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.