Monday, December 6, 2010

WikiLeaks: Whistleblower – or Terrorist?

WikiLeaks, who recently released a tsunami of classified documents, now finds itself running for cover as it a web host shut them down and even a Swiss bank appears to have frozen WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s legal defense fund. WikiLeaks has found others to help them keep the classified information out there by the use of mirror sites.

Is this a case of a whistleblower being persecuted – or a case of a terrorist being shut off from those tools he uses to inflict harm on others? Newspapers in the past have covered controversial stories that involve classified information. The difference with the news media is that they don’t encourage the theft of classified documents in order to further their stories. In the case of WikiLeaks, it seems that Assange gets his information from documents that are not obtained legally. It seems that Assange has no concern for the fall out to military forces or the people that could be harmed by the release of government secrets.

While I would love to have a government that is completely transparent, I also live in a real world where sometimes people don’t have – or need - to know every single detail of what their government, and key elected or appointed officials, are doing

It’s important to note that Assange is also wanted to Sweden for alleged sex crimes and, as a result, has been in hiding. For someone who expects he can expose government confidential documents to make government officials look bad, as of this writing he hasn’t himself been able to step up to face the accusations being made against him. According to "He has also said he believes that the sex-crime accusations — which, media reports in Sweden suggest, are not violent in nature — are politically motivated." The whole mess is complicated, to be sure. In my opinion, Assange is the one who looks guilty of politically motivated attacks. Let’s not forget his stunt when, in 2008 WikiLeaks posted emails that were obtained by hacking into Sarah Palin’s email account. Despite the fact that I have a low opinion of Palin, I thought that it was pretty low for WikiLeaks to publish her private email information. Now really, what value did that have? That should have been the first indication that Assange’s motives were not a squeaky clean as he may want others to think.

Right now, I’m of the opinion that Assange is more terrorist than whistleblower, more troublemaker than problem solver. Should WikiLeaks be shut down? If it is publishing documents obtained illegally and/or through espionage, yes WikiLeaks should be shut down. If Assange can uncover information using legal or ethical methods, then sure, I think he should be allowed to post whatever he wants. Somehow, I don’t think he has the ability to do the latter.

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Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Black Friday: The Real Meaning of Thanksgiving?

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It’s the one day that some people look forward to all year: Black Friday. It’s is not a day of mourning, it’s a day for shopping. Black Friday is the day after Thanksgiving, but got the name Black Friday because it signals the official start of the Christmas shopping season. The heavy shopping day puts many retailers “in the black” which means they are turning a profit. (“In the black” is a old phase which goes back to the days of manual financial ledgers where losses were written in red ink and profits in black ink.) Many retailers offer big sales/discounts on coveted items (like TVs or other electronics) to draw shoppers into the store. While Black Friday puts many retailers in a good place financially, it puts many consumers in deep debt.

Sadly, the spirit of the Thanksgiving holiday gets lost in the shopping frenzy. While many families still get together for a nice turkey dinner, just as many are using the day to comb through the ads to find the best deals. Quite a few people spend part of Thanksgiving standing in line, waiting for a store to open its doors in the wee hours, letting in the throngs to shop until they drop. Some stores even opened up on Thanksgiving last year. It’s pathetic that some people spend more time planning what they are going to buy than spend time on those things for which they should be thankful. Let’s not forget that because so many people are out shopping, the crowds are large, the lines are long, and tempers can be short. It’s common to hear news stories of customer vs. customer or customer vs. store clerk altercations on that shopping day. In my opinion, a person must be desperate to save a few dollars to go out and shop on a day like that.

Me? I will be staying away from the stores that day, maybe even that weekend. Instead, I will be spending my weekend being thankful for family and friends – because family and friends are far more important than things.

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Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Negative Political Ads: Working For, and Against, a Candidate

It’s that time of year – election time – when things can get ugly. The negative political ads on television and the negative political phone calls are flooding out in full force. It seems everyone complains about them, but the big question is, do they work? The answer is yes, but not always in the manner in which the advertiser wants.

In an informal survey of friends, family, and casual conversation with people I encounter in any given day, I find that many people do listen to negative ads and at least make an attempt to process whether the claims are true or false. If the person who hears the ad doesn’t like the candidate at which the negative ad is pointed, it can cement their opinion and lock in their vote for the candidate running the ad. The gain for the candidate running the ad is zero because the person was going to vote for them anyway. If the person was going to vote for the other candidate – the one at which the ad is pointed - the voter often becomes defensive of their candidate and it can lock in their vote for their candidate, a gain of zero for the candidate running the ad.

But, the person who is on the fence can go either way, and a lot of it depends on the tone or the subject of the ad. If the ad brings out any claim of impropriety in the person’s personal or business dealings (for example, claims the candidate is a tax cheat, or claims that the person has lawsuits filed against him/her), those ads often swing voters to the candidate who is running the negative ad. Pointing at an incumbent’s past record is less effective, though, because if a person had voted for that person in the past, they will likely view this as an attack on their own past choices. No one likes to think they made a bad decision, even the voter.

When both parties run negative ads, it can become sheer comedy. Frequently I see TV ads for opposing candidates run back to back, pointing at each other with negative accusations. In those cases, people only get more confused and likely don’t want to vote for either candidate, canceling out the effect of the ad.

The web site has the Truth- O-Meter which attempts to sort through some of the accusations and rates them from true, through false, to “pants on fire”, the latter highlighting the biggest lies. It’s an invaluable tool when trying to determine if the ad has merit.

The bottom line – negative ads really don’t buy a candidate many votes. Many times it serves only to entrench voters in their choices, and risks alienating voters from the whole voting process. If a candidate has to rely on slinging mud to win voters, I believe this means they don’t have much substance of their own. While I know these ads will never go away, I can only wish that more candidates would choose not to take that route. A candidate should be selling me what he or she CAN do, not what their opponent CAN’T do, or what their opponent has done. It would be nice if the “truth-o-meter” could be superimposed on the ad while it runs, but I know that will never happen. Voters must take the time to educate themselves on the issue, and the PolitiFact Truth- O-Meter is a wonderful tool (available only for a select group of states). I encourage all to use it – get the facts before acting on negative spin!

Example: Ad Attacking Lee Fisher is “Half True”

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Thursday, September 9, 2010

Freedom of Speech/Religion Means Freedom to Make Bad Choices

I’m a little tired of hearing all the media coverage about the a pastor of a tiny church who wants to have a Qur’an (Koran) burning and the Imam who wants to build a mosque/community center near New York City’s 9/11 ground zero.

The media is making big stories out of both issues, and are likely the ones fanning the flames. Yes, the media has the freedom to cover these stories as they see fit, but, in the case of the Qur’an burning pastor, the media has now given it so much exposure that the event may endanger Americans by inciting Muslim radicals. The issue with the mosque being built near the site of the 9/11 terror attack is really a local issue that should have been resolved locally, but the media has made it a national issue.

As the media has already fanned the flames of two small “brush” fires and now have created a forest fire, the only issue left now is what freedom of speech, and freedom of religion, means.

The pastor is clearly within his right to burn whatever he wants to burn – well, as long as where he burns it, an open fire is allowed. Is it a smart thing to burn the Qur’an in protest? NO. It is a senseless act that does nothing but promote religious intolerance. How would the pastor feel if a rabbi decided to burn the New Testament of the Bible? People in the United States have the right to choose their faith (or not follow any religion) and worship without government intervention. The Qur’an has every right to be published and read in the United States, just as the Bible or any other book for that matter, religious or not.

The Imam wanting to build his mosque in New York near the site of the 9/11 terrorist attacks is also within his right to do so. But, considering the sentiment of many in the city who were directly affected by the terrorist attacks, the place the Imam has chosen may not be the best. I do believe if the facility is done right, it could be a step in the healing process, but if it were me, I would not be building it in that location – it would not be worth the constant controversy.

The one lesson that we can learn here is that our freedoms sometimes come with a price. Our freedoms sometimes mean that we are free to make decisions that are not always in the best interests of those around us. It also means that the media is free to cover issues that frankly don’t affect most people. As people sometimes don’t always learn even after repeating mistakes, I don’t think these current situations mean the end to this lesson

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Friday, September 3, 2010

eReaders and eBooks: I Think I’ll Pass

I love all the latest technology – who doesn’t? – but not everything is better when technology is added. Take eBooks for example. Something seems so cold and clinical about sitting down with an eReader and reading a book electronically. It seems more like work. On the other hand, reading a book the “old-fashioned” way – you know, opening the book and leafing through the pages as the story progresses – seems far more leisurely and relaxing. It’s also a lot of fun walking through a bookstore and just seeing what's out there. Sometimes the process of buying a book, for oneself or as a gift, can be fun and entertaining. One never knows what treasure one will find.

The biggest drawback to eBooks is not the delivery of the product from a reader’s eyes to their brains; it’s the PRICE of the eBook. Something that is delivery electronically – no paper, no binding, no handling, etc. – seems to have a fairly hefty price tag. While it may seem less than the cost of a hardcover book, it’s often far more than the cost of a paperback. If publishing an eBook has taken so many raw materials and labor out of the process, why are consumers not seeing a savings? I can’t imagine that the marketing of an eBook is any more costly than the marketing of a normal, print book.

eBooks also have another annoying trait – there doesn’t seem to be a way for a person to lend an eBook to a friend or family member to share. I also don’t have to pay extra to buy an eReader so I can read my printed book – or my print newspaper.

eReaders, and products like the iPad, seem to be products that were created to deliver content to consumers, so publishers of printed books, magazines, and newspapers can find yet another way to make money. The problem with newspapers and magazines is that they already let that horse out of the barn when many publications offered free content on the Internet. Of course, that was after they discovered that many people don’t want to pay extra for news and magazine content on the Internet. Some newspapers are trying to re-institute pay walls, and I say good luck with that.

I am not completely closed to the idea of eReaders and eBooks, but I do believe that they need to price the readers AND the books at much lower price points if they want the masses to accept them. With so many more options for entertainment these days, people can afford to walk away from books as entertainment if the delivery mechanism and content is too pricey.

So for now, I am going to pass on an eReader. Call me a romantic, but I like getting something tangible – you know, something that I can hold in my hands or lend to someone if I see fit – for my head earned money.

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Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Please Please No More Febreze

I’m one of those people who can’t tolerate products that have heavy or overpowering fragrances, and there are a lot of people out there like me. While many cleaning products have some sort of fragrance, I can tolerate them if the fragrance isn’t heavy and doesn’t assault my nose. I do buy products that have no fragrance – laundry detergent for example – whenever possible.

Many people must either be obsessed with smelling like perfume, or too many people have smelly homes, because it seems as if Febreze is being added to everything. I am waiting for them to start adding Febreze to toothpaste and mouthwash so people can have nice fragrant breath. Don’t laugh, I bet if they could do it, they would. I go a little crazy when I see commercials with someone spraying Febreze all over their house, their car, their closets, etc. If a person has to spray so much Febreze all over everything, this should signal that they have some sort of cleanliness and odor problem that shouldn’t just be covered up.

Before you reach for that Febreze to spray all over your home, think first about what is causing the smell and address that issue only. Have a kid that is a slob? Don’t spray Febreze all over his/her room; make him/her clean it up. Have leftover cooking smells? Open a window – or keep a box of baking soda on your counter (it’s good for cleanups and some boxes are made with open panels to help absorb odors). Does your house smell of pets? Keep them off the furniture and have your upholstered furniture and rugs vacuumed often. If you don’t have a dog, don’t get one – dogs can really stink up a house. (Cats, not so much, as long as the litter box is kept clean). Do you smoke? There isn't enough Febreze to cover the smell of cigarette smoke, period. Don't smoke or don't smoke indoors. I could go on and on, but you get the picture.

Here’s another clue – if you spray Febreze all over your house so someone can’t smell an odor, they will smell the Febreze and know you are just covering up something. Address the source of the odor because it really is obvious when someone sprays something to just cover it up – you’re not fooling anybody.

Before you buy that product with Febreze, think twice about why you feel you need it. If possible, buy products like Method cleaners which are gentle and non-toxic and have natural, light scents – or no scent at all.

So quit covering odors with perfumey chemicals – your nose will eventually thank you for it.

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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Story of Cosmetics: Beauty Can Be Toxic

Who doesn’t want to look beautiful? Who doesn’t want to be healthy? Who doesn’t want the earth to be a clean place to live? I am sure everyone wants all those things (and probably more). But does using cosmetics mean that you have to expose yourself to toxic chemicals that can cause cancer and can be harmful to the earth? Apparently it does. Here’s a short video which explains just what is going into our cosmetics and health and beauty items. It’s quite revealing and will certainly make one think twice about all the health and beauty items used on a daily basis.

For more information on a what can be done to make cosmetics safer to use, seeCampaign for Safe Cosmetics.

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Thursday, July 8, 2010

Cloud Computing: A Matter of Trust, Security

It sounds like a great thing – using programs and storing files in the internet “cloud.” It would allow you to work on files and access files and photos anywhere and from any device that can access the Internet. Many people – including me – are already using the cloud for email when using email services like Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail, etc. I’ve been using those services for years, and with the exception of the occasional (rare) email outage, they are all great services, keeping my own hard drive unclogged from the hundreds of emails that I get daily. you really trust someone with your sensitive files, or want someone to have access to all your photos? Do you want to have access to your files being controlled by someone other than yourself? Not me. I don’t have the trust that these systems are 100% secure and that my photos will not end up being indexed in someone’s search engine, or that someone may hack into my account and grab my photos and use them for profit. I also have a concern that once I would move things to the cloud, somewhere the ISPs would find a way to make money off the fact that I have to use the Internet to get my files, and start charging users more based on Internet usage (yes, some ISPs have kicked around the idea of charging more for heavy users, just like in the early days of the Internet).

With the amount of computer viruses, trojans, malware, and hackers out there, it would only be a matter of time before someone found a way to compromise the security for files stored in the cloud. Imagine if you stored all your photos in the cloud and someone hacked into your account and deleted all your precious photos? It would be as if someone robbed you of all your memories.

Call me a control freak, but for personal documents, photos, and other files such as music, I prefer to have complete control over my data, at least for now. Cloud computing is great for email, especially if confidentiality is not an issue and if you have a decent password that would be difficult to hack. But for your precious files and photos, it may be better to keep them grounded on your own computer.

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Thursday, June 10, 2010

BP: Beyond Pathetic

Not abstract art; it's only a small part of the Gulf oil spill

Each day, I become more horrified and sickened by the sights of globs of tarry oil on the beautiful Gulf shores and beaches in the southern United States. BP has more than a disastrous oil leak on their hands; they have a colossal PR nightmare on their hands. Their stock is plummeting and the American public becomes angrier by the minute at the expanding oil slick that is ruining beaches and marshland, disabling and/or killing wildlife, and destroying livelihoods. The CEO of BP, Tony Hayward, seems to have dropped from view with the media after his comment, “I’d like my life back” (video below). As Hayward seems to have cut back his appearances with the news media, the New York Times is now reporting that BP appears to be making an effort to limit the flow of news about the oil spill, saying the following:

To some critics of the response effort by BP and the government, instances of news media being kept at bay are just another example of a broader problem of officials’ filtering what images of the spill the public sees.

Scientists, too, have complained about the trickle of information that has emerged from BP and government sources. Three weeks passed, for instance, from the time the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded on April 20 and the first images of oil gushing from an underwater pipe were released by BP.

“I think they’ve been trying to limit access,” said Representative Edward J. Markey, a Democrat from Massachusetts who fought BP to release more video from the underwater rovers that have been filming the oil-spewing pipe. “It is a company that was not used to transparency. It was not used to having public scrutiny of what it did.”

BP’s actions with this whole disaster are pathetic. At first, they seemed to minimize the amount of oil being leaked into the Gulf, and then they minimized the impact to the coastline. But lucky for Americans, the media can be like an attack dog that is not willing to let go – they will continue to dig into the story despite whatever roadblocks are placed in front of them. In my opinion, the time will be coming all too soon when the oil will be spread so far over the Gulf coastline that there is no way that BP can keep the media away in ANY location.

Rubbing salt into the wound is this report from Business Insider, “The UK Is Now Freaking Out About The U.S. Reaction To BP” which says:

“Major Conservative political leader and Mayor of London Boris Johnson has called President Barack Obama's language "anti-British" after the President called BP 'British Petroleum' rather than its modern name.

Conservative Lord Tebbit's quote is just too vitriolic to paraphrase.

From The Daily Mail:

"The whole might of American wealth and technology is displayed as utterly unable to deal with the disastrous spill - so what more natural than a crude, bigoted, xenophobic display of partisan political Presidential petulance against a multinational company," said Lord Tebbit.

Much of the furor over the fallout from the BP spill in the UK stems from the potential damage to the company's dividends, which are linked to many pensions in the country.”

With the oil disaster in the Gulf now listed as the largest environmental disaster in U.S. history, it is clear that many people, and many types of wildlife, will feel the effects for years to come. It will also require a lot of money to restore the land, water, wildlife, and livelihoods to the way it was before the oil leak occurred. Will BP have the money to make it right? Possibly not, if they pay out those dividends. Does it bother me that many pensions in the UK may be linked to those BP dividends? Not in the slightest, seeing that the livelihoods of many Americans have already been destroyed by BP's own inability to fix and contain the problem. Would any citizens of the UK like it if that oil spill happened on their own beaches and shores? I think not. And, if Lord Tebbit is upset that Obama referred to them as “British Petroleum,” all I can say is that’s still what I call them too, after all, they had the name “British Petroleum” for a long time. It’s a simple mistake, nothing like a big mistake such as your company’s oil rig blowing up, killing people and causing an uncontrolled oil spill of huge proportions.

BP – it’s time to fix this oil spill once and for all. Pretend that this happened right on the coastline of England – wouldn’t you want the leak plugged and the oil cleaned up immediately? I would think so. And, until you make this right by cleaning up the beaches, restoring wildlife habitats, and compensating American businesses for their losses, I don’t think once cent should be paid to any shareholder. Shareholders may not like it, but their dividends are now covered by that black, tarry oil too.

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Thursday, May 13, 2010

Crude Oil: You Can’t Have Your Cake And Eat It Too

As the oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico continues to horrify the nation, especially those living near the shores directly in its path, opposition to offshore drilling has increased. Everybody is getting on the anti-drilling bandwagon, and even Sam Waterston, Law & Order star and a board memo of Oceana, spoke to Congress to urge a halt to new offshore drilling.

But while the spill expands and the outrage increases, our need for oil that will ultimately power or cars has not abated and we don’t seem any closer to reducing our reliance on fossil fuels.

Drilling for oil is an ugly business, and anytime we mix crude oil and water we are asking for trouble. And I don’t mean by just offshore drilling, I also include the transport of oil. There have been big oil spills in the past, some listed in this article in the New York Times, Gulf Oil Spill Is Bad, but How Bad? :

The ruptured well, currently pouring an estimated 210,000 gallons of oil a day into the gulf, could flow for years and still not begin to approach the 36 billion gallons of oil spilled by retreating Iraqi forces when they left Kuwait in 1991. It is not yet close to the magnitude of the Ixtoc I blowout in the Bay of Campeche in Mexico in 1979, which spilled an estimated 140 million gallons of crude before the gusher could be stopped.

And it will have to get much worse before it approaches the impact of the Exxon Valdez accident of 1989, which contaminated 1,300 miles of largely untouched shoreline and killed tens of thousands of seabirds, otters and seals along with 250 eagles and 22 killer whales.

We need oil to power our cars – but we also abhor the process of getting that oil. This is one of those cases where we just can’t have our cake and eat it too – if we don’t like how we get the oil, then we have to GIVE UP the oil.

Those who frown on offshore drilling are thinking too small; offshore drilling is only part of the problem. We still transport oil over water, regardless of where it may have been drilled. There are also endless tons of exhaust from motor vehicles which gas fueled vehicles spew into the air and into our lungs. We just have to say NO to oil. While it’s easy to make that statement, doing it is not. Vehicles powered by methods other than gas – such as electric cells - are not affordable for most people. Alternative fuel such as electricity are probably not practical at this time for trucks, trains, and ships, which likely throw more garbage into the air than cars and may use far more fossil fuel. And the NIMBYs (Not In My Back Yard) really come out whenever nuclear power is mentioned.

While I do think it is wise to halt new offshore drilling for now until we are certain that the proper controls are in place to prevent another disaster such as this Gulf oil spill, it will probably become a necessity down the road if we still insist on powering our cars with gas and want to do it at a low cost. If there was ever a call to find alternatives to powering our motor vehicles and to make it affordable to do so, it is now.

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Saturday, April 24, 2010

Is Facebook the New “Evil Empire”?

Years ago, when Microsoft was rising as a powerful software company, my office colleagues used to refer to it as “The Evil Empire” as it seemed that Microsoft wanted its hands in everything people did on a computer. Much later, the focus changed to Google, who became the new Evil Empire as it seemed they want to Google-ize everything people did on a computer, but Google was more stealth-like about it than Microsoft. We all figured that one day Google would try to get its hands on every little bit of our lives. Even Google must have sensed this, as they adopted a motto “don’t be evil.” Over the years I’ve softened quite a bit on Google, after seeing some of the really interesting things they’ve made available for free, like blogs, maps with street view, books on line, to name just a few. OK, they took a swing and missed with Google Buzz, a nightmare when it came to people wanting to be connected, yet protecting their privacy from the masses. But I can understand Google wanting to jump on the social media bandwagon. And in case your wondering, Apple is getting close to crossing over to the evil dark side, acting like greedy control freaks who want people (now called iSheep) to buy every new iToy they sell, just so the iSheep can buy stuff like movies and music and books to run on the hot iToy of the day. Apple is all about selling you their stuff so you can consume (and buy) more stuff.

So who is the new evil empire of the moment? Facebook. I have several Facebook accounts, setting them up long ago when Facebook was still a small fry. I thought it would be nice to have a few Facebook accounts just in case I would find a need for them in the future. I never did find that need. In fact, I realized that - after being reluctant about Twitter at first - that Twitter fit my needs better as I like to get – and give – information in quick “bursts” without having to wade through several web sites or too much data. Recent privacy concerns with Facebook makes me like it even less, and I am becoming more convinced that they are new Evil Empire.

PC World published an article titled ” Facebook's New Features and Your Privacy: What You Need To Know.” It is an interesting look into the increasingly complex and almost sinister (translate: evil) changes with Facebook as its tentacles wrap tighter and tighter onto not just the information you post on Facebook, but also on third party sites you may visit, and making public things that you like, not only to your friends, but friends of friends. Let me be blunt here: friends of friends should translate to the word “strangers” because that’s who they likely are. In this day of people wanting to protect their identity, why on earth are people being so casual about what information they spew out to strangers?

There are ways you can “opt out” of some of these things, but unless you know where to look to make that fix, you may be unwittingly sharing information that you really didn’t want broadcast to the world. I have never liked “opt-out” policies, thinking that certain changes should be “opt-in.” I suppose since Facebook is free, technically they can do whatever they want with the information you put on their site. It’s the collecting of data and information from other sites that rubs me the wrong way, and the fact that Facebook is becoming too cavalier with members' information.

Now that Facebook is the apparent designated social media site for the masses and has millions in its grip, it’s time for them to find ways to tighten its grasp. For me, I have turned off many of their applications that would even remotely share any data about what I do. If you have a Facebook account, I urge you to read the PC World article I mentioned above and then take a look at what you have on your Facebook account and what Facebook is sharing with strangers about YOU, and make changes as needed. Facebook can only do evil things to you and your information if you let them

Reference: ”PC World Facebook's New Features and Your Privacy: What You Need To Know.”

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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Samsung 3-D TV To Come With Serious Warnings

As Samsung works to mass produce television with 3-D screens, Samsung has also come out with a warning for 3-D TV viewers which may give many people pause about buying one. An excerpt as the warning as it stands today:

Some viewers may experience an epileptic seizure or stroke when exposed to certain flashing images or lights contained in certain television pictures or video games. If you suffer from, or have a family history of epilepsy or strokes, please consult with a medical specialist before using the 3D function.

Even those without a personal or family history of epilepsy or stroke may have an undiagnosed condition that can cause photosensitive epileptic seizures.

Pregnant women, the elderly, sufferers of serious medical conditions, those who are sleep deprived or under the influence of alcohol should avoid utilising the unit’s 3D functionality.

If you experience any of the following symptoms, stop viewing 3D pictures immediately and consult a medical specialist:
1. altered vision;
4.involuntary movements such as eye or muscle twitching;
8.cramps; and/ or

…Viewing 3D television may also cause motion sickness, perceptual after effects, disorientation, eye strain and decreased postural stability. It is recommended that users take frequent breaks to lessen the potential of these effects. If your eyes show signs of fatigue or dryness or if you have any of the above symptoms, immediately discontinue use of this device and do not resume using it for at least thirty minutes after the symptoms have subsided.

…Viewing in 3D may cause disorientation for some viewers. Accordingly, DO NOT place your TV television near open stairwells, cables, balconies, or other objects that can be tripped over, run into, knocked down, broken or fallen over.

Keep in mind that the above is only an excerpt, there are quite a few more warning points listed. It is worse than reading the warning label on prescription drugs, it would only sound worse if one of the side effects was death. For me, I get motion sickness standing on a damp lawn, and get nauseated at the simple flicker of florescent lights or flashing lights on vehicles such as police cars and ambulances. It sounds like 3-D TV is going to be crossed off my list. But even for people who are not hyper-sensitive and motions sick and migraine prone like me, I would think that they would also have to think twice before putting down a large amount of money for a television that may make them ill while viewing. The next thing you know, it will become illegal to drive your car after watching 3-D TV for fear that it will impair drivers.

Technology is changing so fast that one can only hope that someone will come up with 3-D technology that doesn’t have such side effects. Until that time, I’ll stick with my nice, flat screen HD TV – because two dimensional TV is enough for me!

Samsung warning for 3-D TV viewers

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Thursday, March 25, 2010

Domestic Terrorism: Sarah Palin Puts Democrats in the Crosshairs, Tells People to “Reload”

The Republican Party has hit a new low, and the behavior of some of their members is becoming downright frightening.

Ex-Governor (and currently holding no elected office) Sarah Palin crossed the line yesterday with a post on her Twitter account that said “Commonsense Conservatives & lovers of America: "Don't Retreat, Instead - RELOAD!" Pls see my Facebook page.” Her Facebook page then goes on to encourage those unhappy with the recent passing of health care reform to “...not get discouraged. Don’t get demoralized. Get organized!”

She goes on to express the desire to “reclaim the power of the people from those who disregarded the will of the people. We’re going to fire them and send them back to the private sector” …” commenting that when they join the ranks of the unemployed, maybe they will understand. But Palin also goes on to show a chart from listing specific democrats that she wants to target, and the chart has crosshairs – literally - on their congressional locations. With the all the references to guns – the crosshairs, the “reload” comment, and other words in her message such as “aim” and “salvo” – it is frightening in its blatant attempt to incite violence. She goes on to list them by name as follows, which reads like a proverbial “hit” list:

We’re paying particular attention to those House members who voted in favor of Obamacare and represent districts that Senator John McCain and I carried during the 2008 election. Three of these House members are retiring – from Arkansas’s 2nd district, Indiana’s 8th district, and Tennessee’s 6th district – but we’ll be working to make sure that those who replace them are Commonsense Conservatives. The others are running for re-election, and we’re going to hold them accountable for this disastrous Obamacare vote. They are: Ann Kirkpatrick (AZ-1), Harry E. Mitchell (AZ-5), Gabrielle Giffords (AZ-8), John Salazar (CO-3), Betsy Markey (CO-4). Allen Boyd (FL-2), Suzanne M. Kosmas (FL-24), Baron P. Hill (IN-9), Earl Pomeroy (ND-AL), Charlie Wilson (OH-6), John Boccieri (OH-16), Kathy Dahlkemper (PA-3), Christopher Carney (PA-10), John M. Spratt, Jr. (SC-5), Tom Perriello (VA-5), Alan B. Mollohan (WV-1), and Nick J. Rahall II (WV-3).

While I understand that all Americans – even those that aren’t particularly smart – have the right to free speech, that does not mean they have the right to incite hate or violence. Sarah’s message, while it may seem innocent at face value, almost seems like it was written in “code” with key words, as if she is hoping someone will take her up on the subliminal intent and make it real. Let’s be honest here, if some “normal” person made threats like Sarah Palin has done here, the FBI would be knocking on their door. Her not-so-subtle suggestions and threats are alarming and I think that not only should the FBI consider her words as real threats, but should also make an effort to make sure that the people on her list get protection.

I am greatly concerned with the amount and level of vitriol coming out of the Republican Party, which has only gotten more frequent and more caustic with the passing of the health care reform. It seems that some members of the Republican Party are only happy with the way our government works when it works to the advantage of the Republican Party alone. Party officials need to reign in - or jettison – those party extremists that are acting more like petulant, spoiled children who are having a tantrum because they didn’t get their way. Maybe for starters, Ohio voters should make sure that when Republican Leader John Boehner (R-West Chester) comes up for re-election that he is voted out of office. But, in the meantime, someone with real authority in the party should come out with a clear statement that they do not condone violence as a solution to any political disagreement. If Sarah Palin can’t remove or retract her hit list, then I expect the party to distance themselves from her. At the least, I hope the FBI comes knocking on her door for her apparent threats of violence against our elected officials. Domestic terrorism, no matter what form, cannot be tolerated.

Update January 9, 2010 - In light of the recent shooting of Congresswoman Giffords and the killing and wounding of several others at that same political event, I have have more commentary on this topic which can be found at this link: "Sarah Palin’s “Target” List: Incited Murder, or Unfortunate Coincidence?"

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Thursday, March 18, 2010

Health Care Reform: Critical

It seems that the debate over health care reform has been going on forever. That’s because it HAS been going on forever.

While I am not thrilled that passing the legislation for health care reform will mean money out of my pocket in some shape or form, I also believe that the money to cover those who are currently uninsured is already coming out of my pocket in some shape or form.

The current proposed plan is not perfect, but if we continue to wait for the perfect plan, we will be waiting another eternity. It is painfully obvious that our elected representatives still want to play political games. They appear more interested in fighting for their own turf, or their own glory, or for covering their own behinds, instead of looking out for the needs of the people they represent.

Too many people in this country are being denied medical coverage because they either can’t afford it or worse yet, because of insurance company loopholes. It’s time to allow people to enjoy their right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness by making sure that they have the means to protect their health - and their lives.

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Thursday, March 4, 2010

Who Is Destroying Cleveland’s Catholic Churches?

Cleveland’s Catholic Diocese is dying a slow and painful death, and as a result, many churches in the Cleveland metropolitan area are being closed. If you listen to my mother, she thinks I am personally to blame, because I don’t go to church anymore. My argument is that the Catholic parish in my city (which has been spared from the chopping block) is growing and thriving without me, so I know it’s not just because of me.

The problem with the Cleveland Catholic Diocese is caused by more than one thing. Many people aren’t as disciplined about going to church any more, and that in itself has multiple causes. Most adults have to work, and spending time every Sunday at Mass can be a drain if you spend all a lot of energy on the job during the week, and you have to play catch up with everything else over the weekend. When I was growing up, most families had a stay at home mom, who took care of the kids and other things during the week, so spending time for church on Sunday wasn’t an issue. There are also many people like me who were raised Catholic but have long since lost the need for the structure and ritual of the church to remind them how to behave.

St. Procops, Cleveland Ohio West Side (Now closed)

In Cleveland, however, the issue is compounded by many Clevelanders fleeing to the suburbs in droves, something that started in the early 1960s and continued at a faster rate each year. Anyone who could afford to get out of the inner city got out, and over time, this left many churches without sustainable parishes. But this is not a new problem.

Everyone understands these factors, and everyone understands that a parish and church building cannot be financially sustained without money from parishioners. And this is where the Cleveland Catholic Diocese took a left turn. Rather than close churches as they became financially unstable over a period of several years, they allowed many to stay open. Bring in a new Bishop - Richard Lennon – who appears to be the designated hatchet man - to cut loose those parishes that cannot sustain themselves in one fell swoop.

Bishop Lennon, however, completely botched the execution of his church consolidation plan. He established “clusters” of parishes - usually parishes within close proximity - and had representatives from each church in each cluster put their heads together to decide which churches in their group stayed open, and which ones had to close. It sounds very nice on paper – you know, letting the people decide their own fate. Things were tough but seemed to be working out OK as each parish submitted their recommendations. The problem arose when Bishop Lennon ignored virtually every recommendation and closed very popular parishes, some which were not even losing any money, and some which also provided services to the community such as housing for the homeless and/or food for those who needed it. Adding insult to injury, some of the churches being closed by Bishop Lennon were some of the finest churches in the area, with not only stunning structures, but some of the finest religious art work and artifacts in the area. Many of those things are up for auction on an Internet web site, causing outrage with parishioners whose parents, grandparents, and great grandparents paid for those things out of their own donations to the church, in some case going back over 100 years, and when money was very tight. There is doubt that any of that money from the sale of those objects or even the church buildings themselves will be returned to the churches in the new communities, and many worry that it is a simple money grab by the diocese and the Vatican. Needless to say, Bishop Lennon has shown zero respect for not only the current parishioners, but for those people whose families worked hard to make those churches possible.

St. Casimir's, Cleveland Ohio (Now closed)

Local Catholics have protested in many ways, some making very vocal protests at church closings and also picketing churches. A group was formed called Endangered Catholics whose intent is to get justice and equal opportunity for parishioners. Protests are also working their way up to the Vatican. Sadly, I suspect that these protests will fall on deaf ears for the most part, although Bishop Lennon did reverse his decision for one parish. In some cases, Bishop Lennon’s competency has been questioned. The Cleveland Plain Dealer has devoted a lot of coverage to the issue and many, if not all, of the articles paint Bishop Lennon and the diocese in a poor light.

Even though I am not a church-goer, it does sadden me to see both the church in which I was baptized and the church in which I was married close. The church where I was baptized is also the church where my parents were married and also the church where my grandparents were married. The building did need a little repair, but the structure is sound and very well kept for the most part, and the parish was not losing money. This church also supported the poor in the neighborhood with a place to live as needed and meals for those who could not afford food. It is a huge loss for the neighborhood community.

When it all comes down to it, everyone knows these churches are just buildings. But, the diocese seems to have lost any concern for the parishioners who have kept many of these facilities afloat, the Bishop completely ignoring their recommendations. It is also clear that the diocese does not have enough priests to cover each parish, a problem easily solved if they would only discard their narrow-minded opinions about women becoming priests. While Bishop Lennon is driving the stake into the heart of the parishioners, it’s the Catholic Church and its dated practices that are driving people away. I have hopes that one day, the Church will have leadership at all levels who are willing to question the status quo and to have the courage to make changes, otherwise what is happening to the Cleveland Catholic Diocese will continue to spread throughout the faith like a malignant cancer, and more cities will see their beloved churches, and the history that goes along with them, die a certain death.

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Friday, February 12, 2010

Reaching The Social Media Breaking Point, How Much is Too Much?

Google recently announced Google Buzz , what PC World describes as “a social media sharing service built into your Gmail window. Buzz will let you share photos, links, videos, and status updates through your Gmail inbox or your mobile device's Web browser.” PC World also highlighted a whole host of privacy concerns with Google Buzz.

Maybe it’s me, but I am not sure how many more different ways of keeping in touch with people that I can handle. I grudgingly set up Facebook accounts under my real name and for some of my blogs. After resisting Twitter at first, I set up Twitter accounts and found that - being a person who like to get information in short bites - I actually have come to like Twitter quite a bit; Facebook, not so much. Besides maintaining my 7 blogs and two Twitter accounts, I don’t think I want to have one more place where I have to input information. Time is precious to everyone these days, and who wants to have to follow people in several different places?

So, take no offense if you want to “friend” me on Facebook and I decline, or if you follow me on Google Buzz and I don’t follow back, or if you want to be my friend on YouTube and I ignore you, or if you try to connect with me on Linked In and I really don’t know who the heck you are that I don’t wish to connect, and so on. It’s not personal, it’s just that in order to stay focused on providing good content on my blogs, I’ve decided to limit the amount of “socializing” that I do through social media sites. I’m picking an choosing on where I decide to connect with people in order to make sure that when I DO have something to say, that it means something or provides value to somebody, and doesn’t simply get lost in a flood of minutia.

So please continue to follow my blogs either through Blogger and Twitter. I will be on Google Buzz just because my Blogger posts go there automatically, but it is highly unlikely that I will post separate “buzz” topics there. My time is valuable, and I am sure yours is too, and I don’t want to readers feel the need to follow me in too many places. At some point, everyone will reach the on-line social media limit, and begin to wonder how much on-line social media is too much? Who knows, maybe someday people will go back to actually talking real time with each other. If so, I'm sure someone will send a tweet to tell us about it.

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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The iPad: idon’t care, iThink iWillpass

Apple’s Steve Jobs announced the iPad today , the much rumored and anticipated Apple tablet device. And you know what? I could care less. I don’t care that Apple thinks that it could be a rival to the Amazon Kindle, or that it could be good for gaming, or for whatever other things a computer can do. I think the iPad is just another toy made to siphon money out of one’s pocket, in this case, $499 for the iPad.

Seriously now, how many electronic toys can a person use? Some people need to have the latest in anything having to do with Apple, but not me. I guess I am just one of those people that never drank the Apple kool-aid. The iPod is nothing more than a simple MP3 player, and MP3 players are practically given away now and are included with most cell phones. I’m not into gaming, so the iPad doesn't grab me on that feature. I do a lot of typing so I like a full size keyboard. I also like to see what I’m typing, or reading, so a full size screen that I don’t have to hold in my hand works just fine for me. Maybe I am in that demographic that is a little wiser about spending my money and am able to control myself from buying something that I may not really need. But I am sure there are some people out there who are already lining up somewhere to buy an iPad, even though they aren’t actually selling them as yet.

For me, I’m taking a wait and see approach. After all, sometime in the early 1990s I was trying to get the company that I worked for to use the GridPad, a tabled style computer. It’s nice to see that Apple has caught up to a 1990s concept, and is making it into a product that consumers, not businesses, may shell out the money to buy for entertainment purposes. But the question remains – with many people having personal computers or Macs, cell phones, netbooks, laptops, etc., does one really need a tablet too? The size also is a turn off; if I can’t fit it in my purse, I’m not going to carry it with me. And if I’m home, I’d rather be using my full size computer or laptop. I still like to read a book by actually turning the pages, and I love to page through my three daily newspapers. Sure, I still get plenty of news or do a lot of reading off the internet, but there is still something for the relaxing feeling one can get by sitting back and leafing through the newspaper or a book. It’s just not the same experience reading it on a Kindle, and I suspect it would be the same for me using an iPad - a sterile experience.

For me, I think I already have plenty of electronics toys to keep me occupied, entertained, and informed. Sorry Steve, but I think I will pass on the iPad.

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Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Haiti Earthquake Disaster: Horrific and Real, Relief Needed

I’m not a big fan of Hollywood disaster movies as they treat big disasters as a vehicle to entertain, often desensitizing people to the reality of the effects of a major catastrophe caused by earthquake, tsunami, flood, weather, etc. When one sees the enormity of the massive earthquake in Haiti, Hollywood disaster movies seem almost sickening in their desire to make money off massive human tragedy, even if it is fictional.

In real disasters, people die, people are seriously injured, food and drinking water are scarce, basic utilities are out of order, and hospitals or medical services are stretched to the limit, if they are even available at all. An earthquake such as Haiti's could happen anywhere in the world, and could happen right in your home town. While one shouldn’t necessarily live as if disaster looms every moment, it is good to be as prepared as you can, realizing that one can’t always prepare for anything. The people in Haiti, however, were already living in serious poverty, and the devastation they are facing now makes it all that much harder to overcome the country’s problems. This is the time where we can all help in the effort by donating to the The American Red Cross and it can be as easy as sending a text message on your cell phone. Complete instructions can be found at this link: The American Red Cross Haiti Donations. Please consider making a donation!

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