Monday, January 31, 2011

Bracing for Snowmageddon, Springfield MO - 2011

The weather forecast has been increasing in amount of snow accumulation all day. This morning it was 3-4 inches or perhaps ice. Around noon it was 6-12 inches with possible ice as well. Now the estimate is 1/2-inch of ice, and then 13-17 inches of accumulated snow. This could be the worst blizzard in the Ozarks since 1912, says the National Weather Service.

I really doubt that people are prepared to deal with this much snow, though MoDOT says their trucks are all ready to go. Hopefully Springfield area businesses are also willing to be kind and generous to their employees! Be kind to your neighbors!

Update: NOAA has updated the forecast again. Probably no ice now...but tomorrow the snow accumulation possible is 9-13 inches. So...less of the 'mageddon at this point.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Facebook Is Even More Anti-Social Than You Think

I've said for quite some time that social-networking is not as 'social' as people would like to say it is. Yes, on occasion long-lost friends do find each other again. Not that they couldn't have otherwise, but Facebook does make that sort of thing a lot easier. And many people claim that if they didn't have something like Facebook...then they wouldn't have time to keep up with family and friends. Well, perhaps if you are that should either stop it...or perhaps you shouldn't keep up with them. If it isn't important enough to do without Facebook...then why is it important with it?

I personally think that people shrug that question off...because it makes them feel bad that perhaps they really don't care enough to keep up with friends or family otherwise. Or perhaps they like being busy with their hobbies or jobs more than they actually like their family or friends. E-spying on a person via a tailored newsfeed is also hardly a relationship, regardless.

A new study now is also saying that social-networks, like Facebook, reinforced a tendency to overestimate people's happiness, underestimate other's negative emotions, or not being able to correctly perceive a friend's emotional state. This let to individuals brooding over their own woes or poor comparisons to other's 'better' lives.

Facebook is "like being in a play. You make a character," one teenager tells MIT professor Sherry Turkle in her new book on technology, Alone Together. Turkle writes about the exhaustion felt by teenagers as they constantly tweak their Facebook profiles for maximum cool. She calls this "presentation anxiety," and suggests that the site's element of constant performance makes people feel alienated from themselves. (The book's broader theory is that technology, despite its promises of social connectivity, actually makes us lonelier by preventing true intimacy.)

Read the whole article at

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Beyond Black Mesa

Give to look at this short film based on the Half-Life 2 video game:

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Hope you enjoy!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

There seems to be an absence of a certain ornithological piece...

Something lighter for the evening...

Local Effects of Repealing the Affordable Care Act

When the effects of a bill, or the effects of a bill's repeal, are spoken about, they are often spoken in term of how it will affect us as a nation of people. Concerning the effects of repealing the Affordable Care Act (ACA), I've posted some of the long term and short term effects of its repeal. What can be discouraging, though, is that it seems to be easy to disconnect from such a huge, national statistic. More than 30-Million people will lose their insurance. It is easy then to say that there 300-Million people in the U.S....and "I don't know of anyone who will lose their insurance", even though we are talking about 10% of the population.

It is easier to grasp when you see what will happen in the Congressional District that you live in. I live in the Springfield, MO area, which is Rep. Billy Long's (Republican) district. Here are local effects, aside from the projected $1-Trillion in national debt over 10-years from direct and ancillary costs:

  • Allowing insurance companies to deny coverage to 116,000 to 302,000 individuals, including 9,000 to 40,000 children, with pre-existing conditions.

  • Rescinding consumer protections for 394,000 individuals who have health insurance through their
    employer or the market for private insurance.

  • Eliminating health care tax credits for up to 16,500 small businesses and 200,000 families.

  • Increasing prescription drug costs for 12,500 seniors who hit the Part D drug “donut hole” and
    denying new preventive care benefits to 119,000 seniors.

  • Increasing the costs of early retiree coverage for up to 9,600 early retirees.

  • Eliminating new health care coverage options for 2,600 uninsured young adults.

  • Increasing the number of people without health insurance by 70,000 individuals.

  • Increasing the costs to hospitals of providing uncompensated care by $90 million annually.

That is a huge, bitter pill for our area to swallow. In an area with so many low-income families in this area. And the Republicans have no plans to fill in the gaps. And where they say they will, they regurgitate ideas that the ACA already does. The ACA has already helped thousands of people in my area alone, allowing them to buy their own care, and taken substantial burden off of local resources. Repeal of the ACA would only burden all the people helped, but also the local hospitals and government. Additionally, repeal would only worsen the choices people have available, and not help them as Republicans suggest.

Data from the Committee on Energy and Commerce, January 2011.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Responsible Gun Owner Could Have Made Things Worse

Did a responsible gun owner make the shooting in Tucson, AZ worse? No, they did not. And why? Because they decided NOT to draw their weapon. Apparently at the time of the shooting there was a legal gun carrying person who approached the site of the shooting with his hand ready to draw. As it turned that time another person had already disarmed the shooter and was holding the shooter's weapon. Had this other gentleman decided to himself shoot at the person who was holding the gun at that moment, he would have killed an innocent man. I'm glad that he had the judgment not to draw his weapon.

This all begs the question about the public carrying firearms. I can see that those that hunt need a hunting weapon. Those that camp or hike where there are dangerous animals probably need a handgun with them for safety reasons. And for those that belong to a gun-enthusiast club, or have gun collection as a hobby...I really have little problem with these kinds of gun ownership. But weapons out in the general public? That reminds me of romanticized "old west" movies, or post-apocalyptic sort of settings in film or video games.

I think that times have dramatically changed from when the Bill of Rights was written. Amendment 2 of the Constitution states our right to:

"A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

Today our state or local militias have evolved into what is now collectively the National Guard, and their use of firearms is regulated, as is their existence as 'a militia'. People today do have the right to bear arms also, but not just whatever they want...and perhaps people need to understand that the first part of the 2nd Amendment is, "A well regulated...", as well as that this is one continuous thought...and not a multi-section list of rights. These Amendments were written in the understanding of the preamble, where the benefits help our society...our union:

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Thomas Jefferson stated:

"No free man shall ever be debarred the use of arms. The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government"

This seems to be often claimed as something that is in our rights as citizens of this country, but it isn't really what the Constitution says. This was more Jefferson's opinion at the time. And remember also that Jefferson did use the 'militia' against 'patriotic citizens' in an uprising, thus unfortunately refreshing the tree of liberty with the blood of patriots, as he later wrote. Regardless, is it reasonable to suggest that the general public should have any sort of arms they can obtain (grenades, missiles, machine-guns, etc.)?

In the end, this argument may be as simple as the statistics about gun violence. States with the most gun ownership have the worst amounts of gun violence, those with the least gun ownership have the least gun related violence. This should probably be more telling to people than perhaps most are willing to argue about.

Rachel Maddow has more to say on this issue:

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Tuesday, January 11, 2011

What happens if Republicans repeal 'ObamaCare'?

If the Republicans are successful in repealing the Affordable Care Act (ACA), a.k.a. 'ObamaCare', here is what you can look forward to:

  • $230-Billion gets added to the deficit

  • 32-Million previously uninsured Americans get insurance taken away

  • There will be no cost caps for coverage, so insurance costs can rise uncontrollably again like they had prior to the ACA

  • Insurance companies can drop you when you get sick, even if you are faithfully paying your premiums.

  • Coverage can be denied if you have pre-existing conditions (also meaning if you were dropped, then you can't get back on another are just SOL)

  • Annual and lifetime coverage limits will be reimposed

Is this really what the American public wants?

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Saturday, January 08, 2011

Let There Be Life in Arizona

I'm often critical of what the Republican party and its members do. So I wanted to give credit where a great amount of credit is due. Hats off to this official from the Illinois Republican party, Steven Daglas. He took it upon himself to read through all the Arizona state budget, the reports from the treasurer, the auditor, and the state budget office to determine ways to fund life-saving transplants for those affected by Arizona Governor Jan Brewer's real-life death panels. And he didn't find just one possibility. He found 26!

Visit his website to see what he came up with:

It is refreshing and encouraging to see someone not think about their party's position on that issue in the state of Arizona, but instead do what is right.

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Thursday, January 06, 2011

What the U.S. Should Do With Bicycles

Nice video of how bicycles are worked into city transportation in Copenhagen, Denmark. I used to bicycle to work all the time in the spring though autumn in Rochester, MN when I used to live there. Here in the Springfield, MO really are completely unsafe if you travel on a bicycle with automobiles as there are almost zero bike-lanes and motorists have no respect for cyclists. There are no connecting bike trails here to even get to a bike have to put your bike in a vehicle and drive to a trail. :-( It would be great to have what Copenhagen has in American cities.

Cycling Copenhagen, Through North American Eyes from Streetfilms on Vimeo.

New Driving Rules

Nearly every day after work I talk to a my friend Josh on the phone. And EVERY time I talk to him while driving at some point (or multiple points) he suddenly says something like, "whoa...hold on..." or "oh my goodness...wait a sec...", because some driver did something ridiculous and dangerous around him. I have the same things happen to me as well, EVERY time I drive in the Springfield/Ozarks area I see no less than 10 traffic violations per trip, and every 2-3 trips I'm in a near accident because of ridiculous drivers making dumb decisions.

So, today I'm proposing the 'New Driving Rules', because I'm positive that driving issues in the Ozarks are not just here (though...honestly this is one of the worst places I've ever driven). Some of these are just reiterations of existing traffic laws...while others are just unwritten rules of order and 'right of way'.

  1. Follow speed limits: The posted speed limits are set to manage traffic, safety, and throughput capacity on a road 99% of the time. The other 1% are the annoying times that a neighborhood petitioned their city to post a 30 MPH rule for a huge, mile-long, 4-lane street on their other side of their fenced backyard because they are afraid that their dog or kids may jump the fence and wander into traffic. But 99% the speed limit is for your safety and the safety of those driving around you. Follow them.

  2. Don't race to the next light: The posted speed limit, as I mentioned above, is partially to manage throughput on a road, and lights are timed to the posted limits. If you try to beat the lights, you put more vehicles than expected in an area and actually cause congestion. So, essentially, most of the time trying to beat lights makes the driving the road SLOWER than if you just follow the speed limits.

  3. Don't tailgate: People in the Ozarks tailgate constantly for whatever reason. I'm driving 67 MPH down Hwy 65, there is a someone driving behind me, and I can't see their bumper. Very unsafe, and I'm sure that someone not being able to stop or slow down in these kinds of circumstances is a cause of many accidents. Use the 3-second rule instead. Pick a point on the side of the road, like a sign, and when the person in front of you is passing that marker...count to 3 (one-thousands-one, etc.). If you pass that same marker in less than 3 seconds...then you are too close to the car in front of you. After a while of doing this you can pretty accurately judge how far behind someone you should be.

  4. Use turn signals: This really is the only indication to other drivers of the direction you intend to go. In most cases you inhibit traffic flow, especially at stops for other vehicles, if you do not indicate that you are planning on turning. Always use your turn signals, and use them at a reasonable distance from your turn...e.g. don't turn the signal on if your turn isn't for another couple streets or driveways...and don't only use it as you are actually turning. Use it appropriately.

  5. The turning lane: The middle lane in a street (designated by yellow lines on either side) is a turning lane for those making a left turn OFF of the road or street. It is NOT for people to merge into traffic with. DO NOT use this lane as a merging lane. I repeat...DO NOT use this as a merging lane! If you cannot make a left turn into your actual driving lane...then don't turn! If traffic is that congested...then turn right and find an alternate block path back to the street/road you need. Far too often do I need to turn left, but can't get into the turning lane because someone is driving 35 MPH in that lane trying to merge...making it unsafe for everyone around them and blocking traffic for those needing to get out of traffic to make that left turn.

  6. The stopping line: On most roads at a stop-light there is a line painted, which is where you are supposed to stop. In this area is seems that people usually stop past that line partially in the intersection, or 1-2 car lengths behind it. Just stop at the line. Many stop-sign intersections also have this line. If they don't...stop with the line that would be drawn at the sign-post.

  7. Green-light left turns: If you have a solid green light at a left turn, but there are cars coming from the other direction going straight...don't enter the intersection. Stop at the stop-line until it is safe for you to make the left-turn, and then pull out to turn. If you can't turn...don't pull into the intersection and then inevitably end up turning on a yellow or red light.

  8. Don't do wide-turns or cut-corners: Many times people do these wide and very lazy turns that don't require that the driver actually turn their steering wheel more than a quarter-turn. So, then they end up in the far lane, or have to drive some odd path to get around someone else's lane. Just make an appropriate turn and stay in your turn lane.

  9. Turn into the closest lane: If you are making a left or right turn, and there are multiple lanes....turn into the closest lane to you.

  10. Exclusive right-turn lanes: If you have one of those right turn lanes, usually blocked off by medians, that allow you to not have to stop (just potentially yield) while turning in many cases, if there is a lane after the turn....then keep driving! So many people will stop at the turn because the far lane has traffic in it...even though their continued turn lane has zero cars in it. Just keep going.

  11. Right of way: If there is a 4-way stop-sign and we both stop at pretty much the same time, the person to the right goes first.

  12. The "wave": If you are in your car and think you are being courteous by waving someone on, especially when you actually have the right-of-way...stop it. Most of the time the other driver can't see you in your car from glare on your windshield or from it being dark anyway. So just don't. Follow traffic laws and right-of-way.

  13. Wrong way in parking lots: Please don't drive down the wrong way in parking lots. It is just disruptive and annoying. And while I'm stating this...people...put your shopping carts in the receptacle for them...don't leave them where-ever in the parking lot.

  14. Shoulder turning: The shoulder of a road is NOT a turning lane. Please just slow down and make a turn correctly.

  15. No rolling stops: When coming to a stop sign, actually come to a complete stop. Then go when it is your turn. Merely slowing down is not a stop. And too often people will do rolling-stops (which are a traffic violation), and then go through the intersection out of turn. Annoying.

  16. No 'borrowed' stops: When I stop at an intersection...that is not your stop. You still have to make you own complete stop at the intersection. Too often have I seen cars use the stop the car in front of them made as their stop too. Crazy annoying and unsafe, especially if they aren't looking and they get in cross-traffic's way.

  17. Pedestrians have the right of way: Pedestrians ALWAYS have the right of way...even when they are jay-walking. So, if someone starts walking at the crosswalk...they get to go before you (the driver) does. They don't have to take turns with you, like other cars may have to.

  18. Use seat-belts: It is just safer for you, should you get in an accident.

  19. No texting!: Just don't.

UPDATE: Another friend of mine kindly asked what we were doing talking on the cell-phone in the first place while driving. I've seen the statistics on driving while on the phone, and I agree they don't look very good. I've seen people on cellphones change lanes without looking, run red-lights, and be distracted in other ways by their conversation. I know my friend mentioned in this article uses a hands-free earpiece...but still...I acknowledge that driving while on the phone is less safe. Perhaps it is one of those things I've just come to accept about driving (that cellphone use is permitted in the Ozarks). I admit I don't feel unsafe talking on the phone, just as if they were in the car having a conversation...but it doesn't surprise me that many areas make laws to prevent cellphone use while driving.

In the Ozarks it is mind-boggling to me that the police do not cite people for traffic violations all the time. Here the police seem to let ridiculous speeding occur without batting an eye while they are in with the traffic...but later will set up speed-traps. They don't seem to notice all the traffic violations that are common right around them as they are in traffic. I don't understand. I'm not asking them to cite everything they see...but there is VERY commonly gross disregard for traffic laws happening often, so why not cite those people since they are right there??!? In the Springfield/Ozarks area there is presently no shortage of violations that could massively surpass whatever ticket quota the police may have. I wish they would at least ticket the ridiculous traffic violations that are so very common.

Please follow these driving rules. It would make driving so much easier, pleasant, and safe for all of us.