Wednesday, September 24, 2008

YAM carving


Inspired by Kathleen Ryan's article "Teaching Kids to Carve" Woodcarving Illustrated Fall 2008 Issue 44 about how Jim Calder is teaching these kids using sweet potato or Yam as the basis of carving, I went ahead and bought 3 lbs of it.

I also got myself a knife, a small Swiss army knife model CANYON. It differs from what most other people using, which is TINKER, in that mine features a drop point small blade. This turns out to be a mistake on my part as I learn the hard way that in order to make intersecting cut, I had to learn to rotate the knife JUST SO, in order to make a clean cut. Yams turn out to be an excellent media for learning. I have to admit being impatient and forced it a little bit. That would have disastrous consequence had it been wood. Basswood or Linden is a good choice. Soft enough to carve, hard enough to hold detail.

My first try was a cage turned into a box, turned into a top, turned into an egg. It was pretty small considering the original size of the potato!

For a second try, I tried carving a face using Jim Calder "Calder's Triangle Method" (p. 42-43), but alas my head doesn't look at all like his! For some reason it reminds me of Bruce Campbell, that B movie actor.

For the third attempt, I decided to do something easy. Something that is appropriate for beginners. Turtles are easy. There's an instruction about how to do it with soap. Perfect! Except that the potato is kind of strange shaped. So I whittle it some with my big knife.

Hmmm. That can make a pedestal if I square it. Okay. Chop chop. You know, I bet I can make a hat at the other end. Darn knot! Almost had it! May as well put a face under the hat. How about a mustache? Ears would be good, too. Where to put hands? In front, with fingers!

At the end there, the turtle is all but forgotten. Ah, well. Better luck next time!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Junior Achievement Program


Normally, I focus on cool technology, but bear in mind that technologies requires skill. That's why I'm excited to see this article on St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Friday September 19, 2008, page B5. "Five minutes with Repps Hudson" 'Teaching kids how to be successful'

Lori Jacob is President and CEO, Junior Achievement of Missisippi Valley Inc. Basically, JA is teaching kids how to be successful by giving these young people the tools and the knowledge to make good choices. It's not just money matters either, so I'm glad that it also teach the kids beyond basic greed.

Of course, money matters is important, and the knowledge to properly handle it is crucial to success. However, as far as I'm concerned, it is a catalyst to something else.

What would be a proper age? I'd say that by the time they're adults, defined as 21 years old, they should be 100 % ready. Which means that they should be 90% ready when they're 18 years old, and 60% ready when they reached puberty level. I quote "Studies show that by the time young people reach third grade, the path of their future is forming." Considering that young children absorbed knowledge like sponges, these times are best for learning.

The crucial aspect of it is that these program are taught at schools by volunteers. People care about these things enough that they'd do it for free! It makes school a great place once more. Of course, I do worry about qualifications, and not just criminals background. Do these people know what they're talking about? Last time I heard, they're still talking 2+2=5. Not good, eh?

I probably should look for something like this. I'll make a note of it in my calendar. Hopefully, I can do something like this sometime next year.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Devil's Deal


I got a phone call today from somebody representing a presidential hopeful. I don't like taking phone calls while driving, and I drive all the time. So I said no. She asked me to answer just 1 question: which one is the most important issue? Military strength, Gas prices, or Health care?

I answered: "I would put deficit at the top." When deficit spending is in trillions and GDP is in billions, you know there's something wrong. Those of you who are serving debt knows that a lot of resources are being spent just servicing the debts. And if you have a lot of debt in proportions of your income, then there's a good chance you'd go bankrupt.

Except that nations don't go bankrupt. They'd just print more money. That means inflation. I can just see it that somebody would suggest printing a few trillion dollar bills and wipe the national debt that way. The problem is that to make good that kind of foolish amount, we may have to sell a few islands, such as Ellis island, Manhattan Islands, or Hawaii Islands. Either that or create a humongous rate of inflation just like Germany did during WW2. Not pretty.

The problem here, of course, isn't that we inherit the earth from our parents, but that we borrow it from our children. Social Security won't go bankrupt. It's just that either money will be pittance, or Social Security taxes will be increased. Which one? Just take a look at history: which was more often? Benefit cuts or increased taxes?

Trade deficit is like dealing with the devil. I'll give you money now, but when it's time to collect and you can't pay, then I'll have your soul! A debt is a bind. A chain that holds you dear. We know this, yet still we spent too much money on useless things.

Personally, my eating habits and entertainment doesn't change all that much with salary increase. I'm putting money now to buy a house. Certainly, I want nice things, too, but get real. I'm too busy working 11-12 hrs a day to have too much fun. I don't need fast car, just a good clean one that can hit the speed limit. If I splurge on anything it's books and magazine. I think I bought too many books lately. Used to be that I bought some once per month, but it's been once a week of late. Mostly technical books, though. I call it "research". I'll be picking up a new hobby or two later this year.

That's really investing the future. Not too many people do that. Not while over 60% of business school graduates admitted to cheating on their college exams. They'd rather have empty skills with fake certifications instead of real, up-to-date knowledge without a school name attached. I want usable skills!

So here we are with tremendous debt load and what those presidential nominees are talking about is how to spend more? Don't they care about debt anymore?

The downfall of economy is really those lazy people being stupid, not illegal immigrants. Imagine good honest American people losing to a bunch of stupid illegal immigrants. They don't speak English and we lost to them? How embarrassing! Instead of admitting stupidity, however, we'd just blame them and kicked them out. Guess what? The jobs went out with them to India, China, Korea, just to name a few. Who gets the job done?

That Reaganomic promises prosperity, but only if we increase our productivity. That didn't happen. I'd like to see a plan that would address this issue.

The one word question is: DEFICIT. The one word answer is: INFLATION. I'd like to see a presidential candidate who can give me an answer I can plug into the calculator and end up with a positive number at the end.

Inflation is a destroyer. Oil prices will increase, certainly. Military strength will be reduced to peace keeping missions as patrols being cut back due to lack of operating budget. We spent $50,000 per day per ship out. As for Health Care? I predict skyrocketing fees since it's purely domestic without other nation's influence, and 30% of it is shuffling paperwork anyway.

You can give bad people Heaven, they'd just turn it into Hell. That's one deal I definitely don't want to see happening. How about stop worrying about image and start saving the planet?

Monday, September 8, 2008

Stock trading


I bought two stocks last week. Since this is my first time, I took it slow. I studied and I researched. Finally, I decided that these two stocks repesent the best growth possibilities.

I was excited about it. I went and checked my positions the next day and was rewarded with a loss of $100. Ouch! Fortunately, the price bounded back and I only lost $25.

Still, that does represent stock trading in general. You put your money in now, and expect to see rewards in 8 months to 3 years if you're lucky. Lose money if you're not. Not unlike growing a money tree. Can you imagine faithfully watering a sapling everyday only to discover a few months later you have root rot due to too much water?

As for me. I look to the newspaper and see Doom-And-Gloom on every page. No wonder my stock picks sank like proverbial lead balloons!

Be careful not to trade stock for the wrong reason. You invest in stocks to mainly preserve your capital and keep up with inflation, not to provide living expenses. The best time to invest is when you have so much money, you don't know what to do with it. The worst time to invest is when you've just been downsized from your job. Most likely, the economy is in bad shape then.

Most popular stocks according to USA Today: AT&T, Altria, Apple, Bank of America, Chevron, Cisco System, Citigroup, Coca-cola, Dell, Walt Disney, ExxonMobil, FordMotor, GeneralElectric, General Motor, Google, Hewlett-Packard, Home Depot, Intel, IBM, Johnson&Johnson, Merck, Microsoft, Motorola, Oracle, PepsiCo, Pfizer, Procter&Gamble, SiriusXM, Verizon, Wal-Mart.

Of these, I like Coca-cola. I think they are well managed. I wonder why Boeing isn't there?

Energy policy


I think it's about time those numbnuts in California stop raising parts per millions regulation, and start re-inventing L.A. I mean, Los Angeles is a car city. Traffic jams are a fact of everyday life. Public Transportation a failure. Biking is either hazardous or infeasible. How abou drafting a city block plan where coomercial zones are integrated with residential ones? That way people can walk to work. Enact ordinance for alternative transports. Provide paths and parking spaces for bicycles, quadcycles, and Segways. Give a straight eco-friendly transportation path to Industrial zones.

Take a look at how other countries do it. They build things with economy in mind. No wasted resources is better than recycling.



I've been reading a lot about renewable energy. I think the future lies with biodiesel. They're cheap and easily produced. People have been producing them with used oil in french fries for years. The problem is getting enough nitroglycerin. That, and the fact that you need gallons of oil to make diesel. I don't eat that much fried food. Talk about 70 cents per gallon all you want, but I want to see you try getting cooking oil anywhere near that price at Costco!

It seems that US has passed their peak oil capacity. It happened in 1970s, and you know that gasoline was not available at any price. Well, it seems other countries will hit their peak in the next decade or so. That's a frightening thought. It means everybody will run out of gas, and that includes plastics manufactures. How many items do you see now made of plastics? Expect them to be replaced by natural renewable resources. Ever seen a bike made of bamboo?

Some people predicts that by 2040, our infrastructure would have been completely converted to something else. I hope that's not true, or else Jay Leno would have a lot of junk in his garages.

Contrary to most people, I don't think hydrogen is it. I prefer something simple, like wind. How about compressed air? That's what steam is. If you can store high pressure air in a tank without a lot of energy expenditure, I think we have something there.

Alternatively, start burying dead cows deep into the ground. That what oil is, right? Leftover dinosaurs from Jurassic era. Or something equivalent to that.

Hybrid car


Honda has a new hybrid Insight out. It uses hydrogen fuel cell instead of hydrogen combustion. Pretty neat technology. Honda also makes a home-based hydrogen generator. Makes your own fuel so to speak.

The question is: where do you get hydrogen? Natural gas source emits CO2. Water is clean, but not if the electricity comes from coal burning power plant. Do you care? Did you check? I think it's a trick to say that coal burning is clean because the end result, hydrogen, is clean. I'd like to see a few more windmills and solarcells out. Is there any reason why we can't cover parking spaces with solar cells?

Speaking of hybrids, they're not really that efficient. All the extra power comes from smaller more efficient engines, regenerative braking, and lighter weight. What is desired would be a vehicle that runs on solar and wind. Iceland has these sailing land yatch, and I can't see any reason why Australia can't be the same.

VR glasses


Myvu is a goggle that let's you see video. Because the image is so close to the eyes, they look like gigantic projection screen. I should want to try one of these. Problem is: I wear glasses, so I don't know how that will work. Also, where does the input comes from. Maybe you can use a remote camera that let's you have an eye on the back of your head. Detachable eyeballs, so to speak.

Available at select BestBuy location, which mean limited rollout. Nice to be living in a big city, eh?

ICEBAR, hurricane, and biking


So, Orlando is going to have an ice bar, where all the furnishings are made of ice. Insert Al Gore's Polar Cap joke here. Entry will be about $35 but supposedly cheaper if you book on-line

Another development is that some bowling alleys are going luxe and upscale. "Gourmet junk food" is how some people call it. To some people looking for fresh change, that is just the ticket. To me, though, a bowling alley that has upscale dress code is an oxymoron.

Hurricanes season is still with us, running from June to November. I hate to say this, but if I was vacationing there, I'd choose one not based on the most posh surrounding, but on the most generous refund policies. I mean, water is just water, but unwanted ones from the sky can ruin a good mood pretty quick.

Apparenty biking travel is on the rise. I've certainly been seeing a lot more of these on the road. When I say biking, I meant with pedal. Part of going green movement I suppose. Some states even built special bike routes(Washington), even as some others completely ignore the issue(West Virginia). Expect cleaner air and healthier habits. But for those easily offended brace yourself: expect to see overweight fashion-challenged people wearing biking short and shirt, pouring sweat and smelling like a 3 day old skunk.