22 December 2009

Out of town …

… with family. I am not sure when I will be back on duty.

18 December 2009

Barak Pu-Yi

Given President Obama’s declining popularity and the increasing realization that he has never had any substance, how long until he’s basically the last Chinese emperor, paraded around in impressive but meaningless ceremonies, oblivious to his lack of relevance?

EROI

SWIPIAW has been making me go out and exercise for a while now. A couple of things ocurred to me while I was suffering for her benefit —

First, is exercise a net time win? That is, if you exercise for one hour, is your expected life span extended by more than one hour? If it’s less then you’re losing. One must also consider the future discount of that time. It’s not only that the time is in the future but you will also be older so it’s less valuable.

Second there’s a general rule that mammals get a certain number of heart beats in a life. You can roughly guess the life expectancy of a mammal from the normal heart rate. Does this mean that when I elevate my heart rate while exercising am I using up those beats?

16 December 2009

It's always tortoise and hare

I was reading this post about the new “Droid” phone based on Google’s Android operating system.

What is interesting to me is how Google seems to be playing Microsoft to Apple once again. Apple came out with a clearly technically superior product enhanced by a very well done user interface. Meanwhile Google and its partners have been putting out versions of Android that started at mediocre and have been gradually improving. This new phone is at least the third release of the basic platform and is apparently the first to be in the same ballpark as the iPhone.

The question is not so much whether the Droid, in particular, is a real competitor for the iPhone. If not, we can reasonably presume there will be another version. That was the Microsoft strategy after all, to get close enough with a lower price to be a valid alternative. The question is, will Apple rest on its dominance as it did with the MacIntosh?

The other question is why do other companies find it so hard to get the slick user interface? A good team capable of doing that quality of work is hard to find and expensive, but really — Google can’t put one together, in a market worth potentially billions of dollars? For computers it might be debatable about how slick the user interface really needs to be but for a cell phone, a far more commoditized product with few technical differences, the user interface is the plurality of the product. It is the “value add” for which people pay.

I expect it’s a common problem that Apple, institutionally, has overcome. That problem is the realization that nice user interfaces are a lot of work. When I build enhancement in to our product the effort of implementing the backend is usually about 25% of the work. The other 75% is creating a user interface to make the feature accessible to the user. My pattern is to figure out the basic implementation (so I know I can implement the backend) then work out the details of the user conceptual model. If I can’t do the latter well we don’t put the feature in because it’s better to do without than to have an irritatingly unusable one. I suspect that too many tech companies haven’t figured this out and that’s why Apple has been so successful.

Don't open the box!

I was thinking this morning about the EPA’s declaration that carbon dioxide is a pollutant which they can regulate. One consequence will be discovery during the inevitable lawsuits. I would think that is something the warmenists should not be looking forward to as every time information is extracted from the warmenist cabal it makes the warmenists look even worse. Every data dump has been a gold mine of errors, obfuscation, and malfeasance. I don’t expect that to be different in the future. Imagine Al Gore on the stand being hit by someone who has a clue, rather than allied Old Media people.

15 December 2009

Yes, it would continue to be 100%

Pet peeve time!

At Brothers Judd we have an article which contains

Kronick concludes that “the best available evidence” suggests “there would not be much change in the number of deaths in the United States as a result of universal coverage.”

Really? You mean with or without universal care, everyone dies? Amazing what you can figure out with enough research funds and a big enough title.

Things become political when you add politics

Ann Althouse writes

The strategy for avoiding the label “death panel” is: present the treatments as deadly. Voila: life panels! Now, here’s your blue pill.

It appears that ex-Governor Sarah Palin is winning the “death panel” debate if even Althouse is buying in. A commenter notes

This is the problem with a giant political intrusion into healthcare: Now every single decision will be viewed as a political maneuver instead of a scientific or medical decision.

Duh! Many of us have pointed that out from the beginning. It of course has much broader application. I wonder if anyone nodding his head “yes” at that comment will think to ponder that as well.

Noted in passing

[Washington,] D.C. hands out $15M in bonuses despite recession, budget gaps. “The bonuses were ladled out even as the city was facing nine-figure budget shortfalls and officials — including Rhee — were firing employees by the busload, claiming they could no longer afford them.” It’s only a scandal if business does it.

Instapundit

Exactly my point. Like “stimulus” funds being used to terminate jobs by state government there’s just no will to hold government accountable.

On the other hand, one can over react to government malfeasance by labeling results of the bureaucratic state “un-democratic” which is, in my view, not quite right. The EPA’s decision to regulate carbon dioxide as a pollutant isn’t an out of control agency, but a failure of a dysfunctional political class. The EPA wouldn’t have done this without clear support from at least the executive branch and confidence of continued funding from the legislative. The law on which the EPA is acting was passed by Congress, signed by the President, and validated by the judicial branch. We the people are getting exactly what we voted for, good and hard. If Congressmen feared for their jobs over things like this, it wouldn’t happen, which leaves us still a democracy.

14 December 2009

How to look good while doing bad

President Obama’s Nobel Prize speech contained the first movement of a historical rewrite. Power Line Blog reports that he said

Likewise, the world recognized the need to confront Saddam Hussein when he invaded Kuwait - a consensus that sent a clear message to all about the cost of aggression.

Power Line takes him to task for this, but really I think there was a general world community recognition. It was the Democratic Party in Congress who didn’t, voting in the Senate 45-10 against with Sentors Joe Biden and John Kerry in the “no” column. As Instapundit notes it’s the start of the same rewrite that’s been done with the Cold War where the opponents then become boosters when it’s politically convenient. I don’t see how the Democratic Party could survive if people actually remembered history.

Moving on to a smaller host

PJ, this one is for you —

The Boston Globe reports that Massachusetts lawmakers are considering raising the state gasoline tax crom 23½¢ by another 50¢ per gallon to pay for the Big Dig. I just wonder which will end first — the debt or the structural integrity of the tunnels.

11 December 2009

John Edwards was right

The creation of Two Americas — public vs. private.

Federal employees making salaries of $100,000 or more jumped from 14% to 19% of civil servants during the recession’s first 18 months — and that’s before overtime pay and bonuses are counted. […]

The highest-paid federal employees are doing best of all on salary increases. Defense Department civilian employees earning $150,000 or more increased from 1,868 in December 2007 to 10,100 in June 2009, the most recent figure available.

When the recession started, the Transportation Department had only one person earning a salary of $170,000 or more. Eighteen months later, 1,690 employees had salaries above $170,000.

This while the federal government is on a hiring spree

In the first six months of the year, the federal government was adding 10,000 jobs per month, and over the recession had grown the ranks of bureaucrats by 9.8%. The private sector, during that same period, shed 7.3 million jobs to contract 6.3%.

But our Dear Leader is going to get on that deficit, Real Soon Now.

Don't pester us with facts

This rant is an excellent one, but I want to quote just one bit with regard to education —

Want to know why the government wastes hundreds of millions of dollars on math and science programs that never seem to improve the test scores of American students?3  Part of the reason for this is that today’s K-12 educators—unlike educators in other high-scoring countries of the world—refuse to acknowledge evidence that memorization plays an important role in mastering mathematics.  Any proposed program that supports memorization is deemed to be against “creativity” by today’s intellectual gatekeepers in K-12 education, including those behind the Math and Science Partnerships.  As one NSF program director told me: “We hear about success stories with practice and repetition-based programs like Kumon Mathematics.  But I’ll be frank with you—you’ll never get anything like that funded.  We don’t believe in it.”  Instead the intellectual leadership in education encourages enormously expensive pimping programs that put America even further behind the international learning curve.

Of course, it can hardly be surprising that “Progressive” reformers have a personal antipathy for memory.

Birds, not rats

Via a commenter at Moe Lane is an interesting theory as to why a long time Democratic Party Congressmen has decided to not run for re-election. The standard view would be that such elected officials foresee major losses for their party and are getting out before the deluge. But I think this might be just as significant —

You are going to see more and more of them bail Moe. I think the Democrats want it that way. The plan is to get Reps from close districts to retire. Then they can vote for Obamacare and cap and theft and not have to answer to voters for it. The Dems can then run a new guy who can lie and say “I never would have voted for that. I am different.”

Given the amount of graft potential in any large government program like this and the extreme fervor with which the MAList leaders are pushing this, I not only wouldn’t find this surprising, I would be surprised if it was a bigger reason than the standard rat out of a sinking ship motivation.

Danger, danger, Will Robinson!

PC World is freaking out over Google’s new DNS offering. DNS is the technology that converts character strings (such as “thought-mesh.net”) in to IP addresses. There are number of security issues with the system (and if you don’t have enough blood flowing from your ears I could expand on that) but this article is silly.

The big worry is that Google will keep personal information. I find that less than scary because the DNS protocol, the actual data in the packets put on the wire, don’t contain personal information. So how are Google servers going to store something they never had? Of course the servers will have the IP address of the requesting system (because otherwise it can’t send the answer. But so what? Every single server you touch on the Internet knows your IP address. Moreover, if your household is behind a firewall the only IP address the outside world (including Google) is going to see is the one your ISP gave to the firewall. There’s no way to tell which specific machine in your house made the request (the firewall knows and handles forwarding the packets to the right place).

There’s no information Google could grab that your ISP couldn’t. I may not have much respect for Google, but is anyone going to claim it’s really worse than the average ISP?

Noted in passing

Time to dump some links that don’t rate full posts.

Big Hollywood reports that the attempt to use the NEA for agitprop was no rogue operation but a well planned one.

I see the EPA has declared carbon dioxide a hazardous substance and I think — these people have uncorked the genie and it will destroy them through overreach. It’s amusing in the context of this commentary which notes

A third risk is that they will not be able to contain the EPA’s actions, since the law clearly specifies that much smaller sources are subject to regulation than they now contemplate, and legal action may force the EPA to regulate smaller sources whether it wants to or not.

I think the EPA action is itself an example of that.

Remember, Tiger Woods’ infidelity problem was about his lack of diversity in mistresses. Don’t make the same mistake.

The Obama Administration is hard at work creating more barriers for business formation and growth. Let’s hear it for the jobs summit, having an impact already.

The White House is playing the Alinsky gambit once again by picking a target to demonize to distract from its own failures.

10 December 2009

A contrast in styles

Old fashioned hokey Presidential Thanksgiving —

New style classy Presidential Thanksgiving —

Hope and change, my friends, hope and change.

New climate modeling software available

09 December 2009

Thoroughly rotten

Another day, another story about fraud in use of temperature records. I would like to be hopeful that this kind of thing matters but despite all the previous environmental hoaxes, every new one seems to be taken just as seriously as all the previous ones. Still, it’s amusing to think of all those saying “it can’t be fraud, because that would require a global conspiracy” while evidence for just that kind of thing keeps popping out of the woodwork…

P.S. Props to the UK Meteorological Office for deciding to try for good data obtained in a known manner. Not that there is any possibility of fraud or bogus “adjustments”!

Definition of "filler"

Via Brothers Judd is this amusing tidbit about President Obama once again demonstrating his near total lack of class. This is the funny bit —

“It’s very sad,” said Nobel Peace Center Director Bente Erichsen of the news that Obama would skip the peace center exhibit. Prize winners traditionally open the exhibitions about their work that accompany the Nobel festivities. “I totally understand why the Norwegian public is upset. If I could get a few minutes with the president, I’d say, ‘To walk through the exhibition wouldn’t take long, and I’m sure you would love the show. You have no idea what you are missing.’”

You bet it wouldn’t take long. I would be amused to see what, exactly, the Norwegians put in the exhibit as Obama’s “accomplishment”. Pictures of ex-President Bush leaving the White House? A teleprompter? An empty file folder?

08 December 2009

Imperial Science

Here’s a post from before the CRUtape Letters which captures their essence —

What is so bizarre is this. The FOI request by Steve McIntyre to the Met Office was for a copy of the data sent to Peter Webster. If the restrictions on the data hold for Steve McIntyre, why did they not prevent release of the data to Webster?

When asked by Warwick Hughes for this data, Dr. Jones famously replied:
Even if WMO agrees, I will still not pass on the data. We have 25 or so years invested in the work. Why should I make the data available to you, when your aim is to try and find something wrong with it.

There are those who say that science and scientists in general shouldn’t be tarred with the global warming climate change scandal but I have only a bit of sympathy for that point of view because people like Jones were not called out for this blatant anti-scientific attitude. That, at least, wasn’t hidden.

And it’s still going on. Here’s a link in which a “researcher” lays in to a NY Times reporter for not being completely in the tank. A NY Times reporter! That’s seriously hard core Kool-Aid.

Sowing seed corn

As I watch Old Media fail yet again to make even a half hearted attempt at informing citizens of important issues (see Senator Baucus or open global warming climage change agitprop, or the failure to report on the faked and lost climate data) I can’t help but think that it’s another looting effort.

If one wanted to think of a way to teach people that Old Media is an unreliable, biased agitprop for the MAL I can’t think of how you could manage it better than what is going on right now. It is no longer possible to suppress, in the large, stories like the East Anglia CRU malfeasance. People will in general find out about it, notice that Old Media is ignoring it as much as possible, and decide that Old Media is just another partisan voice in a crowd. It’s just a short step from that to noticing that it’s a not well written voice.

At the same time we are starting to see an increasing amount of good reporting outside Old Media, such as here on problems with temperature data from GIS. That’s better than anything in Old Media so what’s left to justify Old Media’s existence?

P.S. From down under we have the Sydney Morning Herald suppressing George “Moonbat” Monbiot’s column because he thinks the CRUtape Letters reveal researchers behaving badly. The screen cap from the Australian Broadcasting Company newscast is funny as well.

07 December 2009

It takes a government

Just the headline explains the story —

NYC’s Off-Track-Betting Seeks Bankruptcy Protection

Further commentary would be pointless.

Time can be on either side

Via Brothers Judd is this heart warming story of some of the technological innovations that are starting to show up on the battlefield. While the Caliphascist have advantages in terms of wearing down resistance and will among the civilized, we still have our advantages including technology that doesn’t remain static.

Moreover, it’s hard to sustain a barbarian group like the Caliphascists in proximity to advancing technology. One might note that the top end terrorists were well educated and intelligent, but based on the trajectory of the skill set of splodeydopes it seems clear to me that intelligent ones are a very limited resource precisely because the mindset needed to cope with non-commoditized technology inculcates memes that are not compatible with those that enable being a splodeydope. It’s certainly possible, as humans are extremely adaptable, but it’s hard which leads to the limited supply. For us, however, it all works together very nicely with military virtues, which puts at least some factors on our side in the long run.

Over scaring

One thing I wonder sometimes is if the endless gloom and doom from the environmentalists and warmenists doesn’t eventually wrap and convince people that it’s so difficult and dangerous that there’s no hope so you might as well just party on. Certainly the spectacle of squadrons of private planes and fleets of limousines in Copenhagen would seem to confirm such a view.

Let us help you or else

This little comment from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is indicative —

Stone: Do you think it’s fair to send people to jail who don’t buy health insurance?

Pelosi: … The legislation is very fair in this respect.

At least one Congressman had the sense to ask the key question

If POR care is so good, why do people need to be forced?

That’s the key question for much of the MAList program isn’t it? Ultimate the answer provided reduces to “you’re too stupid to decide for yourself” although it’s considered bad form to admit that plainly.

06 December 2009

Spoilage

Via Instapundit a few weeks ago was this report about how the Obama Administration was setting up to conduct an ideological purge of the federal government. Some people think this is a problem but I agree with a Right Wing News writer that it’s a problem only if it does not set a precedent for the next President. If President Obama wants to bring back the spoils system and discard the civil service rules, that’s a transformation I can support.

I expect, though, that as usual a Democratic Party Administration will evade such rules without effort or cost while a GOP Administration will be pilloried for even suggesting it. Ah well.

04 December 2009

Noted in passing …

Hot Air writes

[…] does Congress have the power to break contracts?  The Department of Justice says no and that any contractual obligations between federal agencies and ACORN have to be met, regardless of Congress’ attempt to defund the controversial group

While I see the point here, I would find it more compelling if the federal government had a more general respect for contract law, rather just in cases which align ideologically with the MAL. See, for instance, the respect for contracts with regard to the GM bailout.

Speaking of bailing out GM, we have GM stating a realized gain of $80B based on forgiven loans, while GM has a market capitalization of roughly $2.5B. Puts Orrin Judd’s strange new respect for bailouts in perspective, doesn’t it?

But what should we expect? When government gets involved in things that can be handled by the private sector, it does much worse because it’s both player and referee and disregards any regulations it finds inconvenient. We can see this in the first item above, or this item from Instapundit, or helping the ethanol industry, or cash for clunkers. And these are just the ones I happened to have accumulated in my browser tabs since my last roundup.

In a similar vein, it is interesting to contrast the treatment of Major Hasan and SEALS who roughed up the target of a special ops grab. I find the latter ridiculous — if you’re sending in the SEALs, then it’s going to be rough. If you’re not willing to accept that, then the mistake is using SEALs.

Everything has its costs, and the ability to pretend state intervention doesn’t is what leads to things like Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid promising that POR care will eliminate disease and make people immortal..

03 December 2009

Whiplash

Via Instapundit comes a report that the New York Times has reported on East Anglia CRU’s Phil Jones departure which leaves me wondering, is this yet another instance where NY Times readers were left wondering “how did this happen so suddenly and without warning?” once again. It’s kind of the opposite of a cliff hanger — all resolution, no context.

Rhetoric over results in South America

A dictatorship that fosters the production and distribution of cocaine is not apt to enjoy a positive international image. But when that same government cloaks itself in the language of social justice, with a special emphasis on the enfranchisement of indigenous people, it wins world-wide acclaim.

Yep, as Mary Anastasia O’Grady notes. While President Obama was attempting to thwart democracy in Honduras, Bolivian President Morales is following Venezuelan dictator Chavez but with less actual socialism and more narcotic trafficking. Chavez seems to believe his own rhetoric while Morales seems more of a con man who’s noticed the effect cited above. He is following the Chavez plan of eroding any opposition rather than an open coup

We can’t lay all this on Obama, though — the story really starts back in 2003 and Morales accomplished much of his results before 2009, he’s just putting on the finishing touches now. Bush did oppose Morales rise to power and was attacked for it by the usual suspects but it still happened mostly on Bush’s watch. Like the case with Chavez it seems implausible that any of Bush’s critics at the time will engage in reconsideration regardless of how blatantly Morales trashes democracy. After all, he says the left things. And Bush didn’t like him.

Barrel scraping watch

Instapundit links to a story which debunks a sob story that purported to tell a story demonstrating why POR Care was necessary. Turns out that even as the story was being published the subject was getting treatment.

What I don’t understand is why Old Media types so often pick such poor subjects. Do they just not care if their stories make sense? That no one would dare to check out their claims? Simply can’t be bothered to investigate or verify if it sounds good?

Teaching the basics isn't research

Critical Mass writes about tenure and I commented on it, which brought this response

[…] research is important. You need to stay on the cutting edge of your field, or you are teaching things sometimes decades old.

And that’s a problem because …? Especially in the areas where tenure is most under threat, such as English Literature. In fact, I think many such programs would be improved if they only taught things that were at least 50 years old. If people no longer remember it at that point it probably best forgotten.

Even in technical fields the basics, especially for freshman and sophmore classes, are decades old. The things that need to be updated aren’t thing you need to be doing research to learn (such as modern operating systems and compilers). If a lecturer can’t keep up with what I expect my undergraduate interns to track, he needs to find another job.

It is only when you get to the graduate level, IMHO, that it is an advantage for your instructor to be engaged in ongoing research and then only in science, technology, and mathematics.

Anyway, that’s today’s rant. Or at least today’s first rant.

01 December 2009

Noted in passing…

A Tale of Two Leaders which compares ex-President Reagan’s response to Solidarity vs. President Obama’s to demonstrators in Iran. Not a perfect analogy, but close enough for government work.

Media Matters demonstrates the fine art of editing for effect in which they lambast Fox News for leaving out … the things Media Matters clipped from the video.

Let me show a bit of appreciation for Old Media not being totally subservient to President Obama when they refused to go along with the exclusion of Fox News from the White House Press Pool. One might say it was in self interest because of the possiblity of a future GOP President, but isn’t most of our system based on that? That they were able to see themselves in FNC’s shoes in the future is a good thing.

Attorney General Eric Holder — when you’re stumped by Senator Lindsey Graham, you’ve got a serious problem. I knew Holder was a incompetent hack but I didn’t think even he was stupid enough to propose a trial with massive political implications without, say, checking for precedents. It’s one thing to try to twist the law around, but it’s a far worse thing to not even understand why twisting might be necessary.

President Obama is addicted to the word “unprecedented”. He sprinkles it liberally on everything he does, even if it is very precedented. However, sometimes he does achieve that uniqueness he feels he deserves — Japanese Newspaper calls Obama visit “worst in history”. Way to top the charts! (via Just One Minute)

Remember, the problem with the leaked data from the East Anglia Climate Research unit isn’t the behavior it reveals, but that it was written down for others to discover. UN-believable.

Social vampires

I saw this article which is mostly reasonable (although it does tangent in to obligatory GOP bashing) but this quote struck me —

especially in California, that structure has several iterations of a deal whereby generation t receives a big endowment of personal, social, and physical capital from generation (t-1) that enables it to consume lots of resources and have a happy life, while still adding to (and maintaining) that kind of capital to bequeath to generation (t+1). The current generation of California voters has broken that deal, realizing it would be even nicer for them to just consume everything they earn and leave my students to fend for themselves educationally and in lots of other ways.

I realized that it was not just education in California, but a general, over-arching theme of the MAL. I have written previously of how the climate change hysteria was fueled by looting of scientific credibility built up over generations. The various ACORN and its associated ilk vote fraud efforts is paid for by the eroding of credibility of voting and democracy. I shouldn’t be surprised, though — if you’re not looting, it’s not socialism.

P.S. Ironic, though, isn’t it, that this comes from a political faction that makes a fetish of conserving non-human environments. Just another aspect of the anti-humanism and narcissism of socialism.