Friday, September 11, 2009

A Correction

Those who've been around me while drinking may know there's no end to my disdain for the Stata Center at MIT; Frank Gehry's notorious abuse of a generation's developmentally-rooted fealty to cartoonishness.

But MIT, it turns out, has a subtly handsome little quarter that's grown on me over the last two weeks. As it turns out, the unobtrusive livability and stoic beauty are the brainchildren of I.M. Pei. My favorite is the Landau building, but their all beautiful (though these photos don't do justice to the Green building, whose base is open on two sides, and goes up two floors).

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Glenn Beck stole LG logo?

Not that I'm a fan of licentious application of copyright, but with Rush Limbaugh's recent capricious comparison of the OFA health-care logo to the Nazi standard, I think it's not too too cynical to question the creative sources of Glenn Beck's 'Danger! I'm as dangerous to a political debate as radon in your basement!' logo. Judge whether LG may have actionable grounds for filing suit for yourself. Evidence:

Friday, August 21, 2009

"All Wee Wee'd Up." .com

Perusing through my daily links, I got to TPM's day in 100 seconds including Obama's 'wee wee'd' quote. More specifically:

"There's something about August going into September where everyone in Washington gets all 'wee-weed' up"

These days, you can't hesitate too long after hearing an obscure turn of phrase without thinking '', especially when it falls off the lips of one of the most beloved men in the world. To be honest, Obama's been throwing out a lot recently, but has already been used (free streaming music for college students...).

Before the clip was finished, I was already checking for availability of Taken. But to be sure it was because of Obama, I needed to know when it was taken. From the whois:

Registrar: MONIKER

Registrant [5950]:
Gregg Ostrick
GNO, Inc.
P.O. Box 43353

. . .

Record created on: 2009-08-20 20:14:38.0
Database last updated on: 2009-08-20 20:14:37.84
Domain Expires on: 2010-08-20 20:14:38.0

August 20th at GMT 20:14, which in EDT is 4:14 PM. According to the helpful C-Span ticker, Obama uttered the phrase at 2:53 PM, EDT.

Now, I don't see any use, or any profit in, but you never can tell. What we really ought to look for is when the timing flips. Which Obama intern will start registering Obama phrases he hears in the hallway before he even says them? It's not really that far off...

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Give it up for ... 'the Sipper?'

After watching Joe Scarborough's self-assumption of elder-statesman status on last week's episode of (the much-declined) Meet the Press with David Gregory (much, much declined), it occurs to me that the man who has spent his time in between supporting Obama's most rational policies writing books about how he is different from the wacky republicans who don't may be considering himself the man to fulfill his own perscription. At least the thought of a 2012 run had to have crossed his mind (a narsicistic television personality? Gasp!) Okay, it's a long shot, i know--there's a lot of baggage that comes with nearly daily presence in front of a video recording device for several years, but hell, we've already had The Gipper, and The Governator (get to the chopper, now!), and at least Scarsdale has held elected office before...

At this point, the only worry would be that between Scarborough, Eric Cantor, and my previously mentioned potential candidate, George Pataki there'd be too much chin on stage at any early debates.

Post Script: For the last couple months, blogger has been blocked in china, which i naturally used as an excuse to completely quit updating this blog...sorry about that. As far as China goes, there are several important topics which I have been mulling over, and which someday, perhaps some lazy budapest morning, I will compose into the longer, essayish sort of posting. For now, suffice it to say that the semester is almost up, I will be in Budapest next Sunday, and I have mastered enough chinese to confuse the overworked McDonalds manager with my insistence that he refill my used coffee cup rather than throw it out and give me a new one.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Try This Overseas

click here, search an artist/song:

Research I'd Like to See Done.

I've been wondering why it is music gets old. New music teases your mind with wacky sounds in familiar frameworks like the rock and roll beat. If you listen to a song enough times, the interest fades, in a process I can only assume is biophysically akin to memorizing something. I wish someone would take a bunch of people and look at what their brains do the first time they hear some song, and what they do after they've listened to it five times a day for a month or so. But then again, I don't have an MRI machine. Yet...

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Again, why the Internet is Good.

Sometimes when I get to feeling like too many people are agreeing with me, I mosey on over the National Review's website. I try to keep up the habit of reading contrary opinions on matters, just like everyone says you should, and somewhere I got the idea that the National Review was the zenith of enlightened conservative intellectualism. But if this is the case, conservative ambitions to power will be stuck in the black hole of Calcutta a lot longer than anyone is predicting (snap!).

Take for example Andrew McCarthy's 'expose' on the torture memos called The Real Interrogation Scandal.

A two-page ramble to confuse whether or not it's okay for the U.S. Government to "shock the conscience" in it's dealings with foreigners, Mr. McCarthy manages to confuse not only the meaning of the word law, but also this tragic misquote. From his article:

In fact, back then, when it was expedient to be tough on terror, Holder was telling anyone who would listen that these al-Qaeda savages who murdered Americans absolutely did not deserve Geneva Convention protections.

To carp now about the rule of law is shameful. The rule of law hasn’t changed. But they have.

He links to a NRO Corner Blog post, which in turn quotes this WSJ page which finally quotes (without link) Eric Holder on CNN on January 28th, 2002 as saying:

One of the things we clearly want to do with these prisoners is to have an ability to interrogate them and find out what their future plans might be, where other cells are located; under the Geneva Convention that you are really limited in the amount of information that you can elicit from people.

It seems to me that given the way in which they have conducted themselves, however, that they are not, in fact, people entitled to the protection of the Geneva Convention. They are not prisoners of war. If, for instance, Mohamed Atta had survived the attack on the World Trade Center, would we now be calling him a prisoner of war? I think not. Should Zacarias Moussaoui be called a prisoner of war? Again, I think not.

Now, the WSJ post is simply a quote, with the attribution "Eric Holder (Barack Obama's choice for Attorney General), on the question of whether unlawful combatants captured in the war on terror are entitled to prisoner-of-war status under the Geneva Convention. From an interview on CNN, January 2002."

Even though the full transcript also exists online, they have chosen not to link to it. As this is an archival page, it makes a little bit of sense, as you don't want broken lings on archival pages. The real problem is that each layer of linking assigns slightly less context and slightly more subtext. The WSJ purports to present Holder's response to a question, even though they did not his whole (and arguably meaning-changing) response. The NRO Corner Blog post is simply titled "Holder On Geneva Conventions" and introduces the quote with "Eric Holder on CNN, January 2002:" using brevity not only to imply that this is the full extent of what he has said, but linking to the WSJ page rather than the full CNN transcript to reinforce the finality and certainty of his opinion at the time. Finally, we come to the "Real Scandal" article, which merely links to the NRO Corner Blog post as it frames the quote in an entirely different meaning, using this tertiary-source material as proof that Eric Holder did not believe suspected-terrorist detainees "absolutely did not deserve Geneva Convention protections."

Of course, that's not at all what Eric Holder said. The complete response from that question follows:

. . . Should Zacarias Moussaoui be called a prisoner of war? Again, I think not.

And yet, I understand what Secretary Powell is concerned about, and that is we're going to be fighting this war with people who are special forces, not people who are generally in uniform. And if unfortunately they somehow become detained, we would want them to be treated in an appropriate way consistent with the Geneva Convention.

So it seems the NRO has shielded itself under several layers of both literal and metaphorical meta-content (nerrrr!). No wonder their thinking is so limited and insular--they are trapped under a blanket several links deep. How long did it take to find the original transcript? Try googling "eric holder geneva cnn 2002 interview."

All of which brings me back to my original point. The Internet is Good. Newspapers are suffering, which is bad. We need newspapers. But the solution is not necessarily roped-off pay-per-content. Eric Holder's response is important. He's the Attorney General. Newspapers can manipulate it. If google's webcrawlers can't get to your content (are you hearing me, scientific community? how about you, authors of books published by large publishing houses?) how will people know it exists? Of course, I mean my generation of people who know how to use the internet. Not Andrew McCarthy's generation who apparently only know how to read other things in the National Review.

Remember Kids, the Embedded Link is a tool, not a toy. Use it responsibly.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Hey Mcconnell, Deficit Spending Much?

Despite Mitch Mcconnell's terribly convincing ranting about Obama's unsustainable growth of the national debt, it seems he's been up to a little deficit spending himself. According to reports, the honorable Senator from Kentucky still owes $2 million from his 2008 campaign. Something about charity begins at home... oh wait, maybe he could ask Obama.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

We've got a black president, so it's cool to go after Thomas...

no commentary, just sayin'

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

A slightly less modest proposal...

Frankly, I thought the question of overpopulation and all it's Malthus-obsessed prophets of doom had been satisfied by Mr. Swift's classic treatise on the matter, but it seems many in the U.S. are still concerned with the matter. More importantly, they (like so many) are reveling in blaming the immigrants (at least according to this slick new campaign).

But perhaps (say it ain't so!) their ire is misplaced. There's a right-quick way to tamp down population growth (which, were one to do so, it would only serve to exacerbate the growing fiscal crisis that is medicare, medicaid, and social security) and raise more tax revenue for the shit-storm it would create (see last parenthetical note):

Stop subsidizing children.

Why should families get paid $3500 to have a kid? Once the cost of child ownership goes up, people will be less inclined to have them (or so the strictures of neo-liberal economics would insist), and production will decline. It's just like corn and gasoline.

In any case, illegal immigrants come into the country at prime working age, unsubsidized, often pay into social benefits without ever receiving them, and in many ways prop up the country without taking very much besides a chance for a better life from it. Plus they constitute an essential part of our national ethos (unless we choose to abandon it before they can get here).

Happy Tax Day, Everyone!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Transgenerational means...

"We do not want the old to be sharper than we. It is bad enough that they were there first and got the best things." (from Burr)

Oh, Gore Vidal, how you would love us to believe that you were young once, too...

Sunday, April 12, 2009

If anyone tells you a Carbon Tax is more efficient...

Sorry I've been so blog-irregular recently, but I swear I'm putting together a great piece on Dandong. Instead, I've read a few rants recently about how a greenhouse gas Cap-and-Trade scheme is the height of democrat-interfere-in-the-market-edness, and how a carbon tax would provide a much simpler solution. I disagree with this idea ferociously, but won't go into it now. Rather, take a gander at this paper by an MIT lab I'd love to work for:

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Qu DanDong

In a few hours I'm leaving to Dandong for a few days. I should be pretty incommunicado, but if no one hears from me by Thursday the next I could very well be locked in a North Korean detention center eating congee and kimchee.

Just kidding, they would never give me their kimchee.

Lobotomy or Appendectomy?

As you may know, at least a part of why I've undertaken this trip to China rose out of an interest in discovering how an economically and culturally dynamic society can coexist with a politically repressive government. I've had many suspicions, but I still hadn't gotten down to the nuts and bolts of it with a real Chinese student until meeting a guy named Jack yesterday.

The first thing to know is that the government is very popular. More popular than Obama. That's not skewed polling, and it's not propaganda, the communist party is extremely popular.

And they have an excellent reason to be. Every person in China has seen the material conditions around them vastly improve in their lifetime. Jack was ready to jump into this discussion, as I didn't even ask when he explained, "Most westerners think that china is not democratic, because we have this one-party system, but what most don't realize is that we want the communist party." This from 21-year-old Business Administration student.

Indeed, China has grown into every other aspect of a (until-recently) fast-developing economy. Local media is huge, the night-life is almost indistinguishable from many other places I've been, with the exception that I can afford cabs (even if the environment can't). Saturday morning, young folks stroll through the park to watch the old folks dance. People go about their daily lives, working, shopping, eating.

In the west we are afraid of fear. We have been ever since FDR declared fear our mortal enemy. And life in fear--the Stalin years or the Mao years or the Hussein years or the Nazi years--these are our demons. But people do not live in fear here. How is this possible? It is still common (if you look in the right places) to read of excessive repression of free speech in China. Indeed, there are still many awful instances of brutal, violent, and frightening human rights abuses. But the vast majority is in an entire generation of politically-anesthetized Chinese.

There are plenty of instances of politically-active Chinese citizens, and there are plenty more citizens with some opinion or another, but 'the situation on-the-ground'--as a presidential candidate might say--is a people that have learned to live and enjoy life and otherwise ignore politics all together. And frankly, it's not half bad...

The problem may come when an otherwise politically infantile opposition gains power. But hell, that's years down the road.

This is a topic I hope to continue to develop in the future, so let me know your thoughts in the comments.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Hairman Bernanke

Clipped from MSNBC's live feed of Ben Bernanke correcting Ron Paul's economic history.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Nate Silver Creates Map of Racist Backwaters

Nate Silver (of 538 fame) made this map highlighting congressional districts in which the 2008 presidential party vote was greater than 9% different than in 2004. But what shows up is a bright red map of those places Americans overseas like to talk about least... and Arizona.

Oh yeah, and their were Riots in Tibet the other day. The only reason I noticed was because the was blocked for five minutes and I checked BBC to figure out what was going on.

I'm Fat

Or at least that's what the folks in charge of sizing underwear around here say. I was at Carrefour looking for some suspiciously hard-to-find size 'M' undies, when it dawned on me that there sure were a lot of 'XXL' and '3XL' options, and absolutely no 'S.' Rather than try to make sense of the numbers that followed each size (not metric, some other weird system) I found some loose pairs and determined that I had walked right into a different cultural norm. I am presently wearing some comfortably snug 3XL boxers.

But what's interesting isn't what you would expect--we all know Chinese folk tend to the slightly smaller-on-average frame. Rather, it was that the most common sizes (based on shelf-space) were 'XL' and 'XXL.' Now I know this happens quite frequently in America, but there is no obesity epidemic here. These are definitely smaller sizes. Perhaps it's an element of hip-hop culture (the NBA and Rap are up-and-up scenes, with their plethora of 'X's), or maybe it's just subconscious compensation, but I don't think I've ever felt quite so large.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

L'Hopital's Rule

Well, I haven't gone yet, but a surprising number of my friends urged me to go to the hospital yesterday. It seems the Wolf Mary was not as trustworthy a steed as she at first appeared, and after a serious technological failure, I, and my sack of groceries, were thrown over the handlebars and somersaulting through the air. Yippee.

But what is remarkable is the readiness in which the word Hospital came out of their mouths. I've done this sort of thing before (twice in fact, both times featuring more blood), but never in America has anyone blurted out "hey! you should go to the Hospital!" Perhaps I am just in a "In America, we ..." state of mind, but I am drawn to the comparison because the willingness to go to a doctor has significant influence over the quality of one's health care, and I cannot help but wonder to what extent an entire generation of Americans has been subtly taught that health care is outside of their reach.

While I'm almost certain my ankle is just sprained, I don't know, and can't know until a doctor looks at it. And since seeing a doctor here costs all of 3kuai (less than 50cents), there's absolutely no need to. In the U.S., I could pay a couple hundred at the hospital (yes, with insurance), or save money by making an appointment with my primary care physician. Of course I'd have to wait a week.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

A good summary of Net Neutrality issues.

I guess I'm a little single-track-minded tonight, but here's yet another link to NetNeutrality stuff. Google's released a tool that will tell you if you're ISP commits bandwith banditry.

Google Got Blocked

Earlier today, Google was blocked. The outage was brief, though I'm not sure on the total duration. I tried posting, but couldn't get it to work, and in true Chinese fashion, distracted myself with material concerns. Here's the text of the attempted post:

The big one. This means google search, gmail, and even blogger (yes, this humble blog) cannot be accessed in China. Painful, to say the least; like losing your right arm (wikipedia was the left). If you're wondering how I'm posting this, it's through the use of a subscription VPN service, but one which strips JScript and Flash content from pages (so no fun stuff).

What could have brought on such wrath? Perhaps it was this, but I like to think it was my persistently subversive blog posts and Chinese research. After all, anyone trying to translate "Rush Limbaugh deals ecstasy" into Chinese is clearly up to no good.

At least Wikipedia is back...

Had it been longer, I might have started a democratic revolution....

Better Than Any Horror Movie

On any given day, the live-feed global log of deteriorating rights via electronic networks that is the Electronic Frontier Foundation's Deeplinks Blog provides a serious chill down one's spine. From Australia's soon-to-be-implemented country-wide internet content filter, to Ireland's capitulation to the Irish Recorded Music Association's demands that it can, without review, demand that certain websites be blocked, the blog demonstrates the absolute worldwide incompetence of legislators in handling digital media.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Once Rush Hour is Over... you ever wonder who'll come out on top? I fully expect Rush will be around a lot longer than he may want to be, but once this bloody-wreck of an opposition leader is finally scrubbed off the tarmac, the Republican Party will need to be able to communicate its message, and it's my bet the person doing the talking won't be any of the ones you see now. Ten Cents says it's this guy.

Okay, I'm not going all in on this one, but it's at least worth thinking about. George faded-away, rather than burning out, which it turns out was probably in his best interest, considering some of the more unbecoming and egregious things he might have otherwise been associated with.

And unlike Mitt, Bobby, or Mike, George has been pleasantly silent for the last couple of Republican-damning years. He's been the guy at the Party politely socializing and making new friends, while the 'rising stars' are playing beer pong, shouting chants, and knocking over your furniture (if you're wondering who Rush Limbaugh is, he's the guy that brought all the ecstasy, and you last saw him getting far too close to someone far too young).

As the now-infamous Interstate Monkey Transport ban (not to mention the $3.6 Trillion budget, and insolvent banking industry) demonstrates, there is a role for an opposition party, just not the one we have.

Tell Rush I'll call the cops on him. I fucking mean it.

Updates: Youtube is back, Wikipedia is blocked, and trying to access the Huffington Post gets my connection shut down for about a minute.

Oh, and it turns out "Bicycle Bike" belongs to my roommate.

The "Compete" Coalition

I suppose that the election of Barack Obama has had a direct stimulus in at least one, distinct sector: people who are payed to come up with pseudonyms on behalf of corporate interests whose names have been blighted by decades of corporate malfeasance. The latest product of this brave, bold, and distinctly American industry is the "Compete Coalition," your coalition of choice if you strongly identify with the abstract concept of 'competition'...

...or, if you happen to be an electricity producer, or large-scale consumer (retail chains; that's you), and your corporate structure has no mechanism to quantify--and thus consider in any meaningful way--the disastrous effects of burning coal 'til there ain't none left.

The Compete Coalition is all about competition. Raw, unhindered competition. In fact, they'd prefer if it were in-the-dark, not-talked about competition. Because the precise results of their policy 'ideas' (preventing the Obama administration from mandating a quantified amount of wind and solar electricity generation or enacting a cap-and-trade market for carbon credits) would literally destroy the world.

Thankfully, the President doesn't seem like he's second guessing his objectives any time soon. But at least there's plenty of new marketing, PR, and web design jobs being created.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Beijing Bicycle

That's the name of a movie, which I've heard was good, but have not seen, and brings reminiscences of "The Bicycle Thief," a real bike classic. Good plot, too.

The following are pictures of my new bicycle, which I have dubbed "The Wolf Mary."


Top view (note Brian's now-exceedingly-international shoes):

Advanced Dutch Security System:


Though I am a little jealous of this guy's "Bicycle Bike":

I payed a solid 100 kuai ($14.61) for this bad-boy, though those in the know said I should have payed half that. I got ripped off because I'm 外国人.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The Africans.

There are several large groups in the liuxueshung (foreign student) dormitory. There is a big group from Holland, and another big group from France. Both are here for one term, on exchange with their home universities (the Dutch from Rotterdam, I believe). But the other big group is from Africa. For the most part, these are students here to study civil engineering, and then return to from whence they came. My friend Davis comes from Zambia. Peterson, who lives downstairs, comes from the Congo. He has not been home for over a year, and it will be at least another before he can return. But he's coming back to Beijing to get his Master's.

Though they are not all from one National group, the Africans are an equally tight-knit social clique. They speak Chinese or English with each other, when they do not know each others' languages. And they will build the future infrastructure of Africa.

The Chinese government provides a significant amount of scholarship money for foreign students. So much so that I wish I had applied for one to bring down the cost of this already-incredibly-cheap education (RMB8300/term, $1200, EUR970). Indeed, I met a Brent, who it turns out grew up in Flatbush. He did two terms at John Jay before deciding to come study engineering in China.

I suppose the point to all of this is the sudden realization that a future, developed Africa will be populated by a middle, technical class with a fond, familiar notion of China, and only a remote, mediated notion of the United States.

In other news, China blocked youtube today, significantly impacting my ability to watch Limbaugh CPAC rants.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

All Hail Clinton

The many-faced question of china shown through the headlines today. Hillary Clinton completed a successful diplomatic mission to Beijing (which by 1860s standards is pretty fucking impressive) without publicly criticizing China's human rights problems. On the same day, China released a report criticizing U.S. human rights abuses in retaliation for the State Department's own section on China in their annual Human Rights report. What people in the states don't hear is this. On the same day, I can magically get to where previously it told me there was no such address.

With one hand, trying to maintain international legitimacy and relevancy, on the other hand loosening its grip; now that's an entity worth talking to.

Friday, February 27, 2009

The Plus Side

New city, new name. Referring to the plus side of Greenwich Mean Time (+08:00).

Why does everyone like me?

For all the well-deserved anti-Americanism in the world, perhaps no place is it better deserved than in China. The Chinese individual takes massive burdens on himself for the betterment of the American individual. One example is the competitively low wage a Chinese laborer accepts in exchange for keeping the price of a Tonka truck, or a Kitchen-Aid food processor down. Another could be the relatively slim purchasing power of a Chinese citizen based on a national policy of currency devaluation vs. the Dollar, again seeking to keep prices low for you’re average Joe-Six-Pack (esp. if he’s drinking Tsingdao). Now both these arguments are reversible, that they have positive macroeconomic effects, and net-positive social effects, but one that does not is that same average Joe-Six-Pack’s proclivity toward China-Bashing.

I’ve been a lot of places and met a lot of people, and I know the difference between wide-spread national stereotypes (See: France; Cheese-loving surrender-monkeys, America; George W. Bush), and translating those into personal stereotypes. But the unfortunate frequency with which Americans confuse the two regarding China is belied in the media. National insults rightly stir national animosity (whereas the Europeans have a lot less to complain about), especially when Americans so frequently fail to clarify the subtle difference between Chinese People, and their disagreement's with their government's' policies, or with corporations' lack of safety oversight while seeking higher profits. But nowhere in the world have I found such uniform and unambiguous goodwill directed at a simple foreigner (外国人). I have now been welcomed to Beijing several times.

Arguably a large part of the pleasant attitudes is sheer interest. I have been approached by more than one stranger, bus-ticket-collector, student, or barker wanting to know why I am visiting, and how I like it. They are sure to comment on my ‘excellent Chinese’ even if I only manage one word in a conversation.

I am still relatively new here, but I know that if I were Chinese, I would have some serious reservations about how Americans regarded Chinese. But perhaps that’s just because I’m neurotic. Either way, that was a freebie.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Unbearable Inertia of Being

Lo those many months ago, back in September, I had just turned the wise-old-age of twenty three when Lehman Brothers, a company I knew only by the people who had applied to work there, was on the edge of bankruptcy. After the Bear-Stearns incident, I publicly avowed that I simply didn't know enough to say whether the treasury aught to act fast to throw billions of dollars their way and prevent their 'collapse.' But had you cornered me (or more likely, I cornered you) after a few beers and insisted on talking over the day's headlines (say, in grassroots--oh, the good times) I probably would have said that Paulson "should just let the damn thing fail" to see what happens. Little did I know he was apparently listening.

Regardless of what I knew about the commercial paper market at the time (par example; i knew that it existed), my opinion would have been founded on a profound belief in momentum. The legs of this belief system are two-fold and follow this simple line of logic: a) the world economy is huge; simply inconceivably complex and massive. b) it appears to be going swimmingly, and as long as it appears to be so, why should anything change?

Frankly, I am, and was, aware of what is my (and i trust many others') tendency toward this operational assumption. Modern America is (maybe, was) simply stable. There is nothing to fear, because nothing will change, and nothing will change because there's no reason for it to. But it is so tempting a delusion (at least when considering world systems) that even the aware buy into it.

Anyway, I brought this up to perhaps explain how my person has reacted to a drastic change in environs. First, there was almost no stress until I actually had to leave for the airport. Typical in these kinds of cases, I apparently maintained the delusion until the very end. Next, on the plane, I embraced a sort of micro comfort. I was fortunate enough to have a seat wider than most, and this, plus the extra sandwiches I brought made the flight super nice. After landing, survival instinct and adrenaline kicked in, and I managed to get here with very little trouble, and even saved some money by taking a cab rather than the university's hired coach.

But after the necessary things came time for reflection--not voluntary reflection, unavoidable reflection--and it was only in the dark moments following arrival in my room that my person reacted to this drastic change. It did so first by sleeping. I spent most of the day in bed, and when I couldn't get my mind to shut down, I started watching movies. Very rarely will I watch a movie alone, and it is mostly when my brain needs to turn off, which it very much needed.

Only now, two dark days later, am I starting to cope. The shock of the situation may have badly bruised my psyche, but I just don't know if there is any other way. Who doesn't love inertia?

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Thank you, internet games.

I still remember the first time I downloaded "Macromedia Flash player." I was in middle school, probably, and it was required to play some long-forgotten internet game.

I'm thinking about this because I am now working on my own website, and considering using several elements of flash. It is a fantastically useful and powerful tool, and is installed on more than 90% of internet-roaming computers (or traffic, not sure). But it occurs to me: How many of those flash-ready computers have it installed because the child of the family did so on an internet game site. I know nowadays, when I am prompted to install plugins (silverlight, quicktime, the dreaded wildtangent), I usually decline, and look for the same content somewhere else. If I were a visitor to my site, I would not install some unfamiliar plugin just to listen to some third-rate recordings of seventh-rate songs.

But like windows, flash will never disappear--it's too dug-in. Plus, unlike windows, it's very well-done.

Friday, February 13, 2009


I read somewhere recently a prediction that I would have sympathized with if not downright agreed with but only a few months ago. They said the state would 'sublime'--changing phase straight from a solid fact to a gaseous ghost without ever liquefying. To be sure, I think this would be a great thing--solving plenty of the "foreign policy" problems that we have come to accept as natural--and I was hoping *our* generation might make progress toward.

As usual, the gaping exception that everyone knows about but likes to ignore is China. Evan Osnos wrote a great article following the Olympic torch fiasco about the "angry youth" and explosion of Chinese nationalist anger. If taken alone, this is evidence enough that nationalism, and it's obnoxious cousin, the state, are nowhere near dead, or even gaseous.

But recent experiences on have served to emphasize how premature the "post-state world" may have been birthed. The site is an english-language news aggregator about Hungarian politics, and one of the few forums in the world (at least in english) where people still frequently discuss the Trianon partitions. But the fact that there remains a loyal, and significantly-sized subset of Europeans dedicated to the reestablishment of at least the Hungarian side of the empire means we should perhaps look in our own backyard before shouting across the street.

Oh yeah, and I bought a pre-Trianon map of Hungary for the wall. They sell them everywhere.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Smart Timers

There's a lot of really cool things that MicroControllers can do. The other day, Cat wanted to unplug my computer while we made dinner to avoid consuming the energy lost in keeping the transforming circuitry in the AC/DC converter powered up. While this is a laudable goal, the energy consumed by a dormant charger is typically very low--on the scale of 400ish mW, and frankly, it would kind of be a pain in the ass. However, the IEA's recent policy guide, "Energy Efficiency Policy Recommendations"(PDF) states that, depending on the member country, anywhere from 2 to 11% of residential electricity consumption is consumed by appliance "standby modes." In America, land of wide, open plains of plasma screen, this means television standby modes. And America is almost certainly toward, if not at, the 11% figure.

So why can't television manufacturers make more efficient TVs? The standby mode exists so that when a TV is turned on, it turns on right away--without keeping power across it, and literally keeping the screen warm--the TV would take anywhere from 5 to 15 seconds to turn on. Television manufacturers know that people buy TVs in stores, based on first impressions, thus a needlessly wasteful amount of power is consumed for convenience.

What would be really interesting, is if someone included a short timer script on the IC. If televisions kept track of when you watched them, it could know when to warm up, based on the end-user's trends. Given that the circuitry is almost already all there, this would require an infinitesimal added cost with a small R&D budget. Timing programs could be tuned to more conservative or more liberal energy use by the end user, and also used to advertise the 'greenness' of the product.

But television manufacturers won't willingly include such circuitry, as very few people would actually use it--just like they won't willingly meet the IEA's 1watt standard for appliance standby--which is why this opens up a great opportunity for someone to develop a 'smart green' power strip. This could do the same thing--track when users use appliances plugged into each port, and then turn them on or off automagically based on when they most frequently use them.

Pipe dreams, but like i say, microcontrollers can do some cool shit.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Skinternet Innovation Alliance

With nothing but time to kill, I've taken to reading a lot recently. The problem is, sometimes there's something you really want to tell someone--and not knowing any professional bloggers, I guess I just have to do it myself.

On the Washington Post's website, I was reading an article from a week or so back about Janet Napolitano's confirmation hearings (for the position of Secretary of Homeland Security)--I wanted to see if she had anything to say about Immigration and Customs Enforcement's recent killings of some detainees, or about the general loathesomeness of the department generally.

Instead, I noticed a slick ad on the right hand side of the page for the "Internet Innovation Alliance's" new & free "Broadband Factbook," which offers "convenient research items culled from the best broadband data sources." Now I'm used to ads on the NYTimes website for useless things like Steuben bowls that you can carve your name in, not free and useful resources, so perhaps I was a little jaded when I decided that "Internet Innovation Alliance" sounded like just the name an industry advocacy group might choose to lobby for their interests with the public. Moreover, 'broadband' is one of those catch-words that keeps coming up every time President Obama and 'stimulus' are in the same headline. And to industry that means money.

The 'Factbook' models itself as a cheat-sheet for business types, "If you need to find bite-sized talking points on a tight deadline, you're in the right place. We've already done the hard part for you!" But apparently the 'hard part' was filleting arguments into one-sided, ideologically empty quotes. Take, for example, this entry on Net-Neutrality (the principle that says owners of lines of communication aught not be able to discriminate against different types of communication):

Advocates of net neutrality argue that ISPs should have little flexibility to manage their networks and that the solution to any kinds of network congestion or other network performance challenges can and should be solved by simply adding more network capacity—primarily in the form of “bigger pipes.”

I suppose that's one viewpoint. But It's also the factbook's only viewpoint. Strangely, the IIA took a very different tack back in 2004 when SBC tried to start charging VoIP providers more (according to common cause), but has apparently reversed its stance since SBC became a major contributor.

For a primer on net neutrality, try googling it. Or click here

I suppose the real story is that powerbrokers are expected to read the Post, and fancy-glass-mongers read the Times.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

In Memoriam

American values are rarely what they aspire to. Besides making inspiring fodder for ridiculous popular cinema, we rarely get much use out of the term 'liberalism' except when we're shying away from it. To that end, just about every person in this country should read this essay and weep for what they themselves have forsaken.


because i've been getting that 'what are you doing?!' response a lot, let me fill in this blog.

On the 19th of January I'm heading to Budapest (where Cat happens to be living and working at an NGO).

On February 23, I will fly to Beijing and enroll at the Beijing University of Technology, where I will study Chinese.

I will also be tutoring English, saving up to pay for a ticket to fly cat out to beijing on April 4th for the Qing Ming break.

On June 26th, I will fly from Beijing to Budapest for more intensive post-communist research.

On August 24th, I will fly from Budapest to Newark and commence moving to Cambridge, MA.

On August 28th, I will move up to Cambridge, try and find an apartment and attend the MIT TPP orientation.

Following that, I will take a bus back to new york, pick up my bike, and bike back up to my new apartment in Cambridge.

That's about it for now. Three sheets to the wind!