HarshawJ Posted by HarshawJ in Musings
on Sunday, March 18, 2012 11:17:45 PM
in a "No particular mood" mood.
Finding Bigfoot... Well, not really

Yeah, I admit it; I am caught up in the “Finding Bigfoot (Discovery Channel)” thing like many others right now. It is the latest of the pseudo-science premised shows (re: Ghost Hunters, Decoded, etc.) that has become the dear of the wannabe intellectuals. Well, I hate to do it, but I guess someone has to, (because there is no public discussion board for this sponsored by the Discovery Channel in which to post good, public observations) so, I will post my observations here to show just how off the mark they are.

Faulty Syllogisms

For the most part the show revolves around a set of faulty syllogisms. A faulty syllogism is a form of broken symbolic logic. It’s broken because the logic does not hold up to immediate scrutiny. Here is an example of proper syllogism:

a) {Major Premise} all mammals are warm blooded.
b) {Minor Premise} all bears are mammals.
c) {Conclusion} all bears are warm blooded.

Here is an example of the type of faulty syllogism that is often used on Finding Bigfoot. Note the level of assumptions used unlike the above example which uses FACTS to form a conclusion:

a) {Major Premise} The object in the photo is not a bear.
b) {Minor Premise} The object in the photo is very large.
c) {Conclusion} The object in the image is a Bigfoot.

Can you see the glaring problems in the above statement? They haven’t really ruled out a bear, the exclusion is based on an opinion, not fact, so it could still be a bear but one observed at an odd angle and thus not readily identified. Next they usually judge the size against that of a bear, assuming a bear is the largest mammal in the area… ever see a moose? Thus, having “excluded a bear” and “any other large mammal” that means it must be a Bigfoot. Really? If I was walking in the dark in a dark parka and someone was to shoot a picture of me they may very well call me a Squatch.  Apply this type of reasoning to most of their “facts” and you see quickly that most of the statements they say are full of Yeti Poo. How do I know it’s Yeti Poo? Well, what else could it be?

Quick Debunks

1) Bigfoot knocks on trees to alert other Bigfoots in the area. Really? Has ANYONE ever witnessed this behavior? The answer is of course not, since no one has hard proof that a Bigfoot even exists. This knocking assumption comes from the observation that something that sounds like knocks happens when they go looking for a Squatch. It couldn’t be falling branches in a forest or even a large animal moving through a thicket, that wouldn’t fall into their assumption that there are Bigfoots nearby.
2) Bigfoots throw rocks to scare people off. Really? Once again has ANYONE ever witnessed this behavior? No; but it could be some animal jarring loose a rock from a nearby ridge or stream bank. Since it is so simple to come up with other possible explanations, to take as a starting point a totally unproven Bigfoot really disproves the statement from the beginning favoring ANY other explanation other than being a rock thrown by a Bigfoot.
3) Bigfoots like the smell of bacon. Well, so do every other animal in the woods and so do I, so really, can this be a Bigfoot fact?
4) Bigfoots are more likely to approach women. Since we do not know that they exist how can we make a meaningful observation like this. There can be no confirmed statistical information to base this on. Again it is just an assumption, and we all know what they say when you assume.

Sighting Hotspots

One of the techniques BFRO (Bigfoot Field Research Organization) uses to “identify” places to look for the elusive Bigfoot is to ask in town meetings where locals have had their encounters. This takes a little more thought to debunk, but once you see it you will plainly see this method of “hot spotting” is fallacious as well. I will use the glaringly obvious example of the “Appalachian Trail”. When BFRO asked the people of a town fairly close to the trail where their sightings were it was not surprising that they focused around the Appalachian Trail. Why not surprising? Well, that’s where the people are. Let’s say for the sake of argument there is a real hot spot 20 miles into the woods and in fact a Bigfoot goes there every day. Now let’s say one hiker saw what he thought was a Squatch there and reports it. Well, this is one report off in the middle of nowhere and no one pays attention to it because only one person saw it. Now we find a spot along the Appalachian Trail where people see things and report them as Bigfoots. In fact it’s far more likely someone’s 6’8” cousin Jerome in a parka that likes to grab road kill. Well, this gets reported a bunch of times so it must be where the action is but in fact it is just where the people are. In a way the hot spot is just another faulty syllogism.

The Only Logical Fact BFRO Uses

The members of BFRO use the term “Squatchy Area” in almost every area. A “Squatchy Area” is one that usually has protected game animals in the area and an abundance of water and edible plants. This is a totally reasonable statement knowing that a large omnivore must live in the area. But this is just good observation of the environment, and while the statement is valid it is valid only insofar as you believe there are Bigfoots in the area, and that little fact remains unproven.

Some Bigfoot facts

- FACT: No one has ever had a confirmed kill of a Bigfoot
- FACT: No one has ever found a dead Bigfoot (damn those porcupines)
- FACT: No one has ever found Bigfoot spore/stool
- FACT: No one has ever found Bigfoot DNA
- FACT: No one has ever found Bigfoot DNA in, on or about a porcupine
- FACT: Of the possible millions of “trap cameras” just in and around the United States, NONE has ever been reported as tripped by a Bigfoot (yes, I qualify this one as I must)
- FACT: No one has ever found a dead animal killed by a Bigfoot
- FACT: Fur found high up telephone poles has never been from a Bigfoot (bear and moose usually, they use the telephone poles as scratching posts)
- FACT: Aside from the Patterson film in 1967 there has not been a single clear picture of a Bigfoot of any age, and even the Patterson film is not very clear and open to interpretation

Some OTHER Bigfoot “Facts"

- Bigfoots hang out in cemeteries
- Bigfoots like haunted area and may be why areas are considered haunted
- Bigfoots will use mattresses when available
- Bigfoots will sleep in barns or even haylofts on cold nights
- Bigfoots like to eat fresh water muscles (of course the calories it would take to pound one open would be more than the BF would get from eating it.)
- Bigfoots are peeping toms
- Bigfoots live in family units
- Bigfoots have a language of their own
- Bigfoots are eaten by porcupines when they die and thus we can never find their bones
- Bigfoots come in an array of colors and sizes (like people)
- Here’s a good one; if you have a Bigfoot encounter and DON’T see a Bigfoot it is more likely that you have had a Bigfoot encounter. (Why, because Bigfoot is SO elusive. Love that logic.)
- Bigfoots are as smart if not smarter than people (look at how well they hide)
- On the up side, Bigfoot has never had anyone’s baby (use any configuration you want)

These “Other Bigfoot Facts” are of course a small list of anecdotal facts BFRO drop in from time to time to add more flavor to the show. They are totally unproven and in some cases cannot be proven but that doesn’t stop the “true believers” from accepting them hook, line, and sinker; except for the last one, I made that up but would bet some tabloid has reported this.

The Investigations

If you can call them investigations, they tend to be three or four day jaunts to places where they have a primary sighting, maybe backed up with a photo or even video. From there they try to determine the size of the Bigfoot and maybe the speed of the Bigfoot. In most cases they eliminate the eyewitness evidence right then and there. This high scrutiny of evidence gives them an appearance of real investigator but it becomes obvious when the methods they use are usually just eyeball guestimates using Bobo as a stand-in for the Bigfoot. Of course all the initial investigations get ruled out as Bigfoot sightings, but they inevitably feel that if they stick around they will find something. At this point the group splits; one person camps out in the area and attempts to have a solo encounter (always with no confirmable results) and the rest of the group heads to the closest town and holds a town meeting to get more anecdotal evidence. From this they make a hotspot map and do a simple investigation of two or three “good” sightings. The group then gets back together and holds a night investigation somewhere near their hotspot and then leave without results. The upshot is a lot of talk and many “maybe” pieces of evidence (none confirmed) and on to the next episode.  One could get bored if it weren’t for the exuberance which they go after the “Elusive Bigfoot”. This is also where the phrase “all these maybe events are adding up to a probably for me” (usually said by Matt Moneymaker, BFRO founder) and from a logic standpoint this makes no sense whatsoever.
It quickly becomes apparent that none of these people have any training in performing a real investigation. There are no forensic skills to be seen and even if they were to come across something that has a strong chance of being related to a Bigfoot I have never seen them break out latex gloves, swabs or any kind of specimen collecting paraphernalia. The equipment they do have is off the self and there is never talk of calibrations so anything they do get from the equipment is immediately questionable. But what do you expect from “true believers”.

The Cast

Matt Moneymaker is the Founder of BFRO (Bigfoot Field Research Organization) and is credited (self-accreditations) for most of the techniques the group uses. He also has several pieces of “evidence” that he claims are authentic but have never been proven forensically. He is quick to jump to conclusions and uses the default position that anything not immediately explained MUST be a Sasquatch. It is truly hard to believe anything he has to say with that default position. He also claims to have attended UCLA but does not list degrees or fields of study. His bio on Animal Planet mentions a conference at Rutgers University on Cryptozoology but not that he has a specialty in Cryptozoology.
Cliff Barackman is the “data” guy of the group and claims a large collection of Bigfoot track castings. He has some college but as with Matt there is no evidence he ever finished college and again there are no fields of study listed. He claims to have a strong interest in the physical evidence but on the show does not display any forensic ability. He is like Matt in that his default position of anything not immediately explainable MUST be a Sasquatch.
Ranae Holland is a research biologist and holds a BS degree from the school of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences at the University of Washington. She also works with NOAA and other scientific research firms. Of all the cast members it is her that I would hope brings a sense of stability to the group, but this is seldom the case. You would think she should be pointing out the logical issues the group runs into all day, but for all this her scientific mind is relegated a back seat. She does not believe in Bigfoot and is not technically a BFRO member, but a long time interest in the area of Bigfoot compels her to want to have that Bigfoot sighting she can believe is real. It still hasn’t happened.
James “Bobo” Fay is the one true believer in the group. While the others say they believe you can feel his belief coming through the screen. He is also one to dismiss more sightings than Matt or Cliff and dismisses more “maybe” sounds and evidence during investigations. But over the years he has become a stockpile of anecdotal information and that ends up making him more endearing to the viewers than you would suspect. In investigations he is usually the Bigfoot stand-in being that he is a large guy and his strong suit is not along forensic lines. He shines when he does see or hear something “Squatchy” and his energy makes the show interesting.

Will the Real Bigfoot Please Stand Up...

From what we see from BFRO and Finding Bigfoot they are very unlikely to ever find a Bigfoot or even capture one on film, video or even any provable audio. The reason is simple, they are hit and run investigators and if Bigfoot is out there and SO rare just hanging around areas that are supposed hotspots (but aren’t) will never yield results. It’s as if Sasquatches are magic, and camera and recording devices always seem to malfunction around them. No one ever chases the Bigfoot sighting even though we have no report that a Bigfoot has ever hurt someone (if they exist at all), so why not chase. There are so many reasons to think there may be Bigfoots but not one shred of solid evidence in favor of his existence. It is like chasing UFO (which you would think with all the time these guys spend outdoors at night they should have come across as well), there is no firm starting point and thus no way to know you are getting anywhere. But maybe they could up their odds…

How I would investigate...

This Bigfoot mystery is going to be solved only with a LARGE amount of funding. First, research the most likely place a Squatch would be. Take anecdotal evidence at face value and use some real biodiversity analytics be your guide. You are probably looking for a dense forest area restricted from game hunting with year round water, plentiful edible plants and maybe easy access to shelter. Once the place is located consider your hunt area is something with a healthy radius (say 5-10 miles). Now we get serious, trap cameras, spread out a lot of them, thousands. Every camera should have a match, two cameras watching each other. Network the cameras for faster and more accurate reporting. This is a lot of work, but the elusive Bigfoot knows how not to be seen by cameras, so force the issue, saturation is your best bet. Do your Bigfoot calls all you want, try attracting them with bacon and women, whatever, but don’t stop after 4 day. At this point you need to become part of the environment. A one year expedition to an area would be reasonable. Now at this point you may well say you are going to scare off the Bigfoots, and I say if you got a 10 mile radius covered in cameras you are going to see them leaving. One other little proviso, your location MUST remain secret, if it gets out where you are any sightings become suspect.

Now go get ‘em.

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HarshawJ Posted by HarshawJ in Musings
on Sunday, February 13, 2011 07:44:07 PM
in a "No particular mood" mood.
The Saga of the Watched Bagel

A watched bagel never toasts.

Of course you have to take it out of the baggy first.

A watched bagel never toasts.

Oh yeah, you have to cut it in half, but only when you take it out of the baggy first.

A watched bagel never toasts.

It does no good to just leave the cut bagel you took out of the baggy on the counter so you put the bagel you cut in half into the toaster.

A watched bagel never toasts.

Hmm, the bagel you took out of the baggy and cut on the counter and finally put into the toaster is still not toasted, you got to put the thingy down, yeah.

A watched bagel never toasts.

The thingy is down! It’s been down for a half an hour and still the bagel you removed from the baggy and cut with the bread knife and left on the counter a while and then put into the toaster and put the thingy down is not toasted… Oh, the browning level is set at zero, so how about turning it up to setting 7 that should do it. On second thought, maybe level 5 would be good so it doesn’t burn, so I give it a twist and push down the thingy; can’t forget to push down the thingy.

A watched bagel never toasts.

It’s been 45 minutes and the bagel you took out of the baggy and cut with the bread knife and left on the counted a bit then put into the toaster and then put the thingy down only to see that the browning level was set to 0 so you set it to 5 and then put the thingy down again is still not toasted to you look for the power cord among the 7 other power cords and find out that the toaster is not plugged in after all. You plug in the toaster and push the thingy down.

A watched bagel never toasts.

Maybe the toaster is just real slow because after an hour you are beginning to wonder if setting 5 was just not enough and you should have gone with your gut instinct of setting number 7 having solved the problem of the unplugged cord and the fact that you have to put the thingy down after you remove the bagel from the baggy and cut it with a bread knife and leave it on the counter and finally put it into the toaster.  Naw, the setting is right and now the unplugged cord is double checked so finally you go over to the breaker box and see that the kitchen electrical breaker is in the off position. You look around for Lucy van Pelt and put the breaker back into the on position and walk back over to the toaster looking for unkicked footballs on the way and when you get there you are sure to put the thingy down.

A watched bagel never toasts.

You started your journey at 8 a.m. and now it is past noon and you realize that you normally don’t eat a bagel for lunch but feel you can make an exception today so you keep waiting for the bagel to toast because you turned on the breaker and there were no footballs to trip over and then plugged in the toaster and put in the bagel that you took from the baggy and cut with the serrated bread knife and left on your lovely granite counter top for a while before you realized you needed to put it into the toaster and finally put the thingy down when you look at the electric bill stuck to the refrigerator with a refrigerator magnet from the World’s Largest Lint Ball Museum from some odd little town in the Midwest you stopped in because you had to have a Snickers Bar because you had been driving all day and really just needed to stretch your legs but needed an excuse for your wife because she just wanted to get to Missoula before it got dark and it shows a shutoff date for last week.

A watched bagel never toasts.

After you stop crying because you realize for the first time in your life that life is truly unfair you pick up your cell phone and try calling the electric company but there is no signal so it does not look like you are going to be able to get your electricity back on any time soon and out of the corner of your eye you notice the calendar on the pantry door and today is December 21, 2012 and the world has come to an end as your house is swallowed up by a fissure created by the 40 mile diameter meteorite that streaked deafeningly across the sky a few moments ago as you tried vainly to put the thingy down on your ever so wonderful G.E.  10 browning level Deluxe Toastron-o-matic in the hopes that whatever little electricity is left in the wires is enough to toast the bagel you took out from the plastic Glad Ziploc Baggy and cut with your Hinkle 5 star Gourmet Serrated Bread Knife and suddenly you are at the end of the tunnel you heard about all your life and Saint Peter waves a hand at you as you pass the Pearly Gates and you stand before the Almighty God in Heaven and ask if you can get your bagel toasted and he says…

A watched bagel never toasts.

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HarshawJ Posted by HarshawJ in Musings
on Tuesday, February 01, 2011 07:42:35 PM
in a "No particular mood" mood.
The Fallacy of American Exceptionalism

I hate to burst anyone bubble but the idea of American Exceptionalism left us in the early ‘80’s and has not returned. I figured it left us in 1984, that’s the year my High School fenced in the students who formerly enjoyed an open campus. A fence you say, is that all you got? No, but it may have been the most shocking sign of the times for me. I’m fortunate, I graduated from that school the year before but the shock of seeing that fence pounded home that changes were afoot.

It could be argued that the height of American Exceptionalism was the generation that Tom Brokaw called “The Greatest Generation” in his 1998 book by the same name. This generation that fought World War Two was not aware per se of American Exceptionalism except where it meant riches in natural resources, liberty, egalitarianism, individualism, and populism. Indeed, Alexis de Tocqueville commented on “An exceptional America” a century before. The term “American Exceptionalism” actually was first used by members of the American Communist Party in the 1920’s (yes you read that right, the Communist Party). It makes sense in a way, this is post World War One and the country was working together to build a modern industrial base, the proletariat working together, a communistic ideal. After WWII this growth ramped up beyond all measure and by the time a new generation had come to the fore in the late 1960’s Americans could rightly sit back a bit on their well-earned laurels and extol the virtues of American Exceptionalism, but by that time the term “American Exceptionalism” had become synonymous with “American Superiority” and things changed.

Another President has stood in front of Congress and proclaimed “the state of the union is strong” but this is just so much more rhetoric for the masses that has become meaningless. We are not the exceptional Americans we once were and when we brag such the world laughs at us because they know we fail in many crucial areas. They know our education system is a mess, our values are self-centered, our health institutions are more interested in profits than people, our financial system is set up to spilt the country into the haves and have not’s, and politically we are so stymied that we can make no progress. Those simple examples and many more do not point to an exception America.

It is not possible to point to all the problems that must be solved for the United States to once again lead the world in the things that really matter, but maybe I can illustrate a few. Corporations need to be concerned more with people than profits. Yes, the point of a corporation is to make profits but when profits displace concern for their own employees they are doing a disservice to everyone. Likewise a corporation needs to be a good citizen of the country and ask what will help the country as well knowing that in the long run helping the country helps them. Families need to pay more attention to the values, morals, and responsibility than they are currently doing. It does not matter the values you use as long as they are responsible. It is just as responsible to bring up children with strong Christian values as it is to bring then up with strong Jewish values, or Muslim, or Hindu or even strong civic values an Atheist may instill. These values all teach self-respect and instill a sense of responsibility. Finally, hate must end. This is not to say that you cannot disagree with someone, but the vitriol we are seeing now corrode out society so much it could threaten the very existence of our country. My favorite author, Robert Heinlein, point out the first signs of a dying society is the collapse of common courtesy. This is so blindingly obvious that we can’t see it until we look for it. When civility leaves it leaves gaps in the psyche that are filled with the blackness of bad behavior that spreads like a cancer.

We are no longer the exceptional Americans that de Tocqueville saw. We are no longer the Americans of the greatest generate, for how could we ever live up to that moniker. We are instead a desperately searching people looking to reclaim that exceptionalism that we so honestly delude ourselves that we have.  What is wrong with this country and maybe with the whole world is not something that can be legislated; it is an issue of heart and perspective. It is an issue of pride, both personal and civic, in knowing that your actions are not only right for you, but right for everyone around you. We need to throw off the egotistical view we have of ourselves and broaden it and take the lead of spreading these more humane moral and ethical concepts.

Do we have the nerve, each and every one of us, to hold up a mirror to ourselves and honestly see how own actions help or hinder the people are society around us? Are we going to see a person that really only gives a hoot for him/herself, selfish and arrogant, or are we going to see a person that is trying as best they can? My suspicion is that there are some of both people in all of us, some good, and some bad. But on balance, where do you fall on the scale? We all know that a law will not make a difference; we know that the true nature of change can only come from within.

It’s out there of course, our American Exceptionalism, if we can all find it in our hearts to live up to it. And if that day ever comes, and it is my hope that it does, we can all be proud of the country we have raised up from a low spot in our history.  Let us all turn the fallacy back into a future reality.

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HarshawJ Posted by HarshawJ in Musings
on Wednesday, November 10, 2010 04:03:26 PM
in a "No particular mood" mood.
How Small is Small

I came across this description of the size of an atom that really puts things into perspective in terms of “How small is an atom?” We all think of atoms as these little orderly nuggets but they really aren’t, but how small are they? Think about this:

“Atoms are very small. Avogadro’s Number is the number of atoms of hydrogen in one gram of the gas. Hydrogen gas isn’t the sort of thing we meet up with in everyday life, however, so to get some idea of just how small atoms are let’s think instead of a lump of carbon – coal, diamond, or soot. Because each atom of carbon weighs twelve times as much as an atom of hydrogen, the same number of atoms in a gram of hydrogen would be the same as the number of atoms in twelve grams of carbon. Twelve grams is just under one half an ounce so maybe a spoon full of sugar, a rather large diamond or a rather small lump of coal would each weigh about half an ounce. And that is how much carbon contains Avogadro’s Number of atoms, 6 X 1023 (a 6 followed by 23 zeros) atoms. How can we put that number into perspective? Huge numbers are often called “astronomical” and many astronomical numbers are indeed big, so let’s try to find a comparably big number in astronomy.

The age of the universe, astronomers believe, is roughly 15 billion years, or 15 X 109 years.  Clearly 1023 is a lot bigger than 109. Let’s turn the age of the universe into an even bigger number, using the smallest unit of time we might feel familiar with, one second. Each year contains 365 days, each day contains 24 hours, and each hour contains 3600 seconds. In rough terms each year contains 32 million seconds, about 3 X 107 seconds. So 15 billion years contains 45 X 1016 seconds; following the rule that you multiply numbers like 109 and 107 by adding the exponents to get 1016. So again in round terms, the age of the universe is 5 X 1017 seconds old.

This is still way short of 6 X 1023 by six powers of ten, but that doesn’t look too bad when there are 23 powers of ten to play with. But what does that mean? Well 6 orders of ten is 1 X 106, or one million. This is a number we can wrap we can wrap our head around. Now imagine a supernatural being watching our universe from the moment of the Big Bang, creation. That being is equipped with one half ounce of carbon and the universes finest pair of tweezers, so fine they can pick off one atom of carbon off the lump at a time. Starting at the beginning of the universe, the Big Bang or Creation, the being removes one atom every second until right now. By now he has removed 1 x1017 atoms from the lump, or only one millionth of the atoms. It will still take our supernatural being one million more times the life of the universe to deplete the one half ounce of carbon. That’s how small atoms are.”

The above mind bender comes from the book In Search of Schrödinger’s Cat by John Gribbin, page 67-68. I thought it was cool enough to share so the next time you read about nanotech and our technology manipulating individual atoms you can truly appreciate the sizes they are talking about.

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HarshawJ Posted by HarshawJ in Musings
on Monday, October 25, 2010 11:21:43 PM
in a "No particular mood" mood.
I've Seen the Light

I wrote a post on Facebook (funny how I seem to be getting more and more blog entry ideas for post on Facebook) about light bulbs and had a light bulb moment. How many people need a simple primer about what a simple light bulb is and how they work? How many people know all the stuff that goes into determining what a good light bulb is? There was a time not too long ago when I didn’t know all this stuff, but I am a geek and looked it all up, and so I thought I would pass on to you what I learned in a simple manner so you too can be a green geek light bulb fanatic.

Some Terms

Let’s start with a few definitions so we are all on the same page with our terminology. This involves more than you may realize:

Light Bulb: A fixture that can be socketed into an electrical receptacle that has some sort of bulb or tube from where light is emitted. The can be large, small, round, straight or even solid, but the shape does not matter as long as it emits light. The correct terminology for a light bulb is “lamp”, but we will use light bulb so as not to confuse it with the thing you set on your night stand.

Watt: This is an amount of energy that is used to run your light bulb.  One Watt (named after James Watt) is about 1 joule per second of power. The number of Watts used has nothing to do with how bright a bulb is, just that amount of energy used. So get it out of your head that a 100W incandescent bulb is the same thing as a 100W compact florescent bulb, one would put out WAY more light than the other. The shorthand for Watt (or technically Watt Hour) is a “W”.

Average Life: This is how many hours you can expect the light bulb to last. It could be as little as 10 hours to more than 60,000 hours depending on the type and use. Your average 60W household incandescent light bulb last about 1500 hours (about 64 days of continuous use) before it will likely need replacement.

Lumens: This is how bright the bulb is. One lumen is about as bright as one candle light. Your standard 60W incandescent light bulb puts out about 750 lumens. When we talk about how bright something is it will be in lumens.

Kelvins: This is sort of a tricky one. This refers to the temperature which the light bulb burns to create light. The higher the temperature the closer to “daylight” the light is. If you look at your standard 60W light bulb you can buy at most stores for about a buck a bulb, they shed light at about 2800K. That means the filament inside the bulb gets to about 4600f degrees. That hot, but it sheds a yellowish light. But if you go find a “daylight” bulb (maybe because you have seasonal affective disorder) this is a 6400K bulbs and “burns” at 11,000f degrees, about what the sun’s surface temperature is, and why 6400K bulb is like sunshine.

Incandescent Lamp: This is the type of light bulb Thomas Edison invented in 1880 (actually he invented the first practical light bulb. Humphrey Davy, an Englishman invented the first light bulb in 1806, but it would not shine long at all). Basically it is a metal filament that glows brightly when electricity is passed through it. More specifically, the glass bulb encloses a vacuum and a tungsten metal filament. There is a correlation between Kelvins and average life of the bulb being the higher the Kelvins then generally the shorter the life span. This is why “daylight” bulbs are so expensive; they need to be much heavier duty to last longer.

Florescent Lamp: This is a whole class of bulbs that work by passing electricity through a gas vapor that then glows (the glow is called plasma) invented by Edmund Germer in 1927. These bulbs are you ordinary florescent tubes like you may have in a kitchen or garage, the new compact florescent tubes that are mostly what this article is about, neon signs, sodium/mercury vapor lamps and several others. The details on how they work are not important, but you should know that they are about six times more efficient than incandescent lights and they generate very little heat. This makes them environmentally friendly except for the mercury that must be in each one.

Light Emitting Diode (LED): Nick Holonyak created the first LED in 1962. This happens as an electron fills a “hole” in a cathode from an anode and doing so emits a photon. It’s all got to do with Quantum Physics and would recommend you look it all up if you are interested, it is very fascinating. Recent developments have led to the HPLED (high power light emitting diode) and make it possible to use this technology as everyday lighting. This is the next generation of lighting and will replace CF bulbs because they do not require mercury to run.

Seeing the Light

Ten years ago we didn’t have to think about all these things because a 60W bulb was a 60W bulb and we all knew how bright that was. Maybe we needed a bulb that was softer for decoration and looked for a 40W bulb. The kitchen was a place where it was advantageous to have a 100W or 150W bulb and this was how we thought about it, it was all sort of standard. The same thing applied to fluorescent tubes, there were some standards and that was it. We never really thought about how much electricity a bulb used until utility rates really started to climb.

With the new compact fluorescent bulbs (the ones that look like twisty pig tails) we need to know more about them to know what we want. Let’s start by understanding a regular bulb. A 60W bulb puts out about 750 lumens of light at the cost of 60 watts of power an hour. That means that in 16.6 hours that bulb will use one kilowatt. To put this in perspective, if you left one 60W light on all the time in one month it will use a little over 43 kilowatts hours(kWh).  Taking into account peak and off peak power prices my average cost per kWh is about $0.32. That means the cost to run one light bulb 24/7 for a month is about $13.75.

Now let’s look at the cost for a compact fluorescent bulb (CF). A 13W CF puts out about the same light as a 60W incandescent bulb, 750 lumens. If you run this bulb 24/7 for a month it will use 9.36 kilowatt hours. Using the same price for power as above, running a CF bulb costs just under $3.00 a month. Using a CF saves me $10.75 a month just in power costs. Considering I paid only $0.40 for the bulb (they were on special at Lowes) I have actually paid for all the 13W CF bulbs that replaced my old 60W with a few extra bulbs in case some fizz out early. And that is just one bulb for one month; imagine how much I am saving by using all the bulbs?

I replaced 4 75W spots in the kitchen with 4 13W CF. I replaced 4 in one bath and 6 in another. I replaced 6 bulbs in a bedroom and 7 around the house for a total of like 28 bulbs. When I did this last year in my old apartment in November I saved over $110 over that bill the year before. I am estimating that I save about $1250 a year by moving to CFs.

A good rule of thumb for changing out an incandescent for a CF is to look for that equivalent CF that is 20% of the incandescent wattage. A 45W is now like a 9W CF, a 65W is like a 13W CF, a 100W is like a 20W CF and so on. You should be able to get just about any size CF for just about any use. I even saw a “Black Light” CF for Halloween last week.

Prices right now for CF are generally higher than for incandescent bulbs unless they are on sale and that is often now that production is ramping up for CFs. Also, you can sometimes get rebates and coupons from your power company to help you make the switch. But your biggest draw should be the simple fact that these bulbs use 1/5th the power of incandescent bulbs and you will likely see the savings in your very next power bill (or the one after for sure). Usually one month savings is enough to save you more than you spent to put in the new lights.

There is one other consideration that comes with changing out bulbs like this, the average life of the bulb. Your standard incandescent will last somewhere between 1000 to 2000 hours and then need be replaced. The new CFs average life is about 8000 to 12000 hours.  Even if every CF bulb was like $8.00 you would still be cheaper to buy CFs, by a lot.

Most of the packaging for CF bulbs say they last for 5 to 7 years or more. I have yet to see that, but I have burned out a few CFs. I have found that CFs do not do well with power spikes. So, my only word of advice is to install a few of them and see how they work for you. I still think you should just replace them all, even if a few go bad the savings will be worth it.

I don’t know what the savings over the life of each bulb would be, it would vary with your power costs, but it has to be significant. And with those saving you may want to consider even better lighting by moving up to higher temperature CFs.

Why higher temperature bulbs?

Here it is in a nutshell, the higher the number in Kelvins (K) the bulb the more colors are visible. If you want your décor to look better, the colors to pop more go for some of the higher temperature bulbs. With the prices dropping and our understanding increasing it should be obvious that these lights are just plain better. If you use standard 2800K bulbs for everything else, use a 3400K bulb for a reading light, it will make it easier. If you use spots for art work or such, use a 4800K or 5400K to make the colors read true and pop more.

There is one additional reason to use a very high temperature bulb (5800K and 6400K) and that is for those with SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). During the winter these people suffer undue depression simply because there is not enough daylight. By using these “daylight” bulbs you can help SAD sufferers cope with this waning light. I know, I have seen it work with a family member. Considering the prices are coming down so fast and these bulbs, usually very short lived are lasting even longer, there should be no reason not to have better quality light in your home.

The Future of the Light Bulb

High Power Light Emitting Diodes are the next stage of light bulb technology. Already, HPLED or just LEDs, are being used for lasers, flashlights, public traffic lights and other uses where very long life is needed. These are also used where a very small light is needed. They work simply by conducting and electrical charge across a gap from an anode to a cathode. The higher charged electron on the anode falls to a ground state on the cathode (into a “hole”) and in the process emits a photon. If this all sounds like quantum physics you are right. They require a heat sink (usually under the LED) and use about the same power as the CFs. The difference is they can last a VERY long time, like 30,000 to 50,000 hours or even more. Also, depending on the elements used the color and temperature can be just about anything. The new “white” LEDs work by creating a blue light that shines on to a phosphor making pure white light.

The prices for these lights are very high, but if you have the money to invest $30 to $60 per bulb it may be worth switching to now and not having to deal with your bulbs for 15 years or more. And since they use only 1/5 the power of incandescent bulbs the cost could be paid off very quick. I am considering replacing one bulb a month until they are all replaced.

It Isn’t Easy Being Green

All bulbs should be disposed of properly. Incandescent, Fluorescent, and LED bulbs all use rare elements that should not be simply put into a trash can and dumped. You should hold on to used bulbs until your community has a “hazardous waste round-up” (usually once a year) and drop them off there. You will get the satisfaction of knowing that you are doing the environmentally correct thing. Also, since these new bulbs last so long they generate less pollution and waste. All this is good and green, you just have to do it and reap the huge savings on your power bill. And hey, while you are saving on your power bill you are drawing less electricity and lowering your carbon emissions used to generate your electricity. Wow, it really can be one big green world and we can all save some hard earned cash!

One other little side effect for those that like to use a lot of lights in their homes; the CFs and LEDs generate a lot less heat and therefore you also save on your cooling bill. You may not believe it can really make a difference, but the incandescent bulbs get really hot. This should be something you really should consider.

When you move, and most of us will move at one time or another, leave the CFs as an example for the new people who will occupy your home. Or, if you have splurged for LED lights and the prices have not dropped considerably, pull all your LEDs and take them with you and save a bundle on replacement cost. The long life of the LEDs make taking them with you reasonable.

I hope this has shed a little light on light bulbs.

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HarshawJ Posted by HarshawJ in Musings
on Monday, August 16, 2010 04:26:16 PM
in a "No particular mood" mood.
image
Social Networks

To date I have not commented on Internet social networks because I have had very mixed opinions about them. Certainly I have dabbled with MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, and several other social/dating sites, (in fact I found my wife on a social networking site) but in the long run I have always come back here, to my own personal blog and been done with it. I did not see the appeal of the social networks beyond making hookups or something like that. In fact, I did not see the appeal of blogs (which I now realize is the absolute most basic form of social network) until I felt the need to work out inter struggles for myself and occasionally vent to a neutral audience. In that regard a blog has helped me and in turn I have begun using my blog in a very different way. I now blog opinion as opposed to angst because I do not feel the need to write self examining posts any more, I have dealt with issues and resolved them. But blogs are too simple a beast to be true social networks; the big networks are completely different beasts.

There is no point in trying to define what a social network is, if you ask a hundred different people you will likely get a hundred different answers because a social network is something different to every person. I can tell you what I think it is; for me it is a an electronic exchange via the Internet, a way of maintaining tacit contact with friends I have had over the years (or at least the friends I want to maintain contact with.) I do not report every move I make through Twitter, I do not express every feeling I have on Facebook. Occasionally I share some photos with the public and a few private ones with family. There are times when I will post an opinion or give a brief review of something. I do not play the games. I do not search out groups of people with similar interest. I do not post too much information. In short I use very little of what is offered for free and I would certainly not pay for any of this even if the most basic functions required a fee. In short I can do without social networks, so for me they mean very little.

So why is it so many people now will live an die by their Twitter account? Why are so many people completely hooked on Facebook. I even read a bio on a particular blogger who described Facebook as her secret and shameful addiction. Why are we drawn to it? Could the answer be vanity?

“I am Vanity and my name is Facebook!”

There is a movie coming out at the beginning of October and is called simply enough “The Social Network”. It is about how Facebook and MySpace came to be. The movie looks interesting but what is really interesting is the trailer for the movie. The music for the trailer is “Creep” by Radiohead, except is it covered by a girls choir (I am pretty sure it is not Scala and Kolacny). Anyway, the lyrics in the trailer pick up at the third verse and go like this:

I don’t care if it hurts,
I wanna have control
I want a perfect body
I want a perfect soul

I want you to notice
when I’m not around
You’re so very (fucking) special
I wish I was special

It is this last line that sums up a large part of the social network experience, “I wish I was special”. In a world that moves so fast I feel that it is hard to create lasting bonds of friendship. (Certainly for myself I know I have a very limited number of friends and sometimes that makes me sad.) Strong friendships make you feel special; we all wish we were special. For some people it is really hard to make friends IRL (in real life) and here come the social networks and people can grasp the human need to interact and maybe be special. It is truly heart rending to think of all the people crying out for interaction and the only way they can achieve it is through a social network. Oddly, the song continues as to who the people may be:

But I’m a creep
I’m a weirdo
What the hell am I doin’ here?
I don’t belong here, ohhhh, ohhhh

Is this not everyone (metaphorically) at some point in their lives? Doesn’t everyone deal with feelings of awkwardness and antisocial behavior? The wallflowers, the geeks, the nerds, the hipsters, the inept, the verbally challenged, the overly sensitive, the totally insensitive, the homebound, the terminally ill, the agoraphobic, the fashionable, the seekers, the lost, the shy, and so on all can find an outlet though a social network and may be special to someone or special within a group they identify with. For some the mere fact that they can identify with a group makes them special in their mind. The fact that they can interact at their own pace and in their own way is the beauty of the network. The interaction fulfills our need of some sort of vanity, something that we need for our self esteem.

Voyeurism is Interaction

Then there are “the Lurkers”. Lurkers are people that watch everyone and say very little. You would think that “lurking” is just more anti-social behavior, and in a way it is, to you, but not to the person watching. This silent form of interaction may be creepy but it is interaction if only in one direction. Is this better any better than no interaction at all? Well to me it would seem to be for at least the person doing the lurking is looking for interaction even if it is safe and one way only. Lastly, lurking is not stalking. Stalking requires more interaction than is covered by this topic.

Lurkers feel safe in what they d because the “Shield of Anonymity” the Internet supposedly provides. This perceived shield allow certain people the act with a freedom they may never exercise in real life for fear of what other may think. On the Internet no one knows who you are if you do not want them to and you are protected from physical interaction. Your secret avatar has it’s own life and you need never acknowledge it and no one is the wiser. Even if someone hates your avatar and this concerns you, you can always create a new one and go on your merry way, safe.

Fallacy of Anonymity

When the web was still young and the name “the Internet” was newly coined, one of the true benefits of the Internet was that you were truly just a number, and a mysterious number at that. Back then an IP address was just a number and someone using one could be anyone and there was no way of tracing anything. Like law schools with their “Unsigned Papers” where radical and dissenting opinions are voiced, the Internet was one vast Unsigned Paper. The Internet was a repository for information and free to all, until the marketers got in on it.

Marketing, this was the end of privacy on the Internet. Now information got classified, content that was not worth paying for and content that was worth paying for. Now if you wanted to access any content deemed to have worth you must to divulge who you are. During the late 1990’s this idea of anonymity was incredibly important. Today people now freely post their personal information without a second thought. Why the change? Social Networks.

Today you could, if you tried very hard, still remain anonymous on the Internet. You could use Gift Credit Cards paid with cash to purchase Internet access. You could create non-personal email account on Yahoo. You could then create accounts on MySpace and Facebook and interact completely anonymously. You could even use your anonymous debit credit card to buy digital downloads and such. You could not buy anything real that would have to be sent to you, even if it goes to an anonymous P.O.Box. You could not do any banking, you could not pay any bills, you could not even play most games. Heck, you could not even look up anyone you know (on MySpace or Facebook and such) because the web of associations you make would indicate who you are. It’s all a bit more complicated than that (like be sure to buy a computer with cash because the MAC address and CPU IDs are recorded and associated with the purchaser (remember the dust up a couple of months ago when Apple insisted you pay for your iPad with a real credit card so they could record who you are?)) but you get the idea.

So, 1998 and privacy is a huge concern and now it is 2010 and the only privacy we seem to have is our medical records which are still open books to most insurance companies and if your medical records are purchasable, you have no privacy. To wit the opinion of most people is that since we have no privacy why not post all your information and not really worry about it. After all, how cool can you be on Facebook without a complete profile.

So we are clear, once you get onto a Social Network, unless you have taken great pains to hide your identity, ANYONE can find you, and usually do it in minutes. Without knowing anything special about someone consider this: If you have someone’s name, zip code and age, how many people do you honestly think are going to share these stats? Sure, you may get a few hits on someone named John Smith in Los Angeles, but how many Tyler Conways in 90012, Male, and 24 years old are there? You can see my point; it is easy to track someone down with minimal information all available at the touch of a few buttons and the search of a few public records.

Simply put, the social networks pretty much abolish your hope for anonymity. But I digress…

Your Social Network

There was a time before computers and the Internet where your social network was your real life friends, the people that you would hang out with, the people you met for dinner, played poker with, helped out in time of need, talked to on the phone, interacted in a real physical “in real life” way. In many ways we seem to have lost that. Certainly the current generation of young people interacts less face to face than previous generations. This is not a misconception/misperception because I am getting older, this is truly the case. The internet is teaching our children to be less social on a personal level and has replaced it with social interaction on the net. To quote the movie “The Net”: “No one leaves the house anymore. No one has sex. The Net is (the) ultimate condom.”

Personally I would like to extend my IRL social network. It’s not that I don’t like the social network I have online, it is just you really can’t enjoy a beer with someone while typing with one hand and guzzling a beer with the other. That and whole lot of other activities are not possible or immensely less satisfying over the net. We really need to reach out to others, even those in our online social network and make an effort to take the social network into real life. Living in cyberspace is not healthy.

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HarshawJ Posted by HarshawJ in Musings
on Saturday, July 24, 2010 06:29:55 PM
in a "No particular mood" mood.
I'm Haunted

So, have I ever mentioned that I’m haunted? I don’t mean in the teen angst emotional depressed sort of way, but in supernatural sense. Yep, I have my own personal ghost or spirit or poltergeist or something quite insubstantial. I know this because he let’s himself be known and because I conjured him. That’s right, I guess I ask for it and his name is George.

So, how did I evoke such a spirit? Well it all happened about 12 years ago when my daughter was being particularly unruly. She said something to the effect she would be better off if she has a brother. I jokingly told her she had a brother George, but he acted up too and now we only have her, implying a Cosby witticism, “We brought you into this world, and we can take you out … and make another one just like you.” The quieted her quickly as she though about it then called the bluff. But that was the start of George.

In the next few days we had all sorts of weird things happen around the house, lights turning on and off, televisions would turn off at interesting moments, things would be moved around the kitchen, and personal items (wallets, watches) would not be where you usually set them. All in all it was a weird couple of days and that is when we decided we had a ghost. It was nothing malicious, more like playful happenings.

Now some would say it is a poltergeist, but there has never been any sound related to this “entity”, so no, it’s not that. Besides, while I do have a daughter, she was neither angry nor a teen when this developed. Furthermore, this entity has attached to me. It has moved from an apartment in Canyon Country to a house in Castaic, to a house in Northridge and finally to my current apartment.

Over the years I have become accustom to the strange little things that just occur, but this was new to Nancy. She moved in and brought a computer that was perfectly fine. But wouldn’t you know, a few months later George figured out how to turn off her monitor and I suggested she tell George to leave it alone. That worked and eventually it just because a habit to get the monitor to work.

I know, I know, you all say that it was just part of the process of warming up the monitor and that happens once in a while. Well, that may be true, but how do you explain it also happen after the monitor has been on all night? The fact of the matter is the switching off of the monitor happen only when she is on the computer and then only when it seems to bug her most. Then if she sternly addresses George it stops. Also, we replaced the flat screen monitor with a large regular monitor and now the same thing is happening with this monitor. When we hooked up the new monitor there was a gap of a few months when nothing happened to the monitor, so saying it’s the monitor or even the computer does not scan.

Here is another example. When we got a cat all the activity ceased. The cat would approach something, meow at it and then move along. Now, after the having the cat around for half a year, the “happenings” are starting again. The monitor is acting up once in a while, the amplifier pops and crackles and the TV even turns off at moment of the most interest.

Further proof of the “George” haunting me: Yesterday we went to the doctor and the radio in the car would cut in and out. In fact it would in some cases cut in and out on command. It finally stopped but it was weird. You are going to ask, how hot it was… well it was 115 outside and who knows how hot inside so I guess the over heating sensor in the stereo could have kicked in. But in and out and in and out again? Unlikely. Also, later when we went about out business it was hotter inside and out and there was no issue. It was George again. (BTW, this had never happened to Nancy before.)

So as we prepare to move we keep in mind out extra roomie and pack the electronics carefully. It will be interesting to see how long it takes for George to let himself be known at the new place. (The new place is just 2 years old and we are the second tenants in the unit so there should not be any electrical issues.)

We shall see, oh yes, we shall see.

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HarshawJ Posted by HarshawJ in Musings
on Monday, July 12, 2010 03:58:05 PM
in a "No particular mood" mood.
Beezid’s; What a Deal… LOL

“Dan just won this Ford Mustang for $735.42, and you too can get deals like these, on Beezid” or something like that, so says Beezid’s ad. With a claim like that I had to check it out.

So, how could Beezid offer such high ticket items for so little money? I thought at first they got their inventory as seconds, refurbs, ding or dent, clearance, product discontinued stock and so on so. After looking at their inventory there was not a word about any of this (although the one computer they were auctioning was using older technology but it was still a good computer) so I am assuming it is all new in the box, as it were. I guess I need to dig deeper…

It seemed to me that selling products at 90% below retail would cut margin to 0 and in fact the cost would be more than what is paid for the item. No one is in business to loose money; there must be a trick to it, that’s when I noticed the “Bid Packs” they were auctioning. “Bid Packs”? Yeah “Bid Packs”.

This isn’t eBay, this is Beezid and every time you hit the bid button you have to pay for a bid. What you do is spend a few hundred dollars on “Bid Packs” or you can bid for “Bid Packs”. Then you take your bids and bid on items you want. But don’t think you are going to wait until the last second then bid and think you are going to win… when you hit the bid button you add an additional 10, 20 or 30 seconds to the clock. “Huh” I hear you say? Yeah, you can’t snipe the low price at the last second, the additional seconds give some other would be sniper the chance to snipe at your bid… and on and on… This of course encourages more bids and really, what is Beezid selling? Yeah, bids.

So, let’s look at that Ford Mustang deal Dan won:

Price of the Mustang: About $34,000
Price Dan paid to Beezid: About $750
Number of Bids: about 75,000 (in penny increments remember)

How did Dan do:
New Mustang for $34,000 (about)
His cost: $750.00 (about)
Number of Bids by Dan: Unknown but at least one, probably many more.
Net for Dan: $34,000 - $750 – (bids) = +$33,249 (about)

How did Beezid do:
New Mustang (at cost): maybe $23,000
Income on bids: about $56,000 = (75,000 * $.75)
Net Profit: $33,000 (Cha Ching)

This is all ballpark numbers, but I would be willing to say it is pretty close for government work. This is basically a high tech raffle, everyone pays money for their tickets (bids) and one lucky winner takes they prize. But then again, everyone else is SOL, you know, “Sorry, Outta Luck”. Of course for the charity holding the raffle they get a nice donation when it is all over and someone walks away happy but we don’t care it is all for a good cause. Here it is all for Beezid’s profit margin.

In an auction like the one for the Mustang it is very likely that some people spent thousands in bids and walked away empty handed. Of course the people bidding at the start were looking at a pie-in-the-sky price for it the win, hoping against hope that everyone sort of fell asleep and their bid would be the last. There were 75,000 bids on that car, it was a lottery when all was said and done.

Now I am scratching my head because I thought that when eBay first came online they also had a pay for bids system and that was their hook on making money. Further I thought there was like a law suit against them and the pay per bid system went away because it was illegal. In any case it seems to me that Beezid is a more expensive site than you will ever get back unless you get lucky. They can spice it up all they want, but it is going to get expensive real fast.

Another thing… they limit the number of auctions thereby enticing more people to bid on the few items available. While this still means you may pick up a $1200 TV for $400 they are making more bids and paying for less items. Also, the more people who start buying in the higher the prices will get and Beezid is going to make out like a bandit. In fact, bandit may be the exact word for it since I am pretty sure this is all illegal.

Good idea, I for one will not be lining Beezid’s pockets.

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HarshawJ Posted by HarshawJ in Musings
on Sunday, June 20, 2010 01:54:40 AM
in a "No particular mood" mood.
Free Money for Surveys... LOL

Someone asked me about the “Free Money for Surveys” thing that you see all over the web and on late night infomercials. Having done programming for a company that did this sort of thing I have an insight other people may not.

Something you should realize about these “research” projects… they are not doing research for whatever it is they claim to be looking for information on, they are doing research ON YOU.

More than likely they will ask you for your address to send you a check. They do this not only to send you your money but to verify that you are who you say you are. BTW, they then get the information on who you bank with or if you use a check cashing place. The information about you starts to accrue. 

Will they pay you for your information? Yes; they may pay you $20 or more for your information (and they now have in a profile on you) and then sell that information. Take a survey, sure they pay you another $20 and then sell your responses and profile to other companies (yes plural) for $50 (maybe more, maybe less) per record. Say they have 4 companies interested in this information they will have netted $180 PER PERSON TAKING THE SURVEY.

Combine this with your “profile” and they start to get a pretty good picture of who you are (physical, psychological, tastes, political leanings, sexual preferences, and a whole lot more) and your general profile becomes worth a lot of money. The more surveys you take, the more your profile is worth. Sure they may fork over a few hundred to you by the time you stop answering surveys (and you will eventually stop answering surveys) but they will make thousands if not tens of thousands of dollars off your information resold to anyone that wants to do targeted marketing, psychological research, social research, market trending, and a whole lot more.

It is sure as can be one of the “surveys” will be about your preference of supermarkets. They will ask if you use the “supermarket saving cards” and if you do they will buy your shopping preferences. Another survey will be on your use of credit cards. They will ask which company you use but never ask for your number (because that would be invasive, LOL) and then buy the info from them on your card usage.

Have you done anything that has a public record(buy a house, get married, change your name, get a traffic ticket, been arrested, involved in a fire, social services, child services, etc)? If so they will find it and add it to your record (see what a little info can get them) and by now your profile is incredibly detailed. It is a good bet they have pictures of you, your spouse, your kids, your parents, etc. They will certainly know your whole family structure (from social networks, census information, medical records, etc.)(You don’t think Ancestry.com does what it does for nothing do you? YOU PAY THEM TO RESEARCH YOUR FAMILY STRUCTURE AND THEY THEN RESELL THAT DATA!) They will know your complete tax history and employment history (better than you), and finally, they will know your complete medical history (and insurance history).

Even if you stop taking surveys they will continue selling your information, sometimes for years. Through the years they will send you a junk email and if the email is not returned they know it is valid and keep selling your information. Same holds for the postal mail, phone numbers, etc.

So, you will see an increase in junk email and junk postal mail. You will get more calls from solicitors and it is quite possible you will get solicitors at your door.

There is a whole lot more to this but you get the picture, your information and opinions are worth FAR MORE MONEY THAN YOU EVER GET.

Want a twist? Let’s say you do start doing these surveys and let’s say you “opt in” to multiple “research” projects, it is very likely that you will have opted in with a particular company multiple times. Now of course each company is going to ask similar questions, but if you are not honest and answer the questions differently the company you have multiple opt ins with will know your honesty level. Answer too many surveys dishonestly and they will cut you off and have gained a very powerful insight about you.

Can you guess three of the biggest of these companies? They are Equifax, Trans-Union, and Experian, the credit rating companies. It is a sure bet your research company will sell all the information they have to these big three, and now your personal information is really getting around.

I used to say this, “Give me a few minutes and I will tell you what you had for breakfast.” A few people took me up on that and you know what? I told them what they had for breakfast and I was right. As I said the information on each person is incredibly detailed. School records, college records and exam information, the list of information never seems to end.

Yes, I wrote programs for companies that did this sort of thing. I made a whole lot of money doing it. Personally, I would never get involved in one of these schemes, but hey, the money they offer is real, it is a legitimate offer and there is nothing illegal about it. But you really should know what you’re getting involved with and that is why I took the time to write this.

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HarshawJ Posted by HarshawJ in Musings
on Tuesday, April 13, 2010 04:44:54 AM
in a "intimate" mood.
Albinoni or Giazotto? Who composed Adagio in G minor?

The “Adagio in G minor for Organ and Strings” was supposedly written by Tomaso Albinoni sometime between 1695 and 1705 in a period in his life where his creativity was more split between his opera compositions and instrumental work. We do not know the exact year since the original composition was lost in the Allied Fire Bombing of Dresden in 1945 during World War II. In fact the Major Corpus of his works are lost at this time, very few complete pieces of his remained. Alas, musicologist are literally reconstructing pieces of Albinoni’s work from burnt scraps found in Dresden repositories. It should therefore be noted with some caution that when you hear an “Albinoni” piece, it is likely that while you may be listening to mostly what Albinoni wrote the arrangement is likely contemporary and whole passages may be extrapolated from, say, just a bass line or a few bars of the violin part. Enter Remo Giazotto…

Giazotto was an Italian musicologist, music critic, and composer, mostly known through his systematic catalogue of the works of Tomaso Albinoni. By all account he was well versed in music, especially music of the 17th and 18th century. In 1947 he had the Dresden Library send what was left of the Trio Sonata by Albinoni to him in Italy. From this Giazotto “arranged” the now famous “Adagio in G minor” based on a bass line from a slow passage in the Trio Sonata. 1958 he published the Adagio crediting Albinoni, but by 1965 he claimed full credit for the work. There is controversy still as to who this piece should be properly attributed.

We will of course never know the answer to who really wrote “Adagio” unless the original or some verifiable copy of it or the Trio Sonata is found and can be verified older than 1945. But maybe we can extrapolate and answer by listening to some of Albinoni’s other work, particularly the slower moving pieces.

When listening to Albinoni there are some qualities you can immediately discern; foremost is Albinoni’s use of very clockwork like cadence. This is not a negative of Albinoni’s but rather an expression of style. It is in fact that meticulous timing that brings out the beauty, a fine Swiss watch as opposed to a Timex. Another quality is his backing syncopations, they are there in the background to add an emotional tension that enhances our emotional feel for the music; we hear it but do not relate it consciously to the way we are feeling. Third, Albinoni was a composer to get right to the point, rarely did he use “pickup” or “intro” themes in his music, use of intros in music is considered rather modern in fact. Let’s take these three ideas and see how they work with or against the “Adagio”.

The first 25 seconds of the piece is an introduction to the main theme. For a 17th/18th century composer to have written this may be too much to ask. An intro of only a few bars to get the listeners attention I could see, but maybe Albinoni was ahead of his time in this regard. If so he never showed it anywhere else in his composition.  At about 3 minutes there is a very long stretch between organ and violin. This duet is rather drawn out it seems to me for Albinoni’s usual style, especially since there is no additional “clockwork” counterpoint for a whole 1 minute and 30 seconds, at which point you can hear Albinoni in all his glory, counterpoint and all. At 7 minutes the piece enters into a series of connected chords, almost a tone poem of sorts. And finally a long drawn out ending (30 seconds),

Are we listening to Albinoni? Yes, there are certainly parts that make me want to say that this is Albinoni, but then again there are sections of the piece that may be a bit too modern. The intro and duet are for me points of contention that I could see NOT being Albinoni but rather Giazotto. It is not that Giazotto did poorly, he did quite well, but his modern training is showing. One other part stands out as Ablinoni, all be it a variation is the “tone poem” section. Here may be a patchwork of a sorts; I believe Giazotto used the chording of Concerto in B flat Opus 9/1 as the basis for this section of the Adagio. Listen to it and make up your own mind. It should be noted it is not uncommon for composers to “reuse” parts of their own works they liked, so this could indeed be Albinoni doing the deed, but I do not feel that is correct for the abrupt way the section is added. Somehow I feel Albinoni would have found a more flowing way to enter a tonal section like that if he had written it.

So, Albinoni or Giazotto? Personally I think this is a toss up but leaning more to Albinoni; not that Giazotto didn’t have a strong influence. In which case Giazotto was correct in his original attribution and should not have claimed it later.

Of course none of this has anything to do with the fact that Adagio in G minor is now one of the most recognizable and romantic themes to date. In the end it truly does not matter who wrote it, this piece, be it Albinoni or Giazotto will be with us always and stirring people’s emotions and thoughts forever more.

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HarshawJ Posted by HarshawJ in Musings
on Tuesday, March 30, 2010 02:09:32 AM
in a "No particular mood" mood.
That Darn Cat

imageHere is a brief story on how I acquired a cat…

About 7 months ago someone in our apartment complex must have moved out and like many people could not take their pet with them (or so I am assuming). About this time is when we started seeing this bi-colored blue and white British Standard shorthaired lurking around. He was understandably standoffish to everyone, but being a handsome cat some of the people in the area would leave out tuna or whatnot that he would enjoy when absolutely no one was looking.

After about 3 months of this lurking I was finally able to approach him and pick him up. No one in the complex could get close to him, but I have a way with animals. This is when we decided to get some proper cat food for the poor guy and leave it for him on the porch. It was not long after that he was poking his nose into our apartment. This is when I had to make a decision, let him in or keep him out. Not an easy choice because I am (or at least was) allergic to cats. For whatever reason however, I do not seem to have a problem with this cat. I let him in and that was all she wrote as my new owner made himself comfortable.

For the record his name is: Socks, Lord Marbury, Emissary of Jeff and Nan, the Dignified. The Socks was what Nan originally named him because of his wonderful white socks. I though he acted more like Lord Marbury for the character on The West Wing so we added that too. The Emissary part was because he seemed to announce himself and us wherever he goes. The Dignified is for this way to prominent ego that he exerts whenever he is caught being kittenish. We call him any of the four but usually Socks.

This is a well trained cat. He does not seem to be destructive and any way, he rarely scratches and when he does, it does not seem to be damaging anything (although the tree in front of our apartment is just about bare of bark.) He now lets us pick him up whenever we like but he complains about it very vocally (purring the whole time) pretending to be indignant. In the mornings and evenings it is thunder-paws through the apartment (very cattish) and he love his “Pounce”, Catnip Mouse, and dangly toy. He is not a “high energy” cat which is good, because I am not sure I could handle I high energy pet. In other words; he’s a great cat.

Nan says he is my cat mostly because he will stay with me more often than not. I have not had that kind of companionship since I was in high school and our family dog Bandit would stay with me all the time. I had a cockatoo who was attached to me, but it is not the same as a dog or cat, there is that cage thing at night where as cats and dogs can jump on your bed and be foot warmers. Recently he has taken to jumping up on an ottoman that I put my laptop on and looking at me over the screen. It is really very funny, especially when he thinks he needs more attention and walks all over the keyboard. Yeah, he’s my cat.

Now being mostly a blue cat I think he thinks he can be invisible. He will find a place to sit and stay real still and dissolve into the background watching us all the while. When we do approach him he gets miffed and finds a new spot. Earlier this week he took “Stealth Kitty” to a new level. I had to take out the trash rather late in the evening and as I left I left the front door open. This is not a problem for the cat, we leave the patio door open all the time so he can go out whenever he wants. As I left he stuck his head out the door. I turned the corner and there he was following me. As soon as he saw that I saw him he bolted for the bushes. As I walked to the dumpster he followed me moving from bush to bush, “out of sight”. I decide to see if he was following me or just going out for a romp, so I went around the building. He followed. Eventually he was walking right on my heel, it was a funny sight. I got back to the apartment and he followed me and that was when I first “walked the cat”.

Now I take a few cat treats along with me and when he get close I drop one and wait for him to eat it. He looks up to me and on we go. He stays behind me, runs 15 feet or so ahead of me, but stays within a short distance waiting for another treat. This is how I am training our cat and it seems to be working. Someone saw me walking the cat this evening and I told him I was walking the cat, he busted up laughing at the sight of a cat doing what you might expect a dog to do. It is rather comical.

So far we have only tried this late at night when there are no other animals around so there is more work to be done. So far however the “walking the cat” has been fun.

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HarshawJ Posted by HarshawJ in Musings
on Thursday, March 25, 2010 08:16:28 PM
in a "infuriated" mood.
Politically Motivated Stupidity

It’s all about subtext. Don’t you get it, it’s all about subtext? Yes. Hate group leaders understand this; when they want their membership to do something immoral or illegal they don’t tell them directly, “Go lynch that fruit, he’s gay and shouldn’t exist.” No they couch the idea of doing that in the minds of their membership and then say, “wouldn’t that be a good thing” encouraging them to do it. Then some poor deluded shmuck will grow some cajones and actually do it. The leaders can deny they ordered the action and the burden falls on the misguided perpetrator. Welcome to the world of politically motivated violence we are experiencing today.

It all started last summer when some nutcases started bringing guns to Presidential appearances. It slowly ramped up with signs portraying President Obama as Hitler. This in and of itself recalled the negative imagery of the Nazi regime and applied it to the current administration. You might as well shouted “Obama is a Fascist” and the called for the action that happened during WWII (in other words a call to arms and violence.) This all lead to a general contempt of the party in the majority and disrespect for the office of the president. The contempt was refocused by a “you lie” shout out on the Senate floor and the wink and a nudge blessing given by the Republican party members. Finally, irresponsible third party members and bloggers just about deliver orders to “reload and target” democratic lawmakers and posted addresses on the web. Is it then surprising that some wackos out there physically threaten people and harassed them?

The Republican statements to curtain the violence are going to fall on deaf ears of the extremist because they know that now they are just saying that to appease the media and pacifists and still read into it a wink and a nod as the spokesperson then goes on to really blame someone else for the increase in violent actions. This is not going to stop until someone it killed and the FBI starts arresting a lot of people.

There is even an absurd idea that the democrats are inciting and inviting violence against them to drum up a sympathetic feeling. Really? They want you to kill them? They are suicidal? Sorry, that dog don’t hunt.

As crowds gather and opposing perspectives clash there is a more and more likely a chance that some person will end up with a bullet in their brain or a sign post so far up their ass they will simply be dead. It seems to me it will be blood spilled not at the foot of the Tree of Liberty but the feet of the bewildered to wake people up to the fact that this hysteria is out of control. When that happens the law enforcement will no longer stand idly by as extremist epithets are spouted, they will go into arrest mode and what was your right to free speech will be vastly curtailed because now peacekeepers know that this form of free speech ends up with people dead. So keep up the violent escalation you stupid hate mongering, deluded, misinformed sons of bitches, you are on a path of taking away even more of your rights and you will end up in jail.

But then again, if you are in jail you will have healthcare.

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