Does San Francisco cause infertility?

May 26, 2005

Yahoo News reports:

San Francisco has the smallest share of small-fry of any major U.S. city. Just 14.5 percent of the city’s population is 18 and under.

It is no mystery why U.S. cities are losing children. The promise of safer streets, better schools and more space has drawn young families away from cities for as long as America has had suburbs.

But kids are even more scarce in San Francisco than in expensive New York (24 percent) or in retirement havens such as Palm Beach, Fla., (19 percent), according to Census estimates.

So, if you live in a city, do you abandon it when you want to raise kids, or do you decide you like your city life so much that you decide not to have them. Do you only have kids in the city if you have lots of money?

Kids are fundamentally more expensive in cities than in suburbs. Cities are valuable because they concentrate people who need to reach each other. Kids take up space in cities without providing commensurate social networking value. Certainly parents meet each other because through their kids, but there are less expensive hobbies that produce the same result.


Can open source compete with integrated hardware?

May 25, 2005

As hardware gets cheaper, more and more of the value comes from software and integration. That is the Apple strategy (keeping the Mac closed) and it is not Microsoft’s strategy with the X/Box. There is no room for open source in these models. The only way for open source to compete is to stay open from top to bottom and build an ecosystem around developers. This is a variant of the Clayton Christiansen thesis. As software and hardware get sufficiently cheap, value comes from integration.


Efficient Outcomes: Selling Service. Buying Service. No “IT”

May 23, 2005

Jeff Nolan has two recent posts on IT. In “IBM Moves in FIrefox’s direction,” He says

The interesting dynamic that I referenced in the beginning of my comments is that these large companies are adopting many open source projects without any expectation of support from a providing vendor. They are going it alone. Obviously in the case of Linux itself there are large vendors providing services, and many large projects like Apache and Sendmail have strong support organization, but the vast majority of open source projects don’t so when a large enterprise IT organization officially supports them it is their intention to be the first and last line of support, and this should strike fear into the hearts of every enterprise software company out there

In “The End of Corporate IT” he taks about corporate customers prefering hosted applications because they don’t want to deal with their own IT departments. He says <blockquote, there is an unavoidable conflict developing. Increasingly I find myself doing customer reference calls for companies offering hosted solutions and when I ask them about how IT responds to their desire to have a hosted application I am told that NOT having IT involved is a major incentive to go with hosted apps.

So it looks like the trend is towards vertical integration of software stacks by hosted app providers. If you are doing vertical integration you get efficiency by sharing costs through support of open source projects. Companies don’t want IT. They want to buy a hosted app or sell a hosted app. Anything in between allows someone to blame someone elsse.


Free speech: Echo chamber or error-checking?

May 19, 2005

Virginia Postrel in the NYTimes talks about economic models for media bias. That media bias may simply be market differentiation. She says:

The article makes some provocative predictions. It suggests that adding relatively moderate competitors may push rivals to take more extreme positions to hold onto their audiences.

Trying to correct Al Jazeera’s bias, for example, by introducing pro-Western competition, as some analysts recommend, “might cause Al Jazeera and similar networks to further differentiate their product by advancing yet more extreme views,” write the economists. “The effect might be only to radicalize, rather than moderate, their audience.”

The defense against this sort of extremism is to maximize the quantity of new sources so people end up with sane portfolios. There is no reason to believe that people with diversified news portfolios will tend toward extremism. The real problem is people who just rely on e.g. the NYTimes in order to oppose the view of the administration. Or the NYSun just to oppose the view of the NYTimes, etc.


Advice for Living One Thousand Years

May 18, 2005

The Sunday Times of London describes improvements in science that may eliminate aging as a cause of death. Until they arrive, here are its points of advice. Note: I think it is highly likely that there are different best options for different people so take this with a grain of salt.

1 Don’t even think about smoking and, preferably, don”t hang glide.

2 Eliminate sugar to lower blood insulin levels. Use stevia as a sweetener. It is a South American plant that is both very sweet and good for you.

3 Don’t eat any animal fats. Government guidelies tend to say cut these down, but they probably only say this because they think it’s the best
people can manage. No saturated fat at all is probably best.

4 Eat lots of vegetables that grow above ground. Those below ground are heavy in carbohydrates that turn into sugar and raise insulin levels.

5 Don’t overdo the fruit. Contrary to popular wisdom it’s not unconditionally good as it contains sugar. Non-drinking Arabs and Indians who
sit around sipping orange juice all day end up with diabetes.

6 Eat nuts. For incompletely understood reasons, people who eat nuts live longer. Not salted peanuts, however (see 7).

7 Don’t salt things. Salt raises blood pressure and will kill you through a stroke or heart attack. For this reason, don’t touch processed food.

8 Don’t have heart bypass surgery or have a stent installed to hold a blocked artery open. Latest figures suggest neither works. People who live
longer after them probably do so because the shock made them eat better and exercise more.

9 Have a massive medical assessment, preferably at Kronos in Phoenix, Arizona, to establish what you are doing wrong and, if possible, what genetic
weaknesses you have. Continue these assessments throughout your life and adjust supplements accordingly. Read all the latest medical journals to keep
up.

10 Exercise vigorously and daily but dont run. Running is bad for your skeleton.

11 Take a childs aspirin once a day to thin your blood and a much larger dose before you get on a plane. Ideally, don’t get on a plane.

12 Eat very little. Rats on restricted diets live longer but it is not known if this would damage humans particularly their brains. So if you forget
what 2+2 equals, eat more.

13 Ignore all of the above. They may be wrong and, if a piano falls on you, pointless.


Stanley Fish gets it wrong

May 16, 2005

Stanley Fish attempts to argue that there is no principled way to differentiate between Ward Churchil’s claims that the victims of 9/11 were “little Eichmans” and Larry Summers comments that the preponderane of males in Harvard’s physics department might be partially the result of genetic predispositions. He claims that both sorts of speech are equally permissible from a First Ammendment perspective and that it is inconsistent of the right to condemn Churchill and demand his resignation while at the same time making Larry Summers a free speech martyr.

Fish is largely missing the point. Summers is making a factual claim that may or may not be justified using scientific evidence. See this fabulous debate to betwee Steve Pinker and Elizabeth Spelke to see how such a discussion can proceed. In contrast, Churchill is making a value judgement about America and terrorism that is not per se provable or disprovable. Discussion and evaluation of factual claims are the substance of science and acadamia and it is indeed scandalous that Harvard’s faculty appears unable to engage in it. In contrast, Churchill is infusing facts with value judgements that at odds with those of the people and institutions that employ him. The left has indeed been entirely ok with the politicization of academia. The right has largely stood for the idea that academia should be the province of intellect.

Churchill’s abuse was to shift from intellectual discourse to political discourse and to represent his political discourse as intellectually valid. Summers was making a factual hypothesis ammenable to proof or disproof. The fact that Fish can’t see the difference is indeed part of the problem with academia today, a problem that Ward Churchill so vividly makes apparent.


“Free Muslim Against Terrorism” rally has low turnout. CAIR decides not to show

May 16, 2005

Pics here. Lots of details here. The mainstream Muslim organizations stayed away.