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Posts Tagged ‘The Web

Flickr Photo Friday

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Today’s photos come from Flickr user Eole’s set “Patterns in the city.” Here’s a preview:

Used under a Creative Commons License. "Road lights" by Eole (via Flickr).

Used under a Creative Commons License. "Road lights" by Eole (via Flickr).

Happy Friday!

Written by walonline

August 8, 2008 at 9:37 am

Laughable

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The situation in China with regards to pollution is laughable. They promised to clean up, and it hasn’t worked out. Wired Magazine’s Science blog reports it isn’t working, even after their “specialized” anti-smog measures. In another post, they look at independent particulate readings from the BBC’s Beijing bureau. Here’s the explanation bit:

On most days, Beijing’s air clearly remains poor, rarely dropping below 50 micrograms of particulate matter per cubic meter of air. The World Health Organization considers any concentration of particulate higher than 50 to be unhealthy. While the BBC sensor has a large margin of error (20 percent), on most days the readings have been far above the threshold. The pollution levels have been clearly reflected in daily photographs taken from the same location by the news agency’s reporters.

The Chinese government has been working on an ambitious plan to improve the air quality in Beijing for the games including traffic bans, factory shutdowns, cloud seeding, and construction slowdowns.

But the city’s air quality has not varied in response to the city’s anti-smog efforts, according to the BBC’s readings. Pollution levels are changing, however, but only in response with meteorological conditions, i.e. rain. That’s exactly what University of Rhode Island professor Kenneth Rahn predicted would happen in a Wired.com story last month.

The Chinese are adament that they are being successful. And that haze and clouds should not be confused with particulate in the air.

“Clouds and haze are not pollution. This kind of weather is a natural phenomenon. It has nothing to do with pollution,” Du Shaozhong, deputy director of the Beijing municipal bureau of environmental protection, told Xinhua last week, the official government news outlet.

But, it looks like China is manipulating numbers.

The problem, however, is that there is compelling evidence that the Chinese government is cooking the pollution accounting books. As laid out by Steven Andrews, an environmental consultant, in an op-ed earlier this year in the Wall Street Journal, he describes three number manipulations:

  1. Seven sensors were used from 1998-2005, but after that, as international scrutiny was increasing, the government dropped two sensor stations from polluted areas of the city and added three in less polluted areas. These changes had a very significant impact in showing air quality increases.
  2. The government subbed nitrogen oxides out and nitrogen dioxide in to its air pollution index calculations. Of the various substances that the sensors measure, nitrogen oxides were the most likely to exceed air pollution standards.
  3. The Chinese government considers an air pollution index rating of under 100 to be a “blue sky day.” In 2006, 49 days were reported to have an air pollution index between 96 and 105. 47 of those days were — what “luck”! — reported under 100, a near statistical impossibility. 2007 data shows “a similar bias.”

The end result of the system is that the Chinese government gave August 4, seen above, an air pollution index rating in its “Good” category.

The Government doesn’t even really believe their measures have been successful. Pollution is proving difficult to clean up. It also shows how worried the officials are with the very real possibility of being humiliated on a world stage after all the promises they’ve made.

[…] the Chinese government doesn’t seem to believe that its efforts are working. There is word in China Daily, a government mouthpiece, that officials are considering an even more drastic plan that could take 90 percent of the city’s cars off the road, if the pollution readings don’t cooperate.

At least the Americans remain skeptical of the air quality. This morning, the Drudge Report led with a picture of US cyclists wearing black face masks as they arrived in Beijing.

Wired’s blog really has its bases covered with links to other independent environmental monitoring blogs, such as BeijingAirBlog.com.

Even more laughable has been the Chinese and IOC dealings regarding internet use. Initially, it was promised that China would be open to the full internet during the games. A week ago, the Chinese were going to sensor everything. Now, it appears that only the media village will have access to certain sites. Still, David Wallenchinski writes that you may be able to access Amnesty International and the Drudge Report, but you can’t access the Huffington Post!

You may have followed the ongoing controversy about the Chinese government blocking foreign journalists’ access to certain Internet sites during the Beijing Olympics. Most of the attention has centered on the censoring of the sites of Amnesty International, BBC News and the Falun Gong religious group. Under pressure, the Chinese Communist Party has lifted the bans on Amnesty and BBC News, but one site has continued to be totally blocked: Huffingtonpost.com.

In Beijing, we can get Drudge; we can get Common Dreams; we can get Raw Story and Truthout. But Huffington Post: censored completely.

You really can’t make this stuff up. Its sure to only get better… meaning funnier.

Written by walonline

August 5, 2008 at 1:07 pm

One Question

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Can you buy expansion packs?

Constructable Drinking Straw.

Written by walonline

July 30, 2008 at 11:54 am

Posted in Life, The Web

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Irony?

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An interesting bit from the Freakanomics blog at the NY Times, which pointed out some of the companies mentioned in the book Good to Great:

[…] I began reading the book on the very same day that one of the eleven “good to great” companies, Fannie Mae, made the headlines of the business pages. It looks like Fannie Mae is going to need to be bailed out by the federal government. If you had bought Fannie Mae stock around the time Good to Great was published, you would have lost over 80 percent of your initial investment.

Another one of the “good to great” companies is Circuit City. You would have lost your shirt investing in Circuit City as well, which is also down 80 percent or more. Best Buy has cleaned Circuit City’s clock for the last seven or eight years.

It seems the lesson that should be drawn from this is twofold: the stock price does not necessarily reflect a good (if high/rising) or bad (if low/falling) company and it depends on which time period is observed. Maybe Good to Great needs a second volume for co’s dealing successfully with this period. Maybe these companies indicate a systemic problem.

At the base of it, Fannie Mae (details on the scandal are near the bottom of the Wikipedia entry) should have been cut from the book when the company’s leadership (Raines, Howard and Spencer) were accused of 101 counts of manipulating earnings for the sake of their bonuses. Surrounding this was also a $6.3 billion earning restatement.

Also, this may be a lesson that serves to discourage people from buying best-seller management books.

Written by walonline

July 29, 2008 at 7:15 pm

Always Read It…

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Even if it takes a few cups of java noir.

Here’s one of the most recent “Indexed” from Jessica Hagy:

Thought you had a fixed rate, didn't you?

Thought you had a fixed rate, didn't you?

Its important to note this so simply (and for a second time this week): know what your security is.

Written by walonline

July 28, 2008 at 2:56 pm

Posted in Life, The Web

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Is Reading Webpages Really Reading?

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Ann Althouse has an interesting take on this NY Times article (“Literacy Debate: Online, R U Really Reading?”). She certainly thinks that it is different, but that reading books is not the only or best way to read. What is particularly interesting is this quote:

I definitely think that reading on-line restructures your brain. That may be bad in some ways, but it’s got to be good in others. In any case, it’s where I am now. I still read books, but I read them differently, for example, I cut to the essence quickly and spring into alert when I detect bullshit. I’m offended by padding, pedantry, and humorlessness.

This reflects well with me. I am a voracious reader of what I call “current affairs”. This ranges from political and market/economic news to its in-depth analysis. I enjoy diving into a book and the different style it presents in comparison, but only when I can devote large chunks of time to it (such as when I’m on vacation, sitting on a beach or poolside).

In the same way, while in graduate school, we had a large amount of required reading from a variety of sources: papers, case studies, texts, the Internet, etc. After a short while, I was able to adopt much of my Internet reading style to these different media to absorb most of the authors’ discussion with minimal reading of the superfluous.

One thing that you learn to be comfortable with, when reading via the Internet, is the variety and quality of sources. A reader, as Althouse alluded, is stretched to quickly find the base meaning and filter for bias. (My good friend Paul blogged regarding a web reader’s attention span here, as it applies to the web marketing of churches.) This can be applied to a variety of sources, but can make longer passages and books difficult. As it says in the NY Times article: “‘It takes a long time to read a 400-page book,’ said Mr. Spiro of Michigan State. ‘In a tenth of the time,’ he said, the Internet allows a reader to ‘cover a lot more of the topic from different points of view.'”

You also find that a great writer can make subjects that traditionally are dry and boring quite the opposite. One of my favorite personal blogs is James Lileks’ Bleat. He talks about all sorts of odd things in his daily entries, but his observation of them is what’s interesting. This isn’t literature out of some musty (or brand new, tough-to-hold-open) volume, but it is still great writing that is easily available to me.

This article gives rise to a number of questions for readers:

  • What are your thoughts on Internet reading?
  • Do you think, as a community of bloggers/readers, we are merely confirming our own beliefs in posts such as this and Althouse’s?
  • Does it bother you that complex ideas tend to be so heavily summarized on the web (or do you subscribe to the idea that brevity is the soul of wit)?
  • How would you describe your reading style (does it differ in terms of the media from which you are reading)?

Please discuss these in the comments.

Written by walonline

July 27, 2008 at 7:28 pm

Posted in internet, Life

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Player Introductions (Harry Caray Impersonation)

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A year or so ago, ESPN started having famous alumni or players introduce college football starting lineups. Now Fox Sports has a teammate introduce his team’s batting order/lineup. The vast majority that I’ve seen have been pretty bad, but this one by Will Ohman is pretty good.

Hat tip: Deadspin

What isn’t so good is watching someone called Jeremy Sowers pitch five perfect innings against my Twins. Hopefully, they can find a little offense in the last four innings.

UPDATE @ 1:45p: As soon as I wrote above, the Twins get a hit in the top of 6 with no outs. Before its all over, they load the bases and scored a couple runs, heading to the bottom of the inning with the lead, 2-1.

I don’t think I’ve ever jinxed a perfect game before… and certainly not for the other team. Heh.

Written by walonline

July 27, 2008 at 1:26 pm

Posted in Sports, The Web

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