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Archive: February 2008

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one month

Friday,  02/01/08  09:59 PM

Wow, I've been posting again for a whole month!  Will it continue?  Who can say...  it is still fun.

A quick check of my archive reveals that in fact during January 2008 I made 61 posts, an all time record.  (The previous monthly record of 56 posts was in May '05, after a gap.)  So not only is it fun, it is really fun.

Also fun - watching traffic levels gradually rise.  I'm getting roughly 1,200 page views per day, and about 1,500 RSS views.  Thank you!


Friday,  02/01/08  10:20 PM

And so making a pass on the internets, we find...

Amazon's Kindle e-book readerAmazon is buying Audible, the leading publisher of e-books.  Well that makes sense!  Or does it?  Amazon's Kindle is arguably the leading e-book reader (yeah, I know about Sony's Reader, sorry).  So do you want the leading distribution point to own the leading content provider?  I'm not sure that makes for the biggest market.  And both Amazon and Audible need the market to get bigger...

Microsoft is buying Yahoo.  This means that 1) Yahoo's strategy to create shareholder value did not work, and 2) Microsoft's strategy to create value in its online businesses did not work.  A combination of two huge not-quite-successes; will it equal success?  (I say, no.)  There has been a metric ton of analysis online about the business implications of the deal; John Gruber takes a look at the technical implications.  "Engineering-wise, it’s interesting. Yahoo’s stuff is almost all written in PHP, and runs on FreeBSD and Red Hat Linux servers. I don’t think Microsoft has ever bought - and maintained - a significant software product that wasn’t written against Microsoft technology."  In that aspect it reminds me of the Hotmail deal; Microsoft had a disastrous migration from Linux/sendmail to Windows/Exchange from which they never recovered.

Bill Burnham says it is a bad deal for Silicon Valley.  "... by swallowing up Yahoo, Microsoft will be removing one of the biggest and most active acquirers of start-ups in Silicon Valley. The intense competition between Microsoft, Google, and Yahoo has arguably been one of the main factors helping drive up M&A activity and prices for internet related start-ups."

I have a personal interest in this deal; my mailbox is presently hosted by Yahoo.  It began ten years ago with Pacific Bell (remember them?) and then Airtouch (remember them?), and then moved to SBC and finally Yahoo.  Now it will be hosted by Microsoft; I just hope they don't change the domain.  If I can't keep the email address, then sayonara; I already own  I would probably have less spam there, too...

Big news in Pro Cycling: invitations for the 2008 Giro d'Italia did not include Team Astana.  That would mean Alberto Contador, Levi Leipheimer, and Andreas Kloden.  I wonder if that means Astana won't be invited to participate in the Tour de France either?  That would be bigger news.  The organizers continue to send the message that they're cleaning up the sport - Astana was disgraced last year and was kicked out of last year's Tour for doping - but this may be throwing the baby out with the bath water.

"We remove Vista""We remove Vista".  Sign in a computer shop seen in New Hampshire.  I really wonder what Microsoft is going to do about Vista; it has become a real problem that time will not cure.  Either Windows 7 comes out sooner and is a lot better, or people will keep migrating to Macs, I guess.  The underlying problem is that the code base is bloated and buggy; this isn't something a simple UI redesign can cure.  Perhaps Windows has just jumped the shark.  Do you think we'll be running XP in 2015?

Hell yeah the plane takes offSo, did you watch the Mythbusters episode about the plane on the conveyor belt?  Yep, the plane takes off; I called it.  Not only did they convincingly perform the experiment - using an ultralight plane that takes off in 80' of runway, and a long tarp pulled by a pickup truck as the conveyor belt - they also offered a decent explanation of why the plane takes off.  The key is that the plane is "pulling" against the air with its propeller, not against the ground.  The plane's wheels just spin faster as the conveyor belt moves faster, while its propeller moves the plane forward.  When the plane reaches the speed it needs to take off (relative to the air, not to the ground!) it takes off, no problem.  Jason Kottke has more...  there is now a "hell yeah the plane takes off" tee-shirt, too.  One delightful aspect of the Mythbusters show was that the plane's pilot thought the plane would not take off, and was astonished when it did :)


Yay 300K!

Saturday,  02/02/08  10:50 PM

Yay, made it.  It being the PCH Rando 300K.  Yes, that is 185 miles, and yes, that is a long way.  It took 14:39, at an average speed of 15mph.  (You start in the dark, at 6:00AM, and finish in the dark, at 9:00PM, and spend the time in between eating and drinking and riding.  And fixing flats.)  In addition to being 50% longer than the 200K I rode a few weeks ago, there was more climbing (over 8,000') and headwinds out and back.  It was a great ride; we had nice weather (except for the wind) and once again the ride organization was excellent.  Thanks to Mark my riding partner, who continues to impress me as he does these rides on an artificial hip.  Wow.

on PCH, en route to Casitas, Goleta, etc.
Me on PCH near Malibu, en route to Lake Casitas, Goleta, Carpinteria, and back...

189.8 miles!
300K = 189 miles + 8,000' = one tired rider

You might ask, why do I do these rides?  I have no idea.  It must be fun?


(New Yorker, 01/28/08)

Sunday,  02/03/08  12:50 PM


(click to enlarge)



brain dump

Sunday,  02/03/08  12:53 PM

Sorry but I just have to do this; here is a dump of all the brain / IQ / Unnatural Selection -related posts I've been saving over the past year.  It is all interesting stuff and by putting it here I won't lose it.  (And by posting it I can clean it out of SharpReader!)  I find this sort of stuff massively interesting, but I feel the need to point out that I don't necessarily agree with everything I link.  I link, you decide.  Onward...

  • Eric Raymond: Out Like Flynn.  "Renowned pychometrician Charles Murray has given us, in The Inequality Taboo, a concise summary of the most current science on group differences in IQ and other measures of capability.  Most of it is not surprising to anybody who has been following the actual science rather than press accounts severely distorted by the demands of political correctness.  There is some new information here, however, and perhaps the most interesting bit is that turns out to be much less to the Flynn effect than meets the eye."
  • Eric Raymond: People getting brighter, culture getting dimmer.  "To sum up, we're brighter than we used to be, but lazier. We have more capacity, but we use less of it."  I disagree with this, we are not brighter than we used to be; just better educated.
  • Paul Graham: Inequality and Risk.  "So let's be clear what reducing economic inequality means. It is identical with taking money from the rich."  Exactly.  I think Paul is batting nearly 1.000 when it comes to these essays.
  • London Times: Yes, genes can be selfish.  Steven Pinker honors Richard Dawkins on the 30th anniversary of the Selfish Gene, one of my favorite books and I daresay one of the most important books ever written; the meme that ideas can evolve was started here (as was the term "meme"!).  [ via GNXP ]
  • Doonesbury skewers creationism.  I love it.  Here's another.  "Situational science is about respecting both sides of a scientific argument, not just the one supported by facts."  Wonderful.
  • Eric Raymond: The Rape Exception.  "If all human life is sacred, why is the child of rape an exception? It’s not like any fetus chooses to have a rapist as its father. Pro-lifers say all fetal life is sacred, but they don’t follow through as they would if they actually believed that. So they must actually believe something else."  Everyone understands abortion is a matter of expediency.  It is uncomfortable, but there it is.
  • Randall Parker: More single women using sperm donors.  "Most women will have better DNA choices from donor sperm than from the best man each can manage to find to marry."  This is the reason some species evolved harems.  Fascinating.
  • Orlando Patterson: A Poverty of the Mind.  "Nor have studies explained why, if someone cannot get a job, he turns to crime and drug abuse. One does not imply the other....  To hold someone responsible for his behavior is not to exclude any recognition of the environmental factors that may have induced the problematic behavior in the first place."  [ via Ann Althouse ]
  • Panda's Thumb: Beard Chromodynamics.  "The evolution of altruism, a behaviour that benefits others at one’s own fitness expense, poses a Darwinian paradox."  A great discussion of the possible genetic basis for altruism.  Generally when something appears to contradict Darwinism, it is later found to do the opposite.  (The phrase “green beard” was invented by Richard Dawkins as an example of an inherited visual display that would indicate that its possessor also possessed a genetic disposition for altruism, and thus could be trusted.)
  • Philip Greenspan: dumb towns getting dumber, smart towns getting smarter?  Yes.
  • Victor David Hanson: Assimilation is the real debate.  "There is still a solution to the immigration problem: It involves supporting any practice that leads to the assimilation of legal Mexican immigrants into the American mainstream - and opposing everything that does not."  This applies equally to the Muslim immigrants in Western Europe.  [ via LGF ]
  • A realtime population counter.  Based on statistics, shows the birth and death rates of each county.
  • Mark White: Longer life in the USA.  "This decline in death rates was so big it offset the increase in population, so the number of total deaths actually dropped."  Even thought more people than ever are being born, it is no longer true that more than ever are dying.  [ via Glenn Reynolds ]

Scott Adams deserves his own section; during 2006 he published a number of fascinating posts:

  • Scott Adams: four billion losers.  "Q: How do you explain to yourself that 4 billion people (minimum) believe different from you?  A: God lets 4 billion people worship delusions because he thinks free will is important."  Sharp as a knife.
  • Scott Adams: education and religion.  "My puzzlement is over the question of how the true religious people interpret the fact that the smartest and most educated people in the world are, on average, far less religious."  Of course the same cognitive dissonance that enables people to be religious would enable them to ignore such facts.
  • Scott Adams: IQ and religion.  "Even if the Global Association of God Believers funded the studies and found (hypothetically) that only morons believed in God, it’s unlikely that you would ever see those studies published. The only way a study showing low IQ to be correlated with religion is ever going to get published is if there is a good load of atheists all the way from the researchers to the publisher."  Yep, so much for truth.
  • Scott Adams: relativity.  "Let’s imagine for the sake of my new theory that people are always rational within their own reality. It only seems as if they are not because we all live in our own bubble of reality, with our own rules of what makes sense."  This makes perfect sense to me :)
  • Scott Adams: rational evil.  "I used to think America needed to change its foreign policy if it had any hope of ending terrorism...  there is a complete disconnect between reality and what terrorists believe. They think God gave them specific real estate, that a horse can fly, there are virgins waiting for them in heaven, and Jews orchestrated the 9-11 attacks. There’s no reason to believe that reality intrudes on their decisions. Tweaking reality would be a waste of time."  I agree with his definition of the problem, but not his fatalism; we can change terrorists' reality through the use of force.

Continuing, more or less chronologically:

  • Matthew Baldwin: In praise of loopholes.  "We have discovered the greatest loophole of all: Evolution has tried to coerce us into procreation by attaching great pleasure to the act of mating, and we've figured out how to couple up and get the goods while ignoring the 'intent' of sex."  There is a lot more to this - please click through and read the whole thing.
  • London Times: Cameras set racial poser on car crime.  So traffic cameras are apparently guilty of racial profiling :)
  • Glenn Reynolds in WSJ: The Parent Trap.  "Children used to provide cheap labor and retirement security, all in one. Now they're pretty much all cost and no return, from a financial perspective."  This logic applies mainly to the rich; the poor just keep having kids.  And the rich are smarter than the poor, so that means...
  • American Scientist: Smart as we can get?  "The tendency for intelligence scores to rise appears to have ended in some places. Indeed, it seems that some countries are experiencing a Flynn effect with a reversed sign."  This is what I was afraid of... Unnatural Selection is real.  [ via GNXP: The end is nigh... for the Flynn Effect ]
  • Randall Parker: Better educated more willing to design babies.  "Reproductive biotech will widen the gap between the haves and the have-nots as smarter people arrange to make their kids have even higher IQs."  Of course; as much as technology benefits the have-nots, it benefits the haves more...
  • Blogosphere legend Steven Den Beste posts on 9/11/06: The Disunited States of America.  "We all vowed never again. Some of us vowed that we would do whatever it took to make sure that the terrorists didn't strike us again. Others vowed that they would do whatever it took to make America stop doing all the evil things that had inspired the attack in the first place."  The comments are interesting, too...
  • Richard Dawkins [video]: Queerer than we Suppose.  "...the true nature of the universe eludes us, because the human mind evolved to understand the "middle-sized" world we can observe..."  [ via Liron Shapira ]

The problem in a nutshell:

  • Randall Parker: Industrial nations increase incentives for babies.  "Faced with graying populations and the need for more younger workers to pay taxes to support growing retired populations many industrial nations are adopting pro-natal policies." Oh, joy.  Of course nobody asks "whose babies?"  Well actually Randall does: "What I'd like to know: what is the native French fertility rate and what is the Muslim fertility rate? The French need babies that'll grow up to be smart, highly skilled, and work in occupations with high pay and hence big tax revenue boosters."  We all know the answer, although it is an uncomfortable truth.
  • Paul Graham: Mind the Gap.  "Like chess or painting or writing novels, making money is a very specialized skill. But for some reason we treat this skill differently. No one complains when a few people surpass all the rest at playing chess or writing novels, but when a few people make more money than the rest, we get editorials saying this is wrong."  Well, there is one other thing like that, and it is related; when a few people appear smarter than the rest, that's wrong too.
  • London Times: We're about as smart as we're going to getQuoting James Flynn.  Unfortunately he tries to sugar coat this: "Far from indicating that now we really are getting dumber, this may suggest that certain of our cognitive functions have reached - or nearly reached - the upper limits of what they will ever achieve."  I don't see the difference between intelligence and 'the upper limits of your cognitive functions', do you?  Basically, we are getting dumber.  [ via GNXP: Flynn on the Flynn effect ]
  • Move from James Flynn: Beyond the Flynn Effect.  An interesting discussion, but you can feel him laboring to deemphasize the importance of IQ; revealing his own discomfort with all the evidence to the contrary.
  • Clive Thompson: Me and my big dwarf nose.  "Why is racism considered bad in the real world -- but part of the fun in online games?"  Yeah, why?
  • Randall Parker: Do we need more babies or higher producing babies?  "I'm about to propose something that might not become politically doable by Western countries (though the more pragmatic Chinese might pick up on it): Restrict reproduction to allow only the creation of wealth creators."  Well there; someone said it.  Don't hold your breath on any action in this direction, but at least we can talk about it.

Let me wrap up with some typically great posts on Gene Expression (aka GNXP), one of my favorite blogs, where anything can be debated rationally (and often is):

  • Alex B on GNXP: IQ -> Academic Achievement.  "Take home message: While general cognitive ability and academic achievement are not isomorphic, the former is necessary for the latter, while the converse is not necessarily true."  More evidence, if any were needed, that IQ measures something real, and is a useful predictor of performance.
  • SustaSe on GNXP: Validity of National IQ.  The data are pretty compelling; check it out.
  • SustaSe on GNXP: Improved assessment of National IQ.  More on the same subject...  underlying this is the assumption fact that there is variation between National IQs...  (that same uncomfortable truth)
  • Razib on GNXP: Behavioral economics and IQ.  The implications of IQ carried to the logic conclusion.

I hope you find this stuff as interesting and as worthy of debate and analysis as I do; as always your comments are welcomed: just email me at


Sunday,  02/03/08  07:54 PM

Tom Petty at halftime of the Super BowlCan I just say Tom Petty was excellent at halftime?  I can?  Cool, because I thought he was.  I love the trend of having good old rock bands performing at halftime shows; last year's Super Bowl featured Prince, and the year before we had the Stones...  (And just recently ZZTop rocked the Orange Bowl.)  Much better than lousy hip-hop [c]rap.  Or wardrobe malfunctions.

The game itself began as a yawner, but ended up having a pretty exciting final quarter.  In fact the last five minutes were excellent; you had the young gun (Eli Manning) leading the upstart underdogs (Giants) to a last minute touchdown, and then the old veteran (Tom Brady) responding with the undefeated juggernaut (Patriots), but coming up short.  Great stuff.  Oh, and Shirley's tacos were pretty great, too :)

BTW as far as ads; the worst was the Audi ad with the radiator in the bed, a la the Godfather.  The R8 is one awesome car, why not show a minute of it climbing Pike's Peak, accompanied by the roar of its engine?  That would sell way more cars than something dumb that didn't work [and even if it did would insult people].

It's Groundhog Day!  Punxsutawney Phil predicts more winter.  So be it.  I cannot hear "Groundhog Day" without hearing Sonny and Cher singing "I got you babe".  And smiling :)

5:59 - it's Groundhog day!Jamie Zawinsky must have been bored yesterday; he figured out in laborious detail that Bill Murray's character lived in Groundhog day for at least four years.  Seems worth it to end up with Andie MacDowell.  My own view however is that the pacing item would be learning to play the piano that well, which would take rather longer than four years.

The pundits continue to weight in on the Microsoft / Yahoo combination: Fake Steve describes Monkey Boy's three-legged race.  "It's like taking the two guys who finished second and third in a 100-yard dash and tying their legs together and asking for a rematch, believing that now they'll run faster."  A quote which allegedly came from Steve Ballmer (Monkey Boy) himself.

Henry Blodget has a similar view: Why the Yahoo-Microsoft deal will be a disaster.

And Geoffrey Moore called this a long time ago: Competing for Market Share - Maybe.  "In categories where purchases are frequent and switching costs are low, making sacrifices to gain market share is a fool’s errand. There is no way to recoup your investment downstream since each new round of purchases reopens the bidding to all comers."  That would seem to describe the online ad market perfectly.

My own view is that it won't happen; either the DOJ will intervene, or the deal will fall apart during negotiations.  But it will hurt both companies anyway; valuable talent is already leaving Yahoo and MSN.

There's a new programming language out there: Arc.  It is a dialect of Lisp.  "Arc is designed above all for exploratory programming: the kind where you decide what to write by writing it. A good medium for exploratory programming is one that makes programs brief and malleable, so that's what we've aimed for. This is a medium for sketching software."  I would normally ignore such a thing, but the author of Arc is Paul Graham.  He describes some of the key virtues and wants us to take the Arc challenge.

The key virtue of Arc is that it enables programs to be made shorter.  This makes them easier to write and debug, and exposes the logic enabling easier iteration and enhancement.  Interesting.  Of course performance will be a problem - it always is, with Lisp derivatives - but for many applications that might not matter.

That's an interesting segue to a great post I had saved: Why Windows is less secure than Linux.  The two diagrams at right represent system call trace maps; the upper one is Apache on Linux, and the lower one is IIS on Windows.  You can see at a glance that Linux is simpler and more organized, and hence easier to debug and secure.

System call trace map: Apache on Linux
Apache on Linux
(click to enlarge)

System call trace map: IIS on Windows
IIS on Windows
(click to enlarge)


Tuesday,  02/05/08  11:18 PM

So, I'm back from a trip to Vista, and back to blogging. 

It was a tough trip, and a good trip; tough, because I had to do performance reviews, which are hard, and good, because I did them, and it went [I think] pretty well.  I have great people in my team and that makes reviews harder; sure, it is fun to celebrate their skills and accomplishments, but it is hard to find places where they can grow and become even better.  And that to me is the real goal of performance reviews.  So anyway I survived, and now it is back to the wider world.  What's happening?

Democrat vs RepublicanIt's Super Tuesday!  Not to be confused with Super Sunday, I guess, although the results of today's votes will probably affect our lives a bit more than a football game.  McCain and Clinton have won the biggest prizes, California and New York.  This leaves McCain comfortably ahead of Romney, and Clinton uncomfortably ahead of Obama.  (Links are to CNN's excellent election coverage; their web team is doing a nice job this time around.)  I am conflicted about the Democratic candidates, I strongly prefer Obama over Clinton, but I prefer McCain over Obama and I think McCain would defeat Clinton more easily than Obama.  On the other hand McCain vs Obama feels like a can't lose for me (believe it or not, that's how I felt about Gore vs. Bush in 2000).

The also-rans are affecting each party differently; Republican Mike Huckabee (who is still in the race) is doing better than expected, and pulling votes away from Romney, extending McCain's lead, while Democrat John Edwards (who has withdrawn, but who is still on ballets) is pulling votes away from Clinton, closing her lead over Obama.  It would be interesting if all the candidates were still in the race; for example, I think Giuliani would have done well in both California and New York, and probably would have taken more votes from McCain than Romney. 

This is why the timing of primaries matters, and why they should all occur at once.  And don't even get me started on Arnold, who can't run; if he were in the race not only would he have done well in California and New York, he would have done well in either party.  Yes, political system: fail.

Meanwhile the stock market continues to suck air.  I don't think it has much to do with the election, this is a result of the housing bubble and subsequent credit crunch.  I fear it will be worse before it gets better, and the Federal Reserve has pretty much run out of bullets to help.

George Hincapie - a classic classics riderPro cycling team High Road has moved from Germany to the U.S.!  (This is the team formerly known as T-Mobile, famous for their pink kit and in the Lance Armstrong / Jan Ullrich days being Team Discovery's closet competitors.)  High Road is also the present employer of George Hincapie (a classic classics' rider, shown at left).  Their best GC rider is probably Kim Kirchen, who finished 7th overall in the 2007 Tour de France.

A classic?  Apparently the Boston Globe published a paperback entitled "Unbeatable", celebrating the Patriots 19-0 season.  Precelebration is the root of all failure.

Marc Andreessen: Silicon Valley after a Microsoft / Yahoo merger.  "The Microsoft/Yahoo deal, if it happens, means very little for the entrepreneurial climate in Silicon Valley, or the opportunities available to you and your startup."  [ via Brad Feld, who agrees with Marc ]  So, I don't agree; perhaps this merger isn't the end of startups in Silicon Valley, but it will hurt the exit climate.  Bill Burnham agrees in his Take II, and makes a key point: "Indeed the most important party in any deal is not the actual buyer but the second place bidder and Yahoo had seemed to make a career out of being the second place bidder lately."

Mårten Mickos, CEO of MySQL: Why did I change my mind?  Regarding his decision to have MySQL acquired by Sun.  It is an interesting think piece; when people say "it's not about the money", it usually means it was all about the money.  But he makes some great points.  I would have to disagree with him that "users loved it"; I think they accepted it and didn't hate it the way Yahoo users are reacting to the idea of being acquired by Microsoft, but I think they would have preferred MySQL stay independent.

Mark Pilgrim: writing with ease.  In which he writes without "e"s.  I love Mark.


wither DVD?

Wednesday,  02/06/08  08:21 PM

Boldly going where many have gone before, I want to ask you: what do you think is going to happen with movies on DVD?

is going to take over

is going to take over

online downloads
are going to take over

are here to stay

(I have not run a survey since November 2005; I hope this works :)

total votes = 13

  (ended 02/13/08)


Wednesday,  02/06/08  08:38 PM

Today's news is all about yesterday; but really nothing was decided, was it?  McCain is closing in on the nomination, but he was before yesterday, too, and Huckabee's strong showing kind of adds a new feature.  Clinton and Obama are still neck and neck, with Clinton still ahead, and Obama still closing.  I was staggered to read that Obama lost Silicon Valley to Clinton; just about everyone I know is an Obama fan.  I must not know "everyone" :)

Glenn Reynolds links Conservatives dropped the ball, and notes: "Now over the next few years you can look for - and do the work to elect - some good governors who might make Presidents that you'll like better than McCain or Romney, and do the other bits of hard work it takes to make a difference. Or you can just complain a lot on the Internet. Your choice!"  So here in California we did this already - we even recalled a bad governor so we could elect a good one - and yet he can't run, so we just have to complain a lot on the Internet.  Way back in 2004 I predicted it would be Arnold vs Obama.  I was wrong.

your speed = 167I saw this picture in a Google search result, and couldn't resist posting it.  I promise, it was not me!  Must have been Joe Walsh :)

Yamaha RX-Z11 receiverSo here we have some receiver porn; Yamaha's new RX-Z11 home entertainment system.  As much as I love the front, it is the back that really gets my heart beating.  (Click pic to enlarge.)  Look at all those HDMI inputs!  Not to mention a full iPod interface and network connectivity to Windows Media.  My technolust is overwhelming.

Some Dutch inventors have created a robot that automatically fills your car with gas. "...the bot can apparently identify cars as they pull up, and reference them against a database to determine the type of fuel cap and the fuel type to use, which should avoid any mishaps."  Excellent.  What a great time to be alive :)

John Gruber excellently fisks Jerry Yang's internal memo to Yahoo employees regarding the Microsoft acquisition offer.  "We very much want to say 'no' but can't figure out how without triggering a shareholder revolt."  I want them to say "no", too, but can't figure it out either....

P.S. When I saw this post in my RSS reader, the pseudo subject was "shitting our pants".  Upon loading the page, I saw John had changed it to "spinning our wheels".  Now it has been changed back.  Much better.

The Yahoo debate reminds me to link David Sacks' excellent post on TechCrunch: It's the Bread, not the Peanut Butter.  My ex-PayPal colleague shows how Google and Facebook have redefined portals, moving traffic away from Yahoo, AOL, and MSN.  (Can you remember when portals were the most valuable properties on the web?  I can...)  His main point is that value is shifting from Browsing to Searching to Sharing.  Google's recently unveiled Social Graph API is evidence that they see this the same way.  Yahoo made it from Browsing to Searching, sort of, but not to Sharing, although they did try to buy Facebook.  If they had been successful Microsoft would not be able to buy them today, or at least not for $30/share...


Thursday,  02/07/08  10:19 PM

The Ole filter makes a pass...

But first, a quick review of our little wither DVD survey; currently Blu-Ray and online downloads are tied.  I think that reflects the general view of the market.  I can't wait for the new AppleTV direct movie rental feature to become available; I suspect whether it succeeds will determine when online downloads is viewed as the clear winner.  I don't think anyone seriously doubts that eventually online downloads will win; the question is when. 

The general reaction to Super Tuesday, especially now that Romney has withdrawn, has been that it is bad for Democrats.  The reasoning is that McCain can now start running for President, while Clinton and Obama have to continue running for Democratic candidate for President.  I think that's right, but there is another factor; Clinton and Obama are going to get a lot more press in the coming weeks than McCain, helping the winner this fall.

inside Space Shuttle AtlantisDid you realize the Space Shuttle Atlantis took off?  Amazing how commonplace shuttle launches have become.  The picture at right shows astronauts inside the shuttle, getting ready to dock with the International Space Station on Saturday.

The fight for the second click - a great post from Dave Morgan, who runs AOL's Platform A.  About how Google, which now dominates the first click, must begin seeking the second click too in order to maintain their growth.  "Of course, what they don't say is that once they have monetized all of the first clicks that they can, they need to start chasing second clicks. They need growth. Wall Street and their stock price demand it; paying off their heavy capital investments demands it. They need more clicks -- many more clicks."  Click.

I, Cringley weighs in on the Microhoo deal: The men behind the curtain.  He feels Microsoft aspires to become G.E., and opines "killing Google isn't the point for Microsoft".  If you work for Yahoo, or are a Yahoo customer (as I am), this is a rather more hopeful take than others'; it implies Microsoft might leave Yahoo alone.  I hope so, because the acquisition appears inevitable.

I saw where Joshua Lederberg has died.  The father of bacterial genetics, a true scientific pioneer.  This follows the recent passing of Judah Folkman, another scientific pioneer who discovered the now-common technique of treating cancer by cutting off blood flow to tumors.


Saturday,  02/09/08  11:11 AM

Upcoming: the Butterfield Double CenturySo today I am going to do a  l o n g  ride, in preparation for next weekend, on which I am planning to do a  r e a l l y  l o n g  ride, my first double, the Butterfield Double Century.  Last weekend I did a 300K, which is "only" 185 miles.  Why do I do these rides?  I'm not sure.  It isn't fun at the time, but it is fun later.  More evidence that "fun" really consists of anything that makes you feel better about yourself.  I think it is part of a hopeless endeavor to prove to myself that I'm not really getting older :)

Wow: WSJ reports Yahoo board to reject Microsoft bid.  And will propose that the company is worth $40/share.  I didn't see that coming, did you?  I guess this is their attempt to bid against themselves...  I doubt it will work, there are probably plenty of shareholders who want the deal at $31/share.

Has the Archbishop gone bonkers?  Thank you for asking.  The answer is yes.

Wisconson traffic jam in snowYes, traffic is bad in California, but nothing like this: A 2,000 car pileup in Wisconsin that lasted 12 hours.  Bad weather, sure, but reading the reports it seems the State Patrol's response was slow and ineffective.  Glad the sun is out here :)

Panda's Thumb: Reconstruction of Ancestral Proteins.  "Yesterday a really cool paper came out in the journal Nature that demonstrates why evolutionary theory is so useful and fruitful in biology. A team of researchers has recreated an ancestral bacterial protein to determine that the ancestral bacteria grew in hot water around 3.5 billion years ago."  This kind of research is happening more and more often, and in addition to the valuable basic research provides a great retort to those who think evolutionary theory "isn't useful".

It had to happen: Polaroid shutters the Polaroid.  What an amazing technology it was!  But "Polaroid failed to embrace the digital technology that has transformed photography, instead sticking to its belief that many photographers who didn't want to wait to get pictures developed would hold onto their old Polaroid cameras.

What's fascinating is that they're still skating to where the puck used to be, here's their new strategy: "As it seeks to gain a foothold in digital photography this year, Polaroid plans to sell an 8-ounce photo printer slightly bigger than a deck of cards that requires no ink and prints business card-sized pictures. It uses thermal printing technology from Zink Imaging, founded by private investors who bought technologies from Polaroid as it was coming out of bankruptcy."  I view printing pictures as a dead-end technology; clearly we're going to end up with display screens on everything.  Who carries around snapshots when you can have an iPhone?  Weird how you can't see the forest for the [dead] trees sometimes...

Dallol crater in EthiopiaPatterns in Nature!  Check out this picture of Dallol crater in Ethiopia.  Looks like something from a video game :)  The rest of the National Geographic photo series is worth checking out, too...




riding up rockstore

Saturday,  02/09/08  08:02 PM

I ended up riding up the [infamous] Rockstore climb.  From my house this is a 30mi loop, about 15 miles to reach the climb, 3 miles up, and then 12 miles back.  This ride also features a couple of smaller climbs and a spiffy descent down Decker Canyon, as well as some nice flat powering, so it has a little of everything.  And it is beautiful!  This is some of the best riding anywhere...

BTW I'm not the only one who thinks so; check out this article from Competitive Cyclist, reporting on Team CSC's training in these very hills: "The general area around Agoura Hills - our understanding is that it basically straddles the Ventura/Los Angeles County line - might possibly hold the best riding in America.  In previous years we've logged big miles around Encinitas, Santa Barbara, and San Francisco, and we're fond of all those places.  But none of them matches the mix of savage climbing, spectacular scenery, and lack of traffic we found around Agoura Hills."

I thought you might enjoy some snaps of the ride, so I whipped out my trusty Treo; here ya go...

The start! - the iconic Rock Store itself, with the usual posse of Harleys...

Starting metrics: 630ft, 14.5mi.

It starts "slow"...

Ouch, that first turn, and the road tilts up.

Yes Virginia, this is a climb.  But "only" 7% here.

The road curves around a lot - now we're heading right at the summit.

This is a cool curve, literally, shaded by a big rock.

This straight section is the calm before the storm...

...and now we really start climbing.

On and on it goes, fortunately there is some shade.

Peeking back down into the valley where we started.

Back up we go, again headed at the summit - and the sun.

More shade, whew.  The road winds all around itself.

Cresting the steepest section yet.  11%, baby, and feels like more.

Almost there!  The last curve.
This is popular with motorcycles, who take it at speed.

Another look down - we've come a long way!

A tribute to Lance - way cool.  But we're not quite there yet.

One last straight to the top, with an overlook at the left.

Powered cycles congregate at the overlook.

The top!  Yay!

{One day I rode up here and found a bunch of emergency vehicles, a Ferrari had just hit a motorcycle head-on.  The Ferrari was totalled and the cycle was, well, a ball of metal.  Very sobering.  I think about it every time I reach this spot.}

Final metrics - 1920ft (+1290), 16.9mi (+2.4). Kanan...

...a climb and some rollers later, down Decker!

Google Earth: Rockstore climb
And finally, a Google Earth view of the Rockstore climb.

So that was really fun, guess what I'm doing tomorrow?  The Amgen Breakaway from Cancer charity ride!  Which is a fifty mile loop around Thousand Oaks and Agoura Hills, featuring - ta da - the famous Rockstore climb.  Stay tuned for a full report :)


Sunday,  02/10/08  07:20 PM

Today was a good day; I rode with my friends Mark and Peter in the Amgen Breakaway from Cancer ride (50 miles) and the weather was perfect.  (Meanwhile, in the Midwest, not so perfect; brrr...)  Then I fixed a nasty bug, and am working on some stuff which is way past due finally.  All good.  And in the wider world...

Why John McCain might just win.  Isn't it weird that the Democrats have squandered their huge lead?  A year ago nobody would have given any Republican candidate a chance.

Mike Arrington analyzes the "no" from Yahoo.  "It sure does look like Yahoo grew a pair over the last week, and that this 'no' may really just be a 'no'... Whatever happens, this is great stuff. Yahoo is being bold. It may be a whimper, but it’s a bold whimper. And I'm damned excited to see what happens next."  He also noted Microsoft's $80B headache.  Since the Yahoo offer was made public, Microsoft's market cap has dropped by $38B, nearly what they offered for Yahoo.  So that means they're really offering $80B.  Wow.  And finally, the latest rumor is that Yahoo might merge with AOL.  I'm not as down on that as Mike is; I think I'd rather see AOLhoo than Microhoo.

Wired's first issueJohn Battelle notes Wired Magazine's 15th anniversary.  Wow 15 years!  And I've been a subscriber for every issue; I actually remember that first issue, it was so different, and exotic!  Quoting from Wired was a sure way to say "I'm cool".  They've hung in there pretty well, I wouldn't say they are [yet] Tired, despite Conde Naste having bought them.  The worst thing about the magazine today is the worst thing about almost all magazines these days, the relentless liberal politics.

CERN consoleRobertScoble on the Large Hadron collider.  Way cool.  He also links a bunch of pictures he took while at CERN, including the console at right.

Can I just say, it is so nice to have a text post, Robert.  I'm telling you, maybe a whole bunch of people watch your videos, but there's no substitute for a good old fashioned text post....


universal healthcare

Sunday,  02/10/08  08:14 PM

Here's a theory for you to disregard completely...  Universal healthcare is bad. 

I've felt this for some time, but re-thought about it recently upon reading Dave Winer's post about Debating healthcare in 2008.  Dave and I disagree about most things related to politics, and this is no exception.  {He simplifies things to Republicans = bad, Democrats = good, and stops there.}  Implicit in his thinking is that of course universal healthcare is something we all want, and that the debate is over how to get it.  A lot of people think that way, and all those people are wrong.

Universal health care is like universal anything, a leveler.  It is communism, pure and simple; the worst off get more, and the best off get less.  As one of the best off – and more to the point, as someone who has worked hard to be better off – I personally want the best I can get.  I am not sympathetic to those who can't afford the best health care, it is what it is.  I’m not ready to give everyone cars as nice as mine, either.

If you think this isn't true, consider that health care in the U.S. is the best in the world, for those who can afford it.  Better than the U.K., better than Canada, better than the Netherlands.  In those countries there is no private profit motive for healthcare providers which drives them to be best.  Good thing for them they have the U.S. market pushing technology of which they can then take advantage.

What is also true is that health care in the U.S. is not as good as other countries for those who can't afford it.  That's because good health care is too expensive.  So the question is, how to make it more affordable.  And the answer is, let the market figure it out.

The best thing we could do for health care is to get the government out of it.  Right now in the U.S. most pricing for most procedures is fixed by Medicare – the famous CPT codes.  Insurers are all driven by these.  The existence of these codes prevents the market from lowering prices through greater supply, and from raising supply through greater demand.  There is no monopoly; there are plenty of health care providers out there, and if freed from government intervention some would move to the high end, and others to the low end.  Pricing would match the market segments, and it would be easier for people at the low end to get health care.  You could have the government provide a basic level to everyone - economically - as a sort of welfare.  (Just like they subsidize education and phone access.)

Yes, I am advocating getting ride of Medicare.  Really.  The government should not be administering this ginormous retirement plan with health benefits for everyone.  It is massively inefficient and incredibly expensive.  Every single person who receives Medicare benefits could have saved that money themselves through a privately managed 401k-type plan, and would have incredibly more money for [private] medical insurance.  And those insurance policies would be a lot less expensive without the government's regulation.

Health care is just like anything else, the economics work just the same.  When you argue for universal health care, substitute something else to think about it clearly.  (Universal cars.  Universal food.  Universal housing.  Universal computers.)  In the best scenario the low end gets less, the high end gets more, but everybody gets something.  And that happens without any government intervention.

It's the American Way.


Monday,  02/11/08  09:14 PM

Big wheel keep on turning, proud Mary keep on burning, rolling, rolling, rolling on the internets...

So today I was inundated with spam.  I don't mean I received a few hundred, no, in the space of two hours I received over 4,500 spams.  All were rejects bounced from other servers that had been sent from fake addresses on my domain (if these were the rejects, can you imagine how many got through!)  It was a load test on SpamBayes, but kind of sobering; for a while there it amounted to a DOS attack.  Worryingly there is no barrier at all to this stuff increasing by orders of magnitude.  Someday someone will fix email, and they will make $BIG.

Powerline notes a McCain endorsement worth paying attention to.  (John Bolton!)

Netflix picks Blu-Ray.  Well, that should cook HD-DVD's goose, but the victory will be short lived, as iTunes is on deck.  In a few years we'll be saying "remember Blu-Ray?"  Think it won't happen?  Remember laser discs?

P.S. Have you voted in our wither DVD survey?  Just a few days left!

We had a nice day out here in So Cal, but it was a bit chillier in International Falls40 below zero.  That is serious.

The Selfish GeneGNXP notes Richard Dawkins is retiring.  One of my all time intellectual heroes.  His work will last many lifetimes, and I suspect will be increasingly appreciated for its singular greatness as time passes.  The Selfish Gene was first published thirty years ago, yet it remains as accurate and relevant as ever.

Everyone is talking about the Microsoft response to the Yahoo "no".  I like Tim Oren's take: What about the customers?  Oh, yeah, them.  "It's incumbent on management to offer some clear way ahead to restore shareholder value.  If it's not forthcoming, tired investors in YHOO will be justified in selling their shares to Microsoft.  The result will be a disaster to both companies and their customers."  Ouch.

Meanwhile Apple has brought out an update to Leopard.  John Gruber: "Unless I’m missing something, 10.5.2 addresses all of the top 'WTF?' UI complaints about Leopard."  Contrast to Microsoft's tin ear regarding Vista, and then ask yourself if Tim Oren isn't right about Yahoo customers' fate.

So this is completely awesome, check out this site.  HEMA is a Dutch department store.  The first store opened on November 4, 1926, in Amsterdam.  Now there are 150 stores all over the Netherlands.  HEMA also has stores in Belgium, Luxemburg, and Germany.  Take a look at HEMA's product page.  You can't order anything and it's in Dutch but just wait a couple of seconds and watch what happens.  This company has a sense of humor and a great computer programmer.

Windows firewallThe Windows Firewall.  Now that's funny :)

Winding RoadAs a sometime car buff I love Winding Road magazine; in the latest issue they have the best possible picture as an endleaf.  (Please click to enlarge.)  I love it.




Wednesday,  02/13/08  09:59 PM

Gone again, back again.  A good trip, but it's good to be back.

While I was out, the good folks frequenting the Money Saving Expert forum conducted an impromptu load test on my blog; apparently they like the Paper Art exhibition (over 5,000 page views today).  Great, except that page has 26 big images.  Bandwidth was scarce, sorry if you experienced slowness or downness.

Oh, and there is a lot going on out there...  let's take a look...

AppleTV guided tourThe great Wither DVD survey has wrapped up; unsurprisingly online downloads won, with 45% of the votes, followed by Blu-Ray with 30%.  Meanwhile Apple have just released the AppleTV 2.0 update, which enables an AppleTV to act as a video-on-demand settop box, including downloading HD-quality movies.  I haven't had a chance to upgrade mine or try this yet; stay tuned.  For now check out the Apple guided tour or PVRblog's review: "Overall in the short time I've been able to play with Apple TV 2.0, I've seen a lot to like and the biggest change is definitely the feeling that this is now a standalone device that I can use to browse photos and look for podcasts and it's not simply a container for my downloaded music and movies like it was before."

This is incredible: Randall Parker reports UCLA group turns skin cells into embryonic cells.  "This research helps to get around the opposition to embryonic stem cell research. But these results also demonstrate progress in understanding cellular differentiation."  Excellent.  Who needs stem cells?

LGF on Obama's CheGuevara-gate: Outside the beltway and off the rails.  As always, it isn't the act, it's the cover up that gets you in trouble.  I could have well believed Obama wasn't responsible for the posters and that he doesn't support Che Guevara in any way, but his response to the affair raises some questions.

Parpec VirbacCongratulations to Parpec Virbac, who have won the Barcelona World Race.  "Jean Pierre Dick and Damian Foxall have crossed the finish line at 20h 49.49 GMT in the port of Barcelona and officially are the winners of the first edition of the Barcelona World Race."  Not only a race of speed, but of survival; and what a beautiful yacht; looks like a giant racing dingy.  (Click pic to enlarge.)

I can't actually believe this: ASO have banned Astana from the Tour de France.  That means three of the top GC riders, Contador, Leipheimer, and Kloden will not participate.  And neither will Johan Bruyneel, DS for eight TDF winners, who has never had a rider banned for doping.  This makes zero sense.  On Velonews, nobody else thinks so either.  Fortunately the Vuelta quickly said Astana were welcome there.  Stay tuned, this will be a wild ride.

Oh, and meanwhile both Slipstream and High Road, the two U.S. top-level teams, were invited to Paris-Nice.  This probably means ASO will invite them to participate in the Tour also.  So at least Hincapie will be in it.

I wonder if this means Rabobank won't be invited either?  That would mean no Menchov.  With all those guys out, you could just give the yellow jersey to Cadel Evans right now...

iPhone: Flash coming?So, is Flash coming to the iPhone?  Andru Edwards says yes, John Gruber says no, and then later expounded on the background politics.  I agree about the politics, but I'm not so sure about Flash; there isn't a desktop web and a mobile web, only one web, and on that web Flash is pretty important.  In fact one of the main reasons people use Flash is so their apps are cross-platform, by which everyone means "supports Macs in addition to PCs".  I would think Apple wants all those apps to work on iPhones, too.  Anyway stay tuned, we'll all find out soon.

GM lost $38B last year.  Wow.  They're toast.  It is now only a matter of when, not if...

Uno, top dog at WestminsterThere's a new top dog at Westminster: everyone's barking about Uno.  He is cute.

An incredible story: The White Lobster.  "People here don't have to work. Every week, sometimes every day, 35kg sacks of cocaine drift in from the sea. The economy of this entire town of 50,000 tranquil souls is addicted to cocaine."  From the department of unintended consequences!  [ via John Robb ]


happy Valentine's

Thursday,  02/14/08  07:07 PM

Valentine's chocolate

To Shirley, Nicole, Jordan, Alexis, Megan, my Mom, Millie, and our whole family:

Have a Wonderful Valentine's Day!

I hope yours is/was wonderful, too.  I have heard that Valentine's Day is one of the most stressful days of the year; I can well believe it.  I hope it isn't/wasn't too stressful for you.  I am looking forward to a nice dinner, some nice wine, (maybe some nice chocolate :), and a nice movie, all here in my nice little house.  Pretty nice :)


Friday,  02/15/08  07:20 AM

Valentine's chocolateYes, I did have a nice Valentine's Day, thanks for asking.  Shirley made a fantastic dinner (filet on puff pastry with Fois Gras) which we enjoyed with a '94 Mayacamus Cabernet, and then we had some delicious Sauternes (with chocolate) while re-watching Hitch.  I hope yours was as nice.

Meanwhile, it's all happening...

Henry Waxman swears off earmarks.  "'We have a problem in Congress,' Waxman said. 'Congressional spending through earmarks is out of control.'"  Good for him.  He's the congressman for the district adjacent to mine, and generally a good guy.

Cycling news has a nice preview of the Tour of California which starts tomorrow.  Go Levi!

There is ongoing fallout from ASO's decision not to invite Astana to race in the Tour de France; you can read more here.  I am beginning to think this decision wasn't as political as I thought; they are really scared of having another scandal.  Two years ago Floyd Landis won, then was disqualified later for doping (a finding I still dispute), and then last year Michael Rasmussen was pulled while leading, and many other riders were disqualified during the Tour.  I guess they felt they had to do something to show they were serious.

The whole Second Life experiment in building a society is pretty interesting.  They began 100% libertarian, but it seems more and more regulation is being imposed, to combat various tragedies of commons.  "Does this mean the Lindens are rejecting libertarianism as a failed experiment? Maybe. Just as likely, they're doing this mainly in preparation for the time when the Second Life servers will be open sourced. That's when the libertarians will move their unregulated banks, controversial sex, and other banned content to adjoining nations."  I look forward to the Darwinian competition between worlds :)

Meanwhile in First Life (the real world), Rowan Williams has shown us why multiculturism must be abandoned.  I fully agree.  Its starts out sounding good, but by the time you end up with separate schools, separate courts, and separate laws, it breaks down completely.  Kind of like the situation in Second Life, but with actual pain and suffering.

Indiana JonesAre you ready for Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull?  I am!  [ via of all things, TechCrunch ]

TTAC: The insider's guide to speed enforcement, aka what to do when you're pulled over.  If you're me, knowing this is important :)

Philip Greenspun on Internet Software Patents.  "In the Internet software patents that I've looked at, a pattern has emerged. Someone takes a fairly standard business process and says 'I'm the first person ever to have done this with a computer' and patents it."  Repeat after me: patents are bad, copyrights are good.

I can see why they would do this, but yuk - Google toolbar hijacks 404 pages.  This is better than ISPs doing it, somehow, but it feels icky.  I don't use the Google toolbar anymore, and this kind of creepy nannyism is part of the reason (modern browsers have a built in search bar anyway, so you really don't need it).

BTW Firefox Beta 3 version 3 is out.  I've been using Beta 3 for a while, and it works great.  The only downside is that some plugins are incompatible, or say they are incompatible; you need another plugin to disable the compatibility checks :)


Friday,  02/15/08  10:27 PM

Spore!Wired: Why Spore will be huge.  "Imagine all the possible interactions. You might have people creating creatures just to put them into movies. And you might have hardcore gamers just playing the game and exploring space. But then they might come across those characters, who've been pollinated into their worlds automatically. And then they'll click on the creature and be able to see who made it, and bring up the Sporepedia then and there to see what else this person has done, and they'll be able to watch their machinima on YouTube, right in the game."  Okaaay.

Salmonella in 3DThis is cool: Fighting lethal diseases with 3D snapshots of their pathogens.  "These cheery loops and swirls may look like confetti, but don't celebrate. It's a close-up of deadly Salmonella typhimurium, just one of a set of protein blueprints drawn from some of the most lethal diseases on the planet, killers like cholera and anthrax. The idea: If you can get a good look at the proteins, you can find places where other molecules — aka drugs — can latch on and exterminate the bugs."  Excellent.  And the bugs are even cool looking.

I wonder if Spore is going to allow pathogens to be designed :)

From the ESA website: Titan’s surface organics surpass oil reserves on Earth.  "Saturn’s orange moon Titan has hundreds of times more liquid hydrocarbons than all the known oil and natural gas reserves on Earth, according to new Cassini data. The hydrocarbons rain from the sky, collecting in vast deposits that form lakes and dunes."  Excellent news - just one more reason why I want to visit Titan!

Speaking of space - and hydrocarbons - here's an interview with Elon Musk, founder of SpaceX (private space travel), and Tesla (electric cars).  Also my ex-CEO at PayPal and an all around amazing guy.  Oh, and he has five kids under the age of five :)

Bentley BrooklandsKind of the anti-Tesla: TTAC reviews the Bentley Brooklands.  "If you're a student of serious horsepower, hand-stitched pampering and tightly focused branding, Wakefield's luxury car liturgy will be music to your ears."  Not to mention, it's beautiful!

eSkeptic: Journalist Bites Reality.  "To argue that a decided sloppiness has crept into journalism or that the media have been 'hijacked by [insert least favorite political agenda]' badly misses the real point; it suggests that all we need to do to fix things is filter out the gratuitous political spin or rig the ship to run a bit tighter. In truth, today's system of news delivery is an enterprise whose procedures, protocols, and underlying assumptions all but guarantee that it cannot succeed at its self described mission. Broadcast journalism in particular is flawed in such a fundamental way that its utility as a tool for illuminating life, let alone interpreting it, is almost nil."  Sad but true; a great article, please read the whole thing.  [ via Tim Oren ]


I did it! - 200 miles!!

Sunday,  02/17/08  09:32 AM

Yesterday I completed my first double century - the Butterfield!  I am rather proud of myself.  This makes the third long ride I've done this year; I started with a 200K (125mi), then did a 300K (185mi), and now, a full double.  Took me about 13:15 in riding time, 15:20 overall, with about 9,200' of climbing.  Unfortunately most of that vertical was in the last 50 miles, in the dark, after my legs were nicely toasted.  But I made it.

Here's a picture of me at about 120 miles, when I was still able to smile:

at the 120 mile mark

Actually I was able to smile at the end, too.  And better yet, I'm able to smile today.  I am a bit sore, but not amazingly so.

Onward!  I have to complete at least two more doubles this year to become a triple crown winner...  stay tuned!


Sunday,  02/17/08  07:40 PM

I must tell you, I've spent the whole day feeling proud of myself for riding the 200 yesterday.  I hope it doesn't wear off.  More evidence for the "fun is anything that makes you feel good about yourself" theory.

Meanwhile, the Ole filter makes a pass... 

Fabian CancellaraCongratulations to Fabian Cancellara, winner of the Tour of California prologue.  Incredibly these athletes rode 2.5 miles at an average speed of 35mph.  I cannot go 35mph for six feet, trying as hard as I can, and I'm a decent rider.  Cycling is one of those sports where the pros are incomprehensibly better than good amateurs.

BTW in case you didn't know Versus are broadcasting each stage live.  Phil and Paul, here in California!

While reading about today's TOC prologue, I learned about Specialized's Innovate or Die contest.  The winning entry is a tricycle with a built in water tank, that filters the water as you ride.  Now that's cool.

Aston Martin start buttonHere's a question for the audience: What makes having a Start button in a car so cool?  I know they are cool, but why?  It isn't as if the technology here is so breathtaking; this is a simple button.  I have a friend with a Corvette, and he loves his start button.  Weird, huh?

Powerline notes the Iranian government's attempts to influence the Dutch government to suppress Geert Wilder's movie about Muslim violence.  "It is extraordinary for the government of one nation to instruct the government of another as to what movies it may permit to be shown within its own country. I can't, offhand, think of any precedent."  This could make the whole Danish cartoon controversy seem tame - which after dying down a bit, has recently resulted in seven days of rioting by "youths".  (BTW have you noticed how Reuters carefully avoids any mention that the "youths" in question are Muslims?)

Wired most-excellently notes: HD-DVD Death Made Official. Downloads To Kill Blu-Ray Next.  "This leaves Blu-Ray as the presumptive victor in the irrelevant optical disk format war. It now must face up to the real competition: the continuing success of DVD and the growing popularity of downloads, both on the internet and on-demand cable TV."  Indeed.

Last night I re-watched The Italian Job, downloaded in HD from the iTunes movie store.  It was easy, and looked and sounded great.  I had to wait about 10 minutes before I could watch it.  This happens to be a movie I already owned, so I could compare quality.  The iTunes version was way better.


nano art

Monday,  02/18/08  07:10 PM

Entries for SPMAGE07, an art contest in Spain, recognizing the contributions of
Scanning Probe Microscopes.

Via Wired magazine which published a selection of these images.

nano rings - first place

"nano rings"
first place

red blood cells - second place

"red blood cells"
second place

root - third place

third place

integrated circuits - fourth place

"integrated circuits"
fourth place

daisy flowers - fifth place

"daisy flowers"
fifth place

quantum forest

"quantum forest"



e. coli

"e. coli"







bromine atoms

"bromine atoms"



red blood cells

"blood cells"


Tuesday,  02/19/08  10:55 PM

Sometimes you get a chance to meet someone in meatspace after having been longtime friends in cyberspace, and so it was for me tonight as I met Josh Newman, film producer, and self-aggrandizer extraordinaire, over a skirt steak at the Border Grill.  It was really fun, and I found him to be much the same as I expected (with perhaps 112% less egotism :).  Cool.

Robin TrowerI've found my musical taste moves in waves; just now I have found myself listening with pleasure to Robin Trower.  I have loved his music forever, but go for long periods where I don't listen to it anymore.  Then tonight driving I came upon Man of the World at random, cranked it, loved it, and switched to an all-Trower set.  I'm listening to it now - that guitar is wailing - can you pick it up in the way I blog?

An oldie but goodie: Paul Graham's Six principles for making new things.  "Here it is: I like to find (a) simple solutions (b) to overlooked problems (c) that actually need to be solved, and (d) deliver them as informally as possible, (e) starting with a very crude version 1, then (f) iterating rapidly."  A most excellent schema for innovation.  Of these, I think (e) and (f) are crucial; more projects get derailed by over-ambition than anything else.

This is delightfully recursive: TechCrunch asks Will YouNoodle predict its own inevitable failure?  The startup business version of the Epiminides Paradox!  ("This sentence is false.")

Stanford Linear AcceleratorWired posted a nice pictorial tour of the Stanford Linear Accelerator.  Classic big science!  Isn't it amusing that to detect really small things you need to make really big things?

Clive Thompson asks the question: Why do Beluga whales enjoy the clarinet note G?  That's an excellent question!  Easier to answer is the related question, why do I read Clive's blog; he links some really interesting stuff!

And here's another; did you know Hiccups due to our fish ancestry, a post about a cool new book Your inner Fish.  "Spasms in our diaphragms, hiccups are triggered by electric signals generated in the brain stem. Amphibian brain stems emit similar signals, which control the regular motion of their gills. Our brain stems, inherited from amphibian ancestors, still spurt out odd signals producing hiccups that are, according to Shubin, essentially the same phenomenon as gill breathing."  See, understanding evolution helps us answer the hard questions.

I've probably over-covered this now, but ArsTechnica piles on With HD DVD dead, Blu-ray's next threat is digital downloads.  Meanwhile Wired wonders Is Apple Ready to Bust a Blu-ray Move?  It is an interesting question; in some sense Apple's iTunes Movie Rentals are Blu-Ray's biggest competition, but I don't think Apple benefits from not supporting Blu-Ray; probably this comes down to something simple, like whether their customers want it.  Speaking for myself, I have no desire to have a Blu-Ray drive on my laptop.  What would I do with it?  Watch movies?

my original 5GB iPodSpeaking of old technology (like optical media :), I have two original 5GB iPods, the very first ones that started it all, and I've decided to sell one on eBay.  You, too, can own a piece of history...  operators are standing by.  Maybe I'll even throw in a little Robin Trower :)

I haven't sold anything on eBay recently, and I must say that website is getting awfully crufty.  I've always liked eBay because I am a gadget guy; I buy the next newest thing and then sell the last newest thing.  Over the years the site has gotten harder and harder to use, with a million little nickel and dime "features".  Someone should design an eBay-lite which front-ends the website but eliminates all the cruft.  At this point, it is too hard to use.

InfoWorld has a "save Windows XP campaign".  I am not making this up.  And I hope they are successful; I plan to stick with XP until something better comes along, and I do not define "something better" as Vista.  Microsoft have announced they are going to stop selling XP on June 30, but I doubt very much they'll stick to this.

Meanwhile Microsoft has released XP SP3 RC2 for public beta.  This is much more interesting to me than Vista SP1 :)  Although I must say, I like trying betas of things I use, but not operating systems.  Installation and fallback take too long.


nano morals

Wednesday,  02/20/08  06:55 PM

Did you enjoy the nano art gallery I posted a couple of days ago?  Did you feel like maybe you were doing something wrong by viewing it?  Or that the technology which yields such pictures was somehow wrong?  No?

Well you might be interested to hear that two-thirds of Americans think nanotechnology is morally unacceptable.  "In a sample of 1,015 adult Americans, only 29.5 percent of respondents agreed that nanotechnology was morally acceptable."  These people don't think it doesn't work, or won't work, or can't work, or has dangers, or anything like that; no, they think it is morally unacceptable.  This could be the most dramatic evidence yet for Unnatural Selection; it seems the IQ level of our fellow citizens has plummeted.  I am always astonished by evolution-denial, but this is even more astonishing.  My goodness.  Morally unacceptable.

I can't wait for someone to take out a Bible - a series of books written 2,000 years ago by men of that day, and later translated to English by other men of a later but still ancient day - and quote verbatim from some passage they claim "proves" nanotechnology is morally unacceptable.  Well, maybe I can wait.  But I doubt I'll have to wait long.

A good cure for this intellectual hangover is to re-read Richard Feynman's classic 1959 talk: There's Plenty of Room at the Bottom.  His title refers to the fact things could be made orders of magnitude smaller, but it could equally apply to the bell curve of intelligence.


Thursday,  02/21/08  07:26 PM

So about tonight's debate between Obama and Clinton in Texas, can I just say if anything would push me into the arms of John McCain, it is that sort of weak crap, and second, I think Hillary failed to win which is to say Barack won, and thus it looks to me as if it will be McCain vs Obama come November.  Steven Green did a great job of drunkblogging: "Once again, Clinton is asked if she really thinks Obama is unqualified to act as CinC. And once again, she's dodging the question. There's blood in the water, all right - and it's hers. My prediction: Obama will win Ohio and get as-good-as-a-draw or better in Texas. This race is over."  I agree.  Hic.

I would write about the hypocrisy of Hillary and Barack talking about poor downtrodden Americans, but Victor David Hanson already did: Ivy League Populism.  "In these gloom-and-doom narratives by the well off, we less fortunate Americans are doing almost everything right, but still are not living as well as we deserve to be. And the common culprit is a government that is not doing enough good for us, and corporations that do too much bad to us."  This rings so true for me - I am becoming a Republican in my old age!  Who would have thought?

anti=satellite missileDid you ever wonder if Star Wars would work?  Looks like it does; the Navy shot a wayward satellite out of the sky before it could land.  "The missile hit the satellite about three minutes after launch as the spacecraft, roughly the size of a school bus, traveled in polar orbit at more than 17,000 mph."  That's pretty fast for a school bus :)  [ Update: LGF links a YouTube movie showing the hit.  Wow. ]

I love Scott Adams, author of Dilbert, and I love his blog.  But he sometimes misfires badly, usually in connection with politics, which he over-simplifies to the point of absurdity.  Consider Making Decisions, in which he writes "Take the war in Iraq as an example for this method of decision making... I do know for certain that fewer American soldiers would be targets if they left."  Now how does he know that?  We were all targets on 9/11, and could be again if we're not careful.

Levi wins SolvangVelonews' headlines aptly summarize the Tour of California thus far: Astana's Levi Leipheimer takes the lead after third stage of the 2008 Amgen Tour of California, and The Tour of California heads south as the podium battle narrows.  There are now five riders with a chance to win, four of them excellent time trialers: Levi, Fabian Cancellara (13s), David Millar (20s), and Dave Zabriske (21s).  Yeah, I'd say the Solvang time trial tomorrow will be decisive, which is why I'm planning to be there :)

I took the picture at right last year as Levi won the Solvang TT and went on to win the TOC (click pic to enlarge).  I predict the same things will happen again.  Stay tuned!

Speaking of the TOC, here's a great story from a guy who temporarily donated his wheel to help Bobby Julich finish stage 2.  That's really cool.  [ thanks, Adam, for the email link ].

One more cycling note: here's an article on Slowtwitch about CSC's camp in Agoura Hills.  "Bjarne Riis said this was the best Winter camp his team had ever had. Better than Solvang? Yes. Better than the South of France and Mallorca and all of that? Yes, the best. Very good climbs."  Bet your ass - that's my daily stomping ground.  Where else would you live?

Liron Shapira is someone I've never physically met; we've exchanged a lot of email over the years, and linked each other's blogs.  I think he was fifteen when we started, and now he's teaching a course at Berkeley called X-treme Thinking.  Very cool; reading the course notes, it seems like a class I would like to take.  Check it out.

Brad Feld thinks the momentum behind software patent reform is building.  That would be nice.

Joel Spolsky: Why the Microsoft Office file formats are so complicated.  There are some good reasons, as Joel notes, but also some bad ones; a result of the fact that Microsoft hires smart but inexperienced programmers.  I believe Joel was one of them himself :)


(New Yorker - 02/21/08)

Thursday,  02/21/08  08:12 PM

how Grandma sees the remote


This is so true.


Saturday,  02/23/08  06:54 PM

Levi and me - on TV!I'm back!  After two hectic and wonderful days of watching the Tour of California...  Friday I was at the Solvang Time Trial (check out that pic, yeah, that's me applauding Levi Leipheimer on TV), and today I rode to Balcom Canyon to watch the Peleton blow up that unbelievable 18% climb.  Levi came through at the Solvang TT, and now has a solid lead overall.  Nothing is better than a nice ride up a beautiful canyon, then sitting there with thousands of other fans watching a pro peleton demolish the same canyon.  Anyway it was really fun.  Now, back to work!

The Macbook Air is getting a lot of well-deserved "air time" for its amazing design, but Tom's Hardware wonders Has Lenovo created the "perfect" laptop?  "In many ways, the X300 is a much more practical version of a new category of notebook computer we saw launched with the visually aggressive and less compromising Macbook Air and the idea Lenovo has come up with suggests that a new 'Perfect' notebook for our time is approaching quickly and turning into a moving target."  So be it, but great design wins every time...

"great design" posterSpeaking of great design, check out the winners of the "what is graphic design" competition, on Veerle's Blog.  They really are awesome!  [ via Daring Fireball ]  My own favorite entry is shown at left.

colored atomsThis is pretty cool: ScienceDaily reports New Electron Microscope Identifies Individual Color-coded Atoms.  "A new electron microscope recently installed in Cornell's Duffield Hall is enabling scientists for the first time to form images that uniquely identify individual atoms in a crystal and see how those atoms bond to one another. And in living color."  The pic at right shows four different edges in an artificially layered material, with the atoms' colors showing the characteristics of their bonds.

I'm going to guess that the scientists at Cornell who are using this device are not overly concerned with the moral implications of doing so :)


Monday,  02/25/08  11:58 PM

Light posting tonight - I'm on negative time trying to get a project delivered.  I'm too tired now to make much progress on the project, so I might as well blog :)  Judge this post accordingly...

George Hincapie wins the Rose BowlDid you watch Stage 7 of the Amgen Tour of California?  What a great race; the perfect ending to a perfect week.  Big George wins from a 90 mile break in the pouring rain.  That guy is a beast, and the worse the weather gets, the stronger he gets.  And what can you say about Levi, and Astana?  What a great performance.  I loved watching it live on my computer, too; they finally have the Flash front-ends for these events to the point were they really work.

ISS in spacePicture of the day: the ISS hangs in suspended in space, with Earth as a backdrop.  Awesome.  (Click pic to enlarge)  Looks like a scene from a movie!

Dog bites man: Castro rejects idea of political change.  Who would have predicted that?

Wired: Free - why $0.00 is the future of business.  "The rise of 'freeconomics' is being driven by the underlying technologies that power the Web. Just as Moore's law dictates that a unit of processing power halves in price every 18 months, the price of bandwidth and storage is dropping even faster. Which is to say, the trend lines that determine the cost of doing business online all point the same way: to zero."  Go ahead, click through; you can read it for nothing :)

Cory Doctorow characterizes Free as the "divide by zero" problem.  "The market for digital goods isn't a market for goods at all: since the potential customers can choose to get all digital goods for free on the darknet, the digital goods market is actually a digital services market."  Right.

Here we have wiperless windshields, courtesy of that morally repellent nanotech.  There's plenty of room at the bottom.

I am totally perplexed by Twitter, or what's good about it, or why anyone would use it.  But Russell Beattie has a clue: Nearly a million users, and no spam or trolls.  Huh.  Great insight.  (Weird how I completely disagree with Russell on many things, but love reading his opinions anyway.)

Have you been reading about how Google Docs are the latest big threat to Microsoft Office?  Well here's a nice dose of reality: Google Docs is chock full of fail.  The points are well taken.  I'm not switching from desktop apps to web apps for my daily work anytime soon - if ever.

Meanwhile, Internet Explorer 8 is entering beta.  Oh goodie, another incompatible browser to support.  Who ordered that?

line squall over Kansasline squall over KansasWell we had the picture of the day already, so can these be the pictures of the year?  Photos taken of a line squall in Kansas; I swear they do not look real.  WOW.




no country for wussies

Tuesday,  02/26/08  07:15 PM

American FlagOkay, here it is:  As of tonight's debate, I can't stand Clinton or Obama.  What a couple of wussies.  They don't deserve to represent the Democratic Party, and they certainly don't deserve to be President of this awesome country.  They are squabbling over who can best put America down.  Yeah, we have problems, but man we are the greatest country on earth, and we didn't get that way through being wimps.  I can't stand it any more.  John McCain, take me, I'm yours.  And if you can't beat either of these two wussies, we're in big trouble.

PS: This will be the second time in a row that the Democrats squander a golden chance to win the Presidency by managing to end up with a complete wuss as their candidate.

BTW: I'm sorry, but this bothers me and this does too.  I know, they're Halloween costumes, I know... 


Thursday,  02/28/08  10:51 PM

I'm still coding - still trying to deliver something due a week ago.  The key issue is adapting to an industry "standard" which turns out to be, well, wiggly.  Maybe more when I'm done, but in the meantime I can briefly poke my head out and see that it's all happening...

year over year housing startsOne thing that's happening - we're in a recession.  So be it, it happens.  Why is everyone trying so hard not to call it like it is?  The sooner we absorb it, the sooner we'll recover.  And yes, we will recover.

From the New Yorker's Annals of Science: The Numbers Guy.  "According to Stanislas Dehaene, humans have an inbuilt "number sense" capable of some basic calculations and estimates. The problems start when we learn mathematics and have to perform procedures that are anything but instinctive."  This is one reason why charts (like the one at right) at so helpful; they work around our prejudices.

Katherine Mangu-Ward observes The Obama Campaign is full of economists, and yet "according to a new L.A. Times/Bloomberg poll, people think McCain will do a better job handling the economy than Obama".  I agree with Glenn Reynolds that maybe there's no contradiction here... 

I predict that this fall the economy will be a bigger topic of discussion than Iraq, as oil hits $103 a barrel.

Susan Blackmore at TEDThe annual TED conference is taking place, and one of the presenters was Susan Blackmore, author of The Meme Machine, which happens to be one of my favorite books, ever.  "First replicators were genes. Then memes. We now have temes (tech memes) are a third replicator on our planet."  How excellent - I would have loved to see her.  She is a fantastic source of new memes - about memes :)

I love this: Mark Pilgrim on Jumping out of the System.  In which Gödel, Escher, Bach is used to explain why strict XHTML parsing doesn't make sense :)

free cross-over diagramRussell Beattie doesn't think much of Chris Anderson's latest insight (Free).  At least he knows why he keeps getting wired.  "While reading it, however, I was reminded of the fact that I didn't renew my Wired subscription last year, and yet, I still receive the magazine every month. It's nice to see Chris is practicing what he preaches. :-)"  Personally, although I think Free is important, it isn't as insightful as The Long Tail...

Jeff Atwood thinks we shouldn't listen to our users.  His three rules of usability:

  1. Watch what people actually do.

  2. Do not believe what people say they do.

  3. Definitely don't believe what people predict they may do in the future.

Scott Loftesness thinks the iPhone is entering from below.  "Reading this WSJ blog post about Apple's scheduled iPhone briefing next week with a focus on the enterprise, I was struck by how the iPhone just might be a very useful entry strategy for pursuing enterprise opportunities."  Huh.  Could be...

Did you watch the Academy Awards last Sunday?  Me neither.  Nobody does anymore.  Weirdly, I know quite a few people (mostly women) who watched the Oscar pre-game, to see what everyone was wearing, but the show itself has totally jumped the shark.

quadruple layer bikeHere we have the quadruple layer bike.  Wow.  That's just about all I can say.

the original Photoshop iconThe original Photoshop icon.  How excellent!  Much better, in my humble opinion, than the current one...  [ via Daring Fireball ]





Friday,  02/29/08  07:57 AM

Yay, it's a leap day!  How cool is that?

So, I was curious to see what I posted on the last leap day in 2004.  Nothing.  I was in the middle of a six week blog holiday, coding furiously.  Some things never change.

The logical thing to do today would be to go sailing of course - in a 29er :)


Try to do something special today, after all, it will be 1,461 days before the next one!


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this date in:
About Me

Greatest Hits
Correlation vs. Causality
The Tyranny of Email
Unnatural Selection
On Blame
Try, or Try Not
Books and Wine
Emergent Properties
God and Beauty
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