Ben Langhinrichs

July, 2008
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Civility in critiquing the ideas of others is no vice. Rudeness in defending your own ideas is no virtue.


Thu 31 Jul 2008, 11:50 AM
Happy Birthday to my oldest son, Nate, who turns 18 today!  

(Nate doesn't like as much fuss as my daughter, but if he wants to poetic shout-out and lets me know, it can be arranged)

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Mon 28 Jul 2008, 03:27 PM
For years, environmentalists and defense hawks alike have bemoaned our reliance on foreign oil, with good reason, I might add.  What to do, what to do?  Of course, when gasoline prices went way up this spring, we found out that the laws of supply and demand had not been repealed after all.  Today, on CNN.com, I saw Drivers cut commutes by 9.6B miles, which describes the impressive decline in miles driven, new records of mass transit riders, and many people finding many creative ways to reduce their use of gas.  The only downside, according to the article, was that gas tax receipts were way below what was needed to maintain the highways, not to even think about repairing the bridges.

So, having finally figured out (as if we didn't know) how to lower gas usage, but still having the issue of lower gas tax revenues, why is it so completely predictable what politicians would suggest?  That's right, lower the price of gas, both by increasing supplies and taking a "gas tax holiday". 

And what happens if they are successful?  The price of gas goes down, and people go back to using more, but we have even fewer gas tax receipts.  Sigh!

Copyright © 2008 Genii Software Ltd.

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Mon 28 Jul 2008, 10:40 AM
It is interesting to see how good companies have gotten at "spin", learning perhaps from the politicians.  Google announced that they had indexed one trillion web pages.  Or did they?  If you believe Google's Index Reaches a Trillion URLs or any of a number of similar stories, you'll think they do.  Even if you see Google's official blog, there is a post titled "We knew the web was big..." which seems to imply this, with the cleverly worded quote:
The first Google index in 1998 already had 26 million pages, and by 2000 the Google index reached the one billion mark. ,,, Recently, even our search engineers stopped in awe about just how big the web is these days -- when our systems that process links on the web to find new content hit a milestone: 1 trillion (as in 1,000,000,000,000) unique URLs on the web at once!
But look at that carefully again.  They are talking apples and oranges.  The first two statistics talk about how many pages are in their index.  The latter quote is about how many unique URLs are on the web.  Later in the article, they even 'fess up, once they are comfortable that most people won't keep reading:
We don't index every one of those trillion pages -- many of them are similar to each other, or represent auto-generated content similar to the calendar example that isn't very useful to searchers.
Well, you might ask yourself, what difference does that make?  The clue is found in the CNN story, Ex-Googlers launch rival search engine, which talks about Cuil (pronounced "cool"), which is a new search engine which boasts that its index "spans 120 billion Web pages".

So, which index is bigger?  The court of public opinion will now say "Google has a trillion pages, while Cull only has a tenth of that", but we have absolutely no way of knowing.  Cull may well have more, which its owners imply, but they are constrained by confidentiality agreements to not say what they know, and even they don't know for certain since they left Google a while ago.  But Google has managed to start a meme that will be hard to beat.

OK, maybe they didn't learn from politicians.  Perhaps they learned from the "seat wars" between Microsoft and IBM.  

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Fri 11 Jul 2008, 05:29 PM
On the occasion of my oldest daughter's 22nd birthday, here is a shout-out of sorts...

Happy Birthday!


The Birthday Gal
Darling daughter, oh so pretty, living far off in the city,
Asked me to write something witty, witty for her birthday treat.
Asked me with her way disarming (she can be so very charming),
"Please, Dad, won't you write me something, something cool, but still discreet!"
So my poet's hat I'm wearing as I stare at this blank sheet,
What to write that's short but sweet?

I could write about her beauty, how the guys shout "Hiya, cutie!"
When she walks out on the street.  But I'd prob'ly be dead meat.
Though she surely likes attention, she might have some apprehension
If her looks I were to mention, mention that she looks so neat.
It might lead to my ascension, 'less I beat a fast retreat.
What to write and not get beat?

Maybe if I said she's brainy, comes up with ideas so zany
She could work for Vice-Prez Cheney, if her views weren't so... elite.
If she weren't so leftish leaning (and viewed him not so demeaning)
Guess she'll not pass White House screening 'till a Dem's in the hot seat.
She'll not work inside the system 'till regime change is complete.
It's too soon to walk that beat.

Perhaps talk of social graces, how she matches names to faces
Not the way my mind disgraces me when some old friend I meet.
She is always cool, collected, as each face is recollected.
('Twill be handy if elected, if she wins a Senate seat)
But such talk might be too boastful, might be seen as indiscreet.
What to write that's not conceit?

Oh, my mind's in such a tizzy, I am starting to feel dizzy
And my thoughts are getting whizzy, I must stop and plead defeat.
There is nothing that I can say that won't cause my daughter's dismay
There is sure to be hell to pay if these thoughts I start to bleat.
If I don't soon cease this bleating, if these thoughts I don't delete.
Me'thinks silence is discreet.



* In a format best known as that used in Edgar Allen Poe's "The Raven".
The rhyme scheme is 
ABCBBb DBEBBb ... where the B is trochaic octameter cataletic and the b is trochaic tetrameter cataletic and all other lines are trochaic tetrameter acataletic. Lots of internal rhyming.

Copyright © 2008 Genii Software Ltd.

Wed 9 Jul 2008, 10:22 AM
To start with, T. Boone Pickens is not one of my favorite people.  I don't much like his politics.  I don't like a lot of things about him.  And also, obviously, he wants to make money off this plan.  I don't blame him.  I think alternative energy will be one of the driving economic forces of the next century.  But I also think his plan has some merit, and I also think anybody willing to seriously push wind energy in the U.S. should be taken seriously.  So, put your cynicism on hold for a few minutes, click on the image below and listen to what he has to say.  Let me know in the comments what you think, because I know you are all a bunch of smart people who may have different perspectives on this.



Copyright © 2008 Genii Software Ltd.