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Posts Tagged ‘Wall Street Journal’

Well after more than a year without posting – here goes!  As per my habit, this post is in reference to an article I just read.  And equally as usual it is from the Wall Street Journal – it is from the WSJ’s “random” section on the bottom of the front page.

The article is called, “A Youngster’s Bright Idea Is Something New Under the Sun”, and is about a 13-year old boy named Aidan Dwyer who won a science competition this past summer based on an idea he had about placing solar panels in the same array as leaves on a tree – hypothesizing that maybe there is a benefit to following nature’s design.

Aidan was a winner in the competition, showing that a leaf array of solar panels produced more energy… but what is interesting has been what happened afterward.  A minor uproar came up when it was discovered that Aidan had measured the wrong electrical output from the panels (voltage alone, rather than power which is combo of voltage and current) thus leading to suspicion of his results and the idea in general.

Two things stood out to me in this article.  First, the Journal talks about the response from the internet – “bad science” and “impossible nonsense” were some of the choice quotes the article pointed to.  Scientists – both amateur and professional seem to have a nasty streak .  He is a thirteen after all and just had an idea he was encouraged to explore, but I guess that doesn’t matter to many people.  Get something wrong and you are toast on the interweb.  But Aidan has also been praised for his thinking, and has been invited to speak at numerous conferences, so it hasn’t been all bad.

But the second, and most interesting, thing that piqued me was this quote from assistant professor Jan Kleissl from UCSD about Aidan’s plan for a revised experiment:

I’m certain that he will not find that his arrangement is better.  I think it’s a romantic ideal that nature has many lessons for us, and there are a few cases where this is true, but in the majority of cases we could teach nature, in a way, how to be better, faster.

Wow – how nice of Dr. Kleissl to offer nature the benefit of a “few cases” where it is better than our scientists.  I’d be very curious to hear Kleissl discuss these areas.  Have we improved upon the speed and power of lightning?  Have we developed a self-contained ecosystem on the scale of say… the ocean?   Have we developed a robot with five senses as acute as a human?  Holy shite balls this seems ludicrous.

Is it just me?

P.S.  Feels good to be back.  Sorry for the layoff, and hope I can continue to post from time to time.

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Almost a year ago I wrote a post about Toyota and the troubles they were having with recalls and sudden acceleration problems.  The post and ensuing comments almost entirely dealt with the issue as a proxy for capitalism in general.  The Wall Street Journal reports today that the NHTSA has released its findings from a 10-month study (completed jointly with NASA) and what was its key conclusion?

The NASA/NHTSA study highlighted a delicate issue for auto makers and regulators: The vast majority of sudden acceleration incidents studied were determined to be the result of driver mistakes. The NHTSA said it will continue to study measures aimed at reducing the risks of unintended acceleration caused by drivers mistaking one pedal for another. (emphasis added)

I would be curious to know what that number or percentage is, because the article is clear to point out that sticking pedals and sliding floor mats were still responsible for some – but “vast majority” is pretty heavy language that would indicate that maybe Toyota was not the evil scourge of capitalist greed that people feared, and that maybe there was a bit of a witch-hunt put on for the media.  How about this from the Transportation Secretary in the same article:

At a Congressional hearing last year, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood had suggested that consumers should stop driving their Toyotas. On Tuesday, he said: “We feel that Toyotas are safe to drive.”

That’s a convenient swing.  Meanwhile Toyota has been dealt huge losses from the lost consumer confidence, that turns out to have been misguided by runaway stories and a deluge of what must be frivolous lawsuits.  To be fair, the article states that there are groups that reject the findings in the report… so there is the possibility that this story could come back again full circle.  I don’t pretend to have a solution (or even to want a solution) to this day and ages immediate news spread – perhaps that is just a cost of doing business.  But I would be amazed if somehow the news spreads as quickly or furiously about the results of the findings?  And that is the point of this post – who will apologize?  The people who sued when they knew (or at least later learned) that they were at fault?  Will the newspapers print bold headlines declaring Toyota safe?  Will the congressional members who called for Toyota executives to be grilled on national television say sorry on that same stage?  Don’t hold your breath.

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…fun when they are actually doing something cute – but usually just crying, and shitting all over.

Okay, just kidding… unions are never cute.

My long absence from writing was re-awoken this morning upon seeing the picture below in the Wall Street Journal.  The French, if you didn’t know, are embroiled in major strikes because of government proposed changes to the retirement age from 60 to 62 (sacrebleu!).  Gas stations have run dry as refinery workers protest, workers blocked the road to the airport causing travelers to walk on foot (see the sideshow in the above link for more photos of fires, trash, and general mayhem).  And why is the government proposing the age increase?  Because the pension is unfunded and people are living longer and taxes are already stifling the countries economy.  But this would only make sense to the sane – and un-entitled.

I know how to use colors in my sign!

The thing that annoys me most about unions (and this is primarily the ones overseas, because thank goodness ours don’t pull this crap) is how their intent of making everyone suffer until their needs are met is the primary concern.  And this is where the baby comparison comes in.  How does shutting down gas stations that your fellow Frenchmen use help your cause?  Or making people walk to the airport?  Imagine being at a restaurant and someone not getting the salad they ordered and so they take everyone hostage.  It’s infuriating.  And it’s the same thing we witnessed in Greece.  A country is drowning in the ocean, and the people want it to rub suntan lotion on their back while they sleep on their stomachs (bad analogy – or brilliant?).  I’ve never understood how this mentality gathers any support.  Hundreds of subway workers are unhappy so they strand thousands and reduce the productivity of a city to near nothing.  Unions are the only group who’s mob behavior is celebrated – except for the mob that is, with whom Americans are fascinated.

The unions in Europe are worse than America, because they have been bred on a welfare state mentality for far too long.  And that is why I am fiercely anti-union (see here, here, here, here, and here if you don’t believe me).  I don’t want to see our amazing country ever reduced to a spectacle such as this.  Thankfully our unions simply picket and use the same bumper sticker from the 1920’s, rather than set fire to things.  But that day may come – if you don’t discipline the baby, you get a rotten kid.

So what is there for us to do?  Is it possible to protest the protesters?  Well, we have but the government will come around on their side.  We choose to buy from Toyota or other car makers who’s non-union cars are more pleasing and affordable for us – and the government bails out GM.  We put our kids in private school and ask for our tax money back and are laughed at.  We ask for a Walmart in our town, and the city council creates rules about square footage.  At least for the time being we can shop at Trader Joe’s which pays better than union grocers – but, hey that still won’t stop unions from picketing them.

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I’m sure many of you have been tracking the WikiLeaks controversy of releasing military documents that many claim endangers soldiers on the field in the middle east.  There was an interesting article in the Wall Street Journal yesterday, How WikiLeaks Keeps It’s Funding Secret, which as the titles states is about the lack of openness in where WikiLeaks gets their funding.

I find this very interesting.  Coming on the heels of my post about privacy, I want to be sure to state that I think people that donate money should be allowed anonymity if they please.  It just seems entirely contrary to the nature of the website and their stated goals to be so secretive:

WikiLeaks is a multi-jurisdictional public service designed to protect whistleblowers, journalists and activists who have sensitive materials to communicate to the public. Since July 2007, we have worked across the globe to obtain, publish and defend such materials, and, also, to fight in the legal and political spheres for the broader principles on which our work is based: the integrity of our common historical record and the rights of all peoples to create new history.

What if a journalist wanted to know if a donor was perhaps someone who could benefit from the illegal release of someones information?  I guess the fundamental difference is that they are not a government, and in their minds governments are the only ones with secrets that need to be outed.

I actually support anything that can help a whistle-blower… I think that is an important protection to have to help get needed information to the public.  But blowing the whistle on your company for dumping chemical waste is not illegal.  Releasing classified documents is.  Ironically, I think the existence and exposure of a site like WikiLeaks can actually lead to a mentality of more secrecy and more restriction as entities go to greater lengths to make sure that information that legally should be protected – is!

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