Archive for April, 2007

PostHeaderIcon We created a monster, or how ignoring basic ‘science classes’ is going to cost you.

You buy a new DVD player (one that ‘upconverts’ to 1080i HD, to your, also newly, acquired HD TV). It has (wow) Digital Output through ‘Digital Coax Out’. And even though the manual says you can use a regular RCA cable ($2.15) for that, you run to your local Radio Shack and happily pay $25 for a REAL Coax Digital Audio cable. After all, you want GREAT sound. That’s why you paid BIG money for those THICK speaker cables from ‘Monster Cable’. The ones that assured you of that DEEP VIBRANT Bass that you always wanted.

I’m an immoral person. I admit it. Especially in the context of this post: if I see an opportunity to get rich off of snobs, I go after it .. that’s why I looked if I can invest in Monster Cable.

I can’t. It’s a private company. Too bad.

Why is this company so successful?

Because it played out a stereotype! Ask someone to describe a singer who sings bass! He/She will undoubtedly describe him as BIG… as LARGE … as FAT. Nobody would ever suspect my bluddy Rob of being a bass!

So people fall for the fallacy: “With this HUGE BIG FAT cable… you get an incredible bass sound from you speakers, especially your subwoofer”.

Nonsense of course! That ‘Bass’ sound comes from the quantity of air moved by the speaker. The ‘wire’ is only there to provide the ‘sound information’ (I’m now speaking of powered sub-woofers). You can actually make that wire VERY thin, and not notice a difference (since there is none). Okay, if you make it TOO thin, it CAN actually melt .. but it will do that before you notice any loss of ‘bass’. I have preached this (in vain!) for many years, but last week I ran into something similar. VIDEO cables.

We purchased an HDTV, and I needed to connect it through video cables .. so called ‘Component’ cables. I also needed (well.. wanted!) a new ‘upconverting’ DVD player, for which I paid $42. Because HD video players are still well over $500, and I’m a cheap skate!. Turned out, the cables were MORE expensive than the video player, with all its electronics, firmware (!), moving parts, laser, remote control (batteries included!), manual, shipment from China, etc etc…

INSANE!

So I looked around for cables….

I found them. On BOTH sides of the spectrum. Here they are … see the links… remember… there is NO WAY IN HELL (or heaven) that ANYONE, for simple reasons, can actually ‘SEE’ a difference in picture quality between these cables.

The ‘not-so-cheap’ ones: link

The ‘cheaper’ ones: link

Yes! That’s $5.95 for common sense ($3.89 if you buy a 1oo of them, at which price they STILL make a hefty profit!), to $299 for easy-to-fall-for-hype.

(As for the not-so-cheap ones… I have actually found a cable for $399, but granted, that was quite ‘lengthy’ (not sure who needs 150 Ft of this crap anyway!)

PostHeaderIcon Understatement of the year: “You can understand we’re a little different”


Dear IRS, we cannot pay our income tax, as it is against our faith

PostHeaderIcon Woodburn, Indiana … where intolerance is the norm

Amy Sorrell, a 30 year old High School teacher (English and Journalism), was placed on paid leave, will be transferred to another school and is still facing being fired.

Her ‘crime’?

Failing to report to the principal a controversial article in the students’ own newspaper for which Mrs. Sorrell served as an adviser.

What was so ‘controversial’?

Student Megan Chase wrote an editorial calling for tolerance of gays.

Yes, you read that right: not only did Woodlan High School censor the students’ own newspaper, it also deemed a plee for tolerance ‘controversial’!

Such an outrageous display of homophobia by an institution that we entrust our children to for education is as maddening as it is scary.

“The school administration has said in no uncertain terms that she’s not going to be given a journalism position”

Ah, right, yes, God forbid that she teaches the kids at the other school such dangerous notions as freedom of speech and press!

Mrs. Sorrell said that she is proud of the student who wrote the article, but that she has no money to fight the decision.

Sounds like a perfect case for the ACLU: not only are certain elements of the school’s administration clearly overstepping the boundaries of their power to promote and push their own narrow-minded views, they are also brutally abusing the rights to free expression of both the students and Mrs. Sorrell.

They should be stopped! This is outrageous.

(Even so outrageous that one has to wonder if there’s not more behind the story than meets the eye)

Link to article: link

(and yes, I know, that picture is sickening too. Comes from that deranged lunatic Fred Phelps, America’s Ueber-homophobe!)

PostHeaderIcon You’re a WHAT?

I just watched this:

A kid announces his atheism. Dad seems to grab a beer and sits down at the dinner table to discuss this clearly unexpected revelation.
But mom explodes and starts the typical threatening, cursing (f-word!) and yelling (way to go mom!!).
(Dad wisely stays out of it from now on).
Curiously, mom appears to think that Christmas is all about getting presents.
But what really got me (laughing) is the way how, probably, a sister or brother, sneakily video-taped the outburst and sneaks away when things get TOO hot…

Still .. a very sad display of bad parenting…

Link to video

PostHeaderIcon Colonoscopies and pot odds

diceThis post is related to my two previous posts.
Recently I was listening to some details about a certain type of ‘minimally invasive’ surgery, when at some point the risks were brought up.
It was explained that this procedure was relatively safe, as it had a risk, expressed in mortality rate, comparable to that of a colonoscopy.
That sounded very reassuring, since a colonoscopy doesn’t involve incisions and messing with vital organs.
Then I saw the actual numbers and sure enough, they were fairly close.

But I was shocked nevertheless.

In 2004 I had a colonoscopy, based on my primary care physician’s recommendation to ANYONE who turns 50, to have one. Just as a precaution.
Since they did remove some polyps, it was recommened to have another one in 2006. I’m overdue for that one, and I really should get one scheduled.

Or SHOULD I?

I’m still shocked by the mortality rate of a colonoscopy. It was given as around 1 in 2000.
It is recommended that by the time you turn 50, you should get a colonoscopy, and then one every 5 years after that (or more often when they find something).
There are about 50 million people over the age of 50 in the US. If they would all follow the recommendation, each year 10 million people will have a colonoscopy! With the above mentioned mortality rate, 5,000 people WILL die each year by simply having a colonoscopy.
This scares me a lot.
I had no idea that such a procedure would kill one out of every 2000 patients.

The past few days I have been thinking a lot about this number.
And now I do of course realize that there’s another side of this coin. Something that poker players may recognize as a pot odds calculation: what is the cost of NOT having one. What are the odds that I DO develop undetected colon cancer.
When I wrote my ‘Odds’ post, I was still heavily leaning towards not going in for my second one.

But now, considering that this is widely recommended (so you think that someone has done the proper statistical analysis of the odds involved1.) PLUS the fact that I am more at risk due to the removed polyps .. maybe I SHOULD get another one.

I’m not asking my readers to make this decision for me, but I would appreciate their thoughts on this mortality rate2..


1.Here I appear to follow one of my commenter’s remarks, basically saying “If the authorities say it’s safe, I don’t care too much about the numbers”. But there is a difference I think.
2.I restricted myself to mortality, there are also various other, rather nasty, risks (like colon perforation) that require immediate and complicated surgery)

PostHeaderIcon Alien visitation

endoscope

I just came across an old post from my previous blog at Live Journal (link). For some reason I felt like re-posting it here:

Today, November 30th, 2004, I have been abducted by aliens.
I can’t give a full, detailed, account, since I’m only faintly aware of the actual abduction.
No, I didn’t dream it. It really happened. I remember laying on a gurney in a dimly lit chamber.
Soft strange music playing in the background. I also recall laying on my side, staring at an unfamiliar and complicated looking aparatus which was connected to a long black shiny rubbery hose.
I instinctively knew that that would have to be the infamous anal probe, and I’m frightened by the size and length of it: they are going to stick that thing WHERE?
So, all those alien abduction/anal probe stories are real after all?
One of the less conscious memories is that of beings coming into the room, beings in long loose robes. Green ones I believe.
From then on I am aware only of some faint experiences of uncomfortable pressure in my abdominal area and some soft strange whirring sounds.
The next thing I remember is waking up, feeling VERY dizzy and disoriented, still laying on a gurney, next to strange machinery that’s making soft puffing and bleeping noises.
And I realize that it’s all over. That I’m still alive. And will live. And that the experience, although by no means pleasant, wasn’t even painful!
Actually, the only rather painful part of the procedure was the $250 co-payment for this colonoscopy.

(you can click on the picture)

PostHeaderIcon Odds

delta crashIn preparing for an upcoming post, I’d like to ask my readers something. Do a little poll.

Suppose you have never flown before, you don’t know anything about it.

But now you are about to take a commercial flight in the US: you want to go to Vegas for a poker tournament or your company sends you on a mission to put out a fire somewhere or you’re going to attend a highschool reunion .. whatever.

Since you have never flown before, you do some research. Now SUPPOSE that you find these statistics (they are not realisitic, but, for this exercise, pretend you don’t know anything about flying and ASSUME that these numbers are correct):

The odds of a commercial flight (within the US) crashing and killing all its passengers is 1 in 3000.

The number of commercial flights on any given day is 30,000 (this is fairly accurate).

This means, that when you board your plane, THAT DAY, 10 commercial flights WILL crash in the US.

ASSUMING that these numbers are correct, will you make different travel arrangements (not involving planes)?

Or would you think, oh well, a 0.03% chance of crashing is negligible, let’s go …

PostHeaderIcon On making $43,750 per hour

FordFord, who posted a $12.7 BILLION net loss last year, paid its CEO Alan Mulally $28 MILLION for four months work.

This is just plain wrong.

Link to article: link