Saturday, October 31, 2009


Whether they're in our computers, cell phones, or cars, the only time we think about batteries is when they're almost dead and we need to find some place to charge them—and then we're not thinking nice things. Batteries are an old-school technology. We stuff them into gadgets that are always getting smaller, faster, and cheaper, but battery technology doesn't yield to Moore's Law. What we know about batteries today is pretty much what we knew about batteries back when ENIAC was invented. As a result, batteries remain a primary limiting factor in our machines; they're the reason we don't have better cars, why your smartphone won't play a two-hour movie, and why your otherwise perfectly functional three-year-old laptop is useless on a plane trip.

Our daily struggle with batteries has spawned a cottage industry of advice about their proper care and feeding. Some argue that the way to get the most juice out of your gadget is to charge it as often as you can. Others caution about the sin of overcharging; this school holds that batteries are happiest when they're run down to zero every once in a while. Dig deeper into this line of thinking and you find its proponents are most concerned about a battery-destroying phenomenon known as the "memory effect"—a worry that if you keep re-charging your battery before the juice goes down to zero, it will gradually lose capacity. A related annoyance is your gadget's battery meter; the more often you charge and recharge your iPod or your cell phone, the more inaccurate its fuel gauge seems to become.

To clear up these annoyances and conflicting theories, I called up Isidor Buchmann, the CEO of Cadex Electronics, a Canadian company that makes battery-testing equipment. Buchman also runs Battery University, a very helpful Web site for battery enthusiasts and engineers. I asked Buchmann how we can make sure that our batteries last a long time. "There is not too much to discuss," he began, and then launched into a conversation exploring the numerous frailties of batteries. The upshot is this happy factoid: No matter what you do, your battery will become a useless piece of junk—one day it will reach a point where it can no longer be charged, and then you'll have to recycle it. It will die if you use it often. It will die if you hardly ever use it. It will die if you charge it too much. It will die if you charge it too little. You can pull the battery out of your camera, stuff it under your mattress, and come back for it in five years. Guess what? Your battery will be dead. And when I say dead, I mean dead—not that it's run out of juice, but that it can no longer hold a charge.

That said, there are ways to prolong your batteries' lives. Here are some of Buchmann's tips:

Laptops: The typical lifespan of a lithium-ion laptop battery is about 18 months to 2 years, Buchmann says, but yours will last much longer if you don't punish it too much. The main stresses include undercharging, overcharging, and one that few of us consider: heat. Temperatures inside a laptop can reach more than 110 degrees Fahrenheit, which is hell for a battery.

Ideally, Buchmann says, you should try to keep your battery charged from 20 percent to 80 percent. Keep in mind that these are guidelines for ideal use—it's generally inconvenient to unplug your machine before it goes all the way to 100. But even if you're not on constant guard, be mindful of charging your machine constantly, well past when you know it's full. You also should be conscious of letting your battery run all the way to zero.

Try to keep your laptop as cool as possible. The best technique here is to charge up your battery when the computer is turned off. When your laptop is turned on and plugged in, you should pull the battery out of your computer. Yes, pull it out. "I know that's inconvenient," Buchmann says, "but keeping your laptop plugged in when the battery's fully charged—that combination is bad for your battery."

What if your battery can't be removed, as in Apple's latest laptops? Buchmann says that new laptop designs often place batteries in cooler parts of the machine, and they may also include some intelligence to limit the stress of a fully-charged battery—that is, the machines stop applying a charge when the batteries are just under full capacity. This prolongs the battery's lifespan. The trouble is, most laptop manufacturers keep their charging algorithms secret, so it's not possible to know which laptops use this battery-prolonging technique. (Bachmann assumes that Apple does so based on its battery-promoting advertisements.) But even if your computer is clever enough to stop charging the battery when it's full, you're still better off removing the battery if it is removable. This will help your battery beat the heat.

Phones, cameras, and other gadgets: In general, the rules are the same as for laptops: Keep the battery in the 20 percent to 80 percent range, and keep it cool. If you leave your phone on a hot car seat all afternoon, or if you run down your camera at an all-day trip to the zoo and then forget it in a sock drawer for six months—well, somewhere a little battery angel loses its wings.

The best way to store batteries that you won't be using for a long time—as in a camera, though this also applies to laptop batteries—is to charge them to the 40 percent level first, Bachmann says. Batteries "self deplete"—meaning they lose power even if they're not in use. Charging the battery a little bit before you put it away ensures that it doesn't get down to dangerously low levels while in storage.

The memory effect: Will your battery lose capacity if you don't let it go down to zero every once in a while? Not likely. The memory effect applies only to nickel-cadmium batteries, whereas most modern electronics use lithium-ion or the more advanced lithium-ion polymer. Not only are lithium batteries immune to the memory effect, they also don't require you to do anything special the first time you use them (like charge them up for 24 hours, as some gadget manuals say). Nicad batteries are still found in cordless phones, electric toothbrushes, and other cheap gadgets, but they're usually pretty inexpensive to replace.

How come my battery gauge is off? Making an accurate battery gauge is much more difficult than measuring how much gas you've got in your car. Since a battery's capacity is constantly decreasing, your gauge will likely get less accurate the longer you own your gadget. The length of a charge also depends on impossible-to-predict environmental factors like temperature. "The technology to measure batteries is just not that good," Buchmann says. "We can't do it. It's that simple."

Most battery meters in electronics work by monitoring electrical inflows and outflows—in other words, how long you charge and how long you use your device. They also try to guess how your battery may have become degraded over time. But each time the computer makes such a guess, it adds errors into the calculation. These errors build up over time, and eventually you notice your laptop dying even though the battery meter says you've got 40 minutes left.

To solve this, you should occasionally "calibrate" your charge meter by depleting your battery completely, then charging it up fully. This usually resets your machine's "flag" for your battery's capacity. Of course, running it down and then charging it up again puts more stress on your battery, accelerating its death. But there's no getting around that.

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As another U.S. winter approaches, Rotarian Richard Sanford and his Pennsylvania-based nonprofit organization, Operation Warm, are gearing up to provide low-income children with the proper apparel to survive the bitter cold.

In 1998, Sanford, a member of the Rotary Club of Longwood, read a local newspaper article about children suffering in cold weather while waiting for their school bus because they lacked winter coats.

Angered but also inspired, he decided to take action, launching Operation Warm, which works with manufacturers to provide high-quality unused coats to underprivileged children across the United States.

"I couldn't understand how something like this could happen. It broke my heart to see kids freeze because they didn't have warm-enough coats," recalls Sanford, the organization's CEO and chair.

Through funds donated by private and corporate partners, Operation Warm collaborates with manufacturers to develop sizes and styles for boys and girls, then distributes the coats to needy children.

For the organization's first project in 1998, Sanford purchased 58 coats with his own money from a department store. He and members of his Rotary club distributed the coats to children in a low-income Philadelphia neighborhood. Since then, Operation Warm has provided more than 500,000 new coats to children in 26 states.

Rotary continues to play a crucial role in expanding the fundraising for and distribution of coats, says Sanford. About 60 clubs in the United States have worked directly with Operation Warm, providing more than 25,000 new coats to children.

"Rotary has been phenomenal in our success," says Sanford. "This project truly represents what Rotary is all about: assisting the disadvantaged in our communities."

Kim Fremont Fortunato, president of the organization and a member of the Rotary Club of Wilmington, Delaware, says the quality of the coats is a key difference between Operation Warm and many other coat drives.

"Most of the children we help have never owned a new coat," says Fortunato. "We believe it improves their self-esteem. But most important, the coats we distribute will keep kids warm."

Sanford says the organization has found many willing partners because people can relate to the children's plight.

"All around us there are poor children in this country who need assistance," he says. "It's our responsibility to help those who can't help themselves. Seeing the kids' smiles and excitement when they put on their new coats is an incredible experience. This is an enormously powerful project."

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Instead of going through a lot of trouble to avoid the waterworks, you can stop tears by merely putting your tongue on the roof of your mouth while you're cutting. Whatever you do, though, don't breathe through your nose—breathe through your mouth. You may look a little silly, but it barely requires any work on your part, and it's sure to be a conversation starter with your dinner guests. I couldn't find any definitive information about this one, but a quick Google search shows that quite a few people swear by this solution.


SOFIA- Bulgarian prosecutors are investigating a new gambling game in which drivers defy death by speeding through red lights for bets of up to 5,000 euros ($7,400), the chief prosecutor's office said Thursday.

Known as 'Russian road roulette', the driver must jump red lights at busy intersections at high speed and not crash into any other cars or pedestrians, according to local media reports. Onlookers also gamble on the result.

Prosecutors launched their investigation after media reported the new game had been held at night at busy crossroads in Sofia since the summer.

In June, two people died after a motorcyclist crashed into an onlooker at a similar rally on Sofia's ring road.

"Every time we receive a signal for such an unregulated race, we send patrols," Commissioner Vanio Stoevski, head of the Sofia Road Police, told Reuters. Since the deaths in June, police have monitored roads where such races are typically held.

Local media report that participants in the 'Russian road roulette' are informed via text messages of the venue for that particular night -- depending on the presence of police.

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The probability of someone watching you is proportinal to the stupidity of your actions.


"I have learned to use the word 'impossible' with the greatest caution."-Wernher von Braun


1984: Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi is assassinated by two Sikh guards hired to protect her home.

1517: Martin Luther nails his 95 theses to the Wittenberg Palace church doors, launching the beginning of the Protestant Reformation.

1968: President Lyndon Johnson ends U.S. bombing of North Vietnam in hopes of peace negotiations.

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Friday, October 30, 2009




If you are choking on an ice cube simply pour a cup of boiling water down your throat. presto! The Blockage will instantly remove itself.


Jibbigo is a recently released iPhone app which promises to help you out the next time you're desperately trying to make yourself understood by your Spanish-speaking compadres. The app is capable of recording a sentence and translating it -- essentially in real time -- back to you. As you can see in the screencap above, you can speak either Spanish or English, and the translator will do its work, displaying both your original and a translation into the other language. The dictionary contains about 40,000 words, and the app is aimed at travelers. Jibbigo also requires the iPhone 3GS to make use of the bi-directional translation tools, and the app also reportedly functions a heck of a lot slower on anything other than the 3GS. The app is available now for $24.99.
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USA, 10 p.m. ET

Last week’s premiere set up the premise of this new USA series, a basic unofficial remake of the old It Takes a Thief series. Tonight, the show dives into its world for real, as Neal and Peter get to go where Project Runway isn’t treading this season: Fashion Week in New York City.

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1938: Orson Welles gives America a Halloween scare with his radio play The War of the Worlds, which uses fake breaking news reports about a Martian invasion.

1957: Britain announces it will admit women into the House of Lords.

1975: “Ford to City: Drop Dead” is the headline in the New York Daily News after President Gerald Ford vows to veto any federal bailout for the city.

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(These tips are from Consumer Reports magazine)

Holiday heartburn: Why you may not need "the purple pill"

As we gear up for the holiday season with food and drink aplenty, many of us will suffer from heartburn — about 15 million people have it on any given day — especially those over the age of 50 or women who are pregnant.

If you find yourself with tell-tale signs of heartburn, your first and best bet is to try an inexpensive over-the-counter antacid like Maalox, Mylanta, Rolaids, Tums, (or generic) or drugs like Pepcid AC or Zantac 150, or generic (known as H2 blockers).

But if you suffer from heartburn twice a week or several months on end, you may have GERD, short for gastroesophageal reflux disease, a condition that makes you prone to acid reflux, and you should see a doctor. People with GERD are often recommended a Proton-Pump Inhibitor (PPI) drug. PPIs are effective and safe to treat more frequent heartburn or GERD, but beware: the price tag could drain your budget.

Last year, U.S. consumers and their insurance companies spent $4.8 billion on Nexium, one of six prescription Proton-Pump Inhibitors currently available, making "the purple pill" the second highest-selling drug in 2008, behind Lipitor. Indeed, Nexium, Prevacid and other expensive PPIs have likely been over-prescribed.

But here's the good news: A new Consumer Reports Best Buy Drugs report on drugs to treat heartburn, GERD and gastric ulcers, finds that no one Proton-Pump Inhibitor (PPI) drug works better than any other.

If you do need a PPI drug, you could save about $200 a month by asking your doctor if one of several alternatives to Nexium, such as our Best Buy Drugs selections, Prilosec OTC or its generic version, omeprazole OTC (which costs less than $1 a day) would work as well for you. Also, Prevacid, a prescription PPI, will be available in mid-November without a prescription. We expect that the new over-the-counter Prevacid24HR will be comparable in price to Prilosec OTC.
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Thursday, October 29, 2009


The American Medical Association created for patients who want to learn more about H1N1 and seasonal flu. This free public health resource can help assess your risk and determine the best course of action based on any symptoms you may have.
Link above to this site.
Kick back and watch Marc Voegele make his "Generations" in the workforce presentation. I'll bet you'll learn some characteristics of your fellow employees that you didn't know. This is a four part presentation. (Marc is the owner of the local Express Employment Professionals office.)


In Knight Rider, what is the name of the talking car?

KITT (Knight Industries Two thousand)



ABC, 8 p.m. ET

ABC has pushed this series from the beginning as the next Lost, and tonight’s episode makes the connection unavoidable. The special guest star, playing a cocky physicist: Dominic Monaghan, who played the beloved Charlie on Lost.


"Always forgive your enemies; nothing annoys them so much."-Oscar Wilde


Change passwords: Crooks want keys to your e-mail
By Byron Acohido, USA TODAY
Phishers are back with a vengeance, armed with some alarming new trickery.Those e-mail scammers who try to fool you into typing your user name and passwords at faked financial Web pages have been around in force since 2002. They remain active, though many Web users have gotten adept at spotting, and avoiding, ruses to get their financial account log-ons.However, after a lull at the start of this year, phishing attacks suddenly spiked 200% from May through September, according to IBM's X-Force research team. Phishers are going after log-ons to Web mail, social networking and online gaming accounts, security experts say.In the evolving cyberunderground, valid Web mail accounts, in particular, are considered highly valuable "virgin" assets, useful for sending out viral e-mail messages likely to go unblocked by spam filters, Sophos researcher Beth Jones says.Virgin mail accounts have become hot commodities; a valid log-on to a Windows Live, Gmail, YahooMail or AOL e-mail account can sell for as much as $2 — more than double what a stolen credit card account number fetches, says Fred Rica, principal at PricewaterhouseCoopers' security practice.Cybercriminals are attuned to the fact that many people use their free Web mail account address to open financial, social network, travel and other online accounts. "Your e-mail account is the key to your online persona," says Henry Stern, Cisco security researcher.And yet a recent Sophos survey found 33% of the respondents used just one password online, while 48% used just a few different ones. "The sad reality is most people use the same user names and passwords on many different websites," says Sam Masiello, threat researcher at McAfee's MX Logic messaging security section.
With possession of your Web mail user name and password, cybercrooks can carry out a matrix of lucrative online capers, made all the easier if you use just one or a handful of the same passwords. They can send out e-mails that appear to come from you to everyone in your address book to try to get them to divulge passwords. And they can scour your e-mail folders for clues to the social networks and online banks you use, then crack into those accounts — and change the passwords so only they can access them.Part of this is because many online services require an e-mail address to set up a Web account. Meanwhile, replacement passwords are typically sent to that e-mail address — a perfect setup for a crook who is in control of the e-mail account, says Amichi Shulman, chief technical officer of security firm Imperva.Phishers can also sell your virgin account to specialists who will use it to send out infectious e-mails to your contacts and all across the Internet — messages that appear to come from you. Such viral messages typically carry corrupted Web links purporting to be for celebrity stories, enticing videos or fake shipping notices.Clicking on one of these bad links can turn control of the victim's PC over to the attacker, who will then use the PC to steal data, spread promos for fake anti-virus subscriptions or hijack your online financial accounts. "Log-ons from a Web mail site can lead to a gold mine," Masiello says.The harvesting of virgin Web mail accounts has become a cornerstone of the cyberunderground, so much so that it has evolved into an entry-level cybercrime, says Fred Touchette, senior analyst at messaging security firm AppRiver. Starter kits, complete with slick, ready-made faked log-on pages for each of the top Web mail services and social networks, are readily available — for free. A newbie phisher has only to supply a website on which to host the faked page and collect the stolen passwords.This has become a widespread activity, one that is keeping the cyberunderground supplied with a new generation of scammers getting in on the ground floor. The crooks supplying the free tool kits have a stake in flushing out as many virgin accounts as possible. "Each account presents new opportunities to make money," Touchette says.
The demand for virgin Web mail accounts has, in fact, become so robust that top-tier cybercrime gangs are going after them with other kinds of attacks as well. Some specialize in tainting legitimate Web pages, or corrupting search results, with imperceptible infections. Clicking on the tainted Web page or corrupted search result can open a backdoor on the user's PC, through which the attacker can install a program to steal keystrokes — especially those typed into a Web mail log-on form.Another popular attack involves hacking into the databases of employment sites, shopping sites or any site that collects sensitive information, including valid e-mail addresses.ScanSafe researcher Mary Landesman says she regularly finds caches of thousands of stolen Web mail log-ons stashed away in nooks and crannies of the Internet, often organized in a way that makes it clear an infection or database hack was used to harvest the data."Most disturbingly, we came across a cache of stolen credentials quite by accident posted in plain view on a now defunct website," she says. "Presumably others could have found it as well."Security experts advise consumers to use unique passwords for each online account, and to change or rotate passwords on a regular basis. That way if your Web mail password does get stolen, it will become useless to criminals when next you change it.

Scammers are increasingly using phishing attacks to pilfer Hotmail, Gmail and YahooMail account passwords. Here's how and why.

1. You receive an e-mail with a faked Web mail log-on form. Your correct user name is typed in, but you are asked to type your password to verify something innocuous. You do so, and the crooks now have full access to your Web mail account.
2. Your Web mail account is used to send similar phishing ruses to everyone in your address book. The process is repeated, allowing the crooks to amass thousands of valid passwords.
3. Most of these Web mail accounts are not blocked by spam filters. So the crooks can use them to send out e-mail with viral Web links to celebrity news stories and enticing videos, or to bogus notices from the IRS or from shipping companies.
4. Clicking on a viral Web link turns the user's PC into a "bot" (from "robot") controlled by the crooks. Bot networks are used to steal data, spread promos for fake anti-virus programs and hijack online banking accounts.

Who pays heed to their passwords

In a recent informal survey of 676 people, anti-virus firm Sophos found:
19% never use the same password for multiple online accounts.
33% use the same password for multiple online accounts.
48% use only a few different passwords for multiple accounts.

Why weak passwords put you at risk

After stealing your Web mail password, cybercriminals will look through your Web mail folders for clues to your other accounts. They will then try variations of your Web mail password to access your social network, online banking and shopping accounts.

What you should do

Use different passwords for each online account.
Change all of your passwords regularly.

Sources: Sophos and USA TODAY research

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1964: Jack “Murph the Surf” Murphy and a partner steal the Star of India and more than 20 other gems from New York’s American Museum of Natural History.

1929: Billions of dollars disappear from the New York Stock Exchange as the market collapses in the hardest crash in history.

1998: John Glenn, 77, makes his second trip into space 36 years after being the first American to orbit the Earth.

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Wednesday, October 28, 2009



(From the Wall Street Journal)
On Mumbai's Streets, Cabbies Fight To Keep Passengers Uncomfortable

Drivers of City's Famed Rattletrap Taxis Show Road Rage Over Law Requiring New Cars

MUMBAI -- Mumbai's taxi drivers are battling to block the newest trend in hired transport here: electronic meters, home pickups and air conditioning.Customers are demanding modern taxis to better represent this booming city, as well as provide a modicum of comfort in a steamy, tropical climate. Mumbai's authorities, keen to make the city the new "Shanghai" of Asia by 2020, have decided to phase out the city's rusty old jalopies and are requiring that every taxi more than 25 years old be scrapped.For nearly half a century, Padminis have been the car of choice for Mumbai's 200,000 cabbies. But the aging black-and-yellows are being replaced with fleets of modern cabs. WSJ reporter Eric Bellman says the Padmini drivers aren't going without a fight.But many of Mumbai's 200,000 or so taxi drivers are having none of it. And they are resisting those who would offer a nicer ride in shinier new cars -- with strikes, court cases and violence. Sheikh Shamin Ahmed, 43 years old, was eating chicken fried rice at a roadside stand next to his new, metallic-green cab when two old taxis full of old-taxi drivers rolled up and started to beat him. They told him his fancy new Mahindra Renault with its air conditioning and GPS navigation system had better stay away from their customers. Mr. Ahmed promised to leave once he finished his food. The angry cabbies grabbed his plate and threw it on the ground, he says.He says he can't pick up customers at many taxi stands, where long lines of the old cabs wait for customers. Because he is afraid of another scuffle, he lets old cabs go in front of him at the gas station and he can't pick up customers at the airport without getting a call. After the attack, he couldn't even go to the police station because the place is surrounded by old taxis and their drivers."In some neighborhoods, they won't even let us stop," he says. "We can't do anything because they outnumber us." With more than 50,000 taxis, the city formerly known as Bombay has one of the biggest cab fleets in the world, as well as one of the most antiquated. Most of the taxis are Premier Padminis, the Indian version of the Fiat SpA's 1100 model that the Italian car maker stopped producing in 1966. Even Premier Ltd., the Indian company that had the right to build them here, stopped manufacturing them in 2000. Drivers keep them running with scrap parts and use metal patches to cover the rust holes. The little black-and-yellow cab is a Mumbai icon celebrated in Bollywood films and modern art. Riding in one is an experience as gritty as the city. Despite Mumbai's muggy 90-degree weather, they don't have air conditioning and their old suspensions mean passengers feel every one of the city's many potholes. When it comes time to pay, the bill riders have to depend on a mechanical meter box on the hood of the car, which shows the fare as it would have been in 1973. A fare card is used to multiply the meter fare by 15 to compute actual charges. The new cabs charge about 40% more than the old ones. But fares remain relatively cheap. Most rides around town cost no more than $15, even when the cars are stuck for hours in traffic.
Drivers say the old cars are tough to drive because they lack power-steering and the engines get so hot, they can feel it on their legs. If they get more than three customers, they have to slow down to keep the car from bottoming out. The drivers also say they struggle with lung and throat problems because of the hours they spend stuck in traffic with the windows open, inhaling exhaust fumes. Still, most drivers love their Padminis. They are cheap to buy and maintain. Because they have few electric parts, they can survive the regular monsoon floods. Meanwhile, their sofa-style front and back seats are easy to sleep on if you stick your feet out the window. That's an important feature for drivers who live in their cabs for days at a time."We have trusted this Padmini like a second wife for the last 40 years," says Anthony Quadros, a second-generation driver and head of one of the taxi drivers' unions here. "You still love your wife even though she gets old." Since the local government reforms, though, new challengers have popped up. Chief among them: Meru Cab Co. The business was started in 2007 by Neeraj Gupta, who used to manage a minibus company that shuttled late-night call-center employees from International Business Machines Corp., Accenture Ltd. and elsewhere to work and back. In the past two years, Meru Cab's fleet in Mumbai has grown to around 1,400 cabs. Meru uses the latest models from Maruti Suzuki India Ltd., Tata Motors Ltd. and Mahindra Renault Pvt. Ltd. They have air conditioning and electronic meters and a state-of-the-art dispatch system. They can be reserved for pickups at any location by phone. Standard cabs are just hailed on the streets. Drivers of the new cabs have to pass a test on safety, hygiene and etiquette; the standard taxi driver only needs a driving license and an eighth-grade education. Meru has become so popular that it has to turn away about half of the more than 10,000 calls it gets every day, and reservations have to be made about four hours in advance. "Nobody wants a black-and-white TV when you have LCD screens," says Mr. Gupta. Mr. Gupta also is trying to introduce a better-mannered driver. The ID cards on the dashboards of Meru Cabs outline how the company's drivers pledge to act. "I will not drink and drive," "I will be well-groomed," and "I will charge the customer as per the meter," are a few of Mr. Gupta's commandments laid out on the cards. Posters around the Meru training center also aim to change cantankerous cabbie ways "Even ants can stay in a lane, why can't we?" says one. "Turn off your high beams, they blind other drivers," says another. But the army of individual drivers of the old Padmini taxis is not ready for a newer, kinder cab culture. Last year, they went on a one-day strike, leaving the more than one-million people who take cabs to their own devices. Cab drivers tried but failed in court to block the rules requiring newer cabs. Now, some have turned to intimidation. The taxi tensions are strongest at the city's domestic airport. The airport has a brand-new covered area for cabs where, initially, old and new cabs mingled. But passengers were waiting in line for the next modern cabs rather than choosing the old ones. After watching the choicest customers being whisked away, the Padmini drivers got mad. "All the rich people want them, and all we get is the leftover beggars," says Surya Singh, a black-and-yellow taxi driver who regularly waits hours in the hot sun for a chance to pick up passengers at the airport. "We want to get rid of the Meru cabs." After some of the old-taxi drivers started beating up Meru cab drivers and stoning windshields, the police asked the new cabs to wait for customers to call to phone at a spot three blocks from the airport exit. Meru drivers at the airport say their business has plunged, and now they can't even go to the nearby tea stall for a snack.

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Never be afraid to try something new. Remember that a lone amateur built the Ark. A large group of professionals built the Titanic.



The astronomer quit his job to become a barber. Eclipse hair now.


Accidents happen to even the most cautious drivers. If you find yourself in one, AccidentSketch (link above) is a simple web-based tool that can help you draw up a picture and generate a report to give to your insurance company.

AccidentSketch uses a simple template system. Cars, road segments, signs, pedestrians, and more all snap to the grid and in the case of small objects like signs can be moved from there. You can change the colors of things, zoom in and out to get as close or wide as you need, and even assign information to parties involved like the license plate numbers of the cars in the accident.

Once you create a diagram you can also generate a text-based report to fill in details that can't be easily conveyed by the picture. When you're done you've got a tidy accident sketch and report to submit to the interested parties. The service is free and requires no registration.

Have a handy tool and tidbit for dealing with insurance companies and life after a fender-bender?
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Do you ever wonder just what you can make with the items you have in your cupboard? Link above to the "Supercook" site that will allow you to plug in your list of ingredients and receive a recipe that will fit those ingredients.


1. "Airport luggage scales often lie." It's bad enough that the airlines charge a fee for overweight luggage, varying from $39 to $300 per bag industrywide. But it's galling that they may also hit you with the fee by mistake. At JFK last November, New York City's Department of Consumer Affairs found that 14 percent of the airport's scales were not properly calibrated. At Boston's Logan airport, 10 percent of the scales recently inspected gave incorrect readings. The South Florida SunSentinel has discovered numerous busted scales at area airports. And the list goes on. What to do? Stand up for yourself, especially when a scale barely tips the balance into the "overweight" category. Brandon Macsata, executive editor of the D.C.-based lobbying group Association for Airline Passenger Rights advises passengers to weigh their bags at home first, and if the airport scale comes up with a different number, insist that your bags be weighed on a different scale. Yes, it's come to that.

2. "Our air may make you sick." The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating whether potentially harmful fumes have been circulating in airplane cabins. Between 1999 and 2008, air became contaminated on 926 flights, reports the FAA, without specifying any possible health risks. Currently, the agency is looking at a particular type of "fume event" that involves "bleed air," or air that's been compressed by the airplane's engines. If there's a malfunction in plane equipment, the air that's fed into the cabin can be contaminated with chemical residues from engine oil—specifically TCP, or tricresyl phosphate. "Passengers may have symptoms like tremors," says Clement Furlong, a research professor of genome sciences and medicine at the University of Washington. So far, federal reviews of the research have been inconclusive about whether bleed air actually endangers the health of passengers and flight crews, though two civil lawsuits about fume events are under way.

3. "That nonstop flight you booked? We can add a layover to itwithout explanation." Think you scored a sweet fare on that transcontinental flight? Think again. You may be making a previously unscheduled layover. Airlines can cancel your nonstop and rebook passengers onto flights with connections, which are obviously less desirable. Advises Brett Snyder, author of The Cranky Flyer and a former pricing analyst at America West: As soon as you find out that your nonstop flight has been canceled, check to see if there's another nonstop option. If there is, call the airline and ask—nicely—to be put on it. But if nonstop service on the route has disappeared, threaten to switch to another carrier for the trip. Major airlines will typically agree to refund your money without any fees if you refuse to accept a new, multistop flight that will arrive at your destination more than two hours later than you were originally scheduled.

4. "We wouldn't tell you right away if there's an emergency." The FAA leaves it up to the airline to decide if it wants to tell passengers about an engine failure or other significant crisis. And many flight crews opt to keep their lips sealed. The reason? Flight crews don't want to scare passengers or say something they'll regret later. "In one recent emergency, the cockpit crew was faulted for making a public announcement before some of the required procedures were accomplished," explains Kent Wien, a pilot for a U.S. carrier. So attendants tend to err on the side of being secretive to avoid trouble. Last June, passengers traveling from Brussels to Newark on Continental Airlines were not informed when the captain died during the flight. The plane continued along its scheduled route with nary a peep from the rest of the crew, beyond a cryptic question: "Is there a doctor on board?"

5. "When we let you pick your seat assignment, we were only joking." As the airlines decrease the number of seats they fly in an attempt to eke out a profit, they're swapping out larger planes for smaller ones more often. Whenever fliers are put on a new plane, seat assignments are scrambled. A traveler may end up in a middle seat he or she would never have selected. If it happens to you, there's not much you can do—airlines aren't obligated to honor any seat assignment. "Passengers are actually purchasing a fare and not a seat," says Macsata of the Association for Airline Passenger Rights. Checking in online 24 hours prior to departure is often the best you can do to boost your chances of getting the seat assignment you want. Print your boarding pass with your seat assignment on it before you get to the airport as proof in case you need to argue with a gate agent over a last-minute switcheroo.

6. "Our planes are antiques." Compared to the rest of the world, we're flying the airplane equivalent of grandma's Cutlass Supreme—except Uncle Sam isn't interested in paying cash for these clunkers. American owns 268 MD-80 class airplanes, with an average age of 18 years old. Meanwhile, thanks to a geriatric fleet of DC-9s, Delta and Northwest's average fleet age is 13 years old. In contrast, Emirates has an average fleet age of about 5 years. Singapore Air's is 6 years. And, while Ryanair is often faulted for lacking basic amenities, its planes average less than 3 years of age. Luckily, U.S. airlines aren't having problems maintaining their aging aircraft from a safety standpoint, notes Bill Voss, president and CEO of the Flight Safety Foundation. "There's no real indication of anyone cutting corners," says Voss. "Planes don't age like wine, but they do remain flight-worthy with proper maintenance." The FAA doesn't have a maximum age limit for planes, though it does require more frequent inspections for planes that have flown for more than 14 years. But aside from safety there's just plain old comfort. If you've ever wished you had a personal seatback flat-screen TV instead of having to share a view of a cathode-ray tube in the aisle—well, now you know the reason.

7. "Our crew is totally exhausted." Airline jobs are famously hard on the Circadian rhythms, and flight crews simply aren't getting enough rest. Pilot fatigue has been a factor in crashes that have led to over 250 fatalities in the past 16 years, including the recent crash of a Colgan Air flight to Buffalo, according to the National Transportation Safety Board. The night before that accident, the copilot commuted from the West Coast to Newark while the pilot slept on a couch in a crew lounge at the airport. Crews on reserve (that is, crews readily available for service on short notice) don't have it much better. "On reserve, we don't have control over what we're doing," says Heather Poole, a flight attendant for a U.S. carrier and a contributor to travel blog Gadling. "One day we're flying a 5 a.m. departure, and the next day we're working a red-eye. Do this for a few trips in a row—add the delays in there—and that's when it gets bad." Working reserve can stretch crews to the limit. "Once during a terrible reserve month, I remember staring at my emergency exit door, thinking, Is it armed? Is it armed? Is it armed? I could see that it was, indeed, armed (the evacuation slide was attached to the door properly). But it wasn't clicking in my brain because I was so tired."

8. "Your ticket might not be with the airline you booked." Two airlines may sell seats on the same flight, a sales strategy called code sharing. You may think you'll be traveling on one airline, but you actually fly on another. The situation seems harmless enough but can cause major headaches for passengers. For example, most major airlines farm out their short, commuter flights to regional airlines. "By and large, you haven't heard of Chautauqua or Republic, but you may be flying them when you click to buy a ticket on Continental," explains Randy Petersen, publisher of InsideFlyer. "With two airlines involved, there's a constant passing of the buck. Worse, many regional carriers operating on code shares are exempt from reporting their on-time statistics. And God forbid if you need to file a claim with them for lost baggage."
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ABC, 9 p.m. ET

It’s a repeat, but this is the sort of comedy that’s fun to see a second time. And if you haven’t seen it the first time yet, and you don’t care about baseball – well, this is your night.



1919:Congress overrides President Woodrow Wilson’s veto and enacts the Volstead Act, which provides for enforcement of Prohibition.

1965: Pope Paul VI absolves Jews of responsibility for the death of Jesus Christ.

1962: Fears of nuclear war subside as Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev promises to dismantle nuclear missile bases in Cuba.

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Tuesday, October 27, 2009


Rotary E-Learning Center

R otary International provides training opportunities for all Rotarians. The Rotary E-Learning Center is your online resource for the independent study of Rotary, particularly for new members and club officers. Rotary International also produces training resources for a variety of training seminars held throughout the year for district leaders and for club leaders and members.

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ABC, 8 p.m. ET

One of the first Peanuts specials, and, along with the Christmas one, the very best. Both programs, not so coincidentally, have to do with the very definitions and depth of faith. Does the Great Pumpkin exist? Listen to Linus explain, and watch him maintain his lonely vigil – then make up your own mind.

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To get the most out of your car, treat it like a favorite cat or dog.



Creating a home emergency kit can be a simple to enormous undertaking depending on the level of energy and preparation you want to invest into it. Most people are on the "Stay warm and fed until the power comes back on" camp, not the "Prepared for zombie apocalypse" camp, and though it never hurts to prepare for the worst we'll be focusing more on the former than the latter. Once you read over the following tips you can adopt them to fit your needs based on your locale and weather, size of your homef, and how much storage space you have available. Know The Lay of the Land: Before all else you want to know how to control your home in the event of an emergency. Do you know where the water shutoff valve is? The emergency shut off valve for the gas? Which circuit breakers go to which part of your home? Many home emergencies can be quickly neutralized by knowing how to shut down the infrastructure of the home. Make sure the rest of the people in the house know how to do things like kill the water or electricity. It may not seem critical now, but if a pine tree comes crashing through your kitchen and water is spraying everywhere, knowing how to stop the geyser of water becomes quite important. Rotate Your Semi-Perishable Food: Canned goods and bottles of water keep well enough, but not forever. Arranging your pantry so that cans don't linger at the back ensures that when you're snowed in you'll be eating fresh canned fruits and vegetables instead of the dusty cans from three Thanksgivings ago. You can go all out and build a rotating shelf to keep your canned goods fresh, but for smaller scale storage a simple wire-frame can dispenser will fit on most pantry shelves. Keep Batteries and Flashlights on Hand: You'll always want batteries on hand. When it comes to keeping the lights on when the power is out, flashlights are king. Candles are a tragedy waiting to happen. Hundreds of house fires are started every year during power outages as people light up candles en masse to brighten their dark homes. It's 2009, you can buy ultra-efficient LED flashlights for less than the cost of a DVD. Even with the power out there's no excuse for lighting your home with fire. Have Alternative Heat: If you're preparing for a winter storm you most likely live somewhere with icy winter conditions and deep snow fall. When keeping warm during a winter storm there are two levels of warmth: safe and comfortable. If you're wearing layered clothing and have lots of blankets, 40-50F in your house is safe but not particularly comfortable. Nobody will get frost bite and pipes won't freeze. Comfortable is a personal thing—I'm comfy at 55F, most people prefer at least in the upper 60s—and you'll need to plan accordingly for it. Fireplaces, kerosene space heaters, and other combustion-based sources of heat are less than ideal compared to the efficiency and safety of a central furnace but when operated properly can help keep you warm until power and order are restored. You absolutely need to make sure that whatever alternative source of heat you plan on using during an outage is clean, operational, and that everyone who will be using it understands how to use it safely. Clean out the chimney before you need it and give that kerosene heater a trial run when you're not under pressure. Unfortunately, unlike swapping candles for LED flashlights, there isn't an ultra modern replacement for ditching combustion-based heat for something fancy. Safety first! Tools and Materials for Emergency Repairs: You don't need to be ready for a full scale remodeling project but you do need some basics. What if a tree branch falls and breaks a window? In the middle of summer it an annoyance, in the middle of a winter outage it's a giant icy hole to the outside world that will drop the temperature of your home below freezing in a matter of hours. Some heavy duty plastic sheeting and duct tape might not have the insulation value of a triple-pane window but it will keep hot air from drafting right out into your yard. Communicating from the Winter Wonderland: Phone lines can be damaged by winds and ice, but it is very rare for a winter storm to wipe out the cellular network in an area. Keep your cellphone charged and make sure you have a car charger for it—if the power outage is extended you'll need to top it off at some point. If cellphone service is spotty, you may want to consider sending an SMS message to communicate with friends and family. Often times SMS messages go through just fine when trying to place and actual voice call is sketchy due to weak signal. If you live in the country side you might consider investing in a couple GMRS/FRS hand-held radios with some neighbors. You can pick up a modest but functional walkie-talkie set for around $30. Stay Well Stocked: If you live in an area where weather can keep you holed up, you need to get into the practice of shopping ahead. When you're buying your regular groceries, purchase a few extra non-perishable things to stock in the pantry. Don't wait to do your grocery shopping until it is critical that you get out that day to do so. The same principle applies to non-food items like batteries, salt and sand for your walk and driveway, and keeping your gas tank full in your car. Scaling Preparation for Your Situation and Budget: Finally, as we mentioned above, you'll need to scale your level of preparation to your budget and needs. If you can afford it and live in an area with frequent power outages, although a bit pricey, a home generator is a great investment. An apartment dweller that experiences extremely infrequent and brief outages could simply stockpile some batteries under the bed. The important part in preparing for inclement weather and power outages is to run through potential and reasonable scenarios and what you need to do in various situations that may arise. What if an ice-laden tree falls onto your house? What if the power is out for more than a day? How will I heat food with no electricity? Does the heating system of your home require electricity? Have I told my roommate, spouse, or child what the plan is in the event of an emergency? Asking and answering questions like these well before you're under the stress of the actual situation helps you plan properly and keep stress to a minimum when that Douglas Fir actually does come through the picture window or the guy on the emergency weather radio says power won't be restored until next Tuesday. A small amount of planning now yields a lot of comfort later.


"The easiest way for your children to learn about money is for you not to have any."-Katharine Whitehorn


Chutzpah! In the tiny east Texas town of Tenaha, police allegedly extorted traveling motorists by subjecting them to bogus traffic stops, perhaps finding small amounts of drugs, and then offering to forgo prosecution if the motorists would forfeit their cars and other property. The forfeited items were then sold to fund a special police recreation account. Last year, the ACLU of Texas filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against both the police and local prosecutor Lynda Russell, and in September 2009, Russell asked the state attorney general if she could pay her legal expenses from the alleged extorted recreation account.


For the northern half of the world it's almost ski season, and thus a curious time to debut a pair of devices that allow skiing in the summertime. Nevertheless Nissan and Japan's National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology are introducing this pair of two-wheeled, self-balancing devices. Lace up your fresh New Balance kicks, grab onto the handlebars, then hop on to go for a ride. Each one detects weight shifts and motors itself in the direction you want to go -- or at least the direction you're leaning. They don't look particularly stable nor safe, but they could enable some sweet concrete hot doggin' in the summertime -- and some sick splits if you don't have your snowplow perfected.