Monthly Archives: December 2011

According to BBC, Brazil’s economy has overtaken that of the UK:

CEBR chief executive Douglas McWilliams told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that Brazil overtaking the UK was part of a growing trend.

“I think it’s part of the big economic change, where not only are we seeing a shift from the west to the east, but we’re also seeing that countries that produce vital commodities – food and energy and things like that – are doing very well and they’re gradually climbing up the economic league table,” he said.
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Brazilian economy

A report based on International Monetary Fund data published earlier this year also said the Brazilian economy would overtake the UK in 2011.

Brazil has a population of about 200 million, more than three times the population of the UK.

The first job I had in Estacado was helping the state CPS move its computer systems. I was one of only two white boys on the crew of a dozen or so. Most were Hispanic. One of them was a Mexican-American who was trying to learn Portugese. I asked him why, when he was already bilingual in such a useful language. He said that Brazil was where it was at in South America and that there was a real need.

When I thought about it, it made sense. Brazil’s sheer size is important, of course. But I had another datapoint of interest. Back when I was in Colosse looking for work, I kept seeing what could only be described as the perfect job. Except, after having read and salivated over the job description and requirements, they would include a sentence at the end “Must be fluent in Portugese.” Aside from the frustration to putting at the end what should have been at the beginning, I found it odd that Portugese of all languages was the one barring me for a job. Spanish, I could understand. But Portugese?

Category: Newsroom

This is an old article, but I ran across it because I googled the subject, seeing yet another picture of Vlad Putin and thinking that he must have had plastic surgery.

How a professional screw-up gave an engineer a criminal record.

There is no disputing this statistic.

Apparently, Europe is not in a mess because the Greeks and Spanish are lazy. They work harder than the Germans.

A sperm donor is told to… errr… abstain, or face $100k fine.

How Ethiopian adoption industry is duping families and bullying activists.

I don’t want to hear any more about how carriers are complacent in thwarting mobile phone thieves. Let them be complacent! The alternative may be to refuse to activate any phone that they don’t personally sell you. It’d solve the problem and cost customers more money than stolen phones ever will.

From Bakadesuyo, the always popular question: Do young women prefer jerks or nice guys?

Deconstructing the temper tantrum.

We’re exporting Japanese cars to South Korea.

Category: Newsroom

I believe Apple when they say that the abortion clinic thing was unintentional. The real question to me is… would they approve of an app that lets parents know that their kids are looking for an abortion clinic?

I’ve pondered switching to e-cigarettes. I fear this bodes ill for that ever happening. I’d never smoke it in the workplace, but I fear before all is said and done, e-cigarettes will be made just as inconvenient as the regular kind. Not because they’re remotely as bothersome, but because the war on tobacco has become so punitive in nature.

Rural America is fighting back against a proposed Department of Labor regulation that would hinder the ability of young people to work on farms.

A look at who is dropping out of the labor force. Also, is it a good sign that people are quitting their jobs?

St. Louis disbanded the occupiers in the right way. There are some things the police across the country have taken grief for, but far too many were excessively confrontation. The only counterpoint is whether the missteps of others made the St. Louis occupiers know what the alternative to evacuation was.

The occupiers, meanwhile, are looking at occupying homes with faulty foreclosures (or allegedly faulty foreclosures). If they target the right houses, I think this could be a worthwhile project. But they’d better be sure, otherwise they are disrupting the proper eviction of deadbeats.

Step 1: Bring back the wooly mammoth. Step 2: Find out how they taste.

If the government was putting guns in the hands of bad guys in order to track them and learn about the flow of illegal guns, that’s one thing. If they did it to make a political argument, that’s inexcusable.

An interesting view of the Occupy Movement, from China.

Is Verizon throwing in the towel on FiOS?

Category: Newsroom

While anything that talks about “superiority” and “German” is inherently unnerving, I thought this insight on German reunification was fascinating.

An unbelievably cool tool that lets you see the impact of a meteor hitting the earth. And you get to choose the size, density, distance, and trajectory of the meteor!

Rod Dreher writes of hate as an element of style. Dreher brings up several good points about the obnoxiousness of it all.. and yet how we are better off for their existence.

Joel Kotkin continues to fight the good fight against the meme that people are fed up with suburbia.

A curious pair of statistics: smokers outearn non-smokers in their first job, but nonsmokers’ wages grow much fast.

An interesting look at who’s dropping out of the labor force.

How doctors approach death.

Reporters are credulous, studies show.

How to make your Windows PC boot faster.

The most expensive street drunk in Tacoma. Total tab: Approximatly $2,407,100.

Category: Newsroom

Imagine yourself in a coffeehouse, book store, or some other third place. A man who appears to be in his late-twenties walks up to you and says, “Excuse me sir/ma’am, but do you have a cell phone?” Do you:

(a) Say “buzz off”

(b) Say yes, suspiciously.

(c) Say yes and ask why without suspicion.

(d) Say “go away”

(e) Say yes, grab your cell phone, and hand it to the stranger.

My answer, I must confess, would be (b). I wouldn’t lie or be so rude as to tell them to buzz off, but I guess I am just suspicious of strangers walking up and asking me something like that. It’s not necessarily a rational thing, but once I did loan my cell phone to a stranger when they proceeded to use it for twenty minutes trying to get a hold of somebody. I wasn’t in a hurry, but my plan was not to hang around where I was for twenty minutes. Then being the villain anyway for asking for my phone back before they were quite done.

I was the late-twenties guy (I’m not in my late twenties, but I look like I am) and asked that to a guy at a coffee shop in Redstone. He went with (e), though before he could actually give me the cell phone I told him what I was wanting (“Could you call my cell phone? I can’t find it.”). He called the cell and proceeded to walk around the coffee shop and help me find it.

It’s not unlike back when I was living in Deseret. Shortly before I left Colosse, my car was broken into and a few thousand dollars worth of stuff was taken from my car (it’s a long story as to why I had a few thousand dollars worth of stuff in my car). I called the Colosse PD, who couldn’t have been less interested if they had tried. I had to basically force them to take the serial number of my laptop in the event that it resurfaced at a pawn shop.

Flash forward to Deseret and I left my jacket somewhere. In my jacket was a checkbook. A couple months later, someone wrote a check to a pizza delivery place with said checkbook. I’d already canceled the account that the checkbook was cancelled to (something I had intended to do anyway, since the bank had no branches in Deseret) but the loss of my last checkbook expedited matters. Anyhow, the pizza delivery place sicked the credit collection dogs on me. In order to get out of it, I had to file an affidavit.

I apologized to the detective for taking up his time. But his response couldn’t have been more different from the Colosse PD’s. He got a subpoena for the cameras for the day in question. They didn’t have that, so he interviewed employees there. He gave me updates every two or three days. I didn’t stop him because I was interested in retrieving the jacket if it was at all possible. After about a week, he apologetically said that he had burned all leads.

Of course, we can ask “What else would a detective in small-town Deseret actually do with his time?” No doubt, there is some truth to this. But I became acquainted with the Detective over time because he lead a handful of drug arrests at the apartment complex I was living at. He was not an unimportant guy. Flash forward a little later after my car had been broken into and the culprit arrested, a DA visited me personally to ask if the plea bargain they had worked out was okay with me or if they should pursue it to the maximum extent of the law (I told her the plea bargain was fine).

Category: Courthouse, Downtown

One of the natural inclinations that, when I substitute teach, is not to put myself in the class. What I mean is, if I have a middle school class (for instance), I can usually guess half way through any period where I would fit in within the class’s dynamic. These are the students who would torture me. Those are the students who would be my friends. Those are the students who would unfortunately be my friends. Those are the students who would be kind but distant. That right there is the fat girl who would make fun of my weight to ingratiate herself with the popular-mean-nonfat girls. At the end of the day I do my write-up, and I should not mention – or fail to mention – a student on the basis of how I would expect they would have treated me at my middle school.

It’s a little different with the grade school kids because the social patterns aren’t all set yet. The notion of “I can’t be friendly with you because then other kids won’t like me” hasn’t fully set in yet outside of less than a handful of toxic individuals. I was actually a little surprised by this despite the fact that it matches up with my grade school experience. I remember a couple of kids at West Oak Elementary getting a really hard time, but it was rather an exception. I had previously thought that I had glossed this over because I wasn’t on the receiving end of much of it myself. But I am coming around to the idea of social patterns not having formed.

To jump back to middle school and high school and the inclination I have to resist, I guess it goes back to that saying that you graduate from the public school system but you never really leave it. The social patterns that establish themselves there long outlive their original context. I remember Eva saying that she and a previous boyfriend were having a hard time relating to one another because he was super-popular in school and she wasn’t. It sounds trivial, doesn’t it? Yet I am not sure it is. When your perception on that place that you spent seven hours a day for thirteen years of your life is so different, you can approach everything social with different assumptions. The justice of schoolground popularity, for instance. More basically, whether or not you can assume that people will like you.

Now, the older you get, the less all of this matters. But it does matter straight up through marriage. I don’t consider it a coincidence that all of the major romantic interests in my life have ranged from not-particularly-popular to unpopular. The friends through which you meet the person you marry are often (though not always) going to be people that you meet and become friends with while you labor under whatever impressions you have of your interactions with other people that you got from school. This isn’t set in stone (my brother Mitch was not-particularly-popular in high school but became Mr. Social in college), but it’s a general tendency I have seen.

All of this being really horrifying, when you think about it. Our social expectations being derived at a time when social alliances have no consequences beyond social standing. When being useful isn’t socially useful, for the most part. When being smart doesn’t help. When following the rules doesn’t help (and can hurt). These are the seeds from which our self-perceptions are often planted.

Category: School

When talking about outsourcing our brains to google, it’s worth noting that knowledge makes you a better googler.

The return of the laugh-track. There’s actually a lot of interesting info in the article about the process. Not just the… editing… but also how they choose their studio audience. On Married With Children, for example, they’d pack the audience with Marines and other service members. For Dear John, they got divorcees.

The earliest ads for were based on the premise that Amazon had an insane number of books and so where did they put them? Well, here is the answer.

It’s commonly discussed around here that women are more likely to initiate divorce than men. Why? Well, one reason could be that divorce is most likely to be instigated by the parent that will get custody of the children. The data is a bit dated. That being said, it’s noteworthy that in the couple of cases I am familiar with where the man left the woman (and there were children involved), the father got primary custody. I wonder what the numbers look like for childless couples? Also, some data suggesting that more lax divorce laws led to a decline in females murdered by their partners.

It’s commonly argued that teacher quality has declined over time, but it’s not necessarily true.

Ways to inflate your IQ.

Seriously, why did anyone ever think this would not only be a good idea, but would sell for $100? I would say something about how they must not have seen ebooks coming, but it looks like ebooks predate these things. Sometimes I think companies come up with something to confuse the technologically illiterate holiday buyers trying to figure out something to get for their wiz-kid grandson.

The glory of the original Atari logo.

Parks & Recreation: The sitcom that actually loves Middle America.

Why the intro to Batman: The Animated Series, is the best opening sequence ever. A scene-by-scene analysis.

Category: Newsroom

Much of last week was spent on computer stuff. It was a bad week, some of it my own fault and some of it not. The main goals were to (1) assemble and get a new PC up and running and (2) install a new SSD hard drive on one of the laptops. Though assembling a PC can be fraught with hazard and it’s a pain to go through and reinstall everything, it all should have been pretty straightforward. But nothing that was supposed to go right went right.

I expected that I might order a wrong part due to carelessness, or that I might forget to plug something in and freak out when the computer doesn’t boot like it should, but neither of these things happened.

Instead, things started happening everywhere else in the constellation. The laptop that was plugged in to the TV downstairs stopped working. The laptop I assigned to replace it wouldn’t do the one and only thing I really needed it to do: play video. So the laptop I had to use was the one I wanted to put the new hard drive in. So before I could get to that, I had to format and restore the one that wouldn’t play video (the typical things, such as installing new codecs and drivers, didn’t work). Then, after having taken the PC I am replacing apart, one of my other PCs started acting funky and was no longer reliable. That meant placing a last minute order for a new power supply as I had isolated that to be the problem.

Everything with the new PC worked except for the high-falutin’ video card. Except, it being a new PC, I didn’t know the video card was the problem. So I had to run all sorts of tests to isolate that as the problem. In my investigations, I discovered that the video card wouldn’t work through a DVI-VGA adapter, which meant that even if it did work, it wouldn’t do what I needed it to do without a new monitor and KVM switch. But even accounting for that, the card still didn’t work. I called tech support and was on hold for four hours before giving up, leading me to question their “24/7 commitment to customer support.”

Then, the power supply I ordered didn’t fit into the machine I ordered it for. It was the right size, so it wasn’t an obvious mistake on my part. However, to get to the place where there was room for it, I had to go through a place where there wasn’t enough room to get it through. There may be a way to remove one of the offending bars, but it’s going to be a pain.

Note, while video cards and power supplies can be cheap, these weren’t. They cost $110 and $150 respectively. Oh, and I discovered that because of the pure awesomeness of the motherboard I got, having a 4-slot video card wasn’t even necessary because the mobo would let me use the PCIE card in conjunction with the mobo card.

So then on to the laptops. The F&R on the video-problemed laptop went smoothly until I installed a piece of “updater software” that updated everything from “working” to “not working”, forcing me to start again from stratch.

And the new SSD HD didn’t work. It took me several hours to figure that out (to rule out the possibility that the problem could be anything else).

Then, out of nowhere, the initial laptop that failed causing me to play the 3-card monty with my laptops suddenly started working perfectly again. I mean, a working laptop is better than a non-working laptop, but it rendered a lot of what I had been working on unnecessarily.

With the exception of a desktop sitting on the sidelines for lack of a power supply, and the inability to see video on one of my other desktops (I can still access it through Remote Desktop), things are working okay.

It does make me wonder a little – only a little – if there isn’t something to the whole notion of having “a computer” instead of “thirteen computers.”

On the other hand, throughout all of this I never lacked for a computer no matter what I did. Even on the PC downstairs, if I had really been adamant I could have hooked the Pentium Vista computer up and still been able to watch something. So it was and does remain nice that short of a nuclear bomb, I always have something.

Category: Server Room

If you want someone to be your friend, get them to do you a favor.

How does it not occur to somebody that using medical records for scrap paper is a bad idea?

Alex Knapp schools us on the seduction, and limits, of the exponential curve.

When Southern Tech (a large public university) and Piermont (a well-to-do private one) played their rivalry game this year, there was some cross-forum smack-talking between the fans of each. Not just about our teams, but our universities. I’m not going to get into what they call us (it involves our school’s racial demographics), but my knock on them is that “Well, some school has to educate those who won’t have a job at Daddy’s firm when they graduate.” It’s a cheap shot, but maybe not that far off-base.

This look at American-European values and how they conflict should surprise no one.

A magic trick that reveals unconscious knowledge.

My only exposure to the BitCoin is when one of my computers got absolutely hammered by some malware that apparently had the objective of stealing bitcoins from my computer, should I get any. Or something like that. Why anyone thought this would work, I do not know. I’m not sure I would bet on this, either.

This is a video on a $25 computer that plays high-definition video. Naturally, it doesn’t come with much attached.

It seems to me that the press does not know what to do when a prevailing narrative no longer fits. So when suddenly the pastoral, declining landscape of the Great Plains is booming, they don’t know how exactly to cover it. So they find a way to turn it into a negative. I am not slow to call bias on coverage of everything between the coasts (outside of Chicago), but I think this is more of a narrative issue than a coastal bias (or liberal bias) one.

Perhaps the most irritating thing about the deification of Steve Jobs is that he will give bosses an excuse to be a jerk for the forseeable future. They’re not being an arse. They’re being like Steve Jobs. It’s not unlike the managers at the places I have worked that read these business books and then only remember the most self-serving stuff. I remember one boss (boss’s boss, actually) who was a die-hard fan of 7 Habits of Highly Successful People. Then I actually read the book and discovered that his evangelism was… selective… in nature.

A story from a couple years ago about NBA players going back to college. Oklahoma State’s quarterback is actually a former professional baseball player. Interesting factoids: The average annual salary in the N.B.A. is $5.85 million, and players are generally secure in the near term. Their retirement years can be completely different. An estimated 60 percent of N.B.A. players are broke within five years of retiring, and 78 percent of N.F.L. players are bankrupt or under financial stress because of joblessness or divorce within two years. If the players unions really wanted my support, they would be coming up with a lifetime payment plan so that the money they make from their careers is more modest, but lasts a lot longer.

The New York Times has a good piece on the rise in audiobooks. Now that I have them set up on my smartphone, they’re hard to go without.

Category: Newsroom

I had a kindergarten class today. It was a relatively light day, as far as academics go. The afternoon was spent with a Christmas “play” (more like a recital, but they called it a play). The rest of the day was spent with Christmas books and a couple short movies. Almost none of them involved Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.

This was a problem.

Because over and over again, in any picture book or movie that showed the reindeer without Rudolph, the same response occurred: “WHERE’S RUDOLPH?!?!?!?!?!” My options of explaining this were three:

(1) Rudolph is a registered property of some media rights company and so any story where Rudolph appears must therefore pay this company money. In an effort to make their product less expensive and therefore enjoyed by a larger number of people, writers and producers of Christmas material where Rudolph does not play an integral part will leave Rudolph out of it. This, of course, diminished the enjoyment of the story for kindergarteners everywhere. So tell your parents to write your congressman in opposition to future copyright extensions so that eventually Rudolph can be more widely enjoyed by children such as yourself.

Pros: Accurate and potentially motivating young people for political involvement.

Cons: None of them will understand what the heck I am talking about.

(2) Think of it as though there are multiple parallel dimensions. What takes place in one universe does not necessarily take place in others. For instance, in this story, there are talking bears and wolves. As we know, in our dimension, bears and wolves don’t talk (and are more likely to attack one another than be best buddies). So, while Rudolph may exist in the world of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, he does not necessarily exist in this world of talking bears or wolves or this other world where dogs talk to one another in various accents.

Pros: Concedes the possible existence of Rudolph and places the context of the story within the storybook worlds where they are being told.

Cons: None of them will understand what the heck I am talking about. Except the words “Rudolph doesn’t exist.” They will understand that part.

(3) Rudolph is dead.

Pros: Short and to the point.

Cons: Will make kindergarteners cry.

(4) This story takes place before Rudolph was the lead reindeer. Remember how, at the beginning of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer how Rudolph wasn’t a part of the sled team? This story is like that.

Pros: Does not foreclose existence of Rudolph (and therefore Santa), comparatively short and to the point with an example they may be able to understand.

Cons: Kids have an incomplete understanding of “before” and “after.” Plus, if for instance there are only two reindeer, they will wonder why only two were necessary at the time of the story but Rudolph was one of several. Coming up with an explanation of how union regulations requires the hiring of more reindeer, or how animal rights advocates insisted on it, would require a greater understanding of the real world than kindergarteners are likely to have.

I went with #4, though left out the part about union regulations and instead opted for an explanation that the story took place when there were less people (errr, bear-people) and therefore less presents required carrying and therefore fewer reindeer were required.

To get to a more serious point, this actually is indicative to me of the problem of indefinite copyrights. Rudolph has extended beyond something that some guy made up for Montgomery Ward and into a cultural icon. Not even a pop culture icon, but a through-and-through cultural one. I suppose we should count ourselves fortunate that Santa Claus himself wasn’t invented under the current copyright regime.

(To any kindergarteners reading this blog, that last part is a joke. Because, of course, nobody invented Santa Claus!)

Category: School