Bruce Momjian

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Technology Twilight of the desktop

Friday, December 24, 2010

This brief article explains the decreasing number of desktop computers:

"When we were an agrarian nation, all cars were trucks, because that's what you needed on the farm," he said. "But as vehicles started to be used in the urban centers, cars got more popular. PCs are going to be like trucks. They're still going to be around. They're still going to have a lot of value. But they're going to be used by 1 out of X people."

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Community You bought it. Are you happy?

Monday, December 20, 2010

This thoughtful article explains how spending relates to happiness, and has some interesting insights.

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Transportation Stupid Car

Sunday, December 19, 2010

You have probably seen the Smart Cars driving around. In my mind, I always think of them as stupid cars because I can see little reason for someone to purchase them. They are not inexpensive, they don't get great gas mileage, and they don't look very attractive. A car has to have one of those attributes to be successful. I realize they are easy to park, but that seems to be of limited usefulness, except perhaps in congested cities.

Update: I sat in a Smart Car today at an auto show and the inside was surprisingly roomy.

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Community Wikileaks Real Impact

Sunday, December 19, 2010

There has been lots of press buzz about WikiLeaks and the legal problems of its primary spokesman, Julian Assange. However, there are some things that have not been covered, or at least not all in one place:

  • Wikileaks is an organization that publishes leaks from a variety of sources, not just the US government diplomatic cables that is getting so much attention.
  • The secret/confidential US government documents were stolen by Bradley Manning, a homosexual Army soldier who is currently in military prison.
  • Manning was upset over the government's "don't ask, don't tell" policy that forbid homosexuals from disclosing their sexual orientation while in the military.
  • Manning's was able to steal so many documents because they were electronic, and hence easily accessed and copied, and post-9/11 government policy increased information sharing among government agencies. (The US government has instituted new policies to restrict the use of removable storage on secure government computers.)
  • The diplomatic cables are still being released. For example, this web page shows the cables released today, and the left margin shows other dates.
  • While Bradley Manning can be easily prosecuted and perhaps executed, there is little the USA can do to Wikileaks or its organizers because it is unclear what law has been broken, and they are mostly foreign nationals.
  • While there have been dire predictions of harm to US national interests, the cables actually portray the US government as mostly consistent, cajoling world leader to help them. In a way, it removes the suspicion that the USA somehow controls all aspects of world activity with an invisible hand.
  • The major impact is embarrassment, by having conversations with world leaders laid bare. World leaders will certainly be less candid in future closed meetings with US diplomats.
  • The leaked material will certainly be useful for foreign policy students for years to come. Most diplomatic cables are eventually released, but not usually so soon after their authorship.
  • This might be the start of an era where secrets are increasingly hard to keep, even for governments, especially if individuals are willing to risk criminal prosecution to do it.

Update: WikiLeaks has released only 1,862 of the 251,287 diplomatic cables they have. 2010-12-22

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Technology Goodbye Verizon Wireless

Monday, November 8, 2010

I mentioned in May that I was unhappy with Verizon's wireless plan requirements, particularly for Matthew's smart phone. Well, last week my Verizon contract was complete so switched everyone to Android phones on T-Mobile. The T-Mobile plan is 40% cheaper, and Matthew is now on our family plan. I also have no contract because I already owned several Android phones, thanks to Google, so if I don't like T-Mobile, I can leave with no penalty. Our cell phone numbers remain the same.

Update: Based on my experience of cancelling my Verizon Wireless account, and news reports of Verizon over-charging its customers, I have concluded that the company has decided to cash in on the good will it has generated over the years. 2010-11-12

Update: T-Mobile has a new $10/month 200MB data plan so I added data to all phones. 2010-11-15

Update: Now Verizon does offer a lower-cost mandatory plan for smartphones, but that is too little, too late for me. 2010-12-16

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Community 25 Miners Free as Chile Rescue Goes Off Flawlessly

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

This article good a good job of explaining the Chilean mine rescue effort, and this article explains five reasons it was successful. This chart has a biography of each miner.

Update: All the miners are finally out. 2010-10-13

Update: A report from inside the mine. 2010-10-19

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History The Main Line: Country Houses 1870-1930

Saturday, August 7, 2010

I just purchased The Main Line: Country Houses 1870-1930 after seeing it in a doctor's office. I heard about the book a few years ago. The book covers many of the mansions that still exist in my area, though most have been re-purposed as schools, college buildings, retirement homes, and orphanages. It is interesting to see in the book how the houses originally appeared, both inside and out, and their floor plans.

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Community US Billionaires Club Together to Give Away Half Their Fortunes to Good Causes

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Great news — forty US billionaires have signed up to pledge at least half of their fortunes to charity under a philanthropic campaign kicked off by Warren Buffett and Bill Gates.

Update: More billionaires join 2010-12-16

Update: More billionaires join the club. 2011-05-13

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Community Credit Card Interchange Fees

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Few purchasers think about the cost of credit card usage to merchants, which is roughly 1-2% of the purchase price. The only hint that credit card interchange fees are an issue for merchants is the occasional sign refusing American Express credit cards, which usually have a higher interchange fee than Visa or Mastercard (~2.5%). If a merchant's profit is only a few percentage points, paying 1% to accept credit cards is often a significant expenditure. Of course, the acceptance of credit cards does increase sales, and avoid the problem of each merchant managing their own customer credit plan.

This article shows that credit card interchange fees have increased in the past few years. This article states that cardholder benefits, like airline miles, should be considered to partially offset these increases. However, cardholder benefits are really designed to increase credit card usage, thereby discouraging cash transactions, which of course have no credit card interchange fees, so while cardholder benefits cost credit card companies money, it also encourages additional credit card purchases, and hence increases fee collection.

I am not sure if government regulation is necessary, but clearly credit card companies are using cardholder benefits to incentivize purchasers to use credit cards more frequently, which will allow them to increase credit card interchange fees. Once cardholders are accustomed to cardholder benefits (and many already are), they will react negatively to merchants that discourage credit card use in an attempt to reduce credit card interchange fee payments. The good news is that many merchants are already rejecting American Express due to high interchange fees, so hopefully that will prevent Visa or Mastercard from increasing their fees unreasonably.

Update: This article considers the effectiveness of a law limiting interchange fees.

Update: This image shows credit card interchange fees graphically. 2010-08-13

Update: A new agreement allows retailers to offer discounts for certain credit cards. 2010-10-11

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Technology Cable TV Is Doomed

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

We cancelled cable television six months ago as a cost-cutting measure, and because we rarely watch it. From this article it seems others will soon be doing the same.

We find watching Internet-streamed video or Netflix fits our family better because it has more variety and can be started/stopped on demand, unlike cable television. (Yes, I realize cable set-top boxes allow this, but it is really just modifying an uncontrolled stream of video.) We rarely watch news or sports, which are the two big wins for watching video via cable television.

Update: Seems more people are abandoning cable for Netflix. 2010-09-20

Update: Detail on how to setup your television to use online video sources. 2011-06-20

Update: humorous article 2012-12-15

Update: article 2013-04-08

Update: trends 2014-04-22

Update: living without cable 2015-12-16

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Technology Three Blockbuster Killers

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Our local Blockbuster movie rental store closed this month as part of the closing of 960 stores nation-wide. The closing had little impact on me because I use Netflix instead, and it seems the closing had little impact on anyone except its employees.

This article lists three potent Blockbuster killers: Netflix, movies on-demand, and digital piracy. Netflix had a larger selection and was more convenient (if less immediate), movies on-demand more convenient, and digital piracy certainly cheaper (if illegal). Add Redbox, which was cheaper for occasional movie renters, and their fate was sealed. Blockbuster late fees also generated significant customer disloyalty.

This 2008 spoof video pretended that Blockbuster was already history.

Update: Barnes & Noble is another casualty of technological change. 2010-08-04

Update: More indications of Blockbuster trouble. 2010-08-13

Update: This article has great analysis of Blockbuster's decline. The best reader comment is:

Blockbuster would have had to realize that their entire business model and existing business was headed towards the graveyard. For the top executives there, it must have meant that everything they'd worked for their entire careers at the company, including all their day to day work, was just shifting the deck chairs around on the Titanic. That they'd have to completely start over. That kind of paradigm shift is just a bridge too far for most people. 2010-09-01

Update: Blockbuster has filed for bankruptcy. 2010-09-23

Update: Netflix accounts for 20% of Internet traffic (details). 2010-10-31

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Community A Chart That Screams, 'Extend Unemployment Benefits!'

Monday, August 2, 2010

As part of the dialog about extending unemployment benefits, this opinion article from mid-July contains many comments that expose the angst of many unemployed in the United States. I commented a few times myself, questioning whether unemployment has much chance of improving in the next few years:

The major cause of unemployment that no one is addressing is that we have more two-income families in the USA than ever before, and those families drove up home ownership, which drove home construction. With homes in oversupply, home construction is gone and the USA just doesn't have enough jobs for all the new two-income families anymore, hence the jobless recovery we are seeing now. We were able to sustain things in the past ten years, but that isn't going to happen again, so we had better be prepared for major adjustments in the number of employed.

Update: This article interviews some families with stagnant wages (summary). 2010-08-04

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Thoughts Normalizing Children

Monday, August 2, 2010

This is an interesting commentary by a tall woman who is hypothetically considering preventing her daughter from growing as tall as her. The 160 comments are also interesting.

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Community Confessions of a Tenured Professor

Monday, August 2, 2010

This article and commentary talk about the increase in non-tenured teachers at colleges and universities.

Update: This article argues against tenure.

Update: This article addresses the problems with colleges head-on. 2010-08-07

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Technology Trouble sleeping? Maybe it's your iPad

Saturday, July 31, 2010

This article explains that light used just before sleeping, especially computer screens viewed at close range, can inhibit sleepiness.

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Technology The real reason why Steve Jobs hates Flash

Saturday, July 31, 2010

This though-provoking article explains that future computing will be based on software and data stored mostly in data centers and not on laptops and desktops, and that hardware manufacturers, like Apple, are rushing to adjust their businesses to that new reality.

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Humor It Was The Eighth Subscription Card That Convinced Me

Saturday, July 31, 2010

If you have ever been annoyed by those "blow-in" cards in magazines, this humorous spoof story will make you smile, e.g.:

Just think, if only seven cards had tumbled out of that issue and onto the floor of my kitchen, bathroom, and living room, I wouldn't be on the brink of enjoying home delivery of Sports Illustrated for less than half the cover price.

I can't wait to get my first issue delivered in four to six weeks. It's gonna feel so great when I reach into that mailbox, take out that issue, and smile as a fresh bunch of subscription cards scatter all over my front steps.

Also, here is an interesting analysis of the economics of why these nuisance cards are still used.

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Transportation Ride the Trans-Siberian Express?

Saturday, July 31, 2010

This article covers a new Google feature that allows you to view the entire Trans-Siberian Express rail journey via video, including maps and special city highlights. The video starts in Moscow and ends in Vladivostok, 150 hours later.

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Thoughts Habitual Multitaskers Do It Badly

Friday, July 30, 2010

I link to the article The Autumn of the Multitaskers from my web site, but this report states that people who regularly multitask are actually worse at multitasking than people who avoid multitasking. My guess is that people who avoid multitasking realize the deficit:

When I multitask, I can feel the lack of attention that I'm devoting to certain things. For example, when I talk on the phone or text while driving. I mentally feel it.

while frequent multitaskers do not and therefore are more hampered when multitasking.

Update: This article suggests that downtime is valuable time. 2010-08-26

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Technology Tech of Yesteryear

Friday, July 30, 2010

This is a collection of pictures of old computers.

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Community Drugs = Bad

Thursday, July 29, 2010

For anyone who thinks drug use is mostly harmless, the one-hour video series Swansea Love Story is an eye-opener (part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, trailer). It follows several drug-taking families and shows how family drug use filters to the children and destroys lives. Tragically, the people agree that drugs are destroying their lives even while they are taking the drugs.

Clearly some drugs are more harmful than others, but it is easy to see how the "do it if it feels good" drug culture leads to destroyed lives. Though the video series is set in Wales, this destruction happens daily in all countries and cultures.

Update: Arrests based on the video 2011-02-02

Update: Powerful video

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Flight Portland, Oregon: Different

Monday, July 26, 2010

Many people outside the United States believe all US cities are the same. However, having attended a conference in Portland, Oregon for the past several years, I can say for certain that Portland is different. Alternative culture has taken hold in Portland to an extent greater than in any other US city I have visited. The city is dominated by young adult residents, with a strong community spirit and active artistic community. It also sports effective public transportation and extensive bicycle usage. The only downside I have noticed as a visitor that the retail service industry is often ineffective, to an extent I have never seen in another US city.

Update: As a testament to the creativity of Portlanders, the Old Spice viral videos originated at a Portland advertising agency.

Update: This video shows how the original Old Spice video was produced. 2010-08-23

Update: There is a new TV show about Portland called Portlandia. I found this video clip hilarious; my favorite quote, "Portland is a city where young people go to retire.". Other episode clips are viewable online.

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Community Gulf Oil Spill

Friday, June 18, 2010

There has been some interesting commentary related to the Gulf Oil spill:

  • Video humorously explains how little progress has been made in oil spill cleanup technology in the past thirty years
  • Video humorously portrays the response of British Petroleum (BP) to the oil spill
  • Article explains the mistakes that led up the disaster
  • Photo of a wave with suspended oil
  • Video explains the complexity of removing oil from the ocean and birds.
  • Article talks about the $75 million liability cap for off-shore drilling
  • Article recounts the poor BP safety records
  • Article explains the liability cap probably will not apply to BP because of its poor safety record
  • Article explains the futility of boycotting BP, and that such disasters are inevitable
  • Article explains the effect of a BP boycott
  • Article explains how the oil leak could continue for years

Update: It seems the spill's impact might be minor. 2010-07-29

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Technology Crazy Product

Friday, June 4, 2010

From the "Crazy Products That Actually Work" category, my local pool store was selling a product (FAQ) that produces a thin molecular layer on top of the pool to avoid heat loss and keep the pool warmer. While this sounds crazy, it actually works, and others have also reported success. While it is not as effective as a physical pool cover, it is certainly easier to use and not ugly like a pool cover.

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Community The Chick-fil-A Approach

Thursday, June 3, 2010

I blogged about Chick-fil-A last year. This interview with a Chick-fil-A executive explains their unique approach to customer service that makes a visit to Chick-fil-A a unique fast food experience, and this video explains their digital media approach. This news report (part 1, 2) explains the history and underpinnings of Chick-fil-A.

Update: This is an inspirational presentation made by the head of Chick-fil-A to a business group. 2010-08-03

Update: This funny song is about Chick-fil-A. 2010-08-03

Update: Another funny song about Chick-fil-A 2010-08-22

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Thoughts Time Management

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

This article explains some of the complexities of effective time management. One useful point is the value of placing things on a TODO list to keep your mind clear:

In other words, if something's on your mind, you need to get it out of your mind and into some sort of external system that you trust and that you review regularly. If you don't, all the stuff you're trying to keep in mind will make it harder for you to devote your maximum brainpower towards the task at hand, which is really needed to help you get into that "zone" state where your productivity goes up, your quality of work goes up, and your stress about it goes down.

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Community Amish Business Sense

Friday, May 14, 2010

This short article explains why Amish businesses have such a high success rate — there is something to learn from them.

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Technology Twitter?

Thursday, May 13, 2010

This video does a great job of why someone would want to use Twitter. It also explains why I don't use it — because keeping up with what other people are doing just isn't a priority for me. Maybe that's wrong, but that's how I feel.

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Technology Verizon's Unreasonable Data Plan Requirement

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

I have praised Verizon Wireless in the past (1, 2), but now I am considering leaving them when my contract expires in October. Matthew wants an Android smartphone to use at college in August, but it seems Verizon now requires an expensive $30/month data plan for such phones, even if you don't want a data plan. (The college has wireless everywhere.)

Verizon's community forums are flooded with hundreds of complaints about this new requirement, with titles like "Boo On Verizon Data Plan Charging Boo Boo Boo" and "This data plan crap is really getting on my nerves!". Several customers ended there comments with "Can you hear me now?", spoofing the popular Verizon commercial.

Update: Verizon still seems to have the most reliable network.

Update: This article explains why Smartphones are becoming more important.

Update: Seems there are others who are reconsidering cell phone plans; read the comments as well. 2010-05-17

Update: Seems Verizon might be switching to offering more options for data plans.

Update: I got a phone call from Verizon to ask me about this blog entry and my views on their product offerings; we talked for 30 minutes. 2010-06-27

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History Big Environmental Disasters

Friday, April 23, 2010

This photo essay describes the ten major environmental distasters in the past 100 years. It is interesting to see the variety of causes.

Update: Here is a list of the fifteen most polluted places.

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Thoughts The $100 Supernote

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

There is a counterfeit $100 bill so accurate, it is dubbed "the supernote". Fifty million U.S. dollars of these exceptional notes have been circulated since their first discovery in the Philippines in 1989. Initial speculation was that the notes were created by a foreign government, perhaps to undermine the U.S financial system. Official U.S suspicion fell on North Korea because several North Koreans were found distributing supernotes, but it seems unlikely North Korea created the supernotes:

  • the technology required is not available in North Korea
  • North Korean currency is of poor quality
  • the cost of producing supernotes is prohibitive
  • supernotes were found in two-thirds of all countries, so North Korea is hardly unique

There is interesting speculation that North Korea was accused of supernote production as a way of blocking North Korean financial transactions, and it worked — banks closed North Korean accounts to avoid accusations of aiding counterfeiting. Such accusations could shut the banks out of the U.S. financial system.

The supernotes have some unusual aspects that make it unlikely traditional counterfeiters or foreign governments are involved:

  • the volume of counterfeit bills is small (the $50 million detected could have been printed in hours)
  • the cost of the printing press, paper, ink, and security devices exceeds the $50 million USD currently produced
  • many versions of supernotes have been produced, which match minor adjustments made in official U.S. currency (an expensive process)
  • the quality of supernotes exceeds that of official currency (images)
  • certain obvious flaws have been added to the supernotes (image)
  • certain security features are missing, which makes detection of supernotes easy, particularly in the USA

There is only one plausible explanation for the source of the supernotes — that the U.S. government has created the supernotes, and that the supernotes are produced either to pay hostile groups, or, more likely, as a way of tracking payments to certain groups or countries. This article explains the unusual aspects of the history of the supernote, and this more lengthy article has complex analysis that concludes:

It has also been suggested that limited quantities of counterfeit notes are being introduced into the market in such a way as to assist law enforcement agencies in tracking the movement of funds among criminal and terrorist organizations. Everything is speculation at this point in time, but of all the various scenarios that have been suggested, it is this last one that is the most plausible. It is the only one where all of the pieces fit together into a coherent whole.

Update: Current status

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Community West Philadelphia Neighbors Fight To Save Their Block

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

This article is about a woman who is distressed by abandoned homes in her neighborhood. Her feeling of helplessness is something I think many can relate to.

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Thoughts Marry Him!

Friday, April 9, 2010

This entertaining article from the *Atlantic is by a woman who has regrets of being too picky in choosing a husband. The video interview is very transparent.

Update: This woman has a more frank view of her situation, and the quote from her boss is telling.

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Humor Trololo

Sunday, March 14, 2010

If you don't immediately associate "trololo" with a Russian singer, you haven't seen this video. I was going to just list this video as one of my favorites, but the Christian Science Monitor interviewed the singer Eduard Khil, and quoted his son:

He thinks maybe someone is trying to make a fool of him," says Dmitry. "He keeps asking, 'Where were all these journalists 40 years ago?'"

There is also:

Update: Additional links:

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Community Liberia Video

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The same group that produced the North Korea video also produced one about Liberia. The video contrasts the tremendous problems in Liberia with a former rebel leader who has reformed.

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Humor Snow Machine

Saturday, February 27, 2010

After record snowfall, every day I wake up it seems it is snowing. I am starting to think someone installed a snow machine on my roof.

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Community North Korea Video

Thursday, February 25, 2010

This online broadcast crew visited North Korea and produced an hour-long video about their experience (part 1, 2, 3). They were interviewed on CBS news about the trip (start 2:12), and they have visited many other interesting places.

Update: Here is another video from the same producers about North Korea cimema, and this video by another producer covers the kidnapping of foreigners by North Korea.

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Community Great Depression II?

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

One interesting article compares the current male unemployment rate to that of the 1930's Depression, and comes to a startling conclusion:

For men…this is clearly a Depression…no, it's worse. Not only are they unemployed. They're going to stay unemployed for a long time. Because it takes times for a depression to do its work. And when it is over — maybe five or ten years…or 20 years ahead — not only won't they find their old jobs again…they may never work again. And they won't have wives or families either.

Update: Here are more details about the unemployment gender gap.

Update: Here is a per-country analysis.

Update: Here is a time-lapse map of unemployment per county.

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Thoughts Cat Behaviors

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

My family has had a house cat for many years, but certain cat behaviors have always been unexplainable. This two-part article (1, 2) explains many of the behaviors we have always wondered about. There is also an interesting web site that explains cat's tail behavior.

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Community How America Can Rise Again

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

James Fallows, having just returned from a journalistic assignment in China, has written an interesting article about the current predicament the United States is in. The article is actually two parts — the first part accurately recounts that fact that the United States has always been on the brink of crisis, and that this is a defining characteristic of the country.

The second part of the article suggests that fundamental government structures are broken, and suggests radical changes. Perhaps the best quote from that section is from a former deputy mayor of Los Angeles, Michael Keeley, explaining the difficulty of governing:

Think of city government as a big bus. The bus is divided into different sections with different constituencies: labor, the city council, the mayor, interest groups, and contractors. Every seat is equipped with a brake, so lots of people can stop the bus anytime. The problem is that this makes the bus undrivable.

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Arts Wilhelm Scream

Sunday, February 21, 2010

I was playing Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga today with my daughter and recognized the familiar Wilhelm scream. I did some research and confirmed I was correct (video). If you are not familiar with the Wilhelm scream, here is a sample of its use in movies.

Update: Another compliation

Update: Detailed history (video) 2010-06-27

Update: Another article 2012-06-07

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Technology Remember When: A Poem About Technology

Thursday, February 4, 2010

This poem is about how the meaning of many English words has changed to refer to computer terms.

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Arts The 100 Best Movie Songs

Thursday, February 4, 2010

In 2004, "Over the Rainbow" (video) was voted best movie song ever by the American Film Institute. Though released in 1939, the song has remained popular and has received similar awards in the past. Its popularity is certainly sustained by its timeless appeal to romanticism; an ideal that never fades. I counted 2,300 renditions of the song on Rhapsody.

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Technology Interview With a Scammer

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Dove-tailing on my previous blog post about cybercrime, this is an interesting interview with a Nigerian scammer (part 1, part 2). It explains how the criminal organization worked and how they deceived their victims through email.

Update: This video has details about scammers in Ghana. 2011-04-05

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Technology Fighting Cybercrime, One Digital Thug At A Time

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

This radio show interviews two people who track down cybercriminals who extort money by attacking web sites. It also covers some of the geopolitical difficulties of crime prevention.

Update: Here is a review of his book. Update: This is an attack via social engineering. 2011-04-07

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Community Respected Pennsylvania State Senator Briefly Retires

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

State Representative Paul Clymer announced last week that he would retire when his term ended the year, but this week announced that, after many people pleaded for him to reconsider, he will not retire and will run for office again this year. In recent years Representative Clymer has been best known for his principled opposition to casino gambling in Pennsylvania. This WNPV radio interview includes many reflections by Paul Clymer on his years in politics.

Update: It seems Representative Clymer has his own YouTube channel.

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ThoughtsCaribbean cruises to Haiti: 'Sickening' or the right thing?

Monday, January 25, 2010

The Christian Science Monitor has a perceptive article on the moral quandary of cruise passengers docking in Haiti. The article comments are also very interesting — one gem:

If someone can tell me how ceasing the cruises; therefore, putting poor Haitians out-of-work and hurting poor Haitians who sell goods and services to the tourists is somehow respectful of or helpful to Haitians, I would love to hear their explanation.

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History Asylum: Inside the Closed World of State Mental Hospitals

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

I came across an interesting book today, Asylum: Inside the Closed World of State Mental Hospitals, which has pictures from closed state mental hospitals around the country (image collection). The insightful text accompanying the image collection in the New Scientist does an excellent job of explaining how state mental institutions evolved from idealistic "moral treatment" to electroshock, surgical, and pharmacological mental treatments, and finally rapid deinstitutionalisation after new regulations increased costs and prevented patients from working:

By the 1980s, deinstitutionalisation was in full swing, with patients being returned to their communities in large numbers. The remaining institutions were shut down, with their grounds sold off and buildings demolished.

But by the 1990s it became clear that the rapid closing of the asylums had been a mistake. Not enough clinics and half-way houses had been set up to ease the transition, and the community care centres were struggling to cope.

"It's unlikely that asylums in their benevolent guise will ever be a common feature in our towns again, as the process of deinstitutionalisation is too far along to be reversed. There are too many rules and regulations in place and not enough money to see a return to the old kind of 'moral therapy'."

"The best we can hope for is vocational training in modern rehab centres, or art therapy …."

Though there are no people in any of the pictures but they speak for themselves. A larger collection of images is available at the author's web site under "Gallery" / "Asylums". There is also an interesting review of the author's approach to the subject.

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Technology Updated Ubuntu

Monday, January 4, 2010

Matthew recently upgraded my Ubuntu laptop from version 8.04 to 9.10. I was concerned the upgrade might make my old laptop slower, but in fact everything is faster now, which is a welcome surprise. I can see there have been significant Ubuntu improvements made during the past 18 months of development.

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Thoughts Templeton Autobiography

Sunday, January 3, 2010

I just finished reading an autobiography by John M. Templeton Jr. The book interested me because I see Doctor Templeton occasionally (he lives nearby) and the people and places mentioned in the book are familiar to me. What struck me most about the book was the candor and unflinching honesty of a man telling his life story.

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