Apr 30, 2010

Going Green - Envision Motor Company

Welcome to EnVision Motor Company, Inc. EnVision, based in Ames, Iowa, is the sole distributor of the first family of high-speed, 100 percent electric vehicles. This exciting line of vehicles, built in Europe by our manufacturer ELECTRIC MOTOR CARS INC. (EMC), includes an electric wagon, an electric cargo van and an electric truck. This is 100 percent green technology - no gas station, no carbon emissions. Our vehicles are US safety rated and carry a 3 year/100,000 mile nationwide warranty. Buy yours today! Drive clean. Drive green. Drive ELECTRIC MOTOR CARS.

Interesting that we have heard nothing of this vehicle and manufacturer, but they are up and running, and there is a tax credit to boot.


Apr 29, 2010

Bucko's Bucks - Buying Treasuries Directly

Why: You can buy Treasury securities using one convenient web–based account which is part of an application we call TreasuryDirect. TreasuryDirect is our primary retail system for selling our securities. This system allows us to establish direct relationships with you as an investor, enabling you to do business with us electronically using the Internet and conduct transactions without personal assistance from us. In TreasuryDirect, you can purchase and hold Treasury bills, notes, bonds and inflation-protected securities (TIPS) as well as savings bonds, and manage your holdings online in a secure environment.

Treasury Bills:  Treasury bills are short-term government securities with maturities ranging from a few days to 52 weeks. Bills are sold at a discount from their face value. This is the one I am interested in investigating. The bill is issued with a par value, and when it redeems you get face value. The difference between par and face is the interest rate. Interest is exempt from state and local taxes.

Treasury Notes: Treasury notes are government securities that are issued with maturities of 2, 3, 5, 7, and 10 years and pay interest every six months.

Treasury Bonds: Treasury bonds pay interest every six months and mature in 30 years.

Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities (TIPS):  TIPS are marketable securities whose principal is adjusted by changes in the Consumer Price Index. TIPS pay interest every six months and are issued with maturities of 5, 10, and 30 years.

I Savings Bonds:  I Savings Bonds are a low-risk savings product that earn interest while protecting you from inflation. Sold at face value. Check out our table that is a comparison of TIPS and Series I Savings Bonds.

EE/E Savings Bonds:  EE/E Savings Bonds are a secure savings product that pay interest based on current market rates for up to 30 years. Electronic EE Savings Bonds are sold at face value in TreasuryDirect. Paper EE Savings Bonds are sold at 1/2 face value.

How Do You Do It???
Where: http://www.treasurydirect.gov/

What you need: Driver's License, SSN, Bank Routing Info

How: Choose a password, password reminder, and additional security questions and we'll send you an e-mail with your account number. We will also send you an Access Card in the mail within the next two weeks. Your account number, password, and Access Card are needed to log into your TreasuryDirect account.

Apr 28, 2010

Science Scene - Pedal Power

Bored guests at a certain Crowne Plaza hotel can now skip the pricey mini-bar and hop on an exercise bike, generate some electricity, and earn some meal vouchers. The hotel in Copenhagen started the free meal idea as a way to boost guests' fitness and shrink their carbon footprint, according to the BBC.

The bikes are hooked up to generators that require guests of average fitness to pedal for about 15 minutes to create 10 watt-hours of electricity. iPhones attached to the handlebars display the amount of power being generated.

Hitting the 15-minute mark earns lucky exercisers a $36 meal voucher, and that's presumably on a repeatable reward system. But a hotel spokeswoman said that she doubted people would exploit the initiative for free meals. Oh, Denmark ... not that we're frowning on the highly generous offer.

No restaurant in the US could stay in business doing this, basically, our country will do anything to get things for free. Guess the price of power in Denmark is a lot higher than here. $154/hour, not a bad gig if you can get it.


Apr 27, 2010

Philosophical Phun - Judgement :o)

What happens in our minds when we make a judgement? [Brentano defined judgement as attaining knowledge and drawing inferences] Introspectively it is an act quite similar to making a decision, although its behavioral effects are different. Suppose you are uncertain what to think about the existence of extraterrestrial life. Some data suggest that life exists only on earth, others suggest that there may be intelligent beings somewhere else in the universe. Eventually you may become convinced one way or the other, and you either accept or reject the existence of extraterrestrial life. That is when you judge.

This example illustrates two judgement considerations:
  1. Judgements require that something (some object) is given in presentation, but not that something is predicated of it.
  2. Judgements are either positive or negative, depending on whether the presented object is accepted as existing, or rejected as fictitious or non-existing.
According to this principle, to make a judgement means to judge about an object that is given in presentation. But if something is given in presentation, this already implies that the presented object exists at least as an immanent object in our minds. So how can one legitimately deny its existence?


Apr 26, 2010

Science Scene - Molten Metal Batteries

Molten metal batteries may be the future for larger grid-scale batteries. MIT engineers have created devices that can provide up to 20 times as much current as lithium-ion batteries with the same electrode area. The new battery simply consists of tanks filled with three liquid layers kept at 1,292 degrees F (700 degrees C). Molten magnesium sits on top, and antimony sits on the bottom (picture to left is similar design but uses sodium sulfer for the electrodes). The middle layer consists of a compound mixture of the two outer layers.
Charging the battery with electricity breaks down the middle layer, and thus enlarges the upper and lower layers, while discharging reverses the process, in a chemical reaction that releases electrons to provide power. Once running, the battery also creates enough self-sustaining heat to keep everything molten.
A battery as large as a shipping container could deliver a megawatt of electricity, or enough to power about 10,000 100-watt light bulbs for several hours. Its cheaper material costs compared to lithium make it a more cost-effective candidate for scaling up the power grid. The molten metal battery technology could provide part of a newer energy infrastructure that supports a growing variety of renewable energy sources.


Apr 24, 2010

Going Green - Gen X Style

A freshman studying industrial design at the College For Creative Studies in Detroit undertook an ecological revamp of Coca Cola bottles and packaging for his mid-term project. Funny thing happened on the way to handing it in; Andrew Kim's design fans started blogging it and Kim is getting rave reviews internationally for the design. The Eco Coke Bottle is brilliant!


Apr 23, 2010

The Happiness Project :o)

Different happiness strategies work for different people. The following strategies stood out for Gretchen Rubin and "The Happiness Project". I have added my thoughts to the bolded strategies.

Seek novelty and challenge even if you value consistency and comfort. Trying new things is one of the most effective paths to happiness.

Try doing whatever you enjoyed doing at age 10. I would substitute and think of a time when you remember being happy, and try doing those same things again. Enthusiasm is the key.

Read memoirs of death and suffering. I was not expecting this one. The premise is that this helps put our own problems into perspective. I struggle with this one a bit because it requires you to make yourself feel better at the expense of someone else's struggles.

Declutter your home. Having a few chores that you want to accomplish each day can bring you satisfaction and a sense of accomplishment. I know that I try and do this on my non-work days. It is way to easy to spend lots of time behind the keyboard.

Be appreciative of people's good traits rather than critical of their bad ones. I think that this is key to a good relationship. It is always easy to find things to be critical of, but focusing on the positive traits, the things that attracted us to our mates or friends, leaves us with a warmness inside that is hard to duplicate.

Enjoy today even if there's still work to do. Take time to be happy each and every day. Do not hang your happiness shingle on some future milestone that is going to take years to achieve.


Apr 22, 2010

Going Green - Happy 40th Earth Day :o)

Senator Gaylord Nelson, a Democrat from Wisconsin who was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1962, was determined to wake up the federal government to the fact that the earth was at risk. In 1969, Nelson, considered one of the leaders of the modern environmental movement, developed the idea for Earth Day after being inspired by the anti-Vietnam War "teach-ins" that were taking place on college campuses around the United States. According to Nelson, he envisioned a large-scale, grassroots environmental demonstration "to shake up the political establishment and force this issue onto the national agenda."

Nelson announced the Earth Day concept at a conference in Seattle in the fall of 1969 and invited the entire nation to get involved. As he later recalled: "The wire services carried the story from coast to coast. The response was electric. It took off like gangbusters. Telegrams, letters and telephone inquiries poured in from all across the country. The American people finally had a forum to express its concern about what was happening to the land, rivers, lakes and air—and they did so with spectacular exuberance." Dennis Hayes, a young activist who had served as student president at Stanford University, was selected as Earth Day's national coordinator, and he worked with an army of student volunteers and several staff members from Nelson's Senate office to organize the project. According to Nelson: "Earth Day worked because of the spontaneous response at the grassroots level. We had neither the time nor resources to organize 20 million demonstrators and the thousands of schools and local communities that participated. That was the remarkable thing about Earth Day. It organized itself."

Link to History.com History of Earth Day.

Link to Nature Conservancy Earth Day.

Link to Earthday.net

Apr 20, 2010

Philosophical Phun - Prophecy :o)

Prophecy involves disclosing some important information that could not have been known to the prophet in any ordinary way. Prophecy is interesting from a philosophical point of view because it introduces interesting questions about divine knowledge, time, and human freedom.

In the monotheist religious traditions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam), a prophet is a person who makes God's will particularly clear, whether or not doing so involves making any predictions about the future. When philosophers discuss prophecy, they are typically interested in prophecies concerning the contingent future. Let's say that a future event is contingent if and only if it is both possible that it happen and possible that it not happen. In other words, future contingent events are not determined to occur and not determined not to occur; they are “up in the air”, so to speak. Imagine that based upon the revelation of an infallible God, a person prophecies that some future contingent event will occur. Since God cannot be wrong, does it follow that the future contingent event must occur? And if it must occur, how can it be a free act?

Under this premise, our options are:
  • There are no future contingent events. God's providential control over the world is so thorough and detailed that nothing is left to chance, not even free choices as human beings.
  • Deny that God has any knowledge of the contingent future [open future]
  • God exists outside of time itself [ever-present eternity]
  • God has middle knowledge: through natural knowledge [nobody can control], God knows what is necessary and what is possible. Through middle knowledge, God knows what every possible person would do freely in every possible situation. So God decides which kind of world to create, including those situations in which free human persons should be placed, knowing how they would respond, and this results in God's free knowledge (contingent truths which are up to God, which includes foreknowledge of the actual future, including all human actions).

As philosophical thought processes are applied to religion, and we eliminate the absolutes (no choice or God controls all), then human free choice becomes much trickier to explain. All I know is that I absolutely believe in free choice and the associated consequences.

Apr 19, 2010

Bucko's Bucks - Electricity Vampires

You can reduce your electricity bills by as much as 10% - simply by unplugging appliances or switching devices off at the power point they are connected to when not in use. It's good for your wallet and for our planet.

Standby, also known as phantom power loads, are responsible for an incredible amount of electricity consumption nationally. Practically every electronic device that you plug into a socket continues to consume electricity after you've switched the device off. Examples include phone charges, notebook power adaptors, microwave ovens, game consoles cd, video and dvd players

If an appliance or device has an adaptor, the easiest way to tell if it's still drawing power when the device is switched off is if the adaptor is warm.

While the amount of power being drawn by each of these appliances in standby mode usually isn't huge - anything from .5 - 5 watts per hour; when you consider the number of electronics devices in the average home these days and multiply that by the number of hours in a year; then multiply that by the number of households in your country - it really adds up. The average home in the USA consumers about 50 watts of standby power an hour. The annual collective standby power draw from households in the USA is around 8 gigawatts - equivalent to the electricity production of eight large power plants.

Apr 17, 2010

Science Scene - NASA's Future

I know that there has been a lot of coverage the past few days, but just in case you missed it, here is a high level look at the new direction.  I think it makes good sense in the current economic environment, going to the moon [Alice :o)] can be done by private enterprise.  We need to go where no man has gone before [could not resist].

NASA's Orion crew capsule, which was part of the cancelled Constellation program, has been revived as an escape pod for the International Space Station. A smaller version of the capsule could launch on an Atlas or Delta rocket and eliminate the need to buy a multimillion-dollar Russian Soyuz spacecraft for emergency crew escape, Florida Today reports.

President Obama's plan for the U.S. space agency would also make a commitment to a specific heavy-lift launch rocket by 2015. That rocket would have the ability to send missions beyond Earth orbit to destinations that might include Mars.

The president's budget scrapped NASA's original plan to return humans to the moon within the decade, and has refocused the space agency on developing technologies for space exploration beyond Earth orbit. It also supports commercial launches by the private space industry to deliver cargo and crew to the space station.

Obama will also announce plans on Thursday to bring 2,500 more jobs to Florida's Space Coast than the cancelled NASA moon program. That could help soothe the sting of more than 8,000 jobs lost at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida due to the impending shutdown of NASA's shuttle program and the demise of Project Constellation.

Another part of the president's plan puts $2 billion over the next five years toward making Kennedy Space Center a 21st century spaceport with lower launch costs for private companies and the U.S. Department of Defense. Obama added the goal of making Florida's I-4 corridor the "Silicon Valley of Space," Florida Today notes.

Those sound like sweet words to our ears, if the plan can really pull that off. We're not complaining about NASA's future including some robo-astronauts, either.


Apr 16, 2010

Science Scene - Bring On Breaky :o)

You can put bacon, eggs, and sausage back into your diet, according to a new study published in the International Journal of Obesity... as long as you eat them for breakfast.

The research was conducted by the Departments of Epidemiology and Cardiovascular Diseases, Department of Medicine, University of Alabama at Birmingham and the USDA/ARS Children's Nutrition Research Center at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, TX. Over a 12 week period, groups of mice were fed high fat or high carbohydrate meals at different times of the day. Because breakfast generally sets the metabolism for the rest of the day, scientists also focused on how breakfast helped the mice metabolize carbs and fats during the day.

Results indicated that the mice who ate a big fatty breakfast, followed by a smaller lunch and even smaller evening meal, were more likely to lose weight and were at less risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes. The fatty breakfasts helped the mice metabolize both fats and carbs during the day.

Eating fatty foods later in the day, however, led to weight gain, glucose intolerance, and conditions that typically lead to heart disease.

Mice who were given high carb breakfasts, such as cereal, were only able to metabolize carbs during the day. They gained weight and had trouble metabolizing sugar, raising their risk of diabetes and heart disease.

Got Milk :o)

Apr 15, 2010

Science Scene - Geminoid

Modeled after a real woman -- who can be seen above on the right -- the humanoid 'bot has life-like silicone skin, realistic black hair, and even a set of pearly whites that break into a rather convincing smile.

Geminoid F is far from the complete robotic package; she was designed with efficiency in mind, employing just 12 pneumatic actuators rather than her predecessor's 46, meaning her range of motion is actually far more limited. But when it comes to reproducing facial tics and other unspoken gestures, she's really quite skilled. A tele-operation system uses a smart camera to track a real person's facial expressions and reproduce them in the android's face.

I think the 46 sensor version would be more lifelike, but this is still pretty amazing. It is only a mimic right now, but it is not hard to imagine some software making this much more. A lot of potential, hopefully for the good.


Apr 14, 2010

Helicopter Drone Update

A week or so ago, I posted about these drones, and at the time it seemed more conceptual than real.
Guess I did not read the fine print :o)

Drug runners and pirates beware: a Navy helicopter drone made its first official drug bust on April 3. The U.S. Navy Fire Scout stealthily tailed a "go-fast" boat suspected of carrying narcotics for three hours, and captured video of the boat's refueling rendezvous with a fishing vessel. Not a bad outcome for started as a "routine test flight," according to Navy reports.

The quiet drone surveillance eventually allowed the guided-missile frigate USS McInerney and its detachment of U.S. Coast Guard law enforcement to move in for the seizure. The drug runners dumped perhaps 440 pounds into the water, but the Navy ship still nabbed about 132 pounds.


This To Shall Pass

The pop-rock band OK Go created the template for viral-music-video fame in 2006 with its simple clip for the catchy "Here It Goes Again," which you may recall as "the treadmill video." In it, the members of the band dance an intricately choreographed routine on eight running treadmills. It quickly became a viral sensation, attracting one million sets of eyeballs in its first week on YouTube.

The band has spent much of the last eight months producing another visually astonishing video. "This Too Shall Pass" is a one-shot tracking of the machinations of an intricately designed "Rube Goldberg machine," an incredible perpetual-motion chain reaction full of "How'd they do that?" moments.

But look closely at the very beginning, when a bandmember tips off a row of dominoes with a toy truck. The truck has a logo on it, for insurance giant State Farm. The Illnois-based company helped fund the clip, which took many months and 60 engineers to fully execute. At the end of the video, State Farm gets a wholly transparent "Thank You" screenshot from the band.

For the rest of the story, and to be able to link to the original Treadmill video, go to DailyFinance: http://srph.it/9YWBIy

Apr 13, 2010

Philisophical Phun - Causality

In everyday life, as well as in science, we have to deal with and act on the basis of partial (i.e. incomplete, uncertain, or even inconsistent) information. Causality considers causal claims and the scientific process by which they are established, particularly where it involves the use of statistical evidence. The two fundamental questions of causality are: (1) What empirical evidence is required for legitimate inference of cause-effect relationships? (2) Given that we are willing to accept causal information about a phenomenon, what inferences can we draw from such information, and how?
“Probabilistic Causation” designates a group of theories that aim to characterize the relationship between cause and effect using the tools of probability theory. The central idea behind these theories is that causes change the probabilities of their effects. The central idea behind probabilistic theories of causation is that causes change the probability of their effects; an effect may still occur in the absence of a cause or fail to occur in its presence. Thus smoking is a cause of lung cancer, not because all smokers develop lung cancer, but because smokers are more likely to develop lung cancer than non-smokers. This is entirely consistent with there being some smokers who avoid lung cancer, and some non-smokers who succumb.
It has long been held that causation can only be reliably inferred when we can intervene in a system so as to control for possible confounding factors. For example, in medicine, it is commonplace that the reliability of a treatment can only be established through randomized clinical trials. Starting in the early 1980's, however, a number of techniques have been developed for representing systems of causal relationships, and for inferring causal relationships from purely observational data. The name ‘causal modeling’ is often used to describe the new interdisciplinary field devoted to the study of methods of causal inference. This field includes contributions from statistics, artificial intelligence, philosophy, econometrics, epidemiology, psychology, and other disciplines.
The influence of artificial intelligence and the availability of powerful computer languages holds promise that intuition can be expressed, not suppressed. I believe that as the process matures, we will see the time frame from concept to implementation shrink considerably. We have seen how 3-D computer modeling has revolutionalized the component manufacturing process. I think that advances in health care and the pharmaceutical industries will be similarily revolutionalized by this type of process.

Apr 12, 2010


Based on feedback on comments, I had to reset blog format and am now trying to figure out why cannot leave comments on new entry.  This is a test entry.  Please be patient with me :o)

Success, no more tests...

Arby's Introduces $1 Value Menu

Oh my, as if somebunny needed another reason to go the Arby's :o)

Arby's recently launched a $1 menu featuring the chain's signature items such as oven-roasted, freshly sliced roast beef sandwiches, curly fries and Jamocha shakes. The company said it will refresh the dollar menu periodically to showcase seasonal favorites and other signature offerings.


Nuclear Power Myths

President Obama's announcement in early March that the federal government will support new nuclear reactors through loan guarantees has reinvigorated the Union of Concerned Scientists, the Sierra Club, Ralph Nader's Public Citizen and other opponents of nuclear energy. Their objections to this proven technology—which already generates about 20% of our electricity—have barely changed since the 1970s. But most of their arguments have either been proven wrong or become outdated. Here's a rundown:

Nuclear isn't safe. The 1979 Three Mile Island accident—in which a faulty cooling valve led to a meltdown without injuring anyone—occurred when computer technology had barely penetrated the U.S. industry. Today, thanks to the Price-Anderson Act, first adopted in 1957 and amended several times since, each of America's 104 reactors is now on the hook for $100 million in damages for an accident at another reactor ($10 billion coverage in all). You can bet they talk to each other. Accidental "scrams" and safety outages have been reduced to nearly zero. Our entire fleet is up and running 90% of the time. That's why, even though nuclear constitutes only 11% of generating capacity, it provides 20% of electricity.

Nuclear is too expensive. Building a 1,500-megawatt reactor will cost around $5 billion, which seems expensive until you compare it to everything else. The equivalent capacity in wind power would easily cost $4 billion because you have to build 4,000 windmills at $1 million apiece plus hundreds of miles of transmission lines and an almost equal capacity of natural gas generators to back them up when the wind doesn't blow. Building zero-emissions coal plants that capture the carbon dioxide and bury it underground will probably cost more, but nobody really knows because it's never been done. Only natural gas is cheaper to build, but that's because 95% of the cost is in the fuel. (With nuclear it's only 26%.) Natural gas prices fluctuate. Would anyone care to predict what the price of natural gas will be in 25 years?

A hijacked jet liner crashing into a reactor would cause a nuclear holocaust. Go to YouTube and search "plane crashing into wall." You'll see a video of an F-4 fighter jet hitting a concrete containment wall at 500 miles per hour. The plane simply disappears. The wall barely budges. Nuclear opponents argue that a jumbo jet would have a greater impact, but the laws of physics say it would be about the same. A jet is a hollow metal tube. Even at the speed of a bullet (700 mph) it could not penetrate a concrete containment wall.

We haven't figured out what to do with the waste. Basically, there is no such thing as nuclear waste. The reason we have the controversy over the Yucca Mountain storage facility is because we gave up fuel reprocessing in the 1970s. Reprocessing reduces the volume of spent fuel—already remarkably small—by 97%. The French reprocess and store all their high-level waste from 30 years of producing 70% of their electricity beneath the floor of one room in their La Hague plant.

We can't reprocess because that will lead to nuclear proliferation. The conceit of the 1970s was that if we isolated plutonium in an American reprocessing plant, some foreign terrorist would steal it to make a bomb. Half a dozen countries have since built nuclear bombs, none of them with stolen American plutonium. North Korea built its own reactor. Iran has been enriching uranium. France, Japan and Russia all reprocess and no one has stolen their plutonium.

Apr 11, 2010

National Parks Week - Free Admission

Get into all 392 of America's National Parks for free from April 17-25, 2010. The freebie is part of a week-long series of events and festivities known as National Parks Weeks t hat serves to raise awareness of our country's natural beauty. It also coincides with Earth Day, which is April 22.

If you miss the free entry week in April, National Parks are also free on September 25, 2010 for Public Lands Day, and on November 11, 2010 for Veterans Day. Read the full list of fee-free parks.


Sunday Silliness - Power :o)

Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. But it rocks absolutely, too.

Apr 10, 2010

Science Scene - Backpack Hydro

A human-portable hydroelectric generator that weighs about 30 pounds and generates 500 watts of power may soon be a new option for off-grid power.

Developed by Mailbu’s Bourne Energy, the Backpack Power Plant can create clean, quiet power from any stream deeper than four feet.

Bourne Energy CEO, Chris Catlin, estimates the system will cost $3,000 after it goes into production.  The civilian market for a $3,000 mini hydro system might not be huge in the industrialized world, but Catlin hopes the plant will find willing customers in developing nations and the military.

“This can bring a cheap, highly portable energy technology to remote areas and remote villages,” Catlin told Wired.com.

Original entry at wired science

Apr 9, 2010

Happy Tax Freedom Day

Happy Tax Freedom Day

Think of all the money you can bank now :o)

Federal Budget Summary

As we go forward with more programs for our economy, there will be increasing rhetoric regarding how we are going to pay for it. Our federal budget is $3.8 trillion, and each 1% share represents $38 billion.

To understand how hard it is to cut federal spending, consider this: About 3/5’s (57.3%) of it goes out in direct payments to individual Americans or is spent on their personal behalf [entitlements].

Health Care: 23.8% (13% seniors, 7.8% poor, 3% veterans)
Pensions: 22.2% (19% for Social Security, 3.2% for federal civilian and military)
Unemployment: 2.8%
Food Stamps: 2.7%
Housing Subsidies for poor: 1.7%
Disabled poor cash: 1.3%
Low-income tax credit: 1.2%
Cash welfare for poor mothers w/ children: 0.8%
College-tuition aid (non-GI bill): 0.5%
Crop subsidies: 0.3%

Do not expect to see cuts in these entitlement payments, especially since this is where an awful lot of the lobbying energy goes.

So what is the biggest area of discretionary spending? Military operations and hardware is almost 1/5 (19.6%) of next year’s budget. As we wind down military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, expect to see military spending move downward. Cutting of hardware spending will be more difficult since stopping any manufacturing programs will cost jobs and our legislatures are very good at protecting their home turfs.

So that accounts for 76.9% of our spending.

The rest of our government functions account for 16% of our budget and include: transportation, education, alternative-energy research and subsidies, public health, medical research, foreign aid, diplomacy, trade promotion, homeland security, law-enforcement aid, disaster relief, environmental protection, national parks, basic science research, space exploration, the arts, and more. None of these line items exceed 3% by themselves, and many are less than 1%.

That brings us to 92.9%. The remainder of our budget is for interest, half of which is owed to foreign creditors.

So, as we start tackling our economy, you can see that without health care reform and subsequent savings (or increased taxes), changes to social security (change when benefits start or increase taxes), reduction in military spending (focus on manpower versus hardware), and starting to run surpluses instead of deficits, things will only get worse. We have reached the precipice, due to lack of vision and strategy from both parties, and due to placating the loudest whiners in our spoiled and ungrateful country. I know that I am willing to pay 1-2% more in taxes if it will help deal with the mess that we find ourselves in.

Apr 8, 2010

Best Blossoms for Beneficial Insects

This entry was inspired by an article in the National Wildlife Federation magazine.

The Best Blossoms for Beneficial Insects

There are good reasons to create a backyard buffet for beneficial insects. They are the tigers and barracudas of the insect world, preying upon many of the organisms that ravage prized garden plants. So many homeowners have pest problems largely because their yards are not inviting to the predators and parasites that in natural ecosystems keep pesky creatures in check.

Studies suggest that native composites, wildflowers with daisy-shaped blooms, are champions at attracting beneficial insects. For North America, some of the most widely distributed include:

Asters: Named after the Latin word for “star,” asters come in blues, purples and pinks, all with a yellow center.

Goldenrods: Easily identified by their golden inflorescences with dense masses of tiny flowers, goldenrods are often difficult to tell apart and represent some of the most ubiquitous composites.

Coneflowers: In colors from purple to gold, typically with brown to orange centers, coneflowers are found from coast to coast.

Tickseeds: Also known as coreopsis, tickseeds are native to all but three states—Alaska, Nevada and Utah. They often are partly colored yellow and have petals with notched tips.

Sunflowers: Wild relatives of cultivated sunflowers, which are known for their huge flowerheads, grow throughout the continental United States.

Buckwheats and milkweeds: These plants also are magnets for good bugs. So are culinary herbs with distinctive flower clusters called umbels that resemble little upside-down umbrellas. Some umbelliferous herbs of varying heights include coriander, chervil, fennel, flat-leafed parsley, dill and lovage. [Milkweed is the one shown in the picture].

I think after reading this article that we are going to be more strategic in our garden planting :o)

Apr 7, 2010

Spring Is In The Air :o)

It has been a great couple of days.  First and foremost, I have been released from the outage Tuesday morning, so my 12 hour days are a thing of the past [for now].  The outage actually went pretty smoothly, and we can claim success (on schedule and on budget :o)

The last two Mondays have been beautiful weather wise, I have been able to do some road running.  The first run was 8 miles and I have to admit that I over did it a bit and was quite sore for 3 days.  This past Monday, I did 4 miles, and it was just right.  No soreness today.  After my run on Monday, I uncovered the patio furnature.  We are thinking of having our first BBQ this weekend some time.

The picture above is the forsythia in out back yard.  They really bloom this time of year, and as we have driven around the past week or so, it has been amazing to see how many of these bushes we have in this area.  They are very striking in their color and really signal the arrival of spring in these parts :o)

We have been able to spend some time with Beth's Mom recently, and will do so on a regular basis.  She is doing amazing well under the circumstances. 

We had lunch Tuesday with my folks (mexican, yum), and my stepbrother and his wife will be here this weekend.  Over the next couple of weeks, looking forward to getting some yard work going.  I have a business trip later this month, followed by a family CA visit in mid-May. 

Well, that catches you up to what is happening in Bucko's World :o)

Science Scene - LED Lighting

A Department of Energy report on light emitting diode (LED) technology has some pretty startling numbers to digest.  7% of America's electricity is used to light our homes and businesses. That number is down significantly in the last few years because of the adoption of efficient lighting.

But there is still a great deal of ground to be gained. Indeed, as bright white LEDs begin to make their way to the market, the DOE expects their adoption to result in huge decreases in energy use.  The cumulative savings of widespread adoption of this technology over the next 20 years would be about 1.500 terawatt-hours the price of which, at today's energy prices, is around $120 billion. The savings would eliminate the need for 24 new large power plants, to say nothing of the decrease in carbon emissions.


Apr 6, 2010

Philosophical Phun - Intuitionism :o)

Conditions for believing a proposition.
  • Clarity - clear understanding of the concepts and practical consequences of the belief
  • Reflection - after thorough review, you accept based on facts, not social pressures or emotions.
  • Consistency - you can not also believe the opposite could be possible (don't know or are unsure)
  • Consensus - consensus adds justification, whereas disagreement undermines it.

 I find it interesting to try and take these conditions of belief, and running politics, religion, and ________ [you fill in the blank] through this filter. It becomes very interesting that because there is not consistency, then those on extreme ends of their beliefs start to employ various techniques to increase consensus, usually at the expense of the first three conditions.

Apr 5, 2010

Pepsi Not So Sweet :o)

PepsiCo, the world's No. 2 soft-drink maker, says it is removing its full-calorie sweetened drinks from schools in more than 200 countries by 2012.  I wish this was sooner, but it is still an encouraging move.

This is the first time a major soft-drink producer has undertaken such a wide-sweeping policy, which essentially admits that sugary soda is not the best thing for your kids to be drinking.

Pepsi removing its soda from schools worldwide

Apr 3, 2010

Take a Toke :o)

If $3 for a coffee inhaler hits you where you breathe, don't worry. David Edwards, the inventor of Le Whif, expects that the price will go down eventually.  Edwards called it the perfect on-the-go alternative to a cup of coffee, and better-tasting than a caffeine pill.

Only two stores carry Le Whif: Dylan's and Cardullo's Gourmet Shop in Cambridge, Mass. More will follow, the company says. You can also order from the Le Whif web site. A pack of three runs $7.99.  They have Chocolate, and the coffee version is due soon.

One lipstick-size dosage delivers about 20 milligrams of caffeine, about half the kick of one espresso, according to Edwards. You're supposed to get about 10 gentle sucks per Le Whif.

You want science? Well, Le Whif's particle engineering renders the grounds into ingestible particles that are small enough to become airborne yet too big to enter the lungs. The taste buds can enjoy the tasting while the tummy doesn't have to worry about the digesting.

Apr 2, 2010

Science Scene - One Ugly MoFo

This monstrosity surfaced on the Web this week, after first surfacing attached to a remotely operated undersea survey sub. While this 2.5-foot specimen is indeed more monstrous than most of its species, it's really just a harmless, friendly giant isopod, a sea scavenger that dwells in the deep, cold waters of the oceans.

Resembling giant woodlice, isopods are oceanic bottom-feeders, dining mostly on whale carcasses and the like. The vast majority of them are found at depths below 1,200 feet, so they are not generally sought out in any commercial capacity and therefore we don't see them very often. However, we hear isopod is something of a delicacy in Taiwan, where its white, lobster-like meat is boiled and enjoyed in seaside restaurants.


Apr 1, 2010

After Much Thought...

After more than three years, I thought that I would have as many followers here in the Blogosphere as I do on Facebook.  Alas, that is not the case. 

When I put up my SiteMeter, I expected to go viral, being in the millions by now.  Alas, that is not the case.  If you take out stalker hits, I have only been visited 4110 times.

For these reasons, I have decided to no longer make aol journal entries.