Archive for October 17th, 2006
New technologies, new discoveries:
After 25 years of gritty field work, UNC Chapel Hill archaeologist Scott Madry has dug up a new way to hunt for ancient ruins — without leaving home.
Last year, Madry read how an Italian man accidentally discovered the outline of an ancient Roman villa while looking at his house on Google Earth.
Madry explores how a Celtic people called the Aedui lived in France for about three centuries starting about 300 B.C.
Madry got out his laptop, fired up Google Earth and looked over lands in Burgundy, near his research area. Immediately, he spotted features that, to his trained eye, resembled outlines of Iron Age, Bronze Age, ancient Roman and medieval residences, forts, roads and monuments.
In 25 years on the ground, “I’ve found a handful of archaeological sites. I found more in the first five, six, seven hours than I’ve found in years of traditional field surveys and aerial archaeology,” he said. Read the rest of this entry »
Jeff Stein has an op-ed in the New York Times today in which he recounts his adventures asking various mucky mucks if they know the difference between Shiite and Sunni. It was amusing, but I was going to skip blogging about it because it’s the kind of gotcha game that probably tells us less than we think. But then Attaturk pointed to a passage I had skimmed over. This is Rep. Terry Everett (R–Ala) after admitting he didn’t know the difference:
To his credit, he asked me to explain the differences. I told him briefly about the schism that developed after the death of the Prophet Muhammad, and how Iraq and Iran are majority Shiite nations while the rest of the Muslim world is mostly Sunni. “Now that you’ve explained it to me,” he replied, “what occurs to me is that it makes what we’re doing over there extremely difficult, not only in Iraq but that whole area.”
If you don’t know the whole Ali/Hasan story from the 7th century, that’s one thing. But if you literally don’t know that there are different sects of Islam that form majorities in different regions, and that conflict between these sects is as defining as the conflict between Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland — and you’re the vice chairman of the House Intelligence committee — then we’re doomed. As Attaturk says, we are governed by idiots.
The US government is looking at taxing the economic transactions in virtual economies—the transactions in on-line games. The graph shows the actual US dollars spent in Second Life in the 24-hour periods shown (2006).
Booming virtual economies in online worlds such as Second Life and World of Warcraft have drawn the attention of a U.S. congressional committee, which is investigating how virtual assets and incomes should be taxed.
“Right now we’re at the preliminary stages of looking at the issue and what kind of public policy questions virtual economies raise — taxes, barter exchanges, property and wealth,” said Dan Miller, senior economist for the Joint Economic Committee. “You could argue that to a certain degree the law has fallen (behind) because you can have a virtual asset and virtual capital gains, but there’s no mechanism by which you’re taxed on this stuff,” he said.
The increasing size and public profile of virtual economies, the largest of which have millions of users and gross domestic products that rival those of small countries, have made them increasingly difficult for lawmakers and regulators to ignore.
For example, in Second Life up to US$500,000 in user-to-user transactions take place every day, and the economy is growing by 10 to 15 percent a month.
“Ownership, property rights, all that stuff needs to be decided. There’s just too much money floating around,” game designer Sam Lewis, who trained as an economist and has worked on games such as Star Wars Galaxies, said in a telephone interview. “The tax laws don’t know how to behave because these are virtual items: ones and zeros on a database we’re allowing you to play in,” he said. Read the rest of this entry »
He’s the one that had the weird theories about the WMD in Iraq and wanted to go look for them himself. And the one who channeled money through his daughter’s lobbying/PR firm.
UPDATE: Two more thoughts:
First, if you’re giving a presentation to important decisionmakers, make sure that the presentation has no surprises. Through reviews, discussions, memos, etc., each of the decisionmakers (if possible; otherwise a majority) should have had a chance to look at the ideas and proposal and contribute. Important decisionmakers hate surprises. The presentation is really just a confirmation of what you’ve already told them about and a chance for them to discuss it together and agree on the next steps. This is something I learned by painful experience: I had not realized that senior executives want to know beforehand what they are going to be presented with so that they can be prepared. If they feel taken by surprise in any degree, my experience is that they will react negatively—for starters, they’ll never accept the ideas/project/proposal until they’ve had a chance to think about it, so if the meeting is supposed to decide and the presentation is of things new to them, they will reject everything rather than support something that they haven’t had a chance to think through.
Second: don’t be surprised if you get one or two slides into the presentation and then start getting questions. Don’t be all prickly and say, “That question is, of course, answered in the course of the presentation.” Here’s why they are interrupting: they know the presentation is smooth and polished and makes a good case for what you want. That was your job in creating the presentation, and they assume that you’ve done that job. What they now have to decide is whether to trust you (and thus your conclusions). The way to do that is to pepper you with questions and observe your responses: Do you have the facts at hand? Are you able to explain those facts? Can you offhand recount what should be done and why? And so on. They need to get a sense of how trustworthy and knowledgeable you are in respect to the topic at hand. Thus their seeming lack of interest in your laboriously polished slides.
In his “kickoff” speech, Seagate Technology Chief Technology Officer Mark Kryder said that if a 1956-vintage standard car had undergone the same rate of “progress” as a hard disk, “We ought to be squeezing 146,800 people into that automobile today; the price should have dropped to $15; and have a top speed of almost 1 million miles per hour.”
Following the wave of such stories (including his own), Dan Frost of the San Francisco Chronicle blogged a clever response from a reader, which then made its way around a number of storage lists. Here’s bit of the post:
“If my car was like my hard drive, I would need to keep an exact copy of everything that I carry in the car because sooner or later the car is going to lock itself, and I will never get into it again. If I decide to go to the trouble of getting into the car, I will have to take it to a specialized mechanic who will probably charge as much as the car cost, with absolutely no guarantee of salvaging anything,” the reported author, Dave Hector, observed.
Next month, I find from ThinkProgress, the Iraqi War will have lasted longer than the US involvement in WW II. Great going, Bush.
Dan Froomkin has the very sad story—a black day for what up until now have been American values:
President Bush this morning proudly signed into law a bill that critics consider one of the most un-American in the nation’s long history.
The new law vaguely bans torture — but makes the administration the arbiter of what is torture and what isn’t. It allows the president to imprison indefinitely anyone he decides falls under a wide-ranging new definition of unlawful combatant. It suspends the Great Writ of habeas corpus for detainees. It allows coerced testimony at trial. It immunizes retroactively interrogators who may have engaged in torture.
Here’s what Bush had to say at his signing ceremony in the East Room: “The bill I sign today helps secure this country, and it sends a clear message: This nation is patient and decent and fair, and we will never back down from the threats to our freedom.”
But that may not be the “clear message” the new law sends most people.
Here’s the clear message the law sends to the world: America makes its own rules. The law would apparently subject terror suspects to some of the same sorts of brutal interrogation tactics that have historically been prosecuted as war crimes when committed against Americans.
Here’s the clear message to the voters: This Congress is willing to rubberstamp pretty much any White House initiative it sees as being in its short-term political interests. (And I don’t just mean the Republicans; 12 Senate Democrats and 32 House Democrats voted for the bill as well.)
Here’s the clear message to the Supreme Court: Review me.
I could go on and on.
Bush seems to think history will be kind to him. Read the rest of this entry »
For $129 at Target you can buy a simple, point-and-shoot video camera that holds 30 minutes of video and has its own USB plug to upload to Google/YouTube video. Say, a video of the grandkids posted for all the family to see. A video of Megs, sleeping peacefully (don’t laugh: Andy Warhohl did it). A video of me shaving in the morning—well, probably not.
Or so it seems:
The solution to the darkest of all Agatha Christie mysteries may be at hand. What lay behind her extraordinary 11-day disappearance in 1926? Several plausible theories have competed for favour over the years, but biographer Andrew Norman believes he is the first to find one that satisfies every element of the case. Read the rest of this entry »
The savings you get comes out of the skin of the workers—the workers in the stores here (who are fired before they get much (expensive) seniority), the workers in the third-world countries that make the goods. Wal-Mart is a brutal company, and it never hesitates to exploit its workers as much as possible—for example, assigning those who are slightly infirm to tasks involving much physical effort, so that they will quit rather than use the (meager) health benefits. It’s an ugly, ugly company.
At the left you’ll see “Add subscription”. Click that and enter Later On‘s URL: leisureguy.wordpress.com
Then when you check Google Reader, it’ll show you any new posts. Obviously, you add subscriptions for all the sites in which you are interested. They even have some recommended packages by topic. Those are fine to try, since “Manage subscriptions” allows you to later delete any that turn out not to be of interest.
Really a great service—and free, of course.
The food industry is seriously cracking at getting more omega-3 into our diets. The 3-page Salon.com article at the link describes various new technologies and on-the-way foods that may help rebalance our omega-6 to omega-3 ratios. (Should be around 1:1, but in America today is more like 20:1, whence many problems ensue.)
5 stages of Republican scandal:
1. “I have not been informed of any investigation or that I am a target”
2. “I am cooperating fully, but this whole thing is a political ploy by the Democrats”
3. “I’m SHOCKED by the mistakes made by my subordinates”
4. “I’m deeply sorry for letting down my friends and family. I now recognize that I am an alcoholic. I will be entering rehab immediately, so I have no time for questions”
5. “Can I serve my time at Eglin Federal Penitentiary (aka Club Fed)?”
Bush, of course, is also confident about Iraq, so perhaps his confidence is based on wishful thinking. But Rove is supposed to be an election genius. Whence comes his confidence?
Here’s an interesting thread discussing this question.
I used my Gillette Toggle: it’s the same as the Gillette Fatboy, a common adjustable, except that the little doors at the top are opened and closed with the toggle, acting as a cam, instead of with a screw mechanism as in the Fatboy. Feather blade, of course.
The innovation was to use Superlather (video at link), which you create by first charging the brush fully with a glycerine shaving soap (I used Mama Bear’s Tahitian Vanilla) and then put a dab of shaving cream in a bowl (I used Art of Shaving Lemon) and whip up the (Super)lather. Man, is it slick! And the Vanilla-Lemon combination was wonderfully fragrant.
Brush was the Simpson Persian Jar 2 Best Badger.
Great shave, and Superlather is good.
As I’ve noted below, Denny Hastert’s campaign appearances with GOP candidates for the House are being cancelled left and right because of “scheduling conflicts.” Clearly, what Denny needs now is good scheduling software.
Enter Doodle: it’s free, easy, and clever. It lets you send out a little poll to people who are attend the meeting, and they vote on the dates/times they are available. Presto: meeting set up without conflicts. You can also use the polling mechanism to decide things like what food to order, where to meet, and so on—even things like selecting a logo.
Give it a go, Denny.