January 2004

“A New Age theory of urban development amounts to economic snake oil”:

Providence, R.I., is so worried that it doesn’t appeal to hip, young technology workers that local economic-development officials are urging a campaign to make the city the nation’s capital of independent rock music. In Pittsburgh, another place that fears it lacks appeal among talented young people, officials want to build bike paths and outdoor hiking trails to make the city a magnet for creative workers. Meanwhile, a Memphis economic-development group is pressing that city to hold “celebrations of diversity” to attract more gays and minorities, in order–in their view–to bolster the local economy.

If you think these efforts represent some fringe of economic development, think again. All of these cities have been inspired by the theories of Richard Florida, a Carnegie Mellon professor whose notion that cities must become trendy, happening places in order to compete in the 21st-century economy is sweeping urban America. In his popular book “The Rise of the Creative Class,” …Mr. Florida argues that cities that attract gays, bohemians and ethnic minorities are the new economic powerhouses because they are also the places where creative workers–the kind who start and staff innovative, fast-growing companies–want to live. To lure this work force…cities must dispense with stuffy old theories of economic development–like the notion that low taxes are what draw in companies and workers–and instead must spend heavily on cultural amenities and pursue progressive social legislation.

A generation of leftish policy makers and urban planners are rushing to implement Mr. Florida’s vision, while an admiring host of uncritical journalists tout it. But there is just one problem: The basic economics behind his ideas don’t work. Far from being economic powerhouses, several of the cities the professor identifies as creative-age winners have chronically underperformed the American economy. MORE


“How could we have been so far off in our estimates of Saddam Hussein’s weapons programs? A leading Iraq expert and intelligence analyst in the Clinton Administration—whose book The Threatening Storm proved deeply influential in the run-up to the war—gives a detailed account of how and why we erred” MUST READ ARTICLE


Freecache: Save bandwidth through cooperation

by Limbic on January 27, 2004

FreeCache is a system of cooperating caches to move large files of
free content closer to users.

To see a live snapshot of the FreeCache system go to the Status page.

The basic architecture is Real Simple(tm). It works entirely within existing technologies (“vanilla” web browsers and servers, http and https on the wire, plus a small cgi).

To use FreeCache, just click on a link like this. As a user you DO NOT need to install new software.

FreeCache works by moving content “hot spots” on the web closer to users. This provides several advantages to various parties involved: Users get faster downloads, content providers pay less for Internet-bound traffic, and ISPs pay less for Internet-originating traffic.

An example:
Say an up-and-coming rock band, the RockLobsters, has a website that has a large file, say http://www.rocklobsters.com/videos/my-new-rock-video.mpg that is 5MB-1GB in size. If it gets popular, they will lose their guitars and homes to their ISP because their bandwidth bill will shoot up.


Iraqi WMD probably in Syria – David Kay

by Limbic on January 27, 2004

“David Kay, the former head of the coalition’s hunt for Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, yesterday claimed that part of Saddam Hussein’s secret weapons programme was hidden in Syria.” – Telegraph

Looks like I was right. As I wrote in November of last year

We know they were there in 1998, so was his weapons program. So, we have
some possibilities:

1. They were destroyed by Saddam, and oddly he refused to admit to it and
show us where and how he did it.
2. They were smuggled out of Iraq (to maybe Jordan or Syria).
3. They are still in Iraq.


Britain is likely to be plunged into an ice age within our lifetime by global warming, new research suggests.

A study, which is being taken seriously by top government scientists, has uncovered a change “of remarkable amplitude” in the circulation of the waters of the North Atlantic.

Similar events in pre-history are known to have caused sudden “flips” of the climate, bringing ice ages to northern Europe within a few decades. The development – described as “the largest and most dramatic oceanic change ever measured in the era of modern instruments”, by the US Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, which led the research – threatens to turn off the Gulf Stream, which keeps Europe’s weather mild.

If that happens, Britain and northern Europe are expected to switch abruptly to the climate of Labrador – which is on the same latitude – bringing a nightmare scenario where farmland turns to tundra and winter temperatures drop below -20C. The much-heralded cold snap predicted for the coming week would seem balmy by comparison.

Invest in energy and synthetic clothing stocks.


Tim van Gelder's reading list

by Limbic on January 27, 2004

Tim van Gelder is one of the worlds most greatest critical thinking experts and webmaster of the superb “Critical Thinking On The Web” website. These are the sites he “visit[s] compulsively”:

Opinion – one page displaying the opinion headlines of The Australian, The Age (Melbourne), and The Sydney Morning Herald. So I can rapidly monitor what the Australian chattering classes are thinking.

Link sites: Arts and Letters Daily, Steve Downes’ Online Learning Daily, and Butterflies and Wheels

Newspapers: The Age and The New York Times, especially their Most E-Mailed Articles list.

Magazines: The New Yorker, The New Criterion and Vocabula Review

Essayists: Paul Monk and Malcolm Gladwell (and whenever/wherever they pop up, Theodore Dalrymple and Keith Windschuttle)

Columnists/bloggers: Ophelia Benson, Mark Steyn, Tim Blair and Andrew Bolt

Amazon.com – where I buy most of my books, and waste a lot of time reading blurbs, reviews, lists etc.


Mars Missions Primer [Nature]

by Limbic on January 27, 2004

Everything you wanted to know about the various Mars missions but were too lazy to figure out for yourself from all the hysterical reporting.


The Construction of Brasilia [Brasilia Pics]

by Limbic on January 26, 2004

Brasilia is the federal capital of Brazil built from scratch since 1956. It is a fascinating city.


From Metafilter:

Raiding the 20th Century. On January 18 XFM Radio broadcast a DJ set by Strictly Kev (working under the pseudo-open moniker DJ Food) called Raiding the 20th Century – A History of the Cut Up. The set is completely comprised of music from the later half of, you guess it, the 20th century and makes for a very entertaining and nostalgic listen. File location details inside.


“It is possibly the longest-running murder mystery of them all. What, or even who, killed humankind’s nearest relatives, the Neanderthals who once roamed Europe before dying out almost 30,000 years ago?

Suspects have ranged from the climate to humans themselves, and the mystery has deeply divided experts. Now 30 scientists have come together to publish the most definitive answer yet to this enigma.

They say Neanderthals simply did not have the technological know-how to survive the increasingly harsh winters. And intriguingly, rather than being Neanderthal killers, the original human settlers of Europe almost suffered the same fate.” MORE