Friday, January 8, 2010

Blowing smoke up your ass.

My alma mater, Widener University recently banned smoking on campus. Today, the Philadelphia Inquirer came out in support with these words, among others:
Kudos to Widener University for taking steps to ban smoking on its campuses, both indoors and out. Other area colleges and universities should follow Widener's lead. For that matter, so should other institutions, including all hospitals and government facilities. The move would help promote public health and reduce health-care costs.
Inhaling secondhand smoke is estimated to cause 3,000 lung cancer deaths and 46,000 heart disease deaths in the United States each year. Secondhand smoke is also thought to increase the risk of breast cancer, leukemia, and lymphoma. Most researchers say there is no safe level of secondhand smoke.
Kudos indeed, but why are we so worked up over secondhand smoke when the real culprit is firsthand smoke? Government has taken steps to eliminate the dangers of secondhand smoke by isolating smokers from the general public. Isn't it about time to do away with the cause of secondhand smoke - namely cigarettes?
We are told that cigarettes are the cause of disease, a bad influence on young people and generally a scourge on society to the point that smokers are socially excluded and pushed outdoors. Sometimes being outdoors isn't enough, and they are forced off of segregated property to find a place that allows smoking. It is a strange behavior from a society that gleefully collects taxes from a product that is sold legally.
A move that would truly "promote public health and reduce health-care costs" would be a move to stop producing, marketing and selling cigarettes altogether.
Then we could all get on with our lives.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Show me yours, I'll show you mine.

OK, so the camera finally arrived. Curiously, it came via the U.S. Postal Service who had taken it from FedEx after it's strange journey from New York to Edison, NJ to Pottstown, Pennsylvania. What is strange (among other things) is that it took 5 days to go the 116 miles from NYC to Pottstown and only 2 days to go the 75 miles from Pottstown to my workplace in southern New Jersey. I still wonder why they would ship it via FedEx if FedEx was only going to hand it off to the USPS. Mine is not to question why.
It's a Nikon Coolpix S570. It's a nice little camera. It takes 12 megapixel photos which are way too large (5.5 megabytes) to post here, so I had to shrink one down to post. Of course, it's my goofy cat in repose. Nikon says that the images are capable of enlargements up to 20" x 30". We'll see. One of these days I'll take it out for a run and have one blown up.
On a lighter note...
In response to my friend from Canada who recently posted an image of his desktop, I submit my own. I have a 21" Dell monitor, 1280 x 768 pixels.
I prefer to keep a clean desktop with as few icons as I can use. The rest I can get from the Windows menu which, for now, I can say is still Windows XP. Besides, I don't want to mar an otherwise nice photo with a lot of junk.
The latest minor news story around here involves Dave Spadaro, a shill for the Philadelphia Eagles. He runs their web site and strangely enough, shows up at press conferences to ask questions of the coach. The Eagles are playing the Dallas Cowboys on Saturday in the first round of the playoffs, and there is no more hated team around here than the Cowboys. Spadaro took it upon himself to video tape himself spitting on the big star at the middle of the Cowboys field and posted the video on the Eagles web site with something he calls Spudcam. I don't know why.
Since doing that, he was forced by the Eagles to issue an apology. The story is fascinating to me on several levels:
First, even though we have been dealing with this Internet thing for over a decade, there are still people like Spadaro who fail to understand its impact on modern society. They make videos, tweet, Facebook or otherwise expose their odd behavior to the masses and then apologize for it, seemingly because they didn't want to offend anyone, but they did anyway. You'll never catch me apologizing for anything I write here.
Second, the apology is always the same: "If I offended anyone, I apologize." That's a typical half-hearted apology. As if to say, if I didn't offend you, I don't apologize. Either what you did was wrong or it wasn't. Apparently, he thought he was doing the right thing until his employer told him he wasn't. He should have stood his ground, but he backed down and apologized because he likes his job. That's kind of weasely.
Third, I'll never understand why people think that what they do somehow influences games or events. So he spit on the big star. What is that supposed to prove? Does it somehow bond him with the fans? No, because most of us know he's a shill and kind of a dork (which is probably why it's called Spudcam) and no effort on his part will change how people think.
I suppose he defiled some symbol or other, but what is it really? It's a logo of a franchise that just built a billion-dollar stadium with a 60-yard hi-definition TV in the middle of the field. Some people are making it sound like he spat on the flag or something. It's a football field, folks. Get a grip. The stupid things you do have no influence on the events that will take place on Saturday. It's time to get over your God complex and just sit and watch the game.
Dallas sucks. OK, we get it. If they beat the Eagles for the third time this season on Saturday I don't want to hear it anymore. Think of something else to say like, maybe the Eagles aren't that good.

Monday, January 4, 2010

The World on (our) time.

Do you remember that scene in "Cast Away" where Tom Hanks is berating some Russian FedEx employees because they don't seem to understand the concept of "on time package delivery?" Sure you do. He put a timer in a package that came from the United States and opened it to reveal the exact time it took for the package to arrive from the States to Russia. Then he started screaming about getting some packages on a truck and getting to wherever they were going. It was a nice commercial for FedEx, right in the middle of a movie. The whole movie is pretty much an ad for FedEx, except for the part where the plane crashes into the ocean and the packages start washing ashore. I think FedEx would have preferred they left that out, but it's kind of the point of the movie.
Last Tuesday I ordered a little camera from my favorite Internet camera store in New York City. What I have found out in the interim is that I should be in the package delivery business - or at least in the package pick-up business, as in, I should have gone to New York City and picked up the thing myself because I'd have it by now.
They provided a tracking number that allows me to locate the package on its journey from the Big Apple which, one would imagine would be a moderately straight line from there to my delivery point in Southern New Jersey.
To the FedEx people, a moderately straight line goes from New York on December 29 to Edison, New Jersey on the 31st. Reasonable enough, eh? Sure, until I checked today and found that the little guy is in Pottstown, Pennsylvania; a mere 6 days after it was launched from its origin point.
The other thing that the tracking information tells me is that I can expect delivery on January 7. What an interesting thing it will be to see where the package goes between now and Thursday. In the meantime, I could have walked it from New York and still beaten the FedEx truck. I can picture Tom Hanks screaming at the guys in the shipping facility. Oh, if I had only thought to order a clock too!
It gave me an idea as to how SEPTA and New Jersey Transit can overcome some of their budget shortfalls. They could throw a few packages on a bus or train heading out of New York and dump them at 30th Street Station in Philadelphia, turn them over to the U.S. Post Office and split the profits. The buses and trains run regardless of how crowded they are, so what's the problem with throwing some cargo in?
I know one thing about SEPTA and N.J. Transit: When they run a bus or train from New York to Philadelphia it doesn't make a stop in Pottstown, Pennsylvania. I'm not an expert in shipping, but I'd estimate that would cut off at least a day. I'm expecting Tuesday's tracking information to include West Virginia or Delaware as a stop on the camera's journey. Hey - it's a shame the camera can't take photos of all the lovely scenery on it's trip.
I can't help but wonder why, with such an option as the U.S. Postal Service staring you right in the face that companies would opt for something that takes longer and probably costs more? When I order sunglasses from Oakley they start with a third-party shipment and it is then handed over to the Postal Service, which adds another day or so to the delivery time.
Or maybe they could have just shipped it via the U.S. Postal Service in the first place?

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Thor's big day.

With the wind blowing at about a hundred miles per hour, the last thing either Thor or I wanted to be doing was making a trip to the veterinarian on Sunday, but trip we did.
The day started innocently enough, with me waddling around the place wondering whether I'd stay in and watch football or go out and do something constructive, when I noticed the little guy scratching his right ear like a mental patient.
Thinking back, I had noticed him shaking his head for a few days as though he was trying to lure something loose - like I do when I think about my social life. I had wondered about that, but since he hasn't been here very long, I figured it was a strange tic or something odd that he does. But, when I thought about the ear scratching I figured it was something more than a strange habit.
When I took a look at his right ear, I noticed that it was kind of red and irritated from all the scratching. I grabbed for the phone and called the vet, hoping they could take him on a Sunday. Fortunately (and probably because he's so lovable) they could see him at 12:30, so I boxed him up and carried his fat ass to the vet.
I say "fat ass" because, as it turns out, he has gained 1.5 pounds since I brought him home 2 months ago, to weigh in at an alarming 16 pounds. I knew something was amiss when the vet said, "Oh my" when she put him on the scale. Even though I've been feeding him weight control food, he has ballooned to giant cat proportions. We'll be working on that.
It turned out that he has ear mites that had not been fully exterminated from his first visit after rescuing him from the animal shelter. She cleaned his ears thoroughly and gave him a dose of something called Revolutions ear mite medicine that she put on his neck. I got another dose that I have to administer in 3 weeks and ear drops that he gets twice daily. With any amount of good fortune, he'll stop shaking his head and scratching his ears.
While she was looking at his teeth, she noticed that he is missing some (which we already knew) and mentioned that one of them might need to be pulled due to some strange cat-like teeth problem that has a name too long for me to remember. I'll have to take him back in the spring for a cleaning, since he has gingivitis, and he'll likely have to have one of his front teeth pulled - so he has that to look forward to. I'm not saying anything.
Fortunately, cats can survive without front teeth, and it might work in his favor since he needs to eat less anyway.
Needless to say, his exciting morning led to a sleepy afternoon and evening (me and him) and he'll soon forget the drops I have to put in his ears and the food that he won't be getting. But in the end, I suspect that he'll be grateful that he has me here to take care of him.
As it turned out, I wound up doing something constructive.