the way of compensation or satisfaction from the dealer. Well, I have lost my temper before and believe me it is not fun. I decided that I would try a more moderate approach and give the dealer an opportunity to provide the customer service they brag about.

I called Saeed. On hearing about the problem he seemed shocked. He said he would talk to his boss and get back to me. At first I didn't hear anything like an admission that they had screwed up. I was afraid that the pessimists might prevail. I called Saeed every day for a week asking him if he was making any progress on a resolution to the problem. I explained both verbally and by e-mail that I expected the dealership to buy the car back and sell me another that had 4 wheel drive, similar miles and features at no extra cost to me. I was actually surprised when Saeed told me that in many years of selling cars he had never made a mistake like this before and that he was working to get management to meet my demands.

Yesterday my wife and I went to Dick Hannah Honda and met with Saeed and the General Manager, Peter. Peter informed us that our satisfaction was more important than any profit they would have made on the deal. He proposed a number of different vehicles for the swap. At the end of another 4 hour session we sold back the gray Honda and purchased a beautiful red 4WD Honda Pilot. The replacement car had less miles, certified Honda 100K miles warranty, and was generally in better shape than the original. It cost me $2000 less.

I never became angry (nervous yes). Saeed said he lost a couple of nights sleep over this. This was a lesson for me. I now have a new friend, Saeed, and an auto dealer I will return to in the future. I am always blabbing on about applying the 3 Fs in resolving business problems. Said 3 Fs are Firm, Fair, and Friendly. This time it worked.


Sunday, April 19, 2009

Run-on Diversity


Why is it that the subjects of Diversity, Multiculturalism, Sustainability, and such hot button topics invariably result in grammatical cramping and truly monumental run-on sentences. The following sentences are excerpted from a piece in the Reed College student newspaper "The Quest". The author (Assistant Dean of Multicultural Affairs) is making an effort to apologize and simultaneously excuse herself from blame while displaying her heartfelt grief for not inviting enough students to an event.

The event RSCAT, was billed as a "weekend long training that sought to engage students in conversations about issues of privilege as a beginning effort to addressing student concerns regarding diversity that is student-led and motivated" Hmm... that seems quite to the point.

It gets worse. Perhaps the students didn't attend the event because they were unable to understand just what the hell it was. To whit: "All of the students who attended this weekend had to complete an application and commit to being a part of an on-going process to engage in personal education around the range of issues associated with diversity, as well as assist in efforts to design a new orientation program that is not dependent on the students who are 'different' (note clever use of apostrophes) to educate others. In addition students who are participating in this group are taking an active role in considering what is their role when it comes to offering a student perspective when it comes to responding to incidents such as racist graffiti, as well as what it means to develop on-going spaces where anyone can feel comfortable raising questions addressing the range of issues associated with diversity.


Reed College is probably the best small liberal arts college in America. I have a great deal of respect for the students and faculty. However, Reed is not immune to the political and social paralysis which has afflicted campuses across the country as they try to grapple with the issue of diversity on campus. The fear of offending someone (anyone) renders the above author incapable of writing a clear simple declarative sentence. I don't really know what she was trying to say but I suspect it was something along the lines of "I am sorry I didn't invite enough white students to our event, but it really wasn't my fault. Racism is bad. Let's work together to eliminate it". Wouldn't this have been easier to read?

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

I Dreamed a Dream


If you haven't already seen Susan Boyle sing then you are in for a rare treat! I fucking wept when I saw this...

Sunday, April 12, 2009

My Dog


This was a rather difficult morning. Jenny and I decided that the guilt of not providing enough attention or exercise for our Jack Russell terrrier Domino outweighed the guilt of farming him out to a new home.

We posted an advert on Craig's List and within one hour had a call from a family who seemed to fit the profile just right. We threw the Domster in the car and headed for Molalla OR. The new familiy has 8 children and a mixed Jack Russel dog already. Dom seemed to hit it off well with the dog, cat and children. He was very intrigued with the chicken and two rabbits in the backyard hutch. I wouldn't give a plugged nickel for their lifespan. This should be a good solution for Dom with lots of attention, another dog to play with and small animals to possibly chase and kill. If this is such a great deal for the dog, then why do I have such strong guilt feelings?

On the bright side we can take the covers off the furniture, have a weekend away from home without organizing a dog sitter, and live a more hair free life. Nevertheless, I am not looking forward to sitting on the couch in front of the TV without Dom's head in my lap. If the new family calls back and tells us it's not working out I guess that will be OK with me.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Sustainable

My least favorite word. The tip of the drumstick for the constant drumbeat driving our economy towards architectural devlopment favoring a very limited group of developers who have sussed out how to profit at the public's expense.

Allow me to quote a local architect speaking on the idea that we should tear down Portland's historic Memorial Colliseum in order to construct a new more "sustainable" baseball park for the Portland Beavers AAA baseball team:

"Falsetto said it’s usually not sustainable to tear down a good building."
“The idea is that the most sustainable building is the one that’s never built and the second-most sustainable building is the one that already exists,” he said."

I have yet to hear a spokesman for the "Sustainability" movement define in any rational way just what the meaning of the term is or demonstrate anything like of set of standards for evaluation (LEEDS notwithstanding).
There is certainly a reason that the vast majority of buildings constructed under the Sustainability banner are publicly funded. Based on market value and the ability to make a profit these buildings would not be sustainable. That is, at the high price per square foot they would not be marketable. This is not sustainable.


Tuesday, April 7, 2009

A Little Creepy

video
The office manager at our company arrived at work today and installed this animatronic cat on her desk. While I appreciate the need to replace Pariah our previous real cat who apparently succumbed (or at least never returned on Monday morning) this thing is just a bit creepy. While the breathing is kind of cute, that fact that it is dead cold and otherwise completely paralyzed is somewhat off putting. This product was given to Deborah by her mother and of course could not be refused.

In addition to Mr. Cuddley it also came with a zippered mesh carrier (will it try to escape?) and a hair brush. I presume if it is subjected to too much brushing it will become bald. This is not an image I want to countenance. Oh well, perhaps the batteries will expire before his coat. If you want to acquire your own Perfect Pet you may acquire one at www.perfectpetzzz.com.

Monday, April 6, 2009

NCAA Championship Game

God I love sports. I really do. This is why the MTVization of events like the NCAA championship series is so disappointing.

The constant cuts to commercials make the DVR not a convenience but a necessity for enjoying any continuity to the game. Unfortunately you can't cut past the announcers frequent promotion of CBS programs with screen within a screen promos.

Worse than the constant huckstering however is the adolescent banter of the announcers in an effort to sound hip and in tune with the street lingo of the players and fans.


Transcribed in actual time, the following quotes are not from some beer addled misanthrope in the cheap seats, but from the announcers themselves.

  • He got some sweet real estate!
  • Man, that was a lower body root canal!

  • They just come at you in waves

  • Michigan is down at the half, bigtime

  • They are taller inside and bigger on the perimeter

  • Tracing the ball we call it

  • North Carolina has Spurtability (I hope this is not a reference to the aforementioned lower body root canal)

  • That word in Irish "destiny" (apropos of what I am not sure)

  • A room service down for Tyler Hansboro (huh?)

  • Michigan State needs a little foul fueled injection

  • They just haven't given them much to chew on

  • Stylin and profilin a little bit big man!

  • Sharin the sugar we call it. Spreadin it around

As they say, I couldn't make this stuff up. Great performance by North Carolina. They won. Enough said.


Sunday, April 5, 2009

I WANT ONE OF THESE!


My nephew, Chris, is one of the designers of this new Electric Car. I want one. While I am not quite ready for the $49K tab, it looks like we are heading in the right direction...
The Model S from Tesla moves the electric car from the world of dweeb hobby car to a practical rig which lives up to modern auto technology. If this one isn't fast enough for you check out the Roadster.

Following are basic specs (from http://www.teslamotors.com/)
- 300 mile range
- 45 minute QuickCharge
- 0-60 mph in 5.6 seconds
- Seats 7 people
- More Cargo space than station wagons
- 2X as efficient as hybrids
- 17 inch infotainment touchscreen
With a range up to 300 miles and 45-minute QuickCharge, the Model S can carry five adults and two children in quiet comfort – and you can charge it from any outlet, without ever stopping for gas. World’s first mass-produced electric vehicle offers performance, efficiency and unrivaled utility for a base price of $49,900*, making it the only car you’ll ever need.
- Up to 300 mile range
- 45 minute QuickCharge
- Charges from 120V, 240V or 480V
- 5 minute battery swap
Three battery pack options offer a range of 160, 230 or 300 miles per charge. With the 45 minute QuickCharge or a 5 minute battery swap, you can drive from LA to San Francisco, Washington to New York or take even longer road trips in about the same time as in a conventional car.
- Seating for 5 adults + 2 child seats
- Unique hatch for oversized items
- 60/40 flat-folding rear seat
- 2nd trunk under hood
With seating for five adults and two children, plus an additional trunk under the hood, Model S has passenger carrying capacity and versatility rivaling SUVs and minivans. Rear seats fold flat, and the hatch gives way to a roomy opening, so you can stow a mountain bike, 50-inch flat-screen TV, full drum set or futon frame – more than ample for the entire family and their gear.
- 0-60 mph in 5.6 seconds
- 120 mph top speed
- Sport sedan dynamics
- All-wheel-drive available
Model S offers 100 percent torque, 100 percent of the time without jerky shifting and a fraction of the noise and harshness of internal combustion engines. This smooth and constant power delivery, combined with the sporty handling of the chassis and suspension, leads to a superior driving experience.
- Pure electric
- 2X as efficient as hybrids
- Proven powertrain from leading EV Mfr.
- 17 inch infotainment touchscreen
The Model S powertrain features a liquid-cooled, floor-mounted battery pack and a single-speed gearbox, delivering effortless acceleration, responsive handling and quiet simplicity -- no fancy clutchwork or gear-shifting required. Model S costs about $4 to fully charge – a bargain even when gasoline is $1 per gallon. You can listen to Pandora Radio or consult Google Maps on the 17 inch touchscreen with in-car 3G connectivity.

My New Sport

Last night my friend Jim invited me to attend an indoor Lacrosse game at the Rose Garden. I have only seen an actual Lacrosse game (not a match!) only once before and that on television.

My impression of the game based on reputation was that of an athletic, tough, somewhat exotic game played primarily by Ivy League East Coast rich kids.

As played indoors the game is a lot like hockey without skates. There is stick checking, high speed collisions and frequent fights. The game also reminds one of basketball, with set offensive plays, picks and dunk like shots on goal. It is fun to watch. The players, apparently, are almost to the last man, Canadians. Apparently there are not enough professional hockey jobs to go around. I was surprised to learn that most of the players actually still live in Canada and only come to Portland for the games.

The crowd is decidedly blue collar, with many fans outfitted in official Lumberjax regalia. This is cute on the kids and a little ridiculous on the adults. In total I am guessing that there were close to 8000 fans present.

All in all I liked the game, but here is why I probably won't be attending again:

1. Noise Level - In typical Rose Garden fashion the obnoxious rock/heavy metal music incessantly boomed at least 80 decibels or above. I couldn't here anything said to me unless the speaker was located no more than 5" from my left ear.

2. General Adolescent Environment - Apparently the game isn't enough entertainment. The giant overhead scoreboard when not showing replays of controversial or violent play action showed everything from Yosemite Sam clips to close ups of the Jax Dancers. the whole thing reminded me of a professional wrestling match, replete with the gravel voice announcer screaming "YOUR PORTLAND LUMBERJAX" at every opportunity. Of course the entire set piece would not have been complete without the requisite mascot, Jaxon, shown at right preparing to cross check a 3 year old waif.

3. Jax Dancers - What would drive someone to want to do this? I suppose it is like the minor leagues for the Blazer Dancers. I particularly enjoyed the three lugnuts seated behind me whose invariable response to the Jax gyrations was an endless debate on which of the dancers they would like to "do". This greatly contributed to the adolescent environment and enjoyment of "sport".

4. Food and Drink - Jim and I enjoyed one too many beers. For once, I didn't even look when it was my turn to purchase. I am guessing the beverages probably were in the double digit range for a pint. I also enjoyed watching the vendors pedaling various neon colored confections and multicolored soft drinks in the stands. This may be a contributing factor to the general obesity and poor complexion among many of the fans.

5. Our National Anthem - After the teams were escorted onto the pitch by long lines of high fiving elementary students with flashing lights and ear splitting sound effects it was time for Patriotism. A high school choir took care of the singing (quite well actually) while the fans stood and searched in vain for the flag. All I could find was a stupendous electronic monitor which circled the entire arena, flashing red white and blue stars, stripes and strange waving patterns.

At the end of the day (or evening as it were) I must thank my pal Jim for introducing me to lacrosse. I will however, in the future, pass on the adolescent, deafening, over sexed Arena version in favor of the more traditional outdoor game. Perhaps the Iroquois had it right. No sound system, not a lot of rules, played to the death to settle cross tribal grudges. But then again, maybe they would have enjoyed the JAX dancers?

Oh, and by the way, the Lumberjax won (over the Colorado Mammoths) after a 12-12 tie in you guessed it; SUDDEN DEATH!

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Ciclovia!

My son, Bobby, is working with a group to bring Ciclovia to Los Angeles. Watch the following cool video to get an idea what this is all about:

http://www.streetfilms.org/archives/ciclovia/ Sorry I could not figure out how to actually imbed the video in my blog post. I need help on this technical stuff.

Some 38 years ago I spent some time in Bogota while in the Peace Corps. I remember the city as dark, scary, poor and overrun with homeless children. What a change! Now I want to go back and see the new Bogota!