Wednesday 28 January 2009

Real Beer May be Real Bad for Local Economy

Greetings Coloradan!

I don’t really know where my readership, if indeed I have any, comes from, but even if you are not from Colorado you may still find this article interesting.
I am writing in response to the recent push to legalise the sale of “real beer,” that is beer with alcohol content in excess of three and two tenths percent by volume, in grocery stores, convenience stores, and other establishments which were previously restricted to the sale of “near beer,” beer with an alcohol content of no more than three and two tenths percent by volume. An oversimplified explanation of the conflict would be 7/11 vs. Local Liquor. Both sides of the argument have valid points,

Supporters of the current laws are most likely to cite protection of the local economy, protection of youth, and preservation of selection as their primary grounds for maintaining the current regulations. I would like to examine these claims one at a time. Colorado law is very strict about what liquor stores can and cannot do. Liquor stores may not carry most food products, must carefully control who they sell too, and were formally forced to remain closed on Sundays. Additionally, the ability of liquor stores to form chains is severely restricted. All these factors have worked together to create a locally owned liquor industry composed mostly of mom and pop style stores with a few larger stores mixed in. Some offer convenient locations; some offer unmatchable selections. Opponents of the repeal of our current laws fear that if grocery stores were permitted to sell full strength beer, it would cut into the profit margins of the local stores, and would also reduce the selection of beers available. While a grocery store is probably going to carry only Budweiser, Keystone Light (otherwise known as watered down piss), and Coors, a locally owned liquor store, which only sells alcohol, is far more likely to carry hard to find, local, and exotic products like Warsteiner, Phantom Canyon, Gruenfelder, Bristol, etc. Both the preservation of this selection and the protection of these local businesses are likely to benefit customers and independent businessmen in Colorado. Another argument likely to be cited by opponents of the change in our alcohol laws is that by increasing the amount of outlets licensed to sell real beer, we will be making it easier for underage drinkers to obtain alcohol. It is plain and evident to anyone who has not purposefully deluded themselves into believing otherwise, that the National Minimum Drinking Age Act is an utter, complete, ridiculous, and ludicrous failure. Rather than making things safer, the MLDA has had the effect of pushing teen drinking underground into more dangerous situations, and rather than teaching moderation and responsibility has enshrined alcohol as the “forbidden fruit” of twenty-first century America. There are very few countries with drinking ages near as high as ours, yet many of them have less of a problem with irresponsible consumption of alcohol than we do. I would argue that parents should set a positive example in their own drinking habits and raise their children to do the same. It should not be a crime to pour a twelve year old a glass of Champaign on New Year’s Eve. Every young person should experience puking their guts out into a toilet, or falling down a flight of stairs at least once in order to foster a respect for alcohol and the responsibility that comes with its consumption. So while these lobbyists may have other valid arguments, the protection of youth is absolutely invalid.

While supporters of the law cite their various grounds for it to be upheld, opponents are not without arguments of their own. Proponents of the liberalisation of Colorado’s alcohol laws are likely to cite increased competition and fair business practices in support of their position. The change in laws would also have the desirable effect of making alcohol more visible possibly diminishing its taboo status in American society which has contributed to our generally unhealthy view of its consumption, and the unhealthy patterns of consumption often prevalent among College Students and others. Proponents of the free market (don’t get me started) would likely argue that by repealing these blue laws, we will create more competition which would drive down the price of beer. They may be correct, but as previously stated, this would not be the only effect. Also, they allege that it is an injustice that the liquor companies are permitted to sell full strength beer while the grocery stores are restricted to near beer. This makes me wonder if they would support legislation permitting liquor stores to sell food and other items in addition to liquor.

The liberalisation of alcohol laws in Colorado is a complex issue, and the many faceted arguments do not lead to any concrete conclusion, but rather raise more questions and beg us to furthur examine the issues at hand. One thing is certain: the US as a whole needs to rethink its attitude toward the consumption of alcohol and bring it more into line with logic, and that of the rest of the world.

Photo Credit: piffy under an Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic

Friday 23 January 2009

Speed Doesn't Kill, Idiots Do: Why we need real drivers training. (An Intro)

Its been a while since I've made a longer post. I have decided to publish something that I wrote a while back. This is not new, but after looking through it I found that most of the ideas were still relevant.

Contrary to popular belief, even among traffic engineers, it is not speed that makes a driver dangerous, but a combination of other factors which may or may not include speed depending on the situation. From a purely scientific viewpoint, speed, until you reach the speed of light and cause strange things to start happening, is completely harmless. We are spinning through space at speeds so extreme we can hardly fathom what it would be like to pass an object at that speed. Some of us ride bullet trains or maglev trains that reach speeds as high as 360kph. Travellers ride on jets going down the runway at speeds faster than those most cars are capable of. Despite these many instances of speed people’s daily lives, the belief that “speed kills” is still widely held. If anything, all these examples of safe speeding should tell us that it is possible to design our cars and roads in a way that permits rapid and safe use as well.
In 1974 the Federal Government of the United States mandated that all states lower their speed limits to no more than 55 miles per hour. At that time, a lot of freeways were posted with limits similar to those found in rural western states today, namely 70-80 miles per hour. While proponents of lower speed limits cite the fact that traffic fatalities dropped after the implementation of the national speed limit, it is likely that the drop in fatalities was a result of several other factors.
- The gas crisis meant people couldn’t drive as much. No gas, less drivers, less accidents. That’s logical.
- Car technology has continuously evolved creating faster and safer vehicles.
-The 55 mile per hour speed limit was ignored on a widespread basis, and some states even aided scofflaws by capping tickets at 65 miles per hour enabling them to travel 75, twenty miles an hour over the speed limit, while only having to fear a 10 mile an hour ticket which had been reduced in price to about $5.
The police realized that they had better things to do than harass drivers who were driving a completely reasonable speed. If technology continues to evolve, and cars get safer, faster, and more efficient, why are we dropping speed limits and not raising them?
The biggest threat to road safety in the US is untrained, incapable, and intoxicated drivers. Our driver training programs are a joke. There are countless cases of people being taught about driving for a few hours one afternoon, going to the DMV, and passing the test. Drivers training should be an ordeal. It should be intense, difficult, and thorough. Not everyone will pass; as a matter of fact, some people will never be able to get their license, because some people are simply incapable of driving in a way that provides for the safe and rapid conveyance of traffic. Signing and striping should be standardised throughout the US. While it may not be immediately possible, US signage should be standardised to be similar to that of Europe, one of the most advanced, and car saturated locations in the world. Europe’s use of symbols rather than textual legends, and dedication to good traffic engineering and extensive public transit is an excellent example to much of the world. Additional examples are the UAE, Japan, and parts of China. Drivers should be required to recognise all signs and symbols, know the unsigned laws of the road. They could demonstrate their abilities with hours in a driving simulator that automatically records performance data. Emergency driving could be taught on a local racetrack.
Image Credit: jpctalbot under a creative commons licence.

Monday 19 January 2009


Sorry about my chicken theme

Why did the chicken cross the road?

Aristotle: It is the nature of chickens to cross roads.

Issac Newton: Chickens at rest tend to stay at rest, chickens in motion tend to cross roads.

Albert Einstein: Whether the chicken crossed the road or the road moved beneath the chicken depends on your frame of reference.

Werner Heisenberg: We are not sure which side of the road the chicken was on, but it was moving very fast.

Wolfgang Pauli: There already was a chicken on this side of the road.

Wednesday 7 January 2009

On the Practise of Animal Experimentation and Vivisection

While it may not be the same for everyone, there comes a time in the average person’s life when they are sitting on a bench in a park eating a double cheeseburger when a stray dog walks up with the saddest eyes every seen, staring deep into the person’s soul begging them to find an ounce of compassion. There are also times when we are bitten by mosquitoes, shat on by birds, or climbed on by ants; yet for some reason we do not feel emotion in these cases. What is the difference between the two? Why is it that the dog appears to have emotions while the ant, bee, or fruit fly does not?
Animals have been our test dummies for years. We use them to test new drugs, test cosmetics, experiment with new surgical procedures, etc. Many people have no problem with this; while many others, most notably members of organisations such as PETA, oppose such testing. Is our justification of animal testing linked to some concept of sentience and consciousness that separates man from beast? How do we decide what is ethical and what is not. Is it ethical to test a new cancer drug on a rat? How about a new shampoo? If a person opposes testing on canines, yet supports testing on insects and small mammals, from whence do they formulate their position?

Additionally: I have included a translated version for those readers who avoid standardised spellings:

On th Praktis ov Animl Ixperimentaeshn and Vivisekshn

Whiel it mae not bee th saem fr evrywun, thair kumz a tiem in th av'rij peursn'z lief when thae aar siting on a bench in a paark eeting a dubl cheeseburger when a strae dog wauks up with th sadist iez evry seen, stairing deep in t th peursn'z soel beging them t fiend an ouns ov kmpashn. Thair aar aulsoe tiemz when wee aar bitn bie mskeetoez, shat on bie beurdz, aur kliemd on bie ants; yet fr sum reezn wee doo not feel imoeshn in theez kaesiz. Whot iz th difr'ns bitween th too? Wie iz it that th dog apeerz t hav imoeshnz whiel th ant, bee, aur froot flie {duzdoez} not? Animlz hav bin our test dumyz fr yeerz. Wee {uesuez} them t test nue drugz, test kozmetiks, ixperimnt with nue seurjikl preuseejrz, etc. Meny peepl hav noe probl'm with this; whiel meny uthrz, moest noeteubly membrz ov aurg'niezaeshnz such az PETA, apoez such testing. Iz our justifikaeshn ov animl testing linkt t sum konsept ov sentience and konshsnes that {sep'reutssep'raets} man from beest? Hou doo wee disied whot iz ethikl and whot iz not. Iz it ethikl t test a nue kansr drug on a rat? Hou about a nue shampoo? If a peursn apoeziz testing on kaenienz, yet s'paurts testing on insekts and smaul mamlz, from whens doo thae faurmuelaet thair pzishn?