Archive for January, 2006

Cell Phones Cause Road Rage

Tuesday, January 31st, 2006

Specifically mine, but I’ll get to that in a minute.

Much to my mother’s chagrin, I have a theory about old people and cars. After a certain age (any year older than me–that would be 38), people should be tested for reflexes behind the wheel. As their reflexes slow, they should be forced to buy smaller cars.

Right now, the opposite is true. Old people tend to drive huge cars like New Yorkers, Buick Centurys, Olds Cutlasses, Buick Riviaras, Chrysler LeBarons, Cadillac Devilles… You get the idea. These two-ton tanks wipe out anything in their paths. Loping ride, loose power steering (so you only have to drive with a finger, don’t you know) and heavy weight combine lethally. If you’re in an accident with one of these beasts you’re in trouble–especially if the gas is hit “accidentally” instead of the brake.

Nope, old people should drive proportionally smaller cars ending up on Mopeds. When they lose the motor control for those–they get to drive, yup! you guessed it, Scooters. What happened to good old fashioned bipedal transportation (walking) is anyone’s guess. The logic for this is flawless, if I do say so myself. If you get in a wreck with a Chevy Aveo, all ten pounds of it, you don’t do much damage–except to yourself. But that doesn’t really matter, does it? You’re at the end of a rich and storied life, your reflexes are nearly gone (otherwise you’d be driving a tricked out Hummer) and so it’s a good way to go. Even better, no one else get’s killed because you lack the self-awareness that you are not just past your prime, you’re (shhhh!) geriatric.

There is a caveat in there for civil liberties nuts: if at 85 you have the reflexes of Mario Andretti, enjoy. Drive your semi, deisel dually, or monster SUV with pride–just make sure you stop before rolling over pedestrians.

But I digress. My real reason for writing this is not marauding old people, but rather marauding people yacking on cell phones. This destructive habit cuts across all demographics: old, young, male, female, black, white, purple, stupid, dumb, mentally challenged.

There was a time when a car driving outside the lines meant a drunk driver, that a crushingly slow driver meant illegal aliens or old people, that distracted drivers meant cowboys in pick-up trucks or women doing their make-up. You could be sure that someone doing all of the above being a blue-haired lady squinting over the steering wheel.

No more. Now, a perky blonde in a revved-up Mustang could be driving slow because she’s IMing her buddy instead of driving.

Driving home from Aikido today during rush hour, one lane was driving snail-pace slow. Why? Of course, some little gnome with an earplug was hunched over having an EXTREMELY IMPORTANT CONVERSATION.

I’m convinced that car phone blabbers are really talking to you and me, the person at the other end of the line is secondary. What’s the message?

“Hello dahling. I am so popular, so important, so rushed, so, so, so! I have the power to STOP TRAFFIC, that’s how cool I am.”

These people bugged me in High School. Now I want to run them over. Fantasies of big black Suburbans smashing Toyota Camrys and Mercedes C230s flicker through my consciousness. Visions of Kathy Bate’s character in Fried Green Tomatoes causes me to internally smile. Then my children scream at each other and my fantasies fiz out and it becomes clear that I’m trapped.

Trapped, isn’t that what these narcissistic yackers desire? Perhaps it is a subversive action to extend control where they feel helpless. Or maybe these people are incapable of being fully present. Being present is not the easiest is it? Lot’s of us create BUSY-NESS so we can ignore what is right in front of our face–whether driving or in any other aspect of our life.

Or maybe, my helplessness and rage are manifested around these people. Okay, okay, since these people don’t appear to be going anywhere, maybe I can learn to enjoy the ride–anyway, but I doubt it.



Demanding Readers

Tuesday, January 31st, 2006

I must say… you all are so demanding! If I slow down for a week, my traffic goes through the floor. Dear, loyal readers, please stay with me through thick and thin or thin and thinner. Or fat and fatter.

Just stick with me!



Seth Godin’s New Logo

Tuesday, January 31st, 2006

Everyone hates it. He chalks it up to “nobody likes change” or it just sucks. Nah.



When Will You Die: A Helpful Quiz

Tuesday, January 31st, 2006

Find out the fateful day here. If your computer doesn’t have sound, that’s too bad, because lovely music plays in the background.



Democracy in the Middle East?

Tuesday, January 31st, 2006

Iraq the Model has a great essay about this question. The Answer? A qualified yes.



Ahabs Bush Hating

Tuesday, January 31st, 2006

How much do leftists hate Bush? This much.

Hat-tip Anchoress.



John Kerry: Lock Up Your Knives People

Tuesday, January 31st, 2006

2 out of 3 Americans–that’s 66.667% for all you Pinknecks–approved Alito’s confirmation. Now, to some of you, that just proves how stupid Americans are these days.

Kerry feels a drastic solution was ordered.



Risk-Aversion

Tuesday, January 31st, 2006

It can kill you.



State of the Union

Tuesday, January 31st, 2006

I don’t know what President Bush or his Democratic opponents will talk about tonight. Military, economics, social policy, healthcare, border control, jobs data, big sweeping vision…that kind of thing, I’m guessing.

Me? I’m going to talk about some social issues that are shaping our nation and will eventually shape our nation’s economy (already is) and ultimately future world standing.

Is America losing the middle class? For some time now, people have been saying so. Note these statistics–a bit old, but the trend has worsened over the past five years while the economy is getting better.

A middle-class life means big money in big cities across America. That money requires education, motivation and a good economy to support jobs.

The days of working the line seem to be coming to an end. Unions decry executive wages, especially CEO wages, (and rightly so, in my opinion) but ignore the fact that their average uneducated employee receives pay and benefits few white collar middle managers enjoy anymore. In short, there is a disconnect all the way around.

GM and Ford will be getting rid of an average-sized city’s worth of employees over the next year. Will they cut the fat at the top? Doubtful. Even if they do, thousands of families will be affected by this major change.

Add to the by-gone industrial phenomenon, the influx of low-wage earners from South of the Border doing entry-level work. The argument that average Americans won’t do that work, does not hold for me. Because cheap, illegal labor is so ubiquitous, wages are depressed. While a day-laborer might earn $10 an hour, an American citizen might demand $15 an hour. They are being beat out of the market or must accept lower wages. Ofcourse, we piggish Americans are to blame for this. We want our cheap products and to have all those jobs, too. High wages and low cost products don’t go together.

The market is further unbalanced by the fact that most first-generation, illegal immigrants do not pay taxes. They live on more money for the dollar than a tax-paying peer.

But the real problem, besides the economic pressures, on middle class people shows up clearly in bankruptcy statistics. Here are the Top Ten reasons for bankruptcy.

While the average person’s income has remained fairly constant, his appetite for things has not remained constant. A friend of mine lives in a trailer with an X-Box, hundreds of games and videos, the best digital cable and relies on government healthcare subsidies.

Consuption causes some of the problem, but an even bigger problem is divorce. The data regarding whether divorce causes bankruptcy (the stress of the dissolution of the marriage, lawyers fees, etc.) or bankruptcy causes divorce (the spending habits of one partner jeoprodizes the relationship) is in question. A good analysis of the subject here.

No matter what causes divorce doesn’t matter ultimately. What we know for sure is that the vast majority of impoverished children are in single-mother homes, whether she is single by divorce, separation or choice. We know that 40% of boys live in a home without a father.

The trends for the future are discouraging. With a greater percentage of the population relying on public assistance, children getting left behind because of educational costs and then those who do get educated staggering under debt their parents didn’t have to face, an average person is behind almost from the beginning of adulthood. True, fewer people were receiving higher education a generation ago, but good jobs simply didn’t demand it. Baby Boomers had the luxury of coming into job markets that didn’t require a four-year degree, never mind an MBA. My own father, for example, never graduated from college and was recruited as a Junior by GM.

Today, GM is cutting jobs. And if you desire to work for GM you better have a degree (debt) and better be willing to get paid proportionally lower wages than a generation ago even though you receive more education. Still, even these young people have better economic chances (the ones who are educated).

What happens, though, when a family experiences divorce? Half of barely getting by is not good at all. One family I know, wealthy and above middle-class standards, resulted in a stay-at-home mom having to support three children, while her ex married his “special friend”. She is expected to support the kids? How, exactly? She has been out of the job market and who is going to supervise these mountains of mutating hormones? Already, their standard of living has dropped. They live in an older home with an old car. Meanwhile, the ex is living large.

Enter public schools. A teacher friend lamented:

If the current trends continue, the best and brightest kids will all be
homeschooled or taught in private schools by teachers that generally are not
certified as teachers by the state, the fed or by any university. I think
about myself – what certified teacher ever inspired me, shaped me, made me
who I am? none that I can think of. …

So?? where do we go? am I part of the solution or part of the problem? Do
we need more teachers like me? Or do we need less?

Kids go to school, 50% children of divorce, 80% with both parents working (no supervision), a huge percentage work themselves, and when they don’t work or study, they play violent video games, listen to aggressive music, enjoy “friends with benefits” (the time for most teenage sex is not at night–its from 4-6), instant message and hang out on MySpace.com with predatory middle-aged men. It’s a wonder that only 60% of kids are sexually active.

Does this paint a hardened society to you? It does to me.

What I see happening is a divergence: incrementally more and more people are growing up under-educated (for the market), amoral, economically-stressed lives where human relationships are reduced to anonymous “experiences” with only one, constant parent. The have-nots.

Meanwhile, a minority (incrementally less and less) experience a care-free childhood, happily married parents, comfortable economics, little debt-burden, college and graduate school, and connectedness in relationships. The haves.

Having a majority of our society suffer from the loss of emotional and economic stability seems dangerous to me. Having a majority of alienated, undersocialized, undereducated, people who end up in the “servant class” does not bode well for those who enjoy a job, marriage and education.

To me, a society cannot function with intelligentsia alone. There must be a place for the muscle work. If there isn’t, whole sections of society will falter. Detroit, Michigan, Flint, Michigan–my home state is the perfect example. It is a wasteland. Unemployment at 14%, whole towns empty of families and filled with drugs and crime. I lived in Michigan and watched Flint die. The Union guys were convinced the jobs would come back. They never did. Those days are gone.

What will take it’s place? Do you cringe when you see a paunchy guy who would have weilded a wrench work at Best Buy? I do. Hawking Flat Screens seems like too flimsy a job, should the economy tank. What will he do?

What will we do? Yes, this post is rather gloomy. Failing social systems–marriages, education, unions–will affect everyone eventually. Will staying tuned out on an I-Pod or lost in an X-Box or mesmerized by TiVo or high on meth or numbed by casual sex anesthetize people to the losses they suffer? Maybe…. at least for a while.



Obesity Caused by Virus?

Monday, January 30th, 2006

This sounds hopeful: maybe it’s not Coca-Cola’s fault afterall. Couldn’t possibly be my fault!

Again, Scientists are losing the forest for the trees:

“It makes people feel more comfortable to think that obesity stems from lack of control,” Whigham said. “It’s a big mental leap to think you can catch obesity.” However, other diseases once thought to be the product of environmental factors are now known to stem from infectious agents. For example, ulcers were once thought to be the result of stress, but researchers eventually implicated bacteria, H. pylori, as a cause.

“The nearly simultaneous increase in the prevalence of obesity in most countries of the world is difficult to explain by changes in food intake and exercise alone, and suggest that adenoviruses could have contributed,” the study said. “The role of adenoviruses in the worldwide epidemic of obesity is a critical question that demands additional research.”

Ulcers are too caused by stress. When we are stressed, our stomachs become alkaline allowing bugs including viri and bacterii to grow. While H. pylori, a bacteria, is associated with ulcers, the reason why the bacteria grows isn’t considered. The bacterial infection may be the effect not the cause.

This doesn’t mean, however, that just because my immune system is ineffective and results in a virus and/or bacterial infection, I would skip a magic pill that would get rid of the weight–‘cuz I just might.