Fantastic questions for Bush and Kerry
...are here. It's a shame they won't get asked.
blogjack - Life, the universe, and when to hit a soft eighteen.
...are here. It's a shame they won't get asked.
Paul Graham has a new essay up. He has some good things to say about what motivates hackers:
One of the worst kinds of projects is writing an interface to a piece of software that's full of bugs. Another is when you have to customize something for an individual client's complex and ill-defined needs. To hackers these kinds of projects are the death of a thousand cuts.If working on "nasty little problems" is like eating a cheeseburger, I guess I need to go on a diet in more ways than one...
The distinguishing feature of nasty little problems is that you don't learn anything from them. Writing a compiler is interesting because it teaches you what a compiler is. But writing an interface to a buggy piece of software doesn't teach you anything, because the bugs are random. So it's not just fastidiousness that makes good hackers avoid nasty little problems. It's more a question of self-preservation. Working on nasty little problems makes you stupid. Good hackers avoid it for the same reason models avoid cheeseburgers.
Marginal Revolution has a good post regarding some cool upcoming technologies:
Consider the way radio works now. Two stations can't be broadcasting at the same frequency unless they are so far apart that receivers can only hear one of them at a time. Bring them too close together and the primitive sensors we use for electromagnetic radiation will get both signals and become confused.
Now consider the situation with another sort of electromagnetic sensor -- the human eye. There is no rule that says you and your friend can't wear the same color shirt in the same room for fear that people will be unable to distinguish the two of you. The eye has no trouble seeing multiple sources of the same electromagnetic frequency and distinguishing them. You can easily focus on any one of several sources of the same electromagnetic frequency even though you are receiving others.
What's the difference between your eye and your FM radio? Entirely that your eye is directionally sensitive and the radio is not. The radio has much the same view of the world that a non-directional photocell with a color filter would have -- it can tell that a particular frequency has arrived but not from where and it can't distinguish multiple signals directionally. Imagine if you had to see the world that way.
Well, as it turns out, you don't have to see the world that way. There's a technology out there (the details aren't important) called "phased arrays" that allows you to broadcast a signal very directionally (like shining a light at one and only one person) or to focus very directionally on a single signal (so that you can listen to one FM broadcast on 99.5 and not hear another originating one mile away at the exact same frequency.)
This is not a theoretical technology -- it has been in use in military radar systems (such as the one used on the very expensive Aegis ships the navy has) for decades. However, it depends on doing very complicated signal correlations, and until now that has been very expensive. However, if you do the work in software, it turns out to be pretty straightforward and the expense falls by 50% every year.
I keep getting dragged into Michael Moore arguments. The most common defense of Moore I hear isn't "he's telling the truth", it's more along the lines of "he's no worse than Bush!" (or Limbaugh, or Fox News, or...)
Spiderman 2: you've seen the movie (it's excellent, by the way), but have you seen it in Lego?
Glen Whitman of Agoraphilia reluctantly says:
I hate to admit it, but I think regulating fireworks, and even implementing an outright ban in especially fire-prone areas, is probably a good idea. Will people flout the regulations, leading to smuggling and black markets? Yes, but I still suspect the gains exceed the losses (though I’m open to evidence showing that my concerns are out of proportion to the problem). We can’t eliminate the risk entirely, but we can at least reduce it substantially.How could we measure the benefit of fully-unrestricted fireworks? The benefit consists of vast numbers of happy people enjoying entertainment. Note that fireworks have a positive externalities as well as negative ones --that guy on your block who spends $300 putting on a big show benefits everybody who sees and enjoys it. The benefit to /him/ has to exceed $300 or he wouldn't spend that much, so the amount people in a state cumulatively spend on fireworks is a lower bound to the benefit to the state as a whole; you'd need to inflate that number a fair bit to account for the benefits to non-paying observers.
I noticed lies and selective arguments in the very first few minutes of Farenheit 9/11. This set off my BS-detector, and from then on I had a hard time taking his other claims at face value. Which turned out to be a good thing.
Here's a great Chick-tract parody on why alcohol prohibitionists are wrong...