Posts

Showing posts from May, 2008

Here we go again: bombing Iran?

Reports in the Asia Times that the Bush administration is getting ready to bomb the Revolutionary Guard HQ back to the
stone age this summer.

Where diplomacy fails, before recurring to bombs, I say give these clowns high-speed internet access, a good English dictionary, 4 season's of the OC TV-show on DVD, and give time 2 generations to wash out. The kids will learn poky english and engage the wider community. Respect grows out of education and communication. The grand kids, will be fluent familiar and respectful of a "one-world-culture" while fully immersed in their local customs.

And most of this current silliness might be gone. Swallowed up in the great unifier and equalizer that is the Internet. One-world, One official 2nd language (english) and then 1000 local dialects as first language (yes, including French, Spanish and Mandarin)

The impact of the internet to the software industry was huge, JBoss a part of it, many industries are impacted today (yes, the …

New drivetrain on the Tesla... but still waiting

Image
I am number 215 in line for the Tesla EV car. It was supposed to be delivered in February. The projection now is more like December. Hey! it is still within the same year! I believe! I want to believe!

Truth be told, when I visited their shop, I was a bit scared. It felt more like a silicon valley hacker den than a real car factory. I wanted less US hacker, more German engineer. I mean after-all I am going to be driving this thing and the fact that they call their drive-train version 1.5 and a lot of the car is still 1.0 is enough to send a shiver down my software engineers spine.

I have resigned myself to the fact that this product is highly experimental, potentially harmful until proven otherwise, and is more a "prototype" even in its final version. I still can't wait to get my hands on the car, I am a willing beta tester.

The news is about coverage from the CTO of Tesla around the gear box. Basically it is a "one speed" car with a new gear-box. It used…

Dumb and Dumber: the US Energy non-policy

From NYTimes Richard Friedman writes a scathing op-ed in "Dumb as we wanna be"

He bashes everyone on the political spectrum calling it a "political brownout" and a "disaster"

Dumb: on McCain Clinton

The McCain-Clinton gas holiday proposal is a perfect example of what energy expert Peter Schwartz of Global Business Network describes as the true American energy policy today: “Maximize demand, minimize supply and buy the rest from the people who hate us the most.”

But here’s what’s scary: our problem is so much worse than you think. We have no energy strategy. If you are going to use tax policy to shape energy strategy then you want to raise taxes on the things you want to discourage — gasoline consumption and gas-guzzling cars — and you want to lower taxes on the things you want to encourage — new, renewable energy technologies. We are doing just the opposite.


Dumber: Democrats vs Bush

The Democrats wanted the wind and solar credits to be paid for by taking away…

Mathematics: Can +, x and ^ operands be generalized to higher orders?

Ok so here is one mathematical oddity that has me puzzled for some time, well 3 years to be precise. Yesterday I finally decided to take a pen and a paper and see if I could make any headway to put myself to sleep, here is what I wrote down.

Definition of Operands at degree n: OP(n)

OP(0): a OP(0) b == a + b

Recursion:
a OP(n) b == a OP(n-1) a OP(n-1) ... OP(n-1) a (b times)


you then have

OP(0): by definition it is +

Operand zero is the sum (by definition)

OP(1): a OP(1) B = a OP(0) a OP(0)... OP(0) a (b times) = a + a ... + a ( b times) = a x b , which implies OP(1) == x

Operand one is the multiplication

OP(2): a OP(2) B = a OP(1) a OP(1) ... OP(1) a (b times) = a x a ... x a (b times) = a ^ b, which imples OP(2) == ^

Operand two is the power operation


So in other words with this definition of operands we can trivially rebuild the 3 familiar operands (+, x , ^).

Let's go on and look at Operand 3:

OP(3): a OP(3) b = a OP(2) a OP(2) ... OP(2) a (b times) = a ^ a ^ ....^ a (b times)

for e…

Information Bias: Bear understanding

This morning I think I understood the concept of "information bias" as it relates to me.

When a news item hits, one is inclined to discard pieces of information that do not fit a preconceived understanding and will readily scan and integrate those that do. Furthermore, one will interpret neutral coverage with "rose/dark tinted lenses" according to disposition and preconceived notions (half full/half empty phenomena).

I always try to keep an open mind to data and news, but this morning I realized I suffer from it. I readily UNDERSTAND a news item that speaks to a conclusion I have already reached. A supporting data point immediately fits the theory and I can grasp its meaning and significance by just scanning the article, I don't need to THINK. For example this morning the FT had coverage on foreclosures increasing the glut and putting more downward pressure on house prices. Typical self-reinforcing feedback loop.

However a data point that does not fit a theo…

Battlestar Galactica: BSG and me

Image
Frak, frak, frak, motherfrakker, clusterfrak, frakker, frakked up, frak me, frakkin' A, fraktard--lately I find myself employing the word and its derivatives at the most inopportune times. There's a certain ambiguity about the expression, which combines the childish glee of saying a bad word, with a sneaking suspicion of massive un-coolness on the level of somebody's middle-aged midwestern aunt saying "Oh, for cry out."

My husband and I finally succumbed to the a) the plastic fantastic life: traveling to beautiful exotic places, interacting with beautiful, important people, in the course of carrying out beautiful, important work, ahem...b) taking a break from running around with the kids for our nightly Netflix date (don't call us after 9) of seasons-old programming from our new favorite, newly discovered TV series, recommended by friends: BSG (Battlestar Galactica)

My French-born husband wants to know if "House" could be a cult classic. I try to expl…

LarryE: smartest man in Silicon Valley?

Image
This weekend's Barron's comes with LarryE face plastered on the cover with this title " The smartest man in Silicon Valley". LarryE reminds me of Zoolander. It's the face, the expression, the same old mock turtleneck. This man has only one facial expression and it is called "blue steel".

The other thing zoolanderish about him is some of the things he says. When I met him, surely one of the highlights of my short career, he dropped "you know, second place is the first loser". I was young, impressionable and I wanted to be impressed. I thought: "wow, a deep thought from Larry". I was ready to cherish it for the rest of my life, like others keep a relic from a pop-star, until someone pointed out the line was straight out of "Top Gun". I felt cheated.

As he watches the floating cherry blossoms and feeds the remains of his dismembered enemies to the koi in his zen garden the great man reflects:

"I'll never forget …

Inflation down?

Watch the puzzled looks on people's faces. Bernanke drops rates and inflation drops.


The year-on-year increase in consumer prices was 3.9 per cent, down from 4.0 per cent in March despite registering the fastest gain in food prices in 18 years. Core inflation, which strips out volatile food and energy prices and which is used by the Fed to guide interest rate policy, was 2.3 per cent in April.

The month-on-month increase in headline inflation was 0.2 per cent, when economists had an average forecast of 0.3 per cent, but a row broke out almost immediately over the accuracy of the figures.


Of course the drop is so small, and so "first time" that I write it off to "statistical noise". But the fact that it is "not increasing" is quite remarkable. I also love watching blogs this morning with people who actually professionally know a lot about the economy and important things like that run around like headless chickens. Priceless, literally.

Grand Theft Auto 4: blah!

Image
Discussing with a good friend of mine this morning that is as big a gamer as I am, prompted me to write this blog. Basically we stared at each other (via IM) going: "Most people rate it 10/10, I don't get it, do you?" , "I don't really like it, do you?".

I am big fan of the series, so of course I was there at release date and bought my copy. I was excited as a fly on sh*t. I was quickly disappointed. I am halfway through the game and I have just dropped it. Didn't get hooked like the other series, just powered through half the game and then... just dropped it. I have only done this once before with GTA Miami. GTA San Andreas is one of my all time favorite games.

Main gripes are:

The driving SUCKS, this is a BAD driving game. I mean it is really worse than the previous games. I loved one car in GTA3, I loved the bikes in both SA and LCS (PSP). Here most of the cars are slow, bounce around like hip-hop cars and the controls are just sluggish. Coming off …

Martin Wolf: get used to high oil prices

Image
Martin Wolf takes the "no speculation here" view on oil this morning in the FT. The main point of the argument is summarized in the top left drawing: namely that compared to the early 70's we are reverting to mean in terms of "price/production", this view basically says "the 85/00" period was a historical aberration. To me the yearly growth charts (the other charts) basically show "supply does not follow demand" although yearly variation could show manipulation and speculation. I would have liked total demand to go along with that information.

From the article:


Fifth, do try to reach global agreement on a pact on trade in oil based on the fundamental principle that producers will be allowed to sell their oil to the highest bidder. In other words, the global oil market needs to remain integrated. Nobody should use military muscle to secure a privileged position within it.

Finally, do become serious about investing in basic research into alterna…

I am an uber-bear?

Image
From Telegraph (via Naked Capitalism) my french Ecole Polytechnique comrades over at the Societe Generale are striking a very bearish note in their allocation recommendation.


The bears at Société Générale are going into Siberian hibernation, issuing an "Ice Age" alert. They have slashed exposure to global equities to a minimum 30pc for the first time ever.

Their weighting of super-safe "AAA" government bonds has been raised to a maximum 50pc. This is a bet on gruelling "Japanese" deflation. The bank expects equities to fall by 50pc to 75pc.

"Nowhere and nothing will be immune. We are on the cusp of an equity meltdown that will slash and shred portfolios," said Albert Edward, SG's global strategist.

"We see a global recession unfolding. Liquidity will drain away and crush the twin emerging market and commodity bubbles. The recent hope that 'the worst might be over' is truly staggering. Profits are disintegrating," he said.


Well I…

Teaser: riding ATV with Mark Spencer

Image
I decided to take a trip to spend some time with Mark Spencer. Many of you may know Mark from "Digium/Asterisk". David Skok, our investor at JBoss is invested in Digium. Mark lives in Huntsville, Alabama, NASA town, where men are men, drive trucks, pack guns, fix old school car engines, and can design motherboards with their eyes closed.

Mark recently purchased 42 acres of land, with his own ATV track. At the entrance he has his own flag pole with the Asterisk flag. In the picture you see the two of us getting ready for an ATV session that was a bunch of fun. I didn't know I could have so much fun on a ATV. I didn't get to shoot the gun he has, next time. It was all really pretty cool.

Anyway, this is also meant as a teaser. Why meet with Mark? well he is a genius at hardware design. Let me just say that I am forcing myself into working on a new project. It involves hardware and home automation. Nuff said, let's see if we can get our act together and pum…

Martin Wolf on financial regulation

Image
I am somewhat late to this piece, though it took me a little while to condense it in my mind. There is a great article by Martin Wolf on a quote from Volcker.

Simply stated, the bright new financial system – for all its talented participants, for all its rich rewards – has failed the test of the market place.” Paul Volcker, April 8 2008

Then Martin Wolf, churns out 7 principles of regulation he calls the 7 C's that need to be kept in mind these are

Coverage. Avoiding too much leverage in the system by off balance sheet that are designed to bypass regulation.
Cushions. Equity capital and subordinated debt provide shock absorbers over the long run. Liquidity can provide longer time lines even when solvency is an issue and equity has been TEMPORARILY wiped out (insert mark to market whining here)
Commitment. Originate and distribute is evil as there is no accountability as to the quality of the debt.
Cyclicality. The existing rules create non-linear behavior by way of feedback.
Clar…

Cell Pluripotency and RNA interference

Image
I recently blogged a small post about the rush to stem cells. In 2006, it was proven that by introducing 4 transcription factors in fibroblasts cells, these would reprogram themselves into pluripotent cells. Science magazine has a "perspective" piece on the current state of research.

Pluripotency is a cell state that can give rise to any type of cell. Knowing that the body has 200 cell types, rebuilding pluripotent cells is a goal in and on itself. The cells are called "induced pluripotent stem cells" or iPS cells. From a ethics and religious standpoint, the advantage of these cells is that they do not derive from Embryonic Stem cells (ES cells) and therefore do not run into the same objections.

From Science:


What this drawing shows is that the cells that are obtained, the iPS cells are very similar from ES cells. Whereas the path on the right use embryos (hence the moral objections) the left path uses fibroblasts or Gastric cells (stuff from your gut) . It is u…

Is financial blogging like Open Source development?

Via naked capitalism this morning

The lightbulb went off only today. This debate has very strong parallels to the arguments between traditional software developers and the open source crowd. Admittedly, there are also big differences, because developers are out to address very specific needs with code, while (one hates to say it) the purposes of journalism and blogging are less clear cut. Journalists like to think that their job is to inform, but what does that mean, exactly? Like it or not, a fair bit of entertainment has also crept into the profession. And perhaps most important, the decision of what is and isn't newsworthy is very much swayed by a media outlet's posture, prevailing social/community values, and (the dirty secret) the need to play by the rules of access journalism.

Hmmmm... having invented professional open source with JBoss :) I feel compelled to comment.

Blogging in general is similar to OSS in the way its output is based on others people input. Blogging is …

Quantum Computing steady advances

Image
I have been meaning to take a morning and read through the literature and try and come up with a back of the blog coverage of what I see out there. If anything I want to clarify my own ideas on the state of the field. There is a flurry of research and what I am reading is way past the theoretical predictions of 5 years ago where quantum computing was an idea expressed in pen and paper. Today experiment seems to be leading the theoretical way and opening new venues of research. Here are some highlights.

1/ Spintronics in carbon nano-tubes

Covered in Nature March 27 2008 issue.

Spintronics is the field that uses the spin of electrons to represent information rather than their charge. Already is used in production in large capacity hard drive heads and was rewarded with the Nobel prize in 2007 (Fert and Grunberg). Spintronics are being investigated in exotic geometries like nanotubes. By applying a Coulomb blockade along the axis of the tube, we can create an energy space where basicall…

Rod Johnson has an SMD moment

JRod is in the house! Matt Asay linked to my post on Spring Source earlier today echoing the sentiment of "how is this an application server?" He thereby attracted the wrath of the Rod.


Matt: I just don't understand why it's an application server. I'm probably too ignorant to appreciate the applicability of the nomenclature, but to me it doesn't fit.

Rod: Indeed, you do not understand. It is an application server because it provides a complete runtime environment that is an alternative to existing application server products. Spring is a part of it. It's sad to see you quoting the bitter FUD of Marc Fleury. He also doesn't understand the technology enough at this point to comment; he clearly has a vested interest in attacking SpringSource; and he's irrelevant to the future of the industry. Rgds Rod


Rod, I know you have a hard-on for JBoss, but keep your sprocket in your pocket. Funny how somebody with the personality of a cold cucumber sandwich su…

Four Horsemen of Financial Apocalypse

Image
I am usually not inclined to indulge in religious iconography or prophecy as it is mostly noise from my point of view, but this one is too good to pass up. As the markets are ebullient these days, on the one hand I am grateful for my lucky star and on the other, I can't shake the jitters, I am still focused on the underlying issues and I have a hard time enjoying this bear rally.

Via VoxEU this morning an analysis of the DYNAMICS of the issues.

Four dangers
The first danger we have witnessed since August 2007: The subprime mortgage crisis gave rise to a liquidity crisis in the international banking system, due to uncertainty about who holds the losses. This is leading to reduced lending to firms and households. But that is not the end of the story, because the reduced lending will lead to reduced consumption and investment. With a lag, reduced sales of goods and services will reduce stock market valuations. And, with another lag, the lower stock market prices will – in the absence…