Sunday, December 31, 2006

Saddam Execution -full footage

We could have used him to wash our septic tanks.

Looks like this link has the ORIGINAL 3gp from phone.

Monday, December 25, 2006


Drinking lots of soda and juicy drinks could make kids obese, says a new US study. The finding comes from a study of 154 girls seen every two years since age five by Alison K. Ventura and other researchers at Pennsylvania State University.

By age 13, 14 per cent of the girls already showed high risk of developing metabolic syndrome—a cluster of ominous risk factors that indicate a person could be headed toward heart disease, stroke, or Type 2 diabetes. These girls were at or near the danger level for three metabolic syndrome risk factors—big waistline, high blood pressure, and a low level of good HDL cholesterol. Their parents tended to be more obese and to have more obesity-related health problems than other parents. Indeed, the high-risk girls gained more weight—and gained weight faster—than other girls.

However, the only significant difference in their diet was that, at young ages, they drank more sugary beverages than other girls. “We found the highest risk group was consuming more servings of these sweetened beverages at age five to nine, compared to other groups,” Ventura was quoted as saying. “At the later ages it was more soda, but in the earlier ages it was things like 10 per cent fruit juices, sports drinks, and flavoured beverages with added sugar.”

Olive oil help prevent cancer

Adding plenty of olive oil to your diet could protect you from cancer, suggests a new study. Olive oil contains a number of compounds, called phenols, which are believed to act as powerful antioxidants. Scientists led by Henrik Poulsen at the Copenhagen University Hospital looked at 182 healthy men aged between 20 and 60 from five European countries.

They found that those who had 25 millilitres of olive oil per day had reduced levels of a substance, which indicates cell damage. The scientists added either virgin, common or refined olive oil to their diets over two weeks. At the end of the study, scientists measured levels of the substance, which indicates oxidative damage to cells, called 8oxodG, in the men’s urine.

Oxidative damage is a process whereby the metabolic balance of a cell is disrupted by exposure to substances that result in the accumulation of freeradicals, which can then damage the cell. The men were found to have around 13 per cent less 8oxodG compared with their levels at the beginning of the study. “This data may explain why many cancer rates are higher in northern Europe than the south, where olive oil is a major part of the diet,” the scientists said. “Although this study suggests that olive oil can reduce DNA damage that could lead to the development of cancer, more long-term research is needed to confirm these effects,” Anthea Martin, science information officer at Cancer Research UK, said.

Elephant killing man-Caught on tape

This type of behavior is usually cased by provocative actions from human beings.As such,elephants are very calm and intelligent animals.Family bond between elephants is well known of. Keeping elephants in captivity, under bad conditions is the only factor that leads to such horrible behavior[apart from diseases ] like this. [Elephants have been successfully domesticated in Indonesia and South Asia for business purposes]

Friday, December 01, 2006


There are many issues in using RFIDs - each of which will need time and focus to resolve:

* Tag choice and affixing method (some tags are not readable through liquids)
* Reader/Tag interaction - acceptable reading distances can be up to 2m (7 feet)
* Antenna design and spacing - where are the antennas in relation to the package
* Rate of movement and quantity of tags - readers use special anti-collision software to identify different tags in their viewing area
* Choice of Middleware - the software used to manage the flow of data from readers and integrate with back-end systems
* Integration into the Global EPC database structure, using open source systems such as Savant to link to the "home" database for the product
* Integration into existing back-end management and inventory systems
* Sheer quantity of data if every item is tagged - puts pressure on databases and network components

RFID Frequencies

125 KHz to 148 KHz

This frequency range was the RFID industry's first, since the early 1980's. Typical applications include:

Access Control & Security
Identifying widgets through manufacturing processes or in harsh environments
Ranch animal identification (ISO 11784/11785)
OEM applications

Tags are made of a hard copper coil and eeprom chip then packaged into a housing appropriate for the application.

Tags can cost from $1 to $75, highly dependent upon quantity and packaging. The more robust a Tag is, the higher its cost. Less expensive Tags are typically flimsy and will not survive harsh environments. Custom Tags, the tooling of eeprom silicon wafers specific to an application, can result in a Tag price of 20 to 30 cents, in quantities of millions.

Read ranges are typically inches to several feet.

Although Tags can be placed on metal and imbedded into metal with some loss of performance, the KHz spectrum is the most adaptive to a metal environment. No RFID Tag can read through metal.

13.56 MHz

In an effort to lower Tag cost and address applications of high quantity Tags usage, the 13.56 MHz solution was born. At this frequency, a Tag's coil need not be made of hard copper wrappings. The coil can actually be a printed ink on a paper like substrate which than has an eeprom added to it. During the mid to late 1990's, 13.56 MHz was the vogue technology that many experts saw as a path to addressing high quantity applications necessitating low Tag costs. Typical applications include:

Library books
Laundry identification
Access Control
OEM applications

Typical Tag costs range from 50 cents to $1 unpackaged. Tag prices can dip to the 20 cent level if custom eeprom silicon can be committed to by the user.

Read range are typically inches to several feet.

Metal poses a serious source of interference and loss of performance. Mounting Tags on metal can pose very challenging. The

advent of 915 MHz technologies and new manufacturing capabilities at the 125 KHz spectrum have lowered the anticipated explosion of 13.56 MHz as an accepted technology, however 13.56 MHz will always have its niche applications especially in the OEM market.

915 MHz

Since the early 2000's, 915 MHz has been all the rage, the vogue technology of frequent press bringing the RFID industry into a global limelight, the epicenter of development efforts and dollars. Tags at this frequency also need not incorporate a hard copper coil. Coils are also much less difficult to manufacture versus 13.56 MHz and 125 KHz, which is not its only advantage. Hundreds or even thousands of Tags can be identified at the same time, a term known as anti-collision, at much greater distances, 10' with a single Reader Antenna and 20' between two Reader Antennas. Although Tag costs can be lower also even at the most moderate of quantities versus 13.56 MHz and 125 KHz, there continues to be much debate as to whether the industry can deliver a sub 10 cent Tag. As of this writing, Tags in moderate quantities can be purchased for 50 cents and quantities into the millions can be purchased in the 30 cent range.

The primary application envisioned is supply chain tracking. The ability to identify hundreds of objects on a pallet through dock doors from manufacturing to warehouse to delivery at a retail level spells huge ROI in terms of wasted dollars in inventory, wasted sales due to lack of inventory, and the hands free/human free automation of identifying what is where.

There will undoubtedly be more applications in the future that 915 MHz can address, like airline baggage for example, there is one chief disadvantage to 915 MHz, the interference of liquids. A Tag that normally reads at 10' will exhibit range of almost zero when placed in the shirt pocket of a user. Why, the liquid in the human body. Although a UHF spectrum, the same deficiencies as that of the microwave spectrum are present.

Active Tags at 433 MHz and 2.45 GHz

Active Tags possess a battery thus powering a Tag with greater energy and signal strength and achieving greater distances. Tag costs are higher, $20 to $70, primarily due to the additional discrete electronic components necessary and the low quantity of Tags demanded by applications. Typical applications include:

Highway toll Tags
Identification of private vehicle fleets in/out of a yard or facility
Asset tracking

Read ranges are typically 30', however custom systems can read hundreds of feet to 1 mile although these types of systems are not commercially marketed.

Having a battery, Tags do possess a finite life, 5 years typical.

Metal poses only a nominal interference factor.

RFID Competing Technologies

RFID evolved as an attempt to provide a better alternative to bar code labels used extensively in products tracking. RFID thus has many inherent advantages over barcodes.

Radio contact as required in RFID does away with the need of direct line of sight as required in bar codes. Moreover, with the capabilities of both read/write over the conventional read only, and the ability to store data and place RFID tags inside packing or embedding within products provides usage of RFID with many unique advantages.

Given these advantages the question may arise why then RFID tags are not ubiquitous despite Wal Mart~Rs mandate that its top 100 suppliers should put radio frequency identification (RFID) tags on all pallets and cases they ship to its distribution centers and stores.

The answer lies partly in the hue and cry surrounding the privacy issues related to the RFID and partly in the high cost of RFID tags as compared to bar code labels. But with efforts already on to counter the privacy threats and to reduce the cost of RFID tags, it should not be long when we will see RFID starts displacing bar en masse.

RFID Security

Through RFID In the near future, every single object will be connected to the Internet through a wireless address and unique identifier, was quipped by the global head of life science and consumer product industries at Sun Microsystems Inc.

Certainly feels impressive, and let me just help your imagination by setting a perfect scenario.

You are sitting at your home watching television on a Sunday afternoon, and you know that your television is connected to the internet. Your couch, table even your dining set is connected to the internet. That is great for the automation!? Now, imagine your shirt, jeans, even your undergarments connected to the internet! It is only a futuristic setup, but the privacy implications of RFID are equivalent in any application of RFID.

The basic privacy concerns associated with an RFID system is the ability of ubiquitous tracking of anybody without consent. And with RFID tags getting smaller and smaller, it is now even possible to hide tags in such a way that the consumer may be unaware of the presence of tags.

For example, the tags may be sewn up within garment, or molded within plastic or rubber. To the extent that researchers have already developed tiny coded beads invisible to human eye that can be embedded in inks to tag currency and other documents, or added to substances like automobile paint, explosives, or other products that law enforcement officers or retailers have a strong interest in tracking. Researchers say that the technology should be ready for commercial use in 3-6 years.

In summary we can note the following ways in which RFIDs can be used to bypass personal privacy:

* By placing RFID tags hidden from eyes, and using it for stealth tracking.
* Using the unique identifiers provided by RFID for profiling and identifying consumer pattern and behavior.
* Using hidden readers for stealth tracking and getting personal information.

With all these privacy concerns, there is bound to be some effort to thwart such attempt at privacy and maintain the popularity of RFIDs. Researches at various places have yielded the following methods of avoiding above-mentioned attacks.

* RSA Blocker Tags: These tags are similar in size and appearance to RFID tags, helps in maintaining the privacy of consumer by ~Sspamming~T any reader that attempts to scan tags without the right authorization, thus confusing the reader to believe that there are many tags in its proximity.
* Kill Switches: Newer RFID tags are being shipped with a ~SKill Switch~T, which will allow the RFID tags to be disabled. Thus a consumer will be given an option of disabling the RFID tag before leaving the store, thus avoiding the possibility of stealth tracking and profiling.

RFID Applications

There are two main area of applications, defined broadly as proximity (short range) and vicinity (long range).

Long range or vicinity applications can generally be described as track and trace applications, but the technology provides additional functionality and benefits for product authentication.

RFID enables greater automation of data collection process. Most companies spend considerable effort in knowing whats in their warehouse. RFID will help them dig deeper and much more easily, tracking to the detail of even each unit, long after it has left the factory or warehouse.

RFID allows all this data to be transferred securely. Companies use independent suppliers, data from each of them can be carried on tags and uploaded to the Company's central system.

Imagine the control that the Company will have on a product's life cycle. The creation of sucesses and defeats can be better understood. There have been numerous instances when companies had to recall the entire product due to a fault in a minor component. Imagine the costs involved in recalling a whole car for a mistake in the AC system! RFIDs can make such recalls much more focussed.

There would be better data about post production performance. A car could have individually tagged components. Data could be collected everywhere, accident sites, repair shops, even the garage.Even inside the factory, tags could enable faster and focussed fault tracing.

The Just in Time(JIT) practice followed by many companies, where components are used when they are delivered and delivered just before being needed, can lead to out of stock situations. RFID will eliminate the problem.

The eventual aim of RFID in retail and manufacturing ~W eliminate the intermediary. A perfect supply chain would require no distribution center. Products would be delivered directly from the factory to the retail center.

Some other areas where passive RFID has been applied in recent past are:

* Person Identification
* Food Production Control
* Vehicle Parking Monitoring
* Toxic Waste Monitoring
* Valuable Objects Insurance Identification
* Asset Management
* Access Control

Short range or proximity applications are typically access control applications. Some main areas are:

* Access control
* Mass transit ticketing

RFID Standards

Standards are critical in RFID. Be it payment systems or tracking goods in open supply chains. A great deal of work has been going on to develop standards for different RFID fequencies and applications.

RFID standards deal with the following:-

* Air Interface Protocol - The way tags and readers communicate
* Data Content - Organizing of data
* Conformance - Tests that products meet the standard
* Applications - How applications are used

The way the world has gone about developing the standards is a bit complex. There are two major and somewhat conflicting organizations into the business - ISO and Auto-ID Centre (now handled by EPC Global). Without going too much into the conflict, we'll review the standards proposed by both these organizations.

Tags are required to be disposable (manufacturer may not get the tags back from the retailer to reuse it). Hence, the primary mission for any standard developer is to make the tags low cost. It should operate in UHF, as only UHF delivers read range needed for supply chain applications. And since the goods are needed to be tracked as they move across the globe, the standards must be open and globally accepted. There should also be an accompanying network architecture, which would enable anyone to look up information associated with a serial number stored on a tag. The network too needs to be based on open standards.

EPC standards for tags are the class 0 and class 1 tags:

* Class 1: a simple, passive, read-only backscatter tag with one-time, field-programmable non-volatile memory.
* Class 0: read-only tag that was programmed at the time the microchip was made

Class 1 and Class 0 have a couple of shortcomings, in addition to the fact that they are not interoperable. One issue is that they are incompatible with ISO standards. The new EPC standard ~V Gen2 is designed to be fast tracked with ISO standards but for some disagreements over the 8 bit Application Family Identifier (AFI).

ISO has developed RFID standards for automatic identification and item management. This standard, known as the ISO 18000 series, covers the air interface protocol for systems likely to be used to track goods in the supply chain. They cover the major frequencies used in RFID systems around the world.

The seven parts are:

1. 18000~V1: Generic parameters for air interfaces for globally accepted frequencies
2. 18000~V2: Air interface for 135 KHz
3. 18000~V3: Air interface for 13.56 MHz
4. 18000~V4: Air interface for 2.45 GHz
5. 18000~V5: Air interface for 5.8 GHz
6. 18000~V6: Air interface for 860 MHz to 930 MHz
7. 18000~V7: Air interface at 433.92 MHz

RFID Technology and Architecture

Before RFID can be understood completely, it is essential to understand how Radio Frequency communication occurs.

RF (Radio Frequency) communication occurs by the transference of data over electromagnetic waves. By generating a specific electromagnetic wave at the source, its effect can be noticed at the receiver far from the source, which then identifies it and thus the information.

In an RFID system, the RFID tag which contains the tagged data of the object generates a signal containing the respective information which is read by the RFID reader, which then may pass this information to a processor for processing the obtained information for that particular application.

Thus, an RFID System can be visualized as the sum of the following three components:

* RFID tag or transponder
* RFID reader or transceiver
* Data processing subsystem

An RFID tag is composed of an antenna, a wireless transducer and an encapsulating material. These tags can be either active or passive. While the active tags have on-chip power, passive tags use the power induced by the magnetic field of the RFID reader. Thus passive tags are cheaper but with lower range (<10mts) and more sensitive to regulatory and environmental constraints, as compared to active tags.

An RFID reader consists of an antenna, transceiver and decoder, which sends periodic signals to inquire about any tag in vicinity. On receiving any signal from a tag it passes on that information to the data processor.

The data processing subsystem provides the means of processing and storing the data.

RFID systems can also be differentiated based on the frequency range it uses. The common ranges are Low-Frequency (LF: 125 - 134.2 kHz and 140 - 148.5 kHz), High-Frequency (HF: 13.56 MHz) and Ultra-High-Frequency (UHF: 868 MHz - 928 MHz).

Low-frequency systems have short reading ranges and lower system costs. They are most commonly used in security access, asset tracking, and animal identification applications. High-frequency systems, offering long read ranges (greater than 90 feet) and high reading speeds, are used for such applications as railroad car tracking and automated toll collection. However, the higher performance of high-frequency RFID systems incurs higher system costs.

Introduction to RFID

The following series of post is related to RFID. Hope this helps you.

A quick review of contents on this RFID tutorial is here:


Of all the things that radio frequency identification technology was supposed to do for retailers--simplifying inventory management and supply chain issues, for instance--creating a new type of theft wasn't one of them. But that is exactly what could happen, and a German information security consultant can prove it. Consider the following scenario.

A would-be scofflaw heads into a grocery store where all the products have RFID tags on them. Rather than paying $7 for a bottle of shampoo, he'd rather pay $3. To make that happen, he whips out a PDA equipped with an RFID reader and scans the tag on the shampoo. He replaces that information with data from the tag on a $3 carton of milk and uploads it to the shampoo bottle tag. When he reaches the check-out stand--which just happens to be automated--he gets charged $3 instead of $7, with the store's computer systems none the wiser.

Lukas Grunwald, the German consultant, says this is not only possible, he's done it. That is, he's changed the information on the RFID tag. He didn't actually steal anything. To prove his point and let others learn about RFID tag security, he's created a free software program called RFDump that is the result of a few years of research into RFID. He presented his findings and announced the release of the software at the Black Hat Security Briefings conference in Las Vegas today.

"There is a huge danger to customers using this technology, if they don't think about security," Grunwald says.

This kind of disclosure--complete with a software release that could potentially be misused--is not unusual for Black Hat, a gathering where IT security pros talk frankly about the latest in computer security problems and how to solve them. But don't put your Luddite hat back on just yet.

Companies like Wal-Mart Stores (nyse: WMT - news - people ) and Target (nyse: TGT - news - people ) are slowly embracing RFID as the next great boost to their supply chains. But they, like most companies, aren't yet tagging individual items, which is what Grunwald hacked at a store belonging to the Metro retail chain. Instead, they are putting RFID tags only on large cases and shipping pallets until the cost of item-level tagging comes down. A Wal-Mart spokesman says there is no price information on its pallet tags.

Albrecht Truchsess, a spokesman for Metro, says the company is now creating item-level tags for three products: cream cheese from Kraft Foods (nyse: KFT - news - people ), Pantene Shampoo from Procter & Gamble (nyse: PG - news - people ) and razor blades from Gillette (nyse: G - news - people ). He also says that since the tags are being tested only at Metro's Future Store, a demonstration project bringing together several new retail technologies, their security isn't strong by design.

"What we're doing in the Future Store is using the RFID tags for smart-shelf applications," says Truchsess, referring to shelves that track what has been placed on them. "And the sort of tags we're using are very basic. It's really just a test right now."

Metro expects it will take ten years or more before all store items have their own RFID tags on a regular basis. "The ones we're using now cost about 30 or 40 cents each," says Truchsess. "More secure tags are too expensive right now."

Pete Abell, an RFID consultant at Boston-based EPCGroup, says that as stores adopt the technology beyond the test phase, any shopper who brought his own RFID reader into a store would likely be detected. Secondly, he says, tags on products would be programmed to respond only to authorized readers. Finally, he says, the industry is working on stronger encryption than what is available now. "Currently there's only 8-bit encryption available, and that is pretty easy to get around," he says. "And in this case I doubt even that was in place."

Introduction to RFID

Radio frequency identification (RFID) is a general term that is used to describe a system that transmits the identity (in the form of a unique serial number) of an object wirelessly, using radio waves.

RFID technologies are grouped under the more generic Automatic Identification(Auto ID) technologies.

The barcode labels that triggered a revolution in identification systems long time ago, are inadequate in an increasing number of cases. They are cheap but the stumbling block is their low storage capacity and the fact that they cannot be reprogrammed.

A feasible solution was putting the data on silicon chips. The ideal situation is contactless transfer of data between the data carrying device and its reader. The power required to operate the electronic data carrying device would also be transferred from the reader using contactless technology. These procedures give RFID its name.

One grand commercial vision for RFID is to change the way demand-supply chain moves. In the current almost stone-age scenario, manufacturer produces goods based on forecasts and hopes all of them will be consumed before the shelf life gets them. Good, if the market is consistent. Horrible, if a sudden surge makes the supply fall short and hence everyone in the chain miss on profits. Disastrous, if demand dies suddenly and losses are passed along the chain.

In a not so distant future, RFID enabled stores will monitor the consumption in real time. Shelf will signal the inventory when it needs more stuff and inventory will pull supplies from the manufacturer based on its level of stock.

Simple concept, not-so-difficult implementation and revolutionary results in the pipeline. Thats RFID, in short.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Women truly talk too much

They Get A Buzz From Hearing Their Own Voice, Say Researchers

As a motivational speaker and executive coach, Caroline Adams Miller knows a few things about using mental exercises to achieve goals. But last year, one exercise she was asked to try took her by surprise.
Every night, she was to think of three good things that happened that day and analyse why they occurred. That was supposed to increase her overall happiness. “I thought it was too simple to be effective,” said Miller, of Bethesda, Maryland. “I went to Harvard. I’m used to things being complicated.”
But she benefited from it. “The quality of my dreams has changed, I never have trouble falling asleep and I do feel happier,” she said.
Results may vary, as they say in the weight-loss ads. But that exercise is one of several that have shown preliminary promise in recent research into how people can make themselves happier — not just for a day or two, but long-term.
There’s no shortage of advice in how to become a happier person, as a visit to any bookstore will demonstrate. In fact. The problem is, most of the books on store shelves aren’t backed up by rigorous research, says Sonja Lyubomirsky, a psychologist at the University of California, Riverside, who’s conducting such studies now. In fact, she says, there has been very little research in how people become happier.
For decades, a widely accepted view has been that people are stuck with a basic setting on their happiness thermostat. It says the effects of good or bad life events like marriage, a raise, divorce, or disability will simply fade with time. As two researchers put it in 1996, “It may be that trying to be happier is as futile as trying to be taller.” But recent long-term studies have revealed that the happiness thermostat is more malleable than the popular theory maintained, at least in its extreme form. “Setpoint is not destiny,” says psychologist Ed Diener of the University of Illinois.
One new study showing change in happiness levels followed thousands of Germans for 17 years. It found that about a quarter changed significantly over that time in their level of satisfaction with life. Other studies show an effect of specific events, though of course the results are averages and can’t predict what will happen to particular individuals.

Choosing the Right Heating and Cooling System for Your Home

Shopping for heating and cooling equipment can be very confusing. There are so many options to choose from, and so many variables to consider. Beware of contractors that offer to sell you more capacity than you need.

Although, more capacity may seem like a good idea, a system that is “too big” will heat or cool your home too quickly. This is known as “short cycling” Short cycling can cause premature wear and tear, inadequate dehumidification and a reduced product life. Choosing the right equipment depends on several key variables:


The number of heating and cooling hours required, (this may vary and depend on the part of the country you live).

The size and thermal efficiency of your home.

The age of your home.

How your home faces the sun.

Your floor plan.

The cost of fuel in your area.

Repair or Replace

When your existing unit breaks down, the decision to replace or repair it can be difficult. There are many factors to consider and your Westinghouse dealer will present you the advantages and disadvantages of repairing or replacing your unit. Here are some of the things to consider before making a decision:


What is the cost of the repair vs. the replacement?

What is the age and efficiency of the existing unit vs. the efficiency of a new unit? Your dealer can help you calculate your approximate energy savings based on your current energy costs.

Warranty coverage should be a factor in your decision.

How long you plan to stay in your present home.

Careful consideration of all these factors can help you come to the best decision.

What you should know

One of the most expensive appliances you will ever purchase for a home is a central heating or cooling system. Finding the right system for your home is largely dependent upon the contractor you choose.

The advantage of having a central air conditioning system is that it can distribute cool air through the whole house as opposed to window units, which are generally designed to cool a single room. Despite larger, up-front costs, a central cooling system can still save you money by reducing your monthly utility bill.


If new or modified ductwork is required, your initial investment will rise.

Central air conditioning units vary in size and efficiency. A common, costly error is to install an oversized unit in your home.

A good contractor will estimate the cooling loads and duct requirements by collecting detailed information in your home, and using calculations to determine the correct size for your home.

Air conditioner sizes, (also referred to as cooling capacities) are measured in British thermal units per hour (BTU). One ton is equal to 12,000 BTU. A unit that has too little capacity may not keep an entire house cool. Oversized units cost more and are more expensive to operate.

A unit's energy consumption is rated by the Standard Energy Efficiency Rating, (SEER). The higher the SEER rating the less energy is required to operate the unit. Ratings can range from 13 to 18 SEER.

Units with a 13 SEER rating are typically installed in new homes and as replacement models.

According to a survey of over 500 contractors, a rating from 13 to 14 SEER are mostly recommended, because they are the least expensive to own and require the least repairs.

There are different models, sizes and efficiencies available on the market. The type of unit, (a split system versus a single-packaged unit) may depend on the region of the country you live in.

The type of unit will also depend on the type of home you live in (e.g., basement house, slab foundation, crawl space, etc). Regardless of the type of central air conditioner you install, the size and efficiency can have the most impact on your costs.

The most expensive part of an air conditioner to replace is the compressor.

Using a programmable thermostat with your cooling system can save you money and energy consumption while you are away from your home, and deliver a comfortable temperature when you arrive.

What you should do if you are wondering whether you should turn off the air conditioner and open a window to enjoy a break in weather:


Never, continuously turn on and off your air conditioner to adjust to the changing weather patterns outside.

If you want to open a window for fresh air, it is better to leave your air conditioner on.

If the inside of your home becomes hot and humid, you will have to turn the air conditioner back on, and your air conditioner has to work harder to cool down your home and everything in it.

Over 500 contractors surveyed

A top leading consumer magazine recently surveyed over 500 contractors and reported the following tips on purchasing a central air cooling system:


Choose the right-sized air conditioning system. If it is too small, then it won't cool properly; if it is too large, then it won't dehumidify properly.

Invest in a 13-14 SEER model, because of their combined performance in increased energy efficiency and product reliability.

Beware of replacing only one part of a split system. (indoor and outdoor matched components), because it may result in poor performance in efficiency, and may be repair-prone. Replace the entire system.

Look for an experienced contractor. One-fifth of the contractors surveyed said the primary reason for their service calls are due to improper application or incorrect installation.

Maintain your system properly. At least 40 percent of surveyed contractors said that service calls were primarily the result of improper maintenance.


Buying an air conditioner: All you need to know

What type of air conditioner do you need?

There are two different kinds of air conditioning systems out there: a unit air conditioner, and a central cooling system. What's the difference? A unit air conditioner is the big box you put in your window, and a central cooling system hooks your entire house up to one system, and each room gets cooled through vents. Guess which one is more expensive?

It's the best kind to get if you live in a small house, apartment or studio, or if you've just added an extra room on the house and don't want to hook an entire system up to it. It's also cheaper (usually costing in the $150 - $250 range if you get it on sale, but more about that later). If you have a relatively large house that you want to get cooled quickly with the flick of a button, then you might want to consider getting a central cooling system, but this can cost you thousands of dollars. Click here to read more about the process of installing a central cooling system.

Where do you need an air conditioner?

OK, so let's assume that you decided to get a unit air conditioner. Good choice, friend. The first thing you need to do is select the room in which to install the unit. Be aware that if you select a room that is connected to an adjacent space through an open door or archway, the two rooms together constitute one room when trying to buy an air conditioner. Interpretation: you will have to purchase an air conditioner efficient enough to circulate air sufficiently for the size of both rooms together. Keep this in mind when you measure how many square feet the air conditioner is going to keep cool.

Also, remember that cool air does not travel around corners, so don't expect to place an air conditioner in a curving hallway and keep your bedroom at the other end of the hall at 65°F. It won't work.

Measure the room and window

It's important to measure your selected room (or rooms) VERY carefully. Why? Because 90% of your decision-making process involves the size of the room that you want to keep cool. So measure the entire room once, twice, or even three times to get it right. Write down the height, width, and length of the room.

You also have to measure the dimensions of the window in which the unit will be placed. How embarrassed would you be if you spend all this time to get an air conditioner only to find out that it doesn't fit in the window? Furthermore, some brands don't list the precise dimensions of their air conditioners on the units themselves, so you should bring a measuring tape and measure it yourself. If you're a guy, you're probably already used to measuring your unit, so this shouldn't present a problem (we couldn't resist).


unit, built-in window, and split system.

* Window unit:
The window unit is (usually) easy to install into any standard double-hung window. It should offer multiple cooling options (low - high). This is the kind that most people get because it's the cheapest; you just stick it in a window and hope it doesn't fall on anyone below.
Cost: $250-$800
Weight: approximately 120 lbs.

* Built-in window:
The built-in window again can be installed into any standard double-hung window, or it can even be installed right into your wall. This unit offers heat/cool and cooling with heat pump features as well as the standard cooling options. It's fancier than the standard window unit and it does more stuff, but it also usually consumes more energy (leading to higher electric bills).
Cost: $500-$800
Weight: approx. 90 lbs.

* Split system:
The split system provides an outside air compressor option for quiet cooling (this type won't unexpectedly hiss at you, causing you to drop your coffee in your lap). But these almost always have to be professionally installed, adding to the cost.
Cost: $300-$1,000
Weight: approx. 70 lbs.

All of the above types are typically run at 115 Volts or 230/208. Either will work just fine in almost any outlet. Select the type that best accommodates your needs and the type of room in which it will be located. Most people find that the window unit is plenty, so we suggest that you go along with that.

, it's a good idea to check out Consumer Reports or some other product-rating publication so you know which models are recommended based on what you're considering buying. Don't select a no-name brand without researching it or you won't know what kind of quality and durability you're getting. If you aren't interested in hunting down air conditioner brand ratings, then pick a brand you already trust, such as General Electric, Amana, Sharp, or Whirlpool.

Now you're ready to go to the store. To find one, we suggest that you look in your newspaper for air conditioners that are on sale and see what else they have in stock. We also recommend that you go to a "superstore" that specializes in selling appliances such as air conditioners (they tend to have the best people on staff to help you… in fact, they're super). And most importantly, don't forget to bring your room dimensions along with you.

Btus and EERs

Once you arrive at the store, the first thing you should look at are the air conditioner's Btus and EERs.

* Watch your Btus. The first thing you're going to come across when you go a/c shopping is the term "Btus." Here's what it means: every air conditioner has a cooling capacity number that ranges from 5,000 to 18,000 Btus. The higher the Btu value, the stronger the air conditioner is. (For the people out there interested in such things, "Btu" stands for "British thermal units.")

"Oh, then I should get an air conditioner with the most Btus possible, right?" NO. Believe it or not, it is possible for an air conditioner to be too powerful (even on its lowest setting). Furthermore, the more Btus an a/c has, the more it costs. Btus are the best indicator of what air conditioner you should buy, so carefully figure out what you're looking for. The smaller the room, the fewer Btus needed. There are two methods to figuring out how many Btus you need:

1. Find the square footage of the room (multiply its length and width). Then check out this chart to see where you fall.

2. Find the square footage of the room, and multiply the answer by 35. That'll get you in the right ballpark.

Here's an example: Let's say your apartment is 12' x 15'. So that's 180 square feet. Using method (1), you know that you should be looking for an air conditioner in the low 6,000 Btus. Using method (2), you are recommended to get an air conditioner with about 6,300 Btus (180 X 35).

In addition, you should follow the following guidelines for proper selection:
o If the room is shaded, reduce the Btus by 10%.
o If the room is very sunny, increase the Btus by 10%.
o If you plan on placing the air conditioning unit in your kitchen, add 4,000 Btus.
o If more than two people will regularly be in the room (e.g., an office), add 600 Btus per person.

* Find the EER number for each unit. "EER" stands for "Energy Efficiency Ratio." Air conditioners with high EERs are good, because they cost less to operate. Unfortunately, they're also more expensive, so you have to find a balance. Air conditioners' EERs usually range from 8.2 to 10.5. So if you're going to have your air conditioner on 24/7 and you're planning on keeping it for a couple of years, then it's worthwhile to get an a/c with a high EER. If you only need an air conditioner to last you through the summer (and you're planning on being at the beach most of the time anyway), get an air conditioner with a low EER.

Here are some other things to think about when purchasing your air conditioner:

* Warranty: Perhaps the most important feature of all, particularly if you have a history of bad luck with electronics. Be sure that your air conditioner comes with at least a one-year warranty that covers labor and parts on the entire unit. This way, if something breaks down, you can return it and get a new one or send it in to be serviced free of charge. Some stores even offer an extended warranty plan (typically covering four to five years instead of just one) for an extra fee. This may be a smart purchase if your electronics always seem to break right after the one-year mark.

* Temperature range: If it spans less than 20° (e.g. 68°-86°F), it may not be sufficient for your needs, particularly if you live in a hot, arid climate such as Hell. Or Florida.

* Temperature increments: Be sure that the temperature can be incremented in notches of 1°-2°. This allows for greater precision and prevents electricity waste. If you have the cash, get an air conditioner with a digital system (as opposed to a dial), because it allows greater precision.

* Sleep setting/Energy saver switch: Some unit air conditioners have a sleep setting so that at night when you are sleeping, the air conditioner slows the cooling process to a minimum, saving money and energy.

* Slide-out filter: Every unit air conditioner has a filter that must be cleaned. Save yourself an immense hassle and get a slide-out filter air conditioner, not a frame-enclosed one. The slide-out filters are easy to remove and re-install.

* Fan speed settings: How many fan speeds are offered on the unit? The more settings available, the better the energy saving will be (and the more choices you have).

* Installation: Make sure your unit air conditioner comes with installation directions. There's nothing worse than getting the thing home and suddenly realizing you have no idea what you should do with it. If you have any questions about the installation process, definitely ask a store employee for advice before you leave and attempt it yourself. Some air conditioners require that you drill holes into walls, bricks, or your sister. It would be nice to be aware of such things in advance.

Also, make sure to bring a friend with you to help carry the air conditioner and install it once you buy it . . . they're heavy!


Unfortunately, your job isn't over once you've bought your unit air conditioner. You have to make sure to get your air conditioner serviced regularly or it will lose around 5% of its efficiency every year. Maintaining your air conditioner routinely will prevent you from having to spend cash later on to fix all the parts that have gone sour (aren't you glad you got an extended warranty?). It can also help you avoid irritating allergic reactions caused by dust.

Here's what you have to do to give your a/c a long lifespan:

* Clean and change your filters often and keep stuff away from the unit's mechanism to keep it running at optimal efficiency.

* When you plan to be away from home for the day, turn your air conditioner on a low setting (or even better, turn it off). It will ultimately save you up to $50 per year if you are conscious about doing this every time you leave your home.

* Make sure that your room has tight seals around every window and door. This will maximize the energy efficiency of your home during both the summer and winter months, particularly when you're using your air conditioner.

* ESPECIALLY make sure that you seal off the edges of the window where the air conditioner rests. Use foam, cardboard and duct tape, a dog, whatever you can get your hands on to make sure that the cool air blowing out the air conditioner doesn't escape right out the window.

Good luck, and stay cool.

Attract birds to your garden.

Generally, most gardeners will choose the plants for their garden based on color, fragrance, or any number of other criteria. While a garden devoted solely to flowers whose seeds attract birds may be out of the question in your overall scheme of things, you should at least consider adding a few "song bird plants". Shrubs, annuals, perennials, native and cultivated plants can all be used to attract such birds. If it is possible, grow a couple plants from each of the following groups, to provide seeds and fruits for all seasons.
Once your birds have become accustomed to eating in your yard, they will develop a certain dependency on you and your garden. When the winter months roll around, natural food will become scarcer. Provide plenty of seed, fruits or suet during these times to keep your feathered friends around your yard, and happy!
When it is at all possible, a water supply should be included into your garden plan. This is easily accomplished by the inclusion of a birdbath, which gives them the water they need and enjoy.

Flowering Dogwoods
Flowering Dogwoods are one of our most common understory trees. Understory means that it grows beneath taller trees.

This small tree grows about 30 feet tall. Its trunk usually isn't more than eight inches wide. The trunk is also short, with many spreading branches.

Flowering Dogwood leaves grow up to five inches long and 2 1/2 inches wide. They are green with short stalks. Underneath they are pale green.

Flowering Dogwood leaves turn bright red in the Fall.

American Holly
American Holly is a small tree or large shrub which is very easy to identify. It grows up to 60 feet tall, but is usually much smaller.

American Holly leaves are dark green, tough, and leathery. Sometimes they are very shiny. Underneath, they are yellowish-green. Holly leaves have several "prickles" on the edges.

The flowers of American Holly are small and white. They usually bloom from April to June.

American holly is dioecious, meaning there are male plants with only male blossoms, and female plants with only female blossoms. One male can pollenize several females, but berries will not set without pollen from the male. Bees are also required, as wind pollination is negligible.

American holly is often planted as an ornamental plant and is a popular Christmas decoration.

Eastern Red Cedar
There is not much green in the winter landscape of the Great Plains. In fact Kansas has only one native evergreen tree. It is called the Eastern Red Cedar. All other native trees in Kansas lose their foliage in the winter, so they do not provide much shelter from winter weather. Thus the Eastern Red Cedar becomes a vital source of shelter for many birds and mammals when it gets real cold and nasty.


If you take a close look at one in winter, you may notice several things:
If you are looking at a female, you will find little blue balls on the branches. These are the fruits of the tree. Smash one between your fingers and you will notice a pungent odor as well as finding one to four seeds inside. Does this smell like something you would like to eat? If you see any birds eating these berries, you will notice that they don't exactly savor the sauce, but just gobble the little treats down. The seeds pass on through the bird's gut unharmed and are "planted" elsewhere as they move about. This is a typical method that plants use to scatter their seeds. Virtually all the cedars growing in pastures get planted this way.

A careful inspection will reveal the female flowers, which are small spiky structures. In the photo you can see two just above the cluster of berries (red arrow).

If you are looking at a male, you will find tiny tan-colored "pine cones" on the branches. These are the pollen-bearing structures and are about the size of a sesame seed. They will release the pollen near the end of winter. They are one of the first trees to flower every year. When the pollen is flying, you can make a tree "smoke" by gently swatting the branches. (Other male evergreen trees will do this when flowering also.)

Monday, November 27, 2006


Microwave ovens allow you to heat food in seconds, but consumers should take their time researching what type of oven to buy, says Mark, a food scientist at Penn.

--Power. Unlike the fictional Tim the Toolman on TV's "Home Improvement," consumers should not blindly choose a model with more power. Mark says most cooks should purchase ovens that are about 600 to 800 watts in power, rather than larger units of 900 to 1,100 watts. "In high-power ovens, time of heating plays a more crucial role in determining doneness," he says. "A few extra seconds could mean disaster -- the product could be splattered over the inside of the oven.

"Many frozen dinners and other recipes are formulated for ovens that are about 700 to 800 watts, because most consumers own ovens in that range," he adds. "Purchase a more powerful oven if you cook larger meals such as a roast or whole chicken. Make sure the oven cavity is large enough to hold larger food items."

--Convection Combination? A combination microwave and convection oven is effective at cooking food such as pizzas and rolls that do not cook properly using just microwave power. These ovens even brown the food products that a typical microwave oven cannot. Because microwaves heat from the inside out, Mark says combination convection ovens can help dishes cook more evenly and dissipate the moisture released during microwave cooking.

"Combination ovens are more expensive, but they do a good job," he says. "They are particularly effective in heating products that need to come out crispy."

There are combination microwave/broiler ovens in use in Europe, and in selected markets in the United States, for cooking meats and other items. The ovens, which use a quartz heating element, retail for about $400. "In Europe, the kitchens are much smaller, so people require smaller appliances that are more functional," he explains.

--How Many Buttons? Mark says microwave ovens feature many functions and buttons that may not fit the cooking style of a consumer. "There are ovens with 'popcorn buttons' that shut off when the oven reaches a certain humidity level," he explains. "But it may be better to buy a medium-sized oven and keep the most successful popping time in your memory." The magnetron that generates microwaves loses power as it ages, Mark says. Although the slippage is slight, it can affect the performance of pre-timed buttons on the oven's keypad.

--Carousel. Mark suggests consumers buy an oven with a rotating carousel. He explains that food items absorb microwaves more evenly if they rotate. "It's also easier to clean, and the glass platform is raised slightly, allowing microwaves to heat underneath the item."

--Dual Wave Ovens. Mark says appliances that have two ports from which microwaves are introduced into the oven generally heat more evenly than those using a single wave source. He says dual-wave ovens often are slightly more expensive.

--Interior. Mark says consumers should look for ovens with rounded corners and enamel surfaces, to make cleaning easier. "Make sure the air vents are at the top of the oven cavity," he says. "Otherwise they can get clogged or dirty from food particles."

--Outside Vents. Make sure you know where the heat and moisture is vented outside the oven. Mark says microwave ovens must be placed away from walls and other surfaces in order to have room for air circulation. "Microwave ovens put out a lot of moisture," he says. "Excess moisture can cause wallpaper to fail or ruin nearby cabinets or valuable furniture."

--Door Locks. Mark suggests purchasing an oven with a push-button lock. Steam produced within the food can raise pressure inside the oven and cause other types of locks to pop open, creating a hazard.

--Adequate Light. It's important for the cook to see the product clearly as it is cooking. Mark says the lamp should permit you to see inside, and the door glass should not be tinted too darkly.

--Location. Children should be taken into account when buying a microwave oven. "Make sure they can use it," Mark says. "More importantly, it should be placed where young children cannot get to it, but not so high that adults and older children are in danger when removing food items from the oven."

A family that eats together,stays together.

While paying attention to individual interests is fine, it’s also important to remember that sharing a meal is not just about eating, but also about strengthening family bonds and making pleasant memories. No wonder, Time magazine reports that the more often families eat together; the less likely that kids are going to smoke, drink, do drugs or get depressed.
Says Akhila Shivdas of the Centre for Media Advocacy, “Cable television has changed our eating habits. Now, everyone wants to watch TV while eating, nobody wants to eat at the dining table. Some people even dread dinnertime. And talking about certain topics is banned. Conversations with our families is minimal, and even when it does take place, it is stressed.”
A recent study on family eating at Columbia University reveals that family dinner gets better with practice; the less often a family eats together, the worse the experience is likely to be. Take this: kids who eat most often with their parents are 40 per cent more likely to say they get mainly As and Bs in school than kids who have two family dinners a week.
Says former actor-turned-yoga expert, Nisha Singh, “When I was growing up, my father insisted that our family ate breakfast together. That was a meal we couldn’t ever miss. Now years later, I realise the importance of eating together. It’s a tradition that’s slowly fading. While sharing a meal, kids learn so many things, like how a conversation is structured, how a problem is solved, how one should listen to other people’s opinions and respect their tastes. I make it a point to be there when my daughter eats as I know the value of sharing a meal.”
Sociologists stress that the power of eating together is a kind of a vaccine that protects kids. Says Miriam Weinstein, who wrote The Surprising Power of Family Meals, “We’ve sold ourselves on the idea that teenagers are obviously sick of their families and that they’re bonded to their peer group. But we’ve taken it to an extreme. We’ve taken it to mean that a teenager has no need for his family. And that’s just not true.”
It’s easy to blame the fast-food culture and the microwave, but parenting rules too seem to have changed over the years. William Doherty, author of The Intentional Family: Simple Rituals to Strengthen Family Ties, writes, “Parents are allowing kids to be. They let them eat as individuals in their room or with friends.”
Now, there’s no routine, no rules, everyone eats what they want, teenagers take a plate to their room so they can keep SMS-ing their friends... As a result, eating together with your family is a dying tradition. It’s time to switch off the TV, go to your dining table and enjoy a hearty meal with your family.

BRAND SLUTS:consumer loyality

THINK ‘slut’, and you think of a person who flits from one sexual partner to another. What, you might ask, does this have to do with marketing and marketing trends?
We marketers are well versed in sexual terminology: We want brand experiences to ‘seduce consumers’ and ‘build intimacy’; we seek to increase clients’ ‘market penetration’; above all, we aim for ‘customer satisfaction’. Sex sells.
We also speak the language of marital fidelity, especially when the topic is customer loyalty. We describe faithful customers as ‘monogamous’. These monogamous types are the brand loyalists who make a choice, form a special bond with our brand and maintain a lifelong relationship with it.
The mindset of us marketers has been that once consumers bought into our brand and formed an emotional bond with it, they would stay with it — a true marriage. That may have been so when there were a limited number of brands, but now the choice is huge, and the markets are volatile. Competition is fierce these days.
As choice and competition increase, brand loyalty becomes endangered. In stark contrast to the monogamous brand loyalists, another group of consumers is increasingly prepared to switch brands within a given category. These are the shoppers actively seeking out — and willing to ‘go’ with — any brand that makes them a better offer. They are the brand sluts.
The term ‘brand slut’, which I began using in earnest last winter, in part to provoke a group of Dutch marketers (they are impossible to shock!), half-jokingly refers to a faithless consumer with little brand loyalty — one who belongs to everybody and nobody.
There are brand sluts on the street of every city. This is where you will hear a 20-something woman say, ‘I’m getting my new mobile next week… a Sony Ericsson, like my old one.’ ‘You like Sony Ericsson, do you?’ you ask her, ‘and, is that the brand you prefer?’ ‘Oh, no,
I don’t care, really,’ she
replies. ‘It’s the one
they’re offering as the
free upgrade. As long as it
does more stuff than the old one, the brand doesn’t matter to me. It also has to be the right design and color, of course.’ Of course.
So, we cannot confuse repeat purchases with fidelity. Manufacturers of big-ticket items such as cars gather data on the brand histories of their customers. They see one buying the same brand they purchased before and shout, ‘Brand loyalty!’ But repeat purchase does not necessarily indicate brand loyalty. The customer may be buying the same brand again for a number of factors: consumer inertia or laziness, a lack of interest in the product area or just playing it safe. There may be a lack of competing brands conveniently available — or it could be down to the pricing and deals available that day. The consumer who is a repeat purchaser for these reasons can easily turn into a brand slut when other suitors appear and woo them with better offers.
And, let’s face it, loyalty isn’t what it used to be — whether one looks at marriages, employer-employee relations, politics or just about anything else. With so many brands competing for their attention and custom, consumers have little or no incentive to pledge loyalty to anyone. They might as well enjoy the power that comes from pitting one brand against another.
As Jean-Noel Kapferer writes in the Ivey Business Journal (2005): “Brand loyalty can no longer exist because the very intrinsic definition of the term ‘brand loyalty,’ whether in English, French or German, [is] contradictory to the actual relationship between the producers and consumers. ‘Brand loyalty’ implies a type of matrimonial relationship based on exclusivity. This relationship is impossible, however, because the producer does not reciprocate the relationship, and our society is premised upon a fluidity of choices.”

What makes consumers stray?

There are five big trends pushing consumers to be promiscuous.
First up is commoditisation. Commoditisation is the name of the game in markets ranging from apparel to microprocessors. There are few products that can be considered special; the market quickly finds a way of making a similar product that is cheaper and does more. Commodities don’t command loyalty.
The second trend is outsourcing: When production is contracted out, what does the brand mean, anyway? If the marriage between the consumer and the brand is on the rocks, it is probably the brand that strayed first; it is not just customers who are the brand sluts. Once upon a time, companies made the products that proudly carried their brand names, but now, most of them outsource manufacturing to far-off places where labour is cheap. Similar products carry different brand names but are quite likely to be made in the same factory, by the same low-paid worker. A company’s label is often stuck on afterwards, rather than built into the product. Even when the product quality is high, what does the brand name offer besides marketing allure and margin? Why should the consumer swear loyalty to one brand over another, when chances are that the two very similar products he is considering have been produced in the same factory, by the same workers — and all there is to differentiate them is the label?
Consumers are discerning. They do not want to buy expensive, branded products when they know they can buy the same product, much cheaper, without the brand name.
Third, there is the trend of brand inflation. Too many brands just go through the branding motions. Brand-building was once an organic process, rooted in products. It grew into a discipline with a massive bibliography and thousands of practitioners.
These days, it’s not unusual to see the classic tail-wagging-thedog scenario: Brand marketers dream up a brand first and then retrofit products into it. Even deeprooted brands want to extend and leverage themselves into new product areas. Take Lego, for instance, which decided it needed to join the electronic age and so birthed Mindstorms; or Apple, which saw an opportunity to create a brand as powerful as itself that would marry computing and pop culture — and launched iPod.
The result is brand inflation: markets full of brands making similar moves using similar techniques, and often just creating a lot of brand noise. In 2003 alone, the US Patent and Trademark Office issued 140,000 trademarks — 100,000 more than in 1983. In 2005, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) received a record number of international trademark applications: 33,565. There is a lot of competition out there.
As a result, it is inevitable that consumers will form superficial emotional relationships with many brands and behave like brand sluts: easy come, easy go.
The fourth trend, driving the move toward brand promiscuity is rapid innovation. Why should we stick with one brand when others have great new offers?
These days, innovation is no longer the exception; it is the norm. In certain product areas, there is limited scope or need for innovation — as is the case with Heineken and Grolsch — so business continues as usual, and people stay attached to their preferred brands. But in new product areas with rapid innovation, it may not make any sense to stay with a brand — especially when the underlying technologies are commodities.
Take cameras. Nikon, Canon, Pentax and Olympus — four classic brands — dominate the traditional film camera category and command strong loyalty. By contrast, the digital camera category has the traditional camera brands plus dozens of electronics brands, such as Samsung and Hewlett-Packard, which just assemble commodity technology. If you purchase a digital camera, why go for one brand over another when there are fewer reasons and more choices? As with sex, so with brands: the greater the choice, the less likely you are to find loyalty.
The fifth trend driving brand sluts is the vastly increased access to information. What is the first thing we do when we want to buy a vacation, computer or car? Chances are, it’s to check out the internet. Smart consumers compare brands nationally and choose the best value. Miniwatts Marketing Group’s 2006 figures show that 207 million Americans use the internet. According to, online searches rose from 4,085,880 in January 2005 to 5,699,228 in January 2006. The way we shop and the range of our shopping are changing.
There was a time when a wellknown brand stood for a guarantee. In days when standards were highly variable, a brand could be relied upon for a provenance in the origin, manufacture, ingredients, quality and functionality of a company’s products. You started the day with Kellogg’s cornflakes, drove to work in your Chevy, Ford or Pontiac, drank Coca-Cola, ate a Hershey’s bar and washed your sheets in Lux soap flakes — and you still might, but there are a lot of new kids on the block.
Today, intense competition, consumer watchdogs and consumer legislation have raised quality benchmarks and removed much of the risk from our purchase decisions. Many brands have become simply cosmetic allure, the emotional packaging of the underlying product. The wealth of information available on the internet — through product reviews, expert evaluations and comparison sites — enables consumers to make informed choices. We can see beneath the packaging and decide for ourselves what is on offer for our money. Knowledge is power, and there is nothing like it to undermine faithfulness. Today’s consumers are marketing-savvy. The younger ones, especially, decode advertising and spot marketing strategies like professionals. Books such as Naomi Klein’s ‘No Logo’ and Eric Schlosser’s ‘Fast Food Nation’ lifted the lid on manufacturing and commoditisation. Their thinking has permeated popular culture and made consumers more cynical about brands. The more consumers know about the marketing techniques used, the harder it is for brands to create mystique around themselves. It takes a very special brand, with real substance, to turn a brand slut into a satisfied brand loyalist.
But why should the consumer bother to be loyal to a brand when they have so much choice? In most of the world, ‘more choice’ is the mantra in everything from breakfast cereal to public services to utilities. This has created a widespread expectation of variety. It is a given that we have choice, just as we expect more features on products and more competitive pricing.
The subtext of greater choice is, ‘It’s okay to be unfaithful to brands,’ even ‘It’s smart to be unfaithful to brands.’ The more the market delivers options, the more sense it makes for consumers to become brand sluts.
To consider how brand sluts are created, look no further than the internet. Brand sluts are generally people who like a bit of everything — and there are plenty of them in cyberspace. Check out a makeup forum (, and you will find girls who use 32 different types of cosmetics, from classic Chanel, Lancôme and Estée Lauder to cool Urban Decay, MAC and Hard Candy. Or check out the Kiwi bike forum (, where you can find a biker who can see the merits of all the bikes. Here’s a brand slut whose choice has nothing to do with ‘time riding’; rather, he seeks personal comfort, confidence and preference.
If you cannot hold a product in your hand, you look at the aspects that can be stacked and compared: price, specifications and performance. As more people shop online, emotional factors become less important than rational factors. Since the power of many brands is emotional, they are less powerful on the internet — particularly when alternative brands share the same computer screen. To the brand slut, the next brand is but a click away. In the physical world, brands can create 3-D experiences. We walk into a showroom, look at displays in shops, and notice distinctive packaging and alluring textures. We taste and smell. Despite its beautiful graphics, cyberspace limits the scope for rich brand experiences. The internet is still better at delivering information than at stirring emotion.
The brands of the 21st century need to ask the most important relationship question: Why should a consumer be faithful to them? After all, how faithful are they to the consumer? Is it a question of the pot calling the kettle black?
Whether it is the consumers or fans, the success is in the story. The brands that risk being at the mercy of brand sluts are those that are mere commodities overlaid with a bit of design and marketing. Some brands are much, much more. They have a real story to tell, with fans who follow the story, feel like a part of it and identify with the brand: think Fender, Harley-Davidson, Virgin Airlines, Jack Daniels, Zara and eBay. Consumers feel commitment to brands that have a real heart and soul — think Google or Apple. Monogamy is a two-way process. Being a brand loyalist comes with its own emotional reward.
As The Simpsons creator Matt Groening puts it: “The weird intensity of fans is fascinating. We succeed when we give them something worthy of their devotion. This is going to sound totally corny, but the idea is to honor fans for their enthusiasm, rather than just manipulate them into buying more products.”
A few brands have what it takes to inspire real commitment and loyalty by creating bona fide fans. For the rest, the realistic objective of brand marketing must be to attain higher awareness and higher preference among brand sluts.
This has clear implications for marketing strategies and budget allocations. ‘Fan brands’ waste money if they do not leverage their ‘stories’ in marketing; the rest waste money if they try to leverage a story they do not really have.
So let’s get real. Brand owners must ask themselves: Do we have a brand with a compelling story that is rooted in truth? If the answer is yes, and they can live the story, they can expect loyal consumers. If they do not, then their brands are essentially just ploys — empty marketing — and they should expect their consumers to be brands sluts.
The future presents a challenge. We have grown up with the belief that branding holds the promise of marketing nirvana for those who do it right. But things are not what they were. Conditions have changed, and there are far too many brands for consumers to feel an emotional bond with, any more than a few of them.
So what’s next? If your brand is best suited for a faithful relationship with its consumers, cuddle up and get closer; if not, best adapt and take what you can get from the easy come, easy go ways of the brand slut.
[originally from brnd eqty]

Knee replacement

Arthroplasty of the knee, is a commonly performed operation done to relieve the pain and disability from rheumatoid arthritis or more often osteoarthritis of the knee.[Arthroplasty (literally "formation of joint") is an operative procedure of orthopaedic surgery performed for replacing the arthritic or dysfunctional joint surface with something better or remodeling or realigning the joint by osteotomy or some other procedures]

This operation is undertaken by orthopaedic surgeons and consists of replacing the diseased and painful joint surfaces of the knee with metal and plastic components shaped to allow continued motion of the knee.

How Knee replacement is done?

The standard technique involves exposure of the front of the knee by a long incision which detaches part of the quadriceps muscle (in fact the vastus medialis) from the kneecap. This is a key factor in the lengthy recovery from the operation. The muscle has to heal. The kneecap is displaced to one side of the joint allowing exposure of the distal end of the thighbone (femur) and the proximal end of the shinbone (tibia). The ends of these bones are then accurately cut to shape using cutting guides oriented to the long axis of the bones. The cartilages and the anterior cruciate ligament are removed; the posterior cruciate ligament may also be removed but the collateral ligaments are preserved. Metal components are then impacted onto the bone or fixed using poly methyl methacrylate (PMMA) cement. A round ended implant is used for the femur, mimicking the natural shape of the bone. On the tibia the component is flat, although it often has a stem which goes down inside the bone for further stability. A flattened or slightly dished high density polyethylene surface is then inserted onto the tibial component so that the weight is transferred metal to plastic not metal to metal. During the operation attention must be paid to correcting any deformities and balancing the ligaments so that the knee moves through a good range of movement and is stable. In some cases the joint surface of the kneecap is also removed and replaced by a polyethylene button cemented to the kneecap. At the end of the surgery the muscle is repaired to the kneecap and the wound is closed. It is common practice to leave a drain in the knee to reduce post-operative swelling from bleeding into the knee. Blood transfusion to replace intra-operative and post-operative losses are commonly required.

Types of knee replacement.

There are many different implant manufacturers and all require slightly different instrumentation and technique. No consensus has emerged over which design of knee replacement is the best. All manufacturers in the U.S. offer fixed-bearing knee design options, but only one in the U.S. offers a mobile-bearing option, which is thought to reduce the level of wear on the implant. This might also reduce the chance of revision surgery. The first surgery a patient goes through for a knee replacement is called a primary surgery; any subsequent surgeries (usually to fix or replace the first implant) are called revisions.

Clinical studies are very difficult to perform requiring large numbers of cases followed over many years. The most significant variations are between cemented and uncemented components, between operations which spare or sacrifice the posterior cruciate ligament and between resurfacing the patella or not. Some also study patient satisfaction data associated with pain.

Techniques of Minimally Invasive Surgery are being developed in Total Knee Replacement but have not yet found complete acceptance. The driving force here is to spare the patient the large cut in the quadriceps muscle which could increase post-operative pain or lengthen disability.

Unicompartmental arthroplasty is a different operation with different indications. The joint surfaces of either the inner or the outer sides of the knee are replaced.

Any dental work after this surgery requires an antibiotic before the dental work can be done.

Risk involved in knee replacement.

According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS), "blood clots in the leg veins are the most common complication of knee replacement surgery. Your orthopaedic surgeon will outline a prevention program, which may include periodic elevation of your legs, lower leg exercises to increase circulation, support stockings and medication to thin your blood."

Periprosthetic fractures are becoming more frequent with the aging patient population and can occur intraoperatively or postoperatively.

Also according to AAOS, "the complication rate following total knee replacement is low. Serious complications, such as a knee joint infection, occur in less than 2 percent of patients. Major medical complications such as heart attack or stroke occur even less frequently. Chronic illnesses may increase the potential for complications. Although uncommon, when these complications occur, they can prolong or limit your full recovery."

The knee at times may not recover its normal range of motion (0 - 135 degrees usually) after total knee replacement. Much of this is dependent on pre-operative function. Most patients can achieve 0 - 110 degrees, but stiffness of the joint can occur. In some situations, manipulation of the knee under anaesthetic is used to improve post operative stiffness. There are also many implants from manufacturers that are designed to be "high-flex" knees, offering a greater range of motion. High-flex knees typically function at their best when paired with a mobile-bearing knee.

In some patients, the kneecap is unstable post-surgery and dislocates to the outer side of the knee. This is painful and usually needs to be treated by surgery to realign the kneecap. This is very rare, but possible.

In the past, there was a considerable risk of the implant components loosening over time as a result of wear. As advancements in medical technology have improved though, this risk has fallen considerably. One implant manufacturer claims to have reduced this risk of wear by 79% in fixed-bearing knees. Another implant manufacturer claims to have reduced the risk of wear by 94% in mobile-bearing knees, just in the past five years. Knee replacement implants can last up to 20 years in many patients; whether or not they actually survive that long depends largely in part upon how active the patient is after surgery.

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Implant Design

For simplicity, the knee is considered a hinge joint because of its ability to bend and straighten like a hinged door. In reality, the knee is much more complex because the surfaces actually roll and glide as the knee bends. The first implant designs used the hinge concept and literally included a connecting hinge between the components. Newer implant designs, recognizing the complexity of the joint, attempt to replicate the more complicated motions and to take advantage of the posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) and collateral ligaments for support.

Up to three bone surfaces may be replaced during a TKA: the lower ends (condyles) of the thighbone, the top surface of the shinbone and the back surface of the kneecap. Components are designed so that metal always articulates against plastic, which provides smooth movement and results in minimal wear.

1. Femoral component: The metal femoral component curves around the end of the thighbone and has an interior groove so the kneecap can move up and down smoothly against the bone as the knee bends and straightens. Usually, one large piece is used to resurface the end of the bone. If only one side of the thighbone is damaged, a smaller piece may be used (unicompartmental knee replacement) to resurface just that part of the bone. Some designs (posterior stabilized designs) have an internal post with a circular-shaped device (cam) that works with a corresponding tibial component to help prevent the thighbone from sliding forward too far on the shinbone when you bend the knee.

2. Tibial component: The tibial component is a flat metal platform with a polyethylene cushion. The cushion may be part of the platform (fixed) or separate (mobile) with either a flat surface (PCL-retaining) or a raised, sloping surface (PCL-substituting).

3. Patellar component: The patellar component is a dome-shaped piece of polyethylene that duplicates the shape of the kneecap anchored to a flat metal plate.

There are more than 150 knee replacement designs on the market today. Several manufacturers make knee implants. The brand and design used by your doctor or hospital depends on many factors, including your needs (based on your age, weight, activity level and health), the doctor's experience and familiarity with the device, and the cost and performance record of the implant. You may wish to discuss these issues with your doctor.

Implant Construction

The metal parts of the implant are made of titanium- or cobalt/chromium-based alloys. The plastic parts are made of ultrahigh-density polyethylene. All together, the components weigh between 15 and 20 ounces, depending on the size selected. The construction materials used must meet several criteria:

* They must be biocompatible; that is, they can function in the body without creating either a local or a systemic rejection response.

* Their mechanical properties must be able to duplicate the structures they are intended to replace; for example, they are strong enough to take weightbearing loads, flexible enough to bear stress without breaking and able to move smoothly against each other as required.

* They must be able to retain their strength and shape for a long time. The chance of a knee replacement lasting 15 to 20 years is about 95 percent.

To date, man-made joints have not solved the problem of wear. Every time bone rubs against bone, or metal rubs against plastic, the friction creates microscopic particulate debris. Just as wear in the natural joint contributed to the need for a replacement joint, wear in the prostheses may eventually require a second (revision) surgery.

Implant Insertion

During a TKA, the knee is in a bent position so that all the surfaces to be replaced can be exposed. The usual approach is lengthwise through the front of the knee, just to the inside of the kneecap, although some surgeons will approach the joint from the outer side, just above the kneecap. The incision is 6" to 12" long. The large quadriceps muscle and the kneecap are moved to the side to reveal the bone surfaces.

After taking several measurements to ensure that the new implant will fit properly, the surgeon begins to smooth the rough edges of the bones. Depending on the type of implant used, the surgeon may begin with either the thighbone or the shinbone.

Special jigs are used to accurately trim the damaged surfaces at the end of the thighbone. The devices shape the end of the thighbone so it configures to the inside of the prosthesis. The shinbone is cut flat across the bone and a portion of the bone's center is drilled out. The surgeon removes just enough of the bone so that when the prosthesis is inserted, it recreates the joint line at the same level as prior to surgery. If any ligaments around the knee have contracted due to pain and deformity before the surgery, the surgeon carefully releases them so that they function as close to the normal state as possible.

The prostheses are inserted, tested and balanced. The surgeon wants to be sure that the joint line is in the right place and the kneecap is accurately aligned for proper joint movement. If it is necessary to resurface the kneecap, the surgeon will apply a shaped piece of polyethylene that maintains the original width of the kneecap.

The knee replacement may be "cemented," "cementless" or "hybrid," depending on the type of fixation used to hold the implant in place. Although there are certain general guidelines, each case is individual and your surgeon will evaluate your situation carefully before making any decisions. Do not hesitate to ask what type of fixation will be used in your situation and why that choice is appropriate for you.


A break-through operation could help patients suffering from cartilage damage or osteoarthritis get back on their feet in just eight weeks

Arevolutionary ‘grow-yourown’ knee implant could help patients with crippling cartilage damage walk again in just eight weeks, say doctors.
The treatment uses an implant grown from the patient’s own healthy cells, which is glued into the damaged knee.
Unlike existing cartilage repair systems, which take months to grow, the new technique needs only two weeks to obtain enough cells for the operation.
The technique – known as the CaReS cartilage regeneration system – creates a perfect three-dimensional implant that fits the shape of the damaged cartilage, which means less stitching and a faster recovery.
Doctors hope the system could help hundreds of patients aged between 20 and 50 who have osteoarthritis or cartilage damage.
Shivaun McGuckin, a 38-yearold teacher, last week became the first person to have the 3,000-pound operation.
It has already been used on more than 1,000 patients in the European continent.
Mrs McGuckin, who lives with husband Damien and sons Tadhg (aged ten) and Conn (six), pulled out of training for her first marathon in May after her knee ‘locked’ when she bent down.
“I’ve always been sporty – running, playing rugby and hockey, and going to the gym,” she said. “I was training hard for the marathon but, a month beforehand, the pain was too much.”
Mrs McGuckin found everyday activities increasingly difficult and stopped exercising because of the pain. “It was increasingly painful,” she added. “I couldn’t run around after the children and I need to be active for my job. The cartilage had gone down to the bone and taken some bone with it.”
Conventional cartilage repair failed and she faced a bone graft before doctors could have attempted to repair her worn-out cartilage.
She feared a long wait for a knee replacement, as doctors normally postpone such major surgery until patients reach their mid-40s, or older. Consultant orthopaedic surgeon Amit Chandratreya, who operated on Mrs McGuckin, described the new system as “much more convenient’ than older techniques, which could take up to six months. Now Mrs McGuckin is hoping to get back to a sporting life. She said, “I feel very optimistic. It really looks as though I’ll be able to return to all the normal activities for my age.”

Chinese student recites 67,890 pi digits

The 24-year-old took 24 hours and 4 minutes to recite to the 67,890th decimal place of pi

A Chinese college student has set a new Guinness world record by reciting almost 68,000 digits of pi or the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter in just over one day.
Lu Chao, a 24-year-old graduate student in Northwest Agriculture and Forestry University in Shaanxi Province, took 24 hours and 4 minutes to recite the 67,890th decimal place of pi without an error.
He achieved his feat on November 19th last year but was only recently confirmed to be the new record holder by the Guinness headquarters in Britain.
The previous Guinness world record was set by a Japanese, who recited pi to the 42,195th decimal place in 1995. “It was Zu Chongzhi, the ancient Chinese mathematician, who discovered the ratio of the circumference to the diameter of a circle, and Chinese should win the pi recitation contest,” Lu was quoted as saying by Xinhua news agency.
Lu started learning to recite pi in 2004 and spent more than 10 hours memorising and practicing every day during his summer college vacation last year.
Officials with Lu’s university said he had a very good memory and needed only 10 minutes to memorise a 100-digit number.

Life lessons from Judo

How do you compete with opponents who have size, strength, and history on their side? Perhaps one can pick up some lessons from Judo, a traditional Japanese contact sport

Southwest Airlines is perhaps the world’s most valuable airline. When it entered the market in the 1970s, it was up against severe odds. The US airline industry was already crowded with strong players. Southwest had two choices: compete by the rules already laid down by the older airlines. Or try out something new. Southwest chose the latter. All the major US carriers at that time used the traditional hub-and-spoke systems supported by enormous terminals in major cities, complex reservations systems, and variegated fleets that were carefully calibrated to the mix of routes that each airline served.
Southwest chose to serve smaller airports instead. It offered no connecting flights, assigned seating, or meals; and it operated an all-737 fleet. This made it possible for it to keep fares 50% to 60% below its rivals. United, Delta, and American Airlines could match Southwest’s pricing but never its financial performance because the cost of maintaining their core assets dragged profitability down.
Southwest used what we call a judo strategy. Instead of taking rivals head-on, it decided to rely on speed, agility and creative thinking to craft strategies that make it difficult for powerful rivals to compete. Successful challengers use judo strategy to prevent opponents from bringing their full strength into play. Judo strategists avoid conventional forms of competition, such as head-tohead struggles, that naturally favour the large and the strong. The three strategic principles that lie at the heart of this approach are movement, balance, and leverage.


Judo strategists use their agility to move into a position of relative strength while evading attack. They keep a low profile and avoid head-to-head battles that they’re too weak to win—a technique we call “the puppy dog ploy”.
Consider the rapid rise of Capital One. It became one of the biggest and most profitable credit card issuers in the US in less than 10 years, thanks largely to its ability to remain “extremely confidential and very, very hush-hush,” as one former executive explained. By avoiding product announcements and other publicity in favour of direct marketing campaigns, Capital One made it nearly impossible for competitors to imitate its highly targeted products. Consequently, the company faced little direct competition in many of the market segments it pioneered.
In contrast, Netscape, the company that pioneered the web browser, rejected the puppy dog ploy in favour of “mooning the giant”. Netscape drew attention by posing as a giant-killer early in the game by attacking Microsoft head-on and predicting that the web would make Microsoft Windows obsolete. This aggressive stance raised Netscape’s profile, and for a while, the start-up’s fortunes soared. But the company’s bravado helped awaken Bill Gates to the importance of the internet market, which ultimately sealed Netscape’s fate.


While the puppy dog ploy is largely about defence, other judo strategy techniques bring offense into play. A key example is “pull when pushed”, which exploits the strategic principle of balance. In judo, seasoned competitors know better than to push back against an advancing opponent. Instead, they sidestep the charge and use their opponent’s momentum to pull him down. Similarly, companies can throw their competitors offbalance by embracing their initiatives rather than responding in kind.
Consider Drypers, an upstart that captured a big piece of the US diaper business from Procter & Gamble in the 1980s. When Drypers entered the market in Texas, P&G bombarded the state with coupons for $2 off a package of Pampers—more than twice the usual 75 cents. Drypers could not afford to do the same. But CEO Dave Pitassi, who had just finished reading a book on judo, came up with a creative response. Rather than match P&G’s offensive, Drypers piggybacked on its rival’s attack. The company launched a state-wide advertising campaign to tell consumers that P&G coupons could be used on Drypers, and sales shot up. In a matter of weeks, Drypers had added as much as 15 points to its marketshare in some stores. Within two months, the company was running at full capacity. By harnessing its competitor’s momentum, Drypers had used P&G to underwrite its own promotional campaign.


By leveraging your opponent’s assets, partners or competitors, you can transform a competitor’s strengths into sources of weakness. A company’s greatest assets can often become its greatest liabilities. Whether intangible, like brand names and intellectual property, or tangible, like property and plant, “assets collect risks around them,” as Michael Dell, Dell Computer’s visionary chairman and CEO has said. Anything that represents a significant investment can become a barrier to change. And by exploiting these barriers, you can find the leverage you need to win. That’s exactly what Southwest Airlines did.
As these examples show, judo strategy is fundamentally about developing a deep understanding of your competitors and espying the potential weaknesses that lurk among their strengths.
This is no science. There is no easy formula for victory. Instead, judo strategy demands discipline, creativity, and the flexibility to mix and match techniques. But the power and promise of this approach are equal to the investment it demands, for by mastering the principles behind judo strategy, you can use your competitors’ strength to bring them down.