Michael B. Duff

Lubbock's answer to a question no one asked

Archive for August 2010

links for 2010-08-30

Written by Michael B. Duff

August 30, 2010 at 23:01

Posted in Uncategorized

links for 2010-08-29

Written by Michael B. Duff

August 29, 2010 at 23:01

Posted in Uncategorized

links for 2010-08-28

  • The good news is that the Obama administration has repeatedly promised that it supports net neutrality. Right now the FCC can lastingly protect freedom and equality on the Net. To establish that authority, the agency needs the support of three of its five commissioners. Two commissioners, Michael Copps and Mignon Clyburn, Democratic appointees, have loudly backed the effort. What we need is for the chairman to join them and follow through on the plans he laid out months ago. Mr. Genachowski, we, the citizens of the Internet, are with you.

Written by Michael B. Duff

August 28, 2010 at 23:01

Posted in Uncategorized

links for 2010-08-27

  • A Fed chair talking about "unconventional steps" really should scare the hell out of you.
    (tags: economy fail fear)
  • No genuine production has taken place to 'back' these new fiduciary media. However, the money will then be used to bid for real resources. Thus, 'nothing' (money from thin air) is exchanged for 'something' (real resources). The creation of additional money also temporarily (and this 'temporary' factor can become very extended if the inflationary policy is pursued incessantly) lowers the interest rate below that dictated by time preferences, and thus sends false signals to capitalists and entrepreneurs about the amount of savings available to finance production, and the extent of future demand. What ensues is malinvestment, and the consumption of scarce capital.
    (tags: economics)
  • When I talk about civil society handling charity and community service better than government, I'm talking about stuff like this.
  • What I discovered as I interviewed for jobs disturbed me right away. Every single firm with the exception of one was completely obsessed with math. Entire interviews revolved around “how quantitative are you” and the like. Although I hadn’t had much experience with investing I had enough to know this line of thinking seemed preposterous. What I realized later is the reason they were so focused on mathematicians and Phd’s is that Wall Street was moving away from what it was always meant to be – a conduit between the holders of capital and those that wish to deploy that capital in productive economic activity. Rather than trying to hire a well rounded workforce of intelligent college graduates the firms were hiring a cadre of quantitative robots that would play an instrumental roll in blowing up the world’s financial system.
    (tags: economics)
  • An even clearer use of pressure on government workers has been in the governor’s (so far unsuccessful) attempts to reduce state employee pay to minimum wage for the duration of the budget delay. While Chiang and previous controllers have used the old-software excuse to avoid implementing this plan, the message still comes through: State workers are not innocent bystanders in the budget impasse. Their excessive compensation is the reason California can no longer manage its budgets.
  • Dear Republicans: Please don't do this. You're just going to look like jerks and generate sympathy for Obama. Even if you're right. Especially if you're right. Losing strategy all the way around. Makes you look bitter and petty.
  • Apparently this policy was intended to be some kind of affirmative action program?
  • Database humor. Linked for the awesome cartoon.
    (tags: database humor)
  • Exactly how are the Koch brothers under the radar or underground? They show up every year in the Forbes super-rich lists. Charles Koch wrote a best-selling business book a year or two ago and makes no secret of his belief in free markets and limited government. David Koch ran for vice president of these United States on the Libertarian Party ticket in 1980 (where he helped Ed Clark pull over 900,000 votes, by far the highest total gained by the LP). Both are known for a wide range of philanthropic giving, whether to arts and medical outfits or think tanks or political action groups.
  • Newman and other strategists believe that investors, especially those whose retirement accounts were decimated by the housing crisis, may be abandoning equities for good. So if hedge fund managers and the black boxes they operate are on vacation this month, then there is no one left who wants anything to do with equities.
    (tags: economics)
  • Yes, our central planners at the Fed are so desperate to prop up this bubble the only option they have left is to beg people to spend money they don't have. QE2 anyone?
  • So who does need that $8,000 web designer? Let’s be honest, when you pay that kind of money for a website, you’re not really paying for a technology product. Web designers aren’t really in the business of making web pages. They’re more like psychiatrists or life coaches. Their real job is to provide emotional validation.

Written by Michael B. Duff

August 27, 2010 at 23:01

Posted in Uncategorized

links for 2010-08-26

Written by Michael B. Duff

August 26, 2010 at 23:01

Posted in Uncategorized

Review of The Colony, Season 1

The Discovery Channel’s post-apocolyptic reality show is in the middle of its second season. I just finished the first.

The premise is compelling. A dozen highly-skilled engineers, mechanics and medical professionals are placed in a simulated disaster setting and expected to build what they need to survive.

The first season took place in an abandoned factory in downtown Los Angeles. The second is set in a small town devastated by Hurricane Katrina.

The first step to enjoying the show is to stop worrying about “realism.” The colonists are given a perfect mix of raw materials and threatened by “gangs” that aren’t actually allowed to hurt them. In a real situation they would all be killed or enslaved in 48 hours.

But it’s not a zombie movie, it’s a stress test. It’s a social experiment designed to apply just enough pressure to keep everybody on their toes. The mauraders may be fake but the hunger, filth and dehydration are all quite real.

The show isn’t about torturing the volunteers. It’s about giving raw materials to a bunch of brilliant people and motivating them to build, watching them turn everyday objects into beds, showers, power sources and functional vehicles. It’s about the process of human invention.

Pampered products of the service economy will come away with a profound sense of helplessness and a profound respect for people who actually build things for a living.

The Colony shows us where our comforts come from. It peels away the layers of our modern society and teaches us how the components work. It really is an educational program, recommend for students of all ages, and for anyone who’s inclined to take modern comforts for granted.

Every fan of Atlas Shrugged should see this show. This is the real Galt’s Gulch, populated, not by moral supermen, but by ordinary people using knowledge and skill to improve their world. The finest minds in the building belong to a vegetarian peacenik who looks like Santa Claus and an epic level handyman with zero social skills.

In harsher conditions we might get a serious exploration of charity vs. self-interest but at this level it’s mostly just posturing. The social dynamics feel real enough — walking the line between annoyance and respect as the participants squabble, fight and second guess each other.

My favorite moment occurred early on as blue-collar handyman Michael squared off with engineers Vlad and John C. John C. and Vlad are authentic geniuses, while Michael is the penultimate example of the practical man who can get things done. The Colony needs all of them, but class distinctions get in the way. Michael feels he’s being dismissed because he doesn’t have a degree and goes on a rant about the arrogance of people with letters after their names.

The disdain is largely in his head, and he seems to get over it in later episodes, as shallow stereotypes are overcome by real respect. I paid particular attention to this moment because I think we’re going to see a lot more conflicts like this in the future, as the “service economy” loses ground.

America wasn’t built by people with desk jobs. For two centuries our greatness was fostered by people like this — people who built real things from real stuff — by engineers who found new ways to accomplish common tasks and by the craftsmen who made it all work.

These people deserve our respect, more respect than they’re getting, in an age when everybody wants to be a banker or a rock star. The Colony is a celebration of human ingenuity and hard work. The thugs may be fake, but the good guys are real.

Written by Michael B. Duff

August 26, 2010 at 10:35

Posted in TV

links for 2010-08-04

  • But despite these wins, and numerous loyal fans, Wave has not seen the user adoption we would have liked. We don’t plan to continue developing Wave as a standalone product, but we will maintain the site at least through the end of the year and extend the technology for use in other Google projects. The central parts of the code, as well as the protocols that have driven many of Wave’s innovations, like drag-and-drop and character-by-character live typing, are already available as open source, so customers and partners can continue the innovation we began. In addition, we will work on tools so that users can easily “liberate” their content from Wave.
    (tags: google wave fail)
  • Bill Gates and Warren Buffett think fellow US billionaires should donate most of their vast fortunes to charity — and they revealed Wednesday that 40 are set to do just that.

Written by Michael B. Duff

August 4, 2010 at 23:01

Posted in Uncategorized