Thursday, December 30, 2004

Maybe we'll have better luck in this poll

Engadget (voted best Tech blog in the 2004 Weblog Awards) has a poll to decide the winners of the 2004 Engadget Awards! Apparently, the nominees were chosen through a combination of reader input and maybe too healthy a dose of editorial preference. I agree with my brother when he says that the Sony Network Walkman won too many of the negative nominations and none of the positive ones, it's still fun to participate in.

On a side note, where's the instant run-off voting? We talk about election spoilers and seeing the big picture, but until we adopt instant run-off voting pervasively, there's a slim chance we'll use it when it matters most. I could boycott the vote, but I'm voting anyway. I hope this isn't an instance of, "Do it if it feels good."

I was suprised to not see the iPod mini nominated for anything, despite it's popularity. This one I attribute to the readership. Anyway, below are my choices. (NOTE: I did think of how I could get cool Google Ads from this post, but only after I thought about how cool it'd be to have some of my choices win and have this post to prove it)

Go cast your votes!

Click here to show/hide my choices. It took me a VERY long time to get this to work in IE so if there are still any of you out there... it was all for you. Also, let me know if you voted differently.


Gadget of the Year:  Apple iPod (4G)
Disappointment of the Year:  palmOne Tungsten T5
Merger of the Year:  Cingular/AT&T
Worst Gadget of the Year: OQO model 01
Comeback of the Year:  Netscape (as Mozilla)
Most Anticipated Gadget of 2005:Apple iPod flash
Cellphone of the Year:  Motorola RAZR V3
Desktop of the Year:  Apple iMac G5
Ditigal Camera of the Year: No choice
Display of the Year:  Apple Cinema Display
Game Console of the Year: Sony Playstation Portable
GPS Device or Application OTY: No choice
Handheld of the Year:  Sharp Zaurus SL-C3000
Home Electronics Device OTY: No choice
Laptop of the Year:  No choice
Media PC of the Year:  No choice
Peripheral Device of the Year: No choice
Portable Audio Player OTY: Apple iPod (4G)
Portable Video Player OTY: I forget
Robot of the Year:  Roomba Discovery
Tablet PC of the Year:  No choice
Wireless Technology OTY: Apple AirPort Express
Wearable of the Year:  Jabra BT800 (I think)


SOURCE: Engadget

UDPATE 10:08 PM EST 12/30/04: Sorry to disappoint everyone (especially myself), but there may be no relevant google ads for this post as the choices are hidden by default, and with them, the Google ad-fodder.

Can't pass up iMac rumors

Anyone reading this may already know about rumors of the budget X-Serve-like iMac, but I just wanted to record something before it happened. First, ThinkSecret breaks the news that a sub-$500 iMac would be released. Then AppleInsider covers the same story but says the price is sub-$600. Then TUAW (The Unofficial Apple Weblog)'s Barb Dybwab says she paid $499 for an iPod last year. I can't help but wonder whether I'd buy a Mac that's that cheap, but the answer's probably no.

I have a feeling that people who buy the oh so good looking new iMac (at least from the descriptions of a super thin form-factor) will find that they'll have been better served just forgetting the iPod in the first place and buying a cheap 12" iBook (899.88 after rebate) and hooking a monitor to it. I just agree with Barb because people will wonder how they just spend 300-600 dollars on an iPod and then spend $500-$600 on a Mac. Of course, they could also think, 'WOW! The price on this iMac is insane!' seeing as they'd rationalize buying the iPod in the first place.

In some ways, it just doesn't make sense from the "but the monitor is ugly" point of view, as this iMac wouldn't have a monitor. But then again, my monitor doesn't match with my case. It shouldn't be a media center device. Anyway,

Um... nevertheless, I'll be really excited about Apple's 2005 offerings: the 5 gig iPod mini, the iTunes Apple mobile phone, OS X Tiger, the budget iMac, the flash iPod(?), and of course the Garage Band hardware component.

SOURCE: MacRumors via TUAW

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Pizza and backups

I'm quite often inspired to post about what's going on in my life. Now seems to be a good time. To be honest, I feel bad posting because it feels like I'm procrastinating from continuing my adventures in JavaScript. But, hey, when else am I ever going to post if not procrastinating?

Anyhow, today I went to work at Operations around 13:30 EST. I scheduled 13 hours worth in a single work day, which isn't really bad, because I have an hour lunch during the first 8 and the rest were 5 hours later (200-700). Since I usually work at this time, I knew that I needed to sleep in between so I would stay awake and having gotten around one and a half to two hours of sleep in between, I'm fully awake and only occasionally yawn.

Part of the reason I only used two of the possible three hours for sleep was the hunger pang and the long wait for our pizza to arrive but it was worth it. To continue on the correct line of thought, since I usually work on weekends, I don't have to help with the changing the backup tapes (each 160 gb). So, Maka, my full-time colleague walked me through the process. Basically, it involves removing the tapes and putting them back in their respective cases and then refilling the tape cartridges with the new tapes.

Now, I'm going to go back to the JavaScript. I'm kinda itchy and I hope it wasn't from the bed bugs in the sofa I slept on.

SOURCE: ME

Friday, December 24, 2004

This changes everything

Pardon to the hyperbolic title, but I've recently added a google ad block under my blogroll. I feel like I should make some declarative remarks. I started out trying to explain why I added it, but to be honest, the two best reasons were that it was cool, and I can get a few dollars here and there. Even though I will be incentivized to "sex up" the blog to contain more references to specific items or ideas that people will try to buy ads for, I will try not to do so excessively (read, I will try not to do it unconsciously or abusively).

If you aren't aware of the Google Adsense program, it is really one of the best. Instead of using cookies to track you all over the web, Gmail looks at the content of a website and serves relevant ads. If there are no relevant ads, Google makes public service announcements for non-profits. [UPDATE: or has random ebay ads?!]

I've had people ask me whether I'm paid to talk to people about pocket pc's, and note that I blog too much about Apple stuff. Is my enthusiasm linked to financial gain? Whenever I do speak too excitedly about a product, I've usually made a reference or added a disclaimer stating that I have a material interest in the success of the product I'm posting about. Here are some examples: A and B. There are all kinds of implications of having a financial gain (however small) from a website, but know that I'll be thinking about all this as my blogging develops.

SOURCE: Google Ads

Friday, December 03, 2004

Hope is on the way...

So... Sony wants to join the party and challenge the iPod's dominance in the hard drive MP3 player sector? Here an indication of how Apple thrives in Sony's home market: Apple Ginza Store Opening Video.

Also, what's new here is not the player (which is slated for release in Europe) but the fact that it plays MP3s and not just Sony's proprietary file format. Don't get me wrong, I felt a sinking feeling when I first saw Sony's new Walkman, which makes Apple's iPod look too simple and toy-like. However, we're dealing with normal people.

Hope remains. If you thought the iPod was expensive (unless you go to Duke), the Network Walkman will cost nearly 200 dollars more. Granted, it's got a cool metal case that's smaller and lighter than the iPod, has significantly better battery life and presumably higher quality engineering overall, be not afraid. Ok, if you are afraid, cash out like everyone else.

But, here's the good news: the iTunes music store has yet to be rolled out in Japan and just opened in Canada. Market analysts are saying that PC users who buy iPods are more likely to buy Apple computers (the iMac G5 got rave reviews). Apple has tremendous ground to gain in the PC market, having only 4% of it. Don't forget that the XBox II is going to be using a G5 PowerPC processor. Although that doesn't mean games are going to simultaneously developed for OS X and the Xbox, but think about the possibilities! Maybe Microsoft will have the Xbox running OS X. Or, Direct X will be ported to... I don't know...

DISCLAIMER: The author is an Apple stockholder and has a vested interest in the performance of AAPL.

SOURCES: Laszlo, Mac News, Engadget, and The Unofficial Apple Weblog

UPDATE 4:41 EST 12/9/04: Just like before the iPod mini was announced, I was thinking I would probably go for a sub $100 MP3 player, just because it's the right price. Check out MacMinute for analyst predictions of this and pictures of what could potentially be the product. Some logistical info here citing sources in Asia about the announcement during Macworld. I guess it's better to let the year-round marketing do it's job for the Christmas season and then announce a new product.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Google bombing... sort of.

It's like Google bombing in that it's totally irrelevant, but without all the hard work. So I'm checking the referring links coming to my older blog (but one I still update every once in a while), and I see a Google search for... well, go here to see what I'm talking about.

SOURCE: My Xanga Sitemeter

Friday, November 26, 2004

Finally done

I'm finally done with my genetics homework that was due on Tuesday. This is not good, because it cut into a lot of my Thanksgiving break, not to mention the other work I have been intending to ruin my break with. I'm exaggerating.. there wasn't that much work I planned on doing but rather hoped to get done.

I've had something of a blogging backlog of stuff I wanted to talk about, but I'm not confident in my ability to express it. Ok, first of all, at the NCTTA (National College Table Tennis Association) NYC Divisional meet at FIT this last Sunday, Rutgers tied for first place out of 7 schools competing, beating Columbia and losing to Polytechnic (which lost to Columbia, but beat us). We had a strong team, with Adam Formal, Kiley Hsu, Shuo Pan, and Iuliana Radu leading on our varsity team. Even though in some cases we lost 1st 2nd singles, we romped the other schools (especially Polytechnic) in the doubles. However, all the school that competed did so in good spirit. I wasn't playing on the A-team or the B-team, but I was there for a very legitimate purpose lest you think otherwise.

Especially heartening was the camaraderie among our team members. This is especially different from the other semesters we competed in Columbia--ones where we faced different, some stronger, some weaker opponents. The B-team was a volunteer one. The A-team had been practicing together for many hours and made sacrifices to go. Crucial was our newest addition, Adam was giving sound advice, cheers, and encouragement. There were times when it looked bad for our team early on in the meet, but the tougher times were soon over and we were just relaxing and waiting for the other results to come in.

Out B-team, consisting of Will Francis, Ashiq Damani, Ethan Chen, and Firoze Mehta did great as well. Their journey was very much similar in their initial challenge but rose to supremacy, with some luck. We lost 1st and 2nd singles, but came back in the 3rd, 4th, and doubles.

Being home is nice but I'm doing even less than I do at school :/

SOURCE: The swirling void

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

POP for Gmail

Gizmodo : Gmail Enables POP (For Some) —> I get Gmail on my Pocket PC. Anyone have this feature yet? How is it? I'm still waiting.

UPDATE 11/16/04 2:21 AM: I just got this feature so I haven't fully tested it out. UPDATE 11/17/04 5:20 PM: After lots of struggling, it works like a charm (relative to how it used to work, I mean). While I thought it would just give you what was in your inbox, the POP client just downloads everything there: Drafts, Sent messages, Spam, etc. I can't complain, though. Oh, and for some reason, whenever I send and receive, my old messages go away. Anyone who's had problems getting connected, I'd suggest you check out this thread from PPCT.

What got it working for me was a combination of:
  • following directions (use @gmail.com as part of your username);
  • skipping the auto-setup part in the Inbox app and;
  • setting Gmail to enable access only to mail received from now on,

  • If it still doesn't work, reset it by disabling and re-enabling from the "Fowarding and POP" tab under Settings.

    BTW: Cast your vote!

    UPDATE 3/17/05: Gmail's plain html version works now, so forget POP... just go to https://gmail.google.com!

    Monday, November 08, 2004

    Konfabulator!

    Previously only available for Macs, Konfabulator is here for Windows! It allows you to bring to bear the power of developers all across the world who just want to make your life easier and happy. What's it all about? Widgets!!! Widgets are little applications that float translucentyly above your windows, or flash into view at the touch of a button, they do anything from display the current weather, stock quotes, on-screen post-its, music player and more. Check out The Widget Gallery to see what's available.

    You can even write your own widgets easily (relative term). Mac users who can't wait for the next version of OS X, Windows users who are sane, and anyone who's ever heard of dashboard, support Konfabulator.

    Is Dashboard a rip off Konfabulator? Not exactly.

    SOURCE: The JavaScript Weblog

    Sunday, November 07, 2004

    Not just a wrinkle... (Does this count as a lie?)

    According to The Hill, the bulge on Bush's back was confirmed to be a strap for his bullet-proof vest and not a prompting device. This makes sense, because of all places, putting it in his shoulder blades makes no sense, especially if the earpiece was wireless.

    However, when asked about it, Bush said he didn't know what it was. Even his tailor admitted it was part of the suit. Salon talked to a NASA satellite photo analyst and confirmed with simple image adjustment that the bulge was indeed "something" that looked like it had wires, but hadn't proof about exactly what it was.

    Bush's spokespeople say it was a security measure to not reveal that he had a bullet proof vest on, but Michael from Discourse.net says that the real reason "is that they knew it looks cowardly and that would have been bad for the image. (If the security rationale were true, they wouldn’t admit the truth the day after the eleciton unless Bush never plans to stir from the White House. )"

    I guess this is just one of those insignificant lies politicians say. Would the public really have been suprised that Bush was wearing a bullet-proof vest? What else have they been withholding from the public?

    SOURCE: Discourse.net: The Bulge Was Not Tinfoil - It Was a Trope


    UPDATE 2:20 AM EST 1/7/04: So, now people are saying it's a wearable defibrillator. I can see why people wouldn't want this information to leak out, as it presents does present another security weakness. Some would contest whether the Secret Service has that much to worry about, as G. Schochet, my Poli-Sci 101 professor kiddingly pointed out. He emphatically warned the class that no one should assasinate George W. Bush. The reason? That VP Dick Cheney was much much worse and that the idea of him succeeding W was George Bush's greatest bullet proof vest. [via Technology Review]

    Originally stamped 02:39 PM Nov 07, 2004, but bumped temporarily.

    Friday, November 05, 2004

    HTC's new Pocket PC Phone Edition Device



    What an amazing device. It's just the right size and has an integrated 1.3 MP camera, tons of memory, and the new Intel processor (XScale PXA270).

    Source: English Translation (courtesy of Google and Pocket PC Thoughts).

    UPDATE 8:21 PM EST 11/8/04 (from PPCT): Get it (with 64MB RAM) at Expansys for US $619.95.

    UPDATE 9:35 PM EST 11/13/04 (from PPCT): More nice pictures of a version to be sold in China: Link

    Wednesday, November 03, 2004

    Now that the contest is over...

    I don't know what to think at the conclusion of the first presidential election where I really thought it mattered who won or lost. First of all, I don't think it's the end of the world that Bush won. I'm very disappointed he did, but in the end, I think the divisions were heightened by the campaign rhetoric. I do look back and remember all the times I looked forward to voting our president out of office, but that wish never materialized.

    So what do I think was at stake? All I thought was that if Kerry won, it would reaffirm to me that people in this country were generally discerning people who saw that the democrats really had most people's best interests in mind. I am more or less disappointed that the majority of the American people felt differently, but feel there is definitely room for improvement in the democratic party. On the war in Iraq, I definitely see the potential for a recreated more democratic state in Iraq. However, I particularly resented the administration's manipulation of public opinion about the War or Terrorism to brashly and inefficiently wage a costly war. I felt the heavy tax cuts levied by Bush were not designed to bolster the economy, but merely to reward the rich.

    On a good note, I've learned the importance, and also some of the futility of debating within the stict confines of having only two imperfect parties. I've met some interesting people and spent so many hours debating various topics with people, and I'm grateful for the opportunity to do so. Whether or not I voted for the right person we'll never know, but in four years, it'll become cleared whether or not the Republican economic agenda actually worked. Let's hope that Bush's values and moral imperatives will win the day in the long run.

    I don't know if I learned or gained any special insights during this election. I do believe that those darned exit polls screwed the democrats over by giving them a false sense of confidence, but nothing can be done about that now.

    The concession speech.

    UPDATE 11:42 PM: Jeff Jarvis says that we shouldn't blame the bloggers for their transparency. Withholding information isn't the right thing to do. Overconfidence, if anything, is still to blame in Ohio.

    Wednesday, October 27, 2004

    In the footsteps of Michael Moore

    Ann Coulter is coming to Rutgers-Camden next Monday, November 1 and I'm not hearing any complaints about Ann Coulter charging college students to hear her talk. Anyhow:
    Admission is free, but advance reserved seating is requested. For more information, call (856) 225-6211.

    Read the release.

    Friday, October 15, 2004

    Cool stuff that happened today

    SO. Today, several cool capitalistic things happened. These are organized in the order they pop into my head.

    Before I got a chance to go through my RSS feeds, Laszlo informed me that Google beta-launched their Google Desktop service today. It integrates with the Google portal we're used to and because it searches Outlook mail, is poised to beat out Microsoft's current Lookout PIM search software on the desktop realm.

    Second, Apple's stock closed 5 dollars higher after they announced that due to more than expected sales, their Q4 earnings more than doubled from last year. There's an analyst that raised their the target price for AAPL at $52 (btw, I'm really not trying to inflate the price here... at least not consciously).

    Third, Will found out about a store-moving sale at Blooms in downtown NB so we went. They're like a mix between World of Science, Spencers, and a really cool gift shop. Many things were enticing and I was almost overwhelmed from not going shopping for random things, but I eventually got a genuine orange Duncan Proyo that I think is going to help me master Shoot the Moon. Will got a black one among a bunch of other things so the owner cut us a deal and only charged 4 bucks. I know you can get it online for as little as 4 bucks as well, but how about S/H and the fact that this guy typically charges a fair mark-up.

    I also got a Dyna-flex Powerball to exercise my arm muscles that I first saw in the Edge catalog many years ago. It's the old 2001 version without the LED lights and the speed upgrade, but it works great. Here's the kicker. I got 50% off of his last one because it was missing the starter string, which was probably because it was opened and/or a demo model.

    SOURCE: MY BRAIN

    Monday, October 04, 2004

    New Gmail features


    Screenshot of some new Gmail features. Others have ATOM feed buttons but I haven't been able to verify this.

    Note the conversation pane below the contact view and how you now have much more freedom to customize the information for each entry.

    Not as significant are the elipses that neatly cut off the label names and the movement of the invitations link. For more info about other features such as saving drafts, automatically forwarding email, go to Gmailforums.com

    UPDATE 10/5/04 5:37 PM EST: Here's the link to the ATOM XML feed.

    Saturday, September 18, 2004

    On the commutativity of college semesters

    My dorm has a bathroom in each wing that alternates between being a men's room to being a women's room at the start of each semester. Since the bathroom closest to me is a women's room, I have to use the men's room on the second or fourth floor until the configuration is switched next semester.

    I asked myself yesterday, "Is it better to have the bathroom first semester or second semester?" Does it make a difference? I thought that it did. Even had I not been comfortably situated in my corner room so close to the staircase that takes leads me to either 2 mens bathrooms of my choice, I am instilled with the hope that next semester, I will be able to get to the bathroom in 22 steps. To get staight to the point, trips to the shower this semester will be sweetened by the hope of an easier journey next semester. Next semester begins the slow progression where I am pampered and spoiled by having the bathroom on my side of the floor.

    How I pity those who live close to the urinals and bathroom stalls their first semester. Their semesters are poisoned by the unstoppable march towards the end of the semester when their precious bathroom will be uprooted and installed 22 steps beyong the threshold Room 308. My year consists of 1) Hope and 2) Luxury while their year will begin with 1) Dread and 2) Torture.

    So, I guess semesters are not commutative.

    Thursday, September 02, 2004

    Who carries societies burdens?

    How does society organize the lives of millions of people into a stronger whole? Well, we have a set of rules that we arrived at by a consensus of our representatives to create government for the people, by the people, of the people to make sure that our society is preserved and strenthened. This government costs money and it's said that taxes are the price we pay for civil society. Who pays? Everyone, to the extent that they can afford to do so. In reality, because of the way wealth is distributed in our country we all know that the wealthiest individuals contribute the largest chunk of governement tax revenue and the poorest contribute little to nothing.

    I was reading Kerry's speech at Georgetown, entitled "A Return to Fiscal Responsibility" when I got to this part:
    But that is not the reason for our own budget crisis. The independent, non-partisan Congressional Budget Office reported last month that 94 percent of the $500 billion deficit for next year is due to George Bush's excessive spending and ineffective tax giveaways for the wealthiest Americans. In fact, his tax cuts alone account for most of the long-term deficit increase.
    Because the administration's own analysis where the economy was to blame for around 50% of the this year's deficit, I did some investigating and came across numerous accounts of an August Congressional Budgeting Office report providing analysis on how Bush's string of tax cuts are actually shifting more of the burden of funding our government off the backs of the upper classes (top 20% and up) and onto everyone else, namely the middle class. From the first article I read by Robert Novak (you know, the one who leaked the identity of Valarie Plame):
    That study concluded that President Bush's cuts had shifted more of the tax burden from the nation's rich to the middle class, though everyone enjoyed an income tax reduction. That was the old-fashioned way of scoring consequences of tax legislation, an exercise of arithmetic rather than economics.

    Kerry could not have been happier. ''This is the straw that will break the back of middle-class families,'' proclaimed a written statement by the senator.
    I'm thinking, if this is such big news, how did I miss it? Then I realize that in following the whole Swift Boat distraction, this news went right over my head. The majority of news sources reported the same thing, that the richest were benefiting the most from Bush tax cuts. Some of the leads were quite inane, saying the richest received cuts 70 times larger than the average family. As the mantra meant to convey fairness and equity goes goes, the more you pay in taxes, the more you get back in tax cuts.

    That all makes sense, right? If I paid 70 times more in taxes than you did, shouldn't my tax cut be 70 times larger than yours? Well, things started getting more complicated when you read different takes on the CBO report. What you'll see are a whole other set of analyses that seem to contradict the 'pessimistic' interpretation and say that in fact, Bush's tax cuts not only leave more money in peoples' pockets, they have made the tax system more progressive than before. National Review Contributing editor Donald Luskin writes a piece called Liberal Lies, CBO Truths lambasting the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, and New York Times as misinterpretations that "completely distort the findings of the CBO report."

    To substantiate his case, he charts two sets of information organized by income level/tax bracket:

    Tax reduction from 2000 tax law,

    and Share of income-tax burden,


    We can see from the first graph that while the equitability of Bush's tax cuts sounds like a redeeming rationale, they are far from equitable. The WSJ headline actual makes a powerful point: "Budget Office Says Biggest Tax Cuts Go to Richest 1%." No one is making the inane complaint that the rich get "bigger" breaks in the sense that they're getting more dollars back, since that would be usually be equivalent to the statement, "the rich make more money." With a 4.8% cut in income-taxes, they get a significantly larger proportion, not just amount, of their taxable income returned. The average return any member in the top 20% bracket received a 3% return. The next quintile received even less at 1.8%, followed by 1.7%, 2.0% and 1.4%. This results in the vast majority of the taxes being given to the richest 1%, not simply by virtue of their contribution to the federal budget, but from the tax breaks being heavily weighted towards the rich.

    This data begs the following questions: if Bush tax cuts could be weighted towards the rich, what caused them to weigh them this way? Couldn't they have increased the middle class tax cut, because these are the people who have the most pent up demand and are have a great deal to contribute to the economy? Giving the rich such relatively heavy tax cuts costs the government a proportionally great deal of money, whereas giving more substantial cuts to the middle class wouldn't be nearly so costly. Remember that even according to the Bush administration, tax cuts costed us a quarter of the highest budget deficit ever, not counting the money spent from the Social Security "surplus". I don't claim any expertise in understanding the economic effect of Bush's tax cuts, but according to 10 Nobel-prize winning economists who endorsed Senator Kerrry, Bush's 'fiscal policy' has mostly created low-paying jobs and is endangering our economy in the long run.

    From the second chart, Luskin points out the almost magical effect of Bush's tax cuts in altering the income-tax burdens that made our system more progressive than under 2000 law. The share of total tax collected by the government afforded by the top quintile overtook 3.8% of the burden from the lower four quintiles. If you're wondering how that's possible considering how how much larger the cut's per dollar paid in taxes were for the top quintile than the lower four, I'm asked myself the same question.

    This mysterious outcome moved me to check out the actual CBO report, Effective Federal Tax Rates Under Current Law, 2001 to 2014, to find out for myself who's headline was more accurate? Is it true that "the burden of taxes has shifted from the wealthy to the middle class"? Or are the liberals distoring the truth, as according to the National Review? How can the tax burden shift towards the middle class while the rich—who undeniably benefitted disproportionally from Bush's three tax cuts—are paying more taxes?

    After reading the report, it became apparent that the evidence from both takes on Bush's tax cuts are accurate, but the analysis on the parts of those attacking liberal periodicals like the Wall Street Journal were lacking comprehension. As it turns out, all of the quantitative assertions were true. The rich did get higher tax cuts as Lusking charted. They did end up footing more of the individual income-tax burden. And, yes, the second and third highest quintiles (middle class?) together ended up with a .9% increase in Total Federal Tax Liability. In 2004, the first quintile together ended up with a smaller share of the total tax burden, namely with 1.8% of the overall tax burden being shifted to the rest of America from the top 1% of earners.

    Here's a direct quote from the CBO concerning the trend going out to 2014:
    The differential increase in effective tax rates among quintiles is reflected in a shift down the income distribution in shares of taxes paid (see the third and fourth panels of Table 2). The share of taxes paid by the top quintile falls from 65.3 percent in 2001 to 62.8 percent in 2014, even though that group's share of income does not change. Four-fifths of that decline occurs for the top 1% of taxpayers, whose share falls by 2 percentage points, to 20.7 percent of federal taxes in 2014. The share of taxes paid by each of the middle three quintiles climbs by about 0.7 percentage points.
    Two questions came to mind. What is the difference between a share of the individual income-tax liability and the total federal tax liability? Also, how can these numbers be reconciled? From the wording of the report, the total federal tax liability of the two tax burdens, is clearly more significant. Income-tax represents a significant fraction of all the taxes Americans pay to the federal government, but is supplemented by other forms of taxes.

    What Luskin did, was to consider a shift in a fraction of the total tax burden more significantly than the entire tax burden at large. He also doesn't recognize that it's illogical for the top 1% are getting disproportionately large tax cuts and still have them carry more of their shares of the tax burden (note in differences in referring to income-tax and total tax) than before the tax cuts. According to FactCheck.org, census figures from August 23 suggest that the middle class didn't grow, but rather shrunk by 1.2 percentage points. Therefore, a growth in the middle class might not account for the larger share of the overall tax burden. Granted that the definition of the middle class is not set in stone, if considering the information laid out here, claims by Luskin and other contrarians that the liberal media is distoring the truth are ungrounded. In principle, everyone shoulder's societies burdens to the extent at which they can, but there should be no mistake. In principle, Bush's tax cuts disproportionately benefitted the wealthy.

    UPDATE: For a great quantitative analysis of the tax burden shift, check out Chris's Boring Tax Stuff post on My Quiet Life.

    Friday, August 27, 2004

    Iraq in retrospect

    CNN.com - Retiring GOP congressman breaks ranks on Iraq - Aug 18, 2004


    When Doug Bereuter, R-NE, submitted a 4-page statement about why in retrospect and after much consideration, he feels the military action in Iraq was a mistake, some make accusations that the retiring vice-chair of the House Select Committee on Intelligence from Nebraska is just bitter and spiteful for "having been passed over ... to head the intelligence and international relations committees." But others disagree: "Doug has been exceptionally self-sacrificing, not noisy (or) abrasive, and certainly not self-serving. His focus has been on serving the best interest of the country and his district, and not on self-promotion."

    Kerry won't say he regrets his vote authorizing Bush to invade Iraq, but Bereuter says given what he knows now, he would have voted differently. He also felt it was still inconclusive as to "whether intelligence was intentionally miscontrued to justify military action."

    Whether or not you believe the war was justified, here are some ways we could've really supported our troops 100%:
  • If we didn't disband the Iraqi Army we wouldn't be fighting so many of them as insurgents (and losing men doing so).
  • It was also wrong to place reconstruction and the interim governement in the hands of the DoD rather than the State Department (not sure why he says this, but maybe because the State Department would've done a better job and looked better doing it).
  • We could have not "ignored military leaders who warned many more troops would be needed in Iraq to maintain the postwar peace." (Franks himself said he was expecting 150,000 international peacekeapers. I wonder if Bush knew that when he asked the UN inspectors to get out and declared his 48-hour deadline.)

  • So, Bush might have declared the WoT, but he's certainly not doing a mighty fine job of it.

    SOURCE: The Online Beat and CNN
    First posted in my Xanga

    Wednesday, August 25, 2004

    Kerry Wins Backing from Nobel Economics Laureates

    This is what I'm talking about!

    I was at a store today with my mom and she complimented an employee's outfit. The woman replied with a smile, "Well it's one job to the next." That struck me as being very poignant. I've been living life thinking about what I want to do for a living in the future and here's someone thinking about how many jobs she needs to work to support her family.

    From Reuters via commondreams.org:
    PHILADELPHIA - John Kerry won the endorsement of 10 Nobel Prize-winning economists on Wednesday as he attacked President Bush for policies that he said have led to the creation of only low-paying jobs.

    The Democratic presidential nominee released a letter from the economists saying the Bush administration had "embarked on a reckless and extreme course that endangers the long-term economic health of our nation."

    They cited "poorly designed" tax cuts that instead of creating jobs have turned budget surpluses into enormous budget deficits, a "fiscal irresponsibility threatens the long-term economic security and prosperity of our nation."

    The endorsement, in the form of an open letter American voters, was signed by George Akerlof and Daniel McFadden of the University of California at Berkeley, Kenneth Arrow and William Sharpe of Stanford University, Daniel Kahneman of Princeton University, Lawrence Klein of the University of Pennsylvania, Douglass North of Washington University, Paul Samuelson and Robert Solow of MIT and Joseph Stiglitz of Columbia University.

    ...continued

    A 'disengaged' president?

    When we vote this election, in many ways it's not a vote for Bush or Kerry but for the Republicans or Democrats. Now I know this is old news but in Suskind's The Price of Loyalty, interviews with Bush administration insiders (primarily with Paul O'Neill) among other things, shed light on how powerful members of the administration use various means to sway the president, from repitition of ideas like 'the upper class are the entrepreneurs' to 'Stick to principle':
    “He asks, ‘Haven't we already given money to rich people? This second tax cut's gonna do it again,’” says Suskind.

    “He says, ‘Didn’t we already, why are we doing it again?’ Now, his advisers, they say, ‘Well Mr. President, the upper class, they're the entrepreneurs. That's the standard response.’ And the president kind of goes, ‘OK.’ That's their response. And then, he comes back to it again. ‘Well, shouldn't we be giving money to the middle, won't people be able to say, ‘You did it once, and then you did it twice, and what was it good for?’"

    But according to the transcript, Karl Rove jumped in.

    “Karl Rove is saying to the president, a kind of mantra. ‘Stick to principle. Stick to principle.’ He says it over and over again,” says Suskind. “Don’t waver.”

    An interesting characterization of the way this works is an analogy to:
    "a praetorian guard that encircled the president" to block out contrary views.

    They invoke President Reagan:
    "...Cheney, at this moment, shows his hand,” says Suskind. “He says, ‘You know, Paul, Reagan proved that deficits don't matter. We won the mid-term elections, this is our due.’ … O'Neill is speechless.”

    Here's another example of Bush's transformation. Before the election, he was saying that we've got to change the policy of being the world's policeman, going around nation-building:
    "If we don't stop extending our troops all around the world in nation-building missions, then we're going to have a serious problem coming down the road. And I'm going to prevent that."

    Right after Cheney, et. al. got a hold of him, it was all Iraq, all the time:
    “From the very beginning, there was a conviction, that Saddam Hussein was a bad person and that he needed to go,” says O’Neill, who adds that going after Saddam was topic "A" 10 days after the inauguration - eight months before Sept. 11.

    “From the very first instance, it was about Iraq. It was about what we can do to change this regime,” says Suskind. “Day one, these things were laid and sealed.”
    Souce: CBS News

    Saturday, August 21, 2004

    What's a political hack? Click to find out.

    Watch this video from Election 2000 dated February 15, 2000. Keep in mind that two weeks prior, Senator McCain won the third Republican primary in New Hampshire with an 18 point lead. What happened after that is history.

    I really feel bad for John McCain. I also feel bad for George Bush. I honestly don't think that he was unscrupulous enough to inflict such emotionally harming and dishonorable damage to a friend who to this day campaigns for him. However, I certainly don't hold it above his political advisors.

    Karl Rove (who'll probably say he was misquoted): "Political hacks like me wait a lifetime for a guy like this to come along."

    UPDATE 9:19 PM EST: I swear I posted this before I got the email blast from Mary Beth Cahill.

    UPDATE 10:09 PM EST: This ad was released in conjunction with a petition calling on President Bush to condemn the Swiftboat Veterans for Truth ad (the first one was taken off-line and replaced with a newer one that makes different charges) that sought to cast Kerry as someone who lied to receive his medals and lied about war crimes in Vietnam. These allegations are disputed heavily by both sides. Bush has gone out of his way to not personally criticize Kerry's record and refuses to condemn the ad even at the request of Sen. McCain. My personal contention is that Bush's advisors instructed him to take the moral highroad to avoid further scrutiny of his own weak Vietnam record.

    Thursday, August 19, 2004


    A screen shot of a dialog offering SP2.

    Thursday, August 12, 2004

    I'm a student that said yes to CS...

    Students saying no to computer science | CNET News.com

    A Rutgers professor that taught me Computer Architecture, Dr. Saul Levy, is quoted in this article that highlights undergraduate enrollment drops all over the country including at Rutgers, MIT, Stanford, Carnegie Mellon. Ph.D. programs are hit as well.

    This doesn't come as a surprise at all with tales of the IT bust and off-shoring scaring students away. You see people who don't major in Computer Science, or don't major in it exclusively being perfectly capable of doing what we expect CS undergrad majors to do. Make web pages, code scripts and programs, etc. The article doesn't exactly refer to people majoring in CS only to go to work writing business applications, but expresses a concerns or disconcern that our leadership in the Computing field is at stake. The drop in interest also means less people conducting research and advancing the science, solving problems and not just applying learned concepts.

    I'm again reminded as to the problem of how I want to proceed with my college career. Am I motivated enough to succeed in the field or industry? Am I talented enough? Should I dual major as several of my peers have chosen to do? CS/Business isn't exactly out of the question, but will surely require a fifth year. CS/Chinese, CS/PoliSci and CS/Biology are three possible branches of my academic growth.

    I'm too good at putting things off...

    Last minute warning about Google's IPO registration

    Google IPO Update


    Techdirt and the disgruntled investor in this story have it wrong as to why Google rejects bidders, casting some blame on the underwriters. They can't seem to figure out why after answering a bunch of questions in the registration process truthfully, the investor gets a "...we find you are ineligible..." message. They think it might have to do with his net worth not being high enough.

    He tells us his responses to the questions posed by the online form and I bet it's because he told them he was a speculative investor. If he would have just read the prospectus or other stories about how Google is trying to discourage speculative investors (those who are in for quick, risky, and high profits) from participating and increasing the instability/volatility of their stock price, he would have got his bidding registration accepted and by possibly tomorrow night, he'd have his shares of GOOG.

    So... if any of you want to try your hand, remember that when they ask whether "your investment objectives include speculative investments," consider saying NO. By the way... the more I think about this, the more I realize I have no right to give advice of this kind... I not sure that any one answer will really disqualify you. Just read the prospectus, have realistic expectations, trust Google, and answer honestly.

    From Google's Prospectus: "Many companies going public have suffered from unreasonable speculation, small initial share float, and stock price volatility that hurt them and their investors in the long run. We believe that our auction-based IPO will minimize these problems, though there is no guarantee that it will."

    Wednesday, August 11, 2004

    Portable Windows Media Center Edition devices

    I something think and wonder what would happen if I had an eye for design. Would I be able to draw? Would I think up neat web template ideas? Would I be able to turn this (some will say this is old news but I was re-inspired):



    into this?




    The first picture is an earlier prototype and the second one is a redesigned version of iRiver's new Portable Media Center device. Portable Media Center devices are Microsoft's attempt to dominate even more of the consumer electronics market, a relatively new one at that. Although I don't think I would carry another device in my pocket in addition to my phone and Pocket PC (made by Microsoft I might add), but it goes without saying that I thought the new design was really fantastic. It looks sturdy and pocket-safe —almost XBox and toy-like. I guess in that light it looks quite 'Microsoft'.

    It runs Windows CE and has the same interface as its Windows XP: Media Center Editions computers. Unfortunately, it seems to do everything but let you watch live TV. The iRiver does have a radio tuner, though. Although it does have a built in hard drive, it doesn't necessarily compete with the iPod, because it's a whole different device with a different purpose.

    I read that Steve Jobs was talking about the speculation that a future iPod would have a color screen and play videos. Steve wasn't so sure that would be a good idea. He talked about how people listen to iPod (notice the lack of a definite article) when they live out different parts of the very cool lives. These include active tasks such as working out, running, driving, relaxing, as well as the docile tasks such as sitting, waiting, commuting. When people watch movies or TV, they do just that and become absorbed in doing it. But cool, sociable, and often sedentary people will find a use for the TV-out capabilities of these devices to output to a big TV.

    SOURCES: Engadget.com and Ascii24.com

    Monday, August 02, 2004

    A breakdown of the deficit

    So, maybe we've been too hard on Bush about the deficit.

    The New York Times:
    Mr. Bolten attributed the worsened government balance sheet to 'an extraordinary confluence of adversity: the stock market downturn that began in 2000, and the subsequent recession that the president inherited as he took office; the terrorist attacks on America, and subsequent spending for homeland security and the war on terror; and the crisis in confidence produced by corporate scandals years in the making.'

    He did not mention the effects of Mr. Bush's tax cuts. But the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has calculated that about half of the budget turnaround was caused by the weaker economy, about a quarter by higher spending and about a quarter by lower revenue because of the tax reductions.
    The reasoning is supposed to be that people will take their tax cuts and improve the economy. With increased spending and the tax cuts, Bush can only be responsible for $223 billion of the deficit, +/- depending on how effective his policies (tax-cuts) were on the economy.

    The other thing we need to consider is that record deficits don't seem so bad when you look at it as a percent of our GDP, which of course is always "record-breaking" when we aren't in a depression.
    ...the figure projected on Friday is 3.8 percent of the gross domestic product, "well within historical range" and much lower than the record 6 percent reached in 1983.
    Source: Brad Delong says that they don't know what they're talking about because the previous estimate already figured in the effect of Bush's "tax relief". This means that the lowered deficit forecast is just the result of an overshot estimate.

    UPDATE 9:41 PM August 7, 2004: My appreciation of the situation is was entirely facile. Here is a look at the decision-making process and the critique from a former Treasury secretary compounded with that of an economist concerning the administration's fiscal policy. I didn't quite understand what was going on (why am I reading DeLong anyway? Oh, right, because he's an accessible expert), I can tell that that I was the one being simplistic when I dismissed MoveOn.org's Bush in 60 seconds winning commercial with little kids working off the national debt as shying from controversy.

    Forget uplifting our economy, our people from the recession. In the meeting notes, O'Neill was pushed aside in his efforts to prevent others in the administration from letting/making Bush endanger the economy in all but the short term with an onslaught of tax-cuts. I haven't read, The Price of Loyalty, but the didn't we already help them out at the top quote has new context and meaning.

    Tuesday, July 20, 2004

    They even pissed off Walter Cronkite

    Inspiration: Doonesbury@Slate - Me and Rupert

    It's all clear to me now! Fahrenheit 9/11 is balancing factor to the FOX News Channel, just as FOX News is a balancing factor for all the rest of the liberal media.

    One of the first memories I have of FOX news after the invasion of Iraq. They cited a poll where 1/3 German youths believe that the US sponsored the 9/11 attacks. Why this is important for viewers to know is beyond me. I'd heard that FOX was biased and came to a dismissive conclusion that it was indeed but never got around to thinking explicitly about it.

    At a later time, I also came across a seemingly far-fetched study that, among other things, isolated dedicated FOX viewers as having the highest likelyhood (80%) of having at least one of three misconceptions about Iraq and 9/11 compared with people who fell in any of the other 6 categories. Those with did not have any of the three misconceptions had the least likelyhood of supporting the war, 23%. NPR listeners and PBS viewers had the least likelyhood of thinking one of the following:
    1. Iraq was directly involved in 4 hijacked plane attacks of September 11th (MAJOR CORRECTION! Updated 10:44 PM EST 8/22/04; The major misconception was that 'world public opinion favored the US going to war in Iraq'. However, the report cited these results: 'Polled June through September, the percentage saying that Iraq was directly involved in 9/11 continued to be in the 20-25% range, while another 33-36% said they believed that Iraq gave al-Qaeda substantial support. [Note: An August Washington Post poll found that 69% thought it was at least “somewhat likely” that Saddam Hussein was personally involved in 9/11—a different question than the PIPA/KN question that asked respondents to come to a conclusion.]'. These results weren't included in the three misconceptions, but are actually more disturbing in nature. No relationship between primary source of news and belief in these statements. Refer to this new report linked from Chrenkoff for recent poll information.);
    2. collaborative [the actual study didn't specify] links between Iraq and Al Quaeda had been found;
    3. weapons of mass destruction had been found;
    This week's topic in Doonesbury talks about the unfair and unbalanced documentary, "Outfoxed." After watching the trailer and reading the NYTimes article about it, I finally have an understanding of exactly how FOX is biased and how its wrongs are fundamentally different from any accused bias of other news sources that may be left-leaning. The NYTimes summarized the documentary's primary message with the following:
    The story they tell is of the systematic and deliberate dismantling of journalistic norms, and of an outfit that has become not merely a voice of conservatism but a cheerleader for the Republican Party.
    One difference between Outfoxed and F911 is that Outfoxed at least closes by touching on the problems of ever increasingly consolidated media corporations. The other is that Outfoxed is dealing with a much simpler subject matter and doesn't try to tell any conspiracy theories. Interviews with employees, Walter Cronkite and Al Franken, internal memos make the case presented by FOX personalities themselves even stronger, depicting journalism at its worst. The anchors frequently cut off their guests (the trailer opens with Bill O'Reilly telling the producers to kill the mic') and repeat propagandistic messages (John Kerry is a flip-flopper).

    The worst thing, however, is of course the top-down approach to reporting the news. From the memos just shown in the trailer, it would seem that orders come straight from the top as to how anchors should make John Kerry look bad today. They've already decided which candidate to support in the 2004 election. Now its someone else's turn to report.

    Monday, July 12, 2004

    Hone your retail skills

    Free copy of XP Pro anyone? - The Unofficial Microsoft Weblog - microsoft.weblogsinc.com

    The title is quite self-explanatory. Not interested in XP Pro? How about 4 Cross Ion pens? A Swiss Army knife? Keyboard and Mouse? There are a number of rewards Microsoft will bribe you with to keep you from selling Palm devices. What am I talking about?

    The link takes you to htttp://www.windowsmobiletraining.com— a retail training site that introduces you to the features, benefits, key selling points and strategies of a large number of Windows Mobile devices, including a variety of Pocket PCs, Pocket PC Phones, and Smartphones. You take interactive and multiple choice quizzes and a bonus quiz intermittently spread out among flash-based tutorials. Although Greg Scher of "the unnofficial microsoft weblog" says it's easy and takes around 45 minutes, you shouldn't just breeze through the questions.

    After completing the entire tutorial and getting earning as many points as I could (enough to get my intended bribe), I realized that I had just learned that all along, I had been selling my Pocket PC in the wrong way, lauding the features I liked and impressed me. So, now I'm more attuned to the needs of my my customers. Wait a minute...

    Friday, July 09, 2004

    What goes on in the White House?

    Ok, so the last of DeLong's entries didn't quite capture the delight of reading his blog. He has bunch of running themes that tie a lot of his posts together. For example, one is "We need a better press corps." Anyhow, here's one that might do the trick—Cheney as Grand Vizier. We've been hearing all along that Bush sucks as president, but the truth should be much more than that. Of course, a president shouldn't be a one man executive show. He's got to have a strong staff. Then there are those (I included) that DeLong quotes who publicly say that Cheney does the actualy presiding. How much involvement does the president (or should the president) have in making the countless decisions involved in leading the American governemnt? DeLong lays out three possible explanations floating around. I actually had to think to figure out the differences between the first two, but as this is coming from republicans who are in the administration, I'd expect it to be nuanced and not plain as day. He seems to implying a general model of how the executive branch could work where the Head-of-State is the figure head and the Chief of Staff as the Head-of-Government who coordinates staff, leaving the specifics to each theory.

    The first theory is that Bush is the moral leader, attempting to follow in the footsteps of Reagan. Cheney runs the show as the "Grand Vizier", Rumsfeld owns foreign policy and O'Neill formerly running domestic policy. It's implied that these guys know what they are doing.

    The next theory posits that, instead of a bunch of guys running the show, Cheney's serving as Head-of-Government coordinating the staff (and not actually dictating all policy), but doing it badly.

    The third is that Bush, unfortunately, not only is Head-of-State but actually does want to make all the decisions of head-of-government, but isn't interested enough to get adequate information before doing so. This one is more sophisticated and you'd definitely want to check this one out.

    What does Brad think? I don't want to imply that his quotes are all soundbites, but it's just the way things turned out:

    Which of these theories is correct? I don't believe Theory 1--I don't believe that the American government has been honestly and competently led over the past 3 1/2 years, whether by Cheney or by somebody else. I don't have enough information to decide between theories 2 and 3.

    The frustrating thing is that the elite White House press corps does, in all probability, have the information to decide between theories 2 and 3. Yet with a few exceptions (Ron Suskind, I believe, plumps for theory 3), they aren't saying what they think. They need to find a way to do so.

    Oh, the liberties we take with statistics...

    Brad DeLong is a really cool (does that trivialize him?) econ professor whose posts I take to be very authoritative. They are far from being just about economics. Here is a snippet of his very apropriate comment:

    ..."We're not an economic-reporting firm, we're a campaign," says Bush policy director Tim Adams.
    Just keep that in mind *whenever* you hear a number reported by the friends of George W. Bush.

    Read his short entry here.

    Thursday, July 08, 2004

    Bubby responded!

    ... I've always been busy and I seem to work all the time but I also manage to get a social life in. I work best late at night -- a hold over from my years in school - and I don't mind a bit.
    ♥, BUBBY

    Today, Bubby responded to my email. Bubby, which means grandmother in Yiddish, who was convinced by her grand-daughters to use her experience to help people out is a sort of help blog. She always comes up with great advice, often relating her own life experiences.

    I wasn't really satisfied with the reply I got this time, but it wasn't really representative of her replies to others. This might be because her granddaughters labeled me as "trying to get down to specifics." I've read her other responses relating to everything (well, not everything) from mending family conflicts to procrastination to love and work.

    Next time, I guess I'll ask a question that actually asks for advice and not for info about her.

    Wednesday, July 07, 2004

    A test of Photoblogger


    Hello Bloggerbot: A random Christmas picture.

    State of the blogger

    I feel like I need to accomplish something by the end of the summer. Anything significant will do. Since I don't have a job and am not taking summer classes, the pressure to do something over the summer is quite overwhelming that I end up doing little of anything else. Picking up projects and putting them down to do other ones, then procrastinating on those secondary tasks. Back in high school, I thought it'd be great if I could start school again different somehow. Many people who I didn't see for July and August would change. I usually stayed the same. So this summer, although I don't have anything structured, I hope to accomplish smaller things. I started out wanting to finally make a website from scratch. That entailed getting a beginner's grasp of php, more html (yes... you read that right), then CSS (capitalized out of reverence), and now JavaScript. I also want to get a bit more in shape physically, at least cardiovascularly. Oh, and study for the MCAT. That's a biggy. And get my drivers license. I actually have to think a little hard to come up with these things. OH, and make some progress on planning for clubs at school. My life is currently dominated by a small number of things. Funeral Quest (hey, at least I have a shot at making 25 bucks over my summer), visiting my sick grandma, going insane reading, and less often posting, blog entries (deciding between here and/or here), learning web scripting, worrying about all the other things I should be doing or am attempting to do concurrently (I looked that up in a thesaurus because I wanted to avoid simultaneously). Well, well, well... that's all for now.

    Sunday, July 04, 2004

    Independence Day

    Benjamin Franklin biography with actors playing the roles of important 18th century figures

    Although the link I've provided (maybe it is a bad habit, but I can't understand an aversion to linking...) isn't centrally related to the day independence was declared from Britain, I happened to be watching it on PBS and really enjoyed it. Benjamin Franklin was a remarkable man who contributed in so many ways to our country, politically, diplomatically, scientifically, socially, and humanistically.

    I also started the morning reading an essay by Elie Weisel that was the feature on the Sunday magazine of NJ's Star Ledger newspaper. In it, he mentions touching moments about being freed from the concentration camps to weak to show gratitude to American soldiers who some with tears, couldn't believe what they were finding. He also mentions that as a Jew, being naturalized as a citizen of the US was a moment he would never forget (well, obviously) because while before, no country would take him and every society denied him, here was one that was actually accepting him. He said that there was that greatness in America in treasuring its own freedom by sharing it with others.

    I don't know if we were primarily motivated to invade Iraq for the express purpose of freeing the Iraqi people, but now that we're there, I want to believe that the Iraqis will reject the terrorists that are shaming Iraqi society. I also want to believe that people in the United States will not rest on its laurels and continue to scrutinize the actions of our government and hold them accountable in accomplishing their jobs, be it upholding the constitution, legislating fair laws, or running the government in a way that would make Benjamin Franklin proud.

    What would make Ben Franklin proud? Society that values and rewards personal merit. Free and civically active society. A healthy, tolerant and compromising people. Scientific progress and the betterment of life and humanity.

    Saturday, July 03, 2004

    Spam hides decent content

    How often do you actually read your spam? Well, these two jokes were so good that they fooled my spam filter into thinking they were regular mail:
    Young Hopeful: "Father, what is a traitor in politics?
    Father (a veteran politician): "A traitor is a man who leaves our party and goes over to the other one."
    Young Hopeful: "Well then, what is a man who leaves his party and comes over to yours?"
    Father: "A converter, my son."
    AND
    By the time John pulled into the little town, every hotel room was taken.
        "You've got to have a room somewhere." he pleaded. "Or just a bed--I don't care where."
        "Well, I do have a double room with one occupant," admitted the manager," and he might be glad to split the cost. But to tell you the truth, he snores so loudly that people in adjoining rooms have complained in the past. I'm not sure it'd be worth it to you."
        "No problem," the tired traveler assured him. "I'll take it."
    The next morning, John came down to breakfast bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.
    When asked about how he slept, he replied, "Never better." The manager was impressed. "No problem with the other guy snoring, then?"
        "Nope. I shut him up in no time."
        "How'd you manage that?"
        "He was already in bed, snoring away, when I came in the room," John said. "I went over, gave him a kiss on the cheek, said, 'Goodnight, beautiful.' With that he sat up all night watching me."

    Funeral Quest

    I'd like to apologize ahead of time to anyone who is currently planning a funeral. This game really lampoons the actions of greedy people and tries to make light of one of the most universal of human experiences.

    Today is day one of a new Funeral Quest tournament ith cash prized totaling $60. It's a multiplayer Macromedia flash-based simulator of the world's "second oldest profession". From the maker of Dink Smallwood, this game combines making economic decisions and interacting with your competitors. Check it out. If you're hardcore, you can try other servers that are already in progress through the RTSoft main site. Some have interesting modifications like church bingo and a gun store.

    Why am I announcing this? Starting at day one puts you ahead of the game, so here's your chance.

    note: sorry for the double posting

    Thursday, July 01, 2004

    Gmail going public as early as August

    Google's Brin Talks on Gmail Future

    I read an interesting interview with Sergey Brin I found a link to in GmailForum and have compiled a short list of extractions:

    • Gmail said and reiterated that Gmail will[is] likely[to ]come out of Beta in 3-6 months (as of April 23, 2004)!
    • They are committed to providing IMAP or at least POP3 access and coming up with ways to continue advertising through those channels
    • Files are deleted when you delete them, but because they keep a number of backups, it takes longer to delete all the copies
    • Future possibilities (with privacy taken very seriously):
      • Searching Google to find out whether you have new mail
      • Being logged into Orkut and being able to see if you have new mail
      • Of course, other new features...
    Correction: The interview took place way back in April 23, 2004, so 3-6 months means we can expect a launch from August through November.

    Tuesday, June 29, 2004

    Beat this, Germ Terminator!

    Via Gizmodo.com

    HA! So the Discovery Channel can beat the Germ Terminator any day with its 20 dollar toothbrush UV/Ozone germ killer. Small, compact, no idea how durable it is. I'll say that there are still some unmatched features of the GT such as dependability (heating elements don't break like UV lamp bulbs can) and absolute sterilization, but hey, it's 20 dollars.

    Unfortunately, because 20 dollars and the need for future replacements still prices me out of absolute oral health, I won't be getting this device.

    Tuesday, June 22, 2004

    Germ Terminator

    Germ Terminate America ::: Germ Terminator GT100 I am a big sucker for infomercials. After having seen the one selling the Germ Terminator, I completely believe that not only are there millions of bacteria and viruses on out toothbrushes, but every time I brush my teeth, I'm injecting them into my blood stream. Why is this bad? Well, it's like rubbing your broken wound around with E. coli laden fecal matter. That's right. Whenever you flush your toilet, E. coli bacteria can be projected into the air and contaminate anything within 6 feet. Granted, most of the bacteria and germs are from your own family members, why would you want to expose yourself to germs unnecessarily?

    Hence, the Germ Terminator. FDA cleared to steam sterilize your toothbrushes leaving 0 traces of germs, accurate up to around 6-7 significant digits.

    They say that many diseases are linked to oral health and that you're needlessly burdening your immune system, citing all these doctors and studies about how oral health is linked to this and that.

    So, how much does the best investment you can make for your health cost ya? 180 dollars for three. If I had money I'd buy it. In the meantime, I think I'll just use listerine to clean my toothbrush. Then use it to rinse my mouth.

    Now, mind you, their arguments are in many ways very sound. This coming from someone who if in possession of 180 dollars would surely buy these ingenious devices. Seriously, though, they are not without merit.

    Other infomercials I fell for, but had too little money to follow through on: The Hoover air purifier, the SkunciScünci Steam cleaner, the Ronco knife collection, 25 pieces for 3 easy payments of 13.33, and more...

    Went for a jog today

    I'm trying to be healthy... Being in the hospital watching a bunch of heart monitors + hearing about everyone working out at the gym has taken its toll on me. I woke up, and decided to go for a jog despite the rain. It felt good for the first half of my ~10 minutes, but the second half wasn't so easy. Blogging about Fahrenheit 9/11 has been a nightmare, because I keep changing my mind. Not to say that I didn't have fun adding the css box with teh links to the trailer and theater-finder form. Having only seen the trailer, I'm bent on seeing this movie if it's the only one I see this summer. Then, I read a couple of articles that say it isn't "just the facts".

    Now, I'm thinking over the arguments my most respected anti-Moore source gives, and decide that they aren't so much facts refuting facts, but facts attacking certain points that aren't particularly the strongest of Moore attemmpts (with various degrees of success) to cast light on hidden truths. For example, Moore says that attacking Iraq was wrong tries to show that Iraq wasn't a threat to the US. This isn't true and was easily refuted. Moore doesn't exactly lie in his movie, but you also can't take his movie at face value. Was UN action so ineffective? No. We destroyed most of his weapons stockpiles that way. Should we have interrupted the inspections process, depose Saddam, then conclude that there are no stockpiles of signigicance left in Iraq, undermanned and without support of the UN? That's not as easy to refute.

    Hitchens gives Moore grief for contradictions. Ex: Moore says it was wrong to invade Iraq. He then says that we attacked with too few soldiers. Contradiction? No. The second statement doesn't exclude the first. Part of the reason we were undermanned was because we went with little international aid. Secondly, it's possible to protest the war and care about the safety of our soldiers.

    Fahrenheit 9/11

    Click to see the trailer
    .movL
    .wmaS/M/L
    State:  
    I wasn't originally going to post about this movie, but after seeing how hard Move America Forward (fake grass roots action front for the GOP, thanks Alan for the link) is trying to get theaters not to show it, I figured it was important to increase its visibility even in a miniscule way.

    Now I know that Michael Moore may not be everyone's favorite person, but what's important are the facts. If this movie documents only the truth, what is there to fear? (edit: we'll have to see about that) Bringing events surrounding the September 11th terrorist attacks up to public scrutiny does not constitute an attack on American and foreign soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan and surely isn't anti-American. Since when was an administration perfect? Since when is questioning an administration unpatriotic? The only thing people who haven't actually seen the movie can say to prevent it from being shown is that the movie is one sided. Well, since when is censoring ideas from the public American?

    Click on the links above see the trailer. To see how many theaters in your state have refused to show a film that threatens the White House, fill in your state abbreviation and click theaters. A theater I usually go to is missing from the list. The movie opens Friday, June 25, 2004.

    UPDATE: So I'm disappointed to say that Fahrenheit 9/11 isn't the grand slam of the anti-Bush cause, if you believe Christopher Hitchens whose article I linked to above in the edit. He apparently watched the movie. I, who haven't seen the movie like most other peope, largely reacted to the kneejerk shouts of anti-Americanism. But, when someone who argues rationally against Moore's movie, I'm sad to say that this is not the case against Bush condensed into a movie and might even detract from it. Any I even double blogged this :(

    UPDATE 2: Now, Hitchens isn't altogether objective in his article "Unfairenheit 9/11" either, but he largely says that Moore does not pass up an opportunity to ridicule Bush, even if bashing Bush on one point forces him to in some way contradict a previous point. I don't know what to say.... this is going to be a problematic movie and I really wish Moore could've had some help making it.

    Friday, June 18, 2004

    Why you might end up using webmail after all

    ISPs Blocking Port 25 To Curb Spam Hurts The Honest Guy

    I've been using Outlook 2002 ever since I've started using a Pocket PC PDA to synchronize my address book, schedule and other stuff. By that time, I'd already upgraded to broadband and was weaning myself off AOL's webmail and strictly using Outlook to access my POP3 email account from my then beloved ISP. Capacity was never a concern since I stored everything on my own computer. Recently, I've been getting lots of SPAM, sometimes around 40 each day. After going to college and getting a university hosted email account, I've found that it's a lot more convenient using that address because most people I associate with are from my school. However, you don't get to use a school account forever.

    Now I'll admit that when Gmail was first announced on April Fools Day, I knew they had broken the generous 10 MB limit my ISP provided as well as the 50 MB barrier my school provided. I knew they raised the bar on usability and changed the way we think about email. They made organization seems so convenient, and search a breeze. But I didn't care. I wanted it because it was Google.

    With that said, some say (and this comes from the CNET article linked from the article above) that most spam comes from zombie computers infected with easily avoided viruses and their brethren scum. At all times of the day, zombie computers will be doing the bidding of their spamming necromancers, all without the knowledge of their hosts. ISPs know that this costs them lots of money and the easiest solution would be to close the default port for sending mail and open another that virus writers won't be able to easily discern. While some providers such as Bell South finally resorted to closing port 25, others have stopped short, manually closing ports only for the seriously afflicted. The solution sounds easy, but Comcast, with well over 5 million high speed internet subscribers, says it will simply cost too much to explain to all of the affected customers.

    After all this, what happens if the virus writers figure out how to scan for the port used for SMTP mail sending and adapt accordingly? What about people who think that avoiding viruses for a year is worth spending $30 or downloading free antivirus software?

    WEBMAIL SAVES THE DAY

    Webmail, or even better, free webmail with all the ads and spam (yes, even if you don't give away your email address) and limited storage and accessibility (you need to be online to read mail), helps you avoid this mess. You might still get the viruses, unless you use a service like Yahoo (premium), but other people don't. Now, I've done several scans on my computer and still get mail bounced back saying I was sending illegal attachments and what not from both my accounts. If you're often away from home, you'll also find yourself resorting to using your ISP provided webmail in all its limited glory. If you change ISPs, you'll find your access to your ISP provided email will be restricted. I haven't got this all figured out, but, it looks like webmail may be the right choice for a lot of people who use broadband, but who aren't lucky enough to host their own email.

    Tuesday, June 15, 2004

    "Three crises, and the need for American leadership"

    Harvard Gazette: Kofi Annan urges multilateralism

    Let's not get into how I came upon this article, but Kofi Annan's speech at Harvard's commencement exercises reminds us, along with how great our country is, about the true nature of multilateralism:

    "It is in the interest of every country to have international rules and to abide by them," Annan said. "And such a system can only work if, in devising and applying the rules, the legitimate interests and points of view of different countries are accommodated, and decisions are reached collectively. That is the essence of multilateralism, and the founding principle of the United Nations. All great American leaders have understood this."

    His three crises:

    1. Collective security.
      1. Terrorism- In trying to bridge the gap between the 2 sides of the Iraq debate, he's appointed a distinguised panel to submit a report on when pre-emptive action might be necessary and how it should be undertaken.
      2. Genocide- The need for a collective will to act with strength and urgency to prevent another Rwanda in present day Sudan: "In the Darfur region in western Sudan, for example, thousands of villages have been burnt and more than a million people forced from their homes. In all, about 1.3 million people need immediate assistance."
    2. Global solidarity
      1. Strengthening weakened fundamental committments to improving drinking water, education, infant and maternal mortality and AIDs
      2. He alluded to Afghanistan's miserable conditions contributing to its harboring of terrorists
    3. Prejudice and intolerance
      1. Christian, Jewish, Muslim relations (of note: "And we must not allow Christians in the Muslim world to be treated as if their religion somehow made them a fifth column of western imperialism. It is in times of fear and anger, even more than in times of peace and tranquillity, that you need universal human rights, and a spirit of mutual respect."
      2. This includes you Ann Coulter! Some of her favorite airline marketing slogans: "'The Friendly Skies – Unless You're an Arab"
        "You Are Now Free to Move About the Cabin – Not So Fast, Mohammed!'"

    He also suggests that the US should, as it has in the past 50 years, lead by wielding moral authority, not merely brute force. Anyone who has forgotten the spirit of the UN should definitely read this article or the speech in full, here.

    Sunday, June 13, 2004

    Chinese posting 試驗

    如果大家能看得到這些字就好了!

    Fonts.com - Type Trading Cards

    Fonts.com - Download Mac and Windows Fonts: Fontent

    For those interested in typography, each month, fonts.com is releasing a pair of font trading cards meant to be printed on Avery #5389 postcards. They are very nice, with a famous quote in the featured font on the front. On the back, they have "spotting" guides, detailing each font's quirks and defining characteristics, an etymology including its typographer, family info, and font facts. A 100 pack of the precut postcards you can print the cards on costs around $20.

    Since April, these following fonts have been featured:

    • Bembo
    • Gill Sans
    • ITC Berkeley Old Style
    • ITC Conduit
    • Cachet
    • Joanna

    "this is a test of Audioblogger"

    this is an audio post - click to play

    CSS From the Ground Up - 1

    CSS From the Ground Up - 1

    This is a great site to start learning how to code for the web! I already know basic html and php, but apparently, you can do a whole lot, presentationally, with CSS, or cascading style sheets.

    I'm motivated to start learning how to make a better Blogger template.

    Saturday, June 12, 2004

    Shopping list

    Hey, I've decided to remind myself of my committment to be a good consumer and record what I intend to do with my money after I get a job.
    1. Order a copy of Office 2003: Student/Teacher Edition
    2. Buy a quieter power supply for my computer
    3. Buy a Powerbook (added after watching Steve Jobs 2004 WWDC keynote)
    4. Any suggestions?

    First post

    Now, I [know] no one can really read this entry yet, but it commemorates my first blogger post. Thanks, Li for giving me an idea of what blogger is and Chris Chen for getting me to start one!

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