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Archive: October 2004

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Friday,  10/15/04  07:02 AM

Just a trial post, trying to see if I still remember how :)

It has been four months.  Four months!  Wow.  Well, maybe I can still do it.  We'll see.

Where I have I been?  Nowhere really.  Working hard on a few projects, enjoying the summer.  I have a lot to report, maybe I'll dribble it out over the next hours and days and weeks.  I have 2,523 RSS items queued up in SharpReader - stand by...

So I'm in my wiring closet, removing my XO IDSL router (story to follow), and I notice my firewall lights blinking furiously.  What?  There was a day - maybe a year ago - when I checked my blog stats daily.  Haven't checked for weeks.  But those lights; what's happening?

After a year and a half, suddenly Tyranny of Email is popular again, thanks to Whole Lot of Nothing and  Mark Frauenfelder at the incomparable Boing Boing.  It's been a long time since I had 51,000 hits in a day :)  I guess that kind of attention can wake you up.


Friday,  10/15/04  08:01 AM

Ramble on...  (some of this is kind of old ...)

Bram Cohen (of Bittorrent fame) is blogging.  Subscribed.  (Here's a nice post about, well, read it!)

History of the Universe in Seven SnoozesThe History of the Universe in Seven Snoozes, by Jim Ruland.  Beautiful, wonderful, amazing.  Reminds me strongly of my recently-deceased-but-always-on-my-mind friend Daniel Jacoby; he would have loved it.  [ via Xeni Jardin ]

From The Scientist: G8 Backs HIV Vaccine Plan - "A global program styled on the Human Genome Project gets the nod from world leaders".  Paging Craig Venter.

Saturn rings from Cassini-HuygensThe Cassini-Huygens probe has been sending back some unbelievable pictures from Saturn and its moons.  Surreal.  (Wired has a nice survey article.)

Caltech has a monthly periodical for alumni called "Engineering and Science".  The articles are always fascinating.  I also find the personals and obituaries interesting; not that they're people I knew, but they are cool snapshots from worthwhile lives.  Inspiring in a funny way.

Consider, for example, Arnold Beckman, the son of a blacksmith, an ex-Marine, who became a Chemical Engineer and founded Beckman Instruments.  His foundation has donated hundreds of millions of dollars in pursuit of science.

bugmenot.comDon't you hate websites that force you to register to access their content?  Newspapers are the worst offenders.  They just don't get it; personally, if I have to register I'll just find the information somewhere else.  Anyway there's this cool site called which has cached a whole bunch of registration information, so you can access all sorts of "registration required" sites without, er, registering.  Of course, looking up registration information there can take just as long as registering yourself, so the real gain is anonymity rather than productivity.

buckyball!Oh, remember buckyballs?  An interesting semi-spherical form of carbon, C60, named after Buckminster Fuller, the "futurist" who thought buildings based on hemispherical designs would save material.  Anyway apparently researchers have been able to make a smaller version, C50.  "The key to producing the smaller buckyballs was causing chlorine atoms to attach to the carbon atoms that are shared by abutting pentagons. The chlorine atoms form a ring around and stabilize the molecular structure."  So be it.


Windows video conferencing

Friday,  10/15/04  08:24 AM

I still want to know: Does anyone have comments about Windows-based video conferencing systems?  Please email me.

Surely this is a solved problem by now :/


In the Wet

Friday,  10/15/04  08:49 AM

One of my favorite books of all time is Nevil Shute's In the WetIf you haven't read it, you should.  It defies an easy synopsis but it is a wonderful engrossing read and is definitely thought provoking.  It takes place in "the future", which given that the book was written in 1952 is now our recent past.

One of the most interesting ideas of the book, thrown in almost as an afterthought, is the idea of "multiple voting".  In such a democracy - which Shute fancifully assumed Australia to become - each citizen has at least one vote.  But some have more than one, earned through various accomplishments such as education, military service, travel, etc.  Shute felt this would result in better government; whether it would or not is open to debate, and even if you grant that it would, getting there would be politically impossible.  Food for thought, nonetheless...

My reaction to the current Presidential campaign, including the debates - about which I will have more to say, possibly - is that our present system of democracy is clearly not optimal.  Any system that yields Bush and Kerry as the finalists has problems.  But political systems are like nature, you can't just get "there" from "here", there has to be a connecting path, even if "there" would be stable once you get there.  The natural selection of society, evolving in realtime.

I just voted, by the way; I'm a permanent absentee voter.  This means I get to vote early, and my vote will [in all probability] never be counted.  Of course being a Presidential voter in California means my vote doesn't matter anyway; the state will go for Kerry, regardless of my vote or anyone else's.  One of the deepest suboptimalities in our present system is the Electoral College; consider that California, New York, and Texas are the three most populous and [arguably] most opinionated states, and yet neither candidate is paying them any attention at all, because they are already "in the bag" one way or another.  Colorado has a referendum pending which would split their Electoral College votes in proportion to their popular vote, which is an interesting step in the right direction.  Imagine if we did that in California?  Arnold, what say you?

On the California ballot this year we have a number of interesting propositions.  Now I'm a fairly savvy guy, I stay current, follow the issues, read blogs, and trouble to read the voter information materials which describe each proposition.  I have to tell you, it is not easy to figure out what these propositions would do, in fact, even if you understand the premise behind them it isn't easy to tell whether voting "yes" means it would happen!  So where does this leave the average voter?  I confess to a low opinion of this mythical person, I don't think they stay current, follow the issues, read blogs, OR trouble to read the voter information materials.  In fact they probably think TV "news" is news!  (Hint: Dan Rather is an actor, not a journalist.)  Each of these hypothetical average voters has just as much say in whether these propositions pass as I do.  Maybe that's good, but I actually don't think so.

Here's an idea; on the ballot there are these propositions, and for each proposition we put five "test questions" about the proposition.  If you don't answer three of the questions correctly, your vote doesn't count.  Seems fair to me ...


(new yorker, 6/20/04)

Friday,  10/15/04  10:50 AM


The early dawn of a new type of society :)


Friday,  10/15/04  09:56 PM

Okay, so I sorted through 3,000+ RSS items in SharpReader and now have 427 I want to post.  Do you care?  No.  Do you wish I won't post them all at once?  Yes.  You will get your wish.

SpaceShipOneSo - space.  While I was out, SpaceShipOne won the Ansari X-Prize!  That's pretty terrific, privately financed space tourism and exploration is finally out of the blocks.  And with Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic we may soon have a fleet of these things, flying us to space.  Excellent.  [ Xeni Jardin was there, and links Alan Radecki's excellent pics.  What a photogenic spacecraft, eh? ]

Now if we could just get that Space Tourism Bill passed :)

SpaceX Falcon IIn other news, today I received SpaceX's bimonthly update email (also posted online).  What an exciting company, and they're just about to launch their first rocket!  SpaceX ultimately aims to send tourists into orbit, which is about 25X harder (in terms of energy required) than "reaching space".  They're going to prove out their technology by launching satellites first.

And meanwhile Messenger continues on toward Mercury!  (With gravity assists from Venus.)

And Randall Parker wonders: Can We Finally Retire the Space Shuttle?  "It is my hope that the success of SpaceShipOne and the coming flights of SpaceShipTwo and other private spacecraft designs will allow the American public to get over their emotional attachment to the Space Shuttle. People no longer need to invest their hopes for space exploration in the Shuttle. We can relegate the Shuttle to history as an obsolete and flawed design."  Biggest difference?  The shuttle was built by the government, not private industry.


Saturday,  10/16/04  10:15 PM

Hey, two days in a row, not bad :)  And yesterday you guys gave me over 52,000 hits, amazing.  Imagine what might happen if I actually posted something worth reading.

Okay.  So I've got to start with another recovering ex-blogger, Steven Den Beste, who claims he is not going to start posting again: Poll Trends.  "If I saw something like that in scientific or engineering data, I'd be asking a lot of very tough questions. My first suspicion would be that the test equipment was broken, but in the case of opinion polls there is no such thing. My second suspicion would be fraud."  I link, you decide.

Roger L. Simon makes a great point, one I've thought about but haven't enunciated: "The predicted squeaker victory for either party will leave a divided country."  This is very true. 

I remember an older, wiser colleague telling me "it isn't enough to win, you have to win the victory".  Huh?  He was talking about making a deal with another business, and his point was, it isn't just getting the best possible deal, but coming out of the process with a good relationship.  I don't think either Bush or Kerry is going to have a good relationship with the country when the election is over.  The divide is too deep.  And that is troubling...

Charles Krauthammer reports An Edwards Outrage.  [ via Glenn Reynolds, who notes: "John Edwards has been savagely beaten by a man in a wheelchair." ]

Of course, there are two sides to every issue, and Kerry and Edwards seem to take both of them.

U.S. trade deficitJohn Robb continues to blog up a storm; he notes the U.S. trade deficit in August was $54B.  (Yeah, one month.)  "The two major elements driving this is the deficit with China: $15.39 billion and oil producers: $14.18 billion."  The price of crude is now up to $55, and it isn't coming down.  The problem is not Iraq, and not Saudia Arabia.  The problem is we're running Out of Gas.

Look at the bright side, when gas is $10/gallon, people will stop driving SUVs.  In fact, people will plain stop driving.  Good for the environment, but bad for the price of everything...

Matt Haughey notes DRM issues with the new Tivo DVRs.  Essentially, the Tivos with DVD burners will not save content from another Tivo.  Why?  Well, this would make sense under one particular scenario.  Suppose Tivo made a deal with someone who could give them VOD-type content over the Internet.  Could be Netflix but it could also be CinemaNow or anyone else.  Now they can get video content to your PC, but how do they get it to your TV?  (This is the famous "last 30 feet" problem.)  Well, Tivos have this cool Tivo-to-Tivo viewing capability.  What if they gave you software so your PC looked like another Tivo?  It already does for music and pictures, just not for video.  So say they add video.  Now you can view the downloaded video, and birds sing.  But one problem, the analog leak.  Content owners aren’t going to want people to download video to their PCs, only to burn it to DVD.  So you can bet they’ll have Windows Media DRM on the content.  Unfortunately it will have to be un-DRMed to send it to the Tivo.  Once there, if you could burn it directly to a DVD, it would be bad.  Hence this restriction...

Roland digital accordianOttmar Liebert comments on Gizmodo's note regarding Roland's new Digital Accordion: "Question: If you throw an accordion, a tuba, and a banjo from the top of a 30 story building, which instrument would land on the street first?  Answer: Who cares!"

I bet Joey deVilla would care :)

This is pretty cool:  FilmStew reports "In an effort to raise funds for The Boys and Girls Clubs of America, is holding a 'spirited' event that will allow the winning bidder to receive a personalized tombstone in the finale graveyard scene of the attraction with a humorous epitaph written by the team at Walt Disney Imagineering."  [ via Cory Doctorow, who thinks "this is the best thing ever.  I mean EVER." ]

Dave Winer: Evangelism 101.  "Don't tell the girl you want girls.  Tell her you want her."  I want you.

the paperboyWill Campbell posts a great reminicense: There were Paper Boys in those Days.  "'Boys,' he'd tell us, 'No matter how bad things get out there, people are going to always want their Herald Examiner.  Always!'  The Herald Examiner shut its doors 15 years ago next month."  I delivered the Herald for three years, from when I was about 12 to about 14.  Gave me strong legs, a good arm, and about $50/month.  And some great memories...


Christopher Reeve, Super Man

Saturday,  10/16/04  11:22 PM

So Christopher Reeve has passed away.  What an amazing guy.  There have been many great eulogies for him, but this is my favorite, from wholesome goodness:

Christopher Reeve, Super Man
"So many of our dreams at first seem impossible, then they seem improbable, and then, when we summon the will, they soon become inevitable." -CR

Many people have reacted to his life, and his death, by calling for a renewed push for stem cell research.  That would be great - I'm all for science - but finding "a cure" wasn't what Christopher Reeve was about.  He was about mental toughness, optimism, and living each day to its fullest, regardless of your circumstances.  A terrific message for everyone.


Sunday,  10/17/04  11:14 PM

The Ole filter makes a pass...

Mount Graham binocular telescopeThe University of Arizona's Mount Graham binocular telescope has been dedicated, in New Mexico.  "The LBT, largest of three telescopes in the Mount Graham International Observatory complex, will be used to explore never-seen things like planets the size of Jupiter in solar systems 20 to 30 light-years away.  The end result will be images about 10 times as sharp as the Hubble Space Telescope, enhanced by a technology called adaptive optics to adjust and correct for the Earth's atmospheric turbulence."  Excellent!

Interesting; looks like Gmail is starting to use Yahoo's Domain Keys to "sign" all sent email.  This proposed standard would give email servers an unambiguous way to verify email actually comes from the domain it says it does.  If widely adopted, this would be an important step forward to eliminating spam and phishing.  Google appears to be the first large email sender to use Domain Keys; even Yahoo themselves are not yet using it...

Wangari Maathai, winner of the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize, "believes the virus causing AIDS was a deliberately created biological agent unleashed on Africans."  This is a woman who was trained as a biologist.  Words fail me.

Congratulations to all the folks at WorthWhile Magazine; they've shippedSubscribed! (in the old, paper arriving in the mail sense; I've been subscribed in the new, RSS feed sense, for quite some time :)

square bacteriaUh, square bacteria?  Apparently :)  "The microbe is also extremely tolerant of magnesium chloride.  According to (University of Groningen scientist Henk) Bolhuis, this makes it a model organism for studying what life might be like in extraterrestrial corners of the solar system, such as the magnesium-rich brines on Jupiter's moons Europa and Ganymede."  [ via David Pescovitz ]

Anil Dash notes eBay is no longer accepting signons via Microsoft's Passport.  It came in like a hailstorm, but went out with nary a whimper.  [ via Joi Ito ]

You would have to be a nerd to think this is cool, but then if you're reading this, there's a nonzero chance you're a nerd.  Tit for Tat has been defeated in a Prisoner Dilemma competition!  This has profound implications for philosophy in general, and the theory of Evolutionary Stable Strategies in particular.  What's cool is that the new winner is a cooperative strategy between two agents!  So, if two agents are better than one, how about "n"?  Maybe this is why we live in cities?  Who knows :)

Hey, I've got a new blog for you: Joe Kraus' Bnoopy.  Joe was a founder of Excite and has some great stories about "the old days" of the 'net.  See especially Persistence Pays, Part 1, Persistence Pays, Part 2, and Moons Over My Hammy.  Great stuff.

Netscape logoNetscape has turned 10!  Do you remember those early days when every week brought a new beta, with amazing new features?  I do, I would download those 10MB installers all night on my 14.4K modem, and then excitedly try it to see what was new.  Boy, those were the days.  In a very real sense, the start of a revolution.

Dungeons & Dragons has turned 30!  I remember playing D&D with graph paper when I was at college...  and making my own icosahedral die :)

Finally, Matt Webb has come to a compromise with the leopard.  You'll just have to read it...


yacht tricks

Monday,  10/18/04  12:41 AM

Here's a neat trick you can play with your ocean racing yacht.  Not recommended for those with a heart condition :)

Gitana capsize

Zephyr capsize


9/11 remembered

Monday,  10/18/04  01:17 AM

While I was out I missed the third anniversary of 9/11, which I, unlike some, refuse to forget.
The New Yorker remembered with a fantastic cover:

New Yorker cover 9/13/04

As you may know, I have a thing for New Yorker covers, but this might be the best ever.
Of course this one from a year ago was pretty spectacular, too.


Monday,  10/18/04  10:20 PM

Lance ArmstrongOne of the biggest things that happened during my blog break was Lance Armstrong winning his 6th consecutive Tour de France.  Unbelievable.  It was truly over when Lance won the time trial up L'Alpe d'Huez.  A vertical ascent of 3,800', with an average grade of 8%, Lance covered the 9.6 miles in under 40 minutes.  That's just awesome.

Did you watch the Tour?  I upgraded my cable package just so I could get OLN, just so I could watch the tour.  Great Tivo material :)

It is baseball's second season, and watching the games I'm reminded of how much "inside jargon" is used in this sport.  More than any other?  Maybe not, consider this report of a cricket match, which might as well be written in another language.

Here's a story from 2009, published in 2002: How Google beat Amazon and eBay to the Semantic Web.  This is so true.  Reminds me of the difference between emergent and explicit properties.

traffic jam!Remember my caravans idea?  Well, it's slowly becoming a reality.  The Economist reports on "adaptive cruise control", which is marketed as a safety features but may have positive side effects for traffic flow too.  Excellent!

Yesterday I noted Netscape's 10th anniversary, and I meant to link Eric Sink's fascinating article Memoirs from the Browser Wars.  "The original Internet Explorer team was just five or six people.  By the time Silverberg and others decided to rewrite the browser almost completely for version 3.0, released in 1996, the team had grown to 100. By 1999, it was more than 1,000."  Interestingly, Firefox really seems to be gaining traction, and it has been developed by a pretty small team...

Ottmar rants: "But if a Texan has to take off his cowboy hat at security, why should a Sikh not have to lift his turban or an Islamic woman have to lift her veil?"  Of course.

the slab sinkThis is just too cool - the slab sink.  "Watch the water challenge the laws of nature as it caresses the stone on it's way toward the drain."  Just when you think you've seen it all, you realize you haven't.

Today's cool utility - space.  Really great for visually managing all the files on your hard drive.  You might not be as into disk cleanliness as I am, but I think space is downright spiffy.

lemmingHey, did you know Lemmings do not commit suicide?  Me neither.  Apparently the whole thing was cooked up by Disney , for the 1958 movie White Wilderness.  "According to a 1983 investigation by Canadian Broadcasting Corporation producer Brian Vallee, the lemming scenes were faked.  The lemmings supposedly committing mass suicide by leaping into the ocean were actually thrown off a cliff by the Disney filmmakers."  Man, you learn something new every day.


The Long Tail

Monday,  10/18/04  11:24 PM

Many have already linked The Long Tail in Wired by Chris Anderson, but I have to call attention to it as well.  This is a brilliant article, IMHO, which pounds a nail squarely through the wood.  The biggest, most successful businesses on the 'net are the ones which have exploited this, including eBay and Amazon, and Napster and its brethren, iTunes and Rhapsody and the like...  There are doubtless other businesses waiting to be made out of the long tails in other markets.

the long tail

Another thing to keep in mind; as there is more varied content available in each market, finding the content you want becomes harder.  This is where referral services and reputation systems and reviewers and a whole ecosystem aimed at helping you find what you want comes in.  Great stuff.

Final comment - pricing.  The article opines that pricing for the long tail should be kept low.  But I think this is a perfect opportunity to let the market decide.  Since the incremental cost of providing goods is essentially zero, the price is related to the demand.  A niche product may be very valuable to the small number of consumers which want it.  Many models may emerge, including subscriptions, "channels" of varying content, usage-based pricing, etc.  There is a lot of business model evolution left!


Tuesday,  10/19/04  11:42 PM

Crap, server / network problems.  If you're reading this, great, I fixed it :)

Okay, so what to say about the Sox / Yankees series that hasn't been said already?  Unbelievable.  Bill Simmonds has a great review of The Surreal Life at Fenway, and that was only after game 5.  (By now, he's probably in intensive care.)  Of course, this only sets up another heartbreak for Boston fans, you know the Yankees are going to win in the end.  Great Tivo action in the meantime, however.

Jeff KentAnd the NLCS isn't too shabby either!  I've always liked Jeff Kent, ever since he punched Barry Bonds.  And I love it when a guy gets pissed because they walk the guy in front of him.  You just knew he was going to crank one, and there is was, first pitch: Bam, off the train.  My favorite play of game 5 was when Beltran ran up the hill in center field to catch Sanders' 420'  home run fly ball.

Slate ran an interesting article about America's Worst College.  That would be the Electoral College, of course.  The scheme was originally devised to give little states more power, but it hasn't done that, and what it has done is give big states less.  Here in California our votes don't count.

iDebateVia Joi Ito, iDebate.  Bush is probably listening to Adam Curry's daily source code via podcast :) 

Adam and Dave Winer have really cooked up a cool new thing using RSS enclosures and scripting to download MP3 content to your iPod.  This meme is blasting off...  as Doc notes "watching the Big Bang here, these few nanoseconds into the Event."  (I liked this anecdote from Adam about the challenges of podcasting.  This one from Dave is pretty cool, too.)  Even Medscape is podcasting!

Yesterday I noted the long tail, the idea that the 'net makes distribution for content with small markets economical.  Ottmar Liebert blogged an interesting reply: "that could very well mean the death of acoustic music performed by trained musicians on expensive instruments and recorded by expensive engineers in expensive studios.  Good-bye Satriani, good-bye classical music (already less and less music is recorded for classical labels because the cost of recording an orchestra, around 1 million plus, guarantees a loss....), good-bye the next Beatles... and hello Midi, laptop recording, turn-table jamming, and lots of rapping."  Shudder.

I have a more positive take.  Not only does the long tail provide distribution for lots of existing content, it also actively fosters the creation of new content.  Artists in many fields can create work which has niche appeal with more confidence that they can reach their audiences than ever before.  So if classical music becomes less popular – which was already the case, long before the Internet – now there is a better chance that some artists will still create new works in this genre.  Same with instrumental rock (Satriani) which hasn’t traditionally fostered many hits.  And same for nuevo flamenco!

Gizmodo notes CinemaNow Offers HD Content.  Do you use CinemaNow to watch movies?  No, I didn't think so, nobody does.  It is either too hard, too expensive, or the content is not compelling, or all three together.  There is a solution somewhere to the video-on-demand market, but they don't have it.  They're concentrating on the short neck instead of the long tail :)

I had kind of a weird decision to make tonight.  My Norton AntiVirus 2003 subscription was about to expire.  Should I renew 2003, for $25, or upgrade to 2005, for $30?  It wasn't the $5 difference that gave me pause, it was the possibility that 2005 would mess up my computer.  2003 is working just fine.  I'm afraid 2005 might try to be a firewall, or prevent me from running utilities, or otherwise do "stuff" I don't want it to do...  In the end, I opted to upgrade 2003.  I know, someday I'll have to upgrade, but not this day.

Finally, a German man has broken the record for throwing a mobile phone - 67.5 meters.  I am not making this up.  [ via Ottmar, who wonders "reaction to lack of service or sport?".  I know I've been tempted to enter the competition myself. ]


the ScanScope T3

Tuesday,  10/19/04  11:57 PM

Aperio have proudly announced the ScanScope T3!  Ta da! 

ScanScope T3The T3 system, which compliments Aperio’s existing high-throughput T2 system, allows pathologists to create, store, annotate, analyze, share, and conference virtual slide images directly from their desktop.  Up to five slides can be loaded simultaneously and scanned fully automatically using easily interchangeable 20x or 40x objectives.  The T3 is compatible with Aperio’s open software architecture and supports standard database and image file formats, streamlining integration of the T3 with existing laboratory and data management systems.

And please check this out...  A video of a ScanScope T3 in action!

We're very proud of our new baby...


Wednesday,  10/20/04  10:49 PM

Johnny DamonCongratulations to the Red Sox!  Who would have thought?  An epic comeback.  They won easily last night; got out in front early, and staved off a Yankee comeback.  Damon's grand slam was the dagger.  Meanwhile the "other" series has featured spectacular baseball; last night's Cardinal victory wasn't over until Jim Edmond's walkoff blast in the bottom of the 12th.  Game 7 tonight; warm up your Tivo.

This is pretty cool; Peter Rojas of Engadget interviews Mike Ramsey, CEO of Tivo.  A highlight:

Q: What’s your vision for Internet television?
A: For us, it’s a natural idea to consider that the DVR idea would be extended beyond broadcast onto broadband.

I really want to call your attention to John Gruber's excellent post, the location field is the new command line.  "The conventional wisdom was in fact correct — the web has turned into a popular application development environment."  Daring Fireball features some of the really great computing philosophy on the 'net.  You might also check out The Art of the Parlay, which revisits Apple history, and Why 2004 won't be like 1984, a follow-up which consider's Apple's amazing music business.

the FYO pointOh, and please see Bryan Cantrill’s interesting take on the economics of software.  What is the "FYO point"?  Well, it has to do with this billboard on the 101 freeway in Redwood city...  just read the article.  [ via Tim Bray ]

Google Desktop logoSpeaking of "the web as development environment", Google have released Google Desktop Search, essentially a small webserver which runs on your computer, indexes your email and your computer's files, and displays search results in your browser, alongside web searches.  Philip Greenspun had wondered How Can Google Grow? ("while Microsoft is trying to replace Google with MSN Search, Google will be trying to replace Microsoft Office"), and this is part of the answer.  Lookout logoIn this, Google competes with Lookout, which was bought by Microsoft, and my favorite search tool X1.  John Battelle posted an interesting overview and follow-up.  The early buzz seems to be that Google's offering is too intrusive, apparently it really slows down your computer while it is indexing files.  That is the big benefit of X1, it does its thing quietly in the background.

X1 logoOf course, the other benefit of X1 is that they aren't Google or Microsoft.  Do you really want a big company indexing your hard drive?  I didn't think so.  The back channel is too scary.

There are also persistent rumors that Google is developing their own browser!  In this NYTimes article by John Markoff, he quotes:  "'If you drive by the Google buildings in the evening,' said a person who has detailed knowledge of the company's business, 'the lights that are still on are the ones on the floor where they are working on the browser.'"  Interesting.

A classic example of "the web as development environment" is Torrentocracy, "the combination of RSS, bittorrent, your television and your remote control.  In effect, it is what gives any properly motivated person or entity the ability to have their own TV station."  And yes, of course, there is a Torrentocracy blog...

I was really sad to see Mark Pilgrim's post, that he's going to stop blogging:

Looks like he meant it:

So be it.  I often disagreed with Mark, but then again, he posted some great stuff.  (I laughed for about 5 minutes after this one :)  Mark was one of the main contributors to Atom, as an alternative syndication format to RSS.

Scoble wonders: Are you afraid to blog?  Well I'm not.  Even if it does involve angle brackets, computers, and electricity.  And yeah, my little company Aperio has a blog.



Wednesday,  10/20/04  11:22 PM

Hey, guess what?  We have a dog!  Say hello to Bijou...


Some would argue that a Shih-Tsu is really not a dog, it is an hors d'oeuvre :)
But nobody would argue that she isn't cute.


Hi from Virgin Galactic

Thursday,  10/21/04  05:29 PM

Here's an email you don't get every day:

Hi from Virgin Galactic

Is this a great time to be alive, or what?


Thursday,  10/21/04  10:11 PM

One of the really feel-good stories that came out in the past couple of weeks was the elections in Afghanistan.  As Scott Norville reported, it was Just a Success Story  [ via Citizen Smash ]  Democracy is the best hope we have of defusing radical Islam.  Cox & Forkum captured this perfectly in "Casting":


A classic Kerryism.  "Talking about education yesterday, Mr. Kerry also told the largely black crowd at the day care center that there are more blacks in prison than in college.  'That's unacceptable,' he said.  'But it's not their fault.'  Rather than the inmates, the former Boston prosecutor blamed poverty, poor schools, a dearth of after-school programs and 'all of us as adults not doing what we need to do'."  Classic victimology.  I sure hope this pendulum of political correctness starts swinging back.  People have to be held responsible for their own actions.

Related, Philip Greenspun: The Bell Curve Revisited.  I still think it is a great and important book, and I defy anyone who has actually read it to brand it "racist".  There are important problems in our society, and we must face the truth to solve them.

Kip Esquire: How Evolution is like Economics.  Interesting commentary on the Wired Magazine article about "Intelligent Design", a creationist plot against evolution.  "Almost every college student takes at least one basic economics course, yet when economic policies are debated the most basic economic principles seem to get drowned out in the din of a handful of crackpots who posture themselves as having equal standing when in fact they don't."

The Motley Fool looks at The eBay Way.  eBay just announced their quarterly earnings, and knocked the ball out of the park again.  "I would love to lead this story by pointing out how eBay trounced Wall Street's targets this past quarter and is raising its guidance for the next year, but would that even be newsworthy?"

Antikythera geared computer, 56 B.C.The Antikythera Computer, 56 B.C.  "In 1900, sponge divers discovered a shipwreck in 200 feet of water.  Among the historical curiosities to be excavated from the wreck was the earliest geared computer.  About the size of a shoebox, the unit was a working computer which could calculate the positions of the moon and the five planets known in 56 BC.  From this one device we learn that the Greeks had clock-making capabilities equaling that of 16th-century Europe."

Weirdly, my ancient Tyranny of Email article continues to get linked, and hit; today I had over 50,000 hits again.  Aside from the ego gratification, the best thing about this is seeing all the great sites linking me in the referral logs.

Nik's avatarOne of them was a post by "Nik" to the Brosenbex forums, using this really cool animated avatar...  (Reminds me of David Roy's "wood that works" sculptures :)

This is so I can find it later, and in case you need it; a great survey article about glue.  If you ever need to stick something to something else, bookmark this page.  [ via Gizmodo ]

Jaws for BunniesFinally, here we haveJaws for Bunnies.
I am not making this up. 
[ via BigWig ]




Friday,  10/22/04  10:42 PM

bird flyingThe biggest thing that happened this summer was my daughter Jordan moved out!  Yep, she's off to college...  flew the roost.  And turned 18.  Wow, they do grow up so fast.  She's doing great, we're very proud of her.  And this means for the first time since I started blogging, I've changed my "about me" page.  I no longer live with three of my four daughters, now just two.

For the first time since going public, GOOG announced earnings, and their stock price jumped from $140 to $160.  Which prompted Bambi Francisco at CBS Marketwatch to predict $400.  Bubble?  What bubble?

Did you see this?  Global Warming Bombshell.  "Canadian scientists Stephen McIntyre and Ross McKitrick have uncovered a fundamental mathematical flaw in the computer program that was used to produce the hockey stick...  Suddenly the hockey stick, the poster-child of the global warming community, turns out to be an artifact of poor mathematics."  Wow.

The Scientist examines California's proposition 71, the "stem cell initiative".  The primary opposition to this is coming from ardent Christians, who somehow equate "stem cell research" with "abortion".  The tenuous link is that embryonic stem cells are often harvested from miscarried or aborted fetuses.  I think stem cell research is very promising.  However I have a different objection; this proposition would create a $3B publicly funded institute.  California is flat broke.  How the heck are we going to afford this?  Not to mention, is this really an efficient way to "do science"?  No.  The best thing the state can do is stay out of the way of academia and private industry.  Arnold is supporting 71, but I can't figure out why; it just doesn't make economic sense.

Proposition 72 is a clear loser; it mandates health care coverage for employees.  This is the type of government intervention in private industry that makes California such an expensive place to do business.  Arnold doesn't like this either.

Stem cell research brings to mind this great observation by Issac Asimov: "The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not 'Eureka!' (I found it!) but 'That's funny ...'."  [ via Adam Curry ]

GNXP took a close look at AIDS affecting evolution in Africa.  "Three biologists from the University of California, Berkeley, show in Nature that over a period of several generations, AIDS could alter the frequency of specific genetic mutations in African populations, delaying the average time between HIV infection and onset of disease."  This is natural selection in action!  (Not to be confused with unnatural selection, which is swamping these effects...)

Matt Webb considers skeuomorphs.  "A skeuomorph is a design feature that is no longer functional in itself but that refers back to a feature that was functional at an earlier time.

There is a long tradition in architecture of carrying along features which once had structural utility, but which now, due to advances in building materials, have merely an aesthetic function.  These are often called "spandrels", and this term was exapted by Stephen Jay Gould and Richard Lewontin for their famous paper, "The Spandrels of San Macro".  A discussion of evolutionary skeuomorphs, if you will.

Of course evolution cannot afford to mess around, so such apparent skeuomorphs generally have actual function, if you look closely, even if the new function is unrelated to the original one.  Daniel Dennett has a great discussion of this in his classic Darwin's Dangerous Idea.

The other day I noted The Long Tail.  Joi Ito wonders Will the Tail Wag?  "In case you haven't noticed, it's clearly now a discovery problem, not a delivery problem."  I noticed :)

For another take, please see Kevin Laws' The Internet and the Death of 80/20.  "For the entrepreneurs among you, now is the time to start thinking about other businesses where the Internet could help aggregate the long tail.  The next Ebay or Overture will be found there."  Hmmm...  That's funny...

And I think this is related, too; John Battelle considers TV and Search Merge.  "Clearly, there is room for both kinds of advertising – intent-based (search), and content-based (TV).  But what if the two were to merge?"  As John writes, not only plausible but inevitable.

This is interesting.  If you're a Tivo aficionado, you know that the old Series/1 Tivos were eminently hackable, whereas the newer Series/2 Tivos are not.  Which makes the Series/1s more desirable for a certain class of user (yes, I am running a webserver on my Tivo, aren't you?)  Anyway apparently it is now possible to hack Tivo Series/2s!  Those Dutch programmers...


(new yorker, 9/5/2004)

Saturday,  10/23/04  08:33 AM

wine course

me, too.


Journey through the center of the Earth, part 2

Saturday,  10/23/04  08:46 AM

Remember this thought experiment?

Imagine a perfectly straight hole drilled through the Earth, passing directly through the center.  Now imaging falling into this hole.  What would happen?

The answer is - you would fall straight down, passing the center of the Earth, and emerge on the other side.  As you fall toward the center the force of gravity diminishes, at the center the force is zero, and as you swing out the other side gravity increases.  So you swing back and forth through the hole, and depending on air resistance and friction (hitting the sides of the hole :) you'd finally settle in the center.

gravity - journey through the center of the earthLiron Shapira has written a cool little program which models gravity; if you download this program and run it, you can simulate this case pretty easily.  Very cool.

(Liron, I hope you don't mind that I posted your program; it appears Angelfire no longer allows EXE downloads.)

[ Later: Liron emailed to provide this updated link.  Thanks! ]

With this program you can also model another interesting thought experiment:

Imagine a train which goes on a perfectly straight track between two cities.  Perfectly straight, as in, through a tunnel drilled into the earth (to compensate for the Earth's curvature between the two cities).  What would happen?gravity - journey through a tunnel between two cities

The surprising answer is - the train would be powered by gravity down into the tunnel, reaching maximum speed halfway between the two cities, and would then slow down just as it reached the other side.  Neglecting air resistance and friction, the train would not need any other source of power to travel between the two cities.

As far as I know, this phenomenon has never been exploited for actual travel.



APIII Presentations

Saturday,  10/23/04  01:21 PM

A little blog cross-linking; my company Aperio attended the 2004 "Advancing Practice, instruction, and Innovation through Informatics" conference held October 6-8 in Pittsburgh.  We've posted a couple of the presentations we gave:

Algorithmic Processing of Virtual Slides

by Dr. Allen Olson

Pattern Recognition with VQ

by, er, me

For your edification and enjoyment...


Saturday,  10/23/04  01:44 PM

Mary Joe Foley: A Q&A with Joel on (Microsoft) Software.  "Maybe Google is to Microsoft what Microsoft was to IBM...  It will be interesting to see if Google will wake up and open themselves to developers."  Yeah, this is the Joel on Software Joel.  Great stuff, please read it.  [ via Scoble ]

Still catching up, I meant to link the excellent series by Kevin Laws about Sillywood.  "Silicon Valley and Hollywood Are Not That Different.":

Bonks the nails on the heads, IMHO.

In fact Silicon Valley and Hollywood are intersecting, consider Tivo and Netflix.

Apollo 11 lunar landing QTVRWant to see something really cool?  Check this out; Quicktime VR of the 1969 Apollo 11 landing.  I especially love the way they incorporated Neil Armstrong's voice back to Houston mission control.  Gives you that spooky "you are there" feeling.  [ via Cult of Mac ]

And this is soo cool.  Stereoscopic text.  So that's how they do it.  [ via Matt Webb ]

Are you wearing one of those little yellow bands?  Oh, good, you are.  What a terrific marketing campaign; it incorporates a good cause, with a great spokesperson, with an easily recognizable token.  As Anita Sharp notes, "there's nothing cooler right now than doing good."livestrong wristband

It was really cool watching the Olympics, and seeing how many athletes were wearing them, from all over the world.  Excellent.

John Fogerty - Deju Vu All Over AgainAfter I read Glenn Reynolds' note about John Fogerty's new album,Déjà vu All Over Again, I bought it immediately.  This is the cool thing about iTunes, instant gratification.  Oh, and the music?  Excellent.  My favorite track is "Nobody's Here Anymore", which could have been recorded by CCR 30 years ago.  Well, except for the lyrics: he's got the latest software, he's got the latest hardware too...World's coolest clock

Did you see this?  The world's coolest digital analog clock, by Inga Sempe.  I want one!  But apparently this is a one-off work of art, not a product.  Yet.  [ via Book of Joe ]



Saturday,  10/23/04  09:45 PM

Fenway Park 1919 - 2004Check out this phenomenal ad by Nike, for the Boston Red Sox; Fenway Park, 1919 - 2004.  [ via Rogers Cadenhead ]  Yeah, the Sox won tonight; hardly a stellar game, but fun anyway.  Still, you have to figure the Cardinals have the edge, right?

Want to get Mark Cuban's attention?  He tells you how!

John Battelle notes: Point-To TV.  "You don't want to make 'Must See TV' - you want to make 'Must Point To TV'."  Interesting.

Citizen Smash on Teresa Heinz Kerry: Grace.

Which reminds me; I used to race sailboats, and there was a guy who sailed with his wife.  Her name was Grace, and their boat was named Graceful.  Then they had some problems and divorced, so the next season he sailed with a different crew.  He renamed his boat Graceless :)

arctic flowerarctic lakeCheck out these amazing photos from the Arctic Refuge Project, by Subhankar Banerjee.  Breathtaking!  [ via Ottmar Liebert ]

cubist canyonOne of the cool things I did this summer was to see Ottmar Liebert in concert, at the Canyon Club.  If you ever have a chance to see him, take it; he and Luna Negra are absolutely wonderful live.  I managed to snap some shots with my Treo.  I like the one at the right, serendipitous distortion.

IEEE spectrum has an interesting story about the Huygens probe to be launched from the Cassini spacecraft: Titan Calling.  "How a Swedish engineer saved a once-in-a-lifetime mission to Saturn's mysterious moon."

Sims2 sim playing Sims1This is pretty cool; the sims in Sims 2 can play Sims 1 on their computers.  [ via Cory Doctorow ]  So you know what I'm thinking; yeah, this is cool, but what if they could play Sims 2?

Apparently the new version of Virtual PC runs Windows XP really well on a Mac.  I'll have to check it out.  No word on how it runs on a Sims' Mac :)

Wired has an interesting story: All Bio Systems are Go.  "If an influential group of researchers has its way, techniques used to analyze interconnected systems will provide a better understanding of the most complex network of all: the human body."  How cool is it that there is a field called systems biology?

left brain / right brain conflictA classic left brain / right brain conflict: check out the chart at right.  You're supposed to say the colors, not the words.  Youch.  Apparently if you turn this upside down it is much easier, what do you think?  (only recommended if you have a laptop :)  [ via Sam Ruby ]

Microsoft announces a desktop search tool of their own.  Yawn.  It will be slow, and hence, useless.

I wonder how long it will be before my Treo does VoIP over WiFi?  You know it will happen.  In 2005?  In 2006?  You'd have to say, surely by 2007, right?  At that point, where does it leave the cellular companies?  They will be wireless ISPs.  Have you tried Vonage?  It works, okay; really really.  And it costs $25/month for unlimited calling in the U.S.  I have DSL, which means my Vonage VoIP goes over the same wires that used to carry analog POTS.  So at this point, where does it leave the phone companies?  The Treo 650They will be wired ISPs.  Finally, consider video-on-demand.  Tivo's CEO says the future of Tivo is broadband video, not broadcast video.  So if you have a cable modem, your video will be broadband video, over the same wires that used to carry broadcast video.  So at that point, where does it leave the cable companies?  They will be ISPs, too.  Yep, the entire telecom industry are going to end up as ISPs.

The Treo 650 arrives Monday.  It does Bluetooth, but it does not do VoIP.  Yet.




Sunday,  10/24/04  11:08 PM

Today I gave myself the ability to add permalinks to paragraphs within my blog posts.  A permalink is a "permanent link" to a paragraph.  Permalinks are indicated by a little link graphic, like this one: permalink indicator.  Anytime you see one, please feel free to link to it :)

I broke with the blogospherical convention of using purple number signs, like this #; I tried them, but found them less intuitive, and uglier.

For now I've kept my RSS feed organized by blog post, with paragraph permalinks inside each post.  I'm interested to know whether any of you would prefer to have an RSS feed with separate items for each paragraph.  Please shoot me email if you have an opinion.


Sunday,  10/24/04  11:29 PM

I want to recommend Tim Oren's Due Diligence.  Great blog.  Tim is a VC (managing director for Pacifica Fund), an SV veteran (Digital Research, Apple, Kaleida, CompuServe), and seems like a reasonable guy (we've never met).  I've been reading his blog for a while but somehow hadn't put him in my blogroll.  I see he's jumped off the fence for Bush; so be it.  I must say I've jumped the same way, for much the same reasons, and I share the same concerns.  (I, too, find myself to be a libertarian-leaning ticket splitter.)

In fact, what it really comes down to is deterrence.  There are bad people out there.  Between Bush and Kerry, whose policies are more likely to deter those bad people from doing bad things?  That's it, that's what it comes down to.  When you vote, you have to think, which guy makes the world safer for me and my family and friends, and my way of life?

{As usual, Bill Whittle says it better than I do: "About half the country thinks you deter this sort of thing by being nice, while the other half thinks you deter this by being mean."}

Another blogger I really like: Joshua Newman.  I love this post about turning 25.  "There's a sense amongst guy friends that, up to 25, everything is sort of a warm-up lap, doesn't actually count in the grand scheme of things.  But, at 25, we're suddenly playing for keeps.  Marriage starts seeming like a real possibility.  Jobs are swapped for 'careers'.  A general plan, a basic route through life, starts falling into place."  I must have been early, by 25 I was already married and a workaholic programmer.  Still am [both].

Joshua really hits the nail on the head with this one: execution.  "Ideas are a dime a dozen.  Give me five minutes, and I can come up with a laundry list of products that would sell millions (try: biodegradable tattoo ink, for tattoos that disappear after five years; or, disposable six-pack coolers made using the same chemical mix found in instant-cold break-and-shake medical ice packs).  Even ideas for whole businesses take only a bit longer - just enough time to sketch out the model on the back of a napkin.  But, actually making those products and businesses happen?  Now that's hard."  This is so true.

Joshua founded Cyan Pictures, an indie film production company.  His latest venture is Long Tail Releasing...  Great name :)

World on FireWorld on FireIf you have iTunes, check out this video of World on Fire, by Sarah McLachlan.  It could have cost $150,000, but it only cost $15.  And the video tells you why.  Excellent!  [ via Tim Bray ]  {If you don't have iTunes, click here to see it on the web.}

There's been talk in the past few years of a "housing bubble", including comparisons with the "stock market bubble".  Now Eric Janzen explains why Housing Bubbles are not like Stock Bubbles.  "Unlike stock market bubbles, real estate bubbles don't pop.  Collapsing stock market bubbles are characterized by a sudden collapse in prices because stock markets are highly liquid.  You see huge volumes of transactions at ever lower prices during a stock market collapse.  Collapsing housing bubbles, on the other hand, are characterized by illiquidity, a sudden collapse in transactions."  It does seem like something is going to happen; rates are going up, and people's incomes are not...

FuturePundit reports on evidence that natural selection is selecting for fatter people.  An interesting discussion, including the possibility that "obesity is negatively correlated with intelligence and that it is lower intelligence that is responsible for the higher fertility."  So is it natural selection, or unnatural selection?  Could be both...

PhysicsWeb wants to know, what's your favorite equation?  Would it be E=mc2?  Or maybe PV=nRT?  Or just 1+1=2?  Of course you know mine, W=UH :)

64 = 65?Marc Cantor found a weird equation, 64=65Check this out:

the Smart CarThe Smart Microcar.  "It's cute, tiny, and plastic.  The kids love it (especially in Europe).  It also gets 70 miles per gallon, and you can fit three side by side in a standard parking spot.  Move over, Mini: The Smart microcar could be the next big thing on America's roads."  Well it is cute.  But is it safe?  Apparently, it is.  And as the price of gas goes up, it gets smarter.

International CXTOn the other end of the spectrum, consider the International CXT.  "Possibly too much truck.  Like that's a problem."  Um, like that isn't a problem?  15,000 pounds!  Escalades and H2s are bad enough.

And oh by the way, many of these large SUVs are illegal on California residential streets.  Anything over 6,000 pounds.  That would include the Chevy Suburban and Tahoe, the Range Rover, the GMC Yukon, the Toyota Land Cruiser and Sequoia, the Lincoln Navigator, the Mercedes M Class, the Porsche Cayenne S, and the Dodge Ram 1500 pickup.  And of course the Hummer and H2.

Meanwhile, the SUV safety gap grows.  Many SUVs are legally trucks, not cars, and hence only comply with lower safety standards.  An H2 might look safe, but it isn't.

jet-powered wheelchairOf course, there's always a jet powered wheelchair.  I am not making this up.  "Giuseppe Cannella had a big surprise for his mother-in-law when he put a jet engine on the back of her wheelchair.  Mr Cannella says the chair can now do top speeds of more than 60mph."

jet-powered shopping cartOr maybe you'd prefer a jet powered shopping cart?  "Its metal glows red hot at temperatures up to 600 degrees C, so [Andy Tyler] has to sit with his back to a heat shield."

I think Mr. Tyler should race Mr. Cannella.
Winner gets a Smart Car.


Monday,  10/25/04  09:38 PM

Randall Parker of FuturePundit observes that the Bush and Clinton administrations differ in their styles of lying.  "The Clinton Administration, personifying the very outgoing and brazen nature of its leader, was willing to lie in detail in public.  By contrast, the Bush Administration prefers to make its lies to the public in the form of simpler summary conclusions which seem aimed at shutting off discussion by providing little to discuss."  Is it lying if you don't know you're wrong?  Lying is all about intent.

Today Google's market cap passed Yahoo's.  I don't know why, but this makes me sad, and not because I didn't buy any of their stock (I tried, but bid too low).  This is pure market froth.

sea dragonWow, look at this gallery of Sea Dragons.  "Sea Dragons are arguably the most spectacular and mysterious of all ocean fish.  Though close relatives of sea horses, sea dragons have larger bodies and leaf-like appendages which enable them to hide among floating seaweed or kelp beds."  Unbelievable, nature does it again.  Evolution or Intelligent Design?  [ via Mark Frauenfelder ]

Anita Sharp: Legends.  "It was almost like a collective epiphany, when nearly everyone in the audience realized we weren't just watching a legendary entertainer or seeing an enjoyable show.  Instead, we were in the presence of genius...  After the concert, my amazed 12-year-old son said, 'Whoever missed seeing that, missed life'."  There is something transforming about seeing great artists in concert, a tide that raises all boats.  I'm not particularly a Dolly Parton fan or a Brian Wilson fan, but I know exactly what Anita means.

Cool blog: lactoso the intolerant.  Samples:

RustboyRustboy - "is a short film project which started out as a hobby but has become my full-time job due to private funding.  Rustboy (the character) started life many years ago as a simple 2D image produced as a proposed short story illustration.  He has changed in appearance since then, but it was the starting point for Rustboy as he appears today in all his 3D glory."  Looks really excellent, check it out.

CelestiaCelestia - "is a free real-time space simulation that lets you experience our universe in three dimensions. Unlike most planetarium software, Celestia doesn't confine you to the surface of the Earth. You can travel throughout the solar system, to any of over 100,000 stars, or even beyond the galaxy. All travel in Celestia is seamless; the exponential zoom feature lets you explore space across a huge range of scales, from galaxy clusters down to spacecraft only a few meters across. A 'point-and-goto' interface makes it simple to navigate through the universe to the object you want to visit."  Yay, space travel!

Hmmm... Looks like the Treo 650 won't support WiFi.  Oh, well.  If not the 650, then the 700.  It is only a matter of time.

RoadRunner flash UIHave you ever seen the RoadRunner browser UI?  Really cool!  All flash, and nicely done.  Seemed reasonably fast, too.  Probably the nicest example of a GUI done in a browser I've ever seen.

This is an example of the kind of serendipitous stuff you find when exploring referral logs.  Yippee.

Antipixel: Unjustified.  "When we hit the justification button in our word processors, what we really want to activate is that “make it look like a book” function in the generally vain hope that some of the gravitas of a well-set page will instantly be transferred to whatever we’ve written."  [ via Tom Coates ]

Chris Farmer emailed about the Journey Through the Center of the Earth: "Imagine two gravity-powered, frictionless trains.  One travels straight through the Earth's center to a station directly opposite the starting place.  The other slants, arriving at a station only a few thousand miles away.  If both trains leave at once, which arrives first?"  Yes, you do have enough information to answer the question.  I love it.

I wonder if this would apply to wormholes through space, too?  Did you see where Stephen Hawking lost his bet with John Preskill?  Looks like black holes don't destroy information, just reorganize it.  So they're "fuzzy".  Now, do they have holes through them?

This is just too cool: the Granular Matter Homepage.  "The key feature of a granular gas (making it fundamentally different from any standard gas) is its tendency to spontaneously separate into dense and dilute regions."  These movies really look like they're playing backward; how can this be?  Has anyone told the thermodynamics police?  Because they're definitely breaking the law :)

granular erruptions


autumn chores

Monday,  10/25/04  10:51 PM

Another terrific New Yorker cover:

"autumn chores" - New Yorker cover 10-25-04

I wish I enjoyed the inside of this issue as much.

It seems the editors have decided there is a chance Bush might win, and they've taken it upon themselves to mount a blazing attack.  They're largely preaching to the choir, since most of their readers are pretty liberal, but as a guest in the congregation I wish they'd relent.  It isn't the message - I have no problem with people supporting Kerry or bashing Bush - but the tone; over the course of the summer the New Yorker has become more and more shrill, now ending in a high-pitched whine.


twistable turnable man

Monday,  10/25/04  10:56 PM

Tonight my daughter Megan read to me from Shel Silverstein's terrific A Light in the Attic.  One of our favorites is "twistable turnable man":

He's the Twistable Turnable Squeezable Pullable
Stretchable Foldable Man.
He can crawl in your pocket or fit your locket
Or screw himself into a twenty-volt socket,
Or stretch himself up to the steeple or taller,
Or squeeze himself into a thimble or smaller,
Yes he can, course he can,
He's the Twistable Turnable Squeezable Pullable
Stretchable Shrinkable Man.
And he lives a passable life
With his Squeezable Lovable Kissable Hugable
Pullable Tugable Wife.
And they have two twistable kids
Who bend up the way that they did.
twistable turnable manAnd they turn and they stretch
Just as much as they can
For this Bendable Foldable
Easily moldable
Buy-what you're-soldable
Washable Mendable
Highly Dependable
Buyable Saleable
Always available
Bounceable Shakeable
Almost unbreakable
Twistable Turnable Man.

Somehow, this put me in a mind of John Kerry :)


Tuesday,  10/26/04  10:51 PM

Greetings from rainy Southern California.  We're all wet out here...

According to LGF, and to Drudge, "CBS News was planning to use the missing explosives story as an election eve surprise attack on George Bush."  That's just flat out ridiculous.  Media bias?  What media bias? 

Ann Althouse agrees, posting on instapundit: "it is absolutely intolerable for a news organization to hold onto a story for the purpose of breaking it so close to an election as to prevent a fair investigation and response."  I think this is what is going unreported.

I got a look of positive feedback on the twistable turnable man.  Thank you!

Here's a great article on Digital Rights Management by Jerry Pournelle, in Dr. Dobb's.  Jerry's take is that the technology will be found to make DRM work, and it will be a good thing.  As an author, naturally he's concerned: "On the other hand, if no one buys books because they can get them free on the Internet, that's going to change the way I make a living."  (This article was password-protected, but since it wasn't DRMed I copied it :) reports Akimbo launches; a DRMed video-on-demand over the 'net service.  They have a deal with Amazon for distribution.  As Marc Cantor notes, "The VOD and Interactive TV scene has been awash in confusion, flack BS, and failed dreams for over 10 years now.  Perhaps this VC funded play will work.  We'll see."  So I actually think it won't work, because of DRM.  We'll see.

Tim Oren on DRM as a business diagnostic: "...these systems do absolutely nothing for end users...  It's a shortsighted plan, aimed at holding on to an obsolete business model."  He's talking about restrictive DRM, aka copy protection.  He does like permissive DRM, which is more of an auditing technology.

Giffin's RadioSharkHave you seen RadioShark?  A kind of Tivo for your radio.  According to idealog's review, it is pretty darn cool.  The downside vs. Tivo is that there isn't any schedule information available; you have to know what you want (or at least, what channel/station you want) ahead of time.  They seem to have nice integration with iTunes...

I remember talking to my daughter Jordan about her desire for such a thing about two years ago.  She'd get home, and complain that "all the good songs were on while I was at school".  We thought about building such a thing as a PC software application - there are a lot of online radio stations - but it never left the idea stage...

iPod photoSpeaking of DRM and iTunes, Apple announced the iPod photo.  A color-screen iPod which can store images as well as music.  Naturally that leads you to wonder, when will they store video?

According to this C|Net article, not soon.  "At Tuesday's unveiling of the iPod Photo, Apple Computer CEO Steve Jobs once again repeated his contention that the iPod is the 'wrong place' for video."  Deception or truth?

Meanwhile ESPN testing video for handhelds.  Apparently they don't think it is the wrong place for video, but then again it is a test.

electron luv tube ampThe electron luv tube amp.  Wow, just wow.  I'm sure they sound wonderful, too, but it doesn't really matter.  Electronics as sculpture!  [ via Cory Doctorow ]

Joel Spoksky has a new post on software pricing, which means you have to read it.  Go on.


how flies fly

Wednesday,  10/27/04  11:30 PM

Tonight my daughter Alexis and I had the pleasure of attending a Watson lecture on the subject of "How Flies Fly", given by Michael Dickinson in the venerable Beckman Auditorium at Caltech.  It was a great lecture; Michael hit just the right note between serious technical research and general interest discussion.  Lots of decent nerd humor, too.

fly flying
artificial stimulation of fly steering muscles

It turns out that flies are remarkable little machines.  About 10% of all animal species on Earth are flies, so they are incredibly successful.  They're the number one way sunlight gets turned into protein (by eating and digesting plants).  And one of the most interesting things about flies is how they fly.  Insect wings are nothing like bird wings; they are basically flat surfaces used to "bat" the air around.  In flight the wing is angled one way, waved through the air (pushing air down and the insect up), and then angled the other way and waved back, doing the same thing.  This enables insects to hover, move straight up and down, turn on a dime, and generally do whatever they want in the air.  The neuro-mechanical interplay that enables this to happen is well understood and through a series of fascinating experiments Dr. Dickinson and his team have begun to understand how flies "think"; that is, the processing that goes on in the central nervous system which links fly vision to fly flight muscles.  Amazing and thought-provoking.

fly maneuvers
dynamic control of flight maneuvers

For more information please see the Dickinson Lab website, which includes some of the high-speed stop action movies Michael showed during his talk.


Wednesday,  10/27/04  11:39 PM

A pet peeve: why does the whole world think it is important to give sports scores?  Airline pilots, lecturing scientists, radio disc jockeys, and even - yes, in fact especially - bloggers all feel the urge to pass along live scores.  I can't even look in my RSS reader if I'm going to watch a game later, because bloggers who aren't even interested in sports are going to indulge this urge, putting the score in a subject line as if they're breaking a major scoop.  Look, if I want the score, I'll find it; I have an internet-connected cell phone.  ESPN or Yahoo will give it to me along with as much other information as I want.  I do not need or want YOU to give me the score, in fact, if you could kindly keep it to yourself so those of us with Tivos can enjoy the game later, that would be great.  Okay.

Oh, yeah, congratulations Red Sox!  I haven't watched the game yet, but I was unable to avoid knowing the score :)

total lunar eclipseDid you see it?  Tonight there was a total eclipse of the moon, visible in North America (around 6:15 PST).  I saw it, and man, was it spooky.  Looked like the moon was a blimp, it seemed so close, and so large!  You could really see the Earth's "shadow" move across the lunar surface.  The first full moon in October is called "the blood moon".  Whew.

Here are some more eclipse pictures...  [ via Cory Doctorow ]

I'll be the 10,000th blogger to link Scientists Find Ancient Hobbit-Sized People.  "Although the odd little humans likely left no descendants, and therefore no mark on modern human biology, the scientists say this is the first documentation of the entirely new species of hominids that apparently adapted and lived for thousands of years in caves on the isolated island."  Are we sure they're gone?  Maybe they're just living in The Shire .

Reminds me of this thought-provoking post on FuturePundit: What Drove Divergence of Humans from Chimpanzees?  Perhaps the Indonesian "hobbits" were really Chimpanzees...

[ Later: More at The Panda's Thumb, including a link to a nice summary by Carl Zimmer: "but if evolution can produce homo floresiensis, who knows where a few thousand years on Mars or another solar system could take our descendants?" ]

Fortune: How Do You Think the Brain Works?  "Jeff Hawkins brought the world the PalmPilot and the Treo. Now comes his boldest invention yet: a far-reaching theory of how intelligence actually works."  Very interesting, check it out.  Jeff has written a book called On Intelligence (of course it is available as an e-book for the Palm :).  The basic idea is that the brain is constantly modeling the near future, so that it has pre-computed reactions to a variety of expected situations.  Fascinating.

C|Net interviews Jeff Hawkins:

Q: You talk about the brain as always predicting things.  Humans act on those predictions, and experiences provide sensory input that's sent back to the brain, which develops new predictions.  A computer is mostly computing its most recent thing and involves very little prediction.  Elaborate on that difference.

A: Well, our brains work on a completely different principle than computers.  It doesn't mean you can't emulate a brain on a computer, but you have to understand what the brain is doing first.  The failings of (artificial intelligence) come from the idea that you have some input and then you have some output.  You feed in some information, and the output you get determines the success of the system.

ScanScope T2AlwaysOn wonders Is Healthcare IT Finally Gaining Momentum?  "Increasingly, hospitals are turning to technology to drive cost savings and improve efficiencies throughout their organizations.  In fact, IDC recently stated that spending on healthcare IT is likely to increase from $15.1 billion to $17.3 billion by 2007—IT spending that is finally on par with other large industries."  Interesting.  The "electronic medical record" has been talked about for so long it is almost a mythical legend, but it may finally become real.  Of course EMR data must include Pathology images, so instruments to digitize microscope slides are essential :)

Google bought Keyhole, the earth-image database people.  What's the synergy?  John Battelle suggests it is because they're both in the "holy crap that's a lot of data" business.  "Hanke showed an application, which he called geoblogging, which allows folks to fly around Keyhole's data and annotate various things they see."  I wonder if anyone has annotated my house yet :)

Mt. St. Helens from Landsat and RTSM dataA little while ago NASA released World Wind, a cool 3D application which "allows any user to zoom from satellite altitude into any place on Earth, leveraging high resolution LandSat imagery and SRTM elevation data to experience Earth in visually rich 3D."  That's a LandSat image of Mt. St. Helens over there on the right.

Lawrence Lessig on the Alternative Compensation System.  Essentially, how do we compensate content producers in a world where content duplication and distribution are "free".  Great analysis.

Ottmar Liebert has posted some thoughts on this...

Bono and Steve JobsI mentioned the iPod Photo yesterday; that was the big news, the little news was the U2 iPod Special Edition.  Um, a red click wheel?  I don't think so.

As Cult of Mac notes, "there was the clear impression Bono and Edge were endorsing not just U2-branded iPods, but the whole idea of digital distribution."  Are there still artists who don't think digital distribution is the future?

Matt Webb muses on the future of the iPod.  "The iPod is still about music, but the next obvious step is sharing...  You can legitimately build all kinds of iPod-to-iPod functionality in, if the iPod is seen as a platform for media that doesn't have property rights attached.  Bingo."  A WiFi iPod?  Why not?

Ross Rubin considers the iPod's slippery slope toward video.  "Sure, video is ridiculous, but how about an iPod that can display 30 photos per second synchronized to sound?  Apple need not even stray far from its music mantra in order to justify adding video to the iPod.  Like other players with color screens, the iPod Photo supports album art.  But iTunes supports music videos; why shouldn’t the iPod?"  I have to admit, this seems inevitable to me too, despite Steve Jobs' disclaimers.

In this connection, it is worth pondering the fact that the iPod Photo dock has s-video out.

Meanwhile Marc Cantor is confused because the iPod doesn't have a camera.  Huh?  I think that's why he's confused, I'm not sure.  He also thinks Apple's 50%+ share of MP3 players is going to drop down to 2%.  Now that confuses me.

Finally, Conrad at The Gweilo Diaries ponders The Wheels of Justice.  Another great blog you should read daily.  Especially on Friday :)


no equals = wrong

Thursday,  10/28/04  02:30 AM

"If it doesn't start with an equal sign, it's wrong"

This is a first for me; spreadsheet nerdliness.  But there's a larger point, too.  Read on.

Today I was talking with a good friend who is doing some consulting for a small company.  In reviewing their revenue projections, he immediately noticed they were in big trouble.  Why?  Because in their Excel spreadsheet projecting revenue, many of the values did not start with an equal sign.

If you've used Excel you know there are two ways for each spreadsheet cell to have a value.  The simplest way is that the cell has an explicit value, you type it in, and whoop, there it is.  The other way is that the value is implicit, it is computed from a formula specifying other cells, functions, operators, etc..  Formulas are indicated by a leading equal sign.

As soon as my friend saw the cells without equal signs, he knew there were problems.  Revenue projections derived from typed-in numbers cannot be accurate, they are affectionately known as "swags" (semi-wild-ass guesses).  Entrepreneurs love swags because they don't have to think, and they can be as optimistic as they want.  Accurate revenue projections must be carefully calculated from a whole series of estimates; market size, likely penetration, customers, unit volume, price, etc.  These estimates are often swagged themselves, but as much as possible they should be based on hard data.  Coming up with hard data is hard, because it requires thought, and work.

Okay, so that's the joke; if you see a spreadsheet with cells that don't start with equal signs, the values are guesses, and they are probably wrong.  In fact even if they're right, they're wrong, because guessing is not the way to derive projections.

Here's the larger point - be honest.  I don't mean honest as in "don't steal", I mean honest as in "don't kid yourself".  If you are operating a business, you have to know what is really happening, and you have to deal with the actual facts.  (People who start to believe their own hype are "drinking their own bathwater", which is a perfect simile.)  Sure you can invent revenue numbers by typing them in, but doing so won't make it so.


Thursday,  10/28/04  09:55 PM

Wired reports Tivo is removing features to protect their relationship with content providers, who are [apparently] nervous about TivoToGo.  The changes allow Tivos to auto-delete Pay Per View and Video On Demand movies.  [ via Matt Haughey ]

Just came across this post from A. Beaujean on GNXP: We the Beautiful: "

The conclusion that beautiful people are more intelligent follows from four assumptions:

  1. Men who are more intelligent are more likely to attain higher status than men who are less intelligent.
  2. Higher-status men are more likely to mate with more beautiful women than lower-status men.
  3. Intelligence is heritable.
  4. Beauty is heritable. 

If all four assumptions are true, then the conclusion that beautiful people are more intelligent is logically true, making it a proven theorem.

I'm not sure about this logic.  I guess this might be true, if you also assume good looking women have good looking sons.  Empirically does this hold?  Undoubtedly.  Check out the girls in a wealthy area.

Kind of related...  Do you believe people are getting smarter?  The check out this 1885 8th grade test from a Kansas schoolhouse.  Now I grant this test primarily is measuring knowledge, not intelligence, but it is thought-provoking even so.  [ via Cory Doctorow ]

Cassini looks at TitanThe Cassini spacecraft recently flew within 500 miles of Titan, Saturn's largest moon, and as reports New Images of Titan Baffle Astronomers.  Titan is large enough to have an atmosphere, the composition of which adds to the mystery.

iMac G5I'm strongly considering an iMac G5, maybe a 20".  I have one of the original "lamp" iMacs, and although it has been a faithful and wonderful machine, it is a bit dated.  (Does run Panther just fine.)  One interesting thing about the new iMacs, it is completely user-serviceable.  "With its simplified, modular interior, the machine was designed to make it easy for consumers to perform their own repairs.  If something goes wrong, Apple dispatches a spare part, and the owner performs the do-it-yourself repair, from swapping out a faulty hard drive to installing a new flat screen."

Yesterday we considered some takes on whether Apple will ultimately release a "video iPod".  Russell Beattie weighs in: Why Steve Jobs is Wrong.  "Steve's going to eat his words on this one just like the 'hell freezing over' thing.  I honestly think this is Steve trying to shape consumer opinion because of his ties to the movie industry [Pixar], rather than him listening to what people want or looking towards the future.  There's no reason in the world that the iPod can't be an incredible mobile video player and that sitting in its dock become a TiVo-like device as well."  Time will tell.

Meanwhile "broadband video" is gaining traction.  WP reports Web TV Start-Ups Show Programs Outside the Box.  "Most of the new players are operating on the fringes of the Internet video free-for-all.  That's because virtually all the leading cable and satellite companies, along with the movie studios, are rushing to develop their own video-on-demand services."

64 != 65 Finally, remember Marc Cantor's interesting equation?  Yeah, 64=65.  Let's see if we can figure this one out.  The area of the red and green triangles is (3*8)/2 = 12, and the area of the blue and orange shapes is (3*5)+(2*5)/2 = 20.  So indeed all four add up to 64.  So what is happening on the right?  Well, the outsides of the shapes definitely form a 5x13 rectangle.  But since the areas of the shapes add up to 64, not 65, there is one unit of "space".  This occurs along the seams inside the purple ovals in the diagram.  These seams appear to have the same slope in the adjacent regions, but they don't really.  The slope of the red and green triangles' hypotenuses is 3/8, while the slope of the blue and orange regions is 2/5.  These are close (15/40 vs. 16/40) but not the same, leaving a gap of area 1/2 in each purple oval.


I wish it was over

Friday,  10/29/04  05:20 PM

I don't know about you, but personally I can't wait until this election is over.  Of course it probably won't be over next Tuesday either, more's the pity.  As we get closer to the election, I find my blood boiling on a daily basis.  We seem to have lost civility and reason this time around.  I have my point of view, you have yours, let's respectfully exchange views and make our own decisions.  But let's not tell lies.  Let's not exaggerate things, and spin everything one way or another.  Let's not call each other names.  Let's make an effort to understand each other's point of view, even if we disagree with it.

I find that some of the people I've been friends with and colleagues and neighbors - people I've been close to for a long time - have suddenly gone crazy.  (As well as bloggers I read daily.)  They act as if their candidate is the only answer, and the other candidate is horrible.  They act as if anyone who disagrees with them must be an idiot.  The level of discourse has reached bottom, and continues to dig down through the mud.

No matter who wins, we're friends, we're Americans, we're humans, we need to live and work together.  It feels like bridges are burning left and right.  No matter who wins this country is going to be divided.  And why?  I have to admit, Bush and Kerry are pretty different.  But if you're anything like me, you don't agree with 100% of either candidate.  Most people are somewhere in the middle, or off on another axis, or something.  Are we really that far apart?

The terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, were horrible and senseless.  There is no justification for them, at all.  In the days and weeks following the attacks, the country pulled together; bipartisan efforts led to bipartisan progress.  It was good.  So what happened?  Have we forgotten already?  Today a video message allegedly from Osama Bin Ladin was broadcast.  Look at the reaction.  Everyone is giving their opinion, everyone is spinning.  This man is our sworn enemy.  He directed attacks on civilians in the U.S. without provocation, killing thousands of people, affecting thousands of families, causing billions of dollars in damages, altering our world.  Can't we simply condemn him and everything he represents, completely and totally, without making it a partisan issue?


Friday,  10/29/04  11:09 PM

Seems like the spinning on the Osama video is out of control.  Josh Marshall takes the left point of view ("The dynamic this week has been in Kerry's favor consistently"), Hugh Hewitt takes the right ("It is looking very good indeed [for Bush]").  And CBS "News" continues their unbiased reporting ("For Mr. Bush, it was one piece of bad news after another ").  I just want it all to be over.

[ Later: Slate offers the Cure for Election Rage.  Excellent. ]

electoral vote prediction - 10/30/04

I've linked them before, but the Electoral Vote Predictor is a great website for tracking the polls.  For me the most interesting thing is not the map, but rather the graph.  Current prediction: Kerry 243, Bush 280.  That's too close to call.

Rogers Cadenhead thinks Ellis Hedican asks a good question: "If we can trust banks to get millions of ATM transactions correct with a paper receipt every single time, why can't we trust the process of counting our votes?"  Well, that is a good question.

I spent a good part of the 80s working on bank transaction systems, including ATM networks.  I can tell you that in the early days there were a lot of problems.  It took years before the hardware was debugged, let alone all the software in the networks.  Settlement between banks used to be a mess.  One key difference between banking systems and voting is that banks were able to keep a full history for each account, which aided reconciliation.  I don’t think most citizens want the government keeping a full history of their voting records.

IMHO we should have voting machines, they should be open source, and the whole process should be as transparent as possible so that the debugging process can be accelerated.  Obviously paper receipts should be printed – that was one of the best ways to reconcile in the early days of ATMs.  The machines should print paper logs as well, which might be a privacy exposure, but would be an important way to help secure things.

The key point with voting machines isn’t that they’ll work perfectly right away, but that they’re going to be better than our present system right away, and that they’ll improve over time.  The current manual and mechanical systems are horrible, and [although I have no special knowledge] there seems to be more fraud going on than is commonly reported.

space shuttleLooks like Nasa Mulls Early Retirement for Space Shuttle.  So be it.  The economics of this "reusable" vehicle never made sense, and now there are plenty of less expensive alternatives for launching satellites.

So, today was the 35th anniversary of the Internet.  "In order to log in to the two-computer network, which was then called ARPANET, programmers at UCLA were to type in 'log', and Stanford would reply 'in'.  The UCLA programmers only got as far as 'lo' before the Stanford machine crashed."  Not much has changed in 35 years :)

There was a special symposium at UCLA to commemorate the event; Sean Bonner blogged about it, and Xeni Jarden posted a transcript of Google CEO Eric Schmidt's keynote.

Perhaps you feel I spend too much time writing about iPods?  John Gruber was wondering the same thing, but concluded the opposite: "At times I’ve wondered if I’ve devoted too much attention to it.  Based on the last few weeks of news, however, perhaps the opposite is true - that the iPod is such a genuine phenomenon that I haven’t written about it enough."  John also considers "Why Not Video", and concludes: "Jobs’ and Apple’s party line about their not being content for video rings true to my ears."

Normally I agree with everything John writes.  Well maybe not everything, but almost.  He hits a lot of nail heads in an entertaining manner.

I think he's wrong about video content, however.  There is a metric ton of existing video content which is not first run movies or recent TV series.  First and foremost, there is porn.  Man is there ever.  Then you have music videos, shorts, instructional videos, local sports, indie films, and there is a growing coterie of video bloggers.  You have digitized old TV shows and film reels.  You have trailers for games.  There is a huge amount of foreign-language content; movies, TV programming, foreign sports.  You have cable channels, many of which are not available outside of metropolitan U.S. cities (my wife would kill for the cooking channel on her videoPod).  You have all the movies rented by Netflix which you can’t find at Blockbuster, and all the movies in the IMDB which aren’t rented by Netflix.  Many of these are niche content from the “long tail”, perfect for digital distribution.  There is no shortage of content now, and of course additional distribution will foster addition content creation.

So if that is true – and as CEO of Pixar, a generally savvy guy, and the CEO of the company which created QuickTime, Steve Jobs knows it is true – then why not a videoPod?

I don’t know the answer, but my guess is that there will be a videoPod, and Apple is just not ready.  Most of the video content in existence is not in the right format, and ripping DVDs wouldn’t help (even if it were legal).  I think Apple will begin by enhancing their tools for managing video content, such as an updated version of iMovie which interfaces with acquisition hardware.  This might also provide PVR capability.  After that, an online mechanism for video exchange which will lead to the iMovie store.  And then – the videoPod.  This could take a year or longer to roll out.  I don’t think Jobs feels like he’s in a hurry; there were plenty of music players before the iPod, but nobody found the right combination, and iPod now dominates.

Star Wars masksCan't decide what to be for Halloween?  Here are some printable Star Wars masks.  [ via Cory Doctorow ]  I always was afraid of Princess Leia.

silly string illegalWell, they're really doing it; Los Angeles has made silly string illegal between October 31 and November 1.  The whole things seems, well, silly to me, but I guess the cleanup costs in years past were not silly at all.



Happy Halloween!

Saturday,  10/30/04  11:36 AM

Just wanted to wish everyone and their families a Happy Halloween.

It may be spooky and scary and a bit hard to explain to foreigners, but I think Halloween is a great holiday.  Never mind how it came to be, it is a good thing.  First and foremost, you get to spend time with your kids doing something fun.  That’s always important.  Second, you get to spend time with your neighbors.  I don’t know about you, but I really like my neighbors, however I hardly ever interact with them.  Unless it is a wave “hello” in the morning or a carpool or an explicit party, I really don’t spend any time with them.  And that’s just my immediate neighbors, let alone the people down the street that I see every day but have never even spoken with.  So at Halloween I get to go to their house, say hello, see their kids (maybe, if I can recognize them :) and get more of a feel for who they are.  I like that.  Third, you get to go outside at night.  I’m sure there are people who walk their dog or jog or bike ride early in the morning or something who get out when it’s dark, but I do not.  I try to spend as much time as I can outside, within the parameter of having a job that requires staring at a computer screen, but hardly ever do so at night.  It’s fun – the stars, the lack of noise, the feeling of peace and quiet.  Well what am I talking about on Halloween my street is filled with screaming kids so what lack of noise and peace and quiet.  Anyway I like being outside at night.  Finally, there’s a sort of license to eat candy.  Any other time of the year you might feel guilty or stupid for eating candy, but not October 31.  Well what am I talking about there’s Thanksgiving and Christmas and Easter and New Year’s and birthdays and ...  Anyway Halloween is a good thing.

So.  Have a great Halloween!


pumpkin casemod
"pumpkin casemod"



Saturday,  10/30/04  11:47 PM

Slate: Al-Qaqaa reconsidered.  "Always remember to read more than one newspaper a day."  In fact, checking blogs is a good thing to do, too :)

Iraqi child with American flagAre you still trying to decide who to vote for?  No, I didn't think you were.  But if you were, Gerard Van der Leun has Fifty Reasons Why (in pictures).  My favorite is on the right.

Wired reports Titan Photos Pose New Questions.  "Scientists had hoped the spacecraft's 745-mile-high flight over Titan's surface would finally reveal the lakes, craters and other features thought to be on the giant moon.  But so far, the images and data returned from Cassini have only shown splattered light and dark patches that just barely resemble features seen on other rocky bodies in the solar system."

And this is interesting: Giant Squid 'Taking Over World'.  "According to scientists, squid have overtaken humans in terms of total bio-mass.  That means they take up more space on the planet than us.  The reason has been put down to overfishing of other species and climate change."

iPod costumeIf you still can't decide what to wear on Halloween, maybe you can be an iPod.  [ via Gizmodo, with the caption: "No, really.  Just hit 'menu'." ]

Hey, this is the last Sunday in October!  Time to Fall Back!



New Years' Resolution

Sunday,  10/31/04  10:29 PM

Last year in December I decided that in 2004 I was going to lose some weight.  I didn't.

If you met me you wouldn't know it, but I'm over 200 lbs.  I'm 5'10" and kind of stocky so I hide it pretty well, but really there's no way I should weigh 200+.  Over the past fifteen years my weight has been approximately year-1800; in 1989 I weighed 189, in 1995 I weighed 195, and by 2000 I weighed 200.  From there I ballooned to as much as 210, and it was not good.  So last December I resolved I was going to gradually get myself under 200, and then under 190.  If I could do that I might need some new clothes but I'd be content.

Not me - yet
the fat man

Well it didn't happen.  I get plenty of exercise, but unfortunately my wife is a terrific cook, we love to eat out, and I often stay up late working and munching as I do so.  So I've stayed pegged at around 205.  Clearly something has to change.

Therefore I've decided to make a New Year's Resolution.  I hereby resolve that by January 1, 2005 I will weigh less than 200 lbs.  From there I want to weigh less than 190 by January 1, 2006.  We'll see whether I can pull it off.

Since I've been stable at about 205 for two years, I'll have to change something to make this happen.  I've decided to change one thing.  I'm going to eat breakfast.  This might seem a bit weird but bear with me.  According to experts you're supposed to eat three square meals per day, and avoid munching in between.  I don't do this at all, I'm lucky if I eat two.  I hardly ever eat breakfast.  Sometimes I eat lunch, but often I just graze during the day.  Then I eat dinner, and I keep grazing.  Maybe if I eat breakfast I'll avoid grazing so much, and that will help.

I know - what a stupid blog post.  Who cares about my weight or my eating habits?  But I figure a bit of public pressure can't hurt.  From time to time I'm going to post my progress, and you can make fun of me.  We'll see what happens...


Escher for real

Sunday,  10/31/04  11:07 PM

This is awfully cool - these guys make 3D sculpture which looks like M.C.Escher's amazing 2D illustrations.  The sculpture is designed on a computer and then printed with a 3D printer.  As Neo would say: Whoa.

Escher - Belvedere
Escher -Belvedere
the real thing

Escher for real - looking like Belvedere
"Escher for real"
looking like Belvedere

Escher for real - showing how it is done
"Escher for real"
how it was done

And for extra credit, these guys made Belvedere out of Lego.  Double whoa.

Escher in lego

In an even more amazing act of Lego legerdemain, they also made "Ascending and Descending":

Escher - Ascending and Descending
Escher - Ascending and Descending

Escher - looking like Ascending and Descending
"Escher in Lego"



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Correlation vs. Causality
The Tyranny of Email
Unnatural Selection
On Blame
Try, or Try Not
Books and Wine
Emergent Properties
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Moving Mount Fuji
The Nest
Rock 'n Roll
IQ and Populations
Are You a Bright?
Adding Value
The Joy of Craftsmanship
The Emperor's New Code
Toy Story
The Return of the King
Religion vs IQ
In the Wet
solving bongard problems
visiting Titan
unintelligent design
the nuclear option
estimating in meatspace
second gear
On the Persistence of Bad Design...
Texas chili cookoff
almost famous design and stochastic debugging
may I take your order?
universal healthcare
triple double
New Yorker covers
Death Rider! (da da dum)
how did I get here (Mt.Whitney)?
the Law of Significance
Holiday Inn
Daniel Jacoby's photographs
the first bird
Gödel Escher Bach: Birthday Cantatatata
Father's Day (in pictures)
your cat for my car
Jobsnotes of note
world population map
no joy in Baker
vote smart
exact nonsense
introducing eyesFinder
to space
where are the desktop apps?
still the first bird
electoral fail
progress ratches
2020 explained