About webnerbob

A Cleveland and Ohio State sports fan who lives in Columbus, Ohio

An Elf Gets Into The Game

I’m not a gamer, and I’ve never played the Madden NFL football game, but I still got a laugh out of the glitch in the latest version of the game, called Madden NFL 15.

The height of one player, for the Tennessee Titans, was mistakenly listed at 1 foot, 2 inches.  That means that when he shows up in the game, he’s about at calf height compared to the other players.  However, he still has all of the mannerisms of a fully grown player, like the swagger and the “you didn’t convert on third down” signal.  The results are hysterical.  It’s as if an elf — and not one the size of Will Ferrell — entered the game and then tried to play it straight.

When you see the footage with the tiny player, which is shown on the link above, you can also imagine him talking to the other players in a squeaky, high-pitched voice:  “Hey, I’m down here!  Look at me!  C’mon, pass the ball to me.  Wait up!  Hey, wait up!”  They ignore him, of course.

Perhaps it’s the non-gamer in me, but playing the game with the little sprite seems a lot more interesting than playing the game with regular-sized players.

Detroit, Water, And Human Rights

As it struggles to right itself after years of collapse, Detroit continues to push the boundaries of municipal law and social order.  The latest chapter of this sad tale has to do with something that most Americans take for granted — water.

Detroit has residents who haven’t paid their water bills.  So do many other cities.  But as with so many things, Detroit’s water problem is outsized to the point of absurdity.  About 150,000 Detroit residents are behind on their water bills.  That’s a huge portion — more than 20 percent — of Detroit’s population, which is down to about 700,000 people.  The non-payment problem is so severe that Detroit has begun to shut off water to those who don’t pay their bills.  The shut-offs started, then the Mayor imposed a moratorium to give people a chance to enter into payment plans, and now the shut-offs are on again.

IMG_2970It’s hard to imagine what living in a city would be like if you didn’t have running water — but it’s not hard to forecast that it would quickly become disgusting and unhealthy.  Water is needed for hydration, cooking, clothes-washing, personal hygiene, and waste disposal; no water means clogged toilets, dirty people, and filthy, dangerous living conditions.  It’s why a United Nations group criticized the shutoff, opining that “[d]isconnection of water services because of failure to pay due to lack of means constitutes a violation of the human right to water and other international human rights.”

It’s hard to feel sympathy for either party to this dispute.  It’s a sign of the ridiculous extent of Detroit’s mismanagement that more than 100,000 people were allowed to fall into arrears and that the city was reduced to taking the draconian step of shutting off water to thousands at one time.  Where were the administrators and bill collectors while the roster of deadbeats grew?  Some residents also say their bills are just wrong and that the water is too expensive, and given Detroit’s awful record I’m guessing the city wasn’t exactly providing the most efficient, cost-effective water service in the nation.

And yet, storing, treating, and delivering water costs money, and bankrupt Detroit doesn’t have any.  It’s easy for UN groups to pronounce that free water is a basic human right, but who is going to pay for what is necessary to deliver it?  Other Detroit residents?  The State of Michigan?  The federal government?  Or perhaps the UN would like to foot the bill?

I’m guessing that a good chunk of those 150,000 Detroit residents who owe on their water bills didn’t treat it like a basic necessity when bill-paying time came.  I’m guessing that many of them realized that the city wasn’t trying to collect on water bills, and therefore those bills weren’t prioritized and weren’t paid.  The money that was available got spent on other things, and the amounts owed accumulated to the point it became unmanageable — and when Detroit finally came knocking for payment, there wasn’t the money available, and the only option was to react with outrage.  If that is the true story for many of those 150,000 Detroit residents, who is at fault for their predicament?

We’re going to be learning lessons from the sad story of Detroit for many years to come.

It’s Why He’s Han Solo

Harrison Ford is 71 years old.  In June, his ankle was broken by a door on the Millennium Falcon, Han Solo’s ship.

There’s some bittersweet humor in Ford’s injury, because in the original Star Wars trilogy the Millennium Falcon was viewed by everyone except Han Solo as a piece of intergalactic junk.  There was always a question about whether the light drive or the shields would work, and Solo and Chewbacca and R2D2 spent hours working on the ship and trying to tie down some loose circuit or faulty system.  The fact that a malfunctioning door in the Millennium Falcon broke the ankle of the actor who plays Han Solo therefore is ironic indeed.

But here’s the thing:  Ford is back on the set after only two months, and filming has resumed.  Ford was recently seen on the red carpet at some event and was walking without a limp or any assistance.

Speaking as a 50-something guy who is still somewhat gimpy after toe surgery six months ago, I’m stunned at what Ford has done.  For a 71-year-old guy to bounce back so quickly from a broken ankle is nothing short of amazing.  It just shows why Harrison Ford was the perfect Han Solo — and also the perfect Indiana Jones, for that matter.

The new Star Wars movie, featuring all three of the actors who created the iconic characters of Han Solo, Princess Leia, and Luke Skywalker, is set for release on December 18, 2015.  Mark your calendars!

 

On Labor Day, A Look At “Work”

Most of us will spend decades, and countless thousands of hours, at our jobs — but how often do we think about “work” and how it is changing?  On this Labor Day, it’s worth taking a moment to do so.

In the United States, the concept of “work” and the types of jobs that constitute “work” have changed dramatically over the past 150 years, reflecting changes in the country as a whole.  As this interactive chart of census data shows, farmers and farm laborers constituted more than 50 percent of the jobs held by men in 1850; by 2000, farmers and farm laborers amounted to less than 1 percent of the working male population.  Other jobs that were relatively common in 1850 — like blacksmith, which was 1.79% of the male job market in 1850 — have largely vanished, and new jobs like bartender and insurance agent have taken their places.

The shifts in the jobs have reflected, and in some instances caused, shifts in the culture of America.  Farmers in 1850 worked with family members on land they owned and their work days were self-directed; they lived in rural areas and had little daily interaction with people outside of their village.  Modern white-collar employees typically work in highly structured environments, doing what a complex hierarchy of managers tell them to do, in large cities and buildings where they may interact with hundreds of people each working day.  The demands of the jobs are different — farmers needed to know when to plant and when to harvest, while office workers need to know how to create a decent spreadsheet — and the stresses are different, too.  Who is to say whether preparing an important presentation for a corporate vice president is any more stressful than rising at 4 a.m. to deliver a calf whose successful birth might be crucial to eking out a profit for the year?

The census record of non-household work by women is even more interesting, because it not only shows the ebb and flow of jobs but also the impact of social change and technological change.  At one time household workers (cooks and maids), farm laborers, and dressmakers made up the preponderance of outside-the-home working women, then — as more women entered the workforce — secretaries, clerical workers, and cashiers came to the forefront.  And check out the “manager/owner” category for women, which has gone from less than 1 percent of women in 1970 to more than 3.3 percent in 2000.  Our female friends and family members who own their own businesses and call the shots are part of a significant trend.

The “secretary” job category is particularly worth noting.  The position first shows up in census data in 1900, where about .3% percent of women reported holding that job, and the job category grew to more than 5.3 percent of women by 1970, as white-collar jobs in America exploded.  That number then fell to about 2.9 percent by 2000, and it has likely fallen farther since then.  Why?  It’s not because secretarial work is any less important, but because more and more of that work is now being done by the white collar workers that secretaries used to assist.  As young people who are used to working on personal computers and doing their own keyboarding enter the workforce, there is less need for secretaries who can take shorthand and then type 100 words a minute, without error, on their typewriters for bosses who had, at best, “hunt and peck” proficiency.

How should people prepare for the constantly shifting job market?  We might not be able to predict what types of jobs will be available as social and technological changes occur, but we can predict the characteristics that will make employees successful — because those haven’t changed at all.  Whether you are a blacksmith or an IT specialist, hard work, timeliness, and attention to the quality of your output will always be keys to success.

Could A Rotherham Happen Here?

What happened in Rotherham, a large town in northern England, is appalling.  For more than a decade, local authorities looked the other way while gangs of men of Pakistani origin “groomed” young girls and then systematically raped and abused them.  At least 1,400 — 1,400! — children were sexually exploited.  The victims’ stories about their own personal hells of fear, rape, and hopelessness are harrowing and heart-breaking.

One question in this disturbing story is whether fear of being labeled a racist affected how authorities responded to reports of abuse they received.  The report that outlines the abuse and the massive failures of those charged with protecting the victims, criticizes the authorities for downplaying the issue of the race and ethnicity of the men who were committing the crimes.  Some believe that concerns about being called a racist or being accused of cultural insensitivity prevented the police and council members from actually doing their jobs.  (Of course, by not holding the perpetrators of the crimes to the same standards as everyone else, and by not properly acting on the complaints of the victims, the police and council members were in fact engaging in racist behavior.)

Could a Rotherham occur in the United States?  It’s hard to believe that a criminal enterprise of such scope and magnitude, with so many child victims, could happen here — but it’s hard to believe it could happen in England, either.  The British aren’t fundamentally different from us, and the circumstances that gave rise to the decade of abuse in Rotherham — in particular, the desire to “not upset the apple cart” that caused authorities to turn their heads — could be replicated in America.  Our own history is forever marred by instances where townspeople supported, or at least consciously ignored, murderous criminal gangs like the Ku Klux Klan.  Whether it is concern about running afoul of those in power, or just following along with the crowd, or trying to avoid being publicly called a racist, prevailing social conventions can be powerful motivators.

An African proverb states that “it takes a village to raise a child,” and Hillary Clinton later wrote a book about that concept.  Sometimes, however, villages like Rotherham fail.

The New Circle Takes Shape

IMG_2949They’ve been working on the newest New Albany traffic circle, at the intersection of Market Street and Route 62, for several months now.  It’s been a pain for us because it removes one of the primary traffic corridors and routes everything through our neighborhood.  It’s a different feel to be riding your bike on suburban streets that are rumbling with lots of traffic.

Still, we think the sacrifice will be worth it.  The other traffic circles in our area — particularly the one in front of the Kroger and at the intersection of Route 62 and Morse Road — have a made a huge difference in traffic flow.  Long lines of idling cars that used to be found at those locations no longer exist.  Traffic circles also are more fun than a stop sign and a simple left turn.

We’ll be grateful when the construction is ended and the new circle is open, but it’s safe to say we won’t be the happiest recipient of that news:  the long-suffering CVS at the corner of 62 and Market Street has basically been marooned for months, stranded on a little island of commerce in a muddy sea of construction.