Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Cruise Ship Disaster?

By now everybody who has access to any form of news media must be aware of the unfortunate accident involving the Costa Concordia off the coast of Italy this past weekend.  Any accident that leads to injury and/or loss of life is a bad accident, and there is no way to argue that.

What I must argue, however, is the media's latest bout of stories regarding how this accident will be a harm to the industry: people will be afraid to take cruises, the industry is under-policed, the companies take too many risks, etc., etc.  All of those stories, in my mind, are "missing the boat."

The major fact regarding this accident are that a 99%+ of the people aboard survived. They may not have had a "nice" time getting off the ship, confusion might have reigned, but they are alive and kicking. Considering what they had just been through, they should be thankful.  Of course there was confusion: this was a first time event for virtually everyone aboard.  I can't say that no one aboard had experience with this type of accident, but I can be pretty sure saying that almost nobody did. None of us know how we would react in such a situation, so we ought to refrain from excessive comment about ship employees seeming confused and passengers being pushy.

I have heard people say that the ship was lucky in that it was close to shore: that helped the survival rate.  But let's be real: it was the ship being too close to shore that caused the accident in the first place. Perhaps it was the ship's captain that put it in danger, perhaps something else happened.  Until we know exactly why the ship was there, we are just speculating. I would like to believe that the captain was the one responsible, because human error is easy to understand, if hard to accept.  Whatever happened, the captain's leadership qualities can be called into question (not necessarily blamed, yet.)  The ship's listing made evacuation problematic, so maybe the best decision the captain could have made would have been to abandon the ship sooner. That, however, is assuming he had all necessary information at hand.

If we limit ourselves to the human element in this accident, we will have to refrain  from calling it a major maritime disaster. If we look at the dollar side, it looms much larger.  We might consider it the reverse of the capsizing of the Ethan Allen on Lake George in 2005, where 21 out of 49 people perished. That accident involved a relatively small boat, but had a much much bigger human impact than did this accident involving the Costa Concordia.

As regards the cruise industry and its potential customers I can only say that the system isn't perfect, but it's pretty good.  A ship took a major hit and over 99% of its passengers and crew are alive to talk about it. When this happened to US Airways in the Hudson, we called it a miracle and praised its captain.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

A reaction to Nicholas D. Kristof''s January 12 column in the NY Times

I have now read another article regarding the alleged education level of our population and the impact upon it of the alleged quality of our teachers.  How is it that our national discussion of health has included the medical professions, the world of exercise, the quality and quantity of food we eat, the amount of time we sit and watch TV (or computer), etc. Yet when we talk about education, the discussion seems to begin and end with teachers and schools?
Perhaps it is time to start making a big push for the concept of education and intelligence itself.  Only if and when everybody starts taking a serious look at what has happened to our lifestyles in general can we start to perceive the negative influences we have promoted.
One fact that cannot be ignored is that our education and intelligence is a result of  the 24/7 life that we lead. To place the burden on the 6 or so hours a day we spend 180 days a year for a dozen years or so is to missthe boat entirely. We have to stop expecting schools to do everything, and start relying on them to do the things that cannot be done outside of school. those things we can do outside of school, we better start doing.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

On Sunday January 8, 2012, the Siena Saints played a basketball game at the Tumes Union Center in Albany, NY. Since the NY Giants playoff game was scheduled for the same time as the Saints tip-off, a plan was put in place to show the Giants game on the large screen in the arena. The thought was that people would not have to choose between their allegiances, and would be able to see both events simultaneously.
Alas, that did not happen...

Although the NCAA agreed, the local Fox channel agreed, and the teams playing on the court agreed, the Giants and the NFL did not agree. Evidently the football powerhouses had the law on their side, as our US copyright laws did not allow for the showing of the game in such circumstances on a screen larger than 55 inches. (See Title 17, Chapter 1, section 110: search it out. You'll find it.) I am not claiming that as the only "issue": I have no idea what the NFL/Giants actually said or claimed, other than not allowing the showing of the game in the situation.)

This just seems to me to be more evidence of the excessive power granted to professional sports. (If only the local people here had decided to show the game anyway- I would have loved to have watched the NFL take the hit it would have received for being the ogre.)

Putting the Giants on the big screen with Siena on the floor would have been a win-win for Siena, NCAA basketball, the Giants, and the NFL. It could also have been a good “nice guy” news story.
Then again. nice guys finish last.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Who matters now?

For the past week or so the Madison Square Garden network (MSG) and its affiliated channels has been taken of of our Time Warner cable system. As far as TV-watching goes, the presence or absence of MSG means little to me. I used to watch MSG back in the days when they carried major league baseball, but even then I was not a major watcher. MSG has been just one of the many channels that takes up space in order to separate the more relevant channels that I do watch.
As I read in the media, the main reason MSG is gone is a failure to negotiate a new contract with Time Warner. MSG wants more money, and TW says no. Simple, understandable. Except for one big item: MSG has been, and wants to be, paid on a per-subscriber basis. As a subscriber, some of my money goes to MSG. If I drop TW, then none of it goes to MSG, since I would not be a subscriber. I am not given any choice regarding MSG. My choice is TW or no TW. It seems almost like a tax: stay in the country and pay its taxes, move out and don't pay. In essence, the money TW gets from me that it uses, (or used) to pay MSG is actually a taxation without representation. Nobody is negotiating as my representative.

I know this can be seen as a stretch, but stop to consider how much money is funneled to pro sports and pro sports businesses via the media. Pro sports would not exist the way it is today if it had to depend on ticket-paying customers. I plan to soon try to identify how much of my cable bill goes to support sports channels. The YES network I am willing to support, as I am the Golf Channel. But I do not expect non-Yankee fans nor non-golfers to support my watching habits. Expecting others to underwrite my lifestyle amounts to a form of welfare-dependency.

This issue needs to be addressed. Hiding them in cable bills is deceptive at best. More later...

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

According to the Huffington Post:

The results of the caucus voting, however, do not directly determine which candidate will win the support of Iowa's voters for the presidential nomination. In fact, the caucuses are just first step in the process. Each caucus selects delegates to send to each of the 99 county conventions, which are held in March. At the county conventions, Democrats select delegates to district conventions where delegates to the state convention are chosen. Republicans bypass the district convention stage, choosing delegates to their state convention at the county conventions. Both party's state conventions are held in June. Only then, when state convention delegates cast their votes for delegates to the national party conventions, that Iowa's preferred presidential candidate's in each major party will be determined.
The Week says this:

Despite all the media attention, caucusgoers' presidential preferences are non-binding. The real business takes place after the presidential vote, when the caucusgoers who stick around pick delegates and platform proposals for their county GOP convention. The 99 county conventions will later select delegates to the four district conclaves, each of which chooses three national delegates and two more for the June 12 state GOP convention, where the remaining 13 uncommitted national delegates are finally selected. Three high-ranking Iowa GOP leaders are automatic delegates. It's these two dozen or so delegates who will vote for a nominee at the national GOP's summer convention in Florida.
So does th GOP have district conventions or not? Who is correct? Is all our news so dependant on whom we read or to whom we listen?

Monday, January 2, 2012

The Giants Win!! The Giants Win!!

[Disclaimer: most of this may seem to relate more to east-coasters than west-coasters. Please remember, however, that a lot of what east-coasters watch on TV is made by west-coasters.]

The Giants did pull off a victory last night to get them into the playoffs. Thankfully, although it was a night game, the next day is not a school day, so kids could watch without cutting into needed sleep time.

When it comes to night games, I have two issues.

My first issue is that there are far too many of them. All of our sports leagues need to keep replenishing their fan bases, which, to me, shows a need to cater to the young. I do remember the days when I would rush home from school so I could catch a World Series game. The memories of some of today's young will involve going to school groggy due to staying up late watching an overly-long advertisement-stretched game ending at midnight or after. The rest of today's young will have missed the game. Are either of these effects beneficial?

My second issue regarding night games has to do with the NFL and its night games. The vast majority of those night games occur on Sunday and Monday nights, at the beginning of the traditional work week. Many fans who watch these games will begin the work week tired. Why not have these night games at then end of the week? Why not Friday and Saturday?

I know that these two issues are not new, but, nonetheless, they are important. They might also be indicative of some of the unspoken thoughts behind the "occupiers". It might be an easy way to make a change that has a positive influence without immediately supporting the "bottom line".

Sunday, January 1, 2012

A "New" Year's Resolution

I would not like to count the number of times I began a new year with the intent of making some key change in my life: adopting a new hobby, stopping an old habit, etc. (Don't all New Year's Resolutions relate to either a "start" or a "stop"? Do they ever begin with the words "I resolve to continue...")

My intention this year is to write. I won't call it a New Year's Resolution because that is the death knell of change. Let's just call it an urge. For the past twenty years my wife and I have been collecting chapter titles for my great American novel. Out of the hundred and fifty or so we have identified, we remember about a dozen, and actually wrote down seven. Not a good track record for someone who wants to write.

Acknowledging the old adage about baby steps, or maybe it's about crawling before walking, I decided that actually writing my blog could be a powerful first step. So now I start. Again.

Who knows. Tonight the Giants play the Cowboys. Loser goes home, winner is in the playoffs. I might just have something to write about tomorrow.