Tuesday, December 26, 2006

More Evidence of the Bad Patent System

Because The Patent System Sucks, The Only Thing To Do Is File For More Bad Patents

Not to speak for Dodge, but I don't believe he's defending these patents, but just pointing out that if you're in Microsoft's shoes, it's the most reasonable thing to do, given the ridiculous mess that our patent system has become. The whole idea that you should need to file for patents on all sorts of stuff just to avoid later being accused of infringing on an obvious idea should be evidence enough that our patent system is in drastic need of a remake.

Yes it is.

Related: Patent lunacy defense - Patent Review Innovation - Are Software Patents Evil?

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Curious Cat Management Improvement blog address

This is a reminder that the new address for Curious Cat Management Improvement blog is:


Also try our Curious Cat Management Improvement Career Connections 100% free to use and post jobs.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Wordpress Hosts Please

I am looking for suggestions for a decent wordpress host. My current host, TextDrive has been down for 4 hours (that I know of) so far today. This is the 3rd time in less than 2 months they have had such problems (well I think they are problems anyway). the first two times after I contacted them (if I don't notice and contact them I never hear anything) I am told it is rare, we are making changes, there are special causes for this time... We care...

I want a host that publishes uptime figures on the server I will be hosted on (how anyone could claim to manage a web hosting business without such stats is beyond me but...). And I would like that the figure to be above 99.75%. And by 99.75% I mean that is when it is actually available (not that well it is available 99.9% of the time except when we have problems, we don't count x, y and z unavailable time as unavailable, we count is as down only if our Sys Admin has received notice and has accepted the ticket until then we don't start the time...).

I would also prefer a host that responds to problems. I can understand not responding to down web sites within minutes for cheap hosting options. But repeatedly having servers fail for hours in the same day and not even responding to tickets for hours when that is happening is not what I am looking for.

99.75% = 8738.1 hours out of 8760 hours in a 365 day year. That is down 22 hours. The rest of the time anyone visiting the site will see the proper web page.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

The End of Pax Americana

The End of Pax Americana by Robert J. Samuelson:

In World War II, an estimated 60 million people died. Only four subsequent conflicts have had more than a million deaths (the Congo civil war, 3 million; Vietnam, 1.9 million; Korea, 1.3 million; China's civil war, 1.2 million), reports the Center for International Development and Conflict Management at the University of Maryland. Under the U.S. military umbrella, democracy flourished in Western Europe and Japan. It later spread to South Korea, Eastern Europe and elsewhere. In 1977, there were 89 autocratic regimes in the world and only 35 democracies, the center estimates. In 2005, there were 88 democracies and 29 autocracies.

Prosperity has been unprecedented. Historian Angus Maddison tells us that from 1950 to 1998 the world economy expanded by a factor of six. Global trade increased 20 times. These growth rates were well beyond historic experience. Living standards exploded. Since 1950, average incomes have multiplied about 16 times in South Korea, 11 times in Japan and six times in Spain, reports Maddison. From higher bases, the increases were nearly five times in Germany, four in France and three in the United States.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Test Your Internet Speed

SpeedTest - gives an estimate of your download and upload internet connection speed.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Thursday, November 30, 2006

The Increase is Evidence of a Decrease???

Two consecutive sentences from a Washington Post article, Mortgage Rates Drop to 6.14 Percent:

Home prices grew 0.86 in the third quarter of this year, the slowest pace since 1998, the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise reported today.

This slow growth "provides more evidence that the long-forecasted national depreciation in housing prices is occurring," the agency's director, James B. Lockhart, said in a statement.

So the increase is evidence of the decrease? What!!!!

Related: Coming Collapse in Housing? - 30 Year Fixed Rate Mortgage Rates - Financial Literacy blog posts

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Ad Supported Laptop Purchase

Help Me Buy a Laptop!

My computer just turned six years old! Banquo survived five years of college (three in dorms), twelve relocations (one cross-country), two operating system upgrades.
Unfortunately I'm completely broke and can't afford to replace him.
For $150 a square inch, I'll etch (almost) whatever you want on the top of my new laptop. Your ad will be shown all around the Bay Area coffee shops, start-up offices, and Web2.0 conventions! I now work at Instructables, a how-to/DIY website full of cool projects. Instructables is located at Squid Labs and I have access to their laser etching/cutting machine. Click here to see other laser etched laptops.

And it worked. Cool.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Compete Toolbar

A new (to me at least) toolbar is available. The Compete Toolbar seems nice. It seems to be trying to see its Trust Scores (can you trust this site) and Deal (which tells you about deals on teh site you are visiting). Both seem decent. Trust I would bet will leave off a bunch that are trustworthy but so what. If it indicates tusted sites that seems worthwhile. I like the site profiles feature.

Other popular toolbars: Google, Alexa, Yahoo.

Monday, October 30, 2006

CSS Navigation Bar Tutorial

Nice simple tutorial to create a CSS nav bar with mouseover changes: Turning a list into a navigation bar

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Google Customized Search

We have setup several Google Customized search sites which seem to give good results very quickly.

Try our custom google search engines for 1) Management 2) Economics and Investing and 3) Science and Engineering.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Stop Earthlink Spam

Earthlink has taken a spamy practice from verisign to show there ads instead of the proper response to a domain that is not found. Here is how youas the customer can fix your computer to stop being spamed by earthlink. It sure would be nice if we had some options that actually believed in customer service instead of this kind of junk.

Earthlink Redirecting Failed DNS Queries?

The practice Earthlink copied from Verisign was shut down by the administrators of the internet when Verisign did it.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Don't They Know

Don't They Know:

Howard Yermish reports:
This evening, my 4-year old daughter came downstairs for some ice cream. When the commercial for the Little Mermaid DVD came on, she said, "We don't need to see that commercial. Don't they know we already bought that movie?"


Friday, October 13, 2006

The Myth of Prodigy and Why it Matters by Eric Wargo, discussing a speech by Malcolm Gladwell.

Gladwell cited a mid-1980s study (Genius Revisited) of adults who had attended New York City’s prestigious Hunter College Elementary School, which only admits children with an IQ of 155 or above. Hunter College was founded in the 1920s to be a training ground for the country’s future intellectual elite. Yet the fate of its child-geniuses was, well, “simply okay.” Thirty years down the road, the Hunter alums in the study were all doing pretty well, were reasonably well adjusted and happy, and most had good jobs and many had graduate degrees. But Gladwell was struck by what he called the “disappointed tone of the book”: None of the Hunter alums were superstars or Nobel- or Pulitzer-prize winners; there were no people who were nationally known in their fields. “These were genius kids but they were not genius adults.”

Monday, October 09, 2006

NCAA Basketball

headlines from ESPN
The NCAA basketball season has not started yet so there isn't much news to report. Still look at the headlines (see graphic) from ESP today: 4 are criminal and 3 others are about players being suspened or kicked off teams, 2 are about coaches. At least the 2 aobut coaches are fine. Couldn't they have some positive stories, how about writting about the success of student athletes those students that are academic stars or did some great things over the summer or explore what past basketball players are doing... Or how about stories about basketball: discuss the pick and roll or explain the swing offense or explain the effect of 3 point shooting on overall field goal percentage or discuss what the effects of relying on 3 point shoting are for a team... We just accept that the "news" of crimal activity and the like is what we should expect. I think we should expect better from the sports web sites.

Blogging Tips

What Studio 60 Can Teach Us About Blogging by Tom Schmitz. Fun post with some good tips on blog management (aimed at professional blogs not really blogs for fun).

Remember those 3x5 cards at Studio 60? Studio 60 always has more cards than will fit on their board. If something does not meet your blog's standard for quality or interest do not publish it. You might send something back for rewriting or additional work. You may decide that an article does not belong. You might even decide that an article has a bigger future somewhere else on your website, in your printed newsletter or in an industry publication.

Studio 60 is a good show by the way.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Google Pagerank Update

Google is in the midst up updating pageranks across their datacenters. Yes Google pagerank is not the holy grail some used to see it as still it is a very easy shorthand to get some idea of how much significance a page has. In concept it

You can track the progress using SEO Chat's tool. We moved our management blog from blogger (where this is hosted) to a wordpress blog a few months ago. It is nice to see that the new pagerank for our management blog is 5. We seem to have no trouble getting pages with pagerank of 5 but getting to 6 is rare. The lowest 5 site would also be nearly 10 times less than the highest 5 site (so the single pagerank number is a very rough guide indeed).

Pagerank is a logrithmic scale (so a pagerank of 6 is 10 times a 5 and 100 times a 4). Still it is surprising how easy it is to get to 5 and how difficult it is to get to 6.

Original paper by Lawrence Page, Sergey Brin, Rajeev Motwani and Terry Winograd: The PageRank Citation Ranking: Bringing Order to the Web.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Wordpress Copyright Feed Plugin

Angsuman's Feed Copyrighter Plugin

Unfortunately some people use technology to steal content. The current state of affairs makes it much easier for thieves than those trying to contract thieves. This plugin at least makes it obvious the thieves are intentionally being thieves. Unfortunately that is about all it does.

I would expect over the next few years trusted sources will emerge that categorize thieving domains as such. Then those who wish can have browser plugins that notify them a site they are viewing (or even links they see are to) steal content.

A good post on dealing with thieves: What to do when someone steals your content.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Home futures: Price-drop seen for 10 top markets

Home futures: Price-drop seen for 10 top markets

Trading in housing futures on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange point to declines by next August of at least 5 percent for 10 leading markets; speculators are betting the biggest decline will be in Las Vegas, with a drop of 8.2 percent.
According to Shiller, the numbers may exaggerate the extent of the decline because there is a risk premium that has to be taken into account. In other words, more traders are interested in protecting themselves against loss than are interested in investing in a growing market.

Related: Housing and the Economy - Real Estate Investing articles - more investing articles

Monday, September 18, 2006

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Bad Amazon Unbox

Bad Amazon Unbox:

Amazon's new video-on-demand store may sound like a good idea, but once you take a look at the "agreement" you enter into by giving them your money, that changes. The Amazon terms-of-service are among the worst I've ever seen, a document through which you surrender your rights to privacy, integrity of your personal data, and control over your computer

Amazon does many things right, but they need to fix this problem quickly.

Amazon Unbox better left off your box - My fight with Amazon Unbox

Friday, September 08, 2006

Database of Federal Grants and Contracts Bill Passes Senate

Senate OKs Coburn bill on spending:

Frist said in a press release, "A tremendous effort from the blogosphere and our constituents, and the patience and cooperation of colleagues, led us to take this healthy step forward when it comes to responsible federal spending."

The release said, "The Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act of 2006 will create a single, easily searchable database capable of tracking approximately $1 trillion in federal grants, contracts, earmarks, and loans."

Coburn cited the vote as proof that government works when people demand change.

It is true that if the public demands change something usually is done. Whether what is done "works" is not so definite though. Still, so far, so good on this effort of some to shine light on bad behavior and force those who often tolerate and encourage such behavior to take positive action.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Bad Behavior

Shining the light on the actions of those in power:

Robert Scoble, who rose to fame as Microsoft blogger and recently left for a small company, is adding his voice to those blasting HP:Corporate hypocrisy by HP

Check this out: testimony in front of the U.S. House of Representatives by HP's Scott Taylor, Chief Privacy Officer. What did he tell them? “First and foremost is that privacy is actually a core value at HP. As a company, HP is 100 percent committed to excellence in consumer and employee privacy…

Now compare that to what Patricia Dunn, chairwoman at HP apparently did. Lying. Breaking the law. And invading people's privacy.

If Patricia Dunn is ever hired to a company I'm working for I'm instantly quitting.

My comment on his blog post:

The best most of us can do is expose such bad behavior. It is up to those who control the votes of shareholders to act (which includes those representing most posting her probably - as anyone with an index mutual fund or large cap… probably owns some HP stock). If there are board members that were not in on it, they can either try and oust those that knew, or resign, or face the consequences.

Most likely the consequences won’t be much, but if the behavior is not accepted and publicity continues eventually action will be taken. As soon as most significant thought leaders turn away though the effort will likely stop. Keep up the good work publicizing such bad behavior.

One potential area for pressure against those who take such action is through other boards they sit on. And through places they might want to speak. If a business school brings her in to speak what does that say about their commitment to ethical behavior. I’m sure the school has classes on ethics but what do their actions say?

From HP's web site: "She also serves on the advisory board of the UC Berkeley Haas School of Business, as well as the conference board’s Center for Corporate Governance, and serves as the director and a member of the executive committee of Larkin Street Youth Services in San Francisco." You might ask the conference board’s Center on Corporate Governance how to oust a board chair that has broken the law and violated the policies of the company and see what they suggest. I can’t imagine they would respond to me. But they might get enough pressure if you ask them (and others take on your cause) to be compelled to respond. I think that question is exactly the type of thing they are in business to address.

And here discussion of the "anonymous hold" used to block a bill to provide the public a simple way (modeled on the search engine concept) to find out how tax dollars are spent:

Spokesman for Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) confirms that Stevens is the one with the hold and called the move "unexpected." "We met with his staff last week," he said, "and provided a detailed cost-benefit analysis of our bill. Senator Stevens then lifted his hold. Only Senator Stevens can explain why he reversed his position and reinstated his hold."

Saturday, September 02, 2006

WiFi Security Tips

Coffee shop WiFi for dummies

If your company provides you with VPN access on your laptop, use it. That's a sure fire way to ensure that everything you send and receive is encrypted, and it makes your surfing much safer.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Lessig Video: Information Revolution

Lessig speech on Information Revolution (read/write culture) at wikimainia 2006. He talks about his belief, which I share, that we need to improve our copyright practices.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

The High Cost of Free Parking

The High Cost of Free Parking by Ryan McGreal

The benefits are potentially tremendous: with less parking, there is more room for both people and businesses, and the right balance between supply and demand means less congestion from cruising, less noise, and less air pollution. Reduced parking requirements also ease entry for investors who might otherwise build elsewhere. As the area becomes more appealing to pedestrians, it attracts both visitors and investors.

This post reminds me, to some extent, of Dr. Russ Ackoff's ideas on systemic traffic problems.

Friday, August 04, 2006

The Pre-Steal

The Pre-Steal

"Oh, he didn't. It's just that a month before his book came out, I started thinking about this cool idea, and just after I finished the first chapter... boom. A pre-steal!"

They happen all the time, and for a really good reason. Ideas are a product of their time.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Cube Door

Get some time to concentrate at work: Cube Door.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Actually interesting SEO study

There are many articles claiming to have valuable insight for webmasters trying to understand how search engine's rank there sites. This study actually is pretty interesting. They claim inbound link quality (not quantity) is the most important "off-page" factor (factors other than the page itself). And in, fact inbound link quality is 42 times more important than link quantity.

Inbound link relevance is next at 11.6 times more important than link quantity (which shows how important link quality is).

via: searchblog

Friday, July 07, 2006

Ticketing corruption

Ticketing corruption

The paper ranks country corruption according to the number of parking violations per country diplomat, and finds that the results match up remarkably well with findings from rough survey-based estimates on the topic. Who are the worst violators? Kuwait blew away the competition with a whopping average of 246 unpaid parking tickets per diplomat over a 5 year period. Diplomats from countries famed for their good political behavior like Canada, Sweden, and Norway didn't have any unpaid tickets.

Interesting data on who would break the law if they could get away with it. Diplomats are granted immunity from prosecution so therefore can break the law without being punished. This isn't actual true as I imagine most countries that respect the rule of law do not tolerate diplomats that flaunt laws of the countries they visit.

I believe in addition to having ethical diplomats the countries that are behaving well have senior government officials that would not allow such poor behavior from their representatives. Which explains why Foreign Policy magazine found such a correlation between corruption and those diplomats behaving irresponsibly.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Social Isolation Growing in USA

Social Isolation Growing in U.S., Study Says by Shankar Vedantam:

A quarter of Americans say they have no one with whom they can discuss personal troubles, more than double the number who were similarly isolated in 1985. Overall, the number of people Americans have in their closest circle of confidants has dropped from around three to about two.

The comprehensive new study paints a sobering picture of an increasingly fragmented America, where intimate social ties -- once seen as an integral part of daily life and associated with a host of psychological and civic benefits -- are shrinking or nonexistent.

Social Isolation in America
(pdf) - full report by Miller McPherson, Lynn Smith-Lovin, and Matthew E. Brashears.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Connect to IT Experts

Qunu is a new service to connect you to an IT expert to answer your questions now. It is free and uses any jabber enabled IM client to enable you and the expert to communicate. I have not used it yet but it looks promising.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

More Government Giveaways

Farm Program Pays $1.3 Billion to People Who Don't Farm

The checks to Matthews and other landowners were intended 10 years ago as a first step toward eventually eliminating costly, decades-old farm subsidies. Instead, the payments have grown into an even larger subsidy that benefits millionaire landowners, foreign speculators and absentee landlords, as well as farmers.

Politicians claim to support capitalism and then create these anti-capitalist socialist policies. Then then vote to eliminate tax on the mega rich inheritances... No wonder they spend more than $1,000 more than they collect in taxes for every single person in the United States every year. Capitalism is not against government regulation, there are many cases when regulation is needed (natural monopolies, public safety, anti-trust, taxation, child labor laws, environmental protection [and other negative externality related regulation]...). But farm subsidies to political friends is just about taxing some citizens (and currently taxing those in the future since the politicians don't pay for what they spend with current money) and giving it to others for political gain - not capitalism.

What began in the 1930s as a limited safety net for working farmers has swollen into a far-flung infrastructure of entitlements that has cost $172 billion over the past decade. In 2005 alone, when pretax farm profits were at a near-record $72 billion, the federal government handed out more than $25 billion in aid, almost 50 percent more than the amount it pays to families receiving welfare.

What an idiotic policy.

USA Government Debt Updated Daily:

Federal Debt $8,340,008,565,191 $8,340 Billion or ($8.340 Trillion)

or for every one of the 300 million people in the country $27,800.

For more on the huge debt see the Concord Coalition site.

Monday, June 26, 2006


Anticorruption for a better economy from the World Bank:

The Bank has identified corruption as among the greatest obstacles to economic and social development. It undermines development by distorting the rule of law and weakening the institutional foundation on which economic growth depends.

The harmful effects of corruption are especially severe on the poor, who are hardest hit by economic decline, are most reliant on the provision of public services, and are least capable of paying the extra costs associated with bribery, fraud, and the misappropriation of economic privileges.

Economics related articles

Friday, June 23, 2006

Net Neutrality: This is serious

Net Neutrality: This is serious by Tim Berners Lee the inventor of the internet:

I blogged on net neutrality before, and so did a lot of other people. (see e.g. Danny Weitzner, SaveTheInternet.com, etc.) Since then, some telecommunications companies spent a lot of money on public relations and TV ads, and the US House seems to have wavered from the path of preserving net neutrality. There has been some misinformation spread about. So here are some clarifications.

Hopefully some politicians will listen to those that innovate and not just those that donate (huge amounts of money to the politician).

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

8.7 Million millionaires

Global millionaires grow to 8.7M

To be counted as a millionaire in this study, one needed $1,000,000 in net assets not including their primary residence.

Those with financial assets of more than $30 million -- known as ultra high net worth individuals -- grew 10.2 percent to 85,400.

South Korea saw the biggest rise in millionaires last year, with their ranks swelling by 21.3 percent.

It was followed by India, up 19.3 percent, and Russia, up 17.4 percent.

South Africa, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, the United Arab Emirates and Brazil all posted double-digit increases. Numbers in China grew 6.8 percent

The USA has 2.67 million millionaires.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Bear Napping in Hammock

A week after a bear was cased up a tree by a tabby cat here is a video of a bear climbing into a hammock for a short nap, and then falling out of it.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Leta: Month Twenty-eight

Month Twenty-eight:

One of our favorite parts of the day with you is bath time if only because you are never more excited. Each time I mention that it’s time for your bath you take off running, and when I catch up with you in the bathroom you’re trying to throw your leg over the side of the bathtub even though I haven’t started running the water or taken your clothes off.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Richer Than We Know

Topic: Economics, Wealth

The $10,000 Light Bulb Or, why it's so hard to measure inflation by Tim Harford:

A highly influential paper by Yale economist William Nordhaus made the point forcefully. He studied not commodities like bicycles or spoons but a service: light. By tracking lighting technology from campfires to oil lamps to today's energy-saving light bulbs, he estimated that the real price of light had fallen 10,000-fold in 100 years. Partly because of Nordhaus' work, many economists believe that the official statistics on wages underestimate how much richer we have become.

I have trouble seeing with confidence what the future holds economically for workers in the USA. I think people in the USA have much more reason to be fearful of maintaining high paying jobs decades into the future (than they did say in 1960).

I actually believe the most likely way to maintain a high standard of living is that the world gets so good at producing that the cost of living well is very low (along the lines of what the article above makes a case for). I also think this is true already in many ways we just don't seem to realize it. The wealth of the middle class of the United States today (in terms of houses they live in, comfort [heat, A/C, electricity, plumbing], health, food, transportation, communication [cell phone, email], access to learning [schools, the internet, libraries, books], physical safety...) is extraordinary but seems to be taken for granted. Most of what is taken for granted today was not available to the rich 50-100 years ago (and much worse alternatives had to be accepted, even by the very rich) and most of the rest of the world today (while the geography based economic gap is shrinking incredibly rapidly it is still quite large for most of the population of the world).

Another alternative future is that the society generates massive excess wealth that then allows the society to subsidize large parts of the society (not exactly the traditional American way - but if the "tax" is minor because of the massive excess wealth this may work). Another alternative is that we don't live as well (or at least large portions (say over 1/3) don't.

And another alternative is I am just wrong about all this things just continue as they are and everything works out well. Predicting into the economic future is difficult to do accurately.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Stupid Interview Questions - IT

Stupid Interview Questions

Q. What if the destination file already exists?
A. It won’t.
Q. So the caller ensures that?
A. Right, sure.
Q. So if it does exist, I can just terminate the program, then? Obviously this would be a violation of preconditions, and who knows WHAT is going on.
A. Sure, whatever you want.
Q. What about alternate data streams?
A. Do whatever you want!
Q. Look, I’m sorry if you feel put-upon here, please don’t get hostile. I’m just trying to get a clear picture of the specs I need here. Obviously if I’m going to write a file copy method, instead of using one of the many extant file copy routines in various libraries and frameworks, it’s going to be fulfilling a specialized set of requirements, and I’m going to need to have good answers for these questions. If you want, I can hack something together in a minute, but I’d have to note that there were many unresolved issues as to requirements and purposes.

Mission accomplished.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Anti Competitive Lobbying

Crushing Competition by Lawrence Lessig

Imagine if tire manufacturers lobbied against filling potholes so they could sell more tires. Or if private emergency services got local agencies to cut funding for fire departments so people would end up calling private services first. And what if private schools pushed to reduce public school money so more families would flee the public system? Or what if taxicab companies managed to get a rail line placed just far enough from an airport to make public transportation prohibitively inconvenient?
Soon after ReadyReturn was launched, lobbyists from the tax-preparation industry began to pressure California lawmakers to abandon the innovation. Their opposition was not surprising: If figuring out your taxes were easy, why would anyone bother to hire H&R Block? If the government sends you a completed form, why buy TurboTax?

But what is surprising is that their "arguments" are having an effect. In February, the California Republican caucus released a report highlighting its "concerns" about the program - for example, that an effort to make taxes more efficient "violates the proper role of government." Soon thereafter, a Republican state senator introduced a bill to stop the ReadyReturn program.


Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Unlikely Pandemic?

The silliness of bird flu panic by Gregg Easterbrook

This article makes the case that an avian flu pandemic is unlikely.

All this for a disease that since 2003 has killed 113 people worldwide. During the same span, about 4 million have died worldwide in traffic accidents. The number of these deaths is rising steadily in most nations, with road fatalities on track to become the world's third-leading cause of death - —that is, traffic accidents look exactly like a pandemic. Also since 2003, at least 6 million people worldwide have died of diarrheal diseases, with about 1.5 million of those deaths attributed to rotavirus, which has spread in pandemic fashion. Yet the panic button has been pushed only for bird flu.

Interesting statistics. It would be nice to have been provided the source for them. Also seriously doubt the traffic deaths look like a pandemic. I find it very unlikely that traffic deaths include the rapid increase over time portion of the pandemic description - even without seeing the statistics I would be very surprised if the increase was not fairly small compared to the underlying total. But data showing the deaths over time would show whether a pandemic comparison is sensible.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

How to Save Gas (and $$$)

What Really Saves Gas? And How Much?

Our tests showed that the most significant way to save gas is: you. And we're talking massive fuel economy gains. Think you need a hybrid? Chances are you've got hybrid-style mileage in your gas pedal foot. Don't mash the gas when you start up. Take the long view of the road and brake easy.

Other tips include: lower speeds save gas (average: 12% savings), use cruise control (7%).

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Stanislav Petrov?

Do you know who, Stanislav Petrov is? He may have saved your life, or allowed you to be born. His decision was made in private and at the time few knew of his actions. He is

is a retired Russian Army colonel who, on September 26, 1983, averted a potential nuclear war by refusing to believe that the United States had launched missiles against the USSR, despite the indications given by his computerized early warning systems. The Soviet computer reports were later shown to have been in error, and Petrov is credited with preventing World War III and the devastation of much of the Earth by nuclear weapons. Because of military secrecy and international policy, Petrov's actions were kept secret until 1998.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Engineers and Technicians

How the techno-geeks kicked my ass for my own good by Pamela Slim:

So the first time I walked into a conference room populated almost entirely with engineers, I was in for a very rude awakening. I don't remember the subject of the first class I taught, but it must have been something along the lines of career development or management skills. Before the first word was out of my mouth, a student flagged my attention:

"Excuse me, but do you know that the percentages don't add up correctly on the graph on page 27 of the workbook?"

I must have mumbled something like "Oh - ok, thanks for telling me" while inside I was thinking "Who the hell cares, and why are you skipping so far ahead in the workbook before we even begin?"
Highly technical people like engineers detest made-up numbers, especially when they are used to support an argument.

Also see: Curious Cat Science and Engineering Blog

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

The English Tongue we Speak

Another word related post:

When the English tongue we speak,
Why is "break" not rhymed with "freak"?
Will you tell me why its true
We say "sew" but likewise "Jew"?
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
"Beard" sounds not the same as "heard";
"Cord" is different from "word";
"Cow" is cow, but "low" is low,
"Shoe" is never rhymed with "foe,"
And since "pay" is rhymed with "say,"
Why not "paid" with "said," I pray?
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
And in short it seems to me
Sound and letters disagree.

Pretty cool, but even better when you read it on the web site of the Simplified Spelling Society. I just accept that spelling makes no sense and I can't spell. These people actually want to do something about it.

The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man. George Bernard Shaw, Revolutionist's Handbook


W00t, from Wiktionary: We Owned the Other Team - "Whoot, there it is" - "wonderous loot" used in Ultima Online - "woot, I have root!"

Urban Dictionary also defines it.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Slot Canyons and Raging Rivers

Narrow Escapes in The Southwest by Gary H. Anthes:

Dividing eight days among Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and an area along the Utah-Arizona border that includes the Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness, I aimed to try my hand -- and feet -- at "canyoneering," hiking along streambeds in narrow canyons.

Zion and the other parks in Southern Utah are great. I have to get around to posting some of my photos to Curious Cat Travels - John Hunter.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Are Software Patents Evil?

Are Software Patents Evil? by Paul Graham

A company that sues competitors for patent infringement is like a a defender who has been beaten so thoroughly that he turns to plead with the referee. You don't do that if you can still reach the ball, even if you genuinely believe you've been fouled. So a company threatening patent suits is a company in trouble.

Because there's so much scope for design in software, a successful application tends to be way more than the sum of its patents. What protects little companies from being copied by bigger competitors is not just their patents, but the thousand little things the big company will get wrong if they try.

And on the topic of companies in business just to sue others he gets to the point that patent law exists not for some abstract purpose. Patent law exists for the greater economic good (by rewarding inventors with a chance to profit from their invention for a period of time we encourage people to invent). As he says:

The American way is to make money by creating wealth, not by suing people.

Related posts:

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Etymological Dictionary

Etymological Dictionary - "This is a map of the wheel-ruts of modern English. Etymologies are not definitions; they're explanations of what our words meant and how they sounded 600 or 2,000 years ago."

Monday, March 20, 2006

Patent Law

This Essay Breaks the Law by Michael Crichton

If you invent a new test, you may patent it and sell it for as much as you can, if that's your goal. Companies can certainly own a test they have invented. But they should not own the disease itself, or the gene that causes the disease, or essential underlying facts about the disease. The distinction is not difficult, even though patent lawyers attempt to blur it. And even if correlation patents have been granted, the overwhelming majority of medical correlations, including those listed above, are not owned. And shouldn't be.

He is right. The faulty rules the United States has been slipping into greatly harm society.

Is the US Patent System Endangering American Innovation? (pdf format)

See previous post:


Thursday, March 16, 2006

Good Neighbors

Amish neighbors take just one day to rebuild home destroyed by twister by Steve Koehler:

Debris from the destroyed house was spread for hundreds of yards. Some still hangs in the nearby groves of trees. Fences were torn down. Wash lines snapped. Two other buildings and an outhouse were wiped away.

All were rebuilt in about a morning.

It is a remarkable testimony to the Amish spirit and credo that neighbors help neighbors in times of need.

Monday, March 13, 2006

NCAA Basketball Tournament Challenge

Once again I have created a group on the ESPN NCAA Basketball Tournament Challenge for curiouscat basketball fans.

To play, sign in to ESPN and register, if you need to, or sign into your account (using the link at the very top of the page).

Once you create your entry, you will see a link to "create or join groups." Click that link. Then enter curiouscat in the find group box. Then enter cat as the password.

Good Luck,

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Recent Reading

I have been reading quite a few interesting books lately. I just finished Forty Signs of Rain by Kim Stanley Robinson (the main theme is global warming).

I think he is a great author but this was not my favorite book of his (that would be: Escape From Kathmandu). It was enjoyable but I really most enjoyed that he mentioned the Food Factory a hidden, great Pakistani restaurant a few blocks from the National Science Foundation (a central location for much of the action), and other such details.

Other books I have read recently:

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Simpsons 'trump' First Amendment

Simpsons 'trump' First Amendment

Americans know more about The Simpsons TV show than the US Constitution's First Amendment, an opinion poll says.

Only one in four could name more than one of the five freedoms it upholds but more than half could name at least two members of the cartoon family.

Great way to make a point and jab at the Americans: published by BBC. I named 4 of the freedoms but all 5 Simpson's so I guess it is true I could name more of the Simpsons than freedoms. I think it is good to poke some good natured fun at how little attention we pay to important things: including the Constitution.

By the way those 5 freedoms are: freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly and petition.

You have to love that "about one in five thought the right to own a pet was one of the freedoms."

Also see: John Simpson

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Customer Un-Service

Budget Rent a Car Topping Off Some Bills With Fuel Charge by Keith L. Alexander, Washington Post:

To help offset gasoline prices, Budget Rent a Car is imposing an additional $9.50 charge on all vehicles driven fewer than 75 miles.
"This is a convenience and time-saver for our customers," said Susan McGowan, a spokeswoman for Cendant Corp., Budget's parent company. "This is being done to recoup the cost of lost fuel."
"It ticked me off that after I told them I bought the gas, [the fee] still showed up. I had to go in and show them the receipt and everything," he said.

Does anyone believe the Cendant spokesperson? Given that they say make sure obviously self serving false statements why would any customer believe Cendant is interested in anything but tricking customers out of money? This type of behavior in my experience shows exactly why customers feel like they are being hustled by most large companies.

I would imagine all customers realize if a company wants to offer convenience to customers they don't impose mandatory fees then require customers jump through silly hoops to get there money back. Obviously imposing mandatory fees is done to take money from customers they would not chose to give you if you offered the "service."

It is so frustrating that companies behave like this, so much more often than in a honest open way.

Does anyone doubt that what most customers would like it for you to return the car and be charge the wholesale gas rate for any gas that must be added to the tank. The rental fee can include the time this takes just like it includes the cost of washing the car. Companies providing this un-service don't deserve to be in business. I just expect rental companies to try to rip me off every time I deal with them.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Google News out of beta

Google News out of beta. I am amazed at how good a job it does using alogrithms instead of editors to decide what news stories to highlight. It certainly could be improved but it is quite good. I would like it if I could rate news sources and give them more or less weight in my results (make them more or less likely to be returned).

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Facing the CEO Pay Crisis

Solving a $122 billion problem by Marc Gunther, Fortune:

A strong believer in free markets, Cox said it's not the government's job to decide how much companies should pay CEOs, or whether pay should be linked to performance. But he also said that, if markets are to work, investors need "comprehensive but also comprehensible information" about the amount and structure of executive pay. These rules represent the first major changes in pay disclosure since 1992.
What's more, new research by Lucien Bebchuk, a Harvard Business School professor who studies executive pay, indicates that pay as a proportion of earnings is growing. From 1999 to 2003, the top five execs at the 1,500 largest public companies, as a group, took home $122 billion in salary, bonus and stock. That's not chump change.

Related posts:

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Google for the S&P 500

Google: S&P 500 wallflower, Only 15 firms in the benchmark are worth more than Google. So how much longer will it have to wait?

Well I certainly thought they would add it last year, I was wrong obviously. I think S&P also made a mistake in not adding it. So now, I think it will be added in 2006, we will see.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Google Braille

Google's famous logo in braille - they made it the logo on their site in honor of Louis Braille's birthday. Pretty cool. They are getting some bad publicity recently but still they continue to manage to get an amazing amount of great publicity.

10 Stocks for 10 Years - GOOG, TM, PTR...