Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Monster spray

I've let this blog go sort of inactive lately, but it's hard to let something as horrific as last week's shootings in Connecticut to go by without comment.

When children are very young, they often harbor a fear of the dark that manifests itself as a fear of monsters under the bed or in the closet. As parents we do our best to assuage these fears, and sometimes play along with those fears with such monster countermeasures as spraying air freshener in the room while explaining to the troubled youngster that it's "monster spray" which keeps monsters out.

This is, in effect, what the anti-gun crowd is doing with all the gun laws they'll be proposing over the coming weeks. What happened last week in Newtown, CT was as awful an event as we're likely to see for some time, and it goes without saying that nobody on either side of the gun debate wants to see anything like that happen again. But while the anti-gun crowd is clamoring for monster spray, the pro-gun side of the debate is begging to do something about the monsters.

But don't take it from me, take it from St. Louis County Police Chief Tim Fitch:
If there’s somebody that’s really hellbent on doing something like this, they’re not going to care what the law is.
Chief Fitch advocates arming school personnel much like many airline pilots are now armed as a last-ditch defense against skyjacking.

Doug Ross points out the futility of gun-free zones in this post, and Gateway Pundit points out that besides gun-free zones, the other thing all these recent cases of mass shootings have in common is undiagnosed (or untreated) mental illness.

But this won't stop politicians from rushing out useless legislation rooted in emotional response and wasting everyone's time and energy on equipping us all with monster spray.

Update: Oh, and by the way...don't count on the media's vast expertise in firearms to correctly frame the debate.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Outsourcing and offshoring

One of Obama's favorite attacks on Mitt Romney is that Romney "outsourced" jobs while he was in the private equity business at Bain Capital. That may be true, and in fact, it's pretty damned likely that it's true. But let's not confuse "outsourcing" with "offshoring".

If you decide to hire a plumber to fix your sink instead of fixing it yourself, you've outsourced that job. If a company reassigns a business function to an outside contractor, that's also outsourcing. It doesn't matter whether that outside contractor operates inside our outside the United States, it's outsourcing. If that contractor does operate outside the US, then it's offshoring, as well as outsourcing.

Let's take the example of two fictitious banks...Security First Trust, and Fred's Bank. Both banks have decided they can save money by focusing on their core competencies - banking - and letting someone else handle the IT business.

Fred's Bank is a regional bank headquartered in the Southeast United States. They own a single data center in Columbia, South Carolina supporting all of their operations but have entered into an agreement with Joe's Global Systems under which all of Fred's IT employees will transfer to Joe, and Joe will operate Fred's Columbia data center for a fee. Fred has outsourced his IT business.

Security First Trust is a global concern with subsidiaries all over the world, and they have a major data center in Mumbai, India. By consolidating all their IT functions in Mumbai, they can eliminate the bulk of their US-based IT staff and move all the US IT services to India. They've offshored their IT business, but because they own the Mumbai data center, they haven't really outsourced it.

There's a difference between "outsourcing" and "offshoring", and when Obama and his minions bring up the "outsourcing" charge, someone needs to make them explain exactly what they mean.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Gadget review: Archos 80 G9 Android Tablet

It's been a while since I've done a gadget review, so I figured it's time.

Mrs. Pool Bar decided it was finally time to make the jump to an e-reader. She's not exactly a Luddite, but she is a little resistant to gadgetry. We read a lot of the same authors, so for her to catch up on the books I've already read that she also wanted to read, her only alternative was to go out and get the dead tree edition. I have a rooted Nook Color running both the Kindle and Nook apps for Android, as well as Kobo (old Borders) and Sony Reader apps. I have a handful of titles on the Nook, Kobo and Sony apps, but the vast majority of my e-book collection is on Kindle. Still, I wanted my wife to have access to any of the books that I'd already purchased.

As it happened, I had a fair amount of Amazon gift card credits parked in my account, so I figured I could do something on the cheap. And by cheap I mean free or nearly free, depending on how much I spent. I was tempted to go with the Kindle Fire, but that locks you into Amazon-only content, and even if you root it, the lack of external SD card storage makes it a non-starter. So during my poking around on Amazon's site, I stumbled upon the Archos 80 G9 tablet, which was right within the price range I was looking at (right around $250 with shipping).

I have to say that I'm pretty impressed with this gadget, and find myself suffering a bit of tech envy as a result. The display is very crisp, performance is snappy, and there's very little to complain about. There are plenty of detailed reviews available elsewhere online (try CNET and Engadget, for starters), so I'll just post here some of my own observations. First the bad:
  • Camera: The 80 G9 sports just a single, front-facing camera. OK, I get it, it's intended for video chat and is really more of a web cam, but...still. Just try snapping a picture when you can't see the picture frame.
  • SD Card Slot: When you insert a Micro SD card into the slot, it protrudes from the case by about a millimeter, maybe a little less. The slot's positioned right next to the power switch, which protrudes from the case by about a millimeter, maybe a little less. You can surely see the problem that potentially represents.
And to top it off-- actually, that's about it. I have no other real complaints about the tablet. Sure, I can see the built-in kickstand (a very convenient feature) breaking off at some point, but short of making it from tungsten steel, I don't know how much can be done about that.

The tablet shipped with Android 3.something (Honeycomb) installed, but Archos was already in the process of rolling out Android 4.0.3 (Ice Cream Sandwich, or ICS) as a downloadable or over-the-air (OTA) update. Sure enough, about 10 days after it arrived, a notification popped up saying that the ICS update was available. The update went seamlessly, but post-update, there were intermittent WiFi drops and some truly awful slowdowns. These issues were pretty widely experienced, and Archos was quick to issue another update, which also went smoothly and seems to have cleared up the issues. This is important because it's indicative of Archos's level of commitment to the product and sustaining support.

You can pick up the 8GB Archos 80 G9 for under $250, and at that price it's definitely worthy of serious consideration if you're looking for a decent Android alternative to the $500 (and up) iPad.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

UPS: When it absolutely, positively has to be there some day

Last week I ordered a new gadget for Ms. Pool Bar from Amazon, and opted for the standard shipping since there was no big rush for it. Amazon estimated deliver for today, 2/29. So far so good, right? Well, a few hours later I get an e-mail saying the item had shipped, so I figured maybe it would arrive a day or two early. Since I'm one of those who'll keep pushing the elevator call button in the hopes the elevator will get there faster, I checked the UPS tracking link that Amazon provided and saw that the package had left Phoenix, arrived in Tempe and arrived...back in Phoenix. I kept checking the progress over the next few days and was vaguely amused. Today it shows that it's out for delivery, which is on schedule so I'm not really complaining, but check out this shipping history (click for larger image):

I'm particularly amused by the package's stopover in Louisville. What did it do, run out for a pack of cigarettes while it was there? It's almost as if UPS had to go to extra effort NOT to provide 2-day delivery.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Ending the gay marriage drama

I have a plan for putting an end to the gay marriage debate once and for all. A laughably simple plan. I'm not a lawyer so I'm sure there are holes in it, but I think it would be a great start.

Since marriage is rooted in our history and culture as a religious construct, let's just get the state out of the marriage business altogether. Within public law, marriage would be replaced with...I don't know...let's call it "domestic partnership". Any consenting adult would be allowed to enter into a domestic partnership with another one, subject to the following constraints:
  • A domestic partnership may consist of no more than two people.
  • No party to a domestic partnership can be related by blood to another party of the same partnership.
  • Nobody can be party to more than one domestic partnership at a time.
  • If a state decides that rules against polygamy constitute unjust intrusion on religious doctrine, it can just drop that first rule.
Within the law, the word "spouse" can be retained as a term describing any party to a domestic partnership, but someone will need to fire up Word and do a global search and replace to change all occurrences of "husband" and "wife" with "spouse". And hey, if the law specifically refers to a husband or wife anywhere, then that section of law probably needs to be reviewed, anyway.

This eliminates the stickiest part of the debate - that of redefining "marriage" - and allows adherents of a given faith to preserve the definition of marriage as their religion sees it, and lets the law provide equal protection to all spouses without regard to sexual orientation.

Yeah, I know...it won't be enough for those activists of no religious affiliation who'll say they want to be married, dammit! They'll say that because for them the issue isn't about legal status, it's about wanting to feel included and accepted. But the law is concerned only with equal protection, it doesn't really give a crap about our feelings.

Having solved that problem, let me go take a look at that national debt thing...

Monday, January 30, 2012

Liberal bias goes pathological

I've gotten pretty used to seeing liberal bias in the media, but at least it's usually fairly subtle. Not so with this breathtaking example by Emily Sohn in Discovery News:

Still don't see the bias? Ok, here...I've highlighted it for you:

I'm not sure why this piece hasn't picked up more traction on conservative blogs or conservative Twitterdom. In fact, I lifted this from one of my favorite righty blogs, Ace of Spades HQ, which doesn't even remark on the obvious bias. Maybe they've become so accustomed to this type of bias that they don't even notice it any more.

The bias is so deep and widespread now, it's become a pathology. When I tweeted a link to the Discovery article inviting people (sarcastically, I thought) to spot the liberal bias, I received this response from @LouYoungNY:

So pathological is this bias that it's taken by liberals as an absolute truth that conservatives are intolerant and close-minded. Keep in mind that this article (presumably) got past fact-checkers and editors before publication.

Oh, and you may want to keep an eye on what your kids are reading for science.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Desperate times call for desperate candidates

Pardon me while I clean up a bit...a blog collects a bit of dust and debris when it's not used for a while. I can't believe I haven't posted anything since September.

OK, that's better. Now, where was I? Oh, right...I was going to opine on the Republican primary race. It's pretty damned hard to get excited about it and I guess I'll just have to assume I'll be voting for Mitt Romney this November. I had to laugh this past weekend during coverage of the GOP primary circus in New Hampshire. A reporter made reference to some "energized Romney supporters", and all I could think was "Energized? Resigned maybe, but definitely not energized."

Anyway, I was pretty excited about Rick Perry's entry into the race right up until the time he started to flame out. Then I started paying more attention to Gingrich, and when he started to surge in the polls after some strong debate performances I thought, hey...here might be a guy who could totally dismantle Obama in a one-on-one debate. But I started to sour on Gingrich when he went batshit crazy on the judiciary.

And this past week, when both Perry and Gingrich went all Occupy Wall Street on Mitt Romney over his tenure at Bain Capital, I knew they were both pretty desperate. I don't think Perry and Gingrich have suddenly decided they're 99%-ers, but I do think they're counting on people's ignorance of just what private equity firms do in an effort to paint Romney as a corporate raider.

Sure, private equity firms sometimes shut down companies and lay people off, but that's not their main goal. In fact, that's generally something they try to avoid. They don't just buy up troubled companies, either. As a case in point, the company I work for acquired a company some years back, but after a few years, it was decided that the smaller company's product really didn't fit into our larger portfolio. It would have been very easy for my company to just kill off the product and layoff the staff associated with it, but the product had value so it was decided to sell off that business unit to a private equity firm. That was at least four years ago, and that company is still alive - and growing - today as an independent software firm.

So, thank you Newt and Rick, for making Romney's inevitability a self-fulfilling prophecy, and for making free market capitalism a topic of debate...among conservatives.