A Slowly Fading Marque?

With Americans having to adjust their budgets now more than ever to modestly harmonize with their incoming cash flow, cutting costs for entertainment expenses is indeed on most everyone’s agenda. Those who enjoy watching movies have had to lay this form of entertainment on the budget chopping block as well, but thanks to mediums such as Netflix and Video On Demand, movies can still be enjoyed for a reasonable price that can easily fit into modest budget. The average cost of going to the cinema is roughly around $25 per person, which includes tickets, snacks, drinks, and other refreshments sold at the concession stands. According to the results of an online survey conducted by “Harris Poll®” in December 2013, 57% of Americans favored watching movies at home as opposed to the 21% of Americans who preferred to go to the cinema. With approximately a little over one-half of American moviegoers faithfully visiting the cinemas, will this amount be enough to keep the cinemas alive within the next few years?

The participants who were surveyed in the aforementioned poll were also asked to give their opinions about the pros and cons of going to the cinema to watch movies verses watching movies using another medium. Being able to experience a movie in 3-D and in digitally mastered sound quality seemed to win the majority of votes on the pros’ list despite the fact that “rude moviegoers” was the number one reason on the cons’ list for why the participants would prefer to watch movies from home. The high cost of refreshments sold at the concession stand was another major turn-off for 62% of those surveyed, and an overwhelming 69% felt theaters take advantage of showing 3-D movies as an excuse to charge outrageously higher prices to view them.

With tablets and smartphones gaining more and more popularity for their video-playing capabilities, a majority of the moviegoers who are constantly on-the-go have converted their medium of viewing pleasure from going to the cinema into indulging in Netflix for downloading movies to their portable device. If the cinemas can come up with an idea that tops this convenience along with figuring out a way to offer lower prices for tickets and refreshments, then the cinema might have a fighting chance to stay alive.

©2014 Learus Ohnine

The Lost War on Drugs

“I don’t think it is no more dangerous than alcohol…”

The above statement sent a surge of shocked brainwaves across the board of observers as President Obama commented on the recreational usage of marijuana. In the past, Obama has admitted to partaking in the recreational use of the narcotic during his adolescent years – also during a time period when it was illegal on all levels in all states. Currently with states such as Colorado and Washington legalizing the recreational use of marijuana along with many other states preceding the legal use of medicinal marijuana, it should come as no surprise that the President would truly support one of his old vices with this statement: “It is important for society not to have a situation in which a large portion of people have at one time or another broken the law and only a select few get punished”. With the most powerfully influential man backing up one of the most lucrative legislative experiments in history thus far, will legalizing this drug be an aggrandizement or a disaster for society?

40 years ago, only a very small portion of marijuana legalization activists in American were in favor of the “civil union” way legalizing marijuana usage no matter if were for its medical or recreational purposes. Today, 85% of Americans support medicinal legalization, and 58% of Americans are in favor of the legalization of recreational marijuana. That’s a significant shift in opinion in favor of the legalization as compared to those during the Baby Boomer years. Possible reason for this shift: the projected amount of money to be made, estimated to be in the hundreds of billions. With that comes extra federal tax obligations, however, those who profit the most won’t mind as they carry duffle bags of cash to the nearest bank for depositing. So far, there are 20 states that have enacted laws to legalize medicinal marijuana, followed by Colorado and Washington legalizing its recreational use. It is rumored California, Maine, Alaska, Arizona, Hawaii, Maryland, New Hampshire, Vermont, Nevada, and Rhode Island are on the list of those states next to legalize recreational use of the narcotic; definitely an aggrandizement for the economy.

While the Department of Justice clearly stated they will be focusing more on prosecuting those who are distributing the drug “illegally” rather than those who are using the drug, the Legislature is more concerned with how much further drug activists will push their limits. As each state joins in the legalization of marijuana on either level of usage, the expectation of receiving a variety of theoretical proposals pertaining to the benefits of legalizing the usage of other more powerful drugs, such as cocaine and heroin, are anticipated to appear shortly. If Legislature is pressured to legalize the more potent drugs in some form or fashion, that may very well end up turning America into an overnight disaster.

Given either argument, (for or against marijuana) there will be developmental milestones of change among American society as time moves, either as a whole or part, with so many checkpoints yet to uncover on how to continue the war on drugs without becoming a prisoner of war within our own estate.

©2014 Learus Ohnine

Ice Age Reincarnated

With films such as “Twister,” “The Day After Tomorrow” and the most recent release “2012” depicting some of the most horrific weather conditions with impressive special effects, who would have thought we would see these scenes practically come to real life? Although not as extreme in severity, the recent changes in weather conditions around the globe keep scientists speculating just how similar, theoretically speaking, these treading conditions will be in comparison to the Hollywood’s adaptations. From major blizzards to record-breaking temperatures, attributes such as global warming and solar output put together a more precise explanation of why there seems to be a “role reversal” in climatic changes. While glaciers in Greenland and Antarctica are decreasing in mass, other parts of the world are either experiencing out-of-season unusually cold temperatures in Summer, abnormally high temperatures in Winter, or vice versa.

Aside from the all the other scientific theories, another intergalactic phenomenon that has slowly yet efficiently progressed over the years may also be a contributing factor as to why the earth seems “upside down.” From 1982 to 2005, the Earth’s geographical poles have changed locations, moving at a speed of approximately 6 centimeters per year according to a research conducted at the University of Texas in Austin. Data collected by NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) was used to determine if the shifting of the North and South Pole have had any affect on the changes in weather. The results concluded the exact opposite: the changes in weather caused by global warming have affected the Earth’s positioning; for example, the North Pole is gradually moving southward.

However, there is more to the changes in the weather than just being attributed to a shift in geographically polarity and global warming. The Sun’s atmospheric motions, which includes sunspots, solar flares and coronal mass ejections, proposedly has an enormous impact on the Earth’s surface, thus creating a cataclysmic pattern of intensified earthquakes and increased volcanic activity. Japan’s worst earthquake in history occurring on March 11, 2011 followed by the Philippines on April 11, 2012 along with the most recent of earthquakes on January 20, 2014 in New Zealand clearly demonstrates the increasing trend of seismic activity along with the various volcanic eruptions occurring within the 21st century.

Conclusively, all changes in weather conditions has made a gross impact on our lives and daily routines regardless of its origin, with seemingly no relief in sight for the near future. All we can do is hope these changes do not become so increasingly dramatic that it really does seem as if we are living in a science fiction movie.

©2014 Learus Ohnine

Source:

NASA

The Plastic Plague

Outrageous. Abominable. Stupefying. Unbelievable…

These are just a few words that blatantly describes the catastrophe bestowed upon possibly as many as 110 million credit and debit card owners between the months of November and December in 2013. With Target being one of the top-selling leading retailers during the busy holiday shopping season, their announcement of a data breach of confidential information left millions to question whether or not the retail chain was capable of adhering to quality security policies to protect their customers’ information. Hackers reportedly have gained access to approximately 70 million names, phone numbers, and mailing addresses as well as email addresses with little to no further confirmation as to what or not other information was obtained during this invasion of privacy.

But this outlandish activity does not stop there…

Neiman Marcus, another high-end retail store, has recently announced a similar breach of security to its system. On January 1, 2014, evidence of a cyber-security intrusion has result in an investigation that has yet to determine just how many Neiman Marcus customers have been affected. While there is no confirmed statement of this breach being linked to the same Target scandal at this time, the most impertinent suspicious factor of evidence points to both malicious breaches of security being originally discovered approximately at the same time – mid December.

So what does it all mean for consumers? In a nutshell, having the pleasure of enjoying one’s in-store shopping experience without the added nuisance of carrying large amounts of cash around is not only a convenience – it is a luxury. Being able to make purchases from the comfort of your own home via the internet is a convenient luxury in its own right, yet lately the risks involved seem to inadvertently outweigh its advantages.

The main question is this: is there simple solution to protect consumers from the vile acts of privacy invasion? At the moment, the only feasible and seemingly safest way consumers can do their shopping is by carrying lump sums of cash on them at all times. For the banks, this solution spells financial troubles. For the retailers, this should not have any substantial affect on their sales revenue although their accounts receivable department may have less or more work cut out for them. In the end, all that really matters is regaining that trust bond between consumer and retailer once again, and with the rate things have been going lately, there is no current equitable solution to this being offered by retailers… except to advise all shoppers to shop at their own risk.

©2014 Learus Ohnine

New Year’s Eve Traditions

Every culture has its own celebratory traditions that are recognized respectively throughout the entire year, but the old-age tradition of closing out an old year while simultaneously preparing to enter into a new one is universal. New Year’s Eve will always be a day in which traditions are honored, memories are most cherished, and resolutions are most appreciated. Thousands may flock to Times Square in New York City to watch the ball drop with a traditional countdown, and countless others may choose to watch the ball drop on television in a more intimate environment surrounded by friends and family. From extravagant aerial displays to bizarre customary group practices, each of us from around the globe will welcome in the new year in a variety of ways.

In Spain, a New Year’s Eve tradition which guarantees the gathering of many patrons at the main squares involves quickly eating one grape at each stroke of the clock at midnight. It is believed to bring good luck to each month for every grape that is consumed. The celebration continues into the wee hours of the morning with plenty of cava passed around. In Columbia and Mexico, it is not uncommon to see patrons running around the block with an empty suitcase at the stroke of midnight. This tradition is performed as a way to bring more travel opportunities. The skies over France will light up with a spectacular display of fireworks at the stroke of midnight, and many will propose a toast using champagne, white wine, or hot wine vin chaud.

Although the above traditions all seem reasonably normal to most of us, Latin America has its own unique idea of what is considered the norm. The “burning of the dummies”, traditionally performed in Ecuador,
adds a unique twist to their holiday tradition of fireworks as spectators witness thousands of colorful human dummies engulfed in flames and filling the skies with smoke. Denmark is not far behind the uniqueness bandwagon of bringing in the new year with their tradition of jumping off chairs in unison at midnight, which is said to be able to rid the person of any negative spirits, therefore bringing good luck into the new year. And if that is not unique enough, throwing old dishes at their friends’ houses at the stroke of midnight also signifies that person has many friends and will bring many more to come during the upcoming months.

Regardless of what custom we honor to celebrate our New Year’s Eve, our traditions carry with them priceless memories that are symbolic in nature, performed sincerely within our beliefs, and statutory in a lifelong recurring pattern of a 365-day cycle of wishes for a rejuvenated life ahead.

©2013 Learus Ohnine

Violence-101: A Syllabus of Higher Awareness

Violence is, and always will be, that uncensored part of human existence to which we are all subjected to becoming exposed to it in one form or another; either as perpetrator, victim, or spectator. For those who have suffered violent acts at the hands of their attackers, there’s a road to recovery for them that seems optimistic for some survivors and yet exasperating for some. Over the past few years, there have been numerous repetitive situations of violence involving a generation that retains a monstrous amount of uncontrollable rage, with their focal point being a desire to strike fear into the hearts of innocent onlookers in one of our most highly regarded traditional environments: our schools.

On December 13, 2013, Karl Pierson opened fire at his school, the Arapahoe High School located in Centennial, Colorado, critically wounding a 17-year old student before killing himself. Originally, detectives had several leads as to a possible motive for the gunman’s violent rampage, however, the most reliable source of information would have to come from the person themselves.

Prior to this incident also in the state of Colorado, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold entered the Columbine High School located in Littleton to carry out a terroristic massacre that resulted in 15 deaths before both students turned their guns onto themselves. Both suspects left a trail of clues for detectives to decipher the meaning behind this premeditated killing spree with all of their conclusions directing towards the most obvious cause: mental illness.

Both of the above cases, as disturbing as they may be, seems to point to an even bigger issue with youths who suffer from incurable psychological illnesses that, if left ignored, can alter one’s perception of reality in the most tragic of ways. It’s sad when youths turn to violence as a solution for the pain and rejection they feel for not being deemed as “normal”, for so many innocent bystanders have had to have their lives ended without warning or defense. It is time for society to stop brushing this issue under the rug and start taking into consideration the innocent blood that is continuously being shed among the students of our educational institutions.

©2013 Learus Ohnine

Overwhelming Amount of Information

From smoke signals to fiber optics, the evolutionary way we exchange information has expanded at such a rapid pace that we seldom realize the overwhelming amount of information we literally receive today compared to many years ago. With a majority of society having access to the internet along with the use of satellite technology, we encounter breaking news stories and pertinent information within seconds of the initial start of an event. In the 1800’s, the average time it took for a news event to circulate around the world would approximate within the range days, weeks, or even months depending on its mode of transmission. When comparing the modes of information transmission used today with those of yesteryear’s, the uncanny similarities in the art of creating systematic modes of communication for our convenience are more apparent than what we give them credit for.

For example, the concept of using smoke signals was to create a visual for the use of transmitting news and to signal danger. Although the smoke signal itself could only be seen within a particular range of view, it was much more effective in getting a message across quickly within a matter of minutes. Today’s concept of the smoke signal’s mode of transmitting live information would be equivalent to that of the satellite, with the exception being the amount of time it would take to transmit a satellite signal being narrowed down to seconds as opposed to minutes. Satellite technology offers us the guarantee to receive a vast amount of information more frequently, and to reach a wider range of audiences for a much more quicker response.

Another comparative form for transmitting information would be
the personal messenger system used during the Abraham Lincoln era and today’s electronic email system. The personal messenger system required information to be carried manually by a human carrier from one location to another, sometimes traveling by foot or with the help of an animal. This posed a problem for messages needing to be delivered immediately, for in Abraham Lincoln’s days, “immediately” could be assumed to be within the next few hours. Today’s electronic email system has a varied definition for “immediately”, which entails the time frame to be within a matter of seconds. An entire conversation that would take days to conclude during the Abraham Lincoln era can now be concluded within minutes, and also be held simultaneously with numerous parties involved.

The incredible transformation with how we receive information in today’s society when compared to many years ago does not only provide us with the ability to communicate quickly, but also adds to it the possibility of what new information transmitting concepts that can be created from it for usage in the next generation to come.

©2013 Learus Ohnine

Life Science Headed For Extinction

From the days of the Louis Pasteur era until now, scientists have made numerous successful attempts in their exploratory approach to save humanity. Science, along with technology, has become so advanced over the years that what was once thought of by scientists as an uncertainty is now a breakthrough in innovative discoveries, for scientists now have the resourceful devices necessary to further their exploration of the human body with precise detail and remarkable accuracy. With the birth of such remarkable artificial life-saving devices as the pacemaker and the dialysis machine, the possibilities for discovering complete cures to life-threatening illnesses seems more and more possible in the future as science advances in the areas of biomedical engineering, thanks to all of the financial support provided by the U.S. Government to scientific research agencies over the past few decades.

Unfortunately during this decade, one of those resources has been drastically cut this year by 10% at the very least — a percentage that cannot be ignored, especially when it pertains to biomedical research. Since humanity has been anticipating for years to hear of a much awaited breakthrough in the discovery for cures to some of the most deadliest of diseases such as cancer and HIV, it seems all hope will have to be put on hold for what seems to be a much bigger problem that appears to be taking precedence lately over healing the sick: war-related funding.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH), one of the most pertinent sources of funding for biomedical research agencies and institutions, has been commended for increasing the life expectancy of humanity since the early 1800’s. Not only does the NIH conduct their own research at their own facilities, the agency relies on its funding to be allocated within the congressional budget. The United States has already spent approximately $1.7 trillion on war-related expenses from 2001-2011, and is expected to see these expenditures rise above the $6 trillion mark by the end of the 2013 fiscal year. To avoid a government shutdown this year, Congress had to cut all expenditures until March of 2014 by at least 10%, and this includes the financial support the NIH heavily relies upon to continue its research efforts. The NIH has reported their biomedical research expenses to be at $29.5 billion for the 2013 fiscal year alone. With Congress being unable to properly negotiate a suitable national budget plan while continuously financially supporting war-related expenses to the fullest, the NIH has been forced to put a majority of their critical clinical trials on hold with no certainty of when they will resume again.

Eventually along the line, we all reap the benefits of medical research, even those who are currently considered to be in perfect health. At the rate in which science has advanced, humanity’s chances for a greater life expectancy could have been dramatically increased many years ago if it had not been for the extra expenditure of wars… or could it?

©2013 Learus Ohnine

Literacy In America

The advanced potential of technology, along with its mainstream function of being able to access information at any given time, has now overturned the way readers have access to books. Having the potential to access publications from the comfort of your own home at any given time of the day or night may be the main contributing factor as to why consumers have elected to invest in the purchasing of an e-book reader as opposed to spending money on transportation costs to their local bookstore. More recently, local and large chain bookstores have reported an enormous drop in sales since technology has introduced a more convenient way to read by way of the Barnes & Noble Nook, the Amazon Kindle, the Pandigial Reader, and the Sony Reader. While e-book sales have increased over the years in the United States, the U.S. adult literacy rates have decreased.

Literacy has a major impact on the functional ability of a country. However, statistics reveal a sad truth concerning the readers residing in the United States: approximately 32 million Americans cannot read. According to a study performed by The Organization for Economic Adult Literacy, the United States ranked 16 out of 23 countries. 1 out of 3 American adults cannot read properly, meaning either they do not fully understand the material they have read or they cannot analyze the information they have read correctly. Oddly, 33% of American adults, or 1 out of 4 Americans, own an e-reader of some sort. As the number of e-books sold has increased by 43% over the past 5 years, over 10 million e-books have been sold thus far yet this does not indicate there is hope for an increase in American literacy rates.

One possible explanation as to the awkward imbalance in statistics when comparing the number of e-reader and e-book sales to literacy rates is the decline of available bookstores where physical books may be purchased. When assessing the literacy rates, approximately 1 in 3 adults scored low in problem solving abilities within a technical environment. Not every reader is computer literate. In bookstores, customers can readily ask for assistance if needed when searching for a specific topic or publication. With e-readers, the reader is pretty much on their own. Since the sales of e-books has risen over the past 10 years, bookstores have been forced to shut down due to their low sales volume. Their low sales volume is contributed to the rising number of readers who prefer to purchase e-books rather than the traditionally printed book, and not all adult educational development resources are available in electronic form.

With bookstores becoming extinct and electronic book sales increasing, there may still be hope for raising the literacy stats for American adults as long as the number of library locations does not decline in the process…

©2013 Learus Ohnine