Sep 30, 2009

Philosophical Phun - Delusions :o)

Delusions are a symptom of psychiatric disorders such as dementia and schizophrenia, and they also characterize delusional disorders.

As in some cases of erotomania, the content of a delusion can be mundane, and does not even need to be false: one can have the delusion that one's spouse is unfaithful or that one's neighbor is a terrorist, and these may turn out to be true beliefs. As in the Cotard delusion, the content of a delusion can be bizarre.

Here are some other examples: mirrored self misidentification is the delusion that the person in the mirror is not one's reflection but a stranger, and the Capgras delusion is the delusion that the spouse or a relative has been replaced by an impostor.

All types of delusions are rigid to some extent, that is, they are not easily given up because they tend to resist counter evidence.

Delusions may be inconsistent with a person's beliefs and behavior, are typically unresponsive to both counter evidence and counterargument, and are often defended by weak evidence or argument. The empirical literature suggests that the reasoning performance of people with delusions reflects data-gathering and attribution biases.

For information, click the link :o)

The most prominent delusion I can think of right now is the "birther" movement, followed closely by the "death panelists". Can you think of other examples?

Sep 29, 2009

Science Scene - MRI takes on the Hadron Accelerator

This entry brought to you courtesy of Wired Science :o)

The world’s most powerful MRI machine used on humans packs a 45-ton magnet that generates a 9.4-Tesla magnetic field.

If you’re counting Teslas at home — which are a standard measure of magnetic force — that’s stronger than the magnets in the world’s most powerful particle accelerator, the Large Hadron Collider. (Of course, there are thousands of LHC magnets.)
Instead of using that power to accelerate particles, the MRI machine, located at the University of Illinois, Chicago, is used to peer into the human brain. And it’s already yielding new insights.

With the ultrapowerful MRI, the scientists can measure sodium concentration, oxygen consumption and the brain cells’ energy usage. When combined, the three “bioscales” provide a detailed picture of tissue health within the brain, possibly allowing scientists to pinpoint neurodegenerative disease long before symptoms show up.

Only four of the 9.4-Tesla machines exist. The MRI machine that your favorite local linebacker gets plunked into packs a measly three Tesla. A refrigerator magnet generates a magnetic field of about 0.05 Tesla strength.

“Without this magnet we wouldn’t have gotten this far so fast,” said Keith Thulborn, director of the UIC Center for Magnetic Resonance Research, in a press release. “It would have taken years and years to develop the insight and understanding to overcome the hurdles using the more widely available 3-T diagnostic MRI.”

Though the 9.4-Tesla magnet is strong, it’s nowhere near the record for a manmade continuous magnetic field of 45 Teslas. Even levitating a mouse takes a 17-Tesla magnetic field.

Sep 28, 2009

What U.S. Should Really Fear About Nuclear Power

I appologize in advance for the length of this entry. One of the challenges we are going to be debating in the next few months, prior to the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference in December, is how to reduce our carbon footprint. This is probably even more critical to the future of our country than the health care debate, but it is not getting the same press. How we get our energy, both for electricity and for our transportation, will be changing, period. We take the ability to flip a switch, and have lights, for granted. Building power plants and associated infrastructure takes decades, and hence, it is not sexy to the press, and it is complicated, so few take on the issue. As I state in my profile, I work at a nuclear power plant (actual picture to the right) and believe in the safety of this technology, and that it must be a part of our energy solution. The following press release provides an excellent summary of the challenges and issues. If you are short on time, I highlighted some interesting facts at the end.

WASHINGTON, Sept. 21 -- The office of Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., issued the following news release (edited with some commentary inserted):

Communications experts say that fear is the best way to get attention when you're trying to win an argument. [we certainly have seen the fear card thrown lately in the health care faux "debate"] Groups who oppose nuclear power have certainly mastered that technique by playing to economic, environmental, and safety fears. So I'd like to introduce a little element of fear into my argument here.

I want to suggest what could happen if we don't adopt nuclear power as a more important part of our energy future- if Russia and China and a lot of other countries go ahead with nuclear - as they are now - while we get left behind. Are we going to be able to compete with countries that have cheap, clean, reliable nuclear power while we're stuck with a bunch of windmills and solar farms producing expensive, unreliable energy or, more likely, not much energy at all?

The whole prospect of the United States ignoring this problem-solving technology that we invented is what I fear most about nuclear power. "The world still looks to us for leadership in this technology. They'd prefer to copy what we've already done. They don't like being on the cutting edge." [but if we do not build new nuclear, we will be left behind]

China bought Westinghouse and GE reactors back in the 90's, with the rights to reverse engineer future plants. China's next wave of reactors is going to be built with Chinese technology. By 2008 the Chinese had shovels in the ground. They started talking about building 60 reactors over the next 20 years and just recently raised it to 132. They're in the nuclear business.

What have we accomplished in the meantime? Well, people have been talking about a "nuclear renaissance" in this country since the turn of the century. In 2007, NRG, a New Jersey company, filed the first application to build a new reactor in 30 years. Other companies have followed suit and there are now 34 proposals before the NRC, but nobody has yet broken ground. [It will be at least 4-5 years before a construction permit is issued]

As countries began constructing new reactors, it quickly became clear that the bottleneck would be in forging the steel reactor vessels. These are the huge, three-story-high, forged steel units that hold the fuel assembly - the reactor core. That means forging steel parts that may weigh as much as 500 tons. In 2007 the only place you could order a reactor vessel was at the Japan Steel Works and they were backed up for four years [that is where we had our AREVA replacement reactor heads forged].

Everyone started saying, "This is going to be what holds up the world's nuclear renaissance. They'll never be able to produce enough of those pressure vessels." So what happened? Well, first Japan Steel Works invested $800 million to triple its capacity. They're going to be turning out 12 pressure vessels a year by 2012. Then the Chinese decided to build their own forge. In less than two years, they put up a furnace that can handle 320-ton parts. They turned out their first components in June. Now they're building two more forges. So you won't see the Chinese standing in line in Japan any time soon.

The Russians are doing the same thing. They're in the midst of a big revival, planning to double the production of electricity from nuclear power by 2020. They're also building a forge and just cast their first 600-ton ingot in June.

France, Britain, South Korea and India are all following suit. Very soon, every major nuclear country in the world is going to be able to forge its own reactor vessels - except one. And that's us. No steel company in America is capable of forging ingots of more than 270 tons. We're still stuck in the 1960s. That means when it comes to building reactors we'll have to stand in line in Japan or somewhere else. In fact, just about everything in our first new reactors is going to be imported. The nuclear industry tells us that at least 70 percent of the materials and equipment that go into those first few reactors will come from abroad. That's because we've let our nuclear supply industry wither on the vine.

In 1990 there were 150 domestic suppliers making parts for nuclear reactors. Today there are only 40 and most of them do their business overseas. Of the 34 proposals before the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, 20 are designed by Westinghouse, now a Japanese company and, nine are from Areva, the French giant. General Electric, the only American company left on the field, has partnered with Hitachi. They sold five reactors to American utilities but fared poorly in the competition for federal loan guarantees. Two utilities have now cancelled those projects and there are rumors that GE may quit the field entirely.

So let's take stock. There are 40 reactors now under construction in 11 countries around the world, none of them in the United States. In fact, only two are in Western Europe - one in Finland and the other in France, both built by Areva. All the rest are in Asia. Although we haven't gotten used to it, Asia may soon be leading the world in nuclear technology. Japan has 55 reactors and gets 35 percent of its electricity from nuclear energy, almost double the 19 percent we get here.

South Korea gets nearly 40 percent of its electricity from nuclear and is planning another eight reactors by 2015. So far they've bought their reactors from the Japanese but now they have their own Korean Next-Generation Reactor, a 1400-megawatt giant evolved from an American design. They plan to bring two of these online by 2016. Taiwan also gets 18 percent of its electricity from nuclear and is building two new reactors.

We're gradually losing our economic place in the world. Now a lot of people say, "Well, what's the difference? So what if we fall behind on nuclear technology? We'll just forge ahead with something else." Well, there are several reasons to be concerned: 1) First there's energy security. America already spends $ 300 billion a year importing 2/3rds of our oil from other countries. If we remain on the current path of no new nuclear power or start depending on other countries to build our reactors and supply us with fuel, we're going to be even more vulnerable than we are now. The best way to reduce imported oil, aside from ramping up domestic production, will be to use electricity to power cars and trucks. And, how can we criticize India and China for not reducing their carbon emissions when we refuse to adopt the best technology ourselves?

If we move toward a nuclear-based economy and we have to import 70 percent of the technology and equipment, how are any better off than when we're importing two thirds of our oil? We'll just be creating jobs for steel workers in Japan and China instead of in the United States. If we don't move toward a nuclear powered economy but try to do everything with conservation and wind and solar, we're going to be sending American jobs overseas looking for cheap energy. So to insure we have enough cheap, clean, reliable electricity in this country to create good high-quality, high-tech jobs, here's what we have to do. The United States should double its production of nuclear power by building 100 nuclear reactors in 20 years.

Just The Facts :o)

Nuclear today provides 70 percent of our carbon free electricity. Wind and solar provide 4 percent. Nuclear plants operate 90 percent of the time. Wind and solar operate about one third of the time.

The Obama Administration's Nobel prize-winning Energy Secretary, Steven Chu, says nuclear plants are safe and that used nuclear fuel can be safely stored on site for 40-60 years while we figure out the best way to recycle it.

Producing 20 percent of electricity from wind, as the Obama Administration proposes, will require building 186,000 fifty story turbines, enough to cover an area the size of West Virginia - plus 19,000 miles of new transmission lines to carry electricity from remote to populated areas.

100 new nuclear plants could be built mostly on existing sites. To produce 3-6 percent of our electricity, taxpayers will subsidize wind to the tune of $29 billion over the next ten years. The 104 nuclear reactors we have today were built basically without taxpayer subsides.

It will cost roughly the same to build 100 new nuclear plants (which will last 60 to 80 years) as it would to build 186,000 wind turbines (lasting 20 to 25 years). And this does not count the cost of transmission lines for wind.

There will be twice as many "green jobs" created building 100 reactors as there would be building 186,000 wind turbines.

An America stumbling along on expensive, unreliable renewable energy, trying to import most of our energy from abroad, is going to be an America with fewer jobs and a lower standard of living. Nuclear opponents continue to prey on fear of nuclear power. The truth is that if we want safe, cost-effective, reliable, no-carbon electricity we can no longer ignore the wisdom of the rest of the world. The real fear is that we Americans are going to wake up one cloudy, windless day when the light switch doesn't work and discover we've forfeited our capacity to lead the world because we ignored nuclear power, a problem-solving technology that we ourselves invented.

That was Stupid :o)

While the exact day is in dispute, the National Day List I consulted says it is today.

From Wikipedia: Ask a Stupid Question Day is a holiday that is sometimes celebrated in the United States, usually by school students and teachers.[1] Although Ask a Stupid Question Day takes place on September 28, it is usually observed on the last school day of September. Origin
According to, "the roots of this special day go back to the 1980s. At the time, there was a movement by teachers to try to get kids to ask more questions in the classroom. The kids would then ask stupid questions to make the teachers happy."

So, Happy Ask A Stupid Question Day :o)

Here is a good example: If the professor on Gilligan's Island can make a radio out of a coconut, why can't he fix a hole in a boat?

For more, here is a link.

Sep 27, 2009

Da Bears :o)

Not as good as last week, but the "D" holds up again and squeeks out a victory :o)
Kind of a quiet day today. I made the mistake of falling asleep last night sitting up at the dining room table, and have been fighting headaches all day.

We turned on the TV to watch Tiger and company play in the PGA Tournament Championship. Phil played a good round and won the tourney, but Tiger won the Fed Ex Cup. He did not play bad, but not up to his standards by any means.

Tonight is watching the Colts, and then back to another week. This will be a fast week though, we are going to Granite City Mug Club tomorrow, Robin Williams on Thursday, and a ND Home Game on Saturday.

Hope your weekend was pleasant and restful :o)

Sunday Silliness - Ineptitude :o)

If you can't learn to do something well, learn to enjoy doing it poorly.

Sep 26, 2009

ND squeeks out another one :o)

Admittedly, it was not pretty, and I need to grow new fingernails, but a "W" is a "W". Clausen is the real deal :o)

Productive Half, Now To Be Lazy :o)

Hard to believe it is only 3:30 PM. We slept in (well I did anyway) until 9:00 AM, had my spot-o-coffee and read the paper, then it was off on errands.

Today was drop Blue (the truck) off for some well deserved service (should be back Monday or Tuesday), got a few hairs cut, and then to the dreaded Walmart for some necessities.

After we got back, and got our new Pedometers (my company has a new wellness program getting ready to start that requires you to quantify your activity :o) programmed, it was off to the garage for me. Wish it was something more fun than cleaning the gutters and installing gutter guards, but that was my chore for the day. It was a four beer job, but the gutters are cleaned and covered. I did the house gutters last year, so I should be done with gutter cleaning for a while, the covers seem to do the trick.

Hope your Saturday is relaxing and going well. We are watching golf, getting ready to watch some college football, and tonight is finger food and the Fighting Irish :o)

Simplify Your Life :o)

A simple life has a different meaning and a different value for different people. For us, it has meant working toward eliminating all but the essential and spending time doing what we consider important. It means cutting out clutter so you can appreciate what you value.

However, getting to simplicity isn't always a simple process. It's a journey, not a destination, and it can often be a journey of two steps forward, and one backward.
I know that we have been methodically declutering our finances, our home, and our outside activities (except for vacations, that is one of our priorities that we strive for). If you're interested in simplifying your life, this is a great starter's guide (if you're not interested, move on).

The Short List, it simply boils down to two steps. Keep repeating them and you will get there. Remember that it is a marathon, not a sprint.

1. Identify what's most important to you.
2. Eliminate everything else.

What are you doing to simplify?

Sep 25, 2009

Faux Mold :o)

Entry brought to you courtesy of

I have been brown bagging it since 1984, mostly because I just could not afford to spend $5 or more per day for lunch. Over the past year, as we have learned to be more health conscious, I have been taking at least three servings of fruits/vegetables. I use a small lunch cooler and freezer pack, so the refrigerator thing is not an issue for me, but this faux mold just was to good to pass up :o) By the way wifey, thanks for making my daily lunch and including your daily notes (LUHP).

Eating out for lunch instead of brown-bagging it can cost three times as much, so eating out for 50 work weeks a year can add up fast. If you don't believe it, add it up with a lunch cost calculator.

But leaving your lunch in a refrigerator at work can sometimes lead to thievery, leaving you without a lunch and $5 or more to go buy something.

To combat sandwich thieves, designer Sherwood Forlee has come up with the Anti-Theft Lunch Bag. The clear sandwich bags have green splotches printed on both sides, simulating mold and making your fresh lunch look spoiled.

While sticky-fingered co-workers, roommates or bullies who take your kid's lunch will think twice before stealing the moldy looking sandwich, there's also the chance that they or someone else will throw the messy looking sandwich in the garbage. I guess that's the chance you take to prevent crime.

The faux-moldy bags sell for $10 for 25 bags, and they're reusable. If you don't reuse them, it equates to 40 cents a bag to keep your lunch safe -- not a bad price to keep a hungry thief away from your sandwich.

Sep 24, 2009

Science Scene - Carbon Capture Trial Run

Platonicville :o)

We have recently started watching the new show, Merlin, so when this Rube came up on my calendar, I could not resist.
Have you watched Merlin yet, it is a surprisingly good show, and I have always been fascinated with magic :o)

Sep 23, 2009

Philosophical Phun - Rational Irrationality :o)

So, thanks to my friend DB at Vagabond Journeys, I have decided to add another occasional theme to my entries. We have the well established Sunday Silliness, the infrequent Bad Sheeba Poetry, the informative Science Scene, the priceless Bucko's Bucks, and now - Philosophical Phun.

Here is a post I read that was about Rational Irrationality: "Threats of all sorts depend on exploiting another person's rationality. We can thus neutralize threats by making ourselves irrational. Since we have good reason to want to neutralize threats, it can be rational to make ourselves irrational!" This quote came from Philosophy, et cetera.

A couple of examples come to mind for me.

First is the tried and true, "I love you so much, that if I cannot have you, then nobody can."

Second is more of a situation and not a quote: If you dislike [hate] someone so much, that you feel a constant need to check up on what they are doing or saying [or even... gasp... mimic], to reaffirm your feelings, you have crossed the rational/irrational line. That is all I have to say about that :o)

Can you think of other examples?

Sep 22, 2009

Science Scene - Happy Autumn :o)

Autumn is one of the four temperate seasons. Autumn marks the transition from summer into winter, usually in late March or late September when the arrival of night becomes noticeably earlier. In theory, astronomically, the equinoxes ought to be the middle of the respective seasons, but temperature lag means that seasons appear later than dates calculated from a purely astronomical perspective. The actual lag varies with region, so some cultures regard the autumnal equinox as "mid-autumn" whilst others treat it as the start of autumn.

Did you ever wonder how and why a fall leaf changes color? Why a maple leaf turns bright red? Where do the yellows and oranges come from?

During winter, there is not enough light or water for photosynthesis. The trees will rest, and live off the food they stored during the summer. They begin to shut down their food-making factories. The green chlorophyll disappears from the leaves. As the bright green fades away, we begin to see yellow and orange colors. Small amounts of these colors have been in the leaves all along. We just can't see them in the summer, because they are covered up by the green chlorophyll.

In some trees, like maples, glucose is trapped in the leaves after photosynthesis stops. Sunlight and the cool nights of autumn cause the leaves turn this glucose into a red color. The brown color of trees like oaks is made from wastes left in the leaves.

Many changes occur in the leaves of deciduous trees before they finally fall from the branch. The leaf has actually been preparing for autumn since it started to grow in the spring. At the base of each leaf is a special layer of cells called the "abscission" or separation layer. All summer, small tubes which pass through this layer carry water into the leaf, and food back to the tree. In the fall, the cells of the abscission layer begin to swell and form a cork-like material, reducing and finally cutting off flow between leaf and tree. Glucose and waste products are trapped in the leaf. Without fresh water to renew it, chlorophyll begins to disappear.

As the bottom cells in the separation layer form a seal between leaf and tree, the cells in the top of the separation layer begin to disintegrate. They form a tear-line, and eventually the leaf is blown away or simply falls from the tree.

The below song is perforemed by Justin Hayward, singing the Moody Blues "Forever Autumn."

The summer sun is fading as the year grows old,
and darker days are drawing near,
the winter winds will be much colder,
now you're not here.
I watch the birds fly south across the autumn sky
and one by one they disappear
I wish that I was flying with them,
now you're not here

like the sun through the trees you came to love me
like a leaf on a breeze you blew away

through autumn's golden gown we used to kick our way
you always loved this time of year
loose fallen leaves lie undisturbed now
cos you're not here x 3

like the sun through the trees you came to love me
like a leaf on a breeze you blew away

a gentle rain falls softly on my weary eyes
as if to hide a lonely tear
my life will be forever autumn
cos you're not here x 6

Sep 21, 2009

Baseball Fans, check this out :o)

With the regular season winding down, and the playoffs on the horizon, I want to give you baseball junkies a place to go are read two great entries regarding our national passtime.

Head over to Lon at Reflection to read about how he is back in the game and about his encounter with a true man of baseball :o)

Bucko's Bucks - Do You Own These Stocks?

Details courtesy of The Business Insider.

There are a number of large, well known, companies that are facing the prospect of bankruptcy. While a shame, the economy and/or outdated business models will take their toll.

Below is a list of the companies and in parenthesis, the under-riding reason for their potential demise.

Hertz (debt, low demand)

Textron (low business jet demand)

Sprint/Nextel (bleeding customers, I was one that jumped ship)

Macy's (debt, low sales. Nooooo - come on America, start spending and go to Macy's, I have a blogger friend who is potentially impacted)

Mylan (debt after buying Merck's generics business)

Goodyear (debt, low demand)

CBS (weak advertising, falling license fees, debt)

Advanced Micro Devices [AMD] (debt)

Las Vegas Sands (over expanded, over-leveraged)

Interpublic Group [IPG] (weak advertising, marketing demand)

I am relieved to say that I do not own any of these stocks, and they were not on my potential buy list. One that was on my list was Proctor and Gamble, but after reading about a pending lawsuit regarding denture cream, high zinc content, and copper deficiency (class action potential), I have taken that one off my potential buy list.

Sep 20, 2009

Da Bears :o)

Da Bears pull one out, mostly using defense, but two really good drives by Cutler.

Nice end to a nice weekend :o)

Low Key :o)

This weekend was pretty low key. There is nothing wrong with that, it helps keep me centered. Yesterday was catching up on bills, e-mails, and other such mundane things. Then it was the ND game, which ND squeaked out a victory over Michigan State (kind of sorry Mark :o).

Today, it was a quick trip to Lowes to get some wood to keep the mower from getting bogged down in the marsh. I mowed the lawn, then spent a couple of hours installing the 4"x6"x8' in the low areas. Those suckers are heavy, and expensive, $10 a piece. I did three areas (six boards). I did a test run and it looks like it will definitely help me from getting stuck in the mud.

Currently watching Da Bears, but they are not looking like a caliber team this year. Not even a single first down in the first quarter. But they just intercepted the Steelers, and got their first first down, so there may be a chance.

It was interesting to read in the paper this morning that actor Windell Middlebrooks was here yesterday for the ND vs. Michigan State game. He visited a number of establishments and stated that they were definitely "Living the High Life". That's what I'm talking about :o)
We were going to BBQ some steaks, but there is a chance of rain, so we are going to do some fish. The Chardonnay in chilling, and so am I. Hope you had a rest full weekend, I know I did.

Sunday Silliness - Individuality :o)

Always remember that you are unique. Just like everybody else.

Sep 19, 2009

Notre Dame Wins - My Heart Rate is Still Elevated :o)

Wow, an unbelievable win, a sucky defense pulls out the win. Hope they can work on the "D" line in the weeks ahead.

Life is a journey :o)

At times we are paddling along with the current, making minor adjustments, enjoying the scenery. At other times, we are using every ounce of our beings to paddle against the current, fighting inch by inch to make up ground, oblivious to anything but the effort that is before us.

I find that as I get older, and hopefully wiser, I desire to be the person designing the course, instead of the one holding the paddle. You see, if you design the course, then you know where the sweet spots are, how to navigate through the course with minimal effort.

So, are you going with the current, enjoying the scenery? Are you paddling up stream, fighting with every ounce? Or are you taking a look at the big picture, designing the course, and navigating smartly through and getting the best time?

Happy Talk Like A Pirate Day, Matey :o)

Click the picture below to go to the official site. Enter if yee daaaarrrrreeeeee :o)

Sep 18, 2009

Disney or Universal - me is leaning Universal :o)

Disney has had its thunder stolen again. Just hours after it announced a major new expansion of the Magic Kingdom's Fantasyland, in 2012, its main rival Universal Orlando unleashed a host of details about its newest area: The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, created with the participation of author J.K. Rowling and Warner Bros, is a new land being constructed all at once at Universal's Islands of Adventure park. Incidentally, that's the same park that also has an entire land based on Marvel Comics characters, which also draws guests away Disney using what is now, painfully, a Disney property.
For all the details of the new Wizarding World, go over to Walletpop :o)

Are you a Poacher? :o)

Sep 17, 2009

70% Consumer Driven Economy - True or False?

This entry is courtesy of a BusinessWeek article, that I heard summarized on NPR last week. If you do not want to read all the details, bottom line is that true consumer spending is closer to 40% of our economy versus the 70% you hear touted on the airwaves. So do not feel guilty if you are not out spending and helping us recover, because our savings rate is more important in the long run for true recovery and providing a foundation for economic growth.

Let’s start from the bottom of the bar. The first category includes household spending on goods and services which are primarily domestically-produced. That would be things like food, recreation, haircuts, utilities, legal fees, airplanes, auto repair, and so forth. This category—roughly $4.3 trillion, or 30% of GDP—is all ‘pocketbook’ expense.

The second category: Import-intensive goods. These are items such as clothing, personal computers, cell phones, televisions, toys, sporting goods, cars, gasoline, and so forth. These are items where a substantial amount of production is done abroad, either directly or indirectly.
If you buy a shirt or a laptop which is made overseas, much of your money supports economic activity in China or Taiwan, not the U.S. This category is worth $1.7 trillion, or 12% of GDP. The true amount that truly spurs American demand is less than $0.50 on the dollar.

Now we come to the third category of PCE—“imputed services.” What this means is that the BEA assigns a number to certain economic activities, even though no money actually changes hands. The two most important imputed services are “imputed rental of owner-occupied non farm housing” and “financial services furnished without payment”. Respectively, these are the money you supposedly pay yourself to live in your own home, and the money you supposedly pay the bank for such services as free checking (by accepting lower or no interest on your demand deposits). This category—worth $1.5 trillion or 11% of GDP—does represent real economic transactions. To put it another way, payments for imputed services don’t directly drive economic activity. No real contribution.

Now we come to a wonderful category—healthcare goods and services, including hospitals, drugs, doctors, nursing homes, and health insurance. Because of the vagaries of national income accounting, most of the money that the government pays for Medicare and Medicaid, and that businesses pay for employer health insurance, shows up in the PCE category.
To put it another way—if Medicare pays the hospital $25 K for your father’s knee replacement, that money shows up as personal consumption expenditures. If your company health plan pays $30K for the birth of your son—that counts as PCE, even though you never see the money.
The health care category totals roughly $2 trillion, or 15% of GDP. But in fact, only about 15% of health care spending is “out of pocket”. The rest comes from government or through employee health plans. That would equate to about 2% GDP.

And now we come to the final catch-all category, which is labeled “social services, religious activities, R&D, and other similar activities.” This category includes spending by religious groups, such as the Catholic Church. It includes community food and housing relief. It includes R&D spending by private educational institutions, like Harvard. It includes social advocacy groups, like Greenpeace. It includes spending by political parties—Democrats and Republicans alike.
In other words, this wonderful category—totaling about $400 billion, or 3% of GDP—includes all sorts of spending which could be described as “social” rather than “individual”. And it’s funded by individuals, government, charitable contributions, and investment income. Lets assume that equates to another 2% of GDP, that gives us a total of 40%.

Households actually lay out about $5.5 trillion a year which drives domestic economic activities—about 40% of GDP.

Sep 16, 2009

Wholly Guacamole Day :o)

Not really, today is National Guacamole Day, and we love the wholly kind :o)

Of Aztec origin, guacamole was originally made by mashing ripe avocados, with a molcajete (mortar and pestle) and adding tomatoes and salt. After the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors, guacamole became popular in Spain. The name guacamole comes from an Aztec dialect via Nahuatl āhuacamolli, from āhuacatl (="avocado") + molli (="sauce"). In Spanish it is pronounced [ɣʷakaˈmole], in American English /ˌɡwɑːkəˈmoʊliː/, and in British English sometimes /ˌɡwækəˈmoʊliː/.

Ingredients: Ripe avocados, tomatoes, onions, lime or lemon juice, and salt are common to most recipes. Lime juice is added for flavor, and to slow the enzyme causing browning. Other common ingredients include cilantro (coriander), black pepper, jalapenos, garlic, etc. What is not to like :o)

If you want a free coupon, go here :o)

For a simple recipe, see below:


2 avocados, peeled
1/3 cup onion, chopped
1/2 jalapeno chile pepper, chopped fine
1 medium tomato, peeled and quartered
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 1/4 teaspoons sugar
1/4 cup sour cream

Prepare all ingredients. Place the avocados, onions, jalepeno, tomato, and lime juice in a food processor and process on pulse till blended. Add sugar and sour cream and mix well. Place pit from avocado back into bowl to prevent browning.

If you want a chunkier guacamole, mash the avocado by hand with a fork, then add the other ingredients.

Serving Size: 4

Sep 15, 2009

Science Scene - Tree Power :o)

University of Washington scientists have discovered a new source of electricity: Trees.

In an experiment that will seem familiar to students of the potato, the scientists stuck one electrode into a bigleaf maple, and another in the ground, and saw that the tree generated a tiny stream of electricity -- a few hundred millivolts.

That's not enough electricity to do much ... but run a circuit and get published in the scientific journal Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers' Transactions on Nanotechnology.

A few hundred millivolts of electricity isn't enough to do much. Or is it? The scientists built a custom boost converter using nanotechnology that stores input voltages of as little as 20 millivolts (20 thousandths of a volt) and produces 1.1 volts -- enough to run low-power sensors that might monitor environmental conditions, help detect forest fires or gauge the health of trees.

Sep 14, 2009

Keys To Friendship Revealed :o)

Work at staying connected. This should be daily if possible.

Root for one another. Celebrate each other's successes. Send a card or flowers :o)

Don't gloat. Keep incomes out of the equation.

Show up for important events.

Be flexible and understanding. Give each other room to live your lives.

Protect confidences. Secrets need to be guarded, period!

Sep 13, 2009

Swamp Angel :o)

A great day, we headed to a Nature Conservancy site here in Northern Indiana, for a two hour hike. I have been a contributor for 25 years, but this is my first hike with a land steward. I believe that the Nature Conservancy's mix of sustainability and public access is just right. They are known for balancing economic and environmental protection perspectives.

In this slide show you get to see the entrance and oak grove, two Beths, the fen, two carnivorous pitcher plants, and an island oasis in the middle of the fen. It consumed most of the afternoon, but well worth the time.

For more details, go to Nutwood Junction.

Sunday Silliness - Indifference :o)

It takes 43 muscles to frown and 17 to smile, but it doesn't take any to just sit there with a dumb look on your face.

Happy Grandparent Day :o)

Hope for those Grandparents out there, that you get to spend some time with your families today :o)

Sep 12, 2009

Kudos (grudgingly) to Michigan :o(

They had the game in their grasp, several times, and let it slip away. While I do not believe that Michigan deserved the win, they did win, and at the end of the day, the "W" is all that matters. So, grudging salute to the Wolverines.

Science Scene - Texas to get a large scale Utility Sponsored Battery :o)

Electric Transmission Texas LLC (ETT) has completed a contract with NGK-Locke, Inc. for a state-of-the-art, sodium-sulfur 4-megawatt NAS® battery system, which will be installed in Presidio, Texas. ETT is a joint venture between American Electric Power (NYSE: AEP) and MidAmerican Energy Holdings Company (MidAmerican).

The NAS battery will be the first in Texas and the largest in the United States and represents part of a $67 million overall commitment by ETT to improve transmission reliability in Presidio and surrounding areas. Cost of the battery and substation is estimated at approximately $23 million. A 60-mile, 69- kilovolt transmission line from Marfa to Presidio is targeted for completion by 2012 with an estimated cost of approximately $44 million.

San Francisco Days :o)

This video was posted on Brian Setzer's Facebook Page, and it is awesome. I am very fortunate to have seen both performers live, Chris Isaak in Walnut Creek CA in 1989 and Brian Setzer in Chicago in 2001 (the proposal weekend to my bride :o).

The timing of this was so cool, because we just got the new Chris Isaak CD, Mr. Lucky, and I listened to it on the way home from work last night. It was pretty good, not quite as good as some of his earlier ones, but definitely has four or five songs that are really good.

Sep 11, 2009

Happy Weekend :o)

Quiet night tonight. Beth went to Chicago today for a Cubs game with her sisters and BIL Tom (he is a great guy). They are not home yet, hence the quietness. It is kind of weird not having her here to greet me when I walk in the door.

My plan was to get out early from work, and run some errands. I was partially successful, did get out after a 9-1/2 hour day, but I had only planned on an 8 hour day today. I was able to get my errands done, consisting of work candy, another mirror for the garage (workout area), and 14 bags of water softener salt (seven for the truck and two for each Mustang for winter preps, the rest for the softener).

On the down side, the work day ended with a group meeting with our VP, and his statement was "I always tell you if this is a coaching session or an ass chewing, and This Is An Ass Chewing." Not a good way to end the day, and the next week or two will be challenging. Not worth going into details here, every job has its challenges.

Needless to say, I feel wiped and am definitely ready for the weekend. Tomorrow will be low keyed, doing things around the house, then watching the Irish successfully take on Michigan. On Sunday we are going to a local Nature Conservancy location for a private guided tour, and then Sunday night it is "DA BEARS".

Hope you have a great weekend planned, I know that the weather is expected to be great here.

Joe Six Pack?

Recycling a six-pack of aluminum cans every week saves enough energy to power a TV for 936 hours? The recycling process uses about 75% less energy than using materials for the first time. Recycled aluminum is used in new cars, bikes, appliances and cookware.

I am happy to say that we save thousands of hours of TV power every week :o)

Can You Feel The Burn?

No, this is not an entry about STD’s, not about falling and scraping your knees, not about playing with fire, not about getting stung by a bee, nor about getting “burned” by another or a situation.

No, this is an entry about the feeling you get after a good workout. I know that at times I struggle to make the time for my workouts (that 4:00 AM alarm is a real pisser :o). But during the workout, as you push for that last weight rep, or notch up the pace on the bike or treadmill, you get the endorphin rush of elation, and it is enough to bring you back again (kind of like making that long putt on the golf course, just enough to make you come back again).

I also find that as you go through the day, having the workout in the bag, helps you say no to that donut or tasty treat, and that you walk a little taller, with a hidden swagger in your step because you feel good and positive about the effort you are making.

Sep 10, 2009

Get the Health Care Proposal Facts Here :o)

Interested in some additional facts about the proposed health care plan?

(Go to to read a summary of President Obama’s health care reform proposal.)

Ponzi, To Be or Not :o)

Most people who try direct sales soon give up. After expenses, including the cost of buying inventory and transportation to make sales calls, most people end up earning $10 to $15 per hour, typically working fewer than 20 hours per week. These people earn a median wage of $2,400 annually. If you are really good at selling, you can up this to the neighborhood of $30,000 annually by working a 40+ week. Only 10% make direct sales a full time job.

What is meant by direct sales, you might ask [waiting patiently for a question....]? Thanks for asking, companies in this category are Mary Kay, Avon, Fuller Brush, Tupperware, Pampered Chef, Amway, and others.

So if you are thinking of making a foray into this market, make sure you do your research and soul searching to make sure you what it takes to make it work. I speak from direct experience, in High School and early College, I was an Amway distributor, and while had some great tax breaks and some meager income, I was never on track to be a Diamond in the rough.

Beware of things that sound too good to be true, because they usually are not true :o)

Sep 9, 2009

Symmetrical Day :o)

Happy 09/09/09 :o)

Science Scene - Fresh Smell Of Rain :o)

Did You Know? [Note to self, could be a new Blog entry tag line] that the fresh smell of rain comes from plants? When the weather is dry, certain plants secrete an oil that is absorbed by rocks and soil. When it rains, the oil is released into the air as an gas, creating an aroma call petrichor.

A rather unique entry on its own merits, don't you think? So, being the smart ass that I am, I asked Beth tonight (9/1/09, yes, I create and schedule entries) if she knew why there was a unique smell when it rained. She said "plants releasing their scent". My response was FU, in the most loving way, because I thought I had a new tidbit entry. She said "did you just say FU" and I just grinned. Did I mention that my wife rocks! :o)

Sep 8, 2009

Free Burger ???

It seems to be legit, I befriended on Facebook, but they only let you invite three more friends. The total is now up to 102,000+, so jump on the bandwagon and lets get our free burgers (love the Jack Daniels sauce :o)

Casual greasy spoon chain T.G.I. Friday's is so eager to add your e-mail address to its files that it's willing to give away half a million burgers to do it. And Facebook is playing along.

T.G.I. Friday's has announced that if you're willing to "Facebook-friend" its current advertising mascot, a fake Friday's superfan named Woody, it's willing to give you a free meal of either its Jack Daniel's Burger or its Jack Daniel's Chicken Sandwich.

The freebie goes to the first 500,000 people who become "Woody"'s friend on Facebook, and eligibility ends on Sept. 30, 2009. You'll have to enter an e-mail address for your burger coupon after you register yourself as a fan.The catch is that the giveaway is contingent upon reaching the goal of half a million entrants. If Woody's page doesn't reach 500,000 fans, no one gets a coupon.

Six days into the promotion/information gathering bonanza, the ad figurehead was barely past 76,000.

Free Museum Day :o)

Each September, hundreds of U.S. museums celebrate Smithsonian Magazine Museum Day by opening their doors and waiving admission fees. On Saturday, Sept. 26, more than 800 participating locations will give free entry to those who download and print the admission card on the magazine's web site.

These aren't your American-Museum-of-Whoopee-Cushions-type museums, but many of the largest and most prestigious in the country. A sampling of those participating-

The American Folk Art Museum, New York, N.Y.
The Pratt Manhattan Gallery, New York, N.Y.
Miami Art Museum, Miami, Fla.
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Mass.
Memphis Rock 'n' Soul Museum, Memphis, Tenn.
Buffalo Soldiers National Museum, Houston, Texas
International Museum of Surgical Science, Chicago, Ill.
Georgia O'Keeffe Museum, Santa Fe, N.M.
Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame, Seattle, Wash.
Exploratorium, San Francisco, Calif.
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Pacific Palisades, Calif.
Of course, the Smithsonian is always free.

Kudos to these museums for making our national and worldwide cultures available to everyone on this day. It would be a shame to miss this opportunity.

Reminder - Don't forget to print your admission card from the web site and bring it along.

Bucko's Bucks - SEC Changes in the offing? :o)

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), in response to the recent financial crisis and perceived need to hold board members accountable, is working on sweeping reform that could change that.

The SEC stepped up pressure on boards of public companies July 1 by approving an amendment to a New York Stock Exchange rule that would eliminate the so-called “broker discretionary vote” in uncontested director elections. Previously, brokers were permitted to vote their clients’ shares in routine matters if the shareowners did not provide voting direction, and usually they voted in line with management recommendations.

Starting in 2010, brokers will not be able to vote the shares without the shareowners’ specific instruction. This will lower the percentage of votes that a director receives, and if a proxy advisory firm such as RiskMetrics (formerly ISS) recommends a withhold vote for a director, there is a very real possibility the director will not receive the required majority vote to remain on the board.

The SEC proposed a rule that would enable shareholders to nominate a limited number of directors without mounting a proxy contest. Shareholders who meet prescribed ownership thresholds would be allowed to nominate candidates for up to 25 percent of the board. The rule would allow stockholder groups, such as activist hedge funds or institutional investors, to place candidates on a company’s proxy ballot at company expense. All of the candidates would be mixed on the same ballot. The company wouldn’t be allowed to ask shareholders to check a single box to vote for its complete slate, which is today’s standard.

Most observers believe some version of the measure will pass. That is why many companies advocate a weakened version. The SEC’s current proposal would allow proxy access to shareholders holding as little as 1 percent of a companies shares (provided they have held those shares for one year), some opponents argue it should kick in only for shareholders who hold 5 percent of company shares for at least two years. That number would jump to 10 percent if shareholders worked as a group to nominate directors.

While this may sound harmless or even reasonable, the measure would give activist shareholders who hold a small interest in a company – as little as 1 percent – enormous leverage to promote their own agendas. It would require companies to allow, and essentially pay for, these activist shareholders to run a competing slate of board candidates.

Granted, there is plenty for shareholders to be upset about these days. But the answer isn’t to pit one group of agenda-driven shareholders against all others. Corporate boards are designed to hold management accountable to the interests of all shareholders. Allowing special interest groups to rig the proxy rules for their own advantage is simply bad corporate governance. And it is very distracting to companies, taking time away from executives that would be better spent focusing on long-term strategy.

Sep 7, 2009

This Town Sucks :o)

Hammarby neighborhood in Stockholm, Sweden, has a really cool pneumatic tube system set up for garbage disposal and recycling, you could even say it sucks. Visit Time Magazine for a video the explains even more.

The coolest part of Hammarby Sjostad, a new eco-neighborhood of Stockholm, is the trash. It gets sucked through pneumatic tubes — at 43 m.p.h. (70 km/h) — after residents drop their household waste into special chutes: one for food that will get composted, another for paper to be recycled and a third for garbage that can be burned. As the latter gets incinerated, the energy produced is converted into district heating and electricity. The goal is both to keep garbage out of landfills and ultimately to produce half the neighborhood's energy.

"Everything people are throwing away is coming back in one way or another," says Hammarby spokesman Erik Freudenthal. And that includes sewage. It gets turned into fertilizer as well as biogas, which is used to fuel buses, taxis and approximately 1,000 gas stoves.

Visit this link for more details about a unique city, Hammarby :o)

Sep 6, 2009

Sunday Picinic :o)

And a good time was had by all. Here you see my folks, Jimmy and Paula, and Beth Anne. We had a nice afternooon chatting, throwing some shoes, and having a BBQ. The food turned out great if I do say so myself.
Life can be really good sometimes :o)Posted by Picasa

Sunday Silliness - Incompetence

When you earnestly believe you can compensate for a lack of skill by doubling your efforts, there's no end to what you can't do.

Sep 5, 2009

Notre Dame Rocked the House :o)

We started the day by heading to White Field for a little tail gate action (note to self, bring more beer next time :o). We got there just before 11:00 AM, and had a really nice time chatting. Here is a picture of Beth, her Dad, and Big Blue.

We were able to hook up with Shane (sorry you had to work today), and shortly after that, new friend Doug came - glad we could meet him.

Then we took the shuttle to the library (that is where Touchdown Jesus is), and had a short walk to the stadium, and then a bit longer to actually get to our gate. It was worth the extra little walk, because we had this view from our seats.

It was really cool that this was the first ND game for Cousin Shane, and equally cool that this was the second game we were able to take Dad to :o)

This was the view we had from our seats that were kind of high up, about even with the goal post. This was the opening drive by the Irish, and they were able to convert for a touchdown. It was really awesome. The atmosphere is something you need to experience if you have never been to a college game (I know I experienced it for four years at Illinois, and home game day is special). We love having the opportunity to go to ND games, and are looking forward to the other two games we get to go to this year.

By the way, the Irish had their first shutout in quite a while, winning 35-0.


For more details, go to Nutwood Junction :o)

Happy Vulture Day :o)

International Vulture Awareness Day: Who Knew?

I came across this courtesy of The Nature Conservancy, so as they said, "Consider celebrating by stocking your feeders with carrion, cruising your local highways for road kill, or just getting out and observing these magnificent animals."

I know that we enjoy watching our vultures and hawks here at Nutwood. You might even say we have vultures circling our back eleven :o).