Deja Vu all over again

The average American has a very short attention span.  Fortunately, there are some who remember what has gone before.  A talking head this morning pointed out that the Oklahoma City Bombing occurred on April 19, 1995.  The bombing in Boston occurred on the celebration of “Patriot’s Day,” the third Monday in April, but the official day is…April 19.

Neither Oklahoma or Boston is the first act of domestic terrorism, nor will it likely be the last.  And yes, I fully expect, once the officials in charge have sorted the mess, they will find it was an act of domestic terrorism.  What concerns me is not that it happened, but that there are Americans that feel this is an appropriate way to protest their government. And calling it terrorism really gives it more of a spotlight than it deserves.  It is murder, pure and simple, and the perpetrators are murderers.  Nothing more. They are not patriots or freedom fighters, they are murderers, slimy, bottom feeders that should be put out of our misery and not given any more of a platform than a swift drop and a sudden stop.

Sadly, this will only make the police state that has evolved since September 11, 2001 only worse.  And in that regard, we all lose.

California “bans” Mapping Apps

A recent ruling in California bans drivers from using mapping apps like Google Maps, after a man was caught while checking his smartphone for directions. (Autoevolution)

Raise your hand if you still have a paper map book in your car? Raise your hand if you have a third party GPS in your car (a Garmin or some on board system). Raise your hand if you update either of them more than once a year? Raise your hand if you live in an urban area?

Chances are you answered yes to the last one but no to the others. Which means that the way you navigate is by some form of on-line, cell based mapping application. One of the questions I keep asking myself and my elected leaders, who thus far have not answered, is how to I get from place to place, when the tools to navigate are not allowed anymore? Am I supposed to print out detailed maps and carry them like me like old fashioned map books? Clearly, according to California, the answer is going to be “yes.” But what is worse, is the with the rise of the GPS device, the map book publishers essentially went out of business over night. I have not seen a current paper map of my region in at least three years, which means the maps I still have are grossly out of date, missing new roads, showing roads that no longer exist and a comedy of other errors.

Do not mistake me. I am all for laws that punish distracted driving. But this current spate of new laws for old purposes is little more than political window dressing. Distracted driving was around long before cell phones and will be around long after they are legislated out of vehicles. But not everyone has a car mounted GPS, either because of the cost of the upgrade or the practical reason of “but I have it on my phone and I am already paying for the service.”

This is not to say that electronic maps are always accurate. Apple proved that with their poorly thought out mapping app released as part of iOS 5, but the point here is that if you do not have a GPS, or you do not know the area, you are now unable to use one more critical tool to help you navigate your way. And that could be the difference between life and death.

The Networks are waking up.

Some people have had it with TV. They’ve had enough of the 100-plus channel universe. They don’t like timing their lives around network show schedules. They’re tired of $100-plus monthly bills. (WTOP)

According to Nielsen, who has been tracking household viewing habits since time immemorial (or at least as long as it has been a money making effort), there are five million folks who do not even own a television. That seems low to me. I suspect there are a lot of people that own a television, but have long since given up their connection to receive the traditional television signals. And, if you have watched television lately, you probably know why.

As pointed out in the article, people are tired of being tied to their televisions. More so, they are tired of being tied to schedules that have nothing to offer, either intellectually, or visually. For the one or two shows that you find interesting – and I suspect most people find fewer than five shows even worth the time – there are other ways to watch it if you really want to. The rest is a waste of time.

Lately, we have moved from relying on regular television to watching Netflix, Hulu, and any of our many DVDs rather than wasting time looking for something to watch on broadcast networks (and this includes cable).  We get our sports directly from the leagues, without the commercials and with the ability to rewind and watch the game later if we want to or have other things going on when the game is live. The rest is ignored in favor of other, more interesting things, like doing laundry.

And the networks are only just talking about this?  Here is the first light-bulb they should turn on – get rid of the anachronistic blackout rule. Just because I live in the same geography as a marketing area for a sports team does not mean I have any intention of going to see the game, and for a variety of good reasons.  If you think someone should have exclusive rights to show it, you are again ignoring those of us who have paid for the privilege of watching this same game, yet do not have a television, or, access to television. Sometimes I want to watch a game while working at the office.  There is no television at my desk, but the video stream works just fine. And did I mention, I have already paid for it?

By the time the networks, and their boards realize what is going on, people will have already flocked to other forms of media.  My daughter already gets more video from YouTube than she does from television and this is not a trend that will change any time soon. But it is good to see that the networks are taking notice. To bad it is five years too late.

My Doctor Is My Dealer*

Let me start by saying that I am not generally opposed to modern pharmaceuticals.  As a sufferer of kidney stones, I am very happy that morphine and its opiate relations are available to me.  But I have to wonder if we, as a nation, are not using modern pharmaceuticals a bit too much.  For example, at a recent physical, I was told my cholesterol was outside the norm.  So rather than tell me to lose 40 pounds – which would be a good idea and a goal I have – I was put on a commonly prescribed statin drug. One described as clean, meaning few side effects and few interactions. For grins, I will take it for a while and see what happens, but I will work harder at losing the weight.

Further, two reports made me sit up and take notice that this is getting worse, rather than better.  The first was that more than 25% of boys have been diagnosed as ADHD.  The second was that 1 in 50 children are suffering from an Autism spectrum disorder.

1 in 4 boys are suffering from ADHD?  And the solution for this is to medicate them?! ADHD is characterized by either significant difficulties of inattention or hyperactivity and impulsiveness or a combination of the two. Without getting into it too far, this describes most boys between the ages of 2 and 30 (and a number of teenage girls too). I am sure there is a standard by which the rather subjective definition of significant is, but I am also wondering if part of the problem is a simple lack of exercise. I do remember growing up, that we had a lot of running around.  Sports, recess, after school sports, and walking back and forth to school.  Today, not so much.  As I have written numerous time, we are seeing a serious decrease in exercise in schools.  Recess is almost non-existent, sports are more standing than participating, and we all know that walking to school is almost a vanished skill. So I am skeptical that medication is really the answer.  Or even the primary solution.

Autism is a little bit harder though.  The new guidelines lump a whole mess of spectrum disorders under the heading of Autism and do not take into account the level of severity.  Again, autism is characterized by impaired social interaction and communication, and by restricted and repetitive behavior.  We are all familiar with the gross levels of autism, but again I have to wonder if we have not gone too far in the diagnosis.  Under these descriptions, I could be suffering from it, to some extent.  Of course, there are no drugs currently available, although I heard that a study into an Alzheimer’s drug might help some of the more severely affected sufferers.

This is not to say that there are individuals who are bona fide sufferers.  Clearly and without question.  But based on the two survey’s, these numbers are going up, not down, which begs the question – are we over targeting people that are not really suffering from these (or other) diseases, or has the genetics of humanity finally failed? Only time will tell.

* From Robin Williams’s sketch on Drugs, Alcoholism, And More Drugs, on Weapons of Self Destruction