May 30, 2011

Memorial Day, Thank You for your Service!

Memorial Day

Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, is a day of remembrance for those who have died in our nation's service.   My heart goes out to the families of soldiers that have died in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.  Also today, my heart is heavy for Junior, my beloved father-in-law.

Traditional observance of Memorial day has diminished over the years. Many Americans nowadays have forgotten the meaning and traditions of Memorial Day. At many cemeteries, the graves of the fallen are increasingly ignored, neglected. Most people no longer remember the proper flag etiquette for the day. While there are towns and cities that still hold Memorial Day parades, many have not held a parade in decades. Some people think the day is for honoring any and all dead, and not just those fallen in service to our country.

There are a few notable exceptions. Since the late 50's on the Thursday before Memorial Day, the 1,200 soldiers of the 3d U.S. Infantry place small American flags at each of the more than 260,000 gravestones at Arlington National Cemetery. They then patrol 24 hours a day during the weekend to ensure that each flag remains standing. In 1951, the Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts of St. Louis began placing flags on the 150,000 graves at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery as an annual Good Turn, a practice that continues to this day. More recently, beginning in 1998, on the Saturday before the observed day for Memorial Day, the Boys Scouts and Girl Scouts place a candle at each of approximately 15,300 grave sites of soldiers buried at Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park on Marye's Heights (the Luminaria Program). And in 2004, Washington D.C. held its first Memorial Day parade in over 60 years. 

May 28, 2011

Got Gas?

With a gallon of gas approaching -- or even exceeding, depending on your brand -- the cost of a six-pack, millions of Americans are rethinking their travel plans for Memorial Day weekend, the traditional start of summer and driving season.

Here'sa tip list, along with the estimated savings per gallon for each tip, which are based on May 2011 gas prices of $3.85 per gallon:

  1. Check your air filter. A clean air filter can improve gas mileage by as much as 10%, and nearly 25% of all cars could use a new air filter. Replacing a dirty air filter can save you 39 cents a gallon or take you 23 miles more on a typical tank of gas.
  2. Straighten out and drive right. Poor wheel alignment makes tires wear out more quickly and forces your engine to work harder, reducing gas mileage by as much as 10%. Aligning your tires can save you 39 cents per gallon.
  3. Tune up that engine. A properly tuned engine can improve mileage by 4% and save you 15 cents a gallon.
  4. Pump 'em up. More than one-quarter of all passenger vehicles on the road are under-inflated. And the average under-inflation of 7.5 lbs results in a loss of 2.8% in fuel efficiency. Properly inflating your tires can save you 11 cents a gallon.
  5. Check your cap. It's estimated that almost 17% of all cars on the road have broken or missing gas caps, which reduces gas mileage and possibly harms the environment as well. Fixing or replacing a faulty gas cap will save you 3 cents per gallon.
  6. Lose that extra weight. For each additional 100 pounds loaded into your car, you lose 1% to 2% in fuel efficiency. For every 100 lbs you manage to shed, you'll save the equivalent of 6 cents per gallon. So empty your trunk of any unnecessary items and save at the tank.
  7. Slow down, mister! For every 5 mph you knock off your highway speed, fuel consumption is reduced by 7%. So if you typically drive 70 mph on the highway, slowing down to 65 mph will save you 27 cents a gallon.
  8. Be a smooth (car) operator. The smoother you accelerate and decelerate, the better your gas mileage will be, with potential gas savings of 33% on the highway and 5% around town. Drivers who take off like a drag racer and approach lights at top speed before hitting the brakes can save 68 cents a gallon by taking it easy on the gas pedal.
  9. Keep your foot where it belongs. Driving with your foot on the brake will wear out your brakes and reduce gas consumption by as much as 35%. If you stop driving with your foot on the brake, you'll save the equivalent of $1.35 per gallon.
  10. Don't just sit there. If you need to stop the for more than 30 seconds, turn off the engine. And don't bother "warming up" your car before driving -- it's not necessary. For every two minutes not spent idling, you'll save almost 1 cent per gallon.

May 26, 2011

Space Shuttle Retirement Locations

After the final flight this summer, America's space shuttles will retire to four locations across the continent, from California to Florida. Houston, home of Mission Control, was snubbed — it will receive shuttle seats, with actual training simulators leaving the JSC grounds for other museums in the midwest.
Atlantis will go to KSC, home of every historic launch in NASA history. The news provoked cheers from the audience assembled to hear NASA Administrator Charles Bolden announce the orbiters' new homes, on the 30th anniversary of the first shuttle flight and the 50th anniversary of the first human spaceflight. Millions of visitors to KSC and the other institutions will be inspired by the chance to see a real, flown shuttle, he said.
Endeavour will wind up at the California Science Center in Los Angeles, Bolden said.
Discovery, the first shuttle to officially retire and NASA's most-traveled orbiter, will go to the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.
Space shuttle Enterprise, which never reached orbit but served as the first test vehicle, already inhabits that space, and it will be transferred to the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum in New York.
"Take care of our shuttles," Bolden told the recipients, his voice breaking, as it did several times throughout his speech.

May 24, 2011

Bucko Bucks: Retirement Savings

Despite the endless drumbeat of advice to "save, save, save for retirement," most Americans are saying "tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow." Then tomorrow turns into today, and more immediate priorities keep pushing long-term planning off into the future.

In the latest Employment Benefit Research Institute 
survey, 56 percent of workers reported that the total value of their household's savings and investments, excluding the value of their primary home and any defined benefit plans, was less than $25,000, and about 29 percent said they have less than $1,000. Those numbers are hardly enough to fund even the most modest of retirement dreams.

Truth is, with savings so slim, there's precious little room for error when planning for retirement, because people's nest eggs aren't much of a safety net. But failing to save enough is just one of many mistakes people make when planning for the twilight years. There are a host of retirement planning missteps that can make an already less-than-ideal situation even worse.

Here's a look at where people commonly go wrong, and how they can adjust course to reach retirement in good financial shape.

1. Rethink Retirement

"The retirement message doesn't work. Most people don't have the willpower or the financial ability to forgo spending today for a hazy benefit tomorrow," says Sol Nasisi, chief economist 
at, which provides information on banks and credit unions. "Instead, people should think about building personal wealth, a process that it is ongoing and has immediate benefits, but also provides for people when they decide to stop working. Building and accumulating wealth is a much more powerful, immediate message than saving for retirement.

Changing the message changes how one thinks about saving and investing. "Building wealth is a much more active process than saving for retirement, and its benefits can be realized much quicker," Nasisi adds. While this may seem top be just a shift of semantics, "Building wealth is largely a matter of outlook and philosophy. Saving for retirement is a chore, building wealth is a challenge," he says.

Also, forget about the idea of retirement as a permanent vacation.

"The old idea of retire at 65, move somewhere warm, play golf, no longer works," points out Matthew Tuttle, a certified financial planner with Tuttle Wealth Management. "With life expectancies increasing, playing golf and going to early bird dinners every day can get old [after] 35 years. Rethink what retirement means: It could be working fewer hours or changing jobs to something you like more."

Know too, that you may not have as much control over your retirement date as you imagine. "Most people assume they will retire at a certain age, but two in five people retire earlier than planned," warns Katie Libbe, vice president of consumer insights at Allianz Life. "This could be due to layoffs, illness, or any number of factors. The key is to start saving early."

2. Anticipate the Unexpected

When you're young and healthy, you'll spend very little time in the doctor's office, but for most of us, that will change later in life. According to a Fidelity Investments 
study, a 65-year-old couple who retired in 2010 will need $250,000 to pay for medical expenses throughout retirement, not including nursing-home care. The study found that health care costs average $535 a month, or about one-fifth of an average couple's total monthly expenses of $2,842.

Failing to prepare for the reality that eventually, your young bones will be old is a critical mistake. "Medicare is not free and it doesn't cover everything, including prescription drugs," says Ross Blair, CEO of "Not planning ahead in retirement for catastrophic medical expenses as well as prescription drug costs and supplemental insurance plans could potentially be devastating to a retiree."

The good news is, there are some tax-free ways to compensate for those expenses. You can contribute to a Health Savings Account. Individuals can contribute $3,050 in 2011, while a family can contribute $6,150 a year tax free. If you're over 55, you can add an extra $1,000 as a catch-up contribution. "When someone turns 65 and ages into Medicare they can use these funds for prescription drugs, certain Medicare plans and other health coverage other than premiums for a Medicare supplement policy, such as Medigap," says Blair. Proper protection is key, be it health, disability, life, or long term care insurance.

3. Forget Tradition

Conventional wisdom may not apply to you. "Following standard industry advice that you should get real conservative, meaning investing heavily in bonds, by the time you are 65 is a recipe for having to find a job in your 70s and 80s when you run out of money," says Tuttle.

Likewise, you shouldn't count on history repeating itself. "You can't assume you'll always get the same return on your investments," cautions David Spader, a financial analyst with, which provides information on savings, money market and CD rates. "Don't think you'll be able to beat the market for 30 years."

4. Handle Your 401(k) Wisely

A 401(k) is not a piggy bank. Sure, it's your money, and good for you for participating in your employer's plan -- a surprising number of people don't even do that, believing that they can't afford to. Hopefully, you're contributing enough to get the maximum amount of free money from the company's match, if yours offers it. But borrowing from yourself is a bad idea.

"Taking a loan from a retirement plan can look appealing as a way to get out of a hole, but it can actually create more problems," says Scott Halliwell, a certified financial planner with USAA. "This tactic removes the growth potential on those funds, and, if you lose your job and can't repay the funds, the loan will be treated as a distribution and subject to taxes and penalties."

While it may be convenient, think twice about leaving retirement funds in an employer plan after you leave that job. "The employer plan has limited investment options. The employer makes all the decisions. As soon as possible, most people should roll their employer retirement funds into an IRA," advises Radon Stancil, a certified financial planner with Diversified Estate Services. You can do this tax-free and once the funds are in an IRA, you the owner, have all the control.

5. Redefine Investing 

Investing has increasingly become synonymous with putting money in stocks, bonds or mutual funds. While this should be one facet of building wealth, it should not be the only investment vehicle, nor should it necessarily be the primary investment vehicle, says Nasisi. To be truly diversified, an investor should look to real estate, an investment in a business, or starting a side business, he adds.

"Take the initiative and invest some money in yourself and things you can control instead of forking over all your savings to others," says Nasisi. "Look for ways to build income streams that will generate reliable cash well into the future."

6. Set Priorities

You have to put your hard earned money in the right places. "Forget the shiny new BMW or the latest iPhone, save the money and put it to work for you," says Nasisi. While it's a very admirable goal to save money for your children's college education, truth is, there are many ways to pay for college. "But go into the bank on the day you retire and ask to take out a 'retirement loan," says Charlie Long, a financial adviser with Exemplar Financial Network. You get the point.

It can also be a mistake, especially in this low-interest-rate environment, says Long, to pay off a low-interest mortgage, when those funds could be used elsewhere.

Realize that when it comes to retirement you can't "wing it." Stephen Cunha, a certified financial planner with Baystate Financial Services says to remember the five P's: Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance. You want a written plan that includes an analysis of all financial goals, retirement income needs, insurance, tax, investment and an estate plan, he adds. However, your plan can't be engraved in stone, and should be monitored periodically. You need some tangible evidence of what you want and why, and and idea of how you plan to achieve it -- otherwise, how can you expect to reach your goals?

See full article from DailyFinance: 

May 20, 2011


"The Constitution only guarantees the American people the right to pursue happiness. You have to catch it yourself." -- Benjamin Franklin

The pursuit of happiness is one of the fundamental values of our nation. The Declaration of Independence states that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

How do you exercise your right to happiness? Happiness is within your control.

What Is Happiness?
What does it mean to be happy? Happiness is defined by positive emotions such as pleasure, contentment, joy and satisfaction This doesn’t mean that happy people are always happy, but it does mean that they are happy more often than not. Almost half of your personal happiness is within your control!

Positive Thinking
Your attitude plays a huge part in how you look at life, how you see things around you and how you handle different situations. Although you can’t always control what happens, you can control your attitude toward life events. 

Stop a bad day in its tracks. Just because you woke up on the wrong side of the bed doesn’t mean your entire day is ruined. Make an effort to change the course of your day early and don’t let a few bad moments spoil the rest of the day. And remember, when things aren’t going well, tomorrow is a brand new day.

Develop positive friendships. It’s difficult to maintain a positive attitude when your friends or co-workers have negative ones. The company you keep influences your attitude.

Be good to yourself. You can be your own best friend or your own worst enemy. Make sure you eat well and get enough rest. Stress and bad health habits are enough to give anyone a bad attitude.

Look at the bigger picture. One of the best ways to improve your attitude is to take a reality check. Is your life really so bad? Take a good look around you and chances are you’ll gain a new-found appreciation for the things you have. Look at all the things you can be grateful for and your attitude will change for the better.

Ask for a helping hand. If you’re trying to improve your attitude and outlook on life, ask a friend or family member to tell you when you’re slipping back into your negative habits. A gentle reminder to look on the bright side may be all you need.

I don't remember where I found this, but I think it is spot on, Just Say'in :o)

May 18, 2011

Climate Scientist, Yo!

Warning, contains explicit language, go to YouTube for clean version.

Below is Ripped of and Duplicated (R&D :o) from Stan (see below for link).

There is no reason to complain about the "potential dangers" of nuclear energy when the "actual damage" done by oil spills, coal mining, and natural gas extraction far exceed the "actual damage" done by nuclear accidents.  AND...and this is a big and, which is why I capitalized it...AND nuclear accidents have all (for the most part) actually been accidents.  Oil spills, while they may be accidents, have all been mostly the result of negligence.  And any mind of drilling or mining destroys the environment and pollutes by default as it is part of the process of extracting fossil fuels.

So why are we so stupid?  Why are we so slow to adopt clean energies?  Nuclear energy is a great alternative, but if you are scared of the power, what about solar and wind energies?  They are not only renewable, and free, but the only "damage" they cause is a visual one.  It makes no sense to fight the mass production of turbines and solar panels and the immediate adoption of an overall conversion process that moves us to free energy.  But we do.  Why?  Aesthetics!  Not in my back yard!  I don't want to see it.

Thanks to Stan for posting this.

May 16, 2011

Ask Uncle Kerouac :o)

Ask Uncle Kerouac, always funny.  Not only that, but I won a caption contest :o)

May 8, 2011

Sunday Silliness - Cluelessness :o)

Happy Mother's Day

This is a day where we stop to take the time to recognize and honor our mothers, who nurture and protect us, who give of themselves and then some, who love us no matter what we have or have not done. The best image in my mind is the one at the left. My philosophy has always been that this is part of every day, but one day is better than none at all.

So here is hoping that if you are a mother, that you have a glorious day. If you are a son or daughter, I hope you had the chance to tell your Mom how much she means to you, and most importantly, that you love her.

Happy Mother's Day!

May 7, 2011

New Orleans, here we come :o)

We are NOLA bound, so reading and posting may be lighter than usual :o)

Can't tell you how ready I am for this vacation.  Catch you next week!


May 5, 2011

Leadership Lessons from the Kitchen

Engaged in a fierce battle on a recent Chopped All-Stars, chef Aar√≥n Sanchez quipped, “When brilliance happens, you don’t ask where it came from, you just kind of go with it, ride the wave.”

It didn’t matter that he was referring to making whipped cream out of chickpeas; he might just as well have been talking about the next high-tech innovation or big business idea.

If you watch enough Food Network shows like Iron Chef or Worst Cooks in America, a picture of what greatness is all about begins to emerge. No, not great chefs making great food. but great leaders.

What separates iconic chefs like Bobby Flay, Masimaru Morimoto, and Cat Cora from the millions of competitors around the world is their leadership ability. It’s evident in their behavior, their character, everything they do. Never mind that they’re on TV. They may as well be cooking in one of their restaurants or mentoring an up-and-coming sous chef.

Restaurants deliver product and service like any other business. But make no mistake. The cooking business is a fiercely competitive battleground that breeds great chefs who are also great leaders.

10 Leadership Lessons From Food Network Chefs

Compete to win but respect the enemy. Forget all the politically correct BS - business is about winning. And yes, it is a zero-sum game. It’s all about market share. But that doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t respect your competitors.

Success is about managing and mentoring people. The way chefs move up is by hiring talented cooks and training them to be sous chefs so they can someday run one of their many restaurants. It’s the same as climbing the corporate ladder.

Results are all that matter. It’s what the customer thinks of the product and service that counts. That’s what creates repeat business and loyal customers. You may think you’ve come up with a brilliant dish, but if the folks don’t like it, you failed.

You’ve got to know the business. Steve Jobs isn’t just a brilliant marketer. Warren Buffet isn’t just a smart investor. Bill Gates wasn’t just a great software coder. Just like these iconic leaders, every great chef has a head for the business.

It’s not who you know but what you know. Don’t let anyone tell you success is about who you know. That’s just an excuse for whiners who can’t cut it. Great chefs know everything there is to know about making a restaurant business successful. Period.

Experience is overrated. Even young chefs like Sanchez and Bobby Flay - when he was first starting out - exude such instincts and passion for what they do that you know in a heartbeat they’re going to be successful. That’s why people follow them.

Learn from failure and move on. Failure is how we learn and grow. Failure teaches us how to do things differently. How to do things better. Great chefs don’t dwell on their mistakes. They suck it up and do better next time. After all, there’s always another meal.

Focus on core strengths. Great chefs grow their business around their core strengths. Nobody has ever been successful in the restaurant or cooking business by just doing the same stuff as everyone else. Sure, execution is critical, but innovation and creativity are also requirements for success. Like it or not, smarts matter.

Work hard, play hard. Even while competing at an extraordinarily high level, these chefs never lose their sense of humor and, when it’s over, they party and congratulate each other on a job well done. That’s how it should be.


May 3, 2011

Science Scene - Not Quite Living Seagull :o)

I find this absolutely fascinating, I recommend watching both videos.  Science and engineering at their best.

A new lifelike seagull ‘bot is one of the most realistic bio-inspired flight machines we’ve seen. SmartBird takes off, flies and lands on its own, flapping its wings and turning its head and tail to steer. It is modeled on the herring gull and its appearance and movements are uncannily similar to the real thing.
Designed by the German firm Festo, which also brought us the elephant-trunk-inspired robotic arm and the autonomous robotic jellyfish, SmartBird is Festo’s newest entry in its Bionic Learning Network program, which involves several universities in the U.S. and Europe and aims to use nature as a model for mechatronic systems.
The bird has a 6.5-foot wingspan, so it’s much larger than a real gull, but it looks pretty much like the real thing, as you can see in the video below.