19 November 2004

As a liberal, I guess I'm supposed to be upset by the ongoing reorganization at the CIA. Porter Goss is silencing dissent. The horror!

But the CIA is not a policy-making organization, but an intelligence gathering one. Its job is to help the executive branch draw conclusions about what other countries are up to and what the impact of specific policy decisions might be. It cannot do that effectively if it is also waging a partisan war against a sitting president. Political agendas destroy objectivity.

It's one thing if people are being pushed out for drawing conclusions that undermine the administration's view of the world. But everything I've read suggests that the "purge" is about anti-administration leaks leading up to the election. I wouldn't tolerate a subordinate who openly tried to get me fired, and neither should Bush.

Posted 11:11 AM

Here's an interesting alternative to Google News. Memeorandum is an hourly synopsis of the latest online news and opinion. It selects stories based (in part) on the number of incoming links. It doesn't pretend to cover everything that's happening, but does a pretty good job of showing the evolution and spread of ideas, rather than just the current headlines.

Posted 10:32 AM

Word of mouth. It's the elusive magic dust that everyone wants to sprinkle over their product. If it's good, it can turn a quirky independent film into a hit. (See My Big Fat Greek Wedding.) If it's bad, neither effects budgets nor star power will save you. (See Catwoman.) Buzz and viral marketing can contribute to word of mouth, but they aren't the same thing.

Posted 10:21 AM

Alan Greenspan, probably the most important financial regulator in the US, thinks most regulation is a bad idea. (Wall Street Journal article. Paid subscribers only.)

Posted 09:43 AM

One of the Cold from Hell's more annoying side effects was completely shutting down my sense of taste. Having it back is like discovering my morning cup of tea all over again. This morning brought to you by Peet's Assam Khagorigan Estate.

Posted 09:25 AM

18 November 2004

You might be able to fight City Hall, but some laws are always enforced. (Text in Dutch, but images are self-explanatory.)

Update: If the above link doesn't work, try this one.

Posted 05:58 PM

Interesting. Google Scholar, now beta testing, focuses on results from scientific literature. It's interesting to compare its results to Google's standard search. For example, searching "optical lithography" with Google Scholar gives an eclectic mix of papers on lens aberrations, photoresists, resolution enhancement, and so forth. The same search with (classic) Google highlights an overview of the field and a discussion of EUV.

I'd like to compare with Scirus as well, but their server seems to be misbehaving. Say what you want about Google, but they know how to keep the infrastructure working.

Posted 10:38 AM

16 November 2004

Plagiarism, the copying of someone else's work, is illegal and unethical. Yet creativity relies on a stew of cultural influences, drawing on everything the artist sees, reads, or hears. In The New Yorker, Malcolm Gladwell asks where creativity ends and plagiarism begins.

Posted 11:01 AM

A few weeks ago, business leaders in India debated whether the country should enter the semiconductor business. Now a Korean firm is apparently planning to build a fab near Hyderabad, a software development center.

Posted 10:38 AM

If you accuse a hiring committee of bias, the members will swear up and down that they are completely objective and willing to consider any qualified candidate. Most of them probably mean it. That doesn't mean it's true.

Humans are wired to trust members of their group over outsiders. That's probably a good idea if your group is a Stone Age tribe in life or death competition with other tribes. It's not such a great idea if you're a business that inadvertently ignores a large source of potential talent.

Which seems pretty obvious, doesn't it? And yet, when orchestras started using screens to hide applicants during auditions, their composition shot from 5 to 50 percent female.

Posted 10:26 AM

After a year or more of divisive political campaigning, moderates on both sides of the aisle are struggling to bridge the gap between red and blue voters. Happily, the solution seems to be simple: more beagles.

Adopt a beagle today!

Posted 09:44 AM

15 November 2004

Bookmark this page. The Paris Review has spent the last fifty years interviewing more than 300 notable writers. Now they're putting all the interviews online. For free (with help from the National Endowment for the Arts).

Posted 06:51 PM

The mascot of MIT is the beaver, nature's engineer. Like any good engineer, beavers are able to improvise with whatever building materials are available.

Posted 04:48 PM

If you're a citizen of a foreign country, you may or may not have a chance to actually meet ordinary Americans. Depending on who you are and where you live, you might meet tourists, students, business people, or foreign aid workers. Or you might not. But if you actually want to visit the United States, you will absolutely encounter at least one and possibly several Immigration officers.

The nature of their job encourages Immigration officers to be as difficult to deal with as possible. No one wants to let in the next suicide hijacker. Trouble is, this makes the public face of America pretty darned unfriendly, especially to prospective visitors -- presumably the people most inclined to have a positive view.

If you're a US citizen, you can probably find at least one friendly governmental face in your Congressman's office. He's got a staff dedicated to constituent relations. Instead, suppose that your only interaction with the government was through IRS auditors. And that auditors got bonuses based on the extra taxes they collected.

Posted 04:26 PM

Yes, I really did disappear for most of the past week. I was ambushed by an Evil Rhinovirus from Hell, and a secondary infection or two came tumbling in through the resulting hole in my immune system. Modern pharmacology seems to have tipped the scales back in my favor, and I'm finally feeling (mostly) human again. Blech.

Posted 03:43 PM

Network Appliance's top salesperson is actually a team, with two women sharing one position. Lots of companies seem to assume that flexible work arrangements are good for employees, but too expensive for the company. Looks like that isn't necessarily true.

Posted 03:04 PM

Light pollution is a serious problem for astronomers. As better roads and communications turn isolated mountaintops into prime real estate, the lights from all those houses can overwhelm the faint glow of distant stars and galaxies.

Cell phones and wireless and broadband internet connections create similar problems for radio astronomers. The Quiet Zones around radio telescopes are becoming more difficult to maintain.

(Wall Street Journal link, paid subscribers only.)

Posted 02:25 PM


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