Archive for November, 2008

The Problem with Percentages, Part 2

A previous post mentioned how some people have problems with percentages. Now there should be fewer problems with percentages, since there is a Percentages Calculator to help everyone get their percentages right. You can go directly to the calculator, or you can visit the calculator entry page that lists some equations and tries to explain how to use percentages.


The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “Therefore I have hope in Him.

Lamentations 3:24

Vacuum Cleaner Maintenance

We don’t vacuum under the bed much. Recently though, a friend rearranged our bedroom furniture slightly and so some of it got cleaned.

A couple of days later, I was vacuuming the living room and the vacuum was smoking. That’s not a good sign, so I leaned closer for a good look. No, nothing bad happened. But I did see that it wasn’t smoke – it was dust. The vacuum was just throwing dust around instead of sucking it up. I figured the problem was that I hadn’t changed the bag in a few months. But my wife informed me that they changed the bag when they cleaned the bedroom. So it wasn’t the bag.

I then flipped the vacuum up slightly to check the rotating brush thingy. That was spinning like it looked like it should. I took the wand thingy and tried that. It worked great – pulling in all the pieces of debris that I put it near. So I put the wand back, and the sound of the vacuum changed, like the wand was plugged.

I flipped the vacuum over (after turning it off) and traced the path that dust would have to follow to go from the floor to the bag. I found a connecting tube from the brush to the wand, and the tube was full of dust/paper/hair/etc. The tube is on the left side in the picture below.  I cleaned that out (needle-nose pliers are your friend) and the vacuum worked again.

underneath side of vacuum

So clean regularly, otherwise the build-up of dust can overwhelm your vacuum cleaner. I suppose the alternative is not to vacuum at all. That will also keep your vacuum cleaner in good shape.

Or what woman, if she has ten silver coins and loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it?

Luke 15:8

Big Confusing Situation

The college football scene, division 1-A, is as interesting as ever.  The Big 12 South, which had most of the top-10 teams, is a tie.

I had hoped that Texas Tech would win the Big 12.  I hadn’t really cared about the Big 12 South, until the Texas-Texas Tech game.  I would have been happy regardless of who won; I was just glad to see a good, close, entertaining game for that one.  After TT won and was the only undefeated team in the Big 12, I was hoping they would finish out the season undefeated.  I figured with the way they were playing, and how Florida looked, a TT/UF championship game would be very entertaining.  That is, if you measure entertainment by points scored.

So now that TT lost to Oklahoma, there is a 3-way tie for the Big 12 South.  The top 3 teams all lost to each other.  Texas to Texas Tech, Texas Tech to Oklahoma, and Oklahoma to Texas.  The conundrum is figuring out who is the best in that circle.

I am now rooting for Missouri (Big 12 North champion) to beat whoever is the Big 12 South champion.  I don’t like the Big 12’s tie-breaker of BCS ranking.  The BCS is supposed to place conference champions in bowl games, not determine the conference champions.  The tie-breaker instead should be the records of the non-conference opponents.

So if Mizzou wins, that will avoid that problem completely.  And then the Big 12’s formerly top-ranked team will have a worse record than its formerly second-ranked team.  That would allow Utah to sneak into the championship game and cause some real fun.  Okay, USC will probably be ahead of Utah.  But it’s fun to speculate.

What I would like is for Missouri to win and allow someone else to play in the BCS championship game.  What I expect is that Texas will win and go on to face Florida.  I hope, and expect, that Florida will beat Alabama for the SEC championship.

The reason I don’t want Oklahoma in the championship game is that they have proved over the last few years that they don’t belong in the championship game.  They are good at losing their bowl games, and it would be nice to give someone else a chance to see if that other, non-Oklahoma team, would do any better.  So I will be rooting for Texas in the Big 12 South, as UT and OU each have one more game.

“Of the three in the second {rank} he was the most honored and became their commander; however, he did not attain to the {first} three.”
– 1 Chronicles 11:21

Laundry Mess

I was transferring the laundry from the washer to the dryer and saw a bunch of white flecks.  At first, I thought it was another Kleenex facial tissue that had snuck into the wash.  I don’t keep close track of the clothes as they go in the washer, so non-clothing things do go in to occasionally.

But after a few pieces of laundry had the white flecks, I thought something was not quite right.  With the tissue, there are a few small flecks but most of them are strips of paper.  This time it was a bunch of very small flecks.

And with the tissue there are some pieces of it in only some of the clothes – whichever clothes were near the pocket that had the tissue in it.  With this load it was every piece of clothing that had a bunch of specks.

After throwing most of the clothes into the dryer, I finally got to the bottom of the washer and found a very heavy Pull-Up pair of potty training pants.  Let me tell you they aren’t meant to be soaked in water.

It had to have been used (i.e. some child changed out of his pajamas and threw everything in the laundry one morning), but I suppose that’s what the laundry detergent is for.  And I am not picking all the white flecks out of the laundry – that’s what the lint filter is for.

“The LORD also said to Moses, ‘Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their garments;'”
– Exodus 19:10

Paper or Plastic

One of the things my wife finds odd is that I prefer wax paper over sandwich baggies for sandwiches when I pack my lunch.  No one in her family ever used wax paper for that, so she was confused/surprised why I did that.  That’s how my mom made bag lunches, so that’s how I do it.  And since I make my own lunches, my wife has no problem buying wax paper for me.

Wax paper is better than the plastic bag thingies.  First of all is cost.  One roll of wax paper is $1.29, and that is for 75 square feet.  I use about 1 square foot of wax paper per sandwich, so that’s about 1.7 cents per sandwich.  The sandwich baggies with the zipping-and-locking-type fastener run $1.99 for 50 bags, or 4 cents per sandwich.  That more than twice the cost.  And sometimes the sandwich won’t fit in those, so I would have to use the quart-size bags, at 5 cents a bag.

Secondly is size.  Wax paper can accommodate various size breads without much hassle.  I can’t use the non-zipping sandwich bags anymore because now all the bread is shorter and wider (low-profile bread) than the traditional squarish slices.  So I can’t fit my sandwich into the bags that are intended to hold sandwiches.  I suppose I could cut my sandwich into pieces and arrange them to fit into the bag, but why bother?  Wax paper can be cut a little longer for larger bread or shorter for smaller bread.  I have found that placing my sandwich at an angle, before folding the wax paper over it, allows for better coverage of the low-profile bread.

The only category in which the zip baggies are the winner is air- and water-tightness.  But I am taking my sandwich to a desk job, not white-water rafting, so I don’t care much about water-tightness.  And as for air-tightness, I have noticed that the bread does get a little stale after 36 hours in wax paper.  If you are making a week’s worth of sandwiches at once, then that may be a consideration for you.

And they had forgotten to take bread, and did not have more than one loaf in the boat with them.

Mark 8:14

The Problem with Percentages

On my drive home last week, I was listening to a radio show.  The host guy was talking about the stock market.  He said that the stock market lost 5% the day before, but it gained 5.5% this day, so that’s a net gain of 1/2 a percent.  As soon as I heard that, I knew I had to write this post.  Some people are percentages illiterate, and perhaps I can help them.

Percentages do not add nicely, if you’re talking about one number going up and down.  If he had been talking about points, such as the Dow Jones Industrial Average, he would have been fine.  If it is down 500 one day and then up 550 the next, then that’s a net gain of 50 points.  But percents do not work that way.  Down 5% and then up 5.5% is a net gain of only 2.25%. You need a gain of 5.79% to come out 0.5% ahead after a 5% loss.

Another example: a stock worth $100.  If it loses 50% one day, it will be worth $50.  If the next day, it gains 50%, then it is only $75, not $100, because you’re taking the percentage of the new, smaller value.

Similarly, if the stock were to gain 50% first, it would be worth $150.  Then if it lost 50%, it would be worth $75.  You always need a larger percentage gain than a loss in order to come out even because the gain is calculated on the smaller value and the loss is calculated from the larger value.

“Divide your portion to seven, or even to eight, for you do not know what misfortune may occur on the earth.”
– Ecclesiastes 11:2


The US $700 billion bailout of banks is getting out of hand.  GMAC and American Express announced that they are converting themselves into banks in order to better qualify for bailout money.  Shortly after that, Treasury Secretary Paulson announced that both Joseph A. Bank and Christopher & Banks have been approved for $3 billion each for their role in the financial sector.

I’m thinking about converting myself into a bank so that I can qualify for a portion of the bailout.

Yes, I’m joking about the clothing stores.  But I do think that too much free money is being given away. Where is all this money coming from? How will it affect the economy? It seems that the bailout is a major ingredient for inflation.

“For to everyone who has, more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away.”
– Matthew 25:29