Friday, April 4, 2008

What Makes Me Cranky

On the day Muslim fanatics flew planes into the world trade center, the pentagon, and a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, I was at home. The dotcom I had been working for was belly up, and while I was looking for a new marketing exec position, I hadn’t found anything. That whole day, and in the days that followed, I was glued to the television, like most of America.

As the days and weeks passed, I did return to a normal life, but with some differences. I volunteered more, started to consider new career choices, and the TV in the kitchen was always on and tuned to a 24 hour news station. Subconsciously I think I felt that if craziness could rain down from the sky at any moment, I needed to be vigilant.

Before long, my husband started to notice that I was often tense and cranky when he came home. I would start in immediately to tell him all the idiotic things I had heard on the news that day. Blatantly biased opinions presented as news; obviously suspect statistical studies presented without the least whiff of skepticism; stories design to make people afraid, to buy things they didn’t need, and give up stuff that wasn’t doing any harm. The list was pretty endless.

After a few months of that, I instituted a new policy. Syndicated reruns are now the only thing on the TV during the day. Since my new career is as a writer and fiber artist, I find I like having the background noise of the TV to keep me (and the dog) company. But reruns of Law & Order and ER do just fine.

The funny thing is I still find things that bug me. So, in order to spare my husband from my rants, here are a couple of things making me cranky lately.

­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­People were actually booing the President of the United States when he walked out onto the field at the National’s new stadium to throw out the first pitch on opening day (night). This is bugging me on a couple of levels. First off, I was always taught that even if you didn’t respect the person, you had to respect the position. This meant being civil and saving dissent for appropriate times. I still think that’s a good rule. The world needs a whole lot more civility. Second, the president was there to celebrate our national pastime of baseball and a new stadium for our nation’s capital. Why did people have to mar that moment with their political statement?

The Federal Election Commission is now defunct because 100 politicians refuse to do their job. The FEC is supposed to have a total of six commissioners appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate. Currently there are only two serving commissioners, and these both have expired terms. Because they were previously approved by the Senate, the rules allow them to continue to serve until new commissioners have been appointed and confirmed. Three additional individuals have been appointed (more than two years ago) but are not yet confirmed. These three served as recess appointees for two years, but their terms expired at the end of December. One more resigned in February 2007, and a replacement has not been nominated. That’s a real problem since the commission’s own rules require four members be present at any meeting to establish a quorum.

Since the end of 2007, The FEC has been unable to conduct any official business. On the one hand, I am furious to be paying the salary of a bunch of Senators who are unwilling to sit down in a room and do their job – that is give an up or down vote on these nominees. On the other hand, the primary purpose of the FEC is to regulate the financing of federal election campaigns. Since I view a good part of the regulations (especially McCain/Feingold) as unconstitutional, maybe it is OK that these commissioners have their hands tied.

I could go on… and probably will in future posts. But tell me, what’s making you cranky?

Friday, February 29, 2008

Mandatory Pet Sterilization in Los Angles

This morning I read a story that I couldn’t quite believe. In The Barr Code, the blog of former US Congressman Bob Barr, I read that the City Council of Los Angeles had passed a law requiring all residents to have their cats and dogs spayed or face stiff fines and other penalties.
My first thought was, “That can’t be the whole story.” This sounded pretty extreme even for California, a state known for the public’s willingness to cede personal freedom to the government.

Further investigation revealed that the gist of the story is true. According to the Blog of Ed Boks, General Manager LA Dept of Animal Services, the Spay/Neuter Ordinance requires all pet owners to have their cats and dogs spayed or neutered at the age of four months. The only exemptions are for show dogs, rescue and other service dogs, or dogs owned by registered breeders.

The press release issued by the office of Mayor Antonio R. Villaraigosa states that the objective of the ordinance is to “decrease the number of pets abandoned and euthanized each year.” Over population of unwanted dogs and cats is a serious problem in some parts of the country. And sadly, the solution for many municipalities is to euthanize large numbers of animals each year. However, this ordinance seems to be killing the gnat with a sledge hammer, and punishes the innocent into the bargain.

How about a law that targets irresponsible pet owners? Those who allow their unaltered animal to breed and then dump the litters on public and non-profit shelters are the real villains. Stiff fines for these people, combined with availability of low or no cost spay and neuter programs, might be a more effective approach.

If unwanted pets are truly a crisis in this country, why are we allowing street dogs to be sent here for adoption through our shelters? Check out programs like Save a Sato that rescues dogs off the streets of Puerto Rico and ships them to Massachusetts and New Jersey shelters. Soi Dog Rescue is another program rescuing dogs from Thailand. The stories and pictures on these websites tear at your heart, but tell me again why we need to import stray dogs?

Perhaps the most interesting question involves how Los Angeles will enforce this ordinance. The Humane Society of the United States publishes Pet Ownership Statistics claiming that 39% of U.S. households own at least one dog. Are the police really going to knock on doors and stop dog walkers on the street demanding proof of sterility?

The libertarian in me wants to scream in righteous rage every time a bone headed approach to a problem results in loss of freedom for the majority of responsible citizens. But that’s just me. What do you think?

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Super Bowl Picks

This article ought to be about Super Tuesday and why you need to go out and vote, but hey.
And yes, I realize the game is over and it’s too late to place a bet. Apparently it was a good game. I flipped past it a couple of times and noticed the score, and actually watched the last 5-10 minutes. That was enough for me.
I grew up in a house with three older brothers and a dad who coached just about every sport you can think of. He was even a ref for semi-pro football games.

© Photographer: Miflippo Agency:
All this means in that when I was a kid, the TV was consumed with sports all day Sunday. Why only Sunday? I was a kid before my small hometown discovered cable.
On those days, my Mom and I would always look for something else to do. For a long time shopping wasn’t an option. That same hometown had a law against stores being open on Sunday. When I was about twelve, that law changed which improved our situation somewhat. Mom and I would head to the fabric store, the department store, or a dress shop and amuse ourselves.
Eventually we had a 2nd TV and sometimes we could find an old movie to watch. Seriously though, it was pretty grim, all those cold winter Sundays.
Don’t get me wrong. I didn’t hate sports. In fact, I was a cheerleader and froze various parts of my anatomy screaming on the sidelines on Saturday afternoons. But that wasn’t really about football. That was marketing.
Over the years, my interest in marketing grew. And, over those same years, I paid some attention to sporting events. But, like many who sit in front of the TV but don’t watch the game, I was really most interested in the commercials. With the advent of VCRs (and a boyfriend who wasn’t all that interested in football), I started taping the Super Bowl then burning up the fast forward button to watch the ads later.
Tivo was an improvement on the VCR, but the latest and truly greatest thing that has happened to the Super Bowl for me is this USA Today's Super Bowl Ad Meter. Now sports fans that watched the game but take bathroom breaks during the commercials, and non-fans like me can watch the commercials, pick our favorites, and join in the conversation.
So having done just that, here are my top picks. These are the commercials that I really enjoyed watching and for which (with the exception of the SoBe ad) I remember what product was being sold:
  1. Budweiser – dog trains a Clydesdale
  2. Coca-cola – dueling parade balloons
  3. E-Trade – baby hires a clown
  4. Disney – trailer for wall-e
  5. Gatorade – dog drinks Gatorade from his bowl
  6. Audi – “Godfather” spoof
  7. Career Builder – wishing on a star
  8. SoBe – Lizards dancing with what’s her name

© Photographer: Kathy Wynn Agency:
Oh and by the way, it’s a good thing that the MLB World Series isn’t a single evening shot at the consuming public. This whole watch it online the next day really wouldn’t work. After all, I’m talking baseball, and baseball, we watch!