Monday, December 26, 2005

Ender's Game: Back to the Drawing Board

Ender's Game: Back to the Drawing Board, quoting Orson Scott Card:

Warner is still strongly committed to making Ender's Game into a great movie, and we agreed to another year or so of option, starting with a new script written by me (a page-one rewrite not based on any previous script, including mine).

Curious Cat Orson Scott Card Books

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Google and AOL

Yow. Don't Jump the Shark, Google, by John Battelle:

First, I can't believe Google actual did what is claimed (my guess is, that it is a misunderstanding).

If Google is going to give certain AOL ads different treatment (showing them when their best algorithm shows other ads have a higher value), that would be stupid (the degree of stupidity would depend on the degree of favoritism they give, in my opinion - and not a linear scale).

It is possible to give AOL a better deal without altering the algorithm - such as Google taking a smaller slice of the profit on AOLs adds. So if normally the advertiser has to pay Google a 30% fee and Google made AOL only pay a 20% fee for the same dollars from AOL and the same ranking algorithm (if it were maximized for showing the highest overall value ads - as opposed to the highest Google profit ads) then AOL would get "priority" placement but within an overall optimized system. In this case you keep the algorithm in place for showing ads as if Google were taking their normal cut but then when "charging" AOL a discount is given (or Google "pays" the normal charges to the advertiser as the Washington Post article seems to indicate).

Essentially Google accepts less. They could also optimize the algorithm for Google's profit but I imagine they don't do this now. Otherwise volume discount agreements would not be worth much. Of course, I haven't given this much thought I might be missing something obvious.

But even if Google made that decision, stupid moves are not all "jump the shark" stupid. I agree that it is not the right term to use.

Also see: Google to Buy 5% Of AOL for $1 Billion

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Very Cool Illusion

See this amazing illusion. Maybe you shouldn't believe what you see with your own eyes.

Sissel Ball Chairs

Sissel SitFit Plus

SitFit-Cover 13"/33cm

Or the more radical: Ball Chair
shown in photo. This might be a good gift for someone who has almost everything, what are the chances they have one of these?

Sissel exercise ball

Monday, December 05, 2005

The New Rich-Rich Gap

The New Rich-Rich Gap by Robert B. Reich:

In recent years, the top fifth of American workers has held 85 percent of the country's wealth. What I didn't predict was that the three tiers would change shape so dramatically. The top and bottom tiers are growing, and the middle shrinking, much faster than I expected. Symbolic analysts now make up more than a fifth of all jobs in advanced economies, up from about 15 percent 15 years ago. Their incomes in developing economies are soaring, relative to other workers'. In China, the wealthiest 5 percent now control half of all bank deposits. India's symbolic analysts are becoming a new national elite.
Yet unless the advanced economies invest more in education and basic R&D, they could lose their global lead in science, engineering and high-value-added production within a few decades. China and India are now graduating more engineers and computer scientists than are emerging from American and European universities. At some point, national symbolic analysts in advanced economies will lose ground.

The changes are happening much faster than I thought they would. And I think the predictability of what will happen going forward is becoming much more difficult. The system has a capacity for huge and rapid change.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Ireland Saving Microsoft $500 million in Taxes

US Multinationals Overseas Profits: Ireland's patent income tax-exemption may fund over 5% of Irish Government annual spending in 2006

houses an obscure subsidiary of Microsoft Corp. that helps the computer giant shave at least $500 million from its annual tax bill.
The Wall Street Journal said in its report that a Microsoft Dublin-based company that is used for routing patent a royalty income from overseas operations, paid the Irish Revenue $300 million in taxes last year.
In 2002, US companies reported $149 billion of profits in 18 tax-haven countries, up 68% from $88 billion in 1999, according to Tax Notes, which analyzed the most recently available Commerce Department data. This compares with a 23% increase in total offshore profits earned by US multinationals during the same period-total profits of US multinationals'’ foreign subsidiaries around the world stood at $255 billion in 2002.

Wealth of Nations

Quoting Adam Smith, Wealth of Nations, emphasis added:

But in the present state of Europe, when small as well as great estates derive their security from the laws of their country, nothing can be more completely absurd. They are founded upon the most absurd of all suppositions, the supposition that every successive generation of men have not an equal right to the earth, and to all that it possesses; but that the property of the present generation should be restrained and regulated according to the fancy of those who died, perhaps five hundred years ago. Entails, however, are still respected, through the greater part of Europe; In those countries, particularly, in which noble birth is a necessary qualification for the enjoyment either of civil or military honours. Entails are thought necessary for maintaining this exclusive privilege of the nobility to the great offices and honours of their country; and that order having usurped one unjust advantage over the rest of their fellow-citizens, lest their poverty should render it ridiculous, it is thought reasonable that they should have another. The common law of England, indeed, is said to abhor perpetuities, and they are accordingly more restricted there than in any other European monarchy; though even England is not altogether without them.

Blind Search Results Test

Blind Study Finds Google Really Does Offer Best Results, by Nov 21st:

Google offered the overall most relevant results for 41% of searches, Yahoo Search for 33%, and MSN Search trailing behind with only a 27% most relevant share.

As of, Novemeber 26th the results were very similar: Google 42%, Yahoo 32%, MSN 26% (see graphic). This is a nice idea. I think it would be improved if more results were shown (only 3 were shown for each search engine). I am also a bit unclear on if it keeps the same letters for each search you do. The results were very close for the searches I tried.

One other note is the display of the results at the search engine naturally effects people's opinion. MSN and Google were showing 3 ads above the results for each search I tried while Google showed none above (or 1 above in one case). So I can believe Google gets an extra bump in real life practice due to the better display they provide users. I also believe Google used to have much more superior results than they do now. I think MSN and Yahoo have improved and Google has gotten worse (I imagine due to concetrated effort by those attempting to fool Google into showing less valuable results higher in the returned list than they would without the extra effort put into fooling Google.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Future Expenses as the Baby Boomers Age

The Debate We're Not Having by Robert Samuelson:

By 2030 the projected costs of Social Security and Medicare could easily consume - via higher taxes - a third of workers' future wage and salary increases. Toss in Medicaid (which covers nursing home care and isn't included in the trustees' reports) and the bite grows. We're mortgaging workers' future pay gains for baby boomers' retirement benefits.

It seems so obvious that the age at which benefits are paid needs to be raised drastically (in addition to other reforms - increasing the cap rate, not paying monthly benefits to the wealthy...).

The idea when social security was setup was those few people who lived past the expected life span would get benefits (and those benefits would only require a minimal tax (2%, I believe, with the 1935 law from the outset rasing the rate to 6% by 1949). Now the expected lifespan is well past the retirement age. The model does not work the way it is now (even with increasing social security tax over 15% of earned income - remember the employer and employee both pay social security tax on every employee's earnings). Also the elderly were the poorest age group then. Now the elderly are the richest age group.

On an unrelated note, why are so many large, well financed, sites (like Newsweek in this case) so full of links on their own sites that link to other pages on their own sites that don't exist? It really should not be too much to expect that internal links actually work. They have a link to the authors bio:

"Our web servers cannot find the page or file you asked for.
The link you followed may be broken or expired."

Another link to something titled "more aritcles by this author" and you get sent to a search page with 16 boxes of info to fill out. What? Just show the articles by this author. Such an poor implimentation. What a shame. And many sites that probably spend millions a year on content, advertising, design... are also very poorly designed in 2005! Crazy.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Innovation and Google

Google: Lessons for America's Innovation Policy:

What is not widely known is the contribution that federal research funding played in creating Google. Google was founded by Larry Page and Sergei Brin – two computer science graduate students at Stanford University. Stanford was one of a number of universities that received funding under the "Digital Libraries Initiative" – supported by the National Science Foundation, NASA, and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. (DARPA is the agency that funded the ARPANET in the late 1960's, the computer network that led to today's Internet).

The goal of the initiative, launched in 1994, was to "dramatically advance the means to collect, store, and organize information in digital forms, and make it available for searching, retrieval, and processing via communication networks - all in user-friendly ways." Larry Page was funded under the DLI as a graduate student researcher, and Sergei Brin was supported with an NSF graduate student fellowship.

Page and other Stanford researchers created an algorithm called PageRank. It ranks the importance of each Web page based on the number and importance of other Web pages that link to it. This technological advance enabled Page and Brin to develop a search engine that found useful and relevant information, which was critical to Google's popularity. Google was also prototyped on equipment paid for by the federal government's Digital Library Initiative.

Innovation: Science, Engineering and the Economy

Let's rally around innovation, Des Moines Register:

China and India each turn out thousands more scientists and engineers every year than the United States does. All of the fast-rising economies of the world recognize the connection between science and prosperity and are making huge investments, while the United States rests on its laurels.

This sums up a key point that has been overlooked in much of the discussion in the blogosphere about Innovation in America.

Related blog posts from technorati

Innovation and Offshoring

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Expensive Water

Once again the Dilbert blog has a great post, Expensive Water:

competing bottled water company noticed my choice and insisted on knowing why I wasn’t picking her lower priced water instead. The clear inference was that I’m not too bright. Water is water, she noted.

The first defense that came to mind went unsaid, but it would have gone something like this “If I’m dumb enough to buy water, I’m certainly dumb enough to pay too much for it!”

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Manufacturing Job Losses: USA 2 million, China 15 million

Paul Solman: from October 14, 2005 Transcript on the Online News Hour (PBS):

Trade based on cheap manufacturing, cheap labor. But manufacturing is becoming more and more mechanized -- in China like everywhere else. In fact, between 1995 and 2002, China lost 15 million manufacturing jobs, compared with a loss of 2 million manufacturing jobs in the U.S.

This figure surprises many people. China has lost 7 times the manufacturing jobs the United Stats has from 1995 to 2002.

For more see, our post on: Manufacturing and the Economy

Related: Manufacturing Employment Data: USA, Japan, Germany, UK… 1990-2009 - Global Manufacturing Employment Data from 1979 to 2007 Manufacturing Jobs Data: USA and China (1990 to 2005) - Top 10 Countries for Manufacturing Production in 2010: China, USA, Japan, Germany…

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Modern Day Pirates

Pirate 'mother ship' spotted:

he northern and southern coastline of Somalia -- Africa's longest -- links trade routes for key commodities like oil, grains and iron ore from the Gulf and Red Sea region down to the Mozambique Channel. Thousands of merchant ships snake down the Somali coast to the Cape of Good Hope every year.

Some of the world's leading shipping bodies called on the U.N. to urgently address the issue.

Pirates storm Indonesian tanker:

The narrow Malacca Strait between Indonesia and Malaysia is one of the world's busiest shipping lanes and has long been a haunt of pirates.

Some 37 acts of piracy were recorded there last year but there has been a sharp fall in reported attacks after December's tsunami in the Indian Ocean, the Malaysia-based bureau says.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Dilbert Blog

Scott Adams has started a Dilbert Blog that is great so far.

How Certain is Certain?:

I had to weigh a 20% chance of not getting a timely wiz versus a .00000001% chance of a fireball-related death.
My only solace is that if this puppy goes down, the headlines will read “Plane Crashes. Dilbert Cartoonist is turned into Charcoal.” That’s called Top Billing, baby. Take that, rule breaker! I hope he’s not the new Chairman of the Fed or something. That would really suck.

Dangerous Donuts:

Luckily I have 16 years of corporate experience, and I know how to navigate my way around group decisions. What you need is a solution that could only appeal to a committee. I suggested a compromise. I would keep everything the same, except the gun would be replaced with a donut… that fires bullets.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

USA not Number 1?

No. 1? by Michael Ventura

An empire without a manufacturing base. An empire that must borrow $2 billion a day from its competitors in order to function. Yet the delusion is ineradicable. We're No. 1. Well ... this is the country you really live in:
  • The United States is 49th in the world in literacy (The New York Times, Dec. 12, 2004).
  • The United States ranked 28th out of 40 countries in mathematical literacy (NYT, Dec. 12, 2004).

The USA is "No. 1" in nothing but weaponry, consumer spending, debt, and delusion

Well, actually, I believe the United States does manufacture more than any other country. And it is definitely the largest economy. Still I accept the point that the USA has many things it should improve.

Small World Photos

Very cool photos from the Nikon Small World photo contest - showcasing the beauty and complexity of life as seen through the light microscope. See photos from past years.

Photo shown by, Dr. Marie-Hélène Bré

Laboratory of Cellular Biology
University of Paris, South
Orsay, France

Tetrahymena thermophila (protozoa) cells (1500x)

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Apple Tribute to Rosa Parks

Apple has a great tribute to Rosa parks on their home page. In case the home page imagine is gone you can read about her here.

Monday, October 24, 2005

License Agreements - a Pain?

License agreements - a pain? This is exactly the type of service I believe we will see more of: services that use the internet to provide true information to consumers:

End user license agreements (EULAs) are the bane of most computer users.
No one wants to read through pages and pages of boring text before installing a program. And many programs put their license agreements in small windows that require lots of scrolling. So many people either skim them or skip reading them altogether.

But it can be dangerous not to read license agreements.
License agreements can provide information about the intentions of software, and other bundled components. Have you ever installed a program, only to have your desktop taken over by advertising? It may have been noted in the license agreement that you simply clicked past. If you aren't reading the license agreements, you have no idea what you could be agreeing to.

You should always read license agreements before agreeing to them.
But now there's a way of making that much easier.

EULAlyzer can analyze license agreements in seconds, and provide a detailed listing of potentially interesting words and phrases. Discover if the software you're about to install displays pop-up ads, transmits personally identifiable information, uses unique identifiers to track you, or much much more.

The current customer hostile behavior of many technology companies works for them. I hope tools like this will benefit those companies that treat customers fairly and harm those that are hostile to customers.

Woz and Scoble

Fun post from Scoble on meeting Wozniak:

He showed Patrick his two iPods (a black Nano and a black 60gb video iPod). Showed me his Sony camera (same one that Steve Gillmor has). Showed me how to break a pencil with a $2 bill. Told me that his son, Jesse, had graduated from college and was working on software for NASA (on the project to repair the Hubble telescope).

Monday, October 17, 2005


And now for something completely different - Tomacco:

A tomacco is originally a fictional hybrid fruit that is half tomato and half tobacco, from the 1999 episode "E-I-E-I-(Annoyed Grunt)" of The Simpsons; the method used to create the tomacco in the episode is fictional. The tomacco became real when it was allegedly produced in 2003. The tomacco is one of the few made-up words in The Simpsons that resulted in real life application.

A selection of made up words: Yoink!, Scientician, Redorkulated, Malk and Embiggen.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

How to Work Effectively

Meet the Life Hackers, Clive Thompson, New York Times.

Great article exploring the challenges of modern office workplaces:

When Mark crunched the data, a picture of 21st-century office work emerged that was, she says, "far worse than I could ever have imagined." Each employee spent only 11 minutes on any given project before being interrupted and whisked off to do something else. What's more, each 11-minute project was itself fragmented into even shorter three-minute tasks, like answering e-mail messages, reading a Web page or working on a spreadsheet. And each time a worker was distracted from a task, it would take, on average, 25 minutes to return to that task. To perform an office job today, it seems, your attention must skip like a stone across water all day long, touching down only periodically.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Bill Gates Visits Top IT And Engineering Colleges

Bill Gates Visits Top IT And Engineering Colleges

Webcast: Bill Gates at Columbia University

Transcript: Bill Gates at Princeton University:

One of the best investments Microsoft ever chose to make was as soon as we could afford to do it we started going after this long-term research. It's out of that research activity that a lot of our great innovations have come. As we did that, we had the concern that many companies who have done advanced research haven't been able to flow it into their products. In our industry Xerox is very famous for having contributed to research and then the various products they tried to build out of that were not a success. So they, in a business sense, really didn't get any return at all from the work that they'd done.

In our case, by having the right kind of researchers, having the product people love to spend time with them, really getting it out and showing what they're doing, our experience has been quite the opposite.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Sergey Brin Lecture Webcast

A series of lectures are available as webcasts on Search Engines: Technology, Society and Business, University of California - Berkeley. And if fact see all sorts of courses at Berkeley that make available webcasts.

This is great. I just love when the internet is actually provides great content to people all over the world, that had no reasonable way to get the material previously.

The webcast of Sergey's Views on Search, Google, and Life (Sergey Brin Co-Founded, Google).

Another great place for podcasts is IT Conversations.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Fun Video

A fun video commercial for Guinness. Creating commercials people actually enjoy (and even share with other like we are here) is going to be one of the keys to being a successful mass marketer in the internet age.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Tim O'Reilly Profile in Wired

The Trend Spotter by Steven Levy, Wired:

In O'Reilly's world, sharing increases value - so much so that it becomes unthinkable to close off information or to adopt nonstandard proprietary systems. The result is a virtuous cycle where openness becomes the norm, encouraging even more participation.

A great example of a reinforcing loop in systems thinking parlance.

About Us page on O'Reilly web site:

O'Reilly Media is the premier information source for leading-edge computer technologies...
O'Reilly conferences and summits bring alpha geeks and forward-thinking business leaders together to shape the revolutionary ideas that spark new industries.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Grammer Resource

Lynch's Guide to Grammar and Style

This is not an area of real interest to me, but even I find this guide useful.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

What I Did at Google's Summer of Code

What I Did at Google's Summer of Code by Sean Michael Kerner:

About 9,000 people applied to Google for the paid opportunity to participate in Google's Summer of Code program, an open source development project aimed at producing new and established open source programs.

The program was originally set up to accept 200 participants but that number doubled to 410 projects that were spread across 41 different sponsoring organizations, including Google.

One of the reasons Google's honeymoon is lasting so long is they keep doing so many things right.

Nestled among the 410 projects that Google funded this past summer are 13 that were directly sponsored by Google for Google.
Working for "free" is one thing; getting paid to work on Free and Open Source software is quite another. Google's funding of the various projects didn't raise notable problems, though it may have raised expectations for the future.

"One minor issue for us it that the reward offer is quite sizable, and was, in most cases, larger than what the bounty would have fetched in the usual Bounty system employed within Ubuntu," Ubuntu's Weideman said.

Google Summer of Code

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Cell Phone Ban Urged for Teen Drivers

Cell phone ban urged for teen drivers:

The National Transportation Safety Board put the proposed restriction on its "most wanted" list of safety improvements for the upcoming year, which also includes older appeals for more states to impose limits on teens' night driving and carrying of passengers.

Good idea, previous posts on Driving While Impaired and Record Low Highway Fatality Rate.

Free Opera Browser

The Opera browser is now free.

The Opera browser is excellent. I still prefer firefox but Opera is a good second browser. Freeware provides some great software options. See more on Curious Cat Cool Direcorty - Freeware.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Google and Comment Spam

I restrict my blogs to just allow posts from registered blogger accounts. Still every post on our Curious Cat Science and Engineering Blog gets spam posts within minutes of being posted (for some reason that blog gets more than 75% of all the spam comments - the others only occasionally get spam). I can't believe Google can't block most of these bozos. I also can't believe they don't give us the option to only have comments posted once we approve the comment.

Google really needs to upgrade blogger in several obvious ways. I can't believe how slow upgrades to blogger have been. When I decided to go with blogger for my blogs I figured, ok there are some really lame things (like not being able to categorize posts) but Google just bought blogger so I am sure within a few months these obvious shortfalls will be fixed. I am still waiting. Overall Google is doing great things but I really think they should be doing a better job of improving blogger and of providing less spamy search results.

They don't even make it obvious that they pay attention to the comments I delete (maybe they are doing some analysis of what all us bloggers are deleting but I don't know...). They should have a button that says deleted because this is a spam comment. Then they could use the collection of such decisions by bloggers to deal better with spam.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Google: Gates, Blog Search, Stock

Gates on Google: What, me worry? by Mike Ricciuti and Martin LaMonica

Gates: Yeah. You do me-too Google Talk, and it's a big deal. But we had our honeymoon phase, and it was fun from maybe 1985 to 1995. And we've had lots of competitors in their honeymoon phase. But I'd say, in some ways, this is the biggest honeymoon I've ever seen.

I would agree it is the biggest honeymoon phase I have seen (which points out his estimate of Microsoft's is exaggerated).

Google launches Blog Search

But more importantly, the advanced search offers powerful functionality such as searching by date ranges and limiting to individual blog authors, in addition to features like searching for words in a blog post title or by language, which have been deployed in the past on other services.

So far I think the Google Blog Search is fine but nothing incredible. I agree the advanced page seems to be where the value is. I figure Google will improve this quite a bit, right now the quality of the results in not great in my opinion.

My comment on Battelle' Searchblog, Is this normal?: "That is normal. The secondary offering is always priced below the market price. Oversimplified market way of thinking about it: the market is balanced with buyers and sellers at the current price. You are then adding $4 billion to the sell side of the market. It would make sense the price would have to decline to bring in buyers. Oversimplified cynical way of thinking about it, those inside wall street folks don't have to pay what us regular folks have to pay. Well I missed out on the original offering, but did pick some up earlier this year way below the $295 price: I am happy with that purchase."

Google continues to get the positive press. It is really amazing how well they are doing.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Cerf Going to Google

Vint Cerf, a Founding Father of the Internet, Joins Google as Chief Internet Evangelist

"Vint Cerf is clearly one of the great technology leaders of our time," said Google CEO Eric Schmidt of Cerf, who co-designed the TCP/IP protocols that were used to develop the Internet's underlying architecture. "His vision for technology helped create entire industries that have transformed many parts of our lives. We are honored to welcome him to Google."

Google keeps the positive news stories flowing.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

The Pending Problem With Patents

The Pending Problem With Patents

It's just way too easy to get a patent these days (by one estimate, more than 85 percent of all applications are ultimately approved) and way too difficult to challenge a frivolous one.

The whole point of the patent system is to encourage invention. That's why the government grants a temporary monopoly on original ideas. The problem is that many of the ideas that are awarded patents these days are not original at all. And more often than not, companies apply for patents as a legal defense against litigation rather than to unleash some amazing new product on the world.

Friday, September 02, 2005

The Public Domain

The Public Domain by Lawrence Lessig

This public domain has always lived alongside a private domain...

Traditionally, the law has kept these two domains in balance. The term of copyright was relatively short, and its reach was essentially commercial. But a fundamental change in the scope and nature of copyright law, inspired by a radical change in technology, now threatens this balance.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Only 11% of Blog Readers Use RSS Readers

One in 10 Weblog Readers Personalizes Content with RSS Feeds, According to Nielsen//NetRatings

Some interesting figures in the press release:

Use of RSS Feeds, June 2005
Survey Response Percent of Respondents
I use feed aggregation software to monitor
RSS feeds for blogs 4.9%
I use a feed aggregating Web site to monitor
RSS feeds for blogs 6.4%
I've heard of RSS and know what it does
but don't use RSS feeds 23.0%
I've heard of RSS but don't know what it does 15.7%
I've never heard of RSS before today 50.0%

CEO Pay: Obscene

CEO pay: Sky high gets even higher:

In 2004, the ratio of average CEO pay to the average pay of a production (i.e., non-management) worker was 431-to-1, up from 301-to-1 in 2003

These levels are ludicrous. I could accept maybe Bill Gates, Warren Buffett and a handful of others getting these types of pay packages but those who you might think deserve such high pay don't receive such large pay.

In 1990, for instance, CEOs made about 107 times more than the average worker, while in 1982, the average CEO made only 42 times more.

The cumulative pay of the top 10 highest paid CEOs in the past 15 years totaled $11.7 billion.

The report also compares the growth in average CEO pay - which was $11.8 million in 2004 - to the growth in the minimum wage. Had the minimum wage risen as fast as CEO compensation since 1990, the researchers calculated, it would now be $23.03 an hour instead of just $5.15. And the average production worker would be making $110,126 a year instead of $27,460.

Some might try to argue that these CEO's are being paid this due to the free hand of the market (supply and demand). I find it crazy for people to actually believe this. These pay rates are being made by board of directors who seem to be more interested in helping out the "Brooks Brother Bureaucrats" that they play golf with. Many of these companies are paying large percentages of what would otherwise be the companies total profit to their Brooks Brother Buddies who then support them (through high paid board seats, sitting on boards of their companies and approving similar exorbinant pay etc.).

I would love to see a report showing the executive pay of these overpaid CEO's compared to the net profit of the companies (showing what percentage of the profits are being paid to these individuals compared to the stock holders and other workers). At some point I will do this myself if someone else doesn't. Obviously unjustified practices suffer when those practices are publicized.

And I believe the more publicity of exorbinant packages the better. In my opinion, this harmful practice is due to a few people taking the profits owed to other workers and shareholders and giving it to their pals. You can certainly see example after example where these payments don't seem possible to justify as a wise use of companies money. However, this change will not be easy, the Brooks Brother Bureaucrats have an incentive to continue the current system where they can enrich themselves by enriching their pals.

My previous comment on Dan Gilmor's blog post (Mar 2005) on this topic:

Actually it probably didn't influence their decision much. They probably would get the same payouts whoever they sold to. That seems to be part of doing business in America.

Hopefully, at some point, the cry over the shareholders money going to the "brooks brother bureaucrats" (my name for high paid USA bureaucrats who pay huge amounts to their friends and colleagues) will greatly reduce this practice. I am glad to see you point out these payments to your readers.

I don't believe those payments are justified. It is especially disconcerting to see the people who claim competitive forces require those jobs filled by people who don't wear expensive suits, and play golf with them at their country club, have to be shipped overseas pay themselves huge amounts. It is amazing the ridicules payments that are made to so many high paid American executives. In my opinion, very few who are paid over $1 million are worth it (though some are).

Yes they are able to get someone to pay them such an amount in the marketplace. But I think those that authorize the payments, do so, not in the interest of those they represent but to make their own lives easier (so they can get reciprocal unjustified large payments). I believe we are slowly reducing the level of this behavior, but that may be more my hope than reality.

The 5 most Outrageously Overpaid CEOs

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Google AdSense

This is only of interest to a small percentage of people, but for those few it is really cool. The Google Inside AdSense blog (which is a new blog that is definitely worth reading for those of you hosting Ad Sense on your web sites or blogs) post today mentioned:

"Top Queries" reporting feature to see the Top 25 searches performed on your site. It's a peek inside the minds of your visitors (x-ray equipment not included). To see it in action, check out your Quick Reports section or go to Advanced Reports for even more customization options.

Search the Curious Cat web sites

Sunday, August 28, 2005

India Outsourcing

Is India's outsourcing honeymoon over?

Gartner estimates that India's current 85 percent ownership of the BPO market share could dwindle to about 45 percent by 2007.

In dollar terms, that would be a significant blow to India, Chohan said. In 2004 India raked in more than $2 billion of an estimated $3 billion global offshore BPO [Business Process Outsourcing] market with more than 250,000 workers.

He estimates that the worldwide offshore BPO market will grow to about $24 billion by 2007 of which India will earn about $13.8 billion.

So India is going to see its absolute dollar value of outsourcing grow from $2 billion to $13.8 billion in 3 years and that is a significant blow to India. I'm not sure what I am missing but that seems like an amazingly good thing to me for India. Other parts of the article make some sense but what am I missing in the above quote????

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

The 5 most Outrageously Overpaid CEOs

The 5 most Outrageously Overpaid CEOs

While the Ovitz payout may have been legal, it's the type of corporate behavior that costs investors millions of dollars every year. And it's not just a few spendthrift companies throwing good dollars after bad leaders. We scoured corporate regulatory filings and found plenty of examples of overpaid underachievers in executive suites. Ultimately, we came up with a list of the five most overpaid bad chief executives, and another of the five most underpaid good execs.
It’s getting worse, by some measures. The ratio of CEO compensation to pay for the rank and file was roughly 200-to-1 in the early 1990s. Now it's more than 450-to-1, says David Lewin, a professor at the UCLA Anderson School of Management. Worse, many average workers are now paid partly through bonus systems and stock options, meaning their livelihoods are tied to often-volatile company stocks. Many executives have similar incentives, but at a vastly greater scale. They win almost regardless of how their stocks fare.

It really is a disgrace.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Google Desktop 2.0

Google Desktop 2 is out and looks interesting so far. Of course, privacy folks are worried about Google and this only adds to those worries. Still it offers some nice functionality. Here is a
good post with all sorts of details.

Saturday, August 20, 2005


Here is a great site to help deal with the problem of false claims made by many politicians and their colleagues at special interest groups lately:

For example: Estate Tax Malarkey

Individual citizens don't have the time to verify all the claims made. And the news media overall seems less willing to do so. It is often not popular to question what the powerful claim, especially when you want favors from them on the regulatory front.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

HDTV personal Camcorder

A Look Ahead at HDTV, Shot by You, New York Times

I got an HDTV (Toshiba 65" HDTV)a few months back and it is great. This camcorder seems like it could be pretty cool too.

Sony's new HDR-HC1 is the world's smallest and least expensive HD camcorder. At 7.4 by 2.8 by 3.7 inches, it's about a third the size of previous HD models, and small enough to pass for an ordinary digital camcorder. At $1,750 online, it's about half the price of the FX1. And as if price and size didn't make the HC1 distinctive enough, here's the best news of all: it's also an absolutely terrific camcorder.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Berners-Lee on the read/write web

Berners-Lee on the read/write web:

For years I had been trying to address the fact that the web for most people wasn't a creative space; there were other editors, but editing web pages became difficult and complicated for people. What happened with blogs and with wikis, these editable web spaces, was that they became much more simple.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Record Low Highway Fatality Rate

DOT Announces Record Low Highway Fatality Rate in 2004 in the United States.

You might think the emphasis would be that "42,636 people died on the nation's highways in 2004." But, if so, you would be wrong. That number means an average of 116 people die each and every day all year long.

The fatality rate per 100 million vehicle miles traveled (VMT) was 1.46 in 2004, down from 1.48 in 2003. The fatality rate has been steadily improving since 1966 when 50,894 people died and the rate was 5.5.

The death rate per VMT has decreased to 26.5% of the rate in 1966 yet deaths have decreased very little - due to the huge increase in VMT. I would think the goal is to decrease the number of deaths. Yes decreasing the dealth rate per VMT seems like a wise course of action but it hardly seems sufficient. We still have 116 people dying each and every day and we tout that as a "record low." It seems to me we may have become a bit complacent when so many deaths are not greeted with a determination that such a high number of deaths was seen as something terribly wrong, and something that needed to be fixed.

In 2004, 55 percent (down from 56 percent in 2003) of those killed in passenger vehicles were not wearing safety belts. This underscores the value of the need for states to adopt primary safety belt laws.

Hopefully they have some more data than this (which I am sure they do) since this doesn't really have enough detail to reach the conslution. What percentage of those in the acidents had on safety belts (was their survival rate higher than those without?). And doe sthe law increase the use of safety belts? I could also imagine those wearing safety belts are more concerned with safety and therefore less likely to crash in the first place (though they may not be able to avoid someone drunk person, some person talking on a cell phone... who crashes into them).

See more data

YubNub, Wall Street Journal Portraits

YubNub - YubNub is a command-line for the web. Very cool, you must see it to understand why you need this.

Portrait Drawings and Pen and Ink Illustration by Wall Street Journal portrait artist Noli Novak. A neat site with illustrations with the unique Wall Street Journal look.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Aging: Economics and Investing

Our only hope: retiring later by Jim Jubak

Jim Jubak is definitely worth reading for anyone interested in investing. This column touches on the economic problem of the aging population.

My solution is based on common sense and my observations of what people actually do in retirement: They work. It's based on a belief that we'd fix the so-called crisis if we could just get more productive work out of older workers, by improving their jobs so they'd voluntarily stay on at work, or by giving them resources and support to start post-retirement careers.

That pretty much has to be part of the solution. While the United States is rich even we are not rich enough to have people work for 40 years and not work for 40 years. Retirement at 65 was set when most people died before or soon after that date. It just is not realistic to think we can live at the standards of living we expect and only work from 25-65.

If people want to cut the standard of living during the 80 years they live that would be one tradeoff they could make. I don't believe his contention that savings is not a reasonable significant part of the solution (if that is what he means by "The whole world is getting old pretty much all at once, so saving more and investing at higher returns won't do the trick."
The issue of how to deal with the economic consequences of aging population is an important issue to consider today. It is something I need to continue to study. But we also need to be taking action now on things like increasing the full retirement age for Social Security, increasing the saving rate, decreasing the current yearly federal deficit (and private pension liabilities), providing ways for those in their 60's and 70's to participate in the economy that work well (probably part time, more flexible work arrangements, etc.).

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Mass Affluent and Google Code

Here come the mass affluent: In the 1970's

almost 90 percent of American households made less than $65,000 (inflation adjusted). By 2000, 62 percent made more than $65,000

That hardly seems posible but if it is true is amazing. One point of the article, that there are many people with a great deal of money to spend sure seems true. But still such a large majority making over $65,000 is suprising.

I meant to post this earlier but forgot to do so. Google, summer of code:

This summer, don't let your programming skills lie fallow. Use them for the greater good of open source software and computer science. Google will provide a $4500 award to each student who successfully completes a project by the end of the summer.

Great idea for Google. They seem to be doing so many things right now. Hopefully they can keep it up.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Medicare and Ask Jeeves humor

Bad Practices Net Hospitals More Money

In Medicare's upside-down reimbursement system, hospitals and doctors who order unnecessary tests... often receive higher payments than those who provide efficient, high-quality medicine.
Medicare... now about 15 percent of federal spending and projected to grow to nearly a quarter of the budget in a decade.
Researchers at Dartmouth Medical School, who have been studying Medicare's performance for three decades, estimate that as much as $1 of every $3 is wasted on unnecessary or inappropriate care. Other analysts put the figure as high as 40 percent.

Interview with Ask Jeeves (from 2000), very funny.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Outsourcing, Government Debt, Where the Wild Things Are

Offshore Outsource Savings Can Be Elusive, Survey Shows:

the Ventoro survey found that savings averaged slightly less than 10 percent for all the offshore outsourcing projects that Ventoro reviewed.
The survey found that 28 percent of the offshore outsourcing or offshore development project actually increased costs and 25 percent did not generate any significant savings.

The Debt updated daily from the United States Bureau of Public Debt:

Debt as of 07/18/2005
Owed to the public: $4,552,108,672,703.45
Owed to other parts of the GovernmentL $3,301,481,819,120.60
Total Debt: $7,853,590,491,824.05

These numbers might make United States citizens want to support the Concord Coalition.

Listen to a Conversation with Maurice Sendak (author of Where the Wild Things Are) from NPR.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Flashblock, Outsource Your Job, Privacy Laws

Flashblock is a great plugin for firefox to keep distracting animations from bothering you. If you want to see the flash object you just click on it and you can see it. Well awhile back Firefox started crashing fairly often on my machine.

Finally I decided to see what was going on. It seemed to be related to sites with Flash so I went to look at the Flashblock page and it seems a new version of Firefox has a bug that results in the old version of Flashblock crashing Firefox. I just upgraded Flashblock so hopefully I will now avoid all those crashes. You have to follow the uninstall instructions (default extention upgrade process won't work).

Outsource your job to earn more!
I think this is pretty amusing. I would guess others will get all worked up about it. I wouldn't be amazed if this quote is less than completely true:

Says a programmer on who outsourced his job: "About a year ago I hired a developer in India to do my job. I pay him $12,000 out of the $67,000 I get. He's happy to have the work. I'm happy that I have to work only 90 minutes a day just supervising the code. My employer thinks I'm telecommuting. Now I'm considering getting a second job and doing the same thing."

I have thought about something similar, but I am too chicken to actually do it.

Lawmakers have proposed several bills that seek to better protect personal data

While I hope they pass some effective laws, I am skeptical. Lawmakers now use so much 1984 Orwellian speak you can't trust what they say (yes I realize some may say that was always true but I don't believe they could so boldly be Orwellian previously). The only effective way to know what the claims they make mean is to have trusted entities that will tell you what it really means (or become an expert yourself). Unfortunately the mainstream media has mainly given up any role they traditionally played and now mainly parrot whatever they are told (this is not something new in the last 2 years it has been growing more and more true for 20 years). So for privacy I would look at what the Electronic Privacy Information Center, EFF, Privacy Rights Clearninghouse and other say to know whether the lawmakers are using English the way the rest of us do in talking about these laws or whether they are Orwellian.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Zork, Google Trick, Hospital Data and Google Maps

Zork "wiki" - my first experience with computers was with a game: "Zork" (I don't think it was named that yet). My father was a professor at the University of Wisconsin and he rented a modem from the university over Christmas break. We then used our rotary dial bell telephone to call up and connect the phone handset to the modem which connected us to a University mainframe that was underutilized during the break and we could use it to play "Zork." The modem also had a heat sensitive printer (that used special paper to print on by heating it up using a dot matrix style printhead). There was no screen - all communication was printed on the paper. This was before a personal computer existed. The Zork wiki link is a great way to remember that time, with a sense of humor.

Search for number range:
You can search for the existence of a number within a range:

I knew it happened in Death Valley, but couldn't remember what it was. I found it by searching for death valley 130..140 degrees.

Data Show Scourge of Hospital Infections
by Ceci Connolly, Washington Post

Nearly 12,000 Pennsylvanians contracted infections during a hospital stay in 2004, costing an extra $2 billion in care and at least 1,500 preventable deaths

Google Maps Mania - blog for Google Maps Hacks

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Copyright, Joel on Software

Copyright and the Law from the Economist opinion page:
In America, the length of copyright protection has increased enormously over the past century, from around 28 years to as much as 95 years.
A first, useful step would be a drastic reduction of copyright back to its original terms—14 years, renewable once. This should provide media firms plenty of chance to earn profits, and consumers plenty of opportunity to rip, mix, burn their back catalogues without breaking the law. The Supreme Court has somewhat reluctantly clipped the wings of copyright pirates; it is time for Congress to do the same to the copyright incumbents.

Joel on Software has some great posts. This one is especially funny:

"Click START"


"Start. Click Start. It's in the bottom left."

"I have C - T - R - L in the bottom left."

"The bottom left of your screen."

"Oh. OK, I clicked it."

"OK, now click RUN."


"On the menu that came up. Click RUN."

"It's not there."

"What do you mean it's not there?"

"It's not there. I don't have a RUN."


Driving While Impaired

Drivers on Cells More Likely to Crash, In the past driving while drunk was not seen as a big deal. Eventually the society learned having people kill other people when they chose to put others in danger due to their risky chooses should be something that the government prevents. Eventually we will learn to put those in jail that insist on driving while impaired by talking on cell phones. The data is obvious, it is just a matter of how many deaths and serious injuries it will take before society decides to act.

The Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association, a Washington-based trade group, downplayed the findings, saying the distractions associated with mobile phones are no different from those encountered by drivers who eat or talk with passengers as they drive.

I don't know about you, but this statement leads me to believe the association doesn't care what the consequences for the public is, they just care about their members (why they think it is in the interest of their members to have their product be responsible for so many deaths is beyond me. Some companies seem to understand their products have appropriate and inappropriate uses. Many marketers seem to believe acknowledging any inappropriate uses is bad. This is pretty sad if you ask me, which you didn't, but I get to say what I want here, so I have. Without a public that can understand simple data it is pretty easy for spokespeople to just make unsupported claims and get away with it.

I can understand those who say a company should not be liable (say one that manufactures cell phones or provides cell phone service) if someone using their product kills your child. It isn't the cell phone providers fault that someone drove while talking on their cell phone. But if the cell phone provider gave large sums of money to lobbyists who gave the money to legislators (or the phone company gave it directly to a lawmaker) who decided not to make it illegal to drive while impaired, don't they have some responsibility?

If the cell phone provider said you were not to use their product or service in this dangerous way I wouldn't believe they should be liable. But if they create the product/service and then shape the laws of the society so that it can be used in a dangerous way why are they not responsible for the resulting inevitable deaths caused by their actions? Espeically when on top of shaping the laws they try to make the public believe it is safe basically and just like a whole bunch of other minor distractions... I understand they are not the only responsible party, the person that chose to risk the lives of others for their own selfish reasons should be held accountable for their actions. It just seems the people in the companies making the statements and making the decisions to make the payments to influence laws have moral responsibility. But I guess the legal question will be answered over the next 20 years and the moral implications are for each of us to determine for ourselves.

Yes it is true some cell phone use increase risk only slightly. It is also true someone can have a blood alcohol level that is above the legal limit and they don't endanger people more than another driver who is less capable of driving in general. But we have to set certain limits. If we figure out a way to know when someone's capability to drive at any moment in time drops below the level society wants (due to drug use, lack of sleep, cell phone use, failing physical reflexes...) then we can have a system that more directly ties to what we are trying to legislate which is: drivers do not retain the right to drive if they endanger others too much. I don't see how we can ever do that, but if we can great. Until then, we set laws such as: it is unlawful to drive while intoxicated.

Have you ever noticed that the strategy of delay by asking for more data collection is almost always followed by, boy that data has such and such problem collect more data (actually I think it might be always, not often, it is just that a critical mass of those who no longer accept that delaying tactic final is reached and the request for more delays is finally denied)? I certainly believe data should be collected but you should not let special interests claim some minor issue is not yet 100% clear so allow many more deaths for several more years so we can get data that is a bit more clear on some detail. The delaying strategy is one that can go on for decades if people don't have a basic understanding of the scientific method, statistics and the consequences of inaction as well as action.

You know you are in a pretty weak position when you are not denying the risk but instead claiming but you don't outlaw these other things that endanger people's lives. It is true driving will have risks for the foreseeable future, no matter how many risk we try and reduce. That doesn't mean we hold off banning drunk driving because other risky things have not been banned yet.

Study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 1997 - Association between Cellular-Telephone Calls and Motor Vehicle Collisions
Cell Phones Are Found to Pose Riskiest Distractions for Drivers - link to article on Yahoo because NHTSA web site doesn't seem to bother to post their own study that the article is based on.
"Acknowledging that cellphone use in a car can be a potential distraction ... we've been very clear on that," said a spokesman for the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association, the industry's main trade group. "At the same time, cellphone use is one of what appears to be a number of behaviors in there." He added: "It's certainly not in line with what a number of other studies have found. The fact it is so way out of line would give me some pause."

Cell Phone Use By Drivers -- A Threat To Public Safety?

Monday, July 04, 2005

More on Housing Bubble

Housing may sting more than bust

The IMF study found that while stock market collapses are more frequent, housing busts do a lot more damage.

"The output loss associated with the typical housing price bust (about 8 percent of GDP) was twice as large as that associated with a typical equity price bust," the study said.

Friday, June 10, 2005

India’s millionaire count surges

India’s millionaire count surges to 69,800

HNWIs, defined as individuals with financial assets of at least $1 million (around Rs 4.4 crore), excluding their primary residence.
Global HNWI wealth has grown by 8.2 per cent to a whopping $30.8 trillion in 2004. Moreover, around 8.3 million people globally hold financial assets of $1 million, an increase of 7.3 per cent over 2003.

See also Number of Millionaires Hits Record - 7.5 million households in the United States. I would be willing to wager that the percentage of Indian millionares to United States millionaires will decrease dramatically in the next 10 year.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Traffic Congestion, Silence and Irrigation

More (previous post - Traffic Congestion and a Non-Solution) on Traffic Congestion, U.S. Cities Urged to Adopt 'Congestion Tax':

The mayor of London told dozens of world mayors that they could unclog city streets and fight global warming by charging hefty fees for driving in congested areas of their communities.

Sounds of Silencers, Are Loud and Clear: PCs Are Too Noisy

Designers say noise is becoming more of an issue as PCs rev up and push their way into the living room to play digital music, video and games. A computer's mechanical parts -- including cooling fans and spinning disk-drives -- generally work harder as a PC takes on more tasks. And noise barely noticed amid the buzz of the workplace can be less welcome at home.

Silent PC Review

Build your own Office Irrigation System:

Thus the idea for an indoor office irrigation system was born. The key factor in getting a starter system was price. So far, I've only found one indoor system, and it's $60USD (w/o shipping). I am sure this would work just as well, but isn't in the DIY spirit, and with shipping, costs almost twice as much as the solution provided here.

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Deep Throat Revealed

Washington Post Confirms W. Mark Felt Was 'Deep Throat':

The Washington Post today confirmed that W. Mark Felt, a former number-two official at the FBI, was "Deep Throat," the secretive source who provided information that helped unravel the Watergate scandal in the early 1970s and contributed to the resignation of president Richard M. Nixon.

The confirmation came from Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, the two Washington Post reporters who broke the Watergate story, and their former top editor, Benjamin C. Bradlee.

Watergate Timeline

Monday, May 30, 2005

Chinese Textile, Housing Bubble and Farm Subsidies

China Ends Export Tarriffs from the The Economic Times (india):

China said on Monday it will abolish export tariffs on 81 categories of textile products and scrap scheduled tariff increases on 74 types of textiles as trade tensions with the European Union and United States escalated.

Housing Bubbles, the Great Plains and the Coast by Brad Setser:

My Midwestern chauvinist side always thought it was amusing that the
big, sort-of-national daily papers waxed far more eloquent about
eliminating farm subsidies than eliminating suburban housing subsidies.
Everyone has constituents.

In that post Brad Setser also mentioned: "US farm subsidies certainly do need to be reformed, particularly those that have a large impact on poor farmers in the world's poorest countries."

Big Farms Reap 2 Harvests With Aid as Bumper Crop by Timothy Egan:

Despite the fact that farm income has doubled in two years, federal farm subsidies have gone up nearly 40 percent over the same period -- projected at $15.7 billion this year, and $130 billion over the last nine years. And that bounty is drawing fire from people who say that at this moment of farm prosperity, the nation's subsidy system has never made less sense.
But because nearly 70 percent of the subsidies go to the top 10 percent of agricultural producers, the recent prosperity is not seen or felt among many small to medium-size growers who keep the struggling counties of the Great Plains alive.

Update: also see our investing and economcs blog

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Gravity's Rainbow, Millionaires and Free eBooks

Zak Smith's Illustrations for Each Page of Gravity's Rainbow (Thomas Pynchon's masterpiece):

So I illustrated Gravity's Rainbow-- nobody asked me to, but I did it anyway. Most of the pictures are drawings-- ink on whatever paper was lying around, but there are also paintings (acrylic), photos I took, and experimental photographic processes.

Number of Millionaires Hits Record - CNN 25 May 2005

The number of millionaires in America reached record highs in 2004, hitting 7.5 million, according to a new survey.

That represented a gain of 21 percent, the largest jump in the number of U.S. millionaires since 1998, according to the survey by the Spectrem Group, a Chicago-based research firm.

Spectrem counted Americans with net assets of $1 million or more, excluding primary residences but including second homes and other real estate holdings. There were 6 million millionaires in 2001, when the bursting of the tech-stock bubble pruned more than a million Americans from this status.

Record high Number of Millionaires - CNN 16 Nov 2004:

TNS found that there are now a record 8.2 million U.S. households with a net worth of more than $1 million, excluding primary residences. That's a 33 percent increase over the 6.2 million households that met that criteria in 2003.

Half of those surveyed are retired.

The number of millionaire households represents about 7 percent of all U.S. households.

Planet PDF - free PDF eBooks Archive, books available include:
  • Aesop's Fables
  • Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
  • Ulysses
  • Paradise Lost
  • The Prince
  • Utopia

Monday, May 23, 2005

Google Stock Price Rises 5.7%

The price of a share of Google stock rose 5.7% to $255.45 today. The stand "explanation" "reported" by the media is along the lines of this quote from CNN:

Internet shares rose along with Google (up $13.84 to $255.45, Research), which jumped 5.7 percent on rumors that it could be added to the S&P 500. Should that happen, the stock would benefit from index fund managers having to buy it for their portfolios.

I don't understand how these types of "explanations" are accepted by the media and their customers. If some investor really was surprised that Google was going to be added to the S&P 500 they shouldn't be investing in the market, they should just buy an index fund and leave well enough alone.

If CNN (and the others [MarketWatch Potential index inclusion drives GOOG"], Reuters (via CNBC)... reporting the same story) really believes the increase of 5.7% is due to a rumor that Google could be added to the S&P 500 I don't know what to think of the other reporting they do. Even when much smaller companies are actually announced as new additions to the S&P 500 and that company's addition really was questionable (for say anytime in the next year or two) they don't go up 5% in price. But, if CNN doesn't believe it, wouldn't that be worse? It just seems financial reporting is more concerned with finding some explanation even if that explanation lacks almost any merit.

SmartMoney's "explanation" was much better: "Google (GOOG) shares shot up nearly 6% to the latest all-time high with nary a provocation." But if you don't know anything about investing this seems like SmartMoney don't know what the others are reporting. I don't know whether SmartMoney actually made a good editorial decision or they just wanted to vary the language a bit. I could see one could get tired of repeating the almost daily "rumor" explanation found after whatever stock went up significantly without any rational reason (even if the rumor were true - some rumors would explain price moves, if true, others like the example today have almost no actual chance of having the noted affect even if they were true). In this case you would have to assume that today the chances for Google being added to the S&P 500 greatly increased in liklihood. I would be amazed if the sites using the rumor today have in the past reported Google was to be added to the S&P 500 in 2005 - here is one example.

I have watched this type of "reporting" for years (decades actually) and really don't understand why it is accepted. Why did it go up 5.7% today? I have no idea, but we did include a large stake in Google in our 10 Stocks for 10 Years post a month ago.

It is not all that uncommon that a stock at its all time high price would move dramtically higher ("breakout") but that is not an "explanation" of why Google increased in price today it is just a statement that such an event is not uncommon. Taking advantage of this pattern is part of the investment strategy employed by many successful investors (Livermore, Darvas, O'Neil are examples) and also many investors who fail to achieve great results.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

The Patent System Needs to be Significantly Improved

The United States patent system is in need of significant reform. The most serious problems include patents being issued for obvious (and therefore theoretically un-patentable) things, a poor legal system to manage patent claims and organizations and people taking advantage of the first two problems to essentially extort money from others.

From the lessig blog, "The 'Progress' and 'Freedom' Foundation has called (rightly) for Supreme Court review of the 'obviousness' standard in patent law."

Even Microsoft, always a strong proponent for the protection "intellectual capital rights" sees the current system is failing. While not all Microsoft's suggestions make sense to me I do share common ground with them on several points. From a question and answer session with Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith posted on Microsoft's web site:

Microsoft Calls for Reforms to the U.S. Patent Systemwe need to ensure that interested parties have sufficient opportunities to alert the PTO about questionable patents within the PTO review process itself. Under current law, parties typically can only raise concerns after patent issuance by filing a reexamination request or a lawsuit -- an obvious disincentive, given the costs of patent litigation. One proposal that has been suggested is to allow third parties to submit information regarding "prior art" to patent examiners during the patent examination process itself, rather than only after a patent has been issued. "Prior art" is a legal term used to refer to the processes, devices and modes of achieving the end of an alleged invention that were known before and at the date of the invention.
Another proposal is to establish a post-grant patent-opposition procedure, which would allow third parties to challenge patents administratively, rather than through litigation. Such a procedure already exists in the European system and could help weed out questionable patents before they become the subject of costly and time-consuming litigation.

The statement Microsoft makes include some language about "business-process" patents and supporting addressing the problems that exist in that area. Without stating it they seem to support the current award of "business-process" patent and just want some minor adjustments. On the whole these patents seem to be obvious and unworthy of patent protection, in my opinion.

John Hunter

Monday, May 16, 2005

Hug Shirt

Technology is fun.

Hug Shirt Posted by Hello

F+R Hugs (hug shirt): is a shirt that allows to exchange the physical sensation of a hug over distance. Embedded in the shirt there are sensors that feel the strength of the touch, the skin warmth and the heartbeat rate of the sender and actuators that recreate the sensation of touch, warmth and emotion of the hug to the shirt of the distant loved one.
The F+R Hugs is a Bluetooth accessory for Java enabled mobile phones. Hug shirts don’t have any assigned phone number, all the data goes from the sensors wirelessly to your mobile phone and your mobile phone delivers the data stream to your loved one phone and seamlessly is transmitted Bluetooth to the other person’s shirt

Read more at the Cute Circuit web site. Ok, they seem to be stretching to relate points such as: "An infant may sink into depression and die without the closeness of her mothers body (studies refer of increased sudden infant death syndrome if children are not being hugged during the first 40 days of life)." Still these shirts seem like a fun idea.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Consumers Should Have Far More Control Over Their Information

Privacy experts' wish list from

Consumers should also be allowed to place freezes on their credit reports, they suggest. Currently, consumers are not notified when a creditor views their report. That can facilitate identity theft, since a lender might grant a thief credit in the victim's name without the victim's knowledge.

A freeze would mean a consumer would have to grant permission to any party wishing to view his credit report.

Right now, credit freezes are permitted in only four states -- California, Texas, Vermont and Louisiana.

This seems like a pretty obvious move that should have been made years ago. It seems the money given to legislators that don't want people to have control over private personal information has prevent such moves thusfar. Maybe enough people have had their identities stolen to final get some action. At some point the number of people having their identities stolen will finally overcome the resistance (created largely by donations - no other explanation make much sense) legislative action.

The only argument I have heard from legislators for allowing consumers to control their private information is that the consumers don't understand the harm they would cause themselves if they placed such a freeze on their account - that the consumers don't understand that means they might have to wait days (or even weeks) to get new credit. If the legislators actually believe that the government knows better than the individual the balance what that consumer wants (between having their private information shared and the speed at which the consumer will get credit) it seems their are many other decisions that legislator would support government making for the consumer. That doesn't seem like the real reason most of those who have prevent such legislation. It seems more likely the money given by those that wants to prevent consumers from having the right to protect their private information is having the desired effect and preventing such legislation (and if not completely preventing it, then limiting the effect of any such legislation).

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Geography, Google and the Dial Tone

  • States Web Games - simple and interesting web games to teach geography.

  • Cracking the Google Code… Under the GoogleScope - an interesting read. I think the author might overstate some claims. The methods Google files in the patent don't necessarily mean those are the methods they are actually using today. It is interesting to see what Google files and see how they are trying to find actual relevant content from all the content created only to get search result listings.
    Google has raised the bar against search engine spam and artificial link inflation to unrivaled heights with the filing of a United States Patent Application 20050071741 on March 31, 2005.

  • Dial Comes To Town - a wonderful online video (mpeg) of a public service announcement from the phone company as they switched from operator dialed calls to the dial tone (and calls dialed by customers). Even the reviews of the video are fun to read. A great stress break, take a look to enjoy a few relaxing minutes.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Science, Music and the Theory of Knowledge

  • We have started a new Curious Cat Science Blog for posts on science and engineering news, breakthroughs, education and research.
  • is a collection of "songs" where samples from President George Bush's speeches are put together to have it appear he is signing such songs as "Sunday Bloody Sunday" and "Imagine."
  • Beyond Fear, speech by Bruce Schneier from IT Conversations (a great site with excellent and free audio speeches and interviews). In this interview Bruce Schneier talks about the way we evaluate and react to risks:
    We're seeing so much nonsense after 9/11, and so many people are saying things about security, about terrorism that just makes no sense.

    More people are killed every year by pigs than by sharks, which shows you how good we are at evaluating risk.

    Did you ever wonder why tweezers were confiscated at security checkpoints, but matches and cigarette lighters--actual combustible materials--were not?...If the tweezers lobby had more power, I'm sure they would have been allowed on board as well.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

China, RSS and Clinical Trials

  • Very interesting article by Brad Setser and Nouriel Roubini - blog post - full article
    The recent real estate boom (bubble?) in China has clearly been fueled in part by the loose monetary conditions associated with the peg – but that is not the entire story either.
    As we will discuss later, the communist party’s control of both land and credit creates strong structural incentives for corruption, and gives the party a large direct stake in the real estate market.
    China’s existing growth model looks to be running up against real limits, both
    internally and globally. Sustaining growth will require reorienting China’s economy –
    and relying, at least on while, on rapid expansion of domestic consumption to sustain
  • Really Simple Slate - Good explanation of Really Simple Syndication (RSS) for beginers. Another Slate article on RSS: How To Speed-Read the Net.
  • Establishing Proof by David Brown, Washington Post
    Some Fifty Years Ago a Baby-Blinding Epidemic Confounded Experts -- Until a Pioneering Study Conclusively Tied Cause and Effect, and Enshrined Clinical Trials in Medical Practice

Friday, April 29, 2005

Privacy, Nanotechnology and Google Maps

  • States Scramble To Protect Data
    Legislatures in more than two dozen states are considering ways to give consumers more control over personal information that is collected and sold by private firms, but many of the proposals are drawing fire from financial services companies.

  • About time, it is a shame millions of people, every year, suffer due to delays in inacting sensible laws and weak enforcement of the existing laws. If citizens don't make it known that failure to enact laws to protect individuals will not be ignored the special interest groups will likely succeed in having legislators (that they give money to) stop effective laws from being inacted. Also see, Private Consumer Information Stolen from ChoicePoint post and information on identity theft.

  • Nano-Probes Allow an Inside Look at Cell Nuclei
    They have already visualized the dots’ journey from the area surrounding the nucleus to inside the nucleus, a feat that opens the door for real-time observations of nuclear trafficking mechanisms. They also hope to target other cellular organelles besides the nucleus, such as mitochondria and Golgi bodies. And because quantum dots emit different colors of light based on their size, they can be used to observe the transfer of material between cells.

  • Make your own annotated multimedia Google map

    We’ll walk you through the steps we took to generate an annotated map of a walk we took recently through our hometown

Monday, April 25, 2005

China, Engineering Education and Good Looks

  • China 1Q GDP surges,

    China's economy expanded a faster-than-expected 9.5 percent in the year through the first quarter, putting fresh pressure on Beijing to rein in growth.

  • Cisco CEO on U.S. Education: We're Losing the Battle, David Kirkpatrick, Fortune

    When he looks at China and India, Chambers sees two countries—each with more than a billion people—that are methodically focusing their efforts on improving the math and science skills of their top students. For every new engineering graduate in the U.S., which has a much smaller population to begin with, there are five in China, he says. “In China and India, they clearly understand that if they get the engineers, then they get the managers, then they get the companies, then they get the innovation."

  • So Much for That Merit Raise: The Link between Wages and Appearance

    Hamermesh and Biddle found that the “plainness penalty” is 9 percent and that the “beauty premium” is 5 percent after controlling for other variables, such as education and experience. In other words, a person with below-average looks tended to earn 9 percent less per hour, and an above-average person tended to earn 5 percent more per hour than an average-looking person.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Patents, Outsourcing and Executive Pay

Widenius: [Patents] just stall innovation. Look at an extension of patents. I don't see any difference in a software program and a recipe in a book. It's the same thing to me as a programmer. It's them saying, "You're not allowed to write the sentence you're writing right now because somebody patented it."

Deloitte is not the only consultancy to take this stance. Gartner last month issued multiple studies on outsourcing that said customer service outsourcing is destined to fail, demand will increase for business process outsourcing, and that outsourcing could cost as much as one-third more than controlling the task in-house.

  • Carl Icahn Sees Red Over Blockbuster Chief's Pay
    In 2002 he received no bonus at a time when net income was negative $1.6 billion. Yet in 2004, when net income was negative $1.2 billion, the second-worst performance since 1997, Antioco's
    bonus rose to $5 million. Reducing a loss to $1.2 billion from $1.6 billion seems to be cause for celebration in Blockbuster's boardroom, yet in 2003 when the loss was $979 million, Antioco's bonus was $5.3 million.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Google, microbes and customer service

  • Google Patent application - Information retrieval based on historical data
  • Microbe has become invulnerable to the most commonly used antibiotics - A dangerous germ easily mistaken for an innocuous one has become alarmingly common around the United States. More links to the consequences of the overuse of antibiotics.
  • An Evergreen Brink's Heist - "Thereafter, this agreement will automatically continue for successive one year renewal terms unless you or Brinks give written notice of cancellation to the other at least 60 days before the initial or renewal term ends." These types of clauses sure don't seem customer focused to me. Hopefully the internet can help shine the spotlight on such anti customer practices and lead to better customer service. I believe people will make rational choices when given accurate information but most customer decision are based on very incomplete information. I know I can't research every clause related to everything I buy. I believe increasing the information available to consumers will lead them to choose to buy from companies that proivde good customer service instead of trying to find legal tricks to get the most from those who buy things from them.
  • Google Maps new satelite views are very cool - Central Park