A great book review about technology

Via slashdot.org, here is a New Yorker book review about the history of technology. It’s very well written and the point it makes, which comes from the book being reviewed, is that we are surrounded by technology of all vintages, not all of which we are consciously thinking of as technology. How about an old teapot that makes a really good cup of tea? Cutlery? The tried-and-true method of executing a condemned person by hanging? Did you know that the U.S. military is finding horses really useful in operations such as the current ones in Afghanistan? All in all, this is a fascinating essay, well worth reading.

Movement against US News and World Report’s ranking of colleges

Not a moment too soon. A good article in the New York Times about colleges getting together to agree to not participate in the rankings any longer. Instead, they pledged to develop their own framework for comparing colleges and universities in collaboration with other such institutions. Now, if only they could do it without an over-reliance on easily measurable variables… How about a bit of qualitative judgment and student reports instead of counting acceptance rates and publication records, all of which can be easily gamed? (How can you game acceptance rates? Easy. Attract a whole lot of applicants and then reject most of them. How can you game a faculty’s publication record? Easy. Push faculty to publish as many articles as possible, and watch thoughtless, really narrowly focused articles appear by the ton in a constant stream of academic journals sprouting all over the place.)

Webmaster headaches

Two sites I manage were inaccessible today. Apparently the web hosting company was under a DDOS attack. By mid-day the situation was corrected, but I did not really recover peace of mind or productivity for the rest of the day. Here’s hoping that the wild and criminal element on the internet will be contained. Who wants to see the internet drown in malware excrement?

Tyler Cowen reviews The Black Swan

From Tyler Cowen’s review of Taleb’s The Black Swan:

Taleb does insist on the originality of his work—regarding it as a black swan, of course—and refers to opposing views as the “GIF: Great Intellectual Fraud.” Nonetheless, the idea of a Power Law as a deeply skewed and asymmetric distribution is well-known, and the statistical notion of “ergodicity” (roughly, the idea that the initial state of a system does not predict its end state very well) has been around for a long time. In 1921, economist Frank Knight drew a distinction between unquantifiable and radical uncertainty and the risk of flipping a coin or playing a roulette wheel. If these ideas have not always been part of the mainstream, it is because they can quickly prove intractable, not because they have been suppressed by an arrogant scientific community.

Granted, Cowen says a lot of good things about the book, but I still find this paragraph the most interesting. I guess it’s because it justifies me in not finishing The Black Swan. Taleb can’t argue I’m a participant in the Great Intellectual Fraud, as I don’t engage in research that involves statistical distributions and prediction.


Major mobile phone confusion happens if you leave it in the room safe while it’s on.
Now that I figured out how to fix it, time to post. I will also try to upload a photo from the room, which was an unexpected upgrade to a much bigger and nicer one then what we had booked. It seems that the hotel is not full; maybe people knew the overcast and rainy weather forecast better than what we got by googling “weather Bermuda”.
But Bermuda is full of happy colorful birds and fragrant flowers and our mood is already appropriately relaxed.
Maybe another post tonight. Now our breakfast will be arriving any minute.
Hard to post… maybe no more from Bermuda…