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June 30, 2002
Productivity To Keep Rates Low

Even Greenspan believes that the increase in productivity may allow the economy to grow at a 3 to 4% rate without touching off inflation. Reuters has a good summary of the situation and some pertinent quotes from Greenspan.

What this means is that we may be able to keep the cost of money cheap, while we grow the economy quickly. A significant change in the historical cost of money really could make Wired's old prediction of the long boom come true.

Posted by hoffmang at 12:37 PM

Gay Pride and Pink Pistols

Did I mention that I think the Pink Pistols are one of the best things to happen to America recently. The New York Post has an article about their participation in Gay Pride activities.

I hadn't been aware of the local significance of Pink Pistols, however.

Updated 12/24/2002 to update the link.

Posted by hoffmang at 12:26 PM

June 23, 2002
Freedom in Canada

I have noticed an interesting comparison. In the United States, we banned alcohol and learned the hard way what a dumb move that was. In point of fact now, progressive states like California allow you to buy "hard" alcohol 24/7 at grocery and drug stores while "soft" alcohol is available in 7-11s. However, Nevada is the only state in the Union where prostitution is legal.

In Canada prostitution is legal, but you can't buy a beer at the Quickie Mart...

Posted by hoffmang at 11:13 PM

June 21, 2002
Bad Boating and Bad Driving

I finally knuckled under to an itch I've had since I was 14 and bought a power boat. In so doing, I've become a regular haunt at Boatered which is an excellent message board for powerboaters to swap stories, ask and answer questions, and generally become (or brush off) less newbie skills.

Lately there was a rant about Personal Watercraft (PWCs in the lingo) and the absolute morons who drive them at the risk of life, limb, and fiberglass to those of us who drive less *ahem* maneuverable craft (I have everything except a dishwasher and a washer dryer...) It is a scary fact that most power boaters do not know anything about boating - like the rules of the road. We boaters debate the age old question of freedom - which all boaters like - versus licensing...

Anyway. This debate came front and center as my wife, 3 month old daughter, and I decided to take I-5 from San Francisco to Canada... Did I mention that people with driver's licenses can't drive anyway? I now remember why I decided to stop taking long car trips. I am absolutely forced to pass on the right to maintain the speed limit, much less the usual rest of traffic +10mph... I do not have enough memory in my Treo to count the number of morons who couldn't read the "slower traffic keep right" sign as they passed it! In one case in central Washington state, a person decided that the 3 empty lanes to the right where the nearest car was 2 miles away were not good enough.

I feel better now, but there is still that part about heading south... *rhetorical* How much does shipping a car cost again? */rhetorical*.

Posted by hoffmang at 09:58 PM

Ding Dong, The Witch is Dead

So, EMusic has finally been transferred over to the Vivendi Net USA technology team - who used to be the MP3.com tech team. Its a strange final chapter in a strange ride.

One of the funniest stories to follow up on Brett's posting above is about our first security incident. Not 12 hours after we turned the system on, the underlying machine got hacked. Luck and happenstance saved us as we planned on adding the crypto (which is kick ass btw) to the credit card database, but had decided it could wait a week. Jason Woodward happened to be on the machine at the time the hacker got aboard. He was just a "warez" dude and we got him booted before he found anything. Brett stayed up for 36 hours straight implementing the sweetest public/private key paired credit card cookied encryption system ever...

No word if it survived the switch over. I left the country. Think "blame Canada."

I'll return in a week - I'm still helping the remaining EMusic crew with a few things.

Posted by hoffmang at 09:43 PM

June 14, 2002
Quick Space Travel

Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit has a post about warp drive. I don't think that warp drive is all that practical. However, I am excited about combining the research into creating gravitational fields from electromagnetic fields combined with the theoretical possibility of and more recent research into time travel.

Gravitational research is interesting as being able to create a gravity field allows a ship to theoretically turn energy into gravitation and use existing matter and "slingshot" concepts on a whole new level. This is assuming that the gravitation to weight ratio will make sense for the current research. The only problem left is the classic Einsteinian Gemini Paradox whereby near light speed travel slows time relative to earth time such that all of an astronauts' generation have long since died before returning. Adding time travel to the mix may allow a way to side step this issue.

However, the system I describe may very well fall under a lay defenition of "warp drive."

Posted by hoffmang at 12:51 PM

June 09, 2002
Bowie on Copyright

After receiving an email from Steel69 that stated he agreed with Bowie and included the link I gave it a quick read.

Bowie has a nicely nihilistic outlook

His deal with Sony is a short-term one while he gets his label started and watches the Internet's effect on careers. "I don't even know why I would want to be on a label in a few years, because I don't think it's going to work by labels and by distribution systems in the same way," he said. "The absolute transformation of everything that we ever thought about music will take place within 10 years, and nothing is going to be able to stop it. I see absolutely no point in pretending that it's not going to happen. I'm fully confident that copyright, for instance, will no longer exist in 10 years, and authorship and intellectual property is in for such a bashing."

"Music itself is going to become like running water or electricity," he added. "So it's like, just take advantage of these last few years because none of this is ever going to happen again. You'd better be prepared for doing a lot of touring because that's really the only unique situation that's going to be left. It's terribly exciting. But on the other hand it doesn't matter if you think it's exciting or not; it's what's going to happen."

This is about like saying that no one obeys the speed limit. They don't until somebody enforces it. The fact that the Constitution creates authority for it means it will happen. It is just a little too important. All it takes is enforcement - which is not occurring today.

Update: As I think more about this, I haven't expounded enough to say what I mean. Illicit file publication (aka file "sharing" or file "trading") will never be stopped. It will be marginalized. It is a lot like the drug trade in that. Even drugs have been marginalized, but there is a dramatically important difference. Once the entertainment copyright industry gets its brain out of its behind, they can make available the "drug" that everyone wants in the first place at a price people are going to be willing to pay. Its so simple that the solution is frankly pretty boring. Not the stuff that Bowie would be cool saying...

Posted by hoffmang at 12:56 PM

June 08, 2002
What To Build at Ground Zero

Ann Coulter says that the conventional wisdom that the WTC should not be rebuilt was shattered at a recent public meeting.

Not surprisingly, Mohamed Atta loathed skyscrapers. Newsweek reported that he viewed the emergence of tall buildings in Egypt as an odious surrender to Western values. The most fitting memorial to the victims of the World Trade Center attack is to build the most breathtaking skyscraper in the world on top of Mohamed Atta's grave.

I have felt since day one that we have to rebuild the towers. Maybe with 10 more stories and all 10 of the top reserved as a memorial and museum. I do agree that we might be able to change the design now.

Posted by hoffmang at 02:42 PM

On Being an Armed Liberal

There is a good summary of why one might call oneself an armed liberal on a blog of the same name.

Not being a conservative and spending most of my time with New Democrats, I generally fall into this camp too. I agree with him pretty much across the board. However, there are two subtle differences for me. Having not hunted much because it hurt me so to have killed an animal before (a Blue Jay with a BB gun when I was a kid) I don't share the hunting hobby. I will say, though, that I do understand what he is getting at because of that experience. Clay pigeons are generally more than enough for me.

The second item I take some issue with is his comment that private ownership of firearms is mostly symbolic in the state/citizen balance. Though I fully agree that deer hunters taking on U.S. regulars is a somewhat looney proposition, I do think that the reality of citizen soldiers given the order to disarm the citizens is at least somewhat chilled by private firearms ownership. I know quite a few reservists and active duty folks and the reality is that the fact that the populace is armed keeps those soldiers in check to some degree. The risk added to the tradition of only following legal orders is a very effective deterrent. Maybe this supports the symbolic concept, but the reality of the tool helps dissuade the average GI Joe from being interested in training their weapons on the populace.

Posted by hoffmang at 02:10 PM

Infectious Etiology

Etiology, for those non med types (including myself) is the cause of a condition or disease. Eric Raymond of Armed and Dangerous links to a fascinating story in The Atlantic about one scientist's theory that most all of the current major killers will turn out to be caused by bacteria or virii.

The basic theory is that since evolutionary pressure is still on the human animal, any truly genetic disease would be selected out of the population. If it isn't, then it is very likely to be caused by a contagion. The thought is that in the same way that ulcers, which common wisdom as recently as 10 years ago had pegged as being caused by stress and spicy food, are actually caused by a specific bacteria. Look out cancer, heart disease, Alzheimers and more. The article even analyzes the odd dichotomy of the rate of occurrence of homosexuality as against the evolutionary pressures.

Posted by hoffmang at 12:03 AM

June 07, 2002
The New New Economy

There are two axioms I hear being bandied about in the vast wasteland of post .com boom America.

1. Being first and spending big was a massive failure.

2.The only real impact the Internet has on the enterprise is to shrink profits by removing channel friction and thus has little reward for investors.

Business 2.0 runs through Point 1 and Point 2 is laid out here.

The problem with both of these is that I think they are patently wrong. I hold up Amazon and Ebay as posterchildren.

Amazon was first, focused on their consumers, outspent everyone, and is the defacto brand in online retail. Is there anyone else? The offline stores just can�t play and truly good marketing explains the pitfalls of trying to take an offline brand and successfully extend it online. Its not about the website or the features or the functionality, it�s the brand (I however do not mean to discount features and functionality, however that is not where the barrier to entry exists.) What makes Intel better than AMD? Brand. In that case they are on a level playing field by being in the same market. Last I checked, Amazon is looking like it just might survive and maybe even thrive. I'm not the only person thinking along these lines.

As to the idea that all the net does is drive lower margins for all, I do think there is some truth to that thought. However, Ebay shows that that is fine and dandy. Ebay makes about 3% on the sale of goods. Of course from a revenue perspective they did the right thing and ignore the actual value of the auction and book only the revenue from their part. They�ve focused on their consumers, ignored the �common knowledge� that Yahoo, AOL, et al. were going to take away what they had. They built a high margin business on a low margin one. It has no barriers to entry � other than the fact that it is better to use Ebay because everyone else does. They even have pricing power as is shown by their recent rate increase.

There are tremendous opportunities out there to make gobs of profit. The next logical area that this will occur in is Entertainment, once the current management gives in or leaves. Of course the key in all of this is giving consumers a valuable service in exactly the form and function they want while trying to cater even more to them.

�Me Too� retail is going to have a problem (Pets.com anyone?) in the online world and much as Wal-Mart took all the profit out of retail for everyone but Wal-Mart, Amazon and a few others are going to do the same online. However, innovative models that actually offer the customer something new or in a better fashion are going to be hard to beat. Blockbuster is going to be bedeviled by Netflix. Paypal is going to start causing banks and credit card companies to loose sleep � though in that space I think First Data and others are smart enough to just pull out the war chest and stay in the game.

It is awfully bleak in the marketplace of ideas right now. Luckily its not the likelihood of new Internet based ideas succeeding that is where the bleakness is coming from. Now if I could only figure out which sector of the market is going to recover first...

Posted by hoffmang at 01:15 AM

June 06, 2002
ReplayTV Users Sue for Declaratory Judgement

ReplayTV Users lead by Craig of Craig's List fame have sued "Hollywood" with the help of EFF for a declaratory judgement that use of ReplayTV is not an infringement of copyright law.

This follows along a theory that I had that one could sue as a class for illegal restraint of trade and anti-trust violation in regards to the DVD CSS scheme.Customers are having DVD player prices artificially inflated by the copyright misuse forcing consumer electronics companies to license and include studio approved technology. In addition, DVD prices are artificially inflated by the force inclusion of region coding in violation of the first sale doctrine and anti trust law. Maybe I should give Joe K a call and see if we can get something started...

Update: After reading the complaint, I agree with it 100% except this prayer for judgement:

71.1.e. Each Plaintiff, as an owner of a ReplayTV 4000 unit, can lawfully use
the Ethernet features provided with the unit for the purpose of
facilitating the viewing by one or more specific individuals of any
television program broadcast free so long as said Plaintiff does not
receive any compensation or direct commercial benefit thereby;

This comes right after a prayer for judgement that those within the household have the right to use the ethernet capability to view recorded shows regardless of location which I agree with is within the scope of fair use. However, 71.1.e. is going to run smack up against a copyright owners exclusive right to publish an owned work. Since we are talking about the protected item in its entirety and generally a lack of education use this one prayer for judgement will not do well under the 4 prong fair use test.

The test is 1. Character of use as to commercial or educational value, 2. Nature of the work itself, 3. The amount of the work in question, 4. The effect of the use on the potential value of the work. This prayer for judgement can only really hang its hat on hard to prove economic questions under 2 and 4. For more on Fair Use try this summary From The Publishing Law Center.

One little nit to add to this. A lot of Hollywood lawyers denegrate the concept of fair use and state that it is not a right but a defense to copyright infringment. This is certainly not what Congress thinks as there are multiple references to "the right of fair use" in Title 17. See Title 17 Chapter 1 Section 108 (f) (4) and Title 17 Chapter 12 Section 1201 (c), and Title 17 Chapter 1 Section 107.

It is also very important to note that Section 107 uses the term "such as" to describe types of fair use.

Posted by hoffmang at 03:08 PM

June 04, 2002
The Tahoe Land Supreme Court Case

Steven Landsburg of Slate has a very simple economic analysis of the Supreme's ruling. Put simply, he states that the logic that allowing land owners to sue for the value they are deprived of would be too expensive to local government and would thus stop them from regulating is exactly what should be going on. If a regulation is too costly for government, then it is too costly period - since the government is us.

We should keep reminding government employees that they work for us...

Posted by hoffmang at 10:09 PM

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