Monday, July 21, 2008

Raleigh - The City of the Future

Right now, Raleigh, NC doesn't really have a theme. Vegas has gambling, Orlando has its amusement parks, Washington DC has history and museums. But Raleigh isn't really known for anything. With a new civic and convention center getting ready to open, this lack of identity hurts the city.

Here are a web site and article that contemplate a new possibility. What if we turn Raleigh into the City of the Future? Find out more here:

- A rousing rethinking of Raleigh

- Raleigh - City of the Future

Friday, September 28, 2007

I've moved to

My daily blogging has moved to:

I've moved to

My daily blogging has moved to:

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Do Car Manufacturers Drive Up Repair Costs?

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Prosthetic arm tips

After watching these videos, a question comes to mind: This is 100-year-old technology (cables and rubber bands) - Can we come up with something better? Or is this one of those things, like steering wheels, where we arrived at an optimal solution in terms of cost/reliability/functionality very quickly?

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Kassam (Qassam) rockets

Kassam rockets have been landing in Israel this week. From a technical standpoint, these rockets are interesting because they are simply oversized "candy rockets" that model rocket enthusiasts launch all the time. To learn more about candy rockets, read this article in PopSci:

Rocket food

as well as this article:

Recrystallized Candy rocket propellant

This article provides more detail on the actual construction of Kassam rockets:

The Growing Threat of the Kassam Unguided Rockets

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

The amount of pet food made in the United States

This week the news broke that a certain brand of pet food seems to be causing kidney failure and killing pets. Here's a typical story:

Pet owners nervous over the fallout from tainted food

It's an interesting story from several different angles. There is the emotional angle, obviously - no pet owner wants their dog or cat dying. There's the mystery angle - the fact that pets are dying and no one quite knows why. There's the branding angle - the "hey, I thought this was special!" angle - when you find out a single company manufactures the food that is labled as Iams, America's Choice, Eukanba, etc. (50 brands total). There's the animal testing angle, as exemplified by this paragraph:I doubt PETA is real happy about that. It is also interesting that, apparently, the company is not testing its food on a regular basis. Doesn't it seem like you would take X samples from the assembly line every day and feed it to animals to make sure its OK? It seems like that would be part of a normal quality assurance program.

But here is the angle that amazes me - the sheer mass of this company. This single company (Ontario, Canada-based Menu Foods) is recalling 60 millions cans/pouches of pet food in this recall. According to this page, Menu Foods is "the leading North American private-label/contract manufacturer of wet pet food products sold by supermarket retailers, mass merchandisers, pet specialty retailers and other retail and wholesale outlets. Menu currently produces more than one billion containers per year." That means that they are producing nearly 3 million cans of food every day.

And then there is this: "Although Menu Foods sells its food under numerous brands, the FDA's Sundlof noted that the company's recall affects only about 1 percent of the total pet food supply." If that is true, it means that there are the equivalent of 300 million cans of dog food getting produced every day. Just think of the logistical system that handles that much pet food every day - never mind the thousands of other products that get consumed. It is amazing when you think about it...

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

A New Theory of Climate Change

It has been really interesting reading the back-and-forthing on this topic:The thing that is most interesting about science is that we learn more every day...

Friday, February 02, 2007

Description of the iPhone

This article changed the way that I look at the iPhone:

Apple's New Calling: The iPhone

Friday, January 19, 2007

The questions kids ask

As you may know, I have four kids, ages 9, 6, 4 and 4.

One of the things that I didn't really understand about kids before I became a parent is that kids ask a shocking number of questions everyday. Another thing that I didn't really understand is the fact that one of your most important jobs as a parent is taking the time to answer these questions. Because the answers you give are often helping to form your kids' view of the world. It's kind of amazing when you think about it.

Some days, however, you really have to scratch your head. Yesterday I got these three questions on the same day:
  1. What is a troop? I had David and Irena in the car. We stopped at a traffic light. In front of us is a car with one of those magnetic yellow ribbon stickers and it says, "Support our troops". Obviously, if you are 6, and you are getting good at reading and you want to practice, you will read sticker and ask about troops. "What is a troop?"

    So, as the parent, you explain that a troop is a soldier. "What is a soldier?" Not a simple question when talking to a 6-year-old. "Well… a soldier is a person who works in the army." Leading to the obvious "What is the Army?" If you have kids you know that these questions can be endless, so as I dig deeper and deeper into this hole I end up talking about governments, nations, human anger, war, guns, bombs, death, etc. Ten minutes later we arrive at a question like, "But why would a soldier want to die?" Excellent question... It leads you to think about nationalism, pride, duty, freedom, employment, justice, genocide, testosterone, etc. "Why do we have to support our troops?" That leads to thoughts about politics, national interests, debates, terrorism, WMDs, intelligence... and that leads to questions about.... You can see that, honestly, you could spend months talking about all of the side branches to the question "What is a troop?" And the day is just getting started! Fortunately, in most situations like this, you eventually arrive at a destination and the subject changes.

  2. What is an ABC store? We are running some errands, and along the way we pass an ABC store. For those who do not live in North Carolina, an ABC store is the state-run liquor store. It is the only place to buy "hard" liquor in NC, I believe. I'm not entirely sure about that because I don't drink, and therefore I have had no occasion to purchase alcohol in an ABC store, or anywhere else. Which points out another thing -- as a parent, you often realize how much you don't know.

    So I try to answer the question simply. "That's a store where people buy alcoholic beverages." Obviously, "What is alcohol?" is the next question. "Well.." and I answer that question. Eventually my child asks, "Do you drink alcohol?" So I answer honestly, "No, I don't". "Why not?" So I explain that as best I can. My father had a terrible time with alcohol, and I learned all I needed to know about alcohol vicariously. But how do I say that about the kids' grandfather? And the kids have never met my father, because he is dead, because of alcohol. So you work through that whole nest of emotions.

    Eventually the child arrives at the obvious question, "Why does anyone drink alcohol?" Think how complex that is. There are psychological reasons, social reasons, peer reasons, relaxation reasons, self-medication reasons, stupid reasons… "Can I try some alcohol?" Hmmm. "Why do they have to sell alcohol in a special store?" Hmmm. "What does 'drunk' mean?" Hmmm.

    You can see that there are a huge number of decisions that you are going to make as you answer a string of questions like this, and you are going to end up flavoring your answers with your world view and experiences to some degree, and your kids are going to pick up what you say and use that information in forming their own world view, to some degree. Either accepting it as truth (the predominant mode of young children) or completely rejecting it (a frequent mode of teens).

    Thankfully you arrive at your destination eventually...

  3. So we are in bed, and I am reading the kids a book. It is a nice, quiet, safe time. We are reading the book, "The Black Stallion", which is a cool story that the kids have never heard before and they are really enjoying it. And we come upon the description of the Black Stallion's new friend, who, the book is so kind to mention, is a gelding.

"Yes my little girl."

"What is a gelding?"

Thursday, January 18, 2007

You know it is going to be a good day when... wake up, check your email, and you get a nice note like this:
It is nice getting letters like this, because they are a great way to start the day. Thanks to everyone who takes the time to write.

Looking for something inspirational to read today? Try this: How to make a million dollars.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Want to buy a mountain?

Came upon this while researching a newspaper article:

Vermont ski area for sale

Thursday, January 04, 2007

It is amazing what humans can accomplish...

...when they put their minds to it:

Whooping cranes finally whoop it up

From the article:

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

It is amazing what humans can accomplish...

...when they work together.

Think about everything that was necessary to pull this off....

Saturday, December 23, 2006

OLED watch

Interesting what you can fit into a watch these days:

Great watch, Awesome display!

Friday, December 22, 2006

Engadget How-tos

Some of these are really useful:

Engadget How-tos

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Is planet earth growing?

Is planet earth growing? It sounds preposterous, but watch these four videos and see what you think after you watch them:(These are .mov files, and may take a minute to load before playing)

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Understanding aging

I don't know why this video is so interesting to me. It is a pure lecture, so it is definitely not sexy. And you definitely have to think as you watch it. But the speaker is so good at taking very complex topics and simplifying them to explain some of the reasons why we age:

You learn a lot by watching it.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Bigfoot likes mountain bikes?

This video taught me that I know absolutely nothing about mountain biking...

But also, as you are watching it, pay close attention at the 3:10 point in the video. Is that not Bigfoot?

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Which ear do you use?

Here is the random question for today:If you read anything about the differences between the left and right sides of the brain, you know that they process information very differently. One side is more analytical, the other is more intuitive. In people who have had their corpus callosum surgically severed (usually people suffering from severe epileptic seizures), the differences between the two sides can be seen more clearly. (read more here)

Most of us have both halves of the brain connected normally through the corpus callosum , but when you talk on the phone, one side of the brain gets the message first, and so, you could imagine, it gets the "first crack" as processing the information. It may also get to interpret or compress the information before passing it to the other side (I don't know enough about the corpus callosum to know what happens).

Talking on the phone, and hearing audio information through one ear, is definitely not how we would normally hear things "in nature", so the question arises -- do you process the information differently when you talk on the phone with your left or right ears? Which ear is better? Is one ear better for business meetings and another for emotional situations?

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