Archive for March, 2011

Spring Cleaning

Posted March 23, 2011 By Steve

“Youth is not a time of life; it is a state of mind; it is not a matter of rosy cheeks, red lips and supple knees; it is a matter of the will, quality of the imagination, a vigor of the emotions; it is the freshness of the deep springs of life.” — Samuel Ullman

Spring
Now that it’s spring, at least astronomically, many people’s thought turn to spring cleaning. Traditionally that’s meant tidying up the house, getting rid of all the things that accumulated during the winter when it was too cold to spend much time outside, and taking advantage of the newly returned warmth to finally clean out the car. (Those of you with kids know exactly what I mean.)

I think this spring I need to go a step further. I think this year I need a thorough spring cleaning of my brain. Lately I’ve felt bogged down by a life filled with many things to do but without a lot to show for it in terms of reaching my goals. In fact it’s a bit worse than that, sometimes I’m not even sure what my goals are anymore. Just getting to the next paycheck without having a negative bank balance isn’t enough, but that seems to be where too much of my thought every month is going. I’m too young to let things like that make me feel old.

So I’m going to think about what it is that I’m doing, and what I really might want to do instead and start finding better ways of making that happen. Everything is on the table — my approach to school, the contracts I go after, everything. It’s not that everything in my life is bad, far from it. And I do enjoy most of what I do. But increasingly, I have a rudderless feeling, like these things don’t actually add to much of a destination, and with only so many years on this earth, it’s not okay to feel like they’re being… well, not wasted, exactly, but not maximized either.

Going back and rereading this, I see that it seems a bit jumbled. But I think I’ll leave it that way and post it anyway. I expect that in future posts what I’m trying to say will be a bit clearer. Besides, jumbled is a bit how my brain feels. See? A spring cleaning is definitely in order.

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How Not To Approach Campus Violence

Posted March 16, 2011 By Steve

“If you think the problem is bad now, just wait until we’ve solved it.” — Arthur Kasspe

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Recently I read a commentary in UniversityWorldNews from John Woods, who opposes efforts by some U.S. state legislators to allow people to carry guns on college and university campuses. It seems he lost a loved one in the Virginia Tech massacre a few years ago, and the issue has been haunting him ever since.

What many people seem to overlook when it comes to these sorts of proposals is that there’s a difference between banning something and actually making it go away. No one who has it in them to walk around murdering other people will be dissuaded simply because one more aspect of their plan is illegal. Simply put, campus gun bans do not disarm potential shooters, they only disarm potential victims, leaving them helpless to defend themselves.

This is not a hypothetical argument. Virginia Tech was not the only university in Virginia where a shooting occurred in the last decade. There was also one at Appalachian School of Law. The difference was that in this other incident the shooter was quickly subdued by other students, who were armed. This is why the Virginia Tech incident is rightly termed a massacre, and the Appalachian School of Law incident is relatively unknown.

Mr. Woods is not the only one who wants a world free of violence. We all do. But unfortunately, we don’t live in that world, and that being the case we should make decisions based on reason, and not emotion. Gun bans fail that test.

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All The Views They See Fit To Print

Posted March 15, 2011 By Steve

Recently there was a tragic bus crash here on the East Coast. A tour bus taking a bunch of tourists from the casinos of Atlantic City, N.J. to New York City went through a guardrail and crashed into a signpost. Fifteen people died as a result, a great tragedy.

But the coverage from the New York Times leaves a lot to be desired. Rather than simply report the news, they turn a seemingly isolated incident into a call for more regulation. It’s sad that those people died in the crash, but one crash shouldn’t be enough to prompt an expansion of government, particularly at the federal level. It seems that some people believe that with enough regulation, we can live in a world of perfect safety without any drawbacks.

But sadly, that’s not the case. And in the absence of that, we should make reasonable judgments about risk management rather than simply seeing every possible risk as unacceptable. For example, what would have been helpful in this article would have been a statistic like the number of passenger deaths per million miles traveled on these buses, or something similar that compares that mode of travel with people getting places in their own cars or on airplanes. Without that sort of information, it’s impossible to know what sort of reaction is warranted.

But it didn’t help that the piece was laced with opinion and bias. For example: “Prospective drivers must only obtain a commercial driver’s license, issued at the state level — essentially granting bus companies the freedom to hire whomever they choose.” What’s wrong with that? It’s hard to get a CDL, it’s not like they give them out as the toy surprise in boxes of Cracker Jacks. And they say that companies can hire whomever they choose like it’s a bad thing. Who better to choose the drivers than the companies that are assuming the liability? Would the New York Times prefer that bus driver jobs be awarded by lottery instead? Or perhaps be assigned by the Department of Bus Driver Job Allocation?

I also wasn’t impressed with this: “The driver of the bus that crashed, Ophadell Williams, was arrested in 2003 for driving with a suspended license and served two years in prison for manslaughter stemming from a 1990 episode in which a man was killed during an argument.” What’s the point of including this? Are they suggesting that anyone who’s ever done time should be forever unemployable afterward? That he’d once had a suspended license would seem to be more relevant, except that driver’s licenses can be suspended for all sorts of irrelevant non-vehicular reasons nowadays, like failure to pay child support, so even that isn’t sufficiently informative. Without more information about what Williams’s criminal record has to do with his ability to drive a bus, this comes across simply as trying to paint him as a villain.

Basically, this article could have been better if there had been fewer opinions and more facts. But commentary doesn’t require any of that tedious research, and being less expensive to produce, I suppose that’s all we can expect now in the twilight of journalism.

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