Jun 30, 2010

Science Scene - Bye Bye Incandescent

As many consumers interested in saving money (and perhaps the planet) replace their incandescent bulbs with more energy efficient ones, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has announced new packaging rules to help them determine a bulb's true brightness.

Light bulbs have been marketed for decades according to their wattage -- but watts measure energy use, not brightness. For instance, a 23-watt compact fluorescent bulb can produce the same amount of brightness as a 100-watt incandescent bulb, rendering wattage-based labeling obsolete.

Under the new FTC rule, beginning in mid-2011, consumers shopping for light bulbs will notice new labeling on packaging designed to help them choose among the different types of bulbs on the market, be they traditional incandescent bulbs or newer high-efficiency compact fluorescent (CFL) and light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs.

The new labeling will emphasize a bulbs' brightness as measured in lumens, rather than its output in watts. The new front-of-package labels also will include the estimated yearly energy cost for the particular type of bulb. The FTC says the new packaging, which resulted from a Congressional request to re-examine current labels, will save consumers money by helping them select the most efficient bulbs to fit their lighting needs.
Under the new packaging rule, the back of each package of light bulbs will have a "Lighting Facts" label modeled after the "Nutrition Facts" label currently on food packages.

The Lighting Facts label will provide information about:

Energy cost
Life expectancy
Light appearance (for example, if the bulb provides "warm" or "cool" light);
Wattage (the amount of energy the bulb uses)
Whether the bulb contains mercury

In addition, a bulb's brightness (measured in lumens) and a disclosure for bulbs containing mercury will also be printed directly on each bulb.

As many countries around the world have already done, new energy standards mandated by Congress will phase out traditional low-efficiency incandescent bulbs from the U.S. market during the next few years, making the new labels useful as consumers move to more energy-efficient types of bulbs.

The FTC is also seeking public comments on several issues that might be relevant to future changes to light bulb labeling requirements, such as whether new labeling requirements should be applied to candelabra bulbs. Information on how to submit public comments can be found in a Federal Register notice that will be issued by the FTC.


Jun 29, 2010

Philosophical Phun - Collective Responsibility :o)

The notion of collective responsibility, like that of personal responsibility and shared responsibility, refers to both the causal responsibility of moral agents for harm in the world and the blameworthiness that we ascribe to them for having caused such harm. Hence, it is, like its two more purely individualistic counterparts, almost always a notion of moral, rather than purely causal, responsibility. But, unlike its two more purely individualistic counterparts, it does not associate either causal responsibility or blameworthiness with discrete individuals or locate the source of moral responsibility in the free will of individual moral agents. Instead, it associates both causal responsibility and blameworthiness with groups and locates the source of moral responsibility in the collective actions taken by these groups understood as collectives.

Methodological individualists challenge the very possibility of associating moral agency with groups, as distinct from their individual members, and normative individualists argue that collective responsibility violates principles of both individual responsibility and fairness. Defenders of collective responsibility take their cue from these critical arguments and set out to show that collective responsibility—as well as group intentions, collective action, and group blameworthiness—are coherent as a constructs and can be ascribed to agents fairly in at least some, if not all, cases.

Do groups have to meet the same stringent conditions of moral responsibility that individuals do? (Intentionality becomes key here.) What are the advantageous and disadvantageous of holding particular kinds of groups, e.g., nation states, races, and ethnic groups, morally responsible in practice? 

I find that groups often hide behind their collectiveness, and discount perceptions and actions at the fringes as anomalies, and outside the "intention" of their group.  I say that if they are affiliated, they are representative, and it is up to the group to reign them in.  What are your thoughts?


Jun 28, 2010

Science Scene - Pedal Power 2

Nokia has recently unveiled a pretty cool way to charge your cell phone -- a bicycle charger kit.

The Bicycle Charger Kit mounts onto the handlebars of your bike and includes a holder for your cell phone. The charger plugs into the phone and then your pedaling does the work. The faster you pedal, the faster the phone charges. At just shy of 4 mph, the charging starts and if you can up your speed to 8 mph, the phone will charge as fast as being plugged into a wall outlet.

This kit is only for Nokia phones, but don't be surprised if other companies adopt the technology soon as well.


Jun 27, 2010

Big Mark is Nebraska Bound :o)

So, Big Mark, or as I will always refer to him - Detroit Mark, is heading to Nebraska for the next leg on his journey.  We met Mark two years ago in Detroit and are glad to call him friend.

Mark had some dental bill and bicycle challenges in the last year, and could use a little financial boost to help him.  If you are so inclined, you can help him out at at his PayPal account, markonit@aol.com.

Not one to not put my money where my mouth is, I have already made our contribution. 

Good luck Mark, you are a peach and will always be our friend.

Sunday Silliness - Regret :o)

It hurts to admit when you make mistakes - but when they're big enough, the pain only lasts a second

Jun 26, 2010

Science Scene - Heart of the Matter

Never mind your dentist. Your cardiologist might want you to brush your teeth more often.

Neglecting to brush twice a day could lead to a 70 percent increased risk of cardiovascular disease, according to a new large population-based study.

Researchers examined self-reported oral hygiene habits and coronary disease in 11,869 adults aged 35 and older (with a mean age of 50) from the Scottish Health Survey—a study conducted once every three to five years—between the years 1995 and 2003. The team followed up with subjects after an average of eight years to see if they had had a heart attack or coronary disease.

Even though the researchers found that those who reported brushing their teeth less than twice a day were more likely to be male, older, smokers and to have other health issues (such as diabetes, hypertension and obesity), the team controlled for those variables and others and still found that tooth brushing is associated with cardiovascular disease. The association held even after adjusting for socioeconomic group, visits to dentist, BMI, family history of cardiovascular disease, hypertension and diagnosis of diabetes.

Although the study isn't proof of causation, the researchers highlight inflammation as a possible mechanism behind the link between periodontal disease and heart disease.  Chronic inflammation—and the body's response to it—is thought to be a factor for heart disease, and as the authors noted, periodontal disease "is one of the most common chronic infections and is associated with a moderate systemic inflammatory response."


Jun 25, 2010

Science Scene - Fake Fowl?

A recent Time Magazine article details an eggciting beak-through in fake-meat science. For more than a decade, scientists at the University of Missouri have been scratching their heads over how to make a fake chicken product that not only tastes like chicken, but also has “that ineffable chew of real flesh.”

“What has confounded fake-meat producers for years is the texture problem. Before an animal is killed, its flesh essentially marinates, for all the years that the animal lives, in the rich biological stew that we call blood: a fecund bath of oxygen, hormones, sugars and plasma.”

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, livestock activities currently contribute to 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions. And if nothing is done to change meat consumption patterns, annual global meat production is projected to increase to 465 million tons by 2050, up from 229 million tons in 2000.

Could this fake chicken discovery turn out to be, ahem, a cash cow for the fake meat industry?

Jun 24, 2010

How Do You Age?

"It's about trying to mentally keep yourself in a place where your're never resting on our laurels.  That's the fountain of youth.  It has nothing to do with the wrinkles on your face, how fat you get or if you get gray hair.  It's your zest for life." 

Billy Joe Armstrong, Green Day.  Quote in Time Magazine Interview.

I have nothing to add.

Jun 23, 2010

GGGGoooooaaaaalllllll --- Internet Overload ???

A Screen Grab of Akamai's Net Usage Index at Noon Web traffic spiked at news sites across the Web after the last-minute U.S. victory over Algeria in the World Cup. Traffic averaged 190% higher than usual, with Africa leading the way.

Just how breathtakingly, heart-stoppingly awesome was Landon Donovan’s 91st-minute goal in today’s win-or-go-home U.S.-Algeria World Cup game? It was definitely significant enough to temporarily overwhelm Twitter. And it just might have been the single biggest driver of Internet traffic ever.

Over 715 million are expected to watch the World Cup, biggest sporting event ever.


Jun 22, 2010

Philosophical Phun - Koans

A “koan” is a question, story, or statement that can’t be understood logically. Zen Buddhist monks meditate on koans as a way to abandon dependence on reason in their pursuit of enlightenment.

A koan can’t be grasped by logic, or explained in words.

The most famous koan is probably: “Two hands clap and there is a sound. What is the sound of one hand?”

"...in the beginning a monk first thinks a kôan is an inert object upon which to focus attention; after a long period of consecutive repetition, one realizes that the kôan is also a dynamic activity, the very activity of seeking an answer to the kôan. The kôan is both the object being sought and the relentless seeking itself. In a kôan, the self sees the self not directly but under the guise of the kôan...When one realizes ("makes real") this identity, then two hands have become one. The practitioner becomes the kôan that he or she is trying to understand. That is the sound of one hand." — G. Victor Sogen Hori, Translating the Zen Phrase Book

I find the concept of Koans refreshing and very thought provoking.  Here is my first effort: "Can a passing thought be profound?"

Jun 21, 2010

Happy Summer :o)

June 20-21 is one of two solstices, days when the rays of the sun directly strike one of the two tropical latitude lines. June 21 marks the beginning of summer in the northern hemisphere and simultaneously heralds the beginning of winter in the southern hemisphere. When the earth's axis tilts towards the sun, as it does between June and September, it is summer in the northern hemisphere but winter in the southern hemisphere. In 2010, the solstice occurs and summer begins in the Northern Hemisphere summer begins early on June 21, at 7:28 a.m.   June 21 is called the summer solstice in the Northern Hemisphere and simultaneously the winter solstice in the Southern Hemisphere.

Without the tilt of the earth's axis, we would have no seasons. The sun's rays would be directly overhead of the equator all year long. Only a slight change would occur as the earth makes its slightly elliptical orbit around the sun. When summer occurs in a hemisphere, it is due to that hemisphere receiving more direct rays of the sun than the opposite hemisphere where it is winter. In winter, the sun's energy hits the earth at oblique angles and is thus less concentrated.

During spring and fall, the earth's axis is pointing sideways so both hemispheres have moderate weather and the rays of the sun are directly overhead the equator. Between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn (23.5° latitude south) there really are no seasons as the sun is never very low in the sky so it stays warm and humid ("tropical") year-round. Only those people in the upper latitudes north and south of the tropics experience seasons.

Jun 20, 2010

Father's Day Wishes

The father bond is much different from the mother bond, in my mind described by words like:
  • Integrity
  • Strength
  • Resolve
  • Compassion
  • Love
  • Honesty
I know I learned those things from my father, and from Beth's Dad as well.  Though they are not of this world, they live on in us.  Happy Father's Day. 

Give your Dad, Father, Papa... a call and/or hug today :o)

Father's Day is a day honoring fathers and celebrating fatherhood, paternal bonds, and the influence of fathers in society. It is celebrated on the third Sunday of June in 55 countries and on other days elsewhere.

The first observance of Father's Day is believed to have been held on June 19, 1910 through the efforts of Sonora Smart Dodd of Spokane, Washington. After listening to a church sermon at Spokane's Central Methodist Episcopal Church in 1909 about the newly recognized Mother's Day, Dodd felt strongly that fatherhood needed recognition, as well.  She wanted a celebration that honored fathers like her own father, William Smart, a Civil War veteran who was left to raise his family alone when his wife died giving birth to their sixth child when Sonora was 16 years old.

A bill to accord national recognition of the holiday was introduced in Congress in 1913.  In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson went to Spokane to speak in a Father's Day celebration and wanted to make it official, but Congress resisted, fearing that it would become commercialized.  US President Calvin Coolidge recommended in 1924 that the day be observed by the nation, but stopped short of issuing a national proclamation. Two earlier attempts to formally recognize the holiday had been defeated by Congress. In 1957, Maine Senator Margaret Chase Smith wrote a proposal accusing Congress of ignoring fathers for 40 years while honoring mothers, thus "[singling] out just one of our two parents" In 1966, President Lyndon Johnson issued the first presidential proclamation honoring fathers, designating the third Sunday in June as Father's Day.  Six years later, the day was made a permanent national holiday when President Richard Nixon signed it into law in 1972.

Sunday Silliness - Recovery :o)

Jun 19, 2010

Science Scene - Wodka

Go Wodka Extreme was created by Wenger Corporation of Austria, and is available in the U.S., Australia and throughout Europe. These portable aluminum tubes come in different flavors including lemon, cranberry and energy.  I think this is a need idea, but not really that different from the mini-bottles you can get from any liquor store.  Still, it is unique and new, and who knows, it might take off.  I think it would sell well if it was in a multi-pack.


Jun 18, 2010

Science Scene - Mars Mission Preview

The second phase of the Mars500 simulated mission to the Red Planet launched this on June 3, 2010, as six men -- a Frenchman, an Italian, one Chinese man and three Russians -- were locked inside a 19,500-cubic-foot facility outside of Moscow, where they will remain for the next 520 days.

The crew will remain completely isolated for that duration, going through the motions of a real manned mission to the Martian surface, including a 250 day journey just to get there, 30 days in orbit around mars, and 240 days for the return trip. During the 30 days in orbit around Mars, three of the crew members will "descend" to the surface in a landing module and two will actually conduct a spacewalk on a reconstructed Martian surface.

That's not to say the crew be totally cut off from their home planet. They will have access to email, though communications will be delayed by up to 40 minutes, just as they would be if the facility were humming through space millions of miles away.


Jun 15, 2010

Portland - Small and Clean

As I flew into Portland, the amount of green in the landscaping was breathtaking, and the trees nestled into the gentle curves of the Cascade mountains was spectacular.  There was a view of Crater Lake out the left hand of the plane, and it brought back fond memories of a recent visit out here with my wife and my folks.

Last night was quiet, spent in the hotel bar having dinner and watching the NBA Playoffs.  This morning, it was a search for a cup of coffee on my way to meetings, and an busy morning of work.

We took a lunch break and headed to a parking lot about seven blocks from the office, where we had a wide selection of Food Carts (Thai, Korean, Mexican, Greek, Slovick, ...).  I had Chicken Pod Thai, it was delicious, and yes, I used chop sticks.

Tonight for dinner we went to City Grill, on the 30th floor of the BofA building, and below are the pictures.  I had fresh, never frozen spring Salmon, with a Pinot Noir, it was awesome, one of the best Salmon dishes I have ever had.

Jun 13, 2010

Catch You In A Few :o)

When I did a search for Portland, Oregon, this is what I saw.  I am headed there today, and will be there Sunday through Wednesday, getting back very late.

So, as always, I will attempt to post, and read, and comment, but no promises.  I am definitely going to walk around downtown and see if I can find this building, I think the picture is awesome.

See you around the Bend when I get back :o)

Sunday Silliness - Quality :o)

The race for quality has no finish line- so technically, it's more like a death march.

Jun 11, 2010

Science Scene - Faster than Wind Car :o)

A California team recently tested a wind-powered car that can actually outrun the wind, adding more fuel to a lingering physics debate.
In a test three weeks ago, the car hit a top speed 2.86 times faster than the wind, according to its creators.

The creators had funding from Google and Joby Energy to build the car, basically an aerodynamic foam chassis attached to a wind turbine, with the San Jose State University aerodynamics department.

The wheels turn the car's propeller, and the prop thrust pushes the car, which turns the wheels. It's not a perpetual motion machine, because the prop is also using wind energy as an external power source.

The toughest part was designing a transmission system to transfer power from the wheels to the propeller. Design and construction took almost a year.

The next step is a land-sailing record certified by the North American Land Sailing Association.


Jun 10, 2010

Have you copied something questionable???

Issue:  CBS Special Report uncovered many businesses don't realize hard drives store sensitive data and can then be resold with the machine.  Nearly every copier built since 2002 contains a hard drive with the potential of storing an image of every document copied, scanned, or emailed by the machine.

“At no point is your data at greater risk than the day you allow a copier to leave your direct control. At lease maturity, at the end of its useful life, or anytime that you elect to upgrade or, for any reason, remove a copier from your premises, you must first assure that all sensitive data is permanently removed from the machine.”

Jon Leibowitz, the Chairman of the FTC, stated that “businesses and government agencies should ensure that the information on the hard drives in digital copiers are wiped clean of personal information after the conclusion of use.

Resolution:  Periodically "clean" your drive to eliminate the possibility of access to sensitive data.

Ensure your digital copy machine(s) have built-in security options to prevent subsequent retrieval of copies, so images (or scans) are erased from the hard drives of these devices. All major manufacturers offer security or encryption packages on their products that automatically erases an image from the hard drive; price tag is up to $500.

Jun 9, 2010

Science Scene - Heartfelt

Working 10 hours or more a day may harm the heart, according to a study of more than 10,000 British civil servants. 

People who added three or more hours to a seven-hour day had a 60 percent greater risk of heart attack, angina and death from cardiovascular disease than those with no overtime work, researchers from Britain, Finland and France reported in the European Heart Jour­nal. The findings are from the Whitehall II study, which has tracked British civil servants since 1985.

The results bolster evidence that suggests working over­time is linked to poor health and may play a greater role in heart disease than previously thought, wrote Gordon Mc­Innes, a professor of clinical pharmacology at the University of Glasgow, in an editorial ac­companying the study.

Physicians should consider working hours when patients experience chest pain or show symptoms of heart disease, he said.

"Employees with the highest risk of coronary heart disease claimed to work 11 to 12 hours per day, a most unusual work pattern certainly in the Euro­pean context," McInnes wrote. "Overtime-induced work stress might contribute to a substan­tial proportion of cardiovascu­lar disease."

About 10 percent of the civil servants tracked worked three or four extra hours a day. Those workers tended to have an aggressive and competi­tive pattern of behavior, signs of psychological distress, and possibly a lack of sleep, said the researchers, led by Marianna Virtanen of the Finnish Insti­tute of Occupational Health in Helsinki.

Over the 11 years studied, the researchers found 369 cases of fatal coronary heart disease, heart attacks that weren't lethal and angina, a severe chest pain caused by the narrowing of the arteries that supply the heart muscle. Additional studies are needed to explain the link between overtime and heart health, they said.

Cannot say that I am overly worried, since my norm has been 9-10 hour days on average, this is not a stressor for me.  However, if you suddenly find your work hours increased, beware the unseen consequences.

Jun 8, 2010

Philosophical Phun - Immigration

There are a variety of important issues surrounding the morality of immigration, including difficult questions regarding the definition and moral status of refugees, the circumstances (if any) in which it is permissible to use guest workers, what obligations a rich country incurs when it actively recruits skilled workers from a poor state, and whether there are any limitations on the selection criteria a country may use in deciding among applicants for immigration.

 Arguments for Closed Borders
  •  Preserving Culture: The most popular argument for the permissibility and importance of closing borders to outsiders is that this exclusion is necessary in order to preserve a state's distinctive culture.
  • Sustaining the Economy: Another popular argument against open borders is that the influx of newcomers will hurt the economy. Some in the domestic economy may be harmed (typically the less skilled workers disproportionately bear the brunt of the costs, but the economy as a whole often benefits.
  • Distributing State Benefits: A related but distinct argument for closed borders focuses on the distribution of state benefits like welfare payments and health insurance.
  •  Establishing Security: Since 9/11, an increasingly popular justification for limiting immigration is the need to secure the safety of one's citizens.

There certainly are strong economic and security reasons for having tighter borders, but I think it is more of a national thing, not a state thing.

Arguments for Open Borders

  •  Cosmopolitan Egalitarianism: The cosmopolitan egalitarian case for open borders combines the core moral insight that all human beings, whether they are compatriots or foreigners, are equally deserving of moral consideration with the central empirical observation that one's country of birth often has a profound impact upon one's life prospects.
  • Libertarianism: When one thinks of the individual rights which conflict with a state's control over immigration, an outsider's right to freedom of movement is likely to come to mind. A state's exclusive immigration policy is doubly disrespectful of individual rights, because it interferes with both an outsider's freedom of movement and an insider's property right to unilaterally invite foreigners onto their land.
  • Utilitarianism: Restricting freedom of movement leads to obvious inefficiencies and is therefore impermissible. There are any number of ways in which it is suboptimal to forcibly restrain people within territorial boundaries, but one of the most obvious worries is that it is economically inefficient.


  •  Refugees: The 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees defines a refugee as someone who “owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality, and is unable to or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country.” [Note that economic considerations are missing from the definition]
  • Guest Workers: This practice was a sensible solution for all, since it enabled one country to hire foreign workers to do various relatively onerous jobs for considerably less than it would have had to pay its domestic labor force, and the imported laborers also profited, as they were able to earn considerably more than they could have in their own countries. However, the outside workers are often not granted full rights/benefits in their host country. There are interesting and difficult questions about how long and under what conditions one can work in a foreign country without the standard rights and privileges of equal citizenship before one becomes objectionably treated as a political subordinate.
  • Recruiting Immigrants: Wealthy countries currently admit skilled workers from poorer states, often actively recruiting away from their native lands. It is thought to rise to the level of injustice when the wealthiest countries actively recruit professionals from developing countries where people with their skill sets are already in terribly short supply.
  • Selection Criteria: Finally, one of the most complex and controversial issues within the literature on the morality of immigration is what criteria a state may permissibly employ to distinguish among applicants for admission. Countries might use either a lottery or a first-come, first-admitted waitlist, but they might also screen the applicants and give preference to those whose language, culture and/or skill sets make them most likely to assimilate in the host state's economy and political culture. But what if a country's immigration policies differentiate among applicants on the basis of race, sex, religion or country of origin? What if a country flatly refused to even consider applications for immigration from Asians or Africans, for instance?

In all cases in which there are national or ethnic minorities—which is to say, the vast majority of actual cases—to restrict immigration for national or ethnic reasons is to make some citizens politically inferior to others…. Seeking to eliminate the presence of a given group from your society by selective immigration is insulting to that group already present.

To me, not withstanding all the above, democratic societies/states are obliged to treat all of their own constituents as free and equal. The key is to control the influx at the boarders (after all, we can not economically welcome all comers). Once in country, we have a more obligation to treat all humanely. I would rather have some illegal immigrants in our country than resort to police state tactics.


Jun 7, 2010

Science Scene - Quiet Stadium?

South Africa's Sturdy Stadium The 4,700-ton glass roof is supported by 72 radial steel cables arranged symmetrically around the arena to steady the structure against high winds. City of Cape Town

When the World Cup kicks off in South Africa this month, the 69,070 soccer fans inside the new Cape Town Stadium will scream at the top of their lungs to urge on their favorite team. But thanks to some clever engineering, the people living nearby will hear hardly a peep.

The open-air stadium sits in Cape Town's tony Green Point neighborhood, where residents had raised concerns about crowd noise. To keep fans' cheers to a minimum outside the building, a design team from the German engineering firm Schlaich Bergermann topped the structure with the world's largest glass ceiling. The 398,265-square-foot roof consists of 9,000 half-inch-thick glass panels, arranged in a ring above the stands, and a Teflon and fiberglass mesh suspended below the glass. Together they reflect the crowd's roar back onto the field and stands (potentially handing an advantage to the team with the loudest cheering section) to prevent noise from escaping through the roof's central hole.

The roof will also protect fans from the Cape's notoriously fickle weather. Locals joke that you can experience all four seasons in a day because of wind kicked up by the nearby convergence of two major ocean currents: warm from the Indian Ocean and cold from the Atlantic. Combined with turbulent winds spilling off the city's Table Mountain, gusts can reach more than 50 miles an hour. The roof's concave shape deflects the wind and redirects it around the stadium. Let the games begin.


Jun 6, 2010

Facebook Cult?

While Mark Zuckerberg's interview at the recent D8 Conference was less than stellar, more attention has been given to an insignia covertly hidden on the inside of his signature hoodie, than to his painstaking nervous responses.

Feeling the heat in the room, literally and figuratively, the "insignia reveal" would have never seen the light of day had not 'All Things Digital' Kara Swisher suggested Zuckerberg remove his infamous hoodie, less he sweat himself silly right before their very eyes. What was exposed was a Facebook seal that had a retro-cultish-draconian type of image - which shocked Swisher into exclaiming, "Oh my God. You're a cult."

The reason the insignia was kept within the inner circles of Facebook up till now, is probably the most disturbing part of this story. In a world that Zuckerberg professes he would like to see 'free,' 'transparent,' and 'open,' perhaps he should apply those same requisites to his own behavior, particularly when proselytizing before large audiences that he would like to convert into future Facebook evangelists.

I do not think it is a cult, but is sure is addicting :o)

Sunday Silliness - Propaganda :o)

Jun 5, 2010

Summer Time and Cold Beer

I want something like this here, especially when it is hot and humid :o)

How cool is the Asahi Super Dry Extra Cold Bar? See for yourself: the digital LED display shining out from the front window shows the interior temperature - prefaced by a minus sign.

Once you get inside the company brew pub located in Tokyo's ritzy Ginza district, order up a cold one or pour it yourself from the stylish frozen draft towers. The beer's served colder than room temperature; usually standard practice but even more so when the room is as cold as ice!


Jun 4, 2010

Bucko's Bucks - 2011 Taxes?

Tax Day 2010 has come and gone, but it's never too early to start planning for the next tax year. Here is what is in store for 2011.

More Making Work Pay Credit. The credit, aimed at the middle class as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, provides taxpayers with a refundable tax credit of up to $400 for working individuals and up to $800 for married couples filing joint returns, so long as they otherwise qualify. As before, most taxpayers will see an adjustment in their withholding amounts in their paychecks throughout the year, resulting in a small increase in take-home pay; taxpayers will actually claim the credit on their 2010 tax returns.

No deduction for sales tax on the purchase of a new vehicle. The tax provision that allowed taxpayers to take the itemized deduction or increase in standard deduction for sales tax on the purchase of a new motor vehicle has expired.

No more state and local sales tax deduction. In 2009, taxpayers who itemized were able to deduct their state sales tax payments instead of deducting their state and local income taxes. This provision ended after December 31, 2009 -- although Congress could decide to extend it.

Roth IRA conversions. In 2010, the rules governing who can invest in a Roth are a bit different. The change, which was signed into law as part of the Tax Increase Prevention and Reconciliation Act of 2005 (TIPRA), allows anyone with an existing traditional IRA to convert to a Roth IRA -- regardless of their income -- for one year. The tax attributable for any such conversion will be paid in 2011 and 2012. The rules that otherwise govern establishing and making contributions to new Roth IRAs will not change.

Homebuyer's Tax Credit payback begins. For 2009, the first-time home buyer's credit was a flat out credit -- no repayment required. However, the first iteration of the bill, which was part of the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008, required the repayment of the credit over a period of 15 years. For taxpayers who claimed the credit in 2008, repayment begins with the filing of their 2010 tax return.

No change in the gift tax exclusion. Inflation didn't move much at all from 2009 to 2010, which means that the annual gift-tax exclusion of $13,000 also won't change. For 2010, a U.S. taxpayer can give away $13,000 per person (to one person or a million different people -- the exclusion is unlimited) without any tax considerations.

No federal estate tax. When the federal estate tax was repealed -- for one year -- under the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001, it was widely believed that Congress would tweak the law to avoid the repeal before we actually made it to 2010. However, in a stunning show of inaction (some are calling it "Congressional malpractice"), Congress has simply chosen to do nothing. The result? No federal estate tax for 2010. But don't get too comfortable: In 2011, the federal estate tax is reinstated with a lower personal exemption ($1 million) and a higher tax rate (55%) than in 2009.

Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) exemption rollbacks. For 2009, the AMT exemption was $46,700 for individual taxpayers; $70,950 for married taxpayers filing jointly or for qualifying widow(er)s; and $35,475 if married filing separately. But for 2010, these exemption amounts will drop back to $33,750 for single taxpayers; $45,000 for married taxpayers filing jointly or for qualifying widower(s); and $22,500 if married filing separately in 2010. The scaled back exemption rate is expected to affect a whopping one in five taxpayers.

No change in the Medicare tax (yet). The health care reform bill pushed through a number of tax provisions affecting employers and individual taxpayers. Most of the changes, however, including an additional Medicare tax on higher-income individuals, won't kick in until 2013. There is no change for 2010.

Unemployment income tax breaks expire. For 2009, unemployed taxpayers who received related benefits could exclude up to $2,400 from their taxable income. Unless Congress votes to change the law for 2010, this tax benefit will no longer be available.

See full article from WalletPop

Jun 3, 2010

e-Mail Effing Tips :o)

I know that I struggle with e-mails, and everything that goes with it.  Sure, it is a great way to stay informed, to be alerted when people comment or update on [fill in the application here], or to know when you have a new bill or payment or deposit or.....  But in this new information age, it is important to practice some common courtesy when e-mailing, and to do some e-mail management.  See some e-mail efficiency tips below:

1. Keep it brief. Easier for the writer, easier for the reader.

2. Stay focused. Each e-Mail should be on a single subject, with an appropriate subject line.

3. Keep a sense of proportion! Don’t flag an email as “urgent” unless it really is urgent!

4. Unsubscribe. Sure, it may take only a second to delete it when it arrives, but seeing emails flooding into your in-box is so unpleasant; take a few extra seconds to stop those emails at the source.

5. Manage your notifications. When you set up a Twitter account, a Facebook account, a Goodreads profile, a YouTube channel, and the like, pay very careful attention to the notifications. Do you really want to be notified when X, Y, or Z happens? And if you realize later you’re getting notifications you don’t want, take a minute to change your settings.

Source: Happiness-Project

Jun 2, 2010

Leading With Responsibility

Leadership: The courage to take prudent risks to move yourself and other in the direction of doing the right thing that adds value for all stakeholders. Attributes - motivate and vision

Managing is doing things right: Planning, Organizing, Staffing, Directing, Monitoring, Controlling. Attributes - analyzer and task master.

Leading With Responsibility (shown in order of growing self awareness):
  • Manipulating, attribute is control. Blame others.
  • Conforming, attribute is acceptance. Excuses. Wait for others to take action. Victim.
  • Achieving, attribute is do more. I, my are heard often.
  • Inspiring, attribute is love/compassion. We, our are heard often.
Courtesy of David Antonioni, PH.D., Wisconsin School of Business.

Jun 1, 2010

Science Scene - Not A Brush, Fuller model shows promise

Our Fuller Wind Turbine, a new type of boundary-layer, bladeless wind turbine has been granted U.S. Patent No. 7,695,242. The turbine is based on a 1913 Tesla patent, specially modified for wind generation applications. [How forward thinking some of our early scientists and engineers were!]

Solar Aero’s completely enclosed model avoids drawbacks of bladed turbines such as noise, radar interference, visual pollution and wildlife injuries — while retaining high efficiency ratings. With only one rotating component (a turbine/driveshaft/alternator assembly) and no heavily loaded bearings, the turbine is expected to deliver power at a cost comparable to coal-fired power plants.

Our turbine has lower maintenance requirements than bladed turbines. In addition, all generation equipment can be located at ground level while the turbine is supported on magnetic bearings, thus eliminating the need for up-tower routine maintenance. Yaw bearings will be permanently lubricated. Reduced life-cycle costs make the unit desirable for urban rooftops and for use where support and maintenance infrastructure is limited.

The non-interfering nature of this design makes it suitable for erection near military surveillance and radar installations.