Nov 30, 2010

Science Scene - Flying Snakes

Mankind has long shown an apprehension toward – one might even say a phobia of – airborne snakes. 

Perhaps it’s the ability of these flying reptiles to strike fear into even the steeliest of human hearts that has the Pentagon interested in just exactly how these snakes perform their aerial acrobatics.

How do the snakes do it? The don’t really fly, per se, but rather fall with purpose. The snakes climb to the tops of the tallest trees, some 200 feet in the air, and then take a leap. But their method for turning their elongated forms into aerodynamic vehicles is pretty amazing, allowing them to travel nearly 800 feet laterally as they descend. They do this by first falling to pick up speed, then by initiating a strange aerial dance that essentially turns their bodies into one long wing. Some of them can actually pull off a turn in the air.

The first video gives you an idea (23 seconds) and the second is more detailed and more fascinating.


Nov 29, 2010

Dealing With a Lousy Day :o)

After a four day weekend, where hopefully we spent some time thinking about what we are thankful for, we get the opportunity to head back to the daily grind.  Inevitably, we will have some bad days.  We've all had terrible, horrible, no good, very bad days. Lousy days take many forms.  Here are some strategies for coping with a lousy day:

1. Resist the urge to “treat” yourself. Often, the things we choose as “treats” aren’t good for us. The pleasure lasts a minute, but then feelings of guilt, loss of control, and other negative consequences just deepen the lousiness of the day.

2. Do something nice for someone else. “Do good, feel good”  

3. Distract yourself. You will better able to cope with the situation after having had a bit of relief. Read, TV, movie, something to get your mind otherwise engaged.

4. Seek inner peace through outer order. The sense of tangible progress, control, and orderliness can be a comfort.

5. Tell yourself, “Well, at least I…” Get some things accomplished.

6. Exercise is an extremely effective mood booster – but be careful of exercise that allows you to ruminate.

7. Stay in contact. Studies show that contact with other people boosts mood.

8. Things really will look brighter in the morning. Go to bed early and start the next day anew.

9. Keep perspective. Ask yourself: “Will this matter in a month? In a year?”

What other strategies have you used to deal with a lousy day?

Nov 27, 2010

Science Scene - Plastic to Oil :o)

For each kilogram of plastic, the Blest Machine (a Japanese company) will create one liter of oil, using one kilowatt of electricity.  This translates to an approximate cost of 20 cents per liter of oil [less than $50 per 55 gallon barrel you normally read about in commodities pricing].  

It's estimated that 7% of the total world's annual oil production is used to produce and manufacture plastic.  This household machine could conserve both plastic and oil by converting polyethylene, polystyrene, and polypropylene (numbers 2-4), but not PET bottles (number 1), into unrefined oil.

Users simply put plastic into a large container through a hole at the top of the machine.  The trash does not have to be broken down; you just put it in as is.  With the press of a button, the temperature inside the container rises, the plastic melts, and it becomes a liquid.  The Blest website indicates that the gases produced are water and carbon dioxide.  The oil produced is acceptable for burning as it is, but it can be further processed to make gasoline, diesel, and kerosene.  The CEO of Blest has travelled all over the developing countries to focus on teaching recycling and conservation.  

I think this is a great idea and hope it starts to catch on here in the states.  


Nov 26, 2010

Bacon Shopping :o)

So, today is Black Friday, a day I endeavor to never leave the house, and this year is no exception.  

However, for those of you that are venturing out, don't forget to consider sending the gift of pork :o)

The bacon trend is still thriving!  Jones Soda, possibly the world's most successful clever soda company, is out with Bacon Soda for the Christmas season and the Christmas gift carton is now available.  But it's not just about the Bacon Soda...

Click Here for other Bacon Products.

Nov 25, 2010

Nov 24, 2010

Mr. Peanut vs. the Nutcracker :o)

I'm nuts about the new makeover, both for Mr. Peanut and Robert Downey Jr. as the voice.

Nov 23, 2010

Yes Deer :o)

You’re driving along a winding country road and out of the corner of your eye you see movement in the brush along the side of the road. It’s a deer.  

Use the following tips and information to prevent deer-vehicle accidents:

Always wear a seatbelt.
Drive with extreme caution, at or below the posted speed limit.
Leave home a few minutes early and use that extra time to slow down and watch for animals.
Carefully scan the road and shoulders of the road ahead of you. Looking ahead can provide the time needed to react safely.
Deer often move in groups. If you see one deer on or near a roadway, expect that others may follow.
After dark, use high beams when there is no opposing traffic.
Don’t swerve to avoid hitting a deer.

Nov 22, 2010

Tigger vs. Eeyore - Is there a winner?

Free Clipart Picture of Tigger on Eeyore's Back. Click Here to Get Free Images at Clipart

If you’re a Tigger, you say things like… “Happiness is a choice.”, “Look on the bright side.”, “Smile!”, “Fake it ‘till you feel it.”

If you’re an Eeyore, you say things like… “No one can be cheerful all the time. It’s fake.”, “Thinking the glass is always half-full isn’t realistic. It’s self-deception.”, “If someone asks me, ‘How are you?’ I’m going to tell the truth, even if people don’t want an honest answer.”, “Authenticity is important to me. I hate phonies.”

Tiggers: remember, you can’t make someone happy. Let your happiness naturally rub off on the Eeyores, but don’t exhaust yourself trying to jolly them along. Telling Eeyores “Cheer up!” or refusing to acknowledge anything negative won’t make them cheerier. Your effort will just drain you, and it will irritate the Eeyores – in fact, they’ll probably hold more stubbornly to their worldview, and may become even more intensely negative to counter-balance your positivity.

Eeyores: remember, you believe you’re being “realistic” and “honest,” but Tiggers may find you gloomy and critical, they dread being sucked into your negativity. Remember, too, that while you believe that some Tiggers are “fake,” their extreme cheerfulness may be in reaction to you, as a counter-balance against your attitudes; or the extreme cheerfulness may be in reaction to some major happiness challenge elsewhere in their lives. Cut them a little slack.

Research and experience show that the “fake it ‘till you feel it” strategy really does work. People who act happier, friendlier, and more energetic will help themselves feel happier, friendlier, and more energetic (the opposite is also true). Tiggers often act Tiggerish because they’re trying to keep that Tigger flame alive.

Tiggers, Eeyores, let your actions and attitude speak for themselves. Do what’s right for you, and don’t worry about explicitly persuading other people to change their views. Don’t flatly deny someone’s viewpoint – “Things aren’t that bad!” “You have to face facts!” – but briefly acknowledge their perspective. Be yourself. 

I would definitely say that I am a Tigger, and the Eeyore view definitely results in a short fuse for me.  However, having read about this, I have a new appreciation for not trying to convert or cheer someone else up.   

Let your actions speak louder than words.   So no thanks, my glass is already half full :o)


Nov 20, 2010

A Night Out :o)

Tonight is my workplace annual Political Action Committee (PAC) dinner, at the Niles Riverfront Cafe.  We have never been there, but it sounds yummy.

Some of the people I work with on a daily basis will be there, and we are having a comedian and a band (all company employees).  The restaurant is closed tonight and dedicated to our group.

As a bonus, Beth and I are celebrating our 9th anniversary (actual day was on Thursday).  We are going to miss the ND game, but sometimes you just need - Partytime :o)

Nov 19, 2010

Are You Engaged?

The only way to get things done is to be deeply and passionately engaged - Show your engagement today and every day by:
  • Coming to work energized and passing on your energy to others - a consistently good attitude is contagious
  • Embracing the work ahead of you and being diligent in your attack
  • Always following through - this must be second nature, never prompted
  • Never being satisfied - The Pursuit of Excellence requires us to push ourselves and others with tenacious questioning to ensure our best performance

Nov 18, 2010

Science Scene - Interim Battery Charge Solution

An India-based company called Electric Motors and Vehicles has developed what they believe is a great intermediate solution to EV range anxiety before a real network of EV charging stations is built. The concept is called the Pru and it's a self-propelled trailer containing an electric generator and batteries that attaches to an EV and keeps it charged on longer trips.

The creators of the Pru think that EV charging infrastructure won't grow as quickly as its needed with the introduction of new EVs on the road.  The Pru trailer, with its lithium ion batteries and 750 cc diesel generator, could allow an EV driver to go 700 miles on six gallons of fuel -- a fuel economy of about 116 mpg.

The trailer would propel itself with a 240V DC motor, always matching the car's speed so there is no stress on the car's motor.  It would connect via a "Smart Hitch" that would send signals to the speed controller based on the tugging or tension on the hitch.  A GPS unit would analyze the route's typography to maximize battery efficiency.

To top it off, the batteries and generator only take up a fourth of the storage space in the trailer.  The rest is left for whatever stuff you need to carry on your trip.

The Pru is still just a concept with no prototype produced yet, but the company thinks that units will be ready by early 2011 and at a cost of about $15,000.


Nov 17, 2010

Gnarly :o)

Not sure that I would want to climb this, at 121 feet, that is the equivalent of a twelve story building.  And give one look at the thing and you have to be a little bit impressed by its massive presence. It's called the Excalibur and it's located at the Klimcentrum Bjoeks in Groningen, Netherlands.  In such a flat country (highest elevation 1,056 feet), it is even more startling. Instead of just building straight up, they've given it some pitch and a 36-foot overhang. The dual-sided design provides routes for beginners and experts alike.


Nov 16, 2010

Science Scene - Meteor Impact Simulation

Click Here to have Purdue University calculate the impacts of a meteor based on your inputs.

Asteroids and comets come in all shapes and sizes—from small pebbles, to larger SUV-sized fragments, to massive asteroids like Ceres, which has a diameter of about 621 miles (shown in picture). Much of the asteroid material that crosses paths with the Earth burns up when it enters the atmosphere. About once every 100 years, though, a fairly large asteroid strikes the Earth.
But how big does an asteroid need to be to cause major destruction? The new “Impact: Earth!”asteroid impact effects calculator will help you find out. The interactive web tool, developed by a Purdue University research team led by Jay Melosh, allows anyone to calculate the potential damage caused by a comet or asteroid striking the Earth. Users input information into several parameter fields, such as the diameter and density of the object, its angle of entry, and the location where it will hit. The calculator then estimates the impact consequences, providing information about debris distribution, ground shaking, size of the resulting crater, and whether a tsunami will be generated.


Nov 15, 2010

Tips to Transition from SME to Supervision

In your previous position you did a great job. You were the recognized subject matter expert (SME), and now you have been promoted.  Hopefully, you're smart enough to know the skills that made you a great team player won't necessarily make you a great supervisor. For any new supervisor, training is key to success in this role.

It's not enough to follow directions ... now you must give directions about what gets done, when, and by whom. 

It's not enough that your projects are accurate and one time ... you have to help others keep their projects on track, and see that everyone works together.

It's not enough to focus only on your department ... suddenly you're a member of the management team. Your new peers will expect you to have a broader perspective, including other departments.

It's not enough to keep yourself motivated ... you have to be a coach, cheerleader, and "strong shoulder" to people who have bad days, conflicts with each other, and demands that you might not be able to satisfy.


Nov 13, 2010

Science Scene - What's Your Flavor?

Physicists working with a Fermilab neutrino experiment may have found a new elementary particle whose behavior breaks the known laws of physics. If correct, their results poke holes in the accepted Standard Model of particles and forces, and raise some interesting questions for the Large Hadron Collider and Tevatron experiments. The new particle could even explain the existence of dark matter.
This bad boy to the left uses 170,000 ampere current to create a magnetic field capable of directing neutrinos to a detector.  When I was in high school and college, I worked at Fermilab in the electrical shop, and remember when the first neutrino detector, the Muon Lab, was built.  It is interesting to see today that Fermilab still maintains some relevance.
Neutrinos have been mystifying physicists since they were first theorized decades ago. They are one of the building blocks of matter, and to the best of our knowledge, they come in three varieties, called flavors: electron neutrinos, muon neutrinos and tau neutrinos. Oscillation is what happens when neutrinos turn from one flavor to another; an electron neutrino might turn into a muon neutrino, and then turn back again. How often they do this tells physicists about the infinitesimally small differences in their masses. Neutrino mass is important because it may lead us to physics beyond the Standard Model. And that is exactly what seems to have happened.
Examining three years’ worth of MiniBooNE data, researchers detected more oscillations than would be possible if there were only three flavors. The simplest explanation is that there’s another flavor, and that it is “sterile,” meaning it does not interact with the weak nuclear force; it only interacts via gravity, which makes it really hard to detect. Incidentally, the same holds for dark matter. Sterile neutrinos could therefore help explain dark matter, which makes up most of the universe. 

Nov 12, 2010

Boredom is not an Issue :o)

The more you focus on your boredom, the more you amplify that feeling.

Here are some tips to re-frame the moment; even if you can’t escape a situation, by re-framing your emotions.

-- Take the perspective of a journalist or scientist. Really study what’s around you. What are people wearing, what do the interiors of buildings look like, what noises do you hear? If you bring your analytical powers to bear, you can make almost anything interesting.  I think this is the technique I use the most, go figure :o)

-- Find an area of refuge.  Have a mental escape route planned. Think about something positive or uplifting.

-- Consider: "Am I the boring one?" It takes two to have a conversation, so if you find it bored, you are contributing.  Find a way to turn it around and be positive.

What strategies do you use to combat boredom?

Nov 11, 2010

New Blog - Sh*t My Cat Says :o)

Could not resist.  I love saying things, making believe it is the kitteh saying it.  Beth coined it "Sh*t My Cat Says".  A quick google search did not find such an animule, so here is my new humor outlet.

Veterans Day, Thank You!

On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, an armistice, or temporary cessation of hostilities, was declared between the Allied nations and Germany in the First World War, then known as "the Great War." Commemorated as Armistice Day beginning the following year, November 11th became a legal federal holiday in the United States in 1938. In the aftermath of World War II and the Korean War, Armistice Day became Veterans Day, a holiday dedicated to American veterans of all wars.

A big THANK YOU to all who have served, keeping us safe and free. 

Nov 10, 2010

Science Scene - Goodbye Dish, Hello Cellphone TV?

Satellite dishes as we know them could be on their way out. A grad student at the Netherlands’ University of Twente has devised a microchip that allows for an array of nearly flat antennas to pick up satellite signals, with no rounded, concave “dish” required.
The array works as its own miniature network, like a virtual radiotelescopy dish. This all requires a lot of calculation, which is why it was impractical before. 
Rather than using conventional processors, the new system relies on many smaller, less-elaborate processors integrated into a single chip. This streamlines the process of making all the necessary calculations, allowing for greater flexibility in computing and saving on energy, as processors that are not in use can be switched off. 
Perhaps most importantly, the chips' small size means you could potentially carry a satellite receiver with you wherever you go. 

Nov 9, 2010

Science Scene - Styrofoam Alternative?

Americans throw away 25,000,000,000 Styrofoam cups each year.  Styrofoam is NOT recyclable; it cannot be made into new Styrofoam.  However, there may be an alternative: biodegradable Styrofoam made from milk and clay.  Scientists at Case Western Reserve University in Ohio have successfully created an eco-friendly alternative to one of the most hazardous detriments to our planet.

Commercially viable and largely biodegradable, "Milk Styrofoam," as it is being called in the eco-blogosphere, decomposes in a month's time.  Conversely, traditional Styrofoam takes over a thousand years to decompose.  
Scientist strengthened a cow milk protein, casein, with clay and glyceraldehyde (a triose monosaccharide).  They chose casein, already popular for use in adhesives, because it is water soluble.  Alone, casein is not ideal for packaging, but mixing it with the other two ingredients and freeze drying that mixture creates an aerogel, which is then baked in an oven to create a substance comparable to traditional Styrofoam.  
Milk Styrofoam is sturdy, lightweight, and largely biodegradable.  The material is not yet mainstream as researchers are still working out practical and technological kinks.  However, different variations of the Milk Styrofoam will hopefully be used as packaging, furniture, insulation, as well as cushions.


Nov 8, 2010

Happy Belated Anniversary ISS :o)

November 2 marked the 10th anniversary of human habitation at the International Space Station, meaning that humans have been living in space for more than two decades. 

The ISS has been continuously lived in since Nov. 2, 2000, when Expedition 1 commander Bill Shepherd and flight engineers Sergei Krikalev and Yuri Gidzenko became the first residents. Since then, 200 explorers have visited, 15 nations have contributed modules and hardware, and more than 600 experiments have been conducted.

The ISS’ greatest achievements may be yet to come. In February, astronauts will install the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer-02, designed to detect dark matter and uncover the secrets of the origins of the universe. The station is built to last through 2020.  Beyond that, its future could be as a base camp for expeditions to the moon, Mars, or an asteroid mission.

It is a bittersweet anniversary as the end of our Shuttle program looms.  I hope that our foray into privatizing of the space program starts to bare fruit soon.

Nov 6, 2010

Winterize Your Car For Safety :o)

Do you believe injuries are preventable?  While an accident, by definition, is random and therefore not preventable, that does not mean that we cannot do things to minimize their potential.

Winter weather brings slippery roads and reduced visibility.  Is your car up to the challenge?  Simple things you can do to keep your car running safety this winter:

Check tire condition.  Use a tire thread gauge available from auto-parts stores.
Increase tire pressure to the upper limit (they loose air as it gets colder).
Top off the windshield washer reservoir, and keep a bottle in the trunk.
Replace your wiper blades.
Give windows a thorough cleaning on the inside (internal dirt decreases visibility decreased with window fogging).
Change your oil.
Clean battery terminals or buy a new battery if you have doubts.

This has been a Bucko's World Public Service Announcement :o)

Nov 5, 2010

Power of 3

One of the most powerful principles that can help everyone work more efficiently is also one of the simplest: It’s called the Role of 3, and it reflects the fact that people remember roughly three distinct things from any event, lecture, meeting, book or article. This limitation arises because your memory wants to focus on interconnected facts, rather than distinct and independent pieces of information.

Respecting this rule is easy. Just focus your meetings and presentations on about three things.

What that looks like in practice:

  • Start every meeting and presentation with a brief description of the three things you are going to cover. This advance organizer gets everyone ready for what is going to happen. It prepares people to attach new information to what they already know, which is crucial for memory.
  • Focus the meeting on just those three items. Resist the urge to add new topics or to go off on tangents. If something new gets raised in a meeting, or if a new thought occurs to you while giving a presentation, decide whether it is urgent enough to add it immediately. If it isn’t, push it off until later.
  • Review the three key points. Make sure that you remind everyone what it is you wanted them to remember.

I know that your first reaction is going to be to look at this advice and say it’s common sense, that you already believe it to be true, and that you have heard it before.  But the real question is: Do you do it? 


Nov 4, 2010

International Project Management Day 2010

Gantt chart examples
November 4, 2010* marks the 7th Annual International Project Management Day (IPM Day). IPM Day was established as a way of recognizing the extraordinary efforts made by project management professionals everywhere - across industries and geographies.

Have you hugged a project manager today?

Nov 3, 2010

VisLab Complete :o)

Back in August, I posted about the Vislab vans (click here).

Gotta love the internet bots, Vislab knew I posted and sent the following e-mail to me:
Hi Ken,

I saw you had written about the Vislab autonomous vans back in August.
Today they arrived in Shanghai and attracted more media attention
worldwide. We produced a video about them with a range of those media
perspectives on the successful voyage and what it could mean for
autonomous street vehicles in the future that I thought you would

Feel free to use the video on your site if you like.

Have a great weekend,

Daniel Maxson
Community at Newsy

So, without further ado, below is the video.

Multisource political news, world news, and entertainment news analysis by

Nov 2, 2010

Election Day - Should be an interesting evening.

Election Day in the United States is the day set by law for the election of public officials. It occurs on the Tuesday after the first Monday of November. The earliest possible date is November 2 and the latest possible date is November 8. 

I truly believe that this is an obligation we have as citizens of this fine country.  If you do not vote, then you have no standing to complain on the goings on either locally or nationally.  

We will be watching the results tonight with interest.

I voted, did you?

Nov 1, 2010

Science Scene - Climate Change, It Is Not Myth

With one exception, none of the Republicans running for the Senate — including the 20 or so with a serious chance of winning — accept the scientific consensus that humans are largely responsible for global warming. 

The candidates are not simply rejecting solutions, like putting a price on carbon. They are re-running the strategy of denial perfected a decade ago, repudiating years of peer-reviewed findings about global warming and creating an alternative reality in which climate change is a hoax or conspiracy.

Some candidates are emphatic in their denial, like the Nevada Republican Sharron Angle, who flatly rejects “the man-caused climate change mantra of the left.” Others are merely wiggly, like California’s Carly Fiorina, who says, “I’m not sure.” Yet, over all (the exception being Mark Kirk in Illinois), the Republicans are huddled around an amazingly dismissive view of climate change.

In one way or another, though, all are custodians of a strategy whose guiding principle has been to avoid debate about solutions to climate change by denying its existence — or at least by diminishing its importance. The strategy worked, destroying hopes for Congressional action while further confusing ordinary citizens for whom global warming was already a remote and complex matter. It was also remarkably heavy-handed.

Nowadays, it is almost impossible to recall that in 2000, George W. Bush promised to cap carbon dioxide, encouraging some to believe that he would break through the partisan divide on global warming. Until the end of the 1990s, Republicans could be counted on to join bipartisan solutions to environmental problems. Now they’ve disappeared in a fog of disinformation.

Please remember our earth and the inheritance we will be leaving future generations when you head to the polls tomorrow.

Source: New York Times.