02 February 2007

The other day, someone stuck lighted signs all over Boston, including on a variety of overpasses, bridges, and so forth. These gadgets are basically big circuit boards, with the lights on the front and a black electrical tape bulge where the batteries are. Especially when not illuminated, and when placed in locations that aren't easy to inspect up close, the wiring and the battery bulge look potentially ominous. A massive terrorism alert ensued, shutting down the major highway through Boston for most of the day.

As the whole world now knows, the signs were actually promotion for a late night cartoon series. (No links, as I don't want to give these bozos any more publicity.) Some people have taken the opportunity to scoff at the Boston police, transit workers, fire department, and others who spent most of the day chasing these things down. "Just look at it! It's a cartoon character! Get over it!"

Um, I admit I haven't read the Evil Overlord Handbook lately, but I don't remember any requirement that explosive devices have to look the way bombs do in movies. In fact, if I were hiding my devices in plain sight, I would want them to look as innocuous as possible. Various wars have provided ample examples of bombs hidden in baby carriages, baskets of food, and so forth, so why not hide them behind a cartoon character?

The same people have also pointed out that the same devices were planted in several other cities without causing the same anxiety. Hence, Boston must be especially uncool. Except, the Globe found that the devices in other cities were placed mostly on vacant buildings, not on the support structures for major transportation infrastructure.

I do feel a little sorry for the two individuals hired to place these things. They may realize that getting arrested has made them famous, but they probably don't yet realize that millions of Boston residents now know the names, faces, and home addresses of the people who demolished the Wednesday commute. I hope Turner pays them enough to move.

Posted 04:10 PM

We are in the process of reorganizing our mail server. This should reduce the incidence of false junk mail bounces and generally make everyone's life easier. In the long term. In the short term, the possibility for problems exists. If something bounces that shouldn't, please leave a message here, or send mail to my alternate email address, or call.

Posted 09:57 AM

01 February 2007

15950 words for January, which is 3500 since my last update. I think that's more than double last year's average month, but this pace will bring me in at about 191,000 words for the year. To hit my target of 300,000 words, I'll need to average about 26,000 per month going forward. Onward!

Posted 04:06 PM

Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.

Michael Pollan offers an excellent critique of how food ideology has replaced food science (which itself replaced culinary culture), and a remarkably simple prescription for a healthier diet. Long, but worth the time to read it.

Posted 03:48 PM

31 January 2007

I must say it's refreshing to have a Congress that's actually willing to challenge the White House line. You know, oversight, co-equal branches of government and all that?

If it weren't so depressing, I'd be amused by this report about government scientists being pressured to downplay their findings. "The White House maintains it was trying to bring balance to reports on global warming." The problem is, facts are inherently unbalanced. They're facts. They don't care what your political agenda is or what your ideology thinks should be true.

More generally, science is built on the idea that you have to account for what you observe. A theory that fails to explain experimental results isn't an "alternative view" that should be accepted because we "value diversity," it's just plain wrong.

Posted 12:07 PM

30 January 2007

It seems just about every media outlet on the planet decided to cover the dueling Intel and IBM announcements of high-k gate dielectrics. Slow news week?

Unfortunately, the blanket coverage showed just how bad most technology reporting is. Probably the best article in the general media was the one by the Washington Post, which focused on the competition among Intel, IBM, and AMD. The Post got the technical details right, but buried them in a paragraph at the bottom. The AP wire story, in contrast, tried to explain why the announcement was technically important, but left out so many details that it was impossible to determine what was actually announced.

Predictably, the technology media did a much better job, explaining why a new dielectric was needed, putting the change in the context of other advances, and explaining what the implications are for systems. Still, the best explanation I've found so far is Intel's own.

Coincidentally, I'm in the process of writing an article on advanced gate stacks for Solid State Technology. With 2000 words to stretch out in, I should be able to give a more thorough explanation of the issues than anyone but a process engineer could possibly need.

Posted 10:38 AM


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