Saturday, November 28, 2009

Case Study in Media Coverage: The ASAN Protest Against Autism $peaks, Washington, DC, 10/31/09

One thing I've learned at work is that journalists write the stories they want to write. WJLA-TV wanted to do a feel-good story about people coming together to do something about (defeat?) autism. We saw the TV truck and one of us got the crew's attention. The result is "Autism Walk on National Mall Stirs Controversy." WJLA's feel-good story was spoiled and ASAN got its message out.

Contacting the media beforehand is very useful. Howard University's student newspaper, The Hilltop Online, published "Autistic Plea Less Pity" with the byline "People with autism speak out for equal treatment in society." Given Howard University's history of being the flagship black university, the civil rights/equal treatment angle is to be expected. This article negates any feel-good aspects of the Autism $peaks walk.

WAMU-FM did a short radio interview with Ari Ne'eman, ASAN's President and published a short article, "Locally-Founded Autism Group Protests D.C. Walk for Autism." In the interest of balanced journalism, WAMU interviewed an Autism $peaks spokesman. All he could say about Autism Speaks' lack of autistic board members was, "We're working on it." And they will continue to work on it until the apocalypse comes.

Later, Time Magazine published online "'I Am Autism': An Advocacy Video Sparks Protest", an indirect result of the Washington protest. This article attacks Autism Speaks' atrocious video "I am Autism" and publicizes ASAN and its efforts. It has links to the video and some parodies. Autism $peaks does not look good.

BTW, ASAN is the acronym for "Autistic Self-Advocacy Network."

Sunday, November 1, 2009

A Deceased Sandwich Thrown at ASAN Demonstrators by an Autism Speaks Walker, 10/31/2009

I was one of the Autism Self Advocacy Network's demonstrators at the Autism Speaks fundraising walk yesterday. Early in the walk, one of the walkers launched his sandwich at us. This is its remains after landing. What a waste! It would have been better off in someone's stomach.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Words, Just Words

A lot of people have been gushing and bloviating over Obama's inauguration speech. Yesterday, Oprah and her guests were in full-gush mode. All I can say is, "Wait!" One speech at the beginning of a Presidency means nothing in the context of the whole Presidency. This was not Lincoln's "with charity towards all and malice towards none" of his second Inauguration in which he warned against seeking vengeance against the South.

Now for a little spot of analysis:

Quoth Obama: "The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works – whether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified."

Let's start with the part before the dash. It is not always clear what "too big" or "too small" means with regard to the size of the government. Does it mean size in terms of employees, employees and contractors, or scope? For example, one may simultaneously oppose agricultural subsidies and support a more rigorous food inspection regime. The scope of the government will decrease by removing it from intervening in the agricultural sector while government employment increases if the gain in food safety workers exceeds the loss of agricultural subsidy support workers.

Now, for after the dash.
  • "helps families find jobs at a decent wage" Is it the job of the government to find jobs for workers? Or is the government's job to create conditions whereby jobs are created. In other words, should the government actively intervene in the market or not? What does a "decent wage" mean? This term is hopelessly vague. If you want wages to be sufficient to support families, does that include one or two wage-earners? What about those who are not supporting families or even themselves?
  • "care they can afford" What does "affordable care" mean and who is to provide it?
  • "a retirement that is dignified." Again, what does this mean? How do reconcile this with the increasing burdens of Social Security and Medicare?
  • Finally, the things unsaid: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Are these not important metrics? Is not a strong defense from threats to liberty, foreign and domestic, essential? Without these, life and liberty are lost. Is not the government's job to enforce the law and fight (or prepare to fight) enemies? What about all of the other things that governments produce, from emergency services to information of all kinds?
Again, I will reserve judgment until I see what Obama does. His State of the Union address will be a far more important speech because, by necessity, it will have substance.

Monday, January 12, 2009

The Latest State Secret: The Youth Inaugural Concert

The Youth Inaugural Concert is to be held Monday 1/19 at the Verizon Center. It is free, but tickets are required. And this is all the Presidential Inaugural Committee will tell you.

My daughter wants to go, so I trolled the internet for information. I have learned that it will be a Disney production featuring Miley Cyrus and/or the Jonas Brothers, runs 8-9:30 p.m. and that it will honor military families. That last bit means that only military families will get tickets, so my daughter is out of luck. The Disney Channel listing provides the conclusive information.

Classical Music on Madison Avenue

During the Christmas advertising period, one car ad was set to a, well, bizarre version of an advertising favorite, "Dance of the Sugarplum Fairy" from Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Suite. It's really a simple piece, with a simple 2/4 rhythm. The beginning (the usual part used in ads) has pizzicato strings, a celesta and a bass clarinet. So, what did the ad agency do? They had it scored for rock in 4/4 time with an even simpler arrangement. In other words, they trashed it. Were they thinking that the original was too simple for its listeners? How low can they go?

On to this month. I enjoyed Subway's 30 second rendition of Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture, with buttons exploding in sync with the cannon. I know, I'd rather hear the full piece, but with 30 seconds available, I thought Subway did a good job. I also saw a candy ad featuring "Jupiter" from Gustav Holst's "The Planets". I thought the choice was odd, but, still, the music was great.

Would You Like to Buy "eeeee" from

This is what Google Ads is offering as I write. I guess Google is not perfect after all. ;-)

Vegawatt: The Most Efficient Way to Convert Waste Vegetable Oil to Energy

Owl Power Company manufactures the Vegawatt, a machine that converts restaurants' waste vegetable oil to energy. It consists of a diesel engine that drives a generator to produce electricity and a system to extract heat to produce hot water for use at the restaurant. It is optimized for restaurants with 3-5 deep fat fryers The great beauty of this machine is that it turns a waste product into a valuable resource. It typically takes about two years for an American installation to pay for itself. Moreover, the power is carbon-neutral.

So, if you have a restaurant with deep fat fryers, you should buy a unit (or more, I'm not sure how it would work at a large facility). Your investment will pay for itself quickly and continue to reduce your utility bills and increase your profits. It won't eliminate your need for external, but will reduce it noticeably.

I think it would be great if large chains bought these. The lower-end ones like McDonalds are doing well during this recession, so they have the cash to buy these. As production ramps up, their prices should fall, making them even more profitable to use.