Shoe Money Tonight

Occasional ramblings by an anesthesiologist/mother (and sometimes her husband).

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Where Unions Go Wrong

I will not deny that in my current position, I owe a lot to the work done by my union. There is a good deal of myopia, however, in unions in general which has been brought to the forefront by two recent stories - one local, one national.

SEIU, to name one union, used to run a series of commercials in which they talked about all the quality services that one receives from their members. The implication was that only their members would provide this level of care.

This is, of course, unmitigated poppycock. Unions are not guilds. There is no level of skill or testing required for membership in a union. If you have a pulse and a job in the appropriate business, you are a member of the union, whether you want to be or not.

Unions also have a tendency to judge people simply by the amount of time they have been working a position, regardless of their skill. The result is that they will be tenacious defenders of both the hardworking and the blatantly incompetent.

This is the argument put forth by a group called The Center for Union Facts. They posit that unions are the greatest problem facing schools today. They are putting forth a contest to find the 10 worst teachers in the nation, and pay them each $10,000 to leave teaching. It is, of course, a mere publicity stunt. $10,000 will not entice anyone to leave lifetime employment. The problems they call attention to, however, are real.

I would not call my own union the greatest problem facing my district. There are far greater problems facing my particular district. Not the least of these problems is the fact that even without the union, my district could not remove incompetent teachers simply because they do not have the warm bodies with which to replace them. Over the last two years my building has had two full-time positions open up mid-year. Each took several months for the district to fill. Under these circumstances, the district pretty much won't get rid of someone unless they're actively posing a danger to the students (and even then they're pretty slow).

The bottom line, however, is that unions suffer from myopia. They fight tooth and nail to maintain the status quo. Teachers unions have pretty much come out against every single new idea in education that has been posited during my adult lifetime. Like the guilds of old, they have turned into a defender of the outdated -defenders of dinosaurs in the midst of an ice age.

Many unions also become territorial - to the point of becoming a protection racket. Some unions think that certain occupations belong to them. Case in point, a conversation between Erie County Executive Chris Collins and Professor Kevin Hardwick this morning. 140 volunteers want to donate their time and services to put up a $20,000 swing set which they will pay for. The local AFSCME union president is threatening to sue because it will "take work away from his members."

This man is willing to sue volunteers for doing something that he wants to be paid for. This worldview that certain unions think that they alone have the right to do whatever they do belongs in the mafia, not a free society. For one thing, without the volunteers, this work would not be happening in the first place - there would be no work to deprive people of. Most importantly, this sort of thuggishness will cause people to cease doing business with you entirely.

Case in point - MacWorld New York. When the expo used to be held in New York City, the union crew was almost a running joke. Let's say you shipped an entire booth worth of stuff across the country to be present at the expo. It would arrive at the loading dock. The union crew would charge pretty much the same to move it across the hall that you paid to ship across the country. There were many reasons why Apple pulled out of the expo. That may or may not have been one of the major reasons. Nobody, however, missed having to pay that extortion money.

It is nearly a cliché at this point to discuss the effects of the automobile on the horse and buggy industry. The gist of the story is that one industry was obliterated, but dozens of others sprung up in its place, and uncounted other industries prospered. Change is hard. Change requires people to be flexible. In the short term, people get hurt. In the long term, however, progress can help everyone who is willing to participate in it.

Unions have painted themselves into a corner. They have become the defenders of people who want to pretend it's still 1951. Guess what: it's not. You can't expect lifetime employment anymore if you have no skills. There are plenty of careers and job paths that are growing. Skilled craftsmen, for example, will always be in high demand. You can build things anywhere. They have to be installed and serviced here, however. Nothing will change that. Pretending that people can keep doing the same thing in a changing world will not get you anywhere. The world will continue to change, and you will be left behind.

There is still a place for unions in this changing world. If they want to find this place, however, they need to perform a craniorectal extraction stat, and tell some of their members to grow the fuck up and join the 21st century.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Hope for G.I. Joe

I have previously expressed misgivings about the prospects of the upcoming G.I. Joe flick.

If, however, this:

is any indication, it could be seriously cool.

Full article here.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

We Just May Be...

The last generation which would actually get this punchline.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Spitzer Post-Mortem

To understand the Spitzer drama, one needs to understand the condition in which New York State finds itself.

New York State has been hemorrhaging people for many years now. Long amongst the highest in the nation, a few years ago we surpassed Connecticut to be the highest taxed state in the union. A combination of confiscatory taxes and byzantine regulations have served to drive a large number of business out of the state.

People have been leaving in droves because they can't find jobs. Meanwhile, NY has increased social welfare programs to the point where once you cross the state line, you essentially can get by without working a day in your life. Many southern states have taken to exporting their welfare recipients to here. This places more burden on the remaining taxpayers, thus resulting in what is essentially a death spiral.

Among NY's taxes, for example, is its sales tax. A few years ago, it was decided that NY state residents should be charged sales tax for things they buy elsewhere and then bring into the state. Since this tax only kicks in when you bring the item into New York State, it is, in fact, an interstate import tax. This is a clear violation of the United States Constitution which not only forbids states from import taxes without consent of Congress, it also forbids the laying of any tax or duty on any items exported from any state. New York, however, will do anything it can to squeeze more money out you.

Enter Spitzer.

Spitzer, fairly early on, had political aspirations. It was recommended to him that being a prosecutor would be a great jumping point into politics. He worked his way up and eventually was elected Attorney General. It was here that his true notoriety began.

So, in a state which is desperately in need of business, what did he do? He attacked businesses. As AG, his job was to enforce the law. Many of the companies he went after, however, had broken no laws. Some practices were shady, though perfectly legal. Other practice were perfectly honest; he just didn't like them. Time after time he attacked honest businessmen, blackmailing them by threatening to publicly indict. Even though he could never get a conviction, the indictment alone would sink the company. He coerced many companies into "donating" money to some of his pet charities this way. What was legal or not legal was irrelevant. He did whatever he wanted.

Many honest businessmen were put out of business by this scumbag. Many other businesses simply pulled out of New York, or cancelled plans to enter it. All the while he called himself the "Sheriff of Wall Street," and self-righteously claimed that he was cleaning up corrupt business practices. The banking laws and prostitution laws which he himself broke were enforced by him very vigorously.

He steamrolled right into the governorship. Here, for the first time, he found himself in a place were he did not have full reign. This state has long been run two men: Sheldon Silver and Joe Bruno. Spitzer, coming into this situation, famously called himself a "f^&#@$! steamroller" who would crush anyone in his way. That was how he'd lived his life. As governor, however, he no longer had dictatorial power. He had to get everything through the legislature. The legislature already had its kings. There was no room for any more. Spitzer's term became a series of failures punctuated by scandal.

It is telling that Spitzer's wife listed Hillary Clinton as her role model. Each attached themselves to a morally vacuous power seeker. If you didn't know Clinton was a womanizer in the early stages of the 1992 campaign, you were deluding yourself. Likewise, Spitzer was clearly a power-hungry bully. He was a rich kid who never had to work for his fortune, and thought he could do whatever he wanted. He thought the rules didn't apply to him. This was not exactly a surprise.

Spitzer was a hero to those who distrust business. Business, however, runs the economy. People depend on business. Concentrating power in government is called fascism. Fascism was a popular idea in the early part of the 20th Century. From National Socialism (i.e. Nazism) to Communism, the concentration of power in government caused nothing but death and despair. Communism alone killed over 100 million in the 20th Century.

Apart from death, however, is sheer misery. If people can't profit from their invention and hard work, they're not going to do it. Placing all responsibility and power in a central government makes people at best children, at worst slaves. We have essentially bred a generation of children who expect everything to be done for them.

Meanwhile, if productive people think their hard work is going to be taken away by a power hungry central government, they are going to leave. This is the situation New York State finds itself in. Those who want to provide for their families are assailed on all sides. Meanwhile, those who produce nothing expect to be given more, while simultaneously blaming the productive members of society for being greedy.

Eliot Spitzer was a perfect product of the situation New York State finds itself in now. He rose to power by playing on people's fears and prejudices. He fell because he finally did so much that he could no longer be ignored. He leaves behind another dingbat who once tried to make it illegal for police to use deadly force in self-defense.

Buffalo, and Western New York in general, is a great place to live. It is the quality of life in this area that makes (some) people stay. Certain sectors of the economy have seen a great resurgence of late. The state in general, however, is in terrible shape. Run by frigtards from New York City, we have to put up with one tax and regulation after another. It can't go on forever. Maybe this is a step in the right direction.

If not, will the last person in New York State please turn off the lights before leaving?

Friday, March 14, 2008

BufBloPoFo08 Day 14

I made it, all 14 days of blogging. Don't keep expecting me to have daily posts, it was exhausting to do this with my work schedule.

So last year at this time I wrote a post on vaccines .

I really don't have much to add on this issue. Unfortunately, Flea, whom I linked in the article no longer blogs. More unfortunately, people still don't vaccinate their children. In Maryland, people had to be threatened with jail in order to force them to vaccinate their children.

My general point still remains. Vaccinate your children.

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Thursday, March 13, 2008

BufBloPoFo08 Day 13

So the writer's strike is over. Thank God. I'm not a huge reality show fan. I'll watch American Idol (mostly because there's nothing else on) and sometimes Dancing with the Stars but thats it. I'm looking forward to a number of shows coming back. Here's the list of what I'll be watching as they return to TV:

How I Met Your Mother
Two and a Half Men
CSI: Miami
Navy: NCIS
House, MD

And in the fall: Chuck and Pushing Daisies, two of the coolest shows to debut this year. I'm also loving watching the new episodes of Jericho.

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Wednesday, March 12, 2008

BufBloPoFo08 Day 12

So this time I'm supposed be writing a new about me blurb.

I, Dr Nic, am a die hard Star Wars and Star Trek fan, who sings for three hours every week. I am addicted to Reese's Peanut Butter cups (especially the egg shaped ones at Easter). I have a hyperactive beagle and a husband who is a geek (and I love him for it). Even though I'm a girl, I can sing lower than some men (including my HS chorus dircetor) and could probably sing tenor if I really wanted to.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

BufBloPoFo08 Day 11

1. What is your favorite word? What is your least favorite word?
My favorite word is morcellator. My least favorite word is hate.

2. What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally? What turns you off?
Passion turns me on, apathy turns me off.

3. What sound or noise do you love? What sound or noise do you hate?
I love the sound of anything deep frying in oil. I hate to sound of electrocautery.

4. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? What profession would you not like to do?
I would love to try and be a professional singer. I would not want to be a teacher.

5. What is your favorite curse word?
My favorite curse word is shit.

6. If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?

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Monday, March 10, 2008

BufBloPoFo08 Day 10

As I'm progressing in my pregnancy, I'm starting to think about things we're going to share with our child.

Yesterday, as we were sorting our DVDs, I realized we had a serious question to discuss.

How old should our child be before we introduce Star Wars, and in what order to we show the films?

Part of me feels that release order is better, otherwise you lose the impacts of things like the Luke-Vader conversation at the end of Empire. That single line is a turning point in the movie and I think if you know too much about their history, it loses some of it's impact. Peter has suggested doing the Original Trilogy (in original form) followed by all 6 films in order (using the Special Edition versions of the Original Trilogy). I'm not sure if I like this idea or not.

As far as the age thing, right now I'm leaning towards 12 or so (just because if we're going to introduce them, we're going to do it all at once) because of Revenge of the Sith. But if any of my readers with younger children wish to weigh in, we'd greatly appreciate it.

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Another Annoyance...

If I've said it once, I've said it 1000 times:

Until soybeans grow mammary glands, there is no such thing as soy milk.

Edited 9:23 PM for clarity

Schadenfreude, Spitzer Style

A 2-bit petty thug, who made his fame by going after companies that had broken no law and blackmailing them by threatening to leak info and crash their stock prices, thereby driving business out of a state the desperately needs it, all the while making himself out to be an upstanding person, has been caught breaking the law himself.

There are a few local bullies under investigation as well who may finally get their own comeuppance. 2008 is looking like a good year for deflating those who have used their positions to bully others for far too long.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

BufBloPoFo08 Day 9

Anyone who talks to me knows how much I like living in Buffalo. I often joke it would take nothing short of a nuclear detonation to get us to move out of the area.

One of the things I like about being in Buffalo are the large number of things we have to do around here in the summer (not that I have the time to do most of them).

First off, pretty much every weekend from June through September there is either a festival, street fair or lawn fete. My favorites include the Italian Festival , the Taste of Buffalo , and the National Buffalo Wing Festival .

If you're a music fan you can find free concerts at Artpark on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, Thursday at the Square, Gusto at the Gallery, plus other random concerts through the year.

If your the outdoor sort, you can explore the American side of the Falls, go to Chestnut Ridge, Delaware Park, the Zoo, Beaver Island State Park, ride on the bike paths.

If you like thrill rides, Darien Lake has some really great roller coasters.

Plus there are a ridiculusly large number of great restaurants to eat at ranging from super casual (Ted's, Anderson's, Jim's Steakout) to high end (Lombardo's, Chop House).

Oh yeah, the bars are all open until 4am.

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Saturday, March 08, 2008

BufBloPoFo08 Day 8

So today I'm supposed to talk about what music I listen to. Right now, most of what I listen to is country music. I'm partial to Big & Rich, Gretchen Wilson, Sugarland, Trace Adkins, Kenny Chesney and Toby Keith. I do listen to a bit of other music - Barenaked Ladies, They Might Be Giants, Great Big Sea, Fergie, Black Eyed Peas, etc, but mostly country.

The first 10 songs to come up on shuffle on the iPod:
1. Maybe Kate by the Barenaked Ladies
2. Our America by Big & Rich (featuring Gretchen Wilson and Cowboy Troy)
3. Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen
4. Lydia, The Tattooed Lady by Grouch Marx with Bing Crosby
5. Un-Break My Heart by Toni Braxton
6. Dig a Pony by The Beatles
7. Lightning by Eric Church
8. Burning Love by Elvis Presley
9. All My Friends Say by Luke Bryan
10. For You Blue by the Beatles

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Friday, March 07, 2008

BufBloPoFo08 Day 7

What thing do I have in my purse/wallet/hobo bag on a stick that no one else does?
A pocketknife shaped like a crucifix. I got it at a show at Shea's once for participating. It's a joke, but it's still buried in the purse.
I have a wrist band from the ER when I was seen after I fell at work.
Two pagers, because one just isn't enough.

What's been in there the longest without me using it?
A lighter. I don't smoke, but I carry a lighter with me. I don't know why.


Thursday, March 06, 2008

BufBloPoFo08 Day 6

Tonight I went to dinner at Sole restaurant. I was there for a dinner and lecture. The topic of the lecture was about WMD and mass casualty emergencies. The lecture was pretty good. But I have to say the food was absolutely wonderful. I have now added that to my list of restaurants I need to go to dinner at for real. The attending who ordered appears to have ordered one of everything on the menu for all of us. I ate so much food, I now understand the scene at the end of Monty Python's The Meaning of Life.

I'm too tired to blog more. Just go to Sole in the Walker Center for dinner. You won't regret it.

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Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Clean the D*@! Snow off your car!

So today's topic was to talk about things people do wrong. Inspired by todays weather, I would like to remind people of some issues regarding snow and ice on cars.

1. Don't just clean off the patch of windshield that you look out of. That's just plain dumb and really unsafe. I'm always frightened when I see someone driving with a little spot cleared off his windshield. They can't see out of their windows, they can't see their mirrors, the can't even see out the back. A person driving like that is a danger to everyone.

2. Even if you clean off your windows, there are still some areas of the car that get neglected. Take a few seconds to get the snow off the hood of your car. Once you get moving at any rate of speed, especially on the highway that snow, is going to fly into your windshield, impairing your vision. Making you a danger to yourself and others on the road.

3. If you can reach the top of your car, get the snow off your roof. I have an SUV and still manage to get most of the snow off my roof. If you leave it up there, it will fly into the windshields of the cars behind you.

4. Clear the snow off your headlights and taillights. Snow covering them means it's hard to see if they're on, if you're stopping, or if you're planning to turn.

5. FYI, I'm pretty sure all of the above are actually required by law in this state along with cleaning the snow off your license plate.

Please follow my advice, you'll make already dangerous roads a lilttle safer for all of us.

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Tuesday, March 04, 2008

I'm Lucky, I guess.

So I was feeling stumped by today's suggested topic and thought I'd branch out on my own.

I stumbled across this blog post via Manolo for the Big Girl! . It was a story about a woman, who came up with a the best comeback ever, when face with incredible rudeness.

The woman, who blogs at Dancing Down the Moon talked about what happened to her while standing in line in a cafe at a bookstore.

A thin woman turned to a total stranger and said ""God, I don't know, I just feel so, like, fat today. I feel like such a big fat cow."
"How do you stand it every day?"" The woman recounting the story came back with a phenomenal comeback. This was posted because there had been a discussion of how poorly some of the larger women who read the Manolo for the Big Girl blog have been treated in the past.

I am not a small woman, but I was shocked by the stories they recounted . I was also happy, because I had never had those experiences. The closest I ever got to nasty comments about my weight was my grandmother telling me I didn't want to get fat like my parents. And the subtle things that made me self conscious whenever I visited my ultra skinny cousins and aunt in Los Angeles.

Overall, I'm happy with my body the way it is. Would I like to lose weight? Sure. I got over my fat issues. I've got a husband who likes the way I look. So I guess I'm lucky for not having to deal with that kind of stuff.

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Monday, March 03, 2008

Things that went well today

It's day three of the BufBloPoFo08 and the topic was to talk about things that went well today.

- I started at a new rotation site that I really like and even though I was only there once before for a total of a month, people remembered me and and seemed happy to see me.
- There was no machine to swipe for scrubs so I didn't need to beg someone to get me a pair.
- I was still in the omnicell to get narcotics out
- The attending I worked with actually spent a good amount of time teaching today.
- I got to play with the GlideScope today.
- There were Timbits at our morning meeting.
- I left work at a decent hour.
- I came home to a husband and a snuggly dog.


Sunday, March 02, 2008

Best Gift Ever

Day 2 of BufBloPoFo08.

The best gift I ever received has to be one I got two Christmases ago from the husband. If you're about my age, you might actually remember the video he bought me. It was a Jim Henson Christmas special from 1986 called The Christmas Toy . It told the story of Rugby the lion and his quest to become the Christmas Toy for the second year in a row. It actually spun off a TV series called "The Secret Life of Toys." Some of the themes in the movie are reflected in the plot of Toy Story.

I had been telling him about it for years. He had never seen it. I think he actually doubted its existence until I showed him the IMDB page. So he decided to make that part of my Christmas present. I don't think he realized how much trouble he was going to run into to find it.

It has never been released as an isolated DVD. If you purchased the "Muppet Family Christmas" DVD The Christmas Toy was featured on the DVD. However, the DVD is out of production, and you can't even find a Region 1 page on amazon. So he tried the video section of amazon, where you can find Used and New from people selling their old video copies. At that point you couldn't find one online that was selling for less than about $40 or so. The price has come down some now.

I guess this was the best present ever, because I had pretty much written off getting a copy of it ever for my collection. So the fact that he went out of the way to find it and spent far more then I expected him to spend on a 50 minute video. It was like getting a piece of my childhood back.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

A New Step

Today marks the start of BufBloPoFo08. It was started by a friend of mine from college who blogs over at Royal Toybox . I am straying from the suggested first topic because I've talked about why I started blogging before.

Today Peter and I did something I secretly hoped we'd never have to do. We registered with a new parish. I had been a member of my old parish, St. Rose of Lima, for my entire life, but things changed. First the Oblates of Mary Immaculate left and we became part of the Diocese of Buffalo again. Then they sent a new priest who was, less than stellar. He has alienated quite a few of the members including my parents and many of the old guard. After telling the school board that the school wouldn't be considered for closure for at least a year, they closed the school. That was the final straw for me.

We wandered like nomads from parish to parish. The first we found to be cold and unfeeling. It was like attending mass with The Borg . No emotion, nothing to indicate that anyone had any spiritual involvement with the Mass. At another, there was more emotion, but very few people under 50 years old. We even toyed with going to the Jesuits just to be out of the Diocese.

About six months ago we went to a mass at St Joseph's University Church . We loved it. I had ties to the church, it was my father's parish growing up and his parents attended Mass there until they died. But we still weren't going to Mass on a regular basis. It think I was still holding on to a great deal of resentment towards the diocese. I couldn't (and still can't) be shaken from the belief that all of the closings of churches/schools could have been handled in a much better fashion. Two weeks ago, we finally went to the Parish Office to get the paperwork to register with the parish. We turned that in at Mass today.

It felt weird to go to mass at a new church. There is still part of me that feels guilty, like I abandoned St. Rose. I know its stupid, but I still feel that way. It felt better to see another St. Rose refugee there. I know that my being pregnant really forced us to decide what to do. We didn't want to change faiths, so we had to pick a church. I'm glad with our choice, I just need some time to adjust.

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The Answers

Here are the answers to the Movie Quiz:

1. Jaws - guessed correctly by ecwoodburn
2. The Godfather - guessed by hbbtrbbtbcnbt
3. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
4. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
5. Rocky IV - guessed by hbbtrbbtbcnbt
6. The King and I
7. A Mighty Wind
8. Monsters, Inc
9. Clue - guessed by hbbtrbbtbcnbt
10. Army of Darkness

Good guesses though. When I was compiling the initial list Obi-Wandreas managed to get 7 of 10 correct.

Real content will appear later today.