Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Deschooling Society

If a team wants a good field goal kicker it will indeed seek a kicker who demonstrates to them he can kick. That someone comes to the team with a certificate that he went to kicking school and got all good grades in kicking would be laughed out of court. The issue would be: can the person kick field goals with accuracy and distance under pressure of game situations.

Similarly, with much in entertainment worlds. Webster University has a highly regarded theater department. Students work hard here and hopefully learn a great deal. But when they go out looking for an acting job, that they have a degree from Webster University with a major in theater is of extremely little interest. The issue is performance and demonstrated ability, not a credential.

China High-Speed Rail project

Someone in my family works for Siemens as a senior member of the China High-Speed Rail project (not to be confused with the China Maglev project, for which Siemens is also a partner). We've talked about it quite often - and fairly extensively yesterday. Here are a few details:

The technologies of all four major high-speed rail system in the world - Germany's ICE, Japan's Sinkansen, France's TGV and Canada's Bombardier (in order of overall technological advancement) - have come together in China, though rather reluctantly. When the Chinese started the project years ago, they did something very clever: Instead of picking one of the four systems (which is what people normally do), they gave all four a pilot contract each. The one showing the best result in its pilot would then be chosen as the main partner, they said, making all four competing like crazy - routinely investing more resources than they've originally planed. The Chinese are not concerned about significant waste due to incompatibility between the pilot products, since all four are building to the specs written by the Chinese.

Now, years later, the Canadians and the French are practically washed out, even though some of their technologies have contributed to the new Chinese system. The Germans and the Japanese remain - as initially expected - the main competitors - or, reluctant partners for the Chinese. The vast majority of heavy lifting on the technological front is done by the Germans (which was also expected, since even the Japanese system was originally based on German designs), but the Japanese have the advantage that their pilot has started earlier (the Chinese intentionally delayed the German pilot in order to ransom a below-value price).

The record speed, for example, was achieved using two joined trains - of four sections each - built by Siemens in Germany and put together in China. Those are the only two German trains current available for this route. All the other trains are Japanese, and they're what people see on most new footages. But the top speed the Japanese trains (on the same route) can reach are significantly lower - about 350 km/h, or >10% less than the German record. Plus, while the German rains got to 395 km/h in standard configuration - with two tracking (active) and two tracked (passive) sections in each train - the Japanese had to cheat - using three tracking and only one tracked section in each train - in order to reach their 350 km/h.

As someone has mentioned above, there exist a TGV speed record that's much higher still, but that's a record nobody in the industry takes seriously, because it was achieved with a totally crazy, not nearly practical configuration of train sections. It's a fake number, period.

The bottom line is, for the original cost of one project, China has managed to get more than twice the amount worth of know-how (all legally via proper technology transfer contracts), and is now itself among the leading players of the industry. For the upcoming US high-speed rail system, the Chinese has offered a bid with a price tag 1/3 lower than anybody else...

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Sumerians Look On In Confusion As Christian God Creates World

According to recently excavated clay tablets inscribed with cuneiform script, thousands of Sumerians—the first humans to establish systems of writing, agriculture, and government—were working on their sophisticated irrigation systems when the Father of All Creation reached down from the ether and blew the divine spirit of life into their thriving civilization.


Moreover, the Sumerians were taken aback by the creation of the same animals and herb-yielding seeds that they had been domesticating and cultivating for hundreds of generations.

"The Sumerian people must have found God's making of heaven and earth in the middle of their well-established society to be more of an annoyance than anything else," said Paul Helund, ancient history professor at Cornell University. "If what the pictographs indicate are true, His loud voice interrupted their ancient prayer rituals for an entire week."

According to the cuneiform tablets, Sumerians found God's most puzzling act to be the creation from dust of the first two human beings.

"These two people made in his image do not know how to communicate, lack skills in both mathematics and farming, and have the intellectual capacity of an infant," one Sumerian philosopher wrote. "They must be the creation of a complete idiot."

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Why girls dress up?

scientific proof

Perhaps it's time to once again point out that "scientific proof" is a red herring. As any number of science's theoreticians have carefully explained over the years, scientific methods rarely if ever actually "prove" anything. Rather, science works mostly with a double-negative approach: An accepted theory is one that we have failed to disprove. Scientific testing and data collection is mostly aimed at showing that a hypothesis is wrong. Results that agree with a hypothesis are generally called "support", not "proof", because usually the tests can't provide proof. But a single (correctly done;-) test or observation is often sufficient to disprove a theory.

This is why scientific theories are often called "tentative". Scientists are always trying to think of new ways to test a theory, and sometimes they succeed in finding situations where a theory fails. The poster child for this was the failure of Newton's mechanics to explain a number of anomalous observations about a century ago, which led to Einstein's theories explaining how the universe actually works. Of course, his theories have never been "proved", either. They have merely withstood hundreds of new experimental tests. Tomorrow some physicist (or high-school student) may produce a new test that demos an exception to Einstein's equations. But until then, they are accepted not because we've proved them, but rather because we have repeatedly failed to disprove them.

Of course, fundamental physics is "easier" that climate in an obvious way. Weather is much more complex than things like particle physics or orbital mechanics, which can be reduced to some fairly simple equations (though not quite as simple as we thought back in Newton's day). Anything dealing with weather has to be treated statistically, since the complexity is far beyond the capacity of our most powerful super-computers. (Our computers can't even model a butterfly's wings in detail, much less the effect the butterfly has on weather halfway around the world.;-) Since the public is generally totally ignorant of statistics, it's not surprising that people would fail to understand what the AGW theorists are telling us. It's fairly obvious that even most of the posters here in this "nerd" community don't understand the difference between weather and climate. You don't have much of a chance of understanding the issue without a good grounding in statistical methods, in addition to all the kinds of chemistry that you have to understand.

But the constant use of forms of the words "prove" and "proof" in regard to scientific theories should be treated with humor, since such words are an open statement that the author doesn't know much at all about scientific methods. Those are media and propaganda terms; they have very little use in scientific discussions. Proofs are what mathematicians do. Scientists do disproofs. (And it is interesting how well the radically different approaches of math and science complement each other. So far I haven't read much enlightening from either camp on this topic, just the observation that they play well together. But we all know that.)

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Telangana - why so much opposition

... Telangana lost out because it had to carry the burden of keeping the marriage working and pretending everything was alright while suffering and enduring discrimination all the while. Telangana lost out because the Indira Gandhi’s Congress was not ready to create more states. Telangana lost out because they had to unnecessarily live with the tag of united Telugu when they were only concerned with their self-rule, self-expression and self-development.

We don’t want continue with charade any longer. We don’t want to be cowed down by the majority of Andhra-Rayalaseema. We just want to be on our own so that our politicians, however vile they are, are at least accountable to us. So that they spend the money they get in our region, even if they eat half of it, at least we get the other half. Self-rule, self-development and self-expression are more important to us than the unity under a tag called Telugu. This tag does not even make sense when many Telangana people actually feel that their language is treated inferiorly by their Andhra brothers.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Harrison Bergeron - social equality

.... social equality has been achieved by handicapping the more intelligent, athletic or beautiful members of society. For example, strength is handicapped by the requirement to carry weight, beauty by the requirement to wear a mask, etc. This is due to the 211th, 212th, and 213th amendments to the United States Constitution. This process is central to the society, designed so that no one will feel inferior to anyone else. Handicapping is overseen by the United States Handicapper General, Diana Moon-Glampers.

Harrison Bergeron, the protagonist of the story, has exceptional intelligence, strength, and beauty, and thus has to bear enormous handicaps. These include headphones that play distracting noises, three hundred pounds of weight strapped to his body, forty pounds of birdshot around his neck, eyeglasses designed to give him headaches, a rubber ball on his nose, black caps on his teeth, and shaven eyebrows. Despite these societal handicaps, he is able to invade a TV station, declare himself Emperor, strip himself of his handicaps, then dance with a ballerina whose handicaps he has also discarded. Both are shot dead by the brutal and relentless Handicapper General. The story is framed by an additional perspective from Bergeron's parents, who are watching the incident on TV, but because of his father's handicapping due to his superior intelligence, and his mother's less than average intelligence, they cannot concentrate enough to appreciate what occurs nor remember it.

A similar (though less developed) version of this idea appeared in Vonnegut's earlier novel, The Sirens of Titan.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

A Library to Last Forever

.. the vast majority of books ever written are not accessible to anyone except the most tenacious researchers at premier academic libraries. Books written after 1923 quickly disappear into a literary black hole. With rare exceptions, one can buy them only for the small number of years they are in print. After that, they are found only in a vanishing number of libraries and used book stores. As the years pass, contracts get lost and forgotten, authors and publishers disappear, the rights holders become impossible to track down.

Inevitably, the few remaining copies of the books are left to deteriorate slowly or are lost to fires, floods and other disasters. While I was at Stanford in 1998, floods damaged or destroyed tens of thousands of books. Unfortunately, such events are not uncommon — a similar flood happened at Stanford just 20 years prior. You could read about it in The Stanford-Lockheed Meyer Library Flood Report, published in 1980, but this book itself is no longer available.

Op-Ed Contributor - A Library to Last Forever - NYTimes.com
Blogged with the Flock Browser

The Uber Nutrient Worth “Hundreds of Billions”

D is not just another nutrient. Putting it simplistically, it is the über-nutrient that affects the way all other nutrients, not just calcium, are utilized. Virtually every cell in the body has a D receptor, even those in the brain. Until recently, however, few asked why. This is a particularly interesting question because there is very little vitamin D actually available in food. Most of our nutritional D, in fact, is added. Historically, the primary source of D, not only for humans, but for many other animals, has been sunshine. We convert the energy found in ultraviolet B in our skin to vitamin D. Obviously, there is something critically important about D if our prehistoric ancestors could manufacture it even during times of famine.

Now we see a compendium of solid peer-reviewed research indicating that many of our most troublesome and expensive diseases are symptoms of vitamin D deficiency. Rickets, apparently, was only the tip of the iceberg. Other diseases on the list of conditions caused or exacerbated by D deficiency include cancers, diabetes, susceptibility to bacterial and viral infections, autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis, psoriasis, heart disease, stroke, osteomalacia or age-related bone mass thinning, osteoporosis, depression and even food allergies. Obesity, in fact, is highly correlated with vitamin D deficiency. In many of these conditions, risk factors drop within months, and by as much as 80%.

The Uber Nutrient Worth “Hundreds of Billions”
Blogged with the Flock Browser

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Improbable Rise and Fall of E-Gold

So in early 1996, Jackson began programming a back-end system for a new electronic currency, practicing medicine by day, and coding by night.

He hired a software engineer to create the user interface, and four months later launched E-Gold.

As Jackson envisioned it, E-Gold was a private, international currency that would circulate independent of government controls, and stand impervious to the market’s highs and lows. Brimming with evangelical enthusiasm, Jackson proclaimed it a cure for the modern monetary system’s ills and described it at one point as “an epochal change in human destiny” and “probably the greatest benefit to humanity that’s ever been thought of.”

Timberlake, the economics professor, is convinced that Jackson’s radical dream, his goal of upsetting the economic status quo and overturning the government’s monopoly on money, is what really got E-Gold targeted.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Should Yale support biotech lobbyists? yalepatents.org

I understand the hopes, shared alike by local universities and municipalities, that biotech will reenergize Connecticut’s sagging industry and employment landscape. The actual realization of a wealthy, well-educated workforce and lucrative industry may someday redeem the subsidies and other favors made to incentivize the growth of local biotech shops and drug manufacturers in CT.

Reasonable people disagree about the benefits society will reap from lengthy monopolies on biological drugs–for periods of a decade or more.  For instance, is it true that a certain, dozen-year period of drug exclusivity is required for firms to recoup their research?  After all, manufacturers of generic biological drugs will, in all likelihood, confront the same bevy of expensive safety and efficacy testing as the original producer.  In some cases, the sheer cost of reproducing the process for making a biologic treatment may make these inventions immune to the kind of generic versions that can be made of simpler, small-molecule based drugs (mainstream antibiotics and antidepressants, for instance).

In addition, the monopoly provided by government-guaranteed data exclusivity has nothing to do with the already decades-long patent protections that cover the inventions packaged into drugs.

Considering the enormous price that our society will likely pay for high-tech drugs in the coming decades, we should at least understand what kind of deal we’re getting with drug manufacturers as we negotiate the monopolies they’ll receive on the next generation of life-saving treatments.  It is in the interest of the university community, not to mention the Connecticut taxpayer, to keep industry lobbyists like CURE at arms length, at the very least, so that meaningful, two-sided debate can occur on the enormous issues of drug cost and healthcare reform.

Should Yale support biotech lobbyists? | yalepatents.org
Blogged with the Flock Browser

SAT and GRE testing

The workaround for this problem is to tailor the test to the examinee, real-time, with computer-adaptive testing. So let's say you get an item with a difficulty estimate of 1 correct; now the computer will hit you with one at 1.2, for example, and keep ramping up until you kind of level off at getting 50/50 right, which is where it decides you belong. Once it has you figured out, it either just throws easy ones at you so you feel good about yourself, or starts serving up items still undergoing pilot testing. Either way, what you do after that point will not affect your score.

This sounds great, and it would be great, if it worked reliably. The problem is that the thing has to kick in somewhere at the beginning of the test, and define a broad range that you belong in, and then a narrower range, and then a narrower range, etc. What this basically does is unfairly "weight" the first few items of the test, because they are the ones that will determine what large band of scores you will be eligible for. Once the machine has pegged you at the lower half, say, there is no way for you to break out of that, because it's never going to give you those harder questions. If that's not where you belong, you won't be able to demonstrate that, and you'll just get the top score of that band. So if you start the thing out and you're nervous and you just make a dumb mistake, that mistake can really cost you--much more than it would later in the test. All these models are probabilistic, so guessing and just making dumb mistakes are accounted for. But the moment you go adaptive, the beauty of the model is trashed at the beginning and doesn't come into effect until later.

Many of the tests which moved to computer-adaptive methods have gone back to just serving a range of items, but one, the GRE, is still adaptive, even though ETS (the company that makes it and the SAT and the TOEFL) knows it doesn't work reliably (people taking the test over and over can get very different scores). Evidently there are financial/political reasons they can't get rid of it (rumor).

Slashdot Comments | MIT Axes the 500-Word Application Essay
Blogged with the Flock Browser

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

I can pay you back with penny stamps

Dear Daddy

This is just a very secret letter between you and I. I really do not like asking you, but do you think you could afford to send me some money, what ever you can afford. I want to buy Mummy something for Xmas, but as we only get (?) a week pocket money I'm afraid I spend mine. I try hard to keep some, but somehow it goes. If you can Daddy, I will keep sending you penny stamps to pay you back young man, then you can use them can't you. We are very disappointing you will not be home for Xmas but we will still hang a stockingup for you. Father Xmas might leave you something if you are good.

Please do not tell Mummie I have written, else she will be annoyed at me asking you for money, she is in town at this moment.So I will post this straight away. If you can't send it don't worry.

Lots of Love + Kisses old-pop xxxxYour Ann.

Letters of Note: I can pay you back with penny stamps
Blogged with the Flock Browser

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Where Did All Those Gorgeous Russians Come From?

Though this is a fairly frivolous question (OK, extremely frivolous), I am convinced it has an interesting answer. To put it bluntly, in the Soviet Union there was no market for female beauty. No fashion magazines featured beautiful women, since there weren't any fashion magazines. No TV series depended upon beautiful women for high ratings, since there weren't any ratings. There weren't many men rich enough to seek out beautiful women and marry them, and foreign men couldn't get the right sort of visa. There were a few film stars, of course, but some of the most famous—I'm thinking of Lyubov Orlova, alleged to be Stalin's favorite actress—were wholesome and cheerful rather than sultry and stunning. Unusual beauty, like unusual genius, was considered highly suspicious in the Soviet Union and its satellite people's republics.

Ultimately, what goes for the fashion world goes for other spheres of human activity. In the past, you had to play chess or be a champion gymnast to come to international attention if you were born in the Eastern bloc—chess and competitive sports figuring among the few party-approved export industries. Nowadays, stars in fields previously unsanctioned by the party—crime novelists, conceptual artists, computer whizzes—from Russia, Hungary, or Uzbekistan have a shot at fame and fortune, too. As for talented entrepreneurs, the sky's the limit.

Beauty is a matter of luck, but the same could be said of many other talents. And what open markets do for beautiful women they also do for other sorts of genius. So, cheer up next time you see a Siberian blonde dominating male attention at the far end of the table: The same mechanisms that brought her to your dinner party might one day bring you the Ukrainian doctor who cures your cancer or the Polish stockbroker who makes your fortune.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

How Do You Create Config Files Automatically?

"When deploying new server/servergroup/cluster to your IT infrastructure, deployment (simplified) consist of following steps: OS installation: to do it over network, boot server must be configured for this new server/servergroup/cluster; configuration/package management: configuration server has to be aware of the newcomer(s); monitoring and alerting: monitoring software must be reconfigured; and performance metrics: a tool for collecting data must be reconfigured. There are many excellent software solutions for those particular jobs, say configuration management (Puppet, Chef, cfengine, bcfg2), monitoring hosts and services (Nagios, Zabbix, OpenNMS, Zenoss, etc) and performance metrics (Ganglia, etc.). But each of these tools has to be configured independently or at least configuration has to be generated. What tools do you use to achieve this? For example, when you have to deploy a new server, how do you create configs for, let's say, PXE boot server, Puppet, Nagios and Ganglia, at once?"

Actually this is one of the goals VMWare is proposing to meet with their vSphere. vCenter, ad nauseum initiatives. [full disclosure I've beta'ed VMWare software since v1]. This also presupposes full P2V, V2P cross machine conversions if required. The goal here is be anywhere, and run anywhere.

Now if I had the money, I'd toss full de-dup into the storage array mix as well, so much of the image file size essentially disappears unless there is simply no duplication anywhere. And if you are in that situation, take my advice. Quit, or just shoot yourself and get it over with.

It's been a long time since I played at that level (six mainframes, eighteen mini's, 575 desktops, and I never got an accurate count of the 100+ laptops) but at some point you have to ask yourself, when does the customization end? Standardization was the only thing that kept myself and my team of four !relatively! sane.

If you seriously need customization of that level, then you aren't doing things right. Reduce each VM to a single app (Apache, MySQL, IIS, network appliance, whatever) and use virtual switches to create a topology as required. Think of each VM as a particular Lego block, or IC: Systems Componentization as it were. And this is where de-dupe will also shine.

Friday, September 25, 2009

What Have VCs Really Done for Innovation?

.... So I’m miffed by the National Venture Capital Association’s (NVCA) claim that companies like Microsoft and Google “…would not exist today without the funding and guidance provided during their early stages by venture capitalists.” And I’m amused that the NVCA claims credit for creating 12 million jobs and generating $3 trillion in revenue (that’s only 21 percent of U.S. GDP). In the software industry (which includes Internet/Web 2.0), they stake claim to 81% of the all jobs created. Yes, 81%. Can they please give the entrepreneurs who risk their life savings, max out their credit cards and put their families in the back seat a little more credit? We’re not talking about divvying up the company’s stock here, just a pat on the back.

How’d they come up with these numbers? They added up all the revenue generated in 2008 by any company a venture capitalist ever invested a dime in. So if John Doerr bought Bill a lunch in 1985, they’d count Microsoft as part of their empire. Maybe I’m exaggerating a bit. But seriously, the NVCA numbers aren’t even remotely credible. How can VCs claim credit for the revenue of a company which they cashed out of twenty or thirty years ago? And even then, claiming credit for 81% of tech jobs and 21% of GDP? More to the point, would those jobs never have been created if the VCs had never appeared on the scene? How can the NVCA prove causality?

The answer is, the NVCA can prove nothing and a growing pool of data suggests that VCs at best have little to no impact on these companies and at worst have a negative impact. I just completed a research project in which we interviewed the founders of 549 successful companies in several high-growth industries – the ones VC’s are most likely to fund. We selected companies that had made it out of the garage and were generating real revenue. Guess what? Hardly ten percent of the serial entrepreneurs took venture money in their first startups. In their subsequent launches, the proportion who took venture money went up to a quarter. In other words, three-quarters of even the most experienced entrepreneurs didn’t rely on venture capital (new report to be released in October).

Kids Who Get Spanked

The IQs of the younger children who were spanked were 5 points lower on average four years later than those of children of the same age who were not spanked. Scores among the older children were an average of 2.8 points lower among spanked children than children who were not spanked.

"Parents spank to decrease bad behavior in the short and long term and to promote positive behavior," she tells WebMD. "What the research tells us is that spanking doesn't seem to be doing either of these things."

Friday, September 18, 2009


The fundamental problem here isn't the RAID concept, is that the throughput and access times of spinning rust haven't changed much in 30 years. Fundamentally, today's hard drive is no more than 100 times as fast (both in throughput and latency) than a 1980s one, while it holds well over 1 million times more.

ZFS (and other advanced filesystems) will now do partial reconstruction of a failed drive (that is, they don't have to bit copy the entire drive, only the parts which are used), which helps. But there are still problems. ZFS's pathological case results in rebuild times of 2-3 WEEKS for a 1TB drive in a RAID-Z (similar to RAID-5). It's all due to the horribly small throughput, maximum IOPs, and latency of the hard drive.

SSDs, on the other hand, are no where near the problem. They've got considerably more throughput than a hard drive, and, more importantly, THOUSANDS of times better IOPS. Frankly, more than any other reason, I expect the significant IOPS of the SSD to signal the death knell of HDs in the next decade. By 2020, expect HDs to be gone from everything, even in places where HDs still have better GB/$. The rebuild rates and maintenance of HDs simply can't compete with flash.

Note: IOPS = I/O Per Second, or the number of read/write operations (irregardless of size) which a disk can service. HDs top out around 350, consumer SSDs do under 10,000, and high-end SSDs can do up to 100,000.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Stock Market Manipulation By Millisecond Trading

A firm I worked with recently tore down an arbitrage network (they were getting out of the business as it was not core) which comprised of a great deal of Layer 2 dark fiber between sites in NYC and an external data center in NJ, Force 10 fabric switches with multiple paths to server clusters, and a great many Sun X-series servers running Linux. This arbitrage network bypassed the standard corporate (i.e. Cisco-based) network as they wanted exclusivity, higher bandwidth and as much speed as possible. Still, there were issues and the whole environment was scrapped since the actual returns did not match the expectations or cover the costs.

When I looked over the shoulders of the designers (they didn't want too much support from the regular network engineering team) they were concerned with raw performance and not as much with security or other daily operational issues. I would characterize it as the difference between, say, a NASCAR Sprint Cup car and your regular transportation. The former is purpose-built solely for performance while the other has to contend with safety requirements, daily functionality, and a lower common denominator for use.

The location of their server no longer matters as GS was allowed to put a peeker in line between everyone else (on the planet) and the publicly traded ETNS. They get an opportunity to front run every transaction. Every single one. Zerohedge is a financial blog that has been keeping up with this story. Their coverage is good if a little breathless.

The Securities and Exchange Commission is seeking to curb a practice criticized for giving an unfair advantage to some market participants who have lightning-fast computer trading software.

Friday, September 11, 2009

I’m Better Than You Are

... she thanked me profusely for the rescue and also for not saying “That’s almost as bad as…” When I asked her what she meant, she asked me had I never noticed how people always say they’ve had worse things happen to them than you have? This was the first time I’d met someone else who was bothered by this.

I have occasionally noticed this pattern in speech before and while it’s sometimes humorous, more often than not it's annoying. Only after she reminded me, though, did I stop to analyze why we do it.

I can understand when you are telling a person you had an unexpected expense that was tough to deal with and they reply that they can relate, then go on to tell you of their most recent unexpected outlay. That, I think, is their way of saying they have been through what you’re going through. Another phrase is, of course, “Been there!”

But what I’m really talking about is the one-upmanship or ‘I’m better than you are’ meaning behind that phrase "almost as bad."

"Oh yeah, that’s almost as bad as…”

Now, there may be times when indeed, my experience might not have been as bad as one they’ve been through, but even in that case, isn’t it still wrong to begin dialog with someone in that way?


.. the systematic and conscious practice of "creative intimidation", making one's associates feel inferior and thereby gaining the status of being "one-up" on them.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Costco exceptional cash conversion cycle

Costco also has an exceptional cash conversion cycle. That's a little formula that measures, in days, how quickly a company can buy inventory, get it on the shelves, and sell it, thus converting it to cash. Costco turns over its entire inventory 12.8 times a year (more than once a month!) -- allowing it to sell merchandise even before it has to pay its suppliers for it.

This enables the company to buy some of its inventory on the vendors' payment terms instead of using its working capital. Costco's outstanding cash conversion cycle has run one to three days over the past few years. By comparison, a more traditional retailer like Macy's usually takes at least 70 days to convert its inventory to cash.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Isaav Asimov - The Future of Humanity

The very thing that makes it possible for us to use more and more energy is our industrial technologized world. And another thing that our industry produces is dust. And the air is dustier now than its ever been before in human history. Except perhaps very temporarily after a large volcanic eruption.

This means that the Earth's albedo, the percentage of light from the sun that it reflects back into space before it hits the ground, has been going up slightly because dusty air reflects more light than clear air does. And...well, not very much more, but enough. It has been making the temperature of the Earth drop since 1940. It's been going down steadily. Again, not very much. You're probably not aware that the summers are cold, or that the winters are extraordinarily icy, they're not. The drop in temperature may be one degree. But it's enough to cut down on the growing season in the northern climates. It makes the weather a little bit worse. It sends the storm tracts further south, so that the Sahara Desert creeps southward, so that the monsoon rains in India fail a little bit. Just enough so that the harvests aren't as good as they used to be, and the Earth's reserve supply of food sinks to it's lowest in recent history.

And just as this is happening...and it's going to continue happening because the air isn't going to get un-dusty unless we stop our industrial activity. And if we stop our industrial activity, that's going to be because we've suffered some complete disaster.

So, the weather isn't going to turn better. The air is going to stay dusty, and it's going to continue getting a little colder. And at the same time, it's getting hard to get energy. Energy is much more expensive than it used to be; oil prices are up. And that means that fertilizer is more expensive than it used to be. And it turns out that the green revolution depends on strains of grain that require...yes, they do what they're supposed to do...but they require a lot of irrigation; a lot of water, and a lot of fertilizer. And the fertilizer isn't there. And the irrigation machinery is hard to run now with expensive oil. And, of course, the pesticides are produced in high-energy chemical factories; their price goes up. Everything is combining to cut down on the food supply. And to arrange it so that in years to come, we may have trouble keeping our present level of food, let alone increasing it.

There are always people who think that all we have to do, after all is abandoned, all this foolish technology that we've made ourselves slave to, and go back like our ancestors and live close to the soil with the good things of nature. That would be great if we could do it. If we could go back to the way it was before World War II, technologically, we could support all the people that lived on Earth before World War II. The catch is that in these last thirty years one billion and a half people have been added to the population of the Earth. And we have been feeding them largely because of all these things that we have done in these last thirty years, the good weather, the fertilizers, and the pesticides, and the irrigation, and the green revolution, and all the rest of it. If we abandon that, we also have to abandon a billion and a half people; and there are going to be very few volunteers for the job.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Drought turning Texas as dry as toast

Off-duty police officers are patrolling streets, looking for people illegally watering their lawns and gardens. Residents are encouraged to stealthily rat out water scofflaws on a 24-hour hot line. One Texas lake has dipped so low that stolen cars dumped years ago are peeking up through the waterline.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Chiranjeevi Praja Rajyam

I wanted to wait and see how the script unfolds, but it is now intermission time ( 3 months more to go, and 3-4 months have gone by now) and I am still not seeing the point of the story. I am waiting for that scene to come when all that didn’t make sense so far will make sense and provide the needed punch, but now I’ve lost hope. Neither has Chiranjeevi, or his top aides, made clear what change he will bring nor do I see the signs of that happening.

Firstly, the folks of Andhra Pradesh and really cool dudes; they seem to show in hordes for just about anybody’s roadshows or meetings. The PRP camp seems pretty sure that there is no Chiru-wave to ride on because they are busy digging deep in to Government statistics of castes, communities, and population to figure out how the election equations will play out. Chiranjeevi seems to have no vision of his own and just does not have what it takes to be a leader. On the other hand, he is acting according to the script written by the producer, Allu Aravind, of Bollywood’s All-Time Blockbuster, Ghajini. It also looks like Chiranjeevi has no ideas of his own. His three top aides are his family members and it seems to have just become one big money making extravaganza for them. It is actually resembling the nature of Chiranjeevi’s movies towards the end of this career; they were made only to make money on his name, but with no real substance.

Ok, lets get to the facts now. The PRP camp is taking three crores per aspiring candidate and this does not include the number of crores the candidate needs to dish out at the time of elections. Where is all this money going to? Now, assuming that each candidate spends 7 crores (3 pre-election plus 4 during election), then when they come to power doesn’t each candidate have to recover their costs? Isn’t this the same politics we’ve all been disillusioned about and wanting change from? In fact, I wouldn’t even be surprised if Mr. Chiranjeevi is unware that each aspiring candidate to their party has to pay so much of cash to be considered.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009


Well, every city begins as a slum. First it’s a seasonal camp, with the usual free-wheeling make-shift expediency. Creature comforts are scarce, squalor the norm. Hunters, scouts, traders, pioneers find a good place to stay for the night, or two, and then if their camp is a desirable spot it grows into an untidy village, or uncomfortable fort, or dismal official outpost, with permanent buildings surrounded by temporary huts. If the location of the village favors growth, concentric rings of squatters aggregate around the core until the village swells to a town. When a town prospers it acquires a center — civic or religious — and the edges of the city continue to expand in unplanned, ungovernable messiness. It doesn’t matter in what century or in which country, the teaming guts of a city will shock and disturb the established residents. The eternal disdain for newcomers is as old as the first city. Romans complained of the tenements, shacks and huts at the edges of their town that “were putrid, sodden and sagging.” Every so often Roman soldiers would raze a settlement of squatters, only to find it rebuilt or moved within weeks.

Like any city, a slum is highly efficient. Maybe even more than the official sections because nothing goes to waste. The rag pickers and resellers and scavengers all live in the slums and scour the rest of the city for scraps to assemble into shelter, and to feed their economy. Slums are the skin of the city, its permeable edge that can balloon as it grows. The city as a whole is a wonderful technological invention which concentrates the flow of energy and minds into computer chip-like density. In a relatively small footprint, a city not only provides living quarters and occupations in a minimum of space, but a city also generates a maximum of ideas and inventions.

freedom, free speech

The (much less ironic) observation is that different governments have different priorities and their policing tactics reflect this.

China doesn't much care about bourgeois western "intellectual property", so you can send spam hawking pirated software all you want. Send out invites for your next falun gong meeting or democracy protest, though, and you'll discover what 'so called "unfree"' really means.

The US is quite solid on speech that doesn't upset major corporations, and is an excellent spot for saying mean things about religious figures, expressing all kinds of fun political theories, hosting your "handguns I have known and loved" archive or whatever. Not such a good place to host "WareZ and DeCSS 4LyFE!", though.

There are plenty of locations(though exactly where they are tends to drift over time) where the state is weak enough, or enough in need of foreign investment/aid, that(as long as you maintain a polite disinterest in local politics, and pay the occasional bribe) they won't really bother you at all. Pretty much any government will come down on you like a ton of bricks in response to some class of actions on your part and pretty much any government has another class of activities of which it approves, or simply doesn't care.

Friday, July 10, 2009

notions of human goodness

No, when you want to win the approbation of a cat you must mind what you are about and work your way carefully. If you don't know the cat, you had best begin by saying, "Poor pussy." After which add "did 'ums" in a tone of soothing sympathy. You don't know what you mean any more than the cat does, but the sentiment seems to imply a proper spirit on your part, and generally touches her feelings to such an extent that if you are of good manners and passable appearance she will stick her back up and rub her nose against you. Matters having reached this stage, you may venture to chuck her under the chin and tickle the side of her head, and the intelligent creature will then stick her claws into your legs; and all is friendship and affection, as so sweetly expressed in the beautiful lines--

"I love little pussy, her coat is so warm,
And if I don't tease her she'll do me no harm;
So I'll stroke her, and pat her, and feed her with food,
And pussy will love me because I am good."

The last two lines of the stanza give us a pretty true insight into pussy's notions of human goodness. it is evident that in her opinion goodness consists of stroking her, and patting her, and feeding her with food. I fear this narrow-minded view of virtue, though, is not confined to pussies. We are all inclined to adopt a similar standard of merit in our estimate of other people. A good man is a man who is good to us, and a bad man is a man who doesn't do what we want him to. The truth is, we each of us have an inborn conviction that the whole world, with everybody and everything in it, was created as a sort of necessary appendage to ourselves. Our fellow men and women were made to admire us and to minister to our various requirements. You and I, dear reader, are each the center of the universe in our respective opinions. You, as I understand it, were brought into being by a considerate Providence in order that you might read and pay me for what I write; while I, in your opinion, am an article sent into the world to write something for you to read. The stars--as we term the myriad other worlds that are rushing down beside us through the eternal silence--were put into the heavens to make the sky look interesting for us at night; and the moon with its dark mysteries and ever-hidden face is an arrangement for us to flirt under.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

History of the Income Tax in the United States

The nation had few taxes in its early history. From 1791 to 1802, the United States government was supported by internal taxes on distilled spirits, carriages, refined sugar, tobacco and snuff, property sold at auction, corporate bonds, and slaves. The high cost of the War of 1812 brought about the nation's first sales taxes on gold, silverware, jewelry, and watches. In 1817, however, Congress did away with all internal taxes, relying on tariffs on imported goods to provide sufficient funds for running the government.

In 1862, in order to support the Civil War effort, Congress enacted the nation's first income tax law. It was a forerunner of our modern income tax in that it was based on the principles of graduated, or progressive, taxation and of withholding income at the source. During the Civil War, a person earning from $600 to $10,000 per year paid tax at the rate of 3%. Those with incomes of more than $10,000 paid taxes at a higher rate. Additional sales and excise taxes were added, and an “inheritance” tax also made its debut. In 1866, internal revenue collections reached their highest point in the nation's 90-year history—more than $310 million, an amount not reached again until 1911.

The Act of 1862 established the office of Commissioner of Internal Revenue. The Commissioner was given the power to assess, levy, and collect taxes, and the right to enforce the tax laws through seizure of property and income and through prosecution. The powers and authority remain very much the same today.

In 1868, Congress again focused its taxation efforts on tobacco and distilled spirits and eliminated the income tax in 1872. It had a short-lived revival in 1894 and 1895. In the latter year, the U.S. Supreme Court decided that the income tax was unconstitutional because it was not apportioned among the states in conformity with the Constitution.

In 1913, the 16th Amendment to the Constitution made the income tax a permanent fixture in the U.S. tax system. The amendment gave Congress legal authority to tax income and resulted in a revenue law that taxed incomes of both individuals and corporations. In fiscal year 1918, annual internal revenue collections for the first time passed the billion-dollar mark, rising to $5.4 billion by 1920. With the advent of World War II, employment increased, as did tax collections—to $7.3 billion. The withholding tax on wages was introduced in 1943 and was instrumental in increasing the number of taxpayers to 60 million and tax collections to $43 billion by 1945.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Swine flu

seasonal flu claimed an average of 36,000 lives annually in the 1990s, according to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

small city vs big city

People seem to forget that Shockley went to death valley because there was absolutely nothing there and you could get all the basics dirt cheap. The nutcases that started the silicon revolution did that in barns and garages and of those in the cheapest they could find. The shockley five went to start Intel in the neighbourhood and thus Silicon Valley was born.

If I where building a startup in the US today, I'd seriously consider Detroit. You can buy houses for 500$ right now in Detroit and infrastructure is just good enough to live. You could spent years there on the most minimal VC and since Detroit is so super-boring now the team actually would have a personal interest in concentrating on the thing their building.

Problem is, and all jokes about single engineers aside, that means the spouse has to find something viable in that location as well. Some professions are pretty portable, others aren't. But it's not just about where you can lure a single person.

Plus, if you lose your job, suddenly you're in Toledo where there's not that many other companies. At least in the Bay Area, you know you have multiple options to switch to should you want to. Without having to sell your house which no one wants or needs to buy. (Admittedly this is a chicken-and-egg problem; if enough companies move to Toledo or wherever, this goes away.)

My wife & I left silicon valley about 5 years ago at the tail-end of the dot-com bust. I had a GREAT time there, aside from the worthless options and 80-hour work weeks. We thought it was time to start a family, and wanted a bigger, less-expensive house, no traffic, slower quality of life. We were willing to trade a premium salary for it.


Turns out that when you're in a smaller town, you have NO OTHER employment options. What happens if you don't like your little tech company? uh, you're screwed. In Silicon Valley you always had a network three deep that could get you a fun, interesting job in a little bit. You had options. A backup plan. In smaller towns you're running without a safety net. If you leave the relocated tech-company, you've got the small-town mindset and businesses. I see plenty of craigslist ads that read, "must have 5 years networking experience, cisco preferred. Be able to build and administer our 50-person network. References required. $10/hr, contract only." I'm seriously NOT kidding.

I wish I could completely rewind my experience and still be in silicon valley. Higher rents, more traffic, silly housing prices and all.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

New Pension System

The major disadvantage of not being able to withdraw the money from the scheme lies in the taxation of the pension.

Pension, in whatever form it is recieved, is taxable under section 17 of the Income Tax Act. NPS deals a double whammy in this.

One, at the time of withdrawing even the partial amount that is allowed, tax will be levied on the withdrawls made. The pension one gets out the corpus continues to attract taxation as mentioned earlier. Therefore there is no respite at all from the tax.

Compare this with any insurance plan or PF or PPF etc. Here the investor gets the full money he has invested together with the returns FREE of tax. Which means, at the time of retirement, he has the option of deciding the mode of investment depending upon his/her convenience. Plus retain a lot of cash to meet expenses like marriage/education of children.

Forget about the fund management charges, even other fixed charges are not very attractive.

For instance, if a person were to make a deposit of Rs.1000/- every month into his pension scheme, the average cost works out to be 6%. So you end up paying a higher cost for a benefit which is non existent!

Cost should not be the only criteria to be looked into while deciding the investment option. Lower cost does not necessarily mean higher return. Because there is nothing called free lunch in this world.

Look at the fund management charges for NPS. 0.0009 percent of the fund value managed. This means, a fund manager should manage really large volumes of money to earn a reasonable fund management fees. Else, the fund manager will most certainly be in loss and any loss making entity will not deliver good performance. This is the universal truth. Already a few of the fund managers are grumbling about the low returns on the funds managed. Where is the incentive for them to perform??

Consider this, if an AMC manages funds worth Rs.100000 crores in the corpus, they will get Rs.90 crores in revenue. But look at the disadvantage of managing a fund of this size. The fund will not be agile enough to take advantage of the market movements.

Also, the biggest drawback of this scheme is that the capital is never given back in full. Whether one likes it or not, he has to continue getting the pension from a designated agency. What if there are better alternatives tomorrow? Or worse still, what if the investor needs the bulk money for any emergency? In the traditional pension plans offered by the insurers, there is an option to withdraw the corpus in cash. This option is missing in the NPS.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Is Your Home A Good Investment?

And it's startling.

We have just been through the biggest boom in real estate in American history. The subsequent bust surely hasn't finished.

Bloomberg News
Dropping home prices are only one of the factors that keep the annual returns on homes low.
Yet look at the numbers. Since 1987, when the Case-Shiller index of 10 major cities begins, it's risen from an index value of 63 to 151. Annual return: Just 4.1% a year. During that period, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, consumer prices rose by 3% a year. Net result: Home prices produced a real return of just 1.15% a year over inflation over that time.

Critics may point out that the analysis is unfair -- after all, it starts counting near the peak of the 1980s housing boom. Fair enough. Look at the performance since, say, early 1994, when home prices were near a historic trough. Surely someone who bought then has made a bundle.

Not necessarily. Since then the ten-city index has risen from a value of 76 to 151. Annual return: 4.7%. Inflation over that period: 2.5%. That's still only a real return of 2.2% a year above inflation.

You can often do better on long-term inflation protected government bonds.

And real estate often costs 2% or more a year in property taxes, condo fees, maintenance, insurance and the like.

Conventional wisdom long held that home ownership was a route to wealth, and the imputed rent -- in other words, the right to live in your home -- was just part of the value you got from it. Under that widespread view, the recent housing bust was simply a temporary, though deep, pothole.

Yet for very many people, even over the past 15 or 20 years, the imputed rent may have been all, or nearly all, the real value they actually got from their home.

Sunday, May 17, 2009


Everything I’ve read about fitness and sleep during the past ten years has talked about the major importance sleep plays in rejuvenating our body — lack of sleep can be as harmful as eating unhealthy foods! While I’ve been trying to change my schedule to wake up earlier, I often find myself waking up extremely tired. I justify going back to sleep because I tell myself it’s probably healthier than waking up early. But then if I don’t deal with lack of sleep for a few nights in a row, I’ll never adjust my sleeping pattern. 

And it's not just difficulty sleeping either, the body ends up literally consuming more energy trying to sleep than it does while conscious. The lack of oxygen in the circulatory system fools the body into overproduction of red blood cells to compensate. This, in turn, leads to a dangerous shift in blood pressure to the point that the heart may cease to function under the load (chronic-conjestive lung and heart failure).

In many cases, those suffering from it are often discovered with blood oxygen levels lower than that of a cadaver.

One thing to remember though, is that the act of sleeping isn't just merely closing the eyes for a few winks, the body *needs* to rest lying down to recover from the negative effects of being upright all day. Blood that is left to pool in the legs for too long can eventually lead to dangerous blood clots.

In my early thirties I started snoring a lot, and very heavily. Two years later I started experiencing symptoms such as forgetting where I was going as I driving down the road, getting into my vehicle and not remembering how to start it, forgetting my own phone number, the inability to perform my job at any level of competency, etc.... I thought I had suffered a major stroke.

I went to the doctor and he said I was a ringer for sleep apnea and referred me to a sleep clinic.

Long story short I was waking 50 times an hour because that's how often my breathing was being interrupted and my body would rouse me due to low oxygen levels in my blood. To me it seemed as if I was awake all night long and never went to sleep.

After being fitted with a cpap mask and sleep machine to pump air into my mouth and nose while I slept it took me three weeks of normal sleep to recover my mental faculties.

REM sleep also doesn't come instantly. In most people you need at least 90 minutes from falling asleep to having your first REM period. Anything under about half an hour is a sign of narcolepsy. Your longest REM episodes happen after several hours.

On the average over a whole night, about a quarter of the time will be REM. It's safe to assume that in the long run those two hours or so of REM a day are what your body actually needs.

But again, you don't get them in one big chunk. You get them interleaved with periods of non-REM sleep. So what it boils down to is that to get your normal quota of REM sleep, you'll actually need those 8 hours a night. You might get by with just 7, but anything less (unless you're over 70) is putting stress on your brain in the long run. You might not outright die, but you won't be very smart or attentive after months of getting significantly less.

No, the most essential type of sleep is slow-wave sleep, which is even mentioned [nytimes.com] in TFA.

I've done some computational modelling of the cerebral cortex, and my hypothesis [bigpond.net.au] (page 7/139) is that slow-wave sleep is used to re-strengthen competitive connections between cortical columns, restoring the ability to think clearly.

Morbidity, [or sickness,] is also "U-shaped," in the sense that both very short sleep and very long sleep are associated with many illnesses - with depression, with obesity, and therefore with heart disease and so forth. But the [ideal amount of sleep] for different health measures isn't all in the same place. Most of the "low points" are at seven or eight hours, but there are some at six and some even at nine. I think diabetes is lowest in seven-hour sleepers, [for example]. But these measures aren't as clear as the mortality data.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

REST, Restful

How I explained REST to my wife...

We need to be able to talk to all machines about all the stuff that's on all the other machines. So we need some way of having one machine tell another machine about a resource that might be on yet another machine.

Wife: Sounds like GET is a pretty important verb.

Ryan: It is. Especially when you're using a web browser because browsers pretty much just get stuff. They don't do a lot of other types of interaction with resources. This is a problem because it has led many people to assume that HTTP is just for getting. But HTTP is actually a general purpose protocol for applying verbs to nouns.

Ryan: Because web pages are designed to be understood by people. A machine doesn't care about layout and styling. Machines basically just need the data. Ideally, every URL would have a human readable and a machine readable representation. When a machine GETs the resource, it will ask for the machine readable one. When a browser GETs a resource for a human, it will ask for the human readable one.

Tim Berners-Lee on the next Web

Turkish Court says kissy worker gets job back

The woman was confronted by her boss after she was caught kissing on tape on the business's closed circuit TV, Anatolian said. The business in the capital was not identified.

"When you take into consideration that the kissing was momentary and that there were no customers present and that no other workers saw it, is a grave decision to say the action breached the order of the workplace," the appeals court said, annulling a decision by a lower court to uphold the firing.

Distributed Denial of Dollars attack

A friend of anakata told Blog Pirate that the bank account to which the payments are directed has only 1000 free transfers, after which any transfers have a surcharge of 2 SEK for the account holder. Any internet-fee payments made after the first 1000, which includes the law firm’s ordinary transfers, will instead of giving 1 SEK, cost 1 SEK to the law firm. Since Danowsky & Partners Advokatbyrå is a small firm, all the transactions are handled by hand. Handling all payments will be time consuming, costing the law firm in productivity. Maybe it will even affect their success in other cases.

Perhaps you didn't read that the judge is drinking buddies with the prosecution? The judge belongs to several - uhhh - "fraternities" whose goal is to enrich the *iaa's of the world? Perhaps you missed the fact that a jail term was handed down for what amounts to a civil matter? Or, maybe the fact that this court (let alone the judge) has no jurisdiction over the servers? (I'm not certain whether the court has jurisdiction over the company or not, but the servers are definitely beyond the court's jurisdiction - I should find out where TPB is incorporated as a business)

I'm not savvy enough to explain a whole lot more, but, yes - this kangaroo court is so flawed and tainted that any lawyer in the world should be embarassed to even read about it. Everyone involved in the prosecution whored themselves out shamelessly.

Wrong country, wrong court, wrong judge, and most definitely the wrong complainants.

more US troops died from accidents, illness or suicide than from combat

An estimated five soldiers in Iraq try to commit suicide each day. Between September last year and last month, more US troops, 72, died from accidents, illness or suicide than from combat, 67.

Friday, May 01, 2009

city of Christiansfeld, Denmark

For instance, the city of Christiansfeld, Denmark used “ambiguity and urban legibility” in street design to reduce high death rates on the town’s central traffic intersection. Instead of erecting warning signs, road markings, and traffic signals, Bjarne Winterberg and the engineering firm Ramboll removed traffic signals and road markings. No mode of transport was given priority and pedestrians, buses, cars, and trucks used eye contact to negotiate the junction.

Surface treatment, lightning columns, and junction corners were squared up. The purpose was to make the intersection resemble the centre of the town or to create a public realm. Expectedly, the number of killed or seriously injured (KSI) during the last three years was reduced to zero, moreover, traffic backups were reduced. Compared to junctions having traffic signals, ambiguous junctions prevent accidents, reduce delays, and are cheaper to construct and maintain.

Shared space is another woonerf principle that is applied to transform busy traffic intersections. In Friesland market town of Oosterwolde, different types of traffic intermingle giving an impression of chaos and disorder, in fact, traffic negotiates the junction using eye contact and care for other types of transport. No state regulation or control is visible and traffic movement depends on informal convention and legibility.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

VMWare vSphere 4 Offers SMBs "Always On IT"

An entry-level price point of $166 per processor for the VMWare vSphere 4 allows smaller companies to consolidate servers without breaking the bank and enable the high availability "always on IT" that VMWare claims is the aspiration of all SMBs.

VMWare's 3 new SMB products break into two groups with the break point being 20 physical servers.

  • $166 per processor -- VMware vSphere 4 Essentials: All-in-one solution for small offices to consolidate and manage many application workloads while reducing hardware and operating costs. (fewer than 20 physical servers)
  • $499 per processor -- VMware vSphere 4 Essentials Plus: Adds VMware High Availability and VMware Data Recovery for a complete server consolidation and business continuity solution for the small office IT environment. (fewer than 20 physical servers)
  • $2,245 per processor -- VMware vSphere 4 Advanced: Scalable, strategic consolidation and availability solution that includes VMware VMotion, VMware Fault Tolerance, VMware Data Recovery and VMware vShield Zones. (more than 20 physical servers)

Monday, April 20, 2009

comic sans

The font, a casual script designed to look like comic-book lettering, is the bane of graphic designers, other aesthetes and Internet geeks. It is a punch line: "Comic Sans walks into a bar, bartender says, 'We don't serve your type.'" On social-messaging site Twitter, complaints about the font pop up every minute or two. An online comic strip shows a gang kicking and swearing at Mr. Connare.

The jolly typeface has spawned the Ban Comic Sans movement, nearly a decade old but stronger now than ever, thanks to the Web. The mission: "to eradicate this font" and the "evil of typographical ignorance."

"If you love it, you don't know much about typography," Mr. Connare says. But, he adds, "if you hate it, you really don't know much about typography, either, and you should get another hobby."

Typefaces convey meaning, typographers say. Helvetica is an industry standard, plain and reliable. Times New Roman is classic. Depending on your point of view, Comic Sans is fun, breezy, silly or vulgar and lazy. It can be "analogous to showing up for a black-tie event in a clown costume," warns the Ban Comic Sans movement's manifesto. The font's original name was Comic Book, but Mr. Connare thought that didn't sound like a font name. He used Sans (short for sans-serif) because most of the lettering, except for the uppercase I, doesn't have serifs, the small features at the end of strokes.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

IRS Workers Stealing Your Cash!

As it turned out, the Bank of America employee, Emmanuel Ekwuruke, had stolen nearly half a million dollars in taxpayers checks, many of which he manipulated from "IRS" to "MRS" by making the 'I' into an 'M.' He then added a "MR" and his wife's first and last name, before attempting to cash the checks. Just last week, Ekwuruke, a native of Nigeria in the U.S. as a permanent resident, was found guilty of theft, embezzlement, misapplication by a bank employee, as well as theft of public money and aggravated identity theft and sentenced to 66 months in prison.

Sikhs in Pakistan pay Rs.20 mn to Taliban

The minority Sikh community Wednesday met the Taliban demand in return for 'protection' in Orakzai Agency in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, the Daily Times reported.

The Taliban then released Sikh leader Sardar Saiwang Singh and vacated the community's houses. The militia announced that the Sikhs were now free to live anywhere in the area.

'They also announced protection for the Sikh community, saying no one would harm them after they paid jizia. Sikhs who had left the agency would now return to their houses and resume business,' an official said.

Maybe US can have similar arrangements for H-1B slaves. We pay some jizia and are left alone - "no one would harm them after they paid jizia".