Sunday, December 30, 2007

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Nebraska Dumb State Laws

Go to and enter your state.

Here are a few of Nebraska's:

-If a child burps during church, his parent may be arrested.

-It is illegal to go whale fishing.

-It is illegal for bar owners to sell beer unless they are simultaneously brewing a kettle of soup.

City laws within Nebraska that are dumb:

For the city of Lehigh:
Doughnut holes may not be sold.

A man is not allowed to run around with a shaved chest.

Keep that in mind...

Friday, December 28, 2007

Cool Links/Hints

1) I was listening to a lecture online from Berkeley where the professor recommended using the version for purchasing textbooks. He mentioned that the UK sets the pricing for their textbooks and this typically means a reduced price. However, once purchased, these books cannot be sold back to universities. There is a special mark in the UK sold materials. I was able to just randomly choose a textbook, enter the conversion rate and the Amazon UK book was about 7 dollars cheaper. Almost a 14% savings.

2) Donate your computing power from home. Thousands of personal computers (and game systems), being linked together via the internet, are surpassing supercomputer processing capabilities and are helping analyze some of the most intractable problems facing our world. Using BOINC (Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing) software you can download from the internet, you can volunteer for several projects: climate change in Africa, dengue fever, analyzing candidate drugs to stop the AIDS virus, etc. These projects borrow your processing power while the computer is on, but not being used. A BOINC screensaver shows the computer being harnessed for these worthwhile projects. An expansion of thought for people who are serious about tithing EVERYTHING (time, money, resources, etc.).

3) The advent of contests and public querys. Foundations are offering millions of dollars for the winners in the following categories: a) 100 MPG vehicle, $10 million purse b) astronaut glove, $400K purse. c) sequence 100 genomes in 10 days at a cost of 10K per genome, $10m purse. d) greenhouse gas scrubber, $25m purse. e) solve seven unsolved math problems, $1m purse per problem, f) improve Netflix movie recommendations, purse $1m. g) land on the moon, travel 500 feet and send data to earth. $20m purse. These and more from the latest issue of Wired magazine. Also, go to for a list of problems Fortune 500 companies are experiencing. See their deadlines and the prices they are willing to pay to solve these problems. Supposedly, these contests and public offers are quite successful as they bring a much wider talent pool to bear on particular problems.

4) Dateline has a special tonight about fake document services. Evidently Lima, Peru is a hotspot. Fake IDs were first created and then real passports from the fake IDs. Undercover journalists were able to travel between Peru and Chile. This is from the teaser on the Today show this morning. I remember Henry Kissinger talking about holding a fake Italian passport in case he was taken hostage. If he can do it....

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Heading Home to Milwaukee

I'm headed out on the early flight tomorrow morning. Should arrive in Milwaukee around 7AM Christmas Eve.

We celebrate Swedish style. The celebration, family get-together, and gift giving take place on Christmas Eve. Someone usually reads from Luke 2, which is one of my favorite memories.

Dinner involves swedish meatballs, rice pudding with lingonberries, korve (a potato sausage), and Dad breaks out the pickled herring. And a few non-Swedish dishes thrown in like ham, casseroles, etc. Every year Dad walks around offering guests the pickled herring, knowing that none of us like it but him. Its his joke that never gets old.

One year, my dear sister Catherine hosted our Christmas Eve celebration and prepared all authentic Swedish dishes, including lutfisk. Lutfisk is a perfectly good whitefish that is "ruined" by chemically burning it (its process of cooking it) and then the preparer washes it/soaks it really good.
It was an extremely enjoyable Christmas Eve and she prepared it right. Its just a Swedish tradition that I don't think will be carried on in the family. But kudos to her for trying and valuing tradition.

Mom and Dad always go to so much work to host our time together. Micah, Richie, and Catherine will be there (they weren't at Thanksgiving) and I'm really excited to see them. Rachel cannot be there. She's been given a Florida vacation for a couple of weeks (can't say I blame her leaving wintery WI for a couple weeks).

I hope that you all have a wonderful Christmas celebrating our Savior's birth. Thanks to all those who've sent Christmas letters and photos.

Merry Christmas!!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Weird Day(s).. (Will Come Back to Super Crunchers)

1) Yesterday, my mobile phone went from full-charge to low battery in about 6-8 hours. Without much talking. I even let people go early from conversations because of the beeping (real beeping) phone. I think its going to die at any moment. Which I've heard is good for cell-phones. Drain the battery and then recharge every once in awhile.

Anyway, so its beeping and beeping. I take it with me so as soon as it dies I can recharge it. 29 hours later I give up. I recharge it.

It never died. It pretended at the very end.... It wouldn't call, but it will do everything else. I could play games on it; I could listen to ringtones. And the every 5 minute beep.

2) Every once in awhile you'll see it. A guy who drops his pants to use the urinal. Unnecessary...but it sometimes happens. Thankfully todays' example didn't go barebottom.

Super Crunchers is one of the most thought provoking books I've read in a long time.
If other people won't tire of it, I'll reference some sections that tackle:

-why some airlines, who know that frequent fliers won't change their carrier, will give worse treatment to those frequent fliers, but instead bend over backwards for the fliers that paid the most for their seat(s).
-how minorities and women get worse interest rates and pay higher prices at car dealerships
-how companies know that people purchase more pop-tarts when a hurricane strikes and so ship more pop-tarts to the stores when there is even news of an impending hurricane
-ask the question whether doctors are doing the right tests in annual physicals.
-delve into the "Magic Number" scam in government open bid contracts.
-whether good wine can be predicted with a formula that beats the experts, using just a few variables including average temperature and average rainfall in a particular region.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Small Snow Storm

My super went out this morning to clear the snow.

Instead of using a shovel, broom, or snow blower, he chose a leaf blower to blow the snow off the sidewalks. He has this awesome beard that become completely enveloped in the powdery snow.

Awesome. He gave up after about 6 feet and came back with an actual snow blower.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Super Crunchers

Day #3

I know you missed day 2. I wrote something for yesterday, but since it highlighted a website that has been taken down, its relevance seems to be in question.

From Super Crunchers, p. 59:

"In September 2000, the press started running with the story of a guy who said that when he deleted the cookies on his computer (which identified him as a regular Amazon customer), Amazon's quoted price for DVDs fell from $26.24 to $22.74. A lot of customers were suddenly worried that Amazon was rigging the Internet. The company quickly apologized, saying that the difference was the result of a random price test. In no uncertain terms CEO Jeff Bezos declared, "We've never tested and we never will test prices based on customer demographics."

Monday, December 10, 2007

Super Crunchers

I read this book over the weekend and was blown away. It has a similar feel to Freakonomics for you lovers of that read.

I wanted to highlight about 5 interesting facts from that book on successive days.

Day 1:
For WMF staff....there is a website entitled that may be useful to you. This website is useful for people who wonder when they should purchase their tickets. Should they buy tickets now or wait to see if the price drops? It always seems a gamble.

This website uses regression analysis (based on lots of different historical factors, date, and special events) to make a prediction about whether airlines fares are expected to go up, remain steady or go down. This can help someone make a determination about buying tickets now or waiting.

One problem is that only larger cities in the US are currently available. The datasets for other cities have not been compiled. However, you can also recommend that your city be added to their analysis.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Interesting Science Development #2

Taken from, but originally published by Popular Science. By Megan Miller.

In recent months, PopSci has covered various scientists' plans to curb global warming through carbon sequestration, mainly by feeding it to algae to make biofuel, or burying it underground.

Skymine uses the carbon dioxide emitted from smokestacks to make baking soda.

Today, a company called Skyonic announced a novel new system, Skymine, which uses the carbon dioxide emitted from smokestacks to make baking soda. According to Skyonic CEO Joe David Jones, the system will be powered by waste heat from factories, and will produce food-grade baking soda.

Last year, the utility company Luminant installed a pilot version of the system at its Big Brown Steam Electric Station in Fairfield, Texas.
There's still quite a bit of work to be done to make the current system viable on a large scale, but the baking soda idea offers solutions to some of the economic problems posed by other carbon sequestration methods.
For starters, according to Jones, the stuff can be sold for home or industrial use or buried harmlessly in landfills or abandoned mines.

Jones apparently got the idea for the SkyMine system while watching a Discovery Channel show with his kids. He pulled out an old college science textbook and immediately turned to a passage about converting C02 to baking soda. He'd found it interesting years ago and highlighted it for future reference.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Interesting Science Development #1

Turning Water into Fuel

A cancer researcher stumbles upon a way to set saltwater aflame. Neat trick, but is his discovery useful? By Michael Stroh November 2007
Abbreviated from Popular Science

Last winter, inventor John Kanzius was already attempting one seemingly impossible feat—building a machine to cure cancer with radio waves—when his device inadvertently succeeded in another: He made saltwater catch fire. TV footage of his bizarre discovery has been burning up the blogosphere ever since, drawing crackpots and Ph.D.s alike into a raging debate. Can water burn? And if so, what good can come of it?
Some people gush over the invention's potential for desalinization or cheap energy. Briny seawater, after all, sloshes over most of the planet's surface, and harnessing its heat energy could power all sorts of things. Skeptics say Kanzius's radio generator is sucking up far more energy than it's creating, making it a carnival trick at best.
For now, Kanzius is tuning out the hubbub. The retired radio- and television- station owner says the saltwater stuff is interesting, but a cancer breakthrough is what he's really after. Diagnosed with leukemia in 2002, he began building his radio-wave blaster the next year, soon after a relapse. His lifelong fascination with radio provided further inspiration.
The saltwater phenomenon happened by accident when an assistant was bombarding a saline-filled test tube with radio waves and bumped the tube, causing a small flash. Curious, Kanzius struck a match. "The water lit like a propane flame," he recalls.
"People said, 'It's a crock. Look for hidden electrodes in the water,' " says Penn State University materials scientist Rustum Roy, who visited the Erie, Pennsylvania, inventor in his lab in August after seeing the feat on Google Video. A demo made Roy a believer. "This is discovery science in the best tradition," he says. Roy thinks the sodium chloride in the water may weaken the bonds between the oxygen and hydrogen atoms, which are broken free by radio waves. It's these gas molecules that are igniting, he explains, not the liquid itself. Tests show that the reaction disappears once the radio waves stop. Roy plans to conduct more tests to get to the bottom of the mystery.
Meanwhile, researchers at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center have made progress using Kanzius's technology to fight cancer in animals. They published their findings last month in the journal Cancer.
How to Burn Saltwater as Fuel: Inventor John Kanzius managed to burn saltwater to generate power. Here's how: 1. A generator emits 14-megahertz radio waves.2 . The waves bombard a solution of regular table salt and water.3. Exactly what happens next remains a mystery, but one theory posits that the sodium chloride may weaken the bonds between the strong>oxygen and hydrogen atoms in water. Radio waves break apart the bonds and liberate flammable hydrogen gas molecules. 4. A match ignites the hydrogen, generating an intense flame. 5. The resulting heat powers a simple engine.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Check your mail for what may seem like spam...

A couple days ago I received a letter about a settled lawsuit with major credit card companies VISA, Mastercard, and maybe Diners Club. It involved purchases or ATM withdrawals overseas and entitled me to part of the settlement. I can choose one of three options. Option #1 is $25 back immediately, options #2 and #3 involve percentages paid back for what I spent overseas via credit card or took in withdrawals. The time period is close to 10 years in the late 90's and early 00's. This looks a settled class action suit.

I plan to choose option #1. I'll keep folks informed whether I get the funds promised. I'd like to think that WMF staff especially can make BANK on this...if they've been consistently using their personal credit cards the last few years for major purchases (including travel) while overseas or even getting their salary from ATM credit card withdrawals. I'm hoping this might be a nice Christmas present. I figure WMF staff members could receive anywhere between $25 and $200 if they participate.