Thursday, November 19, 2009

Holidays and the price of gas

You can tell Thanksgiving is one week away by driving by your local high volume gas station. Stop in your retail stores and watch them cutting prices trying to get sales for Christmas.

The wholesale price of oil has held between $77 and $80 per barrel for about a month now with ups and downs from 50 cents to $3 per day. In the last two weeks I have watched it drop about 10 cents in a lot of places. However this morning I discovered it had jumped 12 cents at my local high volume dealer after sitting steady at $2.42 to $2.43 for a week. Now it is $2.55.

The price for a barrel of wholesale crude dropped today and the retail price of refined gas jumps. Logical plain economics to some, but I would not have passed Economics 101 in college using that approach.

Have a good and safe Thanksgiving and hopefully the price will drop a little (we can dream a lot) by then to make your travels a little less costly. I drive about 700-800 miles for a normal week so I watch gas and oil prices closely.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Health-care or Health-care insurance reform

As I have listened to and read the debates all summer and fall about the proposed reform bills on Capital Hill I have been struck by one item. Hardly anyone seems to know what they are trying to reform from Obama down to the columnists and talk show hosts (right or left).

You hear the terms health care and health-care insurance used interchangeably by almost all of them as if they were the same issue.

Health-care is the treatment, prevention and diagnosis by professionals out there. The USA has probably the best system in the world as far as the health-care that is available. It is not the same level everywhere. The question is not that I hear of improving the health-care but improving the availability. If you are not sure if the best health care in the world is here in the USA then look and see where the rich and powerful around the world go when they get bad sick, it is most often to the USA. There are some good places in other countries but we stay on the cutting edge of health-care developments in the USA.

Health-care insurance is not the health-care but how is it paid. For a large majority of Americans this is by insurance. There is a number that are not covered by insurance for a variety of reasons and those of them who do not have the resources to pay seems to really be the issue. The proposed solutions are to change how it is paid.

So the real issue appears to be health-care insurance reform and not health-care reform, and often you see the debaters say to reform health care so everyone is covered, and then follow with that we don't want to lose our world class health-care level, just make sure all can use it easily.

Major concerns are getting people diagnosed and cured quicker and take the weight off the emergency rooms and that we all can get world class health-care at the same time. And allowing the quality health-care to be in all communities once money for the people there is available.

Let's make the debate easier by using correct terms and ten maybe we can reach consensus on the best way to do this and not throw the baby out with the bathwater.

Mozilla Firefox may have just converted me

I will probably use Mozilla Firefox more now than the rest of the web browsers. I was writing a reply to an e-mail earlier tonight and my computer did the blue screen of death. (See Watt Thoughts 193 at about that) It fixed as easily as those articles state. However everytime before I have been working in Internet Explorer (IE) in webmail in similar situation and I lost everything I had written but not sent.

Tonight I was in Firefox 3.5 and when I restarted the machine I started Firefox and it opened the compose box I was in automatically and showed all but the last few words. It was a message I had spend 15 minutes or more composing. Way to go Firefox. I already had started using Firefox for doing webmail for two reasons. First was in IE 8 (32 and 64 bit versions) often the pop-up compose box would not fully open or the spellcheck box would not. No problem in Firefox. Second was I like the way it does the webmail spell check box. In IE after each correction it goes back to the top of the message and I had to scroll back down to the spelling errors. In Firefox it stays at the point where I corrected the spelling error.

I will still use IE, Safari and Opera to check pages and sometimes some pages work better in one over another. But I will be moving to more Firefox usage.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Ahead and did not know it again

For at least the second time I have discovered that I had learned how to do something and was doing it on the computer without realizing what it was. Then thinking I needed to try to learn about this new programming concept I realized I had been doing, but not knowing what it was called or that it was something really special.
Back in the 80s I wrote an extensive student records program for Swainsboro Tech that was used by a number of people on the system at one time. The system was written in COBOL on a Burroughs 1900 midrange computer. The total code for the system was about 200, 000 lines of COBOL code. It ran one copy on the computer and the different users logged in at their terminal and did different things. For instance it maintained registration, grades, transcripts, attendance, financial aid, and the book store among other items. Different people did the work in the system for the different areas.
I realized as I started developing the program in the early 80s that having different people using and to put in one program that centrally controlled everything (including security to certain parts on top of system security) meant I needed a way for the parts for different users to peel off and run their code and then join back on central control module. I studied for a good while the Burroughs manuals (this part of COBOL is machine dependent) and found what would work and it worked well. I also set the files in a way that as I got in databases deeper I realized I had set them up in the approach a good database would take.
Then in the late 80s I heard people talking about doing multi-threaded programs and I wanted to learn what that is and how it was done. As I started digging I realized that what I had done in my students records program was multi-threading and that I had been doing this for more than 5 years. Multi-threading and applications for multi-users was neat and still impresses me.
Back in 2004 I started working on a real estate web site and one of the items was we wanted the site I developed to allow the agents to take care of the listings (enter, change, delete and post pictures). It was to be simple enough that they should be able to do with just knowledge of how to browse the Internet and to find pictures stored on their computer. I had not done a site with that before but I set out to learn how and discover how to do and I learned the PHP programming language and MYSQL database would work well (I used what I already knew about SQL and databases to learn MySQL quickly and I realized I understood PHP from my experience with doing reveal codes in WordPerfect and my knowledge of BASIC and FORTRAN). I have developed the same feature for another couple real estate sites and a donkey farm (they list donkeys for sale) and an arts council site for events. I use the code developed from one site to modify and use for the next as far as the management side of the site for them managing their content.
Over the last couple of years I started hearing about Content Management Systems (CMS) to do web sites and have been trying to learn what is different about them versus what I do in developing websites in the actual HTML/XHTML code. I started studying a book on a free CMS called Joomla and talking with others and suddenly this week realized what I had done with those real estate and other sites was CMS. The people have the control of putting and maintaining the information on their sites, instead of me having to do it all. I had basically developed my own specialized CMS systems without realizing it.
As I tell my students being in computers means we have to keep learning and changing. And sometimes I amaze myself with having known something just not the proper term for it.