I’m thinking of investing in International Flavors and Fragrances, a $5 billion market cap company with a strong suite of flavors and fragrances, including a new breakthrough in orange flavor. Many scientists collaborated to identify the key flavor components in orange juice and then sought to mimic them with relatively low-cost materials, relying less on citrus oils that can add a bitter aftertaste and vary wildly in price. I marvel at how inadequate artificial orange flavor is in drinks and foods. I look forward to a long overdue improvement, and if it’s as good as they say, expect a strong increase in sales for IFF.
I received email from a parent in Seattle about the battle many parents have been fighting with the school district there. These parents have pulled together a lot of information showing that the block schedule system in Seattle has fared poorly and needs to be changed. “The group is at an in pass with the Teachers and the District over the schedule which has been in place for 13 years. No
matter what facts we bring to the table – internal and external – they do not listen.”
Here’s my response:
Seattle? Isn’t that the school district that issued a crazy definition of racism that included “future orientation” and individualism? If so, you’re dealing with insane people that aren’t going to be persuaded by facts. But they are likely to respond to politics, so organize and get parents coming in to talk and pressure them. Get a big group to show up at a Board meeting. Write letters to them, publish letters to the editor, etc. I think the key will be getting parents to care and be involve and make their voices heard. Ditto for contacting state legislators.Insane people don’t listen to facts. Very sorry about that!!Jeff Lindsay
Surprising fact: there is a shortage of geologists for companies that do exploration and mining of natural resources like gold, silver, and oil. According to precious metals expert Jim Willie CB:
Don Lindsay, CEO of Teck Cominco, paints a bleak labor picture… Lindsay traced the origins of the labor shortage back to 1997. According to him, the feeder systems were disrupted by the Bre-X scandal, the Asian Meltdown, and the commodity bear market. He expects demand to remain robust from China. Keep in mind that over two thirds of geologists in the world hail from Canadian schools. So if professional shortages exist in Canada, we have a very large problem indeed. Mirroring the crude oil roughneck labor shortage is the mining labor shortage. Another parallel exists. Lindsay points out that within a decade, 60% of all Canadian scientists working the geosciences will be at least 65 years of age. The overall impact is surely that new mine deposits will take longer to find, longer to produce, and cost more.
This is great news if you’re willing to pursue a career in geology. Many of the leaders of mining and exploration companies had their start as a geologist. If you love the outdoors and believe in work that really creates wealth, consider geology.
For investing, the shortage in skilled labor for mining means lower production in the future, and that means that prices of commodities are going to face even more pressure to go up. This is a great time to be heavily invested in gold and silver bullion, energy stocks, precious metals stocks, and uranium stocks like Dennison Mines (DNN) or my favorite, Abaddon Consolidated Resources (ABNAF.pk or ABN on the Vancouver exchange).
Consumers are often perplexed about how few prints they get from ink jet cartridges before they have to buy news ones. Some cartridges will result in “low ink” warnings, others will just quit printing properly, after only a few uses – if the caretridge isn’t used regularly. The problem is that the ink dries or gels near the print head and clogs the printer. Some inkjet companies, such as Lexmark, are said to actually put gelling agents in their inks (this is according to the experts at Cartridge World), which almost guarantees that you will have to buy a new cartridge if your old one sits unused for more than a couple weeks. But the Cartridge World inks that are supposed to be so much better don’t seem to do any better, as far as I can tell, for printers that aren’t used much.
If you have an ink jet printer, print something in color at least one a week. You’ll use more ink, but you’ll probably use fewer ink catridges that way.
Review of Engineering with Mathcad
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Title: Engineering with Mathcad: Using Mathcad to Create and Organize your Engineering Calculations
Author: Brent Maxfield, P.E.
Publisher: Elsevier, © 2006
Number of Pages: 494
Brent Maxfield’s Engineering with Mathcad is a valuable contribution to the engineering community that may do much to help those in engineering and the sciences in general jumpstart their efforts to learn and apply Mathcad, or to help long-time users strengthen their skills. The book is accessible, engaging, and written from the perspective of one who has dealt the practical aspects of Mathcad for many years. It comes with a useful CD having a handbook and all the examples in the text, allowing the users to easily follow along and work with the material being discussed. The CD also can be used to install Mathcad 13 for PC or Mac with a 120-day academic license.
The book covers a broad scope of material effectively, and should provide useful new insights even for power users. However, the book is not intended to provide a comprehensive guide to the functions and plotting features of Mathcad. For example, there is no significant discussion of solving differential equations. Indeed, many of the engineering applications covered are relatively basic, with the emphasis being more on how to use Mathcad effectively rather than how to tackle complex engineering problems. Given the burgeoning scope of Mathcad’s tool and the many powerful features it has that experienced users may have been missing, Maxfield’s approach represents a reasonable editorial decision to cover Mathcad broadly rather than to teach engineering mathematics or dive into the complexities of any of the numerous areas of interest in engineering.
The book may be especially valuable for those who are relatively new at Mathcad or who, like myself, have Mathcad experience but may not have used it for some time and need a refresher. But a carefully selected swathe of sophisticated aspects of Mathcad are treated that may be helpful to longtime Mathcad users who simply had no idea about some of the tools and capabilities they were overlooking.
With his years of Mathcad experience, Maxfield offers many tips, sometimes subtle, to guide users in creating worksheets, preventing errors, maintaining readability, selecting useful variable names, and so forth.
While the companion CD is useful and highly appreciated, advanced engineering students who are facing challenges with differential equations or other common topics would clearly benefit from additional more advanced sample worksheets. I think future editions of the book would do well to add additional workfiles on the companion CD. When I saw the entries on the CD for chapter 24, hinting at pages on seismic loads, beams and joists, etc., I though such examples might be there, but they are just placeholder pages for demonstrating the use of hyperlinks in a table of contents.
Indeed, for the future, not only would I recommend a more extensive set of examples on the CD, but also the addition of a Website where registered owners of the book or others could contribute solutions, discuss the text, and look at more detailed and complex examples, or receive additional tips from the author.
In general, I recommend Maxfield’s book as an easy-to-read, well organized guide to help a wide range of Mathcad users learn techniques useful for engineering and many other fields as well.
A few minor quibbles: The chapters entitled “Useful Information” could use more descriptive titles, or be added as sidebars or summary sections elsewhere. I think they create a confusing table of contents.
For engineering calculations, the precision of computations may be important. I did not notice a description of Mathcad’s limitation of 15 digits. “Precision” is not an entry in the table of contents (though the term is a paragraph header on page. 98). Pp. 102-103 would have been one good place to discuss this.
Some discussion of differential equations would be helpful.
Organizationally, I also think the first chapter might well contain a rapid-fire overview of some of the features of Mathcad to give those new to Mathcad but with advanced engineering and scientific skills a strong flavor of the power of this sophisticated tool.
And perhaps a list of additional online resources would be good – most preferably a reference to a Website prepared by or for the author that can be updated with the best online resources, additional worksheet examples, corrections of any weaknesses in the text, etc.
In general, I congratulate the author for an excellent book that I think will be helpful to numerous Mathcad users.
While there have been many concerns from parents and some researchers about the possibility of a link between vaccines and autism, the medical community has generally dismissed the concerns, noting that some major studies have not found a statistically significant link between the two. A primary concern among those worried about vaccines has been the use of mercury in preparing the vaccines, resulting in the addition of a small amount of mercury into young children receiving some common forms of vaccinations (not all use mercury).
Interestingly, a new study of French children shows a possible link between autism and heavy metals in their bloodstream. As reported in The New Scientist, May 27, 2006, p. 21, Dr. Richard Lathe of Pieta Research of Edinburgh conducted the study of hundreds of French school children, monitoring the amounts of porphyrin proteins in their urine. Porphyrins are precursors of haem, the part of hemoglobin that carries oxygen. When there are unusual levels of heavy metals in the body, they block haem production and cause porphyrins to accumulate. Children with autism had one form of porphyrin at levels 2.6 times as high as normal children. Richard Lathe believes he has found a link between these levels and heavy metals in the body, versus a genetic factor. His group found that by using chelation therapy to remove heavy metals, the porphyrin levels were brought back to normal. It’s unknown whether chelation diminishes the symptoms of autism.
The key point here is that heavy metals may be a factor related to autism. And for those concerned about vaccinations, yes, mercury is one of the more notorious heavy metals – but even if Dr. Lathe’s conclusions are right, that still doesn’t necessarily mean that vaccinations have any link to autism. Further work is needed. And the medical community generally notes that the benefits of vaccination to millions surely outweighs the occasional risk to some. Do your own due diligence on this matter.
FYI, Dr. Lathe has authored a controversial book, Autism, Brain, and Environment (2006, ISBN 1-84310-438-5), suggesting that environmental factors may play a role in autism.
“The Rhetoric of George Washington’s Farewell Address” by Halford Ryan (Speaker and Gavel, 2001) is a valuable essay on George Washington’s famous speech that helps provide insight into what he meant and where he borrowed ideas from others. I find it especially helpful for better understanding the origins of his neutrality policies and his warnings against being entangled in international (European) affairs. This speech is unique in being legislatively required to be read to both houses of Congress each year, though the House of Representatives abandoned this duty (like so many others!) in 1984. It is still read in the Senate.
Imagine how much more secure our nation would be if we had continued to heed the warnings of George Washington.
I tried getting one of the new iPod Shuffles on Ebay, thinking I might find some good deals. I bid on a couple and got outbid by frenzied shoppers. Then I checked the Apple Store and found out that I could get a new iPod Shuffle for less than the going bid at Ebay, and with free shipping! And they even engrave and include a gift card for free. Great deal!
“Verbal Self-Defense” is a great article by Suzette Haden Elgin, Ph.D. She provides a couple of key tools for defusing verbal attacks, especuially those cases when someone criticizes you just to get you riled up and angry. It’s important to not let your emotions get too involved and remain calm so you can pick the right strategy to defuse things. Two good approaches are what Dr. Elgin calls the “Boring Baroque Response” and “Computer Mode.”In the “Boring Baroque Response,” you give a lengthy, calm, and boring response that takes all the fun out of attacking you. For example, when someone trying to pick a fight says, “Why are you so lazy? You never do your share of work!”, don’t respond with an angry put down or by self-justification. Instead, try saying something like this: “Well, you raise an interesting question about the development of my work habits. I suppose it goes back to my days in kindergarten – or was it first grade – when we had this daily task we were supposed to do. Frankly, I just couldn’t understand what the teacher was getting at by having us stand and stretch, touch our toes, then our nose, and so forth, so I began taking short cuts. Sometimes that’s more efficient, you see, but for some tasks, it can be perceived as inadequate, so I’m faced with this optimization challenge . . . .”
The point is that you prove yourself to be NO FUN when it comes to verbal arguments.
The Computer Mode response requires that you be completely unemotional and respond to verbal asaults with a calm statement of platitude that doesn’t really commit you to a position. It can really throw the attacker off. Dr. Elgin gives the example of someone yelling at you about something that is lost, blaming you for it. Instead of yelling back or explaining the facts of the matter, stay calm and respond with a platitude or hypothetical statement. For example, you could say, “Nothing is more frustrating than losing something.” As Dr. Elgin says,
No matter how many more times the attacker throws hostile language at you, continue to answer only with another response in Computer Mode. If the hostile strategy has always worked in the past, it may take the attacker a while to understand that it’s not going to work this time. Eventually, the attacker will run out of steam and give up — and again, will make a mental note that you’re no fun as a victim and shouldn’t be chosen for that role in the future.
You’d be amazed at how many potential arguments I’ve nipped in the bud with a single meaningless emergency platitude. The attacker makes the first hostile move; and I answer, solemnly, “You know, you can’t tell which way the train went by looking at the tracks.” Many, many times, the next line from the poor soul attacking has been, “I never thought of it like that.” Almost every time, the argument has ended right there — for an impressive savings in time and energy all around, and far less pollution of the language environment.
When I first heard health food advocates warning of arsenic in chicken, I thought it was a crazy claim. Surely no sane person can believe that the chicken industry actually injects arsenic into chicken to help them grow bigger, which is what I heard from a relative into nutrition and health food. But a quick check on the Internet revealed some disturbing information.
As reported this year in the New York Times (see “Chicken With Arsenic? Is That O.K.?“), it has long been a common practice to inject chicken with small amounts of arsenic compounds to help ward of parasites. Some brands are arsenic free, but when you get chicken in fast food, you may be ingesting a small amount of arsenic. Granted, trace amounts of arsenic are everywhere, but I object to deliberately adding this cumulative poison to food.
Here is an excerpt from the story:
Those at greatest risk from arsenic are small children and people who consume chicken at a higher rate than what is considered average: two ounces per day for a 154-pound person. The good news for consumers is that arsenic-free chicken is more readily available than it has been in the past, as more processors eliminate its use.
Tyson Foods, the nation’s largest chicken producer, has stopped using arsenic in its chicken feed. In addition, Bell & Evans and Eberly chickens are arsenic-free. There is a growing market in organic chicken and birds labeled “antibiotic-free”: neither contains arsenic.
Dr. Paul Mushak, a toxicologist and arsenic expert, said that the fact that Tyson stopped using arsenic in 2004 is encouraging. “What that tells me as a toxicologist and health-risk assessor is that if a vertically integrated company like Tyson can do that then presumably anyone can get away from using arsenic.”
But there are still plenty of chickens out there with arsenic.
In addition to Norton Antivirus, I’ve used Webroot Spysweeper for a long time, but have grown tired of how it slows my systems down and uses so many resources. I finally took it off my main computer and now rely on a couple of free tools to fight spyware. These tools are Spybot Search and Destroy and Lavasoft’s Ad-Aware SE Personal. Both do a great job of scanning your computer for spyware, and Spybot adds filters that keeps you away from known dangerous sites and provides other immunization.
Since I don’t mess with downloaded games, stay away from questionable sites, never activate questionable files attached to emails, and avoid other bad practices, I usually don’t get affected with malicious spyware and find the free tools to be adequate for my needs.
A lof of people ask me if I’m a patent lawyer. No, I’m a patent agent, and there is a significant difference, but some areas of overlap.
Both patent lawyers and patent agents can prepare and prosecute patents before the United States Patent and Trademark Office (PTO). Both have become licensed to do so by passing the PTO’s own bar exam. The area of patent law is so different from other aspects of law, with its own unique codes and procedures, that it has its own bar exam supervised by the Federal Government. People with a technical degree or technical experience can take the bar exam and become patent agents or, if they already have a law degree, they can become patent lawyers (patent attorneys).
A patent agent can only practice patent law before the PTO. When it comes to other aspects of the law, such as preparing an assignment of a patent, suing someone for infringing, or dealing with patent law before a court, patent agents are powerless. These matters require a qualified attorney.
Patent agents are often hired to assist attorneys or corporations in drafting patents or in supporting patent work. In my case, I was already employed in research and engineering, pursuing patents and patent strategy, when I saw a need to expand my skills. I began studying for the US PTO’s patent bar exam that I took and passed in 1996, with the help of an excellent patent bar exam course offered by Patent Resources Group. I completed additional requirements and became registered as an official US patent agent in 2007, the first employee of my company to become a patent agent, as far as I know. Doing so has opened many doors to me and has helped me be more effective in my research work and in my work to guide and develop patent strategy.
If you have a technical background and an interest in patents, I would encourage you to consider becoming a patent agent. And if you’re interested in a law degree, take the extra time to also become a patent attorney. There is great demand for skills in patent law, and it’s an exciting area to pursue.