Tuesday, January 31, 2006

When It's Time

You go
And we stay

Changed Within
Without you

End the night
End the day

- When it’ s time –
Mother Mary – Abba Father

Show us the way

Keep Playing

Fast Company Now: "'We don't stop playing because we grow old; We grow old because we stop playing.' -- George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950) Irish playwright and essayist"

Monday, January 30, 2006

Help a Child - Volunteer as a Court Appointed Special Advocate

If you are looking for a volunteer opportunity to make a positive difference in a child's life you may want to consider the Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) program.

"In 1977 Seattle Judge David Soukoup was concerned over making decisions about abused and neglected children's lives without sufficient information. He conceived of the idea of using trained community volunteers to speak for the best interests of these children in court. So successful was this Seattle program that soon judges across the country began utilizing citizen advocates. In 1990, the U.S. Congress encouraged the expansion of CASA with passage of the Victims of Child Abuse Act. Today more than 900 CASA program offices are in operation, with trained women and men serving as CASA volunteers."

"CASA volunteers are assigned to an abuse or neglect case by a judge. They conduct thorough research on the background of the case, reviewing documents, interviewing everyone involved, including the child. They make reports to the court, recommending what they believe is best for the child, providing the judge with information that will help her or him make an informed decision."

"CASA volunteers are instrumental in assuring that a child or family receives services which the court has ordered - things like substance abuse counseling or special education testing. During the life of a case, a CASA volunteer monitors the child's situation to make sure he remains safe. CASA volunteers may be the only constant the child knows as she moves through the labyrinth of the child welfare system."

Sources -

The National Court Appointed Special Advocate Association

Washington State CASA

Snohomish County CASA/VGAL Program

CASA Resource Links

Tribute To Stevie Ray Vaughn

A tribute video to all blues artists, Stevie Ray Vaughn in particular. The cover Little Wing is played by him and used in this video.

If you like guitar music and guitars I think you will appreciate this video.

Thanks to the person who posted it on Google Video

The Wind Cries Mary

Jimi's performance of Wind Cries Mary at Stockholm, Sweden, 1967

Found this video, and other cool Jimi Hendrix music videos at Google Video

Sunday, January 29, 2006


Just in case anyone forgot - Superbowl XL is next Sunday at 3 pm.

The Seahawks are going to rock and roll in the Motor City!


Reebok Authentic NFL Jerseys

SuperBowl.com - Official website of Super Bowl XL

$100 Laptop To Receive U.N. Backing

The Technology Review has an AP article that says the "One Laptop per Child" program aims to start shipping the laptops later this year and ship 1 million laptops by the end of next year. The lime green laptops have wireless network access, and a yellow hand-crank to provide electricity.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Final Gifts - Dying Well


I ordered Final Gifts by Maggie Callanan and Patricia Kelley and Dying Well by Ira Byock, from Amazon.com this morning.

From Kirkus Reviews of the book "Final Gifts" -

"Impressive insights into the experience of dying, offered by two hospice nurses with a gift for listening. The ``final gifts'' of the title are the comfort and enlightenment offered by the dying to those attending them, and in return, the peace and reassurance offered to the dying by those who hear their needs.

Five years after its first publication, with more than 150,000 copies in print, Final Gifts has become a classic. In this moving and compassionate book, hospice nurses Maggie Callanan and Patricia Kelley share their intimate experiences with patients at the end of life, drawn from more than twenty years experience tending the terminally ill.

Through their stories we come to appreciate the near-miraculous ways in which the dying communicate their needs, reveal their feelings, and even choreograph their own final moments; we also discover the gifts--of wisdom, faith, and love--that the dying leave for the living to share.

Filled with practical advice on responding to the requests of the dying and helping them prepare emotionally and spiritually for death, Final Gifts shows how we can help the dying person live fully to the very end "

From the Amazon.com description of the book, "Dying Well" -

"None of us gets out of here alive, but reading this book will lessen your fear of the ultimate end and give you some guidance about enjoying your life to the fullest right up until your final moment. Do people really enjoy life in the face of death? People do. The stories of individuals in Dr. Byock's book will move and inspire you to change your feelings about the end of your life, and also your feelings about your life in the present."

From the Publishers Weekly description of the book "Dying Well" -

"This study of how to die well displays uncommon vitality. Byock, president elect of the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Care, is a gifted storyteller. Beginning with his own father's terminal illness, he details without scientific cant the process of decline that awaits most of us. The case studies, which form the humanistic soul of this work, never devolve into the maudlin or saccharine. Life on the edge of the great crossing is explored in all its sadness and pathos, but Byock also makes room for wisdom, hope and even the joy of final understanding. By recounting the passages of patients in his Missoula, Mont., practice, Byock makes a forceful case for hospice care and against physician-assisted suicide."


I look forward to getting the books, reading them and putting the things I learn into practice.

Tax Preparation Software

My daughter's and I have used Turbotax online for some simple tax returns and found it works well.

In previous years I've done my taxes using the old paper, pen and calculator method. I decided to order the basic Turbotax edition for my tax return this year. I don't need the deluxe version since we don't have a state income tax here in Washington.

I expect it to work well based on my experience with the online software. After I try it this year, I'll provide my experience in my blog.


$30 Worth of Merchandise Free From Amazon

Apply for the Amazon.com Visa Platinum card and get Get $30 Worth of Mechandise FREE From Amazon

Once you are approved for the card all you have to do is use the card to order more than $30 (before tax and shipping) worth of merchandise from Amazon.com and you'll get 30 bucks off your payment amount.

There are no fees for this card.

You can order $31.00 worth of stuff and end up paying a dollar, plus tax. Shipping is free for orders over $25.00.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Colbert: AP is America’s ‘Number 1 Threat’

According to an MSNBC article today - Stephen Colbert has declared the Associated Press (AP) the "No. 1 threat facing America", one step above the "No. 2 threat - Bears".

It all stems from a disagreement about who coined the phrase "truthiness". A word meant to describe a truth that can't stand to be held back by the "facts". The "wordinistas" claim it dates back to the 1800's when it was included in the Oxford English Dictionary. Mr. Colbert points out this is a different meaning than his definition of "truthiness". He is reported as saying "truthiness is not something you look up in a book, it's something you look up in your gut."

The article goes on to say,

"Though slight, the difference of Colbert’s definition and the OED’s is essential. It’s not your typical truth, but, as The New York Times wrote, “a summation of what (Colbert) sees as the guiding ethos of the loudest commentators on Fox News, MSNBC and CNN.”

Comedy Central - Shows - The Colbert Report

A New Day

I find it adds to my sense of peace and joy, if I take some time each day to read inspirational literature. Some of the best can be found in the daily devotions offered by various Christian Ministries such as this devotional from The Upper Room


Ecclesiastes 3:9-14 (NRSV)

"What gain have the workers from their toil? I have seen the business that God has given to everyone to be busy with. He has made everything suitable for its time; moreover he has put a sense of past and future into their minds, yet they cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. I know that there is nothing better for them than to be happy and enjoy themselves as long as they live; moreover, it is God's gift that all should eat and drink and take pleasure in all their toil. I know that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it; God has done this, so that all should stand in awe before him."


"The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness."
- Lamentations 3:22-23 (NRSV)

"WE tend to take each new day for granted. The sun rose yesterday morning, and it will rise again tomorrow; that's the way the world is. Why give thanks for something so predictable?

We may be fooled by appearances into thinking that each day is much like every other. But today is a new day. Each day is a gift from God. No day has been like it before, and no day will be like it again. For me, this is above all a sign of hope.

My store of faith, hope, and love is limited and easily exhausted. I sometimes go to bed feeling weary, drained of energy and emotion, wanting only the oblivion of sleep. In gracious mercy, God uses the hours of darkness and sleep to restore me. In the morning I wake with fresh resources, ready for new opportunities, new experiences, and new encounters with other people. Who knows what God will do with this new day?

Prayer: Thank you, God, for each new day. We pray as Jesus taught us, saying, "Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread. Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us. And lead us not into temptation."* Amen."

Each day is a gift from God.

-- Margaret Price (Wiltshire, England)

PRAYER FOCUS: To be open to God today

*Luke 11:2-4 (NIV)

Moore's Law Lives

The MIT Technology Review has an article on Moore's law and Intel's new generation test chip.

The new Intel chip will have more than one billion transistors.

Pretty amazing considering we thought a five-transistor radio was cool back in the sixties.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Melissa Holbrook Pierson - Progress Hits Home

Orion Online has excerpts from a book by Mellissa Holbrook Pierson called The Place You Love Is Gone (Progress Took It Away). The book is due out this month.

From the article -

"...3 million, yes million, acres of open space are developed each year in this country; farmland is lost at the rate of 2 acres per minute; someone just entering middle age now who grew up in, say, Rockland County, New York, lived in a place with 17,360 acres of farmland—now there are 250, but check back in a few minutes. We can only compile the statistics and get out of the way, dumbfounded. No one knows what to do about it. There is nothing to do about it. The newspapers fill with stories containing incredible facts; apparently no one reads them. Occasionally there is an account of some monumental fight actually won, costing years of sweaty effort, and the prize is one development scaled back, one farm saved, a few acres that won't be logged, a Civil War battlefield protected though with givebacks, a single Wal-Mart backburnered. Meanwhile, scores of houses, health clubs, hospitals, and convenience stores and 2,378 Wal-Marts went up elsewhere."

The author includes this quote from Alan Devoe's 1937 "Phudd Hill" -

"So green are these hills, and so round and so many, that they suggest the massive tumuli of some gigantic and immemorially ancient race of man. I have walked upon them and extracted from their timeless earthiness the profoundest peace which it is possible to know."

I'm not familiar with Alan Devoe or Phudd Hill, but a Google Search returned a picture of some nice looking Wood Frogs on a place called Phudd Hill in New York state. It's somehow associated with what appears to be a museum farm...for lack of a better term where people can go and look at some old farm buildings, pretty flowers, grass...

Quite sad. What's happening with the frogs, the farms, the land - as we trade it away for parking lots, strip malls, big box houses - at what point, if ever, do we say we have enough pavement/development/private property signs?

Systems engineers working in the area of System Dynamics tell us that complex ecological systems behave in a non-linear fashion. This is a fancy way of saying that we can get surprised really quick when it comes to changes in our environment. People will move to an area and develop it until the point is reached where the quality of life diminishes sufficiently that the place is no longer attractive.

Unfortunately we only have one planet Earth.


Further Reading -

The Academy of American Poets - Wendell Berry

Field Observations an interview with Wendell Berry.

Gary Snyder at the Blue Neon Alley

My Relationship With Sheena Goddess of Amazonia

Just as an experiment, I've decided to keep running track of my correspondence with Amazon.com Customer Support, regarding a credit card promotion. My hopes are not high that I will get any resolution, not based on any bad experience with Amazon, but rather a pretty bad record in general with help lines, customer support or whatever else we call the folks that are placed in the front line of customer relations.

I'm going to write about my experience with customer relations as if I am having a real conversation with a real person. I have decided to call my fictictious friend at Amazon.com - Sheena Goddess of Amazonia. There's no way to know if my written relationship with Sheena will be a novel, a novella, a saga, a great love story, tragedy or a comedy. I'm excited to see how things go.

All messages will be written verbatim based on email.

Message sent to Amazon.com Customer Support on January 25th at 8:30 pm -

Me - "I applied for the Amazon.com Visa Card through the web promotion on Amazon.com web page and have received my Amazon Visa card but the 30 dollar promotion does not show up when I place an order."

Sheena Goddess of Amazonia - "Thank You!

Thank you!

Your e-mail has been sent.

We will reply as soon as possible, usually within 24 hours.

As a reminder, if you'd like to check the status of an order, track a package, cancel or change an order, update your address, change your password, and more, please visit Your Account.

Click here to continue shopping."

Sure enough Sheena Goddess of Amazonia writes back to me within 24 hours - saying,

"Thanks for writing to us at Amazon.com.

First, let me apologize for any frustration that may have resulted from this situation.

I've reviewed your account and see that you have not received your $30.00 promotional certificate for signing up for the Amazon.com Platinum Visa credit card.

I have requested a new promotional certificate for you. Please write down this claim code or save this message, as you will need the claim code when placing your order:


You may redeem your promotional certificate when you place your next order through the Shopping Cart and use your Amazon.com Platinum Visa.

Best regards,

Sheena Goddess of Amazonia
Amazon.com Customer Service"

- Dear Sheena Goddess of Amazonia I wish to thank you for your kind, prompt and helpful support in my time of need. Your instructions were clear, to the point, and worked. I have ordered three items from your noble enterprise and received the 30 dollar discount as promised.

My Best Regards to You as Well

Your humble customer


Postscript - Wow! That was a pleasant surprise.


Weekly Promotion

Monday, January 23, 2006

Get ready to watch Superbowl XL!

All TV's on Sale! 0% APR financing for 12 months with your Sears card and FREE DELIVERY on any TV over $399!

Free Shipping - 06 120x60

Sunday, January 22, 2006


Super Bowl XL - February 5, 2006

Game Time: 3pm PST

I've started my countdown.


Great cookbooks from your favorite celebrity chefs now on sale.


Seahawk's Rock!

Seahawk's are looking great today!

Up by 20 with a little over 8 minutes left in the third quarter. I'm keeping my fingers crossed (which makes typing a challenge).


236 New Styles For Spring at Alloy.com!

Freakonomics - Reader's Review - One Collapsed Star

I finished reading the book "Freakonomics - A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything" by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner this morning.

I thought the book might be interesting based on a post on Lifehacker.com. It seems people either love or hate the book.

You can read other reader's comments at Lifehacker and on Amazon.

On a five star rating scale I'd give the book one collapsed star to indicate a black hole sucking knowledge out of the universe.

The author's state in the epilogue, "...if morality represents an ideal world, then economics represents the real world."

What they purport to show is that a careful examination of statistical data will provide you with "the real world", valuable insights, and if not the truth - at least a glimpse at some partial truths.

In my simple minded way another word for a partial truth is a lie. I'm not saying these gentlemen are lying. They are just confused, perhaps not surprisingly, by the statistics. The sad, maybe a little scary part, of it is that because of their credentials some people might take their claims as gospel.

For example - In their effort to be fair and open-minded they cite statistics that show that children raised in single parent homes are just as successful in school as children from two-parent homes, yet on the other hand statistics show them that children from single-parent homes are twice as likely to be criminals.

If I was a statistic's shaman, which of those facts I choose to emphasize depends on what point I want to make, do I want to convince you that "the breakdown of the nuclear family has led to society's ills?" or "single parent families can be as good as two parent families?"

From the book -

Page 138 - "These two factors - childhood poverty and a single-parent household are among the strongest predictors that a child will have a criminal future. Growing up in a single-parent home roughly doubles a a child's propensity to commit crime."

Page 169 - In discussing the factors that correlate to a good childhood education...."But whether a child's family is intact doesn't seem to matter. Just as the earlier studies show that family structure has little impact on a child's personality, it does not seem to affect his academic abilities either."

A single parent family turns out twice as many criminals but on the upside they are smart with good personalities?

The authors get confused about the impact of good schools on children as well, making the point that what school a child attends is not a predictor of educational excellence but rather his or her "desire" to attend a good school. They also use data to make the opposite point that there really are bad schools that do effect a child's education. You can't have it both ways (unless you are using statistical evidence to prove a social theory, and then you can have it anyway you want). From the book -

Page 158 - In discussing a lottery system where students applied to a "good" school and the lucky winners were selected by a drawing...the author's state, "It is true that the students who entered the Chicago student lottery were more likely to graduate than the students who didn't - which seems to suggest that school choice does make a difference. But that's an illusion. The proof is in this comparison: the students who won the lottery and went to a "better" school did no better than equivalent students who lost the lottery and were left behind." Statistically the students who went to the better schools "gained no benefit by changing schools."

Page 165 - The author's, having explained how the Chicago data showed schools don't matter, now explain why they do. "Black students are hardly the only ones to suffer in bad schools. White children in these schools also perform poorly. In fact, there is essentially no black-white test score gap within a bad school in the early years once you control for students backgrounds. But all students in a bad school, black and white, do lose ground to students in good schools......So according to these data, a child's school does have a clear impact on academic progress."


This is a bad book, for a variety of reasons. In my opinion there's an undertone of racism, class prejudice and weird inhumane thought processes that lead to statements like -

Page 132 - "Not that this is likely, but if the death penalty were assessed to anyone carrying an illegal gun, and if the penalty were actually enforced, gun crimes would surely plunge."

Page 173 - "There is another explanation for low-achieving adoptees which, though it may seem distasteful, jibes with the basic economic theory of self-interest: a woman who knows she will put her baby up for adoption may not take the same prenatal care as a woman who is keeping her baby. Consider - at the risk of futher distasteful thinking - how you treat a car you own versus a car you are renting for the weekend."

The final chapter is all about baby names - which one are most likely to be black baby names, poor baby names, rich baby names...how baby names correlate to how many years of education the mother has. Is this information intended to inform poor, black, under-educated mothers when picking a baby name, or a sort of snide comment between rich, white, over-educated authors? Not sure what the point is, but it seems to me to have a tone that suggests something less than respect and reverence for individual human beings.

On the other hand the book includes somewhat bizarre, self-serving, glowing descriptions of one wonderful human being (the author) before each chapter. For example -

"Levitt fits everywhere and nowhere. He is a noetic butterfly that no one has pinned down (he was once offered a job on the Clinton economic team, and the 2000 Bush campaign asked him about being a crime advisor) but who is claimed by all. He has come to be acknowledged as a master of the simple, clever solution. He is the guy in the slapstick scenario, who sees all the engineers fultzing with a broken machine - and then realizes that no one has thought to plug it in."

"Leavitt is considered a demigod, one of the most creative people in economics and maybe in all social science."

"He (Leavitt) is genial, low-key and unflappable, confident but not cocky. He speaks with a considerable lisp. His appearance is High Nerd: a plaid button down shirt, nondescript khakis and a braided belt, brown sensible shoes. His pocket calendar is branded with the National Bureau of Economic Research logo."

Most author's, and one would think particularly scientific authors, let what was written speak for itself, and keep the glowing comments about what a great guy or gal they are on the book's jacket. Demigod indeed.

Some of the statements are just laughable. In one spot the author talks about the decreasing murder rate among crack dealers and says, granting that this is a minor effect, but still in his opinion worth saying - that crack dealers had taken to shooting their enemies in the butt rather than in a more vital spot that might kill them.

Here's the quote,

"Another minor contributor to the falling homicide rate is the fact that some crack dealers took to shooting their enemies in the buttocks rather than murdering them; this method of violent insult was considered more degrading - and was obviously less severely punished - than murder."

How does that work again? Does the crack dealer say, "Hey turn around and stand still so I can shoot you in the butt?" Or were they only shooting at people running away? and if they were running how's that shaky crack dealer with a cheap pistol hit em in the butt?

There are much more controversial and equally ill thought out, claims in the book - abortion caused the declining crime rate, parenting doesn't really effect childhood development, intelligence of adoptees is constained by their biological parents with little impact due to nuturing by their adopted parents.

It's not worth parsing all the errors in those claims. It might have helped some of the more naive readers, if the author's would have used words like, "this may be so" or "one conclusion that could be drawn is...", instead of stating opinions as hard facts.

I don't think this book is an intentional effort to mislead anyone, there are some interesting factoids in it - which would fit on a couple of pages. The fact that people, even smart authors like this, can be misled by the data shouldn't surprise us. You have to use your head and your heart, the data and common sense, logic and intuition, theory and practice and most of all learn by doing. Studying and presenting the statistics can (as the book intentionally and unintentionally) points out can lead you down a rabbit hole.

Overall it's an odd book, full of contradictions, a hodgepodge of information with no unifying thread and no suggestion on what one would do with the data, facts or opinons presented.

Makes me wonder how the publishing world works. How a book like this becomes a best seller, how it get's good reviews?

I did learn a couple of things from reading it - noetic means intellectual, and don't let young children play around a swimming pool without adult supervision.

Glad I got it from the library rather than buying it.


Postscript - The book touched a nerve with me (as you may be able to tell from the length of this post), for various reasons - partly because yesterday I was listening to some very caring people talk about real-world experiences with some of the very things this book touches on in such a heavy-handed uncaring way.

I respect the work statisticians and economists do. There are of course areas where economic theory and statistics can serve us well. The areas that this book discusses do not fall in that category.

If anything the book teaches us to not use economics or statistics for finding "the" reason or "the" answer when dealing with complex human issues such as education, crime and punishment, adoption, or abortion's impact on individuals and society.

We need cross-functional diverse teams to solve difficult complex problems. Depending on the issue under consideration, an economist may be a valuable member of such a team.

For an economist or statistician to claim to have arrived at "the" right answer for any complex social issue, Benjamin Disrali probably had it about right -

"There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics."


Post Holiday Sale

Friday, January 20, 2006

Microsoft Typography - ClearType FAQ

This Microsoft Typography - ClearType FAQ tells you how to turn on ClearType.

After you turn ClearType on you can tune it using the Windows XP tuner. Note - I had to fire up Internet Explorer to get the tuner to work...it didn't seem to like Firefox.

You may find ClearType improves the readability of text displayed on your display.



Save 10% while you MEDITATE during your commute to work with iAmplify. Code iamp10

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Tax Time Trivia

In the book Freakonomics : A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything author's Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner write,

"Some cheating leaves barely a shadow of evidence. In other cases, the evidence is massive. Consider what happened one spring evening at midnight in 1987: seven million American children suddenly disappeared. The worst kidnapping wave in history? Hardly. It was the night of April 15th, and the Internal Revenue Service had just changed a rule. Instead of merely listing each dependent child, tax filers were now required to provide a Social Security number for each child. Suddenly, seven million children - children who had existed only as phantom exemptions on the previous year's 1040 forms - vanished, representing about one in ten of all dependent children in the United States."


Have you ever wondered about depreciation? If you are a small or large business owner it's probably crossed your mind, or more likely your accountant's mind, a time or two. Items are depreciated over a period of years say 3, 5, 7, 10 etc. It depends on what the useful life of the item is. A computer or a car is depreciated over a five year period, for example. Using the straight line method, meaning simply that you divide the items value by the number of years allowed for depreciation and use that amount as your yearly depreciation figure for the life of the product.

If you want to read more about depreciation the IRS has a treasure trove of material like the ever popular 112 page Publication 946, How To Depreciate Property. No wonder accountants make good money.

Here's the interesting trivia.

The tax code is unusually careful in explaining the depreciation of horses (mainly the racing kind). I say unusually careful, because most of the business owners (or non-business folk) in the U.S. are not lucky enough to own a race horse.

Want to know who runs America, down to the tax laws?

Sorry you already know - it's the rich people - like the recently ousted Michael Brown head of FEMA with an unlikely background as Czar of the International Arabian Horse Association. I guess in some sense he did okay, as the article says,

"He's done a hell of a job, because I'm not aware of any Arabian horses being killed in this storm," said Kate Hale, former Miami-Dade emergency management chief. "The world that this man operated in and the focus of this work does not in any way translate to this. He does not have the experience."

Nobody cared about his experience when he was made a political appointee - it was all about the money and who he knew. Unfortunatly for the poor people in Louisiana, Mississippi and Florida - who he knew and his money connections didn't translate to competency. But that's old news.

Back to the race horse deduction. You can depreciate a race horse used in your business endeavors over three years (not just a horse your racing around on for the heck of it...were talkin bizness expenses here). Real racing. That's a two year old race horse by the way. If you happen to use a regular old horse in your business it has to be 12 years old when placed in service (and then you can depreciate Mr. Ed over three years).

There's another tax code item tailored for race horse owners in Publication 535, Business Expenses. This is the section where the IRS decides if you are just fooling around writing off business expenses and not making a profit. If you are a non-race horse owner you have to show a profit in 3 of the first 5 years of your biz.

However...if you are in the horse racing business you have 7 years and only need to show a profit in 2 of those 7 years. From the pub -

"An activity is presumed carried on for profit if it produced a profit in at least 3 of the last 5 tax years, including the current year. Activities that consist primarily of breeding, training, showing, or racing horses are presumed carried on for profit if they produced a profit in at least 2 of the last 7 tax years, including the current year. The activity must be substantially the same for each year within this period. You have a profit when the gross income from an activity exceeds the deductions."


You say the closest you got to horse flesh was eating that can of dog food because you couldn't afford another meat or meat byproduct?

Do you have an economic interest in any Oil Wells? Mineral Deposits? or Timber? If so you can get some pretty good bucks back from good old Uncle Sam via the depletion allowance. Of course as the word says the key is "depletion" - you have to cut down the trees, pump the oil and mine the ore to protect your moolah from the tax man.


What is the moral of this story?

Well there's cheating and then there's CHEATING.

Anybody want to go in on a race horse?

Every Wonder Why Were Called "Paper Pushers"?

This Executive Summary of a 2003 study titled, "How Much Information", done by UC Berkeley School of Information Management is interesting.

People in the U.S. use an average of 11,916 sheets of paper per year.

People in the E.U. consume about 7,280 sheets per year.

Worldwide paper production provides 1,510 sheets per year per person.

The "paperless office" has turned out to be a bit of a pipe dream.

From the study -

"Interestingly, the information flow figures for U.S. consumption represent over 35% of the total original worldwide print information flow. While the U.S. is indeed the global leader in production and storage of information, these flow figures are largely influenced by the office document use in the U.S.. If the office documents component were removed from the equation, the U.S. accounts for slightly over 10% of the world's original information flow in print. This underlines the high use of paper in U.S. offices as compared to that in nations around the world.

There have been some changes in the creation of new information between our previous study and the current one, but most of the changes have been fairly small except in the area of office documents. Contrary to notions of paperless offices floated in the late 80s and early 90s, the consumption of office paper has gone up substantially in the recent years, especially following the move to laser/inkjet printers from dot matrix printers. Paper use in offices has further risen with the increasing speed of laser printing coupled with its decreasing cost. Each year, almost 500 billion copies are produced on copiers in the United States; nearly 15 trillion copies are produced on copiers, printers, and multi-function machines. (Source: XeroxParc)."

There's a lot of fascinating information in the study besides paper use. Just one example -

"Print, film, magnetic, and optical storage media produced about 5 exabytes of new information in 2002. Ninety-two percent of the new information was stored on magnetic media, mostly in hard disks.

* How big is five exabytes? If digitized with full formatting, the seventeen million books in the Library of Congress contain about 136 terabytes of information; five exabytes of information is equivalent in size to the information contained in 37,000 new libraries the size of the Library of Congress book collections."

Better get to readin...


There may be some hope in the office paper reduction quest according to this DenverPost.com article, paper purchasing was growing at 6 to 7% per year as we started using those fancy laser and injet printers but has slowed to 4% per year now.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Exercise Cuts Alzheimer's Risk

Good news from the BBC that even 15 minutes of walking three times a week is enough to cut the risk of dementia.

According to the article a University of Washington study showed a 30 to 40 percent decrease in risk of Alzheimers with moderate exercise.

The article says, "Even if you're 75 and never exercised before, you can still benefit by starting to exercise now."

Not surprisingly increasing blood flow to the brain, by exercising, is a good thing and may actually help repair damage caused by poor blood flow.

As they say what's good for your heart is good for your brain...and other organs as well.


This Alzheimer's Association article - Break a Sweat for Your Brain has even better news for middle aged folks -

"Middle-aged individuals who exercise vigorously enough to perspire and breathe hard for 20 to 30 minutes at least twice a week may reduce their risk of Alzheimer’s disease by 60 percent, according to a Lancet Neurology study released online Oct. 4, 2005."

“It’s looking more and more as if getting off the couch is one of the best things you can do for yourself,” says William H. Thies, Ph.D., Alzheimer’s Association vice president, medical and scientific affairs. “Exercise has strong benefits for your heart and overall well-being, and this study adds to a growing body of evidence that it also plays a vital role in keeping your brain healthy. This work is in line with other research suggesting a relatively modest amount of effort can have a big impact. You don’t have to run marathons.”

How to Juggle

Learning How to Juggle has been on my to-do list for awhile, along with working on my nunchuck, bowhunting, and computer hacking skills.

Knife throwing would be fun too but I need something I can practice indoors.

One of these days I'm going to start juggling, just need to find three balls and take some time to learn the moves.


eToys: Discover Toys That Inspire Imagination and Creativity

DIY passport photos - Lifehacker

This tip from Lifehacker.com for DIY passport photos sounds good.

You use the ePassportPhoto free software to crop and manipulate your photo into the approved passport size.

Convenient and cheap.

You could get a passport photo for 19 cents, or whatever the local drugstore, charges you to print a digital photo.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

FOUND Magazine | Find of the Day

I heard David Sedaris talking with Davy Rothbart, creator of FOUND Magazine on "This American Life" this afternoon.

It's fun to look through the notes and pictures that people have found. Sort of like looking through an old trunk full of stuff.

Davy Rothbart has collected some of the best finds in a book call appropriately enough Found - The Best Lost, Tossed, and Forgotten Items from Around the World


The best piece in today's show was a story of a freelance writer and his wife's experience with a wild accountant. It's laugh out loud funny and touching, like some of the best stories on that radio program. It will be available via Real Audio on the "This American Life" website next week.

Self Taught Folk Art

It's fun to look at some of the colorful, interesting, pieces that self-taught Folk Artists create.

I think it gives regular people hope to see other regular people making things they like, and we may as well depending on personal taste, whether we call it "art" or not.

The creator of the webpage has this to say,

"This art should be judged for the pleasure it brings the viewer, not for its financial worth. If you like a piece, if it makes you happy, then it's a valuable piece. Having occasionally briefly worked in a gallery, I can't tell you how many customers asked me which piece was "worth more". My answer then, as it is now, is that the piece you like the best is worth the most.

For me, this type of art has a visceral appeal. It strikes me on an almost cellular level, rather than on an intellectual one. You should never let anyone else tell you what's "good" and what has "value". There are many well known artists whose work draws huge prices that do absolutely nothing for me. And there are artists that I find appealing who aren't favored by the big shot critics. Buy for yourself, as you're the person who will have to look at the art every day."

A Little Spring is Springing

Spring hasn't sprung in the Pacific Northwest where I live,

but it's showing up in some small ways.

Daffodils starting to peek through

Ballon Rouge, Le

Leafing out

One of my favorite models

Bike Tree has some new growth

Hello - is it it spring yet? Posted by Picasa

Helping Others - Help Yourself

Maybe the best way to help others is to help yourself.

At some times and in some places, for some people, the idea of looking out for yourself, caring for yourself is looked down upon. The thought of being interested in your self is seen as selfish, narcissistic, egotistical. The truly "good" person should be more interested in others than in his or her self.

You know......that might work if you were born a saint or if not saintly, at least with a toolbox of atypical human skills - compassion, selflessness, equanimity, a non-judgmental attitude and the ability to listen carefully deeply from our hearts. Mother Theresa or her likes are few and far between, so most of us have work to do on ourselves before we could hope to help another.

I'm not even sure we can help another, so I'll say before we can help another help themselves.

You start out as a child with many admirable behaviors that would be useful for adults (curiousity, creativity, wonder, love, laughter, joy) then you go to school "grow up", and get screwed up by various events in life.

You may then work from the inside-out on your self, maybe for many years before you come to a point where you may be able to model some behavior that may be useful for another. (lot's of may's in that sentence...there's no sure things here). Maybe some people emerge from school with their childlike curiousity intact and find themselves surrounded only by family, friends and loved ones who foster their social, emotional, and psychological well being.

They are not the people I'm writing about. I'm thinking of the 99.9 percent of the population that are wounded, addicted, hurting or in some other way suffering. And more specifically for those wounded people (as we all are) who have some interest in healing first themselves and then helping others heal.

So....you help yourself so you can help others. As you help others you find that it helps you and you end up with a positive spiraling effect where you continue to grow in your abilities. The more you do the more you can do. No one is perfectly altruistic - we don't help others simply for the sake of helping them - at the expense of our own well being (at least not long term...certainly in an emergency we may have a hero inside us...but over the long haul it's not going to work. for the non-saintly at least, to ignore what you need - comfort, care, solitude, companionship, spirituality, love; in order to sacrifice for the good of another.

I talk a pretty good game. I'm self-aware enough to know that often what I do says much more than what I say, but I have a feeling this theory works in practice. I'll let you know in 10 or 20 years.

In the vein of helping others and helping others I offer these two short reading pieces, one from me and one from one of my favorite websites Interluderetreat.com -

When Someone You Know Is Grieving

Shedding Negative Vibes

Wishing you a peaceful and refreshing Sunday. Hopefully with some time for reflection and giving thanks for what we have. And for those lacking what they need, the faith that there are better things to come....knowing once again as always we truly are all in this together.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Mudslides In Washington State - A Solution

Yesterday, Friday January 13th 2006, was the 26th consecutive day of rain according to this The Seattle Times article.

It's not so much the consecutive days of rain that causes a problem as the saturation of the ground. We've had about a half inch of rain a day for a total of over 12 inches since mid December.

We have plenty of days with rain showers in the Pacific Northwest, but it works out fine keeping things green and on a lot of those days you will see a mixture of rain, cloudy skies and some sun. Not bad.

In fact Seattle has more days of partial sun than New York City or to put it another way it's cloudier in New York City than Seattle.

So we have quite a few mudslides happening in the Seattle area this January. Mud sliding on roads and railroad tracks. As they say there is a silver lining behind every cloud and maybe we will see a new (or actually old) plant used in the future to hold the soil and prevent mudslides.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Do Burned CDs Have a Short Life Span?

I'm glad I haven't stored anything I want to save long-term on a CD. According to this PC Magazine article the lifespan of Burned CDs is 2 to 5 years.

The expert in the article suggests you store data you want to keep long-term (30 to 100 years) on magnetic tape.

I think he is talking about companies that have lots of data to store (terabytes or more) since most consumers wouldn't have access to a tape drive now...let alone 30 to 100 years in the future.

You could buy a tape drive for a few hundred bucks but you still have to deal with data loss in the event of a fire, flood, natural disaster, future incompatibility, physically losing the device (in a move or theft) - etc.

I think the best option for long term storage for a consumer is to buy some web storage from a reputable company and keep your data on their servers and let them back it up for you. If you are short on cash you could use Gmail, Yahoo Mail, Hotmail, Blogger, Picassa, Flickr or other free services to store data.



Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Sunday, January 08, 2006

There's No Time Like Now

Number of Chicken Soup For The Soul Books books: 85

Total Self Improvement Market:

2000: $5.7 billion
2004: $8.5 billion
2008: $12 billion (estimated)

Number of Americans who take antidepressants: 20 million

Fastest Growing Market for antidepressants: Preschoolers

Number of ads a typical kid sees by age sixteen: 6 million

Number of breast augmentations in 2000: 187,755

Source: Utne Reader article "Shiny Happy People" by Anjula Razdan - May 2005 Edition


With all that self-help stuff going on how come I'm still fat, depressed and poor?

With our independent natures we want to work from the inside out, pull ourselves up by the bootstraps and get thin, happy, richer and smarter. We want MORE. Whatever we are, or have, it isn't enough.

What we might need rather than more stuff, diets, books, or money is simply more time. Time to think about who we are, what got us where we are and where we want to go. Time to be thankful for what we have.

Time to realize what is enough. Time to be with our families, our children, our friends and by ourselves.

Time to turn off the TV, the computer, the radio and just be.

Timothy Leary told us to Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out maybe in the 21st century we can "Tune out, Turn Off, and Drop In" - on a neighbor, friend, or family member.

American's spend more time at work and less leisure time than any other industrialized nation. Our idea that labor-saving devices would free us for more of the "good life" turned into a cruel joke with our totally connected virtual environment.

It's probably not time for the typical working stiff to -

Join the IWW Fight for a Shorter Work Week!

However if you think about it the call for a return to "family values", from George Bush and others, wrings pretty hollow if Mom or Dad is working 50 hours a week to make ends meet.

Before you get to worked up about the IWW calling for a 20 hour work week there's a couple of dirty little secrets about the idea that we have a "40 hour work week" today.

The first is pretty benign but still important for those who are impacted. A 40 hour work week is really a 45 or 50 plus hour work week. Why? If you've ever driven in Seattle you'd know why. But even for those who don't have much of a commute there's still prep-time and decompress time before they could have any meaningful interaction with their spouse, children, or friends.

The second is more insidious and more interesting.

No one works a 40 hour week.

I wrote that really small because I thought it was a secret but it really isn't as this Microsoft survey showed Workers Average Only Three Productive Days per Week.

The point being that between commuting and "being at work" (as opposed to performing a meaningful task for your employer...which Microsoft tells us we do about 24 hours a week) we are spending 40-50 plus hours of our lives away from our homes, families, friends and communities.

We could stop building work spaces away from where we live; and then make our work time more efficient so we can get what we today call 40 or 50 hours of work - done in 30 (and then spend that extra 10 or 20 hours of leisure time doing something constructive for ourselves, family, friends and communities).

Maybe we will.


In the meantime here's some things you can do to carve out some more time for the things that are important to you -

Take what Andrew Weil calls a news fast.
Don't worry about whether the world is going to survive for the next day and instead enjoy your self in the world.

Stop reacting like a Pavlovian dog.
If the phone rings, or the email comes in, or your pager buzzes - let it go. I'm assuming no emergency room physician's read my blog. Anyone can screen their incoming calls and email. Train people to expect an email reply from you in a day or a week or whatever works for you.

Take all your vacation and sick leave
. Nobody is impressed with the fact that you show up for work every day. What impresses people is if you show up for work, happy, refreshed, ready to go - most days. On a side note - people say the main cause of complaining at work is boredom - if you're bored with your work - change jobs, life's too short to spend it not doing something you enjoy.

Fix your throttle. You don't have to do everything at top speed. A lot of things are more fun if done slowly. I'll leave it at that.

Cancel an appointment or a meeting you've set up.
The people who were going to attend will be thankful.

Learn something new and do some new things.
There's nothing like getting out of the rut to slow down our perception of time.

Quit thinking you've got it all figured out. I'm writing this as a "note to myself" but it might apply to some other Mr./Ms. Know It Alls. There's a whole hell of a lot of stuff you don't know. Life is a mystery...take the time to explore it.

Know when to say when. Take some time to figure out when you will have enough. What's really important? Opt out of the advertising driven consume more cycle, give yourself more time to think, breathe, be with family, friends, pets, in the community (actually in the community not in a virtual sense).

For most of us poor schmucks, in the long run nobody is going to care much about what we did on this earth, but someone will care how we did it. Taking the time to care about your self enough to recognize what a beautiful and unique being you are and then radiating some of that beauty to others - that will last.

There truly is no time like now.



Don't Hurry; Be Happy

Take Back Your Time

How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free: Retirement Wisdom That You Won't Get from Your Financial Advisor

The Joy of Not Working: A Book for the Retired, Unemployed and Overworked- 21st Century Edition

Saturday, January 07, 2006

7 Days to Change Your Life - Jamie Cullum

You know how every so often you hear a song on the radio and think, "Wow! that's really good." It doesn't happen very often but I heard a song on KPLU this afternoon like that.

The song was, "7 Days to Change Your Life" by Jamie Cullum from his album -

Catching Tales

It was funny and clever, with a wry message about all the things he could help you with if you just "send me your money". I see from his webpage that he listened to Steely Dan when he was younger, and there might be some influence from them in this song, but he has a unique and hard to explain sound, at least on this song - it might be the odd juxtaposition of the satirical lyrics and the jazzy sort of music. There's some nice instrumental work on his songs - particularly the guitar.

From the song "7 Days to Change Your Life" -

"Just one local call and you'll see
A happy path through life not for free
A little bit fat you can’t get a girl
Short on cash I'll change your world
The only way now is straight up
Your deepest despair I'll make it stop
Just 19.95 all major credit cards
And you'll stay alive and you'll go far "

Catching Tales - Jamie Cullum - Review has some good things to say about the album. Like any music it's not for everyone and I'm not sure if I'd buy the whole album but I'd like to have the "7 Days to Change Your Life" - track.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Watching the Clock - U.S. Population Factoid

According to the U.S. Census we will tick over the U.S. population clock to 300 million people in the U.S. later this year.

If you happened to be around in 1949 and are thinking seems don't seem like they used to be, maybe a little more crowded, you're right - there are twice as many people in the U.S. today.


Other random facts...

The U.S. population growth was .9 percent for the last year data was available (1999).

The World population is around 6 1/2 billion give or take a few million right now and estimated to be growing at about a 1.14% clip as of 2005.

World population growth is predicted to continue to decline to less than half a percent by 2046.

China's population is 1,298,848,000 people.

U.S. population is 297,854,323

The U.S. gains 1 person every 14 seconds.


Thursday, January 05, 2006

Microsoft Patch Available

Maybe just quit cold turkey? or go Linux, or buy a Mac. I'm kidding already...sort of. Couldn't live without my Microsoft applications.

In any event the patch for the picture file vulnerability was put up by Microsoft today.

Microsoft Security Bulletin

The bug was found in current server and desktop versions of Windows and is considered serious because it requires relatively minor user interaction to be unleashed. The virus is carried in picture files and can be triggered if an image is viewed in an email or on an infected Web site. It is also being distributed through Instant Messenger.

If a user is logged on with administrative user rights, an attacker who successfully exploited this vulnerability could take complete control of an affected system. An attacker could then install programs; view, change, or delete data; or create new accounts with full user rights. Users whose accounts are configured to have fewer user rights on the system could be less impacted than users who operate with administrative user rights.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

An AdSense Blog: Make Easy Money with Google

An AdSense Blog: Make Easy Money with Google attempts to answer the age-old question -

Is there a free lunch?

I wish I would have been around in Seattle when the City Rose on a Golden Wave. You didn't have to necessarily leave home, you could make a pretty penny selling supplies or writing about the exploits of the lucky ones who struck it rich.

Thar's gold in them thar hills...

Internet Riches: The Simple Money-making Secrets of Online Millionares

Don't forget my personal offer to tell you how to make easy money off the internet (you send me a buck...and after I get 999,999,999 other people to follow suit)...shoot I gave away the secret ;-)

The Cult Controversy

This dated (1997) review of "cults" - a word we don't hear much anymore; from WashingtonPost.com makes for kind of interesting browsing. Some of the links are broken but it covers a lot of the familiar names, including -

L Ron Hubbard, Sun Myung Moon, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, Hare Krishnas, Charles Manson, Jim Jones, Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, The Posse Comitatus, Lyndon H. LaRouche Jr., David Koresh, Heaven's Gate and others.

I'm not sure what a cult is but for my money, if you want to read about the dangers of mass movements, a good book is The True Believer from the San Francisco Longshoreman Philospher Writer - Eric Hoffer.

Even if you don't give a hoot about mass movements, Eric Hoffer is a cool guy to learn about. No formal education and probably one of the wisest writers of the 20th century.