Monday, March 15, 2010

March- The Greatest Tease

As someone who nearly totally despises Winter and totally loves Spring, March is a difficult time of transition for me. Every year, without fail, I begin to think that Spring in all its glory should be here on March 1. I start pulling out shorts and sandles. I start thinking about going to the pool. I literally start going out to the garden and looking for flowers to bloom. I am 35 years old and I know that March 1 does not bring Spring with it. Yet, I get fooled every year.

I have been thinking about an analogy for what March is like for me and I have found it. For those of you who have ever driven from St. Louis to Denver on Highway 70, you will know what I am talking about. March is Colorado.

When you are driving West on Highway 70 and your destination is Denver, all you can think about from the start of trip is seeing the Rocky Mountains. Your mind can focus on nothing else- Rocky Mountains. I have made the drive at least five times and everytime I watch the mile markers count down as I cross Kansas, knowing that Colorado and the Rockies are only 200 or 150 or 50 or 10 miles away. Every time, my sense of anticipation begins to build that Colorado is just a mile away. Then it arrives- the border and I cross into Colorado and look around and see.... nothing. Nothing at all except the same crap I have been staring at for the approximately 6000 miles it takes to cross Kansas. Eastern Colorado has to be one of the most disappointing places on earth. Flat nothingness- much worse than Kansas and the thing that makes it much worse is that at least in Kansas, you didn't kid yourself that you were close to your destination.

March treats me the same way. I go to bed at night on Feb. 28 thinking, "Thank God that tomorrow is March 1. Spring will be here tommorow." Then, in general, I wake up to a day with a high of 33 degrees and I realize that I have been fooled again. Now March is not all bad by any means, just like Colorado is not all bad. As soon as you hit the Rockies, Colorado is the most beautiful and majestic of states. March is the same. Later March is often glorious and exactly what I have been expecting it to be.

Once I started to think about it more, I realized that the analogy worked well for Kansas as well. Kansas, of course, is February. Gray, dreary, monotonous and it seems to go on forever.

I tried to see if I could come up with any other state/month combos and I only came up with one more. Nevada is December. When you think of either one of those, they are both pretty non-descript places/months dominated completely by one location/date of great celebration and decadence. Feel free to toss in any further month/state combos that you can think of.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

News Nits

"All the news that's fit to reprint."

Like a bobsled through your brain, news nits comes back with a bumper crop of new years nits. Lots of little happenings in the news these days, from business to politics to technology to women owning giant rodents as pets (doesn't this charming couple, more than a little, look like each other too?). So let's push off, jump in and see if we can count the curves.

In an alarming move, Google has announced they're leaving China. This strikes me as more than just a little odd. Google does anything they want to, and they tend to do it well. What does this say about them? More, what does this say about conditions in China? We know Chinese companies are competing well here (everything we buy is Made In China), but are we competing there?

Well, maybe we can keep inventing stuff for the Chinese to build for us. A professor at North Carolina State University has invented a kind of metal foam that can compress up to 80% of its original size and retain its structural integrity and bounce back.

The Middle East is still a big bag of doorknobs. How would you like to be Israel? Hamas is now floating bombs up to Israeli shores. Of course, this unusual tactic and attack is in response to Mossad "allegedly" killing one of Hamas's top dogs while he was on a trip to Dubai. Dubai police have identified 26 suspects in the poisoning, there's a lot of footage of this on TV, Mossad agents walking around the hotel, dressed in tennis gear and other normal looking clothes. Anyone else find it odd, that Israel is so effective at fighting wars on terror? They send 26 after a guy, we send 100,000? Another thing to ponder is that Israel is surrounded on all sides by people who hate them, and they have never had an airplane hijacked. Before we start doing naked scans in airports of each other, maybe we should ask if there are other ways?

News Nits loves new forms of transportation, when it's economically and technologically feasible. There's a proposal on the table for a 220 mph train between San Francisco and Los Angeles. California seems like an ideal place to build a high speed train, the ultimate trip should run 2 hours and 40 minutes. If they could figure out a way to provide continuous wi fi access, that would change the nature of much of west coast travel. Oddly, a similar measure has been proposed between Madison and Milwaukee, WI. Somehow, that doesn't seem like the right fit, but who knows. It would be cooler and maybe more fitting for WI to build a giant log flume or water slide between the two cities that are only an hour away by car anyway.

I keep waiting for Microsoft to use their considerable fortune and market share to buy the time it will take to redesign their OS from the BIOS up. But they don't. They seem to continually just try to remarket and reposition without any willingness to rebuild. The results of kludging your products ahead can end up with unpredictable results. Window 7 is apparently not only draining batteries but permanently altering their ability to function. I do not even have a theoretical explanation for this (and I am usually willing to hazard a guess about anything!).

Here comes the economics geek in me. In case you are crazy enough to try to follow the economic tax swindles perpetrated by our elected leaders, then this video might be for you. Looks like the "TARP pay backs" we've been hearing about aren't quite the whole truth:

If you've been getting into some of the raw economics behind the thinking of most modern economists (like Paul Krugman), then you've probably heard of John Maynard Keynes and probably never heard of FA Hayek. This video is a fairly clever and funny recap of an historical debate that came to pass between these two rival economists, with two very different ideas about proper ways to think of large economies. Keynes justifies government management of the economy through fiscal and monetary policies on the justification "in the end, we're all dead," meaning, let's get paid today, screw tomorrow. Hayek bases his theories on personal behavior and safe guarding free markets and risk vs. reward. Odder still is that if you choose to major in Economics in college, you still probably won't hear anything about Hayek and the Austrian School of economics. Why? Because Keynes won the day. He was a charming, flamboyant bisexual who out-witted Hayek, the nerdy one, at every turn. And the path of economic history has been set ever since (we're seeing some of the results). Well, here's the vid:

Wall Street is having buyer's remorse. After buying off Obama and teh Democrats, they want their Republicans back! This should be a true sign that the GOP has learned nothing from their recent demise. Is the Boy Scouts on the decline? We sure hope not. I just don't think that Xtreme Skateboarding has really been an adequate substitute for what the Boy Scouts teach.

Is anyone else getting dizzy following the Global Warming-->Global Climate Change-->Global Cooling "debate" going on? What a circus. Where's Bob Richards when you need him? [Editor's Note: News Nits searched high and low for a picture of Bob Richards and came up blank. Any help out there?] Speaking of weather, Sun's demise has finally come in the form of Oracle buying them out. Not many people ever worked on Sun Stations before, but I have and thought they were great machines. The never really evolved, but at least they weren't shoddy. Nevertheless, they have paid out gobs of money to their execs for failing. Still can't figure out how that makes sense.

For those with iPhones, check out these top-10 apps. Some are pretty funny, pretty novel, etc. Speaking of iPhones, rumors are saying the new iPhone 4G is coming out in June, maybe May. That might be my time to upgrade from 5 year old flip phone to the future! But man are these things expensive (along with the plans you need to make them useful). Netflix is considering streaming their service directly to the iPhone (and iPad), which is starting to make me reconsider the expense of cable, which I don't really watch anyway. Bad movies are better than bad TV. As for screen quality, apparently Apple has it right with their LCD beating out the new OLED screens appearing on many Android phones.

The U.S. Military just help to validate a process of Green Power, Inc, that turns trash into fuel. I guess there was some concern this was nothing more than a fancy facade over a simple incinerator, but it seems to be a legitimate technology. Cool.

Roundup: The FBI is getting involved in a case where school administrators spied on students using the little cameras built into the school-issued laptops. Thing is, the kids were at home. Nasty. Here's a concept car/thing/trike that Honda has built, and it just makes me wonder... why? And finally, air travellers at JFK airport in NYC learned a whole new meaning to the bring your kid to work day concept.

Machines take me by surprise with great frequency. -- Alan Turing