Archive for June, 2005
On June 13, astronomers discovered a new planet in the Aquarius constellation.
This planet, about 15 light years from Earth, has a mass seven times greater then the Earth and is presumed to consist of rock.
According to Karen Bjorkman, professor of astronomy and associate department chair of the University of Toledo Physics and astronomy department, the planet circles an m-dwarf star called Gliese 876. This star is cooler than the sun and has two giant gas planets around it. The planet orbits Gliese 876 every 1.94 days.
According to Bjorkman the planet orbits extremely close to the star and has a temperature between 400 and 730 degrees Fahrenheit. Because of its size and makeup, it’s called the ”most Earthlike” planet apart from those in our solar system.
”The discovery was made using a telescope on the top of the Mauna Kea observatory in Hawaii with the Keck Telescope, which is one of the largest telescopes in the world. Because the planet is so faint, you need a very large telescope,” Bjorkman said.
The planet was discovered by its gravitational pull on Gliese 876. According to Bjorkman, a spectrograph spreads the light from the star out into wavelengths, measures the lines, and the tiny changes in the position of those lines, or ”wobbles.”
This discovery provides us with ”an example of a solar system of planets around another star which has both giant planets like Jupiter and Saturn, and a planet that’s more like the mass of the Earth. It’s the same kind of orientation that we have in our solar system,” Bjorkman said.
The technology used to discover the planet has been used to discover more than 130 other planets, according to Bjorkman. She said she suspects that detections of smaller planets will become more frequent due to the advancement in spectrographs.
”It’ll be interesting to see what comes out of [the discovery],” she said. ”I think it’s a really interesting result; it’s one of the things that astronomers who do these planet searches, are really trying to do, is push down to where they are beginning to find planets that are potentially more like the size of the earth, and this is a good step in that direction.”
At presstime, no name had been given to the planet.
Sharie Plewa was not surprised when she heard one of her Jeep co-workers, Archie Cox, had walked into a North Toledo convenience store two weeks ago and shot two people before he killed himself.
She was also not surprised when she heard a different Jeep co-worker, Myles Meyers, walked into Daimler Chrysler’s North Toledo assembly plant five months ago and shot three of his supervisors – killing one and injuring the other two – before he killed himself.
Plewa said she is upset nothing has been done to ease the workplace tension she and other employees believe contributed to both shootings.
”There were tensions before the shootings,” Plewa said. ”We would sit around and joke around wondering when somebody’s going to go ’postal.’ We would have conversations about it, and then it happened.”
Plewa did not know either of the men. She had worked near Cox over a year ago and described him as a ”regular guy.”
”But I guess everybody is until they go off,” Plewa said.
Plewa said tensions exist at Jeep between management, the union and employees because of forced overtime and unreasonable attendance policies.
”We understand it’s a corporation and they’re there to make money, but the overtime is never going to end,” Plewa said. ”At 2:25 (p.m.) every single day, when it should be time to go home, all you hear is pounding and screaming through the whole plant … People are tired.”
Tom Hunter, a tool and layout inspector at the Wrangler plant, said the tension is related to workforce reductions and employees being forced to do more tasks than normal.
”They’re pretty comfortable with getting rid of a person, and then they’ll figure out how they have to break up the responsibilities,” he said. ”I don’t think they’re interested in addressing this issue because they’ve got an agenda that doesn’t take into consideration the fact that people have a life other than being in Jeep.”
Union officials acknowledged tension exists at the plant but said the level of tension is not unreasonable and not necessarily between management and union.
”There’s always tension in any business anywhere,” said Dan Henneman, chairman of the United Auto Workers Local 12 Jeep unit. ”I get more tension between my own folks than I do with union and management.”
A Chrysler spokesman also acknowledged tension exists at the North Toledo plant but said the level of tension is not unusual compared to other plants.
”We believe things are going as well there as they are at other plants,” said Ed Saenz, a spokesman for Chrysler. ”How do you quantify the amount of tension between 4,000 individuals there? It’s similar to other workplace situations.”
Chrysler and union officials also said the shooting by Cox was not motivated by workplace stress and is wholly separate from the first shooting by Meyers.
”How could (tension at the plant) tie to this domestic situation?” Saenz said. ”The situations are so clearly different that I’d be surprised to see anyone attempt to draw a tie.”
Cox shot and killed his estranged wife, Susan Cox, and her co-worker, Shantel Hedrix, at Barney’s Convenience Mart in North Toledo. Meyers shot and killed Roy Thacker, a supervisor at Jeep, and shot and injured Paul Medlen, a team leader, and Michael Toney, another supervisor, at the North Toledo jeep plant.
Detective Bob Schroeder of the Toledo Police Department, is investigating the Cox incident. He said stress at work was not the primary motivator in the shooting.
”I have no information to say that stress at work motivated the shooting,” he said.
Schroeder said the shooting was apparently motivated by domestic issues between Cox and his estranged wife, Susan Cox. Schroeder said the couple had been separated four times prior to the shooting and were separated at the time of the shooting.
Jeep’s Employee Assistance Program had been in contact with Cox regarding his personal problems, but Cox declined to receive help, Henneman said.
Jeep Employee Assistance Coordinator Lee Herbert said he could not confirm or deny whether he talked to Cox.
Saenz refused to release any disciplinary action taken against Cox but said he was an employee in ”good standing.”
Neighbors described Cox as a ”quiet guy” who was rumored to be having relationship troubles with his estranged wife, but none said Cox ever complained about stress at work.
”He seemed all right; I never had too many problems with him,” said Dave Kesling, Cox’s neighbor. ”He would always wave when you drove by.”
’A little push’
Plewa said Cox’s situation might have been motivated primarily by domestic issues, but tensions at the Jeep plant might have tipped Cox over the edge.
”I think the tensions that we’re under might take somebody who maybe wouldn’t have done something like that and just give them a little push,” Plewa said. ”I don’t know what kind of record or anything this guy had, but the hours that we work, the heat, it all gets to you.”
Hunter also said many employees in the plant are being pushed to their limits mentally.
”I’ve had people come into the office, and they’ve been pulled in by maybe our union rep, by maybe just another worker or a supervisor … but they’ve come in and just absolutely broken down…just breaking down, breaking down,” he said.
Experts interviewed for this article said there is a strong correlation between workplace stress and workplace violence.
”What you see is when you have a workplace that is stressful overall or stressful for a particular person, they have a tendency to act out inappropriately,” said Steve Kaufer, co-founder of the Workplace Violence Research Institute in Palm Springs, Calif.
Kaufer also said stress at work can lead to violence outside the workplace, though more often he sees stress in other areas leading to violence in the workplace.
”If you have a situation at home that’s not very good, and you get the stress of work on top of that, it can make it much, much worse,” he said.
Psychologist Beverly Smallwood, Ph.D., who specializes in the area of workplace stress, said the first shooting by Meyers was much more likely to have been motivated by workplace stress, but she said stress in the workplace is very strongly correlated with violent behavior anywhere.
”There is a very strong correlation between a toxic environment and violence,” she said.
Smallwood said factors such as reductions in the workforce and transitional changes can increase the level of workplace stress, which can lead to violence.
Henneman said the Jeep plant experienced workforce reductions in 1993, 1994, 1997, 2000 and 2001, but many of these reductions were because of people retiring due to lucrative benefit packages.
Henneman also said about 350 people are currently laid off as Jeep transitions to a new plant, but all of these employees have only been with Jeep since 2001 at the earliest, and about 150 to 200 of these people are working as temporary, part-time employees. Henneman said next summer Jeep will add a third shift, so no employees will be laid off.
”We have a bunch of people left over because of the transition to the new plant,” he said.
Kaufer said what Jeep must do to reduce stress during a time like this is educate employees so rumors do not circulate.
”One of the things is to try to provide information to employees so the rumor mill doesn’t get started … put a positive spin on these so people don’t feel like they’re being abandoned,” he said.
Smallwood said adequate training of managers is also vital in reducing stress.
”The first thing of course is to take steps to create as positive of an environment as possible through training programs for their leadership,” she said.
But Plewa said no steps are being taken to reduce tension as employees are not treated as individuals and continuously forced to work overtime.
Plewa said the attendance policy is one of the most prominent areas of friction because employees receive what is known as an ”occurrence” even if they miss work for a legitimate reason. She said in one instance she was given an occurrence for missing work when gas leaked into her house.
UAW Attendance Counselor Hal Jomaa said an occurrence is the equivalent of a free day off work, and employees can use three occurrences every year before having any disciplinary action taken. Jomaa said an employee receives a disciplinary warning for receiving four, five, six or seven occurrences and receives a 30-day, unpaid suspension for receiving eight occurrences. Employees receive an occurrence anytime they miss a day of work.
Jomaa said the occurrence is not a discipline because no action is taken, and he said a situation like a gas leak is exactly what the occurrence should be used for.
Though union and Chrysler officials said the Cox shooting was not a result of workplace stress, they did express concern that Jeep employees had been involved in two shootings in the past five months.
”It concerns me,” Henneman said. ”One of them (Meyers) was one of my best friends.”
Chrysler and union officials expressed concern that people would unjustly connect both shootings with workplace conditions at Jeep.
”It concerns me because we have Jeep singled out, and if these employees didn’t work at Jeep, I wonder if we would put so much time to it,” Herbert said.
But Plewa and other employees’ biggest concern remains that another shooting could occur because tensions still exist.
”Something has to be done to ease the tensions,” Plewa said. ”We weren’t surprised the first time. We’re not surprised the second time. Many people fully expect it to happen again.”
I’ve been inspired. The documentary ”Super Size Me” has me convinced the fast food burger is not only boring but downright dangerous. What is a burger lover to do?
Go on a Burger Quest to find some of the best locally prepared burgers to end the industry-promoted need for the fast-food burger.
The Toledo area is crammed with interesting, locally owned establishments that actually form, cook and serve their burgers on site – unlike the commissary driven fast-food industry.
Here are my self-imposed Burger Quest rules:
1) I will patronize no national or regional chains
2) I will order only a ”cheeseburger, fries and a coke” without looking at the menu
3) I will only attend restaurants without liquor service
4) I will only dine between 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m.
During the course of about two weeks, I ate at 10 qualifying restaurants in the Toledo area and rated them on a 10-point scale for each category:
Any burger lover knows that much of the taste comes from the toppings. I never requested specific toppings but ordered ”everything” when given the option and accepted ”everything” when it was suggested. ”Everything” has at least 10 different definitions. These are my discoveries, in chronological order:
5755 Secor Rd.
Cost: $5.42 plus $1 tip
Trilby Diner is worn but clean, and decorated with vintage
photographs chronicling Trilby, Ohio, annexed by Toledo in 1965. The open-kitchen diner seats about 40. After seven minutes, my hot cheeseburger and thick-cut fries arrived. My waitress suggested the ”quarter-pounder” with ”everything,” which came nicely dressed on a basic bun with ketchup, mustard, diced onions and pickles. The distinctly hand-formed patty was a bit dry but had a nice beefy flavor. I had penciled in a 10 for atmosphere until the cook had a smoke at the counter.
578 Dussel Dr., Maumee
Cost: $7.88 plus $1 tip
Sam’s Diner has dŽcor which is incongruous: modern fixtures and posters, with dated plastic plants hanging from a warehouse-style ceiling. The ”12oz. bacon-cheeseburger with two sides for $5.95” was tempting but I stuck to my rules. In 12 minutes my huge, $4.45 burger arrived on a toasted bun. It was beautiful. Two slices of melted cheese and ripe tomato, a slice of onion and a fresh leaf of lettuce adorned the carmelized, hot and juicy beef. The flavor was fresh and bold. Mayonnaise, ketchup, and mustard were delivered on the side. My skimpy serving of fries barely had room on the plate, not that it mattered, since I couldn’t finish my meal.
Cost: $4.88 plus $1 tip
Established and decorated in 1927, entering the Green Lantern is like riding in a Delorian with Michael J. Fox. The small, lonely building smells like a burger joint 100-yards away. Maurice, the cook, greeted me with a hearty, ”Hello my friend,” while my waitress took my order before I sat down. My hot burger with ”everything” arrived in nine minutes with the right amount of ketchup, mustard, diced onions and pickles. The beef had a tasty crust from the just-hot-enough flattop grill. My plate had a nice balance of burger and fries.
Al Smith’s Place
3350 Executive Pkwy.
Cost: $6.58 plus $1 tip
Al Smith’s is – knick-knacks, clean, green and white, cane-style chairs, and window treatments – country. My too-round cheeseburger ”with everything” was served in 10 minutes. It was topped with four chunks of iceberg lettuce, a slice of onion, a thick slice of ripe tomato and mayonnaise. It was good sized but gray, warm at best, and not really cooked through. The cheese was cold and not melted. The bun was doughy and disintegrated before I had to use my fork for the last five bites. The fries were soggy.
2103 N. Reynolds Rd.
Cost: $5.34 plus $1 tip
Schmucker’s interior is the classic diner-mix of chrome, stainless steel, neon and multiple specials boards. More than 20 ”Homemade” pies were listed on one board. It was packed, so I sat at the long L-shaped counter. My burger with ”everything on it” took 14 minutes to arrive, but while I waited I was entertained by the lone cook working the 48-inch flattop, fryer, two burners, and the 12-pot, hot food station. The patty, relatively small but nicely browned and juicy, was topped with melted cheese, onion slices, pickles and mustard. I could not finish the generous serving of freshly cut, golden brown and delicious fries.
Monroe Street Diner
4514 Monroe St.
Cost: $7.14 plus $1 tip
Considering my soft spot for the whimsically decorated Monroe Street Diner (being regulars, my wife and I had our wedding-day breakfast ”comp’ed” 10 years ago), my lunch was disappointing. My waitress took my order immediately but took three more tables’ orders on the way back to the kitchen. My food took 18 minutes to arrive. Given no topping options, my $3.85 burger came with none – only cheese - and the ketchup and mustard on the table. I had to ask for a napkin. The patty was good sized and browned, but dried out; the bun was too small. The sad order of fries likely came from the dregs of separate over- and under-cooked batches. I guess I should have stuck to breakfast.
1855 Reynolds Rd.
Cost: $6.97 plus $1 tip
On his walls, Dave has a variety of signed headshots of celebrities he has served, from John Sununu to Clint Black. He also displays UT sports memorabilia. I asked for ”everything” after my waitress asked me what I would like. My meal arrived in only four minutes. The burger was good sized with an interesting scalloped edge that must be made with a cookie cutter. It was browned nicely, hot, juicy and topped with iceberg lettuce, finely diced onion, a slice of ripe tomato, pickles and mayonnaise. The serving of fries was ample but under-cooked for my taste.
5623 W. Alexis Rd., Sylvania
Cost: $5.89 plus $1 tip
Sylvania Diner is about the regulars. Most patrons order without a menu and the wait staff calls diners by name. The interior is clean but has a dingy feel. My burger ”with everything” was served hot, with a great, tasty crust. It arrived in eight minutes, topped with a thick slice of melted cheese, two fresh slices of onion, pickles, and mustard. The bun was buttered and grilled. The golden, thick-cut fries were cooked perfectly. The size of the burger and serving of fries was adequate.
8253 Mayberry, Sylvania
Cost: $6.06 plus $1 tip
The clean and bright Mayberry Diner is decorated with nicely displayed black-and-white photographs of ’50s style diners. My meal was served in 13 minutes. The big burger was hot and cooked through but more gray than brown. ”Everything” was a thick slice of onion, a slice of tomato, a leaf of iceberg, pickles, and mayonnaise. The crumbly bun was too small but the golden, peel-on thick-cut fries were nice and crispy.
My meals were better, more relaxing and entertaining than any trip through the fast-food queue.
What is your favorite burger joint in the Toledo area and why? Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The headline made me do a double take: ”Poets Considered For Commanders After Abuse (Abu Ghraib) Case.”
I considered the possibilities. Maybe if officers were forced to read a couple anti-war verses of Rupert Brooks or W.H. Auden, they’d get a twinkling of the tragedy they’re involved in. Maybe a stanza of Wilfred Owen, a chapter of Vonnegut or a chorus of Dylan (either one) could start these guys thinking about the true meaning behind the hideous verbal construction ”collateral damage.”
Could it be that writing verse might mold men of action into men of feeling? Or at least channel some of their aggression into less destructive areas?
I warmed to the idea of military men mentored by language lovers. It’s a goofy idea, I thought, but it might just work.
Then my eyes refocused and I saw I’d misread the headline. Its first word was ”Posts,” not ”Poets” and the New York Times article was about Secretary of Defense Rumsfield considering a new-and-improved job for the commander who’d been in charge in Iraq when the prison scandal took place. Like most of the other top brass, three-star Lt. General Ricardo Sanchez has been cleared of wrongdoing and he’s now in-line for another five-pointed shoulder decoration. What a difference an ”s” makes.
But let’s pretend, for a couple paragraphs, that the ”e” stood.
It’s standard PSYOPs procedure to blast heavy metal (or bubble-pop) at insurgents and other undesirables. Desecrating art and icons has always been a top-notch way to demoralize populations. So why not turn the tables and use literature and art as a way to instill humanity in our conquering heroes?
If the government can embed journalists with troops, why not artists? A moral compass is as important to carry as GPS weaponry.
There are moments, of course, when brute force is necessary to subdue an enemy, but a poet or writer might be helpful in determining when ”brute” is the correct modifier and what other verbs might work in place of ”subdue.” Not to mention figuring out who the real enemy is, and seeing the conflict through his or her eyes.
Art and war have long been twinned. But at least historically the former was used to extol the latter. Homer’s ”Iliad” documents the glorious Peloponnesian battles. Napoleon took painters into battle to record his victories in oil.
It wasn’t until World War I that most narratives, visual and verbal, slid from heroic to tragic. As technology became fiercer and enemies less well defined, romanticism gave way to horror, fear and recognition of life’s crueler emotional states. It’s hard, for example to find Vietnam poetry that isn’t, at best, ambivalent.
Military training does not categorically ignore the arts. West Point cadets can take an English class that incorporates ”war poetry” and the Air Force Academy has a Web site for its journal ”War, Literature and the Arts.” Most Department of Defense types I’ve met are thoughtful, well-educated men. But War College prepares students for battle, not ballads. Which is as it should be: at critical moments, we need soldiers who are steely, not moony-eyed.
But we also need people who appreciate the importance and fragility of human life, advisors who see past the clear-cut adrenaline rush of war and self-righteousness. Had there been a poet at Abu Ghraib, maybe the abuse wouldn’t have happened. Maybe the soldiers who leashed, hooded and made human pyramids of their naked charges would have taken to heart Auden’s commandment that we love one another or die.
And what a difference it makes if we include ”them” in our ”we.”
So give General Sanchez his new posting – in Latin America. But make sure he takes an English major. Or at least a couple volumes of Whitman and Tennyson.
Barbara Goodman Shovers is a Contributing Editor for Toledo Free Press. She may be contacted at email@example.com.
Sometimes your dreams lead you to strange places. Other times they lead you to Hamburg, Germany.
Former University of Toledo standout Todd France has a simple dream of playing in the NFL and it’s leading him around the world.
”I’m 25-years-old now and I’ve spent the last three-and-a-half years of my life pursuing this, so I think anything else would be disappointing,” France said in an interview from Hamburg. ”I’m not going to make a career out of playing in the Arena League or Canada, I’ve got better things to do than that.”
His NFL Europe season with the Hamburg Sea Devils has just ended, and France took his big foot and planted it squarely into the record books. He converted 23 of 30 field goals (the longest a 54-yarder) and 15 of 15 PATs to lead the league with 86 points – a new NFL Europe record. He also set a league record for field goals made.
A unique league rule, where field goals over 50 yards count as four points, has helped France show off his leg.
”Fortunately, I have a coach who isn’t afraid to try the long field goals,” France said. ”It makes it more exciting for me, knowing that we’re within field goal range when we get the ball near the 35-yard-line. Pooch punts just aren’t that fun to watch.”
A Northwest Ohio native, France graduated from UT following perhaps the most distinguished career of any MAC kicker (four-year starter; Mid-American Conference career leading scorer among kickers; nominated for Lou Groza Award). His journey to the NFL began when the Minnesota Vikings signed him, then cut him. He played a season for the Rhein Fire, then the New York Giants signed him. Then cut him. He was picked up by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and promptly sent overseas for a second stint, this time with the Sea Devils.
France, who studied German in high school and ”can speak on simple terms with most people on the street,” has adapted well, but had to go cold turkey on a number of favorites.
”Back in the States, I eat cereal for breakfast every morning, but the milk is a little suspicious over here. They let it sit out for hours at a time and think nothing of it. I’ve been eating a lot of pastrami and cheese sandwiches for breakfast,” he said. ”What I miss most is ranch dressing. All the salad dressings over here are yogurt-based.”
Still, Germany in the spring has its charm. These include the Autobahn on which France has driven at speeds up to 180 km/h (112 mph). ”Even then, cars were flying by,” he said.
Local fans are still trying to comprehend American football, he notes. ”Fans are allowed to blow whistles during the game, and lot of times they’re making as much noise as possible when our quarterback is trying to call the plays out on the field. They also like to chant, ’Defense, Go!’ Even when we’re on offense.”
France came to the league for one thing: ”My goal is to play in the NFL. I think I just need a team to give me a chance and I’ll make the most of it.”
Old computers will help breathe new life into area non-profit organizations, thanks to donations made by Owens Community College.
In partnership with the United Way of Greater Toledo, the college will give 185 used computers to 28 agencies in Northwest Ohio. Organizations that benefit from the giveaway include Lutheran Social Services, the Northwest Ohio Chapter of the Arthritis Foundation and the Northwest Ohio Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association.
The five-year-old refurbished computers will be donated to non-profit groups that requested them or were suggested by the United Way Volunteer Center, according to Brian Paskvan, Owens chief technology officer. He said it’s a community-minded effort to dispose of computers without worrying about toxic materials they contain.
”The motherboards and monitors have gases in them,” Paskvan said. ”All computers have toxic materials in them. We were looking for ways to reduce these toxic materials [in the environment].”
The donations solve that problem and equip the non-profit agencies with computers they likely could not afford to purchase, he added. ”They may have some life for somebody else. If they have shelf life for someone, that would be great. [The agencies] are going to have some additional capabilities that they possibly wouldn’t have had.”
Paskvan said Owens typically purchases about 300 computers each year to replace others which become obsolete for the college’s purposes. There are about 2,000 computers on campus.
”It’s a tremendous way for us to make sure that the entire community is involved and gets support,” said Bill Kitson, CEO of United Way. ”You’re going to find organizations that truly need them. Using the volunteer center as a mechanism to distribute computers is a pretty smart thing to do.”
Nancy Yunker, president of Lutheran Social Services, said the organization received 10 computers, to be used at its resource centers, the Rosa Morgan Adult Care Center, and the central office on Collingwood Boulevard.
”It is extremely expensive for any sort of non-profit organization to upgrade,” said Yunker. ”We are very grateful for the community support of our agency through the donation of computers.”
The Make-A-Wish Foundation will be awarded five computers, to be used for the agency’s newsletter and daily business.
”We’re just happy to get them,” said Jay Salvage, executive director. ”Any non-profit is hard-pressed for funding. Any time we can get a donation of this type is appreciated.”
Paskvan said he hopes the
donation will be an annual event.