Beyond-Barcode Scanning Chaos at Walmart Herkimer NY

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Linda Kaidan

Yesterday when shopping at the Herkimer New York Walmart, I had to call for assistance 4 times at the self-checkout, as the software failed to recognize some scanned items, including fresh produce and cat food. My daughter had a worse experience that same day, trying to use her  EBT card. After 30 minutes of shopping, her purchase was canceled and all items returned to the shelves due to a single item recognition failure.

The cashier guessed that it was because she used her EBT card to purchase organic carrots. It is normal for humans to attribute cause to action, but the untrained Walmart clerk’s analysis was wrong: In New York, organic food products can be purchased with SNAP benefits. My daughter noticed that many carts ladened with food were being returned to the shelves by employees.

Walmart’s Deficient Image Capture Checkout Software

It’s apparent that Walmart’s point of sale software is using image capture to verify checkout items. When the barcode or customer-identified item does not agree with the image, the item is rejected by the checkout system. For an EBT purchase, the entire purchase is terminated. This is demoralizing and disrespectful to customers. The Walmart staff is obviously not trained to handle this situation, easily triggering a conflict between the staff member and the frustrated customer.
That my order, purchased with a debit card, wasn’t canceled but my daughter’s SNAP-based purchase was, indicates a value judgment by Walmart staff that SNAP benefit recipients are inherently suspicious.
(When my daughter objected to the cancellation of her order and the rudeness of the customer service rep, the checkout employee called security and store management.)

A better approach would be to publicly identify certain Point of Sale self-checkout machines and let the customer decide to use them as a part of an announced beta test of the software. Customer time should not be wasted because Walmart software doesn’t work. Employees should not speculate about invalid items and should be trained to treat all customers with respect.

Walmart is generally the least expensive and best-stocked place to buy food. Walmart is a leader in Business Intelligence and is planning to fully automate stores, as is Amazon. Change can be challenging–those considering a career in retail should look to other occupations that aren’t so easily automated.

 

 

Fast 3D-Printed Housing in New York State: A Simple Solution for a Complex Time

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Linda Kaidan

PERI, a German technology company, has been the first to create a 3D printed multistory building that is fully German certified. The BOD2 3D printer can construct a 3 story building of 10,000 square feet.

With construction supplies in short demand, it’s a relief to see the debut of a new construction methodology that can decrease construction prices by 50% or more. 3D printing robots have become more functional than ever, and now can be used to create buildings of up to 3 stories. This multi-story functionality is especially important, as it can reduce urban sprawl.  We need never again create another San Fernando Valley of congestion, unbreathable air, and unaffordable homes.

Upstate New York has experienced a massive shortage of housing in the last year. Few homes are available for sale. Housing unavailability is also driven by many who see central and northern NY as an ideal location for remote work and home offices at a more reasonable price than their current homes in more urban areas. Statistics published by the New York State Association of Realtors for the 12 month period ending January 2021 indicate that sales increased by 16.7% and inventory dropped by 26.7%.

Constructiondive.com reports significant increases in basic building material costs over the past year, much of it the result of Covid-19 disruption:

Material % change Jan. 2020
to Jan. 2021
Iron and steel 15.6%
Steel mill products 7.4%
Softwood lumber 73%

SOURCE: Associated Builders and Contractors analysis of BLS data

3D Printing to the Rescue!

3D printed homes are constructed from concrete paste, typically mixed from local materials. Floors and walls, both interior and exterior, are extrusion printed by giant robots which are programmed to manufacture predesigned and tested structures on site. This construction can often be completed in a matter of days and includes whimsical curves that are far more enchanting than right angles and parallel planes. Home construction robots can cost $250,000 and up, but careful research and selection of a manufacturer will help to quickly build cost-efficient, high-quality housing. We certainly hope to see some local 3D printed housing soon spring up here in Upstate New York.

Recent 3D print housing projects in the US include gorgeous $10k Austin TX homeless housing and a home in Millbrook, NY listed for sale on Trulia for $300,000. Don’t be shy! Buy a nice abandoned farm and turn it into an attractive, affordable 3D printed home community. Help house our future😊

Uncertain Times Call For Herkimer County Local Energy Security

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By Linda Kaidan

Local energy security is key to community survival in times of uncertainty, yet
Herkimer County has the lowest level of local solar energy production in NY state.

Solar energy is priced competitively, dependable and environmentally friendly. Solar farms can produce excellent income for farmers and provide secure local energy.  

Herkimer County Solar Energy Production
Herkimer’s solar energy production in bottom tier of NYS counties

Recently we’ve seen how easily supply chains can be disrupted by international catastrophe.

Before Covid-19 appeared in March 2020, it seemed that our favorite foods, cleaning products and cheap manufactured goods made in other countries like China would be endlessly accessible.  Now when we go shopping we are reminded that this is no longer the case. Think about what would happen with a local energy shortage or outage. No heat in our homes. No light. Health care facility malfunction.

Products like energy often have vulnerable supply chains too.

That is why New York has an aggressive program supporting green energy throughout the state. Local green energy produced by wind, water and sun protects the environment. It also ensures that should there be a disruption in availability caused by epidemic, civil unrest or even war we will have the power we need. We will continue to be capable of manufacturing our own products and also have energy for utilities and transportation.

A NYS solar farm map published in 2019 shows solar production by county.

The light counties have the lowest level of solar farm production. Let’s not count on luck to provide Herkimer with energy. Lets build new solar farms in our county that are wildlife friendly, farm friendly and neighbor friendly.

Plans for a local solar farm on approximately 140 acres adjacent to Herkimer College are currently being reviewed by county officials.

This land has significant forest and includes some wetlands. It is located about 1 mile NW of Herkimer Community College’s baseball field parking lot at 188 Sokol Road. Provided wetlands are protected and  consideration is given to wildlife passing through the area, a new solar farm can greatly benefit our county. While losing forest is not desirable, well designed solar farms can accommodate meadow growth favorable to pollinators and can be farm friendly and aesthetically pleasing. 

NYC’s 2019 Homeless Housing Budget of $3.2 Billion Can Build .35 Million People Affordable Homes

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By Linda Kaidan
The above cabin exclusive of interior finishes was constructed by one person in 6 months for $8,000. As the nation faces a housing and food crisis of major proportion, simple solutions can make a huge difference. We have been governed by customs and rules that work against us in this pandemic. We need to use the resources we have intelligently to hold off the chaos that starvation and homelessness bring.

We can economically provide food, housing and self-sufficiency

Using the labor of those in need, inexpensive materials, and existing education programs to ramp up quickly we can achieve multiple goals at the same time.  In New York state our budget can come from ending the absurd practice of using welfare hotels as housing. Key to our success would be the suspension of building regulations to enable crisis housing and the use of trending off-grid methods of heating, power, housing construction, water collection-purification and waste incinerating toilets.

What has been one year’s budget for New York state’s homeless would fund construction of semi-permanent residences, workplaces and food growing facilities serving thousands of people for years to come. A single modified shipping container can house 8 people, 2 per room, with a private entrance. In the following example, housing for 8 people is created, with potential expansion from 80 ft to 480 feet per unit. A budget of $9,000 per person would pay for a multi-unit structure at a cost of $72,000. The structure would utilize green energy, water collected from rain, black water reduction and home gardens.

Before Covid-19 things were already spectacularly bad for those in New York State seeking housing. Now they are even worse as employers close their doors and shed jobs. Just last year, the budget for New York City’s homeless was $3.2 billion for 133,000 people, 1/3 of whom were children.  Will this be another Great Depression? It need not be, when we to do things differently.

$3.2 billion can build .35 million people affordable homes that will last for many years

Using my onetime $9,000 per person figure for 15+ years of housing and the 2019 NYC homeless housing budget, we can solve our housing crisis by helping individuals and families build their own sustainable homes and gardens for a total of (3.2*(10**9)/9000 = .35 million people). And we can do that for many years, not just one year.

 

350 Botswana Elephants Dead: Suspect Cyanobacteria

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by Linda Kaidan

350 Dead Elephants - Cyanobacteria?
Will automated Cyanobacteria Assessment prevent animal deaths in future?

Aerial photographs show groups of dead elephants near ponds. The 350 Botswana Elephants dead appear to have suddenly succumbed after showing signs of neurological impairment. One elephant walked in circles before falling dead on the ground.

While no tissues have been examined to determine cause of death, it is clear that foul play is unlikely. Poachers are not among the suspects as no one removed the elephant tusks. Poison is also not indicated, because predators did not become ill after feeding on the dead elephants.

Cyanobacteria are commonly occurring fresh and salt-water bacteria which can produce cyanotoxins and cause sudden death by asphyxiation. Under all too common conditions ponds and water supplies can become dangerously contaminated.

US multi agency project currently working on remote detection of toxic blooms

US Environmental Protection Agency’s Cyan Project uses satellite based remote sensing to identify toxic algae blooms from space.  The EPA has joined forces with NASA, NOAA and USGS to tackle this widespread water quality problem with a comprehensive automated solution. This project has been ongoing in the US since 2015.

Remote images capture water color which can be used to identify phytoplankton blooms and the presence of cyanobacteria. The Cyan Project is currently validating data collected via remote sensing and analysis against field collected data to determine the accuracy of the remote sensing acquisition process. US federal and state participants including government, educational institutions and private research groups together with published peer reviewed papers will provide a basis of comparison. Required data includes cyanobacteria counts, location and date.

If water quality analysis can be automated around the globe, IOT devices at ponds and lakes can generate audible water quality warnings immediately to deter humans and wildlife from drinking contaminated water. In the meantime, we must do our best to monitor water sources to protect all animals across the globe.

View  available data with android app CyAN

You can view currently available toxic bloom data in US water bodies on your android device . Just download CyAN from GooglePlay and try it:)

Marcy’s Nanotechnology Industry Drives Central NY Housing Shortage

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Nanotechnology Industry Drives Central NY Housing Shortage
Marcy magnet for home sales in central NY

by Linda Kaidan

As New York’s population decline continues Marcy’s Cree nanotechnology manufacturer draws real-estate buyers to our neighborhoods. Data from realtor.com shows that on 6/17/20 only 3 homes of any kind were available for sale in Marcy.

Proximity to Marcy is a strong indicator of reduced number of homes for sale.

Using realtor.com’s filter of all housing types including mobile, multi-family and single-family homes while excluding homes under contract, I collected statistics of homes for sale in 10 nearby communities. US census data provides population data.  The distance of each location to Marcy is derived from Google maps. I  also created an availability statistic which is a function of population and available homes for sale.

Distance to Marcy in miles Towns
1-10 Mohawk, Frankfort, Whitesboro, Rome, Utica, New Hartford
11-20 Herkimer
21-30 Little Falls, German Flats

The highest availability of homes for sale was found in Little Falls with one home for every 95 people.

In contrast, the lowest availability was found in Utica with one home available for every 905 people.

Lower availability of homes for sale suggests that we construct new affordable housing.

As internet purchasing outstrips brick and mortar retail establishments, outdated and defunct structures become available for re-purposing as residential communities. An example of  an outstanding makeover target is the abandoned Kmart located at 200 Washington St, Herkimer. This property has over 6.7 acres of sub-dividable land and is assessed at $2 million.  In convenient walking distance to numerous amenities, it also offers  relaxing views of the beautiful Mohawk Valley hills.

A close example of such an affordable housing construction project currently underway is the Snohomish County Washington site, formerly a Kmart.  Four hundred much needed residential units will replace the unused commercial area. Building energy efficient smaller homes with multi use and shared community spaces will positively impact our quality of life.

Affordable owner-occupied homes and improved public transportation will create a stronger community and a healthy local economy.

It’s clear that Marcy’s new nanotechnology industry drives Central NY housing shortage. But we can use this to our advantage by creatively creating affordable and accessible  housing alternatives. 

 

News of world’s largest semiconductor plant being built in Marcy New York causes boom in local real estate contracts

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By Linda Kaidan

World’s largest semiconductor plant being built in Marcy New York has an instant effect on our economy

Marcy is located near Utica, in Oneida County New York, just west of Herkimer. It is the future northern US site for Cree Inc, which will manufacture silicon carbide wafers used in electric vehicles and 5G technology. Close upon Cree’s announcement of their new facility in Marcy, in a matter of days the region experienced a boom in real estate contracts.

I was alerted to this when I noticed my Google maps photo views suddenly rise by 60,000 in a single day to over 600,000. As a Google Guide who focuses on Central New York, I was astounded by this dramatic increase and wanted to understand why. Guessing it was related to this momentous commitment to Mohawk Valley industrial development, I investigated the real estate statistics. I used realtor.com’s listings for Oneida County, which will be home to this world class manufacturing facility, and those of surrounding counties.  Using realtor.com’s filter tool, I compared total listings with listings not under contract.

Strong percent of real estates listings under contract of 25% to over 40%

Onondaga and Oneida counties, home respectively to Syracuse and Utica, have the highest volume of real estate contracts (see red counties on map), with over 45% of all listings under contract. Surrounding counties of Madison, Oswego, Herkimer, Cortland and Lewis (yellow counties), have 25% to 40% of their listings under contract.

The risk of coastal living diminishes when new jobs and homes are created in Central NY.

We can look forward to high quality jobs and an abundance of opportunities for contractors as a result of world’s largest semiconductor plant being built in Marcy New York. Creating jobs and incentives to live in central NY is a healthy way to counter the risks of coastal living.

Do what it takes to live ! Let’s survive our climate crisis

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by Linda Kaidan

Calling individuals, corporations and billionaires to fund climate emergency solution

Governments certainly haven’t gotten very far in solving worldwide climatic devastation. Perhaps over 2,000 billionaires worldwide can save earth by financing an immediate solution. A space mission parking a huge solar shade to reduce the solar radiation is probably achievable in a very short period of time and at a very low cost. Let’s do what it takes to live!

Reducing sunshine to cool the planet

Many years ago scientists came up with the idea of blocking some of the sun reaching earth by parking a huge shade in between the sun and earth at a relatively stable point in space called L1. They theorized that only 1 percent reduction could return our planet’s temperatures back to normal. It’s probably time to implement this stop gap solution, as we now face sudden and imminent flooding from melting Antarctic ice sheets and perilous increasing temperatures.

Launching stuff into space is pretty expensive, but some materials like aerogels weigh next to nothing.

Aerogels might weigh about 0.1 pounds per cubic foot. Slicing the material into 5mm thick sheets yields about 300 sf per 1/10 pound or 3000 sf per pound. One thousand pounds of aerogel can cover 3 million square feet, so 10,000 pounds will cover about 1 square mile. To cover the 600 square miles proposed by Lowell Wood of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, we might require 6 million pounds of material. At $10,000 per pound, the cost could add up to 6 trillion dollars and require 6,000 billionaires and corporations to contribute 1 billion dollars each.

We can reach the space parking point in just one or two days!

How long will it take to travel to the L1 parking point in space? L1 is about 1 million miles from earth. It will take two days or even less to get there.

We have the technology and the money to save Earth right now!

The longer we wait, the smaller our chance of survival. Rich people and corporations can save the earth by funding this practical and affordable geoengineering solution. The rest of us can do what it takes to live when we organize ourselves on a community basis by providing the necessary resources and actions for maintaining civilization.  

AMAZON tiny homes sellout!

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Tiny home/cabin for under $8000 including delivery sells out on Amazon

by Linda Kaidan

Affordable housing shortage drives soaring tiny home sales

“Over Half of Urban Renter Households Experience Some Form of Housing Insecurity.” It’s possible that Amazon’s May 2019 sellout of the DIY Allwood Garden House may be a result of this perilous state of US housing deficits.

Amazon’s new low-cost tiny home immediate sellout

This May Amazon posted a $7,250 DIY guest cabin/home that most anyone can  build in 8 hours. All available supplies were immediately sold out. When 2 people share such a space each would have a one time rent just under $303 a month for the first year and no rent thereafter.  Though initial reviews indicated that purchasers were critical of the product, they illustrated the strength of demand.

Great lack of affordable housing likely factor

The amazing popularity indicates the desire many people have to own their own home in a time when housing is not affordable for 50% of the population. Such a tiny property can lead to economic freedom from the rent treadmill. It also ensures housing security in a time when so many are homeless.

New off the shelf market will spark business opportunities

Food for thought about the living small market in general ties into real estate, cooperative housing and products supporting multi-use spaces in home construction and renovation. People need affordable homes. When they live tiny, they pay less for housing and use less energy.

Rewards for homeowners, investors and affordable housing seekers

If you are a homeowner think about adding this inexpensive space to your backyard for guests or as a workshop. If you are an investor, think about how you can make it easy for individuals to finance tiny home living.

Amazon shows us that it’s possible to live better for less and that profitable home products can fuel an industry that has great positive impact on how we live. It’s important to think of the tiny home as a place to begin. It’s a springboard for new ideas and learning from experience.

Think about how you can participate in this new housing trend that contributes to affordable living, green energy and many new related industries.

MIT nanotech breakthrough shrinks stuff: makes affordable climate change solutions possible!

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Linda J. Kaidan

Nanotechnology is important in greenhouse gas reduction. This game changing technology can seriously impact our ability to fight climate change.

Up until recently nanotech has been costly. MIT technologists have greatly reduced the cost of producing nanoscale products by using a new approach called Implosion Fabrication (ImpFab). It weakens electron repulsion and produces structures that are one thousand times smaller than the original through a kind of 3-d printing.

What does 1000 times smaller mean?

MIT breakthrough makes nanotech cheap! Nanotechnology has been costly to work with because conventional manufacturing processes could not be used. They could not be applied to work on such a tiny scale. With this invention, conventional techniques can be used to develop structures which can then be miniaturized.

How does the shrinking process work?

Large-scale objects are embedded in hydrogels and then shrunk to nanoscale using implosion fabrication. A 3-d molecular structure is created within a hydrogel. “The acid blocks the negative charges in the polyacrylate gel so that they no longer repel each other, causing the gel to contract.” Objects shrink to 1/1000 of their original size.

How can nano technology solutions help us fight climate change?

In 2014 UCSD’s Nanowerks team reported on their new nanotech solar solution capable of converting 90% of the sun’s light into heat. Such technology, once affordable, would clearly enable solar heat to become inexpensive and widely available.

Nanomaterials can also be used to reduce global pollution and environmental degradation. They are used to filter heavy metals from water and greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.

While this MIT nanotech breakthrough can help us heal our planet faster, it’s important that each of us do our fair share in creating our own sustainable solutions at the community level.