Thursday, August 30

Politics: One of the most pointless games ever

I hate politics.  I can say that unequivocally and without trying to couch the word "hate" in anything resembling political correctness, a phrase, by the way, I think has become a blight on our ability to think clearly.

Politics and politicking have become a year-round event, which is one of the reasons politicians are seemingly incapable of making decisions: fear of not getting re-elected whenever that re-election campaign might be.

NOTE: In my opinion, politics is not the same as public service.  It used to be, but any more politics seems to be about gamemanship and maneuvering to get elected rather than doing any actual public good.  Not only elected public officials are guilty of politics; some of them actual want to do well by doing good.

And I am fed up with organizations that threaten candidates with dire outcomes should the candidate not toe a particular party line.  I actually laughed out loud when listening to NPR the other day when it was reported that many of the parties within the GOP simply ignore the platform planks with which they disagree.  Duh.

So a friend of mine posted a fact check site after Paul Ryan's speech at the RNC.  I know this may be shocking, but apparently the candidate dissembled and misrepresented, but I love, LOVE that the "proof" is taken out of context.  The fact check was conducted by the Annenberg Foundation, very much a family affair.  Wallis Annenberg is the boss of the Foundation, very much the well-to-do, socialite philanthropist.

My point?  I think reasonable skepticism makes sense and it's worth knowing who is not only behind the advertisements for any candidate, but knowing who is behind the fact-checking.  None of this information is presented with any kind of objectivity, and we do ourselves a disservice to think any differently.

If we're to be an informed citizenship, we have to be as completely informed as we reasonably can be.  Just because it's on the Internet doesn't mean it's true; just because it looks professional, doesn't mean it's right.

Wednesday, August 29

Turn signals: A refresher

Disclaimer: I am not a driving instructor nor do I play one on TV.

I'm fascinated by the use or non-use of turn signals.  For those who may a bit uncertain on the concept or who have trouble understanding what might be happening should they see a turn signal blinking on a car, herewith.

One of my favorites is situational.  You're behind a car with the turn signal blinking.  As you approach any side road on which a turn might be made, you will naturally brace to start braking as is the case when approaching an intersection at which a turn might be made.  But these are the messages the driver could be sending:
  • I'm going to turn and slow down nearly to a complete stop as I make that turn because I'm oblivious to any cars behind me;
  • I know I need to turn somewhere along here but I'm not quite sure which is the right street; 
  • I'm going to turn eventually so just leave me alone; or
  • Dude, I turned about 8 miles back onto this road and just haven't turned off my signal.

Another favorite occurs when driving on the expressway or highway, especially during rush hour when everyone else's time and schedule is far more important than yours, or so other drivers seem to think.  These are the true believers in the law of defensive driving, which means that you must always been on the defensive for some nincompoop do something stupid.  In this case the turn signal often pops on even as the driver is starting to cross the line, and quite probably into your lane requiring you to slam on your brakes.  The message that driver is sending is this: "I know I'm supposed to use this turn thingy when I change lanes so I'm hitting it as I change lanes but only when I remember."

What those drivers don't quite seem to understand is that the turn signal is a signal of an intent to turn and there's a smidge of responsibility on the driver's part to make sure there is room for the lane change.

Another favorite is when a driver is trying to pull out of a shopping center, gas station, or just about any place and waiting for a break in traffic.  While watching for that break, and being sufficiently responsible to wait for an appropriate break, the waiting driver might see cars slowing down but not trust the driver is really turning in.  A turn signal would help, and I'm pretty sure they have these newfangled gadgets even on the fancy schmancy expensive cars.

So here's the deal:
  1. If you're planning to turn at an intersection or side street, you're supposed to start signaling at about 300 feet but several car lengths can work too.  It's a courtesy and it's information for those around you.
  2. If you're driving on a highway or expressway, start to your signal to inform others of your intent and then use those mirror thingys on the side of your card and dangling somewhere on the inside of your windshield to make sure there is room for you to change lanes without making other people slam on their brakes.
  3. When you're getting ready to turn into a parking lot of any kind, see #1.  Signal as you approach the parking lot because, well, it's a courtesy and information for those who may be waiting to get back on the street.
You see?  Turn signals are not a complicated part of your vehicle and actually kind of useful.  Trust me on this.

Sunday, August 26

USADA & Lance Armstrong: Nothing but noise

The media has piled on Lance Armstrong and has been bleating about the USADA stripping Armstrong of his Tour de France titles.  But the Tour de France is not run nor sponsored by the USADA so I don't see how the USADA can strip him of those titles.  Sure, ban him for life from that part of the sport, the one from which he's retired.  So whatever the USADA has claimed to have done is meaningless and, therefore, seems that much more spiteful.

Meanwhile, the International Cycling Union had been waiting to make any comment, and there has been nary a peep from the Tour de France people: sponsors, partners, anyone.

Something of passing interest is a quote in this August 24 ESPN article: "USADA reacted quickly and treated Armstrong's decision as an admission of guilt, hanging the label of drug cheat on an athlete who was a hero to thousands for overcoming life-threatening testicular cancer and for his foundation's support for cancer research."  How do I read between those lines?  Some jumped-up, self-righteous biking prigs, ignoring how long Armstrong has been fighting these allegations that seem to made up of jealous rivalry, people who feel left out of Armstrong's halo effect glory, and other pompous indignation, claimed vindication and victory that is not only hollow, but undermines an organization that could have been viewed as both valued and valuable, which is seemingly neither.

BTW, the International Cycling Union has made a statement that is a non-statement, themselves seemingly weary of what could be viewed as a witch hunt.  That statement garnered little attention because it's less interesting than trying to shred someone's reputation.

What's also not big news for the media but telling news is that donations for Armstrong's donation have not faltered.  In fact, "The Livestrong foundation's CEO, Doug Ulman, told ESPN on Friday night that unsolicited donations were up almost 25 times as compared to Thursday."

So to the USADA and its so-called big news, "Meh."

Fashion sense vs common sense

I don't get all of my news from Yahoo! but I do confess that occasionally I am sufficiently tantalized by a deliberately provocative headline to skim the story.  This one is titled "Airlines can say: You can't wear that."

I travel fairly frequently and usually for business, so dress accordingly.  I remember my grandmother and even my mother talking about dressing for travel, but that was way, way back in the day when women wore hats and gloves and people could still smoke in theaters.  I remember people gawking and gasping when young people just wore any old thing to go shopping but there were times, only a generation or two ago, when "going out" was a social event and it meant dressing with care.

The anecdotes, selected for specific reasons no doubt, are interesting.  Would I want to ride on the plane with the individual who wore the T-shirt bearing the words "Terrists gonna kill us all"?  Would I find it an appropriate anti-racial profiling phrase?  No and no.  I give Arjit Guha a big red X for lacking common sense.  Yes, protest racial profiling but not in that way or on a plane.  Not clever.

Do I want to see anyone's boxers or briefs because he's wearing low-hanging pants?  No.  Do I want to see a middle-aged cross-dresser? Well, not if he's wearing only women's underwear.  I don't want to see women wearing only underwear.  But if he's well-dressed, I don't care.

I understand the argument of people being able to wear what they want when they've purchased a ticket, especially because travelers feel harassed by what seem to be fees for everything.  But that sense of entitlement isn't going to lead anywhere nice or good.

Instead, I much prefer John Gordon's observation: "It's an unspoken rule that when you go out in public, you should be respectful."

And if it isn't an unspoken rule for everyone to try to be respectful of those around you, perhaps it should be a spoken and even written rule.  In my mind, being respectful of others starts with being respectful of yourself.  If you have self-respect, you are more likely--in my personal opinion and based on nothing other than my opinion--to be respectful of others. 

Herewith: "When you go out in public, please be respectful. . . of yourself and then of others."