Thursday, April 30, 2009

Swine Flu Coverage Makes Me Want to Be Kosher

Swine flu is spreading!!! Ahhhh!!!!! Cancel school for two weeks (I'm looking at you Texas)!! Stock up on bread, bottled water, and canned goods!!! Our world is falling apart!!! Stop eating pork!! Go Kosher!

That's how the media wants the public to react and well, like always, the lemmings have followed the (currently) false dire warnings. This is an overblown story (for now!!!) and we need to take a timeout from this craze. And no, you can't get this flu from pork, but that doesn't stop media requests for a response from pork lobbyists and cookie cutter reports on how pork consumption has decreased.

I am known to be a worrywart, but this swine flu is not something to worry about, yet. One death happened in the US and that was a toddler visiting from Mexico. That's one non-resident in the entire country, hardly worth worrying about. The fact that Texas and Alabama are closing schools and canceling athletic events is just insane.

Could things get worse? Sure, but we're nowhere near that.

This strain of the influenza virus may cause more deaths, but it's our "regular" flu strains do this every year to the count of 36,000 Americans. This is an odd strain because it popped up late in the flu season and is new, but I'm still holding to the notion that it still is a strain of the flu (H1N1) and not something like an outbreak of smallpox.

I'm not saying this won't become the next great virus that wipes out lots of people. I'm saying that at its current stage, anyone who still gets their news from 24-hour cable news channels or is unable to turn past the first page of a newspaper (I mean look beyond the first link), thinks this flu is already the end of the world when it is entirely not.

Nobody ever said TV news people were smart.

The World Health Organization has raised its level of awareness to 5, meaning "strong signal that a pandemic is imminent and that the time to finalize the organization, communication, and implementation of the planned mitigation measures is short." Yet our country's measuring stick, the Centers for Disease Control is simply telling people to treat this as you would any other influenza season: wash your hands, cover your mouth to sneeze and cough, stay active, get plenty of sleep, and don't go to public areas if you're sick. Hardly something worth losing sleep over.

Could this turn into something god-awful, sure, but it's highly unlikely. Did you know that between 2005 and January of this year the US had 12 cases of swine flu with no deaths? The only reason you didn't hear (or freak out) about it is because the craptacular information source, aka the news media, didn't make it into the big pile of stink this version is now. That's the root of my whining. It's time viewers learned to surf news websites and scan headlines to filter garbage stories from those of legitimate concern.

Ahhhh, the silence of an empty studio is so nice.

This frenzy follows the recipe for breakout news reports that don't reflect the scale of the story's importance. The 24-hour news channels must fill air with something, anything. The economy being down has gotten old and Obama had just reached his first 100 days (a date count wholly irrelevant to today's Presidents). With this self-proclaimed absence in worthwhile subject matter, along comes this flu in Mexico with strains appearing in other countries.

Nevermind that it's currently no worse than any other flu strain that gets passed around the world, the channels had to run with it. Cue the repetitively-titled chyrons "breaking news" and "new developments." With constant talk of the flu, other outlets decided to follow suit, lest they be the only ones to show news direction restraint.

Try a talking head's segment and ask yourself what you learned...9 times out of 10 it'll be nothing.

So now you have above the fold (or is it screen these days?) stories in every newspaper about the flu. The forever pathetic local news in every market leads with a flu update and juvenile DC radio news station WTOP has frequently unnecessary updates. With all this flu talk the public is left to only think, because it can't think for itself, that this flu is a major major problem.

The news perpetuates the fear it created because people have a false sense they need to hear more chatter that doesn't advance the story and the cycle feeds upon itself. Meanwhile, devious news directors are surely hoping for more confirmed cases and of course the holy grail, deaths. Such results fuel the flames of higher ratings for info-tainment when little changes despite the cry wolf chyrons that are always on.

Eventually you'll get misinformation that eating pork will give you the flu.

Like Slate's article from Tuesday, "What happened to avian flu?", this strain most likely will go away and we won't pay attention, but it'll still hang around. Preparation for the Avian flu has helped things mobilize better for this flu strain so such worries have helped things get moving, but if you're not running a hospital you might as well just treat this like a normal flu season.

More swine flu talking heads provide more information on what would have to occur to make things bad enough to where you need should treat this greater than typical flu season. As the Post's Howard Kurtz wrote much better than this entry and in fewer words:
With front-page headlines, constant cable-news updates and top-story status on the evening newscasts, the outbreak -- with at least 40 confirmed cases in the United States -- was inescapable. But the sheer volume of media attention suggested a full-blown crisis.
It also doesn't help things when VP Joe Biden didn't think before he spoke when Matt Lauer asked...
...[him] what advice he would give a family member who wanted to jump on a commercial airliner to Mexico, ground zero of the swine flu outbreak.

'I would tell members of my family -- and I have -- I wouldn't go anywhere in confined places now," said Biden, adding that it's not so much the destination as the means of getting there that concerns him.'

Good news directors, meaning the scum whose job depends on their ability to create fear and panic for suckers that are unable to think for themselves and discern a story's real world scale of importance, should do their due diligence and give updates on the next flu virus that comes through this fall. You know, the strain that wasn't covered in everyone's flu shots. The one that's spreading across the country, causing deaths and runs on prescription drugs.

The viral cycle will begin anew.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Don't Leave Me An Empty Water Cooler...Jerkface Sandwich!

I got to the office this morning and made my way down the hall to fill a glass of water. The water cooler's inverted 5-gallon jug appeared empty, but it keeps a 1/2 gallon inside for those final water urges. I pressed the cold button and nothing came out. That's odd. I pushed again and got nothing.

Some asshat took the last drops of water and didn't replace the jug!

Who needs a cup when everyone can enjoy your germs!

Who does that? Really? A water cooler's premise is that everyone (who can lift 5 gallons) will replace the jug when it's emptied on their fill. Pretty simple concept. Why can't people in the office follow this simple cycle of water replenishment?

Our water cooler doesn't handle no-spill water caps, forcing us to do the quick turn and slam down replacement method.

There are many office etiquette no-nos and this is right up there. I'd say it's not as bad as farting/passing gas/breaking wind up and down the halls, but it's at least worst than cubicle-speakerphone guy. It takes a lazy, gutless, and inconsiderate person to leave an empty jug on the cooler to be discovered first thing in the morning too.

* * *

4/28 AFTERNOON UPDATE: I've determined who the office etiquette violator was through deductive reasoning, common sense, and general propensity for mindlessness.

It was me. And I'm here to admit my wrongdoing.

Call me crazy, but I'd rather drink from DC tap water and the high level of lead that comes with it than anything this guy handles.

After a glorious post-work workout, I had had my fill of water until the jug emptied and I wasn't in the mood to replace it. I knew full well that this meant I needed to be the first one in today after being the last one out yesterday. I made it in first, replaced the jug, and cleaned the crime scene of water splashings. Nobody was none the wiser...I think. And nobody will hear about this, at least not on the internet.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Vijay Singh Hole-In-One Skip Over Water

In case you missed it, before the Masters was played two weeks ago, some pros tried to skip golf balls from the tee, across water, and onto the 16th green. From 170 yards out, Vijay Singh not only landed on the green, but made it in the hole. The video is shaky, but it's the best view we've got. His holed tee shot starts 25 seconds in.

PGA pros not only hit the ball well, but can also skip it on water...damn their skills!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Post Office Doesn't Want Me Reading Sports Illustrated

Of the many things that you must do when you move, the most important has to be changing your mailing address. Thanks to this glorious thing called the Internet, changing your address is a simple and instant process. A process that is not supposed to have an impact on your mail delivery. Well, despite what you just read, not all mail arrives safe and sound.

Submitted for your review, I present the first exhibit of one, my 2009 MLB season preview issue of Sports Illustrated. I knew there'd be an issue or two arriving late during the address changeover, but this was too much. To the post office's credit I haven't had any trouble receiving my mail except for this issue.

Here's your Sports Illustrated now that I'm done reading it!

As much as I want to joke about a mail employee going postal, isn't it a dated reference/joke? Or is it not because it came to my mind and others still make the joke? Or am I just behind the times as my MP3 collection suggests? Or maybe I ask too many questions in my blog?

It's sad that going postal was just a convenient adjective turned verb for something that hadn't been slang(ed) yet. Another profession with crazed gun-toting employees just wouldn't have worked as well..the thought of going "librarian," "DMV'd," or "NASA'd" doesn't have the same civil service ring to them.

Back to the story.

I give mail carriers credit for processing the mail no matter the weather.

I finally received my late SI, kept safe in its own plastic wrapping. How nice of the post office to have valued my magazine so highly that it felt obligated to add a layer of protection. Oooooh, it's the MLB preview issue. Though I have tuned out baseball, it was something to read while I dropped the kids off at the pool had some downtime from home repair. Because really, who reads hardcopies of text readily available on the internet unless they're somewhere lacking WiFi access.

Buy this one-page issue and get a football phone free!

When I picked up the issue it was much lighter than even a normal edition, let alone a baseball preview. Something was wrong...the post office had sent me a sealed Sports Illustrated cover page and nothing more! Seriously. All I got was the cover page. No back page, no middle page, no table of contents. Just one page with overweight CC Sabathia on the mound at the new Yankee Stadium and an ad on cover's back for the Mirage in ever struggling Las Vegas.

Oh the irony!

The kicker was the note on the back. In big bold letters it said, "WE CARE." Right. The post office was better served not delivering the one-page magazine. The note talked about regretting the damage to my mail, hoping that it didn't inconvenience me, how it's fair for me to expect mail to be delivered properly, and finally the request that I accept the post office's apologies.

I appreciate the note, but 98% of the magazine is still missing.

That's fine. I accept the apology because this occurs less than 1% of the time, but come on, someone packaging my lame duck magazine should have asked it was really worth it to send a single cover page. Instead, I get a stapled plastic cover better suited to protect Sports Illustrated memorabilia than mail a baseball preview cover page singlet. I'm sure the policy is to wrap whatever's left of the mailing, but common sense should rule or am I asking to much?

Again, I'm not upset with the post office and appreciate the extra effort. The subsequent issues have arrived on time and unharmed so really I'm not trying to make an enemy. I wouldn't want anyone going postal or anything.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Sprinting Down Metro's Escalators - A Losing Battle

My name is B and T Crowd and I used to be a spastic Metro downstepper.

I used to think I was gaining precious minutes of my life back one step at a time. By sprinting downstairs I would catch so many trains that the time saved would amount to something, anything.

It amounted to nothing.

When I downsprinted the Dupont Circle escalator last week, pushing an old woman aside, kicking little kids out of my way and seeing them roll down the stairs, and elbowing a just-released GW Hospital patient with broken ribs in the side, I knew I was out of control. I had to stop. Passing other downsteppers just wasn't worth the emotional distress and trauma.

Sprinting up a Metro escalator is acceptable behavior; sprinting down is a worthless activity. I used to be a downsprinter until I didn't see the light of an oncoming train time and time again. My efforts were futile and it showed. I learned life was easier when I let the trains arrive according to my schedule.

Sprint going up, slide going down. That's the ticket!

I'm as big of a fan as anyone for highstepping Metro's escalators, be it for the exercise, to get where I need to go quicker, or because I want to passive-aggressively ram my shoulder into unsuspecting passengers without hesitation. These are perfectly fine reasons to highstep the long as you're heading up to exit.

I'm concerned with those who run down the escalator and not those who walk down. Downwalkers are acceptable because for many, it eliminates getting sick from a stationary escalator ride. Looking down Dupont Circle, Wheaton, and Bethesda escalators requires Dramamine unless you keep moving in some rational way. The ultra quick downsteppers are out of control and must be stopped. And once upon a time I was one of them.

Sprint steppers overestimate the value of their energy. Thanks to my double-blind, double secret probation experimental observation, I've concluded that the number of trains caught because of sprinting is so minuscule that it makes sprinting worthless. The number of trains caught is inversely proportional to the square root of time between train arrivals, sprinter's ability, escalator length, and gravitational pull of the mitochondria's endoplasmic reticulum's nucleic acid.

Moving on.

A few factors must be considered when determining the worthlessness of some people's actions (like blogging about the worthlessness of some people's actions (or blogging about blogging about the worthlessness of some people's action (or blo...).

Trains arrive every 3-5 minutes during rush hour so it's unlikely that barely catching a train helps you that much when another train is right behind it. Sometimes trains have even shorter waits making your gain quite small. The value of sprinting increases when you barely make it onto a train during the off-peak schedule, especially when trains run 10 minutes or more apart. But we'll ignore that legit argument for the legitimacy of this one.

The 75 Exorcist Stairs in Georgetown are easy to sprint down; going up, yeah, not so much.

Consider the escalator's length when deciding whether to walk or sprint down. For one, short escalators often let you see if a train is even in the station. If one is about to pull out (that's what she said?) and the escalator is no more than 20 steps, you can probably get on board by walking down. No matter, you'll be able to better estimate the stepping speed needed to get on board.

With long escalators, you can't see the platform, making the sprint down a total crapshoot. Unless you wait to until the train arrival sign tells you how long you have, it's a blind stepdown. With so many delays and emergency track maintenance taking up signage, by the time you wait to find out when the next train arrives it'll have already left the station. Blind stepdowns are pointless because they are the least successful.

It's heartbreaking to watch these sprinting downsteppers at the Wheaton Metro reach the bottom looking for their train only to have it not be there. Meanwhile I saunter past them on the platform with at least a few seconds before the arrival lights even flash, knowing full well their downsprinting was unnecessary yet again. I was once one of them until I learned better. Now I step casually and wonder when they'll learn too.