Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Echo Chamber

Doing opinion pieces is like setting off firecrackers in an Echo Chamber – chances are your ears will end up hurting.

In respect of the wide range of varying opinions I’ve drafted and left unpublished several dozen posts, and am current deciding if they will ever publish.




Are we at risk from Pneumatically Inflated Packaging?

Are We At Risk from Pneumatically Inflated Packaging?

Whether through casual, unintentional contamination, or through purposeful vector exploitation, are we at risk from Pneumatic Packaging products?

When products are shipped to us most will contain added packaging. Foam Beans/Peanuts, Bubble Wrap or Inflated Air Pillows dominate ad hoc packaging and are commonly received by many households several times a month.

What happens to this packaging? In some cases we hold them to reuse, though commonly we will dispose of excess. Foam Beans/Peanuts may be the biodegradable type that “melt” in water. Bubble wrap gets rolled up and thrown out, with the bubbles sometimes being popped – specially if kids or the young at heart have a chance.

But larger scale Pneumatic Packaging products – air bags, air pillows – are almost always popped before disposal, and through this popping transfer a significant volume of gas from one place to another.

The technology is attractive to shippers – a machine inflates a rolled plastic pillow chain, sealing it into the familiar linked air pillows, at the shipper’s packaging site. A typical machine, like the Sealed Air Corporation’s Cyclone is a very efficient method of producing packaging in the shipping room.

The Pneumatic Packaging systems get away from bringing in and handling large-volume low-weight packaging materials, they use inexpensive materials and they create large volumes of conforming impact resistant packaging using a small amount of electricity and no cost air.

It is that “no cost air” that has potential inadvertent vectorization or exploitation as a delivery system.

The substitution of a prepared filler gas appears to be an easy exploit, and would allow delivery of significant volumes of gas or gas borne hazard.

As people are unalarmed if they receive a package with leaking or a flat pillow or two in the packaging, it is entirely feasible to prepare the packaging to “leak” the contents of one or more pillows when the package is opened, or to slowly outgas from inflation until exhausted on a continuous basis.

In the inflated form the perm-rate (through skin leakage) is fairly low, as many examples of Pneumatic Packaging products can maintain pressure for months, if not years.

A binary component delivery could be as simple as boxing packaging filled with the two components in the same box. Various release mechanisms could supplement the ad hoc end-user bursting the packaging for disposal.

Vector delivery could range from exceptionally fast acting products, such as explosive or contact agents, to delayed action products including some potential for biohazard delivery.

As it is not presently possible to specify no Pneumatic Packaging, and given the risk of vectorization of other packaging, the personal response to disposal of Pneumatic Packaging may be limited to incineration on an ad hoc casual basis.

If vectorization has been exploited it can be expected that most shippers will suspend the product usage, being otherwise faced with consumers returning the packaging rather than risking exposure to the contents.

Don’t Depend on a Calculator

Don’t Depend on a Calculator

One of the great weakness that is an unintended consequence of computing technology is the reliance on Computers and Calculators to do our basic math.

Given a series of calculations it isn’t uncommon to see someone type them into Google if at their computer, or pound out the most basic math on a Calculator.

So dependent are many of us that we fail to recognize an entry error or a formula error’s wildly incorrect result. Why? Without having a mental concept of the math we have no clue what the result should be.

There is an alternative to this dependency on fragile “black box” electronic math aids that would serve us well in a time of need.

Several times I have seen simple back-up charts save the day.

In the early 1980s on a Field Artillery range in Europe a newly introduced targeting computer was not giving the results needed. Whether the machine was at fault or the training had lead to operational errors mattered less than that it simply was not possible to use the system to put down fire where ordered.

The crew had all but given up when a Warrant Officer walked over, surveyed the situation, left only to reappear with a Wizard Wheel device that he had saved from his early career. The Wizard Wheel effectively replaced the fancy black box’s failed math with solid predetermined usable math.

Ten years later while working with medium cranes an instructor at a large safety seminar illustrated a precise set of formula to size the cribbing needed under a crane’s outriggers to support the device in operation.

During a break the presenter mentioned that the complex math, a series of complex calculation that were seldom properly worked out in the field. These field math errors had resulted in losses of equipment and life.

With literally a “back of napkin” set of calculations I was able to show him how to skip all the complex math and arrive at a simple logic tree with single simple math function that would approximate the cribbing size with a 2 to 6% additional safety factor. Instead of the risk of asking an operator to do six- to-seven math calculations without error, the operator had to make the same simple soil evaluation and pick a set multiplier for a single decision, soil type, to apply in order to get a one-step result.

The three principles of independence from Machine Calculations I have been alluding to are:

1). Doing Mental Math

2). Using a Nomographic Aid, like a Wizard Wheel, where the math is basically charted out ahead.

3). Reducing the Math from overly complex and needlessly over precise to simple rules of thumb calculations, a sort of math heuristics.

A quick pro & cons of each technique:

Doing Mental Math

Doing Mental Math should be part & parcel of every math calculation you every do, specially if it affects someone’s well-being. As a family we drill on mental math as a challenge, from the simple to complex ideas like magic numbers (a special form of prime numbers). We do this to work at maintaining mental agility, to be comfortable competitive, and to prepare our children by being able to recognize when “black box” solutions give the wrong answers.

At a minimum doing a quick Mental Calculation will help “bracket” a computerized calculation. I stress that you have to know roughly what a calculation will return to be able to judge if the result appears sensible.

The downside to spending a lot of time on Mental Math is basically not letting it become a distraction from the core tasks at hand. If doing mental math personally reduces your situational awareness significantly, you may have to triage mental math in favor of situational safety.

Using a Nomographic Aid

Confession time – I love Nomograms. A Nomographic Aid is a mechanical device that by rote develops the answer for a calculation from the raw inputs. Some that a reader may be familiar with, or at least have seen in action are Slide Rules, a pilot’s E6B Flight Computer, or a tradesman’s Wizard -Wheel of some type.

What a Nomographic Aid does is to allow a person to “set up” the calculations inputs and directly read the result. “The Math is Hard Coded” in the device.

On the plus side a Nomographic Aid can help you quickly get results, specially when the actual calculations would be labor intensive to do longhand.

On the downside you have to trust that the Aid was done right, perhaps applying some Mental Math to the situation. Additionally some Nomographic Aids are not intuitive and require training or practice to safely use.

Reducing the Math to simple Rules of Thumb

Don’t do a whole series of calculations, with a result giving a level of unusable precision, when a simple Rule of Thumb could give you workable results in a single step. In my example above, there was no need to calculate the surface area of crane cribbing to the square inch when doing so added huge risks of error, and the field materials never provide for such fine precision.

By carefully developing “quick math” Rules of Thumb it is possible to reduce the risk of errors and speed up unaided calculation time.

Of course a Rule of Thumb is only suited to repetitive calculations as it is developed from experience gained from working with a known condition.

There is a level of risk if the Rule of Thumb contains an error, or it it applies to only a limited range of values. It is also important to understand what the full calculation includes to be able to do some Mental Calculations to back-check the Rule of Thumb. A Rule of Thumb calculation also usually incorporates a higher safety margin than full calculations could give, which may be an important consideration in a situation of limited resources or improvisation.


Making Math Simple reduces risk of calculation errors, reduces our dependence on machine calculations and is immensely satisfying to the individual. Where possible do the math in your head, use a calculation aid, and look for simple Rules of Thumb. Practice enough mental math to be able to recognize whether assisted calculations are giving results “in the ball park.” Use a slide-rule, wizard wheel or nomogram graph when available. Cut past all the “roughage” and recognize that there often is a simple Rule of Thumb you can use.

The Ten Cannots

The “Ten Cannots” was written by Rev. William J. H. Boetcker (1873-1962), originally published in 1916 as a pamphlet attributed to Rev. Boetcker, a Presbyterian minister and political conservative.

Sometime after Boetcker’s pamphlet was published, his sayings were attributed to Lincoln.

  • You cannot bring about prosperity by discouraging thrift.
  • You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong.
  • You cannot help little men by tearing down big men.
  • You cannot lift the wage earner by pulling down the wage payer.
  • You cannot help the poor by destroying the rich.
  • You cannot establish sound security on borrowed money.
  • You cannot further the brotherhood of man by inciting class hatred.
  • You cannot keep out of trouble by spending more than you earn.
  • You cannot build character and courage by destroying men’s initiative and independence.
  • And you cannot help men permanently by doing for them what they can and should do for themselves.

Simpler guiding words cannot be more readily found.

Absolute page-turner with huge lessons.

VERY thought provoking novel that reads WAY too close to being a scenario the world could actually face.

Absolute page-turner with huge lessons.

Minor objections, gratuitous rough language, two or three minor editing errors (I am picky about that sort of thing, specially with a Lulu published book which can be updated almost instantly), and some Canadian-Speak an American reader might not know (like “Hydro” being the Canadian terms for all Electrical Plant power).

Andromeda Strain meets Patriots with more.



“Another Place to Die” by Sam North

“Product Description
Another Place to Die is a vivid account of individuals caught up in a worldwide flu pandemic. Set in Vancouver, Canada, this is a terrifying and realistic scenario of people facing the horror of a killer virus that will kill millions. Everything your Government said would protect you is a lie. Make a choice. Escape to a safe place or tough it out. As martial law is declared and soldiers have orders to shoot anyone breaking curfew, normal life begins to break down. Mass burial pits are being dug. Everyone is afraid of each other. The Pandemic is coming. Where will you go? Where exactly is safe? Another Place To Die is an essential survival manual everyone should read.”


Economist Thorstein Veblen’s Washington Island Study Cabin Project

INFORMATION JUST IN:  The Veblen study cabin was successfully  moved to the Jacobsen Museum property about a third of a mile from the cabin’s original location on Monday June 15th 2009.   Local Washington Island contractor Tom Jordan and his crew accomplished the move in one day.   More information will follow on the Washington Island Heritage Conservancy website (linked below).

[Update June 17th, 2009 ]

Economist Thorstein Veblen’s Weashington Island study cabin is being moved from Door County Land Trust holdings between Little Lake and Green Bay, to the Jacobsen Museum property on the south shore of Little Lake.

Veblen’s theoretical works on industrial economics is to economics as Frank Lloyd Wright designs are to architecture. Both were roughly contemporary and equally influential in their respective areas. Veblen was born in Cato, and raised in Manitowoc before moving to Minnesota and then attending Carlton College, as his childhood home is a National Heritage site in Manitowoc County.

“Veblen was a leading economist and sociologist of the early twentieth century. His views on consumption, technology, and the interactions of “Wall Street and Main Street” are widely cited and still influential. Scores of books have been written about him, and his critical writings about the economy and society continue to be in the news.

Veblen’s connections to the Island were deep. He began visiting the Island around the turn of the century, staying at the Gislason boarding house in Detroit Harbor, with the avowed purpose of learning Icelandic. At the time he was an economics professor at the University of Chicago. He continued to return to the Island during many summers, despite living in California, Missouri, Washington DC, and New York City. He purchased his Little Lake property in 1915, building both a living cabin and a study cabin on the property.

Recently the property owned by Veblen was acquired the Land Trust of Door County. Veblen’s original study cabin is being relocated and restored to the Little Lake Museum, where it will be on display. Exhibits will document the ideas and times of one of the most fascinating and influential Islanders ever.”

If you do a search of “Veblen on Washington Island” for Ward Hanson’s project website.   Jerry Maiers [corrected last name 17 June 09] and John Moore are hoping will have Veblen’s study cabin moved June 15th. Then there will be the issue of restoring the building to its 1915 condition, or at least as close as possible.

Tim Jessen, Chairman of the Town of Washington board has had the town crew ready the foundation for the anticipated cabin move. The group have enough money in the Island Heritage Conservancy account at Baylake Bank, but know that the move is just the beginning of the project. They are currently are looking for input on proper restoration of the study cabin.


I will Steal for You – the Obama Promise

This week we’ve had BHO present more of his Insane Anti-Math in his budget.

He is living up to his promises to the take earnings from those who have earned them and give them unearned to those who have not earned them.

Simple words, this is called Thievery.

Theft by position of office.

When we wake up to the facts, rather than the aura the Media is putting around this clown, the stealing is comprehensive.

Here is where from:

  • Stealing from your pension
  • Stealing from the next generation
  • Stealing from the value of the dollar you hold
  • Stealing from your freedoms
  • Stealing from your inalienable rights
  • Stealing from your free will

We’re suckers to allow this to even be discussed, much less come into play.

Wonder how many “Golden Geese” taxpayers being stolen from by the BHO plan will simple stop laying their “Golden Eggs?”

Then our Goose really will be cooked.

Maybe all the times BHO responded “Present” to Illinois votes were, as to paraphrase Pres. Theodore Roosevelt, his being unable to recounter whether he should respond “Present” or the more correct “Guilty!”


Project on Hold

I’m working on a writing project that precludes finding time for all the blogs. This one is on hold until I figure out whether to pass it on to someone else or finish it up.


Elder-Care under a Rationed Healthcare System

Long distance Elder-Care for my wife’s family in Europe has been frustrating to say the least.

The retired (OAP for Old Age Pensioners there) is very limited access to what is routine here stateside – blood work isn’t routinely done, bone scans, xrays/MRIs and other scans can take months (example how about just one Bone Scan machine for 823,000 patients?), and how about Doctors who nobly are doing their best but lack the time to step away from triage to do preventative or investigative work as a routine?

Little preventative, as the staff is bedraggled with response to Casualty Needs, and has less than the needed time to do proactive healthcare.

Long waits – years for knee work, three years for a Shoulder Scope (and that was a peer aged working friend!), ages for basics.

Misuse of resources – being sent to a back specialist for a knee exam, and the Doctor chap examines the wrong knee, holding recovery patients in full hospital beds as intermediate care has been done away with.

I could off load at length on my extended family’s personal experiences with the failures of Socialized Medicine.

This side of the pond we may have obvious areas of improvement of our health care system, but we do not have the unmitigated failures caused by moving medical care to the public sector.


Let the Youngsters Play? – Will McCain Send Palin to Mississippi tonight?

Will the GOP keep McCain doing government work (well President Bush did request the Presidential Candidates participate in doing this bit of difficult governing) and send in his stead Gov Sarah Palin to debate Barry-O in Mississippi?