27 December 2007

another endorsement

for those of you following Ron Paul's endorsements, he's just picked up another.


anybody who knows the real unacoder knows how much he loves monkeys and bacon. bring those two magic elements together and you've got some great music (and a tasty meal).

is this "krunk," yo?

22 December 2007

quote of the day-or-so

Trying stuff is cheaper than deciding whether to try it.
Jason Kottke via Tyler Cowen

i'm not sure Tyler knows about agile development, but this sentence is very telling.

railing against Other

i'm not exactly well-versed in monetary policy, which is why i'm not overly influenced by Ron Paul's goldbuggerism. still, i'm skeptical of even Tyler Cowen when he disses The Ron. (i have to admit, i tend to believe economists more when it comes to economics.)

more than his monetary policy, the things i don't like about Paul are what i see on his pamphlets. given the small space he has to declare his priorities in easy-to-read bullet points, i'm a bit depressed about some of his choices:
  • stop the financial dependency on China, Saudi Arabia, and other foreign governments.
i'm not exactly sure what he means by this statement. my hope is that it's a denouncement of overspending that forces the gubmint to borrow too heavily. my fear is that it may mean he doesn't want to deal with these countries at all. i seriously doubt he would swing that way, though. i can't help but wonder if his word choice is a tool for drawing in the anti-foreign element.
  • secure our borders and end illegal immigration.
  • end "birthright" citizenship for illegal aliens.
more anti-foreign rhetoric? i'm always wary of any talk against immigrants (being 53% foreign myself): most of it smells like racism couched in jingoism. my take on immigration leans toward letting more people in legally, giving us a measure of regulation. a wall along the border is not a policy. taking advantage of legal, cheap labor that we need is just good sense. the wall simply keeps immigrants from leaving once they get here.

ending birthright citizenship seems a drastic step to me, one i hope we won't have to take. again, i hope his intent is to lessen the burden on our welfare infrastructure. perhaps the issue is the infrastructure itself, though. i can't say i'm surprised if people don't try to take advantage of free money.

18 December 2007

save the environment: protect property rights

i find it odd that the most common recommendation for saving the our natural world is the imposition of grand-scale, far-reaching laws and programs thunk up and implemented by those that are supposedly in the pockets of the same corporations that are destroying our natural world. we couldn't possibly fix all the pollution without bringing to bear the mighty hammer of uncle sam!

nonsense. we've got all we need in the way of laws if we'd only enforce them. stop enabling the bad behavior through tax breaks, ineffective regulation, etc. we are subsidizing pollution when we don't make polluters bear the cost of their pollution. i agree it might take some creative thinking (and vigorous lawyering) to figure out how to bill for it, but making those pay that incur the expense is a fairly simple yet powerful idea.

i think of it this way: coal power becomes more expensive when the true costs of its consumption are known, as reflected by its price. wind or solar power suddenly becomes a better option as their prices fall relative to polluting fuels. communities affected by dirty drinking water get paid to fix the problem. i don't think any company could fail to understand the added cost of polluting.

that said, maybe i should pay some restitution since i drive a polluting vehicle. i just need to figure out who to make my cheques out to. hold us bad guys to account.

17 December 2007

a blast from the past

A Citizen's Guide to Democracy Inaction is one of my throne room books. I re-read this passage yesterday, and wanted to share it lest anyone forget the barbed comic genius of The Daily Show. I'm using this quote without specific permission, but I'm hoping they won't sue me, since I'm essentially playing cheerleader for the people who hold the copyright.
As heirs to a legacy more than two centuries old, it is understandable why present-day Americans would take their own democracy for granted. A President freely chosen from a wide-open field of two men every four years; a Congress with a 99% incumbency rate; a Supreme Court comprised of politically appointed judges whose only oversight is the icy scythe of death -- all these reveal a system fully capable of maintaining itself.
This is one of the longstanding tenets of this blog - that gubmint is its own entity at this point, unbeholden to anyone but itself, and thus its powers should be restricted.

16 December 2007

Munger on the radio

interviewed in his capacity as gubernatorial candidate. touches on
  • school choice
  • ballot access
  • LP
  • property rights abuses
  • rent-seeking
  • transportation abuses
  • taxes, taxes, taxes
  • less Google love
  • bad gubmint
  • hippie dreads
  • college funding
  • eco-theology

good quote: "spending creates interests."

remember that you can skip over the commercials.

when is a square not a rectangle?

when it's at the post office, natch. somehow i doubt fedex or ups (curse them) would let a system fester for so long that couldn't reap more rewards from automation.

15 December 2007

rest in peace, Prince Nez

Nezbit ("Bert")
1 Sep 1995 - 11 Dec 2007

constant and loving companion, gentle beastie

we got Nezbit and Wanda back in 1995 when they were a bit over one month old. we chose him because the roughly circular shape on the top of his head (it used to be more pronounced) made it easy to find him amidst his litter mates. at the time, he fit in the palm of my hand.

09 December 2007

Milton TV

in these two clips, Milton Friedman helps an audience uncover underlying questions and delve into economics.

i got your subprime right here

no bailout. none. if people can prove fraud, i'm all over prosecution, but i can't stand the idea of a bailout. while i was wise/wussy and got a loan that fit my finances, other people went nuts, gambling their wealth on an inflated market or simply overextending themselves. i don't mind if people gamble like that, provided they are the ones to feel the sting of loss. but i don't want to pay for their miscalculations.

07 December 2007

when good tests go bad

i'm glad it doesn't happen just to me. Martin Fowler(!) writes of the disrepair that his tests fall into once he and his team leave a system in the hands of a client. i have had the same experience many times. in fact, one of those times is the reason i always put quotes on "architect."

this "architect" created a fairly buggy, lousy, hack-ridden "framework" that my team and i were required to use, even though i had already written my own framework that was actually better (and somewhat tested). on this project, a couple of us started writing tests, especially around our function buckets designed to eliminate some of the bugs in the "framework." turn around and the "architect" had deleted all the tests. when pressed, he removed them because he didn't know what purpose they served and they didn't compile. i fell prey to the same fault that MF did: i didn't teach my "architect" the value of the tests.

how do you convince someone with yonks of "experience" that they suck at what they do?

06 December 2007

new unacoder totem

recently unearthed at in historic dig.

anyone got ideas what it might have been used for?

02 December 2007

sustainable endeavors

it's common to hear the term "sustainable" thrown about these days, largely in reference to effects on "the environment." i can certainly dig me some clean water and clean air, just like any living organism, but i'm also of the mind that desirable policies are also politically, economically, and morally sustainable in that they must keep entities beyond the environment from long-term harm: say, people. the ethanol boondoggle fails that check because of the grotesque nature of Big Ethanol's reliance on gubmint handouts.

public schools (and other "public goods") fail because they necessarily bring people with differing views into conflict. rather than enabling those different views, society is demanding that citizens fit into a mold ever approaching sameness.

how do your pet policies fail the sustainability test? what doesn't fail?

ethanol is funny

via Mark Perry.

01 December 2007

oligarchy is not capitalism

R.Dale has posted a Rant against "capitalism." what i always think is odd is the statement that what we have now is "free market capitalism." i suppose in some relative sense it is, but having our national money supply in the hands of a single private entity and permitting/encouraging oligarchs to rule our economy sounds more like hegemony than capitalism. under a gubmint that is actually subservient to the people, with limited powers and a mission to protect rights, i don't think something like our current system could really exist. unfortunately for me (and you), that kind of gubmint apparently creates a power vacuum filled by hegemonists.

when people like Angus can't even spot the looney, how do we keep tabs on the huge pork factory in DC?

28 November 2007

the importance of a close team

putting other benefits of a gelled, coherent team aside, i found the report on the value of workplace friends interesting. maybe that's why i like where i work. and even under deadline pressures, it's relatively stress free.

25 November 2007

for those missing Rails...

one can now download RikMigrations from CodePlex. it provides the same Up and Down pattern along with easy syntax for DDL. the downside: it currently only supports SqlServer.

24 November 2007


I saw this article over at Wired, and I want to draw your attention to a comment made by Ugly American, a ways down past the article.

The only way I'd pay for DRMed media is if I can pay with DRMed money.
They can only spend it on what I approve of and I can call it back at any time and at some time in the future it'll just stop working in new stores.

Hear, hear.

-- Scav

think of the children

welcome my first guest blogger

i've invited Scavinger to be a guest blogger for an indefinite period. so if you see posts that are more reasoned and [possibly] not as prone to screed, you'll know who it's from.

20 November 2007

broke the build, did you?

developers got you down? rather than lose productivity by making them sit in the corner, have them wear the poop hat for a specified duration.

18 November 2007

you wouldn't think it would be so hard

unless you have as little faith in gubmint as i do.

from a WaPo article:
In each new Congress since 1995, Rep. John Shadegg, Arizona Republican, has introduced the proposed Enumerated Powers Act (HR 1359). The bill, yet to be enacted into law, reads: "Each Act of Congress shall contain a concise and definite statement of the constitutional authority relied upon for the enactment of each portion of that Act. The failure to comply with this section shall give rise to a point of order in either House of Congress. The availability of this point of order does not affect any other available relief."
the Enumerated Powers Act has only 28 co-sponsors this time around. sad, but not surprising. in fact, i think most Americans don't give a rat's behind about limiting gubmint, common themes revolving around state militias and providing for the common good. as long as it furnishes for our pet projects, gubmint is doing what it's supposed to do.

Regarding the "general welfare" clause so often used to justify bigger government, Thomas Jefferson said, "Congress has not unlimited powers to provide for the general welfare, but only those specifically enumerated." Madison said, "If Congress can do whatever in their discretion can be done by money, and will promote the general welfare, the government is no longer a limited one possessing enumerated powers, but an indefinite one subject to particular exceptions."

Congressmen, openly refusing to live up to their oath of office, exhibit their deep contempt for our Constitution. The question I've not been able to answer satisfactorily is whether that contempt simply mirrors a similar contempt held by most of the American people.
the US constitution is now defunct except as a rhetorical tool for sound bite debates. each generation picks out the pieces it dislikes, never returning anything to the pot.

16 November 2007

quote of the day-or-so

What we don't see is that freedom is not a concept in which people can do anything they want, be anything they can be. Freedom is about authority. Freedom is about the willingness of every single human being to cede to lawful authority a great deal of discretion about what you do.

Rudy Giuliani


update: found the text of the speech in the NYT.

double yikes.

04 November 2007

more Colbert

just read a good op-ed on the whole Colbert thing, making a strong argument that speech regulation is overreaching and bound to curtail political discourse even more.
Consider, as well, recent calls for new laws aimed squarely at political speech. The reformers -- including certain non-Colbertian presidential candidates -- have suggested reinstating the "fairness doctrine," which would dictate political content on radio and television. There have even been calls to regulate political blogs. These folks want government's hands on every bit of information we receive, whether it's from TV news, talk radio or the Internets (a series of tubes).
makes me want to run for office again.

03 November 2007

do you have a sauce emergency?

democrats reject Colbert

i had a friend tell me they were disappointed that the SC dems wouldn't let Colbert on the ballot. that's not quite true: they wouldn't let him use their party name to promote humor. what this incident truly represents is a learning opportunity for people to realize that candidates are selected for us by party bosses we don't know.

this isn't the "democracy" you've been promised, folks.

why gubmint can't solve problems

i'm stuck in a pretty nasty drought. i've been doing what i can to conserve and re-use water to flush my toilet, even refusing to flush toilets at the office so i can make up for my morning shower. what's superawesome is that i'm breakin' the law:
State law allows gray water to be used to flush toilet tanks as long as it has been filtered and disinfected.
wtf, people?! i can't use the shower water to flush my fairly nasty waste down the toilet? who comes up with this shit? so now The Man is ordering me to waste more water in a drought that has no end in sight.
"Just think of the reason you're washing your body," Grimes said. "You're washing off waste. You're washing off pathogens."
if i'm so riddled with communicable mung that i can't use water that has touched me to flush feces, maybe i shouldn't live and work among humans at all.

02 November 2007

corn syrup vs. ethanol

it took big ag to kick big fude's bag. the S&P is warning that it may downgrade Kraft Fudes as their profits are consumed by hungry cafo animals unable to fill up on wholesome F1.
Animal feed is made from corn, which has risen to record levels due to demand for the alternative fuel ethanol.
i told you the industry could regulate itself. what they really need is a subsidy.

Ron Paul's NH ad


the begeniuses at SCJohnson have invented Polacks!

who's up for some golumpki or kapusta?

31 October 2007

script error on login page

using the ASP.NET Ajax extensions in an authenticated site apparently can cause issues when accessing script resources. make sure your scripts are open, if necessary. on my site, all scripts are open:
[location path="ScriptResource.axd"]
[allow users="*"/]


i've decided on going as a Miraluka jedi this year.

ghoulish insight

according to Boy, the difference between a demon[t] and a ghoul is that a demon wears a cape.

28 October 2007


it's not what you think (unless you know Ruby). Munger admits to being an incrementalist, which i've known for a while, and which makes me happy to pull for him.
I am an incrementalist. Any policy that improves choice, and puts more power and responsibility in the hands of the citizens should be supported. How much more choice? How much of a change should we press for? As much as we can get, politically.
even though some of the steps we can take aren't necessarily palatable in a real sense, we [kooky libertarian types] will not make any true headway at reform without actually engaging our neighbors in meaningful dialog. what makes you think people who support price gouging laws will suddenly listen to logic?

toward a more meaningful Nobel prize

people who know the real unacoder (i can't apologize enough!), know that i'm not a big fan of Al Gore, except for his ground-breaking work to bring us the interwebs. that feeling has bled over into my shunning of his Nobel peace prize. i'm not a disbeliever in global warming, though i'm no doomsdayer. an alert redneck reader forwarded me an article on a new technology that is quite efficient at scrubbing CO2 from other gases.
While the researchers have shown that plastic can filter natural gas (and any other fuel containing methane), it might also work for making cleaner-burning coal, filtering water and in hydrogen fuel cells. The most immediate application of the technology, however, is increasing the efficiency, and cutting the costs of natural gas processing plants.
now that could be some witch-rockin' technology deserving of a Nobel prize—in chemistry.

27 October 2007

get off my law

i'm on record as hating me some grass. which is why i also hates me some home owners association. they enforce wasteful rules in order to achieve a foolish consistency. i'm actually thankful for the drought so i don't have to make excuses for not spending money to water by dirt patches. i haven't checked my own covenants, but i'm betting there's something in there about it. i've already been in a hostage situation regarding my visible-from-the-street trashcan. no one seems to care that the cars parked in the street directly opposite each other won't permit a fire truck to pass.

more CF brouhaha

i've just replaced both of my "old" overhead CF bulbs in my kitchen after about 6 months of use. i'm already a skeptic when it comes to the benefits of Cf bulbs, but i figured that i'd give Sir Al another shot since he won the Nobel and all. if these puppies burn out before 5 years, i'm installing whale-blubber-burning light fixtures in their place.

aside: my other CF bulbs are doing fine.

26 October 2007

14 October 2007

13 October 2007

quote of the day-or-so

The relationship between [Al Gore's] activities and world peace is unclear and indistinct.
Vaclav Klaus, Czech president

12 October 2007

organic high fructose corn syrup

my CSA newsletter features a story about a farm passing off non-organic fude as organic, knowingly and purposefully breaking federal law. most interesting is the promotion of a strong sense of self-regulation in the industry.
Federal control at first seems to explain why most consumers respond with complete submission to a word alone, as if in a voluntary trance. The explanation, some may offer, is simple: convenience. Its easier to let someone else take care of life's challenges for us. And the government is paid to do just such job, solve life's problems for us. So if the government says its organic, it means good, wholesome and free of pesticides and chemicals, among other things. In an ideal world that would have been the case, but real life is more complex than we would like it to be. In real life, even if the government says its ok, organic too has to be watched independently.
the author is reacting to a rogue outfit that has decided to pay fines while selling inorganic fude fraudulently. the funny thing is that it's all within the letter of the law. in accordance with my own idea that regulation should itself be decentralized, i cotton to the guy's insistence that it's up to us to keep regulation meaningful rather than as a box-checking exercise for bureaucrats.
And common sense, never a bad thing, is what should keep organics from abuses such as in the cases mentioned above. Indeed, local, safe, responsible, honest, all these plus newer and newer terms will be naturally added to organics as the necessity arises. The duality of "us and them" is probably unavoidable in an absolute way in this world. And so in the field of organics too there will always be the us and them. But the organic people will always know what they are about and what the concept means, and they will never accept a falsified version of the ideal. So organics remains safe.
while big corn and big organic join the handout orgy that is US agricultural policy, maybe we can try to be more mindful of our day-to-day choices and refuse to be spoon fed organic high fructose corn syrup.

07 October 2007

nietzsche family circus

munger put me on to a pretty funny cartoon generator. i found myself refreshing for a while.

pigs spotted at 7000 feet

rumor has it that the b0rg have finally heard my mental screams. asp.net will someday use interfaces (e.g. IHttpContext!) and have a pluggable, IoC-loving architecture.
Interfaces abound, and none of it is sealed. I will start by swapping out the controller factory so I can get my IoC container in the mix, but it's easy to do.
Pico, anyone? maybe we'll be able to ditch our current, home-grown MVC horror and the funky TDD it inspires. the question now is whether i can wait however long it takes.

04 October 2007


another star wars show was performed in the workroom today! most of the class watched the performance. it lasted approximately 20 minutes.

03 October 2007

free electronic rails book

for anyone stuck on Jails or an equivalent, you can increase your anxiety at being stuck with it by downloading a free copy of a Rails book. offer ends soon.

21 September 2007

sith lord of the dance

Boy is extremely into star wars and lightsabers and darth vader these days, so it came as no surprise to hear he'd been playing star wars at school quite a bit lately. what i hadn't expected was that he and some friends "created a dancing lightsaber show in the light and shadow area. they played Aaron Copland's Appalacian Spring in the background while they moved about."

12 September 2007

quote of the day-or-so

"Cuchi-cuchi" showed me the way to the bank. That bullshit make me rich.
Charo, from an interview in Entertainment Weekly regarding her appearances on Love Boat.

30 August 2007

quote of the day-or-so

I might as well say this in every article I write from overseas: The easier America makes it for talented foreigners to work and study there, the richer, more powerful, and more respected America will be. America's ability to absorb the world's talent is the crucial advantage no other culture can match—as long as America doesn't forfeit this advantage with visa rules written mainly out of fear.
James Fallows, "China Makes, The World Takes," The Atlantic Monthly, July/August 2007

i hate grass

an alert reader has alerted me to a NYT article that made me smile: there is apparently an effort underway to eliminate needless mowing on roadsides across the country! anyone who knows me knows how much i hate lawns and lawncare. why are so many gubmint bodies squeezing me for money to mow grass? it is a complete waste of resources: time, money, and chemical.
Natives need to be left alone to grow to their full height. On the nonnative areas, mowing eight times annually costs $162.72 an acre using state workers, or $800 an acre using contractors. On the native plots, mowing once yearly costs $20.34 an acre with state personnel or $100 an acre with contractors, Ms. Barton said.
i'm not sure how the dollars are calculated, but the difference between each is pretty amazing.

if you like grass, plant your own and take care of it, but don't force me to be a mindless eejit doing the same. and stop taking cash from my pocket to mow highways.

28 August 2007


Dean Edwards posted a nifty hint useful to all web monkeys: develop your javascript using strict rules.

16 August 2007

Prototype 1.6.0 release candidate

prototype has a new release on the way out. the release candidate appears to have fixed some issues and added a bunch that i cotton to, including better inheritance functionality. i'm so far behind on this stuff that i can't really comment on what all the improvements are, but i'm sure they've implemented more things that i don't have to do myself anymore.

10 August 2007


recognizing that big xml strings are a horrible way to configure applications, some folks have resorted to annotations/attributes. the problem with this approach is that annotations generally end up being just as big a kludge and really only cast the xml across multiple files, which isn't always bad. what i'd like to see from open source teams is an initial preference for code-driven configuration (see pico + nanowar). i am extra baffled because code-first would seem the logical path to me from a test-driven perspective. toplink got it right with mappings.

besides, if Matthew says "put it in pico," you best put it in pico. ack.

08 August 2007

best...book review...ever

Tyler Cowen has an enjoyable review of Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict, a novel about a woman transported through the fictional ether into the body of a Jane Austen heroine.

1. Would I, at first, have to act sick and crazy so as to cover up what are in fact more systematic lapses from accepted codes of social behavior?

2. If I am a rational Bayesian, what percentage of "transported people" should I expect to find in my new world? (It is indicative that our heroine thinks she is very special and isn't much concerned with this question.) Would such people be natural allies or enemies?

3. If I met another transported person, could I figure this fact out? How long would it take and what are the best hints to drop? Should I just mention "the Boston Red Sox" and see what happens?

4. Living in such a world, how useful is it to know how the novel ends? (This is a theme in the story.) Could such knowledge compensate for not understanding the non-articulated rules of this world very well? What rate of interest should I pay on borrowed money, given the presence of speculative opportunities?

5. Being a rational Bayesian, how should I revise upwards my estimates that the world is ruled by an evil Demi-Urge, and what does this imply for the optimal degree of ethical behavior?

It is a sad commentary on our educational system that Courtney, the heroine of the novel, never ponders such a question.

6. At what percentage of "transported people" would we expect to see an impact on real GDP, and would this impact be positive or negative?

06 August 2007

total carbon footprint

Wife sent me an editorial from the NYT (that i'm sure you have to subscribe to see) that draws out the idea of full carbon life cycle costs of local foods compared to shipped-over-great-distances foreign foods. (i consider california to be foreign.) in my own attempt to sound like a good earth-steward, i preached the lite version of the local gospel. so i found it interesting to see some numbers about total costs.
Incorporating [measurements of water use, harvesting techniques, fertilizer outlays, renewable energy applications, means of transportation (and the kind of fuel used), the amount of carbon dioxide absorbed during photosynthesis, disposal of packaging, storage procedures and dozens of other cultivation inputs] into their assessments, scientists reached surprising conclusions. Most notably, they found that lamb raised on New Zealand’s clover-choked pastures and shipped 11,000 miles by boat to Britain produced 1,520 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions per ton while British lamb produced 6,280 pounds of carbon dioxide per ton, in part because poorer British pastures force farmers to use feed. In other words, it is four times more energy-efficient for Londoners to buy lamb imported from the other side of the world than to buy it from a producer in their backyard. Similar figures were found for dairy products and fruit.
those are some significant digits. so maybe it's not as important to focus on the little picture. the same goes for my garbage. EconTalk has an interview with Munger regarding the total costs of recycling—or at least hints at it.

perhaps it's not as important to focus on getting every last shred of "recyclables" into the blue bin at my curb, especially considering that much of it likely ends up in the landfill anyway. instead, i should consider a total pollution life cycle: how much pollution do i save in recycling each item versus sequestering it in a somewhat inert state below a future playground or neighborhood? in fact, maybe it's more efficient to use an item for some other purpose than to change it back into what it was.

measuring the morality of "price gouging"

Skip Oliva makes a fascinating point about the measurement of price gouging:
That in any given economic exchange, the party trading cash holds the legal and moral high ground over the party trading a good or service.
as a thought experiment, try to imagine any exchange in the form of barter that can be seen as anticompetitive. i wasn't able to, but i'm sure that bartering a ton of turnips for life-saving diabetes drugs would surely raise some hackles.

Antitrust regulators obsess over short-term prices. They deem a price “anticompetitive” when they think it should have been lower. The seller is liable for trading a good at anticompetitive prices. But why isn’t the buyer equally liable? If the government sets the competitive price of a good at x and a seller trades that good at x+1, both the buyer and seller undermine the competitive price level.

The rejoinder to this is that the buyer is “forced” to pay the anticompetitive price because the seller controls the supply of an item desired by the buyer. But the reverse is also true. The buyer controls a supply of an item desired by the seller—cash. The seller lacks the ability to obtain cash from anyone except those cash-holders willing to trade for the seller’s item.

via The Liberal Order.


i'm a big believer in the yagni practice, preferring to avoid work that i don't have to do now (laziness) and to avoid refactoring baggage that arises from implementing early. what i don't appreciate is the playing of the yagni card in order to stop discussion. i've been hearing it lately applied to ideas rather than actual coding. am i the only one that sees a slippery slope here? is it kosher to drop the Y-bomb if you simply don't agree with the ideas presented?

i tend to think that stopping discussion so abruptly (or even trying to) will stifle participation in the future, canceling any benefit of supposedly increased communication on an XP team.

03 August 2007

i need to get my ire up (i'm re-famous edition)

seems i'm so influential that Munger (and Angus, lest we forget) has linked to me in his list of elite blogs. i'm in the same group as some pretty high-brow folks. of course, he's just trying to encourage me to rail against something. i admit i've been lacking in motivation lately: there's just too much to bring me down.

and if you read this, Mungowitz, please crank up the length limit on your blog feed. i usually [try to] read you via google reader.

02 August 2007

"Early in the use of two shafts"

i've been having fun with google translate trying to create super delicious similacra of technical documentation, adding more meaning in the process. the title comes from a translation of English-to-German-to-French-to-English-to-Chinese(Traditional)-to-Chinese(Simplified)-to-English translation. anyone who can guess the original phrase wins a free CD.

thank the toy.

27 July 2007

Conservation of Annoyance

a fundamental law of IT: the total annoyance (A) of working in a large corporate office remains constant given no external interactions.
A = γm0βzzz
where m0 is the mass of a solution at rest, βzzz is the amount of bureaucracy, and γ (the Gähnen factor) is given by
γ = (1-v2/c2)-1/2
where v is the team velocity, and c is the velocity with Rails. that is, when more productive tools or solutions are selected, there will be an equal rise in the amount of bureaucracy associated with implementing that change.

20 July 2007

Ron Paul @ Google

this is a fantastic (long) clip if you're interested in hearing some of Paul's ideas in depth. his libertarianism really comes through. what also comes through is how well he knows his history and beliefs, refusing to resort to trite sound bites. again, i can't stress enough how different he is from the other candidates.

18 July 2007

security exploits and organ sales

software companies, including giants like microsoft, may need to re-think their refusal to purchase security exploits from hacker groups. as the author of the article so deftly explains,
Really, what is a good argument against companies paying for security exploits? It's virtually certain that if a company like Microsoft offered $1,000 for a new IE exploit, someone would find at least one and report it to them. So the question facing Microsoft when they choose whether to make that offer, is: Would they rather have the $1,000, or the exploit? What responsible company could possibly choose "the $1,000"? Especially considering that if they don't offer the prize, and as a result that particular exploit doesn't get found by a white-hat researcher, someone else will probably find it and sell it on the black market instead?
companies have an opportunity to leverage the hax0r community to strengthen their own products. would it not be better to know about vulnerabilities such that they may be fixed?

the same thinking applies to sales of human organs. wouldn't it be better to get access to as many organs as are needed than to stick to some strange protectionist strategy? (i call it protectionist because there are parties that profit from organ sales already, just not the family of the deceased.)

it's time to re-think our knee-jerk policies and use markets to start solving problems.

quote of the day-or-so

Free markets are simply millions upon millions of individual decision-makers, engaged in peaceable, voluntary exchange pursuing what they see in their best interests. People who denounce the free market and voluntary exchange, and are for control and coercion, believe they have more intelligence and superior wisdom to the masses. What's more, they believe they've been ordained to forcibly impose that wisdom on the rest of us. Of course, they have what they consider good reasons for doing so, but every tyrant that has ever existed has had what he believed were good reasons for restricting the liberty of others.
Economist Walter E. Williams via Carpe Diem

java on the web

The relative verbosity of programming languages isn't the interesting thing; nor is typing doctrine. What's interesting is the culture of frameworks and what different communities deem valuable. My sense of it is that on Java, too many web frameworks - think JSF, or Struts 1.x - consider the Web something you work around using software patterns. The goal is get off the web, and back into middleware. Whereas a framework like Django or Rails is purpose-built for the Web; integrating with the internal enterprise is a non-goal.

ETag support is just one example; there are so many things frameworks like Rails/Django do ranging from architectural patterns around state management, to URL design, to testing, to template dispatching, to result pagination, right down to table coloring that the cumulative effect on productivity is startling. I suspect designing for the Web instead of around it is at least as important as language choice.

It's hard to explain sometimes just how time-consuming it can be to get Web things done on some Java frameworks.
Bill de hÓra

what he said.

02 July 2007

conflict of interest

i know it's hard to believe, but a Virginia state rep, David Albo, may be using his position in the gubmint to line his own pockets. as a lawyer specializing in traffic law, he makes his money off of motorists trying to wiggle out of tickets. to drive up his target market, he has introduced the $3550 speeding ticket.

sicko is whacko

Kurt Loder, that old guy on MTV that pretends to be journalist, has reviewed "Sicko," Michael Moore's attempt to cast the light of truth on America's hugely inept health care system. Loder has spotted Moore's lack of actual knowledge on the subject.
Unfortunately, Moore is also a con man of a very brazen sort, and never more so than in this film. His cherry-picked facts, manipulative interviews (with lingering close-ups of distraught people breaking down in tears) and blithe assertions (how does he know 18,000* people will die this year because they have no health insurance?) are so stacked that you can feel his whole argument sliding sideways as the picture unspools. The American health-care system is in urgent need of reform, no question. Some 47 million people are uninsured (although many are only temporarily so, being either in-between jobs or young enough not to feel a pressing need to buy health insurance). There are a number of proposals as to what might be done to correct this situation. Moore has no use for any of them, save one.
it's quite obvious Moore believes we're too stupid to recognize a good thing when we see it, so he trots out a carefully selected band of people who, quite honestly, were raped by their HMOs, etc. the whole contrived sequence of dirty American companies and super-delcious-awesome-happy euro-hospitals is a continual smell, ideally suited to those already under the unthinking spell of socialism.
What's the problem with government health systems? Moore's movie doesn't ask that question, although it does unintentionally provide an answer. When governments attempt to regulate the balance between a limited supply of health care and an unlimited demand for it they're inevitably forced to ration treatment.
i'd agree that the US system is completely broken, but creating our own mega-version of those systems that aren't actually as hella-awesome as Moore would have us believe is a worse mistake, mainly because large programs once undertaken in this country are largely unstoppable, regardless of performance.

i'm certain i could go find a bunch of Cato or Reason articles or papers to support whatever system i currently think is better than what we have, but (as everyone can guess by now) i'm quite lazy. let it be sufficient to say that we as consumers should be made more aware of what costs we're imposing on the system, maybe by eliminating employer-sponsored health care plans. if you subsidize something, you get more of it; by subsidizing the consumption of medical care, we're wasting some very precious resources.

the economics of environmentalism

Munger has done it again, creating a reasoned and accessible explanation of some of the misguided efforts of knee-jerk environmentalists.
A generation of American has been indoctrinated into a "save resources, recycle at all costs" mindset. "Recycle!" is used as a moral bludgeon. This is different from "Don't Litter!" Littering is a collective action problem, a genuine social dilemma: cheaper for me to throw that cup out the window. But I myself would prefer a world where no one throws cups out of windows over a world where everyone does. "Don't litter" is an attempt to solve a real problem.

"Recycle, regardless of cost!" doesn't solve a problem; it creates one. Laws requiring recycling harm me, the environment, and everyone else. We have to take prices into account, because prices are telling us that we can't save resources by wasting resources.

prices involved in recycling that are free to fluctuate based on resource consumption would be mighty good at letting us know what is actually a good thing to recycle. if i end up sending more carbon into the air than i'm saving by recycling, just what good is recycling that product? there's no such thing as a free lunch. i'm all for doing my part to recycle, but i'd much prefer to actually save my planet than satisfy some garbage nazis who prefer action to results.

27 June 2007

learning from new zealand

i have now received my third unrequested copy from the Mercatus Center of a speech made by Maurice McTigue, a former MP+ from New Zealand. he presents some fascinating ideas on eliminating wasteful spending and activities: actions actually taken by the NZ gubmint. it's an amazing laundry list of baby steps toward a more libertarian society. maybe i'll offer some itemization plus thoughts on it some day, but i'm lazy.

i offer up these 3 CDs to the first people to request them. ideally, i won't need to pay money to the gubmint mail monopoly, but i might consider it. best would be an offer to meet for lunch (Alan!).

for those not familiar with Mercatus: it's the Austrian economist HQ housed by George Mason University and run by Tyler Cowen.

26 June 2007

EJBs: enterprise cow patties

two days in an EJB course and i'm even more convinced that java needs to be put out of my misery. i can't believe that a community that has been around this long and supposedly has so much intelligence can buy into this crap.

as an example, i went looking for a pico implementation to handle EJB "dependency injection" (the spec doesn't account for it well enough) and came across an article on IBM.
Some good consultants have expressed concern about what they call overuse of annotations in EJB technology. I also have my reservations, but EJB technology has bigger problems. The EJB group must deliver something soon, or the lightweight containers may render EJB technology irrelevant. Customers can already do most of what they need to do with Spring. By the time EJB technology is used in volume, it may be too late.
it's too late. pooled function buckets with more xml and @xml (annotations) is not ground-breaking--unless to bury itself.

25 June 2007

the tyranny of ignorance

i'm firmly convinced that individuals are completely unable to step away from their own beliefs to consider how others might think. i read the same heavily biased article on some "tax dodgers" as the folks at DoF. (i fall into the category of someone who digs the idea of "live free or die," but would not actually attempt it.) DoF makes some decent points proving my notion, but makes the fatal flaw of evoking the nazis in #2. there's a debate winner. still, i'm always at a loss that people could react this way to a fellow who is standing up for all their rights. some folks are happy to be sheep.

btw, thanks to all of you who put these boobs in power. think there's no connection? how can anyone be convinced that simply changing parties or people in power can change the state of things?

23 June 2007

that's the last time i shoppe there!

click to embiggen.

more microsoft

i'm a bit dismayed by yet another chop against microsoft innovation. while i'm too lazy to track down details about the next flare-up, i find it odd that microsoft is coming under fire for trying to implement the things that make me want a mac in the first place. maybe their practices just make it harder for others to compete, but i really want my PC to come with everything i need already.

ideas on fixing politics

by way of MJ Perry, from the book More Sex is Safer Sex by Steven Landsburg
1. Give everybody 2 votes per election, 1 for your own district and 1 for any other district of your choice, to increase political accountability. If a Michigan senator gets too much pork for his home state, the suppliers of those dollar (voters in other states) can express their opinion at the polls.

2. Redraw the boundaries of congressional districts based on alphabet, instead of geography. Congressperson #1 would represent people with last names starting with AA through AE, #2 would represent AF through AH, etc., making it harder to bring home pork to a particular region.

3. Adjust federal income tax rates in each congressional district by the amount of spending your representative has voted for - the more spending, the higher the taxes in your district. That would sure help solve the "rational ignorance" problem.

4. Abolish withholding, and make ALL taxes due on April 15, including sales taxes, and provide an itemized statement of how much each taxpayer is actually paying for defense, agricultural subsidies, e.g. ethanol subsidies, etc.

the market of free software

i preach quite a bit about the use of The Market to solve many large problems. here's a fairly good description of what a market really is:
Indeed, free software is best seen as just one example of how people free to cooperate for mutual benefit create wealth for themselves and the rest of society. Sometimes they do so through business, by selling goods and services to customers or their labor to employers. But there are plenty of examples of voluntary cooperation that is not organized by traditional market mechanisms. In addition to free software, these include co–ops, private universities, think tanks, unions (providing membership is voluntary), churches, charities, sports teams, and many other groups. Libertarians should celebrate all of those institutions as alternatives to coercive government programs.

quote of the day-or-so

We already are paying thrice for Washington's love affair with corn-based fuel, in the form of higher taxes, higher gasoline prices and higher food prices. Yet because of the prodigious amounts of energy and fertilizer used in its cultivation, corn-based ethanol provides little or no net reduction in CO2 over the gasoline it displaces.
Holman W. Jenkins, Jr, from the WSJ.

robot chicken eats grass

apparently, i can't embed this: an adult swim Robot Chicken send up of star wars.

16 June 2007

pragmatic libertarianism defined

i've come across a darned good definition of what i've been calling "pragmatic libertarianism" in Radicals for Capitalism.
[L]ibertarians have many good arguments going for them in economics, and ... they should rely more on historical-economic empiricism and less on rights language.... [T]he libertarian movement needs most in order to achieve greater academic respectability and impact are high-level books of academic rigor that can authoritatively argue such points as that capitalism did not cause the Great Depression, that the Robber Barons were not despoiling America and creating ruthless economic royalties, and that poverty can be as much the result of state policies as it is of market failures.... [T]he movement does not need further explorations in an ultimately failed quest to find the trumping philosophical/moral rights argument that will turn the world libertarian.
(emphasis in original)
in other words, libertarians need to focus on solving real problems using a rights-oriented approach. the same as socialism and communism, there will never be a situation with ideal circumstances to make all the pieces of the puzzle fall nicely into place. the key difference is a reliance on voluntarism, eschewing the implicit threat of force common to all state policies.

15 June 2007

windows update

looks like i got tricked into installing the windows genuine advantage software--that tool that makes sure you're running a legit copy of windows. windows update requires it now in order to keep the system up to date.

i think i'ma git me a mac. Chris was nice enough to compile a pricing schedule for the different versions of OS X.

gubmint price fixing is legal

here's another good description of the absurdity of price gouging laws. throw vague terms on top of poor economic understanding and bake ten years at 350°.

14 June 2007

do you speak properly?

quite right considering my birth certificate.

What American accent do you have? (Best version so far)


("Midland" is not necessarily the same thing as "Midwest") The default, lowest-common-denominator American accent that newscasters try to imitate. Since it's a neutral accent, just because you have a Midland accent doesn't mean you're from the Midland.

Personality Test Results

Click Here to Take This Quiz
Brought to you by YouThink.com quizzes and personality tests.

13 June 2007

barney + tupac != bartok

thanks, Jen.

stamp increase justified

there's been a bit of a brouhaha in my neighborhood regarding the placement of mailboxes. many homes received notice that mail delivery would stop if the mailboxes weren't fixed by a given deadline. the offending boxes are too far from the curb. by about 2 inches, according to folks who have addressed the problem.

the post office needs the extra cash to pay for delivery of the notices and to cover the medical expenses of the carriers harmed by the incorrect placement of boxes.

you know, Ron Paul said he would legalize competition in first class mail delivery. i can't remember the last time UPS or FedEx threatened to stop delivering to my house if i didn't move closer to their distribution hub.

get off my law

environmentalists are killing babies. i think it's a moral outrage to impose conservation thinking from fat-rich-and-complacent westerners to developing countries. if we have a means of malaria prevention that works better for Uganda than DDT, we should be sharing; otherwise, back off.
Today, every single Ugandan still remains at risk. Over 10 million Ugandans are infected each year, and up to 100,000 of our mothers and children die from the disease. Recently Ugandan country music star Job Paul Kafeero died of the
disease, a reminder that no one is beyond its reach.
i think it's especially telling that WHO recommends DDT.
The U.S. banned DDT in 1972, spurred on by environmentalist Rachel Carson's 1962 book "Silent Spring." Many countries in Europe and around the world followed suit. But after decades of exhaustive scientific review, DDT has been shown to not only be safe for humans and the environment, but also the single most effective anti-malarial agent ever invented. Nothing else at any price does everything it can do. That is why the World Health Organization (WHO) has once again recommended using DDT wherever possible against malaria, alongside insecticidal nets and effective drugs.

the death of reason, professional addition

i've been in a JSF class this week that has only reinforced my opinion that java web development sucks. it's an over-engineered amalgam of crud. what i'm noticing, too, is that JSF is way behind the curve on annotations-is-the-new-xml java craze. this class has more than doubled my appreciation of ASP.NET. it has also convinced me that Rails is probably the only remaining hope for sanity left in my department, given the uninformed anti-MS snobbery.

it's too bad Sails development died off. it was the only java framework i've seen that approached what i wanted out of java web development. and i had high hopes for JSF. i have a feeling we'll make it work for us, but at what cost?

10 June 2007

apple drm-free revisted

i've recently upgraded my itunes in order to check out the itunes plus selections (tracks available without the DRM). i now have an option to pay even more for purchased albums to convert them to the new format. while i'm glad apple has provided the service, i think it's ridiculous to jack up the price of previously purchased music. the clincher for me on disliking the new service: the same albums are for sale for the same exact price now without the DRM as when i bought them. the least they could do is offer the same album-volume discount on the upgrade as for the original tracks.

09 June 2007

quote of the day-or-so

The problem is ... the idea that the world is divided into stupid people, evil people, and people who agree with me. The first thing you have to learn is that there are lots of brilliant, kind-hearted people who just disagree with you.
Peter Boettke

06 June 2007

the corn syrup generation

i grew up on soy bean oil and corn syrup sweeteners. now that i'm a parent, i am disgusted by how far into our food supply this stuff has encroached without a huge public outcry. Wife forwarded me an article that helps explain it to me: in serving a special need for parents, we've destroyed our kids' palates. Boy won't eat much of anything with flavor, preferring hot dogs, fries, and chicken fingers. Wife fed Sweet Baby Girl differently from the beginning after discovering that she didn't really care for rice cereal, preferring curry instead. she eats whatever we put in front of her.

so it's my job and yours to bring our food standards up to snuff.

31 May 2007

DRM-free != free-range

apparently, apple is embedding purchaser data in the DRM-free offerings on iTunes. i'm not sure i care about that since i don't share my music, but i don't think it's a great idea. there's bound to be some backlash from übergeeks. i guess i'll stick with emusic anyway until amazon gets into the arena. besides, itunes is a convenient way to get hi-def tracks for browsing, if nothing else.

30 May 2007

species inflation

Mark Perry posted about the idea of species inflation. My natural tendency is to be skeptical of his statement:
Upgrading subspecies into species simultaneously increases the number of rare species (by fragmenting populations) and augments the biodiversity of a piece of habitat and thus its claim for protection.
however, one wonders just how much science is being manipulated on the non-Bush end to justify policy changes. i have no doubt that all scienticians in this debate have some ax to grind.

29 May 2007

public policy is killing us

Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore's Dilemma, rails further against the inanity of the farm subsidy policy. basically, our food supply if fudged because of the unintended (?) consequences resulting from the outrageous subsidies that artificially prop up the corn and soy lobby, driving prices down on junk fude.
the current farm bill helps commodity farmers by cutting them a check based on how many bushels they can grow, rather than, say, by supporting prices and limiting production, as farm bills once did. The result? A food system awash in added sugars (derived from corn) and added fats (derived mainly from soy), as well as dirt-cheap meat and milk (derived from both). By comparison, the farm bill does almost nothing to support farmers growing fresh produce. A result of these policy choices is on stark display in your supermarket, where the real price of fruits and vegetables between 1985 and 2000 increased by nearly 40 percent while the real price of soft drinks (a k a liquid corn) declined by 23 percent. The reason the least healthful calories in the supermarket are the cheapest is that those are the ones the farm bill encourages farmers to grow.
rather than attack the "obesity epidemic" at its source, our leaders are searching for more artificial means of controlling the economy. that's good news for the high-fructose corn industry. just read a few of the labels in your pantry; that shiz is everywhere, even in some of the "healthful" bread you've bought.

Pollan also links immigration issues and international farming issues to subsidies in the US. farmers here are able to sell their products cheaper across borders than the cost of production, driving foreign farmers out of business and contributing to increased immigration.

i have concerns about property rights, too, since agri-policy largely controls what happens on private land. there doesn't appear to be a limit to the lengths my neighbors will go to in order to control each other.
Americans may tell themselves they don’t have a national land-use policy, that the market by and large decides what happens on private property in America, but that’s not exactly true. The smorgasbord of incentives and disincentives built into the farm bill helps decide what happens on nearly half of the private land in America: whether it will be farmed or left wild, whether it will be managed to maximize productivity (and therefore doused with chemicals) or to promote environmental stewardship. The health of the American soil, the purity of its water, the biodiversity and the very look of its landscape owe in no small part to impenetrable titles, programs and formulae buried deep in the farm bill.
ignoring the fact that corn-based ethanol is a complete crock, increased demand on corn drives up prices on corn itself, corn-based meat (beef, chicken...), fuel, etc. corn chemistry has worked its way into so many crannies of the US economy, we should fear a collapse. growing corn for ethanol also eliminates land usable for growing real food, which could drive up costs for other foods.

26 May 2007

the death of OP?

Wife tells me that the folks at total wine said Old Peculier was no longer in print. she attempted to console me by suggesting that perhaps it was just total wine that was no longer receiving it. someone tell me it's still available someplace!

25 May 2007

NC ruled constitutional

in a recent decision, i've decided that my state gubmint is constitutional after all. the state house has voted to restrict eminent domain to its intended limits. opponents to the bill were determined to be evil.

eat it, Rudy

more reason to dig Ron Paul: he's offered to learn Giuliani a thing or two about foreign policy.
Paul said it was irresponsible of Giuliani and other leaders to not examine [sic] the motivations of al Qaeda and other radical Islamic groups.

23 May 2007

a new monitor

i've been delaying purchase of a new monitor simply because i'm cheap and Wife is cheaper. since we've started thinking more about how to go green, i'm wondering if using a new LCD at home would save us some green. if i can sell my current monitor, that means even more energy savings since the old one would be re-used rather than recycled, which i'm betting is an energy-intensive operation--and me without any more concrete blocks for the front porch.

i'm also hoping for a crisper image. now that i'm officially old, i need to save my eyes for more important things, like TV.

any recommendations for a new monitor?

i want more immigration

Thomas Friedman of the NYT makes a good point regarding our desperate need to keep foreign-born smarties in the US. his is a pragmatic position: our future depends on having more of the world's thought leaders.
I’m proud that our country continues to build universities and a culture of learning that attract the world’s best minds. My complaint — why I also wanted to cry — was that there wasn’t someone from the Immigration and Naturalization Service standing next to President Jackson stapling green cards to the diplomas of each of these foreign-born Ph.D.’s. I want them all to stay, become Americans and do their research and innovation here. If we can’t educate enough of our own kids to compete at this level, we’d better make sure we can import someone else’s, otherwise we will not maintain our standard of living.
Not only do our companies need them now, because we’re not training enough engineers, but they will, over time, start many more companies and create many more good jobs than they would possibly displace. Silicon Valley is living proof of that — and where innovation happens matters. It’s still where the best jobs will be located.
our borders should be as open as possible to bring in people who are willing to work, especially begeniuses.

it's one of the downsides of Ron Paul that he is so anti-immigration. don't even talk to me about Lou Dobbs.

22 May 2007

regarding my hatred of meetings

Joe Gregorio has a sweet little post about some meeting peeves that boil down to a handy "dinner table rule."
  • I've never given my children an "action item".
  • Finishing your meal is not a "deliverable".
  • Dessert is not a "value add".
  • Mashed potatoes and gravy do not have "synergy".
going forward, management speak should be forgotten along with big design up front and java web development.

16 May 2007

Mark J Perry

Mr. Perry writes one of my favorite blogs on the interwebs. he manages to use few words to define his thoughts clearly. he also has a frequent, marvelous habit of breaking down other stories or topics into little summaries at the end of his posts. his is what my blog should be but will never achieve.

15 May 2007

11 May 2007

crap. i shoulda got me a patent.

another in a long line of i-had-that-idea-a-while-back: microsoft and sandisk plan to create a thumb drive device to make your desktop portable between machines.

06 May 2007

itunes still sucks

since i just got a new monster ipod, i gave my old one to wife, which means she now needs to use itunes to populate her player. we discovered that itunes doesn't really like two users on the same pc to use the same library. i wasted a lot of time trying to tweak file permissions, sharing, etc, but eventually landed on an idea using junction. i mapped my own itunes root to wife's itunes root...et voila!

they still don't have a version of itunes for linux.

phantom edit: ron paul edition

03 May 2007

why economists oppose gun control

Scott Kjar at the Mises Institute explains why gun control would not have prevented the VT shooting, drawing a distinction between means and ends, and drawing on the concept of substitutes, goods that can be used in place of each other.
we see car bombings in the news almost every day, but mass shootings are so rare that we remember them all. We remember the Columbine shooting, and we will remember the Virginia Tech shooting. We remember 9/11 and we remember Pearl Harbor. Why do we remember these things? Because they are so rare! However, we don't remember how many people were killed in Iraq this week, or last week, or the week before. Why not? Because there are so many car bombings that we are nearly immune to news of them. Mass shootings are extremely rare, which makes them news.

So however much some people might yearn for gun control, it seems unlikely that it would have prevented Cho from achieving his ends. He had substitutes available, he had more than one means available to achieve his ends, and he plotted long enough to hit upon other means — especially since those other means are described in detail on TV, in the newspapers, and on the internet every day.

Economists recognize the relationship between means and ends, including the role played by substitutes. Economists understand that when government restricts one market, consumers merely move into another market, and when government tries to foreclose one means, individuals will simply shift into other means to achieve the same ends.

However horrendous we might find the mass shootings at Columbine, Virginia Tech, and other places, the fact is that when disaffected people start planning mass mayhem, the lack of a gun will not stop them. The 1927 Bath Township School bombing, in which 45 people were killed by a school board member, shows that guns are neither necessary nor sufficient for the commission of mass murder at schools.

Economists call for a re-thinking of the issue using economic reasoning. As Henry Hazlitt pointed out in his great book Economics in One Lesson, good analysis requires people to look past the obvious and short-term effects on some people, and to focus on the longer-term effects to all people. After all, those longer-term economic realities will arise regardless of the good intentions of people who call for market restrictions.

Kjar doesn't even argue in terms of liberty; the argument centers on the fact that gun control simply is not a good solution for preventing mass murders. i admit it might put a crimp in crimes of passion, but i doubt that, too.

02 May 2007

sciam minus 50 award

IBM, Adobe, and the gubmint have been awarded a tongue-in-cheek award by George Musser at scientific american. seems their software sucks for submitting grant proposals.

IBM's seminal contribution was to create the PureEdge software package to handle the grant forms. If you try to run the program on a Mac under OS 10.4.9, the program pops into the dock and then disappears immediately -- thus giving an early indication of the likely success of your grant proposal. Getting the program to work requires hacks that the company has thoughtfully not provided. Users had to figure it out for themselves -- a useful test of whether they deserve to continue doing research. IBM did, in an uncharacteristic moment of compassion for its customers, admit that its software is prone to "occasional crashes and subsequent loss of any unsaved data."

To take such an unstable piece of software and base people's livelihoods on it -- now, that is genius that only the federal government could exhibit. The even greater genius was to shut down the grants.gov website for maintenance on the weekend prior to the proposal deadline.

based on my experience in writing java web apps, i'm not surprised.

30 April 2007

what would Washington think?

what would Washington think of our military empire, given his prescient warning against over-militarization and foreign entanglements? (not to mention political parties, power struggles, and a general malaise regarding liberty)

vote Paul. he's not perfect, but he's risen to the top.

separation of school and state

Jeff Jacoby over at the Boston Globe has issued a "call for separation of school and state." he makes an oft-heard point that
Parker v. Hurley, in other words, was not just a victory for gay-marriage advocates or a defeat for Judeo-Christian traditionalists. It was a reminder that on many of the most controversial subjects of the day, public schools do not speak for the whole community.
Neal McClusky wrote an analysis on the subject, Why We Fight: How Public Schools Cause Social Conflict. loss of parental control in education is another example of modern society's devolution into might makes right tyranny of the majority socialism.
rather than bringing people together, public schooling often forces people of disparate backgrounds and beliefs into political combat.

the bulb fiasco

back when i first posted about the negatives of compact flourescents, i had only dreamed of the foulness that could result from a broken bulb. now there's a real story.
It's quite odd that environmentalists have embraced the CFL, which cannot now and will not in the foreseeable future be made without mercury. Given that there are about five billion light bulb sockets in North American households, we're looking at the possibility of creating billions of hazardous waste sites such as the Bridges' bedroom.
i'll chalk it up to ignorance, like the plastic bag ban in california. i guess we must be seen doing something rather than appear complacent working toward a real solution.

29 April 2007

licensing laws suck

gee, i wonder which special interest group started this particular racket.
It seems you don't have to be licensed in Arizona to put steel mesh over vents to keep roof rats out. But you need a license to advertise that you put steel mesh over vents to keep roof rats out.
regulation, while a useful concept in a world of cheats and greed (that is, one run by humans), needs to be thoughtfully implemented lest it reduce us to pawns and lab rats under the control of our neighbors.

if you think this is a nit of an example, you should check out some other instances of governmental denial of a right to earn a living. our national polity is reverting to oligarchy.

still think Friedman was wrong?

28 April 2007

like father?

i've been noticing traits in Boy that i don't much care for at the moment.

whinercritical thinker
obsessivedetail oriented
know-it-allknows it all

24 April 2007

the once and future republic of vermont

looks like i'm moving to vermont. any state with a strong(?) grassroots secessionist movement has got to be a good place to raise a family. the wapo has a short article on the subject as well. choice quote:
After the Great Flood of 1927, the worst natural disaster in the state's history, President Calvin Coolidge (a Vermonter) offered help. Vermont's governor replied, "Vermont will take care of its own."

a product of public schooling?

letter to the editor, as seen on the arkansas democrat gazette site (via scavinger)

Daylight exacerbates warning

You may have noticed that March of this year was particularly hot. As a matter of fact, I understand that it was the hottest March since the beginning of the last century. All of the trees were fully leafed out and legions of bugs and snakes were crawling around during a time in Arkansas when, on a normal year, we might see a snowflake or two. This should come as no surprise to any reasonable person. As you know, Daylight Saving Time started almost a month early this year. You would think that members of Congress would have considered the warming effect that an extra hour of daylight would have on our climate. Or did they ? Perhaps this is another plot by a liberal Congress to make us believe that global warming is a real threat. Perhaps next time there should be serious studies performed before Congress passes laws with such far-reaching effects.

i thought it might've been fake, it's so stupid.

20 April 2007

there's no such thing as a free lunch. or parking.

Steven Landsburg over at Slate draws a picture of our collective (i.e. "your") ignorance of economics and it's effect on our environment.
There's a general principle here: We get bad outcomes when damaging the environment carries no penalty. That's why the world has too much pollution and too many cars on the street. It's also why, whenever something exciting happens at the ballpark, everyone stands up to see better and nobody succeeds. We all jump up out of exquisite concern for our own interests and none at all for the damage we inflict on our neighbors.
requiring free parking is a form of price control that drives inefficient allocation of constrained resources. that means waste—of energy, and thus pollution; and of opportunity cost: the loss of benefit to society of what else could take up that space.

19 April 2007

safety regulation

i found the following explanation in the latest newsletter from the Advocates for Self-Government. i find it a perfect example of what a market can provide that centralized regulation cannot. imagine how pleased i could be if i could find an organization to certify my food providers as being high fructose corn syrup-free, local, or grass-fed.
It's Kosher! Specific, Concrete Examples, Part 2

by Sharon Harris, Advocates President

Specific, well-known, concrete examples can make the case for liberty come alive for your listeners. One example of a working free market solution can be more persuasive than a hundred abstract theories.

Last issue I offered the example of Underwriters Laboratories as an illustration of how the market can provide reliable safety standards. Here's another.

Many people fear that, without government regulation, there would be no way to insure food and drug safety. However, in the U.S. today we already have a proven, highly effective, non-government, voluntary food certification system in place -- one that is actually more precise and trustworthy than the federal government's system.

Orthodox Jews eat only kosher food. Other Jews also prefer kosher foods. Kosher dietary laws are complex and extensive. This complexity, plus the lack of reliable kosher information on U.S. food labels, long ago led some Jewish organizations to offer food companies the opportunity to display labels certifying their food as kosher. However, these companies can only display the kosher label after rigorous and ongoing inspections.

This is an entirely voluntary offer. No company has to participate. However, huge numbers do. Indeed, 75 percent of all U.S. prepackaged foods have some kind of kosher certification. Today in the U.S. there are dozens of companies certifying hundreds of thousands of products. You have probably seen kosher labels (usually a K or U in a circle) on many products you buy. There are hundreds of kosher certifying organizations around the world.

Kosher certification is completely self-funding, as the tiny cost of kosher certification is more than paid for by the advertising benefits the kosher label provides. Certification makes products more attractive to a multi-billion-dollar U.S. market of Jewish customers and non-Jewish consumers (such as Muslims, Seventh Day Adventists, and the lactose-intolerant) who value the information a kosher label provides.

Further, kosher labels are far more precise and reliable than government food labels. For example, some Orthodox Jews prefer dairy products from milk that has been under constant rabbinical supervision from milking to bottling; the label "Cholov Yisroel" guarantees that. Compare that strictness to U.S. law, where, for example, "non-dairy" food can in fact have a small amount of dairy product, and the phrase "natural flavors" can have multiple meanings.

Obviously, given the chance, similar methods would quickly emerge to replace today's expensive, coercive, and less stringent government labeling system. And consumers would be safer and better informed.