Friday, September 30, 2011

In the Cut, Part II: A Dash of Salt

I didn't enjoy Salt but I did enjoy this analysis of one of the stunt sequences, In the Cut, Part II: A Dash of Salt.

In the Cut, Part II: A Dash of Salt from Jim Emerson on Vimeo.

I think I previously blogged part 1 of this series where he takes apart the chase sequence in The Dark Knight showing me I wasn't crazy for having a hard time following it.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Mercury Is Far Stranger Than Anybody Thought

Mercury cropped proto custom 28 copyMercury Is Far Stranger Than Anybody Thought: "The new findings, published in several papers in the September 30 issue of Science magazine, can be categorized in roughly four categories, providing insight on Mercury’s volcanic activity, its potential formation, its magnetic field and a strange new landform unseen anywhere else in the solar system called “hollows,” (pictured in box above) by scientists."

Images and details here.

Clarence Thomas Still Can't Get Disclosure Forms Right

The NY Daily News wrote Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas is out of order for hiding payout to wife "Congressional Democrats demanded an ethics investigation Thursday into Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas for allegedly failing to disclose that his wife was paid $700,000 by a conservative think tank."

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Jon Stewart and the Burden of History

Tom Junod has a piece in Esquire, Jon Stewart and the Burden of History. I'm really not sure what it's trying to say. There are too many back and forths about Jon Stewart vs Jon Stewart the comedian vs the real Jon Stewart.

I heard an interview on NPR a few weeks ago, I think with Wyatt Cenac but I can't find it now. He talked about how they do a comedy show and they know they are having a political influence but they fear that if they start thinking about it they'll cease to be funny and that's their job, to be funny.

That's the best rationale I've heard so far about how seemingly everyone wants to take Jon Stewart more seriously than he does himself. I quote him a lot and really enjoy the show. I think it's funny and I think it points out political and media hypocrisy better than anything else out there. It's fortunate that they can make that funny, because if it wasn't, it seems like no one would be doing it. I think perhaps he'd like to do more to fix politics, because he obviously feels it's broken, but I think he does constantly pull back and do comedy.

He's not disingenuous when he says he's not doing news, he's on Comedy Central. It is amazing that when news media people interview him they always want to treat him as a news person and don't understand that if they compare their show to his, they're doing something wrong. It's not wrong to say he's a political satirist in the mold of Twain or Carlin. And it's a sad commentary on the news media that a comedy show, while being funny, often is a better news source then most everything out there.

My usual complaint with his show is that he does the more serious interviews poorly. He repeats his question over and over, usually skirting around the point. He often has facts and figures at hand but doesn't build up one after another to lead the subject to where he wants to go. He does wonderful closing summations and I usually agree with his position, but he's not great in the middle. It's the same when he's interviewed. He cuts out for the joke too often and comes off as smug instead of merely serious about his craft. He might well be smug or an ass in real life, that's fine with me, I'm unlikely to ever meet him socially. I hope he's not (and doubt he is) a hypocrite like he constantly skewers.

What does it feel like to fly over planet Earth?

TV Review: Boardwalk Empire

I enjoyed the second season premiere of Boardwalk Empire, but I think this Salon article is spot on,
The plot-crazy spectacle of "Boardwalk Empire" (though I'm not a big fan of the opening credits).

Movie Review: Drive

Drive has gotten some rave reviews and I don't understand why. It's not bad, though it does have the worst credits I've ever seen and some song choices I just hated. Seriously, a noirish thriller with pink hand written script credits, what's up with that? I may be a nod to the 80s, but Miami Vice, Sixteen Candles and even Pretty in Pink had far more traditional credits, I checked.

So, Ryan Gosling (who's always good) plays a driver, in fact his character is just known as The Driver. He's a stunt driver and on the side a for-hire getaway driver, and an aspiring race driver. He likes driving. Far more than he likes talking. Rather than go through the plot, which is fine, it suffices to say it's a noir crime thriller. He gets involved in a heist and with a girl and stuff gets complicated as people want him dead. Fine. It's actually a good plot and there is some good direction, interesting camera stuff and some inspired casting. Albert Brooks is great as a mobster and not in the way you'd expect.

But Drive is also all style and no substance. And the style includes some very uncomfortable violence. I'm ok with that, but this film isn't for everyone, I suspect it's not even for most people. My problem is that there's all this potential, it's clear the director has some masterful control over what's on the screen and made some interesting choices, but in the end, it's really for no reason, especially not for the story.

The scene that comes to mind that really turned me against the film is one where one character, shall we say incapacitates another, in the dressing room of a strip club. There are a lot of nude strippers in the room and rather than scream or run out of the room screaming or have any reaction at all, they all just freeze. Posing to make an image in the movie frame. It's very Kubrickian. And while I'm a big Kubrick fan, his images serve a larger whole. Drive's are just to be there, to be cool or arty or something. It's as absurd as the increasingly bloody jacket The Driver wears throughout the film.

In the end, I found it empty. There aren't even a lot of good car chases. There are two and the opening one is very good. It's odd because I did like the plot and cinematography and editing and many of the performances were great given the sparse script. These actors are all up for that. I just didn't like the main character (I mean cypher), the music, credits or whole tonal shift. I think my expectations were misset by a mistargeted ad campaign and critics that get numbed seeing a lot of bad cookie-cutter films. This may be some arty Euro noir but Point Blank did it much better. I think this Salon article gets it very right, The "Drive" backlash: Too violent, too arty or both?.

Why Is The US Government Still Collecting Taxes

Karl Smith asks, and I don't think sarcastically, Why Is The US Government Still Collecting Taxes? US bond rates are so low why don't we just fund the government with bonds?

New Kindles

The tech news of the day is the new Kindle models. Ars has two good articles, Amazon creates first viable non-iPad tablet by not copying the iPad and Hands-on with Amazon's new Kindles.

I'm not trading in my iPad anytime soon and I agree with the first article I think these are going to find a new market rather than kill an iPad. If I didn't have an iPad I'd be interested in the Fire though I'm not sure about the 7" screen for movies or games. I'm now interested in the Touch. At $99 and with an eInk screen, it seems like a digital book to bring to the beach. It will also fit in a few coat pockets that an iPad won't. So I might take it on a train or someplace to read more comfortably than on an iPhone. If I were traveling with a laptop and iPhone I might take one of these along the way I would take a paperback. If I were already traveling with an iPad I wouldn't. The fact that there's an iOS Kindle app that syncs your location in digital books is what makes it viable for me (as someone with Apple products) also Instapaper support.

Genealogy of US Airlines

HistoryShots created an infographic on the Genealogy of US Airlines.
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The Island of the Immortals by Ursula K. Le Guin

The Island of the Immortals is a short story by Ursula K. Le Guin free at Lightspeed Magazine.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

What Really Caused the Eurozone Crisis?

The Street Light: What Really Caused the Eurozone Crisis? (Part 1)Causes of ez crisis 1

"Putting it all together, it seems that the EZ crisis is more consistent with the systemic causes view than the local causes view. In other words, while they didn’t necessarily make the right decision every time, the peripheral EZ countries were up against powerful exogenous forces - capital flow bonanzas and sudden stops - that tended to push them toward financial crisis. They were playing against a stacked deck."

He goes on to talk about Causes of the Eurozone Crisis (Part 2): Policy Implications

Krugman also had a good piece on this a few days ago, Euro Zone Death Trip.

Hidden in the Middle

I really like this post from Krugman Hidden in the Middle. "Greg Sargent touches on a point I’ve been meaning to make; he does it in the context of third-party fantasies, but it’s true more broadly of calls for “centrism”. Namely, the hypothetical position self-proclaimed centrists want somebody to take — Michael Bloomberg, a chastened Obama, whatever — is almost always the position actually held by the Democratic party. But to seem “balanced”, the pundits involved have to ignore that inconvenient fact."

Here is the Greg Sargent article he mentions, it's also good: The bogus `third party’ dodge.

An Easy Guide To Observing Aurora

Due to a big solar flare yesterday and today there were unusual possibilities of seeing Aurora at more southern latitudes than usual. I have a shot here in Boston. Here's An Easy Guide To Observing Aurora.

Conference on the Constitutional Convention

This weekend I went to the Conference on the Constitutional Convention at: Harvard Law School (#conconcon). It was co-chaired by Harvard Law Professor Larry Lessig and Tea Party Patriot co-founder Mark Meckler. That's an interesting combination. They were introduced to each other a year and half ago and while they disagree on a lot they agree that Congress is broken. They believe that it's broken enough that it won't fix itself. I know that Citizens United in part convinced Lessig that an amendment is needed to change the influence of money on Congress. Congress won't instigate it but Article V of the Constitution allows states to propose amendments without Congress by calling a Constitutional Convention (just like in 1789). Over the years other groups have come to this conclusion and tried to get a convention called, this conference brought together speakers from a variety of backgrounds on the topic. It also brought together progressives and tea partiers to see if they could have an actual dialog not limited to demagoguery or 140 characters.

Lessig gave a presentation Saturday night that was by far the best part of the conference. He's been refining his thoughts on this over the last few years, has a new book out (Republic Lost), and I think this might be the best presentation I've seen him give. It's both convincing and compelling. It's worth the hour of your time to watch it. Really, I don't say that often and I really mean it here. He explains a new kind of monied corruption in Washington that started in the last 30 years and why it will be so difficult to fix and why it has to be fixed before Washington will be able to function again. Watch this (sound required):

Rootstriking from lessig on Vimeo.

The gist? Campaigns have gotten so expensive that rich lobbyists drive everything. Good legislation isn't even considered if there aren't sides that can be found to fund campaigns. Legislation is deliberately sunsetted so that politicians can go back to the lobbyists for more money to renew the laws. Moreso, Congress is a farm league for K Street, so politicians are beholden to lobbyists for their post-Congress careers so even term limits won't help. While he believes that money is corrupting, the real problem is that the perception of this corruption has destroyed the public's faith in Congress and has broken our republic. He supports ideas, such as those of Buddy Roemer, to require small donor funded elections. But really, the point is to have a convention where people could deliberate sensibly. We don't have such a place today, in Congress or the media.

I wondered if it should have led off the conference. There were a lot of good speakers and I found most all of it interesting, in an interest in constitutional law sort of way. It did seem a little academic at times. Since there hasn't been an Article V convention there are a lot of questions of how it would work and a lot of fear about having one. Several law professors went into the details which I found interesting, but several others described how they got over their fear by realizing that the status quo wasn't good and there are various protections built in to prevent anything too radical from happening. The clearest evidence is that the convention will just be able to propose amendments and anything that comes out of it will need to be ratified by 75% of state legislatures. There are 13 solid blue and 13 solid red states that could block anything too radical.

One speaker, Bill Walker of Friends of the Article V Convention has been looking into this for a while. Their FAQ is quite good. Over the years states have submitted over 400 applications for a convention to Congress, 49 of the 50 states have submitted at least one. But Congress hasn't acted and he's brought petition to the Department of Justice to compel Congress to perform their constitutional duty (Article V says Congress "shall call a convention" if asked). The DoJ is expected to respond in a few weeks, so Walker found much of the conference moot.

I did have another issue with the conference but it was by design and I've come to accept it. The conference wasn't really about how to fix the problems but about how to go about fixing them. It was about how to get a convention where we could discuss. The people in the room didn't agree on how to fix government, they didn't even agree on what the problem was. It's still liberals and conservatives. As one speaker (perhaps Prof Tribe) said the vectors are all pointing in different directions. One group supported an anti-flag burning amendment, another wants to prevent Congress from increasing the national debt without the approval of a majority of the state legislatures, another wants to ban corporations from political donations. Uniting this group of people will be hard, but as Prof Sandy Levinson put it, centrists probably don't want a convention by definition but for better or worse we are more polarized.

Lessig also phrased it well in an article a few weeks ago, "Yet the differences between Meckler and me, or between the Tea Party and the Left more generally, are tiny as compared to the differences among many of our Founders. However much we disagree, our disagreement is puny as compared to the fight over slavery, or the decision about whether to found this nation as a monarchy or a republic. Meckler and I believe that if THEY could put aside their differences long enough to debate with respect the changes their constitution might need, then WE should be able to put aside our much smaller differences to focus on a way to end our own crisis of governance."

So I'm beginning to like the idea of a convention, I'd hadn't really thought about it before. But I also really like Lessig's analysis of the root cause of the current disfunction in Washington. It's really non-partisan and fixing it is not in any way a fundamental change to the constitution, it merely fixes a new hole that's been found (or developed by Supreme Court rulings in the last 30 years). But while he does have his ideas for an amendment, he stops short of language because the only viable path to get there is through a real dialog of people with different opinions. The country is split roughly 50/50 and yet we'll need 2/3 and 3/4 to agree.

Mark Meckler spoke on the closing panel. While he praised Lessig's speech (had he never heard one of his speeches?) he thought it was flawed. I guess I shouldn't have been surprised, the two don't agree politically. Meckler thought there was a deeper root cause to the problem of Congress. Money is corrupting and putting up another barrier won't help because money will just find another way to influence. There’s a reason there is so much money in politics and that's because there is so much money in government. If government could do less, money interests wouldn't have to corrupt Washington. I went up to him afterwards and said that I'm a liberal and I think that the big government small government debate is really just the federalist anti-federalist debate that we've had in this country since the founding. He agreed with that. I said I don't want either side codified in the Constitution, it's the Constitution that lets us debate it back and forth. The thing about Lessig's proposal, that we need a democracy that's dependent on the people, not the funders, is that it's necessary to let that happen again. I'm not sure if he agreed or not, but I know he appreciated my comment more than the two combative ones that followed me.

1943 Disney Employee Handbook

Someone posted to Google Docs the 1943 Disney Employee Handbook..

Monday, September 26, 2011


In focus covers some really crazy Tattoos. "Humans have been marking their skin permanently for thousands of years. A tattoo can be a remembrance, a constant prayer, a warning, or simply an amazing work of art. The reasons behind them can be intensely personal, decorative, whimsical, or utilitarian. They can signify tribal allegiance, personal history, or nothing at all. Collected below are recent images of skin art and a few glimpses into the owners of these tattoos and their reasons for modifying their own bodies. [36 photos]"

Friday, September 23, 2011

Back in Black - Threats to America's Children

I really liked Lewis Black's segment on The Daily Show last night.

Breaking the Speed of Light

Forgive the slowness of this report :)

Breaking the Speed of Light "An international team of scientists at the Gran Sasso research facility outside of Rome announced today that they have clocked neutrinos traveling faster than the speed of light. The neutrinos, subatomic particles with very little mass, were contained within beams emitted from CERN 730 km (500 miles) away in Switzerland. Over a period of three years, 15,000 neutrino beams were fired from CERN at special detectors located deep underground at Gran Sasso. Where light would have made the trip in 2.4 thousandths of a second, the neutrinos made it in 60 nanoseconds – that’s 60 billionths of a second – a tiny difference to us but a huge difference to particle physicists! The implications of such a discovery are staggering, as it would effectively undermine Einstein’s theory of relativity and force a rewrite of the Standard Model of physics."

Other reports I've seen have mostly said that the neutrinos arrived 60ns faster than expected, not that they travelled the distance in 60ns. I tried to check the paper, but it's pretty far above my head. From the abstract: "This anomaly corresponds to a relative difference of the muon neutrino velocity with respect to the speed of light (v-c)/c = (2.48 ± 0.28 (stat.) ± 0.30 (sys.)) ×10-5."

As usual, the Economist has the best layman's description I've seen, There was a neutrino named Bright. Here's a quick calculation from a theoretical physicist that puts the results in some context.

They've checked the results for a few years and haven't found a mistake, so now they're hoping someone else can find a flaw or reproduce the results. As the BBC reports: "My dream would be that another, independent experiment finds the same thing - then I would be relieved," Dr Ereditato said. But for now, he explained, "we are not claiming things, we want just to be helped by the community in understanding our crazy result - because it is crazy".

Here's the site of the experiment, OPERA.

Thursday, September 22, 2011


I'm at a conference today Law School for Digital Journalists at Harvard Law, so I won't be posting much today. It's interesting and I don't thing I've ever been in a place (aside from an apple store) with s higher concentration of iPads.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

New Devastating Pakistan Floods

In Focus show New Devastating Pakistan Floods "One year ago, Pakistan suffered the worst flooding in its history, a slow-moving disaster that left some 2,000 dead and another 11 million homeless. Nearly one million are still without permanent shelter, and meanwhile, the flooding has returned. Though it's not on the same scale as last year's flood, this summer's damage is still significant. High water from monsoon rains has killed more than 200 people since early August, damaging or destroying some 670,000 homes and affecting more than 5 million people, according to the government and the United Nations. The disaster has once again overwhelmed the capacity of the government to assist, and the UN has asked for $357 million in international aid. Gathered here is a handful of recent images from Pakistan, where residents are once again coping with flooding on a massive scale. [36 photos]"

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MacArthur Genius Grants Announced

"The MacArthur Foundation named 22 new MacArthur Fellows for 2011." Here is a list of the 2011 Fellows.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

New Fall Shows

Someone asked me a couple of weeks ago what new fall shows I was looking forward to. I hadn't gotten my Entertainment Weekly Fall TV Preview yet so I didn't really know. It arrived, so here's what I'm looking forward to:

Terra Nova - New sci-fi thing on Fox about future people sent back into time to live with dinosaurs. Will probably suck (all network sci-fi has sucked), but I'll be tuning in.

Prime Suspect - a police show based on an acclaimed British Show that starred Helen Mirren. This one stars Maria Bello. I'm in.

Person of Interest - A crime drama from J.J. Abrams starring Michael Emerson (Lost's Ben). I'm in.

Pan Am - This is usually paired with The Playboy Club and described as network TV's answer to Mad Men. I wasn't that interested until I read the creator really was a stewardess from 68-75 and this includes real stories (including a real stealth mission to rescue Cubans) from her and other stewardesses they interviewed. It could be fun for a season or two.

The Playboy Club - I just expect it to suck.

Grimm - a fairy tale police procedural. If it's like the comic Fables it could be a lot of fun. It's creators come from Buffy and Angel so they know how to do this schtick right. It's got a shot, but I don't expect it to be great.

Homeland - a Showtime series by 24's creator about a US soldier who was a prisoner of war in Iraq returning home and a CIA analyst (Claire Danes) who suspects he might be a terrorist.

Boss - a new drama on cable channel Starz with Kelsey Grammer as a power-mad Chicago mayor. Could be fun.

Once Upon a Time - probably closer to Fables than Grimm with fairy tale characters trapped in a Maine town. They say the story telling is similar to Lost with flashbacks to their fairy tale lives. It stars Ginnifer Goodwin (Big Love) and Jennifer Morrison (House). But it won't be easy to get the storytelling right.

Charlie's Angels - is there a way this couldn't suck? Well Hawaii Five-O surprised me as reasonable fun brainless entertainment to read by, this could do the same. And hey, Minka Kelly was really good on Friday Night Lights.

Ringer - I've heard about the premise and that it stars Sarah Michelle Gellar (Buffy) but nothing about if it's good. It's something about her playing identical twins and one pretends to be the other who she thinks is dead but she isn't. Remember how Lone Star has such huge buzz last fall and lasted like two episodes? I suspect this is like that, without the buzz. I've now seen the pilot and it was awful, including a scene on a boat that was obviously filmed on a soundstage. This seems more like Dynasty if you woke up and found yourself in Joan Collins' body.

American Horror Story - a new FX drama with Dylan McDermott and Connie Britton. I like both of them and FX has a good record with me on being daring (Rescue Me, Justified and Louis).

Up All Night - a new NBC sitcom with Will Arnett and Christina Applegate as new parents and Maya Rudolph as her crazy boss. So great cast but it's created by an SNL writer who worked on it for the last decade and this is her first show. That's not a good pedigree in my book. I saw the pilot and it didn't really keep my interest.

There are a few other sitcoms with a known star and some lame premise that didn't interest me but it will all be in the execution: Free Agents (Hank Azaria), Suburgatory (Cheryl Hines), I Hate My Teenage Daughter (Jaime Pressly). I saw the Free Agents pilot and while at first I found it very forced, by the end I had laughed a few times. The supporting cast is all caricatures but that could improve over time.

2 Broke Girls - is a CBS sitcom. I have no interest other than Kat Dennings is one of the stars and I liked her in Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist and thought she was funny in Thor. I'll wait til I hear some buzz. New Girl - is a Fox sitcom with Zooey Deschanel that's in the same category for me.

Friday, September 16, 2011

There's a Potential Cure for Cancer in Indian Food

There's a Potential Cure for Cancer in Indian Food. "Turmeric, the main ingredient in curry, has had a reputation for being a "holy powder" with healing powers for centuries in India. From its anti-inflammatory effects to its ability to slow bleeding, there's a long list of ailments for which turmeric is a remedy, and a growing pile of evidence shows that cancer is on that list, too. In a study due to be published on Thursday, researchers at UCLA's Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center describe how curcumin, the primary component of turmeric, effectively changes the molecular behavior of human saliva and slows the growth of mouth cancer. Previous studies have shown that cumin is effective in treating various types of cancer, and with the new knowledge, scientists hope to turn curcumin into part of the cure."

"Simply eating turmeric isn't enough, explained lead researcher Dr. Marilene Wang. The compound needs to be concentrated in supplement form to show any real effects, but researchers are hopeful."

Infographic: The Deadliest Disease Outbreaks in History

The Deadliest Disease Outbreaks in History. "From the Black Death to the measles, rapidly spreading diseases have taken a toll on humanity for centuries. Here's a look at the biggest and deadliest pandemics ever."


Thursday, September 15, 2011

How bad is poverty in Rick Perry's Texas?

The Guardian writes How bad is poverty in Rick Perry's Texas? "What is happening in Texas? According to a new report by the non-partisan Center for Public Policy Priorities , economic prosperity is passing millions of ordinary Texans by."

Five iconic science images, and why they're wrong

Five iconic science images, and why they're wrong : SciencePunk "Over the years, we've been blessed with innumerable breathtaking images from the pursuit of science - from the unimaginably huge Pillars of Creation to the endlessly tiny Mandelbrot Fractals. But some of these images have taken on an iconic status, instantly recognisable to schoolchildren and Republican presidential candidates alike. The problem is, a lot of these iconic science images are more icon than science. Here's a few you might have seen before.Q"

Nerdiversary - Is Today a Special Day?

Nerdiversary computes geeky anniversaries. E.g., in a few months, I'll be 176 minutes old. It's best to know the time of day you were born too. Now I know next year I'll be 555 months old, 148 seconds old, and 76 venusian years old.

Update: FYI, the iCal export seems broken. The server is in Europe (France I think) in CET time, so while the generated web page seems right, the iCal export seems to screw things up. I tried adding 6 hours to it (for EST) but it was still wrong when I imported.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Surfing Photos are Always Cool

In the Surf. "We humans are drawn to the shoreline, to live and to play. Some of us have even found a home in the waves, riding on gentle swells or braving roaring mountains of seawater. Surfing has been a part of human lives for centuries and is enjoyed around the world today. The stormy summer we've had this year provided some spectacular (if dangerous) conditions for surfers, many of them captured in photos below. Gathered here are images from the past several months of people (and animals) in the surf, including professional surfers, amateurs, spectators, and more. [38 photos]"

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Who owns our modern myths and legends?

i09 charted Who owns our modern myths and legends?NewImage

How Healthy is Your Bank

Investigative Reporting Workshop can tell you How Healthy is Your Bank.

Florida leaders intent on punishing Floridians

Steve Benen Florida leaders intent on punishing Floridians.

"According to a state-by-state analysis prepared by the Obama administration, the American Jobs Act would direct more than $7.5 billion to Florida in job-creating public investments, and support more than 60,000 in-state public-sector jobs, including teachers, firefighters, and police officers. But Rick Scott, leading a state with a 10.7% unemployment rate, would rather not accept federal assistance — which may not pass anyway — preferring to move forward with plans for more layoffs."

Republicans think Progressives are crazy to want to spend our way out of a recession but it makes no sense to me to lower unemployment by laying off more government workers. it can't be the case that the public sector is stealing private sector employees when there are so many of them already unemployeed.

The Lost Decade for the Middle Class

Jared Bernstein wrote The Lost Decade for the Middle Class "The poverty and income results for 2010 came out this morning and they’re a) about what you’d expect, and b) pretty bad.  Here’s some Q&A on what they show and what I think they mean, both in short-term (cyclical) and longer-term (structural) contexts."

Bernstein also wrote about Inequality, Mobility, NDD Spending, and the American Dream. I'm still not completely clear on the details of how high inequality affects the economy, but the post was interesting.

Robert Reich wrote about inequality in the NY Times a couple of weeks ago, The Limping Middle Class. It also included this great infographic.

The Magical World of Voodoo Economists

Steven Pearlstein had a great column in the The Washington Post a couple of days ago, The magical world of voodoo ‘economists’.

"It’s not just the 21st century they want to turn the clock back on — health-care reform, global warming and the financial regulations passed in the wake of the recent financial crises and accounting scandals.

These folks are actually talking about repealing the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act and the Environmental Protection Agency, created in 1970s.

They’re talking about abolishing Medicare and Medicaid, which passed in the 1960s, and Social Security, created in the 1930s.

They reject as thoroughly discredited all of Keynesian economics, including the efficacy of fiscal stimulus, preferring the budget-balancing economic policies that turned the 1929 stock market crash into the Great Depression."

"Theirs is a magical world in which the gulf oil spill and the Japanese nuclear disaster never happened and there was never a problem with smog, polluted rivers or contaminated hamburger. It is a world where Enron and Worldcom did not collapse and shoddy underwriting by bankers did not bring the financial system to the brink of a meltdown. It is a world where the unemployed can always find a job if they really want one and businesses never, ever ship jobs overseas."

I loved this part too: "As politicians who are always quick to point out that it is only the private sector that creates economic growth, I found it rather comical to watch the governors at last week’s debate duke it out over who “created” the most jobs while in office. I know it must have just been an oversight, but I couldn’t help noticing that neither Mitt Romney nor Perry thought to exclude the thousands of government jobs included in their calculations — the kinds of jobs they and their fellow Republicans now view as economically illegitimate."

He goes on to mention the hypocrisy in their "tax repatriation" arguments.

Stimulus Now, Austerity Later But Politics is Broken

Yesterday Matthew Yglesias reported Elmendorf: Stimulus Now, Austerity Later. "CBO Chief Doug Elmendorf testified today before the Supercommittee and said, sensibly, that “[t]he combination of fiscal policies that would be most effective would be policies that cut taxes or increase spending in the near-term, but over the medium and longer-term move in the opposite direction.” "

"Clearly that leaves plenty of room for disagreement around the margins about exactly which measures to adopt. But if members of Congress were willing to broadly accept Elmendorf’s ideas, we’d have an easy time working out a compromise. Instead, we live in a world where compromise is impossible because senior House aides are running around saying “Obama Is On The Ropes; Why Do We Appear Ready To Hand Him A Win?”"

Billions of Taxpayer Dollars Wasted on Hiring Contractors

The Project on Government Oversight did a study, Bad Business: Billions of Taxpayer Dollars Wasted on Hiring Contractors. "POGO’s study analyzed the total compensation paid to federal and private sector employees, and annual billing rates for contractor employees across 35 occupational classifications covering over 550 service activities. Our findings were shocking—POGO estimates the government pays billions more annually in taxpayer dollars to hire contractors than it would to hire federal employees to perform comparable services. Specifically, POGO’s study shows that the federal government approves service contract billing rates—deemed fair and reasonable—that pay contractors 1.83 times more than the government pays federal employees in total compensation, and more than 2 times the total compensation paid in the private sector for comparable services."

There's a lot more interesting stuff in there and it's not completely one-sided (though mostly it is). "Federal government employees were less expensive than contractors in 33 of the 35 occupational classifications POGO reviewed." The thing is, with contractors, they make a profit and have overhead and the government isn't good at negotiating rates.

"POGO found several failures in government procurement, employment, and data systems that limit the government’s and the public’s abilities to assess and correct excessive costs resulting from insourcing or outsourcing federal services. Failures included the lack of standards for calculating cost estimates and justifying insourcing or outsourcing decisions; the lack of data related to negotiated service contract billing rates; not publishing government information about the number of actual contractor employees holding a specific occupational position under any given contract; and that there is no universal job classification system."

9/11 Photos

I fell behind. Many of these I don't think I'd seen before.

In Focus did two more posts in their series, 9/11: The Day of the Attacks and 9/11: The Decade Since.

The Big Picture did Ground Zero: September 11, 2001 - September 11, 2011

Broken Media Payment Models

There, I Fixed It shows a way to fulfill a Monday Night Football Addiction without cable TV or even Over The Air TV. Verizon Wireless + NFL iPhone App + Digital Video Camera + Microphone + Bass Amp (not pictured) = Monday Night Football without cable TV! The iPhone NFL app prohibits direct output from the iPhone to the TV, but we’ve overcome higher obstacles than that to get to Live MNF."


It's stuff like this that makes it so obvious that something is broken in an existing payment model and will change soon. I can't figure out the MLB blackout rules at all, let alone the other sports (which I don't really care about). Why can't I watch the Giants play when the Patriots happen to be playing at the same time?

Isn't the whole point of an advertising model to get more people to watch your show? I already pay a lot for cable and will watch all the commercials they air (well as much as I would with an OTA live broadcast). If the commercials particularly good I might even blog them if I can find them online and tell my friends about them. And why does it seem the only commercials worth doing so are aired during the Superbowl? Wouldn't it make sense to show good commercials year round?

I'm willing to pay for content, I'm not really willing to pay for the same content multiple times on different platforms. This week the Boston Globe started a new paysite that's pretty good. After a sponsored free period through the end of the month, it's $4 a week, which seems very reasonable. Particularly since it provide access on all the platforms (it's a good web app that looks good at all sizes). If the New York Times did that (they have the same owner) I'd subscribe in a minute.

Convincing People

Chris Mooney wrote Want to Sway Climate Change Skeptics? Ask About Their Personal Strengths (And Show Pictures!). "Nyhan and Reifler once again confronted partisans with information on these subjects that (presumably) contradicted their beliefs—but there was a twist. This time, the contradictory information was sometimes presented in the form of a convincing graph, showing a clear trend (in attacks, jobs, or temperatures). And second, sometimes the individuals went into the manipulation after having undergone a “self-affirmation” exercise, in which they were asked to describe a positive character attribute or value that they possessed, and a situation in which showing that attribute or trait made them feel good about themselves. And in both cases, the manipulation worked—although by different means."

NASA Announces Design for New Deep Space Exploration System

NASA Announces Design for New Deep Space Exploration System "The Space Launch System, or SLS, will be designed to carry the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle, as well as important cargo, equipment and science experiments to Earth's orbit and destinations beyond. Additionally, the SLS will serve as a back up for commercial and international partner transportation services to the International Space Station. "

2012 Presidential Election Interactive Map and History of the Electoral College has a 2012 Presidential Election Interactive Map and History of the Electoral College. "It takes 270 Electoral Votes to win the Presidential Election
2012 Interactive Electoral Map In the area below the U.S. map, select one of the starting views and an electoral view. Click any state to start customizing your map. You can split ME and NE votes. As you modify a state, the total electoral vote counter will update."

Proposed New Electoral Vote Process for Pennsylvania

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports, Change proposed for state's electoral vote process. "Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi is trying to gather support to change the state's "winner-takes-all" approach for awarding electoral votes. Instead, he's suggesting that Pennsylvania dole them out based on which candidate wins each of the 18 congressional districts, with the final two going to the contender with the most votes statewide."

David Weigel in Slate rephrases it as Pennsylvania Ponders Bold Democrat-Screwing Electoral Plan. "Pennsylvania is typically a closely-divided state, and while it's gone Democratic in every election since 1992, it's been heavily campaigned-in every year. So, let's pretend this is a totally political neutral decision. If the next Republican candidate breaks the streak and wins the state, it would be horrible for him -- he'd shed electoral votes. But if the president wins, he's down at least nine, possibly ten electoral votes, because congressional districting is slanted towards the GOP."

"Here's what I mean. In 2008, Barack Obama won the state by 10 points... But the congressional map had been gerrymandered by Republicans in 2001, and John McCain ended up winning 10 of 19 congressional districts. If the Pileggi plan had been in place, Obama's rout would have given him a slim 11-10 electoral vote victory. If Republicans do a smarter gerrymander this time, they could craft an 11-7 map, or even a 12-6 map (they'll have 18 to work with, thanks to the Census taking one seat away). Let's say Obama carries Pennsylvania narrowly, but loses 11 congressional districts. In that scenario, the winner of the Pennsylvania popular vote takes nine EVs; the loser takes 11 EVs. How's that reform look to you?"

Personally, this is the making the case to me for a popular vote presidential election.

Doctorow on Stephenson’s REAMDE

Cory Doctorow really liked Neil Stephenson’s REAMDE: perfectly executed, mammoth, ambitious technothriller. "REAMDE, Stephenson's latest novel -- the "have you ever heard of 'gold-farming'" -- novel is a book that represents a new kind of equilibrium in Stephenson's literary canon: a book that is simultaneously as baroque as System of the World and as cleanly and crisply finished as Anathem. It is, in other words, a triumph, all 980 pages of it."

This time I will be getting the digital version.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

I'm Really Happy About This

Elizabeth Warren Officially Launching Senate Campaign Against Scott Brown.

Michele Bachmann Has Jumped the Shark

I'm glad to see people waking up to the craziness of Michele Bachmann. Even Rush Limbaugh is.

"On Fox News after the debate, Bachmann added to the criticism with this line: 'I will tell you that I had a mother last night come up to me here in Tampa, Florida, after the debate,' Bachmann said. 'She told me that her little daughter took that vaccine, that injection, and she suffered from mental retardation thereafter.'"

I heard her say the same thing on the Today show this morning. She's careful to say a woman told her this, so it's not clear if she believe it or not. But it's also clear that she's not smart enough to repeat on a national broadcast, what a person who goes to presidential debate tells her after it's over.

"Limbaugh said that was a step too far."

And that's saying something.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Amazon Caves In

Kevin Drum wrote Amazon Caves In "Amazon has spent years fighting ruthlessly to avoid having to collect sales taxes on merchandise it sells over the web. When California recently insisted that it do so, Amazon not only refused, but started collecting signatures for a ballot initiative that would nullify the new law. But now Amazon has backed off".

I'm not sure but I suspect that charging sales tax for online purchases would be a good thing. It would raise revenue for budget crunched states and it would help local businesses by removing an unfair advantage that online (and out of state) stores have. In the early days of the web it would have been difficult for online stores to follow the sales tax laws of all states and territories, but now that's all outsourced to payment services anyway. My only doubt is that we're in a depressed economy and making things more expensive for consumers is a bad thing but I think helping local businesses outweighs the bad.

The Most Anti-Environment House in History

Legislative Database: The Most Anti-Environment House in History.

"Today Rep. Henry A. Waxman, Ranking Member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, unveiled a new, searchable database of anti-environment votes by the 112th Congress. The database details the 125 votes taken to date by the House that undermine the protection of the environment.

"This is the most anti-environment House in history," said Rep. Waxman. "The House has voted to block action to address climate change, to stop actions to prevent air and water pollution, to undermine protections for public lands and coastal areas, and to weaken the protection of the environment in dozens of other ways.""

3 reasons we can't blow up a planet sci-fi style

Bad Astronomer Phil Plait explains what it takes to blow up a planet sci-fi style.

Japan Earthquake: Six Months Later

In Focus covers the Japan Earthquake: Six Months Later "Yesterday, the world commemorated the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on the United States, but Sunday had another significance for Japan. It marked six months since the massive earthquake and tsunami on March 11, a date now seared in the country's national consciousness. At 2:46 that afternoon, a 9.0 magnitude earthquake struck Japan offshore, triggering a tsunami wave of up to 10 meters (33 ft) that engulfed large parts of northeastern Japan and also damaged the Fukushima nuclear plant, causing the worst nuclear crisis in decades. The current number of dead and missing is estimated to be 22,900. Gathered here are some recent images from the region, including 12 before-and-after photo pairs (starting with photo number two) that you can click to see the difference six months can make. [34 photos]"

Sunday, September 11, 2011

An Impeccable Disaster

Krugman on Europe, An Impeccable Disaster. "What Mr. Trichet and his colleagues should be doing right now is buying up Spanish and Italian debt — that is, doing what these countries would be doing for themselves if they still had their own currencies. In fact, the E.C.B. started doing just that a few weeks ago, and produced a temporary respite for those nations. But the E.C.B. immediately found itself under severe pressure from the moralizers, who hate the idea of letting countries off the hook for their alleged fiscal sins. And the perception that the moralizers will block any further rescue actions has set off a renewed market panic.

Adding to the problem is the E.C.B.’s obsession with maintaining its “impeccable” record on price stability: at a time when Europe desperately needs a strong recovery, and modest inflation would actually be helpful, the bank has instead been tightening money, trying to head off inflation risks that exist only in its imagination."

The Future According To Films

Here's a timeline of the Future According To Films. I've seen all but three: Babylon A.D., Cowboy Bebop, and Gamer. Sadly I've seen lots of bad films in this list.

The Dead, the Dollars, the Drones: 9/11 Era by the Numbers

Danger Room writes The Dead, the Dollars, the Drones: 9/11 Era by the Numbers "Ever since the Twin Towers fell, the United States has been at war. The costs of that decade of conflict have been unimaginably high: trillions of dollars spent, hundreds of thousands of lives lost. The numbers are almost too big to grasp, let alone quantify. The graphics below are our incomplete attempt to do so."

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Understanding 9/11: A Television News Archive

"The 9/11 Television News Archive is a library of news coverage of the events of 9/11/2001 and their aftermath as presented by U.S. and international broadcasters. A resource for scholars, journalists, and the public, it presents one week of news broadcasts for study, research and analysis.

Television is our pre-eminent medium of information, entertainment and persuasion, but until now it has not been a medium of record. This Archive attempts to address this gap by making TV news coverage of this critical week in September 2001 available to those studying these events and their treatment in the media.

Explore 3,000 hours of international TV News from 20 channels over 7 days, and select analysis by scholars."


I really liked the second half of this segment from The Daily Show last night:

I'm not sure what's going on with the post office. I know that much less junk mail is sent (moved to spam) which cost the post office a lot of revenue. Also I know compared to other delivery services, the post office must cover everywhere in the US which is very expensive. Apparently Fed Ex and the like don't deliver to some very rural areas or at least not as often or for more money. So the post office has a hard time competing. But I think mostly what this current issue is about is about funding their pension plan which Congress forces on them. Apparently there's $5 billion and there's debate about how it should be allocated. I don't know enough about to know if it's reasonable or raiding pensions, but I don't think USPS situation is as dire as headlines are making it out.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

9/11: The Week Before

Alan Taylor takes a different tack in 9/11 remembrances, in 9/11: The Week Before "I thought it would be interesting to go through the newswires and find photos of events taking place around the world during the week of September 3 to September 10, 2001. Some of the photos are directly related to the upcoming attacks, or the fallout that resulted, many have nothing at all to do with the attacks, but simply show glimpses of what was happening at that time. Gathered here is a time capsule of images taken during this week of September, one decade ago, before everything changed."

Stephen Tobolowsky

Ned Ryerson in Groundhog DayToday, via an IFFBoston contact, I went to a last minute talk at Harvard by Stephen Tobolowsky. I've seen him in dozens of films but I think of him first as Ned Ryerson from Groundhog Day.

It turns out he's also a story teller and a really good one. He made a film of him telling some stories from his real life, Stephen Tobolowsky's Birthday Party (which I haven't seen and isn't on Netflix) which led to a podcast hosted by David Chen of /Flim called The Tobolowsky Files. I had never heard of it but it's apparently quite popular and I now understand why.

Tonight he told a half hour story about his experiences studying acting at SMU. While we can't all relate to acting school, we can all relate to having a bad teacher, though perhaps not as vengeful as he experienced. The story of how this one teacher tried to get him expelled from the program and how he simply refused was spellbinding.

There are thoughts of him turning this into a traveling show and I look forward to the opportunity to see him again. He has a book of stories coming out but until then, I plan on catching up with The Tobolowsky Files in iTunes.

The Day of 1000 Iconic Photos

Iconic Photos has two collections for 9/11, The Day of 1000 Iconic Photos and The Day The Twin Towers Fell.

World Press Photo: Winners

The Big Picture collectsWorld Press Photo: winners "On the morning of February 11, 2011, the international jury of the 54th World Press Photo Contest named a photo by South African photographer Jodi Bieber, World Press Photo of the Year 2010. The image is a portrait of Bibi Aisha, disfigured as punishment for fleeing her husband's house, taken in Kabul, Afghanistan. Over 5,691 photographers entered 108,059 images in the 2011 World Press Photo Contest and after the two-week judging period, 56 were named winners in nine categories. It is a prestigious contest and an honor to be named a winner. The following post shares 23 of those winning images."

Warning: A number of them are disturbing.

What Was in the World Trade Center Plume?

Scientific American wrote What Was in the World Trade Center Plume? "Asbestos may have been the least of health concerns from the gray smoke and fluffy, pinkish-gray dust created as the two towers collapsed, pulverizing cement, glass and everything else in the buildings. As a result, the EPA's Inspector General concluded in 2003 that the agency "did not have sufficient data and analyses to make such a blanket statement" about air safety and chided the White House Council on Environmental Quality and National Security Council for interfering with the process. And in those dust samples the EPA did collect and analyze in the first week after the attacks, 25 percent showed asbestos levels above the 1 percent threshold that indicates "significant risk," according to the EPA. "Competing considerations, such as national security concerns and the desire to reopen Wall Street, also played a role in EPA's air quality statements," the Inspector General concluded in a 2003 report [pdf].

Plus, inside the two towers were heavy metals, such as lead that helps make electric cables flexible and poisons the human brain, as well as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) used in electrical transformers that are toxic on their own and become even more toxic when burned at high heat, and glass fibers that lodge in the lungs. The levels of dioxin measured in the air near the smoldering pile "were the highest ambient measurements of dioxin ever recorded anywhere in the world," levels at least 100 times higher than those found downwind of a garbage incinerator, according to an analysis published by EPA scientists [pdf] in 2007.

Ten years later, no one knows what was in the cloud of gases released by the combustion of all that jet fuel and building material but science has revealed what was in the dust—cement, steel, gypsum from drywall, building materials, cellulose from paper, synthetic molecules from rugs, glass fibers and human hair from the long decades of the two towers' use, among other items. "The [World Trade Center] dust held everything we consider near and dear to us," wrote Lioy, who carried out the first such analysis, in his book  Dust: The Inside Story of Its Role in the September 11th Aftermath (Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2010)."

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Roll Cloud Over Wisconsin

APOD August 31st, Roll Cloud Over WisconsinRollcloud pierrecb 900 copy

"What kind of cloud is this? A type of arcus cloud called a roll cloud. These rare long clouds may form near advancing cold fronts. In particular, a downdraft from an advancing storm front can cause moist warm air to rise, cool below its dew point, and so form a cloud. When this happens uniformly along an extended front, a roll cloud may form. Roll clouds may actually have air circulating along the long horizontal axis of the cloud. A roll cloud is not thought to be able to morph into a tornado. Unlike a similar shelf cloud, a roll cloud is completely detached from their parent cumulonimbus cloud. Pictured above, a roll cloud extends far into the distance as a storm approached in 2007 in Racine, Wisconsin, USA."

M27: Not a Comet But Stunning

APOD from September first, M27: Not a Comet "While hunting for comets in the skies above 18th century France, astronomer Charles Messier diligently kept a list of the things he encountered that were definitely not comets. This is number 27 on his now famous not-a-comet list. In fact, 21st century astronomers would identify it as a planetary nebula, but it's not a planet either, even though it may appear round and planet-like in a small telescope. Messier 27 (M27) is an excellent example of a gaseous emission nebula created as a sun-like star runs out of nuclear fuel in its core. The nebula forms as the star's outer layers are expelled into space, with a visible glow generated by atoms excited by the dying star's intense but invisible ultraviolet light. Known by the popular name of the Dumbbell Nebula, the beautifully symmetric interstellar gas cloud is over 2.5 light-years across and about 1,200 light-years away in the constellation Vulpecula. This impressive color composite highlights details within the well-studied central region and fainter, seldom imaged features in the nebula's outer halo. It incorporates broad and narrowband images recorded using filters sensitive to emission from sulfur, hydrogen and oxygen atoms."

M27NarrowBroad pugh900 copy

A Young Star Jet Expands

APOD: 2011 September 5 - HH 47: A Young Star Jet Expands

"Stars remain where they are. Nebulas appear the same. Day after day. Year after year. Given the vast distances in astronomy, even fast moving objects will not appear to change their appearance in a human lifetime. Typically. A recent spectacular exception to this, however, is the supersonic jet in the star forming Herbig Haro 47. HH 47 is so close -- and the jets are moving so fast -- that images from the Hubble Space Telescope from 1994 to 2008 have been combined into a time-lapse movie that actually shows a powerful jet expanding. Visible above, jets of plasma extending over 10,000 times the Earth-Sun distance shoot out from a forming star at speeds in excess of 150 kilometers per second."

Mars ‘Rock Garden,’ Now in Color

Mars ‘Rock Garden,’ Now in Color "Last week we shared a 3-D view of the area being studied by the Opportunity rover on Mars; now here’s a color view of this stunning landscape on Mars. Both views are the handiwork of Stu Atkinson, a member of Unmanned Spaceflight and author of the Road to Endeavour blog. This is actually an ejecta field of rocks thrown about after the impact that created this huge crater where the rover is now traversing, and is an exciting region for the MER scientists to explore. Look for more great views of this region as Oppy makes her way around, and eventually inside the crater."


Historical Context and Demos Illustrating the Relationship of Food and Science

I went to this tonight at Harvard, Historical Context and Demos Illustrating the Relationship of Food and Science and feel like I finally get molecular gastronomy and how it came from chefs breaking out of rigid classical french cuisine.

First it was nice to see a talk by Harold McGee. I didn't know Dave Arnold but he's got crazy high energy and was very entertaining. I got to sample Dragon's Beard and a liquid nitrogen frozen marshmallow.

I suspect a video of the talk will appear here (last year's talks are there now).

Eddie Murphy Named Host of 84th Academy Awards

So when I heard Eddie Murphy named host of 84th Academy Awards my first thought was it must be because Chris Rock worked out so well. I'm not expecting much, but I'm hoping to be proved wrong.

Photo Essay: Where Children Sleep

Photo essay: Where children sleep "Recently, the charitable organization Save the Children asked documentary photographer James Mollison to come up with an idea to get people thinking about the rights of children around the world. What he came up with was an unusual, but powerful project: a photo essay of more than 200 children and their bedrooms, called 'Where Children Sleep'."

Monday, September 05, 2011

Ultrabook: Intel's $300 million plan to beat Apple at its own game

ars has an interesting article, Ultrabook: Intel's $300 million plan to beat Apple at its own game. It's about the difficulties the PC industry is having in replicating Apple's MacBook Air. Intel has put up quite a bounty to help. After you get through a page of complaints about Apple's laptop keyboards, particularly for UK users, you get to some good stuff in the article. Having just helped someone buy a Dell laptop I can attest, the buying experience sucked. There were too many models that I couldn't distinguish between and too many pointless choices to make. Here's some of my favorite parts of the article, though there's more along these lines.

"In theory, it should be easy for the PC OEMs to match Apple. Intel insists that the manufacturing cost for 11-13", 18mm thick Ultrabooks should be between $493 and $710, while 14-17," 21 mm thick ones should cost between $475 and $650. If Intel's prices are accurate, there should be plenty of room to undercut Apple and still achieve reasonable margins. Sell machines for $949 and take home 25 percent gross? That's much healthier than Lenovo's current 12.5 percent average gross margin, for example.

Yet the PC OEMs say there's no way they can bring a product to market for less than Apple; even with slimmer PC margins, they can't get below $999. Instead, they're arguing that they need a 50 percent discount from Intel to beat Apple on pricing. Intel is willing to offer a 20 percent discount on its processors and marketing assistance, but it refuses to take the substantial margin hit that a 50 percent cut would require. Even if the chip giant did offer such a discount, it's difficult to see how it would help; the cheaper processors would just pad Apple's margins, or allow the Cupertino-based company to cut prices itself. Nobody wins in a race to the bottom.

The problem is that the PC industry, particularly the large OEMs, just aren't set up to produce this kind of machine. The PC industry is built around an idea of almost infinite variation: different Wi-Fi adaptors, different Ethernet chipsets, different GPUs, different USB3 controllers. This variety is then reflected in the systems available from manufacturers—and more importantly, it's reflected in the way the systems are actually built.

Consider Lenovo. Lenovo offers a range of different Wi-Fi adaptors in many of its systems. Instead of designing several different motherboards, each with a different integrated adaptor, it puts the adaptors themselves onto daughtercards and plugs them into a socket on the motherboard. The upside is that Lenovo can offer a lot of diversity, and the daughter cards can be standard Mini-PCIe components that anyone can use. The downside is that Lenovo has boards that are less integrated—hence larger—with more components and more complex manufacturing. Lenovo also has to buy smaller numbers of more adaptors than it would if it just picked one version and standardized. It also means that people buying Lenovo systems have to make dumb choices on the website."

Friday, September 02, 2011

Eric and Irene

Krugman on Eric and Irene.

"But today’s G.O.P. has decided to bypass all that and go for a quicker route. Never mind getting enough votes to pass legislation; it gets what it wants by threatening to hurt America if its demands aren’t met. That’s what happened with the debt-ceiling fight, and now it’s what’s happening over disaster aid. In effect, Mr. Cantor and his allies are threatening to take hurricane victims hostage, using their suffering as a bargaining chip.

Of course, Mr. Cantor would have you believe that he’s just trying to be fiscally responsible. But that’s no more than a cover story.

Should disaster aid, as a matter of sound public finance, be offset by immediate cuts in other spending? No. The time-honored principle, backed by economists right and left, is that temporary bursts of spending — which usually arise when there’s a war to fight, but can also arise from other causes, including financial crises and natural disasters — are a good reason to run temporary budget deficits. Rather than imposing sharp cuts in other spending or sharply raising taxes, governments can and should spread the burden over time, borrowing now and repaying gradually via a combination of lower spending and higher taxes.

But can the U.S. government borrow to pay for disaster aid? Isn’t the government broke? Yes, it can, and, no, it isn’t. America has a long-run deficit problem, which should be met with long-run budget measures. But it’s having no problem at all borrowing to pay for current expenses. Moreover, it’s able to borrow funds at extremely low interest rates. Notably, right now the interest rate on the benchmark 10-year U.S. government bond is only slightly more than half what it was in 2004 when Mr. Cantor felt that it wasn’t necessary to pay for disaster relief."

Thursday, September 01, 2011

50 Documentaries to See before You Die

Current TV did a series hosted by Morgan Spurlock called 50 Documentaries to See before You Die. It's not a bad list though I'm working on my own (Spurlock told me to do so at the end of the film :). The ones in bold I've seen, so there are 17 here I'm adding to my list to see.

50. Spellbound (2002)
49. Truth or Dare (1991)
48. The Kid Stays in the Picture (2002)
47. One Day in September (1999)
46. Little Dieter Needs to Fly (1998)
45. The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years (1988)
44. Burma VJ (2008)
43. When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts (2006)
42. Catfish (2010)
41. The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters (2007)
40. When We Were Kings (1996)
39. Biggie & Tupac (2002)
38. March of the Penguins (2005)
37. Inside Job (2010)
36. Taxi to the Dark Side (2007)
35. Paragraph 175 (2000)
34. Brother’s Keeper (1992)
33. Tongues Untied (1989)
32. Dogtown and Z-Boys (2001)
31. Jesus Camp (2006)
30. Fahrenheit 9/11 (2004)
29. Man on Wire (2008)
28. Gasland (2010)
27. Tarnation (2003)
26. Murderball (2005)
25. Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room (2005)
24. Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills (1996)
23. The Eyes of Tammy Faye (2000)
22. Shut Up & Sing (2006)
21. Exit Through the Gift Shop (2010)
20. Capturing the Friedmans (2003)
19. Touching the Void (2003)
18. Food, Inc. (2008)
17. Street Fight (2005)
16. Bus 174 (2002)
15. Crumb (1994)
14. Dark Days (2000)
13. The Fog of War (2003)
12. Bowling for Columbine (2002)
11. Paris Is Burning (1991)
10. Grizzly Man (2005)
9. Trouble the Water (2008)
8. An Inconvenient Truth (2006)
7. The Celluloid Closet (1995)
6. The War Room (1993)
5. Supersize Me (2004)
4. Waltz With Bashir (2008)
3. Roger & Me (1989)
2. The Thin Blue Line (1988)
1. Hoop Dreams (1994)