Not your typical 4th of July…


I just arrived home after spending the extended weekend down in the Washington DC area celebrating with family.  By itself, that is nothing unique as millions of other Americans gathered together to celebrate the 4th of July.  However, the celebration I attended centered on the short, but impactful, life of my niece who passed away June 26. 

Shortly after her birth on June 8, my niece developed complications and was transferred to the ICU at Children’s Hospital where she was diagnosed as having the condition known as Trisomy 18.  Personally, I did not have a clue about what Trisomy was prior to hearing the term about two weeks ago.  While I cannot claim to be an expert on the condition, I will say that it is something that you would not wish on your worst enemy.

Here is a brief snippet from the Trisomy 18 foundation website.

Trisomy 18 is also called Edwards syndrome (or Edward’s syndrome) and occurs in about 1:3000 live births.  Unlike Trisomy 21 (Down syndrome), Trisomy 18 is usually fatal, with most of the babies dying before birth and those who do make it to birth typically living only a few days.  However, a small number of babies (<10%) live at least one year.

Trisomy 18 is the second most common trisomy and occurs when a baby has three of the eighteenth chromosome.  This results in 47 chromosomes instead of the normal 46 in the affected cells.  It is this extra genetic material that causes the problems associated with Trisomy 18.

Most trisomies (about 95%) are full trisomies.  That is, the extra chromosome occurs in every cell in the baby’s body.  This type of trisomy is not hereditary, and is not due to anything the parents did or did not do, and it is by far the most common type.  In most literature, Trisomy 18 means full Trisomy 18.

After the eight-hour drive home, I had a chance to sit and reflect on my life vs. that of my niece.   I have lived nearly 43 years and have contributed to the lives of many, however the impact I have made seems to pale in comparison to of my young niece, who in a mere 18 days touched the lives of all those who met her.  

For those interested in contributing to research to help prevent this condition, here are a few sites that you might find useful.  

Children’s National Medical Center

Capital Hospice

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Up in the sky, it’s a bird… it’s a plane… it’s… OTA HDTV


Ok.  We are finally here.  After a false start in February, today is the date that all TV stations must switch from broadcasting analog signals over the air (OTA) to broadcasting in HD.  For those who receive their TV from either cable, satellite or through their telephone provider, this is a non-issue.  However, it many households that receive their TV signal via an OTA signal are unprepared. 

WHERE DO I START and WHY?

Lets answer the WHY first.  How much do you pay for your TV signal?  Right now, I pay about $98 per month for a fairly basic digital cable package from Comcast.  We get 200+ channels, none of which are premium content.  $1200 per year for TV, most of which is crap.  The fact is we spend an excessive amount of time in front of our television sets. 

My children, both of whom are in elementary school, wield our Comcast remote control with the skill of a classical violinist.  They were stunned to learn that not only did I not have “on demand” but that there was no Hannah Montana or iCarly.   That being said, I did have Captain Kangaroo and Mr. Green Jeans.  You can imaging their reaction when I informed them that we only could see three channels on our black and white TV set and that I was the remote control.

If nothing else, switching to an OTA signal can save you money and should promote other activities.  In 2007, The US Bureau of Labor Statistics released a study reporting that  “Watching TV was the leisure activity that occupied the most time (2.6 hours per day), accounting for about half of leisure time, on average, for those ages 15 and over”.  Socializing was the next most common leisure activity representing about 45 minutes per day.  No information was provided on how much time people spent per day looking for my blog updates

OK- so where do I start?  First, you should determine what equipment you currently have on hand.  The US government website is a good starting point.  At the very least, you can register to get your coupon for a converter box

For more information, I recommend visiting HDTVantennalabs.com.  This site is very helpful for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the tool that helps you find stations in your area and then identify the best antenna and other equipment you might need.  Things to understand and mistakes to avoid when buying an HDTV antenna.  They also provide additional information on the “color zones” associated with the various antenna types.  Among the things I learned was that the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) has defined seven color zones – Yellow, Green, Light Green, Red, Blue, Violet, and Pink.  Yellow zone is the one where reception quality is the best, pink zone is the worst.  It should be noted that the CEA classifications only apply to outdoor tv antennas.

A link to antennaweb.org is provided where you can input your own street address and get a graphic showing the signals available to you with strength ratings.  As you can see, the Obama’s have a number of options available to them should they decide to make the switch. 

OTA HDTV Signals available at the Whitehouse

OTA HDTV Signals available at the Whitehouse

One final note, While many people have purchased HDTV “ready” TV’s, unless the set comes with a built in HD Tuner, then it lacks the ability to convert the broadcast signal into a viewable picture.  If you haven’t purchased a new TV yet, or are looking to get one in the near future (come on the economy needs a boost!!!) might I suggest one with a built in tuner. They may end up costing you a bit more, but it will be one less piece of equipment you need to purchase. 

If you are interested in more information, here are a number of other useful sites.

Crutchfield.com

Solidsignal.com

TVFool.com    

The Fishpond

I’m A Cognitive Being, Get Me Out Of Here!


More is not necessarily better; take for example, cable or satellite TV.  While some will argue that we have more choice today than we did 30 years ago, I’m not so sure we have better choices.  Just like when sports leagues like Major League Baseball or the NFL expands into new cities, the result is that the quality of the talent is thinned out.  So, it was with a bit of serendipity, as I sat killing brain cells at an alarming rate while watching “I’m a Celebrity get me out of here” (shouldn’t Heidi and Spencer’s 15 min be up by now?) and “Jon and Kate Plus 8”  (I’m here for the kids) I came across two studies released today on cognitive function.    

The first report, done by the Alzheimer’s Disease Center at Rush University Medical Center showed that the risk of death for people with mild cognitive impairment was 50% greater than the risk to individuals without cognitive impairment.  More shocking, the risk of death was “nearly three-fold greater among those with Alzheimer’s disease” and there was no difference between African Americans and whites. 

 The second study, authored by Alexandra Fiocco, PhD, of the University of California, San Francisco and published in Neurology®, identified a specific profile showing that people who exercise moderately to vigorously at least once a week are 30 percent more likely to maintain their cognitive function than those who do not exercise that often.  In addition, individuals with at least a high school degree are almost three times more likely to maintain cognitive function than those with less education.  If you want to stay sharp, make sure you don’t (or stop) smoking as non-smokers are almost twice as likely to stay sharp as versus people who smoke.  Finally, make sure you work (or volunteer) and don’t live alone, as there is a 24 percent increase in the likelihood of maintaining cognitive function later life.

 So…if you want to stay sharp make sure you exercise, don’t smoke, graduate from high school, work, and live with someone.  Otherwise, you might end up sitting alone in a room, filled with cigarette butts watching Sanjaya videos because you cannot remember where you left the remote. 

All My Faves | Blog


All My Faves | Blog.

If you want to gain control in how you start you day on the web, please be sure to work All My Faves into your rotation of “must visit” websites.  I wish I could take credit for discovering AMF, but alas, I learned about it from, of all places, MY DAD!  

Now, you wouldn’t think this is a big deal as my dad spent most of his professional career as a systems analyst.  However, he and I are living proof that just because you are proficient in one field, does not mean you are comfortable in another no matter how many times you sleep at a Holiday Inn Express.  

Truth be told, Dad would be much more comfortable  if the screen on his computer was dark and there was a flashing green DOS prompt.  So, when I received an email from Dad a few months back suggesting I check out AMF, I was a bit skeptical.  However, it has quickly become my “go to” place for pretty much everything.  Actually, let me clarify that last sentence.  AMF has become my starting point, for pretty much everything.

The website is a vast collection of links to other websites.  Even better, it updates on a weekly basis.  The link above brings you to the “blog” portion of the site, but the homepage is where I typically start looking.  Rather than blather on about what the site is all about, let me just steal right from them and use their own words

“Ninety percent of everything is crud.” Theodore Sturgeon

But the remaining ten percent is worth dying for.  This is what you will find on AMF, only the Crème de La Crème of the Internet.

Span of Control…what’s it all about.


BNET’s definition of “span of control” as follows.

The number and range of subordinates for whom a manager is responsible.  The span of control can be calculated by various methods, which take into account such factors as whether those supervised are doing the same or different jobs and their levels of seniority, empowerment, experience, and qualification.

At a Christmas Party in 2007 -or is the PC term “Holiday Party”, these days I can never tell– someone asked me about my job and after unsuccessfully trying to explain what I did, I prophetically said, in my usual glib -read sarcastic- manner “my job is the job voted most likely to be eliminated in a recession”. 

For me, Span of Control became a major life inflection point 11 months, 29 days, 14 hours, 17 minutes, 55 seconds ago.  On June 3, 2008, I learned that after 13 years of working for the same firm, my position was among those targeted for elimination in a restructuring driven by “span of control”.  I was offered another position, with no managerial responsibilities and no clear definition of what I would be doing.  I had three days to accept the offer.  If I elected to decline, I would receive a severance package.

From a personal perspective, I was upset but not shocked.  Professionally, I agreed with the steps being taking to streamline the organization.  I worked for one of the largest mutual fund companies in the United States, in a group that looked for asset management mandates in the institutional insurance market, primarily in variable annuities and Group Retirement Plans.  My position, like others eliminated, was a luxury.  I manage a small team that served as a liaison between our sales organization and the various centralized business units in our organization.  In theory, my team existed so increase sales productivity by allowing our sales team to focus on external client facing issues and by providing our internal partners a single point of contact within our distribution channel.  All too often, I felt like Admiral Stockdale

One of my mentors in life stressed the need to “control what you can control”.  In taking that to heart, I knew I could never control my future by taking an undefined job just for a paycheck.  Thus, I ended up accepting the severance package offered to me.  I recall stating to my wife “if I don’t have a job by Christmas, I’m an idiot”.  At our annual Christmas Party, one of my wife’s aunts greeted me with a big “Hello Idiot”.  Since leaving the workforce, in addition to seeking new employment, running for school committee, cleaning out the basement and garage, painting the house, re-coating the driveway, and dozens of other around the home tasks, I have toyed with the idea of writing a blog.  Not that I have any major revelations to share with the world, but I certainly am opinionated. 

It’s either this or continue to waste time on achieving fame and fortune running my fantasy baseball team into the ground or achieving high score on Chain Reaction. 

I will close my opening salvo with a comment that if there is an upside to losing your job, it is being able to spend more time with your kids.  In a short time, I have become a master at creating cloth covered books, and know more than I ever did about Michelle Obama, South Africa, Ocelots, and Orcas.  I also realized that I did not fully appreciated how much “work” goes into being a parent and maintaining a home.  To that, I am eternally grateful to my wife, whose patience and calming approach is amazing to see in action. 

I hope that this blog adds value.  However, even if I end up with no followers, at least it forces me to think, read, write, and use the grey matter a bit more often than I have over the previous 12 months.

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