A Surprising Technology Winner During the Pandemic

I claim a surprising winner during the pandemic is the humble QR code

That Was Then

First, some history. For a fuller accounting, see the link above. QR codes were developed for the Japanese auto industry in 1994. They've been reviled, despised and abused since. Their use is mainly to take you to a web page. Some people miss this concept. I remember one friend who had a client who insisted that the QR code for their website appear on the site's homepage. Think about that for a moment.

COVID-19 in the US Venn Diagram

Covid-19 in the US Venn Diagram




Current US population: 331,062,902



Probable number of actual COVID-19 cases: 20,000,000 - 36,000,000



Total number of COVID-19 tests given:




Total tests that were positive:




Excess Deaths in the US:

115,061 - 159,464



COVID-19 deaths in the US:



Latest One-Page Fun Site

I've been thinking about doing this for a while, so I used it as an excuse to learn something about the JAMStack. See: https://everylinuxprocess.com/

Household Chemical Formulas from a Bygone Era


When I was a kid, I had a chemistry set. I wrote off to a bunch of scientific supply places for catalogs. This is part of my favorite. In addition to the standard catalog, the first part of the booklet was practical chemical recipes. I was fascinated. I've scaned and OCR'd them in below. DISCLAIMER: DON'T DO THESE!!! Some of them make me shiver, like the lead-based paints and glues. It is interesting, however to compare the modern smartphone sepia filter with the actual process. Make sure you click the "read more" at the bottom for the full contents.


For Laboratory Use

Haines Solution for glucose in urine

3 grams Copper Sulphate, 9 grams Potassium Hydrate, pure, 100 grams Glycerine, water to make 600 ml. Boil 4 ml. of solution, add 6-10 drops urine. Boil again. If sugar is present red precipitate of cuprous oxide forms

Millon's Reagent for albumen in urine

Dissolve mercury in an equal weight of strong Nitric Acid, applying moderate heat. Dilute with equal volume of distilled water. When added to urine which may contain albumen, a reddish precipitate is formed on warming.

Boas Solution for free Hydrochloric Acid

Dissolve 1 gram resorcin and 3 grams cane sugar in 100 ml 50% alcohol. Gives red color on adding a drop or two to solution containing Hydrochloric Acid.

Test Solutions

The general rule for test solutions is to take 10 grams of C P. chemical, dissolve in about 50 ml water and make up to 100 ml

Cement for mending wood handle pestles

Melt together equal parts india rubber and shellac. Fill cavity in handle and retain in position

Test for leaking ammonia gas

Tie a piece of phenolphthalein paper on a long stick and move in vicinity where ammonia leak is suspected. The paper will turn a brilliant red when hit by leaking ammonia fumes.

Test for hydrogen sulphide gas

Lead acetate test paper will turn black in presence of hydrogen sulphide. Likewise it will turn black when dipped into a solution containing soluble sulphides

Litharge and glycerine cement

Stir litharge (lead oxide, yellow) into glycerine until it becomes a paste. Apply where needed. Hardens in a few hours. An excellent all around cement for glass, metals, coupling, etc.

Glass and porcelain cement

Casein 1 part, sodium silicate solution 6 parts. Apply to broken parts

Aquarium cement

Graphite powder 6 parts, slaked lime (calcium hydrate) 3 parts, barium sulphate 8 parts, linseed varnish oil 7 parts. Work into a putty-like consistency and press into place.

Loyalty Cards, Digital Marketing and Cluelessness

Businesses keep making the same mistakes. Here's one I see periodically, illustrated by a startup I consulted with briefly a few years ago. It was an app/discount card that gave people discounts at local businesses. Commonly 10% off or so. They had an online map showing where you could use their card. I knew they were doomed when I saw two florists on the map a mile apart on the same road. All their card did was spark a price war. 

Loyalty cards can be great, but there's two sides to success. 1) The business should use programs like this to gain marketing insights into their customers so they can do personalized, one-to-one marketing. Kroger does a great job of this. The more you use your Kroger loyalty card, the more you get a personalized batch of coupons for stuff you actually use. The business gives up a share of the profit in exchange for greater insight into their customers' habits, not just a hoped-for increase in sales volume. They can then use these insights to laser-focus their marketing efforts on their most profitable customers and drive better engagement, which then increases profits. 2) From the consumer side, a loyalty card is worthwhile if the more you use it, the more valuable it becomes. Chick-fil-A is a good example of this. When you start using their app, you get 10 points for every dollar you spend. Then you move up a level and start getting 11 points. Finally you can hit the top level and get 12 points per dollar. Thus the app ends up being 20% more valuable to the user. They also periodically give you a free sandwich or such. This builds on a positive reward feedback loop in the consumer's brain and thus builds brand loyalty (by playing on the consumers' sunk cost or loss aversion cognitive biases). Otherwise, the app or card just becomes a package of coupons that can be thown out without a second thought, much like bundles of physical coupons one gets in the post. 

Discount apps or cards that don't gather valuable marketing insights for the business or become more valuable to the consumer over time are, in my opinion, doomed to failure. I've seen several of these come and go and have yet to be proven wrong. 

Above Ground Pool Service

The pool place we use only deals with in-ground pools. They say almost nobody maintains above-ground pools. So... this sounds like an opportunity to me. If one could systemitize the maintenance of above-ground pools: filters, chemicals, remote sensorts, maintenance schedule, etc. There should be a good business there. Then one could franchise it, or at a lower cost do a business process syndication on it. To really make it go, one would need a counter-seasonal business to run in the cold half of the year with similar manpower and skills. Maybe chimney sweeping, duct cleaning, or... I don't know, what are your ideas? 

The Auto Industry Needs to Change

The auto industry is ripe for a total upheval. If you don't believe it, read this article that was originally on Quora and then picked up by Forbes about industries in general, then check it off against the auto industry: Four signs an industry is ripe for upheaval. 

Tesla's just the vanguard, the tip of the iceberg. For what wll really revolutionize the industry, see Laminack's Law of Technology

Once Telsa becomes successful, it will leave behind a wake of n-1 generation technologies that will suddenly become a LOT cheaper. Here's some other factors that will be contributing:

The nascent open hardware movement. There are several open source automotive platforms, but they haven't gained traction yet because they haven't reached scale. 

Next: Auto manufacturers (OEMs) hate their distributors and vice-versa. There is no economic reason for car dealers to exist anymore. These need to be replaced by distributors, not dealers. 

The manufacturing of drivetrains and bodies needs to be distributed, done by smaller manufacturers in many places. This eliminated huge start-up costs and eliminates single-point-of-failure supply chains.

Cars can be assembled on-site and built-to-order. Car bodies will be stocked in one color: primer. They'll be painted to order on-site. Why not? There are a number of national paint-and-body chains that can do this. But can a car really be built while-you-wait? Yes. If properly designed, a car can be easily assembled and disassembled. The advantage of this is greater flexibility for the customer and substanstanial cost savings for the distributor, since they don't have to floorplan 100s of different styles and colors. 

The drivetrain will be the n-1 generation of electric drives. The console can be a generic android touch-screen tablet that 3rd parties can write software for. 


Laminack's Law of Technology

The primary use of the Nth generation technology is that is pushes down the price of the N-1 generation technology.

Acceleration in Star Trek

Just watched episode 1 of Star Trek Discovery. Commander Burnham takes a jet-pack to an unknown ship 2,000 km away. She has to go and return in 20 minutes. So she has to cover the 2,000 km in less than 10 minutes. That's a long way, over 1,200 miles in 10 minutes from a dead start. Is the acceleration reasonable? Let's assume linear acceleration to 1,000 km in 5 minutes, then linear deceleration the rest of the way. I decided to use a new website I found to solve such things, fxsolver. Plugging into the linear acceleration forumla 1,000,000 meters in 300 seconds from V0 =0 and X0 = 0 gives an acceleration of 22.22 m/s^2. Since 1G = 9.8 m/s^2, that's a sustained push of 2.2G forward then back for the 20 minute ride. That's uncomfortable, but looks like humans can probably tolerate up to 4G sustained. So though the top speed is around 15,000 mph, it's still within the range of possibility. I doubt she could dodge asteroids at top speed, but that's another question.

How Much Larger is the New TV?

We bought a new 50" TV this week. The kids said they didn't see any difference between it and the old 37". So how much bigger is it?

TVs have always been measured along the diagnoal. This gives the marketers the largest possible number to advertise.

Modern HD screens have an aspect ratio of 16:9, that is for every 16 units wide the screen is, it's 9 units high. (old analog TVs were 4:3).

So some algebra later, we find that to get the height of an HD screen, multiply the diagonal by 0.49. To get the width, multiply the diagonal by 0.87.

To get the area, multiply width by height, or to save a step, square the diagonal size and multiply by 0.4263.

So the 37" screen has and area of about 583 square inches, the new 50" is about 1065.75 square inches, or 180% the size.

Don't know how much larger it has to be for kids to notice.

Why FitBit Failed

Fitness trackers, like Fitbit, been shown in several studies, like this one, to be ineffective helping with weight loss or fitness, and may have negative effects. Why? Several theories have been advanced, here's one of my own.. First, let me say that I'm speaking from experience. We have a couple of these things around our house and nobody knows where they are now.

Excercising with a Fitbit goes something like this:

I'm ready to go for a walk. 

Where's the Fitbit?

I thought it was on the nightstand.

Maybe I left it in the car.

Or the bathroom.

(looking... looking... 5 minutes later...)

Here it is! 

Oh, rats, I need to charge it.

I'll charge it up and walk tomorrow. 

There's an old adage that says "The hardest part of any journey is the first step". Fitbit fails because it takes the hardest part of working out (getting started) and makes it even harder


How Many Letters Does a Postman Deliver a Day?

Marla just entered a contest where she had to guess how many letters a given letter carrier (postman, actually post-woman?) was going to deliver that day. In googling, I didn't find an answer to that question. So here's my guess, based on the most authoritative sources I can find.

So it's pieces of mail per carrier per day. The number of pieces of mail delivered per day by the United States Postal Service is about 509 million, according to the USPS. Now we need to know the number of letter carriers in the US. This number is about 315,950, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Dividing, we get that the average letter carrier delivers about 1,611 pieces of mail per day in the United States. You're welcome.

Social Media Talk at Joomla Users' Group

Here's a link to the outline of the talk I gave on August 10, 2015 at the Atlanta Joomla Users' Group about Joomla and Social Media. It seemed well received.