Archive: July 2005
Happy Birthday, Uncle Sam. You're the best.
I spent the weekend sailing, hanging out with my kids and good friends, and eating. And also thinking about all the men and women - my daughter Nicole among them - who make my life possible, protecting our freedom and way of life. Thank you all.
It turns out I'm not the only one who thinks so; a recent Gallup Poll revealed that "The American public has more confidence in the military than in any other institution." Other tidbits from the poll, "big business and Congress tied for the second- and third-lowest rankings" - not surprising in view of either's lack of integrity, and "Gallup noted that public trust in television news and newspapers reached an all-time low this year". See, you can fool some of the people some of the time, but...
By the way, there has been a flurry of discussion recently about whether it should be illegal or even unconstitutional to burn a U.S. flag. So I think it is a horrible thing to do, but it should not be illegal, and I can't even imagine under what pretense it could ever be unconstitutional. People should be entitled to express their opinion, however much we disagree with it. Mark Frauenfelder posted an interesting conundrum for those who would make burning a U.S. flag illegal. At what point is a flag a U.S. flag (does close count)?
Here's a nice post for the Fourth: The Endgame. [ via Tim Oren ]
Finally, do you want to thank the troops? Click here. It only takes a minute to send a short message to someone serving overseas, and imagine how much they'd appreciate it. [ via Smash ]
So you know how much I like New Yorker covers, but get a load of this:
The name of this piece is "Party of One". Ha ha. In case you can't see, there are little foreign flags next to each empty place setting; a French flag, a German flag, etc. Empty places, get it? So clever. (I'm glad they didn't put in a Dutch flag, although I think they tried; they have a flag with white, blue, and red horizontal stripes but they're in the wrong order.) Of course they left out the British and Australian place settings - those places are occupied, of course, not to mention the Iraqi or Israeli place settings! And just maybe the French people would be more interested in attending than their leaders; certainly that is one interpretation one could place on the recent French vote to reject the E.U. Constitution.
On another level, I find this quite revealing. I can only imagine how clever the illustrator thinks him or herself, and how pleased the editors were to run this. This naked vitriol from the left is so self-defeating. Isn't it more fun to win? Unless you're already in this club, why would you join?
Playing a bit of catch up, I have a weeks' worth of posts to filter :) May you live in interesting times, indeed...
So, the Tour de
Lance France is underway! And in the very first stage Lance managed to put serious time on some of his biggest rivals, including Jan Ullrich. Serving notice that he is ready, once again, to win. I love it. I've been watching on OLN, and it is pretty darn cool. I just wish my Tivo supported this channel so I wouldn't have to watch all those commercials...
Speaking of Lance, have you Joined Team Lance? In addition to being a cancer survivor and an amazing athlete, Lance has raised tons of money for cancer research and to help cancer survivors. If you join his team you'll be making a donation to one of the best causes around. And if you donate at least $50 you'll even get a spiffy tee-shirt. I'm in!
The G8 are meeting next week in Gleneagles Scotland. Among the items on the agenda is global warming; The Scientist reports Scientists demand action on climate. "Scientific academies from the world's leading nations have issued an unprecedented joint statement urging the leaders of their countries to commit to taking prompt action to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases. The statement from Britain's Royal Society and the science academies of France, Russia, Germany, United States, Japan, Italy, and Canada was released ahead of a G8 summit in Gleneagles, Scotland, at which climate change is expected to be a major focus. The academies of Brazil, China, and India, not members of G8, are also signatories." Whew. Is it just me, or is it getting hot in here?
The Business Online observes: spot the real sharks in the climate talks. As in, due to warmer water, Scotland now has sharks! Coupled with declining oil supplies and rising prices, there is now real pressure for alternate entropy sources. Nuclear option, anyone?
Jeff Atwood: Why anyone can succeed. Although the premise is that success has little to do with talent, my conclusion is nearly the opposite, that success follows from talent regardless of circumstances. Not everyone can be a programmer; I've encountered any number of counter examples.
Cult of Mac notes Griffen's iFill. (motto: "Oww. iFill good".) "iFill streams mp3 files from thousands of free radio stations directly to your iPod. You can choose several stations at once and select from many different genres. And since iFill goes directly to your iPod, it won't clutter up your hard drive with extra files." That sounds awesome. Much better than random podcasts.
It is now old news, but iTunes 4.9 is out, with - ta da! - podcasting support. (Billed as "the next generation of radio".) So be it. This will expose about 10X more people to podcasts than ever before; let's see what sticks to the wall...
Russell Beattie says Wow!
Amazing: Brain Scans Can Predict Alzheimer's Disease Onset 9 Years In Advance. The psychological implications are as interesting as the physiological ones, if you knew you were getting Alzheimer's in 5 years, what would you do?
Meanwhile, Brain Exercise Is Key to Healthy Mind. So keeping read my blog :)
This is awesome: The Onion in 2056. E.g. "Million robot march attended by exactly 1,000,000 robots." Or maybe you prefer "Lunar Olympic officials continue search for missing pole vaulter." Great stuff, please check it out. I've often thought the Onion must be a great place to work.
Bram Cohen, inventor of Bittorrent, considers Avalanche, Microsoft's supposed answer to peer-to-peer transfers. "I'd like to clarify that Avalanche is vaporware... As you've probably figured out by now, I think that paper is complete garbage." Okay.
Wow, I'm back.
A lot of sailing, a wonderful vacation with my family at Orcas Island, and a week of investor presentations. Those are my reasons, but they're no excuse, of course :)
Here's the view we had at sunset from our cabin:
(click for larger pic)
This is looking out over some lesser San Juan islands, into the Haro Straight, with Canada on the horizon (Sidney Island and Vancouver Island). Unbelievable!
What can I say about Lance Armstrong that hasn't been said already? He's amazing, and my hat's off to him. Defeating cancer, winning the Tour de France seven times in a row, and raising millions of dollars for cancer research through his Lance Armstrong Foundation. He is definitely going out on top.
While sailing I read a fascinating book called Lance Armstrong's War, by Daniel Coyle. Despite the title it really isn't about any war, instead, it is a detailed look at the innards of professional bike racing. The preparation, the mental games, the tactics, and the sheer unpredictability. Really great.
And check out this New Yorker cover from July 25:
(click for larger pic)
The title is "Tour de Force"; I love it!
Last night Shirley and I celebrated our 13th anniversary. (Thirteen! Wow.) As is our tradition, we had dinner at Michael's in Santa Monica, still one of L.A.'s best restaurants after all these years. I proposed to Shirley there - unplanned, inspired by an out-of-this-world '81 Mayacamas - and so we go back to revisit the scene, so to speak. Not to mention, the food is always great, always interesting and great, the service is top-notch, etc.
You probably don't care but for posterity I'll note last night's menu. We brought a bottle of '97 Araujo Eisele which was about as great as California Cabernet gets, which is to say, perfect.
- Oysters, three kinds, with Champagne. (Shirley had an heirloom tomato salad.)
- Foie gras, perfect, on polenta with pear, accompanied by a glass of Sauterne.
- Quail with a wine reduction sauce, over a light salad of greens. Perfect with the Araujo.
- Duck, two ways, a small breast and thin slices, with a Grand Marnier basting, and baby potatoes. Unbelievable.
- Rack of Lamb, rare, with an olive jus that could be the best sauce I've ever had on meat. The lamb was perfect, and the sauce played off the Cabernet beautifully. (Who really really likes mint on lamb, right? This is how you do it.)
- Cheese, five kinds, with figs. I would note especially the Epoisse which was awesome.
- Flourless chocolate cake, with vanilla bean ice cream; Shirley had a creme brulee which was [as usual at Michael's] perfect. Accompanied by a '94 Taylor port which was amazing.
I may have had a better meal but I can't remember it. And of course Shirley was there to share it with, so what could be better than that?
If you're a regular reader you know I love Ottmar Liebert. His music is amazing, and he's a savvy guy who understands that you can't put the technology genie back in the bottle, so you'd better embrace it instead. He and his team recently posted a new listening lounge, which is the exact way an artist should present themselves online, IMHO.
You can download free tracks, purchase tracks for $1 each (no DRM) in a variety of formats, browse through the music by tags, and explore other artists' work. And everything is released with a Creative Commons license. If you like Ottmar, you'll love the lounge, and if you're not familiar with him this is your chance to become acquainted!
On Saturday August 6 I am again participating in the Westlake Sail-a-thon. This is the 12th anniversary of this event; last year it raised over $40,000 for Casa Pacifica Children’s Crisis Center, which helps victims of child abuse and neglect.
For nine hours participants sail “laps” around Westlake. Two years ago my team sailed 38 laps, more than any other team. This year we are once again going to try to break the record of 47 laps – wind willing! My team will again consist of myself, my daughters Alexis and Megan, and whatever friends they bring along…
I’d like to ask each of you to help by sponsoring us. Typical sponsorship levels are $.25/lap, $.50/lap, or $1/lap (about $10, $20, or $40, respectively). It really is a great cause. If you’re interested in sponsoring us please just send me an email; after the event I’ll report on how we did :)
Thanks in advance for your help and support!
P.S. And thanks to all my friends and colleagues who've already pledged their support; as of now if we sail 38 laps again we'll raise over $1,500. That's awesome!
I'm sitting in my back yard this morning, blogging, and yeah my posts are all over the map. Hey, when you visit my blog, you get what you pay for, and it's worth just about what you pay for it :)
Anyway, right now there's this dog at one of my neighbor's houses which is whining. I mean, really whining. What to do, if anything?
I am a militant neighbor when it comes to dog barkage. If you have dog, and it is barking in the middle of night, you are going to find a note on your door from me (with my name, address, and phone number) asking you to do something about it. Most people are nice but a few years ago someone was not nice, and they ended up with the police at their door. That's how it goes, you are not allowed to disturb your neighbors in the middle of the night. Okay.
Here it is, the middle of the day. You are allowed to make noise in the middle of the day. And this dog isn't barking, it is crying. This isn't barkage, it is whinage. There is a problem over there. Maybe the owners aren't home? But dogs get used to that, I don't think he's crying just because he's lonely. Maybe he's hungry, or maybe he can't reach his favorite bone? Don't know. But this is not a pleasant noise, and I want to do something about it! My beautiful Saturday morning is flawed by these urgent sounds from a fellow creature in distress.
Well, maybe I won't do anything. Some things you just cannot control. Could be time for a bike ride :)
Gosh, it's nice to be back. I actually peeked at my server logs this morning, and guess what? When you post stuff, people come read it! I love it that you-all haven't left for good. I even had some links yesterday, thank you. I really have to stop these big gaps in posting.
I think I get into this mode where I have to post "everything". I stop posting for a little while, and suddenly "everything" becomes a lot, and then I feel like I need time to catch up, which I don't have... so I don't post at all. Silly. Right now I have 155 items in SharpReader waiting to be linked. Are they all that important? No. You've probably seen most of them already, and even if you haven't, I doubt very much that you depend on Critical Section for news. The one's that are most interesting and important, well, we'll get around to linking them. The others will be quietly dropped, with no consequences.
Anyway, thanks for tuning in again and please stay tuned!
I was gone sailing for a week, and then gone on vacation for a week, both in locations where I didn't have OLN and didn't have a fast internet connection. So I didn't get to watch the Tour de France live, I had to settle for daily updates and snippets here and there. (By the way, if you're into bike racing check out the Daily Peloton, I found they had the best blow-by-blow blogging and the best commentary. Great site.)
So last night I decided to catch up, and fired up Bittorrent to download the most interesting stages of the Tour. This morning I just finished watching Stage 20, the final time trial, which [of course] Lance Armstrong won, out-powering Jan Ullrich to put his final stamp on the 2005 Tour. It was really great; time trials are interesting because unlike the other stages, the riders are "naked" and they go all out the whole time - in this case for a bit over an hour, on a really nasty course featuring some steep climbs, some tricky descents, spectators all over the place, hairpin turns and slick roundabouts, and narrow little town streets. Quite a test. It was noticeable that Lance has a faster cadence than anyone else, he seems to be in fast-motion compared to all the other riders, just attacking the course. Awesome to be able to ride that hard, that well, for over an hour.
Of all the things I'm somewhat good at, the gap between me and professionals is largest in bike racing. I'm a decent sailor, a decent baseball player, a decent bike rider, etc. (Even a decent programmer :) Watching this morning I was struck by how hard it would be just to finish that course, let alone finish it for time, let alone ride that hard for that long, let alone ride that hard for that long on that course. My hat's off to every tour rider, not just Lance. He's the best of the best, but they are all amazing athletes. What an excellent sport.
I have to say OLN's coverage is pretty darn good. Too many commercials (which of course I don't watch), and too many promos for Survivor (does anyone really care about that any more?), but on balance it was really cool. And thanks to whomever scraped their Tivo to post the torrents. OLN should post them for sale - I for one would be happy to buy them - but since they don't the Internet fills the void nicely :)
In which your intrepid blogger attempts, futilely, to post the interesting doings of the day, the week, and the month... Most likely just the news of the day will make it, along with some interesting tidbits :)
I have to start with space, there is some exciting news as you know. First there was Deep Impact, which fired a missile into comet Tempel 1 and then filmed the results. (Great animation of the process here, by Dan Maas.) There were also some amazing pictures taken by Cassini, which is orbiting Saturn. (Including one entitled "Titan's true color", which I hope to see for myself someday.)
The latest cool news? Planet X! Actually, planet Xena! A Kuiper belt object which is 1.5 times larger than Pluto has been found. First there was Quaoar, then Sedna, now Xena. Either there are a bunch more planets out there, or Pluto really isn't a planet. It's orbit and other factors actually suggest the latter.
What's next, ice on Mars? I guess so. Not even that surprising, after all the evidence found for water on Mars by the Mars Rovers, but still quite exciting. What if - just think - there was a little Martian bacterium living in that crater? What if?
And if you want to hear something creepy from outer space, check out this eerie recording of Saturn's radio emissions. Couldn't be any better if it was in a scene from 2001 or Twilight Zone. (Seriously, click through to listen, I promise it will be worth it :)
Oh, and construction has started on Magellan, [which will be] the world's largest telescope. When completed in 2016 it will have a resolution 10 times higher than the Hubble.
Meanwhile, Clive Thompson wonders Why We're Still Alone. "Various SETI efforts -- the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence inside our galaxy, bien sur -- have been ongoing for thirty years, with no success yet. If there's intelligent life out there, we haven't been able to detect it with our arrays of radio telescopes and funky parallel-processing screensavers. But what if we're simply looking in the wrong place?" Excellent blogage from Clive, as usual...
Solomon explains why Peaceful Aliens must be Destroyed! "We are seriously in trouble if aliens visited our planet in peace." Hey, maybe it has already happened? I've met some awfully strange earthlings :)
And check out these weird clouds over Hastings, Nevada. Seem kind of alien, don't they? [ via Mark Frauenfelder ]
Did you see Google's Moon Explorer? Pretty cool, including waypoints for all the Apollo landings. Glad to see their corporate sense of humor is still intact, be sure to zoom in all the way :)
And sadly, James Doohan, aka Scotty from Star Trek, has died. Not only a cool actor with a cool role ("beam me up" has definitely entered the lexicon, as has "we need more dilithium crystals!"), but in a little known twist of fate he was actually PayPal's first and only celebrity spokesperson. Back when "beaming" money from one Palm to another was the company's primary product!
The various disciplines of medicine continue to barrel forward. I was so happy that Bill First, Senate Majority Leader and a physician, has broken with President Bush on the stem cell issue. [ via Glenn Reynolds ] You just cannot put these genies back in their bottles. I like Bush but definitely not on every issue.
Related; Wired: How to Save Stem-Cell Research. "Embryonic stem-cell research advocates are currently faced with a tough decision. They can continue to push pending legislation that would open up more embryonic stem-cell research, but which also faces a likely veto from President Bush; or they can face up to the current political climate in Washington, and back a different bill, which would fund alternative types of stem-cell research." It is so strange that so many politicians are afraid of medical technology. Maybe they're just reflecting the views of their constituents, but I actually don't think so; I think most people don't have a strong opinion, and their leaders are afraid to stick their toes into this water.
FuturePundit reports Replacement Human Muscles With Blood Vessels Grown In Rodents. Sounds like a headline from some science fiction novel, doesn't it? "What's even more exciting than being able to make skeletal muscles for reconstructive surgery or to repair congenitally defective muscles, for instance, is that this a generic approach that can be applied towards making other complex tissues. It could allow us to do really wonderful things." How long before genuine human replacement parts are grown? Soon, I think.
In another vein (so to speak), Randall Parker wonders Should Pregnant Drug Abusers be Institutionalized? My answer: of course! This hits at the very core of Unnatural Selection. The last thing we need is society picking up the tab for a bunch of drug abuser's children. Read it, for it is good...
CNN reports: Study: Hurricanes getting Stronger. "Is global warming making hurricanes more ferocious? New research suggests the answer is yes." The empirical evidence is definitely there; when I was a kid thirty years ago we didn't have three or four big hurricanes every year, right?
Good thing we're doing something about global warming; Powerline notes A Stroke of Genius. "What distinguishes this plan from the Kyoto protocol is that it will actually lead to a major reduction in carbon emissions! This substitution of practical impact for well-crafted verbiage stunned and infuriated European observers." Not that this is "the whole solution", but it is a good start.
There's been a lot of blogospheric discussion about aid to Africa, in the wake of the Live 8 concerts. I kind of agree with Hrairoo, who notes There's No Such Thing as a Free Concert, in an informative Q&A on the events. The core question is whether aid actually helps economies improve. Personally I'm skeptical, the track record is crummy. I think you have to fix the political systems in poor countries first.
Max Boot is pretty skeptical, too. "In the last 50 years, $2.3 trillion has been spent to help poor countries. Yet Africans' income and life expectancy have gone down, not up, during that period, while South Korea, Singapore and other Asian nations that received little if any assistance have moved from African-level poverty to European-level prosperity thanks to their superior economic policies." [ via Glenn Reynolds ] In some ways this situation reminds me of Child Tax Credits and the Mutilated Beggar Effect.
Anita Sharp considers Trade or Aid? "What's the best way to help impoverished Third-World countries -- give them money or help make it easier for them to sell their products competitively? 'People think more aid will help, but it won't,' actor Minnie Driver told the New York Times. 'Trade is the surest way of decreasing the savage amount of poverty in our world. These countries have got to be able to trade fairly.'" I sort of agree - free trade is important - but the tone of this quote suggests that the problem with fair trade is external; in actuality most of these countries are horribly protectionist, on top of being amazingly corrupt.
Did you see that Longhorn will officially be called "Windows Vista"? No word on whether they considered Shorthorn instead :) Although they keep cutting back content, I really doubt I'm going to get what I want; less "application" features, more low-level functionality like better paging and improved networking. There's a beta available, I'm trying to decide whether it is worth installing. The original "PDC bits" from 2003 was a joke.
Well I did it; I have a new baby. Today I bought a Mac Mini. Do I need one? No. Did I want one? Yes. Did I have a reason to get one? Well, yes, actually. And therein lies a story... In fact two of them.
I work for a startup called Aperio, we make digital microscope slide scanners (hardware) and systems for managing them (software). Our customers are Pathologists at clinical labs, pharma companies, research institutions, and medical schools. It turns out when you digitize a microscope slide at diagnostic resolution (about 100,000 dpi) you get big images (about 80,000x60,000 pixels, or 5 gigapixels). Displaying such large images requires special viewing software. We have a spiffy web viewer and an even spiffier desktop viewer called ImageScope.
ImageScope is a reasonably complicated combination of Visual Basic (for the GUI), a C++ ActiveX control (for the display logic), and a C++ library (for the low-level image and file handling). As such, it is Windows-only. Now it turns out that Aperio's customer base is not Windows-only. In fact there are a surprising number of Mac users. There are entire labs which are Mac-only, and even in labs which use Windows predominantly you often find Mac zealots. So for some time now we've had "build a Mac version of ImageScope" as a to-do, and earlier this year we bit the bullet and began working on it. Recently we reached the point where the new viewer is running and demo-able. Yay!
Migrating the C++ image library to the Mac turned out to be easy. Aside from some trivial endian-specific coding which had to be fixed, and some non-trivial threading logic which had to be abstracted into an implementation-specific class, the library ported with no problems; in fact we now have one code base which compiles on Windows, Linux, or Mac.
Migrating the VB GUI was a bit more challenging. After a bit of experimentation we decided to use RealBasic, which is a pretty nice development environment somewhat reminiscent of Visual Studio. It wasn't possible to move all the VB code directly to RB, but we were able to use the VB code as a starting point. The program organization is roughly the same, with the same windows, dialogs, menus, toolbars, etc. Aside from the ease of migration, this will also simplify documentation and support. Of course being a Mac program it does look and feel different, in subtle ways, but the essential functionality is the same.
Migrating the C++ ActiveX control was not easy. The first attempt was to build a RealBasic "plugin" using Metrowerks CodeWarrior. The Windows GDI is pretty different from the OS X OpenGL API. The second attempt is to build an RB plugin using Apple's Xcode IDE; this tool is now the only way to go with the Intel-architecture Macs on the horizon (and the consequent need to compile to "universal binaries"). That remains a work in progress.
Okay, sorry for the nerdy digression, where was I? Oh, yeah, the Mac Mini. So I've got this pre-release version of ImageScopeX I'm running around with, and I want to be able to give demos. I could use a Powerbook - in fact I have a Powerbook, or actually my wife has a Powerbook (like she'd let me use it :) - but the screen can only be so big. Demoing digital slides is best done on a 23" monitor running at 1920x1200. And guess what? The Mac Mini is not only tiny enough to be easily carried along (it even comes in a cute little box which doubles as a carrying case), it also supports LCD panels up to 1920x1200 via a DVI connector! Perfect! And it can use any old PC keyboard and mouse which happen to be lying around, so you don't even need to bring those along. Doubly perfect! So that's why I needed one.
Which model did I get? I decided on the lowest-end stock $500 model, with a 1.25GHz G4, 256MB of RAM, and a 40GB hard drive. Why? Well, two reasons. First, I honestly think this computer is powerful enough for ImageScopeX. I'm a bit worried about the RAM, but Mac paging is so much better than Windows that I think it will work. If not, I'll upgrade. The CPU is going to be fast enough since in this application the real work is done by the video processor (an ATI Radeon 9200). The 40GB disk will be plenty for development and a handful of demo slides; if I need more later I can always add an external firewire disk. The second reason is that I want to be able to say "this computer cost $500" when I'm doing a demo!
Oh, I said there were two stories. You know, Apple seems to do everything right. The Apple retail stores are really cool, and in fact even their bags are cool. In fact their bags are so cool, they can be used as a backpack. And the combination of a tiny computer in a cute little case and a bag which doubles as a backpack meant that I was able to ride my bike over to the Apple store, buy the Mac Mini, and ride home with it on my back. Pretty cool. I actually don't think even a small laptop would have been as compact.
As usual with Apple you get an incredible out of the box experience. You really feel like you're really getting your money's worth. And have you held a Mac Mini in your hands? The workmanship is awesome.
I'm going to have more to say about this little computer going forward - stay tuned - but there was an important decision to make right up front: what to call it? My now-venerable iMac G4 is called icequeen - my daughters' reaction to the cool design and white color - so the Mac Mini is being called icebaby. And I must admit, that's a cool name :)
P.S. Yes of course that's a Tivo bike jersey I'm wearing.
Return to the archive.
Correlation vs. Causality
The Tyranny of Email
Aperio's Mission = Automating Pathology
Try, or Try Not
Books and Wine
God and Beauty
Moving Mount Fuji
Rock 'n Roll
IQ and Populations
Are You a Bright?
The Joy of Craftsmanship
The Emperor's New Code
The Return of the King
Religion vs IQ
In the Wet
the big day
solving bongard problems
the nuclear option
estimating in meatspace
On the Persistence of Bad Design...
Texas chili cookoff
almost famous design and stochastic debugging
may I take your order?
New Yorker covers
Death Rider! (da da dum)
how did I get here (Mt.Whitney)?
the Law of Significance
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
where are the desktop apps?