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Archive: August 24, 2008

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goodbye Beijing

Sunday,  08/24/08  09:18 AM

Beijing closing ceremonyWoke up this morning to headlines about the Olympics closing ceremony.  Last night I watched the Men's marathon, by tradition the "last event" in the Olympics, and also the 4x400 relays, which also traditionally come at the end (on "tape", kind of silly since the whole thing was delayed, but somehow the marathon was "live" and the relays were not...).  We'll watch the closing ceremony later today, I can imagine that it will match the opening ceremony for grandeur and spectacle.  

Beijing closing ceremonyI am absolutely uninterested in watching the basketball final (yay, the U.S. won the gold medal, so what) or the volleyball final (yay, the U.S. won the gold medal, so what).  Just now I'm thinking about all the sports I didn't get to see - weight lifting, for example, or the high jump, or [my favorite] the javelin throw.  Archery is an Olympic sport?  Who knew?  The only Taekwondo coverage was some guy who lost his temper and kicked a referee.  In all these sports I guess U.S. athletes weren't among the top performers so NBC didn't include them in their coverage.  We need a new rule; for sports where each match takes a long time, we only show the last ten minutes.  This would include especially volleyball and basketball in all their forms, which took inordinate amounts of time out of the coverage.

Beijing closing ceremonySo the Olympics are over, and I'm sad.  It was great fun, a once-in-four-years amazing cool thing, and now we'll have to wait until 2012 (which seems impossibly far away) for the next one.  I'm sure that one will be great fun too.  (Remember Athens?  I can - barely - but it is a distant memory...  the summer of 2004 was my first big gap in blogging so I didn't blog about it.)  You kind of wish the Olympics could go on forever, but of course if it wasn't so brief and so rare it wouldn't be what it is.

Beijing closing ceremony

Coupled with my kids going back to school, this really is the end of summer, 2008.  So be it, onward!  Goodbye, Beijing, it was amazing.






Sunday,  08/24/08  11:36 AM

Word of the day: Heisenbug.

A bug which is affected by the process of observing it, usually in an effort to get rid of it.  Examples include bugs which only show themselves in Release code, but not Debug, and timing bugs which go away when breakpoints are set or [more insidiously] when logging is activated.  In another variation they occur in the field at customer sites but not in a lab under controlled conditions.

Their possible presence leads to the Heisenbug uncertainty principle: it is never possible to be sure there are no more bugs :)

I am fighting a tenacious Heisenbug just now and wishing I could pause the universe temporarily to examine the server when an error occurs on the client.  I wonder if the developers of The Matrix began this way?

P.S. Yes of course there is a Wikipedia entry for Heisenbugs, as well as Bohrbugs, Mandelbugs, and Schroedinbugs.  And my favorite, the Stotle, “the incorrect output of a computer program that contains no bug”.


Sunday,  08/24/08  11:11 PM

Continuing the "Goodbye Beijing" theme from this morning, I'm about to watch the Olympics closing ceremony...  might be a bit anticlimactic, but then I wasn't expecting the opening ceremony to be that great, and it WOWed me.  Stay tuned for a full report :)

Today I added to my collection of full-text feeds, but with a twist.  There are some aggregation sites whose feeds link to landing pages on the aggregation site, rather than to the aggregated content.  Digg and Techmeme are both examples of this.  So I implemented filters for these feeds, which pass through the feeds largely unchanged but change the links to point directly to the aggregated content.  So now I can use Digg and Techmeme as indexes without having to click through the sites...  yay.

Myst!I am so excited about this: Myst returns on the iPhone.  (I assume it will work on my iToy as well.)  Can you remember the first time you played Myst?  I can - definitely - it was on an old Mac 6100 (the first PowerPC Mac!), at a time when CD-based games were amazing.  The graphics!  The sound!  The innovative animation!  It was really eye-opening...  and I can't wait to experience it again.

EVO n800cSo here's an interesting thing; while spelunking through old blog posts I found this one celebrating my old Compaq Evo laptop.  What's weird is that this post is from June 2003, more than five years ago, and to a first order the specs on that laptop are the same as my laptop today:  2MHz processor, 1.5GB RAM, 60GB hard drive, 100Mb ethernet, 802.11g WiFi, 15" screen at 1400x1050x32.  So PC technology has really stopped moving.  Sure I have a dual-core machine today (2x1.8MHz), with more RAM (2GB), more hard drive space (100GB), Gb ethernet, and 802.11n WiFi, but those are incremental improvements.  Interesting, especially considering the progress made in the previous five years, between 1998 and 2003.

The NYTimes thinks we've reached a turning point for touch screens.  Well, maybe.  I admit they are great for smartphones (like the Centro and more famously the iPhone), but I'm not sure about desktops or even laptops.  I can remember using a light pen, back in the day, and finding it very fatiguing.  And other than the "pinch to zoom" gesture, are they really that useful?

Easter Island observatoryThis is really cool: ten ancient observatories spied from space.  You'll see Stonehenge and Machu Picchu, but the weirdest/coolest to me is Easter Island: "Hundreds of stone statues called moai ring Chile's Easter Island in the remote Pacific Ocean. Almost all face inland, perhaps keeping watch over agricultural villages. But seven of the statues, located at an inland site known as Aku Akivi, gaze out over the ocean to a point on the horizon where the sun sets during the equinox."  That's awesome!

visualizing four dimensionsAs you think back in time to the days of the Easter Islanders, you might find yourself seeing in four dimensions.  ScienceNews links a series of videos which try to explain how you can visualize four dimensions using our three, by analogy to a "flatlander" visualizing three dimensions using only two.  Weird stuff, but pretty cool...

Astrobiology considers the possibility of Life on Titan.  "Titan, the sixth and largest moon of the planet Saturn, is thought to be made largely of ice. Some of that ice may melt during meteor impacts or in underground processes, producing “ice volcanoes” that emit a “lava” containing ammonia mixed with water.  Could tholins formed in Titan’s atmosphere react with liquid water temporarily exposed by meteor impacts or ice volcanoes to produce potentially probiotic complex organic molecules - before the water freezes?"  I can't wait to find out personally when I visit Titan myself :)

space shuttle bed for kidsTen pieces of unusually cool furniture for kids.  Wow, that's just about all I can say.  I would definitely have loved to have a Space Shuttle bed when I was a kid.  In fact, I wouldn't mind having one now, the better to dream of visiting Titan...

Yandex vs Google.  May the best engine win!

Want to speed up Firefox?  Try this.  It worked for me!  [ via razib, who reports "it worked for me" ]




Olympic BYE

Sunday,  08/24/08  11:56 PM

I watched the Olympic Closing Ceremony of the 2008 Beijing Olympics tonight, and WOW, it lived up to the promise of the opening...  really cool!  By this time I guess we're all a bit inured to the spectacle of the bird's nest stadium, and the fireworks, and the pageantry, but when you step back it really is amazing.  My favorite part of the closing was Jimmy Page of Led Zep playing whole lot of love (as part of a show within the show, introducing London as the hosts for the 2012 Olympics); one can only think that the London organizers are scrutinizing these Olympics carefully and wondering how they're ever going to live up to this.  I guess they can't, really; the best they can do is to do their best, and that will probably be pretty good (2012 will be London's third time as host, the first city to have that honor).

I actually think based on my limited knowledge of China that these Olympics did a faithful job of presenting China as China, for better or worse.  They are the largest country on Earth, with an ancient and venerable culture, in the midst of change, and the ceremonies reflected that...  pretty cool.  It was noticeable and probably not accidental that the ceremony begin well organized and structured, as the opening, but then devolved into a wilder somewhat disorganized "party"; an interesting metaphor for what is happening to China as a whole.

In case you missed it, here are some pictures taken of my TV screen, as recorded by my Tivo...  (click each to enlarge)

I guess my reaction after two weeks of watching the Opening Ceremony, all day / all night competition, and Closing Ceremony is...  WOW!



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