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 ├╝bergeeks. 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.