Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Government Intervention

It's not that you can never envision any theoretical case where intervention might be helpful. It's just that there are so many real-world problems attached to interventionism, that is never going to be a good bet:

1. Likelihood of getting it right--timing and scope.
2. Temptation for pork-barreling pile-on.
3. Permanency effect--government programs seem to live on forever.
4. Moral hazard.
5. Distracting government from core missions (choose between doing a few things well, or many things poorly).

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Wishing Comcast Ill

But for all the harm these price cuts may inflict on the wireless industry, experts say they may exact an even bigger toll on cable companies such as Comcast (CMCSA) and Time Warner's (TWX) cable division, which for years have been luring phone-company customers with service packages that bundle calling, high-speed Internet access, and hundreds of TV channels. "We have to look at it beyond wireless" says Roger Entner, senior vice-president at consultancy IAG Research. "We don't want to look at mouse traps when we are hunting for elephants. [With these plans], you can beat the cable guy."
I would be thrilled if wireless kicked cable in the shins, hard. Reasons I deeply resent Comcast:
  • It was hardly 1 week after they bought AT&T Broadband that they raised my broadband rates
  • When they acquire companies, they aren't kind enough to keep the old email domain--they make you switch over to comcast.com (I've opted out of that, with my own domain and Gmail)
  • Even though I had a cable package that already included ESPN, when I upgraded to HD, that did not get me ESPN HD; since that was my only reason for paying for HD (since I got all the other HD channels I cared about over-the-air), I instantly down-graded.
  • Generally not carrying nearly enough HD
  • Poor service and especially billing screw-ups
Postscript: I guess I am in good company hating Comcast.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Legislative auditor criticizes jobs program

The state's [Minnesota's] primary program to stimulate rural job growth has given tax breaks to firms and communities that don't need them and may have hurt competing businesses that aren't subsidized, the legislative auditor reported Friday.
Well, duh. I don't understand why this would surprise anyone. It is really too much too hope for politicians who understand, and are willing to stand up and say, that government tinkering isn't going to make people want to live and work in desolate, under-developed areas?

I read this long article about Buffalo, which pointed out the numerous, vain attempts that had been made to resucitate downtown Buffalo over the years. Detroit is the big target now. During the presidential campaign, I have heard most of the candidates talk about how their economic program will help revive Detroit. What nonsense. Detroit is in a horrible downward spiral, not likely to be arrested, much less reversed, any time soon. Anybody who has a good opportunity to bail out of Detroit probably should. It is a disservice to give people false encouragement to stay and hold out for a turn-around.

(I'm not saying any of this out of some anti-Detroit bias, I just believe the writing is on the wall, has been for a decade or more.)

Some form of crampons for vulnerable people on ice

You know those wheelie sneakers that elementary-age kids have? I would like to invent the crampons version of that. We all know how dangerous snow and ice can be for the elderly. If they (or anyone else, for that matter) had shoes with little studs, it would vastly increase traction. The ideal would be if the studs could be somehow retractable, so they didn't damage floors.

I don't actually have any reasonable ideas for implementing retractable shoe studs, mind you, I am just thinking how useful they could be.

Immune to Ads

This article says "MySpace Users Build Up Ad Immunity". I'm surprised there is not more discussion of ad immunity in general. I would like to see a study that looks at all the ad-based business models, and aggregates their assumed attention from users. I would not be surprised if the aggretate assumption comes out to the average web user spending 3 hours a day reading and responding to ads!

I think this is the soft underbelly of most of the free commercial content on the internet. It almost makes me want to short Google stock.

It also makes me worry a little, as a Google user, since I like and increasingly rely on their apps. I would probably be willing to pay Google $150/year for a family subscription to all their products (assuming the continue their rate of product innovation). I wonder if that would be worth more to Google than I am in their ad-based model?

Outlook Feature: Send Email not Invitation

Sometimes when I am organizing a meeting invitation in Outlook, I want to send the text in the meeting notice, but not the invite itself, to certain people. Unfortunately, there is no feature in Outlook for that.

The funny thing is, there is a feature that seems like that is what it would do: the "Do Not Send Meeting to This Attendee" option you can check by each name. For a while, in fact, I just assumed that is how it worked. But all that does is essentially logically delete your meeting attendee. I really don't see the advantage to that over just physically deleting them.

Mimicry Enhances Social Bonding

Researchers have found that immediate social bonding between strangers is highly dependent on mimicry, a synchronized and usually unconscious give and take of words and gestures that creates a current of good will between two people.
I think I've seen this happen with corporate jargon, where one person starts using (or, often as not, mis-using) a word or expression, and it spreads, becoming very common for a period of weeks or maybe a few months, before running its course.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

It's always a modest achievement to find a significant copy editing mistake in the NYT

See if you can find the "their-there" mistake in the sentence below, from the NYT:

However boring, this show was a dramatic encapsulation of how a once-invincible candidate ended up in a dead heat, crippled by poll-tested corporate packaging that markets her as a synthetic product leeched of most human qualities.

Yep, it should say "leach", not "leech".

Maybe the copy editor was in a hurry...one would think this other sentence from the same article might have been improved on: "some in attendance appeared to trance out".

MS Office Communicator Has My Implementation of DO NOT DISTURB

Although I can't seem to locate it, I am sure I wrote on my prior blog, about my idea for a DO NOT DISTURB mode on cell phones. Well I just discovered that Office Communicator (IM client) has the implementation I had in mind. If you try to send a message to someone who has set themselves to DO NOT DISTURB, you get a warning, pointing out they are in DO NOT DISTURB mode, and asking if you really want to proceed to disturb them. Very nice.

Michigan and Florida: I Wouldn't Try to Change the Rules

Because Michigan and Florida moved their primary dates up, contrary to party rules, the national Democratic party sanctioned them by not counting their delegates. Now apparently the Clinton campaign wants to reverse or at least re-visit the decision to not count them. This seems like very low and dirty intra-party politics to me, and what do I know, but given the negative publicity the Clinton campaign has gotten recently, it seems to me like this could well backfire. I mean, the rules are the rules, right? It seems incredibly opportunistic and cutthroat to object only after the result is proven to be in your favor. Somewhat similar to what happened with the Clintonian objections to caucus sites located on the strip in Las Vegas arose only after the culinary workers' union endorsed Obama.

Even if it works and helps get her the nomination, it seems like it could both lead to more intra-party hard feelings, as well as providing fodder for negative ads from the Republicans in the general election.

Friday, February 08, 2008


It just occured to me that my new laptop doesn't have a PCMCIA slot. The previous laptops I have had, for years, have equipped with two slots. I assume that USB has pretty much eliminated the market and need for PCMCIA.