72,000 Coccinellidae Released Inside The Mall

When you have 30,000 live plants in doors, you have to work at keeping them healthy.  One of the biggest threats is Aphids (also known as plant lice and in Britain and the Commonwealth as greenflies, blackflies or whiteflies wiki).   The Mall of America recently released 72,000 ladybugs (coccinellidae) in doors to help control the pests that are harmful to the plants.  Aphids are one of the top items on a ladybugs diet.

Harmonia axyridis (or the harlequin ladybird/bug) is an example of how an animal might be partly welcome and partly harmful.  It was introduced into North America from Asia in 1916 to control aphids, but is now the most common species, out-competing many of the native species (wiki).

I think most people like ladybugs.  So if someone encounters one at the mall, I don’t think they’d mind.  The biggest challenge is probably the food court.  As cute as ladybugs are, I don’t think people want them around their food.  But apparently, ladybugs do not like human food…

Though some shoppers have complained that the ladybugs might fly onto food, a mall spokesperson noted that the insects tend to spend their lives on plants, not human food (Yahoo! News).

I’d like to see a follow up study on this a few years from now.  That would be interesting.

Digital Magazines

I’ve always been a fan of magazines.  I almost always have at least a few magazines that I subscribe to.  But I haven’t moved from print to digital yet.  And I find that very interesting.  I read books on my iPad and my computer.  I haven’t touched a physical news paper in years.  And the majority of my everyday reading is done on the internet.  So why have I held on to the idea that magazines should be delivered to my mailbox, brought inside, and displayed on the table next to my favorite chair?   I really don’t know.  Perhaps I’m just trying to hold on to the old way a little bit longer.

But it piqued my interest and I did a little poking around to see what others thought about digital magazines.  Richard MacManus at readwrite talks about some of the issues in Digital Magazine Subscriptions: iTunes & Kindle Still A Mess.  And on a positive note, I ran across the following article and readership of digital magazines appears to be on the rise - There’s a Digital Bright Spot for Some Magazine Publishers.

Monk Parakeets in the Tampa Bay Area

Florida’s Introduced Birds: Monk Parakeet (Myiopsitta monachus)

This morning I grabbed my cup up coffee and went out back to enjoy the nice January  Florida morning.  As I walked around a flock of beautiful, tropical birds flew by.  Two more flocks followed.  There were probably 30 to 50 birds.

They were Monk Parakeets.  They’ve been established in Florida since the 60′s when the pet trade became popular.  Most are believed to have been introduced to the area due to shipping crates getting damaged.

From time to time I see them out back.  The palm trees, seagulls, and wild parakeets help make the area feel very tropical.

Hunting for Burmese Pythons in the Everglades

This is awesome.  I grew up in Florida and still live here.  When I was a kid we used to go out hunting for snakes.  And boy did we find them.  Usually it was Red Rat Snakes (Corn Snakes), Black Racers, Garter Snakes, Banded Water Snakes, and Ringnecks.  Those were the most common but from time to time we’d catch other types.  It was just something fun for a ten year old boy to do over Summer vacation.  And it wasn’t like I lived in the sticks.  I lived in a suburban neighborhood but there were small fields and patches of woods around.  But a lot of the snakes were found in neighborhoods.  We never came across a snake bigger than four, maybe five feet.

We rarely ran into poisonous snakes.  I did kill a rattlesnake walking home from school one day.  My buddies and I were walking down the sidewalk and it crossed right in front of us. It stopped on the sidewalk, curled up and got in the striking position and started rattling.  I thought it was awesome.  But I also knew that this was a residential area and close to the school so I grabbed a brick and threw it at it and killed it (if it was in the woods and not a thread to humans I would not have killed it).  When I looked around to see my friends they were all about 50 feet down the sidewalk freaking out.  I had a good laugh.  But they were probably smarter than I was.

The main reason for this post was to talk about the 2013 Python Challenge! I’d love to go down to the Everglades and hunt for pythons.  If you met me you wouldn’t think of me as the Ted Nugent outdoors type of guy.   These days the closest I get to nature is fishing or  kayaking down the many rivers we have here and I haven’t done that in years.  But snakes are something I just really enjoy.  I don’t see them as evil or nasty creatures.  I think they have a role in nature and I find them to be very fascinating.  But the pythons in South Florida pose a serious issue.  They aren’t native to Florida.  And this creates a problem because they feed on food that other reptiles depend on and this poses a risk to the ecosystem.  I also doubt that they have any any natural predators in Florida and so their numbers are growing quickly.

Everglades python hunt begins - Cool article from the Miami Herald.  Let the hunt begin!

MIDI Much?

How MIDI changed the world of music is a great article on this history of MIDI and how it changed the musical landscape forever.  One of the coolest things about the the creation of MIDI is that the creator’s plan was not to corner the market and protect the technology so they could profit from it.  Instead they realized the best approach to making this technology revolutionize music was to allow it to be open sourced.  And that, my friends, is the reason why MIDI is universally used today in music.

Dave Smith is the person who pioneered the technology used in MIDI and he is considered the “Father of MIDI.”  His work was advanced by other manufactures and it was announced as MIDI to the world in 1982 by Robert Moog.

Black Friday, If You Dare

Do you venture into the retail jungle on Black Friday?  Do you brave the unruly crowds, the long lines, and the the potential for violent outbreaks over the last item on the shelf?  If so, you obviously aren’t the only one.  It’s the single biggest shopping day in America.  And it is (cringe) enjoyed by millions.

This is one of those things that truly demonstrate the differences between people.  You see, I would rather have painful dental work then go shopping on Black Friday.  I simply can’t wrap my mind around the idea that people really enjoy this event.  I don’t get it.  I understand the desire to get a bargain.  Everybody wants to get a good deal on an item they intend to purchase.  But it’s more than just discounts.  Many people who shop on Black Friday aren’t painfully heading to the store because it’s the only way they will be able to afford that new game console for their kid.  No, they actually enjoy it.  Perhaps I’m just naive, but this does not compute.

With that said, I must make a confession.  I went to Target last night (Black Friday Eve) at 10:30 PM.  Yes, I did.  But I wasn’t shopping for TV’s, games, DVD’s, etc…  No, I put my life in danger for…. diapers.  Yep, it’s true.  We ran low on diapers and I realized I either had to go last night or today on Black Friday.  Target opened at 9:00 PM last night.  When I arrived the parking lot was overflowing.  Believe me, I almost turned around and went home.  But I decided to go inside and see how bad it was.  When I went through the doors I was amazed to see that the checkout lines weren’t bad.  They looked like everyday lines. So I grabbed some diapers and headed to the cashiers.  When I arrived though, I discovered a horrific scene.  They had rope lines, and the beginning of the line started way down by the cleaning and beauty supplies.  The line weaved up and down these aisles until they reached the area where the checkout stations were.  And the person working the line would only allow a few people at a time to advance to the checkout area.  Nooooo!!!  I was fooled, deceived, burned!  But I was already committed.  So I got in line.  And I have to tell you I felt like a complete ID10T.  Here I am standing in the longest retail line of my life, holding nothing but diapers.  It was, awkward.  But my beautiful little daughter means more to me than anything so yes, I will risk life and limb on Black Friday eve to get her what she needs.

I hope everyone enjoys the day today.  For those of you shopping, have at it!  Enjoy!  And I hope it is everything you want it to be.  I’m happy for you.  I love seeing people who are passionate about things and who enjoy special events.  But for me, I’ll steer clear of retail establishments today.  That’s just me.  We can be different.  It’s okay.

One final thought.  Do you know what the phrase Black Friday means?  The phrase has evolved over the years, but the common understanding is that it means this is the point in the year that a lot of retailers actually start making a profit.  If you are not making a profit, you are in the red.  If you are profitable, you are in the black.

UPDATE:   forget what I said about enjoying your day and me being happy for you if you enjoy Black Friday.  Just strike that from the record.  After watching the following video, if you really enjoy this type of thing you are a sick, twisted, crazy, disturbed individual.

Netflix – TV Series

I’m a big fan of Netflix.  I don’t really watch much though.  But once in a while I’ll go into binge mode when I discover a new TV series that I haven’t seen.   I don’t watch TV.  I really don’t.  But I enjoy a good series from time to time.   What is a good series you ask?  Well, 24 probably sits at the top of my list.  I loved that series.  Prison Break was another series I really enjoyed.  And I recently discovered The Walking Dead and Sons of Anarchy.

But I like to watch TV series differently.  I won’t watch them on TV.  I wait until the season is over, then I’ll binge on them and watch the entire series on Netflix in a short period of time. And when I discover a series that has been out for years, that’s even better.  As an example, I did not watch a single minute of The Walking Dead until both season 1 and 2 were on Netflix.  Then I watch episodes back to back for a few weeks and got through both seasons.  Sons Of Anarchy is another great example.  I watched seasons 1, 2, & 3 back to back earlier this year.  Then, out of the blue on October 27th I got an email from Netflix telling me that season 4 was available.  I’ve watched the entire season already.

I just really enjoy watching episodes back to back.  I’ll sometimes sit and watch 3 or 4 at a time.  And I’ll do this night after night until I’ve watched the entire season.

The tricky part is making sure I don’t accidentally get any spoilers while I wait for the season to show up on Netflix.  And now that The Walking Dead, season 3 is on TV, I have to work at avoiding any information on the web or any talk about it on the radio.  I don’t want to know anything about it.

For me, this is the best way to enjoy a series.  Watching one a week while they are airing during the season just isn’t as enjoyable for me.

Windows 8

If you are old enough you will remember when home computers first came out.  And if you were comfortable with technology you probably discovered that somehow you became the family tech support person.  Well get ready, when Windows 8 comes out your tech support line will be ringing again.  But look at the bright side, you’ll get to spend a lot of quality time with your mother-in-law.

I just watched several Youtube videos that demo Windows 8.  And I am concerned.  Very concerned.  Apparently Microsoft decided it was time for a change.  A big change.  And I know they have their reasons and I know somehow the decision for the change was strategic.  I’m sure they did it to try and connect with the tablet market.  But Windows 8 is going to cause a lot of issues for a lot of people.

Lets face it, when you look at the usage share of operating systems, Windows still dominates.  There are a lot of PC’s out there.  And when it’s time to replace the old PC, a large number of people are going to stick with Windows.  Partly because of the price.  But also because that is what they are used to using.  And when they do, if their shiny new PC has Windows 8, they are going to be in for a big surprise.

I’ll let you watch the videos to see what I mean. But here are a couple of articles that also go over the issues.

Fear and Loathing and Windows 8
Early Look at Windows 8 Baffles Consumers

Looking Back Over The Years

It seems like only yesterday I was blogging about the iPod mini coming out, a new email program called Gmail, and this crazy new TV show called American Idol.  Well, a lot sure has changed since then.  iPods are now part of your cell phone, tablets are about to outsell PC’s, landline phones are heading towards extinction, Hulk Hogan has a sex tape out, and we put a robot on Mars.  Wait, aw… never mind.

As you can tell it’s been a long time since I posted.  I enjoyed going back and looking through my old posts.  And I hope in another ten years I’ll have more posts to look through and see more history.  I’m planning to start posting again.  So please stop by from time to time.

In The 80′s

I’m not talking about parachute pants and hair bands. I’m talking about the weather. I live in the Tampa Bay area of Florida. And yesterday we were in the 80′s. We should hit 82 today. We actually had to put the AC on for a little while yesterday. How cool is that (I won’t even say it).

And that, my friends, is why I love Florida…

Mail Goggles

I was reading on the “Official Google Blog” today that Gmail is 5 years old. Time sure flies. Over the years they have built in a lot of nice features. But none take the cake like this one does.

New in Labs: Stop sending mail you later regret

Basically, if you are the type who likes to have a few drinks and then send out late night emails to ex-girlfriends, etc… this is a feature you will want to enable right away. Here is how it works. When you hit the “send” button, before Gmail will actually send your email, you will be required to solve a few math problems. If you can’t pass the test, it won’t send your email. Funny stuff!

By default it is not enabled. But you can turn it on by going to your settings, click on Labs, and then scroll down to Mail Goggles!

For the record, I do not have this enabled. :-)

Space Junk

There is a lot of junk cruising around in space.  They estimate that there could be over a million pieces of space junk out there.  Most of it is smaller than a tennis ball.  And it comes from pieces of old rocket boosters, parts of broken satellites, and tools that the astronauts have dropped while space-walking.  All of this pose a serious risk to the space mission.  They say it’s a bigger risk than accidents on liftoff or landing.  This junk isn’t just floating around space.  It’s moving at incredible speeds – 21,600 mph.  That is fast!
Jim Hollopeter, a rocket designer, has come up with a solution for the junk floating around in space.  He wants to use old rockets, armed with water guns, to shoot the junk.  The idea is that the water guns will shoot the junk toward the atmosphere where it will burn up.
Cool!  I love this kind of stuff!

Kindle (for the iPhone)

Ever since Kindle 2 came out, I’ve been really interested in it. The price is the barrier to entry for me right now though. $359.00 is more than I can justify knowing that my life savings are hemorrhaging due to the current economic situation.

But today I discovered that Amazon has a Kindle App for the iPhone. And it’s free. So I downloaded it. I went to Amazon.com and I bought my first Kindle book.

I have to say that I am definitely impressed. It’s actually really easy to read on my iPhone. You can adjust the font size (you get 5 different size options – the middle/default appears to be best for me). The pages turn quickly. And the overall navigation is nice. And best of all, it remembers what page you read last.

They also have an application called Whispersync that automatically syncs your reading location on different devices. So if you have a Kindle and an iPhone, when you switch back and forth it remembers the last page read on either device. Very nice!

And books are much cheaper this way. Best sellers and new releases are $9.99. And a lot of older books are less than that.

2 Year Hiatus is Over

Wow, has it really been two + years since I last posted? Time sure flies when you are busy. But you know, sometimes it’s good to unplug for a while.
As I was doing some needed maintenance and upgrades to my blog, I went back and read through all of my posts.  It’s funny how I was so excited about some new tools & sites back then that I just take for granted now.  Like Gmail.  Remember when you had to be invited to use Gmail? One of my posts even mentioned an ad on craigslist where someone was willing to trade their couch for a Gmail account.  Seems like so long ago.  And speaking of craigslist, I even posted about it when it was still relatively new.   Oh, and how about Segway Scooters.  Remember when they first hit the scene?  They never really took off quite like everyone expected did they?  And I was a big fan of the iPod.  Well, today my iPhone has one built in.  :-)
July 8th, 2003.  That was the date of my first post on this blog.  It has been a lot of fun.  The break was nice.  But I think I’ll get back to posting again from time to time.
Cheers!

Want to Rent a Rotary Phone?

I was listening to Clark Howard this morning and heard something I couldn’t believe. Do you remember the old rotary phones? Well, many years ago the phone companies would lease these to you for use in your home. According to ABC News, back in 1985 AT&T gave customers the option to opt out of renting. They said the numbers dropped from 40 million to about 750,000 today. WHAT? Are you kidding? I can’t believe that many people still rent those old rotary phones. In fact, ABC News reported that an 82 year old woman had been leasing 2 phones for the past 42 years. Her grandchildren discovered the bill and found that she had paid $14,000 over the years for these old phones. So, if you know of anyone still renting a phone from the phone company, do the right thing and buy them a phone for Christmas.

Self Publishing with Lulu.Com

Fast, Easy, & Free… www.lulu.com provides a great service for those who have always wanted to write a book but didn’t think they could land a publishing deal.

Publishers typically only look for books that sell 10,000 copies or more (according to an article in Business 2.o titled “Freedom of the Press”). That makes it very challenging for first time authors. But with Lulu, you can use their one-stop, do-it-yourself, on-demand publishing.

With Lulu, you can publish books, CDs, DVDs, Images, or Calendars.

The 62,000-Mile Elevator Ride

Another great article in Business 2.o.

The 62,000-Mile Elevator Ride
Rockets are old news. The hottest idea in space enterprise is a tether to take us all the way from Earth to orbit…

Want to bring down the cost of sending cargo into space? Just build an elevator. Since the Earth is constantly spinning, if you attach a counterweight to it with a cable, and put it 62,000 miles away, the cable will be tight enough to run an elevator or car up it.

The theory has been around for a long time. But it was only recently that a material was discovered that would be strong enough for the cable or ribbon – Nanotubes. Nanotubes can be 100 times stronger than steel and weigh only a fifth as much.

The LiftPort Group is a company that is working on a space elevator.

Fundable.org

I just read a cool article in Business 2.0 – Fund-Raising Goes Peer-to-Peer.

Fundable.org lets groups of people pool their money to make purchases or raise money. Some examples include:
- Splitting the cost of something big (pool money for gifts, real estate, parties)
- Buying a product in bulk to save money
- Rasing money for a personal project
- Non-profit organizations, political candidates
- Business ventures

You can even set it up so that you only collect from people if you reach your stated goal. Pretty cool….

Dig’n the iPod

I now have two iPods. I have a…

- 20GB Photo w/Color Display
Holds up to 5,000 songs or 20,000 photos

- Shuffle
Holds up to 120 songs

I have to admit, I use the shuffle the most. I love the 20GB because it stores my entire music library on it. It’s definitely impressive. But what I end up doing is just creating & listening to playlists. So I just load a playlist on the shuffle, and I’m on my way. It’s a lot easier to carry. The 20GB is clunky compared to the shuffle which is about the size of a bic lighter.

Keep the Change

I love creative ways to save money. And I just discovered a pretty cool little idea from Bank of America. It’s called…

Keep the Change

Each time you use your debit card, Bank of America rounds the transaction up to the nearest dollar. Then they transfer the difference to your savings account. The best part? For the first 3 months they’ll match your savings 100%. Pretty cool.

I realize that the net savings amount isn’t going to be huge. But every little bit helps. Here’s an example of how this program could work.

Example based on 50 transactions per month and an average savings of $.45 per transaction (and it does not include the match):

50 X $.45 = $22.50
$22.50 X 12 months = $270

In this example you would save $270 per year. Well, you won’t get rich. But the average person in this country has a serious problem saving money. So creative savings techniques are always encouraged.