Why have peanut allergy cases tripled in the last 10 years?

More than 3 million Americans now have some kind of nut allergy, with cases of peanut allergy in children more than tripling between 1997 and 2008, according to a report released in May 2010.  Other food allergies have risen also, and nobody is certain exactly what is behind this spike.

Here’s one theory that makes a lot of sense to me (from livescience.com):

In general, those with food allergies have extra-sensitive immune systems that react to harmless substances called allergens found in certain foods and drinks. When the person eats a peanut or other allergic item, the body produces antibodies to the specific allergen, leading to an immune reaction. Essentially, the body tries to get rid of the allergens.

One idea for the cause called the hygiene hypothesis posits we’re too clean. Squeaky-clean living and the use of medications to prevent and quickly treat infections leaves the immune system under-stimulated. This “bored” immune system then goes and attacks harmless proteins like those in foods, pollens and animal dander.

Hmm – interesting.  For a long time, it’s seemed like generally a bad idea to be so germ-phobic, grabbing for the hand sanitizer over and over for no really good reason.  My gut feeling was that our immune systems need to be exercised in order to be kept “in shape”, much like one would exercise a muscle.  It didn’t occur to me that the immune system would start to concentrate on smaller and smaller “threats” if deprived of real bacteriological issues to deal with.  Either way, while sanitation and personal hygiene are very good things, we need to draw the line and stop being phobic about it.

Windows 10 – Free Upgrade? Hmm…

Free upgrades as long as you upgrade within the first year, according to Microsoft’s blog. Sounds fantastic! Almost too good to be true, since Microsoft doesn’t tend to give stuff away. Hmm… this makes me wonder what the catch is. Obviously, MS wants everybody to be running Windows 10 as soon as possible. You could say that is to make support easier, but most folks that are running it at home don’t call MS ever, so that’s not it. For businesses, MS charges for support.  Now granted, they don’t want to be supporting XP anymore, I can certainly understand that, but they’ve never pushed so hard to get people to update the operating system right NOW.

Being the suspicious cynical type that I am, the mind rambles…

MS wants this code base in place globally presumably so they can push out updates and so forth. They have said that this is in line with their new release cadence.  They say version number will no longer be important, implying continual upgrades and fixes. Why would this be important? Well, if I were MS and I wanted to switch everyone to a subscription model (which is clearly their direction on everything else they are doing), I’d give them a free upgrade (can you say “trojan horse”), and after a while, I’d push out an update which enables subscription mode and requires you to send them $$ on an annual basis to keep your machine alive. This is speculation, but certainly seems plausible (not to mention Evil).  I don’t mind if they want to go to a subscription model, I’ll simply switch to another O/S as I don’t like the idea of paying somebody to keep something I own running.  It’s Evil if they do this without being transparent about it.

Do they have stuff in this new release that benefits THEM if everybody has it installed? Maybe it reports back software installs for licensing purposes, or DRM enforcement, or other big-brother type activities. Call me paranoid, but MS is a business and they are in this to make money, not to make people happy.

So… I’d like to know why they are doing this for free, and what are the future plans.

Lumens vs Watts – what LED bulb should you pick to replace an incandescent?

I can never find this info when I need it, and I’m terrible at remembering numbers so I decided to post it here for everybody’s edification.  Incandescent bulbs are going away. Many governments are prohibiting their manufacture, so it’s only a matter of time.  Replacement choices are either CF (compact fluorescent) or LED.  These bulbs have a light output rated in Lumens, so it’s good to know what the Lumen equivalent is if you are replacing a 60W incandescent bulb and want the same amount of light.

  • 40-watt incandescent bulb = 450 lumens
  • 60-watt incandescent bulb = 800 lumens
  • 100-watt incandescent bulb = 1600 lumens

Many CF bulbs have a slow start-up time, so it can take up to 2 minutes for the bulb to reach full brightness.  If this is undesirable, then opt for an LED bulb as they are instant-on.  LED also is lower heat and has less power draw, but can be more expensive than CF bulbs.

The other wrinkle is color temperature.  We’re all familiar with “cool white” or “warm white” bulbs, but translating that into LED or CF specs on the packaging can be daunting.  Here’s a handy chart that shows the Kelvin temperatures and the common vernacular equivalents.

As you can see, a cool white bulb is around 4200K, so when shopping for a replacement for a 100W cool white incandescent, you would want to buy a 1600 lumen 4200K bulb.

Outlook 2013 – restore some sanity to your inbox with a simple rule (spam filtering)

If you are like me, your company email is full of spam from vendors even though you have a spam filter system in place.  It’s difficult for spam systems to nail all of this because a lot of these emails are generated by conference attendance and other such things which makes it a bit of a gray area.  It’s not blatant spam, but you didn’t ask for it either.  So… what to do about this inbox which has important email from your colleagues buried in a morass of useless information?

I had the idea that I’d create a rule or rules that would take any incoming email which originated outside my company and move it into a different folder.  Then I thought it would be good to further hone that filter to only move things that were from people who weren’t in my contacts list either.  This should be simple, right?  WRONG!  Outlook doesn’t necessarily respond the way you think it will.

Let’s say that my company has “username@mycorp.com” as our email domain setup.  My first thought was to create a rule which looks for “mycorp.com” in the sender’s address field, and move everything EXCEPT that to another box.  The trouble is, for local users, exchange stores the user’s name (an active directory OU object), not their email address.  When you do a rule for mycorp.com you don’t get many hits.  To make along story short, it took a lot of fiddling to figure this out.  Let’s cut to the chase and I’ll tell you how I solved the problem!

I created a rule which looks for “@” in the sender’s address, and I had Outlook move those emails to the “non-corp” folder.  That worked like a charm!  Every externally generated email ended up in the “non-corp” folder.  I then refined it a bit by adding “except” with “mycorp.com” in the sender’s address (to catch some internally generated emails which come from systems reporting status, not from real users), and I added “except if sender is in Contacts address book”.

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Now, my inbox contains only emails from co-workers and people in my address book.  I’m no longer missing important emails, and when I get time to go through the “non-corp” folder, it’s pretty quick to delete things because I know most of the stuff in there is trash (as far as I am concerned) so I don’t spend much time on it at all.

ALTERNATIVE:

Some of the other folks in my company liked this idea but wanted the result to be the other way around.  They wanted a folder for “mycorp” which got everything internal, and they wanted to leave all the external stuff in “inbox”.  How do you do that?  Create a rule which looks for “/ou” instead of “@”.  This will match all internally generated emails and let you move them to your specified folder.  If you wanted everything matching your contacts list to go in there too you would need to create a second rule to do that because Outlook doesn’t have a way to do “OR” processing.  If you try to do both in one rule it applies “and” logic (moves emails matching /ou AND in “contacts” – which won’t match very many at all).

Textron Aviation – new logo

Now that Beechcraft, Cessna and Hawker are firmly part of the Textron Aviation family, Textron has a new logo, and a new motto; “Gaining altitude together”

In the 1920s, Cessna and Beach worked together as the Travel Air Manufacturing Company in Wichita, KS.  The third partner that time was Stearman.  10 years later, the companies split again.  It will be interesting to see how this new trio does under the Textron umbrella.

OneDrive – less than helpful? Something went wrong

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Really Microsoft? Something went wrong.  I suppose it would be way too much trouble to say WHAT went wrong, or give any other diagnostic information at all.  Talk about inane!

So I went to the Service status link, and it shows OneDrive up and running.  OK, but not in MY case.  So I try another login I have and it works fine.  Apparently only the documents and files I have under THIS account are (I hope temporarily) unavailable.  Good job I didn’t have business critical data in there.

Solar Freakin’ Roadways

Scott and Julie Brusaw came up with a really novel idea. They designed hexagonal tiles that can be installed in parking lots, driveways, roadways and highways.  They call these Solar Roadways. 

These glass tiles contain solar cells, LED lights, and other circuitry.  If you haven’t seen the video, watch it now!  It’s actually kinda funny in addition to being interesting.  In part because of the fun aspect, this video has gone viral.  Another reason could be because of it’s eco-centric message.  Anything eco-centric is wildly popular these days.

I do think that the representations of road signage they have in their “artist concept” pictures (such as the one to the left) are a bit much. 

 

They have LEDs built into the panels but there are only a handful, scattered across the panel (see below, right).  In order to do high-res images such as depicted above, you’d need a LOT more lights (pixels).LEDs

But, I totally get it – artist concepts aren’t reality, they are just concepts.  I think fundamentally this is a very interesting idea.  One of the “features” of these hexagonal glass tiles is that you can replace an individual tile seamlessly.  This would be really great as repairing asphalt is a lot less than seamless, and is a temporary fix at best.  Potholes in asphalt are common and annoying.  It seems that this technology would solve that problem too.

Even if they never made it to freeways, deploying them to driveways, parking lots and residential roads would really give some great benefits.  They claim that in the winter, the roadway is heated.  This is not to make it warm but to keep the surface temperature just high enough that falling snow would melt as it hits.  It certainly would be nice not to have to shovel snow, or plow roads!

Check out this TED talk – it shows the history of the idea and where they are going with it.

Parking lot   Snow melt

New Canadian Anti-Spam Law

I’m guessing you have received some emails out of the blue like I have saying that due to Canada’s new anti-spam law, you need to click on a link or whatever and verify that it’s OK for the company who emailed you to continue to do so.  This is probably valid, for now, but I can see virus/malware criminals taking advantage of this to give you a nice link to click on to infect your system.  So beware!

What is the new anti-spam law?  According to the Toronto Star, the new law requires businesses emailing Canadians to have “express consent” to do so, rather than “implied consent” (such as having done business with the person at some point in the distant past).  Express consent means that the recipient must be told what will be sent to them and why and must specifically “opt in” to allow it to happen.  This law goes into effect July 1 2014.

This is causing a lot of worry with Canadian businesses because the penalties are not trivial; $1 million per violation for an individual and $10 million per violation for a business.  There are concerns that one slipup is going to cost a lot of money.  In reality, it’s more likely that warnings will be issued, at least initially.  There is also a three year transition period so if a business already has “implied consent”, they should make efforts to get “express consent”, but don’t have to worry for 3 years.

This seems like a really good idea to me. If other countries had similar laws, it might put quite a dent in spam.

Toll roads – no more cash “tolling”

Beginning May 2014, the local toll roads no longer accept cash.  Drivers can either have a FasTrack transponder, or sign up for an ExpressAccount.  One-time visitors can use the toll roads but must visit the website within 48 hours to pay.

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What’s so inane about that you ask?  In the months prior to this event, TheTollRoads was advertising “Cash tolling ends in X days”.  Tolling.  A toll is a fee that you pay.  Toll as a verb is what a bell does when you ring it.  You cannot just add “ing” to the end of a noun and “create” a verb.  An easy test (if you are too lazy to use a dictionary) is to try adding “ing” to a synonym (word that means the same).  Toll is a fee.  So, does it make any sense to say “Cash feeing ends in X days”?  Hmm… seems awkward, doesn’t it?  The toll levied is also the price for passage, so let’s try that: “Cash pricing ends in X days”.  Nope, that doesn’t work either, does it?

Just in case you are curious, the toll roads (133, 241 and 261) were built with loans that can only be paid back by tolls.  For the fiscal year 2013, operating revenues were $129.4 million representing 56,173,061 transactions.  As of December 2013, the outstanding bond debt was $2.3 billion.  Just doing some basic math shows that (not including interest), the principal will take 17.8 years to repay at current usage levels (2031).  Interest will push this out several more years, and the debt is now due in 2053, but with no pre-payment penalty.  It will be interesting to see if the toll collection system is dismantled (as one would hope) when the loans are paid.  Government does have a nasty habit of keeping revenue collection going even when it’s no longer needed, and they are simply making a profit with it.