Saturday, March 29, 2008

Hewlett Packard’s Mischievous Spyware

A little while back I bought myself a sleek new Hewlett Packard laptop. It’s a great machine, my only complaint is the virus known as Microsoft Windows Vista it came invested with.

Windows Vista is the worst operating system I have ever used, in my over 20-years of working with computers and their operating systems.

I’m slowly working out solutions for Vista’s many bugs (Microsloth calls these “features”) and then a new one pops up from HP itself.

For the past couple of days, every so often I’d get an annoying pop-up window asking me if I had purchased an extended service contract from HP. I don’t usually purchase these things, as I find they cost too much, and they usually run out just as everything needs to be replaced anyway.

The first time this pop-up hit me, I figured by clicking the “Not interested” option, would make it disappear, never to be seen again.

I was wrong – it appeared again later that day. So, I clicked “not interested” and thought that must be the end of that.

Nope. It kept popping up ever so often and no matter which option I chose, it would re-appear later on.

So, being the computer geek that I am, I did some thinking as to why this might be happening.

I immediately ran a full system virus check, and spyware check – though I run these daily anyways, maybe something recently hacked my system.

Nothing turned up – so I was safe in some regards. Viruses and spyware are nasty things to find, and just as nasty to remove.

Turns out, eventually I found the cause of this nagging popup, and it sure surprised me. It was an intentional ploy from HP to get me to contact them.

Within the control panel for Windows, there is a section called “Task Scheduler” which allows you to automate various system routines. I use the Task Scheduler to automate virus scans, hard drive optimizations and other routine maintenance tasks.

I found that HP had pre-configured my Task Scheduler with three tasks, designed to go off automatically after a set period of time, and continue non-stop every 30-minutes until deleted by the user!

Most people don’t venture into the Task Scheduler on their own, so HP would probably get a call from every customer, asking about how come their brand new computer keeps asking them to sign up for an extended service plan. This way, even if you don’t want to talk to them about why you don’t need it or want it, you have to call them to find out how to disable their nag message.

Or at least, that appears to be their ploy. It didn’t work on me, because I do know a lot about computers, Windows, and I was able to disable it myself.

However, I was shocked to find that a major systems manufacturer would stoop to such an unethically low level, to lure in more money from their already paying customers.

I paid a good piece of change for my laptop – so they’ve already received my share of revenue. I know they make more on service contracts, but to slip in their own version of malicious code into their own machines is pure evil.

Although their nag program does no harm to the computer, it is still malicious code – it nags you every half-hour regardless of what you do. The only way to disable it, is to delete it from the Task Scheduler.

So, you could be playing your favourite game, writing a report for work, chatting with a friend online, or anything else, and all of a sudden, you’d be interrupted with a window which you’d see again, and again, and again.

We all have heard talk about the big evil corporations out there, out for world domination. Maybe we should add Hewlett Packard to that list of evil mega corporations hell bent on dominating the world?

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Spring Has Finally Arrived – For Now

There are some sure signs spring has arrived – the changing of the clocks, the longer days, the melting of snow and ice, buds appearing on trees and flowers ready to sprout.

But one sure sign spring is here, is when it is warm enough outside to breakout the lawn chairs, and sit on my balcony and enjoy the warm sunshine.

Today was the first day where it was warm enough to go outside without a heavy winter coat – even warm enough to go outside without a spring jacket!

With the sunny skies, and the warm weather, I took out the lawn chairs and spent a nice lazy evening, enjoying something we Canadians don’t get enough in the winter – fresh air.

I know the weather forecasters are predicting wetter and colder conditions later in the week – but today was a the first time this year to be enjoyed outside.

Must be a Canadian thing to have to wait a whole six-months or more before you can venture outside sans coat to enjoy a nice day. There are those days in the winter, when the wind is howling and the snow is drilling into your face so hard, you run as fast as you can to get into the protective shelter of the great indoors.

But the great indoors can only be great for so long. After a while, it begins to start to feel like a cage. The air becomes stale, and there is always this longing for sunny skies and fresh natural air.

I still do many of the things I do in the summer. I still BBQ in the winter, but I need to wear my bulky heavy winter coat, gloves, scarf and toque. I don’t sit out on the balcony in the winter, usually for fear of blowing away.

But on days like this, it is nice to just relax, with a cold beer, on the balcony, watching some raw meat turn nice and golden brown.

I’m looking forward to more days like these as the warm weather approaches.

Back to the balcony – can’t spend too long in front of the computer on a day like today!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Free Protein Shake = Telemarketing Sales Lead?

I’m a workout-a-holic – I hit the gym at least three-times or more per week. And I really go to workout. A lot of people sign up at a gym thinking it will be the instant answer to dropping a few pounds. Some go as a form of social networking to meet people. Others – like me – go to really pump weights, get our heart rates up, and watch as our muscles get bulgier and bulgier.

For the past couple of weeks, there have been posters promoting all the latest events at the gym. They are having this open house at the end of the month, with draws and prizes, a live disc jockey and other things.

Today, being Easter Monday, they had the whole place decked out in the spirit of Easter. There were baskets everywhere, cardboard eggs and other decorations hanging on all the walls, and the receptionists were walking around, offering free protein shakes.

I enjoy a good protein shake as much as any other muscle-building person does. Protein is the fundamental basic ingredient needed to build muscle. Within two-hours of working out, your body is starving for protein.

So, when I was offered a free protein shake, I took it. I politely said thank you and the two receptionists started talking about the big event at the end of the month. I said it sounds great – which it did. Then they started to ask me for names and numbers of people I’d bring to the open house.

“For every guest you bring, you get another chance to win in the draw for a free year-long membership,” they told me repeatedly.

I told them that’s a great prize, but I don’t know who I can bring, or even if I’ll bring anyone. I really felt pressure to bring a guest.

I know they want us paying members to bring guests so that they can sign more people up. And it’s not a completely bad idea, because if I bring in people I know to my gym, it makes it more of a social thing for me.

But, asking for names and numbers of people that I haven’t even asked to this event yet, is pestering and pushy salespersonship.

Sure, I was enjoying my free protein shake, but they didn’t have a sign up saying you had to give names and numbers of your friends, family, neighbours and anyone else you can think of, to have one. They were offering them free – to open up a dialogue with members and talk about the event.

It is one thing to talk about an event, it is more than another thing to force someone to go, and to list those they are bringing. It is like sending out wedding invitations, only to call everyone up and force them to go, and bring lots and lots of people.

I’ll still hit the gym as often as I can. I love to workout, the equipment is well maintained, and the atmosphere is up-beat and friendly. But from now on, when someone offers me a free protein shake, I’ll politely decline.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The Stick of Everlasting Will

We’ve all heard the saying that absolute power corrupts absolutely – but maybe the mayor of Canada’s largest city has forgotten this saying.

Toronto Mayor David Miller has already secured more power than most mayors from his political bosses at the provincial levels, yet he’s determined to grab even more power.

Miller, has put forward a request to the province of Ontario to allow him even more powers than he currently has. He has already managed to manipulate the province into allowing him to add additional taxes, to cover city run services, through the recent City of Toronto Act. Miller’s logic here, was because the province took away funding through the so-called downloading of provincially financed services to the municipalities, municipalities required more methods of generating revenue to pay for these services.

However, other municipalities seem to be doing fine – and they haven’t created any new taxes to fund similar services in their backyards.

Now, Miller is asking for amendments to this act, which will essentially create a two-tired political system at the municipal level. He’s asking the creation of two levels of power in city hall – the executive branch and the regular branch. The executive branch would have complete say in all rulings at council. This would ensure that no matter what the other members of council say or do, Miller’s word would be the final say.

Well, not exactly. It would be Miller’s word and those few individual councillors he personally chooses to join him on the executive branch of council.

This two-tired level of council smells of a power grab from an already highly empowered mayor.

We’ve all wanted our own way – be it at work, at home, or in various other activities. Sometimes we get what we want, sometimes we don’t. That is life. But Mayor Miller wants to ensure that no matter what others think, his way will always prevail.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I thought Canada was a democracy, where politicians did what was best for their constituents and not just for themselves? Don’t we the people matter?

If Miller gets his way – again – then this paves the way down a dangerous road towards divided city councils, run by totalitarian dictator-like mayors across the province. Once the precedent has been set, other towns, villages and cities across the province no doubt will jump at the chance. Wouldn’t you?

If someone gave you a magic stick, and said if you waved it three-times while recanting a magical phrase, you’d be guaranteed to always get your way – wouldn’t you take the stick?

Mayor Miller has the stick, and he’s asking the province to give him the okay to recant that magical phrase. For the sake of democracy everywhere, let’s hope the province doesn’t.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Interviewing for Dummies – Common Sense Should Prevail

I’m doing the interview circuit to find my next client. As a contractor, I do this all the time – sometimes I think I do it more than actual work!

We’ve all heard from employment experts that you should never say anything bad about your current employer. But what about when the tables are turned, and a potential employer bad mouths a current client?

Common sense should be used on both sides of an interview – and just as a potential employee should never say anything bad about their current boss, it also holds true that a potential employer should never say anything bad about a current employee.

But this happened just last week! There I was, meeting with a vice-president – no less, a VICE-PRESIDENT, AKA a SENIOR member of the company – and when I asked why they had an opening, she went off on a tangent, almost relishing the opportunity to say nasty things about the current person in that role.

I was shocked, horrified, and quite appalled. I always ask why a potential client is looking for another body. Most are professional enough to answer honestly – but professionally.

“Oh, the current person has found another job and is leaving us, we wish her well,” is an acceptable answer.

“It’s a newly created role, we’ve never had anyone who actually specializes in this position in the role,” is another often used answer.

Or even, if the person isn’t doing the best role, an acceptable response is “we’re looking for a more senior person in the role, someone who can take on more assignments.”

None of the above answers violates the sacred oath of honesty, trust and mutual respect employers and employees should always share.

But the answer I received from this senior member of the “team” was hardly in keeping with the mutual respect and trust between her staff:

“The current writer just isn’t cutting it anymore, so we’re looking to replace her with someone more experienced.”

This may be true, but it is so riddled with negativity that my immediate thought upon hearing this was: if I worked at this company, is that how my boss would talk about me with complete strangers she’d just met?

I followed-up with a quick question, thinking the current writer must be new to the company and things just weren’t what either party had expected.

The current writer has been there for over five-years!

Again, I was shocked and horrified! People don’t generally stay in the same role at the same company if things aren’t working out for more than a few weeks, or even a few months tops. We’re talking five-years here – which isn’t exactly a blink of an eye.

Obviously, there are some highly politicized issues between the current employee and the Vice-President. But during an initial meeting such as the one I was in, both parties should be up-beat and pro-active at all times – not negative and re-active.

Would you want to work for someone who’s initial meeting left you with a negative work environment, and a highly politicized relationship structure with your boss?

Neither would I!

There is no letter “I” in “team” but obviously there are a lot of highly strung individuals at this company, that are more concerned with working in a collective and collaborative team.

No one works alone in an office, there are always others on the team that make things happen. If the most senior managers can’t work well with those on the team, than nothing will get done – or things won’t get done well – because people will work as individuals, instead of working together for the greater good of the company.

If this company calls me back to discuss terms, I’ll just ignore them. They certainly aren’t going to be on any team of mine – because their team is f*cked up.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Windows Vista – Worst Operating System EVER!

About a month ago, I bought a slick swanky new laptop. It’s a ‘real beaut’ – a Hewlett Packard Pavilion dv9000 dual core processor. Aside from being of the latest and greatest technology, it is also pretty big.

It’s a 17-inch widescreen laptop. Most laptops these days are 15.4 inches widescreen. So, what’s the big deal over an extra 1.6 inches? Size matters – and it actually really does when it comes down to monitors, televisions or any other sort of video display. Even a few extra inches makes a big difference in terms of the overall image quality, the smoothness of on-screen movement, and the speed at which the display updates.

Also, 17-inch widescreen laptops enjoy another benefit which smaller laptops miss out on – full keyboards. Because of that extra 1.6 inches, my new laptop has a full keyboard, including the numerical keypad on the right-hand side. All laptops smaller than 17-inches replace the numerical keypad with condensed function key combinations.

There are bigger laptops, believe it or not! When I was shopping around, I saw laptops with 22-inch and 24-inch widescreens! The downside to the bigger laptops, aside from the obvious price increase, is weight and battery longevity. The bigger the laptop, the heavier it is, and the less time it will run on batteries.

Still, when I brought home my new laptop, I was like a kid in a toy store. It was exciting, and although I spent a whole day installing software, it was an enjoyable experience.

My new laptop came with Microsoft’s latest incarnation of the Windows Operating system – Windows Vista Home Premium Edition.

I was hesitant at first when it came to buying a computer with the new operating system. I had no experience with Windows Vista, and from all the people I’ve talked to, including those in technical support and IT roles, most agree that Vista is not a good product.

But, almost all the Windows-based machines these days come with Vista pre-loaded. It is actually hard to find a decent Windows XP system – most are usually slower, and older technology which the stores are trying to sell off.

So, I got my first computer with Windows Vista, and at first I was okay with it. I wasn’t impressed. I’ve been around the technological block many times over, and I’ve seen real improvements over the years with real advances in software.

I remember back to the early years of personal computers, to an IBM PCjr running on MS-DOS 2.10. When we upgraded to MS-DOS 3.11, and then eventually up to MS-DOS 5.0 – now there were some real improvements.

Then Windows 3.0 and eventually Windows 3.10 came out, and it was like moving from a black and white television, to a high definition full color flat panel screen. That was a major improvement in technology.

Windows95 made significant advances to the Windows operating system, and was the first version of the current Windows XP and Vista versions we have today.

In between Windows 95/98 came Windows ME (for Millennium Edition as it was supposed to be released on the eve of the new millennium, but it was late). Windows ME was a disaster – it was released late because it wasn’t ready to go on time. Then, they rushed it out the door – even though it was already late – still full of major bugs.

History has a tendency to repeat itself, and unfortunately, Windows Vista is another Windows ME with a few fancy bells and whistles to disguise the fatal flaws.

Within the first few days of using my new laptop, I start receiving DLL file not found errors upon booting! One of the cool bells and whistles of Windows Vista is that, upon detecting an error, it will automatically try to self-diagnose and heal the problem. But as with Windows ME, many of the bells and whistles sounded cool – but never actually worked. I managed to fix the errors myself, using my own solutions – which often took weeks to resolve, through trial and error.

Also, Windows Vista has some serious issues with its own drivers. I am using a brand new, Vista-ready, wireless mouse made by Microsoft – the one and same company that makes Vista. Yet, one day, I was surprised to find Vista searching for the driver for my wireless mouse, which had been installed previously, and was working just fine the previous day. I hadn’t even unplugged any of the cables, I just shut-down my computer as per normal at the end of the day – yet Vista thought it had discovered new hardware and re-installed the driver.

This problem also happened with my Lexmark inkjet printer – which was even stranger, because the printer wasn’t on when Vista suddenly decided it found new hardware, which again had already been installed!

The real kick in the groin came exactly one-month to the day after I had bought my new Vista-invested machine. I received a DLL file not found boot-up error, and figured it was Vista, just being Vista. But this one had something to do with the display. Everytime I ran a program, it would open and run, but then the whole display would go blank! I couldn’t use my computer.

One of the main reasons I use laptops, is to cart my work to important meetings. Well, I had one of those important meetings in just a couple of hours, which I had planned to get ready for. Instead, I spent two-painfully fruitless hours trying to figure out what was going on – because Vista’s self diagnosing program didn’t even notice anything was wrong!

In the end, I just powered down my new laptop, grabbed a printed backup of other materials I could use in place of my PowerPoints and other cool computer-based demos, and I ran out of my apartment making it to my meeting just in time.

Yet, a month after getting a brand new computer, essentially that new computer was nothing more than an expensive doormat.

When I got home, I looked at my new computer with shock, horror and anger. It was as if my best friend had let me down just when I most needed my best friend. My meeting went surprisingly well, considering I had to improvise at the last minute. Years of experience have done me well. It pays to not only backup important files, but to have hard copies printed, in case you get stuck like I did – sans computer.

I spent an hour trying to fix another Windows Vista “feature” – but couldn’t resolve it. It’s pretty hard to figure out what you can’t see – and my laptop’s monitor mechanically was working – it was Vista that kept clearing the screen!

So, I formatted my hard drive, and re-installed the system to its factory settings. Then I spent a whole night working until 3am re-installing all my software!

It isn’t uncommon to wipe a Windows-based machine and re-install everything. Over time, the Windows registry and system files get cluttered, and need to be re-initialized. I’ve done this before on systems that were running the same Windows for several YEARS – not a matter of one MONTH!

Today, Vista through me another curve ball. I was running Norton’s Anti-Virus on my system since getting it – but today, it stopped all incoming mail. I could send emails no problem, but anything coming in was blocked. Funny, it was just working last night!

So, I’ve spent a couple hours uninstalling and re-installing anti-virus software. . .

Windows Vista is a great operating system, if you have nothing better to do with your life than constantly fix it!

Good thing I live on the upper levels of a very high, high-rise building – I’m thinking I may be tossing this new computer off the balcony sooner than later. (More likely, I’ll wipe the hard drive and “upgrade” to my previous, and stable operating system – Windows XP.)

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Social Networking Sites My Ass

Myspace, Facebook and their like have become so hip and trendy, they even have their own category in the vast array of useless titles: social networking sites.

Social networking sites are, according to Wikipedia:

A social network service uses software to build online social networks for communities of people who share interests and activities or who are interested in exploring the interests and activities of others.

Most services are primarily web based and provide a collection of various ways for users to interact, such as chat, messaging, email, video, voice chat, file sharing, blogging, discussion groups, and so on.
Wikipedia even has a list of the “notable” social networking sites, which defines what these sites are for, what countries they are most popular with, and roughly how many users they have.

Social networking sites are a great idea, but unless they involve actual face-to-face networking in real-time, what good are they?

Isn’t the whole point of these sites to be social? Staring off into a computer monitor, while typing messages back and forth hardly seems all that social. It certainly isn’t as productive as sitting across from someone in a cozy coffee shop, sipping hot chocolates and sharing real thoughts, feelings, and real life experiences in real-time.

Some of these so-called “social” networking sites even allow you to post the minute-by-minute play-by-play of your life online, so that you can pretend everyone in the world is actually there with you.

Twitter allows you to – well – twitter your online “friends.” Twitter is simply a website, where you can post what it is you are doing at that point in time – so that everyone interested in everything you do can see it.

You can post cool things on Twitter.

“Woke up, brushing teeth, and then going to eat breakfast.”

Like I really care?

“Going to work now, back later.”

Okay, good for you.

Social networking sites are a great escape for people that don’t like people. They allow those uncomfortable around other human beings, to “live” a life surrounded by other human beings.

Problem with this, what kind of life is it, when the closest thing to a friend you have, is someone called “SkinnySexxyGrl78?”

People actually think they have a lot of real friends, and seem mighty proud of themselves with the massive number of friends they think they have from these social networking sites.

I was checking out Twitter, to see what it was all about, and found several people on there bragging about how many “Followers” they have. A “Follower” is someone who has happened on your profile, and decided to follow your short updates about what you are doing right now. Anyone can follow anyone else, you don’t have to have anything in common to do so, and you don’t need permission or approval from the person you want to follow.

I think social networking in the real world is important, as it is always a good idea to be social. To interact with friends, family and colleagues is just part of being alive. It gives you a place to share and to vent, and this encourages personal and professional growth.

But most people these days only engage in social networking online, and that’s not healthy. For one thing, you never really know the people you are telling your deepest desires too, and for another, well, it isn’t very social at all.

If anything, participating solely on Internet-based social networking sites is anti-social, as it prevents you from really interacting with other people. For all you know, SkinnySexxyGrl78 is just an eight-year-old child posing as someone much older and wiser, and you’ve just asked her how to handle a major life decision about your work, your family or your real friends in real-time.

That’s another thing about these social networking sites – posing. People have and do take on different personalities online. Some even see it as a game, as a challenge to the status quo. They feel they aren’t accepted or taken seriously for who they really are, so online, they become who or what they’ve always wanted to be. There’s no real way to prevent this, or to tell if the people you are telling your most intimate life moments to are who they really claim to be.

Most of these social networking sites have large legal disclaimers advising that you must be a certain age to join -- but all you need is to have an email address to join. And so young kids pretending to be a lot older join, just as those who are mentally unbalanced join too. And you’ll never know if the person you are “talking” to is just a kid, or worse – an axe murderer.

Share your life with strangers at your own risk.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

The Weirdness of Nothingness

Being the workout nut that I am, I enjoy going to the gym to workout on weekends. Weekends are a great time to go to the gym, as the gym is deathly quiet. Most people go to workout right after work, so the weekend is pretty empty.

When the gym is empty, there are no line ups for machines, I can always find a large locker, and the steam room isn’t crowded.

But today, aside from the usual quietness from it being the weekend, there was a certain weirdness too.

It took me a few minutes to figure out what was wrong, as everything seemed to be in the right place – all the machines were there. The free weights were where they should be, even all the floor mats were stacked in perfect order.

There was no music pounding through the speakers! Usually the speakers are blaring music to workout too. Not today though, and it really made for an eerie silence.

I asked one of the receptionists if they were closing early. She said they weren’t, just the satellite was down, that’s why there wasn’t any music.

The previous night we had a major snow storm – got over 30cm of snow. It probably knocked out their satellite dish, or the master control dish which feeds out the signals.

I don’t always agree with the gym’s choice for music. Sometimes they play tunes which I enjoy, other times I shake my head and wonder what that noise is?

But working out without any music was very different. I heard things which I guess I hear all the time, but they are muffled with the music, so they don’t stand out quite so much.

Sounds of people working out – grunting, grimacing, and those types of noises really stood out today, because there was no music. With music, these noises are usually background sound, but today, they were definitely in the forefront.

There was a boxing class today too. I’ve been in some of the boxing classes, they are a lot of fun. But you don’t really think about how much noise you make hitting the bag, until you are running on the treadmill, only to hear the walloping yourself. Music also helps drown out this sound too.

I’ve been going to gyms now for many years, and I guess the regular routine is to listen to the music while working out. So it felt strange working out hearing all the noises of the gym, without any music.

Maybe I should invest in a good MP3 player, so next time the satellite goes down, I’ll still have some good tunes to listen too.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Banning Government Indoors – Step 1

The provincial government here is looking at making it illegal to smoke inside your car, if you happen to have kids inside the car.

Now, I don’t smoke, but sometimes even the government can get carried away with it’s initiatives. Former Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau once said, “the government has no business inside the bedrooms of the nation.”

Trudeau was talking about proposed laws controlling how people have sex, which thankfully he and the rest of the government at the time were against.

But Trudeau had a solid point – the government doesn’t have a right to control how we do some things, when those things are in our own nesting grounds. Be it inside our bedrooms, our kitchens, our bathrooms, or even our cars.

Everyone knows smoking kills. Smoking is the leading cause of Cancer period – more so than genetic links, and even more so than other environmental factors. Smoking is an awfully addictive, dangerous, and dirty habit.

Because smoking is so wrong, those with children should quit smoking – for their own health and for the lives of those they are bringing into existence.

But quitting smoking isn’t easy. The tobacco companies have made it their mission to make a product which is so full of highly addictive drugs, that once you get hooked, it is almost impossible to stop. Most people require several attempts before finally kicking the habit for good.

Still, despite the dangerous nature of second hand smoke to young developing children, no government has a right to legislate what happens in a person’s own car – even if that means allowing people to smoke in a car with kids.

Good parents will know better than to smoke in close proximity to their kids. Great parents will attempt to quit smoking long before they become parents, so that by the time they have kids, they no longer are putting themselves and their newborns in danger.

If we allow governments to control what happens in personal occupant vehicles, what is next? Where will government controls end and our private personal lives begin? First comes rules for inside the car, then it can move inside our homes.

Then the government may in deed control the bedrooms of the nation – and that is wrong.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Media Hype Is Just That and Nothing Else

Often I skim the headlines, focusing in on the news stories which I feel really impact me and my life. Most of us do – and then there are those stories which really don’t affect us, but the headline is so catchy, we just have to read further.

I saw a headline recently on one of the news websites I frequent often, for a local 24-hour news station which remain anonymous -- but trust me, it isn’t some mom and pop outfit based in some cramped garage. Though it might as well be from the shoddy journalism they practice.

The headline was the usual you see around the switch from and to daylight savings time. The headline read: “When You Change Your Clocks, Check Your Smoke Detector.”

For as many years as I can remember, whenever it is time to spring forward or fall back, the media does a great job of reminding us to also check the batteries in our smoke alarms. Batteries don’t last forever, and it is important to always make sure these things are working.

I thought to myself – time to change the clocks already?!?! When is this?

So, naturally, I clicked on the headline mentioned above, thinking that some smart reporter-type would have included the day when we change our clocks, in a story about changing our clocks.

There was no day mentioned – none whatsoever!

I’ve been a journalist – spent eight-years of my life working in the news media. I know there is a lot of pressure to meet insane daily deadlines. But leaving out basic facts is just sloppy, and shows how far our media has come from actually providing useful information.

Why the news media is sure to let us know about Britney Spears and her battles with drugs, her ex-hubby and gaining custody rights for to see her kids, they fail to inform us about the things which really matter.

It is nice that they let us know we should check our smoke alarms when we spring forward this year. But doesn’t it make even more sense to remind us exactly WHEN we are to do this in the first place?

If we forget to set our clocks correctly, we’ll be late for meetings, work, school, sporting events and outings with family and friends. Our whole lives can be turned topsy-turvy, simply by having our clocks wrong.

But the news media doesn’t care – so long as you are well aware of Britney Spears and her self-brought-upon problems.

Maybe Britney Spears can have some new scandal involving daylight savings time – then we’d all be better off, because we’d be able to actually learn something from the news media that we can actually put to use.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Young, Foolish and Free

While at the gym today, I noticed something disturbing – teenagers working out. There were several teenagers working out – something which I haven’t seen in the past.

Usually, anyone under 18 is accompanied by their parents – that’s the rule at the gym. And these kids clearly weren’t 18. Some looked like 14-year-olds, if that.

I asked one of the club’s managers what was going on. He tells me that they really don’t have time to enforce the parents with kids rule, and so long as they don’t cause any trouble, they usually don’t.

I’ve been at this gym now over a year, and I asked him how come there are so many so suddenly?

He told me they probably are all friends and came together.


Just what I need – a bunch of kids tying up the machines. Though these kid’s parents are members, I doubt the kids are full members.

Also I question the club’s lack of enforcement on the parental policy. Sure, today the kids are behaving, but kids will be kids. Not every day will be like today. And one day, when some kid seriously injures himself or someone else because he or she was horsing around, that’s when things go bad.

But I guess things have to get worse before they get better – that’s the natural cycle of life in our demented society. Seatbelts were not voluntarily placed into cars and trucks by the automakers, until governments did studies proving they saved lives. And still, it wasn’t until governments made laws forcing people to wear seatbelts which naturally forced automakers to include them in cars and trucks at no additional cost.

The same holds true for airbags, daytime running lights and many other safety related things we find on cars and trucks today. Most of these things would not be on our vehicles today, had it not been for those who died in horrible wrecks, and then having those wrecks studied by scholars and governments.

I’m somewhat pissed that I may have to wait until some kid is done showing off for his girlfriend for a treadmill at the gym. But, I’m more concerned that the kid showing off, will hurt himself, or worse, someone else, because the gym isn’t forcing parents to be parents.

Good thing I know first aid.