March 2007
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Month March 2007

Corn is Not the Future of US Ethanol

Timothy Gardner:

New technology to make ethanol from crops such as grasses and trees instead of corn could ease price spikes of the grain within a decade, a U.S. Energy Department official said on Wednesday.



“I’m not going to predict what the price of corn is going to do, but I will tell you the future of biofuels is not based on corn,” U.S. Deputy Energy Secretary Clay Sell said in an interview.



Output of U.S. ethanol, which is mostly made from corn, is expected to jump in 2007 from 5.6 billion gallons per year to 8 billion gpy, as nearly 80 bio-refineries sprout up.

Chad Vader meets Mayor Dave and Maya Cole

Maya Cole met Chad Vader last weekend at Indie Coffee.

AT&T’s Rhetoric on Competition

Mark Pitsch:

Wisconsin residents would lose their rights to cable television repairs within 72 hours, credit for service interruptions and advance notice of rate increases, under a bill on the fast track in the state Legislature.

The proposal, designed to increase competition in an industry dominated by cable companies, is supported by the lobbying muscle of telecommunications giant AT&T.

It’s part of AT&T’s challenge to cable companies such as Charter Communications, which are licensed by local governments.

There is little agreement on whether the proposal would help consumers or hurt them.

Pitsch mentions this:

But proponents say the bill would lower costs for telecast delivery – whether by cable or AT&T’s fiber optic lines – by up to 23 percent by introducing competition and deregulating the industry.

What fiber optic lines would that be? AT&T has done nothing to upgrade it’s copper based network to the home (other than spend money on lobbying and advertisements regarding the ongoing resale of the old network, something we’ve paid for over and over and over…), unlike Verizon in other parts of the country. Nice to see our politicians continue to “stick it to us”. `

Finger Lickin Funny

Rich Markey writing in the UW-Madison Alumni Magazine [pdf]:

Kentucky Fried Theater took root on campus in the early seventies, and then went on to produce hit movies such as Airplane! and The Naked Gun series. Who could have predicted that this zany Wisconsin brand of humor would have a major influence on comedy ranging from Saturday Night Live to South Park and Dumb and Dumber?

“My National Security Letter Gag Order”

Via the Washington Post:

The Justice Department’s inspector general revealed on March 9 that the FBI has been systematically abusing one of the most controversial provisions of the USA Patriot Act: the expanded power to issue “national security letters.” It no doubt surprised most Americans to learn that between 2003 and 2005 the FBI issued more than 140,000 specific demands under this provision — demands issued without a showing of probable cause or prior judicial approval — to obtain potentially sensitive information about U.S. citizens and residents. It did not, however, come as any surprise to me.

Crossing the Border

Tom Kyte:

It was that last bit. The customs agent wanted to know “is that your employers laptop” – nope, it is mine. “Do you do work on it, business work?”. Well, I read email, browse the web, have all of my presentations on it, use it to present, run Oracle on it, demonstrate with it. “So, it is your companies laptop then?”. Nope, it is mine.

They scribbled someone on the immigration form, handed it to me and said “have a nice trip”. I head out of baggage claim – but instead of being told to go right (to freedom), I’m directed to the left – to additional scrutiny. No worries – nothing to be found, no problem.

Exploring Antarctica

Washington Post. Fabulous.

Madison’s Overture Center: 1999 and 2006

Compare a 1999 view with a fall, 2006 scene of Madison’s Overture Center:

1999

2006

Virtual Properties.

Fortran Developer Dies

Steve Lohr:

John W. Backus, who assembled and led the I.B.M. team that created Fortran, the first widely used programming language, which helped open the door to modern computing, died on Saturday at his home in Ashland, Ore. He was 82.

Fortran, released in 1957, was “the turning point” in computer software, much as the microprocessor was a giant step forward in hardware, according to J.A.N. Lee, a leading computer historian.

Fortran changed the terms of communication between humans and computers, moving up a level to a language that was more comprehensible by humans. So Fortran, in computing vernacular, is considered the first successful higher-level language.

Meet The New Boss, Same as the Old Boss….

Jeff Birnbaum:

KAI RYSSDAL: There’ll be an all-star cast tomorrow night at a Democratic fundraiser outside Washington. Speaker Nancy Pelosi and chairmen of the ten most powerful committees in the House of Representatives are scheduled to headline the event. And even though the presidential election’s still 18 months away, corporate America is already placing its bets with well-timed donations. Commentator Jeff Birnbaum points out it’s the same story as before…just a different cast of characters.

JEFF BIRNBAUM: The asking price for access to Nancy Pelosi and all her colleagues is $28,500 a couple. That’s one of the steepest prices ever charged since new campaign finance limits were imposed five years ago.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way. Remember Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean railing against Republicans last year for selling access to their chairmen? The “intimate briefings” they gave to big donors was part of what Democrats derided as the GOP’s “culture of corruption.” If the Democrats ever took charge, they promised, all that would change.

Well, it hasn’t changed. Actually, it’s gotten worse. Democratic campaign committees are systematically showcasing a whole series of Democratic chairmen at fundraising receptions as a way to lure lobbyists’ money. That’s right, lobbyists are being asked to donate to the lawmakers who are in charge of the legislation that their clients care most about.