Opinion Issue 01

[ Back To Table of Contents ]


Our computer had been struck dumb by a terminal illness.

It was a sudden and severe case of deliberately contrived Alzheimer’s. The poor baby was so sick that she couldn’t think or function at all. We hauled her off to the computer doctor for diagnosis.

He pronounced her with total short term (as in documents) and long term (as in programs) memory loss. After opening her up, the doc said a virus or worm had attacked her and nothing could be done to restore her memory or return her back to her original health.

If healthy she ever was, which is debatable.

Here’s a description of what happened the night the terminal illness struck her down while I sat, late one night, at our only computer that had Internet-access.

As I backed out of the Internet, closing the connecting phone line, our computer’s regular menu appeared on the monitor’s screen in front of me. First, a rude word briefly flashed on the screen (a vulgar expression of “I gotcha!”) and then, before my very eyes should disappear, all of the program icons, which meant the programs disappeared too.

The computer doc said the only thing left inside was a slick hard-drive; not even partitions (or whatever they are called) remained. He had to intravenously feed new programs into her.

Still, she has never been the same since. But then, she never did function the way I thought a computer should. Too often, she forgot her place in our office’s pecking order and she behaved as if she thought she were boss. She could be downright aggressive and rude.

She too frequently accused me, still does, of doing an illegal act when, I swear, I had done nothing at all. It’s not fair that she leaves me with a vague sense of guilt, when I have always been a law-abiding citizen. I find myself looking over my shoulder to see who is watching whenever I work at my computer.

Like an aggravatingly childish sibling, she blamed me, still does, for things it did, not I. She blamed me for shutting down a program improperly when it was she who did that. Along with misplacing the blame, she punished me for tossing, where I cannot find it, whatever it was I was writing and hadn’t saved. She doesn’t even have the professional courtesy of tossing it into the trash-can where I can retrieve it.

I sit here at my computer late at night emitting exclamations of frustration. My three furry little poodle-type companions – Tipper, HoJo and Marie de Mici – who lie at my feet, look up at me with sympathetic brown eyes. They at least have compassion.

I have a new computer due to arrive any day. She will have the new Windows XP, touted as the newest improved Windows version. I await her arrival with bated breath. Dare I suppose that will solve all my computer woes?

I have often thought Microsoft Works was an oxymoron. But then, perhaps the moron is I who thinks that one day I will be the one in control of my computer and all of its programs and extremities, including keyboard, which – like biting the hand that feeds it – spews gibberish onto my screen and performs other forms of malicious mischief.

Our new computer will have so many devices of protection from worm and virus that I hope she and I can function moderately well together.

My spouse suggested we sedate her, upon her arrival, with heavy doses of Retilin to keep her calm so she won’t misbehave, like some parents do with recalcitrant or overactive children. That’s not a bad idea, for somehow I must find a way to immediately show her who’s boss. I have to get the bluff in early, while she is still young and impressionable.



The Curmudgeon

What’s going on? When I was just a tad, the Surgeon General spoke about polio, measles, the real stuff. His pronouncements were based upon scientific tomes. But now, well, those large-size retailers need to look for another career field because the fat police are coming!

In junior high school, the fat police were your peers, and there is nothing tougher than a bunch of teenagers. Unless it was the coach who made anyone who was out of shape run laps forever. Later in life, it was your wife who suggested, as you lay on the couch, that you looked like a beached whale. Finally it was the doctor who, after a physical, prescribed expensive medication necessary, he said, to make your triglycerides or cholesterol go down.

Those were the traditional fat police, but apparently they didn’t do their job.

The Surgeon General of the United States, David Satcher, has hit the American people with a public health bombshell: Being fat is bad for your health. American children are too fat. He says obesity has reached the health crisis level of where smoking was a few years ago. We all know what happened to smokers. The war on tobacco started. It ended in massive legislation, smoking bans, new taxes and huge lawsuits. The Surgeon General now appears set to launch us down that slippery slope to government control of our eating habits.

Satcher vowed to launch a campaign against girth that is equivalent to the one the SG office launched in 1964 against smoking. Annually, 300,000 Americans die because of obesity, he tells us. Sixty percent of American adults and nearly 13 percent of children are overweight. A study released this month by CIGNA Corp. found that children spend an average of 14 hours each week watching TV. Children age 12 to 14 spend almost seven hours a week playing video games. Couch potatoes.

So, why is that the government’s concern? That is the first question that should be asked by any governmental entity considering a law or regulation. Obesity, in the majority of the cases, is not something caused by an outside pathogen or injury whose consequences are unavoidable without medical treatment. Obesity, like smoking, is a matter of private health choice. It is a personal problem for individuals with no public policy implications. Obesity is usually caused by chosen behavior.

So far the Surgeon General is just talking about educating the public on the perils of poundage. The government’s war on tobacco began with warnings on cigarette packages, then tobacco became a cash cow for governments and plaintiff’s attorneys. The anti-smoking movement became fanatical in its zeal to stamp out smoking.

Any additional proposals besides education about obesity should not be surprising.

One suggestion made to deal with this new public health crisis is to place special taxes on low nutritional value foods. Starting to sound a little like cigarettes. The food police might also require restaurants to put smaller portions on each plate that would put all-you-can-eat buffets out of business.

Not all ideas are bad. Physical education at all levels is a good idea. The Surgeon General suggests that all students be enrolled in physical education. Only about 36 percent of American children are enrolled in PE. Illinois is the only state to require daily physical activity in all schools. Only 6 percent of U.S. schools require PE for high school seniors.

Many people can cure themselves of obesity by eating less and exercising more. A 1999 study, by the Cooper Institute in Dallas, of 25,000 men (average age 44) found that exercise was more important than weight in preventing death from a variety of diseases. The study found that all men who were physically fit had about the same risk of dying over a 10-year period, regardless of their weight

The science is not consistent on what constitutes obesity. There are some eternal truths. One is, like Coach used to tell us, get off your duff and get in shape. Move it. Exercise is not fun; if you are having fun you are not working hard enough to do any good. Everyone agrees that exercise is good for the body.

No one is sure what fat is. We do know that for many, good health is a lifestyle choice, not a pathogen. So why spend tax money on a campaign against fat? Fat police, outta here. The rest of you, get down and give me 50.