May 27, 2009

Hot Gas

True - George Gibbs, from Columbus, Ohio, suffered second-degree burns on his head. One freezing cold winter morning, he was unable to start his car. George diagnosed the problem as a frozen fuel line which he thought he could correct by running warm gas through it. He then tried to heat a two-gallon can of gas on his gas stove in the kitchen.

Government Healthcare Plans Unfold

Under a new set of proposals by Senate Democrats, which resemble those under consideration by their peers in the House, everyone in the U.S. would be required to carry health insurance starting in 2013, except illegal immigrants and people with religious objections (I guess their's remains free care). Government would regulate the marketing of commercial insurance to families and employers as well as sales commissions paid to insurance agents and brokers.

Medicaid would be expanded to cover additional low-income families with children.

Families making up to four times the poverty level ($88,200 for a family of four) would be eligible for tax credits to help them afford coverage. Taxpayers would have to report their health insurance coverage on their federal income tax returns and the penalty for not carrying insurance would be up to 75 percent of the premium for the lowest-cost health plan in the area where the person lives. (This is like Massachusetts has now)

Health insurance companies would have their premiums regulated, and allow workers to drop out of group health plans to seek a better deal on their own, but the employer would have to pay the premium amount into a "national health insurance exchange."

The feds would set minimum standards for what benefits health plans would offer, including physician services, hospital care and prescription medications. All health plans would have to offer four levels of coverage, ranging from lowest to high.

Most companies would be required to offer insurance to full-time employees, or else pay a special "excise" tax. The government would provide tax credits to small businesses with up to 25 employees. Businesses with the lowest-wage workers would get more aid. All of this great stuff to save money and it only is estimated to cost 1 trillion dollars - such a deal!

Running Healthy

Roger Bannister is the first man in history to run a mile in less than four minutes. On the magic day, May 6, 1954, Bannister almost scrapped the whole run. It was windy and he preferred to save his energy for another run when the wind wouldn’t ruin his time, but the winds died down and Roger consented to race. When the announcer took the mic to tell the excited stadium what the final time was, he purposely drew out the announcement as long as possible to tease the masses. When he finally said, “3. . .” the crowd went nuts and drowned out the rest of the result, which was 3:59.4.

He only held the record for six weeks. Aussie John Landy surpassed the sub-four-mile mark by just a sliver (3:57.9). On August 7 of the same year.

Bannister got his chance to win the title back when he and Landy faced off at the British Empire and Commonwealth Games. Although Landy led for the majority of the race, Bannister came up with his famous “Bannister Burst” in the last quarter of the race and sped past Landy to win. Landy ended up retaining the record anyway: they both came in at times slower than Landy’s previous 3:57.9. The current record of 3:43.13 was set by Hicham el Guerrouj of Morocco in 1999. Wow! 45 years and about 15 seconds faster.

Domestic Robot

Twendy-One is a 3 plus-foot-tall humanoid developed at Waseda University, in Japan, to help disabled people with household tasks.

It has a six-axis force sensor in each fingertip and can grasp soft objects like paper cups as well as manipulate small items like a straws or pencils. Stay tuned folks. These things are closer than you think.

Forgetful Senior

Grandpa decided that shopping for Christmas presents had become too difficult. All his grandchildren had everything they needed, so he decided to send them each a check.

On each card he wrote, "Happy Christmas, Grandpa"

P.S. Buy your own present.

While Grandpa enjoyed the family festivities, he thought that his grandchildren were just slightly distant. It preyed on his mind into the New Year. Then one day he was sorting out his study and under a pile of magazines, he found a little pile of checks for his grandchildren. He forgot to put them in with the Christmas cards.

New Kind of Search Engine

This one doesn't just provide links, like Google. Wolfram/Alpha gives you meaningful data back. Type in a company name and get the stock quote, type in a calculation and it gives you the answer, type in a date and it gives you information about sunrise, day of year, etc. It gives scientific answers, chemistry answers, culture - Oh just go there by clicking on the link above and have some fun.

Teeth Jewels

Teeth with jewels and gold might seem like a new thing, but gem-studded teeth were popular among people from all walks of life in pre-Columbian Mesoamerica, purely for decorative purposes.

As far back as 2,500 years ago, dentists could drill teeth using obsidian drill-like devices, which are capable of penetrating bone. They may even have used some kind of herbal anesthetic. Then they attached the gemstones using plant resin adhesive. The ancient drillers knew enough to avoid the pulp inside teeth, and so managed to avoid an infection or broken tooth. Now celebrities are starting to tattoo their teeth.

Speaking of BCE

My son told me about the new designations for BC and AD, so I had to go look it up. - There really is no difference between an AD/BC and BCE/CE system when it comes to historical dates. The year 23 AD is exactly the same as the year 23 CE, and 4004 BC is also 4004 BCE.

References to historical dates under either classification shouldn't create confusion. Major historical dates such as 1492 AD is now 1492 CE and 1776 AD is 1776 CE.

The AD/BC method of identifying historical dates is traced back to Catholic historians working in the early Middle Ages. Identifying historical dates until that point was often a complicated proposition, since different historians worked under different calendars. Converting historical dates to the standard Gregorian calendar would not have been easy, so they began using the birth of Jesus Christ as a central point.

The term BC is short for "Before Christ". Historical dates before the birth of Christ become smaller as they approach the theoretical Year Zero.

Historical dates after the birth of Christ are classified as AD, short for the Latin phrase Anno Domini, or "in the year of our Lord". Another goodie that we learned in school has become useless - and that was one of the few things I actually remembered.

Cell Phone Only

The number of US households opting for only cell phones has for the first time surpassed those that just have traditional landlines.

Twenty percent of households had only cells during the last half of 2008, according to a government survey released May 6, 2009. That was an increase of nearly 3 percentage points over the first half of the year, the largest six-month increase since the government started gathering such data in 2003. The 20 percent of homes with only cell phones compared to 17 percent with landlines but no cells.

Sixty percent of houses still have both cell and landlines and two percent have no phones. If they could find a way to add a phone to the remote and mute the TV when I answer. . .