|Ken Novak's Weblog
Purpose of this blog: to retain annotated bookmarks for my future reference, and to offer others my filter technology and other news. Note that this blog is categorized. Use the category links to find items that match your interests.
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Monday, December 01, 2003
: A service for browser-based RSS aggregators. 6:32:55 PM
Scientists Speed Up Tree Growth in N.C.: "Scientists say they have found a way to boost tree growth but so far there they haven't found a practical use for the fast-growing plants. A tree species at N.C. State's Upper Piedmont Research Station in Reidsville grew up to 20 feet in a single year, about double its usual rate. A typical tree in the area grows about 18 inches in a good year. The experiment uses paulownias, a naturally rapid-growing tree from China whose thin stalks are covered in purple blossoms during the spring.
Researchers bred seven varieties of the trees, the quickest of which can grow about 18 to 20 feet in a year, said Ben Bergmann, who was in charge of the project. Bergmann now is the head of the Tropical Research Studies Department at Duke University. The unusual growth was discovered during experiments to lessen animal waste in groundwater and soil, he said. Because of the trees' rapid growth, their roots absorb nutrients and prevent ground and surface water contamination. The trees produce a light weight wood that can be used for furniture and musical instruments, Bergmann said." I wonder how fast they absorb CO2. 6:29:59 PM
Summary of VOIP limitations:
- no guarantees of service
- no constraints on junk call: solicitations and junk fax: Don't expect to have a "do not call" or "can spam" list enforced.
- no assurance that identification and its release are in accordance with end-user's expectations
- You can't assume that the 'caller ID' data presented to you is accurate
- At this point, there's no mandated assurance that you can initiate VoIP calls that will suppress disclosure of your identity, IP number, etc. -- that is, no 'private call' assurance
- The legal and regulatory levels of privacy afforded to conventional telephony may not apply: If you want privacy, you'll need to put in place your own solutions (as will those with whom you communicate) and hope that your measures are "good enough."
What Makes Some Startups Succeed? Interesting results from survey of 450 storage startups:
- Companies raising the most capital don't have the strongest chance to succeed. There was no direct correlation. In fact, the amount of capital invested in storage startups that reached successful exits was in a tight range of $33 to $40 million — which some would say is a surprisingly small amount of capital in the world of high-flying IT startups. In fact, the research report states, "there is a negative trend in the number of (successful) exits as funding exceeds the average range." Over-funding actually allows companies to follow a flawed strategy for too long, the report points out.
- A fully staffed executive team is not necessarily a requirement for success. The study found that, based on historical precedent, building the team sequentially can be more capital efficient, with greater emphasis placed on development of the technology for the first 12 to 18 months. The ideal founding team pedigree, says Crescendo, is a successful product development track record.
- Most successful storage startups fail to meet all the criteria for being a truly "disruptive innovation." Although the report admits this is largely a qualitative assessment, new waves of technology disruption are not obvious at the outset. Neither did the majority of successful firms "cross the chasm" — that is, move from the low-end, unwanted customer to disrupt the core business of a veteran company before they experienced a successful exit.
- In 93 percent of the cases, the strategy that a company emerges with (at exit) is completely different from the strategy it set out to implement.
Seized Intelligence Files Spur U.S. Investigations: "The CIA has seized an extensive cache of files from the former Iraqi Intelligence Service that is spurring U.S. investigations of weapons procurement networks and agents of influence who took money from the government of Saddam Hussein, according to U.S. officials familiar with the records. The Iraqi files are "almost as much as the Stasi files," said a senior U.S. official, referring to the vast archives of the former East German intelligence service seized after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.
The records would stretch 91/2 miles if laid end to end, the officials said. They contain not only the names of nearly every Iraqi intelligence officer, but also the names of their paid foreign agents, written agent reports, evaluations of agent credentials, and documentary evidence of payments made to buy influence in the Arab world and elsewhere, the officials said. The officials declined to name individuals who they believe received funds or to name the home countries of the alleged recipients. One official said the recipients held high-ranking positions and worked both in Arab countries and in other regions. A second official said the payments were the subjects of "active investigations" by U.S. government agencies.
The recipients of the Iraqi funds were described by U.S. officials not as formal intelligence agents, but as prominent personalities and political figures who accepted money from Iraq as they defended Hussein publicly or pressed his causes. " 5:09:12 PM
On North Korean Freighter, a Hidden Missile Factory: An Indian port siezure in 1999: "When the ship's doors were finally reopened at gunpoint, the reason for the extreme secrecy became clear. Hidden inside wooden crates marked "water refinement equipment" was an assembly line for ballistic missiles: tips of nose cones, sheet metal for rocket frames, machine tools, guidance systems and, in smaller crates, ream upon ream of engineers' drawings labeled "Scud B" and "Scud C." The intended recipient of the cargo, according to U.S. intelligence officials, was Libya. .. The latest beneficiary appears to be Libya, but other nations are known to have received similar help, including Iran, Pakistan and Syria. North Korea has also sold missiles and parts to Yemen..
In the end, a need for cash scuttled the [ship's] mission. The black-hulled, 25-year-old freighter would probably have avoided Indian customs officials had the captain not gone out of his way to earn extra money, according to documents and interviews with officials. Just 10 days after departing North Korea's Nampo harbor on April 10, 1999, the ship made detours to two Thai ports to pick up 14,000 tons of sugar for resale along the way, records show. A deal to sell the sugar to some Algerians fell through, so the ship switched course again, to sell it to an Indian company. That meant a stop at the busy port of Kandla, in Gujarat province in northwestern India. ..
While the ship was somewhere en route, Indian customs officials were tipped off to its possible contraband. The Kuwolsan was rumored to be carrying arms or ammunition, perhaps intended for India's neighbor and rival, Pakistan. When the North Korean freighter steamed into Kandla on June 25, port officials were waiting for it. " 4:56:36 PM
Smugglers Enticed by Dirty Bomb Components
: Stories on black-market trafficing in commercial and ex-Soviet radiation sources, including Georgian mafia, Nigeria-to-Germany smuggling, and an Ecuador blackmail operation that still holds canisters. A Sept 2003 report from Los Alamos National Laboratory
states "With the current frequency of terrorist bombings, the publicity regarding the RDD [Radiological Dispersal Device] threat, and the widespread availability of radioactive source materials, an RDD attack somewhere in the world is overdue." 12:48:52 PM
Are the poor getting poorer?
: "Income inequality does often grow in developing nations. However, that's usually not because "the poor are getting poorer," but because either a) the poor are staying put while the rich get richer, or b) the poor are getting less poor, but they're not doing so as fast as the rich are getting richer. According to a report published in 2000 by the UN, the World Bank, the OECD, et al., the number of people on the planet who live on less than a dollar a day dropped by 100 million between 1990 and 1998. The number remained astoundingly high—1.2 billion—but bear in mind that the drop came even as the population of poor nations grew by hundreds of millions.
Of course, growing income inequality within a nation—whether or not it is caused by the poor getting poorer—may cause social strains and be regrettable for various other reasons. Enlightened national governments may choose to reduce it by income redistribution or other means. Still, it is not necessarily a bad thing when income inequality is the price paid for a rising standard of living.
Moreover, to suggest—as many have—that globalization is particularly responsible for the growth in income inequality may be the opposite of the truth. Two years ago two World Bank economists, David Dollar and Aart Kraay, released a study that looked not just at the effects of economic growth, but specifically at the effects of globalization. Tracking nations with the most open, most globalized, economies over the last several decades, they found that, as national income grew, the fraction of the economic pie going to the bottom fifth of the income scale didn't shrink. The rising tide indeed seemed to lift all boats." 10:19:11 AM
A Real War on Terrorism By Robert Wright
: Excellent 9-part series from late 2002 on an integrated long-term approach to terrorism. "If you look back over history, you will see enduringly disastrous phases—decades if not centuries of lethal contagious disease, of ruinous war, of societal collapse, of imperial decline. Sometimes these things "just happen," but sometimes they happen because of momentous technological and social changes whose import humankind fails to reckon with. The premise of this series is that right now we're undergoing such change, and so far we're failing to reckon with it." The section on A regulating biotech
is notable. 10:15:59 AM