Thursday, 12 April 2012

Most Memorable Ads

TV commercials tend to be memorable. They are after all trying to sell us something, and if they weren't memorable they wouldn't work, and someone somewhere in some marketing department would soon be looking for a new job. But there are a few ads that go above and beyond. This here is a list of 14 of what I regard to be the most memorable ads. Your personal list may not be exactly the same but I'm sure there'll be much overlap.

1)Sony Bravia - Bouncing Balls Ad (2005)

2)Wendy's: Where's the Beef? (1984)

Clara Peller's "Where's the Beef" query is what helped make this one of the most memorable fast food tv ads ever.

3)Energizer Bunny (1989)

4)Budweiser: Croaking Frogs (1995)

From a Super Bowl campaign from Anheuser-Busch starring a three talking frogs in a dark swamp croaking: "Bud. Wei. Ser."

5)Im a Mac, and I'm a PC (2006)

6)Chevrolet trucks: Like a Rock (1991)

The song is Like a Rock by Bob Seger.

7)Mentos the Freshmaker (1995)

8)Taco Bell — The Taco Bell Chihuaha (1997)

9)Old Spice (2010)

10)Cadbury - In the Air Tonight (2007)

11)The World Is Just Awesome - Discovery Channel

12)Budweiser - Wassup! (2000)

13)Coca-Cola Classic ad: Mean Joe Green (1979)

14)EDS - Herding Cats (2001)

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Employment of the Future

As technology continues to progress and changes in human knowledge and understanding occur, tasks that were once done by people will become automated, or altogether obsolete. Problems that didn't exist in the past will require educated experts to tackle them in the future. Knowledge fields that were once niche or special interest will become more mainstream. All over, the jobs landscape of the future may potentially be unrecognisable to us.

Who truly knows what the future has in store for mankind? Nobody. But that doesn't mean we can't make our best educated guess. The following is a list of jobs that many experts agree will likely exist in the not-so-distant future.

Robotics Technician
As the level of automation in the world increases so too must the number of robots performing such automation. And as the number of robots in the world rises so too does the number of human technicians who must maintain, repair, build and tend to these robots. This is of course a job that already exists, but expect it to increase dramatically over the next few decades.

Everyone knows sugar is bad for our teeth but everyone keeps eating it anyway. Thankfully, dentists can help us to an extent that mere brushing and mouth-washing can't. Dentists are not increasing in number at the same rate as the rest of the population. Meaning that demand is beginning to outpace supply. Meaning that logically the number of dentist jobs will increase in the future.

Cyber Security Experts
Around the world computer hacking has been on the increase. High profile hacking targets such as Sony, PayPal, Citigroup, the IMF and others have all suffered from various levels of hacking breaches, ranging from serious to very serious. The effects of these attacks include vandalised webpages, leaked passwords and emails, and whole websites being brought offline. It is estimated that, in the US alone, at present between 20000 and 30000 cyber security specialists are required to meet the cyber security demands of the government and large corporations. As the level of hacking increases so too must the number of security experts who fight such crime.

Welders (especially underwater welders)
High paying blue collar jobs will be on the increase as the number of people available to fill such positions decreases. One such occupation that will bring in the dough is welding, and especially underwater welding. There has even been one oil company willing to offer $150 000 to underwater welders.

Massage Therapists
In an uncertain future stress will be see an increase. Whether you're in an office job or struggling to get by some other way you'll know how true this is. Massage therapists, an already growing profession, will increase even further still to serve the needs of all the stressed individuals.

Futuristic jobs:

Cloud Computing Engineers
Cloud computing is all over the web. It is an unusually complex thing to describe. In layman's terms cloud computing is anywhere you can store data on the internet and then access it from any other internet port. Examples include gmail, Facebook, Flickr, Wordpress and many others. Engineers who are knowledgeable in cloud computing will be needed in the future to make cloud computing more effective and efficient.

Body Part Makers
Losing a limb can be a traumatic experience. However, in the future we may be able to restore any lost limbs as casually as taking pill medicine. Body part makers will be needed in the future to regenerate and restore any lost limbs. Expect this to have military and sport applications especially.

GM Farmers
Public opinion may not at present be in favour of genetically modified foods, but in the future as food shortages occur more frequently, and the desire for more nutritious food increases GM farmers will become more sought after. Their task will be to simply grow genetically modified food - that may possibly include genetically modified livestock.

Vertical farmers
In the future, as the available farmland becomes less and less abundant people will start building upwards instead of outwards. Farmers will be needed who specialise in growing crops and livestock on multiple floors of a stadium-like building. This could allow farming to take place in urban areas.

Virtual Lawyers
Imagine having access to some of the best lawyers in the world, no matter where in the world you are. Imagine also that these lawyers, as busy as they are, are still able to service you with plenty of time for their other clients. If you did imagine any of that then you imagined virtual lawyers. These skilled lawyers would provide you with legal service over the internet - virtually, in other words. There are already a number of other virtual occupations in existence, such as virtual assistants. Expect virtual lawyers to become a thing sooner rather than later.

Sustainability Officers
Sustainability officers will help keep a company green. They will be needed to navigate the world of environmental and sustainability regulation and to advise on green policies. Demand for people with sustainability-related skills will increase dramatically over the next few years.

Friday, 6 April 2012

Protect Against Phone Hacking

In 2011 one of the more well publicised stories was that of the News of the World Phone Hacking Scandal. Among other things, this front page saga highlighted the large vulnerabilites present in mobile phone security. Phone hacking has resulted in unauthorised access to such things as a victim's personal voicemail, email, and bank accounts. Even Hollywood celebrities are not safe from phone hacking. So how exactly do the criminals do it? And how can you protect yourself from phone hacking? You don't have to be rich or famous to be the target of phone hackers -  all it takes is for you to make a few simple mistakes. Older mobiles are set with default pin numbers and most users don't bother changing them. This fact allowed hackers to easily access personal voicemail inboxes - all they had to do was dial the mobile number when it was switched off, or engaged, and try the default pin. This is thanks to a capability, put in by the network provider, to access voicemail from anywhere, including a landline. To determine the default pin all the hacker would have needed to do was google the particular mobile phone number. This would bring up the mobile's network provider and further googling would have allowed the hacker to find out the default pin for that particular provider. How would strangers have gotten a hold of your mobile number? Simple - you gave it to them. Social media sites are typically ripe with personal details that people willingly give away, including mobile phone numbers. Even when people do change their pin they typically change it to something recurring such as 1234, or to a birthday perhaps. These make it much easier for the hacker who, again, has access to social media sites where potential victims have typically left more personal information about themselves than they should have. Another thing the hackers have going for them is a property of the 4 digit pin system itself: there are only 10000 possible combinations! 10000 is not very many, and discovery of a 4 digit pin number by trial and error would not take too long. Nowadays network providers typically do not set default pins.

Sometimes a hacker will go to extreme lengths to steal information from your phone. These may include high-tech methods straight out of a spy thriller film. Although these techniques are not likely to be used on the common man on the street, they are still things to be aware of. Handset cloning is one such method. This is an advanced method which requires the hacker to use a special kit that doesn't come cheap. It's purpose is to make a duplicate of the target mobile phone, including the sim card, so that incoming calls can be recieved from the duplicate instead of the real one. It works when the real mobile is switched off. Bluetooth hacking is another method to be aware of. My advice: turn your phones bluetooth visibility to 'hidden' until you need to actually use it. Also, never accept connections with complete strangers. Malware, such as  viruses, worms, trojans, and spyware can be transferred through bluetooth. SMS spoofing is yet another technique to watch out for. It is a method that can use SMS to disguise the sender mobile number as that of anything else, including a trusted contact. It can also be used to fool the network provider into thinking that a message requesting a pin number came from the owner rather than a hacker. Another possible method hackers might use is Local Area Mobile Phone Tapping. This is another relatively advanced method, that allows the hacker to listen remotely to all phone conversations within a local area. To pull this off the hacker would rely on an array of sophisticated software. This software would pick up broadcast signals, decrypt the data and allow the hacker to listen in on phone calls within the vicinity.

Another threat to phone security, especially for smart phones, is the threat of malware from mobile apps. Smartphones are vulnerable for a number of reasons. They are relatively new, and users underestimate how secure they really are - many users forget that they are nothing more than handheld versions of desktop computers. Smartphones have more vulnerable entry points than standard mobile phones do. There are mobile apps available at the market that can steal details from a victim's phone, such as phone numbers, contacts lists, messages, data and so forth. Of course the apps don't advertise the fact that they could have malware attached to them, so it is neccessary to exercise extreme caution when deciding to download an app. The Apple Store typically has more stringent checks when it comes to apps than Google Play (now replacing Android Market) does for their apps. Even so, the advice still applies no matter what type of mobile you have.

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Employment with Regards to Social Media

What are your rights as an employee when it comes to social media? Are you allowed to say stuff about your employer on Facebook, for example, that you wouldn't say to their face? As an employer what are you rights when it comes to disloyal employees who express their disloyalty on social networking sites? Social media is new territory in labor and employment law. Even so there are a few rough rules to follow, that may or may not change in the near future as the law regarding social media becomes more specific. In the United States, if a discussion on Facebook, or other social media sites, involves several coworkers it has a higher chance of being regarded as 'protected concerted activity', which is protected by the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). If the discussion is about a colleague but the topic of discussion is not related to work, it will not be considered protected concerted activity. Examples of this might include mentioning sexually explicit things about fellow employees. Making statements that are defamatory and untrue will not be considered protected concerted activity. For example, there was one case where the firing of airline workers, who protested with signs saying that the airline was unsafe, was upheld. If those protesters had instead held signs that accurately said their airline had been cited for numerous safety violations, they would probably have been protected under NLRA.

Here is a list of cases where the use of social media by an employee resulted in that employee getting fired. Note that in some of these cases I was not at liberty to disclose their name.

Who: Kimberly Hester, a teacher's aide
Worked for: Less Cass Intermediate School District
Fired for: Not giving up her Facebook password to Lewis Cass ISD
In 2011, after work hours Hester posted on her Facebook page a picture of a colleague with her pants around her ankles. A member of the public complained anonymously to the school, which prompted the district superintendent to ask Hester for access to her Facebook page. Needless to say she refused every time she was asked, and was subsequently suspended on unpaid leave. Hester and her former employer are scheduled for arbitration in May of this year.

Who: Dawnmarie Souza, an emergency medical technician
Worked for: American Medical Response (AMR) of Connecticut
Fired for: Among other things, violating a policy that bars employees from depicting the company 'in any way' on social media sites in which they post pictures of themselves.
Souza was fired when she criticised, in a profanity filled post, her supervisor on Facebook. She did this after her supervisor denied her help from the union representing the company in composing a response to a customer's complaint. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) stepped in to defend Souza by filing a complaint against her former employer. The Board's general counsel, Lafe Solomon stated that employees are protected, by the NLRA, to discuss with each other things such as working conditions and unionisation. Whether these discussions take place around the water cooler or on Facebook is irrelevant. The Board also said that AMR's social media rule was "overly broad" and restricted employees' right to such discussion. In response AMR stated that Souza had been discharged based on "multiple, serious complaints about her behavior". They saw Souza's statements as improper negative personal attacks against a co-worker and, as such, did not regard them as concerted activity protected under federal law.

Who: five employees
Worked for: Hispanics United
Fired for: Responding to a post on a coworkers facebook page
The NLRB stepped in again to defend five employees of Hispanics United, a New York non-profit group, after they were fired by the organisation for, what Hispanics United regarded as harassment of a fellow employee. This occurred on Facebook, when they entered into a heated discussion about their job performance and working conditions. The NLRB saw the posts as protected discussion.

Who: a car salesman
Worked for: Knauz BMW dealership in Chicago
Fired for: Criticising his employer on Facebook
A car salesman working for the Knauz BMW dealership was fired after he posted photos to his Facebook page of a sales event the dealership was holding, accompanied by statements criticising his employer for only serving drinks and hotdogs. The NLRB alleged that Knauz BMW dealership violated the NLRA when firing the salesman.

Who: one employee
Worked for:, an online retailer
Fired for: Criticising her employer on Facebook
The employee in question criticised her employer's alleged state labor code violations on Facebook, and in the process garnered replies from other employees. The NLRB believed that this constituted protected discussion, and settled the case in April of last year.

Who: a reporter
Worked for: Arizona Daily Star
Fired for: Multiple tweets on his work-related Twitter account that the employer regarded as inappropriate and unprofessional
In this instance the NLRB agreed with the employer. Arizona Daily Star fired a journalist who had used his work Twitter account to post inappropriate tweets about the Tucson shootings. For example, he tweeted “You stay homicidal, Tucson ….”, along with “What?!?!? No overnight homicide? WTF? You’re slacking Tucson”. These offensive tweets were not protected concerted activity - they were not a discussion about unionisation, or management, or work place conditions.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Order Sirenia

One of the most under-appreciated mammalian groups in the world is the order Sirenia. This is a group of aquatic mammals that resemble seals, and that feed primarily on vegetation. This makes them unique as virtually all other aquatic creatures of its size are predators. They are large, placid creatures, and almost never show aggression to others. They store a thick layer of fat in their bodies that allows them to withstand the cold, as well as serve as a food reserve.

DugongAmong the members of this order are Dugongs and Manatees. Dugongs dwell mostly in the shallow waters north of Australia, where most of the population can be found, although their range does extend all the way to east Africa. They are slow-moving creatures, and are the smallest members of Sirenia. The name Dugong is derived from the Malay word 'duyong', meaning 'lady of the sea'. The whole order are believed to be related to elephants (I know right!), and as such male dugongs in particular have tusks. The males use these small tusks to challenge other males during mating season, and are believed by some experts to help guide the female during courtship. Dugongs have a notched, dolphin-like tail, which they use this as their main means of propulsion; and paddle-shaped flippers, which the dugong uses to steer. Dugong typically live up to the age of 50.

ManateeMeanwhile, there are about three different living species that are called manatees. There are the Amazonian manatees, the West African manatees, and the West Indian manatees. The West Indian manatees tend to be gray or brown in colour, and usually weigh about 600 pounds. Some however, can weigh almost 3000 pounds. In addition, some can also grow to a length of almost four and a half metres. West African manatees are a threatened species that inhabit both salt and fresh water. Physically, they almost completely resemble West Indian manatees. Amazonian Manatees are solitary animals. Most have a distinct white or bright pink patch on their forefront. Apparently, the largest recorded Amazonian manatee was a male with a length of 2.8 metres. Captive adults daily consume from 9 - 15 kg. Amazonian manatees mostly feed during the wet season, when they eat new vegetation in seasonally flooded backwaters. During the dry season (September - March), they congregate in the main river channels or in deep parts of larger lakes, and may fast for weeks or months for lack of available food plants. They tend to gather in groups no larger than about 8 animals. Most manatees are either solitary or a female with her young. All manatees have a split upper lip, both parts of which are used to help put food in their mouths. They have a slow metabolism as a result of the fact that their primary diet of sea grasses tends not to be very nutritious. It is also the reason why they feed on such large quantities. Manatees have stubs of nails on their flippers which they use to dig at roots of the grasses they feed on. Incredibly, their flippers can also be used to hold food.

There was once another member of Sirenia named Steller's sea cow. This species officially became extinct in 1768. Just like the other members of order Sirenia Steller's sea cows were wonderfully adorable creatures.

Friday, 30 March 2012

Human Autoimmunity

The human immune system is quite an advanced piece of machinery. Like every other system in the human body however it is entirely possible for it to malfunction. When it does it can start turning on the very body it is a part of, a phenomenon called autoimmunity (also sometimes called acute immunity). When the body it's supposed to defend suddenly becomes it's target a whole host of diseases can result. According to the American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association there are about 64 different recorded autoimmune diseases, a list which includes Multiple Sclerosis, Dermatomyositis, Addison's Disease, Celiac Disease, Hashimoto's Thyroiditis, Pernicious Anemia, Autoimmune Hepatitis, Fibromyalgia, Reactive Arthritis, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Lupus, Graves Disease, Myasthenia Gravis, and Type I Diabetes, among others. Each of them occur when the immune system is attacking a different part of the body. For example, Multiple sclerosis results when the immune system attacks the myelin sheath (the coating around the nerve cells), while rheumatoid arthritis results when the immune system attacks the membrane between the joints. General symptoms common amongst all autoimmune diseases include fever, fatigue and malaise. It is entirely possible for an individual to suffer from multiple autoimmune diseases at the same time.

It is not known specifically what would cause the immune system to start attacking its own body. Everything from diet to genetics to infectious microorganisms have been proposed as possible factors. Indeed, hormones are strongly believed to be an important factor - about 3 in 4 sufferers of autoimmune disease are women of childbearing age, and their symptoms can vary depending on hormone activity. It has even been proposed that the tiny exchange of cells between mother and child during pregnancy could induce autoimmunity in the mother, even years afterward. However, according to the American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association, autoimmune diseases that do develop in men happen to be more severe.

While most autoimmune diseases are chronic, a few can be managed with treatment. A class of anti-inflammatory drugs known as corticosteroids are the conventional drug of choice to treat autoimmune diseases, and like most drugs they are not without side effects. Their role is to suppress the immune response, and as such are called immunosuppresive medicines. Other drugs used in treatment may include azathioprine, cyclophosphamide, mycophenolate, sirolimus, or tacrolimus. In addition almost every autoimmune disease patient will be given supplements - usually vitamins, such as vitamin B12, or hormones, such as insulin. Sometimes however, treatment of the disease will require more drastic measures. For example, an entire blood transfusion may be called for if the autoimmune disease affects the blood.

A certain level of autoimmunity is actually considered normal. It is believed to keep the immune system 'sharp and agile' so to speak, so that when it faces an outside threat it is reasonably ready to confront it. In this way it may even aid in reducing the incidence of cancer. There are certain diseases, most of them parasitic infections, that can cause the likelihood and/or severity of autoimmunity to decrease. In regions of the world where infectious and parasitic disease is common there are almost no cases of autoimmunity at all. It is known that invading parasites must modify the infected person's immune response in order to protect themselves. However, it is not yet well understood how they achieve this, with most expert theories speculating that they probably release anti-inflammatory chemicals, or else interfere with immune signalling in the host. Some scientists even hope to find a cure for autoimmune diseases by gaining insight from parasites.

Every year over 23.5 million people suffer from autoimmune disease in the United States alone, while the worldwide number is much higher still. It is one of the most common classes of disease in the western world. There is, at present, no known cure.

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Seek and You Shall Find... Something Else Entirely!

Throughout history there have been many instances of interesting discoveries made by people who were searching for something else entirely. So imagine the disappointment of chemist Constantin Fahlberg who, instead of finding new uses for coal tar, had to settle for discovering saccharin, an artificial sweetener now used in millions of products around the world. Here is a list of other such examples.

Who: Genoese explorer Christopher Columbus
Looking for: A new route to India
Instead found: The American Continent
Columbus had propositioned a few of heads of state for financing for a planned expedition to India. He promised them the ability to establish a trade route there by travelling west from Europe, not east as the European merchants at the time previously had to do. Even though everyone thought he was crazy the Catholic authorities on the Iberian landmass were desperate to gain a competitive advantage over other nations in Europe. Columbus' calculations relied on many incorrect assumptions, including the idea that Japan was many miles further east of China than it actually was, that the Earth was smaller than it actually was, and that the European landmass was larger than it really was. Despite all of these clearly wrong calculations Spain agreed to a list of rewards Columbus would receive if he succeeded, and agreed to furnish him a small fleet of ships for the expedition. Of course the monarchs generally did not expect him to return. On September 1492 Columbus set sail west from the Canary Islands for, what he thought was Asia. Five weeks later a lookout spotted land. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Who: DuPont chemist Roy Plunkett
Looking for: A new chlorofluorocarbon refrigerant
Instead found: white flakes that lead to the invention of Teflon
As Roy Plunkett, a young DuPont chemist, was working on a new chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) he considered that there was a possibility he could achieve the break through he wanted by making a compound called TFE react with Hydrochloric acid. In preparation, he collected all the TFE gas he required then cooled it and pressured it into canisters. Later on, when it came time to retrieve the gas from the canister it seemed to have disappeared. Plunkett shook the canister and out came small white flakes, which other scientists developed into what is now commonly known as Teflon.

Who: chemist Leo Hendrik Baekeland
Looking for: A cheaper insulation for electronics
Instead found: Bakelite, a material from which today's plastic is derived
In 1907 Baekeland discovered a material that was moldable and that could resist high temperatures without distorting. He stumbled upon this while trying to develop a cheap alternative material to Shellac, which at the time was the material of choice for electrical insulation. He called the new found material 'Bakelite', and suggested initially that it could be used for phonograph records. Soon afterwards it rapidly became apparent that bakelite had many possible uses.

Who: American engineer Wilson Greatbatch
Looking for: A circuit to record fast heartbeats
Instead found: The pacemaker
As Greatbatch was sitting at his desk one day trying to build a circuit that would record fast heartbeat sounds he reached into a box to grab a resistor and instead of pulling out the 10000 ohm resistor that he needed accidentally pulled out a 1 million ohm resistor. Without realising his mistake Greatbatch proceeded to add it to the circuit. The resulting output was instantly recognisable - the circuit pulsed for 1.8 milliseconds, stopped for 1 second and then repeated - a human heartbeat.

Who: chemist William Perkin
Looking for: A cure for malaria
Instead found: Synthetic dye
As Perkin, who was just 18 years old at the time, was attempting to develop an artificial quinine he noticed that his results wound up as a thick, murky colourful mess. He noticed that the mess had more brightness and vibrance than colour dyes that came from nature and thus realised that it could make a perfect dye. He also found that it didn't fade or wash out over time. Perkin's new synthetic dye has been used in applications ranging from fashion to microbiology.

Who: Muhammed edh-Dhib and Jum'a Muhammad
Looking for: a lost goat
Instead found: the dead sea scrolls
The account of the discovery of the dead sea scrolls comes to us from a series of interviews with Bedouin conducted by John C Trever and also an interview with Muhammed edh-Dhib by J.F. Docmac and Anton Kiraz. In 1947, while staying in Bethlehem, Jum'a Muhammad, a young Bedouin shepherd, noticed some holes and decided to throw a rock into them. He discovered that they were large enough to fit a person. Muhammed edh-Dhib, Jum'a's cousin fell into one and came back out with scrolls he had found inside. These were the first of the dead sea scroll discoveries. Later on many more scrolls, from over 11 caves would be discovered in the same general area. The knowledge gained from these scrolls would eventually go on to further scholarly understanding of traditional Christian history and Judaic history.