Monthly Archives: September 2004

Books: Colossus: The Price of America’s Empire

Colossus: The Price of America’s Empire by Niall Ferguson

This new foreign policy book really made me think. Ferguson’s argument is that America is an empire, albeit a reluctant one. He alludes to believing that this could be a good thing — both for America and the world — but often also shows how the costly running an empire really can be. He concludes the book by stating “I believe the world needs an effective liberal empire and that the United States is the best candidate for the job.”

But what makes his book extremely interesting is the historical context he uses. Ferguson goes over so many of the U.S. large wars and tiny wars over the last 150 years. He also draws many parallels to the British empire — and shows how a great deal of their forays were not successful (both in terms of British and the colony’s interest).

The examples that most stared at me were the Philippines and Egypt — where he draws parallels to Iraq.

The first example is one that is often used. America “liberated” the Philippines in the Spanish-American War and lost about 1000 lives conquering it (which was a very small amount for that day). However, people in the Philippines were not content to just shake off one master and get a new one. Over the next decade America lost another 4000 lives due to rebel activities on the islands. The war and conquest, which in the beginning was extremely popular, became increasingly less so over time. So much so that successive Presidents were trying to find a way out … and fast.

Egypt is an example I have not yet heard. The British effectively took over Egypt in 1882 when the country’s pro-British ruler was overthrown. And though the British claimed on countless occasions that it wanted to leave Egypt as soon as possible, it was still ruling the country for the next 74 years. In fact, in 1956, the year the British did leave (and only because the national purse could not afford it), the British still had over 80,000 troops on its Egyptian base — which was a tract of land near the canal that was the size of Massachusetts!

We learn from these examples that our transformation of Iraq is going to be enormously difficult and costly. If odds makers were making bets (and some surely are), the odds would definitely be against us succeeding. And Ferguson weaves in Americas huge debts (see my review of Running On Empty by Pete Peterson) of unfunded liabilities to the tune of $45 trillion (!!!) make saving the world an increasingly difficult thing to do.

Like Peterson’s book, my outlook after finishing Colossus is one of decided gloom. And gloom is generally not in my character. Though I tend to be an eternal optimist and believe the world is becoming an increasingly better place, it is difficult to not see the enormous challenges that lay ahead of my generation.

Summation: Colossus is a academic book, but very much worth reading. I’d like to leave you one of Ferguson’s key quotes from the book:

“there are three fundamental deficits that together explain why the United States has been a less effective empire than its British predecessor. They are its economic deficit, its manpower deficit and — the most serious of the three — its attention deficit.”

Books: Longitudes and Attitudes: Exploring the World After September 11 Books: Longitudes and Attitudes: Exploring the World After September 11 by Thomas Friedman

What a gem. I must admit, I am a huge Thomas Friedman fan. And if you missed some of his columns over the last few years, this book is definitely worth reviewing. Friedman reads us his best columns since 9-11 and also weaves in his diary entries giving us a look at his inner thoughts and ways.

Friedman’s book and analysis are incredibly powerful. I find myself thinking — “I was I thought of that” a lot. Friedman has a great way of pulling a wide variety of seemingly unrelated facts and tying them together.

Summation: read this book.

Nine Months of Search Engine Data of My GoogleNumber

It takes nine months for us to grow inside the womb and apparently it takes nine months to really analyze how search engines crawl and get results.

Every week for the last nine months I have done a search for “Auren Hoffman” in eight major search engines (Google, Lycos, All the Web, Teoma, Gigablast, Wisenut, Yahoo, and A9). I recorded only the raw number of results as my objective was to understand the reach of each search engine rather than the accuracy. Since, as far as I know, I’m the only “Auren Hofman”, the results are fairly finite and easy to define. (a chart and the raw data is below)

This experiment was born of my fascination with other people’s fascination about their “Google Number” (see What Is Your Google Number). When I started, my Google Number was only 794. It climbed to 2880 in March. Today, it is inexplicitely only 2220 — which means that either:
(a) about a six hundred pages with my name on it have dropped of the face of the earth in the last five months
(b) Google changed the way it crawls and stopped caching certain sites
(c) google misrepresents its raw search results (we’ll get to that later)

My observations:

1. Fluctuation in weekly results
Some search engines have results that fluctuate widely every week and others are very consistent (see graph below). Google fluctuates widely each week even though it is obvious (from just looking at the search results) that Google spiders new pages very quickly. Search engines like Gigablast and Wisenut fluctuate very little — and it also seems they rarely add newly crawled information to the search engines.

2. Numbers that end in zero
I noticed that for results above 1000, all Google and Yahoo results end in a zero. Maybe they are rounding to the nearest ten or maybe they are just making an approximation (which might be the reason that results vary so widely). If you follow every result, they both seem to overestimate the number of pages.

3. There is a huge discrepency between the search engines
Even if the results from Google and Yahoo are a bit inflated, they are still vastly higher than the other engines (though All the Web) indexes a good deal of pages too. That means that purely on who indexes the most pages, there is a big difference between the engines.

And indexing the most pages is very important. Now everyone always seems to talk about relevance. And relevance is very important. But so is mass. Especially when you are looking for something more archane.

What is your Google number??

Search Results of "Auren Hoffman"

See Larger graph here

Google Lycos All the Web Teoma Gigablast Wisenut Yahoo A9
12-Nov 794 649 636 582
11/16/2003 808 402 636 582
21-Nov 866 652 636 582
12/7/2003 949 419 406 540 540 956
12/13/2003 1020 418 404 537 267 984
12/18/2003 1070 411 404 539 268 1001
12/23/2003 1060 411 408 539 269 1001
3-Jan 994 409 402 539 269 1001
10-Jan 993 418 409 539 269 307
24-Jan 2390 693 699 537 272 1001
31-Jan 2700 677 693 557 273 1001
8-Feb 1810 696 680 557 282 1001
14-Feb 1570 693 703 509 285 1001
27-Feb 1890 719 703 509 280 1001 2070
5-Mar 1920 668 655 509 278 1001 2190
13-Mar 2770 690 674 509 278 1035 2140
3/20/2004 2880 649 483 568 278 1035 2190
3/26/2004 2970 636 307 568 278 1035 2400
4/6/2004 2160 275 361 568 278 1035 2180
4/10/2004 2010 278 421 567 278 1035 2100
4/18/2004 2200 290 335 643 278 1035 1580 295
4/23/2004 2330 274 290 643 278 1035 1790 297
4/29/2004 2380 268 293 643 271 1035 1730 320
5/9/2004 2390 271 276 680 293 1035 303
5/14/2004 2250 255 258 680 300 1035 1590 304
5/21/2004 1890 246 217 684 306 1035 1410 297
5/28/2004 2010 252 238 683 314 869 1390 303
6/6/2004 2080 261 335 706 317 869 1410 292
6/11/2004 1910 254 334 712 325 869 1350 299
6/18/2004 1670 250 439 712 336 869 1350 295
6/24/2004 1400 248 451 728 361 869 1340 284
7/2/2004 1430 256 484 728 363 664 1310 288
7/8/2004 1370 254 484 728 360 664 1290 278
7/16/2004 1390 253 1220 741 361 664 1250 305
7/23/2004 1510 251 1190 741 361 664 1230 309
7/29/2004 1550 251 1200 742 361 664 1240 321
8/6/2004 871 251 1210 758 361 664 1230 341
8/13/2004 1640 366 1170 756 361 664 1310 345
8/18/2004 1720 378 1180 133 361 664 1330 328
8/25/2004 1950 367 1230 765 361 664 1330 302
9/10/2004 2220 332 1210 765 361 660 1240 300

Class distinction outside the U.S.

I’ve been traveling a lot overseas recently and I have noticed that there is a much more noted class distinction outside the U.S.

I recently flew business class and made two stops in Europe, three stops in the Middle East, and one back to San Francisco. In every other place except SFO, the economy class people were forced to wait until all us business class people debarked the plane. But in SFO, the flight attendant (who was Dutch — I was flying KLM) made the point of letting all the passengers debark at the same time. The only advantage I had as a business class person was that I was closer to the door.

Is Europe and the Middle East much more class conscious than the U.S.?

I dare say yes. These societies have a much more rooted history of nobles, sheiks, and other people who got where hey are today because of their birthright rather then their ability. I find people outside tend to respect class much more. But go to NY and no one will let a billionaire cut them in line (“Kiss my ass Bill Gates!”)….

Books: Emotional Intelligence : Why It Can Matter More Than IQ

Books: Emotional Intelligence : Why It Can Matter More Than IQ by Daniel Goleman

i have been wanting to read this book for a long time because it was recommended to me by many friends. but when i finally read it on a trans-atlantic flight, i thought the book did not live up to its expectations. i believe in the concept of emotional intelligence strongly, but this book (like many others like it) could have been written in 30 pages rather than 300.

good concept, but skip the book (and just read the long reviews on Amazon).