Saturday, May 31, 2003

As I am busy sending off some last-minute code changing to clients a quote from Stevland's Super Fast Computer
There are 10 kinds of people in the world: those who think in binary and those who don't.

Fun read but unclear point -- TCS (Taking Children Seriously) article: The Final Prejudice. through A Reasonable Man
I remember the episode and enjoyed watching it. But the parallels brought in the article are strange and conclusions are not inevitable. For one, the whole point of the example is that Pickard, et al. are *not* really 12 year-olds. Indeed, some precocious 12-year-olds go to their rooms not to pout but to contemplate their existence, and certainly plenty of people twice or five times their age do pout and sulk, but most 12-year-olds *do* pout. I can, and do, take my child's questions seriously, but the kind of answers she will be able to deal with when 12 are not the same as Keiko O'Brien who looked 12 for 40 minutes on TV. Is not it too much to expect her husband to be able to relate to someone who does not look like his wife immediately as if she were? Granted, he should know that she would be careful with a hot cofee, but I still warn *my* wife of such things regardless of whether she looks 17 or simply angelic on a given day.
In short, it is an amusing read and something to remember when giving condescending answers to children, but not really something eye-opening or earth-shattering -- unlike a cup of hot cofee plumetting to the floor.
ps. As to Dr. Crusher's bahaviour two words -- Wesley Crusher. Now that's a perfect reason for fearing more able-minded adults in children's bodies on the Enterprise :)

More on this later How I Learned to Love Quotas

I have been involved in a number of discussions regarding this case. Eugene Volokh has a few articles that pretty much cover the legal issues and possible scenarios, at least as far as I am concerned. The links are here and here.
Despite the general understanding of "the courts will decide, the legislature with react - that's how our system works" I was still deeply ambivalent about the issue. Moreover, I felt somewhat uneasy about the heat this case is generating. This was especially disturing since this is not a new case but dates from well over a year ago, it is just that it is only going to trial now, nor is it the only one of its kind (a similar one from Midwest). Moreover, tons of religious groups have changed general rules to help them fulfill their religious demands. Amish do not have to post reflective lights on their rigs and there are no meters running in some Orthodox Jewish communities in NYC on Saturdays, while the rest of the city has them turned off on Sunday. I cannot help but feel that part of the "america, love it or leave it" crowd is in on this case because the plaintiff is Muslim, and as a country we are not too hot on some of her co-religionists right now. However, I think that another part, an even bigger one perhaps is that we can understand that a vast majority of Orthodox Jews will not feed quarters into the meter maw on Shabbos. Clearly, however, a vast majority of Muslims in this country have had no issues getting their pictures snapped. The fact that all muslim countries that allow women to drive (our friends and allies in Suadi Arabia are proudly not a part of that crowd) snap their IDs without any problems makes the case all the more confusing. Whatever religious authority Ms. Freeman can appeal to will have to somehow show that all the authorities from Egypt to Iran were wrong - a tough act. If the court finds that having a full-face photo on your driver's license is a required element of public safety then it will rule against her. If the court finds otherwise, Florida legislature can easily change the law to exempt this law to the religious freedoms rights -- as they now do with drugs. Democracy at work!
I would like to think that in the end this case is going to show that if you want to practice a Islam freely you are better off doing it here than in its birthplace. At least if you want to drive to a mosque.

From NYT -- Special Visa's Use for Tech Workers Is Challenged
"Even if this brouhaha is about a real problem, I think when you look at the number of workers involved, it is a totally insignificant drop in a massive labor market," said Daryl Buffenstein

That's a great way to sidestep an issue. The article claims there are about 325,000 such L-1 visa holders in the US. A significant number of these are in the IT industry, considering that at the height of the boom there were not 2,000,000 IT related jobs in the USA, and hundreds of thousands of them have disappeared since, this is not a tiny slice of the 140,000,000 overall jobs market, but a significant part of a much much smaller IT-related one. According to one of NYT's own previous article NYC, one of the places hardest hit lost about 50,000 IT jobs. That's roughly equivalent to what the article claims last year's L-1 amount was. I do not think that is insignificant, at least I do not see how one could infer that from anything said in the article. I would dearly like to know what the actual question to Mr. Buffenstein was, in order to judge the reply.
Now, I do not doubt the legality and use of L-1 Visas. In fact, the one-sidedness of the article is downright disturbing. Do not British banks transfer employees here from London? And do not we send tons of such workers to countries all over the world looking for oil, coal, working in finance and law? Are most of the vias going specifically to Indian IT outsourcing companies? Is the issue here truly visa-related or more generally productivity-related? As usual, NYT prefers to ignore, or barely touch on any of the real issues in the argument, leaving me as a reader to wonder what the point of the article might be. IMO, with its contradicting quotes and limited information the piece does not let me decide for myself, nor does a good job of reporting.
Again this turns into an anti-NYT rant. Sorry.

Friday, May 30, 2003

It has been a while since I heard these words, "A programmer! That's exactly what we are looking for". Of course, it has been a while since I referred to a computer as "well-endowed" --
"A programmer! That's exactly what we are looking
for. Listen. Quit your institute and join up with us!"
"And what do you have to offer?"
"What do we have?" asked Hawk-nose, turning around.
"Aldan-three," said The Beard.
"A well-endowed machine," I said. "Has it been running well?"

from Monday begins on Saturday

I could not pass by --Arkadi and Boris Strugatsky. Monday begins on Saturday
I do not know how it reads in English, but the first 10 times I read it in Russian were good. This book left an indelible impression n my psyche. Good or bad - you decide.

CNET links to Falling Off of the Cutting Edge (TechNews.com) -- a mushy and not very clear, IMO, reiteration of the theme -- does IT matter. Towards the end, the article unexpectedly lurches towards economics and the danger of deflation. On a reread, the link is clearer -- the author thinks overspending on IT, which she compares to overbuilding of railroads can result in decade-long deflationary spiral. I cannot prove that contention wrong. What I do disagree strongly with is the following statement:
Carr may be early in calling this a turning point for the industry -- for some companies, there probably still is strategic value left to be squeezed out of clever implementation of information technology. But the elbow room for seizing sustainable leads through technology is clearly diminishing as standards proliferate and computing power accelerates.

For one, this is a very general statement that many people thought to be true even during the heydey of massive IT implementations in late '90s. It was never clear to me that *anyone* could ever "size a sustainable lead through technology" since their competitors could always implement that same technology -- proprietary or otherwise -- to even the advantage. Thus, it was never the case that some tactical IT implementation conferred a special status on a company. It has been, and still is, a strong and consistent strategic vision of the role IT plays in company's business and industry that played the best dividends. That has not changed just because there is a decent email standard available for sending email or accessing the Web.
I also take exception to the phrase "..to be squeezed out of clever implementation of information technology." Squeezing out implies that most of the value has been realized, "weighted, measured, and left wanting", but that is absolutely not the case. There are miriads of ways technology can, and should be, used better within most businesses of any type. It my professional opinion we are way, way off from being at a point of "squeezing" use out of IT. At best we are getting to the point of having aged first bottles of "first press" grapes.

Thursday, May 29, 2003

via Slashdot - KiRo - The Table Soccer Robot
As soon as I get my foosbal table, I am getting myself one of these!

Timothy Noah in Slate --NRA Weasel Watch, Day 7 - Does it favor the weapons ban in Iraq?
Bonus political science question: Can the NRA explain how Iraq became a dictatorship in the first place when its citizenry was armed to the teeth?

I remember chuckling over this one when he first posed it here. I have various articles decrying his point, mostly by arguing whether Iraqis only got these guns right before the war, or how they were distributed, etc. I am sure these are all important questions and interesting answers. To me, the clearest answer lies in the other amendments to the Constitution -- like right to free assembly, and right to free speech. Without these two -- one is hard pressed to even form a mob. In fact, American occupation of Baghad allowed one of these to pass (right of free assembly) and a mob was formed.

Wednesday, May 28, 2003

Austrialia must be a place with few problems -- NEWS.com.au | PM tries to justify Roman hotel bill (May 28, 2003)
Keep it mind that prices are in $AU and the controversy is over a stay in a hotel 2 years ago. AU$42K does not strike me as wanton spending by a PM of a fairly large/important country, but perhaps that only showcases how used to government profligacy I am, as an American.

From M-Blog: think
Mr Meier is a legitimate contact man for extraterrestrials visting here from the Pleiades Star system. More than 40 witnesses have testified to the truth of his contacts, while an independent observer has photographed the star visitors ship. The Swiss Air Force has ackknowledged this aerial activity in the vicinity of the Meier farm. Independent witnesses in India have come forward to say they saw Mr Meier in India in the 1960s. Witnesses report Mr Meier was in the company of a extraterrestrial female by the name of Asket.

My own sources also tell me he has an impeccable eBay rating and is considered a power seller in the perpetum mobile category. I have to say, I did not know Swiss even had an airforce. I do know their air traffic controllers had issues a year or so ago, but I do not recall them blaming that on extra-terrestials. Of course, this blog is part of "a massive effort being expended by world power structures and members of the cabal" :)
Just found out -- his eBay feedback is hovering around 380, which happens to be the distance of the Pliades Stars system. It must all be true then -- Swiss do have an airforce.

Our local oenophile, Ravlik chimes in -- Wine Tasting Takes Brains, Italian Study Finds
He writes:

This is hardly surprising, but nonetheless a very pleasant meaningless scientific discovery. Oddly enough there is no mention of coffee tasting. Although this leads up to another question. If tasting wine actually requires a thinking, at which point does injecting enough of Bacchus' product actually inhibits intelligence. Is this an example of a biofeedback?

There has been a spate of various wine-related articles lately, so we are going to hear from him often. Oh, he is also our bio/chem correspondent. All hail
Ravlik

Tuesday, May 27, 2003

Ravlik points out this fun article - Scientists Struggling to Make the Kilogram Right Again
Prominent hole remains open as to how many "nines" the US cetrifuges deliver.

Ah. Finally -- someone picks it up -- from Will the Mideast Buy the Road Map?
The paper also quoted unidentified former Iraqi officials as claiming that Saddam's fall had been precipitated by the betrayal of three of his cousins. It referred to an article in France's weekly Journal du Dimanche naming one of the alleged culprits, Gen. Maher Sufyan Jgheib al-Takriti, a senior Special Republican Guard commander, who was purportedly paid millions of dollars for his efforts before being bundled out of Iraq. Versions of the story keep resurfacing in the Arab press, which suggests it might actually have some merit.

I have seen this story circulate on the web, especially in foreign press since the day Baghdad fell. It lost some momentum, but seems to be picking up steam again.

Monday, May 26, 2003

There we go -- Death Sentence Overturned Because Jury Used Bible
As nearly as I can tell, this applies only to the penulty, not the murder conviction itself, so the guy is not likely to just walk away, but I still do not understand a couple of things. First, the guy was tried a jury of his peers, which in Denver has got to include at least a couple of people who are Christians. The quote in question ("eye for an eye") is not exactly an obsure reference, and whether someone looked in the Bible or not does not change the fact that all of the jurors agreed to give him the death penulty. Does it matter if the bible was from a hotel room or brought by one of the jurors? Is not the reason for having death penulty stems from that very same Bible passage? Secondly, if having consulted a moral reference by a juror is grounds for sentene dismissal, then we really cannot have a jury with a Jainism follower on it -- as s/he will object to death penalty? We have laws that limit the vigilantisment of local juries, and local juries to apply some sort of currently prevalent community standard for the crimes. We have attorneys that select the best jury they can. That's the system -- why should a judge be allowed to meddle with it? I can only presume that if they returned the non-death penalty verdict by consulting a different passage in the Bible the judge would throw it out too? Maybe not -- and that's the reason he should not throw out this verdict either.
Another thought -- is not this a form of religious discrimination to not allow Christians to consult *their* moral reference, while the judge is free to consult the constitution -- his reference? Presumably the same would apply to Budhists or Muslims -- no point of reference for them either. Cannot wait until we drag lie-detectors for the jury into the courts, "Did you think of Confucious during deliberations? Aha. Mistrial!"
We have a process for selecting juries that is supposed to weed-out those jurors who are biased to make a decision regardless of evidence presented. In this case the whole jury decided, not just a couple of people who consulted the Bible, on the death penalty.

I missed this article when it first came out -- Get a Job
I am not sure why people watching NYT like hawks just let this one slide. Granted, this is just "one man's opinion" but he is not exactly a guy on street [like me], he is a former Cabinet secretary and currently a professor. This is a really troubling op-ed, IMO. Is that the opinion of the "economy-minded" people who ran the Clinton administration? Who can take a year without pay to gain "some useful experience while doing some good"? I do not know too many people who can afford that. Last referene I saw to someone volunteering was in today's NY Daily News -- in reference to Gov. Pataki's daughter. Is she now a typical college graduate? And are schools the only example he could come up with? If so, it only highlights the paucity of available jobs and transforms his advice from "it would be good for you" into "you are not even going to be able to get a job in one area that has them, if you do not work in the craft for a year for free" ... Less than enticing. As some of the letters to the editor point out -- a great number of people are graduating with 20K or so in loans. That, btw, is about $250/month for the next 10 years -- in case Mr. Reich wants to subsudize the volunteers.
For many people advanced degrees are the only way they see of stabilizing their income level at some acceptable minimum. Perhaps Drs and Lawyers are not making as much money as before, but they are still making well more than 90% of other occupations, and it is harder to move a Doctor's office to China or India for outsourcing than a manufacturing or computer science job. Perhaps, rather than criticize people's desire to improve their lives, Mr. Reich should have encouraged them (us?) to consider a wider field of options for advanced education and skills -- like civil eingeering, aerospace, bioengeering, and liberal arts. Of course, this is my op-ed, so take this as "one man's opinion" as well.

NYTimes compliments Rumsfield -- Reviewing the Intelligence on Iraq
I must be mistaken somewhow, but that is what it reads like to me. More importantly though, this kind of reviews, their inevitability and our insititutional reliance on this kind of intelligence/military/anything else reviews is what made the West what it is. And the impossibility of conducting these reviews in USSR, Iraq, or Saudi Arabaia is what dooms them.

Sunday, May 25, 2003

"You can't do anything to help us anyway," she growled at an inquiring foreigner, "so why should we talk to you?" -- Sadly, There Goes the Neighborhood
Good point. Why should they talk to a reporter? Although I imagine that no so many years ago the reason would be more like fear of punishment byt the government. Yet another sign of how far China has come.

I have seen this since the day Baghad fell in foreign-language sources on the internet and in print -- UPI: Report: Iraqi let Baghdad fall for payoff. Is this now a "more official" story?
I do not even know what my feelings are if this were proven true. Frankly, it seems somewhat farfetched to me, but then, if we saved a few thousand American, and thousands of Iraqi lives for a few airplane tickets and 'several hundred thousand dollars' -- should we really complain? It is the amount that makes the story suspect for me -- does not the guy know we have a game show called 'Who wants to be a Millionaire?" [and a Billionaire version is coming up]? This is like Dr. Evil from the Austin Powers movies asking for One Million Dollars. Muahaha
Just wierd. I guess by the fact that not many mainstream neo-con supporting blogs have latched on to the story that it might be true, and noone wants to stick their neck out. Of course it could be that this is obviously a conspiracy theory and only I fail to realize its absurdity.

Heh. I knew that -- Microdoc News: Dynamics of a Blogosphere Story. May be not. via InstaPundit

Hey, this is fun --WSJ.com - Shirk Ethic: How to Fake A Hard Day at the Office
I wish I knew about all this stuff before. Like an idiot I am in the office at 11PM. Oh well, at least I caught up in time.

Friday, May 23, 2003

Interesting points to be made here -- Threats to college-diversity programs pose risks for boys

Wednesday, May 21, 2003

Long link title, but a good read. -- The War Room - What Robert Dallek's new biography doesn't tell you about JFK and Vietnam. By Fred Kaplan
The article also indirectly highlights the ever present "successor issue."

Tuesday, May 20, 2003

Bookmarking for now. Commentary later -- The Atlantic | April 2003 | The Return of the Pig | Brooks

The cheese stands alone - My graph at the The Political Compass
In their listing of various political leaders, there was not one in my quadrant. I am not sure what that means, but I guess I am close enough to the center to pretend it does not matter.

I do like this commercial. And I always like 'Ad Report' so here -- Martin Scorsese Makes Fun of Himself . By Rob Walker

Monday, May 19, 2003

Long, Dense, but interesting aritcle. Samizdata.net - The Death of Copyright
It is hard to confront the reality of filesharing and reconcile it with breaking laws, and personal ethics. The article does a good, if ordy, job of explaining a position to which I personally am sympathetic -- most users do not feel that the utility of the product is diminished and its creator is punished by file sharing. It is pointless to argue whether it is true or not -- what is important is that enough people feel that way to make it work too well for any specific corporate entity to stop.
I also found the 2nd comment to be well thought out and presented. Read on.

Saturday, May 17, 2003

I actually read all of his Fandorin books -- A Russian Intellectual Turns to Crime (Fiction)
And I also read his grandson of Fandorin books, and they were not nearly as good. I have yet to see the russian movie based on "Azazel". Anyway, I am glad he got translated into English, and I would not mind seeing how his book does.

Friday, May 16, 2003

Why not? photoSIG » A's flight.

There we go. It did not take long to figure out a high-tech way for low-tech vote rigging -- BBC NEWS | Technology | Mafia turns to 3G video phones
I am sure there are still people who think voting over the internet will take off, or at least through voting machines connected to a network... Why would you think people would not hack into that? Do we really need another way for unfair elections to take place?

Pretty good overview of the Health Insurance woes -- Premium Blend - Why is it so difficult to provide universal health care? By Robert Shapiro
I would like to add to it that I think the author underreports the cost of the drugs and technology-related treatments versus what doctors actually get paid. I was surprised, and somewhat appalled, to find out that an oncologist was billing us $150 for a visit, but was only collecting, including our $20 co-payment about $60-$80. She easily spent an hour or more with us, and had to maintain an office, etc. Every advanced test we had was however running into thousands of dollars for MRI/CAT/etc. It seems to me that the real rising cost of insurance reflects the rise in these prices, and that in fact the use of malpractice suits as a bludgeon drives a lot of doctors to oversubsribe these kinds of treatments and tests.
I keep thinking that if Doctors were allowed to keep more of the total money we would see
1. increase in the number of Drs.
2. increase in their use of traditional doctor-observed diagnosis and less of the uber-reliance on technology.
3. As doctors rely more on themselves, Malpractice suits will regain their relevance, since now a doctor will actually balance his earnings vs. your health, as opposed to just sending you to the most expensive treatment possible since whether it is cheap or not makes no impact on their wallet.

BTW, I still do not see how capping malpractice awards @ 250K will do anyone any good, except very literally limit doctors liability before their patients.


Obviously, this is very rough, but for some reason this is one subject I do not hear much debate on. It is easy to wish for universal health care, but hard to pay for it.

Thursday, May 15, 2003

Got to love the title -- Yahoo! News - Suit to Ban Oreos in Calif. Crumbles