When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. - Hunter S. Thompson
31 July 2005
The geekery (high-tech image recognition algorithms.)
The clever, and bad, pun in the project's name.
Ladies and gentlemen, with no further ado, I give you...
Which seeks to answer the question, "How do we keep our indoor/outdoor cat from bringing live prey into the house through the cat door?"
(From a thread on Ask Metafilter.)
Dogs would die if they had to wait for their owners to go off line. And who wants to post pictures of a dead animal? Serious bloggers, the kind who float to the top of Google regularly, just don't have time or space for dogs.Too bad, I say.
But can that be the whole story? There's a deeper answer to be had at infinitecat.com, where users post pictures of their cats gazing at pictures of other cats already posted on the Infinite Cat site. You see an infinite regress: pictures of cats looking at pictures of cats looking at pictures of cats.
Remind you of anything? Those cats are like so many bloggers sitting at home staring into their computer screens and watching other bloggers blog other bloggers. Cats, who live indoors and love to prowl, are the soul of the blogosphere. Dogs would never blog.
I would imagine that if the Chows were able to blog, they would offer all kinds of interesting insights about what New York City smelled like.
A blog written by Mister Gato, on the other hand, might be a very disturbing and frightening thing indeed.
30 July 2005
Business spending on technology for the rest of this year will likely continue the pace of the first half. That means final figures will hit the $1 trillion mark for only the second time, joining the peak bubble year of 2000.Hat tip: Bonnie on TECHWR-L.
But reaching $1 trillion won't cause analysts to pop the champagne. It simply means spending on information technology is back to where things left off five years ago. Growth is pegged at about 5%-7%, and will likely stay at the level for some time, analysts say. That's tame compared with the double-digit growth of the 1990s, but still solid.
Bush's writings inspired two (going on three) generations of computer scientists, many of whom were major figures in the development of the personal computer and the Internet.
Right now, Microsoft senior researcher Gordon Bell is in the process of implementing Bush's vision for the memex with a project called My Life Bits:
MyLifeBits Project - Microsoft BARC Media Presence Group
Here's a link to a presentation (PowerPoint format, inevitably, and a 22MB PowerPoint at that!) that he gave in June 2005 to SIGMOD (the Management of Data special interest group of the Association for Computing Machinery.)
I'm staying with the same employer, but Monday morning I'll be reporting to work in the heart of the Financial District.
And so I come full circle. When I moved to New York City about ten years ago, my first gig was down on Wall Street. Well, on Exchange Place, to be exact, but you get the picture.
Actually, here's the picture:
The rather ornate entrance to 20 Exchange Place,
the old City Bank Farmer's Trust building, where I used to work.
I'll be working right around the corner from there starting next week.
So I rode the train downtown to re-familiarize myself with the commute, and with the neighborhood.
It's even easier than I remembered... the 2/3 Express from 14th St to Wall St takes about ten minutes (fifteen, door-to-door) and drops me a block from my new workplace.
And there's a big old Starbucks right outside the subway stop, and another on the first floor of the building.
Yes, I know a lot of you think Starbucks is evil, but I just spent the last year working in a place where the best coffee within fifteen minutes' walk was served by a guy in a "mud truck" who set his cart up on the sidewalk.
After that, to me, the Mermaid looks like the Promised Land.
I stopped working downtown in the fall of 2000, not quite a year before 9/11. As you can imagine, there have been some substantial changes down there since then.
Security around the Stock Exchange was always tight, but now it is very rigorous indeed throughout the entire area.
I met a very friendly explosives expert (and her support staff) outside my new building:
For security reasons, this dog cannot be identified by name,
nor can we show you a picture of her face.
I'm looking forward to new opportunities and new challenges. And better restaurants at lunchtime.
As World War II was drawing to a close, Dr. Bush laid out an agenda for, and made some predictions about, the new disciplines of computing and information management that, in hindsight, look almost prophetic.
Among other things, he predicted--in 1945!--a system of managing information, the "memex," (presumably for "memory extender,") which sounds a hell of a lot like a personal computer running a standard set of productivity applications and a Web browser:
Consider a future device for individual use, which is a sort of mechanized private file and library. It needs a name, and, to coin one at random, "memex" will do. A memex is a device in which an individual stores all his books, records, and communications, and which is mechanized so that it may be consulted with exceeding speed and flexibility. It is an enlarged intimate supplement to his memory.1945, y'all.
It consists of a desk, and while it can presumably be operated from a distance, it is primarily the piece of furniture at which he works. On the top are slanting translucent screens, on which material can be projected for convenient reading. There is a keyboard, and sets of buttons and levers. Otherwise it looks like an ordinary desk.
In one end is the stored material. The matter of bulk is well taken care of by improved microfilm. Only a small part of the interior of the memex is devoted to storage, the rest to mechanism. Yet if the user inserted 5000 pages of material a day it would take him hundreds of years to fill the repository, so he can be profligate and enter material freely...
I think there's a case to be made, and I'm only half-kidding, that Dr. Bush was actually a time-traveller, or a visitor from another planet.
It's a wonderful article.
I wonder what Dr. Bush would say if he could see one of us sitting in a WiFi-hotspot coffee shop with a nothing-special $1000 laptop (estimated cost in 1945 dollars: less than $100, maybe as little as $50 or so) wirelessly connected to the whole world, Googling for information as we sip our soy lattes.
Other than "what the hell is a soy latte?"
Curbed, one of our favorite New York City blogs ever (it's about Topic A in NYC... real estate!) has a mindsnapping set of artist's renderings of a proposed "East Village-themed" retail shopping complex, to be built in Las Vegas.
Hey, if EPCOT can have a faux-Paris complete with polite waiters and bad croissants (it's Bizarro World! Everything's exactly backwards!) I guess there's no reason that you can't put a Famous Original Ray's Pizza and a mini-Washington Square arch in Vegas, along with some Far West Village details for seasoning (cobblestone streets, a "Meatpacking District" entertainment zone.)
Authenticity is the last thing on their minds, really. They're selling the idea of "East Village as shopping mall," or "lifestyle destination." Hell, they're even putting in a "diamond district." (Where, exactly, do they think they're going to get the ultra-Orthodox Jews? D'you think they could borrow some Mormons from Utah? Would that work?)
Scary. And no, it's not a joke... here's an article from the Las Vegas Business Press documenting the current plans.
Richard Posner, the hardest-working Federal Judge in the public-intellectual business (and co-author of the increasingly influential Becker-Posner blog) thinks out loud about the news media in Sunday's New York Times (already available on the Web.)
Being profit-driven, the media respond to the actual demands of their audience rather than to the idealized ''thirst for knowledge'' demand posited by public intellectuals and deans of journalism schools. They serve up what the consumer wants, and the more intense the competitive pressure, the better they do it. We see this in the media's coverage of political campaigns. Relatively little attention is paid to issues. Fundamental questions, like the actual difference in policies that might result if one candidate rather than the other won, get little play. The focus instead is on who's ahead, viewed as a function of campaign tactics, which are meticulously reported. Candidates' statements are evaluated not for their truth but for their adroitness; it is assumed, without a hint of embarrassment, that a political candidate who levels with voters disqualifies himself from being taken seriously, like a racehorse that tries to hug the outside of the track. News coverage of a political campaign is oriented to a public that enjoys competitive sports, not to one that is civic-minded.It's a long piece, and something of a "thumbsucker," as I understand they call it in the trade, but well worth reading.
Oh, one more short excerpt. Can't resist.
Confession: Posner has always been kind of a personal hero of mine, though I certainly don't always agree with him. The guy is a whip-smart Federal judge and law school professor who also somehow manages to find the time to crank out one or two really well thought-out, beautifully-written books a year, and now he's blogging as well. (When does he sleep? Does he, in fact, sleep?)
The public's interest in factual accuracy is less an interest in truth than a delight in the unmasking of the opposition's errors. Conservatives were unembarrassed by the errors of the Swift Boat veterans, while taking gleeful satisfaction in the exposure of the forgeries on which Dan Rather had apparently relied, and in his resulting fall from grace. They reveled in Newsweek's retracting its story about flushing the Koran down a toilet yet would prefer that American abuse of prisoners be concealed. Still, because there is a market demand for correcting the errors and ferreting out the misdeeds of one's enemies, the media exercise an important oversight function, creating accountability and deterring wrongdoing. That, rather than educating the public about the deep issues, is their great social mission. It shows how a market produces a social good as an unintended byproduct of self-interested behavior.
Since he has staked out positions, over the years, on just about every controversial issue under the sun, the likelihood of him ever, say, getting the nod for the Supreme Court is slim to none.
That's all right. From the look of things, he's having a lot of fun doing exactly what he's doing right now.
29 July 2005
A foul-mouthed parrot previously owned by a lorry driver has been banished from public areas in a British animal sanctuary after repeatedly embarrassing his keepers, they said.This? Is hilarious. We love this bird.
He has instructed a "lady mayoress" and a vicar to "fuck off," apparently, and when two policemen came to visit the sanctuary, he addressed them as "wankers" and invited them to fuck off as well.
"He does say 'Hello, big boy' and 'Thank you' when you give him a biscuit," she added.Indeed.
"But it's mainly naughty words and always to the wrong people. We're trying to teach him not to swear. Macaws are very intelligent birds."
I've been having fun this morning imagining what a New York City-equivalent foul-mouthed talking bird might say.
While there are now more than 500 Arabic and Farsi news outlets reporting stories from and about the Middle East, there is currently no affordable means for English speakers to gain access to much of this content. As a result, the overwhelming majority of English speaking businesspersons, students, journalists and others who have an interest in the affairs of the region are largely unaware of what the Middle East media is covering and how they are covering these stories.Another news source from the Middle East that looks to be absolutely crucial. It's still in embryonic form, but while they iron the kinks out, the newsletter will be available to subscribers for free.
Mideastwire.com aims to close this gap by offering a daily email newsletter of concise, translated briefs covering some of the key political, cultural, economic and opinion pieces appearing in the media of the 22 Arab countries, Iran and the Arab Diaspora.
Hat tip: Hit and Run (Reason Online).
28 July 2005
Giant carnivorous mice on the British-ruled island of Gough in the south Atlantic are eating seabird chicks alive in mass feeding frenzies, threatening several species' survival, a wildlife charity warned.Seems to me that I know a stone cold killer who might have a solution to this problem. And he works cheap.
The house mice, while three times the size of those seen in mainland Britain, are still only one 250th the size of the chicks they attack, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) said Monday.
The mice, which strike at night in large numbers, are devouring more than one million petrel, shearwater and albatross chicks on Gough Island every year...
If we could get a battalion-sized unit of Mousinators assembled and moved temporarily onto Gough Island (we'd probably want to make sure they're all spayed and neutered first, so as not to introduce YET ANOTHER non-native species into the fragile ecosystem), I'm betting they'd have the problem under control in short order.
Um, unless they wanted to eat the baby birds too.
Ah, dammit. Never mind.
Last night, the heat wave broke.
Yesterday afternoon, it was so hot that people were passing out on the pavement... there were heat advisories in place, and you'd better take them seriously, too.
We're in the process of moving offices right now, so I've been lugging boxes of books and papers home every day this week. Last night, as I was humping fifty pounds of technical manuals and software CDs up the street (could I find a cab, I ask rhetorically? OF COURSE NOT) and sweating like a diabetic horse, I was thoroughly hating life.
This morning, as I write this, it is a cool and civilized 67 degrees Fahrenheit on the pavement. Forecast: high of 80, low humidity.
I think I'll take my tea on the veranda this morning, Jeeves.
Here, the Lord and Master of All He Surveys perches above one of the overflow shelves of the enrevanche family library. He loves that battered, ancient leather briefcase I flung up there a few years ago and forgot about.
Check out the Friday Ark at The Modulator, and the Carnival of the Cats, for more bloggers' cats from around the world.
27 July 2005
Notice anything, um, peculiar or anachronistic -- right in the center of the frame?
(For those of you from out of town, that's an aerial view of the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center, destroyed four years ago. I think that the 2004 copyright on that image might be a mistake.)
Hat tip: Gawker.
Conceived after a sharp rise in diabetes deaths over the past 20 years, [a proposed] plan would require medical labs to report to [New York City health bureaucrats] the results of a certain type of test that indicates how well individual patients are controlling their diabetes.Dr. Frieden, pleased to meet you.
'There will be some people who will say, 'What business of the government is it to know that my diabetes is not in control?'' said Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, the city's health commissioner.
I am one of those people, and I am saying just exactly that.
I am a Type 2 diabetic--whose diabetes is well controlled, incidentally, without your unasked-for paternalistic assistance and oversight--and let me warmly assure you, it is NONE OF YOUR GODDAMNED BUSINESS what my blood glucose or hemoglobin A1C levels are.
Nobody working for the City of New York is paying my medical or pharmacy bills, or my laboratory fees; my private insurance company, and I, happen to be paying through the nose for all that. You're not paying my rent, my utilities, or putting food on my table, either.
You are not my spouse, parent, significant other, friend, or even acquaintance, and you're sure as hell not my doctor.
And if you feel entitled to access my private medical records without my consent (a key feature of this proposed program) I am going to do everything in my power to disabuse you of that notion as rapidly, thoroughly, and completely as possible.
I am going to explain to you, Dr. Freiden, what the mandate of a government public health agency is. I am going to use some fairly big words, but since you went to medical school, I hope you will understand them:
- You're there to deal with infectious diseases, like tuberculosis, syphilis and AIDS, that can be spread between members of the population.
- You're also there to deal with cases of environmental toxicity, such as lead poisoning in children. Or you study the long-term effects of all the airborne shit we Manhattanites breathed in when the towers came down on 9/11, or other issues that can be considered "mass exposure" toxic incidents.
- If you became very ambitious, you might try to do something meaningful about, oh, say, the pandemic use of highly dangerous illegal drugs, like crystal meth, in your jurisdiction.
Highly contagious infectious disease? Okay, there's a case in which the interests of the public at large can conceivably be said to outweigh the individual's right to privacy.
But if you think you're going to nose around in my medical records, without my consent, in order to satisfy your misguided do-gooder impulses and whims, you've got another think coming. (A civil rights lawsuit targeting the Board of Health of the City of New York, and you, both in your capacity as health commissioner and as an individual, sounds like a good idea to me.)
Incredibly, it is the official position of the American Diabetes Association that this unconscionable and non-consensual intrusion into the private lives and medical records of diabetics is a good idea.
According to the article, the proposal isn't likely to come up for a vote before September.
I'll be taking the issue up with the ADA, with the Health Department, and with my elected officials, in the morning.
Almost two-thirds of outsourcing deals are failing because organisations are only paying lip-service to the small print in the rush to make cost savings, according to new figures.Where's the point of failure for most outsourcing debacles?
Again, and again, and again: IT governance and service management. Companies outsourcing their IT functions want to hurry up and start saving Big Bucks; outsourcing consultancies can't wait to sign new business and start billing.
The devil, as always, is in the details. Big hint: "We'll worry about the fine print later" doesn't cut it.
26 July 2005
The extremely cool desktop widget tool Konfabulator has just been purchased by Yahoo and, formerly a $20 piece of shareware, it's now free for the asking.
Konfabulator is supported by a large developer community, and there are literally hundreds of desktop widgets than run on the Konfabulator engine.
Yahoo has some interesting plans for the Konfabulator widgets and toys, and the Konfabulator guys have some pretty interesting plans for Yahoo, no doubt:
See, when we first thought of Konfabulator, one of the key pieces was accessing internet content. Well guess what Yahoo has boat-loads of? Yup. And what's really great is that they're starting to open it up to everyone in a format that's useable outside the traditional browser, as XML feeds. Guess how they're going to provide real-world examples of how to use this stuff. Yup... Konfabulator. So really, depending on how you look at it, we're taking over Yahoo! We're going to make it so the best way to access their data is via slick little Widgets.Very cool stuff. Download it here.
- See pictures of Mount Rushmore, the Crazy Horse monument, and cute-as-a-button baby buffalo!
- See historic Wall Drug, SD! (This place is just South of the Border at a different latitude.)
- Meet Dotty and Frenchy, who have given me a new concept for my retirement plan.
- See gorgeous photos of Big Sky sunsets!
25 July 2005
Cats are notoriously finicky eaters, as millions of pet owners can attest. Now, there's a scientific theory explaining, at least in part, why cats have such snobby eating habits: genetics.This would explain a lot about Mister Gato's eating preferences. He turns his nose up at most human food, greatly preferring the brown fishy nuggets of dry cat food we shake into his bowl twice a day (though he will enthusiastically drink almost anything you're drinking, right out of your glass or mug.)
Researchers at the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia and their collaborators said Sunday they found a dysfunctional feline gene that probably prevents cats from tasting sweets, a sensation nearly every other mammal on the planet experiences to varying degrees.
The first couple of weeks we had him, while he was still recovering from a respiratory infection and still very much in street-cat/scavenger mode, he quite happily ate most of the sauerkraut off of a Reuben sandwich I had on my desk, when I turned my back for a second. Nothing wrong with his "sour" or "salty" taste receptors, clearly.
Hat tip: Alert enrevanche reader and pal Victor.
On March 3, with little fanfare, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Richard Myers, signed a comprehensive new plan for the war on terrorism. Senior defense officials briefed U.S. News on the contents of the still-secret document, which is to be released soon in an unclassified form. Officially titled the 'National Military Strategic Plan for the War on Terrorism,' the document is the culmination of 18 months of work and is a significant evolution from the approach adopted after the 9/11 attacks, which was to focus on capturing or killing the top al Qaeda leaders. For the first time since then, Pentagon officials say, they have a strategy that examines the nature of the antiterror war in depth, lays out a detailed road map for prosecuting it, and establishes a score card to determine where and whether progress is being made.
Mira has some brilliant theories about cat behavior, and she's using the Carnival as a "teachable moment" to reinforce them.
Bomb us, and we agonise over the 'root causes' (that is, what we did wrong). Decapitate us, and our politicians rush to the nearest mosque to declare that 'Islam is a religion of peace'. Issue bloodcurdling calls at Friday prayers to kill all the Jews and infidels, and we fret that it may cause a backlash against Muslims. Behead sodomites and mutilate female genitalia, and gay groups and feminist groups can't wait to march alongside you denouncing Bush, Blair and Howard. Murder a schoolful of children, and our scholars explain that to the 'vast majority' of Muslims 'jihad' is a harmless concept meaning 'decaf latte with skimmed milk and cinnamon sprinkles'.
Until the London bombings. Something about this particular set of circumstances - British subjects, born and bred, weaned on chips, fond of cricket, but willing to slaughter dozens of their fellow citizens - seems to have momentarily shaken the multiculturalists out of their reveries. Hitherto, they've taken a relaxed view of the more, ah, robust forms of cultural diversity - Sydney gang rapes, German honour killings - but Her Britannic Majesty's suicide bombers have apparently stiffened even the most jelly-spined lefties.
24 July 2005
Although it is slightly dated, it is a very very interesting read.
The games which feature events such as 'bobbin for pigs feet' and the 'mudpit belly flop' began as a joke in response to the 1996 Atlanta Summer Olympics.(sigh) My people, my people.
Related: The Travel Channel's Guide to the Summer Redneck Games.
Indeed scrapes job postings from every major job board (Monster, Dice, etc.), many of the regional/minor boards, as well as the "help wanted " ads in newspapers, from trade associations, and those posted on the web sites of most major corporations, and makes them available to you through an ultraclean search interface.
This means that if you're looking for a certain kind of job, or jobs in a certain location, or some combination of these things, you don't have to go to a zillion different job boards and search for them separately. You can, instead, go to Indeed, and ask nicely:
"Show me all the technical writing jobs within 25 miles of New York City, please."
And here's the best part. You can save your favorite searches and subscribe to them as an RSS feed, or have the results e-mailed to you daily.
Because they are aggregating all of this data, the good folks at Indeed apparently couldn't resist doing a little trend analysis, God bless them.
Where Are the Jobs? | Indeed.com:
This ranks the 50 largest metropolitan areas in the US by job postings per capita. If you want a quick and dirty picture of where the economic growth is at the moment, you couldn't do better than this.
(Here's something that would be much harder to implement, but that I would dearly love to see Indeed take a crack at -- kind of a Google Zeitgeist for job postings: some classification data on what the fastest growing job titles are, or which technical certifications are in the most demand, and so on. Because there is absolutely no consistency in job titles from one employer to the next, this would be a total bear of a job, but there's got to be some way to tackle the problem.)
23 July 2005
ITIL revolution continues unabated | ZDNet.com:
ITIL has made significant in-roads into the enterprise: In 2003, only 26 percent of organizations were familiar with ITIL. Today, 73 percent are in various stages of implementing the framework. In just two years, a general lack of awareness has leap-frogged into implementation, although only 1 percent have reached the highest level of maturity.Background:
Greenwich Village lends itself to a leisurely pace, so allow yourself most of a day to explore its backstreets and stop at shops and cafés.To better orient you, here's a nice overhead shot from Google Maps, taking advantage of their new "hybrid mode" (satellite photos with street names overlaid.) Washington Square Park is centered in the frame.
Begin your tour of Greenwich Village at the foot of 5th Avenue at Washington Memorial Arch in Washington Square Park. Most buildings bordering the leafy square belong to NYU. On Washington Square North, between University Place and MacDougal Street, stretches The Row, two blocks of lovingly preserved Greek revival and federal-style town houses...
Here's an excerpt from Bill in Exile: Bill in Exile # 82 How AIDS Got Started:
I think my hatred of piano bars started at a very young age for when my mother and I were living in New York City in the sixties she would take me to The Duplex. The original Duplex on Grove between 7th and Bleecker and not the current one on 7th and Christopher. One of Mom's colleagues who was in her English department at school moonlighted as a bartender there and would let me in for the shows even though I was just 7 or 8 years old. I remembered being absolutly tortured beyond reason by the show tune playing pianists then and the only high point was that a young, very foul mouthed female stand up comedian named Joan Rivers had started performing there and I thought she was hysterical. She was also very nice to me and would buy me Shirley Temples and creme de menthe parfaits in between her sets on the promise that I keep my mouth shut during her routine. On several occasions I was used by her as a comic foil and once she insulted my clothing so badly and then my haircut and then my family lineage that I was on the verge of tears until she bribed me with a creme de menthe parfait extra extra heavy on the creme de menthe. I always thought she might have been responsible for my drinking "issues" later in life.The actual setup and punchline (the "how AIDS got started" bit) is just too good to spoil. So just go read it already.
Warning for those with delicate sensibilities - Scott doesn't pull many punches. Any, actually. Graphic language, verbal descriptions of homosexual sex acts ranging from the banal to the outré and arcane, and frank discussions of drug use (kids, don't try this at home) are to be expected (and hugely enjoyed by his loyal readership, of which I proudly count myself a member.)
22 July 2005
As you can imagine, it's all about the New York City restaurant scene. And it's already on our blogroll.
There's good news and bad news about superhigh crude prices. First the good news: By the time oil surges past $100 a barrel, the prices of consumer goods will likely have peaked and started dropping. And crude won't hit the century mark tomorrow: The Goldman Sachs report projected that oil prices won't see $105 until 2007.
ALL SQUEEZED OUT. The bad news: If crude costs $100 or more a barrel, gas prices will hit at least $4 a gallon. And prices at the mall will have shot up long before oil reaches the $100 mark, says Mark Zandi, chief economist at Economy.com.
21 July 2005
No, wait. They sent me a bunch of software updates, and that's just Mister Gato indulging in his penchant for hanging out in empty boxes.
Check out the Friday Ark at The Modulator, and the Carnival of the Cats, for more bloggers' cats from around the world.
New York City will begin tomorrow morning randomly checking bags at subway stations, commuter railways and on buses, officials announced today in the wake of a second wave of bombings on the London transit system.Since readers of this blog skew New Yorkish and libertarian... y'all might want to leave the .38's and the bags of weed at home. Enough said.
The announcement by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly represents a significant ratcheting up of antiterrorism security in the city. Previous efforts have been limited in order to avoid causing delays in a city known for its hustle and the impatience of its denizens.
Hat tip: Alert enrevanche (and New York Times) reader Jon T.
In yesterday's adventure, John and Genna
- Get themselves invited to a Mexican waiter's birthday party
- Visit a chicken farmer with a Ph.D in physics and a love of New Orleans jazz, and
- Check out the art museum at South Dakota State University.
When a debt downgrade at GM took a bite out of several hedge funds last month, part of the blame fell on their participation in the credit derivatives market, a world of high finance that most investors know little or nothing about and that many simply don't understand. Ignorance, however, may not be bliss.Warren Buffett is on record as calling complex derivatives "financial weapons of mass destruction."
Credit derivatives are, in essence, insurance policies against the possibility that a corporation will default on its debt. They are traded by large investors like banks, insurance companies, pension funds, and hedge funds. For a premium, one investor assumes some of the default or credit risk in another investor's loan or bond portfolio. But just as many hedge funds do more than hedge, instead opting to take more-aggressive positions, credit derivatives are about more than just managing risk; they are also about speculating on it and trading it.
I'm not a financial expert of any kind, but I did work for about four years for a company that wrote software to trade and manage derivatives portfolios, so I had to learn a little bit about modern capital markets.
In my view, derivatives, even highly complex instruments, are neither a panacea nor a Pandora's box. The key thing to remember is that they help you package different kinds of financial risks up, slice them and dice them and move pieces of them around, but they don't eliminate risk (not by a long shot!), and if you're not very careful the putative cure can wind up being much worse than the disease.
Some very smart businesspeople have gotten very badly burned in complex credit derivatives transactions. If you approach them from the point of view of careful hedging against risk, you will generally do okay; if you're bellying up to the craps table and hoping to hit your point before you roll sevens, well...
20 July 2005
I have to tell you, things are good. I am . . . I am . . . Whooo! . . . I am very good. I just returned from a walk and . . . ha! Things. Are. Good. I’ve got a bowl of hard kibble with some soft stuff mixed in. My name’s on the bowl! I am passionate about this lamb-and-rice recipe. What’s been going on? haha! I’m so in love with this bitch! hahaha! I can’t . . . I’m so . . . I can’t restrain myself. hahahahahaha! We met at the park. She was in the run for little dogs . . . ’cause she’s, well . . . ha! She’s petite. And I was over in the big run and . . . I am in love. I can’t be cool. This bitch is . . . I have total respect for her.
LONDON (Reuters) - The word 'fail' should be banned from use in British classrooms and replaced with the phrase 'deferred success' to avoid demoralizing pupils, a group of teachers has proposed.
Members of the Professional Association of Teachers (PAT) argue that telling pupils they have failed can put them off learning for life.
A spokesman for the group said it wanted to avoid labeling children. 'We recognize that children do not necessarily achieve success first time,' he said.
'But I recognize that we can't just strike a word from the dictionary,' he said.
The PAT said it would debate the proposal at a conference next week.
In the same vein, perhaps we could suggest "condition of deferred remuneration" instead of "unemployed and broke"; "deferred domicile" for "homeless," and "cognitively-challenged group of psychobabble-spouting idiots" for "Professional Association of Teachers."
If there were ever any doubt that the Church of Self-Esteem has firmly established itself as a reigning piety in the field of education, let it now be removed. God forbid that children should receive an honest evaluation of their work; building up their fragile self-image is FAR more important than preparing them to be thinking, employable adults one day.
I was vastly amused, however, to see that the electronic shit-flinging campaigns, from both sides, have already begun. If you Google "John Roberts," here are the sponsored links that show up. (Clearly, both sides bought up all the relevant URLs for everybody on the short list long in advance.)
Stop John RobertsI think I like the Moviefone link best of all.
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In honor of the first manned Moon landing, which took place on July 20, 1969, we’ve added some NASA imagery to the Google Maps interface to help you pay your own visit to our celestial neighbor. Happy lunar surfing.Update: Be sure to zoom all the way in... click the + sign and check out the extreme close-up.
Thrillist is a free, email-based service catering to guys. Guys who are out of college and not yet married, or are married to disturbingly tolerant women. We're committed to exposing you to New York's most glorious bars, sporting events, services, gadgets and restaurants. Thrillist is not a guide. We're a voice that keeps you plugged into everything in The City that will make your life great -– while keeping in mind that you still need to pay a small portion of your rent, taxes and astronomical gambling debts.
19 July 2005
PostSecret is an ongoing community art project where people mail-in their secrets anonymously on one side of a homemade postcard.The entries on the site range from laugh-out-loud funny to knock-the-wind-out-of-you sad and even shocking, often in the same batch of postcards. They are an amazing little snapshot of the human condition.
The text from three entries in this week's batch (just go to the site, already - the art is at least half the point):
"I am a bulimic feminist."
"I love infomercials."
"I can't poop in foreign countries."
18 July 2005
He's apparently got the blogging bug pretty bad. He's going to be liveblogging the trip as he drives through South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, and DC, here:
John and Genna's Fantastic Adventure (Deadwood to D.C.)
We'll be checking in with him from time to time. Safe travels to you, buddy, and keep it between the ditches.
Most accounts of America's arguments about itself concentrate on divisions within the country: red v blue states, religious v secular voters, the 50-50 nation. This survey takes a different route. It looks at things that Americans have always had in common: mobility (the willingness to up sticks and move); immigration; equality of opportunity; and a love of clubs and voluntary associations (“nothing, in my view, deserves more attention,” wrote Alexis de Tocqueville).Stories included in this survey:
Ideally, all these things work together to create an open, forward-looking society. The restless and ambitious move to the frontier, setting up new industries and opening up new avenues to wealth. More opportunities attract more people, and greater equality of opportunity adds to the supply of wealth-seekers, so social and geographic mobility reinforce one another. A dynamic country attracts immigrants who refresh its stock of ambition. Voluntary associations flourish in the midst of all this activity, making for a stable as well as a dynamic country.
Yet this survey will argue that the cycle no longer works as it did. Some component parts —notably geographical mobility and immigration—continue to whirr merrily. Voluntary associations are reviving, though only after a long period of decline. But disturbingly, there are signs that social mobility is dwindling. The political system, for its part, is adding to social rigidities instead of counteracting them.
The problem is not that America has become less dynamic. Its society continues to grow and change as fast as ever. But traditionally the country has been seen as a melting pot, which after much stirring produces greater integration. Now some of that activity may be causing separation. Has America become a centrifuge?
- Degrees of separation
- Centrifugal forces
- The Americano dream
- Middle of the class
- The glue of society
- Motion dismissed
- Motion sustained
- Audio interview
17 July 2005
- "(Love Is Like A) Heat Wave," Martha Reeves and the Vandellas - available hundreds of places, but Ultimate Collection is a nice choice
- "Hot Night," Me'Shell Ndegeocello - from Cookie: The Anthropological Mixtape
- "Ring of Fire," Johnny Cash - anthologized everywhere; The Essential Johnny Cash is a nice collection
- "Summer In The City," The Lovin' Spoonful - from, e.g., Summer In The City
- "Too Darn Hot," by Cole Porter, from the musical "Kiss Me, Kate" (sung by Ella Fitzgerald on The Cole Porter Songbook Vol. 1)
- "Up The Ladder To The Roof," The Nylons - from One Size Fits All
More information about Joseph Mitchell:
- Joe Mitchell - Biography from North Carolina Writers Network
- "Joe Mitchell's Secret" - excerpt from Mark Singer's Character Studies: Encounters with the Curiously Obsessed
- Joseph Mitchell's obituary (May 26, 1996)
- Internet Movie Database: Joe Gould's Secret
- 6 pounds of dead-ripe Jersey tomatoes
- 3 pounds of cucumbers, peeled
- 3 pounds of young tender onions
- 3-4 large sweet peppers
- Fresh parsley and/or chives
- Fresh garlic
- Juice of four to six large lemons and/or some red wine vinegar
- Olive oil
- Coarse salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Tomato or V-8 Juice
- Tabasco sauce
[T]he problem today is not immigration per se; it is the fact that a pernicious ideology has been allowed to infiltrate Europe's immigrant communities. And that has happened because we have blindly allowed our country to be a haven for fanatics.He has a few examples in mind.
'The whole Arab world was dangerous for me,' the Egyptian Islamist, Yasser El-Sirri, was recently quoted as saying. In Egypt, he has been convicted and sentenced in absentia three times over: to 25 years of hard labour for smuggling armed terrorists into the country; to 15 years for aiding Islamic dissidents; and to death for plotting to assassinate the prime minister. Where does he now reside? In London, where he is Director of the Islamic Observation Centre.Sunday Telegraph: If they pass the 'cricket test', how do we stop the suicide bombers? (July 17, 2005).
"If al-Qaeda indeed carried out this act, it is a great victory for it," declared Dr Hani al-Siba'i in an interview on the al Jazeera satellite television channel the day after the London bombings. "It rubbed the noses of the world's eight most powerful countries in the mud." He went on to say that it was legitimate for al-Qaeda to target civilians because "the term 'civilians' does not exist in Islamic religious law in the modern Western sense. People are either of Dar al-Harb [the domain of war, meaning territory ruled by non-Muslims] or not."
And where are you most likely to bump into Dr al-Siba'i? Why, in London, where he is the Director of the al-Maqreze Centre for Historical Studies.
My name is Richard Fernandez, of Filipino birth and Australian citizenship. My interest in history probably began at Harvard, from which I graduated with a Masters in Public Policy. Wretchard is the name of an imaginary cat, the symbol of that entire race of stoic, yet somewhat foolish creatures. Belmont is the name of a suburb I roomed in while at Cambridge, Mass.You know, I'd always wondered about the name of that blog.
Day in and day out, Wretchard's blog is one of the best reads on the Net.
Personal offshoring has been done before - it was good form in the Russian Tsar's court to send shirts to Paris to be laundered - but what was once the the preserve of big business is now available for the individual. A combination of the internet and the universal acceptability of credit cards means that although you might not need a call centre, there are an increasing number of things that can be moved offshore that would otherwise be prohibitively expensive or outside one's skillset.Guardian Unlimited | Online | Ben Hammersley: Swift and offshore
The first is computer code. The idea of hiring a programmer to make that little widget you are desperate for might seem decadent, but it is very good value for money and remarkably easy. I needed a selection of little programs to do things with my email. But I'd never had the time, or the patience, to write them myself. After a visit to RentACoder.com, I was able to file a request for bids from programmers around the world.
Hat tip: Kottke.
Okay, Barry here again. Stem cell research is very important indeed to me, as someone who is himself a diabetic, the son of a paraplegic, and the husband of a cancer survivor. I bet that you, or someone you know, has a personal stake in this, too.
URGENT CAMR ACTION ALERTThose who oppose passage in the Senate of HR 810, the pro-cures stem cell bill, are fogging the battlefield with proposed so-called "alternatives." These range from unpublished, unproven theories to experiments that have only been conducted with animal cells.
Do Not Be Fooled By Decoy Bills!!!!
Those of us who support embryonic stem (ES) cell research should not be fooled! These untested theories are years, perhaps decades, away from producing human embryonic stem cells. Scientists have already determined a way to derive safe and effective ES cells by using surplus fertility treatment embryos that will otherwise be discarded and destroyed as medical waste. It is this method that is the most scientifically promising and must be supported immediately!
Only HR 810, the Castle-DeGette bill that passed the U.S. House of Representatives on May 24 and was introduced in the Senate by Senators Arlen Specter (R-PA) and Tom Harkin (D-IA), carries the true intent and spirit of the Pro-Cures Movement--our cause. At a stem cell rally in Washington, DC this week Michael J. Fox joined Specter, Harkin and other Republican and Democratic Senators urging for passage of HR 810. Mr. Fox explained that a vote for HR 810 is not only pro-life, it is pro-living. The Senators at the rally agreed. Our national leaders must seize the promise of this opportunity to provide cures for millions of Americans.
A Senate vote on HR 810 and possibly other "alternatives" may take place as early as next week! The message every Senator must hear loudly is that their vote in favor HR 810 is imperative. It is also important for Senators to know that the Pro-Cures community is opposed to any anti-research bills which would ban certain forms of stem cell research.
ACTION NEEDED ASAP:
We need YOU (and your family, friends and neighbors) to contact your U.S. Senators immediately using these arguments: (to find your Senator's contact information, go to www.senate.gov):
- Stem cell research is extremely important to me and my family for (explain your personal reason for supporting embryonic stem cell research here). Under President Bush's current policy, there are simply not enough stem cell lines for federal researchers to work on to make possible the cures that my family and I so desperately need.
- The so-called "alternatives" bills are diversions at best, and at worst, could delay important research and potential cures for patients and their families for years.
- Voting for an "alternative" bill does not relieve my Senator of the responsibility to vote FOR HR 810.
- Vote against any anti-research bills which would ban some types of scientifically valid and promising stem cell research.
- Only one bill makes the most sense for patients, and that is HR 810. I urge my Senator to vote for HR 810 without amendments if he or she is truly Pro-Cures. A vote for HR 810 is the vote my family and I will be watching for.
The tone of the CAMR's communication is a little overwrought and emotional, but I think that's probably right on the money these days. If rational thought had anything to do with stem cell policy, it wouldn't even be an issue, so appeals to emotion and implied threats if your Senators don't do the right thing are exactly the right way to go.
And CAMR is hardly a fringe organization... check out this list of members.
Please take a moment and write your Senators. I just dropped a little love note to Chuck and Hillary:
I am writing to urge you to vote YES on the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2005, H.R. 810, with no amendments.Related links:
Embryonic stem cells may mitigate the pain and suffering of more than 100 million Americans and provide new therapies and other scientific opportunities for countless diseases such as diabetes, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, ALS, heart disease, spinal cord injury and cancer.
As a person who is himself a diabetic, and who is the son of a paraplegic (spinal cord injury) and the husband of a cancer survivor, my family and I take this issue very seriously, and we are watching very closely indeed as this bill progresses through Congress.
Nearly four years have passed since the Bush Administration's policy was announced and since then we have learned much more about the potential of stem cell research to save lives. Unfortunately, the limitations of the current federal policy have stalled progress here in the U.S. Scientists--including United States National Institutes of Health officials--are reporting that it is increasingly difficult to attract new scientists to stem cell research because of concerns that funding restrictions will keep this research from being successful.
Meanwhile, this promising scientific field is moving overseas. We have already seen researchers move to countries such as the United Kingdom, Singapore, Israel, Sweden, and Australia, which have more supportive policies. It would be a shame to see such a promising field of research absent from our country, which is the world's leader in biotechnology.
Most importantly, the men, women, and children who are suffering from life-threatening diseases are engaged in a race against time. It is our responsibility to make sure that they benefit as quickly as possible from the very best that science and technology has to offer. Given the enormous scientific potential of human embryonic stem cells, I ask you to vote for H.R. 810 the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2005, and to vote against any amendments or "alternative" bills that may be proposed.
Barry T. Campbell
- The Coalition for the Advancement of Medical Research (CAMR)
- "The Dark Side of Stem Cell Politics," New York Times editorial, June 15, 2005
- "Clarity in the Stem Cell Debate," Chicago Tribune editorial, June 17, 2005
- Genetics Policy Institute
- Full text of H.R. 810 (GovTrack.us)
16 July 2005
Hmm. Well, these sociological testing instruments are notoriously inaccurate, y'all.
To borrow something Florence King once said about lesbianism ("I don't mind being thought of as a pervert...")
I don't mind being thought of as high-class, but I'd die if someone thought I were a Democrat.
If you are a small IT development or consulting operation that sells or develops solutions using Microsoft products, there is a very affordable (and completely legitimate) way to obtain licensed copies of Microsoft software for much less than the cheapest retail cost you'll find--cheaper, even, than academic pricing.
Sign yourself or your company up for Microsoft's Partner Program if you're a consultant, or the Microsoft Developers Network (MSDN) if you're a developer.
My little company is a member of the Partners program, so I can only speak to that. As a registered Microsoft Partner (the application for basic membership is free and takes about twenty minutes to fill out; all information is subject to validation, but Microsoft's criteria for acceptance are evidently very flexible) you are eligible to subscribe to the MAPS (Microsoft Action Pack) program.
What does MAPS get you?
For $299 a year, you get not-for-resale licensed copies (supporting up to ten installations) of basically everything in Microsoft's productivity, operating system (including server O/S) and collaboration-tools line. This means: Microsoft Office 2003 Professional (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Access, Publisher, FrontPage); Microsoft Visio; Microsoft Project; Microsoft OneNote, etc. on the productivity side, and Server 2003, Sharepoint Portal Server 2003, etc. on the server side. With free quarterly updates and a couple of prepaid "support incidents" tossed in to sweeten the pot.
Buying any one of these applications new at retail would cost more than $299, especially pricey ones like Project 2003 (the Standard version of which has a street price around $400, with Pro being much more expensive); this is one of the best deals going for small consulting organizations.
MSDN is generally more expensive, but considering that you can set yourself up with Microsoft's complete suite of development tools plus support, it's a pretty great deal too.
How is it that I am just now finding out about this blog?
Check out the "recipe matrix" at the bottom of the entry for Creamy Garlic Mashed Potatoes.
As a reward for being an early user, O'Reilly and Onfolio are offering a free copy of Onfolio Personal Edition (which ordinarily sells for $30) - a browser-based research tool that allows you to track RSS feeds and web sites, capture and republish the content therein. I've installed Onfolio on both the desktop and the laptop; it integrates beautifully with Firefox (and supposedly with Internet Explorer as well, but I wouldn't know) and provides some very useful functionality for the web researcher.
Don't the organizers of the concerts realize that Africa lives under the oppression of rulers like Yoweri Museveni (who just eliminated term limits in Uganda so he can be president indefinitely) and Omar Bongo (who has become immensely rich in his three decades of running Gabon)? Don't they know what is happening in Cameroon, Chad, Togo and the Central African Republic? Don't they understand that fighting poverty is fruitless if dictatorships remain in place?All Rock, No Action - New York Times
In Africa, our leaders have led us into misery, and we need to rid ourselves of these cancers. We would have preferred for the musicians in Philadelphia and London to have marched and sung for political revolution. Instead, they mourned a corpse while forgetting to denounce the murderer.
What is at issue is an Africa where dictators kill, steal and usurp power yet are treated like heroes at meetings of the African Union. What is at issue is rulers like François Bozizé, the coup leader running the Central Africa Republic, and Faure Gnassingbé, who just succeeded his father as president of Togo, free to trample universal suffrage and muzzle their people with no danger that they'll lose their seats at the United Nations.
Read the whole thing.
Robert Jay Kaufman, 53, the author of “Blockology: An Offbeat Walking Guide to Lower Manhattan,” would like to see more New Yorkers take the time to wander aimlessly. “I would recommend to everybody the experience of walking without a destination. It makes you so much more observant and really hones your powers of observation,” Kaufman said in a recent phone interview.A guide to the ‘offbeat’ blocks of Lower Manhattan
Kaufman speaks from experience. From May until October of 2003, he walked every block in Lower Manhattan below 14th St. Kaufman estimates he walked 1,544 blocks in total.
Enterprises that expect to reap hefty savings simply as a result of assumed lower employee costs provided by offshore IT outsourcing services will be sadly disappointed, according to a survey of more than 5,000 corporate executives around the globe.Offshore Outsource Savings Can Be Elusive, Survey Shows - Yahoo! News
The 2005 Offshore Outsourcing Research Report, produced by Ventoro LLC, an outsourcing consulting and market research company based in Portland, Ore., found that only 9 percent of any cost shavings [sic] from offshore outsourcing was the result of lower overseas labor costs.
Overall, the report, which was publicly released this week, found that the cost savings from offshore outsourcing was not the 35 percent to 40 percent or even higher that many corporations assumed they would gain went they decided to go overseas, said Phillip Hatch, Ventoro president.
Two related questions haunt Britain, and Europe, in the wake of the London attacks. First, what is it that prompts a small minority of the continent’s Muslims to shift from discontent or personal frustration to active terror? And second, was the attack on London indeed an act of home-grown terror, or an atrocity initiated by people in some distant war zone who had a grudge against Britain? The Leeds arrests, while impressively swift and a credit to the police, have proved there is no easy answer to these questions. In an age of globalised ideologies, globalised communications and porous borders, there is no real distinction between domestic and foreign threats.The enemy within--Economist.com
15 July 2005
A very preliminary version of this can be found here.
If the topic interests you, I'd really appreciate your review and feedback (suggestions, additions, corrections, strongly-worded opinions, war stories, etc.)
MEMRI's mission is to bridge the language gap between the West and the Middle East, and nobody else is doing what they do as consistently and as well.
Translation turnaround time is very fast; the front page offers dozens of articles from around the globe, none older than late June and some of them from late this week. Some of the translations are done "automatically" (that is to say, by software) and are pretty clumsy, but others are translated and edited by actual human beings.
Recommended, as an additional perspective on the world.
The Raleigh News and Observer, my old hometown paper, has found a doozy of a local angle in the London terror bombings:
Reports that a man who briefly studied at N.C. State University is wanted for questioning in bombings in London last week sent a buzz across the campus Thursday.newsobserver.com article (free registration required for access)
NCSU found itself in the spotlight of FBI agents and more than 100 journalists from around the world when The Times of London reported that detectives were searching for an Egyptian-born academic named Magdy el-Nashar, who recently taught chemistry at the University of Leeds in England.
A student by the name of Magdy el-Nashar studied chemical engineering for one semester at NCSU beginning in January 2000, said Keith Nichols, director of news and communications at NCSU.
Update, 9:30 AM - per the BBC, Egyptian authorities have nabbed Mr. el-Nashar.
14 July 2005
Be sure to check out the Friday Ark at The Modulator for pictures of bloggers' animal friends... and the Carnival of the Cats runs every Sunday. (This week, it's at Boxing Alcibiades.)
Sometimes the substitutions are dead simple: OpenOffice.org is a great substitute for Microsoft Office 2003, and is even 99% file-compatible with your Office (Word, Excel, Powerpoint) documents.
Often there are packages that can be cobbled together to produce equivalent results... I haven't (yet) found an XML publishing tool with an interface as nice as Adobe Framemaker, but there are an embarrassing array of choices of XML editors, style tools, and the like.
But I've just found a new tool for my toolbox, and wanted to tell you about it: I think I've found an open-source replacement for Visio.
Dia, a drawing program, is designed from the ground up to be a template-based drawing tool, like the commercial package Visio. In some ways, it looks to be nicer than Visio, especially if you do any work with UML.
As a technical writer and trainer, it seems like I pretty much *live* in Visio, churning out flowcharts, network diagrams, and the like. I'm going to give Dia a spin and see how it goes.
UPDATE: Preliminary version of toolbox document here.
13 July 2005
11 July 2005
For all their ubiquity, Apple Computer's iPods are notorious for having a frustratingly short battery life.This is very cool. The firm is actually named Better Energy Systems, and the Solio website can be found here.
U.K. firm Better Energy Solutions [sic] is addressing the problem in an eco-friendly way. Its Solio line of battery chargers uses solar power to energize not only fading iPods, but also mobile phones and other devices.
10 July 2005
Direct download: July_10_2005_Greenwich_Village_Idiot.mp3 (or subscribe to the podcast feed)
Songs covered include:
- "Enter Sandman" (originally performed by Metallica)
- "Hot In Herre" (originally performed by Nelly)
- "I Touch Myself" (originally performed by Divinyls)
- "I Will Survive" (originally performed by Gloria Gaynor)
- "Perfect Day" (originally performed by Lou Reed)
- "Sixteen Tons" (originally performed by Merle Travis; famous version by Tennessee Ernie Ford)
- "Stayin' Alive" (originally performed by the Bee Gees)
- "Straight Outta Compton" (originally performed by N.W.A.)
- "Your Cheatin' Heart" (originally performed by Hank Williams, Sr.)
- Metafilter, and especially this Ask Metafilter thread
- Coverville (podcast)
- Chromewaves (blog)
- Copy, Right? (blog)
The warning is famous in infantry circles (of which I've never been a member) and in technical writing and training circles (of which I've been a member my entire adult life) for its pithiness and, to put it mildly, the importance of following its stated directions. (The mine is basically a plastic box holding over a pound of high explosive and a hell of a lot of ball-bearings. You definitely want the nasty side pointed away from you.)
I've often thought that some of the better bloggers deserve a similar label -- "Front toward idiocy," perhaps.
Why, just last night, I pointed Chapomatic at this op-ed piece in the New York Times.
And look what he came up with this afternoon.
I wonder where I can get him a T-shirt?