Sunday, November 28, 2010

High Light Bulb Changer

So you have a light bulb in a high ceiling fixture and no ladder.  What to do?  Make your own light bulb changer.

Materials needed:

Broom stick with standard Acme threads
An empty 2 liter plastic soda bottle
An old cotton t-shirt
Small amount of tape (electrical, duct, masking, whatever)
Sharp knife


1.) Cut the bottle approximately as shown in the photo.  Be careful because this kind of plastic is tough.  Both the knife and the plastic can cut you.  You don't need or want a smooth clean edge on the plastic.  A ragged edge is fine.  (see below)

2.) Screw the broomstick into the mouth of the bottle until it's snug, then apply a wrap or two of tape as shown in the photo to make sure it stays in place.

3.) Take the old t-shirt and fold it once so there's four layers of material and carefully fit it into the bottle.  What I do is fold the t-shirt then lay it over a light bulb and use the bulb to gently press the shirt into the bottle.  Once the shirt is in place, you can replace bulbs all day long without readjusting the shirt.

4.) Now you're ready to go.  Gently press the tool up over the existing bulb and twist the broom stick counterclockwise to unscrew it.  Put the new bulb into the tool and install it.

BE GENTLE!  This device grips the bulb and gives a lot of leverage so it's very easy to twist the bulb right off and break it.  Fingertip pressure is all you need to hold the broom stick.

The way it works is the sharp edge of the bottle tends to grab the t-shirt material so the shirt doesn't slip.  When you twist, the cotton t-shirt material takes about a 1/8th turn wrap on the bulb and grips it.  The harder you twist, the tighter it grips.  A heavy cotton t-shirt works best and a dirty t-shirt grips better than a clean t-shirt.

This device works equally well on incandescent bulbs and spiral CFLs (compact fluorescents).  For very small bulbs, fold the t-shirt twice before inserting it.  For other shapes like long skinny CFLs you might try the same methods but with differently shaped bottles.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The End is Nigh

As mentioned in a previous post, October of 2010 has five Fridays, five Saturdays, and five Sundays, which only happens every 823 years.  Strange as that may be, another apocalyptic moment is coming this Sunday:

10/10/10 10:10

Exciting, huh?

The problem to be solved, however, is to determine in which time zone this date and time signifies the precise moment of destruction of the universe.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Another Apocalyptic Moment

Actually, it's an apocalyptic month this time. October of 2010 has five Fridays, five Saturdays, and five Sundays, which only happens every 823 years.

Nothing happened during our last apocalyptic moment, No Supernova Today.  Maybe this one will bring Armageddon.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

What Were You Doing on 9/11 ?

The Maya Paradise BBS has a thread where you can post your stories:

Let's hear your stories of that fateful day, September 11, 2001.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Raise Interest Rates!

Here's some lateral thinking for you: Since late 2008, the central banks of the world have been pumping hundreds of billions of dollars into the world's banking and financial institutions in order to stimulate economic activity and head off a recession / depression. This is the right thing to do in a fiat money system when faced with this economic situation. (I'm not going to discuss my views on fiat money, but a fiat money system is what we have so that's what we've got to work with.)

However the worldwide money situation is bizarre right now, upside-down. The stimulus money, which is now some trillions of dollars, has not been stimulating like it ought to. Why? Because banks are not lending the money but are hoarding it. The banks of the world are sitting on well over a trillion dollars and are not lending it out. Why? Because interest rates are extremely low, near zero, and have been low for a long time. The banks are waiting for interest rates to go up which will raise the effective value of the cash they are hoarding and they will start lending again.

I propose that the Federal Reserve should raise interest rates and that this will stimulate lending and thus stimulate the economy. This sounds bizarre but given the upside-down state that the world's money systems are in, I think it would work.

What do you think?

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Boat Names

Hopefully you'll laugh like I did:

Monday, August 9, 2010

No Supernova Today

An interesting thing occurred early this morning. Shortly after 5 AM, there occurred 05:06:07 08-09-10.

I'm pleased to report there were no major earthquakes, no tsunamis, Yellowstone caldera didn't blow up, no mass extinction, the methane clathrates at the bottom of the oceans didn't turn over, the LHC did not produce a planet-eating black hole, the earth's magnetic poles didn't reverse, the earth didn't shift on its axis, and the sun didn't go nova.

We lived through yet another apocalyptic moment. Imagine that.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Serious Flaw Threatens all Versions of Microsoft Windows

A serious flaw that affects all versions of Microsoft Windows, from Windows 2000 through Windows 7 has been discovered, publicized, and already exploited by hackers. The exploit is especially dangerous because all the user has to do is open a folder containing an infected file with a .LNK extension. The exploit then runs automatically.

Malware already exists that exploits this flaw. At present this malware is programmed to seek out industrial control systems, infrastructure, SCADA systems, and so forth, but versions that spread widely are sure to come soon.

Centers that monitor the health of the Internet are raising the threat level from green to yellow.

The danger remains until Microsoft issues a fix. An additional big problem is that there are still many systems out there running Windows 2000 and Windows XP SP2 and Microsoft no longer issues patches for those operating systems.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Microsoft Bing Is Paying for Users?

Microsoft has now taken to paying people to use their search engine? Is it that bad?

It looks a little less blatant framed as a donation but then Microsoft has always been expert at putting lipstick on a pig.

I never did understand why Microsoft would go after the web search market at all. Of all the things they could possibly have done, they chose the one area where they cannot possibly succeed. What were they thinking? I guess the corporate culture in Redmond breeds either blindness, or arrogance, or maybe both.

Look, because of my work I do hundreds of searches every day, often searching for very obscure and hard to find information. I tried Bing. It sucked. From time to time I try it again and it continues to come up less effective than Google. Google is a lean, mean, lightning-fast search engine that almost invariably gets me immediately or almost immediately to the information I seek. It has no unnecessary visual distractions or crap that slows the loading of the page. It's fine tuned and user friendly. And now Google has added even more cool features that help me a lot such as the timeline search. Fabulous.

Microsoft's only hope to compete with Google search was to completely clone Google search and re-invent all of the proprietary magic that makes Google what it is, which even as rich as Microsoft is, they cannot afford to do.

Instead I'll donate three bucks to charity myself and not use Bing.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Elena Kagan Lost My Support

It's too bad really. Elena Kagan has a brilliant mind and is supremely qualified academically to be a Supreme Court justice, but the confirmation hearings and a reading of some of her opinions reveals a fundamental wrong-headedness about natural rights.

The wordings found in the Declaration of Independence (which is not the basis of law), and the Bill of Rights and Constitution (which are the basis of law) make it very clear that those documents are acknowledging pre-existing rights that all people have. The Bill of Rights and the Constitution do not confer any rights on the people. Those documents prohibit the government from infringing rights the people already have.

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." (The right is preexisting.) "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed." (The right already exists.) "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated..." (The right already exists.) And so the wording is throughout the Bill of Rights and Constitution.

The founders were very clear in their position that those rights are inherent in every person--God-given if you prefer. No man and no government has the power to confer those rights, so the founding documents of the United States do not make the error of attempting confer rights. Instead, those documents are the basis of laws that prohibit the government from infringing the rights we as human beings already have.

Yes I know that if you ask people on the street, many of them would agree with the statement: "our rights come from the Bill of Rights." Well they don't, and the distinction is critically important for a Supreme Court justice. Elena Kagan does not agree with the position of the founders on natural rights. In various opinions that Kagan has written, she uses the word "confer" with regard to rights protected by the Bill of Rights. She worded her opinions to say that the Bill of Rights "confers" those rights, and this is wrong-headed. It's so wrong-headed that in my opinion it disqualifies her from serving as a Supreme Court justice, regardless of any other opinions she may have. She doesn't agree with the fundamental thinking behind our founding documents. Instead believes that government has the power and the ability to confer rights on the people. Government has no such power. Despots and dictators like to believe they have those powers, pretend to have those powers, and use physical force to make it look like they have those powers. Perhaps Ms. Kagan would do better serving on the Supreme Court of a country like Myanmar, Iran, or North Korea, not the United States.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Cook Over Wood More Efficiently

A huge number of people in the world use wood fuel for cooking. Cooking over wood is very common here in Guatemala. Wood fires generally produce a lot of pollution and smoke, and result in deforestation in some areas.

But wood is not such a bad fuel if we burned it more efficiently. The problem is that methods for burning wood are terribly inefficient. Most wood fueled cooking setups waste over 90 percent of the heat produced. The heat just goes off into the atmosphere and not into the item being heated. We also burn wood at a lower than optimum temperature, which results in wasted fuel, incomplete burning, and production of smoke.

If we could raise the efficiency of the burning process and at the same time focus the heat produced into the cooking pot or other item being heated instead of wasting it, we could theoretically get the same cooking done faster, using a lot less wood, and producing a lot less pollution.

Devices that burn wood more efficiently and that you can cook on are not that difficult to construct if you know how to build things from sheet metal and weld it together. And you'll end up with a fairly large, heavy, non-portable device. But most people in poor countries do not have the ability to build such things and cannot afford to buy a large, heavy, and thus expensive device.

In order to make an efficient wood burning device that is small and portable you have to use forced air. Well that's out of the question in poor countries, isn't it? But what if the device generated its own electricity to power a fan for the forced air. Way too complicated and unreliable, right?

Perhaps not. Check out the BioLite. It's a pretty neat idea.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

The BP Blues by the Dirty Cajuns