“Bold, Persistent Expermientation” = Bad Idea

Jonah Goldberg, over at the Corner, posted an e-mail he received.  This e-mail notes that one of the results of Franklin Roosevelt’s “bold, persistent experimentation” was a marked increase in market volatility.  Volatility is a scary thing for the risk-averse (as most of us are) and this played a significant role in extending the Great Depression.

The first-best answer for a government is a small, predictable government which enforces its limited-but-effective rules in all circumstances.  The second-best answer is moving toward this ideal.  The third-best answer, which is probably the best we can expect over the next several years, is a government which stays relatively consistent and does not expand egregiously or act particularly arbitrarily.  Prepare for a fourth- or fifth-best answer, though…

Cynical Thought Of The Day

“Privacy is a transient notion.  It started when people stopped believing that G-d ould see everything and stopped when governments realised there was a vacancy to be filled.” – Roger Needham

My cynical addition:  the only reason you have even a modicum of privacy is that you are so insignificant that you do not draw the interest of others.  As soon as this occurs, you lose any vestige of privacy.  This has always been true; it is just simpler nowadays to become relatively significant.

Moving To Ubuntu

I have Fedora Core 6 installed on my laptop.  Yeah, that should tell you just about how prone to upgrade-fever I am…  I decided that I would finally get around to upgrading my version of Linux and hoping that this time, the install process wouldn’t be quite so bad.  I thought about going with Fedora 10 but eventually decided upon Ubuntu.  I’ve never used a Debian-based distro before (having liked Red Hat, Mandrake, and then Fedora), so I’m sure I’m in for some surprises, but a fellow at work has it and based on what I’ve seen, I should like it.

If it works out well, I’m going to install it on a virtual machine here on my desktop.  Unfortunately, I use far too many Windows-specific programming tools (*cough* and play too many games *cough*) to make a full switch again, but I do like getting my Linux kicks whenever I can…

The Dogfood Roundup

Last Thursday was the Dogfood Developer’s Conference in Columbus.  I’m rather glad I went and here’s a quick write-up of some of the things which occurred, as well as a few interesting links.

Most of my day was spent listening to Jeff Blankenburg talk.  Fortunately, he’s a good speaker and knows what he’s doing, so it all worked out.  He gave his version of the opening presentation, which focused greatly on Windows Azure (which I touched upon here), and later on, was scheduled to give a presentation on Silverlight.  Incidentally, the top section of his blog is all done in Silverlight.  Looking at the code was a bit scary at first—well over 1000 lines of XML, which is roughly 1000 too many lines of XML to type out—but Microsoft Expression Blend 2 appears to do a good job of generating XAML.

Before his Silverlight presentation, he showed us a few interesting sites, including Live Mesh.  The gist of that site is that there are certain documents which you want to share between your home desktop, your laptop, your work PC, and potentially other computers as well.  Live Mesh acts as a central repository for files, as well as a peer-to-peer facilitator (particularly if those two machines are on the same LAN).  Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like there is a Linux-compatible client, so I’ll be sitting out on that for now.  He also showed off Popfly, which is a game and mashup creator, allowing individuals to create things with relatively little coding.  Mashups are fun little things which use publicly available web services to pull data from several sources and present them as one.  The example he showed off was to get his friends’ latest 15 tweets from Twitter and display the locations of those individuals on a map, using a location-to-coordinate web service in between.  Without using any code, he hooked up three web services and got his set of results to display.  Granted, real business applications will be more complex than that and have significantly more business rules, but it’s pretty nice to see that kind of coordination with third-party services.  And finally, Jeff’s also the reason that I decided to start using Twitter, as he made a really good point:  no matter what problem you run into at work, somebody in a room full of programmers will have run into something either exactly like it or similar to it and will remember the answer or at least set you on your way.  The insane practicality of the advice outweighed the relatively small cost of setup and relatively larger cost of search (which I haven’t yet performed…), so I decided to jump into it.

We also got to see a presentation on developing for IE 8.  Ronan Geraghty’s blog is a good source for information on that, including features such as accelerators (which I admit I probably will not use too much), webslices (which I will use more often and are similar to Firefox’s Live Bookmarks), and quirks/compatibility mode (which we hopefully will not need to use too long at work, as we’ve been working on developing our apps to be Firefox-compatible).  The people who gave that talk threw out some information on the IE process model and suggested checking out some articles in Code Magazine (including this one) to get more information on it.  I’m reasonably pleased that Microsoft is finally getting to the point where they are developing a standards-based browser, though there will be a lot of work necessary to clean up all of the wreckage of pre-standards kludging.

Finally, I went to a very good talk on security processes.  One of the two people giving the talk pointed out a chart noting that the five biggest software houses produce only about 14% of the bugs, so we third-party folks are doing a great job of keeping that number high and we should give ourselves a pat on the back…  They spent a good amount of time talking about the Security Development Lifecycle and threat tracking tools that Microsoft is putting out, and said that some of the tools are ready for prime time, whereas others (particularly the dynamic analysis one) still need some work.  Also check out Michael Howard’s blog for SDL details and security notes in general.  Finally, if you haven’t done it yet, Steve Gibson (of ShieldsUp fame) has a weekly interview with Leo Laporte over at This Week In Tech called Security Now.  Start at episode 1 and move your way up for a college-level course in security…

Various Political Notes

- Jonah Goldberg links to Glenn Reynolds explaining why butter is more dangerous than guns for small-government types.  Wars can be expensive, but they have ends and spending goes down afterwards.  During the Viet Nam war, US military GDP was over 9%, whereas nowadays, it’s 4% and that’s after a post-9/11 increase.  Meanwhile, getting rid of domestic spending programs is nigh upon impossible.

This, I believe, will change in the next couple of decades as spending programs and the “third way” welfare state implode due to demographic issues, but Reynolds makes a great point:  domestic spending makes politicians more popular, as they focus on programs with broad payment bases but narrow, focused benefits.  That way, the losers lose a relatively small amount of money compared to the winners.  Of course, all those relatively small payments add up over time, to the point where we end up with massive welfare states, and removing the programs becomes politically difficult.

- John Hawkins has a few notes regarding what Republicans have to do if they want to get back in the game.  I completely agree with his points.  Republicans need a motivated base and “their guys” in the media to be pleased as well.  In order to do that, they should not do a voter purge (though the leadership should be solidly conservative), but rather by following through on conservative principles and trying to formulate the best policies given those principles.  I’m going to try to have a couple of posts over the next week talking about some potential ideas along these lines.

- Charles Rangel is looking at lowering corporate income tax rates.  I’m a big fan of doing that, especially because the US corporate income tax is terribly high.  Charlie should talk to Mitt Romney, though, to get a good tax plan…  I don’t like the idea of raising individual marginal rates, though, as that will cause its own negative effects.  And to the effect that it, like the Power Line guys speculate, causes people to retire earlier, that will cause the Social Security crisis to hit a little earlier than otherwise.

- People don’t know much about politics.  Obama voters are no exception.  I personally believe that far too many people vote and that voters should be required to pass tests before being allowed to vote.  These tests need not be particularly difficult, but every four years, when you renew your driver’s license, you will have to answer 20 random questions from the US citizenship test.  If you answer 16 of those correctly, you will be allowed to vote and such a note will be made on your driver’s license or state ID card.  Then, only registered voters with valid licenses/ID cards and the appropriate stamp will be allowed to vote (thus solving one of the voter fraud issues at the same time; I love synergy!).

Evil In The World

A terrorist attack in Bombay has killed at least 125.  According to the Indians, the terrorists came from Pakistan.  My guess is that they are trying desperately to prevent any kind of conciliation and warming of relations between India and Pakistan.  My other guess is that the true root cause of the issue is a lead deficiency on the part of these terrorists, one which the Indian military should be rather willing to mollify.

One of the buildings that the terrorists occupied is the Chabad house in Bombay, where they held hostage the rabbi, his wife and 2-year-old son, and several other Israelis.  A couple of people were able to escape and take the rabbi’s son, thankfully, but after a commando strike, it looks like the rabbi and his wife were murdered.

Chabad has set up a fund to re-build Chabad in Bombay and I encourage anybody donating to the clean-up effort (and to the terrorist elimination effort, another rather worthy cause) also to send a few dollars their way.

By the way, Jessica, Dante was probably talking about Reuters “reporters.” There _will_ be a special place for them.

Blog Written By Dutiful Men

Thanks to the Internet, I found out important stuff about me via my blog.  First, according to
Typealizer, I am an ISTJ.  Generally, when I take Myers-Briggs tests, I end up as an ISTP but my writing here ends up as “Practical” (heavy on the ST) with a small focus on Thinker (NT).  That does make sense.  Here’s my description (with some cleaned-up grammar and spelling):

The responsible and hardworking type. They are especially attuned to the details of life and are careful about getting the facts right. Conservative by nature, they are often reluctant to take any risks whatsoever.

The Duty Fulfillers are happy to be let alone and to be able to work at their own pace. They know what they have to do and how to do it.

I’d like to say that this doesn’t describe me, but yeah, it really does…

Meanwhile, according to the GenderAnalyzer, there is a 59% chance that this blog is written by a man.  There’s only one way I could explain this.  Given that there are three writers (well, okay, two writers and Dan, who writes on in spirit even though he’s a lazy bum), you can split this into thirds.  Dan is a male lesbian, so we’ll put him at 30-70.  Tony, a man’s man, rates closer to 80-20, given that he constantly writes about sports and video games here.  That leaves me at 69-31 in my posts.  I find this a reasonable percentage, as it means that I won’t have to start wearing women’s clothing*.

* – Tony wears it only for comfort issues.  Dan, meanwhile, just wears flannel.