Are the Browns for real? Maybe, but I doubt it

For the first time this year, I’m actually glad I don’t have access to the Browns.

A 1 point victory? A QB that actually performed well during the two minute drill? These remind me of the Browns of another era. (Well, not directly, since I’m not old enough to remember the Kardiac Kids.)

15 yard celebration penalty? A player being out with strep throat? These remind me of the Browns of this era. (Seriously, Cleveland is always rife with injuries every year, but for some reason the training staff is never replaced. What’s up with that?)

With Peyton Hillis out, we won. This is good. We are 2-1, our best start since 2002. This is also good. However, I’m skeptical on whether or not it will last. First, we still aren’t running enough. Montario Hardesty did well in place of Peyton Hillis (yep, he had the strep throat), going 67 yards on 14 carries for a decent 4.8 YPC, with a nice 19 yard run. But Colt McCoy passed 39 times. And, according to all reports, did badly. 19 of 39? 48.7% completion? That’s sickening, especially for somebody in a west coast offense. He came through when it counted, so gold star for him, but that won’t get it done most nights.

What I like about this team is the defense and the running game (with a healthy Hillis and/or a Hardesty with more carries). We had five sacks and a pick, very nice. The passing game still frightens me. I have some measure of faith in Colt McCoy; after all, his skill set is very similar to Ryan Fitzpatrick, who’s done well for himself (at least this year). I’m ambivalent on our receivers, but like Ben Watson and Evan Moore. It’s too much of an X-factor for me.

I still hold to my prediction of 8-8. Maybe even better; the Steelers are oddly vulnerable this year. I love Rashard Mendenhall, as he played for one of my alma maters (a bright spot on a bad team) and I saw him play quite a bit. But he couldn’t run tonight, and while Big Ben did well, they just barely beat the Colts. An impressive feat any other year, but not this year, as the Colts may be secretly trying to Suck for Luck.

Could the Browns have a winning record in the division? Maybe, but I doubt it. The Ravens look tough this year, and unless Colt matures fast or we run the ball like gangbusters, I don’t see a way of generating much offense against them. We’ve already lost to the Bengals once; I think we’ll beat them the second time, but even if we went 2-0 against the Steelers (which is still unlikely), that would only make us 3-3.

Playoffs? Not without a lot of luck.

Then again, a 1 point victory in which Colt McCoy goes from Derek Anderson to Bernie Kosar at the end of the game would qualify as lucky.

 

Buffalo Is For Real(?)

After Buffalo won their first game, I said it was National Jump to Conclusions Week.  After Buffalo won their second game, I figured it was just a fluke.  Last week, I was chatting with a co-worker and said that the first real test will be if the Bills come within 6 points of the Patriots.  Considering that they won today, beating the Patriots for the first time since 2003 (Year 1 of The Penguatroll Experience), this should bump up my belief that Buffalo is a legitimate team.

And yet I still can’t shake the belief that the team will collapse.  Before the year began, I was hoping for the Bills to do poorly enough to score Andrew Luck.  But the combination of Chan Gailey and Ryan Fitzpatrick is a potent one, leading to lots of scoring (at least in non-winter weather; we’ll see what happens once the snow starts falling in upstate New York), and the defense has been just good enough to push the Bills to 3-0.

What the Bills have done right is take a team without that much talent and have them out-perform expectations (thus far).  The offensive line has allowed one sack in three games, which is nothing short of amazing.  Buffalo’s wide receivers have been very good so far.  Stevie Johnson is continuing his breakout, and David Nelson and Donald Jones have fleshed out the corps.  Scott Chandler has been surprisingly impressive so far as well (particularly in the red zone).  About the only guy on offense who hasn’t done that well is CJ Spiller, who hasn’t had much of an opportunity to do anything.

On the defensive side of the ball, however, the Bills are down to 3 healthy cornerbacks, with Terrence McGee and Aaron Williams out.  Justin Rogers may be back, and that would be a good thing.

Now, do I think this will last?  Well, give me a couple more weeks…  I’m back to rooting for Buffalo to have its first winning season this century, never mind the draft consequences.  Their next two games are against Philadelphia and the New York Giants.  If the Bills go into their bye week 4-1, I’ll consider that a good sign.

The Week In Hacks

This was an interesting week in hacks.  We had:

Also awesome:  the Aldi Bot.  You can rent a botnet for 10 Euros.  No word on whether you need to put a quarter (or, for Germans, a Euro coin) into a slot to rent a shopping cart.  But think about this:  there are so many infected machines that you can rent out a botnet for so little.  Considering that there’s probably a pretty decent demand for these services, that tells you something about just how large the supply is.

Review You Can Use [tm]: Heavy Rain (PS 3)

Heavy Rain

Quantic Dream/Sony Computer Entertainment Europe (PS 3)

Interactive Movie

Pros

– The story is gripping

– A fair bit of replay value (18 endings and a bunch of minor variations)

– It’s hilarious to hear European actors acting American (like the Boston FBI Agent, Norman Jayden, who uses a ridiculous New England accent for his name and nothing else)

Cons

– SIXAXIS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

– Occasionally nude males (not full frontal, but bad enough)

– The prologue is the worst part of the game (seriously, by a lot)

Recommendation: Another awesome PS 3 exclusive. It’s amazingly well done, very rich, and you never feel entirely out of control (or in control), which is excellent. I bet the Move version is actually better, since Sixaxis remains an idiotic idea.

Continue reading

In The Papers: Inventive Activity

Naomi Lamoreaux, Kenneth Sokoloff, and Dhanoos Sutthiphisal have a working paper entitled, The Reorganization of Inventive Activity in the United States during the Early Twentieth Century.

Abstract:

The standard view of U.S. technological history is that the locus of invention shifted during the early twentieth century to large firms whose in-house research laboratories were superior sites for advancing the complex technologies of the second industrial revolution. In recent years this view has been subject to increasing criticism. At the same time, new research on equity markets during the early twentieth century suggests that smaller, more entrepreneurial enterprises were finding it easier to gain financial backing for technological discovery. We use data on the assignment (sale or transfer) of patents to explore the extent to which, and how, inventive activity was reorganized during this period. We find that two alternative modes of technological discovery developed in parallel during the early twentieth century. The first, concentrated in the Middle Atlantic region, centered on large firms with in-house R&D labs and superior access to the region’s rapidly growing equity markets. The other, located mainly in the East North Central region, consisted of smaller, more entrepreneurial enterprises that drew primarily on local sources of funds. Both modes seem to have made roughly equivalent contributions to technological change through the 1920s. The subsequent dominance of large firms seems to have been propelled by a differential access to capital during the Great Depression that was subsequently reinforced by the regulatory and military procurement policies of the federal government.

The standard view of inventive activity is that individuals dominated technological discovery until the early 1900s, when large, in-house R&D departments took over (2).  The big R&D departments had advantages such as big budgets and more resources, and as it became more and more expensive (such as requiring more equipment) to perform scientific experiments, naturally, the big firm became the generator of inventive value.

Using the assignment (either sale or transfer) of patents as a measure (3), the authors argue that this is not really the case.  Instead, in-house departments had both advantages in disadvantages:  yes, they had more resources, more concentrated resources, access to manufacturing, and easier internal sale (4-5), but big R&D departments also had information and contracting problems, as well as little real connection to the “real world” (5).  The most valuable patents acquired by large firms in the 1920s actually started outside the firms’ R&D departments (7).

This isn’t to say that large firms weren’t increasing their share during this time:  in 1870-71, the assignment at issue was 16.1%, whereas by 1928-29, it was 56.1%.  That’s an undeniable large increase.  But there were legitimate regional and curb (high-tech) markets which existed to finance smaller firms (11), and smaller firms were still productive during this time—they were responsible for 13-22% of patents (15).

When you break things down regionally, you can see two completely different stories.  The mid-Atlantic and East North Central regions were each responsible for approximately 1/3 of patents during this time (16).  The East North Central region  (which includes Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin) was heavily small firm/individual, whereas the mid-Atlantic specialized in R&D and large firms (16-17).  But large firm patents were not more important or valuable, and the authors argue that they may even have been less valuable (19-20).  And some of these labs were mostly for vetting outside ideas (23-24) rather than coming up with new ideas.

So why did large R&D firms take over?  There were a couple of reasons which relate closely to one another.  The Great Depression hit the ENC region much harder than the mid-Atlantic (31).  Furthermore, government spending, especially during World War II, tended to focus on large firms with R&D departments.  SEC filing requirements also became tougher, which dried up those curb markets (33).  So once again, government policy had unintended(?) long-term consequences which led to corporatism.

New Books Purchased

Lately, I have been on a security kick, and so I have turned that into the purchase of three books on the topic.  The first two come from recommendations from pauldotcom.  The first is Metasploit: The Penetration Tester’s Guide.  It’s already a little out of date (because it doesn’t cover version 4), but it sounds like a great introduction to the framework.

The second book is Hacking:  The Art of Exploitation.  It sounds like a graduate-level course in computer security, going deep into the topics and really learning the topic.

Finally, going back to database administration—that is, after all, my day job—I picked up Denny Cherry’s Securing SQL Server:  Protecting Your Database From Attackers.  Just seeing his name on the book led me to believe that it would be good, and I have heard quite positive reviews from other people I trust.

All three of these books sound like they should be great, and I’ll need to make some time to start reading them after they arrive.

Free Currency Competition

Larry White has a great write-up of the Free Competition in Currency Act of 2011.  It’s important that he notes that it would not eliminate the USD, or even the Federal Reserve’s role in currency markets.  Rather, it would re-create the open competition which existed for over a century in the United States.  The best part about this act is that it does not mandate anything either way.  If people decide that they want to use only Federal Reserve USD, they are free to.  But if there are better alternatives, people are free to switch.

One problem that I could see is that the elimination of the USD as applicable to “all debts” is that there could be higher transaction costs in negotiating currencies.  This would also require that the Supreme Court not try to re-establish Juilliard v. Greenman.