mm267: XO: A missionary position

January 27, 2008

l-hc

MUDGE’S Musings

olpc7926

Interest continues in the One Laptop Per Child initiative. As faithful reader recalls, this nanocorner of the ‘Sphere©‘s interest in the subject continues, also. Here’s where we’ve been:

One Laptop Per Child @ L-HC

mm088: Meet the XO
mm089: Amateur mapmaking…
mm099: A $99 Desktop…
mm149: India’s take…
mm153: By a Laptop, Get one…
mm162: Laptop with a Mission
mm170: Technology and Ed …
mm179: OLPC for India after all?
mm189: OLPC cranks up!
mm203: OLPC: News; discouraging word
mm212: Cheap computing…
mm219: OLPC — Harvard speaks
mm232: Li’l green laptops a hit in Peru
mm247: OLPC — reviews are coming in
mm249: OLPC – News, and a review

Read the rest of this entry »

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mm265: It’s a Bush administration; the wealthy get wealthier while the poor suck hind tit

January 25, 2008

MUDGE’S Musings

The number crunchers are beginning to weigh in on the administration’s latest economic stimulus plan.

Can one really be surprised that the stimulus mainly impacts those who need it least?

Paul Krugman had the following observations in the NYTimes, and on his blog:

Stimulus Gone Bad

By PAUL KRUGMAN | Published: January 25, 2008

House Democrats and the White House have reached an agreement on an economic stimulus plan. Unfortunately, the plan — which essentially consists of nothing but tax cuts and gives most of those tax cuts to people in fairly good financial shape — looks like a lemon.

Specifically, the Democrats appear to have buckled in the face of the Bush administration’s ideological rigidity, dropping demands for provisions that would have helped those most in need. And those happen to be the same provisions that might actually have made the stimulus plan effective.

In his related blog (linked to in the Times, and full of a series of useful comments on the stimulus plan) he reproduces the chart that the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center created after analysis:

rebateshare

Predictable:the top 40% of income earners would get 58% of the proceeds. It’s just so typically wrong-headed. We’re headed toward rough seas; let’s take the motors off the lower-deck lifeboats, so that the upper deck lifeboats have two!

And the Democratic leaders in Congress, as has been typical for them since they assumed majority status after the 2006 elections, caved. No stomach for a fight, Ms. Pelosi? If not, you certainly are in the wrong place at the wrong time!

Krugman points out that getting money to people who really need it “does double duty: it alleviates hardship, and also pumps up consumer spending.”

The result: a program that isn’t helpful where most needed, and fails in its goal as an economic stimulus.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Stimulus Gone Bad – New York Times

You needn’t be a card-carrying curmudgeon to be disgusted.

I just love the FDR quote, at a time when spats-wearing plutocrats were desperately clinging to their customary piracy – er, business – as usual:

“We have always known that heedless self-interest was bad morals; we know now that it is bad economics.”

When will it end, you ask? timeanddate.com tells us: 360 days, 15 hours: Noon Eastern Standard Time, Tuesday, 20-January-2009.

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE

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mm264: FDA: Cloned animals okay to join the food chain

January 24, 2008

MUDGE’S Musings

52329_2ce671303e

Robert Brooks/Creative Commons licensed.

This nanocorner of the ‘Sphere© considers itself a friend to science, and a natural enemy of those who deny it.

In that vein we have discussed the topic of genetically modified foodstuffs a number of times in this space.

Battle Over Genetically Modified Foods

mm236: G.M. wine
mm233: Corn in the news
mm223: Pigs, bees, fish
mm198: GM foods – wrongheaded opposition
mm109: Too much of a good thing

But an editorial writer in NYTimes this week tackles the issue of cloned animals in the food chain, science that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration blessed last week, and makes some scientific sense.

nytimes

Closing the Barn Door After the Cows Have Gotten Out

By VERLYN KLINKENBORG | Published: January 23, 2008

Last week, the Food and Drug Administration cleared the way for the eventual sale of meat and dairy products from cloned animals, saying, in effect, that consumers face no health risks from them. The next day, the Department of Agriculture asked farmers to keep their cloned animals off the market until consumers have time to get over their anticloning prejudice. That is one prejudice I plan to hold on to. I will not be eating cloned meat.

The reason has nothing to do with my personal health or safety. I think the clearest way to understand the problem with cloning is to consider a broader question: Who benefits from it? Proponents will say that the consumer does, because we will get higher quality, more consistent foods from cloned animals. But the real beneficiaries are the nation’s large meatpacking companies — the kind that would like it best if chickens grew in the shape of nuggets. Anyone who really cares about food — its different tastes, textures and delights — is more interested in diversity than uniformity.

A felicitous turn of phrase: … “meatpacking companies – the kind that would like it best if chickens grew in the shape of nuggets.” Wow! Wish I could write like that!

Species diversity is a good thing, and cloning is its enemy.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Closing the Barn Door After the Cows Have Gotten Out – New York Times

The writer’s point is that seeds can be banked (and hurrah! for those heirloom tomatoes that seem to be landing in farmers markets and upscale food stores), but we apparently haven’t decided that “animal seeds,” i.e, their genetic material, are possible to harvest and save.

Heirloom prime rib, anyone?

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE

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mm263: This man -so- wants to pull the trigger…

January 23, 2008

MUDGE’S Musings

bloomberg Now that we’re three weeks into 2008, and Blue Monday is behind us, we’re ready to once again consider the presidential prospects of New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Anyone stumbling more than once over this nanocorner of the ‘Sphere© will recall that Mayor Mike’s non-campaign has intrigued us for many months.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg of NYC for U.S. President 2008

mm024: Bloomberg?
mm038.1: Jews Sorta Like Bloomberg Even Though…
mm051: Bloomberg.com: Bloomberg’s Money, Visibility…
mm054: Chicago Tribune news: An Idea for Bloomberg
mm057: Bloomberg for President?
mm058: What Kind of President would Michael Bloomberg?
mm064: How to take down plutocrat Michael Bloomberg…
mm066: Michael Bloomberg’s Knightly Ambitions
mm069: The Votes Are In for New York’s Mayor Mike
mm086: Bloomberg Takes School Plan… to Midwest
mm110: Grading Mayoral Control
mm117: The cure for the Electoral College is worse…
mm208: Overdue a Bloomberg post
mm238: Bloomberg’s candidacy — closer to real?
mm248: Political Potpourri
mm254: Bloomberg – just won’t go away…

Faithful reader may further recall our R-word post of a few days ago. Paul Krugman was analyzing the Republican and Democratic candidates’ plans for dealing with our current increasingly dire economic distress. We commented that Krugman’s analysis left out a key player.

Can’t help but wonder what Michael Bloomberg thinks… Mike, Mr. self-made billionaire, what gets us out of our funk, fast?

Apparently, the mayor, or his people, were thinking along similar lines.

nytimes

Bloomberg Rips Federal Stimulus Package

By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS | Published: January 23, 2008 | Filed at 7:37 p.m. ET

WASHINGTON (AP) — New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the White House and Congress on Wednesday are negotiating a shortsighted economic stimulus package after years of lousy financial management.

At an evening session of a meeting of the U.S. Council of Mayors in Washington, DC, Bloomberg laid into the administration’s proposal.

The billionaire mayor, who is said to be considering an independent presidential bid yet denies that he is a candidate, said the $150 billion stimulus package being hammered out between Democratic and Republican leaders won’t be enough.

The man knows his numbers; recall that starting from a good idea, he worked smart enough, and hard enough to become a billionaire.

”There’s just one problem: It’s not going to make much of a difference because we’ve already been running huge deficits,” Bloomberg said.

Some of those urging Bloomberg to run for president say his record as a CEO is his biggest selling point in a time of economic turmoil.

And, as MUDGE asked the other day, does he have a better plan in mind? Actually, yes.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Bloomberg Rips Federal Stimulus Package – New York Times

Makes sense, doesn’t it? A few hundred dollars of tax rebate isn’t going to save anyone’s house.

Makes sense, doesn’t it? Plan to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure for the long term, rather than playing political games with earmarks year to year.

Makes sense, doesn’t it? Ease immigration – get more motivated, vigorous workers into the country to help us work our way out of our economic funk (can’t grow by shrinking!).

As I hoped, on this issue, the man makes sense.

Your country needs you, Michael Bloomberg!

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE

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mm262: Making the world better, one wall wart at a time

January 22, 2008

MUDGE’S Musings

It’s back! SASB©. Three recent looks at technology in today’s and tomorrow’s world.

shortattention_thumb2 ©

Wall wart? That’s the affectionate term for those transformers that power so many of today’s electronics. And even if we turn off the computer or the printer that’s plugged into one, if we leave the transformer in the wall, it’s drawing power and wasting energy.

But there are people out there with a better mousetrap – er, wall wart.

“We’re talking about the exact same principle as replacing incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent ones,” he said from Phoenix. “If our products were built into all consumer electronics — computers, flat-screen TVs, cellphones — we could save 800 million pounds of carbon emissions.”

Turns out that while we’ve been wringing our hands over greenhouse gases and energy wastefulness, technology has been pecking away at the issues.

In spite of ourselves, carbon emissions have only grown at half the speed of the growth of the world’s economy.

Now it’s a matter of having the will (and the capital) to apply the technology and start banking the benefits.

washingtonpost

A Big Drop In Emissions Is Possible With Today’s Technology

By Doug Struck | Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, January 21, 2008; Page A06

… Technological societies are constantly striving to create ways of doing things more efficiently. Advances in efficiency in the past 30 years have led carbon emissions to grow only half as fast as the world’s economy, according to Robert Socolow, a Princeton University engineer. But those savings have been offset by the rise in population and consumption.

From personal observation, we know the truth of the following:

On a broader scale, the mundane trappings of our modern life are becoming more efficient. Household appliances, including the thirstiest of them, furnaces and air-conditioners, have steadily diminished their energy consumption in the past three decades. Today’s new kitchen refrigerators, for example, use 70 percent less power than those made in the 1970s.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

A Big Drop In Emissions Is Possible With Today’s Technology – washingtonpost.com

Compact fluorescent bulbs, which as it happens, are an interim technology (and I don’t know why this nanocorner of the ‘Sphere© didn’t give Philips Electronics LED lighting a story of its own!), are gradually replacing every conventional light bulb casa MUDGE, and in households nationwide. What did it take?

The government didn’t have to legislate for more efficient lighting – the marketplace did that.

Engineering the means to fit a fluorescent into the ubiquitous, decades-old incandescent bulb socket. Once over that hurdle, it was just a question of time, and Wal-Mart.

One would expect the same pattern to repeat where those dramatically improved efficient wall warts are concerned.

Creating efficient automobiles may require a more activist intervention – way overdue. But even for our personal transportation, the technology to improve efficiency and emissions may be close at hand.

shortattention_thumb2 ©

Maintaining for the moment our focus on bright electronics, we consider rear-projection televisions, powered by digital light processors (DLP).

nytimes

Betting on a Bright Future for Rear-Projection TVs

By ERIC A. TAUB | Published: January 21, 2008

PLANO, Tex. — Back in the early years of this decade, when plasma high-definition televisions cost $10,000, consumers found that buying a rear-projection TV was a more affordable way to jump into the digital era.

But with prices plummeting for liquid-crystal display and plasma TVs, the rear-projection market is quickly drying up. Sony and Philips got out of that business last month.

“The market is moving rapidly to L.C.D.,” said Todd Richardson, vice president for marketing of connected displays for Philips Consumer Lifestyle North America, a division of Royal Philips Electronics.

But Texas Instruments, the chip maker that developed the digital light processor most commonly found in most rear-projection TVs, is holding the line. It isn’t going to be easy.

Rear-projection TVs are getting thinner and brighter (just the opposite of yr (justifiably) humble svt, sorry to admit), and Texas Instruments is working on gamer friendly gimmicks like 3D to sweeten the pie.

Digital light processor technology uses up to two million microscopic tilting mirrors, all housed on a single chip, that direct light to the screen.

The technology, which was invented in 1987 by Larry Hornbeck, a T.I. engineer, has inherent advantages. Its TV sets weigh less than equivalent-size plasma displays. The sets can be frameless, increasing the size of the display that can fit into a given space. And D.L.P. sets consume less energy than plasma displays, an increasingly important factor as consumers opt for very large sets.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Betting on a Bright Future for Rear-Projection TVs – New York Times

On a related note, anyone else find those Texas Instrument DLP advertisements with that little girl (“it’s the mirrors”) just the slightest bit annoying, if not creepy?

shortattention_thumb2 ©

Our third technological exploration takes us to the wonderful world of Tim Harford, the “underground economist” whose columns are found in Slate and, in this case, Wired.

wired

How Email Brings You Closer to the Guy in the Next Cubicle

By Tim Harford | 01.18.08 | 6:00 PM

As a columnist (which is fancy for “journalist in jammies”), …

Savor that one… “journalist in jammies.” What we commentary bloggers aspire to, I suppose.

… I ought to personify the conventional wisdom that distance is dead: All I need to get my work done is a place to perch and a Wi-Fi signal. But if that’s true, why do I still live in London, the second-most expensive city in the world?

If distance really didn’t matter, rents in places like London, New York, Bangalore, and Shanghai would be converging with those in Hitchcock County, Nebraska (population 2,926 and falling). Yet, as far as we can tell through the noise of the real estate bust, they aren’t. Wharton real estate professor Joseph Gyourko talks instead of “superstar cities,” which have become the equivalent of luxury goods — highly coveted and ultra-expensive. If geography has died, nobody bothered to tell Hitchcock County.

Harford brings to light an astonishing paradox of our modern electronic collaborating world.

But I think the truth is more profound than either of those glib explanations: Technology makes it more fun and more profitable to live and work close to the people who matter most to your life and work. Harvard economist Ed Glaeser, an expert on city economies, argues that communications technology and face-to-face interactions are complements like salt and pepper, rather than substitutes like butter and margarine. Paradoxically, your cell phone, email, and Facebook networks are making it more attractive to meet people in the flesh.

Go figure.

He points out that, even as electronic communications have grown by orders of magnitude, air travel keeps growing (despite the Transportation Security Administration’s best efforts to persuade us to stay home and nest!).

Why?

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

How Email Brings You Closer to the Guy in the Next Cubicle

What a fascinating duality: electronic communications enhancing face to face communications.

No wonder the web conferencing technology I support and evangelize for has grown, while our corporate travel expense has grown even more. Thanks, Mr. Harford, for enlightening us!

And that’s SASB© for today. Email your friends all about it, then discuss it with them over coffee.

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE

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mm261: 21-January-2008: Blue Monday

January 21, 2008

MUDGE’S Musings

louisxvi

Louis XVI of France was executed 21-January-1793.

lenin Wikipedia

Vladimir Ilych Lenin, first leader and principal architect of the Soviet Union, died 21-January-1924.

hiss Wikipedia

History.com tells us that Alger Hiss was convicted as a spy of the Soviet Union on 21-January-1950. For you kids, check out the Wikipedia article — this case was controversial my entire life.

Further depressing anniversary from History.com. On 21-January-1916:

The National Board of Review, founded in 1909 as the National Board of Censorship, agrees it will not accept nudity in films. The board, a volunteer group of film fans representing movie studios, served as an industry watchdog to help studios avoid government censorship….

jimmiecarterWikipedia

Okay, let’s cheer up. Let’s remember Viet Nam and Jimmy Carter. The day after his inauguration, History.com tells us:

On this day in 1977, U.S. President Jimmy Carter grants an unconditional pardon to hundreds of thousands of men who evaded the draft during the Vietnam War.

In total, some 100,000 young Americans went abroad in the late 1960s and early 70s to avoid serving in the war. Ninety percent went to Canada, where after some initial controversy they were eventually welcomed as immigrants.

Never had heard this before today, but the third Monday of January is reckoned to be the most depressing day of the year.

Okay, we need to balance this out. How about this? Who was born on 21-January?

Found a couple of websites that feature this type of information. The most comprehensive is a site called Gregsite, from Greg Duncan. Most of the following information comes from the 21-January page.

Happy Birthday! to…

1338 Charles V (the Wise), king of France (1364-80)

A little obscure, that. Can you give us something more relevant?

How about an inventor, a pioneer, and a couple of Confederate generals, including THE Confederate general?

1743 John Fitch, inventor (had a working steamboat years before Fulton)

1813 John C Fremont, [Pathfinder], map maker/explorer (western US)/Gov (AZ)

1821 John Cabell Breckinridge, (D) 14th US VP (1857-61)/mjr-gen (Confed)

1824 Thomas Jonathan “Stonewall” Jackson, Lt Gen 2nd Corps (ANV, Confed)

stonewalljackson Wikipedia

A composer I’ve heard of, and a weapons designer:

1855 Ernest Chausson, Paris, composer (Poeme for Violin & Orchestra)

1855 John M Browning, US, weapons manufacturer

An actor from the old days, probably more disappointed than we are about that 1916 ruling:

jcarrollnaish Wikipedia

1897 J Carrol Naish, NYC, actor (Charlie Chan-Adv of Charlie Chan)

Assorted people you may have heard of:

1905 Christian Dior, Normandy France, fashion designer (long-skirted look)

1922 Paul Scofield, British actor (Man for All Seasons, Train)

1924 Benny Hill, Southampton England, comedian (Benny Hill Show)

bennyhillWikipedia

Benny Hill. [“I was named after good Queen Victoria!” “Not too long afterward, either.”] Who knew?

1924 Telly Savalas, Garden City NJ, actor (Acapulco, Kojak)

1926 Steve Reeves, Montana, actor (Hercules, Hercules Unchained)

1939 Wolfman Jack, [Bob Smith], Bkln NY, DJ (Midnight Special)

1940 Jack Nicklaus, Columbus Ohio, golfer (Player of Yr 1967,72,73,75,76)

1941 Edwin Starr, rocker

1941 Placido Domingo, Madrid Spain, opera tenor (Pinkerton-Mme Butterfly)

placidodomingoWikipedia

Quiet Sunday, one of the Three Tenors (with José Carreras and the late Luciano Pavoratti), but so much more.

1941 Richie Havens, Bkln, folk singer (Here Comes the Sun)

1942 Mac Davis, Lubbock Tx, singer/actor (Mac Davis Show, North Dallas 40)

1947 Jill Eikenberry, New Haven Ct, (Ann Kelsey-LA Law, Manhattan Project)

1948 Yr (justifiably) humble svt, aka “MUDGE” Chicago, IL, Blogger (Left-Handed Complement)

1950 Billy Ocean, Trinidad, singer (Suddenly, Caribbean Queen)

1957 Geena [Virginia] Davis, Wareham Mass, actress (Beetlejuice, Fly)

geenadavisWikipedia

Geena Davis. Sigh.

1961 Gabrielle Carteris, Phoenix Az, actress (Andrea-Beverly Hills 90210)

Hell of a day. This year, more than most.

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE

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mm260: The other oil shock

January 20, 2008

MUDGE’S Musings

We’ve had several occasions in this nanocorner of the ‘Sphere©

Fuel from Food: Just a bad idea all around

mm233: Corn in the news – and not just in Iowa!
mm194: Friedman: Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda
mm193: Fuel without oil, or corn
mm084: Food versus fools – Salon.com
mm053: The case for turning crops into fuel – Saletan
mm015: Welcomed back to the guild

…to consider the growth of the use of traditional food crops to create alternative fuel stocks – ethanol from corn is the U.S. wrongheaded approach.

Such is the triumph of our interconnected world that bad ideas from the U.S. are reproduced just as predictably as are many of our other famous cultural artifacts: rock and roll, blue jeans, cellular telephones.

January 19th’s NYTimes brings to our attention the food crisis in Asia caused by conversion of food crops to petroleum substitutes.

nytimes

A New, Global Oil Quandary: Costly Fuel Means Costly Calories

By KEITH BRADSHER | Published: January 19, 2008

KUANTAN, Malaysia — Rising prices for cooking oil are forcing residents of Asia’s largest slum, in Mumbai, India, to ration every drop. Bakeries in the United States are fretting over higher shortening costs. And here in Malaysia, brand-new factories built to convert vegetable oil into diesel sit idle, their owners unable to afford the raw material.

Cooking oil? A cheap commodity in the west. What’s the big deal?

Cooking oil may seem a trifling expense in the West. But in the developing world, cooking oil is an important source of calories and represents one of the biggest cash outlays for poor families, which grow much of their own food but have to buy oil in which to cook it.

The focus of this story is on palm oil, until recently rather disreputable nutritionally here, but back in favor as an option to trans fats, increasingly seen as unhealthy, and even legislated against in trendy places like New York City.

Now, everyone everywhere wants palm oil. But as petroleum prices rise, and vegetable based oils are viewed as attractive components of biodiesel, palm oil is suddenly in short supply, and skyrocketing in price.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

An Oil Quandary: Costly Fuel Means Costly Calories – New York Times

The interconnectedness of the world never fails to astonish. In this instance, the result isn’t merely inconveniently high prices for traditionally low-cost commodities, it’s starvation in Asian slums.

Stranger yet the instructive example of the palm oil refinery in Malaysia, built alongside sizable palm forests, prepared to convert palm oil to biodiesel. Now frantically attempting to come up with a new plan, as its machinery was idled because the demand for palm oil as food has ratcheted up its price beyond economical use as a feedstock for mere fuel.

In the rush to pander to Midwest growers of corn and soybeans by subsidizing the use of ethanol for fuel; in the rush to protect U.S. citizens from the unhealthy effects of oil their potatoes are fried in; we initiate chains of events that results in a crisis of shortages and starvation on the other side of the globe.

Farmers, always the hardest working and often the least compensated link of the food chain, naturally seek to get the highest price possible for their output, and biofuel has supercharged demand, thus prices are higher.

Seems clear that in the rush to embrace biofuels the law of unintended consequences has landed square into the battered cooking pots of Mumbai.

Can’t cook the week’s scrap of mutton with unintended consequences.

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE

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