Category Archive: Other

Michael Jackson’s albums: Thriller was the outlier

Don’t judge me: I caught bits and pieces of Dancing With The Stars while my wife was watching, and they dedicated the show to Michael Jackson’s album, Bad. Honestly, I was surprised – I didn’t think that was a very good album (except for Smooth Criminal). I wondered, was Bad really a good album, and I just remembered it incorrectly?

No, Bad wasn’t THAT good

To sell 8 M copies of an album is great. But it’s not that great if you’re Michael Jackson. Which albums sold more copies than Bad? The list is numerous – over 100, and includes such winners as Nelly’s Country Grammar, Will Smith’s Big Willie Style, MC Hammer, Jewel, N’Sync, and the list goes on and on. Bad actually sold 70% fewer copies than Thriller. And the trajectory after Thriller was steeply downward.

Basic Beading Supplies You Need To Get Started

When deciding to take up a craft, one of the main things you need to ask yourself is where you begin. Should you start buying supplies first, or just start looking for some how to books to try to determine what you need to do first? Do you take a class to learn the new craft, or do you try to wing it and learn how to do everything on your own?


If you have decided to take up beading as a craft, you will find that a lot of the answers to your questions are relatively easy to find. Start looking for answers to your questions by browsing the internet. There are a lot of places such as beadsbarn that provide an immense amount of information on beading and what you need to get started.


Supplies are going to be one of the first things you will need when attempting to learn how to bead. You will first need to have an assigned workstation, where you will engage in all of your beading work. It is important that your workstation is large enough to house all of your supplies, and provides you with enough space to do your work.


Bead boards are another object that you will need when starting a beading craft. These boards are a basic tray that you will lay your design out on. You will be able to put the design together on top of the board, so you have an idea of what the finished product will look like, and then commence with creating the project you just laid out in front of your eyes.


Pliers are another essential supply that you will need when getting started beading. Different types of pliers will have different functions when engaging in your beaded tasks. Smooth-jawed pliers and round nose pliers are two types of pliers that you will use most when doing your beading projects.

Guest Post: Green plumbing in the home

Green plumbing in the home

Green plumbing in a house is a key element of green living. From simple tips to innovative appliances, the term comprises the many ways in which homeowners can reduce their carbon footprint and improve the energy efficiency of their homes.

Green plumbing covers a wide variety of jobs, but the goal of all of them is to reduce water usage; to recycle water already used, and to use sustainable materials wherever possible. Overloading Washington’s public sewer systems can be harmful to lakes and rivers all over the Pacific Northwest, as untreated sewage has to flow somewhere. The less water that flows through sewage systems, the less risk of pollution, and the less need for the costly expansion of such systems.

Simple green plumbing jobs around the house

Start by checking faucets and pipes for leaks, as even the smallest drip from a worn-out washer can waste as much as 20 gallons of water daily. Next, fit all household faucets with aerators: These are cheap and easy to install (you just screw them onto the faucet head). They save water (as well as mess) by preventing splashing and reducing and shaping water flow.

Two areas of the home are responsible for 99.9 percent of its total water consumption: The kitchen and the bathroom. In the bathroom, you might consider installing a water-saving low-flow showerhead, low-flow toilet or a dual-flush toilet. These help to reduce the amount of water used in the everyday activities of flushing the toilet or taking a shower. Another option is to fit your toilet tank with a float booster; it’s cheap and easy and can save over ten gallons of water per day if you have children in the family.

In the kitchen, installing regulators for water pressure and water heaters as well as low-flowing faucets can all help conserve water. A water pressure regulator is also useful to prevent other common home plumbing problems caused by water pressure that is too high.

Other ways to save money at home

Conserving water helps the environment and the household budget. This can be achieved by choosing to forego those household appliances that use most water and electricity, such as the washing machine, and washing by hand instead – or using a commercial laundry service. This is a radical step and is only practical if there are no children in the family.

Other simple ways include turning off the faucet while you brush your teeth or when cleaning veggies, or rinsing off dishes. You might also want to consider limiting the amount of time you spend in the shower: Just four minutes in the shower can use between 20 and 40 gallons of water depending on the water pressure and the type of showerhead installed.

During hot, summer months, remember that a garden sprinkler uses far more water than a watering can; and keeping a pitcher of cold water in the refrigerator is much more convenient and water-saving than always running the tap every time you need a cool drink.

Typical plumbing problems caused by cold weather

Seattle and the Pacific Northwest can get extremely cold in wintertime. One of the most common problems in winter is frozen water pipes. Don’t wait for the cold weather before insulating water pipes in your home with pre-slit foam insulation. It doesn’t only minimize the risk of pipes freezing, it also means less waiting around for hot water, and less water wasted.

Outdoor faucet covers are inexpensive and very effective for keeping water pipes above freezing level. Note, however, that they only work if correctly secured and are airtight.

Those living in the Greater Seattle Area can always find a plumber who uses green plumbing practices. For Jim Dandy emergency plumbers, water conservation is part and parcel of the plumbing service. Not only is Jim Dandy the oldest plumbing firm in Seattle, it is also Green Plumbing accredited and trained.

Top posts of 2011

Pacific Northwest-Coast Bias had a great year. But what articles did readers enjoy the most?

5.  Redmond is the most expensive Washington city to live in – Were you like me and thought Bellevue was the most expensive city in Washington?

4. US Debt-to-GDP Ratio– Deservedly, the US got downgraded from AAA debt in 2011. Not surprisingly, Switzerland and Germany are on the list of AAA, but I was quite surprised that the UK was still among the top-rated countries, along with Hong Kong and Norway. Interestingly, the US is one of the few countries with a Debt-to-GDP ratio below 100%. I was quite surprised by The Netherlands and Norway above 400%. It’s clear that the path to solvency is getting the US budget back on track. With the current leadership on both sides, my confidence of this happening is very low.

3. NBA Arena in Bellevue – I don’t know precisely where the NBA might build an arena in Bellevue, but I have a couple ideas.

2. NFL Concussions – My magnum opus of 2011 was inspired by a head injury that I suffered myself, and realized that others were undergoing the same injury with no idea of the long-term implications. Although I wasn’t playing football, I hit my head and blacked out, going into seizures and needing to be revived by medical staff. I was woozy for days. At that time, much less was known about the diagnosis and treatment of concussions, so my recovery consisted of lying on the couch. Like NFL players, the only thing I can do is hope I won’t suffer any long-term impacts.

1. Who has the toughest college football schedule in 2011 – The top post in 2011 wasn’t without controversy. The SEC had the weakest schedule among top conferences, yet the got both spots in the Championship. Do I think they deserved it? No Way. Oklahoma State or Stanford definitely deserved that spot over Alabama. But I’ll be watching the game, and rooting for a playoff in future years.

Lufthansa sells used aircraft seats!

From the Lufthansa in-flight magazine.

eTrade spends $1.76 / year to tell me I have $0.07 invested with them

  • When I rolled over my 401k two years ago, eTrade would not let me transfer the cents, thus I was stuck with $0.07 in my account
  • I tried to cancel my account, but they would not let me, stating there was still value in the account ($0.07).
  • Every quarter they pay the postage and printing necessary to send me a statement telling me I still have $0.07 invested with them.

I’m going to let them keep sending me these statements until they figure out how to run their business better.

Community Minded

Brown Jug Liquor

Anchorage Alaska

Community Minded

People of Walmart

I don’t venture into Walmart very often, but on a field visit this summer, I snapped this beauty…

  • Slippers? Check
  • Exposed boxers? Check
  • Half-used cigarette behind the ear? Check

Unless I’m short of blog material, I’m not going back anytime soon.

Letters of Note: Missive from Tanzania

“May I use this opportunity to introduce myself to you.”

It’s a common intro to a Nigerian 419 scam, but I’ve never seen it in physical print. That is, until I opened my mailbox last night to this envelope with a stamp from Tanzania.

The letter was sent from Dar es Salaam, the largest city in Tanzania, and took 15 days to arrive. Think our postage rates are high – it costs 800 Shillings to mail a letter from Tanzania.

Inside, the letter was the same as any other Nigerian scam. There were some nice touches, however. My full name was included in 2 places in the letter.

Most interesting to me is a look at the economics of sending a letter like this. 800 Tanzanian Shillings is roughly $0.54 USD. Adding paper, ink and an envelope, let’s round it it to a nice $0.75 per letter.

What’s their response rate? I’d have to guess below 1 basis point, or 1 out of every 10,000 letters. The average profit per scam is probably somewhere in the $10,000 range.

In the scenario I laid out, the scammers would net roughly $2,500 per 10,000 letters, with an ROI of 133%. The scammers need about 1 out of 13,000 people mailed to be duped to break even. Also, if I’m too generous in my assumptions (lower response rate, lower scam $ amount), then the scammers are probably in the red.

For email, the scammer have no costs to speak of, so it’s extremely profitable. This type of scam is an easy no-brainer… just send it to every email address you can get your hands on. But for snail mail, the economics aren’t nearly as lucrative. Maybe the Tanzanians/Nigerians are running a test in a new channel.

Grading Nate Silver’s Election Predictions

I love reading Nate Silver’s Five Thirty Eight blog (now part of NY Times). Reading it for the political insight is great, but I actually read it for his methodologies. The way he leverages the trends of polls to create his own forecast is fascinating (and more accurate than the individual polls themselves). I also like how he adds his level of certainty for each prediction – it adds another level of insight that talking heads on TV neglect to consider.

I wondered, how did Silver do this election cycle? Pretty well.

Silver’s original map (Senate)

Actual Results

Silver was 92% correct on Senate races (missed AK, NV, & CO) and 95% on Governor races (missed IL & FL). But his record is even more impressive than this…

In 56 of 73 races for Senate/Governor, Silver assigned a 90% probability or higher that he was correct. He got all of them right. This included some tricky races including the Feingold upset, the crowded Senate race in Florida, and the close race in PA.

But even on the races that he had less confidence in, Silver delivered. He was 71% in races he assigned an 80% probability to, and 70% in toss ups (50-80%). Clearly, Silver understands the weaknesses in his model and compensates for it with lower certainty.

Further analysis

To really stress test Silver’s prognostications, I looked at how well he fared on margin of victory. I compared his margin of victory to actual and found that he was within 2 points over 50% of the time for the Senate (30% of the time for Governor). The accuracy is mind-blowing.

Where can Silver improve?

I looked for bias is Silver’s predictions. First, I looked at predictions by party. In both the Senate and for Governor, independents got a higher percentage of the vote than Silver predicted. There wasn’t a consistent bias between Democrat and Republican though.

I also wondered if Silver was better or worse in predicting margin of victory in close races versus blowouts. I compared his “certain” predictions to the ones where he had less certainty to see if there was any difference in the margin of victory error.

Silver did better predicting close races than blowouts. I thought it would be the other way around, since close races typically have a large swing/undecided vote that can go either way, but in landslides, I would have guessed that there is a smaller swing-vote contingent. Perhaps it is driven by more polling in close races, which allows Silver to refine his model more than blowouts. Either way, it’s impressive.

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