Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Stevia is sweet and good.

Over Christmas, my mom asked me if I wanted sweetener for my tea. I'm spoiled now, because I love the way stevia tastes, so I asked if she had any. She goes, "What's stevia?" Stevia rebaudiana Bertoni is an herb that's sweet like sugar, but it has no calories.

Imagine a sweetener that's actually good for you. I've been sweetening my coffee and tea with stevia for about six months. I bought some at a hippie grocery store, and I like it better than Splenda, Sweet & Low, or processed sugar. It is has no carbs, no calories, and no glycemic index, but it tastes naturally sweet.

Splenda is chlorinated sugar. Your body won't absorb it (much). Saccharine (Sweet & Low) and Aspartame (Equal) are not good for you, either. If you are diabetic, dieting, or just health conscious, you should try stevia, just to see if you like it better. I'm a fan.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Creativity and Thrift.

In my college years I had a girlfriend tell me, "You're not creative enough to be thrifty." We would get into arguments about whether it was better to make a thing, or just go buy it pre-made. She used stuff she had and made what she needed. She had a tremendous knack for it. If you have the skills, homemade cookies are much better than the ones in the plastic boxes in the bakery section. With enough negative thinking, you can convince yourself that you either don't have enough time or enough cooking skills to make better cookies than the bakery, and plunk down a few bucks for a few cookies. The reality is that you can acquire the time and skills. Cookie ingredients are cheap. Plus, you can make cookies over and over. Doing the cooking yourself is one way, and making money to just buy cookies is another means to the same end.

Now that we've proved that I'm hungry, here's a non-food example, if we were talking about decorating a room, she would head for the art supply store and spend what few dollars she had on paint and canvas. She'd buy an old picture frame at a garage sale. She would take an old crate out of the garbage, wrap it in cloth, take some tall dried grasses she picked from the roadside and arrange it in the top, and it looked amazing. I would get a part time job and go to Pottery Barn and get something cool with the money I made. She ended up with a conversation piece in her apartment while I had to remember to take the price tag off of my art, find time to hang or display whatever it was before I had to run back to work. The fact is, I didn't have the creative vision to stop by the road and pick tall grasses that might look decorative when dried.

Maybe it's still true that I'm not creative enough to be thrifty. I had never linked these two talents or virtues before she pointed it out. When money is tight, my creative side comes out. Necessity is the mother of invention? I think you just have to want something enough in this world of abundance to create it for yourself. I think that belief stems from the time I was chastised for not thinking creatively enough to not "waste money". Well, that's why she was an art major, and I got my degree in computer science.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Friday, December 12, 2008

Fair Tax effort lives on.

I work for an outsourcing firm. One of the Big Three is a client here. I get to see first hand the calculations which are done to allocate employee resources when a company outsources jobs. The income tax in the United States is THE main reason jobs are leaving, and one of the main reasons our car makers cannot compete on the global stage. The cost of the income tax plus a high labor rate negotiated by the union is built into the price of the product. So, it's cheaper to make stuff elsewhere.

I got this friendly email from Earl Long, the local Fair Tax activist/organizer/cheerleader/geezer/fellow, and it expressed my feelings so well I thought I'd just post the whole thing.

-CH

===
Good morning FairTaxers!

For the American taxpayer, the ol’ “baby-seal-treatment” (bludgeoning unmercifully by our government) just keeps coming. We are rapidly approaching 100 years of living under the tyranny of our current income tax system and the devastating effects it produces on our economy and everyday life.

Does anyone hold out the slightest particle of hope that the fine gentlemen wielding the clubs are going to voluntarily relent and improve our circumstances? I certainly don’t.

Please remember that our constitution requires that we the people assume the responsibility of being the boss! Washington won’t listen unless we speak. And it must be forcefully. Whispering sweetly in their ears won’t get it done! Our kids are counting on us.

Please sign on today at www.fairtaxkc.org by a triple 20 FairTaxer. We can and must remove the bludgeoning tools from Washington’s heedless hands.

The Geezer

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

I wonder. . .

How do the Toyota workers in Alabama feel about contributing their tax dollars to Detroit auto workers who make more money than they do?

Saturday, December 6, 2008

OU is doing well.

I've been to a few December games at Arrowhead Stadium. I know how cold it can get. I'm happy to be enjoying the Big 12 Championship game from home. At least it's not windy out there.

OU is doing so well, it's not even entertaining.

Consequently, I'm still reading get-rich-working-from-home ad pages. I have hit this one a couple of times, so apparently it's popular.

The audio narration is from the perspective of a wage slave who meets up with an ultra rich young guy who made his money with automated Internet marketing sites. It's so feeble it's kinda funny, but it really illustrates the divide between the creative class and the working class.

If your job involves a repetitive task that can be automated and you are not trying to automate it, you're working and not creating. The current trend seems to be outsourcing the running of the automated tools, so that it's completely on auto-pilot. If you can convince an army of underpaid people to implement your automated formula and get a cut of the action, that's great leverage. That's a recurring theme I'm encountering.

The marketing world is in flux. There's a movement from traditional advertising to targeted internet sites which are search engine optimized to receive traffic based on the keywords people enter into search engines and forward that traffic to the seller of a related product who pays the most commission. Marketing is in the hands of the masses now.

If you can get good at building good web sites to warm buyers up and send them on to an affiliate site to make their purchase, you really can make a lot of money. Finding the right niche, testing the market, then appealing to that niche in that manner IS the new marketing. Web hype. Now that people can DVR their shows and skip the commercials, it's the emerging way products are hyped and sold.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Fast Money! and Vacation Photos on Steroids

In my spare time, which is rare, I'm still looking for flashy get rich quick web sites. To find the schemes with the lowest barrier of entry, I end up going through the gyrations of registering for free newsletters and watching demo videos. This one takes the cake!

On another topic, I found a utility that will take pictures that you've taken in a particular place, and stitch them together into a 3D model called a Photo Synth.

I took some Colorado vacation pictures that I took at some places last summer, and some of them merged into a synth views, and some were just not synthy at all, so they didn't merge into a 3D view.

Here's Summit Lake:


And Roxborough State Park:


And some spot along Highway 103 in Colorado:

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Operation Giftervention.

I'm letting everyone off the hook.

Dear ________________,

I know how tough it is to find the perfect Christmas gift for me. And while I appreciate all the effort you put in, the truth is I really don’t need another present this year. But American troops stationed overseas who won’t make it home for a while—well, they do need a gift. So I’m asking that instead of spending money buying me a present, you send some Trail’s End popcorn to a soldier. It’s easy (the website takes care of all the shipping) and, best of all, 70% of the proceeds benefit the Boy Scouts of America.

To get started, just go to www.orderpopcorn.com and click on “Operation Giftervention” in the bottom-right corner of the page.

If popcorn isn't your style, here is a list of requests from folks deployed overseas and where/how to send the items.

Thanks and Merry Christmas,

Charles

Thursday, November 20, 2008

New York Rangers


New York Rangers
Originally uploaded by chillkc
I got to check out a Rangers game last night. I had watched the first period from a store in midtown, then proceeded toward the arena to see if I could find a sports bar where I could get some food and be among fans. Well, ESPN Zone was closed for some reason. I took the 1 train down to 34th and when I came up there was a group of ticket scalpers yelling "hockey tickets". I asked how much, and they all crowded around me. I started a bidding war. I negotiated a $240 club level seat down to $40, even after the guy said his rock bottom was $60. This is after the game was a third over and the Rangers had given up a few goals. Anyway, I got inside in time for the second period. I got to see the Rangers score their first goal of the game. There was a waitress to take my food order. The crowd was into the game. It was good. And, I must say, the Madison Square Garden Arena has the best hot dogs. Click on the photo to see what I mean.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

NYC again.

If I didn't do NYC right last week, this week I get a do over. So far, the experience is better in some ways and worse in others. I'm starting to notice a routine. I wake up to the Early Show and watch some crazy news reports and make some oatmeal and coffee to get myself going. Get ready and run down to the lobby to meet the other Capgemini folks, who have joined me in my cheap but good hotel situation at the Belnord. The rooms are small, but clean and newly renovated, the internet is free and fast, only 3 blocks from the office, and only $89 a night. Incredible deal, especially for Manhattan. We all go to Cafe 82 for a hearty hot breakfast served fast. Then back up Broadway to the office for filling in for a dwindling IT staff, all of whom know their jobs are in the process of being outsourced. Morale is low, but things are still running. At around 9, I join a group who walks to one of two nearby Starbucks for a Venti Drip, and some discussion about the morning emails. I got a Grande Peppermint Mocha Twist, which took 10 minutes longer than just Drip. Lunch is a matter of sneaking out when there's a lull and finding some good grub. The restaurant selection just within one block is fantastic, but I'm getting advice from people who have lived in the neighborhood for over 10 years. There are countless amazing restaurants on Amsterdam and Columbus. My favorite so far, and I've been twice, is Saigon Grill. Perfect pork chops, with pho and spring roll appetizers. The hot sauce makes my scalp sweat. Back at the office, the workload is sporadic for the rest of the afternoon, but there's a soda fountain and a Cafe Mio machine with hot chocolate or a selection of 10 different kinds of coffee or tea. The spoiled IT folks here still go to Starbucks and call the fresh Kenyan roast they have in the break room "dirty water". It's better than the crap they passed off as coffee at the Sprint campus. I had to ice it down and slam it for the caffeine, then chew some mint gum to get rid of the flavor.

The interesting thing about Manhattan is how efficient everything is. I can get the same kind of errands done here that I might do at home, but everything is walking distance and usually on the way. If it's not, I can hop on the subway for a few minutes and pop up where I want to be for $2.

The downside this week is that it's starting to get cold. I expect to see snowflakes before I leave. Last week I was taking bad pictures with my phone, which is unfortunate. I brought a hi-res camera with a flash and video capability this time.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Long layover.

I had to book this trip at the last minute, and keep costs low, so I ended up with a long layover in Baltimore. I'm making the best of it now that I've found a power outlet and used my cell phone as an internet modem.

There's nothing like an upcoming trip for an extended period to make you think about all the loose ends in your life. That said, the Jetta is put back together, but some of the vacuum hoses and clamps need to be replaced. Here's a picture I took. The Vietnamese guy who is helping me is actually enjoying putting it back together. He's as sick about foreign cars as I am about data networks, I guess.



Here is a random picture of Shiloh the Dog, waiting eagerly on my back porch to go back inside after doing her thing.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

I love New York

I'm flying out to New York City in the morning. The bags are packed. The dog's care has been arranged. The loose ends are tied up. It's been over a year since I've been to Manhattan. This time, I found a reasonably decent place to stay just a five minute walk from the client's location on the Upper West Side.

Here are some pictures from my last visit. That included my second visit to Ground Zero, my first visit to Battery Park, a Turkish Day Parade, and a 10km charity AIDS walk. I hiked all the way up Central Park and down Riverside Drive along the west river with 10,000+ of my best friends, so I've seen the areas surrounding the Upper West Side, but this is my first time to stay in the Upper West Side. There's a restaurant near my hotel called Hot and Crusty. I like the name a lot, we'll see if I like the food.









Friday, November 7, 2008

Cloud Computing

I have become very intrigued by cloud computing lately. The idea that I can go to http://aws.amazon.com and create an account and select a server image type, like a Linux/Apache/PHP/MySQL image, and have the server booted up and running such that I can begin configuring it in minutes and I'm only charged by the amount of I/O. . . I just have to sit and meditate for a while about the consequences and scalability of that. The art of configuring and tweaking server OS and application performance and security is dead. The images are standardized now. Performance isn't an issue, I can configure one and replicate it 20 times and use load balancing on the network side to get performance.

I think it's great for putting public type web pages out there, but what about scaling a data center housing enterprise SAP or Siebel accounting and business process applications, or databases which contain information protected by privacy laws or credit card protection standards. Until there's a cloud firewall that goes with the cloud server, enterprises will have to build their own clouds. You can bet that Cisco 3.0 is working on the cloud firewall, with policy templates that you build which can scale when you replicate your servers in the cloud environment.

I have heard of using Pound to terminate SSL and perform web server load balancing on a server within the cloud environment, but F5 Networks' appliances do a much better job of that. Not only do you need a cloud firewall, you need a cloud load balancer, and a cloud VPN federation. Are these functions moving off of the hardware appliances and back onto the servers? Or are these functions going to still work on hardware designed for the purpose? Now that they have a blade chassis for servers, will they make a chassis with 10 slots full of virtual firewalls? Load balancers? VPN accelerators? How will the security functions protecting enterprise data assets and network traffic be integrated into cloud environments? This looks to me like a paradigm shift in scaling information technology like the mainframe to PC/LAN to internet/web shifts in the past.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Internet Marketing

I have been categorizing all the make-money-fast schemes I can find on the Internet into categories. I have learned about every kind of pyramid scheme and the various types, including the pass-ups, 1-ups, 2-ups, and the perpetual leverage payment plan. Some of these are marketing legitimately valuable products and services, usually overpriced, and some are selling collections of public domain ebooks, software, or information which one could find elsewhere by simply searching for it. The problem is that 95% of them want money up front. So, I'm sorting them according to the size of the barrier to entry. Some of them have a small initial barrier to entry, but if you read further, you find that that's just an application fee, and the actual product they're pushing is much more expensive. Of course, in the name of integrity, you have to have purchased it for the opportunity to then sell it. The hottest items are "information products". This is some presentation or packaged educational material, sometimes a DVD of a seminar, or a flash version of a lecture with slides. The cost to produce this stuff is so minimal. It makes great business sense to sell this multi-level marketing style, because the main cost is the marketing. The interesting ones are the travel resort clubs, legal insurance, or even a membership based web service that prints and mails customized greeting cards.

After the MLM stuff, there are the affiliate marketing programs. This is much more straightforward. You get a reward for helping customers find the product they're looking for, or maybe a product they might buy, whether they're looking for it or not. The barrier to entry is zero. You just need a web site or a blog to put web links or banners online where people can see them and click them. Commission Junction and Google Adwords are huge.

Another thing I have found is the very rare community of people freely giving out information to better themselves and anyone interested in following in their footsteps. The absolute best one of these is a group of Internet marketing folks who are selling software and web hosting, but teaching people how to make lots of money using the tools that they are selling, and they're not asking for anything on the back side. It's really free. If you want to spend a few hours a day not only learning about internet marketing, but actually watching a video that shows you how to do it, with the expectation that you actually will, I highly recommend the Thirty Day Challenge. It's a group of Aussies who are master Internet marketers, spending tens of thousands of dollars to spread this knowledge and the prosperity that goes with it.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Yay for car commercials.

I thought if I had to watch another political ad, I was going into exile. What a relief to be back to the cheesy commercials for car dealerships, Gutter Brush, Gutter Helmet, Gutter Monster ads. All the ambulance chasing personal injury lawyers are back on, and nobody approved that message. Instead of back-to-back mudslinging attack ads, we have Heidi Klum skin care products and Bowflex Treadclimber again, amen. I'd rather hear about Oxi-Clean than Obama. Give me triple action cleaning power I can believe in, because three minutes of lying campaign ads in a row makes me feel dirty and conflicted. I'm so glad it's over. The hand has been played. The chips have been pushed, and the losers have stepped away from the table.

I prefer a deadlocked House and Senate, or different parties in the Congress and the White House. It allows for a sanity check for new legislation, so it's good for everyone. Bush didn't veto very much. I have a feeling Obama won't either.

I'm disappointed with the BOMB (Bush Obama McCain Bailout) that passed so Congress can show they're doing something about the economy, even though it doesn't bode well for the future economy. The less influence Congress exerts over the economy, the better off we are. The mortgage bubble was caused by bad legislation which encouraged easy loans, which increased demand for houses, which increased housing prices above the free market norm. Now that market pressures are trying to deflate the bubble, they're propping it back up at the expense of a weaker dollar and increasingly worthless T-bills. When the dollar is weaker, outsourced jobs will come back onshore, but we'll be paying more for imports, and that means oil. If we don't produce more of our own, we're going to be in worse shape in coming years than we were this past summer. The prospects are scary. With one party in control, we're going to get a stream of crappy legislation coming out of Washington for a while. I can't wait to see what the first hundred days has in store.

Bush did a good thing in setting up a web site to show which government programs are working and which ones are wasting money. It should be a no-brainer for the next Congress and Executive administration to make the appropriate cuts. http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/expectmore/ I just don't have any faith in the Democrats to cut these instead of cutting the military. Y'know, our military might enforcing a dollars only for oil policy, which saps value out of oil producing countries, is the only thing keeping our dollar afloat in the world economy. It's no longer backed by gold. If any country starts selling oil for euros or yen or whatever, the dollar will weaken against that currency. If we don't fight, the dollar will tank.

Our framers must be spinning in their graves.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Voting lines like I've never seen.


I have simply never seen so many people in line to vote on election day. I'm usually in and out in 20 minutes. I was in line at 7:15 this morning. I didn't vote until about 9am. I barely made my 9:30am conference call. The line went up the sidewalk about 300 feet, around the corner another 50 feet. The Democrats were electioneering about halfway up the line, with a table and big tent with Obama/Biden signs. The Missouri law limits electioneering to 25 feet or more from the polling place. Just enough to keep them out of the doorway, I guess. I grabbed a handout to see what the party line was on the state questions, sheriff election, and judge retention, etc. A lady was selling donuts and milk to people in the line. I have also never seen so many parents at a polling place with children and babies in tow. It was a mass of humanity inside. There were signs and handouts with phone numbers offering free rides to the polls. It's exciting to see people actually showing up to vote. It was a circus atmosphere and I detected a certain amount of zeal and energy. To be honest, I have never seen that many black people or that many young people at my precinct polling place.

The people handing out ballots had two people checking IDs. I signed and initialed, two of them signed and initialed after making sure my signature next to my name and address on the voter rolls matched the signature on my drivers license and voter card. I would say they were doing a good job authenticating people. I saw some people turn and leave the line when they got near the front, so I suppose they didn't have the right credentials. I heard of one lady receiving a ballot which already had markings on it. I didn't hear which candidate's name was already marked. She got a replacement ballot, and they asked everyone in line to be sure there were no marks on the ballot before accepting it.

With all that procedural stuff and the crazy turn out, I have no idea how this thing is going to turn out. Well, I'm pretty sure that my favorite candidate will not win.

Monday, November 3, 2008

House for Rent (Kansas City)


$800 / 2br - 2Bed 1Bath Large Kitchen Large Deck Fenced Yard Raytown Schools (50th & Sterling) (map)
Reply to: hous-904714559@craigslist.org [?]
Date: 2008-11-03, 6:13PM CST


HOUSE FOR LEASE $800 / month

2 Bedroom, 1 Bath, Large kitchen,

Big deck, Large fenced back yard, New siding, New stove

1 car garage

E. 50th Street
(near 50th & Sterling, east of Truman Sports Complex, south of Blue Ridge Crossing)
Kansas City, MO

Raytown Schools
Pets welcome with pet deposit.

Contact Charles @ 816-651-1900

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Good, The Bad, The Opportunity

I signed up for FriendFeed.com, so all my social networking site stuff, including this blog, LinkedIn, StumbleUpon, Flickr, Facebook, etc. is in one place.

I think being an avid web surfer has a downside these days. I don't know about you, but I am being literally bombarded by Internet marketing schlock for "work from home" or "get rich in your spare time" or whatever "instant cash system" or "guaranteed money making formula" or blah blah blah. It's like my browser has the imasucker.cookie. My inbox gets at least one a week. It feels like every time I opt out of one mailing, I've been opted into two or three. They're all starting to look and sound the same. If I get all the way to the end of the presentation and I still don't know what is the actual product, but the upside of it sounds so phenomenal that I might be an idiot if I don't sign up, the skeptic in me wants to either prove it wrong and shout from the mountains that it is a scam or really actually make thousands of dollars a week. In fact, that's not a bad idea. I might have to start a website to review these things, and use website revenue to pay for the cost of entry to these potential scams. I'll either get rich quick or have a successful get rich quick debunking site. I can use the in-your-face marketing techniques flowing forth from my browser and email inbox.

There's always audio or video on the screen. The page has colorful eye-catching headlines and is written in conversational language in short paragraphs with one amazing claim or rags to riches testimonial after another. There are only 100 subscriptions available! Members only. Click here to join. Apply online today! This unheard of pricing expires today. Do you really want to navigate away from this page? Download the free ebook. Pre-order the Free DVD and workbook for only $7.99 shipping and handling. Subscribe to our newsletter to stay informed.

I digress.

How long before Internet is spelled with a small i?

Monday, October 27, 2008

Wal-Mart Super Center after midnight

I went on a midnight adventure to Wal-Mart Super Center to buy some important home repair items, which isn't atypical when I have a vacant rent house I'm getting ready to rent again. Being busy with that has kept me away from blogland, too. Anyway, it was early October and they were putting out the seasonal Christmas stuff. That's too early. I don't want to think about Christmas until Thanksgiving.






We have your traditional Hannah Montana and NASCAR stockings, which I had to capture just to be sure I didn't dream it.






And another thing shocked me when I approached the checkout counter. A couple of fellows walked up with many gas cans and a garden hose. It's not hard to figure out what they were up to. Again, I had to take a picture to be sure later that I didn't just dream it.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Terry Tate strikes again.

This was under the heading Nailin' Palin, so I didn't know exactly what to expect. Sarah's answer should have been, "The Economist, The New York Times, The National Review, and a wide variety of online resources." Then, Katie would have been the more appropriate target here.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Amazing

I am always intrigued when computer technology, my expertise, is successful in solving medical problems. Today I stumbled upon one such article.

"Charles Higgins, an associate professor at the University of Arizona, built a robot that is guided by the brain and eyes of a moth. Higgins said he basically straps a hawk moth to the robot and then puts electrodes in the neurons that deal with sight in the moth's brain. Then the robot responds to what the moth is seeing -- when something approaches the moth, the robot moves out of the way."

They have implanted electrodes into the motor cortex of monkey's brain about 18 months ago. They interpreted the signals the monkey's brain used to move his legs, then they connected this to a robot in Japan over the internet. They showed the monkey a webcam of this robot which walks around like he does, and he started monkeying with it. He started making it walk faster or slower, it made him happy, and they rewarded him with Cheerios. What does this mean to you and me? It means that people who are paralyzed may soon be able to walk using robot legs!

So, what's next? They took a monkey who plays video games, and they used this technology to wire the monkey's motor cortex to stimulate his actual muscles. They then used anesthesia to deaden the nerves to his hand. The monkey learned how to flex his wrist to play the video game again and could control the strength of his wrist flexion.

In their experiments, monkeys were enabled to flex and extend their wrist to play a video game by artificially stimulating arbitrarily chosen motor cortex cells in their brains. The monkeys' wrist nerves were temporarily numbed with a local anesthetic, which paralyzed the muscles, according to the report. But despite the nerve block, the monkeys were still able to control the contraction strength of their wrist muscles. University scientists noted that controlling the strength of the muscle contraction is what allows someone to gently pick up an egg or grab tightly to a handrail.
I think it's fantastic.

Miguel Nicolelis, a professor of neurobiology at Duke University and lead researcher on the project, said at the time the research may only be a few years away from helping paralyzed people walk again by enabling them to use their thoughts to control exoskeletons attached to their bodies.
Friends, we live in amazing times.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Market, Election, Weather Outlook

I'm not participating in stock market speculation.  What a ride!  I'm not even speculating about who will win the presidential election.  Change is the only constant.  I'm just popping some popcorn and watching from the sidelines.

Niels Bohr - "Prediction is very difficult, especially if it's about the future."

Sunday, September 28, 2008

43 cars, 400 miles, 1068 left turns.

I attended the Camping World RV 400 NASCAR event today.  I have a minor sunburn on my right arm and my right ear, and tinitis in both ears.  But I saw some decent racing.  I thought Carl Edwards was going to win near the end of the race, but he got into the wall on the last turn and didn't quite make it past number 48, Jimmie Johnson.  I also learned that listening to Dale Jr. chew out his spotters on the radio adds some entertainment value.  Three chicken tenders for eight bucks can be a bargain, if it's the only low carb, low sodium, protein option available.  Smoking, drinking, extended standing, and exuberant pumping of one's fist in the air when one's favorite driver is doing well is allowed in the stands.  Free parking is not free. . . if it takes a quarter tank of gas and an hour of stop and go bumper to bumper nonsense to get out of there.  On the other hand, I had a pretty good time. 

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Mister Professor

I spent the day giving an exam and grading it.  I've been teaching a Cisco networking class at DeVry University for the past four weeks.  It's kind of rewarding to know that the lectures I've been giving have actually contributed to some people's knowledge.  On the other hand, not everyone did well.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Olive Cafe

I called the only number I could find for a Mediterranean restaurant in Lees Summit.  There was an answer, but she said she's been out of business for years.  I asked where I should go instead, and she told me Olive Cafe.  It's inside a Palestinian grocery store at 95th and James A. Reed.  A bunch of us network folks went out there.  I wrote a review on Google.  It was good.  I'm glad there's a Mediterranean lunch option here.  I can get my Falafel fix without driving all the way to Westport.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Blog neglect

I've really been ignoring my blog.  Here's something unique, though.  In honor of the first tests from the large Hadron supercollider, here is a rap video on the topic.  I suppose the test was a success in that it didn't create a black hole and suck up the earth, moon, and the rest of the solar system.  Maybe if they get the lead to collide just right, it will destroy France, America's best critic.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

AIM Dashboard Horror

I love to hate the page that loads up in the browser when you log into AIM.  I know how to turn it off, but I don't watch E! or read People, so it's really my only exposure to the celebrity fake news that Time Warner is cranking out.  The headline?  Michael Jackson faces his 50th birthday.  The article on the topic said he's working on a batch of songs.  I don't think he'll be able to stage a comeback unless he opens a show in Vegas.  It made Barry Manilow and Prince a ton of cash.  <shrug>  I am not a big MJ fan, but I did listen to his music in the 80's.  So, I clicked on the associated picture gallery on AOL which illustrates how he, sadly, has clearly ruined his face.  I have no words.  Click here for the horror.

Friday, August 22, 2008

What's black and green at the same time?

I've heard of some really silly ideas for saving energy, but this one really hit home.  It's a version of Google with a black background instead of white.  It's called Blackle.  Supposedly, the monitor uses less power to display black than white.  While Blackle is powered by Google, it lacks a few Google features, so I'm not ready to make it my default search engine.  I just took iGoogle and made the background black and used the sleek black theme.  That's way better than Blackle already, plus it has my widgets, so I have traffic, weather, engadget news, and a wikipedia search box all right there.  I already use the Zune theme for XP, so that's already really dark.  The first thing I do in whatever editor or terminal program I'm using is make the background really dark blue and the text light gray.  I'm not nostalgic for WordPerfect, it's just easier on your eyes, if you stare at a screen all day.

Bigfoot hoax, and vending machine food.

Well, the bigfoot dudes turned out to be scam artists.  I suppose they made a buck or two from selling caps and t-shirts.  One of them lost his law enforcement job, and now they're facing a lawsuit.  I blame the press for covering this prank in the first place.

---

Usually, I just hit delete really fast when I get an email like this [emphasis mine]:

From: XXXXXXXX@carrowrealestateservices.com]
Cc: XXXXX
Subject: American Food & Vending - Cafeteria Service

 

Dear Tenants,

 

Please read the attached letter. Feel free to distribute it to all of your associates and post it within your space. The continued lack of participation in vending, lack of sales, and rocketing food prices is calling for a more cost effective approach to keeping the cafeterias in business at Summit Tech.  We want to continue to provide the amenity but will only be able to do so with everyone at the campus supporting and giving their constructive feedback.  If you have comments, positive or negative, for American Food & Vending feel free to send them to me and I will make sure they are passed along.


Thanks,


XXXXX XXXX

Assistant Property Manager

Carrow Real Estate Services, KC LLC

777 NW Blue Parkway

Lee's Summit, MO 64086

P: 816-251-XXXX

F: 816-251-XXXX

XXXXXXXX@carrowrealestateservices.com

=====

It was a boring moment, so I replied.  I wonder if they'll get a clue.  Most of the food they serve in the cafeteria and put in the vending machines is terribly unhealthy.

=====

I don’t use the vending machines very often, because I usually drink coffee and tea and I’m not big on candy.  The machines don’t have mixed nuts, so I bring my own.  I usually bring a lunch.  But, I once worked in an office with a food cart that came around in the mid-morning with snacks and lunches, and it worked out great.  I made an effort to keep cash in my wallet so I could grab something from the food cart and could eat at my desk.  It was especially great if I had rushed and missed breakfast or I was waiting for a phone call or stuck on a long conference.  If you came around between 10:30 and 11:30 with a food cart full of goodies, packaged sandwiches, muffins, fruit, etc. I would be more likely to buy.  That lunch cart guy must have made a fortune, and I know he hit about 10 office buildings every day.

 

Charles Hill / ♠ Capgemini USA / Kansas City

Network Engineer / Outsourcing Services – IM – N
IS

Friday, August 15, 2008

Body of Bigfoot

So, these dudes have a Bigfoot in their freezer.

That looks pretty real to me.

Good week.

Another whirlwind week went by.  I bumped into some problems with my complicated router deployment, particularly with the connectivity to the wireless AP.  It's difficult when the standards involve connecting an AP to a switch, and the device I'm connecting it to is a switch card inside a router, which is a completely different animal.  They've been using the network for a week now, so I think all the kinks are worked out.  The rest of the stuff that needs work is just preferences in the voice mail system, and adding a few routes to the VPN, so they can reach all the resources they need and so voice people can get in there and set up the auto-attendant, etc.

I've been watching the Olympics a lot, so there went most of my spare time.  About the time I get tired of gymnastics, track and field starts up.  I think I'll be glad when it's over.  I would never otherwise watch volleyball.

I've been doing a lot of reading, too.  Following that entrepreneurship workshop in Chicago, I've been reading books on entrepreneurship, wealth building, and so forth.  When pressed with the question of what kind of business would I start if I had to start one, my mind goes in a million directions.  I have a lot of talents and quite an accumulation of knowledge, mostly technical.  Doing that kind of self-assessment is eye opening.  I could definitely do technical services and IT equipment sales and leasing. 

Being a landlord for the past 7 years has also been eye opening.  I've taken risks and had some victories and some losses, and it's sort of balanced out. On the upside, I learned a ton.  Now that I've worked for the smallest of companies, two employees, and the largest, nearly 100,000 employees, I know what works in all of those environments and what doesn't.  I've also seen the growing pains of small companies going to medium sized.  I've seen mergers and spin-offs.  I realize that I've helped make a lot of other people very rich.  It makes me wonder when it's going to be my turn.  The answer is simply, when I follow in their footsteps and lead an actual business.  So, that's what sparked my interest.  Anyway, you miss all of the shots you don't take.  As a real estate investor, I'm carefully watching the OFHEO data for my area every time it updates.  I'm starting to see house prices solidify and even appreciate again.  I would be sort of foolish to cash out at the bottom, but on the other hand, I could leverage some cash now by picking up some foreclosed properties at the bottom.  It's still a gamble.  A service business is not a gamble.  The only cost is time and effort.  The upside is huge.  Anyway, I'm looking for ways to capitalize a startup technical services business, an industry I know inside and out now.  I can lay the groundwork now, so when the time comes to branch out on my own, I'll be ready.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Stressful week.

After work Friday, I just came home and took a nap.  I did not go to the gym.  I did not go to happy hour with my coworkers.  I went face down on the couch.  It's been that kind of week.  After much work, I finally got all the pieces I needed for the office network I'm setting up. . . except the antennas for the wireless access point.  I can probably grab some dipole antennas from anywhere.  The router I set up for this office is doing everything.  It is the DHCP server, the switch with four VLANs, the voice mail server with 100 hours of voice mail capacity, the phone system, the Internet egress/ingress, the firewall, the time of day server, the VPN tunnel end point, the wireless controller, and it supplies power to the access point and the phones.  I've never configured more protocols on one box.  It has one Internet connection which carries the phone trunks (SIP/RTP from an ITSP called nexVortex), the VPN connectivity to two different companies, and Internet access.  After this, I can setup a branch office network anywhere for under $10k for network and phone equipment and about that for labor, including the cabling.  I have the skillz.  And the monthly recurring cost for all the circuits, including 10 megabits of internet and 8 DID numbers with unlimited concurrent calls and 10,000 minutes per month, is under $300.  If not for executives asking for lower costs and more features, I would never have put together such a monstrosity, but now that I've seen it work, I want to duplicate it. 

When I try to list the protocols working in that beast, it amazes me the amount of technology employed and also reminds me how much I've learned over the years of doing this stuff.

Ethernet IEEE 802.3
FastEthernet IEEE 802.3u
VLAN trunking, IEEE 802.1q and 802.10
PoE 802.3af
ARP RFC826
IPv4 RFC791, RFC1812
IP over Ethernet RFC894 (aka 802.16)
TCP RFC793
BGP RFC4271
3DES MD5-HMAC RFC2104
IPSec RFC2401
NAT RFC1631
UDP RFC768
STUN RFC3489
SIP RFC3261
RTP RFC3550
CDP
SCCP (aka Skinny)
DHCP RFC2131
NTP RFC1305
ITU-T G.711 ulaw
ITU-T H.323
SNMP RFC1157
TFTP RFC1350
DSCP RFC2474
IEEE STP 802.1d
. . . and the list could go on and on.  I haven't even started on the wireless 802.11 protocols, encryption, and authentication.  This is the tip of the iceberg of protocols Iknow, these just happen to be the ones I'm using for this implementation.  If I added a Cisco PAG and a Synology 207+ for VMSS, it would do the physical security and camera surveillance, too.  There's a whole suite of protocols related to video.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Thunderstorm + Volcano. . . at night!

Strangest thing I've ever seen:  A volcano erupting during a thunderstorm at night.  http://megagalerias.terra.cl/galerias/index.cfm?id_galeria=30734  Surreal.  Otherworldly.  Beautiful, yet creepy looking.

I found a link to the quoted text of the DNS vulnerability explanation which leaked today.  This is actually a pretty good explanation.  http://beezari.livejournal.com/141796.html  At this moment, hackers are working to write software to exploit this.  That means you could be trying to go to your bank website and get a fake site which is capturing your password information.  It's a little scary what's possible with this vulnerability in the wild.  Half of the ISPs are not yet patched.  Is yours?

Monday, July 21, 2008

Chicago pictures

As promised, here are my Chicago pictures.  I only whipped out the camera when I went on a double-decker bus tour, which was worth the money and provided the perfect way to kill an afternoon in Chicago on a clear and beautiful day.



The deep dish pizza at Lou Malnati's was really good, with fresh ingredients.  I liked it as well as I like the pizza at Gino's East, almost.  Then, I tried the deep dish pizza at Giordano's. It was pricey, but holy wow the amount of cheese they put on there is amazing, and they put the sauce on top like the other places.  You'd never know by looking that I got a sausage pizza.  There were whole patties of Italian sausage under the cheese under the sauce.



I also took too many pictures at the Blackhawks Convention, but being a hockey fan, I couldn't really resist.  Nothing special, just some interesting jerseys, outrageous jersey prices, and some really cool skills competitions.



See the whole set here:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/chillkc/sets/72157606306340103/

Sirius orbit

The manual for my Sirius docking station at home said to aim my antenna toward the sky over Minnesota.  At certain times of the evening, it would start cutting out, so I tried to figure out why.  There was some confusing information in online forums speculating why, then I found this image which illustrated my problem. 

http://www.mts.net/~jwt/sirius-xmorbitanim.gif

It's not one bird, it's three, and they're in a nifty elliptical orbit with a nice pivot over Canada.  I aimed the antenna a little more directly north, and that fixed the problem.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Chicago Rules (in Summer)

Thanks to a sale on Southwest, I just got home from a little trip to Chicago.  It was cool to chill on a warm clear day in the spray of the Buckingham Fountains and watch the sailboats out on the lake with the skyline over my shoulder.  The last time I was there, I was way out in the suburbs in the worst part of the winter and it snowed at least six inches every other day I was there.  It's great in the summer.  This time I attended the 1st Annual Blackhawks Convention, which was hockey cool.  They had puck handling, passing, and shooting skills games set up, which were fun.  Silent auctions.  Autograph signing sessions.  Also, I attended a separate event, a seminar to help entrepreneurs organize their business, and I learned that I need to put my rental properties in a trust and form an LLC to manage them. . . for tax reasons and liability reasons.  I'll save a bundle!  I learned some fascinating tax strategies.  I learned about self-directed IRAs and how to get an IRA with a checkbook you can control for investing in your own ventures.  I wish I had this information a few years ago.  The legal fees are all on the front end, but the benefits will come at tax time, and when I die.  Death and taxes are the two sure things, so I may as well set it up right.

Chicago photos will be up soon.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Colorado photos

I finally got the vacation pictures uploaded.  The first bunch of pictures is from a cookout/party at Adam and JoLynn's neighbor's house.  His name is Jonathan, a flight attendant, the guy who organized the river rafting trip.  I don't have pictures from the river rafting because I didn't have a waterproof camera.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/chillkc

Jonathan's pictures of the rafting trip are here:

http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=32039&l=bbca9&id=645981938

Monday, July 14, 2008

Colorado Vacation recovery

I took a weekend trip to Colorado to go white water rafting with friends.  I saw some majestic views and got a sunburn on my nose.  I met lots of great people and had a ton of fun.  Photos will be posted soon.  Here's a preview from a Friday hiking trip around the south rim of Roxborough State Park.


And a quick shot of the Rockies from Highway 103:


Friday, July 4, 2008

Natural Gas Price Hike



The gas company bumped prices by 20%.  That's unusual in the summer.  Now I'm paying about $50 a month for hot water and dry clothes.  This bill usually runs around $30 in the summer.  Maybe I should get one of those instant-on tankless hot water heaters.  Time to do some math.  This would reduce my gas bill by approximately $45 a month.  It would increase my electric bill by approximately $18 a month.  It costs about $490 shipped, and installation would cost around $250.  I would have to use it for 28 months to break even at those prices.  Maybe I'll just turn down the thermostat on the hot water heater a few degrees.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Tools.

Overheard near my cube, "It's a poor craftsman who blames his tools. . . and those guys were tools."

Friday, June 27, 2008

A note from Mr. Cleaver

I got an email from my Congressman today.  I like to know what's going on.  He seems as annoyed as I am. 

===

Wrestling Gas Prices

We all continue to struggle at the gas pump, and barrels of oil hit another all-time high today. Sadly yesterday the House failed to pass ‘Use It or Lose It' legislation for oil companies. The bill would have compelled the oil industry to start drilling or lose permits on the 68 million acres of undeveloped federal oil reserves which they are currently warehousing, thereby keeping domestic supply lower and prices higher. Complaints that more drilling permits are needed for yet more land ring hollow when compared to the thousands of currently unused drilling permits already issued. I think this will be back on the floor again soon and I am disappointed it didn't pass this week.

To provide even more incentive to reduce demand, the House also voted on legislation to lower fares for mass transit and expanded services for commuters.

We also passed legislation urging an investigation in a complicated but no less culpable reason for the high price of gas. The House called upon the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) to investigate the role of oil speculators and the system that encourages artificially high future gas prices. The American people should not be punished at the pump for the actions of oil speculators, and the House called on the CFTC Act.  

Experts testified this week before Congress that the explosion of speculation in the oil futures market could be driving up prices from $20 to $60 per barrel.  At current prices that is an increase of 15-50 percent solely due to speculation.

In an underreported story, oil speculators are making money by betting against the American consumers at the pump. Reducing the price of gas, a global commodity, is hard enough without our own markets driving the price through the roof.

Ronald Jenkees

I may be late to the game on this one, because Ronald Jenkees has over a million channel views, but Moodswung sent me a link to a song on YouTube, and at first, I thought it was a joke, some guy acting like an autistic spaz.  Then he started playing music on his keyboard and I realized he MUST be autistic, or at least a serious music nerd with a gift of creative genius and serious keyboard skills.



And this one validated his skill level for me. 


His YouTube intro is just great.  The studio mixed teaser-length versions are linked on his blog here.  Wow.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Hypermiler

I saw a new word today, hypermiling.  It is the art of changing your driving style to get the absolute most miles per gallon as possible.  It's a competition for some people.  People employing all the techniques are getting over 1000 miles on a 10.5 gallon tank.  I'm impressed.  Article: HERE.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

FISA = Big Brother

It's time to contact your Senator.  There's a bill which passed the House which is worse than the PATRIOT ACT.  Way worse.  It shreds the Fourth Amendment.  It's called the FISA amendments.  FISA is the wiretap law from 1978.  These amendments open it up so that they can wiretap any call without a court order if they believe any participant in the call is overseas.  I believe this includes any electronic surveillance, including email.  That abridges our current rights and dismisses any ongoing illegal wiretap lawsuits, because it is retroactive.  It's a big power grab by the Executive Branch.  It will be voted on in the Senate soon.  It's one giant leap toward the Big Brother of 1984.  The amount of surveillance they're doing already is terrifying.  This let's any law enforcement officer, even the dog catcher, listen to any cell phone call without a warrant.  That is way too much power in the hands of the government.  I'm less afraid of the terrorists, actually.


Monday, June 23, 2008

Drill here. Drill now. Pay less.

There is a political movement to change the laws to allow more domestic oil production.  Here's the web site:  http://www.americansolutions.com/



Newt is one smart cookie. 

Friday, June 20, 2008

Bob Barr 2008

If he keeps going on television admitting that he's been part of a broken system, advocating real change, and speaking the truth, I think Bob Barr will win.  There's more substance in his message than Obama and McCain combined.

Here's an interesting site which includes the faces of Ronald Reagan and Ron Paul calling for a Bob Barr fundraising push on July 2.  http://www.barrbomb.com/

Bumper stickers are showing up that say, "This is when you vote Libertarian."

This speaks for itself. 

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Flood water's risin'

I got an email requesting volunteers to go to Northwest Missouri and sandbag the Mississippi River.  If I wasn't neck deep in three projects, I think I would go.

==================================================

Dear Charles,

The floodwaters are quickly rising in northeast Missouri, and the Mississippi River is on course to reach near-record levels.  During this emergency, our neighbors are counting on our help to protect their homes, businesses and communities.
 
Today, I'm heading up to northeast Missouri to help with the sandbagging efforts in Clarksville, Hannibal and West Quincy.  And if you can spare a few hours in the next day or two, I'm asking you to pitch in as well.  All along the river, Missouri communities need our help right away. You can find updated lists of volunteer requests here:
 
http://www.wgem.com/News/index.php?ID=25606

http://www.khqa.com/news/content.aspx?id=146586
 
Missouri's 211 hotline also can direct you to volunteer opportunities in the area.
 
Your service will make a difference.  Thank you for helping your neighbors in this time of urgent need.
 
Sincerely,

Jay Nixon
Missouri Attorney General

Monday, June 16, 2008

Beer league team names

On Mon, Jun 16, 2008 at 3:02 PM, Ric Lutz wrote:
> Ya gotta love some of the team names from Gladstone softball leagues

You made me look.  Trunk Monkeys?  Weakened Warriors?  Human Growth Homeruns?  Master Batters?  Hoosier Daddies?  Terrible! 

Okay, Hoosier Daddies is pretty funny.

I wanna be there when Two Balls One Bat plays Northland Baptist Church.  Is that a "2 girls 1 cup" reference?  The Shockers are in the same league.  Is this coed? 

I'm looking at the playoff schedules.  Awesome O?  The McLovins?  Scared Hitless?

Stupid Mongorians?  Is that a South Park reference?

I was on a hockey team called Angry Dragons once.  That's not nice.  Very beer league.  After that season, the rink started naming the teams.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Nausea relief.

Here's a sentiment I share.


I get nauseated when hearing Obama speak.  I think he's clueless.  McCain doesn't relieve the nausea.  He's proof that the Republican Party has lost its way.  I'm going to vote for Bob Barr.  That's it.  Period.  He's the only remaining candidate who is making any sense.  I heard Glenn Beck interview Barr on Sirius 133, and I agreed with almost everything that was said.  I found that interview so I could post it here:




Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Why aren't we drilling our own oil?

Who is responsible for limited energy production in the USA? 

Congressman Roy Blunt of Missouri put together these data to highlight the differences between House Republicans and House Democrats on energy policy: 

ANWR Exploration 
House Republicans: 91% Supported 
House Democrats: 86% Opposed 

Coal-to-Liquid 
House Republicans: 97% Supported 
House Democrats: 78% Opposed 

Oil Shale Exploration 
House Republicans: 90% Supported 
House Democrats: 86% Opposed 

Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) Exploration 
House Republicans: 81% Supported 
House Democrats: 83% Opposed 

Refinery Increased Capacity 
House Republicans: 97% Supported 
House Democrats: 96% Opposed 

SUMMARY 
91% of House Republicans have historically voted to increase the production of American-made oil and gas. 

86% of House Democrats have historically voted against increasing the production of American-made oil and gas. 

We have the know how to fix it but the Democrats prefer to buy oil from countries who hate us rather than drill and produce American oil. This has been going on since the 1970’s and nothing has changed. 

The consequences of poor energy policy in the USA results in economic hardships for all American Citizens but it is easier to blame the oil companies! 

Remember this when you vote!

Saturday, June 7, 2008

20th high school reunion debrief

Class reunions are officially too much information for the brain to process.  I didn't recognize some, but I recognized most people there.  Well, most of my classmates who bothered to show up all still look pretty young to me.  I, as predicted, won the award for the man who changed the most since graduation.  I'm reassured that is a good thing.  I was able to catch up on who is dead, who had babies, and where everyone is living, if not an indication of how they are living.  I'm pretty proud of James Smith, who turned out to be a great guy and a deputy sherriff.  Lynn, who married the brother of one of my high school friends, and looks the same as she ever did.  Gloria, who has had two sets of twins and looks like she stepped off the runway at fashion week.  Stephanie asked about Igor, her singing partner in chorus (inside joke from 21 years ago).  The most shocking thing is how many folks live in the Oklahoma City metro or the Dallas/Metroplex area.  Tony Brown dragged me to the movies for the afternoon and updated me on the dirt.  It was good to see Tim Shoals again; he runs a charity for underprivileged children.  Andrea, who raised a kid for a few years while his parents were in prison, is such a sweetheart.  I could go on and on.  Mandy, who organized the thing, even though the service at the restaurant was not so good, did a pretty good job with the details.  I hope she publishes the pictures online, because I know I'm in a LOT of pictures.  Everyone exchanged email addresses.  I suspect a flood of oh-by-the-way emails over the next few weeks.  There were a lot of questions raised about the ones who were missing.  Funny stories were exchanged.  I had a good time.  It was so good to see Toni, Garnetta, Niecy, Tab, Kevin, Derrick, etc.  It really is a shame that we've all been out of touch.  I'm sure I'll be doing some LinkedIn searches soon to reconnect with some of these folks.  It was agreed that we should have another reunion in five years.

Derrie-Air

An ad agency created a buzz with these fake airline ads for Derrie-Air.  Apparently, they charge by the pound.  So, the less you pack, the less you pay.  When I saw the website they created I laughed my ass off, which would save me a few bucks in airfare.  $1.40 a pound from Phillie to Denver. . . such a deal!

Friday, June 6, 2008

Jury doody

I dodged jury duty. . . without actually dodging it.  I sat there through two days of jury selection.  I drew number 35.  To be in the top 14 (12 jurors and two alternates), they had to eliminate 11 people and not eliminate me.  By day two I was number 23.  And, by the end of that day, I was surely in the top 14, but it's a serial rape case.  The defense was eliminating men from the jury, so after answering kinda rudely to some questions about my previous jury service, they dismissed me.  There were only two men left on the jury when they finalized it.  That was close.  This was going to take a minimum of two weeks to try.  I honestly didn't want to hear one heartbreaking case of how rape and forcible sodomy by a home intruder ruined one life, but eleven.  What an tearjerker!  If the Mr. Shy Bland did it, I hope he gets what he deserves.  There were TV cameras there the first day.  I'm interested to see how it plays out.

Monday, June 2, 2008

20 year high school reunion

Next weekend is my 20 year high school reunion.  I can't think of anything which signals that you're pushing 40, Mister, like being out of high school for 20 years.  On one hand it's depressing.  On the other hand, I get the opportunity to socialize with all those people who wrote, "Keep in touch!" in my yearbook, then never spoke to me again.  The best revenge is living well, I suppose.  I am savoring the irony that the Saturday afternoon event is at the Rocket Roller Rink.  I have some years of experience playing ice hockey now, and I can skate like a mad fool.  I was somewhat of a maladroit late bloomer.  I probably grew two inches after graduation.  At the 10 year reunion I was voted "Person who changed the most since graduation."  Rightly so, since only those friends with whom I stayed in touch could recognize me.  I may also be the "Person who changed the most since the 10 year reunion."

To ramp up to a surreal weekend, I have been called for jury duty on Wednesday morning at the Jackson County Courthouse.  What a welcome break from the norm.  I get to sit around a courthouse and read magazines while waiting to hear my name.  No cell phone?  Woot!  The primary goal will be to keep my mind occupied, because jury duty has the potential to be extremely boring.  The last case I heard as a juror was to decide if a felon had indeed possessed a firearm, which holds a very strict mandatory five year sentence.  We all decided he was probably waving a cell phone while yelling out threats to the drunken folks at the corner of Mill and Westport at 3am on a Saturday.  None of the witnesses could possibly have been sober.  The gun in his friend's car belonged to his friend and didn't have his fingerprints on it.  It was such a flimsy case.  I'm surprised the prosecutor was shocked by the verdict.  None of the jurors could be sure that the witnesses really saw a gun or something that looked like a gun.  That Federal case went on for three days.  The system works, but it doesn't work fast.  Massive boredom.

Assembly Line Diagnostic Link

I was bored at lunch and listened to an audio blog on the topic of fuel efficiency.  Today's conversation was with Robert Krupa, a former GM employee who has invented the Firestorm Spark Plug, which burns all of the fuel in the combustion chamber.  He clued me to ways to change the parameters in a car's computer to modify the way the engine runs.  Of particular interest is fuel mixture.  The same 12 pin plug where you plug in the scanner to read the diagnostic codes has a mode called the ALDL, or Assembly Line Diagnostic Link.  From here you can connect a laptop at 8192 bits per second using a box to adjust the voltage to work with a typical UART (computer serial port) and PC com software.  It is a pure ASCII interface.  Apparently, you can connect a laptop to this interface and sample all the available parameters being read by the computer's sensors.  You can even ask it to dump a copy of the programming in the computer's storage (EEPROM) to your laptop hard drive.  There is work underway to create open source software for these car computers (ECUs).  Higher gas prices and inefficient vehicles are causing a lot of online interest in tinkering with the settings.  Most of these ECUs are coded to a fuel mixture of 14.7 to 1 air to fuel ratio.  This is chosen to reduce emissions, not provide fuel economy.  According to Mr. Krupa, there is another sweet spot in low emissions and fuel burning efficiency at 30 to 1.  That's double the fuel economy.  This may be a better answer to fuel efficiency than feeding hydroxy gas into the air intake.


Sunday, June 1, 2008

Missouri Republican Convention 2008

Yesterday, I got up super early and drove down to Branson for the Missouri Republican Convention.  I was elected as a delegate, so it was sort of my civic duty.  There were some empty seats in the Jackson County section of the District 5 area, which was disappointing.  At any rate, my vote counted.  A resolution to add a Fair Tax resolution to the Republican platform lost by only six votes.  I thought that was a sad thing.  I think if more fiscally conservative folks from Jackson county had made the trip, it would have passed.  The convention rules were not modified, so Missouri remains a winner takes all primary election state, a distinction which won by only 40 votes.  The most enlightening thing I took away is more about how the process works in terms of protocol for introducing changes to the party platform.  It's surprisingly easy to submit items for a vote, but not so easy to get people to agree with you.  If the language is not clear, concise, unambiguous, and constitutional (usually), it won't pass the muster and a short debate will defeat it.  I was flabbergasted by some of the mealy mouthed resolutions, some of which advertised the ignorance of their author. 

I also didn't know human cloning as an issue was going to take up so much time.  In my mind, human tissue without a heart and a brain is just that.  It's not a person.  If I had an organ failure threatening my life, I would be alienated by a zero cloning research policy.   Therefore, I don't understand it.  Please, clone my liver, so I have a spare, but please don't clone my whole person.  If you do, make sure I'm dead first and please name him after me.  If I ever decide that cloning at a single cell level is immoral, I would have to justify the deaths of those who could live if it were developed into their cure.  Does the term blastocyte belong in the political arena?  Apparently not, because before all of the resolutions were considered, a motion to adjourn was made, and everyone who was tired of listening to so many insane resolutions voted to just call it a day.  I think we'll all be better off if the government would get out of the medical business.

The platform committee didn't do the best job of including resolutions from the caucuses, but I got the idea that they did include most things, but used more general wording for brevity.  I also think that competing resolutions were weighed against the prevailing platform and were not considered important enough to include, specifically.  Policies to allow mothers to give birth at home are great, but really too specific to include in the party platform, I think.

Here's an interesting video about who is controlling oil prices:

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Coming Collapse of Oil Prices

Some economists are predicting higher oil prices.  I'm reading conflicting predictions about lower oil prices.  I hope they are correct.  Dom Armentano is an adjunct scholar at the Cato Institute, and I hope he's right about this.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Pre-Ignition Catalyitic Converter

A few days ago, I learned about another emerging technology to improve gas miileage in most vehicles.  It's called a Pre-Ignition Catalytic Converter (PICC).  They moved the catalytic converter from the exhaust system to the fuel line.  The thought is that you should fully break down (vaporize) the gas molecules before they enter the engine, so all of it burns, instead of breaking down the unburnt fuel that the engine has already wasted.  When you combine this with a hydroxy booster on the air intake, carbon monoxide is almost completely eliminated from the exhaust.  Some smaller cars get over 100 miles per gallon with this installed.

I found a link to another car mod which allows it to run on pure tap water.  Until I see it, I'm very skeptical.  This conversion was done on a beater Camaro with a stock 350.  It's pretty intriguing how instead of using a pulse width modulator (PWM) to regulate the electrolysis, he just uses 60Hz from an off-the shelf 110v AC inverter and opens and closes relays using the spark plug wires.  I believe that since he's not using any hydrocarbons, the real fuel is the nitrogen in the air.  The hydroxy created by cracking the water only catalyzes the reaction.  The NOx emissions must be enormous, but since he's feeding the exhaust back through his water reservoir as sort of a bubbler, I presume that a lot of the NO2 and NO3 is dissolved back into the water.  Then, in the electrolysis process, is it breaking the N2 and O2 apart, so it can be burned again?  Since it uses a second battery, wouldn't it be smart to add a second alternator?

Monday, May 19, 2008

Tina Turner Ticket Prices

I heard that Tina Turner is playing the Sprint Center, and I think that would be a pretty great show.  Then, I looked at ticket prices.  Wow!  Over $500 for Row B.  $59 + "convenience charge" for a nosebleed seat.  This show isn't until October, folks.  How much will these tickets be selling for as the date approaches? I'll be watching out of curiosity.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Poca, West Virginia

I got to travel to Poca, West Virginia today to keep a project on track.  I literally only had to do a few minutes of work.  It's a beautiful May afternoon here and this is really gorgeous country.  Poca is not far from Charleston, and it has a nice regional airport.  The hills here are kind of breathtaking.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Happy Mother's Day

I work for a very international company.  The question about whether Mother's Day is celebrated in India came up.  Apparently, it's everywhere now.  It started in West Virginia exactly 100 years ago and we've exported this holiday to the entire world.  It is universally accepted that mothers are great.  Especially mine.  :-)

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Gas saving tricks.

High gas prices have people doing lots of interesting things to improve their fuel economy.  This takes the cake.

On the other hand, I have read more about hydroxy boosters, and the innovation never stops.  There is a lot of experimentation with cell sizes, shapes, and configurations.  Sodium hydroxide and potassium hydroxide concentrations are another experimental variable.  I wish there was an exhaustive wiki on the topic, because the knowledge being passed around in the email lists is not being recorded in a compendium anywhere.  Competing designs are being tested in bake-off style road rallies with the results posted on YouTube by a guy known as Smack (aka Electrik).


Thursday, May 8, 2008

Group Vacation

A group of my coworkers have decided to pool our resources for a Memorial Day weekend getaway.  The number is up to six.  Someone is providing a plane.  Someone is providing a house in the Florida Keys.  Someone is providing a fishing boat.  We're all chipping in for some Jet A fuel and fishing supplies.  This could get very interesting.  I may have said before that I work with some really crazy multifaceted people.  I predict that somebody will end up in jail or the hospital. My wish is to be a witness and not a victim as the mayhem ensues.

Tomorrow, I'm going to the opera.  Adam D. has a major role, so I want to see the product of his labor, because I've been tending the garden by myself while he's been in daily rehearsals.  I have to know by tomorrow morning how many people are going.  So far it seems like only two.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Fake pennies.

Tomorrow the House will vote on HR 5512 for making pennies out of steel with copper coloring instead of zinc-copper alloy.  While this reflects their new reduced value, I think it’s a sad and terrible thing.  They’ve completely unhinged the value of money from the value of precious metals.  This is up for a vote in the House tomorrow.  If they can make pennies the way they can print bills, our currency has lost all traction in its slide to zero value.  The bankers win.  The only thing holding the dollar up is perception.  Any account you have that is valued in dollars (IRA, 401k, stocks, bonds) would be better off if you transferred it to an account in some other currency or used it to purchase material goods, precious metals, real estate, or offshore hedge funds. 

The appearance of this bill is evidence of the wrong direction we’ve gone for a third time in our nation’s history with regard to fractional reserve banking.  For now, the only thing propping the dollar up is its tie to the value of oil, and you see how that’s slipping, too.  As soon as oil is purchased by some other currency, the dollar may crash harder than it did in 1907.  The only thing keeping that from happening is our military might.  You can see the proportion of our Federal budget which we’re spending on that is putting a strain on every taxpayer and the fabric of our economy.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

KC Metro is now on Google Transit

I found out that the KC Metro bus service is now on Google Transit, so you can put a start address and end address, and it tells you which buses to take and where to transfer.  In goofing around with it, I found that I can go most places via bus if I use the bus stop two blocks over.  That's good to know, I guess, if I find myself without access to a car.  <shrug>

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

McCain on Health Care

John McCain has a new ad about his approach to making health care more affordable.  It involves making health care tax deductible up to $5000.  That's almost as great as tax free gas during the summer months.  He is speaking my language.  I like it.

New Deal, er, Missouri Promise

Jay Nixon, who is running for Governor of Missouri, has proposed a plan where potential college students who show a need, commit to 50 hours of community service, keep their grades up, and avoid disciplinary action, get 100% of their tuition paid out of state coffers.  I guess it's like the G.I. Bill, but you only have to do 50 hours of community service instead of military service.  It's not exactly a Pell Grant or a scholarship, per se.  It's not exactly a "work study" program.  Only 50 hours?  I worked pretty hard during the summers, and my dad worked a second job, when I was in college.  50 hours?  So there's an online petition to get this on a ballot or legislative agenda somewhere.  College education is important, and expensive, but should it be free?  I guess nothing is free, so I mean, should taxpayers pay for it?  Is there an age limit on this program?

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Just add water (continued)

I'm still intrigued by these HHO generators and the concept of using the car battery to fracture water to produce hydrogen fuel for a regular combustion engine.  Apparently, it is nothing new.  Here's a former NASA employee from the Philippines, Daniel Dingel, who invented this thing a long time ago.  Check out his converted Toyota that runs on water!  It's amazing.




I cannot find a technical reason why we're not driving these today.  The only thing preventing it is political and/or entrenched economic interests.

Here's a better understanding of how water is being engineered in a negative energy vacuum inside the toroid (donut) coil with RF pulses to cause the hydrogen molecules to just fall off the hydroxy ion.  The resulting hydroxy gas fuel is more powerful when burned than the power required to create it from regular tap water.  This free source of energy is a gift from God.  I think this is a huge leap forward in technology.  I found a message board and a Yahoo Group on the topic.

You can get pre-built HHO generators for reasonable prices on Ebay.  These would pay for themselves in just a few months.

I found another seller on Ebay, who sells smaller HHO generators of a different design, MAP sensor adjusters, and O2 sensor extenders (an alternative to an EFIE), so you can tweak the fuel mixture to get the best results.  From what I've read, though, an EFIE is the best solution for adjusting the O2 sensor inputs into the car's computer to accommodate the new exhaust profile.  He has some great tips in the text of his auctions, and the pricesare low.

Constitution Party Convention in KC

Today is the first day of the Constitution Party Convention here in Kansas City.  I haven't seen really any news coverage, but I find a lot of their views kind of refreshing. . . and very strictly adhering to the Constitution and certain hand-picked Biblical principles, which they've more than mildly distorted.

http://constitutionparty.com/view_events.php

It's clear that our system was designed to work best with two parties.  The whole "Ross Perot got us Bill Clinton." mantra pretty much quells any thoughts of voting for a third party candidate, except that they tend to get the protest vote when you can't stomach voting for either of the major party choices.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Just add water.

A loud storm woke me up, so I thought I'd write a blog entry.  The rain is good.  Adam D. and I got the garden planted on Sunday afternoon.  It needs the water.

Not to bore everyone with what interests me at the moment, but I just spent most of the evening reading about oxyhydrogen generators you can build at home or buy off the shelf, install in your car, and increase your fuel economy by 25 to 50%.  It converts water (HOH) into "Brown's Gas" (oxyhydrogen, HHO).  This oxyhydrogen on demand makes your fuel burn more efficiently and gives your engine more power.  Now that gasoline prices exceed $3.33 per gallon, this seems worthwhile.

source: gasbuddy.com
Local Price Snapshot
Today 3.331
Yesterday 3.329
One Week Ago 3.234
One Month Ago 3.045
One Year Ago 2.705





For this invention to be completely carbon neutral, you'd have to add another battery to your car and add solar panels to charge it.  Otherwise, you're using power from your alternator.  But, my understanding is that the alternator makes much more electricity than is needed to charge your battery and the field current which is allowed to pass the regulator is based on feedback voltage from the battery, so the battery only gets juice when it needs it, so using this energy to make an oxyhydrogen additive is gainful because it's otherwise wasted.  Furthermore, the expense of installing the system is tax deductible.

Here are some plans for making an HHO generator out of some #80 CPVC pipe and concentric stainless steel exhaust pipes with a 1mm gap. These pipes are the diodes and electricity is pulsed at a frequency you can tweak for the best HHO to fuel mixture for your particular engine.  http://www.spiritofmaat.com/archive/feb2/carplans_doc.htm

On YouTube, I've seen pure HHO lawnmowers and cars, so using water plus a pinch of baking soda for fuel with an electrical assist to convert it to HHO is a viable emerging technology.