Byrd's Brain

Saturday, August 31
How much milk can a little girl drink? Quite a lot if you must know. My wife and I are trying to figure out how to wean our daughter off of her bottle. She wants milk when she is upset. She wants milk when she is tired. She wants milk when she wakes up. She wants milk before she goes down for her nap. She wants milk before bedtime. Yes. She does eat between milks, but this milk thing doesn't seem to have an end to it.

My daughter is almost two. Talk about being aware. She doesn't miss a trick. When she has heard a word -- like "sleep" -- a few times, it doesn't do my wife and I any good to wisper it. She'll hear it. She'll know that we are talking about putting her to bed. So with words like "sleep" we have tried to spell them. But she very quickly picks up on that too. She understands the spellings for some key "parental" type words (sleep, milk, nap etc.). So now for some words we are using the foreign language equivalents. Milk = M.I.L.K. = leche. But I am sure that in a very short time she will begin uderstanding the meanings of these words too. A really, handy thing abut her noticing everything is that she is good at helping us find things. She can always be counted on to know where the car keys are. And she always notices a pretty moon in the night sky.

Her awareness is a constant reminder that I need to live in the present moment. If I were always in the present moment I would be infinitely more concious of everything around me. Instead it is too easy to focus only on the task at hand. But this narrow focus. This need to finish one task so that I can get to the next. Leaves me unaware and unappreciative of the world around me. Did you see the full moon Laast week? I need to take more time to live in the present moment.

Friday, August 30
A few weeks ago I wrote about the FasTrak toll system that is used in the San Francisco Bay Area and how that system is going to be used to track the driving pattern of each commuter using the system. Now if you are Big Brother and want to track more drivers, how do you expand the system. You hit people in their pocketbook. The toll on the Golden Gate Bridge is going to $5. But if you have the FasTrak system the toll is only $4. Such a deal. Save a dollar and lose your privacy.

Thursday, August 29
"The word "imagination" doesn't get much respect. For many people, it connotes "make-believe," the province of children and artists. But I believe the imagination is the most important asset we all possess; it's the power to form mental pictures of things that don't exist yet. As such, it's what we use to shape our future.

That's why it's so disturbing to realize that the imagination is increasingly becoming a vestigial organ. It's being pummeled into dysfunction by the numbing onslaught of generic and nihilistic images that endlessly flood from the mass media. How can you generate your own images or ask your own questions if your mind's eye is swarming with dazzling yet inane creations crafted by news and entertainment companies that possess what amounts to sleek multimillion-dollar propaganda machines?

To get a sense of the growing devastation, wander around a grade school at recess. Kids' conversations will overflow with the regurgitation of stories that have been blast-furnaced into their sensitive psyches by movies, TV shows, and video games."

Rob Brenzy (discussing his book, The Televisionary Oracle)

I think that Brezny has something here. As a parent this concerns me. My toddler, who will be two in September, has already been exposed to more commercial messages, more media of all kinds and just more stimuli, in general, than I could possibly have had at that age. My two year old -- whose exposure to electronics we try to limit -- knows about televisions, stereos, remotes, cellphones, answering machines, videos, CDs, DVDs and computers. This constant sensory input can't be a good thing. It is no wonder that people talk about the increase in Attention Deficit Disorders among children. I would have a disorder too, if from the earliest days of my life, I was subjected to sensory bombardment. We need to let children use their imaginations. We need to make sure that children read books and play outdoors. If we aren't vigilant, we risk creating adults who have short attention spans and little, if any imagination.

Wednesday, August 28
Article 17 of the European Convention on Cybercrime (treaty No. 185 in the list)– provides as follows:

1. Each Party shall adopt, in respect of traffic data that is to be preserved under Article 16, such legislative and other measures as may be necessary to:
a. ensure that such expeditious preservation of traffic data is available regardless of whether one or more service providers were involved in the transmission of that communication; and
b. ensure the expeditious disclosure to the Party’s competent authority, or a person designated by that authority, of a sufficient amount of traffic data to enable the Party to identify the service providers and the path through which the communication was transmitted.

This section seems to provide that isps shall maintain records of an individuals' web traffic. Do you want everyone to know where you have gone? This treaty relates specifically to Europe and has not been adopted, but its provisions have been endorsed by the U.S.

Canada is proposing the adoption of similar language in a just released Lawful Access -- Consultation Document. The Canadian document goes one step further than the European treaty. The Canada proposal calls for the "the establishment of a national database" with personal information about all Canadian Internet users. The government would have the ISPs spy on its customers. How nice. It is a brave new world in which we find ourselves.

I must be missing something here. Don't each of us own our own personal information? It seems like common sense to me. Shouldn't we be able to control how that information is used? Have we automatically agreed to let anyone that we do business with take information about us and sell it? If my personal information is a commodity shouldn't I be the one who sells it? If someone else sells my information shouldn't I get a royalty or some cut of the profit?

Apparently I am missing something here. In California we are having a pitched battle over a consumer privacy bill (SB773). The banks, insurers and other financial institutions opposed to the bill have apparently bought off the Governor and the majority of the Legislature. They've donated $4.7 million to politicians opposed to the bill. (Yes, my dear, Democracy is for sale.)

The Bill's original intent was to provide that consumers would have to "opt in" to have their personal information shared with other companies. This meant that without a consumer's express consent CitiBank could not share personal account information with Traveller's Insurance (one of a multitude of companies that CitiGroup owns). The opponents say that having to get this consent from consumers would bring the economy to a standstill. I find that hard to believe. I can see that given the need to affirmatively consent to the sharing of information most consumers might not consent. I wouldn't consent. That is the real issue. The companies want this information because they profit from it. Opting in would cut them off from this information and their profits would decline. The world -- as you and I know it -- won't come to an end, but CitiCorp might make less money. God forbid.

The Bill has been riddled with some 200 amendments. Chief among these amendments is one that would not allow consumers to stop financial conglomerates (CitiGroup/GE etc.) from sharing private financial information with affiliates. This amendment alone guts the Bill. It deletes the "opt in" provision. Its sponsor California state Sen. Jackie Speier, is considering withdrawing the Bill rather than risk having it pass in its diluted form.

If my personal information is worth so much to these companies, then they should pay me for it. Maybe when I open a bank account I could get the bank to pay for the use of my personal information. I would open lots of accounts and always at the banks that paid me the most for the use of my name and information.

We are all commodities. We just need to begin marketing ourselves as such.

Can anyone really tell the difference? Palm falsely advertised that its m130 could support over 65,000 colors. The reality is that it can only support 58,000 colors. The true number is about 11% less than the company had touted. This is a clear cut case of false advertising. Palm illegally overstated the capabilities of the m130, but was anyone really harmed? A class action lawsuit has been filed. On behalf of the class, the suit is seeking refunds of the purchase price. This is a little extreme. Most purchasers probably never noticed the lack of 65,000 colors. If there is someone out there who needed the full advertised array of colors then they were harmed and should be made whole with a full refund at least. But I doubt that there are many m130 owners who fall into that group.

Tuesday, August 27
I see that netcommments is still down and may be a different company now. Time to look for another free service. So I've added an e-mail link to this page. It us under the blog links.

Have you ever worked somewhere where people who may disagree with you don't have the balls to tell you that to your face. Instead, they circulate rumors which they ascribe to you. Then these rumors circulate wildly and apparently are believed by everyone who has heard them. Then after they've spun around for some time someone comes to you and says, "Did you really say blah, blah, blah?" And of course, you never said anything even close to what is rumored. But at that point your denying ever having said "blah" seems to make no difference. The rumor has spread and people have believed it. So somehow you are at fault because people are saying that you said something that you never said. Well, if you haven't guessed by now, I work at a place like that.

I was just told that people who I may supervise in the future are in a panic because I said that (to quote the rumor) 'telecommuting was bad". Apparently based on these rumors there has been a flurry of telecommuting requests and the administration is overwhelmed. I can't recall saying anything in particular about telecommuting. In fact, I think that telecommuting is a good option to have at work. As a parent I myself have had to telecommute at times. Let me know what you think I should do. Finding a new job isn't an option at this point. Is there a way to beat the bastards at their own game?

Monday, August 26
My wife went grocery shopping today. She uses coupons and goes to a store where they are doubled. She didn't buy anything that we don't need. But she did buy a lot since we are stocking up for our new baby (due next month!). We don't expect to be getting out for much shopping after the baby is born. Anyway, my wife bought $172.89 worth of groceries, but because of coupons she only had to pay $61.28! She saved $112.52!! Unbelieveable. And she does this all the time. She's great at this coupon thing. It is a game for her.

Time seems to go by so much more quickly as we get older. The way that we experience and the way we perceive time change as we age. As kids we don't really plan ahead -- our parents plan for us. Our parents plan where and when we are going to school, for example. For the most part kids live in the moment.

(Of course there are the traveling and visiting relatives exceptions to this statement. When traveling in cars or on planes kids get bored and may repeatedly ask "when are we going to get there?" and, when visiting relatives they will complain. "Can't we go home now?" But generally young kids do not look forward or toward the time when something will end. And endings may often be disappointments because it may mean that the time for play has passed.)

Too, when kids are playing, they may want to prolong the time. As adults we have responsibilites and we do things that we otherwise might prefer not to do. Thus we often can't wait for things to end.

Adults spend time (more than children) doing things we may not want to do, such as work, chores or paying bills. While adults do these things that they may not enjoy they look forward to when that time will end. How often have we come into work on a Monday morning and heard someone wish aloud that it were Friday or on any given morning that someone wished it were 5 pm. These people are living in the future. These people hope that the time will pass swiftly and that the end of the day or the weekend can't arrive too soon. Adults spend much, if not most, of our time for others -- employers. And all too often, we want that time to end.

This living in the future rather than the present, changes our perception of time and leaves us with the impression that time is going faster -- and that the days are shorter.

We need to exorcize inertia from our notions of acceptable behavior.

Friday, August 23
"Mr Prez. what should we do about this forest fire thing? A lot of homes have burned." "Well. Uhm. Gee boys. It is the trees in the forest that start the fires. All those trees that burned could have been used for lumber. Let's cut the trees down. No trees. No more fires. More lumber." That is Bushie Jr., clearcut the forests, enrich the lumber companies and stop fires. It is all so simple.

In the not thinking clearly category: Candy company Cadbury thought it was funny when it ran an ad that compared a chocolate bar to Kashmir. Cadbury pulled the ad.

Thursday, August 22
National Security? Um. Excuse me. "Homeland Security". That phrase just makes me uncomfortable. "Homeland" has too much of a fascist 1984 type of sound to it. It doesn't have a natural ring to it. We traditionally have referred to "Domestic" politics or "National" security. Why did they have to coin a new phrase? I guess that Fatherland was already taken.

Besides. Whose "Homeland" are they protecting? Yours and mine? Not directly. Boys and girls we are just cannon fodder. If a few of us are lost in the "war on terrorism" that is okay. We are a sort of "collateral damage". If Bushie Jr. Inc. were really concerned with the health and safety of individual citizens then he would be taking actions that will actually protect us. One of those actions might include not antagonizing the terrorists and their adherents. But instead we have daily news about an impending attack on Iraq. Rhetoric like that can only serve to embolden our enemies. And keep us in our place. If we wanted to lessen anger towards the U.S. we would at least become less entangled in Middle East politics. Are we doing that?

As long as we need oil we will be enmeshed in Middle East politics. In order to maintain the safety of U.S. citizens it is obvious that we should cut down our dependance on oil. But Bush Inc isn't doing that. The U.S. is dependant as ever and the administration opposed increasing the fuel efficiency of cars. Quite clearly, the rank and file -- the proles -- aren't the concern of this administration. This administration's first priority is to protect big business. Big oil makes money with our fossil fuel dependence. That is what matters.
Think back to this administration's first big action after taking office. Bush pushed a large tax cut through Congress. That cut benefited the top 1% of tax filers. We are still reeling from its effects today. We have growing budget deficits. And this administration talks about making additional tax cuts -- such as cutting the estate tax or the capital gains tax. Those cuts will benefit the wealthy. The impact on the rest of us will be decreased government services.

Of course, if you oppose this administration's policies you are interfering with the war on terrorism and threatening homeland security. It is a nice neat little package that they have wrapped us in.

Wednesday, August 21
More Smoke and Mirrors. You'd think that with the emphasis on corporate responsibility and "corporate cleanliness" that sales of new corporate jets would have dived and that many used jets would be for sale. Nope. according to an article in the San Francisco Chronicle, it seems that executives don't want to stand in line at the airports. They are clearly better than the rest of us. Better than those of use who have shares in their companies.

Sustainable bison herding. What a concept. The Intertribal Bison Cooperative is a tribal organization that is committed to reestablishing buffalo herds on Indian lands in a manner that promotes cultural enhancement, spiritual revitalization, ecological restoration, and economic development. The Cooperative has 10,000 bison that are free range and not in feed lot and whose calves are not separated from cows at birth. The bison are treated like wildlife rather than a commodity. An interesting side note is that Ted Turner (yes that Ted Turner) is the nation's largest bison rancher. And no he is not a member of the ITBC.

Tuesday, August 20
Don't tell and they won't ask. That is the philosophy of Poppy Jr. and Co and it may be working. This administration says one thing publicly and then quietly does something else. In order to save money, the administration that touts its "patriotic" support for our men in uniform apparently issued a memo within the Department of Veterans Affairs that directed staff to not tell veterans that they are entitled to medical care. If you don't tell them about it maybe they won't ask.

An op-ed in the NYTimes points out that this is not the sort of thing you'd expect "from an administration that wraps itself so tightly in the flag — not, that is, unless you've been paying attention. For stories like this are popping up more and more often."

For instance, after the rescue of the miners in Pennsylvania, Mr. Bush made a point of congratulating them in person. The federal Mine Safety and Health Administration provided the crucial assistance. This wasn't mentioned, arguably because, although the Bush administration's energy plans call for major increases in coal mining, it also calls for cuts in mine safety.

We need to be paying attention. Changes are quietly happening behind the curtain that will significantly impact our lives.

You are only paranoid if they aren't really watching you. Now some customer service representatives will track your browsing on their site and IM you to help close a sale.

Now this is crazy scary. A total stranger grabs a baby from a stroller and tries to throw it over a fence?!

Saturday, August 17
Child Abductions. West Nile virus. What other ways will they find to keep us in fear?

Friday, August 16
Present Moment
Staying in the present moment is very hard these days. To truly live. To truly experience life we must be in the present moment. We can't be worried about tomorrow or thinking about the past. We must only experience the now. That is truly difficult these days. It is easy to be fearful. We are waiting for the next shoe to drop. Where will it drop? Who will it affect? During times like this being in the moment is most important. For if we allow ourselves to be filled with fear and worry then we run the risk of being sheep. We become immersed in our own tiny worlds. We turn inward. We become small minded. We stop questioning events. As sheep we are dangerously easy to manipulate. At times like these we need to turn outward. To extend our community. To do that, we must be in the present moment.

"Start Each Day With A Smile, It Might Be Your Last."

When I was a kid I had a sign on my door that said just that. I thought that it was true then, but when you are young, you feel invincible. I am older now and I know how true the saying really is. I am also a parent. I worry every day about my child's safety and happiness. For the most part it is the little things that I have to deal with. Safety rules for her are simple -- such as, "Don't stand on the table". But if she shoud fall off a table or something else, she could be hurt and, at least for the short run, our lives would change. You never know what will happen. And the "what" that will happen, happens when you don't expect it.

I have a friend at work who I thought had extended her vacation. She has been out for almost a month. I just talked to her today. She had come back from vacation --for a day. Then her 24 year old son tried to commit suicide. The family has been visiting him in intensive care for the last week. The son is at home now. This is one of those "whats". They didn't expect it. They couldn't have prepared for it. Now their lives are changed.

You can plan. You can prepare. But you never can really prepare.

Thursday, August 15
Every day, through my toddler, I am reminded to try to maintain a "Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind". In the beginner's mind there are infinite possibilities. One's mind should be empty and ready for all possibilities. A beginner's mind delights in the minutiae of life.

As adults we easily lose our ability to be open to all things. A toddler's mind is a beginner's mind. The simplest experiences are awe inspiring to a toddler. Playing peek a boo can be a delight. Doing anything right, or for the first time, or for the second time or for an innumerable number of times can be a delight. Emotions are pure joy with looks of awe, smiles and laughter or absolute sadness with tears, kicking and hitting. Every emotion is raw. Every emotion is real.

Have you heard about the Navy's new anti-submarine sonar ? It works great, unless you're a whale.

Tuesday, August 13
"What we learned most from this healing pole was how all things in nature are interconnected," said Demetrious Huggins, 19, who worked on the healing log (a totem pole that is being sent to N.Y.) and wants to study art in college. "And how one break in this connection diminishes us all."

Monday, August 12
Anybody interested in living in a hay-bale house? How about a house made of tires stuffed with dirt? They are very environmentally sound. Sustainable living is our future. Check out the trash homes.

Finally, we were able to get away. We went to Reno last Saturday and stayed for a night. Our second baby is due in a month. Vacation after the birth is not in the near picture. My mother-in-law agreed to watch our toddler for a night. She only agreed a week ago. So a week ago my wife and I sat in bed. Each at our own computers.

We searched hotels in Reno. The search for a room proved difficult since "Hot August Nights" ended yesterday. I found one hotel -- the Silver Legacy -- that had one room. The problem was that we had to reserve two nights. Yes. We went for a night and paid for two nights. I had hoped to get sympathy at the check-out. I told the woman that my wife was having contractions so we thought it better to return home early. No sympathy. She asked when the baby was due and gave me my receipt. I wanted the man at the counter. I thought that he might be sympathetic and refund one night's stay. Alas. No. we stayed at the Silver Legacy. The casino is all flash. Lights. Mirrors. Glass. Brass. Music is playing everywhere and slot machines are arrayed in such a way that you can never see from one end of the casino to the other. It is designed to make you walk and to play whatever machines you finally tire in front of. The Silver Legacy felt like a place designed to take our money. The room was fine, but a little weird. The theme of the hotel casino is the gold rush era. The room is supposed to reflect that wild west heritage. It was Victorian themed. It was flowery and red, with lacy glass light fixtures and padded headboards. It felt like a bordello.

We like Fitzgeralds more. It is older and a little run down. But friendly The them is the luck of the Irish. Everything is green. Leprechauns and such. Did I mention that, everything is green? The casino is a little too smoky, but it is very friendly to patrons. You can see from one end to the other and for the most part slots are organized in groups by the betting amount. Dollar slots are in groups. Quarter slots are in groups. Etc. We have stayed at Fitzgeralds in the past. The older walls are thick. Sound doesn't travel too far. The Silver Legacy is newer. In the Silver Legacy the walls are thin. You can hear sounds from every direction. In the hallway you can even hear toilets flushing. Lovely.

We also feel that we win more at Fitzgeralds then we do other places. That probably makes a difference.

We had a lot of fun. No we didn't come out ahead financially. But it was the break that we needed. Now we just have to finish the nursery. Then we'll be ready for the baby.

Friday, August 9
Remember: You are not paranoid if they are tracking you.

Toll booths can cause traffic congestion because they slow the traffic down. For daily commuters using toll booths has been made much more convenient in many parts of the country. Some areas are equipped with FasTrak devices. These devices are touted as the quick and convenient way to pay tolls. Cars with the transponder installed are able to drive through a booth without stopping. An antenna reads the transponder and debits a prepaid account accordingly. These have been very successful in the San Francisco Bay Area where they are used by more than 250,000 people.

Well, beginning next month the state will track the movements of the cars with the transponders. This will make it possible to provide real-time information about traffic worst congestion to drivers through their cell phones, over the airwaves and on the Internet. The transponders aggregate data will be used for transportation planners. Apparently, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission has gone to great lengths to protect privacy, including encrypting the serial number of each transponder as its location is transmitted. The MTC promises to keep this tracking data separate from FasTrak users identities and other information. The only way to keep using FasTrak and not be tracked is to put it in a mylar bag. Mylar prevents the antennas from receiving the signals. Putting the transponder in a bag kind of takes away some of its convenience.

But any function that is turned off can be turned on and any data that is encrypted can be decrypted. The MTC may care about privacy now, but who is to say that they will when there is a new commission? Or when they get a subpoena? Or when it is a question of national security?

This is just the beginning. In October, the Federal Communications Commission wants all cell phones equipped with locator technology to help emergency response teams find callers. This change will allow authorities to track where users go. They may even be able to track road speeds based on how long it takes the phone signal to go from point A to B. A company called Televoke even markets systems for tracking cars, laptops, pets and people.

If you are wondering why we need to go to war against Iraq, so am I. I guess that Bush junior feels compelled to finish what his Daddy didn't. Although there may be other reasons.

Tuesday, August 6
Oh What a Tangled Web We Weave.

A while back I rambled about an outrageous bill that has been proposed by Californian Democratic Congressman Howard Berman. The Berman bill would allow music company executives to legally hack the computers of people they suspected of getting music from peer to peer networks. It turns out that that law may have unintended international ramifications. On Tuesday, Melbourne's The Age ran a story on the proposed statute.

The journalist postulated that executives who used the U.S. law to tamper with someone's computer may violate Australian law. If that is the case, then "US executives may be unable to enter the country to give evidence in court cases, attend conferences, speak to government, customers or possibly to make movies because afflicted PC owners could seek to have them arrested for unauthorized computer trespass." This is just one country. What effect might this legislation have in relation to European privacy laws, which tend to be fairly strict? They are certainly stricter than U.S. privacy laws.Tehy Europeans may not be happy about legalized hacking. Hacking by its nature gives one access to information on computers. If we are lucky this will lead to a swift end for this bill.

Monday, August 5
Last night on the The Learning Channel I caught part of a show about engineering marvels. One of the marvels was a bridge in Europe. The bridge is the Oresund Fixed Link. It runs between Malmo in Sweden and Copenhagen in Denmark. This bridge, although an engineering marvel, also reflects a major cultural difference between the U.S. and the rest of the world. The real marvel, from an American's perspective, is that this bridge has a deck for car traffic and a deck for railway traffic. How radical an idea is that? A bridge for train travel. A new bridge at that. In the San Francisco Bay Area the Bay Bridge has tow deck for car travel. The lower deck originally carried trains. We have been limiting train access. In the rest of the world rail travel is expanding.

In the U.S. we have Amtrak. Amtrak is forced to limp along year by year. This year it was threatened with termination because it was deeply in debt and had no Congressionally approved budget. Every year there is something new. Politicians say that rail travel shouldn't be subsidized. But we subsidize other types of travel. The government builds roads. The government runs airports and the air traffic control system. Why should trains be any different? The invisible hand of the business lobby has been active again. The reasoning goes that if train travel were convenient and inexpensive we wouldn't have to use our cars to go everywhere. The auto lobby controls Congress and the President on rail and road issues. All too often issues that affect our daily lives are determined by short term economics. When economics are involved. When there is a profit to be all other externalities take a back seat.

Some members of Congress see the need for a national rail service, but they are in the distinct minority.

If a corporation can profit then environmental issues are downplayed. If a corporation can profit then the societal issues are downplayed -- even low income people are forced to buy cars. Or to travel from city to city without a car, they have to take a bus. A much less appealable mode of transportation than a train for any distance travel. In short, if a corporation can profit then our whole way of life can be altered to permit profit maximization.

Friday, August 2
The coup d'etats is proceeding well.

First Bush gets the election handed to him by the conservative members of the Supreme Court. Then in his guise of new "civility" he tries to push his domestic agenda -- tax cuts for the wealthy and less regulation on business. He was having a slow time of it until September 11th. That gave him the rubric he needed. National Security uber alles. Okay, first he declares that people can be detained without a hearing. Then he declares that military tribunals will try those in U.S. custody. Jury trials are too unpredictable. Last week the White house took a big leap forward with the justice Department TIPS program. What a great idea. Meter readers and postal workers spying on private citizens and reporting suspicious activity. Cool. What ever happened to needing a warrant for a search? This is reminiscent of the East Germans' Stasi. This TIPS program is very 1984. Let's expand it to everyone. That would be more efficient. We could even have children turn in their parents for subversive activities. At least for now, the backlash has slowed the implementation of this program. For now it is just a hotline for members of the public to use to report suspicious activity.

One set back and one step forward.

The White House now wants to put Congressional members to the patriotism test. The White House wants them to undergo lie detector testing, ostensibly to find out who leaked information -- that made the intelligence agencies look bad. Apparently the White House believes that no one can question its motives, actions or failures. What happened to our constitutional separation of powers. Checks and balances, so passe. The Constitution is being suspended for national security reasons. If Congress can be compelled to submit to lie detector testing then none of us is safe from the suspicious queries of this administration. Someday we may find ourselves saying, "Long live the President", instead of "Hail to the Chief".

What a difference one person can make.

Thursday, August 1
Okay so what do you think will get you? Will it be a virus? A heartattack? Bioterrorism? A nuclear bomb? A dirty bomb? A plain ole regular bomb? Or might it be cancer? We are all going to go one way or another. It is best to realize that and accept. It isn't good to focus on the possible means of our own deaths and those of people we love. Life is way too short to worry about things like that. But if you listen to the media it seems that that is all we should be worrying about. There are countless ways for each of us to check out. The media has a fascination with investigating, analyzing and discussing as many of these possibilities as there is time on the airwaves and print on newsprint.

Enough is enough. Yes we should take terrorist threats seriously. But there is only so much that each of us can do to protect ourselves. We could build a back yard bunker. We could choose to stay in our home in pleasant and safe suburbia. We could venture out of doors only when sealed in our personal bio hazard suit -- protected against all kinds of viruses and biological agents. We could insist that we will only work in highrise office buildings that are equipped with Execuchutes so that we can sail to the ground in safety if our building is on fire or hit by an airplane.

With the thousands of media outlets: radio stations, cable stations, newspapers, magazines.... and the pressures of 24 hour news they have to fill the time with something. And negative news or scary news gets our attention. this type of news warrants "investigation". It warrants "analysis". It is "hard" news reporting. The bottom line: It gets our attention and it sell advertisements. They want to scare us to keep us tuned in so that we will buy coke and doritos so that we'll feel better. And if those products don't help us to feel better because the news has really gotten to us maybe we can convince our doctors to prescribe one of those new "TV" drugs for our newly discovered illness.

What we really need to do is step back. Get away from all the hype and take the media in moderation. Or the media could begin to pay more attention to positive news stories about the better side of humanity. But that won't draw as large an audience.