09/28/2017: (not) Movin’ Out

One of my first posts this year, Movin’ Out, was about how I was planning on moving to Canada. Almost eight months later, that plan has changed.

Prior to discussing with my wife, I started researching the information on what was required to move to Canada. The three biggest items were; getting passports, making an inventory of everything we own for Customs, and taking the ESL test. After discussing with my wife, we decided to at least start the requirements. So, we all got passports (I just renewed mine) and I started to inventory all of our belonging. Finding a time and place to take the ESL test was a roadblock, so we’ve still not done that.

The discussion with my wife was that it would be a huge undertaking to move outside the Seattle area, not alone to another country. Even if it had just been us two, it would be difficult, but we also had a toddler and a cat. Plus, since she was very young, she has never lived outside the Seattle area. And, her family was also in this area. So, the move would also be a huge change for her.

For now, we have decided to put the move on hold. Once our daughter is older or if things get worse, we’ll pick up from where we started. Or, we may stay in the U.S., for good or bad. The option is not off the table, it is just not the only option right now.

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09/26/2017: I don’t wanna grow up

I want to start this post by saying that I give away all rights to this idea that I am about to write about. If implemented, I am willing to sign any legal document stating that I will not seek any reimbursement, profit, or anything else for this idea. All I want is to help keep a business that I like from closing their doors.

Last week, Toys “R” Us filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The company announced that they were not planning on closing any stores. They said that the filing would allow them to reorganize their current business model and stores, so that they could make a profit again. Well, I have a suggestion for that reorganization.

Like all “brick-and-mortar” stores, Toys “R” Us is seeing a lack of people wanting to physically go to a store for items that they could easily get on-line. Yes, they have offered selling things on-line that they also sell in the store, but that still does not get people to actually visit their stores. My idea will get people back into the stores. And, that idea is for Toys “R” Us to get into the day-care business.

Here’s my idea; designate or build part of each Toys “R” Us store into a day-care. Offer full-day, half-day, and even hourly “drop-in” child care. Make certain that is properly staffed, as if it was its own business. Or, even partnership with a local day-care to have them move into the store. Offer longer hours than other day-cares in the area and prices that are either on-par or slightly lower than other day-cares. They should not severely under-cut other day-care businesses, because that will cause community back-lash. They just need to offer something slightly better, to entice parents.

Having a day-care in the store will get parents and kids to at least come to the store. They may not buy something every time, but the store will see an increase of in-store sales. To increase sales, occasionally have toys that are in the store put into the the day-care for kids to play with. This may lead to toy manufactures starting to seeking out and making deals Toys “R” Us when trying to distribute new toys. Which, will also cause more business for Toys “R” Us.

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09/25/2017: Yippie ki-yay!

Until the a few weeks ago, I had not watched any of the Die Hard movies. My wife is a fan, so she bought them all on blu-ray. And, while I was converting them to play via the Plex server at home, I took the opportunity to watch all five of them.

Warning: This post will contain spoilers.

The first three in the series, I liked. Those are Die Hard, Die Hard 2, and Die Hard With A Vengeance. The fourth one, Live Free or Die Hard, I did not like. The last one, A Good Day to Die Hard, well, I thought was better than the fourth movie, but not on par with the first three.

We start with Die Hard. It is basically about a New York police officer, John McClane, who accidentally gets caught it what appears to be a hostage situation perpetrated by terrorists. But, it is really some guys trying to pull a heist under that guise. When the movie first came out, I remember thinking, “the guy from Moonlighting is an action hero? I’m not certain that will work.” Of course, I was wrong and the movie did well. And, after watching it, I understood why. It was an unique story and not too over-the-top that it was unbelievable. I liked it, but it made me miss Alan Rickman.

When a movie does well, of course, there is a push for a sequel. Enter, Die Hard 2. I was not certain how a sequel could be done of the first Die Hard, so I was pleasantly surprised by this movie. Again, same police office and terrorist take-over. This time, it is a take-over of air traffic control and all the planes scheduled to land at an airport. Again, things are not what they seem with the military officers, sent to stop the terrorists, secretly being on the side of the terrorists. There were a few plot holes, such as almost everyone being inept, except McClane. Or, why didn’t the airport resort to Morse code via a searchlight after radio communications were taken over? But, over-all, not a bad sequel.

In my opinion, the true sequel to Die Hard should have been the third movie, Die Hard With A Vengeance. The brother of the terrorist that McClane killed in the first movie has plotted out a heist, disguised as a terrorist attack, and had decided to drag McClane into it. Adding in Samuel L. Jackson’s character, Zeus, helped keep McClane grounded, as he was in the first movie. Part of Die Hard With A Vengeance, I had caught on television some time ago. It is the part when McClane is standing in Harlem with the sandwich board on. Of course, the message had to be digitally altered for television.

Live Free or Die Hard was a disappointment to me. I had to keep myself from getting distracted by the “Hollywood” treatment of hacking and computers. Yes, you can create a virus that will destroy a computer. No, it will not make the computer explode. Unfortunately, there was the over-the-top, almost comical, action sequences to distract me from the hacking. Then, there was the main villain’s (lack of) expressions. Maybe he was also puzzled to how McClane went from an “every man” police officer to a superhero.

The current last movie in the series, A Good Day To Die Hard does not stray too far from the previous movie when it come to the over-the-top action sequences. Nor did it stray with the large plot holes. How do you cause major accidents all over a city and not have the police and military looking for you? How did McClane’s son keep it from EVERYONE IN HIS FAMILY that he was working for the CIA, or at least with the U.S. government? Why is everyone else, but the McClanes wearing protective gear when they go to Chernobyl? If everyone knew where the “documents” were kept, then why didn’t they just destroy the building, or at least drill open the door? Why did the daughter fly the helicopter into the building instead of trying to find a gun inside the chopper to use? Better yet, why didn’t she just wait the McClanes out? And, once again, McClane is a superhero.

After the last two movies, I really hope they are not going to make any more Die Hard movies. They should have stopped with the third one.

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09/20/2017 – Parental coding

I have been learning C++ for the past month. I already know a lot of HTML, some CSS, and a little Javascript. So, I decided to try my hand at learning C++.

While learning all the languages, I started to see a pattern on how they all work. They all have something called a “function” or command, which is a action that you want to be completed. For example, if you wanted “Hello” to show up on the screen, for C++, you would use:
int main()

The function, “cout” is defined in a file, called “iostream”. In other words, that file contains the instruction to the computer on what to do when it sees the word, “cout”. It basically says, when you see this word, you need to show what ever word comes next on the screen.

Raising a child feels a little like writing code. When teaching my daughter new things, I often provide the context. For example, when I say, “be gentle when petting the cat”, I have to explain or show what “gentle” means. It is the same as when I define the function in coding.

One of the differences between teaching and coding is that she does not need exact parameters, such as “gentle” petting is a certain amount of pounds per square inch at a certain distance from the cat’s skin. Also, it often takes multiple times for me to define what “gentle” means before she understands. If the computer did that, I would have concerns that either my instruction was poorly written, the compiler was faulty, or the computer had bad memory. With her, it is normal.

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08/17/2017 – Grocery list from meal planner

I’m usually the meal planner in my house. It’s not due to my wife not being able to do it, but rather that she does not like to and I do. I’m also someone who enjoys making spreadsheets for everything. So, I thought it may be fun to create a spreadsheet that would allow me to plan dinners for the week. And, the spreadsheet would generate a list of ingredients for the dinners, so I would know what to buy. Here is how I did it.

First thing was to figure out a list of dinner options. For this example, I will use:

  • Cheeseburgers
  • Spaghetti
  • Chili dogs
  • Nachos

Now that I have a list of meals, the next step was to figure out the ingredients. For my spreadsheet, I kept is simple. I just wanted a grocery list, not a recipe. For example, for Cheeseburgers, I put down:

  • Frozen hamburger patties
  • Hamburger buns
  • Cheddar cheese
  • Tomato
  • Onion
  • Lettuce
  • Mayonaise
  • Mustard
  • Ketchup

Now that I have the data, it was time to create the spreadsheet.

For this tutorial, I created my spreadsheet in Google Docs. The formulas that I am using should work in any spreadsheet program. I tested them out in Excel 2013 before using them in Google Docs.

Also, for this tutorial, I am only using one tab on workbook. In the version I use privately, I am using three separate tabs. I recommend arranging things in a way that works for you.

On the spreadsheet (columns F-I), I first fill in the name of each meal, then list the ingredients underneath the name. For example, here’s “cheeseburgers”:

Frozen hamburger patties
Hamburger buns
Cheddar cheese

When filling in meals with a space, like “Chili dogs”, I use an underscore in place of the space. For example, “Chili_dogs”. We are going to use these in an drop-down list later, which will not allow spaces.img1

Once the meal names and ingredients are added, it is time to make them into lists. In Google Docs, it is as simple as selecting all the cells you want on the list, right-click, then select, “Define named range”. For Excel, it is almost the same, but the option is, “Define name”. I make the meal names into a one list and call it, “Meals”. Then, I make each list of ingredients for each meal into a separate list. So, the list of ingredients for the cheeseburgers is a list, called, “Cheeseburgers”.

The next thing I created was the days of the week (Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, etc.), listed top to bottom (column A, rows 2-8). I selected the cell next to the first day (cell B2: “Monday”), right-clicked, and selected “Data validation”. I made sure, “List from a range” was selected and typed “Meals” in the box. Then, I copied that cell, selected the cells next to rest of the days (“Tuesday”, “Wednesday”, etc.), right-clicked, and selected, “Paste special”, and “Paste data validation only”. This made it so I could choose one of the meals from a drop-down menu for each day.


For the next part, I needed to know how many items were in the longest ingredients list. For the example, “Cheeseburgers” had the longest with nine items. I then put the names, “Shopping List” and each day of the week (Monday, Tuesday, etc.) across the top of eight columns (columns L-R). Under the name of the day of the week (in row 2), I put “=”, then selected the cell containing the drop-down menu next to that day (from column B). This would make it so when I selected a meal next to a day, it would also populate this cell. For example, if I selected “Chili_dogs” for Monday in cell B2, it would also populate cell L2 with “Chili_dogs”.img3

In the row under the cells that I put the “=” (row 3), I put the formula, “=INDIRECT(L2)”, “=INDIRECT(M2)”, “=INDIRECT(N2)”, etc. The “L2”, “M2”, etc. refers to the cell above it. This would make it so when a meal was selected next to the day of the week and that name would populate in row 2, the ingredients for that meal would populate starting in row 3. or example, if I selected “Chili_dogs” for Monday in cell B2, it would populate cell L2 with “Chili_dogs”, and then, starting with cell L3, the ingredients for “Chili_dogs” would populate.

**Note** For Excel, I had to change the formula a little. Google Docs displayed the entire ingredients list, but Excel only displayed one row. So, I changed “=INDIRECT(L2)” to “=INDIRECT(L$2)” and copy and paste the formula down fifteen rows.

Remember when I said that I needed to know how many items were in the longest ingredients list? Well, this is where that knowledge will come in. In my example. “Cheeseburgers” had the longest ingredients list with nine items. So, starting with cell L3, I counted down ten rows to cell L12. I selected all those cells, right-clicked, then selected, “Define named range”. I named the range, “List1”. Then I repeated the same process for rest of the columns, resulting in “List1” to “List7”.

The code that I will use next, I got from Get Digital Help.com.

Lastly, we are ready to generate the shopping list. I create a column with the name “Shopping List” on the first row (D1 in the example). On the second row, I put the following code:

=IFERROR(INDEX(List1, (ROWS(D1:$D$1))),
IFERROR(INDEX(List2, ROWS(D1:$D$1)-ROWS(List1)),
IFERROR(INDEX(List3, ROWS(D1:$D$1)-ROWS(List1)-ROWS(List2)),
IFERROR(INDEX(List4, ROWS(D1:$D$1)-ROWS(List1)-ROWS(List2)-ROWS(List3)),
IFERROR(INDEX(List5, ROWS(D1:$D$1)-ROWS(List1)-ROWS(List2)-ROWS(List3)-ROWS(List4)),
IFERROR(INDEX(List6, ROWS(D1:$D$1)-ROWS(List1)-ROWS(List2)-ROWS(List3)-ROWS(List4)-ROWS(List5)),
IFERROR(INDEX(List7, ROWS(D1:$D$1)-ROWS(List1)-ROWS(List2)-ROWS(List3)-ROWS(List4)-ROWS(List5)-ROWS(List6)),

After typing the last “)”, I press, at the same time, “CTRL”, “Shift”, and “Enter”. In Google Docs, it will add “ArrayFormula” and an extra “)”. In Excel, it will add “{” and “}”. I then copy the code, and paste it down the column for seventy rows (10 ingredients * 7 days of the week).

Currently, I have not figured out how to automatically remove all the empty cells or duplicates from the “Grocery List” row. I know it is possible to copy and paste-special the values to another row, where I can remove the cells and duplicates.

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08/10/2017: How I would fix the A.C.A. (part 2)

As promised, this post is going into ideas on how hospitals and insurance companies can save money. Because I do not work in the medical field or for an insurance company, my ideas are purely of an outsider. So, they may not be feasible. I’ll start with hospitals first.

My first recommendation is to set up a tiered system of care providers. In other words, have patients see a registered nurse or nurse practitioner instead of a doctor, when possible. For example, if you are going in for your yearly physical, do you really need to see a doctor? Not unless there is something else going on. Which, at that point, you would be seen by a doctor.

Next, I would push to allow for foreign trained doctors to have an easier and quicker path to becoming registered U.S. doctors; if they choose to. My proposal is to first establish a department that could verify medical schooling and degrees of the doctors. Once it is established that they were medically trained, they would need to take a test to determine how much medical knowledge they have. They would be granted a temporary license, which would expire in one year. Depending on the outcome of the test, that license which would either put them at the level of a registered nurse or nurse practitioner. This would allow for them to start working in the medical practice, so they could gain knowledge on the U.S. medical system. When it came time to renew their license, they could either stay at they level they are at or choose to test to see if they could advance.

This recommendation is for both hospitals and insurance companies, and that is, to push patients to have preventative care. For hospitals, it would mean offering advice and assistance on programs to patients for getting and staying healthy. For insurance companies, it would be offering lower premiums and/or coverage for patients that participated in preventative measures. Or course, this would help reduce the amount of patients with preventable medical issues.

Lastly, we need to better educate the general population on how to live healthy. For too long, what is healthy or not has been dictated by who stands to gain the most profit. With the rise of the internet, some people are becoming self-educated and dispelling the dis-information. However, as we’ve seen with the “anti-vaxxer” movement, it only takes a small percentage of the population to cause a medical crisis. Therefore, there needs to be a department that both educates children in school, but also the general public on these myths.

Well, that is my recommendations on the A.C.A. As you noticed, I did not talk about Medicaid. Well, that is because my proposals are bringing the cost of health care coming down, which will also reduce the amount spent on Medicaid. And, if the costs can be brought down low enough, then we may even be able to have an affordable “universal healthcare” system like other countries.

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08/08/2017: How I would fix the A.C.A. (part 1)

When I was planning this blog post a few weeks ago, the Affordable Care Act (A.C.A.) was in the headlines. At the time, it was being proposed to repeal and replace it, later followed by repeal, and followed by that with creating legislation that would cause it to fail. Since before its inception, the A.C.A. has been on the political chopping block.

The politics started when the A.C.A. was nicknamed, “Obamacare”. So, anyone caught supporting it would automatically be associated with (former) President Obama. Thus, any “fixing” would also be seen as also supporting Democrats. So, the very first thing I would fix about the A.C.A. is to re-brand it. By calling it something totally different and ensuring that the new name is not linked to either party will keep it from being a political issue. Don’t kill it, because there are some good things about the A.C.A. (like the pre-existing conditions clause) that should not be stopped. Even better, have a contest to determine the new name. Let the public decide. “Obamacare” is dead and from its ashes rises…to be determined.

Despite the name change, the biggest issue of the A.C.A. is the “affordable” part. Most of the complaints I hear about the A.C.A. is the cost of insurance, such as that it is too high. Part of the agreement with the insurance companies was that requiring everyone to purchase insurance would drive down the cost. The idea was that having people pay for insurance that rarely use it would off-set the cost of people who use the insurance on a regular basis. But, there was not as much of a “reduction” as there was a slower cost increase.

Reducing costs of insurance is a very complex issue. We can’t simply tell the insurance companies to not charge as much. They are still companies and that would make them loose money or even go out of business. Which would lead to loss of jobs and deter anyone from ever going into business as an insurance company. I was pondering this part a few weeks ago when I caught the episode of Adam Ruins Everything, called, “Adam Ruins The Hospital”.

For those not able watch the episode, Adam points out how the costs of medical care in the U.S. was once a fraction of what it is now. Furthermore, the U.S. pays anywhere from 30-60% more for equipment or procedure than other developed countries. Of course, this is so the hospital can make a profit. But, anyone who has worked for or been to a hospital may notice, they are not making very much of a profit. So, why are they charging so much of a mark-up?

This is where I tell you about a document called, “The Chargemaster“. Other than California and Maryland, this is a document that the public does not get to see. It lists how much everything costs for that hospital. And, it breaks down the cost by how the patient is paying, be it cash or insurance. It is also where we see that prices are inflated in order to give discounts to patients with certain insurance companies. You see, by making a hospital “in-network”, insurance companies cause patients to choose one provider over another. And thus, they want a discount for doing that. Logically, in order to give that discount and still make enough profit to stay in business, hospitals inflate their prices.

The first thing I would do to reduce costs is to eliminate “in-network” and “out-of-network” coverage for insurance. The second item I would do is make hospitals have fixed rates for both insured and not-insured patients. This would stop the discount mark-ups. The third item would be to require hospitals to post their prices on-line, like California does. This would cause competition, which would also reduce costs.

Just like with the insurance companies, I don’t want hospitals to loose profits, so in my next post, I will explorer how to they can reduce costs.

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