How much purchasing power has the dollar lost over time?

Two Rhodesian banknotes of 1966-67; one pound and ten shillings. If these were exchanged at par, they would be worth 3x10-25 Zimbabwean dollars - it's almost impossible to demonstrate that degree of inflation.

Image based on photo by shimgray.

We have heard of inflation, but what is its effect? A dollar doesn’t buy what it used to. But what does that mean? I bought a house in 1988 for $97,000. If I had to buy it today with a weaker dollar, how much would it cost?

The answer requires finding the inflation rate for each year and multiplying them all together. So for 1988 to 1989 the inflation rate was 4.82%. That is 4.82 per one hundred. In one year you have the current value plus the inflation increase. So multiply by 1.0482 to get the new value. For each year you find the inflation rate, add to one and multiply. It is tedious to do this by hand.

There is a website that will do all this for you. Go to My 1988 $97,000 purchase would cost $184,411.51 this year. My house isn’t actually worth this amount. Inflation is an average number that is useful on the average. A particular item can vary vastly in value. The housing crisis has lowered home prices, while fuel and food prices have risen. The prediction is not that far off, and may even be a little low. So perhaps inflation hasn’t caught up with home prices, or the housing crisis is not done lowering home prices to meet inflation. Neither has to be true. Housing prices have other factors that influence them, but consider both possibilities.

Inflation is useful for understanding the past, and predicting the future. If I save or invest my money, estimating inflation can inform my goals on how much I should target as a goal for my nestegg. If in 1988 I had wanted to save to buy a house in the future, I might have predicted that $184,000 might be how much I will need, but more likely I will have a rough number to aim for. As each year passes, and I see what the actual inflation rate was, I can adjust my rough guessing.

Stop Picasa from rescanning photos every time and fix duplicate links to directories

This might not be your problem. But this is how I got Picasa to stop scanning and discovering some of the same photos most every time I start it. Plus I got rid of duplicate entries for the same directories. And Picasa isn’t compacting the database as often when I quit.

I thought this was three separate problems. But I seemed to have improved them all with one approach. I was trying to fix the repeated directory listing issue. Playing with the Folder Manager which comes up from the Add Folder to Picasa choice on the File menu, didn’t help. Even if I removed every directory from Picasa with this Folder Manager tool, one copy of many of my directories would still stay listed in Picasa. I thought My Pictures was listed twice. But remove either one from Picasa, and they would both go away. Add it back, and they both would return. This is not the reason for the duplicate listings of photos in Picasa.

Follow these steps for what worked for me:

  1. Quit Picasa if it is running.
  2. Locate and backup
    C:\Users\yourName\AppData\Local\Google\Picasa2Albums\watchedfolders.txt and C:\Users\yourName\AppData\Local\Google\Picasa2Albums\frexcludefolders.txt
    In these paths, replace yourName with the username you have on your computer.
  3. Edit both watchedfolders.txt and frexcludefolders.txt so they are both empty.
  4. Start Picasa.
  5. You may still have photos and dierectories showing even though Step 3 should have removed all reference to them. There must be another place this information is stored. Let me know if you discover it. For Step 5, right click on each directory name in Picasa and click Remove from Picasa… You will have to confirm for each directory that you do want to remove the folder <said folder> and its subfolders. This doesn’t delete the photos from disk. I had a lot of directories to remove, and the Folder Manager helped me remove quite a few at once, but I couldn’t get them all without the right click Remove method.
  6. Now with no photos listed, I quit from Picasa and started it again. This step might not be needed, but I am telling you about it since I didn’t do testing to see what are the absolutely required steps.
  7. Use the Add Folder to Picasa, Folder Manager to add the folders you wish Picasa to manage. Also block the directories that you don’t want managed by Picasa. Before restarting Picasa in Step 6, I used some of the directories that I still wanted to include from the backups of watchedfolders.txt and frexcludefolders.txt, and put them in the empty files. That is a short cut that is optional. I didn’t get them all, so I still needed the Folder Manager to get everything managed correctly.
  8. Exit and restart Picasa. This might be the last time large numbers of photos are found for the umpteenth time.

Thank you to wsoutter at the Google support forum for his answer to the reload issue. He may be right that the problem is from a transition from Windows XP to Windows 7. I too had references to a bad path of C:\Documents and Settings\

How to create pretty word clouds that are yours to use for any purpose

A word cloud is a visual representation of information using words as graphics with meaning. The larger the representation of the word, the more significant or common that meaning is in your data. I have a word cloud called a tag cloud right here in my sidebar. It links to the blog posts that are represented by those tags.

You can create a word cloud for other things too. The graphic above is a word cloud that reprsents the words I used in that last several blog posts. It was created with a free service called Wordle.

Wordle is a Java application that runs in your browser. Just surf to the Wordle page and start creating.

Here is the Wordle version of the word cloud based on the latest blog posts here at Click through and after the java loads you can see it dynamically draw:

The Wordle terms of service allow you to use your word clouds as your own for what ever you need them for.

Do vitamins and supplements do anything? How can you tell?

Step 1. Create a pretty graphic telling the world that most supplements are bunk.
Step 2. Graphic gets very popular and shared widely.
Step 3. Frustrated and angry Internet responds with useful links to real and promising studies.
Step 4. Update pretty graphic and continue to accept more studies.
Result? An interactive picture of the current state of opinion on all things supplements and what they might be good for. Listen to your critics they can make you better.

Go to InformationIsBeautiful. Read about the history and updates. There is a spreadsheet in Google Docs that is updated and is the source for the infographic.

Take vitamin D to prevent flu and much more.

How to engineer the boiling temperature of a liquid

When you mix different metals together and create a new metal you create an alloy. That alloy will have different properties from the ingredient metals. If you take copper with a melting point of 1084.62 °C and mix it 88 to 12 with tin which has a melting point of 231.93 °C, then you create a bronze that melts at about 950 °C. The exact temperature varies with the percentage of copper and tin.

This is the example to follow when you want to create a liquid with a new boiling temperature. With metals, not all mixes become one metal with a new melting point. An example is copper and cobalt. With liquids there is a like phenomena, some mixes can still be separated by boiling. This is what a still does. Water and ethanol are miscible, they can be mixed in any proportion, and they dissolve in each other. But with a still, the ethanol which is more volatile can be boiled out of the mixture leaving a higher proportion of water. But the boiling off is not pure, some water vapor also boils off. The more alcohol in the liquid, the more alcohol that is in the vapour. As the ratio changes in the liquid, the ratio also changes in the vapor. At an ethanol to water ratio of 96.4 %, the vapor has an identical composition. Further boiling does not concentrate the liquid any further.

This liquid is called an azeotrope. A no change after boiling liquid. Azeotropes are pressure dependent. By changing the pressure you can change the ratio of components in the vapor. This fact can be used to jump over an azeotrope barrier. This is pressure swing distillation. Once the concentration changes enough, the pressure can return to atmospheric, there is no longer an azeotrope. The concentration can be strengthened further with continued distillation. Note however, that the other component liquid may now be the more volatile one.

For further reading on azeotropes I recommend Norwegian engineering student Eva-Katrine Hilmen’s thesis.

Now to engineer boiling temperature, we want to create azeotropes. The mixture of multiple liquids together in varying ratios is where we must search for our azeotropes. The following description of many such constant boiling admixtures will give us some hope that more can be found. As we saw with the ethanol and water mixture, just boiling off the volatile vapors pushes the concentration toward the azeotrope ratio. So starting with varying ingredients and trial and error of boiling can be the method of search.

31 secrets. How to live a happy life with no regrets

Photo by sanchantr

  1. Keep your thoughts positive, because your thoughts become your words.
  2. Keep your words positive, because your words become your behavior.
  3. Keep your behavior positive, because your behavior become your habits.
  4. Keep your habits positive, because your habits become your values.
  5. Keep your values positive, because your values become your destiny.
  6. Have the courage to live a life true to yourself, not the life others expected of you.
  7. Don’t work so hard.
  8. Have the courage to express your feelings.
  9. Stay in touch with your friends.
  10. Let yourself be happier.
  11. Appreciate life.
  12. Surround yourself with happy, positive people who share your values and goals.
  13. Be considerate.
  14. Learn continuously.
  15. See each new obstacle you face as an opportunity to make a positive change.
  16. Do what you love.
  17. Enjoy life.
  18. Laugh.
  19. Forgive others for your own peace of mind.
  20. Count your blessings.
  21. Nurture and grow your relationships.
  22. Keep your word.
  23. Meditate
  24. Don’t judge others.
  25. Find the positive side of any given situation.
  26. Accept others for who they are.
  27. Be persistent.
  28. Be Proactive.
  29. Take care of your mind, body and health.
  30. Do the best you can and don’t second guess yourself.
  31. Take Responsibility for your life.
  • 1 – 5 from MAHATMA GANDHI, Open Your Mind, Open Your Life: A Book of Eastern Wisdom
  • 6-10 from The top 5 regrets people have on their deathbed, TNW Lifehacks
  • 11-31 from 21 Habits of Happy People, Global One TV

How to boost the economy, revitalize cities, and help the disadvantaged; How to fix the world #12

If you are unemployed, can you perform a service as a small business? Are there licensing requirements that are designed to protect incumbent businesses at the expense of you the upstart? What is the success path for an out of work chef with little savings to bootstrap into a brick and mortar restaurant? How are new small businesses created? Are they only created by the well to do with sufficient savings?

Are taxi medallions required to protect the public, or to protect the profits of those who already own medallions? Are rules against food trucks within one thousand feet of a restaurant designed to protect health and safety, or to protect the profits of existing restaurants? Does it make sense to require 2000 hours of training to legally sell African hair braiding when zero hours of that teaches African hair braiding? Is it dangerous to allow an unlicensed interior decorator to pick a paint color? Should florists have to pass a test on 1950’s style flower arranging and get a license before they can sell a bouquet?

What is economic liberty? It is the opposite of protectionism. In the United States, the 14th Amendment to the Constitution assures the right to earn an honest living without unreasonable governmental interference. What is unreasonable? The restrictions must serve a legitimate public purpose like maintain safety or standards of measurement. If restrictions are created to keep new competitors out of the business, that is unconstitutional. There is no right to make a profit for anyone, but instead a right to try and make a profit.

Unfortunately, something called regulatory capture subverts the goals of government. Existing businesses have an economic incentive to avoid competition. They lobby government to erect obstacles in front of newcomers to the market. Some of these rules sound reasonable at first, like requiring a license implies only the competent are allowed to perform that function. However, many licensing requirements don’t improve skill. By removing competition they have the opposite effect since training and innovation are unnecessary to maintain market share.

Watch the following videos and see how prolific these rules are. Also see the public interest law firm Institute for Justice (IJ) fight for the little guys right to earn a living. Support IJ as I do. But also consider adopting and sharing the view that fresh blood, fresh ideas, and vibrant competition is healthy for our local towns and thus the nation. It is the how to of the American dream. Keep the dream alive.

No matching videos

How to share your thoughts on any web page

Browsing the web is mostly a solitary experience. Google provides different search results to each searcher. Facebook presents each visitor with a unique view.

So when you see something truely remarkable, you want to share just what you see. Now, of course, you can take a screenshot, but there is something better!

Let me show you. I have seen a page that will make a lot of people scream, but for different reasons.

This is another bookmarklet. It is called Markup. It uses a service created by It lets you draw on any webpage, share your markup with anyone, and then let’s the next person edit where you left off. Go to their page to install.

Markup isn’t perfect. I have encountered some bugs while using it. But I’ll submit what I can to their support email and see if things improve. One bug you may encounter, is when responding to my shared markup page, you may lose all the underlying webpage. I suspect it may have something to do with where I found that page.

For the curious, the way I found that interesting Google news page was I used the secrets I explained in an earlier blog post.

Is Sarah Palin logicblind? Did I see that she won the election for President of the United States in 2012 in a FlashForward?

How to find a public bathroom when you are traveling or just away from home

Where is the closest bathroom? Is it only available for customers? How nice is it? Is there a baby changing table? Do they charge for access?

This is the kind of information we can all use. You might know of a few public bathrooms near home. Wouldn’t it be great if there was a central place for you to enter the info you know, and others could do the same near them? If everyone participated, quite a comprehensive list could be created. Traveling might be a little easier.

Well the system already exists. In fact, I know of five of them. All that is needed, is more participation. If you are out and about, you will need Internet access at least on your phone. SMS works too for just two of these.

  1. On my iPhone, I have installed a free app called Have2P. It reports what venues are near your current location, and details about hours, do you have to be a customer, and cleanliness ratings. In my area there were locations listed, but very few confirmed by other users. Their website advertises the app, but doesn’t have any data for browsing. I tried searching internationally, but was provided a list of bathrooms in Missouri instead. Is there an Amsterdam in Missouri?
  2. Another free iPhone app is called SitOrSquat. I have not yet tried this one. The itunes reviews are mixed. It looks like the latest revision crashes a lot. But when it works, people like it. SitOrSquat however also has a blackberry app. And for all other phones, if you have SMS text messaging, you can still get results. Send a text of “sitorsquat” to DOTCOM (368266) and follow the instructions to find the closest bathroom to you. This will take 3 texts, and you will get 3 replies, while you narrow down to a location near you. Finally, with Internet access, the SitOrSquat website will let you browse a google map and get access to the locations. No apps needed. There were quite a few locations listed when I spot checked Amsterdam in the Netherlands. The locations may be from some external database. I didn’t see any bathrooms in the Netherlands that were rated.
  3. This solution is a web only site. The Bathroom Diaries is google map based. The locations provided were different than what I saw in SitOrSquat for near my home. So knowing about all three services may come in handy. The Bathroom Diaries is worth a visit just for the travel log of bathroom horror stories around the world. The site may also be more comprehensive than the others for international locations that have had reviews. However my search of Amsterdam showed only three locations. One of them implied that any police station has a public bathroom. So if you can figure out where they are, more locations may have bathrooms.
  4. Whizzer is a 99 cent app for the iPhone. I have not tried it. For the current revision, I saw only two reviews. One loved it, saying it was particularly good in Europe. The other review said the app didn’t work.
  5. MizPee is web access and SMS only. Web access is theoretical. I could get to the website from my desktop, but there were no maps or data that I could find. The site showed how the site might look on a mobile browser. However, my iPhone was never able to reach the website. The news updates seem to have stopped in 2007. For SMS you need to send a text message containing your city, and state to 415-350-2290. If this works for you, please let us know.

State Laws Mandate Restroom Access: After a store manager denied her access to the shop’s bathroom, Ally Bain, a Chicago teenager with Crohn’s disease, championed the Illinois Restroom Access Act. Also known as Ally’s Law, this Act requires businesses to allow people with medical emergencies access to private restrooms if there are three or more employees at the business. The law fines stores $100 if they do not cooperate.

In addition to Illinois, Kentucky, Minnesota, Texas, and Washington require businesses to provide restroom access to those with chronic conditions like IC. Most laws direct you to present a letter from your physician when asking to use a restroom. Similar legislation is pending in other states, including Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee.

This bookmarklet will tell us whois the current owner of any website

Photo by ~Brenda-Starr~

A bookmarklet is a bookmark that contains a JavaScript program instead of a URL. The JavaScript code has access to the current page, and can operate on it, change it, or direct to a new page based on it.

To install a bookmarklet, create a new bookmark, and paste the code into the address part. For FireFox, Chrome, and some other browsers, you can drag a bookmarklet onto the bookmark bar.

I previously wrote a blog post about a bookmarklet that lets you edit most any webpage you visit. Today I would like to present a bookmarklet that I am the latest author of. It is based on a bookmarklet that doesn’t work anymore called domain owner. I simplified it a bit, made it work again, and I direct it to a better whois service. I call my bookmarklet whois, but you can name it anything you like when you save it.

So right click on whois and save bookmark, or if you can, drag whois to your bookmark bar. You have installed the bookmarklet.

Now to use it, just visit any website that you want to know who the owner is, and click the bookmarklet button.

The code for this bookmarklet is as follows:


We first inform the browser that this is code with javascript:. We then create an anonymous function, an unnamed function, that executes in place so that We don’t return a value. We declare two variables p and h that will be used in a moment. The %20 is a URL encoded space character. Read it as a space. needs to be explained in parts. location is an object that represents the current web address displayed in the browser. specifies the .host method to the object that represents just the hostname portion of the address. Strictly speaking, .host will also return the port number of the URL if it differs from the default. In that case, my bookmarklet will break. That is not a problem for most uses. The .split is a method that splits the string into separate strings based on a regular expression or a separator. In this case We are splitting on a period (‘.’). So returns an array of each of the parts between the periods in the current web page and stores it in the variable h. Next, p=h.length uses the .length array method to find the number of elements stored in array h and puts the result in variable p. The variable p now lets us choose which piece of the domain name we want. location is used again, but this time we create a new URL and set location to it. This redirects the browser to the new URL location. followed by any domain name will return a page with the whois information for that domain name. The + (plus) operator concatenates two strings. For website, to use an example, h[p-3] is www, h[p-2] is HowTutorial, and h[p-1] is com. The .split method had stored each of the parts in the array h. The [] lets us select one element of the array. We used the length p to find each of elements we need. We also have to add the ‘.’ back in, since the array didn’t save the character we split by. Pieced together, we set location to void(0) is a dummy function in JavaScript. It evaluates to 0. By ending our function with void(0), we make sure our bookmarklet doesn’t return anything undefined and report an error. The () at the end says our function had no arguments, and we are executing it now.

Now we are done. The browser takes us to find out that Private owns And you have some idea how a JavaScript bookmarklet works. Actually, I own, but I registered with, and at no additional cost they provide private registrations of domains.