2011 SoCal Ragnar Relay Time Calculator

I put together the following chart to calculate a team’s ETAs at checkpoints in the 2011 SoCal Ragnar Relay.   Based on the estimated pace for each runner, it provides estimated arrival times at the checkpoints and the finish line. This might be off some assistance in coordinating hand-offs, van transitions and conjugal visits.   Continue reading “2011 SoCal Ragnar Relay Time Calculator”

Fitness Tax Credit: Fitness Inducer or Revenue Reducer?

A while back I wrote about a proposed junk food tax.  Proponents of junk food taxes argue that maintaining good health amoung individuals in society is an important public policy consideration.  But there are components to a healthy lifestyle beyond avoiding junk food.  Fitness through physical activity is frequently cited as a critical element of healthy lifestyle.  Daily exercise and weight control is the bedrock of the nutrition pyramid published by the Harvard School of Public Health.  And the Presidential Council on Physical Fitness and Sports reports that “Adults 18 and older need 30 minutes of physical activity on five or more days a week to be healthy; children and teens need 60 minutes of activity a day for their health.” ((http://www.fitness.gov/resources_factsheet.htm))  In response to these calls for increased physical fitness, some are proposing a fitness tax credit.  If the health of individuals is indeed an important public policy objective, then a fitness tax credit, a tax credit that makes fitness resources more accessible, may be a worthy consideration.

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Economics of Oil and Fruit Roll-Ups

In the first grade, my favorite part of my lunch was Fruit Roll-Ups.  My Mom used to call them fruit road kill, but to my first grade taste buds they were a gourmet fruit treat.  I quickly learned that my consumption of fruit rolls ups could not exceed my supply.  I had two primary supply sources of Fruit Roll-Ups:

  1. domestic supply from home:  those Fruit Roll-Ups that my mother purchased and put into my Spider-Man lunch box.

  3. non-domestic supply: those Fruit Roll-Ups that I gained from other sources, primarily through purchase or barter transactions with classmates.

Obtaining Fruit Roll-Ups up from sources other than my Mother was expensive and unreliable.  When supply for barter was available I would offer a cookie for an orange flavored fruit roll up or my place in line at the handball court for an apricot fruit roll up (my favorite flavor).  My Mother’s nurturing nature made domestic supply the most stable source of Fruit Roll-Ups.  I could rely on that one Fruit Roll-Up to always be in my lunch box.  I understood at a young age the hazards of upsetting my Mother, who among countless other things, could affect a disturbance of my stable domestic source of Fruit Roll-Ups  I knew that if that source was upset I would need to work hard to increase non-domestic supply or inevitably reduce consumption. Stated in its most simple terms, my consumption of Fruit Roll-Ups could not exceed my supply . Given that: CFR =  my consumption of Fruit Roll-Ups FRmom = Fruit Roll-Ups supplied by my Mom FRclassmates = Fruit Roll-Ups obtained through barter with classmates Then: CFR = FRmom + FRclassmates I learned this simple truth of the relationship between consumption and supply at a young age.  And every day as an adult I deal with the economic reality that my consumption of the things that I need or want cannot exceed my supply.  If one source of supply of anything I desire diminishes, I have no choice but to find a way to increase supply from other sources or reduce consumption.  The Fruit Roll-Up analogy might have been a long winded method to summarize this formula, but something inside of me just felt like blogging about Fruit Roll-Ups today. This same rule of supply and demand applies to our nation’s supply and use of oil.  The nuances of the economics of oil are substantially more complicated that those of Fruit Roll-Ups.  Oil supply and demand is impacted by a variety of domestic and global economic, social and political factors.  While these factors may resemble school yard economic, social and political factors, they are more complex if for no other reason than because of the amount of money and people involved.  But the fundamental restriction that consumption cannot exceed supply holds true. ((ignoring the impact of stock piles or borrowing.)) Continue reading “Economics of Oil and Fruit Roll-Ups”

Northwest Flight 253: How Do We Reconcile the Risk Posed by a Failed Attempt?

Sometime around the end of 2009, in the wake of Abdulmutallab’s failed attempt to bring down Northwest flight 253, I was having a conversation about the incident.  My fellow converser expressed hesitation to declare the incident a security breach.  Her hesitation was rooted in the fact that the attempt was unsuccessful.  To put her hesitation into my own words, how can we conclude that a terrorist attempt that failed nonetheless had a high probability of success?  And without fully understanding Abdulmutallab’s probability of success, how can we declare that a security breach occurred?

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Arguments For and Against Junk Food and Soda Taxes


The debate over junk food taxes is drawing increasing attention from both sides.  Continued debate over of the adverse health impacts of sugary drinks is coupled with heating debate over the propriety of a tax on a dietary pleasure — a pleasure some believe people have an unassailable right to partake in, but others find to be a health hazard.

Here are some recent arguments from vocal advocates on both sides of the debate:

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Make Your Own Watch ID to Carry Emergency Contact and Medical Information

watch-idThis is my first do it yourself post and it’s for all the running and hiking nuts out there.    I’ve read in a variety of articles and advertisements that when running, hiking, cycling or participating in other outdoor recreational pursuits, it’s a good idea to carry ID and emergency contact information.  I suppose that in the event that I get injured and am unable to effectively communicate with emergency responders, I would rather be an injured Jacob than an injured John Doe.

A few companies market ID products that cater to the running, hiking, cycling and outdoor enthusiast crowd, such as Road ID.  While Road ID’s marketing campaign has been effective at convincing me that it would be prudent for me to carry ID when participating in outdoor adventures, it has been ineffective at persuading me to fork over the $19.99 for “the Wrist ID Sport” (or $29.99 for “the Wrist ID Sport Elite”)[1] [2]

I’m already wearing something on my wrist:  my trusty old watch.  I figured I could put my vital information on my watch.  My watch can simultaneously tell me the time and serve as a transmitter of identifying information in the event I’m rendered unable to communicate – creating an efficient economy of wrist pieces.

Here’s how to make your own Watch ID:

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The Tension Between Public Healthcare and Personal Health Habits

Does societal responsibility for individual health needs give rise to individual responsibility to maintain health?

The proposed changes in healthcare have consumed a fair portion of media attention over the past few months.  Much of the debate revolves around the provisioning of healthcare to American’s.  But buried deep in the discussions is some talk about preventive care and the role that health maintenance plays in America’s overall healthcare policy.  President Obama’s healthcare policy discussion mentions individual responsibility for preventative care:

“Barack Obama and Joe Biden believe that protecting and promoting health and wellness in this nation is a shared responsibility among individuals and families, school systems, employers, the medical and public health workforce, and federal and state and local governments. All parties must do their part, as well as collaborate with one another, to create the conditions and opportunities that will allow and encourage Americans to adopt healthy lifestyles.”[1]

The proposed changes in healthcare represent, to some degree, a movement towards increased public responsibility for the health of individuals.[2] If society shoulders some of the burden of individual healthcare issues, then an individual’s health habits have, in addition to personal health consequences, external repercussions.  This begs the question:  If society takes responsibility for the health of its citizens, do the citizens have a corresponding responsibility to society to maintain their own health?

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The Entropy in Crime and Punishment

Punishing Consequences or State of Mind: An Examination of the Driving Force Behind the Criteria Used for Criminal Punishment – PART 2

This post is a hugely delayed continuation of a discussion that I began several months ago here:  Do We Imprison People Randomly? If you have not read that earlier post, this post may lack context.

The Reality Equation

randomcrimeThe intuitive response to the hypothetical presented in Part 1 is that it takes place under circumstances that can only exist in a fictional world. In reality, it is virtually impossible for Driver A and Driver B to have identical states of mind. Perhaps Driver B was driving a smidgen faster than Driver A. Perhaps Driver A had a car that was capable of handling faster speeds safer. Perhaps the wind was blowing against Driver A but with Driver B making it easier for Driver A to halt his car in an emergency. There are countless factors that could bear on the safety of the driver’s conduct. It is the action of the driver under the precise unique circumstances of the moment that give rise to the state of mind of the driver. Thus, there might never be a real situation where two individuals truly have an identical state of mind.

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Turboexpanders: Harnessing the Hidden Potential of Our Natural Gas Distribution System

turbineabstractMany of the innovations in green energy involve the recapture of otherwise wasted energy.  Regenerative breaking systems on hybrid automobiles recapture the kinetic energy inherent in the motion of the vehicle.  In a conventional automobile, as the brakes are applied, friction in the braking system converts this kinetic energy to waste heat.  But in a hybrid, a portion of this energy is converted to electricity and stored in batteries for future use.  Since this energy would otherwise be wasted, this is essentially free energy.[1] Similarly waste heat recovery systems recover energy that would otherwise be wasted from power generation facilities.  Most conventional power generation facilities covert approximately half of the energy in the fuel into electricity.  The remainder is lost as waste thermal heat.  Waste heat recovery systems recapture this heat so it can be put to good use, increasing the efficiency of power generation facility.  These are but two examples of innovative methods of recapturing otherwise wasted energy.  There is another unharnessed form of energy rushing through our cities and countryside every day: our natural gas distribution pipelines.

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JetLev-Flyer: The Flying Personal Watercraft

jpMS Watersports Gmbh out of Germany is now selling the JetLev-Flyer, a water propelled jet pack.  The design looks both novel and simple.  Based on a video from the company’s website, it appears the JetLev-Flyer works as follows:

  • The rider/pilot straps on a jet pack.
  • The jet pack is connected to a hose that runs to a float about the size of a personal watercraft that sits in the water.
  • The float follows the rider around. The float has a four stroke engine that pumps water up the hose to the jet pack and is shot out of the jet nozzles in the pack. The force of the water shooting out of the jet pack lifts the rider up. The rider can maneuver by controlling the direction and force of the jet.

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