Friday, 31 July 2009

Weight Discrimination in the Workplace

by Stephanie Davis, Esq., SPHR
EPS Senior Consultant • New York/Tri-State Area
sdavis@EPSpros.com


Employers can dictate how we perform our jobs, insist we look professional, and ban us from engaging in certain activities at work. How far into our personal lives are employers legally permitted to go? Can an employer tell us how much we should weigh? Can an employer give preferential treatment to thin employees? This newsletter explores the legal questions surrounding the issue of weight discrimination.[1]

I. The Backdrop
Statistics reflect that Americans are continuing to gain weight. According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, the past 20 years have brought a dramatic increase in obesity, which is typically defined by the medical community to mean greater than 30% body fat for women and more than 25% body fat for men.[2] “Morbid obesity” occurs when a person is 50-100% or 100 pounds above his or her ideal body weight or has more than 39% body fat.[3] To put it a different way, you are overweight if your Body Mass Index (BMI) exceeds 26, obese if it exceeds 30, and morbidly obese if it exceeds 40.[4] Medical problems commonly associated with obesity include diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, stroke, certain cancers, depression, breathing difficulties during sleep, and osteoarthritis.[5] Employers foresee (rightly or wrongly) and worry about corresponding increases in insurance premiums, absences, requests for accommodations, and costs of health care.

II. Weight Discrimination
A corollary to the increase in obesity rates has been an increase in weight discrimination. A 2008 study from Yale University found that weight discrimination occurs in employment settings and daily interpersonal relationships as often as race discrimination — the top charge filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) last year, and is reported by women about twice as often as men.[6] The Yale study further found that discrimination starts earlier for women who are overweight; discrimination becomes a more serious risk for men when their BMI reaches 35; for women, at BMI 27.[7] According to a study by the Obesity Action Coalition, weight discrimination increased by 66 percent between 1995 and 2005, from 7-12 percent of the general population.[8]

Some employers have attempted to address the problem by implementing proactive programs to encourage healthy employees. According to a report by The Conference Board,[9] more than 40% of U.S. companies have implemented wellness programs, which usually involve weight reduction programs of one sort or another.[10]

III. The Law
What protections do Americans have against weight discrimination in the workplace? May employers legitimately make employment decisions based on a person’s weight, assuming that maintaining a certain weight is not a bona fide occupational qualification? What responsibility do employers have to provide a workplace free of weight-based discrimination and harassment?

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964[11] prohibits discrimination in the workplace based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. Employees have successfully sued under Title VII when weight standards were applied differently to similarly situated protected classes (e.g. women and men), and where weight standards have an adverse impact on a protected class.[12]

The Rehabilitation Act of 1973[13] prohibits discrimination against otherwise qualified individuals with handicaps, solely on the basis of those handicaps, in any program which receives federal assistance. The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA)[14] extends the protection against disability discrimination to the private sector.

The ADA requires that employers provide a reasonable accommodation in the workplace to qualified individuals with a disability.[15] An individual with a disability under the ADA has: “(A) a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the major life activities of such individual; (B) a record of such an impairment; or (C) [is] regarded as having such an impairment.”[16] In other words, to enjoy the protections of the ADA, an employee must demonstrate that s/he has a current disability, had a disability in the past, or is regarded by an employer as having a disability.

A. Until The 2008 ADA Amendments, Obesity Was Generally NOT A Disability Covered By The ADA, While Morbid Obesity Was.
In the past, being overweight, or even obese, generally was not considered a disability. The ADA defines “disability” as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities. Even if an obese person had difficulty performing the normal daily functions of living and working, s/he was not considered disabled under the ADA unless the obesity “substantially limited” a major life activity.[17] The EEOC’s current ADA regulations clearly state that, absent “exceptional” circumstances, obesity does not meet the definition of a disability under the ADA.[18] Thus, before the ADA was amended in 2008, an obese individual needed to show that his or her obesity was the result of a physiological impairment in order to receive ADA protection.

The EEOC and courts have consistently included the more serious condition of “morbid obesity” within the definition of “disability” under the ADA. EEOC guidance documents clearly state that “morbid obesity” could be a protected disability as defined by the ADA,[19] and federal courts have included “morbid obesity” within the category of medical conditions that impair major life activities.[20]

B. The ADA Amendments Of 2008 Expand Coverage
On September 25, 2008, the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 (“ADAAA”) was enacted. The ADAAA expressly overturns several landmark Supreme Court decisions that narrowly interpreted the definition of “disability” and significantly expands the protections afforded to disabled individuals. Though we are awaiting EEOC guidance and case law interpreting the statute, the ADAAA, effective January 1, 2009, redefines disability so that it will likely include obesity-related health conditions and perhaps even obesity itself as a protected disability. On June 17, 2009, the EEOC voted to approve a proposed Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to conform its ADA regulations to the Amendments. The proposed Notice was then sent for comment by other federal agencies pursuant to Executive Order 12067 and for approval by the Office of Management and Budget. When this process is completed, the Commission will publish its Notice for Public Comment. It is likely that obesity will become a protected disability under the EEOC’s regulations, requiring employers to reasonably accommodate the condition.

C. Overweight Employees Will Continue To Successfully Make “Regarded as” ADA Claims
As explained above, the ADA protects employees and applicants from discrimination based not only on actual disabilities, but also on the employer’s perception that they are disabled. EEOC regulations outline three circumstances in which a person may make a claim that they are “regarded as” having an impairment under the ADA:

(A) Is regarded as having such an impairment means:

(1) Has a physical or mental impairment that does not substantially limit major life activities but is treated by a covered entity as constituting such limitation;

(2) Has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits major life activities only as a result of the attitudes of others toward such impairment; or

(3) Has none of the impairments defined in paragraph (h) (1) or (2) of this section but is treated by a covered entity as having a substantially limiting impairment.[21]

Accordingly, obese employees and applicants have sometimes been able to maintain claims that, although they were not actually disabled, they were regarded as being disabled by an employer—i.e. having an impairment, including morbid obesity, that limits major life activities—and are therefore entitled to ADA protection.[22]

Under the ADAAA, “regarded as” claims will be somewhat easier to make because an aggrieved party need not establish that the disability they are regarded as having is a qualified disability. In other words, complainants won’t need to show that their perceived disability substantially limits one or more major life activities. All that is required under the revised Act is a showing of discrimination because of an actual or perceived physical or mental impairment. Thus, regardless of whether being obese, or simply overweight, is considered an impairment under the law, if you are perceived as limited because of your weight, you might well be able to satisfy the law’s requirements and successfully establish discrimination. On the other hand, the ADAAA states that regarded as claims cannot be based on minor or transitory impairments; it is at least arguable that being overweight is minor and/or transitory. What’s more, the ADAAA states that employers are not required to provide reasonable accommodation to an individual who is regarded as being disabled, an issue about which the federal courts previously were split. Finally, if a weight requirement is directly related to the essential requirements of the job, then an employer may be able to successfully defend it.[23]

D. Expect Weight-Related Conditions To Be Increasingly Protected By The ADA
Also note that, whether or not an employee enjoys ADA protection because of his or her weight, that person may suffer from serious health conditions that would nonetheless bring them within the ADA. For example, as noted, obese people often suffer from health problems including diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, stroke, cancer, depression, and osteoarthritis.[24] Indeed, the EEOC has already noted in its guidance on the definition of disability under the ADA that “a person with obesity may have an underlying or resultant physiological disorder, such as hypertension or a thyroid disorder, [which] is an impairment.”[25] Expect such protections to be expanded under the EEOC’s interpretative guidance of the ADAAA.

E. State and Local Laws May Contain Additional Protections
As you consider issues of weight discrimination in your workplace, be sure to keep in mind the impact of state and local laws. Although Michigan[26] is the only state that has enacted a prohibition against weight discrimination, [27] some municipalities have enacted ordinances barring weight and personal appearance discrimination. Washington, DC prohibits discrimination based on personal appearance,[28] and ordinances passed in such cities as Santa Cruz and San Francisco bar weight discrimination.[29] Also note that the disability discrimination laws of some states may contain broader definitions of disability than the ADA and may already be interpreted to encompass obesity.[30]

IV. Best Practices for the Employer
In light of the above considerations, here are some practical tips for employers to consider:

Review existing procedures and policies on disability, discrimination, and complaint protocol;
Change/revise procedures as necessary to reflect recent changes to the law;
Provide managers with at least a basic understanding of the ADAAA and all relevant state and local laws;
Review job descriptions to make sure that any weight requirements are reasonably related to the essential requirements of the job;
Do not create “regarded as” disabled claims by making assumptions about what job functions overweight employees can and cannot accomplish;
Treat requests for accommodation from overweight individuals with delicacy and sensitivity, keeping in mind that the individual might well be entitled to ADA protection;
Develop internal policies that mandate the courteous treatment of all employees, regardless of personal appearance;
Educate all employees—especially managers—on what is inappropriate, unprofessional, or illegal conduct toward overweight employees;
Be flexible and prepared for more claims;
Look for guidance from the EEOC in August 2009; and,
Ensure that participation in proactive wellness programs is voluntary and private.

Thursday, 30 July 2009

A.W.A.D. - I'm not Sure of the Theme

with Anu Garg


stenotopic
PRONUNCIATION: (sten-uh-TOP-ik)
MEANING: adjective: Able to adapt only to a small range of environmental conditions

ETYMOLOGY: From Greek steno- (narrow, small) + topos (place). Opposite is eurytopic

USAGE: "Like any gathering of aged immigrants, this was one helluva stenotopic congregation." Haim Chertok; Beating Blindness, and Bureaucracy, in Beersheba; The Jerusalem Post (Israel); Feb 9, 1996.


menticide
PRONUNCIATION: (MEN-tuh-syd)
MEANING: noun: The systematic undermining of a person's beliefs, attitudes, and values

ETYMOLOGY: From Latin ment- (mind) + -cide (killing)

USAGE: "Our compliance with the dictates of Donor Agencies and environmentalists not to use DDT amounts to suicide or at least menticide of our people." Dr. Matthias Offoboche; Tackling Malaria the DDT Way; This Day (Lagos, Nigeria); Nov 29, 2005.


eurybathic
PRONUNCIATION: (yoor-uh-BATH-ik)
MEANING: adjective:: Capable of living in a wide range of depths in water

ETYMOLOGY: From Greek eury- (wide) + bathos (depth). The opposite is stenobathic

USAGE: "Eurybathic species are abundant over most of the depth range down to 600-700 m." Guido di Prisco and Eva Pisano; Fishes of Antarctica; Springer; 1998.


exogenous
PRONUNCIATION: (ek-SOJ-uh-nuhs)
MEANING: adjective: Originating from outside

ETYMOLOGY: From Greek exo- (outside) + -gen (relating to producing). Opposite is endogenous

USAGE: "The key to understanding this crisis -- the worst since the 1930s -- is to see that it was generated within the financial system itself. What we are witnessing is not the result of some exogenous shock that knocked things off balance." George Soros; A New Motor For the World Economy; The Bangkok Post (Thailand); Oct 18, 2008.

cacography
PRONUNCIATION: (kuh-KOG-ruh-fee)
MEANING: noun:
1. Bad handwriting
2. Incorrect spelling

ETYMOLOGY: From caco- (bad), from Greek kakos (bad) + -graphy (writing). Caco is ultimately from the Indo-European root kakka-/kaka- (to defecate) which also gave us poppycock, cacophony, and cucking stool. Opposites of today's word are calligraphy (beautiful handwriting) and orthography (correct spelling). A related word is cacology.

USAGE: "Before I could think of quitting, my boss enlightened me on the virtues of my handwriting, which was sheer cacography: 'Your writing is in direct competition with the Harappan script that still had the hope of being deciphered in the distant future.'" Vikram Kumar; Positions Very Vacant; The Hindustan Times (New Delhi, India); Apr 15, 2008.

"They [Nerds Inc.] have taken advantage of cacography in a novel way. ... They registered more than 90 of the most probable misspellings of popular Web addresses afforded by the QWERTY keyboard, for processing by typo.net." Thomas W. Holcomb Jr.; Nerds Inc. Turns Typos Into On-Line Advertising; The New York Times; Jun 2, 1997.

A.W.A.D. - Practical Words

with Anu Garg

Why do you learn new words? For some, it's the joy of discovering new and unusual specimens in the language and the stories behind them. For others, it's to improve their vocabulary, whether for college or work. Sometimes readers write to say, "I'll never have a chance to use these words!"

You will. As you can see from the usage examples taken from newspapers, magazines, and books -- words in AWAD are not from a museum. They're words that are in current use, though not very often.

Still, we take the point. What some are looking for are more practical words: words they can use in an office memo or in a term paper; words they are more likely to come across in a trade report or college exam. This week we'll offer you five such practical words. Go ahead, employ them, put them into practice.

equanimity
PRONUNCIATION: (ee-kwuh-NIM-i-tee, ek-wuh-)
MEANING: noun: Evenness of temper in all circumstances

ETYMOLOGY: From Latin aequanimitas, from aequus (equal, even) + animus (mind, spirit).

USAGE: "Even as a young netball star, Tharjini had no inflated opinion about herself nor did she ever take offence at the numerous teasing remarks or stares that her height drew. She met both celebrity status and silly remarks with equanimity." Thulasi Muttulingam; A Player With Many Highs in Her Life; The Sunday Times (Colombo, Sri Lanka); Jul 12, 2009.

assiduous
PRONUNCIATION: (uh-SIJ-oo-uhs)
MEANING: adjective: Constant; persistent; industrious

ETYMOLOGY: From Latin assiduus, from assidere (to attend to, to sit down to), from ad- (toward) + sedere (to sit). Ultimately from the Indo-European root sed- (to sit) that is also the source of sit, chair, saddle, assess, sediment, soot, cathedral, and tetrahedron.

USAGE: "The reason for his presence there [a Donald Duck statue in a temple garden] remains a mystery despite the author's most assiduous inquiries." Jeff Kingston; Chiang Mai: Thailand's beguiling Rose of the North; The Japan Times (Tokyo); Jun 28, 2009.

disinter
PRONUNCIATION: (dis-in-TUHR)
MEANING: verb tr.:
1. To remove from a grave
2. To bring to light

ETYMOLOGY: From Latin dis- (away, apart) + interrare (to bury), from in- (in) + terra (earth). Ultimately from the Indo-European root ters- (to dry) that is also the source of territory, terrace, turmeric, toast, and terra firma.A synonym of today's word is exhume, from Latin ex- (out) + humus (earth), which is from the Indo-European root dhghem- (earth) that also gave us human, homicide, homage, chameleon, chamomile, and Persian zamindar (landholder).

USAGE: "From underneath all this falsity, he needs to disinter what's true." Tessa Hadley; Windows on the World; The Guardian (London, UK); Jul 10, 2009.

expatiate
PRONUNCIATION: (ek-SPAY-shee-ayt)
MEANING: verb intr.
1. To speak or write at length
2. To move about freely

ETYMOLOGY: From Latin exspatiatus, past participle of exspatiari (to wander or digress), from ex- (out) + spatiari (to walk about), from spatium (space).

USAGE: "I spent part of the day of the debate watching a parade of talking heads expatiate endlessly on how dire was the need for Obama to go macho." Joe Klein; Hit Her Again! Time (New York); Oct 31, 2007.

Article: Something Has Hit Jupiter!

Professional and amateur astronomers around the world are turning their telescopes toward Jupiter to monitor the dark spot that appeared around July 18/19. Although astronomers are all in agreement that something did indeed hit Jupiter, there is growing debate about whether the object was a comet or a minor planet. This debate will probably not end soon, but will hopefully be determined as more observations become available.

Although some astronomers have noted that the spot indicates a single body hit the planet, Mike Wong, a UC Berkeley researcher currently on leave at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, points out that the complex shape of the spot indicates a cluster of objects struck the planet in the same general area.

A cluster of objects certainly is not unprecedented. It has long been known that the gravitational tidal forces surrounding the giant planet Jupiter are strong enough to shatter objects that come too close. The faint rings that surround the planet are believed to be dust from shattered objects. Crater chains exist on Jupiter's largest moons, which are believed to be the impacts of objects that broke up near the planet and then slammed into the unsuspecting moons. Of course, the best example was in 1993, when astronomers found comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 in orbit around Jupiter. It was quickly noted that about one year earlier, the comet had passed within the danger zone of Jupiter, which resulted in it breaking into 21 pieces. Each of these pieces then slammed into Jupiter during July 1994.

Observations made during the last few days are showing the new spot has become elongated, which is due to the fact that Jupiter's clouds circle the planet at different speeds, depending on the latitude. This elongating has now made the spot about the width of the Pacific Ocean.

The Gemini North telescope has become the latest large telescope on Mauna Kea (Hawaii) to image the comet. Since the images were obtained in the infrared range, the spot appears as the brightest feature on the planet, instead of the darkest feature, because of the residual heat from the impact.

Another large telescope has been called into service because of the dark spot. Back in May, the Hubble Space Telescope had new equipment installed during a space shuttle mission. Although the complex task of calibrating the new equipment is not yet complete, this event was deemed important enough to bring the Hubble back on line. The resulting image illustrates this article and it is the most detailed image yet. More Hubble images will be obtained in the coming weeks.

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

A.W.A.D. - Words to Describe Sculptures Formed By Nature

with Anu Garg
Last month, with my wife and daughter, I visited the famous sand dunes on the Oregon Coast, a few hours south of Seattle. The Oregon Coast on the Pacific Ocean has miles of pristine beaches, parts of which are dotted with sand dunes hundreds of feet high.

How are they formed? Over the years, boulders tumbling in the water turn into fine sand, and wind sculpts this sand into ever-changing dunes. Standing in that vast expanse of pure sand felt like being in a desert. Handling those grains of sand, I wondered if I were touching people who lived thousands of years ago.After rolling on a sand dune one brings home much sand, unintentionally. It's in the hair, ears, pockets, and elsewhere. And I brought something else -- today's word, which I discovered while learning about wind as a sculptor.

In this week's AWAD we'll see words to describe sculptures formed by nature.

yardang
PRONUNCIATION: (YAHR-dahng)
MEANING: noun: An elongated ridge formed by wind erosion, often resembling the keel of an upside down ship.

ETYMOLOGY: From Turkic yar (steep bank)

USAGE: "There are about 50 yardangs on Edwards [Air Force Base], with the largest about 15 feet high and 150 feet long. Base biologist Mark Hagan described them as looking like upside-down ship hulls."Jim Skeen; Unearthly Qualities Fossil Sand Dunes Provide Clues to Mars: Los Angeles Daily News; Dec 26, 2000

pingo
PRONUNCIATION: (PING-go)
MEANING: noun: A mound or hill of soil-covered ice in permafrost, pushed up by the pressure of water seeping in

ETYMOLOGY: From Inuit pinguq/pingu (small hill)

USAGE: "Out on the Arctic coastal plain below the northern foot of the Brooks, the land is dotted with pingoes a foot or two tall." Craig Medred; River Dance on the Hulahula; Anchorage Daily News (Alaska); Jul 31, 2005.

scree
PRONUNCIATION: (skree)
MEANING: noun: Rock debris at the base or the side of a mountain

ETYMOLOGY: From Old Norse skritha (landslide)

USAGE: "The trail is well-defined, although there were a few spots where we had to scrabble up rocks and slide down scree."Charlie Anderson; New Zealand's A Knock-out; Calgary Herald (Canada); Jun 6, 2009.

inselberg
PRONUNCIATION: (IN-suhl-burg, -zuhl-)
MEANING: noun: An isolated mountain or hill rising abruptly from its surrounding.In the US it's known as a monadnock. (Tr'Aislínge's note: there is a mountain in New Hampshire named Mount Monadnock. Pretty neat!)

ETYMOLOGY: From German Insel (island) + Berg (mountain), ultimately from the Indo-European root bhergh- (high) which is also the source of iceberg, belfry, borough, burg, burglar, bourgeois, fortify, and force.

USAGE: "Perhaps the most terrifying storm I have ever been through was on Malawi's Nyika Plateau, a huge inselberg that rises out of almost nowhere."Craig Dodds; Forecasts Say Batten Down the Hatches; Cape Times (Cape Town, South Africa); May 15, 2009.

karst
PRONUNCIATION: (karst)
MEANING: noun: An area of irregular limestone in which erosion has produced fissures, sinks, etc.

ETYMOLOGY: From German, after the Karst, a limestone plateau near Trieste, Slovenia

USAGE: "Traveling east into the wooded hills and finally to the elevated, rolling plain above the bluffs, the tour group enters the realm of karst, the ultimate geologic destination of this tour and primary scientific focus of the day's adventure."Joseph G. Maty; Magical Geological Tour is a Trip; St. Louis Post-Dispatch (Missouri); May 12, 1997.

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Fire Burning in Yellowstone National Park

A small fire was found burning in Yellowstone National Park Monday evening in the Lamar Valley, about 16 miles southwest of Cooke City.

The Druid Fire was started by a weekend lightning strike. So far, less than a half-acre has burned on the southwest slope of Druid Peak, located north of the Northeast Entrance Road.

Based on the current fire weather forecast, the Druid Fire is expected to grow slowly, but may produce a smoke plume visible from the road, according to Yellowstone National Park.

Yellowstone is a fire adapted ecosystem, and fire plays an important role in maintaining the health of this area's wildlife and vegetation, the park said in a press release. Firefighters are monitoring the fire and developing management strategies.

The Druid Fire is the fourth fire reported in Yellowstone National Park this summer. All of the fires have been caused by lightning. This is the first fire to grow beyond one-tenth of an acre in size. The fire danger in Yellowstone National Park is listed as moderate.

Arcus Clouds

I never get to see clouds like this!

"The underside of a weak shelf cloud, a low, horizontal wedge-shaped arcus cloud. Arcus clouds are associated with the leading edge of thunderstorm outflow, or occasionally with a cold front even in the absence of thunderstorms. Rising cloud motion often can be seen in the leading (outer) part of the shelf cloud, while the underside often appears turbulent and wind-torn."
I did not see that in Montana, so where do I need to travel to see this?

Article: Solar Eclipse Pits Superstition Against Science

... and science will win!
People scare me all the time. And ignorance of celestial events and reading all sorts of "stupidstition" into this is just completely ridiculous! But in this day and age, you would think that people would have gotten past all that. That scientists would have trained people to go out among the regular folks to dispell the ideas that eclipses will do damaging things - other than looking directly at the sun.

To wit:

"MUMBAI (AFP) – Indian astrologers are predicting violence and turmoil across the world as a result of this week's total solar eclipse, which the superstitious and religious view as a sign of potential doom. But astronomers, scientists and secularists are trying to play down claims of evil portent in connection with Wednesday's natural spectacle, when the moon will come between the Earth and the sun, completely obscuring the sun.

In Hindu mythology, the two demons Rahu and Ketu are said to "swallow" the sun during eclipses, snuffing out its life-giving light and causing food to become inedible and water undrinkable. Pregnant women are advised to stay indoors to prevent their babies developing birth defects, while prayers, fasting and ritual bathing, particularly in holy rivers, are encouraged.

Shivani Sachdev Gour, a gynaecologist at the Fortis Hospital in New Delhi, said a number of expectant mothers scheduled for caesarian deliveries on July 22 had asked to change the date. "This is a belief deeply rooted in Indian society. Couples are willing to do anything to ensure that the baby is not born on that day," Gour said.

Astrologers have predicted a rise in communal and regional violence in the days following the eclipse, particularly in India, China and other Southeast Asian nations where it can be seen on Wednesday morning. Mumbai astrologer Raj Kumar Sharma predicted "some sort of attack by (Kashmiri separatists) Jaish-e-Mohammad or Al-Qaeda on Indian soil" and a devastating natural disaster in Southeast Asia.

An Indian political leader could be killed, he said, and tension between the West and Iran is likely to increase, escalating into possible US military action after September 9, when fiery Saturn moves from Leo into Virgo. "The last 200 years, whenever Saturn has gone into Virgo there has been either a world war or a mini world war," he told AFP.

It is not just in India that some are uneasy about what will transpire because of the eclipse. In ancient China they were often associated with disasters, the death of an emperor or other dark events, and similar superstitions persist. "The probability for unrest or war to take place in years when a solar eclipse happens is 95 percent," announced an article that attracted a lot of hits on the popular Chinese web portal Baidu.com.

Sanal Edamaruku, president of the Indian Rationalist Association, dismissed such doomsday predictions. "Primarily, what we see with all these soothsayers and astrologers is that they're looking for opportunities to enhance their business with predictions of danger and calamity," he told AFP. "They have been very powerful in India but over the last decade they have been in systematic decline."

Astronomers and scientists are also working to educate the public about the eclipse. Travel firm Cox and Kings has chartered a Boeing 737-700 aircraft to give people the chance to see the eclipse from 41,000 feet (12,500 metres). Experts will be on board to explain it to passengers, some of whom have paid 79,000 rupees (1,600 dollars) for a "sun-side" seat on the three-hour flight from New Delhi.

The eclipse's shadow is expected to pass over the aircraft at 15 times the speed of sound (Mach 15), said Ajay Talwar, president of the SPACE Group of companies that promotes science and astronomy. "It's coming in the middle of the monsoon season. On the ground, there's a 40 percent chance of seeing it in India. On the aircraft you have almost a 90 percent chance of seeing the eclipse," he added.

Siva Prasad Tata, who runs the Astro Jyoti website, straddles the two worlds. "There's no need to get too alarmed about the eclipse, they are a natural phenomenon," the astrologer told AFP. But he added: "During the period of the eclipse, the opposite attracting forces are very, very powerful. From a spiritual point of view, this is a wonderful time to do any type of worship.

"It will bring about good results, much more than on an ordinary day."

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Why Do We Care: An Article About the President's Jeans

I could not believe my eyes when I read that American fashionistas criticised the President - you know, the leader of the free world - on his choice of jeans! Honestly, who cares? Just because you want to give up fashion for comfort, that is up to you. I know I would always go for comfort over looking fash, but I don't bug people who don't.

Let's look at the average fashionista. Can you say, "Shallow"? I can. Caring about what the guy running the country - a whole nation and one as big as this - is wearing is just a little ridiculous. Actually, it is completely ridiculous. Absurd. Buy a life if you can't get one. Check ebay! You never know. Someone may be selling theirs at a really good Buy It Now price.

So here it is:

"Obama On Mom Jeans: 'They're Comfortable'

Last week, when President Obama threw out the ceremonial first pitch at the All-Star Game in St. Louis, he was probably more concerned with getting the ball over the plate than with his choice of attire. Call it a rookie mistake. The president's baggy pants were mocked as being... brace yourselves... "mom jeans." Now, the leader of the free world has responded to his fashion critics.

In an interview on NBC's "Today Show" that mostly covered serious topics, President Obama acknowledged that he "looked a little frumpy" in his baggy jeans. In his defense, Mr. Obama said that he hates to shop and that "those jeans are comfortable." The President went on to say: "For people who want a president to look great in tight jeans, I'm sorry." No apology necessary, Mr. President. The thought of our Commander-In-Chief wearing skinny jeans is a terrifying prospect.

The interview, which in our unofficial estimation marks the first time a sitting U.S. president apologized for not wearing tighter denim, sparked renewed interest in the infamous jeans. Searches surged on "obama's mom jeans" and "obama wears mom jeans." We even noticed a few queries on "what kind of jeans does obama wear?". Perhaps some brave souls are looking to copy the President's devil-may-care look. If it'll help stop the skinny-jeans menace, we're all for it."

Unbelievable...

July has Nearly Gone & There's a Million Thigs Left to Say!

When did my life get taken over so much that I cannot find time to post anything at all on my blog? I'm pathetic! I'm also going to the gym and now have a small kitten who as of last night, is running loose about the house.

Last wire has t0 be disaster on a grand level... it's a long story, although short from my standpoint. Once I get the details I can share them. At the moment, there is nothing for me to add...

Guess it is time to get up for work anyway! I've been dying to blog especially about this most magical time of the year - the July-August dearth of traffic! I came back from vacation and driving home from work I realised it was quite a bit emptier on the roads than just Monday-blues traffic. It really was quite deserted. And that is when I realised that the vacation season had snuck up on us all too fast! A freaky Monday does not vacation season make. But Tuesday and Wednesday followed suit. Even at 1700 or 1800, it was quite smooth and fast-moving, with a lot more space between vehicles.

I love the July-August vacation time of year!

Saturday, 11 July 2009

Montana Sunset

It never looks like this. Never.

Day One of Montana

It's been almost two weeks since Day One in Montana, but when I look at the images I took, all 354 of them, it all comes flooding back. People always wonder why I take so many images - two reasons: I love capturing great things and so I can remember things. I have a memory like a sieve, so having images makes it so much easier.

I was up around 0545, but I probably wasn't completely adjusted to Mountain Time. I sat there and processed the previous day's images from the trip out. I checked my e-mails, played with Orion and Nova, and did other computer things. The light of the not yet rising sun was lovely, and the sun rises earlier and later... which sounds weird. The sun rose about ten minutes earlier than here (around 0535) but nestled in the mountains, it did not become visible until quite about later - around 0615. But the way it slowly lit up the mountains opposite the house was amazing.

David and Donna got up around 0700 and we had a great breakfast of Almond Amaretto pancakes. (They were so good I bought three canisters of the mix and Ray and I had some this morning. He enjoyed them, too.) We got ready and drove out to the Lewis & Clark Caverns.

Oddly enough, everything is named after Lewis & Clark and while I don't doubt that they were excellent explorers, they were never in the caverns and did not discover them. It was a guy named D.A. Morrison who found them and took people on tours in 1895 (an auspicious year). The government shut down his efforts, but he broke the lock off the gates that were there and replaced it with his own for years. Entreprenuerism at its best.

The trip began with seeing a couple of the antelope that abound in the region. I love it. I never see anything but the ubiquitous North American deer that we've displaced.

Driving through western Montana is vastly different than driving anywhere in New Jersey. That includes Sussex County and southern Jersey. I won't bore you with cows and horses, as I need not go far to see either. But antelope, eagles - not exactly a common sighting around these parts. And the landscape along was fascinating. Rolling hills, wide open plains and the incredible visage of mountains. The passes were sheer and a little scary, considering the biggest pass I'd ever been through was the Delaware Water Gap. But gorgeous. So pretty and so alive!

The eagle is a golden head eagle (I think that's what Donna said - she's the bird expert). It just sat there, surveying the plains and looking majestic.

David and Donna live in the Big Belt Mountains, but we drove through enough ranges that I couldn't name them all. It took a little over 90 minutes to get to the caverns, which were closer to Bozeman. We seemed to be driving up when we got to the turn off for the caverns, and we definitely were quite high. Where their house is just under 4,000 feet above sea level, the starting point of the caverns was:

Not bad, just a mere 5,309 feet higher than the ocean. I was happy that my house is 300 feet above sea level, but how paltry that is compared to this.

We bought our tickets to the 1430 tour of the caverns and wandered to the gift shop for me to get gifts and goodies and I grabbed a quick bag of Chex Mix to wolf down along with my water. Water bottles were not permitted in the caverns (that was a little surprising - but apparently people are disappointing in their unwavering dedication to screwing up the planet, so now nothing is permitted except yourself and your camera are allowed in). I also was smart enough to use the loo - not the best ones I've been in, but usable - before embarking on a two-hour trek through a mountain where there'd be no stopping for a bathroom break.

I also brought my sweater along, and while I wondered why I bothered for a long time, I ended up being quite happy that I had it.

We had to start with a very steep uphill walk - try climb - to access the opening to the cave. I started right out at a brisk walk and was panting in no time (while I don't doubt that the elevation had its role in that somewhere, the main issue was my lack of movement in my day-to-day life). I was sweating and my thighs were burning with the effort from the incline. I would not sit down, however, and any pauses were brief; my mindset is to get it over with and rest prior to going inside. Fortunately, the tours are designed so that the group goes together and the guide waits for everyone to catch up at his or her own pace.

Good thing...

By the time we'd reached the opening, we were at approximately 5,600 feet in elevation. I stood by the view area to have my picture taken with the scenery, and here I am, with the Jefferson River wending its way through the valley and 50 miles of the Lewis & Clark trail visible. Gorgeous!

The cavern entrance was a tall cleft in the mountain, and there were about 30 of us in the group. Some small kids were afraid of the dark cave, but most of us couldn't wait to get inside where we'd be out of the sun. I was soaking wet - I wanted in right away, besides being eager to see the cavern.

We were told that cameras were okay but certain sections did not allow flash photography. While my old camera could never have handled this darkness without the flash, my new camera did an amazing job with the poor lighting. It really was quite dark even with the lights put in by the state. Not that it should be lit with Klieg lights, but it was something amazing that my camera could handle this.

The stalactites and stalagmites were... what word in this or any other language do this justice? There isn't one. Unbelievable. Incredible. Magnifique. Wow! I don't know. The word I want isn't there. All of the above apply and more. You'll see what I mean, but even so - images are nothing at all like seeing the real thing.

They form at a rate of 1 cubic inch every 30 years. You can just see them building up/down. If you have a lot of time on your hands, anyway... it was damp, cool and dark, but we were all still sweating like mad, so no one was reaching for warmer clothing. I was still wiping my forehead with sweat, but I wasn't overheated from the caverns - yet.
The rock is very smooth and worn looking. It feels like metal, though, not rock. And there were strange worn down areas - it turns out that the acidity in people's hands deteriorate the stactites and stagmites and it looks like this. I never would have guessed. We'd asked about it while looking at some of the features in the first open area. (If I touched it, you'd see it melt!) We were surprised that just touching it was so damaging, especially since it does feel so hard. I only found that out when I put my hands out for balance.

There were formations that looked like ice cream cones, cascading fountains, towers, spirals... you name it. Incredible. Amazing. Awesome (in the real sense of the word, not just the AWWWWW-sum that everyone uses these days). Mind-boggling. Phenominal! Most had a funny, milky look and some looked rusted. There was water dripping from many but to form, water is a huge part of the equation. The formations were strange and amazing.

We climbed, crawled, slid (kind of) and bent double to work our way up to 6,000 feet above sea level, then end up lower than 1,000 feet above sea level, then end up outside around 250 feet lower than we began entering the cavern. Coming out was it's own experience. There are two doors. One to get through first, then close tightly. Then the second one leading outside opens. The reason for this? Both doors open creates a wind tunnel - with 40 miles an hour zephyrs! Good gods. Let's hear it for those doors. Just as well... I had my sweater on at that point.

Images:
This was the first open "room" we entered. And this is - to me - the big ice cream cone, complete with a cherry on top. I loved it. It just sat there, piling up its one cubic inch in over half my life patiently. It is hard to think in terms of decades for one inch of anything to happen.

Pretty amazing, isn't it? There were all different kinds of formations, with all kinds of different names, the half of which I can't recall. This is where tours can be disappointing... I can't write stuff down whilst crawling through the caves; I'd have loved to have done so... Sorry, folks. I do remember that popcorn was one of them.

This looks really strange - the top part looks normal, but the base looks kind of "soft" and smooth. They are all smooth, but this looks very obviously smooth. There was also a section called the Beaver Slide which looked really smooth. And to get through it? You have to sit down at the top of the slide (for me a feat in itself) and then work your way to the bottom. This without clocking one's head on some of the outrageously low outcroppings of rock. Even better...? That slide is not as slick as one would think. I had to push myself down that freezing cold rock with my behind in denim making sounds that any society would find at the very least inappropriate. Slide, my ass!
This was from the final cavern we were in (the images are not in order, due to a "feature" in Blogger that won't allow me to move images around as I want. As I used to. So the images that are larger than the field I have to work in can't get past the long images following - such as the next one) and the colour is something, isn't it? This was taken without the flash. The red light is what the state used.
A very sweet pair of friends who were there visiting from Billings: Brian Alvarez and Sarah Elizabeth Johnson.
This is the first rusty cascade we saw - it was ruddy and gorgeous and so contrasted from the other rocks that mostly had that sort of washed out look. This is also the segment of the tour where the guide showed us just how truly dark it really is in the bowels of a mountain. She lit a candle and turned out the dull yellow lights installed by the state to show what the original stone cutters and adventures saw. Then she asked us if we'd like to see how dark it really gets in there. We all cheered and she blew the light out.

Holy cow. I could not see my hands in front of my face. It is eerie. Not that anyone had any expectation of seeing a shred of light... and yet, you cannot help it. No matter how dark I try to make my bedroom, it isn't. And it won't be. This... this was the true meaning of blind. And in just that few moments, I could hear more than usual - senses compensating. Eerie...

This is one of the rusty looking cascades of rock, although much lighter than the first. Isn't that neat? I love this.

When we came out of the caves, it was cloudy and thundering. Thunder there sounds nothing like thunder here. It booms faintly from a distance and reverberates around the mountains and fades away like a drummer moving off into the distance. It was so different. And the visibility gives storms a whole new aspect - it was really staggering to see the storm front that was miles away moving over the mountains.

I can't get that image down this far, I think... but I will try. It's really great. [Oh, look at that! I got it here! Yahoo!]

This is the point where we were 1 mile over the sea level. Wow. Kinda neat, huh?

The amazing sunset we saw on the way home will be in the next post.

Saturday Six - Episode 274

Hope you’re having a great weekend! I tried to make this week’s set of questions pretty simple, but it might not be quite as simple when you start looking around your pantry for the answers! Good luck!

Thanks for stopping by and for playing this week.

First to play last week: NikkiD of Memes By Me. Congratulations!

(According to the rules, “First to Play” requires you to be the first to include the link to the specific entry in which you answered the questions, not just the general link to your blog.)

Here are this week’s “Saturday Six” questions. Either answer the questions in a comment here, or put the answers in an entry on your journal…but either way, leave a link to your journal so that everyone else can visit! To be counted as “first to play,” you must be the first player to either answer the questions in a comment or to provide a complete link to the specific entry in your journal in which you answer the questions. A link to your journal in general cannot count. Enjoy!

1. You have a craving for something sweet: what food is most likely to come to mind? I hate to say it, but Smarties. I love Smarties. And what's worse is they do have flavours and I don't like the orange ones.

2. You’re craving something salty: what food is most likely to come to mind? Mmmmm... let's see. Doritos, pretzels, Chex Mix munchies... what doesn't come to mind? I happen to enjoy salty foods. Oddly enough, the only food I add salt to is scrambled eggs. That's it.

3. Which kind of taste do you prefer: sour or bitter? Oh, give me sour anytime. I was always in trouble with the orthodontist for sucking on lemons. I love sour, but I dislike bitter intensely. I don't drink alcohol for exactly that reason. I hate the taste and to me, it is all bitter.

4. Of these flavor types: sweet, salty, bitter or sour, which do you have the most of in your home right now? Salty, I guess. I try to keep sweets out of here. I don't like bitter things, so there is nothing in here that falls into that category. So it has to be salty.

5. Considering your answers to the first two questions, which one have you most recently eaten? We had Chinese food - we went to a real restaurant, very good - but what flavour was it...? Shrimp with cashews... I don't know what it was. It definitely wasn't bitter, and not sour. I suppose it was a combination of sweet and salty. Whatever it was, it was quite delicious.

6. Take the quiz: What Taste Are You? Well, let's find out.

1.Are you popular?
Yes
Only with certain people

2.Do you make sweet things sweeter?
Yes
Probably not

3.Are you highly opinionated?
Yes
No

4.Are you an acquired taste?
Yes
No

5.Are you more likely to eat food that's healthy or indulgent?
Healthy
Indulgent

You Are Bitter
You aren't bitter at the world, even though you have a strong personality. Instead, you are sophisticated and cultured. You appreciate acquired tastes.

You are very powerful. You have the ability to change a room's energy. While some may find you disagreeable, your points of view are intelligent and interesting.

Friday, 10 July 2009

A.W.A.D. - Words With Three Letters in Sequence

with Anu Garg

I've been alerted to an event that will take place later this week, something that happens once and only once over the course of history. Shortly after noon on July 8, comes the moment that can be called 12:34:56 7/8/9. To mark this momentous event, this week we'll feature words that have three consecutive letters in order, something that doesn't happen very often either (there are hundreds of everyday words, but we are talking here about unusual and interesting words).

It's not exactly true that this sequence of time/date happens only once. If you follow the day/month/year convention, you can observe the same sequence next month, on August 7. And even though it appears to be a rare occurrence, such interesting patterns aren't that unusual.

Consider these from the past:
01:23:45 6/7/89
12:34.56 7/8/90
01:02:03 04/05/06

In a couple of years we'll have 11:11:11 11/11/11. What other unusual patterns can you think of that are in the near future?

defenestrate
PRONUNCIATION: (dee-FEN-uh-strayt)
MEANING: verb tr.: To throw someone or something out of a window

ETYMOLOGY: From Latin de- (out of) + fenestra (window)

NOTES: There have been many defenestrations over the course of history, but the most famous, and the one that inspired the word defenestration, was the Defenestration of Prague on May 23, 1618 . Two imperial regents and their secretary were thrown out of a window of the Prague Castle in a fight over religion. The men landed on a dung heap and survived. The Defenestration of Prague was a prelude to the Thirty Years' War.

See a Lego sculpture of the Defenestration of Prague. Also, check out the defenestration of various articles of furniture in this unique San Francisco sculpture.

USAGE: "When someone in a Joe Lansdale novel is defenestrated, you feel like shaking the glass shards out of your lap." Jeff Salamon; The Further Adventures of Hap and Leonard; The Austin American-Statesman (Texas); Jul 4, 2009.

limnology
PRONUNCIATION: (lim-NOL-uh-jee)
MEANING: noun: The study of bodies of fresh water, such as lakes and ponds

ETYMOLOGY: From Greek limne (lake) + -logy (study). Limnophilous, the word to describe an organism living in lakes, pools, etc., has four consecutive letters from the alphabet.

USAGE: "Retired professor and head of the department of limnology, Dr VJ Druve, pointed out that the state is abundant in water resources with high potential for inland fish production." PJ Joychen; Udaipur Fisheries College Crying For Attention; The Times of India (New Delhi); Jun 16, 2008.

panoply
PRONUNCIATION: (PAN-uh-plee)
MEANING: noun:
1. A wide-ranging array of resources
2. A full suit of armor
3. A protective covering
4. A ceremonial attire or paraphernalia

ETYMOLOGY: From Greek panoplia (a complete suit of armor), from pan (all) + hopla (arms, armor), plural of hoplon (weapon).

USAGE: "Ask one of those corporate bosses in receipt of a fat bonus why they need an incentive to do their job to the best of their ability when workers ranging from surgeons to school caretakers do not, and they are usually at a loss for a coherent explanation. The panoply of bonuses and awards has simply become the norm." Julia Finch; Bonus Scam Admitted At Last; The Guardian (London, UK); Jun 9, 2009.

somnolent
PRONUNCIATION: (SOM-nuh-lent)
MEANING: adjective:
1. Sleepy; drowsy
2. Sleep-inducing

ETYMOLOGY: From Latin somnus (sleep). Ultimately from the Indo-European root swep- (to sleep) that is also the source of insomnia, hypnosis, soporific (inducing sleep), and somnambulate (to walk in sleep). Somnopathy, a variant of somnipathy, the word for a sleep disorder, has four consecutive letters from the alphabet.

USAGE: "It is encouraging to see such curiosity from the traditionally somnolent panel." The House Eyes the Swamp; The New York Times; Jul 2, 2009.

Sturm und Drang
PRONUNCIATION: (SHTOORM oont DRANG)
MEANING: noun: Turmoil; upheaval

ETYMOLOGY: From German Sturm und Drang (translated as: storm and stress, literally: storm and urge/yearning), title of the 1776 play about the American Revolution, by dramatist Friedrich Maximilian von Klinger (1752-1831). It was also the name of an 18th century German literary movement characterized by greater expression of emotional unrest. The name of the Durmstrang Institute, one of the wizarding schools in the Harry Potter series, is a spoonerism of Sturm und Drang.

USAGE: "After the sturm und drang of Revolutionary Road, director Sam Mendes opted for a looser, lighter story." Colin Covert; Pregnant Pause With 'Away We Go'; Star Tribune (Minneapolis, Minnesota); Jun 12, 2009.

A.W.A.D. - Slang Words

with Anu Garg

Poet Carl Sandburg once described slang as "a language that rolls up its sleeves, spits on its hands, and goes to work." Nothing wrong with words in a tie and suit, but sometimes only slang can do the job.

Since slang is often born in the back-alleys of language rather than in a sanitized hospital room, it's not easy to pin down its origins. Does that matter? Go ahead, hire this week's five hardworking words for your verbal mill.

jake
PRONUNCIATION: (jayk)
MEANING: adjective: Satisfactory; all right; okay

ETYMOLOGY: Of unknown origin

USAGE: "So far as the state is concerned, everything is jake. But the council seems determined to throw a monkey wrench into the works." James Gill; Council Seems Eager to Trip Up Churchill; The Times-Picayune (New Orleans, Louisiana); Apr 20, 2005.

rhubarb
PRONUNCIATION: (ROO-bahrb)
MEANING: noun: A heated dispute; brawl

ETYMOLOGY: The origin of the plant name rhubarb is from Greek rha (perhaps from Rha, an ancient name of the river Volga on whose bank rhubarb was grown) + barbaros (foreign), but why the word developed this slang sense is unknown. We do know that this usage was popularized in baseball. The Oxford English Dictionary has the first citation from 1943:

"Mr 'Red' Barber,.. who has been announcing the games of the Brooklyn Dodgers, has used the term 'rhubarb' to describe an argument, or a mix-up, on the field of play." (NY Herald Tribune)
It's unconfirmed whether the word has any connection with hey rube, the term for a circus brawl, or its theatrical use: when the noise of background conversation is to be simulated, a group of actors is asked to repeat the word rhubarb.

USAGE: "People should get their domestic rhubarbs, verbal fisticuffs, and emotional jugular-snatching completely out of the way before they show up for a house tour." Richard Ford; Independence Day; Alfred A. Knopf; 1995.


grift
PRONUNCIATION: (grift)
MEANING: noun: 1. A swindle or a confidence game
2. Money obtained by fraud
verb tr., intr.:
To swindle someone; to obtain something by swindling

ETYMOLOGY: Of uncertain origin, perhaps an alteration of graft, the origin of which remains unknown as well.

USAGE: "The real genius of the ever-evolving 419 scam is its ability to change with the times. Like Madonna or antibiotic-resistant staphylococcus, the money-advancing grift continuously reinvents itself to better infiltrate society's weaknesses." Helen A.S. Popkin; Don't Get Taken by This Adorable Scam; MSNBC; Nov 7, 2007.

jive
PRONUNCIATION: (jyv)
MEANING: verb tr., intr.:
1. To deceive, to flatter, to taunt, to talk nonsense
2. To go together, to fit in
adjective:
Insincere or deceptive
noun:
1. Jazz or swing music and related dance
2. Insincere, pretentious, or exaggerated talk

ETYMOLOGY: Origin unknown

USAGE: "The edict by state and city officials that we Durham residents should let water run out of faucets for three or four minutes before drinking it or using it to cook with may indeed be the solution to the lead threat that has been discovered in the city's water supply. But what if they are jiving us? Surely I'm not the only cynic." Barry Saunders; Money Flows With Water Woes; The News & Observer (Raleigh, North Carolina); Sep 2, 2006.

"Designwise, the focus remains on the house-garden connection -- the need for garden rooms and plants to jive with architecture and interiors." Turning over a new leaf; Los Angeles Times; May 21, 2000.

dibs
PRONUNCIATION: (dibz)
MEANING: noun: The right or claim on something

ETYMOLOGY: From shortening of dibstones, a children's game played with pebbles

USAGE: "Carly: I've got dibs on 'Don't Cry for Me, Argentina'. Syesha: No way, girl. That's my song." Donald Munro; What A Tangled 'Idol' We Weave; Fresno Bee (California); Apr 20, 2008.

"Department officers were given first dibs for the job." Michael Tucker; Town Approves Hengel; Belgrade News (Montana); Jun 19, 2009.

Monday Morals - Episode 3

This week’s question involves one of everyone’s favorite pet peeves: handicapped parking spaces! How far would you go to make sure they live up to their full potential?

First to play last week: Jeff of ..by Jeff Tompkins. Congratulations!

(According to the rules, “First to Play” requires you to be the first to include the link to the specific entry in which you answered the questions, not just the general link to your blog.)

Here is this week’s “Monday’s Morals” question. Either answer the questions in a comment here, or put the answers in an entry on your blog…but either way, leave a link to your site so that everyone else can visit! If you repost the questions on your site, you must link back to this site as the source.

THIS WEEK’S QUESTION:
You see someone park in a handicapped parking space, pull a handicapped parking permit from their glove compartment and hang it on the rear-view mirror, and then walk — without any difficulty — inside a store. If you see that the person is alone and therefore doesn’t need the handicapped space, and you then see that someone who is legitimately handicapped is forced to park several spaces away, how likely are you to report the first motorist to a passing police officer? Why or why not?
Hmmm. This is a good one. I see people all the time do exactly that... and I wonder what the grounds for getting a handicapped placard are, since this is not an uncommon occurrance. Does a mental illness actually qualify? Blind people can't drive. Maybe someone who is deaf... but they can certainly walk.
On the other hand, I hate it when those spaces are used by the clearly non-handicapped; I don't mean someone who has the plates or the placard but has nothing at all. And gives others a bad attitude for his or her not using the space appropriately.
I don't know what I'd do... and I don't know that the police could do anything if the car driver has the placard. On the other hand, maybe the driver is not the one to whom the placard is assigned. This was a lot harder to answer than the first two!

Monday, 6 July 2009

Article - Ten Phrases that Kill Résumés

Laugh all you want, but take it from one who looks at thse things all day long...

"The 2009 job market is very different from job markets of the past. If you haven't job-hunted in a while, the changes in the landscape can throw you for a loop.

One of the biggest changes is the shift in what constitutes a strong resume. Years ago, we could dig into the Resume Boilerplate grab-bag and pull out a phrase to fill out a sentence or bullet point on our resume. Everybody used the same boilerplate phrases, so we knew we couldn't go wrong choosing one of them -- or many -- to throw into your resume.
Things have changed. Stodgy boilerplate phrases in your resume today mark you as uncreative and "vocabulary challenged." You can make your resume more compelling and human-sounding by rooting out and replacing the boring corporate-speak phrases that litter it, and replacing them with human language -- things that people like you or me would actually say.

Here are the worst 10 boilerplate phrases -- the ones to seek out and destroy in your resume as soon as possible:
Results-oriented professional
Cross-functional teams
More than [x] years of progressively responsible experience
Superior (or excellent) communication skills
Strong work ethic
Met or exceeded expectations
Proven track record of success
Works well with all levels of staff
Team player
Bottom-line orientation

You can do better. What about adding a human voice to your resume? Here's an example:

"I'm a Marketing Researcher who's driven by curiosity about why people buy what they do. At XYZ Industries, I used consumer surveys and online-forum analysis to uncover the reasons why consumers chose our competitors over us; our sales grew twenty percent over the next six months as a result. I'm equally at home on sales calls or analyzing data in seclusion, and up to speed on traditional and new-millennium research tools and approaches. I'm fanatical about understanding our marketplace better every day, week and month -- and have helped my employers' brands grow dramatically as a result." "

Sunday, 5 July 2009

Something Freaky Going on Here...

I spent all day (well, a large chunk of it) in my hammock. I went out around 1030 and was in it until 1600. I went in to get bottles of water, go to the loo and at one point to get a snack, otherwise I finished reading The Demon Lord of Karanda and started The Sorceress of Darshiva, book four of The Malloreon by David Eddings. I'll have this series wrapped up by the weekend, I think. I don't get a lot of reading done during the workweek. But within my 11 days off, I began reading The Malloreon, his usual five-book trilogy (don't ask) and I have only one and seven/eighths left...

These are not little books with large print.

David gave me two books to read by S.M. Stirling, called Island in the Sea of Time and Dies the Fire, two in a series about how Nantucket Island disappears from present time to end up in 1250 B.C.E. (I don't do B.C. and A.D. because to me Jesus walking the earth should not change how time was kept. I go for "Before Common Era" and "Common Era". The B.C./A.D. thing is sheer screaming hubris of the Catholic church. Nope - not using it!) Tell me that does not sound completely amazing. That's the first book.

The second book, Dies the Fire, is how the rest of the world fares without Nantucket.

I can't wait...!

Oh, but that is off the track here. That is not the Freaky part (see title). No, what's freaky is that everytime I've come inside today, I had all sorts of trouble reading! Everything looks really blurry. When I went back outside, no problem. Now, I did this yesterday, too. I went to my hammock around 1230 and stayed there until 1630, when I had to get ready to do the standby with the rig at the Parsippany Fireworks. My eyes were fine. It was a bright, sunny day yesterday, although there were some big fluffy clouds to give a break whereas today was totally out of this summer's version of "ordinary" by not having a single cloud except for those formed by airplane contrails. The dome of the sky was completely unbroken and quite bright.

I also look like a lobster - just cooked!

But this thing with my eyes is a little weird. They are still not quite back to normal, either. Things look a lot less blurry than they did when I came in but it is 1758, and I've been in for almost two hours. I think it has to do with the dialation of my pupils, but I am not sure. They seem normal to me. But nearsighted people, like me, have blurry vision for distances because too much light gets into the eye (the focal point for me is before the light reaches the back of my eye). So maybe it is dialated too much and letting too much light in? I don't know. Alcohol does that - dialates the pupils a lot - but I don't drink. Most drugs, on the other hand, constrict the pupils, and people on most drugs have teeny little pinpoints for pupils... like that one person last night. *Shiver* That was really freaky. I shone that light in there and nothing happened... and the pupils were tiny, in a sea of very light colour.

I need to get my eyes examined anyway, it's been over two years. So this will be something to ask about. Freaky, right?

Penn & Teller's New Season of Bulls**t

Every time a season of any show ends, I have my concerns about the upcoming season. There have been shows were a whole season was bad news. Other seasons may have one or two weak shows but the rest are great and I love them. Most of the time, it is an interesting mix of strong and weak episodes and I hope that they don't begin a severe downhill slide.

The first episode of Penn & Teller's Bullshit was about orgasms. I'm not sure how you can debunk orgasms... they are (for most of us) a normal physiological reaction to sexual stimulus. But for whatever reason they decided that this would be the opening episode for this season (I think this is Season 6, but it may be 7). Luis, David and Donna thought it was weak, too - no their best effort.

However, episode number 2 was on Friday night and was Astrology. I have some friends who are really into astrology and I am all about astronomy. I love astronomy and can spout all kinds of facts about the planets and the Sun and Moon, but I can't suspend the scientist enough to buy into the astrology thing. So I appreciated this episode; I think this is not at all a science. I did try reading about astrology, but it is asking for a suspension of science that I can't do. It's a little too hocus-pocus for me.

They showed a couple of different astrologers who came to do readings by building charts based on date and time of birth. That's it. Both astrologers did a lot of guessing and missed a lot more than they accurately depicted. One guy told the woman that she was neat and lived in an organised, neat house. The reading was done in a neat, organised house, but it wasn't her house. The same woman wanted to know if she should go into a specific profession, if she and her husband should open a small business or if it is time to start having a family.

My first thought was the only person who can answer this for me... is me! Not an astrologer, a tarot reader or tea leaf reader. If I don't know what I want to do, then I need to look at different things to figure out the best answer for me.

The first guy told her that would be good at about 25 different professions. Okay, stop. Now you're just guessing. Can you say "total charlatan"? I can. I did. To Luis and now on my blog. This guy was just awful. Never guess - if you can't ask the right leading questions to get the best possible answer, then say you don't know and move on.

The second guy was much more specific: she should be a teacher. Absolutely, positively, she has something in her that needs to impart knowledge. She should teach children. Well, I did like that he zeroed in on one thing and answered with total conviction that she should teach. When she was asked what she thought of this, she said she'd rather be dead than spend six hours a day with children. I cheered! I couldn't help it. I'm completely with her. Someone told me I should teach children and I laughed at them.

Two strikes...

At the end of the show, one woman asked Astrologer No. 2 if things would be better with her daughter, who has a serious health condition. (I could feel myself cringing...) At first he gave that typical waffly-wussy answer: you should put her in a soothing place, like the ocean or woods or whatever, and while it was not an answer, it was certainly good advice. Had he stopped there, I'd have had more respect for him. But you know he didn't. He said there was no way to really know without running the daughter's specific chart, but he knows - knows! - the worst is over and she'll be fine.

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!

The daughter has Lupus. This disease can kill people. It is a scourge. And this guy is as far from a doctor as anyone can be. He makes a living going to parties to do group readings - that is not a profession that ties into medical science. If her daughter takes a turn for the worse, she'll be unprepared thinking that some guy read in the stars (??!?) that the worst of the disease has passed!

I was livid. We as EMTs are not ever supposed to tell anyone that they will be fine. I can say that we and the hospital will do everything for them; or it may be serious or not, but this is the right thing to do; or it seems like you may be fine but it is best to let the hospital check you out. You never say, "Oh, yes, you'll be just fine!" How do I know that? I don't - none of us do without something slightly - just a little - more substantial than my gut feeling.

Good thing they did not show more. That was enough for me.

Saturday, 4 July 2009

Crazy Sam's Saturday 9: Yankee Doodle Dandy

Saturday 9: Yankee Doodle Dandy

1. What is your favorite 4th of July memory? (If you aren't in the U.S., then use your own national holiday.) I don't know what specific memory I have. I always do the Parsippany Township fireworks standby now, so I find that is enjoyable.

2. Do you consider yourself patriotic? In my own way, yes. I'm not one to give my allegence to a flag or other object but as a citizen of the United States and of the world, yes, I am patriotic. But I think it is important to view oneself as a citizen of the world first and foremost, as drawing lines between people is not always a positive.

3. Do you like fireworks? I do. I'm not crazy about people doing it in their backyards and playing with professional fireworks unwittingly - I think New Jersey is right to make it illegal for Joe person to play with dangerous things like that. But the professional ones are great.

4. What are your plans for this weekend? Lay in my hammock today, as it is the first sunny day in New Jersey. Go to the fireworks tonight on the 3rd rig. Do nothing tomorrow. Get prepared to return to work after an 11 day vacation!

5. Are you optimistic about the future? Always. Is there any other way to live?

6. Do you think everyone should serve in the military? No, I feel that only some people have the right mindset and personality to do that. I would be a terrible person for that. But I know many that are uniquely suited to do it.

7. Would you support a constitutional ban on flag burning? No. Freedom of speech is something that I support fully and as I stated earlier, my alliegence is not given to symbolism, but to the actual country/world.

8. What end of the political spectrum are you? Um, the stupid spectrum. I don't believe that politics and patriotism have a relationship to one another, since politicians don't seem to care about anyone but themselves.

9. Where do you get your news? Almost always from friends. But I also get People Magazine, so if it is in there, I'll get news there, too. I never watch or listen to any news stations or read the paper.

Monday Morals - Episode 1

Here’s the launch of the newest meme here at Patrick’s Place. Each week, I’ll give you a little moral dilemma. You tell me how you’d handle it.

Pretty simple, right?

But remember: it’s more than a simple “yes” or “no” answer. Tell me why, too.

And as always, the first person to either answer here in a comment or to do a post at their own blog then leave a link to that specific entry here in a comment will be recognized the following week as “First to Play.” Since this one is the inaugural edition, there’s no “First to Play” from last week, but I’m sure you’d already have figured that out.

So let’s get on with it! I’ll kick this off with a situation that actually happened to me. The reason I was at the specific location I describe was different, but what happened there was real. What would you do?

Here is this week’s “Monday’s Morals” question. Either answer the questions in a comment here, or put the answers in an entry on your blog…but either way, leave a link to your site so that everyone else can visit! If you repost the questions on your site, you must link back to this site as the source.

THIS WEEK’S QUESTION:
You are visiting a relative in a nursing home, when you are approached by an old man you’ve never seen before, who approaches you and immediately embraces you. With tears welling up in his eyes, he refers to you as an old friend he was certain had died during “the war.” You realize that this person is an Alzheimer’s patient, and a nurse comes along and begins to help him back to his room. In the meantime, how do you respond to him: would you tell him who you really are, or would you play along with his delusion? Why or why not?

I would play along. If this is something that gives this person joy and happiness, why not? People with Alzheimer's are losing their lives, their identities, to this terrible disease. A moment of happiness is the least one can give. And I don't see the dilemma here. There is no harm done by a guesture of kindness.