Thursday, April 30, 2009

Swine Flu

Swine flu has been on my mind, and all over the news. We just got our first case here in Michigan.  Surprisingly there have only been 257 cases confirmed by the World Health Organization

This is surprising because the news has about 200 deaths in Mexico. What this really shows is that the better public health system in the US is producing more lab test results than in the US. 

As of 30 April, there are only 257 confirmed cases worldwide: 109 in the US, 97 in Mexico, 19 in Canada, Spain 13, UK 8, Germany 3, New Zealand 3, Israel 2, Switzerland and Netherlands 1.

The bright side is that H1N1 Swine flu may be just like any other flu. As more time passes, there is less to be frightened about. The ratio of deaths to infections get less and less. 

H1 stands for hemagglutinin 1 and N1 stands for neuraminidase 1. There are 16 types of hemagglutinin, numbered H1 through H16, and 9 types of neuraminidase, numbered N1 through N9. That makes 144 possible combinations of the virus, a constantly changing challenge for prevention or treatment. citation.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Manufacturing in the United States

Mark Perry's Carpe Diem, had another excellent insight about the competitiveness of manufacturing industries in the United States. Manufacturing in the United States has more than doubled in the last thirty years as measure by output. What has decreased is manufacturing manpower, by almost a third. 

This has been due to increases in productivity; chiefly automation and computerization. 

As someone who works in a manufacturing industry, it is nice to see what I am not actually on the wrong side of history. 

Saturday, April 25, 2009

The Tomatoes are in the Ground: Wall-o-Waters

In keeping with the Spring mood, I planted my tomatoes today. 

I use Wall-o-Water, which are these water-filled plastic tents. They help root development, and plants do better than sister plants that I keep under the lights inside. 

The Wall-O-Water protects the plants by sacrifically freezing before frost could damage the plant inside. They also help warm the plant like a little green house during the day. 

I have three variety's this year: Burpee Big Boy, Yellow Pear, and Black Cherry. 

Spring Comes to Michigan

Everyone knows that the Spring will come, but it is always a surprise when it actually arrives. 

Rather than blogging today, I am going to plant vegetables and bushes -- no flowers this week. 

The temperature got up to 84F today, so that was great. The trees really leafed out in less that 24 hours.

One of the best things about Southgate, Michigan is that these Spring days are warmer than they were in our previous town in Wisconsin where Lake Michigan lake breezes would keep the temperature down. It was twelve degrees COLDER there than here!

Believe me, in the Spring you want every degree.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

IPod Shuffle Gen3 - Volume Control Work Around

The iPod fix of wrapping the controller in Teflon tape did not work, though I can't say why. It really should have. 

Chris Peters (don't know if that is his real name) from Apple called me, which is pretty remarkable for a Tech Support guy. Anyway. He said runners are having problems with sweat getting the controller and preventing good volume control. 

First of all, it is good to be in a class with elite jocks like these with sweaty enough shoulders to foul their iPods. I mean what else is there to aspire to now?

Second, there were two workarounds. First is to make a little loop on the cord to hold the controller up higher so it does not contact the shoulder. I use a little piece of tape. 

Third, you can set the maximium volume using the software -- at the bottom of the summary page. At the same time, click "Enable Sound Check" this will make different songs have about the same volume --important if you are going to go running without volume control. 

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Repairing and Waterproofing an iPod Shuffle Generation 3

My Shuffle Gen3 has had issues with volume control. If you have been following previous posts, then you know that the cause is moisture in the cord-mounted control. 

My solution is like this:

1. Dry out the control. I recommend putting in the sun. If the sun is shining, it is far better than a hair drier. Don't microwave it. 

2. Get some teflon tape. It is at the home center or hardware store in the plumbing department. It is used for sealing connections in water pipe. 

3. Wrap the teflon tape carefully around the control, starting about 3/8 inch onto the wire, and then spiralling across the control. Move to the other side and overlap the other edge. The teflon tape stretches, so twist it around the end where the wire enters the control. 

4. I put on two layers. 

IPod Shuffle Gen3 - Volume Control is not Waterproof

As you may recall from my previous postings,  my iPod Gen3 was replaced by Apple when the volume control stopped working. Now the replacement one has the same issue.

It seems that the cord controller is not waterproof, and it stops working when wet. Worse, it sends commands to the iPod increasing the volume periodically. 

I have a work around. When the volume starts changing randomly -- pause it and unpause it. That will freeze the volume where it is. You can also turn it off, and turn it on, to reset the volume to the middle. When the controller is wet, it is hard to simply turn it down. It also helps to watch the LED on the iPod when you press the controller, to see if it is getting the message you are sending. 

I use my iPod when I exercise, and I do that most days. I like the lightness of this ipod, and I like being able to use playlists to control what songs or podcasts that I listen to. I use a regular iPod during the rest of the day, so I don't need advanced features. This one is somewhat nicer to clip to my shirt than my old Gen2 iPod.

What I don't like is the VOLUME CONTROL. It seems that the controller gets wet, and then it develops a mind of its own. Randomly increasing the volume. Preventing me from turning the volume down. Suddenly during the iPod off. This happens after about twenty minutes of exercise.

I sent my first iPod Gen 3 back to Apple because the Apple Support guy did not know what to do. Apple sent me a new one by FedEx, so that was good.

I was disappointed when the second Gen3 iPod did the same thing.

Now, I am thinking of wrapping the controller in teflon tape or something similar to waterproof it. It should not be too had to keep the ends dry. Truthfully, a few drops of epoxy glue would probably seal it well, but I would like to start with a temporary repair

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Real Price Of Oil

This is the real, or inflation-adjusted, price of petroleum as compliled by Credit Suisse - First Boston, and lifted from Carpe Diem.

I think it shows that the recession was caused by high oil prices. I don't think it impacts the idea that oil is running out, which I happen to believe it is. The only question is when. 

My point is that peak-oil, the date of the earth's maximium petroleum production, has probably already past. 

At right is a graph from a peak oil advocate. Note the source is Wikipedia, which is not the most believable. 

The idea is that the recession caused oil consumption to decline. Will oil production ever be that high again?

The oil economists argue that non-conventional oil will replace conventional oil, and we will continue to have more fossil fuel, and yet conventional oil will decrease.  This is fairly persuasive. The industry has steadily defined non-conventional sources as more and more conventional. 

Apple Tech Service Delivers a New Ipod Shuffle - And It Works

My iPod Shuffle, Generation 3 is back, or more correctly I have a new one back from Apple Service. I would rather not have had a broken iPod, but the whole experience was about as good as it could have been.

Below I posted about how my new Generation 3 iPod Shuffle, was broken, because the volume would not go down.

I called Apple, and I talked to human person. He took me through rebooting the iPod (like I had done twice already) and then when he convinced himself that I really had a broken iPod, he offered me a new one.

I had to send the old one back first. They emailed me FedEx shipping documents, and when they got the old one, they shipped the new one.

This fellow named Chris Peters, which is probably not his real name, called me to see if I was OK, and then followed up by phone and by email. They really over communicated, which I found comforting and then a bit annoying. I think it was good for them to over-communicate to say that they were sorry for my affliction.

Anyway, the iPod is back, and I can take to exercising with my little shuffle instead of my somewhat larger iPod touch. I am still not used to the talking menus, but there are some tricks to use to navigate it better. Like putting your favorite playlists early in alphabetical order.


Sunday, April 12, 2009

Supply Your Own Witty Headline

Genetic Engineering Threatens Yarn Dying Businesses

The Detroit News Electronic Edition

On April 8, the Detroit News and the Detroit Free Press converted to three day a week publishing, and are selling electronic editions every day.

Since the switch, I have been setting my laptop on the kitchen counter and reading the "paper". First, I like the electronic edition more than the paper edition. I don't think I want to get the paper one any more. It would be nice if I could read the paper on my iPod, but I can't. Other sites work better on my iPod. The iPod works pretty well on the couch in the evening.

The best thing about the electronic version is that I can read it in ten minutes. So fast. So easy. Great download speed.

The worst thing is that the Detroit papers have cancelled a lot of the content that I want to read. That is one reason I can read it so fast. For example, the political columnists and brand-name advice columnists are gone. Of course, I could find these guys on
I suppose I could just put a link to them on my home page.

My dilemma is whether I should switch to another electronic newspaper like the electronic New York Times or the electronic USA Today. These would have more feature stories, but then most of those stories are available for free, and there would not be any local coverage. Not there there is much Southgate Michigan coverage anyway.

I have been paying $10-12/month for news, and I don't think electronic delivery is a problem. I would rather be able to read several different newspapers rather than being restricted to one paper. Also I don't like paying for this lite version of the Detroit News. I feel like a fool.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

The Lemon Jolly Rancher - We Mourn Its Passing.

Sadly, the Hershey's company has withdrawn my favorite, the sour lemon Jolly Rancher. 

Being Easter I hope that someday, it will Rise Again!

Why do they always discontinue my favorite products?  Where is my Vanilla Flavored Decafe Taster's Choice? What happened to the medium-sized Nerds candy?

Here is a memo from Hershey's:

Thank you for contacting The Hershey Company. Your comments about JOLLY RANCHER hard candy are important.

We are sorry to disappoint you, but JOLLY RANCHER hard candy in the lemon flavor is currently not available. This product is not being produced for nationwide retail distribution at this time and we are unable to provide you with details as to when and where you might be able to obtain this product. We apologize for any inconvenience and assure you that your comments will be shared with our Marketing Department.

Your interest in our company is appreciated.

Jean Saldutti
Consumer Representative
One blogger said to try to console yourself with lemon Altoids. I may try that.

General Dynamics

Following up the on the preceding post on the fictional company Veridian Dynamics, I find out that defense contractor General Dynamics bought Veridian in 2003. Veridian was an computer services company based in Michigan.

Wikipedia claims the drawing at right was a logo for General Dynamics in 1960. This strikes me as a possible hoax on Wikipedia. I wish that this flying boat was a General Dynamics logo even if it was not. General Dynamics has run some strange ads that have been as whimscal as this; perhaps it was an ad and not a logo.

The 2009 logo for General Dynamics is below. I can't find a higher resolution graphic than this.

I suppose someone at General Dynamics is mad about the Veridian Dynamics satire, but the lawyers at Disney must have checked it out first, and Disney lawyers as supposed to be tough. I suspect most of the people at General Dynamics think it is as funny as I do.

Veridian Dynamics

Veridian Dynamics seems to be related to the purchase of Veridian by General Dynamics -- see my next post.


Everyone likes Dilbert and its satire on corporate life. Dilbert has been around forever now, and I am about to cancel my newspaper anyway.

Veridian Dynamics is a better parody of office and corporate life. It is the company on the ABC series Better Off Ted.

I love the commercials for Veridian Dynamics that they run on the show. They look like real commercials, but are just a little twisted. The satire is subtle enough to be funny to me, and I think that may be the end of its commercial appear. I was encouraged to see that they gave it a website.

The jokes on their website don't compare to the deadpan dialog from Portia de Rossi, who has displaced Alec Baldwin on 30 Rock as my favorite self-absorbed TV executive. Her character, Veronica, is delightfully self-absorbed.

I also like that they have two lab-coat-clad chemists on the show running experiments with test tubes. We don't get too many chemists on who aren't probing crime scenes or cooking drugs. Although real chemists don't use test tubes much anymore.

Veridian Dynamics seems to be related to the purchase of Veridian by General Dynamics -- see my next post.

What I need is a Veridian Dynamics coffee cup. Seriously, it would be a great inside joke.

[[I made myself a cup!!. See this post.]]

People who like Veridian Dynamics may also like the the Multinational United site for the movie D-9.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

My Brand-New Generation 3 Ipod Shuffle is Broken

My New IPod Shuffle Review

I got my new iPod on Sunday, and it is light and easy to use. It takes some time to get used to the menus which a voice-synthesizer reads into your ear buds. 

The bad part is the little control on the headphone wire. It is a three button switch for increasing volume, decreasing volume and for changing songs. By listening carefully to the menu, and clicking or double clicking one can pick the song you want from among playlists. 

My problem is the little control is broken. I could raise the volume, but I could not lower it. I was at the gym exercising, and suddenly the earbuds were screeching in my ears, and I could not turn it down. I pressed on the button until my fingers turned red, but even after repeated reinstalling still no luck. 

I called the Apple Service Line and actually got to talk to a person. He kept me on the line for a while, but is promising me a whole new iPod. The Apple guy would not send me a new cord. He said they wanted the old one back first, so I have to mail it to them.

I use my IPod Shuffle when I exercise. The little iPod is so light and easy to wear. I use it for podcasts while I weight-lift and listen to fast music while I run. On the bright side, the iPod syncs flawlessly with iTunes -- something that my Gen 2 iPods did not do so well. 

 It looks like I need to carry my big ipod around for a while. 

Saturday, April 4, 2009

European Coatings Show

This week was my  7-day trip to Europe. I flew to Amsterdam and visited a factory in Netherlands; drove down to Nuernberg; and then visited BASF in Ludwigshafen afterwards. 

On the business side, I got to meet company people in German and there are so many projects we needed to update. The European Coatings show was surprisingly well attended, and I got to meet several American customers, and a  zillion European  suppliers. It was larger than the American show, but not supergiant like the Plastics Show for example. 

On the personal side, it was nice to walk around the park in Netherlands, and to tour around in the Old City in Nuernberg.  The highlights were the Reisling and the Weis Beer.  I also had some good blanched aspargus, which they call spargel. Oh, and I got the upgrade to business class on the way home. Cheap BASF makes use fly tourist.