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Sunday, January 27, 2019

Mr. Potato Head

     Some of the most popular toys for boys in the 50s include lithographed tin toy cars, friction cars, die-cast cars, trucks and farm equipment. For girls, plastic mannequin dolls for dressing finally got popular enough for a major toy manufacturer to start making them. This doll was called Barbie. Maybe you’ve heard of it. Other toys included rocking horses, wooden blocks, building toys like Tinkertoys, Erector sets and battery operated cars. 
     The most popular toys in the 1950s were: Play-Doh, Silly Putty, Frisbee, Slinky, Pogo Stick, Hula Hoop, Miniature Basketball, Electric Baseball and Football, Matchbox Cars, Toy Guns & Western Clothing, Roy Rogers Plastic Figures, View-Master, Electric Trains, Dolls and Doll Houses, Gas and Service Stations and Farm Toys/Sets with Equipment and ...Mr. Potato Head. 
     The original Mr. Potato Head is an American consisted of a plastic parts which could be attached to any vegetable...potatoes and cucumbers being the most popular. These parts included ears, eyes, shoes, a hat, a nose, and a mouth.
     Due to complaints regarding rotting vegetables and new government safety regulations, Hasbro began including a plastic potato body within the toy set in 1964. 

     The toy was invented and developed by George Lerner in 1949, and first manufactured and distributed by Hasbro in 1952. Trivia question: What was the forst toy advertised on television? Mr. Potato Head. 
     Over the years, the original toy was joined by Mrs. Potato Head and supplemented with accessories such as a car and a boat trailer. Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head may be best known for their appearances in the Toy Story franchise. Additionally, in 1998 The Mr. Potato Head Show aired but was short-lived, with only one season being produced. Mr. Potato Head balloon has also joined others in the annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. 
     In the early 1940s, Brooklyn-born toy inventor George Lerner came up with the idea of inserting small, pronged body and face parts into fruits and vegetables to create a "funny face man". Lerner would often take potatoes from his mother's garden and, using various other fruits and vegetables as facial features, he would make dolls with which his younger sisters could play. 
     In the beginning, Lerner's toy proved controversial. With World War II and food rationing a recent memory for most Americans, the use of fruits and vegetables to make toys was considered irresponsible and wasteful and toy companies rejected the idea. 
     Lerner finally convinced a food company to distribute the plastic parts as premiums in breakfast cereal boxes. He sold the idea for $5,000. But in 1951, Lerner showed the idea to Henry and Merrill Hassenfeld, who conducted a small school supply and toy business called Hassenfeld Brothers (later changed to Hasbro). Realizing the toy was quite unlike anything in their line, they paid the cereal company $2,000 to stop production and bought the rights for $5,000. Lerner was offered an advance of $500 and a 5 percent royalty on every kit sold. That's when it was produced as Mr. Potato Head. 
     Mr. Potato Head was born on May 1, 1952. The original toy cost $0.98, and contained hands, feet, ears, two mouths, two pairs of eyes, four noses, three hats, eyeglasses, a pipe, and eight felt pieces resembling facial hair. Parents had to provide their own vegetables into which children could stick the various pieces. 
     Shortly after the toy's initial release, an order form for 50 additional pieces was enclosed in every kit.

  

     On April 30, 1952, Mr. Potato Head became the first toy advertised on television. The campaign was also the first to be aimed directly at children; before this, commercials were only targeted at adults, so toy adverts had always been pitched to parents. This commercial revolutionized marketing, and caused an industrial boom. Over one million kits were sold in the first year. 
     In 1953, Mrs. Potato Head was added, and soon after, Brother Spud and Sister Yam completed the Potato Head family with accessories reflecting the affluence of the fifties that included a car, a boat trailer, a kitchen set, a stroller, and pets called Spud-ettes. A plastic potato was added to the kit in 1964. 
     Small children were also choking on the small pieces and cutting themselves with the sharp pieces, so in the 1960s, government regulations forced the Potato Head parts to be less sharp, leaving them unable to puncture vegetables easily. 
     By 1964, the company was therefore forced to include a plastic potato "body" in its kit. In 1975, the main potato part of the toy doubled in size and the dimensions of its accessories were similarly increased mainly because of new toy child safety regulations that were introduced by the US government.
     This change in size also increased the market to younger children, enabling them to play and attach the facial pieces easily. Hasbro also replaced the holes with flat slats, which made it impossible for users to put the face pieces and other body parts the wrong way around. 
     In the 1980s, Hasbro reduced the range of accessories for Mr. Potato Head to one set of parts. The company did, however, reintroduce round holes in the main potato body, and once again parts were able to go onto the toy in the wrong locations. 
     In 2000, Mr. Potato Head was inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame at The Strong in Rochester, NY. In 2006, Hasbro also began selling sets of pieces without bodies for customers to add to their collections. Some of these themed sets included Chef, Construction Worker, Firefighter, Halloween, King, Mermaid, Police Officer, Pirate, Princess, Rockstar, and Santa Claus. In the same year, Hasbro introduced a line called "Sports Spuds" with a generic plastic potato (smaller than the standard size) customized to a wide variety of professional and collegiate teams. Since then there has been many other versions.

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Pierre Dewey LaFontaine, Jr.



     Better known as Pete Fountain (July 3, 1930 – August 6, 2016) was an American jazz clarinetist who was born in New Orleans. He was the great-grandson of a French immigrant, Fran├žois Fontaine, who was born in Toulon, circa 1796, and came to the U.S. in the early 19th century, and died on the Mississippi Gulf Coast circa 1885. Pete's father, a truck driver and part-time musician, changed the family name to Fountain. 
      He started playing clarinet as a child. As a child he was very sickly, frequently battling respiratory infections due to weakened lungs. He was given expensive medication but it proved to be not very effective. During a pharmacy visit, his father began a discussion with a neighborhood doctor who was also there shopping and talked with him about his son's condition. 
     The doctor agreed to see the boy the following day. After a short exam, the doctor confirmed the weak lung condition and advised the father to try an unorthodox treatment: purchase the child a musical instrument, anything he has to blow into. The same day, they went to a local music store and, given his choice of instruments, Pete chose the clarinet (after first wanting the drums, which his father declined per the doctor's orders). At first, Pete was unable to produce a sound from the instrument, but he continued to practice and eventually not only made sounds and eventually music, but greatly improved the health of his lungs. 
     He took private lessons but also learned to play jazz by playing along with phonograph records of first Benny Goodman and then Irving Fazola. By the time he reached his teens, he was playing regular gigs in the nightclubs on Bourbon Street. 
     A talent scout for Lawrence Welk saw him performing and invited him to join Welk's orchestra in Los Angeles, where he relocated and lived for two years. He was rumored to have quit when Welk refused to let him "jazz up" a Christmas carol on the 1958 Christmas show. Other accounts, including one in Fountain's autobiography A Closer Walk With Pete Fountain, indicate he in fact played a jazzy rendition of "Silver Bells" on the show which upset Welk, leading to Fountain's departure in early 1959. In an interview, Fountain said he left The Lawrence Welk Show because "champagne and bourbon don't mix." 
     Lawrence Welk (March 11, 1903 – May 17, 1992) was a musician, accordionist, bandleader and television impresario, who hosted the television program The Lawrence Welk Show from 1951 to 1982.  His style came to be known to his large audience of radio, television, and live-performance fans (and critics) as "champagne music". 
     Welk's show mainly targeted older viewers, they seldom played recent music with which the audience might not be familiar.  The show was conservative, concentrating on popular music standards, show tunes, polkas, and novelty songs, delivered in a smooth, calm, good-humored easy-listening style and "family-oriented." 
     Welk's insistence on wholesome entertainment led him to be a somewhat stern taskmaster at times. For example, he fired Alice Lon, at the time the show's "Champagne Lady," because he believed she was showing too much leg. Welk told the audience that he would not tolerate such "cheesecake" performances on his show; he later tried unsuccessfully to rehire the singer after fan mail indicated overwhelmingly that viewers opposed her dismissal. He then had a series of short-term "Champagne Ladies" before Norma Zimmer filled that spot on a permanent basis. 
     Highly involved with his stars' personal lives, Welk often arbitrated their marital disputes. His musical conservatism caused occasional controversies as well. Despite the authentic New Orleans Dixieland clarinet that made him a popular cast member, Fountain returned to New Orleans, played with the Dukes of Dixieland, then began leading bands under his own name. 
     He owned his own club in the French Quarter in the 1960s and 1970s. He later acquired "Pete Fountain's Jazz Club" at the Riverside Hilton in downtown New Orleans. 
     Fountain was a founder and the most prominent member of the Half-Fast Walking Club, one of the best known freelance marching units that parade in New Orleans on Mardi Gras Day. The original name was "The Half-Assed Walking Club," and it was an excuse to take a "lubricated" musical stroll down the parade route. Pete changed the name under pressure exerted by the parade organizers. On Mardi Gras Day 2007, Pete again joined his Half-Fast Walking Club, having missed the event in 2006 due to illness. 
     Fountain died of heart failure in his home town on August 6, 2016, at the age of eighty-six. He had suffered from heart problems and was in hospice care when he died.

Friday, January 25, 2019

Toe Jam

     Toe jam is common non-medical term used to describe the 'gunk' that accumulates between the toes. Often considered to be nothing more than sock lint (cotton socks may shred fibers that find a home between the toes), it is actually a combination of a lot of things: dead skin cells, sock debris, dirt, body oil residue, fungus and bacteria. Scabies, a parasitic skin mite, often burrows between the toes and is associated with poor hygiene. However, it's important to know that not all toe jam is the same because it can result in serious medical issues for some and should not be neglected. 
     Some people are more prone to toe jam than others because of certain lifestyles, footwear or medical conditions. People who are on their feet for longer periods of time, individuals who have a tendency to sweat more, who wear shoes that have poor ventilation and breathability and people who are overweight tend to be more predisposed to developing toe jam. 
     Toe jam could indicate or lead to a more serious condition and if the cause is an infection things can quickly go from a nuisance to a serious medical problem. Some skin conditions (such as eczema and psoriasis) may result in flaking dry skin that may end up between the toes and ball up due to sweat. If it's due to those conditions then you should not place steroids on an infection, as it may cause a worse infection, so its important to have a proper diagnosis. 
     Corns and calluses can be another source when pressure spots between the toes develop a thickened layer of skin which can become softened due to toe sweat and become gooey and smelly. This most commonly occurs between the fourth and fifth toes, and is associated with hammer toes. 
 
Hammer toes

     Fungus and bacteria love warm, dark and enclosed places so the area between the toes makes a good home for them. Living in the mix of toe jam, they can cause an infection which may become more serious and travel up the foot and leg. This is especially the case for people with diabetes. 
     Dermatologist recommend inspecting for toe jam on a regular basis because one of the deadliest forms of cancer, malignant melanoma, quite often will appear in the foot first, mainly on the heel, but also in between the toes, which is a common hiding place for this aggressive cancer. 
     Keep your feet clean. Wash thoroughly between the toes with soap and water and be sure to dry your feet. 
    Here is another type of toe jam...

 

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Touching Yourself

     According to a study conducted at Linkoping University and published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences our brains seem to reduce sensory perception from an area of our skin when we touch it ourselves as opposed to being touched by another person. 
     The ability to distinguish between self and others is extremely important. A new-born child develops an understanding of where their own body ends mainly through being touched by those who care for them. Problems with the self-concept, such as the ability to recognize one's own actions, are common in several psychiatric disorders. Most people cannot tickle themselves, but some patients with schizophrenia can, suggesting that their brain interprets sensory perceptions from their own body differently. 
     Most people have a ticklish spot somewhere on their bodies, and laughing when another person tickles you is a natural reaction. Scientists have discovered that the feeling experienced when we are tickled causes us to panic and is a natural defense to the likes of spiders and bugs. Slight tickles from insects can send a chill through your body letting you know something is crawling on you.
     That same ticklish feeling sends us into a state of panic and elicits a response of uncontrollable laughter if a person tickles us. Even if you know that you are about to be tickled, the fear and unease of someone touching and possibly hurting you causes you to laugh. Some people are so ticklish that they begin laughing even before they are touched. 
     So, if someone else's touch can tickle us, why can't we tickle ourselves? Much of the explanation is unknown, but research has shown that the brain is trained to know what to feel when a person moves or performs any function. We aren't aware of a lot of the sensations generated by our movements. So, if we grab our sides in an attempt to tickle ourselves, our brain anticipates this contact from the hands and prepares itself for it. By taking away the feeling of unease and panic, the body no longer responds the same as it would if someone else were to tickle us. 
     Brain scientists at the University College London have pinpointed the cerebellum as the part of the brain that prevents us from self-tickling. The cerebellum is the region located at the base of the brain that monitors our movements and it can distinguish expected sensations from unexpected sensations. An expected sensation would be the amount of pressure your fingers apply to your keyboard while typing. 
     An unexpected sensation would be someone sneaking up behind you and tapping you on the shoulder. While the brain discards the sensation of typing, it pays a lot of attention to someone tapping on your shoulder. The difference in reactions from expected to unexpected is a built-in response. 

    Although we are not able to tickle ourselves unassisted, there is a way to trick the brain by using a robot tickler. A robot has been designed to allow people to tickle themselves. To use the machine, a person lies on their back with their eyes shut and when the person activates the robot it will react after a short delay. Subjects have described the sensation as the same as another person tickling them. 

     In the experiments scientists examined what happens in various parts of the nervous system when a person is touched by another person compared to touching themselves and found that the brain reduces the processing of the sensory perception when it comes from self-touch. 
     The skin contains sensory receptors that react to touch, pressure, heat and cold. Information about touch is transmitted to the spinal cord and on to the brain where the perception is processed in several steps in different regions of the brain. 
     In the experiments volunteers laid in a magnet resonance camera which recorded images of brain activity and were requested to stroke their arm slowly with their own hand, or were told that a researcher would stroke their arm.
     What they discovered was a very clear difference between being touched by someone else and self-touch. When a person touched themselves activity in several parts of the brain were reduced. The differences actually began to be noticed in the spinal cord even before the perceptions reached the brain. 
     The results are compatible with a theory that suggests the brain attempts to predict the sensory consequences of everything we do. Consequently, the brain does not attach as much importance to sensory perceptions caused by our own bodies because it's expecting to receive such information. 
     Apparently when someone else touches us we can never be exactly sure what they're up to, so the brain is on high alert.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Infinity Mirrors

     “One day, after gazing at a pattern of red flowers on the tablecloth, I looked up to see that the ceiling, the windows, and the columns seemed to be plastered with the same red floral pattern. I saw the entire room, my entire body, and the entire universe covered with red flowers, and in that instant my soul was obliterated and I was restored, returned to infinity, to eternal time and absolute space.” –Yayoi Kusama 
     Born in 1929, Yayoi Kusama grew up near her family’s plant nursery in Matsumoto, Japan. At nineteen, following World War II, she moved to Kyoto to study a traditional Japanese style of painting that is made on washi paper or silk. At that time she began experimenting with abstraction. 
     After arriving in the United States in 1957 that she began the phase that would characterize her work. While living in New York between 1958 and 1973, Kusama worked closely with important artists of the 1960s art world while refining her signature art. In her 1965 Infinity Mirror Room (Phalli’s Field) she first used mirrors. 
     She returned to Japan in 1973 and has continued to develop mirrored art. Today, she maintains an active studio in Tokyo and is widely regarded as one of the most important artists of the twentieth century. 

 

Sunday, January 20, 2019

More Dangers of Vaping

Recently there has been a lot of television commercials for a vaping product called Juul that reminded me that back in 2015 I posted on the danger of e-cigarettes and now it appears things are even worse. 

Why vaping is so dangerous for teens

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Radioactive Cold Cream

     An infomercial is a form of television commercial, which generally includes a toll-free telephone number or website. Most often used as a form of direct response television, long-form infomercials are typically 28:30 or 58:30 minutes in length. 
     Infomercials are also known as paid programming (or teleshopping in Europe). This phenomenon started in the United States, where infomercials were typically shown overnight (usually 2:00 a.m. to 6:00 a.m.), outside peak prime time hours for commercial broadcasters. Some television stations chose to air infomercials as an alternative to the former practice of signing off. Some channels air infomercials 24 hours. 
     During the early days of television, many television shows were specifically created by sponsors with the main goal of selling their product, the entertainment angle being a hook to hold audience attention. Infomercials proliferated in the United States after 1984 when the Federal Communications Commission eliminated regulations that were established in the 1950s and 1960s to govern the commercial content of television. 
     Infomercials particularly exploded in the mid-1990s with motivational and personal development products, and "get-rich-quick scheme"s based on the premise that one could quickly become wealthy by either selling anything through classified ads or through real estate flipping. 
     One of the most bizarre by today's standards had to be for radioactive cold cream!

The Srtraight Scoop On Predicting The Weather

With the entire Midwest under a winter storm warning that we've been hearing about for a week, Cleveland, Ohio's Scott Sabol tells the truth about weather forecasting.

UPDATE Sunday 1-20-19: the weather people called this one 100 percent correct. There was 12+ inches of snow in my driveway this morning.  The snowblower broke a belt halfway through blowing out the driveway, but a couple of neighbors came to the rescue and finished the job


Friday, January 18, 2019

Strange Borders

     The U.S. - Canadian border is over 5,500 miles long and while almost all of Canada is located north of the U.S., you can get to Ontario, Canada by driving due south from Detroit, Michigan. Seems odd, but it's true.
     There's also an odd place up in Wisconsin. If you look at a map, you’ll notice that the Canada–United States border is a straight line from the Pacific to about a third of the way across Minnesota and then it starts to get squiggly. 
     Before Canada was independent the border started getting worked out between the U.S. and Great Britain shortly after the American Revolution and was finally completed over the next few decades. The straight line runs along the 49th parallel. 
     In Minnesota the border was established the from the northwestern-most point of the Lake of the Woods to the head of the Mississippi River. But, it turned out that the source of the Mississippi, because the map they were working with was drawn by doctor and botanist John Mitchell in 1750, wasn't quite right. 
     A survey team went to the area to correct the error and it turned out that there was a little chunk of land belonging to the U.S. that was cut off from the rest of the country. It's known as the Northwest Angle and it hangs off of Manitoba and consists of 596.3 square miles made up of water and 123 square miles of mostly uninhabited land. 

     It's home to a handful of Minnesotans who have the honor of living at the northernmost point of the contiguous U.S. The only way to get there is to drive up through Minnesota to the Canadian border and then cross into Manitoba and go through Canadian customs. It used to be a simple matter, but after 9/11 it's more complicated. 
     After entering Manitoba, you'll drive through a few border towns and continue along several kilometers of unpaved road before crossing another border back into the United States. Here, you’ll need to go through customs again, though it's a little different. A few miles past the border crossing is a place called Jim’s Corner, where you’ll stop, enter a shack and call a U.S. Customs agent. 
     If you don’t want to drive through Canada, you can also reach it by crossing the Lake of the Woods by plane, boat, or, when the lake is frozen over, car. 
     They have the last one-room schoolhouse in the state and one policeman. The area's big attraction is walleye fishing. Back in the 1990s there was a half-serious attempt at secession. 
     Ontario shares a border with Minnesota that runs through the Lake of the Woods and the Canadians let people staying at Angle resorts fish in Canadian waters, but imposed high fees, catch-and-release regulations and required a ton of paperwork. All that could be avoided by staying at one of the Canadian resorts. The result was that Angle businesses took a beating. 
     So, in 1997, a representative from Minnesota proposed a constitutional amendment that would allow the residents of the Angle to vote on seceding from the United States and joining Canada. After investigation, a Minneapolis-based attorney determined that the Canadians were violating NAFTA fishing regulations and the Canadians revoked their regulations. By the way, seventy percent of the land is held in trust by the Red Lake Indian Reservation

There are many other strange borders in the world:

Part 1 – Panhandles
Part 2 – Spain 
Part 3 - Enclaves and Exclaves

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

River Monsters

     After eight years, extreme angler and biologist Jeremy Wade recently hung up his fishing rod. Since 2008, the public broadcast program River Monsters followed Wade's life-long quest to find killers and discover which are predators, which are victims, and which are the stuff of myth and legend. You can watch episodes beginning with season 1 at Animal Planet.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Blue Jay, Jerks of the Bird World

     I threw some stale bread out the other day for the birds and a flock of about 20 or so rushed in along with a squirrel (which I didn't know ate bread).  Suddenly the birds scattered and that's when I noticed a blue jay lurking in a nearby tree. The squirrel ignored the blue jay; that is until the blue jay attacked. 
     Blue jays are beautiful birds, but don't let that fool you! They're jerks. They dive bomb other birds and small animals and steal food and they even eat other birds' babies. They've also been known to attack humans. 
     Blue jays are found east of the Rocky Mountains throughout North America and have commonly been spotted living near cities. They are related to crows and ravens and other birds who have amazing intelligence and abilities. 
     Blue jays can mimic the cries of hawks, use tools, and work together in groups. They are social birds and will form groups to create more power and opportunity through their numbers. 
     They are considered to be vegetarian and enjoy peanuts, all kinds of seeds, and berries. In summer months, they will eat insects such as grasshoppers and caterpillars and, as mentioned, other birds' babies and eggs. It's rumored that they also will eat mice. 
     They're very intelligent and resourceful birds and have been observed using objects as tools. Some researchers have observed birds in the lab ripping up newspaper that lined the bottom of their cage, which they then used like a broom to collect out of reach food pellets. When given other objects such as feathers, twist ties, and paper clips, they used them for the same purpose. 
     In addition to using their crest to communicate, blue jays are extremely loud and vocal and have the ability to mimic other sounds. They have been known to imitate the sound of a hawk in order to scare smaller birds away from bird feeders so as to steal food. Some captive blue jays have even been known to mimic a cat's meow or several human speech sounds. 
     Blue jays have something called a gular pouch inside their throat, which they use to carry food around which is why they can be seen stuffing their face like a squirrel. What they don't eat immediately they will store, usually in the ground, for later consumption. 
     Blue jays usually migrate to escape the winter cold, but for reasons not completely known some stay behind. They tend form groups to create more opportunities to locate food as well as protect each other from predators. 
     Within the group blue jays will establish a social hierarchy in order to obtain food and eat without fighting over who gets to go first. Not friendly birds at all.
     They adapt easily to new situations and are very curious and inquisitive, crafty and aggressive. Aggressive enough that they have been observed taking on hawks and the hawks lost.

Five Weird Facts About Blue Jays 

Saturday, January 12, 2019

HP Printer Firmware Update Settlement

     Recently our HP printer quit working when we used non-HP ink cartridges. At the time we suspected the reason was because HP had rigged the printer not to work unless HP cartridges were used. We succeeded in locating a replacement print head on Amazon for $20. When it arrived it took about 10 minutes to install and when the new non-HP ink cartridges were installed the printer worked fine. I am pleased to announced that HP has been sued for their underhanded practice. 

     SAN JOSE, Calif., Jan. 7, 2019 /PRNewswire/ -- A settlement has been reached with HP in a class action lawsuit about Dynamic Security, a technology HP placed on certain of its inkjet printers. Plaintiffs allege Dynamic Security caused printers to stop working if they were using certain non-HP replacement ink cartridges. HP agrees under the settlement not to reactivate Dynamic Security in the Class Printers and to pay $1.5 million. HP denies that it did anything wrong. 
     Class Members are included in the Settlement if they owned a Class Printer between March 1, 2015 and December 31, 2017. The Class Printers are: 

HP OfficeJet Pro 6230, 6830, 6835 
HP OfficeJet 6812, 6815, 6820 
HP OfficeJet Pro 8610, 8615, 8616, 8620, 8625, 8630 
HP OfficeJet Pro X451dn, X451dw, X476dn, X476dw, X551dw, X576dw 

     To get money from the Settlement, Class Members must have had a Class Printer experience a print interruption while using a working non-HP replacement ink cartridge between March 1, 2015 and December 31, 2017. Class Members can get reimbursed for out-of-pocket expenses like the cost of replacement cartridges, a replacement printer, or printing or printer repair services. Class Members can make a claim and attach receipts or other documentation of their losses. Or, Class Members can make a claim for lost money or time without attaching documentation by providing the information requested on the Claim Form about their print interruption. The settlement money will be used to pay all documented claims first, with any remaining money divided equally among all class members. The amount of money claimants will get will depend on the number and type of claims submitted. 
     To get money, Class Members must submit a completed Claim Form postmarked by March 8, 2019. 
     Class Members can make a claim at www.HPPrinterFirmwareLawsuit.com. Class Members can also contact the Claims Administrator to request a paper Claim Form by telephone at 1-877-861-1101 or by U.S. mail at HP Printer Firmware Claims Administrator, PO Box 4079, Portland, OR 97208-4079, and submit the Claim Form to the same U.S. mail address or Fax it to 1-866-741-1848. 
    Class Members who wish to be excluded from the Settlement must submit their opt-out request online or by mail postmarked by March 13, 2019. Class Members who submit a Claim Form or do nothing will be bound by the Settlement and will give up their right to sue HP about Dynamic Security. Class Members who do not opt out may comment on or object to the Settlement by March 26, 2019. For more information, visit HPrinter FirmwarLawsuit.
     The Court will hold a hearing on April 25, 2019 at 9:00 a.m. to consider whether to approve the Settlement. The Court will also consider requests by Class Counsel for HP to pay their attorneys' fees and costs, as well as service awards for the representative class plaintiffs, separately from the $1.5 million fund. The date or time of the hearing may change. 
     Check www.HPPrinterFirmwareLawsuit.com for updates. For more information about rights and options, visit www.HPPrinterFirmwareLawsuit.com. Class Members may also call toll-free 1-877-861-1101, or write to HP Printer Firmware Claims Administrator, PO Box 4079, Portland, OR 97208-4079. HP Printer Firmware Update Settlement

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Brainwashing

     In an episode of the Science Channel's "Through the Wormhole," host Morgan Freeman, explored the potential, and dangers, of hacking the mind. Like computers, human brains may be vulnerable to hackers. Psychologist Marc Salem can decipher a person's thoughts using the tiny physical cues in a person's body language. Salem was able to guess the cards of professional poker players by picking up their nonverbal inflections and cues. But, is it possible to hack into a person's brain and plant thoughts there? 
     During the Korean War, Korean and Chinese captors reportedly brainwashed American POWs held in prison camps. Several prisoners confessed to waging germ warfare, which they hadn't, and pledged allegiance to communism by time they were released and 21 soldiers refused to return to the U.S. after they were released. But, that was only 21 out of over 20,000, so it begs the question does brainwashing really work? 
     Psychologists refer to brainwashing as thought reform which falls into the area they call social influence, the ways in which people can change other people's attitudes, beliefs and behaviors. There's another method, the compliance method, which tries to produce a change in a person's behavior and is not concerned with his attitudes or beliefs. Believe what you want, just do it. Then there is persuasion method which tries to change in attitude and, also, the education method, also called the propaganda method, which is when a person doesn't believe what they are being told. 
     Brainwashing combines all of these approaches to cause changes in someone's way of thinking without that person's consent and often against his will. In order to to be successful complete isolation and dependency of the subject is required which is why it happens in prison camps and cults. The persons doing the brainwashing must have complete control over their subject so that sleep patterns, eating, using the bathroom and the fulfillment of other basic human needs depend on the will of the agent. The process involves systematically breaking down the subjects identity to the point that it doesn't work anymore. The agent then replaces it with another set of behaviors, attitudes and beliefs that will work in the brainwashed person's environment.
     Experts are divided over the definition and effects of bainwashing. Some definitions require the presence of the threat of physical harm while others only require nonphysical coercion and control. 
     Many the effects of the process are short-term and once the victim's new identity stops being reinforced their old attitudes and beliefs will start to return. Therefore, many psychologists claim the conversion of American POWs during the Korean War was the result of torture, not brainwashing, as evidenced that most POWs were not converted to communism. So, does it always work and who makes an easy target? 
     We are constantly bombarded with commercials for products to buy, and exposed to people’s rants on social media. People tell us how we should vote, who we should hate, be afraid of, what we should buy and eat...everything. Before social media, advertisements would appeal to only people who were part of the target audience. However, nowadays social media and the internet offer personalized advertising tailored just for us. They know what you have been looking at and we provide the information based on our likes, comments, status updates, etc. See this article on sneaky marketing strategies.
     Recent studies have looked at the effectiveness of advertising on social media. One study used Facebook likes and focused on two personality traits: extroverts and introverts although it must be admitted that subjects were stereotyped. When one type was targeted they tended to react in a more positive manner than the non-target group even though the advertisements used were for the same product. Advertising is often designed to persuade us to buy more things that we don’t need and it's effective.  
     Mind control and brainwashing are goals for governments. The CIA did a series of experiments called MK-Ultra that was run, often surreptitiously, on what amounted to human guinea pigs. Some people (for example, Ken Kesey, author of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and Rob Hunter of the Grateful Dead volunteered). 
     The CIA’s purpose was to find the key to brainwashing. The CIA Director Richard Helms described the aim of the experiment was finding a drug that could "[...] aid in discrediting individuals, eliciting information, and implanting suggestions and other forms of mental control.” The drugs LSD and ecstasy were experimented with.  
     They also tried identifying personalities that would be easy to manipulate and prone to succumb to the drug-induced mind control. From 1946 until at least 1953 patients of the New York State Psychiatric Institute were administered drugs in order to find out which personality types were easier to manipulate even at the cost of a few lives. 
     Social media users are part of an ongoing experiment. Mass persuasion using psychological strategies are used every day as they try to persuade us how we can live healthier, happier lives whether it be by buying certain products, gambling or supporting certain candidates or policies, discrediting individuals, eliciting information and implanting suggestions and other forms of mental control. On Yahoo's home page take a look at the news stories and see how many actual news stories and how many “sponsored” headlines there are.
     Whether it’s through online ads, Russian bots, secret governmental projects, manipulation and mind control are a matter of interest because we are all subjects. 
     The manipulation of public opinion over social media has become a threat. Government agencies and political parties are exploiting social media platforms to spread junk news and disinformation, exercise censorship and control and undermine trust in media, public institutions and science. More and more political parties are using misinformation on social media. 
     Human biases play an important role. We’re more likely to react to content that taps into our existing grievances and beliefs so inflammatory posts will generate quick response. 
     Many Facebook users will believe anything their friends copy and paste into their status. Why? 
     Not trusting requires a lot of mental effort. If we woke up every morning questioning and doubting everything and everyone in our life, it would be mentally exhausting. We are also hardwired to seek safety in numbers and a survival advantage in belonging to a group. Being a lone wolf is not a good path to success. Being a skeptic and arguing with friends, even if you're right, could result in you no longer being their friend. 
     Studies show that we like to trust other people. Scientists have had subjects play games with a stranger and with a friend. The game is rigged so the subject is equally as successful with both partners, but on an MRI, the reward centers of the brain light up brighter when the subject has success with the friend. Even when psychologists rigged the game so the friend stole money, the subject's keeping playing the game with them. 
     Of course, some people are just gullible and easily tricked or manipulated into an ill-advised course of action and have the tendency to believe anything even if unsupported by evidence.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Lemon Ginger Tea

     Both lemon and ginger have energy-boosting properties and serve as antioxidants and immune booster and they both stimulate the metabolism. 
     Lemon-ginger tea is an infusion of lemon juice and ginger root rather than actual tea and it has many benefits. 
     Ginger has a very powerful active ingredient, named zingiber, which is able to eliminate bacterial pathogens that often attack the stomach and cause digestive dysfunction.  According to a study published in the Obstetrics & Gynecology journal, ginger will soothe nausea and eliminate vomiting. It also promotes effective digestion and nutrient absorption. Lemon is linked to reducing indigestion and heartburn. 
     Taken together they improve concentration and cognition, sooth nerves and improving mood and the antioxidant effects mean less oxidative stress and a lower chance of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. 
     Together they promote skin health according to a study by Dr. Petko Denev of th Bulgarian Academy of Sciences. You can drink the tea or apply it topically to irritated patches of skin. 
     Ginger is a stimulate the metabolism so it can also help to satiate the feelings of hunger. A glass of lemon ginger tea in the morning can help those who are trying to lose weight, primarily by adding extra calorie-burning to their day and suppressing the desire to snack between meals. 
     Both lemon and ginger are known as immune system aids, so if suffering from a cold or flu, drinking 1-2 cups daily will quickly improve symptoms and reduce irritation of of respiratory tract. Ginger's natural anti-inflammatory nature not only reduces irritation, swelling, and inflammation, but can also function as an analgesic. Therefore drinking a cup of lemon ginger tea can help with relief from body pain, menstrual cramps, illness, and surgeries. 
     Ginger is an effective in blood sugar regulation. It works by optimizing the release of insulin and blood sugar in your body, dangerous spikes and drops in blood sugar that can lead to diabetes or can affect someone already diagnosed with it.  
     You can buy tea bags, but it's very easy and simple to make plus it tastes better.

1) 4 cups boiling water 
2) 2-inch piece ginger root, thinly sliced 
3) 1 lemon, sliced 

Remove boiling water from heat. Add sliced ginger and lemon to hot water. Allow to steep for about 20 minutes. Strain. Serve warm or cold. Add honey if desired.

Monday, January 7, 2019

Froggy Goes a-Courtin'

The Oddest Place On Earth

     The Dry Valleys region of Antarctica is so unlike anywhere else on earth that it has been used to test equipment intended for use on Mars. 
     The Dry Valleys unusual due to the positioning of the Transantarctic Mountain Range which force air flowing over them upwards so they lose their moisture so snow and rain doesn't fall. The mountains also prevent the flow of ice down the valleys and strong winds of up to 200 miles per hour blow down from the interior causing whatever ice that makes it into the valleys to evaporate. 
     They are one of the most extreme desert climates anywhere on earth, a cold desert where the mean annual temperature is between 6 degrees F. to -22 degrees F. depending on the exact location. 
     There are three large valleys, Taylor Valley, Wright Valley and Victoria Valley. Taylor Valley was first discovered in 1901-1904 and surveyed in 1910-1913. The valley is hemmed in by tall mountain peaks and no further exploration of the surroundings was made until the 1950's further further valleys and the extent of them was discovered from aerial photographs. 

     There is a lake in Taylor Valley. There is a myth says that when the party from Scott's 1910-1913 expedition camped nearby, they took what they assumed was pure drinking water from this lake to be afflicted by a bad case of diarrhea which resulted in the usage of large amounts of toilet paper. The brand name of this paper was "Chad" and so the name was given to the lake. Actually, the diarrhea caused by the lake water was likely due to decaying seals in the lake. 
     Blood Falls was first discovered 1911. Its reddish-brown color is due to iron oxides coming from a sub-glacial lake under the Taylor Glacier. The unusual chemical properties of the lake water allows bacteria to survive. 
     The large very salty lake beneath the Taylor Glacier occasionally overflows causing Blood Falls to flow. It is the only place on earth where a deep very salty lake which harbors microbial life. This simple bacterial ecosystem do not need to derive energy from the sun and may indicate similar ecosystems elsewhere in the solar system such as on Mars. 
     Another of the Dry Valleys oddities is that they have mummified seals which have been found up to 40 miles from the sea and at altitudes of up to 5000 feet. These corpses have been carbon dated and found to be up to 2600 years old even though they appear to have died recently. The cold dry winds desiccate the carcass and there are no animals to eat the carcasses. No one is sure how or why these seals end up there and most of them are less than a year old, but it is thought that they just got lost. It's also believed that they were injured on the rocks and because their stomachs were almost empty, that they starved to death. In addition to the seals, a few penguin carcasses have been found. 
     The Dry Valleys have the Onyx River which is the longest river in Antarctica, though strictly speaking it isn't a river but a seasonal melt water stream and only flows 6-8 weeks a year. It flows away from the sea, its water never reaching the ocean. It's less than two feet deep and the width of several feet varies. 
     The river ends up in Lake Vanda which is saltier than any other natural body of water on earth. It was discovered in 1961 and does not freeze despite temperatures of down to 22 below because it is so salty. 
     One of the largest and clearest rock features is a region known as the labyrinth consists of a series of channels carved into a layer of bedrock over 300 feet thick. 
     The Dry Valleys also have a series of more than 20 permanent lakes and ponds. A number of these are extremely saline or in the case of the larger and deeper ones are strongly layered by depth becoming more saline the deeper you go, the most extreme of them all is Don Juan Pond described above which is the only one that doesn't freeze at the surface. Some of the smaller lakes freeze right down to the bottom in the winter. In recent years a series of underground interconnected lakes have also been found.

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Why Politicians Lie

     Hillary Clinton once admitted that she sometimes takes public positions that are at odds with her private position. But, that's nothing new. Even going back to the founders of the U.S. Constitution some framers took public stances, on religion for example, that were at odds with their personal beliefs. Politicians sometimes lie to deceive people. Why do they do it? 
     Hypocrisy and doublespeak are tools that can be used to circumvent odious or illicit schemes or for their personal benefit. Or, lying can be used to try to protect national interests. We all do it every day to some extent...like agreeing with someone when we know they are wrong. 
     Once a politician makes their position or their true beliefs public, it's going to make special interest groups angry and they will start lining up opposition and telling their own lies to prevent a deal from being made no matter what the cost to the public. 
     It's the way things are. No making sacrifices for the public good. No matter how beneficial an idea may be, if it doesn't come from the “correct” source, some politicians will be against it.   
     They can often get away with telling lies because of public ignorance because their true views differ from the majority of the public's opinion. For example, most Americans have never read the Constitution, so have no idea what it says. Thus, in 1973 when Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun wrote the majority opinion on one of the most controversial Supreme Court decisions in history, Roe v. Wade concerning abortion, he cited the 14th Amendment's right to privacy. 
     What is in the 14th Amandment? Section 1 makes it illegal to deprive anyone of life, liberty or property without due process of law or deny any person equal protection under the law. Tell that to the IRS who can just claim people owe so much in taxes and start confiscating assets without going through the courts. Section 2 pertains to electing representatives and Section 3 prohibits people who have been involved in treason from serving in the military or holding Federal office. Section 4 concerned the country's public debts. Where is privacy mentioned? 
     President Barack Obama lied about his position on same-sex marriage, but kept it secret until public opinion changed and he thought it was safe to reveal his true beliefs. 
     The public is usually ignorant of most politicians true views and voting record and wheelings and dealings and won't take the time to investigate. Georgetown political philosopher Jason Brennan argues that deception is OK if it prevents an ignorant or malevolent public from pushing through harmful or oppressive policies. Politicians know better than the public what's good for them. Short version: public ignorance makes lying an effective political strategy. 

Politicians believe lying is acceptable because: 
1) Many are narcissists, they have excessive interest in or admiration of themselves. They are arrogant, self-important, see themselves as special, have a sense of entitlement and are exploitative. 
2) They know their followers will believe them, even in the face of irrefutable evidence to the contrary. The same can be said of televangelists. 
3) People often don’t want to hear the truth because it sometimes hurts. Who wants to hear things that threaten way of life, beliefs or makes them uncomfortable? 
4) One of the consequences of the internet is that information, true or not, is likely to be believed even in the face of contradictory evidence. Research has shown, for example, that people are more likely to believe unsubstantiated rumors about a political candidate they oppose when read on the internet. 
5) Cognitive bias is when people create their own "subjective social reality" from their perception of the input. It helps people reduce confusion and anxiety and keeps life simple. As a result, people seek out information that supports their preconceived notions and deny new information that challenges their established views. 
6) Politicians know that if a lie is told enough times, people will assume it is true. 

    Politicians lie when they believe that dishonesty is the best policy for getting elected. But, there may also be another reason. Many politicians are, well, old. Some are well into their 60s and 70s. In a recent study published in the journal Brain and Cognition some (but obviously not all) subjects aged 60-92 proved significantly more likely than younger people to accept as the truth a lie they had told less than an hour earlier. 
     The study claims older adults have more difficulty distinguishing between what's real and what's not; telling a lie scrambles older people's memory so they have a harder time recalling what really happened. The conclusion was lying alters memory and creates a new memory for something that didn't happen. So, it is possible some of these older politicians actually believe their ow lies.
     There is an easy way to tell if a politician is lying.  If words are coming out of their mouth, they are lying.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Enjoy the Andrews Sisters

     

The Andrews Sisters were an American close harmony singing group of the swing and boogie-woogie eras. The three sisters were: LaVerne (July 6, 1911 – May 8, 1967), Maxene (January 3, 1916 – October 21, 1995) and Patty (February 16, 1918 – January 30, 2013). 
     The sisters were born to a Greek father, Peter Andreos (anglicized to "Andrews" upon arriving in the US) and their mother, Olga, was a Norwegian-American of the Lutheran faith. 
     Patty, the youngest and the lead singer of the group, was 7 when the group was formed, and 12 when they won first prize at a talent contest in Minneapolis, where LaVerne played piano accompaniment for the silent film showings in exchange for free dancing lessons for herself and her sisters. 
     Following the collapse of their father's Minneapolis restaurant, the sisters went on the road to support the family. They started their career as imitators of an earlier successful singing group, the Boswell Sisters, who were popular in the 1930s. 
     After singing with various dance bands and touring in they first came to national attention with their recordings and radio broadcasts in 1937. They followed this success with a string of best-selling records over the next two years and they became a household name by the 1940s. 
     In the years just before and during World War II, the Andrews Sisters were at the height of their popularity, and the group still tends to be associated in the public's mind with the war years. They had numerous hit records during these years, both on their own and in collaboration with Bing Crosby. Their 1941 hit Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy can be considered an early example of rhythm and blues and their harmonies and songs are still influential today and have been copied and recorded by entertainers such as Bette Midler, Christina Aguilera, Pentatonix, and others. 
     During the war, they entertained the Allied forces extensively in Africa, and Italy, as well as in the U.S., visiting Army, Navy, Marine and Coast Guard bases, war zones, hospitals, and munitions factories. They encouraged U.S. citizens to purchase war bonds with their rendition of Irving Berlin's song "Any Bonds Today?". They also helped actress Bette Davis and actor John Garfield found California's famous Hollywood Canteen, a retreat for servicemen where the trio often performed, volunteering their personal time to sing and dance for the soldiers, sailors, and marines (they did the same at New York City's Stage Door Canteen during the war). While touring, they often treated three random servicemen to dinner when they were dining out. 
     The sisters' 1945 hit "Rum and Coca Cola" became one of their most popular and best-known recordings, but also inspired some controversy. Some radio stations were reluctant to play the record because it mentioned a commercial product by name, and because the lyrics were subtly suggestive of local women prostituting themselves to U.S. servicemen serving at the then naval base on Trinidad. The song was based on a Trinidadian calypso, and a dispute over its provenance led to a well-publicized court case. The sisters later told biographers that they were asked to record the tune on short notice and were unaware either of the copyright issue or of the implications of the lyrics. 
     In the 1950s, Patty decided to break away from the act to be a soloist. She had married the trio's pianist, Walter Weschler, who became the group's manager and demanded more money for Patty.   When Maxene and LaVerne learned of Patty's decision from newspaper gossip columns rather than from their own sister, it caused a bitter two-year separation, especially when Patty sued LaVerne for a larger share of their parents' estate. 
     Maxene and LaVerne tried to continue the act as a duo and met with good press during a 10-day tour of Australia, but a reported suicide attempt by Maxene in December 1954 put a halt to any further tours. Maxene spent a short time in the hospital after swallowing 18 sleeping pills; LaVerne told reporters was an accident. 
     Maxene and LaVerne appeared together on The Red Skelton Show on October 26, 1954 singing the humorous "Why Do They Give The Solos To Patty" as well as lip-synching "Beer Barrel Polka" with Skelton in drag filling in for Patty. This did not sit well with Patty and a cease and desist order was sent to Skelton. 
     The sisters' private relationship was often troubled and Patty blamed it on Maxene: "Ever since I was born, Maxene has been a problem," she said. The trio reunited in 1956 and signed a new recording deal with Capitol Records, for whom Patty was already a featured soloist. By this point however, rock-and-roll and doo-wop were dominating. 
     The sisters recorded a dozen singles through 1959, some of which attempted to keep up with the times by incorporating rock sounds, but none of them achieved any major success. 
     Eldest sister LaVerne died in 1967 at the age of 55 after a year-long bout with cancer during which she was replaced by singer Joyce DeYoung (May 24, 1926 - March 7, 2014). After LaVerne died, Maxene and Patty continued to perform periodically until 1968, when she became the Dean of Women at Tahoe Paradise College, teaching acting, drama and speech and working with troubled teens. Patty was once again eager to be a soloist and in 1969, she appeared in Lucille Ball's third series Here's Lucy. 
     Patty and Maxene's careers experienced a resurgence when Bette Midler covered "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy" in 1973. The next year, the pair debuted on Broadway in a nostalgic World War II musical titled Over Here! It lasted only a year, and was the last time the sisters would ever sing together. 
     Patty continually distanced herself from Maxene, until her death, and would not explain her motives regarding the separation.  Maxene appealed to Patty for a reunion, both in public and in private, but to no avail. 
     Maxene suffered a serious heart attack while performing in Illinois in 1982 and underwent quadruple bypass surgery, from which she successfully recovered. Patty did visit her sister while she was hospitalized. 
     Patty made a comeback in the late 1970s as a regular panelist on The Gong Show. Maxene had a very successful comeback as a cabaret soloist in 1979 and toured worldwide for the next 15 years. Patty started her own solo act in 1980, but did not receive the critical acclaim her sister had for her performances, even though Patty was considered to be the "star" of the group for years. The critics' major complaint was that Patty's show concentrated too much on Andrews Sisters material, which did not allow Patty's own talents as an expressive and bluesy vocalist to shine through. 
     The two sisters did reunite briefly on October 1, 1987, when they received a star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame.  Except for a few brief private encounters, they remained somewhat estranged for the last few years. 
     Maxene suffered another heart attack and died at Cape Cod Hospital on October 21, 1995, making Patty the last surviving Andrews Sister. Upon hearing the news of her sister's death, Patty became very distraught. Several days later, her husband Wally fell down a flight of stairs and broke both wrists. Patty did not attend her sister's memorial services in New York City, nor in California. 
     The ashes of LaVerne and Maxene are interred in the Columbarium of Memory of the Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Glendale, California close to the ashes of their parents. Patty died of natural causes at her home in Northridge, California, on January 30, 2013, at the age of 94.

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Master Chef USA

     I admit, I watch this show even though I know it's fake. Why? For the same reason I watch police shows where people get murdered...I know it's fake...nobody is actually murdered on the show. It's entertainment. 
     Who appears on Master Chef? Most contestants send a video, then go and prepare a signature dish in person at various tryouts around the country. Their dish is graded by subcontracted cooking school judges in secret. 
     If they pass the test there comes reams of paperwork. A few get selected, not because of their cooking skills, but because they are weird or they will make for entertaining viewing. Those selected fly to Los Angeles at their own expense, meet at a hotel and take a psychological test. After the test a computer analyzes the results and the contestants then meet with a psychiatrist, or at least someone who looks like a psychiatrist. 
     If a person gets selected they have to sign a contract saying they understand they may be subjected to physical and mental distress, agree to have their medical history used in any way and such information can be used in perpetuity. Contestants are also informed that their family would likely not be contacted in the case of an emergency. They also agree to release the show from liability for any injuries and social and economic losses that could result, some of which could be substantial. 
     Getting to the actual show, it's fake and is designed to make for entertaining television. Good chefs can get eliminated immediately after making one small mistake if they aren't entertaining. Meanwhile bad chefs remain if they are interesting characters. The gender of the contestants is important, too; they try to keep the number of men and women balanced. Again, it can result in good chefs getting eliminated while keeping bad ones. Not that it really matters because few contestants go on to fame and fortune; most return to their regular jobs. 
     When the judges taste the dishes during the televised judging, the dishes are cold. They actual judging is done off camera when the food is hot. The judges actually taste food at each of the contestants' stations while the contestants are cooking. The left over food at the end of the show is eaten by the crew. 
     Winners, and the money that goes with it, are sometimes chosen by the judges based on sympathy for the contestants real world plight, not because they prepared the best dishes or were the best cooks. 

For further reading see I am a "MasterChef" survivor