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News

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Not really much to this post.  More a quick feel good update and some photos.  To the sophisticated urbanite there is little to recommend living in a small town in the middle of Michigan.  However, if you happen to be in to trains, there are few better places to be.  It turns out little Owosso, Michigan has quite a history with steam trains.  A Google search will have to satisfy your historical curiosities, or you can visit the Owosso Michigan Steam Railroading Institute website.  That’s right, we have our very own Steam Railroad Museum.  Take that World’s Largest Ball of Twine.

Not only do we have a steam railroad museum, but we are lucky to have quite a star in our small town; the Real Polar Express; Pere Marquette 1225.  That’s right, the train from that film that Tom Hanks would probably like to forget.  Yes, it’s a real train, and no, as far as I know it doesn’t actually fly you to the North Pole.  What is does do, though, is take you on a few hour ride where you get to meet Santa Claus (or at least a man dressed up like Santa Claus).  You and your kids (because please tell me you’re doing this for your kids) can have a fun day out all for the mere price of a few mortgage payments.  All trips throughout December are sold out months in advance.

So, what is a poor person to do?  Well, we go and stand out at a railroad crossing in an otherwise deserted part of town.  We went with our neighbour and encountered about half a dozen others who had the same idea.  Between turning pennies in to pancakes and trying not to freeze, I managed to get a few photos of the historic engine.

All the commercialism aside the engine is a marvel of American engineering at the turn of the 20th century.  So, enjoy the photos.

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This one is a bit of a long one, well, in comparison to what I usually post.  The short film, however, caught my attention.  It was filmed in Ireland and is primarily concerned with the suicide epidemic that is sweeping the nation since the collapse of what they called the Celtic Tiger period.  Here is the states we simply said, “business was good.”  Well, it hasn’t been “good” for a long time now, and it’s truly taking its toll on people.  I’ll forgo any long-winded diatribe this time and just post the video.

The best part of the video starts around the 8 minute mark.  The monologue from the main character is as applicable to the US as it is Ireland.

Don’t worry, though… it’ll all be grand.

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I have a lot to say on this topic, but I’ll try to keep it brief.  There are like most things two sides to the coin.  However, the sad reality of life in America today is that we have failed.  Between mandatory payroll deductions, the cost (and that now there is almost no way to avoid it) of healthcare thanks to the ACA, and the costs of everyday essentials like food, petrol, heating oil, and other consumables we no give hard working Americans a chance.  This doesn’t apply to the welfare queens or the benefit scammers… no these people aren’t like the rest.  They don’t have to worry about such things – it’s given to them.  It’s the people who work… hard… for so little that are truly being screwed.

Here’s some sad, hard to admit truth.  For quite a long time I earned a very comfortable wage.  Frankly, I made a lot of money.  I could buy toys, go on trips, not worry.  I was lucky.  Was it because I worked harder than everyone else?  Maybe it’s because I was smarter that all those people earning less?  Oh, I know… it’s because I was one of the chosen few.  Yeah… no.  Here’s the hard truth… I didn’t really work all that hard.  I sat mainly in air conditioned offices, in comfy chairs.  I attended meetings and talked on the phone.. a lot.  I’d occasionally have to yell at someone or negotiate a big deal.  I did a lot of paperwork, and every now and again, I worked on computers.   Often, I just babysat adults.  I had stress… often of my own making.  Looking back now, I think the EMT or police officer who literally has someone’s life in their hands might be a better judge of stress than I ever could be.

I didn’t work any harder than the single mother who waits tables or the EMT who is pulling their third double shift in a week.  The nanny who not only watches the kids, but cleans the house and cooks the meals.  The teacher, the fire fighter, or the police officer – these people objectively work harder than I ever did.

The difference… often these people struggle to make ends meet.  Many find they are are at or below the “federal poverty line.”  Any hope of getting ahead is lost to the simple need to find a way to pay for their housing, food, petrol to get to work, healthcare, daycare, and incidentals.  Too often, there’s just not enough to go around.

All you executives and CEO’s who say that you deserve your $25, $50, or $100 million dollar salaries because you work harder than everyone else.  You aren’t fooling anyone, let me tell you… you don’t.  I’ve sat across from too many of you and watched you flaunt your watches that cost more than my car.  I’ve seen you sitting in meetings looking at catalogues for boats that cost more than my house.  I’ve been in meetings where you discussed the bonuses for those executives who could “reduce employee overhead” to increase the quarter’s earnings numbers.   I’ve had to deal with your “extended vacation schedules” when most of your employees haven’t been able to afford one in years, let alone take the time off.  You don’t work that hard – and you don’t deserve a salary the size of some major city’s entire budget.  You’re fooling yourself, but you are not fooling anyone else.

Studies have shown that workers who are paid a fair wage are more motivated, happy, and productive.  They are able to maintain a better work life balance, and stay in their position longer.  They tend to be healthier (lower stress) and otherwise enjoy what they do more.  All of these things translate in to benefits for the employer in greater productivity, lower healthcare costs, less lost productivity, and less turnover and retaining costs.  So why do companies refuse to pay a “living wage?”

Because, it’s bad for the bottom line.  CEO’s / CXX’s and board members are happy to vote themselves huge pay increases, put in place monstrous golden parachutes, and otherwise continue to grow their fortunes at the expense of their employees.  This is not a sustainable system.  Trickle down economics don’t work if there is no trickling down of the wealth.

Anyway.. no one is reading this.  Corporate Greed Bad, Hardworking lower / lower-middle class people are being oppressed, no one gives a damn because this country has gone to Hell in a handbasket and our social and political leaders are caricatures of real people who only care about siphoning enough of the money off the rich to pretend to be the rich.

So, watch this entertaining video that is deeper than most people on the Internet will ever think about it.  Kristen Bell is as talented an actress you could hope to find.

Even Mary Poppins Needs a Raise.

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I don’t tend to watch these “political” comedies too often.  In fact, I didn’t watch this one live, either.  However, this monologue from the show has been making the rounds and it couldn’t be more poignant.  Obviously, it’s also meant to be funny, but take a few minutes (13 to be exact) and watch.  You’ll laugh, and then once you take a minute to think about it, you’ll cry at how we as a society can managed to screw up one of the greatest innovations we’ve ever accomplished as a people.  Yay, greed and selfishness.

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Many of you have noticed my strong position on ensuring Net Neutrality.  Without getting up on my soapbox, I think this is the biggest “freedom of speech” like battle of this generation.

Unfortunately, many people have no idea what Net Neutrality is.  So… to do my part, here is a video from a young lady who explains it in simple terms, with pictures, that hopefully anyone can understand.  So please take a few minutes, watch the video, become educated on this very important issue.

Then if you want to maintain the freedoms we enjoy with an open and innovative Internet, please contact the FCC, write to your representatives, and otherwise make your voice heard.

 

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The World Health Organisation recently released a report entitled, “Antimicrobial resistance: global report on surveillance 2014″ and you can download the complete report HERE.

This is not the kind of morning coffee drinking news you want to read.  It is the largest and most comprehensive study ever conducted on the emerging crisis of antibiotic resistant bacteria, such as the commonly discussed MRSA (meersa) Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus.  The study which collected data from 114 countries covered the seven most common bacteria that causes harmful infections from blood poisoning to gonorrhoea.

It found that currently there is a very high incidence of resistant bacteria across the majority of reporting countries.  The following table illustrate:

bacteria_chart2

bacteria_chart2

Those are very scary statistics.  Imagine, if this trend was to continue a world where a child could fall and scrap their knee, contract a resistant form of infection and die.  This from a form of bacteria that not 10 years ago was easily treated.  Worse still is the ramifications for modern medical surgery.  Forget something as simple as a hip or knee replacement, let along open heart surgery or even a routine catheter or angioplasty.  Each of these procedures would carry the very real possibility of death from infection.  Say goodbye to the miracle of modern science and hello to Civil War area medicine.

How could we let it get this bad?  Well, simple… money and stupidity.  Big Pharma likes selling antibiotics.  They sell them to you and me, industrial farming operations, animal feed producers, and any one else willing to pay.  Now a guy called Darwin popularised the concept of evolution.  Well, unlike humans or other animals, bacteria can produce multiple generations at an exponential rate.  Meaning, that for them evolution can occur must faster that in a macro organism, like a bird or fish.  Due to the over exposure to antibacterial compounds these bacteria, which like any other living organism have a deep rooted desire to live, have begun to evolve resistances.  At this point, you’re saying, ok… so we just need new antibiotics, right?  Well, you’d be right… if there were any.

Here’s the big news… no new antibiotics have been developed since 1980.  In 34 years, we’ve invented Viagra, the modern Internet, and “cures” for everything from “restless leg syndrome” to every form of anxiety imaginable, but we’ve only pumped out “new” versions of old antibiotics.  The below chart illustrates.

antibiotics_last_100_years

So… don’t take my word on it.  Read the WHO Report, browse the web, and see what you can do to help prevent the crumbling of the foundation of modern medicine.  Also, take a moment and help “your” political representatives know we need to stop throwing money at the “War on Drugs” and start truly funding the War for Drug (Antibiotics).

 

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So.. just a quickie today.  Apparently, some VERY nostalgic people decided it would be worth the time and expense to go dig up some old Atari 2600 cartridges of the popularly dubbed, “worst game ever made.”  Goodness only knows why.  Documentary.. historical value.. nerds.. blah, blah.

Well, it appears that after digging through over 30 years of decomposing rubbish in a New Mexico landfill they managed to uncover some of these things.  Umm.. Good for them?

Too bad for all those collectors out there who had this one as the jewel in their collection.  On the good side, we now have many copies to use as a new form of extraordinary rendition.

More money than sense if you ask me.

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“Old School” geeks may be about to introduce a leap in energy storage that has the potential to revolutionise how neighbourhoods get their electricity.  Anyone who has built a solar or wind energy system knows that the some of the biggest cost and most limiting elements are the batteries.  Typically the DIYer will build a bank of deep cycle 12v marine batteries, or go budget and collect old 12v automobile batteries.  These systems have numerous points of failure and limited life as the acidic liquids contained in the batteries lose the ability to “hold a charge.”  On a small scale, most people find a way to make it work, but on a large scale… forget it.

Until now, it seems.  Scientists at Imergy Power Systems have been working on a Vanadium Flow Battery for the last few years and are reportedly close to a fully functional model.  The VFB works by pumping pumping positively and negatively charged solutions of vanadium from storage tanks through a separator tank.  These opposing solution passing by a specially designed plate cause a reaction that creates the electricity.  Well, at least, that the simple, ELI5 (Explain Like I’m 5) version of it.  The big breakthrough, because vanadium can be both positively and negatively charged it doesn’t suffer from the same chemical breakdown as other elements.  This means that this type of battery basically lasts, “forever.”  To increase the capacity, you simply increase the capacity of the storage tanks.

So imagine, your entire neighbourhood powered by a battery that fit in a 40′ shipping container that is charged from solar panels or windmills.  No more fossil fuels, no more power company.  Energy independence.

So how long until the big energy lobby finds a reason to outlaw this?  10…9….

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For those that don’t know, directly below my comments is a little box that says, “Source” and next to that is the names of the publications with the full article.  If you click on the name you can view the original article all my hotair is about.

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