Thursday, April 28, 2005

Mark A. R. Kleiman: The battle of the bulge as a policy problem

Mark A. R. Kleiman: The battle of the bulge as a policy problem:
"... obesity is like global warming. In both cases, advocates of 'doing something' oversimplify complex science, and advocates of doing nothing use compexity to obfuscate the existence of real problems."

I liked this phrase, even if I think it does oversimplify things.

As part of my job I have to make decisions about product architecture. A lot of the time the need for decisions is preceeded by the "must do something about XYZ" coming from the Sales and Marketing group. Nevertheless, decisions need to be made, and it is not the specific allocation of resources to pursue multiple goals that is difficult. The most difficult decisions are the ones that commit the architecture to a direction with high switching-cost. In the absence of complete information about future requirements, two approaches may be equivalent in satisfying the currently known requirements. Each may offer benefits that the other one does not. The drawbacks of the approaches may be known upfront, but the likelihood of these theoretical drawbacks becoming issues is unknown. Thus, coming the team to a course of action is to take a chance on the likelihood of one set of drawbacks becoming actual issues vs. another set of drawbacks. That is only one dimension; however. We also need to take into account the cost of fixing the issues, if it becomes necessary, and of the relative resource consumption and ROI of one approach vs. another in general.

Same issues apply to policy formulation. Dieting is more popular than exercise because it offers many of the same benefits - as stressed by the key word "overweight" -- with low switching costs and possibility of achieving results without altering one's lifestyle. Exercise may offer more benefits, but clearly demands more resources and their longer application than dieting, at least in its current formulation and execution form. Perhaps if everyone biked to work and ran to lunch exercise would have a relatively low cost, but going to the gym, for months and years, is a pretty expensive proposition in terms of time and opportunity cost.

What people tend to do in the private sector is to run progressively bigger PoC (proof of concept) projects. This is comparable to doing immersive studies, but with a clearly formulated requirements and result acceptability. Perhaps what is needed is a coordinating authority to lay out a plan to determine not whether obesity is bad for you, or how bad it is [says this grossly overweight person], that would develop a set of PoCs by multiple vendors (diet, exercise, public policy gurus) to show what the costs and benefits of their approaches are when applied to this particular organization (town, state, country). Many of the vendors do PoC for free. I think it would not be unreasonable to have McDonalds, Bally's, and Education department pitch in to pay for these projects. After all, McDonalds does not really sell hamburgers, they sell "value meals" and "56 second average serving time" [from my local McD.]

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Walking without a watch

What hold bad swiss-instilled habits have on us. I took of my watch and decided to take a walk through downtown. A few things became immediately apparent. One is that I am old and getting older. Another is that I cannot take a 20 minute stroll without looking at my wrist, where the watch usually is, every few minutes. Since I did not have a watch I can only average the numbers, but I did try to look 7 times. Seven (7) times! Ridiculous.

Onto the obvious observation that I am old. I am sure there is a list floating around the Internet somewhere of the "You know you are old" variety. And if there is one, I am sure it has, "... when you see skateboarders on Broadway at 5:30PM and your first thought is to call police and complain." What is even more telling is when you do not have a seocnd thought on the subject. At least not without thinking and active sorting of alternative thoughts. Still, what would possess people to skateboard in any numbers on Broadway at 5:30PM. They are jumping the 3 steps in front of the former Cunard Lines building

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

two different pictures

Someone must be wrong here:

InfoWorld/CRMBuyer - Demand Spirals for IT Consultants

BusinessWeek - Tech's Gathering Gloom

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Abstract: road & grass

Abstract: road & grass
Originally uploaded by slava_f.
Alright. I happen to like this. More of these here

Friday, April 15, 2005

A. with J.

A. with J.
Originally uploaded by Con Tendem.
reproduced here without photographer's explicit written consent. Knowing him, he probably would not mind though.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

CNN - Woman sold daughter for car - Apr 13, 2005

wow, this is not someething you see very often on the news. - Police:?Woman sold daughter for car - Apr 13, 2005: "A woman was arrested for allegedly forcing her 12-year-old daughter into prostitution and trading a 14-year-old daughter for a car."

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Iran denies contact with Israel

You know the situation in pretty tenuous, when countries rush to console their populace with words like these:

"Syria has confirmed that its leader shook hands with the Israeli president, but added that this did not change Syria's position on the Jewish state.

Iran and Syria do not recognise Israel. Syria and Israel are officially at war."

heh. Other difficult handshakes and exchanges of pleasantries: (allegedly) Israeli president with Iranian one. Prince Charles with Mugabe. Pope's funeral certainly did bring people together...

Thursday, April 07, 2005

guilty pleasures: Ian Fleming Concordance

Ian Fleming Concordance with gems like:

British agent holed up in Novaya Zemlya. After working under cover for 15 years, he wants out and is helped across the East-West Berlin border by Bond's shooting.

I spent my 16th summer going through the 20-odd Bond novels. Whoever put this together is a lot more knowledgeable about Bond than I am.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

go gmail - part II

Actually, this is not about gmail at all. It is about a new addition to google maps. The original beta of google maps was a nice variation on the standard map/directions theme. It had the typical "google response time" - orders of magnitude better than anyone else, which enable the drag-and-move of the map in real time. However, that was to be expected. If nothing else, folks at google labs have certainly raised the bar on web application performance.

Nevertheless, I kept on waiting when google will finally add the satellite imagery they acquired with keyhole. A few days ago the finally took the first step by adding a satellite view to the map service. One can now switch from a schematic street map view into one with 3d structures, zooming in and around in almost real time.

Very impressive.

Monday, April 04, 2005

blackberry blogger support

Apparently, Blabkberry browser is compatible with the blogger interface. All my attempts, mostly unsuccessful, to mail in blogger posts were for naught. All I had to do to enable blogger access was to ... try.

Live long and learn. (Oras my father says affectionately: "it is not helpful if you are an idiot")

Chambers Street Station

Chambers Street Station
Originally uploaded by Con Tendem.
A few hundred feet from this station, some conductors stop their trains to observe a minute of silence for 9/11 victims. Aboveground, all seems normal.

MSNBC - Floods swamp parts of Northeast

MSNBC - Floods swamp parts of Northeast: "And at Cincinnatus, N.Y., about 20 miles east of Cortland, the Otselic River flooded a nursing home, forcing out about 35 residents." [ed - emphasis mine]

I really like the fact that NY has a town named after Cincinnatus.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Internet study finished -- after 7 years - Mar 31, 2005

I assume this has been making round, even making it to slashdot main page - - Internet study finished -- after 7 years - Mar 31, 2005

Lawmakers had demanded the $1 million study, ultimately called "Signposts in Cyberspace," under a 1998 law. Passed almost at the dawn of what became the Internet boom, the law required the Commerce Department to seek a study about Web addresses and trademarks by the National Research Council and wrap up the report within nine months.

The council published its findings Thursday -- two presidential administrations later and years after the implosion of what had been a bustling Internet economy.

well, at least that Todo item is off someone's list.

go gmail

Just saw the my gmail quota went up to 1.5GB. Is there a chance google is not going to be able to win the quota race with yahoo/msn ?