Monthly Archives: October 2012

Let’s Talk Insurance! Lancaster Insurance Services; Bob Finberg
Bob Finberg talks insurance, medicare, PPO’s, HMO’s, and reimbursments.
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Buying the Vote on G.M.O.’sgmo

Supporters of ingredients derived from “genetically modified foods,” which hereafter I’ll call G.M.O.’s — genetically modified organisms — are mostly the chemical companies who make them or other people who make money from them. They assert that a) there’s no proof that G.M.O.’s are harmful to humans, and b) studies demonstrating that they might be are largely flawed [1]. Point B might even be true, although since the chemical companies largely control the research, it’s hard to tell.

But even if there were a way to guarantee that food produced with G.M.O. ingredients is not directly bad for you, it remains clear that such food is in general bad for all of us, based on the collateral damage from producing it.
What most genetically engineered crops have in common is that they’re bred to be super-resistant to chemical herbicides, chemicals that will kill pretty much everything except the specified crop. And as the weeds that those chemicals are meant to kill adapt and grow bigger and stronger, more and stronger chemicals are needed to try to deal with them.

At times these super-applications are successful, and at times they’re not. Some weeds in G.M.O. fields not only aren’t killed by the recommended chemicals, but they also have to be controlled — using an advanced technology called “the machete.”

One of the “new” chemicals, sold by Dow and used in conjunction with a newly engineered corn, is 2,4-D, which is one of the components in Agent Orange. This doesn’t exactly give you a warm and fuzzy feeling. Nor does the concern that blanket spraying of 2,4-D may affect the growth and health of nontarget crops near the sprayed corn.

This is powerful stuff. These chemicals damage human health, and that’s bad enough, especially if you’re the farmer or farmworker applying them. And, needless to say, residues of those chemicals can persist on at least some of the resulting foods.

It’s the overuse of frightening pesticides as well as the novel and largely untested nature of G.M.O.’s themselves that cause an estimated 90 percent of Americans to want food containing them to be labeled. Why aren’t they? Because in 1992, the United States Food and Drug Administration decided — with a subtle nudge from the biotech industry — that genetically modified crops were not “materially” different from conventional ones. As a result, according to a new calculation from the Environmental Working Group, we each eat an estimated 193 pounds of genetically modified foods annually.

All of this could begin to change on Election Day, when California’s Proposition 37 — which would require the labeling of most foods containing G.M.O.’s — goes to a vote. On Sept. 15, I wrote that “polls show Prop 37 to be overwhelmingly popular: roughly 65 percent for to 20 percent against, with 15 percent undecided.” But thanks to an infusion of big bucks by the opposition (led by Monsanto, DuPont and the Grocery Manufacturers Association[2]), support for labeling is eroding. By some accounts the “no” advocates are spending $1 million a day, and a recent poll says the margin is now just 8 percent.

A million a day is not much for the chemical companies, who are and should be panic-stricken — because labeling G.M.O.’s is inevitable. It’s already the norm elsewhere: more than 50 countries require it, including the entire European Union and China, which, despite being notoriously lax on food safety, sees the light on this.

And the trend is toward more caution, not less: just last week a court-appointed panel in India recommended a 10-year moratorium on field trials of genetically modified food crops to allow time for strengthening regulation and research.

We should have such luck. The closest we have to a G.M.O. oversight agency is the United States Department of Agriculture, probably the friendliest watchdog imaginable. The U.S.D.A. has consistently declined to regulate G.M.O.’s and in many cases has helped them become dominant in much of American agriculture.

When asked about Prop 37, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said: “Obviously we’re watching it…. Maybe it’s time to think about it from a national perspective.”

Vilsack and his boss (who once supported labeling, or said he did) will certainly give more consideration to labeling G.M.O.’s than would their wannabe replacements, who have in fact shilled for the biotech industry, but right now a “yes” vote on Nov. 6 is the best way we can move toward having a choice about consuming G.M.O. foods. Which probably makes Prop 37 the most important popular vote on food policy this decade. If California resists the chemical companies’ scare tactics and votes “yes,” G.M.O.’s in food could be over.

That’s why Prop 37 is being fought by an opposition as unscrupulous as it is rich. Its opponents have told voters that labeling would increase their average food budget by hundreds of dollars a year. (It won’t.) Their lead scientist, Dr. Henry Miller, was portrayed in a television ad as a Stanford University professor. (He isn’t.) An ad (as well as the state’s official voter guide!) also identified him as a senior official for the F.D.A. (Nope.) In fact, Dr. Miller led a tobacco front group that aimed to discredit the link between cigarettes and cancer. Nice.

That these tactics are working surprises no one, and is further argument against Citizens United and super PACs, and for big time campaign finance reform. [3]

In the meantime, the Right to Know creators of Prop 37 are relying on talent and humor. Will that — and, of course, having right on their side — be enough to counter a million bucks a day? Stay tuned.

1 They also like to claim that only by employing G.M.O.’s can we “feed the world,” a ridiculous claim that will have to be disputed at another time.

Six of the top funders are the six largest pesticide companies, and three of them are European companies that can’t grow G.M.O.’s in their own countries.

The editorial boards of major California newspapers are also lining up to help squash the yes vote.

Goldstone Deep Space Communications Complex Open Air Museum


The Goldstone Deep Space Communications Complex, located in the Mojave Desert in California, is one of three complexes which comprise NASA's Deep Space Network (DSN). The DSN provides radio communications for all of NASA's interplanetary spacecraft and is also utilized for radio astronomy and radar

NASA will host an event for 65 of its social media followers on Oct. 15, 2012, at the Goldstone Deep Space Communications Complex in California’s Mojave Desert. From the first planetary encounters, the first human landing on the moon, to missions that reach the farthest points in our solar system, Goldstone has been there to bring home the critical data, images, and science. The Goldstone Deep Space Communications Complex is one of three Deep Space Network (DSN) complexes around the world. The complex was established to provide the ability to communicate with spacecraft, not only in orbit around the earth, but also in the farther reaches of our solar system.


NASA Social participants will have the opportunity to:

  • Tour the Goldstone Complex
  • Travel to Apollo Valley to see the historic Apollo antenna and the 34 meter Beam Waveguide Cluster antennas
  • Take a trip to Mars Valley, home of the large 70 meter Mars antenna (230-ft dish), the 34 meter Uranus antenna and Signal Processing Center 10, the Spacecraft Operations Control Center
  • Meet and interact with scientists, engineers, and other team members from NASA and Goldstone
  • Learn about the historical significance of Goldstone and its part of the Deep Space Network (DSN), the missions supported and what makes Goldstone unique within the DSN. 
  • View and take photographs of the complex
  • Meet fellow space enthusiasts who are active on social media
  • Meet members of NASA’s social media teams

Registration for the NASA Social opened at noon EDT Wednesday, Aug. 29, and closes at noon EDT Friday, Aug. 31 noon EDT on Friday, August 31, 2012 and closed at noon EDT on Tuesday, September 4, 2012.


What is a NASA Social?

A NASA Social is an informal meeting of people who use social networking sites such as TwitterFacebook and Google+. Participants at this event will be provided a unique in-person experience at the Goldstone Deep Space Communications Complex that they are encouraged to share with others through their favorite social networks.


How do I register?

NASA Social registration opens at noon EDT Wednesday, Aug. 29, and closes at noon EDT Friday, Aug. 31 noon EDT on Friday, August 31, 2012 to noon EDT on Tuesday, September 4, 2012. NASA will randomly select participants from online registrations. NASA accepts 65 participants, with 50 others on a wait list. Registration is for one person, aged 18 and over only, and is non-transferable. Because this event takes place at a facility with restricted areas, registration is limited to U.S. citizens.


Do I need to have a social media account to register?

Yes. This event is designed for active social media users who follow NASA missions on Twitter (@NASA@NASASocial, etc.), Facebook (NASA) or Google+ (NASA). The goal of NASA Social is to allow people who interact with each other via social networks to meet in person and discuss space exploration.

Users on all social networks are encouraged to use the hashtag #NASASocial. Updates and information about the event will be shared on Twitter via @NASASocial and via posts to Facebook and Google+.


What are the registration requirements?

Registration indicates your intent to travel to the Goldstone Deep Space Communications Complex in the Mojave Desert (near Barstow), Fort Irwin, San Bernardino County, California, and attend the events in person. You are responsible for your own expenses for travel, accommodation, food and other amenities.

Some events and participants scheduled to appear at the event are subject to change without notice. NASA is not responsible for loss or damage incurred as a result of attending. NASA is not responsible for loss or damage incurred if the event is cancelled with limited or no notice. Please plan accordingly.

Goldstone Deep Space Communications Complex is a government facility. Those who are selected will need to complete an additional registration step to receive clearance to enter secure areas. To be admitted, Fort Irwin will require your state driver’s license number and show a government-issued identification with a photo that matches the name provided on the registration. Those without proper identification cannot be admitted. All registrants must be at least 18 years old.


Can I register if I am not a U.S. citizen?

No, the Goldstone NASA Social cannot accept registrations from non-U.S. citizens.


Does my registration include a guest?

Because of space limitations, you may not bring a guest. Each registration provides a place for one person only (you) and is non-transferable. Each individual wishing to attend must register separately.


What if I cannot come to the event?

If you cannot come to California to attend in person, you should not register for this NASA Social. You can follow the conversation using the #NASASocial hashtag on Twitter. NASA may broadcast a portion of the NASA Social.

If you cannot make this NASA Social, don’t despair; NASA is planning others in the near future at various locations. Check back on for updates.


When will I know if I am selected?

After registrations have been received and processed, an email with confirmation information and additional instructions will be sent to those selected and those on the waitlist. We expect to send notifications on or around Friday, Sept. 7 Tuesday, Sept. 11.

If you do not make the registration list for this NASA Social, you can still participate in the conversation online.


Does registration for and/or attendance at the NASA Social qualify me for media accreditation?

Your NASA Social registration and/or attendance do not qualify you for news media credentials at any NASA field center, now or in the future.



Have a question not answered here? Need more information? Help is available by sending an email to


For information about Goldstone, visit:


NASA Social: Goldstone DSN [Outreach Nerd]


NASA Social to Goldstone [Outreach Nerd]

October 15th I’m attending the first NASA Social to Goldstone Deep Space Communications Complex in the Mojave Valley.
From the NASA site: Sixty-five of NASA’s social media followers will have a rare opportunity to tour the agency’s Goldstone Deep Space Communications Complex in California’s Mojave Desert during a NASA Social on Monday, Oct. 15, 2012. 

Goldstone is one of three NASA Deep Space Network (DSN) complexes strategically placed around the world. The complex provides the ability to communicate with spacecraft not only in orbit around Earth, but also in the farther reaches of our solar system.

Leading up to the Social, organizers put all of the attendees in touch with each other, both formally and informally. Here is a sampling of those who will enjoy this adventure with me!

On the Hangout:
Bill Dunford (@ridingrobots) is a writer and space blogger from Utah. Since 2005, he has run the science education website called “Riding with Robots on the High Frontier”, which can be found at This is his second NASA Social, after taking part in the event for the launch of the Mars Curiosity rover in November, 2011. -to-mars/

Amy Pille (@A_neutron) is a corporate defense attorney practicing in Charleston, SC. She is part of a coordinating counsel team that manages product liability litigation on Regional and Local levels. She is also an avid tech and social media enthusiast, with roots in amateur radio. In what little spare time she has, Amy enjoys sleeping and getting scolded soundly by Abigail, aka Princess Pretty Paws, in the wee hours of the morning. (Shaun, Husband Extraordinaire, often helps out with Abby…no really, our household is basically just a cat entourage…for one cat.)

NASA Hosts First Social Media Event at Goldstone Deep Space Communications Complex

My university student paper did a write-up on the upcoming Goldstone Adventure. Though it’s not perfect, it’s nice of the students to do 🙂 GETTING EXCITED!!!




NASA Hosts First Social Media Event at Goldstone Deep Space Communications Complex


WASHINGTON — Sixty-five of NASA’s social media followers will have a rare opportunity to tour the agency’s Goldstone Deep Space Communications Complex in California’s Mojave Desert during a NASA Social on Monday, Oct. 15, 2012. 


Goldstone is one of three NASA Deep Space Network (DSN) complexes strategically placed around the world. The complex provides the ability to communicate with spacecraft not only in orbit around Earth, but also in the farther reaches of our solar system. 


People who engage with NASA through Twitter, Facebook and Google+ also will travel to Apollo Valley to see the historic Apollo antenna and 34-meter Beam Waveguide Cluster antennas; take a trip to Mars Valley, home of the large 70-meter Mars antenna (230-foot dish); the 34-meter Uranus antenna and Signal Processing Center 10; and the Spacecraft Operations Control Center. Participants will have an opportunity to speak with scientists, engineers and other team members from NASA and Goldstone. They also will interact with fellow NASA social media followers, space enthusiasts and members of NASA’s social media team. 


The 65 participants will be selected randomly from online registrations for this NASA Social. Registration opens at noon EDT, Wednesday, Aug. 29, and closes at noon Friday, Aug. 31. Because of space limitations, those selected to attend may not bring a guest. Each participant must be a U.S. citizen, age 18 or older. For more information on NASA Socials and to register, visit:


For information about the Goldstone Deep Space Communications Complex, visit:


For more about NASA’s Deep Space Network, visit:


For information about connecting and collaborating with NASA, visit:


– end –


#DSN NASA Social With Ann Devereaux

Talking Technology with Ann Devereaux

Devereaux demonstrates the Wireless Augmented Reality Prototype (WARP)
Devereaux demonstrates the Wireless Augmented Reality Prototype (WARP)

“I hate math,” Ann Devereaux frankly tells students when she describes her activities at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “Who ever said you have to like math to be an engineer? What’s interesting are the cool applications you can do that need some math applied to them to make them work.”

Devereaux realizes that math is a hurdle for many kids and surprises them when she shares her feelings about math. “But,” she explains, “this always leads me to tell them that if they are interested in how to make things, then they will like engineering and realize that math is just a tool to use in making engineering happen.”

For someone who says she doesn’t like mathematics, Devereaux has done very well in a field where practical application of math theory is essential. This may partly be due to her childhood near the Kennedy Space Center. Her school took field trips to watch shuttle launches, and many of the families in the area were involved with NASA and the space program. Her brother even grew up to be a safety officer at Kennedy.

Astronauts may one day use the WARP communication device.
Astronauts may one day use the WARP communication device.

In high school Devereaux interned at Kennedy and worked on cable splicing. Later, as a college student at MIT, she stood in line for two solid hours to get an interview with a recruiter from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “There is so much variety at JPL and lots of opportunities that I was interested in working here from the start,” she remembers.

Now, with eleven years at JPL, Ann Devereaux has been involved in communications, moving from spacecraft communications systems, to involvement with spacecraft radio science and then to the Deep Space Network. She participated in the communications operations on the Mars Observer and is now in technology development.

While working at JPL, Devereaux found time to attend USC to earn a masters degree. She was involved in the flight operations side of engineering, which she describes as “designing and building things that have to sit in the desert for 30 years which must have the ability to stand up to the environment with little maintenance and work properly. By comparison, this is very different from conducting research where you have to think on your feet and come up with concepts for your work. In research you are coming up with an idea and seeing what you can either buy or build to make it so that it works.”

One of her most memorable opportunities was being sent to Antarctica to set up a satellite link dish and all the electronics. She explains, “The dish system was used for a live teaching session for students from the bottom of the world. I even got my three minutes of fame when I was interviewed on camera – Live from Antarctica! How many people can say they have done that?”

Devereaux is now working on a personal communications system called the Wireless Augmented Reality Prototype, or WARP, that will be used in the Space Shuttle and International Space Station. This system will allow crew members to communicate with each other and use a headset monitor screen that can be used to view documents.

Devereaux is also involved in creation of a short-range transceiver for Mars orbiter-lander relays and is on a team proposing creation of the technology for a wireless glucose monitor. And just think – someone who says they hate math accomplished all this.

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Oscar Meyer Weinermobile visits Bark in the Park, Lancaster CA

Chris Spicher with AVNice/ AVFlorist visits and tours the World Famous Oscar Meyer vehicle. The Weinermobile was sandwiched into a nice shady spot in Lancaster, CA at the annual Bark in the Park. A huge dog friendly event, and the Hot Dogs were friendly too.