Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Katrina links

My brother and his family live in Kenner, so we are following the disaster with deep personal interest.

Here are some links of note:
New Media Musings: Citizen journalism storm chasers
links to amateur videos of the hurricane aftermath.

Craigs List has special help for people affected.

One ambitious blogger is posting a collection of other good links.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Snapfish lets you pick up prints at Walgreens

[from] Soon you'll be able to upload your prints, then pick them up at your local Walgreens in as little as an hour, for less than the price of doing it online since there are no shipping costs.

This article notes that Snapfish is the largest online photo printer, with something like 700,000 users per month. I'm impressed that they're bigger than Kodak's Ofoto (now called Easysomething).

Sunday, August 28, 2005

New Camcorders

My Panasonic PV-DV953 developed a terrible disorder last week: it no longer can see reds, and the entire image has a greenish tint. It's unclear what it will cost to fix, so I glanced quickly at the state of replacement cameras. Here's one that looks good: JVC GR-X5 Camcorder Review

Saturday, August 27, 2005

More on Peak Oil

The frenzy over ever-higher oil prices is approaching a bubble, and I bet it is time to consider shorting energy prices. New substitutes will start emerging, people will conserve more, and oil will no longer be king.

Here’s a summary from Slate’s Today’s Blogs (Monday, Aug 22, 2005)

Levitt gets plenty of cheers from peak-oil skeptics. "I think I probably agree with Levitt that the big effect of peak oil will be to simply cut the fat … out of oil consumption," writes Snarkmarket's Robin Sloan. "This will probably not involve roaming bands of petro-pirates in wind-powered gun-skiffs." At Reason's in-house blog Hit & Run, Jesse Walker commends Levitt's critique and compares peak oil hysteria to apocalyptic, Left Behind eschatology.

Not everybody pooh-poohs the article's alarmism. "[A]n excellent article. Well researched. Balanced. Thoughtful," praises Cultural Economist Ronald R. Cooke. "Bravo." At's Pokkari Blog, Mike stakes out a middle ground. "I think the market is already correcting, and that the introduction of alternative fuel vehicles will only accelerate," he writes. "The electricity sector will compensate, too, and we'll end up using oil mostly for plastics."

Read more about the Times Magazine article; and more about peak oil.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Freakonomics meets Peak Oil

The Freakonomics Blog continues to dissect the Peak Oil arguments:

John Tierney wrote a great New York Times column in response
to the Maass article on Peak Oil in the Sunday NY Times Magazine
that I criticized. Tierney and Matthew Simmons, who is the point man for the Peak Oil team, made a $10,000 bet as to whether in 2010 oil would be above or below $200 a barrel (adjusted for inflation to be in 2005 dollars). The bet was designed in the spirit of the famous bet between Julian Simon and Paul Ehrlich, which the economist Simon won when the five commodities Ehrlich said would rise in price, actually fell substantially.

I made an similar bet with a guy at work, though on a smaller scale. After some studying of the Peak Oil arguments, I am convinced that this whole “we’re running out of oil” argument is just another example of an irrational panic meme that will end in tons of even cheaper energy.


Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Testing Blogjet

Here’s another test of BlogJet, which I am trying to try as a new offline blog editor.

I already tested it on my .Text Blog, so now I’m trying it on Blogger. It appears to have a few advantages over what I’ve used previously:

  • It’s truly WYSIWYG, including things like support for bullets.
  • Apparently can easily be configured to upload directly from an FTP server (but I don’t have that part working yet).
  • It’s paid software, so presumably you get better support than from freeware.





Sunday, August 21, 2005

Religious values and biotech

In America most Christians are members of denominations (Catholic, Baptist, etc.) that oppose research into stem cells, on the grounds that only God can take a life once it's been conceived. But what do other religions think?

Here's a summary of what Hindus think: How India Reconciles Hindu Values and Biotech - New York Times

(basically, Hinduism thinks life begins at conception but it's okay to experiment because it's not possible for science to manipulate what is fundamentally a spiritual existence).

I wonder what other religions think? Islam? Shinto? Buddhism?

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Target in The New Yorker

Slate summarizes the history of Target, which bought every ad in this week's New Yorker.

Some quotes:

The now-famous "Tar-zhay" pun, emphasizing Target's exalted place in the discount world, dates back to the store's founding in 1962.

As Target prepared to open its first store in metro New York in 1997, its image became synonymous with inexpensive indulgence. In a Christmas photo op, Michael Bloomberg was seen exiting a local Target clutching a George Foreman grill and a cheese grater, gifts that would surely please one of the gardeners at Gracie Mansion.

The rich (at least in Manhattan) profess to visit Target because of its social progressivism. Target, they insist, is a more enlightened corporate behemoth. Viewed through the Upper West Side prism in which "enlightened" equals "liberal," there is some truth to this contention. Sam Walton's heirs donate to the GOP, while Target scion Mark Dayton serves as a Democrat in the U.S. Senate.

The Brooklyn Target has an in-store Starbucks.

white coffee

Dave Winer points to Ancora Coffee, in Madison Wisconsin as a place you can get "white coffee". Apparently this is a drink made from beans that were only lightly roasted; doesn't taste like coffee but has more caffeine.

Thursday, August 18, 2005 Books: The Rule of Three: Surviving and Thriving in Competitive Markets Books: The Rule of Three: Surviving and Thriving in Competitive Markets: "Business school professors Sheth (Emory University) and Sisodia (Bentley College) argue forcefully that competitive forces, free of government interference or other special circumstances, will inevitably create a situation where three companies and only three will dominate any given market. Whether it's U.S. fast food restaurants (McDonald's, Burger King and Wendy's) or South Korean chipmakers (Goldstar, Hyundai and Samsung), three large firms hold most of the market share. To be successful, everyone else is forced to specialize either by product or market segment. Sure, there are the 'Big Two' in U.S. soft drinks, and there really aren't three dominant advertising agencies but these are the exceptions that prove the rule. Markets, the authors explain, are inherently efficient, and efficiency's favorite number is three: two companies would lead to monopoly pricing or mutual destruction, while four guarantees consistent price wars. For managers who follow this logic, the implications are clear. Companies faced with three established competitors may want to battle them indirectly by specializing. Sheth and Sisodia also discuss strategies firms should pursue if they are one of the three major players in a field: e.g., the market leader should be a 'fast follower' rather than a consistent innovator, while it's the job of the number three firm to create new products to stay competitive. While the writing veers toward the academic, senior managers of all types are bound to be intrigued by these arguments. Agent, Rafe Sagalyn. "

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

More Long Tail theory

CSVEN CONCORD has an interesting extension of Chris Anderson's Long Tail argument, how the Internet helps mine business among the vast masses of people underserved by normal commerce.

Concord 3-dimensionalizes the idea to allow for fads, like Rocky Horror, that are popular but never really mainstream.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

More on PFBLog

More reading of PFBlog has me more impressed.

It's an active account of how a normal guy is trying to pursue his financial goals, including his thoughts on ways to save money (this this review of Vonage phone service). The real interesting part, to me, is that he is apparently a Microsoft employee living in Sammamish. He posts his thoughts on changes to benefits programs, ESPP, etc. It's just like talking to somebody in my hallway at work, only better because it's confidential: he doesn't reveal his actual identity (come to think of it, who knows, maybe he really is in my hallway).

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Personal finance blogs

Is this a new trend? People seem to bare their souls on blogs, so why not their finances too? - The Unique Personal Finance Weblog is a site run by a guy who tells you his exact financial situation, including the amount he spends on various purchases and the return on his various portfolio investments. He is also apparently a Microsoft employee, since he mentions that in his 401(k) and stock options summaries.

Consumerism Commentary is a similar site, though with lower assets.

(found via FreeMoneyFinance)

Pepakura 3D paper printing

Kevin Kelly -- Cool Tools describes a shareware application from Japan called Pepakura (Paper Craft)

You enter 3D design information from any popular CAD application and it produces lines on paper that you can print and assemble. The makers of the software provide lots of samples on their web site including racecars, Godzilla figures, houses, and more. Anything you can model, you can build!

Thursday, August 04, 2005


Like I mentioned before, sometimes too many choices can be a problem. Stephen J. Dubner describes a famous experiment in behavioral economics where:

In an upscale grocery story, researchers set up a tasting booth first with 6 jars of jams, and later with 24 jars. In the first case, 40 percent of the customers stopped to taste and 30 percent bought; in the second, 60 percent tasted but only 3 percent bought. The point is that too many options can flummox a consumer - and if 24 jars of jam pose a problem, imagine what 8,000 mutual funds can do.

This seems understandable to me, but it can't be the whole story. If people want fewer choices, then why do grocery stores stock more items now than they did 20 years ago? Why do megastores like Home Depot or Wal-Mart crush their local competitors? If it were all about restricting the number of options, you'd think the world would settle on something that offers fewer choices. Wait a minute, maybe it has: CostCo is successful partly because they stock only one choice in each product category.

Digital libraries

CNET summarizes the state of college libraries going digital, particularly Stanford with its projects with Grokis (aka Grokker) and the TopicMap project from Highwire Press.

MIT has been running a project called "D Space" that stores tons of digital material, and the "Lockss" open source software that can harvest electronic journals from the web.

Amazon wish list

Neat hack I found today, courtesy of Xanadb:

My blogspot homepage now includes a graphical listing of my Amazon wish list.

(unfortunately there doesn't seem to be an easy way to include it in a blog post, but you can view it by going directly to my Blog site).