Archive for April, 2010

Not What I Had In Mind

April 30, 2010

A certain well-known news wire service reported today that “A U.S. Geological Service computer at [the agency’s] Berkeley station has mistakenly concluded that the Napa area was hit by a magnitude-5.0 earthquake.”

Lunghu is disconcerted for two reasons:  a] he expected an earthquake, if one actually occurred, to be of magnitude 6 or greater, and b] as the USGS itself concedes, “such inaccurate reports are exceedingly rare in California.”  (As of 1500 PDT April 30th, the fake quake was still showing on USGS’s San Francisco region earthquake map.)

The most plausible explanation for this anomalous event is that USGS’s HAL installation is exhibiting empathy for Lunghu’s apparent dilemma:  the first predicted “threat window” has almost closed, with nothing more severe than your normal, run-of-the-mill mag 2 and mag 3 California ankle-wigglers.  It’s OK, HAL, there are still two weeks to go until mid-May.


Commons Sense

April 16, 2010

Earlier this week, I attended a presentation by Brett Frischmann, who (among other things) teaches intellectual property law at Loyola University Chicago School of Law.   Frischmann’s talk concerned a related(?) topic:  society’s management of its infrastructure, and the appropriate role of government and ‘the commons’ therein.  Frischmann conceives of ‘infrastructure’ in very broad (almost abstract) terms that extend beyond customary top-of-the-mind things like roads, bridges, sewers, water mains and electrical power lines.   As a result, issues surrounding management of these shared social resources are more complex than those generally covered in the usual range of policy debate.   For full details on Frischmann’s thesis, you can either wait for Yale University Press to publish his forthcoming book on the topic, or you can email him to request some sample chapters for review.  I won’t waste your time and mine attempting to recapitulate an argument he can articulate far more cogently than I.

I’ll confine myself to making two brief observations about his talk:

  • Frischmann deserves a higher-caliber, more knowledgeable audience than (by and large) was actually in attendance when I heard him speak.
  • Even if it was only a quotation whose originator I’ve not previously encountered, ya just gotta love the pithy concision of a statement like “pursuit of profit is a feature of the system, not a bug.”   That’s a mashup of Econ and CompSci domains that may have legs well into the 21st century, regardless of whether or not you agree with the underlying sentiment.

Crocodile Tears

April 11, 2010

[A]t the funeral of Oleg Vagin, first godfather of the Centralny criminal group in Yekaterinburg … mourners were waiting for Konstantin Tziganov, boss of the Uralmash gang, to show up and kiss Vagin’s embalmed body.  Failing to do so was believed to be an admission of Tziganov’s guilt.  Tziganov arrived at the cemetery minutes before the coffin was to be lowered into the grave and kissed Vagin on the face.  Should people thus be sure that he did not order Vagin’s killing?

Diego Gambetta, Codes of the Underworld, 2009 (p. 175)

Uh Oh.

April 10, 2010

Payback for last summer’s Arctic Sea incident crisis?

Word to the Wise

April 5, 2010

Sure hope I’m wrong about this, but it might be a good idea to avoid the SF Bay Area during the last week in April (around the 28th) and the middle of May (around the 13th). This is not just because the A’s and Giants will both be out of town beginning April 29th (The Giants will be back playing the Padres and Astros at AT&T Park in mid-May).

My suggestion has more to do with that other phenomenon for which the area is well-known.  Cal OES might want to stay close to home during those periods.

Yes We Did

April 4, 2010

The so-called Newspaper of Record didn’t cover the story, not even in their self-styled ‘global sports‘ section.

For NYT, global sport consists of soccer/futbol; Formula-1 auto racing; golf; cycling; tennis; rugby … and cricket.  So, not a word in the Grey Lady this morning –not even from a wire service source–  about The (156th) Boat Race and its somewhat surprising outcome.

Instead, leave it to the French (via Agence France Presse) to report the story –and, along the way–  to find a plotline that twists the dagger in the heart of Dark Blues everywhere.   Yep, 2010’s Cambridge victory can be attributed to an American rower (nothing particularly new there) and to the inspiration of Barack Obama (who, though raised in Hawaii, may never have held an oar or outrigger paddle in his life).  Here’s how:

“Cambridge crew president Deaglan McEachern … who worked as an intern on Obama’s campaign, said ‘Yes We Can’ was his final message to his fellow oarsmen.  ‘I knew this crew had a chance to win and I told them to go out there and take it.'”

McEachern then went on to say, ‘The whole race is a confidence game.’

In the United States, that particular formulation might be considered an unfortunate turn of phrase in the aftermath of our recent CDO/CDS/Madoff meltdown, but on the Thames (as elsewhere on the water), it merely echoes Tug McGraw’s famous battlecry, “Ya Gotta Believe!”   Believing that you can endure and prevail is sometimes the only thing that will get you through a demanding practice or a difficult race.   You have to believe that you can do it, and you have to believe that your teammates can do it too.   Often, this requires a willful suspension of disbelief, because prior experience may well have demonstrated that either you or others in the boat will likely despair and crumble in the face of adversity.   So you can use that fear as a challenge to prove yourself wrong:   by directing overwhelming anger at that doubting inner voice, a rower can defeat defeatism itself.  Sometimes that gets you across the finish line first, and sometimes it doesn’t.   Ain’t no silver medal in The Boat Race.