The wizards of finance

“This latest incident and the previous Chuetsu-Oki earthquake indicate that the business risk of operating nuclear power plants in Japan is higher than previously contemplated,” Moody’s analysts including Kenji Okamoto said in a note, putting the company [TEPCO] on a review for a possible downgrade. – Bloomberg.

No kidding?


Industrial robots state of the art

During the BP Macondo leak I was struck by the enormous level of skill needed by the robot submarine operators and wondered at the apparently low level of automation available to them. But the absence of robotic equipment in the TEPCO Fukushima Daiichi facility is really even more comprehensive and more puzzling – there’s no mile of seawater to make things really challenging.  An article in CNET asks the same question.  It’s quite puzzling. And kind of a sobering reminder of consequences of Dilbert boss impulses to turn useful R&D projects into PR stunts.

It’s not like I didn’t see doomed robotics projects in the US National Labs.




Security news

The lesson of this story is that even (particularly?) computer security companies cannot put up with the inconvenience of standard security precautions.

Greg Hoglund’s nightmare began on Super Bowl Sunday. On Feb. 6 the high-tech entrepreneur was sitting in his home office, trying to get to the bottom of some unusual traffic he was seeing on the Internet. Two days earlier he’d noticed troubling activity hitting the website of HBGary Federal, the Sacramento startup he helped launch in 2009. He suspected some kind of hacker assault and had spent the weekend helping to shore up the company’s systems. A few hours before Green Bay kicked off to Pittsburgh, Hoglund logged into his corporate account on Google (GOOG)—and confirmed his fears.

He couldn’t get in. Someone had changed the password and locked him out of his own e-mail system.

He used Google mail – and several people had the administrator password.

Incumbent Capitalism

This is one of my big beefs with the way we think about capitalism in this country: We fundamentally support what I call incumbency capitalism. We don’t support innovation capitalism. What’s the difference? Every rule around tax credits in the oil industry is set up by, and influenced by, the lobbyist from the oil industry. The royalty rates aren’t free auctions for offshore drilling; they are influenced by the oil industry. Depreciation policy is incumbency policy meant to benefit large capital expenditures instead of R&D investments. So, we can easily change a few of the rules, encourage more R&D and maybe less capital investment or other things. And almost all policy, because it is influenced by incumbents—and not just in oil and gas, but in nuclear, in solar, in wind—is influenced and shaped by incumbents. And I call that incumbency capitalism.”

Vinod Khosla, Managing Partner, Khosla Ventures