Is that latest smart gadget really a sleeper cell in your kitchen?

If you bought a major appliance in the last three years, odds are it was “smart,” even if you didn’t know it. Meaning: it probably contains a wireless radio that can broadcast and transmit over a small personal area network, sending out information about a device’s status and energy use, as well as receiving commands that alter its behavior.

Many appliances that don’t even announce they have this capability are equipped with it, says Mike Beyerle, an engineer at GE whom I recently interviewed about GE’s coming Nucleus home energy management system. “We want to build up a base before we make a big deal out of it,” says Beyerle.

It’s an intriguing twist on the old business maxim “under-promise, over-deliver.” In this case, manufacturers aren’t even telling consumers what their devices are capable of because, in part, those abilities are useless without an energy management hub like GE’s Nucleus or a utility company’s smart meter…

Once a device is hooked up to an energy management system, things get interesting. Did you realize, for example, that your refrigerator’s ice maker’s defrost cycle can be shifted to another time of day by your utility in order to drive down power use during times of peak demand..?

GE’s Nucleus won’t roll out until 2012, and smart meter penetration is still no more than 25 percent in the U.S. But with the cost of new power plants rising by the day, putting smart meters into homes is more attractive than ever to utilities. Not only do they allow utilities to enroll customers in demand response programs, they also tend to lower electricity consumption overall, because they empower consumers to understand when and how they are using energy.

So do you have a sleeper cell in your kitchen or laundry room, waiting to be activated by the installation of a new smart meter or some other Zigbee-capable device? You may not know until you have the right kind of hub installed — but some already have a ZigBee label.

RTFA. I posted this especially for the paranoid among our readers. You know who you are.

And, maybe, your toaster does, too. 🙂

Sermon in the Dutch bible belt: “Make the most of life on earth, because it will probably be the only one you get”

The Rev Klaas Hendrikse can offer his congregation little hope of life after death, and he’s not the sort of man to sugar the pill.

An imposing figure in black robes and white clerical collar, Mr Hendrikse presides over the Sunday service at the Exodus Church in Gorinchem, central Holland.

It is part of the mainstream Protestant Church in the Netherlands (PKN), and the service is conventional enough, with hymns, readings from the Bible, and the Lord’s Prayer. But the message from Mr Hendrikse’s sermon seems bleak – “Make the most of life on earth, because it will probably be the only one you get”.

“Personally I have no talent for believing in life after death,” Mr Hendrikse says. “No, for me our life, our task, is before death.”

Nor does Klaas Hendrikse believe that God exists at all as a supernatural thing

Mr Hendrikse describes the Bible’s account of Jesus’s life as a mythological story about a man who may never have existed, even if it is a valuable source of wisdom about how to lead a good life.

His book Believing in a Non-Existent God led to calls from more traditionalist Christians for him to be removed. However, a special church meeting decided his views were too widely shared among church thinkers for him to be singled out.

A study by the Free University of Amsterdam found that one-in-six clergy in the PKN and six other smaller denominations was either agnostic or atheist.

The Rev Kirsten Slattenaar, Exodus Church’s regular priest, also rejects the idea – widely considered central to Christianity – that Jesus was divine as well as human.

“I think ‘Son of God’ is a kind of title,” she says. “I don’t think he was a god or a half god. I think he was a man, but he was a special man because he was very good in living from out of love, from out of the spirit of God he found inside himself…”

Professor Hijme Stoeffels of the Free University in Amsterdam says it is in such concepts as love that people base their diffuse ideas of religion.

RTFA. Long, detailed, interesting to anyone who cares about an ethical, growing society.

Of course, being about open-minded Christians, I imagine the response in our own bible belt will be the calling down of fire and brimstone upon the heads of these Christians who dare to differ with the past.

Urban legend + txt msg = elementary school lockdown

A cell phone text message accidentally forwarded to a south-side Santa Fe elementary school caused officials to shut down the school and sent some parents into a panic for a couple hours Friday morning.

An employee at CĂ©sar Chávez Community School…at 8:06 a.m. found a phone message in Spanish that led authorities to believe somebody might be threatening to kill people inside.

Police were immediately contacted, and they put the school on lockdown — nobody goes in, nobody leaves — for a couple hours and beefed up patrols at surrounding schools as a precaution.

However, police later learned the message — a bogus warning about possible gang violence that has been widely circulated via telecommunications devices — wasn’t meant for the school and wasn’t directed at anyone there…

Continue reading

Moms hold nurse-in at Arizona McDonalds

Dozens of Valley moms converged Saturday on a McDonald’s in Phoenix to breastfeed their infants in protest of a woman who was asked to leave the establishment for doing the same.

An assistant manager of the McDonald’s at 51st Avenue and Cactus Road asked Clarissa Bradford and her children to leave when Bradford began nursing her 6-month-old child on Aug. 11.

Although the restaurant this week issued an apology saying it would never happen again, demonstrators were upset at public reaction to the story and wanted to respond to critics who say mothers shouldn’t breastfeed in public…

A restaurant employee stood outside the entrance, shooing members of the media away. Starchman and another woman, Alisa Ilardo, came out to speak with reporters. They estimated there were about 100 people in the restaurant at the time, mostly mothers with infant children.

There was no sign of resistance from restaurant employees, Starchman said, characterizing the atmosphere as relaxed with most of the women using the time to have casual conversation. Once inside, a few of them even bought food, she said.

Alisa Ilardo said the group was not upset with McDonald’s, but they wanted to make a statement.

“It was just someone’s bad judgment, but we need to keep people from treating moms like this,” she said.

Right on!