It’s the Monday after the Super Bowl, and I have yet to overhear a single conversation among the technical staff about football.
William Saletan offers a well written recap of the president’s State of the Union address:
Tonight’s State of the Union Address demonstrated again that President Bush is a man of very clear principles. He’s just flexible about when to apply them.
He’s for historical reflection when a Democratic program has lost the context that initially justified it: “Social Security was created decades ago, for a very different era. In those days, people did not live as long. Benefits were much lower … Our society has changed in ways the founders of Social Security could not have foreseen.”
He’s against historical reflection when a Republican war has lost the context that initially justified it. All that matters is the new rationale: “The victory of freedom in Iraq will strengthen a new ally in the war on terror, inspire democratic reformers from Damascus to Tehran, bring more hope and progress to a troubled region …”
He’s against scaring you if you’re 55: “I have a message for every American who is 55 or older: Do not let anyone mislead you. For you, the Social Security system will not change.”
In the next sentence, he’s for scaring you if you’re below 55: “For younger workers, the Social Security system has serious problems that will grow worse with time. … We must pass reforms that solve the financial problems.”
Now that I’ve quoted half the article, you might as well go read the other half.
The author of Body and Soul expresses my feelings exactly:
Every time I go to Best Buy I resolve never to return. I can’t think straight with a wall of big screen TVs flashing a dozen identical football games at me, while hip hop hits me from the left, and Merle Haggard twangs me from the right. I know that doesn’t bother everybody, but I have this old-fashioned attachment to my brain cells, and I miss them when they go away.
I walked in the front door just as a voice was repeating over a microphone, “Home theater, turn down your volume. Home theater, please turn down your volume.”
If they did, I didn’t notice the difference. My knees go all jellyish and I almost start to cry under the impact of the noise. I would leave if I didn’t need to get a particular, repeatedly (subtly, but repeatedly) requested electronic birthday present before Friday, and if there were any place else in town — any quieter place — to get it.
So I’m stuck in Hell. Or Purgatory anyway, since as soon as I perform my appointed task — please, God, let me find it quickly — I can leave.
I sometimes think the atmosphere in Best Buy serves an effective commercial purpose. I can’t think in that atmosphere. I just want to grab whatever I see that vaguely resembles what I’m looking for, at whatever price they want to charge — really, I’ll pay extra, just let me out of here — and run.
Call me cynical, but I suspect encouraging mindless acquisition is not to the store’s disadvantage.
The Richmond (Virginia) Times Dispatch reports on the activities of the state legislature:
With only a week left to act on all legislation introduced by their respective members, the House and Senate yesterday argued over matters ranging from “traditional marriage” license plates to state budget procedures.
The House of Delegates squabbled before tentatively endorsing the special state plates that would include the capital-letter words “TRADITIONAL MARRIAGE,” as well as a symbol, two interlocked golden wedding bands over a red heart.
Del. L. Scott Lingamfelter, R-Prince William, who sponsored the legislation, said it would merely embrace 4,000 years of history on marriage and show children that “traditional marriage is fundamental.”
I’m glad that the Virginia state legislature has state business so well in order that the legislators have the time to devote to such dire issues as this.
A recent study shows that abstincence-only sex ed did not reduce the incidence of teen sex. In fact, it seems to have increased it:
The study showed about 23 percent of ninth-grade girls, typically 13 to 14 years old, had sex before receiving abstinence education. After taking the course, 29 percent of the girls in the same group said they had had sex.
Boys in the tenth grade, about 14 to 15 years old, showed a more marked increase, from 24 percent to 39 percent, after receiving abstinence education.
Oh my goodness.
The PetsCell™ will allow pet owners to talk to their pets as well as allowing owners to request assistance should they become incapacitated and require help. In addition, and perhaps more valuable, pet owners will have a peace of mind that if their pet is lost and someone finds their pet wandering the streets, with a simple press of a button on the PetsCell™, the auto dial function will dial the owners [sic] home alerting the owner to retrieve their pet.
The first selling point (calling and talking to your pet) is vanity. Whatever. Katie’s been known to call and leave a message at home for the pets, knowing that the incoming message is played from the speaker as the machine is recording it.
The second selling point sounds about the same as devices you can already buy for yourself: a small device that straps to your wrist with a button you can push to call for help. But if you want to use this device for that purpose, don’t put the collar on your cat. If you fall and can’t get up, he’ll just sit across the room and stare at you.
The third selling point sounds really stupid. If I understand it, it’s this: if your pet gets loose and someone finds him, they can simply press the button on the collar and you’ll get an automated telephone call. I guess it’s too difficult for the finder to read the telephone number off the tag and call you himself or to call the vet’s number on the vaccination tag.
The device claims to use GPS. Here’s what I need: if my dog gets out of the yard, I need a web page that will show me his current location so I can go get him. It appears that this device does not (yet) offer this feature. Well, actually, the company does not yet offer the product at all. It appears that they haven’t yet released any products.
James Naughton has an article in the Guardian about how portable music and mobile telephones have contributed to the decline of public social space. Not an earth-shattering observation. But he makes one claim that bothers me:
It’s not clear when [public social space started to decline] started, but my guess is that technology – in the shape of the Sony Walkman – had a lot to do with it. As the Walkman de nos jours, the iPod is simply continuing what Sony started. But not even Sony could have single-handedly destroyed the notion of social space. The coup de grce was administered by another piece of technology: the mobile phone.
In the U.S. at least, the decline of public social space has been quite well documented. And portable music devices and cell phones are really rather small, recent developments in the bigger trend. The rise of the suburbs, fear of strangers, dependence on automobiles for transportation are major factors in this decline.