Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Media Alarmism, a brief history

Due to the insane "the sky is falling" style of reporting on the recent pig flu, I felt the need to compile a brief history of media alarmism:

The 1980s: Killer Bees!

I was convinced swarms of killer bees would cloud the sky and kill us all. Total deaths since they came to the United States over 20 years ago: 14

2000: The Y2k Computer bug!

This one was entertaining because at the time I worked for a company that sold computer supplies. Being asked if the printer ink we sold was "Y2K compliant" was especially funny. I wanted to say "No, at midnight on New Year's it will start spraying ink willy nilly!". I will admit it was a genius marketing device by whoever came up with it.

2002: West Nile Virus!
Citronella sales boomed! In the United States since 1999, an average of 113 deaths per year. For comparison, in the U.S. horses cause an average of 200 deaths a year. Where is the media coverage to alert us of our impending doom from horses!? We're all in grave danger! Horses!

2003: SARSSales of surgical face masks skyrocketed. SARS related deaths in the United States: zero. Average lightning strike deaths in the U.S. per year: 62. Number of masks invented to protect us from lightning strikes: zero.

2004: Mad Cow Disease
Deaths in the United States so far: 3. Unless you eat the brain or spinal cord of a cow, chances are you'll be ok. You should be almost equally panicked about vending machines. They kill 2.18 people a year, so be careful out there.

2005/2006: Bird FluU.S. deaths: zero. The surgical mask industry enjoys another spike in sales after the post-SARS decline.

2008: SalmonellaPeppers, tomatoes... nothing seemed safe. Well, not salsa at least. Which in Texas is second only to oxygen in our daily requirements. Total deaths in the U.S.: 11. Total number of salmon eaten per grizzly bear per year: 3000. Yes, I know salmon and salmonella are not related.

And now we have the pig flu. Zero U.S. fatalities so far. The "regular" flu kills 36,000 a year.

My point here is that people need to keep things in perspective and not trust the news media. Most of these illnesses only cause either flu like symptoms or diarrhea in most people. Most of these illnesses can be prevented by washing your hands and not letting people cough on you. This morning there were reports that the pig flu actually responds well to regular flu treatments like Theraflu. Before you take a news story too seriously, note how many times they use the word or words "alert" "panic" "cause for concern" to direct your thinking. Also look out for near-comical graphics in the corner of the screen like crazy red-eyed pigs and story titles in bold letters that are done in graphical fonts to look like they are oozing blood.

I actually did two days of research on this and all the facts are correct to my knowledge. Unfortunately I didn't think to save any of my sources for reference.. so you'll just have to trust me on this.

Friday, April 17, 2009


I didn't intend to write a three-tiered post about books but over the past few weeks I have come across three brilliant book related things and had to share!

First is The Logan Square Book Exchange. This guy took an old newspaper box, revamped it, and now it's used as a free community book exchange. I think it's an awesome idea. If you can't get your hands on a used newspaper box I think it would be cool on a smaller scale in a break room at work or something.

The next is
Book Crossing. It's kind of like Where's George, except with books instead of money. After you register and enter your books you can track the journey of your book from reader to reader as it makes it's way across the country. I think it's especially fun if you sneakily leave your book ("set it free") on a park bench or in a coffee shop rather than sell it or give it to someone you know.

Finally there is PaperbackSwap. I haven't used it yet, but it's a cool concept. You post your used books, people buy them with 'credits' and you ship the book to them (you pay shipping). This gets you credits, which you can then use to get books!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009


Google Street View + too much time on my hands + image editing software=

NASCAR around my block!

(may take a while to load)

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

New Tax for Pet Owners

Being in the veterinary business, I got a heads up on this at work today. I guess this is how they are funding the government bailout. If you are a pet owner you should definitely check it out. Click the image to view the full size page.