Monthly Archives: September 2007

New Studies: You shouldn’t be an over-protective parent

Parents should take note of two scientific studies that came out this week and added further muscle to otherwise common sense beliefs about education and hygiene. Bottom line: your kids are going to play and get dirty whether you want them to or not. Make sure they get an adequate dose of the truth.

First, an Oxford University study of tens of thousands of American teenagers concluded that Abstinence-Only programs don’t work. A second study, though not statistically significant, suggested that Abstinence-Plus programs (teaching abstinence plus advising on condom use) probably do work. (Of course, as the article mentions, this means that were wasting a huge amount of money on policies that are ineffectual in the U.S. and likely to be ineffectual in developing countries.)

Second, a University of Michigan public health study found that antibacterial soap was no better than regular soap at preventing disease. Triclosan is the antibacterial ingredient that manufacturers like Procter & Gamble and Colgate-Palmolive dump into products ranging from soaps to deodorant and even toothpaste (yuck); triclosan may also cause bacteria to become drug-resistant. Of course, this raises the issue of whether we should be so paranoid about germs in the first place. Obsessive hygiene is one theory behind the rise in allergies in children. The hysteria to kill every possible germ is a new one, and you can thank the marketers at the big companies mentioned above.

NOSO: the anti-Web 2.0 Experience

Do you need a momentary escape from your Web 2.0 lifestyle of blogging, vlogging, texting, updating facebook, trading stocks online, and writing Amazon reviews?

Check out NOSOproject.com . Here’s how NOSO bills itself:

NOSO is a real-world platform for temporary disengagement from social networking environments. The NOSO experience offers a unique opportunity to create NO Connections by scheduling NO Events with other NO Friends.

Making Sense of the Florida Taser Episode

Message board comments on last week’s taser incident at a John Kerry town hall meeting show the typical polarizing splits between opposing camps: “the guy was an obnoxious jerk, he deserved to get arrested” versus “this is police brutality and censorship.” The news media has done no better. Most reports merely restate what is more clearly observed in the YouTube video. Some local stations have been eggregious in reporting that the student, Andrew Meyer, had a history of pranks, which is only relevant to sentencing in the event he is convicted on a public nuisance charge; Meyer’s past was clearly not known at the time of his arrest and tasering.

There is a rational conversation that individuals and the media need to raise, and it is twofold: 1.) was the student creating a nuisance, outside the bounds of protected speech, that warranted his arrest, and 2.) if arrest was appropriate, was the use of incapacitating force (tasering) justified.

I’ve watched the video a few times, but I’m not aware of Florida’s public speech (or nuisance) laws to comment on whether the initial arrest was warranted. There are limits to public speech, and more appropriately there are limits as to how you must act in certain public forums. I can’t comment on #1 above.

#2 is a different animal. Was the use of a taser justified? Florida’s Department of Law Enforcement has a very extensive Overview of Electronic Control Devices document that calls for tight regulation, oversight, and officer training in deploying tasers. Still, it’s tough to come to a verdict on the Florida case. They have a clear regulation for the deployment of a dart fired taser, but in this case, the officers had disabled the “dart” capability.

CS/CS/SB 214 (Passed the Legislature May, 2006)
“… specifically requiring that the decision to use the device must involve an arrest or custodial situation during which the person who is the subject of the arrest or custody escalates resistance to the officer from passive physical resistance to active physical resistance and, a) the person either has the apparent ability to physically threaten the officer or others, or b) is preparing or attempting to flee or escape.”

Continue reading

History of the 10th Mountain Division

One of my favorite documentaries is Fire on the Mountain, which follows the creation of the Army’s storied 10th Mountain division.

As part of a series on WWII, All Things Considered is running a program on the 10th Mountain division today. When they returned from the war, 10th Mountain soldiers brought a love of outdoor recreation back home to the states; 10th mountain alumni founded NOLs, and Nike, and in addition to founding many ski resorts they are generally credited with bringing winter mountain sports to the U.S.

IBM to Make its Office Software Free

IBM’s Lotus Office suite hasn’t been a huge challenger to Microsoft Office for over a decade. Nonetheless, IBM is going to open source the package in a similar way that Sun Microsystems open-sourced its StarOffice suite. Further, IBM is going to put money and as many as 35 full-time developers behind the endeavor.

This is as much a strategic move by IBM to undercut Microsoft’s dominance as much as it is an admittance that the IBM suite (acquired when IBM purchased Lotus, the company that invented the spreadsheet) probably isn’t selling anyway. Honestly, the only individuals I’ve met in the last 10 years who use Lotus work for either IBM or Lotus.

Still, this is great news for the OpenOffice standard and it means that there will soon be another reliable, robust, and FREE alternative for word processing, spreadsheeting, and slideshow presentations.

Oreo Cookie Pizza and Weight Loss

When advertisers place an ad — a tv, print, radio, or online spot — they try to place it in a program or publication where their core customer group is likely to see it. If you’re watching the Masters, you’ll see a lot of commercials for golf clubs, balls, and any product/service that Tiger happens to endorse.

While watching the season premier of “the Biggest Loser” the other night, I saw a lot of targeted ads for weight loss programs and low-calorie foods. I also saw this one for the Dominos Oreo Cookie Pizza. Mmmm… gross.

I actually loved the dry humor of this ad. But even if I’d had any inclination to eat a box of Oreos drizzled with icing (not a chance of that), the visuals turned my stomach. I suspect most viewers will have the same reaction.

Nowadays, a lot of ads garner attention, but they don’t always help sell the product. As in this case, good creative might even detract from the product.

Given all the recent attention paid to obesity and diabetes, I also thought the placement was in very poor taste. The spot actually played right around the time on the show when the trainers presented tables of high fat, high sugar processed snacks and called them “poison.” Nice timing Dominos.

Javaun’s Disclaimer: I watch TV maybe twice a month, and I just happened to get stuck on the Biggest Loser. What can I say, I’m a sucker for the overcoming adversity stuff.

Don’t Mess with Navajo Proverbs

The storylines of several Stephen King novels would never have gotten off the ground if the protagonists had heeded the warnings of the old guy in the rocking chair.

With that critical understanding of horror/fiction plot devices in mind, Jen and I spent Labor Day weekend with some old friends in the New York Finger Lakes. On Sunday afternoon, we rode from Keuka lake up into the hills to tour a few wineries.

As we were leaving Dr. Frank’s vineyard (Dr. Frankenstein, as Jen noted after a few glasses of Riesling) and walked towards our bikes, a small vortex of wind ressembling a tornado came screaming through one of the fields and directly into the path we were about to ride. The winds whipped up a dust could and carried cornstalks from a nearby field and grape vine remnants some 300 feet into the air.

As a biker (hog rider, not a pedaler) mistakingly called it a microburst, a stern looking man in his 60s looked up and said “That is what they call a dust devil!” He proceeded to tell us that the Navajo believed that if a dust devil crossed your path, grave misfortune might befall you within a month’s time. He insisted he was being serious, and advised that we should not continue on our current path under any circumstances. He instead suggested we make 3 left turns to take an alternate route (which was also supposed to be better paved than the gravel road the dust devil crossed) and circumvent the dust devil’s path.

I am mildy superstitious, and though I respect most cultural folklore, I rarely indulge it. But he wasn’t talking about leprachauns or broken mirrors. Here was an old man, versed in Navajo lore, sitting in a wooden chair on the porch of the vineyard telling us not to go into the Pet Sematary [sic].

Tommy and Jorge continued down the foreboding path, while Jen, I, and Mimi took the (actually much longer) alternate route.

No ill effects for anyone yet. I’ll keep you posted.

UPDATE 9/18/07: Tommy called me from Vegas, where he was getting ready to travel to Alaska and then South America (the 3 week Odyssey). Tom is a freelance consultant and relies on his laptop for everything. It crashed last week, and he will be unable to connect for at least the rest of his travels. I hope he can recover his data, which wasn’t backed up.


Jorge & Tommy at Dr. Frank’s