Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Math in Your Head

I often find myself doing math in my head, and people are shocked and amazed that I can quickly come up with an answer without using a calculator.  I should probably be the one who is shocked that so few people can do simple math in their heads.  Then again, someone who does high level mathematics is not necessarily good at arithmetic.

I suppose the logic comes easy for a programmer, but the trick to solving complex problems is to break them down into simpler operations.


Multiplication is really addition, multiple times.

10 x 3 = 10 + 10 + 10 = 30

One common problem is percentages.


Percentage is really a division or multiplication problem, depending on how you look at it.

  • What is 20 percent of 120?

There are several ways to approach such problems, and I don't always use the same method.

Method 1

Sometimes it is easier to break things up into 10's 100's or multiples of 2.

120 = 100 + 20

So work on each portion separately, and combine them later.  First, find 20% of 100 = 20.  Very easy.

Then there is the remaining portion of the problem, which is to find 20 percent of 20.  For this, I like to use multiples of ten.

20 = 10 x 2

20% of 10 = 2.  This is basically the same as the original portion, except the decimal point is shifted.  Any X percent of 100 is aways X.  Here we just imagined that 10 was 100, and when we got the answer of 20, we just shifted back to come up with 2.

OK, so far we have 20% of 10, but there are two tens, so we just have to multiply by 2:

20% of 20 =
(20% of 10) + (20% of 10) =
2 + 2 = 4

To put it all together, we have
20 + 4 = 24

Method 2

We want 20%, so we multiply by .2

120 * .2

Not sure how to multiply fractions, so we shift the decimal point

2 * 12 = 24

Method 3

Find 20% off of the original price

Multiply by the opposite of the desired percentage.

We want 20% off (100% - 20% = 80%), so we multiply by 80%

120 * .8

Not sure how to multiply fractions, so we shift the decimal point

8 * 12 = 96

Then, if we wanted the original 20%, we could subtract the result from the original amount.

120 - 96 = 24

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Apple Cider Vinegar - Nutritious, sure, but Delicious?

Apple Cider Vinegar

You may have heard people the talk about the health benefits of apple cider vinegar, but it doesn't sound very appetizing to drink.  Think about it, do you drink pure lemon juice, or do you make lemonade?

Scott's Lemonade

1 Cup Fresh Squeezed Lemon Juice
1 Cup Pure Cane Sugar
6 Cups Water
Optional: Serve over Ice

Note: Packages labeled "Sugar" instead of "Pure Cane Sugar", are likely Genetically Modified Beet Sugar, instead of Cane Sugar.

Bragg Organic Vinegar Health Drink

1-2 tsps Bragg Organic Apple Cider Vinegar in 8 oz. glass of
purified or distilled water and (optional) to taste 1 to 2 tsps
Organic Honey, 100% Maple Syrup, or 4 drops of herb Stevia.
Delicious, ideal pick-me-up at home, work, sports or gym.
Perfect 3 times daily, upon arising, mid-morning and mid-afternoon

From the bragg.com website:  http://bragg.com/products/bragg-organic-apple-cider-vinegar.html

Scott's Apple Cider Vinegar Drink

2 tsp Bragg Organic Apple Cider
2 tsp Organic Honey
8 oz Filtered Water
2 oz Organic Apple Juice (or other fresh fruit juice, or smoothie).

I like to make a pitcher of the Apple Cider Vinegar drink, and add juice to each glass when it is time to serve.

Notes about why organic is important for the ingredients listed in the recipe:

Honey - May contain high levels of pesticides, if it is not organic.
Apple Cider Vinegar - May contain high levels of pesticides, and arsenic, if it is not organic.
Apples and Apple Juice  - May contain high levels of pesticides, and arsenic, if not organic.

Does it Work?

Does it really increase energy, and help with digestion, and weight loss?  Try it for yourself.  You may be surprised at how delicious it is.  Note that most people who tried it enjoyed it, or at least tolerated it, but a very small percentage of people may feel an upset stomach, in which case they may already have enough digestive enzymes and acid.  Some people may notice a boost in energy.

So next time someone tells you to try a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar, that doesn't mean to pour it in spoon, and put it right in your mouth.  Remember to make it taste good, and you may even discover a new drink that you crave sometimes.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

What to do with Empty Land

Uses for Empty Land

After reading Rich Dad Poor Dad, I got to thinking about cash flow.  Some of the books in the series discuss the idea of owning real estate, and making money on rent.

I thought it would be interesting to explore some ideas on what to do with empty land.

Business Ideas that require minimal building.  Possibly just restrooms, and roof or small buildings.  Most ideas probably require water and electricity.

Minimal Construction
  • Camping
  • Car Wash
  • Dog Grooming 
  • Dog Playground / Daycare
  • Party Rental 
  • Flea Market (may need lots of cleanup afterwards)
  • Go carts
  • Bouncing castle entertainment site (children's parties.)
  • Billboard
  • Lemonade Stand
  • Hot Dog / Hamburger, or Taco Stand
  • Coffee Stand
  • Horseback Riding Lessons
  • Community Garden
Some Construction
  • Mini storage
  • Miniature golf
  • Bungalows or cabins
  • Daycare Center 
  • Cell phone tower
More Complete Construction
  • Apartments
  • House(s)
  • Bed and Breakfast
  • Warehouse
  • Factory
  • Shopping Mall
  • Grocery Store
  • Restaurant
  • Bakery

Specific Ideas Based on Location

City Areas
  •  Parking Lot / Car Wash
  • Coffee Stand

Small Suburban Lots
  • Self-Storage

Large Farm Area
  • Farming
  • Solar Panels
  • Wind Turbines
  • Junk Yard

It seems that there are many ideas for land in city and farm areas, but a more challenging type is a small lot in a sparsely populated residential neighborhood.

Of course some ideas can be combined, and some are mutually exclusive.  What else can be done with an empty lot?  Post your ideas in the comments.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Trader Joes is My New Favorite Grocery Store

Trader Joe's has long been my favorite grocery store because of healtier choices, and better prices, but I recently found more reasons to love them.

I was on a special diet for one week to test for food sensitivity and allergies.  I was pleasantly surprised to find almost everything I needed at Trader Joe's.  I walked out with two big bags of groceries for around $40.00.

But it gets better...

Good News about Non-GMO

As I was testing different foods, I was concerned about genetically engineered food sources, also known as GMO (Genetically Modified Organism), so I went to the Trader Joe's website to ask about their products.  Here is their reply:


Thank you for your email. Our approach to Genetically Modified Organisms is simple: we do not allow GMO ingredients in our private label products (anything with Trader Joe's, Jose's, Ming's, etc. on the label).

When developing products containing ingredients likely to come from genetically modified sources, we have the supplier of the product in question perform the necessary research to provide documentation that the suspect ingredients are from non-GMO sources.

This documentation is in the form of affidavits, identity-preserved certification of seed stock, and third-party lab results from testing of the ingredients in question.

In addition to this work done in developing a given item, we perform random audits of items with suspect ingredients, using an outside, third-party lab to perform the testing.

Given our position on GMO ingredients in Trader Joe's label products and the work done in support of that position, it is our expectation that our products test as non-GMO.

We have yet to take the approach of labeling products as non-GMO because there are no clear guidelines from the US governmental agencies covering food and beverage labeling.

Instead of waiting for such guidelines to be put into effect and based upon customer feedback, we took a more holistic approach and made the no GMO ingredients position part of what the Trader Joe's label encompasses.

We're unable to make the same claims for branded products. Organic products, regardless of brand, are by definition non-GMO.

We appreciate your understanding,
Customer Relations

-----Original Message-----
From: ...lifeisnojoke.com 
Sent: Wednesday, September 19, 2012 4:02 PM
To: Web Customer Relations
Subject: Trader Joe's Product Information Form
Name:Scott M
Phone Number:
Email Address: ...lifeisnojoke.com
Your Trader Joe's: ...
Product Name:Corn or Canola Oil
Sku #:
Date Code:

Comments:  I understand that GMO (Genetically Modified Organism) sources are used for many oils in the US. I would like to know if any of your Corn, Soy, or Canola Oil uses Non-GMO sources. Thanks for continuing to provide the best products at good prices.

 Label Genetically Modified Foods

OK, so what's all this talk about Proposition 37, and the right to know what is in our food?

Check out the website for more info: http://www.carighttoknow.org

  • More than 90% of Americans want to know if their food as been genetically modified.
  • If Genetically Engineered food is so "safe," then why not label the foods?  Aren't they proud of their accomplishments?
  • Over 1 Million Californians signed the petition to get this on the ballot
  • For the first time, it is possible for a state to make a difference because voter initiated propositions are able bypass any corruption.
  • If enough people refuse to eat GM food, markets, manufacturers, and farmers will have to give us better alternatives
  • Sure, it's not perfect, but anything is better then what we have had for years.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us

This "RSA Animate" provides some insight into what drives software engineers to create software such as Linux, and give it away for free.  This seems to imply that giving back is a reward in itself, but in the back of the developer's mind there could also be the idea that he may become famous some day, and that the money will follow.  As a systems administrator / developer, I tend to agree with the idea that becoming an expert does not always require any compensation, and it feels good to help fellow sysadmins and computer users.  The knowledge itself is valuable, and can be turned into a business at some point.  For example practicing a musical instrument, or learning to cook well for no monetary reward can be fun, but is also something to fall back on.

 RSA Animate - Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us

This lively RSA Animate, adapted from Dan Pink's talk at the RSA, illustrates the hidden truths behind what really motivates us at home and in the workplace.

These are fun to watch, whether or not you agree with the speaker, or the ideas presented.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Foxtails are Dangerous to Dogs

Foxtails, and similar plants have no place in a community where dogs are present!

Having grown up on the east coast, I had never heard of the plants commonly referred to as foxtails.  When I first saw these beautiful plants in our new townhouse community, I thought they looked nice, although they do tend to get overgrown fairly quickly.

Nice Colored Plants, but Dangerous for Pets!

My Dog's Experience with Foxtails

Maybe these are not technically considered foxtail weeds that grow in the wild, but when my dog got one of the spikelets caught in her nose, she started sneezing uncontrollably for hours.  We didn't realize what it was at first, and thought it would clear up on it's own, but when she kept sneezing, we thought it best to take her to the vet.  It's a good thing we did, because we later found out how dangerous these barbs can be.  She had to have anesthesia in order to have it removed.  We were fortunate that it did not get any further into her body, but it was still a surgical procedure that cost over $100.  Sadly, it happened again, since the plants were right outside our front gate, and the pieces would blow onto our porch where she would sniff them.  Again we were fortunate that our vet was able to remove them before they could do any more serious damage.

We asked the HOA to remove the plants near our entrance.  They responded quickly, and it solved her problem, but there are still other plants in the area, so I am concerned for other dogs.  I also have to be careful walking near these plants wherever they are, not to mention the barbs that have blown from them.  Builders, land owners and landscapers really should be aware of the dangers of these plants, and stop using them.


Foxtail type plants getting dry and overgrown
Here are some articles with some excerpts that I found by doing a quick google search: "foxtails dogs"

Protecting Your Dog Against Foxtails

Foxtails can wind up virtually anywhere in the body, and associated symptoms vary based on location. For example, a foxtail within the ear canal causes head shaking, under the skin a draining tract, or within the lung, labored breathing and coughing. Not only is the dog’s body incapable of degrading or decomposing foxtails, these plant awns are barbed in such a way that they can only move in a "forward" direction.

Foxtail (diaspore) - From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

They can become a health hazard for dogs and other domestic animals, and a nuisance for people.

Worst weeds for dogs? Foxtails are just a start

"They’re horrible! They’re a nightmare!" said Kay, who estimates that in summer, the emergency room of the animal hospital where she works in Northern California might see 60 to 90 cases a month involving foxtails.

Home Remedies for Dogs With Porcupine Quills and Foxtails

The best remedy for foxtails is to avoid them completely. If you notice them in your yard, remove them or use a weed killer. Be sure to inspect your dog's coat thoroughly after hiking, including between his toes. If you find even the smallest sliver, remove it as soon as possible to prevent it from moving deeper into his coat.

Foxtail Grass Dangerous to Dogs

If you have dogs, keep the foxtail out of your lawn!

The seeds found in the ears, eyes and nose are very serious and can become life threatening.

Foxtails - A Deadly Summertime Danger

They can easily become lodged between a dogs toes, in its ears, and in its eyes. Since the seeds are barbed like a fish hook, they can be very difficult to remove. Once embedded, foxtail seeds cause severe infections and abcesses.


It seems that all these articles share the same opinion of how horrible these plants are.  I have to agree.  I was once a fan of their beauty for landscaping, but not anymore.  It's just not worth the pain.

Miniture Schnauzer Puppy Pictures - Our dog Lola as a puppy

Lola at puppy class graduation
Lola passing her final exam at puppy class! - 11/23/2010
 Some people think it would be nice to rescue an animal, and that is certainly a noble act.  What they may not realize is that the animal turns out to be the one rescuing them!

Lola at 3 months, playing
Lola at 3 months - 07/05/2010
Who rescued whom?

Lola at 3 months, lying down
Typical Schnauzer puppy, with the hind legs spread out.

We has just lost our 22 year old cat, so Lola came when we most needed her.  The enthusiasm and energy of a puppy was just what we needed to get outside and get a little exercise.

Miniature schnauzers have lot's of energy, but they get tired faster than some of the typical larger breeds.  She like to take short breaks before continuing to run around like a maniac.

Lola at 3 months, looking cute
Cute schnauzer puppy pose

The long hair needs to be brushed frequently if thee is any dry plants or bugs around, but she's still cute even with the fur all messed up.

Lola at 3 months, lovable look
Still not sure if I can trust anyone yet.

 Schnauzers are usually very suspicious of strangers.  Although she felt right at home, it took several months before she felt she could trust us.
Lola at 4 months, lying in dish
This dish looks like it would make a nice bed.

It's nice to look at old pictures now that she is full grown.  Lola the miniature schnauzer was born on April 1, 2008, and came to our home at 3 months old.