Monday, October 31, 2011

Fresh starts

Friday, October 28, 2011

Things I learned this week

I learned that:
• In 2005, scientists using Google Earth discovered a previously unknown (to them) rainforest in Mozambique, and were rewarded with the discovery of many new species.

• While it still has a way to go, research is underway to grow meat directly from stem cells. This could end animal slaughter and be easier on the environment.

• Engineers are re-thinking the conventional advice to avoid using elevators during an emergency. On 9/11, in the 16 minutes after the attack on WTC 1, about 16 percent of WTC 2’s occupants used elevators to escape the building.

• Wood may be the miracle product of the 21st century. Using its cellulose fiber to make rayon is much friendlier to the environment than growing cotton. Its lignin can be used to run a biomass cogeneration power plant. Its sugars can be turned into all kinds of other useful things in a biorefinery. And it doesn't compete with food production for scarce arable land.

• There are hundreds of lakes lying miles below Antarctica, kept from freezing by geothermal activity and constant pressure from ice sheets that lower their melting point. One of them is three times the size of Lake Ontario.

People who make shopping lists spend less time in stores, and make fewer impulse purchases.
How about that?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Taking precautions

[Author unknown]

Beatrice, the church organist, was a single lady in her eighties, admired for her sweetness and kindness to all.

One afternoon, the new pastor came to call on her, and she showed him into her quaint sitting room. She invited him to have a seat while she prepared tea.

As he sat facing her old Hammond organ, the young minister noticed a cut glass bowl sitting on top of it. The bowl was filled with water, and in the water floated a condom!

When she returned, with tea and scones, they began to chat. The pastor tried to stifle his curiosity about the bowl of water and its strange floater, but soon it got the better of him, and he could no longer resist.

"Beatrice," he said, "I wonder if you would tell me about this?"

"Oh, yes," she replied, "Isn't it wonderful? I was walking through the park a few months ago and I found this little package on the ground. The directions said to place it on the organ, keep it wet, and that it would prevent the spread of disease.

"Do you know I haven't had the flu all winter."

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Scraps sold as prime cuts

If you ever eat beef, pork, chicken, or other meats, this may surprise you. What will they think of next to hoodwink the consumer?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Stuck in the blog bog

I just think I've escaped, and then it reaches out to push me under again.

Stuff. Digital stuff. Interesting digital stuff.

A while back, I discovered RSS feeds, a handy way to follow all the blogs that interest me. RSS saves time because you don't need to visit each site individually, or sign up for each site's email alerts.

At first, it was just a half dozen, but now there are 28 blogs dumping their content into this swamp of information. This morning, I have 277 unread posts waiting to be read, scanned, trashed --- whatever.

Please understand that all of this stuff is written by interesting people who have something useful/funny/informative/thought-provoking/insightful to say. That's why I started following each of them in the first place.

So the time has come to give the beast a haircut, but what must go?

Surely not The Walrus with its unique Canadian perspective, or the eloquent dissertations of The Parallel Parliament.

I must have my regular dose of quirky musings from A North Pelham Journal, and warnings of the latest scams from Ellen Roseman's On Your Side.

I depend on David Olive's Everybody's Business to explain what's really going on in the big stories that get just 30 seconds on the evening news, on Txchnologist to stay current with research you never hear about in the mainstream media, and on Bad Science to expose the phony "breakthrough discoveries" and misused statistics that fill newspapers and newscasts.

I, Cringely has the inside track and all the scoops on Silicon Valley's winners and losers. I want Bill Carrigan's stock market insights via his Market Chat. And I like Claire Kerr's slant on the non-profit world, found in her

With all that heavy thinking, I can't do without the silliness of The Oatmeal, and the great sampling of editorial cartoons at CartoonBlog.

There are plenty more, but you can see my problem. I'm incapable of self control. Somebody needs to take away my keys!

Just this morning, I added Seth Godin's blog after coming across his post on The math of favors. How could I not?


Monday, October 24, 2011

You do the math

Friday, October 21, 2011

Things I learned this week

I learned that:
• A sabermetrician is one who analyzes baseball statistics.

• U.S. industries and other special-interest groups receive about $71 in government subsidies for every $1 of political contributions, according to research at the University of British Columbia.

• Several research projects are aimed at converting carbon dioxide in the atmosphere into gasoline and other fuels.

• When it contracts, a muscle that encircles the eye socket, called the obicularis occuli is the sign of a genuine smile, as opposed to one that is faked.

• The Colonel Bogey March, whistled famously as the theme song in the movie Bridge on the River Kwai, has interesting lyrics that are much less familiar than its melody:
Göring has only got one ball
Hitler's [are] so very small
Himmler's so very similar
And Goebbels has no balls at all
• No U.S. president has been an only child.
How about that?

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Signs of the times

Just because everything is different doesn't mean anything has changed. ~ Irene Peter
• City cyclists may be at greater risk for lung disease due to their inhaling of higher levels of soot than pedestrians and other commuters, according to research by the London School of Medicine.

• Facebook now has as many users as the entire Internet had in 2004.

• Thornbury, Ontario, farmer Matthew von Teichman produces a kinder, gentler hot dog weiner. The Life Choices brand product contains no chemical preservatives, does not use "mechanically separated meat," and is made from "prime cuts"of cattle that grazed freely and ate apples. They're available at some supermarkets in four provinces.

• 18. 1 % of Canadian adults identify themselves as obese, but about 1 in 4 actually are obese, according to the 2011 Vital Signs report from Community Foundations of Canada.

• In order to save money, a growing number of U.S. communities are choosing to stop adding fluoride to their water systems.

• Canada ranked number three for charitable behaviour, behind Australia and New Zealand, in the recently released "World Giving Index" compiled by the UK-based Charities Aid Foundation.
Looking for change? Check the sofa.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

A dramatic entrance

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Drones' popularity takes off

The U.S. military and intelligence agencies' reliance on pilotless aircraft has produced the inevitable unintended consequences.

Perceived as a low risk way to conduct high-level surveillance, and to take out perceived threats in far away lands, the so-called drones have proliferated as the "war on terror" has dragged on through Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, and elsewhere.

Closer to home, these remote controlled planes patrol the U.S. borders with Canada and Mexico, and there have been reports of police use. The Americans are thought to have at least 7,000 of them.

As with every advance in military technology, it was only a matter of time before the genie escaped and began raising hell farther afield.

According to a New York Times report, the international market for drones is exploding, with China and Israel as major sellers. Russia, Iran, India and Pakistan are close behind, and more than than 50 countries now have them in their arsenals.

In addition to concerns about their being used for terrorist attacks and industrial spying, there is the unsettling realization that targeting of people in this manner has been legitimized. Having used them for various assassinations, the White House's protests are now unlikely to carry much weight when Iran or Pakistan uses a drone to kill someone they find undesirable.

It's hard to see how this won't get completely out of hand. Keep an eye on the sky.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Friday, October 14, 2011

Things I learned this week

I learned that:
• A Connecticut inventor has come out with plans for a nuclear powered car, claiming it is perfectly safe because it uses thorium instead of uranium. Thorium's radioactivity is so mild that aluminum foil is an adequate shield, but one gram contains the same energy as 28,000 litres of gasoline.

• The term "hat trick" originated with cricket. A bowler who took out three consecutive batters received a new hat from the cricket club.

• Real-estate buyers will pay 4.2% more for a property in a subdivision that has the term "country" in its name, and an additional 5.1% on top of that for "country club," according to researchers at the University of Georgia.

• The birth rate in the United States has declined sharply during the current economic recession.

• An astrophysicist has come up with a more efficient system for boarding passengers on airliners. The system takes just half the time of the current block boarding method.

• During your lifetime, you will produce enough saliva to fill two swimming pools.
How about that?

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Barbie in her fifties

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Signs of the times

Just because everything is different doesn't mean anything has changed. ~ Irene Peter
• Mexico City legislators are proposing to allow 2-year trial marriage contracts that would just expire without the need for a divorce process if the couple falls out of love. The Catholic Church is not amused, calling it "irresponsible and immoral."

• New South China Mall, the world’s largest shopping centre, opened in Dongguan, China, to great fanfare in 2006, but five years later only 2% of its 660,000 square metres is occupied.

• Young adults (18-34) are sizing up the odds and saying "No thanks" to lotteries. Their purchase of lottery tickets dropped sharply from 2010 to 2011, according to Ipsos, as did their participation in other forms of gambling.

• Bartering is booming in Greece as people have been squeezed by wage cuts, layoffs, and tax increases in the current hard times. Barter networks and alternative currencies are emerging to facilitate the exchange of services.

• The South Korean government, short of funds to pay for policing, is paying citizens for video of people and businesses breaching the law. According to the New York Times, video snitches can earn rewards ranging from $5 (littering) to $850 (reporting an unlicensed seller of livestock).

• The latest Barbie has tattoos.
Looking for change? Check the sofa.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

There's something happening here

There's something happening here
What it is ain't exactly clear
There's a man with a gun over there
Telling me I got to beware
I think it's time we stop, children, what's that sound
Everybody look what's going down
There's battle lines being drawn
Nobody's right if everybody's wrong
Young people speaking their minds
Getting so much resistance from behind
Those words were written in 1966 by Stephen Sills, of the band Buffalo Springfield, in reaction to attempts by law enforcement to enforce a curfew against young club-goers on the Sunset Strip in Los Angeles County, California.

The song, entitled For What It's Worth, was recorded by the band, and became an anthem of the nascent protest movement, at that time just a blip but destined to become years filled with highly charged confrontations. The way politicians, the police, and other authority figures are viewed was changed forever, everywhere.

I lived through this period as a young adult, and was reminded of it as I read about the recent riots tearing Greece apart, and the Occupy Wall Street and 99 Percent movements that are now spreading to other cities in the U.S. and Canada, not-too-distant cousins to the Arab Spring uprisings that put dictators on notice.

The 60s protest movement started in much the same way --- unfocused, without high profile leaders, just young people feeling that something was wrong and that government was unable, or unwilling, to fix it. Its intent was to to shock the rich and powerful out of their complacency.

Leaders eventually emerged, of course, as they inevitably do, and the agenda for change became more crystallized.

Will history repeat? A large component of these new movements is the widespread frustration of young people, savvy and often well educated, who are having great difficulty getting their lives started in the current economic mess.

At an age when they should be embarking on careers, and forming families, they are stymied, struggling to pay off student loans with their minimum wage paycheques.

If this gets traction, something will happen.

Hang on tight.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Friday, October 7, 2011

Things I learned this week

I learned that:
• Women not only prefer deep male voices to high pitched ones, they pay more attention to what they say, according to a new study at the University of Aberdeen.

• After shutdown of 39 of their 54 nuclear reactors, the Japanese got through this summer successfully by changing behaviour to reduce energy usage at the request of their government. That meant turning off air conditioning and office lighting, ditching suits and ties, working on weekends and in the cooler hours, and taking the stairs instead of elevators, among other measures.

• If you roll over in the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG coupe, you cannot open the "gull-wing" doors because they are hinged at the roof. To get around this problem, the car has explosive bolts that fire when the car is upside down, allowing driver and passenger to exit.

• To ensure passengers can enjoy the full, throaty, resonance of its engine, despite the hush created by excellent soundproofing, the new BMW M5 can play those engine sounds through the car's sound system.

• The human heart beats 40,000,000 times every year of your life. It’s lifting about 7 tonnes of blood a day, and that’s about 2 very large aircraft carriers in a lifetime.

• Customers are more likely to buy from salespeople who mimic their speech and behaviour, according to an experiment at UniversitĂ© de Bretagne-Sud in France.
How about that?

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Older is better in the investment biz

I've mentioned the three Freds, all interesting fellows with different slants on life and perspectives they aren't reluctant to share.

One of the Freds (a retired investment manager) sent me an article entitled Why geezers give the best investment advice. If you have an investment advisor or listen to pundits recommending the next hot stock, you might find this news you can use.

Researchers have discovered that you ought be looking for a guru in the 43 to 63 age range.

Apparently this is the age when "fluid intelligence" and "crystallized intelligence" converge.

Fluid intelligence, which peaks around the age of 20, has to do with analyzing, processing and retaining new information. I can confirm that this definitely declines later in life, particularly the retaining part.

Crystallized intelligence, a fancy term for experience and knowledge, increases with age.

The curves cross around the age of 53 so those folks are at the top of their game. They have been through a few bear markets, and that's invaluable experience you don't get from textbooks.

So, to stay out of the red, look for a bit of grey.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Signs of the times

Just because everything is different doesn't mean anything has changed. ~ Irene Peter
• In downtown Toronto, the average new condo unit is 749 sq. ft., and a new project to hit the market in 2013 will have 270 sq. ft. units. That's palatial, of course, compared to Tokyo's 96 sq. ft. "capsules."

• I spotted Sarah Palin's book Going Rogue ($28.99) marked down to $4.99 at a local bookstore.

• Sales of high-rise apartments in Tokyo have plummeted since the March earthquake, threatening to halt the redevelopment of the city's waterfront into a skyscraper district.

• Toronto's Victory Burlesque theatre, famous strip tease venue well into the 1980s, is now a Royal Bank of Canada branch.

• A condition known as De Quervai's tenosynovitis is becoming more common due to the popularity of texting. The inflamed tendons make moving the thumbs painful.

New data released by the U.S. Census found that 14 percent of Americans (43.6 million people) now live below the poverty line, which is annual income of $10,830 for an individual or $22,050 for a family of four.
Looking for change? Check the sofa.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Brain teasers

15 Things You Didn't Know About the Brain

Monday, October 3, 2011

Doggone it