Saturday, December 03, 2005

someone needs career counseling

Former FEMA Director Michael Brown is starting a disaster preparedness consulting firm. This is not a joke.


I found this out on a quiz program on public radio a few days ago.

What kind of unit of measure is a mickey? It is the smallest movement measurable by a computer mouse = 0.1 mm.

Being in mainframe computers for so long, I already knew a nibble is half a byte, i.e. a nibble = 4 bits.

non-nurturing culture

I have noticed that every article on job hunting says to network with friends and acquaintices, let them know you need a job. But I have found that if you do this, many people will put you down for not being positive, or for feeling sorry for yourself, etc.

Besides, if a person is in a situation that would cause them to feel sorry for another person in the same situation, why should they be faulted for feeling sorry for themselves?

Where to put abused children

I heard on NPR news a few days ago about programs to put abused children who have been removed from their families with relatives. It is said to be best for them. That may well be true in many, maybe most cases. But of course, these are the same families who raised the parents who abused their own children. So we cannot assume they will be the best place for the children.

Friday, November 25, 2005


The government has been making plans to deal with the potential outbreak of bird flu if (or when) it mutates to become easily contagious to and between humans, or other killer flus. On of the strategies for dealing with it is quarantines of areas with outbreaks of it. However, they say they can't keep illegal immigrants out of the country. If we are not capable of preventing illegal immigration, how can we expect to enforce a quarantine? And of course, the illegal immigrants may bring in the flu, esp. because much of the immigration is from areas where many people keep chickens in their back yards.

Also, the CDC is making plans to quarantine sick airplane and ship passengers, for both interstate and international travel. There might be some merit in this as far as preventing the spread of diseases such as ebola from outside the Americas. But of course, it doesn't prevent illegal immigrants from bringing in diseases the Americas. Also, the proposals for tracking disease for interstate travelers seem rather pointless and uselessly expensive, as most people travel by car, so most sick people in interstate travel would not be detected anyway.

"FBI" e-mail scam

The FBI has warned of an e-mail scheme where unsolicited e-mails falsely claim to be from the FBI. If you follow the instructions, your computer gets infected with a computer virus. Some people where I work have already gotten this e-mail.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

what is torture

There has been discussion about what constitutes torture. If we would consider it torture if it were done to us or our troops, how could it not be torture if we did it to someone else? Some acts would be inhumane depending on the person's culture. Insulting someone's religion might not be torture, but it is likely to be counterproductive.
A recent letter to the AJC maintained that if a pr ocedure does not leave physical effects lasting more than two weeks, it shouldn't be classed as torture. This person is either lucky never to have felt extreme amounts of pain or other intense sources of physical stimulation, or he is has a low ability to learn to avoid pain/danger.

1918 flu, corrected

People have wondered why there have been no further outbreaks of the 1918 flu.
Of course, one reason would be that all flu viruses are always changing.
But I wonder if another reason could be that so many people who had a genetic susceptibility to this strain of flu died from it that the population is less susceptible to it now.
It appears that the reason cystic fibosis is so prevalent among people of northern European ancestry is that having a single gene for it makes people more resistant to cholera (not tuberculosis like the original said). And of course, a single gene for sickle cell disease confers resistance to malaria, which is why it is prevalent in people of African and Mediterranean descent.

Anybody can do it

A letter or vent to the AJC withing the last couple of days said that since it only took him/her a week to find a place to live when they got a job in town, that means it should be possible for all the FEMA people in hotel rooms to do the same. Of course, the letter writer was presumbably able to afford a deposit. We should not pay for hotel rooms for the hurricane victims forever, but surely two weeks notice just before Thanksgiving is not reasonable, given the number of people.
People frequently say that since they or somebody else was able to do something, that proves that everybody can do the same thing.
That's ridulous. Some people can run a mile in four minutes. Einstein discovered the theary of relativity by thinking about it. That doesn't mean that everybody can.
Even in cases where most people are capable of a certain feat, the fact that anybody can do something doesn't mean that everybody can do it. Eg., anybody who can afford to buy a lottery ticket can win. But of course, everybody can't win, or there would be no reason to have a lottery in the first place, because it's purpose is to raise money, which means it cannot pay out as much as it takes in. This may seem obvious to you, but I have had a person deny this, and get really mad at me! If there are fewer job openings than there are qualified people, some people can get a job, but it is impossible that they all get these jobs, at least at the same time. If this seems obvious, I guarantee there are many people who don't seem to be able to understand that simple fact.

Brave or dumb

When researchers removed a certain gene in mice, they discovered that it reduced their ability to learn to avoid danger. The newspaper title called it a "bravery gene". The scientists referred to possible positive effects that this discovery might lead to, such as treating people who are troubled by disabling memories of traumatic events. But no mention was made of obvious problematic uses of this knowledge. People who are naturally high in fear are less likely to break the law. People who are naturally low in fear often become violent adults if they are treated harshly by their parents. And the thought of armies chemically treated to be w/o fear is really frightening.

FEMA hotel cutoff

FEMA officials have said they will stop paying hotel bills Dec. 1. They can still receive housing aid,but have to call a toll-free number. Does anybody doubt that this phone line will be very hard to get through to?

Blog update schedule

I won't be likely to be posting anything during the week for awhile, because of my long commute, and I don't want to use the computer at the company I work for for this, even if I had time. So if you're looking for new entries, they'll be on the weekends.
I'm enjoying my new job. It's really nice to be working in a professional atmosphere. The only problem is my commute, 15 miles each way in heavy traffic. My thighs are hurting from operating my car foot pedals, including the clutch!

Happy Thanksgiving.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

pox virus

In reporting on the new pox virus infecting cows and humans, scientists found it to be 95% identical to the vaccinia virus, which is used to vaccinate against smallpox, does not cause disease, and is not normally found in nature. Anybody who is familiar with the history of the fight against smallpox will wonder how close this virus is to cowpox, which was used in the first vaccinations against smallpox.

Warm weather and God

I haven't heard anybody attribute the warm weather recently, which is holding down the predicted high heating bills, to God. Do people thing God is only responsible for bad things?

In the land of the blind

Here is my take on a well-known aphorism.

In the land of the blind, the one-eyed person is ruler.
The two-eyed person is:
- regarded as a fool
- stoned as a heretic
- burned at the stake as a witch
- confined in an insane asylum

Studies of leadership found that people will not follow someone more than one level higher than themselves in intelligence or morality; they consider such people crazy.

fertility prediction

I predict that eventually many women will have to take birth control pills in order to conceive. Since some women become pregnant even while taking the pill, they will be more likely to pass on their genes that allow this.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Children's nutrition

The current administration/congress proposed to cut funding for food stamps to help balance the budget. They also say they want to improve education. When children are undernourished before birth and when they are young, their intellect can be permanently damaged. In an experiment with mice or rats several years ago, when a pregnant mother was malnutritioned, not only were her children intellectually impaired, but also her daughter's children. School-aged children who are hungry are less able to learn. When we harm our children, we are harming the future of our country.

personal job news

In case anybody who reads this is interested, I got a short-term job as a technical writer, starting tomorrow (Monday, Nov. 7) through the end of the year. So I'll be able to get a new pair of glasses, get an oil change for my car, and get my cats their rabies shots.

Anythiing is possible

A great version:

Anything is possible if you do not know what you are talking about.

I saw this on the AJC (Atlanta Journal-Constitution) Vent column, so I regret I can't give the author credit.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Choosing judges - What's good for the goose

Choosing Judges
copyright Patricia M. Shannon 2005

"How mean you are", Republicans said to the Democrats,
"to threaten filibusters of Bush's chosen judge";
"Oh, come on", said the Democrats, "have you so soon forgot,
you were the ones who did it first to Johnson's Abe Fortas.
You say the Senate must have it's vote, it's constitutional,
but Clinton's judges in committee you did mostly stall."
Morality is relative, at least it seems that way,
for might is right, but only when it's right-wing's turn to have the might!

Working longer

The minimum age for early social security payments is going up. Some argue that since the average life expectancy has increased, people should work longer. We are told that we are not aging as fast. But where are we older workers supposed to find jobs that pay a decent wage? Congress helps employers continue to discrimate against older workers by making big raises in number of H1-B visa issued to high-tech foreigners. If we are not aging as fast, then there is no reason to help businesses discriminate against us.

Does money motivate or not?

Why is it that the same people who argue that sky-high salaries are necessary to motivate CEO's, but will expect excellent service from people making minimum wage?

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Wal-Mart CEO calls for minimum wage increase

Neat! Just 9 days after my post about the evidence that maintaining the current low minimum wage is not good for the economy, the AJC had an article about the Wal-Mart CEO urging Congress to raise the minimum wage: "Our customers simply don't have the money to buy basic necessities between paychecks."

Friday, October 28, 2005

Hurricane cycles

Everybody has surely noticed the increase in recent years of the numbers of severe hurricanes. In fact, we have now surpassed the previous record of all tropical storms and hurricanes in this area of the world, as we have used up all the names on the prepared list, and have gone on to tropical storms Alpha and Beta. Those who deny the impact of global warming on the earth (who are often funded by the giant oil company Mobil-Exxon) quickly attributed this to a natural cycle of 25-30 years. Then a researcer looked at the data since 1970 (i.e., for the last 35 years), and found a large increase in the number of severe hurricanes in since 1990 that was unprecendented in the earlier years. Well, the resourceful natural cycle proponents immediately started talking about cycles of up to 50 years. If the data turns out to show that the last ten years has an unprecedented number of hurricanes since whenever, the natural cycle proponents will claim a longer cycle.

Free will or not?

Some people deny the need to change habits that may harm their personal health by asserting that it's God's will how long they will live. They also deny the need to change habits that affect the environment by invoking God's will. I notice that when they want a job, they don't wait for God to provide them with one; they take personal responsibility. They look at want ads, etc., and fill out application forms.

Similarly, some people are claiming God is punishing the world by various natural calamities, including tsunamis and hurricanes. But when a bus carrying children to or from church camps is in an accident, killing and injuring the children, or as recently happened, a little girl who was walking to church was killed by a car, nobody is such a jerk as to ask what God is trying to tell people.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Earthquake prediction

Well actually, "prediction" is too strong, but it makes a better title than "quess".
I suspect that global warming will change the distribution and/or frequency of earthquakes and volcanoes, because when glaciers and ice caps melt, their weight will be relieved and transferred to the oceans.

Taking from the poor to give to the rich

The current Congress and President are truly awe-inspiring! Now they want to finance the cleanup of hurricane Katrina, which has resulted in many people being homeless and jobless, by cutting Medicaid and food stamp benefits. This is especially timely (sarcasm) because of the predicted doubling of home heating costs due to damage to gas processing plants by Katrina. Of course, much of the money will go to no-bid contracts that will enrich big companies, including Haliburton, that contribute to the Republicans.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Role of government

Certain people argue that the role of the federal government should not include helping areas devasted by catastrophe, such as hurricane Katrina. There is certainly a role for private agencies. However, the need for an effective federal response to oversee efforts was shown by the experience of a medical team from Atlanta which went to New Orleans to help. They were told for days to go someplace, only to find out when they got there that they were not needed at that place. No private agency has the resources to comprehensively track where aid is needed in such a situation. Unfortunately, FEMA was not at that time up to the task, because the people currently running the government think the government should be helping their political supporters and rich business owners, rather than victims of disaster.

Not an illustration

In the Sept. 28, 2005 AJC, Leonard Pitts (whom I respect) reports on a claim by a Britain named Ged Scott, who was on vacation in New Orleans when the city was devasted by hurricane Katrina. Ged claims that some policemen refused to help a group of women stranded on a roof because they wouldn't show their breasts. Mr. Pitts said that Ged's claim "received considerable play in British newspapers." Doing a Yahoo search on "Ged Scott" showed that it did indeed receive attention in the British press. The articles I saw did not appear to make an effort to ascertain whether this claim was true, or if Ged was even in New Orleans. Mr. Pitts himself admits that when he first heard the story, he assumed it was an urban legend. He goes on to cite it as an "illustration of the utter banality of evil." While it is possible that Ged's account is true, I would say it cannot be used to "illustrate ... evil" unless it is better documented to be true. It might turn out to be a better illustration of human gullibility!

Monday, October 17, 2005

When optimism fails

Optimism is w orshipped in this country. Indeed, there may be a genetic bias towards optimism in our country because we are mostly descendents of immigrants, whom we would expect to be mostly optimists. I know from experience that those of us who are more realistic are often criticized harshly. People often cite statistices showing that optimists are happier and healthier. But the definitions of "ooptimism" in these studies is not that of the general public. The optimists in the studies do not assume that all is and will be well. They believe that they can cope when things do not turn out will, and that they can influence (not necessarily determine) their lives. In fact, in long-term studies, people who were described as cheerful when they were children turned out to have a lower life expectancy.

Now, I'm not saying we don't need optimistic people. We need a variety of different kinds of people to fulfill various functions in society. Which is my point.

An example of a situation where optimism was a drawback are the people who choose to stay in areas which are predicted to be hit hard by hurricanes, when they had the means to escape. They are sure it won't be that bad. In the case of Katrina, they were wrong.

Do low wages make for prosperity?

The Republicans oppose the raising of the minimum wage, saying it would hurt the economy. The desire to gain the fruits of another's labor w/o paying a decent price is an example of the pervasive welfare/slave-holder mentality in our country; maybe it is human natiure? What has been the benefit of our decreasing minimum wage, allowing for inflation - increasing numbers/percentages of people in poverty and near-poverty, with the resulting lack of retail sales.

During the late 1990's, there were thousands of computer workers fixing the Y2K problem. This was a necessary endeavour to leep the economy from crashing, but added lilttle value to companies (except for the occasional hitherto unknown bugs we found as part of the extensive review of all programs). That was also a time when the economy was doing well. Once the Y2K conversions were done, and large numbers of people were laid off at the beginning or early in 2000, the economy immediately slowed.

Not saving enough

I notice that the same people who criticize Americans for not saving enough are the same one who encouraged people to keep spending during the recent recession, who oppose rasing the minimum wage, defend outsourcing of American jobs to foreign countries, and block attempts to decrease illegal immigration.

The number and percentage of Americans who are living in poverty or near-poverty and/or do not have health insurance has been increasing. For many people, it is a problem to pay for neccessities, much less save.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Do as I say

Has anybody else noticed that if a parent is unkind to his/her children, people will say sympathetically "They can't help it, that's the way they were raised." Whereas, if a person was mistreated terribly by their parents for many years, people say it shouldn't have any effect on them (outside of how they treat their own children). Parents hold themselves blameless if their children turn out badly, but take credit if their children turn out well. Is it really fair or logical that we expect children to behave better than adults?

Declining population

There have been predictions that the declining population in European countries will cause problems in supporting the retired population, because there will be fewer people to support each retired person. Supposedly, prosperity depends on an ever-increasing population. This is, of course, ridiculous. At some point, all carbon atoms in the world would have to be tied up in human bodies! The population of the U.S. has been increasing, due immigration of young workers, supposedly a positive thing, but it hasn't had the positive effects the "experts" keep predicting.

I have not seen anybody figure in the fact that a declining population should lead to smaller housing costs. Of course, this will hurt some people in the immediate future, but will make it easier for young people and those who rent. Also, real wages would be expected to increase. Food costs should decrease. Less money would be needed for schools. Age discrimination in jobs should decrease. The net results of a declining population might end up being positive.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

How many number 2 leaders?

I had decided not to make a habit of commenting on illogic in the letters to the editors, at least of publications for the general public, such as newspapers; I would have to spend too much time writing about them, and any readers of this blog would be likely to see most of the fallacies themselves. But being a mathematician, I can't resist those which involve a misunderstanding or misuse of math, of which there have been several recently.

Several people have commented on the fact that there have been several reports by the U.S. government that the "number 2 Al-Qaida leader" has been killed or captured. In fact, Mike Luckovich had a cartoon making fun of it Sun., Oct. 2, 2005. Well, I don't know whether the claims that these people were all the no. 2 leaders were accurate, but they are not illogical. As soon as we get rid of the current no. 2 leader, someone else will take his place, as long as there are at least 2 Al-Quda members.

Friday, September 30, 2005

Prevailing wage

Pres. Bush has suspended the Davis-Bacon Act for the Gulf Coast devasted by hurricanes Katrina and Rita. This means contractors will not have to pay prevailing wages to their workers. Kirk Pickerel, guest columnist for the AJC, who happens to be president and CEO of Associated Builders and Contactors Inc., points out that "the hardest-hit communities have little familiarity with federal prevailing wage laws, like Davis-Bacon, because they have enacted no similar state laws. Louisiana, Missiissippi and Alabama are among 20 states that have cosen not to have state prevailing wage laws..."

Wow, what a recommendation! Three of the poorest states in the nation don't have prevailing wage laws. Surely the rest of the nation should follow suit, so their economies can have the same obviously helpful benefits. I can see why Mr. Pickerel thinks suspending this rule is wonderful. It is because he is such a wonderful humanitarian that he wants to make sure the illegal immigrants who were left homeless and jobless by the hurricanes get work. It has nothing to do with the opportunity he will have to make windfall profits out of other people's misery. (This is sarcasm, for those who are sarcasm-impaired.)

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Short memory?

I never stop being amazed by my fellow humans.

Hurricane Katrina devasted a large portion of the Gulf Coast, including New Orleans, just a few weeks ago. I has been pointed out that the destructiveness of the hurricane was greatly increased because of the degradation of wet lands, marshes, barrier islands, and shore lands which used to serve to decrease the strength of storms. Since then, beaches in Florida have been washed away by hurricane Ophelia. Global warming is raising the sea levels by melting glaciers and ice caps, and because warm water occupies more volume than cold water.

So now we read that Georgia House leader Glenn Richardson (a Republican) is fighting to build a vacation home on 3/4 of an acre of beachfront land which a accumulated on the edge of St. Simons Island, on the Atlantic Ocean border of Georgia. The Monday, Sept. 19 issue of the AJC quotes him as saying "If the Supreme Court says we can [build], we will. If the court says we can't, we'll probably just deed it to our children. Sooner or later, there's something going to be built on that property."

What he is ignoring is the question of whether it is morally right for to build on this land. Having the desire and power to do something doesn't make it the right thing.

At some point a hurricane will hit this land, damaging if not destroying anything built here. Will Richardson then seek, or at least accept, government money to reimburse his losses. Since he has such a sense of entitlement to get what he wants, I would bet the answer is yes.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005


In defense of disregarding warnings of danger, we still see refernces to the Y2K computer date problem, and statements that it turned out not to be a problem at all. That is totally false. Thousands of people like me worked for several years to find and fix these date problems. I personally looked at every line of scores, maybe hundreds, of computer programs. IT people had tried for years to get management to allocate time and funds to start working on the problem, but could not get the resources until disaster was near. If we had had the resources to start earlier, much of it could have been doen as part of other projects, or during slack periods, and would have cost less.

Almost any program that contained date calculations or comparisons needed to be fixed. This includes payroll programs (eg., calculations of vacation pay), savings account and loan interest, annuities, time clocks.

In fact, there were problems because of date computations that did not get fixed, including a malfunction at a nuclear power plant, but even those which were reported in the newspaper got small articles in back pages, where few people saw them.

Then. after people like me saved the economy of the world from crashing, we were thown on the trash heap.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Bill O'Reilly and the poor

A recent column by Bill O'Reilly says that to cure poverty, "American middle and high school students should be required to watch videotape of the poor people stranded by Hurricane Katrina." The teachers should tell the students that the government failed to protect the poor, and ask two questions "Do you want to be poor? And do you believe the U.S. government can protect you if you are poor?" Supposedly, this will result in children deciding to become good learners. But poor children don't have to see a video of the results of poverty; they live it. They know what it's like to be hungry and cold because of lack of money. They know what it's like to have to move frequently because they are evicted for lack of rent payment.

We are creatures with few instincts who inhabit many different environments; we need to learn almost everything we need to know to survive. People learn how to live by observing the culture we live in. Those who don't are likely not to survive. It is automatic - it has to be. Segregating people in low-income neighborhoods teaches them the habits of poverty. It teaches them hopelessness. Tv, movies, and pop music don't provide good alternative role models on how to achieve a better life.

What children, and grownups, need is to see and experience what does work. Something that has worked is subsidizing housing for poor families in middle-class neighborhoods. Welfare mothers in such environments tend to eventually get jobs, because that is what the people around them are doing. Their children have access to decent schools and see role models who know how to achieve success. They are around people who use good grammar (well, at least relatively), and speak with a middle-class accent. They learn to fit in with the middle class.

Of course, with the current economic situation, with the middle-class shrinking, and increasing rates of poverty, and the increasing gap between the ultra-rich and everybody else, there is no guarantee that children raised in a middle-class neighborhood will end up middle-class, but they will have a much better chance.

A way that individuals can help is by becoming a mentor to one or more poor children, or to tutor poor children. However, if you choose to become a mentor, you must be committed. A study of a mentoring program, where the mentors were middle-class men, found that the children who had mentors actually did worse. on average, than those who didn't. The reason turned out to be that the men would mentor for awhile, then get busy with other things, and drop out of the program. The boys had become attached to the mentors, and losing them was another loss in their lives, and damaged them even more.

Friday, September 16, 2005


I was as shocked as anyone by the recent case where a man who was securely fastened to a restraint chair, was shocked numerous times with a Taser at the Gwinnet County jail. He lost consciousness, never revived, and was taken off life support 2 days later. The Gwinnett District Attorney Danny Porter has chosen not to seek indictments in Williams' death.

The SCLC has called for and end to the use of Taser stun guns by police, because some people have died after their use. That doesn't make sense to me. If a Taser is used instead of shooting someone, or knocking them unconscious, it would surely cause fewer deaths and brain damage.

The problem is when it is used inappropriately, as in the Williams case. This was a case of torture by the police, and it is inexcusable that Porter has chosen to let the police get away with it. The Gwinnett police said they continued to shock Williams because he continued resisting and trying to get away. Some police forces have required police who carry a Taser to allow themselves to be shocked by it, so they can experience the effects, to avoid frivolous use. Some police have objected. A policeman who had been shocked by a Taser said it was so painful, he would have done anything to get away from it, and that that Williams continued to try to escape because of the pain. I don't know whether the Gwinnett County police require those who use Tasers to experience the effects themselves. If not, they were less guilty, but not innocent; even if you have not experience a Taser shock personally, you have to expect it to be quite painful for it to be strong enough to be useful.

Driving barefoot

The AJC Q&A column got another query recently about whether it is legal to drive barefooted - it is. What I don't understand is whey do people care? What dire problems do they think driving barefooted will cause? Why don't they do something useful with their time.

When I am wearing flip-flops, I take them off while driving because I'm afraid they might get caught when I am changing pedals (my cars have always had manual transmissions). My current car is my first with air-conditioning. When I had to commute a long distance in the summer time in a car w/o air conditioning, I would take off my shoes to stay cooler. When I have to drive with uncomfortable shoes, I take them off. In all cases, I am improving my driving safety.

It has been said that Puritans are people who are haunted by the fear that someone, somewhere is having fun. Maybe it would be more accurate to say they are afraid that someone, somewhere is not as miserable as themselves.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Be prepared

Also in the current issue of the Atlanta "Creative Loafing", in the News of the Weird column, about the leak-safety standards for the proposed nuclear waste depository at Nevada's Yucca Mountain. The editor of the column seems not to think the proposed standards of leak safety for a million years are unreasonable. In reference to the fact the the EPA would regard the facility as safe for only 10,000 years, the editor noted that this is "almost five times the length of time since the birth of Jesus". In regards to the proposed standards, he made the following comment - Context: Science had not even discovered radioactivity 110 years ago.

The reason we need such standards is because of the long time that the nuclear waste will be dangerous. If we choose to put it in a place that will leak long before it has lost its danger, we will be endangering future generations. It would be hard to stop such a leak.

Also, the context is exactly why we need standards that will mandate safety for the length of the dangerous radioactivity of the nuclear waste; given the history of human society, there is no reason to assume that a society that understands the risk will continue to exist for a long period of time.

Occupational deaths

The Atlanta "reative Loafing" reported in the current paper (Sept. 8-14) that occupational deaths are on the rise in Georgia. Ben Ross of the Atlanta regional office of the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration was quoted as saying that part of the increase can be attributed to "the tremendous amount of construction going on and more immigrant workers entering the work place."Ross says language barriers and improper translations often cause instructions to be misinterpreted, resulting in accidents.

That's probably true, but I suspect that the caps on liability payments passed by the Republican Congress and President Bush are also having the predicted effect of allowing business owners to be more lax in regards to the safety of their emplyees.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005


copyright 1992 Patricia M. Shannon

Some people envy those who are able
to turn off their minds and believe in a fable.
Just think how happy they will be
if they ever get a lobotomy!

Are men smarter?

I've noticed that the same people who say that we can't expect men to contain their urges are also the ones who think men should be in charge of the world.

A few days ago, a radio talk show host on Air America said that men are better than women in every area, because men are more likely to score at the highest levels on tests of intelligence, etc. What he carefully didn't mention is that men are also more likely than woman to score at the lowest levels on these same tests as women. So we would be equally justified in saying that men are worse than women in all ways.

Actually, women on average score higher than men in some areas, including the ability to "read" a person's emotions accurately from their facial expressions.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Welfare religion

The outpouring of help for victims of Hurricane Katrina is great! Thanks also go to the many offers of help from other countries. The incompetence of our government is depressing.

One of my customers made a reference a few days ago to "the end times". This invoking of God in connection with the hurricane seems to me another example of human arrogance, narcissism, and laziness, and how people shift our own responsibilies onto God. There were natural disasters, including hurricanes, before there were humans, and certainly thoughout human history, and in areas that had no humans. Does anybody really think there were no tornados, hurricanes, or floods in the Americas before humans arrived here? We have made things worse by our own actions, and our refusal to inconvenience ourselves to deal with the results of our actions, esp. in the area of global warming, which President Bush (a human being) has finally acknowledged is real and is being caused by human actions, but for which he has refused to offer real solutions becuase he said it would hurt the economy. He greatly reduced funding for such things as strengthening the levees of New Orleans, and for emergency health services to deal with disasters, in order to provide tax relief fot those who were able to become super-rich with the previous tax structure, and to fund "homeland security" and the war in Iraq. Well, homeland security should surely include security during natural disasters! It was human beings that voted Bush into office, or at least enough of them did to allow the voting shenanigans of the Repulicans, esp. in Ohio, to tip the balance.

Some people are saying that God is punishing New Orleans for decadence. There have been several very damaging hurricanes that hit Pensacola in recent years. I lived there for more than a year in 1992-1993, and it is a very religious area. I believe it has a record number of churches per capita. A large percentage of the radio stations are Christian.

A young woman told me some years ago that if God wanted to, He would make a miracle to prevent the effects of global warming. What a welfare mentality! It is the same kind of thinking people use when they choose more immediately dangerous behavious, such as smoking and not wearing seat belts - they say that they believe they will die "when their time is up". Well, judging by average lifespans, God prefers people who take care of themselves. Thinking that God will protect you from youself makes as much sense as expecting him to save you if you choose to jump off a skyscraper. When Jesus was taunted by the devil to throw Himself off of a mountain, because God would save Him, He said not to tempt God.

This lack of reality-based thinking in favor of wishful thinking (aka positive thinking and faith) is also the reason so many poor children and youths don't take education seriously. The boys have faith that they will be rich entertainment stars (usually sports or music). The girls are sure they will marry a man who supports them, so they can be housewives, despite the fact that they don't know any grown woman who were able to do that! And who are the men who will be available to them? Those boys in their classes who are neglecting their own education, of course.

The last think we need is for leaders who make reality-based reasoning a negative term.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005


The AJC published an article Sat. on the lack of affordable housing in Atlanta, which included a list of salaries of several occupations. It listed the salary for fast-food cooks as $13.42/hour. At the restaurant chain I work for, most of the cooks make between $6.40 and $7.50 /hour. The beginning pay for the top cooks is $9.01/hour but none of the cooks I've met here make that much.

A helping hand

Rick Badie reported a heart-warming story in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AJC) about a car jacking in Norcross, GA. When a woman made a quick stop at a Quik Trip, she left her baby in the car. A man stole the car while she was in the store. She left the key in the car to run the air conditioner for her baby. Mohammed Kabir, a man from Bangladesh saw her run out of the store after her car, screaming "My baby is in the car." He followed the car, calling 911, until he saw the driver stop and place the child, in it's car seat, in a parking lot. Mr. Kabir stayed with the infant until the police came. This is a heart-warming story, and I thank Mr. Badie for printing it.

However, when he criticized the dozens of other people who were there, and did not help, I feel he is being unfairly critical (although I understand how he feels.). Social scientists who have studied such cases have found that when we are in trouble, we are actually more likely to be helped when there is only one bystander than when there are many. Some of these bystanders who did act might have done so if they had been the only witnesses. Of course, Mr. Kabir deserves special credit because he actually did act, even though there were so many other people around.
There is an article about this at:

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

How would Jesus drive?

I live in Atlanta, Georgia, and sometimes when I'm driving, I think about having a bumber sticker made:

Jesus didn't say, "Love your neighbors except when you're driving."

School funding

There was a recent article about the possibility of replacing property taxes with sales taxes to fund schools. A childless man said he didn't want to pay taxes to fund schools because he doesn't have children in public school. People whose children are grown often say the same thing. Of course, most of these people went to public schools themselves, and thus benefitted from taxes on those who did not have children in school. Even if we and/or our children went to private schools, one or more of our ancestors probably went to public schools, which ultimately benefitted us.

Regardless of our families immediate benefit from attendance at public schools, we all benefit from good (or at least adequate) public education, because it helps create a healthy economy and better-informed voters. The children of today are the employees and parents of tomorrow. When you are old or disabled, and dependent on others, you will need help from other people's children, even more so if you yourself are childless.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Football mascots

I am of Irish, Danish, and German descent. Does that mean I should get upset about the Minnesota Vikings, or the Notre Dame Fighting Irish?

I did meet an American Indian once who was upset about American Indian sport mascots, but then she was the kind of person who is always looking for something to be mad about. If nobody wanted to have an Indian mascot, she might have been insulted by that!

Funny book

I just finished a good book. It is a parody of fantasy/romance, with Harry Potter influences:

"Heroics for Beginners: a novel" by John Moore

Help our troops

Winter is coming in Iraq. Buying a yellow ribbon car decal made in China isn't going to help keep our people warm. But if you can knit or crochet, you can make a helmet liner. Also, donations are needed to send them to the troops.

Directions are provided at

Nothing is impossible

At last, I've come up with a form of my aphorism in haiku form, so you won't have to see it again (unless I get an irristible inspiration).

Nothing is too hard
if you are not the person
who has to do it.
- Patricia Shannon

Mind your manners, please

I saw these posted years ago in ladies' restrooms in Huntsville, Alabama. On or the other needs to be posted in all ladies rooms:

If you are too neat
to sit on the seat
be neater yet
and don't get them wet!

If you sprinkle
when you tinkle,
be a neaty,
wipe the seaty.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Pride: Justified or not?

Pride is an emotion we should feel because of choices that we deliberately make, not because of our accidental state of being. We often feel pride when what we should feel is gratitude. Eg, we should feel pride when we do something to try to benefit our country; we should feel gratitude that we are citizens of the U.S. A person should be grateful if they are talented in some way; pride is only appropriate if they try to do use their talents in a positive way. We might admire some of our ancestors, but pride is inappropriate. The desire to feel pride when we have expended no effort is a manifestation of our desire to get something for nothing - perfectly normal, but hardly admirable!

Helping Libertarians

When I ask a Libertarian if they think that if I saw them being mugged, I should help them, at least call the police, they always say "yes". When I ask them why I should go to the trouble, they are stumped, because according to their own philosophy, there is no reason that I should help them.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

It didn't hurt them?

I've noticed that almost w/o exception, everyone who says something like "My parents beat me when I was a kid and I turned out fine" has an unpleasant personality that I certainly would not want my child to have.

Waste hurts us all

Why don't people realize that ordering food because it's included in the price, when they know they are not going to eat it, and other ways of wasting food, hurts all customers, including themselves, because the price a restuarant charges has to cover what it pays for the wasted material. It also hurts all of us environmentally. The more food or other resources are used, the more the environment that we live in is polluted. Eg., Any material thing we acquire needs to be transported, which helps pollute the air we breathe.

Killing ex's

Why don't people who kill their ex's (and often their own children) realize that they are proving to the whole world that their ex was fully justified in leaving them?

minimum wage for tipped employees

Until I got a job as waitress, I, like many people, did not know that the normal minimum wage (currently $5.15/hour) does not apply to people like waitresses. The following is copied from the U.S. department of labor web site (

A tipped employee engages in an occupation in which he or she customarily and regularly receives more than $30 per month in tips. An employer of a tipped employee is only required to pay $2.13 per hour in direct wages if that amount combined with the tips received at least equals the federal minimum wage. If the employee’s tips combined with the employer’s direct wages of at least $2.13 per hour do not equal the federal minimum hourly wage, the employer must make up the difference.

Sunday, July 31, 2005

Anything is easy

I created the following aphorism a few years ago. Feel free to use it, but please don't forget to include the author:

Anything is easy if someone else has to do it. - Patricia Shannon

Kind-of-a haiku version:

Anything is easy if
you are not the one
who has to do it.
-Patricia Shannon

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Eminent domain

In regards to the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision allowing private property to be confiscated by the government for other private parties, for the sake of deriving higher property taxes:

The Republicans tried to make this into a partisan issue, because the justices who voted for this were, for some reason, those who tend to be less conservative. Of course, the reason they voted for this was in order to respect state's rights, which the conservatives have glorified when it comes to denying rights to the poor and minorities. I don't know anybody who agrees with this decision, and most of the people I talk to are liberals.

However, the conservatives have no problems with zoning laws that are designed to keep poor people from living near them in the first place, whether as owners or renters. Also, the poor and relatively poor can lose their property because of high property taxes.
Killing innocent civilians in the name of religion is evil, and another reason that the statement that humans are rational is ridiculous.

The Republicans claim that Bush has kept terrorists from attacking Americans. Well, they are attacking us - in Iraq. They don't have to spend money to come to our country because we are sending our citizens over there, both military and civilians.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Homelessnes vs begging

In the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, there have been discussions about the fact that beggars are not necessarily homeless. I'm sure this is true. I don't advocate giving them money. (When I can afford it, I carry food to give people. ) However, not being homeless doesn't mean you can afford other necessities. There are children who loose weight in the winter because their families cannot afford both adequate heat and adequate food. When I was between jobs, I was not homeless, but I could not afford enough food, and was therefore losing weight.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Dead ends

It is invalid to give a direction such as "Turn right at a dead end." If it is a dead end, there is no where to turn. What do you think a "Dead End" road sign is trying to tell you?