It’s really been a very very tough two months.  Let’s take a look.

  • BEACH MASSACRESEIFEDDINE REZGUI, has been identified as the man who, armed with a Kalashnikov, killed 38 beachgoers as he reportedly instructed fellow Tunisians to flee as he opened fire on his victims, pursuing them from the beach and into a nearby hotel before being killed.
  • CHARLESTON SHOOTING— June 17, 2015, a mass shooting took place at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in downtown Charleston, South Carolina, United States. Nine people were shot and killed, including the senior pastor.
  • ISIL— ISIL on 24-hour ‘killing rampage’ in Syria’s Kobane.  The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group has killed more than 100 civilians in a 24-hour rampage through the Kurdish town of Kobane in what a monitor group described as one of the group’s “worst massacres” in Syria.
  • In France, an attacker rammed a vehicle into a gas factory near Lyon that is owned by a US-based company, causing an explosion. A man—identified by French media as the manager of a local transport company making a delivery—was found decapitated nearby. The body and two flags at the scene were covered in Arabic inscriptions, according to Reuters.
  • Kuwait Shia mosque blast death toll ‘rises to 27′–The death toll from a suicide attack on a Shia mosque during Friday prayers in the Kuwaiti capital has risen to at least 27, the interior ministry says. Another 227 people were wounded, it added. Images circulating online show bodies on the mosque floor amid debris.
  • CHARLIE HEBDO–The magazine has been the target of two terrorist attacks in 2011 and 2015. Both were presumed to be in response to a number of controversial Muhammad cartoons it published. In the second of these attacks, 12 people were killed, including Charbonnier and several contributors.
  •  NEW YORK— New York escapee Richard Matt killed; David Sweat still on the run.

I could really go on and on but you get the picture.

The cost of security is tremendous these days for both commercial and residential concerns, not to mention disruption of services to customers and clients.   We know the cost to the state of New York is approximately $900,000 per day to find Matt and Sweat.  Sweat is still on the “lam”. The company EQUILAR has published a great report entitled, “Executive Prerequisites Analysis”, 3 December 2014.  In this report they list costs for executive security.  Let’s take a look at the top thirty (30).

EXECUTIVE SECURITY

As you can see, the costs are absolutely HUGE and this is only a partial list of the individual corporate costs.

The Institute for Economics and Peace recently published their 2015 Global Pease Index document.  This publication indicates the most and least peaceful countries—definitely worth taking a look at. This is the ninth edition of the Global Peace Index (GPI), which ranks the nations of the world according to their level of peacefulness. The index is composed of 23 qualitative and quantitative indicators from highly respected sources and ranks 162 independent states, covering 99.6 per cent of the world’s population. The index gauges global peace using three broad themes: the level of safety and security in society, the extent of domestic and international conflict and the degree of militarization.  One AMAZING statistic—violence accounts for and costs the world 13.4% of the world’s GDP.  The economic impact of violence on the global economy in 2014 was substantial and is estimated at US $14.3 trillion or 13.4 per cent of world GDP. This is equivalent to the combined economies of Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Spain and the United Kingdom. Since 2008, the total economic impact on global GDP has increased by 15.3 per cent, from US $12.4 trillion to US $14.3 trillion. Large increases in costs are due to the increases in deaths from internal conflict, increases for IDP and refugee support, and GDP losses from conflict, with the latter accounting for 38 per cent of the increase since 2008. The major expenditure categories are military spending at 43 per cent, homicide and violent crime at 27 per cent and internal security officers, including police, at 18 per cent. While the cost of UN peacekeeping has more than doubled since 2008, it still only accounts for less than 0.17 per cent of violence containment expenditure.  Let’s now take a look at the most peaceful and the least peaceful.  We will do so using the following color code:

STATE OF PEACE

Most Peaceful

LEAST PEACEFUL

UNITED STATES

It should be extremely embarrassing that the United States is ninety-fourth on the list—behind Armenia, Guyana, and Peru relative to peaceful environments.  Logic would tell us that one way to end world hunger and improve the standing of most individuals is to eliminate war and strife.  Think of the many ways that $14.3 trillion could be used to benefit mankind.

DARK NET

June 25, 2015


Most of the individuals who read my posting are very well-informed and know that Tim Berners-Lee “invented” the internet.  In my opinion, the Internet is a resounding technological improvement in communication.  It has been a game-changer in the truest since of the word.  I think there are legitimate uses which save tremendous time.  There are also illegitimate uses as we shall see.

A JPEG of Mr. Berners-Lee is shown below:

Tim B-L

BIOGRAPHY:

In 1989, while working at CERN, the European Particle Physics Laboratory in Geneva, Switzerland, Tim Berners-Lee proposed a global hypertext project, to be known as the World Wide Web. Based on the earlier “Enquire” work, his efforts were designed to allow people to work together by combining their knowledge in a web of hypertext documents.  Sir Tim wrote the first World Wide Web server, “httpd“, and the first client, “WorldWideWeb” a what-you-see-is-what-you-get hypertext browser/editor which ran in the NeXTStep environment. This work began in October 1990.k   The program “WorldWideWeb” was first made available within CERN in December, and on the Internet at large in the summer of 1991.

Through 1991 and 1993, Tim continued working on the design of the Web, coordinating feedback from users across the Internet. His initial specifications of URIs, HTTP and HTML were refined and discussed in larger circles as the Web technology spread.

Tim Berners-Lee graduated from the Queen’s College at Oxford University, England, in 1976. While there he built his first computer with a soldering iron, TTL gates, an M6800 processor and an old television.

He spent two years with Plessey Telecommunications Ltd (Poole, Dorset, UK) a major UK Telecom equipment manufacturer, working on distributed transaction systems, message relays, and bar code technology.

In 1978 Tim left Plessey to join D.G Nash Ltd (Ferndown, Dorset, UK), where he wrote, among other things, typesetting software for intelligent printers and a multitasking operating system.

His year and one-half spent as an independent consultant included a six-month stint (Jun-Dec 1980) as consultant software engineer at CERN. While there, he wrote for his own private use his first program for storing information including using random associations. Named “Enquire” and never published, this program formed the conceptual basis for the future development of the World Wide Web.

From 1981 until 1984, Tim worked at John Poole’s Image Computer Systems Ltd, with technical design responsibility. Work here included real time control firmware, graphics and communications software, and a generic macro language. In 1984, he took up a fellowship at CERN, to work on distributed real-time systems for scientific data acquisition and system control. Among other things, he worked on FASTBUS system software and designed a heterogeneous remote procedure call system.

In 1994, Tim founded the World Wide Web Consortium at the Laboratory for Computer Science (LCS). This lab later merged with the Artificial Intelligence Lab in 2003 to become the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Since that time he has served as the Director of the World Wide Web Consortium, a Web standards organization which develops interoperable technologies (specifications, guidelines, software, and tools) to lead the Web to its full potential. The Consortium has host sites located at MIT, at ERCIM in Europe, and at Keio University in Japan as well as offices around the world.

In 1999, he became the first holder of 3Com Founders chair at MIT. In 2008 he was named 3COM Founders Professor of Engineering in the School of Engineering, with a joint appointment in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at CSAIL where he also heads the Decentralized Information Group (DIG). In December 2004 he was also named a Professor in the Computer Science Department at the University of Southampton, UK. From 2006 to 2011 he was co-Director of the Web Science Trust, launched as the Web Science Research Initiative, to help create the first multidisciplinary research body to examine the Web.

In 2008 he founded and became Director of the World Wide Web Foundation.  The Web Foundation is a non-profit organization devoted to achieving a world in which all people can use the Web to communicate, collaborate and innovate freely.  The Web Foundation works to fund and coordinate efforts to defend the Open Web and further its potential to benefit humanity.

In June 2009 then Prime Minister Gordon Brown announced that he would work with the UK Government to help make data more open and accessible on the Web, building on the work of the Power of Information Task Force. Sir Tim was a member of The Public Sector Transparency Board tasked to drive forward the UK Government’s transparency agenda.  He has promoted open government data globally, is a member of the UK’s Transparency Board.

In 2011 he was named to the Board of Trustees of the Ford Foundation, a globally oriented private foundation with the mission of advancing human welfare. He is President of the UK’s Open Data Institute which was formed in 2012 to catalyze open data for economic, environmental, and social value.

He is the author, with Mark Fischetti, of the book “Weaving the Web” on the past, present and future of the Web.

On March 18 2013, Sir Tim, along with Vinton Cerf, Robert Kahn, Louis Pouzin and Marc Andreesen, was awarded the Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering for “ground-breaking innovation in engineering that has been of global benefit to humanity.”

It should be very obvious from this rather short biography that Sir Tim is definitely a “heavy hitter”.

DARK WEB:

I honestly don’t think Sir Tim realized the full gravity of his work and certainly never dreamed there might develop a “dark web”.

The Dark Web is the public World Wide Web content existing on dark nets or networks which overlay the public Internet.  These networks require specific software, configurations or authorization to access. They are NOT open forums as we know the web to be at this time.  The dark web forms part of the Deep Web which is not indexed by search engines such as GOOGLE, BING, Yahoo, Ask.com, AOL, Blekko.com,  Wolframalpha, DuckDuckGo, Waybackmachine, or ChaCha.com.  The dark nets which constitute the Dark Web include small, friend-to-friend peer-to-peer networks, as well as large, popular networks like FreenetI2P, and Tor, operated by public organizations and individuals. Users of the Dark Web refer to the regular web as the Clearnet due to its unencrypted nature.

A December 2014 study by Gareth Owen from the University of Portsmouth found the most commonly requested type of content on Tor was child pornography, followed by black markets, while the individual sites with the highest traffic were dedicated to botnet operations.  Botnet is defined as follows:

“a network of computers created by malware andcontrolled remotely, without the knowledge of the users of those computers: The botnet was usedprimarily to send spam emails.”

Hackers built the botnet to carry out DDoS attacks.

Many whistle-blowing sites maintain a presence as well as political discussion forums.  Cloned websites and other scam sites are numerous.   Many hackers sell their services individually or as a part of groups. There are reports of crowd-funded assassinations and hit men for hire.   Sites associated with Bitcoinfraud related services and mail order services are some of the most prolific.

Commercial dark net markets, which mediate transactions for illegal drugs and other goods, attracted significant media coverage starting with the popularity of Silk Road and its subsequent seizure by legal authorities. Other markets sells software exploits and weapons.  A very brief look at the table below will indicate activity commonly found on the dark net.

ACTIVITY

As you can see, the uses for the dark net are quite lovely, lovely indeed.  As with any great development such as the Internet, nefarious uses can and do present themselves.  I would stay away from the dark net.  Just don’t go there.  Hope you enjoy this one and please send me your comments.

 

TOP 25 WEB SITES

June 8, 2015


Have you ever wondered just how many web sites there are?  Here are several very interesting statistics from http://www.internetlive.com.

  • At the time of this post—4 June 2015, 0820 hours, there were 952,158,972 active web sites.
  • There were over one billion web sites as of September 2014
  • Approximately 75% of registered web sites are dormant. These are called “parked” web sites.
  • The world-wide web was invented in March of 1989 by Mr. Tim Bernes-Lee for the purpose if disseminating information through DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency)
  • The first website was info.cern.ch. This site was published 6 August 1991 by Tim Bernes-Lee

With so many options, how does one pick and chose so wasting time and energy does not become an every-day occurrence?  The website stumbleuponit.com has published a list of what they feel to be the very best sites for information and the “how-to” experience.  I definitely agree with their assessment.  Let’s take a look.

  • www.duolingo.com– This website very similar to Rosetta Stone.  It is a free language-learning and crowd-sourced text translation platform. As of 28 May 2015, Duolingo offers Latin American,SpanishFrenchGermanBrazilian,PortugueseItalianDutchIrishDanish,SwedishTurkishNorwegian (Bokmål)Ukrainian, and Esperanto courses for English speakers.  Also offered is American English for Spanish, French, German, Portuguese, Italian, Greek, Dutch, Russian, Polish, Turkish, Hungarian, Romanian, Japanese, Hindi, Indonesian, Korean, Vietnamese, and Czech speakers.  Many other combinations of languages. It is available on the Web, iOS, Android and Windows Phone 8.1 platforms.  As of January 2014, Duolingo has 60 million users, out of which about 20 million are active. (NOTE: I use Duolingo to brush up on my Spanish.  I can definitely recommend this site to you if you are trying to master a language or refresh your memory for a language in which you are a little rusty.)
  • www.kahnacademy.org– Khan Academy offers practice exercises, instructional videos, and a personalized learning dashboard that empower learners to study at their own pace in and outside of the classroom. They address subjects such as math, science, computer programming, history, art history, economics, and more.   Their math missions guide learners from kindergarten to calculus using state-of-the-art, adaptive technology that identifies strengths and learning gaps. They have also partnered with institutions like NASA, The Museum of Modern Art, The California Academy of Sciences, and MIT to offer specialized content.
  • http://www.justinguitar.com–There are many hundreds of free guitar lessons offered with this site. As you can imagine it’s taken quite a lot of work and over ten (10) years to put it all together. The individual who constructed the site says, “It’s important to help everyone that wants to learn to play the guitar, not just those with money for tuition, so I run it on an honor system.
  • http://www.cookingforengineers.com–; This web site was started in June 2004 by Michael Chu as a place for him to store and share the recipes that he likes to use as well as kitchen notes.  He comments, “Basically, I started the site as a place to store all the food related stuff that I didn’t want to have to carry around in my brain, but I would want to reference later. Sometimes people ask me (or quiz me) about cooking and there’s a tendency for me to smile and respond with, ‘I wrote it down so I wouldn’t have to remember!'” – Michael Chu.  (I can definitely recommend this site to you.)
  • www.thedatingspecialists.com– According to their “home” page:  “We are a growing team of experienced daters, who have the knowledge and expertise to help you attract those who pique your interest. Whether you’ve been out of dating for awhile, or would just like to improve your skills, we are here to help! Whether you’re looking for a one time tune-up of your dating life, or ongoing assistance we can work out a strategy tailored to you to meet your specific goals. We will not only help you on your path to get more dates, but will help you grow into an attractive, confident person that others will be drawn to. Successful dating is not only about finding the right match; it’s about being the right match.  (Can’t tell you much about this one.  I’ve been married almost fifty years.  Will stay away from this site.)
  • www.nerdfitness.com– I love this one.  I workout six (6) times per week and I can personally attest to the fact—this is a great site.   A guy named Steve is the author of this site and says;
    “Maybe you’re here because you’re overweight and frustrated because you haven’t found success quite yet. Maybe you’re here because your doctor told you that you’re in danger of some serious health issues if you don’t make changes.  Maybe you’re here because you just had a kid, and the reality that you being unhealthy could make THEIR lives more difficult just hit you like a ton of bricks. Maybe you just want to wake up, look in the mirror, and feel better about yourself.”
  • http://www.mitopencourseware.com— “The idea is simple: to publish all of our course materials online and make them widely available to everyone.” Dick K.P. Yue, Professor, MIT School of Engineering. (I definitely recommend this site to you.  It is extremely well done and very complete relative to the courses offered. )
  • www.investopedia.com– This is GREAT and tells you everything you need to know about investing. It also has a remarkably complete dictionary for reference and a wide range of subjects you can exploreThis one is a “must-see”.
  •  www.quora.com– Quora is a question-and-answer website where questions are asked, answered, edited and organized by its community of users. The company was founded in June 2009, and the website was made available to the public on June 21, 2010.  Quora aggregates questions and answers to topics. Users can collaborate by editing questions and suggesting edits to other users’ answers.
  • www.informationisbeautiful.net– David McCandless is the webmaster for this site.  The mission is stated thusly, “Myself, and the rest of the crack team here at Information is Beautiful, are dedicated to distilling the world’s data, information and knowledge into beautiful, interesting and, above all, useful visualizations, infographics and diagrams.” This site is entirely funded by sales of images, posters and books.
  • www.spreeder.com– Spreeder.com is a free online speed reading software designed to improve your reading speed and comprehension.  It is a free service provided by 7-Speed-ReadingTM.  If you are a slow reader, as I am, with limited comprehension, this is the site that can make a difference.  Give this one a try.
  • www.projectgutenberg.com– Project Gutenberg (PG) is a volunteer effort to digitize and archive cultural works, to “encourage the creation and distribution of eBooks“. It was founded in 1971 by Michael S. Hart and is the oldest digital library. Most of the items in its collection are the full texts of public domain books. The project tries to make these as free as possible, in long-lasting, open formats that can be used on almost any computer. As of April 2015, Project Gutenberg has over 49,100 items in its collection.
  • www.codeacademy.com– Codecademy is an online interactive platform that offers free coding classes in eight (8) different programming languages including PythonPHPjQuery, JavaScriptAngularJS, and Ruby, as well as markup languages HTML and CSS.As of January 2014, the site had over 24 million users who had completed over 100 million exercises. The site has received positive reviews from many blogs and websites, including TheTechCrunch. (Excellent site if you wish to learn programming.)
  • www.geographyiq.com– Planning a trip? Preparing a school homework assignment? Perhaps you’re interested in current events or are just curious about exploring the world around you. Welcome to GeographyIQ.com. GeographyIQ is an online world atlas packed with geographic, economic, political, historical and cultural information. In addition, GeographyIQ brings together a number of other resources including maps, flags, currency conversion as well as climate and time zone information.
  • http://www.ankisrs.net— Anki is a program which makes remembering things easy. Because it’s much more efficient than traditional study methods, you can either greatly decrease your time spent studying, or greatly increase the amount you learn.  Anyone who needs to remember things in their daily life can benefit from Anki. Since it is content-agnostic and supports images, audio, videos and scientific markup (via LaTeX), the possibilities are endless.
  • www.lumosity.com– Lumosity is a leader in the science of brain training.  There are “brain games” designed by neurologists to heighten cerebral activity and improve memory and cognitive ability.
  • www.cliffsnotes.com– OK, who has not heard of Cliffs Notes?  You know what they are.  It’s the last day of summer and you are about half way through your reading assignment—bookstore and Cliffs Notes.  With this web site, the notes are digital.  ‘Nough” said.
  • www.ted.com– This is definitely one of the most useful and informative websites on the Internet.  TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) is a global set of conferences run by the private non-profit Sapling Foundation, under the slogan “Ideas Worth Spreading”.  TED was founded in 1984 as a one-off event; the annual conference series began in 1990. TED’s early emphasis was technology and design, consistent with its Silicon Valley origins, but it has since broadened its focus to include talks on many scientific, cultural and academic topics. (Great site!!!!!)
  • www.pinfruit.com– pinfruit is for memorizing long numbers, such as credit card numbers and bank identifiers. It automates the laborious part of mnemonic major system, an old mnemonic technique. It all works on the principle that it is easier to remember words than numbers. (Don’t use this one much personally but there are individuals who swear by the results of its use.)
  • www.mindtools.com– Wonderful web site dedicated towards management and management techniques. Mind Tools was founded by James Manktelow, who is now the CEO. James has written seven books on leadership, team management and personal productivity: WorkLife: Manage Your TimeWorkLife: Manage Stress;Mind ToolsStress ToolsMake Time for Success! (Written with Namita Anand); How to Lead: Discover the Leader Within You; and Team Tools: Build and Lead an Excellent Team (written with Felix Brodbeck and Namita Anand).
  • www.howstuffworks.com– One of the best websites on the Internet.  The entire site is dedicated to explaining how things work.  I use this one every day and can certainly recommend it to you.
  • www.onelook.com–  This site is a dictionary search site. There are 19,633,003 words in 1061 dictionaries indexed in this site.  It is a phenomenal find. Use it.
  • www.ciafactbook.com– The World Factbook provides information on the history, people, government, economy, geography, communications, transportation, military, and transnational issues for 267 world entities. Our Reference tab includes: maps of the major world regions, as well as Flags of the World, a Physical Map of the World, a Political Map of the World, a World Oceans map, and a Standard Time Zones of the World map.  (A great planning guide if you are a traveler.)
  • www.couchsurfing.com– Couchsurfing International Inc. is a hospitality exchange and social networking website. The website provides a platform for members to “surf” on couches by staying as a guest at a host’s home, host travelers, or join an event.  Couchsurfing International Inc refers to two separate legal entities. The first was founded in 2003 as a non-profit organization, and was liquidated in 2011. Its assets were sold to the private for-profit corporation Better World Through Travel, later renamed Couchsurfing International, Inc., which defines itself as “a mission-driven for-profit corporation”. As of August 2012, the company has raised $22.6 million in investment capital.

SUMMARY:  This is one of my longer posts but I certainly hope you can enjoy the list AND take a look at those sites you feel will be helpful to you. You will be pleasantly surprised as to the frequency of your visits.

UBER

June 7, 2015


If you read my posts you know I definitely enjoy keeping up with technology:  advances in existing technology and certainly new entries into the exciting world of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics).  I know I’m saying the obvious, but the digital age has made possible a remarkable variety of useful and labor-saving apps (application software).  These digital packages of code produce web sites that seemingly provide information instantly.

Some months ago, my wife and I visited our youngest son in Dallas.  He furnished transportation from the airport but for the remainder of the visit we used the services of UBER.  This was our very first experience with the UBER service.  We found it to be remarkably convenient and considerably less expensive than a traditional cab ride.  Very fortunate our son “turned us on” to this company. Let’s take a look.

HISTORY:

A very brief summary of UBER may be seen as follows:

BRIEF SUMMARY

The idea for UBER was developed by Travis Kalanick.  Mr. Kalanick was trying to find a cab from his hotel to the 2008 LeWeb conference in Paris, France.  He had significant difficulties in doing so.   Kalanick cites “Paris as the inspiration for UBER “.   The original company was named “UberCab” by Travis Kalanick and Garrett Camp in 2009. The service was launched in San Francisco in June 2010, with Ryan Graves appointed as CEO.  Graves later stepped down from that role to become VP of Operations and was replaced by Kalanick.   UBER’S mobile app for iPhones and Android phones was launched in San Francisco in 2010.

The company markets and operates the UBER mobile app, and allows consumers to submit a trip request.   This request is then routed to sharing economy drivers.   As of May 28, 2015, the service was available in fifty-eight (58) countries and three hundred (300) cities worldwide.   Since UBER’S launch, several other companies have emulated its business model, a trend that has come to be referred to as “Uberification”.

The company initially raised $49 million in venture funds by 2011 and beginning in 2012, expanded internationally.  In 2014, UBER experimented with carpooling features and made additional updates. UBER continuously raised supplemental funding, reaching $2.8 billion total funding by 2015. Many governments and taxi companies have protested UBER, alleging that its use of unlicensed, crowd-sourced drivers was unsafe and illegal.  Even with this being the case, it is estimated that UBER will generate 10 billion dollars in revenue by the end of 2015.

THE FOUNDERS:

Travis Kalanick (pictured below) is the CEO of UBER Technologies.  UBER competes with taxi services across the U.S. in fifty-three (53) many countries around the world. The often-controversial company is banned in several countries including Spain and was temporarily banned in India due to issues with regulators and safety concerns.  In early 2015 the company said it would step up its cooperation with city governments in Europe, where it plans to grow. FORBES estimates that Kalanick, a UCLA dropout, owns at least thirteen percent (13%) of UBER, his third startup. His first venture, an online file-exchange service, was sued by the Motion Picture Association of America and the Recording Industry Association of America before filing for bankruptcy in 2000. His second company, a file-sharing company called RedSwoosh, was sold in 2007 to cloud computing company Akamai Technologies for $18.7 million in stock.

Travis K

Garrett Camp is the cofounder and chairman of UBER.  As mentioned earlier, UBER has seen its valuation grow ten (10) fold in the past eighteen (18) months to a whopping $41.2 billion.   UBER pledged in early 2015 to cooperate more with European cities, which represent key centers of growth. As with Kalanick, UBER wasn’t Camp’s first time behind the wheel: He also founded StumbleUpon–a Web discovery tool part Reddit, part Tumblr–that sold to eBay in 2007 for $75 million.

Garrett Camp

HOW UBER WORKS:

I’m going to indicate how UBER works from the experience we have had on several occasions.  We are sitting in our son’s living room; bags packed and ready to go.  I indicated we might need to call a cab to get to the airport in time for check in.  Don’t worry; UBER will be here in five or ten minutes after I give them a call.  A cab will take thirty to forty minutes at best.  Our son called UBER, indicated the location for pickup, and received a picture of the person picking us up as well as the type and model of the vehicle.  We then had the option of saying yes or no to the driver and his personal car.  He arrived in eleven minutes in a Cadillac Escalade.    The car was clean as a pin and the driver very congenial.  Now for the good part, the cost for transport: $36.81.  This is compared to $60.00 for the ride to the Dallas-Fort Worth Airport.

To download the app, simply go online from your phone or PC, type in the information requested, including a credit or debit card.  The download takes about a minute.  UBER does all charges online.  No money is exchanged including tip.  The tip is factored in with the cost of the ride and is added to the charge.

BARRIERS TO SUCCESS AND OPERATION:

UBER has experienced numerous regulatory and legal challenges to its operations.  Regulators in California; VancouverBritish Columbia; SeattleWashington; and GenevaSwitzerland issued cease and desist orders. The launch of UberPop, known as uberX in the United States, generated opposition internationally. Taxi organizations such as the Madrid Taxi Association in Spain, ANTRAL in Portugal and Taxi Deutschland in Germany obtained injunctions from local courts based on unfair competition claims.  Other injunction requests by taxi companies, taxi drivers, and regulators were denied in the United States, Brazil and France. Officials in DelhiIndia banned all app-based ride services to protect cab driver unions.  In Belgium, the Netherlands, the Philippines, and South Korea, police forces conducted sting operations against UBER drivers who operated vehicles that were not licensed for commercial use.

Several locales, including Portland, Oregon and the state of Virginia that initially banned UBER from operating, later negotiated changes in local regulations that would permit UBER to continue.  In 2015, the company’s efforts to work with local municipalities allowed for an increased rate of expansion. As of January 2015, uberX operated legally in 22 cities and states within the U.S. By then, 17 cities outside of the U.S. had passed specific pro-UBER municipal ordinances.

PRIVACY:

Kalanick received a letter, dated November 19, 2014, from Senator Al Franken, Chairman of the United States Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology and the Law, over user privacy. In addition to a list of ten (10) questions, Franken stated that the company had a “troubling disregard for customer privacy” and that he was “especially troubled because there appears to be evidence of practices inconsistent with the policy [UBER spokesperson] Ms. Hourajian articulated” and that “it appears that on prior occasions your company [UBER] has condoned use of customers’ data for questionable purposes”. Franken concluded his letter by asking for a response by December 15, 2014.

Concerns have been raised about internal misuse of the company’s data, in particular the ability of UBER staff to track the movements of its customers, known as “God Mode”. In addition to the aforementioned use of the service to track journalists and politicians, a venture capitalist disclosed in 2011 that UBER staff were using the function recreationally and viewed being tracked by UBER as a positive reflection on the subject’s character. An individual who had interviewed for a job at UBER said that he was given unrestricted access to UBER’S customer tracking function as part of the interview process, and that he retained that access for several hours after the interview ended.

On February 27, 2015, UBER admitted that it had suffered a data breach more than nine months before. Driver names and license plate information on approximately 50,000 drivers were inadvertently disclosed.   UBER discovered this leak in September, 2014 but waited more than five months to notify the people affected. (I might mention here that we never considered our privacy to be compromised.)

SAFETY:

On August 4, 2014, the company announced the scheduled removal of a driver from the service pending a medical review, after the driver suffered an epileptic seizure while driving that resulted in an accident with a pedestrian in San Francisco. The fifty-six (56) year-old driver was hospitalized after hitting three parked cars and then a man on the sidewalk; an UBER spokesperson said in the announcement that the driver “has an outstanding record of service and safety with no prior incidents.”

In December 2014, the New York Times reported on concerns regarding the manner in which the UBER’s app notifies drivers about new requests for pick-up from customers.  When a customer makes a request, drivers are notified on an official UBER mobile app and provided information about where the customer is; in order to accept the request, the driver has approximately fifteen (15) seconds to tap their phone to accept the request. An UBER driver reported that drivers can be temporarily suspended for ignoring these requests.  Deborah Hersman of the National Transportation Safety Board criticized the fifteen (15)-second system, saying that it presents a significant distraction to drivers, as drivers are financially motivated to respond to fares while driving.   In response, UBER has stated that the app “was designed with safety in mind,” and that drivers are not required to physically look at the device to accept a fare.

CONCLUSIONS:

Our experiences with UBER have been very positive and with no issues. I feel it’s a marvelous new technology and one that can benefit the end user.  As with any new service, time will tell as to how viable it will be and if it can survive.  I will say, I hope political pressures and lobbying will not kill the service.  Lining the pockets of our politicians could provide huge barriers to success.  Each individual has one of two options: use the service or use traditional services.  It’s your choice.

FERMI’S PARADOX

May 30, 2015


The sources for this post are as follows: 1.) waitbutwhy.com, 2.) SETI Institute, and 3.) Wikipedia.

“Some people stick with the traditional, feeling struck by the epic beauty or blown away by the scale of the universe.  Personally, I go for the old existential meltdown followed by acting next half hour. But everyone feels something”.  Physicist Enrico Fermi felt something too and asked—“Where is everybody?”

QUESTION:  Our Galaxy Should Be Teeming With Civilizations, But Where Are They?

The remark came while Fermi was discussing with his mealtime mates the possibility that many sophisticated societies populate the Galaxy.  In 1950, while working at Los Alamos National Laboratory, Fermi had a casual conversation while walking to lunch with colleagues Emil KonopinskiEdward Teller and Herbert York.    The men discussed recent sightings of UFOs and an Alan Dunn cartoon facetiously blaming the disappearance of municipal trashcans on marauding aliens. They then had a more serious discussion regarding the chances of humans observing faster-than-light travel by some material object within the next ten years. Teller thinks Fermi directed the question at him, asking “Edward, what do you think? How probable is it that within the next ten years we shall have clear evidence of a material object moving faster than light?” Teller answered one in a million. Teller remembers Fermi said, “This is much too low. The probability is more like ten percent” [the probability of a ‘Fermi miracle’]. Konopinski did not remember the exact numbers “except that they changed rapidly as Teller and Fermi bounced arguments off each other.”  They thought it reasonable to assume that we have a lot of cosmic company. But somewhere between one sentence and the next, Fermi’s supple brain realized that if this was true, it implied something profound. If there are really a lot of alien societies, then some of them might have spread out.

A really starry sky seems vast—but all we’re looking at is our very local neighborhood. On the very best nights, we can see up to about 2,500 stars or roughly one hundred-millionth of the stars in our galaxy. Almost all of them are less than 1,000 light years away from us (or 1% of the diameter of the Milky Way).  It is very hard to imagine the magnitude of this very fact but our universe is IMMENSE. So what we’re really looking at is this:

Milky Way Galaxy

Let us take a look at just how grandiose our universe is.

  • As many stars as there are in our galaxy (100 – 400 billion), there are roughly an equal number of galaxies in the observable universe so, for every star in the colossal Milky Way, there is a whole galaxy out there. All together, that equates to a range of between 1022 and 1024 total stars.   This means that for every grain of sand on every beach on Earth, there are 10,000 stars out there.  Numbers very hard for anyone to deal with.
  • There is not total agreement concerning what percentage of those stars are “sun-like” (similar in size, temperature, and luminosity).  Opinions typically range from five (5%) to twenty (20%). Going with the most conservative side of that five percent (5%), and the lower end for the number of total stars (1022), gives us 500 quintillion, or 500 billion billion sun-like stars.
  • There’s also a debate over what percentage of those sun-like stars might be orbited by an Earth-like planet (one with similar temperature conditions that could have liquid water and potentially support life similar to that on Earth). Some say it’s as high as fifty percent (50%) but let’s go with the more conservative twenty-two percent (22%) that came out of a recent PNAS study. That suggests that there’s a potentially-habitable Earth-like planet orbiting at least one percent (1%) of the total stars in the universe—a total of 100 billion billion Earth-like planets.  So there are 100 Earth-like planets for every grain of sand in the world. Think about that next time you’re on the beach.
  • Moving forward, we have no choice but to get completely speculative. Let’s imagine that after billions of years in existence, one percent (1%) of Earth-like planets develop life.  If that’s true, every grain of sand would represent one planet with life on it.  Imagine that on one percent (1%) of those planets, the life advances to an intelligent level like it did here on Earth. That would mean there were 10 quadrillion or 10 million billion intelligent civilizations in the observable universe.
  • Just for our galaxy, and doing the same math on the lowest estimate for stars in the Milky Way (100 billion), we’d estimate that there are 1 billion Earth-like planets and 100,000 intelligent civilizations in our galaxy.
  •  Our sun is relatively young in the lifespan of the universe. There are far older stars with far older Earth-like planets, which should in theory mean civilizations far more advanced than our own. As an example, let’s compare our 4.54 billion-year-old Earth to a hypothetical 8 billion-year-old Planet X.

(I told you this was big.)  The technology and knowledge of a civilization only 1,000 years ahead of us could be as shocking to us as our world would be to a medieval person. A civilization 1 million years ahead of us might be as incomprehensible to us as human culture is to chimpanzees. And Planet X is 3.4 billion years ahead of us.  You, of course, can see where we are going here.

If Planet X has a similar story to Earth, let’s look at where their civilization would be today (using the orange time-span as a reference to show how huge the green time-span is):

TIME-SPAN

Scientific endeavor has categorized three distinct possibilities relative to possible civilizations. These are as follows:

  • Type I Civilization has the ability to use all of the energy on their planet. We’re not quite a Type I Civilization, but we’re close (Carl Sagan created a formula for this scale which puts us at a Type 0.7 Civilization).
  • Type II Civilization can harness all of the energy of their host star. Our feeble Type I brains can hardly imagine how someone would do this.
  • AType III Civilization blows the other two away, accessing powers comparable to that of the entire Milky Way galaxy.  If this level of advancement sounds hard to believe, remember Planet X above and their 3.4 billion years of further development. If a civilization on Planet X was similar to ours and was able to survive all the way to Type III level, the natural thought is that they’d probably have mastered inter-stellar travel by now, possibly even colonizing the entire galaxy.

There is no answer to Fermi’s Paradox.  But there may be several theories.

  • Explanation Group 1: There are no signs of higher (Type II and III) civilizations because there are no higher civilizations in existence.  We are Rare!
  • We are the very FIRST intelligent civilization in our universe.  (This sounds somewhat impossible given the age of the universe.)
  • Type II and III intelligent civilizations are out there and there are logical reasons why we might not have heard from them.
    • Super-intelligent life could very well have already visited Earth, but before we were here.
    • The galaxy has been colonized, but we just live in some desolate rural area of the galaxy.
    • The entire concept of physical colonization is a hilariously backward concept to a more advanced species.
    • There are scary predator civilizations out there, and most intelligent life knows better than to broadcast any outgoing signals and advertise their location.
    • There’s only one instance of higher-intelligent life—a “super-predator” civilization (like humans are here on Earth)—who is far more advanced than everyone else and keeps it that way by exterminating any intelligent civilization once they get past a certain level.
    • There’s plenty of activity and noise out there, but our technology is too primitive and we’re listening for the wrong things. (I personally like this theory.)
    • We are receiving contact from other intelligent life, but the government is hiding it. (Our government is so big and so inept they could not keep this secret.)
    • Higher civilizations are aware of us and observing us (AKA the “Zoo Hypothesis”).
    • Higher civilizations are here, all around us. But we’re too primitive to perceive them.
    • We’re completely wrong about our reality.

I truly think this is fascinating and I do believe there is life in the universe.  Intelligent life—we can only hope.


In 1827, 1829 and 1933 Davy Crockett from Tennessee won a seat in the United States House of Representatives.  He was chosen to be a member of the House by constituents in his Congressional District.  He also ran in 1831 and 1835 but was defeated.  His relationship with President Andrew Jackson was notably bad due to significant differences of opinion on various matters.  Davy felt the reason he lost in 1835 was Jackson’s opposition to his candidacy.  He was also completely disgusted with Congress. (Imagine that !!!!!!!)  His parting shot to the members of the House was, “you all can go to hell-I’m going to Texas”.  He had decided to move his wife and family from Washington D.C. back to Tennessee then leave for Texas.  He would purchase land, build a home, then relocate his family once established.  Santa Anna put a stop to those plans.  The rest is history, written large with the siege of the Alamo in San Antonio.

My family and I also traveled to Texas this past week to attend the wedding of our youngest son. He finally “pulled the trigger” and married a young lady he has been dating for six years.  The wedding was fabulous: beautiful bride, handsome groom, lovely family of the bride.  All-in-all a wonderful day for both families.  The great states of Texas and Tennessee are now once again intertwined, this time by virtue of marriage.

We had little time for sightseeing but did manage a few hours to take in a few of the sites.  Let’s take a look.

LADY BIRD JOHNSON WILDFLOWER CENTER:

Lady Bird Johnson, our former first lady, and actress Helen Hayes founded an organization in 1982 to protect and preserve North America’s native plants and natural landscapes. First, as the National Wildflower Research Center and later as the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, this special place exists to introduce people to the beauty and diversity of wildflowers and other native plants. Every day, the Wildflower Center brings life to Mrs. Johnson’s vision in its public gardens, its woodlands and sweeping meadows as well as in internationally influential research. In 2006, the Center became an Organized Research Unit of the University of Texas at Austin.

Decades ago, Mrs. Johnson recognized that our country was losing its natural landscapes and its natural beauty due to encroachment by home and commercial building projects. As much as thirty percent (30 %) of the world’s native flora is at risk of extinction. The Wildflower Center was intended to help preserve and restore that beauty and the biological richness of North America. Since then, the Center has become one of the country’s most credible research institutions and effective advocates for native plants.

The Center’s gardens display the native plants of the Central Texas Hill Country, South and West Texas, while the Plant Conservation Program protects the ecological heritage of Texas by conserving its rare and endangered flora. The Native Plant Information Network is a database of more than 7,200 native species available online.

The Land Restoration Program applies knowledge of ecological processes to restoring damaged landscapes. The Center’s education programs for children and adults teach people about their natural surroundings and how to grow native plants in their own backyards.

We will take a very brief tour of the gardens.  This is where our son and daughter-in-law to be were married.

LADY BIRD

I think the graphic above will give some indication as to the scope of the Center.  The land mass is extensive with many acres available for expansion. You can see several of the green houses in the photograph below.

LADY BIRD (3)

The entire facility is dedicated to plants, flowers and greenery found in west Texas.

LADY BIRD

CAPITOL—STATE OF TEXAS:

The Texas State Capitol, completed in 1888 in Downtown Austin, contains the offices and chambers of the Texas Legislature and the Office of the Governor. Designed in 1881 by architect Elijah E. Myers, it was constructed from 1882 to 1888 under the direction of civil engineer Reuben Lindsay Walker. A $75 million underground extension was completed in 1993. The building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1970 and recognized as a National Historic Landmark in 1986. The Texas State Capitol is 308 feet (94 m) tall, making it the sixth tallest state capitol and one of several taller than the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C.  The current Texas State Capitol is the third building to serve that purpose. The second Texas capitol was built in 1853, on the same site as the present capitol in Austin; it was destroyed in the great capitol fire of 1881, but plans had already been made to replace it with a new, much larger structure.

Another tour is in order as follows:

CAPITAL

 

MAIN ENTRANCE

CONGRESS IN SESSION

 

CONGRESS IN SESSION

 

SUPREME COURT

 

 

SUPREME COURT

GOVERNOR'S MEETING ROOM

 

GOVERNOR’S MEETING ROOM

CAPITAL LIBRARY

 

LIBRARY

ALLEN BOOT COMPANY:

Selling cowboy boots in Texas may sound as easy as selling sunscreen in Arizona, but many have tried and only a few have become as famous as the brands that stock their shelves — among them being Allen’s Boots, a family-owned storefront in Austin’s acclaimed South Congress shopping district.  Four generations in the retail business have taught the Greenberg family what works. “We always say our success is based on service,” says director of operations Sean Greenberg. “That is our top priority, and we always go above and beyond to make sure our customers are happy.”

Allen’s Boots is a retail store in Austin, Texas, that specializes in western wear. The store offers items such as cowboy boots, hats, jeans, and shirts. Allen’s Boots opened its doors in 1977; the big, red boot above the entrance has since made the store easy to spot among the many other boutiques and shops along South Congress Avenue.  If you travel to Austin, you must take a look.  The JPEGs below will give some idea as to why this company is a “must see”.

ALLEN BOOTS

The number and variety of possibilities is absolutely mind-boggling.  If you can’t find a suitable boot in this place you are definitely not trying.  This is only ONE series of racks.  In addition to boots, there are belts, belt buckles, hats, and clothing.  Something for every cowboy or cowgirl.

ALLEN BOOTS(2)

GUEROS:

The building that houses the Güero’s dining room was built as a seed and feed store in the late 1800’s. This Central Seed and Feed Store, now an Austin Landmark, served as a neighborhood meeting place for all of South Austin’s characters. Dice games in the back room and book makers paying off bets on the front porch were standard fare for the day.

The neighborhood held onto its eclectic roots during the development boom. As the city expanded in all directions during the 1970’s and 80’s, South Austin, and South Congress in particular, continued to serve the strong community now identifiable by zip code alone.

In 1993, the Central Food and Seed store closed their doors for good. Cathy and Rob Lippincott bought the building in 1995 for the purpose of expanding the modest taqueria they had on East Oltorf to a larger location, with the hopes of continuing the tradition of a meeting place for locals and newcomers alike.

The specialties:  handmade corn tortillas, specialty dishes, the salsa bar and of course, CERVESA. Their caldo de pollo and tacos al pastor are just a few of the tried-and-true favorites. Start off with a hand-shaken margarita in their cantina, or enjoy an icy cold cerveza while listening to music in the Oak Garden. Sit back, relax, and let them do what they do best.   Let’s take a look.

GUERROS

GUERROS(2)

TEXAS FOOLISHNESS:

You be the judge.

DEER

 

ENVIRONMENTAL MARKETS

May 16, 2015


Environmental markets have been actively traded on both compliant and voluntary levels for the last 7 years. The Kyoto Protocol was the first compliance-driven agreement between thirty-seven  (37)  countries.  This agreement was established by the United Nation Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The purpose of the UNFCCC was to create benchmark emission reduction goals.  Annex I to this agreement began in 2005 and will extend through 2012. The reductions call for five percent (5%)  annual reductions based on a benchmark established in 1990. There are currently thirty-four (34)  countries that were selected to continue into 2013 with compliance guidelines established at the Durban Conference.  These guidelines were to insure that Climate Change regulations would be in place.  These non-binding guidelines will become binding in May 2012. The European Union Trading Scheme will continue along with the Clean Development Mechanism and Joint Implementation Programs to reduce the emissions by an additional 20% by 2020. Currently Certified Emissions Reductions from industrialized and non developed nations are being traded through the aforementioned programs from entities that have adopted programs.

The United States signed the Kyoto Protocol however never put in place compliant guidelines enabling emission reduction instruments to be traded within these markets. Therefore, credits originated in the United States would have to be traded within voluntary markets. The Western Climate Initiative is scheduled to begin January 1, 2013 with California and Quebec as the two participating parties in the first North American compliant cap and trade program. The trading platform will adhere to guidelines outlined in Bill AB 32 ratified in 2006 and recently upheld by election in November 2010 via Proposition 23. Prop 23 was overwhelmingly endorsed by sixty-three percent (63%) of the voters and has cleared the way for a statewide cap and trade program. The California Air Resources Board has cleared the way for the first compliant stateside cap and trade system. Phase I is through 2020 with targeted reductions of 17% overall. The resources board has acknowledged four (4) crediting programs whose protocols were adopted from the Climate Action Reserve; Forestry, Urban Forestry, Ozone Depleting Substances, and Livestock. These programs will be eligible for carbon crediting through the abatement or reduction of carbon emissions. California represents twenty-five (25%)  of the total U.S. GDP and will allow carbon sequestration projects that can be originated anywhere in the continental U.S., Canada, and some regions in Mexico. The Western Climate Initiative (WCI) will be the established platform that California and Quebec will adhere to for climate protocol. WCI member jurisdictions include seven (7) US states and four (4) Canadian provinces:  Arizona, British Columbia, California, Manitoba, Montana, New Mexico, Ontario, Oregon, Quebec, Utah, and Washington. It is expected that states and provinces within the WCI will follow suit once the program is up and running. There is definitely a political element to cap and trade programs. It is somewhat difficult to predict what federal and state programs will be put in place in future years that could expand the areas of compliance. California Carbon Allowances are currently being traded on the Intercontinental Exchange. Pricing for the allowances began at $17 per allowance for the first transaction and then went as high $23. Point Carbon has forecasted carbon allowance prices to rise as high as $75 by 2020. The offsets are credits that are generated from emission reduction projects that are expected to price at approximately 70% of allowance prices.

The voluntary markets were impacted dramatically when federal cap and trade legislation stalled in the Senate in 2009. The economic environment and passing of the health care initiative put a formal cap and trade program on hold.   Voluntary carbon offsetting went from being for the greater good of the public to a luxury line item. The economy has started to slowly correct and voluntary market transactions per Markit have continued to grow. Issuance activity was up to 27.8 million Verified Carbon Standard Credits an increase of 500,000 credits. Credits being traded from 2010 to 2011 were 3.6 million to 9.8 million or an increase of 6.2 million credits. The Gold Standard credits traded at premiums and most transactions were over the counter pricing from $8-$12. Companies such as Whole Foods, Google, Yahoo, and Wal-Mart are forward thinking companies that are either buying voluntary carbon offsets or actually funding projects that directly reduce emissions. The Bonneville Environmental Foundation was set up to offset emissions and list participants such as Chevrolet, The North Face, REI, NHL, MLS, Idaho Power, Silk and Oregon State University.  The Foundation has identified projects that yield certain credits to address the offset needs of these individual entities.

Overall, emission reduction credits are here to stay. The Climate Change initiative is considered to be gaining more traction with the WCI platform being established and is predicted to pick up steam on a national level as states begin to adopt their own regulations regarding greenhouse gas emissions. The Clean Air Act is still in force and additional GGE compliance could be implemented through the EPA.

We are seeing significant effort to “clean up” our environment by reducing emissions by putting into effect compressed natural gas (CNG) fueling stations, propane fueling stations, hybrid automobiles, electric-powered automobiles, methane capture from wast sites, re-processing of oils and several other reclaim measures.  A much greater number of our population is beginning to recognize that we have one world–one Earth.  We had better take care of it.

 

 

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