Defying Gravity

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Police to Reunite

Very exciting news in the world of The Police. They announced today that they'll be the opening act at the Grammy Awards on February 11th.

Do you think they'll coalesce again after 23 years apart? We'll see soon enough.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Obama in the presidential mix

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Thursday, December 21, 2006

Scary Mary

A new take on the beloved Mary Poppins:

Home Depot Receives Indian Giver of the Year Award

Its the holiday season, a time when employers grace their employees with free luncheons, dinners, parties and if you're lucky, a nice bonus check. It's a great time of year for employers to say "thank you" for a job well done during the year that was.

I remember at my last job I got a nice case of wine! Nothing says thank you like bottles and bottles of wine. At my current job we had a holiday party complete with open bar and a live band. I also received a nice bonus to boot. It not only makes me feel appreciated but it makes me want to be a better employee and I look forward to 2007 with enthusiasm and great anticipation.

I realized last night that others don't have it so easy. One of my greatest and bestest friends, who I shall call Emily Green for these purposes, shared with me what her employer bought her as a way to say thanks for a great year.

Emily works for EXPO Design Center, a subsidiary of The Home Depot. By all accounts, EXPO is a fabulous place but I was shocked to learn that Home Depot employees received a 20 percent-off discount at Home Depot as its holiday gift to employees.

So basically CEO Bob Nardelli turned his employee gifts into a present for himself and the entire Home Depot franchise! What a crock of shit! I told Emily last night that it would be one thing if he tacked on the 20 percent off "gift" onto some other present like the jelly of the month club but no such luck.

The ironic part is that while perusing the Home Depot website, I discovered Home Depot sure does like to boast its record of community service. You guys have sure donated a lot of time and money to help others! This is commendable but Mr. Nardelli, what about your employees? What have you done to inspire them? What have you done to encourage them? What have you done to express your appreciation for their hard work?

Now I realize Nardelli can't fly his thousands of employees to Hawaii like Oprah did but its all about priorities. It is clear to me that he cares little about his foot soldiers. It is something I would expect out of a city government for the love of God but not a growing household name like Home Depot. Heck, my hometown in Texas has three Home Depots! Not bad for a population of 90,000.

The Home Depot's overarching business strategy is simple: "Throughout the Company’s many businesses and in each community it serves, Nardelli is committed to fulfilling The Home Depot’s core purpose: Improve Everything We Touch."

I suggest to Nardelli that next year he put a little more heart and soul into rewarding the folks who help him improve everything they touch day in and day out. In turn, his employees will be happy and appreciated and will end up giving back to him in the long run anyway.

This will probably be my last post until 2007. Merry Christmas to all and let's defy gravity in 2007 like never before!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Time's Person of the Year

oneparkave says it best when it comes to TIME's Person of the Year. Also, take note that Blog PI predicted TIME's person of the year back in October, complete with a photo-shopped version of the cover. I think he deserves to be TIME's person of the year.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Metro: Wake up and Get Creative for the Love of God

I am more than outraged at Metro's plan to raise fares to alleviate the financially strapped transit company. It would be one thing if the quality of the experience was satisfactory. I am the type who will pay more for quality but Metro has no business raising fairs to provide a service that is less than par.

I'm not going to focus on all of Metro's shortcomings but I will suggest that Metro and its Board of Directors get a little creative and not pass the burden to its dedicated riders who, don't forget, are its constituents.
  1. I think it's high time for the subway to allow food, drink and news vendors to set up shop at its stations. Charge them a fee or tax them to have access to thirsty and hungry commuters and tourists. I know, there goes our clean trains but desperate times calls for, well, you know.
  2. Eliminate more of the seats on the trains. Eliminating the seats means more people can fit. I've been on one of the newer models where they've done this exact thing but more seats need to go.
  3. Charge more for the permit spots at the remote parking lots. I read that metro wants to add more permit spots but I would suggest raising the rate from $45 a month to $75 for the spots. I park in Vienna everyday and there are always dozens of those permit spots open. Adding more at the same price certainly won't encourage more people to buy the permits.
These are just a few suggestions but when there is a budget crisis, it behooves the board to get creative and not disenfranchise its customers. The last thing we need is more cars on the road but if it becomes more expensive for me to drive to work than ride metro, so be it.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

The Downfall of the iPod

Yes, I'm addicted to my iPod. I use it everyday during my commute to work. However, I swear they were made to break after 1-2 years. I have a handful of friends who also subscribe to this theory. Iv'e been meaning to blog about this for a long time but here The Wall Street Journal takes a look at the iPod breakdown issue. Let me pull the highlights...
The best-known complaint about the iPod, dating back to its earliest models, is about its battery. Many users grumble that the charge of the lithium-ion battery inside the device appears to get progressively shorter the more they use the music player. Last year, Apple agreed to settle a class-action lawsuit brought by users whose iPods saw significantly diminishing battery life, agreeing to compensate owners of certain early iPod models $25 in cash or with a $50 Apple credit on Apple products.

Hard disks, which are used in higher-end iPods to store songs, can also fail. Bill Torpey, a software developer in New York, says the iPod he bought for his daughter, now in high school, a couple of years ago stopped working after the product's warranty expired, and the hard disk inside of it started making a strange noise.
What does Apple have to say?
Steve Dowling, a spokesman for Apple, based in Cupertino, Calif., says the rates at which iPods fail -- less than 5% -- are "extremely low" compared with other electronics devices. "IPods are designed to last for years, but as with any complex consumer-electronics product such as digital cameras, they can be broken if dropped or mishandled by users," says Mr. Dowling, who adds that the "overwhelming majority" of iPod users are happy with their devices.
I think most people enjoy the iPod so much that they don't care about the product's durability but Apple best be weary of a public backlash.

'Inconvenient Truth' is Horror Movie of 2006

Over the weekend I finally watched Al Gore's Inconvenient Truth. I've always known global warming to be a serious issue but this movie really shed some light on the immediate danger we face.

Ice caps are melting, seas are raging, storms are devastating. We take for granted our great Earth God created for us to live but if we don't do anything to maintain it, our children will no longer have a place to call home.

Greenhouse gases and pollutents are heating up our Earth. Gore presents fact after fact and proof after proof that the world's inhabitants are creating this problem. The good news is that we can do something to slow the effects. It is not just a problem for the United States to solve but it must be a global effort. The US can lead this fight to save the world, our home.

Go to Climate Crisis and see how you can fight global warming today.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

History Lesson: 12 Days of Christmas

Ever wonder where the song, The 12 Days of Christmas, comes? Dennis Bratcher tells us...

The Twelve Days of Christmas is probably the most misunderstood part of the church year among Christians who are not part of liturgical church traditions. Contrary to much popular belief, these are not the twelve days before Christmas, but in most of the Western Church are the twelve days from Christmas until the beginning of Epiphany (January 6th; the 12 days count from December 25th until January 5th). In some traditions, the first day of Christmas begins on the evening of December 25th but the following day is considered the First Day of Christmas (December 26th).

The origin of the Twelve Days is complicated, and is related to differences in calendars, church traditions, and ways to observe this holy day in various cultures (see Christmas). In the Western church, Epiphany is usually celebrated as the time the Wise Men or Magi arrived to present gifts to the young Jesus (Matt. 2:1-12). Traditionally there were three Magi, probably from the fact of three gifts, even though the biblical narrative never says how many Magi came. In some cultures, especially Hispanic and Latin American culture, January 6th is observed as Three Kings Day, or simply the Day of the Kings (Span: la Fiesta de Reyes, el Dia de los Tres Reyes, or el Dia de los Reyes Magos; Dutch: Driekoningendag). Even though December 25th is celebrated as Christmas in these cultures, January 6th is often the day for giving gifts. In some places it is traditional to give Christmas gifts for each of the Twelve Days of Christmas. Since Eastern Orthodox traditions use a different religious calendar, they celebrate Christmas on January 7th and observe Epiphany or Theophany on January 19th.

By the 16th century, some European and Scandinavian cultures had combined the Twelve Days of Christmas with (sometimes pagan) festivals celebrating the changing of the year. These were usually associated with driving away evil spirits for the start of the new year.

The Twelfth Night is January 5th, the last day of the Christmas Season before Epiphany (January 6th). In some church traditions, January 5th is considered the eleventh Day of Christmas, while the evening of January 5th is still counted as the Twelfth Night, the beginning of the Twelfth day of Christmas the following day. Twelfth Night often included feasting along with the removal of Christmas decorations. French and English celebrations of Twelfth Night included a King's Cake, remembering the visit of the Three Magi, and ale or wine (a King's Cake is part of the observance of Mardi Gras in French Catholic culture of the Southern USA). In some cultures, the King's Cake was part of the celebration of the day of Epiphany.

The popular song "The Twelve Days of Christmas" is usually seen as simply a nonsense song for children. However, some have suggested that it is a song of Christian instruction dating to the 16th century religious wars in England, with hidden references to the basic teachings of the Faith. They contend that it was a mnemonic device to teach the catechism to youngsters. The "true love" mentioned in the song is not an earthly suitor, but refers to God Himself. The "me" who receives the presents refers to every baptized person who is part of the Christian Faith. Each of the "days" represents some aspect of the Christian Faith that was important for children to learn.

However, many have questioned the historical accuracy of this origin of the song The Twelve Days of Christmas. It seems that some have made an issue out of trying to debunk this as an "urban myth," some in the name of historical accuracy and some out of personal agendas. There is little "hard" evidence available either way. Some church historians affirm this account as basically accurate, while others point out apparent historical discrepancies. However, the "evidence" on both sides is mostly in logical deduction and probabilities. One internet site devoted to debunking hoaxes and legends says that, "there is no substantive evidence to demonstrate that the song 'The Twelve Days of Christmas' was created or used as a secret means of preserving tenets of the Catholic faith, or that this claim is anything but a fanciful modern day speculation. . .." What is omitted is that there is no "substantive evidence" that will disprove it either.

It is certainly possible that this view of the song is legendary or anecdotal. Without corroboration and in the absence of "substantive evidence," we probably should not take rigid positions on either side and turn the song into a crusade for personal opinions. That would do more to violate the spirit of Christmas than the song is worth. So, for the sake of historical accuracy, we need to acknowledge this uncertainty.

However, on another level, this uncertainty should not prevent us from using the song in celebration of Christmas. Many of the symbols of Christianity were not originally religious, including even the present date of Christmas, but were appropriated from contemporary culture by the Christian Faith as vehicles of worship and proclamation. Perhaps, when all is said and done, historical accuracy is not really the point. Perhaps more important is that Christians can celebrate their rich heritage, and God's grace, through one more avenue this Christmas. Now, when they hear what they once thought was a secular "nonsense song," they will be reminded in one more way of the grace of God working in transforming ways in their lives and in our world. After all, is that not the meaning of Christmas anyway?

A big thank you goes out to THE VOICE for providing this fascinating content.

Gay couples hope holidays bring gift of marriage rights

I just read a poignant op-ed that appeared in the Baltimore Sun on Dec. 1st. Maryland's highest court heard closing arguments yesterday in a case where 17 individuals are challenging Maryland's gay marriage ban.

For me, the title of "marriage" is irrelevant. It is more important for me to be afforded the same rights as married couples. Call it a "civil union", call it "life partnered" or whatever. All I ask is to be granted the same rights and privileges as my straight counterparts.

The Maryland resident so clearly states:
The consequences of exclusion from marriage for the eight same-sex couples and one widower in Deane and Polyak are much more stark. Immigration, taxation, decision-making in medical crises, rights after death, child custody. Each circumstance is painful, each story heartbreaking. In Maryland, more than 1,000 rights and responsibilities are given to couples as a result of being married. Same-sex couples are excluded from these rights and responsibilities. It has a huge impact on the lives of the 17 people involved in the lawsuit. It has had a huge impact on my life.
When those 17 people stand before the Court of Appeals in Annapolis on Monday, they will stand for thousands of us in Maryland. According to the most recent U.S. census, there were more than 11,500 same-sex households in Maryland. Even a conservative estimate of the total number of gay and lesbian people in the state would be more than 150,000.
I'm moving to Virginia on Friday and I'm not thrilled about the lack of gay rights in the Commonwealth but just like other gay couples in the country we will have to make do "until our lives and our relationship are so utterly ordinary that they cannot be denied."