Articles, Page 23 of 206

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12 May 11

I Hate Wall Street Traders F*$&ing The Economy

So I’ve ranted and raved before about the idiocy of Wall Street’s activities creating false prices for oil. The specific take away is with regards to market making where “the purchasing whims of a single entity can have global impact on a product’s price – even when its not ‘real’ demand” and that single entity’s activity is exacerbated by market bandwagoning. Nearly three years ago today, strategists described the situation of 2008’s oil run up quite succinctly, “The guys who screwed up the mortgage markets are bringing their awesome skill sets to bear on physical commodity markets.”

12 May 11

Mythbusters: Self Propelled Sailboat

Last night, the Mythbusters tested the myth of propelling a sailboat with an on-board fan. At first, the myth seemed busted when the scale model sat still thanks to Newton’s Third Law. But, as is usual Mythbuster style, the team decided to ramp up the test to show that it didn’t matter how big the fan was, the boat would remain still – but it didn’t. Using a model plane engine followed by a model plane ducted fan jet, the Mythbusters were able to get their scaled contraptions moving (albeit inefficiently). This test was finally confirmed using a swamp boat with the fan turned backwards. On a windless day, blowing the 60+mph wind into their sail resulted in forward motion of about 3mph.

09 May 11

Military's Super Double Secret Squirrel Helicopter

During the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound, one of the military’s helicopters was lost. While that normally wouldn’t be of much interest, speculators looking at the wreckage photographs have noticed it was something unusual. Aviation experts believe it was a heavily modified Blackhawk UH-60. According to Jane’s Defence Weekly, “had this particular helicopter not crashed, we still would have no idea of its existence.” Many elements of its appearance bear similarity to technology found on the RAH-66 Comanche. First unveiled in 1995, the Comanche was canceled in 2004 to divert funds towards the National Guard and Reserve forces. The vehicle featured a number of technological breakthroughs with regards to making a stealth helicopter. Considering also the raid was a coordinated effort between the Navy SEALs and the CIA, helicopter technologies from the mythical CIA black helicopters may also have been at play.1

07 May 11

Hydraulic Fracturing in Marcellus Shale: Energy Boom or Environmental Bust?

Open a newspaper in the Marcellus Shale region of Pennsylvania, New York, Maryland, West Virginia and part of Virgina and you will likely find an article on the hydraulic fracturing that is used to drill these wells. Politicians see this as a new ‘Boom’, while environmental groups are calling for a moratorium on drilling. This article will explore the hydraulic fracturing process, the reason for the excitement over the Marcellus Shale region, the dangers involved, and the public reaction to the process.

06 May 11

Malware Expanding Its Horizons

The focus of malware authors used to be almost solely restricted to the Windows domain as the number of Microsoft systems vastly dwarfed any of its competitors. However, as the popularity of alternative platforms grows, the criminal return on targeting them increases. Only a few days ago, a kit emerged for miscreants to automatically develop malware binaries that take advantage of OS X users similar to the Zeus kit. Another attack against OS X machines came in the form of the highly polished Mac Defender trojan which portrays itself as a security tool finding all sorts of non-existent malware on a system in order to fool users into purchasing it (and giving away their credit card information). Lastly, a new botnet was discovered written in Java seemingly to make cross-platform ownership a reality.

05 May 11

I Hate Drivers That Tailgate

Pure and simple – I hate people that tailgate me when I’m driving. There are certainly some creative ways of dealing with them … what are some of yours?

03 May 11

Birth Certificate Silliness

It’s amazing to think the birth certificate controversy has plodded onward as long as it has. Recently, the White House released the so-called long form (pdf) to put the matter to rest at last. Despite completely deflating the birther’s sails, Trump managed to congratulate himself anyway stating, “I’m very proud of myself because I’ve accomplished something that nobody else has been able to accomplish.” Meanwhile, President Obama explained the decision to release this document despite having already submitting the short form during the election, “We’re not going to be able to solve our problems if we get distracted by sideshows and carnival barkers.” Incredibly, many of the birthers continue to be skeptical in disbelief.

02 May 11

Required Activities For Forthcoming Credibility

What is it that makes certain figures appear more authoritative than others? The answer will undoubtedly reveal a generational gap between schools of thought. For instance, while many might look at the activity as less than professional, a small study amongst younger academics revealed that students associated greater credibility with professors that Tweeted1 about their social activity versus those with only a scholarly twist (or none at all). The Baby Boomers had to deal with the Generation X-ers diminished view of authority and corporate stodginess. Is the rising generation of workers going to force management at all levels to open up to social networking?

02 May 11

What's Next After bin Laden?

News on the street is that UBL (Osama bin Laden) was killed by Seal Team 6. According to reports, the location in Abbottabad was identified by the CIA after years of monitoring UBL’s couriers. UBL was residing in a mansion-like facility just outside of Islamabad, Pakistan. As a point of political embarrassment to the Pakistanis that have long claimed to “be doing everything to assist,” the facility was only a few football field lengths away from the Pakistani Military Academy (their version of West Point). When the intelligence was solid, President Obama authorized the raid whereupon forces were inserted rapidly by helicopter. The entire operation took less than forty minutes with no losses to American forces. As public enemy number one, UBL had a long history of conflict with the United States dating back into the 1990’s with attempted World Trade Center bombings, embassy attacks, etc. Although the action will inevitably stir conspiracy theorists, UBL’s body was buried at sea shortly after the raid. Reasons behind the action were to abide by Islamic tradition of burial with a single day (so as not to incite further violence) and to prevent any single location from becoming a shrine to extremists.

01 May 11

Justice denied us

I am sure that none of us here are going to cry over the death of Ossama bin Laden, but there may be something else to be sorry about here.

We gave him a death in battle, along with his comrades, when they were trapped by a superior force. That is a situation any soldier can find himself in and it is an honorable way to die. I don’t think he deserved that.

The USA did not bring him to justice. We don’t administer justice using machine guns and missiles from helicopters. We presumed him guilty, judged him without a trial and then gave him a death in battle. By so doing we lost any hope of ever bringing him to justice.

28 Apr 11

Hotel Motivations: Environment, Economics, or e-Facade?

If you’ve stayed in a hotel in the past year or two, you’ve likely noticed some new signage in your room – a placard next to the bed or posted in the bathroom asking you to join the hotel in their efforts to save water by washing your sheets or towels only as needed, instead of everyday.

My first reaction to these was twofold: First, this is a great idea! It presents me with an opportunity to give up something about which I care little (not having my towels and sheets washed everyday) for something about which I care deeply (minimizing waste). Second, I was sure the hotel cared less about the environment than they did about saving money.

25 Apr 11

Music Purchase Log: 2011 Q1

Music I bought in the first quarter of 2011. (And you thought I’d given this up…)

  • Anberlin – New Surrender – I’ve been one step away from getting one of Anberlin’s records for a while. I’m glad I finally pulled the trigger.
  • Bayside – Killing Time – Another consistently catchy emo album. (Er… Am I not supposed to say “emo” anymore?)
  • Bear Hands – Burning Bush Supper Club – Crime Pays is insanely catchy, and I like track 9. I could do without the rest.
  • Blackout Pact, The – Hello Sailor – Oldschool emo ala Hot Water Music … with a little Promise Ring sprinkled in.
  • Decemberists, The – The King is Dead – I could have gone for another (or ten) Hazards of Love, but it this is still a solid album. Be warned: It’s on the country side of things.
18 Apr 11

Amateurs Watch X-37b

Amateurs are already pretty good at finding small objects in space. They’ve gotten to the point where they’re regularly finding the government’s über secret space projects as well. Nearly everything is cataloged and tracked through public databases feeding from government data feeds and amateur sleuthing to the point that nearly anyone with the right equipment can catch glimpses of satellites and other vehicles, to include the X-37b during operational flights. For those that don’t remember, the X-37b began as a NASA project to be a lifeboat for the ISS but was later consumed by the DoD as an autonomous spacecraft.

15 Apr 11

Autotune And The Music Industry

Sometimes one wonders whether many of today’s pop stars are really talented at all or whether they’re just successful creations of promoters, record labels and computer technology. After all, in many cases artists don’t even write their own songs but are chosen by a label to cover something created by legions of songwriters. Modern technology has provided algorithms for fingerprinting music such that attributes and metrics can predict the popularity of a song. Regular folks use that technology in the form of Pandora Internet Radio and Shazaam. But another piece of technology that is often overlooked is Auto-Tune by Antares. The software was designed to fix pitch imperfections and correct other nuances of vocal performances – it’s essentially the singer’s equivalent of models getting airbrushed to perfection. It’s also been used to deliberately add warble and electronic tone to voices as used intentionally by Cher’s Believe … but also seems to be used endlessly by modern pop artists like Britney Spears. Ever wonder why live performances either sound horrible or feature obvious lip-syncing? So all record producers have to do now is tap from their supply of song-writers, practically synthesize the appropriate beats to match an algorithm’s fingerprint, hopefully get a pretty face and auto-tune her voice. Is it any wonder we get subjected to horrible music like Rebecca Black’s Friday with such fixed rhythms and blatant autotuning?

14 Apr 11

CNN ... Useful or Useless?

CNN established its bona fides as a go-to news agency two decades ago with coverage Operation Desert Storm. The station was everywhere, inundating Americans with news in airports, hotel lobbies, miniature screens on elevators, you name it. But lately, the content delivered by CNN’s coverage really begs one to ask how their priority queues are set up. Simply looking at their website, nearly every story now comes as a result of iReports or Twitter feeds instead of journalists on assignment. Even when they provided real coverage of imminent news like the Japanese tsunami or the last minute budget dealings of Congress, CNN quickly fell back on crowd-sourcing for information.

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