Archive: January 2005

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happy new year!

Saturday,  01/01/05  10:38 AM

Good Morning!  And Happy New Year!

My first post of 2005.  And this is my blogiversary; I have now been blogging for two years... wow.  We're sitting here watching the Rose Parade, and I'm waiting for the Caltech Robot float, of course, while watching the robot cam on my laptop.  These floats are amazing; the technology behind their construction gets more sophisticated every year.  And all the decoration is still with flowers - high tech meets low tech, or maybe I should say biotech.

The whole parade thing is kind of weird - the ultimate "humans entertaining other humans" activity.  All the time, effort, and money that went into producing this parade, just so that the thousands attending and the millions watching on TV can be entertained.

Well, Happy New Year everyone.  Later today we have football watching (!) with friends, and of course eating Shirley's chili (!!).  Perfect way to greet 2005!

[ Later: Okay, I get Michigan in the Rose Bowl, they're the Big 10 Champion, of course they should be here.  But Texas?  WTF?  And Pac-10 champion USC is playing in the Orange Bowl, in Florida, two days from now?  This whole BCS thing is bogus.  If there were any doubt, consider that any system which results in Texas playing in the Rose Bowl cannot be right. ]


Saturday,  01/01/05  10:59 PM

First filter pass of the new year...

I've noticed an interesting and sad phenomenon.  I subscribe to a CNN headline feed, and in this feed are a whole series of items titled "Tsunami death toll tops xx,xxx".  Monday xx,xxx was 30,000, then 50,000, and so on all week with increasingly larger values until it is now 150,000.  That's incomprehensible.  The closest I can come is 1½ Rose Bowls, but that doesn't even do it justice. 

Sadly but not surprisingly, mainstream media are spending as much time on blaming and scorekeeping the relief effort as they are on the disaster itself.  Jesse Walker on CNN: "It's one thing to know intellectually the limitations of TV news.  It's another to see those limits so starkly after being used to the depth of the Net...  What was really astonishing was to remember that 14 years earlier, when the first Gulf War was underway, CNN was the amazing new innovation, not the dinosaur in the rear-view mirror."  [ via Glenn Reynolds

BTW, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration notes no warning system could have helped:  "It was 65 minutes after the seismic event before the possibility of a tsunami in the Indian Ocean was recognized.  By that time, it would have traveled over 500 miles."  [ via Command Post

Mark Cuban thinks we should cancel the Presidential inauguration.  I don't. 

And speaking of Rose Bowls, great game today.  Wow.  I had kvetched about Michigan vs. Texas (I still think it should have been Cal, even though they lost miserably to Texas Tech in the Holiday Bowl), but they gave us a great game.  And it followed hard on the heels of the Capital One Bowl, which featured Iowa defeating LSU on the last play of the game.  Two games in a row decided on the last play as time expires, it doesn't get any better.  Especially while eating Shirley's guacamole and chili! 

New Scientist has the top ten science stories of 2004.  They have #1 as "the mysterious SETI signal" (in September), which is ridiculous; clearly the Martian rovers Spirit and Opportunity were the top story, and remain so as they approach one year of roaming around on Mars. 

NASA have assembled a terrific flashback of rover images and information, organized with Flash.  Check it out!  And if you've never watched this movie of the rovers' landing, do so now.  I think it was my favorite video of 2004: 

(click for larger pics)

Cassini might be the story of 2005; it just took some amazing pictures of Saturn's icy moon Iapetus.  Oh, and here are cool pictures from another Saturnian moon, Dione, which has had a tough life judging from its craters. 

Chris Anderson says recommendations rule!  Yes, they do.  They are "an essential element in realizing the potential of the Long Tail: providing recommendations to help others venture confidently down the Tail into what would otherwise be a bewildering array of choices."  So keep reading my blog, and you'll get my recommendations :) 

And if you want others', check out Fluxblog.  (Currently they're recommending Anchorman, which is not long tail content, really, but you get the idea.) 

Oh, and this is pretty cool; the long tail of blogging.  Shows you an excerpt from a blog, and if you like it you can click through, if you don't, you can cycle to an excerpt from another blog.  Interesting concept and a great way to randomly find new blogs.  Since it's based on "pings" to, it shows blogs from different world regions at different times of the day.  [ via Dave Winer

Check this out - New Year's panoramas from around the world, in QTVR.  Pictured at right, New Years in Lisbon! 

With Macworld on the horizon, do you think we'll see an iPhone

CNet suggests iPod beats satellite radio any day.  It's that "long tail" content...  Don't you want your Internet TV?  I do, but maybe not on my iPod, just on my Tivo.  And certainly not on my Treo :) 

I'm actually on the hunt for a 802.11g video receiver.  I want to stream movies from my PC to my TV, using wireless.  Basically an Airport Extreme, but for video... it is probably just too early.  There are a lot of competitors (Tom's Hardware reviewed  the ViewSonic WMA100 and the Linksys WMA11B, and were underwhelmed), any suggestions? 

I am now down to 14 saved items in my RSS reader.  I'm starting the year clean, with virtually no "to be linked" items.  I wish I was also starting with no "to be done" items, but, well, you can't have everything.  At least it's only Saturday; aren't you glad we have a Sunday tomorrow instead of a Monday?  

For those of you keeping score at home, My New Year's Resolution was not kept.  I'd had brief bursts of progress but threw all the gains away this last week, and overall made no progress in the two months since.  Not sure where that leaves me; I still want to lose some weight, but I guess simply writing about it doesn't get it done.


Sunday,  01/02/05  09:38 PM

I don't know what to say about the Tsunami news; it is just horrible.  The death toll has passed 155,000, and will doubtless continue to climb...  Australian Tim Blair has posted a great summary of the situation, including a gruesome scoreboard of the 7,000 tourists killed, by country.  Amazon's donation counter for the American Red Cross now stands at $12.6M, from 157,000 individual donations.  Wow. 

Michael Dorf explains Why It's Unconstitutional to Teach "Intelligent Design" in the Public Schools.  You'll have to read it, but the essential argument is that ID is not a scientific theory, and hence it amounts to teaching a particular religion's views.  I think this is exactly right, ID is a religious view - even its cagiest proponents do not disagree - and as such has no place in public schools.  [ via Panda's Thumb

Carl Zimmer discusses The Whale and the Antibody.  "All of the living animals with an antibody-based immune system descend from a common ancestor, and none of the descendants of that common ancestor lack it.  That means that the antibody-based immune system evolved once, about 470 million years ago."  Cool.  Now that's a scientific theory in action. 

The New and Improved SETI, courtesy of  "The new year is sure to be memorable, as glossy new instruments come on-line.  Success in SETI depends on speed: how quickly can you check out large expanses of celestial acreage?  Well, SETI is about to seriously crank up its speed, and metaphorically trade in chariots for jets."  Among the new instruments is the Allen Telescope Array (pictured), which will have 350 antennae, each 20' in diameter. 

The Economist: Meritocracy in America.  "Whatever happened to the belief that any American could get to the top?"  The problem is the point of view.  This article and many observers assume that social mobility is the key to meritocracy.  Instead, we have intellectual mobility.  As our society has become more "efficient" at sorting based on skills, classes are increasingly stratified by intellectual standing.  And since - wait for it - intellectual standing is substantially hereditary (whether generic or socially transmitted), this intellectual stratification is largely self-perpetuating.  Both ends of the bell curve are moving away from the center.  [ via John Robb, who notes "Societal ossification in the face of extreme global competition (from both economic and system competitors) is bad, bad news".  But the good news is that the intellectual stratification effect is mitigated by immigration, and hence global competition actually works against it. ] 

Josh Newman finds a terrific analogy to explain his new Long Tail Releasing project: escape fire.  "As you readers doubtless know, it's far too late.  We movie folks can't put out a fire so readily embraced by our customers.  We can't even make it safely past some legislative crest. Instead, we have to use that same fire ourselves.  Only by leveraging technology, by tearing down the assumptions about how the movie business works, about how movies make money, and starting from scratch, does a film company have any chance of making it through."  I love it. 

Check this out - the Quzzle.  The Economist (!) says it is a "hard, simple problem".  You just have to get the pink block to the upper right corner by sliding.  It's simple.  And it requires 84 moves... 

When I encounter a puzzle like this, I give it ten minutes.  If I can't figure it out, I write a program to solve it, which is more fun anyway :)

Of course if you get bored with that one, here's one called Super Century which requires 138 moves (to get the pink block to the center/bottom).  I love the Internet.

Finally, here we have the homemade tank.  Click through to watch a video of this thing in action; it appears to have some serious horsepower.  I am not making this up.  [ via Engadget


Monday,  01/03/05  10:30 PM

Now I'm in San Diego, and it's still raining.  What!  This is Southern California, it never rains here.  Anyway here's what else is happening:

David Hornik's New Year's Resolution is the same this year as it has been every year; he wants to meet great entrepreneurs.  So what makes a great entrepreneur?  One thing.  You must be able to convince others to believe in you.  That's it.  If you can do that, you can raise money, you can recruit people, and you can do anything.  If you can't do that, you'll have trouble raising money and recruiting people, and it won't matter how great your ideas. 

Randall Parker reports Vitamin D could decrease overall cancer risk by 30%.  "A long-term study of 50,000 men by researchers at Harvard School of Public Health suggests vitamin D may reduce the risk of all cancers.  The study, which is still under review for publication, found that men who consumed higher levels of vitamin D reduced their overall cancer risk by at least 30 percent...  a separate study of women is expected to produce similar results."  Wow, 30%?  That's really moving the needle. 

I have to report - TivoToGo is live!  This feature allows people to copy video from their Tivo to their Windows PC.  Or course, the video is DRMed.  And I want video to go the other way, from my PC to my Tivo...  [ via George Hotelling

Tropical Island dome - Eastern GermanyHere are some pictures from the Tropical Island dome; a converted zeppelin hanger which is now a beach resort in Eastern Germany.   This building is three football fields long, and taller than the Statue of Liberty.  Wow. 

Okay, you knew this was going to happen; the Vonage WiFi phone.  Yep, this is a cell phone, except it's not; it's a cordless phone, except it's not.  Well, it's a working phone and it is cordless, and it's practically free. 

Oh, look, another Vonage cordless phone.  Only this one doesn't use WiFi, it has it's own 5.8GHz wireless receiver.  For ten points explain the difference :)

Either way, VoIP is taking over.  It is only a matter of time, now, before analog phones are history.

Finally, here we have a hobbit hole, inhabited by humans.  "In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.  Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort."  Proving once again that just when you think you've seen everything, you realize "everything" is so much more than you realized :)  [ via Clive Thompson ]  


two years ago

Monday,  01/03/05  11:46 PM

Now that I've been blogging for over two years, I added another link to my sidebar: Two years ago.  Kind of fun to see what was happening...  Two years ago I had just started blogging, and I posted my plan for my book.  Sigh.  And Steven Den Beste was pondering the [upcoming] war in Iraq...  Double sigh.

Know what would be really cool?  A a link to one year into the future :)

P.S. I also added a link to Amazon's Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund Donation page.  Just in case the urge strikes you to help while you're reading my blog.  I decided to use an image of the classic woodcut "The Great Wave off Kanagawa", by Katsushika Hokusai, depicting a tsunami in 1831.  "Oddly, though it's a sea storm, the sun is shining..."


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