Saturday, February 8, 2014

What would it take for me to change my mind?

In a recent conversation about GMOs, the phrase "[I] won't change my mind. I strongly believe . . ." came up.  Well, that's a silly notion . . . to think there is no possibility of ever changing our minds.  Are we God, that we know and understand all?  So as I pondered that thought, I wondered what it would take to convince me that GMOs are bad?  After all, it is unfair for me to hammer on the anti-GMO crowd, when I am as staunchly in my corner as they are in theirs.

So I ask the question to you - what would it take for you to change your mind?  Are you truly open minded about the topic?  I am open minded - below is a detailed description of what it would take to change my mind.  I am willing to believe GMOs are bad, if the following items are addressed.  

I have three issues that need to be addressed.

1.  Not all GMOs are the same.  
To make the general statement, "GMOs are bad for [the bees, the soil, the air, personal health, economy]" is to say "movies are bad" or "wood furniture is bad."  GMOs are a broad category of countless products.  Even if we limited ourselves only to the "food" items (which is where most GMO conversations are centered), there are still thousands of products to consider.  Before I can accept "GMOs (as a category) are bad" I must first believe an overwhelming number of the varieties are bad.  Consider that corn alone has at least 17 varieties.  I bet the real number is closer to 100, but hard data was difficult to find (and really doesn't matter for the purposes of this post).

How would we show any individual variety is bad?  See issue #2.

2.  Prove the existing research is bad.  
Right now, we have 3 areas of research / study and we're missing the 4th.  We have research and opinions claiming GMOs are bad, GMOs are good, and debunking of "GMOs are bad".  But we have no papers specifically tearing into the "GMOs are good" research and showing how methodology is bad or the data is interpreted inappropriately.   If you are going to claim Monsanto products are bad, you need to specifically refute the research put out by Monsanto.  Show me specifically where Monsanto did bad research.  Where is their methodology faulty?  What specific mistakes /errors did they make?

There is lots of hate mongering and name calling against Monsanto (the patent bully, greedy corporate, evil), but these are irrelevant - the only question that matters is the correctness of their research.  You can't address the morality of Monsanto as a company.  I don't care if Monsanto is "good" or "bad"; I am concerned with their research.  Are they doing good research?  Are their findings properly documented and reported?  Are they appropriately interpreted?  Are their results repeatable? 

You can't use anecdotes.  Not a single one.  Not yours, not your neighbor, not a famous person, not an internet post.  Anecdotes are the beginning of science, they lead us to ask questions and seek answers.  But anecdotes are not evidence, and a plurality of anecdotes is not proof.

And you can't complain Monsanto suppresses research.  I call BS on that.  Millions of scientists in the entire world, and many of them with a personal grudge against Monsanto.  Are you really telling me they are afraid to publish their research?  They're afraid to perform the research?  There's no renegades who worked there that can expose the faulty research?  That's just crap.

If you get past all of this . . . you have to publish it in Nature or Science.  Trust me, if you can produce this research, they will have a "hold the presses" moment and make you the cover story the next day.  No self publishing on your blog.  No producing a video of you in a lab coat.  No press release to CNN.  Just boring, plain, publish it where it can be reviewed and scrutinized by actual scientists.  Good Morning America sharing science opinions is about as useful as me sharing muscle car reviews.  Why did I pick those two?  They are the premier publications for general science.  And they would kill for an expose on that.

3.  Replace the GMOs with alternative solutions to the problems currently being addressed GMOs
Show how you can solve the problems that GMOs are solving, namely, increasing yields, lowering herbicide and pesticide use, protect the rain forest, use less fresh water, longer shelf life, easier to transport, extend the season of fresh foods, etc.

Related articles - GMOs and bees, GMO wheat can help feed the world, the original GMO - tomato (didn't know the tomato had such a noble history), One of my personal favorite debunk articles (not about GMOs) about the fork over knives movie,

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Baby Advice - Post 3

Breast Feeding.

"Breast fed baby's poop doesn't stink."  People LIE.  It stinks.  Some days, it smells nasty.  Perhaps it's worse when they are eating food, but make no mistake, it's not a bed of roses at any stage of the game.

A breast pump will provide a tremendous amount of freedom.  While the baby is breast only, you have to stay where breast feeding is convenient.  The biggest place where this is a problem is while driving, in a restaurant, and night feedings.

When driving a car, you can't breast feed and keep the car in motion - despite previous family experience - this is generally regarded as "unsafe".  Having a bottle allows you to keep the baby on the schedule while keeping the family moving.

The problem with restaurants is not that it's public (see post 2 for commentary on public feeding), but rather the timing.  It always happens that baby is ready for food just as your fresh steak is coming out of the kitchen.  By the time you eat, the steak is cold.  Or the ice cream is melted.  Or the ice melts into the soda.

And night feedings.  While baby is breast feeding, there's really no reason for dad to wake up - there's nothing he can do to make the situation better.  If there's a bottle of breast milk, then dad can help.

Of course, all this is negated if your family chooses formula.

Back to breast pumps.  I don't care how cheap it is . . . don't buy a manual pump.  A manual pump works like a spray bottle - an old spray bottle that's a little tough and not an gentle squeeze.  So imagine this . . . squeeze the bottle once each second for 20 minutes.  That's just one side.  And assuming your breasts release milk quickly.  Now do it again, on the other side.  Wait 2 hours and do it again.  Your hands will kill you.  Don't buy a manual pump.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Baby Advice - Post 2

  • Baby Sleeping

Figure out where the baby will sleep a month or so in advance.  Lots of details you can figure out on the fly, but it's really important to have a place for baby when you get home.  We arrived home at 1 AM after delivery, and didn't have a place for him.  Luckily, a friend had a bassinet they loaned us and delivered at 10 PM before we got home.

Baby doesn't need to sleep in the parent's bedroom.  Babies will frequently get startled and wake up for a few seconds, cry a little, then back to sleep.  Christina said my snoring woke the baby up frequently.  So, for the baby's sake, let him have his own room.  If you don't have a separate room, let him sleep in the living room or a closet.

Speaking of baby sleeping, if you keep the house quiet, the baby will never learn to sleep well.  Your whole life you will be trapped by wrapping your life around the baby.  You and yours already have a life; baby needs to find a place in that life, not the other way around.  Make a few adjustments, but live your life, wash your dishes, listen to your music, etc.  Now that doesn't mean you put the baby in the TV room while you watch Gwar videos.  When the baby is sleeping on the first floor, I don't run the blender.  But I still cook and chop veggies and make dinner.  I still wash dishes and load the dish washer.

  • Breastfeeding

A lactation consultant is nice - they can provide lots of experience.  Breastfeeding is not as "natural" as hippies make it out to be, it takes practice, work, and more practice.  It doesn't just happen.  You should do some reading, learn as much as you can so that you have questions to ask.  Also, spend time in the breastfeeding section of your favorite store - you'll see lots of products you never thought of before, and that may lead to some more questions.

Purchase a nice chair for nursing.  Sliders (as opposed to rockers) are real nice, and you do get what you pay for . . .

And we come to the new age argument for breastfeeding in public.  "It's natural . . . why should we be ashamed?"  You know what else is natural?  Pee.  Pee is even more natural - everyone does it every day of their life.  And when I pee in public, people get upset.  Sex is natural.  Clipping toe nails is natural.  Breastfeeding is an intimate moment with mother and baby, let her have that time.  She can sing and play with baby and enjoy an intimate bonding experience.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Baby Advice - Post 1

I write this to provide advice to D2, who will soon be having his first baby.  Since I was there a year ago, I share my thoughts.  People will disagree with some and agree with others; these are just my thoughts.

  • Deciding what to buy
Be careful what you purchase - people want to give you all sorts of gifts.  They won't give you enough to live, but certainly enough to start.  Some safe bets are clothing and burp cloths - you can never have too many.  Hold off on toys and other equipment to see what people will get you.

People tend to purchase cheaper gifts.  Blankets, clothing, diapers, etc.  Most people won't provide strollers, cribs, etc. unless they have loads of money and feel comfortable with you very personally.  But you never know - sometimes you get surprised.  Cheap doesn't imply chintzy; these are items you need and will want.  They are also the most neutral.

  • Brand Loyalty and Compatibility

Pick a brand, any brand, it really doesn't matter which.  There are several good brands; it's more important you pick one you like for each class of items.  For example, we picked Avent baby bottles based on the milk pump we chose, then told everyone who asked.  So all our bottles are Avent bottles, our milk pump is Avent brand, our bottle caps, etc.  The only non-Avent milk item is the storage bags for frozen milk - those are Lanisoh, and that's because you pour it into a bottle before feeding baby.  We use Graco for baby seat and stroller, and honestly we picked it because John gave us a Graco seat.  Seats, strollers, car seat bases, etc. should all be one brand.  [JaNae says pumps are free if you give birth in a hospital - you'll have to ask her about that.]

  • New vs. Used
Buy second hand - lots and lots.  Except diapers.  Used diapers are worth the crap they're filled with.  There are just so many people willing to spend buckets of money for new, brand name, items, and the market for used clothes seems so small, the clothes resell for $0.10-$1.00 each, but initially cost from $5-$25 each.  And since baby grows so fast, they're often only worn a few times.  Especially the newborn clothes.  Very good condition.   [Christina says never buy a used pump - health concerns.]

Garage sales seem to have better prices, often 10 for $1 kinda things, but they are real hit or miss.  You might hit 10 garage sales and find no clothes.  We've done real well finding toys there.

Craigslist allows you to search real well and with pictures, you can see what you're getting before you go.  But you typically pay a bit more.

Consignment sales are great, but the price moves up.  Quality is usually better, the variety is great, and the prices more predictable.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Power supplies in an emergency - part 2

When choosing emergency power arrangements, first we must decide what we need power for.  How much power we need determines the size of the generator.  If you only need to power a fridge, some lights and fans, then power needs are low.  When you start adding the microwave, the stove, the laundry, the air conditioner, amperage grows pretty quick.

As I think about it, there are several levels of emergency power preparation.
Level 1 - Primitive
Battery power supply for flashlights, phones, radios, etc.
Camping supplies for emergency cooking.

Level 2 - Basic
We all have a generator which already creates electricity - our vehicles.  Simple inverters can be purchased for $20-$50 and generate power from the cigarette lighter outlet.  These inverters will typically have 1 or 2 outlets, and provide 1-10 amps of power. This is enough power for some lights, phone chargers, TV, laptops, etc.  Many basic inverters will also have USB outlets.  A fridge will not work on this circuit - most full size fridges require a dedicated 15 amp circuit.

Level 3 - Car Battery Power
In the $100 range, we find inverters that connect directly to a car battery terminal.  These can carry more power because they use a larger gauge wire than the cigarette lighter (the larger the wire, the larger the load it can safely carry).  At this point you start getting 15-20 amps of power.  In a pinch, you can run a fridge or other single appliance.  This will save your food, but will run little else at the same time.

A few things to bear in mind when using your vehicle.
- Your vehicle is designed to convert stored energy (fuel) into motion energy.  They are not particularly efficient at creating electrical energy.
- Since it has a battery, you can run the engine periodically to charge the battery rather than running the engine full time.
- When using the battery only, there is a risk of running the charge so low the car won't start.  I don't have enough experience to know how long the battery lasts or how to determine if the charge is running low.  Also, the charge is drawn down based on the imposed load.  Larger loads drain the battery faster.

Levels 4-6 - Generator
Up to this point, we've kept our cost down and used mostly equipment we already have and will use periodically.  Purchasing a generator is when we cross the line into true "emergency preparation".  There are several levels of generator size and connection to the house, depending on budget and plans.  It can be done incrementally.  Due to their cost, when purchasing a generator, it's important to have a long term goal set.  These goals include final total amperage loads, fuel source, portability/permanence.

Generators are designed to convert stored energy into electricity and consequently are much more efficient than using our vehicles.

Since the generator creates exhaust, they typically must be operated outdoors.  In emergencies, generators are a high theft item.  Heavy chains, locks, etc. will be required to protect your investment.

Part of what makes a generator useful is the ability to power your entire home.  This is also what makes them dangerous.  Depending on your particular skills, this means either personal research or professional consultation.  In short, when there is a power outage, there exists the possibility that a generator plugged into a home could backfeed power into the utility grid and kill a utility employee working to restore power.  Any plan to a generator plugged into the house systems needs to include provisions for isolating the house from the utility grid.  In theory, turning off the main breaker accomplishes this.  Do your own research or consult an electrician on this.

Level 4 - Generator with extension cords
Every generator has multiple outlets.  Generators typically have (2) 110 volt duplex circuits (2 duplex means 4 outlets) and (1) 220 volt circuit.  The simplest way to use a generator is to plug extension cords into the generator.  Use the thickest cords you have - a power cord's ability safely transmit electricity is directly related to thickness of the wires inside the cord.  Using too big a wire has no penalty, whereas too small a wire carries severe risk.  Undersized cords will overheat and melt the insulation protecting the wire.  There is a penalty for long wires too - called voltage drop.  That's a homework assignment you can research on your own.  In short, don't use cords any longer than you need to.

Level 5 - Generator plugged into the house
Using extension cords, you can plug a generator directly into your house and power any outlet in your home - this is called "backfeeding".  This is dangerous and needs caution.  Given the low cost of a transfer switch, this level should be skipped.  I'm not going to dwell on this other than to say it is a dangerous option.  I really only mention this to make sure you don't research and find this option and decide to do it willy-nilly.

Level 6 - Generator with a direct connection to the breaker panel
The final method is the safest method, and once complete, is the simplest method.  A transfer switch is inserted into the breaker portion of the system.  A transfer switch is designed specifically to protect utility employees working on the line and also designed to insert the generator power into the house supply.

When you do this, remember your generator has a limited capacity.  The best way to limit the imposed load is to turn off the breakers.  At a minimum, unplug devices from the outlets.  Air conditioners are probably not an option for most generators.  Air conditioners, stoves, and clothes dryers require 220 power - if you want any of these, make sure you specifically plan for it - not all generators can provide that power.

A neat little guide to figuring out your power needs -

A brief explanation of backfeeding power into the house -

Monday, November 4, 2013

Power supplies in an emergency - part 1

The preparatory explanation took much longer than anticipated, so I broke it up into separate posts.

Sunday morning, Christina and I were discussing purchasing an emergency generator as part of our emergency preparation.  Not everyone is as fortunate as mom and dad and able to incorporate back up generators into their house design, and so the rest of us need to plan for how to use our existing house in an emergency.  Fortunately, with a basic understanding of how your house is built, we can incorporate generators into our house.

First, a brief explanation of basic house design.  There is an outside power supply - the utility supply line.  It runs to a meter, then the "main breaker", then to a distribution panel full of smaller "circuit breakers".  
The main breaker serves as a master disconnect - a single place to break the power supply for the entire house.  On household breaker panels, it is typically physically location above the individual breakers and is rated for 100-400 amps.  From this, all your other circuits are powered.

The main breaker supplies (2) sets of 110 volt power.  This technical detail means that all 110 volt devices and outlets are connected on either circuit 1 or circuit 2.  Each circuit has multiple sub-circuits, represented by the various breakers.  If all the breakers are on - then the power can flow from one sub-circuit to another.   Any 220 volt devices (electric stove, dryer, air conditioner) straddles both circuits.
A few items are directly wired to their respective breaker, air conditioners, stoves, and laundry dryers typically are on a "dedicated" circuit, meaning there is only one outlet or device tied to that circuit.  Most outlets and devices are daisy-chained together to make a "circuit".

As a side note - you will notice, if you add up the breaker values of all the smaller breakers, they will total more than the main breaker.  Electric breakers are sized based on theoretical actual usage.  It is not likely any home will run the air conditioner, dryer, fridge, stove, and lights in every outlet at any given moment.  And on the smaller, 20 amp circuits, it is unlikely a homeowner will run enough lights, vacuums, etc. to overload a particular circuit at any given moment.

All circuits are complete circles - there is an "in" and "out" and the daisy-chain always returns the out to the utility supplier at some point - devices become part of that in and out by completing the physical circuit.  Until there is a complete circuit, there is no power in the lines.

Since everything is tied together at the breaker panel, that makes possible using a generator to power your home, i.e., by correctly inputting power into any outlet, all other outlets have access to that power.  There are some limitations which will be explained in later paragraphs.  There is negligible risk to overloading the circuits because a) there is no power in the wires until a device is actually turned on and b) the breakers will trip if the demanded load is too high.

A side note, it is technically safe to hold hot electrical wires, so long as there is no out.  Trouble is, there's virtually always an out somewhere.  The biggest out in the world is "ground" which literally means the dirt you stand on.  Literally.  The three prong outlets - the third prong is ground, a backup in case the out is broken somewhere, and that ground is usually right at the house.

When purchasing generators, the critical value to be concerned with is "amps".  All home devices use 110 (120) volts (devices like the dryer and air conditioner are using 220, but technically they are using two 110 power supplies - that's why they have one wire more than other devices).  Every device consumes a different amp load.  A toaster might use 3 amps, a light might use 0.5 amps, vacuum might use 4 amps, an air conditioner might use 40.  When enough devices are on the same circuit to push the amp load over the designed amount (usually 20 or 30) the breaker.

Generators are often sold in "watts" which is amps times volts.  Therefore, a 3,000 watt generator can produce up to 25 amps.  Once you determine the amp load you want (or your capacity), you can then decide the generator size.  There's no sense in purchasing a 6,000 watt generator, because generally your house doesn't have the capacity to receive 50 amps without modifications (assuming you won't plug other items directly into the generator, and as your home is safely designed and efficient system, I would recommend against that).  If you plan to eventually make the modifications, then you can go ahead and purchase the larger generator.

Wow . . . all that description, and we have not even started talking about the actual emergency preparation.  I suppose that gives me something else to write.  For next time.


Thursday, May 3, 2012

Man up and make decisions

May 3, 2012

Where does one start their blogging after a decade of work?  All that vast knowledge is begging to be distilled out onto a single page, each thought wanting to be the one that is shared with the world. 

Today's thought will be on spending money on behalf of the subcontractors.

For whatever reason, our artist was unable to get scaffolding for himself.  In an effort to keep the work moving, my company rented the equipment directly and are now fighting with the subcontractor about who should pay for it.  The actual problem is not who should pay for materials, but rather, when are we going to do out job as managers and settle disputes and conflicts?

When the subcontractor is fussing about money, whether legitimate or not, the time to settle it is right then and their.  There will always be awkward conversations and difficult decisions.  We can either make the decisions as they come along or kick the can further down the road. 

Man up, make decisions, and move forward.  Do not wait till everyone is filling liens and then wonder how to make them all go away before the VP shows up.