Category Archives: Technology

There Ought To Be A Law

In 1950, one out of every twenty people needed a license to engage in their profession or occupation.  Today, one out of every three people need  such a license.  Folks with a libertarian mind set see this as government overreach. They may be correct. Others see this as a natural result of the development of technology and/or the result of increasing instances of harm to the public by unscrupulous practitioners. They may be correct, too.

Regulation of any profession requiring a license is a balancing act. Regulatory boards are most often comprised of  of individuals who are active practitioners of the professions they regulate.  As a member of such a board, you have to balance the need to protect the public interest without restricting trade.  Sometimes boards fail at this. Recently, a Board of Dentistry in  a southern US state sent cease and desist letters to businesses in malls that were offering teeth whitening services.  The teeth whiteners protested, and the case ended up in the Supreme Court. The Court agreed with the teeth whiteners, and stated that the dentists were only concerned with profit for dentists, not with the public interest.  This has spurred an anti-regulatory movement, which complicates things for we who are really concerned with the public interest as well as with economic growth.

The problem with regulation is that no one wants it until they want it. If you recall, there were some hot air ballooning accidents last summer, and the immediate reaction was “Why weren’t these balloon companies regulated?!”  I attended a conference of regulatory boards for my own profession last week  I learned that, in Washington State, boxing announcers must be licensed.  That struck me as one of the funniest things I had heard in a long time. I have no idea  why that type of license is necessary. Government is the great equalizer, as 45 has yet to understand.  No one is above the law. The tension for regulation is uncomfortable, but necessary, in my opinion.

What laws would you pass if you could? What laws would you strike down? Why do you think boxing announcers need to be licensed?


Mathematics #1: A Wall of Lights and Estimation Skills

Today’s post comes from NorthShorer.

Four weeks ago the night after I had the useless shots in my back I could not sleep and decided at 3:00 a.m. to take out the garbage. When I opened the door to the garbage room, I walked into a wall of lights.

The owners of our building finagled two grants to install LED lights throughout the building at only slight cost. I have been hearing about this for a couple months and imagined, I suppose, a few small boxes of bulbs, not that pile, which is only half the bulbs for the hallways, security lights, garage lights, and parking lot lights. Another pile even larger was in the other garbage room at the other end of the building. Reminded me of a few stories of people who failed to estimate the weight and volume of pennies they either ordered or amassed. To be fair these new lights are not just bulbs; they need new fixtures. For instance all the standard recessed tube lights in the three stories will be replaced by a same size fixture holding several LED bulbs.

What also is surprising is how much brighter are the LED lights in the garage and hallways. Our yard is almost daylight from the new security light above us. I have avoided LED lights because they gave such dim light.

On Wednesday they will install LED lights in the attached lights in all apartments, which is nice for me because I cannot reach the ceiling lights. They will also cart away for free all of the fluorescent bulbs we have. Our apartment is about the average. It will get 27 new bulbs. The building has 65 apartments, plus eight other rooms to get bulbs. 27 times 65 equals 1,755 bulbs. Add in another four dozen to get, say, 1,800 or so. How big a pile will that be? I bet each will come in a protective carton. I happened to be in the Batteries Plus store recently. The owner noticed my address and said he was supplying just the bulbs. He, too, had underestimated the volume. The supplier told him the bulbs would have to be shipped to the apartment building because they would not fit in his strip mall store.

All the medical facilities in this town will soon get LED bulbs under a grant from the same sources. There are six large clinics and the massive hospital, plus a couple smaller ones. What will those piles look like? I am pleased for this change because the tube lights give me a bad headache while I wait around.

Estimation is a vital skill. Schools are doing more to teach it, for one thing to try to get kids not to just accept what their fancy graphing calculators say. I am usually rather good at estimation, except in extraordinary events like these lights. I am very good at estimating distances and travel times. For weights I am usually far off. I know what time it is quite well without using a clock, a skill I developed working outside as a child. I don’t have to be outside seeing the sun to do this. Not sure if this is estimation, but I almost always know which way is north. When I do get turned around, I get agitated. I used to astound my partner with this ability plus the ability to remember routes we took on a previous visit, sometimes months before. In the post and common roads of the Northeast that is a challenging skill.

The students used to be astounded by how the chemistry teacher and I could quickly estimate calculations and come close. He was a very intelligent man and knew rapid calculation skills. His estimations were often exact..

I am intrigued byhow computers find complex answers through a series of estimations instead of seeking an exact answer when it is not needed. This shortens the time for calculation, often by days.

How are you at estimation of volume, distance, weight, time needed for a task? Do you know what time it is without looking at a clock? Do you know which way is north on unfamiliar ground? Can you guess the number of beans in the jar? Do you always measure carefully for recipes?

Mystery of the Murdered Mixers

Kitchen appliances get a workout at my house but up until recently I never thought I was too hard on my tools.

After 40 years of trouble-free use, my Kitchenaid stand mixer finally gave up the ghost two years ago. I promptly went out and bought a new one, assuming YA would end up inheriting it.  Imagine my irritation when just two years later, the new mixer started to make a grinding noise that caused me to step away from it in fear.  I called customer service (my company – as this is where I technically purchased it).  I got told I had 30 days from time of purchase to claim any refund.  Then I spent quite a bit of time “chatting” with Kitchenaid – this was when I found out that my very expensive bit of hardware only had a 30-day warranty on it.  If I wanted to send the mixer to Illinois they could “do diagnostics” on it.  Ship a stand mixer to Illinois?  Do you know how much these things weigh?  It took me a couple of weeks but I eventually found an appliance repair company that would deal w/ the mixer.

In the meantime, I couldn’t go without a mixer. I’ve never had a handheld mixer so I decided this was a good time.  Did a little bit of online research (very little actually) and ended up getting a Hamilton Beach.  It got me through Pi Day but then mysteriously the next time I used it, it started up as soon as I plugged it in, even though the switch said it was off.  Luckily I was not holding it anywhere near the beaters or I could have lost a finger.

I did eventually get the stand mixer back (after paying an obscene amount) and it appears to be working. The hand mixer was still within 30 days so I was able to get an exchange.  It also appears to be working.  But two mixers dead in one month’s time?  It makes me feel like a mixer murderer.

Have you ever over-invested (financially or emotionally) in an appliance?

Blowing Things Up

I commented a few days ago that my cousins and I liked explosives when we were children, and  used homemade beer can cannons and fireworks to lob things at younger relatives.  (We were thoughtful, though, and  gave them helmets to wear.) July 4 was a big holiday in my family. Most of my cousins are boys, and they started to collect firecrackers and other fireworks as soon as they could, saving their money for the purpose for months. It was handy that we were so close to the South Dakota border and had easy access to firework stands.  I still really love fireworks, but I don’t shoot them at people any more.

I don’t  know what has got into me, but for the past few weeks one of the first things I do when I get home from work it to put a recording of Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture on really loud, and wait with gleeful anticipation for the cannons at the end of the piece.  I love those cannons.  I wish I could be the person in the orchestra to set them off.  My recording is by the Kirov Orchestra conducted by  Valery Gergiev.  The liner notes say that members of the Royal Dutch Marine Band also performed, and I assume they shot off the cannons and artillery.  What a great job to have!

What music would best reflect the state of your life right now? What music helps you cope?


Playing Post Office

The recent oil boom  took a toll on our regional mail service. The Postal Service lost workers to the oil field and had trouble finding replacements. Mail in the rural areas often wasn’t  even delivered on a regular basis. I remember having mail delivered on Sunday, or late at night. Our mail carrier wore a head mounted flashlight like spelunkers wear so he could see.

Things are still a little shaky at the Post Office even with the oil field bust and more people applying for postal jobs.  A friend of mine recently overheard a veteran postal worker railing about the incompetence and poor work ethic of the newer postal service workers. We have had our mail delivered to the wrong address or had the wrong mail delivered to our address.  It used to be that if our mail was addressed slightly inaccurately, say 10th Ave NW instead of 10th Ave W,  they used to deliver it to us anyway.   Now it gets sent back to Fargo where it languishes for a couple of weeks until it is returned to sender.

I can only hope things will improve.  Until then we and our neighbors will continue to bring wrongly delivered mail to the correct addresses and assume the mail will just take longer to get to its destinations.

How is your mail service? Got any good Postal Service stories?



Security Clearance

I have watched with some amusement and alarm the struggles of certain White House aides to get security clearance. Changing their stories and accessing lapsed memories hardly makes them look trustworthy.  Crystalbay’s unfortunate experience with a on-line scammers is another reminder of the dishonest among us.

How do you judge someone’s honesty? Have you ever been scammed? What is your favorite story or movie about con people?


Today’s post comes from Ben.

Down by the barn is a small, 75 gallon water tank with a tank heater in it. And by ‘Tank Heater’ I mean it keeps the water just warm enough to keep it from freezing. I’ve never tested it, but it might be 34 degree’s for all I know.

I’m doing my chores one morning. And while I’m doing my chores, I put the chickens water buckets that have frozen, in that tank and leave them for a few minutes.
Then usually the ice around the edges has melted just enough that I can knock it out of the buckets.

This one particular morning while working I notice a smell from the tank. Kind of stinky, like sewage. And I thought to myself, “Huh! That’s odd” and I go about my chores. A few minutes later I’m back with another bucket of ice that I put in the tank and then I go around back to the pole barn and get a bucket of straw for the egg boxes. And when I get back, this bucket of ice has melted about half an inch all the way around and I thought “Huh! that’s interesting.”
And I dump out the ice and refill the bucket and continue my chores.
A little bit later, I’m in the tractor working down there and I notice the tank is steaming more than usual.
And I think “Huh! That’s weird.” And I go about my way.

Ah–  but then I come back and take a second look. And I put my hand in the water and it’s like a hot tub! A dirty, stinky, hot tub but still; way hotter than it should be.
Evidently there is something wrong with this tank heater.

Got a new one and all is well. And I thought to myself, “Took ya long enough to pick up on those hints.”

What’s the last thing that made you say “HUH!”?