Friday, May 28, 2010

Engineers versus Scientists

This makes me mad! ;)

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Immigration: "Messed-up system"

Here's one thing we can all agree on. Our immigration system is messed up. Check out this recent story.

Illegal KSU student: 'messed-up system'

I particularly enjoyed the opening line: "Following her second arrest and release from jail..."

Her SECOND arrest and release? What is this, a bass tournament? Why do we even bother? If we're going to enforce the laws, let's do it. But if not, let's drop the facade. What is ICE doing? Why do we even have such a toothless agency.

As I have said before on this blog (Ice Cream and Immigration), I am not against immigration. I might very well do the same things Jessica Colotl is doing. If she is smart and motivated, and came here to learn and work, we need more like her--immigrant or not. This post is a comment on out immigrations laws and enforcement, not on Colotl.

The new phone booth?

Serious question:
Do people get in their cars just to make phone calls nowadays?

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Jenkins: Apple's Second Date With History

Holman Jenkins: Apple's Second Date With History
Whose phone strategy is smarter in the long run--Apple's or Google's?

From the Wall Street Journal:

Here is another article, very much in line with the previous article I posted. Key quotes:

"Isn't Steve Jobs replaying the gamble that almost broke Apple?"

"Because Mr. Jobs insists on keeping software and hardware under tight control, Google's platform is the one that will benefit from competition among multiple handset makers, producing lower prices and faster innovation..."

"Likewise, because Mr. Jobs insists on vetting all applications that run on his phones via the iTunes App Store, you'll need an Android phone to capture the full benefit of openness to the Web."

"The dangers of Google's approach? With so many different Android phones floating around and with so much openness to the Web, the search giant risks delivering a crummy, fragmented, even disastrous user experience, with security leaks, viruses and customer service that fails when needed most."

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Google vs Apple: Google Doesn't Need To Win

This article has some interesting analysis on the Apple versus Google battle in the mobile phone arena and in general. Not sure how it will turn out, but it is good to see that Google realized early on how important the mobile market is, and got in the game in a big way.

Key quotes from the article:

"Making money selling mobile ads requires that Google keep the smartphone market open, plural, competitive."

"Google's big advantage in the smartphone wars may well be precisely that they don't need to win."

"Google's technology is way ahead of anything Apple is offering, or likely to offer. Streaming music from your desktop is only one example. Google, not Apple, is offering what customers want."

"Apple's response to Google's claim that they are shipping more phones was 'so what, we have more market share.' Lyons says he's heard that before, it's the song of a company that's losing and in denial."

"It's easy to think that Apple fell apart in the late 80s and early 90s because a clueless Pepsi exec booted Jobs and took over. But the real story, if you're old enough to remember, is that Jobs mismanaged the company after a series of stellar technical triumphs. History appears to be repeating itself."

"Apple will not be able to take Google on in the areas of connectivity and cloud computing as long as they insist on a closed platform. Not because Google's FroYo features can't be implemented on a closed platform, but because it just wouldn't occur to you to do so. Furthermore, you can only go so far telling customers that you know what's best for them."

Monday, May 24, 2010


Here's a great online music site:

I can't describe it better than they do, so in their words:
behind every song there's always an emotion. we don't know why but maybe that's why we love music.

so we've created a way to suggest songs that follow your feelings: stereomood is the emotional internet radio, providing music that best suits your mood and your activities.
how do i feel? what am i doing now?

Another helpful Facebook tip...

My Replacements

I got my girls out skating on Sunday, May 23, 2010 for the "Streets Alive" event held in Atlanta.

It was the girls' first taste of street skating, and they did very well.

P.S. The title of this post is based on an old Seinfeld monologue in which he talks about the dark side of having children. I was not able to find this monologue online, but it can be summed up by this quote: "Wake up people! These are our replacements!"

P.P.S. Streets Alive posted this video about the event. Notice one of my daughters around 4:38 of this video (on the left). - July 26, 2010

A True Hockey Fan

Stanley Cup Finals start tonight (May 29)--but you already knew that. Right? (If not, click here.) So here is a joke for the occasion:

A True Hockey Fan -

It's Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final, and a younger man makes his way to his seat in the lower bowl near center ice. He sits down, immediately noticing that the seat next to him is empty. He leans over and asks an older gentleman on the other side of the empty seat if he knows if someone will be sitting there.

'No,' says the older man. 'The seat will be empty.'

'This is incredible', said the younger man. 'Who in their right mind would have a seat like this for the final game of the Stanley Cup playoffs and not use it?'

The older gentleman says, 'Well, actually, the seat belongs to me. I was supposed to come with my wife, but she passed away recently. This will be the first Stanley Cup game that we haven't gone together since we got married in 1967.'

'Oh ... I'm sorry to hear that. That's terrible. But couldn't you find someone else, a friend or a relative, or even a neighbour to take the seat?'

The man shakes his head. 'No. they all had to go to the funeral.'

Sunday, May 23, 2010


Some of you might not know what SPLOST is. It stands for "special purpose local option sales tax" and it is common in the state of Georgia.

Here in Cobb County, Georgia, we love SPLOST. In related news, we are sheep with sore anuses (or is that "ani"?).

Why do I mention it here on my blog? Because it is one of the most insidious taxes I have ever seen, and it has been in the news here locally. It is also a good way to separate the men from the boys, so to speak. There are people who claim to want to reduce taxes but think it's okay to support SPLOST taxes in their own communities. You can tell that such a person is not at all serious about reducing taxes or the waste associated with big government.

Anyone with a brain realizes that money in any government treasury is fungible. In order to justify the increased taxation, government assigns SPLOST funds to the most popular projects or needs. Of course, these are the same projects that would (or should) be funded anyway, whether SPLOST funds were available or not. And whenever a project is done with SPLOST funds they love to advertise it, to show you that your money was well-spent. There are signs posted everywhere saying something like "your SPLOST money at work." For example, they did this when they widened a road near me that alleviated a significant amount of congestion at a heavily-traveled intersection (shouldn't have needed SPLOST to do this small but much-needed project). Yet they don't put signs on the government waste that also gets funded because the obvious stuff got funded with SPLOST....

You can say "this money will only go for this purpose" all you want. If so, you are stupid and you are an enabler of big government. Really no different than giving an alcoholic money and making him promise to use it "just for food." Even if he does, he's going to have money left in his pocket, money that he would have used for food, for ... wait for it ... alcohol.

Anyway, even though it's not true (or at best, it's a distinction without a difference), government officials claim that SPLOST funds won't be mixed with general funds. And, for the most part, when SPLOST approval is put on the ballot they dedicate it to popular projects.

So that's why the recent stories in the news were so interesting. It turns out that the above claims (funds are separate from the general fund, only used for popular projects) are simply not true. I know, shocking, isn't it? As I said, if you have a brain this is intuitively obvious. But some people still don't get it. They need proof. With that in mind, let's get to the following stories.

In the first story, we see that SPLOST being dedicated to specific purposes is absolute fiction. Not much to comment on here, the article speaks for itself. Maybe just a simple "I told you so" will suffice. I guess I should also mention my amusement as I read about school board officials wondering whether this was legal--the blind leading the blind over there.

And now the second item, that SPLOST is used for popular items, stuff that would have been done anyway. Here in Cobb County, Georgia a recent SPLOST tax was approved for education. So here's what they did:

That's right, "education" actually means improving athletic fields. Any bets as to whether they said that when they were pushing the tax?

That's okay, though. It's not like the schools need money. Oh, wait a minute.

It is possible that the way this particular SPLOST funding was structured prevents it from being used to address the budget shortfalls mentioned above, I'm not sure. But if so, that's another strike against SPLOST. Impose a tax whose funds can't be use where needed so that unnecessary projects get funded while more important services are cut? Sounds like a great idea--if you're an artificial turf vendor.

Back to the turf. Here is a Facebook group supporting the use of SPLOST money for athletic turf:

Here is one comment on this page: "Another big thing is the cost it curenty cost to groom the field (cut the grass),gas for the lawn mower paint the field every week, replacing the sod after each spring, the sprinklers to water the sod. when you look at it the expenses it takes into the upkeep of sod verus synthic terf, it is more cost efficent in the long run. it would also be enjoyed for many years to come"

Before you go any further, ask yourself the question you should ALWAYS ask yourself: "How does it benefit them if I believe what they say?" Then apply it to the situation at hand: "If this magic turf is so much more cost effective, why do we need SPLOST money to pay for it???"

Most of the "arguments" for using SPLOST for athletic fields boil down to, "The other guys have done it, why can't we do it? Wah, wah." And I love some of the other "arguments" on this page:

"1. It is well documented that a synthetic turf field would be used all day by our PE classes and other academic classes and natural turf fields cannot or will not be used near as much."
>> Fascinating. So why wouldn't you just use normal school funding to buy it?

"2. Cobb as well as every other school system uses SPLOST money to build new schools which include a gym (with bleachers) and athletic fields: game, practice, baseball and football. Grass is sodded or planted on those fields. Synthetic turf is just expensive grass that will last 10 years or more. Instead of going in and sodding a whole field we are installing synthetic grass."
>> Fascinating. If it's so cost effective, why wouldn't you just use normal school funding to buy it?

3. If we cannot use SPLOST money for synthetic turf on a PE/athletic field then we should not build a gym for the PE classes. If we cannot use SPLOST money for stadiums then we should not be able to use SPLOST money for bleachers in the gym.
>> This is the worst argument yet. Response 1: How did we ever manage to build bleachers, gyms, athletic fields, etc. in those barbaric days before we managed to bilk the public out of SPLOST funds? Response 2: Well no shit, Sherlock. Of course you shouldn't be able to use SPLOST funding for any of those things!

Learn to Go Slow

From the incomparable Eddy Matzger (if you don't know who he is, you need to look him up):

I think this applies to much more than skating...

Something to remember when you're trying to persuade someone

Don Dodge writes some very interesting articles. Here's a good one:

If they aren't ready to listen, it doesn't matter what you say

World Air Traffic 24 Hour Period

This e-mail (pasted below) was forwarded to me, along with a video. Rather than post the video, I found a YouTube link:

Here is the text of the e-mail, presented in unedited form:
Amazing and interesting.....!

What you will see in the attached movie clip is the air traffic around the world over a period of 24 hours taken from a satellite.

It is a 24 hour observation of all of the large aircraft flights in the world, condensed down to just over a minute. From space we look like a bee hive of activity.

I'm sure that you won't believe this at first!!!

The yellow dots are airplanes in the sky during a 24 hour period. Stay with the picture or watch it over again, and notice the following:
→ See the light of the day moving from the east to the west, as the Earth spins on its axis.
→ See the flow of aircraft traffic leaving the North American continent and traveling at night to arrive in the UK in the morning.
→ Then see the flow changing, leaving the UK in the morning and flying to the American continent in daylight.
→ See if you realize that it was summer time in the north (by the sun's foot print over the planet).
→ See the daylight pattern moving across the earth's surface and that the sun didn't quite set in the extreme north and it didn't quite rise in the extreme south.

I have never seen anything as explanative as this before. We are taught about the earth's tilt, how it causes summer and winter, and also the movement of the daylight pattern. Until now we have had to just use our imagination to picture what is going on. With this 24 hour observation of aircraft travel on the earth's surface, we
get to see the above in actual action...

Remember to watch the day to night..... day is over in Australia when it starts.

Google's biggest threat?

Here's an interesting article about arguable the largest obstacle Google now faces: Government.

"Can monopolies exist online, when competition is only a click away? What constitutes anti-competitive behavior in the complex networked economy, where the very size of big companies allows them to operate more efficiently, and thus grow even bigger? Are consumers harmed if various services are bundled together, but everything is free?

"Alan Davidson, head of United States public policy at Google: 'We know we have a giant bull’s-eye on our backs.'"

Beagles Rock

Have you seen the latest Chik-Fil-A commercial? The "Sownd the Alarm Spicee Chikin" commercial? If not, go here...
...then choose the "TV Commershals" link, and the cartoon I just mentioned.

Or find it on YouTube here:

You're probably wondering what the heck this has to do with Beagles. Pay close attention about half way through the commercial, around the 0:16 mark. Watch and listen to the howling beagle. It's priceless. It makes the whole commercial. And it reminded me of beagles.

Not sure what it is, but I love beagles. My family has had several great ones through the years. My mother had a dog, officially named Daisy (she picks some strange names for pets), but unofficially, and much more commonly, known as Beags. Beags was smart and, like most beagles, had a great nose. I still remember that day when she when she lifted her head, took a long sniff, and said to me, "There's something going on in L.A., isn't there." That was during the riots after the Rodney King beating. And we were in Milwaukee at the time! Like I said, smart dog.

Question: What is cuter, a baby beagle or a baby human? Be honest!

Quote of the Day: Craziness and Passion

Hide your crazy next to your passion. They can't tell the difference. —rands

Definitions Matter

Listen to Al Franken discussing his proposed new bill:

Tangent: Is Al Franken our dumbest senator? I realize he has a lot of competition for this title, but he's right up there.

Back to the blog post. Here is a transcript of a portion of the interview, courtesy of James Taranto (Wall Street Journal, Best of the Web Today):
Wurzer: As other parents listen to our conversation here, and maybe their child's been the target of a bully--maybe the child's not gay or lesbian. Could you,,in the statute, say--why not just bullying is for any reason?

Franken: Well, uh, we, you know, it--it is illegal for so many reasons that--you know, race, religion, uh, national origin, disability, uh--I guess, I guess you can say that bullying--then it kind of depends on what you're talking about. If, you know, I guess kids have a right not to bully, but to basically, you know, tease each other about the stupidest things, but certainly not about those things.

Wurzer: Um, would a court--

Franken: You know, "I don't like your taste in TV shows," or something like that--

Wurzer: Right. Or how you're dressed.

Franken: To get to a point where we got to define these things.

Wurzer: Right. And in this case, you're talking about being bullied--a student being bullied for either being gay or being perceived as gay, which--

Franken: Yeah.

Wurzer: --you could say is quite hurtful.

Franken: Mm-hmm.

Wurzer: What constitutes harassment under your bill, specifically?

Franken: Uh, I think that harassment and bullying is really, uh, it's one of these things that you know it when you see it.

Wurzer: Does--but does the bill outline anything specific?

Franken: I don't, uh, believe we have the language in it to define bullying, but maybe I do. I'm not--I'm not sure about that aspect of, of the bill. I know that it's, it's, it's defined the same way as it is for, um, race or for religion, or, um, the, uh, disability--the other reasons that are outlawed in, in--nationally. In other words, all these other things, uh, are, are national, uh, but not, uh, gay and lesbian.

Wurzer: Public schools, under this bill evidently, that violate the statute could lose federal money or be sued by victims?

Franken: Yeah.

Wurzer: How would a court determine that a school ignored harassment? Have you figured that out yet?

Franken: Uh, I think that they would just, uh, the facts of the case--I mean, that would be up to the court, and if the, um--you know, what I'm hoping is, is this'll start disappearing. Unfortunately, it's all too--it's almost sanctioned, as you can tell by the story in Anoka, by the schools, and I think that once we raise awareness about this, and have a law, that it'll, it'll, uh, bring down the incidence of this and make life a lot better for these kids.

So, to recap, in this interview Franken...
1) cannot or will not tell us why bullying for any reason is wrong, and why we need a special law for bullies who target gays or lesbians.
2) cannot or will not define what constitutes harassment in his bill.
3) cannot or will not give a specific example of what he intends to outlaw with this bill, to help clarify what he failed to define earlier.
4) cannot or will not clarify how a school may be determined to have ignored harassment, to help them avoid being sued or penalized by the loss of federal funds.

Is it really too much to ask that the the bill clearly define what is illegal? And that the author of the bill be able to explain what is in his own bill? Maybe define what a school must do to avoid being sued? They can't define any of these words. But they have no trouble writing these laws anyway. This leaves interpretation up to government agencies and, ultimately, the courts. And we wonder why the courts have so much power nowadays--but that's a whole post of its own...

These laws, where everything is open to interpretation, are pathetic. They remind me of people who decry "profiteering" or "price gouging" without ever sufficiently defining these terms. Write a vague law to make yourself feel better and ignore the concept of clarity, not to mention basic economics.

Let's look at one law in particular, Florida's price gouging law. I've always been amazed at such price gouging laws. First, here is the law:

Next, here are some FAQs about the law:

Wikipedia also has a decent overview:

Back to the Florida law. What is an "unconscionable" price? What is a "gross disparity"? What does "grossly exceeds" mean?

The laws of economics cannot be ignored. If prices are suppressed for scarce items there WILL be shortages, with little incentive for remote suppliers to divert needed goods to the area affected by the emergency. Is that really what we want?

Here are a couple viewpoints that disagree with Florida:

And here is an interesting piece exploring a way to avoid being charged with price gouging:
In one sense, it is a silly question. But it just points out how stupid and arbitrary the price gouging law is. Also note that the state will not clarify whether this is gouging or not. Better to keep people wondering about what the law means so that they can arbitrarily choose to prosecute or not, depending on the whims of the government officials.

And now let's talk about "profiteering." What is it, anyway?

Some of this is a bad, I agree, such as taking advantage of political corruption to get business. But more often you'll see definitions like this:

Making excessive profit on goods in short supply. Okay, fine, but what is "excessive"? What is "short supply"? These are arbitrary terms. I have talked about this with people who make this accusation. In addition to not being able to define the word, or the words in the definition if you drill down, they are very subjective about how they apply this term. It is an excuse to criticize companies or industries that they don't like.

They'll tell you that people are entitled to a "reasonable" profit. Well, some companies make very high profits because they provide great products and services. Sometimes they get lucky. Are those companies that do a great job not entitled to be rewarded? On a personal level, what if you bought a house that greatly appreciated in value, then later sold and made a lot of money? Should you give some back? I don't see these people selling houses below market value because they're making excessive profits on real estate that is in short supply.

Another example: Gas prices. I've had people who use the "profiteering" argument tell me that gas stations should not be able to sell gas that they bought at, say, $2/gallon for $4/gallon if gas prices suddenly doubled. They should not charge market price when they make so much money. (Yes, people have really said this to me. I'm not making this up.) I then ask them, what if gas prices fell by half? By that logic, shouldn't they be able to sell for the original planned price (now ridiculously high, by market standards)? Would YOU still pay them for the higher price because it was "fair" to them? Funny, I don't see these people agreeing to pay for the higher-priced gas. That's just not the way economics works. Not that they know or care.