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.