Word from Bird Jan 2016

You don’t need a weatherman to tell which way the wind blows

Name me one job that allows you to be wrong 90 percent of the time without any consequences?

Besides a politician I mean.

If you said television weatherman (or woman in these politically correct times) you are right. I have never heard of another profession where being wrong 90 percent of the time was considered all right.

They stand before the cameras and tell us what the weather is going to be like over the next several days, like they actually know! When in actuality, they are just making a guess based on the guesswork of someone else, perhaps the little gnome they keep locked up in the basement.

The only real criteria for becoming a television weather personality, (like how I avoided the gender issue with that one?), is looking good in front of the cameras and being able to point intelligently in front of a blue screen. I have to admit that is a pretty neat trick. They are able to point at something that isn’t really there, and making us believe that a blue mass of warm air is descending on our general vicinity.

They try to confuse us by having these yahoos belonging to the American Meteorological Society or some other prestigious sounding group. (Shouldn’t a meteorologist be studying meteors, not weather?) What does it take to join the AMS - A pair of box tops and $2.50 for shipping and handling?

And let us take a moment to discuss barometric pressure. In every telecast, the weather personality has to take a moment and show us a graphic that tells us the barometric pressure is either rising or falling. What they fail to tell us is what that means. Every child learns about barometric pressure in elementary school and promptly forgets about it by recess.

But they always mention the barometric pressure, like we are supposed to know what it means. I believe it is a secret weather code that informs other members of the AMS of when the next secret meeting and chili supper is to take place.

Weatherman: “And as you can see the barometric pressure is at 36...and dropping. Back to you Phil.”

Anchor: “Did you say dropping?

Weatherman: “That’s right Phil.”

Anchor: “Shouldn’t we be buying emergency rations and batteries right now?”

Weatherman: “If you want…I’ll be in Tahiti.”

This morning I woke up to the air filled with flurries of snow, yet the “Accu-weather, Dual Doppler, Spectrascan” forecast called for sunshine with temperatures in the mid 40’s. I’m glad I didn’t have any plans to go outside and work on my tan today, lest I turn into a Popsicle.

And what exactly is Dual Doppler anyway? Isn’t it just a fancy name for radar? They always have to have some fancy name for the equipment, even if it’s the same thing all the other channels have.

So, the next time you want to know what the weather is going to be, do what I do. Look out the window and take a guess. I imagine your accuracy will be about the same.


Snake hunters

Have you heard about the Python Challenge?

No, its not a new Hulk Hogan reality show, it’s a contest sponsored by the State of Florida where everyday citizens are asked to wade into the muggy swampland and kill a snake for the environment.

It may sound crazy, but it’s absolutely true.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission cooked up this seemingly simple plan to reduce the population of pythons in the Florida Everglades. These non-native snakes have no natural predators, and are slowly squeezing the life out of the fragile ecosystem.

So they are sponsoring a contest where “hunters” delve into the swamps, braving unbearable heat, pesky mosquitoes, alligators, razor palms and other fun stuff, to hunt down and kill snakes for cash and prizes.

The person who kills the most pythons gets $1,500, and the one who kills the longest wins $1,000.

When the contest started in 2013 1,600 hunters only found 68 of the elusive reptiles.

I know I would need a lot more money than that just to enter the Everglades. I lived in Florida, and know just what nasty surprises lurk there. Every year hapless tourists who think they are survival experts get lost in the murky bogs and need to be rescued. They are the lucky ones. Many simply die from exposure or the hundred other ways the swamp can get you.

The registered hunters have to pay $25 and take an on-line training course in order to qualify for the prizes. The also had to agree to “humanely” kill the snakes in order to satisfy the nice wackos at PETA.

In order to kill the snake they either have to shoot it in the head, or lop off its head with a machete. The rules explicitly state: “Make sure your technique results in immediate loss of consciousness and destruction of the Burmese python’s brain.”

Now who’s going to check to see if the snake is safely unconscious? I’m certainly not comfortable with getting that close to an 8-foot beast and seeing if it is aware that a big knife is coming down on it.

I wonder how long it will be until stories emerge of hunters being lost in the swamps, or a snake getting the upper hand on someone?

I’m sure some television executives are already lining up to take over the event next year and film it for a new reality series. Perhaps that is what the state government wants. It would be a way to generate some extra money while taking care of a problem at the same time.

And who knows? Maybe some television executives will get lost in the swamp, too. We would all win.

But, forget about the pythons for a moment. Have you seen the pictures of the latest monstrosity to be discovered? The Brazilian Treehopper is simply nightmare fuel. Quick, do an internet search and just look at the picture. I’ll wait…

See? That thing is freaky.

There should be a contest to capture that thing and lock it away so no one has to ever look at it.


Penny pincher

There is a growing movement to eradicate pennies from our pockets.

I’m not talking about a tax hike, or a pyramid scheme. I’m talking about the push to eliminate the penny from our currency.

It is estimated that the U.S. Mint spends 2.5 cents on every copper coin, making it a losing proposition. Four million of them were minted last year, costing $10 million to make.

Every other coin minted at least is valued more than the sum of its parts. But the penny is different. Years ago the government changed the composition of the coin to only 5 percent copper, with the remainder comprised of zinc, in an effort to stop people from melting the coins down for the more valuable materials. In fact, it is illegal to melt a coin – defacing government property.

It also is estimated that consumers waste too much time fumbling with pennies at check out counters, which actually costs more money. And no vending machine takes them, or most other coin operated devices. Paying for $20 worth of groceries with 2,000 pennies would require a sack weighing 11 pounds, and the merchant may not even accept the coins as payment.

The proposal would force businesses to round to the nearest nickel when conducting transactions. You may pay two cents more for an item one day, but actually save that two cents on your next purchase. It all balances out proponents say.

The trend isn’t unique. Last year Canada stopped minting their pennies, and there has been no rise in prices. In fact, many countries have opted to stop producing the low denomination coins with no adverse economic impact.

The Mint tried to make the penny more attractive by introducing a redesign a few years back. It worked well for the quarter, and even the nickel, so why not the one cent piece?

There is an inherent problem with this, because the Mint just hoped for a boost in people saving the pennies. But instead of keeping it in a jar until it’s time to cash them it, they hoped collectors would hoard the new coins, taking them out of circulation and thus, raise the value of the ones already in the market place.

One of the biggest advocates of keeping the penny happens to be the one company that produces the blank coins for the Mint itself. I wonder why they would be fighting this move.

Take heart, it doesn’t appear that this push has very serious momentum right now. Fans of Abe Lincoln would riot if his coin was eliminated for one thing.

But, if it did occur, the effects would take several years to play out.

The Mint would stop making them, but they would still be in circulation. Over time the banks would collect all the coins coming in and return them to the mint where they would be retired.

There would be some grumbling, but we would all adjust after a while.

Just give me some warning so I can cash in my penny jar before they are completely worthless.


I wanna be famous, a star on the screen

I have always loved music.

Well, not always. When I was younger I knew nothing about the wide variety of musical styles in the world; only being exposed to country and top 40 pop.

But as I grew older I learned that there is so much diverse and wonderful music in the world.

That love grew in to a desire to be able to make music for myself.

Unfortunately, I was not blessed with ANY musical talent or ability whatsoever.

In college I gravitated toward Karaoke, but found my vocal range was somewhere between Shetland pony and tree frog. Didn’t stop me from butchering tunes on a weekly basis though.

I bought a guitar and taught myself some chords, but never was able to progress beyond simple strumming. Heaven forbid anyone was in the same room with me as I attempted to accompany myself on the guitar with singing.

But a while back, I discovered a way I could tap into my inherent desire to be actually able to make music. The Rock Band video game.

I know I am dangerously behind the curve here. I always thought those music simulation games were unnecessary and nothing more than a more expensive version of “Simon.”

But when I saw that my favorite band of all time, the Beatles, had their own version of the game, I swallowed my pride and made the purchase.

I loved it  - even though I was no better at pushing the plastic buttons in sync with the rhythm of the song than playing an actual instrument.

But that didn’t stop me from screeching at the top of my lungs along with Paul and John.

What always worried me about those types of games was the thought that the kids who are playing would have little appreciation of what went into making the actual music.

Would a 14-year-old, who can score perfect on every song in the game ever feel the desire to move past the video environment into learning how to play a real instrument or create their own music?

After researching this question. The answer is – possibly.

I found several articles and comments from music teachers who reported that more and more students are taking lessons.

This is good.

But, a lot of the comments concluded with the statement that a lot of the kids are dropping the lessons after realizing it is too hard.

Not good.

The bright side is that the internet and modern technology have given more and more people access to the tools they need to create music.

No longer do you need an expensive studio and recording contract.

A computer and a musical instrument are all that are really needed today.

You Tube and other social networking sites have given these fledgling artists the outlet they need to get their music out to the world and several people have been discovered simply from their internet postings of their work.

Perhaps there is hope for music yet. If enough kids decide to take their music outside of the realms of video games, we may see a renaissance of young musicians.