Assorted Links 4/26/10


Wham-O
“It’s gotten so bad the Mexicans are hiring Americans to do the jobs the Chinese don’t want to do.”
“[We, the Chinese] don’t want the crappy jobs.”



South Park death threats

  • Media Relations for Public Affairs Professionals, May 4, 2010
  • Advanced Media Relations, May 5, 2010
  • Public Affairs and the Internet: Advanced Techniques and Strategies, May 6, 2010
  • Crisis Communications Training, May 7, 2010
  • Understanding Congressional Budgeting and Appropriations, May 13, 2010
  • Strategies for Working with Congress: Effective Communication and Advocacy on Capitol Hill, May 21, 2010
  • Congress in a Nutshell: Understanding Congress, June 3, 2010
  • Congressional Dynamics and the Legislative Process, June 4, 2010
  • Capitol Hill Workshop, June 9-11, 2010
  • Wi-Fi Classroom – How to Find, Track, and Monitor Congressional Documents: Going Beyond Thomas, June 24, 2010
  • Wi-Fi Classroom – How to Research and Compile Legislative Histories: Searching for Legislative Intent, June 25, 2010
  • Persuading Congress: Candid Advice for Executives – “Persuading Congress, by Joseph Gibson, is a very practical book, packed with wisdom and experience in a deceptively short and simple package.

    This book will help you understand Congress. Written from the perspective of one who has helped put a lot of bills on the president’s desk and helped stop a lot more, this book explains in everyday terms why Congress behaves as it does. Then it shows you how you can best deploy whatever resources you have to move Congress in your direction.”

  • School lunches called a national security threat – “Hey Kid: Every time you eat a tator tot, you’re letting the terrorists win!”
  • Fire and Ice – “Der Spiegel examines the chain of events that led to the cancellation of 17,000 flights over Europe, including the diversion of medevacs from Afghanistan and rerouting of the German Chancellor’s flight home. Ash clouds from an Icelandic volcano disrupted flights all over Europe. The question is whether the policy makers over-reacted to the thread. As volcanoes go Eyjafjallajökull was accounted by Icelandic volcanologists as ‘a weary old man’. It’s recent eruption was unremarkable.
    . . .
    The military historian Max Hastings wrote that ‘the great volcanic shutdown was the price we pay for a society that overreacts to any risk’. Hastings argued that societies had forgotten the concept of accepting risk. An accident, no matter how statistically insignificant, could be magnified by press coverage into a Grecian tragedy. The result was that many systems, including those which were unprecedentedly safe, spent huge marginal costs to attain the last word in perfection.
    . . .
    Hastings cites fiascos which are less failures to assess risk than to recognize uncertainty:

    – In 1988, health minister Edwina Currie almost destroyed Britain’s egg industry when she said that salmonella in eggs might cause a human catastrophe — only for it to be later discovered that salmonella could not get into eggs.

    – In 1996, Britain spent £7 billion killing millions of the nation’s cows in response to the alleged threat of CJD killing humans eating burgers made from cattle infected by BSE. We now know that the likelihood of this was almost infinitesimally slight.

    – In 2009, the government spent £1 billion on unneeded vaccines against swine flu, which we were told might kill half a million people. The SARS virus, said some ‘experts’, could prove more devastating to humanity than Aids. It was once suggested that bird flu might kill 150 million people worldwide.”

  • Orszag! Don’t go! – “Panic in the Beltway! Bloomberg is reporting that President Obama is pitching woo to Budget Director Peter Orszag, to prevent his early defection from the administration. Peter! No!
    . . .
    Inconceivable. What would we do as a nation without his smoldering gaze, inscrutable budget presentations and horrifically messy personal life? We doubt there is an aspiring budget director on the bench with nearly as much to give to public service as Orszag.”
  • Daniel Okrent’s *Last Call*, a history of prohibition – “The introduction of the income tax made Prohibition fiscally feasible. Women’s suffrage made it politically feasible. World War I created a surfeit of patriotism, a willingness to sacrifice, and an embrace of the expansion of federal power. By 1920 everything was in place for a bold new government intrusion into everyday life.”

    Last Call,” by Daniel Okrent

  • 10 Things You Don’t Know (or were misinformed) About the GS Case – “I have been watching with a mixture of awe and dismay some of the really bad analysis, sloppy reporting, and just unsupported commentary about the GS case.

    I put together this list based on what I know as a lawyer, a market observer, a quant and someone with contacts within the SEC. (Note: This represents my opinions, and no one elses).
    . . .
    2. Robert Khuzami is a bad ass, no-nonsense, thorough, award winning Prosecutor: This guy is the real deal — he busted terrorist rings, broke up the mob, took down security frauds. He is now the director of SEC enforcement. He is fearless, and was awarded the Attorney General’s Exceptional Service Award (1996), for ‘extraordinary courage and voluntary risk of life in performing an act resulting in direct benefits to the Department of Justice or the nation.’

    When you prosecute mass murderers who use guns and bombs and threaten your life, and you kick their asses anyway, you ain’t afraid of a group of billionaire bankers and their spreadsheets. He is the shit. My advice to anyone on Wall Street in his crosshairs: If you are indicted in a case by Khuzami, do yourself a big favor: Settle.
    . . .
    I have $1,000 against any and all comers that GS does not win — they settle or lose in court. Any takers? My money is already in escrow — waiting for yours to join it. Winnings go to the charity of the winners choice.”

  • Philosophy for the All-Too-Common Man – a review by John Gray of “Ideas that Matter: The Concepts that Shape the 21st Century,” by A. C. Grayling.

    “Seeing themselves as fiercely independent thinkers, bien-pensants are remarkable chiefly for the fervor with which they propagate the prevailing beliefs of their time. Bertrand Russell, John Stuart Mill’s godson and a scion of one of England’s great political dynasties, exemplified this contradiction throughout most of his life. British philosopher A. C. Grayling can now be counted amongst his number.
    . . .
    Industrial style authorship of this kind is a triumph of the will rather than a display of intelligence. The effect is one of wearisome repetition, and one wonders what Grayling imagines he has achieved by the exercise. All of these volumes preach the same sermon: history is a record of crime, oppression and superstition; but salvation is at hand through rational inquiry, the gift of the Greeks that was lost in the Dark Ages and rediscovered in the Enlightenment. Repeating this as Grayling does, over and over again, suggests that he believes the lesson has still not been understood, and throughout his extensive corpus of polemical writings he has the manner of a querulous teacher hammering rudimentary lessons into the heads of refractory schoolchildren. For Grayling, it seems, few if any of the difficulties of ethics and politics are insoluble. The remedies for human ills are obvious, or would be so if only humans were not blinded by superstition. Never doubting that he is free of this vice, Grayling writes as one conveying the simple truth.

    The result is a style of argument that, in passing over the human experience that some dilemmas are not fully soluble, is rarely persuasive and often amounts to not much more than high-minded silliness.
    . . .
    As Grayling sees things, it is only irrationality that makes human conflicts intractable. If only he had been around in the dark years of the Second World War, he seems to imply, and in a position to instruct Allied war planners on the finer points of ethical theory, the terrible struggle could have gone so much more smoothly. Certainty of this kind is comical, but it also raises a question about the origins of the principles that Grayling maintains so mechanically. He is insistent that liberal values apply universally. He is also insistent that these values have nothing to do with religion.
    . . .
    The history of the last century is testimony to the destructive power of rationalism, not fideism. Nazism and Communism were at one in their hatred of religion. Both claimed to be founded in science–‘dialectical materialism’ and ‘scientific racism.’ Of course these sciences were bogus, but they show what horrors can be justified by appeal to reason. The worst acts of the twentieth century were committed by atheist regimes that claimed a scientific basis for their policies.
    . . .
    This is why it is so silly to argue that hostility to religion had nothing to do with Nazi and Communist oppression; it was this hostility that animated a significant part of the repression. If Grayling cannot see this, the reason is that for him, atheism cannot be implicated in anything undesirable; an inevitable conclusion of rational inquiry, it is intrinsically virtuous. It is true that no type of action follows from atheism as a matter of logical necessity. The rejection of theism can go with a variety of moral and political attitudes, including a positive evaluation of the role of religion in human life. By any standards, Santayana was an atheist. He was also consistently friendly to religion–partly on the basis of its ethical and aesthetic qualities, and partly because he viewed religion as being closer to poetry than to science. Atheism of this kind is rare, however. Militantly evangelical unbelief of the kind practiced by Lenin and Stalin, Hitler and Mao has been far more influential.”

  • From The Old Farmer’s Almanac – “If Patrick Henry thought taxation without representation was bad, he should see how bad it is with representation.”
  • Immigrants and Nazis, Communists and Cardinals – “I finally had a chance to read Arizona’s new law on illegal immigration. It’s rather different from the press portrayal. Maybe I’ll blog about that, but I want to start with the astonishingly vituperative attack by Cardinal Roger Mahony on what he calls ‘Arizona’s Dreadful Anti-Immigrant Law.’
    . . .
    The problem with this stance is that it comes awfully close to declaring in advance that the church intends to “harbor or shield from detection” illegal immigrants. So Cardinal Mahony has to ask himself whether his priests are courting liability under the new law if they continue to give shelter and transport to parishioners whom they know or suspect are illegal immigrants. (He can take some comfort from the fact that federal law has long made harboring illegal aliens a federal offense without producing any serious liability, but federal law says that only ICE can bring such charges, and ICE has made clear, at least by its actions, that it has no intention of prosecuting church groups. There’s also a bit of ambiguity in the Arizona law about whether you have to be committing a separate offense at the time of harboring, and that could make prosecutions of legitimate groups problematic. But the risk of an investigation, and even a prosecution, at the hands of a fed-up local official, has surely gone up since the bill passed.)

    That’s a big deal. Suddenly Cardinal Mahony’s outburst about the evils of spying and turning in parents makes a little more sense. The law is going to put his church in a newly awkward position. Complying with Arizona’s tough new legal obligations will be hard to square with the bold moral stance taken by the church in a more forgiving era. The prospect of paying a much higher price for what had been a pretty comfortable form of civil disobedience is bound to engender a lot of emotion. And that, I suspect, is the source of the Cardinal’s otherwise inexplicable outburst.”

  • Emanuel as the successor to Daley is a scary thought – “What is clear is that for the first time in more than two decades, Daley is visibly weakening. Otherwise, Emanuel wouldn’t dare broach the subject. Daley’s time is coming to an end, either this term or the next.

    He won his last election by a landslide. But only a small percentage of eligible voters actually voted. And that was before all the new problems.

    Shortshanks’ parking meter rate-hike fiasco won’t go away. His son and nephew had a hidden multimillion-dollar stake in a city sewer contract, and the mayor said nobody told him.

    He also didn’t know about his nephew getting $68 million in city pension funds to invest. When he was at the height of his power, Chicago eagerly forgave him for not knowing basic details, and a few in the media made excuses. But those days are over. Nobody buys his Fedzheimer’s act anymore.

    The economy is in the toilet. He’s spent all the money on deals, and the city government is broke. His friends are rich, but the city workers hate him and the taxpayers are angry. He’ll need to pick a fight, so look for him to provoke a strike by the Teamsters union as he moves toward re-election.”

  • Soy Biodiesel Worse For Global Warming? – “This is funny. Maybe politicos should do more research before imposing half-baked energy mandates?
    . . .
    Okay, I know some of you might be angry at the thought that good intentions are resulting in a bad outcome. But it is kinda hard to see biomass energy as a matter of good intentions even before considering the report above. The problems with it have been evident for quite a while, so much so I’ve gotten bored of the topic.
    . . .
    My worry is that advances in biomass energy technology will so improve the EROEI (Energy Return on Energy Invested) that biomass energy become far more cost effective. Then it’ll take off, driving food prices much higher while also speeding soil depletion.”
  • Baltimore vs. Wells Fargo, cont’d – “‘One year, they file a suit saying that the lender didn’t make enough loans in minority communities: redlining. The next year, they file a suit saying that they made too many loans in minority communities: reverse red-lining,’ Sandler said. ‘This is just a commercial enterprise for these lawyers. … The same lawyers have been shopping the same complaint to various municipalities for two years.'”
  • Challenging the Education Monopoly – “Kudos to the New York Board of Regents, for a plan to break the monopoly held in the state by education schools in the licensing of public school teachers. Under current law, all New York schoolteachers have to obtain a masters’ degree (or the equivalent in undergraduate education classes) from a state-certified Education program. The Regents propose giving alternative programs—like Teach for America—the opportunity to set up their own M.A. programs. The proposal, the New York Times notes, ‘could make education schools extraneous.'”
  • The Intellectually Naked Economist: A late response to Charles Wheelan’s 2008 article Confessions of a Maturing Libertarian – “Wheelan gingerly babbles 303 words of…well, something about smarts kids in classrooms and New Hampshire and his twenty years of study before delivering the backbreaker to our camel of liberty, and I quote

    ‘What’s the libertarian point of view on stoplights?’

    So without further ado, there it is! Defeat in eight words!

    Now, I don’t have a PhD but let me give such an innovative question a cursory attempt. Charles, we libertarians support the stoplight! We believe it is within the markets ability to offer such a complicated device from the seclusion of a private road.

    Not only this, but Charles, we also support the stop sign!”

  • Epistemic Closure In Macroeconomics – “There’s been a huge outpouring of blogospheric discussion about ‘epistemic closure’ on the right: a complete refusal to look at evidence or arguments that don’t come from the like-minded. I don’t have much to say about all that aside from the fact that it’s obvious, and has been going on for years.

    But I think it’s worth pointing out that something similar has long been true in macroeconomics. And like the political version of epistemic closure, it’s not a ‘both sides do it’ issue. It’s a fresh-water phenomenon; salt-water macro isn’t subject to the same problem.”

    Ah yes, close mindedness is a problem afflicting only a certain part of humanity, namely, the part that doesn’t agree with me.

    aka “pot calling kettle black”

  • Is it a good idea to buy a car for your son or daughter? – “Our results show that some complementary actions before college, such as parental praise, foster academic achievement above what natural ability would predict. Conversely, we find that some substitutionary actions before college, e.g. providing cars as gifts, are associated with lower effort in college and underachievement.”
  • The Forfeiture Racket: Police and prosecutors won’t give up their license to steal – “Over the past three decades, it has become routine in the United States for state, local, and federal governments to seize the property of people who were never even charged with, much less convicted of, a crime. Nearly every year, according to Justice Department statistics, the federal government sets new records for asset forfeiture. And under many state laws, the situation is even worse: State officials can seize property without a warrant and need only show ‘probable cause’ that the booty was connected to a drug crime in order to keep it, as opposed to the criminal standard of proof ‘beyond a reasonable doubt.’ Instead of being innocent until proven guilty, owners of seized property all too often have a heavier burden of proof than the government officials who stole their stuff.”


Jim Lahey Reviews The New Domino’s Pizza from Ozersky.TV

  • Curbside Classic: The Best European Car Ever Made In America: 1965 Corvair Monza – “But if a car ever inspired one to emote and wax poetically, it was the Corvair, especially the 1965. So I’ll try hard to restrain myself: the 1965 Corvair was the best European car ever ever made in America. And if that alone doesn’t explain the Corvair’s inevitable failure, lets just say that in 1965 Americans were eating a lot more Wonder Bread than baguettes.
    . . .
    But a rear-engined small car intrinsically offered great enthusiast potential, as Porsche had shown so convincingly. In fact a Porsche 356 was used as a test mule for the Corvair engine. The Corvair had great potential, but its intended mission in life was as confused as its buyers. The Falcon made a much better compact for most Americans’ needs in schlepping hte kids and the groceries, and GM realized it instantly. The highly pragmatic Chevy II was rushed into production, and the Corvair was quickly dressed up with bucket seats, a higher output engine, and an available four speed: the Monza. Out of desperation and necessity, GM invented a new genre: the small sporty car; for American cars, that is. The Europeans had been chasing that for quite some time.

    The fact that GM bean counters didn’t give the early Monzas that sway bar and other suspension upgrades that the Corvair’s father Ed Cole bitterly wanted every Corvair to have from day one is very telling, and perhaps the most significant aspect of the Corvair story and its failure to compete against the imports: GM perpetually elevated style and flash over substance. With just a few more bucks and a costless change to a faster steering ratio, the early Corvairs could have been as brilliant as they inevitably had to make the 1965.”

  • Last Atlantic Yards Property Owner Agrees to Sell His Land Under Threat of Condemnation – “The last property owner in the condemned Atlantic Yards area of Brooklyn, New York has agreed to sell his land in order to avoid the condemnation of his property by the city government.”
  • Not Really Simple – “It was the $380 ‘bona fide horse-riding boots’ that got me clued into the simple life. There they were, sleek, polished to the sheen of black pearls, and taking up an entire page of Real Simple magazine. ‘You’ll never want to take them off,’ the accompanying copy promised. It was the first time I’d ever picked up Real Simple, the women’s magazine that distinguishes itself from other women’s magazines by its lack of tips for getting rid of belly fat, its Zen-lite self-help pages (‘learn to live with uncertainty’), and its tastefully minimalist layouts characterized by snowdrift-sized expanses of white space. Here’s a food article picturing six balloon-sized Brussels sprouts scattered over the page and not much else. There’s a photo essay featuring elegant mothers and their poetically posed toddlers that actually seems to be about hand-tatted lace, which appears in the foreground or background of nearly every picture. And here’s one about jewelry crafted out of the original brass door numbers at New York’s Plaza Hotel – the pin goes for $260. I closed my issue of Real Simple, stuffed with equally tasteful and equally minimalist ads for wines, Toyota Priuses (the automobile of choice for simple people), and many, many wrinkle creams, and thought: gee, all this simple living can set you back.

    Welcome to the simplicity movement, the ethos whose mantras are ‘cutting back,’ ‘focusing on the essentials,’ ‘reconnecting to the land’ – and talking, talking, talking about how fulfilled it all makes you feel. Genuine simple-living people – such as, say, the Amish – are not part of the simplicity movement, because living like the Amish (no iPod apps or granite countertops, plus you have to read the Bible) would be taking the simple thing a bit far. Modern simplicity practitioners like Jesus (although not quite so much as they like Buddhist monks, who dress more colorfully) because he wore sandals and could be said to have practiced alternative medicine, but they mostly shun religious movements founded in his name. Thus, simplicity people are always eager to tell you how great the Amish are, growing their own food (a highly valued trait among simplicity people), espousing pacifism (simplicity people shy away from even just wars), and building those stylishly spare barns (aesthetics rank high in the simplicity movement), but really, who wants to have eight kids and wear those funny-looking hats?
    . . .
    But it has been only in the last decade or so that the simplicity movement has come into its own, aligning itself not only with aesthetic style but also with power. Thanks to the government-backed war against obesity (fat people, conveniently, tend to belong to the polyester-clad, Big Mac-guzzling lower orders) and the ‘green’ movement in its various save-the-planet manifestations, simplicity people can look down their noses at the not-so-simple with their low-rent tastes while also putting them on the moral defensive. Thus you have Michael Pollan, whose zero-impact ethic of food simplicity won’t let him eat anything not grown within one hundred miles of his Bay Area home, and preferably grown (or killed, milked, churned, or picked) himself. He bristles with outrage not only at McDonald’s burgers, Doritos, and grapes imported from Chile (foreign fruit destroys people’s “sense of place,” he writes in The Omnivore’s Dilemma) but even at Walmart’s announcement in 2006 that it would start stocking organic products at affordable prices. Walmart, like factory farms, SUVs, wide-screen TVs, and outlet malls, is usually anathema to the simplicity set, but here you would think the giga-chain would be doing poor people a favor by widening their access to healthy, less-fattening produce. Not as far as Pollan is concerned. Instead, as Reason magazine’s Katherine Mangu-Ward reported, Pollan worried on his blog that ‘Walmart’s version of cheap, industrialized organic food’ might drive the boutique farms that served him and his locavore neighbors out of business.
    . . .
    The problem with the simplicity movement is that its proponents mistake simplicity, which is an aesthetic lifestyle choice, for humility, which is a genuine virtue. Humility is an honest acknowledgment of one’s limitations and lowliness in the great scheme of things and a realization that power over other human beings is a dangerous thing, always to be exercised with utmost caution. The Amish, as well as monks, Eastern and Western, cultivate humility because they know they have a duty toward what is larger than themselves. Leo Babauta of the foregone grooming products cultivates simplicity because it makes him feel ‘happier,’ as he writes on his website. For humble people, their own happiness or other personal feelings are secondary.”

  • Wheat Ridge High School Class of 1970 – “The reonion committee is working away planning the 40th reunion the weekend of August 13-15, 2010. Wheat Ridge, Colorado WRHS1970.com”
  • Common Market Food Co-op – “Common Market Food Co-op was a ‘new wave food co-op’ located at 1329 California Street in Denver, Colorado, from 1975 – 1980. It started as a buying club at the University of Denver in the early 1970s, and for a few years prior to moving to the old Safeway at 13th and California Streets, Common Market operated out of a small storefront on Champa Street.”
  • Controlled Chaos: A Day Working the Rikers Island Book Cart – “Another day of volunteering at Rikers Island with the NYPL has come to a close. Thursday I went to one of the male detention houses along with my mentor and two other staff members from NYPL. We were there for ‘book cart service,’ which is a little different than what I remember from Shawshank Redemption.

    We delivered books to both solitary confinement and two different ‘houses,’ which are the names of blocks within the building. The inmates in solitary confinement are allowed to request books off a list, so we filled these requests from the ‘library’ within this particular building, which was really just two tall shelves of paperback books in the back of the Chaplain’s office.” Their Amazon Wish List is here. ht The Browser

  • Puppy Linux Install – “Puppy can be easily installed to many different media. Having downloaded the live-CD ‘ISO’ file, you would normally burn that to a CD or DVD and then ‘boot’ the computer from it, and you have a running Puppy.
    . . .
    Finally, Puppy is so tiny and fast, he is most at home on the new breed of baby laptops hitting the market…”
  • Charting the Carnage from eBanking Fraud – “Aaron Jacobson of Authentify put together this map of all 43 of the U.S. commercial e-banking victims I’ve mentioned in stories at Krebsonsecurity.com and at the Washington Post’s Security Fix blog.
    . . .
    What’s interesting that I hadn’t realized before seeing this map is that the victims appear to be heavily clustered in the East Coast and Midwest. I’m not sure if there is a connection, but the thieves perpetrating these attacks typically recruit their money mules almost exclusively from these regions. The thinking is that the criminals — most of whom reside in the Eastern European Time Zone (EET), don’t want to spend all night managing these mules.”


The Hollywood Stars of the Hollywood Politicians–Reagan, Arnold, Murphy, Temple (videos)

  • How to Migrate Email from One Gmail Account to Another – “I’m sure you’re not alone–some people simply don’t like the username they chose out of the blocks and want to move all of their email to a more professional-sounding email address. Unfortunately, this is one of Gmail’s biggest drawbacks–it doesn’t let you migrate from one Google account to another with any amount of ease. There are likely a few ways to do it yourself, but if you really want to preserve everything, you’re probably best off using a mail client, like Outlook or Thunderbird, to drag and drop the messages between accounts. Here’s how it works:”
  • What do you think will make more people *want* to repair things? – “Repairing things yourself is almost always cheaper than replacement, so convincing people that repair is a good thing actually isn’t that hard. The tricky thing is convincing them that they can do it. So I think the biggest thing we can do is to make repair as easy as possible, and accessible to as many people as we can. We’ve found that providing people with step-by-step photo instructions ahead of time makes all the difference in the world. Rather than saying ‘I don’t know if I could ever fix my iPod,’ they look at the photos and say ‘Oh, is that all it takes? I can do that!’

    We need to get back to the days when repair was something we took for granted. When my dad was growing up, it was commonplace for people to maintain their own cars. People don’t tinker with cars as much anymore, and that’s a shame. This is partly because our culture doesn’t value things as much, and partly because cars are much more complicated now.

    Fortunately, technology can make it easier for us to fix things. Tinkerers worldwide are connected now better than ever before, and we are planning to collaborate with them to write a free, open repair manual. Our hope is that comprehensive, easy to follow service documentation will make repair accessible so that people will be excited about making their things last longer.”

  • Bow down before this mighty volcano! – “Like an ancient cult of nature-worshippers, some are celebrating the way the volcano has thwarted modern life.
    . . .
    What we effectively have is a new, modern version of ancient man’s fear and humility before volcanoes. As one study of volcanology argues, in ancient times people thought ‘volcanic eruptions were the work of angry gods, determined to punish us for deeds that displeased them’. The birth of the science of volcanology, from the nineteenth century onwards, helped us to understand that volcanic eruptions were in fact natural phenomena with no moral meaning or sentience. Only now they are being given meaning once more, with some suggesting that maybe ‘Mother Earth is having her revenge on mankind for disrupting the balance of the world’. In short? The gods are displeased and they are punishing us.”
  • GMail Notifier – Email In The Cloud – “In my recent zest to avoid proprietary software, and use open source (free) tools in my law practice, I have abandoned Microsoft Word and Office for OpenOffice and Google Calendar. They are accessible from any web browser, and work great. I have also abandoned proprietary email clients for the ubiquitous GMail, which also works great. One problem I had, however, was the fact that clicking an outgoing email link in other software brought up whatever email client set as a Windows default. What to do? Gmail Notifier is the answer, and it is also free. In addition to allowing me to set GMail as my default email program, it contains a handy little taskbar icon that notifies me when new email arrives. I have a Google Chrome extension that does the same thing, but Notifier gives a little window with a blurb of the actual email text, allowing me to separate the wheat from the chaff. I paid a fortune for Microsoft Office 2007, just to get Outlook and Word. But, when I swapped hard drives in a new computer, it asserted that I needed to activate, and I went through telephone hell trying to do so. After an hours of phone calls, I gave up, and have uninstalled Microsoft Office 2007 completely.”
  • Google Street View logs WiFi networks, Mac addresses – “Google’s roving Street View spycam may blur your face, but it’s got your number. The Street View service is under fire in Germany for scanning private WLAN networks, and recording users’ unique Mac (Media Access Control) addresses, as the car trundles along.

    Germany’s Federal Commissioner for Data Protection Peter Schaar says he’s ‘horrified’ by the discovery.”

  • Bryan Caplan on adoption – “I think Bryan understands the selfish reasons for having children differently than I do, though I will defer to his own statement of his view. I put a big stress on how children help you see that a lot of your immediate concerns aren’t nearly as important as you might think, and how spending time with children brings you closer to — apologies, super-corny phrases on the way — The Great Circle of Being and The Elemental Life Force. In some (not all) ways, adopted children may be teaching you those lessons more effectively than do biological children. It’s an oversimplification to say that “children make you a better person,” but they do, or should, improve your ability to psychologically and emotionally integrate that a) you want lots of stuff, b) what you end up getting remains, no matter what, ridiculously small and inconsequential, and c) you can’t control your life nearly as much as you think.

    I would sooner say that these realizations are gifts which children give to us rather than calling them ‘selfish reasons’ to have children. The concept of selfish requires an understanding of our interest and children, very fundamentally, change our understanding of our interests rather than fulfilling our previous goals.”

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