Tuesday, May 17, 2011

CDC's Zombie Preparedness Guide Too Little Too Late

CDC warns to be ready for zombies
(or other disasters)
Good to see the CDC's PR people have a sense of humor, although I hope they attack disease more expeditiously than they did this story. The first season of AMC's "The Walking Dead" ended in December with the spectacular implosion of the fictitious CDC. The real CDC was caught flat footed, essentially telling the inquiring media, "We don't have a zombie plan, and we don't know what you're talking about." Missed opportunity. Fine. How about April Fool's Day four months later? Missed that, too, somehow.
Now, in May, comes the CDC's zombie plan, rolled into a legitimately useful natural disaster plan. Great idea, but it would have been fresher and more timely BEFORE tornado season hit. The CDC's move to leverage the zombie craze is somewhat zombie-like itself. Slow, but with a singular purpose.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Atlanta’s mass transit system, called MARTA, is using its Facebook page to dialogue with riders complaining about overcrowded buses resulting from service cuts. Riders are filing their complaints in real time while packed onto the buses.

One example:
I am on the 95 right now, bus number 2364, like 60 deep and we [are] still picking up people. Can we please do something about this route…?
And MARTA responds:
Hi Everyone. We have no money for employees to drive additional buses. Our Planners are painfully aware of the issues. We knew we were going to negatively impact some of our riders with these service cuts, and we TRIED to make the cuts hurt the fewest number of people. We are very sorry that you are crowded onto fewer buses that are running less often. But without additional funding, we can't run additional service.
This bleak response isn't just bad news for bus riders. If crowded buses make the trip too uncomfortable, and the complaints go viral, riders of choice will choose to drive, making your traffic worse.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

I like Neighborhood Watch groups, but sometimes they are blinded by fear, and perhaps a little boredom. A member recently forwarded a viral warning about a sinister new tactic for luring drivers into a trap.
"There is a gang initiation reported by the local police department that gangs are placing a car seat by the road...with a fake baby in it...waiting for a woman, of course, to stop and check on the baby. Note that the location of this car seat will usually be beside a wooded or grassy (field) area ...and the person - woman - will be dragged into the woods- beaten and raped- usually left for dead. DO NOT STOP. DIAL 9-1-1 AND REPORT WHAT YOU SAW!!!"
This had all the signs of a hoax. "Local police department" (which one?), an alleged first-person account (but from whom?), and an alleged threat to women (them being more vociferous consumers of scary viral emails – men prefer forwarded videos of "extreme walking" mishaps).

Another neighbor pointed out to the sender that Snopes.com had debunked the rumor months earlier, as well as other bogus "gang initiation" crimes such as gooey eggs thrown at windshields and ominous flashing headlights. That should have been the end of it. But the sender defensively asserted that "it" really happened in nearby Cobb County and that she is "told by many police officers not to rely on Snopes because, as you can see, they make mistakes."

What mistake? Snopes correctly pointed out that the verbatim email about the fake baby in the car seat was a new version of a bogus email circulated last year and that no law enforcement agency could verify its validity or that such a phenomenon was happening at all. Even if Snopes hadn't done the legwork, a little Googling would have shown multiple versions of the story with vague geographical references and no verifiable attribution. Besides, what a silly tactic. The "gang" is really so sure that a vulnerable woman will stop instead of a burly man?

In fact, the entire notion of "gang initiations" that target civilians is itself bogus. Gangs are criminal enterprises that make money through outlawed activities, namely drugs, gambling, and prostitution. They commit violence to maintain or expand their "turf." They have absolutely no incentive to attack civilians, because they know the result would be a merde storm rained down upon them. When a civilian is attacked (mugging, carjacking, convenience story robbery), it is likely a freelancing drug addict funding his habit, not an up-and-coming gangbanger.

The HBO series "The Wire" did an excellent job depicting the motivations of gang members. In five seasons, the only murder of an innocent bystander was part of a scheme to pin the murder on a rival criminal. It worked. Marlo's henchman shot the soda delivery woman, told the clerk to blame Omar, and indeed, Omar soon found himself in jail.

There are things to watch for in bedroom communities like ours. We have had real cases of fake meter checkers trolling for unlocked backdoors, hoping for a laptop or a fist full of jewelry. We have not had any fake babies in strollers, and I am confident we never will.

Friday, February 05, 2010

Daughter's Etiquette Class Teaches Dad a Thing or Two

My 10-year-old daughter completed her etiquette and "social graces" lessons at the "Dogwood Cotillion" yesterday.

The last of four one-and-a-quarter-hour classes, in which about 50 fifth grade boys and girls learn proper dress, manners, and basic dance moves, was "parent night."

I learned more than I expected, including:
  1. The bread plate goes on the left (remember BMW: bread, meal, water).
  2. Girls should not phone boys except for homework, an update on a previous invitation, or other specific purpose (no chit chat); corollary: Boys may call girls for any reason, just not between the hours of 10 p.m. and 8 a.m.
  3. Always hand write thank you notes.
My daughter says we wasted our money, since she already knows everything about manners. That's debatable, but I think I got my money's worth. Not only did I guarantee I won't use the wrong bread plate at Rotary next week, I got to dance with my daughter. I need to write Dogwood Cotillion a thank you note.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Pinewood Derby Introduces Dad, er... Son to Power Tools

When I was a Cub Scout, my dad and brothers built my Pinewood Derby car. I came in first in my pack but didn't get far at district. The fact that I didn't build the car didn't diminish my fond memories and appreciation for my family's support.

With the first of my two sons, James, now seven, I've learned the Pinewood Derby dynamic requires more parental leadership than ever. Instructional videos and websites encourage the use of band saws, Dremels, routers, and other power tools that no responsible dad would let his seven-year-old touch.

That said, James did have a role in choosing the theme, design, and color of his car for last weekend's Pinewood Derby in Dunwoody. The rest was on me, including borrowing a neighbor's Dremel and learning what makes a Pinewood Derby car fast: maximizing the weight and minimizing the friction on the axles. The research paid off, because James' car came in fifth out of 65 and won fastest among the Wolf Pack.

Needless to say, James was thrilled. Although I didn't let him handle the power tools, we did bond over his first Pinewood Derby car.

Next year, I'll teach him to use the Dremel.