GIVE MAMA A LLAMA

Listen, I’m sure you’re tapped out. But if you or your kids want to change a Third World family’s life, here‘s yet another imagination-capturing way to do it. And what a great way to start off what will be, I have every hope, a great New Year.

Heifer International has been helping families in 125 countries since 1944. The basic idea: give a family some rabbits and some training, and before you know it, they have lots of rabbits, rabbit meat to nourish themselves and sell their neighbors, a small rabbit business, maybe a roadside ‘Hares & Pears’ franchise leading to a listing on the Ghana exchange . . . I am getting carried away, and have not even gotten to the pigs, the ducks – the heifers – the bees or, yes, the llamas.

GIVE PAPA HOME CINEMA

Don Tingle: ‘You wrote, ‘Or you could spend $50 or so and watch this 4-disc DVD set rapt in wonder in the comfort of your media room. (I hope someday to have a media room.)’ On seeing that, let me suggest that you not get a ‘media room’ when you can make one yourself for a whole lot less! First, plug your DVD player into your stereo. Even a small bookshelf type stereo will give better sound that most TVs (or get a new amp with a zillion output channels and a zillion speakers – personally I can live with good stereo sound rather than 7.1 surround sound – most of the back speakers are just street noise anyway). Then, check out the reviews of projectors on ProjectorCentral.com. They review projectors and provide really great and independent ratings to help you choose. The Panasonic and Sanyo projectors are consistently highly rated, though other brands have crept up in ratings this year. The only other choice you need to make is 720P or 1080P. The difference being that the 1080P gives the full High Definition signal (for ~$2500), but the 720P projectors are less than $1500 and IMHO give very good picture quality. I have a couple of 720P projectors (one for movies at home and one for teaching workshops on the road) and bought one for our local film co-op. The Panasonic and Sanyo models are my favorites because they can be set on a shelf at the back of a regular sized room and have adjustments that allow you to center the picture on your screen without having to physically move the projector. Makes ‘installation’ a breeze. One cable (HDMI) from your DVD player and you are in business. On screens – you don’t really need one. If you have a plain white wall you can get a great picture. If you paint the wall a light grey color, you actually get a better picture. Or you can get a simple screen that you pull down from the ceiling (i.e. pull down in front of a painting hanging on that wall) for less than $200. Close the curtains and turn off the lights and you’ll have a great home theater without the hassles of professional installation and the costs that come with it.’

THE FORTUNATE POOR

Some of you had bones to pick with Bob C’s Christmas Eve message:

Jeff Schwarz: ‘Why is Bob so angry at the poor? Throw in sales tax and SS tax and the poor are paying a higher proportion of their income in taxes than the rich and powerful. Also, some of the things he says are false. For instance, back in the mid-90s, Congress instructed the IRS to emphasize going after people who receive the Earned Income Credit.’

COMPUTERS THAT THINK

Allen Brand: ‘One of your readers wrote: ‘When IBM’s Deep Blue won that chess match against a human expert (whose name escapes me at the moment) the expert was really playing against the team of human programmers who wrote the software, not against the computer.’ You might also find it interesting to note that the Big Blue programmers actually cheated to claim the win over the world champion. They changed the program after every game!’

☞ But once computers are, say, 32 times more powerful, in eight or ten years – as Kurzweil persuasively predicts – they might not have to change the program as often. The program may even ‘learn’ to change itself.

 

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