Monday, August 30, 2010

Old Furniture is Like on Old Friend; Or Not.

This dresser was old when we got it. 
My wife and I have been married 30 years, and we bought some cheap, used furniture in the early days. The two dressers were brown with old varnish, and we probably anesthetized nerve cells as imperfectly refinished it. Of course the two dressers did not match -- really not at all.  Jenny's dresser might qualify as antique, but mine is just old.

Our first two apartments were pretty basic. We had fabric-covered boxes for tables, and cheap rugs handing from the ceiling as room dividers.  My wife and I ate on a card table for two years.

Anyway, for my birthday (yesterday) we bought some new furniture, and when it arrives I will retire this old dresser.

My dresser drawers don't move well, and every couple months, I need to remove sawdust from my clothes because the drawers are grinding themselves to powder as they open and close. I'd bet most people don't have to do that.

The new  nightstand
(Contour Nightstand by Shermag of Toronto)

New furniture can't have as much soul as the old furniture -- especially since we have so much history with it.

Sometimes I think that I never liked this old dresser and Good-Bye! Afterall sawdust on your jeans is not that charming.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Amazing Touch Sensitive Plant

I saw a "Sensitive Plant" (Mimosa pudica) at Olbricht Gardens in Madison Wisconsin. Mimosa pudica is native to South American and Central America, but grows elsewhere due to human propagation. It is primarily a novelty plant, but some find value in extractives for herbal medicine.

Below is a video that shows the action pretty well, although it is repetitive and too long.

The action is caused by a decrease in water pressure caused by the plant cells venting water to adjacent vacuoles, and reducing their internal pressure. Related plants also have this characteristic. Presumably it aids in defense from insect predators.

Interestingly, you can buy seeds on Amazon.

Should You Get Your Mercury-Containing Fillings Replaced?

Amalgam filling X-ray
I was chatting with my mother-in-law who was told by a friend to have all her fillings removed.

Most people know that conventional silver dental filings contain mercury, and that mercury is toxic. Dentists and governments around the world claim that mercury extracted from fillings is not important.  For example, FDA says that the mercury extract from dental fillings is too slow to be meaningful, and they have been saynig that for years.

The FDA put out a new "final" regulation on dental fillings in late July. Critics point out the the FDA has been wrong in the past. The FDA does have three warnings: dentists should be careful with when using it; the mercury amalgam vapor can be harmful; and people with known allergies to mercury should not use these fillings. These known allergies are typically rashes or swelling right next to the mercury and are not distant chronic effects.

Charlie Brown has nothing to
do with this article; It is a jokey
reference to filling activist
Charles Brown.
The final rule is an outrage," says Charles Brown, national counsel for Consumers for Dental Choice, a group against the use of mercury amalgams. ''It puts mercury 1 inch from a child's brain. It puts mercury directly to the fetus.''  Charles Brown is not a cartoon character, but rather an extremist with site called

Some say that unscrupulous dentists alarm patients to have all their old fillings changed just to make money.  The good news is that mercury amalgam fillings are fading away; people are moving to porcelain. Some claim that removal of the mercury by heating it will only expose the patent to more harmful mercury vapor, and of course it will damage to tooth.

Metallic mercury is a cool-looking liquid metal.
This article discusses mercury exposure. Basically elemental mercury is fairly inert in the body, with only 0.01% of it absorbed by the digestive system. On the other hand, mercury vapor is much more toxic with 80% absorbed, so don't breathe hot mercury vapor. The toxic mercury in fatty fish has already been oxidized to methyl mercury or similar. Methyl mercury reacts with mercaptan groups (-SH) in proteins, and are bound in this way.

Amalgam fillings are 50% mercury with silver, tin and zinc. The mercury provides workability and durability to the mixture. I have not found foreign governments that ban amalgam fillings except in Scandinavia, but not because of exposure to patents or dentists, but because of concern about mercury in dental shop waste.

Bottom line is that I am not going to worry about getting my old fillings removed, and my mother-in-law should not either. On the other hand, I would probably want porcelain ones in the future -- out of an abundance of caution.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Dreaming of Dreams

Ever wonder what dreams mean? Are dreams the golden highway to the unconscious as Freud claimed? Do people get messages in dreams?  Messages from who?

A key insight is that even quite primitive animals sleep.  Every animal that has a brain sleeps, from nematodes to cameleons to grizzly bears.

What about dreams? All mammals dream including voles and mice. Some birds dream. A few reptiles. It appears that more primitive animals may not have REM sleep. 

Did you know that bears wake up from hibernation to go to sleep? The bears brain could not bare (ha) to go without sleeping.  After sleeping, they hibernate again.

It appears that sleep is a very basic behavior of the nervous system that developed long ago. It begins in the most primitive parts of the brain. Dreams are not as primitive, but how deep a thought can a lizard have?

For example, if voles dream, then how important can dreams really be. What fancy thoughts could a vole be thinking?

I tend to believe that sleep and dreams are physiological phenomena, and people place interpretations on the experiences their animal brains give them. I don't find much scientific basis for that however.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Wide Awake in 1860; Yankee Republican Militia Powers Lincoln to Presidency

Greg wearing Chris Umhoefer's Wide Awake Club
Nephew Chris Umhoefer is a shirt designer, and a Lincoln aficionado. He designed a campaign shirt for Lincoln's 1860 compaign based on the Wide Awakes, youthful supporters of Lincoln. The T-shirt is fictional, of course, but it is pretty cool.

See Library of Congress Site
It made me think of a simpler time when politics were better.  But that is silly.

Politics before the Civil War was far more stormy than today.

 The Wide Awakes wore military styled uniforms (of different kinds in different cities,) and carried six foot long lighted torches late at night. Wide Awakes were generally young men, and yes, they loved Lincoln.  See the uniform below.

Southerners regarded the Wide Awakes a militia of the Republican Party.  I have not seen any stories about armed Wide Awake groups, although the engraving above shows some scuffling with police.

This sheet music cover shows a Wide Awake in uniform.
A membership certificate from Connecticut.

The Wide Awakes were named by Lincoln after a rally in Hartford, Connecticut. He said humorously, "The boys are wide awake, suppose we call them the 'Wide Awakes'."  A few days later a Republican marching club formed with that name.

It is strange to consider how far the policies of the Republican party have changed in the last century and half. Republicans led the nation to war primarily to free the slaves, but now only 2% of Republicans are African-Americans. 7% of African-Americans are Republicans.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

FREE ITEM Brings Moral Hazard at No Extra Charge

As (both my) avid readers know, I do product reviews from time-to-time. Review postings are my among most popular postings with many hits.

Most of my postings just get a few hits at first and then one every great while.

Anyway. I got a FREE ITEM from a manufacturer with the implication that I should review it.

Now I have a moral conundrum: should I sell out  and give the manufacture a good review in return for the FREE ITEM? Maybe there will be more FREE ITEMS!

Or I could keep my integrity, and give it a bad review if it deserves it. I have evaluated the FREE ITEM yet, so I don't know how it will turn out.

Similarly, if I give it a good review, because the product really was good, readers could infer I am just a shill, and the review is meaningless promotion.

I am not in the depths of poverty, and it is not like the FREE ITEM is a car.  I can afford to buy FREE ITEMS. What price is my integrity anyway?

What if the price of my integrity is less than the price of a new car? Hmm, maybe I should branch out into reviewing cars.

The government says that if I am getting paid, that the blog is an advertisement, and I need to disclose that. On the other hand, then I look sold out, and lose credibility.  However, perhaps Depth-of-Processing is already sold out, so nothing lost. Scott Adams says Dilbert was born sold out.

Of course, if the FREE ITEM is of negligible value, then I am not really getting paid, am I? What is negligible anyway? Another moral hazard.

If the FREE ITEM is no good, I could forget to post about it. That is another form of the moral hazard isn't it. This moral hazard is a more insidious.

The only thing to do is to ignore the price of the FREE ITEM, and evaluate it as any other item.  Right?

Saturday, August 7, 2010


I went to visit a customer for work this week, and  they were working parts for a 3D television. He gave a strong endorsement for 3D TV saying they worked very well.

Intrigued, I went to Best Buy, and checked out the Panasonic set ($2250), and it was cool. The illusion was outstanding -- much better than the theater. It was clearer, gave a greater sensation of space, and could extend into the room farther.

The technology of TV 3D is based on the glasses. The glasses have LCD lenses that blink at 120 cycles per second. This is called alternate-frame sequencing. They black out one eye then the other eye.  The TV shifts back and forth from right eye to left eye images at 120 times per second (Hz.) The TV needs capable of refreshing fast enough to keep up with the 120 Hz switch rate. The TV signals to the glasses by IR or radio them synchronized to the TV.

Panasonic 3D glasses
The problem with 3D TV today is no content. The only way to get programing is to buy a 3D enabled Blu-Ray player, and even then there are only a few movies available.

3D TV proponents are saying gaming will be revolutionized, and I don't doubt it.