IT’S a pickle of a paradox: As our knowledge and expertise increase, our creativity and ability to innovate tend to taper off. Why? Because the walls of the proverbial box in which we think are thickening along with our experience.
Monday, December 31, 2007
[Just thought--this is a rather negative note upon which to end the year, but I won't guarantee to post again. So happy new year to anyone reading this.]
Saturday, December 29, 2007
Yes, it's China. Sounds like the problems in getting doctors to work in rural areas in the US
If personal incomes, working conditions and future development opportunities can be improved in underdeveloped regions, more and more talents will be attracted to work there, says a signed article in People's Daily. The following is an excerpt.
In the application process for the national civil servant test of 2008, many positions attracted over 1,000 applicants - one of these positions attracted 3,592 test-takers; but no applicants showed interest in 59 positions in underdeveloped regions.
Monday, December 24, 2007
Meanwhile, over at Volokh.com they just wrapped up a guest-blog series on women in combat. The man against the idea argued that women, as a rule, were incapable, unfit for combat, disruptive, etc. etc. The woman for the idea argued that decisions should be made on an individual basis. (I just skimmed the arguments, but I think she missed a good one: female brains are still cheaper than male ones and a smart combatant is better than a dumb one any day of the week).
Anyhow, both issues tie back to the extent to which we use rules/guidelines/stereotypes/generalizations in our lives. Do we say that someone 75 needs to prove they're still a safe driver? Do we say they need to prove they're competent to execute contracts? Do we say that a woman needs to prove she's a capable fighter, but not a man? (In my time, the 11B MOS (military occupation specialty) was for the leftovers--those who couldn't be plugged into other slots.) It seems we make default judgments--anyone 21 and over is mature enough to drink, anyone 18 and over is worthy of being a voter, unless and until someone is able to take the person to court and have them declared incompetent. And there's a difference between incompetence and being a danger to others, as witness the Virginia Tech shooter.
Do I have answers? No, though I'm conscious of losing some capabilities as I age. And I'd observe that bureaucrats are usually the ones who have to administer rules.
Sunday, December 23, 2007
It touches a memory from childhood, when city slickers would come out searching for a tree on our land. The father was intending to steal something, and setting a bad example for his children. Not good.
Saturday, December 22, 2007
Friday, December 21, 2007
The world turns.
The Agrinvest plan sounds a bit like a 401K for farmers.
Thursday, December 20, 2007
What was the trigger for it? I commented I needed to blog about it, and that was her reaction.
What was "it"? Damned if I can remember now. Her reaction just washed away the "it".
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
I'm curious over the impact of the on-line comment process on the number and quality of comments.
53 years ago:
Independence County’s Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service committee, which has served nearly four months longer than a regular tenure, has issued a statement that the committee welcomes an investigation of the election of county committeemen held in August.
The statement was issued in reply to a Guard story that the office of Compliance and Investigation of the U.S. Department of Agriculture had been asked to investigate the election after the state committee said it has had 10 or 12 complaints. The state ASCS committee has never certified the election of William P. Magness, Clyde Stewart and W.S. Finney. The men were supposed to have taken office Sept. 1.
From the Batesville Daily Guard.
Where does Satan come in? Where do I come in? Many decades ago I wanted to be visibly pious. I saved my allowance and made a big display in Sunday School of all the money I contributed. But I knew better. I knew that was egotism. That was a sin. That was Satan. Or, alternatively, maybe I felt it was conforming to society and I could feel rebellious (once every 2 decades or so). So I made a simple decision: stop going to church.
What will happen in Egypt? I don't know, but I don't believe a conformist society can last in the modern world. Satan and egoism are still at work.
Monday, December 17, 2007
From personal experience, I might say it takes longer.
But on the other hand, since I'm contrarian, maybe not. Brain scans also seem to show that the brain is like a muscle, different types of experience leave their mark. For example, London taxi drivers have to study for 3 years to learn all the streets and pass the exam. Scans show the area of their brain devoted to spatial relationships grows over the 3 years. So, maybe we shouldn't assume that the brain scans devoted to maturity simply show the natural development of the body with the logical conclusion that we shouldn't expect mature judgment from 21 year olds. Maybe the scans reflect the progressive infantilization of Americans, the fact that children/adolescents/young adults aren't exposed to situations that test their judgment. We don't have 8-year olds responsible for herding their family's cows. We have (I'd guess) fewer teenagers working jobs and more studying. We have more students in college and post-graduate study. (You learn many things in college, but not necessarily good judgment).l
Philpott would like a supply management program (once known as "production adjustment"--my area of concern) for corn and soybeans to reduce current levels of production for fear of environmental consequences.
Friday, December 14, 2007
- One praises the energy saving virtues of hunting in your own backyard (particularly white-tailed deer, to which I would add the Canadian geese who now overwinter, thanks to global warming).
- The other challenges the casual and unthinking usage of "food-miles" to evaluate food, also making the claim that feeding 6 billion people (more conceived every second) will take some industrial agriculture, and ending with a plea to look at the big picture.
What's not clear is whether the forfeited assets should have gone against the debts (in which case there's a bureaucratic foulup among Justice, USDA, and FSA) or not. In any case, it's not clear why FSA didn't send demand letters to the associates 4 or more years ago. Unfortunately, when you don't often have such cases, they tend to get messy because no one remembers how to process them.
Thursday, December 13, 2007
Instead of starting from scratch, going for perfection and falling on their face, they worked with their critics, OMBwatch, who already had a similar site. They put the site up, on schedule, and will be able to improve it as they learn more about what people want and how agencies can feed data to it.
They even included a wiki.
- Some Americans don't have phones. See the graph in this piece, which is mostly focused on the growing percentage of Americans who have only wireless service, but the survey shows about 2 percent don't.
- Some Americans don't have official proof they were born, and have a somewhat ambiguous status. See this piece on native Americans crossing borders.
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
When they visit nonagenarian Earl Butz, the secretary of agriculture under Nixon who institutionalized subsidies for big agribusiness, they are positively gentle. From an assisted-care facility, Butz describes the subsidy system he helped set up for corporate agriculture as creating an “age of plenty.”Butz is remembered, not so fondly by those of us old enough, as a Secretary who tried to dismantle the Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service (FSA's predecessor) and the farm programs of the time. As Kevin Drum observes in a post I've shared, "we create our own reality".
I find the reference to the change in software systems particularly interesting. It almost sounds as if they have moved to an integrated system more like the one that FSA uses. It's the only way to go, if you can.
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
""It [unfriendly websites] could be unintentional oversight or incompetence," said Ari Schwartz, deputy director of the Center of Democracy and Technology, which plans to release a report today with OMB Watch, a watchdog group, that shows that basic government information often does not show up in results provided by search engines run by Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and Ask.com.
Today's hearing comes nearly five years after the E-Government Act required government agencies to make information more accessible electronically. The law is scheduled to be reauthorized soon.
According to the report, simple queries -- about, say, small-farm loans, or visitation rights for grandparents -- miss critical information because many agencies do not organize their Web sites so they can be easily indexed by search engines. Some agencies embed codes in their sites that make certain pages invisible to search engines."
Makes sense to me. Of course, right now the Government Printing Office is undertaking an elaborate project to revamp its efforts. And the OMB official who testified started by plugging USA.gov. Too many agencies fell into the trap of thinking their web site is where people want to go (which is what I thought when I retired), when all too often people (i.e., me) want a Google search to find their answer and to hell with the nice introductory web site.
See here for a joint report by OMB Watch and CDT.
Monday, December 10, 2007
Sunday, December 09, 2007
Communication is the key to our organization and I hope that you are receiving information from your State President and/or Area Exec. Unfortunately, many of our members have become extremely fearful of using the government computer for any purpose. Thanks to Cindy Peterson, Jon Williams, and Darin Slack, the NASCOE Exec Committee has written a document entitled "Government Computer Usage". The Area Execs will be distributing this, it will be posted on the web site, and may be in this NASCOE Now! Our hope is that this will give everyone a little better understanding of when the government computer can and cannot be used.
..a number of scientists and corporate executives who met here said NSFnet remained a powerful example of how a handful of government bureaucrats in concert with an equally small number of scientists made a set of carefully considered federal policy decisions, in this case leading directly to the modern Internet...
...many of the scientists, engineers and technology executives who gathered here to celebrate the Web’s birth say he [Al Gore] played a crucial role in its development, and they expressed bitterness that his vision had been so discredited.Maybe the media owes Al an apology?
Friday, December 07, 2007
I suspect that all large organisations are “slow to change” if that means “adopt the path the leaders of the organisation have decided to move forward on”. In fact, this applies even to small organisations or dare I say it individuals. Certainly when I make a decision to try to change my own behaviour, I do sometimes experience difficulty in “driving through change”!
Thursday, December 06, 2007
Agate Pan or basin for starching
Clothes boiler (tin with copper bottom)
Clothes pin bag
Cup for measure
Duster for lines
Heavy cloth for tubs and boiler
Ironing table and board
Saucepan for starch
Set tubs, three or four, or machine
Small pieces of muslin and cheese cloth
Small pointed irons
(Not to mention starch, soap, blueing,etc.)
You look at the list, and think about the work each item implies, and the expertise. (Is there anyone out there who knows how to use a "skirt board" these days?) Permanent press has made a big difference to women, second only to processed foods. Remember that, in those days, every man unattached to a woman would have to have his clothes laundered.
Wednesday, December 05, 2007
It makes sense for Amazon, at least narrowly. They know a customer is either going to abandon the cart entirely, in which case raising the price doesn't matter, or is going to want to buy on a later date. Indeed, they may even know I'm a customer who often comes back and buys. Customers like me have a psychological investment in the transaction and are unlikely to back out. So it's an easy $2-4 per item for them.
I said "narrowly", because the suspicion immediately causes my customer satisfaction with Amazon to drop. They aren't operating in good faith if my suspicions are true. And the mere suspicion is damaging.
The advent of revenue insurance programs, which have been attractive to farmers, have greatly increased the business being done by insurance companies and the cost to the government has doubled over the past 7 years.I think it's safe to say that the costs of subsidizing crop insurance, much like those of flood insurance, don't get the scrutiny that direct outlays do.
Tuesday, December 04, 2007
Monday, December 03, 2007
Now my children, in the old days some 30 years ago, a COBOL program would run in a partition of less than 100K and the first PC from IMSAI had 4 or 8K RAM. Simply incredible, the speed of change (but then we've been saying that since the steam engine and telegraph.)
"At the same time, new supplies are slowly making their way on the market. New oil and natural-gas liquid production from OPEC nations could reach 2 million barrels a day next year, and another 1.1 million barrels a day are expected to come from non-OPEC sources, like Russia or Norway, according to estimates by Deutsche Bank. Some OPEC specialists say these factors could substantially alter the balance between supply and demand after years of market tightness."If the economy slows in the U.S. and more production comes on line and Iraq gets a hair closer to normality, the price of oil will drop more than the $10 it has already. That means ethanol is less attractive. That means corn prices drop.
Saturday, December 01, 2007
Please be aware there are numerous jobs available in WDC. If you are interested in working in WDC go to www.usajobs.gov and check it out. CEPD would also be interested in working with employees outside of Washington in flexible ways to test and develop software. NASCOE hopes to be able to work with them on that opportunity in the future. The MIDAS project will also be looking for folks to be detailed to WDC in the near future. If you have an interest in that keep watching the vacancy announcements!I once was actively prodding people to move to the DC area. It's still a great place to live (Fairfax county has the best high school in the country) but not to buy. Unless the housing crash gets much worse, I don't see how FSA can get good people to come, unless they're singles who want the big city life or those who have a burning ambition to move up. Of course, the same applies for the teachers in those Fairfax schools.
about the advantages of an extended family (someone can stay with you to help you over the first days of recuperation). As a friend told him, they're good insurance against risk.
Of course, if he were a good libertarian he'd go to the market for home health aides.
(Since my wife had her foot put in a cast on Wed, I feel a link.)