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Archive for December, 2010

Squeaky Wheel Syndrome

Sunday, December 26th, 2010



Should the squeaky wheel get the grease? Should it be allowed to continue on the same path? Or should other alternatives be considered?  



Let’s take two examples – extremists and fanatics. These types can be considered to be squeaky wheels, as they draw attention – mostly of the negative variety — to themselves and their cause. They refuse to consider the opinions of others, and continue on their chosen path, no matter the fate of individual members.  


-An extremist is defined as:    a person who indulges in immoderate or excessive actions, opinions, etc. 

- A fanatic is:    a person whose enthusiasm or zeal for something is extreme or beyond normal limits.  



So, both of these groups operate outside the norm, on the ends of normal limits. Why then, do they garner so much attention? Is it their ability to step outside the norm by causing destruction, mayhem, and harm to others that draws our interest? Is it because we can sit home, safe and secure, while watching someone else’s misfortune?   


Individuals involved in groups meeting the definitions of fanatic or extremist, make up less than 5 % of the population. Yet they appear in the local, national, and world news on an almost daily basis. Why do we allow this, and what can we do about it?



First, we must disassociate ourselves from these fanatics and extremists. We must let them know we, the majority, don’t feel, think, or want to act like they do. That, their actions are not within the norm and should be not allowed to continue. They should be condemned for the travesties they are.


To a certain extent, this has already started. Several attempts to either set off explosives or otherwise damage airplanes in flight have been thwarted by passengers.


But this brings up another question. What about explosions in public places? Should individuals acting strange in public be stopped and apprehended? Where should the line be drawn to keep the majority of the public safe? What conditions constitute a situation giving the authorities the right to deny certain individuals their rights? Are there such situations in America? Should there be?   


What can the general public do?



First we should close ranks. Form ourselves into community groups with a clear purpose, a clear set of ideals and goals, and a clear vision of our future.  Inherent in these statements should be the fact that people have the ability to travel without being harmed by others.


When described in any type of news media these groups should not be glorified; they should be frowned upon, ignored, and forgotten.   


Second, we must stick by our convictions. Don’t give these people any publicity, confirmation, or donations. Let them know they, as extremists, acting outside our realm of proper behavior, are beneath our notice. Report the facts, denounce those in charge, and move on. Avoid sensationalism at all costs, they thrive on it.   


Third, we should not allow these people back into the “fold” or whatever community they used to be in unless they recant their former ideals and lifestyles publicly. Yet, they should not be excluded for exclusion’s sake. And while some may revel in being shunned, many won’t, and may return to a position of normalcy.  


One of the reasons extremists tactics work is they get a lot of publicity. This publicity draws other like-minded extremists to them and increases their numbers. And when they find strength in numbers, they can perform actions one or a few would not be able to accomplish.


So, we should form and strengthen our communities, and announce to the world, we don’t support these extreme groups, agree with them, or approve of their actions.



Don’t condemn them, ignore them. Don’t bring more attention to their cause, expound your own. Don’t be fooled into thinking their message holds anything relevant or significant, it doesn’t. Strengthen your own communities, bring more like-minded individuals into your sphere of influence, and snub those who advocate: violence, hate, and narrow-minded actions. Diversity is part of the charm of the human race, it should be encouraged, but it should not be allowed to denigrate or degrade any other group — no matter how different their ideas. Diversity is one of the human races’ strengths. It should be encouraged, not put down. You have the right to your opinion, as I have the right to mine. When we interact, we should have respect for each other’s opinions. That doesn’t mean we have to follow another’s opinion, or live by it; but we should acknowledge they exist and leave them like that. Having an opinion and forcing it upon someone else are two different matters.  


When, not if, these splinter groups are regulated to the fringes where they belong and their message ceases to hold the fascination of the population, it will lose its grip on the majority and their popularity will drop by the wayside. So, when that darned wheel starts squeaking, don’t oil it and keep using it; change it, and dose it with the oil, then throw the darned thing into the fire. It’s the only thing it’s good for – providing warmth for others by its own destruction.


The Day of the Night Before Christmas

Friday, December 24th, 2010


It’s the day of Christmas Eve


It’s the day of Christmas Eve. I wanted to wish everyone out there happy holidays, whichever one, or none if you’re so inclined, you celebrate.


I think part of what should be said comes from some song lyrics:


“May God bless and keep you always,

      May your wishes all come true.

May you always do for others,

      And let others do for you.” *


Being brought up Christian, I celebrate Christmas. But Christmas has changed since I was small. We now have overt commercialism, unbridled materialism, sagging morals and ethics, as well as political and economic corruption, to deal with.  It’s hard to see any light at the end of that long tunnel.


But no matter if you see Jesus Christ as: the son of God, an important prophet, or a wise teacher and good human being, remember he changed the world, history, and our fates – through peaceful means, not war. Whether or not you agree with his teachings, many have lasted to this day.  And, he was a radical in his time. He stood for peace in a time when armed Romans walked the streets. He taught acceptance when the ruling class wanted to keep the classes segregated. He preached material wealth wasn’t the be-all, end-all; we have a spirit too.


Try to take some time this season and figure out what you want in your life. Where you want: to go, to be (when you grow up), to have. Materialism isn’t everything; health, family, community exist without excess wealth. Happiness can come from the “little” things in your life. A child’s smile. A helping hand. A letter from a loved one. A look through a photo album.  


Celebrate the 3F’s this holiday season. Feasting, family and fun. (Those were the 3 F’s you thought of, right?) Savor and be grateful for what you have. Take steps to get those things you need or want. And stop once in a while and take in the grandeur around you. Happy holidays. Barbara


*from “Forever Young” song by Bob Dylan, sung by Joan Baez.


New Blog on the Block

Monday, December 20th, 2010


Hey, thanks for stopping by. This is to let you know there’s a new blog associated with the two already here ( and It’s called Living for Life, and can be found at


Though it’s slanted to those of us over fifty, it’ll contain advice, exercises, recipes, and other good stuff of interest to many. Give it a look and see. This newest addition is willing and able to take your suggestions about articles you’d like to see about 

 - Simplifying your life

 - Exercise

 - Diet and nutrition

 - Amounts of Sleep and rest you need.  


So, stop on by and say hello.


Positive Argumentation

Sunday, December 19th, 2010


Remember when you were young and you wanted to do something, so you asked your mom. And she said, “No.” 


So you asked, “Why?” And she said something like, “Because I said so, that’s why.” And the discussion was closed. Then, you had to either be good and do something else, or sneak around and do it anyway.


But the above isn’t even really an argument, for there’s no back and forth, just an inquiry and a response. An argument should be more like a debate. Not the type you often see on television, where the debaters just try to make their own point, not rebut the opponent’s views or present new information.


I’m going to attempt to start a series called “The Bottom Line”. I will present my opinions and would like you to either agree or not.


If you agree, I’d be glad to hear how and/or what  you think about it. Try to be specific and give reasons if you can.


If you don’t agree, you can simply say, “I don’t agree.” In which case, the chances of staying posted are okay. If you say, “I don’t agree, because…” you have a better chance of staying posted. But, if you say, “I don’t agree, because… And I’d like to present this as a solution instead…” You will definitely stay.


And if you post off topic, you’ll probably be deleted. (Sorry folks, but I started this blog for a reason and it isn’t to let you rant about anything you want. You start your own blog for that.)


What I’m saying is I don’t care if you agree or not, everyone is entitled to their own opinion. But if all you’re going to do is rant and rave, then don’t bother commenting. If you want to tell me (and the rest of you) why you disagree, and offer another point of view, then welcome aboard.


Please keep your comments civil, and without links. I intend to learn how to edit your comments, and so, many of the links may disappear soon. (I don’t mind an occasional link to your site, but if you’re going to respond to every posting in one day, with a link, some of them may vanish. Fair warning.)


What exactly do I mean? Let’s take an example.


Suppose the premise is: “Lollipops are the best, safest candy for young children. The stick protects them from getting small pieces lodged in their throats.”


If you respond with “I don’t think so.” You may not stay posted. (Unless you’re one of the few comments like this.) 


If you comment with, “Lollipops are okay, but children can still bite off pieces and they can lodge in their throats.” There’s a much better chance your comment will survive.


But, if your response is,”I don’t think lollipops are the greatest, hard candy itself is pure sugar and isn’t good for you. Crunching a lollipop can lead to pieces becoming lodged in their throats. And besides, candy made from real fruit has been found to be better and not cause as much tooth decay.” This will definitely stay.


It’s okay to have an opinion, but I want you to share why you have that opinion and if you don’t agree, then what can you suggest as an alternative? It’s fine to say “No”, but suggesting what can be done (or used, or considered) instead is better. If everyone offered an alternative instead of just digging in and not seeing another’s viewpoint, the world would be a better place.  


The litmus test “The Bottom Line” articles will use is:


Can people exist without XXX? And conversely, can XXX exist without people?

Where XXX is the subject for the article.

Not — Will things remain the same? Not –

Will it affect our present way of life? And not — Will life be better or worse. All those things are subjective – existence is a fact.


If you don’t understand it now, don’t worry, it’ll be much clearer when the articles come out.


What type of things will be considered for “The Bottom Line”? Well, part of that is up to you. Suggest things for me to consider. What’s your bottom line? On life? On your job? On the condition of society today?  And if my opinion differs from yours, let everyone know. As long as you keep it clean (rated PG or below), civil (no cuss words or name calling), intelligent (no rants allowed, that’s my job), and stick to the rules above.


Everyone game?  




Airline Security — Bah Humbug!

Sunday, December 12th, 2010

Note: The facts of the following are true, but my opinions are my own. If you don’t believe it check the links at the bottom, they all go to legitimate newspapers. 


As a lifetime resident of the state of Massachusetts, the story about the dead man found in Milton MA really got to me. Especially when the facts of the matter came to light.

Massachusetts is known for being the place where “the shot heard round the world” happened. (This was the shot in Lexington, MA that began the Revolutionary War in America.) Now however, a new saying may take its place. Massachusetts may become known as the place where – “the man who fell to earth” happened. (Apologies to Walter Tevis, author of “The Man Who Fell to Earth”, and David Bowie, who played the lead in the movie.)


But back to our story. A young man, Delvonte Tisdale, was found dead in Milton, MA.  His death was at first considered a homicide. The officials stayed closed mouthed about the case, until recently when they announced the man from North Carolina had fallen from a landing airplane to end up dead on the ground in a suburban area.


Further investigation revealed he’d hidden in a wheel well in the airplane and had fallen out when the landing gear was extended for landing.


Now, a couple of things about taking a ride in an airplane wheel well. It’s cold, about 55 degrees below zero. And it’s in an unpressurized part of the airplane, so no air pressure and no oxygen. Not great accommodations for traveling, in my opinion.


But this raises some serious questions. First how the hell did he get into the wheel well in the first place? Did this sophomore in high school simply saunter out, walk under the plane and climb up into the wheel well? Under the eyes of all the airport personnel? 


How did he get access to the runway? Was he wearing an unused uniform of a maintenance worker? When found, reports said he was “partially clothed”. Were his clothes ripped off as he fell? Or did he not know of the cold and lack of air in the wheel well?  


And the big one. Where the hell was airline security while this young man was climbing into said airplane? Airline security is fine.  No one would do anything today; it’s too close to the holidays. Yeah, right. 


If this had been the first time, maybe, and I stress the maybe, it could be considered an unusual lapse in security. But it’s happened before. The first occurrence I could find happened on January 13, 2007.  On a Delta flight from Dakar, Senegal Africa to Atlanta GA. This victim though stayed in the wheel well and was found after the plane landed. No mention was made of why the wheel well was checked. Perhaps some trouble with the landing gear?


The second occurrence that came up on my search happened earlier this year on February 9th. On a Delta flight from New York to Tokyo. Again the man’s body stayed in the wheel well. 


So, this wasn’t the first occurrence of this type of travelling mode. And the incidents were three years apart. The question still remains, why did it happen again? Why weren’t changes made to security regulations to insure no unauthorized person has access to the runways? To the baggage being put on the airplane? To anywhere around the plane as it sits on the runway waiting for takeoff?


The big question remains – how did they get in the wheel well in the first place? Consider a Suicide Bomber who wants to take down an airplane. He can tape the bomb to his body, get into the wheel well, and set a detonator to go off at a prescribed time. Sure he’ll die, but he was prepared to do that anyway. As long as the detonator and bomb materials don’t mind the cold, the bomb will explode.


And this concern has been raised. But what’s being done about it? No one will say anything concrete.  I seem to remember before the 911 disaster, the terrorists tried several “dry runs”. What if these are dry runs too? And if not, could the terrorists use this method?


These three cases, as far as I can tell, have not included terrorists. The first may have been thinking to make a better life in America. Maybe the second one wanted to get out of the United States. And the third one was a high school student, probably thinking himself invulnerable, trying to prove it could be done. But we can’t ask any of them – they’re all dead.  And, it doesn’t excuse the fact it’s happened three times too many.


So, all you in airline security get your act together. Learn to think outside the box. Stop this from happening again, and consider other methods terrorists could use. You’re the experts, prove it.










Is Common Sense Uncommon?

Thursday, December 9th, 2010


I filled out a form to receive a download the other day. It’s a good thing I read all the way through.


This is not as easy for me as it is for you. I use a screen reader to read the screen – it reads one line at a time. You can’t scan, can’t look ahead, can’t see what’s coming up next.


So, I filled out the form but before I clicked the submit link, I went down and read further.


Below the submit link it stated a code you needed to receive the download. 


Now, think about it. This is silly (I could have called it something else, but silly will do for now.) It’s like putting up a form, having the person fill it out, then saying something like, “USE ONLY CAPITAL LETTERS at the bottom after the form has been filled out. Now you have to go back and refill out the form.


True, it’s not an exact imitation of what happened, but you get the idea.


You should put all the information the person needs to fill out the form – above the form. Directions on filling out the form or what to do after the form is submitted do not belong below the form.


Doesn’t this make sense? To me, who can’t read below the submit line before submitting, it makes perfect sense. How do you feel about this? Am I being picky about this?


I’ve been receiving quite a few emails about putting either video or audio pieces on blogs or websites. The problem with this is a good number of those doing this have no idea how to make them accessible to those of us using adaptive equipment. And there are over 30 million Americans alone who access their computers using adaptive equipment.


If you’re trying to sell something shouldn’t you not tick off potential customers? One would think so. Shouldn’t you make it as easy as possible for people to order from you?


Some people don’t like audio, some don’t like video, some don’t like to read. The solution? Give potential customers options. Create an option box at the beginning of the page.


Would you like to:

(link) Read this offer?

(link) Listen to this offer?

(link) See a video of this offer?


Is it really that hard? If you’ve taken the time to produce a wonderful product, shouldn’t you make it available to as many people in as many forms as possible? It makes sense to me.  


Think about your presentation as you lay it out, as you record it, as you video tape it. A little common sense can go a long way.






Strike Three for BP?

Thursday, December 2nd, 2010


BP has been responsible for at least two major disasters involving oil and North America. First, on MARCH 24, 1989, the Exxon Valdez tanker, skippered by Captain Joe Hazelwood, ran aground on Bligh Reef, spilling more than 11 million gallons of crude oil in Prince William Sound.


Then in April of 2010, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill caused by a wellhead blowout spewed at least 4,200,000 US gallons per day over an Area of 2,500 to 68,000 square miles. It’s been called the largest accidental marine oil spill in the history of the petroleum industry.


That’s two strikes. Is BP headed for strike three?


In college I took an electronics lab. We joked about creating an “anticipation” gate; one that knew the result before the inputs had been given. I don’t want to jump into the race before the starting whistle, but BP has shown what it thinks of maintenance, preventative or otherwise. So, where’s the light of the anticipation gate going to come on?


Somewhere on the Alaskan pipeline of course. Reports have been surfacing recently about the horrendous leaks, lack of regular maintenance, and BP’s continued usage of a pipeline designed to last only for 15 years; it was built in the 1970’s. But when the line continued to be profitable its use was continued for several more decades. Was maintenance stepped up for this antiquated system? Were newer and more efficient warning systems put in place in case of failure? By BP? Surely you jest. Profit is king here, not personnel or the environment.


According to workers, high pressure gas lines aren’t inspected frequently enough and are being “run to failure,” risking a leak and a major explosion. A document, obtained by ProPublica, shows that as of Oct. 1, 2010 at least 148 BP pipelines on Alaska’s North Slope received an “F-rank” from the company. From the company itself! Inspections have determined that more than 80 percent of the pipe wall is corroded and could rupture, releasing toxic or flammable substances. In addition, the company’s fire- and gas-warning systems are unreliable, the giant turbines that pump oil and gas through the system are aging, and some oil and waste holding tanks are on the verge of collapse. Typical BP?


In an e-mail, BP Alaska spokesman Steve Rinehart said the company has “an aggressive and comprehensive pipeline inspection and maintenance program,” which includes pouring millions of dollars into the system and regularly testing for safety, reliability and corrosion. He said that while an F-rank is serious it does not necessarily mean there is a current safety risk and that the company will immediately reduce the operating pressure in worrisome lines until it completes repairs.


Reduce the pressure, not stop the flow and do the needed maintenance?


Kovac, a BP mechanic and welder, said some of the pipes have hundreds of patches on them and that BP’s efforts to rehabilitate the lines were not funded well enough to keep up with their rate of decline.


“They’re going to run this out as far as they can without leaving one dollar on the table when they leave,” Kovac claims.

In 2010, before the enormous costs of the Gulf spill created an estimated $30 billion in BP liabilities, the company eked out more “efficiencies” in its Alaska budget. It said it would maintain record high funding for new projects and major repairs while reducing its budget for regular maintenance, according to a letter that BP Alaska President John Minge sent to Congress in February 2010. The letter said holding-tank inspections will be deferred and replacement of one pipeline will be postponed; flows through that line will be reduced “to mitigate erosion.”


So, not only is preventive maintenance something BP only gives lip service to, but they also have either not done or are ignoring failure analysis reports.


A failure analysis report should have been done on the pipelines, holding tanks, and all warning systems. These reports give the standard period between maintenance inspections and repairs, and also give the rate of failure over time. So, BP knew at the beginning when the pipes, turbines, holding tanks, and warning systems would begin to fail. Replacement of any and all parts should have begun well before the anticipated failure time. But the pipeline has been running for over 15 years longer than it was designed for. Can anyone say catastrophic environmental disaster?


So, there are some of the facts about the vaulted Alaskan Pipeline. In my opinion, it’s an accident (or disaster) waiting to happen. Will we wait until after the catastrophe to react? Probably. Should we? No.


And this doesn’t take into account minor spillage in the past. Other ruptures have occurred, but weren’t “big” enough to gather much notice. But newspaper articles in 2000, 2004, and 2006 reported these spills. So, maybe in essence, BP has already gotten its third strike.  


Here in the United States we have the “Three Strikes” law. It states if you are brought to court for breaking the law, the third time you go to jail — do not pass go, do not collect your stock dividends, just get acquainted with a nice, dark cell. If the disaster I’ve contemplated above happens, will this happen to anyone at BP?


Of course not. Big business will prevail. BP may hang out someone else to twist in the wind, but as a whole they will accept no responsibility for the lives they’ve ruined, the environment they’ve spoiled, or the corruption they’ve allowed to control their motives.


Should BP be held responsible for the clean-up of a rupture in the pipeline? Of course. Should they be required to clean up after themselves? Of course. Will they continue to ignore any laws they think hinder their God given right to make a profit at any expense. (Drum roll.) Of course.


Is there a solution to this problem? Yes, but’s it’s a long process, will include changes many people (mostly greedy business people) will fight tooth and nail against, and will cause many short term problems.


Over the next months, I’m going to start two series: “The Bottom Line”, and “Simplify”. The first will address how we Americans) need to define where and what we stand for. The second will address things we all can do to simplify our lives. Materialism, corruption, and the breakdown of social traditions and customs are leading us to the edge of the void. I, for one, don’t want to go there. Do you?