Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Crankcase for 2009

Crankcases are short notes relating to aggravations and other humorous observations.

Crankcase: Security Check

I was flying out of San Jose airport a few weeks ago and noticed that the TSA had actually done something sensible with the security lines. One was marked "frequent travelers" and the other "infrequent travelers and families." This was apparently an effort to simplify the process for everyone. Now all they need is a third line for people who are too cheap to check luggage and try to pass off two suitcases as carry-on bags.

Crankcase: Oh, Sweet Mystery of Technology

If global business relies on technology, I often wonder how the whole system doesn't come crashing down around someone's ears. This week my laptop's Internet connection -- which uses Sprint's wireless broadband, the easiest and most reliable technology I've ever owned -- started getting sluggish.

Yesterday, it started timing out on everything -- Web pages, e-mail, even my online banking. I visited my local Sprint store, where a helpful technician swapped wireless cards with me. My card worked fine in his machine; his groaned in mine.

Geek Squad, which was two doors down in the same mall, wanted $200 and two days to diagnose the problem. If I was going to do that, I needed to get files off the computer and retrieve the power adapter first.

Before I went home, I stopped at Starbucks to use the Wi-Fi connection to at least download my e-mail, which, strangely enough, worked fine, as did my Web connections. As an occasional optimist, I then tried to open the broadband connection again. It worked like a charm.

So disabling one network connection and enabling a different network connection cleared out whatever cache was bogging down my work. But if problems pop up unbidden, and get solved by seemingly random solutions, how does anything get fixed except by accident?

Crankcase: Here’s a Free Idea For You

I saw a guy about my vintage at the gym the other day. I noticed him because he was wearing a terrific T-shirt – it read "Old Age – It’s Better Than Death." I asked him if it was part of a series, and he said he didn’t know because his "smart-ass kids" had gotten it for him.

If it’s not part of a series, I think the manufacturer is missing a big, big opportunity. I was thinking of new versions even before I left the gym.

“Amputation – It’s Better Than Gangrene.”

“Foreclosure – It’s Better Than Negative Equity.”

“Herpes – It’s Better Than No Sex At All.”

Crankcase: Giving A Finger to the Feds

I firmly believe our health care system is broken and in need of fixing. At the same time, though, I'm not convinced the federal government should be in the business of health care. Logically, it should, but I’m not convinced it has the collective intelligence to ensure that the situation will improve under its purview.

I make this decision after hearing about a request my wife — a primary care physician working for the Department of Veterans affairs — received regarding a patient. The request came from the Department of Defense, wanting to know why this patient could not be deployed back to Iraq. The man is 50 years old, has back problems, and displays symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.

As if that weren’t enough though, there’s this one other little condition the man has to deal with. Bear in mind that a perquisite for being deployed — no matter where in the U.S. Army — you must be able to shoot a gun. This particular patient had his right index finger amputated after an accident during his first tour of duty in Iraq. But the Department of Defense still wants my wife to explain why he shouldn’t be deployed.

These are not the people I want in charge of my health care.

Crankcase: They Can’t All Be Funny

I was interviewing a vice-president of IBM last week and started off by asking her to talk about what her responsibilities encompassed. She rattled off a litany of wide-ranging activities. As I frequently do when hearing such a mind-boggling list, I jokingly said, "So what do you do in the afternoons?"

When her response was complete silence, I said, "I guess I should stop saying that because people don't get the joke." She replied, "Oh, I got it. I just didn't think it was funny."

Crankcase: Stoned Wallabies

In the July 4th Earthweek column, columnist Steve Newman quotes a Tasmanian official complaining of wallabies (marsupials similar to kangaroos) who have been invading Tasmanian poppy fields and getting high on the flowers being grown for medicinal purposes. Clearly, this is the derivation of the term "hophead."

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