Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Tainted Chocolate For a Scary Halloween

The melamine that was found in tainted milk could be in the chocolate that's passed out this Halloween.

Please watch this "Candy Product Review 2008 of Potentially MELAMINE Tainted Treats, A SERIOUS Warning By Mike Mozart of JeepersMedia on You Tube" and warn others.

And consider giving out stickers, yourself.

Thank you.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Bailout, Schmailout

Congress thinks we need a bailout. Wall Street definitely needs a bailout. What do you think?

I'll tell you what I think. We don't need it.

Our economy is self-correcting. Higher interest rates caused trouble for people who were in too much debt. They could no longer pay back their loans. As well, the ever increasing cost for gasoline and heating oil put an extra strain on the entire working class.

But now, the rates on Treasury bills are ridiculously low. This means the rates on home equity lines of credit and the interest rates on ARMs (Adjustable Rate Mortgages) have fallen because they're both usually indexed to one of the Treasury bills.

We're also seeing much lower prices for gasoline. Drivers are practically swerving off the side of the road to stare at the prices. "Wait, did that actually read $3.19? No it must've been $4.19. Let me look again."

One big problem remains. Businesses may start to fire workers because they cannot finance growth projects or even payroll. In this case, the appropriate course of action for our government is to finance projects that lead to new jobs.

Imagine how many jobs $700 Billion could start. You could create a whole oil-free energy infrastructure with that amount of money. People would have jobs, and we'd finally be independent from unfriendly oil-producing nations.

But then, what kind of jobs will the greedy Wall Street CEO's get? My advice is to put them on disability -- essentially pay them to not work. We'll all be better off then.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Beware Bank Phish E-mail

Experts predict Spike in Fraudulent Activity Due to Banking Turmoil

Woking, UK. 25th September 2008 An
increase in fraudulent activity is likely to follow the recent events
in the banking sector according to UK Company, First Cyber Security.
Customers with internet banking accounts are urged to take care if
asked to respond to emails from banks which have been named as being
involved in the recent takeovers and mergers.

- First Cyber Security (FCS)


So be very suspicious of e-mail asking you to click a link and login. Okay, that's just about every commerce-related e-mail. But if the content urges you to "login right away and confirm personal information otherwise your account will be suspended," be very suspicious. And never enter personal information into the body of an e-mail itself.

I recommend that you equip your browser with an anti-phishing toolbar. You can learn more about them on the CastleCops website, in the Anti-Phishing Toolbar thread.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Obama's and McCain's Answers to the Top 14 Science Questions Facing America

"Science Debate 2008 worked with ... leading organizations ... to
craft the top 14 questions the [Presidential] candidates should answer.  These
questions are broad enough to allow for wide variations in response,
but they are specific enough to help guide the discussion toward many
of the largest and most important unresolved challenges currently
facing the United States."

Read the candidates' answers here:

Friday, September 12, 2008

What Should I Do With This Computer?

I have an old computer that I'm wondering what to do with. It's a Pentium III, 500MHz, with 256MB RAM and a 10GB hard drive, with only less than 3GB left.

The case is a low profile style, so there's no bracket for an additional drive, which I do have. If I add the second drive, I'd have to attach it with double-sided tape.

The computer is configured to dual boot into either Windows 98 or Windows NT 4.0 SP. The NT partition has Office 97 installed on it. It still works. But I'd like to be able to install somewhat modern software on it and use the USB ports.

Three ideas I have:
  • Reformat the drive with a single partition and do a fresh install of Windows 2000. It would be comparable to the software configuration on my current desktop. This would get the USB ports working. But some programs, such as iTunes, no longer support Windows 2000.

  • Reformat the drive with a single partition and do a fresh install of Windows XP. Not sure how it will perform on this system, though.

  • Reformat the drive and install Ubuntu. Not sure what software is available -- maybe just a web browser, Open Office and a PDF viewer. And of course Emacs. Most likely no one else in the house would use the computer. And I wonder if I can get all the drivers I'll need.
The first step is to get the second drive installed, if I can.

What do you think?

Monday, August 25, 2008

Follow Up to "Career Doldrums"

Just a quick follow up to my previous post.

I was a bit unfair in saying that the book advises you to deal with doldrums by changing careers. That's not all it does. It's also great confidence booster, especially for baby boomers who are worried that they're too old to find a new job.

It explains the differences among the Baby Boom, Gen X and the latest generation (Gen Y. See Wikipedia's List of Generations for generation definitions.) This comparison serves as a foundation to convince the baby boomer that his/her contribution at a new company will be valued. Gen Y wants immediate gratification and frequent rewards, but Baby Boomers don't need that. Gen Y doesn't want to waste time giving their boss progress reports -- they just want to dive in to the work and finish it as quickly as possible.

The generational comparisons also help older workers understand their younger bosses, who come in to the workplace and turn it up-side-down.

So I found it interesting. And it ultimately helped me understand that I might be better off staying where I am.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Resources from the "Career Doldrums" Book

I finally got around to reading "Escape the Mid-Career Doldrums: What to do Next When You're Bored, Burned Out, Retired or Fired", which I mentioned in my January 17 post, "Book Recommendations From".

Basically, the Escape involves switching careers. This involves making extreme financial sacrifices and tapping into a vast store of retirement savings. The assumption is that you've already raised your child(ren) and he/she/they've somehow managed to become self-sufficient. For some reason, the book didn't mention playing the lottery.

This is not a book written for my generation.

Anyway, I wanted to record some of the online resources that the book offers:

Occupational Outlook Handbook --

Philanthropy News Digest -- news regarding fundraising and establishing a foundation.

Self Employment "Boot camp" for entrepreneurs.


Saturday, August 09, 2008

How New Blinds and Windows Can Keep You Cool

I've had the new window shades since November, but I didn't start to appreciate them until the warm weather arrived.

The neat thing about these shades is that they open at the top and the bottom. So do the windows. (The picture is of Bali's DiamondCell - Solitaire 3/8" Double Cell Shade, which is the style of shade I bought and installed.)

So that means I can keep the top of the windows and blinds open even at night without compromising privacy. And the hot air that collects near the ceilings can leak out more easily.

It also helps that the window panes are coated to reflect the heat of the sun.

It's simple things like this that prevents us from wasting energy.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Social Networks for Book Lovers

I just learned about LibraryThing from reading Sacha Chua's blog post, "Taking book notes." LibraryThing is a social network for book lovers.

The general idea is that you enter books into your library by searching for a title or ISBN. There's also an import tool that will scan a webpage and pull in the ISBNs it can recognize. I used this to import the 106 books that were referenced on my "List of Books I've Read Recently," which I might decide to replace with some references to my library on LibraryThing.

Once you have books in your library, LibraryThing will provide links to profiles of users that have many of the same books in their libraries. You can navigate to their libraries and leave comments on their profiles.

Well, that's just a brief overview. Check out LibraryThing for yourself.

For a more in-depth discussion of LibraryThing and other such sites, check out NPR's All Things Considered discussion of social networks for book lovers.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Help Our Airlines Save Fuel

Airlines are struggling with the ever-increasing cost of fuel. They've started to charge passengers to check baggage. Let's think of other ways they can stay aloft in this turbulent economy:
  1. Charge passengers a fee that's proportional to the total weight of the passenger plus all his/her baggage, both carry on and checked.

  2. Offer passengers stationary bicycles and other exercise machines to prevent DVT, but secretly use the machines to drive electrical generators, which can power such non-essential systems as entertainment, lighting and navigation.

  3. Offer passengers free refreshments in the terminal. Lace the refreshments with laxatives and diuretics. 1, 2
What can you do personally? Why not leave the heavy luggage behind? Just choose baggy clothing to wear at your destination, and put it all on before you leave your home. Better yet, don't even bother bringing extra clothes. Just buy your change of clothes at your destination.

With lots of creative planning, we can yet again save our beloved airline industry.

1 Empty passengers are lighter.
2 Whatever they leave behind can be used as bio-fuel.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Driving to Optimize Fuel Economy

In my area, gas prices have jumped beyond $4.00 per gallon over the last couple of weeks. I ranted before about how traffic lights contribute to decreased fuel economy. But I didn't mention that driving technique can dramatically influence fuel economy.

An extreme type of driving that maximizes fuel economy is called Hypermiling. Generally the idea is to minimize acceleration and braking. Unless you're going down a steep hill, acceleration requires more gasoline than just maintaining speed. And braking converts all your car's motion (which came from gasoline) into heat energy. So essentially, braking is like throwing away gasoline.

If this is the kind of topic that gives you goosebumps, you might be interested in the forums at CleanMPG, especially Wayne Gerdes' post "Beating the EPA - The Why’s and how to Hypermile".

And rather than boycotting gasoline for one day, folks should either not drive on that day, or at least drive more efficiently. With the subsequent drop in demand, gas prices would relax.

Friday, May 16, 2008

MySpace Notes

My pre-teen daughter already has a website and just started a blog. So I figured I should start learning more about MySpace. She's not on MySpace right now, but she might be in a few years.

I've just finished reading "Me, MySpace, and I," by Larry D. Rosen. It suggests that parents open an account on MySpace because there are many areas on the website that you can't access unless you're logged in.

Many websites require users to provide a real name and real address when you open an account. This is particularly true of commerce sites like So I was not alarmed when MySpace asked for my real name and town, "so other members can search for you." It assured me that it wouldn't display my name, but I cautiously provided a bogus name, anyway.

When I finished entering the required information, it showed me the profile page that it created for me. And there was the bogus name and town displayed in nice bold type. Thanks for preserving my anonymity, MySpace.

Well, anyway, I'm there now, and no harm was done to me.

Some things from the book I thought worth mentioning. This quote, for example:

"Some MySpace young people have told me that they like to pretend to be dumb just to see what other people do and say. One guy got a date with a girl by pretending to be a "C" student and when she met him and found out he was a "brain" she canceled the date."

- page 70

Check out for trends in the lives of tweens, teens and young adults.

Other resources:

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Autism Awareness

April is Autism Awareness Month here in USA. Would you be able to recognize the symptoms of autism if you saw them? Probably not.

The latest estimate of the prevalence of autism is that 1 in 150 people in the USA have been diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), which is also known as Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD).

If you're in the fields of engineering, computer science, physics or math, the chances are even higher that you, your children, your coworkers or their children could be diagnosed with this disorder. And you should check out, which is dedicated to the early identification and intervention of children with developmental delays and disorders, including Autism Spectrum Disorders.

The diagnostic criteria for ASD in children concern development and ability in the areas of social interaction, communication and play. Please see "Diagnosis and Epidemiology of Autism Spectrum Disorders," by Lee Tidmarsh, MD, Fred R Volkmar, MD.

Early detection of an ASD is crucial because when interventions are tried at an early age (say at 3 to 5 years of age), they seem to be more effective than when tried later on.

Those who have an ASD and who can communicate say that they don't want to be cured; they just want to be accepted. Thus, it's not they who have the problem, it is society. Nevertheless, interventions can make things easier for children and the autistic adults they grow in to.

What kinds of interventions can reduce the symptoms of an ASD? A change in diet -- avoiding wheat and dairy productions, for example -- can help those with Leaky Gut Syndrome, which can manifest as symptoms of ASD. Another effective, diet-related approach is supplementation with mega doses of vitamin B6, or its active co-enzyme, P5P. Play therapy or Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) has been proven to help. In some cases, mercury detoxification may help. There are many more interventions for a parent to choose from. Then there are interventions aimed at easing the secondary symptoms that accompany ASD such as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and Depression.

Scientists can spend entire careers looking for signs of intelligent life in the Universe. Meanwhile, medical researchers have overlooked signs of intelligence in people with autism. They assume that people who can't talk and who respond differently to stimuli must be lacking in intelligence.

If you don't believe me, consider the amazing website, Getting the Truth Out, which was originally written in response to an objectionable Autism Awareness fundraising campaign called "Getting the Word Out." Be sure to follow the presentation completely to the end.

If you suspect that you or a loved one is struggling with an ASD, visit the Online Asperger Syndrome Information & Support (OASIS). (Asperger Syndrome is an ASD, and is sometimes referred to as High-Functioning Autism.) As its name suggests, you can get a great deal of information from the site. You can find most of the support by clicking on the Message Boards menu choice and registering for the "OASIS: Asperger Syndrome Forum".

Monday, March 10, 2008

How to Avoid a Recession

There's a lot of talk about what to do about the economy. One group of economists believes that Federal Reserve Board Chair Ben Bernanke made a mistake in cutting interest rates recently. They think that will lead to inflation.

Most politicians agree that we need some form of tax cut. Some say that the middle class should get a tax break. Others say no, the middle class will just use it to pay down debt, and that businesses need tax breaks in order to hire more workers.

Some suggest that saving sub-prime mortgage borrowers from bankruptcy is the key to bringing about economic recovery.

Many of these opinions have merit, but they fail to address the cause of the faltering economy. The real problem is the rising cost of energy.

The economy depends on energy for growth. You cannot manufacture items unless you use energy. You cannot transport these manufactured goods unless you use energy. And consumers cannot afford to buy these goods if they're spending most of their disposable income on energy.

You might think we'd've learned a lesson from the oil crisis of the 1970s. But our favorite energy source still seems to be based on oil. And as the oil supply tightens, our economy falters.

Imagine this scenario: It's the distant future, and our world is without oil. Where does our energy come from for manufacturing, transportation and consumer use? Solar and nuclear.

Equatorial countries are the world's energy movers and shakers. They get the most intense solar radiation. They produce the most electricity per photo-voltaic cell. Their biofuel is the richest and most abundant on the planet.

So perhaps it's time to cut taxes on oil, gasoline and electricity. Maybe it's even time to think about subsidizing energy costs? It depends on how serious our government is about maintaining economic growth.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Engineers Week

Engineers Week was last week. One reason the organizers put effort into making and promoting Engineers Week is to get kids interested in engineering. So why does it take place during winter vacation week?

So I'll be belatedly "celebrating" Engineers Week this week by visiting my daughter's elementary school class and talking about electricity. My presentation is titled, "Watt is Electricity?" Get it?

I made a little electromagnet kit for each student. All I did was wind about four feet of solid 22 gauge copper wire around a nail. I placed this in a bag with a D battery, some paper clips and a sheet of paper with this text:
Electromagnet Test Kit
  • 4’ 22 AWG Solid Insulated Copper Wire
  • Steel Nail
  • D Battery (1.5V)
  • Paperclips (to test electromagnet)
When electrical current flows through a wire, a magnetic field develops around the wire. By winding the wire into a tight coil around an iron core, the magnetic flux is concentrated, and the magnetic attraction is strong.

Touch the bare wire ends to the battery terminals.

Watch Out – it gets HOT.

How many paper clips can you pick up?

What do you think would happen if:
  • You unwrapped some of the wire?
  • You used a 9V or 12V battery?
  • You wrapped the wire around a pencil?

Science Links for Kids

Those links are pretty cool. Check them out when you get a chance!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

More on Traffic Lights

I was too tired to continue my previous post. So I'll add some comments here in a new post.

I wrote:
If the number of cars on the main road is so great that you need to interrupt the flow in order to let yet more cars on it, you're contributing to yet more traffic congestion.
Actually, about 16 years ago, traffic lights were introduced on entrance ramps to the Long Island Expressway. The idea was to prevent cars from entering the highway during rush hour. That demonstrates an appropriate use of traffic lights -- to improve the flow of traffic rather than to impede it.

I wrote:
It's inefficient to force several cars to stop for the sake of one or two cars that are already stopped. Forcing a car to stop and then accelerate back up to cruising speed is a significant waste of gas. In fact every time a driver applies the brake, he or she "throws away" the fuel that was used to accelerate the car. And acceleration is what uses the most fuel.

Many of these intersections are so small that when cars turn onto them from the main road, the cars trigger the Hall effect sensor that causes the light to cycle. Thus, the light turns red for those who navigate the main road even when there's no car to yield to! More waste!
You can solve both problems simply by installing (or moving) the sensors farther back from the intersection and decreasing the sensitivity. That way the light won't cycle unless there are a few cars queued up. It might be a good idea to change the mode to blinking red-yellow during non-peak hours to allow cars to enter the main roadway whenever it's clear, but then have the light switch to give the right-of-way to the smaller roadway when enough cars are waiting.

I can imagine the day when every intersection will have a traffic light. Hopefully I'll be dead by then. Or perhaps traffic lights will be part of a Intelligent Vehicle System that's designed to route traffic for maximum efficiency. Lights will be used to tell motorists when it's safe to enter the intersection rather than stop other cars to allow them to enter.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

The Problem With Traffic Lights

"'See, I can time them perfectly,' the [traffic] light said with satisfaction. 'I get hundreds of them each day. No one gets through my intersection without paying his tax in gas and rubber.'"

"'Go blow a bulb!' the car growled at the light.

"'Go soak your horn!' the light flashed back."

- from pages 187 to 188 of "Centaur Aisle," by Piers Anthony

I've had this quote in my "Quote du Jour" for several weeks, ready for the day I finally rant about traffic lights.

In my town, traffic lights are installed indiscriminately as a feeble response to town growth. The rich folks flock to buy McMansions in new developments. Then they complain that they can't get onto the main road without waiting a minute or two for a break in the traffic. So up goes yet another traffic light.

There are intersections where traffic lights are needed, such where two main highways intersect.

But why install one at a "T" intersection on a busy main road for a tiny side street? Here's why it's not a good idea:
  • If the number of cars on the main road is so great that you need to interrupt the flow in order to let yet more cars on it, you're contributing to yet more traffic congestion.
  • It's inefficient to force several cars to stop for the sake of one or two cars that are already stopped. Forcing a car to stop and then accelerate back up to cruising speed is a significant waste of gas. In fact every time a driver applies the brake, he or she "throws away" the fuel that was used to accelerate the car. And acceleration is what uses the most fuel.
  • Many of these intersections are so small that when cars turn onto them from the main road, the cars trigger the Hall effect sensor that causes the light to cycle. Thus, the light turns red for those who navigate the main road even when there's no car to yield to! More waste!
  • Finally, traffic lights waste electrical power all day and night. In fact, they remain powered up even in the wee hours of the morning when no one needs them. At night they're so bright you could read a large-print book under them. Why not reduce the light intensity after dark and save money? True, some lights are set to blink red-yellow, and thus they require half the electricity to light the lamps. But the controllers that run them also waste electricity. So just shut them down completely and get that power consumption down to zero. Drivers know anyway to stop before they enter a main road in the absence of traffic control.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Book Recommendations From

The CareerBuilder section in our December 16, 2007 newspaper featured 16 career guidance books in its list of "this year's most interesting career books." A few of them look as though they'd be really helpful for me. Unfortunately I couldn't find the article online. I'll list the book titles with links....