Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Da Vinci Code and State of Fear – What do they have in common?

Da Vinci Code and State of Fear – What do they have in common?

The recent controversy over Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code book and movie brings to mind another recent book by Michael Crichton’s State of Fear. Both are promoted as fictional stories based on “facts”. What else is eerily similar about the two?

Just to summarize, The Da Vinci Code is about Christ and Mary Magdelene who, Dan Brown writes, were married and had a child who escaped to the south of France and it is this “holy grail” that is in reality the blood line of Christ that is being hidden from the public and guarded by a secret society down through the ages. The Catholic Church has been paying large sums of money to keep this quiet and to preserve their power and influence. The list of secret grandmasters includes Da Vinci and numerous other famous artists and scientists and intellectuals who have left various enigmatic clues in their works to enlighten the curious. A murder mystery provides the backdrop for this story.

In the case of State of Fear, Michael Crichton has created a fictional account of a non-profit organization using deception on a grand scale to convince the public the dangers of Global warming and in the process raising tons of money for research that is never ending. They exaggerate the data to support their theory and ignore others that contradict them. They are even willing to kill mass innocent people to achieve their goals. The end justifies the means philosophy not unlike Marxist tactics in the past.

At first, these seem like two very different stories and both highly successful fictions that were on the New York Times bestsellers list for a very long time.
On a closer examination, there are strange similarities that are hard to ignore.
Both subjects are dealing with ideologies that are based mostly on faith. The Resurrection of Christ and human caused Global warming are both based more on faith than facts.
I must make a distinction here about “global warming” the phenomenon and “global warming” the theory. It is true that we are experiencing a period of temperature raising around the globe in recent years however that does not translate automatically to the fact that human activities in the late 20th century is the cause. The theory that global warming is caused by fossil fuel and CO2 emissions is the article of faith that we are asked to accept. The Earth has gone through numerous periods of warming and cooling cycles in the past. What portion of that is due to human activity is the big question.
It is almost like “religion” that the mass majority of students are taught that humans harm the environment and that human activities cause global warming. Ask any elementary school children and they will give you this matter of fact response. The same can be said of Christ if you ask any Christian about their belief in the resurrection.

I have strong personal opinions on both and I will state them right now. I am a Roman Catholic by conversion. I do belief in Christ and the Word of God – the Bible. I also believe there is evil in this world and the devil is behind the evil doers. Therefore to me, the Da Vinci Code is a provocative fictional story that tries to attack my faith and undermine the teachings of my Church though in a subtle way. It is a fast paced action filled story with twist and turns which includes puzzles that are fascinating to solve. It is a work of fiction. It also contains some innuendos and falsehoods that harm a real organization called Opus Dei. That is unacceptable for a fictional story to implicate a real organization. There should have been a disclaimer at the front of the book and the movie.

On Global warming, I also have a strong opinion that is contrary to conventional wisdom.
My belief is based on my training as an engineer and scientist and on my common sense. It is hard to explain away the past history of our planet which consisted of numerous warm and cold cycles in the absence of fossil fuel which only came into existence in the last 100 years or so. It is naïve for us to believe that we can affect the global climate when we are so small in the grand scheme of things. We have done a lot in science to help predict the weather in short periods but we are no way close to changing or controlling our climate. Especially in the face of other natural disasters such as earth quakes, volcanic activities and even extra terrestrial meteorites, it is hard to imagine that we can do much to affect our Earth’s climate.

As far as the claim of a hoax by the Catholic Church regarding the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Christ, I have a strong argument to counter. If the whole thing is a hoax, how do you explain the Apostles who were witness to many of the workings and teachings of Christ, who were persecuted for their beliefs and who died defending their faith? Would you or any sane person do so to perpetrate a hoax?
Also, a more revealing question should be asked and not addressed by Dan Brown, is why would the descendants of Christ want to participate in this hoax down the years?
What do they have to gain by going through all this secrecy and treachery? Wouldn’t you want to clear your family name if you are a true descendant of Christ? The bottom line is conspiracy theories are abundant but very few stand the test of time. Knowing human nature, at some time and some point, the falsehood comes to light and the whole thing falls apart at the seams. On the other hand, who can make predictions that comes true 100% of the time? Who has made such impact on our civilization 2000 years later after His death? Who is worshiped around the world without coercion but by their own will?
Who gave the most precious gift of all – his own life to save a friend? Who has lived by the Golden rule and is without sin? I can go on and on but I don’t have to. I’m convinced that Jesus is the Lord and Savior and his Kingdom will never end. He lives in our hearts.

The big question for global warming activists is what part of global warming is due to human activity? If the contribution is 2%, then the argument is moot. If however, they claim it is 25% or more, then that’s a different ballgame. I read an account of the eruption of Krakatoa in 1883. It describes the following:
Here are some highlights from their summary of effects:
1. The explosions were heard on Rodriguez Island, 4653 km distant across the Indian Ocean, and over 1/13th of the earth's surface.
2. Ash fell on Singapore 840 km to the N, Cocos (Keeling) Island 1155 km to the SW, and ships as far as 6076 km WNW. Darkness covered the Sunda Straits from 11 a.m. on the 27th until dawn the next day.
3. Giant waves reached heights of 40 m above sea level, devastating everything in their path and hurling ashore coral blocks weighing as much as 600 tons.
4. At least 36,417 people were killed, most by the giant sea waves, and 165 coastal villages were destroyed.
5. When the eruption ended only 1/3 of Krakatoa, formerly 5x9 km, remained above sea level, and new islands of steaming pumice and ash lay to the north where the sea had been 36 m deep.
6. Every recording barograph in the world documented the passage of the airwave, some as many as 7 times as the wave bounced back and forth between the eruption site and its antipodes for 5 days after the explosion.
7. Tide gauges also recorded the sea wave's passage far from Krakatoa. The wave "reached Aden in 12 hours, a distance of 3800 nautical miles, usually traversed by a good steamer in 12 days".
8. Blue and green suns were observed as fine ash and aerosol, erupted perhaps 50 km into the stratosphere, circled the equator in 13 days.
9. Three months after the eruption these products had spread to higher latitudes causing such vivid red sunset afterglows those fire engines were called out in New York, Poughkeepsie, and New Haven to quench the apparent conflagration. Unusual sunsets continued for 3 years.
10. Rafts of floating pumice-locally thick enough to support men, trees, and no doubt other biological passengers-crossed the Indian Ocean in 10 months. Others reached Melanesia, and were still afloat two years after the eruption.
11. The volcanic dust veil that created such spectacular atmospheric effects also acted as a solar radiation filter, lowering global temperatures as much as 1.2 degree C in the year after the eruption. Temperatures did not return to normal until 1888.
Does this sound like anything remotely close to what we humans can do today or any period in our history? How can we be the cause of global warming when a volcanic eruption can affect Earth’s weather over 3 years period?
For those who are spiritual and yet anti-established religion, I have a few comments which you might want to consider. Don’t focus on the 5% bad that the Church is involved in to justify your conviction. Don’t forget the other 95% good that the Church performs everyday. The Church is made up of humans and as we all know, humans have flaws. We should all have faith in God but not in man or his institutions. The Church is necessary as an organization to promote and spread the Good News. It is not perfect. It is unfair to criticize the Church and hold it responsible for the evil that is in some man. The Priest sex scandal is not an indictment of all Catholics and the Roman Catholic Church. Catholic Charities does a lot of good all over the world.

One final observation, both of these “theories” are due for a showdown in not too distant future. If you belief in the claims of the global warming alarmist, in a few short decades, our climate changes will have devastating effect on our planet including coastal flooding, mass species extinctions and natural disasters. If you belief the religious fundamentalist, they claim that we are living in the last days. This generation will not pass when Christ’s second coming will be preceded by various global catastrophes and leading to Armageddon, where good will triumph over evil.

Jack C. Lee
May 29, 2006

Friday, May 12, 2006

How to repair Palm Tungsten E2 (replace battery)

How to replace the rechargeable battery on a Palm Tungsten E2:

Tools required:

1. TORX T5 screw driver (gotten from web or included as part of the battery order)
2. Small flat tipped screw driver (i.e. for repair of glasses)
3. glue

Part required:
Replacement battery (Palm Tungsten E2 Replacement Battery 1050mAh GA1Y41551) – approx. cost $20 on eBay.
1. Turn over the Palm PDA on the backside and place on a flat surface.
2. Use the TORX screw driver and remove the 4 screws at the corners.
3. Use the small flat screwdriver and separate the bottom half of the case from the body. Be careful not to probe too deep into the device. Work slowly around all the edges and slowly rock the 2 parts apart. There are 4 slots on the sides that hold the 2 parts together. There is not too much room for the 2 pieces to be separated due to the wire connection between the battery and the mother board.
4. Once apart, the battery is located on the back side of the case with a small wire connected to a connector that is plugged on the mother board.
5. Use the small flat screw driver to separate the connector and the two parts should be free.
6. Again use the small flat driver and pry off the battery from the back of the case.
7. Replace the new battery in the same position and orientation using a small amount of glue to hold it in place.
8. Plug the wire onto the mother board, the plug is keyed and will only go in one way. Push to snap in place.
9. Replace the back by aligning the four screws and carefully snap into place.
10. Replace the four screws using the TORX screw driver. Do not over tighten.

Recharge fully and perform "reset". Good as new!!!

Jack Lee
May12, 2006

Monday, May 08, 2006

Personal Finance 101

Personal Finance 101

1. Credit cards - Never use a debit card. They can incur fees and also
if lost can cause losses to your account. Obtain a credit card that gives
rebates. Some card will give you 1% back on all your purchases each month.
Always pay off your monthly balance - on time. Never let the revolving
credit kick in. They can charge you as high as 18% interest or more on your
balance month after month.

2. Banking - Select a bank that will provide free-checking and have low
minimum balance requirements. Always maintain the minimum balance in the
account or they will charge you fees every time you go below the balance.
Pick an on-line bank such as ING which currently pays (4.15% interests as of
4/2006) which is much higher than any commercial bank. They will allow you
to link the account to any checking account from another bank so that you
can transfer money back and forth within a day.

3. Retirement saving - If your company has a 401K plan, you should take
advantage of it. They usually have a match percent as incentive to enroll.
If you can, put away the maximum percent allowed. This will give you "free"
money and will compound tax free until you retire. It is the best saving for
your retirement. The earlier you enroll, the most you will get out of it.

4. Compounding formula - the Rule of 72. The rule says that to find the
number of years required to double your money at a given interest rate, you
just divide the interest rate into 72. For example, if you want to know how
long it will take to double your money at eight percent interest, divide 8
into 72 and get 9 years. If you at age 22, put away $5000 per year, for 43
years with 6% interest compounded monthly, you will have over $1 Million
dollars by age 65. Never underestimate the power of compounding - Time is on
your side.

5. Taxes - You should always try to minimize your income taxes by legal
means. By itemizing your deductions, you can reduce your taxes. Keep good
records, and save your receipts.

6. The best deduction is your home mortgage. Your house is usually your
most valued possession. When you are young, save for the down payment,
usually 20% of the sale price. Once you have it, buy a starter home. Once
you have a house, you can use "leverage" to work for you and also get the
mortgage tax deduction. It's like getting a double bonus. Leverage comes
when you buy something of value with borrowed money. When the value of the
house goes up, you are making a huge return on your small investment. When
you are ready to trade up, you will have enough equity built in so that it
won't be so painful.

7. Credit Score - It is very important to maintain a good credit score.
This will allow you to obtain a lower rate loan. To get a good credit score,
make sure you pay all your bills on-time. You can get a free copy of your
credit report once a year. Checkout www.freecreditreport.com

8. Passive Investments - (Mutual Funds) - If you don't want to actively
manage your investments, select a no fee (no load) mutual fund such as
Vanguard family of funds. Put your extra funds (savings) into the fund on a
regular basis (monthly or every pay period). This will automatically "dollar
cost average" your investments. Check the statements once or twice a year to
see how well your fund is doing compared to others and if necessary move it
around to get the better returns.

9. Active investments - (Stocks) - If you want to actively trade
stocks, you need to do your homework. You will need to monitor your stocks
on a daily or weekly basis. You should only buy stocks you know (companies
you understand) and buy through a discount broker that charge low fees ($7
per trade). Buy stocks using limits. Don't over pay for a stock. Once you
buy it, put an automatic "stop loss order" on it so that if the value of the
stock drop below 10% of your purchase price, it will automatically sell and
thereby minimizing your total loss. You also need to diversify your
holdings. Don't put more than 5% of your total investments in any given
stock. Try to pick companies from different business sectors. Recently, the
energy sector and the precious metals sector have done extremely well. Don't
be too greedy. Once you make 25% gain, you should cash out some to preserve
your winnings.

10. Budgeting - You need to setup a simple budget that tracks all your
expenses, on a monthly basis. Make sure you include items that you pay
annually such as insurance, taxes.Check this against your income and see
what the delta is. Any extra money left should be put into your savings
account. You will need about 6 months of funds for your emergency - such as
if you loose your job. You must adjust your spending to within your income
level. Don't forget, even millionaires can go broke. If you spend more than
you make - you will go broke. That is true with income of $1 Million or
$20,000 per year. You must live within your means.

11. Charity - You should always count your blessings and donate a small
percentage of your income to Charity. It is tax deductible.

12. Debts - Avoid any debt, personal or business. Debts should only be
incurred for a house or a car or emergencies. When ever possible, pay off
your debts. You will sleep better and have less stress. You will feel "free".

-Jack C. Lee


May 7, 2006

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Two views of America in 2006

Two views of America in 2006

Depending on whether you are a “half full” or “half empty” kind of person when it comes to current view of our country, here is the run down as I see it.

Economy –
It is running on all cylinders, unemployment is low, corp. earnings is high, stock market near 6 years high, inflation is in check, home ownership all time high, construction booming all around, foreign trade is up and GDP is at a healthy pace…

Wages are stagnant, saving rate low, more jobs are outsourced overseas, record trade deficit, record national debt, fraud common on wall street, CEO compensation through the roof, unions are toothless and minimum wage have not increased in 6 years, inflation on the rise, millions of illegal workers are living in the shadows, more people are in debt and not saving enough for their retirement…

Iraq War / war on terror –
We have liberated 25 Million Iraqis from a brutal dictator. They have experienced democracy first hand and have had free elections and have created a government. The Iraqi army and police are being trained to take over and they are dealing with an insurgency. Al Qaeda is on the run and we are defeating them slowly but surely.

We went to war in Iraq under false pretenses. The country is on the brink of civil war. US soldiers are dying for no good reason. We are making enemies worldwide. We are one attack away from another 9/11 or worse. The UN is doing what it can to bring peace and we are mucking it up. Bin Laden is still on the loose and releasing tapes and calling for our destruction. We are less safe than before 9/11.

Energy Crisis –
We are having a temporary logistic problem and therefore causing local supply shortages which lead to increase prices at the pump. We are still paying much less for gas compared to the Europeans. The global economy and China and India are what’s driving the extra consumption of fuel which is a good sign for the global economy. The high prices are just a normal supply/demand issue and not a sign of inflation.

The large oil companies are working in conjunction with the Administration to gouge the American consumer. They are destroying our environment and causing global warming. We are in an unjust war in Iraq because of our desire for cheap oil. We are driving our SUV’s back to the stone age.

Homeland Security / Illegal Immigration/FEMA –
We are making progress in securing our homeland. We learned some deficiencies in the after math of Katrina and we are making adjustments. However, the lesson should be that we can not rely completely on government for keeping us safe. We need to be proactive in trying to protect our family and our homeland.

Our borders are not secure. Illegal immigration is rampant. FEMA is broken and un-fixable. The government is totally ineffective in protecting the most vulnerable. It is wasting our tax dollars and we are less safe today than pre-9/11.

Cultural War –
We are winning and the best example is the latest 2 appointments to the Supreme Court by President Bush. Faith is on the rise in America and we are a compassionate and tolerating people. People are not afraid to say “Merry Christmas” and challenge the ACLU on a host of issues relating to religious symbols in the public square.

There is no war on Christmas. It is only in the imagination of the far right. We are in danger of losing abortion rights. Roe v. Wade is near to be overturned. We are losing our privacy and the protection of the Bill of Rights. We are being spied upon without a court order. People are being thrown into jail with due process as in Guantanamo Bay. The Christian right have taken over our government and pushing to ban gay marriage.

The truth lies somewhere in between. The question is - Which view do you want to take and which view do you want to cheer for?


Monday, May 01, 2006

Official response from Exxon Corp.

This is the official letter from Exxon in response to my letter regarding the $400 Million compensation package given to retired CEO Lee Raymond.
It is a pre-canned letter from the Chairman of their Compensation Committee.
It did not address any specifics but does DEFENDS the compensation as just and claims his compensation as standard practice available to all Exxon employees...
The letter speaks for itself.

Exxon Mobil Corporation
5959 Las Colinas Boulevard
Irving, TX 75039-2298
April 26, 2006
Mr. Jack Lee
Submitted via e-mail: jackclee@optonline.net
Dear Mr. Lee,
I appreciate you taking the time to write me a note. I want to assure you that we carefully
considered all elements of Mr. Raymond's compensation and benefits in the context of his long
career and the very strong performance of the company during his tenure as Chairman and CEO.
During his over 12 years of service as CEO of the company, ExxonMobil achieved industry leading
returns on capital employed and increased total shareholder value five-fold.
As you indicate, there have been a number of recent media reports regarding Mr. Raymond’s
compensation as Chairman and CEO. It is important to note that Mr. Raymond’s 2005
compensation reflected ExxonMobil’s very strong business performance, the long-term nature of
his leadership of the corporation, and a very long and distinguished career with the company. His
pension benefits are based on more than 40 years of service with the company and are calculated
using the same pension formulas that apply to all other U.S. dollar - paid employees in the pension
plans in which he participated.
With the input of an independent consultant, Mr. Raymond's compensation was determined by the
Compensation Committee of the Board, which is comprised of non-employee directors. This
committee determined that Mr. Raymond's compensation is commensurate with his performance,
long experience and the significant expertise that he brought to the company. More detail and
information regarding the compensation strategy of the company and the basis for the
compensation of senior executives is available in the proxy statement, which can be accessed
through the internet at ExxonMobil.com or you can write to Exxon Mobil Corporation, Investor
Relations, 5959 Las Colinas Boulevard, Irving, TX 75039-2298 to obtain a hard copy.
Thank you for your continued loyalty as a shareholder.
Original signed by:
William R. Howell, Chairman
Compensation Committee