Sunday, September 30, 2007

I-Pods Cause Crime??

Another headline in my local newspaper caught my attention recently. It read "I-pods tied to higher crime across the U.S." we've gone from blaming crime on the devil to blaming it on the victims to blaming it on inanimate objects. Thank goodness I don't have an i-pod yet (or should I say I still don't have one!) When will we realize that the people responsible for crime are the actual criminals??

So Sayeth The Shack

China Bans Bra & Underwear Ads

Maybe we should do this in this country too. Some of those ads are on the border of being R or even X-rated.

So Sayeth The Shack

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Pedestrians Can Do No Wrong?

The recent convection of Anthony Torsell, a young man who, while heavily intoxicated, sped through town and mowed down two pedestrians, killing one and seriously injuring the other, sends some interesting messages. Yes, Mr. Torsell was extremely drunk; he should not have been behind a wheel. Yes, he was speeding. But one of the facts presented in the case was that the accident would not have happened if the pedestrians had not entered the intersection on a "don't walk" signal. So they, the victims, also contributed to the accident. We see this kind of thing all the time around here. Pedestrians walking across the street oblivious as to whether or not they have the right-of-way and whether or not there is traffic coming. Sometimes they walk right out in front of you and expect you to come to a screeching halt. When I was young (yes they had cars back then) I was taught to look both ways and wait for traffic to clear before crossing...even at a crosswalk. People are no longer taught this. They are taught that they can cross any street at any time and the traffic will stop for them, except perhaps for speeding drunks and the writer of this post, who more than once has been tempted to mow down someone who walked out in front of me as I drove down the street. The result of the trail may encourage more pedestrians to engage in this kind of dangerous behavior. It would be nice to be able to drive through town and expect everyone, including the pedestrians, to obey the traffic laws.

So Sayeth The Shack

Friday, September 21, 2007

Here's A Stupid Lawsuit

I was reading a magazine recently and saw one of those lawsuit settlement notices. You know what I mean? It says that if such and such has happened to you, you may be a member of the settlement class and entitled to some amount of compensation. The suit was against Herbalife and some of their distributors for allegedly violating a telecommunications act by contacting non-customers who had registered their phone numbers on the do-not-call list. OK maybe a law was broken and someone should be punished....but a million dollar lawsuit for making phone calls? I would have never thought of doing something like that. So really, the next time a telemarketer calls me, I'll just sue them!
What is even stupider is that one can get up to 75 dollars just by saying that you were contacted illegally by Herbalife or one of their distributors. How could it be verified? I cannot prove that I was called but they cannot prove that I wasn't. Sounds like an easy 75 bucks to me.

So Sayeth The Shack

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

We Are All Poorer For It

I work for a "media company" as they call it. Years ago, our income was derived from clients who paid us for information. Then came the internet and Wal-Mart. Both have resulted in huge changes.

With the internet, people expect information and other services without wait and without cost. You get on the internet and read the news, sports, weather and whatever, whenever you want, and you don't pay for it. (Actually you do and you'll see how in just a bit). So the company I work for has a web site (just like every other company) where people can obtain information at no cost. So if no one is "paying" for the information anymore, where does the money come from for my salary and that of my co-workers? Advertising, that's where. Advertising pays for your free news, your free sports, weather, etc. It pays for many of the web sites you visit, the TV shows you watch, the radio programs you listen to, and in part for the newspaper or magazine you read.

So what is advertising all about? My definition of advertising is a company paying money to get you to spend money you don't have on something you don't need. The purpose of advertising is to create a want, or even better, a perceived need for a make us feel that we cannot live, or at least live well, without it. This works well with children, but even many adults are easily swayed by advertising. Why else would someone spend $500 on an I-phone, hundreds of dollars on a suit, tens of thousands on a car, etc. A large part of our economy is now dedicated to advertising and it's associated costs. A large percent of the cost of virtually every product you buy goes to advertising. So in reality, all of that "free" news, weather and stuff on the internet isn't really free. You pay for it every time you buy something. Even companies that are essentially monopolies spend money on advertising, which is ridiculous. Why should a company like Exxon, that sells like 90 percent of all gasoline and makes billions of dollars in profit doing it, need to advertise. Why should the electric company advertise; I can't get electricity elsewhere. Interestingly enough, technology makes it possible to avoid and ignore most advertising. Pop-up ads and spam e-mails, the bane of the internet just a few years ago, can be effectively blocked. VCR's and more recently TiVo and DVR's make it possible to fast-forward through ads on TV. So companies are spending more on advertising that people are seeing less of.

Now on to the "Wal-Mart effect" as I call it. "Always the lowest price " the ad says. Maybe so, but at what cost? The goods and services that are not "free", people want be sure they are getting the lowest price for, and are not necessarily concerned about quality (at least not until the product turns out to be defective). The result is fierce price competition (and more advertising) between the producers of goods and services. That is a good thing, right? To an extent yes. But too much of this is now driving down wages and benefits and sending many jobs overseas.

So the end result of advertising, the internet and WalMart in America is lower wages, poorer benefits and higher costs for all of us. I don't know about any of you, but I am no better off and am perhaps worse off than my parents, who had no internet and no WalMart.

So Sayeth The Shack

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Religion: A personal Matter

It is Sunday afternoon. Earlier today, many of us went to one church or another. Some of us did not go to church. In a couple of days is the anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks, whan a handful of people killed themselves and thousands of innocent people, supposedly in the name of "God".

Last month, I watched a documentary on CNN called "God's Warriors". It was a three-part show, with two hours each focusing on fundamentalism and fanaticism in each of the three major religions: Islam, Judaism and Christianity. It helped me to understand the sources of some of the conflict in the Middle East, but more so, it made me think how much a personal decision our religion must be.

Each of choose to either go to church or not, to believe in God or not. This is something that, at least here in the United States, cannot be forced upon us. I cannot force my beliefs, or lack thereof, upon my neighbors, co-workers, family, even my children. Sure, we drag our children to church when they are young and try to brainwash them with whatever version of religion our particular church teaches, but they eventually reach an age where they must decide for themselves what or if they believe. My 15-year-old son has recently stated that he does not believe in God or religion. So as a parent, should I force him to continue to go to church, or say: "I respect your lack of belief; it is up to you whether or not to attend church"?

On a larger scale, it is the fanatics and fundamentalists in each religion that are trying to force their beliefs upon the rest of the world, some by political means, some be violent means, and some by trying to "sell" their religion door-to-door. We most often think of Muslims when we say using violent means, but there have been violent Christians as well, such as those who have bombed abortion clinics or killed abortion doctors. Just recently a new Al Queda tape was issued in which Bin Laden said something like we won't kill you if you all convert to Islam. There are also Jews who are trying, by violent means, to force the Palestinians out of Israel. In the political arena there are plenty of right-wing Christian fanatics who are trying to steer the laws and leaders of our own country. And then there are the "sellers" of religion; those who go door-to-door like the Mormons and the Jehovas' Witnesses trying to sell their beliefs and recruit new members to their churches.

I may or may not believe in God and may or may not attend a church, but that is my own personal choice. It is not up to my government, my family or my neighbors. I have no business telling you that my religion or lack of it is better than yours. And it is certainly not up to me to hurt or kill someone in the name of "God"; for this "God" supposedly said "Thou shalt not kill". I am not aware of any exceptions to that.

Let us all remember the thousands of innocents who died 6 years ago at the hands of fanatic religions fundamentalists acting in the name of some "god".

So Sayeth The Shack

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Back Again, Or Still Here

Just a quick post for now to let you know that I am still alive and have not abandoned the blog. Have been enjoying the summer and doing some things with the ShackFamily. This year instead of a family vacation all together I decided to spend time with each family member separately. A few weeks ago my son LittleShack and I went whitewater rafting on the Youghiogheny River (hope I spelled that right). A couple of weeks from now my daughter ShackEtte and I will be going to New York for a Yankees game. A little over a week ago I took my wife ShackWife out to dinner for her birthday. (She is now older than me until my birthday which is later this month). She and I will also be going to a couple of shows during the course of the winter. I have also spent a lot of time tending to the garden which has yielded, despite the less than perfect weather, a good crop of various vegetables. I had no luck with lettuce (didn't grow at all) or beets (only one of a row), but everything else was plentiful. The peppers were especially abundant. Also harvested plenty of corn, tomatoes, carrots, onions and zucchini. By the way the secret to zucchini is planting two plants and keeping only one. Even then, you may still have more than you want or need. The freezer is stuffed full, thanks to the efforts of ShackWife. Still picking some tomatoes, peppers and the last of the corn, but since ShackWife is back to work for the school year, am trying to keep amounts down. The wife and kids headed back to school/work today, and I have a couple of days off to spend with just myself. Look for more posts in the near future as I have some thoughts to share.