Saturday, May 28, 2005

Fun fact - movies

[See previous]

With Popcorn, DVD's and TiVo, Moviegoers Are Staying Home

The fun fact is: "DVD sales and rentals alone were about $21 billion, according to the Digital Entertainment Group."

With approximately 100 million households in the U.S., it means that each household is spending about $210 per year on DVDs. Given that the standard "3 DVD" package at NetFlix is $18/month, and $18 * 12 = $216, there seems to be a pretty uncanny correlation. Alternatively, if you spend $4 to rent a DVD, it means that the average household is renting about four DVDs a month. Or the average household is buying about one DVD a month.

DVD sales bring in about twice as much money as movie theaters. According to this article, movie theaters bring in only $9.5 billion per year in ticket sales.

Between DVDs and movie tickets, the average U.S. household is spending about $300 per year on movies.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Makes me smile

[See previous]

This letter, as read on Car Talk, makes me smile.

See also these stories and Makes me smile.

Fun fact - beverages

[See previous]

This is from "Revenge of the beer geeks",, by Julie Johnson Bradford:If the "alcohol beverage market" is $48 billion, and there are roughly 100 million households in the United States, that means that each household is spending $480/year on alcoholic beverages.

That gets you wondering, "what about other drinks?" According to this article: "the nonalcoholic beverage industry... posts about $100 billion in annual sales." That's about $1,000 per household. Also: "More than 10 billion cases of carbonated soft drinks were sold in 2004, generating $66 billion in revenue. The market has grown more diverse, with juices, bottled water and sports, health and energy drinks grabbing a larger share." Energy drinks (like Red Bull) -- just energy drinks -- makes up about $2 billion of the market. According to this article, Milk accounts for about $11 billion.

So, overall, on alcholic and non-alcoholic beverages, the average household in the U.S. spends about $1,500 per year.

What about gasoline, that other essential-to-life beverage in America? According to this article, "Americans guzzle 65 billion gallons of fuel a year." That's 650 gallons per year per household, which is a little lower than I would have expected. At $2 per gallon, that's $1,300 per year on gasoline per household. So we are spending more per year on beverages than we spend per year on gasoline, on average. That is a pretty interesting statistic.

What it also means is that if you could ride a bike and drink rainwater, your family could save nearly $3,000 per year!

New idea - massive fish farms

[See previous]

A friend wrote to me and reminded me of this article: Wired 12.05: The Bluewater Revolution

From the article:It is a fascinating article because this approach solves so many problems.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

New idea

[See previous]

The Mad Genius from the Bottom of the Sea

From the article:"Enough energy to supply a thousand times the world's needs" sounds like a lot of energy. It also sounds like the end of the fossil fuel economy.

New idea

[See previous]

Little medic has a nose for illness

Here my dog has been sniffing fire hydrants for the last 10 years, and now we come to find out she could have been detecting cancer. From the article:Of course , if there are cancer-caused chemicals in the urine that can change its smell, those same chemicals can be detected in many other ways.

Fun fact

[See previous]

Child Population Dwindles in San Francisco

The article contains this fun fact:That is $760 a square foot, and it is a "bargain". My house in Cary, NC cost $90 per square foot, and that is considered "fairly normal". That's a pretty big difference.

What does a square foot of house cost where you live?

Monday, May 23, 2005

Hard to believe but true... Virgins are better off

[See previous]

Virgin at 18? Here's a Big Payoff!

From the article:The interesting question that the article leaves unanswered is, "why?" Is it because virgins spend more time studying than fooling around, so they get better grades, so they do better? Is it because virgins tend to take less risks (the assumption being that sexual activity is "risky" behavior), and this more conservative approach tends to make them more successful? What is causing the difference?

See also: The Teenager's Guide and Stiletto Heels.

Fun fact

From Can hybrids save US from foreign oil?:There are 300 million or so people in the U.S., and 60 million or so of them are school-age kids. So, approximately, every single adult in America owns a car. One out of every 1,000 of those adults owns a hybrid vehicle right now.

Totally unrelated but also interesting is this tidbit from Factory egg production: What this means is that there is one laying hen for every single person in the United States. Somewhere in the U.S., there is a laying hen that, essentially, has your name on it. You eat all the eggs that your hen produces.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

More on Google

Slides from the Google factory tour

Ten Things I Didn't Know About Google

Google's architecture

Do you Google?

Top 100 April Fool's Day Hoaxes Of All Time

Top 100 April Fool's Day Hoaxes Of All Time

Cars and driving

Today's post at SadTech talks about Cars and driving, and offers some interesting replacement options:

Click here for details

Friday, May 20, 2005

New Idea - Google webmaster control panel

[See previous]

If you watched the Google Factory Tour yesterday, you know that Google hinted at and then announced its version of a personalized homepage:What I am wondering is this: Can Google create a personalized page for WebMasters as well?

Here's the problem, and this problem happens both on big sites like HowStuffWorks as well as small sites. When you publish an article on your web site, you have no way to notify Google's spider that the article is available. So, on a big site like HowStuffWorks, it generally takes two or three days for the spider to come by and find the new article. On smaller sites it may be a week or more.

With a WebMaster interface, you would have two possible buttons. One would say, "Goggle, please spider this individual page". The other would say, "Google, please spider my entire site." When you push the button, the Google spider immediately crawls the page or the site and then the Google index updates immediately to show the changes.

Another part of the WebMaster control panel would show a complete list of all of the files from your site in the Google index. You can sort of get this now using the "site:" option, but it does not seem to be entirely accurate and it is not a compact list.

Another really nice feature for WebMasters might be this: The WebMaster types in a URL, and Google shows 10 or 20 keywords in the Google index where the page ranks highly.

Here's a feature that Google could implement with a little extra work. Google could, fairly easily, instrument its search result pages so that, when anyone clicks on a search result, Google counts the click. Then Google could create a page that indicates exactly which keywords on Google sent your site traffic, and how much traffic was sent. The one minor problem with this idea is that it would provide SEOs with even more data that they would then use to further optimize (corrupt) the Google index. On the other hand, if Google offered a WebMaster interface, it might be easier to detect SEO tampering.

The overall thrust of the idea is this: Give WebMasters some tools so they can interact directly with Google's spider and index. This would make Google's index more complete and more up-to-date.

If you have other ideas (or if you see flaws in these ideas), please add them to the comments.

For more information on Web sites, see WebKEW.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

New idea

[See Previous]

The idea is to create shoes that prevent a couch potato lifestyle:From the article:Another idea would be a second box that locks the refrigerator and pantry using the same techniques.

Google factory tour

There is a "Google factory tour" going on today, starting at 1:00 PM ET, 10:00 AM PT. You can access the video feed here:Here are the slides from the talk

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Six interesting stories on the web

Here it is -- a six-pack of interesting stories on the Web. Each one of these stories is amazing in some way, and each one has a technological twist that makes it even more unexpected:
  1. The tale of the radioactive boy scout -- the kid gets points for amazing creativity. But then he probably loses them again for not having so much common sense.

  2. Surviving Partial Ejection from A-6 Aircraft -- Truly a harrowing, white-knuckle experience with a relatively happy ending.

  3. Just a drop in the bucket -- how "a little bit each day" can really add up.

  4. Gliding into infamy -- the amazing story of the Gimli Glider. See also this tv news story.

  5. The Story of Oak Island -- The world's most amazing treasure hunt.

  6. An Unbelievable Man-Made Disaster That Almost Could Not Be Undone -- Shows you how to create your own personal Grand Canyon (not valid in all states, some restrictions apply).
See also Makes me smile.

Hard to believe but true...

[See previous]

Google Sightseeing - UFO

A strange and unexpected object shows up in Google's aerial photo libray. Click the link to see the photo.

The Google Sightseeing site is pretty cool in general.

See also: Expert Says East Texas Is Hotbed For UFO Sightings, Has Video To Prove It

New idea

[See Previous]

Welcome to Fundable

The idea is to give groups of people an organized way to buy something together. This graphic summarizes the idea very nicely (click for full view):

It is not a perfect idea, or a perfect implementation, but it is still interesting to think about.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Wrangling Windows XP

There are some good ideas in here:

A Faster, Better Behaved Windows XP

One day, you would hope, this is all automatic.

Looking on the bright side

[See previous]

Super Water Kills Bugs Dead

From the article:One question -- will it cost $2 a gallon, or $200?

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Looking at Star Wars from today's Perspective

With Episode 3 about to come out, I decided to re-watch the existing library of Star Wars films to get myself "Mentally Prepared." I was absolutely amazed at the number of anachronisms in the original Star Wars movie, and wrote them up in Watching Star Wars 28 years later.

I am not talking about the obvious things like "space ships make no noise in a vacuum." People have been talking about stuff like that for decades. What I am talking about are things that would be absolutely impossible in a society this advanced -- things that will be impossible even in our own society in just 20 or 30 years. Things like human soldiers wearing cotton cargo pants with matching shirts into battle, or the fact that the princess has to insert physical media into R2-D2:

Click here to read the article.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Hard to believe but true...

[See previous]

Irena (age 5) asked me about bed bugs this week. One of her friends had said, "don't let the bed bugs bite!" Since Irena is paranoid about bugs, the idea of a "bed bug" was a big concern to her. I told her that I had never been bitten by, or even seen, a bed bug in my entire life. I didn't believe that she had anything to worry about.

But it made me think. I'm under the impression that bed bugs were once a common problem, but that they were eradicated along with smallpox and the dodo sometime in the last century. I thought I would look them up just to be sure, and came across this surprising news story:From the article:Apparently bed bugs are experiencing a surprising resurgence.

The story has a nice photo of a bed bug -- my first sighting. And the whole thing is kind of creepy, given that I stay in hotels all the time. Just when you though it was safe to fall asleep...

Thursday, May 12, 2005

New idea

[See previous]

Centrifugal weapon could deliver stealth firepower

It is a completely new way of thinking about a gun. Instead of shooting the bullets using an explosion, the bullets are slung out of the barrel by spinning them rapidly and using their centrifugal force.

What is so interesting about this idea is that guns have existed for hundreds of years, and centrifugal force has existed since the invention of the wheel, but no one thought to put them together until now. A classic, "Why didn't I think of that?" moment.

See also the Gauss gun.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Conscious airplanes

The White House and Capitol in Washington DC were evacuated today because a small Cessna 150 airplane strayed into restricted airspace:In this case it appears to have been a complete accident -- the pilot was a student.

Within 10 years or so, airplanes will start being equipped with a rudimentary form of consciousness that makes this sort of accident, as well as intentional attacks, impossible. The book Manna, chapter 3, describes the progression.

The system will work like this. Airplanes can already detect their exact location using GPS systems. These GPS systems will be married to very detailed digital maps of the ground and the airspace over the ground. The maps will tell the airplane where every single building and structure is on the ground, and mark all areas of restricted airspace. So if a pilot steers a plane toward a building or a restricted area, a "conscious" plane will refuse to fly there. It will be, quite literally, impossible for a conscious plane to fly into a building -- the plane will "know" that flying into a building is "wrong." If all the engines fail, a conscious plane will know what is on the ground in the vicinity and do its best to crash into an unpopulated area.

As this happens, of course, planes are able to fly themselves. Pilots go extinct, and airplanes become completely automatic. Human pilots are eliminated from the cockpit because they cannot be trusted. See Manna and Robotic Nation for details.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Balloon animals

One of the things we do with the kids every so often is to go to the dollar store. We give them each a dollar and let them pick whatever.

It is very interesting to watch the decision process. You learn something about each of the kids by seeing what they are looking at. There's also the part where they have to narrow the decison from two or three items down to one. There can be a certain amount of creativity -- for example, David once went to the kitchen section (unexpected...) and picked out a big spoon because he wanted it for the sandbox.

And then there is the fact that it brings so much pleasure for them. I have not figured this out yet -- what is it about buying something that is so exciting, so pleasing? Why does it make kids (adults too for that matter) so happy? No other animal "buys" things, and humans have not had places to buy things until very recently, so it is unlikely that there is a part of the brain "wired" for buying. Does it tap into some primitive circuit that, long ago, was used to help us gather food in the wild?

Anyway... Not so long ago Wal-Mart must have looked at dollar stores, seen how popular they are and opened what we call the "junk aisle". A lot of the stuff in the junk aisle is 88 cents, but things in this aisle can range as high as three bucks.

We were at Wal-Mart today so we went to the junk aisle and let the kids pick something out. Ian picked out a dinosaur. Johnny found a little plastic gum ball machine. David got a big rubber spider. And Irena, who always takes the longest, bought a package of long balloons with a hand pump to pump them up.

What this meant is that, when we got home, Dad got to learn how to make balloon animals. I've never created a balloon animal in my life, nor cared to, but now balloon animals are in demand.

Each day I find that I am amazed at the Internet anew -- the ease with which you can find information still blows me away. You type "balloon animals" into a search engine and up pops this page:

Free balloon animal instructions

Five minutes later I had made my first balloon dog. Let me just say that, if you have small kids, you can have a whole lot of fun for $2 by buying the Wal-Mart "balloons and pump" package in the junk aisle. It provided a couple of hours of entertainment at least.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

New idea

[See previous]

No training wheels needed

The idea is to replace the training wheels on kids' bikes with a rear wheel that can transform from two wheels to one. From the article:What is so interesting about this idea to me is that I have four kids. Therefore, I have lots of little bikes with training wheels on them. Training wheels appeared to me to be the "normal" and "only" solution. My brain never considered the possibility of something better. And then a solution pops up that is so elegant -- I love when that happens. This is such an elegant solution to the problem that it elicits a laugh of surprise.

The robotic Wal-Mart

There is an eye-opening post on the coming of the Robotic Wal-Mart in the robotic news this morning. Interesting that it is 5/5/05.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Getting your business started

Since I wrote the article How to make a million dollars I have received quite a bit of email. One of the most common questions goes something like this: "I would really like to start a business, but I do not have any good ideas. Where can I find some good business ideas to get my imagination started?"

The simplest thing to do is this: go to a good bookstore or a library or amazon and look for books/magazines containing business ideas. A good bookstore will have 10 "entrepreneur" type magazines on the shelf, and a dozen books full of "home business ideas", "small business ideas" and so on. Look also for magazines dealing with franchising opportunities. Scan through books and magazines like these for ideas. That will get you started.

You can do the same on the web. There are hundreds of web sites that discuss business ideas. Go to Google and type in something like "small business ideas" or "franchising ideas" or "getting started in small business" and see what you discover.

If you have an office of the Small Business Administration in your area, they may have a library. Stop by and talk to them. They also have a web site.

I started this recently:The idea is to help people get their web ideas off the ground. It is an ongoing project. It will help you to get some ideas for web sites.

Look in your area and see if there is an entrepreneurial organization. Where I live (Raleigh, NC) it is called the CED (The Council for Entrepreneurial Development - They have meetings, tours, seminars, classes, etc. You can often get ideas by talking to other people who are starting their own businesses. Go to the meetings and start talking to other entrepreneurs. If you have no idea what to say to people, try this, "What kind of business have you started?" Ask other entrepreneurs where they got their ideas, how they got their businesses started, what roadblocks they faced, how they overcame them, and so on.

In other words: Cast a wide net and see what you catch...

Here is another common question: When can I possibly have time to start a business? This is the important thing to keep in mind: During every week of your life there are seven days. In those seven days there are 168 hours. Let's say you spend 50 hours a week at work. That leaves 118 hours outside of work for you to do anything you like. Choose to use those hours to work on business ideas.

Simply carve out a 20-hour slice per week -- 20 hours is only about one-sixth of your available free time. You will be AMAZED at what you can accomplish in 20 hours a week if you focus your attention on your business.

This quote from the Yarn Harlot is so appropriate:You can read her whole story in the YarnHarlot case study. Realign your priorities, in other words.

Larry Page Graduation Speech

Larry Page Graduation Speech

From the page:This is interesting at so many different levels. The speech itself is interesting. The fact that you can record the whole speech on a mobile phone is interesting. The fact that the recording can be broadcast to the entire world essentially for free is interesting.

What it means, essentially, is that anything you say can be captured and broadcast to the entire world in short order. It is both amazing and terrifying.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Makes me smile...

[See previous]

Teens adrift at sea rescued after 6 days

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