Thursday, March 30, 2006

Bitter Pill to Swallow

It seems that yet another group has come to the conclusion that the best way to keep your programming job is to be a business person. Frankly, I wonder if it isn't a mixed message to be lamenting about the decline of the technical base in America while allowing massive competition from foreign sources and sending the message that the core skill set is not the thing that will get you a job. It is almost as if how well you speak is more important than how well you program. Or perhaps it's just easier for a business major to access.

The I-Can't-Do-Math Tax

North Carolina's lottery started today. According to the News & Observer players bought six and a half million dollars worth of tickets statewide today. Unfortunately for the purchasers of those tickets, the odds against your ticket paying out are "not, not good at all" [sic].

But hey, as with so many other justifications for poor government behavior, it's for the kids.

Watching the Watchers

An unmanned aerial vehicle coasts through the night sky, it's infrared cameras trained on the large gathering of people below. Sounds like a scene from Iraq. Actually, it was here in North Carolina. Great idea to enhance security and catch criminals, or safety risk and Big Brother? The choice may or may not be yours.

The Good, The Bad, and The Scary

I have been sitting on this link longer than I should have, but any story that uses the word apostasy deserves some thinking about. It's a reminder that the rights we take for granted don't exist everywhere. Such things also have a tendency for me to label the religions that use them as "cults." But what do I know, I'm just a deluded heretic.

It is definitely good to see Ms. Carroll released unharmed and I bet her parents are ready for her to come back to the U.S. Unfortunately, her translator won't have the option or going home. And with the only journalists left in captivity being Iraqi, will the media drop the issue?

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Comparisons to Computers are Fun

The Economist has a cute article examining the razor industry to see if it has the equivalent of semiconductors' Moore's Law. Link found on The Right Spin (see the blogroll).

High School is Filled With Monkeys

Social interaction. It's a subject that scientists have great interest in figuring out. If for no other reason than to figure out what went wrong for them in high school. But it turns out that macaque monkeys demonstrate that they take their society into account in what would appear to be reflexive reactions.

This to me sounds very plausible. But that could be that when it comes to business, I'm just a code monkey.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Searching for a Distant Star (made of bricks)

No this isn't an astronomy post. It's a Lego brand building bricks post. It's always nice to see two of my favorite childhood things combined in a way that makes me seem slightly more normal by comparison.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Headline Hunting

I would like to apologize in advance for this entry. The subject of the article in question is a serious one. But I just couldn't pass up the headline: "Woman Seriously Assaulted in Car." Because "Woman Hilariously Assaulted in Car" will never happen. Did we really need the adjective?

Friday, March 17, 2006

Real Reporting in Action

The Christian Science Monitor, in spite of its vaguely oxymoronic name, really seems to be the only organization doing real reporting in Iraq. The latest article I have come across is possibly the best writing I have seen in a news story in years. Unfortunately, it would appear that the forces of discord are holding the high ground at the moment. Then again when your enemy has the high ground it makes him a good target for air strikes.

Note that the first link above is from the Christian Science Monitor, the latter is from ABC. One is reporting and analysis. The other is a bad transcript.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Unenforced Network Neutrality

The Internet has been quite the boon. Heck, these silly snippets of writing would surely not have happened without it. But it is also more complicated than your average piece of technology. I believe that the only way to ensure true freedom on the Internet is to treat the communications infrastructure as public property, or at least enforce balanced access to it. The industries involved are generally publicly traded, and thus select for getting more money rather that a better environment for their customers. These conditions lead me to the weird place where I actually want some new laws to constrain practices on the Internet. Actually, what I want is for laws to state that the use of the Internet can't be given preferentially. I refer you to the better writers over at ArsTechnica for their latest take.

Build Me an Arky, Arky

Well, sometimes even the good guys get one wrong. Check out ArsTechnica's journal take on a recent incident where Noah's Ark was found atop Mt. Arrarat. Science journalism is fast becoming an oxymoron.

How to Eventually Be Called an Idiot

How about being the Executive Vice President of Innovation at IBM and declaring, "There is no such thing as the next big thing." Sounds to me like someone's declaring their job unnecessary.
Yes, corporations all around declare that innovation is a top priority. But how many of them also declare that keeping costs down, speed, quality, and any number of things are also top priorities. Engineering is all about priorities, and if you don't set them, you tend to get a mess. So basically, what Mr. Donofrio is declaring is that if you are looking for the next big thing, don't look to IBM.

Lessons in Code

Here's a short article that gives a really interesting look into practicality vs. intellectual property and security vs. cooperation. The U.K. isn't interested in the U.S.'s Joint Strike Fighter if they don't also have a copy of the computer code that runs the fighter. There is a huge amount of money at stake, not to mention that the two parties are traditionally very close. I suspect something can be worked out.

Still, the issue is a real one. Car manufacturers already protect the diagnostic codes in their vehicles' on-board systems. This prevents you and me from plugging in our own diagnostic system to see what's what. That allows for the potential of price fixing. Imagine how much more complicated a plane's systems are than consumer car electronics. It is interesting that the U.K. is savvy enough to consider a time when the U.S. isn't as friendly as we are now.


My opinion of biology as a science tends to be pretty low. Not that it is a bad thing, or not to be respected, it just seems that the application end of it is still in its early days. Biology is such an incredibly complex subject that it makes weather seem totally solvable by comparison. Thus news of an atom-by-atom simulation of a virus tends to look like a really promising early step into a new world.

This is also a reason the demand for high end computers to get more powerful won't go away any time soon.

The Faint Rattle of Sword

How much longer will the U.S. be considered the only superpower? It has been a while since I had last seen anything warning of the danger inherent in the world's most populous communist nation. Unfortunately, that has changed. Hopefully the weight of trade will keep the diplomatic lanes open, but so far it seems to have been the corporations of the West making the moral concessions in hopes of tapping the vast market.

Well, they would have been making concessions if they actually had any morals...

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Big Boom Heats Planet

Sometimes an alternate theory about the cause of global warming comes along that is odder than others. Naturally it is considered "controversial." Still, it highlights how little we really know about the root causes and interactions within the system that is our planet.

More Religions with No Sense of Humor

It looks like the voice of South Park's Chef is fine with religion being satired, as long as it isn't his religion. I think Mr. Stone's response is just about perfect. It will probably be a loss for the show though.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

I Hate the Movie "Top Gun"

I love military fighters though. And one of the most recognizable is done. It is as eloquent a commentary as any on how the world is changing. The bombers the F-14s were designed to kill aren't doing much flying themselves these days. The cold war is over, and the war on terror is just beginning. Terrorists use a different kind of bombers.

Contemplating Cubicles

History doesn't show up often here. I don't know if this will begin to change that or not, but why not start with a little history of the cubicle. And no, I'm not going to say anything about the cubicle I dwell in.

Wednesday, March 8, 2006

Reading This May Be a Symptom

A couple of interesting statistics about people feeling lonely. In an unrelated note, the Daily Illuminator (link in the list) today had the gem, "It doesn't matter if the glass is half full or half empty, as long as there is still some in the bottle."

This is what happens when I have to sit through nine hours of presentations...

Sunday, March 5, 2006

"I Love the Smell of Napalm in the Morning!"

Ahh end times. How I love me some sweet, sweet occult paranoia. Someone finally wrote a book about how RFID chips are the Mark of the Beast. Privacy concerns about RFID are legitimate, to a point. It's just that we already live in a world where one can be tracked if you have your cell phone on, every time you use a credit card, and if your car has one of those satellite help-me systems. As for everyone being required to have an RFID chip to buy and sell things. Um, when was the last time you bought something and it didn't involve a little plastic card (either an actual credit or debit card, or using an ATM card to get the cash)?

For the record, I claim to be a Christian (I don't claim to be a good one...) and being based on Christian holy books doesn't make this sort of thing any less occult. Talk to Biblical scholars and most will tell you that the Revelation of John (no, it's a different John) likely referred to events in the Roman Empire during the time of Nero. Also, while I am disclosing things, I suppose I should say that I work for a company that is owned by a company that also owns a company that makes RFID chips. So it's possible I'm just part of the conspiracy. Or I would be, if I ranked high enough.

Let's Do the Time Warp Again

Once upon a time there was only one long distance telephone company. Back in the dark ages, this company was governmentally mandated to break into smaller companies to provide competition in the market. Like many governmental plans it didn't go exactly the way it was intended.

Not too long ago, SBC bought what was left of the once dominant company. They took on the well known logo. Now they are buying Bell South (and its Cingular Wireless, formerly known as AT&T Wireless before they sold it).

So, having left AT&T a while ago, I'm about to be one of their customers again. Sigh. Business. And yes, the deal is in stock instead of actual money.

A Statement Blown Out of Proportion

Tony Blair, like President Bush, has had some hard decisions to make during his tenure as Britain's Prime Minister. Since there is quite a bit being said about his comment that God will judge him, I will keep the commentary short. Is it me, or are people reading far, far too much into his statement about being judged by God?

Friday, March 3, 2006

Breaking the Unbroken

A few unbroken enigma codes are being broken using collaborative computing power. The article is just nifty, and has one of the codes, and its translation.

A Sudden, Shocking Common Sense Sighting

ABC is going to offer some of its shows online for "free." Free in this case meaning there will be ads during the show. What a novel concept! What they haven't said yet is how the content will be delivered. I suspect they will come up with some difficult and crippling streaming scheme instead of just allowing downloads with ads like one would get with say a VCR. Hopefully, I will be wrong, the venture will be a huge success for ABC, and I won't have to worry about the power going out during Lost like it did this week. Grumble.

Growth or Death!

I probably will never "get" how stocks perform. About all I know is that the prices are driven by people. Skittish people. Who don't apparently have the ability to analyze things. And I will never get the whole growth thing. What exactly is wrong with a company that has zero growth but consistent earnings and demand for its product? I'm a couple of days slow posting it, but Google raised the inevitable possibility that it's growth this year won't be astronomical. Its stock took an immediate beating, of course.

Acne Medication Won't Fix It

It appears that the stormy Jupiter atmosphere is developing a new red spot. According to the article, the not-quite-as-giant storm has been around for years, but it was brown until recently and white before that.

Space, the Eventual Frontier

The agencies involved say the space station will be finished by 2010. Not to be cynical on Friday afternoon, but I wouldn't put any money on it. Except that I already have via taxes. Oh well.