May 27, 2016

Happy Friday

Action springs not from thought, but from taking responsibility for action.

I feel responsible and am making this a very Happy Friday!

Pinch-Bum Day

Monarchists should wear oak leaves on May 29, also known as Pinch-Bum Day, to commemorate the return of Charles II to London on that date in 1660. Those who did not could be pinched. Our ancestors were clearly over-fond of this form of retribution, but at least women could do it to men, too.

Obscura Day

Celebrate the world's most curious and inspiring places. LINK. Explore places like Alexandria, Virginia's Taverns & Women & Chocolate, Bozeman, Montana's Inside the American Computer Museum, Bridgeport, Connecticut's Behind the Scenes with the Barnum Museum and many more fascinating places around the world.

Butt Bricks

An engineer at RMIT University in Melbourne, has proposed re-purposing this waste into bricks for building. Bricks produced using cigarette waste are cheaper and less energy intensive than traditional bricks. The cigarette butts are mixed into traditional clay bricks, reducing the energy required by 58 percent. The resulting bricks are more insulating, which would cut down the cost of heating or cooling a home, and easier to move due to their lighter weight.

He believes that his techniques could make a huge dent in the problem of global pollution. “Incorporating butts into bricks can effectively solve a global litter problem as recycled cigarette butts can be placed in bricks without any fear of leaching or contamination.”

New York has its own solution to butts. Assemblyman Michael G. DenDekker, of Queens New York recently found out that cigarette butts can be turned into all kinds of useful things, so he proposed a bill for a cigarette recycling program for New York City. It would charge a one cent deposit on each cigarette to partially fund the recycling program and get those butts off the street. I presume the remainder of funding will come from all taxpayers, smokers or not.

A clothing maker in Brazil turns cigarette butts into fabric.

The Cigarette Waste Brigade pilot project recently began in Vancouver, Canada. The program’s first step was to install 110 recycling receptacles in four downtown areas where discarded butts are commonly found. The collected butts will be recycled into usable building materials such as planks and shipping pallets.

Bacon Cures

Cured bacon cures disease. Not a joke. Dr. Jennifer Gunter found that bacon has historically been used to stop severe nosebleeds, which can potentially be extremely hazardous, by stuffing it up your nostrils (the saltiness of the meat constricts blood vessels).

Bacon can also be used to expedite the removal of harmful Dermatobia hominis parasites by using it as bait (they like bacon, too).

Bacon can also treat scabies, by rubbing rendered bacon fat on yourself, which is apparently 88% effective compared to actual medicine.

Bonus, bacon can also reduce hunger and boredom.

Wordology, Deja Vu, Jamais Vu, and Presque Vu

Deja vu, literally 'already seen' is having the strong sensation that an event or experience currently being experienced has already been experienced in the past.

Jamais vu, literally 'never seen' is experiencing a situation that one recognizes, but seems very unfamiliar, such as not remembering something you always see. It is most commonly experienced when a person momentarily does not recognize a word or, less commonly, a person or place, that she or he knows.

Presque vu, literally 'almost seen' is a failure to remember something, with the sense that recall is imminent. In English it is equivalent to 'tip of the tongue', failing to retrieve a word from memory, combined with partial recall and the feeling that retrieval is imminent.

Union Membership in US

The union membership rate, the percent of wage and salary workers who were members of unions, was 11.1 percent in 2015, unchanged from 2014, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Workers in protective service occupations and in education, training, and library occupations had the highest unionization rates at 36.3 percent and 35.5 percent, respectively.

Private sector union membership rate, 24.2% in 1973, 6.6%: in 2014. Public sector rose sharply in the 1970s and has been relatively steady since 1980 at around 35 percent, more than five times higher than that of private-sector workers.

Overall union membership has fallen by about a half since 1983, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.


Did you know that laughing stimulates neurotransmitters in the brain that improve learning and increase attention span.

Lithium-ion Batteries

The global market for lithium-ion batteries was $11.7 billion in 2012 and is expected to reach to reach $30.6 billion by 2024, according to Navigant Research.

Commercial energy storage system manufacturing is currently consolidated in just a handful of regions, but falling system costs will be a major factor enabling broader global market growth. South Korea, Japan, and the United States will account for 59% of global installations in 2016, with commercial deployments also expected to increase in other regions during the next five years, according to a report from IHS.

The average price for lithium-ion batteries fell 53% between 2012 and 2015, and by 2019 are forecast to again decline by half again.

Life Hack

If you find yourself with a paper cut, grab a ChapStick, or another type of lip balm, and rub it on the cut. It will help soothe the pain of the cut and it helps the cut heal faster.

May 20, 2016

Happy Friday

"You are braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think."

I am brave, strong, and smart in predicting that today will be a Happy Friday!

John Wayne Day

A few years ago, Texas declared a statewide John Wayne Day to commemorate the iconic actor’s birthday on May 26th for his cinematic contributions to the culture of America.

Texas also named Wayne an honorary Texan, though Wayne, born Marion Mitchell Morrison, was actually born in Iowa. Many films that he starred in were filmed in Texas and for many Texans he has always been an honorary son of the Lone Star State.

Chip Credit Cards

My ever curious friend, Jeff asked if I thought the new chip cards were more secure than the magnetic stripe cards, so I went hunting to find out the latest info.

More than three-quarters of a billion credit and debit cards are in use in the US. By the end of 2016, over 90 percent will be converted to EMV (which stands for Europay, Mastercard, Visa) cards with a chip. The US is one of the last markets to go to EMV, on a short list with Papua New Guinea and Mongolia.

About half of all credit card fraud happens in the United States even though the country only makes up about 25% of all credit card transactions, according to a Barclays report. Financial institutions had been required to pay for credit and debit card fraud until Oct. 1, 2015. Now whoever has the oldest technology when the fraud occurs, the bank or the merchant, determines who covers the cost for the crime.

Current US chip cards are vulnerable because they still employ the old magnetic stripes so that businesses that have not yet made the transition to EMV technology can still access users’ credit data.

The new cards do not work quite the same way they do in Europe, but they are a step closer. The type of card being rolled out in the US still requires a signature when you pay. Eventually, what will be used in the US is what is used in the rest of the world, known as "chip and PIN." It would work similar to an ATM card now. You insert your card and enter a four-digit password to approve the transaction. Security experts believe this is much safer than card and signature to pay for things.

The biggest difference between the old card and new one is the metal 'smart' chip embedded on the front, making personal data much safer (once they eliminate the stripe on the back). The chip assigns a unique code for every transaction made on the card. Even if a thief acquired that code, it could not be used to make another purchase. Chip cards are also harder to duplicate although it is not unheard of.

These new EMV cards do not contain the older radio frequency (RFID) technology from a few years ago as some older ones did. No need to worry about covering with foil, etc., as they cannot be scanned within your wallet.

The new EMV chip cards were designed to help curtail credit card fraud; however, there are still vulnerabilities with these cards. Nothing is perfect, so caveat emptor.

Films and Colons

Twenty films Hollywood will release in 2016 contain a colon in their title, such as “Captain America: Civil War.” Thirteen are sequels, one is a reboot, one is a spinoff, one is based on a TV series, one is a concert film, one is an original comedy, and two are based on books. The colon proliferation is indicative of the industry’s reliance on sequels and reboots that need to slightly distinguish themselves from their predecessors.

Next year, 2017 is building to be the same 'title with colon' names.

Olive Oil Facts

Generally speaking, olive oils fall into one of two broad categories: unrefined (virgin and extra virgin), and refined (pure and light).

Olives used to make the two virgin, unrefined oils are cold pressed and not treated with heat or chemicals. The olives are simply pressed and squeezed to get the oil out. Olives that produce the highest quality oil in terms of rich taste and acidity make extra virgin olive oil. Slightly riper olives, that are also just pressed, produce virgin olive oil.

To be graded extra virgin, the olive oil must have an oleic acid content of less than 0.8%, while virgin olive oil can have as much as 2.0%, or 1.5% under International Olive Council standards.

Extra virgin olive oil is generally preferred for things like dressing and dips, where a flavorful oil is preferable and the oil is not going to be subjected to high heats that would rapidly degrade it.

The refined oils are generally made from oils that would be relatively unpalatable if bottled without further processing. They are treated with solvents and high heat to remove undesirable odors and flavors. The process leaves a relatively neutral-tasting, light color olive oil. Sometimes, in order to make light oils taste a bit like the more expensive grades, a small percentage of virgin olive oil is blended into the refined oil. Some labeled light olive oils are blended with other oils such as canola.

While the refined olive oils are less nutritious, they are also less affected by high temperatures when compared with the virgin oils. For comparison, the smoke point of extra virgin olive oil is approximately 320°F (160°C), virgin at approximately 420°F (215°C), and light at approximately 465°F (240°C). As such, it is typical to use light olive oil for baking, grilling, frying, and sautéing, essentially where high temperatures are required.

During 2015, Italian authorities discovered that 9 out of every 20 bottles of olive oil sold by its top exporters were tainted with other types of oil. Among the companies allegedly selling lesser-quality oils as “extra virgin” were Bertolli, Carapelli and Primadonna.

To get around the problem of mislabeling, in the US the California Olive Oil Council provides olive oil grade certification, with its seal appearing on certified bottles. Beyond looking for these certifications, it is also important to avoid olive oils that lack a harvest date on the label, as extra virgin olive oil’s shelf life is generally only in the range of 18-24 months and a lack of such data could possibly indicate older oil being sold. Choosing oils that include their harvest date on the label ensures fresher oil.

It is best to store olive oil away from light and heat, as well as to limit exposure to air as these factors will rapidly degrade the quality of the oil.

Microsoft Windows 10 Update

Microsoft says its year-long offer will expire on July 29, 2016. After that date, unless a new offer materializes, you will need to pay for a Windows 10 upgrade of $119 for a Home upgrade or $199 for the Pro edition. Over three hundred million users have already converted to Windows 10, so it appears to be safe to upgrade now.

If you stick with an old version, just because you are comfortable, get over it. Older versions become more and more susceptible to malware attacks, which are much worse to deal with, as well as being more expensive than just upgrading for free.

Practical Artificial Intelligence

Researchers tout the potentials of artificial intelligence (AI) as a game changer in a range of industries, but AI appears to have application in the world of gambling as well.

You may not have thought about using artificial intelligence for your Kentucky Derby bets, but those who did, turned their $20 to $11,000. The artificial intelligence, which had earlier predicted the winners of the Super Bowl and the Oscars, made a prediction of the winners in the last recent Kentucky Derby.

The odds for predicting the top four horses in the right order was 540 to one, but this was made possible with swarm intelligence, which amplifies, instead of replaces human intelligence. Swarm uses large groups as they are better at predicting the outcome of an event compared with any one person.

"Research shows that when animals in nature come together in swarms, they can enhance their intelligence to levels they could not have as individuals. UNU asked 20 people who claimed to be knowledgeable about the Kentucky Derby to winnow the horses to the top four and then had the human swarm choose the winning order. The group eventually guessed the winners of the game. Just as the swarm picked, Nyquist took the first place and was followed by Exaggerator, Gun Runner, and Mohaymen. It took about 20 minutes for the AI swarm to pick out the bets. Relying on the swarm's prediction, Unanimous made a $20 bet and won $10,800. Not one in the human group individually predicted the correct order of the horses.

A swarm tends to be more accurate compared with a poll because a poll merely gives the most popular answer and not the answer the optimizes the group's preference.

Wordology, Tantalize

The word "tantalize" comes from the plight of the mythological Tantalus, son of Zeus who so offended the gods by stealing ambrosia that he was condemned in the afterlife to an eternity of hunger and thirst. He was made to stand in a pool in Tartarus, the Underworld zone of punishment. Each time he reached down for the water that beckoned to his parched lips, it drained away. Overhanging the pool were boughs laden with luscious fruit, but each time Tantalus stretched to pluck a juicy fruit, the boughs receded from his grasp.

Its meaning is to cause someone to feel interest or excitement about something that is very attractive, appealing, etc. It also means to tease or torment by presenting something desirable to the view. but continually keeping it out of reach.

May 13, 2016

Happy Friday

"Optimism is going after Moby Dick in a rowboat and taking the tartar sauce with you."

I am optimistic that today will be a very Happy Friday!

More Sun, Longer Life

New research from 2016 finds that women who sunbathe are likely to live longer than those who avoid the sun, even though sunbathers are at an increased risk of developing skin cancer.

An analysis of information on 29,518 Swedish women who were followed for 20 years revealed that "Longer life expectancy among women with active sun exposure habits was related to a decrease in heart disease and non-cancer non–heart disease deaths, causing the relative contribution of death due to cancer to increase." Whether the positive effect of sun exposure demonstrated in this observational study is mediated by vitamin D, another mechanism related to UV radiation, or by unmeasured bias could not be determined.

"We found smokers in the highest sun exposure group were at a similar risk as non-smokers avoiding sun exposure, indicating avoidance of sun exposure to be a risk factor of the same magnitude as smoking," said Dr. Pelle Lindqvist, lead author of the Journal of Internal Medicine study. "Guidelines being too restrictive regarding sun exposure may do more harm than good for health." In other words, get out and enjoy some sunshine, just do not overdo it.

Pumpkin Power

The US Energy Department claims pumpkins are responsible for adding to greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

According to the department, most of the 1.3 billion pounds of pumpkins produced in the US end up in the trash, becoming part of the tons of municipal solid waste produced in the United States every year.

Municipal solid waste decomposes into methane, “a harmful greenhouse gas that plays a part in climate change, with more than 20 times the warming effect of carbon dioxide,” according to the department. We can all help by eating more pumpkin pie and munching pumpkin seeds.

Wordology, Winning Hands Down

In horse racing, a jockey who is winning by a wide margin does not need to whip his horse to go faster, and can win with his hands down. The phrase soon caught on outside the sporting world.


Many people in the US confuse Sikhs and Muslims. However, 99 percent of people wearing turbans in the US are Sikhs from India. There are about 700,000 Sikhs in the US today.

Sikhism is an Indian religion and the world’s fifth largest religion with 25.8 million adherents worldwide. Sikhs believe in one God, equality, freedom of religion, and community service.

The word Sikh (pronounced 'seekh') means 'student', 'disciple', or 'learner.' The Sikh religion was founded in Northern India in 1469 by Guru Nanak Dev Ji. Sikhism is monotheistic and stresses the equality of all men and women. Sikhs believe in three basic principles; meditating on the name of God (praying), earning a living by honest means as well as sharing the fruits of one’s labor with others. Sikhism rejects all distinctions based on caste, creed, gender, color, race, or national origin and emphasizes service to humanity.

Sikhs have no food taboos except those that stem from one simple injunction – a life of moderation in which they shun all that harms the body or the mind. This also means all intoxicants, tobacco, alcohol, or any mind altering drugs are forbidden.

Additional facts:
Sikhism is a distinct religion, separate from Hinduism and Islam.
In Sikhism, the influences of ego, anger, greed, attachment, and lust, known as the Five Thieves, are believed to be particularly distracting and hurtful.
Sikhs have a baptism ceremony.
Sikhism does not have priests. Liturgical service employs people for a salary to sing hymns, officiate marriage, and perform services.
Sikhs cover their uncut hair with a turban. The Sikh turban represents a commitment to equality and justice.
Women are not required to wear compulsory veil.
Religious ceremonies, or idol worship are of little use and Sikhs are discouraged from fasting or going on pilgrimages.
Sikhs do not believe in converting people, but converts to Sikhism by choice are welcomed.
The morning and evening prayers take about two hours a day, starting in the early morning hours.

Lyft and Uber Size

There are more than 315,000 Lyft drivers operating in 195 cities around the world, according to UC Berkeley. Uber operates in 360 cities in 68 countries, with hundreds of thousands of drivers signing up globally each month.

Words That are Their Own Opposite

English is so much fun. Here are some words that are difficult to define without context.
Apology: A statement of contrition for an action, or a defense of one.
Bill: A payment, or an invoice for payment.
Bolt: To secure, or to flee.
Bound: Heading to a destination, or restrained from movement.
Buckle: To connect, or to break or collapse.
Cleave: To adhere, or to separate.
Clip: To fasten, or detach.
Consult: To offer advice, or to obtain it.
Continue: To keep doing an action, or to suspend an action.
Custom: A common practice, or a special treatment.
Dike: A wall to prevent flooding, or a ditch.
Discursive: Moving in an orderly fashion among topics, or proceeding aimlessly in a discussion.
Dollop: A large amount (British English), or a small amount.
Dust: To add fine particles, or to remove them.
First degree: Most severe in the case of a murder charge, or least severe in reference to a burn.

Barding vs. Cauling

Barding is the wrapping of fat, such as bacon around meat to cover the meat in a  layer of taste and texture. Cauling is the act of wrapping caul around meat and is similar to barding.

Picture of Caul

Since caul is thin, as opposed to the thicker layer of fat used in barding, a cauled dish has a delicately rendered layer of fat that can accent a dish without overtaking it, as bacon might. It can be kept frozen for a long time and should be brought back to room temperature before it is used.

US Mail Photography

The USPS has been photographing letters and packages sent in the US for tracking and security reasons since at least 2013. Under a pilot program called "Informed Delivery," the USPS is emailing to people photographs of the front side of their mail every morning before it is delivered to their home (not business).

PO Box users are not currently targeted as participants in the pilot. PO Box customers in certain Post Offices nationwide can use the existing Real Mail Notification ® service to receive a text-only message without images, via email, or SMS message. You can check with your local Post Office for more details.

The free service will send up to 10 black-and-white photos of mail per day. People who get more than that will be able to check their mail online in the same place they track their packages, according to the USPS fact page.

In 2015 the service was available in the New York City metro area, including the following three digit ZIP Code locations: NY: 100-119; CT: 066, 069. The service has been available in select ZIP Code locations in Northern Virginia since 2014 starting with the following three digits: 201, 220, 221, 222, 223, 226, 227. Expansion to other areas is being considered for 2016.

Great for finding those mailings physically delivered to the wrong house.

May 6, 2016

Happy Friday

We must travel over the bridge of smiles to reach the land of happiness.

I stand on the bridge of happiness watching smiles flow by every Happy Friday!

World Naked Gardening Day

Tomorrow, May 7 is World Naked Gardening Day - People are encouraged to tend to the various flora around or outside their home while in the nude. The event is celebrated annually on the first Saturday of May. Not too much fun in urban Texas where most neighbors have high fences.

Interesting Food Names

Menus need to convey the right kind of information about a dish as concisely as possible. Short descriptions are used as advertising elements to entice customers. Sautéed shrimp in garlic butter is a good basic description, while zesty garlic butter might make a dish seem even more delicious. Adjectives such as 'tasty', 'fresh', or 'hot' go a long way in persuading a customer to try something. Words that actually refer to taste, such as 'bitter', 'salty', or 'sour' are rarely used. Fanciful participles such as 'married', 'kissed', 'accented', and 'hand-crafted' suggest high quality cooking or ingredients without really saying anything substantive about the dish. Below are a few regional food descriptions.

Toad in the hole (sausages baked in a batter),
Ants on a log (raisins on peanut butter on a celery stick),
Devil/Angel on horseback (oysters/dates wrapped in bacon),
Bubble and Squeak (fried potato, cabbage, and more),
Pigs in a blanket (a sausage wrapped in dough or bacon)
Spotted Dick (a pudding with raisins and custard),
Hush puppies (deep fried cornbread balls),
Love in disguise (a Welsh dish of stuffed and boiled heart).

Incidentally, during 1972-73 the American Food for Peace Program sent tons of yellow corn from the United States to Botswana for distribution in schools as drought relief. The shamed and humiliated secondary school students in Serowe rioted, burned the headmaster’s car, and destroyed stockpiles of the corn. Seems only white maize is fit for human consumption there. Yellow is fed to animals.

New Endeavors

When starting something new, like a project or hobby, Google "things I wish I knew when starting x" and you will find tons of tips and tricks to keep you from making mistakes and help you get going quickly.


 I read an email touting the cancer killing properties of asparagus last week. After looking on the web, found that it originated in 2006 and has been long since debunked, but still keeps floating around. Below are a few facts about cancer and asparagus that are true.

According to Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center, "There is no evidence that certain foods alter the environment of an existing cancer, at the cellular level, and cause it to either die or grow."

The odor causing ingredient in asparagus has long been known. Benjamin Franklin stated in a 1781 letter to the Royal Academy of Brussels, “A few stems of asparagus eaten, shall give our urine a disagreable odour (sic).”

According to Carolyn O’Neil on Web MD, “Researchers believe that, during digestion, the vegetable’s sulfurous amino acids break down into smelly chemical components in all people.” Within 15 to 30 minutes of eating asparagus, the odor can be present.

In 2010, the genetic sequencing company 23andMe conducted a study in which they asked 10,000 customers if they noticed any scent in their urine after eating asparagus, and looked for genetic similarities among those who could not. This peculiarity appears to stem from a single genetic mutation, a switched base-pair among a cluster of 50 different genes that code for olfactory (sense of smell) receptors.

On a positive note of the benefits, women have long known that asparagus is a wonderful natural diuretic.

An easy way to oven-roast, preheat the oven to 450, mix trimmed asparagus with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Roast in a single layer in a pan, or on aluminum foil for 10 – 15 minutes. I prefer foil, as it is easy to roll up and toss, no washing necessary.

It is best to store the stalks whole and unwashed, in a standing glass of water and place the glass on a refrigerator shelf with the tips sticking out. You can place the vegetable in a sealed plastic bag in fridge vegetable drawer if you will be using quickly. It is usually good for about five to seven days.

For a longer term option, asparagus may be frozen for 6-8 months, but should be cooked or blanched first and placed in freezer safe containers.

German Pedestrian Red Light Assistance

Distracted smartphone users are alerted when it is safe to cross the road, after a pilot traffic light system was launched in a German city. It embedded rows of LEDs into the pavement. They flash red when the crossing is closed to pedestrians. According to German television station, it became necessary after a 15-year-old girl, who was wearing earbuds and looking at her smartphone, was killed when she stepped in front of a tram.

"We have the additional lamps installed on two crossings that are especially frequented by the relevant target group," said the city's spokesperson.

The first two pavement traffic lights have been installed near the local university. They are aimed particularly at young people and commuters, who tend to be too consumed by their smartphones to look up at the conventional traffic lights system.

US lawmakers take a different approach and seek to ban texting while walking, because distracted walking leads to falls, and 9% "strike a motionless object."

Wordology, Turning a Blind Eye

Turning a blind eye is an idiom describing the ignoring of undesirable information.

The phrase to turn a blind eye is attributed to an incident in the life of Admiral Horatio Nelson. Nelson was blinded in one eye early in his Royal Navy career. During the Battle of Copenhagen in 1801 the cautious Admiral Sir Hyde Parker, in overall command of the British forces, sent a signal to Nelson's forces ordering them to discontinue the action.

At the time, naval orders were transmitted via a system of signal flags at that time. When this order was given to the more aggressive Nelson's attention, he lifted his telescope up to his blind eye, said, "I really do not see the signal," and most of his forces continued to press home the attack. The frigates supporting the line-of-battle ships did break off, in one case suffering severe losses in the retreat.

There is a misconception that the order was to be obeyed at Nelson's discretion, but this is contradicted by the fact that it was a general order to all the attacking ships, and later that day Nelson openly stated that he had 'fought contrary to orders'. Sir Hyde Parker was recalled in disgrace and Nelson appointed Commander-in-Chief of the fleet following the battle.

Another Happiness Study

In countries worldwide, happiness for most is success in doing the things of everyday life. That might be making a living, raising a family, maintaining good health, and working in an interesting and secure job. These are the things that dominate daily lives everywhere; the things that people care about and which they think they have some ability to control.

Psychologists have investigated the reliability and validity of the measures and economists have studied the nature and robustness of the results. Support comes from the fact that many countries now officially collect happiness data. The same relationships are found between happiness and a variety of life circumstances in country after country. Those who are significantly less happy are typically the unemployed, those not living with a partner, people in poor health, members of a minority, and the less-educated.

Respondents to surveys clearly recognize the difference between happiness as an emotion and happiness in the sense of life satisfaction.