January 26, 2009

Pet Safety Alert

Today I saw a dog running down the right lane of a very busy four-lane road. As I made a right turn, I covered my eyes so as not to see the likely outcome. A few minutes later, in a shopping center that backs onto the road, I saw a few people wandering around the parking lot, searching, and one was whistling. I spoke to them, and, sure enough, they were looking for their dog. I told them where I had seen the dog, and they took off to find it.

Then, moments later, I saw a woman tie a beautiful golden lab to a concrete post, and then go into Ralph's supermarket. I can't imagine that's it's very safe to tie a dog outside a busy store, where someone could easily steal the dog. Moreover, it must be a bit scary for a dog to be tied up where, as was the case here, it is then constantly approached by a stream of strangers.

Pets are not people, and I don't know whether the first dog got loose due to the negligence of its owners, but I think that, when it comes to safety, people should treat their pets as they would their children.

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January 20, 2009

Three Things that Struck Me During Barack Obama's Inauguration

1. I counted at least two screw-ups by U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts in administering the Presidential Oath of Office. First, Roberts left out the word "faithfully." Then Roberts recited the phrase "office of the President to the United States." Of course, it should be "President of the United States." Obama, a former Constitutional law professor, then stopped to give Roberts a "do-over."

It appeared to me that Obama did this not only to preserve the history of the day, but also to prevent the wingnuts from spending four or eight years claiming that Obama isn't the legitimate President because (if he had repeated Roberts' original words) he didn't state the Oath correctly. Think that's far-fetched? Shortly after the Oath was administered, Fox News' Chris Wallace wondered out loud "whether or not Barack Obama in fact is the president of the United States." Then Wallace hilariously claimed that "[i]t's just conceivable that this will end up going to the courts."

2. Dick Cheney being wheeled away in a wheelchair. To me, that just sums up the Bush Administration, limping out of town with a whimper.

3. The unanimously cheering crowds gathered at Obama's swearing-in and along the inaugural parade route. Contrast that with George W. Bush's inauguration in 2001, which was met by thousands of angry protesters, some of whom wielded "Hail to the Thief" signs and some who threw eggs at Bush in his Presidential limousine. While Obama took a slow ride and a couple of strolls down Pennsylvania Avenue while the crowds erupted in cheers, Bush was met with such hostility that he had to hide inside his car, which then rushed off at high speed along Pennsylvania Avenue towards the White House.

Yes, it's a new day.

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January 17, 2009

Television Ratings Miracle on the Hudson

Last Wednesday, along with other viewers, I was glued to my television set, following the "Breaking News." It was dramatic. It concerned life-or-death issues. It was of importance to all Americans. I'm referring, of course, to the hearing for Attorney General nominee Eric Holder. Oh, you thought I was talking about the "Miracle on the Hudson"? Yeah, not so much.

Once again, the television news networks are flogging a non-news story for all it's worth. Unfortunately, the so-called "Miracle on the Hudson" was a perfect storm for the television news networks: a "dramatic" rescue incident, with a human interest angle, unusual television pictures captured on videotape (Look! An airplane! In the water!"), and which took place just blocks from their studios. Since the plane went down, we have been subjected to endless coverage, including interviews with family members and numerous "aviation experts." I have no doubt that made-for-television movies and book deals are in the works, from the pilot and passengers. You have to love American capitalism.

Once again, however, someone needs to explain how this is "news" deserving such lopsided coverage, let alone national (and indeed, worldwide) "news" warranting so much coverage by nationwide television news networks such as MSNBC, CNN, and Fixed Noise. A prominent blogger and journalist I know recently defined "news" as when "someone tells me something I didn't know before." Even under that low standard, the "Miracle on the Hudson" isn't "news." We all knew before that airplanes sometimes crash. We knew that, in particular, planes sometimes hit flocks of birds and then crash or have to ditch. We knew that planes sometimes ditch in the water. We knew that, when planes ditch in the water, they can float for a while, and, if rescuers arrive soon enough, the people can be rescued.

By next Tuesday, the television news networks presumably will have moved away from the "Miracle on the Hudson" and onto the Obama inauguration. But until then, it's more airplane airtime. At least when the Runaway Bride ran away, or when Chandra Levy went missing, or when Caylee Anthony's body was found, or when O.J. Simpson was arrested for kidnapping and armed robbery, that was something I didn't already know.

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January 07, 2009

Facebook 30-Day Review

It's been just over a month since I joined Facebook. Here are my 5 thoughts about it:

1. Facebook is a virtual high school reunion. I did not list my high school on my profile, but, as I added a couple of old high school friends, other classmates from their networks have contacted me. Some of these are people who I did not know well or was not friends with. I'm not sure I feel the need to connect with them now.

2. People's Facebook profiles cover the entire range in tone and subject matter. Some of my Facebook friends have very dry, very safe, corporate-oriented profiles akin to a LinkedIn or Plaxo page. Some of my more creative, non-conformist friends, however, have gone to the other extreme, even to the point of posting photos of themselves in fetish gear. I'm trying to strike a balance in between, and believe me, the area in between is vast.

3. Some of my Facebook friends send personal messages to each other's walls, often to make plans. I'm not sure why they don't just text or email each other when they're making plans to attend a yoga class or talking about other people, and it's clearly not a network-wide announcement. It's also an example of people seeming less concerned about their privacy as they use the Internet more.

4. A month ago, I was concerned that Facebook could be a giant time suck. I was right. Some Facebook folks seem to spend an inordinate amount of time virtually throwing snowballs, sending bottles of champagne, "gossiping," playing "word twist," etc. But as with everything else, Facebook only becomes a time suck if you let it. I have been able to limit my time spent on Facebook, and have had little interest in sending or receiving virtual goodies or playing games.

5. Speaking of "gossiping," I do see that certain applications on Facebook, such as the "gossip" function, appear to be spam/phishing attempts in disguise. When I received a notice that someone has "gossiped" about me and clicked the link, I received a notice that, to read the "gossip," I would have to hand over my Facebook personal information. I have no doubt that doing so would place me on some companies' marketing lists. Watch out for this stuff!

All in all, I find Facebook instantly fun for social purposes, and potentially useful for business purposes. But, as with everything else on the Internet, Facebook should be used with care.


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