Sunday, February 28, 2010

Life as a Game?

Just clearing my tabs while waiting for the game to get going again. Imagine a world of disposable technology and sensors - where you get points for the game of life starting from when you start brushing your teeth (10 points for doing so, maybe another 30 for doing it for the full 3 minutes?).

My first reaction was it'd be a bit funny, it'd also be a bit of a scary world if this is where we're headed... if you don't have time start watching starting around the 20 minute mark (Kokatu):

Documenting a Relationship using Photoshop

If you've got a minute you'll probably enjoy this - a bit of clever marketing by a husband and wife team "documenting their relationship" with the help of photoshop - here's the first image (TheTelegraph):

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Fun Times Ahead...

From my blogreader this morning:

Bailout/Nationalization gone awry: Fannie Taps Treasury for $15.3 Billion More After a 10th Loss (Bloomberg)

Self-explanatory: Annual report shows [US] government's financial position hit $11.46 trillion deficit in 2009 (Yahoo/AP)

Obama Administration adds friction to the hiring/firing process of workers, because well, there are obviously too many jobs out there - Alex Tabarrok: Insiders, Outsiders and Unemployment (Marginal Revolution)

The issues are not uniquely American: Man who broke the Bank of England, George Soros, 'at centre of hedge funds plot to cash in on fall of the euro' (DailyMail)

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

PSA: "Keep off the pounds or lose your mind more rapidly"

Another good reason to keep fit (FuturePundit). Of course, then there's this (JammieWearingFool via Instapundit) - though I don't think my love handles are going to protect me from much of anything at the moment.

Should we at least give them points for honesty?

"Atlanta Progressive News fires reporter for trying to be objective" (Creativeloafing via Instapundit):

Atlanta Progressive News has parted ways with long-serving senior staff writer Jonathan Springston. Apparently, Springston’s affinity for fact-based reporting clashed with Cardinale’s vision.
And, no, that’s not sarcasm.
In an e-mail statement, editor Matthew Cardinale says Springston was asked to leave APN last week “because he held on to the notion that there was an objective reality that could be reported objectively, despite the fact that that was not our editorial policy at Atlanta Progressive News.”

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Montana's No Speed Limit Safety "Paradox"

Square quotes mine. Choice quotes here (The Highway Safety Group, from an article in 2000):

This begs the question, do people change the way they drive when there is no speed limit? The evidence suggests the answer is yes. The measured vehicle speeds only changed a few miles per hour as predicted – comparable to data collected from other western states. What changed? The two most obvious changes were improved lane courtesy and increased seat belt use. Did other driving habits and patterns change as well?

The lower–than–US fatality rates on the German Autobahn (where flow management is the primary safety strategy), and now Montana's experience, would indicate that using speed limits and speed enforcement as the cornerstone of US highway safety policy is a major mistake. It is time to accept the fact that increases in traffic speeds are the natural byproduct of advancing technology. People do, in fact, act in a reasonable and responsible manner without constant government intervention.
It's sort of like red light cameras that are supposedly for our own good. Nevermind that they tend to increase accidents (National Motorists Association) or that the real reason is they provide cash to revenue hungry municipalities.

Quote of the Day: "It's my health, it's my choice"

From Danny Williams, Premier of Newfoundland and ardent defender of public healthcare after he went for heart surgery at a hospital in Florida (NationalReview via Instapundit).

Monday, February 22, 2010

Another Solution to Obesity: More Wal-marts

More on my love affair with Wal-mart (theDailyBeast):

Surprising research suggests Wal-Mart can actually reduce obesity in low-income neighborhoods starved for affordable fresh food. [...]

Wal-Mart significantly lowers prices in the communities where it sets up shop, even for people who never shop at the store. On food alone, Hausman and Leibtag found that Wal-Mart delivers a 25 percent benefit to consumers, which has a disproportionately positive effect on the poor because they spend a larger percentage of their income on food.
Makes sense to me. What doesn't make sense are the people who cling to their Wal-mart hate - it's almost as if they love unions, hate efficiency, poor people and local communities or something.

Quote of the Day

Ilya Shapiro (TheDailyCaller):

It’s refreshing to see Canadians display more patriotism than they have traditionally: it’s embarrassing for a country to define itself as being merely “not the United States”
Indeed. Though I wonder if Shapiro was familiar with Canada's $116 million "Own the Podium Campaign" (Bloomberg) that news commentators have been framing as bringing our medal count to at least parity to the Americans. Of course now that the Americans beat Canada in hockey for the first time since 1960, personally I'm just glad that they're actually looking at spending money on useful things as opposed to doubling down.

$400 million and 8 years later... the Bloombox cometh?

Having raised an eye popping $400 million dollars, the Bloombox, a fuel cell is launching on Wednesday. Fuel cells currently in development are something to pay attention to - and success is all dependent on whether or not they can get the costs of production down to economical levels. That's where skeptics have their greatest doubts.

While they haven't released any numbers that I've been able to find, during his interview with CBS's 60 Minutes, the founder KR Sridhar hopes to have one of these boxes (roughly smaller than a loaf of bread) power every home in North America in 5 to 10 years. Definitely can't fault him for his ambition.

Watch CBS News Videos Online

I'm quite hopeful and optimistic that there will be at least one green technology that will become viable in meeting our energy needs to the point of self sufficiency (and relatively soon) - but it'll all depend on the economics. The technology will become sustainable because of the economics not because of government fiat and that's a good thing.

See more at CBS and CNN.

Update - A Business Week article suggests that it's not yet economical (December 7, 2009) though according to their 60 minutes segment, they're taking advantage of the subsidies in the meantime:
"Sridhar figures it will take three to five years before Bloom boxes reach "grid parity" for home use, or price competitiveness with traditional residential-scale electric supplies.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

The internet as a tool for tyranny

An interesting look at how communication technology/social networking can act to diffuse discontent against autocratic governments forestalling change (WSJ):

the role that the Internet played in the recent events in Iran shows us why: Revolutionary change that can topple strong authoritarian regimes requires a high degree of centralization among their opponents. The Internet does not always help here. One can have "organizing without organizations"—the phrase is in the subtitle of "Here Comes Everybody," Clay Shirky's best-selling 2008 book about the power of social media—but one can't have revolutions without revolutionaries.

Contrary to the utopian rhetoric of social media enthusiasts, the Internet often makes the jump from deliberation to participation even more difficult, thwarting collective action under the heavy pressure of never-ending internal debate. This is what may explain the impotence of recent protests in Iran: Thanks to the sociability and high degree of decentralization afforded by the Internet, Iran's Green Movement has been split into so many competing debate chambers—some of them composed primarily of net-savvy Iranians in the diaspora—that it couldn't collect itself on the eve of the 31st anniversary of the Islamic revolution. The Green Movement may have simply drowned in its own tweets.
I'm not sure how much I agree though. Personally, while I suspect that it may delay change - because the Internet allows information to proliferate faster, a larger consensus might make changes less violent - at least that'd be my personal speculation. Further, the internet, is merely a tool that can be used as effectively or ineffectively as people choose. Alternatively, is the takeaway that we should be restricting access if we want change?

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Another reason to love Walmart

At least in some cases, their food tastes better! (

Update (Feb 23, 2010): More from The Atlantic: The Great Grocery Showdown.

The downside of "location based" social networking

Please rob me.

Quote of the Day

Colonel George C Marshall: The enemy always has problems of his own of which you are unaware - as David Foster from Chicagoboyz notes, it may be quite appropriate as some fret over the fall of western dominance.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

It's not that we need a "different kind of Capitalism"...

...we simply need more of it. I've a great deal of respect for Acumen Fund - though in many respects like Accion, it still puzzles me why they would not pursue a venture capital/private equity type model in the developing world instead of the quasi non-profit model they have.

They have a good reading list out as provided by founder Jacqueline Novogratz (Public Radio via Chris Hughes). In the list I'd recommend William Easterly's The White Man's Burden, Hernando De Soto's The Mystery of Capital, but also add my own - Brink Lindsey's Against the Dead Hand (as recommended in the past as it provides context).

Monday, February 15, 2010

Death of the MegaCorporation and the Evolution of Education

Some interesting thoughts, from Dave Troy, an entprepreneur and blogger in Baltimore, on why the utility of the megacorporation is falling while our education system increasingly fails to deliver the skills that help us adapt. Related thoughts here at the Los Angeles Unified School District, where administrators aren't able to fire bad teachers and instead pay them up to $50,000 USD to leave (LAWeekly).

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Bing's Augmented Reality Maps

If you have 8 minutes, check out Blaise Aguera y Arcas' demo of Bing's augmented-reality maps at TED - the possibilities are both stunning and scary:

If you're bored...

I really shouldn't click on these massive productivity killers but I just don't seem to have any self control. If you're bored, check out "failbooking" - funny facebook statuses.

On Happiness

Try the possessions exercise (Jseliger):

List the ten most expensive things (products, services, or experiences) that you have ever paid for (including houses, cars, university degrees, marriage ceremonies, divorce settlements, and taxes). Then, list the ten items that you have ever bought that gave you the most happiness. Count how many items appear on both lists.
Personally, my thinking is that money is what comes after building products and services clients love (or grow to love). Having fun on the way and believing in what I do doesn't hurt either.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Tea Time

The most balanced perspective on the Tea Party Convention that much of the media has been ridiculing of late - and written by one of my favorite political/law bloggers (WSJ). Despite often bizarre attempts to paint these people as the fringe, these are by and large non-partisan (or perhaps avidly anti-incumbent/statist) people who remarkably also have jobs - not only actively challenging Democrats but also the Republican leadership.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

The United States: Home of the "Mostly Free"?

The greatest threat to US economic power isn't China, it's from within. The irony? The US has fallen below Canada in the Heritage Institute's Economic Freedom Index. From Investor's Business Daily:

A nation's corporate tax rate is important. Its effect on a country's competitiveness and its ability to draw or repel investment has a direct impact on economic health.

Companies are being driven offshore by a combined 39.1% federal and state tax rate that is second only to Japan's. In some states, the combination leads the world. California, which would have the world's eighth largest economy as an independent country, teeters on bankruptcy. If you were a CEO, would you headquarter there or in Switzerland or Ireland, which also rank above us?

And with today's budget, the size of government in the US is only set to get bigger (Greg Mankiw). President Obama's exhortations of concern over spending amidst near unprecedented levels of spending (not even taking into account unfunded liabilities like Social Security + Medicare that are set to skyrocket) are like Augustine of Hippo's famous plea (Wikipedia): "Grant me chastity and continence, but not yet".

Update (Feb 13): Welcome Back, Jimmy Carter? (Chicago Daily Observer)

Update #2 (Feb 14): Crony Capitalism returns (Washington Examiner). One of the puzzling strawmen liberals often build is that crony capitalism is the logical conclusion of capitalism and markets when the reality is quite the opposite.

Teetering China?

Michael Pettis provides historical context on why China's foreign currency reserves don't make it more resilient to a crash.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Libertarian Humor

Heh (Instapundit):

One day shortly after the Second World War ended, Winston Churchill and Labour Party Prime Minister Clement Attlee encountered one another at the urinal trough in the House of Common’s men’s washroom. Attlee arrived first. When Churchill arrived, he stood as far away from him as possible. Attlee said, “Feeling standoffish today, are we, Winston?” Churchill said: “That’s right. Every time you see something big, you want to nationalize it.”
And sadly, just as Ontario has banned talking and texting on cell phones without hands free devices, comes a study that "Cell Phone Laws Have No Impact On Accidents". Of course, if I were cynical I'd suspect they would have passed the law anyway.