Wasting Time Online

A 2010 study completed by the Kaiser Family Foundation as reported in the New York Times suggests that kids are wasting time online.  And the study found that kids from poor families waste more time on the computer (11.5 hours a day) than kids from families of means (10 hours a day). And this was 2010; imagine what the usage data looks like in 2012. A poor kid was defined as one who comes from a family where the parent or parents do not have a college degree.  One of the reasons posited for this “digital divide” as the New York Times pens it is that poorer kids have less supervision because their parents don’t know much about computers.  It’s not that families from lower socioeconomic backgrounds don’t have access to technology, but rather they don’t have access to digital literacy education.

This is somewhat alarming and speaks to an addiction.  Facebook is one of the main culprits and of course video gaming.  I’m not a kid, but if I didn’t have a job and some supervision at home, I’d play Angry Birds all day.  Some kids waste the weekend away playing video games and are like zombies on Monday. I guess it’s better than wasting away in Margaritaville.  And with all the drugs and violence on the streets, I guess playing a violent video game is better than being the victim of violence, unless the exposure leads to violent behavior, a grim thought. I’m not sure that it does.  Have you ever heard of the Grand Theft Auto defense?  And of course no jury has ever bought that violent cartoons like Popeye and Roadrunner caused one to commit assault and battery.

But it’s not just kids who are wasting time online.  I’m sure there are studies linking technology use to lost productivity on the job as countless people combine the personal with work on their mobile devices endlessly checking Facebook updates, stock tickers, emails and sports scores. I can remember a time at work before smart phones and the Internet when people actually smoked cigarettes at their desks.  “Times they are a changing”, wrote and sang Bob Dylan, a recent recipient of the Presidential medal of honor and it still rings true.

What’s the solution?  The article mentions digital brigades to educate parents so that they can provide better supervision of their kids online activities.  This is a good idea, but I have a few that are more extreme:

1. Facebook Freeze.  It would work sort of like a breathalizer that keeps the inebriated from driving. After say 1 hour of Facebook use, the user is logged out and can’t log back in until the next day.

2. Online Free Holidays.  The government could promote computer free holidays, maybe even giving a tax break to families to build roads or go fishing.

3.  Roll Back Time.  Make everybody live a week in the 70’s before computers, the Internet and mobile phones.  Kids would have a choice between Pong and Pac Man.  For music, it’d be either an 8 track or records – the rich kids could to listen to stuff on Reel to Reel.  And no energy drinks –  just Tang and Ovaltine.

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Swiss Weed Killer Company Settles for 105 million

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The Swiss are known for their banking system, chocolate, “neutrality”, yodeling, Ovaltine, infant formula and chemicals.  Syngenta, the Swiss based makers of the popular herbicide that contains the chemical atrazine, just settled a lawsuit in the United States filed by states and municipalities in the Midwest where the chemical has been found in public water systems. They sued to recover the costs of filtering the weed killer out of the water supply.  Without admitting any wrongdoing, Syngenta settles for 105 million U.S.

Atrazine has been used the world over by farmers to kill weeds that harm crops.  In the U.S., the herbicide has been used for years by corn farmers.  Syngenta claims that there is no evidence that humans have been harmed by the chemical.  Interestingly, atrazine is sold in 60 countries but has been banned by the European Union.

I just returned from Illinois and drank quite a bit of water from my sisters refrigerator, a refrigerator that generates 14 gallons of ice a day, and I must say, the water tasted fortified, with what I don’t know.  I don’t think there are any corn fields in or near her small suburban Chicago town.  I don’t think it is one of the municipalities in question, but the well-manicured lawns and gardens in the town clearly have benefited from herbicides, pesticides and chemically enhanced fertilizers.  And the bag of carrots she bought at a local supermarket had the markings of genetic tampering.

Research indicates that atrazine causes reproductive distress in frogs and could cause birth defects in humans.  I like corn, but if I were thinking of starting a family, I might think twice about drinking tap water or eating corn.  And given my love for corn on the cob, corn dogs, cornbread and grits, this would be a near impossible sacrifice.

Ethiopian Quiz

I was scanning my news feeds this morning and ran across this headline: Ethiopia detains and quizzes U.S. journalists.  Interesting.  I haven’t read the article, and will, of course, but I am trying to imagine what questions the Ethiopians might pose and wonder whether the journalists are up to the task. I am no expert on Ethiopian history and as I’m writing this, I have done no research on the country. I haven’t Googled anything or looked up interesting facts on the African country, but I know enough to compose a quiz, one in which I doubt few Americans could answer without the assistance of Google, or Wikipedia.

Here’s my quiz.  I would hope that the detained journalist could answer at least the first few questions.  If they can’t, perhaps their detention could be understood, although for the record, I am against restrictions on speech and the press and would urge the Ethiopian government to free the journalists.

1.  What is the capital of Ethiopia?

2.  What is the main language of Ethiopia?

3.  What is Ethiopia’s major export?

4.  Name one Ethiopian album?

5.  Which European country occupied and oppressed Ethiopia?

6.  What is the name of the bread which accompanies many Ethiopian dishes?

7.  Ethiopia feuds with which bordering country?

5-7 – Good

3-4 – Fair

0-2 – Sad

Answer Key:

1.  Addis Ababa 2. Amharic 3. coffee 4. Ethiopiques 5. Italy 6. Injera 7. Eritrea

Nuclear Sub Catches Fire

A nuclear sub in dry dock in Portsmouth, Maine caught fire injuring 7, including some firefighters.  The fire started in the front of the ship where, according to reports,there are some tight spaces including a torpedo bay.  Fortunately, the fire is now out and no torpedoes where inadvertently launched.  The nuclear reactor that powers the ship was never at risk and the sub, though damaged, is now in stable condition.  Clearly, a catastrophe was averted.

But how does a fire start on a sub in dry dock?  The ship was being “worked on”, which I presume required the use of power tools that might have sparked the blaze.  What if one of the workers was taking a smoke break and left the cigarette unattended, or simply flicked it carelessly to go out on its own?  I doubt the ship is equipped with ashtrays and I would guess that no smoking signs are posted throughout.  I bet, though, that back in the day, there was a lot of smoking going on on these vessels. During World War II, soldiers were actually issued cigarettes.

Firefighters heroically contained the blaze.  Imagine being dispatched to put out a fire on an armed nuclear sub.  Which leads me to the question of whether we really need a nuclear sub prowling the seas.  Like cigarette smoking, it seems the risks outweigh the benefits.

Why not build a clean and safer energy sub?  Solar is probably not the best way to go in a sub,  but couldn’t we power the thing with peanut oil, jelly fish, electric eel or just plain ole seaweed?  I think we could and should.

Rainy Dayze in the UK

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Over in Great Britain, things are a mess.  This is not what Olympic fans want to hear.  What have the Brits done?  Will they need to import Mitt Romney, the vulture capitalist, to save the games?  He did perform some sort of Mormon miracle for the Salt Lake City Olympics, you know.  But this problem has nothing to do with the Summer Olympics or the collapse of the Greek economy.

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What’s going on across the pond you ask?  Actually, I don’t know, but the BBC reported on my HTC Evo news feed that something’s afoot in the UK.  A tragedy of epic proportion – CLIMATE CHANGE.  More specifically in the form of rain in the UK, and lots of it, which of course is bad for tourism and even worse for insects, especially the delightfully sweet honey bees who don’t do their thing well in the wet.  Butterflies have a had a hard time too, unable to mate in the damp and dank.  But it’s not all bad.  Slugs and snails are in paradise, literally just soaking and slimming it up.  They really dig the rain.

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Facebook Loses GM but who is the Loser?

Photo by Vegavairbob at en.wikipedia

I don’t know about you, but I didn’t rush out and buy any shares of Facebook.  I consider just having an account and sharing every now and then, shares enough.  I don’t buy stocks at all as a rule except indirectly through mutual funds in my retirement portfolio.  And I imagine, sooner or later one of my funds will invest in Facebook.  But one big American company is apparently done with Facebook.  GM announced it will not be buying any more ads on Facebook because as far as GM could tell, the ads were not effective in selling cars and trucks.

GM may be onto something.  I know from my own experience, I don’t pay any attention to ads on the internet and was not even aware that GM had a Facebook presence.  And if I had noticed an ad, you best believe I would not have clicked on it.  I don’t go to Facebook, or any social media site for that matter to shop, or to be distracted by annoying ads.  Of course on some sites, to play a video, you have no choice but to listen to a 30 second spot.  And on sites like Spotify, you have to tolerate ads to use the site for free, unless you buy a premium monthly subscription.  If more companies like GM stop buying ads on Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg might have to change his business model and start charging account holders.  If this day ever comes, I’ll stop using Facebook, though I don’t begrudge the company for making money.

Is Facebook or GM to blame for sluggish sales?  GM reportedly spent 10 million on Facebook ads, which is a small percentage of its overall advertising budget.  Did Facebook users not click on the GM banner because they couldn’t be bothered, like me?  Or did they refuse to do so because they don’t have any interest in buying a GM car or truck.  Could it be that GM has a damaged image from the days of the Chevy Nova and the Chevy Vega?  In my opinion, GM has rolled out a consistently bad lineup of cars since the 70’s and hasn’t regained its reputation of the 50’s and 60’s.  And I say this as a past GM consumer who grew up in a family who owned Impalas, Monte Carlos and yes, even a 4 speed Chevy Vega that you had to stand up in to depress the clutch.  I do like the Camaro, and the Corvette, always have and always will.  But could it be that “Ford has a better idea”?  Well, that remains to be seen, but Ford does plan to continue with Facebook unlike GM and even step up its presence in the future. And I won’t notice.

Patriotic Bachmann Renounces Suisse Citizenship

Michele Bachmann is so loyal to the constitution that she renounced her citizenship; her Swiss citizenship that is.  Her husband’s parents are Swiss, which entitled her to dual citizenship.  She claims some children in her family wanted to become dual citizens.  Actually, being a Swiss citizen would have enabled her to run for public office.  I’m not sure she speaks a language other than Middle Western English, which is not one of the official languages of Switzerland as far as I know.  Switzerland is the country with CH stickers on its cars – which by the way stands for Confederation Helvetica – and the country beloved for its cows, chocolate and banks.  Were she to be elected, my guess is that she’d promote pink slime, try to privatize the health care system and  make English the official language.

It is strange that she would want to be associated with Switzerland, one of  those “socialist style” European countries.  Switzerland has near universal health care with an individual mandate.  For the Swiss, Bachmann’s pursuit of citizenship and quick renouncement was all a bit of a joke.  As reported in the Atlantic, one Swiss commenter said, “we have enough loonies in our country already”.  The article went on to say that the Swiss felt she might have gotten on well with the far right People’s Party, known for its xenophobia.

Unfortunately, it looks like Michele Bachmann is here to stay in the good ‘ole US of A as a rabid member of the Grand Old Tea Party of NO.

Red Bull Smoothies

The Boston Business Journal  reported that Honey Dew Donuts, the Dunkin Donuts knockoff, has teamed up with the energy drink maker Red Bull to offer spiked lemon and strawberry smoothies.   With 58 grams of sugar in the 24 ounce strawberry concoction, it is a real bargain – about 2.5 grams of sugar per ounce!  I don’t know if the sugar count includes the Red Bull glucose, sucrose and inositol, which incidentally is effective in treating depression.  When I see the word glucose, I immediately think of a glucose drip.  Can you picture a patient hooked up to a glucose drip with a Red Bull logo on the bag?  58 grams of sugar or about 14 teaspoon fulls is more than most people need in a day and add a shot of Red Bull and one really might grow wings and who knows what else.   Red Bull also contains caffeine and taurine, an amino acid that occurs naturally in fish, meat and breast milk according to Katherine Zeratsky a nutritionist affiliated with the Mayo Clinic.  Mayo Clinic.  When I hear it, I think of mayonnaise, a word I cannot spell, and a product not often associated with a healthy diet.

Ok, so this Red Bull smoothie doesn’t sound like the healthiest choice, but compared to the 24 ounce Dunkin Donuts Strawberry Coolatta, which contains 85 grams of sugar, it is.  And if it’s true that America is hooked on Dunkin, it should come as no surprise that Americans are so obese.

Meet Mitt the Bully

Is Mitt Romney a bully?  He may be.  He seems to have been one at boarding school, if the accounts are true.  Even Mitt doesn’t deny having participated in pranks that may have gone too far.  He even issued an apology to those he may have offended.  In a clear case of bullying, the Washington Post reported that as a teenager, Romney and a group of boarding school buddies held down a classmate and Romney acting as barber, cut off his bleach blonde hair that did not conform to the prep school look.   According to the story, the boy was soft-spoken and presumed to be “homosexual” and an “easy target” for teasing.

The report comes on the heels of President Obama’s “coming out” in support of gay marriage.  I say “coming out” because I believe his position has been the same for some time and that his so called “evolution” was simply a political position.  Interestingly, the press seems to be making a connection between Mitt’s bullying of a classmate  years ago and Obama’s new public support of same-sex marriage, sort of the good guy, bad guy comparison.  I don’t think the comparison is fair.  I think both guys have some explaining to do.  Romney suggests he may have been involved in youthful pranks and couldn’t remember having been the barber of Cranbrook.  Obama describes his position on gay marriage as evolving.  I think both men are being disingenuous about their previous motivations.

But back to the question of whether Romney’s tendency to prank and bully as a kid is relevant today.  I think it is.  Mitt says he is a changed man, arguing in much the same way as Obama that he has evolved.  Romney does pass for a gentleman in public.  His gentility can make him seem civil and almost friendly, but while he can pass for genteel on occasion, his actions as governor and as a businessman tell another story.  As governor of Massachusetts, Mitt helped pass a referendum that ended bilingual education which has had horrible consequences for immigrant children.  It was mean-spirited, much as his private sector work as a venture, some would say, vulture capitalist has been.  For a man who believes that corporations are people and that gays should not have the right to same sex marriage, his evolution has a long way to go.

Asian Carp A Treat and a Threat

An invasive species of fish called the Asian carp threatens to destroy the ecosystem of America’s waterways. Currently the fish are confined to rivers that feed into the Mississippi and the Great Lakes, but the migrating potential of the invaders is so threatening that the Army has been brought in, the Army Corps of Engineers that is, to build some kind of barrier or dam to actually separate the feeder basins where the carp live from the major waterways.

So what’s the problem with the fish anyway?  They are big and edible. What’s not to like? Well, the problem is that they like what other fish like namely algae and zooplankton, food that sturgeon and other native fish need to survive. The carp are so voracious and such hearty eaters that they leave nothing for their fish mates. If nothing is done to stop them, the native fish species will become extinct.

So what to do about the problem? I have several unique, out of the box solutions. First, since the carp apparently have no natural enemies, some should be introduced. And the one that immediately comes to mind is the alligator. I recommend we dump loads of gators into the rivers where carp breed. Secondly, the Army Corps of Engineers should contract out some work to the Swamp People, the Ax Men, Bear Grylls from Man v. Wild and Jeremy Wade of River Monsters.  They’ll catch them; Bear will do it bare handed and eat them raw.  I hope he likes Asian carp because there are a lot of them. Now if we can just keep Jeremy from catching and releasing the carp back into the rivers, we’ll be ok. In fact, Jeremy should bring along some of the other River Monsters he has caught from other countries and release them into the Illinois River. There’s the Indian goonch, the sawfish, bull sharks and the tiger fish, to name a few. I guarantee these river monsters would gladly take out the carp.

I have a novel idea that I can’t believe no one else has thought of – jelly fish. Yes, jelly fish are abundant and frankly a nuisance.  I know they live in salt water, but what they would give to live in fresh water! And in packs, they love to sting other fish. The Asian carp might mistake them for plankton, and boy would they be in for a stinging surprise.

Finally, Asian carp should become a national treat, as American as apple pie and corn on the cob. We could start making fish sticks out of them.  Kids would love them. And why not a new dish: Asian carp and chips?

I say, the only way to solve a problem is to think outside the box – in this case outside the river. And by the way, if anyone from the State Game and Fisheries Departments, or the Army Corps of Engineers is reading this post, I am available for consultation.