Updates from October, 2010 Toggle Comment Threads | Keyboard Shortcuts

  • Hober Short 4:01 pm on 29 October 2010 Permalink | Reply  

    John Carmack, technical genius behind Doom and Quake, and recently a player in the civilian aerospace industry has put up a political missive that is hard to argue with, and got a lot of coverage thanks to his name recognition. It’s a very tempered criticism of the idea that a federal government does much well, but the best part is where he identifies something that I have thought for some time to be a major contributor to the nature of our government:

    It is unfortunate that income taxes get deducted automatically from most people’s paychecks, before they ever see the money they earned. A large chunk of the population thinks that tax day is when you get a nice little refund check. Good trick, that. If everyone was required to pay taxes like they pay their utilities, attitudes would probably change. When you get an appallingly high utility bill, you start thinking about turning off some lights and changing the thermostat. When your taxes are higher than all your other bills put together, what do you do? You can make a bit of a difference by living in Texas instead of California, but you don’t have many options regarding the bulk of it.

    Not exactly news, but I hope more people start thinking about this relatively simple fact.

  • Bartholomew Xerxes Ogilvie, Jr. 9:53 am on 27 October 2010 Permalink | Reply  

    Twentieth Century Fox has announced officially that James Cameron’s next two films will be Avatar 2 and Avatar 3, targeted for release in 2014 and 2015.

    The announcement quotes a couple of Fox executives:

    “AVATAR is not only the highest grossing movie of all time, it is a created universe based on the singular imagination and daring of James Cameron, who also raised the consciousness of people worldwide to some of the greatest issues facing our planet,” said Rothman and Gianopulos.

    Um, yeah. I know a lot of people have been concerned about the wholesale destruction of intelligent, networked forests in order to mine unobtanium. It’s a story straight from today’s headlines, isn’t it?

  • Hober Short 1:54 am on 25 October 2010 Permalink | Reply  

    On the latest Security Now, Steve and Leo were again talking about IPv4 address space depletion. And again, they looked at it all the wrong way. Why should everyone move to IPv6? Why should people with Class A addresses give them up? To be a “good internet citizen”. Oh, please.

    Why should a business give up something they own, and voluntarily take on the burden of migrating to IPv6, instead of using their Class A addresses? Because, for whatever reason, those Class A addresses become more valuable than the IPv6 transition would cost. The opportunity cost of keeping the addresses has to become higher than the cost of switching.

    How do we do that? How do we get cash-strapped universities and businesses to give up addresses? Treat them like the homogeneous, scarce good that they are, and let people who want them buy them on an open market. Stop talk about “responsibility”, and start talking about prices. The price signals will let people know how much they have to pay if they want to stay on IPv4, and the cost will slowly creep up. Eventually, the bottom will fall out, and those IPv4 addresses will be worthless, just like stock in a buggy whip manufacturer.

    I’ve only managed to find one serious discussion of this, an Ars Technica article about an “internet stock market”. But it uses market-illiterate scare phrases like “demand outstrips supply”, and “run on the bank”.

    Nonsense. The price will rise, and “squatters” will become speculators who have a strong financial incentive to figure out exactly the right price at which to buy and sell, becoming the grease in the wheels of the machine. As long as the government butts out and doesn’t try to regulate the distribution in the name of “fairness”, people and firms will buy and sell address space until everyone has as much as they want at the given price.

    Catallaxy. It works, bitches.

  • Hober Short 10:16 am on 18 October 2010 Permalink | Reply  

    EconTalk is a weekly, hour-long podcast that is a rambling discussion of some interesting corner of economics. They did a show with Robert Higgs about his work on the Great Depression where “Higgs argues that New Deal policies created a climate of uncertainty that prolonged the Great Depression”, which I used as the basis of a paper.

    But the latest show with Matt Ridley, author of The Rational Optimist caught me up short with a rather profound summation:

    There is not a single example of a non-renewable resource that has run out. Nobody ran out of stone in the stone age or iron in the iron-age or bronze in the bronze-age. That’s not the reason these ages peter out–it’s because people move on to something else.

    So, the questioning goes, why are we scrambling to make sure that we don’t run out of oil?

  • Hober Short 3:53 am on 15 October 2010 Permalink | Reply  

    It’s sometimes hard to explain how unemployment insurance doesn’t qualify as employment: after all, you’re being paid to perform a service, searching for a new job. From there, it’s a stones-throw to just saying those people are no longer unemployed, either by declaring them public employees, or putting them to work digging ditches.

    And then there are times like this:

    Siemens Energy is expanding its “smart grid” operations in Wake County, announcing Thursday that it will create 139 new jobs and invest $2.9 million in the project.

    North Carolina is providing up to $2.6 million in tax incentives through a Job Development Investment Grant, or JDIG.

    So we’re paying them (by not taking) $2.6mil to invest $2.9mil. The corporate welfare aspect aside, it’s hard to see this as the government paying people and calling them “employed”.

    Oh, and those 139 jobs? Kinda pales in comparison to the 441,326 unemployed workers as of this August. A little less than one job per three thousand unemployed folks.

    So why is this news?

  • Hober Short 3:19 pm on 12 October 2010 Permalink | Reply  

    I’m always a little envious of the students of Harvard economics professor Greg Mankiw when he posts about how another article of his has appeared in a national publication, but it looks like my turn has finally come. This past weekend, the Washington Post published an editorial co-written by my Intermediate Microeconomics professor Walt Wessels:

    If legislators are looking for ways to help teenagers find meaningful jobs, our research suggests there’s a better answer than publicly funded programs that stretch the District [of Columbia]’s budget. The District’s law now in effect says, “If you can’t produce value equal to the minimum wage or more for each hour worked, then you are prohibited from working.”

    Oh snap.

  • Hober Short 10:58 am on 12 October 2010 Permalink | Reply  

    Stephen J. Cannell died a few weeks ago.

    Although he did most of his most famous work (The A-Team, et al.) in the 80s, he had hardly retired into obscurity. He worked in some capacity (“producer and creative consultant”) on the recent and excellent A-Team film, and also had an amusing cameo in the pilot of the TV series Castle. It’s a scene where the main character, the eponymous Richard Castle, a mystery writer, is playing poker with some other writer buddies in New York, bouncing story ideas around. The two buddies are Stephen J. Cannell and James Patterson.

    In fact, it was through Nathan Fillion’s twitter feed that I originally heard about Cannell’s death. Fillion, of course, plays Richard Castle.

  • Hober Short 11:18 pm on 10 October 2010 Permalink | Reply  

    It’s been a little over a year since my last post about SpaceShipTwo, which was itself on the fifth anniversary of the SpaceShipOne flight in 2004.

    So, they missed the sixth anniversary by a few days, but they finally flew it.:

    Virgin Galactic’s suborbital spaceship, Enterprise, has made its first solo test flight, in California.

    The spaceship was carried to an altitude of 45,000ft (13,700m) by an aeroplane and then dropped to glide back to the Mojave Air and Space Port.

    This year, the article didn’t feature a time table, but here’s last year’s: “test flights will begin [in 2010], with full-fledged space launches to its maximum altitude by or during 2011”.

    Sounds like they may have gotten it right. Maybe two Octobers from now, we’ll have a couple more civilian astronauts.

  • Pat 10:57 am on 7 October 2010 Permalink | Reply  

    BXO Jr. has pointed out that it would have made more sense for the D&D Character Builder to be a Web application rather than software that you have to download and install. Well, if I’m interpreting this announcement correctly, the folks at WotC agree, and they’re working on it.

    We are currently in the process of developing a new web-based tools system for D&D Insider which has factored into recent content update delays. We will continue to provide D&D Insider members with additional information as our progress develops.

    • Bartholomew Xerxes Ogilvie, Jr. 4:03 pm on 7 October 2010 Permalink | Reply

      Sounds like a step in the right direction, but it’s only part of the approach I advocated. They also need to provide a more meaningful set of free features, with “a la carte” add-ons (like content from supplemental books) available for a one-time fee rather than under a subscription model. They should also decouple the Character Builder from the rest of D&D Insider.

      Still, I suppose it’s an encouraging development.

  • Pat 2:53 am on 7 October 2010 Permalink | Reply  

    At lunch today, BXO Jr. indicated that he hadn’t seen (or heard of) the 10:10 No Pressure video, so here it is. Because it contains graphic violence, you shouldn’t watch it at work or in the presence of children.

    The Wikipedia article does a good job of summarizing the horrified and outraged reaction of pretty much everyone who saw the video. I think James Delingpole says it best: “With No Pressure, the environmental movement has revealed the snarling, wicked, homicidal misanthropy beneath its cloak of gentle, bunny-hugging righteousness.”

    • Bartholomew Xerxes Ogilvie, Jr. 3:59 pm on 7 October 2010 Permalink | Reply

      I’ll confess that I didn’t watch the whole thing. As soon as it was clear where the rest of it was going, I fast-forwarded to the end.

      I can’t quite fathom such tone-deafness on the part of so many people. Even if we grant that they didn’t mean it seriously, how could they possibly have thought it would win anyone over to their side?

      • Pat 4:16 pm on 7 October 2010 Permalink | Reply

        The people responsible are now saying it’s all a terrible misunderstanding. They never meant for this video to be taken as a threat to murder everyone who disagrees with them. No, they swear it was supposed to be funny. Apparently, we’re expected to feel embarrased that we didn’t get the joke. While we were recoiling in horror, all the cool kids were laughing merrily at the sight of people being exploded into bloody shreds for not having the correct opinions.

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