29 September 2007

Murder by Tylenol

Mary Kellerman, a 12-year old of Elk Grove Village, Illinois, woke up early and complained to her parents of a sore throat and runny nose. They gave her an Extra-Strength Tylenol Capsule and retreated back to bed. They arose at 7 a.m. to find their daughter collapsed on the bathroom floor. She was pronounced dead after being immediately taken to the hospital.

It was September 29, 1982. The day had barely begun in the greater Chicago area and it had already claimed the life of a little girl. This was just the beginning to what would later be labeled a tragedy.

Paramedics had arrived on the scene at the residence of Adam Janus, a postal worker, to find him barely clinging to life. He was rushed to the hospital and the attempts to resuscitate him failed. Mr. Janus had become the second victim to what would labeled the Tylenol Crisis.

By October 1st, there had been a total of seven deaths related to Tylenol, including two relatives of Adam Janus. Authorities and medical officials were able to ascertain that all the deaths involved the popular pain killer Tylenol.

Upon further investigation, it was found that the bottles of Tylenol that led to the deaths contained cyanide. Investigators found that certain bottles had been tampered with and placed back on the shelves of certain stores. Johnson & Johnson, Tylenol's parent company, proceeded with an expensive recall of all its products.

Because of all this tragedy, the FDA mandated anti-tamper measures be implemented on all over-the-counter medication. With the help of product consultant Calle & Company, Tylenol released the invention of Gelcaps, which were effectively tamper-proof capsules.

Tylenol took a big hit in sales due to the product tampering, but was able to overcome with effective pricing and marketing. The investigators were not as lucky; the culprit of the tampering was never found.

28 September 2007

Are Traffic Cameras Fair?

I have heard many people protest the idea of traffic cameras to catch those who speed. While I know that they can have some errors, I would rather see them in use to keep people honest. Some say that this isn't fair, but I think if you are breaking the law, then you should pay the consequences. Most don't feel the same way as I do, and it shows when speed cameras become targets of vandalism.

A company in Holland has developed a speed camera that is near indestructible. The Innovative Digital Enforcement Environment, or IDEE, stands at 13 feet tall and can withstand heat, tampering, and impacts. It has sensors connected to the base to alert authorities when it is being tampered with. But at a cost of up to $100,000, is it worth it?

In my opinion, no. People will still find cheap ways to tamper with the cameras, such as spray paint, tape, or Vaseline. The cost of upkeep will be huge and people will begin to learn the locations of such cameras and either adjust their speed around them, or take alternative routes.

If there was a way to hide the cameras so that no one saw them, then that might work, but as long as people are aware of them, they will be avoided or vandalized.

I'm not for speeding as I see it as dangerous, especially on residential streets. I have debated with others over this and most of them say it is their right to go the speed that they choose. Now, I'm not saying that speed limits don't annoy me from time to time, but I believe that if there is a posted speed limit, then it should be enforced.

Enforcement of speed limits is difficult and labor intensive. That is why an automated system works best, but whenever technology advances, so does the general population in finding a way to beat the system.

27 September 2007

Does your vote count?

When the Constitution was created, there were provisions included within Article II that provided us with a body of electors from each State. These electors were to cast their ballots for who they wanted as President and then cast a separate ballot for who they wanted as Vice-President. Each State is awarded a certain number of Electoral votes based on the number of Senators and Representatives in the House. When all votes are tallied in each State, the electors will compile their votes and the candidate with the most electoral votes will get those electoral points.

Here is where it becomes redundant. 27 of the 50 States require the electors to vote the same way as the popular vote. Some of those States even have penalties for those who do not do so. I'm not saying this is wrong, but what I don't understand is if they are required to vote the same as the popular vote, why have the Electoral College at all? Why not just tally up the popular vote and the candidate that wins in that State receive those electoral votes?

The answer lies in Article II of the Constitution and Amendment 12 of the same document. These require States to have electors. There have been a couple of attempts to change this, but nothing has ever come close to being passed through the House or Senate.

I don't believe we should have electoral votes or points at all. Like we saw in the 2000 election, the candidate with the most popular votes did not win the election (Al Gore). Although this is very rare, it should not happen. There should not be a reason why the candidate with the most popular votes should not receive the Presidency.

Direct popular vote would also encourage more third party candidates. Since most third party candidates are not funded as well as their more popular adversaries, they find it difficult to travel to a lot of States and try to "win" each. With the popular vote, they could easily be seen on T.V. debates, or on the internet and people would know that their vote did not get wasted because of the electoral college process.

Of course, the Electoral College has at least one benefit. When and if there is a recount needed, it is only done in the particular state where there may have been a discrepancy. There may not be a way to differentiate votes by State in a popular vote contest, leaving a recount to the whole country.

Overall, I see the electoral process as a big waste of time. I feel that if people thought that their votes really counted in an election, such as with a popular vote contest, that there would be more people at the polls.

Are there any other opinions on the subject?

For more information: NARA FAQ

26 September 2007

Chinese High-Speed Rail

By the end of the year China will be operating their first domestically produced high-speed rail line. Operating between the 71 mile (115 km) Beijing-Tianjin route, the new rail line will reduce the trip from 70 minutes to a half hour. Capable of moving 600 passengers, the line will be just in time for the Beijing Olympics next August.

Nine months ago, I brought up the idea that America should have its own high-speed rail. It seems that I'm not the only one with this idea, as Wired magazine wrote an article on the topic. To me, it just seems like this would be the perfect competition to airlines and bus travel, neither of which are looked at fondly.

The Midwest High Speed Rail Association is also looking to increase the awareness of high-speed rail in the central United States. There are many existing tracks that could be upgraded and straightened to create viable high-speed rail lines. In many places tracks have been upgraded and used as high-speed lines and the ridership has increased.

I believe that people would use high-speed rail if it was available to them as a comparable alternative to driving and flying. For most comparisons, the distance is limited to 500 miles, or a three hour flight. I would be more inclined to take rail if the prices were comparable, even if it meant that it would take an extra hour in travel. Passenger rail cars are more spacious and comfortable. They can provide better than an aircraft can, so I would have no qualms about taking rail.

Now, if we could just get the government and investors on board.

25 September 2007

New Defense Weapon

Raytheon has developed a new less-than-lethal weapon that utilizes millimeter wave technology to essentially "warm" the target and force them from the area. Similar in overall effect to tear gas, tasers, and beanbag shotguns, the Silent Guardian allows the user to disperse a crowd, protect a checkpoint or engage in non-lethal force.

This system provides many benefits over other less-than-lethal systems. Unlike tear gas, the Silent Guardian can target a single individual, making it effective against a rogue protester. It also provides the benefit of being able to be deployed from a distance, something that a taser cannot accomplish. The system is very versatile as well; it can adjust from a narrow beam, targeting an individual, to a wide beam to disperse a crowd.

This could help those in the military with base perimeter defense or enforcing checkpoints. On the civilian side, it could help with crowd control or riots. Although this device provides many advantages, it is not without its detractors.

Some believe that the device could be used for purposes other than what was intended, such as torture. Since the device leaves no marks of its use, this would be perfect for those looking to inflict pain, but leave no trace. There is also some concern of what would happen if someone with a weak heart or pacemaker was exposed to the rays of the device.

I believe that device will do more good than harm. I see it being used in military applications to help save lives. Any device that is created can be used outside its designated purpose, and I don't feel that the Silent Guardian is any different. Just like any weapon created, you want to keep it out of the hands of the enemy. Even in civilian utilization, I see great uses for this product.

All in all, this should be a great product, and should provide law enforcement and military personnel with a tool to help prevent disasters and save lives. Let me know what you think.

24 September 2007

Wii Zapper

Ever since I was little, I was brought up with guns. On my tenth birthday, I received a BB gun. On my sixteenth birthday, a small gauge rifle was my present. I never grew up to be a serial killer, nor an armed robber. True, I was taught the proper way to handle a gun, and the safety involved with it. It seems now that some parents are in outrage over a new attachment for the Nintendo Wii called the Zapper.

Now this little piece of plastic, when aimed at your TV screen will simulate a gun. It will be used for certain games to emulate a gun. This is what has parents in an uproar. They believe that this will increase gun violence in children. First of all, most of the games that will be using the gun will be either rated Teen or Mature, which means that most of the kids will be old enough to know the difference between real and fake. It is also up to the parent to be involved (*gasp*) and let the child know that there is a difference.

Why do some people think that the government should help protect their kids from things that parents should be doing in the first place? The first Nintendo console that came out also had an attachment known as a Zapper. It was my second gaming console (after the Atari), and I was younger at the time, so I don't know if there was a big deal made about the use of a toy gun in a game. I really doubt it. But in a time of school violence and lack of parental involvement in children's lives, parents are wanting the government to control their lives and teach their children.

I found a blog from a New Jersey newspaper that states that they had plenty of response that said that the Zapper should be banned. From the comments I was reading on the blog, I found plenty of support for the Zapper and hardly any condemning it.

Grow up parents! Learn to be a better parent.

22 September 2007

Mint Money Management

Have you been wondering where all your money has been going after you've been paid? Are you not sure what percentage of your paycheck goes towards food? Gas? Then maybe you need a program like Mint.

Mint is a web based program that tracks your money in real time. Once you create an account on their website, you enter in your bank and credit card information along with passwords and it downloads all transactions for you and categorizes them. Mint just recently received the TechCrunch40 Top Company award and is seeing a new influx of users.

I have to admit that I'm still a bit leery of entering in my bank information with passwords; especially to a startup company. But if you read Mint's TOU, you will see that the account information is actually handled by Yodlee. Yodlee handles online portfolios for 32 of the top 50 banks in the U.S. Even with another reputable company handling the account information, I'm still uncomfortable releasing all my information. Unless some sort of insurance is given in case of fraud, I probably won't use the site.

Now, for those of you that weren't scared off from the previous paragraph, Mint does look to be a good program for tracking your finances and it is free. It provides you with percentages, graphs and charts for you to easily determine where your money is being spent.

If you are comfortable releasing your bank information to another company, then try out Mint, as it looks to be a very good financial program. If you're not sure about releasing your information, give it time, as Mint might change the way the information is stored or offer some sort of fraud insurance in the future.

21 September 2007

Free Classic Movies and Cartoons!

If you are one that enjoys a good classic movie, then you should take a look at Entertainment Magazine. They have over 150 movies and cartoons to choose from, including Tom and Jerry, Woody Woodpecker, The Little Shop of Horrors, Zorro and many others.

I took a film study class while I was in High School and recognize quite a few of the films that we studied. Don't be put off by black and white films, most were really good. I would have to say when I began my film study course, I was a bit timid about watching a black and white film. I must say that I quickly overcame that shyness and learned to love them as much, if not more than some of the cinema blockbusters today. Just because they use a multi-million dollar budget doesn't mean the movie is going to be good.

Give the site and some of the movies a try. Let me know what you think.

20 September 2007

Ride the Seattle Slut

People in Seattle have learned that changing an acronym can help change your attitude about things. When the South Lake Union Streetcar's 50.5 million dollar project ran into problems, many residents became resentful and took to bashing the project.

Then, among some of the public, the word streetcar changed to trolley. A local coffee shop began making T-Shirts announcing "Ride the S.L.U.T.". The name has taken off and become a favorite of a lot of the working class locals.

Personally, I think it is a great affectionate name to help promote the streetcar line and help boost their revenue. On the other hand, I can understand the company not promoting it because of the acronym's negative connotations.

There should be another T-Shirt that reads "I rode the Seattle S.L.U.T.".

Wanna be an Astronaut?

NASA has released today that it is looking for new astronauts for its 2009 class. Who as a child never thought of becoming an astronaut? I know I had always thought about roaming around the cabin of a space ship; leisurely floating while doing experiments.

There are a few requirements though. To apply you must have a bachelors degree in math, science or engineering. You will also have to be physically fit. The training that is entailed is rather intense, but the benefits are many.

The site lists some various locations you may visit during your training and missions, such as Texas, Florida, California, Russia, Kazakhstan, the International Space Station and the moon.

This is definitely not a quick process. The training and evaluation process can take up to two years! That seems like an awful long time to train for something that you may never get the opportunity to do.

This position is open to all civilians and military. It gives me a little motivation to finish up my bachelors degree...

19 September 2007

Everyday Weekender

As I was cruising around the blogs I read, I ran across a blog called Everyday Weekender. It has all sorts of posts dealing with recreation and fun. Just from reading his blog for a few minutes, I really enjoyed it and have already bookmarked it.

In exchange for people reviewing his blog, he will back link to your blog as well. It is a nice gesture that I am sure to appreciate. Now, I'm not writing this review just for the back link, as I really do enjoy his site. I couldn't post an entry on a site that I didn't like...

So, check his site a look and let me know if you like it. One thing that stood out for me was the post on the floating beer cooler. Go check it out.

U.S. Woman advance to quaterfinals

The U.S. Women's World Cup Soccer team advanced to the quarterfinals last night on an early goal. With only 55 seconds expired on the clock, the U.S. jumped ahead of Nigeria on a goal by Lori Chalupny. This goal was enough to hold the lead for the rest of the match and give the U.S. women a spot in the quarterfinals.

The U.S. team had not been playing well up to the game versus Nigeria. Although Nigeria finished last in the division and is eliminated from the competition, the U.S. showed significant improvement over their previous matches.

By winning their division, the U.S. has avoided playing Germany in the quarterfinals, and will instead compete with England. Both teams have struggled through the tournament, but the U.S. looks to have improved and should hold out over the Brits.

The match begins on Saturday at 7 a.m. CDT and will be broadcast on ESPN2.

18 September 2007

Religion and Nudity

From the day we are born, we are naked. And on that first day we are covered up. Mainly we are covered up for protection from the elements and to keep things sanitary. But past that, what is the main reason we wear clothing? Why do most religious groups get so uptight about nudity?

I believe that being nude is a perfectly natural thing and that people, especially Americans are uptight about it. What is wrong with seeing someone nude when it is not tied to a sexual scene? Set aside the fact that it might be someone you wouldn't want to see naked, but overall, there is nothing wrong about being nude.

Now, I don't walk around my house naked, mainly because I feel like a reptile most of the time. I really think I'm cold blooded. My wife on the other hand will walk naked around the house a lot of the time, or at the very least topless or bottomless. No one in our household thinks anything weird of it because we are used to it. If people were raised around nudity, then we wouldn't have so many people uptight about it.

The truth is, is that too many people tie being nude to sex. This is what creates the problem. I have never raised my children this way and when they see topless woman on the beach or in a movie, I never hear them snicker, point or stare. Whereas I have seen plenty of other children do this as they were not raised around nudity...to them it is funny, taboo and naughty.

As a libertarian, I feel that the government should back off and allow its citizens to live freely and without regard to what I should wear or not wear. But maybe it's getting better...did you know in New York City it is legal for a woman to be topless?

Here's hoping that we can all learn as a country that nudity is natural, and normal. But something tells me it won't be that easy...

17 September 2007

Gmail offline?

I found a post on TechCrunch about India’s Hindustan Times article about the possibility of an offline Gmail client. Presumably running off Google Gears, the offline Gmail client would be beneficial to many people who do not have internet access everywhere they travel.

For those people who travel via public transportation or commute in ways where internet access is not available, an offline Gmail client would enable those to download their email before they disconnect from the internet and travel, just as they would if they used a email account from an ISP. Then, while traveling, they would be able to reply to emails and get work done when they were unable to before. As their device connects back to the internet, the Gmail client will then synchronize and download new email while uploading all replied and new emails.

I see this as a great innovation for Google and competition in the web based email category. Personally, since switching to Gmail over a year ago, I dropped my Hotmail account because it was too much a hassle and the interface was lacking. Since then, Hotmail has switched to Windows Live Hotmail and revamped their interface. I must say, it does look nice, but I can't bring myself to switch back from Google, as I figure they won't be long in surpassing Microsoft once again.

Google has done so much lately and created so many new products that I have been really pleased with what they have done. I just hope they don't loose their roots and become another Microsoft.

10 September 2007

Passing of a Generation

I found this through an email I had received. I decided to post this exactly as it is on the original web page for a couple of reasons. First, the web page is very poorly designed and has a really distracting background. Second, I believe that this generation deserves to be recognized before they are all gone. Everything you see below is an exact copy from the web page. Thank you to all who serve and have served in our Nation's Armed Forces.


I am a doctor specializing in the Emergency Departments of the only two military Level One-Trauma Centers, both in San Antonio, TX and they care for civilian Emergencies as well as military personnel. San Antonio has the largest military retiree population in the world living here. As a military doctor, I work long hours and the pay is less than glamorous. One tends to become jaded by the long hours, lack of sleep, food, family contact and the endless parade of human suffering passing before you. The arrival of another ambulance does not mean more pay, only more work.

Most often, it is a victim from a motor vehicle crash.

Often it is a person of dubious character who has been shot or stabbed. With our large military retiree population, it is often a nursing home patient. Even with my enlisted service and minimal combat experience in Panama, I have caught myself groaning when the ambulance brought in yet another sick, elderly person from one of the local retirement centers that cater to military retirees. I had not stopped to think of what citizens of this age group represented.

I saw "Saving Private Ryan." I was touched deeply. Not so much by the carnage, but by the sacrifices of so many. I was touched most by the scene of the elderly survivor at the graveside, asking his wife if he'd been a good man. I realized that I had seen these same men and women coming through my Emergency Dept. and had not realized what magnificent sacrifices they had made. The things they did for me and everyone else that has lived on this planet since the end of that conflict are priceless.

Situation permitting, I now try to ask my patients about their experiences. They would never bring up the subject without the inquiry. I have been privileged to an amazing array of experiences, recounted in the brief minutes allowed in an Emergency Dept. encounter. These experiences have revealed the incredible individuals I have had the honor of serving in a medical capacity, many on their last admission to the hospital.

There was a frail, elderly woman who reassured my young enlisted medic, trying to start an IV line in her arm. She remained calm and poised, despite her illness and the multiple needle-sticks into her fragile veins. She was what we call a "hard stick." As the medic made another attempt, I noticed a number tattooed across her forearm. I touched it with one finger and looked into her eyes. She simply said, "Auschwitz." Many of later generations would have loudly and openly berated the young medic in his many attempts. How different was the response from this person who'd seen unspeakable suffering.

Also, there was this long retired Colonel, who as a young officer had parachuted from his burning plane over a Pacific Island held by the Japanese. Now an octogenarian, he had a minor cut on his head from a fall at his home where he lived alone. His CT scan and suturing had been delayed until after midnight by the usual parade of high priority ambulance patients. Still spry for his age, he asked to use the phone to call a taxi, to take him home, then he realized his ambulance had brought him without his wallet. He asked if he could use the phone to make a long distance call to his daughter who lived 7 miles away. With great pride we told him that he could not, as he'd done enough for his country and the least we could do was get him a taxi home, even if we had to pay for it ourselves. My only regret was that my shift wouldn't end for several hours, and I couldn't drive him myself.

I was there the night MSgt Roy Benavidez came through the Emergency Dept. for the last time. He was very sick. I was not the doctor taking care of him, but I walked to his bedside and took his hand. I said nothing. He was so sick, he didn't know I was there. I'd read his Congressional Medal of Honor citation and wanted to shake his hand. He died a few days later.

The gentleman who served with Merrill's Marauders, the survivor of the Bataan Death March, the survivor of Omaha Beach, the 101 year old World War I veteran, the former POW held in frozen North Korea, the former POW held in frozen North Korea, and the former Viet Nam Corps Commander.

I remember these citizens.

I may still groan when yet another ambulance comes in, but now I am much more aware of what an honor it is to serve these particular men and women.

I have seen a Congress who would turn their back on these individuals who've sacrificed so much to protect our liberty. I see later generations that seem to be totally engrossed in abusing these same liberties, won with such sacrifice.

It has become my personal endeavor to make the nurses and young enlisted medics aware of these amazing individuals when I encounter them in our Emergency Dept. Their response to these particular citizens has made me think that perhaps all is not lost in the next generation.

My experiences have solidified my belief that we are losing an incredible generation, and this nation knows not what it is losing. Our uncaring government and ungrateful civilian populace should all take note. We should all remember that we must "Earn this."

Written By
CPT. Stephen R. Ellison, M.D.

08 September 2007

PS3 gets PlayTV

I think somewhere along the way Sony has confused its Playstation 3 gaming console with an all-in-one multimedia center. Sony has said that they are releasing a product by the name of PlayTV that includes two 1080p tuners. Owners will have the ability to record TV broadcasts and transfer them to their PSPs if they like. There will also be some Slingbox capability, where you can watch TV from a remote location through your PS3.

While I'm all for cool tech toys, this just seems a bit much for Sony. Personally, I think they are trying to justify the cost of their product (get $ figure), and I also seem them trying to differentiate themselves from the pack. By making the PS3 less like their competitors, the Wii and Xbox 360, Sony is banking that more people would be willing to spend the extra money to get these multimedia features.

If I had a flat panel HDTV, I would consider getting a PS3, especially since it has a lot of cool games I can play from the PS2 era. Unfortunately, the PlayTV add-on is will only be available in Europe for the time being. If this is the direction that Sony would like to go, then I say they should go for it. I have no problems with them going this way. It almost seems to be more of a cross between a multimedia computer and a gaming console.

It seems kind of odd that Sony will not be offering this to the U.S. right away as I think it would bolster sales. Maybe it is because sales are lacking that Sony is not offering it to the States just yet. To me that would seem like a Catch-22. Good luck Sony.

03 September 2007

Set Rovers to "Rove"

According to NASA, the Mars Rovers are now exploring the planet again. It has been six weeks since the rovers have been sent into hibernation mode. Severe dust storms over the planet forced mission planners to halt the exploration until the storm passed. "The clearing could take months," said rover Project Scientist Bruce Banerdt. "There is a lot of very fine material suspended high in the atmosphere."

I think this project is very important to everyone. This is the first time we have had information of this magnitude about another planet. Sure, we have been to the moon, and that gave us a lot of useful information, but this right now is another planet that we can someday hope to colonize. If the presence of water is found, either in liquid or frozen form, you can almost bet that we will be sending a manned team to the surface of Mars.

I hope that if a manned team is sent to Mars, that is done in my lifetime to be able to see it. But, according to the Space Review, "the greatest challenge for Mars missions is getting there and back. The huge masses of propellants needed for the legs of a space mission are significant limitations to feasibility of the mission." Their opinion is that a manned mission to Mars will not be seen before 2040, but more feasibly, 2080. Although, the BBC reported that Europe has plans to send a manned mission around the year 2030.

I guess that I'm a visionary and a geek and I would love to see this science fiction story played out and see us conquer new worlds. In fact, I read Geeknews.net about this article which got me going on this rant. Hopefully the mission will be possible in the years to come.

(The first image was provided by NASA, while the last was provided by Manned Mission to Mars website.)