Thursday, January 31, 2008

Does H&R Block suck?


So I just got off the phone with the good people at H&R Block. They are the masterminds behind the popular income tax software TaxCut. And they've been kind enough to give me an opportunity to write a sequel to my amazingly popular post, "Does DirecTV suck?"

I've been using this software for the last several years to do our taxes. It's not a bad product. However, their customer service is, umm... how do I say this in polite company? ... asspoopy.

First off, since I have to register the software to get updates, they have my mailing address. And every year they send me a CD in the mail with TaxCut Premium Federal + State. Now, if you live in Ohio, you know that in many cases, figuring state income tax is easy enough that my kid could probably do it. The one that's not born yet.

So it would be stupid for me to pay an extra $20 or $30 for some program to copy the income line from my Federal return, ask me whether I want to donate a dollar to some cause or other, and spit out my total.

Now you would think... you would think that the "Federal + State" CD could be used to install the Federal portion only. But if you did think that, you wouldn't know H&R Block.

You would also think that downloading the software from their web site would cost less than buying a physical CD from a retailer. You'd be wrong again. In most cases, I'd forgo the physical disk and download it anyway, even if it did cost a little more. Call it environmental consciousness if you like, but a big part of it is convenience. However, when it comes to the IRS, I'd rather have physical copies of everything.

If by now you hadn't given up on trying to think like H&R Block, you might just think that if you did buy a physical CD, and that CD was defective, you could get help from the Toll Free number on the package.

Let me tell you what did happen.

I called.

I waited patiently.

A person! Woohoo! After providing name, rank, and serial number, I explained that the CD I just got from the store had a small crack. My computer couldn't read it. After trying to understand this highly complex and technical problem for a little while, the CSR finally told me I should take it back to the store. Yeah, does ANY store take opened software back? Not a chance!

I asked if there was any way to return the CD to H&R Block. Nope. I asked if there was any way to get a refund. Nope. I asked what options I actually did have. "Buy it again," says she. "Maybe I should use another service," says I. "I guess so," was her response. She seemed entirely at a loss as to how to get back to her Diet Coke and Tic-Tacs.

Meanwhile, I start wondering if by "customer service," they mean some euphamistic twist on Definition #10 of "service" in Merriam Webster. I kind of felt like I was getting serviced.

After several attempts at reason, logic, and a brief discussion on good business practices, it seemed we were at an impasse. I slapped my mobile phone shut. Only because I had an earpiece on (to possibly prevent my brain being turned into bread pudding), the line didn't disconnect.

And then the CSR says, "You're stupid."


After a brief and mildly ungentlemanly retort, I hang up. For real this time.

I immediately call back. I wait on hold again. I think I'm actually starting to develop a Pavlovian reaction (involving angst instead of salivation) to the sound of soothing music coming through the telephone.

I get a different person this time, of course, who puts me back on hold before I've even said a word. After the whole inquisition thing again, I ask for a supervisor.

When I finally get him on the line, I explain the two separate problems: The cracked CD and Miss Congeniality.

Turns out they do have a procedure for defective CDs after all. Of course it takes six weeks to get that refund. They can navigate the thousand-page tax code and get you your tax refund in 24 hours, but a defective disk takes a month and a half.

The supervisor apologized, and said he'd talk to the rep in question. He assured me that he wouldn't expect such a comment from her - perhaps she was talking to her neighbor, he postulated. Yeah, they were probably engaged in a philosophical discussion about which of them should be named Most Likely to Succeed.

So now, armed with a P.O. Box number in Kansas City, if I can find my Proof-of-Purchase, some soup labels and cereal box tops, a Notary Public, two laywers and a sherpa, I should have my money back by mid-March.

It may be interesting to some to know that H&R Block has been accused of racketeering, defrauding customers, and fraud again in the Enron case.

So.... Anybody used TurboTax?


Postscript: After all this, I received an email from somebody in the accounting department at work, telling me I took one too many vacation days last year, so they're docking my pay by a day on an upcoming paycheck. Never mind the fact that my boss's records and my records both indicate I didn't go over. Never mind asking me any questions. Never mind making up for it with this year's abundant time off. Just docking my pay. And the accounting person was apparently gone for the day before 4:00.

Tomorrow I shall post about warmth and happiness and light.



Wednesday, January 30, 2008

"When are you gonna blog about the cow?"

So, we're thinking of getting a family cow. The one in the picture, in fact. (The little red one, not the momma...) How's that for a way to use those "economic stimulus" funds?

Crazy, right? With a baby on the way?

Well, we've got fenced pasture and a barn full of hay. And we do miss the unlimited milk supply we had with the goats. And cow's milk would be much more versatile for us. Not to mention that beef is a better fit for us than chevon. (We wouldn't actually be milking for at least a year and a half, in case you're thinking about the baby and getting ready to call the men in white coats.)

Goats really are better in many ways. They're more efficient and less picky grazers. They are smaller. Their milk is better for the lactose intolerant people of the world (which is actually the majority, by the way). Their manure is more manageable.

For us though, they were not a perfect match. And who knows, a cow may not turn out to be an great fit either. I tend to think otherwise, which explains the existence of this post, I guess. And for you long-time Green, Blue, Brown readers, this may come as no surprise.

And really, you rarely learn anything by not trying it.

We wanted a smallish, hardy, multipurpose breed. Unfortunately, yaks aren't in abundance around here. We kicked around the idea of Dexters, but they are hard to find in our area, a little bit pricey, and their milk is apparently naturally homogenized, which was one thing we didn't like about the goat's milk. We thought about a Jersey or Gurnsey, but they're fairly milk-centric. Not a bad thing, per se, but not quite what we were after. We even looked into mini-Jerseys, but they were too expensive. There are Angus cattle around but those are a meat breed, of course. Holsteins are readily available, but they tend to be more about "maximizing production". It brings to mind a joke about an old-time dairy farmer keeping a barn full of Jerseys for the milk, plus one Holstein in case they ever need to put out a fire.

In the end, the American Milking Devon ended up at the top of my list. Despite the name, they're good for both meat and milk, and even draft power if I ever got really ambitious. They're a very old breed, and they're said to do well on pasture and hay alone, even while milking. And there are a couple breeders within a reasonable distance to us. [If you want to read a cool article about this breed (from an admittedly biased source), check this out.]

So after asking around a bit, we found - among various other options - a heifer calf who is one half Milking Devon and one half Angus. (Well, mostly one half Angus. Maybe a little Holstein or some other breeds mixed in.) She's got the trademark red color of the Devons, with no horns and a slightly beefier frame. And her price reflects her non-purebred status, which is good for us.

A couple weekends ago, when we went out to take a look at her and her herdmates, the temperature was well below freezing, with a biting wind that sent e5 scurrying back to the car before we got 100 feet. The cows were not in the barn. They weren't in the field shelter or behind the windbreak of trees. They were just out basking in the sun like there was a nice September breeze wafting through...

We're still working out the logistics and the financials, but we figure we're spending over $1200 a year on milk now, and that's not counting our next kid's eventual consumption. It's not counting the continuing price increases that are sure to come. It's also not counting any butter, cheeses, cream, yogurt and other dairy products. Or the inevitable offspring a cow would produce, which could either be sold or, well, frozen. Given the fact that we've already got fenced pasture and a barn, we could certainly keep a cow like this for less than $1200 a year.

So it's under serious consideration. Just so you know.


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Sunday, January 27, 2008

My job at Spacely Space Sprockets

I pulled an all-nighter last night. I knew going in that it was going to be a rough night. One of my employer's clients was doing a software upgrade, and I was the one with primary responsibility for a big chunk of it. Actually, they weren't doing one upgrade, they were doing four in a row. They were four releases behind the rest of our clients, and finally decided to catch up.

We started at about 5pm last night. My portion finished at about noon today. And we were actually about eight hours ahead of schedule when I handed it off. (I did have two other people helping, but I still didn't get to sleep until 8am, and then only for about two hours.

So anyway, somewhere around 3:00 this morning, it hit me that we are living in the future. In certain areas at least, we have capabilities that science fiction writers would have dreamed up when I was a kid.

I mean, seriously - Here I was, wandering from the recliner to the kitchen, with my wireless laptop in hand. This laptop, the size of a small city phone book, was using a wireless connection to a router that then sent signals to a satellite in geostationary orbit around the Earth.

On my screen was a window that allowed me to control a remote computer desktop to run the software upgrade. 100 miles away was another person, who was viewing that same remote desktop, as we took turns controlling the mouse and keyboard inputs at various stages. The software upgrade itself, was actually running on a server about 1000 miles away.

Meanwhile, in another window, while waiting for various processes to complete, I was watching three hours of high resolution video contained on a small thin disk read by lasers. I paused the video for a while to switch to a third window, to chat with my friend in Mumbai, about 8000 miles away.

And in yet another window, I had the capability to find virtually any piece of information I might want (like the distance from here to Mumbai) in mere seconds.

At three A.M., it was a little mind boggling.

That, and the fact that they found Bigfoot on Mars.


Career path

I've got some longer posts piling up in my head and in my camera, but I had to share this...

Yesterday, e5 worked out his career path. He's not yet five, but he's got ambitions. His plan is to start out as a Subway worker (the sandwich shop, not the underground trains). After acquiring a bit of work experience, he'll move on to firefighter. From there he'll go on to be a doctor. And finally, superhero. He said he's going to start exercising right away.



Friday, January 25, 2008

What kind of world do you want?

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Thursday, January 24, 2008

Going Nuts

Among the fifty other things I want to do this spring (besides that whole baby being born thing) is plant some trees. Specifically, I want to plant a bunch of nut trees. I’ve got apples and peaches already, and I’d dearly love to add cherries (especially since we’re in that magic zone where both sweet and pie cherry varieties can grow well). But for some reason, I think a windbreak/hedge of nut trees is where my focus is right now.

For one thing, nuts are far less finicky than fruits. They generally have fewer pest and disease problems, and they seem better suited to hedgerows and windbreaks - the latter of which we desperately need. They can provide mineral-rich calories for people or livestock. They can provide oil for various uses. Some can be coppiced for firewood or simple building materials. Food and shelter for wildlife. The list goes on and on. And you only have to plant them once.

The main type of nut hedge I’d like to plant is hazelnut. I like the nuts, they grow fast, their suitable for coppicing, and they work well as a hedge. I’m hoping to throw in a few chestnuts (Chinese or hybrid because of chestnut blight) as well for good measure.

Since I want to plant more than a few, and since they’ll need to be shipped, seedlings seem the most cost effective. I’ve been digging for good sources, so I thought I’d pass along a few that seemed to be the best, at least for me. I was looking for growers with responsible growing practices, who are in a climate not too far from mine. I also wanted to favor naturally propagated (open-pollinated, seed-grown) trees, for a more genetically diverse population.

Hazelnuts: Badgersett
You can buy seedlings in various sizes that will produce nuts of various sizes and levels of quality. These guys have spent a lot of time selecting and crossing for improved quality. They also sell hybrid chestnut seedlings, and will soon be adding hickories and butternuts. And you can buy actual nuts for eating from them as well. They’re based in Minnesota.

Chestnuts: Empire Chestnut
Similar to Badgersett, Empire has put a lot of effort into their craft. They’ve spent decades growing and selecting for quality and disease resistance. They sell Chinese, Chinkapin, timber hybrids, wildlife hybrids, seed chestnuts, and table nuts (in season). They are based in Ohio.

Variety: Oikos Tree Crops
Oikos sells a wide range of open pollinated and hybrid chestnuts, hazelnuts, pecans, hickories, and walnuts, along with fruits (including many North American natives), oaks, perennials, supplies, and on and on. They are based in Michigan.

Another good place to check for tree seedlings is your state Department of Natural Resources, Division of Forestry (or other analogous entity, depending on where you live). They often sell trees in bundles of 50 or 100. If you’ve got the space or a lot of friends to share with, this can be an extremely inexpensive way to plant a lot of trees.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Colloidal Silver, Part Four: Results

See Also:
- Colloidal Silver, Part one: Backstory
- Colloidal Silver, Part Two: Explanation
- Colloidal Silver, Part Three: Homebrew

[ Disclaimer: Any time you write about something related to health and medicine, it seems you need a disclaimer. So here's mine. I am not a doctor. I am not an expert. I cannot be responsible for what you do or don't do. I am not making any claims, nor selling a product. Be careful, be reasonable, be intelligent. Do your own research. I'm just hear to share some experiences. Insert all the standard disclaimers here: Void where prohibited. Not a Flying Toy. Do not taunt Happy Fun Ball. ]

So in Part One, I told you that it seemed to work for my nagging cough. Now that I can easily make it a quart at a time, I'm willing to try it on any number of minor things that I happen to think of. I'll adopt the Mythbusters convention of Busted, Plausible, and Confirmed, at least in the context of my own unscientific experiments. For my experience with the persistent cough, I'll call it's curative properties Plausible.

Most of the rest of these aren't necessarily things colloidal silver is supposed to fix, but I can't see any risk in trying. I mean, if it's really a cure-all, let's put it to the test. It's become a bit of a running joke for me. Headache? CS to the rescue! Scratched DVD? Pour some CS on it! Carpet stain? Where's the CS? But here's the list of things I actually did try, along with my anecdotal results.

Scratchy throat: After the holidays, colds are pretty much a given. Everybody travels to visit far-flung relatives with their many and varied germ pools (germsheds?). Afterward, they all come back to the office, to school, to church, to the grocery store... and share their miniature hitchhikers with everyone. We had a fairly minor cold come through, though it hit Lori the hardest. I teetered on the edge of sickness, and one night when my throat was feeling particularly scratchy, I gargled with some colloidal silver. A half an hour later, and that was the end of that. Did it fix it? I couldn't say for sure. But I'm filing that away for future testing. Plausible.

Dandruff: This was an interesting one. I've always had dandruff, and without washing every single day with dandruff shampoo, my scalp would get itchy and flaky, and my hair would get oily. And I'd be extra susceptible to bed head, hat head, and other such embarrassments. Depending on who you ask, dandruff seems to be fungal or yeast-oriented condition. Colloidal silver is supposed to have anti-fungal properties, right? Turns out, for me at least, it works better than the store-bought shampoo. Less itchy, less flaky, less oily. I'm calling this one Confirmed.

Bad breath: The odors that cause garlic breath are bacterial, right? So why not? I'd say it was more effective than just rinsing with water. In combination with toothpaste or mouthwash, I think there's a lot of potential. Plausible

Indigestion: I know, I know, this doesn't really fit the profile of what this stuff should cure, but hey, it's all in the name of pseudo-science. I mean, they used to think ulcers were caused by stress. Now they think they're caused by some kind of micro-organism. Sadly, this shot in the dark missed for me. Busted.

That red dot on top of my foot: A podiatrist once looked at it, said maybe it was a fibrous corn, and told me as long as it didn't cause any discomfort, to just forget about it. I was never confident of the specific diagnosis, but he's the doc, so I stopped worrying about it. Say, let's try putting a few drops of colloidal silver on it for a week and see what happens. Well, nothing. Busted.

Shower curtain mildew: Again, why not? I'm already using it in the shower for my hair. Why not splash some on that sneaky black stain in between the folds of the curtain at the same time? Ok, so it didn't really do much here. I don't know, maybe it killed the stuff, but it didn't make it go away. I guess I'll have to do a side-by-side comparison of whether it's easier to scrub it away with or without colloidal silver treatment. Inconclusive, but we'll call it Busted for now.

That's all I've come up with so far. I've used it on minor scratches, but without a side-by-side comparison, it's hard to know if it mattered. If I ever get two side-by-side scratches, maybe I can do a real test there. Here's hoping I don't have too many more reasons to test it. If nothing else, I'm sure I'll try it on some powdery mildew or other plant problems this summer.

So that's all I have to report for now. Time will tell if anything else comes along, or any of the plausible ones are repeatable...



Sunday, January 20, 2008

Colloidal Silver, Part Three: Homebrew

See also:
- Colloidal Silver, Part One: Backstory
- Colloidal Silver, Part Two: Explanation
Coming soon:
- Colloidal Silver, Part Four: Results

[ Disclaimer: Any time you write about something related to health and medicine, it seems you need a disclaimer. So here's mine. I am not a doctor. I am not an expert. I cannot be responsible for what you do or don't do. I am not making any claims, nor selling a product. Be careful, be reasonable, be intelligent. Do your own research. I'm just hear to share some experiences. Insert all the standard disclaimers here: Void where prohibited. Not a Flying Toy. Do not taunt Happy Fun Ball. ]

If you read this whole series, you'll notice I'm doing a lot of disclaiming and hedging and using lots of conditional words. The truth is that there hasn't been a ton of research on this, and there are many more anecdotes than published studies. Yesterday I referenced a source that says that there has not been a documented case of argyria (that permanent blue/gray skin condition) from low concentrations of colloidal silver. However, there have been cases of people contracting argyria from homemade colloidal silver. We usually don't know what concentrations or methods those people used. In fact, it's very hard to find out details about any of these cases at all.

And today I'm going to talk about how to make colloidal silver yourself. The information I have says the method I've ended up with will not cause argyria. But there are plenty of detractors out there, like this woman who contracted argyria and spends her time convincing people that colloidal silver is a bunch of hooey. And Quackwatch agrees. (Quackwatch is generally well respected, but has it's own critics.) You'll often hear of the case of Stan Jones, the Libertarian presidential candidate from Montana who contracted argyria from home made colloidal silver. But critics of this story say his methods were faulty. Back and forth it goes. So don't assume I know everything as fact. And since argyria can't be produced in animals or other artificial conditions, it may be a very tough question to answer. A lot of people use colloidal silver, and the number of actual cases of argyria is very small. So that's about all I can figure out on that front. If I ever start turning gray, I'll be sure to let you know... Meanwhile, on to the actual topic of this post.

To make colloidal silver, you need three key ingredients: Silver, electricity, and water. And to do this safely (disclaimer, disclaimer, disclaimer), we need to get fairly specific for each of these, so let's break them down:


This is actually fairly easy. You need very pure silver to do this. At least 99.9%, though it's just as easy to get 99.99% pure silver. 12 to 14 gauge wire is easy to find and to work with. I found two six inch lengths of 99.99% pure 14 gauge wire on eBay for about eight bucks. A local jeweler may be a good place to check as well.


I mentioned the uber-simple phone jack design in the previous post, but as it didn't work for me, we'll pass over that.

The traditional low-tech method for making colloidal silver is usually called the "three-nines" design. This is a dual reference to the three 9-volt batteries used and the three nines in the 99.9% purity of the silver you need. The very simplest battery-based design has you snapping the three batteries to each other in a staggered fashion that's easier to see a picture of than to describe. I don't have a picture handy, and when I tried this method, the middle battery became very hot and started hissing, so let's just call that one Not Recommended. From there I got some little 9-volt battery snaps from Radio Shack and wired them together in series. I added a little on/off switch and a lightbulb to test whether the connections were good. Honestly, after several experiments, at this point I'd pass on any 9-volt battery based design. It's inconsistent, and the results end up quite a bit murkier than I'd like.

Another method is to take the power supply from an old cordless phone or other device, cut the end off, split and strip the wires, and hook each to a length of silver wire submerged in water. Higher voltages are supposed to be better, so a 12-volt transformer would be preferred over a 4.5 volt one. If you're uncomfortable playing with wires in such a manner, you can buy a 12-volt adapter from Radio Shack that has two holes at the end of the cord that fit 12 to 14-gauge silver wire perfectly. This type of setup is supposed to work well, but like the phone jack method, I couldn't get any results at all. User error, I'd assume, but I didn't feel like spending a lot of time on it.

The one I finally settled on for myself was to take an old solar-powered car battery trickle charger I had laying around, and using it as my power source. You can find these on eBay as well, for about $25 or less. No batteries needed, nothing to plug into a wall socket, and for me it gave good results. Some electrical tape and a couple alligator clip wire ends, and I was in business.


This was more significant than I expected. I knew that tap water wouldn't work, but I thought that our fancy water filter would do the trick. But I think the fact that our water is softened, and therefore slightly saline was the problem. I don't think any water filter can take salt out of solution. Otherwise there'd be no need to build multi-million dollar desalination plants in some parts of the world. Anyway, the salt content was high enough that my little test lightbulb lit up even without the wires touching in the water. And the results were not good. Bottled water was better, but still not acceptable. It turns out that distilled water is really the only way to go.

Other stuff

You'll need some sort of vessel to make the stuff in. I'm using a mason jar with a plastic lid. (A metal lid wouldn't be a great idea since we're working with electricity.) I drilled two holes in it about an inch and a half apart for the wires to go through. You want the wires mostly in the water, parallel to each other, and an inch or two apart.

You may also want some sort of electrolyte to accelerate the whole process. "Electra who?" Okay, you've got three easy choices: salt, honey, or vitamin C (ascorbic acid) powder. The book I'm using recommends the vitamin C powder as the best option. And we're talking a tiny, tiny amount. The author uses a square wooden toothpick as a spoon. I just use the smallest amount I can manage to pinch between my fingers. Too much and you'll end up with a grayish cloudy mess.

So that's the parts list.

Here's the end result for my particular setup:

The solar panel is taped to a small wooden block to give it a nice 45-degree angle. My little multi-meter says it generates about 15 volts through the window screen and glass on a sunny day. Or 20+ if I put it outside. But I haven't found any need to. The two wires that come out of the panel are hooked to my two silver wires by way of little alligator clips. Some tape to hold it together, and then just aim it at the sun for about half a day. The higher your voltage, the quicker your results, though faster isn't necessarily better. I had much better results from the 15-volt solar charger than I did with the 27-volt "three nines" design.

If everything's working, you may see some bubbles forming on one or possibly both of the wires. One or both may also darken. If it looks like it's giving off big gray smoky wisps, or if the wire is getting really black, it may not be going well. You can clean the wire off periodically, and this may help. Or it may not be enough. If the water turns gray and/or cloudy, it's not going well. When you're done, you can use a clean scrubbing pad (like ScotchBrite) to clean the wires off.

As for the liquid, what you want to end up with is something that has a golden color to it, about like a cheap American beer. It may have a blueish or grayish tinge to it that comes and goes depending on the light source or angle. But you don't want a really cloudy gray.

Here's a photo of a good batch (foreground) and the start of a problem batch (background). On the background batch, you can see there's some pretty smoky looking wisps coming off the wires.
I didn't clean off the silver wires with my little srubby pad before starting. Usually I stop and clean them every so often while the batch is "brewing", but I couldn't find the pad and didn't really need to make more anyway. I just set this up for photos.

If you shine a flashlight (or sunlight) through good colloidal silver, you'll see the beam of light converge almost to a point as it passes through the liquid. This is a form of the Tyndall effect, and is supposed to indicate a good batch (disclaimer, disclaimer, disclaimer). Here's a photo to illustrate:

For a cool little science experiment, don't put the electrolyte in right away. Wait for 15 or 30 minutes. The water will probably still be clear. Drop in the electrolyte and it'll instantly start turning the water yellowish.

Anyway, that's all I've learned about making colloidal silver. If I get a bad batch, I just use it for non-internal purposes. Homemade colloidal silver can be inexact. But as a commenter on the previous post points out, even if you buy it from somebody else, you need to do your homework on which companies are reputable.

I've tried using colloidal silver for a wide variety of (mostly trivial) things... which I'll tell you about that in the next post.



Thursday, January 17, 2008

Colloidal Silver, Part Two: Explanation

See also:
- Colloidal Silver, Part One: Backstory
Coming soon:
- Colloidal Silver, Part Three: Homebrew
- Colloidal Silver, Part Four: Results

[ Disclaimer: Any time you write about something related to health and medicine, it seems you need a disclaimer. So here's mine. I am not a doctor. I am not an expert. I cannot be responsible for what you do or don't do. I am not making any claims, nor selling a product. Be careful, be reasonable, be intelligent. Do your own research. I'm just hear to share some experiences. Insert all the standard disclaimers here: Void where prohibited. Not a Flying Toy. Do not taunt Happy Fun Ball. ]

Much of the information in this post is from a book called Colloidal Silver - @ntibiotic Superhero. The author is listed as Johnny Silverseed. [I'm not linking to the book so that I don't get any Amazon commission on referred sales. Just trying to remain as unbiased as possible here. Plus, I'n not exactly giving it a ringing endorsement below. I'm sure you can find it if you want.]

The book actually came with a tiny colloidal silver generator, consisting of a plastic RJ-11 phone line terminator (like the thing at the end of the phone cord that plugs into the wall), with two silver wires sticking out of it. The idea is that you can make colloidal silver by just using the voltage present in a phone line. (I tried it but it didn't seem to work. I didn't spend a lot of time trying to figure out why.)

The book itself is no great work of literature. Parts of it are hard to parse, vague, or disorganized. It reads more like a collection of somebody's research notes than a book. The photo quality is pretty bad. But, having said that, the information I wanted was all there, complete with references.

I mentioned in the previous post that colloidal silver was widely used prior to World War II. The interesting thing is that it was used in concentrations thousands of times higher than what you'll find today. At those high doses, argyria was well within the realm of possibility. Even so, I haven't been able to find many reports or references to any other types of toxicity or negative side effects to high doses. This article shows what an extreme case of argyria looks like, and it does mention the possibility of kidney and liver damage and brain seizures due to heavy metal poisoning from high exposure. The only other references to toxicity I can find are vague in that they combine colloidal silver, silver salts, silver chloride, silver iodine, silver protein, etc. This article goes into some detail specifically on the question of toxicity of low-level consumption of colloidal silver. And here is the EPA's highly technical report which seems to conclude that it won't cause cancer, but doesn't indicate much beyond that from what I can tell.

According to the book, there are three tiers of colloidal silver. For simplicity's sake, I'll call them, small, medium, and large, in reference to the size of the colloid molecules. A solution with very small molecules (clusters of only a few atoms each) is undesirable because it can affect beneficial bacteria. This solution will be clear. A solution with very large molecules is undesirable because it creates a risk of argyria. This solution will appear gray. In between is the target zone, with the solution turning a golden color, putting it in the 10 to 50 parts per million range, which is thought to be the most effective. (More on that in the next post.) This golden form of colloidal silver is supposed to prevent argyria, and I've seen several sources that say that no documented cases of argyria exist from people using colloidal silver in the 10-50 ppm range.

So how does it work? Well, I'm not a molecular biologist, but according to Silverseed's book, the most widely accepted theory seems to be that anaerobic bacteria seem to attract silver ions and are soon overwhelmed. Luckily, the beneficial bacteria in our bodies are aerobic, and produce colloidal enzymes which prevent them from being affected by the silver ions. Viruses seem to be prevented from entering host cells, or if already inside a host cell, they attract silver ions which prevent the virus from functioning properly. (This is from pages 9 & 10 of the aforementioned book, which cites the work of Dr. Peter L. Reynolds.)

Okay, so check out this partial list of ailments that have, at one time or another, been treated with colloidal silver:
Athlete's foot
Anthrax bacilli
Bladder infection
Ear infections
E. Coli
Polio virus I
Staphylococcus Auroros
Staphylococcus Pyogenea
Staphylococcus Pyogens Albus
Staphylococcus Pyogens Aureus
Vincent's angina
Whooping cough

Now please, if you have appendicitis or tuberculosis or whatever, don't rely on something you read on some blog that one time. But in an emergency situation, with no other alternatives available, I'd probably rather try it than do nothing.

The author even touches on some research relating to certain types of cancer, but I'm hesitant to even mention it for fear of giving somebody false hope. Is there some microbial agent involved in some types of cancer? I really don't know. You're totally on your own for the serious stuff.

On the lighter side, the author mentions keeping some in a spray bottle for use around the house: spray stinky shoes or pet bedding, disinfect countertops, various personal hygiene uses, helping ailing pets, keeping fruits and veggies fresh longer, fungal problems in plants, keeping cut flowers fresh longer, preventing mold and mildew in showers, etc.

Worth a shot?

Up next:
Colloidal Silver, Part Three: Homebrew



Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Colloidal Silver, Part One: Backstory

Coming soon:
- Colloidal Silver, Part Two: Explanation
- Colloidal Silver, Part Three: Homebrew
- Colloidal Silver, Part Four: Results

[ Disclaimer: Any time you write about something related to health and medicine, it seems you need a disclaimer. So here's mine. I am not a doctor. I am not an expert. I cannot be responsible for what you do or don't do. I am not making any claims, nor selling a product. Be careful, be reasonable, be intelligent. Do your own research. I'm just hear to share some experiences. Insert all the standard disclaimers here: Void where prohibited. Not a Flying Toy. Do not taunt Happy Fun Ball. ]

If you've never heard of colloidal silver, or if you've heard of it but don't know much about it, you're right where I was a few months back. In my ongoing quest to transition from semi-normal everyman to certified nut-bucket, I bring you this four-part series.

Colloidal silver is old-time medicine - pre-World War II. It's been used as an antibiotic (both topical and internal), antifungal, antiviral. And the first thing to keep in mind that a hundred years ago, infectious diseases like pneumonia, influenza and tuberculosis were the leading cause of death.

Also, while silver sulfadiazine and silver nitrate are still used medicinally, colloidal silver has been demoted to "supplement" status. Improper use can give you a condition called argyria, which will give your skin and soft tissues a permanent gray hue. The FDA says this about human use, and this about use on livestock. (Surely, the FDA is immune to outside influence.)

On the flip side, proponents say colloidal silver will solve anything from a runny nose to stinky feet. In fact, you can probably find somebody out there who will tell you it cures AIDS, autism, bird flu, cancer, and anything else you want to name. Let's just say I don't plan on any such tests.

But back to the story.

Starting last fall, I developed a nagging cough that just wouldn't go away. After two weeks of coughing to the point of having a constant headache, I went to the doctor. She gave me amoxicillin and some cough syrup with codeine. Neither really helped at much, other than the codeine making me sleepy. Color me not surprised.

After 10 days of starter antibiotics, and another week after that with no improvement, I figured a Z-pack (zithromax) was next. (It was.) I didn't have especially high hopes, since it seems like antibiotics are becoming less effective every day. And I wasn't really convinced it was bacterial anyway, though a virus doesn't normally hang on so tenaciously.

So in the meantime, I did a some reading, asked around a bit, and decided to buy a little jar of colloidal silver from the local herbal store. For $16.98 I was the proud owner of two ounces of this reputed cure-all. Ouch. But if it worked, it'd be worth it.

It seemed to work. After six weeks of frustration, the cough went away. Maybe my immune system finally kicked in. Maybe the Z-pack deserves some credit. Or the placebo effect. I didn't much care.

But I got interested enough in colloidal silver to give it another chance. One problem: The price. $8.49 per fluid ounce is a bit steep.

Well, it turns out that with a few inexpensive bits and pieces, you can make it yourself. (You can also spend a hundred bucks to buy a "generator", but that didn't seem practical to me.) So I bought a book to fill in some details for me.

Next up: Colloidal Silver, Part Two: Explanation



Thursday, January 10, 2008

Two totally unrelated items to share

First, one of my best friends in the world has started a blog, so I thought I'd plug it here. It's about the ins and outs of getting a rock band off the ground. After assembling the band in mid-2007, they're already playing all over the SF Bay area, and they've even done a SoCal trip that included a gig at the famed Whisky a Go Go. So go-go check it out.


Second, I have to share a funny kid story. This morning e5 was doodling on this little white board we have. He was drawing eggs. Nests of eggs, bags of eggs, baskets of eggs, eggs with stripes and spots (sometimes both at the same time). I wish I'd gotten a picture of one egg in particular before he erased it. I asked him about it and he told me the egg had spots that looked like eyes and a mouth, to scare away animals that might try to eat it. And I gotta tell ya, if I found an egg like that, I don't think I'd eat it either. It looked like a cross between a skull and Edvard Munch's "The Scream". The latest in evolutionary innovations...

Of course he had to erase it in order to draw a four-armed, four-legged robot in an underground, water-filled cave, waiting for an excuse to emerge and destroy nearby villages.

The artist giveth, and the artist taketh away.


Monday, January 07, 2008


Everybody's hauling out their 2008 predictions right now. Most of them are a bit, um, bleak. Most of them are also a tad vague.

I thought I'd inject a tiny bit of fun by making some relatively specific predictions. Let's check back in a year so we can all have a good laugh at my expense (I hope).

Off we go then...

- The US average for a gallon of gasoline will top $3.50 at some point - OR - there will be spot shortages somewhere in the US.

- The Dow Jones Industriral Average will drop below 11,000

- Michael Bloomberg will enter the presidential race as an independent, and he will make a better showing that Ross Perot.

- The US banking industry will consolidate further, with at least one mega-merger (e.g. Chase + Citi)

- Credit card defaults will experience a double-digit increase

- Gardening (the edible kind, not the aesthetic kind) will continue it's huge resurgence

- "Peak Oil" will become a household word. Er, phrase

- Peak oil will become politicized almost immediately thereafter, a la global warming. Daniel Yergin may even get a government appointment out of it, depending on who's elected.

- Instant gratification special: Ohio State will be LSU by more than a touchdown in the BCS Championship game tonight.

- Vague prediction special: Some huge event will happen sometime this year that will keep us glued to our news sources for days




A few days ago I shoveled about a ton and a half of free topsoil into the back of our pickup truck. I was planning to use it to alleviate some drainage problems around our foundation. The damp basement is not good. So I had this idea that I would load as much as I could stand on Friday, unload it on Saturday, and go back for more on Sunday. But on Saturday, after a night in the pickup truck bed, the dirt was frozen about four inches deep. I broke it up a bit with a mattock and did get maybe a fourth of it unloaded, but at that point the wind chill and the sweat were turning into a bad combination. So I gave up my plan. I decided I'd just wait for a thaw to do the rest, and hope for some more free topsoil another time.

Not a fascinating story, per se. But you know the part about the dirt freezing four inches into the pile overnight? And the wind chill forcing me inside? On Saturday. It's 70 degrees right now, by Fahrenheit's thermometer. On Monday. Our windows are all open. Motorcycles are out in full force. The kids are all playing outside.

What. The. Hell. What month is it anyway?


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Sunday, January 06, 2008

Some photos... because I can

Prairie Chickens
Yeah, that's working great...

"Squaawk! Kiki want a cracker!"
Kiki is the kitty who has adopted our barn as his home base -
which is fine by me. I haven't seen a rodent in weeks.
The squadron of feed-thieving sparrows are still present,
but they're not nesting in there any more.
(Photo credit to e5...)

"Pssst. Alice.... Check her out."

"Aw, %!$$ off. Ain't you ever seen someone molting before?"


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Thursday, January 03, 2008

I'm easily amused today

Yes, welcome to Green Blue Brown Junior High. Sorry, I don't have anything more insightful to share today...