Legal Disclaimer

The opinions stated here in this ‘blog or elsewhere on my web site are my own. Any or all facts (real or imagined) are typically presented from my personal point of view. Furthermore these facts and opinions do not necessarily represent or even agree with those of my family, my employer, the US Government, any other organization, or entity (real or imagined). Any similarity (real or imagined) to other individuals, animals, places, items or concepts is purely coincidental.


Cleaning up the subtropical gyres 

A recent item on (with an inaccurate headline) linked to a Sydney Morning Herald article reporting on the build up of plastic in the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre. After reading the article I recalled hearing about using solar powered Autonomous Surface Vessels for harbor security and ocean research, either on the internet or more likely on TV (as I can't seem to find much information about ASVs by searching the internet). The idea then occurred to me that a small fleet of solar powered autonomous plastic skimmers, might be able to play a role in cleaning up the world's subtropical gyres.

Essentially the idea is this:
  1. One or more Collection Vessels, probably solar powered, are fitted with equipment to collect sea surface plastic (and other inorganic garbage) and separate it from sea water and, to the best extent possible, from sea life.
  2. The collected plastic would then be either ground into pellets and stored on board or compacted, bailed, and stored overboard for retrieval and recycling.

Expanding on the basic idea:
  1. One or more additional Transfer Vessels, likely solar and/or wind powered, would rendezvous with the Collection Vessels.
  2. The vessels would then transfer the collected plastic (and other inorganic garbage) to the Transfer Vessel(s).
  3. The Transfer Vessels would then sail to a designated port facility where the plastic could be properly recycled and the and other inorganic garbage properly disposed.

Initially these vessels would likely have to be staffed, but as the techniques are refined and equipment developed, more and more of the work could be automated and remotely monitored.

Free Speach & Self Censorship 

Having had a first hand experience with my employer visiting my website, I know that such a future possibility does effect what I post here. 

This NY Times article illustrates a real problem facing free speech in our society.  As I see it there are three solutions that in some combination will hopefully mitigate this over the long term, but we must be vigilant.

First legal protections, such as those in Colorado and Minnesota and/or judicial protections under the First Amendment will help.  Second, many companies and union contacts also have policies or provisions against religious or political discrimination when activities are off of company hours and property.  Third, as public disclosure of personal information becomes more common, then individuals will hopefully become more accepting of the diverse opinions and activities of others. 

Until these happen and are universally accepted, many people (perhaps including myself) will find it necessary to blog anonymously, which in light of recent and well minded efforts by some groups to protect children and/or security, could itself becoming a suspicious activity. 

As I recently stated in a reply to a comment, advances in communication, transportation and the hard sciences [physics, chemistry and biology] have brought not only awareness of differences in cultures and  peoples often profound differences in closely held beliefs, but also outright confrontations, especially where two groups both have strong but opposing views of what is right and what is wrong. 

In the early years of the internet (before the world wide web), this most often took the form of simple "flame wars".  But as the Internet has gotten easier to use and the population using the Internet has expanded, so to have the off line consequences expanded for expressing decenting or unpopular opinions.

I don't know for sure, but I suspect that a former boss may have substantially changed his opinion of my abilities and work performance because he didn't agree with political / religious views expressed or implied in this blog.

Bloggers' Rights at EFF


Mom & MySpace 

With a degree in sociology and strong interest in geeks, nerds and kids, it shouldn't be surprising that my mom has discovered MySpace. But I was a little taken aback when I received an e-mail linked to her MySpace page, urging me to join MySpace too.

When I first set up a profile on myspace (a couple of years ago), I mostly just copied sections of my various dating site profiles. Later on I added a survey module, that found somewhere. Until now I hadn't shared that page with my family or with certain groups of friends.

So after I made a pass to ensure that there wasn't anything there I wouldn't mind my niece and nephews seeing, clicked the link to add my mom as a friend. [I also did the same for my brother and niece, who were already on my mom's friend list.]

In our daily lives most of us display a certain persona to our co-workers, a different persona to our family and yet another to our friends. Thus it can be a bit awkward when these groups intersect, particularly if the groups may not have the same political and/or religious views. It makes sense that our online identities, profiles, etc. parallel these real world projections, but the growing the interconnectedness and search-ability of these profiles is making these intersections more common and sometimes less obvious.

As social networking sites get more sophisticated, most people will want the ability to group their associations and share different information with different groups. I don't think that most people necessarily want to hide who they really are. However they don't necessarily want to advertise everything about themselves to everyone.

Fifteen Hour Drive. 

It took just about 15 hours to drive from Santa Rosa, CA to Maple Valley, WA, via my originally planned US-101->US-199->I-5 route, which is about an hour more then I really like to do in a single day. If I had made it to Eureka as planned Thursday night, it would have been only about ten to twelve hours today.

But I made it home safe and sound and in time for practice Saturday morning.


Stuck in No.Cal., due to snow 

I got as far as Ukiah, CA before the CHP was turning everyone around because US-101 was closed due to snow.  Went back to Santa Rosa, so I could get a warm motel room with good Internet access, where I will spend the night.  Plans for the Friday will depend on road conditions in the morning and the evolving weather forecast. 

At this point I'm not sure when I'll get back to the Seattle area, but will call Jennie & Holly, if I can't make it to practice on Saturday.



Christmas in SoCal with family 

The drive down from Washington was very much as planned, though I didn't get to check e-mail along the way. As expected there was snow in the Siskiyou Mountains, so I followed my regular alternate route from Grants Pass, OR out to Crescent City, CA and down US-101.

Stopped off and had a nice visit wit my Aunt, Uncle and Grandmother near/in San Jose on Friday evening / Saturday morning. Went straight from my parents place out to dinner with my brother and his family.


Certificate of Excellence 

Certificate of Excellence
Originally uploaded by TSayles
Today I was taken out to lunch by the other members of the Golden Gate Project team (on our employer's tab). While there I was awarded this certificate and told that I was receiving a "kudos" award that will also include a special bonus in an upcoming paycheck.

It sounded like the results from the project review were good enough, that development on the equipment (or a similar set-up) will continue next year as resources become available. So I might get to do more work along these lines in the future.


Senate postpones consideration of spy bill 

In the news late this evening, it looks like the pressure is paying off.
Senate postpones consideration of spy bill - Yahoo! News:

Still Contact your Senator and ask for  S.2248 immunity to require "Full public disclosure" AND "Full assistance in the investigation and prosecution".

Support Filibusterer of Telco Immunity 

Contact your Senator and ask them to support Sen. Dodd's filibusterer of S.2248, unless/until any immunity is contingent on:
  1. Full public disclosure, including but not limited to, the scope and timing of all warrantless surveillance activities; AND
  2. Full assistance in the investigation and prosecution of all government officials that may have broken the law by requesting and/or authorizing surveillance without a court order.
The biggest enemy of liberty and freedom is an unchallenged government.
-- Tom Sayles

Bush's phone immunity bill wins Senate vote - Yahoo! News


How about starting Wiki-Mathica? 

Posted as a comment in reply to In reply to Should Wikipedia Allow Mathematical Proofs?" on Slashdot

I can visually see why the Wikipedia elite, might be disinclined to include formal mathematical proofs in general audience articles. They look intimidating.

It seems to me like the mathematics community on Wikipedia ought to be able to set up a new, top level Wiki-media project, along the lines of what Wikimedia Commons has become, dedicated to the sharing, presentation and interlinking of math proofs. The formal proofs could then be easily linked to from within Wikipedia, without making the Wikipedia articles harder for laypersons to understand.

Also such a top level project might be able to introduce some structure to proofs that would, not only allow input and output in formats like Latex, but also allow automated symbolic math processors [] to work directly with the public proof base. Then some enterprising Google geeks and/or college students ought to be able to bring some sophisticated search techniques along with the computing power of something like Amazon's Elastic Compute Cloud [url] to the party. And that just might allow some truly amazing breakthroughs.

An exception to the Google rule? 

the Google rule
Don't overplan something. Just do it half-assed to start with, then throw more people at it to fix it if it works. Worked for every successful Google project from AdWords to Google Maps.

-- LinuxWorld Community

Based on the rest of the post, another rule should also apply, something along the lines of:
If something isn't working.  Stop doing it, and try something else. 

--Tom Sayles


Wanted: Java Developer Job using Eclipse & ImageJ 

I think the time has come to officially be in the market for a new job, preferably in software development, ideally working in Java using the Eclipse IDE and perhaps continuing to develop image processing projects with the ImageJ APIs.

I've just finished up a special assignment working on a project with my current employer's R&D department. For a little more than the past six months, I've been working with a few other engineers and an experimental piece of test equipment, intended for use by the R&D department to speed up development of new products. Now that the project has reached the end of it's current test plan, it will spend the remainder of the year under review to determine if the experimental test equipment is producing promising enough results to warrant continued development.

As a regular member of the production department (in a manufacturing environment), I was brought into the project primarily to help bring operational efficiency and experience to the testing and development process. Much of this was in managing materials, conducting tests, and documenting or updating testing procedures. However, I ended up also providing some key software development and image analysis skills to the project team.

I actually found the software development and associated documentation work to be the most fun and rewarding parts of the project. While it had been somewhat over six years since I had done serious software development, it didn't take me long (about a week) to get back into the swing of hardcore object oriented development, even though the project's software is in Java, a language I hadn't used before professionally. The biggest hurdles were getting up to speed on the syntax and learning the Eclipse development environment. I even managed to get in some unit testing and test driven development, using the JUnit features I found in Eclipse. I also learned to really take advantage of the Javadoc features of the Java language and integration with Eclipse.

For many years, I've heard several of my my programmer friends, particularly my college roommate Joshua Engel, expounding on the many positive attributes of the Java language and it's run time environment. Before the Dot-Com crash I was a hadcore object oreinted Visual Basic programmer automating distributed Access databases reporting back to a central office. A few years back I read Java 2 Exam Cram by William B. Brogden and taught my self many of the language's fundamentals. In the development tasks that I recently completed I made some very effective use of inheritance, polymorphism (overloading) and the JRE's automatic memory management. I found that I actually liked the strongly typed nature of Java. If this recent project gets continued, (i.e. the test results are good enough to make continued development of the tester worth while,) I'd like the opportunity to make use of Java's network / database connectivity and multi-threading capabilities.

I was also very impressed with the Eclipse development environment. Early on I found a series of video tutorials on Eclipse by Dr. David J. Powell at Elon University that were very helpful getting started and up to speed. Though out the project I made extensive use of Eclipse's hot-key access to the Javadoc APIs, primarily at Sun but also from a few other locations. I really like a number of the features in Eclipse particularly the code completion and the refactoring tools. Once I learned the interfaces, the ability to quickly generate and modify code was really amazing. At times, even as a relative Java and Eclipse novice, I was able to code almost as fast as I can think, resulting in productivity that continually exceeded project expectations. One thing I wished I had been able to make use of was/is the visual editor, but because my current employer's network is so locked down (or unreliable) Eclipse was never able to establish a connection that would allow either upgrades or the installation of enhancements.

Like many pieces of test equipment, the one I have been working with generates a series of digital images as it's end product. When I came onto the project we had a fairly simple, single class, ImageJ plug-in that one of the mechanical engineers wrote. It would use a macro to do some preprocessing, scan for the main region of interest then preform a few built-in measurements. It then wrote the results to a CSV file, that would later be opened in Excel, combined with test configuration information and finally cut / pasted into a statistics package. I initially modified this older plug-in allowing the use of some alternate testing materials, which resulted in images that required additional preprocessing. Soon afterward I developed a new plug-in that implemented more sophisticated measurement methodology and took into account certain physical characteristics of the specific test configuration. I also started developing classes in a new java package specific to our project, thus allowing effective reuse of code via Java's import features.

One of the biggest project breakthroughs came when, on my own initiative, I began outputting the measurement results, not only as tabular data [this time in TabSV files with an .xls extension so they open easily with Excel], but also as marked up copies of the original image, showing the specific areas being measured. This allowed the project's function engineers to identify anomalies and unwanted sources of variation as they analyzed the data, leading directly to improvements in the testing and measurement methods. During the qualification of my new software, I actually went back and added my image mark up capabilities to the initial ImageJ plug-in, and we immediately discovered, and then fixed, a significant bug in the old software. Also as part of the qualification I wrote detailed documentation of the measurement methodologies, including explanations of each field in the results file(s) and examples of the marked up images with visual notations showing how they related to the fields in the results file(s).

As part of the development of the new plug-in, I wrote a number of test classes that provided unit test coverage for a modest but significant portion of the software project, which really helped catch bugs later in the project. I was even able to achieve a small amount of real test driven development. This was mostly around the routines that actually preform the measurements. I would initially make the measurements on a sample image using the standard ImageJ user interface and intermediate computations in Excel, then write a test case for that measurement on the sample image, followed by the implementation of that measurement in the plug-in. I used some similar techniques to create test images and routines to check portions of the image mark-up classes.

During the later portion of this part of the project, I was also able to go back through all my code adding detailed Javadoc comments for nearly all of the public and most of the private fields and methods in my software. Which is something I would normally do before checking code into a revision control system, but we have not been using one on this project. The last software development tasks I was implementing included one last enhancement to the marked up images and packaging the new plug-in with it's package full of class files, along with versions of the older plug-in(s), all as a single .jar file. That .jar file can now be easily installed, by simply copying it into ImageJ's "plugins" folder and used by anyone throughout our company that has ImageJ installed.

In the future I'd really like to get back into a team development environment, most likely as a junior programmer or as a tester, writing Java in Eclipse and testing with JUnit. I'd also like to do more extensive work with user interfaces in Swing, XML / HTML and/or Ajax. Since I've recently spent time working with the ImageJ APIs, more work developing image processing and analysis software would also interest me, perhaps as part of the growing biomedical community. [ImageJ was originally developed at the National Institutes of Health for analyzing medical and laboratory images.] I'm also very interested in working on and with Open Source projects, like Eclipse, JUnit and ImageJ. Alternately, I wouldn't mind an opportunity to get up to speed using C# or to apply my programing skills along with my manufacturing, traffic engineering and/or geodetic expertise.

While my compensation requirements are quite modest, I would rather like to stay in the Seattle / Eastside area as I have a significant volunteer activity as Head Coach of the Cascade Vaulters in Fall City, WA, that I'm not willing to give up just yet.


Fixing Deepest Sender again 

Back in August I took the time to patch the version of Deepest Sender (a blog posting add-on for Firefox) that I'm using to fix a date formating bug that prevents version 0.8.0 form working with Blogger.

I think a recent Firefox update some how reinstalled the unfixed version. So I had to reinstall my patched version tonight.

Coincidently I also got a comment tonight to my old August 18 post, asking if I had a patch to add Tag support now that Blogger supports tags.  While I don't have such a patch, I'd be willing to write one if I had the time and/or someone wanted to pay me to build one.

For $5, I'll make sure that tag support for Blogger is listed as a feature request on Deepest Sender's bug tracking (once MosDev's Bugzilla is back online). For $10 I'll e-mail the main developer. For $100, I'll work on it when I get a chance.  I figure for $1000 (or ten people at $100 each), I ought to be able to find / make the time before New Years.
[Remember, I'm a for-profit individual, so these gifts are not tax deductible.]

Emoticon Stamp 

For many years my mom was into rubber stamps. Now days she's more into reading blogs and mailing lists. So when I saw this as something that Gretta had read and shared, I thought it's the sort of thing she'd like. (I'd e-mail a link to her, but I know that she reads my blog.) blog: Emoticon Stamp


Slashdot Ad Overlay Error 

Slashdot Ad Overlay Error
Originally uploaded by TSayles
Flash ads are annoying, if for no other reason then they might cover up an ad you might actually want to read.


Case Study: Metabolic Effects of High-Fructose Corn Syrup 

Dr. Nestle --

    In a recent Seattle PI article, picked up by MSNBC, about PCC Market banning high-fructose corn syrup, you were quoted as saying that if removed from products, high-fructose corn syrup would "be replaced with sucrose (table sugar) or honey or organic cane juice, all of which are basically the same as HFCS, or artificial sweeteners."  While the total caloric content of the products might stay the same, there are metabolic effects of corn syrup and HFCS that are very different, at least in a part of the population.

    As a person with first hand experience with the differences, I want to share my story with you in the hopes that you can lead (or at least encourage) research into what it is about HFCS and other corn sweeteners that makes them different and how their wide spread use effects public health. 

    As an engineering student at Virginia Tech in the early '90s, I noticed a strong correlation between products I ate that contained HFCS and acne breakouts. Specifically I noticed that I was getting similar reactions about four hours after drinking Sprite and about four hours after eating a certain type of bar cookie that my grandmother makes.  After investigating I found that the only common ingredient was corn syrup.  These breakouts (which continue to this day) are typified by the formation of small (~0.5 mm) white or light yellow nodules that have the consistency of (fresh, not dried) walnut or pecan flesh in or near sebaceous glands. 

    Over time I found that by carefully reading food labels and avoiding products containing corn syrup (and it's derivatives), I could greatly reduce the number and severity of my acne breakouts.  I also found that much of the time when I did have a breakout, I could trace it back to a specific product I had consumed.  On several occasions I've even found out that a product I initially started buying that hadn't used corn syrup had changed their formulation, because it caused a breakout and I went back and rechecked the ingredients. A specific example of this was Sara Lee Cinnamon Raisin bagels (the last brand of bagels on most national chain shelves that had been free of corn syrup). 

    I have not found any other sweeteners, natural, processed or artificial, that cause similar problems for my body.  I have found that other forms of fructose (mostly in products from outside the US) and that other corn based products or ingredients do not cause reactions.  I haven't ever found an organic corn syrup so I can't draw any conclusions about the effects of industrial scale farming or processing.  I also suspect that the main culprit is something (enzymes used in production?) in the corn sweeteners that, presumably, get more concentrated along with the fructose as it is processed from corn syrup to high-fructose corn syrup to corn syrup solids.  For example I've found that my body can process the corn syrup in one Oreo cookie a day without a reaction, but not two, and that the small amount of corn syrup solids in a single Necco Wafer causes a significant breakout.

    For background, I'm a nominally healthy and active male, now 38 years old, weighing about 165 and 5'7" tall, with no other known allergies or adverse reactions to food products.  I would be willing to participate in controlled academic studies to confirm and better understand my personal observations.

    Over the years I've met a number of other individuals that also get adverse reactions from corn syrup, but seem to do fine with other sweeteners. Not all of these reactions are identical or even similar to mine, but there is significant anecdotal evidence that HFCS is not the same as other sweeteners.

    Thanks for your time, and I hope that this informal case study will help you understand that, from a public health stand point, there are differences between high-fructose corn syrup and other sweeteners that we don't fully understand and that these differences deserve serious academic research. 

    Tom Sayles
    Maple Valley, WA

BTW -- This is also posting to my blog "Tom's Words of Wisdom" at