end-to-end splicing

Saturday,  05/25/24  07:35 PM

Probably you will not be as impressed as I am, but I have successfully mastered (or at least, accomplished) end-to-end splicing of braided line.  Without a fid, just a wire coat hanger, some e-tape, and a lot of patience.  Yay.

The advice is to practice on a piece of line you don't care about before attempting to do this "for real", and that's good advice which I did not take.  There is a line on my C-15 half unspliced waiting for me to go back and fix.  But now I think I can.



yak, shaved

Tuesday,  05/14/24  05:58 PM

Way back in the dawn of time, way way back, I messed around with an API for my blog.  The idea was that I could use (gasp!) external tools to post.  It would make things easy.  And in particular, Maybe I could post on any device from anywhere.

My first attempt was an implementation of the then-brand-new “MetaWeblogAPI”, which was conceived as the successor to... the API of Blogger!  Which was the biggest baddest most prevalent blogging system.  This was back in 2004, mind you, right after Google bought Blogger, and way before Six Apart and Wordpress and so on.  Anyway it didn’t work.  Not only did the API not work, but even if it had done, there wouldn’t have been external tools with which to post.  The blogging ecosystem never went that way.

My second attempt was an implementation of my own email-based way to post.  At that time, in 2011, I had just begun using my then-brand-new iPad, and began wanting to use it for blogging.  There I was sitting in my family room, reading content on my iPad, and in order to post about it I had to go over to the PC in my office.  Anyway it didn’t work.  I built it, lots of goodness in the design, but abandoned it after a few months of not posting.

My third attempt was more recent.  At that time, in 2022, I switched from SharpReader to Feedly for daily reading of RSS feeds..  This corresponded with a nice new habit of having coffee with Shirley in the morning.  We’d sit there, fire roaring (or windows open, depending on the time of year), and I’d be scanning my feeds for the news.  Which now also included Twitter/X feeds.  I’d read about something, and in order to post about it I had to go over to the PC in my office.  And that was truly crummy.

And so ... and so ... yes, I finally finished the email-based API to my blog.  I could tell you how it works, and you could admire it, but you couldn’t use it because it is custom for me and my little blogging world (sorry).  It is however pretty nice, I must tell you.  I can post images (including auto-resizing-them), I can edit posts, I can embed links, do all the things, from *any* device which supports sending email, so any device at all.  And of course I can do it from anywhere at all too.

This very post was composed and sent as an email.  This likely spells the end for the oldest tool in my kit, a venerable desktop app named Citydesk.  It predated my blog by about a year (2001!) and was built by Joel Spolsky’s Fog Creek Software.  (They were known for FogBugz, an early and most-useful bug tracking tool, and Joel went on to co-create Stack Overflow...)  Citydesk hasn’t been supported for years but it keeps working, and has been the only way for me to post to my blog in all this time.

Does this mean more posting from me?  Better posting?  Or the end of times?  Who knows.... Stay tuned!


Mom's Day

Sunday,  05/12/24  11:20 AM

A few vintages ago...

Missing my Mom today ... first Mom's day without her ... many nice thoughts though <3



xkcd: it has come to this

Saturday,  05/11/24  10:09 AM

and yes, we *are* out of cat food



Luna Rossa

Saturday,  05/11/24  10:13 AM

The latest in America's Cup "yachts"
I actually don't know what to say.  The sport has changed.  These are more like airplanes than boats.

I do understand and love the need for speed, but preferred when the sport was relatable.

So, it has come to this!



iPad ad

Thursday,  05/09/24  11:28 AM

The latest iPad ad, but played in reverse, so it makes sense:

I like the ad, but why Apple released it backwards is a true mystery.  Steve would never have made this mistake!

[Update: Apple have apologized for running this ad!  Wow...  perhaps they should run the backward (forward!) version instead?]



the inevitability factor

Tuesday,  05/07/24  08:03 AM

Imagine another world, similar to ours.  Call it Echo.  Same basic setup with a planet orbiting a star, water, elements and compounds.  How much of what we have here on Earth would be found on Echo?  That is to say, how much is inevitable?

Some things would clearly be the same.  Arithmetic.  Physics.  Chemistry.  Basic properties of atoms, molecules, materials.  Oh, and Logic.  (By the way, the "clearly" part is definitely subject to discussion...)  Some things would clearly be different.  People.  You and me.  Much of our culture, our music, art.  Specific things.  For example it is most unlikely anyone on Echo would make this specific blog post.

But many things are somewhere in the middle.  Concepts.  Would Biology be this same?  Certainly many things in Biology would be - things dependent on chemistry and physics and materials - but other things would not be - the specific evolution of various species.  Evolution itself would be inevitable.

Let's say that, given atmosphere and properties of materials, visual and auditory sensory organs would be inevitable.  Which means there would be scope for visual and auditory "art".  (Would the concept of Art be inevitable?  I think so.)  It would be wild to see what the beings of Echo (Echolings?) came up with.  Would they like abstract sculpture?  Would they have music, and different kinds of music?  Would there be artists, specialists in the creation of Art?

Much of Philosophy would be inevitable too, given Logic and Reasoning.  Echolings would wonder about the Universe and their place in it.  The would develop the equivalent of Science, a means of producing facts from other facts.  The would most likely develop a way to record what they learn, and to transmit what they've learned forward in time. 

I think Life is inevitable, would Lifetimes be?  I think so ... given Life, and Lifetimes, and individual Beings, a means of Educating new Beings would likely develop...  there would be a Society, with Customs and Values.  The specific Customs and Values themselves could be quite different.  Would they be?

When science fiction authors do their world-building, some of it is amazingly creative, but ultimately they are influenced by what exists on Earth.  They relax certain constraints to come up with a new world.  It's always interesting to see which constraints are fixed - the laws of Physics - and which are variable - Biology, and Society.  Always there would be the relentless influence of Evolution, survival of the fittest, a competition of not only beings but ideas.

Would the concept of inevitability be inevitable?  Maybe.  In fact, maybe it would not be "most unlikely that anyone on Echo would make this specific blog post".  Maybe it would be inevitable :)



Slacking off

Tuesday,  05/07/24  09:20 AM

Way back in the dawn of time - early 2003! - after I had just started blogging, I wrote a post called The Tyranny of Email.  In those early days of the blogosphere it achieved virality*, and was Slashdotted etc.  The central theme was that doing engineering requires concentration, and that it is important to set aside biggish blocks of uninterrupted time in order to be productive.  This is as true today as it was then, and likely always will be.

* as in "popular", not as in truly viral

In that post I enumerated some possible sources of interruption: meetings, colleagues, phone calls (remember them?), text messages, pages (OMG, remember them?), and of course emails.  I briefly mentioned IM as a text message analogue; back then, we had ICQ, AIM, MSN Messenger, and a host of others.  The observation about email was that it was fundamentally a queued communication channel; unlike, say, phone calls, it isn't necessary for the sender and receiver to be paying attention at the same time.  So it is okay to ignore it for a while, work (/concentrate), then stop working and check it.  And in fact not only okay, but highly preferred.

So fast forward to 2024; we have a lot of interesting tools now, and one of them is Slack.  If you've been living in the hills for a while, you might not know; Slack is a sort of unholy combination of email and messaging.  I'm not a fan, and I'll tell you why, but it is a fact that most tech businesses today use Slack (or Teams or some other Slack-like tool) and so you will be using it also.

A brief digression before I get to my actual point: why don't I like Slack?  Let me count the ways. 

  1. It combines email (longer queued communication) with messaging (shorter direct interrupts) and so it's hard to ignore for a while.  It enforces the tyranny. 
  2. Communication is grouped into channels with a specific distribution; if you want to add someone to a conversation, you have to add them to the channel and they can see everything in it; conversely, to remove someone from a conversation you have to start a new channel.
  3. Slack has "replies", which are direct responses that don't go to everyone in a channel, unless they do; these are displayed separately from other posts in a channel.
  4. If you want to see all your communication with someone, you have to look through a bunch of channels.  And replies.
  5. Content posted into Slack is difficult to find later, so it doesn't make a good repository.  Also many organizations "age off" old Slack posts so you lose history.
  6. While most people in an organization will have access to their Slack, most people outside will not, so you still end up using email and text messaging.  If you email a customer CC:ing colleagues, you'll have communication with those colleagues in email as well as in Slack, and they won't be together.
  7. If you work with several organizations, each of which have separate Slacks, you will end up checking several Slacks for messages, as well as still checking your email, so now you have a bunch of places to check instead of one.
  8. In fact, you have to switch to each Slack, check all the channels, check all the DMs, and check all the replies.  Blech.
  9. Slack presents alerts like text messaging; when you get an alert, you don't know if it's immediate ("the meeting was moved to 10:30") or a picture of someone's cat in #random.
  10. Worst of all, people on Slack expect you to reply quickly to their message-like direct messages, but looking for them requires you to filch through all the email-like channels.  It's a huge time sink.

I think people like Slack because it feels like they're getting stuff done when actually they're only reading posts.  "I cleared all my Slack! so I can have lunch now", yay.  But no, sorry, you're not getting stuff done, you're distracting yourself from real work by doing the fake work of fielding inbound messages from your colleagues.  </rant>

Okay, glad I got that off my chest, let me now get the point.  (Wait, did I have one? ... one of the worst things about Slack is that you go in there to do something, get distracted by something else, and forget why you were even there at all ...)  Oh yeah.  Picking a category.

Slack channels are either groupings of people (me, Sally, Rashil, Min Ho) or subjects (#eng-team, #marketing).  Say I have something to say.  I now have to decide where to say it.  This is an interesting concept, I must coerce my thing-to-say into the places-to-say-things.  Picking a category is difficult, what if I have a diversity of things-to-say?  Do I spread them around into different channels with the same people?  Or put them in one place even though that creates a mismatch?  For example, what if I want to share a link about another organization with Sally, Rashil, and Min Ho, and it pertains to #eng-team and #marketing?  (As well, will I make the same decision as someone else with a similar choice, or will the info end up splattered all over?)

This same difficulty comes up with email, but on the receiving side (which folder should I move this into) instead of on the sending side (which channel should I post this into).  I solve this by unasking the question; I never categorize email, I just read it and delete it, save all my deleted emails, and then use search to find stuff.  But that's my decision, which I can implement as the receiver.  Others who receive the same email might do a different thing, and store emails into folders, or even copy emails to store them into multiple folders.  Categorzing on the sending side is different, I must decide, and having done it everyone else has to abide by my decision.  (You can re-post a received post into another channel, but then that affects everyone in that channel; it's not really an analogue to folders.) 

Any friction on communication is bad, and having to chose among channels is friction.  Fortunately blog posting is not like that, I can randomly rove all over, pick any subject I want, and click Post...



GEB day

Sunday,  05/05/24  06:25 PM

After yesterday's ride today was all about taking it easy, and messing around.  A nice quiet Sunday.  I messed around with my 3D printer.  I re-spliced my C-15 mainsheet.  I watched the Giro while doing a [slow, easy] ride on Zwift. And I read a little.

In this connection would note, I've had a Makerbot Replicator 2 for (checks search) 11 years now, and man is it awesome.  Together with Tinkercad - which used to be a separate company, but is now owned by Adobe, who thankfully have left it up and running and amazing - you can think of something, design it, and make it.  Like coding with atoms instead of bits.  So great.

People ask me all the time: "so what do you make with it"?  Um, all sorts of stuff.  Not only the Tesla Model S center console shown at right, but for example a GoPro extension arm as shown at left.

Oh, and this waterproof rendition of a 505 tuning grid.  Lots of useful stuff.

Anyway I wanted to talk about Godel, Escher Bach, my favorite book, aka GEB.

I had this phrase in my mind from the book, about Godel's Theorem, and I wanted to look it up.

I own the book in physical form - a battered much-read paperback of 1,000 pages - but how to look something up?  This amazing book was published in 1979, before Kindles, before the Internet even.  Yeah.  And so no, it cannot be found online.

Oh yeah?  Because I googled* and found it; someone [in Switzerland!] has posted the entire book as a PDF!  Wow.  And so I found the phrase, but also, I started to re-read the book from the online PDF.  Yay.  The experience is pretty un-Kindle-like but not horrible.  So cool.

* BTW when I write "googled", I mean with a lower case "g", as in "aka searching online"; I actually use Perplexity now as my default search engine (in Chrome!) and haven't looked back.  But Perplexity does not verbify as well as Google.

Last note of this day: Daniel Dennett has passed away.  He was one of my very favorite authors, and wrote two of my very favorite books, Consciousness Explained (1991), and Darwin's Dangerous Idea (1995).  More recently he was an active participant in the online discussions about AI and theories of self.  Way back in 1991 the idea that consciousness could be explained by evolution was radical, but now, with ChatGPT and indeed Perplexity in our everyday lives, it's not so hard to believe.  He saw far and explained much.



Breathless Agony

Saturday,  05/04/24  09:47 PM

Longtime readers know, I used to be a pretty decent bike rider, doing Centuries, Ultra Rides, and even Double Centuries with regulatory.  That was before I became old and fat.  Now I do them with sporatic irregularity, in a futile effort to prove to myself that I am neither older nor fatter.

One of the classic Ultra Rides in Southern California is the aptly-named Breathless Agony, a ride which starts near sea level in Redlands (East of LA) and makes its way up to over 8,000' to the Onyx Pass above Big Bear Lake.  I've done it before, it's never been "fun", I've sworn I would never do it again, and yet, I did.  104 miles, 11,000 feet of climbing, and very little fun, even in retrospect.

Not long after the start - still smiling

Early morning paceline was nice to follow

And so the climbing begins - Glen Oaks pass - in the mist

Ah, the grim reaper, the mascot for this event, I took his picture as he took mine

The cute little Glen Oaks post office
main point of this picture is to note the angle of the parking lot :/

After a lot of climbing and a brief, cold descent, the real climb starts: Damnation Alley, 11miles

The checkpoint in Angelus Oaks ... whew, made it ... took two hours for those 11mi and now I am cooked

I will say it is beautiful climbing into the clouds

A few lone riders each in their own world - Big Bear 24mi ahead - and much climbing left

Finally! - 8,000' marker - means I am almost there.  I have to confess, a lot of stopping and resting.

Incredible views of the snowy peaks - and yes, it was cold, especially when stopped

What's that up ahead?  Could it be ... the finish?  OMG almost there.

Woo hoo!

From here, a 35mi descent back to the start - and man was I cold.  Arm warmers only, no jacket (dummy!).  I actually slowed down to avoid being even colder, which meant my hands got sore from braking.  Not good.

Strava has the whole story ... so much fun I will never do it again.
(You can remind me I said that...)



Spot's new tail

Friday,  05/03/24  09:03 PM

Today was great; I added a "sugar scoop" tail to my 505 racing sailboat.  I had done it 100 times in my head, convinced myself it would work, and then I tried it, and it did.  So rare but so nice when that happens.

So "that's cool", you say, but ... "why did you do it?"  Well...

Spot is an International 505, which means it is 505cm long, about 16.5'.  The Southern California PHRF association, which issues handicaps for ocean racing boats, will not rate any boat which is less than 18.5' long.  And in order to race Spot in many handicap races, she has to have a PHRF rating.  So ... how to make the boat 2' longer?  Why not add a "sugar scoop" tail?  And so I did.

By the way, this is not purely cosmetic, making the waterline length of a racing sailboat longer does increase its speed.  I'm rather interested to see how she sails - stay tuned. 

One part of the modification was that it must be un-do-able, that is, I have to remove the tail for one-design racing within the 505 class.  If you look closely you can see the tail is held on by sixteen bolts, which allow the tail to be removed when necessary.

The material I used is 125mil HDPE plastic*.  It turns out it is made for ATV mudflaps (!), and has the right combination of strength, rigidity, flexibility, and weight.  And importantly, you can "work" it with coping saws and rasps, which is how I shaped it to fit.

This tail began as a flat sheet of plastic, in order to give it that "scoop" shape, I had to curve the seam along the back of the boat where it attaches.  The curve is like a clothing seam, it creates the shape.  And the 3D-ness then gives it rigidity.

Anyway it was a fun project, and will be even more fun if it works on the water.  So far so good but even the greatest plan does not survive contact with the enemy :)

* BTW turns out "mil" means thousandths of an inch, not millimeter.  Just in case you are wondering.

Oh, okay, you want to see Spot in action?  Here's some GoPro footage from a couple of weeks ago, racing off Santa Barbara in 20 knots with my crew Chris.  Yeah it was windy.  I wish I had video of the downwind - which was wild, trapeezing with the chute - stay tuned and I'll get you some...




Sunstroke Series begins - It's the Water!

Thursday,  05/02/24  10:54 PM

Tonight was the inaugural regatta of South Coast Corinithian Yacht Club's Sunstroke Series, which runs on Thu nights all summer long until the time changes.  My venerable C-15 "It's the Water" was back in action.  My crew Carly and I took four bullets - yay - and had a blast in the perfect conditions: 10 knots from the West in the Marina Del Rey main channel.

Here's a little video from race 2, for your viewing pleasure...

I continue to be amazed by my little GoPro 5.  It is virtually indescructable and takes such amazing, stablized video, and embeds a GPS track to enable the gauges to be rendered with realtime speed and track.  Yes of course I have it on a 3D-printed stalk so it sits above the rudder and can get this point of view.  So cool.

Onward into the sailing summer!




Saturday,  04/27/24  09:21 PM

Happy King's Day!

Hope you had as much fun as your Dutch friends :)



on the road again

Saturday,  04/20/24  07:41 PM

I've been spending most of my time on the virtual road, on Zwift, but I still escape to the *real* road every once in a while, and so it was today, as I rode the Wildflower Century, up in Creston, CA (near San Luis Obispo).  I've ridden this before, it's a great ride, although this year it was truncated to 82miles because of the conditions of some of the roads.  So be it.

It was a beautiful day on beautiful roads, 4,900' of climbing, and took me 5:49:16 riding time.  Onward!

At the start.  Yep, 40 degrees, but it will warm up.

Lots and lots of nothing out here - and the roads are ... interesting

Plenty of vineyards shining in the sun

And yes, wildflowers!  SO amazing.

Many miles of quiet roads and pretty rolling hills

Blasting down the home stretch
(click to play)

yay, made it!



Dragonfly to Titan

Thursday,  04/18/24  12:51 PM

News item: NASA confirms nuclear-powered Dragonfly drone is going to Titan.  Aw, be still my beating heart.

Of course this is only a press release, and it's easier to ship those than to fly space missions, so we'll see.  This was originally scheduled for 2026, but now looks to be 2028.  When you're slipping years you know the project isn't fully under way.  The price tag is supposedly $3.35B, a mere pittance, but still.

The article notes "NASA did not specify which heavy-lift launcher would be used", although this should be possible with SpaceX's Falcon Heavy, so at least they don't need to wait for a new rocket.  And of course they have been to Titan before - remember Cassini / Huygens, my favorite spacecraft of all time?

As you all know, I can't wait to go to Titan myself, but perhaps Dragonfly will send us enough telemetry that we can construct a VR tour instead - that would be a decent alternative...



Fairly recent posts (well last handful, anyway):

05/25/24 07:35 PM -

end-to-end splicing

05/14/24 05:58 PM -

yak, shaved

05/12/24 11:20 AM -

Mom's Day

05/11/24 10:09 AM -

xkcd: it has come to this

05/11/24 10:13 AM -

Luna Rossa

05/09/24 11:28 AM -

iPad ad

05/07/24 08:03 AM -

the inevitability factor

05/07/24 09:20 AM -

Slacking off

05/05/24 06:25 PM -

GEB day

05/04/24 09:47 PM -

Breathless Agony

05/03/24 09:03 PM -

Spot's new tail

05/02/24 10:54 PM -

Sunstroke Series begins - It's the Water!

04/27/24 09:21 PM -


04/20/24 07:41 PM -

on the road again

04/18/24 12:51 PM -

Dragonfly to Titan

04/09/24 09:02 AM -

eclipse pics

04/04/24 01:06 PM -

bogus lane changing

04/03/24 10:27 AM -


04/02/24 05:58 PM -

out to lunch

04/01/24 07:22 AM -


03/31/24 11:32 AM -

Happy Easter

03/31/24 05:21 PM -


10/07/23 09:06 AM -

San Fran Five-Oh

04/01/23 07:56 PM -


04/01/23 08:34 PM -

April not-Fools

03/31/23 09:41 PM -


03/31/23 10:19 PM -


03/22/23 06:08 AM -

blogging while high

03/22/23 06:59 AM -

the Stratocruiser

03/20/23 07:15 PM -

yay, Spring

For older posts please visit the archive.