Sunday, December 26, 2010

Analog Update II

I've taken a breather from trying to develop an Analog database in "Open Office", made a quick (well really not so quick) MS Access version of the database.  Prior posts on my slow progress here.  Still faced with a steep learning curve for Open Office's database "Base".  Haven't even gotten to MySQL or PHP yet.  The MS Access version has been updated through the March 2011 edition, except for the March 20011 cover art.

If you have MS Access, I can provide a copy of the database.  Leave a message on the Analog readers forum. You would need to specify what version of MS Access that you have. The data was imported from an Excel spreadsheet developed by Dave Baranyi through the use of a dumb program. That means no error detection or correction. Obviously there will be data correction issues.  If you find any errors let me know. (I tend to have a lot of typos.)

Additionally, there are over 900 issues of Analog.  Consequently a lot of data is "missing", such as cover art, editorials, and the alternate view simply because the data has not yet been entered.  Gets boring entering data.  There is also the issue of the availability of old issues to verify the data.  Overtime, this data can be slowly added to the database.

Below is the opening screen. To the right there are a set of buttons that allow you provide a variety of search and editing tasks. (Click on the images to see them better.)

When you double click on an author, all stories written by that author Pop-Up.  In this case Richard Lovett.  The thirteenth name down.

You can also search for a story or an author based on a partial string. In the picture below, all stories that have the string "solar" in their title are displayed.

One thing to realize, is that much of the information is already available on the Internet, so pursuing a standalone database, as I am doing, is somewhat duplicative. Below is an image from the Internet Speculative Fiction Database.

If someone has the ability to provide a central download site that would be beneficial.  Then everyone would have access to the most recent version. In theory, I won't be pursing upgrading the database in MS Access except for adding new data. Learning Base has been frustratingly slow. Also I have not even gotten to MySQL yet.  At least the MS Access version will serve as a temporary solution.  In the meantime I hope that you will be able to enjoy and utilize the MS Access version.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Julian Assange & Forbes Magazine

Andy Greenberg of Forbes Magazine writes: "Admire Assange or revile him, he is the prophet of a coming age of involuntary transparency. ... What do large companies think of the threat? If they’re terrified, they’re not saying. None would talk to us. Nor would the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. ...  How can an American corporation respond to a Wiki attack? Lawsuits won’t work: ... The best protection? With a dash of irony Icelandic Wiki­Leaks staffer Kristinn Hrafnsson suggests that companies change their ways to avoid targeting. “They should resist the temptation to enter into corruption,” he says."  (emphasis added)

Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, Staples, Intuit, PayPal, Ebay, Best Buy, Comcast, Bank of America and numerous others - clean-up your act.  If you want employee and consumer loyalty you must earn it.  The free-market is not about ripping the consumer off to make short-term profits.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Quantative Easing Revealed - It's an Episode of the Twilight Zone

This video is hilarious. It's a bit long, digresses some, and I don't know if the negative references to Goldman Sachs are correct or not. But it does reiterate one of my concerns, which is that the FED is not letting the economy correct through deflation. (Approximately 38 seconds into the video)

In terms of deflation, the video successfully spoofs Bernanke's quantitative easing, dumping money into the economy, as a means of promoting employment growth. The evidence, I believe, is clear that quantitative easing is NOT creating employment. The issue is that people are not buying. If people do not buy, private industry has no incentive to create jobs. So all the programs and tax credits to business for job creation are a waste of the taxpayers money. As one of the video characters pointed-out our economy is an episode of the Twilight Zone.

UPDATE: Since posting I ran across this article in Forbes: "Bernanke Wants A $10 Three-Piece Chicken Meal" by Rich Karlgaard.  Essentially it reiterates that the FED is pushing inflation. And as the video above points out inflation will hurt those in the lower income and without jobs.  Steve Forbes also has an editorial: "Why Ben Is Addicted To Failure"

Corporate Condescension

One of the irritants that we seem to have to deal with every day are disingenuous corporate "offers".  These offers are couched in verbiage to make it seem that they are doing you a favor.  The letter closes with "The power is yours,"  This letter also contains the proclamation "Rule the Air" as if you had a choice in making the rules or gasp, negotiating the terms of the so-called "contract".  (Click on the image to see it better.)

What is particularly galling about this "offer" is that Verizon is proposing to assist you in "conquering your overages".  The solution is simple, Verizon could simply stop charging you for overages!  Bank of America also offers a similar ridiculous service. So if these companies can change the "terms of agreement" at will and at any time, it is a no brainier for them to simply stop charging for overages, especially if you have been a good customer.

The Verizon letter above may not be an Enron or a Collateralized Debt Obligation, nevertheless it is another small indicator that corporations feel no ethical restraint in misleading their customers to get undeserved dollars. For more on Verizon's and other companies dishonest business practices click here.  If a company is not willing to be honest with you, why should you be honest with them?

Friday, December 10, 2010

Pfizer - A Fiefdom for Corporate Managers?

Jeffrey B. Kindler, the now former CEO of Pfizer, had a sudden case of "retirement".  Previously I wrote that Pfizer needed to fire Kindler.  Under Kindler's so-called leadership the stock of Pfizer has been in a long term decline and the dividend was cut. The New York Times notes that "shareholders lost about 20 percent of their investment during his four-and-a-half-year tenure." So, while the stockholders suffered, Kindler was awarded bonuses for his "brilliant" leadership. Its a sad case of corporate greed when management destroys the value of a widow/orphan stock that many people depend on for their retirement income. Finally, a dim light-bulb must have been turned on resulting in the Pfizer Board becoming motivated to do something. As the Times notes "... it’s far too early to judge whether he jumped or was pushed." Either way, it is a good piece of news for the shareholders.

Regretfully, Kindler gets a paid "vacation". The Times writes "Pfizer, the world’s largest pharmaceutical company, said in a regulatory filing on Thursday that it had agreed to give Jeffrey B. Kindler a $4.5 million severance payment after his sudden retirement on Sunday as chairman and chief executive." Perhaps the most irksome aspect of his departure is that Kindler gets "... $3.2 million cash bonus for 2010 and $1.8 million under an incentive plan ..." for destroying shareholder value.

PS: We own shares of Pfizer.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Lieberman Resurrects McCarthyism???

WikiLeaks and Assange are currently the news of the day.  In fact the news today was overwhelming to digest. Especially in regards to freedom of speech, due process, and what actually would constitute a criminal offense.  TechDirt sample. And "Does Wikileaks Have a First Amendment Case Against Joe Lieberman?" by Ryan Radia and "Some thoughts on Cablegate" by Jerry Brito from the Technology Liberation Front.

What caught my attention today was a New York Times article where "In an interview with Fox News on Tuesday, Sen. Joe Lieberman suggested that the U.S. Department of Justice should charge Julian Assange with espionage and said that federal prosecutors should conduct a "very intensive inquiry" into the question of whether or not news organizations had committed a crime by publishing leaked documents obtained and distributed by WikiLeaks. ... According to a transcript of the interview, Mr. Lieberman, the chairman of the Senate's Homeland Security Committee, was asked by the Fox anchor Jenna Lee, "are other media outlets that have posted what WikiLeaks has put out there also culpable in this, and could be charged with something?"" (emphasis added).  Besides the strong suggestion for a criminal investigation, several companies such as and PayPal (a despicable company) have been strong armed into shunning WikiLeaks. Ryan Radia wrote: "Amazon’s decision to terminate Wikileaks came less than 24 hours after Amazon received a phone call from Senate Homeland Security Committee staff (at the behest of Sen. Joe Lieberman) inquiring about the firm’s relationship with Wikileaks." The Times even reports that "Columbia University warned students who hope to one day work as American diplomats to avoid posting any public comments about the recently leaked cables on the Web."

Like soap hurtful opera gossip, carefully constructed language is being created to intimidate the American people and to manipulate the truth.  Furthermore trumped up sex charges against on Assange are being manufactured.  Seems that Lieberman may be fanning the flames of false outrage to define Assange as an "enemy of the state" and  as a means of resurrecting McCarthyism. Wikipedia writes "McCarthyism is a term used to describe the making of accusations of disloyalty, subversion, or treason without proper regard for evidence.  ... During the post–World War II era of McCarthyism, many thousands of Americans were accused of being Communists or communist sympathizers and became the subject of aggressive investigations and questioning before government or private-industry panels, committees and agencies." If this crescendo continues we may soon see the reconstitution of the House Un-American Activities Committee as the Senate Un-American Activities Committee.

As an interesting aside, Glenn Beck in his show today expressed his belief that Assange is the victim of trumped-up charges.  Of course from Glenn Beck's perspective, Assange is actually a victim of some progressive left wing plot! Well at least Beck still has the capacity to understand a set-up.  A much better, no holds, case was made by Judge Napolitano who expressly stated that the Government is after Assange and that the US government, like the old USSR, is looking for evidence to persecute prosecute Assange. Judge Napolitano's presentation, I assume, will soon appear as a podcast.

To conclude, Ron Paul recently stated 'When Truth Becomes Treason We're In Big Trouble'.

Glenn Beck Gets Net-Neutrality Wrong

A big news item for today is that Senator Lieberman is essentially resurrecting McCarthyism, this quickie casual observation concerns a remark that Glenn Beck made on his show today.  Glenn was making his usual conspiracy theory diatribe against left wing progressives.  In doing so, Glenn mentioned that net-neutrality was the being promoted by the "left" as a means of censoring the news. So wrong.

It is the "right" wing corporate interests (such as the RIAA) and other content producers who seek to prevent the implementation of net-neutrality so that they can censor (manage) the flow of information.

US Copyright Czar: Expect More Domain Censorship.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Friedman on the State of the Nation

Amazing the New York Times actually has a good opinion piece. Since I rag on the Times, I might as well give them a little bit of credit. Actually the credit belongs to Thomas Friedman who wrote "From WikiChina", an opinion piece from the perspective of a hypothetical Chinese diplomat who has been outed by a WikiLeaker. Mr. Friedman has captured the essence of the state of the nation. Related tidbits in Casual Observations.

The following perceptive points are from Mr. Friedman's acting as WikiLeaker exposing the private cables from a hypothetical Chinese diplomat.

"There is a willful self-destructiveness in the air here as if America has all the time and money in the world for petty politics."

"Americans just had what they call an “election.” Best we could tell it involved one congressman trying to raise more money than the other (all from businesses they are supposed to be regulating) so he could tell bigger lies on TV more often about the other guy before the other guy could do it to him. This leaves us relieved. It means America will do nothing serious to fix its structural problems: a ballooning deficit, declining educational performance, crumbling infrastructure and diminished immigration of new talent." (emphasis added)

"The ambassador recently took what the Americans call a fast train — the Acela — from Washington to New York City. Our bullet train from Beijing to Tianjin would have made the trip in 90 minutes. His took three hours — and it was on time!" (emphasis added)

"Along the way the ambassador used his cellphone to call his embassy office, and in one hour he experienced 12 dropped calls — again, we are not making this up. We have a joke in the embassy: “When someone calls you from China today it sounds like they are next door. And when someone calls you from next door in America, it sounds like they are calling from China!”"

" ... America will lack the military means to challenge us anywhere else, particularly on North Korea, where our lunatic friends continue to yank America’s chain every six months so that the Americans have to come and beg us to calm things down."

" ... as we use our $2.3 trillion in reserves to quietly buy up U.S. factories."

The most germane quote: "But the Americans are oblivious. They travel abroad so rarely that they don’t see how far they are falling behind. Which is why we at the embassy find it funny that Americans are now fighting over how “exceptional” they are." (emphasis added) Reminds me of the amazingly perceptive line from the 2004 movie The Incredibles: "How can anyone be special if everyone is special?" It time for our elected and corporate leaders to wake up and run the US.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Casual Observations on Military Equipment/Deployment

A festering concern that I have had for many years is the development and use by the US military of extremely expensive high tech military equipment.  There is no doubt that sophisticated state of the art equipment is nifty, but is it appropriate?

An undeniably truth is that military operations result in destruction and require sustainability. The use of expensive sophisticated high tech equipment runs counter to that undeniable truth.  An "old" black humor joke was that such a war would only last 15 minutes since much of the equipment would cease to function due to an inability to maintain it since many of the technicians would be dead and replacement parts would be unavailable. Furthermore, there is the issue of cost.  Wipe-out one of our aircraft carriers and our Nation will be bankrupt.

We may have technological superiority over terrorists, but if hostilities were to break-out with opponents that have a degree of technology (such as North Korea or Iran) we may only get 15 minutes of shock and awe, but continued action may not be sustainable. If not sustainable, Vietnam would serve as an example that technological superiority cannot guarantee victory. But then again, these countries could ultimately prove to be as "hollow" as Iraq was to a traditional attack. Would China protect North Korea? I don't know.

Here are my casual thoughts concerning the design and deployment of military equipment:
  1. expendable
  2. rapidly reproduced
  3. easily maintained
  4. cheap
As two asides: Point Defense, as an anti-terrorist measure, is ineffectual and ludicrous.  The use of drones is an excellent use of equipment.