Category Archives: random

A Punctual Little Fellow

I’ve replaced the timekeeping battery in the trail cam and now the time stamp is accurate on these photos. The first thing I noticed: Mr. Hedgehog is a man of routine. He leaves his pad a little after 8pm and returns a little after 6am.

Also, is it mere coincidence that two mice appear at 04:20 and a cat at 04:40? (Can you find both mice?)

More tales from the trail cam

The hedgehog and other critters make appearances. I’ve since set the trail cam to photo and hope to get a few higher resolution pictures to share.

Our hedgehog heads out
A mouse zips around. Why does the mouse seem nervous?
Maybe because of this furry friend?
Or this one?
Never mind, I’m checking this place out!
Our still unnamed friend returns and finds a stick in the way!
Since most videos of him returning show his rump disappearing in the hole, I’ve skipped those. As a result, it looks like hedgehogs spawn in this hut.
This time, he heads the other way.
To finish it off, here’s a special guest.

Did you spot the spider going up and down right about under the “Watch later” icon in one of the videos? Is it a spider, or a video artifact?

How much toothpaste should I eat?

This is not a question most people ask of themselves, and those that should don’t think to ask it.  It’s left to us parents to wonder: How many Crest commercial brushloads can my kid eat before I should worry about the fluoride?  Here’s a calculation to help answer that.

The safety data I’m using is from the 2013 article by the European Food Safety Authority EFSA, Scientific Opinion on Dietary Reference Values for fluoride.  They state that regardless of age and condition, the adequate intake is 0.05mg per day per kg of body weight.  For a 20-kg person (44 lbs), that works out to 1mg per day.

How much toothpaste to get to 1 mg?  It depends on the toothpaste.  Most toothpastes have an indication of fluoride ion content.  We have a children’s toothpaste (Elmex) which states 500ppm fluoride ion, and a regular toothpaste (Crest) that indicates 0,15%.  Our fluoridated table salt contains 0,025% fluoride.  This works out to 2g of toothpaste for Elmex, 0,7g for Crest, and 4g of table salt.

That’s all very well, but few people visualize grams well.  For the salt, an online converter tells me we’re looking at 0,7tsp.  My not terribly precise kitchen scale indicated that for the Crest toothpaste, it corresponds roughly to one TV commercial brushload; for Elmex, to three such brushloads.

And then there’s tea… which weighs in at anywhere between 1.5mg/liter to 4mg/liter, perhaps even more, depending also on whether your water is fluoridated.  AcneEinstein has a more detailed treatment of the tea question, which also links to WHO guidelines that seem to only partially square up with the EFSA guidelines.

The upshot: monitor and train your kids, but don’t freak out if they eat a little toothpaste.  And don’t raise them exclusively on iced tea…

That’s rude, period.

I’m thankful blogging is clearly a written medium and not something existing in the netherworld of texting and chatting, and I’ve got a new reason why.  Folks at Binghamton University (NY, just north of the PA border) performed a study in which they presented the participants with several exchanges, either text messages or handwritten notes.  Some exchanges were filler exchanges; the other 16 were the experiment.  All 16 existed with two variations on the reply: with or without the period.  Each participant got eight with and eight without period.

It turns out that in text messaging, participants assigned a small but statistically significant difference in sincerity to the two messages, with the message with the period rating as less sincere.  The difference in the handwritten notes wasn’t statistically significant.

That’s some cause for concern for this chronically punctilious speller, but what’s perhaps more concerning is that with 1 being “very insincere” and 7 being “very sincere” on their Likert scale, the average ratings all hover around 4, “Neutral.”  Either it means participants couldn’t tell the sincerity of the message (“I dunno…”), they didn’t care (“I’ll just check the middle and get some easy course credit”), or just didn’t expect people in general to be sincere in their communication.  (The handwritten notes scored around 4, too.)

The take-home message appears to be to turn off that autocorrect and just bungle your texts.  u no waht i mean…

FATCA madness

More than a year ago, the IRS announced that they had 77’000 banks cooperating with them for FATCA.  Robert Wood wrote on that and a bunch of other scary IRS facts for citizens abroad.  (Really, $10’000 for a non-willful FBAR mistake?)

Today, July 18, 2015, the searchable list of Foreign Financial Institutions numbers 168’239 funds or institutions.  The UK alone boasts 23’568 – the first hit being “Mrs E M Brown Grandchildren’s Settlement.”  Other notable entries there: “17th Earl of Pembroke W/T -Lady Pembroke” and “Lord Clinton’s Marriage Settlement – Lady Clinton’s Fund.”  It appears that every fund that wants US investments in its portfolio needs to register with the IRS – and you know that means forms.  Reams of forms, to the tune of several tens of thousand a year, and even more potential data from the institutions that register.  And these forms probably can’t be e-filed, so a few of the roughly 95’000 IRS employees probably get to type those forms into a database and file them in a drawer somewhere.  Assuming 40’000 filings a year, with 9 pages per form printed out single-sided, that’s about five kitchen stoves worth of paper volume just for the registrations.  Of course, these registrations are chump change compared to the number of filings each year.  How do they keep track of all the information they’re gathering? 

What bugs me most about the list of Swiss institutions is that the pension fund I formerly used to use, one that converts part of the savings into a fund, is of course registered here, because they also trade with US shares.  But they’ve bumped me out, because I’m a US citizen and not worth their having to actually keep tabs on me.  (I’m still uncertain whether these tax-deferred voluntary pension schemes are even a good idea at all, just because the US probably doesn’t view them as eligible for any sort of tax deferment.)

So with all these hassles, I’m curious to see if I can even open a bank account in Ellie’s name before getting her registered with Social Security, because Postfinance (and pretty much every other Swiss bank) requires US citizens to fill out a W-9 form that allows them to share information with the IRS when requested.  And of course that form requires a Social Security Number…

At any rate, there will be two more accounts on our FBAR next year.  And for Janet’s sake, I hope that the IRS finally implement a copy-paste function within the PDF document for filing the FBAR, so she doesn’t have to re-type the Postfinance address a dozen times.