mm362: Written, as usual, on a Sony PCV-RS620G desktop PC

April 28, 2008

MUDGE’s Musings

I consider myself technologically sophisticated. Made my living by writing really sophisticated code for; creating applications for; using; and lately teaching the advanced use of; electronic computational devices for nearly 40 years.

Started when the average of such computational devices filled large, refrigerated, raised-floor (to clear the boa constrictor cabling) floor to ceiling windowed but locked chambers.

Large box (think refrigerator sized) with colorful lighting containing the computer itself with its proud array of 64,000 bytes of hand-assembled magnetic core memory. Folks, that was 64KB.

Today’s home PCs are stunted if they have less than 512MB. I recently upgraded the memory in my own PC: bought 2GB (about 31,000 times larger than that 64KB magnetic core processor for which we wrote so cleverly, and compactly!) for about $100.

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mm207: Shorter attention span blogging

November 28, 2007

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MUDGE’S Musings

One of those days today, where nothing and everything is intriguing. All of these appeared this week in the NYTimes.

nytimes

Freud Is Widely Taught at Universities, Except in the Psychology Department

By PATRICIA COHEN

PSYCHOANALYSIS and its ideas about the unconscious mind have spread to every nook and cranny of the culture from Salinger to “South Park,” from Fellini to foreign policy. Yet if you want to learn about psychoanalysis at the nation’s top universities, one of the last places to look may be the psychology department.

A new report by the American Psychoanalytic Association has found that while psychoanalysis — or what purports to be psychoanalysis — is alive and well in literature, film, history and just about every other subject in the humanities, psychology departments and textbooks treat it as “desiccated and dead,” a historical artifact instead of “an ongoing movement and a living, evolving process.”

The study, which is to appear in the June 2008 issue of The Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, is the latest evidence of the field’s existential crisis. For decades now, critics engaged in the Freud Wars have pummeled the good doctor’s theories for being sexist, fraudulent, unscientific, or just plain wrong. In their eyes, psychoanalysis belongs with discarded practices like leeching.

But to beleaguered psychoanalysts who have lost ground to other forms of therapy that promise quicker results through cheaper and easier methods, the report underscores pressing questions about the relevance of their field and whether it will survive as a practice.

Are there stranger institutions than today’s U.S. colleges and universities?

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

Freud Is Widely Taught at Universities, Except in the Psychology Department – New York Times

And yet. One sentence does stick with one…

“Some of the most important things in human life are just not measurable,” he said, like happiness or genuine religious feeling.

I’ll think about that one for a while (or at least until something distracts me!).

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And now for something completely different…

MUDGE has a love-hate relationship with his cable company. I suspect that many people share this feeling (and perhaps it’s not measurable).

Cable TV is terrific, if spendy. Cable internet is breathtakingly quick, especially if one is capable of remembering the dim dark dial-up days.

But, cable is a monopoly in most markets, only now facing serious competition. In television, the satellite people compete well, assuming you can place the dish effectively. But they’ve never offered a serious internet connection solution. Cable internet is a serious internet connection solution.

POTS, as embodied in the modern successors (Verizon and the new AT&T) to the Justice Department eviscerated AT&T — Ma Bell to we rickety old folks — can offer reasonably quick internet access (if you are located close enough to the central station, or some sucker has granted POTS an easement for a repeater station), but quick only if you compare it to the dial-up it probably replaces. Much slower than cable.

In MUDGE‘s market, the local copper wire phone company has offered bundles that include phone service, DSL internet and satellite television. In response, the cable guys are now offering reasonably inexpensive phone service via cable. In response to that, the phone guys are desperately burying fibre optic lines to reach out to the “last mile,” thereby offering a true high bandwidth choice for internet access, as well as competition for cable-delivered television. An awesome expenditure, and thus far fibre has been limited to a few scattered upscale neighborhoods (i.e., nowhere near casa MUDGE).

Recently, the cable guys have come under increasing scrutiny by the FCC, which believes that cable has abused its monopoly position.

Cable Industry Wins Compromise on F.C.C. Plans

By STEPHEN LABATON

WASHINGTON, Nov. 27 — In the face of a lobbying blitzkrieg by the cable television industry, the Federal Communications Commission drastically scaled back Tuesday evening a proposal by the agency’s chairman to more tightly regulate the industry.

The compromise was a significant, though not total, victory for the cable industry, whose executives and lobbyists had worked to erode support on the commission for the agenda of the chairman, Kevin J. Martin. Among other things, the commission agreed to postpone for months the decision Mr. Martin had hoped would be made on Tuesday, over whether the cable television industry had grown so dominant that the agency’s regulatory authority over it should be expanded.

But Mr. Martin and some consumer groups insisted that the decisions by the commission could nonetheless help to make programming more diverse and ultimately reduce cable costs.

One of the new rules adopted on Tuesday, for instance, would make it significantly less expensive for independent programmers to lease channels.

The reasonably outspoken FCC Chairman, Kevin Martin, turned out not to have the votes he counted on to carry the day, and thus allowed the discussion to devolve into a dispute over whose market size numbers were more accurate.

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

Cable Industry Wins Compromise on F.C.C. Plans – New York Times

So, cable didn’t take the regulatory hit they were fighting off, and most of the U.S. will be unable to see the Packers-Cowboys game on NFL Network this Thursday, as an unregulated cable industry has decided that NFLnet is too expensive for anything but their premium packages.

Sigh.

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L-HC discussed the trend away from paper maps in a post some time ago. Navigation systems based on GPS populate more and more upscale cars. Stand alone personal navigation aids from Garmin and Tom-Tom are advertised heavily during this gifty time of year.

MUDGE‘s newest cellphone, the LG EN-V discussed here before, has a GPS receiver built in, as do most modern cells, and has available a subscription navigation service (for $10 per month) that will provide turn by turn spoken instructions. Very cool, if slightly expensive, until, one supposes, you really need it.

Can Google, that information octopus, be far behind? Certainly not!

Google Doesn’t Know Where You Are (But It Has a Good Guess)

By Saul Hansell

UPDATE: See comment from Google at the end.

Users of Blackberries and many other smartphones can now push a button and the Google mapping service will figure out more or less sort of where they are.

Last month, I wrote a post called “One Reason We Need a Google Phone: Free GPS.” I was complaining that cellphone carriers, mainly Verizon, are disabling the GPS navigation systems built into phones so they can charge $10 a month for the service. I posited that a Google phone wouldn’t have such a nasty gotcha. (Actually, in Google’s very open model for its Android operating system, carriers and phone makers are free to put as many gotchas as they want into phones.)

Of course, what everyone leaps to be concerned about is privacy — Google, Big Brother, Homeland Security, etc. has yet another way of pinpointing one’s location.

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

Google Doesn’t Know Where You Are (But It Has a Good Guess) – Bits – Technology – New York Times Blog

Face it folks, what is GPS in the phones for, if not to let a public agency locate you. It’s called Wireless Enhanced 911.

I guess the concern is that one might well be locatable even if one hasn’t declared an emergency.

We’re heading there folks. London has what, 2,000,000 video cameras blanketing the streets, and big cities in the U.S. are following suit as fast as they can afford to. Indeed, in MUDGE‘s not so big city, he passes such a camera, apparently monitored by the police, almost daily. Often, I wave.

The expectation of privacy is slipping away, and while I’m certain my buds at ACLU are concerned, I just can’t too exercised.

There are 300,000,000 of us after all. The best data miners on the planet will get indigestion trying to mine that.

So I guess I can go back to worrying about the demise of Freudian psychoanalysis.

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE


mm105: Ask the Pilot Returns!

August 18, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

He never left, really, his column appears in Salon every other Friday. But his appearance in this space in July had two interesting effects.

1. For two days, the post evinced the largest readership ever for L-HC, by a two or three times.

2. One of those readers turned out to be a Salon lawyer, taking MUDGE to task for reproducing the article in its entirety, a copyright violation. They get millions of hits a day — Patrick Smith’s article pushed L-HC into the stratosphere, so to speak, with two days of 90 hits. They had every right to be concerned.

Anyway, it was Patrick’s topic, airline delays, that intrigued everyone, and he revisits that subject most brilliantly here.

salon

Ask the Pilot

Tired of long delays? Look at the bright side of flying: It’s cheaper and more accessible than ever.

By Patrick Smith

Aug. 17, 2007 | As the airlines announce their highest-ever load factors (percentage of seats sold), 2007 clocks in as the most delay-plagued year in aviation history. The past few months in particular have been excruciating, with bottlenecks victimizing tens of millions of fliers. The problem has not gone unnoticed by the media, major and minor. It seems that every last reporter and pundit, at every outlet from the Christian Science Monitor to National Public Radio, has run a feature story on the country’s ever-worsening air traffic crisis.

Up to now these stories have mostly been missing the point, failing to show that the real culprit here isn’t summer thunderstorms or faulty air traffic control equipment; it’s the airline industry’s obsession with pumping more and more airplanes — particularly smaller regional jets (RJs) — into an already saturated system. At long last, some of the coverage is getting it right. Namely, I refer you to Scott McCartney’s excellent report, “Small Jets, More Trips Worsen Airport Delays,” in the Aug. 13 edition of the Wall Street Journal. McCartney, author of the paper’s “Middle Seat” business travel column, examines the airlines’ untenable fixation with frequency. Even with a greater number of people flying than ever before, the size of the average aircraft has been shrinking. That means more takeoffs, more landings, more gridlock. The average jetliner now has 137 seats — 23 fewer than it did five years ago. The use of RJs, which carry anywhere from 35 to 70 passengers, has increased nearly 200 percent in that span.

I’ve yet to read a better analysis on the subject, and I’m glad someone’s finally taking notice of the problems with regional jets — a topic I covered extensively back in June and mid-July.

Patrick goes on to make some useful observations about how we air travel consumers have actually put ourselves in this position:

And you can’t entirely blame them. After all, we’re getting what we ask for. When airlines come around asking for opinions, their customers invariably answer yes, absolutely, they want and appreciate the opportunity to choose from no less than 35 daily departures between Los Angeles and San Francisco, Chicago and New York — even if only a quarter of those flights are anywhere close to departing on time.

So, here’s the link to the article, per our Salon-induced process. Enjoy, and say “Hi!” to their advertisers, from MUDGE.

[Per L-HC’s reformed process, please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Salon.com Technology | Ask the Pilot

He’s fascinating when discussing the actual cost of air travel:

The real cost of air travel — the price of a ticket adjusted for inflation — has fallen sharply over the past 20 years, even with tremendous surges in the cost of oil. According to the Air Transport Association, fares in 2006 averaged 12 percent lower than what they were in 2000, in spite of a 150 percent rise in jet fuel costs. Long after deregulation, fares have continued to drop as airlines have worked to squeeze cost from their product. Amenities and customer service aren’t what they used to be — on the whole they’re acceptable, and of late they’ve been improving — but what do you expect from carriers whose per-mile profit margins are sometimes a penny or less? Airlines sell what people claim to want. And if you read the surveys, even more than wanting lots and lots of flights to pick from, people want tickets at rock-bottom fares.

Traveled to Boston a couple of weekends ago, for business, at an extraordinarily low fare (my employer never expressed the appropriate gratitude — short of paying for it of course!).

Could control outbound, scheduled for the morning (always a better bet — accumulative delays have less time to accumulate in my experience), and still departed and arrived about 45 minutes later than scheduled, par for the course and not bad, all things considered.

The return was the Wednesday evening the conference was completed; when the courtesy shuttle got us back to Logan, found some colleagues who had decided not to wait for the free bus and took the taxi due to bookings on earlier flights still glumly awaiting their aircraft — storms in the Midwest.

Our flight was scheduled for much later, as it happened giving the weather at our destination an opportunity to clear, and again left and arrived about 45 minutes later than scheduled; for that hour of the night (a bit nerve-wracking when we realized that it was the last flight to O’Hare in the day’s schedule), not a bad outcome.

And my extended stay at Logan yielded this interesting benefit.

loganrainbow

For a larger view, click here.

Yeah, a rainbow, absurdly bright; and those of us snapping it got an unusual benefit, the reflection of the retro American Airlines logo mounted high on the wall opposite the terminal’s window. Photographed and transmitted by the way, on my LG EN-V (yes, no longer does MUDGE have EN-V envy!). By the way, this reduced image hardly does the original justice.

We’ll let Patrick have the last word:

And another nice change to savor, the next time you’re turning lazy circles over a holding fix: The person next to you might be ugly, and he might not stop talking, but at least he isn’t smoking.

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE

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