More on R&D from Ezra Klein

Ezra Klein says only 9% of our companies are innovating, according to an NSF study. There is a link in his article to an article by Michael Mandel, which is where Ezra got his info.

This underscores the need for universities to do R&D, and thus, not to be run like businesses whose clients are the students.

James Gosling interview transcript

There’s a good interview with James Gosling at Basement Coders. Some comments on Sun, Oracle, the future of Java, Google, and much, much more.

Treating universities like businesses

I saw a link in Steve Benin’s Political Animal blog saying that Texas Governor Rick Perry wants to treat universities like a business, but that he has no idea what he’s talking about.

Reading the article, they’re right. He has no idea what he’s talking about, but that’s not the point I took. The article mentioned that Perry had a policy agenda that “treats universities as businesses whose customers are students”.

I’ve heard this before, most recently at KU, where I spent the majority of my professional career. It’s ridiculous. First off, many universities have multiple missions other than educating students. The main one for many universities is doing research. Research coming out of universities is very important and is only tangentially related to educating students. Not every university is a research university, but for those who are, it’s a very important part of their mission.

It is, of course, up to states to decide how they want to fund their state-run universities, but they should be aware that there are consequences to not funding research. For one thing it makes the university less attractive to the brighter students, and for another it makes the state less attractive to industry.

Ultimately, though, research and education are public goods, and putting a monetary value on such things is not something that we’re good at. Some large corporations, of course, also fund research, mostly in line with their main business product, e.g. the oil companies funding certain types of geological research, communications companies funding various kinds of computing and electronics research, etc. They are able to put a monetary value on the research because of the engineering products that come from it, and the kudos that results from published papers is good PR, and worth a certain amount for that.

But universities do research in every area, and we need that. It can’t really be valued in terms of money, though any university only has so much money and must make decisions as to how best to allocate it. But to act as though a university is just a sort of advanced technical school turning out educated workers is a profound misunderstanding of a university’s role, and a profound short-changing of the future.

Civilization V

So Civilization V was released on Tuesday. I played most of a game on Tuesday without reading any documentation. It was pretty fun, but I wasn’t going to win it.

Before starting another game, I’m reading other peoples’ experiences on Civ Fanatics and found Lemmy101′s experience highly amusing.

This is a very different experience than Civilization III or Civilization IV. It’s been long enough ago that I don’t really remember Civilization II.

The biggest differences are that the game is on a hex grid rather than squares or “isometrics”, which are diamond shapes and are topologically equivalent to squares, and that only one unit can occupy a tile at the end of a turn. You can pass through other non-hostile units, but you must land on an empty square. So no more stacks of doom. This feels more like those SPI games I used to play with Peter Palij back in the 1970s on hex gridded maps with units made of cardboard squares labeled as pikemen, infantry, tanks, or whatever.

Religion, which was introduced in Civilization IV is gone again. This is fine since it just meant building a bunch of extra monasteries and temples.

They’ve redone civics again. I don’t quite get the new forms, but I haven’t read anything, so that’s understandable. I’m sure it’ll all make sense after a bit of reading.

Also, they’ve introduced “city states”, which are single city non-player characters that aren’t in the game to win. Instead, you can ally with them, protect them, get benefits from being their friend, or you can conquer them. This is interesting, and I’ll have to see how it plays out.

The main thing I don’t like in the game UI, which is completely redesigned, is that hex tiles you have never seen are covered with a giant dark grey hex. It’s as if the unexplored areas are covered with a giant slate-colored glacier which melts back as you explore. Since you start with very little knowledge of the map, it looks as if you are playing in Chaco Canyon with great black walls rising around you. Strange. I’d rather just have flat black tiles, as in previous versions.

I’m nerving myself up to start another game…

Southwest Potatoes with cheddar, corn, and patience

I made Mark Bittman’s Southwest Potatoes from September 7th’s New York Times. Excellent! The recipe includes corn kernels, which you brown with chilis in oil, potatoes, which you cube and cook in oil, and then you add them together, along with some black beans and chili powder, and top with cheese.

I’ll be making this again, but I think I’ll use less oil, cut the potatoes just slightly smaller, and add a bit more cheese!

New Robot picture

I’ve got a picture now with the Ping))) ultrasonic rangefinder installed. I also added some collision switches in front of the wheels.

Here’s a link (finally) to my project files.

New robot pictures

Here are some new robot pictures. I have a much better mount for the sensors now and they are working as well as they can. Unfortunately, I don’t think passive infrared motion sensors will work for what I want. They’re too erratic for use on a robot. They’d be fine for a stationary unit that needs to detect motion by “hot” objects such as a cat or a human and take some action. But for a moving object, they take too long to calibrate. They generate unreliable information.

I’ve ordered an ultrasonic rangefinder, which will look sort of Wall-E-ish. It should fit into the same “face”, but if not, it’ll be easy to make a new one.

Not with a bang…

So Michael Lind of Salon has a column in Salon saying what I’ve been saying for the past twelve or so years. We’re moving from a Republic to a Principate.

I would add that the executive branch has been figuring out ways to get more power pretty much from the beginning of the Republic, with crises fueling the power grabs. Usually, Congress gets some of its power back some years after the crisis passes.

The problem is that for various reasons, Congress isn’t always very responsive to the needs of the country, and the needs are more pressing in some senses than perhaps they were in the beginning.

My cat-chasing robot now has sensors

I now have sensors. They’re a bit lopsided, but they function. It’s worse that they’re a bit off-center. My code needs work. It tends to find a cat (or me) and then move forwards a bit, then start spinning.

Robot right view

Robot right view

Robot left view

Robot left view

Robot center view

Robot center view

And here’s a movie. Click the image to play it.

My cat-chasing robot

This is very early. The robot doesn’t yet have any sensors. It has two front wheels and a caster in the center back.

My plan is to put some thermal motion detectors on it and go towards the motion.

At the moment it just goes in squares. Forwards for a second and a half, then counter-rotate the wheels to make a rough 90-degree turn. Repeat.

Obviously, loose wires will need to be fastened, or cats will chew on them.

Robot right view

Robot right view

Robot front view

Front view

Robot left view

Robot left view