Monday, May 31, 2010

Hot! Hot! Hot!

Me mind on fire, me soul on fire
Feelin' hot hot hot –
Lyrics to Hot! Hot! Hot!, sung by Buster Poindexter

Do you like hot foods and hot peppers but sometimes bite more than you can chew? Here are some do’s and don’ts when your mouth and tongue are on fire.

• Don’t drink water or alcohol. These spread the burning chemical, called capsaicin, around but do nothing to block it.

• Consume something acidic – lemon aid, orange juice, tomato juice, etc. Suck a lemon or lime. Eat a bit of mild salsa.

• Dairy helps – milk, yogurt, and sour cream are acidic but in addition the milk protein casein breaks up the hot capsaicin. You need milk fat to get this protein – skim milk is not so effective.

• Starch helps – bread, rice, tortillas, and other carbohydrates coat your mouth and provide some protection against capsaicin. The sugars in starch also lessen the impact of the heat.

Bottom Line

When working with super hot peppers, don’t forget that your fingers become coated and are weapons of pain. Rubbing your eyes with capsaicin stained fingers is an experience you won’t soon forget. I once had a burning pain under my fingernails when scraping the seeds out of peppers.

And remember, no matter how bad it feels, nothing is really burning - no physical damage. Capsaicin merely triggers the heat sensation in our nerves.

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Friday, May 28, 2010


"Help me, I think I'm falling"-Joni Mitchell lyrics to "Help Me"

Eons ago while in high school, I attended a Saturday science day in Gainsville, Florida. Sometime after lunch, we lost lights and power. We waited about an hour before the organizers cancelled further labs and everyone went home. Later the evening news revealed the cause - a large sinkhole had opened up in town swallowing a house and several cars (and I suppose a power pole or two).

Sinkholes are not uncommon in Florida. As people drink and use the underground water aquifer faster than it refills, the water level falls leaving the ground above unsupported.

Today I saw a story about a family of four killed in Quebec when the ground opened up beneath their house. The paper says a landslide ripped open the hole. Seems odd to me. Perhaps the landslide created a void as the soil poured downhill? And just like my experience, neighbors had no clue: "The landslide took place so quickly and silently on Monday night that many neighbors could not understand why their electricity and water supply had been disrupted."

The cause in Quebec is 10,000 year old clay soil that can liquefy with no warning. In 1991 the entire town of Lemieux, Ontario, near Ottawa, was relocated when officials became concerned about the stability of the clay. Two years later, a landslide consumed 42 acres near Lemieux’s former location.

Bottom Line

When buying a house, do some research to find out if sinkholes happen in your area. Also check for sinkhole flooding. This occurs when a house is built inside an ancient sinkhole and ground water backs up filling the hole - a mini flood just for your house or neighborhood! (pictured above) Check out this article from Kentucky for more details.

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Thursday, May 27, 2010

"I Need a Freaking Job".org

"I don't care to belong to a club that accepts people like me as members."-Groucho Marx

The following comes from and is, I think, well written and insightful.

As families suffer, our political leadership seems content with their dysfunctional posturing. Together we can set the record straight, or at least just make fun of it.

  • Stupid is believing the problems we have can be solved by the same people that created them.

  • Crazy is saying you're going to create jobs by spending unimaginable amounts of money that you borrow from the very same people (China) that you gave all the jobs to.

  • Sick is the billions of tax payer dollars spent on bailing out the financial institutions, while their own immeasurable greed was responsible for the collapse of America's future.

  • Tired is listening to career politicians saying one thing while doing another, most having never created a job or felt the burden of meeting a payroll.

  • Inexcusable is the rape of the US Treasury in plain sight and in broad daylight.

  • Apparent is the government's responsibility to stop digging a hole that the American people have no chance of getting out of, as they have proven time and time again that they are the worst managers of everything.

  • Unbelievable are the economic policies that have forced 65% of the manufacturing jobs in America to low wage countries over the last decade.

  • Betrayal is the feeling you live with while watching elected officials seek all the glory and take none of the blame.

  • Insane is the unemployment rate amongst the youth in America, hovering currently at around 27%

  • Unforgivable is burdening America's youth with the enormous and continuously growing national debt.

  • Cynical is what you become after witnessing the destruction of American exceptionalism and realizing that you are a casualty of a handful of greedy animals feeding on the soul of a great nation.

  • Obvious is the government's need to get out of the way so that inventive young entrepreneurial Americans have the opportunity to stimulate an economy that produces jobs.

  • Catastrophic is being a recent college graduate with diminished opportunities and the real obligation to repay educational debt.

  • Unacceptable is being a voiceless bystander to the greatest injustice in American history.

  • Simple is remembering that honest American people are the ones that made this country great.

  • Certain is knowing that together we can reclaim America and the promise for the opportunity to prosper.

Bottom Line

"Here's the thing. Nothing matters if people aren't working. We need to make some noise. The government is absolutely broken. If we work together maybe we can get these posers out of the way. Sign the petition. Buy a t-shirt. Upload a video. Be a friend. Start a movement." -

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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Sleep Apnea

Whenever I want you, all I have to do is dream – song lyrics by the Everly Brothers

A coworker was operated on last week in an attempt to correct his Sleep Apnea, a sleep disorder characterized by pauses in breathing during sleep of ten seconds or more. Each episode of missed breaths is called an apnea. Sometimes Apnea is obvious – a friend tells us her husband will stop breathing for noticeably long periods when asleep; and then restarts with a snort. Sometimes the Apnea is not obvious – who’s going to notice if every few minutes you take 10 seconds between breaths?

Commonly the person with Sleep Apnea has no idea that they are breathing irregularly – the only clue for the sleeper is daytime sleepiness and frequent fatigue caused by poor quality sleep. Apnea reduces the amount of oxygen to the brain and prevents deep sleep that is so refreshing and invigorating. A Wisconsin Sleep Cohort study estimated in 1993 that 1 in 15 Americans have moderate or worse sleep apnea. It also estimated 9% of middle-aged women and 24% of middle-aged men were affected, undiagnosed and untreated.

Snoring is sometimes taken as a sign of Apnea but actually air is moving through your throat while you snore. It’s when you STOP snoring and stop breathing that apnea occurs. What the snoring may tell you is that your throat passageway is narrow and at risk for closure while sleeping.

The test to officially diagnose Sleep Apnea is called a polysomnogram, or "sleep study". The patient is hooked to wires and devices to measure brain waves, breathing, blood oxygen level, eye movement (for REM sleep), leg movements, and chin movement AND then is asked to sleep normally in a hospital bed. Five or more Apnea events per hour is considered clinically significant.

There are two common treatments for Sleep Apnea. I know many people (my father included) who use a CPAP machine (continuous positive air pressure). These machines force air down your throat while sleeping to keep it open and unblocked. The other option is surgery to widen the airway by removing tissue or tightening the muscles alongside it. It’s more expensive but it can cure the problem. By comparison, CPAP cures the symptoms but not the cause and needs to be used the rest of your life.

Bottom Line

If you find yourself tired no matter how much sleep you get, ask your doctor to prescribe a Sleep Study. It’s not cheap, about $7000, but many medical insurers will cover it and the CPAP machine afterwards. The alternative can be death. I know two relatives who fell asleep while driving a car. One caused a major accident with serious injuries; the other woke up after crossing the median but before hitting anything.


Happy Birthday to my Sister!

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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Best paying college majors

“The art and science of asking questions is the source of all knowledge.”-Thomas Berger has posted a chart and list of salary expectations for people with a Bachelor's degree in a variety of college majors. The chart shows both starting salary (blue) and mid-career salary (grey). For example economics majors earn less than computer programmers with their first job but will surpass them in 20 years or so. The top jobs are almost entirely engineering and science. The first non-science jobs I saw were Marketing at 21 on the list, and International Relations at number 22. Since this list is Bachelor degrees only - you won't see doctors or lawyers.

Bottom Line

Science pays!

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Monday, May 24, 2010

Odd Items in Space

For here am I floating round my tin can
Far above the world Planet Earth is blue
- lryics from David Bowie’s Ground Control to “Major Tom”

New Scientist reports that the next Space Shuttle mission will carry a piece of the apple tree that Newton sat under when an apple on the head led to a theory of gravity. The wood chip is on loan from the Royal Society of London which is celebrating its 350th anniversary of dedication to science.

Other unusual objects that have flown into space include:

1. Metal shielding on the Mars rovers made from World Trade Center scrap after 9/11

2. A 400 year-old lead tag bearing “Yames Towne” to honor the founding of the Jamestown colony in the US. The space shuttle Atlantis flew the tag across the Atlantic in a matter of minutes in low-earth orbit; compared to the many months the original voyage took.

3. When Apollo 11’s Eagle landed on the moon, it carried a piece of wood and cloth from the original Wright brother’s plane.

4. The ashes of the man who discovered Pluto, Clyde Tombaugh, are now flying to Pluto aboard NASA's New Horizons probe and should arrive in 2015.

5. Voyager 1 and 2 have both flown past the planets and out of the solar system. Each carries a record of voices from around the world (and instructions to aliens on how to play the record).

6. Movie items in space include Buzz Lightyear on the space station and Luke Skywalker's lightsaber for the 30th anniversary of Star Wars.

7. Apollo 15 took several hundred collector stamps and stamped them “cancelled” on the moon. This caused a furor over who would profit from selling them and NASA had to change the rules on what was allowed in space.

Pluto discover, Clyde Tombaugh, is not the only person with his ashes in space.
Others include:

Timothy Leary, “Tune in, Turn on, Drop Out” proponent of LSD (1997 orbit)

Gene Roddenberry, creator of Star Trek (1997 orbit)
(the ashes of his wife, Majel Barrett, who played “Nurse Chapel “ and the voice of all Star Trek computers, will fly into deep space in 2012 alongside additional ashes from Gene.)

Dr. Eugene Shoemaker, co-discover of the Shoemaker comet that crashed in Jupiter (1999 moon probe)

James Doohan, “Scotty” of Star Trek (2007 suborbital). Doohan will also accompany the Roddenberry’s on the 2012 deep space probe.

Each year a company called Space Services (formerly Celestis) launches a “symbolic portion” of ashes of anyone for a fee.
$ 700 for a rocket that returns to Earth
$2,500 for orbit
$10,000 for the moon starting in 2011
$12,500 aboard a deep space probe

Bottom Line

The New Scientist space item gallery includes this interesting tidbit:

Madalyn Murray O'Hair, founder of American Atheists, once “the most hated women in America” for her successful lawsuit to stop school prayer, also sued NASA in 1970 after the Apollo 8 crew read verses from the Book of Genesis while in space. She argued that government employees should not promote religious ideas. The Supreme Court threw the case out on the grounds that it had no jurisdiction in outer space.

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Friday, May 21, 2010

Appliance Fires

"If you see anyone acting suspiciously near or on a sub-station, please call the police."-alert issued in UK

The Guardian reports an unusual story in the town of Bolton, UK. Thieves broke into an electrical substation and stole £20 worth of copper switching parts to sell on the black market. This caused a power surge as the voltage jumped from 230 to 400V which started fires in 71 homes as TVs, microwaves, washing machines, and other appliances burst into flames. Several hundred houses had blown fuses.

"Then suddenly I heard a 'poof' noise. At first I thought, 'What was that?', and sat down in my chair. Then I saw smoke coming out of my digibox [TV] and I jumped up quick and turned off the box at the plug. Shortly afterwards my husband was in the kitchen, and he saw a huge flame come out of the microwave. It frightened him to death. It all shook me up. You don't expect to see smoke coming out of your television."

Sadly the response from the power Utility did not impress me. They issued a warning that the thieves were endangering their own lives as well as those of others – and face the threat of prosecution. "Threat" of prosecution - that will surely discourage copycat thieves. What ever happened to, we will track you down and you will pay for your crime? Why are the authorities being so polite? "Please don't steal this, you might hurt yourself." This is a crime against society and needs to be taken very seriously.

Bottom Line

There is a reason that homes have a circuit breaker box. An additional surge protector may protect your TV but you're unlikely to have every appliance on a surge protector. And if something does go up in smoke, you want a working fire alarm to give you warning ASAP. And of course you have a fire extinguisher -right?

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Thursday, May 20, 2010

Short Selling a House

"Our house is a very, very, very fine house
With two cats in the yard"
- Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young

A family I know fell behind in their mortgage payments and wanted to work with the bank to catch up but the bank refused to cooperate. After a year with no settlement, the bank has agreed to "short sell" the house and our friend will move elsewhere. What does "short selling" mean?

A short sale is a sale of real estate in which the sale price falls short of the balance owed on the property's loan. ... Both parties consent to the short sale, because it allows them to avoid foreclosure, which involves hefty fees for the bank and poorer credit report outcomes for the borrowers. This agreement, however, does not necessarily release the borrower from the obligation to pay the remaining balance of the loan. - Wikipedia

In a short sale the house is sold at or near market prices in a depressed market (much higher than a foreclosure sale but less than the purchase price). The seller saves their credit rating but may still have to make good on the entire loan (ouch!)

The buyer of a short sale may get a great price but the money saved might not be worth the extra hassle and additional months to closing. Read "What It's Like To Buy A Short Sale House" from The story ends happily but oh, the stress and follow-ups and loops to jump through along the way. And there was always the chance that the house would be auctioned off before the short sale was closed (and even afterwards).

Bottom Line

Read the comments on the Consumerist Short Sale story for more examples of short sales gone bad (or very slowwwwly). As one buyer put it, "I certainly would not recommend the short sale process to anybody, ever."

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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Data Loss

"We must embrace pain and burn it as fuel for our journey"~Kenji Miyazawa

In memory of my C: drive at the office which has died, I offer The five stages of data-loss grief from

Stage one: Denial
"No. This can't be happening. Maybe if I reboot again it'll work."

Stage two: Anger
"I've lost everything! I'm so mad. Why didn't I backup the files?"

Stage three: Bargaining
"Maybe I can download some software and try to recover some files. Or perhaps hire someone for file recovery?"

Stage four: Depression
"My email, my photos! Gone forever. I can never replace them."

Stage five: Acceptance
"I promise I'll back up everything in the future"

Bottom Line
Data loss eventually strikes. Prepare for it.

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Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Magic of GPS

Though the mountains divide,
And the oceans are wide,
It's a small world after all.
-Lyrics to It's a Small World

As I’ve commented before, my wife and I are not anti-technology, we’re just cheap. So we are late adopters of technology – waiting for the prices to come done to affordable levels. But once purchased and used for awhile, it’s hard to look back and imagine how we ever lived without it. A friend recently told us about being stuck outside her locked office without a ride home “in pre-cell phone days”. And who can imagine driving without a GPS? It’s like a magic map!

Do you know the history and workings of GPS? Well here are some interesting GPS factoids courtesy of

• There are always at least 24 active GPS satellites circling Earth, although today there are more than 30, including a couple of spares. Their orbits are spread out so that no matter where on Earth you are, you will have at least six of them in your line of sight.

• Each GPS satellite goes around the world once every 12 hours. The satellites travel 12,500 miles (20,000 km) above us at roughly 7,000 miles per hour (11,000 km per hour). They have small boosters so they can adjust their path when needed.

• The first full constellation of 24 satellites was completed in 1994. The first of those 24 satellites was sent up in 1989.

• To get a reliable position reading, your GPS receiver will have to combine the signals from at least four satellites, although in some special cases, three are enough.

• GPS was made public due to a tragedy. In 1983, Korean Air Lines Flight 007 entered Soviet airspace after a navigation error and was shot down, killing all 269 passengers. This incident resulted in President Ronald Reagan ordering the Unites States military to make the Global Positioning System available for civilian use once it was completed, so that similar incidents could be avoided in the future.

• NAVSTAR is the US military name for the Global Positioning System.

• GPS isn’t just for navigation. It can also be used to get a very exact time stamp. Every GPS satellite has multiple atomic clocks and the time is included in the signal it sends out. With the help of these signals, a GPS receiver can determine the current time within 100 billionths of a second. These signals are for example used to synchronize base stations in cell phone networks.

• Relativistic effects. The clocks on the satellite are subject to the effects of Einstein’s theory of relativity, running slightly slower than those on Earth. This is corrected by control signals from Earth Ground antennas spread around the world.

• The 50th Space Wing of the United States Air Force operates the GPS satellites.

• Until 2000, civilian GPS use was crippled by a feature called Selective Availability. It introduced a random error of up to 328 feet (100 meters) in the civilian signal to make GPS less useful for precision navigation. (GPS has different signals for military and civilian use.) Selective Availability was deactivated in May 1, 2000. The United States still has the ability to deactivate the civilian signal, if need be even for specific regions.

• NAVSTAR GPS isn’t the only game in town. There are several other Global Navigation Satellite Systems in existence or on their way: The European Union is working on a system called Galileo, Russia has GLONASS (completed in partnership with India), and China has plans for a system called Compass. There are also systems that offer specific regional coverage, for example Japan’s QZSS and China’s Beidou.

Bottom Line

"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." - Arthur C. Clarke

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Monday, May 17, 2010

Eat your Vegetables

“A vegetable garden in the beginning looks so promising and then after all little by little it grows nothing but vegetables, nothing, nothing but vegetables.”- Gertrude Stein cites a list from WebMD of tricks to help you eat more vegetables. A healthy diet will include 3-5 servings (1 baseball each) of different colored vegetables every day.

1. Hide veggies inside dishes you love like. For example: mushroom & spinach inside lasagna or an omelet.

2. Add veggies to soup. Homemade soup with fresh vegetables and a canned base of chicken stock is wonderful.

3. Fill a salad with more than iceberg lettuce. Be wary of the dressing.

4. Try raw veggies in a low calorie dip

5. Go Italian – pasta & veggies are a great mix

6. Drink them – I could have had a V8!

7. Stuff them - roasted mushrooms with goat’s cheese, meatloaf inside a bell pepper, tuna fish inside a tomato.

8. Grill them – grilled veggies are oh so good. Or try broiling them in a oven with a little oil.

9. Skip the can, learn to cook them fresh properly – check out a cookbook for the correct way to steam, grill, cook, sauté your vegetable. It makes a difference. Asparagus can be disgusting when mushy but tasty when crisply steamed or microwaved.

10. Add to sandwiches & pitas & wraps.

11. Try baked & covered with cheese!

Bottom Line

Try buying mixed greens for more variety in salads. My wife loves to make Cobb Salad – we top mixed greens with whatever we have in the fridge: vegetables, meat, hard boiled eggs and some cheese cubes.

Vegetarian lasagna and Pasta primavera are delightful. One of our Christmas traditions is a Spinach Lasagna because it is Red, white and green.

We also love grilling vegetables – esp red peppers and zucchini.

We shave potatoes with a mandolin and make potato chips in the microwave.

Shredded zucchini and Spaghetti squash make great alternatives to pasta.

Be creative!

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Friday, May 14, 2010

Washing Machines

Step up to the tub
It ain't no disgrace
Just pull up your sleeves
And get up in place
Then scoop up the water
And rub it on your face
An' go blud-dle-ud-dle-ud-dle
-Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

I'm very lucky to have a reliable Maytag washing that is older than our marriage. It was made back in the days when quality mattered. When we had an energy audit the auditor told us that new machines are more energy efficient but the cost savings is not enough to justify buying a new machine.

Our machine is a top-loader, popular in 3 out of 4 households. And yet front-loading washing machines are generally more efficient and clean your clothes better. Also curiously, when I type "washing machine" into Google images, the entire first page is front-loaders. So why are top-loading machines more popular? Consumer Reports investigated and came up with these reasons:

1. Cost: Front-loading machines are 25-50% more expensive. That's a big deal killer.
2. Vibration: Front-loaders shake more and may be noisier depending on your flooring.
3. Awkward: Bending down to add or remove clothes is harder on the back.
4. Mold: The seal on front-loaders gets moldy if you wash only in cold water.

Bottom Line

The article mentions that some who have tried front-loaders change back to top-loaders. Now that I know this, I'll think I'll stick with top loaders in the future.

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Thursday, May 13, 2010

Dirty Bombs

[A] radioactive "dirty bomb" (...) spreads radioactive material that is highly toxic to humans and can cause mass death and injury. - Attorney General John Ashcroft, 2002

An analysis on downplays the danger of Dirty Bombs. These types of bombs use common explosives to spread radioactive materials (hence ‘dirty’). There is no nuclear reaction, no mushroom cloud, just a normal explosion that coats an area with radioactive dust. Since they are much easier to build than an atom bomb, and radioactive byproducts are easier to acquire, there reasonable concern that terrorists will someday use dirty bombs.

The common media portrayal of dirty bombs is that they will “immediately cause hundreds or even thousands of deaths.” Not true, says Stratfor. A dirty bomb is not a “weapon of mass destruction” but rather a weapon of mass “disruption”. Immediate deaths would result from the explosion itself and the resulting panic when the bomb is found to be “dirty”. The dirty effects of the radioactivity are longer term and most people will be safely decontaminated (eventually).

The real problem is economic and psychological. Since anyone living or working in a radioactive area will sicken and die over days/weeks/years, the area must be cordoned off and abandoned until cleaned. A total cleanup will require relocating everyone, tearing down the buildings, streets, sidewalks, and scraping the soil. Not at all cheap if the area is downtown NY, London or DC. And not nice if the target is something historical and irreplaceable.

To back up their analysis downplaying the danger, Stratfor looks at the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster in northern Ukraine. This was bigger than any possible dirty bomb and in fact more than one hundred times the radiation of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan. The Chernobyl explosion killed 31 persons in the immediate aftermath. Over several decades it may contribute to the deaths of 9,000 people from radiation poisoning. But many of those affected by the radiation are still alive more than 20 years after the accident. Today, 5.5 million people live in the contaminated zone.

Fortunately for civilization, it’s not easy to use radiation as a mass weapon. Yes, a concentrated radioactive substance can kill individuals quickly with direct exposure – but such items are rare and quantities small. With dirty bombs the radiation is spread far and wide by the explosion; maximizing the number of people impacted but weakening the lethality.

Bottom Line

What should you do if you are a victim of a dirty bomb?

  • Don’t panic!
  • The CDC recommends sheltering inside a building with intact walls. If you’re outside, cover your mouth and nose to avoid breathing in the radioactive dust (VERY IMPORTANT), avoid touching anything, and get inside the nearest walled shelter quickly. While outside, clothing is an effective shield against energetic alpha particles but if you breath those same particles in – damage will be done.
  • If inside a damaged building, move to an undamaged interior room.
  • When you come in from outside, remove your shoes and outer clothing at the door. Up to 90% of the radioactive dust on you is on your clothes. Don’t spread it around your shelter. If possible seal your clothes, shoes, and breathing cloth/mask it in a plastic bag or other disposable storage. You don’t want to be near these clothes afterwards (or ever again).
  • Shut all windows, outside doors, and fireplace dampers. Turn off fans and heating and air-conditioning systems that bring in air from the outside. It is not necessary to put duct tape or plastic around doors or windows.
  • If outside or exposed, shower or wash ALL exposed skin with soap and water to remove any remaining dust. Be sure to wash your hair. Don’t put contaminated clothes back on. Don’t forget that your washing area may now be slightly radioactive from the rinsed off dust. Initially the washing water should be safe – water inside pipes at the time of the explosion is protected. But over time as water is used, you’ll be drawing from lakes and reservoirs that may have been exposed.
  • Cover any open wounds to keep radioactive dust out of your blood stream.
  • If you’re at home and have pets outside, get them indoors and wash them completely.
  • Tune to the local radio or television news for more instructions.
  • Don’t go outside until instructed to by authorities. When leaving your temporary shelter, cover up 100% with clean clothes/coat/blanket. You’ll need new shoes or a substitute. You’ll repeat the process of disposing the outer clothing layers and washing when you return to a shelter.
  • Do not attempt to rescue your children at their school. They should be safe in a school shelter. You endanger yourself by traveling and contaminate the school shelter by demanding entrance or even opening the door.
  • Don’t eat or drink from anything that was open and possibly contaminated by dust. Sealed food is ok but be sure to wash the outside container first. Avoid drinking public faucet water until authorities say it is safe. You don’t want to allow anything radioactive inside your body.
  • If all goes well, your exposure will be no worse than an intensive medical X-ray and there will be no symptoms. However if you experience nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and swelling and redness of the skin then you were exposed to a higher level of radiation and need medical attention ASAP.


CDC Public Service Announcements for a Dirty Bomb
(what you hope to never hear on your radio)

Nuclear War Survival Skills by Kresson H Kearny.



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Wednesday, May 12, 2010

I'm Hungry

"Hunger knows no friend but its feeder"- Aristophanes

Men’s Health Magazine has another great article with "7 Reasons You’re Still Hungry—Even After You Just Ate!"

1. Sugary Drinks
Sodas, iced teas, and other sweetened beverages are a major source of high-fructose corn syrup which can trick the brain into craving more food. High-fructose corn syrup impedes the body’s ability to use leptin, the “satiation hormone” that tells you when you’ve had enough to eat.

2. Your Dinner Came Out of a Can
Many canned foods are high in the chemical bisphenol-A, or BPA, that can cause abnormal surges in leptin resulting in food cravings.

3. Your Breakfast Wasn't Big Enough
Researchers have found that those who eat just 300 calories for breakfast gain almost twice the weight as those who eat 500 calories or more for breakfast. A bigger breakfast makes for smaller rises in blood sugar and insulin throughout the day, meaning fewer food cravings.

4. You Skipped the Salad
Most Americans don’t eat enough leafy greens, which are rich in the essential B-vitamin folate and help protect against depression, fatigue, and weight gain. Best sources: Romaine lettuce, spinach, collard greens, radicchio.

5. You Didn't Stop for Tea Time
According to the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, people who drank one cup of black tea after eating high-carb foods stayed full longer and had fewer food cravings for 2 and a half hours. [I wonder if herbal teas have any effect?]

6. You're Not Staying Fluid
Dehydration often mimics the feeling of hunger. Drink a glass of water before eating more, and see if your desires diminish.

7. You're Bored
Envision a huge, sizzling steak. If you’re truly hungry, the steak will seem appealing. Otherwise you’re in need of a distraction, not another meal.

Bottom Line

I can relate to many of the items above – at work I’m trying hard NOT to eat when thirsty or bored. I do eat breakfast but never considered that it could be too small.

I just saw my doctor for a physical recently. He claims I could lose 50 lbs in one year with a proper diet. Yeah, right. When I was in college I followed a diet with the goal of losing a pound a week - with time off at the Thanksgiving/Xmas holidays. My metabolism burns slower now.

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Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Financial Mistakes

'Neither a borrower nor lender be' – Shakespeare’s Hamlet

Check out the USAToday article Eight Money Missteps that can really hurt you financially.

1. Don’t Raid your 401(k) – most states protect retirement accounts from bankruptcy claims. "Some people use their IRAs, and then they wind up in bankruptcy, anyway. So now, they're bankrupt and they don't have any retirement."

2. Don’t walk out on a mortgage – sell the house.

3. Don’t ignore your credit card balance

4. Avoid debt-consolidation firms – most are scams

5. Don’t co-sign a loan for a friend or relative – you’ll regret it later when they default. You’ll lose a friend and your money.

6. Don’t use Payday loans – the interest rate is an outrageous, 391% to 521% annualized.

7. Use a Reverse Mortgage only as a last resort – the fees are high

8. Don’t stiff Uncle Sam by not paying your taxes. He will catch you and the penalties are stiff.

Bottom Line

In short – avoid loans, pay your debts, don’t sacrifice your retirement.

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Monday, May 10, 2010

Fire Starters

"Fire, I'll take you to learn
You're gonna burn, you're gonna burn"
-Fire, by Arthur Brown, #1 for one week in 1968

With warmer days and thoughts of camping, here's an idea for creating your own fire starter. See for more details, photos, and alternative ideas for fire starters.

1. Gather dryer lint, an empty paper egg carton, old candles or wax, dental floss, and scissors.

2. Cut or break the wax into small pieces for faster melting.

3. Melt the wax in a double boiler set-up using a disposable glass jar or can with an opening several inches across. The can or jar will get quite messy. Place the can or jar in boiling water (keep on eye on the water level - too much and the jar will float and perhaps tip over, too little and the pot goes dry) Once the wax is melted, turn down the heat to a simmer (or off) to avoid buring the wax.

4. Stuff the lint into the egg carton compartments. Pack as much as possible for longer burning.

5. Cut apart the egg carton compartments and fold the edges over to cover the top.

6. Tie the lint up inside the closed compartments with dental floss. Leave six or more inches at the end of the knot for you to hold in the next step.

7. Did each package into the wax. Cover completely and let the wax soak inside. Wait for no bubbles rise from the package. Set packages on paper towel to drain.

8. When done pour extra wax over the starters (for extra water proofing). Let the starters dry for an hour or two.

9. To use, light a corner with a match and enjoy for 15 minutes or so.

Bottom Line

The comments on the Instructables website include some variations like pouring the wax directly into the egg carton before cutting the compartments apart, using twine instead of dental floss so it acts as a wick, wrapping the lint in strips of newspaper instead, using a crock pot to melt wax, etc. This is a simple idea with many ways to be creative. Just don't melt the wax over direct heat - you could get a flash fire.

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Friday, May 7, 2010

Vitamin D

"Faith and prayer are the vitamins of the soul; man cannot live in health without them." - Mahalia Jackson

Technically not a "vitamin," vitamin D is in a class by itself. Its metabolic product, calcitriol, is actually a hormone that targets over 2000 genes in the human body. Current research has implicated vitamin D deficiency as a major factor in the pathology of at least 17 varieties of cancer as well as heart disease, stroke, hypertension, autoimmune diseases, diabetes, depression, chronic pain, osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, muscle weakness, muscle wasting, birth defects, periodontal disease, and more.

Vitamin D's main function is to increase the flow of calcium into the bloodstream, by promoting absorption of calcium and phosphorus from food in the intestines, and reabsorption of calcium in the kidneys; enabling normal mineralization of bone. In children, vitamin D deficiency causes rickets, which results in skeletal deformities. In adults, vitamin D deficiency can lead to osteomalacia, which results in muscular weakness in addition to weak bones. Populations who may be at a high risk for vitamin D deficiencies include the elderly, obese individuals, exclusively breastfed infants, and those who have limited sun exposure.

Vitamin D3 is made in the skin in response to UVB ultraviolet light when the UV index is greater than 3. This occurs daily in the tropics, midday during last spring, summer, and early fall in temperate regions, and almost never within the arctic circles. It is nearly impossible to overdose on D through exposure to sunlight. In 10-30 minutes an equilibrium is reached and D breaks down in the skin just as fast as it's being created.

On the other hand it is possible to overdose on D via supplements. A sustained intake of 1250 micrograms/day (50,000 IU) can produce overt toxicity within months. The National Institute of Health has set a safe upper limit at 2000 IU/day.

In many countries, foods such as milk, yogurt, margarine, oil spreads, breakfast cereal, pastries, and bread are fortified with D vitamins. Fortified milk typically provides 100 IU per cup, or a quarter of the daily recommended intake for adults over age 50.

Natural sources of vitamin D include:

Fatty fish species like Herring, Catfish, Salmon, Mackerel, Sardines, Tuna, and Eel.
Fish liver oils, such as the famous cod liver oil. 1 Tablespoon (15 ml) provides 1,360 IU.
A whole egg, provides 20 IU
Beef liver, 3.5 oz cooked, provides 15 IU

Bottom Line

"Good studies have suggested that there is little to be gained by ingesting extra beta-carotene, vitamin C, vitamin E, folic acid, etc., but I think the data on vitamin D will hold up and we should all continue to follow the new information with great interest. I have seen many patients with chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia improve dramatically as they have begun taking 4,000 units of vitamin D3." - Bryan Arling, M.D. in USNews health column

[Note: do not exceed levels of 2000 IU per day without consulting a doctor first.]

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Thursday, May 6, 2010

Healthy Foods

If you like to talk to tomatoes
If a squash can make you smile
If you like to waltz with potatoes
Up and down the produce aisle...
Have we got a show for you!
- VeggieTales theme song

There are some studies that show multi-vitamins are less healthy than claimed. As one writer puts it – the carrot is more important than beta-carotene. Without the proper food context, supplemental vitamins may remain undigested and pass through the body without doing anything. Rather than relying upon health in a pill, it’s better to get your daily essential vitamins and minerals via a wise choice in the food you eat. To help with meal planning, Men’s Health Magazine has published The Most Nutritious Whole Foods for key supplements. The foods are listed in decreasing order of impact. Check out the full article for details since a single serving of some foods below will supply 1400% of what you need daily while others at the end of each list as little as 10% daily.

Vitamin A (good for eyesight and fighting viruses)
1 Cup of the following red/orange and dark green vegetables will provide at least a day’s worth of A. Raw carrots, spinach, sweet potato, turnip greens, winter squash, collard greens, cantaloupe.

B1 (Thiamin maintains energy, and helps the nerves, heart and muscles)
Sunflower seeds, Yellowfin tuna, black beans, Corn, Sesame seeds, Oatmeal, Asparagus, Brussels sprouts, Spinach, Pineapple

B6 (Involved in over 100 enzyme reactions including nerves & digestion of starch and sugar).
Banana, Chicken breast, Turkey, Cod, Potato, Avocado, Garlic, Red Pepper, Watermelon, Cauliflower

B12 (Develops blood and nerve cells and processes protein)
Clams, Duck liver, Oysters, Calf liver, Rainbow trout, Top sirloin, Skim yogurt, Milk, Lean ham, Eggs

C (Protection from colds & cancer, protects cells)
Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, Strawberries, Orange, Cantaloupe, Kiwi, Grapefruit

D (essential for calcium absorption)
Halibut, Mackerel, Salmon, Sardines, Oysters, Shrimp, Vit-D milk, Cod

E (Protects skin from UV rays)
Fortified cereal, sunflower seeds, peanut butter, almonds, olives, papays, sweet potato, spinach

Folate (Folic acid – prevents anemia, helps skin and nerves and bones)
Lentils, navy beans, beets, split peas, papaya, mustard greens, peanuts, flaxseeds, orange

Calcium (Essential for healthy bones and teeth)
Sesame seeds, Milk, Soymilk, Yogurt, Spinach, Cheese, Tofu

Iron (required for red blood cells)
Liver, soybeans, spinach, tofu, sesame seeds, kidney beans, venison, lima beans, beef, turkey

Magnesium (Helps muscles and nerves to relax, strengthens bones)
Salmon, Sunflower seeds, Sesame seeds, Prickly pear, Black beans, Almonds, Pinto beans, Brown rice, Scallops, Summer squash

Potassium (Stronger muscles, balances electrolytes, lowers risk of high blood pressure.)
Winter Squash, Avocado, Pinto beans, Lentils, Beets, Figs, Brussels sprouts, Cantaloupe, Banana, Tomato

Selenium (Protects cells from free radical damage, allows thyroid to produce hormones, and protects joints from inflammation.)
Wild oysters, Snapper, White tuna, Halibut, Shrimp, Turkey, Beef, Portobello mushrooms, Egg, Tofu

Zinc (Stabilizes metabolism and blood sugar, helps immune system when you're sick)
Beef, Lamb, Fortified cereals, Wheat germ, Venison, Sesame seeds, Pastrami, Green peas, Shrimp

Bottom Line

Looking over the list I notice that there are a few foods frequently mentioned:
Spinach and sesame seeds; also broccoli, beans, and Brussels sprouts. I definitely need to eat more vegetables.

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Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Challenging Tickets

"I fought the law and the law won"
- song title & lyrics

Unlike the song, it is possible to fight the law and win when the law is wrong. has three recent stories of individuals challenging errors in law.

In the story, Judge Fired In The Case Of The Overdue DVD, a teen was arrested for failing to return a DVD to the library (it was accidently packed when the family moved to a new town. The straw that breaks the camel's back is the DVD had been found and returned BEFORE the arrest occured. The Judge never rescinded the warrant after the library notified the court that all was forgiven. This and 71 other similar mistakes led to the judge being fired.

In, Teacher Defeats Traffic Ticket With The Power Of Math, the victim of a traffic ticket did more than just complain that the yellow light is too short. Her husband measured the light with a stop watch (several times to get an average) and found that it was .8 seconds below the time limit set by the state. The ticket was challenged in court and thrown out.

In Man Receives Ticket While Walking From Car To Parking Meter, a motorist it given a parking ticket before he has a chance to get out of his car and pay the parking meter. His letter to the DMV is a classic and resulted in the ticket being dismissed.

Bottom Line

When challenging a ticket or arrest, keep calm, don't get mad, and gather all the facts and evidence you can.

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Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Speeding Violations

Lane changin' left and right
Blowin' horns and blinkin' lights
Oh the fast lane has never been so slow
- lyrics to “Five O'Clock 500” by Alabama

The USA Today story, Speeding 'cushion' may dwindle due to recession, is worth a read. It describes how some communities are attempting to raise funds by handing out more traffic tickets or raising the cost of traffic violations:

• Police in Canton, Ohio, issued more than four times as many tickets in January of 2010 vs. January 2009. The Police Chief says a decrease in crime in the city has freed officers to do more traffic enforcement and the additional revenue from traffic citations allows his understaffed department to hire more officers.

• Tennessee is considering a law similar Georgia’s that adds a $200 fine for "super speeders," driving more than 25 mph over the posted speed limit.

• Speeding fines are being doubled in "travel-safe" zones on several stretches of highway in Missouri. A state passed a law in 2008 allows authorities to establish "travel-safe" zones on high-crash stretches of highways.

The main theme of the article is the dwindling speeding “cushion” that police used to allow. That is, no fine unless you’re over 10mph above the speed limit. Now some towns are dunning motorists for just 5mph over the limit. And waiting just past the lower speed limit sign to catch them.

Bottom Line

When you see a speed limit sign, the new speed starts at that sign. So begin breaking immediately when you see the speed sign. Police in speed traps immediately after the sign love to catch someone who is slowly breaking or coasting down to the new limit. This is particularly a problem on a main road doing 55 that suddenly switches to 30 as it enters a town. This caught my college roommate in Wyoming on Spring Break.

Another common trap catches motorists on the down side of a steep hill after gravity has increased your speed. I encountered this in rural Illinois many years ago.

Another place I’ve been caught was at a tollbooth requiring 5mph in the “Easy Pass” lane. A policeman with a speed gun stood next to the booth and waved over anyone going faster than 5mph.

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Monday, May 3, 2010

Crisis in Times Square

"We are very lucky," NYC Mayor Bloomberg said. "Thanks to alert New Yorkers and professional police officers, we avoided what could [have been] a very deadly event."

Early Saturday evening Times Square was seized with anxiety after a T-shirt vendor, Lance Orton, saw smoke billowing out of a Nissan sport-utility vehicle and alerted a NYPD officer. The Nissan Pathfider was parked with its engine running and hazards flashing near the Lion King theater. Inside was the makeshift bomb cobbled together with three 20-lb propane tanks, two 5-gallon jugs of gasoline and gunpowder from ordinary firecrackers. A small old-fashioned alarm clock was attached to a mysterious long locked metal box with wires coming out. Fortunately the detonator failed.

The heavy metal box was retrieved by a robot that smashed its way into the back window of the SUV, and was taken to a bomb disposal facility. Police inspected every other parked car for a second bomb and kept Times Square closed until 7:30 am Sunday morning. Many people missed Broadway shows or where unable to enter their hotel.

Bottom Line

Lance Orton, reluctant hero of the day, offered this advice to New Yorkers: "You see something, you say something."

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Sunday, May 2, 2010

Boston without Water

Water, water, everywhere,
Nor any drop to drink.
-The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

With abundant water at the turn of a faucet we don't appreciate it until it's gone.

Early yesterday a ten-foot watermain leading to Boston sprung a leak, pouring 8 million gallons of water per hour into the Charles River. Over 2 million people in 38 Boston communities may be without potable water for 2 or 3 days. There is water in the faucets but it must be boiled before consuming. Within 90 minutes local grocery stores were emptied of bottled water.

Bottom Line

One of the unrecognized blessings of living in America is easy and cheap access to clean drinking water. In other countries (Mexico for example) visitors often get sick from drinking local water. Ironically health paranoid Americans who buy "bottled" water are unaware that their own tap water is sometimes purer than the pricey bottled water which is less regulated by health codes.

Become prepared by storing your tap water for emergencies. See

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A Sunday Extra. The first picture of Earth taken from another planet,
i.e. from the Mars Exploration Rover Spirit in 2004.

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