Sunday, July 30, 2006

I Still Don't Understand Business

ExxonMobil posted another record quarter, which in an election year will almost certainly force idiot politicians pandering to the sound bite election cycle to pass some sort of inane legislation that will end up costing consumers even more for gas. And the executives are taking credit, and being compensated, for increases that are simple economics at work.

And in other stock news, GM posts a loss of more than three billion dollars. And its stock goes up. I watched Sneakers again last night, and it's amazing how totally relevant the movie's premise has become in the last decade and change. Case in point, economics isn't based on money but perception...

Watching the Watchers

It seems that the rise in violence in Iraq has finally forced the military to admit that more troops are needed.

And once again, the House proves they know nothing about the Internet (or they just don't care in the face of election year pandering). Legislation has passed that in its basic form makes message boards of all sorts illegal. The good news, if you can call it such, is that the legislation is completely unenforceable.

Another Cold Warrior Goes on Standby

No doubt providing fodder for conspiracy theorists for months to come, the Pentagon has announced that the NORAD compound under Cheyenne mountain was going off active duty. It's also interesting to note that the last time the facility was sealed was on September 11, 2001. I expect the facility will be upgraded and waiting should it be needed again.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Watching the Watchers

Wiretapping news update today. The story continues to percolate in the background. We hear how the President blocked the Justice Department investigation and a pair of takes on a judge's decision not to allow dismissal of the AT&T lawsuit on security grounds.

Electronic voting machines have come under criticism from many angles, now the ACM weighs in with their own brand of objections.

And finally the stem cell research bill has caused its share of hyperbolic rehtoric during the week. It even caused the veto-phobic Bush to actually kill a bill.

201 Years of Illegal Shacking Up Ends

A court in North Carolina has declared unconstitutional a law stating that unwed couples could not live together. The predictable sides give the predictable responses.

How 'bout them thunderstorms last night...

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

CEO Salaries Inversely Correlate to Performance

This study looks at the "technology" sector, which is a mix of manufacturing and software apparently. It basically states that higher paid CEOs don't actually give their companies an edge. It also brushes past the largest travesty in business today: salaries are based on what your contemporaries are making rather than the value you provide for the company.

Imagine for a moment a world where teachers were paid by their contribution to children's learning. Assembly line workers were paid based on how safe and efficient they were. Programmers were paid based on their successful contribution to projects. Would such a world have flatter organization charts because of the relatively small contribution that increasing layers of bureaucracy provide? Would the contribution of the people that actually make the products be deemed as much or more important than the ones that decide which markets to enter? As the old Tootsie Pop commercial states: the world will never know.

This is What I Call the Linux Problem

It isn't a new idea that freedom of choice doesn't make you any happier, but this study adds some interesting wrinkles to the premise.

A Couple of Wavy Lines

Someone is using a virtual reality system to attempt to study telepathy in a scientifically valid way. Good luck with that. I'll assume you already know what I think of the chances.

Watching the Watchers

Today I present a rather depressing article

demonstrating how money comes in the back door for politicians. It's all quite legal and quite smarmy.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Good News and Bad News, Middle East Style

The good news comes out of Iraq as the first province of the country is transferred fully to Iraqi control. It's a quiet province, but that's only logical given the circumstances. This will hopefully be a successful first step.

The bad news comes as the unrest around Israel increases, so does the price of oil. It hit a new record today.

Missile Shield: Coming Soon to an Airport Near You

Northrop Grumman will soon have on the market an anti-missile laser system capable of knocking down a variety of missiles over a five to twenty kilometer radius (depending on the incoming missile type). Other companies are developing competitors.

The View From Lebanon

Israel has stepped up their actions against Lebanon to a full blockade and infrastructure attacks. Here are some views from the people. It's interesting to see the perceptions of the "man on the street."

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

News From the Fronts

While China keeps the U.N.'s diplomacy train off the rails, the capture of Israeli soldiers triggers the re-occupation of the Gaza strip. It also gives a great example of double talk as Israel states their government won't negotiate with terrorists, the Palestinian government is made up of terrorists, and they have no interest in toppling said government. And as Hamas grabs soldiers on one side, Hezbollah follows their example and provokes a similar incursion.

Yeesh.

Watching the Watchers

In a shocking display of morality, the U.S. now states that their treatment of prisoners will meet basic human rights guidelines. Victory for the whiny liberals? Another bunch of words on paper that will be ignored anyway? Pundits, take your positions.

In a shocking victory for the integrity of the law, a judge concludes that "A member of Congress is bound by the same laws as ordinary citizens..." It's a ruling that Rep. "I keep money in my freezer" Jefferson probably was surprised to hear.

Cool Cooling

Technology inches ever onward, including solar energy applications. The idea that in the not terribly distant future buildings can be constructed with built in heating/cooling systems with no moving parts that require no external power supply is something I find pretty, well, cool.

On Content Wars and Broadband Competition

The rise of broadband Internet access has brought with it an increase in the volume of content distributors protest file sharing. So some analysis on the lack of broadband competition fits nicely with some pointed questions aimed at the entertainment industry.

And for good measure, I'll slip in the story of how ABC would like to prevent you from fast forwarding through recorded commercials. Still no word on whether going to the bathroom or kitchen during commercials is acceptable.

Sunday, July 9, 2006

Computer Programming Isn't Engineering, Again

I stopped calling what I do for a living "software engineering" a while ago. I still use the formal title of Software Engineer from time to time because that is the term used by the people that hire people like me. But programming lies along the hazy boundary between art and math. Bruce Eckel weighs in with an eloquent piece that sums up the difficulties well. Until business types realize that the people are the thing that matters, computer programming tasks will continue to be mysterious and seemingly uncontrollable.

Saturday, July 8, 2006

One More Entertainment Blurb

House is the TV show that got me to like a medical drama. If it doesn't win the best drama Emmy over the group of aged series it is up against, it will confirm my opinion that the Academy can't tell good writing from a pirated promotional tape...

Wednesday, July 5, 2006

Coming Soon to the Sci-Fi Channel

Pollution and urban overcrowding are issues that concern humans for all sorts of reasons. Today, we have a new reason. Apparently conditions in Athens Greece have lead to the emergence of a "super" mosquito. These bad boys are heavier, beat their wings faster, can see in color, and can smell blood almost twice as far away.

I would be concerned, but I've been to South Carolina and Florida and therefore have seen mosquitos that could drive trucks if they wanted to.

Watching the Watchers

People are already talking about the 2008 presidential election. One can understand why. The race should be truly wide open. I suspect the ten percent who are radical republican partisans will vote republican, the ten percent who are rabid democratic partisans will vote democratic, the ten percent who believe it is their civic duty to become informed and vote will take their best guess, and the remaining seventy percent who see both parties as equally full of no good, crooked jerks will remain home.

On the war front, it has been reported that the U.S. gave up looking specifically for bin Laden late last year.

Monday, July 3, 2006

Gentlemen, We (Almost) Have the Technology

Popular Science has a long but interesting article about the work being done to transform prosthetics into bionics. There are bits on all sorts of techniques from melding bone to titanium to converting nerve signals into computer commands and back again. We aren't there yet, but it's nice to know that people are still trying.