Thursday, January 21, 2010

Occasional Links

Peak oil? No, but expensive oil, yes.

What the Google fiasco tells us about China.

Not a single oil company trusts Chavez. Who woulda thunk it?

Paying people not to work—does it extend the recession?

270 earthquakes in 2 days--bad news for the caldera?

15 books every entrepreneur should read.

The theory of conjoint measurement.

Just a little shade can kill your solar cells' output.

But who will save them from Jeffrey Sachs?

Time to learn Mandarin.

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Tuesday, January 19, 2010

She just needs to make lemonade out of lemons

Oooops. I guess that coronation campaign didn't go according to plan.

My advice to Martha Coakley is that she just needs to look at the bright side. Turn that frown upside down. At least now she'll have plenty of free time to catch a ball game or two at Fenway next season.

We do also need to give props to Kerry for his inadvertent role in this Democratic fiasco. Had the Democrats never changed the law in anticipation of his Presidential win a Democrat would have been appointed to the Senate seat instead of giving a concession speech.

I guess God, or the universe, or whatever, does have a sense of humor after all.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Occasional Links

Ok, so I've gotten into the habit of reading the news again and finding stuff that I'm moved to share with the world. I'll start putting some of them up again, at least for my benefit.

Here's today's list:
Flattery works better than you thought.

A site to automatically analyze the psychological profile of your favorite Tweeter based on their word-usage.

They tied light in knots.

How galaxies came to be.

China may end up monopolizing all rare earth elements. This has scary implications for both high-tech and green-tech, where these elements are used extensively.

Will China rule the world?

Obama's scary totalitarian tendencies.

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Tuesday, January 12, 2010

A wallet full of Wilsons

The blog Mental Floss has a post, A $100,000 Bill? The Story Behind Large-Denomination Currency, that discusses large denomination American legal tender. Before wire transfers, banks used them to exchange large amounts of money.

The faces on the bills were William McKinley ($500), Grover Cleveland ($1,000), James Madison ($5,000), Salmon P. Chase ($10,000) and Woodrow Wilson on the largest, $100,000.

Interestingly enough, Salmon P. Chase was also the face pictured on the first dollar bill. Why you ask? He was the Secretary of the Treasury who was charged with designing the first greenback and, in a fit of humility that reminds one of our current day politicians, he put his own face on the bill.

Well, who knows, a trillion dollar debt here, a trillion dollar debt there, and maybe inflation will kick in and fill all our wallets with enough Wilsons to be barely able to afford a carton if eggs.

As a parting thought, I was reminded of the Simpson's episode where Monty Burns had stolen the trillion dollar bill meant to pay for the Marshall Plan. Fleeing from the law he ended up in Cuba with Homer. Alas, like you know who, he was rather too trusting of dictators:    

Mr. Burns: All we ask is preferential treatment because of my fabulous wealth!
[Burns holds the trillion dollar bill up.]
Castro: May I see?
Mr. Burns: Ho ho ho, see with your eyes, not with your hands!
Castro: Please, we are all amigos here!
Homer: Mr. Burns... I think we can trust the president of Cuba.
Mr. Burns: [hands it to Castro, and waits a couple of seconds.] Now, give it
Castro: Give what back?
Mr. Burns: D'oh...

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Science, Christmas and Rocketry

Two young fellows came up with a clever way of disposing of their old Christmas tree and they dispense some philosophy along the way. Alas, in the end they only managed to move the tree a couple hundred feet, and from the looks of it nearly caught their field on fire in the process, but none the less one has to give two thumbs up to such ingenuity.

Below is their video. Here is their post detailing the Christmas Tree launch.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Beautiful Schlock

That is how I refer to Avatar, James Cameron’s new epic to encourage self-loathing for human beings. Many have commented about the anti military angle and the enviro-worship. Rather than repeat that, I suggest reading those links for very interesting commentary. Rather, I’ll address the anti-human angle.

Of course the humans are thinly disguised Americans, but it is the human-beingness that is of interest to me. Humans are the invaders who have ruined their own world, paraphrasing what the avatar-guy says. Humans have nothing to offer the Na’vi, while the Na’vi have everything to offer humans. There is no opportunity for some kind of relationship, only a form of power and control vs. longing. One human takes an interest in Na’vi culture, but none of the Pandoran clans are interested in humans, only interested in getting rid of them. That one human has tried to educate the Na’vi, but about what is totally unclear. The Na’vi are presented as essentially fully evolved; they can develop no further because they are, in essence, perfect. They show only the most minimal of inventions (essentially bow-and-arrow and riding techniques). They neither want nor need technology. They have universal healthcare by tapping into Pandora. The Avatar can become Na’vi and stay but cannot remain human and stay (let alone be loved as a human).

In essence Cameron has penned an anti-human manifesto, similar to those who decry human beings as a plague upon the earth and become apoplectic about the fantasy of overpopulation. The technophobic Na’vi are made the heroes of a movie that showcases the most advanced technology the film industry has ever seen. It is a deeply cynical piece of film-making, as Cameron celebrates a society that in essence has a king and queen and a whole lot of drones, while he is a meglomaniac director who tries to control everyone and everything he comes across. Better to be on top, I guess.

The scenery is extraordinary and the visual effects are magnificent. Of course, so were those for the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics, possibly the most watched television program in history. Does that mean everyone desires to become a communist? I think not. People are paying to watch a spectacle, and Cameron hopes to sneak in his propaganda. Of course, his work is filled with contradictions. Only a human could have made it.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

The Best Global Warming Thought of the Year

I'm not sure where I picked this up, so I apologize for the intellectual theft, but here's the gist of it:

If someone asks you whether you "believe in global warming" then you know they are talking about belief systems, not science.

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A study of two mixed messages

Beer goggle resistant message from the Ladies of the
Women's Temperance Movement

  Picture on the front page of the White House website during the aftermath
of the failed Christmas Day airline bombing attack