Archive: November 2013

<<< October 2013


December 2013 >>>

it's a new world

Tuesday,  11/12/13  12:44 AM

Hi blog public, it's me, blogging.  As previously agreed nothing is more boring than a blogger blogging about not blogging, and so I won't do that.  I'm just going to blog.

Today is Veteran's Day, and I wish to observe a moment of silence and respect for all veterans, especially my father (a Dutch veteran of WWII, now sadly no longer with us), and my oldest daughter (a veteran of the Iraq conflagration).  Thanks! 

And now to blogging.  You will be delighted (or frightened) to know, I about 200 juicy blogworthy items saved in my RSS reader, stretching back to October 2011, when I stopped blogging regularly, and over time I'll try to work them in.  A steady drip seems preferable to a one-shot deluge, don't you think? 

I'll just note parenthetically that somehow RSS feeds seem to have fallen from favor, but I still think they're a wonderful way to scan hundreds of news sources daily without spending hours doing so.  There was a biggish kerpuffle over Google having discontinued their Reader blog reader, but there's a lot of other ways to monitor RSS feeds.  I use a freeware program called SharpReader which is now about 10 years old, and it works great.

I'm going to stay away from Obamacare bashing.  You are either for it or against it, and I'm not going to change your mind.  Anyone who can't see that there's no free lunch - that some of us must pay more for health insurance so that others of us can get it at all - is not going to be convinced by mere logic.  How much more are you willing to pay so that previously uninsurable people can get health insurance?  I'd be willing to pay a little more, I guess, but not very much. 

The real key to this problem is lowering the cost of healthcare overall.  Two things would surely help, cap liability, and unlink reimbursement from Medical and Medicaid.  Also medical insurance should be insurance, a hedge against disaster, not a way to share ongoing maintenance expenses.

This is pretty amazing: Amazon is closer than ever to running the US Postal Service.  Does anyone still care about real mail?  Seems like if it's important, it gets sent UPS or FedEx.  Increasingly the USPS is simply a way to distribute recyclable trash. 

From LGF: The Feynman Series: Beauty.  Beautiful! 

From Kottke: The Feynman Lectures in Physics, in HTML.  Good to know in case you're in the mood for some light reading :) 

This is good to know: How to Edit Wikipedia.  Raise your hand if you've ever done this?  Aha, thought so.  Wikipedia is amazing, we should all help make it more amazing.  It's so easy, too. 

Something I missed: Messenger!  Amazing pictures of Mercury.  Fun fact: Mercury's "days" are twice as long as its "years". 

Tim Bray says Ads in Front of Things are bad.  He's entirely correct.  "When I see it, I suspect a broken business model; if you need to inflict this kind of abuse on your readers, a barrel’s bottom is being scraped."  Yep. 

So, you might ask, what prompted you to blog?  Well...  today is an anniversary of sorts, an inflection point, if you will; I'll tell you more about this over the next days and weeks.  But I figured what the heck.  Yeah, I missed you too! 



11 ... 12 ... 13 ...

Tuesday,  11/12/13  09:14 PM

Greetings, it's 11 ... 12 ... 13 day.  I worked all day, coding, and at the end of it my trusty Chinese food prediction module tells me I shall be rewarded for these efforts.  Good to know.

Thanks for welcoming me back.  I'm not sure I'm truly back, only time will tell.  But two's a trend. 

Did I tell you, I have a MakerBot Replicator 2?  I do.  It is a most awesome toy.  Whenever people ask me "why did you get it", I don't know what to say ... it seems almost self-evident. 

Anyway I just completed my finest print yet, a Voronoi -style chess set.  (That link goes to the amazing Thingiverse, a public repository of most excellent designs to print.  Think of Napster in the early days, everything is there, and everything is free.)  Voronoi was a guy who studied random distributions, and his name is now used as an adjective for physical objects with lots of random holes in them.  These are particularly great for 3D printing because they look cool, they're printable, they're not entirely solid, and they're hard to make any other way.

Besides the MakerWare software which actually prints stuff, the other magic here is Tinkercad, a free web-based 3D modeling software.  That such a great tool can be developed entirely in a web browser is amazing, and that it can be used by anyone free is even more amazing.  What a time to be alive.

While I was out a lot of interesting events occurred, including the 10th anniversary of the iPod.  Do you remember the original iPod announcement?  It was a classic Jobsnote; I remember it well.  I didn't "get" where this was going, but I remember feeling like something important just happened.  Who knew this was going to completely change the music industry, and lead to changing the movie industry as well as cellphones?  (And might we even say, change the computer industry?) 

Yeah, I know; Newsweek!  Wow.  It has been a long ten years.  I guess print media is another industry which changed completely :)

Here's another big change: the death of the home stereo system.  Sigh.  This *totally* rings a bell for me; I loved home stereos.  I loved everything about them; the sound of course, but also the display panels, and the switches and the knobs, all the connections in the back, even the smell of hot electronics :) 

How excellent is this?  Steam powered car from 1884 sells for $4.6M.  Looks like it is worth every penny.  It took about 50 years to get from steam to gasoline, and another to get from gasoline to electricity.  How much will gas powered cars sell for in 2084? 

Here's another thing I want: Hublot rebuilds the famed Antikythera Mechanism.  I've always loved Hublot watches, they're ridiculous but in a cool way. 

Here's an interesting thought: what would be the greatest technological leap you'd have to explain to someone who time traveled from the 1950s?  Well, you'd have to explain what happened to music, movies, print media, telephones, and computers.  Maybe you could cover a lot of this simply by describing the latest iPhone :)  

What's interesting is that the answer would be mostly the same for someone from the 1880s, and maybe even someone from the time of the Antikythera Mechanism (est 100BC).  A lot has happened lately!

News you might be able to use: the Earthiest planets in the Universe (that we know of ).  Complicating this search is the inconvenient fact that Earthy planets aren't especially easy to find.  There might be many of them out there - undoubtedly there are - but we might never know it. 

Then there's stuff like this: Dwarf planet Eris is bereft of atmosphere, about the size of Pluto.  It's been out there right in our own solar system all along, but we just found it.  How many objects like this exist?

You know I'm a total fan of Cassini, right?  Well here's why: check out these awesome pictures of Saturn, backlit by the Sun.  There are not frames from a sci-fi movie, these are real pictures of a planet.  Yippee.





Wednesday,  11/13/13  11:12 PM

A day in which I spent quite a lot of time contemplating "visual synonyms"; images which are identical under some sort of transformation.  Possibilities include scaling and rotation, contrast and brightness variations, color shifts, various translations, and combinations.  If you were compiling a database of small regions, you could exploit such symmetries to collapse the entries, and so it is with me.

The seven deadly keys.  I love it. 

Among my old saved-to-be-linked posts is this one from Joe Hewitt: AirPlay TV.  "There's so much compelling video content and games available on the App Store, it's not really that big of a deal if you can't watch cable TV, DVDs, or play Xbox on the Apple TV. This trend is only accelerating. When Steve Jobs said 'I finally cracked it', I'd bet he was thinking of how AirPlay and the App Store had eliminated the need to support old set-top boxes."  It's interesting that this post is now two years old, and we are no closer to learning what Steve Jobs meant.  Somewhere at Apple there are people trying to solve this problem, but they haven't done it yet.  Can't wait, that might be the next Big Thing. 

Did you see this?  The Aeromobil, a sleek flying car that fits into ordinary parking spaces.  In Slovakia.  You know what I'm going to say ... I want one! 

Lead Bullets.  "There comes a time in every company’s life when it must fight for its life. If you find yourself running when you should be fighting, you need to ask yourself: 'If our company isn’t good enough to win, then do we need to exist at all?'"  Exactly right. 

Dutch Architects to Build ‘Endless’ Möbius-Inspired House Using Giant 3D Printer.  What a time to be alive! 

I can't help thinking, this would be perfect for cleaning with a Roomba :)

Oh and sticking with today's theme, yes, pictures of Möbius strips are not only palindromic but infinitely so.  Hehe.

Whew, finally.  Philips introduces a beard trimmer with a built in laser guide.  A little too late for the Boston Red Sox' appearance in the World Series, they could certainly have used this :) 

I just updated my computer, and Microsoft helpfully supplied IE11.  I don't use IE as often as possible (yes, that's grammatically correct), so I'm hoping this won't affect me.  As an example of the badness that Microsoft have wrought: IE11 appears as Firefox to avoid legacy IE CSS.  Now we'll have CSS which detects IE appearing as Firefox, since there's no chance IE actually handles CSS the same way. 

Finally, news you can use (and I use it as often as possible): Convert money to happiness with expensive wine.  Yes!



engineering feats

Thursday,  11/14/13  11:51 PM

Spent the entire day in a meeting - but fortunately via Webex (!), so was able to get quite a lot of engineering done besides.  Yippee.

Here we have twenty-five of mankind's greatest engineering feats.  My favorite is the International Space Station, pictured above right... we actually made this, thought it looks like something from a movie :) 

So is this true?  Google's Android eclipses Apple to become MS-DOS of our time.  There are parallels ... but I don't know.  MS-DOS was the platform of choice for developers, and I don't think that is [yet?] true of Android. 

This is so excellent: Teen outfitted with first iLimb prosthetic hand.  Controlled via a bluetooth link to an iPhone, of course.  Wow, what a time to be alive, huh? 

Jeff Bezos thinks Amazon Web Services might be Amazon's biggest business.  He might be right.  Remember when they first launched this, it seemed so ... weird, right?  And now it's the most natural thing in the world.  If I had a startup I would totally use them to host my application.  Oh, wait... 

Keeping with today's engineering theme, here we have a photograph from the surface of Titan.  Unbelievable.  I can't wait to visit there myself, but in the meantime Cassini and it's satellite Huygens are supplying me with the experience vicariously. 

Related: Is Saturn's moon Titan even more Earthlike than we thought?

And this: New insights into Titan's 'chemical factory'.

If we're going to celebrate good engineering, we also have to admit there is bad engineering: Windows 8, the seven roads not taken.  At this point we can say Win 8 was a failure, it is going to be a release everyone skips, like Windows Vista.  Microsoft is going to have to work hard on Win 9 to recover.  First step would be to shed the cartoony Metro UI for the launcher.  Or at least make it optional... 

Related: Betting the company on Windows 8.

And finally: Windows 8 breaks with the past :)

You think you know what this is going to look like, but check it out, it's cooler than you think... Space X's Grasshopper reaches record heights.  How awesome too that this is being done by a private company (albeit with government support via their contract to resupply the International Space Station). 

Hehe ... Grumpy Cat wants a GNU Internet

And in the news you can use category: the physics of wine swirling



'tis the season

Friday,  11/15/13  10:02 PM

Ahhh!  'tis the season ... already!  Today I was in Pasadena, and the entire down has already decked the halls.  I like Christmas as much as anyone but it should start just before Thanksgiving.  This is like changing Planck's constant.

Forget Jeopardy!, IBM's Watson could give medical advice.  Well, duh.  This is so going to happen. 

Did you see this?  USS Enterprise takes its final voyage.  Aircraft carriers are awesome, and this one has been in service for 50 years. 

Here's a question: how many aircraft carriers are there?  Less than you might think... there're just 21, and 10 of them are American.

Awesome: US approves new nuclear reactor design.  As the proud owner of an electric car, I must tell you, nuclear power has to be our future.  It is by far the cleanest way of converting entropy into kinetic energy. 

Just Look At My Beautiful, Working Pocket Cannon.  I did, and I saw that it was good.  "For best results, do not try this in a glass-enclosed conference room at work."  Actually the sound is the best part :) 

Trench Bridge.  How do you build a bridge below water...  like this! 

Josh Newman: Geek Ambassadors.  "To grow the next generation of startups, we need to grow the next generation of both geek ambassadors and top-notch hackers, then to find smart ways to pair off the two. A technologist and a visionary. It’s the best way to build a startup that makes something amazing – something that people really want."  It is hard to be both. 

Paul Graham: Schlep Blindness.  "Instead of asking 'what problem should I solve?' ask 'what problem do I wish someone else would solve for me?'"  Hmmm ... what would be your answer to this? 

Huh, Microsoft has a 3D Printing app for Windows.  I wonder if it sucks?  I will have to try it - stay tuned. 

My tools of choice are Tinkercad and MakerWare.

Here's something else to try: Jaw dropping software makes 3D models from any photo.  Adobe has software like this too (123D), haven't had a chance to try it.

Dave Winer says we need an exit from Google.  Yeah...  the way they are ramming Google+ down everyone's throat is only part of the problem, too.  

The Ice Hotel!  Just what is says on the label...  looks pretty cool :) 

And for a little more ice and snow, check out the Harbin Ice Festival, a favorite on this blog for ten years.  I really do have to see this in person someday ... wow.




Saturday,  11/16/13  02:43 PM

A nice quiet Saturday, with nothing to do but code, 3D print, read, and maybe watch football.  Too cold for riding or sailing or even kayaking, and not rainy enough for the perverse fun of doing any of those things in the rain.  So.

Time for blogcleaning.

First to go, categories.  I've never been big on categories, only ever had Cycling, The Book, Software, and Philosophy.  But I never use them, and more importantly you never use them, so poof, gone.  Semantic labeling is an idea which never caught.  For a few years I was keeping track of Cycling by year, and I converted those indices to blog posts.

Next to go, Blog Roulette.  This was a vestige of my Blogroll, which has long since gone.  It was a cute idea, to highlight other blogs which visitors might like because I like them, but nobody ever actually uses them, so poof, gone.  Blogrolls are an idea whose time came and went.

I've kept Greatest Hits, my ego won't let them go.  And people do click through them.  Not often (!) but often enough.

I've debated the "this date in" links, and Flight.  Honestly few people use them, myself included.  But I do every once in a while, and having them handy is kinda fun.  They're in for now.

I am of course keeping the Archive, which do this day I consider my greatest blogging innovation.  All blogs should have such an archive, maybe someday they will, and mine does now.

I've also done some other behind-the-scenes cleaning, pruning lots of old crap.  You won't see the results of this (hopefully) but I do already, and it feels good, kind of like watching a dumpster full of trash get hauled away. 

Onward.  Time to send out Holiday Party invitations :)




Saturday,  11/16/13  10:56 PM

After a day of sitting at my desk, tonight I'm traveling all over the place ... virtually of course, via the web.  Please, join me...

We'll start with Nine wondrous water caves, which include the Great Blue Hole in Belize, above right, and Fingal's Cave in Scotland, at left.  Wow. 

And now to the hottest place on earth, the Danakil Depression, in Ethiopia.  Pretty cool :) 

Speaking of hot, here's Mount Vesuvius, in Italy; it's one of the world's most dangerous volcanos, especially considering how near it is to large population centers like Naples. 

Here's a pretty amazing place, in Kazakstan, where Russian space launches are beautiful and spectacular

Onward to Chile, where we have this incredible photo of lightning on top of a volcano ash cloud

This place is pretty amazing ... Cwm Idwal.  Yes that's how it's spelled, a hanging valley in North Wales, alleged to be 'Darwin's favorite place'. 

And now let's go ... for a drive across Mongolia!  11 days in 4 minutes.  Check this out, unbelievable.  The sheer size is impressive! 

Back to civilization (so called); the incredible renovation of Londan's King's Cross Station is complete.  I've been there several times, always with construction going on :) 

Nearby (comparatively), here we have [a replica of] Noah's Ark!  In Dordrecht, in the Netherlands.  Oh those crazy Dutch... 

Wrapping up, we have 10 must-see design destinations from around the globe.  My favorite in this bunch is also in the Netherlands: Rotterdam Market.  Excellent. 

All in all, we have to conclude, Planet Earth is amazing!  (Especially as seen from the ISS, in this movie.)  Just when you think you've seen it all, you realize 'it all' is so much more than you thought... 



Sunday,  11/17/13  11:33 PM

Spent today coding and sailing - WLYC Turkey Day (a complete drifter, but fun anyway) ...

Okay, is this the craziest possible mountain biking video

Or is this one even crazier

Actually I think this one ... you will not believe it!
(These GoPro cameras are everywhere...) 

This is pretty interesting ... why indoor navigation is so hard.  If you've ever been in a hospital - or a large shopping mall! - you can appreciate the need for a solution. 

From Powerline: the latest in the climate fail files.  "Japan is having to revise its target upward because of its rash decision to phase out nuclear power in the aftermath of the Fukushima disaster. You would think environmentalists would be pleased at this. But over 95 percent of Japan’s replacement energy is coming from hydrocarbons (coal, oil, and gas). Oops."  Yeah the rationale response would have been to make nuclear plants safer, instead of getting rid of them.  The cost would have been lower, too. 

This is great: astonishing hi-fi components.  Using tubes, of course ... as pretty as they sound. 

Excellent: USC professor receives NASA grant to develop 3D-printed space homes

Good thing, because NASA is sending another neat probe to Mars.  Perfect location for the next housing settlement :) 

So ... which skyscraper is tallest?  It's complicated...  when is a mast a tower, and when is it "just" an antenna?  I love the concept of "vanity height"; the percentage of a building which is above the highest habitable point. 

Wrapping up, here we have a baby hedgehog, after a bath.  You're welcome :)



Monday,  11/18/13  08:36 PM

Another quiet day, coding away, just me and Reginald...

So, what do you think, is boarding a moving train the way to speed up rail travel?  It certainly worked wonders for ski lifts :)  I've often pondered the "friction" inherent in starting and ending journeys; consider air travel, by the time you've driven to the airport, parked, passed through security, and boarded, you've probably used nearly as much time as your flight.  This is one of the most compelling things about cars, you get in, and you're off... 

An amazing image of the elusive big-fin squid.  Wow.  The creatures of the deep blue sea are incredible. 

An update in whale/dolphin friendshop news.  "Dolphins in a French aquarium seem to be 'speaking' whale—making whale-sounding noises at night that mimic the actual whale noises they hear all day on the soundtrack to the aquarium dolphin show they perform in. These dolphins have never met real whales. But dolphins are known mimics and it seems that they're capable of practicing and improving on mimicked sounds hours after the sound has gone away."  So cool. 

blech: Pinot Noir in a can launched.  Seriously? 

An interesting restrospective from my former colleague David Sacks: Why the Paypal 'mafia' was so great.  People ask me all the time, and my answer is simple: IQ.  Unquestionable the smartest group of people I've ever had the pleasure of working with. 

Attending meetings lowers IQ.  Well, duh.  There were very few meetings at PayPal, and those that did take place were quick and effective. 

Paul Graham: Frightening ambitous startup ideas.  "Don’t worry, it’s not a sign of weakness. Arguably it’s a sign of sanity. The biggest startup ideas are terrifying. And not just because they’d be a lot of work. The biggest ideas seem to threaten your identity: you wonder if you’d have enough ambition to carry them through."  #1 on his list is "a new search engine".  Hmmm :) 

More about this here, on Kottke.  I like #6 on this list: We're going to make an IQ-enhancing drug and produce basic change in the human condition.  Excellent!

Wrapping up, to go with yesterday's baby hedgehog, here we have a baby sloth wearing pajamas.  Hehe :)



vote smart

Tuesday,  11/19/13  09:19 AM

I'm afraid I agree with this: People aren't smart enough for democracy to flourish.  "The research, led by David Dunning, a psychologist at Cornell University, shows that incompetent people are inherently unable to judge the competence of other people, or the quality of those people's ideas"  How many people know the candidates for whom they are voting, and understand their positions?  And how many understand ballot issues on which they cast votes?  Of course this unfortunate reality is exacerbated by Unnatural Selection.

So what can be done?  I've often thought maybe there should be a brief quiz, and if you don't pass the quiz your vote doesn't count.  This might prove unworkable or even unconstitutional, but it is compelling.  For a more drastic solution, please read In the Wet, and learn about multiple voting...

In the meantime, we can ask, is this true?  Absolutely.  And it's true on multiple levels.  The average man on the street didn't understand that voting for Obama meant voting for socialism.  They didn't understand that socialism doesn't work.  And they certainly didn't think it would raise their taxes or their health insurance premiums.  The average congressperson didn't understand that voting for Obamacare would mean wholesale changes to the health insurance industry, which would mean many policies would be cancelled or not renewed, and others made more expensive.  It's common sense - if you want to insure "everyone" including those previously uninsurable, then those who were previously insurable will have to bear the costs - but you have to be relatively intelligent to use common sense. 

I'm afraid "relatively intelligent" not only doesn't apply to the average man on the street, it also doesn't apply to the people they elect to represent them...


© 2003-2024 Ole Eichhorn


Tuesday,  11/19/13  09:46 PM

On the road again ... blogging from 3rd Corner while enjoying Mahi and Pinot.  You have been warned...

Hehe ... be the first of your friends to like this post :)  But they should have added a comment area too... 

Excellent picture of a most excellent boat ... sailing around the harbor.  Note the extensive crew :) 

Scott "Dilbert" Adams: The Right Priority.  "If you had to pick one priority in your life, could you do it?"  Hmmm.... 

Scott Loftesness notes, such an elegant custom, writing a thank you letter!  Thanks for that, Scott :) 

Lust: the belt-driven Devon Tread watch.  Weird how much human energy has gone into creation of timepieces for the wrist.  At this point everyone gets time from their phone, but watches live on as elegant jewelry, and in some cases, sculpture. 

Pretty cool: a Dubai "hyperlapse".  Wow, what a place.  Kind of like an experiment, what would happen if you dumped billions of dollars in the middle of the desert. 

Slingshots in space?  A helpful video from the International Space Station, featuring demos.  Of course for every reaction, there is an equal and opposite reaction... 

I loved this: Space Needle turned into giant Angry Birds slingshot.  Think of the time it took to plan and build this.  And yet, maybe it was worth it :) 

(do you think they'll make it to the ISS?  Maybe!)

Zooborn of the day: a baby polar bear!  Awww... 

Here's some news you can use: women who drink wine every day say they have better sex.  Yet another reason, if any were needed, to drink wine!



breathing image

Tuesday,  11/19/13  10:10 PM

This image is alive.  But is it living on the page, on in your brain?


exact nonsense

Wednesday,  11/20/13  04:57 PM

From Penn Jillette:

There is no god and that's the simple truth. If every trace of any single religion died out and nothing were passed on, it would never be created exactly that way again. There might be some other nonsense in its place, but not that exact nonsense. If all of science were wiped out, it would still be true and someone would find a way to figure it all out again.

Such a penetrating observation, right?  Imagine another inhabited planet.  Of course, their laws of physics would be the same as our laws, their mathematics, their chemistry.  Even their biology (though of course exact forms might differ).  The science would be exactly the same.  But if the planet evolved intelligent life, what are the chances that their religion would be the same?  Zero.  Some of the concepts might be similar but all of the details would be different.

In fact you don't have to imagine another planet, just use ours.  Science is the same everywhere, in every country, in every culture, but religion differs widely.



Wednesday,  11/20/13  07:15 PM

Yet another day of coding, a good day.  But I am also living an instance of Zero's paradox, waiting for the asymptote to converge.  Will I ever get there?

From the Horse's Mouth, today's surfing pic of the day.  COOL. 

The magic of animated GIFs.  It's so weird and so cool that this just happened, way back when (in the old Compuserve days, before the Internet!).  Seems like it could never happen today.  Apple would have one implementation, Google another, and Microsoft a third, and each website would have to implement animation five ways and everyone would give up.

Another thing that "just happened": PDFs.  Amazingly, we can now display PDFs on any web page, with just JavaScript, no plugin required.  I'm trying to think, is this just cool, or also useful? 

American Digest: Where is my flying car?  Oh, right here... 

Lego Star Wars vs MC Escher.  "Escher's work is known for its depictions of architectural impossibilities, but 'Relativity' is one of the few that can, despite its complexities, actually be built."  Excellent. 

The Oatmeal: Every time it snows in a big city.  "You call this snow?  I grew up in Bumbelch, Nebrahoma, and we used to get 50 feet of snow a day."  Dead on. 

Speaking of the Oatmeal... this is kinda old news now, but still cool: Oatmeal cartoonist helps raise $1M to turn old Nikolai Tesla lab into a museum.  Awesome! 

You knew this, but now you really know: A pants-size comparison.  "The thing that most pants do have in common is that the actual measurement of the jeans is far larger than the size printed on the label.

And in other old news, about Tesla's namesake: Tesla repays its $465 million federal loan nine years early.  Yay. 

Powerline asks: why should taxpayers subsidize electric vehicles?  The answer is, they shouldn't... but at least the Tesla experiment ended well all the way around.  The GM experiment was less successful, "we" spent 10x as much and got the Volt.

From Aardman (Wallace and Gromit!), The Staves, "Winter Trees".  Very nice.



Holiday Inn

Wednesday,  11/20/13  10:27 PM

Watched Holiday Inn tonight, for the kazillionth time, and man is it great.  Bing Crosby, Fred Astaire, Marjorie Reynolds, great singing ("White Christmas"!), amazing dancing (how well would Fred and Marjorie score on Dancing with the Stars, eh?) and a wonderful feel-good story.  There's even some funny set-within-a-set Hollywood inside baseball.

I've blogged about this before, it all started when we were decorating for Christmas in 2004, and we wanted to hear "White Christmas".  And we found it on iTunes, and poof! we were listening to it, and it was great.

And then again, in 2008 when we wanted to find "White Christmas", the movie, and we did, but then realized that the classic recording of "White Christmas" actually did not come from the movie, but instead came from "Holiday Inn", which predated it by ten years.  We found it on iTunes, and poof! we were watching it, and it was great.

And it still is :)


iron horses

Friday,  11/22/13  04:31 PM

I found myself in Sacramento with time to kill, and visited the most excellent California State Railway Museum.  Highly recommended.

Who doesn't love trains?  This is a 1/3 scale replica - fully functional - which greets you right when you walk in.

Nothing replica about this old Iron Horse.  You can practically hear the whistle blowing.

The scene into the body of the museum.  The passenger cars as as luxurious as the locomotives are spartan.

A work of art, locomotives from the late 1800s were decorated as if they were indoor sculpture.

"Engine One", mascot of the Southern Pacfic Railroad Company

An incredibly well preserved early 1900s engine and coal cars.

This guy looks as powerful as 400 horses, which he was.

A cool roundhouse outside the museum routed the trains into the building.

Early 1920s fire truck, configured to "ride the rails".

Model trains too of course; and they have quiet a nice setup.

A rare Lionel collectors piece.

This hand-built model really works.
And it worked for me :)


Saturday,  11/23/13  04:47 PM

Back from Sacramento, the Ole filter makes a pass...

Just in time for the next installment of The Hobbit, Google have created an interactive map of Middle Earth.  Excellent! 

Economist: Obama Sinking.  Obama never did accomplish much, and the media are increasingly taking note. 

Dave Winer: the government develops software differently.  Certainly compared to startups. 

How interesting: Sudden progress on prime number problem has mathematicians buzzing.  Are there an infinite number of primes spaced a given distance apart?  Yes.  Can we prove it?  Not yet. 

For $99, you can build your own computer in twenty minutes.  Kano's cool kit, based on the awesome Raspberry Pi.  If I was a kid, I would have loved to have one of these.  Then again I am, and I do :) 

Boo.  Winamp is officially dead.  Of course, it has been unofficially dead for fourteen years, ever since AOL bought them.  So weird that big companies kill small companies by buying them. 

Historical footnote.  Winamp is the first software I can remember which featured "skins".  I remember creating some myself, just because I could :)

Gentlemen, start your printers: Smithsonian releases 3D models of artifacts.  "Some of the first 3D scans include the Wright brothers' first airplane, Amelia Earhart's flight suit, casts of President Abraham Lincoln's face during the Civil War and a Revolutionary War gunboat."  How cool is that?  You can learn more about the project on the Smithsonian X 3D website

The fastest DNA sequencer, on USB.  Excellent, I want one.  And I'm sure someday soon I will probably have one.... 

FuturePundit: the transition to a DNA-data-rich environment.  "“Once you make the transition from a data poor to data rich environment, everything changes.” We are living thru that transition."  Yep, although the promise of Precision Medicine has yet to be realized, we're almost there.

And another: plan to live to be 100 years old?  With the diagnostic capabilities enabled by genetic information, living to be 100 years old is no longer an unrealistic goal.

The amazing Engadget turns ten!  "If you're reading this, you're an early adopter."  Not only that, I was an early adopter of Engadget.  (Can't believe how many references I've made to them!) 

From Amsterdam-based Robert Embricq: Coolest table ever?  Perhaps ... amid heavy competition.  Looks like something which could be 3D-printed :) 

Way cool: the secret life of a Manhattan doorman.  (This site,, seems to have a lot of cool stuff...  no RSS feed unfortunately so requires exploration.) 

Of course they are: Virgin Galactic now accepting Bitcoin for future flights into space

Steampunk on wheels: The Morgan Aero-Coupe.  "It looks like a car designed in the 1930s to be built in 2013."  Yes. 

Not from the Onion: Vancouver bans doorknobs.  Seriously, the role of government is completely out of control here. 

Book note: in preparation for Hunger Games II (Catching Fire), I reread the book.  Not as interesting as the first one (the concepts were all out of the bag already), but still a solid read...  looking forward to the movie!



catching fire

Sunday,  11/24/13  05:42 PM

Watched Hunger Games Catching Fire today, and thought it was great.  A most worthy sequel, and amazing in its own right.  The direction and production values are excellent (those costumes!), and the story was simplified and embelished perfectly to adapt the book to a movie.  My only complaint is that since the book is written in the first person, there's a lot of subtley that viewers who haven't read the book might miss, but so be it.  Overall it was excellent!

My favorite moment was when Katniss' wedding dress turns into a mockingjay outfit.  Perfect.

It would be perhaps too obvious to say Jennifer Lawrence is great, but ... she is.  In fact the entire cast are as well, faithful to the characters from the book, and ... interesting.  It might be weird to say, given the fantasy nature of the whole story, but they seemed real.  I can't wait for the next, er, two (Mockingjay, the third and final book, will apparently be two movies...)



Sunday,  11/24/13  06:03 PM

Onward, into the calm before the Thanksgiving storm ... a quick filter pass.

(the picture is my current 3D printing challenge, nested Klein bottles :)

Apparently 3D printable "physibles" are the next frontier of piracy.  So be it.  I predict this will go about as well as fighting audio and video copying... 

Scott "Dilbert" Adams: I hope my father dies soon.  A powerful argument for the government to stay out of the way when it comes to things like doctor-assisted suicide. 

I agree with Maria Kang.  We have to stop pretending it's okay to be fat and out of shape.  As soon as I travel away from LA, as I did last week, I'm amazed at the borderline obesity you see everywhere.  Not that it doesn't exist in LA either, but somehow it is less acceptable.  Or at least not celebrated. 

Maria was banned from Facebook for posting her opinion.  That's terrible.  I doubt I'll be banned for posting mine, but we'll see :)

Six awesome bike sharing schemes from around the world.  Awesome indeed.  My first contact with such schemes was when I was in Dublin this Spring, but unfortunately I needed an Irish bank account.  Not too tourist friendly. 

I didn't attend the 2013 LA Auto Show, but thanks to this C|net overview video, I didn't have to... the BMW i3 looks ugly, but it's all-electric, so that's cool, meanwhile the Jaguar F-type Couple looks amazing, but it's old technology under that hood.  And the Cadillac ELR is an upmarket Chevy Volt, with a bit of both.  And we now have hydrogen cars (!), at least as auto-show concepts. 

How much ad / survey / link-me crap can a web page have?  This one seems to be trying to find out.

How did I miss this?  Halley Suitt shares her eBook secrets, and I agree with all of them: 

  1. No glasses required.  (Change font size!)
  2. No lights required.  (Book light or backlight)
  3. Count Alexei Kirillovich Vronsky.  (Search for anything instantly)
  4. Have I got a deal for you.  (Cheaper all the time, and lots of deals most of the time)

For the Luddites in all of us: the iTypewriter.  The best way to type on an iPad?  [ via Daring Fireball

best word ever - final fourThis is most excellent: tournament-style brackets used to choose the best English word ever.  What's your favorite?  

(I like "diphthong" but I don't think it would make my final four...)

Another great list: Daniel Dennett on how to argue well (I wouldn't argue with any of this :): 

  1. Attempt to re-express your target's position clearly
  2. List any points of agreement
  3. Mention anything you have learned from your target
  4. Only then say so much as a word of rebuttal or criticism

A must-visit?  Africa's first underwater hotel.  I'm actually pretty drawn to the deck on the roof, looks like a perfect spot for reading :) 

Excellent!  Massive new dinosaur discovered in Utah.  It looks terrifying, but we have to work on that name.  "Siats Meekerorum" just doesn't have the same ring as "Tyrannosaurus Rex". 

Onward into the week!




Monday,  11/25/13  05:20 PM

Do you understand bitcoin?  If not, or even if you do and just want to learn more, check out Wired's Bitcoin Survival Guide.  I've gone from thinking it's a weird fad to thinking there's something to it to thinking it seems to be getting traction.  It reminds me of much of the backstory for Neal Stephenson's classic Cryptonomicon, the desire for a currency which doesn't need a central administration to regulate it or establish its value.  Long term this would be pretty compelling; short term, we'll see if the [in]stability of bitcoin holds up.

At right, a bitcoin "mine" in action, from the collective hallucination of currency, which is a nice reference.

For more, you might enjoy Bitcoins Bitcoins Everywhere, from Brad Feld, which has a bunch more links...



Monday,  11/25/13  05:30 PM

A quiet day of coding, in which I discovered a brand new way to develop C++ for Linux, Eclipse CDT, and used it to create a whole bunch of new bugs :)

I love this: Russell Beattie on writing and blogging: that weird background process.  "Since I stopped posting to Twitter and Facebook and start blogging long-form again, I've been 'blogging in the back of my mind' more and more. Do you do that?"  Yes, yes I do! 

Scott "Dilbert" Adams wonders What if stupid people organized?  (I'll avoid the snarky comment that maybe they already have :)  Personally I would rather see the pendulum swing the other way... 

Today SpaceX almost launched an SES satellite into geostationary orbit... this is 22,000 miles from Earth, nearly ten times as far as the 250 miles to the International Space Station which has now been reached by SpaceX rockets several times.  Punch line: delayed to Thursday.  But check out this comparison of SpaceX's mission control to NASA's... a few more laptops and a few less binders :) 

From kottke: some intellectual jokes.  Here's my favorite: "What does the "B" in Benoit B. Mandelbrot stand for?  Benoit B. Mandelbrot."  Reminds me of the excellent self-referential: TLA. 

Way useful: how to force Facebook to grab the best image from your page.  The punchline: <meta rel="image_src" href="posts/...">.  You will also want this link to Facebook's "debugger", which shows you exactly what they see. 

Ohio State University's marching band is pretty awesome; check out this tribute they did on the anniversary of the Gettysburg address.  Wow.  For more OSU coolness, here's a classic tribute to classic video games

The average NFL game has 100 commercials and 11 minutes of action.  After watching this weekend, I can believe it.  A strong argument for Tivo :)  

But did you catch last night's Denver / Patriots game?  Wow.  Those were some amazing 11 minutes!

An interesting debate, of interest to me: Android vs IOS development.  Aka, for which platform should you develop first?  IOS in the US, Android elsewhere, apparently, but there are also some interesting technical trade-offs, including Xcode vs Eclipse, and Cocoa vs Java.  That there isn't a clear answer makes the whole thing more interesting. 

And finally, so I can find it later: Basic Javascript for the impatient programmer.  A beautiful overview by Axel Rauschmayer, who often posts interesting "expert" articles about Javascript as well...



big bottles

Tuesday,  11/26/13  11:12 PM

Just in time for Thanksgiving, here's a handy naming guide for big bottles:

(click to enbiggen further :)

Did you know?  In addition to looking and well being cool, big bottles also taste better.  Apparently there's something about the chemistry that causes wines to age slower but better in big bottles.  Enjoy a Nebuchodonesor today!


Tuesday,  11/26/13  11:25 PM

Today ... was a good day :)  Feeling very Thankful on many fronts...
(yes of course ... that is my 3D-printed turkey)

Here we have ... the world's sexiest buildings!  I have to admit, they are amazing.  I love that building materials are now so strong that architecture can looking like anything you can imagine, instead of being a slave to functional strength.  Pretty soon buildings will be 3D-printed like turkeys :) 

I have to agree with this: Let's kill the aid industry.  "Most development aid is actively harmful. Selling goods for less than production cost is dumping, a business practice condemned as predatory; aid is just dumping with the price set to zero.

Thirty infuriating images that will trigger your OCD.  Hehe. 

Did you know?  It turns out that cabbage, kale, broccoli, brussels sprouts, kohlrabi, collard greens, and cauliflower are all the same species of plant (Brassica oleracea).  And so ... I like cabbage, kale, and broccoli, find caulifower to be meh, and do not like brussels sprouts.  Go figure. 

From the Oatmeal: how to suck at your religion.  There's one good way, which is toinsist that I have to care about your religion.  Unfortunately religions are mental viruses, and the most successful are designed to pull in new hosts. 

Thermal images of Emperor Penguins show how they stay warm.  I think Penguins are so cool

Related: the gorgeous, dangerous world below Antarctic ice.  Brrr... 

Tiny animals on fingers.  Pretty much the cutest things ever... wow.



misery map

Wednesday,  11/27/13  09:03 PM

Pretty cool: FlightAware's Misery Map shows you, by city, how likely you are to be delayed.

This is just an animated example, your mileage may vary.  May the odds be ever in your favor...


Wednesday,  11/27/13  09:19 PM

A quiet little day today; you know you didn't get much done when your biggest accomplishment was drafting a press release.  Still, it did get drafted.  I had a lot of time, so I was able to make it quite short :)

You know we're doing okay when worrying about whether there's too much wind for the Macy's balloons is a top story.  Still, we worry, because they're fun.  To infinity, and beyond! 

By the way I must confess, I just rewatched the whole Toy Story series.  Pretty great, and they hold up amazingly well.  Toy Story 2 has to be about the best animated movie ever.

Want to play with your family a bit tomorrow?  Maybe make some Grime Dice to confound them.  In which, Dice A will systematically beat Dice B, which systematically beats Dice C, but C beats A.  Paging Kurt Godel... 

Leonado da Vinci invented numerous devices that he never built*, including the viola organista, a machine-line instrument that combines a harpsicord, organ, and viola da gamba.  This 500-year-old idea is now a reality, however, thanks to Polish musician Slawomir Zubrzycki.  Cool.  Some people have too much time on their hands, and we are glad they do! 

* while I was non-blogging last summer I visited Tuscany, and Vinci, and the da Vinci museum, which features cool scale models of many of Leonardo's designs.  Way cool and well worth seeing.

Okay, back to printing wild turkeys ... :)



Happy Thanksgiving! (NY 12/02/13)

Thursday,  11/28/13  09:51 AM

Hi everyone, Happy Thanksgiving!

I have many things to be thankful for ... my family and friends, my work, cycling and sailing, and ... you my blog friends!  I hope you have a fantastic day filled with football, cheese and crackers, turkey and potatoes, pie ... wine ... and your family and friends.  Tomorrow is a new day and we can look ahead, but today we can enjoy just for today.


Happy Black Friday

Friday,  11/29/13  10:29 AM

Good morning blog public!  Did you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving?  I hope you did - I did :) - and I hope it left you refreshed and ready to attack Black Friday.  As I type this at 10:30am I know some of you have already been shopping for hours, either in malls or at your keyboard.  Good for you.  My plans for the day are more modest, I'm planning to put up lights on the house, made a little more interesting by the threat of rain... stay tuned!

Here's something not everyone will buy: Order your very own cold fusion reactor.  I'm not buying "cold fusion", let alone this $1.5M alleged implementation of it. 

Something else I will be doing soon: In search of the tallest Christmas tree in America.  Well, okay, mine will only be about 10' tall, but ... still.  A worthy search. 

So I switched!  Yep, I did it; made Chrome my default browser instead of Firefox.  This has been brewing for some time; let's face it, Chrome is faster, and it uses less memory.  I had tried this before, only to discover that Chrome always opens links in a new tab, and there's no way to change this behavior.  Ah ... but there is!  Thanks to the simple and functional New Tab, New Window extension, Chrome now opens links in a new window.  Onward! 

Given the platform capabilities of Chrome - including native code execution - perhaps it isn't too early to predict someday the OS will disappear, leaving only Chrome...  Mommas teach your children JavaScript!

This is cool: the world's most incredible libraries.  Pictured, the Strahov Abbey library, in Prague.  Looks like the perfect place to curl up with your Kindle. 

How much weight will you gain from Thanksgiving dinner?  In my case, I think that is directly tied to another question, how much will I ride this weekend! :)



Happy Football Saturday

Saturday,  11/30/13  12:21 PM

A great day to do nothing ... hang out, maybe do a little kayaking, and print some gnomes :)  Oh, and watch football!  We have Alabama-Auburn (go Tigers!), and Stanford-Notre Dame (go Cardinal!), and then USC-UCLA (go Bruins!)  And let's see what else is going on...

So tomorrow is the big day for Obamacare, when is supposed to work.  I'm sure you, like me, are planning to go right these and register.  But even if they fix the website - which I somehow doubt - they won't be able to fix the general approach of "redistribution"; those like you and me who pay for medical insurance will have to pay more, so that those who couldn't get it before now can.  I'd be willing to pay a little more for insurance - true hedge against disaster - but not much, and not for maintenance.  Kind of like the way all of us pay a little more for car insurance so some people can get "assigned risk" policies... 

Related: The Heath Care Blog considers what if the Affordable Care Act enrolls a lot fewer people than predicted?  Depending on who does enroll, we'll all pay more.

So here's a question: do you feel safer traveling by air with the TSA protecting you?  I don't.  This is yet another example of government doing something poorly and more expensively than private industry. 

Wow, too much seriousness for Football Saturday, right?  This picture is the LA Coliseum in October 1923, soon after it was completed, hosting its first football game between USC and Pomona, before 12,000 screaming fans.  (click to enlarge)  It will look slightly different today, with a few more people in attendance :) 

[ Update: By the way, how cool is it that we have a picture of this?  Must have been taken by an intrepid pilot in a litte biplane, with their little iPhone :) ]

Can you identify all the different sports teams which have called the Coliseum home?  Hint: In addition to football it has been used for baseball*, basketball, and ice hockey... and has hosted two Olympiads, two Super Bowls, and yes, one World Series... and of course Pink Floyd playing The Wall.

* in 2008 it hosted the largest crowd ever to watch a baseball game, 115,000 people... Dodgers - Red Sox.

Okay, pass the Wheat Thins and nobody gets hurt... 


Return to the archive.