Web Rants Raves and Intriguing Topics

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Freedom of Information...

Do we really need some of the information that people are fighting the government for?

I recently read an article about a Judge ruling the release of dozens more pictures of prisoners being abused at Abu Ghraib. The government had arguments that the images would provoke terrorists and incite violence against the U.S. troops in Iraq.

Hellerstein ordered the release of 74 pictures and three videotapes from the Abu Ghraib prison, potentially opening the military up to more embarrassment from a
scandal that stirred outrage around the world last year, when photos of the 2003
abuse became public.

With this information, I have to ask... Why? Why do we need to see these pictures? Is it to make it more real? We can't change what had happened. It's a terrible act that should have never happened. But do we really need to release more pictures and videos of it?

Gen. John Abizaid, commander of U.S. Central Command, said Thursday that releasing the photos would hinder his work against terrorism.

"When we continue to pick at the wound and show the pictures over and over again it just creates the image, a false image, like this is the sort of stuff that is happening anew, and it's not," Abizaid said.

I completely understand the need for the Freedom of Information Act. There are some things that the people of the United States need to know in order to make informed decision when we have the opportunity to voice our opinions and vote on the issues important to us.

What is the real point of releasing these photos and videos? Is it because of curiosity?

According to the article, the judge states:

U.S. District Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein said that terrorists "do not need pretexts for their barbarism" and that suppressing the pictures would amount to submitting to blackmail.

"Our nation does not surrender to blackmail, and fear of blackmail is not a legally sufficient argument to prevent us from performing a statutory command. Indeed, the freedoms that we champion are as important to our success in Iraq and Afghanistan as the guns and missiles with which our troops are armed," he said.

So these are being released because of blackmail... I don't recall anyone ever calling it black mail... I don't recall hearing any terrorist organizations saying there would be retaliations for putting out photos and videos relating to the things that happened within this prison.

So does this make it right to send out these photos? Isn't this somewhat similar to the issue with the Danish Cartoons that were published which caused rioting and several deaths?

Sure we have the freedom of speech and the freedom to information, but does that make it right to make the readily available for people to see and get upset about?

I personally feel it would be irresponsible on anyone's part to have these photos and videos released. I can not imagine one good thing that could come from doing this. There are likely to be MANY bad things that can, and likely will, happen if they are released.

Why add fuel to an already raging fire?

Monday, March 20, 2006

Global Warming Part 1 (Where Were You?)

Holly and I were watching 60 minutes last night and part of the show was about Global Warming called Rewriting the Science. Of course this specific topic got me a little fired up.

Some people are very concerned about the environment. This can be for several reasons. One they feel very strongly about conservation and the environment in general. This is pretty popular and tend to have people that are involved in many organizations from Green Peace to other environmental protection groups.

I've never considered myself as a "tree hugger", although I don't have anything against anyone that has a fondness for trees. I think they are pretty, but I've never felt the need to give one a quick squeeze. I feel that this term seems to be more negative than positive, so I don't even use the term. Except in this type of situation where it's a widely realized term.

For the past several years, I've started feeling more and more strongly about the use of fossil fuels. This is probably stemming from the attacks on 9/11. Like the majority of Americans on that day, I recall everything in great detail as I heard the news over the radio on my commute into work. I hadn't experienced this phenomenon before, but had heard numerous people describe it when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Many people could recall every minute detail of those moments.

In retrospect there are a few other historical events in my life time that have similar but lesser effects than 9/11. When President Reagan was shot and wounded I was practicing the Piano before going to my piano lessons. When the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded on take off it was my Freshman year. The news was brought to us while I was in my typing class. I even recall that I was wearing a Space Shuttle T-shirt that day. (We had recently returned from a vacation down to Florida where we were hoping to see the launch of the shuttle.)

I'm curious what events others recall and where they were when historic events occured during their life time. These are the events of our life-times that everyone has shared in one degree or another.

I'd like to give this topic the focus that it needs. I will be breaking this subject up into several parts to give it the attention it deserves. Please read the article, Rewriting the Science and video, then read the follow-up posts here.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Straying from the negative...

I've found myself falling into the very traps that I despise. I'm not a big fan of watching the news, mostly because of the fact that 95% of it is all bad. The only time you hear the nice news is at the very end of the broadcast, where heroic person risked life and limb to save a cat or dog from an untimely demise.

The news is setup this way for one reason and one reason only. It's a business. Businesses are supposed to make money. The televised and type written news is a part of a business to make money. So how does reporting the news make money? Ratings. To get ratings, people have to watch it. This is where sensationalism comes into play. If there are no burning buildings, horrific homicides or natural disasters, it's time for the news to make something small seem like a HUGE problem...

I don't like it... I'd like to be given the facts and be allowed to draw my own conclusions from those facts.

In the spirit of this, I'm going to tone down on the ranting and the raving. I'd like to shift focus to issues that are more enlightening and more fun. It may not get me ratings, but what do I care? I don't get paid for blogging. This is all for fun anyway...

Stay tuned for some fun topics...

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Rising Jet-fuel prices to create a leg-room tax

While getting ready for work this morning, I saw a story on the news about a $15 increase in fair price for an aisle seat.

Northwest Airlines is increasing the fair for aisle seat and exit row seats and the reasoning behind this is because of rising jet-fuel costs and cost-cutting competition. So to try to make more money, they have to raise their prices to compete with their cost-cutting competition. It doesn't completely make sense to me, although I completely understand that the airlines are hurting because of jet-fuel costs.

Analysts are saying the next step is charging for checking your baggage. Other airlines have been charging for food and other services that had always been free in the past.

But here's the thing that I can not comprehend. Why is it so easy for them to raise the prices of flights because of jet-fuel costs? Apparently it's easier for them to raise the prices than to fight with the over-rich oil companies for lower fuel costs.

I heard on the news recently that the big oil companies have had the largest boost in revenue ever...
The industry's third-quarter profits jumped 62 percent to nearly $26
billion as Exxon Mobil, the nation's biggest oil company, posted the fattest
corporate profit in history. Oil company's stocks are up some 40 percent
from a year ago, giving big gains to shareholders.

A hearing being held by Congress is looking at a "windfall tax" to get funds to help low income families cope with rising fuel costs for heating and transportation.

The contentious hearing came as consumers face a jump of 50 percent or more in
home heating bills this winter and gasoline prices have surged 20 percent this
year. At the same time, oil company profits have soared.

So it appears that Congress is trying to do something about the rising fuel costs... Are they?

"To my constituents, today's hearing is about shared sacrifices in tough times
versus oil company greed," said Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif. "Working people
struggle with high gas prices and your sacrifices appear to be nothing."

"In the midst of pain, in the midst of suffering, the public sees headlines about
record profits," Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, pointed out.

Yes, in the midst of pain and suffering the oil companies are boasting record profits. I can only see this making the investors warm and fuzzy, not those that actually depend on the product in their day-to-day lives.

I'm happy that Congress is looking into this problem of the CEO's of the oil companies gouging the American People. Answer me this. Why is Congress looking into taxing their profits, instead of making them loer their profit margin? They all profitted immensely from natural disasters that killed many American citizens. Do they need all these extra billions?

Why is Congress focusing on getting tax money out of the profits instead of asking them why they are raping the American people at the fuel pumps. And in the process putting many airlines into Bankruptcy Court.

Could it be that the oil industry is so embedded into our government that Congress won't take a stand and do something about this? Am I the only person that cringes when I hear of how much money the oil companies are making as I look at the pump scroll through how much money is pouring into my tank?

When is there going to be a change? Is our Government going to do anything about it? Or are the lobbyists and the oil companies the one's that truly run this great nation of ours...

CNN Special Report full coverage

Oil gains as demand back in focus
Oil executives back before Congress
Gas prices up even as crude falls
Exxon Mobil hikes capital spending

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Fattening up the little ones...

A friend sent me this article, I'll highlight some key words...

March 6, 2006

LONDON -- Nearly half of the children in North and South America will be overweight by 2010, according to a report today by the International Journal of Pediatric Obesity.

In the European Union, about 38 percent of all children will be overweight if present trends continue -- up from about 25 percent in recent surveys, the study said.

"We have truly a global epidemic which appears to be affecting most countries in the world," said Dr. Philip James, chairman of the International Obesity Task Force.

The percentages of overweight children also are expected to increase significantly in the Middle East and Southeast Asia.

'It's like the plague is in town'

"They're being bombarded like they are in the West to eat all the wrong foods. The Western world's food industries without even realizing it have precipitated an
epidemic with enormous health consequences," James said.

He said children are "being exposed to the world's marketing might," arguing that governments should step in. "There needs to be a ban on all forms of marketing, not just television adverts." Because obese children tend to carry the problem into adulthood, doctors say they will tend to be sicker as they get older, suffering from heart disease, stroke and other ailments stemming from their weight.

"This is going to be the first generation that's going to have a lower life expectancy than their parents," Dr. Phillip Thomas said. "It's like the plague is in town and no one is interested."

Plague, Global Epidemic, ENORMOUS health consequece... These key words sum up this article as a scare tactic, or just a way to get people to read it. It's all in the wording. You use the correct words to invoke a feeling. In this case a feeling of fear. I didn't intend to comment on the choice of words in this article, but I figured this would be an easy enough place to start. Considering the main point they are trying to make is an important one, BUT they are aiming the blame in the wrong direction...

So kids are watching tv, looking at road signs on their way to and from school on the school bus and they see what every other commuter and television audience sees. Advertisements from numerous companies trying to sell fast food with gimmicks. 95% of the food isn't good for us, but it sure tastes good (most of the time).

Here's the thing. Who's to blame for fattening up the kids of today? Is it really the advertising and the fast food restaurants? Nope! I'm pretty sure everyone would agree that it's the parents that are to blame. It's way too easy to be driving home from work and decide, man I really don't want to cook tonight. Golden arches up ahead... BINGO!

You know what? I'm guilty of it too... I take the easy way out just like anyone else. But here's the thing. We may do it once a week. To me, this seems a little too much. But to others this is a drop in the bucket. If you drive past the red-light-district of fast food, which every community has them now, you have these pretty little places just sitting there enticing you with their tasty treats. It's hard to resist. Now look at the line-up around the building of patrons waiting to get their goodies. Who's there?

Do you see the neighbor-kid Billy or Katey and their friends encircling the building like a bunch of buzzards circling thier prey? Again, the answer is no... You see mini-vans and SUV's wrapped tightly around the building just waiting for those juicy burgers and fries.

Simply put, if you are going to blame someone, blame the parents. Take the time to spend making dinner with the kids and keep it healthy. A special treat of fast food every now and then is fun, but like everything else, keep it in moderation.

When I was a kid, it was a special treat to get food from McDonald's. It didn't happen all that often, but when it did, it was a special thing. The same thing goes for constant treats of soda for every meal and snack. When I was growing up we had movie night on Friday's with soda and popcorn. This was the coolest thing for me, because I would get my own bottle of Coke, just for me. This was the only time of the week that I had soda. It was special, and I loved it.

We don't give our kids soda at home at all. The only time my 6 year-old son has soda is when we go to the movies. Again, a special event. He knows that 95% of that tub of popcorn is his and he gets to share the soda with Mom and Dad. He loves it this way, and we keep it special. My 2-year-old doesn't touch the stuff. She doesn't like the bubbles. Just as well...

One last note on soda and weight issues with children.

I heard on NPR yesterday that a study was done in Boston dealing with sugary drinks and weight gain for teens:

by Allison Aubrey
Morning Edition, March 6, 2006 · Researchers say a simple way for teens to lose
weight is to stop having sugary drinks. Doctors at Children's Hospital in Boston
found that teenagers who replaced soda and juices with calorie-free beverages
lost about a pound a month over a six-month trial. (Audio Link)

Hhmmm... Interesting thought. Now granted, a pound a month isn't that much. But they didn't change their diet at all, other than substituting for the sugar loaded beverages. Nothing else in their lifestyle changed.

It's all a matter of education and moderation. I like the fast food as much as anyone else. But I do enjoy cooking too. It's not that hard to whip up something at home that's not going to put your kids at risk for health problems down the road.

Please share your thoughts with me and tell me if there's anything I may have missed. I think I'm pretty on the mark with this one...

Monday, March 06, 2006

He, She... WHAT??? For Crying Out LOUD!

What is wrong with people?

A friend of mine sent me a link to an article that moved him enough to send it on to me... In fact I found out later that he spent 25+ minutes ranting and raving about it in his cubicle. So I suppose this is the appropriate medium to discuss this... I'll supply the text so you don't have to navigate away... My responses will be color coded...

By JOHN CURRAN, Associated Press Writer Tue Feb 28, 4:18 AM ET

EAGLESWOOD TOWNSHIP, N.J. - To students at Eagleswood Elementary School, she used to be Mr. McBeth. Now, after undergoing a sex change, 71-year-old Lily McBeth is ready to return to teaching as Miss McBeth. Uh... Ok???

Despite criticism from parents, the school board on Monday stood by its decision to allow McBeth to resume working as a substitute teacher. Wow... What were they thinking? Were they thinking of what's best for the children? Or of how to try and hide from the issue to stay out of court?

After two hours of public debate and a private meeting with McBeth and his/her lawyer, the board took no action on calls by several parents to bar McBeth from
returning to the school where he/she taught for five years before becoming a woman.
I'm beginning to feel a queezy... I try to put myself in the place of these kids... What kind of mess are they going to become after seeing this situation?

"It was magnificent," McBeth said afterward. "You saw democracy in

McBeth, a retired sales executive who was married for 33 years and
had three children, underwent gender reassignment surgery last year and
re-applied for his/her job under his/her new name.
This could not
really be happening. This has to be an episode gone bad from Ali McBiel or
Boston Legal. Is Alan Shore hiding around the corner waiting to burst out some
off the wall comment as William Shatner mutters his character's name "Denny
Crane"? YES, It's really happening. Why were there no psychotherapists invovled this all this? Wouldn't they have a some insight into what this would do to these kids?

McBeth on Monday told the school board and the crowd that he/she loves teaching and children, and looks forward to returning to the classroom. Loves teaching children... How about that... He/she is only thinking of getting to teach again. Couldn't possibly imagine that his appearance would completely scare the hell out of these kids? Nope, I love teaching and I want to look this way, I don't care what anyone else thinks... What about the kids?

"This is not something I got into just as a whim," he/she said. Well if he/she put so much thought into it, the thought must have crossed his/her mind that the kids could be traumatized by his choice.

Several parents said children in the school, which consists of kindergarten through sixth grade were not old enough to understand the concept of changing one's gender. Wow, there's a thought out of the blue! Who could imagine such a thing?

"I, as a parent, am appalled to have this issue brought into my child's psychology," Steve Bond said. Ditto my friend, Ditto!

Vincent Mustacchio predicted "chaos" at the school when the students learned of McBeth's surgery. This is probably a fair assessment. I'd say worse than that, but there may be children present.

Young children will be confused by the conflicting appearance of McBeth, who has a deep voice and masculine features but otherwise looks like a woman, other parents said. And I thought some of my teachers growing up were unattractive... YOW!

"I will not allow you to put my kids in a petri dish and hope it all turns out fine," said Mark Schnepp, who had taken out an ad in a local newspaper urging parents to turn out for the meeting. Truer words could not be spoken... I would not want my
children to be put into a social experiment just because a 71 year old man
decides to become a woman... I would pull my kids from school and probably file
suit for mental anguish toward a minor.

Several people spoke in support of McBeth, including three transgender people, two former students of McBeth's and a handful of others, saying that the fact that he/she is a good teacher was more important than whether he/she appears as a man or a woman in class. "They could only find two former students? Gee you'd think there would be more to choose from if he/she had been teaching for 5 years already...

"There's really nothing to fear because a person is transgender," said Karina Mari, a mother of three school-age children who said she has transgender relatives. Fear? I don't think the adults are afraid of McBeth... The kids will be confused at first and will eventually end up collectively spending millions on therapy. It's hard enough for
a grown adult to understand the complexities of the transgenered, but to force
it on defenseless children is ridiculous. McBeth made a life choice and should accept that this is not a place to search for acceptance.

School board attorney Paul Carr said McBeth was a good teacher who
had received favorable reviews during his/her tenure
as a substitute.
That's fine... how much are these kids going to absorb as they stare blankly at the ugly lady with the creepy voice?

Earlier this month, the board voted 4-1 to accept his/her application to return to the
classroom. It's unclear how soon McBeth will resume teaching, Carr said. That depends on the need for substitutes and the availability of certified teachers who get priority when a spot opens up, he said.
This is the key phrasing... Since he/she is a substitute they could possibly not need his/her services... That's a small consolation. All it takes is once...

Steven Goldstein, chairman of Garden State Equality, a gay rights advocacy group supporting McBeth's bid to resume teaching, called the school board's action historic. Historic is probably the right choice of a word. This is the key decision on the part of a school board to show what kind of decision NOT to make to get re-elected to your position.

Wow... I still can't believe the world we live in today...

I was 20 when I saw my first transgendered person. I was working in a restaurant when this 6' 5", I'm not kidding, woman walked through the lobby and waited in line to be seated... The stubble was evident on his/her face and the flowered dress looked alarming. Actually 6'5" is probably too short. He had to duck to get through the doorways!

I was in shock for the remainder of the day. I had this puzzled look on my face and people thought there was something wrong with me... I probably looked constipated...

I personally have nothing against peoples sexual preferences. To each his or her own.

It's time for me to calm it down and show the rational side of this issue.

If this were in any other workplace like a normal office, it would be a completely different situations. Adults have the capacity to understand the depth of this topic. Children do not. If this persons choice does not affect the work that he/she does, then that's fine. But this is working with children... How can there not be questions and distractions and confusion in this situation. It's impossible.

McBeth made a choice. With that choice came the responsibility to live a certain way. In this type of work he/she should make the choice to find something else to do with his life choice. If there's the slightest chance that it would affect even one child, then sorry... Find a different industry to work in...

This is only my opinion...

Friday, March 03, 2006

Outsourcing to India

I have mixed feelings about outsourcing to India… I have been in the tech industry for over 8 years. About half that time I’ve spent doing helpdesk support of one kind or another. As anyone knows that has ever spoken with tech support about their Dell / HP / Compaq computer knows, most of the support for this has been outsourced to India long ago…

Although I don’t like it, I completely understand the business stand-point for this. It’s the bottom line… Saving money. Unfortunately you end up losing a good amount of quality in the process. Plus, the unfortunate bi-product of this is that someone that may be difficult to understand is trying to explain a subject that is difficult enough to understand without trying to decipher what the person is trying to tell you.

It’s just easier to understand someone that can explain the answers in easy to understand methods. I can talk techie with one person that understands this stuff and then simplify everything down to analogies of running water and farm equipment. Being able to do this is critical to the support process if you want to have a quality call center.

This is where the companies are falling down on their ratings is with their support. I used to rave about Dell and their support structure before the use of outsourced support. It was their support model that made them pass all the other companies. When they outsourced their support when in the toilet. Which reflected on their sales. They have since moved support back to home and have climbed back up from the gutters in relation to support…

You can pretty much train a monkey to answer a phone. Getting it to read a script takes a little more training, but you can’t give them the knowledge it takes to be a good tech support analyst. I’m not trying to put down the people of India. I am sure there are well trained analysts there as well, but, it’s hard to relate to someone from a different country and simplify troubleshooting. That’s the inherent problem with it.

Of course the other issue I have with it is that it takes jobs away from people here in the U.S. This is an obvious point. This morning I heard on NPR where they were saying that companies should look at competition with Indian companies as an opportunity. But what about the workers? Companies can save money by outsourcing. Great! How does that help Joe Tech who has a family to feed. Sorry Joe, we have to let you go…

I grew up in Michigan with a very Automotive driven economy. In the late 70’s and into the 80’s it wasn’t uncommon to see bumper stickers that read “Buy American” because of the competition from Asian automotive companies. I can see the correlation in reference to call centers now as well. I personally won’t boycott any products or go radical, but it would be nice for the news media to hit from the angle of those that will actually be affected.

To lighten the mood, here are some funny cartoons that have been circulating around the office. These are not Child friendly in language, so make sure you watch them away from the kids… They are also not Politically Correct either. For this I apologize for anyone that is offended by them…

Thursday, March 02, 2006


I try to pay as little attention to politics as possible. In general it appears that the majority of those involved in politics are in the game for themselves, rather than really making a difference for the people they represent. You hear more and more of the corruption and the mud-slinging in the news every day and it just makes me ill. I really feel for those politicians who really do care and want to make a difference. They appear to be in the minority. How unfortunate...

As I think about it, that's why I don't like watching television during the election seasons. All the mud-slinging just gets out of hand. I never get to really know who stands for what during the broadcasts, I end up having to do my own research to get the real story and read between the lines to get it there as well.

When it comes to the negative comments flying back and forth to tear one candidate down or the other, it reminds me of something my parents used to say to me often as a child. "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all."

I think this phrase would be the ultimate to putting an end to mud-slinging. Could you imagine a candidate getting blasted during a debate and when it's his turn to speak calmly addresses the microphone with this: "When I was growing up as a young boy, my parents taught me something very valuable. If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all. So in response to my opponent as to his character, I have nothing to say. As to the issues at hand, I have positive responses to his negativity."

I'm curious if in our society he would be considered a hero, or would be ostracized for not "playing the game". I hate politics.

I suppose if I followed the lessons that my parents told me I wouldn't even be writing this rants and raves page. So I guess I've said more than enough about this...

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Wire Taps

This has been going around and around for quite a while now. The whole situation with President Bush having the secret domestic phone taps put on all over-seas calls. Which could, and has, created the need for more traces done on calls within the U.S. depending on what is found in any over-seas conversations that could be questionable.

I really don't see what everyone is so upset about. Yes, technically it's probably an invasion of privacy. If someone wants to listen in on my phone calls and try to pick out key words like Bomb, President or key locations around the U.S., Feel free. I have nothing to hide. In fact they'd find it pretty boring to listen to me talk with my nearly 2-year-old daughter over the phone.

Here's the thing. A very well known president once said, "The price of freedom is eternal vigilance." This is true more now than it was back 200 + years ago. The author of this quote was Thomas Jefferson.

I'm curious how others feel about this situation of the government wire taps. My personal opinion as I said before, is that I have nothing to hide. If there's a chance that further attacks on innocent Americans can be stopped because of the wiretaps, go for it. I'd like to know truly how many people are outraged about the wire-taps. Sometimes it looks like the news broadcasters are looking for reasons to create a sensational story, along with those politicians looking to get their faces and names in the paper and on the TV screens.

As for politics and politicians, I'll have more to say on that tomorrow. Please let me know your thoughts on this one...