Friday, March 31, 2006

Murdoch's Myspace purges 200,000 accounts. Not as many as Stalin, company claims. This is part of an ongoing cycle of the growth of the internet.
A site becomes popular as a way to organize and transmit personal information.
The site gets bought by a big company. New rules and censorship is imposed.
The user base goes elsewhere, routing around censorship. The cycle continues.
Examples include hotmail, egroups>onelist>yahoo, now myspace, tomorrow faceparty.
This isn't a bad thing exactly, more of an annoyance.
A site gets popular, usually by providing free services. The founders get to cash out when bought out by BigCo, so the internet knows that they who build popular sites can make $$$ fast, so content providers compete to be the next google or instapundit. The big company knows that pagewiews equal profit... somehow, someday, at least.
1. Build site offering nifty free stuff.
2. If you build it, they will come.. at least sometimes.
3. Where the users are, the big companies that want to corner that internet thing follow, paying big money.
6. profit.
7. But now there are reputation capital problems - it turns out if you let information be free, some of it will be icky.
So 8, BigCo takes steps to manage its reputation capital problem, by crippling the functionality of the site.
9 which drives the user base away, to a new site that a) isn't broken and b) has some new gimmick to catch the cool kids, where the masses will soon follow.
Library's closing, I didn't get done the main thing I came here to do, there's a tornado warning, and packs of basketball fans roaming the streets - I'll go have some fun. Had big fun last night at metro idol kareoke.
update: there was an amazing lightening storm driving home - downtown was a ghost town - and then tonight i watched cinderella turn into a pumpkin as george mason lost to the florida gators by 15 points - the one basketball game i've seen in about the last 20 years.

update the next thursday:
I happened to check my myspace account, and got a buliten from punkrocknight.com about a charity auction at the vault, a new club downtown. Went, ran into friends,
spent $7 on the charity, a good bit more on drinks and cover, had fun. Myspace can be a timewaster, but it's also a good netwrking tool. Next month's designated charity is a school for AIDS orphans in Kenya being promoted by a Mistress Ann, who has had some of the same problems I've had with Indy's overzealous health and hospital department thugs. I need to remember to send out a blurb about that to some local contacts.

I was feeling nostalia for my 64 dodge powerwagon panel truck, and figured I'd put a picture here, but the university library only has microsoft instead of firefox,
so my usual method of < img src > linking to a picture doesn't work, but here's a link.
It's not identical to mine, which was shorter for one thing, and black, but it gives the general idea.

Anyway, today I'm reading A Beautiful Mind, the John Nash story that was made into a movie I havent seen. I got interested after reading a book on eccentric economists through history, which I picked up on a whim at a public library, and then the Nash book was in the 50 cent rack at the used bookstore where I get my Kennediana, if that's a word. I didn't want to put the book down to get out of bed to run errands and come here. I've spent sigificant stretches of my life socially withdrawn, months languishing reading in bed instead of having a job or doing homework or such.
I am neither as smart as John Nash nor as crazy, but I am smart and crazy enough his story resonates with me. Nash's main thing, although he had a lot of them, was game theory. The book makes me realize I don't know much about it. Alexrod's The Evolution of Cooperation, which looks at the reiterated prisoner's dilemma, has been a key insight for me, ranking up there with Smith's invisible hand, Darwin's survival of the fittest, Hayek's sponteously arising order, but otherwise I don't have a good grounding in either the math or the application of game theory, except in a sort of rough intuitive way.
Meanwhile Indianapolis is being overrun with game theorists from gmu, as the final four culminates monday. At Volokh, there's a great article on how GMU used moneyball first to build topnotch law and economics faculty, then to put together a winning basketball team. The basic insight is that kids from winning high school teams know how to win, even if they aren't themselves superstars, so GMU built its college team by recrutinjg decent players from winning high school teams, who were undervalued in the marketplace. Even the indystar is playing the moneyball game, running articles that compare the sports budgets of IU and Purdue line by line, to see how different strategies get different results.

It looks like my start date for a new job will be April 19th, temping grading standardized tests, about 6 months a year. When I was young I thought my top scores on those tests indicated I'd be successful at something someday, but it turns out taking standardized tests well is my only skill. I'm not even a very good blogger, and being one pays less than some other things I've tried. I was a very good dishwasher, in the years I did that, but it's too low status to be a career, and then I've been completely inept as a lawyer and investor. My lifetime interest in computers has never translated in having marketable skills. My plan to be a lawyer dealing with computers wasn't a bad one - it's a field that's grown from a dozen in 1992 to thousands today, but I never found a niche that would pay the rent.
But enough about me - what do you think of my play?

Friday, March 24, 2006

Tucker Max (not safe for work) sued again, mentions Volokh. Because someone on his forum was anonymously annoying. I like Tucker, in small doses, for the same reasons I like leasticoulddo.com and filthy lies. There is a genuine civil liberties issue involved - we all have the right to be both anonymous and annoying.
Tucker makes an interesting poster child.

Vernor Vinge writing at Nature, says Slashdot. Fairly minor piece for those who already know his ideas.

I went a little overboard today at the used bookstore, so I'll have LBJ/JFK/WJC books to keep me busy for the next month or two. A Califano, a Lincoln, a Goldwater, A Beautiful Mind, a bunch of others, $32. I've been reading rogue robot instead of getting any work done - I'm supposed to be writing up a list for the cops of what the burglar took, and getting an agenda ready for my next meeting with my lawyer. I'll be in Bloomington Sunday with the RaccoonCreek crowd, and am still living out of the hotel for now.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

A brief personal note: I either have the bird flu, or I'm hung over. have a bad cold, or a mild flu, or something. It feels like mono, but you only get that once.
A job interview went well today, although the assignment might not start for a month, and being told I pretty much have the job isn't the same as cashing the first paycheck. Involves grading papers for a temp agency, about 6 months a year - that would work for me. I'm going to go home sweet hotel and sleep for a few days.
The LBJ book by Ronnie Dugger is pretty good; otherwise I 'd be am going stir crazy.

update: two weeks later I still have the cold.
I finished Johnson by Dugger, finished How Stella, read Reasonable Doubt about the JFK hit, paid off my library fine for Brad Smith's Unfree Speech so I could check out a book about Stories of Economic Genius, a pretty good book about eccentric economists from Von Neumann through John Nash, Adam Smith, PS DuPont I, Bentham, Mill, Marx, Keynes, and the Duke of Arkansas. At points it became tedious like reading a textbook, but the idea is a good one - show how economic theory was developed by a series of madmen. Currently reading Fennimore Coopoer's The Pioneers,
because it's the only book in the hotel room I hadn't read, so now I'm at the library to pick up a few more.

A few more including Joe Kennedy: the mogul, the mob, something something. Reasonably good; goes out on a limb with its own theories at times.
The John Varley Reader - very good, read it cover to cover last night while snowed in after my truck broke down - it was 5 miles uphill both ways back to the hotel room,
but today I took a bike and bus and picked up my car at the shop -it might or might not be about to break down too, so I probably won't risk going to bloomington this weekend.
This just in: Red Lightning, Varley's sequel to Red Thunder, has been accepted for publication.

The Truth about Hillary Clinton - ok, lightweight, overlapped with what I'd recently read in American Evita. The general idea is she's a liar, harridan and embezzler, who studied abuse of executive privilege during the Nixon impeachment, and went on to know just what she could get away with as the power behind Bill Clinton, and now a senator in the model of LBJ, planning a run in 2008 or 2012.
Seems a reasonable assessment.


JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website] on Monday agreed to consider the boundaries of the 1995 Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA) [42 USC ยง1997e text] in a set of cases that will further specify when and how prisoners can bring lawsuits that contest the conditions of prisons. The high court granted to certiorari in Jones v. Bock [6th Cir. opinion, PDF], 05-7058, and Williams v. Overton [6th Cir. opinion, PDF], 05-7142, two Michigan cases in which the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit dismissed the prisoner's complaint because the inmate did not comply with, or "exhaust" the prison's internal complaint process.

The cases question the so-called "total exhaustion" rule of the PLRA, holding that a federal court must dismiss the prisoner's entire complaint if there is a single claim that has not been exhausted, even if there are other exhausted claims. The cases have been consolidated for argument and will be heard next term, which begins in October 2006.
Should be an easy win for plaintiffs?

Monday, March 06, 2006

The Oscars came and went. Mostly the right folks won for the right reasons.
I enjoyed Walk the Line at the dollar theater recently and didn't know till the credits that that was best actress Reese Witherspoon as June Carter Cash. I'm still not sure who the guy playing Pa Cash was. The most recent Johnny Cash song I've been crazy about was Redmeption Songs, a Bob Marley tune sung as a duet between Cash and Joe Strummer.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Finally, a flying car. But wait, there's more: you also get this handy desktop fusion reactor.
Rocket engine sold seperately.

Friday, March 03, 2006

What I'm reading:
Red Thunder
American Evita
How Stella got her Groove Back.

Red Thunder is a John Varley. It's dedicated to Heinlein and Spider Robinson, and the blurbs say he's the next Heinlein, which in anybody else would be hubris but for Varley that works. The story itself is rather silly - some kids build a spaceship in their back yard to get to Mars before NaSA and the Chinese.
That theme worked fine when I was 9 reading Ms. Pigly-Wiggly goes to Mars, or whatever it was called. In fact I remember at 11 reading a picture book about three pigs who run out of gas for their plane, so they stop, build a still, and make fuel from grass. I was like, wait, you can make fuel from grass? That solves the energy crisis! It was 1971, and energy was a big deal.
Red Thunder is also about solving the energy crisis. There's a mad scientist and a damsel in distress and a perpetual motion McGuffinator. But it works, because of the characters and the prose. It's a good read, but not his best.

How Stella also has a distinctive and fun prose style - sentences that go on for half the page, like German or Jefferson. Same author as Waiting to Exhale, both now movies. I'll eventually update this entry with an example. I needed something to read in the tub. I'd found the book as one of many with the covers torn off in the dumpster of the local lesbian bookstore - an early model of open source info distribution, subject to the usual pirates-versus-ninjas arguments. (It's not stealing - it's recycling.) By page 66, the afro-centrism is getting on my nerves.
She's in Jamacia and has just met the Taye Diggs character - I might or might not finish it. The cheap-hotel-by-the-week I'm staying at has no bathtub, just a rust-covered shower, so I went to Kroger to get some Kaboom, which actually works as well as the late night infomercials claim didn't work at all. It was $3 and rang up as $5.55, so I complained and they gave it to me free, which also happened last time I went to Kroger. The cheap hotel is a step up from sleeping in my car - yesterday I woke up in bloomington, in the parking lot of the Saraha Mart, and then drove to Greene County to bail out my roommate, who is not my roommate anymore because she stole $4 from my pockets while I slept so I kicked her out, straws and camels. Imagine the above paragraph packed into one long sentence and you get a sense of the narrative style of How Stella.

American Evita: Hillary Clinton's Path to Power
is not deep or footnoted or breaking new ground, but it fills in some gaps I didn't know or had forgotten. The subtitle evokes Robert Caro's "Path to Power", volume 2 of his bio of LBJ, and there is much in common between the two stories, the rise and fall of ruthless ends-before-means egomaniacs. When I read these stories I'm torn between being appalled and being jealous - I have a bit of that craving for power, although by now at 45 I've missed my shot.

I'm at the university library, which involved a 20 mile drive and a mile walk and closes in an hour. The need to blog is strong - being offline all day is frustrating, although it frees me up to go have adventures. Now that I have a place by the week I can concentrate on looking for a new house, and then I can get back online and think about looking for work, or at least renting out my body for medical experiments - Lilly has a research lab a block from here, and I've done that sort of thing before.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Will mentions that Octavia Butler has died, of a fall. She was 58 - I'm 45, and I thought she was younger than I was the one time I met her. It was my first con, a tiny one in Jeff City Missouri, at a Holiday Inn. We were sitting in the lounge and she said hi and we made a bit of small talk, with me having no clue she was the Guest of Honor. Later when I read Kindred, her first novel, I was reminded of Toni Morrison's 'Beloved', a much more famous book. She had won the McArthur genius prize, which is one answer to what does an SF writer do to support her habit (of writing.) She has some ten books out there I havent read yet. I don't read much SF these days, although I did pick up a Varley yesterday along with bios of Hillary Clinton and LBJ.
update: conspirator tyler cowen at slate has more.

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