Tagged: musings RSS

  • jimmy 12:55 am on February 18, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , musings, qe2, the fed,   

    Everybody concerned about huge infrastructure costs (like tens of billions for high-speed rail) need to remember that we’re talking about a span of one or two decades for these projects. That comes out to “only” a few billion dollars a year (using Amtrak’s Northeast HSR ideas as an example: $117 billion over 30 years = $3.9 billion/year). Remember, the government dropped $300 billion basically overnight to bail out the banks, spent $50 billion on General Motors and are still in the process of propping up the stock market via $600 billion from the Federal Reserve. (Thanks in large part to the latter the two former bailouts have recouped much of their original costs. But still.)

    I’m not a huge fan of many of these bailouts, but I think it’s worth pointing out that while Amtrak is requesting $117 billion over a 30 year period, the Federal Reserve is spending almost that amount EVERY SIX WEEKS right now to try and create jobs. Meanwhile, the folks doing HSR in California say they’ll create almost as many jobs (half a million vs Ben’s 600,000) for less than a tenth the cost. You do the math.

    Actually, I’ll do the math. Bernanke’s “QE2″ (quantitative easing, round two) is costing the federal government $600 billion and has created 600,000 jobs over the course of ~6 months. The California High-Speed Rail project (the only project in America that’s actually happening…Amtrak’s Northeast idea is just that…an idea so far) is estimated to cost from $42 billion to $60 billion (depending on who you talk to and their opinions of the project), with the funding coming from the state budget, federal budget and private sources. A flyer on the project’s website (PDF link) states that it will create 600,000 construction jobs and 450,000 permanent jobs over 25 years. To even out the comparisons a bit I’ll simply look at those construction jobs and assume that they all happen without 5 years (I know it’s kinda random, but construction is supposed to start next year and end in 9 years, so it’s a fair assumption I think). QE2 is spending roughly $2 million/per year/per job created. CA HSR is projected to spend $20,000 per year/per job created. The time frame is slightly longer, but who knows how quickly HSR (or any infrastructure, for that matter) projects could start digging if we diverted even a tenth of the Fed’s money to some of these “shovel ready” infrastructure projects.

    Believe it or not, I’m open to debate about how HSR projects could be better fiscally managed, but I just thought I’d throw those comparisons out there for some context.

     
  • jimmy 11:31 pm on January 5, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , ces, , musings, tablets,   

    We of course have yet to see Android 3.0/Honeycomb (the version of Android supposedly built with tablet computers in mind) live in action, but it’s interesting to me that it took Android 3 years after the iPhone launch to produce a phone that matched or exceeded the iPhone in most people’s minds (there are so many Android devices, but the first time I remember hearing a lot of people talk about an Android phone matching the iPhone was with the Droid Incredible in summer 2010); but it looks likely that it will be only a year if not less since the iPad’s April 2010 release before the Android community and Google respond to the iPad with a matching or better device(s).

    Food for thought on the eve of this tablet-focused CES.

     
  • jimmy 7:45 am on August 4, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , musings,   

    I recently began using Google Reader (in case you had missed my multiple tweets about that!) to try to streamline my intake and processing of news and information. This move has had mixed results. I think it’s made my ability to process pieces of information more efficient, but that has lead me to believe that I’m invincible, so I promptly loaded Google Reader with over 2 dozen feeds, a quarter of which are extremely high volume (top 5 feeds produce 125 messages per day).

    In trying to overcome this sudden flood of messages, I’ve been doing more headline skimming and less full-story reading than I used to (it’s actually pretty amazing and amusing how deep a picture of the days news I can get just from the nuances between CNN, Al Jazeera and New York Times headlines), but this too has lead to a new problem: headline-writers interpreting the news in their own ways. I mentioned this just earlier this evening but I’ve discovered another instance of it: two news stories about the same survey recently commissioned in regards to citizens feelings towards the California High Speed Rail project. Both articles gave the same exact nu8mbers from the survey, but one story was titled “High-speed rail supported by three-quarters of survey respondents” and the other “Voters: Slow Down the California High Speed Rail Project“.

    Um, yeah, slow down the presses. How is it that the citizens of California overwhelming support the project, but want it to slow down? Well, it’s actually pretty straight forward, and I think both article writers were kooky and using the numbers to their advantage.
    Here’s the survey data:
    34% “said they would like to see the rail built as quickly as possible,”
    42% “would like to see the high-speed trains built despite some concerns over cost and timing” and
    13% “solidly oppose” the project.
    I assume the remaining 11% were undecided (I was gonna make a joke about those remaining opinion-less 11%, but it’s apparently too late at night for my brain to produce such a wittyness).

    The catch, as any sane person can plainly see, is that 42%. While I guess you can technically count them as supporters despite their concerns, I find it disingenuous to lump that group with the “support with no concerns” crowd in the headline of the story, especially when the resulting number is as large as 76%. On the other hand, show me in this survey where those 42% said they had all withdrawn their support, a logic leap that the other article seems to be making in order to make the claim that “a 19 percent drop from the percentage of voters that approved Proposition 1A” had occurred. Maybe in a perfect world nobody should vote for something they don’t 100% agree with, but this is not a perfect world, our government’s are all screwed up right now and their are bound to be issues with any huge government-run project. I find it really hard to believe that every single one of the 54% of voters in 2008 who voted for HSR had no reservations about it while still giving it the go-ahead. I would have, if I lived and voted in California.

    So. The moral of the story is: beware of headline writers and always apply critical thinking to the news you read. Although maybe apply slightly less than me. Because 4 paragraphs at 4am about one survey in a state I don’t live in might be kind of overkill.

    Oh well.

     
  • jimmy 1:54 am on August 4, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: 9/11, , freedom, musings, nyc, wtc   

    OK, random rant here: I wish media outlets would stop referring to the mosque being proposed inside a community center in Lower Manhattan as the “Ground Zero” mosque in headlines. For f*cks sake, you jackassed page-view whores, it’s not like they’re building it right on top of the WTC site. It, in fact, has pretty much nothing to do with the World Trade Center site except a geographical proximity.

    And while we’re on the topic, why did the builders scrape the name “Freedom Tower” for the new tallest building on the site? Too in-your-face to…the terrorists? The Chinese businesses we want to attract to the building as tenants? We’re building a memorial out in a field in Pennsylvania in remembrance of 9/11 but we can’t name the building replacing the Twin Towers “freedom”? Was “freedom” just an October 2001 (and March 2003) war-cry that we don’t really believe in anymore? Was it a passing two century-long fade that’s now suddenly passed? 9/11 incited terror in America, which is the exact opposite of freedom, what’s so wrong with remembering that in a very public way?

    I want answers.

     
  • jimmy 7:04 am on July 26, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , musings, ,   

    In a post about downtime on their engineering blog, @twitter happened to let us know how many users that had as of last Monday: “more than 125 million”. A quick Google search reveals that it was mid-April (or slightly earlier) when they hit 100 million users. Since I don’t feel like doing the math for annual growth rates, and since my main goal here is to compare this to Facebook, let’s just do that straight away. Facebook helpfully tells us it was February when they hit 400 million. That means they were quite a bit larger than 400 million in April, meaning Twitter’s 100 million was between 20-25% of FBs userbase.

    Last week Twitter had “more than 125 million users” and FB celebrated their 500 millionth. That means Twitter now has OVER 25% of FBs user numbers.

    Maybe that small number is nothing to be excited about, but with people going on about how fast Facebook is growing, Twitter is growing faster.

    P.S. to provide a more accurate “historical” data point of users for both services (rather than the vague “100 million vs. north of 400 million” in April comparison I did above) I dug up how many users Twitter had in February…only I couldn’t find numbers from February, so I used numbers from January and estimated for February…still better than the above comparison, which involves no estimation: Twitter had 75 million users in January, and was growing at a rate of 6.2 million per month. On the other hand, on April 14 the service had 105 million users, so that would lead to a growth rate of more like 10 mil/month during the January/April period. Still, this gives us a nice small window of 81.2-85 million users in February. Comparing against Facebook’s 400 million in Feb, that’s somewhere between 20.3% and 21.25%. So, splitting the difference, in February Twitter had 21% the users FB had. By July that number was 4% higher.

    So, doing the math again, Twitter is still growing faster than Facebook.

    Just saying.

     
  • jimmy 11:17 am on July 9, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , musings,   

    The fact that Facebook has been buying other companies JUST to snap up ex-Googlers is EXACTLY why Google is (rumoredly) building Google Me. I’ve made no bones about my growing distaste for Facebook (or my love of Google, for that matter), so I would love to see Google go into the social space (and with something a bit more thoughtout than Google Buzz, please?) and it seems to me that Facebook going on a multi-million dollar spending spree to hire former Google employees into top Facebook positions isn’t helping them avoid a challenge from Google.

    One theory says that with Facebook’s half a billion users and Google’s rocky track record with social media Facebook need not be very concerned with such rumors, and that may well be true. But that’s not how I see it. Despite the mumblings of folks who say Google’s only ever been successful with one thing (memo to such people: SUCCESS doesn’t always equal “profit”. Just look at Firefox, which holds the #2 spot in the browser wars while being completely free; or Google Chrome for that matter, which is the browser with the fastest growth rate and also completely free) Google has, in fact, a huge array of products and services that have had varying degrees of success (search, obviously, has had the most success, but also Google Maps (anybody use MapQuest anymore?), GMail (not as big as Yahoo! or MSN, but arguably the better of the three), YouTube (not created by Google but nurtured by them since they bought the service in 2007, and a great source of social media experience for the company), Blogger (like YouTube, Google bought it in 2003 and has been gaining experience from it ever since), Orkut (a social network built by a Google employee and very popular (to the tune of 100 million active users) in Brazil and India) and, of course, Android, to name only a few. Goggle Buzz, which many people cite as proof that Google only understands algorithmic things like search and serving ads based on keywords, I think was and as a well-meaning attempt at social media, and I think the last 6 months of trying to do “high-profile” social media development has probably taught the company a lot about how to approach this area. Before (and even still mostly since) Buzz was launched the social elements of most Google products (comments on a YouTube video or sharing something in Google Reader) has been separate and (I presume) managed by a different team (Orkut, for example, is managed by people on an entirely different continent from most of the other Google services’ managers). My sense and hope (and this is only a theory, backed up with only a few quotes here and there) is that after the issues raised by the Buzz release Google realized they needed to be even more focused on social if they want to meaningfully play (and I think anyone who wants to survive on the web over the next 5-10 years needs to “play” with social: either linking in (via Facebook Connect (*shudder*) or Twitter’s oAuth, or whatever) or being the ones linked in to (Facebook, Twitter, etc.)) and that they need to make their next move more than just a “side project”. All this means they need to not just let a couple of employees build something cool (like Orkut or Google Wave), but they need to dig around all 10,000 of their engineers, they need to find the 3 dozen who know how social works (if Facebook has managed to hire so many ex-Googlers who know social, there must be some still at Google…I hope) and they need to put them together in a room with a representative from every team that manages a product or service that Google wants to integrate with their social network (YouTube, Blogger, Orkut, Buzz, etc.).

    Then they need to hire someone from the EFF to make sure they don’t create a company-imploding privacvy shitstorm, and they also need to poach somebody from Apple’s (or maybe HTC’s) UI design team to make it look awesome.

    That’s probably not exactly what they’re doing, but I’m hoping this is a metaphor for reality.

    This…kinda took a different direction from how I meant it to. It also took me 90 minutes to write (all those sources, and possibly because I have an addled brain from a head cold and being awake all night) so I’m going to leave whatever it is at this point and take myself off to bed…since 7am is waaaaaaay past my bedtime.

     
  • jimmy 2:03 am on June 22, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: musings, world cup   

    I mentioned on Twitter that I was gonna start making my for-fun/informal World Cup predictions public (the logic being that I keep bragging about correctly calling the outcome of games, so I might as well back that up…watch, I’ll be all wrong today), so here goes:
    6/22 Mexico v. Uruguay – I have a hard time with this one because my gut want’s to say Mexico but based on performance thus far in the Cup I’d have to say Uruguay. So I’m gonna call it for a close/fun game with the edge to Uruguay, giving them the top spot coming out of Group A. Either way the game goes, as far as I can tell these two are going to be the teams from Group A to advance to the Round of 16, this game just decides who. (I’m not 100% clear on the rules of advancement, though, so I could be wrong.)
    6/22 France v. South Africa – Both teams have a draw and a loss. France tied against Uruguay in a scoreless game (perhaps speaking to France’s strong defense, as Uruguay was able to score three times on South Africa) and lost to Mexico. France has scored nothing in 2 World Cup games and South Africa has managed to score once against Mexico. This and France’s apparent team meltdown makes me lead toward South Africa taking this match.
    6/22 Nigeria v. Korea Republic – Given Nigeria’s two losses and Korea’s one win-one loss I give this one to Korea pretty easily. I think Korea will earn the second advancement spot from Group B.
    6/22 Greece v. Argentina – Argentina hasn’t lost either of the games they’ve played so far and has once let one goal by their defense. I think this one goes to them to award them a 3-0 record in the “group stage” and the top spot coming out of Group B into the Round of 16.

    Depending on how I do with these predictions (and if I feel like it) I might post again tomorrow with my predictions for the June 23 games. Stay tuned.

     
  • jimmy 11:19 am on June 17, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , bp, , musings, oil spill, , uk   

    For the record, I’m not one to blame the Brits for the mass of oil in our ocean and on our shores (I’m well aware of the transgressions of our own MMS and both the last and current White Houses). I would however like to remind those citizens of the fine British Isles that being snarky at America for finding one bit of relief in all this (that for once it’s not a big, bad American company that’s fucking up the environment) is not the best way to endear yourselves to me or us. Every time an American company or government has screwed something or somebody we’ve (some of us, anyway) been apologetic because it’s embaressing and shameful to be connected with such activities. To my knowledge BP is (or was) a rather well-liked company in the UK, if the fact that 30% of the population owns stock in the firm is any indication. All I ask now is that you carry that connection and possibly shame it brings the same way we Americans have “owned” the presidency of Bush or any other shameful international activicties we’ve watched occur. The oil spill is no doubt our problem (a result of dozens of factors, many of which were homegrown), but BP is most certainly yours.

     
  • jimmy 9:34 am on June 3, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , lists, musings, ,   

    I…I have become someone with physical (as in, non-computer) to-do lists. They, oddly enough, mostly include things that I need to do on the computer, but I somehow find it easier to manage a list on a little white notecard rather than on the computer (even though I spend 9+ hours a day on my computer). This is strange for a couple of reasons:
    1) I have never, ever used a to-do list. I thought they were at best kinda useless for me and at worst a complete and utter abomination to be killed at all costs;
    2) I always assumed that should I find the need for a to-do list, I would naturally put it on the computer as I’m a big “tech guy” and love, love, love computers.

    Obviously my seeming hatred for to-do lists has waned a bit, and my desire to digitize them has similarly lessened. I have no idea how long this sudden ([deadpan]and slightly disturbing[/deadpan]) change in my character will last, but for now I’m enjoying my little daily notecard of tasks.

     
  • jimmy 7:42 am on May 27, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , musings, ,   

    I love how a big argument against trains is that of the so-called “last mile problem,” meaning the problem of just being dumped somewhere with no way to get around (whereas when you drive, you’ve got your car with you, obviously). It’s a valid point, but what amuses (and saddens) me is that flying has THIS EXACT SAME PROBLEM and nobody has argued it for a century. They went about solving it. Duh.

     
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