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Archive: January 2011

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new day

Saturday,  01/01/11  01:01 PM

And so it is a new day - of a new year - Happy New Year!  Weird how marking a particular point in our annual trip around the sun causes us to take stock of where we are and where we're going… but it is so.  Last year was amazingly eventful for me and I can't wait to see what this year will bring.

Do you make resolutions?  I do ... and I have two this year, first, I'm going to sleep earlier, and second, I'm going to under-react to things.  These are both pretty challenging for me I must tell you, and we'll see how I do.  If I can do them both I believe this year will be [slightly] better than otherwise.

One of the joys of blogging is a personal record, and I was looking at posts from the end of last year, and it occurred to me; I had no idea whatsoever what 2010 was going to bring.  I had some idea I had no idea however, because I wrote "the future is cloudy but bright".  The song remains the same!

I had two resolutions last year - to spent more time coding, and to remain optimistic.  I failed miserably at the first; I abandoned programming and spent most of 2010 wearing marketing and business hats.  I succeeded at the second, however, and it was great; optimism breeds success and more optimism (and friends!)  And I am most optimistic about 2011... onward!


bowling in the new year

Saturday,  01/01/11  10:28 PM

2011 Rose Bowl - Wisconsin orange against TCU purpleAnd so I spent today as most New Years Days*, eating and watching bowl games with friends.  I had so much chips, guacamole, salsa, tamales, chili, and Dos Equis that I can barely move.  A perfect start to the new year.  A bike ride tomorrow seems indicated.  (Assuming I can still ride, which is in question :)

In the marquee matchup, TCU narrowly beat Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl, a failed late-Q4 two-point conversation was the difference.  (Arguably, a missed field goal in the first half was the difference, too.)  It was well played and rather fun, but I had to invent a rooting interest in Wisconsin.  Tell me again why we didn't have a Pac-10 team in the Rose Bowl?  I get that Oregon is in the BCS Championship, but why couldn't Stanford have played Wisconsin?  Blech.

the digital story of the nativityThis you must watch: The digital story of the nativity.  Extremely clever and delightful.  I love the "avoid Romans" checkbox in Google Maps :)  thanks Jared!

2010: A momentous year for commercial spaceflight.  Indeed!  And 2011 may be even better.

San Francisco wins right to host 2013 America's Cup.  Mark your calendars :)

Dinner for OneThis I love: how an obscure British skit became Germany's most popular New Year's tradition.  Sadly there is no online posting of Dinner for One... yet!

[Update: yes here it is on YouTube! yay check it out 11 min... having watched it, I cannot imagine how this could have become a *German* tradition, but I love it...  same procedure every year :]

California enacts 725 new laws which take effect today.  Reading through the list I am shaking my head sadly.  Making trans-fats illegal?  Ridiculous.

Finally, a list of the best lists of 2010 stuff.  Have fun!

* When New Years Day falls on a Sunday, as it will next year, the Rose Parade and Rose Bowl are held on the following Monday, Jan 2.  In years past this meant the other New Years bowls also moved to Monday.  The tradition began with avoiding a conflict with church (!), and has continued avoiding a conflict with NFL games.  With the BCS Championship everything is all messed up and I have no idea what will happen.  Stay tuned :)



Monday,  01/03/11  10:01 PM

If you've blogged for eight years, you've accumulated some stats, and I have, and I have. 

Yes it was January 1, 2003 that I made my first post, and I've made 2,337 since.  (You can see all these stats and links to *all* my posts in the archive; I still think this is the best way to present an archive, but it has not been copied as far as I know :)  Last year was a bit down for me, just 325 posts, compared to 539 in 2009.  But many of them were summaries with many sub-entries, so I don't think I'm slowing down.  It remains as fun as ever, especially the aspect of laying down a personal history; I love going back to see what was on my mind a year ago or five years ago.

What is especially gratifying is the steady increase in overall traffic.  On a typical day I get about 2,500 page views, of which about half are from RSS feeds.  These generate about 20,000 hits, about two thirds of which are images (depending on the number of pictures on my home page at any moment).  I get about 400 referrals per day - links from other sites - and about 300 links from search results.  My most popular post is *still* The Tyranny of Email, even though it is eight years old; second is IQ and Populations, and third is The Two Switches.  When people visit my blog they get "cookied", and so I can tell whether visitors are new.  This lets me count "new visitors", and they too are steadily increasing.  If you are reading this, it might be your first time here :) 

So - welcome!  thank you for visiting, and onward into the next eight years!



back to normal

Monday,  01/03/11  10:45 PM

The new year is officially under way, it is Monday and we're back to work and I'm back to normal.  Or what passes for normal with me, anyway.  It was fun picking up all the projects that sort of got sidelined during December, and getting energized about the work ahead.  There are vestiges of the Holidays left - many of my neighbors are still showing Christmas lights, and there are still bowl games being played! - but it feels like the world is moving on.  So be it.  Let's make a filter pass, shall we?

Orange Bowl - Stanford over VA TechStanford sure looked dominant tonight defeating Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl, didn't they?  Those Hokie orange helmets looked cool but the Cardinal looked better.  Would have been great to see them blow away Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl but this was good too.  The first half was close and interesting, but it felt like Stanford was the better team playing worse.  Then they blew it wide open in the second half.  Can't wait for the Oregon - Auburn shootout but we have to, it isn't until next Monday...

Snooth: the Year in Pictures (Erie Cellars)If you like wine you'll like Snooth, a sort of social network for wine lovers, and a good resource for finding interesting new wines.  They've posted The Year in Pictures, featuring some great vineyard shots.  Check 'em out!

Good news from the WSJ: M&A, IPOs Finish 2010 With A Pop For Venture Investors.  Yay, the VCs need liquidity.  (And so do I!)  Meanwhile TechCrunch is less sanguine: IPO Hype Boils for 2011.

Dave Barry mixes humor with truth: 2010 may be the worst year ever.  I must say I was rooting for Obama but his team failed miserably, and the Republican midterm avalanche was the result.  Even ardent Republicans can't be happy about the wild spending, lack of progress on jobs, deterioration of foreign relations, and weird healthcare [insurance] reform.

Niklas Zennstrom's RAN in the Sydney Hobart raceI loved this picture of Niklas "Skype" Zennstrom's RAN racing in the Sydney Hobart race.  Wow.  Makes being successful worth it, doesn't it?

the iSPEC - future of iDevices from Tron Legacy director Joseph KosinskiWhat will the iDevice of the future look like?  Maybe this: the iSPEC, from Tron Legacy director Joseph Kosinski back in 2003.  Excellent.

Apparently Facebook users uploaded 750M pictures over New Year's.  Were you one of them?  Well, you weren't alone.  Yeah I did it too :)  this just confirms for me that connectivity is the most important feature for a camera, and this is why cellphone cameras are going to take over.  They might not have the picture quality - although they'll keep getting better - but there will be a tipping point where they're "good enough".  We might be there already.

This is incredible: How a guy found four new planets without a telescope.  Just by analyzing reported data captured over decades, and looking for anomalies.

the Bermuda Triangle of productivitySomething to ponder for 2011: the Bermuda Triangle of productivity.  For me it would be RSS+blogging rather than Twitter, however... 

Cheers and enjoy the new year!


[way more than] everything you ever wanted to know about character encoding

Tuesday,  01/04/11  10:34 PM

<ράντ type="οπτιοναλ">

Have you ever seen this, and wondered what the heck it means?

<?xml encoding="UTF-8"?>

Read on! As you’ll see, this is a beautiful solution to a tough problem.

In the beginning we needed to represent characters as numbers, and so there was ASCII, and it was good.  (I’m skipping FIELDATA and let’s not mention EBCDIC in polite company.)  ASCII was a way of representing every character in 7 bits, such that they fit comfortably in a byte, leaving a high-order parity bit.  Where “every” includes all letters, numbers, and all the punctuation you could ever want, including stuff used for programming like quotes, equal signs, and angle brackets.

And then C was created and the Unix runtime libraries, and they cleanly supported ASCII.  Char was a native type, one byte, and strings could be stored in arrays of char, and by convention the character NULL = 00 was used to mark the end of a string.  A metric ton of code was written which processed, managed, and manipulated such strings.  Most of it ignores the content of strings, secure in the knowledge that every character resides comfortably in one byte, and the whole was terminated by a zero.

Life was good.

Gradually however it became apparent that “every” did not actually include all characters.  There were these people in Europe who used áccènts and ümlaûts.  They even had some different punctuation like upside down exclamation points¡  Who knew?  And so the high order bit formerly used for parity was reused and 128 more characters were defined.  Such a luxury, there was even room for graphics characters that could be used for drawing lines and stuff; ▀▄ yippee ▄▀.  These characters still fit snugly into one byte, and that metric ton of code worked perfectly.

But … turns out there are all these other people on Earth who don’t use the Roman alphabet, and they use computers too!  We’re talking Greek, Cyrillic, Armenian, Hebrew, Arabic, and so on.  (Armenians send email?  Who knew?)  So… now what?  Well it was determined that for any one person or computer, they could live with an additional 128 characters, only different people needed different additional characters.  So the concept of code pages was invented.  Each code page was the definition of 128 characters which was used when that high-order bit was set.  On any one computer the code page was fixed, but different computers could use different code pages.  And characters *still* fit snugly into a byte, and 00 still meant the end of a string, and all that code still worked.


But … turns out there are all these other people on Earth, who don’t use alphabets, they use symbols!  We’re talking Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and so on.  (Korean XML?  Who knew?)  So… now what?  We need literally thousands of characters to store all these symbols… Oh no, Mr. Bill!

Unicode!Time to do a big reset.  And so the concept of Unicode was invented.  Unicode is one mapping that assigns a unique number to every character and symbol used by humans on Earth to communicate.  They are called “code points”, and there are a lot of them (246,943 as I type this, probably more by the time you read it).  That is way more than can fit inside a byte, snugly or otherwise.  But now we have a way to map all of Kanji (漢字), yay!

So… we have Unicode, but how do we represent these code points inside a computer?  This is where character encoding comes in... there are different ways of encoding a series of Unicode code points as computer data.

In this, as in just about everything else in computing, there is the crummy nonstandard technique Microsoft uses (called UTF-16), and the elegant cool technique everyone else uses (called UTF-8).  BTW you will win bar bets if I tell you UTF stands for Unicode Transformation Format, please PayPal me 10% commission.

Let’s take UTF-16 first so you can really appreciate UTF-8.

UTF-16 is the idea that all Unicode characters are stored in two byte “words”.  Every code point is assigned a 16-bit value, characters are 16-bits wide, and strings are arrays of 16-bit words.  The end of a string is indicated by a 16-bit zero.  There are some problems with this; first, that metric ton of code written in the old days will no longer work, second, most strings are now twice as big in memory as they used to be, and third, there are more than 65,536 code points, so there are too many characters and symbols to fit into 16-bit words!  Okay, so here’s what we’ll do; first, we’ll rewrite all the old code, create new subroutines for everything.  No problem.  Second, we don’t care about memory.  Third, for code points too big to fit into one 16-bit word, we’ll use two 16-bit words.  There will be a special range of values (D800-DBFF) which mean “I am the first word of a two-word (four-byte) sequence”.  Of course if you look at a second word, you won’t know if it is just a 16-bit value, or the second word of a 32-bit value, but that’s a detail.  Oh, and yeah there is a byte ordering problem, some computers represent 16-bit values with the high order byte first (big endian) and some with the low order byte first (little endian), so we will start every string with the value FEFF, so that everyone can tell.

I am not making this up, that’s UTF-16, and that is the way all characters are stored and processed inside Windows.  If you are reading this on a Windows PC, all these characters are coming to you via UTF-16.  These are called “wide characters”, there are “wide” alternative versions of string manipulation function, and the whole thing is massively ugly.

Now let’s move on to UTF-8.

UTF-8 is the idea that all Unicode characters are stored in 8-bit bytes, just like before.  Some code points fit in one byte, some in two, some in three, etc.; as many bytes as are needed to represent the code point.  The end of a string is indicated by a zero, just like before.  The values 1-127 are standard ASCII, just like before.  (In one fell swoop, perfect backward compatibility!)  All the old code still works, and we don’t need new subroutines for everything.  Some characters require more than one byte, but we only use the bytes we need, so no memory is wasted.  When you see a byte, you can tell immediately whether it is the first byte of a multi-byte sequence.  There are no endian issues.  It is a beautiful solution to the problem.

When you see a byte, you can what kind of byte it is by the value:


is NULL, the end of a string


stand for themselves, and do not appear elsewhere ("ASCII")


are always not the first byte of a character, they are the 2nd, 3rd, etc. bytes of a multi-byte character


are invalid ("overlong" start of a 2-byte character)


are the start of a 2-byte character


are the start of a 3-byte character


are the start of a 4-byte character


are the start of a 5-byte character (not needed yet, but maybe when we colonize Mars :)


are the start of a 6-byte character (probably will never be needed)


are invalid (mostly to protect against UTF-16!)

And you may ask yourself, how did I get here? what do I have to do to support UTF-8?  Well if you don’t care about content, nothing!  Your strings will still work even if they contain UTF-8 encoded characters, and you may take the rest of this post off.  You have strings of 8-bit bytes, terminated by zeros, and you're happy.

If you do care about content, and the content is ASCII, not much has changed.  You can scan for common parse characters like “<” or “=” inside a string, just like before.

Finally if you care about content, and the content might not be ASCII then you have to be aware that the byte length of a string is not necessarily the same as the character length.  To count bytes, you, um, just count bytes.  To count characters, you count bytes which are in the range 01-7F and C0-FF, and skip bytes in the range 80-BF.  Pretty simple.  Copying and moving characters strings is exactly like before.  Mostly stuff just works.  To find a multi-byte value, you search for the multi-byte value in the string; the encoding ensures that a given sequence of characters only ever means one thing.




a time of change

Friday,  01/07/11  07:26 AM

change I can believe inNew Year, new week, back to normal, and ... a time of change.  Everywhere people are changing their lives, their approaches, their attitudes; something about marking this point in our annual trip around the sun causes people to take stock of their lives and make changes.  I am faced with a few myself.  Change can be good, but change is scary...  While already taking road A few people will willingly switch to road B, even if, given the choice at the start, they would chose B over A.  Disconcerting.

So be it, some things don't change...  like me, making a filter pass :)

Dilbert: the iPad dilemma2011: The Enterprise Resets.  In which companies are forced to confront the outside world: clouds, smartphones, tablets, and live without Microsoft.  Change!

From Scott "Dilbert" Adams: Confidence.  "The reality is that there are only two conditions you can be in. You can either have an accurate view of your own abilities or an inaccurate view. Confidence is similar to will power in the sense that neither of them exists and yet society is quite certain they do."  As usual Scott raises an interesting topic, but this time I must disagree; the key attribute of confidence is it affects other people.  Even if you're deluded yourself, the effect on others can make the delusion self-fulfilling.

This would have been good to read a month ago: The Importance of Vacation, Far Away from Your Computer.  "One of the great luxuries of the 21st century is vacation without e-mail.  If I had to choose between a pampered resort with constant internet access or a dowdy motel without any cellphone service, I'd go for the motel every time."  There's a weird tension between wanting to be connected - as in, checking your Facebook - and wanted to be free from being connected.

Eye-Fi's Direct Mode unites your camera and your phoneCan't wait: Eye-Wi's Direct Mode unites phone and camera.  A transitional product, useful for the time until cameras' phones are "good enough" and we don't need stand-alone cameras anymore.  What would you guess, two years?  Some would say with the iPhone 4 we are there already...

Meanwhile: Mobile Wallets are already coming true.  This is *so* going to happen, the only question is when.  With credit cards only physical possession is required, while with phone all sorts of other authentication can be added, and meanwhile it eliminates carrying the cards.  Smartphones are the vacuum cleaners of your pockets, as they slowly take over everything else you might have carried...

Dutch Winter: a video of frozen-over LemmerThis is cool (literally): Dutch Winter, a video shot in frozen-over Lemmer, in which everyone skates slowly to the sound of music :)

Never said about restaurant websites.  Dead on.  How many times have I tried to access a restaurant website from my phone, only to find it was unusable.  In fact many are unusable from a computer too.  Another reason for the rise of Open Table :)

Don Shank's iPad paintingsWow, these are incredible: Don Shank's iPad paintings.  Never mind that they were made on an iPad - that's cool - but they look like 3D Picasso's.  Check out the whole Shank Pile.  I love it.

Dave Winer: the minimal blogging tool.  "I don't just write about the reinvention of RSS, I'm working on it."  Keep your eye on this one, Dave is great at skating to where the puck is going to be.  A gather the idea is to edit RSS directly, and generate HTML from it, instead of vice versa.  Huh.

Michael Rasmussen's team secures UCI licenseGreat news!  Michael Rasmussen's team secures UCI license.  "The UCI has issued a Continental license to the new Christina Watches team of Danish cyclist Michael Rasmussen, the team’s owner announced on Wednesday."  We'll have to see whether he still has it, but back in 2007 he was the best climber in the world.

ZooBorn: a baby DeBrazza's monkeyFinally, ZooBorn of the new year (so far):
 a baby DeBrazza's monkey.


wild weekend

Sunday,  01/09/11  10:53 PM

Wow, what a wild [card] weekend!  Great football games.

Pete Carroll leads 7-9 Seahawks past the defending champion SaintsI was heavily rooting for Seattle over New Orleans, and how great was it that they won?  I love it when the worse team plays better and ends up winning.  The Saints are a great football team, while the Seahawks are merely good, but yesterday they rose to the occasion.  (In fact, as the first 7-9 division winner you could argue they aren't even "merely good".)  I am a Pete Carroll fan - yeah, I know about the USC recruiting violations, but hey the USC teams were great because of Pete, not because of recruiting - and it is nice to see him have success in the NFL.  The enthusiasm and energy of the Seahawks was palpable; they actually thought they could win.  And they did...  Next weekend they play the Bears, and I'm telling you they could win that game.  You know they will think so too!

Jets win the battle of last minute drives and field goals against the ColtsNext up was a thriller of a different kind, a game that went down to the wire, with dueling last minute drives and field goals; first Manning set up Vinateri to put the Colts ahead (ho hum, what's new), but then Sanchez set up Folk for the win (awesome!)  I was rooting for the Jets, they were the worse team which played better, and while I respect Manning I've never been a big Colts fan.  And you have to like Mark Sanchez, and Rex Ryan...  next up for them are the Patriots, good luck!

Today's first game was a laugher; the Ravens steamrolled the Chiefs.  The better team played better, and that's what happens.  I had no rooting interest and skipped through most of the game.  The Baltimore defense looked pretty tough, I imagine they're going to give Pittsburgh a tough time next week in what should be a great game.

And then tonight's game was another wild one capping the wild weekend, as Green Bay prevailed over Philadelphia.  When in doubt I always root for Green Bay; I love it that a town of 100,000 people sustains an NFL team.  It was an interesting game, with a lot of back and forth; I hesitate to say the better team played better, I'd say the teams were evenly matched, if different, and in the end the consistency of Aaron Rodgers and the Packers outlasted the brilliance of Michael Vick and the Eagles.  I'd give Green Bay an even chance against the Falcons next weekend.

It was a wild weekend featuring a lot of nothing; too cold to ride, so I contented myself with working on the elliptical while watching football.  Onward!


It's a onederful day

Tuesday,  01/11/11  11:11 AM

Hey, it is 11:11 on 1/11/11! (written this morning especially for this moment); I hope you are having a onederful day :) 

The Oneders!This brings to mind one of my favorite movies, That Thing You Do.  The movie chronicles the meteoric rise and fall of a one-hit-wonder band in the 50s; wonderfully, the band stars out called the Oneders, but then change their name to the Wonders and success follows.  If you've never seen the movie it's a worthy rental, and not just because of Liv Tyler :)

Oh yes, of course we can make a onederful filter pass...

Onderful quote: "The problem with Internet quotations is that many are not genuine." – Abraham Lincoln.

Speaking of ones, I too notice more people say "twenty eleven" than "twenty ten".  Last year it seemed "two thousand ten" was said quite a lot.

Tigers squeek by the Ducks on a last-second field goalLast night's national championship game lived up to its billing; wow, what a battle!  The Auburn Tigers were clearly the better team, but the Ducks hung in there and actually tied the game with two minutes remaining.  They scored two touchdowns and had two two-point conversions, how often do you see that?  To me the big dynamic of this game was that Oregon couldn't run at all, while the Tigers could do whatever they wanted.  I do think the game is slightly tainted by that weird non-call on the non-tackle on the running play at the end.  Okay, so he wasn't "down", but this is yet another of those situations where the fan's intuition and the rules are at odds; too bad it decided the game.  Anyway the college bowl season is finally over, whew.  It was onederful!

Here we have a onederful rant about global warming.  "Anyone with a shred of self-respect who had predicted The End Of Snow would surely now admit that he was wrong. But no. Perhaps the most revealing thing about the snow crisis is that it was held up as evidence, not that the experts were mistaken, but that the public is stupid."  I'm not saying there isn't any global warming, and neither is he; what we are both saying is that it has become a political football, not a scientific theory.

Verizon guy - now with iPhone :) can you hear me now?Today is Verizon iPhone day!  How onderful is that?  And so now I have to oneder, should I get one?  How badly do I need a keyboard?  Sigh, this is a tough call.  I think I'll stick with my [aging] Pre and keep onedering...  note that this was the announcement of connectivity, *not* a new phone.

Jean-Louis Gassée: iPhone = Mac 2.0.  This can be taken two ways, and he takes both of them.  Onederful stuff.  [ via Daring Fireball ]

Related: Paul Graham considers Tablets.  "Many if not most of the special-purpose objects around us are going to be replaced by apps running on tablets."  Yes, a onederful observation.

the ultimate captcha: how to make your shopping cart suck lessThis is onederful: how to make your shopping cart suck less, from the Oatmeal.

Huh, did you know?  Google Goggles solves Sudoku.  It's going to do a lot more than that before long, I'm on record, Google Goggles is going to be BIG.  Onederfully BIG.

Space Shuttle: wow!Finally, wrapping up a onederful post: Horse's Mouth asks can you say wow?  Yes I can!  WOW.

Well that's it for now; hope you have/had a onderful day!


not, not as onederful

Friday,  01/14/11  05:51 PM

hangtime Pinot Noir - perfect for hanging out with friends :)I haven't posted in a few days, and you may be wondering why (or, in keeping with a theme, you may be onedering :)  I am too.  On Wed I woke up early in a crummy mood, and I began a post titled "not as onederful".  I ran out of time and didn't post it, and as the day progressed crummy stuff happened, and as I piled on in the not-yet-posted post it became a negative froth.  After work I had a nice workout, and didn't feel "not as onderful" anymore, so I didn't post it.  Yesterday was amazing - a great day capped by a nice dinner with a friend - and I no longer connected with "not as onderful".  All day that title has been staring at me from my desktop.  So here goes, I've deleted "not as onderful", and am moving on :)

Wikipedia - ten years old!Happy Birthday to Wikipedia; now ten years old!  Of all the things that have happened on the Internet (Netscape, Yahoo!, Amazon, eBay, PayPal, Google, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook) I'd have to say Wikipedia is the most unexpected and wonderful.

And Happy Birthday to iTunes; now ten years old!  Yes, it did revolutionize online music, in fact it revolutionized online media, as it proved people would pay for "easy" even if "free" was available.  I remember well that a key was making iTunes available on Windows; at the time there was debate but in hindsight it was clearly the right decision.

And so we have the Verizon iPhone.  Dan Lyons thinks the Verizon iPhone is too late... to save the iPhone from Android.  "The iPhone, in contrast, is a bit like the situation people once had with Henry Ford’s Model T, where you could have any color you wanted, as long as it was black.John Gruber notes "The Model T was a massive hit, dominating the market for over a decade", and then wonders: "I can't decide whether Lyons is really this wrong, or if The Daily Beast makes its writers post eye-rollingly contrarian stuff like this just to get links."  He's really that wrong.  BTW this is the same Dan Lyons who writes the awesome Fake Steve Jobs blog.

frickin lasersFrickin Lasers: fact vs fiction.  Good to know.

Moth worlds!Even cooler than frickin lasers: frickin Moths!  These little hydrofoiling sailboats have my attention.  Ah, if I only had time...

Mark Pilgrim: Dive into 2010.  As I play with HTML5, I am finding his Dive into HTML5 book to be an awesome resource.  And you have to love this: "I write free books and people buy them.  It works out surprisingly well."

Why am I not surprised: IE9 tries to implement HTML5, hilarity ensues.  "Microsoft announced with much fanfare that they included support for <canvas> in IE9.  Unfortunately I took their word at face value and assumed that my existing HTML5 code would seamlessly start working..."  I actually don’t think MS intends to be incompatible, I just think they have fostered an environment wherein compatibility is not valued.  They should read Mark's book!

Samsung Galaxy TabThe reason I am investigating HTML5 is that iOS doesn't support Flash.  But the Samsung Galaxy does, and Bertelen Mesko tells me it supports it well.  Yay.  So do other Android devices...

Here we have hex words.  Some of them are quite useful, like F005BA11.  I remember the first time I saw a core dump from an IBM Series/1; main memory was filled with DEADBEEF!

VC pioneer Bill Draper takes stock of the VC industry.  On listening to the founder of OpenTable:  “I used to always say to the CEO, ‘Why don’t you charge $2 per reservation, instead of $1? He'd say, ‘Bill, you don’t get it, we want to own the market.’ Or I'd say, ‘Why do you lease the machines, why not make them pay you for them?’ He'd say, ‘Bill, you don’t get it, we want to own the market.’ Thank God he didn’t take my advice.”  I love it.


just another weekend

Sunday,  01/16/11  10:43 PM

Just another weekend, ho hum... spent yesterday on my bike (yay) and today watching four count 'em four football games.  Whew!  Beautiful days, too...

In re: football; the Steelers victory over the Ravens was pretty cool; I was rooting for them, but it seemed for most of the game they were going to lose, yet they hung around and prevailed in the end.  Then the Packers blew out the Falcons, a boring game in which the Packers looked pretty darn good.  Today the Bears dominated the outmanned Seahawks, setting up a rather interesting showdown with Green Bay next weekend, and the Jets prevailed over the Patriots (!) much to my delight.  I think it will be Jets - Packers in the Super Bowl...

Tesla Model S - drivetrainTesla's Chief Engineer talks about the Model S.  Wow, it looks beautiful.  This is going to be a real electric car.  Wow.

chromasomes - who's afraid of them?Whew, one less thing to worry about: Genetic Tests not causing anxiety.  I think regulators who worry about putting too much information in the hands of patients have it backwards.

Wow, this is painful: why you should never, ever use two spaces after a period.  Man, I do this all the time.  I just think it looks better.  Who knew I was doing it wrong all this time?  Should I switch?

the RSS icon - is dead?Why the next version of Firefox will not have an RSS icon.  People do not use it, and it isn't useful.  I just drag a URL to SharpReader and autodiscovery does the rest.  [ via Sam Ruby ]

"App" is word of the year for 2010.  So be it.  I'm sure if you wanted to look up the word of the year for other years, there's an App for that :)

the end of the officeClive Thompson: the end of the office.  I think telecommuting and virtual companies are here to stay, but it may be too soon to declare the end of offices.  Face-to-face meetings are *still* pretty important...

Scott "Dilbert" Adams considers Your digital ghost.  "Suppose you wanted to create your own digital ghost to live for eternity in the Internet and maybe do some haunting. What would that look like?"  I guess in my case it would look a lot like this blog :)

the first AC45 goes for a sailCool! - the first sail for the brand new AC45.  This is a cat class designed to help America's Cup teams come up to speed on cat and wing technology; a precursor to the AC72 class in which the next Cup will be raced.  One critical aspect of the design: they fit in a standard shipping container ;)

ZooBorn: a baby L'Hoest's monkeyZooBorn of the weekend: a baby L'Hoest's monkey.

Randall Parker discusses the alien spaceship crash theory and tech advances.  "My argument against an alien spaceship crash: If such a crashed spaceship existed it would have been at least partially reverse engineered, yielding amazing advances in technology."  Huh.  Maybe this happened :)

This is cool: a day in the future.  "The sun went down hours ago, but with my artificial light I haven't noticed. I’ve been up, writing without a pen. When I’m able to summon the willpower, I close my favorite machine and go to bed."  Good night!  [ via Josh Newton ]


Monday,  01/17/11  08:23 PM

Lake Westlake on a glorious winter's dayToday was the most beautiful day imaginable; I celebrated with a nice ride around Lake Westlake.  I didn't have the time but I did it anyway, and I'm glad I did :)

Lasers racingThe Tillerman examines Fairness and Laser sailing.  He is correct, everything is equal except the sails, and this inequality is important.  Still the class remains of a one-design than just about all others, 40 years after it was first started.

You wasted 34 hours in traffic in 2009.  Good to know.  But with a nice car and a great stereo, maybe it wasn't wasted...

video of the Tesla Model S, driving. Wow!A video of the Tesla Model S, driving.  I am still wowed. 
Perfect for wasting time in traffic :)

HTML5, the logoHTML5 has a logo.  Yay.  There a technical thing called HTML5, but I'm starting to feel there's also a marketing buzzword, which is only loosely related...


the iRoom?

Monday,  01/17/11  08:45 PM

A logical progression:

So what's next?  The iRoom?


squirrel appreciation day

Friday,  01/21/11  06:50 PM

Did you know?  Today is Squirrel Appreciation Day.  How awesome is that?

I know you know, but Eichhorn means "squirrel" in German...



happy day

Saturday,  01/22/11  09:20 AM

Today I am happy.  I have no particular reason to be, and yet it is so.  Yay!

Cold? Ice cold!So, do you think it's cold?  "The current temperature here in the Minneapolis suburbs is ten degrees below zero. The high today was three or four degrees. Last night it got down to twenty below zero."  It is a balmy 75F here, perfect for bike riding, which I plan to do later this afternoon...

Verizon's first iPhone commercialThe first Verizon iPhone commercial.  Interesting that they don't even show the phone!  Everyone knows what an iPhone is ... wow.

So, are you sitting down?  Holding any sharp objects?  Okay ... I am getting a Verizon iPhone.  For testing apps, of course :)  Stay tuned.

Greg Mankiw has a plan: "The essence of the plan is the federal government writing me a check for $1 billion. The plan will be financed by $3 billion of tax increases. According to my back-of-the envelope calculations, giving me that $1 billion will reduce the budget deficit by $2 billion."  Obamanomics 101.

Lawyer attempts to curtail the speech of a website headed by a First Amendment Law Prof.  "This is a Well Thought Out Plan."  I love it.

it took me two minutes to get this screenshot :)So, can you do nothing for two minutes?
I almost made it :)

Jeff Atwood: 24GB of memory ought to be enough for anybody.  Nah.  Too much ain't enough ;)

Brad Feld: the wave of iPad purchasing has just begun.  I believe this.  It seems the iPad is the computer for the rest of us, where "rest of us" means people who don't like computers :)  John Dvorak gets it wrong, again.  And Apple's App Store downloads top 10B.  That's a B.  Wow.

the Encinitas boat/housesThe incredible boat houses in Encinitas.  I spend, like, half my life within two blocks of these boat/houses; they are right near downtown, where I work out, do Yoga, and have dinner while down at my office.  Amazing that I didn't know about them before.  Stay tuned for a picture or two :)

Here we have Gourmet Ice.  I am not making this up.  But they are.

bioluminescent creatures - amazing!Wired: Eight beautiful bioluminescent creatures from the sea.  Wow, these are amazing.  Just when you think you've seen it all, you realize "it all" is so much more than you thought...


China's selection

Saturday,  01/22/11  08:22 PM

This is pretty amazing - an interactive graph of fertility vs life expectancy for different countries.

On the left is 1960, and on the right, 2008.  The X axis is life expectancy, and the Y axis is fertility.  Each ball represents a country, the diameter is proportional to the population.  The pink ball is India and the blue ball is China, the green ball is the United States.  You can see the precipitous decline in China's birthrate caused by their "one child" law.

[Update: if you click through, you may notice the colors are different; seem to be chosen at random?]

Now we just have to add measured IQ, and you can get scared by Unnatural Section.

© 2003-2020 Ole Eichhorn


two spaces?

Sunday,  01/23/11  09:10 AM

It is a lazy Sunday morning, and before I dig in and start coding (!) I have to ask an important question:

Should I continue to use two spaces after a period, or start using only one?

keep using two spaces

switch to one space

total votes = 29

  (ended 01/31/11)


old friends

Sunday,  01/23/11  11:09 PM

many roads...Tonight we had an old friend and his new wife over for dinner.  It was maximally nice; he's a great guy - still ... hasn't changed one bit (well okay maybe he's a *bit* older :) - and it was great to see him again.  We met in college - yikes, thirty years ago - and aside from a couple of reunions haven't see each other or even kept in touch since.  So it was nice to spend a few hours catching up, hanging out, and talking about our lives in the interim; wives, kids, jobs, houses, travels...

The thing is, I've had a most eventful life.  An amazing life, really.  ("How did I get here"?)  And so has he.  And yet our lives have been *so* different!  He's traveled around a lot; all over the U.S., lived in London for a while, and now lives in Riga.  (His new wife is Russian!)  I've stayed put, in fact I now live about 40 miles from where we met at college.  He's had a variety of jobs and now works for himself; has his own one-person business.  His office is his laptop; he can live wherever, go wherever, do whatever.  And he does!

It made me think; old friends always make me think, the older I get the more old friends I have, and the more they make me think :)  Would I swap lives?  I doubt it... the grass is always greener.  We're different people, and I do have an amazing life.  But it makes you realize, there are so many roads to choose between, so many paths to take.  How do you know if your path is optimal?  How do you even judge?

Anyway it was great to see him.


Monday,  01/24/11  09:52 PM

Hidden Valley at sunset(yawn) Just toddling off to bed; early morning tomorrow.  Managed to watch both of the football games Sunday, have a nice dinner party, and get some work done, so that was a good day.  Still Mondays always seem to dawn with regrets; it felt like I could have gotten more done over the weekend.  Now that is a workaholic creed, right?  And today I ended up spending most of the day fighting a fire I didn't even know about when I woke up.  Best part of the day was a nice ride through Hidden Valley as the sun set (pic at right); that was nice.  So be it, onward!

Soldier Field - a cold day in Chicago as the Packers freeze out da BearsLet's do football first: I liked this aerial picture of Soldier Field in Chicago, a bright little spot in a field of snow.  And yeah that's Lake Michigan on the right.  It was a cold in Chicago as the Packers froze out the Bears in the NFC championship.  This game was never in doubt, the better team played better. 

And in the other game, the Steelers pulled ahead of the Jets 24-0, but the Jets nearly came all the way back before losing 24-19.  It was sort of a slow-motion affair, a defensive struggle despite 43 points being scored.  Hard to say Pittsburgh was the better team, or that they played better either.  Maybe I'd say the Jets played worse?  Anyway I was rooting for them but they didn't play well enough to win.  I will be rooting for the Packers in the Super Bowl!

How I Killed Pluto, and why it had it comingI have a book recommendation for you: How I Killed Pluto, and why it had it coming, from Caltech Astronomer Mike Brown.  He's the guy who discovered Quaoar, then Sedna, then Eris (aka Xena)...  Kuiper Belt objects which made it obvious that Pluto was not a planet, but simply a large, close KBO.  It's a great read, he's a pleasant writer, and I enjoyed the IAU's struggle with balancing the cultural and scientific definitions of "planet".  In the end - as you know - we now have eight planets (four little ones and four big ones), as well as some other objects called "dwarf planets" which are really KBOs and Asteroids.

How not to solicit a renewal: I got the following email from Salon Premium:

Dear Ole,<br/><br/>Unless you take action, your Salon Premium membership will expire indays on February 6, 2011. <br/><br/>Please renew your membership so you can continue to support Salon's independent reporting. We rely on loyal members like you to continue being the media organization that tells you What Matters Now.<br/><br/><br/><br/>To review your Salon Premium member rewards, click here:<br/><br/><br/><br/>Please take a moment to renew your Salon Premium membership. Thanks to the support of members like you, Salon has published independently for nearly 15 years!<br/><br/>We appreciate your past help and we hope you'll continue to directly support our efforts.

Yeah, that's it, verbatim.  Somehow they sent an HTML email without the right MIME type, and it came across as plaintext.  This is a mistake anyone could make - once - but how can you make this mistake for a mass renewal mailing?  Incompetent, right?  I am [strongly] tempted not to renew [anyway].  As my interest in politics has waned, so my interest in Salon.

the iPad is introduced!I have been reflecting on the amazing success of the iPad recently, and came across my post from a year ago, when the iPad was introduced.  Apple has now sold 15M of these things, and they've driven sales of 10B apps.  I don't think even Mr. Jobs anticipated this, a complete revolution in computing.  Rereading my post, I think I nailed it.  And it is funny to see how negative the pundits were..

So I am working on iPad apps, and yes it is *hard* to test them live.  TestFlight makes it easier, simple, over-the-air app beta testing.  Yay!

re-enter the Matrix? For Matrix 4 and Matrix 5 ... !OMG according to Keanu Reaves, Matrix 4 and 5 are coming.  So ... Matrix was awesome, but Matrix Reloaded not so much, and Matrix Revolutions pretty much sucked.  The trend is down.  On the other hand, I will watch them anyway, and who knows?  They will no doubt be in 3D :)

Joel Spolsky reviews Stack Overflow in 2010; wow, amazing the traction and growth that site has experienced.  Yeah, I use it, don't you?  It is a sort of realtime Wikipedia for nerds.

new HTML logo :)The Oatmeal: State of the Web, 2010.  I love it!  (Notice how much of the recap is Yahoo screwing up?  Wow.)

That sinking feeling: Name your iPhone Titanic, plug it in, and your computer will report "Titanic is syncing".  Tap tap, crash :)

ZooBorns: baby Egyptian tortoisesZooBorns of the weekend: baby Egyptian tortoises.



Tuesday,  01/25/11  11:38 PM

Tonight President Obama delivered his annual State of the Union address; I didn't watch (had *much* better things to do :) but the early returns are pretty negative.  Apparently this was his "Sputnik moment", and he didn't handle it well.  Perhaps this picture sums up the general opinion:

This could drive a caption content; I think Glenn Reynolds nailed it: are we having fun yet?

One thing that seems apparent about Obama, he can't seem to take responsibility.  The huge deficit we are running and the consequent negative impact on the economy are a direct result of his administration's policies.


Encinitas boat houses

Wednesday,  01/26/11  01:59 PM

This morning after an early Yoga class I sought out the famous Encinitas "boat houses", and there they were.

pure awesomeness



a new day

Thursday,  01/27/11  07:20 AM

a new day dawns

what shall I make of it?




Friday,  01/28/11  09:44 PM

It seems that you've been living two lives, Mr. Eichhorn.  In one life, you're a program writer for a respectable software company.  You have a social security number, you pay your taxes, and you... live a normal life.  The other life is lived in another world, where you go by the alias "Ole" and are guilty of virtually every crime we have a law for.  One of these lives has a future, and one of them does not.

I have a friend who excitedly joined Quora.  I emailed "what do you think of Quora?  To me it is like Twitter, everyone is talking about it but I don’t get it."  He emailed back: "Yes, I agree - still trying to figure it out. Poor signal to noise seems to be the problem lately as the wave of new users have arrived..."  I don't get it.

iOS vs Android - a zero sum game?Harry McCracken: The End of the Zero Sum Game.  A good discussion of why iOS vs. Android doesn't tell the whole story.  Of course, Windows vs. Macintosh didn't tell it either, it never was a zero sum game.

'47 PetrusSlate's wine critic Mike Steinberger tries a '47 Petrus - and lives to tell the tale.  Wow, maybe I should become a wine critic.  I mean, like, a real one :)

Tyler Cowen: The Inequality that Matters.  An interesting perspective on the gap between rich and poor.  Like, those who drink '47 Petrus, and those who don't :)

So ... 1M AppleTVs serve more Netflix content than 15M iPads.  This does not surprise me.

Eric Raymond continues his series on the smartphone wars.  In which he suggests that AT&T did not profit from the iPhone, and Verizon is not going to profit from having it either.  What?

grand piano on sandbar in Biscayne BayGrand Piano appears on a sandbar in Biscayne Bay.  "Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission spokesman Jorge Pino says the agency is not responsible for moving such items. And, he adds, unless it becomes a navigational hazard, the U.S. Coast Guard won't get involved."  How cool is that?

Incredible iPad?Cult of Mac wonders: did Steve Jobs test the iPad in 'The Incredibles'?  Seems completely farfetched to me, but I'm linking just because The Incredibles was so incredible.

Good to know: Himalayan glaciers are actually advancing rather than retreating.  Turns out debris on the surface is more important than "global warming".  Huh, why am I not surprised?

Understanding bailouts

"The rain beats down on a small Irish town. The streets are deserted. Times are tough. Everyone is in debt and living on credit. A rich German arrives at the local hotel, asks to view its rooms, and puts on the desk a €100 note. The owner gives him a bunch of keys and he goes off for an inspection. As soon as he has gone upstairs, the hotelier grabs the note and runs next door to pay his debt to the butcher. The butcher hurries down the street to pay what he owes to his feed merchant. The merchant heads for the pub and uses the note to pay his bar bill. The publican slips the note to the local hooker who's been offering her services on credit. She rushes to the hotel to pay what she owes for room hire. As she puts the €100 note on the counter, the German appears, says the rooms are unsuitable, picks up his €100 note and leaves town. No one did any work. No one earned anything. Everyone is out of debt. Everyone is feeling better. And that is how a bail-out works."

ZooBorns: Cheetah cubs!ZooBorns of the week: Cheetah cubs!

ZooBorns: Cheetah cubs!




Red Rider

Saturday,  01/29/11  05:36 PM

This morning I joined the Conejo Valley Cyclists for their weekly "Red Ride"; a nice little 53-miler with 5,800' of climbing, including the nice 2,000' trudge up Fernwood Pacific.  I must tell you it kicked my ass.  In the very best possible way :)

Some pictures:

the route: 53 miles, 5,800' of climbing

climbing Mulholland

top of "seven minute hill" - the real climbing is yet to come

top of Fernwood ... and you may ask yourself, "how did I get here" :)

Pacific Ocean overlook

descending Stunt Canyon on a beautiful day for a ride



Winter Formal

Sunday,  01/30/11  09:07 AM

(rubs eyes)  I am a bit bleary and gray this morning, like the weather outside (it is lightly raining).

Last night was Oaks Christian's Winter Formal dance, and as usual Alexis and her friends were stunning:

And Alex always attracts a crowd:

After the dance "everyone" came over to our house for an after-party.  The less said about that, the better :P  Whew.


"half a billion per monkey"

Sunday,  01/30/11  09:02 PM

half a billion?This I have to share: So I'm at a business meeting over dinner, wine served, and discussion turns to a company which was sold for $3B on the basis of a "six monkey trial".  (aka, a rather sketchy study conducted to show pre-clinical safety and efficacy of a new drug.)  All were flabbergasted at the value created by potentially effective new drugs.  And it was noted "that's half a billion per monkey"!  (tap tap, crash)


Pacific Overlook

Monday,  01/31/11  10:48 PM

Pacific Overlook
mountain biking at dusk on the Overlook trail
(click to enbiggen)



the day after

Monday,  01/31/11  10:55 PM

The day after the great "after party", and we were all in recovery mode.  I managed to get some good work done, had a productive day, and capped it with a nice mountain bike ride with friends.  Tomorrow it is on to Vista for a busy week, and tonight it is blogging...

&nbsp;The results are in!  My two spaces survey ends tonight, and you-all prefer two spaces following a period to one, by a ratio of two to one.  So be it.  We all understand that one space is acceptable, maybe even correct, but there are aesthetic considerations...

iPad mags are trying to be print mags, and it isn't workingTechCrunch observes iPad mags need a new blueprint.  "Replicating a dead-tree publishing model on a touchscreen is a recipe for obsolescence."  Yep.

Meanwhile: the Power of the Platform at Apple.  All that "free" content drives quite a platform business, doesn't it?

Jack Nicholson, philosopherThe incomparable Jack Nicholson: "If men are honest, everything they do and everywhere they go is for a chance to see women."  Huh.  I guess, if I'm being honest ... he could be right.  So am I blogging right now for that chance?  :)  [ via Ann Althouse ]

Robert Scoble backtracks on Quora: Why I was wrong about Quora as a blogging service.  I don't get Quora even more than I don't get Twitter.  I do not want to read someone's answers to someone else's questions.  [ Later: Robert: The mistakes I made in Quora ]

MG Siegler notes: Quora backlash slams into Quora backlash backlash.  He thinks it's going to be BIG.  And he may be right; Twitter is huge even though I don't get it.

Scott "Dilbert" Adams ponders Cloud Government.  "I decided to start a new government for the United States. The current version had a good run. It was well suited for an age when the issues were simple, the masses were uneducated, and communication involved horses. Now the government is broken. It can't even balance the budget."  Balancing the budget might be the hardest thing ever, but it's still an interesting blog post!

The Tumblr "down" page, courtesy of The OatmealTumblr used The Oatmeal's Tumbeasts for their "down" page.  How awesome is that?

Computerworld helpfully shares eight phrases your boss doesn't want to hear.  "Will you be my Facebook friend?"  No.  (LinkedIn, maybe :)

steamcraft submarineThese are most excellent: Fanciful Zeppelins and Trains.  Streamcraft at its best.  I don't know why these give me so much pleasure, but it is so.

Oh, great: Model predicts 'religiosity gene' will dominate society.  I guess this is a corollary to Unnatural Selection; as the world becomes dumber, it may well become more religious.  Sigh.  [ via my blog reader friend Dave, thanks! ]


Return to the archive.

this date in:
About Me

Greatest Hits
Correlation vs. Causality
The Tyranny of Email
Unnatural Selection
On Blame
Try, or Try Not
Books and Wine
Emergent Properties
God and Beauty
Moving Mount Fuji
The Nest
Rock 'n Roll
IQ and Populations
Are You a Bright?
Adding Value
The Joy of Craftsmanship
The Emperor's New Code
Toy Story
The Return of the King
Religion vs IQ
In the Wet
solving bongard problems
visiting Titan
unintelligent design
the nuclear option
estimating in meatspace
second gear
On the Persistence of Bad Design...
Texas chili cookoff
almost famous design and stochastic debugging
may I take your order?
universal healthcare
triple double
New Yorker covers
Death Rider! (da da dum)
how did I get here (Mt.Whitney)?
the Law of Significance
Holiday Inn
Daniel Jacoby's photographs
the first bird
Gödel Escher Bach: Birthday Cantatatata
Father's Day (in pictures)
your cat for my car
Jobsnotes of note
world population map
no joy in Baker
vote smart
exact nonsense
introducing eyesFinder
to space
where are the desktop apps?
still the first bird
electoral fail
progress ratches
2020 explained