Archive for the ‘Musings’ Category

Cuban relations

Thursday, December 18th, 2014

President Obama caused quite a stir yesterday when he announced the normalization of relations with Cuba. Of course, Republicans quickly went ape-shit at this announcement and are already lining up to oppose it. Being that it’s the President’s constitutional prerogative to conduct foreign affairs, I’m not sure what whiny Congressmembers can do.

As for ditching restrictions on Cuba, I say good riddance! I’ve never understood the continuing economic embargo against Cuba. Yes, Cuba is a communist country but for decades we’ve had no trouble doing business with communist (and nuclear-armed) China. Hell, China actively spies on us, conducts provocative naval maneuvers, and is actively working to diminish the stature of the United States in the Pacific region. I suppose if Cuba had a population of a billion potential consumers like China we be falling all over ourselves to put aside our differences.

Bootstraps? What if you don’t even have boots?

Tuesday, November 18th, 2014

A post I made to my Facebook page regarding the minimum wage turned into a pointless discussion about how the poor, lazy SOBs should just get better jobs. Yeah, I know … predictable. I know enough to not fan those flames but I came away from it really wondering what it might take for conservatives who subscribe to that point of view to really grasp what life is like for the working poor. Would spending 24 hours with a struggling single mother help them to see that the poor aren’t lazy? If not that, then what?

There is a force in play in our universe called karma. Those who mock the plight of the poor may one day find themselves in the same predicament. I would hope it wouldn’t come to that but honestly I’m not sure what might open their eyes. How can I help them understand?

Don’t blame the voter

Sunday, November 16th, 2014

It’s been about two weeks since the last election and I’m about as tired now of the Monday morning quarterbacking from my fellow Democrats as I was of the campaign mudslinging. I keep hearing “if only so and so group had voted.” “I don’t understand why this group didn’t vote.”

Can I ask a favor? Can we please stop blaming the voter? If a voter wasn’t moved by our message it’s not the voter that needs fixing, it’s the message. We Democrats have to either sell what people are buying or convince them to buy what we’re selling. If our product isn’t compelling then we need to come up with either a better product (a.k.a., candidates or platform) or better marketing (a.k.a. spin).

This really isn’t rocket science. It starts with knowing the voter, knowing what it takes to get her off the couch and into the polling place. If you don’t understand why a particular voter doesn’t vote that sure ain’t the voter’s fault.

Advocating vs. complaining

Friday, November 7th, 2014

In September we learned that the Wake County Public School System was considering shifting our neighborhood’s school assignment away from nearby Enloe High School and to Millbrook High School. Millbrook is a great school, don’t get me wrong, it’s just much farther away than Enloe. What’s more, this was the sixth proposed or actual reassignment we’ve had since we’ve been here (six years). Hearing of the plans gave me whiplash.

Kelly and I worked to rally the neighborhood to advocate for our cause. We reached out on the mailing lists, explaining the situation and providing links to the resources so our neighbors could see for themselves. With a good understanding of the guiding principles of the reassignment (proximity, stability, operational efficiency, and student achievement), we suggested our neighbors politely point out how these points were not being supported by the change. A number of neighbors followed our lead, repeating the points we offered on the school system’s feedback site. We also suggested polite emails be sent to the board members. I heard back from some boardmembers that they had received quite a bit of feedback on the issue, which is a good sign.

Bottom line? The school system opted not to shift our neighborhood, we got what we wanted, and everything stayed civil.

I thought of this when I came across a friend’s Facebook post, showing how she was working to change her reassignment:

Ebola and hysteria

Monday, November 3rd, 2014

Over the past few days debate has popped up about what to do about healthcare workers returning from fighting Ebola in West Africa. Politicians vow to quarantine anyone returning from the affected areas, regardless of whether they show symptoms or not. Asymptomatic healthcare workers who are being “voluntarily” quarantined are rebelling against the restrictions placed on their activity. Nurse Kaci Hickox blasted politicians for falling for hysteria rather than following science.

“I’m not willing to stand here and let my civil rights be violated when it’s not science-based,” she said.

She’s right, of course. The only thing scarier than Ebola is succumbing to mob rule and hysteria.

The most worthless news items, though, are the polls being touted. The latest one says that 80 percent of respondents favor quarantining travelers to West Africa. Well, if polling had taken place during Galileo’s time, the majority would’ve favored the Earth as the center of the universe. What the majority wants, of course, does not make it so.

It does not matter what 80% of those polled think about Ebola if those 80% are not experts. When it comes to Ebola, disregarding science is a good way to get us all killed.


Sunday, October 19th, 2014

A Facebook friend (one who does not share my political outlook) forwarded a photo that illustrated the value of spanking. It showed a kid getting beat, with the caption “with more of this, there would be less of this,” showing a trio of young men dressed as gang members. I shook my head.

It reminded me of a spectacle I came across as I was on my way to the Player’s Retreat Saturday afternoon. As I was pulling into the parking lot, a father was loading his kids into his car. The father was shouting at his misbehaving kids to get in the car. His young son, probably four years old at the most, was defiantly yelling back at his dad, echoing his very same tone. As I rolled by, I saw the father’s hand smack the boy’s rear hard before the father loaded his son into the car. I thought the show was over but when I got out of my car I was appalled to hear the father screaming at the top of his voice “that is enough!” He was so loud I heard him across the parking lot even with his windows rolled up. He then drove off and I just shook my head. If his kids weren’t terrified before, they were now.

AP News : Dallas health worker tests positive for Ebola

Monday, October 13th, 2014

The head of the CDC insists the nurse who became infected with Ebola Saturday made a “breach of protocol,” though the nurse is said to be at a loss to identify what the breach might have been.

In 2012, Canadian researchers produced evidence (published in the peer-reviewed journal Nature) that suggests Ebola can be spread through the air. Some websites claimed the government of Canada’s Public Health Agency recently watered-down the description of this research on its website. The Internet Archive’s Wayback machine appears to confirm reports of alteration. Compare the snapshot from August 7th:

In the laboratory, infection through small-particle aerosols has been demonstrated in primates, and airborne spread among humans is strongly suspected, although it has not yet been conclusively demonstrated

Ebola airborne transmission is strongly suspected

… with the one on September 16th:

In laboratory settings, non-human primates exposed to aerosolized ebolavirus from pigs have become infected, however, airborne transmission has not been demonstrated between non-human primates

Ebola airborne transmission is not demonstrated.

What if what some of the experts are saying is true, that Ebola may have become airborne? Why would the Canada Public Health Agency change the website description of peer-reviewed research? What if we are only slightly less unprepared for Ebola than these African countries? Are we being told the truth about Ebola?

DALLAS AP – A “breach of protocol” at the hospital where Ebola victim Thomas Eric Duncan was treated before his death led to the infection of a health care worker with the deadly virus, and other caregivers could potentially be exposed, federal health officials said Sunday.

The hospital worker, a woman who was not identified by officials, wore protective gear while treating the Liberian patient, and she has been unable to point to how the breach might have occurred, said Dr. Tom Frieden, head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Duncan was the first person in the U.S. diagnosed with Ebola.

via AP News : Dallas health worker tests positive for Ebola.

The skeptic black hole

Sunday, May 18th, 2014

When Neil deGrasse Tyson spoke at N.C. State last month, he gave his usual riff on science literacy:

For me, science literacy is “what is your capacity to ask questions?”

Questions, they’re kind of an inoculation against people telling you stuff and having you believe whatever they say. That’s not science literacy.

When someone says “I have these crystals and if you rub them together you’ll be healed” and you say “oh yeah, great, gimmie!”

Ok? No, that’s not science literacy. But you know what else isn’t science literacy? Saying “that’s bunk, get it out of here.”

Each of those requires no thought, the rejection or the acceptance.

I thought of Tyson’s words today when I tangled online with some hard-core skeptics. The anger and derision shown by some skeptics reveals a surprising lack of balance. Many tend to shout down others who don’t share their opinion.

This is what drives me nuts about skeptics. It’s what Tyson has called “lazy brain,” dismissing something out of hand before one knows the facts. It is wrong for a believer to assume something without evidence, yet is equally wrong for a skeptic to assume something without evidence. Both require no critical thought. Both predispose a result. Both are blinded by their own bias.

True scientists follow the evidence wherever it leads them. True scientists accept experimental results if those experiments can be shown to be solid and reproducible. True scientists maintain open minds. “Prove it to me” is the mantra of a true scientist.

It seems to me that no matter what the issue, the louder one shouts is inversely proportional to the truth of one’s statements. If you maintain that you know all the answers, you don’t. That’s not called science, that’s called zealotry.

Security theater

Sunday, May 11th, 2014

In the early morning of April 20th, a 15-year-old kid named Yahya Abdi causally hopped a fence at San Jose International Airport and later climbed into the wheel well of a Boeing 767 bound for Hawaii. Miraculously, he survived the five hour trip at altitudes of subfreezing temperatures and thin air. Usually this doesn’t happen.

The press seems to have moved on but I can’t help thinking of the implications this incident has on air safety. This kid only wanted to see his mom in Somalia, but what if he had more sinister plans? What if the kid had left a backpack of explosives in the wheel well?

All the baggage screening, pat downs, and porno scanners are powerless against a kid leaping over the airport fence. Think about that.

Plane truths

Friday, April 18th, 2014
The Manhattan skyline appears in the windshield of a Vamoose bus.

The Manhattan skyline appears in the windshield of a Vamoose bus.

Last week I was booking a flight for my upcoming business trip to California when I discovered to my surprise that Southwest Airlines, long my airline of choice, offered fares twice as expensive as the lowest airfare. My company’s travel booking system actually wouldn’t let me book a Southwest flight because it was too expensive. I never thought I would ever get in trouble with my boss for booking Southwest, but it’s reached that point.

We’re on the road today to New York City by way of bus from DC. The bus is less than a year old, it’s quiet, clean, comfortable, and there are AC power outlets under each seat. Free WiFi, too, and we can make mobile calls anytime we want. I didn’t know what to expect when we began talking about a bus trip but I’ve been pleasantly surprised.

Putting these two ideas together, I mused to Kelly how perhaps these bus lines owe at least part of their renewed success to Southwest’s decision not to be the “bus of the skies” any more. Or perhaps travelers have simply gotten fed up with the unbelieveable hassle of air travel and have sought out more civilized means of travel.

Yes, I’d never thought I’d say it but traveling by bus may be more prefreable than travel by air. Are the high-flying days of air travel over?