This topic is for links to relevant news, interesting websites, quick opinions and inane ponderings. Postings in this thread are considered "open-thread", meaning that anyone can post a comment on any of the articles, whether the comment relates to the post or not. If you have something random to say, this is the place.
An illustration of using the Scientific Method to answer a question:
1. Make Observations
My wife and I sleep on a king-sized bed covered with an electric blanket. The blanket is covered with a fitted sheet. This blanket has two independent zones with thermostats, left and right. We noticed the other night that as my wife was laying on the left, and me on the right, if she touched my arm with her finger, it resonated much like a finger on the rim of a crystal wine glass. It made a hum that was audible at close range.
Periodically this property of a resonating touch would go away. After awhile, it would come back. The resonance would happen whenever you touch and move your finger. It didn't matter how much pressure was applied.
Eventually, it was observed that the stopping or starting of this property coincided with a "click" sound. This click was determined to be coming from the temperature control switches for the electric blanket on either side of our bed. We also noticed that the property was only present when one and only one side of the electric blanket was on. If both were on, or both were off, the property did not exist.
The resonance, I would judge to be consistent with the 60hz frequency of household electric current. The resonance can be felt on the skin, but is not painful. No sparks are visible. Neither the skin, nor the blanket was wet or damp in any way. This can be repeated reliably by adjusting one of the thermostats to stay on and turning the dial on the other so that it turns off or on.
2. Research and Make a Hypothesis
Based on my amateur knowledge of electricity, I would say that the blanket is either leaking or inducing a current into our bodies. When one body touches the other, which is not energized, current will pass through the other body, and leak or induce back into the other side of the blanket.
More literature research is needed.
At this point, I am concerned that there may be negative health effects from this. Though an experiment of this scope will not make a finding as to health effects, it may be possible to quantify the current and use the literature to see whether it's thought of as unhealthy. There is a reason to continue the use of the blanket if there are no health effects, because it saves energy that would normally be used for heating the house at night.
3. Design an Experiment
(Incomplete) Obtain a multimeter capable of measuring voltage in AC and DC. Have each person hold a probe and figure out whether there is a current.
Possibly try different insulators to see whether the current from the blanket can be blocked.
Possibly see if a fluorescent tube would light when held between the two people.
I have a 2006 Toyota Prius that we bought from Toyota of Lewisville about a year and a half ago. It has only just shy of 19,000 miles on it. Overall, it's been a great car with no major problems and fun to drive.
However, last night when I had finished loading the back full of groceries bought at Target, I walked around to get in and discovered that the left front tire was completely flat.
At first, I thought that perhaps someone had slashed the tire, because it had not been low on the way to the store. So I pulled it slowly out of the parking space, flap-flap-flapping away into a more open part of the parking lot next to a light where I could see how to change the tire.
After removing the lug nuts, I reached around the tire to pull it off, and got several fingers full of prickly steel belt piercing my skin. The tire, as you can see in the photo above (click for larger version) had worn quite unevenly on the inside and could have blown out and injured someone. I was quite lucky to have it go flat in a parking lot.
Anyhow, long story short, all 4 tires were worn beyond where they should have been for the amount of mileage on them. Tires on a brand-new car should last more than 19,000 miles.
This morning, I called the dealership - Toyota of Lewisville, expecting that my super-duper extended bumper-to-bumper warranty would have me covered, at least on a pro-rated basis. Wrong, banana breath. Let me just say that I'm surprised that they were not in the least bit helpful on this. Even with me explaining that the car had less than 19,000 miles, all I got was that "Tire wear varies with your driving habits."
Poo on that. We drive the Prius on city streets. We don't burn out, or race. We take it to the dealer for periodic maintenance. We check the air in the tires now and then. But even if I was peeling out in this car, you'd still expect tires to last at least 40,000 miles.
Well, if you search Google for "Prius tire wear" you see that quite a few other people have had issues with this. It seems that even though you pay nearly $30,000 for this car, Toyota and Goodyear cheap-out on you and put downright crappy tires on it as OEM equipment.
So, I went to a place that I've been trusting for at least 15 years or so: Discount Tire. I spent a little over $400 and got a good set of Pirelli Cinturato P3000 P185/65R-15's It's an 85,000 mile tire, so hopefully they'll last through the first battery replacement.
I like going to Discount Tire because they don't do anything else but tires. They don't play games with up-selling you a bunch of crap. You ask for a set, they give you installed prices with no hassle and get you in and out in a hurry. You get new valve stems, mount and balance, free rotations and a good no-hassle warranty. (I've collected on it a couple of times from road hazards, and two off-brand tires I bought for my van that wore out prematurely)
One of the things I really like about Discount Tire is watching those guys work. They really work fast and efficiently.
Anyhow, I digress. I'm still conflicted about whether I should try to pursue anything with Toyota about compensation for the tires. I know that tires don't last forever, but they should at least last through the third oil change. In the past, I've been impressed with the folks at Toyota of Lewisville, but I'm pretty disappointed today. If I ever buy another car from them, I will definitely get a tire guarantee in writing. I'll let you know how it goes if I pursue anything.
We've known for awhile that George W. Bush's presidential "liberry" is going to be at S.M.U. in Dallas. Today, we find out that his records, including both coloring books he's completed during his two terms, will be stopping in Lewisville so the folks from the National Archive can redact all of the stuff that would put him in jail.
I suppose it could be good for our local economy to have some of these folks down here spending money.
My next door neighbors have goats in their house. I'm dead certain of it. One day soon, I'm going to do something about it. Why is it always up to me to handle the goat families?
You see, back in 2003, a family moved in, and I knew from the moment I saw them that they were goat people. Damn dirty hippies.... I tried to be nice. I went to the neighborhood association and tried to get them kicked out. When that didn't work, I put flyers on all of the houses. I hired a private investigator, but the hippies got to him first and he turned on me, actually saying that there were never any goats. I fired his ass. I went through several investigators that way. But I kept my resolve. After those other goat people across town started a fight that injured several people, I knew that times had changed, and if nobody would stand up to them, I would.
So first, I poisoned their children. Then I put a whole bag of sugar in their gas tank and flattened all four tires. I got the neighbor's kids to help me out and we went over and beat them all senseless. Then we burned their house to the ground. OK, four of the neighbor's kids were severely burned, but goat people represent a serious problem. You can't just have livestock in the neighborhood. Especially goats. They look like the devil.
But that was then, and this is now. Today, I think my other neighbors have goats. After all, they look like goat people too, and they live next door to where the other ones did.
Did I mention the goat inspectors? Yes, I sent goat inspectors, and they turned them away. They insist they aren't trying to obtain goats and they don't have goats. I think they're being just a bit defensive. They look guilty as hell.
This week, when I went down to make my weekly police report, the normal gatekeeper wasn't there, and I got to speak to a detective. He told me that right around the time that the first goat family's house burned down four years ago, they had investigated and found that new goat people had supposedly given up their plans of getting goats.
SEE, MY VIGILANCE IS WORKING! As long as you're firm with these goat people, and you have some kids who will work cheap, and you keep all options are on the table, you can prevent goats in your neighborhood.
So here I am this week in Piqua, Ohio. I arrived at my two-star hotel last night to discover that it's attached to a mall. Unless you count the multi-hour ordeals known as "shopping with grandma" that I went through as a child at the Lake Air mall back in Waco, I've never slept at a mall before.
As I was settling in last night, evaluating the toilet facilities, I discovered another wonderful thing about this hotel: It's apparently about 75 yards from very active set of train tracks. When the first horn blew, I pretty much came out of my seat. The third or fourth train of the night came just as I was falling asleep.
Oh yeah, the wireless internet here is spotty too. Isn't it great that it's 2007 and I can bitch about spotty wireless connections? When I was out in this area in 2002, there wasn't squat.
Tonight I walked around downstairs in the relatively small mall. It was less annoying than usual, I think due to the lack of an Abercrombie and Fitch store.
Oh, and it's raining outside, and the TV is getting shitty reception. Feel sorry for me!
This will be of little interest except to other bloggers, and perhaps regular victims.. er, readers of WhosPlayin.
October site statistics for WhosPlayin.com showed that by ALL metrics, October's web traffic surpassed all records: - Unique Visitors: 5,999 (previous record of 5,926 in June) - Number of Visits: 13,922 (previous record of 11,065 in Sept.) - Page Views: 85,143 (previous record 47,094 in Sept.) - Hits: 295,377 (previous record of 190,167 in June) - Bandwidth: 2.99 GB (previous record of 2.5 GB in June)
The factors I attribute this to are a small rise in regular readership that seems to grow month over month, as well as a lot of search engine traffic. It's really interesting to see the things that people search for.
One problem we've been having is an increase in comment spam. At its peak, I was getting upwards of 1000 comment spams per day. It's let up a bit lately since I banned a lot of IPs and have been pretty vigilant about not allowing it. I worry sometimes that I might have deleted a substantive comment or two. Further, the spam skews the traffic numbers a bit - mostly in total hits, pages, and bandwidth, not so much in number of visitors.
One thing that I find both amusing and frustrating is that my non-political posts get a lot more traffic than my political ramblings, which although not as fun to write, I've sort of considered more important.
For instance, we recently picked up a #1 Google ranking on a particular search term. I'm sure that the folks who make their livings selling the quackery that I attacked in my post are quite frustrated that this blog calls it a waste of money.
So, as I've mentioned before, this blog is something I do just for fun. You might even call it therapy, I suppose. I must have a creative outlet. I'd love to be able to make writing a job, but knowing myself as I do, I can't help but think that I'd get easily bored with it, and it would become a chore.
One thing I've noticed is that the more I write about the political crap that pisses me off, the more anger I carry around. I've been told that my best writing is on subjects where I can speak with some positivity. I'm going to work on that. I want to write more about science too. Specifically, I want to write more about how the lack of good science education in this country is putting us all in a tight spot and causing too many consumers to fall for junk science and scams.
Stay tuned, and thanks for making it a record-setting month for us. Don't be a stranger now, okay? I want to see some comments now and then. If you've registered and not received a login, please shoot me an email.
Lately, I've not been feeling great, and have not had time to write anything substantial. This is something I wrote back in about 1994 or 1995 when i was in business school at the University of North Texas. "Mission Statements" were all the rage back then, so I thought it would be nice to have a personal mission statement of sorts.
Do no harm. Spread cheer. Share the wealth. Serve my Creator. Make a difference. Put first things first. Never lie, cheat, or steal. Accept all of my limitations. Receive value only by creating it. Treat others as I want to be treated. Accept the consequences of my actions. Give due credit to those who share my successes. Leave the world in a better state than when I entered it. Look upon my fellow humans with a non-judgmental eye. Be thankful.
Of course, as a human being, I quite often will fail at following my own credo. But this is what I aspire to. If this is inspiring to you, why don't you create your own personal credo? I'd be interested to know who else has done this.
Not sure why the format of this is in the shape of a bell. It just sort of happened that way when I wrote it. It was unintentional, but I thought it was cool, so I left it that way.
Readers, I feel a compelling need to testify tonight. I have had a peaceful easy feeling all day today. This week, I'm in Ohio visiting a client in a town so small that they don't even rate a full-sized Dairy Queen. This morning, I drove to work under the bright sunshine past bountiful farms of head-high corn and knee-high beans. I drove through several Rockwell-esque small towns, arrived at my client's plant just a block from the remnants of the old Erie Canal. I saw my old friends, for whom I have not worked in at least five years. I jumped in today and worked on remnants of old website code that I first wrote back in 2002.
The client was our client because in early 2002, our economy was in the toilet and I found myself "on the bench" between clients. I pulled out my stash of business cards collected when I had given training courses in Detroit and Atlanta, and began calling my former students. Long story short, I was only benched for about a week, because I was able to book myself a gig with this client.
I remember how proud I had been calling my boss and telling him that I had arranged the deal, only to get a sinking feeling when I found out that this particular client had owed the company money from a previous engagement with another consultant that didn't go well. My boss was not happy, but he figured it was a sunk cost and sent me anyway. I replaced an old dial-up system with a web-based extranet, and I pulled it off in just two weeks. The client was very happy and paid their bill. In fact, the client decided to engage my firm, several consultants for several years rewriting their entire ERP system from scratch. This week, as I arrived, one of my coworkers had just departed after 4 1/2 years working for this company and successfully deploying his work. So, it comes full circle today as I find my old code from 2002 and update it to add new features and modernize it. (It's like 50 years old in web years!)
But that's not the miracle I speak of. Nope, that's just a pleasant story that frames my current happiness.
Tonight, I ate dinner in the attached Dairy Queen in a gas station next to my tiny hotel. I came back and propped up on the bed and flipped on the television for some channel surfing.
I stopped on CSPAN for some reason. I think they were in the middle of taking a vote, and the sound was silenced. I don't know why I stayed on the channel - honestly. But while I was on the channel, I saw something that just - took my breath away - and choked me up a little. I'm not going to tell you what it was. But as I said, I believe in miracles, and I also believe in signs.
When I was in college, I first started learning how to ask for and receive miracles and signs. There were times when MamaSk8z and I were such broke college students that we literally did not know where the money for the bills would come from, much less our meals. There were times when like my meal tonight, we would go to the gas station for supper - not because we wanted to, but because we had a gas card and no cash and bare cupboards.
At the time, we kept our personal cashflow in a spreadsheet that had daily projections of our bottom line, based on what our bills were, and when our paychecks came in. Sometimes the balance would show that on a certain day, it was going to be negative - meaning that it simply wouldn't work. Because I am anal-retentive, I couldn't let it stand. On a lark one day, fed up with worry, I entered in a deposit for the future that I knew I had no chance of making and labeled it "Miracle" and put in just enough money to keep us in the black.
As you know, saying that you are going to have extra money on a certain date several weeks in the future doesn't make it so.
But in our case, it did. I don't remember what the first occurrence was, but we did indeed receive an unsolicited, unexpected check. We probably did this at least 3 times before understanding our blessing. And we did it again and again, barely suspending disbelief to allow it to happen
On other occasions we have asked for signs. I suppose it will probably sound weird to those who are not spiritual or religious, but you can ask your higher power for a sign. If you listen and pay attention, you will be astounded.
Here's how it works best: Go in prayer or meditation or whatever state you feel most spiritual in. Ask you higher power for an answer to your question. Frame your answer in as few choices as possible, and ask for specific signs that represent each of these choices. Don't be squishy on this. Ask for something very specific - not just a casual sign. Don't ask for something that you think you'll see in the normal course of your day. Put a time-table on it.