Thursday, March 25, 2010

Mclatchy again scoops times post networks

In the runup to the Iraq war, the McClatchy chain had the best reporting; here is another example of McClatchy scooping all the big boys.
the "individual mandate" (you have to buy health insurance, like car insurance) is a republican idea - yet the republicans have denounced this as a gross intrusion into personal liberty and states rights.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Grossest thing to share

Headphones for your MP3 player
Underwear or socks
Fingernail clipper

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Microsoft excel and sub prime mortage mess

calculating payments on a mortgage is very difficult to do by hand. In the old day, say pre 1970, before PCs or even calculators (when I went to college in the mid 70s, a simple 4 function calculator cost $100 - a lot of money back then) the way you looked up the payment for a mortgage was in thick heavy exspensive books.
Say someone wanted a mortgage for 30 years, 200K, 7.5% - you would look up the monthyl payment in the book.
, in the old days (say pre 1970) you couldn't calculate a mortage - you had to look it up in thick, expensive books, say the monthly payment on a 150K loan at 8.4 %
And if the book didn't have 35 years , you couldn't get a 35 year loan, cause the bank literally couldn't do the math

now we have excel.
It is well known to the math geeks that excel fails at elementary statistical aritmetic
which raises an interesting question: if excel can't do math right, and excel was used to calculate payments on complex sub prime mortgages, does that mean the mortgages are wrong and possibly illegal ?

Monday, February 22, 2010

Problems in the social sciences

A frequent problem with social science experiments, like the taxicab in this one is that the experimenter asks people to do things that are far beyond their competance; in the taxicab experiment, the conclusion drawn by the professors requires the subjects to have an unusual amount of mathematical skill;
I think this experiment illustrates the poor lab skills of professors, not anything usefull about people in general

Do patents help innovation ?

The problem with answering this question is that when a company has a patent, we hear about it, particularly if the patent leads to money.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Repulsive Baby Marketing

Time magazine, inside of the back cover,Feb 22
A photo of the  actress Rebecca Romijn and her twins hawking milk. Aside from the fact that we eat way to much fat and protein (where do you think all that obesity and heart disease comes from) and that cows are an ecological disaster on par with Chevy Suburbans (because you grow grain, and then convert the grain to beef; if you fed the grain to people, you get a lot more calories in)
However, what is the real problem ?

PR sleaze at WGBH, Public TV Channel 2 in Boston

WGBH, home of sesame street, publishes a "members magazine" called explore ! (no shit, they actually have the exclamation point )
The Feb 2010 issue has a picture of two of WGBH's female news persons - Emily Rooney and Callie Crossley.
Now for the sleazy part: the picture of Ms. Rooney has been airbrushed to remove 20 years; she looks like a 30 something.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Henry Kissinger

Prominent in American Foreign Policy during the Vietnam war Wikipedia.
Lets see what that really means.

Is the US more charitable then other countries ?

Among the rightwacks, it is accepted that the US is more charitable then any other country (we give more dollars per capita to charity). And, our charity is morally superior; whereas other countrys give charity only under gov’t compulsion (taxes) we give charity voluntarily, to private organizations.
I would say this argument is ass backwards, as follows:

Friday, February 5, 2010

Two Suggestions for Gov. Deval Patrick, Dem. MA

1) forget the stem cell stuff and go electronic.
Some day, in the distant future, after expenditures of hundreds of millions of dollars, stem cells may help someone, and the stem cell industry MAY employ a small number of people, and the stem cell industry MAY have revenue that results in tax dollars for the state.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

A liberal admires and loathes rush limbaugh

as an uber liberal, I admire rush - he is hardworking, entertaining, and very good at what he does; I imagine that walter winchell was like that.
Of course, he is pretty loathsome; it is not that he says things that arent' true, but he is completely shameless in implication; recently he has been blasting Obama and Pelosi for things setup by bush - miranda rights to terrorists (bush/shoebomber) and special plane trips for Pelosi (speakr of the house #2 in sucession , after 9/11 bush hastert setup a private plane policy)

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Obama state of hte union 28 Jan 2010

Last night, Wensday 27 Jan 2010, President Obama delivered his state of the union (SOTU) speech.

The actual speech differs from the prepared transcript in several ways, and many webpages don't indicate that they have the outdated, prepared transcript, as opposed to a transcipt based on the actual speech

A transcript of the actual speech, here ,includes this statement

"But to create more of these clean energy jobs, we need more production, more efficiency, more incentives. That means building a new generation of safe, clean nuclear power plants in this country."
No dollar figure is given for funding of wind/solar

However, the prepared transcript from the whitehouse, here ,does not contain the statement about clean nukes, but does have a figure for wind/solar - 20 billion, a piddling amount.

Sadly, Obama once again demonstrates that he is smart, but not intelligent; funding clean nukes over wind/solar is just dumb.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

why is there nothing to buy, despite a plethora of stores ?

Countless stores, acres of floor selling space, nothing to buy....

Our coffee maker broke, so I went out to Mall Land - which, for those of us in the Boston Suburbs, is Framingham MA, at the corner of Speen Str and Route 9: the giant Natick Mall; the smaller shoppers world, walmart kohls target lowes homedepot, not to mention all the discount stores on Rt9

What was surprising to me was that there was a limited selection of coffee makers - all the stores had largely the same items - and within that selection, very little choice.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Poor Quality of the New York Times Website Blogs

The New York Times, certainly one of the most influential, profitable and important old media voices in the country, has staked its future on its website
Part of this future that is different from the past is allowing readers to comment on articles; in the old days, the Times ran a half page of letters a day, which considering it's audience of a million well educated, vocal people, was a pittance (so, in the days of print only, it was quite a priveledge to get a letter in print, and some of them were really well written, and they were all letter perfect in spelling and grammar).

So, one might think that this new future, with lots of reader comments, is important to the Times to have high quality comment software, with lots of features, that make it easy and powerful for the user.
But they don't - they have a really stripped down, feature poor, buggy site.
the bugs are inexcusable; the lack of features shows that they don't understand why people post on websites.
paradoxically, if you look at the most succesfull sites, like slashdot and digg, they are feature rich, hard to use, and wildly popular; this has to do with how people interact with the web, which is driven by the ability to do things at the web site, and not just read or post.

Some examples of how the Times site is defective or second rate:
A reader can recommend a comment made by another reader, but you can't pan a comment made by another reader. If you go to slashdot, they manage to have a rating system that runs from bad to neutral to good. And, I have found over the years that this is one place where wisdom of the crowds works; most posts on slashdot rate high or low are high or low.

Another problem with the times website is that it is not possible to view all of the comments on an article in a single web page. f you go to an article that has a lot of comments, the comments are displayed across multiple web pages; which makes searching for things impossible (at least if you use the Cntrl+F find feature in firefox browser). Inasmuch as these are all text, with a small amount of hypertext, it can't possibly be a page load speed issue.
The Times does provide a member center, where you can see your comments, and the timestamp of submission, but since comments are moderated, you can't use tht time stamp to figure out where in a long (100s) list of comments yours is.

Another annoyance; if you login, after the login, you don't get returned to where you were, but instead have to figure out or remember exactly what page you were on before the login.

On top of these technical issues is the attitude that We are the NYTimes; take or leave it chump.
Not all articles allow comments, and the choices seem pretty arbitrary; you would think that at least they have a policy page that explains what articles allow commenting.

The times closes comments after a period, which seems arbitrary; in some cases, comments are closed when there are only 96 comments/article, which is really wierd.

Many of the Times reports are based on pdfs; while they have started providing links, they still don't do this for a lot of articles; my suspicion has always been that this is profit driven - if you are a times journalist, having the actual pdf that is the basis of your story could be the basis for another book or piece that makes you the reporter money; sharing it with your readers means you make less money as a journalist.

Friday, January 22, 2010

what to call the decade of the oughts ?

Bet they had this same problem back in 1900, and maybe even in 1800
like the problem with how to say alot when texting and tweeting, exactly the same as problem with morse code and telegraph (telegraph worse, u paid by the word)
probably, you go back to cunieform clay tablets in mesopatamia, tablets are heavy, they had all sorts of tweet like tricks to compress messages