Odds and Ends

26 05 2009


Barefoot Bum brings up an interesting argument regarding capital punishment. Please go to his site and read it. I rarely agree with him on many issues, but he always makes me think.


From the articles I’ve read, and conversations with people reportedly knowledgeable on the subject, it looks like the World’s Biggest Ego has been attention-whoring again. For those of you not sure what I’m talking about, North Korea has supposedly tested a small nuclear device in an underground test. This was followed by launching several short-range missiles at nothing in particular. Baby is throwing a tantrum, and the usual suspects are making the usual statements. South Korea is understandably upset-especially the citizens of Seoul (all of whom live within artillery range of their northern neighbor with the monumentally unstable Leader), and demanding action. Japan is well within missile range of North Korea and- as the only country to have suffered nuclear bombardment- is also understandably miffed. The US is annoyed, has called for sanctions (again), and reiterated our pledge of defense for Japan and South Korea. China says they are peeved with the Norks and their Dear Leader, but refuses to allow anyone to do anything about it. Et cetera ad nauseum.

There are a couple of related problems in dealing with North Korea. Problem one: North Korea is blatantly holding the citizens of Seoul hostage against any retaliation for its actions. If the balloon goes up in Korea, tens of thousands of artillery shells will cascade across Seoul, killing hundreds of thousands- even without nukes. The North Korean government has made no secret of the fact that any shooting war on the Korean peninsula will result in the destruction of Seoul- regardless of the outcome for the North. Not exactly Mutually-Assured Destruction, but definitely mad.

Problem two: If the Norks keep acting up in this manner, Japan will be forced to start re-arming. They have the money and the technology to field a serious military force, and nobody on the Pacific Rim wants that (especially the countries victimized by Nippon’s last military adventures). Hopefully, the US government can quietly pass the word to our Chinese friends that the continuation of North Korea’s antics will result in a resurgent Rising Sun. If anyone can rein in the Dear Leader without military force, it would be China. Let’s hope they get onboard with this.


The Irish Kid (President O’Bama) has signed new fuel-efficiency standards into law. It’s been a while since the last time standards were created, so it was probably due. There shouldn’t be a need to reduce safety while increasing fuel efficiency.

I’m hoping the surviving automakers in this country take a cue from their European rivals and start producing high-efficiency diesel engines, but I won’t hold my breath. The most likely result (IMO) would be the demise of at least one of the so-called “Big Three” automakers- merely because they’ve shown a remarkable inability to innovate.


A few credit-security tips for the five or six people reading this rag. Tip #1- when you stay at a hotel and the place uses those swipe cards in lieu of keys, make damned sure the cards get erased when you turn them in. Most of the larger hotels encrypt their cards and erase ’em immediately, but you can’t be sure of that. If unencrypted and un-erased, all sorts of interesting personal information can be easily extracted by anyone with the technical savvy of your average twelve-year-old. Important stuff like your credit card number, name, address, date of birth ,etc. Tell the clerk to delete the card when you check out and watch them do it. Every time.

Tip #2- check your statements religiously. For the non-religious among you, check them at least monthly. My wife spotted a strange charge on our card recently. It turns out to be from a hotel/resort in Hong Kong. Since I have never been to Hong Kong in my life, we were reasonably certain this was a fraudulent charge. I immediately called the credit card company and let their fraud people know about it, cancelled that account number, and ordered a new credit card. It could have been a mistake from a fat-fingered clerk punching in the numbers, but better safe than sorry.


Safety people get a lot of grief, and a lot of that is well-deserved. If the safety rules make it impossible to get anything done, the safety professional has not done his or her job properly. Read some of the “nanny state” headlines coming out of the UK for some good examples of over-zealous safety people in action.

As a safety professional, I know that I cannot protect the workers or the general public. I am not Superman (although we’ve never been seen together, and the resemblance is uncanny). The role of the safety professional is to help make sure his clients (workers and/or general public) have enough information to make the right decisions when managing risks. That’s the key term: managing risk. It is almost impossible to eliminate risk, but managing risks is easy. If you drive a car, you do this automatically (pun intended), and often unconsciously. Managing risks means reducing the probability of an “accident” or reducing the possible severity of an accident when they occur. It does not mean trying to bubble-wrap or whiffle-ize anything hazardous. Managing risk means making the right decisions to minimize the probability of injury or damage. That puts the responsibility for safety squarely where it belongs- on the individual.

Current status: Busy

Current music: Shakin’ the Tree by Peter Gabriel