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Saturday, February 09, 2002

While stumbling about among those tech blogs I found Dan Pink and the following:

Get ready for the web’s next craze: Googlewhacking. The goal of this odd game is to come up with a two-word term that, when you search it on Google, yields only one result. (For full rules, click here.) This turns out to be really hard. I thought I had a winner with autarkic caribou. Wrong. 19 hits. (Rule: You can't put your search term in quotation marks.) Then I tried perky atavism. Nope. 19 hits again. OK, just one more. Onomatopoeic regicide. Survey says … 2! Help me! If I keep Google-whacking, I’ll go blind!
If autarkic caribou won't work, I don't think I'll even try...

Also, he notes there is an on-line experiment at Columbia to try to test the classic six-degrees of separation theory -- that you can reach anyone in the world with six links of acquaintance. Sign on here to participate.
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A question: Is there some good reason for having off-balance sheet liabilities? Megan? Other than The truth is out there and you really don't want to know...
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The 2/18/02 FORBES has very interesting stuff.

Digital Diaspora, about how 700,000 laid-off tech workers are spreading out to wherever they can find jobs, and bringing the spirit of Silicon Valley with them

Timebombs in the Vault, about how many banks have risky off-balance sheet liabilities -- they have sold promises of emergency lending to many companies, assuming the solid big outfits, (like K-Mart or Enron) are surely not going to ever need them. Also about synthetic leases which are a commonly used way to get liabilities off the balance sheet.

•And a really scary article predicting that Japan is heading for an economic meltdown that will drag the whole world into a deep depression: Argues London's Independent Strategy: "There is no record of any government ever being able to repay debts equal to several times the annual output of its country in real money. Japan will be no exception.
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Thank you Rand Simberg for setting some things straight about Linda Tripp... I hope Rand never lights into me for any little errors; he reminds me of the Anderson Split-Pea Soup logo with the guys splitting a pea with a mighty hammer and chisel...
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I wandered off my usual well-trodden blogpath into some tech weblogs, such as Saltire, and Dave Winer. It was like entering a parallel universe! Both familiar and wierdly different. Blogging is called blogrolling, and many people collect blogstickers, and build blogs with Radio Userland instead of Blogger. Is any anthropologist paying attention to these developments?

It was tempting to think that I was from the real civilization, and this was a sort of Cargo Cult imitation, except that I was already familiar with some of these guys, such as Christopher Locke and Doc Searls, because they wrote The Cluetrain Manifesto.

AND, if you are not on the Cluetrain, you are ignorant! Clueless. You don't know what's going on. Just go read it, and then I'll be on speaking terms with you once again. And do not be deceived by its superficial resemblance to a book about gonzo marketing. Cluetrain is about how Internet technology is subverting and dissolving the stultifying hierarchical organizations created in the Industrial Age. If you are plunging into the Blogswamp to fact-check the NYT, you are doing just that.
Here, just go to the Cluetrain Website and you can read the manifesto...95 theses; a lucky number...

Friday, February 08, 2002

WTC thumbnail pic
Carol Gates sent us this picture. We don't know who took it, but this info came with the e-Mail: [click for larger version, 224k]

This picture was taken by a guy returning on a cruise this past summer (July 28, 2001). It is a sunrise over lower Manhattan.

HE Writes: As I watched the beautiful skyline of New York City float past me I noticed the sun was about to line up just behind the twin towers. I was lucky enough to snap the picture at exactly the right moment. If you look at the sun rays it is almost prophetic. - a little spooky.

When I show this picture to anyone they almost always asks for a copy. I just want to share it with all who want it. Please take this picture and share it with anyone and everyone who likes it. I've been printing them like crazy on my home computer to give to those that want a copy.
That lucky-snap-at-just-the-right-moment stuff seems too good to be true...I bet somebody worked hard to get picture anyway
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At the United Way, in a fairly small town, a volunteer worker noticed that the most successful lawyer in the whole town hadn't made a contribution. This guy was making about $600,000 a year so the volunteer thought, "Why not call him up?"

He calls the lawyer... "Sir, according to our research you haven't made a contribution to the United Way, would you like to do so?"

The lawyer responds, "A contribution? Does your research show that I have an invalid mother who requires expensive surgery once a year just to stay alive?"

The worker is feeling a bit embarrassed and says, "Well, no sir, I'm..."

"Does your research show that my sister's husband was killed in a car accident? She has three kids and no means of support!"

The worker is feeling quite embarrassed at this point. "I'm terribly sorry..."

"Does your research show that my brother broke his neck on the job and now requires a full time nurse to have any kind of normal life?"

The worker is completely humiliated at this point. "I am sorry sir, please forgive me..."

"The gall of you people! I don't give them anything, so why should I give it to you!"

......sent by Brad Handzel

Thursday, February 07, 2002

Remember the story of the Dutch boy with his finger on the leak in the dike? Well, Natalie Solent has abandoned her portion of Freedom's Levee; left it for the rats to gnaw. Selfish creature that she is, she's gone skiing.

Nunquam Desperate, she will return on the 24th.

Actually, Charlene is also about to go skiing after an undisclosed number of years (she says she's 'pre-parabolic,' whatever that is) She is taking the kids -- they are going snowboarding. I get to stay home and build things, which is much more fun,
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"He who is void of virtuous attachments in private life, is, or very
soon will be, void of all Regard for his country." --John Adams

Addendum to my previous addendum. I know this all sounds like tasteless American boasting. But capitalism is a game anyone can play. The current situation could be reversed in a generation. If the Clintonistas ever got real power, our growth could stop overnight. (Not Bill, he's too easy-going. But I bet Hillary could make Lenin look like a jolly innkeeper if she ever had the chance.) If Europe were to cut taxes and regulations, and make it easy for unpolished nobodies to get filthy stinking rich, it could quickly become a real superpower. And then become frustrated if a stagnant USA won't share the burdens of preserving World peace...

Free markets aren't some American trick, they are just people doing what they want to do. Which is, among other things, creating successful businesses. (getting rich is part of the thrill, but not the essence -- few entrepreneurs would retire if they won the lottery.)

Just like the lemmings returning to Capistrano, some people want to swim upstream and spawn new enterprises. Maybe Russians will start to do it. Seems unlikely, but they've made a good beginning with their flat tax.

I know all this is obvious stuff; anyone who is beachcombing along the blogshore has already heard it. But the mood is upon me. Gotta rant.
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Addendum to the previous post: High technology itself is a sort of voracious brain that can only exist on top of a very large and healthy industrial body. It's the apex of a very broad pyramid; for every visionary at the top, there are thousands of burger-flippers and siding salesmen at the bottom.

High tech doesn't just happen anywhere. It requires prodigious investments of capital; both human capital and wealth. America has Silicon Valley for the same reason we have 14 Carrier Battle Groups. We can afford them. No other country could fling 100 Billion dollars into the dot.coms and merely suffer indigestion.

Speaking of carriers, I read somewhere that France has only six pilots who are qualified in night carrier landings. It's no wonder they aren't feeling especially bellicose. And if I criticize France, it's because I love France. I would be happier if they were still the wise and polished elders teaching raw young America how it's done. In my mind I'm still living in the days when fellows like the young George Patton would spend a few months at Saumur to learn cavalry tactics. Younger readers will probably find this incomprehensible.

Wednesday, February 06, 2002

Your brain comprises about 3% of your body weight and uses about 14% of your energy intake.

Keep this in mind when you hear grey-beard Chomskyites condemn America and the West for using more than their 'fair share' of the world's resources. We are the brains of the world. We are the ones creating the advances that give us the hope of eliminating the ancient ills; plague, war and famine. In fact we have eliminated them wherever Western Civilization is allowed to flourish. We didn't do it on a starvation diet.

Your brain burns calories like a bonfire. It's an extremely expensive luxury that doesn't pay off right away. (That's why high intelligence isn't usually an evolutionary option.) But the payoff, when it comes, is big. We in the West, and especially America, should be eating the biggest slice of the pie. It's part of the job. It's our responsibility.
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"One of the sad signs of our times is that we have demonized those who produce, subsidized those who refuse to produce, and canonized those who complain." --Thomas Sowell
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This week's "Leftmedia Data Check": In the first two months since the Enron bankruptcy, the Leftmedia have devoted over two and half times as much coverage to it as they did during a comparable period to reporting on the Clintonistas' Whitewater scandal. A Lexis-Nexis search turned up 8,858 mentions of Enron and President Bush from early December to early February, but only 3,297 reports on Whitewater and President Clinton from Dec. 20, 1993, through Feb. 21, 1994.

6 February 2002
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I just heard on the radio about a New York schoolteacher who has been suspended from teaching, and could even lose her job. The charge? Telling her students that the WTC was destroyed by Arabs.

This is especially galling because, not only is it true that Arabs did it, (truth is probably a wee bit politically incorrect, no matter what the subject) but because the Saudi government has just admitted that 15 of the hijackers were Saudi citizens. (Of course they say the hijackers are no concern of theirs.)

Tuesday, February 05, 2002

"Next to the right of liberty, the right of property is the most important individual right guaranteed by the Constitution and the one which, united with that of personal liberty, has contributed more to the growth of civilization than any other institution established by the human race." --William Howard Taft

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Reading Megan's good economist joke reminds me of a vignette in, I think, one of George Gilder's books. He imagines the famous economist looking in the mirror. Famous Economist sees graying hair, and new wrinkles. He says, "The economy is getting older! Capitalism is running out of steam !"

Funny how often economists are hostile to capitalism. Probably because it has a tiresome habit of flourishing without the help of economists.
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A morsel of media bias...

I just caught a part of a discussion on KSFO Radio, about a great deal of attention being paid to Neal Bush's peculiar Saudi dealings; with hardly a mention that Bill Clinton just got $300k for a speech in Saudi, and $400k for a speech in Dubai (?). Said speeches given to 'business groups;' who were, no doubt, keen to learn his secrets of business success.

AND, where is that media indignation that greeted Reagan's taking $100k for a speech in Japan, after he was President ?

Monday, February 04, 2002

Coyote asks what the word "snarky" means. I think it doesn't have a meaning.* This makes it very useful. Not only is it a general-purpose word, but your listeners will assume you know the meaning and be intimidated.

*This is common in words adopted from the dialect of Outer Qwghlm.
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Charlene suggests I recommend: Missing Tolkien, by Thomas Hibbs, in NRO Weekend.

It's a sort of review of reviews; of various wrong-headed reviews of the movie Lord of the Rings.

...When the New York Times critic Elvis Mitchell describes the ring as being so powerful that "even the towering Gandalf" is afraid of it, he gets it exactly backward. The truth is that it is especially Gandalf who fears the ring, because he is acutely aware that the ring is a particularly potent corruptor of the powerful, who might be deceived into thinking they can wield its power without being destroyed by it...
She says, How people can not 'get it' I don't understand...
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Megan McArdle writes about elitist gun controllers:

...Almost none of the gun control proponents I know (and I know a lot!) really think that they are dangerous with a gun. They don't like them, perhaps, but they don't actually think that they themselves can't be trusted with them. Neither are their friends the problem. It's the people on the other side of town, people of a different income level or ideology, who are dangerous...
That brings to mind a time when I was at a parent's meeting at the private school where our sons were enrolled. I was talking to one of the moms there, and we were discussing how much better this school was than the public schools. I said that it would be good if Proposition such-and-such (A school voucher initiative on the ballot then) passed, so the less affluent could enjoy good schools too. I was assuming that other private-school parents would be in favor of it. Not so.

She instantly replied that "those sorts of people will never go to a parents meeting, or be involved in their children's education." (And more or less said that the simpler sort could not be trusted to make decisions about their children, or probably anything.)
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I'm in the middle of a very good book: IT'S MY PARTY: A Republican's Messy Love Affair with the GOP, by Peter Robinson

Robinson is a very witty and funny guy, a former Reagan speechwriter. The excerpt posted at Amazon tells the tale of how he came to write the speech Reagan gave in Berlin; where he said, Mr Gorbachev, tear down this wall ! Try it.

I just have to quote something:

In 1992, during his first campaign for Mayor of Jersey City, the Republican Brett Schundler went door-to-door in his city, explaining vouchers to parents, many of whom were African-American. He told them that a public school education for each of their children cost $9,000 a year. Then he asked them if they believed they could get a better education for their children if they were simply given the money and permitted to spend it on any school they chose. "Not one parent said, 'I don't understand.'" Schundler has written. "Instead they replied, 'Thank God.'"
How I wish I could make every Republican politician write that on the blackboard 50 times!