Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Saturn's Hexagonal Crown

Something funny's happening on Saturn.

NASA's Cassini mission has photographed a hexagonal shape on the enormous planet's north pole.

The hexagon is about 15,000 miles across, or big enough to contain four Earth-size spheres.

Why a hexagon with almost equal length lines? Not because there are intelligent aliens there. Saturn is a very interesting — but cold — place with no surface. Just different densities of raining gases, with metallic hydrogen at the very center.

Bees make honeycombs composed of hexagonal cells. Hexagons fit together seamlessly with no wasted space. So shape is most efficient for, say, tiling a floor.

Saturn has just one hexagon. Why not a circular polar vortex like Earth's? It's not coincidental. The chemistry, winds, gravity and other factor favor formation of a hexagon.

Either that or the planet is home to enormous bees.

Don't Worry. Be Happy. And Update Your Resume.

A suspiciously New Age sounding company, Balance Integration, wants to help your boss alleviate the anxiety he creates by firing people willy-nilly.

"Balance Integration believes the sum of any corporation is greater when its parts are whole and they’re functioning harmoniously (and no one’s worrying about losing their job!," B.I. says.

B.I. needs a little grammar training, but nothing to get too worried about. On the other hand, maybe someone should be laid off.

Balance Integration claims to "incorporate simple, stress-relieving tactics into the workday by providing in-office seminars and sessions on how to combat stress and fatigue in the workplace through meditation and even desk-side yoga."

B.I.'s main client is Dunder-Mifflen, from the sound of it.

Wait! Here's an idea: Don't fire people indiscriminately! Treat then with a certain amount of dignity. Act (you don't need to believe this) as if you appreciate their work.

If the company you work for starts training you in desk-side yoga, breathe into a bag until the anxiety attack subsides.

Sixteen Tons and What Do You Get? Good Abs.

How would you like it if your boss gave you an exercise plan and told you to hit a gym?

Probably not overjoyed. Of course, you do need to hit, or do whatever you do, to the gym or swimming pool or bike path.

It's the idea of your personal Mr. Burns telling you to get off your fat rear end that rankles.

He's not helping you get in shape because he likes you. He cares about your health because the less sick you are the more money he makes. Not that many companies offer real health insurance anymore, but that's a much bigger problem.

We have self-proclaimed "corporate wellness expert" Tom Gilliam trying to sell your employer a book of suggestions for molding a thinner, stronger, workforce.

Incidentally, the secret to getting in shape does not require a book-length exposition. Exercise aerobically and don't gorge. That's it.

We should do this despite the Tom Gilliams of the world, because we want a higher quality of life. And if your chief executive gives you gym privileges, as unlikely as that seems, so much the better.

Monday, March 19, 2007

A Lot of Hot Air

Who would you believe on the topic of global climate change: The Competitive Enterprise Institute or Al Gore?

Trick question. Those aren't your only two choices. You could do some research, read some journals, scan some less formal periodicals, and make up your own mind.

Or you could find out who really is an expert on climate change. Again, there's more than one. Some consider it a critical problem. Others believe the change in temperature measured so far is largely the result of natural cycles. Yet more think that the causes are both artificial and natural.

Al Gore, former vice president and presidential candidate, apparently is convinced that corrective action must be taken immediately.

Then there's the Competitive Enterprise Institute. Al Gore and his movie, "An Inconvenient Truth," drives them up a wall. Who is in the CEI? Check it out. No one you've ever heard of, and certainly no scientific experts on climate.

Yet the CEI has prepared point-by-point rebuttals for claims made in the movie.

So here's the decision: Cut greenhouse gases (no down side) and see if the temperature drops, or refuse to do anything and wait to see if the sea level starts to rise (all down side).

Al Gore may not be an expert, but at least you know who he is and where he's coming from. You don't have to accept his movie. Read some books and decide for yourself.

Or don't let facts get in the way and let the CEI make up your mind for you.

Your Child Has A Wolf-Like Muzzle

It is, indeed, a dog's world.

The American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is praising BJ's Wholesale Club Inc. for refraining from selling potentially contaminated"pig ear chew treats."

The pig ears may be tained with Salmonella bacteria. Animals are not as sensitive to Salmonella as humans are (So all of you people who secretly chew on pig ear treats, stop doing it.)

This makes sense because until their relatively recent domestication, dogs and cats ate rodents of various sizes — not the cleanest of victuals.

Anyway, the ASPCA prevailed on BJ's to "voluntarily" take the "pig ear chew treats" off its shelves. The ASPCA goes on to advise "pet parents" to discard any suspicious pig ears.

Pet Parents? Huh?

They used to be called "pet owners." At most they might be considered pet step-parents. But pet parents? The anthropomorphism of dogs has gone too far. Dogs' "parents" are other dogs, you know.

If you consider your pet as much your child as your actual child, you need your head examined.

Do not, of course, feed your pet poisonous food.

That goes for the other members of your family as well.