Mar 16, 2018

Happy Friday

Smiles are like music to soothe a happy soul.
I love a good tune, especially on a Happy Friday!

World Happiness Day

Tuesday, March 20, 2018 is International Happiness Day. Don't worry, be happy!

Happiness is Contagious

A joint venture study by Harvard University and the University of California at San Diego, followed 5,000 people over a 20-year period. The family, coworkers, and neighbors of these individuals were also followed, involving at least 50,000 people in the process. The researchers determined how happy the participants were by administering standard happiness assessments, where subjects responded to statements, such as "I feel hopeful about the future," "I feel I am just as good as other people," and "I am happy."
According to the results, if a friend who lives within a mile of you gets happy, your chances of happiness increase by 25 percent. If that happy friend lives closer to you, you have a 42 percent chance of being happy yourself, showing that proximity to happy people makes a difference. In fact, neighbors of happy people feel the effect more than family members do. Siblings who live close to a happy sibling increase their likelihood of happiness by 14 percent, while next-door neighbors of the happy individual have a 34 percent benefit, even if the neighbors are not friends. The happiness effect lasts up to a year. "We know it's not a 'birds of a feather flock together' effect," said one of the study authors, Nicholas A. Christakis of Harvard University.
Your happiness can affect the happiness of someone you have never met. However, work colleagues seem immune to the benefit. Partners and spouses are less receptive than friends, with only an eight percent benefit from a happy spouse. Good news the researchers found was that while happiness spreads, unhappiness does not spread as much.
"You would think that your emotional state would depend on your own choices and actions and experience," said Dr. Christakis. "But it also depends on the choices, and actions, and experiences of other people, including people to whom you are not directly connected. Happiness is contagious."

Happiness has a significant impact on health. All of which means that it pays to live next to healthy, happy individuals. This study indicates that when you do something right for yourself, the ripples of that positive choice extend farther out into the world than you might have thought.

World Happiness Report

The United States has dropped four spots in the latest World Happiness Report ranking. It has now dropped to 18th spot (from 14th) in the annual ranking, which is published by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network, a United Nations initiative.
The new report lists 156 countries by their happiness levels. The rankings are based on results from Gallup World Poll surveys. Researchers used factors including income, healthy life expectancy, social support, freedom, trust, and generosity to measure happiness.

Finland was ranked number one, with Norway second, and Denmark third. Rounding out the top ten are Iceland, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Canada, New Zealand, Sweden, and Australia. 


Caffeine is an odorless alkaloid. It is a natural ingredient that is found in the green coffee bean. It is also found in a number of other plants, including tea, cocoa, kola, guarana, and yerba mate. Caffeine, used by people is the largest psychoactive stimulant, which speeds up the central nervous system.
Caffeine affects all of us differently. Where some might be able to fall asleep soon after drinking coffee, some might not.
Recent international studies have shown that caffeine has demonstrated protective effects against Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease when consumed in moderation.
Caffeine enters your blood stream through the lining of your mouth, throat, and stomach. Your stomach contents can account for different effects of caffeine. It can take up to forty-five minutes for the majority of caffeine to be absorbed and the effects can last up to three hours.
A cup of coffee contains 98.6% water, which means 1.4% of that cup is dissolved coffee solids.  Caffeine is 1.2% of that 1.4% coffee.

Incidentally,  the US, drinks the most coffee, 400 million cups per day.

Coffee Bean Types

The two species of coffee beans most widely cultivated commercially are Coffea arabica (Arabica) and Coffea canephora (Robusta).

The coffee that most are accustomed to is made from arabica beans which typically have better flavor. Arabica comprises about 75-80% of world production.

Estimates of caffeine content average about 1% for Arabica beans and 2% for Robusta beans by weight.

Starbucks advertises that it only uses arabica beans, Even though its coffee consistently is rated with higher caffeine than Dunkin Donuts, McDonalds, etc.

There are a number of techniques in brewing coffee: concentrate brewing, Turkish or Greek, vacuum brewing, percolating, the French press (also called press pot or plunger coffee), and drip or filter coffee. Assuming that the brewing method stays the same, the finer you grind coffee, the more caffeine it will release.

Temperature is also an important factor. Proper coffee extraction happens between 195-205 degrees, however most drip brewers only reach about 190 degrees. Espresso machines usually brew at near boiling temps. With French press coffee, you have total control over the temperature with the option of pouring boiling water (212 degrees) over the grounds. Water temperature can vary by brewing method, with the hotter the water, the better the extraction. With better extraction comes better tasting coffee and caffeine extraction.

Brewed coffee requires that the water is in contact with the grinds for a long time, this leads to a higher caffeine concentration. Espresso actually has the lowest caffeine content at 100 mg per 2 ounces. However, if you consider the amount of caffeine per ounce, espresso has more caffeine than drip coffee. Coffee brewed in the French press has 107.5 mg per 7 ounces. Drip brewed coffee is highest, with 145 mg of caffeine per 7 ounce cup. Generally, for brewed coffee, two tablespoons of ground coffee is used per 6 fluid ounces of water.

Light, medium, and dark flavors are an indicator of flavor strength, with the dark roasts having the boldest tastes. The darker the beans, the longer they have been roasted. The loss of caffeine from light to dark is minimal, regardless of what many web sites show.

Factors, in addition to brewing process that affects the amount of caffeine: variety of coffee bean, roast level, temperature of water, amount of coffee, brew time, grind level, and beverage size.

Bottom line - longer brewing time, fine ground, robusta equals more caffeine.
Shorter brewing time, course ground, arabica, (light, medium, or dark roast) equals less caffeine.

Snooze Your Facebook Friends

After all that caffeine, maybe you need a snooze. Facebook has a feature that you can shut down a friend's posts for thirty days. They will not be notified. Great for someone who is inundating everyone with the latest adventure, vacation, election, new baby, new car, etc.

When you see a post in your feed from a friend, whom you want to snooze click or tap the three dots in the top right corner of the post. In the menu that opens, click or tap the option that says Snooze [Name] for 30 days. You can also snooze your friend's friends the same way. Think of it as temporary relief. Also, if you change your mind, you can unsnooze. I have not found the option in my feeds, but many say it works great.

You can do the same procedure if you decide to unfollow someone. Unfollowing a friend is permanent, until you go to their page and change it. Also, it does not notify them either way.

Jelly Bean Winner

Easter is coming and one of the popular treats for Easter is jelly beans. A new survey by says it surveyed over ten years of sales data and over 12,000 people to reach its standings of favorite jelly bean flavors by state and then an overall winner and new jelly bean champion.

Cherry jelly beans are favored by five states, black licorice jelly beans are favored by seven, and the winner, butter popcorn is favored by ten.
The overall winner by count is also butter popcorn. The sweet and salty flavor beat last year’s winner, (my personal favorite) black licorice.

Saving Money in a Hospital

If you need to go to the hospital, voluntarily or otherwise, be sure that you, or whoever is with you tells Admitting or Check-in that you do not want to be seen by "out-of-network" physicians or staff.

I recently had a very expensive surprise of multiple doctor bills from consultant physicians, who were not in my network. I had no way of knowing until I started receiving bills. By then it was too late to fight the charges. Adding insult to injury, at least two of them came in and spoke to me (no medical service provided), offering their services after discharge. I was billed for a consultation - for them to sell their services to me. Grrr!
Caveat Emptor.

TV Compensates for Bad Quality

Just like with current TVs, which upscale the low quality cable pictures, 4K TVs upgrade the same pictures to an even higher quality.

However, until the US catches up with other countries and really delivers at least HD quality, we will all continue to buy TVs to compensate for the cable companies unwillingness to upgrade the signal. It is no wonder Netflix, and Amazon Prime are doing so well. They deliver quality pictures to let our 4K TVs show how awesome watching TV can be.

Mar 9, 2018

Happy Friday

Joy lives on the corner of happiness and smiles.
There is no stop sign for happiness and smiles on a Happy Friday!

Daylight Not Saving

This weekend March 11, Sunday morning 2am for most of the US. This is that fretful time of year where we declare that the sun and the moon and the stars are out of alignment with our laws. Since it has proven futile to change the universe to our bidding, we are compelled to change our clocks forward by an hour for a few months until we take up the battle again in the fall and change them back to once more align with the universe. This is our government version of Charlie Brown, Lucy, and the football.

Picture of three types of DST observing countries.

Pi Day

Pi Day was invented by physicist Larry Shaw and the first Pi Day celebration was held at the San Francisco Exploratorium in 1988. In 2009 the US Congress officially recognized March 14 as Pi Day in the United States. The 6-trillionth, 8-trillionth, 9-trillionth and 10-trillionth digits of pi, are all fives.

Innies and Outies

Scar tissue development. "Inny" and "Outie" belly buttons are not caused by where the umbilical cord is cut (contrary to a popular misconception). It is dependent on how scar tissue develops as the remaining tissue dries and falls off. This process is random, though "inny" tends to be a more common result.

Coffee Beans, Light vs. Dark Roast

Caffeine is extremely stable during the roasting process. A change in caffeine depends on how you measure your coffee.
There is an estimated ninety bean difference between a pound of dark and light roast coffee, with the dark roast higher. During the roasting process, a bean loses its mass. The density of the bean changes; beans that are roasted longer are less dense. That is why you have more beans by mass of dark roasts.

If you measure your coffee by scoops, light roasted coffee will have more caffeine, since the beans are denser than a darker roast. However, if you weigh your scoops, darker roasts will have more caffeine, because there is less mass. Depending on how ground coffee is measured, there is only a minimal variance in caffeine content with dark and light roasts. Unlike Marijuana,  people have died from caffeine overdose.

Two Car Part Inventors

Early automobiles had tillers, similar to the tillers used to steer boats. The tiller was attached to a simple mechanism that made the car’s front wheels turn when the tiller was pushed to the left or right. During 1894, a French engineer named Alfred Vacheron modified his Panhard runabout, replacing the tiller with a wheel attached to a shaft that went through the floor of the vehicle at a nearly vertical angle, where it attached to a mechanism that turned the front wheels.

Packard likely came up with the glove box. An article in a 1900 edition of The Horseless Age magazine describes the Model B: “The body of the carriage shows the best possible coach work and upholstering, and the aim has been to get rid of the ‘horse wanted’ appearance. The leather dash is not used, but instead a boot or box forms part of the body. In this is ample space for parcels, waterproofs, etc.” Other automakers soon started adding compartment-like features in place of old-fashioned dashes. The modern-looking glove compartment, with a drop-down door, first appeared during the 1920s.

Costco Ink Refills

Bring any supported, empty cartridges to the Photo Center at your local Costco. Your cartridge will be refilled while you shop. The system cleans, refills, and tests your cartridge. Receive your quality inkjet refill in an hour. Cost varies by location, but is cheaper than new cartridges.

Download, Sideload, and Upload

Many get these confused, but is easy to tell the difference once you understand.

The term "sideloading" is very similar to the more common terms "downloading" and "uploading," and it is much easier to understand what sideloading means if you are already familiar with those terms. Sideloading does not make use of the internet, it requires you to use some other method to transfer files. This can be accomplished with a physical connection between the two devices, like a USB cable, or via a wireless method like Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. If the mobile device has a memory card slot, sideloading can also involve copying files from a computer to an SD card and then inserting the card into the mobile device.

Downloading involves transferring a file from a remote location, like the internet, to a local device like your computer. Uploading is the opposite, since it involves transferring a file from a local device, like your computer, to a remote location like a file hosting service on the internet.

Bottom line, Think of the internet as a cloud. You upload to the cloud and you download from the cloud. Think of another device sitting beside yours. You sideload from it.

Keyboard Cleaners

Clear tape, the kind you find in the office or use to wrap presents is an ideal choice, since it is thin and easy to manipulate. Sticky notes work too.

Cleaning your keyboard with tape is fairly simple. Tear off an inch of tape and fold it in half so that the non-sticky sides are facing together and the sticky sides are facing outward. Slip the tape underneath the edges of the keys and rub back and forth a few times. Pull the piece of tape out and prepare to be disgusted at the amount of grunge. Repeat until all of your keys are clean.

Mar 2, 2018

Happy Friday

Smiles are like Spring to Winter.

Your smile will warm up everyone, especially on a Happy Friday!

Amazon Fire TV Screensaver

If you or someone you know has an Amazon Fire TV you likely came across the beautiful landscape pictures that show as the screensaver. I was wondering about some of them and came across this site LINK that shows each of the 182 pictures, along with a description.

Incidentally, if you have a fire TV and an Amazon Prime membership, you can upload your own photos for free and watch them on the big screen, and/or use them to replace the generic screensaver.

Accent vs. Dialect

The words "dialect" and "accent" are often used interchangeably, but they have different meanings. An accent might be described by muddling up the difference between words people use and the sounds they make, their pronunciation. It is the distinct way that a group of persons or even one particular individual speaks with distinctive phonetics and phonology. Groups sharing an identifiable accent may be defined by any variety of common traits, such as regional, the socio-economic status of its speakers, their ethnicity, their caste or social class, their first language (when the language in which the accent is heard is not their native language), etc. In the US, think Boston, New Orleans, etc.  For example, the Southern accent might refer to the pronunciation of the vowels like fire to 'fahr' or stress shift like 'po lice versus po 'lice.

A dialect is a variation in the language itself and not only in the pronunciation. Dialect is a type of language that is derived from a primary language. A dialect is a variety of language differing in vocabulary and grammar as well as pronunciation. Dialects are usually spoken by a group united by geography or class. It is a geographically or ethnically restricted form of a language characterized by a combination of distinctive phonetics (individual sounds), phonology (sound system rules), syntax, grammar, and vocabulary. The major native dialects of English are often divided by linguists into three general categories: British Isles dialect, North America dialect, and those of Australasia.

If someone from India were to move to London and start speaking English, we would refer to the speech as foreign accented speech, not a dialect.

IRS Scams

This time of year in the US there are many IRS scams due to tax season. If you receive an IRS scam call or a fraudulent tax refund call, never return a phone call from someone claiming to be with the IRS. Instead, individuals should call the IRS directly at 800-829-1040, and businesses should call 800-829-4933.
The US Department of Justice says the IRS never discusses personal tax issues through unsolicited emails or texts, or over social media. Always be wary if you are contacted by someone claiming to be from the IRS who says you owe money.

If you receive an unexpected and suspicious email from the IRS, forward it to

Four Google Tips

If you are searching and want to eliminate a word, put a minus - sign before it as in "cowboys -dallas" (without the quotes). It will get you the information about cowboys, but very few results about the football team.

Use an asterisk * to search and find the word you cannot remember, such as the "* of march" (without the quotes) returns results for the ides of March.

Looking for pictures, type in your search then click images on the top row. It will load your page with (mostly related) pictures. If you want animated pictures, click on search tools and choose "animated pictures".

The Google tool I use most is to filter by time. After you type in your search, click Tools, click "Anytime", then choose the time period. Many sites become outdated over time, and it is important to get the latest information. At the very least, choose "Past Year" for more recent information.

Monkey and Banana Myth

Monkeys actually prefer leaves and insects rather than bananas. In fact, bananas are not healthy for monkeys. Bananas are too sweet for them. The UK has banned them from its zoos. They love eating ripe fruits, seeds, vegetables, honey, and flowers.

Incidentally, goats do not eat tin cans.

Draught Guinness

Draught or draft Guinness is special. There is a precise, elaborate, and time-consuming art-form of pouring the perfect pint of Guinness beer. Bartenders around the world are given instructions for the proper pouring process, including details about the type of glass used, the angle the glass is held at during the different states of pouring, the precise length of time the pint must be left to settle, and the force with which the draught Guinness is poured from the tap.

During the 1950s, Guinness scientist Michael Ash was tasked with solving the 'draft problem'. At the time, dispensing a draft pint of Guinness was very complicated, and the company was losing market share to draft lagers in Britain that could be easily dispensed with CO2. “The stout was too lively to be dispensed with CO2 only,” Brady said. “Ash worked on the problem for four years, working long hours day and night, and became a bit of a recluse apparently. A lot of doubters at the brewery called the project ‘daft Guinness'.”

Then Ash attempted dispensing the beer with plain air. It worked. The secret ingredient, he discovered, was nitrogen. The air we breathe is 78 percent nitrogen. Today, a Guinness draft contains 75 percent nitrogen. Not only did the discovery make dispensing the beer easier, it created a creamy mouthfeel that has been the signature of Irish stouts since.

Nitrogen forms tighter bubbles than carbon dioxide when put under pressure in a solution and has a different appearance and texture. The bubble is a pocket of released gas that becomes trapped inside of a thin membrane of beer. There are many more little bubbles in a nitrogen pour.

Incidentally, Draught Guinness, as it is known today, was first produced in 1964. Bottled Draught Guinness was formulated in 1978 and launched into the Irish market in 1979.

Live to 90 With Booze

If you want to live into your 90s, booze actually beats exercise, according to a long-term study. The research, led by University of California (no surprise) neurologist Claudia Kawas, tracked 1,700 nonagenarians enrolled in the 90+ Study that began in 2003 to explore impacts of daily habits on longevity.
Researchers discovered that subjects who drank about two glasses of beer or wine a day were 18% less likely to experience a premature death. Meanwhile, participants who exercised 15 to 45 minutes a day, cut the same risk by 11%.
“I have no explanation for it, but I do firmly believe that modest drinking improves longevity,” Kawas stated at the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual conference in Austin, Texas.

Other factors were found to boost longevity, including weight. Participants who were slightly overweight, but not obese, cut their odds of an early death by 3%. “It’s not bad to be skinny when you are young, but it is very bad to be skinny when you’re old,” Kawas noted in her address.

Also, subjects who kept busy with a daily hobby two hours a day were 21% less likely to die early, while those who drank two cups of coffee a day cut that risk by 10%.

God's Aging Plan

Related to the above, most seniors never get enough exercise. In His wisdom God decreed that seniors become forgetful so they would have to search for their glasses, keys and other things, thus doing more walking. And God looked down and saw that it was good.

Then God saw there was another need. In His wisdom He made seniors lose co-ordination so they would drop things, requiring them to bend, reach, and stretch. And God looked down and saw that it was good.

Then God considered the function of bladders and decided seniors would have additional calls of nature, requiring more trips to the loo, thus providing more exercise. God looked down and saw that it was good.

God saw that the knights of the round table were getting weak, so he took the wheels off the chairs, thus causing them to actually pull on chairs before sitting down to stuff their faces. God looked down and saw that it was good.

So if you find as you age, you are getting up and down more, remember it is God's will. It is all in your best interest even though you mutter under your breath.

Calculate Anything

We all need to calculate things from time to time. Here is a site that has almost 400 different free calculators. There are calculators for business, health, finance, statistics, construction, and more. LINK

Feb 23, 2018

Happy Friday

The joy of happiness is immeasurable.

I count on staying happy, especially on a Happy Friday!

Wordology, Mnemonic

Mnemonics make it easy to remember facts. There are many examples that have been around for years, such as this mnemonic sentence, "Super Heroes Must Eat Oats."   For instance, the names of the five Great Lakes spell the word HOMES. If you want to remember them them in order of size from largest to smallest surface area, try “Super Heroes Must Eat Oats” - Superior, Huron, Michigan, Erie, Ontario. If you want to remember them from left to right on a map, change Super Heroes to “Super Man Helps Every One.”

Famous Olympians After Olympics

Some Olympians become famous for other accomplishments long after the medal glory wears off. Here are a few folks you might not remember for participating in the Olympics.
Dr. Benjamin Spock, author of the bestselling Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care (1946), was the authority on child rearing in Baby Boomer America. Spock rowed with Yale's crew team and made the men's eights team for the 1924 Paris Olympics. He won a gold medal at age 21. He also  placed third in a 4-mile rowing contest at age 84.

General George S. Patton, World War II officer who led the U.S. Third Army on the Western Front, was famous for his foul mouth, rousing speeches, and tenacious leadership. He placed fifth in the inaugural modern pentathlon (swimming, riding, fencing, running, shooting) at the 1912 Olympics.

Bruce Dern was second in 1500 meters and 800 meters events in the Senior Olympics.

Geena Davis picked up archery as a hobby, but almost made the 2000 USA Olympic Team, where she placed 24th out of 300 at the tryouts. She had only been shooting for two years prior to trying out.

Jason Statham developed an interest in diving at age 11, joined Britain’s National Diving Team and competed in the 1990 Commonwealth Games.
Dolph Lundgren was asked to serve as the Team Leader for the 1996 US Olympic Modern Pentathlon team.

Strother Martin, from Cool Hand Luke movie,  "What we've got here is failure to communicate." He entered the adult National Springboard Diving competition in hopes of gaining a berth on the US Olympic team, but finished third in the competition.

Talk to a Human Help

These days it seems like companies deliberately hide the phone number to speak to a real human being. Even if a company provides a number, the computer leads us through a seemingly random set of questions to keep punching in numbers until we want to scream.

There is a way to bypass much of this hassle. A website provides real numbers and real techniques to get to a live human being. It even offers to help (for a fee) if you are completely exasperated.

Longest Gestation

In humans, the period of time it takes for a baby to grow in the womb to the point when it's ready to be born is called the gestation period and it averages about 40 weeks or nine months. Relative to many animals, that is a short period of time

When it comes to mammals, no one has to wait as long to give birth as the elephant. weighs approximately 230 pounds when born, to develop. The average gestation period for an elephant is about  95 weeks or 23 months.

Black alpine salamanders have gestation periods that can last two to three years. The higher they live in the Alps, the colder it is and the longer their gestation period lasts.

Certain species of sharks also have long gestation periods, such as a basking shark carries its young almost three years, while the frilled shark has a gestation period of three and a half years.

Deeper beneath the sea is another marine animal the a deep-sea octopus at over 4,500 feet deep in the ocean waters off California. Babies were born after a gestation period of 53 months. That is more than twice as long as most that live in more shallow waters.

TV is Watching Us

Your smart TV is watching you. Some may not mind being tracked as it allows more personal ads sent to you. Others may not like being tracked for any reason. Saw this in USA Today and thought I would share how to turn off smart TV tracking.
LG - In the menu, click to Settings, which brings you to All Settings, and find your way to General. The feature to look for here is LivePlus, which is what LG calls the ACR technology. This is the one you want to turn off.
Samsung - On newer sets, go for Settings in the menu, then Support, then Terms & Policies. From there, Consumer Reports suggests pulling Viewing Information Services to opt out of. On older models, Consumer Reports says to click on Support and then select Terms & Policy and then SyncPlus and Marketing to turn off ACR.
Sony - Consumer Reports notes that ACR is turned on during setup of the TV, via agreements with Sony, which makes the TV; Google, which provides the AndroidTV operating system; and Samba TV, a company that gathers analytics on viewers' habits that advertisers can use for targeted ad campaigns. On Sony TVs, you need to get go back to the setup, available within Settings, to turn off ACR. If you want some of the Web connectivity, but not everything, you can agree to Sony and Google policies, and then when you come to Samba TV, opt out of ACR by clicking 'disable'.
TCL/Roku - TCL, Hisense, Hitachi, Insignia, Philips, RCA and Sharp.
Turn off ACR by going to Settings, then Privacy, and "Smart TV Experience." Consumer Reports says you can uncheck "Use Information for TV Inputs" to disable ACR.

Vizio - Select System, click on Reset & Admin and opt for Viewing Data to opt out of ACR.

Before TV Interviews

This site has a compilation of interviews on film that date back to the 1920s and 1930s. If you want to be fascinated, have a watch. No big revelations, but interesting conversations with real people. Caution, you could spend way too much time on the site. LINK

Where is Starman Now

Elon Musk made history again with his sending a Tesla and Starman into space. Here is a website that is tracking the car in real time along its journey. Fun short term diversion. LINK

Windows 10 Windows Key Tips

We have all likely become used to seeing the Windows key on the keyboard. Down on the left side of keyboard between the CTRL and ALT keys. It is very handy for a number of functions to make your life easier if you know which key combos to use.

Just pushing on the Windows key will bring up the start menu quicker than moving the mouse to the start bar.
A few combinations the might be of interest.

Windows key and e  - opens the file explorer window to find files.
Windows key and x  - opens up the computer settings bar
Windows key and m - sends you back to the desktop
Windows key and k - brings up the connection bar.

Feb 16, 2018

Happy Friday

You can never outspend happiness.

I bank on being happy, especially on a Happy Friday!

Soapy Fish Bait

Ivory soap can be used as catfish bait by boiling it and letting it re-harden so that it does not crumble. Melt it in a double boiler, then pour into an ice cube tray. Once poured, push a treble hook into each cube with the points of the hook sticking out and let it harden. Incidentally, hot dogs also make good catfish bait.

Cord Cutters

Would be cord cutters might stick with cable TV, because they find it difficult to make a decision or find it difficult to change. There are so many options that it can seem overwhelming, so it seems easier to overpay than make the change. Many are finding that regular cable, in addition to high cost, offers the worst picture quality due to compression the signals to get so many channels on the wire. Even antenna TV offers substantially better picture quality and it is free after the purchase of an antenna.

Considerations for cutting the cord include the 4 C's - Cost, Channels, Commercials, and Complexity. I'll go through each with some questions. Cost is obvious. Can you afford what you are paying? Do you want to pay less? How much less is worth your while? Are you considering a life change that might make you move and break your contract (and pay a termination fee)? Is a long term contract a good idea?
Which channels do you consider 'must have', because your favorite shows are on them? Out of the hundreds of channels most people regularly watch less than 18.
How complex or complicated will it be to change? Can I do it myself? Will I need to hire an expert and how much will it cost?
Do I mind watching commercials? Do I hate commercials? Many cable TV alternatives offer premium packages that offer programs without commercials.
There is a website that can help answer many of those and more questions. It has the latest offerings and you answer a few questions, then it narrows down the offerings for you.
Incidentally, Spectrum has decided to offer ala cart selection, where the subscriber can select up to ten additional channels (from a list) in addition to the standard set of channels. Sounds like the ultimate, have it your way TV. For an additional fee, there are even more premium channels that can be added individually.

Winter Olympic Tidbits

This year there are 92 countries participating in the Winter Olympics. The opening show used a record-setting 1,218 drones, four times as many as Lady Gaga in her Super Bowl half time show. The plastic and foam drones are about a foot-long, weigh eight ounces and are all synchronized to fly in formation. Here is a link to one of the formations. LINK
Here are some stats:
2,500 athletes participating

242 from US - most of any country

102 events
222 medals
80,000 foreign tourists
Members of Team USA who win a medal receive:
$37,500 for Gold, $22,500 for Silver, $15,000 for Bronze.

New Olympic Events

Four new events were added to this Olympics: Men’s and Women’s Snowboard Big Air, which sees competitors performing their best spins and tricks after launching off a large (about 160 feet) ramp.

For the first time, the Alpine skiing Nations Team Event will make its debut; the event features mixed teams of two men and two women going head-to-head in a series of downhill slalom races in a best-of-four competition.

Men’s and Women’s Speed Skating Mass Start features a maximum of 28 athletes in a 16-lap race, where all participants start at the same time with winner-takes-all stakes.

Curling Mixed Doubles. The new event consists of teams of two, a man and a woman, competing in a curling match

For the 2020 Summer Olympics five new events will be added: baseball/softball, karate, sport climbing, surfing, and skateboarding.

Olympic Tech

A test of a next-generation 5G network and a series of multiple camera 'pods' shooting more than a terabyte an hour of footage all have to work without a hitch (one terabyte holds the equivalent of 250 full-length movies). All that footage goes by fiber-optic cables to a technical operations center, where it is processed into the 360-degree and 3D stereoscopic footage that some can watch at home.

Fourth Type of Olympic Medal

In addition to the gold, silver, and bronze there is another Olympic award that is even harder to obtain. The Pierre de Coubertin medal, inaugurated in 1964 and named in honor of Pierre de Coubertin, founder of the International Olympic Committee, is given to athletes, former athletes, sports promoters, sporting officials and others who exemplify the spirit of sportsmanship in Olympic events or through exceptional service to the Olympic movement.

Unlike the sporting medals, the de Coubertin medal is not awarded at every cycle of the Games. It is only handed out when the International Olympic Committee determines someone has truly earned it.

In January, just ahead of the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea IOC president Thomas Bach bestowed the award upon Chinese artist Lv Junjie, a master of Zisha (means "purple clay,"), an ancient type of clay that is used to create teaware and other small objects. Bach commended Junjie, because of his work using Zisha, or Yixing clay to spread the Olympic spirit. Many of his creations contain Olympic art.

Lash Tabs and Pig Snouts

Have you noticed that many backpacks have a little leather square sewn on the front?

The little diamonds, called lash tabs or pig snouts have two parallel slits cut out of the center. This lets you weave a cord or string through and tie various items, such as shoes, a water bottle, etc., to your bag. The strong little square is built to hold your larger items while hiking or traveling, but it can also be used for smaller objects like earbuds or anything you want to get at quickly.

Why Not Reuse Water Bottles

There are many types of water bottles and it pays to know which ones can be reused. A bottle labeled 1 is only safe for a single use. When exposed to oxygen or high temperatures, including sun heat, such a bottle will discharge toxic substances that get into the water. Also avoid bottles labeled 3, 6, or 7 as they exude toxic chemicals able to penetrate drinks, and lengthy exposure can result in severe health problems.

Bottles made of polyethylene (2 and 4) and polypropylene (5) are suitable for multiple uses. They are relatively safe if you only store cold water in them and regularly disinfect them.

Feb 9, 2018

Happy Friday

My mother never taught me to be happy. She showed me.

Strive to be a happy role model, especially on a Happy Friday!

Sunday Car Buying

In fourteen US states, car dealers are not legally allowed to be open on Sunday and many cities have similar laws. Even in states and cities where dealerships can be open on Sunday, there are sometimes restrictions on what time they can be open or that require a dealer to choose to be closed on either Saturday or Sunday. The reason is called a blue law and blue laws were enacted for religious reasons to allow people to practice their faith on Sunday, instead of buying liquor or automobiles.

Mardi Gras

Can you believe it, Next week is Mardi Gras and the beginning of Lent for this year. That means Easter will be on April Fool's Day, April 1.

4K TV Antenna Debunked

It is happening again. When broadcast TV made the switch from analog to digital signals about 10 years ago it was said by many, you need an HDTV antenna. There is no such thing as an HDTV antenna.

Now 4k broadcasting over the air is coming. It is tentatively scheduled to begin this spring in Phoenix, Arizona, USA. A new 4k TV antenna will not be needed, because there is no such thing. Any TV antenna claim to perform better because it is a 4K TV antenna is a scam.

Just like with 4K HDMI cables - There is no such thing.

Caveat Emptor!

More 4K

Technically the new standard for over the air 4K is ATSC 3.0. This new broadcast standard is generally called "Next-Gen Broadcast TV" for simplicity sake.

There are some differences between the current (ATSC 1.0) antenna TV and the new Next-Gen TV. The new standard is internet protocol-based, which means it can carry internet content along with traditional TV broadcasts. The broadcast can also include 4K video and high dynamic range (HDR) content.
It also has higher-quality 3D multi-channel sound from content that supports it. All of which are more and better than what is available on normal (expensive) cable TV.

In addition to all those goodies, these new signals will be available on mobile devices as well as TVs.

Next-gen TV will enable enhanced emergency alerts, so consumers will receive more precise, localized warnings during natural disasters or fast-moving weather events.

The move to ATSC 3.0 is voluntary for broadcasters, unlike the Digital TV transition, when they were given a firm deadline for stopping analog broadcasts. Now each company gets to decide when to make the move, or not.

Traditional signals will still be free by law as now, but some additional services could be charged for as the new standard has two way communication built in. This presumes the FCC holds broadcasters to the same public interest obligations with the new broadcasts as they have with the current ones.

Of course, if all this seems to be too good to be true, it likely is. The new standard is not compatible with the current standard. Because all current TVs have ATSC 1.0 tuners, they will not be able to receive the new signals.

TV manufacturers will soon add both old (ATSC1) and new (ATSC3) into new sets. This will likely begin in late 2018 and 2019. LG is now shipping TVs in South Korea with both technologies built in. Someone will pay for this. . .

Also, another round of sticks and boxes for converting will come along, such new versions of Roku, FireTV, AppleTV etc., sticks and boxes.

So, the bottom line is that it will be immensely better to receive everything over the air, but it will likely not be free, and maybe not even cheap. This will be a major disruption for cable companies and change the whole digital landscape and players again.

The good news is that, since it is voluntary and costly to set up, it will be slow. We can enjoy what we have and do not need to dream of sugar plums for a few years. That is except for some techno geeks who just cannot wait to suffer more early adapter slings and arrows from new whiz-bang technology stuff. Oh, is my anticipation showing?

Super Bowl Rings

The winner has emerged and the winning team will be wearing new rings to celebrate the occasion. Generally, every player on the 53-man roster, the entire coaching staff, and the front office earn rings.

The NFL pays for the cost of 150 rings for the winning team, with a max cost of about $7,000 per unit, depending on the cost of gold and diamonds at the time. That usually covers the bulk of people the team wants to gives the rings to, but it can go above that number if the team buys extra rings.

Other players who can receive rings include practice squad players, players on injured reserve, and players who were on the roster at some point during the season. Teams will often consider everybody who contributed at any point in the season worthy of a ring.

Teams can really give them out to anyone. There have been fan raffles for rings and teams are not stingy with them when it comes to front office staff, players, and coaches. That does not mean that they always end up with the same rings, however. There have been examples of teams giving "lesser" rings to front office staff or other non-coach, non-player personnel.

The main Super Bowl rings are massive and can weigh 100 grams or more and include more than 100 diamonds. The Green Bay Packers Super Bowl XLV ring had more than 100 diamonds, and was made out of platinum, which is more expensive than gold.

The losing team actually gets a ring as well. It is sometimes referred to as the AFC or NFC Championship ring. It typically is less gaudy, and there is also less information about them. It is difficult to imagine that a league championship ring is considered a loser's ring.

Incidentally, the refs also get Super Bowl Rings.

Animal Pain

Animals with simple nervous systems, like lobsters, snails and worms, do not have the ability to process emotional information and therefore do not experience suffering, say most researchers.

Vertebrates with spines have much more advanced nervous systems and can feel real pain and suffering.

The research regarding whether or not lobsters feel pain is still inconclusive. The hiss that sounds when crustaceans hit the boiling water is not a scream. They do not have vocal cords.

Kirkland vs. Grey Goose

Grey Goose is made from the same water source as Costco's Kirkland Signature Vodka from the Gensac Springs in France's Cognac region.

Grey Goose has received lower ratings than the Costco house brand on many blind taste tests. Competitions where spirits are graded by blind taste testing, Kirkland scores an 88 and Grey Goose scores 82.

Incidentally, Grey Goose costs more than twice as much.

Wool Dryer Balls

I read about these alternatives to static cling sheets and other items you can put into the dryer to help eliminate static cling, so I went to Amazon and purchased  set of six. Hardly necessary as they seem to almost last forever. In fact some estimates are that they will last a few years depending on how many loads you do, and they are rated for up to a thousand loads (more than I will do in the next 15 years). As a bonus, the description says you can add essential oils to the ball for making clothes smell a bit better.

In order to boost the overall effectiveness of dryers, wool dryer balls reduce drying time, fluff and soften fabrics, reduce wrinkles, reduce static cling, are better for your skin, and the environment. A set of 3 is a good start and they will save you between 40% in a small load to 25% in a large load. It increases with the more dryer balls you use. They get in-between the towels and clothing to keep items from sticking together while damp. Some people use tennis balls for the same effect, but they do not last as long.

Consumer reports says that liquids in the wash cycle do better at reducing cling than fabric softener sheets in the dryer. It also debunked the idea that fabric softeners, especially liquids, leave towels far less absorbent.

Incidentally, I tried the plastic dryer balls, but they snagged a few items, so I promptly ditched them. Also, plastic dryer balls will eventually soften and lose their ability to soften and dry clothes. Aluminum balls also reduce static, but are  bit rougher on delicate clothes.

Feb 2, 2018

Happy Friday

Be Happy is number one on my ToDo list.

Complete number one and enjoy every day, especially a Happy Friday!

Groundhog Day

Today is groundhog day and it is pundit predicted that Punxsutawney Phil, Pennsylvania’s weather-forecasting groundhog, will see his shadow, signaling six more weeks of winter weather for the United States. Watch your local news for updates after the sun rises.

How Many Breaths

None of us will be holding our breath to find out about the end of winter, but the following is still interesting. An infant breathes 40 to 60 times a minute; a five-year-old, 24 to 26 times; an adolescent, 20 to 22 times; an adult (beginning at age 25) 16 times. An average person at rest breathes about 17,000-30,000 per day. A person who lives to 80 will take more than 670 million breaths. Of course it may be less when fascinating facts like this take away our breath.

Football Facts

The big game is coming this Sunday, so I decided to look up a few facts about football.

The NFL League Office, is tax exempt and is classified as a trade organization whose primary purpose is to “further the industry or profession it represents.” This began in 1942 when the NFL filed an application for tax-exempt, non-profit status with the IRS. The application was accepted and it has been tax-exempt ever since.

In recent years, about 110 million people watch the Super Bowl. An estimated 98% of those viewers are from North America, mostly from the United States.

Since 1955, the official NFL footballs have been made at the Wilson factory in Ada, Ohio. Each football is handmade from cowhide sourced from Kansas, Nebraska, and Iowa. The hides are tanned in Ada with a “top secret football-weather-optimizing tanning recipe.” An average 130 people working at the factory produce nearly 4,000 footballs every day. Each football is made up of four pieces and a synthetic bladder, and each cowhide can usually make up to ten footballs (or hand eggs).

During 1951, the first year of night Football, footballs were white with two black stripes so that players and spectators could easily see the ball in the dark. Advancements in stadium lighting were made, making the white ball unnecessary, and by 1956 they were officially replaced with the standard brown football we have today.

The official nickname of the football used by the NFL is “The Duke,” after Wellington Mara. Mara, who was named after the Duke of Wellington, was the co-owner of the New York Giants and the son of the founder of the Giants. The nickname was used between 1941 and 1969. It fell out of use in 1970 when the AFL and NFL merged, but bounced back into play in 2006, a year after Mara’s death.

Scotch, Bourbon, Rye

For those sipping during the big game, this should provide a conversation starter. "If you are a cognac, you have to be made in the Cognac region. If you are a champagne, you have to be made in the Champagne region. It is the same for scotch. Single-malt scotch whisky is made at a single distillery, exclusively from malted barley, and must be aged for at least three years in oak casks.
Bourbon and rye are native American spirits. Aside from the point of origin, what differentiates variants of whiskey (Irish and Americans), or whisky (Scots) is the 'mash bill', or list of ingredients used to make it.

Bourbon in the US must have 51% or more corn, and the rest of the mash bill is traditionally rye and malted barley.
All bourbon is whiskey but not all whiskey is bourbon.

Rye whiskey must have 51% or more rye, and the rest is usually corn and malted barley.

In addition, both must be aged in brand new American oak barrels.

DFW Airport Facts

Dallas-Fort Worth Airport has 17,207 acres (6,963 hectares; 27 square miles) and is larger than the island of Manhattan. It is also the second largest airport by land area in the United States.

It is the third busiest airport in the world by aircraft movements and the eleventh busiest airport in the world by passenger traffic as of 2016.

With nearly 900 daily flights, American Airlines at DFW is the second largest airline hub in the world and the United States, behind Delta's Atlanta hub.

DFW has its own police, fire protection, and emergency medical services.

Airports Council International named DFW Airport the best large airport with more than 40 million passengers in North America for passenger satisfaction during 2016

Wordology, Doohickey

The word first appeared in the November 12, 1914 edition of Our Navy magazine, where it states, “We were compelled to christen articles beyond our ken with such names as ‘do-hickeys’, ‘gadgets’ and ‘gilguys’.”
A Sailor Boy’s Log by Robert Brown in 1886, where he also notes one of the first known instances of “gadget”- “Then the names of all the other things on board a ship! I don’t know half of them yet; even the sailors forget at times, and if the exact name of anything they want happens to slip from their memory, they call it a chicken⁓fixing, or a gadjet, or a gill-guy, or a timmey-noggy, or a wim-wom.”
Doohickey soon spread to being used by airman as well, with it noted in Edward Fraser & John Gibbons’ 1925 Soldier & Sailor Words, that “doo hickey” was an airman’s term for small, detachable fittings. Within a couple decades, the word was being used widely throughout America as a placeholder name for anything one could not remember the name of.
Doohickey probably derives from “doodad,” which has uncertain origin, but first popped up in documented form about a decade before “doohickey,” with doodad meaning “a superfluous ornament.” The sailors simply meshed this term with “hickey,” which meant “a device for bending a conduit or a small fitting used in wiring for electric lights, a fixture piped for gas."
Who first used the term “doohickey” has been lost to history. Other names used around the time were doodad, hickey, doojigger, thingamawhatsit, watchamacallit, thingummy, gadget, widget, gilguy, etc.

Incidentally, during the late 1920s or early 1930s, hickey mostly referred to pimples, then other marks on teenager necks, and later began being used by printers to refer to various blemishes in engravings.

Whats in a Name, CliffsNotes

If you attended any organized school, you likely have heard of CliffsNotes. You maybe even used them. Cliff Keith Hillegass dropped out of a Master’s program studying physics and geology at the University of Nebraska in 1939, got married, and took a job working for the Nebraska Book Company.

During 1958, Cliff met Jack Cole, the co-owner of Coles Toronto book business which published a series of Canadian study guides called Coles Notes. Jack agreed to sell Hillegass the US rights to the guides.

Catherine MacDonald, was a co-founder of Cliff'sNotes (original spelling) with her first husband, Cliff Hillegass. She typed an initial mailing to college stores of about 1,000 letters. Catherine operated the fledgling publishing company out of the basement of the family home and during the first few years shipped over a million Cliff'sNotes with a tiny staff including the couple’s children. They divorced in 1967.

He designed the first yellow and black cover himself, with a visual pun of an outline of mountain cliffs. He used graduate students to write the guides. Cliff never wrote any of the guides. He paid modest fees to its writers and no royalties, sold printed booklets for pennies a copy.

The first run published in 1958 comprised 16 of Cole’s Notes’ Shakespeare study guides, funded with a $4,000 loan. The study guides were a hit, selling a reported 58,000 copies in the early going allowing Cliff to expand his enterprise. From his first Cliff's Notes, a summary of Hamlet, in 1958. He eventually published more than 220 titles and sold more than 50 million CliffsNotes worldwide.

The company was selling more than 5 million pamphlets annually and reaping multimillion-dollar profits. Cliff retired from CliffsNotes, selling the company to IDG Books for $14 million. He died at age 83 on 5 May, 2001.

Jan 26, 2018

Happy Friday

Happiness is the best habit to cultivate.

Happiness always blooms, especially on a Happy Friday!

Australia Day

On January 26, Australia Day a National Holiday of Australia is celebrated.
Australia Day, celebrated annually on 26 January, is the official national day of Australia, commemorating the establishment of the first British settlement on the continent of Australia. The date is that of the foundation of a British penal colony at Sydney Cove on Port Jackson, New South Wales in 1788, by Captain Arthur Phillip, in his capacity as the first Governor of New South Wales. Australia Day is an official public holiday in all states and territories of Australia, and has also been known as Anniversary Day and Foundation Day.

Thomas Crapper Day

Squeezed in between Australia Day and Auckland Anniversary is Thomas Crapper Day on January 27th. Thomas Crapper Day is a holiday devoted to the man who purportedly invented the flush toilet, although he actually did not.

As with many inventions, the flush toilet did not suddenly spring into existence, but was the result of a long chain of minor improvements. Thomas Crapper's plumbing company built flush toilets of Giblin's design.

He was not the original inventor, but popularized the siphon system for emptying the tank, replacing the earlier floating valve system which was prone to leaks. The similarity between Crapper's name and the much older word 'crap' is merely a coincidence.

Auckland Anniversary

On the Monday closest to January 29 Auckland Anniversary Day is celebrated.
Auckland Anniversary Day is actually the 29th of January, but it is observed on the Monday closest to that date. Auckland Anniversary applies to the Auckland Province which includes Northland, Auckland, Waikato, King Country, Coromandel, Bay of Plenty, and Gisborne and East Coast Regions. The date 29 January itself is not the actual day on which Auckland was founded, but the day on which explorer and first governor of New Zealand William Hobson first sighted North Island at the Bay of Islands.

In 1840, Hobson arrived in New Zealand and quickly signed a treaty with the Maori, the Treaty of Waitangi, which led to New Zealand becoming a new British colony. It was on 18 September of 1840 that Hobson founded Auckland and made it the capital city of New Zealand.

Super Bowl and Olympic Cameras

Even though we will not be seeing the Super bowl in 4K in the US, it will be filmed in 4K. The same is true for the Winter Olympics, which will be filmed in 4K and 8K HDR, but will not be shown on cable in 4K in the US, except by Xfinity. Unfortunate that the rest of the world gets to enjoy 4K, while we do not. Seems many countries have more advanced distribution systems than the US. The good news is that regardless of the game play, the Super Bowl commercials are always worth watching.

Olympic feeds will all be distributed in 4K, then locally distributed by country. South Korea will be broadcasting the Winter Olympics in 4K HDR throughout the country. It utilizes the ATSC 3.0 broadcasting that will be tested in the US beginning this Spring. This standard will replace the current antenna (OTA) signals in the US and allow us to receive 4K TV with an antenna.

For the Super Bowl, NBC Sports will deploy 36 cameras with a mix of Canon and Fujinon lenses. Among them will be:
Four Sony HDC-4800’s operating in 4K,
Seven Sony HDC-4300 hard cameras configured for 6X super-slo-mo
One Sony HDC-4300 operating in 4K,
Two Sony HDC-4300 handhelds configured for 6X.
Eight Sony HDC-2500 hard cameras,
Eight Sony HDC-2500 handheld cameras,
Two SkyCams and a few robos.

The four Sony HDC-4800 4K cameras, outfitted with Fujinon PL 85-300mm Cabrio lenses, will be positioned in the left and right end zone and the near-left and far-left sideline. The Sony HDC-4300 4K camera, with a Canon 95X lens, will be positioned in the high-left end zone.

Super Blue, Blood, Snow Moon

We will be able to view a super moon, blue moon, and a total lunar eclipse (blood moon) all on the same night.

The blue moon is the second full moon in a month and the first full moon showed up on January 1. The full moon (blue moon) will occur at 8:37 a.m. ET Jan. 31. It is the first blue moon total lunar eclipse in the US since March 1866.

The lunar eclipse on January 31 will last about 3½ hours from the beginning of the partial phase at 3:48 a.m. PT until it ends at 7:12 a.m. PT, from western North America across the Pacific to eastern Asia. In the United States, the best view of the eclipse will be along the West Coast. For skywatchers in the central and eastern US, only a partial eclipse will be visible.

The full moon will take on a dark, reddish appearance during the eclipse and is described as a blood moon. This full moon was also known as the "snow moon" by some Native American tribes.

A super moon occurs when the full moon is at the closest point of its orbit to the Earth.

Bigger MicroSD

Many are familiar with those little cards in smartphones, and used by many laptop computers. They are called microSD cards. Micro due to physical size and SD means Secure Digital.

Interesting to think that anything called micro could be considered large. However, there is now a microSD card capable of holding over half a terabyte of data. Integral Memory’s new 512 gigabyte card. It should hold about 24 or more hours of 4K video, depending on compression rate.

To give a perspective, 64GB is often the standard for high-end casual users and is capable of holding hundreds to thousands of high-quality photos. However, HD movies take up much more space.

Incidentally, just a few years ago, 32GB card was thought to be all you would ever need for storage. Before that, computers were sufficient at 32k. My how quickly times change.

Sizes Explained

Using the metric system 1,000 bytes would be a k, or kilobyte, but in the computer industry a k is equal to 1024 bytes. That means each of the below metric designations are approximate for computer terminology. Some medical computers currently have storage measured in petabytes. Even as devices have shrunk in size, demand for storage has increased in inverse proportion.

kilo = thousand
mega = million
giga = billion (There are 1,024 GB in 1 TB.)
tera = trillion (There are 1,498 CD discs in 1 TB)
peta = quadrillion (A human brain can store about 2.5 PB of data)
exa =
quintillion (Almost 11 million 4K movies can fit in 1 EB)
zetta =
sextillion (1,180,591,620,717,411,303,424)
yotta =

Jan 19, 2018

Happy Friday

Tomorrow, as with climate cannot be accurately predicted.

Do not worry about tomorrow, be happy today and celebrate a Happy Friday!

January 23 - National Rhubarb Pie Day

I love rhubarb, whether in pie, stewed, poached, or baked. It is a seasonal thing, so grab some when you can.

New Layoff Terms

Here are a few politically correct terms from IBM, 'productively redeployed' and RA or 'Redundancy Action'. IBM is doing this to 30% (30,900 people) of one of its groups during 2018. Up to 9,000 may be 'redeployed' or 'reskilled' and another 10,100 not refilled. IBM wants 20 per cent of GTS 'on-shore' at a country level, 20 per cent in 'near-shore' locations and 60 per cent 'off-shore'. Seems it is living up to its old moniker "I've Been Moved."


Hurricanes are not caused by global warming according to the insurance industry, which insists they are "Acts of God."

Shade Antenna

RCA is showcasing an antenna built into a roller shade. Now not only can your roller shade keep the sun out, but it can also pick up free over-the-air TV.
This new antenna is not yet available for sale, but RCA won a CES 2018 Innovation Award for new products. We should see these antennas hitting stores sometime later this year.

Roller shade antennas from RCA are one more step in a rush to sell antennas that will seamlessly blend into your home surroundings. No longer is the TV antenna something that stands out, it is now something that can vanish into the backdrop of your decor.

Autonomous Cars

This is also known as a driverless car, self-driving car, robotic car, and unmanned ground vehicle. There are six levels from zero, which is where we currently are, to five, which is self driving.

Level 0: This level is where we mostly are. The human driver controls everything: steering, brakes, throttle, power.

Level 1: This level means that most functions are still controlled by the driver, but a specific function, like steering or accelerating can be done automatically by the car.
Level 2: At least one driver assistance system of "both steering and acceleration/deceleration using information about the driving environment" is automated, like cruise control and lane-centering. It means that the "driver is disengaged from physically operating the vehicle by having his or her hands off the steering wheel and foot off pedal at the same time." The driver must still always be ready to take control of the vehicle.
Level 3: Drivers are able to completely shift safety-critical functions to the vehicle, under certain traffic or environmental conditions. It means the driver is still present and will intervene if necessary, but is not required to monitor the situation in the same way it does for the previous levels.

Level 4: Level 4 vehicles are "designed to perform all safety-critical driving functions and monitor roadway conditions for an entire trip." However, it is important to note that this is limited to the "operational design domain" of the vehicle, meaning it does not cover every driving scenario.

Level 5: This level refers to a fully-autonomous system that expects the vehicle's performance to equal that of a human driver, in every driving scenario, including extreme environments. It can operate without a driver or passengers.

It is important to distinguish between "autonomous" and "driverless." Driverless is a more advanced stage of autonomous.

Other considerations - car insurance business will be affected, since the number of accidents is predicted to go down 80% by 2040. The different levels are important, because they change the risk profile of the car. Other costs are more likely to go up as new technology is added to the cars.

Interesting to know the things auto manufacturers are dealing with, such as avoidance of large animals requires recognition and tracking. Volvo found that software suited to caribou, deer, and elk was ineffective with kangaroos.

Clothes Scraps

I am sure you have noticed the little scrap of material, usually with a button or two sewn on it that is comes with new many clothes. The reason for that material is to wash it before you wash that shirt or sweater, or whatever, to test how the material holds up so that you do not ruin the whole outfit. The buttons are replacement, in case you lose one.

What's in a Name

In the UK many names seem unfamiliar to us, but have logical beginnings. For instance, the East Midlands were ruled by the Danes during the ninth century. This resulted in the creation of place names ending in "by" (a suffix thought to originate from the Danish word for "town"), such as Thoresby and Derby. Others end in "thorpe" (meaning "settlement"), such as Ullesthorpe.

Water vs. Soda

Bottled water took over carbonated soft drinks as Americans' favorite drink during 2016 for the first time ever, according to Beverage Marketing, a research and consulting company. US consumers bought 12.8 billion gallons of bottled water versus 12.4 billion gallons of carbonated soft drinks. This once again shows the power of advertising.

Marketers have convinced people to purchase something that is natural, almost universally available, and mostly free vs. something that is artificially created in a lab. In some places water has a higher price than soft drinks. I have this pet rock. . .

Jan 12, 2018

Happy Friday

Impossible is just a word. What matters is if you pronounce it with a short I or a long I.

It is not impossible that Impossibly happiest on a Happy Friday!

Agatha Christie

 On January 12, 1976, Agatha Christie died at age 85 at her home in Wallingford, Oxfordshire, England. At her death, she was one of the most popular writers of all time, the author of more than 100 novels, including a legendary collection of murder mysteries that featured the fictional detectives Miss Jane Marple and Hercule Poirot. Her books have been translated into more languages than any other author in literary history, including Shakespeare.

Christie also wrote nineteen stage plays, including The Mousetrap, a 1952 play that premiered at London's West End Theatre and is still currently being performed elsewhere. It is the longest continuously-running stage play in history, with more than 27,000 performances during 65 years. The play has such a surprising ending that, after the final curtain goes down, patrons are asked not to reveal it.

Interesting Tidbits

Eliminate static buildup in the dryer by crumbling up aluminum foil into a ball, about the size of a tennis ball and toss in with the clothes. When it wears out, add another layer of foil.

Tear sticky notes off the pack from left to right or right to left. This will reduce the curl that happens when you pull of the paper from bottom to top.

Echo is the name of the device, but Alexa is the name for the artificial intelligence assistant that listens and speaks back to you. Amazon controls 75 percent of the AI smart speaker market.

Slowing a Windows Update

There will be no limit on the number of times you can delay a Windows Update. Each time you hit the Snooze button, you'll be able to push it out three more days, until 35 days have passed. After that, you will still be able to press a new "Remind Me Tomorrow" button to push it out again and again, one day at a time.

Restart now, pick a time, and snooze can be accessed through the Settings > Update and Security menu to display how your device will encounter and install future updates.

Postponing the Windows 10 Creators Update requires the activation of a ‘Defer feature updates’ service. The download can then be delayed for up to 60 days, or you can pick a specific date to continue. To postpone Windows 10 Creators Update, access the Update and Security menu, then under "Update settings,” click Advanced options, then select the ‘Defer feature updates’ option.

New Winter Olympic Sports

Next month we will be treated to the Olympics with four new events during this Winter Olympics: big air snowboarding and freestyle skiing on the slopes, and mass start speed skating and mixed doubles curling on the ice.

Artificial Sweeteners Compared

All sugar substitutes are not created equal. Here are a few facts about the most widely known sweeteners.

Equal (Aspartame) was discovered in 1965 and first approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1981. It is the only FDA approved nutritive sweetener, meaning it adds caloric value to a meal. It loses its sweetness when heated and therefore is not used in baked goods. It is a mixture of aspartic acid and phenylalanine) that is 200 times sweeter than sugar.

Newtame - (Neotame) It was approved by the FDA during 2002 and is 7,000 to 13,000 times as sweet as table sugar.

Splenda (Sucralose) was discovered in 1976 and first approved by the FDA IN 1998. It is molecularly bonded sucrose molecules with chlorine and is 600 times as sweet as sugar by gram. It is chemically modified to have zero calories. It keeps its sweetness when heated and therefore is used in baked goods.

Sweet’N Low (saccharin) was discovered in 1879. It was removed from the FDA’s caution list in 2000. It is made from benzoic sulfimide, a coal tar derivative that is approximately 300 times sweeter than sugar and also contains dextrose and cream of tartar. It contains 4 calories per packet, but the body cannot metabolize it, so it adds no caloric or nutritional value to a meal. Cyclamate was the original ingredient in Sweet’N Low. It is a chemical 30 to 50 times sweeter than sugar. By 1963, cyclamate was America’s favorite artificial sweetener, then the sweetener was proven to cause bladder cancer in rats, resulting in an immediate ban by the FDA that is still in effect. In response, Sweet’N Low swiftly became a saccharin-based product.

Stevia is a sweetener and sugar substitute marketed most familiarly as PureVia and Truvia, extracted from the leaves of the plant species Stevia rebaudiana. The active compounds of Stevia are steviol glycosides, which have up to 150 times the sweetness of sugar. It is  heat-stable, pH-stable, and not fermentable. The legal status of Stevia as a food additive or dietary supplement varies from country to country. In the United States, high-purity stevia glycoside extracts are generally recognized as safe and allowed as ingredients in food products, but stevia leaf and crude extracts do not have FDA approval for use in food. The European Union approved Stevia additives in 2011, and in Japan, Stevia has been widely used as a sweetener for decades.

Sweet One - (Sunett) was discovered during 1967 and approved in 1988. It contains Dextrose, Acesulfame-K, Cream of Tartar, Calcium Silicate (an anti-caking agent), and natural flavors and is 200 times sweeter than sugar. It is soluble in hot and cold beverages and remains stable when heated, so it can also be used in cooking and baking. It adds no caloric or nutritional value to a meal.

According to the FDA, high-intensity sweeteners add few or no calories to the foods they flavor and they generally do not raise blood sugar levels.

The FDA during 2014 approved a new high-intensity sweetener called advantame, which does not yet have a brand name. It has been approved as a new food additive for use as a sweetener and flavor enhancer in foods, except meat and poultry.

Incidentally, notice how many months/years it takes for FDA to approve.