Return to the billion-gallon lake

Over the Independence Day weekend, I took my family to the Bonne Terre Mine, about 50 miles south of St. Louis on Highway 67. It was once one of the world’s largest active lead mines, and the area around Bonne Terre is still known as the Lead Belt. Mining is still the major industry in southeast Missouri, and the area is dotted with big piles of mining waste, which the locals refer to as “chat.”

Mining in the area started way back in 1720 by French settlers; Bonne Terre Mine opened in 1860. It closed in 1962.

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Decrease your Roku’s playback resolution to save bandwidth

From time to time when I’m watching baseball on my Roku, I’ll get a lot of buffering and, in extreme cases, a message stating that I may have insufficient bandwidth.

Short of telling my kids to put their tablets away or stepping up to the next-higher speed of my Internet connection, I can adjust my Roku to use a slightly lower quality video. The picture will suffer, but I’d rather watch a lower quality picture than none at all.

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How to mail a baseball card

One would think people would realize sticking a baseball card in an envelope in between two pieces of cardboard cut from a Federal Express overnight envelope and wrapping a sheet of typing paper around the package isn’t enough protection for a baseball card in the mail.

Even if you write “Do not bend. Deliver Flat.” on the envelope.

Doing it right isn’t too hard, doesn’t cost a lot, and your customers will appreciate it.

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Plywood floors for a hardwood look at around $1 per sqft

A comment over at Lifehacker got me thinking about plywood as flooring, which led me to a blog post at Quarry Orchard. The author is one of many people who have had success making floors out of strips cut from ordinary 4×8 sheets of plywood, the variety that sell for around $14 at home improvement stores.

I’d be a bit concerned about durability but there’s a lot to like about the idea as well.

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Vox dusts off old content, should the rest of us?

I found a story earlier this year about Vox’s decision to dust off, slightly update, and re-run old content as new.

The practice happens a lot more often than anyone realizes in the print world, especially magazines, and as Gigaom says, there are implications when doing this. The questions got me thinking, and in the case of blogging, I think there’s something to learn but the practice is probably unnecessary. Continue reading Vox dusts off old content, should the rest of us?

Aluminum paint is a cheap alternative to replating

Aficionados of old toys, particularly building kits like Erector and Meccano, or prewar tinplate trains made by companies like Lionel and Marx, know all too well that the tin plating on unpainted parts can wear off with time, and with it, bring unsightly rust.

When restoring a piece, they’ll often use a replating kit to apply a new coat of tin. But sometimes you want a piece to look better but can’t justify the expense of a replating kit, or the piece is too badly pitted to replate well and need an alternative.

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Nostalgia can make you younger

This month’s Social Engineer podcast featured psychology professor Dr. Ellen Langer, whose specialty is mindfulness. Dr. Langer brought up a lot of important things, including the idea of work-life integration rather than the more difficult work-life balance, but another thing she briefly touched on really resonated with me. She brought up a study, originally done in the late 1970s, where a group of 80-somethings were immersed in 1959 for a week. At the end of the week, they didn’t act like 80-somethings anymore.

That got me thinking about the power of nostalgia.

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Taming Office 2013’s appearance

A couple of months ago I upgraded to Office 2013 at work. I liked it, but around the same time, my eyes started burning. I never made the connection, but then last week, when a coworker upgraded, he mentioned his eyes were burning, and he made the connection.

He found this guide for toning down Office. We both recommend the dark gray scheme, which is much easier on the eyes than the default harsh white scheme.

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How to make your online banking more secure

Due to the increasing amount of malware targeting bank accounts, it’s not a bad idea to have a computer dedicated to online banking and only online banking. Of course, who wants to dedicate an expensive computer to that task?

You don’t have to. You can buy a $120 refurbished Chromebook to use, or, if you don’t want to spend any money but have a seldom-used computer still hanging around that isn’t good for much, load Linux Mint on it and use it exclusively for banking. My experience with Mint on an old netbook has been rather good–Linux Mint is, if anything, easier to get up and running than Windows.

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David L. Farquhar, computer security professional and sometime author