Thursday, August 28

Readin' Ritin' and Remingtons

A school district in Texas (where else?) has recently decided to allow teachers to carry concealed weapons on school grounds. (Link to full article.)

The district superintendent, David Thweatt, says the move is a proactive protection measure. He adds "Country people are take-care-of-yourself people. They are not under the illusion that the police are there to protect them."

But the police are here to protect the population. That's their purpose. Does Mr. Thweatt also not trust the local fire department to respond to a fire, nor the local paramedics to respond to a health emergency?

I could somewhat understand (but still disagree with) this move if there were gang-activity or some other history of violence in the area. But Harrold, TX has only 268 residents and hardly any violent crime. Wilbarger County has 14,000 residents and recorded 702 criminal incidents in 2000 and only 9 of those can be considered violent. The sole high school has only 100 students. So, what or who is Mr. Thweatt protecting his district from?

Mr. Thweatt says that this decision had been discussed internally within the school board for 2 years. Evidently, they considered other non-lethal measures including tranquilizer guns, beanbag guns, tasers, mace and armed security guards but found each was inadequte. "We devil-advocated it to death," says Mr. Thweatt.

From the articles, I've read Mr. Thweatt never clearly identifies the enemy he is "protecting" his schools from. But that enemy must be the students themselves since it is students who have been both the victims and assailants in most schools shootings.

So, this school district has chosen to spend its time and money on lethal weapons aimed at school children. They and Mr. Thweatt ignored the opportunity to try and determine what provokes a child to murder. They chose to arm their staff rather add security personnel. And I expect they will choose to "shoot first and ask questions later" should some incident occur.

Unfortunatley, this is yet another instance of a scared person taking matters into his/her own hands. That rarely plays out well. I hope that Harrold, TX will be remembered as just a quirky place where teachers carry guns and does not become yet another town on this list:
  • Pearl, MS
  • Fort Gibson, OK
  • Conyers, GA
  • Red Lake, MN
  • Moses Lake, WA
  • Oxnard, CA
  • Littleton, CO
  • ....

Monday, August 25

meningitis fearmongering

A relatively heavy ad campaign has recently been launched to promote Menactra, a meningitis vaccine. The ads show bright-eyed, smiling pre-teens and tells us what they want to be when they grow up. (See their web ad here.)

Aeesha wants to be a pop-star. Chad wants to be a ocenographer. Kiera wants to be cartoon animator. Micheal wants to be a hedge fund manager (if you can believe a 12 years old knows what a hedge fund is).

But the ads then warn us that their hopes, dreams, and lives can be ended by meningitis whose symptoms could be as benign as a cough or sneeze but can prove fatal is less than 2 days if untreated. But, we are then reassured that Menectra can protect our kids and help ensure they grow up to achieve their dreams. And to add credence to this claim, the CDC recommends Menactra vaccinations for all kids.

Everything the ads state is true. But I positively hate ads like this that prey on fear.

Menactra (aka MCV4) is a new meningitis vaccine that received approval in 2005. But it's precursor, MPSV4 , has been available since 1981. The CDC does recommend MCV4 as part of the normal pre-adolescent vaccinations, but only because it is the latest meningitis vaccine and has been shown to reduce the risk of communicable transfer. The CDC further states that MPSV4 is highly effective. It even states that a MCV4 vaccination is not needed if MPSV4 has already been administered and further focuses the recommenation on at-risk groups that are in-close quarters (students entering dorms, military personnel, etc.).

Meningitis vaccinations are not required in any state. Although there have been a few well-publicized meningitis deaths in the past couple of years, the CDC did not make this recommendation because of a sudden outbreak in meningitis cases. The CDC estimates an meningitis incident (not death) may occur 1 out of 100,000 students each year.

Vaccinating your child against meningitis is a good precaution. But the Menactra campaign tries to spin a safety measure as a vital defense against a pressing enemy. That's misleading and a distasteful marketing tactic.

Further reading: Keep Kids Healthy meningitis page; CDC meningitis FAQs.

Friday, August 22

new music

If you're looking for some new tunes in the Nu-Jazz and Neo-Soul genre then check out Esperanza Spalding's self-titled release, Hil St Soul's Black Rose, and Layla Hathaway's Self Portrait.

Esperanza is a surprisingly good jazz album that also stretches into R&B/Soul. What makes it so surprising is that Spalding is only 24 years old. Many talented young artists seem to show their youth with questionable lyrical depth and tunes that are a bit too "jingly". But Esperanza is good from beginning to end. (8/10)
Esperanza Spalding's bio on International Music Network

Black Rose is the latest release from the UK's Hil St Soul and shows that the Neo-Soul genre isn't fading away but instead maturing. The album carefully balances groovy sounds and good lyrics with solid vocals. It might stand the best chance of any of her albums for some commercial success in the US. (8/10)
Interview with Hilary Mwelwa on Soulbounce

Lalah Hathaway's always had one of the smoothest voices and Self Portrait shows that she's just getting better as time goes by. This is definitely the most "grown-up" album of these three and if you still remember actually listening to original Quiet Storm you'll feel right at home with Lalah. (7/10)
Lalah's bio on Soul Tracks

Thursday, August 21

signature construction

This is one of St Pete's new luxury high rises, the Signature, under construction a few months ago. (Details at Signature sales web site.)

I know many people consider them evil and the bane of all that is good and sacred downtown, but I personally like them. It's a sign of change rather than stagnancy. And you'd certainly rather have people moving in to town rather than leaving.

This one in particular is going to be very good-looking building with true architectural merit. As far as high rises go, its not too tall (only about 30 stories or so) and it's rather slim in profile. This gives it a unique profile that changes from different vantage points.

Now if I can just figure out how to scrape up $600K for my 2BR unit on the 22nd floor...
Posted by Picasa