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Five O: T minus 2

Monday,  12/01/08  03:11 PM

(... sitting at LAX waiting out a snow delay on my way to Chicago...)

So, today was not the best day.  The details will filter out, this is not the time to recount them.  It all went as well as could be hoped for under the circumstances, but the circumstances themselves were tough.

Not the best way to celebrate Five-O T minus 2, either.  I am off to Chicago to attend the RSNA conference - one of the largest conferences anywhere, with over 60,000 attendees.  Stay tuned for more on that...

 

 

Five-O

Wednesday,  12/03/08  07:15 AM

Five-O!Well, this is it, the big Five-O!  Already I have a few nice emails from friends (thank you).  I must tell you I feel more like 32 than 50, so I think I'm going to switch to hexadecimal :)

It turns out that so far it is much easier and nicer being fifty than worrying about it beforehand, Shirley was right.  We'll see what today brings.


Yesterday was really something; Monday afternoon I flew to Chicago, landed around 11:30PM, reached my hotel around 12:30 (it was the Springhill Suites downtown and it was awful, do not ever stay there), and didn't get to sleep until around 2:00AM. 

Then it was up with the sun (so to speak, it was actually snowing lightly) and off to the galactic RSNA show (Radiological Society of North America), which I'll post about separately - huge as always, interesting, informative, and a chance to catch up with some friends.

RSNA!
The RSNA conference - 62,000 radiologists take over Chicago

At 3:00 I made time for one of my favorite pastimes, walking down Michigan Avenue in the snow, with the shops dressed for Christmas.  Chicago may be cold and windy (and it was) but it is also beautiful.

Michigan ave dressed for Christmas
Michigan Ave dressed for Christmas

Chicago river on a December evening
the Chicago River on a December evening

After my little shopping excursion (yes of course I bought gifts for my girls :) I stopped at the Renaissance Hotel (it is great, stay there if you can; I could not) and ate an early dinner at the Great Street Restaurant, which was amazing.  Beet salad, filet medium rare, Estancia Pinot Noir, flourless chocolate cake.  This was while participating in Aperio's weekly senior staff meeting by 'phone; the only way to do it, right?  And then it was off to O'Hare airport for a late flight back to L.A., landed at 11:30, drove down to Vista and checked into the Holiday Inn at 2:30, and got to sleep at 3:00AM. 

And here I am, blogging!  Happy birthday to me :)

 

 

visiting RSNA

Thursday,  12/04/08  09:15 AM

Last Tuesday I attended the annual RSNA (Radiological Society of North America) conference in Chicago.  You may know, this is one of the largest conferences anywhere, attended by over 60,000 radiologists and featuring the world’s largest trade show for medical equipment.  It always takes place just after Thanksgiving, filling Chicago’s giant McCormick center.  The “booths” of some vendors like GE, Philips, and Toshiba are like small cities, with two story buildings, cafés, coffee bars, and tons of meeting rooms interspersed with the equipment and software on display.

Any one time you go to this conference is fascinating, but it is especially useful to go each year and compare to previous years; you can get a feel for the evolution of the industry and the latest trends.  And this year, the impact of the worldwide economic situation and how it is affecting medical equipment and software.

I often regard Radiology as a leading indicator of what may happen in Pathology, and as time passes more and more of the leading Radiology imaging companies are taking an interest in Pathology (this year GE formed the Omnyx subsidiary with UPMC, Philips incubated an internal digital pathology startup, and Siemens invested in Bioimagene).  It is also interesting to see the evolution in common technologies like displays, projectors, and storage arrays.

Of possible interest, some notes and pics from my visit (please click the pics to enlarge):

  • The attendance at the show was about the same as last year, 62,000 radiologists, and about 700 companies exhibited.  It was notable that a number of spaces on the show floor were empty (companies that had paid for space but decided not to attend) and that the far ends of both halls in McCormick center were occupied by “Bistro RSNA”, an eating area, instead of by exhibitors.

    • Some companies noticeably scaled back their presence, such as Siemens, and some had a large presence but still less than in previous years, such as GE.
    • Of course most companies had planned their presence at RSNA well before the gravity of the economic turndown became apparent. It will be interesting to see the effect next year.
    • Even companies with a large presence brought less people. For example one 3D visualization company brought 150 people to the show last year, many of them as a sort of reward (and to maximize contact with customers). This year they brought 50.
  • Various booth personnel who I asked said that floor traffic was about the same as last year, maybe slightly less. To me the exhibit halls felt like a crowded zoo, as always :)

    • My overall impression was that exhibitors have been affected more by the economic situation than the radiologist attendees.
    • The economy was a major source of discussion, but more from a personal standpoint (how people have individually been affected) than from a business standpoint (how their companies have been affected.
  • The trend toward more software applications continues.  The large “modality” vendors are still there (X-Ray, MRI, CT etc. equipment), but they are being eclipsed in number if not booth size by RIS + PACS vendors, CAD companies, and various other informatics companies such as voice-to-text translators.  It is really hard to believe the industry can support so many companies, [apparently] undifferentiated from each other, at least at the highest level.  Just about every booth contained a three+ monitor setup with a worklist on the left and various images in various stages of manipulation.  The idea that radiology has gone digital is completely accepted.
  • There were a number of “Nighthawk-like” companies, providing outsourced Radiology reading services. Either at night, or offshore, or with some kind of subspecialty. With Radiology being digital, it is clear that Radiology reading can be done remotely, and a whole ecosystem is forming around this. You can imagine the same thing happening in Pathology.

  • An interesting innovation; RSNA’s attendee badges included RFID tags. Every attendee’s whereabouts in the exhibit hall were continuously tracked, and supposedly each exhibitor will get a report of who visited their booth, where they came from, how long they stayed, and where they went afterward. Quite a privacy intrusion, I’m amazed they were able to get away with this without more fuss.

    • It would be useful if they provided attendees with these reports; I’d love to see who-all I visited :)
    • Another useful nice-to-have, a PDA-compatible floor map. The RSNA catalog of exhibitors is too large to carry around, and the online version on the RSNA website uses a plug-in which doesn’t work on PDAs.

  • 3D imaging in general seems to be a growing market area.  Not only are there specialized companies like Vital Images, but virtually every major PACS vendor has some kind of 3D visualization built in to their PACS clients (often as an extra-cost option).  Particularly amazing is the ability to record “paths” through a 3D image which can be played back as a “flight”.  Who knew that Fantastic Voyage would become a reality?

  • It is amazing just how many companies are in the PACS business. They each have an angle to differentiate. One which was interesting is Carestream; they feature their SuperPACS which is an inherently multi-site design with a web-based front end. This seems like the direction of the future. I spoke with a product manager there who expressed interest in pathology imaging; she said they had heard of it (but not alas of Aperio) and would probably integrating pathology viewing in the future.

    • Most people take it for granted that when Pathology images are stored as DICOM images, existing PACS viewing software will “just work”. The idea that new capabilities are needed for panning and zooming through such large images just hasn’t taken hold.
  • There were a lot of foreign companies exhibiting; I can’t say more than last year, but it really struck me this year. Hardware from China, Japan, and Korea, and software from all over Europe. There were a lot of “not for sale in the U.S.” signs, and a lot of “not FDA-cleared” notices. Are these non-U.S. products being exhibited at a U.S. show for non-U.S. consumers? Perhaps the dollar has dropped to the point where this is feasible. And RSNA does provide a single marketplace where everyone gets together.

  • As Radiologists now spend their time looking at monitors instead of film, ergonometric workstations for Radiologists have become more popular. They range from comfortable chairs and adjustable-height desks all the way to $10,000 workstations which adjust in every possible direction and tilt, and have built in soft lighting and music. Will Pathologists need or want such workstations? Not clear…

  • Speaking of ergonometric considerations, the controls used for Radiography equipment are custom built and impressive (e.g. the joysticks used to guide X-Ray sensors into position). Makes you think about what could be done to create Pathology-specific navigation hardware for viewing digital slides.

  • It was notable that there are more and more companies which specialize in software to take voice dictations and automatically convert it into “coded” text for diagnostic reports. For years Radiologists have outsourced voice dictation (even overseas!), but now apparently more are using software to convert voice directly to text. Presumably the same software could be used for Pathology reports, the challenges are similar (e.g. correctly recognizing complex medical terms).

  • Radiology imaging requires a lot of storage (not as much as Pathology however) and there were a number of computer hardware vendors exhibiting storage, including EMC. I spent some time in the EMC booth (that’s me at right with a 1.5PB Cellera array; it could hold over 6M digital slides). It isn’t clear why these high-end storage arrays are 10+X the cost of low-end PC storage. The vendors try to make a case for their value-add (often including esoteric software features) but it just isn’t compelling.

    • Other storage vendors present included IBM, Dell, and HP
  • The situation with “enterprise” storage solutions is reminiscent of the high-end specialized viewing displays from Barco, Planar, etc. They may be “better”, but they’re not that much better; certainly not enough to justify the significantly higher prices. It is noticeable that a few years ago “everyone” had specialized monitors for displaying Radiology images (the central monitor of typical three-monitor displays was often 16-bit grayscale), but now “everyone” just seems to use vanilla PC flat-panels. Part of the reason for this is that LCD panels have more consistent color than the CRTs they’ve replaced, but partly I think people have just realized that the extra quality of the high-end displays is just not necessary.

Finally I have to note (again), nothing says “Christmas” to me like a walk down Michigan Avenue in December (downtown Chicago’s premier shopping thoroughfare).  There’s snow on the ground, it’s freezing, and your breath looks like smoke, but the street is beautifully lighted, there’s a ton of people out, and the stores are all decorated and warm and welcoming.  For one day it’s wonderful.

 

 

 

 

Thursday,  12/04/08  09:44 PM

Finally sort of settling back in after Thanksgiving weekend, my one-day trip to Chicago, and my big Five-O birthday.  Today was somewhat normal :)  Even managed a bike ride, in fact, I more than managed one; I set a personal best for my Rockstore loop, 1:42:47.  This wasn't a white swan, either, just a steady grind with good power.  Bodes well for this Saturday when I am doing a 200K, my first long ride in quite a while. 

Anyway enough of my cycling, let's see what else is going on, as the Ole filter makes a pass...

Jason Kottke wonders does the broken windows theory hold online?  I think it would; the same psychological factors are at work.  (If you don't know, the broken windows theory is that leaving broken windows in a building will encourage people to break more windows, while fixing them promptly discourages it.  This seems to be true for graffiti, for example.  And I'm guess it is true for the online equivalent of graffiti, the crass thoughtless comment.)

I noted this too; on Monday CNN issued a "breaking news alert" that the U.S. has been in a recession since December 2007.  So be it, nice to know.  It would have been nicer to know a year ago, but you can see where these things take time :)

Mathematica image processingWhoa, check this out: Mathematica image processing.  In which images can be input and output from an equation.  I don't know if "whoa" adequately covers it, frankly, my mind is a little blown.

"I'm a Mac, but I'm dressed like a PC"BusinessWeek reports Windows on a Mac: Virtually Perfect.  I have to agree, and this capability has been incredibly helpful to me and my Mac customers.  Not only do they get a good experience running my "Windows" software on their computers, but they get the latest version, and I don't have to worry about the extra overhead of developing and maintaining two versions of the software, so I can get more done for them.  Excellent.

P.S. I even have a developer at Aperio who uses a Mac laptop as his everyday development computer - for Windows software :)  Runs Visual Studio and everything under Parallels...

CNET reports Google reveals Chrome extensions plan.  Excellent, perhaps this means someone will create an AdBlock equivalent, and then they'll be able to compete with Firefox as my everyday browser.  They even quote me (!): "Of all the Firefox plug-ins, this is the one essential one.  Chrome is faster until you factor in all the cruft that gets downloaded as ads, then it isn't faster anymore. When Chrome supports AdBlock, it will be the winner, but until it does, Firefox is the only choice."  Well put :)

UI of the week: Windows renaming applicationJohn Gruber linked this User Interface of the week.  Wow!  This is a real applications for renaming files.  Incredible.  Impressive.  ... and borderline unusable :)

World's most dangerous road: the YungasThe world's most dangerous road: the Yungas.  40 miles at 12,000' from the Amazon jungle to La Paz.  Seems like a nice bike ride :)

This is pretty cool: Florida teen discovers possible colon cancer cure.  "Kyle Jones of The Villages Charter High School might have found a cure for colon cancer.  For his science project last fall, Jones tested the effects of conjugated linoleic acid, known as CLA, an amino acid found mostly in meat and dairy products, on human colon cancer at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Orlando.  His results showed that up to 90 percent of the colon cancer cells were killed within three days, indicating that the chemical properties of CLA could possibly be used as an effective treatment for colon cancer."  How excellent.

Romain Jerome "watch" does not tell timeVia Ottmar Liebert comes news of this $300,000 watch which does not tell time.  What's next, a phone which doesn't make calls?

blogs vs newspapersFrom John Battelle: the transition, in two headlines.  I still don't "get" the online advertising thing, but then again I use Firefox with AdBlock (not Chrome :); it is undeniable that there is money to be made online (see GOOG).  I do get the newspaper decline.  They are definitely going the way of the great woolies...

 

 

 

Friday,  12/05/08  06:22 PM

Today was the most beautiful day outside, so naturally I spent it inside, debugging code, and peering out the window.  I did get in a short ride which was long enough to discover it was colder than it looked :)  Tonight we have a nice dinner planned to celebrate my birthday (this just goes on and on, doesn't it?) and tomorrow I am riding a 200K, Magoo's Ride to Mugu, my first long ride in two months.  I'm really looking forward to it.  (And after the ride, we get to watch USC dismantle UCLA to secure a rose bowl berth; I'm really looking forward to that, too :)

Meanwhile, it's all happening...

Cal Study: Poor Kids Lack Brain Development.  Here we have a classic case of mixing up correlation with causality.  A new study shows a correlation between kids' brain development and their economic stratum.  Naturally the liberal media (who have been carefully coached never to imply that people are different) assume the causality is from the economic stratum to the brain development.  But does that really make sense?  Let's turn this around; imagine a group of smart people, and a group of dumb people.  Turn them loose in the world, who is going to make more money?  Ahem.  And who is going to have smarter kids?  Ahem.  And later, when a study is done, which way should the causality run?  Really the headline should read: Cal Study: Kids who Lack Brain Development are Poor.  Sigh.

Trek: "we believe in bikes"I love this Trek commercial: We Believe in Bikes.  The mantra of the cyclist.  I love it.

l'Hydroptere sets mile record for sailboatsl’Hydroptère’s new record ratified by the WSSRC, 46.88 knots over 500 meters.  "l’Hydroptère has bettered her own record and has become the fastest sailing boat on the planet over 500 meters and one nautical mile.  The WSSRC, the British decision-making organization concerning records, ratified yesterday l’Hydroptère’s latest performance.  On 13th November, while training on the speed base at Port-Saint-Louis-du-Rhône, Alain Thébaut and his crew took advantage of the favourable weather conditions to beat their time and establish a new record over 500 meters."  Wow.  You must click through and view the video to really appreciate how fast that is over water.

Seth Godin: How to answer the phone.  "The only reason to answer the phone when a customer calls is to make the customer happy.  If you’re not doing this or you are unable to do this, do not answer the phone.  There is no middle ground on this discussion...  Saving 50 cents a call with a complicated phone tree is a false savings."  I so agree with this.  [ via John Gruber, who does too... ]

Amazon's KindleCNN reports: A year later, Amazon's Kindle finds a niche.  Boy I'll say it does, it is the iPod of books, for sure; I [still] love mine.  I've completely transitioned to reading from my Kindle instead of reading books, the form factor is actually better for reading at night, and of course much better on airplanes etc. because it is smaller than 200 books :)

Better Place proposed coverage in HawaiiThis is awesome: Hawaii makes electric car part of green power initiative.  This is another huge Better Place installation; the other day California announced a plan for Better Place coverage also.  I don't know if they're going to be successful, but they're certainly giving themselves a chance.  They'll have sufficient scale for the economics to start working.

Paul Graham: The high-res society.  "An ambitious kid graduating from college now doesn't want to work for a big company.  They want to work for the hot startup that's rapidly growing into one.  If they're really ambitious, they want to start it."  This is absolutely true. 

It reminds me of a story told by my friend Paul Fiore who founded Digital Insight; one day he was sitting around with friends talking about their ambitions, and someone said "I want to own Jets season tickets", and Paul said, "I want to own the Jets" :)

Truphone - VoIP for your iPod TouchCult of Mac asks Did you know your iPod Touch is a phone?  No, actually, I didn't know that...  so you need the Apple premium earphones which include a microphone, and you need VoIP software from Truphone.  Oh, and you need to have a WiFi connection.  I wonder if this is a dancing bear, or actually useful.  I'll have to try it - stay tuned...

Vanatu crabZooillogix: Thousands of new species discovered on tiny island.  "An expedition to a tiny island in the South Pacific's Republic of Vanatu has yielded hundreds of new species, including possibly 1000 new species of crab.  153 scientists from 20 countries participated in the survey of Espiritu Santo in the South Pacific, scouring caves, mountains, reefs, shallows, and forests collecting species.  Out of over 10,000 species collected, the researchers are predicting that as many as 2000 may be previously unknown to the scientific community."  Awesome!  Check out those pictures, they're amazing...

Interesting story from Slate: Inside the world's most annoying economic crisis.  Apparently there is a perceived shortage of coins in Argentina, such that a 1-peso coin is worth more than a 2-peso note.  And the shortage is only perceived, despite the fact that "everyone" is convinced there is a shortage, there really isn't.  Just shows how the value of currency is determined by confidence, not intrinsic worth...

massive ship with radar platformAn excellent picture of a giant ship carrying a giant radar platform, found on Digg with the title "Massive".  Indeed it is.

happy sky over L.A.The Astronomy Picture of the Day: Happy Sky over L.A.  The Happy comes from the smiley face made by Jupiter, Venus, and the Moon, but it could equally apply to anyone standing on Mulholland Blvd looking at that view.  I've seen it many times, but it is none the less breathtaking.

 

 

 

Mugu's wild ride

Sunday,  12/07/08  09:25 AM

Yesterday I rode a 200k (that's 130 miles), my first long ride in two months, and survived!  Yay, me.  In fact, not only did I survive - completing the rather flat course from Moorpark to Ventura to Malibu to Point Mugu to Camarillo to Moorpark in 8:05 - but I was the first to finish!  How cool is that?  I have to confess, the usual hotshots were missing; it is December, and a lot of people [apparently] had other things to do on a winter's day than ride their bikes, but still...  it was an amazing feeling to pass the leader at 90 miles and ride for two hours knowing that I was tete de la course.  I kept thinking of pro races where the breakaways are often caught by the peloton with just a few miles to go, but of course in this kind of ride there is no peloton, just a bunch of people riding, and nobody has team cars or radios or anything like that.  I did get some cramps with about 15 miles to go, and stopped at a liquor store and bought a liter of Coke (!), and kept worrying that people would pass me while I was in the store.  But in the event I won by over ten minutes.


6:30AM - off we go


Grimes Canyon - a nice descent with a strong headwind


self-portrait riding through Ventura


Channel Islands Harbour


PCH - 40 miles down to Malibu, 30 back up


these guys better watch out for rogue waves!


California dreamin' - on such a winter's day


the sky starts closing in - beautiful


Mugu rock - the focal point of the ride... almost home!

It was a beautiful day, a rather balmy 60o at the 6:30AM start and it stayed in the 70s for most of the day, cooling down a bit as some cloud cover descended mid afternoon.  There was wind - in fact a rather stiff wind - and in the way of such winds it was a headwind in every direction...  but it wasn't that bad.  And at just the right moment, as I was riding down PCH my philosopher iPod began playing...

All the leaves aren't brown
and the sky ain't gray
I've been for a ride
on a winter's day

I've been safe and warm
since I live in L.A.
California riding
on such a winter's day

So, another day spent in the saddle, my last long ride of 2008.  I ended up doing 2 centuries (100 miles) and 11 super centuries (over 100 miles), including 6 doubles (200 miles).  Amazing, at the start of the year I would never have thought it.  Who knows what next year will bring?

 

 

have you been good?

Sunday,  12/07/08  10:16 AM

 

Maserati GT for the holidays

Oh please Santa, I've been good...

 

 

spam be gone

Sunday,  12/07/08  11:10 PM

spam shuffleAn update on my great second-computer-as-a-spam-filter experiment...  it is working okay.  Not great, but okay.  I still haven't decided whether it is actually better.  The part that's really working is that when my laptop is not running, my phone doesn't get a ton of spam anymore, and gets all my personal email as well as my work email.  So the original goal of the experiment has been met.  But there are side effects which are annoying...

The most serious problem is that now that a second computer is my spam filter, I have to train and edit spam on that computer instead of my laptop.  The second is that the spam filter on the second computer isn't as thoroughly trained, so I have more false negatives and suspects.  And the third is that client-side rules on my laptop about distributing email no longer work - I think because all the email is marked "read" by the spam filter computer.

Plan B would be to run Outlook on the second computer only when I'm traveling, and use my laptop as the spam filter most of the time.  That might be the right answer, but the effort of swapping might be more than its worth.  If it were only just a matter of running Outlook and not running it, that would be okay, but if I have to do anything more than that...

Um, can I just say how annoying this is?  I can?  Okay, this is annoying!  I'm going to all this trouble just to keep the riff raff off my lawn.  Blech.  Stay tuned for more...

 

 

Sunday,  12/07/08  11:48 PM

And so ends my weekend...  it rained today, but it was nothing like as cold as Chicago and Pittsburgh and Baltimore, where I watched football being played; wow, talk about cold...  brrr... I can't imagine even being outside in 16o, let alone smashing into other people.  It was fun to watch from the comfort of my office, thank you Tivo and Slingbox...  I do now have the Sunday night blues, wherein I wish I had gotten more done over the weekend.  So be it.

Pearl Harbor attackToday is the anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack.  Wow.  Thinking about that vividly recalls my Midway experience (was that really six weeks ago already?)  It was the 9/11 of its day, exacerbated by the fact that we were already at war, and by the slower and more uncertain communications of that time...  imagine how it must have felt, sitting at home, and hearing about the attacks from a scratchy radio.  And looking outside at the sky, and wondering what would happen next.  Scary.

TOC - stage 8 profile (Mount Palomar!)The Tour of California route has been revealed, and as hoped for it includes the South Grade up Mount Palomar!  Yay.  You know where I'll be on Feb 22, at the top of that climb.  And the Solvang time trial remains of course, double yay.  You know where I'll be on Feb 20, too.  Can't wait!

Bonus thing to wonder about: we know Levi will lead Astana, but will Lance ride for him?  Will Contador?  Will Kloden?  Could be an all-star team right at the start of the season...

Scott Adams (Dilbert) blogs Google is my Doctor.  "About a year ago I started using Google Alerts to tell me whenever someone mentioned Dilbert, me, or anything about Spasmodic Dysphonia on the Internet.  About six months ago I got an alert with a link to an obscure medical publication with a report about an even more obscure surgical procedure for fixing spasmodic dysphonia.  I took that information to my doctor, who referred me to an expert at Stanford University, who referred me to an expert surgeon at UCLA.  Long story short, the operation I read about wasn't as promising as the article suggested, but the final surgeon in my travels had his own version of surgery that had a good track record. I tried it, and now my voice is normal.  I never would have found that path without Google Alerts."  This is not an isolated story.  Increasingly people are taking their medical care into their own hands, and using Google and other online tools to find information and make contacts.  A major trend in health care.

earth population growthThe Daily Galaxy asks what you think will be the population of the Earth in 2050.  The best guesses seems to be around 20B; see the chart at left for the trend.  An equally important question would be, what do you think will be the average IQ of the Earth in 2050?  Hint: it will be far below 100.

array of 500 clocks which spell a messageSo who thought of this?  An array of 500 clocks which spells a message every twelve hours.  Cool.

Robert X. Cringley makes a case for Steve Jobs to take over General Motors.  Boy, I don't know...  the idea that one person could turn things around is such a silver bullet, the big three U.S. carmakers have so many interrelated problems.  Brand image, consumer demand, label relations, manufacturing, finance...  it is a horribly complicated problem that defies a simple solution.  An interesting suggestion nonetheless.

ocean sunsetCheck out this ocean sunset.  Beautiful... looks like a rendering from Bryce3D, but it's real!

Finally, here we have softwear by Microsoft (as in tee-shirts).  I am not making this up.

 

 

 

 

Monday,  12/08/08  11:49 PM

Long day, up at 0400, drive down to Vista, work work work, business meeting over dinner, and drive home.  Not much left in the tank for blogging I'm afraid, we'll see what happens...

SecondSlide!Did you see this: Aperio introduces SecondSlide digital slide sharing network.  Nah, I'm sure you didn't, but now you have :)  SecondSlide.com is an amazing new service we're offering, sort of an eBay+YouTube for pathologists to share information.  You'll hear a lot more about it from me, but this is where I've been spending my time.  The network plumbing for this is kind of complicated, we want "everyone" to be able to use it with no firewall changes, but yet there are these huge files to copy around...

LGF notes African Nations going Nuclear.  "Several African countries are working hard on building nuclear reactors. What could possibly go wrong?"

Terran Starport aka San Francisco InternationalTerran Starport: an awesome picture of San Francisco International airport at night.  I love it.

The Tribune company, owners of the Chicago Tribune and LA Times, among others, is going bankrupt.  So be it.  This is exhibit A in my thesis that some of the bad spin on the news we read is influenced by the hardship felt by big media companies.  If you work in that environment you can't help but be affected...

That's it, I'm off to bed... see you tomorrow...

 

 

Tuesday,  12/09/08  09:54 AM

Man, it was cold today - 40s! - and windy...  really felt like winter.  (No I did not ride, what do you think I am, crazy?)  I spent the day hunkered down in my office, working while listening to the wind howl. 

Well actually I did escape this morning for an important trip to the valley, I picked up the fantabulous Team Aperio 2008 mugs (which I get to give out on Friday in conjunction with our Christmas Holiday Party), and enjoyed myself wandering around the Topanga Mall.  Can I just tell you, I love shopping, I love malls, and I especially love shopping in malls at Christmas.  I know, weird.  What can I tell you?

I can report that the mall was uncrowded.  Whether this is a sign of the times, or just Tuesday morningness, I cannot say.  I will return next week for a better data point :)

Douglas EngelbartThis is so cool: celebrating the 40th anniversary of the mouse.  Click through and check out that demo by Douglas Engelbart (in 1968), he was the man.  Imagine how it would feel to develop something like that, and to see what it has become today?  So cool.  Wired has their take also: the mother of all demos; they labeled the picture at left "Douglas Engelbart, the father of the mother of all demos" :)

"you wouldn't buy our shitty cars, so we'll be taking your money anyway"BoingBoing has a message from the auto industry: you wouldn't buy our shitty cars, so we'll be taking your money anyway.  I'm afraid that's the size of it.

Well this sucks; ads coming soon to a paused Tivo menu near you.  "According to a press release issued today, TiVo will now offer ad space on its pause menu.  Designed to outsmart those who fast-forward through the ads (we assume that's almost everyone at this point, right?) buyers will be able to target viewers of a specific show, or they can opt to 'cast a wider net' and advertise within genres or keywords of program descriptions."  This is what not taking care of the customer looks like.  I haven't seen this yet, but as soon as I do I'm going to complain.  Maybe if we all complain, they'll back off.

Here we have the ukulele version of "while my guitar gently sleeps", by virtuoso Jake Shimabukuro.  It is better than you think, even if you think that already.  Check it out.

snowflake under a microscopeSnowflakes as you've never seen them before....  incredible microscopic views...  done by a researcher at Caltech.  Beautiful!

Coffee!Coffee.  I love it (and I love coffee).

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ole reads

Wednesday,  12/10/08  10:12 PM

Hi y'all; wanted to share some reading from the Economist with you...  the latest issue contains their Technology Quarterly, and has lots of good stuff.  Recommended:

  • wind powerThere's a nice article on wind power: Wind of Change.  I still don't think this makes much sense, you just can't generate much power this way compared to say nuclear plants.  They are uneconomical without government subsidy.  And although it doesn't pollute in the sense of generating waste, you can't say all those windmills are attractive.
  • An article about stove technology: Fresher Cookers.
  • A protein extracted from cows blood that heals wounds: A stitch whose time has come.
  • New laser technology for movie projectors could make digital projection a reality: Moving images into the Future.
  • A quantum-mechanical effect used in hard disks may hold the key to the development of a hand-held biology laboratory: Spinning a Good Tale.  This seems particularly promising for in vivo research on candidate drugs, potentially shortening the development cycle.
  • Satellites that beam solar power to earth: Let the Sun Shine In.  This seems like it will never work, but who knows?
  • And finally an article about Sergey Brin: Enlightenment Man.

That would be enough, but there's more in this issue, too:

  • nuclear powerWill France continue to lead the global revival of nuclear power?  Power Struggle.  One of the many things to admire about modern France is their leadership in this area.  Anne Lauvergeon, CEO of Areva (the French government's power company), is my hero.
  • He conducts just one symphony, Mahler’s second.  But Gilbert Kaplan has radically changed the way Mahler is perceived, both by audiences and other musicians: Desperately Seeking Mahler.  Really fascinating, I wouldn't know Mahler from Adam, but the complication of bringing a symphony to life is amazing.
  • And...  the Obama-Clinton soap opera is set to run for another few years: Head of State.

You're welcome!

 

 

Wednesday,  12/10/08  11:14 PM

Well today was warmer than yesterday (which isn't saying much) and was less windy (also not saying much), and I felt less barricaded in my office.  I even escaped for a rather slow, cold ride, blowing around the road wondering what the heck I was doing out there.  This afternoon Megan and I selected a beautiful tree, which was duly delivered and admired, and tonight I accomplished something crucial: our Christmas Cards are ready to go, signed, sealed, just not [yet] delivered.

BTW let me put in a plug for WinkFlash, the online site which printed our cards, it was really cool and really easy.  Just uploaded the pictures, used their AJAX photocropper which shows exactly what the cards would look like, and poof!  Only took about four days to get them, amazing.

Okay, let's see what-all's happening in the blogospherium:

It is now predicted that by 2010 cancer will supplant heart disease as the world's #1 killer.  So be it.  This probably has more to do with a reduction in heart disease than an increase in cancer...

Idiot of the century: Cholera spreads in Zimbabwe, as Robert Mugabe denies the problem.  "The delusion of Zimbabwe’s president, Robert Mugabe, appears to know no end.  In a televised speech on Thursday December 11th he announced that a cholera epidemic, which continues to ravage Zimbabwe and to spread to neighbouring countries, is over, just as the World Health Organisation had reported that 783 people have so far died of the disease and that over 16,400 people have been infected.  As he spoke, officials in South Africa declared a disaster area in a part of the Limpopo region on the Zimbabwean border, as a result of desperate refugees spreading cholera."  It would be hard to choose anyone who has done more harm to more people than Robert Mugabe.  Not to mention he has destroyed Zimbabwe.

ColdplayJoe SatrianiDid Coldplay plagiarize Joe Satriani?  View this YouTube video and decide for yourself.  (The answer is YES.  Wow.)

How excellent, Slashdot reports Nobel Prize Winning Physicist As Energy Secretary.  "Officials close to the Obama transition team say that Physics Nobel Laureate Steven Chu is the likely candidate for Energy Secretary."  Wow, someone who could actually comprehend the issues.  Nice.

Wall-EWow, this is cool: L.A. critics wired for Wall-E.  "Disney/Pixar’s robot love story "Wall-E" was named best picture of the year by the Los Angeles Film Critics Assn. on Tuesday, marking the first time in the org’s 33-year history that an animated film has taken the top prize."  Could it really win an Oscar?  It will be interesting to see...

"Wizards of Winter" house lighting award winnerHere we have this year's contender for the "Wizards of Winter" house lighting award.  Wow, that's just about all I can say.  (You must click through to watch the video :)

 

 

 

 

w-w-w-wipeout!

Thursday,  12/11/08  07:02 PM

I managed to have a pretty nice wipeout this afternoon, was descending Decker Canyon at about 30mph when I hit some gravel and blew my front tire, ended up skidding across the road into a ditch.  Nothing broken, just lots of bruises and road rash.  It only hurts when I sit :P  my dancing form will be a bit modified at the Aperio Holiday Party tomorrow night (but the way I dance, nobody will be able to tell :)

 

 

of stupid stickers, plastic, and cases

Thursday,  12/11/08  09:30 PM

stupid PC stickersThis is a public service announcement: it is okay to remove those stupid stickers from your PC.  You know, the "Designed for Windows" and "Intel Inside" and "Centrino" and all the rest.  Who knows how it started that all those companies could pay all that money to stick all those ads on your computer, but once you own it, guess what?  You can remove them!  Really really.  This seems to have escaped most people so I just thought I'd tell you.

iPhone plastic wrapAs long as I'm on the subject, in the same category we have that protective plastic that wraps new electronic toys.  You are allowed to remove the protective wrap after you own the device!  Like your iPod or iPhone.  I have a colleague who left the protective plastic on his iPod Touch so it would protect his device, and now it is all peeling off and curling and tattered and looks like hell, but I guess it is still protecting his device - just not from looking awful.  Again, not obvious to some, so I thought I'd mention it.

And finally, since the people who make iPhones and so on do their best to make them thin and beautiful, why use a case?  It just makes the device thicker and uglier.  Trust me, in 100% of the cases (p.i.) the case looks worse than the device.  You might think you are making a statement, but you might not realize that the statement is "I didn't know I didn't need a case".  You are allowed to stick your phone in your pocket or purse without a case, and no babies are gonna die!

You're welcome.

 

 

Thursday,  12/11/08  11:14 PM

Ouch.  Sore from the wipeout.  Otherwise happy; Christmas Cards mailed, Team Aperio 2008 mugs all packaged and wrapped ready for me to distribute them tomorrow (!), and anticipating our Christmas Holiday Party tomorrow night, should be fun. 

Meanwhile, let's make a pass on the blogosphere, shall we...

Yay!  Auto bailout bill stalls in Senate.  I do not want my taxes used to bogusly subsidize UAW workers making cars nobody wants to buy.  What is it with these "bailouts"?  If I screw up my personal finances, or Aperio screws up its finances, nobody is there to bail us out...  but if Citibank or General Motors screws up their finances, we taxpayers have to jump in to save them.  I don't get it.  Let the companies fail and the chips fall where they may...  let the markets work.

biggest full moonLook, up in the sky!  It's a bird!  It's a plane!  No, it's the moon!  Tomorrow night will be a full moon, and it will be the biggest full moon in 15 years (because the moon is closest to the Earth).  Be sure to check it out!

Siemens vaskemaskineMike Arrington thinks this is the best commercial ever made; hundreds of Danish women skydiving topless to spell out the name of a Siemens washing machine.  So be it.  I know sex sells, but does it sell washing machines to women?  Somehow I think it is more effective when selling beer to men...  but what do I know.

I must say I kind of feel bad for Mike; his site TechCrunch grew rapidly by chronicling the Web 2.0 startup boom; now that the boom has busted, there's a lot less to report.  Hence, Danish washing machine ads featuring topless women :)

I see the same thing with Engadget and Gizmodo, and Techmeme...  less going on means either less content or a lower signal to noise ratio...

shuttle piggybacks on 747The other day I noted the sonic boom we heard when Endeavor landed at Edwards air force base, and the fact that it costs $2M to transport a space shuttle back to Florida.  Well this is how they do it; see the picture at right, the shuttle rides piggyback on top of a specially modified 747.  How cool is that?

This spring Lance Armstrong will ride in his first Giro d'Italia, and it happens to be the 100th anniversary of that event.  He says he's not the favorite, and likes Ivan Basso, who's back in the peloton after a two-year suspension.  Among other things, the route features a 67km time trial (about two hours).  Should make for some great racing...

ZooBorn hippoCute overload: ZooBorns, a blog about baby animals in zoos.  How awesome.  Subscribed!

505s!Sailing Anarchy links this promo piece from the 505 class...  I think this is the toughest class of them all, in addition to being a fantastic boat to sail.  If you can win in a 505, you can win in anything.  About twenty years ago I raced in the 505 worlds, in Kingston, Ontario, and finished about 40th out of 100 boats, and I count that among my best finishes in sailing.  And one of the most fun regattas, too :) 

 

 

 

brevity

Friday,  12/12/08  09:32 AM

More time = shorter letter.

 

 

#475

Saturday,  12/13/08  08:53 PM

#475Indeed, this is post #475 in 2008, which is significant because that's the number of posts I made in all of 2003, my most prolific year as a blogger.  (Stats are displayed at the top of my archive.)  What happened in between?  Well...  different things, but I think the main thing was that blogging became work instead of play.  Somehow this year, it was play again. 

And that gives me a chance to say thanks for reading; a big part of the fun of blogging is the feedback I get from you-all.  Knowing that thousands of you will read every word I type makes it worthwhile.  So thanks.  My next post will make 2008 my busiest blogging year.  Please stay tuned :)

 

 

Saturday,  12/13/08  09:19 PM

Weather report: 41o.  Brrr.  This morning Shirley and I leisurely drove back from Carlsbad, where we spent the night after the Aperio Christmas Holiday Party (it was pretty fun, thanks for asking, although I might have had too much Merlot), and this afternoon I did a short ride around Westlake; my scrapes are healing and didn't bother me too much.  Cycling shorts make a good band-aid.

the acornAt Aperio's Holiday Party we traditionally have a white elephant gift exchange.  As our staff has grown managing this has become more and more difficult; last night it was pretty hectic but didn't quite descend into chaos.  We managed to emerge unscathed with the gift of the night; a large aluminum acorn.  Woo hoo!

{ I must note parenthetically that Eichhorn means squirrel in German.  And squirrels like acorns. }

Powerline sarcastically notes it's a good thing we have a Republican administration, "otherwise, we'd have rampant government intervention in private industry".  That rampant intervention is exactly what we do have, and it's disgusting.  The auto industry bailout bill didn't pass the senate, so the federal government is taking it upon themselves to use our money to bail them out anyway.  Whatever happened to government for the people?  Isn't the whole purpose of the Senate to represent taxpayers?  I've lost the thread.  Powerline's conclusion is dead on:

The most disheartening aspect of the current bailout spree is the spectacle of executives from the banking, investment banking, insurance and auto industries begging the government for cash like teenagers who have blown their allowances and are abjectly asking their Daddy for more money.  The government as Daddy--wasn't that supposed to be a liberal concept?

numberspiral.com!Here we have numberspiral.com.  I love this stuff.  The amazing thing about such properties of numbers is that they are so pure, so divorced from Humans, Earth, or any other context.  These same spirals and curves could be drawn by any intelligent life anywhere, and they would be just the same.

If you're a football fan, this is a dead weekend.  The college seasons are all over, and the bowl games have not yet begun.  (BTW here's a nice ranking of the bowls, with the Orange FedEx Bowl not taking place until Jan 8; how stupid is that?  At least we'll have the Rose Bowl on New Year's Day, featuring Pac 10 against Big 10, USC vs Penn State.  That will be a great game...)  The pro season is winding down but the playoffs haven't yet arrived.  A good weekend for shopping...

It's Christmas shopping season... can't figure out what to buy?  Here's CNet's guide: What Would an Editor Buy?  And Amazon helpfully lists the Most-Wanted Holiday Toys

Meanwhile Shirley is baking cookies.  I want some of those :)

 

 

recrossing the chasm

Sunday,  12/14/08  08:15 PM

You might remember Shirley gave me a Kindle as an early birthday present right before I left for Brazil… so I bought a number of books to take with me, and one was Geoffrey Moore’s classic Crossing the Chasm.   I’ve been rereading it with delight.   Despite being written in 1991, it still hits about ten nails on the head at once.   I’ve always liked this book and talked about it, but I’d forgotten how cleanly Moore presents his thesis, and what a compelling case he makes.   It is one of the best business books I’ve ever read because not only does it identify and explain a problem, it presents the solution.

I first read Crossing the Chasm when we were starting Digital Insight, and everything about it seemed to apply to that business.   I can now say everything about it applies to Aperio too.   As I turned each page (metaphorically, since I was reading on the Kindle), I found myself saying “yes” repeatedly.   I encourage you to read the book – I suspect you’ll love it, as I did – but let me try to summarize the key message.

Moore observes that the adoption cycle of new technologies looks like this:

the technology adoption lifecycle

Here time is the X axis, moving right as the technology is adopted, and volume is the Y axis.   As a technology is adopted different kinds of customers buy it, and Moore observes that the reason people buy in each group is different.

The Innovators who adopt first are Techies; they buy because they love the technology.   (We’ve had a few of those!)   The Early Adopters who are next are influenced by the Innovators, but they buy for a different reason; they are Visionaries and they buy because they want to cause change, and they want to use the new technology to do so.   Further along you encounter the Early Majority, these people are Pragmatists who buy because the technology solves a problem they have, or improves their business in some way.   Crucially, the Early Majority are not influenced by the Visionaries.   This is what creates the chasm.   It is very difficult for a technology to move from the Early Adopters to the Early Majority.   And relating this to Aperio, this is exactly where digital pathology finds itself today.

If you make it across the chasm to the Early Majority you’re in good shape, because the Late Majority use the Early Majority as references; there isn’t much of gap there.

In thinking about Aperio, to this point we’ve done all the right things to attract the Early Adopters / Visionaries, and they have adopted.   We’re poised at the brink of the chasm.   But now we have to do other things to attract the Early Majority / Pragmatists.   Some of these things we are doing already, like establishing proof points and documenting ROI.   Moore lays emphasis on the importance of references within the same group; using a Visionary as a reference for a Pragmatist won’t work, because they have different goals.   One of the things he mentions which rings true for us is that there can be different kinds of adopters within the same organization.  They have to be sold differently, they have different goals, and will respond to different value propositions.

The book notes the following reasons why Pragmatists don’t reference Visionaries:

  • lack of respect for colleagues experiences
  • taking greater interest in technology than in their industry
  • failing to recognize the importance of existing product infrastructure
  • overall disruptiveness

Thinking about our current customers, many of them fall into this category!

Moore defines a market in a useful, specific way:

  • a set of actual or potential customers
  • for a given set of products or services
  • who have a common set of needs or wants, and
  • who reference each other when making a buying decision

The fourth point is crucial; just because two people want to buy a digital pathology system, [according to Moore] they are not in the same market if they don’t reference each other.   Early Adopters are not in the same market as the Early Majority!

Given all this, what do you do to cross the chasm?

  • Choose a single market entry point, a beachhead, to use as a springboard across the chasm into adjacent extended markets.
  • Focus on applications rather than platforms.   “Disruptive innovations are more likely to be championed by end users than by the technology professionals that operate the infrastructure, and applications are what an end user sees.”
  • Create the whole product by thinking through your customer’s problems in its entirety.   You cannot rely on your Early Majority / Pragmatist customer to fill in the gaps they way an Early Adopter / Visionary customer would do.   The product has to work, and Installation, Training, and Support are key elements.
  • Define the battle:
  1. Focus the competition within a segment defined by your value proposition
  2. Create a competitive differentiator around your value proposition
  3. Reduce your competitive claims to your primary competitive differentiator in this segment
  4. Demonstrate the validity of your competitive claim
  • Use a direct sales force optimized for creating demand.   (“This is a very expensive way to sell… it is also the best channel for crossing the chasm.”)

The net is that we don’t appear to be doing anything badly wrong, and we have the right strategies.   I’m finding the book useful to reinforce what is important and what isn’t.   Of course any effort we expend on things that aren’t important simply reduces the resources we have for those things that are…

As I was rereading this on a Kindle, I couldn’t help but think about the Kindle itself as an example of a new technology seeking adoption.   There are certainly people who bought it because it was cool, or to learn more about it.   But that’s a pretty small market compared to “people who read books”.   For the majority of people it has to solve a specific problem – in my case, how to carry many books along with you on a trip.   In this I would be more likely to be influenced by people who read a lot than by people who buy every gadget just to try it out.   And the actual using experience is much more important than the underlying technology (the “application” for a Kindle is reading a book).   I have to admit the fact that you can’t pick up email on a Kindle is a feature, not a bug.   That’s a different application, and the Kindle doesn’t try to address it, which is better than trying and suboptimally failing.

Anyway it's been an interesting journey, re-crossing the chasm, both in the sense of working for Aperio after having worked for Digital Insight, and in the sense of re-reading the book :)

 

Sunday,  12/14/08  08:55 PM

Reginald at ChristmasStill really cold here.  I did not ride.  We decorated the house, ate cookies, and sat around.  We watched football.  We worked, a little.  And we blogged :)

Reggie helped with decorating by sitting in every available open box.  He is such a cat.  His look translates as "so what?"

[ Update: It is now raining as well as really cold.  My reindeer have not yet shorted out, so that's a good thing ]

icy coldIt might be really cold here, for here, but elsewhere it is really really cold; John Hindraker reports from Minneapolis that he's throwing another log on the fire (and goes on to analyze "global cooling"), and in Denver it reached a record -15 below zero today.  (No, Al Gore is not there giving a speech :)

Philip Greenspun has a nice analysis of extending unemployment benefits.  "An unemployed worker in Michigan needs to move somewhere with a lot of new jobs being created and not too many highly skilled unemployed people competing for those jobs. Certainly he is going to have to move to another state.  Possibly he may need to move to another country.  Handing out 52 weeks of cash instead of 26 weeks seems likely only to delay the inevitable."  This is one of those "teach a man to fish" things, isn't it?  Someone who's making a living assembling cars is in the wrong line of work, and that is never going to change.

According to CNet, E-commerce sales so far are not a disaster.  That's about the measure of today's economy, anything that's not a disaster is great news.  But it is surprising news, too; online purchases in December are matching those from a year ago.  Probably we have two competing trends, a growth in people purchasing online instead of going into stores counterbalanced by a decrease in overall purchasing.  So be it.

Related: McKinsey considers Pricing in a Downturn.  They write "getting pricing right is always a challenge in an economic downturn"; but really "getting pricing right is always a challenge", period.  Might be harder now, but it is never easy.

Upala the GorillaToday's ZooBorn is Upala the Gorilla.  Man, is he cute.

Here we have Wine64 - a 64-bit version of Wine, the popular Linux-based Windows emulator.  (I know, I know, WINE is an acronym for Wine Is Not an Emulator, but guess what it is anyway; it emulates Windows, not a processor.)  I can remember when this idea of running Windows under Linux was so novel, but now with VMWare and Parallels and so on it is pretty ho hum.  And since everything is Intel-based, it can be pretty fast, too.

I totally related to Josh Newman's Beginner’s Mind… ("...the sort of perseverance it takes to succeed seems to be a learnable skill. All you have to do is be willing to suck. And suck. And suck. And keep going.")  The thing which was like that for me was managing people.  I sucked at it so hard, and so long, but eventually I got better.  And now I’m only somewhat sucky.  But the amazing thing is that I’ve become a great manager of managers.  I know all the pitfalls, and I am great at telling others how to avoid them :)  I bet Josh is a better golf instructor than Tiger.

 

 

the sound of rain

Monday,  12/15/08  08:43 AM

...rain...I love the sound of rain.  I haven't been sleeping too well (thanks to the scrapes from my wipeout) and it was so pleasant to lie in bed last night, listening to the rain failing... 

This morning I've cracked my office window just so I can hear the drops falling outside, at the cost of a bitter cold draft.  I'm actually looking forward to riding today - yeah, it will be cold, and I will be slow (probably even will do it on my mountain bike) - but the sound of rain is so delightful. 

I wonder why that is?  We humans must be pre-programmed by evolution to like hearing water, we even build fountains just so we can hear it flow...

 

 

home grown feeds

Monday,  12/15/08  10:23 PM

Today I was looking through my RSS feeds and suddenly noticed that Wired News' feed contains ads!  So you know what that means, yep, I made a home-grown feed for it...  I have a little cottage industry here reformatting feeds and scraping home pages to include entire content, include direct links, synthesize permalinks, and eliminate ads.  Here's my current collection:

site site's feed my home-grown feed why I did it

Ann Althouse

eliminate ads and other cruft

Cycling News

make a feed for daily news

Digg - science

link directly to content

Digg - technology

link directly to content

Instapundit

entire content including embedded links

Powerline

entire content, eliminate ads and cruft

Sailing Anarchy

make a feed for posts; support permalinks

Techmeme

link directly to content

Wired News

eliminate ads and other cruft

You're welcome!

 

 

Monday,  12/15/08  10:57 PM

So I did take a ride in the rain, on my mountain bike, and it was great.  Yeah, it was wet and cold, but I loved the sound and the smell of the rain, the peace and quiet, the simple beauty.  There is a field I ride by in Hidden Valley, it was freshly plowed a few days ago, and today the entire field was covered with sprouting grass!  A beautiful light green against the dark brown earth, glistening in the rain.  Anyway it was great, I hope it keeps raining...

Elsewhere it continues to be freezing cold; I saw where Montana set a new record at -29.  Now that's seriously cold.  And it was 0o in Madison.  This whole year - and now winter especially - seems colder than usual.

Oooh, I like this!  From Rich Kaarlgard: Turning Around America - A Modest Proposal.  "Here is how.  Let’s put every elected federal official and appointee and bureaucrat on a stock option plan.  The value of these options would be tied to the health and wealth of America.  Half the options would vest over two years so as to spur politicians to make immediate changes.  The other half would vest over 20 years, so politicians could build a framework for enduring success and be rewarded for it."  Yes!

Dogbert explains financial marketsScott Adams: Financial markets explained.  "In my capacity as cartoonist, I feel an obligation to simplify complicated discussions until two things happen simultaneously:  1. Absurdity is achieved.  2. The reader feels as if it all makes sense."  Suddenly I feel all savvy :)

the LoraxCool!  The LATimes says there is New Popularity for Dr. Suess' 'The Lorax'.  How excellent, one of my favorite stories of all time.  (Unless...!)  I read it to each of my daughters like a million times.

BusinessWeek reports Palm Pins its Hopes on Nova.  "The smartphone maker debuts its new operating system, code-named Nova, at January's CES.  Palm says its phones for it will bridge the BlackBerry-iPhone gap."  So be it; I'm rooting for them but I'm not hopeful.

what's black and white and dead?Jeff Jarvis links Jon Stewart:
What's Black and White and Dead?

From the "truth is stranger than Onion" files; CNet reports Our April fools jokes turn into real products.  "Back in 2007, we put out two April Fools' Day posts chronicling fake and absurd start-ups.  One was a Google Maps mashup for rodent sightings in New York restaurants.  The other was a prenatal version of Twitter where unborn children could post status updates.  A few readers took the bait in the comment sections, but it appears our ideas weren't so far off, as both have come to fruition just a year and a half later."  I love it!

Just when you thought Elon Musk was busy enough - what with Tesla and SpaceX - turns out he is also Chairman of SolarCity, a company which leases solar panels.  Wow...

Tesla Top Gear test driveSpeaking of Tesla, Top Gun's Jeremy Clarkson gives it a test drive, comparing it on a track to a Lotus Elite.  He likes it!  It is faster in a straight line than the Lotus (and faster off the line), but corners slower due to the extra weight of the batteries...

Speaking of being green, the Economist notes species banking, in Biodiversity.  "The most fundamental question is whether species banking works.  Imagine that an endangered species remains in only ten acres of private land.  If ten people each own one of those acres, in theory five could build on their land in exchange for promises of conservation in perpetuity from the other five."  What an amazing concept... it could work!

keyboard kitty!Finally, the cutest picture you'll see all day, or maybe all year...  keyboard kitty!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

the axis of understanding

Tuesday,  12/16/08  09:16 PM

the axis of understanding

The Axis of Understanding

If you're a regular to these parts, you know it is my habit to read magazines while shaving each morning.  And so it was that on this particular morning, I found these particular magazines in my bathroom: the latest issues of Il Tridente (a puff piece from Maserati), The New Yorker, Reason, and The Economist.  And as I was looking at them it occured to me that in some sense they were each opposites of each other, each endpoints of a two-dimensional "axis of understanding".  And this insight was so exciting that I had to share it with you :)

 

 

Tuesday,  12/16/08  10:14 PM

Another cold day, we had frost last night, and woke up to the view of a white golf course (I'm dreaming of a White Christmas...)  It was so cold in fact that when I tried to ride I discovered my fingers were numb, and couldn't shift; one of the few times I've started a ride and came back home immediately.  Brrr. 

Megan in Oaks Christian Christmas concertIn other news Shirley and I got in some great Christmas shopping (and I can report, the Topanga Mall is *still* not very crowded), and tonight Megan and the Oaks Christian Advanced Band gave a wonderful Holiday Concert.  'Tis the Season, fa la la la la, la la, la la...

Want to know what really happened to cause the present economic meltdown?  Then read this from Reason: Anatomy of a Breakdown.  Bottom line, bad government policy which led FNMA and FDMC to run amuck, and a poor overreaction to the crisis once it surfaced.  And now we have this ridiculous "bailout" environment.

The incomparable Onion summarizes perfectly: $700 Billion Bailout Celebrated With Lavish $800 Billion Executive Party.  All too true, I'm afraid...

garden gnomeAn interesting retrospective from an Economist correspondent: Auf Wiedersehen.  (I must tell you, I am a big time fan of garden gnomes; we have one ourselves :)

This article about sexual selection is pretty interesting on merit, but the real reason to link it is the punch line: Riskier but worth it when older.  "The reproductive risk to a female increases as she gets older, merely because she is more likely to give birth to a male.  In the evolutionary game of life, this strategy is giving them more bang for their bucks."  I love it :)

An interesting diary entry from cyclist Michael Barry of Team Columbia: Back in the Saddle Again.  I'm always struck by the fact that cycling is such a physical sport, yet performance is so mental.  The atmosphere and preparation of a team is crucial.

giant plush microbesThis is pretty cool; ThinkGeek is featuring Giant Plush Microbes.  "Most folks never realize how cute microbes can be when expanded 1,000,000 times and then fashioned into cuddly plush. Until now, that is. Keep one on your desktop to remind yourself that there is an "invisible" universe out there filled with very small things that can do incredible damage to much bigger things. Then go and wash your hands. Lather, rinse, repeat."  I love it, and I want one!

Huh, this is interesting; Palm launches Palm Software Store.  An obvious precursor to the rumored announcement of their new OS at CES, we can now guess that third-party applications will be a part of it.  An open API has always been a strength for Palm...  (I hope the apps will be backward compatible with Centro!)

Be careful!  Truffles Lead to Food Abuse.  A public service announcement :)

 

 

Wednesday,  12/17/08  11:48 PM

A really  l o n g  day, whew; up at oh-dark-hundred, drove down to Vista (3 1/2 hours in the rain, blech!), meetings all day of various kinds with various people (some excellent, some, er, not so, but one was pretty great), including one over lunch, and one over dinner, and finally drove back home in the rain.  And blogged!  Somewhat.

Note to self: December 17 will be a turning point.  Note to you: I'll explain later, if I'm right :)

I've been thinking about this a lot: what's the population of the Earth going to be in 2050.  I plan to be alive in 2050 - I'll be 92 - and I'm more worried about the average IQ of the world at that point than the number of people, although of course they're related.  Given the current differential birth rates between the two ends of the bell curve, to a first order the more people we have in 2050, the dumber we'll be overall.  And the more problems we'll have.  What can be done?  Well, a first step would be getting everyone to recognize the problem.

Laser Radial wins the class warfareSailing Anarchy on class warfare between one-design classes.  Yes, Laser's rule (especially the Radials, which can be sailed competitively by smaller-sized people like women and kids).  I was surprised to see Lightnings and Thistles so high up the list, those are old classes.  And two of the classes I've spent time racing are on the list too, Snipes and Lidos.  What's striking is that there are no "performance" classes; 505s didn't make the list, for example...

Some local color: for 13 years the Westminster Presbyterian Church here in Westlake Village have staged The Bethlehem Experience, a first-century village scene complete with a bustling marketplace, farm animals, Roman soldiers and a manger.  Local residents volunteer as actors in the play.  It's really very cool.  Of course, it is a performance of a play, not a reenactment of a historical event :)

cyanide-producing "dragon millipede"This is pretty cool: CNN reports Mekong Delta a 'treasure trove' of 1,000 newly discovered species.  Including a hot pink cyanide-producing "dragon millipede".  Just when you think you've seen it all...  you haven't see nothing yet.

The Scientist considers the Moral Mire: "FDA scientists are increasingly unhappy, due to in-house pressures and public criticism".  Not a good situation considering the importance of their work.

Netflix on TivoNetflix is coming to TivoHD boxes.  Yay.

It's the End Game for I, Cringley; his last column on PBS, after 603 over 11 years.  Whew.  He also reviews his predictions for 2008, and makes new ones for 2009.  Nothing earth-shattering in there, I'm afraid; the uncertainty of the economic situation makes fortune-telling even harder than usual...

Here's kind of an interesting read from Eric Raymond: Eric and the Quantum Experts (a cautionary tale).  "If you think you have spotted something fundamental that all the experts missed, don’t ignore it. Because, after all, you might be right."  Schrodinger's Cat makes an appearance.

waterspouts at sunsetPicture of the Day: waterspouts at sunset.  Whoa.

white lion cubAnd finally the ZooBorn of the Day: white lion cub.  Cute overload.

 

 

 

 

 

more Kindling: the coolness of *now*

Thursday,  12/18/08  08:07 PM

the KindleSo, I have an interesting new perspective on the coolness of Kindle: it let's you read stuff *now*.  As before, directly relates to the coolness of iPod.  (And stay tuned for an observation about the coolness of AppleTV :)

The other day I noted Josh Newman's Beginner's mind, about sucking and sucking and sucking until you get it right, and sent him an email about it, to which he replied:

Also, quasi-relatedly, I've been reading Mastering the Rockefeller Habits of late, and have enjoyed it immensely thus far; there don't seem to be many books with good, concrete advice for established yet fast-growing companies, and this seems to be one of the best I've found.  Worth checking out, I think...

Okay, so Josh says Mastering the Rockefeller Habits is worth checking out, so I check it out.  And I'm just about to one-click this book (yes of course "one-click" is a verb), and then I notice Amazon has a Kindle edition.  Whoa.  Game changer, instead of getting this book in a couple of days with one click, I can have it *now*.

{ BTW free tip for Chris Anderson and/or Malcom Gladwell, your next book should be *Now* }

Just like FREE is nonlinearly attractive compared to any nonzero price, NOW is qualitatively better than any nonzero delay.  So I click to buy the Kindle Edition of Mastering the Rockefeller Habits.  What will happen?  This:

Kindle purchase dialog

Cool!  It already knows about my Kindle, and I just click Continue, and the book is all teed up to be transmitted to my Kindle.  So I run upstairs and wake up my Kindle, and it gives me a message that "my new purchases are being downloaded", shortly followed by a message that "my new purchases are ready to read"!  And I get this:

Kindle: Mastering the Rockefeller Habits

And just like that, I'm reading the book.  Took about two minutes.  How cool is that?

 

 

the Law of Significance

Thursday,  12/18/08  08:33 PM

Chris Anderson is one of my favorite writers and bloggers, but he occasionally falls prey to The Law of Significance.  (You can tell something is Really Important because people write about it with Capital Letters.  Dum dum dum.)  Chris has unearthed some amazing insights in his time; the Long Tail is one of the truly interesting new ideas in business spawned by the Internet era.  But once you've found a few key insights like that you begin thinking of yourself as a Thinker (note capitals), and it inspires you to promote everyday observations to the status of Laws.  You could imagine Chris might drop a piece of toast, find that it landed face down on the floor, and discover the Law of Toast.  I call this phenomenon the Law of Significance (note capitals and boldface).

The latest example is Chris' Law of Transparency: you can't be open in all things all of the time.  So I don't even know if that's true, but if it is I don't think it rises to the standard of a Law, it is more like a reflection.  It works better if you make lots of observations about lots of things and let other people anoint some of them as Laws than if you keep trying too hard to be Significant.  (For one thing, you won't be the target of critical blog posts :)

Chris is working on a new book called Free, about business models where you give stuff away for free, and while that is no doubt all very interesting (and I'm sure his book will sell) I don't think it is all that fundamental.  He reminds me a lot of Malcom Gladwell, another Thinker who is under the spell of the Law of Significance; once Gladwell had written Tipping Point (pretty fundamental point), he came out with Blink (somewhat fundamental) and then Outliers (not fundamental at all).  I like Gladwell and enjoy his articles in the New Yorker a lot, and like his blog.  But not everything he observes is a Law.

Let's see how Chris decides to distribute Free, do you suppose he'll give it away?

{
This post began with an email exchange I had with a friend; he noted:

Years ago Esther Dyson restated Stewart Brand's theory that "information wants to be free" in an article she wrote about the Internet.

In her $500/yr newsletter.

}

[Update: He *did* decide to give it away... good dogfooding! ]

 

programmers vs hardware

Thursday,  12/18/08  08:41 PM

Jeff Atwood writes Hardware is Cheap, Programmers are Expensive.  "Given the rapid advance of Moore's Law, when does it make sense to throw hardware at a programming problem? As a general rule, I'd say almost always."  Yeah, but... 

Here's the comment I posted:

Jeff, your comment is written from the point of view of a user.  If you're creating an application for your own company, sure, hardware is much less expensive than programmers.

This situation is different from the point of view of a vendor.  If you're creating an application which thousands of customers are going to use, *your* programmers are much less expensive than *their* hardware.  You really don't want to make customers pay more for your application because it requires more hardware.  (Vista is an extreme example, as an OS, but this is doubly true for vertical applications.)

For example my company Aperio makes digital pathology systems.  These manage lots of really big images.  If we didn't have efficient code our customers would have to buy more hardware - CPUs, disk, bandwidth, etc - and it would make our applications more expensive.  We'd be less competitive and deliver less value.  So for us spending programmer resources to reduce application hardware resources is the right trade-off.

BTW this discussion bears on the choice of language, too.  If you're creating applications for yourself, sure, go ahead and use C#.  If you're creating performance critical applications to sell to others, C++ might make more sense.

This is apparently a hard thing to wrap your mind around...  Microsoft struggled with this same thing in the early days of Vista, rewriting large parts of the OS in C# only to discover that "managed" code was too slow, and the whole world wasn't going to buy next generation PCs all at once.  Even after large amounts of the rewritten code were rewritten again, Vista still ended up being slow and piggy, and adoption has been sluggish.  Don't hold your breath waiting for Office or SQLServer to be written in .NET, or Photoshop, or Quicken...  or any decent game you might name.

This recalls an earlier post Jeff made in August 2005: Despite the incredible slowness and sparseness of features, this is really cool, in which we debated the relative merits of Java (nice for in-house use) and C++ (nicer for "mainstream" apps).  Here we are three years later and not much has changed.  Same as it ever was...

 

 

Thursday,  12/18/08  08:50 PM

Really cold today, this morning it was "frost on the lawn overnight cold", and today it was "wind blowing right through you" cold.  I did a ride, a pretty fast ride, actually, but it was pretty uncomfortable, too.  Brrr.  And meanwhile I didn't get much done today; unlike yesterday where it felt lots of cool important stuff happened, today went by, ho hum, and here I am.  So be it.

Today was also the one-week anniversary of my wipeout.  A week filled with pain, discomfort, and Motrin, not to mention plastic bags and duct tape.  I'm ready to be able to shower and sleep normally again, okay?

Dakim Brain Fitness gamePublic service announcement: Dakim Brain Fitness is a cool company.  If you know someone who is suffering from Alzheimer's or dementia, you will find this interesting.  The basic idea is that you exercise your brain to keep it fit.  And they have tools to help you exercise, in fact you can play with some of them online on their website.  I like the way their website is setup, it is very non-threatening and accessible, with big text and simple embedded videos.  Kind of like designed for an older person who isn't that familiar with computers or the web.  Very cool!

Disclosure: one of Dakim's investors is Galen Associates, who are also an investor in Aperio, that's how I found out about them.  But I have no direct interest except rooting for them to make a difference :)

Herb London in Powerline: I lost my country.  "Where is my America, the place of fair play, individual rights, the rule of law and respect for private property?  Was the past merely a dream from which I have awakened?  Can that America of exceptionalism return?  Can it find its way back into the public consciousness?  I have my doubts.  Now the change agents scream 'everything will be different.'  Alas, they are right.  It appears as if everything will be different, most especially the end of an America I loved."  Wow, that's a pretty pessimistic take.  I'm not happy that Obama won, but America will survive.

crazy bike path!This has to be the weirdest bike path of all time.  Wow (click to enbiggen).  The bike handling skills implied are impressive :)

Mike Arrington kicks the La La flywheel; he likes them, just like I do.  In case you don't know, they're an online music store where you can listen to stuff before buying, and when you buy you can store it on their site (for $.10) or download it to your computer (for $.89).  They have a decent selection and a decent user interface.  And yet... and yet... after using it for a while and continuing to like it, I find myself gravitating back to iTunes.  Not sure why.  Maybe it's selection; my iTunes has 20MB of music I really like, and 0MB of music I don't.  But I sure won't find new music in iTunes :)

Dutch fans!The 2009 Vuelta will start in Holland!  Wow, check a map; Holland is not next to Spain...  in fact the first three stages will be in Holland, and the fourth will start there and end in Belgium.  Then a transfer day moves the race to Spain.  Pretty cool, I predict many Rabobank fans wearing orange :)

Cycling News previews the Tour of California which takes place in February; pretty soon many of the pro teams are going to come out here for early season training, riding in the very hills I ride every day.  Nothing is cooler than being passed by a small peloton of pros roaring up one of your daily rides :)

From the Onion: Area woman becomes Republican vice-presidential candidate.  "The mother of five, who enjoys attending church potluck dinners with husband Todd, an unemployed commercial fisherman, reportedly 'jumped at the chance' to become the second most powerful person in the country."  [ via Jason Kottke, who notes "Sometimes the funniest fake news is disturbingly real"; for him Sarah Palin herself was disturbing, but for me it's the close correlation between Onion stories and truth... ]

space shuttle taking offCheck out The Boston Globe's pictures of 2008.  Excellent!

ZooBorn: baby koalaZooBorn of the Day: a little Koala Bear.  Now that's cute...

 

 

 

 

 

 

the nexus of understanding

Friday,  12/19/08  05:59 PM

the nexus of understanding

The Nexus of Understanding

The other day in a burst of insight I noticed that Il Tridente, The New Yorker, Reason, and The Economist were in some sense mutually orthogonal, and defined the Axis of Understanding.  This insight was so exciting that I had to share it with you.  (Perhaps this was not such a brainwave, but two of you emailed to say you liked it.)  So today I received a new issue of Wired, and I realized that it has aspects of each of the other four and is indeed a sort of weird combination.  And so we must now modify our diagram to place Wired at the "nexus of understanding", midway between fantasy and reality, and clueless and clued in.  And this insight was so exciting that I had to share it with you :)

 

 

Holiday Inn

Saturday,  12/20/08  04:14 PM

Bing Crosby White ChristmasBack in the dawn of time, 2004, Shirley and I were decorating for a Christmas Party, and suddenly wanted to hear Bing Crosby sing White Christmas.  I'm sure this has happened to you.  So I fired up iTunes and poof there it was (yay), and a couple of clicks later we were listening to Bing in all his deep syrupy glory, coming to us from 50 years ago.  It was amazing, and showed how the convenience of the iTunes / iPod ecosystem wasn't just in the ease of listening, it was in the power of *now*.  I was so struck by this that I blogged about it, and you read about it :)

Bing Crosby Danny Kaye White ChristmasSpin forward to two nights ago, Shirley and I were assembling a basket of goodies for our daughter Nicole, who is in the Navy stationed in Sicily (!), and Nicole's favorite old movie is [ta da] White Christmas.  So I fired up iTunes and poof there it was (yay), and a couple of clicks later we were watching White Christmas.  Once again it was amazing, and once again it showed how the convenience of the iTunes ecosystem isn't just in the ease of watching, it is in the power of *now*.  I am so struck by this that I'm blogging about it, and you're reading about it :)

(Before I go on, let me just say White Christmas is a great old movie, from 1954, and if you haven't seen it you should.  Danny Kaye is excellent as Bing's sidekick, and the plot is wonderful, a perfect slice of that time.  And of course the singing and dancing are first rate.  And last but not least, the iTunes version's quality is amazing, beautiful HD picture and rich stereo sound.  But I digress...)

So that would be the end of my story except for one teeny thing.  We're here in California and Nicole is in Sicily, so we wanted to send it to her.  Huh, maybe we could burn it onto a DVD?  So I fire up iDVD, create a spiffy menu (featuring a nice family picture), point to the movie and...  no good.  iDVD will not burn a movie with iTunes DRM.  Phooey.  I quickly Google for "remove DRM from iTunes movie", and get a million hits.  There are all sorts of tools and ways people have figured out how to do this (damn the DMCA, full speed ahead).  But at the end of the day they all use "the analog hole", that is, they all rely on some means of playing the movie and then re-recording it.  I tried one called Tunebite and it sort of worked, but the quality was awful.  There doesn't seem to be any way to actually strip the DRM from the movie (paging DVD Jon!) and retain its digital quality.

The situation is different for music; you can strip DRM from iTunes music pretty trivially by burning a music CD and then ripping it to MP3.  Kind of clunky but works just fine.  And in this case just burning a CD would have sufficed.  But the restrictions on movies in the iTunes store are more severe than those on music and they won't even let you burn a DVD.  I must tell you I was thinking black thoughts about the MPAA (not Apple).

Okay, what to do...  this is the part where I blog about breaking the law.  I launched Shareaza, a Gnutella2 client, searched for "White Christmas", and immediately found hundreds of copies "out there".  And I downloaded one...  took about six hours running in the background...  and this gave me a non-DRMed version which I could burn onto the DVD.  And so I did, and so Nicole will now get a spiffy DVD from us with White Christmas.  The quality was just fine, probably the xvid codec imposed most of the artifacts to get the movie size down to 700MB.  Most likely it originated from someone who owned the DVD and used Handbrake to rip it.  Please note movie people (and Apple people):  I would have gladly paid $10 to burn the movie to the DVD, but there was no way to do that, so I resorted to piracy.  Thanks.

Bing Crosby Fred Astaire Holiday InnIn the course of trying various ways to get a burnable version of White Christmas I watched the opening of the movie a number of times, wherein Bing Crosby sings "White Christmas" to the assembled troops on Christmas Eve, and it gradually occurred to me: that version is not the version I'd bought in 2004.  They're both cool old versions, but different.  So I Googled and Wikipediad and discovered what I'm sure you already know, that White Christmas (the song) did not originate with White Christmas (the movie).  The song was written by Irving Berlin for a movie called Holiday Inn, ten years earlier.  Huh.  So last night I fired up iTunes and poof there it was (yay), and a couple of clicks later we were watching Holiday Inn, starring Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire.  Once again it was amazing, and once again it showed how the convenience of the iTunes / AppleTV ecosystem isn't just in the ease of watching, it is in the power of *now*.  I am so struck by this that I'm blogging about it, and you're reading about it :)

 

Saturday,  12/20/08  05:10 PM

Had a nice day today, worked on the network plumbing for Aperio's SecondSlide network, hung out, ate some cookies...  and rode Rockstore for the first time since my wipeout.  I descended Decker rather gingerly and didn't post my best time, but it was good anyway.  There was some kind of biker congregation at Rockstore itself, tens of Harleyish bikes decorated with American flags; pretty cool.  (Interesting isn't it how patriotic bikers are; they love America because it just leaves them alone :)  And now I'm blogging, and tonight we're off to a party.  Yay.

Michael SchenkerThe other day I posted about the loudest bands, and I realized today that I foolishly omitted Michael Schenker!  How could I have...  First Scorpions, then UFO, and finally MSG all really rock at volume.  Today I was riding along Mulholland to UFO's Doctor Doctor and the omission became all too clear.  Sorry.

Eichhorn!I have a Google alert for "Eichhorn" and today it dragged in a most excellent picture of an Eichhorn (squirrel) from a German website.  I can't explain what happened with the hair, maybe it was a bike helmet?

I cannot tell you how pissed off I am that President Bush is bailing out the U.S. automakers.  There is no good reason for this except his own vanity, he doesn't want to see the car industry go bankrupt under his watch.  This is unworthy of him, he never did stuff like this before, and it will go down as one of his worst moves.  Besides the fact that we don't have the money, it really just delays the inevitable.  This is some kind of weird welfare.  I sure don't want my tax dollars used to subsidize UAW members so they can build cars nobody wants.  Blech!

Mark Steyn says we're in the fast lane to Bailoutistan.  Not a good place to be.  [ via Powerline ]

Horse's Mouth calls it a wipeout.  "I've abandoned free-market principles to save the free-market system."  Riight.

crude oil prices during 2008The chart at left shows crude oil prices during 2008.  Wow, nice cliff.  I guess gas prices alone can't explain the lack of new car sales, huh?  [ via Scott Loftesness ]

Megan McArdle notes Credit Suisse is paying its top executives in illiquid mortgage-backed securities.  I echo her conclusion: sheer genius.

Dave Winer notes that InformationWeek has named Werner Vogels of Amazon CTO of the year.  Good call.  Not only for the infrastructure on Amazon's website - which is amazing - but for pioneering "cloud computing", selling server space and bandwidth as the commodities they are.

ZooBorn cheetah cubZooBorn of the day: a cheetah cub.  I love cheetahs for some reason, they're cool, and little ones are even cooler :)

Want to know how cold it's been?  Aspen's snow keeps coming, but 'too cold to enjoy it'.  So be it.

 

revisiting stage 17

Sunday,  12/21/08  04:42 PM

Today I received an email from Adam Winer, a friend and fellow member of the Conejo Valley Cyclists riding club; he reported that "I spoke with one of my friends from San Diego...  Floyd Landis has been showing up to his clubs weekly rides to help train.  I guess these guys must really be fast!"  This started a little discussion about the type of power a pro cyclist can generate, and as a result I'd like to revisit Floyd's incredible ride on stage 17 of the 2006 Tour de France. 

In cycling this is now just called "stage 17".  You might remember, the previous day on stage 16 of the 2006 tour - another tortuous mountain stage - Floyd had bonked, giving up eight minutes and the yellow jersey and seemingly putting himself out of contention.  Then on stage 17, the most difficult of that tour, he broke away on the first climb and in an incredible performance stayed out in front all day, finishing over five minutes ahead of the desperately chasing peloton.

Floyd ended up winning the 2006 tour, largely due to that performance, but shortly afterward was disqualified because he tested positive for testosterone - on stage 17!  More about that below.

Here are some numbers from Floyd's amazing performance:

  • 5 hours 23 minutes and 36 seconds.
  • Covering 125 miles (81 miles alone in the wind).
  • At a speed of 19.3 mph/hr.
  • Hitting a max speed of 52 mph/hr.
  • Averaging 281 watts when moving for the whole ride and 318 watts over the last two hours.
  • Averaging 324 watts while pedaling for the whole ride and 364 watts over the last 2 hours.
  • At an average cadence of 89 rpm.
  • Transferring 5,456 Kjoules of energy to his Cycleops PowerTap.
  • Taking, no joke, a total of 70 water bottles (480 ml each) from the car to keep himself cool and hydrated.
  • Attacking about a quarter of the way up the Col des Saisies for 30 seconds at 544 watts, which settled into a 5-minute peak of 451 watts, which continued for 10 minutes at an average of power of 431 watts, and left everyone in his dust after 30 minutes at an average power of 401 watts.
  • Spending 13.2% of his time or 43 minutes coasting like a rocket on the descents and another 60% between 4 to 7 watts per kilogram of body weight (aka, the pain cave).
  • Holding onto 373 watts over the Col de Joux-Plane.

Rewatching that stage gives me goose bumps.  I remember vividly watching it "live" (well, via Tivo) when it happened, not knowing what was going to happen, and yelling at my TV; it was the most incredible athletic accomplishment I have ever witnessed.  Even on rewatching it doesn't seem possible that he could stay so far in front of a hard-charging peloton for so long, and I find myself tensing with anticipation even though I know how it ends.

A note about the drug test: I still believe Floyd was innocent of doping.  Nobody would take testosterone for one stage – it wouldn't help anyway - and he was clean on stage 16 (he was tested, because he had the yellow jersey going into the day) and on stage 19 (the time trial where he was tested again because he retook the yellow jersey).  Not to mention testosterone wouldn't help a GC rider anyway; it builds muscle, not endurance.  And not to mention his testosterone level was normal, it was only the ratio to something else which was abnormal.  I don't know if he was framed or just a victim of bad test process, but either way it is too bad that this unbelievable athletic accomplishment has been tarnished.

What strikes me in retrospect reading articles about stage 17 from that time is that nobody thought Floyd couldn't have done it.  Everyone knew a world-class cyclist like Floyd could put together a performance like that, if all the conditions were right and they really applied themselves.  Cycling is so mental, despite being so physical!  It was definitely a white swan...

 

happy winter solstice!

Sunday,  12/21/08  05:16 PM

Happy winter solstice to you, as the shortest day comes and winter descends upon us...  gray skies and rain out here, and snow pretty much everywhere else...  but I have a sunny mood for some reason.  Must be all the great food I've been eating :)

Today was an awesome day for football - did you catch the Chargers come from behind victory against Tampa Bay?  (Note: I am nominally a San Diego fan since L.A. still doesn't have a pro team.)  Or the Redskins nail-biter against Philadelphia?  Great great games.  I can't wait for the Carolina / Giants game tonight, that one should be great too...

[ Update: it was better than great.  Extremely well played between two of the best teams in the league, and came down to a 50-yard field goal at the buzzer - missed! - which sent the game into overtime.  Excellent.

Bonus points to the music director at the Meadowlands, who played Black Sabbath, Van Halen, Scorpions, and then with the game on the line for the final field goal, selected Europe's The Final Countdown. ]

Lately I've been getting a lot more LinkedIn, Facebook, Plaxo, etc requests from old friends and colleagues; everyone seems to be gardening their networks, either because they've lost their job or possibly might lose it in future.  Or [more positive spin] maybe everyone is refocusing on friends instead of work.  Anyway it's really nice, I've had several email correspondences and a nice lunch come out of it so far...

solstice at NewgrangeGerard Vanderleun: the Solstice as seen from Newgrange.  "Deep inside the world's oldest known building, every year, for only as much as 17 minutes, the sun -- at the exact moment of the winter solstice -- shines directly down a long corridor of stone and illuminates the inner chamber at Newgrange.  Newgrange was built 1,000 years before Stonehenge and also predates the pyramids by more than 500 years."  Now that is cool...

Here's a nice tip for you: make files with no extension text files.  More useful than you might think, you can just type notes to yourself and leave them on your desktop.  In Windows Explorer, select Tools | Folder Options | File Types.  Select New, then click Advanced, and associate a blank extension with Text Document.  That's it!  You're welcome...

l'hydoptere capsize!One minute you're blasting along at 61 knots, and then...  you're wet...

Cool: TTAC reports Obama will adopt 14 month old child from Israel.  About him and his advisor's monitoring the progress of Better Place, the electric car company / system you're read about here many times now.  I don't know how real they are, but they've certainly attracted attention!

Ted Dziuba: There will be no Web 3.0.  Whew.

"you're late" - Gahan WilsonAn oldie but goodie from Rogers Cadenhead: World's Oldest Person Dies (Again).  "The world's oldest person has a high mortality rate (tough job), and every time AP covers the story using the same formula: who kicked the bucket, how old was she down to the day, what was her secret for longevity, and who's now the oldest person."  A weird concept, and he's right, there will always be such a person.  In fact "when the oldest person expires, it moves the living memory of the world past a certain number of historic events, a concept I've dubbed the Line of Oblivion. Although it's a grim notion, I check Wikipedia to see what crosses the line each time the oldest person croaks."

kid of the day :)Kid of the day :)

 

man against the elements

Monday,  12/22/08  09:31 PM

temperatures on 12/22/08It has been cold out here, really cold, like in the 40s cold (the map at right is impressive, but the 53 over L.A. is misleading!) Not cycling weather.

But today I had a great ride; had to force myself to do it, it was rainy and windy and not warm at all, but I turned into man against the elements and had a blast.  Wore my Death Rider jersey, black windbreaker, shorts, socks, gloves etc on my gray bike and charged into winter. thunderstorm! It got dark toward the end (solstice!) but I kept riding with my music cranked and my shades on, it was so cool with lights coming on everywhere (yeah I know kinda dangerous, what can I say ;)  I figure it is a metaphor for life right now – just get out there and do your best and keep moving and you can enjoy every moment.

 

Monday,  12/22/08  09:41 PM

For some reason I am really looking forward to Christmas this year, can’t put my finger on why.  And was just talking to some friends who felt the same way.  Do you?  Well it’s a good thing!  Three days left!

Meanwhile, it's all happening...

Speaking of "it's all happening" (a line from Almost Famous as I'm sure you know), I have to link A Signature Cadence which quotes one of my favorite scenes in the course of making some great points about sincerity and truth and realness.  What part of my blog seems like it is "me"?  (Hopefully, a lot of it!)

Arnold would like to be PresidentArnold has confessed he would like to be President.  Nobody is shocked.  Actually I would like him to be President.  I think if you've been a citizen for a sufficiently long time that should be enough; you don't have to be born here...

SpaceShipTwo makes maiden flightVirgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo makes maiden flight.  Excellent!

Mike Arrington says Robert Scoble needs a FriendFeed intervention :)  Interestingly Robert seems to agree.  Everything in moderation...

free time vs. moneyJosh Newman graphs free time vs money and reports he is at the mean.  I fear he is hopelessly optimistic, the curve does not naturally go back up.  You have to add a lot of energy to make that happen...  I for one have never been able to do it.

Joel Spolsky notes (from the department of badly chosen defaults) that IE can too use bilinear interpolation for resizing images.  Who knew?  I have always resized the images before posting them out of distrust for browsers' ability to do this well.

baby otters!ZooBorns of the day: baby otters!  OMG are they adorable.

 

Wednesday,  12/24/08  12:13 PM

Greetings all...  yesterday was another long slog, up with the sun moon, drive down to Vista in the rain, spend the day in meetings and working (yeah, people were there working!), and drive back home in the rain...

...and then football, watching the end of the great Packers - Bears tussle, settled in overtime...

...but today is Christmas Eve (yay); I did a little wet cold ride this morning, in anticipation of eating and drinking way more than any human should (I must tell you the shortribs smell amazing, and I have seen See's candy boxes stacked high), and then wrapped about twenty presents (= wrap master Ole =).  And soon it is off to hang out with the family, but first, a little blogging...

Christmas presentThis whole gift exchanging thing is really cool.  I like giving people nice presents, but more than that, I like giving people the nice feelings they'll get from the present, first, the way they'll feel when they open it, but later, the feeling they'll have when they use it / eat it / drink it / enjoy it...  good gifts keep on giving :)

...hot and cold...Monday I posted man against the elements, about my ride in the freezing cold on the winter solstice; searching for it later I encountered this post from June, in which I used the exact phrase "man against the elements" to describe a ride in the blazing heat of the summer solstice.  There you have it, the cyclist is pitted against the extremes of weather...

I was just reading about Yahoo's woes as they try an "open" strategy...  looking back I can remember writing in May that I thought Microsoft needed Yahoo more than Yahoo needed Microsoft (and initially it seemed that the markets agreed).  Bad call.  The end of the year finds Yahoo searching for answers - and a new CEO - while Microsoft seems likely to survive the economic downturn and emerge stronger.  Never underestimate the longevity of a dinosaur :)

This is rather sad: NPR rewrites Rathergate history to cover up fraud.  "'Nobody has ever proven the documents to be anything but what they purported to be,' Rather says."  Riight.  He's either an idiot or a liar.  Possibly both.

NYTimes: Turning page, e-books start to take hold.  You betcha.  The Kindle has been a game-changer, and just like the iPod, it is the whole ecosystem that makes it different, including the Amazon store...

A key theme in all the 2008 year-end reviews is the decline of print media; possibly this is because many of the reviews are written in the print media :) but also it is a real thing, and as Ezra Klein notes, there's nothing anyone can do about it.  Newspaper publishers are often criticized for being "slow to adapt", but the critics neglect to mention anything they could do to adapt, basically, it is game over for print media, slowly but surely...

CNet has the complete year in tech review: 2008.  Everything from the iPhone, to the rise of social networks, Microhoo, Vista's woes and Windows 7, and the economic meltdown and it's affect on Web 2.0.  Check it out, a great overview...

Jupiter from EarthNational Geographic has the top ten space photos of 2008.  Excellent, all of them, but my favorite would have to be this excellent picture of Jupiter as seen from Earth.

SpaceX Dragon spacecraftCongratulations to SpaceX for closing a $1.6B deal with NASA to resupply the space station.  And congratulations to NASA for choosing small innovative companies like SpaceX instead of Lockheed and Boeing.  [ here's more from Kimbal Musk ]

Apollo 8 astronautsApropos: 40-years later, Apollo 8 moon mission still awes.  No kidding.  Recent progress by companies like SpaceX just underscores how amazing it was that we were able to send men to the moon in 1968 with the technology of that day.

I love this: the classic Radio Flyer wagon updated for world 2.0.  "This wagon, called the Cloud 9, is equipped with enough high-tech bells and whistles to make the family minivan jealous.  Outfitted with 5-point safety harnesses, padded seats, cup holders, foot brakes and fold-out storage containers, the sleek, curved Cloud 9 has every family covered for a ride through the park.  There's a digital handle that tracks temperature, time, distance and speed - just in case energetic parents want to track their split times around the playground.  And there's a slot for an MP3 player, complete with speakers, for some cruising tunes."  I love it.

I also think the phrase "world 2.0" is cool, although misleading...  it implies some kind of inflection point, a qualitative difference between 1.0 and 2.0.  Whereas in truth it is just a gradient, albeit with ever-increasing slope (3.0 will probably occur sometime next year :)...

 

Merry Christmas Eve

Wednesday,  12/24/08  12:24 PM



Santa's workshop

Merry Christmas Eve!

Today is a day of wrappin', eatin', (and to get started, riding'),
It's cold and rainy and feels Christmasy,
The house smells of great cookin',
The tree is lit and glowing,
Peace reigns.

Enjoy!

 

 

Christmas!

Thursday,  12/25/08  02:00 PM

Woo hoo!  Christmas!  I hope you are having a peaceful and wonderful day with those you love...

So around here it has not all been peaceful and wonderful.  Last night our Christmas Eve was interrupted when Shirley's Mom passed out at the dinner table and had to be rushed to the emergency room in an ambulance.  Turns out she was "just" dehydrated (don't be fooled that can be serious!) but it made for a rather dramatic evening as we celebrated Christmas at midnight in the ER at Tarzana Hospital.  She was able to come home and is now fine, whew.

And so we slept in, and Santa arrived on schedule and made his deliveries, and we exchanged gifts, and ate candy, and are now hanging out with the smell of Shirley's chili in the air, and the pleasant sound of pouring rain from outside...  I'm debating whether to ride, kind of leaning toward it, actually...  we'll see.  And I'm wearing a wonderful tee-shirt presented by my daughters:

Ole Christmas tee-shirt w Alex and Jordan
Alexis, me, Jordan
(note "I'm blogging this" inscription, among others :)

This is football watching season; I have my Tivo armed and ready...  a tip for those of you looking to program your Tivo, after you've selected Sports, don't select Football, instead page down 10 times (yep 10 count 'em 10 pages) to Sports Event.  This will find only football games, as opposed to all the other football-related crap that you're not looking for....  {note to Tivo people, it would be really good if we could do both, select Football and Sports Events, so as to exclude things like Hockey games and poker tournaments (!)...}

Okay, well so much for blogging, I'm off to ride man against the elements; see you on the other side...

 

Thursday,  12/25/08  10:56 PM

Merry Christmas A nice quiet day of hanging out with my family and friends, and watching basketball (Lakers-Celtics of course, my first game of the season, violating my dictum to wait until after football, because, well, it was Lakers-Celtics :).  And I ate a lot of chili and chocolate, and drank some wonderful Tempranillo.

Yes Man!Oh, and my kids and I went and saw Yes Man.  I really liked it.  Yeah, I guess it was predictable, but entertaining nonetheless, and the underlying message was/is cool.  It is bad to be in a rut, and good to say "yes" to new things.  Definitely not Jim Carrey's worst :)

Are you sitting down?  Are you holding any sharp objects?  No?  Because I am trying to use Twitter.  So far I've found a bunch of people to follow, but the twits are inane.  I come into this with the preconception that the signal to noise would be really low, and so far I haven't seen anything to change my opinion.  But I'm trying it...  (saying "yes" to a new thing :)  stay tuned :)

the Gates who stole SearchmasThe Gates who stole Searchmas...  a Silicon Valley Christmas Tale.  I love it.  (Also the illustrations are excellent.)

Thirty unforgettable Christmas ads.  They are excellent.  The inventiveness of some of these ads is amazing; it shows that the gamut between good and bad is so wide in advertising.

Jeff Atwood is pressing the software turbo button.  Now he's talking, I totally agree with this.  (This is a bit different for Jeff, he was last seen arguing that fast hardware makes fast software unnecessary, and that productivity is more important than performance.  It's all relative...)

Global warming?  Check out "Santa" Klaus.  "The largest threat to freedom, democracy, the market economy, and prosperity at the end of the 20th and at the beginning of the 21st century is no longer socialism. It is, instead, the ambitious, arrogant, unscrupulous ideology of environmentalism."  Here's what I think: global warming is real, and it is a problem, but it isn't as real or as much of a problem as some would have you believe.  Everything in moderation...

McLaren SLR 2009I want one for Christmas...  the 2009 McLaren SLR.  "Featuring a supercharged, 5,439cc V8 engine developing 650bhp. It accelerates from 0-62mph in less than 3.5 seconds and has a top speed of 217mph."  Whoa.  Looks pretty, too :)

APOD for 12/25/08The Christmas APOD...  wow.  Make sure you discover your browsers F11 "maximize" on this one...

 

gone skiing

Sunday,  12/28/08  09:29 AM

Sorry I was gone; on impulse my friend Peter and I spent the last couple of days skiing in Mammoth.  We had a fantastic time; it dumped up there Christmas Day, we drove up early on Friday and skied in fresh snow with the sun shining, then had an even better day yesterday as it warmed up and drove back last night.


what could be better than skiing
on such a winter's day?


the view from the lift back down into the valley
unbelievable!


decisions, decisions :)


fresh powder - yay


your blogger is happy


the top of Mammoth at sundown

Anyway it was a great trip and reminded me how fun it is to be spontaneous.  Life is too long to plan it all out.  We saw Yes Man the other day, and the message was/is cool.  Want to go skiing?  Yes!

[ It's been quiet in the blogosphere but there is stuff of note; I'll catch up, please stay tuned... ]

 

Sunday,  12/28/08  10:24 AM

Apres skiing, the Ole filter makes a pass...

[ A bit of navel-gazing: I've now published over 500 posts this year.  Yay me.  (And yay you, thanks for reading :) ]

Nick Wingfield thinks its Time to Leave the Laptop Behind, arguing that with smartphones they aren't always necessary.  But Gerry Purdy disagrees, and says don't leave home without it.  Clearly this isn't either/or; for some situations you can leave the laptop behind - I just went skiing for a couple of days, and left it, knowing I could pick up email on my Palm - but for business travel where you're likely to want to type a lot a laptop is way better than a phone.  I can't imagine blogging from my Palm, for example...

"always have options"...from Adam on the Conejo Valley Cyclists mailing list; "always have options" :)

The Economist published their annual summary of the year, 2008.  A great brief overview of "everything that happened".  Not our best effort, let's hope 2009 is better!

why music?The same issue of the Economist asks a great question: Why Music?  A pretty thorough analysis of why we humans make, like, and respond to music.  They are on the right track with two things, first, the idea that liking music evolved, and second, that it has something to do with sex, but in the end the question remains unanswered.  I must tell you I like it myself, although I don't know why.

Wired: Before the levees break: A plan to save the Netherlands.  "New projections of sea-level rise and other potential consequences of climate change, coupled with the aftershock from Hurricane Katrina, have prompted Dutch officials to ask a very big question: What would it take to climate-proof our country for the next 200 years?  In 2007, the parliament assigned a team of experts, dubbed the Delta Committee, to come up with an answer.  The group's final report, published in September, proposes a combination of aggressive new steps - extending the coastline and building surge barriers - and time-tested strategies like fortifying levees. The cost: about $1.5 billion a year for the next 100 years."  Excellent.  And in so doing they will create a template for everyone else.

Amazon says their 2008 Holiday season was their best ever.  So be it.  Just like Wal-Mart, they take share from higher-priced merchants when times are tough.

Mozambique's Lost World rediscoveredThis is cool: Lost World discovered, thanks to Google Earth.  "A team of conservationists from Kew Garden has just returned from an expedition to an uncharted and unexplored Eden in the heart of Mozambique after discovering it on Google Earth. The mountainous area of southern Africa - crammed with colourful birds, unusual insects and rare plants - had been overlooked by wildlife experts and map makers because of its difficult landscape and decades of war."  Just when you think you've seen everything, you realize "everything" is so much more than you thought...

strange cat - a foiler catamaranSailing Anarchy notes a Strange Cat.  "We told you about this VPLP Swiss foiler catamaran and now it finally sails.  We didn't know that perhaps the greatest F-1 driver of all time, Alain Prost, is involved with the project.  Now that's cool."  Yes it is.

the giant Magellan telescopeCosmos: Big friendly giant: the Magellan Telescope.  "A world consortium of astronomy organisations plans to build the Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT) on a mountaintop near the village of Residencia in Chile's Atacama Desert.  It will cost US$600 million and should be ready by 2016.  With a resolving power ten times sharper than Hubble and five times sharper than its replacement, the James Webb Space Telescope, the GMT is a big step up in terms of power.  Composed of an array of seven mirrors, each 8.4 m in diameter (some of the largest ground-based telescopes currently have a diameter of 10 m), it will have the capacity of a telescope with a diameter of 24.5 m – far larger than any telescope built so far."  Interesting that they're doing this on the ground instead of in space; shows how effective computer corrections for atmosphere effects have become...

Cat's Eye NebulaFrom the Boston Globe's Big Picture: The Hubble Telescope's Advent calendar.  Twenty-five amazing pictures of space, taken with the Hubble...  beautiful.  The picture at right is the Cat's Eye Nebula.

 

Unnatural Selection, six years on...

Sunday,  12/28/08  09:03 PM

In preparation for starting a new year I've changed the navbar at right to have six years' worth of "on this date" links; I began blogging on January 1, 2003.  And doing so reminds me of six years ago, December 2002, when I had decided to write a book called Unnatural Selection, and as a sort of corollary, to start this blog.

Unnatural SelectionAt that time I was on fire to communicate and discuss the problems caused by the Earth's human population becoming less intelligent, because birth rates are higher among less intelligent people.  I still believe this is a problem - more so than ever - and still think educating people about this problem and talking about what can be done is important.  That is, I still want to write the book.  I don't know why I haven't [yet]; lack of time is my excuse, but I'm not sure that's the entire reason.  At times in the intervening six years I've thought about how best to approach communicating the problem; my original idea was a nonfiction book that would simply discuss the problem and talk about possible solutions, following the general outline I devised in early 2003.  But I've also thought perhaps it might work better as a novel, illustrating the ideas in a more entertaining fashion.  Not sure.

Interestingly, to some extent my blog has become my book; the book's outline has been the top hit on Google for "Unnatural Selection" for nearly six years.  And of course the blog has taken on a life of its own, far removed from the book :)

I think one of the obstacles to working on the book was that I understood the problem better than the solutions.  Although knowledge of the problem is useful in and of itself, and communicating the problem would hopefully stimulate discussion that might yield solutions, I really wanted to have a more constructive approach.  Fortunately in the intervening six years I've had a potentially useful insight that could lead to some solutions.

In the book outline I identified three factors that affect relative birth rates: 1) choice, 2) generation length, and 3) death rates.  I went on to note that "All solutions must affect choice, the first part of the equation which yields the overall reproductive rate. It is not feasible to affect generation length nor death rates."  But on further reflection this isn't really true; there are solutions which affect generation length.  In particular, it might be possible to delay child bearing among less intelligent people, which would have the same effect as reducing the number of children they have overall.  And this might be a lot more politically feasible.  For example, governments could offer some kind of financial incentive.  Granted, in many situations people have children without prior planning, but an incentive could foster some change in the generation length, as well as potentially influencing the "family values" affecting choice, which can be institutionalized from government incentives.

Anyway I am entering 2009 with a firm resolve to spend some time working on the book.  I don't know how much time I'll actually have free, nor how much time writing the book is going to require, but making steady progress is my goal.  Stay tuned!


© 2003-2017 Ole Eichhorn

 

Monday,  12/29/08  11:15 PM

A beautiful day today, and a great way to start one of my favorite weeks, the last of the year.  (Of course with Christmas and New Year's on Thursdays, it kind of throws off the "week between" thing, but still, this *is* that last week.)  Not much going on at work, fortunately, which makes it a good week for quiet reflection...  (...today's subject, considered at some length over the course of a two-hour ride, what I do well...)  And of course there's hanging out with the kids, with school out, and eating, and watching football...

NFL logoSpeaking of football, there were some excellent games yesterday; first Carolina squeaked by New Orleans on a last second field goal, and then minutes later the Vikings eeked out a win over the Giants on another one.  And that setup a great Dallas / Philadelphia game, with both teams playing to get into the playoffs ( the Eagles romped over the Cowboys).  Not to mention Miami over the Jets, in New York, with Chad Pennington outplaying Brett Farve, and then the topper; the Chargers dominating the Broncos (yay, LT looked like LT again).  Great stuff.

By the way, this weekend there were a million examples why the Ten Yard Line is the most important in football.  So many times players are tackled inside the ten, leaving a first-and-goal, leading to a field goal.  If they get stopped outside the ten, the team mostly scores a touchdown, with or without a first down.  I can't wait for this to become "known"...

Twitter fail whaleMy Twitter experiment is going the way I thought...  the signal to noise ratio is not only low, it is impressively close to zero.  Even the most interesting people are not interesting all the time, spontaneously, with no thought.  You get a bunch of tweets from one person, and none from another, and the vaunted 140 character limit seems to encourage irrelevance rather than brevity.  So far, not so good...

Heathkit receiverI think I might have linked this before, but it is so cool; the Heathkit Virtual Museum.  When I was a kid I helped my dad make quite a few Heathkit devices, and boy do I remember that fondly.  I also remember gazing through their catalog and dreaming about making my own stereo system; I still think that would be cool.

I've been discussing the decline of print media quite a bit, but this isn't anything new; delightfully, my friend Gary sent me a link to a Time Magazine article on The High Cost of Publishing...  from 1954!  "The day of easy money [for newspapers] is gone . . . Some newspapers have shrunk, and more have died than we like to talk about. More will shrink and die if we do not meet our present-day problems."  The difference then and now; then circulation was increasing, and the problem was production costs, now it is plummeting, amid no-cost competition online.

the Fastnet lighthouseNot all the print media are in trouble; The Economist seems to be thriving, and published some great "think piece" articles in their year-end double issue.  Like a lovely feature on the Fastnet lighthouse, "the teardrop of Ireland” - a farewell to familiar shores for mournful Irish émigrés....

battling bad behaviorAnother print publication earning its keep is The Scientist; their latest issue has a fascinating investigation on Battling Bad Behavior; basically, how do you convince people to do what's in their own best interest?  An interesting subject with deep implications for Unnatural Selection.

And then there is Velonews; their overview 2008, the year in cycling is great.

Seems Scientific illiteracy is all the rage among the glitterati.  Perhaps they should spend more time with print media :)

 

the elderly Duck

Tuesday,  12/30/08  10:49 PM

elderly duckTonight I had a wonderful experience with an elderly Duck. 

I'd done a nice ride from Dana Point down the shore to Camp Pendleton and back (40 miles, featuring a spooky passage along San Onofre beach in fog, as it was getting dark), changed, and settled into the bar of the Charthouse overlooking the harbor for a nice filet.  Next to me were an older couple in their 70s, also having dinner in the bar; we were surrounded by the usual "young people" drinking and/or waiting to have dinner in the restaurant.  The Holiday Bowl was playing on a large flat panel behind the bar, and while enjoying a salad and a glass of Pinot I began to take a casual interest in the game, a match between Oregon (go Pac 10!) and Oklahoma State.

From their remarks to each other I became aware that the older couple were fans, closely watching the game, and we struck up a conversation.  Turns out the gentleman was an Oregon alumnus and played linebacker for the Ducks in the early 1950s.  (I must admit he still looked a little like a linebacker, bowed and gray but large and solid :)  His wife was from Washington, also a football fan, and upon discovering the game on TV in the bar they decided to have their dinner there so they could watch the game.

Oregon scores!It was a fantastic game, back and forth, with a lot of great running, and my enjoyment was greatly enhanced by the gruff and insightful remarks made by the elderly Duck.  At one point in the fourth quarter, with Oregon trailing but driving, he said "we need misdirection", and sure enough on the next play Jeremiah Masoli, the Duck QB, faked left and ran right, sweeping around end to score.  "The 'backers were overpursuing" my Duck friend remarked.  Later as the Cowboys mounted a comeback, he noted "they better stay away from the middle"; on the next play they threw deep, over the middle...  and were intercepted.  Oregon prevailed 42-31, and my companions made their exit, clearly satisfied, and we exchanged pleasant wishes for the New Year.  I celebrated with an enormous mud pie :)

 

Tuesday,  12/30/08  11:11 PM

balloon stack!Well I had a nice day; drove down to Vista to check on the troops, successfully implemented a balloon stack of a colleague's office, and reviewed Aperio's Q4 results which are gratifying, especially in view of the stiff economic headwinds.  Finished off with a nice ride and had a wonderful experience with an elderly Duck.

It's football watching season, which means eating, which means riding if I don't want to turn into a balloon myself.  Fortunately the weather is wonderful.  And riding is the perfect complement to my other pastime in the final days of the day, reflection...  I love Southern California!

...and so as 2008 winds down, we find...

twin twinsCheck out these twin sets of twins.  Born seven years apart to a white mother and black father, each set features a "black" and "white" twin.  Remarkable.  If that doesn't blow up your perceptions of race, what would?

Jeff Atwood has a simple question: "You met someone who told you they had two children, and one of them is a girl. What are the odds that person has a boy and a girl?"  This is a great variation on the Monty Hall three-door problem.

oystersThe year-end issue of the Economist has a great article on oysters.  Did you know that in addition to being great to eat, they clean the water?  "A single oyster can filter about 50 gallons of water per day."  Who knew?

chilisAnd in the same issue, an article entitled Global Warming, about how the world has taken to eating chilis.  "In the same way as young people may come to like alcohol, tobacco and coffee (all of which initially taste nasty, but deliver a pleasurable chemical kick), chili-eating normally starts off as a social habit, bolstered by 'benign masochism': doing something painful and seemingly dangerous, in the knowledge that it won’t do any permanent harm. The adrenalin kick plus the natural opiates form an unbeatable combination for thrill-seekers."  Whew.  Pass the chili, please!

racing a DN iceboatEnjoy sailing but find that it is a bit cold in your parts?  Well then, how about some iceboat racing?  Sailing Anarchy has a nice post about DN sailing, including a pretty compelling video...  this is something I've always wanted to try.  Unfortunately opportunities for doing so in the Los Angeles area are a bit limited :)

Joel Spolsky chest beats about Fog Creek's new office.  I like Joel, but I wish he would drop the "holier than thou" attitude, like Fog Creek are the only ones who have figured out how to build software...

Martians!From BoingBoing: Ray Bradbury on Mars.  "The interviewer said, 'Mr. Bradbury, how do you feel about this landing? Where are the Martian cities and where are all the living beings?'  'Don't be a fool,' I said. 'WE are the Martians! We're going to be here for the next million years. At long last, WE ARE MARTIANS!' That was the end of the interview."  I love it!

John Gruber links The Man Who said No to WalMart, about how "Jim Wier, then the CEO of high-end lawnmower company Snapper, who went to WalMart’s corporate headquarters to inform them that he was pulling Snapper’s entire product line from WalMart.  He concluded - correctly, it seems - that it was incompatible with Snapper’s high-quality strategy to sell their products in a store where the only important factor is price."  This is the insidious thing about the WalMart's of the world; they commoditize everything, even when there is distinct differentiation.

Energy Ball personal wind turbineFinally, check out Inhabitat's top ten "green design" stories of 2008.  The great thing is that they are unranked; you get to vote.  I voted for the Energy Ball personal wind turbine, pictured at right...

 

wine knot

Wednesday,  12/31/08  05:26 PM

So, we're going to a party tonight, and the hosts are having a Cabernet contest; everyone brings a bottle, everyone antes into a pool, and the wine voted best wins the pool.  Naturally there is more than money at stake, we're talking cellar pride here :)  So, I have three strong candidates, which should I take? 

1997 Dalla Valle
1997 Dalla Valle
33%

2000 Araujo Eisele
2000 Araujo Eisele
43%

1997 Staglin
1997 Staglin
23%

Thanks in advance for your help!

  (ended 01/01/09)

 

Happy New Year!

Wednesday,  12/31/08  06:00 PM



Well, we all made it, it is the last day of 2008.  Whew.
In some ways the toughest year imaginable, and yet in others, one of the best.
Certainly eventful; may you live in interesting times, indeed!

One of the cool things about 2008 was that I blogged it, so I can go back and read all about it :)
And one of my new year's resolutions is to keep blogging. 
Thanks to all of you for reading and for your feedback.

I hope you have a wonderful New Year's, and see you next year!


 
 

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On the Persistence of Bad Design...
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almost famous design and stochastic debugging
may I take your order?
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how did I get here (Mt.Whitney)?
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