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Archive for December, 2011

Proposal would keep calendar same every year – USATODAY.com

December 31, 2011 1 comment

English: New Years Eve at Hallgrímskirkja Reyk...

Each year, Jan. 1 falls on a different day of the week, and the entire following year shifts accordingly. Schools, sports teams, businesses and banks spend many hours and millions of dollars calculating on what day of the week certain dates will fall, to schedule holidays and set interest rates.

It doesn’t need to be that complicated, say an astrophysicist and applied economist at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. They have a proposal to make schedules simpler: a permanent calendar in which each 12-month period is exactly as the year before, on into perpetuity.

The extra days created by the Earth’s inconvenient 365.242-day orbit around the sun would be dealt with not by adding Feb. 29 for leap years, but by a leap week tacked onto the calendar at the end of December every five to six years.

“It would simplify things enormously,” says Richard Conn Henry, the professor of applied physics at Johns Hopkins who first proposed the idea in 2004. This past year he began to discuss the idea further with a colleague, Steve Hanke, a Johns Hopkins economics professor.

The result is the Hanke-Henry Permanent Calendar, which they proposed in December. In it, March, June, September and December would have 31 days, all the rest 30. Christmas would always fall on a Sunday. Halloween would become Oct. 30 and always fall on a Monday.

Hanke, who has helped seven countries introduce new currencies, estimates the change could save “roughly $130 billion” merely by decreasing the chance of interest-calculation errors resulting from incorrectly counting the number of days in a given month.

via Proposal would keep calendar same every year – USATODAY.com.

Strange Random Calendar Quote:

Don’t be fooled by the calendar. There are only as many days in the year as you make use of. – Charles Richards

 

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Insight: How renewable energy may be Edison’s revenge | Reuters

December 30, 2011 Leave a comment

Thomas Edison, American inventor and businessm...

Reuters – At the start of the 20th century, inventors Thomas Alva Edison and Nikola Tesla clashed in the “war of the currents.” To highlight the dangers of his rival’s system, Edison even electrocuted an elephant. The animal died in vain; it was Tesla’s system and not Edison’s that took off. But today, helped by technological advances and the need to conserve energy, Edison may finally get his revenge.

The American inventor, who made the incandescent light bulb viable for the mass market, also built the world’s first electrical distribution system, in New York, using “direct current” electricity. DC‘s disadvantage was that it couldn’t carry power beyond a few blocks. His Serbian-born rival Tesla, who at one stage worked with Edison, figured out how to send “alternating current” through transformers to enable it to step up the voltage for transmission over longer distances.

Edison was a fiercely competitive businessman. Besides staging electrocutions of animals to discredit Tesla’s competing system, he proposed AC be used to power the first execution by electric chair.

But his system was less scalable, and it was to prove one of the worst investments made by financier J. Pierpont Morgan. New York’s dominant banker installed it in his Madison Avenue home in the late 19th century, only to find it hard to control. It singed his carpets and tapestries.

So from the late 1800s, AC became the accepted form to carry electricity in mains systems. For most of the last century, the power that has reached the sockets in our homes and businesses is alternating current.

Now DC is making a comeback, becoming a promising money-spinner in renewable or high-security energy projects. From data centers to long-distance power lines and backup power supplies, direct current is proving useful in thousands of projects worldwide.

via Insight: How renewable energy may be Edison’s revenge | Reuters.

Strange Random Edison Quote:

Just because something doesn’t do what you planned it to do doesn’t mean it’s useless. – Thomas A. Edison

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BBC News – Frank Wild in final journey out of Shackleton’s shadow

December 29, 2011 Leave a comment

Frank Wild

Frank Wild was the right-hand man to Sir Ernest Shackleton, joining him on several of his Antarctic expeditions. But is he finally stepping out of the great explorer’s shadow, as his ashes make a poignant journey south?

Almost 100 years ago, the famous polar explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton set out to try to be the first to cross Antarctica.

He failed, but his ill-fated expedition on the Endurance, which began in 1914, is now seen as one of history’s greatest stories of survival and leadership.

But while much has been written about Shackleton, his second-in-command on that voyage, a Yorkshireman called Frank Wild, has been largely overlooked by history. At least, until now.

Wild’s relatives recently accompanied him on his final journey to Antarctica, as they took his ashes to South Georgia, to rest next to the grave of Shackleton, the man he affectionately referred to as “the boss”.

The 18-day voyage retraced the disastrous Endurance expedition and ended in a final reunion of two great polar explorers.

The two men shared several trips to Antarctica, including the Nimrod expedition in 1907-09 which brought them to within 100 miles of the South Pole, a record at the time.

via BBC News – Frank Wild in final journey out of Shackleton’s shadow.

Strange Random Antarctica Quote:

“Better a live donkey than a dead lion.” — Ernest Shackleton (1874—1922), after failing to reach the south pole by 100 km.

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How to Ace a Google Interview – WSJ.com

December 27, 2011 Leave a comment
English: Google Logo officially released on Ma...

Imagine a man named Jim. He’s applying for a job at Google. Jim knows that the odds are stacked against him. Google receives a million job applications a year. It’s estimated that only about 1 in 130 applications results in a job. By comparison, about 1 in 14 high-school students applying to Harvard gets accepted.

Jim’s first interviewer is late and sweaty: He’s biked to work. He starts with some polite questions about Jim’s work history. Jim eagerly explains his short career. The interviewer doesn’t look at him. He’s tapping away at his laptop, taking notes. “The next question I’m going to ask,” he says, “is a little unusual.

“You are shrunk to the height of a nickel and thrown into a blender. Your mass is reduced so that your density is the same as usual. The blades start moving in 60 seconds. What do you do?

The interviewer looks up from his laptop, grinning like a maniac with a new toy.”I would take the change in my pocket and throw it into the blender motor to jam it,” Jim says.

The interviewer’s tapping resumes. “The inside of a blender is sealed,” he counters, with the air of someone who’s heard it all before. “If you could throw pocket change into the mechanism, then your smoothie would leak into it.”

via How to Ace a Google Interview – WSJ.com.

Strange Random Job Interview Quote:

“During job interviews, when they ask: ‘What is your worst quality?’, I always say: ‘Flatulence’. That way I get my own office.” – Dan Thompson

 

 

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Google Helps You Get in Touch With Santa – Fox Business Video – Fox Business

December 24, 2011 Leave a comment

Christmas is doing fine – The Ottawa Citizen

December 23, 2011 2 comments

christmas tree lightsThere might not be enough snow for snowmen, but there’s a straw man who returns at this time of year no matter the weather. It’s the “war on Christmas,” the tedious complaint of a few politically sensitive Christians who simultaneously insist a) that every home or business owner, regardless of his or her own religious beliefs, should decorate and otherwise make public gestures of support for this Christian holiday, and b) that the holiday is becoming too watered down, too secular, too divorced from Christian theology.

Every decision not to decorate or sing is interpreted as a “ban.” The well-meaning coworker who chirps, “Happy Holidays!” is labelled an anti-Christian bigot. Everyone must decorate. There can be no exceptions. When a school bus company operating in Eastern Ontario forbids decorations in its buses for safety reasons, it isn’t enough for MPP Randy Hillier to criticize the policy, which is indeed overzealous and over-broad. No, he mounts a “pro-Christmas protest” against “this attack on and erosion of our traditions.”

Christmas seems to be doing just fine, with or without Randy Hillier’s support. And there isn’t any lack of people saying “Merry Christmas” in stores and workplaces.

Even this year’s card from Ottawa’s liberal mayor Jim Watson, who one might expect to take extra care to be politically correct, says “Merry Christmas” inside.

via Christmas is doing fine.

Strange Random Christmas Quote:

Christmas is a time when you get homesick – even when you’re home. – Carol Nelson

 

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Star Wars – The Old Republic vs. World of Warcraft Online – NYTimes.com

December 22, 2011 Leave a comment

Star Wars: The Old Republic

Over the last third of a century no new fiction has engaged the popular imagination and become as thoroughly essential an element of mass culture as “Star Wars.” There can’t be many people anywhere who wouldn’t at least recognize a lightsaber or Darth Vader.

Over the last decade no video game has engaged a broader global community than World of Warcraft. The first online game to enjoy planetwide popularity, World of Warcraft had more than 12 million paid subscribers last fall. Yet it has lost around two million players over the past year, and now the original evil empire is at the door.

On Tuesday [20th], Electronic Arts will release Star Wars: The Old Republic, a sprawling multiplayer online adventure that is the first legitimate competition that World of Warcraft has faced for the hearts, minds, hours and dollars of millions of players. “Star Wars” games have been around for decades, but the Old Republic provides the most extensive opportunity to become your own Jedi warrior, Sith assassin, snarky smuggler or powerful sage.

via Star Wars – The Old Republic vs. World of Warcraft Online – NYTimes.com.

Strange Random Star Wars Quote:

Well, you can forget your troubles with those Imperial slugs. I told you I’d outrun ‘em.

[nobody is listening]

Don’t everyone thank me at once.

Han Solo

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