Daily Kos dumps Research 2000 / Research 2000 sues FiveThirtyEight

The story is developing fast

Research 2000 is a left-leaning polling firm that has been contracted by Daily Kos over the past few years. Typically, the Research 2000 / Daily Kos polls are the only ones that show “good” news for President Obama.

Here is R2K’s attempt to silence FiveThirtyEight:

Nate Silver Letter re: Daily Kos (6-29-2010)

Major Props to the folks at Daily Kos for acting quickly on this.

What Language to Learn: South-East Asia

The boys at ComingAnarchy might enjoy this one…

I am close to wrapping up my tour of South East Asia, having visited Singapore, Thailand, and Malaysia. In all three countries Chinese strikes me as more useful than England. This was especially surprising in Thailand and Malaysia, which are noted tourist areas… I can get almost nowhere in English, but I find a large fraction of the folks I meet can communicate with me in Chinese. I find that conversations stress my Chinese vocabulary much less often than while actually in China, though, so it seems that most people who speak it have picked it up as a second language.

World Cup – America and England out

So in the most watched men’s soccer game in American history, America was bested by Ghana — because of geography.

As disappointed as I am,  I was at least as much anti-England as pro-America in this World Cup, so I am happy with Germany’s blow-out of England.

As I said to an incresingly dejected England fan (in a volume guaranteeing he would not hear and attack me)

  • Do you remember the stamp tax? You do now!
  • This is for the Boston Massacre!
  • George Washington died for your sins!

Take that, John Oliver!

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
World Cup 2010: Into Africa – US Beats Algeria
Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor Tea Party

Review of “The Victorian Internet: The Remarkable Story of the Telegraph and the Nineteenth Century’s On-line Pioneers,” by Tom Standage

Every online review I read of The Victorian Internet noted it can be finished in one day. I read it in a day through the Kindle app of our iPad, so I will add myself to that list. The Victorian Internet is a quick read, so I will make this a quick review.

In the book’s conclusion, Tom Standage notes that while Victorians in the modern day would have been shocked at heavier at the airplane, the rocket, and the satellite, as these are all examples of heavier-than air-flight, they would have been bored at the Internet, because they already had their own. Indeed, Standage persuasively argues that the world-spanning network of telegraphy developed in a way almost identical to the world-spanning network of TCP/IP, from the first line between Washington and Baltimore, until the automation of the telegraph lines some decades later. From predictions of the end of newspapers (how can there be a market for ‘news,’ when one person can just tell his friends what he read on the telegraph?) to a new age of peace (as differences were expected to melt away as individuals talked to each other).

Also as with modern computer research, the economic advantages of the telegraph were so great that even boondoggles were paid for. In the modern day, technophobic MBAs promise to never again create a ‘wasteful’ Xerox PARC, conveniently forgetting that one PARC invention by itself made it cash-flow positive (the laser jet printer), even telegraph boondoggles were money savers: the intitial, poorly constructed, transatlantic cable saved the British government money, as a timely telegraph allowed London to countermand a mobilization of Canadian troops to India.

Telegraph offices provided upward mobility for young tech enthusiasts, such as Andrew Carnegie and Thomas Edison. They allowed individuals to get married in different states (the first ‘e-mail wedding’ spanned only a quarter of the distance of the first ‘telegraph’ wedding). The telegraph even spawned stupid fiction — You Got Mail holds nothing to Wired Love. Individuals had ‘sigs’ (same jargon for the same term) in both telegraphy and e-mail.

Ultimately, the telegraph was a victim of its own success. Just as the fiber optics market would collapse because of multiplex devices, the cost of telegraph lines was halved by a duplex, then halved again…. until Alexander Graham Bell’s quest for a ‘harmonic multiplexer’ was discovered to have the side-effect of allowing human voices to be carried over telegraph wires. (Another inventor discovered the devise simultaneously, and perhaps had a better claim to the patent, but assumed that the voice-over-telegraph technology had little commercial application, and so did not pursue his claim at the time). Eventually the Voice-Over-Telegraph technology would be known as the telephone, and the culture of high-tech telegraph knowledge workers would collapse.

The Victorian Internet is a great, fun, and quick read. Check it out!

Lessons Learned While Traveling

In Up in the Air, George Clooney’s character gives a monologue about the ins-and-outs of air travel. Here is my, much shorter and more idiosyncratic,  version:

Beijing Airport is pretty good

So is Singapore Airport

Xiamen Airport is the most chaotic place in the world

the Kindle app for iPad makes time go by much quicker when you are standing (or sitting besides, as the case may be) the line

Learning that Thomas Ligotti is from Detroit makes everything make sense

Review of “Flashforward,” by Robert J. Sawyer

Recently I finished Flashforward, by Robert Sawyer. This novel is the basis of the TV series, FlashForward, which survived for one season on ABC. I’m happy to report that the book is much better than the TV show, which is a dumbed-down, ‘mainstreamed,’ and drawn-out version of the same story.

What is confusing about ABC’s decision to dumbed down Flashforward, however, as that book is much closer to a LOST-style arc than the TV show ever was, and the TV show was presumably meant to mimic LOST. As with LOST (or for that matter, most any Stephen King novel), FlashForward begins in the real world with one twist. In LOST, the twist was the smoke monster that ate the pilot. In King’s Tommyknockers, the twist is a young woman who trips over a buried alien spacecraft. In Flashforward, the twist is that the human race blacks out for 2 minutes, and witnesses events from the perspective of themselves 21 years in the future. As with all great realistic horrors, the one twist reveals a fundamentally bizarre world.

Instead, ABC turned FlashForward into a police procedural.

While I like the story of Flashforward quite a bit, the writing and characterization leaves a lot to be desired. If you have read either Deception Point or Digital Fortress by Dan Brown (author of The DaVinci Code), you know what to expect. While Flashforward is a fun read, it does not have the resonance of Tommyknockers, or even non-horror science fiction such as Red Mars. Still, if you were interested in the FlashForward pilot last year, and want to see where the story really goes, read the book

Review of “Optical Illusions: Lucent and the Crash of Telecom” by Lisa Endlich

Recently I finished Optical Illusions: Lucent and the Crash of Telecom. Optical Illusions is the first book that I read on the Kindle app on iPad, and it was a very pleasant reading experience. It also was a good reading experience, forming a sort of triptych on the history of Bells Labs (along with Crystal Fire and Inside the Crown Jewel. Lucent, for those too young to remember, was perhaps best known for its logo, the coffee cup stain of quality.

The first thing to realize is that Lucent Technologies was built on a lie. The original tag line was “Bell Labs innovations,” the original advertising emphasized continuity with Bells Labs, but Lucent was not Bell Labs – it was a renamed Western Electric, a ‘thick necked,’ unimaginative legacy equipment manufacturer. The company line, that Bells Labs was too expensive to maintain, was nonsense — Bell Labs was a tiny fraction of the company’s overall expenses, and Lucent lost factors of 100s more on bad acquisitions than they did on Bell Labs.

Rather, the mission of Lucent’s leadership was to turn Lucent into any other kind of company than what it was. The leadership was aware that Lucent’s core business was a dead end, and they had no interest in using growth-oriented parts of the company (such as Lucent Microelectronics or Bell Labs) to develop new products over time. Lucent printed bubble-value stock in an effort to buy other, profitable, companies, in the hope it could use money the market was giving it for free in an effort to become a viable company.

It failed. The company, which increased its value ten-fold by the peak of speculation, eventually lost 99% of its top value. The CEO was fired, and lives and research careers were crushed. America lost a top line research organization, Lucent shareholders lost their savings, and the bubble burst.

Lucent is no longer an American company. Alcatel-Lucent it now owned by the French. The Telecom bubble has not. And because Lucent did not have a friend in Tim Geithner, it lost almost all its money.

The end.

Team USA

The video, from Huffington Post

The write-up, by Dan Wetzl

And certainly not in those stands, where the American fans, half a world from home, continued to stand and chant and wave their flags in hope that the dream would be answered.

And when it was answered, when the improbable had been produced, they started charging. These aren’t college kids. These are grown ups. They are mostly well-heeled who can take time away from work on an expensive vacation. Yet the moment was so magnificent, the goal so perfect, that broke all security measures anyway.

After the game, they had mashed up against the fence in numerous places, screaming onto the field at the American players who were hugging and kissing and dancing. The players ran over to party with their people – Altidore even doing a mini-mosh pit leap into the adoring masses.

“USA, USA” went the chants, audible even over the din of the vuvuzelas. All was right here in the South African night.

Nebraska joins CIC

This may be the real pay-off of Nebraska joining the Big 10 Athletic Conference:

The CIC is a consortium of the Big Ten universities plus the University of Chicago. The CIC leverages faculty, funding, facilities, investments and ideas to help the collective whole compete and succeed. Among its core projects are library collections and access; technology collaborations to build capacity at reduced costs; leveraging purchasing and licensing through economies of scale; leadership and development programs for faculty and staff; course-sharing mechanisms by which students may take courses at other consortium institutions; and study-abroad collaborations. For more information about the CIC, go to http://www.cic.net/Home.aspx.

Perlman said UNL would formally accept the invitation. UNL’s full membership in the CIC begins July 1, 2011 — the same time the university officially joins the Big Ten Conference.

“The CIC will be working with our academic leaders and faculty during the coming year to connect UNL with the resources and networks of the CIC,” Perlman wrote. “Kudos to all of you who have worked so hard over the last several years to put our academic programs in a position to be so recognized.”

In the invitation letter, the Big Ten provosts wrote that UNL “will be an excellent fit with our academic values, collaborative spirit and strategic initiatives.”

Perlman noted that many UNL faculty have ties to the Big Ten and CIC schools. More than 300 UNL faculty have received their highest degree from a Big Ten institution, plus 13 more from the University of Chicago. Approximately 30 percent of UNL’s tenure-line faculty earned their highest degree at a CIC institution.

Go Big Red!

Obama Stops Oil Clean-Up

This is typical of the disconnected, centralized, red-tape approach that Obama has taken to the clean-up in the Gulf (from ABC News)

Sixteen barges sat stationary today, although they were sucking up thousands of gallons of BP’s oil as recently as Tuesday. Workers in hazmat suits and gas masks pumped the oil out of the Louisiana waters and into steel tanks. It was a homegrown idea that seemed to be effective at collecting the thick gunk.

“These barges work. You’ve seen them work. You’ve seen them suck oil out of the water,” said Jindal.

“The Coast Guard came and shut them down,” Jindal said. “You got men on the barges in the oil, and they have been told by the Coast Guard, ‘Cease and desist. Stop sucking up that oil.'”

What an awful President. Obama caused this mess. Obama is stopping others from cleaning up his mess.

America made a mistake electing Obama, and the Gulf Coast states are paying the price.