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!



Draognfly 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...



eclipse pics

Tuesday,  04/09/24  09:02 AM

If you were hiding yesterday (or perhaps on your lear jet to Nova Scotia), you might have missed that we had a solar eclipse.  I won't be the 1,000th site to share pics - though they were supercool - but thought these reactions were great:

from the incomparable xkcd, a perfect take

and loved this, from the Oatmeal



bogus lane changing

Thursday,  04/04/24  01:06 PM

Nope, not a post about Tesla's FSD feature - which I love, by the way - but about apps which use your contact information for marketing.  This is an instance of "just because you can doesn't mean you should".

We've all experienced this; an app has your contact info - phone#, email, or perhaps direct access because it is on you phone - and the info is there for alerts; notifications which have to do with the app's function.  And the silly marketing people decide "hey we can use this for marketing, too!"  Thereby pissing everyone off.

Instances of this:
- Apps like Doordash sending you marketing messages
- Skype sending news reports (probably one of the worst!)
- Apple photos offering you a "memory"
- Bank apps offering to "check your credit"
- Uber - a bad offender because you must have alerts enabled but then they use that channel for a million ads

Etc.  For some reason every app wants your attention.  In some cases I've blocked the app from notifications completely - degrading its function - and in extreme cases even deleted the app entirely - if you're going to be a bad actor, I don't want to work with you.

Please stay in your lane!




Wednesday,  04/03/24  10:27 AM

As I've noted, one of the joys of having blogged for 21 years (!) is checking old posts.  Maybe nobody else ever clicks my flight link, but I do, all the time. 

Back on April 2, 2017 I posted progress ratchets, one of my favorite posts ever (accompanied by the illustration at right, one of my favorite images), about how "liberalism" tries new ideas and "conservatism" locks-in the best ones, enabling progress.

As a side point, worth noting; all cultures do not do this with equal efficiency, which is why all cultures do not make "progress" at equal rates.

In watching our present society careen between the end stops of wokeness and [what passes today for] conservatism, it occurs to me that this is what happens with a little too much liberalism, a little too much trying new things, and too little lock-in.  Perhaps the very degree of swing is itself a knob society can turn, and we have ours set too far to the left.

Speaking of trying new things; I'm making progress on Twitter/X comments; you are anxiously waiting on this so you can comment on this very post, I know.  Since it is possible to make an RSS feed from an X feed (via rss.app), and since every post I make is relayed to my X feed (via dlvr.it), it follows that there can be an RSS feed of my X feed, a sort of mirror of my blog's RSS feed, but with Tweet URLs instead of blog URLs.  And so these can be matched!  And so one could map blog URLs to Tweet URLs.  All still to be done, but easily (for an engineer, "easy" means "I know how to do it", even if the actual act of doing it is "hard").  Stay tuned. 



out to lunch

Tuesday,  04/02/24  05:58 PM

"out to lunch"




Monday,  04/01/24  07:22 AM

Hi all - if you're a longtime reader you may remember my comments thrashing from a year ago, in which I tried to implement blog comments via Mastodon.  It didn't work.  By which I mean, it worked technically, but nobody used it.  Chirp.  In the intervening year the buzz around Mastodon as an alternative to Twitter/X has largely subsided; as usual, the network effect won.  Even Facebook's Threads have barely made a dent.

And so poof, bye Mastodon, we hardly knew ya.

Also in the intervening year, I became more of an X user.  Partly this is because of Feedly and rss.app, which make following X feeds as easy as following RSS feeds, and mostly this is because X itself has become better, with less political bias and better filtering.  (Okay, you can debate that, but do so on X, not here :)

So I'm back to wanting blog comments on X.  As I wrote:

The perfect experience is, links to blog posts appear on Twitter. Each of these Tweets has a Reply button. Each blog post has a Reply button, which does exactly what the Reply button on Twitter does. Each of these Tweets has a link to display the Tweet and all its Replies. Each blog post has a Comments button, which links back display the Tweet and all of its Replies.

With the Mastodon experience in hand, this can be even easier:

The experience is, links to blog posts appear on X (as Tweets*).  Each blog post has a Comments button, which links back display the Tweet and all of its Replies.  To reply to a blog post, a reader clicks through to the Tweet, and replies to it.  Yes they can like it, and re-tweet it.  And yes they need to be an X user to do this, but many/most of you are already...

[As of 4/4/24: this is the current experience]

* the Xiverse haven't yet decided what to call Tweets now that Twitter is renamed to X**.  Some people call them Xeets.

** Possibly interesting fact: Back in the dawn of time, 2001, I worked for PayPal; at that time we owned the X.com domain as an alias of paypal.com, and my email address was o@x.com

But but ... this brings me back to the original challenge of linking blog posts on X.  No it doesn't!  Because also in the meantime, dlvr.it have figured out how to do this!  So my posts automagically post there, just like they posted to Mastodon.  (Who knows, maybe people will even [gasp!] find them there... you may have found this one that way too.)

So now ... how do I figure out how to link to the Tweet.  Surely that is possible?  Stay tuned...

[Update 4/4/24: yes it was possible, and yes it has been done.  Comment away!]




Sunday,  03/31/24  05:21 PM

[I guess Happy Easter broke the dam ...]

Waay back in 1999, I worked for Intuit.  (At that time, the big challenge for leading software companies was moving from desktop to web, my team were building "Web Quicken"... but thaat's a story for another day.)  We occupied ten buildings in Mountain View which were formerly the Sun Microsystems campus.  (Sun outgrew that campus and built a spiffy new one, which they soon undergrew as computing moved from minicomputers to desktops... but thaat's another story too.) 

Across our parking lot was a small building housing a cute little company with a funny name: Google.  They were trying to build a better web search than Alta Vista ... ha ha!  We did notice that they seemed to be there all the time, and threw a lot of parties.

At that time Netscape Navigator was the leading browser, with Microsoft Internet Explorer a distant second.  Google became the default search engine in Navigator, which morphed into Mozilla.  (Yahoo was the default search engine in Internet Explorer, but that's yet another story.)  Of course, the rest is history.  From that point on Google was THE Internet search engine, everyone else was a distant second, despite there being many "everyone else"s over those years.

Which brings us to today.  Google have clearly jumped the shark, their politics have people like me looking for alternatives.  And AI-based chat is a lot better than mere search for answering many questions.  As I found myself using ChatGPT more and more in lieu of the default search in my browser, I found myself wondering if I could have an AI/chat experience as the default search.  And then I found Perplexity.  And so after 20 years of hegemony, Google search has serious challengers.

Of course, there are still times when you want a "pure" web search.  And you can do that easily, just type "duckduckgo.com <search terms>" and poof you can have it.  (For that matter, you can type "google.com <search terms>" too...)



Happy Easter

Sunday,  03/31/24  11:32 AM

Hi all and Happy Easter!  Hope you have a great day with your family and/or friends. 

This year it happens to land on the last day of the quarter, too; that time when we emerge from Winter and charge into Spring.  By around September I'm ready for cooler weather and by October I usually get it, and then by February I'm ready for some warmer weather and by April I get it.  Yay, seasons.

As always, weird that the Catholic church managed to conflate the story of a Jewish man with pagan rites of Spring, but so be it.  For me it's a chance to eat jellybeans, and of course participate in TEFEH (The Eichhorn Family Egg Hunt, special rules in effect).

Not sure why but this morning was screwing around with Korn Shell scripts (as one does) and decided to see if my blog archive still worked.  It did.  And then I wondered if I could still post.  I can.

Over the years I've ponged between blogging, Facebook-ing, and [recently] Twitter X-ing, as well as nothing-ing; who knows what will come next.  There's always a new way to transmit random thoughts into the Ether.

Am just rereading Cryptonomicon (which is gradually replacing Godel, Escher, Bach as my favorite book ever), and a returned WWII hero can't describe what he experienced so he makes stuff up.  And people are amazed.  And he's thinking this is not nearly as wild as what actually happened.  That's what you get when you blog.

Cryptonomicon is now 25 years old, published in 1999 (yeah, the "turn of the century"!), and feels fresh as a daisy.  It has that near-future-ness, the beautiful anticipation of woke-ness and ironic contrast with actual wake-ness.

GEB is older, published in 1979, and the themes there are timeless, much less of the near-future and more of the far-future as foretold by the distant-past.

What recent work has this quality?  None that I've read.  But then I didn't read GEB when it was published, nor Cryptonomicon, they both took time to get intellectual traction and climb onto my radar.

Anyway hope you have a great day!, and please stay tuned...



San Fran Five-Oh

Saturday,  10/07/23  09:06 AM

Good morning!  I haven't blogged for (checks Archive) six months now ... sigh*. That is to say, I haven't blogged here; I just got back from competing in the 2023 505-Class World Championship, in San Francisco, and blogged about it elsewhere.

It was an unbelievable experience filled with problems and solutions and bad moment and great ones, and now that it's over I can't wait to do it again.  Or something like it. 

This is my fourth Worlds in three years; 2021 J/70 Worlds in Marina Del Rey, 2021 Moth Worlds in Malcensine, Italy, 2022 J/70 Worlds in Monaco, and now this one.  Would be most excellent to keep this string going...

* If you're looking at my Archive you can see; I go in and out of blogging.  Not sure why I stop, and not sure why I start again...  Stay tuned!



April not-Fools

Saturday,  04/01/23  08:34 PM

Happy April not-Fools!  The one day of the year on which we are not fools, because we don't believe everything we read.  (Every other day, "it's on the Internet, it must be true!)

This prank was my favorite, from Secret Los Angeles: no more Dodger Dogs!  The comment thread on Facebook is priceless; half the posters are horrified, the other half are earnestly correcting the first half.  Personally I had a hot dog to celebrate :)

I went sailing today, gorgeous, sunny and breezy, actual heat.  Nicest day in about five months.  Spring has *finally* sprung. 

Waay back in 2012, I posted Moved ... to Facebook.  In 2011 I became a daily Facebook poster.  Weird to think that was a thing.  But it's interesting to think about why it's not a thing.  You can do just about anything on Facebook you can do on a blog; post pictures, text, link to things; and there are Likes, and Comments, and all kinds of infrastructure.  But it's not a thing, is it?  In no way was that the same as posting here.  So be it. 

Another oldie, from 2008: the lost art of desk checking.  That was fifteen years ago, so if it was dead then, it is surely dead now?  Um, no.  For example, for the desk programs for my series on CUDA and GPUs, I did a lot of it.  I guess dinosaurs gonna dino. 

This might be the reason AI models don't entirely replace human programmers.  OTOH, maybe they become great at desk checking, and it might be the reason AI makes programming more efficient.  We'll check in on this in another fifteen years :)

Ottmar Liebert: flow.  A subject on which he is expert.  "It’s difficult to know ahead of time which way the wind blows. Sometimes one recognizes what’s happening immediately, one feels the invincible flow of creativity, one feels switched ON. Sometimes one can feel the struggle.

News I can use: how to unlock the 100kph achievement badge in Zwift.  You have to find the steepest downhill and ride as fast as you can in your biggest gear.  Stay tuned! 

Steven Wolfram: ChatGPT gets its "Wolfram Superpowers"!  A great pairing.  This is rather remarkable for how fast it got done as well as how powerful it is. 

NotTheBee: I just asked Google's new AI chatbot "Bard" the very same question about both Biden and Trump. The difference in its answers is astounding.  This is super bad.  And maximally inauthentic

Ottmar Liebert: Millions of Drops.  "Water drops don't sound like rain.  millions of drops do."  A video editing tour de force. 

One step closer to success: Reality Space's 3D-printed rocket launches, fails to reach orbit.  SpaceX's early launches didn't make it either.  Onward. 

Interesting: Oliver Stone Releases Trailer for His Pro-Nuclear Energy Movie, ‘Nuclear Now’.  Can't wait to see it. 

Elon Musk links Arthur C. Clarke about the future of AI ... in 1964! 

I have found this to be true: the more you want to see a video clip on any news site, the less likely it will play when you click it.  Weird that this isn't 100% by now, like clicking on an HTML link. 

Did the video of Arthur C Clarke play for you?

Michael Kagan, Nvidia's CTO, says other uses of processing power such as the artificial intelligence chatbot ChatGPT are more worthwhile than mining crypto.  I have to agree. 

Inhabitat: do you think zoos and animal parks are good or bad?  A reasonable balanced analysis.  They did not however consider the opportunity offered for a great afternoon with a little kid :) 

And also... no pictures!  I picked one for them...




Saturday,  04/01/23  07:56 PM


If you've been around here at all, you know: I hate dislike woke-ness.  So, why?

I have asked myself this question too.

It isn't that I disagree with much of woke-ness dogma, although I do. 

My fundamental challenge with many "woke" ideas is that I don't believe government action is the best way to handle them.  But I recognize the contra points of view and will happily engage on them.

My dislike stems from the inauthenticity of woke-ness.  It's virtue signaling; most wokies* don't understand the issues, haven't actually thought about them much, but have absorbed prevailing wisdom and eagerly parrot it in order to show that they, too, are a "good" person.  Does it make them feel better about themselves?  Maybe.  And maybe that's the attraction.

One tell is that wokies* reject facts which don't fit their narrative.  If you think X, and you encounter a fact which is ~X, what do you do?  Do you inquire about the fact?  Do you process it and maybe come up with X'?  Or do you simply reject the fact? 

* is wokie a word?  No.  Should it be?  Yes.

I often refer back to an incredibly insightful ontology of ways to disagree, from Paul Graham: 

  • DH0.  Name-calling.
  • DH1.  Ad hominem.
  • DH2.  Responding to tone.
  • DH3.  Contradiction.
  • DH4.  Counterargument.
  • DH5.  Refutation.
  • DH6.  Refutation of the central point.

Wokies rarely engage on the facts, even if there are legitimate arguments available; instead they go for contradiction, ad hominem, and name calling.  And there is an even weaker response: silencing the source  This is happening all over, and is even institutionalized.

My central gripe isn't with these people's actions, it's with their intent.  I have many friends with whom I disagree, and I have no challenge with their disagreement if it is authentic.

On this day, April 1, we encounter a lot of falsehood for the sake of humor.  And that's great.  I've never laughed harder or enjoyed myself more on account of some of it.  You might say this is authentic falsehood.

Unfortunately and irritatingly, our public discourse has moved strongly toward inauthentic falsehood.  We say things we know are not true and act upon them, because others will agree, and we'll feel better about ourselves.

The other day I mentioned nut picking, "acting as if the craziest people in any group represent the group".  This is not authentic.

I wish the pendulum will swing back, but I'm not optimistic.  I see several parallel gradients that reinforce inauthentic behavior, locking it in.  The antidote is to question everything.  Not just on April 1, but every other day.





Friday,  03/31/23  10:19 PM

End of quarter, filter pass ...

I must tell you, this was not a great quarter for me.  I am ready to turn a corner.

Today's picture: Titan!  One of my favorite's, of all time; Titan silhouetted by Saturn, as taken by Cassini.  This is a real photograph of a real moon of a real planet.  Goosebumpy.

We keep reading about GPT and it's various chat brethren; the genesis for all was OpenAI's Codex, an AI system to translate natural language to code.  As a coder myself, naturally this is of interest, and the tools now available are amazing.  The big question is will computers replace humans?  Or will there always have to be humans to train the computers? 

Consider Wikipedia, one of the truly amazing human creations.  Could it have been created by computers?  I don't think so.  But now that it exists, it can be used to train computers, for sure...

The New Yorker contemplates the End of the English Major.  Really, the end of Humanities.  Certainly Woke Politics are a part of this decline, but there's more to it than that: "During the past decade, the study of English and history at the collegiate level has fallen by a full third. Humanities enrollment in the United States has declined over all by seventeen per cent. What’s going on? The trend mirrors a global one; four-fifths of countries in the Organization for Economic Coöperation reported falling humanities enrollments in the past decade."  Humanities score high on interestingness, but maybe increasingly lower on entertainment

[Added: my daughter, a Gen Y who majored in Sociology, thinks students are more preoccupied with their future economics now than previously.  How interesting, Millennials are often regarded as anti-capitalist.]

Also the New Yorker: Goodbye, my Funding.  From 2017, pre-Covid.  It's written as a humorous satire of course, but the underlying idea that "my funding" is somehow separate from "my activity" is an interesting observation, typical of many.  Universal Basic Income is one manifestation.  If we had UBI, would we have more English Majors? 

NASA wants new 'deorbit tug' to bring space station down in 2030.  Huh.  This seems like a perfect excuse to test new weapons systems!  And if I could suggest, we should launch a new satellite to relay video! 

Whenever I see pictures of the ISS, I have a Titan-like "wow, this is a real photograph of a real thing" moment.

PSA: Did you know, the IOS Compass app not only gives you directions, but coordinates and altitude?  Even works with airplane mode on ... I guess the GPS is still active regardless ... try it next time you're flying :) 

Interconnected: My new job is AI sommelier and I detect the bouquet of progress.  "I made an AI clock for my bookshelves! It composes a new poem every minute using ChatGPT and mysteriously has an enthusiastic vibe which I am totally into. Kinda.

Not real - yet - the invisible superyacht.  In my experience most so-called superyachts have a "me me look at me" design, so this would be welcome. 

For superyachts?  The lightest pain in the world.  It uses reflective properties of materials rather than pigment.  Cool (literally!) but also likely expensive... 

The IQ Bell Curve for AI

I keep going back and forth on whether I think AI is dangerous...

Novel drug makes mice skinny even on sugary, fatty diet.  Huh.  Glenn Reynolds thinks if drugs make it easy to be skinny, skinniness will be less-valued.  I'd be happy to volunteer to find out :) 

Congrats to tortoise couple Mr. and Mrs. Pickles on the arrival of their three hatchlings, Dill, Gherkin, and Jalapeño.  Hehe. 

Note: the little Gherkin is actual size :)




Friday,  03/31/23  09:41 PM

<musing type=optional>

Just sitting here thinking about entertainment.  It's a bit related to interesting-ness; how do we chose to spend our time?

For much of the world, basic human needs like food and shelter are a given - sadly, for another much of the world, they are not, don't want to be callus about this - but for you, readers of this blog, this is largely true ... and I/you/we spend a lot of our money and time on entertainment

In our world the most valued people are entertainers - actors, musicians, athletes, writers, etc.  These are "hits" businesses - only the tip of the entertainment pyramid is so valuable - but they are broadly leveragable - a great actor, musician, athlete, or writer can entertain many many of us (indeed all of us) at the same time.

It was not always so.  Before electronic communication the reach of an entertainer was limited, and hence, they were less valuable.  (Writers had big reach earlier, with printing presses...)  In my not-yet-written book Unnatural Selection I planned a chapter called "the piano player", in which I noted that in the recent past even a good player could be entertaining to many in a local community, while now you would have to be a great player, but could entertain everyone.  Mass communication has fostered a global decanting.  But that aside, entertainment was still valuable back then, maybe more so given its scarcity.

Clearly entertainment is a brain thing, so is wanting and liking entertainment a by-product of other selection, or fundamental to it? 

Frequent readers know I postulate happiness comes from liking yourself; if entertainment makes you happy (it does) then does it make you like yourself (it must).  So why would watching a great actor, or listening to a great musician make you like you?  Maybe its by analogy, a sort of inspiration; if that human can do that thing, than I could too?

As a contra point to this: watching other species do incredible things is entertaining too.  And what about humor? 

It is a mystery.  I will continue to ponder :)




the Stratocruiser

Wednesday,  03/22/23  06:59 AM

Sitting in the United Lounge at Atlanta airport I came across this picture, of a United Boeing 377 Stratocruiser.

I didn't know what it was, had to Google (yay, visual search), but it struck a chord.  All those years ago, maybe 60 or so, that plane existed, and flew, and was full of passengers; maybe on their way back to LA from a business meeting in Atlanta.

They would have been dressed differently - nicer no doubt - and would have been thinking differently about different things.  Probably carrying books and newspapers.  Not planning to watch a movie.  Nor blogging while high :)

They would have been chauffeured to the airport and been dropped off at the entrance, porters would have taken their luggage, they would have presented paper tickets, and they would not have suffered needless security theater with long lines and luggage scanners and taking your shoes off.  No taking your laptop out of its bag :)

The food would have been better, for sure!  The service too.  And the flight would have taken longer; Stratocruisers cruised at 350mph, vs 550mph for the jets of today.  "It could carry up to 100 passengers on the main deck plus 14 in the lower deck lounge; typical seating was for 63 or 84 passengers or 28 berthed and five seated passengers."  The whole experience would have felt more special.

Google tells me the average price of an airplane ticket in 1963 was $41, which equals $323 in today's money.  I would gladly pay that amount for that experience.  (Maybe with generative AI, soon I will be able! - I predict some of the first uses of a 'holodeck' will be time travel into the past...)  Travel+Leisure tells us what flights used to cost in the 'golden age' of air travel.  And they summarize: "Security risks are greater and security lines are longer. People don't wear their best suits to fly anymore. Deregulated, democratized, affordable air travel is very different from the glamorous air travel of those far-gone days, but at least more of us get the pleasure of complaining about it."



Fairly recent posts (well last handful, anyway):

04/20/24 07:41 PM -

on the road again

04/18/24 12:51 PM -

Draognfly 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 05:21 PM -


03/31/24 11:32 AM -

Happy Easter

10/07/23 09:06 AM -

San Fran Five-Oh

04/01/23 08:34 PM -

April not-Fools

04/01/23 07:56 PM -


03/31/23 10:19 PM -


03/31/23 09:41 PM -


03/22/23 06:59 AM -

the Stratocruiser

03/22/23 06:08 AM -

blogging while high

03/20/23 07:18 PM -

global happiness

03/20/23 07:15 PM -

yay, Spring

03/19/23 10:06 PM -

bad product names

03/18/23 09:55 PM -

at the zoo

03/17/23 09:40 PM -

Lá Fhéile Pádraig sona duit!

03/16/23 09:23 PM -


03/15/23 10:17 PM -

the Ides are upon us

03/15/23 09:57 PM -

my Oura

03/15/23 10:47 AM -

Iditarod 2023 wrap

03/14/23 10:09 PM -


03/14/23 09:34 PM -

π day

03/14/23 10:54 AM -

Iditarod day nine (heading Nome!)

03/13/23 09:44 PM -

bank run day

03/13/23 05:08 PM -

Iditarod day eight, too (everyone everywhere)

For older posts please visit the archive.