Friday, June 4, 2010

Don't drink the water.

LOS ANGELES (AP) - Cadmium has been discovered in the painted design on "Shrek"-themed drinking glasses being sold nationwide at McDonald's, forcing the burger giant to recall 12 million of the cheap U.S.-made collectibles while dramatically expanding contamination concerns about the toxic metal beyond imported children's jewelry.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, which announced the voluntary recall early Friday, warned consumers to immediately stop using the glasses; McDonald's said it would post instructions on its website next week regarding refunds.
Ironically, the cadmium-infested glasses are the third-most nutritious McDonald's menu item.
Tobacco smoking is the most important single source of cadmium exposure in the general population. It has been estimated that about 10% of the cadmium content of a cigarette is inhaled through smoking. The absorption of cadmium from the lungs is much more effective than that from the gut, and as much as 50% of the cadmium inhaled via cigarette smoke may be absorbed.
On average, smokers have 4-5 times higher blood cadmium concentrations and 2-3 times higher kidney cadmium concentrations than non-smokers.
So -- they can sell cigarettes, but Shrek glasses have to be recalled. That makes good nonsense. I wonder what the potential damage is from second-hand drinking glasses?

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Nothing is perfect

Screws fall out all the time. The world's an imperfect place.
- John Bender, "The Breakfast Club"
Screws fall out, things break, people fail and umpires make bad calls. In case you dropped out of an airplane today and missed the big news, an umpire blew a call and a kid in Detroit lost a perfect game because of it. Now, people who otherwise wouldn't know who Armando Galarraga is are trying to get him something that he lost, after first base umpire Jim Joyce missed a call with two out that wound up costing the kid his perfect game.
It's a shame it had to happen to him, but baseball, by its design is human-element prone. Players make errors, batters strike out and umpires make mistakes. None of them happen at the best of times. Sometimes, they happen when the situation is the most crucial. However, we can't make exceptions when the bad call or error costs the team some place in history. A win is a win, and a "perfect game" means more than just the pitcher getting everybody out. Perfection has something to do with the umpires too. They need to get every call right, otherwise it isn't a perfect game. It's imperfect.
Major League Baseball didn't step-in and reverse the Steve Bartman play in that Cubs game in 2003 or Jeffrey Maier interfering with a 1996 ALCS Orioles/Yankees playoff game. This game wasn't nearly as important.
Meanwhile, Galarraga is more famous for not doing something than he ever would have been for doing it, to the point that a car dealer in Cleveland gave the guy a Corvette (above) for not pitching a perfect game. Try not doing something in your life and expecting a reward. Sports is screwy.
Suppose Joyce had decided to make an 'out' call at first base regardless of whether he thought the guy was safe or out? If replay had shown the runner to be safe and Joyce had called him out, how would that have contributed to history?
People who want Major League Baseball to step in and reverse the call aren't looking at the big picture. To wit:
MACKINAC ISLAND, Mich. (AP) — Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm has issued a proclamation that says Detroit Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga pitched a perfect game against Cleveland, despite an umpire’s blown call.
Granholm issued the proclamation Thursday, one day after first base umpire Jim Joyce declared a runner safe with two outs left in the ninth inning, costing Galarraga a perfect game. After seeing the replay, Joyce said he blew the call and apologized to the pitcher for not realizing Cleveland’s Jason Donald didn’t beat the throw to first base.
Granholm tweeted about the blown call after the game and on Thursday told WJR radio that Galarraga “was robbed.”
Sen. Debbie Stabenow is also urging baseball commissioner Bud Selig to declare Galarraga’s performance perfect, and Rep. John D. Dingell says he’ll introduce a congressional resolution asking Major League Baseball to overturn the call.
Whenever government gets involved in sports, you know you're in for trouble. Regardless of any political grandstanding (check to see if those reps are up for re-election in the fall) Selig, as dopey as he is, can't step in and reverse a call. It's just a call. Should Selig reverse every stupid call that an official scorer makes? They make plenty of dopey calls. I challenge Senator Stabenow and Governor Granholm to name ten Tiger players by first and last name. We've all been "robbed" Jennifer. Some of us don't have baseball teams to play for and big news stories to push, so maybe you should be working as hard for your constituents as you do for a guy making a million dollars a year.
The world is an imperfect place, and regardless of technology, we can't control everything that happens. Deal with it.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010


I like Twitter better than Facebook, because I'd rather have followers than friends.
I'm not sure what the attraction is with either of these "social networking" sites, but I cling to them like lint to my fine fabrics, which isn't always a good thing.
The thing about Twitter, I find, is that there is a social hierarchy to it. In other words, the higher up the social (or political or entertainment) ladder one is, the more followers one has, and the less one has to devote time to the followers. As a leader, you post your thoughts and the others read them and listen. There are probably @ replies, but the leader isn't necessarily obligated to reply because, after all, he is the leader and you are the follower. You are put in your place. That's the part of Twitter that bothers me, since I find social hierarchy disturbing. By default, what a celebrity (or leader) Tweets is more interesting than what I do, and that isn't always the case, especially the way some of them rabble on about nonsense in their lives.
At least Facebook has a social equity. However, some folks have seen to make it a political platform, and I have been forced to un-friend them because I get drawn into the political discourse. Those folks would be better off with a blog where they could dispense their politics without interrupting the social atmosphere and making others uncomfortable. Here, I can opine on issues and you expect to hear an opinion. On Facebook, your expectation is that you will hear about the latest life issue or event affecting your life, not the current political climate and its affect on you. Social boundaries are good sometimes.
There is something to be said for Twitter's 160-word limit but less to be said for its construction as a caste system. While they're limiting the characters, they could also limit the number of Tweets per day. I don't need to know about your "awesome cab ride" or the "cool bracelet I just bought." Sum it up later in the day, if at all. You're not as interesting as you think you are.
I'm not sure I want 3,000 friends either, which is what Facebook encourages. "You might know [this person] who also knows [another person]," and we're supposed to add every friend request we get. What that means is that your Home page is filled with the personal observations of everyone on your Friends list, and that's too much for me to take sometimes (most times). As in real life, I can get along quite well with three or four good friends better than I can with 50 acquaintences. It's easier for me to focus on their needs and interests if I don't have to think about what their friends are doing. Life is confusing enough.
Perhaps Facebook should limit friends the way Twitter limits characters (pun). That would force us to choose actual friends from "friends of friends" and others who know you because you're someone else's friend. Most of the time, I find myself tracing friend requests back through two or three people before I ultimately ignore it. Ignoring friend requests is the last great vestige of the Internet. We can choose to ignore people and they are forced to accept it.
If only life were as simple as the Internet makes us think it is.

Monday, May 31, 2010

What it Means to be an American

It's the unofficial start of summer, a big day for barbecuing, a great day to find a cheap piece of furniture or grab a big sale somewhere and a day off from work for most of us. However, the disgusting abundance of retail businesses that are open today is a concept I don't quite grasp.
While I realize that there is more money to be made by being open on a holiday than not, I would think that a sense of history and respect would prevent it. Maybe it is because so many businesses are owned by non-native Americans that keeps them open, I don't know. I could assume it is simple greed, and I would at least be partly correct.
In the United States, today is Memorial Day, which we have been celebrating in one form or another since 1866. It used to be called Decoration Day, but was officially declared Memorial Day in 1967. Until 1968 it was celebrated on May 30, but the U.S. Government passed the Uniform Holidays Bill, and it was moved to the last Monday in May.
And therein lies part of the problem. No less a group of Americans than our federal government believes that the long weekend is more important than the holiday. When the priorities of the government are to extend workers' weekends at the expense of tradition, how can we expect TD Bank to be closed? Those of us who are old enough to remember that the country would pretty much shut down on a holiday find the new system a bit hard to take. Would it kill the supermarket to close today? As far as they are concerned, it is more important to meet their quarterly earnings than it is to pay respect to people who died for us.
Memorial Day is not only a day off from work, it is a symbolic gesture to remember people who died because they were called to duty by their government. The very government who changed the rules in favor of big business. We have no other way to thank them, and the least we could do as Americans is sacrifice a precious day of revenue for the sake of the men and women who helped make it possible for you to have revenue to begin with.
Is that too difficult a concept to grasp?