Quick hits


I wouldn't have guessed

This U.S. military death rates PDF chart is an eye-opener: various casualty statistics from 1980 to 2004. Of those years, which saw the most military deaths? You might think it was 2003 or 2004, since between 1980 and 2001 the U.S. wasn't really engaging in any large-scale combat (depending on whether or not you count the Gulf War). Actually, it was 1983, year of the Beirut terrorist bombing which killed 263 marines: 2,486 deaths total. The next deadliest was 1980, with 2,392 deaths. By comparison, 2004 saw 1,887 military deaths.

The biggest reasons for the lower death totals now are safer equipment, reduced illness and non-combat homicide, and a smaller military. Accidental deaths around military equipment are a chronic fact of life, and I don't think the layperson (or, certainly, the media) realizes how big an element they are. Big enough that a something like 60% reduction in their rate is enough to outweigh the simultaneous fighting of two wars.

Interesting stats in the whole document.

(Via Instapundit)


The Minsk scene

Ivan Lenin, now at Russian Mushroom is blogging the post-election protests in Belarus. Apparently this one's more of an uphill battle than the successful uprisings over the last few years in Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan, among other places, because there's less anti-Russian, anti-authority sentiment there. Still, long live the revolution!


Girl is rich

Meet Hind Hariri: at 22 years old, the world's youngest billionaire, according to Forbes magazine's latest issue. Ms. Hariri is one of the five children of the late former prime minister Rafik Hariri, the assassination of whom last year you may recall set in motion a series of events that culminated in the pullout of Syrian troops from Lebanon and the democratization of Lebanon. The news I missed while following that story was that Hariri was also filthy rich, having built up an empire in construction, real estate, oil, and telecommunications, among others. He was worth $4 billion at the time of his death. Not the kind of guy you want to be messing with if you want to keep your shaky hold on another country, apparently.

Anyway, fast forward to today: as a result of some bold moves by Hariri's sons to buy into Turkey's privatizing industries, among other things, the Hariri estate has now quadrupled over what it was at his death, now standing at 16 billion. Meaning all five kids are worth at least $1.5 billion. And they're all involved in politics in some way.

I guess there's supposed to be some point to this whole story. Er, what a crazy world we live in.


Nerds return to NY

An interesting article in Sunday's New York Times on
the new "Silicon Alley". I've known about most of these companies, but it's interesting to seem them all together in context. Most of them are "Web 2.0" companies, a buzzword that essentially means they're community-based in some way.
Not so long ago Silicon Alley was all but obliterated. Dozens of companies went out of business during the burst of the technology bubble, and the economic slow-down following the 9/11 attacks took still more. Employment in information technology in New York City plummeted to around 35,000 at the end of 2005 from around 50,000 in 2000, according to the New York State Labor Department.

Along the way any semblance of a digital community in New York dissolved as well. Launch parties gave way to pink slip-parties and then to no parties at all. The Silicon Alley Reporter, a trade publication, folded, and the New York New Media Association, a focal point for the tech community during the boom, quietly closed its doors in 2003. Nerds went underground.

"In 2002 it was definitely embarrassing to say you were doing Internet stuff," said Mr. Heiferman, who founded the Web advertising firm i-Traffic in 1995 and Meetup in 2002. "It seemed so passé."

Things are back, but now everything's more sedate, with open-source tools taking the place of large technology departments, and ad placement services taking the place of sales departments.

It makes me seem like a hopeless trend-setter, but this story essentially tracks my career exactly. I worked at three different internet-related companies from '98 to '01, none of which exist anymore. When there was no more new media work to be had, I put on a suit and tie and went to work at a bank for three and a half years. Now I have my own web project, using all open source tools and ad blah blah blah.

Strangely, according to the accompanying map, if you want to make it at all in new media, you need set up shop somewhere right around Soho. Hm, good to know...

(All via Gawker)


Music plug

I'm listening to an album of Philip Glass string quartets today and it's really great music for being productive. People mock his music as repetitive but there's something about the rhythmic eighth notes that really lets you focus on the task at hand.

The CD is Kronos Quartet performs Philip Glass, which incidentally might be my single hardest-to-file-away CD. File under Glass or Kronos? For classical music I usually just file it under the composer (or, since there's often more than one composer, the first one listed) and call it a day, but I have to make an exception for the Kronos Quartet since that group's identity really colors everything they do. So I have no good answer for this one.


Yet Another Meme: son of Another Meme

Chainik Hocker tagged me with another meme; he created this one. I guess now we know where they start, with folks like you and me. Well, on to the assignment...

My nick: Uh, Yaron, I guess, though it bears a striking resemblance to my real name.

My hometown: Haifa or Amherst. I don't know. Maybe Brooklyn now.

My team: I don't really follow any sports either. I'm always a fan of Team USA, though. So I'll root for any team whose players don't end up on other countries' teams in the Olympics, like that Satan hockey player guy. Talk about a suspicious name.

My theme song: Trick Daddy, "I'm A Thug". Self-explanatory.

My drink: Scotch on the rocks, but I haven't had it in a while, so I don't know if that's a lie.

My occupation: Programmer

My spare time: more programming.

My hiding spot: um. Can't tell you.

My book: Okay, this is a real one: Friedrich A. Hayek, "The Road to Serfdom".

My hero: I filled out my MySpace profile recently and there's a spot for "Heroes", so let me put what I wrote there: George Washington, Calvin Coolidge, Theodore Herzl, Friedrich Hayek, Andy Grove, Vincent Gallo, James McNew, Philip Kaplan.

I never pass these on, but since it's a new one I feel a little compelled. So, since there's one person who's always keen to pass them on to me, Petitedov, here you go! Also getting tipped is Dawn Summers, who knows more about me than anyone.


Oscar wrapup

Ace of Spades: "I Used To Fear Death, Until I Saw Lily Tomlin and Meryl Streep Engaging In "Funny Banter": Now I welcome the sweet oblivion of Death's embrace."

I thought Jon Stewart was pretty good. His real problem is that he just doesn't seem to care about either movies or actors and actresses. Just about all of his jokes were about politics and music. I can understand that those are his interests, since those are sort of my two main interests too, but I feel like I would at least have tried to make jokes about the movies that actually came out this year. His indifference to the whole movie industry also came out every time he made some sarcastic remark after the latest montage. What's the point of having a host who undercuts whatever statement you were trying to make with your montage?

The other main problem was the seeming total absence of both Brangelina and Tom and Katie. I know none of them were nominated for anything, but that's no reason not to include the two all-powerful couples of Hollywood. In general there didn't seem to be that many random stars around, other than the omnipresent Jack Nicholson. It just served to make the show look a little less legitimate, like maybe all those other people were at the real awards ceremony.


Drawing time

I was inspired today to scan in a bunch of doodles that I had made at work during team meetings over the three years I was there. Those meetings were generally regarded in our group as something of a time-waster, since everyone was working on pretty disparate projects, so there wasn't much productive communication that could happen between projects. Some people took care of email on their PDA's, some people worked on pricing algorithms or whatever; I doodled (though I was still listening to what people were saying, for what it was worth).

Here's a good one. It's some sort of robot... on a swing. Note well-executed use of shading:

In a more stylistic vein, an old woman and her teacup:

One more of a robot... I guess this one's singing:

Wow... okay, forget what I said about wasted time.

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