Monday, June 21, 2010

The Wisdom of Children

Over the weekend, my son and I are watching the US Open, and this (much condensed) conversation occurred:

Announcers: ...the personal problems of Tiger Woods...

Son: What problems does Tiger Woods have?

Me: Remember when Tiger had that car accident? He drove into his neighbor's tree? Well, he crashed because his wife was trying to kill him with a golf club as he drove away.

Son: Is she in jail?

Me: No, Tiger won't put her in jail, she's the mother of his children, and he deserved it anyway. She found out that Tiger had 18 girlfriends, and you're not supposed to have girlfriends when you have a wife.

Son: (in disgusted disbelief, naturally) Eighteen? Why would anyone have 18 girlfriends?

Me: Some men like to have a lot of girlfriends, and that's long as you aren't married. If you want to have a wife, you can't have girlfriends anymore. It's one or the other, you can't have it both ways.

(Long pause)

Son: Unless you keep the girlfriends secret.

The conversation continued as I attempted to disabuse him of the notion that secret girlfriends are ok when you're married, but I guess some concepts are just coded into male DNA.

I also read today about overmedication for acid reflux, which should surprise no one, especially me, who's been diagnosed with acid reflux and prescribed omeprazole as a result. I am, as a rule, skeptical of any medication I put into my body, so I've been taking it sparsely. Even though I eat smaller meals and drink less caffeine, I do still occasionally suffer heartburn over several days which requires a little help to knock out.

In spite of the fact that I've been prescribed one pill for every day of the year (30 pills, 12 refills, must be used by 01/01/2011), and that CVS calls me every month to remind me that I haven't refilled my prescription, and in spite of numerous other reflux-diagnosees insisting that I should take my pill every day, I resisted. Not because I have any medical knowledge, but because of the unintended consequences that often arise from medication, and how they are often just as bad - or worse - than the problems they were prescribed to fix.

So it was with great satisfaction that I read today that these medications, if taken regularly by people with no symptoms, actually caused heartburn when they tried to stop. Not to mention the increased incidence of infection, because gastric acid kills ingested bacteria, and less acid leads to...well, what do you think?

Perhaps I'll be dead someday because I refuse to take a medication the way in which it's prescribed. But I continue to believe that the less medication I take, the better, and I'll try just about any other solution first.

Finally, as a PSU fan, I feel I should have some comment on the expansion of the conference and the inevitable conference title game that will result. But what is there to say? All of the arguments that university presidents and athletic directors use to decry a playoff system - tradition, extra games that will distract players from their studies - have been blatantly ignored, once again, in another obvious money-grab. As fans of college football, we continue to be screwed by rich institutions who don't want to share postseason revenue with the NCAA (as any sanctioned playoff system would require.) The next time you read an article "debating the merits" of a football playoff, understand that it's pure bullshit, meant to distract you from the mega-rich digging even deeper into your pockets. There are no merits that matter here, just who's getting the money. (You might have noticed that I drew the same conclusions about global warming, so feel free to ignore me as a one-note horn.)

BTW - if there are any Big 12 fans out there that have an obsolete Huck the Fuskers t-shirt for sale, cheap, I'm totally looking to buy one.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Ban and Regulate

So it seems like BP has started to get the disastrous oil spill in the Gulf under control.

The natural, emotional, and ultimately irrational response to this oil spill is to ban off-shore drilling or at least, increase the regulations. Surely, we have to do something to prevent further disasters, right?

At first blush this sounds reasonable, but let's think through the consequences before reacting self-destructively. Each drop of oil that isn't drilled in America will have to be imported on an oil tanker. The chance of a tanker spilling is 10 times higher than the odds of a deepwater well failing. So while the BP disaster is fresh on our minds, it's still better than the combined ten tanker disasters we haven't yet suffered when we ban or restrict off-shore drilling.

The real problem with capping this well is that it's five-thousand feet below sea level, where the extreme pressure, temperature, and darkness create near-impossible conditions to attempt repairs. At two-to-three-hundred feet, this catastrophe would have been contained quickly, as human divers descended to that depth with repair equipment designed to much lower tolerances. But 85% of the coastline at that depth is protected by...environmental legislation! Believe me, BP would much rather build cheaper and safer oil rigs off the coastline, or in Alaska, than trying to drill 5000 ft below sea level, but our restrictions have forced them to find oil in harder-to-reach places. Along with legal resistance to building nuclear plants and natural gas pipelines, our insatiable demand for energy incents oil companies to take huge risks. If you were horrified by the BP oil spill, just wait and see what happens in the next few decades, as corporations expand their extreme energy operations.

The time when we could be picky about how we get our energy has already past. As a society, we must choose quickly whether we are going to drastically reduce our energy consumption, or drastically expand the ways in which we produce it. Since I doubt Americans would welcome an era of austerity accompanying forced energy conservation, we need to reduce regulations on energy production to save our environment, not expand them! More nuclear energy, more natural gas drilling, and expanded oil exploration in coastal areas will do more to prevent disasters like the Gulf spill than any legislation.

It's not as if additional regulations would have prevented the BP oil spill anyway. They used cheap parts, failed to acquire licenses, and then bribed the regulators with drugs and sex. Additional legal restrictions are just additional opportunities for corruption, and will not protect anyone but the lawmakers and lobbyists who pick at the bloated corpse of our government.

Sometime before 2050, solar power is going to become cheaper than oil, and I look forward to that time as much as any greenie (definitely more than the "environmentalists" trying to sabotage the solar panels in Mojave project.) But until that point, we need to do more to produce energy in the cheapest, safest way possible, and not cave to political, pseudo-environmental NIMBY bullshit. Short-term thinking and reactionary regulation have failed us before, let's not go down that same road again.