Oct 30, 2010

Philosophical Phun- Humanity :o)

"We are mortal animals with an inevitable expiration date and we have the unenviable capacity to know it."  Paul Pardi, Philosophy News.

How do animals live?  Survive the best you can (eat, sleep, defecate, frolic...), raise the next generation, and when its time to go, leave this fleeting place with perhaps a precious few having a lingering memory or our existence. This is our essence and we must deal with it.

To be human is to be dissatisfied with this essence. To be human is to transcend the mere functions of the body and mind and to become something more.  We are beings with the ability to make choices that shape what we can become.  We believe we have choice, that our future is not predetermined, and that with enough will-power and effort we can bend our corner of the universe according to our hopes and dreams.  To be human, is to fully embrace our chaotic reality and acknowledge that it is solitary, brutish and short. Ultimately, the universe wins but we strive to become and not merely be anyway.

We want life to mean something, however small, to the wider world.  We want to be more than just having been.  It’s to endeavor to expand beyond ourselves, if such a thing is possible, and become something more than common.  The paradox is that the more we try, the harder and more demanding it becomes.

Self Realization!

Oct 29, 2010

The Haunted Meeting

In the spirit of Halloween, with this the last working day prior to, here is one of my BobandTom classic favorites.

Here is a ">link to their website :o)

Oct 28, 2010

Science Scene - Dog Shake Geekiness :o)

A Georgia Institute of Technology team built a mathematical model of the processes involved, reasoning that surface tension between the water and the dog's hair is what keeps the dog wet. Overcoming that tension requires a centripetal force that exceeds it.

As centripetal force varies with distance from the centre of the creature, its radius is therefore crucial to work out the speed of the oscillations. The team arrived at an equation that calculates the frequency of that oscillation as R0.5.
To test that hypothesis, the team filmed a wide range of dogs shaking, and used the images to calculate the period of oscillation. For a labrador retriever, that turned out to be 4.3 Hz. He then expanded the search, filming animals as small as mice (27 Hz) and as large as bears (4 Hz).
So the bigger the animal, the slower it can shake to achieve comparable drying, but the relationship isn’t linear. Instead, it approaches a limit of 4 Hz as an animal grows in size.
Please, Do Not Try This At Home :o)

Oct 27, 2010

Conflict Resolution :o)

Conflicts on teams are a fact of life! Only on rare occasions do conflicts not arise - even on the smallest projects conflicts rear their ugly heads! It's human nature to have conflicts and it arises for any number of reasons, including:

  • Misunderstandings
  • Personality clashes
  • Disagreements about the right way to approach a problem
  • Egos

As a team leader/member (after all, we are all leaders at times, regardless of title, it is a behavior - not a title), part of your responsibilities includes managing conflicts. The best way to manage a conflict is to ensure that the parties involved in the conflict are the ones developing the solution. You can't resolve it for them; they have to come to agreement on how to resolve the conflict themselves.

Here are some suggestions to get you moving in the right direction:

Schedule a first meeting with the individuals who are having the conflict to discuss:
  • What is (are) the issue(s)? Get it all out on the table - let them vent.
  • What are their perspectives?
  • Work with the parties to develop criteria for solutions to their conflict.
  • Ask them to think about what they can do to get past the issue, or put it aside, based on the criteria for resolution they agreed to, in order to move forward with working together. What alternatives exist? This should happen overnight - let them sleep on it.

Schedule a meeting for the following day to discuss how the conflict between the individuals might be resolved.
  • Ask them their ideas on how to move forward with resolving the issue - what did they think about the evening before, based on the criteria agreed to, that may help to resolve the conflict.
  •  What alternatives can they come up with to work together effectively?
  • Can they come to consensus on any of the alternatives?

Your role here will be to get them talking to each other about their ideas to resolve the conflict and, ideally, coming to a consensus on how to resolve it.

Once a consensus has been reached - or there is agreement on how to work together in spite of the conflict between them - review what was agreed and get their commitment that they will continue to work on the resolution of the conflict (as we know it won't go away immediately!) and abide by the plan they developed to resolve it.

Bear in mind that sometimes a conflict cannot be resolved. For example, you may have two individuals on the project team that just are not going to get along no matter what - too much has happened between them. If you can't help them resolve their conflict, they must, at the very least, work together professionally for the good of the team and the project. Your job in this case, then is to help them figure out how they are going to get through this project being cordial and professional with each other.


Oct 26, 2010

Science Scene - PortaPower

In many areas of the world, and also during times of natural disasters, clean drinking water and access to power are scarce.  Company "The Essential Element" has designed the Hydra water purifier and fuel cell to take care of both of those problems at once.

A Hopewell, N.J., company called The Essential Element aims to provide all three with a mobile device that it says purifies more than 87,000 liters of water a day. The device will simultaneously create hydrogen for running an onboard fuel cell or for burning in a separate camp-style cooking stove. The unit also has wall sockets that can be used to charge cell  phones and run other electronics.

Best of all, the system, called the Hydra, gets all its power from the sun. The Hydra’s 3.65- by 2.74-meter solar panel, which is 8 percent efficient, generates 2.88 kilowatts. That is enough to do the following: power a 900-watt pump that draws water to and through the unit’s self-cleaning filtration device, top off a bank of lead-acid gel batteries capable of storing 900 ampere-hours, and run an electrolyzer that splits enough water to fill a 0.37-cubic-meter propane tank with hydrogen pressurized to 140,000 kilograms per square meter.

The hydrogen stored during the day is consumed by a fuel cell to power the pump and water purifier at night, as well as power communication devices or a camp stove. The electricity from the fuel cell and the photovoltaic panels, which sit atop a 4.9-meter-long wheeled trailer, can also power other gadgets and communications gear through 110 volts or 230 V AC and 12 V DC sockets in the trailer.


Oct 25, 2010

Science Scene - Disaster Lab

The insurance industry is doing its best to create a tempest in a teapot.
On Tuesday, the industry-funded Institute for Business & Home Safety will open a facility that breaks new ground in the world of disaster labs: replicating hurricane conditions on a large scale.
A test conducted at the Institute for Business and Home Safety's newly opened disaster lab subjects houses to 96 mph winds -- simulating a Category 3 hurricane.
The $40 million research center, set on 90 acres in Richburg, S.C., features a massive test chamber as tall as a six-story building that can hold nine 2,300-square-foot homes on a turntable. Those homes can be subjected to tornado-strength winds generated by 105 giant fans. Mix in water from the 750,000-gallon tanks, and researchers can simulate Category 3 hurricanes.

Performing Practice Disasters

Andy McMillan for The Wall Street Journal
See inside the Institute for Business & Home Safety's new research facility.

IBHS's new facility will give insurers the ability to carefully videotape what happens as powerful winds blow over structures. In the past, researchers largely relied on wind data from universities or computer simulations and rummaged through damage zones or photographed them from helicopters.

Property and casualty insurers are looking to reduce their risk on the $9 trillion in U.S. property exposed to hurricanes from Texas to Maine. Insured catastrophic losses were $7.9 billion in the first half of 2010, up $200 million from 2009, according to the Insurance Information Institute in New York.

The new IBHS lab will be the first to replicate hurricanes with winds channeling water through homes and ripping off roofs, doors and windows. The center can also replicate wild fires. "We can throw embers into the channel and introduce them into the wind field much like a wild fire," said Joseph King, a spokesman for the IBHS.

If you watch the video, they state that the difference between getting blown away and standing firm is $5,000 in improvements.  Amazing.


Oct 23, 2010

Mish Mash - What kind of forecast is that?

The National Weather Service, its task simplified by a strengthening la Nina cool patch in the Pacific Ocean, has issued its winter weather forecast for the United States. The Pacific Northwest is expected to be substantially colder and wetter than usual, the Southwest hotter and drier and conditions elsewhere mostly an unpredictable mishmash. 

For the full and detailed predictions, go here.

Oct 21, 2010

Mirror, Mirror ...

Macy's shoppers can now check their look in a "magic mirror" in a fitting room, thanks to touchscreen computing.  A large mirror, linked up to a touchscreen tablet computer, lets visitors to the iconic department store chain's flagship New York location scroll through their options, then digitally "try on" clothes in the mirror.  Then they can get quick feedback from friends by posting their image to Facebook or sending it in an e-mail or text.

Equipped with a large, 72-inch digital mirror boasting 1,024 touch points and connected to an iPad, the Magic Fitting Room encourages fashionistas to scroll through the store's latest looks and "flick" the pieces they'd like to try on. Voila! The virtual clothes are transposed over the shopper's reflection in the mirror. Need a different size? Don't grow old waiting for a sales associate, 'flick" again and the image will be resized to suit your shape. Sort of an E-ticket ride for the style set.

Pretty cool I say.

Oct 20, 2010

Resolutions, 5 Tips to Help :o)

5 tips to hold yourself accountable for keeping your resolutions.
The first step is to make a true resolution, I am not going to preach here, you know what it is you want or need to accomplish.  
The second step is to yourself accountable. The constant review of resolutions, and the knowledge that you are accountable for sticking to them, makes a huge difference. 

So how do you hold yourself accountable? Here are some strategies:
1.Frame your resolution in concrete actions.  This means it needs to be simple and measurable.
2.Keep Track. Having made a resolution, you have to check yourself in some way. 
3.Tell people what you’re doing. At the very least, tell your family about the resolutions that you’re trying to keep. Studies showed that people trying to make life changes, such as losing weight, were more likely to succeed if they told their families what they were doing.
4. Do it every day. Remember, habits take at least 21 days to form.
6.Join a group. Mutual accountability is extraordinarily effective, as demonstrated by groups like Weight Watchers and Alcoholics Anonymous. 

Oct 19, 2010

Pipe Dream?

About the New Balance shoe artwork: "The leg is severed because the brand becomes more important than the player as the ever popular shoe culture aims to package the experience."  The one to the left is an Air Jordan.  

Any ideas of a caption for the pipe cleaner art shown at the right? :o)

I cannot imagine the amount of time it must take to make these artworks.  I think it is pretty cool.

Click the source below to go and see more.


Oct 18, 2010

History, Do Not Repeat Failures!

Top reasons projects, or other endeavors, fail:

  • Poor alignment.  Are you aligned with organizational vision?
  • Bad Planning.  If you fail to plan, then plan to fail.
  • Lack of Executive Support.  Do not wrestle with issues on your own, engage leadership.
  • Incomplete Requirements.  Build consensus.
  • Unclear Expectations.  Set expectations and establish acceptable deviations.
  • Scope Creep.  Uncontrolled changes can be a bust, protect your boundaries.
  • Lack of Resources.  Do more with less, you need to apply your people skills.
  • Choice of technology.  Make sure you exercise robust due diligence.
  • Inexperience.  Know your strengths and weaknesses, and those of your team.

Oct 14, 2010

Take Charge!

Are you ready for action?

Do not wait for an opportunity to come your way, be willing to act on instinct, without endlessly analyzing everything.  Below are some qualities of "doers":


  • Know what you want (desire).  Have clear purpose, mission, scope, and objectives.
  • Push yourself to act.  Push beyond your comfort zone.
  • Take risks.  Take a gamble now and then.
  • Do not be afraid to make a mistake.  
  • Change your mindset.  Do not hesitate to take action.
  • Take stock of your assets, talents, and resources.
  • When opportunity is presented, make the jump.
Be a doer, not a blamer.

Oct 13, 2010

Water - The Next World Crisis???

About 80% of the world's population lives in areas where the fresh water supply is not secure.
Researchers compiled a composite index of "water threats" that includes issues such as scarcity and pollution.  The most severe threat category encompasses 3.4 billion people.  Conserving water for people through reservoirs and dams works for people, but not nature.

Start Quote

What we're able to outline is a planet-wide pattern of threat”
Charles VorosmartyCity College of New York
Instead, governments should invest in water management strategies that combine infrastructure with "natural" options such as safeguarding watersheds, wetlands and flood plains.
This a map that plots the composite threat to human water security and to biodiversity in squares 50km by 50km (30 miles by 30 miles) across the world.

Related stories

One concept advocated by development organisations nowadays is integrated water management, where the needs of all users are taken into account and where natural features are integrated with human engineering.
One widely-cited example concerns the watersheds that supply New York, in the Catskill Mountains and elsewhere around the city. Water from these areas historically needed no filtering. That threatened to change in the 1990s, due to agricultural pollution and other issues.  The city invested in a program of land protection and conservation; this has maintained quality, and is calculated to have been cheaper than the alternative of building treatment works.

For developed countries and the BRIC group - Brazil, Russia, India and China - alone, $800bn per year will be required by 2015 to cover investments in water infrastructure, a target likely to go unmet.  For poorer countries, the outlook is considerably more bleak.

Climate change is going to affect the amount of water that comes in as precipitation; and if you overlay that on an already stressed population, we're rolling the dice.

Source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-11435522

Oct 12, 2010

Bucko's Bucks - Which Prices are heading higher???

Buyers who are holding on to their money waiting for lower prices, may want to start spending now. The U.S. Bureau of Statistics' Consumer Price Index (CPI) shows prices are on the rise and they are going to continue to climb.   Before prices get too high, here are some things you may want to buy now. The price of these items are on the rise and soon they will be costing you plenty more:

:  The price of coffee futures recently hit a 13-year high. Blame bad weather in South America and low U.S. stockpiles of coffee beans.

Cotton clothing
:  Again, the weather is to blame in part for this increase. A drought in China is damaging cotton crops there, causing the world's largest cotton producer and consumer to increase prices. Another major cotton producer, Pakistan
, was devastated by floods, and another, India, is restricting its exports.

Health insurance:  
Medical care prices fell in July for the first time in 35 years. But that doesn't mean health premiums are dropping. Workers are paying more of their health care costs as businesses look to cut costs. The average employee contribution toward premiums for family coverage climbed 14% this year to nearly $4,000.

:  The USPS is recommending a 2 cent increase (about 5%) on a first-class stamp to 46 cents beginning next year.  I stock up on "Forever" stamps so get to miss most of the price increases.  I think we will pare down our Christmas card list though.

:  The price of pork bellies -- from which bacon is cut -- jumped to an all-time high of $1.42 a pound, soaring more than 200% from a year ago. Retail prices are up nearly 16% over the past few months -- from about $3.64 per pound in April to $4.21 in July -- according to the Department of Agriculture.   May need to freeze some.

Utility bills:  The latest increase in the Labor Department's Producer Price Index
, which tracks the change in the average price paid to manufacturers for goods, was attributed to a 2.2% increase in energy prices. Electricity and natural gas prices are expected to continue to climb in 2011, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Maybe it's time to think about getting a solar charger for the iPad and other gadgets sucking power at home.

Airline tickets
:  Airlines have raised their fees by as much as 50%
from a year ago, and that's just the beginning.  Also, fees have increased so much, that there is a chunk of dollars to fly that does not show up in the ticket price.  I know I forked over $100 over the past few weeks for luggage fees.  With fewer planes flying, and thus fewer seats, airline ticket prices are projected to increase this fall and winter and airline experts are recommending booking soon for holiday travel. If you do pay more for an airline seat for Thanksgiving or Christmas, save some money by packing light.

Link to latest CPI here.

Oct 11, 2010

Pet Peeve - Pseudoscience

The word "pseudo" means fake, and the surest way to spot a fake is to know as much as possible about the real thing, in this case science itself. When we speak of knowing science we do not mean simply knowing scientific facts (e.g., the distance from earth to sun; the age of the earth; the distinction between mammal and reptile, etc.) We mean that one must know about the nature of science itself—the criteria of evidence, the design of meaningful experiments, the weighing of possibilities, the testing of hypotheses, the establishment of theories, the many aspects of the methods of science which make it possible to draw accurate, reliable, meaningful conclusions about the phenomena of the physical universe.

However, the media provide a continuous bombardment of sheer nonsense, misinformation, fantasy and confusion—all proclaimed to be "true facts." Sifting sense from nonsense is an almost overwhelming job.

I have to admit my frustration at listening to mainstream news, they certainly are not constrained by facts, and eliminate relevant information for a sound bite.  Sounds very reminiscent of modern day politics, especially the Tea Party Express.

We must be skeptical of information and make an evaluation based on facts and research, not just listen to the loudest talking head.

One of my favorites in renewable energy is that "hydrogen is easy to produce, available everywhere, and nonpolluting when burned."  It takes significant energy to break apart hydrogen and oxygen atoms, and if it was so easy, it would already be in production. 

Can you think of other examples?

Oct 7, 2010

Velozzi Solo - Crossover Hybrid Electric Vehicle

The Velozzi vehicles will be the first production cars to utilize carbon fiber nano tubes, which can increase the mechanical properties of the components by 40%, improving the parts’ performance while reducing weight. Most of the materials applied in the Velozzi cars construction are reusable, which decreases the Velozzi vehicles carbon footprint.
The Velozzi super car and the SOLO will use a multi fuel micro turbine battery charger to re-charge their bed of super capacitors and Lithium ion batteries.
Velozzi SupercarThe Velozzi cars are Plug-in Multi fuel Hybrid Electric vehicles: they are powered by a combination of lithium ion batteries and super capacitors, which in turn, are recharged by an on-board multi fuel micro turbine battery charger or by the electrical grid.
Some of the fuels that could be used by the Velozzi vehicles include gasoline, diesel, ethanol, methanol, butanol, biodiesel and natural gas to mentioned a few.
The vehicles will also have the ability to reverse its polarity and serve as a power generator, able to power equipment and even a home if necessary.
Regenerative braking will capture kinetic energy when slowing the vehicles improving its range. Embedded computers, operating transparently to the user, will control all functions.
The driving experience will be identical to a gas power vehicle. The SOLO will reach 100 MPG, 0 to 60 MPH in the 6 Sec and top speed of 130 MPH.

Oct 6, 2010

Where did the Boomers Go?

The new terminology for those born between 1982 and 2000 is "Echo Boomers".  They are also known as Millennials and Generation Y.  This generation has different priorities, expectations, attitudes, and work styles.


  • Prefer to work on collaborative teams, and expect to be heard
  • Are very close to their parents
  • Expect to start at the top (unreasonable?)
  • Expect their careers to have meaning
  • Have great expectations but little experience (unreasonable?)
  • Move fast
  • Social Networks are their natural habitat
Ignore these items at your peril.  So how do you deal with Millennials?  Give jobs that will help them build responsibility, provide opportunities for learned growth so they can progress, emphasize how your company endeavors to improve the region/world, compile list of questions to help them reason out the proper course of action, explain why the slower approach to a situation may be beneficial, emphasize the potential consequences of having personal information on social networks, solicit their opinions before making a decision - and explain your decision after it is made.

Pretty basic things to me, but a paradigm shift the Millennials.

Oct 5, 2010

Science Scene - Out of this World Beer :o)

With the announcement that Boeing plans to take tourist into space in five years, it was really only a matter of time before somebody started thinking about refreshments. Astronauts4Hire, a non-profit space research corporation, has the situation in hand. They are about to test an Australian beer that's brewed and bottled especially for consumption in microgravity.
One of the problems experienced by astronauts is numbing of the taste buds, causing even the finest Earth beer to taste bland. Astronauts have been known to douse their food in hot sauce when on missions to make it tastier. 
The carbonation in beer also poses a problem for drinkers in space. Bubbles that normally rise up and escape from a beverage on Earth simply stagnate in microgravity. [This was also a topic on NPR on Friday] :o)  Without the buoyancy force that Earth’s gravity provides, carbon dioxide stays in the liquid and prevents astronauts from burping, adding additional discomfort. To combat this, the carbonation of this beer will be lower than most. Since this is a stout, though, which naturally has less carbonation than lighter beers, not too much has to be sacrificed.
Testing for the space beer will begin this November in the simulated weightless environment on board Zero Gravity Corporation’s Boeing airplane [a.k.a the Vomit Commit :o)].  I think I will test in a full gravity situation.  


Oct 4, 2010

Safe Haven :o)

If you are a hunter, you will not appreciate this post.  On the other hand, if you are a nature lover, you will like this.

I spent several hours clearing our marsh path, and since I needed a place to put the branches, I added to a natural copse.

The first picture is the backside view from our marsh path, the second picture is a straight on picture of the deer safe haven I enhanced.

If I was a deer, and the weather was getting colder, I would definitely hunker down here.  If you look close, you will see I actually put a forked branch under the crossing tree trunk.  I believe this will last for several years.

Oct 2, 2010

Management, What does it really mean?

As you step into management, you are stepping out of a world where someone else solved your problems and into a world where you are the primary problem solver. You will spend a good deal of time putting out fires, addressing people problems and resolving conflicts. You will become the go-to person when your employees encounter challenges—or simply need to vent their discontent.   Are you up to the task, or will you manage by proxy?  It can be lonely, but rewarding as well.

Oct 1, 2010

Science Scene - Space, the next Frontier :o)

American space ambitions have, for the most part, maintained a well-defined line between space exploration and space tourism, But that line has now blurred as Boeing announced that it is entering the space tourism business, selling leftover seats in its Crew Space Transportation (CST) spacecraft after the initial four are filled by embarking and returning crews bound for the International Space Station.

Boeing and Las Vegas-based Bigelow Aerospace won an $18 million contract from Boeing earlier this year for development and testing of a space capsule capable of carrying astronauts to the space station and back. Boeing's planned capsule would seat up to seven passengers, and since space station crew rotation missions generally require four NASA astronauts, three seats would be available for commercial sale.

Boeing stopped short of naming a price, but it did indicate that flights could begin as soon as 2015 and that it's already prepared to speak to interested customers. However, Boeing and Space Adventures (the company that will handle the bookings) did say prices would be competitive with previous Soyuz flights, which most recently charged $40 million for an eight-day round-trip to the ISS.

In a larger context, the blurring of the line between NASA and its commercial counterparts could signal an embracing of the Obama administration's vision for future American spaceflight, a vision that calls for increased reliance on commercial ventures for orbital trips to space and a shifting of NASA's focus to deep space exploration. Some members of Congress, specifically those on the House Science and Technology Committee, feel that such a shift strips NASA and America of their space dominance.