- Health Reform Without a Public Plan – A short outline of how healthcare works in Germany: with pooled risks, and income-based premiums, but without a government administered healthcare system. There are more models for "socialized" healthcare out there than Americans realize, and they don't all involve a wasteful bureaucracy. (tagged: health medicne insurance policy politics socialism )
- How to Look Like a Grown-Up While Biking to Work – Can it really be true? Has New York become so bikeable that normal people riding simple, functional do-everything bikes are about to take over and make bicycle culture just plain old culture? I'd like to believe it. (tagged: bicycle transportation culture urban design cycling )
- Use of Linux constitutes probable cause? – Computer expertise and use of a command line now apparently warrant seizure and search of all your electronic devices, on the Boston College campus anyway. What a crock! (tagged: technology politics security linux police privacy law )
- Points on a sphere – There's no perfect way to specify N regularly spaced points on a sphere, but there are a few different ways to get close I'm going with the golden section spiral (tagged: python math programming science research sphere )
- He Doesn’t Let the Money Managers Off the Hook – Of all the myriad failures of our capitalism, the willful collusion of shareholder representatives in the mismanagement and looting of their own companies has not gotten much airtime. This is why I use Vanguard. (tagged: investing vanguard bogle finance capitalism )
- National Marijuana Forum at CU Boulder – I'm proud of my other alma mater for organizing and hosting this event. Hopefully there won't be any riot police involved on Farrand Field. 15,000 people would be quite a sight. Looks like the DEA and Drug Free America aren't so sure about whether they should participate in the discussion. (tagged: drugs marijuana cannabis colorado law )
- Photo Splicing – Ah, the wonders of Photoshop. (tagged: art photoshop urban )
- Water footprint and virtual water calculator – A water footprint calculator. To really do it right I'd have to actually measure my food intake for a week or a month… but off the cuff, I'm at around 900 cubic meters per year, which is a little more than a third the US average, and about 70% of the global per capita average. (tagged: sustainability water green )
- How Much Water Do You Use? – Good graphic showing the difference in water use between two possible days. By far the biggest waste: beef. 1500 gallons for one pound of steak. Cut that out, and you'll reduce your daily water consumption by more than half. (tagged: sustainability environment green water meat )
- tweenbots – Apparently all it takes to inspire human altruism is a smile and flag that says "help me". Encouraging. I think. (tagged: human robot culture experiment society urban )
- The secret, social lives of bacteria – Cooperative behavior between bacteria, both inter and intra species, coordinated via chemical messages. Behavior like "should we make light?" and "should we kill the host now?". Scary, awesome, and a beautiful system to investigate with algorithmic game theory! (tagged: cooperation biology technology bacteria science )
- Computational Legal Studies – More people using machines to understand politics. A whole new class of dual use technology. Propaganda or transparency? Manipulation or clarity? Unauthorized social networking. (tagged: transparency technology government law )
- Public Private Investment Partnerships a la Enron – Giving banks the ability to both buy and sell into the toxic asset markets being set up under PPIP is a recipe for market gaming in the tradition of Enron, as outlined in this example. Great, a trillion dollar Enron! (tagged: finance bailout economics policy enron ppip banks )
- The New Nostradamus – Bruce Bueno de Mesquita uses large game theory simulations to try and predict the outcomes of complex negotiations involving many parties, both economic and political. Sounds interesting. Also sounds a little bit like bullshit. But apparently the CIA did a prospective trial (no backtesting bias) and found that the models made accurate predictions something like 90% of the time, when the analysts providing the inputs to the model made wrong predictions. Not so surprising that computers are better at synthesizing massive logical datasets into an outcome. The hard part seems like it would be getting the right inputs, and also trusting that people behave rationally, and (perhaps) know what's good for them. (tagged: economics politics science math prediction gametheory technology )
- Ice Shelf Instability Backgrounder – A good backgrounder from last summer on the Wilkins Ice Shelf (which has just collapsed), and shelf dynamics in general, with links to the relevant literature. None of this is quite as sudden and shocking as the media reports have made it out to be. (tagged: climate antarctica ice shelf )
- Privacy and the Fourth Amendment – Our laws, or at least, our interpretations of them, desperately need to be updated to deal with information and privacy in a computer mediated world. What will be the framing cases, and how will they shake out? Apparently the warrantless wiretapping wasn't a big enough scandal to get us paying attention. Terrifying to imagine what it will take. (tagged: privacy law security technology )
- Moyers on America . Is God Green? – Bill Moyers (himself very Christian) investigates the recent emergence of green evangelicalism… (tagged: religion sustainability green christianity moyers environment )
- Vast Spy System Loots Computers in 103 Countries – NYTimes.com – Asian cyberspies, able to watch and listen through your computer's camera and microphone, even if you work in an embassy? And they somehow leave the dashboard for their giant cyberspyring out in the open, on a website, with no password? Are you kidding? Is it just me, or does this reek of Neuromancer? (tagged: security internet technology espionage china tibet nytimes )
- The Quiet Coup – A withering op-ed by Simon Johnson on the policy disaster that is our financial sector. But he's still not willing to re-evaluate the underlying premise of perpetually debt fueled exponential economic growth. How, exactly, was this all supposed to work out? (tagged: politics economics finance bailout crisis policy banking imf )
- MASHSF – Fixies gone wild. Not my kind of riding, but hey, someone's having a good time! Looks like they're making a movie. (tagged: bicycle fixie video cycling )
- A New Way Forward – Grassroots banking policy? Who'd have guessed? Their plan is "Nationalize. Reorganize. Decentralize." The N-word has some bad connotations, but what they're really advocating for is an FDIC style managed bankruptcy, i.e. letting the banks fail, cleaning out the shareholders and management, and applying real anti-trust laws to the financial industry. I never thought I'd go to a banking protest. (tagged: economics bailout finance fdic activism banking policy )
- MailStopper – Is $20/year too much to pay to avoid junk mail? Would it really work? The self-monitoring aspect is interesting too. Would be great to be able to watch your name and address as it propagates through the ocean of direct marketing databases, and credit reporting agencies. (tagged: green junkmail sustainability internet )
- YellowPagesGoesGreen.Org – I hate the two kilograms of cellulose that the phone company insists on littering my doorstep with each year. I was a little bit drunk when they showed up last week, and threw them in the street. I don't even have a land line. Why would I want a phone book? Who uses those things anyway? Thankfully, someone else has already created an opt-out system… too bad I'll have to wait a year to see if it actually works. (tagged: environment recycling paper yellowpages mail green sustainability )
- The Age of Stupid – A new combination sci-fi documentary on climate change… framed as a man looking back and trying to understand why we failed to act, from the year 2055. The movie was "crowd funded" – the filmmakers sold shares of the profits to individuals (and the crew) in exchange for cash (about $1 million total). The trailer looks fairly good… (tagged: climate film green environment )
- Mistrial by iPhone – Juries’ Web Research Upends Trials – Another example (cf death of record companies, newspapers) of technology upending previously stable social and legal systems. 9/12 jury members found to be doing research on the trial they were sitting on, via their cell phones and the internet. People don't consider the meta-brain to be a separate entity any more. Certainly not for weeks of sequestration on end… (tagged: law technology internet phone jury trial )
- If You Want to Know Bike Laws, Don’t Ask the California Highway Patrol – A great rundown of traffic laws as they apply to bicycles in California… and how unfortunately uninformed the police are. (tagged: bicycle transportation police law california )
- R3project: Sustainability in Barcelona – A blog recounting the story of remodeling (and living in) a previously abandoned 18th century apartment in Barcelona's old town, as sustainably (and cheaply) as possible. Available in English or Spanish! (tagged: green sustainability design architecture urban barcelona buildings )
- The Evolution of Life in 60 Seconds – 4.6 billion years of Earth history, boiled down into 60 seconds, showing the spectacularly non-linear nature of evolution. (tagged: non-linear video science evolution biology earth darwin history )
- EFF Surveillance Self-Defense Project – A tutorial from the Electronic Frontier Foundation, on what you can do to protect yourself against snooping, government and otherwise. Now if only these things would become standard, default practice, around which all of our applications and workflows are designed. (tagged: politics technology privacy surveillance security law )
- Human flesh search engines – A phenomenon of internet vigilantes, kind of like paramilitary morality cops, in China. We've been doing this kind of thing to spammers and other "internet criminals" for a while now. Strange to see it leak out into the real world. A potentially interesting propaganda tool. Mob justice on command? (tagged: internet technology china vigilante politics )
The US road to recovery runs through Beijing says Asia Times Online, and Thomas Barnett emphatically agrees. Everyone is talking about how to reorganize the global economy, but mostly the discussion is about how to most efficiently export our recently collapsed model of growth to the developing world. Better this time around for sure, we say, but not fundamentally different in any way. The Chinese need (and want, it turns out) more domestic consumption and consumer debt.
Why is it that new housing developments in the US are filled with giant cookie-cutter houses crammed in next to each other, and burdened with ridiculous covenant requirements of lawns and four car garages, without a grocery store in walking distance?
Why can’t we have places like Freiburg’s Quartier Vauban? (pictures on Flickr, and another, and another) 5000 people, and one main street with a speed limit of 30 km/hr, smaller side streets meant primarily for bikes and walking. No parking on private property – all cars have to be stored in the structures at the margins of the development. 40% of the households have no car. A light-rail connection to central Freiburg (which is all of 2 miles away). 600 on-site jobs of various kinds, including the grocery store that’s within walking distance of the entire community. Lots of different kinds of (mostly smaller) living spaces. Vegetable gardens and fruit trees. Public playing fields and parks.
With the collapse of Bear Stearns and the US automakers and airlines tanking, and the prospect of a trillion dollar bailout of Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and who knows how many other large lenders, all because they are, putatively, “too big to fail” (by which is meant, obviously, not that they are so large as to be incapable of failing, but that they are so large as to make the consequences of their failing worse than the immediate, visible consequences of bailing them out), I’ve started wondering if perhaps what we really need is an update to our anti-trust laws, to the effect of: if you’re too big to fail, you’re just plain too big.
Instead of allowing corporate juggernauts to form, and then eventually being “forced” to save them from their own follies, why not just keep these captains of industry small enough that we never need to save them. The Feds already have to approve the bigger mergers and acquisitions – they already have this power by-and-large. Keeping our companies a little smaller would increase competition, and diversity within the corporate ecology of our markets. GM doesn’t want to make fuel efficient cars? Fine – their small-cars division can spin off and do its own thing. Sink or swim in its competition with Toyota, while GM itself just sinks, into an ever shrinking ocean of $150 oil.
Instead, we give taxpayer cash to large companies that have made bad business decisions, and absolve them of their obligations to pay the pensions they promised to their lifelong employees. We inflate the dollar and erode both our spending power, and our savings, while simultaneously crippling the long term competitiveness of our biggest industries. I don’t think the marginal increase in productivity from economies of scale that happens between being a $20 billion company and a $40 billion company is really worth it, if it means we’re all eventually on the hook for bailing out the $40 billion company, when we wouldn’t have to shovel mountains of cash at the two $20 billion companies… one of which might actually have made some good business decisions.
Amy’s Salon is meeting tonight, talking about the recent Supreme Court decision to uphold the 2nd amendment in Washington, D.C. I did a bit of reading on the subject, and (regrettably) I agree with Scalia:
“Undoubtedly some think that the Second Amendment is outmoded in a society where our standing army is the pride of our nation, where well-trained police forces provide personal security and where gun violence is a serious problem. That is perhaps debatable, but what is not debatable is that it is not the role of this court to pronounce the Second Amendment extinct.”