Given the very unlikely, yet nevertheless possible, chance that I may one day wish to reference a video of a cat eating with forks, spoons, and chop sticks.. well, by putting it here I'll know where to find it
has an article
that, in that typical sensationalist
way that mass media still insists on operating, opens it's first line with:
In these days of nearly $4-a-gallon gasoline, a three-ton SUV that practically requires a bank loan to fill 'er up would seem to be a tough sell.
I suppose I'm to understand the jocular nature of the phrase "fill 'er up" to imply sarcasm and a lack of sincerity in claiming one to need a bank loan to put gas in their vehicle. I suppose I should be aware enough to know that the "nearly $4-a-gallon" gas that they speak of doesn't exist. The real national average is about $3.23 a gallon and, despite the fact that it was reported as a new inflation-adjusted record (beating out the early 80's record caused by the 70's oil fiasco) it really wasn't. Or was it.
The reality is that the government, after reporting a record gas price based on yearly inflation numbers, is now using monthly inflation figures for 2007. They quickly retracted the record-breaking news. We aren't there yet.. but we're awfully close.
Regardless, gas is far from $4 a gallon. $3.25 is a mere 81% of $4.. not that we couldn't close that gap damn quick given some sort of crisis.
Yet, after all this news, the article mentioned above goes on to say that SUV sales are heading back up from 2006:
The numbers for large SUVs rose nearly 6 percent in the first quarter of 2007, and the April figures were up 25 percent from April 2006, according to automakers' statistics provided by Edmunds.com, an automotive research Web site..
.. Sales figures for large SUVs:
- April 2004: 71,040
- April 2005: 59,914
- April 2006: 47,363
- April 2007: 59,297
Take this with a grain of salt, of course, since comparing the month of April year over year only gives you (hrrmm.. hrmm.. math in my head.. err.. 12 months to a year.. ouch, my head) one twelfth of the real picture.
On the World front:
Wednesday, May 23, 2007, represents a major demographic shift, according to scientists from North Carolina State University and the University of Georgia: For the first time in human history, the earth’s population will be more urban than rural
As a comparison, urbanites surpassed ruralites in the US around the end of World War I (though Maine, Mississippi, Vermont, and West Virginia are still majority rural).
In addition to having a highly disproportionate share of the world’s poverty, rural areas also get the urban garbage. In exchange for usable natural resources produced by rural people for urban dwellers, rural places receive the waste products – polluted air, contaminated water, and solid and hazardous wastes – discharged by those in cities..
.. “So far, cities are getting whatever resource needs that can be had from rural areas,” [Dr. Ron Wimberley, Distinguished Professor of Sociology at NC State] said. “But given global rural impoverishment, the rural-urban question for the future is not just what rural people and places can do for the world’s new urban majority. Rather, what can the urban majority do for poor rural people and the resources upon which cities depend for existence? The sustainable future of the new urban world may well depend upon the answer.”
Nevertheless, the researchers couldn't help making a joke (or was that an accidental pun?):
Wimberley says that May 23, 2007, marks a “mayday” call for all concerned citizens of the world.
har har har.
has a new article about the widening "marriage gap"
; the slowdown of divorce rates among the well-to-do educated folks and the ever increasing growth of divorces among the poor. The topic matter seems appropriate in the wake of my recent post on private black colleges
. While these general trends should not be news in the eye-opening sense (if it is, perhaps that rock you have been living under is a bit too big for your own good) it is still an interesting read and the numbers are sometimes hard to swallow:
There is a widening gulf between how the best- and least-educated Americans approach marriage and child-rearing. Among the elite (excluding film stars), the nuclear family is holding up quite well. Only 4% of the children of mothers with college degrees are born out of wedlock. And the divorce rate among college-educated women has plummeted. Of those who first tied the knot between 1975 and 1979, 29% were divorced within ten years. Among those who first married between 1990 and 1994, only 16.5% were.
At the bottom of the education scale, the picture is reversed. Among high-school dropouts, the divorce rate rose from 38% for those who first married in 1975-79 to 46% for those who first married in 1990-94. Among those with a high school diploma but no college, it rose from 35% to 38%. And these figures are only part of the story. Many mothers avoid divorce by never marrying in the first place. The out-of-wedlock birth rate among women who drop out of high school is 15%. Among African-Americans, it is a staggering 67%.
So why all the divorce? Why get married in the first place? At the end of the day it is a calculated risk that our feeble little human minds are making. The hurdles that a young, poor, unwed person with children faces is extremely high. The opportunity costs that are given up when one marries are somewhat minimal; you can't run around having more babies out of wedlock, you can't hit the clubs all the time, and you might not be able to call yourself a true independant
. The opportunity gains are enormous; dual income, more "parent hours" available for the child - which can also help reduce huge child care costs (something I have previously written about
) and finally, hard-to-measure but worth-mentioning: peace of mind. From a basal standpoint, marriage is a no-brainer.. (which I realize is a bit of a redundant statement). Evolutionary Psychologists probably wouldn't be surprised by these sorts of conclusions:
Using data from a big annual survey [Mr Lerman of the Urban Institute found that] Mothers who married ended up much better off than mothers with the same disadvantages who did not. So did their children. Among those in the bottom quartile of “propensity to marry”, those who married before the baby was six months old were only half as likely to be raising their children in poverty five years later as those who did not (33% to 60%).
And, while I am soapboxing for those single mothers who are among the working poor, I am equally, if not more interested in seeing their children
do well because, afterall, you need to break the cycle sometime. It isn't just the mothers who do better in marriage:
Most children in single-parent homes “grow up without serious problems”, writes Mary Parke of the Centre for Law and Social Policy, a think-tank in Washington, DC. But they are more than five times as likely to be poor as those who live with two biological parents (26% against 5%). Children who do not live with both biological parents are also roughly twice as likely to drop out of high school and to have behavioural or psychological problems. Even after controlling for race, family background and IQ, children of single mothers do worse in school than children of married parents
a groundbreaking public database, illuminates the connection between campaign donations and legislative votes in unprecedented ways. Elected officials collect large sums of money to run their campaigns, and they often pay back campaign contributors with special access and favorable laws.
This common practice is contrary to the public interest, yet legal. MAPLight.org makes money/vote connections transparent, to help citizens hold their legislators accountable.
While the information looks limited for now, I'm sure it will only get better. I poked around and, to no surprise, lawyers and lobbyists throw the most money around (a little over ~$103 million) and your grandmother and her croonies are right behind at ~$62 million.
I'm busy.. I got shit to do.. but this was interesting:
just published a "Human Guantonomo Fodder" interest piece called The Visible Man: An FBI Target Puts His Whole Life Online
Elahi will post about a hundred [photos] today — the rooms he sat in, the food he ate, the coffees he ordered. Poke around his site and you'll find more than 20,000 images stretching back three years. Elahi has documented nearly every waking hour of his life during that time. He posts copies of every debit card transaction, so you can see what he bought, where, and when. A GPS device in his pocket reports his real-time physical location on a map.
Elahi's site is the perfect alibi. Or an audacious art project. Or both. The Bangladeshi-born American says the US government mistakenly listed him on its terrorist watch list — and once you're on, it's hard to get off. To convince the Feds of his innocence, Elahi has made his life an open book. Whenever they want, officials can go to his site and see where he is and what he's doing. Indeed, his server logs show hits from the Pentagon, the Secretary of Defense, and the Executive Office of the President, among others.
Since I don't have the time, you can fill in your own pointless commentary here:
More from Braga, Portugal
As a follow up to a previous post
on the aesthetics of the Montreal Habitat 67.. maybe I was a bit too quick to point out how good looking that mass of concrete is. Stumbling around on Wikipedia
today I found a panoramic
that must have been taken in the spring before the trees began to bud. Without any green around it is a bit of a monstrosity.
I am, to use my roommate's vernacular, a mere tourist of the racial issues still facing the south today. In fact, I'm probably a lot less - the metaphorical equivalent of sitting at home watching the war on tv. As both an undergraduate and a graduate of McGill University in Montreal, I was exposed to a veritable race cornucopia. The city of Montreal, and indeed McGill, is as varied and diverse as any I have personally seen and also a lot more than any cities, burgs, or backwaters I would ever find here in Maine. However, the history of Canada and its once-largest city of Montreal is entirely different than that of the American South.
If I noticed anything in my stay up North it was an extreme lack of active consciousness with regards to ethnic issues - which is not to say people ignored the problems.. there just weren't that many problems.
In the south public education for anybody but those in posh communities is, if not in the sewers, then at least in the toilet waiting for a flush. Meanwhile, many small, historically black private institutions that charge much higher tuitions than state schools are sinking below acceptable levels of education.
I came across this article
in the St. Petersburg Times today. It is an epitaph of one man's attempt to make a difference at a small private black school. It starts optimistically enough:
The first ray of hope that August morning came as I unlocked my office door and was greeted by Constance Bayne, my most diligent journalism student. The mere fact that she had bought her textbooks made me feel some degree of success. My first year, many students had refused to get the textbooks even when they had vouchers to cover the cost. Constance's enthusiasm was reassuring, and I remember thinking that if I had 10 students like her I could transform the college into a place that attracted other high achievers from throughout Alabama.
But things get depressingly worse:
During the fall semester, I would try to make eye contact with students and speak to them as we passed in the halls and on The Yard, the grassy campus gathering spot. Very few of them would return my greetings. Most were sullen. But I also saw something more disturbing in their faces: Many of these young people were sad and unhappy. Very few smiled.
The most saddening bit to me, in the end, was the lack of respect for both students and teaching staff given by the administrative workers:
In an essay, a female student wrote: "Each time I go to the financial aid office, I get my feelings hurt. The ladies behind the counter talk to you like you're dirt. I hate to go in there. They don't know how to treat people, and they don't try to help you. They make everything so hard. My mother said they're just a bunch of sadiddy niggers, and I shouldn't worry about it. But I have to worry. They give me my check or they don't give me my check. You better not make them mad."
Many of my colleagues agreed. They told me that much of our students' hostility was the result of the constant rudeness and humiliation they experienced while trying to do something as routine and essential as completing the right forms for a loan or a grant.
This is patently reprehensible behaviour and the worst of it all is that it is perpetrated by their very own brethren: the majority
[of the staff] were middle-aged to older black women with local roots.
The author of the piece goes on to talk about the student's own lack of respect for the establishment:
While disagreeable staff members and financial red tape were constant irritants, nothing was more appalling than the students' disregard for college property.
During the spring semester, the Tuscaloosa Fire Department put out trash can fires in King Hall. I was angry and embarrassed to see a team of white firefighters trying to save a dormitory named for the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. that black students had trashed.
"Why do they do this to their own buildings?" a white firefighter asked me.
And my only response is to posit that what we see as "their building" is really just a monument to the disrespect showered on them by the college in their eyes.
The end of the article contains a table comparing large state schools with small historically black ones. The numbers don't lie; Stillman - the school written about in this piece - costs over double that of the state University of Alabama. Furthermore, the size-year graduation rate of the UofA (63%) is well over double that of Stillman's (29%).
As I stated at the beginning of this post, I have very little experience with these issues. Regardless, it seems fairly obvious to me that pressuring disadvantaged kids to attend expensive higher education (something they already see as a hassle) where they are belittled and treated poorly is just not going to be that effective.
I'm no civil war buff but I can throw around terms like emancipation proclamation
and Mason-Dixon line
.. which is probably just enough to draw me into this little youtube video
- that displays the relative territories of the south and the north over the entire civil war, in 4mins and 24secs. Layed out like this, it is a lot easier to see things like Sherman's march to the sea and the nearly bloodless Battle for New Orleans for what they were: split the defenses, fracture the enemies, drive out the heathens.
I'm always writing about the gender wage gap around here because I do truly believe that equal work (all things being relative, of course) deserves equal pay. On more than one occasion I have been appalled at the sort of statistical numbers that you can dig up on the differences between male and female salaries. They all say women make less than men - I've seen everything from 59% to 95% - but what they don't make obvious sometimes is the complexity of the issue.
85% of all statistics are misrepresented due to a lack of clearly stating the assumptions in the numbers, and 50% of those are used to support the opposite
argument that the numbers support, given a proper understanding.
Okay, that last paragraph was a joke, obviously, but I digress. Back to the wage gap
..during the 1970s, I led protests against the pay gap. I wore a "59 Cents" pin to reflect my objection to the discrimination I felt was the cause of women earning only 59 cents to each dollar earned by men..
.. But one question haunted me through the years: If an employer has to pay a man one dollar for the same work a woman would do for 59 cents, why would anyone hire a man?
The reality is that the pictures that statistics paint are often made with broad strokes and little to no fine detail. Reporting that the average female wage is 59% that of men, for example, is misleading. Women tend to relocate less, be less inclined to work long hours, and more likely to give up extra money for more family time. If the average
female worker in the statistic works 40 hours a week but the average
male worker in the statistic works 42 or 45, then the number is flawed or at the very least misleading.
Research on the matter from this decade suggests that things are much less equal than we are led to believe, but not because women get paid less, it is because they get more
A 2001 survey of business owners with MBAs conducted by the Rochester Institute of Technology found that money was the primary motivator for only 29% of women, versus 76% of men. Women prioritized flexibility, fulfillment, autonomy and safety..
.. But what happens when women make the same lucrative decisions typically made by men? The good news — for women, at least: Women actually earn more. For example, when a male and a female civil engineer both stay with their respective companies for ten years, travel and relocate equally and take the same career risks, the woman ends up making more. And among workers who have never been married and never had children, women earn 117% of what men do. (This factors in education, hours worked and age.)
So, all things being equal, ladies, how is this equal
I jest. The reality is that our species has some particularly odd social tricks and the female gender is, historically speaking, the lesser sex. Whether this is due to a submissive nature, an overly aggressive attitude by men, or what, it doesn't matter. The facts still remain. I'm not arguing that women haven't gotten the raw end of the deal in many respects. What I am arguing is this:
Life isn't always fair, folks, and the best we can do is put our heads down, motivate, and do what we love and what makes us happy
. Women who are career-oriented and willing to put time into their jobs and education and also to select higher paying positions (as opposed to less stressful or responsiblity-bearing spots) can make as much if not more than men. If they aren't, then they don't. But what about the fact that only women can give birth. This puts them at a disadvantage in the workplace if they want to have children and at a happiness disadvantage if they forgo children for their jobs.
And I reply that men can't
have children. This is not an option. See? Life; unfair.. or at the very least, unequal. That's the way it goes.
The more immediate problems to worry about, in my opinion, are the high numbers of children living in poverty and, often, their single mothers who are seemingly getting one of the rawest deals around.
I'm not sure what's more interesting, the staged photographs
by two chinese artists depicting back-page newspaper stories or the news stories themselves.
At 5:00 a.m. yesterday, Miss Du, a clothing storeowner in Yanzhi Road, Wuchang, left her friend’s flat. On the way home, she was tailed and robbed by two men. At the critical moment, four white-headed elders burst out and fought off the gangsters with their exercising swords.
Both give you that sort of slightly-off
feeling. Not in a bad way, but in one of those which-of-these-don't-below-in-this-photo
As an example of the ever-increasing online nature of our economy, consider Get Friday
, an Indian firm specializing in we-do-your-dirty-work
services. It is basically a web-interface to the sort of concierge/personal-assistant services that certain high-end credit card companies like AmEx offer. For those who need someone to set up a date with their plumber (cause, truly, this is a tough task, right?) you can now get someone on the other side of the world to do it for you.
By now you're asking yourself what's my point. Well, they have a page on their site listing some common and not-so-common services that they have performed successfully in the past. Some of them were unusual and even a bit disheartening:
- Reading bedtime stories to a young kid on phone
- Research on how to tie a shoe lace meant for a kid (client’s son).
Who outsources their child's bedtime reading? I mean, a nanny is one thing. A phone call is something else entirely.
suggests that state governors might be, as a group, less money grubbing faux-politicians than our U.S. senators:
Maine Gov. John Baldacci (D) took an $80,000 pay cut in 2003 when he traded a U.S. House seat for the governor’s mansion. Now, he’s the lowest-paid head of state in the nation at $70,000 annually.
In fact, Baldacci’s pay is less than that of 426 state employees, including his own assistant, who earned nearly $102,000 in 2005, according to the Maine Heritage Policy Center, a research group dedicated to less government spending. Baldacci opposed a proposed pay raise for himself last year and instead supported a teacher pay hike.
I'm not much of a Baldacci fan but I don't mind this one bit.
For comparison, the average governor salary is $124k and senators make $165k.
When I was in Portugal it was the beginning of Holy Week and the churches were decked out. In this first picture I caught some people filing in with large banners. I'm not sure what they said on them other than that the subject matter was Holy Week.
Around the corner from the front of the church some young girls were playing in the courtyard. One had a rubber kickball and another had on roller skates.
Both of these pictures were taken near the Champs-Élysées - Clemenceau metro stop in Paris, France
The reality of things is that I haven't been too personal on here for a long long time and I'm not sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing. I first started this shenanigan because I was bored and spent too much time in front of a computer. It was my own bit of navel gazing published on the web for all to enjoy, as navel gazers are wont to do. I used to write about me
all the time but I got to thinking that nobody wants to read about me. I'm just me. You're just you. These are pedestrian little things - you and me - meaningless flecks in the big macroscopic picture..
But then I got to thinking that this big picture is really a snapshot taken through some sort of lens. It's light-waves bent through various mediums. And I realized I'm a fleck of dust on that lens, potentially just as capable of screwing up a good shot as the sun, the moon, the stars, or that constable nearby whose got a homeland security chip on his shoulder.
Life is like a good photo. You wait for it sometimes. Sometimes you miss it completely. Sometimes you get it just right. But all told, the picture still happens out there somewhere even when it isn't recorded. The big picture, the history of man - as it is only partly recorded by millions of newspaper articles and books and lectures and talks and spray paint and chalk on the sidewalk - is forever and ever changed by the uncountable flecks of dust that float freely in our universe.
The beauty of being a fleck of dust is that you exist whether a shutter is exposed or not. You make a difference whether your actions are recorded or never again remembered by another human soul. The fact is that only you, yourself, can ever be a very good measure of you because you're the only judge around to see all your competitions.
But oh, I ramble on again, singing my song of tongues that people won't even try to understand. In here, this little brain space of mine, I assure you it all makes sense. The metaphors make sense, anyhow. I can't promise I get anymore than that.
When I was in Paris I didn't just drink coffee and piss of the French with my bad accent and attitude. I also drank whiskey with my father in a small funky neighbourhood bar where the waitress had the same name as my mother, and I traipsed around town and saw things like the Arc and the Champs and the Louvre and all those things you're supposed to see.
One of them was the Eiffel tower.
Built in 1887 it is still the highest standing structure in Paris. Made entirely of Iron it's gotta weight a ton. Wait, no. Scratch that. It's gotta weigh a lot
According to Wikipedia
, it weighs 7,300 of them. Tons, that is.
As we know from the twoonie debacle of metal shrinkage (sounds like a bender problem), when metal is cold it takes up less space than when it is warm. Heat expansion and all that mumbo-jumbo. I think it's like that PV = nRT thing. You get the drift. Anyway, depending on the temperature du jour (oh, look! french!),
the top of the Eiffel tower may shift away from the sun by up to 18cm, due to thermal expansion of the metal on the side facing the sun. The tower also sways 6-7cm in the wind.
Think I can use that as an excuse?
Watch your hair
, asian ladies. From boingboing
Dudes are running around Burma, sneaking up on long-haired ladies, cutting their hair off, then scampering off and selling it for $100 or more a pound.
What planet is it that we live on exactly?
UCLA has a pretty neat digital library of LA Times and LA Daily news photographs from as far back as 1914.
One of my favourites? boys will be boys
A dog in search of the ethereal steak? A canine discusses quantum physics
"Therefore, it's possible that you dropped steak on the floor. And according to Everett's Many Worlds Interpretation of quantum mechanics, that means that you did drop steak on the floor. Which means I just need to find it."
More on bunnies made of cheese
Hey, GOP scandals for dummies in an easy-to-use graphical flash widget from slate.com
The archives are working again. Sorry for the down time folks.
From the New York Times: Measure your wisdom
Awhile ago I saw an article about the U.S. gov'ment doing some research into potential espionage devices coming from Canada. More preciously, they were concerned about a few twoonies - the Canadian two-dollar coin.
I didn't think it worth mentioning then but a recent follow up article in today's Globe and Mail
is funny enough that I can't help myself:
An odd-looking Canadian coin with a bright red flower was the culprit behind the U.S. Defence Department's false espionage warning earlier this year, The Associated Press has learned.
The odd-looking — but harmless — "poppy coin" was so unfamiliar to suspicious U.S. Army contractors traveling in Canada that they filed confidential espionage accounts about them. The worried contractors described the coins as "anomalous" and "filled with something man-made that looked like nano-technology," according to once-classified U.S. government reports and e-mails obtained by the AP.
And what was this mysterious "poppy coin"? The truly harmless limited run Canadian quarter - until recently not even a threat as a spending vehicle, really, being worth all of fifteen U.S. cents in the late 90's. It's red flower is a poppy - a World War II remembrance symbol - commemorating the many who lost their lives to the war.
The suspected "danger" was in the protective coating covering the red flower. According to a U.S. Army contractor who found the coin in the cup holder of a rental car while traveling in Canada:
"It did not appear to be electronic (analog) in nature or have a power source..
.. Under high power microscope, it appeared to be complex consisting of several layers of clear, but different material, with a wire like mesh suspended on top."
Apparently armed with a high powered microscope, he still had little social awareness and an inability to apply common sense.. or he just didn't know that the poppy has been a symbol of all things death since, oh, the Roman-Greco myths and that King George created Remembrance Day back in 1919.
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
- John McCrae
At the end of the day, it probably isn't the strangest thing for an Allied nation to decide to put on a coin.
Hans Reiser is a computer programmer who developed the file system known as ReiserFS. Last year, he was charged with the murder of his missing (and estranged) wife, Nina Reiser.Now, in court, it has come out that
a former lover of the missing wife of Linux programmer and accused spouse killer Hans Reiser has confessed to killing eight people unrelated to the case, prosecutors informed the defense last week.
If I were Hans, I would appreciate the prosecutions forthcomingnesslyness. Yah, I made that up.
Sean Sturgeon, a one-time friend of Reiser's, had already been a focus of the defense team's efforts to shift suspicion off Reiser in the disappearance of his estranged wife, Nina Reiser.
Apparently, Sturgeon had previously dipped his pen in that company's ink, so to speak:
According to testimony in preliminary hearings in the case, Nina Reiser had once dated Sturgeon, but broke off their relationship in January 2006 because she was unhappy with his lifestyle and taste for sadomasochism.
Helpfully, Wired clearly states the possibilities of this development, dispeling confusion and subtly with aplomb:
Sturgeon's alleged confession to a series of unrelated murders will likely complicate the trial, which is set to begin Monday.
This post on the architecture of Montreal's Habitat 67
apartment complex is undoubtably negative, but take a look at the pictures yourself. I kind of dig it, minus the excessive concrete. At least they intermingle with some green.
O'Reilly and the No-Spin zone
. Yah right. Article here
Bill O'Reilly may proclaim at the beginning of his program that viewers are entering the "No Spin Zone," but a new study by Indiana University media researchers found that the Fox News personality consistently paints certain people and groups as villains and others as victims to present the world, as he sees it, through political rhetoric.
The IU researchers found that O'Reilly called a person or a group a derogatory name once every
6.8 [8.8] seconds, on average, or nearly nine times every minute during the editorials that open his program each night.
"It's obvious he's very big into calling people names, and he's very big into glittering generalities," said Mike Conway, assistant professor in the IU School of Journalism.
Luckily, we have large institutions of research to make these things clear to us - something that could have gone entirely undetected had nobody taken a real scientific interest in it. Go Hoosiers!
The seven propaganda devices include:
The same techniques were used during the late 1930s to study another prominent voice in a war-era, Father Charles Coughlin. His sermons evolved into a darker message of anti-Semitism and fascism, and he became a defender of Hitler and Mussolini. In this study, O'Reilly is a heavier and less-nuanced user of the propaganda devices than Coughlin.
- Name calling -- giving something a bad label to make the audience reject it without examining the evidence;
- Glittering generalities -- the opposite of name calling;
- Card stacking -- the selective use of facts and half-truths;
- Bandwagon -- appeals to the desire, common to most of us, to follow the crowd;
- Plain folks -- an attempt to convince an audience that they, and their ideas, are "of the people";
- Transfer -- carries over the authority, sanction and prestige of something we respect or dispute to something the speaker would want us to accept; and
- Testimonials -- involving a respected (or disrespected) person endorsing or rejecting an idea or person.
Somewhere in the thousands of years that we humans have been practicing physics and astrological science, I am sure, someone has beat me to the best snarky tshirt slogan ever, for the science nerd in you:Nothing Matters
I've debated a subscript of the "The National Association of Blackhole Enthusiasts" variety but that might be a bit too obvious and, as the ladies who reject me like to say, "trying too hard."
Washington man, bulldozing, finds..
.. 15 million year old petrified "forest" of trees
standing upright in the earth below his property. Photos here
For all you wannabe-world-travelers out there, I found this trip planner
The sad reality
of the cell phone sector is that it is craptastic. To provide my own disclaimer, I am not in a position to comment other than a mild awareness of the underpinnings of the hardware and software and, with only a slightly more authoritative tone, I am a user.
Never have I had exceptional service. Never have I gone a week without a dropped call or bad reception. Never have I enjoyed using a cellphone's interface. Never have I enjoyed the extreme differences between one cellphone's interface and the next. Never have I felt as though my money was 100% well spent on my cellular service. Never have I been impressed by how cheap a feature was.
The reality is that the whole system is broken. It's a hodge-podge of different and disparate technologies that do not work, let alone with eachother. Each phone is different and loading any sort of universal software to them is a nightmare. And I'm not talking about the nightmare of installing Windows on your new desktop - that's a walk in the park in comparison - I am talking about widespread uncompatibility, locked features, and battery life so short that it would just be frustrating if you put it on vibrate mode in bed.
The reality is that, as a business, the cell carriers are petrified of you actually .. you know.. using your phone. Functionality like data sync and bluetooth are crippled so that they can control the content, thereby controlling your
dollar. Want to transfer your own ringtone? Nope, sorry, we can't let you do that. It's the equivalent of the RIAA selling you tape recorders but disabling the recorder so you can't steal music.
Unfortunately, the startup costs involved in getting into the cell market are astronomically high. No Apple-seeded-in-the-garage stories here. The reality is that the cell market is a more inexperienced, and more fucked up beast than it's predecessor the landline market was and.. well.. that was and is still pretty fucked up. New markets need new ways of thinking, new engineering, and new approaches. The automobile industry was not created by Standard Oil. The Internet has proven that new technology often comes with new blood in unsuspecting ways.
The reality is that the entire industry has locked itself
into money-making mode. Provide inferior service with horrific customer service and overcharge for the privelage. As this door is slowly unlocked perhaps we will see some sort of sustainable and useful service in the future.Alex Krupp talks this all over in a recent blog post
What follows is an explanation of why creating a successful mobile-wireless software startup is not just improbable, but impossible.
- The underlying technology is broken
- The business case is a proven recipe for failure
- The social aspects are more awkward than a middle school dance
But the most interesting part is the comments, where plenty of people show up to dispel these negative beliefs... only their arguments are made up of ifs
1) There are hundreds of different phone models. Your software needs to run on all of them. How hard is this?
Not particularly hard, if you follow properly apply good software engineering practices (good device layer abstraction, scaling feature-sets, etc).
The likely winning debate candidate will wave the Japanese and Asian markets in your face, speaking of social networking and high bandwidth downloads. The reality is that they have been able to consistently build networks and make their technology work. The reality is that Japan covers 3.92% of the land area that we do and they are well over six times as densely populated.
The reality is that Americans are very capable of kowtowing to industry, accepting bad products, and accepting bad service. They are also quite capable of paying for it, too.1 man, am I talking a lot about reality these days. I guess I really am a realist. Bummer, cause I always thought those optimists looked pretty damn happy. *sigh*
At first, India scoffed at the One Laptop Per Child initiative
. At $100 per machine, is it too much money? Or just not such a great use of resources? Regardless, they rejected it:
The Indian Ministry of Education dismissed the laptop as "pedagogically suspect". Education Secretary Sudeep Banerjee said: "We cannot visualise a situation for decades when we can go beyone the pilot stage. We need classrooms and teachers more urgently than fancy tools."Decades
Banerjee said if money were available it would be better spent on existing education plans.
No matter.. countries are like school girls these days, likely to change their fancies on a whim and a prayer. The Indian Ministry of Human Resource Development (HRD) now hopes to make their own reality
- a $10 laptop:
HRD ministry's idea to make laptops at $10 is firmly taking shape with two designs already in and public sector undertaking Semiconductor Complex evincing interest to be a part of the project.
So far, the cost of one laptop, after factoring in labour charges, is coming to $47 but the ministry feels the price will come down dramatically considering the fact that the demand would be for one million laptops. "The cost is encouraging and we are hopeful it would come down to $10. We would also look into the possibility of some Indian company manufacturing the parts," an official said..
.. Sources say it would be another two years before the laptops become a reality.
The truth of the matter is that, even with the likes of Google, Nortel, and others behind the OLPC, it has yet to become a reality. The reality is also that Google and Nortel are corporations with bottom lines and profit margins. The truth is that government agencies (of the kind with words like "Human" and "Development" in their titles) are exactly the entities that should
be coordinating these sorts of efforts. You know, of the people but for the people
? We've just come to expect so much less from our public institutions.. But perhaps this is an example of where a government agency could do a better job at.. you know.. doing it's job.
One man's trash is another man's.. way to track ocean currents
In January 1992, a freighter crossing the Pacific from Hong Kong to Tacoma, Wash., ran into rough weather near the International Date Line. As the ship heaved through the storm-tossed seas, several cargo containers on deck—including one filled with tens of thousands of plastic tub toys—came loose, fell overboard, and broke apart. Seven months after the spill, the plastic ducks, beavers, turtles, and frogs began washing up on beaches. Scientists who track ocean currents were ecstatic..
.. Worldwide, about 10,000 cargo containers fall overboard each year. In most parts of the world, the dispersal of flotsam isn't of major interest to researchers. But along the bustling trade routes that link eastern Asia to North America, the tennis shoes, kids' sandals, hockey gloves, and other stuff that drops off ships is enabling scientists to fill in details of how the Pacific Subarctic Gyre works.
10,000 cargo containers is a whole lotta junk. More interesting, though, is how long some of this stuff hangs around.
In January 2000, a cargo box contributed another batch of accidental tourists. It contained children's sandals that, like the sneakers, carried code numbers linking them to the particular shipment. Ten of the sandals have washed ashore on Alaska's Kodiak Island—some in 2001, others in 2005. None showed up in the intervening years.
The flotsam-recovery database .. also includes information from some of the 19,000 beer bottles—containing identification numbers and contact information—that oceanographers threw off a boat far out in the Gulf of Alaska between 1956 and 1959. The last recording of one of these bottles washing ashore was in 1972.