Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Why Hire a Robot ?

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...when you can make a human behave like one ?

Case in point, the call center operators refuse to admit the concept of marriage and a change of name exist.

"When you open an online savings account they check your credit score. If they don’t like it or cannot find it, they can deny you one. FNBO Direct refused my friend’s request to open an account because they couldn’t match her name to her credit score. She had just married and changed her name… But instead of asking her, they just told her “Your credit score is bad” (actually, it was excellent, but the name mismatch somehow got translated into bad score by their program). She had a similar problem in a brick and mortar bank when she tried to open a CD, but the bank let her show them her marriage certificate. When she called FNBO direct they didn’t care, they just said - your credit is bad."

Monday, October 29, 2007

Killer App 4 Zonetag and Google Earth, Fight Big Oil!

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Raise the Cell Tower High ! The Flag of the new Consumer Revolution !

This is a Keachie Koncept again, as an add-on to the previous post. I notice the younger generation at Yahoo Berkeley Research Labs, (or is it Berkeley Yahoo Research Labs?) has come up with a vaguely useful device which basically takes the cell tower you happen to be using to make a call, and couples it automatically to an image you take on your cell phone, so that a whole cluster of images from one general area can be posted together. They seem to be doing this for purposes of social identity affirmation.

Google also asks you to post photos and to identify their location to spice up their Google Earth.

What I propose is to take this technology and use it to fight high oil prices. If, every time you pull into a gas station, you take a cell phone picture of the big price sign and the station, and you send the results to a site which sorts them by zip code or better yet, by latitude and longitude, and the results can be retrieved on cells automatically sorted by price, low to high, there will be real pressure to lower oil prices. The most recent pictures would show up with the time noted.

In effect, on your cell phone, the vendors would be lined up right next to one another and compared. A little bit of programming could alert you to the cheapest gas within a given radius of the general direction you seem to be heading. A bit more programming would alert you to the fact that you seem to be heading to an area which is getting noticably more expensive.

t may not lower prices, but it will make Americans more aware of the fact that oil prices are something of national concern that needs more attention. As an alumnus, Class of 1969, I double dare the social affirmation folks at Berkeley Yahoo Research to live up to the Berkeley Traditions of Real Social Services. for the Common Man and Woman.

Maybe all corporations should be required to sell off all assets and disband after 125 years have passed. Maybe we need a constitutional amendment that limits the interest and fees of all types on all loans to be limited to 18% or lower. Maybe no corporation netting more than 100 million per year should be allowed to hire any lobbyists. Maybe no corporation period should be allowed to hire any lobbyists. After all, it looks like we have the finest government money can buy, and look who's able to afford it ?

Certainly not John Q. Consumer!

And look what that government gets us:

Global Warming and Yet Another War before We've Even Paid for the Current One !

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Bump at the Pump, Boiled in Oil ? Fight Back !

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I just put 7 gallons of oil in my wife's car so she can make it down to Yuba City where she can get it cheaper. The cost, using credit or debit, is now $3.29 in North San Juan. I think the scheme here is to slowly turn up the price, then reduce it back, and then slowly turn it up even a little bit more. A frog will jump out of boiling water, but will sit in a pan of slowly warming water until it is so hot it dies. The American consumer has to start fighting back.

The only way I can think of to do this effectively is to pay cash and buy the cheapest gas possible. We have already cut way back on non essential trips. We don't do real movies anymore, we get them via satellite and Netflics. The cost of garbage is up, so we recycle everything, mulch what we can, and take the remainder air tight to Sacramento and dump it in a relative's otherwise nearly empty can. Corporate America is cost cutting all over the place. The American consumer needs to do the same. Make your own Christmas wraps from aluminum foil and colored paper. Don't buy soft drinks or candy from vending machines. And, BTW, Long's Drugs was selling outdated, by a full month, very flat stale CocaCola last week. I took it back and got a refund. They said they were "sorry." I asked if they would remove the remaining product from the shelf, while I watched. 'Well, no......" Sorry my sweet bippie ! Alway check the dates on coke and everything else. Coke and Odwalla should be at least two months out.

I anticipate an angry bear or two next year when they discover we are harvesting our walnuts, apples, pears, and blackberries in earnest. We going to do a "pick your own" next year, with a very simple price structure. We get one half of the berries etc. you pick, by weight. We been buying in thrift store for years, as well as building material recyclers, like Urban Ore in Emeryville and Habitat Restore in Grass Valley/Nevada City. Stop the flow of cash to China via Walrusmart ("see how they run" "everybody buy China, buy China") and Home Despots (#1 and #2 retailers in USA), and they'll have less cash to buy polluting automoblies, and our real estate !

I recommend http://consumerist.com . I'll be setting up blogs and sites I like in proper clickable format soon. Too tired to look up codes tonight.

Friday, October 26, 2007

The Bridges of Nevada County, Halloween Night

headless horseman, originally uploaded by gravityx9.

Photoshop is quite a tool. I hope to learn to use it well someday, like this artist. I'm assuming that clicking on this will give you the original location, as well as possible make it larger. I got this from the "Blog This". It's by gravityx9 on www.flickr.com My images there are at www.flickr.com/photos/keachie. Great Party Invite Image !

Happy Halloween !

(Below....For your kids. grandkids....)

On October 31st, what did the barbeque say to the hotdogs ?

Hallo ! Weenies !

(from the old gold miner on the North San Juan Ridge)

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Grasshoppers Mardi Gras

Papuan grasshoppers, originally uploaded by Mangi Wau.

Papuan grasshoppers.

Grasshoppers at Sua, Keerom district, Papua, Indonesia

This is too pretty to pass up !

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Preventing Spot Fires, A Letter to Arnie the Gov

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"Reducing Fire Spotting

Here's a cheap and effective program that can reduce wildfire damages. This is for people with swimming pools or other 1,000 gallon plus water storage systems on the premises.

Let's do a grant program for buying high powered Honda water pumps ? (I have no financial connection here.) Or maybe we could pass a bill that calls for an insurance policy mandatory price reduction if such a pump is installed on the premise, along with a water reservoir of some sort?

These cost about $750 and many low and middle class home owners have inexpensive but large above ground pools. A grant program would help encourage the purchase of these pumps by these home owners.

If such homeowners were outside spraying the 1,000 to 20,000 gallons of water all over their and their neighbor's properties before they had to evacuate, the reduction in spot fires would be substantial. The manpower is there, the water is there, why not make it usable? The pump will shoot water well over 100 feet.

Just having a grant program would increase awareness of this obvious partial solution to the fire situation.

As for multi million dollar homes with in ground pools, double the sizes above, were they too cheap or too ignorant to buy a pump ? No excuses if they are that rich..."

If you think this is a good idea, you might go to the governor's website and send a similar letter, not to mention Charlie Brown, Annestad, etc.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Sneakier and Sneakier, MegaCorps on the March

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We all know that corporate America is doing all it can to off customer service off onto webot pages to handle a lot of situations. For ordinary items, this is a good thing, but when you know you're going to have to speak with a representative, then you should be able to cut to the chase from Menu One.

Now we have a new wrinkle, which I have suddenly realized is a master stroke. If MegaCorp fractionates what each actual human knows about or can do, then each human in turn gets to pass you off to another one, with endless delays to make you go away.

Case in point, me vs my ATT phone bill. My new bill came with a new $5 late fee + 1% of the outstanding balance(used to be less than $1), and it seemed high, so I looked further. I noticed a charge for Vartec which had never been there before, which I've never heard of. I called ATT and waded through endless menus to get to an operator queue where I waited for ATT to hire enough operators to answer the phones in a timely (less than one minute) manner. Then I finally got to a human and asked, "what is Vartec ?" she doesn't know. She is supposed to answer questions about bills, this company name is on my bill. She hasn't a clue, but transfers me to someone who does, supposedly. This person I reached by actually having to call the Vartec number. I asked her what they are doing for me. She doesn't know either. She finally admits that Vartec is part of Clear Choice Communication, my long distance carrier, which charges me $5 a month plus 5 cents a minute, anywhere in the USA. Originally, 1999, there was no $5 fee. Now it seems that they want another $1.70 base fee, so they hide it in a section containing taxes and tariffs. Do they ask or notify ? No.

I tell them to cancel. They are canceling. ATT is also canceling, but they are charging $7.50 a line to cancel.

Bill Cosby calls this "victimization by bureaucracy." I think the good doctor is onto something.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Cities, Strange Places Where People Crowd Together..

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where people crowd together for economic benefits, often at the cost of everything else they value, including their sanity.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Improving TSA Bomb Scanning Scores

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I'd like to see one or both of the following implemented.

Have images from scanning devices put on-line in real time (One more reason for fiber optic-ing the whole country ASAP) and allow trained amateurs to look too. Have it set up so that if a given % of viewers see something screwy, a bell goes off at the machine, and the sleepy bored TSA person (how many pairs of underwear will it take to put YOU to sleep, not a fun job) does a double check of the item.

In a large airport with many, many lines and scanners, project the contents of each bag as it goes through on a mega-screen above the waiting passengers. Wait, Wait ! There's More !

Obviously you can't project the images from the bags in this line to the people waiting in this line. Instead the images are randomly assigned to any line but this line. Since you have to leave the double checking open to anyone who wants to push the panic button, the percentage of viewers required to ring the bell at the appropriate line must be higher. Actually, it would be a good idea to have a preregister and ID card to activate the button for pushing, like maybe combine it with the frequent flier TSA bypass card.

If a would be bomber wasn't nervous already, now he's got tons of people checking his stuff, and you can well guess what a cheery reception will await him. Each person, once a day, upon pushing the button, is photographed and their image is stored. If they score a correct ID (find bomb or bomb parts, they get $1,000 and 100,000 free air miles. But they only get to push the button once to be entered in the drawing, to discourage false alarms. Also, their face goes in a database, and as soon as it recognizes them as a compulsive button person, the button speaker chides them, embarrassing them in front of the crowd. This also might stop multiple bombers with multiple suitcases, each with one part of the bomb.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Amazon vs Home Depot and Citibank

If you are having issues with the 12 months, no payments, no interest offers, so have I. I am anxiously awaiting my next bill in the mail to see whether or not they have corrected things. In the meantime, further research into Home Depot reveals these four sites of interest. BTW, Amazon, for the most part, is excellent. They had arecent promo giveaway that was a disaster.


See what fun your fellow consumers are having with MegaCorps of all stripes and colors. Excellent sample letters, all quite colorful, too bad corporates never read them.


Once you are there, do a search for Home Depot, and see what else these folks have their fingers into. Actually, you'll need to search for a person associated with Home Depot, such as Tom Ridge. Once there, you can begin to look at the corporate structure of the USA, by noting which individuals are on which boards of other companies. This is sort of a current illustrated version of C. Wright Mills classic, "The Power Elite," which came out back in the 50's. Some of this stuff is dated at this site. Nardelli parachuted to his other lives with $220,000,000 or $205,000,000 more than the Homer Fund distributed to all its employees over ten years.

Customers and employees are having a blast at:


And you can see how generous Home depot is with its "little people" and its Homer Fund. A whooping $15,000,000 since 1996 or so. Currently HD takes in $82,000,000,000 a year. So since 1996 they've taken in maybe 5 trillion, $5,000,000,000,000 and they have about 355,000 employees. You can do the math and see how generous they are.

The web address for this is rather long, and I was unable to get there by drilling down from corporate.homedepot.com . That didn't even find a server.


If that doesn't work, google for home depot corporate vinings

For real corporate generosity, visit the Whirlpool site, www.whirlpool.com . They give a free refrigerator and range to each and every Habitat for Humanity home built in the USA. HD suppports a race car, for maximum advertising exposure, instead.

Post Scriptum: Actually, I will credit Home Depot for donating batteries to firemen who went door to door double checking smoke detectors in Sacramento, according to KCRA, today, December 7th, 2007.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Bush Attacks Like Mars Attacks, Unbreakable Codes using Fotos

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"Hey Man !

Congress has work to do, I get to sit on my rear end and gripe about them. Paint'em Black !"

One more year of this, oh good grief !

This country is always "under construction." I'd wear an American flag pin if it included some sense of a logo like one finds on websites that are "under construction." I think we all need that constant reminder of the true state of affairs. The USA is not Nirvana. With luck it is on the road, but at this point I'd say the President is off the rails and playing in the daisies. As long as all the economic stats are presented from the point of view of of corporations and their lobbyists, and small business people with their need for cheap labor that doesn't complain**, and the true state of affairs of the common employed citizen is never accurately told, we have a long way to go. Our government and our school systems and our Chambers of Commerce and trade organization all fail us in this regard, deliberately, to avoid revolution, I suspect. Don't rock the boat.

A real economic indicator would be the percentage of 30 + hours a week workers who make less than 20% more than the minimum wage. I strongly suspect this number is rising, as is the number of workers holding two or more "part time" minimum wage jobs. Call it the "Bottom Comfort Index." Thanks for all the info on small and large CAPs, but frankly, the impoverished working citizen could give a tinker's dam (a small repair made with lead way back when, not very strong) about where the stock market is. The stock market is the rich folks' score card. For the caddies of the world, it merely represents if the grass is watered or not, they're still walking the course and carrying the load, at least when not out sourced.

The fantasy of the USA is that "everybody can make it big." No they can't. They way the system is set up, only a few can make it big, the rest are needed in the "Bottom Comfort Index," to mow the lawns and fix the cars, etc. The reality is that "anybody can make it big, BUT VERY FEW WILL." If this was engraved in the brains of our middle and high schoolers, daily, they just might be a bit more motivated to study harder, and in particular, find out exactly what skills or background you need to land on the Fortune 400. Hint, most get there (from the bottom) via extreme attention to interpersonal skills, a bit of luck, and well developed specialized knowledge. Accurate self awareness is also near the top of the requirements list, especially when it comes to areas to work on. How many people never make it out of the Bottom Comfort Index during their lifetimes for more than three years ? Now that would be an interesting number to know and teach about.


On privacy and telephones and communications.

While it is more convenient to talk directly with another person, a great deal of information can be transmitted by codes which are just plain unbreakable, and then references can be made to the base information on the phone, without revealing what the base information is. This is much like parents talking in alphabet around pre-school kids.

Unbreakable codes ???

Piece of cake, given the volume of photographs being posted to the web every second. Just using a simple alphabet, where each photo is a letter in a message, and changing the codes with a paragraph marker photo, gives you an unbreakable code. You simply send or post the sequence of photos, and the receiver looks at the images to discover items within each image to derive a letter. You can probably leave the sequence of letters unscrambled, but preset scrambles would give yet another level of security.


if the picture contains an Apple (fruit or computer or IPod), then the picture is the letter "A."

if the picture contains a Ball (joint, baseball, dance ball), then it is a "B"

and so on. This can be changed in midstream with a picture that contains, say, a bridge (dental, river, computer router device), you see how easy it is to find variants on the same unit of meaning, and when you hit this "change" picture, you go to an entirely different set of codes in a set of pictures. This can be expanded to ever increasing levels of complexity very easily.

Actually you can change the bits in one image just slightly, and then send several different variations on the same image, at different times to different locations, email websites, etc, and still carry meaning. The amount of change in a color or density at a given point gives you a letter. This trick I can recall learning back in the late 1980's. The pictures still look perfectly normal, and a simple piece of programming will give you a tool to extract the information. Terrorists can communicate vast quantities of information very easily, and completely undetectably, using these kinds of techniques.

Domestic surveillance is not going to stop terrorism, less dependence on oil will.

A Complaint Free World ?????*

If you are going to accept your environment as it is, fine. Not me. My complaints are very justifiable, just about all of them.

*wear a purple rubber bracelet, change it to the opposite wrist every time you complain. A minister came up with this, six million sold so far.

** When in college, and just out of it, I loved that business person that would moan to me about how he "wasn't making any money," while his equity in the business built up as he paid off all his loans, and provided for his family. Hey that's one of the best lies that ever came my way, and growing up, it came several times. "Why don't you just close up shop and go get a job elsewhere?" was always met with a shrug of the shoulders, and a "well it may get better, and you need you job, don't you?' as if he was a saint, maintaining a worthless business, just for my benefit. I think I got it figured out by age 30 or so. Like I say, they do not teach economic realities in school, from the standpoint of the best interests of the individual student. "...they keep it all hid..." Bob Dylan.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

"It is My Intent...," Evangelical Hissy-Fit

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Well, the well-known issues of the religious right (rr) are being put to the test. In an effort to dump the nomination of the most likely Republican to be a winner, Giuliani. the rr is trying to railroad the Republican party onto the rr's siding. By threatening to vote 3rd party or not at all, the rr hopes to block his nomination. I'd rather see a fair fight between Hilary and Giuliani, but if the rr wants to commit political suicide, so be it. The Republicans will never trust or depend on the rr again. They will be viewed as a no longer useful tool for advancing the rich over the poor. Given that the bulk of the rr population is on the lower end of the economic scale, it was really quite an accomplishment on the part of Carl Rove to have corralled them for Bush in the first place. Secretly I might hazard a guess that the Christian women are so ticked off at the men of the world for the current state of affairs, that they may vote for Hilary anyway. This could be the biggest landslide ever. I can't wait to see the exit poll demographics next year.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

The Union, Reader Comments Censored ???

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UPDATE 45 minutes after this (Below and Title) was written:

Now all the comments are back again. Don't know if it was a glitch that required logging completely out of the site, a brief removal for perusal for nasty inappropriate stuff, or what ?
Guess I'll just have to wait and see how this plays out in the future.

I just voted in and took a look at the comments about a poll on "Should Pot Be Legalized?" The votes were running 80 % in favor, and there was an interesting discussion going on about the effects of legalization on the local economy, stuff involving wealthy retirees and MacMansions and prison guards out of work and all those people released from prison likewise.

So I thought I'd chip in with a few thoughts of my own, and did so, results to follow. What is significant is that my thoughts initially seemed to post along with the ten others in the bin. I went back to check twenty minutes later, and all but three of the original posts vanished, including the line of thoughts described above. All that was left was Fascists vs. Communists, Borrrrinnng ! I also tried to find some stuff I posted the night before on the Donner Summit fiasco. That was not only gone, I couldn't hardly even find the comments of the others, without a real dig into the archives.

My ventures into online reading came as all the local (NSJ) copies were gone, due to the shooting story over the weekend up here. You'd think they'd give Brass Rail and SuperStop, and MotherTrucker's extra copies when stuff like that is in the news.

But for me the real story is the missing comments. Why bother posting if it is going to get wiped out to suit somebody's agenda?

Here is a copy of what I wrote this morning on the Pot Poll and the concerns about the economy.

"Actually what the poor and middle class of this country have to fear, more than anything else, will be workers in Mexico and elsewhere in skin tight suits with sensors, controlling Waldobots in the USA, doing all the menial and even skilled jobs. With fiber optics linking the continents, it will be possible to bypass the need for AI based robots, and instead have human judgment elsewhere do the controlling. Fiber optics and the advances in video cam technologies, force feedback, make this possible, and even desirable. Why pay for a dead miner, when you can replace a Bot? It cuts down on theft/other crimes, and eliminates the need for medical care, and leaves lots of empty lots for the retirees.

As for the Reeks and Wrecks (poor and entire former middle class), you need to read "Player Piano," by Kurt Vonnegut if you haven't already. Thanks to Heinlein for the concept of Waldos. Bots don't smoke pot, at least not in this country, under these circumstances....."

If you want to be sure your stuff isn't censored, get a blog and double post, once in the paper, and, if it disappears, once in your blog. Just highlight and control c the posting before you post, and paste it into a document. I save them like this, "LE_2007_10_02_Pot_Poll_WaldoBots.doc," in a Letters to the Editor directory. Very easy to find. After a while, if the censorship is really happening, the Union will get a rep. A well documented rep. If this was just a "mistake" or accident, my apologies.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Can't We All Just get Along ? Case Study #789,234

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Feuding nuns force convent demise
By Christian Fraser
BBC News, Rome

The local bishop had to step in to tackle the problem
A convent in Italy is being shut down after a fight between its last three remaining nuns.

So badly did relations deteriorate between the sisters of Santa Clara in Bari that the Mother Superior ended up in hospital with scratches to her face.

Now the local archbishop has intervened and asked the Vatican for permission to close the convent.

But Sister Liliana, the only nun still there, says she has no intention of leaving her home of the past 44 years.

The Clarissa nuns are regarded as the most austere order of the Roman Catholic Church, devoted to a life of prayer, penance and quiet contemplation.

But at the Santa Clara convent in Bari, the vow of silence was shattered by an unholy row.

Sisters Annamaria and Gianbattista say they were driven to distraction by the nasty habits of their Mother Superior.

They became so angry that during the summer, they turned on Sister Liliana scratching her face and throwing her to the ground.

The two nuns have now moved into a nearby convent leaving Sister Liliana barricaded inside.

Despite the efforts of the Archbishop Giovanni Battista Pichierri to reconcile the three sisters he has been forced to call on the Vatican for help.

He wrote to the Holy See telling them the sisters had "clearly lost their religious vocation" and with only one nun remaining has asked for permission to close the convent down.

But Sister Liliana is not going without a fight.

She has not once left the nunnery in 44 years and she is not about to be pushed about now.

She has written to the Pope telling him she will only leave when God decides it is time to go.

And since she is devoted to her vow of silence it is not that easy to reason with her.