Recent Articles

Problems with Orifices

What kinds of things do people stick into their orifices? It’s limited only by their imagination, it seems. This article summarizes hospital reports and it’s an eye-opener—wait, I shouldn’t have said that, because some of you might now try to stick something in your eye. The data comes from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System.

Here’s a sample of things people stuck into their ears:


Check out the article for lots more.

But now I must mention that I once attended a deposition of a doctor in Atlanta. On his bookshelf, he had a big jar of screws, nails, coins, nuts and bolts and other metal things. It all weighed more than a pound. The doctor related that a man came to the ER complaining that he didn’t feel good. An x-ray revealed all of this crap in his stomach. The medical staff did surgery to take it all out. Shortly thereafter, “the man died of something else.” Go figure.

January 18, 2014 | By | 2 Replies More

A running list of what the NSA can do

The articles have been coming at a steady clip, and it’s difficult to keep track of all of the revelations. But this article by Jodi Avergan lists the access that the NSA has to our private lives, many of these with links.

January 17, 2014 | By | Reply More

Net Neutrality explained

At Public Citizen, Andrew D. Selbst explains the importance of Net Neutrality:

Common carrier regulations are a century-old concept that has been applied to telecom services from its early days. The concept originates from travel: If you are a bus operator, you must allow anyone with a ticket to board and ride. Applied to telephones, common carrier obligations are the reason that your phone company cannot first listen to your conversations, and then when you discuss switching carriers or call a competitor to sign up, kill your connection or make it so full of static that you cannot hear. If the idea of a telephone company doing that seem preposterous, it is only because common carrier obligations on telephones are so ingrained into our expectations. In terms of the internet, net neutrality simply requires that the ISPs treat each bit of data identically, and send it where it needs to go at the same rate of speed, regardless of its source (subject to legitimate network management concerns). Net neutrality merely regulates the “paved road,” and not the “cars,” in the old metaphor of the “information superhighway.” We would not expect the operators of the road to choose speeds that a car can travel, depending on where it comes from or who is in it.

Without net neutrality rules there is nothing stopping ISPs from simply blocking websites and media they don’t like because the websites and media compete with their offerings or haven’t specifically paid them off. This is not just a scary hypothetical. AT&T recently released a plan called “Sponsored Data” that works as follows: AT&T has already set an artificial data cap on its consumers (itself a policy design solely to extract the most profit out of them). Now, AT&T will allow a provider, like Netflix, pay them for the privilege to reach the user without affecting the user’s cap. Thus, other competing sites become comparatively more expensive since they will run through the user’s data limit. To take another example, Comcast and Time Warner both have online TV services, which allow customers to watch cable programming on their computers or mobile devices. The cable companies’ online TV services don’t count as data under their artificial caps either, so that the home-grown online TV service is preferable to Netflix, a competitor. Then as cable prices get ever higher, the ISPs can point to all the “free” new online TV services they’re offering as justification for higher prices.

January 16, 2014 | By | 2 Replies More

Chipping away at abortion

Janet Reitman of Rolling Stone writes that no reversal of Roe v Wade is possible given the general public support of some availability of abortion. That’s not preventing many legislatures from chipping away to make it difficult to get an abortion. Here’s an excerpt from the detailed article:

Eight other states now have laws preventing abortion coverage under comprehensive private insurance plans – only one of them, Utah, makes an exception for rape. And 24 states, including such traditionally blue states as Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, ban some forms of abortion coverage from policies purchased through the new health exchanges. While cutting insurance coverage of abortion in disparate states might seem to be a separate issue from the larger assault on reproductive rights, it is in fact part of a highly coordinated and so far chillingly successful nationwide campaign, often funded by the same people who fund the Tea Party, to make it harder and harder for women to terminate unwanted pregnancies, and also to limit their access to many forms of contraception.

All this legislative activity comes at a time when overall support for abortion rights in the United States has never been higher – in 2013, seven in 10 Americans said they supported upholding Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion. But polls also show that more than half the country is open to placing some restrictions on abortion: Instead of trying to overturn Roe, which both sides see as politically unviable, they have been working instead to chip away at reproductive rights in a way that will render Roe’s protections virtually irrelevant

January 15, 2014 | By | Reply More

How to make things

I really enjoyed these mesmerizing videos demonstrating how many types of things are manufactured. Fascinating. Life would be so very different without our factories. Some would say for the better, but I don’t agree at all. I don’t want to spend the time to make my own food from scratch or create clothes. That would take immense amounts of time away from things I prefer to do.

This topic reminds me of Jared Diamond’s Germs, Guns and Steel, in which he describes a culture that spends most of every live long day harvesting, mashing and cooking their basic food substance. They can never get to libraries or any sort of technology because every day is a battle to gather enough food. Here’s a description from Wikipedia:

The first step towards civilization is the move from nomadic hunter-gatherer to rooted agrarian. Several conditions are necessary for this transition to occur: 1) access to high protein vegetation that endures storage; 2) a climate dry enough to allow storage; 3) access to animals docile enough for domestication and versatile enough to survive captivity. Control of crops and livestock leads to food surpluses. Surplus frees people up to specialize in activities other than sustenance and supports population growth. The combination of specialization and population growth leads to the accumulation of social and technologic innovations which build on each other. Large societies develop ruling classes and supporting bureaucracies, which in turn lead to the organization of nation states and empires.

January 15, 2014 | By | Reply More

Exploring an old steam/electrical power plant in St. Louis

I recently had the privilege of touring the Ashley Power plant on the north side of the St. Louis Riverfront. Fascinating place. It was originally built in 1903 as a coal-burning plant to provide electricity to the 1904 World’s Fair, which was located six miles away in Forest Park. After the Fair, the plant was used for producing steam and electricity.

IMG_7660Power Plant

IMG_7721Power Plant

The plant manager pointed to the many coal burning boilers that can still be seen in the plant. He indicated that it would have been miserably hot in the plant, and that much of the labor was muscle power. The plant went through an oil burning phase, but now runs off of natural gas. That gas is pumped through a pipeline all the way from the Gulf Coast, running up along the Mississippi River. I small pipe runs off of the main gas pipe (on the Illinois side of the River), then runs under the river over to the St. Louis Plant.

IMG_7680Power Plant

This 12″ pipe enters the plant, where it feeds two gas turbines that only take up a tiny fraction of this huge plant. This huge space was originally needed when the plant was filled with hundreds of laborers burning coal. Much of the machinery seen in these photos was necessary in the old days, but has not been removed–it would not be cost efficient to remove it, and there’s plenty of space for the two gas turbines, each of which is less than 100 feet long.

Out of one side of the turbines, electricity is produced. Using a heat-exchanger, the other side of each turbine produces steam. Lots of it. Even today, the plant provides steam to more than 50 industrial customers, who use it for heat. Busch Stadium is on this list. The steam exits the plant through a pip that is about 3 feet in diameter, then travels through 17 miles of pipe through the city, providing this steam heat. The customers have “steam meters” and are charged for the amount of steam heat they use. The Plant Manager indicated that it is 15% more cost efficient to produce steam at a central location and distribute it than to produce it at the individual locations. Sometimes, the steam pipe network has leaks, and you can see these in the cold weather, when steam from underground rises above street level.

IMG_7705Power Plant IMG_7693Power Plant IMG_7667Power Plant IMG_7625Power Plant

This huge building holds lots of old machinery, evoking memories of what it must have been once upon a time, including the time that it was the state of the art provider of electricity to the 1904 World’s Fair.

Enjoy the photos . . .

January 14, 2014 | By | 2 Replies More

Time to cut the U.S. military arsenal

Walter Pincus of the Washington Post has it right:

If ever there was a costly relic of Cold War spending that needs a dramatic overhaul it’s the U.S. strategic nuclear deterrent, a program with a price tag of $355 billion or more over the next 10 years, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO).

January 14, 2014 | By | Reply More

Twenty things mentally strong people don’t do.

Here are twenty things mentally strong people don’t do. I do like this list- go to the article to read more. Many of these have to do with worrying about what others would think.

1. Dwelling On The Past

2. Remaining In Their Comfort Zone

3. Not Listening To The Opinions Of Others

4. Avoiding Change

5. Keeping A Closed Mind

6. Letting Others Make Decisions For Them

7. Getting Jealous Over The Successes Of Others

8. Thinking About The High Possibility Of Failure

9. Feeling Sorry For Themselves

10. Focusing On Their Weaknesses

11. Trying To Please People

12. Blaming Themselves For Things Outside Their Control

13. Being Impatient

14. Being Misunderstood

15. Feeling Like You’re Owed

16. Repeating Mistakes

17. Giving Into Their Fears

18. Acting Without Calculating

19. Refusing Help From Others

20. Throwing In The Towel

January 13, 2014 | By | Reply More

Time Traveling through Photography

Photographer Chino Otsuka decided that a Photoshop would enable her to travel back in time to join her younger self. I really enjoyed these photos, and it made me wonder (as I sometimes do) what I would tell my younger self if I could travel back in time.

January 12, 2014 | By | Reply More