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Monday, April 30, 2007

Is this scary or what?

I suppose video game junkies are rejoicing that a startup company is experimenting with brain-wave reading technology to make gaming more realistic. What next? Brain-wave reading at work? In school? At interviews?
There are fewer and fewer truly private places these days. The brain is the last frontier.
Until now apparently.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Has 'Take Your Child' run its course?

Thousands of businesses will be visited by the children of employees today in an annual ritual that, I think, has become something of a joke. Way back when -- and I remember that far back -- we brought only our daughters. It was a way to show them how women could function and succeed in the workplace. Then boys wanted in, and they, too, came.
Now elementary and middle schools pretty much close down because so many kids are at their parents' job. But I wonder how much kids really do learn about the business world by a day of pretend activities. In fact, most kids I've talked to see this less as a learning experience and more as a day off from school.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

What happened to all real estate tycoons?

It wasn't that long ago when most everybody I knew was speculating on the real estate market: buying condos to flip, investing in handyman's specials, buying a second home for investment. Every dinner party I went to revolved around the same conversation. Not a condo flipper or a particularly good handyperson, I felt left out.
Now the tables are turned. The market is sluggish and no one knows what's going to happen. Many think that prices will go down. Wonder what all those condo flippers are doing these days.
If I had the money, I would spend the next few months buying up on the downside.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Here we go again

Lots of talk but no far. Our legislators have not come to a decision on property tax relief in their first day of negotiations. Are you surprised? Not me. There are too many special interests involved, too much posturing, for any meaningful change. I suspect whatever break we get will likely be similar to the relief we got for our homeowner's insurance -- which is to say: very little.
The other day I checked with State Farm to see what my insurance might be when it's renewed in July. It has more than doubled. When I asked about the breaks we were supposed to be getting from the earlier legislative session, my agent informed me -- correctly-- that most had been for Citizens' customers. State Farms buys the bulk of its reinsurance from private companies, not the state. Thus, SF policy owners aren't getting any sizable breaks.

Monday, April 23, 2007

When words aren't enough

Virginia Tech students return to class today. The university has given them the option of taking the grade they've already earned or sitting for finals in the next two weeks. Hard choice.
I cannot imagine what professors will be telling their students. What can you say, really? Can students even concentrate?
Surely a final in European History must not look all that important right now.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Are our kids safe in school?

State universities are asking the legislature for money to beef up security, a good idea in this age of fear and random killings. But I wonder how much we can really protect students in wide-open campuses like University of Florida or Florida International University. There are so many entrances and exits, so many buildings, so many "visitors" and "students" and no sure way of identifying everyone on campus that I feel we have to accept a sad verity: the inherent danger of life anywhere.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

What do we REALLY know about global warming?

Remember the dire predictions telling us that global warming might increase the chances of killer hurricanes? Now some scientists believe it may have the opposite effect by creating factors that can shear a storm our of existence.
Some scientific discussions remind me of the ongoing debate about what is good for you to eat and what isn't. Margarine or butter? Red wine? Coffee?
I'm constantly reminded how little I know -- and how ignorance isn't necessarily bliss.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

An unspeakable tragedy

The massacre at Virginia Tech is such an unspeakable tragedy. I cannot imagine what the families of the slain students must be going through now. I've lost a husband, a mother, a sister and a brother-in-law in less than 10 years and managed to work through the paralyzing grief. But the idea of losing a child, no matter the age or circumstances, is something that stops me dead in my tracks. My heart and prayers go to the survivors.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Miami International Airport needs an extreme makeover

Took a long weekend to attend my cousin's son's wedding in northern Virginia -- a wonderful, fun event that left me recharged with good memories. The weather, however, was on the edge of horrible. As a result, we were delayed several hours both going up and coming down.
We figured that, if you add up the delay in hours, we could've done an extra round-trip to D.C. Add to that the time waiting in airports -- we were there two hours ahead because of long lines -- and you have a hefty tab: about 24 hours involved in "travel" of some sort, most of it sitting in airports.
Which leads me to my point. MIA needs a major makeover. The lines are long and the service spotty. During our 4-hour delay Thursday evening, a mouse scampered about our gate area. Luggage handling? I'd give ourselves a D. At Reagan, for instance, our bags were delivered quickly. We had a long wait in Miami.
Considering that our airport is the first -- and sometimes only --impression we give visitors, we desperately need to clean up our act.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Being selfish about property taxes

All this debate about property taxes has got me completely and utterly confused. It seems to change by the hour.
But I do know what I want, and I'm selfish about my interests. I want a solution that will protect me and mine. When I downsize in four or five years, I don't want to face a hefty property tax bill in my next home because I've been living forever in my current home. So I want portability.
At the same time I recognize we need some equity. It's not fair that new buyers are socked the way they are now. How will my children afford to live in South Florida?

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

How refreshing!

I wasn't a fan of Gov. Crist's when he was on the campaign trail, but like most people quoted in the story about his first 100 days, he has won me over. This guy is more concerned with getting things done than playing partisan politics.
How incredibly refreshing!

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Yikes! The National Guard isn't ready...

...for hurricane season because, according to a news story, too much of the guard's equipment is over in Iraq. Once again the administration has bungled priorities. Florida and other states in hurricane alley are risking a lot to fight an unpopular war we should have never started in the first place.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Back after Spring Break...

...and wishing I were still gone. It seems that the older I get, the more difficult it becomes to return to the reality of the workaday world.
Not that vacation was perfect. We dragged three teenagers to the west coast for several days of fishing. All they did was whine, complain and sass back. They were upset they weren't with their friends, that their phones didn't work, that life in general had "stopped" -- read: unplugged -- for a few days.
My neighbor told me she and her husband went several years without taking a family vacation because "teenagers are like electrons in search of a nucleus and their parents are NOT that nucleus."

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Dare I criticize the Gators...

...after another national chapmionship? This isn't about basketball. Or about football, for that matter. This is about the University of Florida and my experience with it. I've had three children graduate from there -- two stepkids and my oldest son -- and think of it as a top-notch school. But my experience (and that of other parents I know) hasn't always been pleasant. The university is so huge that individual attention is unheard of, let alone classes where you strike up a relationship with faculty. If a student has a problem -- unsure of his major, for instance, or trouble transfering summer classes -- forget about finding someone to help.
I'm hoping that the money UF makes from all these athletic championships goes to student services.

Monday, April 02, 2007

School's out and...

...traffic is a (relative) breeze. I've been zipping about all morning delighted by the fact that the roads are lightly traveled today. Miami has become so congested that little things like this make my day.