My Uniden phone has a Do Not Disturb button. When I press it, it makes a loud beep and then goes into DND mode. While in DND mode, pressing the button silently takes it out of DND mode.

Yeah, I don’t get it either.

Searching for “search engine”

Searching for the phrase “search engine” within several popular search engines generates some surprising results. While I thought that each search engine would list themselves first within their results, that wasn’t necessarily the case.

Below is a list of search engines along the first 5 results of searching for the phrase, “search engine”. The number following the search engine name is the position that search engine appeared in its own results. Click the search engine name to run the search for yourself. Results below were run on 9/26/08 and are subject to change.

Google (#22 in its list… and it’s the UK site!)

  1. http://www.dogpile.com
  2. http://www.altavista.com
  3. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Search_engine
  4. http://search.yahoo.com
  5. http://searchenginewatch.com

Yahoo! (#1 in its list.)

  1. http://search.yahoo.com
  2. http://www.google.com
  3. http://www.dogpile.com
  4. http://www.altavista.com
  5. http://www.webcrawler.com

MSN (#86 in its list.)

  1. http://www.search.com
  2. http://www.google.com
  3. http://www.google.com/coop/cse
  4. http://www.altavista.com
  5. http://www.dogpile.com

Alta Vista (#4 in its list)

  1. http://search.yahoo.com
  2. http://www.google.com
  3. http://www.dogpile.com
  4. http://www.altavista.com
  5. http://www.webcrawler.com

Ask (not listed in first 100 hits)

  1. http://searchengineland.com
  2. http://www.dogpile.com
  3. http://www.searchenginewatch.com
  4. http://www.searchenginejournal.com
  5. http://blog.searchenginejournal.com

Dogpile (#11 in the list. Note: Sponsored links were ignored.)

  1. http://www.altavista.com
  2. http://search.yahoo.com
  3. http://searchenginewatch.com
  4. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Search_engine
  5. http://www.google.com

lyGO (not in first 100 hits)

  1. http://search.yahoo.com
  2. http://www.webcrawler.com
  3. http://www.lycos.com
  4. http://search.aol.com
  5. http://www.cba.ca

A9 (not in first 100 hits)

  1. http://www.dogpile.com
  2. http://www.altavista.com
  3. http://www.searchenginecolossus.com
  4. http://www.searchengineguide.com
  5. http://www.ask.com

Search.com (#9 in its list. Ignored all sponsored links.)

  1. http://searchenginewatch.com
  2. http://www.altavista.com
  3. http://www.dogpile.com
  4. http://www.search.com/reference/Web_search_engine
  5. http://search.yahoo.com

Yahoo! was the only search engine where they were listed at the top of their own results. Alta Vista and lyGO agree and listed Yahoo! first as well.

The others didn’t fair so well. Ask, lyGO and A9 did not show up within the first 100 hits within their results. MSN showed up 86th within their own results and while Google showed up 22nd, it was the UK site that showed up and not the US site, despite having conducted the search using their US site.

Do you think Yahoo! forced their name to the top or did it just work out that way? Are you surprised that the other search engine companies didn’t force their names to the top of their results? I am.

Texting illegal while driving frees up drivers to read ads

In today’s news it was reported that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a bill making it illegal not only to send text messages while driving, but reading them as well. Also in today’s news was a report that California wants to display ads on the Amber Alert signs while not in use.

Banning the sending AND reading of text messages while driving is supposed to ensure that drivers keep their eyes on the road. Displaying ads on Amber Alert signs adds yet another distraction. Hey California, are you dumb?

My only theory is that banning text messaging while driving will ensure that drivers will see the ads thus generating income for the state. Here’s a perfect example of greed in its purest form.

How can you screw up a bubble?

I bought two bottles of bubbles. You know, you dip in the wand, blow and bubbles float around gently? Well, the bubbles I bought do no such thing. They’re called “Super Miracle Bubbles” and believe me, the only miracle is that they don’t work!

Dip, blow and what do you get? Either it pops immediately before the bubble is formed or the bubbles that are made drop to the ground like a lead weight. I sent feedback to the company and we’ll see how they respond. I’ll keep you posted.

In the meantime, this site contains some homemade recipes for bubbles which I may end up trying. In addition, Zubbles look fun. They’re deeply colored bubbles that don’t stain, but as of this writing have not yet been released.

The “Revolutionary” GoateeSaver


This is one of the dumber inventions I’ve seen in a while. Their slogan? “Real men wear goatees.” In reality, what they should be telling you is that “Real men know how to shave their goatees.”

The only way I’d call this thing “revolutionary” is if it was invented between 1775 and 1783. I’ve been the proud owner of a goatee for over 10 years and if you can’t shave your own goatee without a stencil, then you have no business having one or handling sharp objects. It’s not tough. Really.

Anti-bacterial cleaners

I’ve been avoiding anti-bacterial products and am annoyed by the positive sounding benefits that these products are said to have. While their claim of killing 99.9% of bacteria sounds compelling at first, the thought of leaving behind .1% of bacteria that can’t be killed sounds rather scarey.

An interesting article from MedicineNet.com, researches swabbed for bacteria in 32 locations within 35 houses. Here’s the number of bacteria per square inch found:

  1. Toilet bowl: 3.2 million bacteria/square inch
  2. Kitchen drain: 567,845 bacteria/square inch
  3. Sponge or counter-wiping cloth: 134,630 bacteria/square inch
  4. Bathtub, near drain: 119,468 bacteria/square inch
  5. Kitchen sink, near drain: 17,964 bacteria/square inch
  6. Kitchen faucet handle: 13,227 bacteria/square inch
  7. Bathroom faucet handle: 6,267 bacteria/square inch
  8. Bathroom sink, near drain: 2,733 bacteria/square inch
  9. Pet food dish, inside rim: 2,110 bacteria/square inch
  10. Kitchen floor, in front of sink: 830 bacteria/square inch
  11. Toilet floor, in front of toilet: 764 bacteria/square inch
  12. Kitchen countertop: 488 bacteria/square inch
  13. Bathroom countertop: 452 bacteria/square inch
  14. Garbage bin: 411 bacteria/square inch
  15. Dish towel: 408 bacteria/square inch
  16. Toy: 345 bacteria/square inch
  17. Kitchen tabletop: 344 bacteria/square inch
  18. Home office phone or refrigerator door: 319 bacteria/square inch
  19. Toilet seat: 295 bacteria/square inch
  20. Bathroom light switch: 217 bacteria/square inch
  21. Microwave buttons: 214 bacteria/square inch
  22. Kitchen chopping board: 194 bacteria/square inch
  23. Child-training potty: 191 bacteria/square inch
  24. Infant changing mat and infant high chair: 190 bacteria/square inch
  25. Kitchen phone: 133 bacteria/square inch
  26. Bathroom door’s inside handle: 121 bacteria/square inch
  27. Toilet’s flush handle: 83 bacteria/square inch
  28. TV remote control: 70 bacteria/square inch
  29. Home office computer keyboard: 64 bacteria/square inch
  30. Home office computer mouse: 50 bacteria/square inch

I measured one of my kitchen countertop (#12 above). It’s 2’x6′. That equals 1728 square inches. If I multiply that by 488 (the number of bacteria per square inch) I get 843264 bacteria. Now, if I use a cleaner to kill 99.9% of them, I’m left with 8432 bacteria. That sounds like a lot of bacteria spread throughout my kitchen counter.  And as a reminder, this isn’t your regular garden variety bacteria. This is highly resistant super bacteria, able to withstand some pretty harsh chemicals. This bacteria doesn’t have to compete for food, housing or jobs from its fellow bacteria.

So I ask you, is it worth it or do you think it’s better to let them all live to fight it out with each other in their own little microscopic world?

Let me out!

We had a friend coming over to visit and I needed to make a quick stop at Safeway to pick up a few items. The store wasn’t particularly crowded but for some reason, everybody seemed to be mulling around, blocking aisles and in no rush to get out of the way.

When picking out a checkout line, I typically look for four things:

  1. A short line. I count up the number of people waiting to check out.
  2. Full/empty status of the customer’s carts. A short line doesn’t always mean a quicker checkout. There’s a balance between a large number of people with 2 items each or a small number with a cart half full.
  3. The status of the conveyor. A very full conveyor either counts as an additional person, or reflects poorly on the speed of the cashier if it’s not continuously rolling.
  4. A judgment call of the cashier’s competency. I quickly try to determine if I think that the cashier is a seasoned pro, or if they are hiding an “in training” badge in their coat pocket. A fast cashier can made up for items 1 and 2.

Most aisles had a few people on line, but I found one that fit all of my criteria. Nobody was on line. The conveyor was empty. The last customer had all of his items bagged and looked like he was awaiting his receipt. The cashier looked competent.

I unloaded my items into the conveyor, looked up and saw that the guy was still waiting. Not only was he waiting, but he was in conversation with the cashier. I got distracted for another minute, looked back and when I looked back, they were still talking. I wasn’t listening but wish I had been because I couldn’t imagine what they could be discussing.

Even the bagger somehow seemed distracted and was laughing at something. It couldn’t have been the cashier/customer conversation because their chat looked as though it had a different tone.

As I stared, the customer turned to me and said, “Sorry for holding you up.”

I just stared back. I’m usually quite polite and in my mind I thought of saying, “it’s ok” but bit my tongue. It wasn’t ok. I had to get home in 5 minutes and I live 8 minutes away. Every second counts.

Just as I was about to say, “Exactly how long will this be? Should I move my stuff to another aisle?” he received some sort of printout from the cashier. It’s not clear what it didn’t seem like it was a receipt.

Finally, the guy left and it was my turn. The cashier scanned my items, somewhat slowly. Fortunately, I only had about 8 items.

I handed her my Safeway card to scan, saving me about $7 in the process. I then ran my credit card through, punched the appropriate selections and signed my name. When I looked up, my items were still sitting on the back conveyor and not placed in bags. A woman walked up to the cashier and said, “Time for your lunch break.” The both of them then proceeded to chat.

I went around to the back of the aisles and started grabbing items to place into bags. In doing so, it seemed to get the cashier into gear and she filled a second bag. Finally, she handed me my receipt.

Well, not exactly. She extended it towards me, holding onto it with quite a grip. How do I know? Because as she extended it to me, I reached out and tried to take it. With that, she looked at my name to tell me how much I saved today. “Mr. um… how do you pronounce your last name?” She then tried but pronounced it wrong and I continued tugging on the receipt.

I said my name correctly and she let go of the receipt. “Do you need help out today?” she asked.

“No, I just need to get out.” I turned and walked out of the store.

And in case you’re curious, I made it home with a few minutes to spare so that I could put my groceries away before our guest arrived. Whew.

Serving Size

Everybody either knows somebody on a diet or is on a diet themselves. Why? Because the United States is one of the fattest countries on the block. While food labels have been standardized to make it easier to obtain nutritional information, I find them to be extremely deceptive and misleading, even if you are trying to do the right thing.

When I go to to the supermarket, I use the nutritional label to tell me some very important things. For instance, a breakdown of fat and vitamin content are available at a glance. But one of the most important pieces of information on the label is the calorie count. Knowing how many calories are in the food I’m going to eat helps me decide what food to buy and eat.

At first glance, that 6 oz can of tuna doesn’t look so bad. The label says that it contains 70 calories per serving. These tuna cans have been around forever and they are all the same size. It would never occur to me that the can contains anything more than a single serving. WRONG! Grab a can of tuna off your shelf and have a look. That 6 oz can actually contains 2.5 servings. Two and a half servings in one standard sized can of tuna… are they kidding? Who makes 2.5 sandwiches out of one can of tuna? I know that I don’t. Is it possible to buy a single serving 2.4 oz can of tuna? I’ve never seen them. If you do, let me know.

I’ve come to the conclusion that the food industry is largely responsible for making us fat. With so much information to sort through at the supermarket, why make us think anymore than we have to when selecting products. I spend part of my time comparing package sizes:

  • Is the 16 oz package a better value than the 36 oz package?
  • Is this brand name cereal a better value than this larger store brand package that I’ve got a $1 coupon for?

I also compare the nutritional content of multiple brands:

  • This can of tuna has more sodium but less fat than this can.
  • Which is better for me considering my current health situation.
  • These nuts have a lot of fat. Oh wait, is that good fat or bad fat?

With so many questions, who has the time to figure all of this out? Although the food industry is following the guidelines for nutritional labeling, something needs to change in order to allow us to make faster or fewer decisions during our busy lifestyles.Tuna cans are just one example but many foods contain more than one serving in a package that may seem to contain just one serving. Have you ever looked at a bottle of Snapple? That 16 ounce bottle actually contains 2 servings of 100 calories each. Does Snapple serve one serving bottles? I doubt it. Does anybody buy a single bottle of Snapple, drink half for lunch and the other half for dinner? Unlikely.

How about Ramen noodles? You know those small bricks of noodles that come with a soup packet. The package says: “Serving Size: 1/2 block of noodles with seasoning. Servings per container: 2. Calories per serving: 190.” Keep in mind that all of the other numbers double as well. The saturated fat is 3.5g per serving. But that’s 7g of fat per package.

The biggest, most shocking abuse of “serving size” was my visit a few years back to Boston Market. Along with lunch, I got a large brownie. Although this brownie was called “family size” it looked the size of a brownie you’d share with a friend. I don’t remember the exact details and this particular brownie and I can’t check it it on the Internet as it no longer appears to be available, but it contained something about 160 calories per serving. A quick glance at the label revealed. After eating the entire brownie, another glance almost made me lose my lunch. It contained, not 2, not 5, but 17 servings! That’s over 2700 calories in a large brownie. Even if shared, that would have been over 1350 calories. I’m not even sure how I would cut up a brownie into 17 even pieces but I think I’d look like an idiot doing that and taking the other 16 pieces at home to eat over the next week. If you ask me, we should be sending these brownies to starving countries to get them on their feet and give them a sugar rush in the process. That’s more calories than they probably eat in a month and will certainly hold them over for a while.

I’m convinced that the people who do look at the calorie content are indeed concerned about the number of calories in the food they eat. With so much information to process while shopping, why not make it easier for us by including the number of calories you would consume if you ate the entire package.

What I propose is a change to food labels. Right below calories but above “Calories from Fat” include a number for the “Calories in Package.” This number would contain the entire calorie count if you were to eat up the entire package, no matter how large the package is. The weight or volume of the package isn’t broken down into “per serving” measurements so why should the calorie content? Image for a moment if a 12 oz package said “3 oz” on the front of the box and you then had to multiply this number by the “serving size” in the box to figure out just how much you were buying. That would be nuts. Why should calories be treated any differently than package size?

For those that have ever sat down and ate an entire box of cookies, this change to the label might help talk you off your ledge. A standard 18 ounce bag of Oreo cookies for instance contains 160 calories per serving. There are three cookies in a serving and each package contains 15 servings. When you’re about to eat an entire bag of cookies, you’re not really thinking too clearly and need all the help you can get. Wouldn’t it be useful to know that you’re about to eat 2400 calories? Even if you might do it anyway, at least you’d know what you’re getting yourself into and it’s your decision.

I do commend Hostess and other companies for releasing “100 calorie packs.” This is a great start and you know exactly how many calories you’re about to eat. What you actually get in a package may be small, what do you expect? It’s all crap. What did you expect? You shouldn’t be eating it to begin with. But at least you’ll know what you’re getting yourself into.

Do privacy statements help and do they destroy the environment?

Privacy has being a very hot topic over the last several years. Every company has some sort of privacy policy which is supposed to protect us. But how well does it work and are they really protecting us? In addition, is the attempt to keep our information private helping to contribute to the destruction of the environment?

A lot of paper is used to print out all of the privacy statements that we’re signing. The doctor’s office, the bank and even the car dealer all have privacy statements. When the privacy statement changed on my credit card, the credit card company sent me a letter and included a new copy of the privacy statement. Energy is used to produce paper, to send it to me and to deal with it when I throw it in the recycle bin.I moved into a new apartment but even a year later I have still been receiving mail for the people who lived here before me. In an attempt to cut down on paper usage, I called up a company that has been sending mail to my address for the previous occupant of my apartment. In the name of privacy, they refused to discontinue sending me their mail.

The company was “American Airlines” and my call to them went something like this:

(This is not an exact transcription, however the spirit of the conversation has been maintained.)

Me: “Hi, I’m calling to let you know that you are mailing Mr. Smith a rather thick envelope each month, however they no longer live at this address. I haven’t opened the envelope, however since I too am a member of your frequent flyer program, I recognize the envelope and know that that the contents of Mr. Smith’s envelope is his frequent flyer balance and offers from your company.”

AA: “What is the name and address on the envelope?”

I give them this information.

AA: “And you’re saying that you are NOT Mr. Smith?”

Me: “No, however this is my address and I can assure you that Mr. Smith does not live here.”

AA: “Well, we can not discontinue mailing this information as you are not Mr. Smith and our privacy policy prohibits anybody other than Mr. Smith from discontinuing this mailout.”

Me: “But I can provide you with my electric bill, cable bill, whatever you want to provide that this is indeed my home address. Being that this is my address, it certainly can not be Mr. Smith’s address too.”

AA: “Sorry, but we can not do that.”

Me. “Look, this whole privacy thing is a complete joke. I know for a fact that the envelope contains his frequent flyer number. Although I never would because it is a federal offense to open mail not addressed to me, it would theoretically be possible for me to open up Mr. Smith’s envelope, go online and indicate that I forgot my password. You would then send a new password to my address where I would then open it up and gain total access to Mr. Smith’s account. Of course I would never do that because it is against the law to open his mail, however since it is coming to my home address, it is something that somebody not as honest as I could do. They would then have total access to Mr. Smith’s account and do with it what they want. How exactly is that protecting his privacy?”

AA: “I’m sorry, but I can’t really help you. It is our policy that we do not allow anybody other than Mr. Smith to change any aspect of his account.”

I didn’t get very far and in attempting to protect Mr. Smith, American Airlines actually put his privacy in jeopardy. My primary goal was to save some trees. Why should American Airlines mail out a thick envelope each month only to have it immediately tossed in the garbage. This however turned into a much bigger issue. The mailout would not be discintinued and in attempting to maintaining privacy, Mr. Smith’s private information could easily be compromised.

This exchange with American Airlines got me thinking about privacy made me question the following items:

  • Are privacy polices really designed to protect us, or are they actually policies that companies use simply to “cover their asses?”
  • When you move, how much of your mail is actually being delivered to the old address, therefore exposing your private information to others?
  • If you have a mailbox outside your house, rather than a door slot, are you exposing yourself to having your privacy compromised?

Sending your mail to somebody else could be considered similar to sending a crook keys to a bank along with a note stating, “if you use this key, you are breaking the law.” Considering that tons of mail must get sent to the wrong address each day, thousands of “keys” are being sent out each day. Statistically speaking, some of those people must be dishonest.

What really bothered me in my conversation with American Airlines was the following:

  • I was willing to take my time to call and correct their records, but this went unrecognized.
  • My information is verifiable. I have a phone bill, electric bill, cable bill and drivers license all using this address. In fact, they have my name and address in their records, as they have been sending me my own frequent flyer statement.
  • I tried to do my part to save the environment and cut paper use, but I did not succeed.
  • I explained how a dishonest person could gain access to another person’s account. If American Airlines was truly concerned about privacy, they should have taken interest in this issue.

While I would like to think that privacy statements are helpful, I think that until a company can listen to reason and logic, that our private information is still subject to public viewing.

Sprint’s unimpressive offer

The phone rang and I answered by saying, “Hello.” Then again, “Hello… hello??” Finally, the silence that greeted me was interrupted by a Sprint salesperson.

“Hi, I’m calling from Sprint. Don’t worry, this call is not using up any of your minutes and is completely free. We have reviewed your account and would like to let you know about special offers that you quality for.”

Like many of the cell phone companies, Sprint tries very hard to get you to sign a 2 year contract. When your 2 years are almost up, the offers start coming in. I know that my 2 years is almost up because I recently received an offer in the mail, and now this phone call.

The salesperson continued. “Do you know how much you pay per month for your service?”

“Yeah, about $40 per month.” I said.

“I’m looking at your account now and your last bill was $50. Well, we’d like to let you know that you quality for a free phone AND you can get 500 minutes per month for only $59.”

I responded. “I current use a Palm Treo 650, and that unless the free phone was a Treo 700p, then it’s not an upgrade to me. Is the free phone a Treo 700p?”

“Oh no sir, of course not.” she said.

“And another thing,” I continued. “If you have my bill in front of you, you’ll see that I only used about 200 minutes last month. My $35 per month bill is $50 after adding $10 unlimited Internet and taxes. You’re now offering me 500 minutes for $59, which will become $75 after the extras for minutes that I won’t even use. I don’t see now this is a good deal for me.”


“Why would I even consider taking this offer. The phone you want to give me is inferior to the one I use now and you want to charge me more for minutes I won’t use. If Sprint makes me a real offer that is better than what I have, then I will listen, but until then, don’t try and make me an offer that is clearly inferior.”

With nothing to say in response, the salesperson hung up in me in a polite way. “Ok sir, if we have a better offer for you, we will let you know.” Long pause. <click>