Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Best, worst careers

Newspaper reporter: No. 200 out of 200
No surprise to those in the business, but being a newspaper reporter is now considered the worst career in America.

Compiled by CareerCast.com, the 200 occupations are ranked on five criteria: physical demands, work environment, income, stress and hiring outlook.

In at least four of the five criteria, being a newspaper reporter had to be ranked at, or near, the bottom. It's obvious that the hiring outlook is bleak.

As one commenter noted on the site, it must have been awkward for the reporter to write the story.

The list is predictable in many ways and should be taken with a healthy dose of reporter's skepticism since the No. 1 profession is, drum roll please, actuary.

Not that many people know what an actuary does, but it's considered well-paying and stress-free.

Others at the top include bio-medical engineer (2), software engineer (3) and dental hygienist (6). As for the dentist, that career ranks 42nd.

And, social worker, long considered high-stress, low-income work, comes in at a surprising 49th. But, there is definitely a need for them, just ask reporters.

Last year, the lumberjack (known as logger around here) was considered the worst job and it rose all the way to 199 this year.

Other low-ranking careers include enlisted military personnel (198), actor (197) and mail carrier (193). No surprise on the last one since the mail delivery is going the way of the stagecoach.

The janitor, meanwhile, comes in at a respectable 153 on the list and the garbage collector ranks 160th.

As for newspaper reporters, though, it's clear from this ranking that they have a legitimate reason for being cynical about all the jobs ranked higher them. That's what happens when you come in last place.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Cheers in Boston

Well done, Boston
It was great to see the authorities capture the second marathon bombing suspect in a Boston suburb this evening and that residents applauded the police as they left the scene.

There's relief in Massachusetts and everywhere else in the country.

Congratulations to the various police agencies, both state and federal, for the manhunt that resulted in the arrest.

Cool heads will be needed in the coming days as more details emerge about the week-long tragedy.

As President Obama said, the violent actions of two people do not represent an entire group of people.

They do represent Islamic terrorists, who are still going to be a worldwide problem for years to come.

But, as Islamic terrorists have learned in Afghanistan and elsewhere, you don't mess with Americans.

Cheers to Boston for demonstrating the resiliency for which this country is all about.

The terrorists lost yet again.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

The FBI knows more than we do

Suspect No. 1 and his cap
In all the chatter about the identities of the two suspects in the Boston Marathon bombings, it seems that people are under-estimating the FBI.

Why would they release these photos and video? Are they desperate? And what's with the grainy images? Don't they have Photoshop?


I believe that the FBI knows who these men are and are monitoring them as I type. They want to see if the conspiracy is wider than just these two terrorists before they bring down the hammer.

How would they know that they are "armed and dangerous?" Are they just assuming that they are?

I don't think so.

Of course, the flamers out there on the internet, mostly on the Fox News and Wall Street Journal websites, are certain that these men are either Syrian, Iranian, Serbian, Caucasian or, according to CNN, a "dark-skinned male."

I mean that black Bridgestone Golf hat on Suspect No. 1 gives it all away. He must be a caddy.

This could set back the game of golf or Bridgestone tires for years.

Talk about bad product placement.

With the release of the photos and video today, I think the FBI is close to cracking the case.

This won't make everything right. It won't restore legs to the limbless, but it will help us move forward from the mayhem of the April 15.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Bombed in Beantown; pistol-whipped in Washington

Like this runner, America will finish the race to catch the bombers
When the first news bulletins on the bombings at the Boston Marathon hit the airwaves while I was driving around town, I was amazed that such horrible events don't occur more often.

It's a credit to law enforcement in this country that they do not.

Apparently, dozens of such would-be attacks have been thwarted over the past decade.

Thank god, and the men and women who work diligently to prevent such catastrophic events.

And kudos to the bystanders and first responders in caring for the bloodied and the maimed.

Another salute to the doctors and nurses in saving lives and what limbs they could.

The bomber(s), though, got what they wanted: Repeated showings of the bomb blast on every TV channel in almost a continuous loop.

Since there was little news about who could have done such a horrible attack, it was easy to tune out TV and turn to the web for information.

But then, websites such as the New York Post, Fox News and CNN were quick to report erroneous information.

What websites such as the Wall Street Journal and Fox News did have, though, were comments by readers after various stories that show the true nature of the right-wingnuts in this country.

They complained about Islam as the "religion of peace," they whined that "they'll blame Bush again," and they mocked President Obama: "Lord Obama and his goon squad communist thugs, planned this false flag attack to blame white male tea party conservatives for political gain and more power."

Well, according to a Fox News poll (taken with a grain of salt, naturally), 62 percent of respondents believe those behind the Boston bombing were "homegrown" as opposed to foreigners.

I, too, believe that the Monday attack was carried out by angry tea-bagging American(s) who get their only information from Fox News and Rush Limbaugh.

However, it could easily be Islamic terrorists since they love high-profile assaults with lots of cameras around. Also, they have few qualms about blowing up children, women, the elderly and any other innocent bystander.

But, if the Islamic terrorists did kill three bystanders and gravely wound scores more, they would've gladly taken the credit for it by now.

Their silence is mystifying.

Or, it could mean that the "angry white male" in America was indeed behind the cowardly act. Afterall, it was national tax day and also Patriot Day in Massachusetts to commemorate the start of the Revolutionary War.

What better way for a tea-bagger to express his anger than in the town of the original Tea Party. That says something, doesn't it?

Not if Senators have their say.

Well, they did have their say today as they rejected a modest proposal to prevent felons and the mentally disturbed from buying assault weapons to kill innocent Americans in movie theaters, shopping malls and schools.

In essence, they cowered to the NRA which gave them an offer they couldn't refuse: Either vote "no" or your brains will spill all over your state.

As President Obama said, "this was pretty shameful day in Washington."

Unfortunately, the shame won't end for years.

Friday, April 12, 2013

'The Great Gatsby': a pre-review

Jay Gatsby, ol' sport
Spoiler alert: The hero, or anti-hero, dies in the end.

The latest adaptation of "The Great Gatsby" opens next month, so in these Twitter times, it makes sense to review something no one has seen.

This will be the sixth version of the classic novel that was published in 1925. None of of the previous five films are considered classics or even that memorable. In fact, the first one, a silent film, no longer exists.

Will the filmmakers get it right this time?

Judging from the trailer, soundtrack, cast and director, it doesn't look like this "Gatsby" will be a big hit or do the novel justice. That is just as well, because great novels are always better than their film counterparts.

Since the director is the Australian Baz Luhrmann, "The Great Gatsby" will dazzle visually. The trailer confirms this, but it also looks a little too busy for the story of a dashing bootlegger desperately trying to win back his lost love.

Luhrmann directed the musical "Moulin Rouge!", which is so audaciously frenetic that it's amazing it ever got released in 2001. The mash-up of modern songs with a period film actually worked. The film's stars, Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor, even had screen chemistry and did well with their singing.

But, the camera moves so fast and so frequently that it almost makes the viewer dizzy. Luhrmann is like a Max Ophuls on meth.

Still, I was glad he made "Moulin Rouge!" and that it found a modest audience. It cost $52 million to make and grossed $57 million.

Luhrmann's visual style, though, overwhelms whatever story he tells. The star of a Luhrmann movie is always Luhrmann's direction.

"Gatsby" re-teams Luhrmann with Leonard DiCaprio, who starred in Luhrmann's 1996 modern take of "Romeo + Juliet."

DiCaprio is a natural choice to play Jay Gatsby since DiCaprio is such an international star.

But, like Robert Redford who played Gatsby in the 1974 version, mega-star quality actually gets in the way of the role.

The character of Gatsby requires a sense of mystery and danger that Redford couldn't convey and that DiCaprio will be hard-pressed to accomplish. We know these men too well for there to be any mystery left. Also, both actors are so good looking that it's hard for them to convince an audience that they could be dangerous.

In typical Luhrmann fashion, the soundtrack should be mismatched for the time period, which was the Jazz Age, but also strangely appropriate.  With songs by Jay-Z, Beyonce, Florence + The Machine and Nero, the soundtrack should attract more viewers to the theater, but should also further distract from the action on the screen.

The budget for "The Great Gatsby" is estimated at $127 million. Judging from the trailer, it's easy to see why. It looks great. By the way, the budget for the 1974 film was $6.5 million.

But, principal photography for "Gatsby" ended in early January 2012. This means that the filmmakers spent most of their time tinkering with computer-generated imagery (CGI) to make the film look so astonishing.

That's not a bad thing, but CGI tends to make movies seem like thrill rides rather than just movies with good acting and solid stories. This "Gatsby" also comes in 3-D which seems way over the top and unnecessary.

All the nit-picking aside, I will likely go out and see Luhrmann's "Great Gatsby," because his movies are more interesting than most released these days. Plus, I like the actors. Carey Mulligan should be great as Daisy Buchanan and Tobey Maguire should be fine as the narrator, Nick Carraway.

And, DiCaprio is still a good actor.

We shall see how it all plays out at the multiplex.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

LED the way

The CREE uses glass like a traditional bulb but with a rubbery coating on it
I bought my first light-emitting diode (LED) light bulb on April 9 and so far it's working well.

In fact, it provides more light, and warmer color too, than the compact fluorescent (CFL) it replaced.

It's supposed to last 22.8 years, based on 3 hours a day usage, and consumes only 9.5 watts to produce 60 watts worth of light.

After reading a lengthy article about the CREE LED bulb, I decided to buy the 60-watt equivalent bulb for $12.97 at Home Depot, which apparently is the only store selling it.

Yes, $13 is still exorbitant, about 10 times so, when compared to the standard 60-watt incandescent light bulb or the equivalent CFL.

But, at some point, we'll all have to take the plunge.

It's the best thing to do on a number of levels: LEDs save you money in the long run on electricity costs; they emit far less heat than conventional bulbs; they don't contain mercury like CFLs do; they reduce the need for more power plants which means less human-induced climate change; and they don't have to be changed every year or two or five.

Plus, LEDs come on instantly and most are dimmable, like the CREE.

The CREE bulb comes with an astounding 10-year warranty.

I put my first LED bulb in a hall ceiling fixture so that I don't have to get out a ladder every time the bulb goes out. In the coming years, I plan to replace all my light bulbs -- from incandescent to CFL to halogen -- with LEDs.

First, I will likely change the bulbs in hard to reach fixtures.

Outdoor fixtures will be next. Lastly, the bedside lamps will get LEDs.

This could take years to complete considering the high initial cost of LEDs.

But, Philips claims it will come out with a sub-$10, 60-watt equivalent bulb later this year.

As more people buy LED light bulbs, the cost of each bulb should come down. The price has already dropped in half in less than three years.

Obviously, we're in a transitional period for light bulbs. About 4 billion of the 5 billion bulbs used in America are incandescent. 

Eventually, though, the LED will become the standard bulb in all fixtures and appliances.

What the incandescent light bulb was to the 20th Century, the LED light bulb will be to the 21st Century.

Things are looking brighter for the wallet and the world.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

RIP, Lynn Lundquist

Lundquist was 78
One of the last reasonable Republicans in Oregon, Lynn Lundquist, died suddenly on Tuesday at his home in Powell Butte.

The former Speaker of the House in Salem was a farmer, mentor to numerous wayward youth, community leader and an advocate for fully funding public education in Oregon.

Lundquist was ousted as House speaker in 1999 after he was deemed insufficiently conservative for the GOP.

Lundquist was an old-school Republican because he sought to work with Democrats for a better Oregon.

Modern Republicans do not consider Democrats to be Americans and therefore they refuse to work with Democrats at all.

As the first leader of the Oregon Business Association, Lundquist knew that if Oregon wanted to achieve a stable, growing economy it had to invest more in public education.

This further alienated Lundquist from the GOP establishment. Pouring more money into public education means that you are pro-Union, according to Republicans, and true elephants are definitely anti-Union.

Lundquist put Oregon before political party and he was ostracized by the GOP for doing so.

Lundquist was a kind and decent man. He will be missed.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

The end of newspapers?

Advance Publications, which owns The Oregonian, announced on Friday that one of its flagship newspapers, The Cleveland Plain Dealer, will only publish three days a week.

It's only a matter of time before The Oregonian scales back its publication days from seven days to five to three to one and then ...

As The Oregonian goes, so goes The Bulletin, Bend's daily newspaper.

A recent ad from KTVZ showing locals throwing away the paper in favor of an online app to watch KTVZ for news adds insult to injury.

Daily newspapers are old school. Smartphones are new school.

No one under the age of 50 subscribes to a newspaper. Few Americans over the age of 50 get their news from their smartphones.

Something has got to give.

Obviously, it will be newspapers.

On one hand, this isn't good for Americans because TV news is a sorry substitute for real, comprehensive news.

TV news is great for car crashes, fires and crime, but is pathetic on almost everything else that goes on in our world. If there is no quick visual to explain a news story, then there is no story that fits the TV news format.

Quite simply, the citizenry is ill-served when TV news is the only source of information that most Americans rely on. Thankfully, we have the internet to fill in the significant gap in comprehensive coverage left by TV news and newspapers

That said, daily newspapers, even though they are completely beholden to their advertisers, are worthwhile. They provide another voice, albeit biased by their allegiance to their advertisers, that is important for a society to reach sound decisions on matters of the day.

We're in the midst of dramatic change in how Americans get their news/information.

While TV news organizations may think they will become the news of record after the demise of newspapers, they are totally misguided in this belief.

TV news relies on YouTube for some of its coverage. There is no reason to tune into TV news when it itself tunes into YouTube.

The internet, for all its pitfalls of biased coverage, is the future of news.

Newspapers and TV stations will lose the day if they don't grasp this simple fact.