Monday, September 25, 2017


You're traveling the ocean in a ship and wondering where, exactly you are. What to do.....??

And then someone says, I know--let's build a big fire on that high hill for ships to use as a guidepost.

Thus began the lighthouse as we know it today.

If a fire was a good idea, people decided, then a building where a 'permanent' fire could be housed was even better. By the 1600s there were at least 30 lighthouses built around the coast close to Europe and England. The lighthouse, or a concept of it, was mentioned as early as the 8th century BC in The Odyssey and The Iliad.
Montazzah Lighthouse, Alexandria, Egypt
Originally the lights were meant to help navigate by, but eventually also became a way of warning ships of bad sailing conditions or hazards that lie ahead of them.

Lighthouses were built as far out on a coastline as people dared, but they weren't always engineered well and could be 'taken' by the sea in a storm. There was a need to anchor them deeper into the ground and build them of masonry, brick, or concrete, which made them longer-lasting. The lights were fueled by wood, coal, or oil, and tended by people who kept the glass (lens) clean, trimmed the wick if using oil as a fuel, maintained the outside of the building, and some kept records of ships passing through as well.

Go with a couple as they climb up to the top of a lighthouse in Cape Hatteras:  Notice this one has a black band around it..
When a community didn't have a lighthouse, they would often have a light in the tall steeple of a church located on the coast to help ships find their way.

  • In 1858, the first electric-powered lighthouse was built in England.
  • Some lighthouse lights revolve and some have a steady light. Some flash on and off.
  • Some use mirrors to reflect more light
  • Different lenses can be used to make a lighthouse more visible
  • The atmosphere affects the quality of the light: Fog, smoke, haze, wind, smog--all can make it harder to see, even as bright as they are
  • The light can be a maximum of 100,000 candelas. By comparison, a 60 watt light bulb used often in a table lamp, has 800 lumens or roughly 9600 candelas.
  • Lighthouses are usually white, but may also be a color or black to make it more visible in the sea

  • Lighthouses can be built in the sea with the right footings
  • Helicopters are commonly used to do maintenance on tall lighthouses
  • In the early 1900s, some lighthouses added a 'fog signal,' a low sounding horn operated by a sort of mechanical set-up. Lighthouses that use a 'horn' now are automated (unattended by people).
Video with a fog horn:
  • In addition to lighthouses, there are light ships: these are ships that anchor in the ocean at all times and have lights mounted high on their masts for guidance. They are always automated, no people are on the lightships

  • Lighted buoys also are used to help ships follow certain paths. They're anchored to stay in the sea. These buoys have color coded paint and flash color coded lights: They flash red for ships to stay to the left (port) side, or green for the ship to stay to the right (starboard) side.
  • A Cardinal Buoy marks the deepest water and the safest route.
A lighthouse actually built in the ocean. (it houses a light, and that's all)
Frequently asked questions about lighthouses:
As of today, there are over 600 lighthouses in the United States. Only one is manned by a person, all the rest are automated. The United States Coast Guard maintains the lighthouses.

Lots of interesting stuff about lighthouses:

Coast Guard listing of different symbolism used by lighthouses, buoys, and other details:

This is Split Rock Lighthouse on Lake Superior, in Duluth:

Monday, September 18, 2017

Job Description: Pharmacist

A Pharmacist does much more than just count out pills to put in prescription bottles.
A typical course of education for a pharmacist begins with a Bachelors Degree: 2 years of generals and then 2 years of classes such as Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Anatomy & Physiology, and pharmaceutical practices.

The doctorate degree includes education in laws involved with pharmacy practice, dosage, health management, and equipment used on the job. The schooling will then include a residency program lasting one to two years, similar to a medical doctor.

Education must take place at a school accredited by the Accreditation Council of Pharmaceutical Education (ACPE), and must pass the NAPLEX (Board certification exam) to obtain a license to practice as a pharmacist.
Here are some responsibilities of a pharmacist:
  • Noting allergies:Does the patient have a reaction to a drug? What can be substituted?
  • Filling prescriptions on a timely basis
  • Knowledge of insurance coverage: there are many insurance companies to deal with, including people using Medicare or Medicaid or assistance with their prescriptions: What's covered, and the amount covered?
  • Advising patients about their medications
  • Staying up-do-date on new medications
  • Being aware of any problems with medications such as recalls
  • Knowledge of chronic illnesses and their medications, such as diabetes or heart disease

  • Communicating with medical professionals such as doctors or nurse practitioners
  • Knowing when two drugs cannot be taken together, catching that mistake, and suggesting a different combination, possibly to the physician
  • Instructing patients how to take their medications: Does orange juice make it less powerful? Can you take it on an empty stomach, or not?
  • Understanding how the drugs are going to work to combat a condition
  • Warning patients of side effects
  • Knowledge about over the counter  (not prescription) treatments
More details on the coursework:

Monday, September 11, 2017

9/11/2001: Do You Remember?

It was a bright September morning, a Tuesday. I didn't need to be at work until 9:00. Getting ready, I had ABC news on the TV, not paying much attention. At some point, I sat down and watched for a while.

The oddest thing happened: The people reporting the news suddenly looked puzzled, as if they weren't hearing correctly through their earphones. Furrowed brows. Surprise. It looks, they said, as if someone ran a plane into one of the Twin Towers in New York City. The show broadcasts from New York and has the skyline visible behind them. What about that? How strange. How could that happen, the pilot must have had a heart attack or something.

How bad is the damage? They wondered, wanting as all newspeople do, to have all the details immediately. Where I sat, I wondered what happened but wasn't particularly concerned. Bummer. But that's in New York, not anywhere near me.

What did get my attention was the serious and concerned looks on their faces: It didn't seem to be just a story about a random plane crash. I sensed more danger than that. As they tried to fill time with talk, waiting for particulars, there was another explosion and a lot of black smoke visible behind them. A lot of it. Big plumes.

At this point, the news anchors glanced at one another in shock. There's something really unsettling when a TV news anchor is shocked.

And one of them said,

"That was not an accident. Someone just deliberately flew into that buillding. And if that's true, then I suspect the first plane was no accident, either." The tape of it was played over and over, as we watched in stunned silence as that second jet turned, dipped down, and almost seemed to fly straight through the tower. On purpose.

And just like that, our history changed.

Airports were shut down for fear of more attacks. How many more planes would do that?  There was one headed for the Pentagon. One headed for the White House. Two more headed who knows where. We considered ourselves under attack. What do we do now? If we're going to be attacked, I want to be at home, not at work. I want my children with me. But what do I tell them?

In just a moment, our lives were changed. Before, it was the threat of a bomb being dropped on us or maybe chemical warfare. Occasionally, not that often, we'd think: What if?

It never occurred to us that people would hijack a regular commercial airline in order to drive it into a regular building on a regular, early Fall, sunny day. That there were people who were willing to kill themselves along with a huge number of others, both in the planes and in the buildings.

Heroes emerged: People who refused to let the hijackers complete their plans, even though everyone in the planes died anyway. People who made every effort to save others. While victims struggled to get down the stairs of these buildings, time and again firefighters climbed back up to rescue everyone they could, losing their lives in the process.

The quiet of the next few days was eerie as we reeled from the horror of it: thousands of people dead. Papers with faces and descriptions begging for information, pleading for a loved one to be all right, were stapled everywhere in New York City. Hundreds upon hundreds of them. And slowly, we realized they would never be found-they were simply gone-changing the lives of those who loved them forever. The papers became tattered and damaged and washed out by rain as surely as the tears that were shed in realization.

Heart-wrenching stories of bright and shining lives destroyed, children who would not remember their parents, parents who lost children, families interrupted and broken. Hopeful people trying to make a start in New York City, others who had worked in those buildings for years; people just making a trip to California, the trusting faces of kids on their first plane rides...a terrible waste for all of us. So much was lost on that day, along with our naive opinion that no one would dare come here and attack us.

So what did we do? We started anew. The wreckage, almost unbelievably massive, was cleared. A new memorial was placed at the site of the Twin Towers that has walls of water, appropriately, and a new structure defiantly even taller than the old ones. Survivors are still healing, families still grieving, victims gone forever. It's been 16 years, and yet only the blink of an eye.

But in the days after, when out among people in stores and going on with their lives, there was a quiet, sad, sense of unity. We didn't need to talk about it, we knew the sadness and disappointment we were all feeling. Smiles came easier. Everyone seemed to say, "We're OK. We'll be OK." That strength you can only feel when shared with others in the same situation.

What can we learn from the attacks of 9/11? Anger? Tolerance? Suspicion? Hope? Being prepared? ?

Maybe we start from home. We start by reminding ourselves what really matters to us. Then we add a ring, our neighbors: how are they doing? Do they need help with anything? Add another ring, our community: What's going on that's good and bad? How can we get involved? And another ring: how can we change what we don't like in our country, and how do we support each other? There's strength in numbers. We can be stronger together than divided. And we'll never forget that day.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

If My Balance is $25 I'm Doing Fine, and Other Financial Myths

What do you know about money? Here are things you need to know as you begin living as an adult:

  • If you have a checking account, You need to know how to go online and check your balance, and see what's going on with your account. It will show you all of your transactions. A transaction is either something you purchase/a debit (buy) or a credit (such as your paycheck being deposited).
  • What do pending or posted mean??
-Pending means the bank knows you spent that amount and they'll take it out soon. Posted means they've taken it out. See if the balance includes pending amounts.

-When you bank (or buy anything) online, be sure to check that the URL (address at the top of the screen) has a padlock on it, that means the website is as secure as possible. Consider not banking using your phone, because phones get stolen or lost. Be constantly aware of being private when doing online transactions. Also, when you use a cash machine (ATM) be sure it's one your bank uses, or you will pay a fee for getting cash out. And that's how banks make money.
  • What's an overdraft?
-An overdraft means you wrote a check or used a check card for an amount more than was in your account. For example, you have $50 in your account, but you write a check or swipe your card for $75. It may not reject this immediately, but fairly soon after you've tried that, the bank will notice.... and ironically, the punishment is typically a $30-$35 charge you pay the bank, plus the amount of the transaction or withdrawal. Yes, they are charging you money you obviously don't have. It's nonsense and it's how banks make money.

  • What's a 'Stop Payment?'
-If you wrote a check for something and that check gets lost, or if you have a dispute with the place you wrote the check to, you can go to the bank and tell it to stop payment on that check. They'll refuse to pay it if the person or place tries to cash it. They will also charge you at least $30 to do that Stop Payment--they won't care what the situation is. And that's how banks make money.

  • Do you know if your account has a minimum balance?
-Some do, some do not: Find out, and if there is a minimum, be sure you always leave that in the account or you will be charged a fee. And that's how banks make money.
  • What is principal? What is interest?
-The principal is the basic amount of a loan you take out. If you take out a loan for $1,000, that's the principal. The interest is the fee you are using to 'use' the principal, and that's how banks make money.
  • What is compound interest?
-Compound interest means you earn interest on your interest. If you put money in the bank and the account pays interest, you continue to gain (or accrue) interest on not only the main amount but the interest, too. This is how you make money, not the bank.

  • Why should I pay more than my required payments on my loans (or credit cards)?
-When you take out a loan, any kind of loan including a student loan, the lender will charge you interest, that's their fee for your 'using' the money. You'll be paying on the interest before the principal (the amount of your loan). And so, it takes while to really start to chip away at the loan amount. Paying even a little bit more every month adds up: If you pay another $5 a month, that's $60 a year, plus it reduces your loan and helps you pay more and more of the principal and less interest.
  • Why is it so hard to get out of credit card debt?
-Your credit card company charges you to use money you don't have (interest or finance charge) just like any other loan. If you charge something that cost $50 and their finance charge is 20%, then you're actually going to pay another $10 for that item, a total of $60. Once you repeat this with lots of purchases, you're paying a lot more for your total. Still, for some people, it's so easy to hand over a credit card to get something they want right now, until the bill comes and they realize they charged more than they thought. If you make the minimum payment, it will take a long time to pay it off because a chunk of your payments are going to that finance charge and not paying off the items (The 'principal'-see above). The credit card company is happy; you, not so much. You're paying interest on the whole amount you owe. You need to pay more than the minimum, or pay it off every month if it's possible.

Just for education purposes, look at a credit card offer you get in the mail before you rip it up and toss it: Read the fine print telling you what the interest rate is, what the late charges are, and what the annual fee is. These are not negotiable (you can't make them sympathize with you if you goof up). It's not uncommon to see a 28-30% interest rate, especially if you miss a payment.

Want to figure out how long it's going to take you to pay off an amount? Enter your numbers here and get a surprise:

  • What is a budget, anyway?
-A budget just means that you write down how much money comes in and what goes out (is spent). If your paycheck is $500 every other week, you take home $1000 per month. What are your monthly expenses? These include food, house or apartment payment, car payment, school loans. Write them all down and add them up, and subtract from that $1000 income. What's left over is what you have in what's called discretionary spending-it's at your discretion how it's spent. You can spend it or save it or do part of each. And that's your budget.

If you see that you're spending more on something than you might need to, maybe you can find a way to cut down. How thrifty are you with food buying? Gift giving? Nights out on the town? That snack you like to pick up at the gas station? Remember how hard you work for your money when you're thinking of buying something. Think in terms of "want" vs. "need." It's a good idea to save money even if you don't need it right now: Cars break down, things need repair, and lots of other things happen that require money. It's nice to have a 'cushion' set aside in case that happens. Or, you may want to save for a big-ticket item such as a new computer or a down payment on a better car. There's an old term: Pay Yourself First. In other words, always take some of your pay and set it aside for your use.