Critical Section

Archive: February 2014

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the wheel paradox

Saturday,  02/01/14  08:17 PM

Check this out... the cool and amazing wheel paradox:

Here we have a wheel, rolling, and inscribed inside it is a smaller wheel, rolling.  The outer wheel's circumference is obviously greater than the inner wheel's circumference, yet both wheels appear to traverse the same distance while making one complete revolution.  What's going on here?

(stay tuned :)



astonishing places

Saturday,  02/01/14  08:22 PM

I like to say "just when you think you've seen it all, you realize that 'it all' is so much more than you thought".  As evidence, consider these astonishing places:


Tianzi Mountains, China


Tunnel of Love, Ukraine


Tulip fields, Netherlands


Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia


Hitachi Seaside Park, Japan


Mendenhall Ice Caves, Juneau, Alaska


Red Beach, Panjin, China


Bamboo Forest, Japan


Black Forest, Germany


Antelope Canyon, Lake Powell, Arizona


Pretty amazing!


perfect movement

Saturday,  02/01/14  09:56 PM

I'm rarely moved by commercials (in fact, with Tivo, I rarely watch commercials), but here's a commercial worth watching:



Yeah, pun intended.  How awesome is this?  I saw it while working out tonight, and loved it, and found it on YouTube of course, and linked it for you to watch, too.

Perfect movement...


Saturday,  02/01/14  10:05 PM

the Lombardi trophy :)Twas the night before SuperBowl, and all through the house, not a creature was stirring, except for my mouse...

Yes of course I made my own Lombardi trophy...

News you can use: how to be the smartest person at a SuperBowl party.  (smartest = most knowledgeable)  Did you know this SuperBowl features the largest age gap between starting quarterbacks ever?  Russell Wilson was nine when Peyton Manning started his first game in the NFL.

Jelly asks your friends: 'what kind of plant is this?'The other day I noted Jelly, a "social search engine" which uses your friends to categorize pictures and give answers.  They just raised $20M from Greylock, probably more because of Biz Stone's reputation and standing than because of the success or potential of the App.  As with Camfind, noted earlier also, the value of human categorization remains to be established.  At least Jelly prevails upon your friends, free, while Camfind uses unknown people who presumably have to be paid.  Interesting!

The Beatles appear on the Ed Sullivan showIt was fifty years ago today, Sergeant Pepper taught the band to play ... and the Beatles first hit #1 in the US, something they would do 27 more times.  Hard to imagine the impact they made appearing on the Ed Sullivan show, with *everyone* watching.  Even the viewing of SuperBowl halftime isn't so concentrated anymore; lots of people will be Tivoing and skip right through it.

Apple's famous '1984' SuperBowl commerical for the MacIt was thirty years ago that the first Mac came out (and thirty years ago when Apple ran their famous "1984" commercial, during the SuperBowl).  John Gruber remembers ... it was Special.  Hard to realize how many conventions were established by that first system which live on to this day.  So much Mac-ness; especially note the whimsy, which is missing from IOS 7.  Perhaps a difference between John Ive and Steve Jobs.

Wonder what amazing new commercial we'll see tomorrow?  Will Apple run an ad to commemorate ... I think they will.  After all, it is Groundhog Day, too!



Seahawk Day

Sunday,  02/02/14  10:01 AM

Punxsatawney PhilThis morning Punxatawney Phil, seer of seers, prognosticator of prognosticators, wishes you a happy Groundhog Day, and said, in Groundhog-ese, the Seattle Seahawks will most definitely win Super Bowl XLVIII.



Monday,  02/03/14  11:04 PM

Booroy, Klaksvik, Faroe IslandsThis weekend I suddenly had this thought: "crap, it's February!"  As in, whew, January flew past...  it was not a happy thought.  Fortunately I was able to put it aside by coding and eating while watching football / ads with friends.  But today the pressure was on...

So the other day I linked some astonishing places; here's another one: this picture is of Booroy, Klaksvik, in the Faroe Islands.  (Yes yes click to enbiggen!)  I'm reading a book in which the characters fly from Scotland to Iceland, passing over the Faroe Islands, and I was like "Faroe Islands?" so I Googled and Wikipedia-ed and now know where they are, and what they are (they're Danish), and saw this picture, and thought wow! who knew?  Looks like a cold but fascinating place to visit, doesn't it?

the infinite libraryCross post from eyesFindings: getting lost on the shelf.  "...every shelf in every store and especially online is crowded. The long tail made the virtual shelves infinitely long, which means that every record, every widget, every job application, every book, every website, every non-profit… all of it… is on a crowded shelf.  Which is why ‘the shelf’ can't be your goal. If you need to get picked from the shelf/slush pile/transom catchbasin then you've already lost."

Also from Seth Godin: every slide tells a story.  "If I can't figure out what your point is, you've merely given me data."

You might think the Seattle Seahawks were the big winners yesterday in the Super Bowl, but you would be wrong... here we have the Super Bowl Ad Report Card.  What was your favorite?  I liked the Puppy... but I also liked the Maserati ad.  And I missed having an Apple ad!

Apple Mac 30th adTurns out Apple have made a 30th anniversary of the Mac ad, but they didn't air it during the Super Bowl.  It is rather cool though ... shot entirely with iPhones!  Somehow to me it's a little too mainstream, though; would have been cooler with a bit of the "1984" ad's edge to it.

Facebook Paper appHey so have you checked out Facebook Paper?  I have, and I don't like it.  Not even a little bit...  Sorry but don't need another Flipboard / Zite type thing.  I like the original Facebook News Feed and BTW please stuff stuffing so many ads and "suggested posts" into it!

Mulholland Highway aka "Rockstore"About the LA road that tricks so many motorcyclists  into crashing.  This article is about the section of Mulholland Highway called "Rockstore", which as you know I ride all the time, and it gets so many things wrong I don't know where to begin, including that nobody calls this "the Snake".  The real reason there are crashes is that there are cameras.

Whenever you read about something you know about, it's wrong, which means pretty much everything reported anywhere is wrong.  Boo.

the Boeing 747Cool: the unexpected success of the Boeing 747.  Kind of fun to celebrate this amazing technical achievement, and kind of sad to contemplate the failure of Pan Am...


Dilbert: two pizzas

Wednesday,  02/05/14  10:15 PM


(thanks, Greg)



the Lynn effect

Wednesday,  02/05/14  10:26 PM

As frequent visitors know I am a big fan of intelligence -related studies and feel they are most important.  If nothing else doing such work is difficult and courageous, because it often flies in the face of political correctness.

Anyway my friend and correspondent Liron pointed out this article: The decline of the world's IQ, by Richard Lynn and John Harvey, and suggests this trend be referred to as the Lynn effect, in counterpoint to the Flynn effect, which is the observation that many human populations have seen an increase in their measured IQ over time.  Here's the abstract of the paper:

Dysgenic fertility means that there is a negative correlation between intelligence and number of children. Its presence during the last century has been demonstrated in several countries. We show here that there is dysgenic fertility in the world population quantified by a correlation of − 0.73 between IQ and fertility across nations. It is estimated that the effect of this has been a decline in the world's genotypic IQ of 0.86 IQ points for the years 1950–2000. A further decline of 1.28 IQ points in the world's genotypic IQ is projected for the years 2000–2050. In the period 1950–2000 this decline has been compensated for by a rise in phenotypic intelligence known as the Flynn Effect, but recent studies in four economically developed countries have found that this has now ceased or gone into reverse. It seems probable that this “negative Flynn Effect” will spread to economically developing countries and the whole world will move into a period of declining genotypic and phenotypic intelligence. It is possible that “the new eugenics” of biotechnology may evolve to counteract dysgenic fertility.

world IQ over timeThe global effect predicted by this paper is somewhat less pronounced than the extrapolations I made in IQ and populations, but are of the same order.  I considered differential fertility rates between different countries; this study is more precise, and considers differential fertility rates within countries, based on differential rates between different segments of a population.  There is another effect based on generation size which could also be considered, which would directionally reinforce these other two effects.

Interestingly, a Google search for "the decline of the world's IQ" turned up this image as the top hit; it is taken from my now-11-year-old blog post, but was used unattributed in a Sociology 110 class at the University of Hartford.  I'm glad I've been able to contribute in small way to the general dialog on this subject :)

I'm delighted to learn that there is a Journal called Intelligence devoted to "research and theoretical studies that contribute to the understanding of Intelligence", and plan to subscribe.  (Stay tuned!)


© 2003-2020 Ole Eichhorn


3D-printed moment of glory

Thursday,  02/06/14  11:19 PM

Tesla Model S center consoleSo what do you do with your MakerBot 3D-printer? 

You design a center console for a Tesla Model S of course!  (Using the awesome Tinkercad :)  And then you print it, and take a picture of it, and post the design to the cool Thingiverse website.  And a few people like it, and a few people print it, and then ... nothing.

Until one day, TechCrunch finds it, and writes an article about it (!) and poof! you're on the cover of TechCrunch, your 15 minutes of fame.  The geek equivalent of the cover of the Rolling Stone.





Thursday,  02/06/14  11:29 PM

New Microsoft CEO Satya NadellaUnless you've been hiding in the arctic circle for the last six months (easy to do), you know Microsoft CEO Steve Balmer has retired, and the company was searching for a replacement.  And unless you've been frozen for the last six hours, you know they have chosen insider Satya Nadella for the job.  Everyone seems quite sure he's the right guy for the job, despite the fact that it took six months for the Microsoft board to pick him.  Like everyone I wish him luck.

Because he's going to need it.

Microsoft is a huge successful company which has thousands of successful products found on nearly every desktop in the world, and in nearly every datacenter.  They generate craploads of cash, and have a huge staff of bright motivated people.  So what's the problem?

Desktops and servers are no longer where it's at.  Mobile is the future.  And Microsoft is *not* found on nearly every mobile device in the world.  Not even.

Nearly everyone sees this and nearly everyone has advice for Microsoft and Mr. Nadella.  Here's mine.

  1. mobile MicrosoftRecognize that mobile is the future.  Microsoft must become a player in mobile.
  2. Do not think that Nokia can compete for phone hardware market share.  Just don't.  Apple and Samsung have already won.
  3. Do not think that Windows can compete for operating system market share.  Just don't.  Apple's IOS and Google's Android have already won.
  4. Good news!  The two dominant hardware platforms run the two dominant software operating systems, and they are both open!  Thousands of companies are making millions of apps for these environments.  That creates an opportunity.
  5. Microsoft should become a major player in app development
  6. First, they should make their own apps which are seriously awesome, in the space they know best: Office.  Microsoft Office Apps should rule.  Right now there is a greenfield here with a lot of contenders but no clear victors.  Microsoft already understands this market, they could be great at this.
  7. Second, they should provide services for everyone's apps which are seriously awesome.  Virtually all Apps for both IOS and Android make extensive use of web-based services, for all kinds of things.  Become the leader in providing these services.  Right now there is a greenfield here with a lot of contenders but no clear victors.  And there are lots of new categories.  Search (Bing!).  Mapping.  Translation.  Database access.  Payments.  Analytics.  Image analysis.  And of course, Visual Search :)  Microsoft already has a lot of these capabilities, they are well positioned to be great at this.
  8. Third, they should provide infrastructure for the services used by everyone's apps which are seriously awesome.  Virtually all back-end services are hosted.  Amazon is the leader, with Rackspace and others definitely in the mix, but Microsoft's own Azure is already a player, and they are beautifully positioned to be great at this.
  9. [optional] Change your name to Mobilesoft.  And mean it.

That's it, free advice which is worth more than you paid for it.  Good luck Mr. Nadella, and good luck Microsoft Mobilesoft.



Thursday,  02/06/14  11:48 PM

Sochi: Slopestyle!Cranking up the old Ole filter, making a pass...

How cool are the Winter Olympics?  Watched Slopestyle (?) and figure skating tonight.  Great athletes doing great things.  My Tivo is warmed up and ready!

Here's a really great chart showing the schedule and results for all the Winter Olympic events.  The Sochi website is excellent.

Sochi: Dutch team bikesThere has been a ton of bad press about Sochi - a metric ton - but here's some pleasant news: pictures from the Olympic village.  Note the Dutch team's fleet of orange bikes!

Google's Olympic doodleGoogle's Olympic doodle, featuring a select quote from the Olympic Charter.

Cross-posted from eyesFindings: Awareness.

trans-Neptune objects (don't call them planets!)Yay: Pluto wins.  "The beloved not-quite-planet is about to become the star of our solar system. I'll go out on a limb and predict that in July 2015, the up-close photos of Pluto we'll get from a NASA spacecraft will be the most popular astronomical images of a generation."

Scott "Dilbert" Adams wonders: Are you real or software?  (How would you know?)  An interesting twist on the famous Turing test: can you pass the test yourself...

the Lego movie!Rotten 99%! - the Lego movie.  Against all odds: "Boasting beautiful animation, a charming voice cast, laugh-a-minute gags, and a surprisingly thoughtful story, The Lego Movie is colorful fun for all ages."

Interesting: Apple pulls Bitcoin wallet Blockchain from Apple store.  There is now no Bitcoin wallet available for IOS.  I suspect the Internet will route around the damage ... stay tuned.

I'll leave you with a panoramic view of Sochi.  In case you're wondering, it's in the Southwest part of Russia, on the Black Sea (I checked).  Should be excellent, can't wait...





Friday,  02/07/14  11:45 PM

So tonight the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia, were officially opened, and I must say I though the ceremony was way cool.  Those projected images on the arena floor were about the coolest thing ever.  Some screen grabs:


Yeah so that one ring malfunctioned, so what.  It was cool.

This kid was great

Very Russian, and very cool

Ta da!  And now for the march of nations...
(in Cyrillic alphabet order, which was different and fun)

The US team looked good, for once; nice kit

These giant hanging "floats" were amazing

Pretty much my favorite part, these projected images were unbelievable

Very cool.  Also very 1950s feeling.

And how about this, at the end of the factory floor thing?

Time for the doves of peace

And Misha the bear

The games are now officially open!


And the obligatory lighting of the torch by ex-Olympic champions

Unlike a lot of people, I'm mentally downplaying the whole US vs Russia thing and just looking forward to the competition.  Skiing, Skating, Snowboarding, Sledding, Hockey, and of course Curling!  Should be a great couple of weeks...


palindrominal (NY931227)

Saturday,  02/08/14  10:14 PM

Was cleaning out an old briefcase (!) and found I'd kept this incredible New Yorker cover from December 27, 1993 / January 2, 1994, the ultimate palindrominal image:

goodbye, 1993!


hello 1994!

What a great idea, and perfect execution.  Now that's clever!



Saturday,  02/08/14  11:54 PM

Dutch treat! - Sven Kramer wins 5,000m, leading a sweep by the NetherlandsHad a quiet little day, kind of sad and dreary and rainy and cold, a great time for reading, and a little coding, and going to see the Lego Movie (wasn't bad, but wasn't quite as good as I'd hoped), and lots of Olympic watching.

Ole Einar Bjoerndalen wins Men's biathlon at age 40, ties record for most Winter Olympic medals (12)How often do you watch the Olympics, and root for someone, and have them win?  Almost never, right?  Well tonight I watched the American ice dancing pair win (yay), and then the Dutch speed skaters in the 5,000m sweep (yay yay yay), and then a 40-year-old Norwegian named Ole win the Biathlon (and tie the record for most Winter Olympic medals).  How cool is that?  Won't happen again, but was great fun while it lasted...

3D satellite flyover of the Sochi Olympic venuesThis is nice: a 3D satellite video flyover of Sochi and all the Olympic venues...  must say it is a bit strange to have ski areas right next to a summer resort, but it works.

Hmmm...  the Olympic opening ceremonies referred to Russian Communism as a "great experiment".  Was it the worst idea in the world?  I think there were worse ones, but we could say it definitively proved that Socialism does not lead to better lives for the people living under it.

Amazon's Flow visual search featureCross-posted: Amazon's Flow.

Do sexy cyclists have the best endurance?  In which it is hypothesized that "good looking" faces are a proxy for people with endurance.

New Bell's whiskey adHere's a great ad ... for scotch.  Yeah, it's worth watching.


how to choose a wine

Sunday,  02/09/14  11:09 PM


Important work.

I've tested this by verifying a few of the threads:
Personal -> home -> alone -> recovering from work = Pinot Noir
Personal -> on the go -> restaurant -> fancy -> new world -> no cult = California Cabernet



Sunday,  02/09/14  11:30 PM

Ireen Wust three-peats for gold!Another quiet day of coding and watching the Olympics... if only it was cold and rainy all the time, I'd get so much work done over a weekend!

So Dutch speed skater Ireen Wust has three-peated as Olympic champion in the 5,000m.  Excellent.  And it led to some of the wust puns ever, as the commentators forecast the wust competition of the games.  Each of her laps was wust than the previous one.  When she won, it was absolutely the wust victory.  Some of the wust sportscasting I've heard :)

user motivation?TechCrunch: you'd be surprised by what really motivates users.  Interesting but I must confess, not all that surprising.  People want recognition from other people they care about.  I've been thinking about this a lot in the context of visual search...

Cross-post: Learning object segmentation.

Curiosity self-portraitI'm a sucker for this: Stunning photos of Mars from NASA's Curiosity Rover.  Which one is your favorite?  Mine is the compound selfie self-portrait at right, made from dozens of different exposures.  This is a real picture of a real rover on Mars, taken by itself.  Now how cool is that?

PS must say, I like Forbes, man is their website over-designed

Jerry Brown is trying to will California's high-speed rail into existence.  That would be great.  But it takes more than will, it takes money and good engineering, and the state doesn't seem to have either one.

Lego R2D2 kitHere we have a Lego R2D2.  Way cool.  Should have been in the Lego movie :)

Did you see this?  Bill Gates spends entire first day back in office trying to install Windows 8.1.  And he wasn't able to do it.  More telling to me was the fact that he didn't already have it installed.  [ Update: this was parody!  Who knew? ]

Speaking of MobileSoft (we were): GigaOm posts an analysis of Windows Azure's strengths and weaknesses.  This could be the key to their recovery.  It most definitely will not be Windows.




Tuesday,  02/11/14  10:22 PM





Tuesday,  02/11/14  10:36 PM

Dutch sweep 500m speedskatingLoving the Olympics ... after all the hand wringing we have the games themselves, and the athletes, and the performances, and it's just great fun to watch.  I wish there were more hours in the day (and more GB on the Tivo :)

Are you tired of watching Dutch speedskaters win medals?  Nope, me either :)  Though you might be tired of reading me post about it.

Cool sports I hardly knew, but now like: Curling - lots of strategy, Skeleton - Luge on your stomach!, Slopestyle - Waaaaa, and Biathlon - skiing and shooting combined.  So far the only sport I've found to be a disappointment is ski jumping.  Now that they slide down a track, it just doesn't seem real anymore.

augmented realityCross-posted: Augmented Reality is Real.  And it's really here.

The other day I noted Bill Gates spent all day upgrading to Win 8.1.  Turns out that was a parody!  Who knew?  I guess I should have known better, but somehow it seemed so plausible :)

Meanwhile, Paul Thurrott eviscerates Windows 8.  "A disaster in every sense of the word."  Wonder what Satya Nadella thinks?

Meanwhile, In 3.5 years most Africans will have smartphones.  Will they be running Windows?  I doubt it.

The Onion: Affordable Care ActSpeaking of parody: IL partners with The Onion to push Obamacare.  "To get more people to sign up for health care, the state is bragging it will spend $150,000 on ads for the satirical news site The Onion."  Hehe.  Wait ... that's not a parody?  Our tax dollars are being used for this?

Dumbest idea ever: adding noise to an electric car.  Then again, I don't think trucks should beep when backing up, either.

Shirley Temple rides into the sunset...Off into the sunset...


the Olympics (NY 2/12/14)

Thursday,  02/13/14  10:03 PM


the Olympics




Thursday,  02/13/14  10:12 PM

Moses tablet upgradeIt's pretty obvious now that tablets are replacing PCs for a lot of people, and equally that tablets are being used by a lot more people who never used PCs or didn't want to.  Despite some well documented counter-examples, most of this usage is consuming content, not creating it.

This ties directly to the form factor; the extra screen real estate of PCs is helpful, and the human input devices are much better.  Tablet keyboards mostly suck, using your finger as a pointing device doesn't work as well as a mouse, etc.  Over time some of these things are being mitigated, but the imblance remains.

Still, most computer usage is to consume content, and for that tablets are just as good if not better than PCs - certainly easier to use - and they are less expensive.  Everyone has a story about someone they know who never used computers but now happily uses an iPad (in my case, it's my 80-year-old Mom).

There is one kind of input which is much easier with tablets than PCs - taking pictures!  Which is one reason why picture-based communication like Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, etc is growing far faster than Internet usage in general.  It's easier to type something on a PC than it is to incorporate a picture, but on an iPad the opposite is true.

This creates a huge opportunity for visual search engines.  As tablets continue to take share from PCs, visual search will become more and more important.


Saturday,  02/15/14  10:29 PM

Tara Lipinsky and Johnny Weir*Still* loving the Olympics.  I think NBC's coverage has been pretty good too.  My favorite sportscasters have been Tara Lipinsky and Johnny Weir, but a lot of the others have been great too.  I'm not really a fan of cross country skiing but you have to get excited listening to Chad Salmela.  And I am a fan of speedskating (Go Oranje!) where Dan Jansen has been excellent.

My biggest complaint is sports where each match takes forever, like hockey and curling.  (I had the same issue with soccer and vollyball in the summer Olympics.)  Maybe they should only show the last 15 minutes of each match?

3D printed handExcellent: Kansas Teen uses 3D Printer to make hand for boy.  And here I thought I was cool for making a Tesla Model S drink holder :)

Microsoft Office on iPad: It's alive and coming sooner than most think.  An excellent idea for MobileSoft!  (Are they reading my blog?)  And most important with the advent of tablets...

climbing the Shanghai TowerWow: Russian daredevils climb to the top of the Shanghai tower.  Harrowing.

Bitcoin's amazingly bad but kind of great week.  Among other things, Russia says Bitcoin should be avoided.  Still, we're in the beta phase of digital currencies.  This just doesn't feel like a fad... it is now possible to by Tulips with Bitcoin!

swimming fish controlling an electric carHow cool is this?  A fish controlling an electric car.  A camera detects the direction in which the fish is swimming, and pattern recognition software causes the car to move in that direction.  I'm going to say the fish looks like he's having fun :)

Lego American Hustle movie posterHere we have Lego movie posters for best picture nomineesEverything is awesome!

Sakura the penguinAnd speaking of awesome, check out Sakura, this little penguin chasing his zookeeper.  Awwww... :)


3D-printed save icon

Monday,  02/17/14  10:56 PM


3D-printed save icon

classic :)



too wrongs

Tuesday,  02/18/14  09:13 PM


Scott "Dilbert" Adams shoots, scores!



Tuesday,  02/18/14  10:00 PM

Fluffy watches snowboard crossStill enjoying the Olympics.  A magnificent diversion from everyday life.

My cat loves Snowboard cross ... and I agree with him :)

Jorrit Bergsma wins men's 10,000m speedskatingIn other Olympic news, the Dutch continue to sweep speedskating; their latest dominance was in the men's 10,000m.  The only suspense was which Dutch skater would win; the rest of the field was literally lapped.  (For the record, it was Jorrit Bergsma, shown at left.)  Much has been made of the comparatively slow ice in Sochi ... partially due to the rink being at sea level, adjacent to a large body of water.  I would imagine *every* rink in the Netherlands is as sea level, adjacent to a large body of water, so maybe the Dutch skaters are "at home"?

Based solely on their dominance of one sport, the little Netherlands is atop the Sochi leaderboard, with 20 medals overall, ahead of the US, Russia, and Germany.  Go Oranje!

Much as we celebrate the victors, the Olympics also highlights Cold Reality.  "Figure skater Jocelyn Cox got closer than most, but that didn't bring her much comfort."  I was struck by this when a Dutch skater noted that winning the Dutch Olympic trials in speedskating is more difficult than winning the Olympics, there are that many great skaters who don't make the team.

Skeleton!So: Why is Luge faster than Skeleton?  Short answer: it's the runners.  I will say they are equally terrifying!

Wonder what it would look like if you rode on a curling stone?  Here you go.

Meanwhile: David Attenborough narrates curling.  It's mysterious but cool.

Jeff Atwood considers complaint-driven development.  Aka, listen to your users.  Of course, you can't listen to all your users, because some of them are wrong ... so knowing which ones to listen to is a real trick.

from the Lego movie: Everything is AwesomeEverything is awesome!  The world's most catchy tune, from good-but-not-quite-awesome Lego movie...

If a time traveler saw a cellphone ... they "would conclude that, in the past century, the human race achieved a new level of superintelligence."  And we have, at least collectively!

Oh, and I haven't read this, but it seems like a great article: People don't always read the articles they share.


So, WhatsApp?

Wednesday,  02/19/14  11:01 AM

WhatsApp?!By now you've heard the news, Facebook have acquired messaging service WhatsApp, for $19B.  Yes that's B as in billion, and while nobody questions the value of this service to Facebook - WhatsApp has become huge in India, for example, where Facebook is hardly known - everyone questions the valuation.  Can any company without revenue be worth that much?


I remember clearly when Google bought YouTube in 2006, for $1.7B, which was the incredible "what are they thinking" acquisition of its day.  It took me a bit but I came to see that this had nothing to do with profit, revenue, or market share.  It has to do with market cap.

(The same factor explains Microsoft's acquisition of Skype in 2011, for $8.2B)

For a big public company like Facebook or Google, growth is difficult.  They can release new products and keep acquiring customers, but tacking on big chunks of revenue is difficult. In order to support their stock prices, they must support their vision.  When they buy a company, the value lies in what the acquisition does to their stock.  In Google's case, their market cap rose by well over $1.7B right after the YouTube acquisition, so that they essentially bought the company for free.  Investors paid for it, but then again those investors got their money's worth, too.

The same may be true for Facebook.  So far it isn't, but it is early days, and the long term vision for Facebook is definitely supported by WhatsApp, just as the long term vision of Google was clearly supported by YouTube.  (Whether the long term vision of Microsoft was supported by Skype is hard to say; it is hard to see any long term vision at Microsoft.)

So ... for an entrepreneurial little company, what are the lessons of WhatsApp?  Build somethinguseful and mazing, serve your customers, and good things may happen :)


underpowered solar

Thursday,  02/20/14  09:58 PM

Everybody is rooting for solar power, myself included; at first glance solar power seems to have all the right attributes for a green source of energy.  (Entropy!)  But on closer examination, it isn't even a contender.

Consider the recent blog post on Inhabitat, celebrating Ivanpah, the world's largest solar thermal plant switching online.  "The world's largest concentrating solar power plant, officially started generating energy for California’s electric grid. Located just southwest of Las Vegas, the massive solar facility can produce a whopping 392 megawatts of solar energy.

Whopping?  Let's just ask, how much electricity does a typical nuclear power plant generate?  "In 2012, the 'average' nuclear power plant in the United States generated about 11.8 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh)... The Palo Verde plant in Arizona has three reactors with the largest combined generating capacity1 of about 3,937 megawatts (MW).  Fort Calhoun in Nebraska had the smallest capacity with a single reactor at 502 megawatts (MW)."

Okayyy.  So the smallest capacity nuclear reactor in the US has a capacity nearly 25% more than the world's largest solar plant.  But what about cleanliness?  Well let's go back to Inhabitat: "Despite these impressive numbers, Ivanpah has been mired in controversy for its high operating costs and for reportedly killing and scorching alarming numbers of the local wildlife."  Hmmm, doesn't sound quite so clean, does it?

The reality is that solar power, like wind power, just isn't ready for prime time as a replacement for fossil fuel power plants, or for damming rivers.  The only technology that can deliver the kind of power we need - and the only technology which is truly "cleaner" - is nuclear power.  It is so sad that the association with nuclear weapons has put nuclear power on the wrong side of environmental advocates.  It is truly our only option.


Saturday,  02/22/14  10:16 PM

Lego Steve JobsQuite a day, in which my little eyesFinder team was buzzing about a new application for our technology.  Stay tuned, not quite ready to share.  But it does have me quite excited!

Love this: Lego Steve Jobs.  Iconic!

Mihir Garh, the world's most extraordinary hotelHere we have the world's most extraordinary hotel, Mihir Garh, in the middle of Rajasthan’s Thar Desert in India (as voted by the readers of Lonely Planet).  I'm sure there was extraordinary competition.  On my list to visit :)

What if cash was a new currency like Bitcoin? "Cash is a 100% anonymous and untraceable payments technology. It is like a weapon of mass destruction launched against law enforcement."  Hehe.

Amazon coinsBut: Amazon's virtual currency now works on Android phones and tablets.  When this first came out it was pre-Bitcoin (or at least pre- my awareness of it), and pre- my having read "the everything store", and I tended to discount it.  No longer.  This could be most interesting.

Ukraine, by languageHave you been following the situation in the Ukraine?  I am uneducated on the issues but most interested; Ukrainian president flees as opposition seize the palace.  Powerline wonders Can Ukraine survive? in a post which suggests a Czechoslovakian-style breakup of the country, into a western-leaning Ukrainian-speaking faction, and an eastern-leaning Russian-speaking faction.  This would involve splitting the capital city of Kiev in two.

The map at left shows the prevalent language, Ukrainian in pink, Russian in blue; Kiev is right on the dividing line, the Dnieper River.

Tesla Model XTesla confirms huge battery factor plan, and will ship 35,000 cars next year.  So be it.  I love Tesla and their cars (!), and wish them all the best, but I kinda miss having a unique vehicle.  If they're too successful I'll end up having just another car on the road.  Same thing happened to me in 1992, when I was the first on my block with a Lexus Couple :) 

Actually I think the most important news from Tesla is that they've delayed shipping their Model X SUV, shown at right.  That's going to tip them from a niche into the mainstream.

Of course, Tesla's most disruptive product may not be its cars (it may be its battery technology...)  The headline writer is making the usual mistake of confusing "disruptive" with "important", but it's a good point anyway.

Glasshole?!Google offers us tips on how to avoid being a 'glasshole'.  "Respect others and if they have questions about Glass don’t get snappy.  Be polite and explain what Glass does and remember, a quick demo can go a long way."  I will need these as I will have a Glass myself, soon.

Honestly I can't wait to get thrown out of a movie theater :)  Stay tuned.

Tim Bray is leaving Google.  Best of luck to him.  Interesting that they wouldn't have a place for him as a telecommuter.

Om Malik is leaving GigaOm.  Huh.  And becoming a VC.  Double huh.

Dave Winer nails it: Why people like Facebook: "because when they post something there, they get responses from people they care about."

ZooBorn: Baby TamanduaI've neglected my role as a ZooBorn repeater, but this little guy got my attention: a baby Tamandua.  Awww...



Sunday,  02/23/14  11:30 PM

Tonight the Sochi Winter Olympics came to a close, and I have to say I thought they were great.  The opening ceremony, the competition, the NBC coverage (!), I loved all of it.  And the closing ceremony was way cool too.  Here's some screen grabs, in case you missed it :)

Amazing that this stadium was built specifically for the opening and closing ceremonies,
no athletic events were hosted there.  Wonder what it shall be used for now?

Beautiful.  The projected water was flowing.

My favorite part.  How great that the organizers did this, in a nod to the ring which didn't open
during the opening ceremonies.  Russians with a sense of humor, who knew?

The athletes file in

Russian visual art

Chagall!  With upside down houses, of course.
("happiness is not happiness without a guitar-playing goat")

The ballet

Writers!  And poets!

A blizzard of paper

The Olympic flag is handed over to South Korea

The Russian hall of mirrors ("reflections on the games")

Misha blows out the Olympic flame

And the exterior flame is extinguished also (*sniff*)

A steampunk airship wraps things up

Goodbye Sochi!

And so now we have to wait two years until the next Olympic Games, in Brazil, and four years until the next Winter Games in South Korea.  Boo.  I can't wait!


Amgen Tour + Rockstore!

Monday,  02/24/14  10:05 PM

The Amgen Tour of California route for 2014 has been announced, and yippee the final stage is the same as the final stage in 2010, a four-lap circuit around Thousand Oaks and Westlake Village which includes the infamous Rockstore climb. 

ATOC 2014 stage 8 - click to enbiggen

You will remember Michael Rogers won that year, outlasting David Zabriske and Levi Leipheimer, who attacked repeatedly but couldn't get any distance.  (Man, I must tell you, just typing those names brings back nostalgia; at that was just four years ago!)

I rode that very Rockstore climb today, as I often do ... it takes me about 20 minutes, and it will take the pro peloton quite a lot less. Mark your calendar, May 18.  I can't wait, this will be awesome!


Monday,  02/24/14  10:18 PM

Rockstore OverlookA nice and productive day today; spent the first half of it cycling, acting as an invited tour guide for the CorpsCamp, the second half of it happily coding and spelunking around in IOS, and the third half of it drinking Pinot with the people I rode with this morning.  Yay.  In the meantime, it's all happening...

Just blogged about the Amgen Tour of California coming back to ride Rockstore; here's a picture I took today from the overlook at the top, looking back down the climb...  (click to enbiggen)

the woman who stopped trafficThis looks excellent: the Woman Who Stopped Traffic.  Self-published on Amazon.  Added to the to-read list!

Interesting how a "book" like this one still needs a cover.  Kind of like the way an "album" published on iTunes still needs one too, or a "movie" published on YouTube.  I guess we need that icon which stands for the thing, even when the thing itself has changed form.

You may have heard, under Marissa Mayer Yahoo are making a major push back into search.  I hadn't realized, but in order to do so they must slip through a Microsoft loophole.  Perhaps Visual Search will be key for them in doing so!

brass instrument phone ampToo awesome: brass instrument phone amp.  Yes of course I want one.

iTunes critic Jamie Zaworski reports on the great recoding.  "I just had to re-encode ~700 music videos that ITunes 11 has decided it won't play. That was about 14% of them, 20GB. So that was annoying."  After a bit of digging he automated the process, and tells us all how.  "Perhaps if I build an airplane tail section of out palm fronds, the cargo will return."  This is the annoying thing about Apple, they do this stuff...

Seth Godin riffs on genes and memes.  "Consider the growth of guacamole as an idea. In less than a generation, it went from an unknown delicacy to something commonplace."  The successful meme replicates rapidly with good fidelity, and does not kill the host :)

the railplaneOh how I love this: Put a propeller on it, the golden age of tinkering.  You are looking at a picture of a "railplane", from 1930.  Yes that was a real thing, in Glasgow, Scotland.  The other pictures in this post are equally great, you must click through to read it.

John Gruber links Benedict Evans on WhatsApp.  "In the pre-mobile world, you did stuff with photos hours or even days after you took them. Today, you do stuff with them moments after taking them.Hmmm...

This seems ridiculous: Islamic leaders ruled that a Mars journey would be akin to suicide.  Seriously.  The 1,500-year-old religion needs to make it into the 21st century, right?  (Yes that's right, Islam is much newer than Christianity, which of course is much newer than Judaism.)

xkcd: download our appInteresting: Alibaba-backed Quixey enlists mobile developers to take on Google.  Quixey have been trying to solve a real problem - discovery of mobile apps.  The Apple, Google, and Amazon app stores have not done this for us, and there may be an opportunity for Quixey to do it for them.  The real problem is enabling deep linking, and seems like someone will crack this code.

So that's all about IOS and Android, but what about Windows Mobile?  There are fewer apps so perhaps discovering them would be easier.  Meanwhile Microsoft is wrapping mobile websites and calling them apps, complicating the process.

Looks like Jeff Atwood would like this capability, as an antidote for the App-pocalpse.  "...apparently the web is dead, and mobile apps are the future. I'm doing my best to resist a sudden uncontrollable urge to use my Ledge Finder app to find the nearest ledge to jump from right now."  Hehe.

And as usual, xkcd nails it :)

ZooBorn: baby Sichuan TakinToday's ZooBorn: A Sichuan Takin.  Kind of like a goat-antelope.  Cute when little...


perfect timing

Tuesday,  02/25/14  10:46 PM


(click to enbiggen)



Tuesday,  02/25/14  10:54 PM

riding PCHDay two of the CorpsCamp, and another fine day of riding, this time along PCH...

Wither Bitcoin?  So Mt.Gox, the largest and best known Bitcoin exchange, have gone off the air; trading is halted amid rumors of a large internal theft.  Yikes.  The currency will survive, but like any bank credibility is essential.

surfing on smartphonesUnsurprising: we now spend more time using smartphones than surfing the web on PCs.  I'm not part of that "we" - yet - but I can so easily see that most of you are...

Paul Graham: lessons learned from 630+ Y-Combinator startups.  I'll have more to say about this, but for now, most interesting.  There are some surprising observations, but this isn't one of them: "Product development should most always take precedence."  Indeed.

So: Facebook email is gone.  So be it.  I commend them for removing something which the market had already killed.

best-picture math: most important tagsGetting ready for the Academy Awards: Best-picture Math.  Among other things, the tags associated with a movie can be a good predictor of whether it might win.  I think American Hustle is going to win this time, because of "buzz", but it wasn't nearly as good as Dallas Buyer's Club.

Oh, and here's every single best actor ... and every best actress too.  My picks: Christian Bale (though I would have chosen Mathew McConaughey), and Sandra Bullock (I agree).

Glass for the battlefield.  Of course!

Interesting: project Tango, a prototype phone from Google that creates a 3D-model of the world around it.  Should be a nice enhancement to Glass someday :)

ZooBorn: teeny Giant Aldabra TortoiseToday's ZooBorn: a teeny Aldabra Giant Tortoise.  They will grow from 50g to 400lbs.  Wow.

(oh and it will take them over 100 years to do it :)


illusions in Kharkov

Wednesday,  02/26/14  10:31 PM

With everyone's attention on the situation in the Ukraine, just wanted to share this awesome projection show in Kharkov, which is Ukraine's second-largest city (behind Kiev):

(click through to play)

Kharkov was the capital of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, and is the center of the "Russian" part of the Ukraine.

Cheers and let's hope this sort of thing becomes the main thing residents have to worry about again...


Wednesday,  02/26/14  10:47 PM

climbing Protrero (20%)Day three of the CorpsCamp today, a nice little 70 mile ride capped by the 20% climb up Protrero Road.  Whew.  I needed some fajitas and Dos Equis after that, and I got them :)

Wolfram Language in actionSo cool: Stephen Wolfram's introduction to the Wolfram Language.  Wow.  This looks so powerful, I can't wait to play with it myself.

From Scott "Dilbert" Adams: The Estonian Pattern Key.  "Imagine what would happen if voters started sorting government plans into Lawyer versus Engineer. When the evidence suggests a win-win opportunity, we'd call it the engineering option. When we have a win-lose alternative, we would label it the lawyer approach."  So, how do we label this plan, if the government were to suggest it?

Seth Godin: The most important questionDo your customers trust you?  I think this might be a key differentiator for Apple against Google and Microsoft.

Google VenturesAn interesting overview from December: Where Google Ventures is pinning its hopes. "Five years after its founding amid snickers and skepticism, Google Ventures has emerged as one of the hottest venture firms in Silicon Valley. It's sought out by entrepreneurs and, as a co-investor, by the Valley's marquee firms. In 2013 alone, three of its portfolio companies have gone public, and six were acquired."  I was just talking with a friend about how banks are no longer funding innovation.  Seems big companies have taken over.

Kepler discoveres new planetsKepler discovers 715 new planets.  No, not Johannes Kepler himself, but the satellite probe named after him; the number of known planets has doubled in the last four years since it was launched.  Excellent.

Of course, none of these planets appear to host life, so we might well ask, "where is everyone?"

Related: check out this awesome infographic from a year ago, showing details for the then-190 new planets Kepler had discovered.



no tourists (New Yorker 10/3/11)

Thursday,  02/27/14  11:10 PM


"no tourists"

(I am such a sucker for New Yorker covers, particularly those by Bruce McCall :)




Thursday,  02/27/14  11:13 PM

A few common misconceptions about Introverts (from my friend Zoya, who is, like me, an introvert):

Myth #1 – Introverts don't like to talk.

This is not true. Introverts just don’t talk unless they have something to say. They hate small talk. Get an introvert talking about something they are interested in, and they won't shut up for days.

Myth #2 – Introverts are shy.

Shyness has nothing to do with being an Introvert. Introverts are not necessarily afraid of people. What they need is a reason to interact. They don’t interact for the sake of interacting. If you want to talk to an Introvert, just start talking. Don’t worry about being polite.

Myth #3 – Introverts are rude.

Introverts often don’t see a reason for beating around the bush with social pleasantries. They want everyone to just be real and honest. Unfortunately, this is not acceptable in most settings, so Introverts can feel a lot of pressure to fit in, which they find exhausting.

Myth #4 – Introverts don't like people.

On the contrary, Introverts intensely value the few friends they have. They can count their close friends on one hand. If you are lucky enough for an introvert to consider you a friend, you probably have a loyal ally for life. Once you have earned their respect as being a person of substance, you're in.

Myth #5 – Introverts don't like to go out in public.

Nonsense. Introverts just don’t like to go out in public FOR AS LONG. They also like to avoid the complications that are involved in public activities. They take in data and experiences very quickly, and as a result, don’t need to be there for long to "get it." They're ready to go home, recharge, and process it all. In fact, recharging is absolutely crucial for Introverts.

Myth #6 – Introverts always want to be alone.

Introverts are perfectly comfortable with their own thoughts. They think a lot. They daydream. They like to have problems to work on, puzzles to solve. But they can also get incredibly lonely if they don’t have anyone to share their discoveries with. They crave an authentic and sincere connection with ONE PERSON at a time.

Myth #7 – Introverts are weird.

Introverts are often individualists. They don't follow the crowd. They'd prefer to be valued for their novel ways of living. They think for themselves and because of that, they often challenge the norm. They don't make most decisions based on what is popular or trendy.

Myth #8 – Introverts are aloof nerds.

Introverts are people who primarily look inward, paying close attention to their thoughts and emotions. It's not that they are incapable of paying attention to what is going on around them, it’s just that their inner world is much more stimulating and rewarding to them.

Myth #9 – Introverts don't know how to relax and have fun.

Introverts typically relax at home or in nature, not in busy public places. Introverts are not thrill seekers and adrenaline junkies. If there is too much talking and noise going on, they shut down. Their brains are too sensitive to the neurotransmitter called Dopamine. Introverts and Extroverts have different dominant neuro-pathways. Just look it up.

Myth #10 – Introverts can fix themselves and become Extroverts.

A world without Introverts would be a world with few scientists, musicians, artists, poets, filmmakers, doctors, mathematicians, writers, and philosophers. That being said, there are still plenty of techniques an Extrovert can learn in order to interact with Introverts. (Yes, I reversed these two terms on purpose to show you how biased our society is.) Introverts cannot "fix themselves" and deserve respect for their natural temperament and contributions to the human race. In fact, one study (Silverman, 1986) showed that the percentage of Introverts increases with IQ

I actually think a lot of these myths are partially true (i.e., not entirely myths).  But then, what do I know, I'm an introvert.



Thursday,  02/27/14  11:24 PM

leading CorpsCamp through Hidden ValleyFinal day of riding around the Santa Monica mountains with a nice bunch of Midwesterners out here escaping winter, and it was just as fun as the previous four... and the ride was sandwiched nicely between rainstorms.  Rain, who knew?  I understand it is really going to rain tomorrow and over the weekend, which will be great...

Doc Seals nails it: sell the news, give away the olds.  I have never understood why online publications charge for their archives even when their home page is public.

Tesla's gigafactor for making batteriesTesla unveils $5B gigafactory (to make batteries).  Awesome but not surprising; Tesla are nothing if not a battery company.  And they are most definitely future-minded.  You could see where being able to make batteries better and faster than anyone else could be a huge advantage in the not-too-distant future.

Have you been following the Mt.Gox Bitcoin disaster?  Yeah me too.  Coinbase CEO Brian Anderson says What's Not Being Said about Bitcoin.  And meanwhile, Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen says what we all knew already: the central bank doesn't have the authority to regulate Bitcoin.  That's a feature, not a bug.

coaching: personal bestSurgeon Atul Gawande considers coaching for everyday people: Personal Best.  I'd love to have a coach!

Longtime Twitter fan Dave Winer has started posting on Facebook, and discovers that "Twitter is nothing, Facebook is a discussion".  I'm not surprised; Dave liked Twitter for the same reasons he likes blogging: it gives him a voice.  But Facebook gives you more, it gives you feedback from people you know.  That's what drew me to it in the first place.

Reminds me of this old article by Bill Gurley: You don't have to Tweet to Twitter.

Google's latest street view: polar bearsGoogle adds "polar bear capital of the world" to street view.  That's cool :) but not cool enough; Google want to call attention to the rapidly melting frozen tundra which is the polar bear's natural habitat.


ready, set, Iditarod

Friday,  02/28/14  10:51 PM

DeeDee Jonrowe and teamSo, are you ready for some sled dog racing

Tomorrow is the start of the 2014 Iditarod race from Anchorage to Nome, Alaska, celebrating a famous delivery of medicine via dog sled.  Iditarod itself is a tiny Eskimo village about halfway along the 1,000 mile route.  In recent years the race has alternated between a Northern and Southern route; 2014 is an even year and hence the mushers are taking the Northern Route this year.

Although the race "starts" tomorrow, it is only a ceremonial event with each musher parading through the streets of Anchorage; the true race starts on Sunday, from Willow, and then continues on for 975 miles.

Iditarod Northern routeEach musher starts the race with a team of sixteen dogs and must finish with at least five dogs.  (Dogs are typically "dropped" at the various checkpoints, due to injuries or because they are tired or under-performing; every dog is examined by a veterinarian at every stop.)  Each team must make one 24-hour stop along the way, and two 8-hour stops; when and where to take stops is a key point of strategy.

There are sixty-nine teams starting the race tomorrow, and I am of course rooting for DeeDee Jonrowe, pictured with her team above right.  DeeDee has competed in the Iditarod since 1980 and has finished in the top ten fifteen times, including last year.  Go DeeDee!

(All Iditarod 2014 posts)


cancer galaxy

Friday,  02/28/14  11:24 PM


a painting of cancer cells, inspired by Carl Sagan

(click to enbiggen)



Friday,  02/28/14  11:49 PM

Whew, what a day.  Great all-day meeting which extended over dinner ... I'm exhausted from spending so much time with so many people who are smarter than I am :)

Time in Motion: Chinatown sunsetCheck out Time in Motion: animated photo collages that show many different times of the day all at once.  What a cool idea.  [ via Laughing Squid ]

Ever wonder Where Time Comes From?  Well now you know.  [ via Little Green Footballs ]

Tim Cook: AppleTV no longer a hobbyAppleTV 'difficult to call a hobby' after $1B in sales last year.  Somehow this does not surprise me.  I've been an AppleTV fan for years, and have wondered why they have not been adopted more broadly.  I guess it just took some time :)

TechCrunch: a few thoughts on Free Windows.  Yeah, with OSX now free from Apple, Android and Chrome free from Google, and Linux free entirely, it will be increasingly more difficult for Microsoft to keep charging OEMs (and us) for Windows.  This has to be figuring into their thinking, as they ponder becoming MobileSoft...

Answering the tough questions: Why programmers work at night.  Okay, maybe that isn't really a tough question.

IOS visual historyFrom The Verge: IOS, a visual history.  Shows exactly how we got tothe pinnacle (IOS 6) and are now descending the far side (IOS 7)...

Travelers by Bruno Catalano'Travelers', by Bruno Catalano, overlooks the harbor at Megeve.  "For people in search of themselves"!


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this date in:
About Me

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