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Is There Life On Mars?

April 2nd, 2009

Там ли жизнь на Марсе

Ambler, PA — Is there life on Mars? There will be, and it will be Earthlings. At least, that is what the crowd at the Wissahickon High School was informed by Stepehen Davis of the National Aeronautics Space Administration (NASA).

Mr. Davis is the director of the Ares rocket project. In a presentation in front of the FIRST Robotics Team 341 and the general public, he unveiled for the first time computer animation of the Ares I-X test rocket scheduled to take-off this summer.

The Ares I Ares V Rockets

The Ares I Ares V Rockets: Image courtesy NASA

There are three rockets that are part of the project — the Ares I-X test rocket, the Ares I manned rocket, and the Ares V cargo rocket.

The space shuttle program will soon be shutting down. The next manned space flight is not expected to launch for five years when the Ares I is complete. This creates a delicate situation. The United States will be dependent on Russia for transporting American astronauts back and forth to the space station. [Соединенные Штаты будут зависеть от России для транспортировки американских астронавтов туда и обратно к космической станции.] Hopefully, relations will warm through the efforts of new U.S. administration. For instance, what would happen if we have men at the space station and Russia attacks Georgia again? There is no immediate solution to this problem; however, Mr. Davis is confident the politics and budgets can be handled to ensure a smooth transition.

The Ares program is scheduled for the test flight of Ares I-X in 2009, the Ares I manned space flight in 2015, the Ares I and Ares V to the moon in 2020, and a manned flight to Mars by 2030.

The Ares I flight in 2015 will re-establish NASA’s ability to shuttle astronauts to the space station. The Ares I and Ares V flights in 2020 are meant to start a space station on the moon. The flight to Mars is independent.

When asked what happens if the Ares I-X test flight fails, Mr. Davis replied, “It would look bad. It would look worse than it really is. We would still learn a lot.” Would there be another test flight before sending humans up? “No, There will be no other tests.”

A lot is riding on the math, science and engineering abilities of the current NASA staff, as well as, the future generation of engineers in the audience. When asked why we are going back to the moon, Mr. Davis gave a good, long list of reasons. Perhaps the best reason was his personal interest — adventure and exploration. That seemed to be the same factor motivating the youth in attendance. Maybe that is exactly what we need to forge the ingenuity necessary to best serve humankind in the years to come.

Redneck Segway

April 1st, 2009

This man should be put in charge of the auto companies.

I shall keep an eye on him. He probably does eighty on the freeway on his couch.


http://dispatch.com/live/content/local_news/stories/2009/03/31/barstool.ART_ART_03-31-09_A1_D1DDFUN.html?sid=101


http://www.10tv.com/live/content/local/stories/2009/03/30/story_barstool.html?sid=102


http://www.10tv.com/live/content/local/stories/2009/03/31/story_bar_stool.html?sid=102


http://www.newarkadvocate.com/article/20090401/NEWS01/904010309

FIRST: Driving Miss Daisy to Atlanta, Georgia

April 1st, 2009

by Christopher Brouse and Daniel Brouse

Ambler, PA — The Wissahickon FIRST robotics team is from Ambler, PA. They are known as Team 341 and have named their robot Miss Daisy. The team’s battle cry — “Flower Power!” Everyone is welcome to their garden. With ten great years of experience, this has been one of their most successful seasons.

The Wissahickon team recently traveled to San Diego. On the trip, they acquired some very impressive trophies. The Judge’s Award was achieved in large part for aiding a Brazilian team. The South American robot had accidentally been shipped to Memphis, Tennessee. Several members of the Wissahickon team, along with help from a few other teams, assisted the Brazilians in successfully building a machine “on-the-spot.” Though it normally takes weeks for a build season, the robot was able to hold 7th place out of 46 teams.

The Wissahickon team was even more fortunate by winning first place in the overall competition against one of the best machines in the world — a team sponsored by NASA and supported by NASA engineers. Miss Daisy took the stadium by storm by making one of the biggest robotic upsets in FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) history. It would also appear that Team 341 was the first East Coast team to ever win the Western Regional. (Read more about the San Diego competition at http://membrane.com/robotics/San-Diego.html)

The MC Announces Miss Daisy in Philly

The MC Announces Miss Daisy in Philly


VIDEO CLIP: Team 341 In Action @ Philly

In March, at the Philadelphia Regional, Team 341 achieved one of the most honored awards, Engineering Inspiration. Not only do the members try to have a highly inspired team, they also try to spread the inspiration to young and old… both far and wide.

Next, the team travels to compete at the World Championship event in Atlanta, GA, April 16, 17 and 18.


The Wissahickon website also won first place at the San Diego event. It is a great place to learn more about FIRST and Miss Daisy. You can check it out at www.team341.com.

For more information on robotics, visit http://membrane.com/robotics/.

[Christopher Brouse is the team captain and has been the mechanical build team captain for the past three years.]

Ghost Rats And Zombies

March 30th, 2009

For quite some time, the Internet security community has been aware of computers being compromised and taken over as part of a “Zombie Army” or “Botnet”. (See the FTC’s article)

Now, a far reaching cyber espionage networks using Ghost RAT has been uncovered. A RAT is a Remote Access Trojan that takes over the host computer.

The GhostNet RAT uncovered by a team from the University Of Toronto found 1,295 infected computers in 103 countries. What makes these RATS all the more alarming is that it appears to be a well organized network attacking high level computers in government agencies, financial institutions and defense departments.

GhostNet was originally investigated because the Dalai Lama thought his computer might be infected.

The GhostNet RAT spreads itself through Microsoft Word documents or Adobe PDF files sent in email as attachments.

Tracking GhostNet: Investigating a Cyber Espionage Network

The Headlines

March 28th, 2009
News & Current Events

News & Current Events

The Environment, Eco-friendly & Green

The Environment, Eco-friendly & Green

Internet Security, Privacy & the WWW

Internet Security, Privacy & the WWW

Entertainment & the Music Business

Entertainment & the Music Business

Making Music & Songwriting

Making Music & Songwriting

Marketing and the Advertising Industry

Marketing and the Advertising Industry

Oboma Budget Bad Business

March 28th, 2009

The world has been waking up and raising a voice against President Oboma’s budget and stimulus plans. How can you spend, spend, spend money you don’t have? Who will pay back the debt?

The European Union has taken a stance against the massive amount of spending. The head of the EU, Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek, said it was “the road to hell.”

Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.), who several weeks ago had almost joined Obama’s cabinet, came out strongly opposed to the budget. Judd said, “We believe you create prosperity by having an affordable government that pursues its responsibilities without excessive costs, taxes or debt.”

“In the next five years, President Obama’s budget will double the national debt. In the next 10 years, it will triple the national debt.”

“His budget assumes the deficit will average $1 trillion every year for the next 10 years and will add well over $9 trillion in new debts to our children’s backs. He also is proposing the largest tax increase in history, much of it aimed at taxing small business people who have been, over the years, the best job creators in our economy.”

The proposals “represent an extraordinary move of our government to the left.”

“He is very forthright in stating that he believes that by greatly expanding the spending, the taxing and the borrowing of our government, this will lead us to prosperity.”

“It is the individual American who creates prosperity and good jobs, not the government.”

“We believe that you create energy independence not by sticking Americans with a brand new national sales tax on everyone’s electric bill, but by expanding the production of American energy … while also conserving more.”

“We also believe you improve everyone’s health care not by nationalizing the health care system and putting the government between you and your doctor, but by assuring that every American has access to quality health insurance and choices in health care.”

“The U.S. has an exceptional history of one generation passing on to the next generation a more prosperous and stronger country, but that tradition is being put at risk.”

Pennsylvania Company Insures Around the Globe

March 26th, 2009

For Immediate Release - 3/26/09 - Black Fox International puts families at ease by offering health, medical and travel insurance for families, students and employees of multi-national corporations.

If you are living outside your home country, traditional sources of private health insurance will not meet your needs. Geographical exclusions and provider limitations common to these policies will restrict or even eliminate the coverage available to you while you are outside your home country. At the same time, you may not be eligible for participation in the government sponsored plans in the country where you reside. Or if you are a non-U.S. citizen, you may need an international medical insurance policy to supplement the coverage available to you through a plan sponsored by your government, or to provide coverage while you are outside your home country. If your lifestyle knows no geographic limits, you need health insurance that knows no boundaries as well. Black Fox International offers coverage to meet your needs. For more information, please contact us at 800.877.2445 or visit our website

China Says: Reform the International Monetary System

March 24th, 2009

The People’s Bank of China is calling for a universal currency. Russia has also expressed a desire for the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to use a single, non-dollar based currency. China holds a trillion dollars of US debt in dollars.

The article, What Is a Dollar Worth, considered the risk of future inflation because of the soaring Federal budget deficit. If this risk was combined with a decreased international demand for the dollar, what might be the implications for inflation in the USA?

From the People’s Bank of China:

Reform the International Monetary System
by Zhou Xiaochuan

The outbreak of the current crisis and its spillover in the world have confronted us with a long-existing but still unanswered question,i.e., what kind of international reserve currency do we need to secure global financial stability and facilitate world economic growth, which was one of the purposes for establishing the IMF? There were various institutional arrangements in an attempt to find a solution, including the Silver Standard, the Gold Standard, the Gold Exchange Standard and the Bretton Woods system. The above question, however, as the ongoing financial crisis demonstrates, is far from being solved, and has become even more severe due to the inherent weaknesses of the current international monetary system.

Theoretically, an international reserve currency should first be anchored to a stable benchmark and issued according to a clear set of rules, therefore to ensure orderly supply; second, its supply should be flexible enough to allow timely adjustment according to the changing demand; third, such adjustments should be disconnected from economic conditions and sovereign interests of any single country. The acceptance of credit-based national currencies as major international reserve currencies, as is the case in the current system, is a rare special case in history. The crisis again calls for creative reform of the existing international monetary system towards an international reserve currency with a stable value, rule-based issuance and manageable supply, so as to achieve the objective of safeguarding global economic and financial stability.

I. The outbreak of the crisis and its spillover to the entire world reflect the inherent vulnerabilities and systemic risks in the existing international monetary system.

Issuing countries of reserve currencies are constantly confronted with the dilemma between achieving their domestic monetary policy goals and meeting other countries’ demand for reserve currencies. On the one hand,the monetary authorities cannot simply focus on domestic goals without carrying out their international responsibilities��on the other hand,they cannot pursue different domestic and international objectives at the same time. They may either fail to adequately meet the demand of a growing global economy for liquidity as they try to ease inflation pressures at home, or create excess liquidity in the global markets by overly stimulating domestic demand. The Triffin Dilemma, i.e., the issuing countries of reserve currencies cannot maintain the value of the reserve currencies while providing liquidity to the world, still exists.

When a national currency is used in pricing primary commodities, trade settlements and is adopted as a reserve currency globally, efforts of the monetary authority issuing such a currency to address its economic imbalances by adjusting exchange rate would be made in vain, as its currency serves as a benchmark for many other currencies. While benefiting from a widely accepted reserve currency, the globalization also suffers from the flaws of such a system. The frequency and increasing intensity of financial crises following the collapse of the Bretton Woods system suggests the costs of such a system to the world may have exceeded its benefits. The price is becoming increasingly higher, not only for the users, but also for the issuers of the reserve currencies. Although crisis may not necessarily be an intended result of the issuing authorities, it is an inevitable outcome of the institutional flaws.

II. The desirable goal of reforming the international monetary system, therefore, is to create an international reserve currency that is disconnected from individual nations and is able to remain stable in the long run, thus removing the inherent deficiencies caused by using credit-based national currencies.

1. Though the super-sovereign reserve currency has long since been proposed, yet no substantive progress has been achieved to date. Back in the 1940s, Keynes had already proposed to introduce an international currency unit named “Bancor”, based on the value of 30 representative commodities. Unfortunately, the proposal was not accepted. The collapse of the Bretton Woods system, which was based on the White approach, indicates that the Keynesian approach may have been more farsighted. The IMF also created the SDR in 1969, when the defects of the Bretton Woods system initially emerged, to mitigate the inherent risks sovereign reserve currencies caused. Yet, the role of the SDR has not been put into full play due to limitations on its allocation and the scope of its uses. However, it serves as the light in the tunnel for the reform of the international monetary system.

2. A super-sovereign reserve currency not only eliminates the inherent risks of credit-based sovereign currency, but also makes it possible to manage global liquidity. A super-sovereign reserve currency managed by a global institution could be used to both create and control the global liquidity. And when a country’s currency is no longer used as the yardstick for global trade and as the benchmark for other currencies, the exchange rate policy of the country would be far more effective in adjusting economic imbalances. This will significantly reduce the risks of a future crisis and enhance crisis management capability.

III. The reform should be guided by a grand vision and begin with specific deliverables. It should be a gradual process that yields win-win results for all.

The reestablishment of a new and widely accepted reserve currency with a stable valuation benchmark may take a long time. The creation of an international currency unit, based on the Keynesian proposal, is a bold initiative that requires extraordinary political vision and courage. In the short run, the international community, particularly the IMF, should at least recognize and face up to the risks resulting from the existing system, conduct regular monitoring and assessment and issue timely early warnings.

Special consideration should be given to giving the SDR a greater role. The SDR has the features and potential to act as a super-sovereign reserve currency. Moreover, an increase in SDR allocation would help the Fund address its resources problem and the difficulties in the voice and representation reform. Therefore, efforts should be made to push forward a SDR allocation. This will require political cooperation among member countries. Specifically, the Fourth Amendment to the Articles of Agreement and relevant resolution on SDR allocation proposed in 1997 should be approved as soon as possible so that members joined the Fund after 1981 could also share the benefits of the SDR. On the basis of this, considerations could be given to further increase SDR allocation.

The scope of using the SDR should be broadened, so as to enable it to fully satisfy the member countries’ demand for a reserve currency.

Set up a settlement system between the SDR and other currencies. Therefore, the SDR, which is now only used between governments and international institutions, could become a widely accepted means of payment in international trade and financial transactions.

Actively promote the use of the SDR in international trade, commodities pricing, investment and corporate book-keeping. This will help enhance the role of the SDR, and will effectively reduce the fluctuation of prices of assets denominated in national currencies and related risks.

Create financial assets denominated in the SDR to increase its appeal. The introduction of SDR-denominated securities, which is being studied by the IMF, will be a good start.

Further improve the valuation and allocation of the SDR. The basket of currencies forming the basis for SDR valuation should be expanded to include currencies of all major economies, and the GDP may also be included as a weight. The allocation of the SDR can be shifted from a purely calculation-based system to a system backed by real assets, such as a reserve pool, to further boost market confidence in its value.

IV. Entrusting part of the member countries’ reserve to the centralized management of the IMF will not only enhance the international community’s ability to address the crisis and maintain the stability of the international monetary and financial system, but also significantly strengthen the role of the SDR.

1. Compared with separate management of reserves by individual countries, the centralized management of part of the global reserve by a trustworthy international institution with a reasonable return to encourage participation will be more effective in deterring speculation and stabilizing financial markets. The participating countries can also save some reserve for domestic development and economic growth. With its universal membership, its unique mandate of maintaining monetary and financial stability, and as an international “supervisor” on the macroeconomic policies of its member countries, the IMF, equipped with its expertise, is endowed with a natural advantage to act as the manager of its member countries’ reserves.

2. The centralized management of its member countries’ reserves by the Fund will be an effective measure to promote a greater role of the SDR as a reserve currency. To achieve this, the IMF can set up an open-ended SDR-denominated fund based on the market practice, allowing subscription and redemption in the existing reserve currencies by various investors as desired. This arrangement will not only promote the development of SDR-denominated assets, but will also partially allow management of the liquidity in the form of the existing reserve currencies. It can even lay a foundation for increasing SDR allocation to gradually replace existing reserve currencies with the SDR.

What Is a Dollar Worth?

March 23rd, 2009

The Federal Reserve Board announced:

“Information received since the Federal Open Market Committee met in January indicates that the economy continues to contract. Job losses, declining equity and housing wealth, and tight credit conditions have weighed on consumer sentiment and spending. Weaker sales prospects and difficulties in obtaining credit have led businesses to cut back on inventories and fixed investment. U.S. exports have slumped as a number of major trading partners have also fallen into recession. Although the near-term economic outlook is weak, the Committee anticipates that policy actions to stabilize financial markets and institutions, together with fiscal and monetary stimulus, will contribute to a gradual resumption of sustainable economic growth.

In light of increasing economic slack here and abroad, the Committee expects that inflation will remain subdued. Moreover, the Committee sees some risk that inflation could persist for a time below rates that best foster economic growth and price stability in the longer term.”

However, there is a growing debate as to the impact of the federal trade deficit. According to the Congressional Budget Office, President Obama underestimated the growth of deficit over the next decade by over $2,000,000,000,000. The Budget Office predicts the deficit to grow to $9,300,000,000,000.

What if that is still an underestimate? Sen. Richard Shelby believes the deficit will reach $20,000,000,000,000. At such a staggering number, it is hard to believe that inflation won’t rear it’s ugly head and run rampant.

Wissahickon High School’s Robot Advances

March 21st, 2009

Philadelphia, PA — The FIRST Robotics Philly Regional is taking place at Temple University. Fifty-nine high schools from the East Coast are competing in the Lunacy game. NASA works together with the FIRST organization to design each year’s game rules. This year a special surface was designed for the floor and special wheels for the robots. Together the floor and wheels simulate the 1/6th gravity a robot would experience on the moon. Balls called “moon rocks” are shot into the trailer being carried by the opposing teams.

What can make a competition really interesting are “alliances.” Forming a competition winning alliance takes strategy, strategy, strategy. During the first day and the morning of the second day, there are elimination rounds. Three high schools are randomly matched to form a “blue” alliance or a “red” alliance for each round. Since new teams are matched for each round, the strategy is about each individual round. At this regional, there were eighty elimination rounds.

After the elimination rounds, the top eight teams get to choose 2 teams. The strategy for the finals is about choosing which teams you want to be partnered with for the remainder of the competition.

The Wissahickon team (from Ambler, PA) was in fiftieth place going into the final alliance selection. It looked like they would have to pack up and go home. However, Lansdale Catholic had been scouting all season and picked Wissahickon for their alliance advancing them to the finals.

Find out more about robotics.