Sep 30, 2010

Procrastination Avoidance

We all have to make ourselves do things that we just don’t want to do. Here are some tricks to power through the procrastination.

1. Do it first thing in the morning. If you’re dreading doing something, you’re going to be able to think of more creative excuses as the day goes along. Without delay is the easiest way.
2. If you find yourself putting off a task that you try to do several times a week, try doing it EVERY day, instead. 
3. Have someone keep you company. Studies show that we enjoy practically every activity more when we’re with other people. Having a friend along can be a distraction, a source of reassurance, or just moral support.
4. Make preparations, assemble the proper tools. Dividing a tough task into preparation and execution makes it easier to tackle.
5. Commit. We’ve all heard the advice to write down your goals. This really works, so force yourself to do it. Usually this advice relates to long-term goals, but it works with short-term goals, too. On the top of a piece of paper, write, “By the end of today, I will have _____.” 
6. First things first. That is, make sure you don't use little tasks to push offbig tasks. I find myself answering email instead of writing, or reading Twitter instead of logging in my research notes. These smaller tasks are important and worthwhile, but I shouldn't use them to delay more taxing work.
7. Reflect on the great feeling you'll get when you've finished. Studies show that hitting a goal releases chemicals in the brain that give you pleasure. 
What strategies do you use to stop procrastinating?

Sep 29, 2010

Science Scene - Robo Robin Hood?

Using a learning algorithm, Italian researchers taught a child-like humanoid robot archery.

Petar Kormushev, Sylvain Calinon and Ryo Saegusa of the Italian Institute of Technology developed an algorithm called "Archer," for Augmented Reward Chained Regression. The iCub robot is taught how to hold the bow and arrow, but then learns by itself how to aim and shoot the arrow so it hits the center of a target.

The team used an iCub, a small humanoid robot designed to look like a 3-year-old child. It was developed by a consortium of European universities with the goal of mimicking and understanding cognition, according to Technology Review. It has several physical and visual sensors, and "Archer" takes advantage of them to provide more feedback than other learning algorithms, the researchers say.

The team will present their findings with the archery learning algorithm at the Humanoids 2010 conference in December.

Sep 28, 2010

Science Scene - Power to the Pooper Scooper

Good dog parents might think they’re doing their part by using biodegradable baggies to pick up after their pooches. But after Fido’s feces go in the trash can and to a landfill, they release methane gas, a significant contributor to the greenhouse effect. A dog park in Cambridge, Mass., has a solution: Add in a methane digester, and let your dog waste power the streetlights, tea cart and popcorn machine.

The Park Spark methane digester, unveiled this week, only powers a streetlight for now. But it’s a neat concept: Replace trash cans with a public methane digester, and you demonstrate how simple it can be to turn waste into fuel.

“As long as people own pets in the city and throw away dog waste, the production of energy will be continuous and unlimited,” the project’s Web site says.

The project involves three basic steps: Throw your dog’s waste into the digester, where anaerobic bacteria are ready to break it down. Stir the mixture to help methane rise to the top, and burn the methane to generate light or electricity.

After picking up their dogs' waste in biodegradable bags, visitors to the Park Spark digester can feed the waste through an above-ground tube, and stir it with a hand crank. The bacteria container is buried underground and the methane is piped through the ground to the streetlamp, which burns with an eternal flame. Eventually, the project leaders want to use dog-generated methane to power vendor carts selling human food.


Sep 27, 2010

September 17 Napa Trip

On my recent trip to San Francisco, I had the opportunity to go to Napa Valley.  Since there was a group of 45 of us going, we only wend to a single winery, but it was fabulous.

We departed the hotel at 9 AM and headed for the Golden Gate Bridge.  It was very foggy, and when we stopped on the Marin County Side, we could not see much of the bridge, but it is alway fun to stop and look back.

We arrived at our destination about 2 hours later, and much to my surprise, it was Castillo Di Amorosa, a relatively new winery that is owned by Dario Sattui, the owner of my favorite winery V. Sattui.  Below are two pictures.  The castle took 15 years to build and is comprised of 127 rooms.  The bricks and stones are from Europe, and the traditional Tuscany building style was followed.

We had a private tour, a private tasting of five wines (good but not quite up to par with V. Sattui yet), and a catered sit down Italian lunch (with plenty more wine).

It was a great day shared with great people, and I look forward to going back again some day.

Castello Di Amorsa

Sep 25, 2010

Do You Floss?

There are so many more ways to use dental floss than just to keep your teeth and gums healthy.  Because it's made with nylon or Teflon fibers, floss is stronger than string or thread, easier to work with than wire and you can get it cheap at most dollar stores. Here are just a few of the alternative uses for dental floss:

Hang time- Use dental floss to hang pictures, sun catchers or Christmas ornaments. In fact, you can use it to hang just about any smallish object in need of string or wire.

Sew neat- If you've ever had a button that keeps coming off, try dental floss instead of thread the next time you sew it on. Floss is also strong enough to repair tears in mess on things like playpens, beach bags and laundry bags.

A cut above- If you wrap a length of dental floss around one finger on each hand, you can cut perfect cake slices. It's cleaner and neater than using a knife. You can cut fruit, soft cheese, bread and hard-boiled eggs this way, too.

It's a wrap- Use dental floss, instead of twine, to securely tie packages for mailing.

Ivy league- Support climbing plants by using a piece of dental floss to tie them to a trellis.

See full article from WalletPop:

Sep 24, 2010

PantyHose Uses :o)

Pantyhose -- the bane and blessing of women's fashion -- have been around for a long time. The nylon-and-spandex invention blossomed in the '60s, when miniskirts arrived and garters and stockings made their way to the specialty section of stores.  So, what to do with pantyhose after they've run their course?

Soap on a rope: You know all those end-of-use slivers of soap that fall out of your hands, but you can't bear to throw away? Jam them into a pantyhose toe, tie it off, and soap up. 

Onion caddy: Onions, when stored improperly, are known to develop smelly, black mold and become squishy. Here's a great way to store them in used pantyhose: slide those babies into the hose leg, separate and tie off each onion with a twist tie, and hang the bulbous plants in a dry place that's easy to access.  We do this, it is awesome.
Sweet smell of sachet: Sachets fastened out of cotton prints are nice. But what's more practical than putting your dried lavender, juniper and eucalyptus leaves into a length of pantyhose? Tie off the stocking at each end (you can replace the flowers when they lose their fragrance) and stick it in a drawer or closet.

Vacuum filter: This device is meant for sucking up small items, such as a coin, contact lens or tiny gem. Cut off the leg of the used pantyhose, keeping the toe section intact. Pull it over the nozzle of your vacuum cleaner hose. Secure the stocking with a rubber band or metal tie. 

Keep it cool (and warm): Partially fill pantyhose with kitty litter to seal off cold drafts from under doors and windows.

Shoe shine: Lost the soft cloth for shining your shoes?

Soft scrubber: Need your tile cleaned, mold removed, silver polished, table shined? Use old pantyhose and avoid scratching those surfaces. 

Artsy artifice: Give a gauzy look to a photograph by stretching pantyhose over your camera lens.

See full article from WalletPop:

Sep 21, 2010

Travel Time - Overland Park, KS

This should be the last business trip for a while.  It has been a busy September.  Quick two day trip to Overland Park, Kansas, for a Utilities Services Alliance (USA) meeting.  This is a group of 13 single site nuclear plants that formed an alliance to get some leverage from a fleet type alignment.  This meeting is the Strategic Alliance annual meeting, where those who perform long range planning get together to determine if there are some common contracts when can develop to leverage the fleet.  Back late Thursday night :o)

Sep 20, 2010

Philosophical Phun- Enlightenment :o)

The Enlightenment is the period in the history of western thought and culture, stretching roughly from the mid-decades of the seventeenth century through the eighteenth century, characterized by dramatic revolutions in science, philosophy, society and politics; these revolutions swept away the medieval world-view and ushered in our modern western world. 

Enlightenment thought culminates historically in the political upheaval of the French Revolution, in which the traditional hierarchical political and social orders (the French monarchy, the privileges of the French nobility, the political power and authority of the Catholic Church) were violently destroyed and replaced by a political and social order informed by the Enlightenment ideals of freedom and equality for all, founded, ostensibly, upon principles of human reason. 

The dramatic success of the new science in explaining the natural world, in accounting for a wide variety of phenomena by appeal to a relatively small number of elegant mathematical formulae, promotes philosophy (in the broad sense of the time, which includes natural science) from a handmaiden of theology, constrained by its purposes and methods, to an independent force with the power and authority to challenge the old and construct the new, in the realms both of theory and practice, on the basis of its own principles. 

Many of the leading issues and positions of contemporary philosophical ethics take shape within the Enlightenment. Prior to the Enlightenment in the West, ethical reflection begins from and orients itself around religious doctrines concerning God and the afterlife. The highest good of humanity, and, accordingly, the content and grounding of moral duties, are conceived in immediately religious terms. During the Enlightenment, this changes, certainly within philosophy, but to some significant degree, within the population of western society at large. As the processes of industrialization, urbanization, and dissemination of education advance in this period, happiness in this life, rather than union with God in the next, becomes the highest end for more and more people. 

Also, the violent religious wars that bloody Europe in the early modern period motivate the development of secular, this-worldly ethics, insofar as they indicate the failure of religious doctrines concerning God and the afterlife to establish a stable foundation for ethics. In the Enlightenment, philosophical thinkers confront the problem of developing ethical systems on a secular, broadly naturalistic basis for the first time since the rise of Christianity eclipsed the great classical ethical systems. 

The general philosophical problem emerges in the Enlightenment of how to understand the source and grounding of ethical duties, and how to conceive the highest good for human beings, within a secular, broadly naturalistic context, and within the context of a transformed understanding of the natural world.

Deism. Deism is the form of religion most associated with the Enlightenment. According to deism, we can know by the natural light of reason that the universe is created and governed by a supreme intelligence; however, although this supreme being has a plan for creation from the beginning, the being does not interfere with creation; the deist typically rejects miracles and reliance on special revelation as a source of religious doctrine and belief, in favor of the natural light of reason. Thus, a deist typically rejects the divinity of Christ, as repugnant to reason; the deist typically demotes the figure of Jesus from agent of miraculous redemption to extraordinary moral teacher.  Opposition to deism derives sometimes from the perception of it as coldly rationalistic. The God of the deists, arrived at through a priori or empirical argument and referred to as the Prime Mover or Original Architect, is often perceived as distant and unconcerned with the daily struggles of human existence, and thus as not answering the human needs from which religion springs in the first place. 

Atheism. Atheism is more present in the French Enlightenment than elsewhere. In the writings of Denis Diderot, atheism is partly supported by an expansive, dynamic conception of nature. According to the viewpoint developed by Diderot, we ought to search for the principles of natural order within natural processes themselves, not in a supernatural being. Even if we don't yet know the internal principles for the ordering and development of natural forms, the appeal to a transcendent author of such things is reminiscent, to Diderot's ear, of the appeal to Aristotelian “substantial forms” that was expressly rejected at the beginning of modern science as explaining nothing. 

I find that those who claim to be enlightened today do not have a flipping clue as to what they are talking about.  This was about scientific and true moralistic and ethical thought, especially after the crusades and their bloody aftermath, not about divine intervention.  Give me back my history and my constitution, not your twisted conservative and historically inaccurate view of it.  Just Say'in :o)


Sep 19, 2010

Talk Like A Pirate Day :o)

September 19th (every year)

is International Talk Like A Pirate Day

The dictionary defines "savvy" as "wisdom, understanding." Used as a question,it can be taken to mean "get it?"  Lasses, do not be offended, after all, it is Talk Like A Pirate Day :o)

S-is for the way you SASS my way!
 A-is for the ASS I kicked today!/
V and V-is VERY, VERY,/ stuck on how you're scary
Y-is for your YAP that's flappin'/ cuz ye won't shut yer trap and ...

SAVVY is just how bright you seem to me./ SAVVY an understanding wench, ye be. 
Our love stands the measure 
You know you're my buried treasure 
SAVVY is why you've chosen me!

Go Here for More :o)

Sunday Silliness - Strife :o)

Sep 18, 2010

International Eat An Apple Day :oD

International Eat an Apple Day
“An Apple a day help keeps the doctor away”
Celebrating the coming of fall and its harvest of fruits, especially the apple.

Apples are low in calories and high in disease-fighting antioxidants.  For maximum fiber, eat them unpeeled.

Sep 14, 2010

Travel Time - San Francisco

Off to the City by the Bay for a users group meeting.  Leaving Tuesday, returning late Saturday night.  Hope to get some pictures to post, and especially hoping to see my good friend Todd.  Who knows, there might even be a Napa Trip in there somewhere (Friday :o)

I lived in the Bay Area for six years, and it is without a doubt one of my favorite places.

Sep 13, 2010

Science Scene - Tidal Power

The world's largest tidal turbine, standing more than 5 stories tall, has been unveiled in Scotland, before being installed in the waters off Orkney later this summer. The Atlantis Resources Corporation's AT-1000 turbine is 22.5 meters (73 feet) tall and has a rotor diameter of 18 meters (59 feet) and weighs 130 tonnes. It will produce 1 MW of power from a water velocity of 2.65 meters (8.7 feet) per second.

"The giant turbine is expected to be environmentally benign due to a low rotation speed whilst in operation and will deliver predictable, sustainable power to the local Orkney grid." The turbine blades will only turn at a rate of 6 to 8 revolutions per minute.

The tidal turbine project is connected to a plan for a data center located in northern Scotland and intended to be powered entirely by tidal power. Tidal power offers a predicatable, reliable energy source. Water is 832 times as dense as air, making it possible to draw similar amounts of energy from a much smaller turbine unit. However, the harsh marine conditions that underwater equipment must face has made development of tidal energy a slower process.

Tidal energy generation currently needs headlands, islands, channels etc. to focus the power, accelerating it up to the cut in speeds of the current production tidal turbines (ie 2.6m/s in above article). These spots are the sweet spots where the first generation of tidal turbines will be tested. If they make it into mainstream volume production and become more efficient, more cost effective, etc. then they'll start working down to the lower speed sites of large ocean currents. Just the same way that the wind energy industry has developed. Tidal is currently 20-30 years behind wind energy industry but will potentially develop faster due to modern CFD, production technology and dual looming crises of peak oil and climate change. Tim Divett, PhD Student (Tidal Energy), University of Otago, New Zealand.


Sep 8, 2010

Travel Time - Sioux Falls, SD

Today, I am off to Sioux Falls, SD, for a Project Management Institute, Regional Leadership Meeting.  Catch you on the flipside (returning on Saturday).

I am looking forward to seeing the above image in person :o)

Sep 7, 2010

Philosophical Phun- The Power of Nature:o)

In the late 1990s, Frances Kuo, director of the Landscape and Human Health Laboratory at the University of Illinois, began interviewing female residents in the Robert Taylor Homes, a massive housing project on the South Side of Chicago. 
Kuo and her colleagues compared women randomly assigned to various apartments. Some had a view of nothing but concrete sprawl, the blacktop of parking lots and basketball courts. Others looked out on grassy courtyards filled with trees and flowerbeds. Kuo then measured the two groups on a variety of tasks, from basic tests of attention to surveys that looked at how the women were handling major life challenges. She found that living in an apartment with a view of greenery led to significant improvements in every category.
What happened? Kuo argues that simply looking at a tree “refreshes the ability to concentrate,” allowing the residents to better deal with their problems. Instead of getting flustered and angry, they could stare out the window and relax. In other words, there is something inherently “restorative” about natural setting – places without people are good for the mind.
What does this mean? It simply means that it’s a good idea to build a little greenery into our life. This isn’t a particularly new idea. Long before scientists fretted about the cognitive load of city streets, philosophers and landscape architects were warning about the effects of the undiluted city, and looking for ways to integrate nature into modern life. Landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted sought to create vibrant urban parks, such as Central Park in New York and the Emerald Necklace in Boston, that allowed the masses to escape the maelstrom of urban life. 
I know that our backyard scenes bring us many hours of enjoyment and contentment.

Sep 6, 2010

Science Scene - Flywheel Power Plant

The world's first grid-scale flywheel power plant is opening in Stephentown, New York by the end of this year.  The plant, being built by Beacon Power, will store excess energy from the grid as kinetic energy that will be tapped for electricity when other sources are overloaded or unavailable.
The Smart Energy 25 flywheel system includes a rotating carbon-fiber composite rim, levitated on hybrid magnetic bearings operating in a near-frictionless vacuum-sealed environment. The rim itself is fabricated from a patented combination of high-strength, lightweight fiber composites, including graphite and fiberglass combined with resins, which allow the flywheel to rotate at high speeds (16,000 rpm) and store large amounts of energy as compared to flywheels made from metals. To reach its operational speed, the system draws electricity from the grid to power a permanent magnet motor. As the rim spins faster, it stores energy kinetically. The flywheel can spin for very extended periods with great efficiency because friction and drag are reduced by the use of magnetic bearings in a vacuum-sealed environment. Because it incurs low friction, little power is required to maintain the flywheel's operating speed.
When a grid operator sends a signal that requests the system to absorb power, the Smart Energy Matrix uses power from the grid to drive the motor/generator, which in turn spins up the flywheel. When a signal is sent for electrical power to be provided, the momentum of the spinning flywheel drives a generator and the kinetic energy is converted into electrical energy for release to the grid.

Sep 4, 2010

Go Irish

Today is the opener for the Fighting Irish football season.  We have tickets (thanks Andy) and are really looking forward to the game.  Some tailgating and good football.  I expect to be able to report a win when we return :o)

Sep 3, 2010

Science Scene - TNT Blown Away?

The U.S. army has enjoyed a long and incendiary relationship with TNT, but the explosive that has provided the pop in everything from artillery shells to demolition munitions could be on its way out.

The Army has approved a safer, more stable alternative to replace the TNT in 155-millimeter artillery shells, and engineers at Picatinny Arsenal where it was tested say it could completely replace TNT in Army and Marine munitions within a decade.

The new explosive, IMX-101 (for Insensitive Munitions Explosive 101) is just as powerful as TNT, but brings a lot less risk to the table.

Researchers at Picatinny Arsenal found that during loading, storage, and transport, the IMX-101 remained far more stable than traditional TNT, which can be highly temperamental. BAE Systems, maker of the new explosive, designed it to remain chemically stable when subjected to shocks like those created by explosions (with RPGs and IEDs in mind), fire, impact by shrapnel, and gunfire.

IMX-101 costs more than TNT, but the more the military buys the cheaper it gets, and that economies of scale may further accelerate its adoption in other large-caliber munitions. Having a less volatile explosive means the military can store more of the stuff in one place and transport more of it in any given vehicle than they could previously. That cuts down on supply chain problems and logistical headaches, not to mention the vulnerability of convoys delivering the goods in combat zones.

Sep 2, 2010

Burst Your Bubble :o)

I recently came across this picture, and it really captivated me.  Can you provide a caption ?

Here is my mine:  Oh Anonymous Proxy, I am flattered that you check me on average once a day, but frankly my dear, I hate to burst your bubble, I do not give a damn :o)

Sep 1, 2010

Science Scene - Space Junk Net :o)

DARPA is considering a space junk capturing vehicle armed with 200 nets that gathers space garbage, much as a lepidopterist would net butterflies for a specimen collection. The technology was presented on Friday at the annual Space Elevator conference.

The Electrodynamic Debris Eliminator, or EDDE, is the brainchild of engineers at Star Inc. In practice, EDDE would zip around low earth orbit snaring bits of space garbage in its many nets where they cannot be a menace to other orbiting spacecraft. Star's CEO estimates that over seven years, 12 EDDE craft could clean up all 2,465 objects over 4.5 pounds that are currently being tracked through LEO.

Once EDDE has a piece of space junk cornered, it can either hurl it into the South Pacific where it has little chance of doing any harm, or put it on a trajectory to burn up during re-entry. Or, Star insists, the pieces of junk could be recycled right there in space to create raw materials for the construction of future orbiting space stations or satellites.

It sounds pretty out there, but Star has already begun testing the tech and should conduct a test flight in 2013. If that succeeds, EDDEs could begin a full cleanup operation in LEO by 2017.