Sunday, November 2, 2014

Global Warming: Climate Change Basics

Greenhouse gases slow down the escape of heat radiating from the Earth's surface. Greenhouse gases are increasing. The resulting average international temperature increases are marked by an upward shift in world wide weather patterns. When Milankovitch cycles, climatic patterns on Earth brought about by "orbital forcing", do finally begin to push towards naturally occurring global warming trends, these cycles will be amplified by our unnatural levels of greenhouse gases. Even if we had stopped releasing them yesterday, these gases will remain for millennia. So, what now then?

Keeping Savings In Cash Is Costly

Scott Burns says:

The purchasing power of our money is declining about 2% a year.

If you have been invested in a simple, traditional balanced fund that was a 60/40 mixture of stocks and bonds— such as the Vanguard Balanced Index fund that I mention regularly— your investment would have nearly doubled over the last 5 years. The recent 5-year annualized return was 13.23 percent.


The Space Between Is NOW

The "space in between" the past and the future is 'the now'.

When followers of Jesus asked Him for signs and about the timing of future events in Mark 13, He told them neither He nor the angels in heaven knew. Actually, Jesus already had told them where to concentrate their attention. At the beginning of His public ministry in Mark 1:15, Jesus announced what time it was for His and our generation: “The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God is at hand….”

The time is now and "always will be".

Caffeine: The World's Favorite Drug

The world's favorite drug is caffeine.

"For hundreds of years coffee was used in its raw form — astringent and bitter — boiled or rolled with animal fat into a crude approximation of energy pellets. People clearly were chomping the coffee berries for the buzz, not the flavor. Yes, modern coffee tastes great. But it is 400 years of selective breeding and refinements in growing, harvesting, roasting, and brewing that have taken it from its unappealing natural state to the aromatic, smooth, flavorful beverage it has become. And without the caffeine, nobody would have bothered with the plant in the first place."

"Arabica coffee is the species native to the mountains of Ethiopia, where it evolved with a blend of drenching rains, abundant sun, and a narrow band of acceptable temperature. Arabica is the smooth-flavored coffee Americans have come to love, the coffee that gourmet coffee connoisseurs swear by.

"The other common commercially grown coffee species is Robusta, which is heartier and more productive and can grow in warmer temperatures, out in the open at low elevation. Robusta beans are often blended into commercial coffees, like Folgers. But virtually all Colombian coffee is arabica."

"To brew Americans' average fix of nearly three cups of coffee daily, America imported 3.5 billion pounds of coffee in 2012, more than any other nation. The coffee Americans drink annually would fill more than 6,000 Olympic-size swimming pools.

"If it's the flavor that makes us wild about coffee, why did our grandparents drink twice as much coffee as we do today? In those days the coffee was often roasted and ground long before it was consumed. And then it was run though a percolator, overextracting the bitter flavors. To most coffee lovers today, our grandparents' coffee was pure percolated plonk. It tasted worse, and they drank twice as much of it.

"For most of us, though, it's likely that we are interested not so much in a flavor experience as in a cup of coffee that is, more than anything, unobjectionable. If we phrase the question a bit differently — asking not what makes a good cup of coffee, but what makes a cup of coffee good — the answer is easy: caffeine.

"But most of us know little about caffeine. Even the most basic coffee distinction — between the robusta beans that become cheap diner coffee and the arabica beans that supply chic coffeehouses — is poorly understood. It's the lowly robusta that packs twice as much caffeine. Among the gourmet brews, people commonly perceive that a dark roast, with its strong flavor, has more caffeine than a mild-tasting, light roast. But that, too, is wrong. Because some of the caffeine has been burned off in the longer roasting, darker coffees have less caffeine than light roasts, bean for bean....."

Mecca Before Mohammed

While Mecca today is the holiest city to Muslims, it was an oasis town and major crossroads on Arab trade routes long before Muhammad's birth in the year 570.  Governed by merchants, it witnessed constant blood feuding among nomadic, kinship-based tribes that roamed the surrounding desert.  But for a month every year, desert clans declared a moratorium on fighting and embarked on a pilgrimage, descending on Mecca to trade and worship at the shrines of ‘360 polytheistic idols’. The city's religious focal point was a hollow stone temple, the Kaaba, surrounded by effigies but devoted to the powerful pre-Islamic god Allah (which in Arabic means "the god").

Improve Phone Security for the Elderly

Junk calls and telephone scammers are a real problem for everyone (especially the elderly). Different personal situations require different countermeasures.

Using a predictive call blocker is one way. It automatically cancels computer generated robo calls. Other calls from undesired numbers can be individually blacklisted by you after they register on the caller ID. As soon as you hook it up, your junk calls will be halved immediately. As you block more and more other numbers, the unwanted calls will taper off to almost zero.
[Note: My elderly mother couldn't properly block calls, so I reviewed the incoming call list each time I visited. Sometimes now it's a week before an unwanted number shows up.]

For more restrictive access, there is a White List Call Block that allows you to program in the only numbers you want to allow (and all others are blocked). In addition, you can arrange with the phone company to require a code be entered before long distance can be successfully dialed each time.

Other situations might require you to have only a princess style phone that you have superglued the buttons on.

Another take on this is to have the carrier drop long distance service
at your loved ones home (1-800#s are still dialable).

Use A-10s Against IS

The only warplane that can seriously counter IS advances is the A-10 " Warthog". When I hear of its use against IS fighters, then I'll take our stated desire to defend Iraq seriously. It's  the only fighter jet that can fly low and slow enough to tell friend from foe on the ground. And it is deadly.

Robots Learn To Lie

"In 2009, Swiss researchers carried out a robotic experiment that produced some unexpected results. Hundreds of robots were placed in arenas and programmed to look for a "food source," in this case a light-colored ring. The robots were able to communicate with one another and were instructed to direct their fellow machines to the food by emitting a blue light. But as the experiment went on, researchers noticed that the machines were evolving to become more secretive and deceitful: When they found food, the robots stopped shining their lights and instead began hoarding the resources — even though nothing in their original programming commanded them to do so. The implication is that the machines learned "self-preservation," said Louis Del Monte, author of The Artificial Intelligence Revolution. "Whether or not they're conscious is a moot point."

An "age old question":