Friday, January 30, 2004

Under Lock and Key

Remember in The Jerk when Steve Martin celebrated his inclusion in the phone book?

I feel the same glee in discovering that you can pay Hoover's for the right to contact me.

Let the Attractive Business Offer! spam begin.

Not Just an Internet Gambling Mogul.
A Classy Internet Gambling Mogul.

When the infamous Hilton/Salomon sex tape first appeared online, Rick Salomon claimed that the tape had been swiped from his place by Don Thrasher.

Now Salomon has decided that he'd like to make a little green off the green, grainy footage by licensing the video on a pay-per-view basis.

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Log in My Eye, Foot in My Mouth

What was Doug Quelland, member of the Arizona House of Representatives, thinking when he woke up on the morning of January 26th?

Hmm... What should I do today?
I know! I'll aggravate and alienate everyone who doesn't think like me!
...and I'll do it in public, on the floor of the Arizona House of Representatives!
and, I'll do it in the form of a prayer.

Charming. Just charming.

I'm Orange and I'm Proud!

This map shows global population distribution back when there were only 5.5 billion souls on Earth.

As of this moment, there are more than 6.4 billion people on our planet, all of whom, as Brian Regan might say, are "just trying to go through life without looking stupid."

That's Good to Hear

The vaudeville of Super Bowl TV advertisements typically produces little more than a big payday for the hosting network.

Therefore, it's nice to see an advertiser running against the grain, and actually using this gaudy pulpit to a positive social end. This Sunday, Pepsi will announce that 1 in 3 sodas will have a code redeemable for a song at Apple's iTunes store. It looks like Pepsi's on the hook for up to 100 million tunes.

A promotion designed to push more sugar water? Sure.

...but know this: This kind of endorsement is exactly the kickstart that the fledgling legal media download industry needs to surge ahead of its recording industry-controlled real world counterpart.

Now, all we need is for musicians (and filmmakers?) to join Brian Eno and Peter Gabriel's Magnificent Union of Digitally Downloading Artists, to effectively remove the current set of record companies from the equation.

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Can't Work Your Way Out of This One

This month's Wired magazine focuses on the migration of technical jobs from the United States to India, a topic near-and-dear to many a geek's heart.

Sadly, (for the American worker) the tide of outsourcing cannot be stemmed through working more hours. U.S. Workers are already the world's most productive, working 1,825 hours in 2002 (compared to 1,444 in Germany or 1,545 in France).

Over the long run, the type of offshore outsourcing currently affecting US technology jobs will prove to be fadish. How long will the fad last? As long as it takes for two factors to return to equilibrium.

Standards of living and wage expectations among the American middle and upper classes will fall compared to the rest of the world. Since personal monetary standards of living currently exceed our peer nations on a dramatic scale, their retreat will (paired with maintenance of our educational competitive advantage) will make offshoring less financial beneficial.

(Frustrating as this might sound, it will be easier to stomach as multi-national business executives find themselves under wage pressure. Outsourcing management to the lowest bidder will be the next vogue in shipping the whole lot overseas.)

Falling domestic wages represents only half the trend that will abruptly draw labor off-shoring to a close. Historically, wage inequities in democracies have been short-lived phenomena. As India (and its ilk) emerge from a status quo where abject poverty is acceptable, their prices and wages will rise. What happens to an Indian programmer when he or she asks for a raise? What happens when they all do?

Is there a place where bright people will work for free? No.
Do we need to think of ourselves as members of a global workforce? Yes.

This bout of outsourcing will educate us to the real cash value of our skills, and challenge us to be excellent.

There's no denying that this bout of offshored labor has been a bitter pill for the American worker. However...

Because outsourcing will more rapidly pull quasi-developed nations out of half-affluence, it represents a positive global development.
Because it awakens all of us to the demands of a global community, it represents a positive personal development.
Because it will ultimately undermine the ostentatious wages paid to the top 1%, it represents a positive social development.

Monday, January 26, 2004

Sauntering Joins Starfleet Academy

In their quest to give away free cool stuff, Bloggoogle has made XML syndication available to us freebie users!

What does this mean to normal people?
Absolutely nothing.

What does this mean to my ├╝bergeek friends?

Holy Freaky Father

When he's not in AIDS-striken Africa, railing against safe sex, the Pope's doing what he does best:

Blessing Break-Dancers.

Thursday, January 22, 2004

Silent Spirit

Yikes. The Mars Exploration Rover Spirit didn't respond as expected last night.

Monday, January 19, 2004

The Best Laid Plans of Mice and the Mean-Spirited

You can still vote in the American Family Association's Marriage Poll.

The AFA had hoped to present their polling data to Congress as a monument to America's overwhelming opposition to gay marriage. Instead, 60% came out in favor of gay marriage, and the lead keeps growing.

You should get your vote in now, before this pro-family organization decides to cut its losses and unceremoniously end its poll.

An End to the Electoral College?

Sadly, voting system reform is in its early childhood. It won't unseat Bush, although Soros and a restless electorate just might.

Though Bush may pull another fast one on America, don't just sit idly by and worry that plutocracy will reign forever. Throw your money and support behind the Center for Voting and Democracy, especially their Instant Runoff Voting (IRV) initiatives.

IRV (and other voting systems, like Full Representation) enhance our voting system by guaranteeing that pluralocrats like Bush never again hold the chains of power with so little popular backing.

Once IRV (or its ilk) is in place nationally, you'll be able to vote Green without appearing mathematically challenged. You'll be able to show your libertarian stripes without unintentionally helping elect a candidate adored by a political minority and abhorred by so many.

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

Say What?

I don't know about you, but I don't even know how to pronouce, "f+++."

Bush Launches Operation Maybe-This-Will-Distract-Them

...or do you think Bush really gives a rat's patootie about NASA?

(My wife has since noted the more appropriate title for the program is Operation Look-Up-There.)

Gullibility, I Know Thy Name

In a rather desperate search for a reasonable business plan, Netscape has resorted to auctioning off email addresses on eBay.

Sorting these names by highest bid (at the time of this writing) provides a rare window into the psychology of first names:

#1       $1,025     Why does everyone have my name?!?!

#2         $500        Ditto, dude.

#3  $255        Fellas, it's a problem with biblical males names.
                                                            No one wants to be named Enoch,
                                                            and you just can't be named Jesus
                                                            in an English-speaking country.

#4   $231.50    People are, like, sooooo lazy
                                                            when it comes to thinking up girl names.

#5  $202.50   Ohmygawd, I sooo agree.

The Trouble with Terraforming

With President Bush days away from ambitious promises to reinvigorate human space exploration/colonization, bizarre notions like the terraforming of Mars will likely return to the sphere of public discussion. Terraforming, or converting Mars into a place more like Earth (you know, like they did in Star Trek II), is popular for the obvious reason that if you're going to visit a place, you might as well be able to breathe once you're there.

Even the science-fictionally hypnotized will admit that terraformation is centuries away, so the ethics of terraforming have plenty of time to develop. However, the current wave of Mars Rovers could add grist to this future mill by finding life.

If we discover evidence of past life on Mars, we'll celebrate. If we discover current life on Mars, we'll dance in the streets. Either outcome will make our lonely universe seem a little less vacant. Though discovering present life on Mars would be undeniably pleasing (if incredibly unlikely), it would complicate our long-term ambitions for terraforming Mars into Earth Lite.

Augmenting Mars from dry, wrecked desert into a place habitable for plant and animal life could easily annihilate anything presently living on the Red Planet. Though life capable of eking out an existence on current Mars would be a candidate for success on an Earth-like Mars, it seems more likely (if likely is an appropriate term this complete fantasy) that Mars' transformation would be these little beings' undoing.

So what will it be? Another haven for humans, or a pristine Mars for (hypothetical) wee Martians?

(BTW, my comment provider has had quite a quibble with his ISP, so commenting will reappear after BlogSpeak returns or I find another gratis provider worth integrating.)

California Cons Must Find New Currency

The LA Times reports (registration required) that a bill to ban smoking in California prisons passed the state Assembly on Tuesday.

Designed to as a tough-love measure to reduce state payments for prisoner health care, this bill will have the side effect of annihiliating the fragile prison cigarettes-as-cash economy.

Wednesday, January 07, 2004

Invitation to Onshoring?

President Bush's announcement of the proposed guest worker program is a surprising twist in America's chaotic visa and immigration policy.

I'll be curious to see if such a policy becomes a low-cost substitute for the H-1B visa program, through which skilled workers are brought to the US for a limited time. Like H-1B visas, guest worker visas automatically sunset at 6 years. However, H-1B applications are dramatically restricted in number (195,000), and are expensive undertakings for the sponsoring companies.

Wittingly or not, the Bush Administration may be creating a situation through which American companies can build up a local, temporary, foreign workforce to tackle problems they'd otherwise offshore.

Will the guest worker program obviate the need for an H-1B visa program and populate US tech firms with a temporary, lower-cost, foreign workforce?

Monday, January 05, 2004

Chunk Doobiest (?)

With ready access to marijuana via caf├ęs, teens in the Netherlands are probably the dopest. US teens, however, are proving to be the fattest.

Friday, January 02, 2004

Drinking from the Atlantic Ocean

I'm not in the habit of blogging completely miscellaneous facts, but I found this tidbit too odd to pass up.

How much water flows out of the Amazon River? Enough that the Atlantic Ocean outside the Amazon's mouth is freshwater 200 miles out to sea. Large boats park in this freshwater to kill saltwater barnacles affixed to their vessels.