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Archive: March 4, 2014

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Iditarod day 2 - fast start over dirt

Tuesday,  03/04/14  12:26 AM

Martin Buser 'mushes' over Farewell BurnThe Iditarod is off to a fast start ... over dirt.  The race begins with a climb over the Alaska Range, passing through the villages of Yenta, Skwentna, and Finger Lake before climbing the ridge to Rainy Pass, and then descending the Northern side into Rohn.  As the picture at right shows this was a tough slog for dogs, sleds, and people, will little snow and lots of rocks, gravel, and ice.

Martin Buser is in the lead; he's clearly duplicating his 2013 strategy of blasting off to a fast start, taking his 24 early, and then letting attrition and exhaustion take its toll as he rolls through the pack.

Onward ... tomorrow will be an interesting day!  (And as always, Go DeeDee!) 

(All Iditarod 2014 posts)



I, Glasshole

Tuesday,  03/04/14  10:48 PM

Ole the GlassholeYesterday I took possession of my very own Google Glass, while attending the 2014 US and Canadian Association of Pathologists conference in San Diego.  I wore it for the second half of the day, before I had even charged the battery :) and found it was an amazing conversation starter; everyone wanted to know "is that a Glass" or "wow how do you like it?"  (and even, "how do people react when you're wearing it?" :).

I charged the battery overnight and this morning had a chance to play with it a bit, and so far I like it a lot. 

Some early observations:

  • The out of the box experience is great.
  • Hardware fit and finish is beautiful, Apple-like in quality.  Looks better in person than in pictures.
  • The display is easily readable, and doesn't intrude into your field of view unless you want it.
  • The touch strip on the side of the Glass is a good way to interact.  After a bit of practice seems quite easy.
  • Voice recognition is good although I haven't pushed it.  "Ok, Glass" is always recognized for me (this is the prefix to tell Glass to expect a command), and "take picture" or "record video" seem to work well.
  • Glass is a lousy Bluetooth headset.  At least so far.  I have not been using the optional in-ear speaker/microphone which I'm told works a lot better.  Must try it although that makes the whole thing a bit more intrusive to wear.
  • Pairing with my iPhone was seamless.  At that point the Glass can use the iPhone's cell connection for Internet access.  Otherwise you have to connect to a WiFi network which is painful unless you're at home or in your office.
  • The software is kind of basic at this point, there isn't too much you can do.  I've just started exploring.  Longer term there will be Apps for various specific functions making it a lot more useful.
  • I can't wait to develop something for it!  A great reason to dive into Android development.  (The Glass is a "vanilla" Android device, albeit one with a slightly weird form factor.)
  • Yes, of course we are building an eyesFinder App :)

Right now the question isn't "why do you have one?", it's more "what would I like it to do?"  Stay tuned!


Tuesday,  03/04/14  10:57 PM

Murmurations of StarlingsThe Ole filter makes a pass...

A Collection of Murmurations of Starlings, via Kottke.  Wow.

Equations are art in a mathematicians brain.  Really!  (Maybe they look like Murmurations :)

desktop vs mobileBenedict Evans on WhatsApp and $19B, and really on mobile vs desktop.  Key observation: the winner-take-all lock in of social on the desktop hasn't yet extended to mobile.

Speaking of WhatsApp, people are trying to figure out what happened there.  Of course, it's a one-time event, and hard to replicate.  But I don't think the founders thought "we should create something with a big network effect, so we can make lots of money".  Instead they were focused on creating something useful for lots of people, and it happened to be something with a network effect, so they happened to make a lot of money.

the AirlanderHere we have the strange thing that is the longest aircraft in the world.  It's an airship, of course, and amazingly it is based at Cardington in the UK, where the famous R101 was built.  The article is misinformed because it refers to the R101 as "ill-fated" and twice as long as this machine.  It is of course referring to the R100, which did indeed crash in France; that crash killed interest in the R101, which flew successfully to Canada and had a lot of promise as a cross-continental means of transportation in that pre-jet era.  Anyway I wish the makers of the Airlander well!

Thor's Well, Cape Perpetua, OregonThor's Well, at Cape Perpetua, in Oregon.  Awesome!


Iditarod day 3 - three ways to win

Tuesday,  03/04/14  11:15 PM

Iditarod dogs restingDay three of the 2014 Iditarod is in the books, and three clear strategies have emerged among the race leaders striving to get their dog teams to Nome, first.  Remember that each team must take a 24-hour break somewhere along the trail, and an 8-hour break.  (There is a forced 8-hour break for everyone in the town of White Mountain at the end, 80 miles from Nome.)

Strategy 1: rest early.  (Nikolai)  This is the course chosen by Martin Buser; blast off out of Willow, run full speed over the Alaska range, and then rest.  Most of the race will pass you, but then you can blast off again and pass them back.

Buser tried this last year, but he got bogged down breaking trail in rough conditions.  (The first musher through an area is said to "break" the trail, and it often requires finding it, and finding the best way through it, which takes extra time.)

Strategy 2: rest middle.  (Takotna or Ohfir)  This is the book move, and the course taken by favorites Aliy Zirkle, Robert Sorlie, and Dallas and Mitch Seavey.  You save strength, rest your team while you can, and then take the long rest roughly halfway to Nome.  Then you press on at a faster pace and hope your team outperforms the others.

The people with the strongest teams seem to be taking this approach.  No tricks, no going too fast or too long.  But it also means they could be vulnerable to a different strategy in the hard and fast (and dry and icy) conditions this year.

Strategy 3: rest late.  (Cripple)  This it a bit unconventional but it has been tried; run as long as you can as steadily as you can, keep moving while others are resting, and then finally rest when you must.  Favorites Sonny Lindner, Aaron Burmeister, and Jeff King are all taking this approach.

Observers have noted that run times this year have been fast, even with the tough conditions, making the rest late approach less risky.  Of course these teams might not have enough left at the end, and be vulnerable in the long smooth stretches after the Yukon River.

DeeDee Jonrowe in Rohn, after scratchingFinally and sadly, our favorite DeeDee Jonrowe has scratched, after a tough run down into Rohn from Rainy Pass.  DeeDee lost her team three times in the Dalzell Gorge, and needed help retrieving them.  So far twenty mushers have scratched, a record for this point in the race and testament to the tough conditions this year due to lack of snow.

(All Iditarod 2014 posts)


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