Monday, August 31, 2009

Seth's Blog: Who gets to decide what you want?

Seth's Blog: Who gets to decide what you want?: "One definition of happiness is wanting the things you're likely to get (or, conversely, not wanting the unattainable). One definition of marketing is persuading the world it wants what you have, regardless of whether they can afford it or not."

Reminds me of Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion (Collins Business Essentials)

News Blog Articles | The Powerful Have a Different Perspective on Ethical Behavior | Miller-McCune Online Magazine

News Blog Articles | The Powerful Have a Different Perspective on Ethical Behavior | Miller-McCune Online Magazine: "In determining whether an act is right or wrong, the powerful focus on whether rules and principles are violated, whereas the powerless focus on the consequences,” states the study “How Power Influences Moral Thinking,” in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. “For this reason, the powerful are also more inclined to stick to the rules — irrespective of whether this has positive or negative effects — while the powerless are more inclined to make exceptions.”"

Fascinating. It would explain so much.

Where Have You Gone, Bell Labs? - BusinessWeek

Where Have You Gone, Bell Labs? - BusinessWeek: "America needs good jobs, soon. We need 6.7 million just to replace losses from the current recession, then another 10 million to spark demand over the next decade. That's 15 million to 17 million new jobs. In the 1990s, the U.S. economy created a net 22 million jobs (a rate of 2.2 million per year), so we know it can be done. Between 2000 and the end of 2007 (the beginning of the current recession), however, the economy created new jobs at a rate of 900,000 a year, so we know it isn't doing it now. The pipeline is dry because the U.S. business model is broken. Our growth engine has run out of a key source of fuel—critical mass, basic scientific research."

Actually, I was just wondering about this. How come there are so few big announcements of major scientific breakthroughs anymore? Who is doing any basic research anymore? LHC notwithstanding it seems very few people are doing anything even remotely basic, and barely any are doing even tactical level research, outside of the current war. Universities had generally gone to a research model focused on practical application. Who thought that was a good idea?

Basic research is something that pays off 20+ years down the line, if ever. This is a timeline far outside a typical CEOs management lifespan, much less next quarters bottom line. Who came up with that rule?

And I am not just talking about here in the US but around the world. India is still trying to move its people out of general poverty and China, while generally having a long view, seems more focused on securing natural resources, oil, metals, &etc. Generally ignoring or strip mining their human resources.

ht Slashdot with some great comments for once.

Bell labs, IBM labs, and others were destroyed, seemingly as collateral damage in bringing down big monopoly businesses. The destruction of innovation has been so thorough that I have to wonder if it was deliberate.

How about a couple of examples that seem to bare this out: First HP, when Carly was elected as CEO she even said she hated the company as it was. So she radically changed it. She spun off the test equipment devision, killed R&D and even the calculator division. They went from being the top of the calculator market to a joke with TI taking over.
It went from a company doing a lot of basic research into a commodity PC reseller who didn't even make the products they sold anymore. How bad must it be when the CEO leaves that the employees break out the champagne and the stock price shoots up. It will take a couple of decades to rebuild that capability if ever.

Apple is another classic example, The founder Steve Jobs was forced out because he wasn't management-ey enough. So it got handed off to a sugar-water salesman, Apple didn't do so well after that, until the founder came back and gave soul back to the company. Even then it took years to get back, but now Apple is doing amazing things. I fear for Apple when Steve finally leaves.

Something very strange is going on I am not sure why these rules have been put in place or even who but they are bad for everyone and need to be removed.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Big Hollywood � Blog Archive � Steve Ditko’s Eternal Relevance: ‘In Principle: The Unchecked Premise’

Big Hollywood � Blog Archive � Steve Ditko’s Eternal Relevance: ‘In Principle: The Unchecked Premise’: "Among the scores of Ditko’s own creations include Dr. Strange, The Creeper, and the unique and uncompromising Mr. A. Ditko has also illustrated some of the most memorable fantasy stories the comics medium has ever seen."

Wow. It starts so small, doesn't it.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Criminal Incompetence - Inside Higher Ed

Views: Criminal Incompetence - Inside Higher Ed: "Gambetta argues that something similar takes place among the baroni (barons) who oversee the selection committees involved in Italian academic promotions. While some fields are more meritocratic than others, the struggle for advancement often involves a great deal of horse trading. 'The barons operate on the basis of a pact of reciprocity, which requires a lot of trust, for debts are repaid years later. Debts and credits are even passed on from generation to generation within a professor's 'lineage,' and professors close to retirement are excluded from the current deals, for they will not be around long enough to return favors.'"

Oh, bother.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Banality of Evil – The Health Care debate takes a dangerous turn � Matt's Meditations

The Banality of Evil – The Health Care debate takes a dangerous turn � Matt's Meditations: "One of the fundamental virtues Americans have always held is the value of life. Whether it is in the care for sick infants or the billions spent on AIDS research or the heroic measures in the operating room on an inner city gunshot victim, or on the battlefield where our troops are indoctrinated with “no man left behind”, or our fundamental obligation under Medicare for the care of our elders,� we have almost always managed to do the right thing. We make herculean efforts to do so. There is a preferential option for the weak in our culture that we must never lose that is based upon our humanity and our faith.
Or do we, like Eichmann, simply shirk responsibility by saying we were only following orders?"


Basics - Brain Is a Co-Conspirator in a Vicious Stress Loop -

Basics - Brain Is a Co-Conspirator in a Vicious Stress Loop - "Robert Sapolsky, a neurobiologist who studies stress at Stanford University School of Medicine, said, “This is a great model for understanding why we end up in a rut, and then dig ourselves deeper and deeper into that rut.”

The truth is, Dr. Sapolsky said, “we’re lousy at recognizing when our normal coping mechanisms aren’t working. Our response is usually to do it five times more, instead of thinking, maybe it’s time to try something new.”"

This is something important to be consciously aware of.

We've all done or seen people just keeping doing things that are just plain not working for them or anyone else and wonder why they don't do something else.
I've been there pushing the food bar and ignoring the food. I've worked jobs that had no reward and only punishment. I've had coworkers ask me how I do it without crying and I can only reply that I have no more tears, no more feelings.

Last year I helped an acquaintance move, the house they were renting was being foreclosed on, he had lost his job and had gotten an awful job that didn't come close to replacing the income, the stress level in that home was terrible. A lot of people complained that they weren't ready for the move, I think that they had forgotten how. I know I had for a while.

Fortunately, it looks like it is reversible, but who can take 4 weeks off in a supportive environment.

Monday, August 17, 2009 | Knoxville, TN | Remote Area Medical takes mission to Los Angeles | Knoxville, TN | Remote Area Medical takes mission to Los Angeles: "Remote Area Medical usually takes their free healthcare to rural areas, or developing countries. This week, they're helping thousands in Los Angeles, California. Its the first time RAM has gone to a major metropolitan area."


Saturday, August 15, 2009

John Mackey: The Whole Foods Alternative to ObamaCare -

John Mackey: The Whole Foods Alternative to ObamaCare - "While we clearly need health-care reform, the last thing our country needs is a massive new health-care entitlement that will create hundreds of billions of dollars of new unfunded deficits and move us much closer to a government takeover of our health-care system. Instead, we should be trying to achieve reforms by moving in the opposite direction—toward less government control and more individual empowerment. Here are eight reforms that would greatly lower the cost of health care for everyone:"

These certainly look like some really good ideas. The most interesting part seems to be that it was laws and regulations that created this mess to begin with. I remember government creating new regulation with allowed the creating of HMOs which nobody really liked. and then PPOs.

And I've always wondered why employment and insurance have been coupled together. It turns out it was a result of the New Deal and wage caps, big companies wanted a way to improve the compensation of their workers but couldn't due to wage cap laws, so they worked a deal with government to allow them to give insurance as a benefit and not count it as earnings.

This smells and it smells the same as nuclear power. Nuclear power doesn't cost all that much to make but the cost of the red tape and anti-astroturf and the cost has risen too high to be worth doing.

I would say that more then half the cost of healthcare is now going to regulatory compliance and lawyers, but you would never see it on a billing statement that way, it is subsumed into everything so a patient never sees it.

Kind of hard to make a proper decision on this when that is the case. But then that is the point I suppose.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Lunch with Jared Diamond / Columnists / Lunch with the FT - Lunch with the FT: Jared Diamond: "But Diamond rejects the notion that his work can be read as advocating authoritarian central planning. “When people talk about the greater efficiency of dictatorships, they are forgetting that a dictatorship is no more likely than a democracy to make a wise decision,” he says. The Chinese government moved quickly to ban lead in petrol, but it also virtually abolished education during a phase of the Cultural Revolution, he says. A democracy could never do that."

Why is it that the first thought lots of people have is to give the government more power? That tends to not work in the long run. But sometimes I wonder what the Romans were thinking as Rome fell.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

The case for learning a skilled trade - Jun. 19, 2009 - Ask Annie

The case for learning a skilled trade - Jun. 19, 2009 - Ask Annie: "Lamacchia isn't anti-college, but one of his firm beliefs is that not every good job requires a four-year degree, and not every kid needs to get one. Since he launched the site in 2003, he says, 'I've heard from lots and lots of teachers who agree with me. They write things like, 'It's about time someone said this! But don't use my name.''"

Not a surprise, really.