Updated 2 January 2004


This page contains my comments and opinions on various news stories, the current state of the world, etc. It has no particular purpose other than for me to vent feelings and thoughts to anyone who cares to read further. This page is highly opinionated; I am certain that some readers will be offended by some of the content. I make no apologies for any offense as reading this page is entirely the choice of the visitor. Not all with agree with my views, but certainly there will be topics that most people can relate to. Comment if you want, but please remember and respect that the writings below are my opinion. You are certainly entitled to your own opinion because we live in a FREE country. Entries will be added as time allows.


Power Grid Problems?

In summer of 2003 there was a large power outage that impacted much of the northeast United States. Millions of people were without power for up to several days. This was of course a huge news story, every network and cable outfit featured it as the top story for days. Shortly after the immediate impact of the story was made known, questions were soon raised as to how something like this could happen in these modern times. Reports began coming out that stated that part of the problem was that the power distribution system within the US is badly out of date. Simply put, the system, designed and installed many years ago, was simply not up to the task of reliably delivering electric power to all of the people that now use it.

What surprises me most is that this problem should have been obvious years before now. Much of the power distribution system in this country is decades old; it was designed at a time when there were a lot fewer people hooked up to it, and those who were hooked up used less energy than is typically used by the average family of today. Look at the unprecedented growth of business, housing developments, etc ("urban sprawl") that has occurred in the last 20 years, combined with the increased demand of electric power due to millions of computers and related equipment that is now in use. Am I the only one who wondered where all this extra energy is coming from, and how the existing system can reliably deliver it to the end user? Very few new power distribution lines have been added to the power grid in recent times. Do people really think that more and more and more loads can be added to a system and expecting it to just "work as usual"??? I have wondered for years as to how entire new neighborhoods and major new shopping centers can be added and added to the system without causing reliability problems. The current situation should have been obvious to most people, especially those who work in the power industry. Think of it this way: most cars and trucks have a load rating, that is, an upper limit of weight that the vehicle can safely and reliably carry. In many cases those ratings can be exceeded for a short time or a short distance, although it likely reduces the life of the vehicle. If one loads more and more weight onto the vehicle, sooner or later something major is going to fail (broken springs, burned out transmission, etc) and the vehicle will require major repairs to become operable once again. The power distribution system in the US is really no different. It was designed to a particular specification, and almost certainly had some additional load margin and capability in reserve. It seems that the country has reached those limits. If more loads continue to be added to the system, it is inevitable that the power distribution system (and eventually the generating system) will need to be upgraded and expanded.

There are a number of problems with adding to the capacity of the electrical distribution system in this country. One of the big ones is cost: adding more lines is expensive. This will almost certainly cause an increase in electricity bills, something that is never popular. Another major issue is location of the lines: few people want new power lines installed in/near/through their neighborhoods and property. Such plans are typically met with strong opposition and lawsuits. It really comes down to this: if the American people continue to demand more power and increased development, new and/or improved power lines are a necessity (and they have to be physically located somewhere). The alternative is this: slow development and use less power. Personally, I expect the latter not to happen anytime soon. I see no easy and non controversial solution to this issue. I also believe that the American people should have seen this coming a long time ago...

Here's another one: it is a fact that many of the water supply systems (underground pipes) in major cities in this country are of the late 1800's vintage. Upgrading them will be a project of immense cost. One day, expect to see a major "news flash" revealing this crisis when a major pipe failure causes a city to be without water for days. Like many of today's problems, no one wants to address them until they become absolutely necessary.

Classic TV "Hacking"

Do you watch classic TV shows (or any syndicated re-run show on TV)? Have you noticed that the show seems shorter and it is saturated with commercial spots every 6 minutes? Have you noticed that some scenes are no longer in the show, and that the voice is not in synchronization with the video? If so, you are not alone. What you are seeing is a "hacked up" version of your show. Personally, I am very angry and sick of syndication outfits severely editing classic TV shows. There are two types of hacking taking place: wholesale cutting of scenes, and also "lexicon" processing of the show. A Lexicon machine is a machine that takes out video frames from the show, this (among other things) is why the voice of a character does not seem to line up with the video). By "Lexiconing" a show, the station can shave more time off the show (for insertion of more ads). I am very angry about this because when I watch a classic show, I want to see ALL of the show, EXACTLY like the producer intended it to be. The reason (of course) that shows end up being hacked is money. By chopping out scenes and speeding things up, a network can run several (in some cases MANY more) additional commercials in the show. And very often, the spots they run are for worthless garbage and 900 number trash services (like the ever popular "psychic" services). More spots means more money to the network. My response? I won't watch it at all. I would rather pay to see the original version of a show than to watch a sliced up version loaded with 3 and 4 minutes commercial sets every six or seven minutes! As an example, the Family Channel ran Hawaii Five-O several years back. These shows had up to 7 minutes taken out, I found it difficult to follow some of the episodes! In the 1970's a one hour show ran for 48 minutes plus about a minute for the open and trail. Today, networks allow no more than about 40 minutes for a "one hour" show. So, when the older shows are shown, they hack out a significant portion of the show so that they can run more spots. It's one thing to add commercials and lengthen the show (as was done late night in the 70's), but to add commercials in place of the show is pathetic.

There is another classic show that was totally trashed up for TV syndication: Night Gallery (Rod Serling). In this case, many of the short stories featured in this show had scenes added so that the story would fill a 30 minute time slot! The result? Long, boring scenes and loss of continuity. And those stories that were around 45 minutes long? You guessed it, they hacked it down to the 22 minute limit. The writers and producers of these fine short stories must have had a fit to see there work radically changed so that someone (at the top) could make a buck.

Maybe these syndicators, networks and CEO's think that the viewers "won't notice" the amount of editing that most syndicated shows have undergone. Well, we do. Consider this: What would you think if you went to a fine art museum to look at famous paintings, and all of them had been partially painted over with graffiti? What if a classic work had been covered with advertisements and otherwise altered? You would be appalled and probably leave. What syndicators do to Classic TV is no different.

Many of the so-called TV "superstations" are notorious for showing severely edited syndicated shows. TBS is one of the worst offenders. Sci-Fi channel is another that severely hacks up shows. In one of their New Year's Eve Twilight Zone Marathons, they kept running spots "bragging" that 4 of the episodes would be shown "uncut". Really? It's pretty pathetic when a station has to repeatedly bring it to your attention that they are actually going to show you all of the show!

There is some good news. With video and DVD players very popular today, some of the old classic shows are being released in these formats. All that I have seen are the real thing: Uncut, original full length, proper speed video and sound.

Networks who show hacked up versions of my favorite shows will not have me as a viewer (nor will I support the sponsors who support this activity). Instead, outfits who offer classic TV on home video will have me as a customer. There is money to be made in Classic TV, and there are two ways to do it. The video industry has chosen the proper path (providing the show as it was originally shown), these are the people who will have me as a customer. The television industry in this country has elected to short change the viewer, and as a result I watch very little (if any) classic TV on cable or broadcast media.

Start School an Hour Later?

Recently (summer/fall 2003) I have seen new stories on TV that are suggesting a move to have school start times delayed by one hour. In other words, instead of classes (for example) starting at 7:45am they'd start at 8:45am (classes would still run for the required duration). One of the reasons given for this proposed change is that a number of students are stating that they are too tired to get up for school with start time for class as it currently is. Too tired? How about this idea: get to bed on time! If school hours are in fact changed on the premise that students will be better rested, I expect that the result will be that kids will simply stay up later than they do now (because school starts later) and they will still be too tired the next morning. How about the parents establishing and enforcing some rules? The purpose of school is to prepare young people to be respectable and successful adults. Part of this involves learning to be responsible (which among other things includes being well rested and on time for required activities the following day). Parents also need to step in and take responsibility for making sure that their kids are properly rested for school. What happens when a student eventually graduates and gets a job? Many jobs require that people get up much earlier than they do for school. Those who think employers (especially in today's job market) are going to tolerate people who regularly come into work late and/or half asleep are likely going to be in for a shock.

I am long out of high school so if the hours change it does not really directly impact me. However, I think such a change would be a lot of logistical hassle for little benefit. If students are too tired to get up for school with the current hours, the solution is simple: get to bed at an appropriate hour. I like to think that school administrators are in agreement with this thinking. Young people are going to need to learn responsibility sooner or later. It is not going to be any easier as an adult, so those principles might as well be learned now.

Political Dirt

It seems that every time a field of candidates is vying for a major political office, opponents seek out, identify and publicize some kind of "dirt" from their opponent's past. The political battle then becomes a tit-for-tat war of accusations of character as compared to a stance on the issues. People will they say things like "How can you trust (insert name) when he smoked weed in college?" How can you vote for someone who was arrested for being drunk 27 years ago?" My take is this: if one waits for a candidate that truly has no bad marks in his/her past, that person will wait forever. Everyone makes mistakes, everyone has done things that they later regret and wish they could take back. I'm not advocating electing someone who has a particularly bad past (rapist, murderer, etc), however the minor offenses that occured many years ago should be largely ignored. No one has a perfectly clean past. Everyone can recall an action of their own done at sone point or another that they wish they could erase. Because such actions cannot be erased, people have to look beyond minor mistakes and get on with the issues.

Come Stroll With Me...

NOTE: This piece is not written by me, I received it in a chain e-mail. I have added some to it. I cannot credit the original author as I do not know who they are.

Come Stroll With me... Stroll with me...close your eyes...and go back before the internet... before bombings, aids, herpes, before semiautomatics and crack...before SEGA or Super Nintendo...way back! I'm talking about sitting on the curb, sitting on the steps...about malt shops,hide-and-go-seek, Simon says and red-light-green-light. Metal lunch boxes with a thermos (with glass interior)... chocolate milk, going home for lunch, penny candy from the store,hopscotch, butterscotch, skates with keys, jacks, marbles and Cracker Jacks, hulahoops and sunflower seeds, wax lips and mustaches, Mary Jane's, pop top soda cans, saddle shoes and Coke bottles (made of real glass) with the names of cities on the bottom.

Remember when it took five minutes for the TV to warm up? Remember being able to get 4 channels and having no problem finding a show worth watching? Remember when the strongest word you'd hear on TV was "darn"? How about when nearly everyones's Mom was at home when the kids arrived home from school? When nobody owned a purebred dog? When a quarter was a decent allowance (and you actually had to do some chores to get it)? When you'd reach into a muddy gutter for a penny? When your Mom wore nylons that came in two pieces? When all of your teachers wore neckties and female teachers had their hair done every day and wore high heels? When parents did not bring suits against teachers, when teachers didn't have to worry about being violently assulted by students because they were asked to quiet down?

Remember a high school senior was considered lucky to have a beat up old car to drive to school? A car that was actually paid for by working for it (instead of a new $30,000 vehicle being handed over free and clear by Mom and Dad)? Remember running through the sprinkler, circle pins, bobbypins, Mickey Mouse Club, Rocky and Bullwinkle, Kookla, Fran and Ollie, Dick Clark's American Bandstand... all in (sometimes snowy) black and white and your Mom made you turn it off when a storm came? Remember having to do homework before you got to watch TV or go see your friends? Remember when school was almost never called off because of bad weather? Remember the days when if you slipped and fell and got hurt it was your own fault (not everyone else's)?

Remember when around the corner seemed far away and going downtown seemed like going somewhere? Climbing trees, making forts, lemonade stands, paper dolls, cops and robbers, cowboys and indians, staring at clouds, jumping on the bed, pillow fights, ribbon candy, coloring books, angel hair on the Christmas tree, white gloves, walking to the movie theater, running till you were out of breath, your first haircut, laughing so hard that you stomach hurt...remember that? Not stepping on a crack or you'd break your mother's back, paper chains at Christmas, silhouettes of Lincoln and Washington, the smells of school, of past and "Evening in Paris" perfume? Remember being able to get dressed up (with homemade costumes) and going trick-or-treating all over the neighborhood on Halloween? Remember getting lots of candy that didn't have to be searched for drugs, razor blades and other tampering?

Remember when you got your windshield cleaned, oiled checked and gas pumped without asking- all for free - every time? Remember when it was cash only and the attendant took the money and came back with the change? No going inside and waiting for 14 people to buy cigarettes and make up their mind on what lottery numbers they wanted? You didn't pay for air for your tires and you got trading stamps to boot! Remember when laundry detergent had free glasses, dishes or towels hidden inside the box?

Remember when it was considered a great privilege to be taken out to dinner to real restaurant with your parents? When the worst thing you could do at school was flunk a test, be disrespectful towards a teacher, or chew gum? The prom was in the gym or the lunch room and you danced to a real orchestra? Remember when kids didn't need breathalizer tests to get into the Prom? Remember when school officials threatened to keep kids back a grade if they failed - and they did it! When being sent to the principal's office was nothing compared to the fate that awaited the student at home? Basically we were in fear for our lives, but it wasn't because of drive-by shootings, drugs, gangs etc. Our parents and grandparents were a much bigger threat! Remember when back-talk was met with a stiff slap across the face? Remember getting your mouth washed out with soap if you said a cuss word? Remember being threatended with groudation if you broke the rules, and parents actually enforced it? Remember when it only took one time to learn about mouthing off to your parents? But we survived because their love was so much greater than the threat.

Remember when people went steady; and girls wore a class ring with an inch of wrapped adhesive tape so it would fit their finger? When no one ever asked where the car keys were because they were always in the car, in the ignition, and the car and house doors were never locked?

Remember playing baseball with no adults needing to enforce the rules of the game? No issues with parents swearing at kids and getting into fistfights with other parents on the sidelines. The ref did not have to worry about threats from the parents (or players); the ref's call was final and it was respected! And, with all our progress, don't you wish, that just once you could slip back in time and savor the slower pace...and share it with the children of today?

So send this on to someone who can still remember The Lone Ranger and Tonto,The Shadow Knows, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, Trigger and Buttermilk... As well as the sound of a real mower on Saturday morning, and summers filled with bike rides, baseball games, bowling, visits to the pool... and eating Kool-Aid powder with sugar from the palm of you hand. There, didn't that feel good? Just to lean back and say: "Yeah, I remember".

How Did We Survive???

NOTE: This piece is not written by me, I received it in a chain e-mail. I cannot credit the author as I do not know who they are. I am including it as I believe there is a lot of truth and common sense contained within it.

If you lived as a child in the 50's, 60s or the 70s as I did, it's hard to believe that we have lived as long as we have.................

As children, we would ride in cars with no seat belts or air bags. Riding in the back of a pickup truck on a warm day was always a special treat. Our baby cribs were covered with bright colored lead-based paint. We could often squeeze through the bars! We had no childproof lids on medicine bottles, doors, or cabinets, and when we rode our bikes, we had no helmets. (Not to mention walking to town as a young kid!)

We drank water from the garden hose and not from a bottle. We would spend hours building our go-carts out of scraps, with 3 different size wheels, and then rode down the hill, only to find out we forgot the brakes! After running into the bushes a few times we learned to solve the problem. We would leave home in the morning and play all day, as long as we were back when the streetlights came on. No one was able to reach us all day. No cell phones. Unthinkable.

We played dodgeball and sometimes the ball would really hurt. We got cut and broke bones and broke teeth and there were no lawsuits from these accidents. They were accidents. No one was to blame but us. Remember accidents? We had fights and punched each other and got black and blue and learned to get over it. We ate cupcakes, bread and butter, and drank sugar soda but we were never overweight... we were always outside running aorund and playing. We shared one grape soda with four friends, from one thick glass bottle and no one died from this?

We did not have Playstations, Nintendo 64, X Boxes, 99 channels on cable, video tape movies, DVD, surround sound, cellular phones, personal computers, Internet chat rooms, ... we had friends. We went outside and found them. We rode bikes or walked to a friend's home, knocked on the door, rung the bell or just walked in and talked to them. Imagine such a thing. Without asking a parent! By ourselves! Out there in the cold cruel world! Without a guardian. How did we do it?

We made up games with sticks and tennis balls and ate worms and although we were told it would happen, we did not put out very many eyes, nor did the worms live inside us forever. Little League had tryouts and not everyone made the team. Those who didn't had to learn to deal with disappointment. Some students weren't as smart as others so they failed a grade and were held back to repeat the same grade. Tests were not adjusted for any reason.

Our actions were our own. Consequences were expected. No one to hide behind. The idea of a parent bailing us out if we broke a law was unheard off. They actually sided with the law, imagine that! This generation produced some of the best risk-takers, problem solvers and inventors, ever. The past 50 years has seen an explosion of innovation and new ideas. We had freedom, failure, success and responsibility. And you're one of them. Congratulations! Please pass this on to others that had the luck to grow up as kids, before lawyers and government regulated our lives for our own good?

Bill of NO Rights

NOTE: This piece is not written by me, I received it in a chain e-mail. I cannot credit the author as I do not know who they are. I am including it as I believe there is a lot of truth and common sense contained within it.

The following has apparently been attributed to State Representative Mitchell Kaye from GA. This guy should have run for President:

"We, the sensible people of the United States, in an attempt to help everyone get along, restore some semblance of justice, avoid any more riots, keep our nation safe, promote positive behavior, and secure the blessings of debt free liberty to ourselves and our great-great-great-grandchildren, hereby try one more time to ordain and establish some common sense guidelines for the terminally whiny, guilt ridden, delusional, and other liberal, bed wetters. We hold these truths to be self-evident: that a whole lot of people are confused by the Bill of Rights and are so dim that they require a "Bill of No Rights."

ARTICLE I: You do not have the right to a new car, big screen TV or any other form of wealth. More power to you if you can legally acquire them, but no one is guaranteeing anything.

ARTICLE II: You do not have the right to never be offended. This country is based on freedom, and that means freedom for everyone -- not just you! You may leave the room, turn the channel, express a different opinion, etc., but the world is full of idiots, and probably always will be.

ARTICLE III: You do not have the right to be free from harm. If you stick a screwdriver in your eye, learn to be more careful, do not expect the tool manufacturer to make you and all your relatives independently wealthy.

ARTICLE IV: You do not have the right to free food and housing. Americans are the most charitable people to be found, and will gladly help anyone in need, but we are quickly growing weary of subsidizing generation after generation of professional couch potatoes who achieve nothing more than the creation of another generation of professional couch potatoes.

ARTICLE V: You do not have the right to free health care. That would be nice, but from the looks of public housing, we're just not interested in public health care.

ARTICLE VI: You do not have the right to physically harm other people. If you kidnap, rape, intentionally maim, or kill someone, don't be surprised if the rest of us want to see you fry in the electric chair.

ARTICLE VII: You do not have the right to the possessions of others. If you rob, cheat or coerce away the goods or services of other citizens, don't be surprised if the rest of us get together and lock you away in a place where you still won't have the right to a big screen color TV or a life of leisure.

ARTICLE IX: You don't have the right to a job. All of us sure want you to have a job, and will gladly help you along in hard times, but we expect you to take advantage of the opportunities of education and vocational training laid before you to make yourself useful.

ARTICLE X: You do not have the right to happiness. Being an American means that you have the right to PURSUE happiness -- which by the way, is a lot easier if you are unencumbered by an overabundance of idiotic laws created by those of you who were confused by the "Bill of Rights," If you agree, share this with a friend. No, you don't have to, and nothing tragic will befall you if you don't. I just think it is about time common sense is allowed to flourish - call it the age of reason revisited .

Immigrants, Not Americans, Must Adapt

NOTE: This piece is not written by me, I received it in a chain e-mail. I cannot credit the author as I do not know who they are. I am including it as I believe there is a lot of truth and common sense contained within it.

After hearing that the state of Florida changed its opinion and let a Muslim woman have her picture on her driver's license with her face covered, I believe this is even more appropriate. Read on, please! This is an editorial written by an American citizen, published in a Tampa newspaper. He did quite a job; didn't he?

IMMIGRANTS, NOT AMERICANS, MUST ADAPT. I am tired of this nation worrying about whether we are offending some individual or their culture. Since the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, we have experienced a surge in patriotism by the majority of Americans. However, the dust from the attacks had barely settled when the "politically correct" crowd began complaining about the possibility that our patriotism was offending others. I am not against immigration, nor do I hold a grudge against anyone who is seeking a better life by coming to America. Our population is almost entirely comprised of descendants of immigrants. However, there are a few things that those who have recently come to our country, and apparently some born here, need to understand. This idea of America being a multicultural community has served only to dilute our sovereignty and our national identity. As Americans, we have our own culture, our own society, our own language and our own lifestyle. This culture has been developed over centuries of struggles, trials, and victories by millions of men and women who have sought freedom.

We speak ENGLISH, not Spanish, Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, Russian, or any other language. Therefore, if you wish to become part of our society, learn the language! "In God We Trust" is our national motto. This is not some Christian, right wing, political slogan. We adopted this motto because Christian men and women, on Christian principles, founded this nation, and this is clearly documented. It is certainly appropriate to display it on the walls of our schools. If God offends you, then I suggest you consider another part of the world as your new home, because God is part of our culture.

If Stars and Stripes offend you, or you don't like Uncle Sam, then you should seriously consider a move to another part of this planet. We are happy with our culture and have no desire to change, and we really don't care how you did things where you came from. This is OUR COUNTRY, our land, and our lifestyle. Our First Amendment gives every citizen the right to express his opinion and we will allow you every opportunity to do so. But once you are done complaining, whining, and griping about our flag, our pledge, our national motto, or our way of life, I highly encourage you to take advantage of one other great American freedom, THE RIGHT TO LEAVE.

If you agree -- pass this along; if you don't agree -- I don't want to hear about it.

Music Industry WAKE UP

Media reports indicate that the music industry in is in turmoil due to piracy of songs via the internet. I personally am against wholesale piracy of music, however I did use Napster (before its demise) to download about 50 to 60 songs that I needed to round out an already extensive collection. I "pirated" these songs and have zero remorse or guilt for doing so. As I see it, the music industry owed this free music to me. I have been collecting music since around 1970, spending tens of thousands of $$ in total in this activity. However, there are many occasions where I was CHEATED by the music industry. So, I view my recent acquisition of 50 or 60 "free" songs as payback for all those times I was cheated. So you ask, how was I cheated? Take a look at the list below.

  1. Quality: When I first started collecting music, the medium of choice was vinyl (and it was for more than 15 years after the time I started). Most of the music I bought was 45 rpm records. Many of these sounded pretty good (even by today's standards). However, about 10 % of the time a song came out on a label that consistently used poor quality vinyl. Why did I know this? Because even after a few plays (on a quality turntable with a quality stylus) the sound quality would become raspy and distorted. In some cases, the record brand new out of the package would sound terrible due to distortion and clipping. There was no technology problem here: other 45 records sounded fine, and almost all 33 rpm records sounded fine. The reason for these problems is that some labels made the decision to use cheap quality materials. They probably figured that if someone wants better sound, go buy the album. WRONG. A kid has not enough money to buy an album for every song they'd like to have. If other labels could (and did) put out a quality product for the same price, there is no reason all labels could not do so. Labels that were notorious for this problem included Arista, Epic, and sometimes Columbia. This issue of poor quality vinyl is moot today, however for many years it was not, and I probably have a hundred or more 45s that used this cheap quality vinyl.
  2. Keep the hits on the Outer Grooves: On a 33 rpm record, any audiophile will tell you that the best sound quality exists on material that is located on the outermost grooves of the record. This is because the linear velocity of the stylus in the record groove is highest at this location, allowing for improved high frequency response. However, on a number of albums, the producers insisted on placing the hit songs on the innermost grooves of the record. These grooves (as previously mentioned) have inferior sound and also have a tendency to wear faster. Despite this fact, record producers still insisted on putting the best songs at the innermost grooves. In many cases, the 45 rpm single of the song was clearly superior in sound quality.
  3. Greatest Hits means GREATEST HITS, not greatest REMIXES: One would think that a greatest hits collection should be just that: the biggest hits that a particular group or artist had. However, the music industry sometimes thinks it should be something else. A number of so called "greatest hits" collections available today leave out key hits by a particular artist, and sometimes they replace the original version with a modern remix. So, the consumer is stuck having to buy a second album or CD to get the song they wanted. Examples: one Madonna collection has a remix of "Into the Groove" that in my opinion is not nearly as good as the original. Another example: David Bowie's Greatest hits replaces "Fame" with a 1990's remix. It is OK to include a remix as an extra on a greatest hits collection, however it should never be included as a replacement for the original. There are also a number of greatest hits collections that leave out major hits a group had, while at the same time including selections that were never even in the Top 40 charts.
  4. Warped Records: How many times did I buy a 12" single (intended for DJ mixing) when it was warped to the point when it would not track? Probably close to 10%.
  5. Availability of Songs: There are some cases where a particular song is available only in multi-disc or box set CD. I am not willing to pay $30 - $50 to get ONE SONG that I need from such a collection (especially when I have many or all of the other songs that I want from the collection).
  6. Cassette Singles: What a debacle this was for the consumer. When 45 rpm records started going out, the industry replaced them with cassette singles. About the only advantage I could see from this medium is that they do not skip. However, the quality of many of these products was horrible. The sound was very compressed (to make it sound better in a "boom box"). The high frequency response of many of these cassettes was terrible. The tape quality on some of these was low quality. Some of these cassettes suffered badly from "print through". Overall, a miserable product and they cost more than 45 records by a considerable margin. I remember one of these cassettes that was so poor in quality that it was obvious that the producers simply did not care about what they put out. Alternatively, it was produced by people who have not a clue about what high fidelity means.
  7. CD Gimmicks: With the advent of the CD, various gimmicks became possible, such as including long silent dead tracks or numerous short silent tracks. When you play such a disk in a multi CD player, you end up with annoying pauses (sometimes 10 minutes or more) between songs. Apparently, some bands are under the impression that this will make their listeners think they are "hip" or "cool" and make them the "talk" of fan clubs. All it does for me is make me think that they are assholes. I'll simply create a new disk without the annoying gimmicks in them and give the original away for free.
  8. Make the Music Available!: There are a number of songs that have never been released on CD (they were only available on vinyl a number of years ago). No one will release the songs officially on CD, so the only manner in which to obtain them is to download from someone else. I would have no problem paying ( a reasonable fee) for tracks that I want, however if they are not available how can I do this???

As a music collector and former disk jockey, I purchased a lot of music over a period of about 30 years, much more than the average consumer has purchased. Based on the list of issues above, I feel that Napster was an avenue for me to obtain recourse from the music industry for all the times I did not get what I paid money for. A fair amount of the piracy (downloading, CD burning) that takes place today is done so by people who never had the songs to begin with (whcih is wrong). In my case, many of the 50 or 60 songs I downloaded were ones I already had (albeit in lousy fidelity due to issues named above). The ones I downloaded that I never had I did so because they are not currently available anywhere else I could find. So, if someone from the music industry reads this, I suggest studying the points aforementioned!

Finally, a word on copy protection. There is talk in the industry of making some CDs "copy proof". Ultimately, this is not possible with the CD as it is today; all that the copy protection can do is make it less convenient for a potential copier. If one is willing to play the CD and record the analog signal (using a PC sound card and any of a number of music recording applciations), copy protection is rendered useless. There is no big learning curve in doing this, most anyone with basic knowledge of computers and stereo systems could do it. It is just not as fast and direct as simply copying the digital audio tracks (as is typically done today). Once the newly recorded CD is made, it can be copied with no issues. So, I would suggest to the music industry: put out a product that the people want at a reasonable price and perhaps there would be less piracy going on!

Cameras in School?

There has been a lot of controversy in the news on the subject of placing security cameras in school classrooms. Some people are claiming that this is an invasion of privacy and that the cameras should not be allowed. Here are my thoughts: We live in a world that is vastly different than 20 or 40 years ago. A time where verbal and sometimes violent physical assaults on teachers are not uncommon. However, should a teacher try to deal with a troublemaker student he/she is at risk of being sued by a parent who says "MY child would NEVER do such a thing." We live in a time where some students bring weapons to school (and some use them). We live in a time with many broken families and the associated dysfunction that sometimes impacts a student's behavior. We live in a time of terrorism. So I say why not make use of cameras? If one behaves in a normal manner there is little to be concerned about. Maybe the cameras will provide the evidence needed to convict some of the troublemakers (and in some cases maybe irresponsible parents might get the message that their child is not the innocent angel they think they are). In cases where there is a teacher acting inappropriately a camera would also be useful in dealing with the issue. Without video evidence, it's typically someone's word against someone else's. If we did not have the situation we have in this country today, cameras would probably not be needed. School is (in most cases) taxpayer funded; the majority of the tax paid by town residents goes to the school budget. The purpose of school is to prepare young people to be successful adults. Taxpayers have a right to expect that the school's mission is being carried out efficiently. Troublemakers only disrupt this mission, cameras would give the evidence needed to identify and deal with such people. I am also fully in favor of swift and severe consequences for any administrators who purposely misuse any video evidence. In an ideal world, cameras would not be needed. However, our society and the state of the world has reached the point where the advantages offered by cameras outweigh the disadvantages.

Municipal Evacuation Plans are Fantasy

Many cities, towns and regions have (and were required to develop) evacuation plans should there be a major emergency. These plans may be well intentioned, but in many cases they would be major failures in the case of a real emergency. The problem is this: the road systems in place today could never handle the traffic load that would result if all of the people in a region were required to evacuate. There would be chaos, gridlock and widespread disorder. One example is the evacuation for the area around Millstone Nuclear Power Plant in Waterford, CT. A booklet is distributed to residents who live within a certain radius of the plant; the booklet has instructions on where area residents are supposed to go depending on where they live. The major roads that would be used are I-95, Rt. 2 and Rt. 32 (to name some). Really? Anyone who has been on these roads on a typical nice summer weekend day knows that this plan is doomed. The beach traffic alone renders parts of these roads virtually impassible. And this is only the beach traffic! What do officials think would happen if EVERYONE in an area was directed to leave? Another fantasy: the plan instructs parents NOT to go to school to pick up children. How many parents are going to obey this? In many cases a parent's love of child is an extremely powerful entity, and I suspect that good numbers of parents would try to go to a school to get a child (which of course would only result in more chaos). I think I read (or heard on TV) one official on Long Island basically say that if a major disaster were to occur there, large numbers of people would basically be trapped on the island... there is simply no way to move the numbers of people out of the area in a timely organized manner. So, should a major emergency occur (as is ever more likely with the inevitable future terrorist attacks in this country), no one should be surprised when evacuation plans result in chaos. The officials incharge will inevitably be blamed for the failed plan, but any reasonable person should realize that they were given an impossible task.

E-mail to Joe Roberts: astroman@RocketRoberts.com
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