FLY ME

May 19, 2018


I really enjoy traveling, that is BEING THERE.  Getting there is another story.  In the Southeastern portion of the United States you generally have to go through Atlanta to reach your final destination.  It’s just a fact of life.   If we take a quick look at ATL for the month of January 2018, we see the following statistics:

Please remember, all passengers including crew must go through screening (TSA) before boarding their flight.  That means EVERYONE.   Kennedy, Chicago, LAX, Miami, etc. operates in a similar fashion.  I have waited in the TSA line at ATL for close to two (2) hours then, take off your shoes, belt, empty your pockets, remove your glasses, watch, put your laptop and cell phone face up on top of all luggage, etc. etc.   People who fly on a regular basis get use to it but it’s always a hassle.  There is another way, maybe expensive but more and more business travelers are discovering and using business aircraft.

BUSINESS AIRCRAFT:

The primary driver of business aircraft use today is scheduling flexibility and reduction in the complexities relative to travel. In fact, according to the most recent study of general aviation trends by the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA), passengers indicated, on average, that more than fifty percent (50%) of the business aircraft flights taken enable the business traveler to keep schedules they otherwise could not meet efficiently using scheduled commercial flights.

This past Friday, Aviation International News (AIN) published its annual Charter Market Report titled, “The industry is climbing.” It reported private charters in the U.S. increased ten percent (10%) in the number of flights (543,449 compared with 493,431) and twelve- point seven percent (12.7%) in flight hours (765,196 compared with 679,018) during the first half of 2017.

With that type of good news, perhaps it’s not surprising that companies such as Wheels Up, VistaJet, Victor, Stellar Aero Labs and JetSmarter, which all operate in that space, collectively announced nearly four hundred ($400) million in new investments just since the start of the summer. “People have business to do and you can’t-do it flying commercially,” says Kenny Dichter, the CEO and co-founder of Wheels Up, which uses the King Air 350i to help its customers get to those smaller airports that are hard to reach. At the other end of the charter and jet card and program membership spectrum, VistaJet has made its mark with luxury-laden long-range jets catering to Ultra High Net Worth families and global executives who hop between Continents like you and I cross the street.

DELTA IS READY WHEN YOUR ARE:

True but there are disadvantages to flying commercial.

  • The loss of time is a major issue on commercial flights. From the long lines, potential layovers and the often-longer trip to the airport as well as having to check in early. This can easily add up to losing hours upon hours of time that could have been spent more productively. In addition, security delays can not only be a huge hassle, they can cost more time as well.
  • Passengers have to find a flight that fits in with their schedule or can be forced to alter their calendar to fit in with the airlines.
  • With crowded seating, there is little space to conduct business and even less privacy. If you had hoped to conduct a meeting or negotiate a deal in private, other passengers and crew are likely to overhear those conversations.
  • Commercial airlines offer little in the way of amenities. Today, food and beverages options rarely include much more than a drink and a bag of pretzels. First class is better, but you still get what you get.
  • The risk of lost luggage with passengers separated from their bags is another issue when flying commercially.

ADVANTAGES OF PRIVATE BUSINESS TRAVEL:

  • You’ll avoid the inconvenience of the liquid bans that come with flying commercially.
  • You can travel with special belongings, business samples, sports gear, instruments or even bring your pet into the cabin if you so choose.
  • You’ll not only have more time to conduct business, you’ll have more time to spend with your family and friends by reducing the hours you spend traveling.
  • Flying on a private jet projects an image of success. You’ll be seen as an individual or organization that is well-run, efficient and can afford to fly privately.
  • A light commercial jet which can seat five to six (5- 6) people, will cost around $2,000 per hour, larger aircraft which can hold more people and fly further cost more.
  • With a private jet you can fly out of an airport that is much closer to your home or business location, allowing you to skip the traffic, bypass security lines and those frequent delays that commercial airlines often incur.
  • Once on your flight, you’ll find the ultimate in exceptional customer service with individualized attention and the treatment you deserve.
  • Private planes offer luxury furnishings and plenty of space to conduct private business. Order your preferred food and drinks ahead of time, and you can even enjoy your favorite meal on the flight if you desire.

CONCLUSIONS:

Most of us, myself included, cannot afford private travel, business or otherwise, but more and more businesses are investigating private business travel for very busy executives.  I do not mean leasing, I mean scheduling “a ride” from a company such as mentioned earlier in this post.  In Chattanooga, we have HESS Jet. The service area for HESS Jet may be seen as follows:

An example of the aircraft you can schedule is shown below.  It is a four-seat, twin engine small jet capable of servicing the eastern half of the United States.   If you need an aircraft with larger seating capacity, that can be arranged also.

Now take a look at the interior of the aircraft above.  Think you could get use to this?  Most business men and women would definitely say yes.

I know several people who charter business aircraft during SEC football season.  They, of course, split the costs and really travel in style.  This is becoming more and more common in our country today.  Maybe something to think about.

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I feel that most individuals, certainly most adults, wonder if anyone is out there.  Are there other planets with intelligent life and is that life humanoid or at least somewhat intelligent?  The first effort would be to define intelligent.  Don’t laugh but this does have some merit and has been considered by behavioral scientists for a significant length of time.  On Earth, human intelligence took nearly four (4) Billion years to develop. If living beings develop advanced technology, they can make their existence known to the Universe. A working definition of “intelligent” includes self-awareness, use of tools, and use of language. There are other defining traits, as follows:

  • Crude perceptive abilities: Like concept of a handshake (sending a message and acknowledging receipt of one sent by you)
  • Crude communication abilities: Some primitive language and vocabulary
  • Sentience: Should be able of original thought and motivation, some form of self -awareness
  • Retention: Ability to remember and recall information on will
  • Some form of mathematical ability like counting

Please feel free to apply your own definition to intelligence. You will probably come as close as anyone to a workable one.

TESS:

NASA is looking and one manner in which the search occurs is with the new satellite TESS.

The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) is an Explorer-class planet finder.   TESS will pick up the search for exoplanets as the Kepler Space Telescope runs out of fuel.

Kepler, which has discovered more than 4,500 potential planets and confirmed exoplanets, launched in 2009. After mechanical failure in 2013, it entered a new phase of campaigns to survey other areas of the sky for exoplanets, called the K2 mission. This enabled researchers to discover even more exoplanets, understand the evolution of stars and gain insight about supernovae and black holes.

Soon, Kepler’s mission will end, and it will be abandoned in space, orbiting the sun, therefore:  never getting closer to Earth than the moon.

The spaceborne all-sky transit survey, TESS will identify planets ranging from Earth-sized to gas giants, orbiting a wide range of stellar types and orbital distances. The principal goal of the TESS mission is to detect small planets with bright host stars in the solar neighborhood, so that detailed characterizations of the planets and their atmospheres can be performed. TESS is only one satellite used to determine if there are any “goldy-locks” planets in our solar system. TESS will survey an area four hundred (400) times larger than Kepler observed. This includes two hundred thousand (200,000) of the brightest nearby stars. Over the course of two years, the four wide-field cameras on board will stare at different sectors of the sky for days at a time.

TESS will begin by looking at the Southern Hemisphere sky for the first year and move to the Northern Hemisphere in the second year. It can accomplish this lofty goal by dividing the sky into thirteen (13) sections and looking at each one for twenty-seven (27) days before moving on to the next.

The various missions launched to discover exoplanets may be seen below.

As mentioned earlier, TESS will monitor the brightness of more than two hundred thousand (200,000) stars during a two-year mission, searching for temporary drops in brightness caused by planetary transits. Transits occur when a planet’s orbit carries it directly in front of its parent star as viewed from Earth. TESS is expected to catalog more than fifteen hundred (1,500) transiting exoplanet candidates, including a sample of approximately five hundred (500) Earth-sized and ‘Super Earth’ planets, with radii less than twice that of the Earth. TESS will detect small rock-and-ice planets orbiting a diverse range of stellar types and covering a wide span of orbital periods, including rocky worlds in the habitable zones of their host stars.  This is a major undertaking and you might suspect so joint-ventures are an absolute must.  With that being the case, the major parterners in this endeavor may be seen as follows:

The project overview is given by the next pictorial.

In summary:

TESS will tile the sky with 26 observation sectors:

  • At least 27 days staring at each 24° × 96° sector
  • Brightest 200,000 stars at 1-minute cadence
  • Full frame images with 30-minute cadence
  • Map Southern hemisphere in first year
  • Map Northern hemisphere in second year
  • Sectors overlap at ecliptic poles for sensitivity to smaller and longer period planets in JWST Continuous Viewing Zone (CVZ)

TESS observes from unique High Earth Orbit (HEO):

  • Unobstructed view for continuous light curves
  • Two 13.7-day orbits per observation sector
  • Stable 2:1 resonance with Moon’s orbit
  • Thermally stable and low-radiation

The physical hardware looks as follows:

You can’t tell much about the individual components from the digital picture above but suffice it to say that TESS is a significant improvement relative to Kepler as far as technology.  The search continues and I do not know what will happen if we ever discover ET.  Imagine the areas of life that would affect?

 

 

TEN MOST RELIABLE CARS

April 4, 2018


Conservative design principles may be the key to building a more reliable automobile, say engineers from Consumer Reports who studied vehicle reliability for their 2018 auto issue.  Nine of the ten vehicles receiving “much better than average” overall scores in every available year of the survey were either from Toyota or Lexus.  The only exception was the Acura TSX mid-sized sedan, which received a perfect score in every model year from 2010 to 2014. This probably does not surprise anyone.

Let’s take a look at what Consumer Reports considers the ten most reliable models.

CONCLUSION:

Consumer Reports’ ratings of vehicle reliability are based on survey responses from more than half a million vehicle owners. The surveys ask questions about 17 different potential trouble spots, ranging from engines and transmissions to fuel systems, electrical, suspension, brakes, body hardware, and in-car electronics, among others.

In the ratings, the Camry received “much better than average” ratings (the magazine’s highest score) for in-car electronics in four of the last eight model years on the Consumer Reports survey. It also received perfect scores in all eight years for three engine categories and two transmission categories.

Toyota’s conservative approach does have a downside, however, Fisher added. The company’s vehicles are often dinged by automotive writers for being “dowdy,” or just plain lacking in excitement, he said. “Other manufacturers are willing to take risks for the sake of a performance increase, or for fuel economy boost, or for excitement and drive-ability,” he said. “And those manufacturers continue to get accolades from their peers. However, I would argue that none of those accolades consider reliability.”

OKAY—what are you after? Bells and whistles or a reliable vehicle to get you to and from work?

 


Portions of this post are taken from the January 2018 article written by John Lewis of “Vision Systems”.

I feel there is considerable confusion between Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning and Deep Learning.  Seemingly, we use these terms and phrases interchangeably and they certainly have different meanings.  Natural Learning is the intelligence displayed by humans and certain animals. Why don’t we do the numbers:

AI:

Artificial Intelligence refers to machines mimicking human cognitive functions such as problem solving or learning.  When a machine understands human speech or can compete with humans in a game of chess, AI applies.  There are several surprising opinions about AI as follows:

  • Sixty-one percent (61%) of people see artificial intelligence making the world a better place
  • Fifty-seven percent (57%) would prefer an AI doctor perform an eye exam
  • Fifty-five percent (55%) would trust an autonomous car. (I’m really not there as yet.)

The term artificial intelligence was coined in 1956, but AI has become more popular today thanks to increased data volumes, advanced algorithms, and improvements in computing power and storage.

Early AI research in the 1950s explored topics like problem solving and symbolic methods. In the 1960s, the US Department of Defense took interest in this type of work and began training computers to mimic basic human reasoning. For example, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) completed street mapping projects in the 1970s. And DARPA produced intelligent personal assistants in 2003, long before Siri, Alexa or Cortana were household names. This early work paved the way for the automation and formal reasoning that we see in computers today, including decision support systems and smart search systems that can be designed to complement and augment human abilities.

While Hollywood movies and science fiction novels depict AI as human-like robots that take over the world, the current evolution of AI technologies isn’t that scary – or quite that smart. Instead, AI has evolved to provide many specific benefits in every industry.

MACHINE LEARNING:

Machine Learning is the current state-of-the-art application of AI and largely responsible for its recent rapid growth. Based upon the idea of giving machines access to data so that they can learn for themselves, machine learning has been enabled by the internet, and the associated rise in digital information being generated, stored and made available for analysis.

Machine learning is the science of getting computers to act without being explicitly programmed. In the past decade, machine learning has given us self-driving cars, practical speech recognition, effective web search, and a vastly improved understanding of the human genome. Machine learning is so pervasive today that you probably use it dozens of times a day without knowing it. Many researchers also think it is the best way to make progress towards human-level understanding. Machine learning is an application of artificial intelligence (AI) that provides systems the ability to automatically learn and improve from experience without being explicitly programmed. Machine learning focuses on the development of computer programs that can access data and use it learn for themselves.

DEEP LEARNING:

Deep Learning concentrates on a subset of machine-learning techniques, with the term “deep” generally referring to the number of hidden layers in the deep neural network.  While conventional neural network may contain a few hidden layers, a deep network may have tens or hundreds of layers.  In deep learning, a computer model learns to perform classification tasks directly from text, sound or image data. In the case of images, deep learning requires substantial computing power and involves feeding large amounts of labeled data through a multi-layer neural network architecture to create a model that can classify the objects contained within the image.

CONCLUSIONS:

Brave new world we are living in.  Someone said that AI is definitely the future of computing power and eventually robotic systems that could possibly replace humans.  I just hope the programmers adhere to Dr. Isaac Asimov’s three laws:

 

  • The First Law of Robotics: A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.

 

  • The Second Law of Robotics: A robot must obey the orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.

 

  • The Third Law of Robotics: A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws.

With those words, science-fiction author Isaac Asimov changed how the world saw robots. Where they had largely been Frankenstein-esque, metal monsters in the pulp magazines, Asimov saw the potential for robotics as more domestic: as a labor-saving device; the ultimate worker. In doing so, he continued a literary tradition of speculative tales: What happens when humanity remakes itself in its image?

As always, I welcome your comments.


The subtitle to this book is “a bullfighter’s guide” and when you read it you will definitely understand.  The book is written by three individuals with extensive business experience who obviously have attended many meetings with the same results; i.e. bored to tears, confused, no direction given or agreed to, and simply a waste of time.

Brian Fugere is currently in corporate-speak rehab and has been jargon-free since their book was written.   He is a principal of Deloitte Consulting LLP where he was the former chief of all marketing efforts.

Chelsea Hardaway is the president of Hardaway Productions.  This company helps clients cut through the clutter of communication.

Jon Warshawsky is a managing partner of Deloitte Services, LP and helped start that firm’s e-learning practice.

I love the manner in which the book starts: “Let’s face it, business today is drowning in bullshit. We try to impress (or confuse) investors with inflated letters to shareholders. We punish customers with intrusive, hype-filled, self-aggrandizing product literature. We send elephantine progress reports to employees that shed less than two watts of light on the big issues or hard truths.”

If you think you smell something at work, there’s probably good reason–“bull” has become the official language of business. Every day, we get bombarded by an endless stream of filtered, antiseptic, jargon-filled corporate-speak, all of which makes it harder to get heard, harder to be authentic, and definitely harder to have fun.

We have become immune to empty, generic messages and as a result, no one really listens anymore. Endless charts and graphs, Power Point presentations with one hundred and four slides, Excel spreadsheets, mandated company templates to “simplify” reading, etc.  You’ve been there—do NOT tell me you have not.

The authors identify four ways in which businesspeople organize their objectives through ineffective over-standardizations or misguided practices, sharing practical advice on how to remain true to a business ideal, promote healthy change, and communicate authentically. The four ways are as follows:

PART ONE:  The Obscurity Trap

PART TWO: The Anonymity Trap

PART THREE:  The Hard-Sell Trap

PART FOUR:  The Tedium Trap

If you are honest with yourself, you must admit you have heard the following words (and many others) and/or phrases used when discussing specific topics:

  • Best of breed
  • Center of excellence
  • Frictionless
  • Out of pocket
  • Paradigm shift
  • Results-driven
  • Best practice
  • Empowerment
  • Bring to the table
  • Face time
  • Brain dump
  • Drink from a fire hydrant
  • Heavy lifting
  • Mind share
  • Outside the box (I’m so tired of this one I could cry every time I hear it.)
  • Push the envelope
  • Sea change
  • Unpack
  • Win-win
  • Bandwidth
  • Core competency
  • Come-to-Jesus-moment

I submit, if beauty is in the eye of the beholder, there could be many definitions to each of the phrases above depending upon who is listening. Do you really know what bandwidth is? In our context here, it means, “time” as in “I do not have the bandwidth to complete any value-added action items.”

Another pet-peeve of mine—all of the many, many acronyms and abbreviations used in today’s business world, many of which no one knows or remembers. We sprinkle our documents with abbreviations and eighty (80) pages later expect an audience to remember what the presenter is trying to say when he or she doesn’t remember either.

This book cuts through the clutter and makes a desperate effort to solve the problems and clean up our corporate language by suggesting several very direct approaches.  One great section addresses the need to clean up e-mail and get to the point with concise language that actually and adequately covers the subject with zero jargon and real English.

I think you are going to enjoy this book and I’m sure, if you are in the business world, you need this book.  Have at it.

WHY DID I NOT THINK OF THAT?

February 17, 2018


Portions of this post were taken from Design News Daily.

How many times have you said that? It’s called the Eureka moment – a sudden flash of intuition that leads us down a path to a wonderful, new, productive solution. Most of us have had such moments, but a select few have parlayed them into something grand, something that changes the world. That was the case for Arthur Fry, inventor of the Post-It Note and Richard James, inventor of the Slinky toy. They took simple ideas – such as a sticky note and a coil spring — and touched hundreds of millions of lives with them.  Given below are nine Eureka Moments that actually produced workable and usable devices that have revolutionized and made life easier for all of us. Let’s take a look.

If you could see my computer and associated screen, you would see a “ton” of post-it-notes.  Most with scribbles, PIN numbers, telephone numbers, etc etc.  We all use them.

Legend has it that Post-It Note inventor Arthur Fry conjured up the idea for his product when the little scraps of paper in his Sunday hymnal kept falling out. To solve the problem, he used an adhesive developed by a 3M colleague, Dr. Spencer Silver. Silver’s reusable, pressure-sensitive adhesive was failing to stir interest inside 3M until Fry came along and made the mental connection to his hymnal.

In 1974, the two partnered to put the adhesive on small sheets of yellow paper and … a mythic product was born. They passed their sticky notes to fellow employees, who loved them. “I thought, what we have here isn’t just a bookmark,” Fry said. “It’s a whole new way to communicate.” They later put their product on the market, receiving an even stronger reaction. Lee Iacocca and other Fortune 500 CEOs reportedly wrote to praise it. Post-It Notes, as they soon became known, eventually were sold in more than 100 countries. At one point, it was estimated that the average professional received 11 messages on Post-It Notes per day. Fry received 3M’s Golden Step Award, was named a corporate researcher, became a member of the company’s Carlton Society and was appointed to its Circle of Technical Excellence.

(Image source: By Tinkeringbell – Own work, Public Domain/Wikipedia)

Ansa baby bottles are virtually impossible to find today, but they were all the rage in the mid-1980s.

The bottles, which have a hole in the middle to make them easy for babies to hold, were the brainchild of William and Nickie Campbell of Muskogee, OK, who designed them for their infant son. After filing for patents in 1984, they took out a loan, launched the Ansa Bottle Co., manufactured the plastic bottles, and enjoyed immediate success. They received editorial coverage in American Baby and Mothers Today, while inking deals with Sears, K-Mart, Walgreens, and Target, according to The Oklahoman. Their bottles even went on display in the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.

(Image source: US Patent Office)

Rolling luggage is an accepted fact of air travel today, but it wasn’t always so and I’m not too sure what we now would do without it.  The concept was slow to take hold, and achieved acceptance in two distinct steps. The first step occurred in 1970, when inventor Bernard Sadow observed an airport worker rolling a heavy machine on a wheeled skid. Sadow, who was at the time dragging his own luggage through customs after a trip to Aruba, had the proverbial “eureka moment,” according to The New York Times. Sadow’s solution to the problem was a suitcase with four wheels and a pull strap. To his surprise, however, the idea was slow to take off. That’s where the second step came in. In 1987, a Northwest Airlines pilot and workshop tinkerer named Robert Plath took it to the next level — developing an upright, two-wheeled suitcase with a long stiff handle. Plath’s so-called “Rollaboard” was the missing ingredient to the success of rolling luggage.

Today, his 30-year-old concept dominates air travel and is built by countless manufacturers — any patents having long since expired. The initial slow acceptance remains a mystery to many, however. Sadow, looking back at it years later, attributed the consumer reluctance to men who refused to take the easy way out. “It was a very macho thing,” he said.

(Image source photo: Design News)

OK, who on the planet has NOT owned and/or played with a slinky?  In 1943, Naval mechanical engineer Richard James was developing springs for instruments when he accidently knocked one to the floor, permanently altering the future of toy manufacturing. The spring subsequently stepped “in a series of arcs to a stack of books, to a tabletop, and to the floor, where it recoiled itself and stood upright,” writes Wikipedia. James reportedly realized that with the right steel properties, he could make a spring walk, which is exactly what he did. Using a $500 loan, he made 400 “Slinky” coil springs at a local machine shop, demonstrated them at a Gimbels department store in Philadelphia, and sold his entire inventory in ninety (90) minutes. From there, Slinky became a legend, reaching sales of 300 million units in 60 years. Today, engineers attribute Slinky’s sales to the taming of the product’s governing physical principles — Hooke’s Law and the force of gravity. But advertising executives argue that its monumental sales were a product of clever TV commercials. The song, “Everyone knows it’s slinky” (recognized by virtually everyone who lived through the 1960s and 1970s), is considered the longest-running jingle in advertising history.

(Image source: Wikipedia)

The Band-Aid (or “Band-Aid brand,” as Johnson & Johnson calls it) is in essence a simple concept – an adhesive strip with a small bandage attached. Still, its success is undeniable. The idea originated with Johnson & Johnson employees Thomas Anderson and Earle Dickson in 1920. Dickson made the prototype for his wife, who frequently burned herself while cooking, enabling her to dress her wounds without help. Dickson introduced the concept to his bosses, who quickly launched it into production.

Today, it is copied by many generic products, but the Band-Aid brand lives on. Band-Aid is accepted around the world, with more than 100 billion having been sold.

(Image source photo: Design News)

Today, it’s hard to imagine that an upside-down bottle was once considered an innovation. But it was. Ketchup maker H.J. Heinz launched a revolution in packaging after deciding that its customers were tired of banging on the side of glass bottles, waiting for their product to ooze out. The unlikely hero of their revolution was Paul Brown, a molding shop owner in Midland, MI, who designed a special valve for bottles of ketchup and other viscous liquids, according to an article in the McClatchey Newspapers. Brown’s valve enabled ketchup bottles to be stored upside down without leaking. It also allowed liquids to be easily delivered when the bottle was squeezed, and sucked back inside when force was released.

Brown was said to have built 111 failed injection-molded silicone prototypes before finding the working design. To his lasting delight, the successful concept found use with not only with Heinz, but with makers of baby food, shampoo, and cosmetics, as well as with NASA for space flights. In retrospect, he said the final design was the result of an unusual intellectual approach. “I would pretend I was silicone, and if I was injected into a mold, what I would do,” he told McClatchey. The technique apparently worked: Brown eventually sold his business for about $13 million in 1995.

Players of pinball may take the games’ dual flippers for granted, but they were an innovation when Steve Kordek devised them in 1948. Working for the Genco Co. in Chicago (a company he became acquainted with after stepping into its lobby to escape a heavy rain), Kordek became the father of the two-flipper pinball game. His lasting contribution was simple, yet innovative — the use of direct current (DC) to actuate the flippers, rather than alternating current (AC). DC, he found, made the flippers more controllable, yet less costly to manufacture. Over six decades, Kordek reached legendary status in the industry, producing games for Genco, Bally Manufacturing, and Williams Manufacturing, always employing his dual-flipper design. He worked until 2003, designing the Vacation America game (based on the National Lampoon Vacation movies) at age 92. But it was his DC-based, dual flipper design that shaped his legacy. “It was really revolutionary, and pretty much everyone followed suit,” David Silverman, executive director of the National Pinball Hall of Fame told The New York Times in 2012. “And it’s stayed the standard for 60 years.”

(Image source: By ElHeineken, own work/Wikipedia)

It’s difficult to know whether any individual has ever been credited with the design of the ergonomic bent snow shovel, but the idea is nevertheless making money … for somebody. Bent-handle snow shovels today are sold at virtually every hardware store and home center in the northern United States, and they’re a critical winter tool for millions of homeowners. The idea is that by putting a bend in the shaft, the horizontal moment arm between the shovel handle and the tip is shorter, putting less strain on the user’s lower back. Although there’s some argument on that point, it was recently proven by engineering graduate students at the University of Calgary, according to a story on CTVNews.com.

Studying the bent-handle shovels in the school’s biomechanics laboratory, engineers concluded that they require less bending on the part of users, and therefore reduce mechanical loads on the lower back by 16 percent. “I think that’s a pretty substantial reduction,” researcher Ryan Lewinson told CTVNews. “Over the course of shoveling an entire driveway, that probably would add up to something pretty meaningful.”

(Image source photo: Design News)

Erno Rubik, a Hungarian sculptor and professor of architecture, invented his famous game cube while trying to solve a structural problem. Although his goal had been to put moving parts together in a mechanism that wouldn’t fall apart, it gradually dawned on Rubik that he had created a puzzle of sorts.

His puzzle consisted of 26 miniature cubes, each having an inward extension that interlocked to other cubes, allowing them to move independently and in different directions. Initially called the Magic Cube, it was released in Budapest toy shops in 1977. It was later licensed to the Ideal Toy Co. in 1980, which changed its name to Rubik’s Cube to make it more distinctive. Its broader release started a craze in the early 1980s. Rubik’s Cube won Toy of the Year Awards in Germany, France, the UK, US, Finland, Sweden, and Italy. Between 1980 and 1983, 200 million cubes were sold worldwide. Clubs of “speedcubers” popped up around the world, it appeared on the cover of Scientific American, books were written about it, and The Washington Post called it “a puzzle that’s moving like fast food right now. “Today, Rubik’s Cube continues to sell and enthusiasts continue to test their skill against it. Total sales are said to have passed 300 million. In 2017, a speedcuber named SeungBeom Cho set a world record for solving the puzzle in 4.59 seconds.

(Image source photo: Design News)

CONCLUSIONS:  We all have ideas.  The difference is persistence in developing and marketing those ideas.


The convergence of “smart” microphones, new digital signal processing technology, voice recognition and natural language processing has opened the door for voice interfaces.  Let’s first define a “smart device”.

A smart device is an electronic device, generally connected to other devices or networks via different wireless protocols such as Bluetooth, NFC, Wi-Fi, 3G, etc., that can operate to some extent interactively and autonomously.

I am told by my youngest granddaughter that all the cool kids now have in-home, voice-activated devices like Amazon Echo or Google Home. These devices can play your favorite music, answer questions, read books, control home automation, and all those other things people thought the future was about in the 1960s. For the most part, the speech recognition of the devices works well; although you may find yourself with an extra dollhouse or two occasionally. (I do wonder if they speak “southern” but that’s another question for another day.)

A smart speaker is, essentially, a speaker with added internet connectivity and “smart assistant” voice-control functionality. The smart assistant is typically Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant, both of which are independently managed by their parent companies and have been opened up for other third-parties to implement into their hardware. The idea is that the more people who bring these into their homes, the more Amazon and Google have a “space” in every abode where they’re always accessible.

Let me first state that my family does not, as yet, have a smart device but we may be inching in that direction.  If we look at numbers, we see the following projections:

  • 175 million smart devices will be installed in a majority of U.S. households by 2022 with at least seventy (70) million households having at least one smart speaker in their home. (Digital Voice Assistants Platforms, Revenues & Opportunities, 2017-2022. Juniper Research, November 2017.)
  • Amazon sold over eleven (11) million Alexa voice-controlled Amazon Echo devices in 2016. That number was expected to double for 2017. (Smart Home Devices Forecast, 2017 to 2022(US) Forester Research, October 2017.
  • Amazon Echo accounted for 70.6% of all voice-enabled speaker users in the United States in 2017, followed by Google Home at 23.8%. (eMarketer, April 2017)
  • In 2018, 38.5 million millennials are expected to use voice-enabled digital assistants—such as Amazon Alexa, Apple Siri, Google Now and Microsoft Cortana—at least once per month. (eMarketer, April 2017.)
  • The growing smart speaker market is expected to hit 56.3 million shipments, globally in 2018. (Canalys Research, January 2018)
  • The United States will remain the most important market for smart speakers in 2018, with shipments expected to reach 38.4 million units. China is a distant second at 4.4 million units. (Canalys Research, April 2018.)

With that being the case, let’s now look at what smart speakers are now commercialized and available either as online purchases or retail markets:

  • Amazon Echo Spot–$114.99
  • Sonos One–$199.00
  • Google Home–$129.00
  • Amazon Echo Show–$179.99
  • Google Home Max–$399.00
  • Google Home Mini–$49.00
  • Fabriq Choros–$69.99
  • Amazon Echo (Second Generation) –$$84.99
  • Harman Kardon Evoke–$199.00
  • Amazon Echo Plus–$149.00

CONCLUSIONS:  If you are interested in purchasing one from the list above, I would definitely recommend you do your homework.  Investigate the services provided by a smart speaker to make sure you are getting what you desire.  Be aware that there will certainly be additional items enter the marketplace as time goes by.  GOOD LUCK.

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