Jan 31, 2010

Kreativ Blogger Thingy

What I am supposed to do:

1.Thank the person who nominated you for this award. Joy and Kyle, I appreciate you passing this honor on to me.  I do not really think of my little Blogspot as creative, more a place to learn about things that interest me - science, the environment, finances, philosophical questions, and humor.  I normally do not play, but since I got tagged twice in one day, I did not feel right in not participating.

2.Copy the logo and place it on your blog.  If you would like to see other versions of the logo, go to see Stan's entry.

3.Link to the person who nominated you for this award. (see #1)

4.Name 7 things about yourself that people might find interesting.

Seven things about me that you may or may not find inteesting :o)

  • I really used to do clowning. My character is a Hobo Clown in the style of Emmett Kelly. There is nothing like the sound of a child laughing.
  • I am a smart ass, go figure.
  • I am an optimist. At work, people are used to seeing me with a smile (see two bullets above), so when I am focused on something and my laugh lines disappear, people notice and tell me to smile :o)
  • I have a lot of patience for the important things, but a short fuse if you are wasting my time.
  • I am a good listener when I choose to listen. But I find that I need to stop what I am doing and focus on the speaker. This is a work in progress, especially at home with the computational device open in front of me.
  • I am a planner. With the engineering and project management background, I have made the transition from being tactical to strategic. Once you have made that transition, having a longer term outlook becomes second nature.
  • For a not small person, I have rarely been in physical altercations. I normally can talk my way out of most situations.

5.Nominate 7 (my blog my rules, I am stopping at 5 since a lot of our circle have already been tagged) Kreativ Bloggers and post links to the 7 blogs you nominate. This is always the hard part for me, especially since this has been making the rounds pretty well recently.  Special message to my nominees, do not feel obligated to keep this moving along, just enjoy some new visitors to your corner of the blogosphere.  My choices are:

Marty over at Heard at Starbucks.  He sees a lot of quirky visitors in his neck of the woods.

Jack over at Self-Sufficient Stewart.  He has some great entries about his 20 acres in NC.

Lisa over at Life on a Bison Farm.  She loves her family of animals and takes awesome pictures.

Kailyn over at Kailyn's Creations.  Do not visit if you are hungry, because her pictures and recipes will make your stomach growl.  She also documents her fun SF Bay Area trips.

Scott and friends over at Get Your Botany On.  Truly an amazing amount of knowledge about botany on this little nature blog.

6.Leave a comment on each of the blogs letting them know they have been nominated. Sorry, since my nominees already follow me, or it is a shared blog, they will find out in due time :o)

Sunday Silliness - Nepotism :o)

We promote family values here - almost as often as we promote family members.

Jan 30, 2010

Political Posturing At Its Worse.

Injured earthquake survivors got lost in American politics this week as the U.S. suspended medical evacuations of Haitians until it could determine who was footing the hospital bill. Military officials announced the suspension Friday. With more than 500 victims airlifted to Florida alone so far, Gov. Charlie Crist demanded on Wednesday that the federal government help pay for medical care, causing military flights out of Haiti to screech to a grinding halt. The move infuriated rescuers: "People are dying in Haiti because they can't get out," Dr. Barth Green, who runs a nonprofit that was evacuating patients to Miami, told The New York Times. Crist is currently running for the Senate, where he faces a tough primary challenge from the right in Marco Rubio.

Clothing Drive & Beer :o)

I love it when advertising agencies come up with edgy and different commercials.

Jan 29, 2010

Agnosticism - Is it a form of belief?

Recently, I have been accused of being an atheist because my belief system does not conform to mainstream religious practice and is not absolute with respect to the bible and such.  Of course, life and belief is not that cut and dried.  There are many forms of belief, many views, many levels.  I admit that I am not a Sunday church goer, and there are many reasons for that, but that is my business.  As my friend DB over at Vagabond Journeys wrote:
  • "I will remain on the steps and not enter the temple because I've been inside and I know it is a magnificent and beautiful chamber of hypocrisy. Inside is preached the negation of life, the removal of the vital forces of existence, the degrading of the innocent, the veil that covers true holiness,. The great door of the temple is an invitation to enter the sanctum of false security, to relax into the arms of unreason, to join in the celebration of a paradigm of delivery to an unknown source and to emerge cleansed and purged of the need to affirm any responsibility for ignorance and wrong doing."

This caused me to do some thinking, and below are some salient points paraphrased from several websites.

Atheism can be the rejection of theism, or the position that deities do not exist. In the broadest sense, it is the absence of belief in the existence of deities.  Atheists tend to lean towards skepticism regarding supernatural claims, citing a lack of empirical evidence. Common rationales include the problem of evil, the argument from inconsistent revelations, and the argument from nonbelief.

Agnosticism is the view that the truth value of certain claims—especially claims about the existence of any deity, but also other religious and metaphysical claims—is unknown or unknowable.  Agnosticism can be defined in various ways, and is sometimes used to indicate doubt or a skeptical approach to questions. In some senses, agnosticism is a stance about the differences between belief and knowledge, rather than about any specific claim or belief.

An agnostic is a person who believes that the existence of a greater power, such as a god, cannot be proven or disproved; therefore an agnostic wallows in the complexity of the existence of higher beings. An agnostic uses a more scientific approach to their belief system. An agnostic knows that just because there is no physical proof of the existence of a higher being, it does not automatically mean that one does not exist. An agnostic views an atheist on the same plane as a religious zealot; often because the belief that human beings are the pinnacle of intelligence and there are few things that we do not or have the potential to understand.

An agnostic is often thought of as not committing to any beliefs. However, an agnostic can have faith in a god and still maintain that we can not know whether or not said god exists. These people then would be termed agnostic theists. There are also those who believe that we can not know if god exists and believe that he does not exist. These people would be termed agnostic atheists.

Agnostic views can also be termed as strong or weak. Strong agnostics believe that due to our nature we are unable to know the answers to spiritual questions of god's existence. Weak agnostics, on the other hand, believe that we do not currently know whether god exists but that it is possible we may know in the future.

I am a weak agnostic theist.  I practice my beliefs, and I do have them, in the privacy of my mind and my home.  That is my choice, and I do not believe anyone has the right to judge me.  If I have offended you with this entry, I acknowledge that possibility, but make no apologies. 

Jan 28, 2010

Go for a sail with me...

Leaders are looked upon to steer the ship through the roughest waters - which means knowing where you are, where your're going and the best maneuvers to keep from sinking.

Of course, the waters you are sailing in may make a difference in how you lead.  This is especially true when you get away from the work place, because we are all leaders in one way or another, this forum or that.  Family, church, sports, charities, etc., you get the picture.

So, how do you navigate and what are you the leader of?

Jan 27, 2010

Science Scene - PTSD Diagnosis Methodology at Hand?

With so many troops rotating into and out of two different war zones, mental health experts in the U.S. are urgently trying to understand the causes – and a means to assuage or prevent – post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Now, a group of researchers at the University of Minnesota and the Minneapolis VA Medical Center may have unlocked the secret to objective PTSD diagnosis: a biomarker in the brain that diagnoses the condition with more than 90 percent accuracy.

The Minnesota research group used magnetoencephalography (MEG) to measure the magnetic fields in the brains of a group of a few hundred people, about a third of which were U.S. veterans. MEG employs 248 sensors that record neural activity on a millisecond-to-millisecond basis, far faster than other brain scanning methods like functional magnetic resonance imaging or CT scans, which can only capture activity every few seconds.

Using that millisecond-to-millisecond data, researchers were able to identify biological trends in the brain that accurately identified those suffering from PTSD more than 90 percent of the time. A larger study is needed before researchers can call the results airtight, but better-than-90-percent efficacy offers a lot of promise. By helping doctors identify PTSD cases early on, steps can be taken to minimize the effects of the disorder on troops returning from combat theaters, greatly enhancing quality of life for tens of thousands of servicemen and servicewomen.

Details originally posted at Popular Science.

Jan 26, 2010

Science Scene - Fresh Water Salmon Farming

A new aquaculture technology that raises Pacific salmon in closed, freshwater systems has received a strong endorsement from the Monterey Bay Aquarium, a leader in the sustainable seafood movement. The technology, developed by Rochester, Wash.-based AquaSeed Corp, features numerous advancements that persuaded the Monterey Bay Aquarium to bestow its “Super Green” label on the

The salmon are raised in closed pens on land, rather than in open net pens near coastlines, eliminating dangers from the spread of disease to wild fish and ending the problem of farmed salmon escaping and breeding with wild salmon. The AquaSeed salmon also are raised in freshwater, as opposed to saltwater, and the company uses Pacific salmon rather than Atlantic salmon — currently the most common pen-reared form of salmon. In addition, through advances in breeding and changes in feed formulas, AquaSeed says it can raise a pound of salmon using roughly a pound of fish food; traditional salmon farms use about four pounds of fish meal to produce one pound of Atlantic salmon. AquaSeed is now producing 200,000 pounds of the salmon a year and plans to expand rapidly, selling to stores such as Whole Foods. Other companies are experimenting with aquaculture far offshore.

Jan 25, 2010

Hate is a Cancer

A week after the holiday to remember the philosophy and teachings of Dr. King, let us strive to not hate.

Like an unchecked cancer, hate corrodes the personality and eats away its vital unity. Hate destroys a man's sense of values and his objectivity. It causes him to describe the beautiful as ugly and the ugly as beautiful, and to confuse the true with the false and the false with the true.

Martin Luther King, Jr., Strength To Love, 1963.

Jan 24, 2010

Superbowl Bound Colts :o)

This is what the Colts looked like the second half.  21 unanswered points, and an impressive defense and an impressive victory. 

Now for the rocket-laser-arm Peyton Manning to go for League and Superbowl MVP in the same year, which would be another first.

My wife is a happy gurl :o)

Sunday Silliness - Motivation :o)

If a pretty poster and a cute saying are all it takes to motivate you, you probably have a very easy job. The kind robots will be doing soon.

Jan 23, 2010

New Interest in Burger King :o)

Burger King, having saturated the kid's market with its many trinket giveaways, is now taking the first step toward bringing a fun house mentality to its adult customers by serving up suds with its Whoppers.

In Miami Beach, the chain will open a new version of its Whopper Bar concept next month, geared toward adults and the night life.

The Whopper Bar setup allows patrons to watch their burgers being assembled and choose among more than 20 topping to customize them to their taste. The first Whopper Bar was opening in spring of 2009 at Universal CityWalk in Orlando. The Miami Beach location is the first, however, to offer beer along with its sandwiches.

The bar will offer Anheuser-Busch's Budweiser, Bud Light and Bud Light Lime, as well as MillerCoors' Miller Light. Suds will be sold from 8 a.m. to 5 a.m..

Jan 22, 2010

Israel Developing Semi-Lethal Sonic Cannon To Control Rioters

When I say the headline above in the title, my immediate reaction is how can something be semi-lethal?  I know that this technology has been around for a while with the potential for crowd control and weaponization.  Lets hope it is used in a non-lethal manner.

A desert people have developed a new weapon that uses sound instead of bullets. But this time, it will be used to control crowds instead of fighting giant worms or devious members of House Harkonnen. The Israeli Defense Ministry has contracted for the production of sonic-boom stun-guns called "Thunder Generator cannons," which they hope to use in crowd-control situations.

The cannons are built by farming company PDT Agro, which originally designed the sound blasters as a means of warding birds away from crops. Eventually, someone realized the powerful sonic blasts could do the same to people.

The weapon runs on LPG, a common cooking gas, which mixes with oxygen to generate powerful bursts of sound. Each sound burst lasts around 300 milliseconds, and generates a shockwave that travels from the cannon at almost six times the speed of sound.

Although it's intended to be less than lethal, the Thunder Generator cannon can cause death to people within 30 feet of the blast. For people farther away than 30 feet, the sonic boom will deafen them and knock them back, and hopefully disperse an unruly crowd.

The Israeli military hopes to use the sound blaster as an alternative to the rubber bullets and caustic chemicals they currently deploy against rioting Orthodox settlers and rock-throwing Palestinians alike. Either way, it sounds less dangerous than a weirding module.

Jan 21, 2010

Tranquility :o)

When we are unable to find tranquility within ourselves, it is useless to seek it elsewhere.

This quote, from Francois de La Rochefoucauld, is my internal mantra. 

Jan 20, 2010

We Interrupt Our Regularly Scheduled Blogram :o)

Following in the footsteps of several of our blogger friends, this post is directed to a select few, or should I say two :o)

To our stalkers from West Greenwich, RI, and Anonymous Proxy (a.k.a. FuseNet - Ohio). We know who you are.

We used to find humor in your unhealthy obsession. Your obsession with us grows tiresome, although we will miss your visits driving up our stat counters.

We obviously have nothing in common, so we are flummoxed as to why you continue to read, often more than once per day. 

Incidently, we will never discuss my son and daughter on our websites.

We now implore you to get on with your own life and stop following ours. More than ten years has passed, get over it!

Ideology to Religion?

What does it take for Ideology to become a Religion?
  • Assure salvation
  • Believe in a precise theology
  • Convert nonbelievers

"My friends, don't get me wrong, our forefathers were deeply religious men, but they were Deists - men who believed in God, but in a universal and open-minded way. The only religious ideal that they put forth was religious freedom... America's forefathers had a vision of a spiritually enlightened utopia, in which freedom of thought, education of the masses, and scientific advancement would replace the darkness of outdated religious superstition."

Dan Brown, The Lost Symbol

Well said on both counts.

Jan 19, 2010

Science Scene - New Spider Near You?

Scientists have unearthed a completely new species of spider hiding in sand dunes on the Israel-Jordan border.

With a legspan that stretches 5.5 inches, the spider, called Cerbalus aravensis, is the biggest of its type in the Middle East. “It is rare to find a new species of spider — at least around this part of the world — which is so big,” said biologist Uri Shanas of the University of Haifa-Oranim in Israel, who discovered the arachnid.

Jan 18, 2010

Human Error Performance Modes and Error Reduction Tools

SKILL BASED ERRORS - Skill based errors are defined as a repetitive behavior performed many times. The probability of this type of error is 1:10,000.

Example: arriving at home, but being unable to remember the drive back from work.
RULE BASED ERRORS - Rule based errors are typically associated with misclassification of situations leading to the application of wrong rule or with the incorrect recall of procedures. The probability of a rule based error is 1:1,000.

Example: Calculate the square root of 74527?

KNOWLEDGE BASED ERRORS Knowledge based errors arise from resource limitations or incomplete or incorrect knowledge. The probability of a knowledge based error is 1:2.

Example: What’s the population of Trenton, NJ?

How do you keep your “brain in the game” and stay out of skill, rule, or knowledge based performance errors?

Use a Mental Model – This is a structured understanding of knowledge (e.g., what a system contains, how components work as a system, current state of system). Use frequent time outs or reminders to keep your mental model up to date.

Challenge Assumptions – This improves mental models, assists at problem solving and optimizes team performance.

Don’t take short cuts – Humans tend to seek order and patterns they recognize. Mental short cuts offer the human mind unconscious methods to create order. Personnel should be aware of the potential for error this creates during problem solving and decision making.

Make Conservative Decisions – Be cautious of what is truly important – safety! This attitude should be protected regardless of current schedule or production pressures. When you recognize conditions that could challenge safety, put components in a safe condition and seek prompt assistance.

Experience has shown that days following a holiday season are prime time for human performance errors. Stay in the prevention mode by utilizing your human performance tools, every day, for every task. Do not underestimate the difficulty or complexity of a task based on past experiences. We are in Knowledge Based Performance Mode More Often Than We Realize!!! Remember, You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know.

Jan 16, 2010

Toast This Morning?

Engineers have spent 15 years perfecting the £160 Magimix Vision Toaster, which has double insulated clear glass on both sides giving a panoramic view of each slice as it cooks.

After years of testing and creating five versions of the product, Magimix finally settled on a finished version of the toaster which made the toast look like it was hovering last year.

It has been initially launched at five John Lewis stores in the UK this month, and is expected to be rolled out across other stores nationwide later this year.

Click the link for full story.

Jan 15, 2010

Science Scene - Nuclear Fuel Reprocessing

Since President Carter shut down the U.S. reprocessing program in the 1970s, U.S. policy has been to take used power plant fuel and bury it. In 1987, Congress designated Nevada's Yucca Mountain as the final resting place for the country's nuclear waste, but the facility there has never opened. Now President Obama has proposed to stop federal funding for Yucca -- which is strenuously opposed by Nevada politicians -- while a new federal commission reviews Congress' old policy. This would sound like a bad thing for the nuclear power industry, but it may actually be a hidden favor. There is a lot of usable material remaining in the spent nuclear fuel, not enough to support power operations without being reprocessed and mixed with more fuel with greater energy capacity (kind of like taking the logs off the fire after they are 3/4 burned and burying them in your yard). If the fuel is reprocessed to extract maximum energy potential, then the remaing waste is much smaller in volume and will decay faster (imagine finishing burning the logs from the fire and burying just the ashes).

Below is more information on nuclear fuel reprocessing for your reading pleasure, so grab some no-doze, toothpicks, Red Bull, intravenous caffine, and settle in :o)

Fuel Reprocessing at a glance

A key, nearly unique, characteristic of nuclear energy is that used fuel may be reprocessed to recover fissile and fertile materials in order to provide fresh fuel for existing and future nuclear power plants. Several European countries, Russia and Japan have had a policy to reprocess used nuclear fuel, although government policies in many other countries have not yet addressed the various aspects of reprocessing.

Over the last 50 years the principal reason for reprocessing used fuel has been to recover unused uranium and plutonium in the used fuel elements and thereby close the fuel cycle, gaining some 25% more energy from the original uranium in the process and thus contributing to energy security. A secondary reason is to reduce the volume of material to be disposed of as high-level waste to about one fifth. In addition, the level of radioactivity in the waste from reprocessing is much smaller and after about 100 years falls much more rapidly than in used fuel itself.

In the last decade interest has grown in recovering all long-lived actinides together (i.e. with plutonium) so as to recycle them in fast reactors so that they end up as short-lived fission products. This policy is driven by two factors: reducing the long-term radioactivity in high-level wastes, and reducing the possibility of plutonium being diverted from civil use - thereby increasing proliferation resistance of the fuel cycle. If used fuel is not reprocessed, then in a century or two the built-in radiological protection will have diminished, allowing the plutonium to be recovered for illicit use (though it is unsuitable for weapons due to the non-fissile isotopes present).

So, what is the difference between reprocessing for power reactors versus weapons grade materials?

The first difference is the length of time the material is in the reactor. As the reaction goes on, some of the U238 turns into Pu239, going through some intermediate steps. If the material stays in much longer, some of the Pu239 turns into Pu240.

Pu240 makes the material unsuitable for weapons because it fissions spontaneously. When the bomb mechanism combines the fissile material into a critical mass, the fission of Pu240 causes it to pre-detonate, causing the material to separate, and the bomb only burbs instead of exploding.

So, in production reactors, the fuel has to be extracted in some short time, months instead of years, and sent to the separation facility. In power reactors, the fuel stays in for years and accumulates a high proportion of Pu240. To make the spent fuel into bomb material requires isotope separation on top of chemical separation. If a country has the resources to separate the plutonium isotopes, it would be better off separating uranium isotopes, because that would save it the trouble of operating a production reactor.

The second difference is the chemical process. For the weapons program, the whole point of processing was to separate out the plutonium. For commercial power, that's not necessary. It's cheaper and easier to keep the plutonium mixed with the leftover uranium.

How does it work?

Old nuclear fuel assemblies -- highly radioactive, elongated packages of metal rods that once energized some of France's 58 nuclear power plants -- are gripped by large mechanical arms. They are hoisted by cranes and placed on belts that move them along in the dim orange light. The machinery works to prepare the assemblies to be lowered into four giant pools.

There they will sit, with about 13 feet of demineralized water above them, a bath to shield and cool them, for about three years. Then more machines will lift them out, chop them up and put the pieces to be dissolved in vats of nitric acid. The fissioning of the fuel in the power plant, or the splitting of uranium atoms to release energy, has created a large family of elements, called fission products. The goal of this process is to find and recycle the ones that still contain more energy -- the plutonium and the uranium.

Spent fuel rods also contain elements that have relatively little energy, but plenty of long-lasting radiation. These include americium, curium, cesium and iodine. They are sent off to be immobilized -- hopefully for thousands of years -- by imbedding them in glass logs. Employees here monitor and operate their robotic helpers from a bank of computers housed in lime-green metal coverings.

What is the timeframe and cost for this technology?

Areva, General Electric Co. and another unnamed vendor have asked the NRC to develop licensing procedures for reprocessing plants by 2012. Areva officials say the earliest a reprocessing plant could be built in the United States would be in the 2020-25 time frame, and that such a plant would cost about $20 billion to $25 billion.

Jan 14, 2010

Researchers developing new adult beverages with Valium-like drugs instead of alcohol

Researchers developing new adult beverages with Valium-like drugs instead of alcohol

Since most of the time I do not drink for the buzz, this does not matter to me. However, for the safety of being on the road, this would be awesome :o)

PO Box 1142 - Who Knew?

There was an interesting article in my National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) magazine, about a facility known only as P.O. Box 1142.  Very interesting.

P.O. Box 1142 was a secret American military intelligence facility that operated during World War II. The Army and Navy had two special wings whose core duty was to interview the Prisoners of War (POWs), known as MIS-Y (Military Intrellegence Service-Y) and Op-16-Z (Operation-16-Z). They were known by their codename, the mailing address "P.O. Box 1142."  Notable prisoners housed at the facility included rocket scientist Wernher von Braun, spymaster Reinhard Gehlen, and Heinz Schlicke, inventor of infrared detection.

P.O. Box 1142 was based out of Fort Hunt, Virginia, formerly part of George Washington's farmlands. German scientists, submariners and soldiers were questioned.  P.O. Box 1142 obtained valuable intelligence from German POWs and also communicated with Allied POWs overseas. The camp was in violation of the Geneva Conventions because the Red Cross was not notified of the transfer or location of the prisoners, but according to the surviving wardens torture was not used.  However, at least one of those interrogated, U-boat captain Werner Henke, committed suicide. The work done at Fort Hunt contributed to the Allied victory of World War II. It also led to advances in scientific technology and military intelligence that directly influenced the Cold War. 

When the facility was disbanded, the participants were swown to secrecy, and many went to their graves without talking about it.  Over the years, various parts of the information became declassified, but no one told the Veterans.  In 2006, a Fort Hunt park ranger, during one of his tours, explained the history, and a participant explained that his neighbor had been stationed there.  This ranger took the initiative to ensure that this veteran, and others, were notified of the de-classification and to interview them to collect relevant information and history.  In October 2007, a group of the former intelligence workers gathered for the first time since the war's conclusion, and a flagpole and plaque recognizing their contributions were dedicated on the original grounds.  The Park Service is hoping to build a Visitor Center to immortalize this important part of our WWII history.

For the full NPCA Article, click here.

Jan 13, 2010

As If You Did Not Already Know :o)

The extreme Arctic cold weather last week brought a new all-time winter peak load for AEP Southwestern Electric Power Company (SWEPCO) on Friday, January 8, as its customers used 4,543,000 kilowatts of electricity at 8:00 a.m., when the average temperature across SWEPCO’s three-state service area was 19 degrees. This broke the winter record of 4,180,000 kilowatts on January 5 of this year. The previous record winter peak load had been 4,186,000 kilowatts on February 16, 2007, when the average temperature was 28 degrees. A kilowatt is the electricity required to burn 10 100-watt light bulbs.

The new record demand is 13.6 percent over the company’s projected customer load for the winter. SWEPCO serves over 474,000 customers in western Arkansas, northwest Louisiana and north and east Texas within a 25,000 square-mile service area.

Bucko's Bucks - The New Frugality?

Profligacy is out. Frugality is in.  The question is, with our consumer driven - want results (i.e., gratification) now society, how long will it last?

Those that are out of work, or have upside down mortgages, pennypinching is the work of the day.  Clipping coupons, watching for sales in the paper, trimming nice-to-have cable and cell phone monthly charges, avoiding ATM fees, brown bag your lunch, and use cruise control (keep off the gas :o).  Of course, these are things that should be done year round by all of us if we really want to get ahead.  I know that we adhere to these pennypinching items.

It is not all about money though.  Going green is a new aspect of contemporary thrift.  The new frugal means reducing our planetary impact as well.

Simplify, simplify, simplify.

What are you going to do this year to stretch your greenbacks?

Jan 12, 2010

Philosophical Phun - Universalism Lite :o)

Some basic concepts of universalism:  place trust in ourselves, there is rational pressure to place the same trust in others that we place in ourselves.  Self-trust is an essential part of any non-skeptical outlook.

Our belief systems are saturated with the opinions of others. In our childhoods, we acquire beliefs from parents, siblings, and teachers. These constitute the backdrop against which we form yet other beliefs, and, often enough, these latter beliefs are also the products of other people’s beliefs. We hear testimony from those we meet, read books and articles, listen to television and radio reports, and then form opinions on the basis of these sources of information. If we have intellectual trust in ourselves, we are pressured also to have  intellectual trust in others.

The credibility of someone else’s opinion can be defeated even when we have no specific knowledge of the individual’s track record, capacities, training, evidence, or background. It is defeated when our opinions conflict, because, by our perception, the person has been unreliable. When our opinions conflict with a person about whom we know little, the pressure to trust that person is dissipated and, as a result, the presumption of trust is defeated. If we have other information indicating that the person is a reliable evaluator of the issue, it might still be rational for us to defer, but in cases of conflict we rarely do.

I think that a large part of our problem in todays environment is that we have lost our concept of intellectual curiosity.  Instead of performing our own research, weighing pros and cons, and then forming an opinion; we rely on talking heads and soundbites.  Our society has reached the point that we latch onto the first opinion, that on the surface, matches our own - with the skeptical and questioning perspective immediately switched off.  Even worse, we seem to be then espousing that position as truth.

My wish for this new year is that we slow down, start to weigh the pros and cons, and reach our conclusions on how to proceed based on facts, and remove the emotion from the picture.

Entry information from Think Tonk.

Jan 11, 2010

Bucko's Bucks - Compensation and Benefits

Every year, we get a total compensation breakdown report from our company.  As we have been hearing all the dialogue about benefits and compensation with Health Care Reform and Financial Controls, I thought it would be interesting to provide the breakdown for a company that has more than 20,000 workers ranging from union personnel all the way to the CEO.

So how does this $2.5 billion in pay and benefits break down?

Direct Compensation:                    75.7%
Health Care Benefits:                     10.2%
Insurance and Disability Benefits:     1.2%
Retirement Benefits:                      12.3%
Other Comany-Provided Benefits:     0.6%

Jan 10, 2010

Sweet Sunday :o)

Quiet morning, reading the paper, workout, and such.  Did get to see the Ravens had it to the Pats, that was nice to see.  Never been a Patriots nor a Brady fan.

About 3:00 PM we headed out for our first Notre Dame hockey game of the season.  It was a lot of fun, and a fight did break out (referee even got a fat lip), but alas, the Fighting Irish lost.  To me, they just did not skate with the same intensity as last year.

Then it was on to BW3's for a spot of dinner.  Great company, good beer, and some wings/burger/salad action, life is sweet sometimes.  We got to watch the Cardinals almost blow a big lead, but they pulled it out over the Packers.  A sweet ending to a sweet Sunday (sorry Dan and Dan :o)

Sunday Silliness - Misfortune :o)

MISFORTUNE: While good fortune often eludes you, this kind never misses.

ND sends #8 WV Packing :o)

SOUTH BEND – A big game from Notre Dame's All-American helped hold off a big rally by No. 8 West Virginia on Saturday at Purcell Pavilion.  Luke Harangody scored 24 points with five rebounds as the Irish survived a last-second shot from Da'Sean Butler that rolled around and halfway down before rimming out in a 70-68 Irish upset victory.  Notre Dame moves to 14-3 overall, 3-1 in the Big East. West Virginia is 12-2, 3-1.   For full details, click the link to the South Bend Tribune.

We were sitting next to the student section and got to see a lot of great action.  Tomorrow will be ND Hockey.  Me loves me sports :o)

Jan 9, 2010

$2.3B in Clean Energy Credits

If you saw President Obama's news conference yesterday, you learned of a program to try and create 17,000 green jobs, with programs developed to spur even more clean energy jobs moving forward.  The premise to not have America fall behind in this technological race. 

For Nuclear Power, below is an announcement made yesterday, directly related to the new program.

ALSTOM RECEIVED $63 MILLION AND THE SHAW GROUP GOT $10.8 MILLION in tax credits as part of a $2.3 billion US government stimulus program aimed at boosting clean energy manufacturing. The DOE announced the awards, which were part of the Recovery Act Advanced Manufacturing Tax Credits program, on January 8. Alstom and subsidiaries will use the support to establish a Chattanooga, Tennessee facility to build steam turbines of up to 1700 MW for use in advanced nuclear reactors. Shaw got the tax credit for its new Lake Charles, Louisiana facility, which assembles structural, piping and equipment modules for Westinghouse's AP1000 reactor.

Polaroid to Immortalize Lady GaGa?

Private equity titans Gordon Brothers Brands LLC and Hilco Consumer Capital LP paid $88.1 million in May to acquire what was left of Polaroid, once the most iconic brand in photography. Now the company is looking to make a splash by signing 23-year old pop icon Lady Gaga to a contract that makes her a spokesperson and creative director.

For the full WalletPop entry, click HERE.

Jan 8, 2010

Da Bears :o)

Here is a picture taken of Beth and me at the Bears vs. Lions game last Sunday.

We knew there would be brew and sleeping on the bus, so glasses were in order :o)

Jan 7, 2010

As Things Get Frigid, here is a link to some humor :o)

Looking for a good laugh, head over to Reflection for a goose dialogue in "da wintr" :o)

All that and a bag of chips :o)

Imagine walking into a store to buy a bag of potato chips and seeing not only how two competing bags of chips compare on price but also how they compare in terms of green house gas (GHG) emissions. Then, imagine the ramifications if both bags of chips cost the same, but one bag had twice the GHG emissions clearly identified next to its price! Get ready, this path toward price/emission competitive comparison officially begins on January 1, 2010.

The EPA’s Final Mandatory Reporting of Greenhouse Gases Rule took effect on December 29, 2009. As stated by the EPA, “Under the rule, suppliers of fossil fuels or industrial greenhouse gases, manufacturers of vehicles and engines, and facilities that emit 25,000 metric tons or more per year of GHG emissions are required to submit annual reports to EPA.” The gases covered include not just CO2 but also methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), hydrofluorocarbons (HFC), perfluorocarbons (PFC), sulfur hexafluoride (SF6), and other fluorinated gases including nitrogen trifluoride (NF3) and hydrofluorinated ethers (HFE). The monitoring period begins January 1, 2010.

Suppose there were two identical products (like potato chips) being offered at the same price but one was manufactured by company #1 using electricity from a coal fired power plant while the other bag of potato chips was manufactured by company #2 using a combination of electricity produced from a natural gas fired power plant plus an onsite roof top solar system. Market research suggests that many of today’s consumers will almost always buy green if the competing products are at pricing parity.

The idea of enabling consumers searching for price competitive “green” products through a credible “sustainability ranking” posted next to a price could be a major competitive advantage for green manufacturers and retailers.  It could also end up resulting in a negative economic impact to those companies and states that are not as green.  This is the type of open market issues that I can support.  We need to put our money where our mouths are!

Jan 6, 2010

Free pancakes at IHOP on Feb. 23

Kind of - but it is a win-win. You get some good and inexpensive food, and the Childrens Miracle Network gets a donation.

Free pancakes at IHOP on Feb. 23

Philosophical Phun - False Beliefs :o)

On the assumption that reasons are facts, we can have no false reasons and we have no reasons for any of our false beliefs. To say that there are no false, justified beliefs at face value is to accept the absurd consequence that none of the false beliefs we hold are held rationally, since they are not capable of any justification whatsoever. Further, since we often cannot tell with any certainty which of our beliefs are true we must be sceptics about most, if not all, of our beliefs. Since we can’t be certain that they’re true, we can’t have any justification for them whatsoever, and further there’s no difference between being rational and being irrational (being epistemically responsible and irresponsible) so long as we’re mistaken.

Rationality is a necessary condition for certain kinds of excuses (including mistaken belief excuses for action), but excuses do not provide justification. Rational/reasonable response to reasons is not the same as the justified response.

Do you find yourself being a sceptic, a rationalist, or a factualist ???  I know that I waiver between being a sceptic and a factualist, but rarely a rationalist.

Head over to Think Tonk for the original entry :o)

Jan 5, 2010

Organizing Is Something I Just Gotta Do :o)

"Organizing is what you do before you do something, so that when you do it, it is not all mixed up."

- A.A. Milne, creator of Winnie-the-Pooh


I think being organized is one of the traits that I have that makes me successful in my job and my financial planning.  Don't get me wrong, I am certainly no Felix Unger, but everything pretty much has its place.  Whether it is my electronic filing system, my financial planning (budget, retirement, investments), my wine racks (by year of course), my garage shelves, or my piles by my coumputer (both home and work).

Organizing is also a skill that I think is essential to be a project manager.  The most important part of a project is the upfront planning, and having organizational skills certainly is important to perform proper planning.  Then, having the discipline to execute the plan is hard to do if you have not organized things so that the information is provided in the proper form at the proper time.

Incidently, one of my favorite shopping catalogs is called "Get Organized," go figure.

So, are you an organized planner type, or a spontaneous type?

Jan 4, 2010

Ganja Pie Anyone :o)

This article tickled my funny bone, making me snicker under my breath :o)  Our good ol' free market society working in overdrive.  Make sure you scour the menu for ingredients before you order.

What do you get when you mix the culinary skills of Emeril Lagasse with a favorite ooey-gooey treat of the 70s (AKA pot-laced brownies)? The Ganja Gourmet, of course.  Now those with a prescription for cannabis don't have to limit their choices to smoking or brownies. A Denver entrepreneur has opened a medical marijuana eatery named Ganja Gourmet. And that's not the only place those in and around the mile-high city can go for marijuana-infused foods like pizza, hummus and lasagna. A Caribbean restaurant across town has plans to hold classes on sprinkling, dashing and pouring a bit of mellowing weed into multi-course meals.

Sun-loving Southern Californians can tune into a low-budget TV show called "Cannabis Planet" for tips to cook with marijuana and create mouth watering and munchie-inducing dishes like teriyaki chicken, shrimp capellini and steak sandwiches.

I think the video below shows how eating such fare could impact you :o)

Ironically, some say these establishments are good for curbing obesity. After all, teriyaki chicken can have a lot less fat than brownies. Marijuana meals, some say, are also better on your respiratory health since you're not smoking -- and thus inhaling.  "When I started using marijuana, I was eating a brownie every day. I gained a ton of weight," Michael DeLao, a former hotel chef who hosts the "Cannabis Planet" cooking segments on Los Angeles' KJLA told the Associated Press. "Then I learned how to really cook with marijuana, and once more people learn about all the possibilities, we're going to see a lot more people wanting this in their food."

Just don't get any ideas of strolling into the Ganja Gourmet and ordering one of their pot pizzas. To get served, you've got to show a medical marijuana card proving a doctor says pot can cure whatever happens to ail you.

Unlike a box of brownie mix, one of Ganja's pizzas will set you back a few coins, $89 to be exact. "It's not like you'd eat the whole thing in one sitting. You can have leftovers," says Shepard. But since an ounce of marijuana is said to cost anywhere from $100 to $500 an ounce, depending on strength, taste and patient preference, $89 can seem like a bargain.

Wallet Pop: Gina Roberts-Grey is a freelance writer specializing in health, celebrity and consumer issues.

Jan 3, 2010

Da Bears Win :o)

Up and at 'em at 6:00 AM, and on the road at 7:00.  The buses left at about 8:15 (a few straglers).

At that early of a morning, it was pretty low key on the trip up, mostly low keyed talking.  I read the morning paper.  Folks started popping cans at about 10:00 AM.  We arrived at Ford Field about 11:15 AM, and once we got inside, who wudda thunk that there was no alcohol before noon. 

Somehow, we managed to survive, and had a few beers before we headed to our seats.  It was pretty much a non-game for both teams, but it was fun anyway - especially since Da Bears Won :o)

The trip back was mostly snoozeville, and the drive back home was interesting with the Lake Effect snow.

Hope you had a great Sunday, I know we did.

Out of Pocket Sunday - Da Bears :o)

My employee's club from work made arrangements to go to Detroit for the Bears - Lions game.  We have five buses going to Detroit.  Should be a fun time, and maybe Da Bears will even manage to win a game :o)   We have nosebleed seats, but it is the environment I am looking forward to, have not been to a pro football game since 1984.

Hope you have a great day today, catch you on the flip side (I took Monday off, so will catch up with ya'll tomorrow).

Sunday Silliness - Meetings :o)

MEETINGS: None of us is as dumb as all of us.

Jan 2, 2010

Bucko's Bucks - Financial Resolutions :o)

Experts say starting the new year on solid financial footing is essential to long- and short-term prosperity. But it's hard to know what to do -- beyond setting a budget and freezing your credit cards.  These 10 tips can help you make the most of the New Year and improve your financial outlook.

1. Run your credit report.
Before you can improve your financial outlook, you need to know where you stand.
2. Make a plan
Taking time today to identify your financial goals for tomorrow will help put you on the path to affording a vacation this summer or paying off a credit card. 
  • Become a "Two Minute Rule" shopper instead of an impulse shopper. If you see something you want to buy, walk away from it for two minutes You'll likely leave the impulse behind and enter the land of reason.
  • Pay down the credit card with the highest interest rate first.
  • Contribute to your IRA/Roth IRA and a 401(k) plan, if your employer offers it.
  • Be aware of fees on ATMs when using a bank other than your own, and high interest rates on credit cards and start using cash instead of a credit card.

3. Learn from your financial past
When you sit down to organize or perform your taxes, take stock of where your money has gone over the past year.  Once you have categorized your spending, reorganize those items into needs versus wants, since it will help you make better financial decisions to adjust your budget for the year to come.

4. Involve your family
Anyone who participates in the spending should be involved in the planning.  If that only involves pets, let them play with the receipts, if nothing else, it will be good for a laugh :o)

5. Audit your insurance
Life Insurance and Car Insurance costs have gone down over the past decade or so, so take a look at your rates and your deductables.  I know that I am not going to go through the hassle of submitting a $500 claim and risk my rates going up.
6. Pay online
Online bill payments (ebills) are a convenient, secure and environmentally helpful way of delivering the bills we pay to our computers and allowing us to schedule payment with the click of a mouse button.  Check out these reasons to make the move to online bill-paying:

  • Avoid fees.
  • Save a few bucks. Although the US Post Office won't like to hear this, your household can save up to $50 a year on postage fees (based on you paying 10 bills every month).
  • Protect the environment. According to Shaw, if you pay 10 bills online every month, you reduce 151 pounds of Greenhouse gases, prevent 37 pounds of waster water from being distributed into lakes, streams and rivers and save four pounds of paper. 
7. Review your property taxes
If you think your property is being taxed on a value that is higher than its current market value, you may be able to reduce your annual property tax bill. Contact your county assessor's office and complete an "Application for Decline-in-Value Reassessment" form.

8. Consider a Roth IRA conversion
Starting Jan. 1st, the $100,000 income limit that has prevented many individuals from converting a traditional IRA to a Roth IRA will be eliminated. With a Roth IRA, growth and withdrawals are tax-free, so with this new change, it's a great move to convert in many cases.

9. Control your investment costs
A quick and easy way to check on your funds expenses is through either Morningstar.com or Google Finance.
10. Look ahead
In 2010 the Bush tax cuts are likely to expire and although all tax brackets may not be affected, current government policy, such as health care reform, would indicate that people at higher income levels may have a significantly higher tax burden going forward.

For more details and links, go to WalletPop.

Jan 1, 2010

Contest: All Puns Intended - Winners :o)

I am pleased to announce two winners for the Contest: All Puns Intended.  Alaina and Linda.  Since they were the only two that entered, they each will recieve two prizes.  Stop by to congratulate them on the wit and humor :o)  Below are the completed puns.

1. Two antennas met on a roof, fell in love and got married. The ceremony wasn't much, but the reception was excellent.

2. A jumper cable walks into a bar. The bartender says, "I'll serve you, but don't start anything."

3. Two peanuts walk into a bar, and one was a salted.

4. A dyslexic man walked into a bra.

5. A man walks into a bar with a slab of asphalt under his arm, and says: "A beer please, and one for the road."

6. Two cannibals are eating a clown. One says to the other: "Does this taste funny to you?"

7. "Doc, I can't stop singing The Green, Green Grass of Home."
"That sounds like Tom Jones Syndrome."
"Is it common?"
"Well, It's Not Unusual."

8. Two cows are standing next to each other in a field.
Daisy says to Dolly, "I was artificially inseminated this morning."
"I don't believe you," says Dolly.
"It's true; no bull!" exclaims Daisy.

9. An invisible man marries an invisible woman. The kids were nothing to look at either.

10. Deja Moo: The feeling that you've heard this bull before.

11. I went to buy some camouflage trousers the other day, but I couldn't find any.

12. A man woke up in a hospital after a serious accident.
He shouted, "Doctor, doctor, I can't feel my legs!"
The doctor replied, "I know, I amputated your arms!"

13. I went to a seafood disco last week... and pulled a mussel.

14. What do you call a fish with no eyes? A fsh.

15. Two fish swim into a concrete wall. The one turns to the other and says, "Dam!"

16. Two Eskimos sitting in a kayak were chilly, so they lit a fire in the craft. Not surprisingly it sank, proving once again that you can't have your kayak and heat it too.

17. A group of chess enthusiasts checked into a hotel, and were standing in the lobby discussing their recent tournament victories. After about an hour, the manager came out of the office, and asked them to disperse.
"But why?" they asked.
"Because," he said. "I can't stand chess-nuts boasting in an open foyer.."

18. A woman has twins, and gives them up for adoption. One of them goes to a family in Egypt, and is named "Ahmal." The other goes to a family in Spain; they name him "Juan." Years later, Juan sends a picture of himself to his birth mother. Upon receiving the picture, she tells her husband that she wishes she also had a picture of Ahmal. Her husband responds, "They're twins! If you've seen Juan, you've seen Ahmal."

19. Mahatma Gandhi, as you know, walked barefoot most of the time, which produced an impressive set of calluses on his feet. He also ate very little, which made him rather frail and with his odd diet, he suffered from bad breath. This made him a super-calloused fragile mystic hexed by halitosis.

20. A dwarf, who was a mystic, escaped from jail. The call went out that there was a small medium at large.

21. And finally, there was the person who sent 20 different puns to his friends, with the hope that at least 10 of the puns would make them laugh. No pun in 10 did.