Dec 31, 2009

Happy New Year :o)



A Time of Rebirth


Because the Winter Solstice is the turning point of the year, beginning the lengthening of days, it has long been viewed as the birth of the year--by pagans celebrating the return of the Sun, and by Christians welcoming the birth of the Son of God. Other cultures (Hindu, Chinese, Celtic) also viewed this as a time for reversing order and rules-celebrants would change roles with servants or dress in costumes for a time until order was restored.

Starting Fresh

While each culture's New Year celebration has its own flavor, there are certain common themes. The period leading up to New Year's Day is a time for setting things straight: a thorough housecleaning, paying off debts, returning borrowed objects, reflecting on one's shortcomings, mending quarrels, giving alms. In many cultures, people jump into the sea or a local body of water-literally washing the slate clean.

The American custom of spending the night with the one you love and kissing them at midnight insures that the relationship will flourish during the coming year.   I personally like this interpretation :o)

Resolutions

Every New Year's Eve millions of Americans make New Year's resolutions. Whether the resolution is to get out of debt, to spend more time with loved ones, or to quit smoking, these resolutions have one thing in common: they are goals to make our lives better.


Unfortunately, this ritual commitment to self-improvement is widely viewed as something of a joke--in part because New Year's resolutions go so notoriously unmet. Making New Year's resolutions does not have to be futile--and to make them is not silly; done seriously, it is an act of profound moral significance that embodies the essence of a life well-lived.

Consider what we do when we make a New Year's resolution: we look at where we are in some area of life, think about where we want to be, and then set ourselves a goal to get there. To make a New Year's resolution is to recognize the undeniable reality that successful goal-pursuit is possible. Indeed, not only is it possible to achieve long-range goals, to get what we want in our lives, we must consciously choose and achieve the right goals.

This New Year's, resolve to think about how to make your life better, not just once a year, but every day. Resolve to set goals, not just in one or two aspects of life, but in every important aspect and in your life as a whole.

I say, take your happiness seriously.

Once in a Blue Moon

Tonight, there will be the 13th full moon of the year.  Wonder if that will have any impact on the festivities as the new year comes in :o)


A blue moon is a full moon that is not timed to the regular monthly pattern. Most years have twelve full moons which occur approximately monthly, but in addition to those twelve full lunar cycles, each calendar year contains an excess of roughly eleven days. The extra days accumulate, so that every two or three years (on average about every 2.7154 years), there is an extra full moon. The extra moon is called a "blue moon."
The term "blue moon" is commonly used metaphorically to describe the rarity of an event, as in the idiomatic expression, "once in a blue moon."  Since it happens every 2-3 years, guess it is not as rare as the phrase indicates.

Dec 30, 2009

Momma's Boy :o)

Today was a special day, bringing back memories from my high school and college vacation days.  You see, back in those days, when a new Disney movie came out, I would take my Mom to the movies.

Today, we re-kindled that tradition.  I picked her up and we headed out for lunch at a local mexican restaurant (Mazatlan), including a pitcher of Margaritas :o).  There was laughter, discussions, tears, more laughter, and overall, a special time between a Mother and Son.

We then headed out to see the new, old fashioned (done with painted cells versus CGI), Disney movie - The Princess and the Frog.  It was a new take on an old tale, and interesting because if channeled NOLA and their whole food and music scene.

All in all, it was a special day.

Dec 29, 2009

Philosophical Phun - Time Perception :o)


We see colors, hear sounds and feel textures. Some aspects of the world, it seems, are perceived through a particular sense. Others, like shape, are perceived through more than one sense. But what sense or senses do we use when perceiving time? It is certainly not associated with one particular sense. In fact, it seems odd to say that we see, hear or touch time passing. And indeed, even if all our senses were prevented from functioning for a while, we could still notice the passing of time through the changing pattern of our thought. Perhaps, then, we have a special faculty, distinct from the five senses, for detecting time. Or perhaps, we notice time through perception of other things.


In giving an account of the various aspects of time perception, we inevitably make use of concepts that we take to have an objective counterpart in the world: the past, temporal order, causation, change, the passage of time and so on. Later events cannot affect earlier ones, as a matter of mind-independent fact, and this is why we do not perceive the future, only the past.

And yet, as humans, we envision the future, strive to meet that vision, go down scratching and screaming when that vision starts to slip out of our grasp.  Of course, there are also those who seem to live in the past, entrenched in what was, missing out on the possibilities of what could be.  It is easy to see what has been, but takes a different kind of vision to see what can be.  Are you a "What Was" or a "Will Be" person???  What better time of year to contemplate this than the dawn of a new one :o)

For the inspiration for this entry, go to the original Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

Dec 28, 2009

Climate Change - Who Pays the $100B Annual Tab?


Much of the money to fund a $100-billion-a-year effort to help poor nations deal with climate change tentatively endorsed Thursday, 12/17/09, by the U.S. would be put up by private companies and investors, not taxpayers, according to a senior Obama administration official familiar with the proposals.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke of the U.S. and other countries "mobilizing" $100 billion a year by 2020 to help poor nations deal with climate change. A large chunk of this money would likely come from companies in the developed world buying "carbon credits" to offset greenhouse-gas emissions from their own factories, said the administration official.

The purchase of the credits would fund activities that avoid carbon emissions in the developing world: preserving forest land in Brazil, say, or installing solar panels in villages in Africa. There would be some government money, which would go largely to projects unlikely to attract private capital. Among them, the administration official said: building dikes or storm-warning systems in low-lying, poor countries particularly threatened by a potential rise in sea levels triggered by climate change.

One hopeful sign in Copenhagen for people in the carbon-trading business is a potential agreement to allow the sale of carbon credits produced by saving forests. Trees consume carbon dioxide as they grow, and thus offset some of the world's greenhouse-gas emissions.   The sale of carbon credits from preserving trees could generate about $5 billion by 2015, most of it from U.S. firms. Curbing deforestation, in turn, could generate another roughly $20 billion in annual investments in developing countries, for instance, in technologies to monitor tree growth and materials necessary to make the projects work.

Contest: All Puns Intended :o)

Send me an e-mail, at buckoclown@aol.com with your responses, including your preference for a gift. Also leave a comment here that you have sent a reply. I will tally the responses, and a gift will be sent to the top three responders, and a random drawing will provide a prize for a fourth participant. If you are a winner, I will contact you for your mailing address.


Prizes are: The Amazing Flying Monkey, A Digital Thermometer, A Garden Thermometer, and A Refrigerator Wine Rack (2 bottles).   Only one entry so far.

Rules: One point per pun, and highest total is the winner(s). Half points will be awarded if you got the gist and were close. You must complete without any internet searches, books, lifelines, or any other outside assistance (you are on the honor system :o). Responses are due by 1200 noon on December 31. Cheaters will not go un-PUN-ished. Bucko is the final arbitrator. Winners will be posted on New Years Day, along with the response to the Puns. Give it a try, you might even have fun.

Good Luck :o)

1. Two antennas met on a roof, fell in love and got married. The ceremony wasn't much, but _____ _____ _____ _____ .


2. A jumper cable walks into a bar. The bartender says, "I'll serve you, but _____ _____ _____ ."


3. Two peanuts walk into a bar, and one was _____ _____ .


4. A _____ man walked into a bra.


5. A man walks into a bar with a slab of asphalt under his arm, and says: "A beer please, and _____ _____ _____ _____ ."


6. Two cannibals are eating a clown. One says to the other: "_____ _____
_____ ______ _____ _____?"


7. "Doc, I can't stop singing The Green, Green Grass of Home."
"That sounds like Tom Jones Syndrome."
"Is it common?"
"Well, _____ _____ _____ ."


8. Two cows are standing next to each other in a field.
Daisy says to Dolly, "I was artificially inseminated this morning."
"I don't believe you," says Dolly.
"It's true; _____ _____ l!" exclaims Daisy.


9. An invisible man marries an invisible woman. The kids were _____ _____ _____ _____ _____ either.


10. _____ _____ : The feeling that you've heard this bull before.


11. I went to buy some _____ trousers the other day, but I couldn't find any.


12. A man woke up in a hospital after a serious accident. He shouted, "Doctor, doctor, I can't feel my legs!" The doctor replied, "I know, _____ _____ _____ _____ !"


13. Two fish swim into a concrete wall. The one turns to the other and says, "_____ !"


14. I went to a seafood disco last week... and pulled _____ _____ .


15. What do you call a fish with no eyes? A _____ .


16. Two Eskimos sitting in a kayak were chilly, so they lit a fire in the craft. Not surprisingly it sank, proving once again that you can't _____ _____ _____ _____ _____ _____ _____ .


17. A group of chess enthusiasts checked into a hotel, and were standing in the lobby discussing their recent tournament victories. After about an hour, the manager came out of the office, and asked them to disperse.
"But why?" they asked.
"Because," he said. "I can't stand _____ -_____ _____ _____ _____ _____ _____ .."


18. A woman has twins, and gives them up for adoption. One of them goes to a family in Egypt, and is named "Ahmal." The other goes to a family in Spain; they name him "Juan." Years later, Juan sends a picture of himself to his birth mother. Upon receiving the picture, she tells her husband that she wishes she also had a picture of Ahmal. Her husband responds, "They're twins! _____ _____ _____ _____ , _____ _____ _____ ."


19. Mahatma Gandhi, as you know, walked barefoot most of the time, which produced an impressive set of calluses on his feet. He also ate very little, which made him rather frail and with his odd diet, he suffered from bad breath. This made him a _____ -_____ _____ _____ _____ _____ _____ .


20. A dwarf, who was a mystic, escaped from jail. The call went out that there was a _____ _____ _____ _____ .


21. And finally, there was the person who sent 20 different puns to his friends, with the hope that at least 10 of the puns would make them laugh. No _____ _____ _____ did.

Dec 27, 2009

Sunday Silliness - Mediocrity :o)



MEDIOCRITY: It takes a lot less time and most people won't notice the difference until it's too late.

Dec 26, 2009

Second Chance :o)

We had a nice Christmas Holiday.

Thursday, we went over to my folks place for gift exchange and dinner.  The weather mostly cooperated, with the freezing rain not really picking up until we got back home about 8:30 PM.  We gave them a new TV for the family room, bringing it in at the last minute.  I wish we had a picture of my Mom's face, she was completely and happily surprised.  There was a gasp, there were tears, there was laughter - it was priceless.

Thursday night, we played Rock Band, then opened our ornaments, something that has become a fun tradition for us, it results in a very unique tree (next year, we opted out of a tree this year - I know, we are scrooges :o)

Christmas morning, we had our stockings and then our presents.  We have become very practical at Christmas, giving things we will certainly use, and for the most part, things we both like.  We have the same taste in movies, books, and music, so it is a twofer almost every gift.  There was a combined total of about 10 books and 10 movies.  Also, there were some clothes on both sides (we do not share those).  I think my favorite presents were the CD's that Beth got me - I work out every day, and love having the hard rock playing.  I got two Saliva's, a SlipKnot, a James Bond theme (not hard rock, but it rocks), and a new Shinedown - Sound of Madness.  I think my favorite song is Second Chance, something that I am living now with Beth.  

Hope you had a great Christmas and are looking forward to a great New Year :o)




Second Chance lyrics (Songwriters: Bassett, Dave Richard; Smith, Brent)


My eyes are open wide
By the way I made it through the day
I watch the world outside
By the way I'm leaving out today

I just saw Haley's Comet, she waved
Said, "Why are you always running in place?"
Even the man in the moon disappeared
Somewhere in the stratosphere

Tell my mother, tell my father I've done the best I can
To make them realize this is my life, I hope they understand
I'm not angry, I'm just saying
Sometimes goodbye is a second chance


Please don't cry one tear for me
I'm not afraid of what I have to say
This is my one and only voice
So listen close, it's only for today


I just saw Haley's Comet, she waved
Said, "Why are you always running in place?"
Even the man in the moon disappeared
Somewhere in the stratosphere"


Tell my mother, tell my father I've done the best I can
To make them realize this is my life, I hope they understand
I'm not angry, I'm just saying
Sometimes goodbye is a second chance


Here is my chance
This is my chance

Tell my mother, tell my father I've done the best I can
To make them realize this is my life, I hope they understand
I'm not angry, I'm just saying
Sometimes goodbye is a second chance
Sometimes goodbye is a second chance
Sometimes goodbye is a second chance

Dec 25, 2009

Merry Christmas :o)


We will have a quiet morning, sharing our gifts together, and tormenting the kitteh with some catnip :o)

This afternoon, we are headed over to Beth's Family get-together, for some Christmas Cheer, and dinner.

May you and yours have a wonderful day today and bask in the warmth of friends and family.

Merry Christmas!

MDTree :o)


Previously, I posted a Heiney tree, but to be fair to those who do not imbibe, here is a Mountain Dew Tree.  Looks good with the red balls :o)

Dec 23, 2009

Circle of Friends :o)


A special Thank You to Stan over at "underSTANding Stan" for giving me the Circle of Friends award.

I normally do not participate in passing these on, but since I have the chance to share five things I like doing, find important, or want to promote; and get to pick out some blogs that mean something to me (for me, that reflects new friends I have made on-line and bring me joy, make me think, or are just really nice people). So here goes...

Conservation
We only have one earth, and we need to do more to conserve things.  Do not get me wrong, I like my vacations, am not about to go back to the horse and buggy, and I like electricity and everything it gives us.  But doing little things every day like turning down the thermostat, recycling, laying off the gas pedal (or at least keep your tires inflated to the proper level), recycling, using flourescent bulbs, recycling, and supporting organizations that preserve our resources (especially the most precious on, undeveloped land).  My favorite organization for this is the Nature Conservancy, because the balance conservation and preservation with the reality of economic development.

Integrity
No matter how little you have, or how much you have, the thing that can make you the richest or poorist - and the thing that nobody can take away from you - is your integrity.  Integrity is not something that can be given, it cannot be earned, and it is intensely personal.  People who do not really know the real "you" can give you perspective, but if they are not really a "part" of your life - the only thing they do is give you the gift of perception.  There is only one person who can ruin your integrity - and that person looks at you every morning in the mirror.

Optimism
The trials and tribulations of life will occur; we can plan, hide, run, or any other action that you think might work for you - but life still happens.  What we can control is how we react.  I have often written here that I am a glass-half-full type of guy, and that is the way it is and will be.  It just takes to much energy to walk around dragging a dark cloud to be over my head, lamenting the things that others are doing to me, or not doing for me.  I am not a victim, I am a doer, I look forward with gusto, never back with regret.

Engineering/Science/Project Management (Geek, after all, there is a EE)
I am a geek, what can I say. I started off as and Electrical Engineer (gEEk), then got my Masters in Engineering Management, went into Nuclear Power, and then Project Management.  Being able to blend technical knowledge, organizational skills, motivational skills, and long range planning --- it is so sweet to me.  My favorite magazine is Popular Science, since it is written at the right level for a non-scientist, but one who understands the technological aspects and potential.  I believe that it will be science and engineering that will solve the problems of energy independence and climate change that face us.  Lets make it better for our children and their children, and so on...

Laughter
If you have read my profile, you know that in the past I used to be a clown.  Birthday parties, picnics, parades, and once even in the circus (Michigan State's Breslin Center).  While I have not donned the makeup in many years, the personality is still there (if you doubt me, ask Beth), because to be a clown - you have to have a healthy sense of humor and be a bit self-deprecating.  There is nothing I like more than making people smile or laugh, and that happens multiple times per day.  In my career, I have always been known to smile, and when I do not, I always get immediate feedback.  It is a wonderful way to go through life.  The absolute best is the gut laugh of a child - there is nothing like it.

My main focus in passing this on is to focus on a few blogs that are important to me, that I would be thrilled if they obtained more readers, and that have truly reached me at a deeper level.  They are each unique in their own right, have good hearts, and are part of my circle of friends.  That does not mean that some of the other blogs I frequent (Jamie, Indigo, Ginger, David, Dan) are not part of that circle, it is just that I had to limit my selection to five, and wanted to provide something new and different (I hope :o)

The first two represent bloggers we have met on-line and met in person, and they will always be friends.

Marty at Heard at Starbucks.  He has a wicked sense of humor and lives in a place with lots of characters, and I dare say that he is one himself.

Mark at Stars Like Grains of Sand In My Pocket .  I think I will always think of Mark as "Detroit" Mark because we have a number of on-line friends named Mark, and we differentiate them by the city that they live in.  When we first learned about, and subsequently ventured out to meet, Mark was back in his childhood location of Detroit.  He was a great host, and we think he is an absolute Peach.  Mark has relocated, but the reason for that, and to see how it is working for him is best left to his blog :o)

Next up is Wes at Life is What it is Sometimes.  I think Wes is a sensitive soul that has so much goodness and love to give that it pours out of his page.  He is devoted to his wife and daughter, and his love shows.  Give Wes a shout, I know he would love to have some more friends.

Interested in Art, Music, Philosophy, Theatre, and many other topics?  Then you must pay a visit to DB over at Vagabond Journeys.  DB has a wealth of life experience, and his blog(s) share this experience in a wonderful way.  Pour a cup of coffee/tea, settle in to your chair, and take a journey.

Last, but certainly not least, is Alaina at Miss Alaineus Alemanac. I came across Alaina via Detroit Mark, and quickly learned to appreciate her edge, her humor, and her dedication to her students.  Not only that, but she is getting married at the end of the year, to Tony at A Bit of Loki.  They are a great couple and I know they will be very happy together.  

My final thoughts? Well, to be recognized by those you know is one thing. It is an honor, to be sure. But, to be recognized by those you hardly know, is truly an accomplishment. Thanks.

Dec 22, 2009

Beer Bottle Tree :o)


Now that is my type of tree, as a matter of fact, I would drink to that :o)

Philosophical Phun - The Santa Myth


Many people teach their small children the myth of Santa Claus: that a magical being who lives at the North Pole brings presents on Christmas Eve. Secondary aspects of the myth are that whether one receives presents is a function of one’s behavior, and that you can communicate with Santa about your preferences. Not only parents, but retail establishments, local governments, and public schools collude in perpetuating this myth among children of a certain age.


Perpetuating the Santa myth has at least these moral reasons against it:

1. It involves a lot of lying and deception practiced on credulous people. The lies get bigger as natural skepticism sets in.

2. It tends to foster greed in children and contributes to their false impression that one’s happiness is determined by one’s material possessions.  The whole Santa thing has been relatively recent, mid-19th century. 

3. In telling children that the quantity and quality of one’s gifts are a function of one’s behavior, when actually they are a function of one’s socio-economic standing and parental temperament, it induces moral complacency in well-off children and false feelings of moral inferiority in less well-off children.

I had never really thought about it in this manner. I remember staying up late Christmas Eve, chomping carrots and putting them out in the snow, spreading baby powder around the tree and putting footprints in it, taking bites of the cookies, and putting the Santa presents under the tree. 

Once the magic of belief is gone, the traditions and expectations you established when they were young become perpetuated into late adolescence and the teen years. I think that it is best to practice minimalism from the get-go, even though that is not easy to do when they are filled with wonder and innocence.  The key is to instill early that the true spirit of Christmas is expressing the joy of giving and your love for those who you give to. 

What are your thoughts regarding this topic?

Dec 21, 2009

Nor'Easter :o)

I could not resist putting up this picture of the East Coast storm that hit this weekend.

I know that my company has sent 1/2 of our Indiana/Michigan resources to help restore power.

Hope you are warm and cozy, and with electricity :o)


Seven Simple Words


There is the perception that in the work environment, uttering the words "I don't know", is pretty much considered an non-starter.

The bottom line is that it is not the end of the world to not know the answer, but you do need to know how to approach that situation.  The best response is seven simple words: “I don’t know, but I’ll find out”.  It is unrealistic to be expected to know everything, BUT….. you must at least have the ability (and desire) to find the answers if you don't know them off the top of my head.

Just as important, as you progress in your career, and you become the questioner versus the questionee, remember that "I don't know, but I'll find out" is an acceptable response (provided they truly follow through).

Dec 20, 2009

Sunday Silliness - Marketing :o)


MARKETING: Because making it look good now is more important than providing adequate support later.

Dec 19, 2009

What is the status of the Pandemic???


If you are confused about the "state of the novel H1N1 pandemic," don't feel alone. The past few weeks have seen a variety of media reports, scientific publications, and blog posts that support, or at least imply, the conclusion that the current influenza pandemic is likely the "mildest on record" and seems to be waning. You might also have seen stories asserting that such public health agencies as the World Health Organization (WHO and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have had evidence that this was a mild pandemic months ago and yet have continued to hype its seriousness.


But if you look at written reports and statements from these same international and federal health agencies, you'll find they have made the case that this pandemic has extracted a severe price, particularly among children and younger adults, is far from over, and that it's critical to get as many people as possible vaccinated as soon as possible.

Trying to predict the next steps of a virus like H1N1 is always risky.

Three critical questions should be front and center for you, your family, and your organization:

1. Has this pandemic to date been a big deal or has this been a bunch of hype? Or maybe it's been somewhere in between?

2. Where are we in this pandemic experience? Is it over—or is another big "shoe" about to drop?

3. If it's not over, what should you be doing for yourself and your family to be better prepared, and what should your organization be doing?

Big deal or a bunch of hype?

Without a doubt, this pandemic has been a big deal worldwide if you, a loved one, or a member of your organization has been seriously ill, even worse if you've lost someone to the disease or its complications. Just last Thursday the CDC updated its estimated number of H1N1-related US cases and deaths. As of November 14:

Deaths. Approximately 9,820 people have died (estimated range, 7,070 to 13,930)

Infections. More than 47 million people have been infected (range, 34 million to 67 million)

Hospitalizations. Some 213,000 persons have been hospitalized (range, 154,000 to 303,000)

Of course, there is one number that we often hear, especially when people try to compare the impact of the H1N1 pandemic to seasonal influenza. It's usually cited this way: "Approximately 36,000 people in the US die each year from seasonal flu." Its source is a single 2003 CDC modeling paper. In short, this seems like a no-brainer: 9,820 people have died from H1N1 to date and we expect 36,000 to die annually from seasonal influenza. Let's provide some perspective behind the 36,000 figure:

1. Comparing apples to oranges. In that CDC study, only 9,000 of those estimated annual seasonal deaths are due directly to influenza or secondary bacterial pneumonia. The other deaths are among persons who have influenza and who die of events like heart attacks or strokes.

2. The elderly. More than 90% of the estimated seasonal influenza deaths occur in the elderly, who in many instances have existing serious health conditions that mean their deaths may not be far off, regardless of their influenza illness.

How can we measure the pandemic impact today?

Let's take a closer look at the numbers of deaths associated with the H1N1 pandemic. Of the estimated 9,820 deaths:

1,090 (11%) have occurred in children 0-17 years of age

7,450 (76%) in people 18-64 years of age

1,280 (13%) in people over 65 years of age

This age distribution differs considerably from what we see with seasonal influenza.

Another comparison that is very important is how the current H1N1 pandemic compares to past pandemics. If we look at the rate of deaths in the US population from novel H1N1 through November 14, the 9,820 deaths among the US population of 308 million translates to a figure of 0.003% (or 32 deaths per million population).

The rate of deaths per age-group varies this way:

14.9 deaths per million children 0 to 17 years of age

38.9 deaths per million adults 18 to 64 years of age

33.0 deaths per million adults 65 years of age and older.

If we look at deaths for the dreaded 1918 pandemic, the estimates range from 500,000 to 750,000 deaths among a population of 100 million (0.5 to 0.75% or 5,000 to 7,500 per million). While there remains some ambiguity in the 1918 death numbers and how they were determined, they are at least 150 times higher than what we've seen to date with the H1N1 pandemic. Like the current pandemic, the 1918 deaths occurred at a much higher rate in young adults.

Similarly, when we look at the 1957-58 and 1968-69 pandemics, death rates are substantially higher than we have documented to date with novel H1N1:

In the 1957-58 pandemic, an estimated 70,000 deaths occurred among 172 million US residents (407 per million).

In the1968-69 pandemic, an estimated 34,000 deaths occurred among 200 million US residents (170 per million).

Like seasonal influenza, many of the deaths in both of these two pandemics occurred in the elderly population. In other words, they were more like "super-seasonal influenza" years.

Two other pieces of important data were notable in the CDC's H1N1 update last week. To date, the pandemic has caused:

1. More cases than seasonal influenza. To date, we know of an estimated 47 million cases of novel H1N1. That's already 16 million more than the estimated 31 million cases that occur during an average seasonal influenza year.

2. More hospitalizations than seasonal influenza. An estimated 213,000 hospitalizations to date have been related to H1N1 illness. That number exceeds by 13,000 the estimated average seasonal influenza year of 200,000 hospitalizations.

We're still a long way from being done with this pandemic; a third wave during the traditional winter flu months is still a possibility.

So yes, this current pandemic is causing fewer deaths than the three previous ones, particularly compared with 1918. Still, this pandemic is causing a marked increase in deaths in younger adults and children compared with a typical seasonal influenza year. It's challenging our healthcare system unlike any previous seasonal influenza season over the past 30 years.

Where are we in this pandemic experience?

So, does the rapidly waning second wave, which began in North America in mid-August, mean the end of the pandemic?

Infections. The estimated 47 million cases of H1N1 infection to date means that only 15% (47 million/308 million) of US residents have immune protection from an H1N1 infection.

Vaccinations. Last week, the CDC reported about 73 million doses of vaccine have been shipped to the states. If even 75 million Americans get vaccinated, that represents only 25% of the population.

Existing immunity. Given that there appears to be some residual acquired immunity in people over 65 years of age and who were exposed to a "cousin" of the current H1N1 virus before the 1950s, we can add on a guesstimate of another 10% to 15% of that population who have existing immunity.

When you add up the percentages of the three ways people can be protected against this novel H1N1 virus, we find that almost half of all residents in the US are still susceptible to infection and will be come this January. In countries where there is no or limited vaccine access, the percentage of citizens not yet protected will be even higher.

Given these numbers, is there any good reason why we won't have a serious third wave of disease in the Northern Hemisphere during this upcoming traditional winter influenza season.

What should you do now?

The first and most important step to remember is this: vaccine, vaccine, and vaccine.

As for your organization, go back over what you learned about the impact that the fall wave had on your operations. Given what you learned, ask what can you reasonably do to be better prepared for a similar, if not more significant, winter wave? Know that if that wave doesn't materialize, you wasted little. This H1N1 virus may be the predominant seasonal flu strain for years to come, so you'll not waste your time or a vaccine dose if you get it now. And of course the preparedness work you do now to collect and respond to lessons learned during the fall wave will be used some day in the future, even if only for the next pandemic.

This current H1N1 pandemic is surely not of a magnitude of the 1918 pandemic, or even the 1957 or 1969 pandemics. But it is a serious public health threat, and it's far from over. Expect the unexpected! That's the flu business.

—Michael T. Osterholm, PhD, MPH, is Director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research & Policy (CIDRAP), Director of the NIH-supported Center of Excellence for Influenza Research and Surveillance within CIDRAP, Editor-in-Chief of the CIDRAP Business Source, Professor in the School of Public Health, and Adjunct Professor in the Medical School, University of Minnesota.

Dec 18, 2009

New Nuclear & Climate Change ???


Nuclear power -- long considered environmentally hazardous -- is emerging as perhaps the world's most unlikely weapon against climate change, with the backing of even some green activists who once campaigned against it.

It has been 13 years since the last new nuclear power plant opened in the United States. But around the world, nations under pressure to reduce the production of climate-warming gases are turning to low-emission nuclear energy as never before. The Obama administration and leading Democrats, in an effort to win greater support for climate change legislation, are eyeing federal tax incentives and loan guarantees to fund a new crop of nuclear power plants across the United States that could eventually help drive down carbon emissions.

From China to Brazil, 53 plants are now under construction worldwide, with Poland, the United Arab Emirates and Indonesia seeking to build their first reactors, according to global watchdog groups and industry associations. The number of plants being built is double the total of just five years ago.

Rather than deride the emphasis on nuclear power, some environmentalists are embracing it.

When a brigade of Greenpeace activists stormed a nuclear power plant on the shores of the North Sea a few years ago, scrawling "danger" on its reactor, Tindale was their commander.
"It really is a question about the greater evil -- nuclear waste or climate change," Tindale said. "But there is no contest anymore. Climate change is the bigger threat, and nuclear is part of the answer."

Dec 17, 2009

Philosophical Phun - Personalism :o)

Personalism posits ultimate reality and value in personhood. It emphasizes the significance, uniqueness and inviolability of the person, as well as the person's essentially relational or communitarian dimension.  Personalists investigate the experience, the status, and the dignity of the human being as person, and regard this as the starting-point for all subsequent philosophical analysis. Personalism tends to focus on practical, moral action and ethical questions.


The term person comes from the Latin persona, whose origins are traceable to Greek drama, where the πρόσωπον, or mask, became identified with the role an actor would assume in a given production. Such usage is carried over today in the word “persona,” referring to characters in fictional literature or drama, or second identities which people adopt for behavior in given social contexts. Its introduction into the mainstream of intellectual parlance, however, came with theological discourse during the patristic period, notably the attempts to clarify or define central truths of the Christian faith. These discussions focused primarily on two doctrines: the Trinity (three “persons” in one God) and the incarnation of the second person of the Trinity (the “hypostatic” union of two natures—divine and human—in one “person”).
 
At the center of this personalism stands an affirmation of the dignity of the person, the quality, insisted on already by medieval thinkers, which constitutes the unique excellence of personhood and which gives rise to specific moral requirements. Dignity refers to the inherent value of the person, as a “someone” and not merely “something,” and this confers an absoluteness not found in other beings.

For personalists, human dignity as such does not depend on variables such as native intelligence, athletic ability or social prowess. Nor can it result merely from good conduct or moral merit. It must rather be rooted in human nature itself, so that on the deepest level, despite the variations of moral conduct and the resultant differences in moral character, all members of the species share this dignity.

For the source, head on over to Stanford Encyclopeida of Philosophy.

I cannot think of a better argument for being bipartisan in politics, for recognizing marriage as a union of two persons, for treating each other with dignity and respect.  Human dignity is inherent in being human, it is that simple.

Dec 16, 2009

Science Scene - The End of Bottled Water?


The environmental arguments against bottled water are gaining more traction, and people are starting to question whether bottled water is really worth it, financially and environmentally. Recent sales reflect a drop in consumer demand for bottled water.

Overall, the bottled water industry in the United States has expanded at a phenomenal rate, though the market dipped slightly last year. Retail sales of single-serving plastic bottles increased from 1.4 billion gallons in 2000 to 5.2 billion gallons last year. And, over the past decade, per-capita consumption of bottled water in the U.S. has more than doubled to about 200 bottles per year, per person.

Sales of reusable aluminum and stainless steal water bottles are up. But the bottled water industry is enormous, estimated at about $16 billion, and reusable water bottles are a mere drop in the bucket. It would take a mass exodus of people using refillable water bottles to take away the significant market share of the bottled water industry.

The benefits of using reusable water bottles far outweigh the costs. Among these benefits are: energy savings and reduced emissions (processing, packaging, distribution) and reduced waste (less plastic in landfills equals less pollution). Furthermore, tap water saves people lots of money –- bottled water is 1,900 times more expensive than tap water.

We do our share by using stainless steel bottles here for our workouts, and I have one at work also.  How about you?

Dec 15, 2009

Buy Some Happiness Today :o)


Money, it seems, just might be able to buy you a bit of happiness this holiday season. Or so says research from the University of British Columbia and Harvard University.


The good news: It doesn't matter how much you make, because you can spend as little as $5 to get happy. But there's a catch: In order for your money to make you happy, you've got to spend it on others. Not yourself. Sounds like the perfect reason to pick up a little "extra something" for a loved one or co-worker.

The connection between your wallet and your happiness isn't as complex as you might think. "We found that while it might make you happy 'in the moment,' despite popular belief, spending money on big ticket items like new cars, jewelry or on vacations doesn't contribute to sustained happiness," says lead researcher, University of British Columbia assistant professor Elizabeth Dunn, PhD. And, using a year-end or holiday bonus to pay off bills isn't the path to happiness either.

Dunn's team found people are "significantly happier" when spending "pro-socially" on gifts for friends and family, or in charitable donations. Much more so than when spending money on bills or big-ticket or luxury items. An added bonus: This kind of spending creates happiness that lasts six to eight weeks, says Dunn, much longer than other forms of spending, which can make you happy for just a few weeks, or even a few hours.

So buy co-worker a sandwich, or a loved one their favorite candy bar, or send a card to a friend.  It is the little things that count :o)

Original Entry

Dec 14, 2009

Guiding Principles :o)


How do you live your life, and what are your guiding principles?

Here are three of my key principles, that shape my life and interactions each and every day.

Integrity: Do the right thing, even when it's not convenient and regardless if someone is watching.

Credibility: Walk the walk in good times and bad.  You cannot change your values or behaviors for convenience.  I like to think of my self as "The Rock", steady and consistent.

Compassion:  Not all have had the same opportunities, and some have had circumstances make their journey more difficult.  Keep your eyes open and seek to help others when you can.  Can you do something to make their life better or their burden less?

What are your guiding principles?

Dec 13, 2009

Sunday Silliness - Madness :o)


MADNESS:  Madness does not always howl. Sometimes, it is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, "Hey, is there room in your head for one more?"

Dec 11, 2009

Vacation Wind-down


While not the exact one, it is similar to one I smoked last night, and will smoke again tonight.

We are on our last night of vacation, and it has been fun.  Lots of sun, even though it was a bit overcast today - but it gave me the chance to go down the whale slide and to play some pool volleyball. 

Yesterday, we had a great tour of lovers beach and the arch, picture show to follow when we get back.  We also had a great Italian dinner at Romeo and Juliet's last night, not Mexican, but awesome in its own right.

Tonight, we are going to have dinner overlooking the ocean, and I plan on having some seafood, and then it will be some packing and relaxing. 

Tomorrow, it is back to the midwest and some of the white stuff and coldness......

Dec 10, 2009

Golf in Cabo San Lucas

Wednesday, I went golfing at the local country club.  It was amazing to be in the desert and yet have green fairways and greens.  Here are a couple of pictures for you. 

Dec 7, 2009

Smooth :o)

Wow, life can be awesome at times.


On Sunday, we decided to walk to the downtown area of Cabo.  It was sunny and warm, almost to much so for Beth, but like the trooper she is, we marched on.


We followed the map, turned this way and that, and that way and this way, observed a local soccer team driving the streets celebrating their victory, and ended up at Cabo Wabo, what are the odds (1:1 :o)

We just had to start the session off with a shot, and here are before and after pictures, guess which is mine and which is Beth's :o)











We had some great cococonut shrimp (with a soy sauce, not as good as the apricot dipping sauce we usually get, but it was tasty).

There were some Margarita's, some beers, and a good time was had by all :o)

When we got back to our resort, some sun and jacuzzi action was in order.  All in all, a good day.

Today, we had to attend a TimeShare presentation at another resort (we got cornered/suckered at the airport).  It was tempting, but also four hours we will not get back.  When we got back to our resort, it was a bucket of Corona Lights and some lounge time.  Tonight, we are heading to the restarurant that overlooks the bay for dinner.


Dec 6, 2009

Sweating It :o)

I will leave the details of the rocky start we had yesterday to Beth, over at Nutwood.  My virtual hat off to Ryan, a NW/Delta employee at South Bend airport, he worked his fingers to the bone making sure we arrived in Cabo yesterday, it was not easy.

We got in three hours later than originally intended, and by the time we got to the resort, the sun was setting.  It was a nice drive, with lots of construction going on.  It was interesting to go from desert/scrub-brush to civilization over only a few miles.  The interior is mostly un-inhabited.

I foraged for some tea for Beth this morning, and it sure is nice to be in the sun and to get a little sweat going, sure beats the daily winter walk into work, brrrrr :o)

It was to dark to really get a good view from our balcony, but today I was pleasantly surprised.  Here are two pictures showing our views.


Well, I just finished my Sol breakfast, we both have updated, and now it is off for a walk on the beach and to see the town.  Hope you have a great Sunday and an even better week.

Sunday Silliness - Losing :o)


LOSING:  If at first you don't succeed, failure may be your style.

Dec 5, 2009

Giving You A Break :o)



Giving you a Bucko-Break.  Today, we are headed to Cabo San Lucas for a week of fun and sun.  There will be a Sunday Silliness tomorrow, but other than that, no pre-planned posts. 

Depending on our accomodations, there may be some activity from Baja :o)

Dec 4, 2009

Clean Coal - It is Possible


AEP to receive federal stimulus funding for CCS project

AEP selected to receive DOE funds to advance carbon dioxide capture and storage to commercial scale

American Electric Power was notified by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) that it was selected to receive funding through the Clean Coal Power Initiative Round 3 to pay part of the costs of installing the nation’s first commercial-scale carbon dioxide capture and storage system on its Mountaineer coal-fired power plant in New Haven, W.Va. The DOE announced the funding today.

AEP will immediately begin negotiating terms with the DOE to receive $334 million to assist with the installation of the system that will use a chilled ammonia process to capture at least 90 percent of the carbon dioxide from 235 megawatts of the plant’s 1,300 megawatts of capacity. The captured carbon dioxide, approximately 1.5 million metric tons per year, will be treated and compressed, then injected into suitable geologic formations for permanent storage approximately 1.5 miles below the surface. The system will begin commercial operation in 2015, according to the company’s application for funding.

The $334 million requested by AEP is about half of the estimated cost of the system.

“We’re pleased that the DOE selected our project for funding,” said Mike Morris, AEP chairman, president and chief executive officer. “It demonstrates the agency’s recognition that commercialization of carbon capture and storage technology is an essential component in a successful climate strategy for this nation, which relies on coal-fired generation for about half of its electricity supply.

“Customers of utilities in the U.S. and abroad will benefit from the work we are doing at our Mountaineer Plant,” Morris said. “The first use of any technology comes at a higher cost than subsequent uses. The DOE funding will reduce the costs our customers face for the first commercial deployment of this technology, which will lead to lower future costs for customers of AEP and other utilities as companies retrofit existing coal-fired plants to address carbon dioxide emissions.

“We greatly appreciate the support we’ve received from West Virginia’s Washington delegation and state officials as we pursued funding to push this important technology to commercial scale,” Morris said.

For this commercial-scale project, AEP has formed a diverse technical advisory committee that includes recognized experts in the field of geologic carbon dioxide storage. This group will include participants from Schlumberger Limited, Battelle Memorial Institute, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, The Ohio State University, West Virginia University, The University of Texas, West Virginia Geological Survey, Ohio Geological Survey, CONSOL Energy, and the West Virginia Department of Commerce Division of Energy. Additionally, Battelle and Schlumberger will work directly with AEP to design and deploy the carbon dioxide storage system at Mountaineer. AEP is also in discussions with other potential international partners for the project.

AEP and Alstom began operating a smaller-scale validation of the technology in September at the Mountaineer Plant. That system captures up to 90 percent of the carbon dioxide from a slipstream of flue gas equivalent to 20 megawatts of generating capacity. The captured carbon dioxide, more than 100,000 tons a year, is being compressed and injected into suitable geologic formations for permanent storage approximately 1.5 miles below the surface. No federal funds are being used for the validation project.

Catch 22 :o)


Since I like to do my entries the night (or week before :o), as you read this, I have just completed morning 23 in a row in my new fitness and workout routine.  I am pleased to report that it has become a routine, a habit now (they say it takes 21 days to form a new habit). 

I am down four pounds, as of day 22, and expect that I will make my goal of six pounds this weekend.  I think two pounds a week meets the healthy weight loss criteria, and I am confident that my routine will continue.  I suppose if I were not doing weights, the pound loss would be higher, but I enjoy working the muscle groups as well (3 day rotation; chest, shoulders, arms). 

Since I do a minimum of 600 calories a day in workout, that is almost 14000 calories, and since they say it is about 3500 calories to lose a pound, I guess that means I am on track.  I know that I feel better, and actually look forward to my morning workouts.

Tell me about YOUR Narcissistic routines :o)

Dec 3, 2009

Happiness, does it matter ???


This entry is brought to you courtesy of my Illinois Alumni magazine, featuring an article titled "Five Propositions About Happiness" based on a book by Professor of Psychology Ed Diener of the University of Illinois.

Professor Diener has studied happiness for the past 30 years and has developed the following five propositions.





1:  Maybe money can buy happiness.  Global data aggregated over almost 30 years shows that self-reported life satisfaction levels do rise with income.  It has become scientific fact taht there is a relationship between prosperity and happiness.

2: Maybe money can't by happiness.  In those lucky nations endowed with a decent standard of living, happiness is, for sure, related to income - but strongly related only to a point.  In the U.S., the point is around $40,000.  Once basic economic needs are met, there are different drivers of satisfaction and fullfillment.  Once the $40,000 threshold is reached, the rising happiness curve flattens.

3: Happiness is not a goal.  Happiness is a matter more of wealth than of money, wealth meaning those things that make life better both materially and emotionally. 

4: Some are born happy, and some achieve happiness.  There are people who just seem happier than other people.  They're high on energy, low on anxiety.  They tend to be more successful in their careers, have better marriages, earn more money, and even enjoy better health.  It is possible to ratchet up one's happiness - it means attitude adjustment, working on relationships, finding "spiritual emotions" that connect one to a relaity beyond individual need and struggle.  So what are these spiritual emotions? Love, Gratitude, Awe, Transcendence, Forgiveness.

5: Happiness is seeking fulfillment.  Happiness is chased rather than captured.  Do what you are good at, you owe it to yourself and those around you.

I found this article very enlightening, at a very deep level.  I have always said that attitude is everything, that we chose how to react to events in our life.  Do you see the glass as half empty or half full?  I know that I have always been an optimist, seeing and seeking the good in others.  I am happy, are you???

Dec 2, 2009

Oh Tannenbaum, Oh Tannenbaum, Which One Is Greenest of All :o)



So on balance, what's the greenest Tannenbaum? It depends on a number of factors, including where you live, how you celebrate and precisely what you buy. So there is no one-size-fits-all answer. Going with a real tree? Try to choose something locally and organically grown. You'll cut down on CO2 emissions and help prevent the environmental degradation wrought by pesticides on big conventional operations. Local Harvest features a list of beautiful live Christmas tree providers across the country. If you like, you may even be able to cut your own! When you are finished with your tree, make sure it is converted to mulch or compost.

Going with an artificial tree? Then try to find one made in the U.S., which greatly decreases the chances for contamination with lead or other toxins, preserves domestic manufacturing jobs and reduces shipping. For example, check out Holiday Tree and Trim Co. of New Jersey. If you must get rid of your artificial tree, check with local charities, shelters and churches to see if they can use it. Most recycling programs do not accept them, and they'll take many centuries to degrade in landfills.

Want an even more "clear cut" answer? Buy a living, plantable "bulb" tree. Inside, the tree can wear ornaments and garland, and after Christmas it can be transplanted outdoors. You'll be adding to the planet's lungs and fighting global warming, as well as providing wildlife habitat. If you live in an apartment, or don't have room in your yard for an evergreen, see if you can donate it to someplace in your community.

Or save all your money and simply decorate an outdoor tree for Christmas. True, unless you live in a warm climate, you aren't likely to want to open presents in your yard. But you may be able to decorate a tree that's close enough to a window to set the mood. You can also fashion your own "tree" from natural materials like driftwood, pine boughs, felled branches and the like. You won't be contributing to any new resource use and will be giving your own creativity a chance to flourish.

Your Christmas Tree is just the tip of the iceberg for potential ways to go greener at Christmas, for more information, head on over to TheDailyGreen.

Dec 1, 2009

Philosophical Phun - Moral Deliberation :o)

'Which action, of those available to me, would be best?' -- or, in other words, what ought I to do? -- may be considered the basic question of practical moral deliberation. There are of course other questions we may ask -- e.g. 'what sequence of actions, across my remaining lifetime, would be best?' -- but it's important to note that these are different questions.


To begin, note that the standard question 'What ought I to do?' is a question about an individual act. For example, "Should I accept the divine deal or not?" is an important moral question that someone might deliberate over. If they reason correctly, they will reach the conclusion "no, reject it". Morality is action-guiding, and this is the guidance it offers in this case.



Practical reasoning concludes in action (or, to put it more neutrally, let's say implementation) . We can reason about how to act, and then do so. But while we can think about what the best sequence of acts would be, we can't implement this as the conclusion of our reasoning -- at most, we can implement but a part of it. The reasoning instead concludes in mere belief, and so is really theoretical reasoning, albeit about a topic of moral interest.



Morality is supposed to be action-guiding, not action-sequence-guiding. There's a reason for this: we can only implement actions, not whole sequences thereof. 

An individual action is a true, but trivial answer. The fact that it's true explains why 'what should I do?' is the basic question of practical moral deliberation, and why the best-sequence question isn't really 'practical' at all. On the other hand, the fact that it's trivial suggests that, philosophically, we would do better to refocus on the question, 'what can I do?'

For the source of this entry, go to Philosophy, et cetera.

What we commonly do is make moral judgments about individual acts, in the context of a sequence, or against the background of having performed other acts (and omissions).  I think that this is where much of our society breaks down today, there are many that compartmentalize their morality from their actions, not recognizing that their morality should be guiding their actions. 

Nov 28, 2009

Spaghetti Friday :o)

We had an awesome day on Thursday over at Beth's sisters place.  Good food, good family, and good Rock Band.  Does it get any better than that?


Yesterday, the plan of the day was for my folks, and stepbrother "JimBo" [who I had not seen in 28 years until two months ago] and his wife, to come over to Nutwood for dinner and some fun.

The menu was Ken's Special Spaghetti :o)  This was a standing request from my Stepdad.  About seven years ago, my folks came and visited us for a week.  During that trip, one of the meals I made was spaghetti.  It is pretty basic, ground beef, garlic, onions, tomatoe paste/sauce/diced, and a mix of spices.  I think it it the spices, simmered for 4-5 hours, that really give it its great taste.  Note, this is NOT a vegan sauce :o)


I started the sauce at 1:30, and we eat about 6:30, so it was in fine form.  We also discovered an electric garlic baker a few years ago [we used an oven based Terra Cotta baker for about four years], and we had what we consider the bestest garlic bread ever, french bread - baked in the oven with olive oil - then fresh baked garlic spread on it.  And its Healthy Too :o)  The best compliment is when you are asked for a "doggie bag", and my folks took enough with them for another meal. 

Before dinner, we played Rock Band.  After some switching around, we settled in with JimBo singing, Beth on lead guitar [She ROCKS \m/], JimBo's wife on base, and me on drums.  We played for about an hour, and it was fun.  After dinner, we decided to do Wii bowling.  JimBo ended up winning the day, and I am pleased to say that the TV is still intact.  My folks are not really in a condition to play, but they enjoyed watching [evidence is that my stepdad stayed awake past 9:00 PM]

All in all, a great visit.  Love Thanksgiving, spending quality time with family.

Science Scene - Energy Outlook :o)


Real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth will remain flat/negative for 2009 with only China and India having postive growth.  This starts to change in 2010 and 2011, with worldwide growth to be on the order of 2% for 2010 and 3% for 2011. 

While electricity demand is lower in 2009, and not expected to reach 2008 levels until 2011, the forecast from there has a steeper slope than previous growth.  New forms of electricity use will outstrip energy efficiency gains (just think about flat screen TV's, DVR's, gadget rechargers, and such). 

So, what are our options for meeting this increased electrical demand?  Even if solar power costs were halved, the cost still would not reach the cost of combined cycle gas turbines or wind energy.   It turns out that the real solution in the short term may rest with bio-mass (wood chips, wood pellets, etc.), which is projected to be a quarter of the cost of solar, and on par with combined cycle gas and less than half of wind energy projected costs.

A wildcard in this mix is shale gas fields, the technology for retrieving the gas is not yet proven, but the potential is huge.  Bottom line, natural gas will be with us for a long time, and there will be wind and solar, but they will not be the silver bullet.  I expect that clean coal and nuclear power will fill out the mix.

Nov 27, 2009

Science Scene - PlantBottle, Thanks Coca-Cola


The Coca-Cola cursive logo is the most recognized consumer brand in the world, and now, in some places, it will have a little green stamp on it, symbolizing not only that company’s sustainability efforts, but the degree to which green thinking has penetrated the corporate mindset.

The Coca-Cola Company dubs the new packaging PlantBottle, and boasts that it is the first-to-market plant based PET plastic bottle in the industry. PlantBottle is already on the shelves in eco-conscious Denmark (in time for Copenhagen) and will be introduced in Canada in December, and San Francisco, LA and Seattle in January.

The beverage company aims to produce 2 billion PlantBottles by the end of 2010, “a first step towards achieving the Company’s vision of bringing to market plastic bottles that are made with 100 percent renewable raw materials and are still fully recyclable,” according to a press release.
PlantBottle packaging is currently made through a process that turns sugar cane and molasses, a by-product of sugar production, into a key component for PET plastic. The sugar cane being used comes from predominantly rain-fed crops that were processed into ethanol, not refined sugar. Ultimately, the Company’s goal is to use non-food, plant-based waste, such as wood chips or wheat stalks, to produce recyclable PET plastic bottles.  The bottles do not use 100 percent plant material because the material can not handle hot or carbonated beverages.

For the full article, at triplepundit, click here.

Nov 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving :o)


Thanksgiving is one of the few truly secular, nondenominational holidays on the US calendar (the Fourth of July is another). We celebrate with a long weekend, a big meal with family and friends (on the menu: foods that reflect the tastes and colors of the autumn harvest, such as roast turkey, pumpkin pie, cranberry sauce and candied yams), and football. It kicks off the holiday season and is the biggest shopping weekend of the year. We're taught that Thanksgiving came about when pilgrims gave thanks to God for a bountiful harvest. We vaguely mumble thanks for the food on our table, the roof over our head and the loved ones around us.

Thanksgiving is a celebration of successful production. The lavish meal is a symbol of the fact that abundant consumption is the result and reward of production.   This country was mostly uninhabited and wild when our forefathers began to develop the land and build spectacular cities, shaping what is now the wealthiest nation in the world. It's the American spirit to overcome challenges, create great achievements, and enjoy prosperity. We uniquely recognize that production leads to wealth and that we must dedicate ourselves to the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness.

But surely there is something more to celebrate, something more sacred about this holiday. What should we really be celebrating on Thanksgiving?



I think that the reason that this Holiday has become so ingrained is that there is special meaning, a meaning that is best understood by family, and that is relishing the fact that you care and are cared for. Being with your family while great food is being served is something that is memorable and full of encouragement. Sitting at the dinner table with relatives you haven't seen recently, how good does that make you feel? Thanksgiving is a time for thanking those you love and being close to them.  It is a holiday that simply makes us happy and filled with glee knowing we are loved.
One thing that makes me appreciate this holiday is that everyone is included, if you have no family, if you are homeless, you are given the chance to celebrate it at a center especially made for troubled times. It shows that people care and people truly believe in this never ending special holiday.  For a few years, when I did not have anyone to share this holiday with, I was at the homeless shelter, helping serve up some warm thoughts and some good food.

Now, before our meal, we offer our thoughts and prayers to those that cannot be with us on this day.  For me, while I contemplate this, I focus on the reason I am grateful that the person is in my life, not the reason that they are not present.

May you and yours have a wonderful day today, full of love and appreciation.

Nov 25, 2009

Philosophical Phun - Classical Logic :o)


Today, logic is both a branch of mathematics and a branch of philosophy. In most large universities, both departments offer sequences of courses in logic, and there is usually a lot of overlap between them. Formal languages, deductive systems, and model-theoretic semantics are mathematical objects and, as such, the logician is interested in their mathematical properties and relations. Soundness, completeness, and most of the other results reported below are typical examples. Philosophically, logic is the study of correct reasoning. Reasoning is an epistemic, mental activity. This raises questions concerning the philosophical relevance of the mathematical aspects of logic. How do deducibility and validity, as properties of formal languages--sets of strings on a fixed alphabet--relate to correct reasoning? What do the mathematical results reported below have to do with the original philosophical issue? This is an instance of the philosophical problem of explaining how mathematics applies to non-mathematical reality.

When mathematicians and many philosophers reason, they occasionally invoke formulas in a formal language to help disambiguate, or otherwise clarify what they mean. In other words, sometimes formulas in a formal language are used in ordinary reasoning. This suggests that one might think of a formal language as an addendum to a natural language. What do deducibility and validity, as sharply defined on the addendum, tell us about correct reasoning in general?

As an engineer by training, this one hits pretty close to home.  What do you find relevant, and more importantly, WHY ???

Nov 24, 2009

TMI for You :o)

No, this entry is not about personal or too much information.  It is about Three Mile Island (TMI), a nuclear power plant in Pennsylvania (for you youngsters, site of the one and only nuclear accident in the US, circa 1979).

I know that yesterday, when I stopped by my folks place, they had been watching CNN and asked if I had heard about the "event" at Three Mile Island".  I indicated I had (we had a summary sent to management explaining the details), and gave them the scoop.  Below is the official release that came out today.  For reference, a routine chest x-ray is about 10 mrem per film. Smoking 1.5 packs of cigarettes daily exposes the individual to about 1300 mrem per year. 

















TWELVE WORKERS AT THREE MILE ISLAND-1 WERE CONTAMINATED NOVEMBER 21 with "detectable" but small amounts of radiation, Exelon Nuclear said in a November 23 statement. The radioactive particles were confined to the containment building and posed no threat to workers or the public, it said. About 150 workers at the reactor were sent home the afternoon of November 21 "when monitors detected small amounts of airborne radiological contamination inside the containment building" at a temporary opening cut in the building to allow new steam generators to be installed, the company said. The contamination "was caused by a change in air pressure inside the containment building that dislodged small irradiated particles in the reactor piping system," it said. The highest estimated dose to a worker was 38.4 millirem, less than 1% of the annual federal occupational exposure limit of 5,000 millirem, the company said. Work has now resumed at the unit, which has been shut since October 26 for refueling and maintenance. Exelon Nuclear spokesman Ralph DeSantis said November 23 that the event will extend the outage schedule, but declined to say when Three Mile Island-1 is expected to return to service. NRC Region I spokeswoman Diane Screnci said November 23 that the event had "no effect on public health and safety." A health physicist and a manager from the agency's regional office were on site November 22 and 23 "to independently review and confirm the company's technical assessment" of the event, Screnci said.