Saturday, October 31, 2009
Twitter is a publisher and subscriber. As a publisher it broadcasts short SMS -compliant strings to any interested subscriber. It is a uniquely good fit to pre-2008 mobile phones technology.
I think of Twitter as a curious pub/sub (feed) technology that emerged because of the limitations of early 21st century mobile phones, the bizarre pricing of American SMS and MMS messaging, email spam, and the asymmetry of early PubSub technology (strong sub as in Google Reader, weak pub as in amazingly feeble blog authoring tools with one now ailing exception).
Most of those curious technological limitations are going away. Between technology change and Facebook, Twitter is very vulnerable to displacement (if Google ever got their status pub/chat/reader/Latitude/Chat strategies aligned the squeeze would double).
I can imagine Twitter changing to be more like an open version of Facebook (esp. if Google bought them), but I can't see it staying relevant in its current form.
Between Google Reader (esp. with the "Note in Reader" feature) and Facebook I've no personal use case for Twitter. There are few times I consider it, but either Reader or Facebook could seize that ground (esp. wrt Location Services, though that's bound up for me with Apple's voracious greed)...
- Gordon's Notes: What can I do with Twitter, and is it CB Radio redux?
- Gordon's Tech: FreeMyFeed - Getting Twitter feed to Google Reader
- Gordon's Notes: Why Twitter?
- Gordon's Notes: The best about Twitter essay
- Gordon's Tech: Facebook, Twitter, iPhone, Google Reader: Update with FB feed information
- Gordon's Notes: Twitter and Facebook - because feed readers didn't make it
- Gordon's Notes: Explaining twitter, facebook and myspace to gomer geeks
Friday, October 30, 2009
Thursday, October 29, 2009
... For the cost of a single additional soldier stationed in Afghanistan for one year, we could build roughly 20 schools there ...The 1 soldier/20 school ratio is a reflection of both the cost of the soldier and the low cost of Afghan construction. It does not include the cost of operating the schools but the point is well made. Our army of one is very expensive.
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
But boxing was popular once too. It peaked in the middle of the 20th century, but now it's insignificant. Even back then it was hard to ignore what happened to boxers. Mohammed Ali was the last straw.
10 amazing truths you already suspected / Go ahead, pretend you didn't know. Pretend it wasn't obvious. (Volume II!)
... Witness Malcolm Gladwell's half-stunning, half-obvious piece in a recent New Yorker, summed up thusly: nearly every football player in America, from high school on up through the NFL -- especially there -- will suffer some level of brain damage and head trauma, from moderate to severe to early-onset dementia, even after just a year or two of play, even if he never turns pro at all...Parents will start to discourage kids from playing high school football, and those with money will withdraw financial support for the high school game. Colleges will be successfully sued -- after all, they can hardly claim to be uninformed and they have a special responsibility to their students.
Wilson Rothman (Gizmodo) has a great essay on Google’s consumption of TomTom, Garmin, and the map data industry. It isn’t just the new Droid-only Google Maps Navigation (Apple’s App Store non-rejection is pending). It’s also that Google has built their own US (and Canada?) map database. Google no longer needs the data they were buying from “Tele Atlas” and “Navteq”.
Presumably Apple or someone else will buy up the remnants of the mapping industry.
Google is a disruptive company. Per Rothman …
… This is not an attack of Google's business practices, but an explanation of the sort of destructive innovation that has made them so huge so fast … Though predecessors like Microsoft experienced similar explosive growth, and grew a similar sudden global dependence, we've never seen the likes of Google. The GPS business isn't the only one that will be consumed by its mighty maw before it's had its run…
Rothman is a bit too confident about Google’s ability to take down Office (Google Apps aren’t that good), but he’s right about things like Google Voice.
Next up? Chrome OS beta is out already. I expect to see the Google branded netbook within the next few months. We’ll see if they hit my $150 predictive WiFi price point (free with a Verizon/Google 2 year bandwidth-adjusted data contract).
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Information Processing: Evolution, Design and the Fermi Paradox - Stephen HsuBasic Bayesian reasoning, and a new perspective for me. Good one Dr. Hsu!
... What is the time scale for evolution of complex organisms such as ourselves? On Earth complex life evolved in about 5 billion years (5 Gyr), but one can make an argument that we were probably lucky and that the typical time scale T under similar circumstances is much longer.
There is an interesting coincidence at work: 5 Gyr is remarkably close to the 10 Gyr lifetime of main sequence stars (and to the 14 Gyr age of the universe). This is unexpected, as evolution proceeds by molecular processes and natural selection among complex organisms, whereas stellar lifetimes are determined by nuclear physics.
If T were much smaller than 5 Gyr then it would be improbable for evolution to have been so slow on Earth...
For the first task I wanted the equivalent of Front Page, a powerful document centric wysiwyg authoring tool from the previous century. For the second task I needed GrandView, a DOS app from the 1980s (if I had a Mac at work I'd use today's OmniOutliner Pro).
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Sunday, October 25, 2009
/dev/why!?!: The loss of ZFS--
...I recall having a discussion with the head of a university FS team who was discussing the FS he was working on. He was pitching it to a group of Apple engineers. It was some interesting work, but there were some unsolved problems. When he was asked about them he commented that they didn't have enough people to deal with them, but he had some ideas and it shouldn't be an issue for a company with a real FS team. It turned out his research team had about the same number of people working on their FS as Apple had working on HFS, HFS+, UFS, NFS, WebDAV, FAT, and NTFS combined. I think people don't appreciate how productive Apple is on a per-engineer basis. The downside of that is that sometimes it is hard to find the resources to do something large and time consuming, particularly when it is not something that most users will notice in a direct sense...
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When we first switched from Sprint to AT&T I catalogued all the extra fees and surprises. Recently I switched Emily from a BlackBerry Pearl to an iPhone 3GS (very successful move) and added one child to our family plan ($10/month – in theory).
These were the surprise charges this time around:
- $18: “one time charge for upgrade fee” for Emily’s BB to iPhone switch
- $26: “activation fee” for my son’s added line
By AT&T standards these are minor hits. They annoy me, but I’m more annoyed that I have to pay for SMS and MMS messages I can’t block. (I’ve written my representative about those, every time I get these charges I send off another email to a federal legislator.)
We get a “national account discount” (many large companies negotiate these plans). I confirmed Emily is still receiving it after the switch, but I didn’t see it on my son’s plan. So I’ll follow-up on that with the AT&T corporate service number.
I also need to inquire if the “national account discount” should have covered the “upgrade fee” and “activation fee”.
Incidentally, when I reviewed our online account settings I discovered new options to opt out of AT&T’s despicable SMS spam.
- A deal with the Devil- We move from Sprint to AT&T and towards an iPhone
- How to unlock the BlackBerry Pearl (AT&T)
- AT&T A List feature
- AT&T is a partner to phone scams that target the vulnerable elderly
- Annals of idiocy - AT&T spams customers about a TV show
- AT&T sends more SMS Spam, locusts infest exec underwear
Saturday, October 24, 2009
MinnPost - Tapping Minnesota’s top H1N1 expert: Michael Osterholm
... Osterholm chairs a National Institutes of Health (NIH)-sponsored panel that tracks emerging influenza infections. This year's meeting included a group of virologists and influenza experts that Osterholm considers to be the best in the world. "And every one of them said without a question that if this H1N1 acquires a certain PB2 gene, we're in big trouble," Osterholm recalled. "Well, it did it [acquire the PB2 gene] in the Friesian islands off of the Netherlands this August, and we didn't see that. Everyone was holding their breath, but at least, so far, nothing has happened with that. And so we don't understand in many instances what components of the mutt are really critical, which ones are important and which ones don't make any difference."
... I have been concerned from the beginning about over-promising and under-delivering on this issue. Just knowing this vaccine and what it takes, when they put the 140 million-dose estimate out that would be here in mid-October, I just knew that that was going to be a great overreach....
... I find it remarkable that we have as much as we do as early as we do, given the timeline..."
Long before the arrival of the novel H1N1 virus, Osterholm and other infectious disease specialists were lamenting our country's antiquated vaccine production system, which he points out relies on 1950s technology that's slow and unreliable. And even the way in which influenza vaccines work is a little bit murky.
"On Monday, I'm giving the keynote address to the NIH vaccine research meeting," he said. "I'm actually using H1N1 to highlight the many problems we have today with the vaccine industry. It's a simple as, 'You know, we don't have a clue what protects you in a flu vaccine.' So we measure hemagglutinin [the 'H' in H1N1] using outdated measures for antigen [a molecule on the surface of a virus that our immune system uses to key in on it], but we don't really know."
"When the CDC did their sero-survey looking for hemagglutinin antibody to novel H1N1 in the elderly, they found about 30 percent of them having pretty good titers to the H1 N1 virus," Osterholm recalled. "But the bottom line is, the protection we're seeing in the 65 and older age population far exceeds 30 percent, and the point of it is that there is probably a huge part of cellular immunity that's tied to protection with the flu vaccine, and that's something we don't even understand....
... The one thing I do feel pretty good about is the safety issue. It's not because we know it from this vaccine, but from the time-tested seasonal flu vaccines we've used over the last 30 years."
So the vaccine will get here when it gets here, but do you have a sense of when the peak of infections will be?
"You know, I don't. As I said at the flu summit six weeks ago, I thought that by mid-October we'd be seeing what I call 'peak activity,' which is what we're seeing right now. That's how I thought it would build. What I don't know is how long this is going to last. Is it basically going to go into retreat for a while and then come back again in, say, December or January? We're burning through a lot of central people right now, meaning the rate of new infections is growing at such a rate that I think that we're not going to have that many [unexposed] people left in November, December or January to get a second wave...
Friday, October 23, 2009
Apple iMac Review: 27 Inches and Less Chin - Apple imac 27 inch - GizmodoI'm as presbyopic as the next GOMER, so this matters. I'm going to have to work with this screen in the store for a while before I decide it's manageable at home. Lack of RI might save me a few hundred bucks.... at this pixel density, which is sharper than my notebook, it's almost too sharp, requiring me to sit closer than I would ordinarily do with a 27 inch display. I like the feeling of crispness — 16% crisper than the last generation. But my eyes feel like the pictures are being delivered by a land shark holding a laser pointer straight into my corneas, and I can feel the strain within minutes. I would have to jack up as many font sizes as possible or sit as close as I do to my MacBook to make it work for long long periods of time.
Africa calling: mobile phone usage sees record rise after huge investment The GuardianAfricans are buying mobile phones at a world record rate, with take-up soaring by 550% in five years, research shows.
"The mobile phone revolution continues," says a UN report charting the phenomenon that has transformed commerce, healthcare and social lives across the planet. Mobile subscriptions in Africa rose from 54m to almost 350m between 2003 and 2008, the quickest growth in the world. The global total reached 4bn at the end of last year and, although growth was down on the previous year, it remained close to 20%.
On average there are now 60 mobile subscriptions for every 100 people in the world. In developing countries, the figure stands at 48 – more than eight times the level of penetration in 2000.
In Africa, average penetration stands at more than a third of the population, and in north Africa it is almost two-thirds. Gabon, the Seychelles and South Africa now boast almost 100% penetration...
Uganda, the first African country to have more mobiles than fixed telephones, is cited as an example of cultural and economic transformation. Penetration has risen from 0.2% in 1995 to 23% in 2008, with operators making huge investments in infrastructure, particularly in rural areas. Given their low incomes, only about a quarter of Ugandans have a mobile subscription, but street vendors offer mobile access on a per-call basis. They also invite those without access to electricity to charge their phones using car batteries.
Popular mobile services include money transfers, allowing people without bank accounts to send money by text message. Many farmers use mobiles to trade and check market prices.
... The share of the population covered by a mobile signal stood at 76% in developing countries in 2006, including 61% in rural areas. In sub-Saharan Africa, closer to half the population was covered, including 42% in rural areas...
- A good thing happens: fiber optic connections to the Horn of Africa
- Reducing Poverty (old web page, mine)
- Google Brings Texting Services to Africa | Sustainability | Fast Company
- Official Google Africa Blog
- Google SMS push services in Africa: the sale of goods through SMS
- Dan's Data: Laptops for all, and for all a laptop (OLPC and more)
- Laptops become a commodity (2004, not such good prognosticating!)
- Sachs Reith 2007 - Lecture Four - Social engineering
- Reducing poverty by leveraging globalization: SciAm
- Africa: Outsourcing 2008?
- One Laptop per Child - Wikipedia
- Teledesic - Wikipedia (1994 project that promised to deliver computing servies to Africa)
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Thursday, October 22, 2009
... we'd love to hear your feedback — share your thoughts on our help group, Twitter or the Reader section of Get Satisfaction, a third party support community.
... The Dog Friendly components include a soft-sided cargo area kennel made from strong seat belt material netting, a cushioned pet bed in the cargo area, a 12-volt DC fan, second-row seat covers with a dog pattern, all-season rubber floor mats and a spill resistant water bowl. An extendable ramp will also store beneath the bed, so it can be accessed when the tailgate is open...
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I'm tempted. My 10 yo has done his part, ranting to his mother about how slow the G5 is. On the other hand, I just know the Nehalem stuff will be hotter than hell, slower than expected, and buggy to boot.
* I suspect Blu-Ray licenses have some very evil aspects - not only on cost and complexity, but with IP and functionality implications as well. Those implications extend to the operating system
... Apple lacks software support for playing copy-protected Blu-ray movies, so if you install a Blu-ray drive, you'll have to boot into Windows to enjoy the show....This machine is designed to take high quality video output from an copy-protected DRM compliant Blu-Ray.
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Mass extinctions: I am become Death, destroyer of worlds | The Economist
... The Chicxulub crater, as it is known, may have been a mere aperitif. According to Sankar Chatterjee of Texas Tech University, the main course was served later. Dr Chatterjee has found a bigger crater—much bigger—in India. His is 500km across. The explosion that caused it may have been 100 times the size of the one that created Chicxulub. He calls it Shiva, after the Indian deity of destruction.
Dr Chatterjee presented his latest findings on Shiva to the annual meeting of the Geological Society of America in Portland, Oregon, on October 18th. He makes a compelling case, identifying an underwater mountain called Bombay High, off the coast of Mumbai, that formed right at the time of the dinosaur extinction. This mountain measures five kilometres from sea bed to peak, and is surrounded by Shiva’s crater rim. Dr Chatterjee’s analysis shows that it formed from a sudden upwelling of magma that destroyed the Earth’s crust in the area and pushed the mountain upwards in a hurry. He argues that no force other than the rebound from an impact could have produced this kind of vertical uplift so quickly. And the blow that caused it would surely have been powerful enough to smash ecosystems around the world...
... Extensive dating research at Chicxulub, however, now suggests that the object which created that crater actually struck 300,000 years earlier than the dinosaur extinction, meaning there really should be two ejecta layers. That there are not could be explained by the fact that the accumulation of sediment in most rocks is so slow that the two layers are, in effect, superimposed. Alternatively, it could be that no one has been looking for two layers, so they have not seen the double signature or have ignored its significance. Indeed, two iridium layers have been found in some places. Anjar, an Indian town north of the impact site, is one. That is leading Dr Chatterjee to suggest that the two big impacts did take place at different times.
The picture that is emerging, then, is of a strange set of coincidences. First, two of the biggest impacts in history happened within 300,000 years of each other—a geological eyeblink. Second, they coincided with one of the largest periods of vulcanicity in the past billion years. Third, one of them just happened to strike where these volcanoes were active. Or, to put it another way, what really killed the dinosaurs was a string of the most atrocious bad luck.
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Barack Obama to order salary cuts at bailed-out firms | guardian.co.ukThis is to be expected since ...... Feinberg's move against top corporate pay came as Obama's former "car tsar" attacked the "stunningly poor management" he encountered at Detroit's carmakers as he worked to avert a collapse of the biggest US auto firms this year.
Steve Rattner, a former private equity executive, was the treasury secretary Timothy Geithner's top adviser on the car industry between February and July – when the US government acted to rescue both General Motors and Chrysler.
In an article for Fortune magazine, Rattner offered a savage verdict on the leadership culture at the industrial giants, singling out GM's former boss Rick Wagoner for his "friendly arrogance", and top executives' reluctance to mix with workers.
"Everyone knew Detroit's reputation for insular, slow-moving cultures," he said. "Even by that low standard, I was shocked by the stunningly poor management we found, particularly at GM, where we encountered, among other things, perhaps the weakest finance operation any of us had ever seen in a major company."
Rattner attacked GM's top executives for sequestering themselves on the top floor of the Renaissance Centre skyscraper in Detroit, with exclusive lifts, to avoid mixing with lower-ranking "drones"...
- If the management weren't fairly average GM wouldn't be in the mess it's in.
- No exceptional person would tolerate this kind of management style, so they wouldn't take a job at GM.
- Power is an amazing intoxicant. Only those with exceptional abilities can keep any kind of perspective while they enjoy the high. Given #1 and #2 though, we know GM executives can't have those abilities.
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Wednesday, October 21, 2009
There Really Might Be a Google Phone. No Seriously!That's Google Chromestellation, a version of this netbook will probably be sold through Verizon -- "free" with a 2 year data services contract.
... According to Kumar, Google will embed the same iteration of Android as the one currently being used in the Motorola Droid and the device will be based on Qualcomm baseband chips. Google will also introduce its own branded netbook, again embedding Qualcomm Snapdragon, early next year...
InfoWorld: Wal-Mart breaks price barrier with Linspire Linux laptop
Wal-Mart is offering a laptop that dives below the $500 pricepoint, and it's no accident the machine, from Linspire, runs a Linux-based operating system.
The Balance laptop, at $498, enters a mass market at a price that will undoubtedly accelerate Linux adoption.
The laptop comes with the OS, Internet suite, and Microsoft-file compatible office suite and can be used with both dial-up modems and broadband connections. The machine comes with a VIA C3, 1.0 GHz processor, 128 MB of RAM, which is expandable up to 512 MB with SODIMM (Small Outline Dual In-line Memory Modules). It includes a CD-ROM drive and a 14.1-inch LCD screen...
... The laptop's included Mozilla Internet suite comes with a fast-functioning browser and email program that can display Web-based forms, PDF documents, images, and multimedia files. The suite's included instant messenger program works with AOL, MSN and Yahoo logins.
No-one makes money on desktop machines. I recall reading that if one excluded the kickbacks Microsoft provided Dell, that they lost money on their best selling desktop machines. Laptops were different -- they still had a solid margin.
Not any more. Only Apple will be able to demand a premium for their top selling entry-level laptops, and the iBook may drop to $900 or so. Updrade this thing to 512MB and hook it up to a monitor/mouse/kb and there's a very compact and virus-free machine for my mother to use -- with gmail for her email.
With new content, tools, and resources added daily, Flu.gov provides information on H1N1 and seasonal flu, including symptoms and treatments, vaccines, tips for prevention, and live briefings. At this critical time, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) needs your help in informing the public about this valuable resource. Here are some simple things you can do to promote Flu.gov...If you're a Minnesota native the U of MN H1N1 site has very current, very localized, information.
In the 6th century AD, a successful and intelligent Roman politician called Boethius found himself unjustly accused of treason. Trapped in his prison cell, awaiting a brutal execution, he found solace in philosophical ideas - about the true nature of reality, about injustice and evil and the meaning of living a moral life. His thoughts did not save him from death, but his ideas lived on because he wrote them into a book. He called it The Consolation of Philosophy…
Boethius, I learned, was a Christian influenced neo-Platonist scholar and man of the world who lived in the waning years of the Roman empire. Wikipedia has more …
Anicius Manlius Severinus Boëthius (ca. 480–524 or 525) … was born in Rome to an ancient and important family which included emperors Petronius Maximus and Olybrius and many consuls. His father, Flavius Manlius Boethius, was consul in 487 after Odoacer deposed the last Western Roman Emperor. Boethius himself was consul in 510 in the kingdom of the Ostrogoths. In 522 he saw his two sons become consuls. Boethius was executed by King Theodoric the Great…
It is unknown where Boethius received his formidable education in Greek. Historical documents are ambiguous on the subject, but Boethius may have studied in Athens, and perhaps Alexandria…
As a result of his education and experience, Boethius entered the service of Theodoric the Great, who in 506 had written him a graceful and complimentary letter about his studies…
…By 520, at the age of about forty, Boethius had risen to the position of magister officiorum, the head of all the government and court services…
… Boethius's best known work is the Consolation of Philosophy, which he wrote most likely while in exile under house arrest or in prison while awaiting his execution, but his lifelong project was a deliberate attempt to preserve ancient classical knowledge, particularly philosophy. He intended to translate all the works of Aristotle and Plato from the original Greek into Latin…
…it is his final work, the Consolation of Philosophy, that assured his legacy… the work was translated into Old English by King Alfred, and into later English byChaucer and Queen Elizabeth; many manuscripts survive and it was extensively edited, translated and printed throughout Europe from the 14th century onwards. Many commentaries on it were compiled and it has been one of the most influential books in European culture…
From our perspective it’s not clear how Christian Boethius was by the time he died, but he’s a Catholic saint anyway, and supposedly a favorite of Benedict. He was immensely influential in many ways, but I suspect most of us have never come across his name.
I do like In Our Time, it’s so sad that the BBC doesn’t sell past programmes on iTunes. (You can subscribe easily to the podcasts, but you can’t turn the available streaming archives into mp3/aac unless you’re a serious geek.)
- Danger- Addictive temptations from the BBC
- Gordon's Notes- In Our Time
- Gordon's Notes- In Our Time threatens to go mainstream
Monday, October 19, 2009
BBC NEWS | Science & Environment | Scientists announce planet bounty
... The 32 "exoplanets" ranged in size from five times the mass of Earth to 5-10 times the mass of Jupiter, the researchers said.
They were found using a very sensitive instrument on a 3.6m telescope at the European Southern Observatory's La Silla facility in Chile.
The discovery is exciting because it suggests that low-mass planets could be numerous in our galaxy.
"From [our] results, we know now that at least 40% of solar-type stars have low-mass planets. This is really important because it means that low-mass planets are everywhere, basically," explained Stephane Udry from Geneva University, Switzerland.
"What's very interesting is that models are predicting them, and we are finding them; and furthermore the models are predicting even more lower-mass planets like the Earth."...This is consistent with the fun calculation I ran 8 months ago, the one predicting several hundred technological civilizations operating in the galaxy at this "moment".
... when the hounds come looking for Sen. Snowe’s hide, they should find us circled around her, protecting the black mane of Maine’s senior senator. We should tell them we are doing so not because we always agree with her, or because we think the Senate’s health reform bill is everything we want, but because last Tuesday she stood up for us and to us and did the tough thing, the right thing, and we are now doing the same for her.
The Chamber of Commerce hoax was perpetrated by the Yes Men, in tandem with a group of activists known as the Avaaz Action Factory.
Yes Man Andy Bichlbaum showed up at the 11am press conference that had earlier been announced by a "Chamber of Commerce" press release, and, impersonating a Chamber executive, declared:
We at the Chamber have tried to keep climate science from interfering with business. But without a stable climate, there will be no business.
At some point, reports Mother Jones, an actual Chamber spokesman showed up and yelled: "This is fraudulent!"…
Reuters fell for it, and the NY Times picked it up …
Reuters is now admitting that their epic screw-up today — it fell for a hoax press release and ran a story about the U.S. Chamber of Commerce supposedly changing its opposition to climate change legislation — could actually have moved financial markets…
… The Reuters story was picked up by the New York Times and the Washington Post and rocketed around the political world today.
In case you missed it, Reuters ran a story today claiming the Chamber’s shift, basing it on a fradulent press release claiming the Chamber “is throwing its weight behind strong climate legislation.”…
We’re all hoping the Chamber of Commerce will try to sue the YES MEN. If they do, the YES MEN’s coffers will swell …
Update 10/27/09: Salon on the Yes Men win.
Update 11/18/09: The Chamber is a GOP front.
Sunday, October 18, 2009
I didn’t drop the Freakonomics blog (Levitt and Dubner) just because of their anti-rational climate change ploy.
I admit, the thorough evisceration by (via DeLong) Last Post on Superfreakonomics, SuperFreakonomics- Global Cooling, Superfreakonomics on climate, RealClimate- Why Levitt and Dubner like geo-engineering, Does -Superfreakonomics- Need A Do-Over and so many others did take a toll.
In the end though, it took a lethal blow from CT to do them in. There’s a world of difference between original thought and faux contrarianism. As fun as Levitt and Dubner have sometimes been, they’ve hit the media bottle too many times. They can no longer distinguish between skeptical thinking and the intellectual vice of fashionable thought.
Velikovsky was a contrarian. I doubt Levitt and Dubner aspired to his company, but that’s where they’ve ended up.
Not to worry though, I’m sure their book earnings will ease the pain of my departure.
Alan Blinder likes Obama’s economic accomplishments, but he concludes they’d be better if (emphases mine) …
… Mr. Obama’s accomplishments in just nine months are palpable and were very much needed. If he seems to have achieved little, it’s partly because he set out to do too much. Too bad he didn’t just “focus like a laser beam on the economy.”
I read the same thing from pundits wishing Obama had been a “laser beam” on Health Care, or Climate Change, or American honor, or Afghanistan (I’m sure there are other recommended targets, but you get the idea).
I know Americans have a memory of about 3 weeks, but this is the so-called punditocracy we’re talking about. Pundits are supposed to have a memory of at least 3 months.
Ok, I see the problem.
Well, for the sake of ventilation, if for no other benefit, let me put this plainly.
Bush, Cheney, Greenspan and the GOP just about trashed America and pushed the world to the edge. They were blunderers at a moment in American history where blundering was particularly dangerous.
Obama inherited a nation in critical care. We’re still there. It’s going to take 10 years to crawl out into a changed world. We aren’t going back to the 1990s, because that path is gone.
Obama can’t “focus like a laser beam”. He’s got to deploy his team on a wide front – holding in some places (economy), strategically retreating in others (climate), pressing the advantage in a few (health care). Obama is not Putin – he has to respond to the chaotic fluctuations of the political environment.
Stuff the laser beams.
The NYT has recently published at least 3 articles that deliver pretty much the same message …
- Pakistan Attacks Show Tighter Militant Links
- Remembering Afghanistan’s Golden Age (1964 to 1974)*
- Held by the Taliban - A Times Reporter’s Account. A Five-Part Series by David Rohde
The message is that the modern Taliban have become inextricably linked to al Qaeda and Pakistan. There’s a less clear attempt to argue that Afghanistan is not a hopeless case.
I remember a similar NYT consensus in the build up to the invasion of Iraq, when the NYT jumped on the WMB and especially bioweapon bandwagon. In retrospect the Times was being played by their sources.
That’s not to say this consensus is wrong, but we’d be foolish to forget how this game is played.
I’m very glad Obama is doing his strategic review.
* My recollection is that in the early 80s Afghanistan was a poster child for impending ecological collapse. It’s a very fragile ecosystem, and the rapid development of the 1970s combined with severe oppression of women had led to extreme population growth and environmental degradation. Climate variation may have also played a role. By the late 1980s and early 1990s Afghanistan was in economic and ecological collapse.
Unfortunately, I can’t find any references that agree with my memory!
This is important. If the Afghan agricultural infrastructure is gone, then it has a very long road ahead.
Saturday, October 17, 2009
For the past several years I’ve wondered about the clinical presentation of patients with multiple simultaneous infections.
The H1N1 outbreaks has brought this to mind again. We assume bad outcomes are the result of some odd combination of immune system and viral mutation, but what about the impacts of co-infection?
I’ve asked academic physicians about this question. I usually get a started look, then a statement that “common wisdom” is that the enhanced immune response to one infection makes a co-infection less likely*.
Turns out, though, that this question was researched 21 years ago ...
… The presentation and subsequent course of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) bronchiolitis may be atypical and unusually severe when simultaneous infection due to other pathogenic agents is present. During the past two years, nine of the 189 pediatric patients hospitalized with documented RSV infection were found to have the following simultaneous isolates from initial respiratory tract specimens: four adenovirus, four pneumococcus, one cytomegalovirus, and one Pneumocystis carinii. Noted complications attributable to the second pathogen included thrombocytopenia and anemia (cytomegalovirus), hepatitis and disseminated intravascular coagulation (adenovirus), and sepsis and osteomyelitis (pneumococcus). Three of the four patients with RSV and adenovirus died of severe respiratory failure despite mechanical ventilation; two of these patients received ribavirin therapy…
So 21 years ago it was shown that children with co-occurrent viral infections, such as adenovirus and RSV, could have more severe disease progression.
You’d think this study would have been widely cited, but you’d be wrong. A pubmed search on “simultaneous infection virus” returned no strong hits.
I’d love for someone who knows this area to explain why this hasn’t been studied further.
See also: Defining a disease: how often are atypical presentations due to multiple agents? (Feb 2006)
* When smart people say this they immediately get a worried look. In medicine “conventional wisdom” is often shorthand for “something that got into textbooks in the 1960s but, really, on inspection, has never been studied”.
Update 11/1/09: If one viral infection really prevented another, one could manage dangerous epidemics by giving everyone a cold.
In an ideal world, smart, rational Republicans would balance the worst instincts of my team.
These mythical Republicans would know that government has its own flaws, that my team’s backers can be misled by self-interest and constituency politics. They’d remind us that markets can solve optimization problems better than any planner.
Except … for two senators from Maine – Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe.
Chance, and the complete abdication of the Party of Beck, has made Olympia Snowe immensely powerful in this particular debate. She has the same impact as would, in better times, 20 sane GOP senators …
… The country, frankly, is fortunate that the one holding the most cards is Olympia Snowe. Few public officials are as honest, principled, independent and smart as she is. The bargains she is striking to enable a bill to pass are almost all aimed at improving the quality of the health reform bill and helping more people to get health insurance coverage and health care. It may be unfortunate that one person, representing a tiny sliver of Americans, has so much power. We could do a lot worse…
Snowe is best known, to my team, as the enemy of the public option that’s favored by two of our top leaders – Reich and Krugman.
Maybe that’s not all bad. I could believe that while the public option might be a very good theoretical idea, it might also be politically disastrous. Maybe we need to find a 2nd best option, knowing that we’re going to have to revisit health care reform many times in the decades to come.
It’s a sad day for America that the GOP is shattered, but, at least for the moment, we have a reasonable proxy to the mythical GOP we never had. Maine, you rate.
I Feel It Coming Together - Judith Warner Blog - NYTimes.comOk, maybe a bit melodramatic - but not entirely. I'm six years older than Ms Warner, and I'm sympathetic.
... This is the cruelty of middle age, I find: just when things have gotten good — really, really, consistently good — I have become aware that they will end...
... I now see the passage of time more as a kind of bell curve. Years of ascension, soaring anticipation, followed by a plateau — which is not so bad, really — and then, no way to sugar coat this: a rather precipitous decline.
You are not supposed to think this, much less say it. A decline? Never!
Fifty is the new 30, after all; and 70 is the new 15, and 40 — well, the forties are just so fabulous that they can’t even be considered middle age. Even if they do happen to fall right smack in the middle of what, despite our best efforts, is still a limited human lifespan.
Susan Jacoby, the author of “The Age of American Unreason,” among other books, found herself, a year or so ago, attending a panel at the World Science Festival in New York City called “Ninety is the new Fifty,” and is now writing a book on the “delusion” she says we all have “that age is something that can be defied.”...
Yes, there are those who might remember that I felt the pressure of mortality at 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, 35, 40, and so on.
Well, in retrospect, I was damned right every time. Sure, there have been 80 year olds exploring Kashmir -- but there are more 80 year olds that Nature's tortured with a rigor that Dick Cheney might envy. Not to mention the quieter cohort.
My life is good, in many ways the best it's been. Even so, we all have a right to complain. Mortality sucks, 92* years is not nearly enough.
I'm with you Judith! I'll take my mortal life, but I reserve the right to bitch.
* My current projection - but it's not a promise and if we don't get an Alzheimer's breakthrough soon I'd discount the last 10.
I grew up in the disco era. I've always felt bad about that, though, and I realize this is hard to imagine, I did enjoy the dancing.
Jackson the superstar was after me. My generation is not responsible. It's a Gen X thing.
That makes me feel better.
This at a time that the classic feed reader is supposed to be defunct.
I already subscribe to about half a dozen (Krugman, Blow, Kristoff, Economix, Freakonomics* and more). I've now added Floyd Norris, Idea of the Day, Judith Warner, Olivia Judson, Stanley Fish and "The Lede".
I used to pay for the NY Times online. I wouldn't mind paying again. I just don't want newspaper.
PS. As long as I'm media topics, I should mention that a formerly great news journal has resurrected their paywall. They offered a $12 subscription of some kind to registered online readers. Alas, I don't want the paper. Oddly enough the feeds appear to still be free, so I continue to follow the remaining good bits of The Economist - Science, Technology, Africa, and, above all, the Obit.
Democracy Corps: Republican Base Voters Living In Another World | TPMDCSee also:... "They believe Obama is ruthlessly advancing a 'secret agenda' to bankrupt the United States and dramatically expand government control to an extent nothing short of socialism," the analysis said." While these voters are disdainful of a Republican Party they view to have failed in its mission, they overwhelmingly view a successful Obama presidency as the destruction of this country's founding principles and are committed to seeing the president fail."
The analysis argues that Obama's unpopularity among conservative Republicans is both quantitatively and qualitatively different from liberal Democratic ire against George W. Bush -- that the GOP is more heavily conservative than the Democrats are heavily liberal, and that the hatred of Obama is more intense than Dem hatred of Bush was...
... The voters in these focus groups saw Obama as being deliberately out to destroy the American economy in order to undermine personal freedoms, and that the speed of his agenda was a part of this strategy...
... Conservatives see themselves as an oppressed minority, holding on to knowledge that isn't represented in the wider media and culture: "Conservative Republicans passionately believe that they represent a group of people who have been targeted by a popular culture and set of liberal elites - embodied in the liberal mainstream media - that mock their values and are actively working to advance the downfall of the things that matter most to them in their lives - their faith, their families, their country, and their freedom."
So who are the protectors of this knowledge, the sources of information they trust. Obviously, Rush Limbaugh is widely admired -- but at the same time, he's seen as being overly abrasive at times.
The real unblemished champion, the one they most identify with on a personal level, is Glenn Beck: "Two aspects of the discussion on Beck among conservative Republicans were particularly noteworthy. One was a common fear among the women for his personal safety, a belief that his willingness to stand up to powerful liberal interests was putting his life, as well as the lives of those working with him, in danger. Of course, his willingness to face this danger head on only adds to his legend."
And the base sees themselves as an emerging, growing movement -- manifested in the Tea Parties -- that will restore the country to its proper roots, but that is dismissed by the media ...
I suppose they would say that they know how to use these innovations safely. Their rivals were simply too dull, too weak, to use such powerful tools.
If Goldman is lucky their leaders will rule like kings. If they are unlucky their leaders will rule like barons -- and we'll be picking up the pieces.
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Friday, October 16, 2009
I don’t know why creationists get hung up with the Platypus or the retina. I think it’s much more interesting that humans can read, despite it only being around for a few hundred years. For example …
As part of preparation for their [epilepsy] surgery, three adults had electrodes implanted in Broca's area and anterior temporal cortex to allow doctors to pinpoint which areas of the brain would be best to remove. During the procedure, known as intracranial electrophysiology, researchers asked the patients to silently sound-out words they saw on a screen and to fill in the missing verb in the proper tense or the proper form of a missing noun. Meanwhile, the researchers were recording the local electric field potentials from the wired areas of subjects' brains to the nearest millisecond—and millimeter.
After studying the readouts, the researchers found that in these normally reading adults, word identification, grammar and pronunciation all activated parts of Broca's area—and in a very neatly defined sequence. Like clockwork, it took about 200 milliseconds to identify a word, 320 milliseconds for grammatical composition and 450 milliseconds for phonological encoding…
… Previous studies had shown that the brain takes about 600 milliseconds to form vocal speech. So the speed with which each of these processes occurred was not as big of a surprise to Sahin and his colleagues as the fact that these three distinct tasks were done separately, in a tightly timed sequence, and within millimeters of each other in the brain…
… The electrical readouts … help to dispel the theory that another part of the brain, Wernicke's area, is primarily responsible for reading and hearing language. Their data show that, in fact, Broca's area also activated during the reading and identification phases. These findings, "indicate that the role of Broca's area…should be characterized in more general terms," Hagoort and Levelt wrote…
Everyone wants to see this study repeated in persons with reading disorders, but this kind of opportunity is rare. We all owe thanks to these patients who helped out with this study while awaiting some pretty scary surgery.
Carrey joins Oprah in the class of people who combine non-rational and harmful beliefs with the power of wealth and celebrity.Science-Based Medicine - Jenny McCarthy, Jim Carrey, and “Green Our Vaccines”: Anti-vaccine, not “pro-safe vaccine”
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Olivia Judson claims no other animal commits suicide. I wonder about cetaceans …
A huge effort has rightly been devoted to trying to understand the particular causes of suicide in different places — unemployment, drug addiction, relationship breakdown, intelligence, predisposing genes, what your mother ate while you were in the womb and so on.
But here’s another way to look at it. No other animal does this. Chimpanzees don’t hang themselves from trees, slit their wrists, set themselves alight, or otherwise destroy themselves. Suicide is an essentially human behavior. And it has reached unprecedented levels, especially among the young.
I’m not sure what this means. But it has made me think. We live in a way that no other animal has ever lived: our lifestyle is unprecedented in the history of the planet. Often, we like to congratulate ourselves on the cities we have built, the gadgets we can buy, the rockets we send to the moon. But perhaps we should not be so proud. Something about the way we live means that, for many of us, life comes to seem unbearable, a long, melancholy ache of despair.
Bite the apple, know despair.
I think of the human brain as a great pile of frantic evolutionary hacks, barely holding together at the best of times, a million years from getting sorted out. It’s a matter/antimatter drive bolted on to a goat cart. So it’s not surprising that it breaks in all kinds of ways.
The more surprising assertion is that rates are rising. I wonder first if that’s really true – historic data must be very hard to find. I also suspect that many suicide prone persons would die young in times of high external mortality, and that we’d expect suicide rates to rise as a population lives longer (suicide is much more common in the elderly).
One might speculate about growing awareness of the bleak realities of the material universe and suicide rates but I honestly don’t see any connection. Few people are as fond of bleak realities as I am.
I don’t remember the 1981-82 recession. I’d finished college, and I was off on a grand adventure (thank you Thomas J Watson). I returned and started medical school.
Whatever that recession was like, this one is considerably worse …
… The Bureau of Labor Statistics does not track pay cuts, but it suggests they are reflected in the steep decline of another statistic: total weekly pay for production workers, pilots among them, representing 80 percent of the work force. That index has fallen for nine consecutive months, an unprecedented string over the 44 years the bureau has calculated weekly pay, capturing the large number of people out of work, those working fewer hours and those whose wages have been cut. The old record was a two-month decline, during the 1981-1982 recession…
Wow. I didn’t see this one coming….
Saudi Arabia is trying to enlist other oil-producing countries to support a provocative idea: if wealthy countries reduce their oil consumption to combat global warming, they should pay compensation to oil producers…
The tactic has a familial resemblance to calls for wealthy nations to compensate less industrialized nations for the economic impacts of shifting away from low cost fuels.
I doubt even the Saudis really expect direct compensation, it’s much more likely to be a negotiating maneuver.
I’ll take this one as an encouraging sign that CO2 negotiations are getting real.
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
BlackBerry Aims to Suit Every User - NYTimes.comThe BB is very profitable for carriers, because it costs very little to produce, it comes with a mandatory data services account and a 2 year contract, and it's such a crummy net device that it makes no demands on carrier capacity.... The company has also cut the manufacturing cost of BlackBerrys by using variations on its existing designs that have allowed retailers to sell the devices at prices matching much simpler phones. For example, the BlackBerry Curve, R.I.M.’s most popular phone, is offered at Wal-Mart for about $50 with a contract. About 80 percent of R.I.M.’s sales this year have been to consumers, not to employers.
Mike Lazaridis, R.I.M’s other co-chief executive, says that the low cost of BlackBerrys allows cellular carriers to make more profit from the BlackBerrys than from other touch-screen handsets.
“We help carriers be profitable,” he said. “We gave them a way to get into the data business. Now we are giving them a way to manage their costs when they are worried that all they have to sell is highly subsidized smartphones.”
Long ago, a galaxy far away smashed into another galaxy - creating a beautiful, terrible knot of cosmic chaos. The view of that galactic collision, captured by the Hubble Space Telescope, serves as a preview of what might well happen when the Andromeda Galaxy slams into our Milky Way galaxy billions of years from now....
Why the far left and the far right both oppose swine flu vaccinations. - By Christopher Beam - Slate MagazineFortunately for this vaccine campaign, few remember the Cheney/Bush smallpox fraud. That Iraq war ploy injured and killed some volunteers.
guardian.co.ukI wouldn't bet against this deal though. The NFL is as bottom line as any other megacorp.... Some players have said they would not want to play for the Rams if Limbaugh succeeds. "I don't want anything to do with a team that he has any part of," the New York Giants footballer Mathias Kiwanuka told the New York Daily News...
... At the event, Glenn Lurie, the president of AT&T’s emerging device unit, said he understood that a $60-a-month data plan puts the device out of the range of many potential consumers. He said that AT&T will introduce other data plans with lower prices before the end of the year, possibly including prepaid plans and those that charge users only for the days they are actually online...At $60/month AT&T is basically saying "don't buy this, you fool!". Their iPhone demolished network can't handle widespread netbook adoption.
Monday, October 12, 2009
But we won't go there.
That's not me. On the field of life I'm infantry. It's ok, I've got lots of company.
So I just know that this 10.6 bug would have whacked me ...
... The problem seems to happen only when guest accounts were enabled for login under Leopard before updating to Snow Leopard...It's quite a bug. It's a bit like a personal version of the
Regarding the "Guest" account data loss issue, the symptoms sound very similar to those affecting Leopard users until the release of 10.5.5. Given the similarities, one might suspect the reuse of buggy code.
The 10.5 flaw actually had two facets - one is that the wrong home folder may be deleted. The other is that the same flaw permits login to non-Guest accounts without a password. See CVE-2008-3610 here:
About the security content of Mac OS X v10.5.5 and Security Update 2008-006
Description: A race condition exists in Login Window. To trigger this issue, the system must have the Guest account enabled or another account with no password. In a small proportion of attempts, an attempt to log in to such an account will not complete. The user list would then be presented again, and the person would be able to log in as any user without providing a password. If the original account were the Guest account, the contents of the new account will be deleted on logout. This update addresses the issue by properly clearing Login Window state when the login does not complete. This issue does not affect systems prior to Mac OS X v10.5.
Based on reports on the web, it appears that both aspects are present in Snow Leopard, and some users claim to have established the requirements for reproducibility. I don't have Snow Leopard so unfortunately can't test things for myself, but because of the implications, will refrain from posting a link to instructions. If confirmed, the key point would be that unlike Apple's assurances that it is something that occurs only in extremely rare cases, it may well be something that is guaranteed to be triggered based on a specific sequence of events, the likelihood of which may not be so "extremely rare" depending on an individual's habits.
Regardless, since the file deletion appears to be directly tied to the resetting feature of the "Guest" account, disabling GUI login for "Guest" should prevent that aspect from being triggered, and not having any passwordless accounts enabled (including "Guest") should take care of the other