ARC's 1st Law: As a "progressive" online discussion grows longer, the probability of a nefarious reference to Karl Rove approaches one

Monday, July 17, 2006

Odds & Ends from USAToday

Wow... I was out of town last week at an undisclosed location and couldn't blog during the day and was absolutely exhausted by the time I got to a reliable internet connection.

Sorry about the absence... hopefully they are few and far between.

This caught my eye on Drudge's main page:

News Online Seems to Have Long Shelf Life
By NOAM COHEN
July 17, 2006

A new research paper seeks to answer a riddle for publishers, editors and even readers: when does new news become old news?

In the case of a news article on the Internet, the answer is surprisingly long: 36 hours on average, according to the paper, “The Dynamics of Information Access on the Web,” which appeared in the June issue of Physical Review E, the journal of the American Physical Society.

Well, despite this story, I have a couple of items from Wednesday's USAToday that I'd like to comment on, unrelated to the battle in the GWOT that's heating up in Lebanon.

First, the deficit:
Hold your applause: Deficit dip is but a drop in bucket

Great news! This year's budget deficit won't be $427 billion as forecast in February but $333 billion. President Bush touted …

Oops, wait a minute. Those numbers are from last July's White House press release. Let's start again.

Great news! This year's budget deficit won't be $423 billion as forecast in February but $296 billion. President Bush touted this on Tuesday as evidence that his fiscal policies are working.
[...]
The government faces a severe financial crunch as the baby-boom generation prepares to retire. Runaway health costs and the swelling number of people collecting government benefits are the chief contributors to what the Government Accountability Office, the research arm of Congress, estimates to be a long-term government shortfall of $46 trillion.

In that light, the most urgent question is not whether this year's deficit is $400 billion or $300 billion, but what the administration and members of Congress are doing to head off the much larger deficits on the horizon.

First, as a percentage of GDP, this deficit is a "drop in the bucket" of the US economy (to borrow a phrase). Second, since this reduction in the deficit once again proves that tax cuts stimulate the economy generating more tax revenues for the federal government. Wait, why am I cheering for this? It should only be the Dems that would applaud the increase in revenues, right?

Second, USAToday points out that the big problem is future obligations that we're unable to cover. I would note that the Bush administration has attempted to address these issues through the introduction of choice into healthcare and retirement systems (ie, Health Savings Accounts and personal retirement accounts). Both are condemned by the MSM such as USAToday.

Next story from USAToday - Lose the Penny:
Why keeping the penny no longer makes sense

By Robert Whaples

Here's a startling fact: Because of the soaring price of zinc, it now costs nearly a penny-and-a-half to produce a penny. If the U.S. Mint were a for-profit business, the next step would be pretty automatic — it would shut down penny production or quickly reduce the penny's cost by changing its content. The Mint, however, has the luxury of considering what is best for the country as a whole in making such a momentous decision.
[...]

My favorite part of the story was a quote by Greg Mankiw, who I've posted on before. In regards to the penny, he said, "When people start leaving a monetary unit at the cash register for the next customer, the unit is too small to be useful."

Exactly.... and losing the penny would not only save money in production costs, but would also result in an estimated $300 million a year. After losing the penny, we should introduce the dollar coin which is more durable, resulting in an estimated $500 million. (Hey, that $800 million could go towards the deficit!)

Now, from the business section. First, the airlines may turn a profit, indicating that the End Times are near. All I can say is that the flights for the past year have been absolutely packed. ARC:Brian has pointed out to me that the air system is now back at pre-9/11 volume, but with reduced flights and I'd have to agree.

And finally (do you have to applaud that loud?), I thought people using the interweb pipes would find this story interesting:
Download Net on your laptop? Maybe someday
Way storage is growing, who knows?

So you're on an airliner over Butte, Mont., which, without the “e” would be Butt, which in turn suddenly makes you think of Zinedine Zidane's World Cup head-butt and wonder whether head-butts are common in soccer because maybe soccer players don't use their hands even when fighting.

You'd like to search the Internet to find out. Except there's no Wi-Fi on your domestic flight and there's not likely to be airborne Wi-Fi in the near future even though JetBlue says it's going to try. You just have to go on wondering about soccer head-butts, leaving a maddening hole in your life.

How to avoid this kind of situation in coming years? Well, you probably will be able to download the entire Internet to a laptop before you get on a plane.

It seems preposterous. It sounds like saying you might eat a refrigerator full of food before a trip so you don't have to stop at restaurants for a couple of days.

But this week, Freescale introduced the first commercial memory chip based on a new technology called magnetic random access memory, or MRAM. It's a big step toward putting unimaginable amounts of data on something smaller than an Advil tablet.
[...]
As a result, entrepreneurs are thinking about how they might use almost limitless storage to solve real-world problems. And this is how I came to be sitting across from Rakesh Mathur as he suggested that we could download the whole Internet and then search it — instead of searching the Internet and then downloading what we find. He is launching a company, Webaroo, to eventually help people do that.

Mathur, who in the 1990s co-founded recommendation-engine Junglee and then sold it to Amazon.com, had gone to Alaska to photograph the aurora borealis. He was in his car, freezing, bored, miles from the nearest Wi-Fi, and wishing he had the Internet.
[...]
Mathur told me that he was thinking about these trends, and about The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, author Douglas Adams' fictional reference device that holds all the universe's knowledge and does not rely on searching the Internet because Adams never imagined Wi-Fi in space. Why, Mathur thought, couldn't laptops or Treos work that way?

“We could use storage and memory to solve the problem of connectivity,” he says.

Now, nobody knows how big the Web is — maybe 1,000 terabytes, which is a petabyte. No device will be able to hold that much for a long time, and by then, the Web will be bigger. But Mathur designed Webaroo to grab and store the most useful slices of the Web.

As storage increases, the slices can get bigger. You might never store all of the Web but enough to almost always find what you want. If you search Google for “head-butt red card,” you get 211,000 results. Pretty much anything you'd need to know is in the first 20.

This is a very interesting concept. However, would people really want a static interweb thingy in their pocket? I mean, if they downloaded this site on Wednesday of last week and went "off-the-net," they would've missed all our great content from then to now...

...is that laughter I hear? Are you laughing at our site? Now back to regulary scheduled programming...

Your Co-Conspirator,
ARC: St Wendeler