The Definition Disclaimer

Human words are a great deal fuzzier than the concepts they hope to cover. For instance, consider the word "love"; it means anything from stalker-level obsession to a moderate preferance ("I love pizza!"). In order to talk about anything precisely it is often necessary to specify what a given word refers to in some specific context. Every writer has the right to choose what definitions they are using in a particular bit of text.

On Leadership

When I was younger, I thought leadership was oversold, and what really mattered were the people on the team. I have recanted this belief. I still don't entirely understand why leadership is so important, but the experience I've collected over the years is pretty clear on the matter. My best guesses are that it is some combination of the following: It is true that the performance of a team is bounded on top by both the quality of the team and the quality of the leadership, but people tend to badly underestimate how much quality and talent there is in the world.

It's time for gas stations to drop that nine tenths of a cent off their signs.

Pedant's Note

Every decade around this time, we get pedants who point out that since there was no Year 0, decades/centuries/millenniums start on 1. I observe that the Gregorian Calendar we use started in 1582, so not only was there no year 0, there was no year 1, year 2, year 3, ..., or year 1581. Therefore, true pendants should be insisting that decades start on twos, and centuries start on 82s, and millennia start on 582s!

I'm calling it: This is the year that Christmas officially enveloped Thanksgiving. With less than a week to go to Thanksgiving, the only channel I'm hearing more about Thanksgiving than Christmas is my family communications channels as we work out the plan for next week. Next envelopment to watch out for: The Presidential campaign enveloping the mid-term elections. The 2008 Presidential campaign effectively started mere days after the 2006 midterms.

This story about climate engineering reminded me: I strongly support climate engineering if properly analyzed, but I think that proper analysis is unlikely to be possible with most approaches. I strongly favor the development of space mirrors, because they are one of the few techniques that are both highly controllable and they also swing both ways. If it turns out some intervention is not working as we expect, we can actually stop intervening.

I didn't notice this reddit link go by last month, since I don't check my referrers as often as I used to (heh), linking to my post about teaching things other than trig. All in all, I feel like I fared well for a site like Reddit, but there was one repeated theme in the comments I wanted to address: The idea that economics would be impossible to teach in high school.

"Fallout From the Fall of CAPTCHAs"

Slashdot has an unusually interesting discussion on the rise and fall of CAPTCHAs, which is why I give that link precedence over the original story.

I mention this because I keep waiting for someone to discuss the root problem, and it's so rarely done that I guess I'm just going to have to do it myself. The root problem of spam comes from the following simple tension:

  1. We want to be able to contact or be contacted by anybody.
  2. We don't want to be contacted by just anybody.

Without understanding this fundamental dynamic, the whole "spam" situation won't make any sense.