11 January 2015

21 April 2012

Earth-Day Currents

No commentary needed.  Just watch.

28 December 2011

A Question of Scale

nano- or micro- ?

They are called "nanoblock", but the smaller-print description below says "micro-sized building block". Which is it, 10-9 or 10-6? Make up your mind, there are three orders of magnitude difference between nano- and micro-! (That's a factor of a thousand, stupid. And factor means that you multiply not add, you idiot.)

It is no wonder that neither the electorate nor those they have elected to represent them can reliably distinguish between millions, billions, and trillions in our national budget/debt. I guess this is what you get when you spend an order of magnitude more on wars than you do on schools. Oh well, Happy New Year. I hope that November can restore some measure of sanity on Capitol Hill.

04 September 2011


The winding-down of summer and the beginning of the fall semester has brought the angst and pain of procrastination along with a blizzard of paperwork. I find myself making lists so that I can see what is yet to be done, what is done, and what is not going to be done. In that spirit, and in recognition of the fact that I am quite proficient at misplacing, burying, ignoring, filing away, and forgetting to look at these well-intentioned lists; I have decided to start a new one here. Essentially a bucket-list that, because it is here and public, will be harder to lose or ignore and can only be consciously deleted. (btw and not surprisingly, making a bucket-list is not on any of my lists of things that I should be doing.)

08 August 2011


Repetitive alliterative assonance and consonance:
Today, 8/8 (11), the Dow closed down 5.55% and the S&P 500 closed down 6.66%.
Oh, and onomatopoeia too: sick, sick, sick.
Dark verse from the stock market.
Now is it buy-buy-buy or bye-bye-bye?

26 July 2011

Two Sides

Here is the text of a message I sent to my Congressman:

Please act to represent the collective best interests of all of your constituents, not just the dogmatic right. The issues are not black and white - just like equations and ledgers, they have two sides which need to act in unison if good solutions are to be realized. You and your Republican colleagues in the House are damaging the country now and into the future by rejecting far-reaching and balanced proposals such as the "gang-of-six" $4+trillion budget reform package.

Unlike the business and economic interests you purport to protect with a mindless no-tax pledge, you reject the best solutions that have been put forth in decades, seemingly to gain short-term short-sighted political advantage. Every business and every family I know, when faced with a financial challenge, does two things simultaneously:

  • Cut all unnecessary expenses that will not harm the business' or family's future, and
  • Increase revenue to the extent possible with increased sales and collections, and/or in the case of a family by taking on additional work - like a second or part-time job, or selling some assets.

No business or family would leave revenue out of the equation, especially revenue that has negligible if any downside. And in this case, loopholes that data has shown are not cost-effective in creating jobs, not boosting overall economic growth, nor meaningful investments in the future.

I worked in the House of Representatives many years ago, I understand the political pressures on Capitol Hill, I know how progress is made. I urge you to think independently, not just as one of the sheep in your Party. Do what is best collectively for all the people in your district and the US in the long run. Not what you [falsely] think will win the next news cycle or assuage the talking heads. Please stop ignoring history, arithmetic, facts, and common sense in order to push a sound-byte-based political marketing agenda.

Thank you for your consideration. Now please get to work.

09 June 2011

Book Faces

I don't have a facebook account. It's not because their business model is all about mining your interaction data to better sell stuff, including the data, or because online activity can be risky, none of that. The reason I don't have an account is more philosophical: unlike the World-Wide Web, facebook is a closed community - you can't access the content without joining up. This is fair enough for personal pages, but my beef is about "public" pages. Of course the organizations that want the public to see their stuff have a marketing incentive to use facebook, not just because of its ease of user access, but also because it really is web 2.0 that lets their visitors provide content for their site and in turn they get great data to mine and an efficient low-cost ad channel that is targeted exactly at those most interested. It is a fantastic model, and thanks to Medcalf's law, as facebook grows it becomes polynomially more fantastic.

My issue is that facebook is to the web what AOL was to the Internet in the 1990's - a closed community. Just like the Internet, behind the gates of its community AOL had email, instant messaging, news groups, file transfer, a web browser, worldwide accessibility, and a lot of useful content. But you had to $ign up to get at it. I had an AOL account, I still do, but it's free now. I got it because I lived outside the US for several years during that time, traveled a lot, and had kinds in school. AOL provided reliable dial-up access almost everywhere: from home, all over the US, Canada, the UK, Germany, Australia, ... - very useful. And the kids could do research for school and get reliable information on just about everything, plus things like Cliffs Notes -perfect for those book reports on books that you didn't quite get all the way through. It was great, and a great value for the money, but then the power of the free and open World-Wide Web overwhelmed the proprietary subscription model, and we were all better off.

Now facebook would have the Web become http://www.facebook.com/theworldwideweb. In other words, if you want to find out what is on sale at Macy's for example, they want you to visit www.facebook.com/Macys rather than www.macys.com. It is obviously better for facebook if you do, and in some ways it is also better for Macy's and maybe even for you. Macy's in theory can get access to facebook's data that shows that you like other stores; and because of that, Macy's could be able to entice you with offers made with more knowledge about your preferences. A win-win-win.

But what if I don't want Macy's to know where else I shop. There's the rub, what is private and what is not. In fairness, much of the hoopla, consternation, and political histrionics about privacy on social networks is way overblown. As Scott McNealy is quoted to have said, "Get over it!" In legal terms, there is no 'reasonable expectation of privacy' on the Internet. Watch this video about the latest facebook "privacy" flap:

What does peeve me is when some more-or-less public organization or other posts a link (often a compacted one on twitter) out on the WWW that goes to a page inside the facebook moat. The poster probably never realizes that faceless surfers may miss their boat, because it works for them and all their "friends" (who are always logged in), so therefore it must work for everyone. Even worse and truly troubling is the prospect that with the kind of data available to facebook (and Google and others), they can tailor search results to your preferences and prejudices; thus inhibiting the free flow of facts and opinions that is the essence of the strength of the Internet itself, and the one best hope for creating an enlightened human race capable of learning the mysteries of universe rather than a tribal one that feeds on bias, bigotry, superstition, stereotypes, and ignorance.