Critical Section

Archive: November 2014

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rainy day

Saturday,  11/01/14  11:06 PM

rain!Yep, it's raining.  You wouldn't think that would call for much comment, but here in Southern California, it's an event.  Let's hope it keeps pouring for a while.  Yay!

bronzeFill - 3D print with actual metal!This is exciting: BronzeFill PLA.  This combination of actual bronze with plastic allows my 3D MakerBot printer to print metal objects!  Yippee.

I have been working out ... in the morning.  By going to a gym.  And this means instead of watching sports I have been watching "morning news".  Do not in any way confuse this with actual news.  Morning news is a trivial sequence of celebrity stories, reality show tidbits, and current event chitchat.  It probably says more about the intended audience than it does about the broadcasters.  Blech.

Begin Again - worth the watchMove recommendation of the day: Begin Again.  Featuring Mark Ruffalo (who I generally like) and Keira Knightley (in the first role where I really liked her character).  If you can look past the inevitable moralizing about the music industry, it's a good tale.  Best of all it shows a man and a woman who are friends without any romantic entanglements.  Yeah, it can happen :)

Can I just say, we *love* AppleTV.  It might be a mere hobby to the company, but it sure is nice for its users.  Exactly how movies on demand should work.

Russell Beattie: How I learned to write.  "I'll warn you though, if what I say really resonates with you, it'll be like taking the red pill."  Yeah I took it a long time ago :)

Jim Clark's ComancheExcellent: the billionaire and the super yacht with sights on the record books.  How cool would it be to sail on such a boat?  Or better yet, to own it?  Almost makes me want to be a billionaire :)  Almost.

Amazon are sitting on $83M of unsold Fire Phones.  Wow.  Yes, I have one - purely for Visual Search research, on behalf of eyesFinder - and no, I didn't expect it to be such a flop.  I guess the consumer decision on whether to get one was vs Samsung phones, and the Fire did not stand out (or wasn't inexpensive enough).  The latter point being mitigated by the fact that Amazon bundled their Prime service and ultimately dropped the price to $0.  I don't expect this will be Amazon's last phone; their first Kindle wasn't a huge success either (and yes, I have one of those too).

Meanwhile, Apple Pay activated over 1M cards in the first 72 hours.  Yep.  The combination of Apple, many large retailers, and most large banks makes this effort unstoppable.  Can't wait to get an Apple Watch so I can try it.  (I have an iPhone 5S, which doesn't natively implement NFC, but which will be able to use an Apple Watch to do so ...)

Don't bet on it: Why CurrentC will beat out Apple Pay in the end.  "What it boils down to is the fact that one technology is designed for the users (Apple) and the other is designed for the merchants (CurrentC)."  Yeah, but Apple Pay is good for merchants too (lower rates due to lower fraud).

Retailers are disabling NFC to block Apple Pay.  This seems like a lose-lose proposition, and I look for it to be a temporary trend, like refusing to accept credit cards.

Horace Dediu: Measuring the Apple Watch opportunity.  Punch line: it's Vast.  If you've spent any time at all looking at fancy watches, you know this is a huge market with plenty of room for new entrants.  I think wearable computers are best understood as jewelry first, and functional devices second.

Buttercup the duck with new 3D-printed footAwesome: Buttercup the Duck receives new 3D-printed foot.  Technology in action :)

Huh: Pope: Evolution, Big Bang do not contradict belief in God.  I agree.  And would add, Evolution, Big Bang mean God is not needed to explain the universe.

John Battelle: My NewCo Los Angeles picks.  Does not [yet] include eyesFinder :)

Todo list: Five steps to colonizing Mars.  It will not be easy, but it will happen.  The economic case has to be made, but as time passes and the Earth becomes more crowded, colonizing another planet will become compelling.  I find the part about establishing a new government out of a new culture to be most interesting.  The types of people who are attracted to this type of venture will drive a lot of change.  Look what happened when Europeans colonized North America!

Ice Age (vertical bar 3D effect)Good to know: adding vertical lines to GIFs makes them look 3D.  Cool!


planetary packing

Saturday,  11/01/14  11:24 PM

Did you know?  You can fit every planet in the solar system between Earth and the Moon.  What's more, the fit is surprisingly good.  Maybe add a few exo-planets like Quaoar and it would be perfect.  There's no evidence at all that this is anything other than an amazing coincidence.

Looking at this diagram, I am struck by two things.  First, wow, the Moon is a *long* way from Earth.  Doesn't seem like it.  And second, wow, Jupiter and Saturn are *huge*.  (If it comes to that, so are Uranus and Neptune.)  Awesome!

(I always try to relay these useful facts as a public service :)


shooting squirrels

Sunday,  11/02/14  09:40 PM

shooting squirrels (with a camera)Nine-Year-Old Spanish Boy Wins Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year Award.  I love it.

Best possible means of shooting squirrels :)

How the World sees Google Glass.  "In Berlin Dominiguez says people were way more concerned about privacy; in Mumbai they offered to build apps for the technology. In the UK Dominiguez tells me the people just couldn't be bothered. In Paris, her unique eyewear gave her instant celebrity access. Some people had never seen the contraption and had to ask her what it was."

I see Glass as the Newton of wearables; not a success in itself, but it will pave the way for many others.  And of course I can't help thinking visual search technology will be the driver for a lot of adoption.

HP 'Sprout' PCHP's 3D-scanning 'Sprout' PC is unlike anything the company has made.  Unlike anything anyone else has made either; who ordered that?  Will be most interesting to see how well this is received...  (I'm rooting for it; HP deserves credit for trying something new.)

Amazon's Fire Phone efforts will continue despite early stumbles.  Well, good.  And not surprising.

the many faces of Apple WatchJony Ivy says Apple Watch was harder to design than the iPhone.  Hmmm.  I guess with phones they were competing with things which were essentially nerdy and pretty much poorly designed; with watches they are competing with things that are essentially stylish and pretty much excellently designed.  He recognizes that in this category design will be as important as functionality.

xkcd explains how far into outer space something has died.  I know this question was on the tip of your tongue, wasn't it?  "... sterilizing spacecraft is hard. NASA has an employee specifically assigned to this task, and she has possibly the best job title of all time: Planetary Protection Officer."

Chinchilla eats almondRodent of the day: A hungry Chinchilla cobbles up an almond.  Awww.


shooting the Navy

Monday,  11/03/14  10:09 PM


The US Navy in gorgeous photos:


Titan in infrared

Tuesday,  11/04/14  10:24 PM


Titan in infrared

(can't wait to look out the window of my spaceship and see this!)



the day after

Wednesday,  11/05/14  08:41 PM

return of the elephantsAnd so yesterday we saw what happens when a popular president fails to follow through on his popular promises:  He becomes less popular.  Were you surprised?  I was not, although so many in the liberal media seem ambushed....

Bloodbath.  "As Obama noted a couple of weeks ago, he, and his policies, were on the ballot."

Obama's press conference.  "President Obama is a singularly ungracious and non-self-reflective person. In his press conference today he refused yet again to acknowledge reality..."

The other day I noted Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo disaster.  So you might well ask, "what's next for Virgin Galactic?"  The answer: "We are moving forward..."

weightless tour of the International Space StationTour the International Space Station with NASA Astronaut Reid Wiseman.  This is so cool.  A perfect reminder that disasters are a way to learn and improve, so that great things can be accomplished.



Thursday,  11/06/14  10:06 PM

planetary moshpit: Jupiter protects the inner planets from astroids...From jwz: planetary moshpit.  How Jupiter protects the inner planets from the asteroid belt.  One more factoid for the "Anthropic Principle":

The universe is constrained by the requirement that it must allow for our existence.

Screaming Eagle magnumRestaurant wine priced at "thirty-seven fifty" = $3,750.  Who doesn't know Screaming Eagle is expensive?  Oh, it was a "businessman from New Jersey".  That explains ... so much.

Toy Story ... 4?Pixar are bringing Toy Story 4 to the screen in 2017.  Hmmm.  I'm a huge fan of Pixar (and the Toy Story franchise) but can't they possibly come up with some new ideas?  What was the last great Pixar movie?  (The Incredibles?)

Tesla manufacturing ... Model X challenges delaying Model 3?Tesla Model 3 delayed by "Model X manufacturing challenges".  So be it.  I am rooting for the Model 3, it could be the electric car for everyone.

Rosetta and Philae prepare to land on comet 67PExcellent animation by the ESA showing the Rosetta and Philae spacecraft preparing to land on comet 67P.  How cool is that?  [ via Laughing Squid ]

Amazon Prime unlimited photo storageAmazon Prime's newest benefit is free, unlimited photo storage.  Wow.  I wonder what made them do this ... will it drive demand for Fire tablets and phones?


Moab timelapse

Thursday,  11/06/14  11:06 PM


Wow, this is incredible: a dark-sky timelapse of Moab, Utah
I've visited Moab on several occasions to go mountain biking, it is beautiful!



3D-printed moonbase

Friday,  11/07/14  10:15 PM


This is way cool: an ESA animation showing a 3D-printed moonbase being created
An unmanned spaceship drops off an inflatible skeleton and 3D-printing robots,
the later astronauts arrive seperately to inhabit the base




burning man 2014

Sunday,  11/09/14  10:02 PM


Awesome movie:Burning Man 2014.

I've never been to burning man but it's most definitely on my life list.



Happy Veterans Day

Tuesday,  11/11/14  09:53 PM

Veteran's Day, Lambeau FieldHi everyone, Happy Veteran's Day!

This awesome picture shows Lambeau Field, with everyone in the crowd holding up a colored card to make this pattern. 

I *think* the silhouettes of the jets are real, they must have been doing a flyby at the same time.

Wow, how cool is that?


filter pass

Tuesday,  11/11/14  10:57 PM

the Ole filterThe Ole filter makes a pass...

I keep thinking I need a visual representation of "the Ole filter"; I like the concept a lot, and in fact, if it wasn't for tradition and momentum, that would probably be the name of this blog :)

[ Later: decided to get and, and forward them here.  You never know :) ]

Powerline notes: The sun ain't gonna shine anymore.  This is the sad story of the Ivanpah solar plant, that huge white elephant in the Mojave Desert.  Not only does it not work (produces one-quarter the power planned), but it is way more expensive than projected.  Gee who would have predicted that?

I'm all for alternatives to fossil fuel but solar power is NOT one of them, at least, not this kind of "big plant" solar power.  There are only three ways to create lots of power: burn fossil fuels, dam rivers, or nuclear fission.  So far wind and solar power are wanna-bes... which are only viable exist due to government (your and my) subsidies.

'Interstellar' timelineKottke: the Science of Interstellar.  Did you see the movie?  I liked it but didn't ... love it.  And the science was only just okay, in fact, honestly it wasn't even a great effort.  I think the science only stands out as "good" because the science in most sci-fi movies is so terrible.  I love Kip Thorne but I classify this as a sell-out.

MacWrite, emulatedJohn Gruber: Paul Ford: the Sixth Stage of Grief is Retro-Computing.  An interesting and personal voyage back in recent time.  As many of you know I, too, have dabbled in this time of time travel; in fact, back in the day I wrote a simulator for the IBM Series/1 minicomputer.  To the best of my knowledge, it is still running today, despite having been written 25 years ago to simulate a 35-year old system :)

MG Siegler: Philip Kaplan: It's amazing that the old record industry existed in the first place.  "For about a hundred years (ending around 2005), artists were able to get rich off of duplications  -  records, tapes and CDs. We still even use the word “copies,” like when a platinum record sells a million copies.  Early musicians didn’t have that luxury.  Mozart didn’t sell one fucking copy.  Taylor Swift sold 110 million."  Exactly right.

landing on a comet!Kottke: We're landing on a comet!  Yippee.

related: Randell Munroe of xkcd is live-drawing the landing.  That will be [almost] as amazing as the landing itself...

[ later: it was... ]


Philae lands on comet 67P

Wednesday,  11/12/14  09:23 PM

Today I am proud to be a human.  The Philae lander of the ESA's Rosetta spacecraft has been landed on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, after a voyage of 10 years.  This morning at 8:04PM Philae Tweeted: "Touchdown! My new address: 67P! #CometLanding".  Just typing that gives me chills.

Can't wait to see what we learn from this mission, but we've already created something important: a sense of inspiration.  Few of us work on things which truly have universal impact, but this was one of them.  Awesome!


Philae by xkcd

Wednesday,  11/12/14  10:53 PM

... Philae landing, continued ... the other day I mentioned that Randall Munroe of xkcd was planning to live-draw the landing; well, he did, and it's amazing!  You must go there and see it.  There are 142 panels in all, and you can rapidly page through them with your arrow keys to get the illusion of an animated movie.  Awesome...

By the way, I hope this isn't a spoiler, but the first few panels are just a growing dot, by design...




Friday,  11/14/14  07:40 PM

(I always write dates yymmdd so please forgive me :)

Starry Night bicycle pathNew bicycle path in the Netherlands has a glowing surface inspired by Van Gogh's Starry Night.  Excellent.

incredibly designed record players of yoreThis is total lust-bait for me: Incredibly-designed record players of yore.  I've always been kind of sad that by the time I could afford such things, they were obsolete.  Still, they're ... amazing, right?

ESA pictures of comet 67PESA's Philae comet lander sends astounding first images of comet.  Yippee.

Well this kind of sucks: One star reviews flood 'Monument Valley' following paid expansion release.  Here we have a $6 app which everyone says is amazing, and they release a $2 expansion upgrade, and users are pissed off that it isn't free.  Seriously.  The app world is out of whack.

Did you know?  Aibohphobia is ... fear of palindromes!


the Silent Captive

Monday,  11/17/14  10:14 PM

Magritte: the Silent CaptiveSeth Godin asks: Is a photo of a Magritte painting better than the original?

At right, one of my favorite pieces of art, Magritte's The Silent Captive.  Is this a painting of a painting?  A picture of a painting of a painting?  Or simply an idea, visualized?

Seth wraps up with "When the idea is famous enough, what is the original, anyway?"  Hehe...  BTW I must tell you Seth is one of my favorite new bloggers.  New to me, anyway.  Subscribed!

Kottke: the Work of Art in the age of Mechanical Reproduction.  "Last year, Greenheart Games released a game called Game Dev Tycoon in which you run a company that makes video games. As an experiment, they secretly released a cracked version of the game for pirates to download...with one small difference: players in the cracked version would always go bankrupt because of piracy issues."  I love it.  Be sure to check out their message board posts :)

Am I the only one who sees The Silent Captive idea in this scenario?

the Made in Space printer ... now at the ISSBut of course: there is now a 3D printer in the International Space Station.  I wonder if it can print itself?

This is quite interesting on several levels: the Desk App, a desktop app for blogging.  For OS X, and compatible with most blogging platforms.  Of course I blog on Windows and have a home-grown kludgy system which isn't compatible with anything, but ... that could change.  And in the meantime I'm fascinated by desktop apps!

In the healthy spirit of dogfooding, I see the Desk App has a Desk App Blog.  Well of course.  Awesome!  (and ... subscribed!)


multiple hats

Sunday,  11/23/14  09:22 PM

startups!Another new (to me) blogger: Mark Suster, an LA-based VC.  He blogs about startups and investors, with a lot of good stuff mixed in.  Love it.  There is so much value in blogging and reading blogs.

Anyway here's a good one: In defense of Uber: an objective opinion.  I don't have any special insight but the whole "target journalists" thing seems way overblown.

Powerline wonders: Is there any hope for our civilization?  "Understand that the morons who wrote this incoherent drivel, which wouldn't have passed muster at my public high school in South Dakota, are PhD candidates."  I think there's plenty of hope, all over, including in academia, but certainly things in those environments have to change.  The pendulum has swung way too far to the left.

too many hats?Seth Godin: the jobs only you can do.  "One of the milestones every entrepreneur passes is when she stops thinking of people she hires as expensive ('I could do that job for free') and starts thinking of them as cheap ('This frees me up to do something more profitable.;')."  Yep.

This is cool: Google and Stanford researchers create image recognition software that goes beyond recognizing individual objects.  eyesFinder's visual search software is both dumber and more powerful than this; it doesn't try to "recognize" anything, but it can match all kinds of things to an image library, including individual objects as well as scenes.



Tuesday,  11/25/14  09:49 PM

great lakes ice cover forming *already*Great Lakes ice cover developing; earliest in over 40 years.  Well that's good news, I guess, unless you're a climate change politician.

Philip Greenspun: How to feel better about your country: be confused about numbers.  "I’m kind of curious about how people who spend the time to put together a story to be broadcast nationally could have missed the difference between 3.9 percent and 16.5 percent."  Just like with climate change, you pick the facts to suit your story.

Topaz Solar plant now operationalMeanwhile: the largest solar plant in the US is officially up and running.  It is rated for 550 megawatts, will be most interesting to see how much it actually can produce; many solar plants fall short of their generating targets.  For comparison, this is about 1/4 the output of a typical nuclear power plant.

Powerline: Renewable energy will never work, but can nuclear?  "Whenever somebody with a decent grasp of maths and physics looks into the idea of a fully renewables-powered civilized future for the human race with a reasonably open mind, they normally come to the conclusion that it simply isn’t feasible."  Read the whole thing.  I have always been confused as to why climate alarmists are not big fans of nuclear power...

drone video of the Tower of UtrechtToo cool: stunning drone video of the Tower of Utrecht, in the Netherlands.  I think drones have pretty much revolutionized this kind of video, in very short order.

owl portrait, by Brad WilsonKottke: beautiful portraits of animals by Brad Wilson.  Way cool.


(New Yorker, 11/24/14)

Wednesday,  11/26/14  10:04 PM


"time warp"

(cover of the New Yorker's annual "tech" issue)



wearable computing

Wednesday,  11/26/14  10:22 PM

The New Yorker's annual tech issue just came out - see my previous post for the awesome cover - and as usual it contained a lot of interesting stuff.  I can't do it all justice, but I can summarize one clear trend: there are more and more articles about "wearable computing".

Of course we are all eagerly anticipating the Apple Watch, which might be the definitive device that kicks off a new category.  The Google Glass is/was cool but [generally agreed] not useful.  Or perhaps too dorky looking to be given a chance to be useful.  I personally think there is no doubt at all that some kind of Glass-like device is going to take off; the utility of having a camera at eye level combined with a heads' up display is too evident.  But then again, I founded a visual search company, so perhaps I'm biased :)

Wrist devices, glass devices, various types and styles of fitness trackers; these are all examples of wearable computing.  But they are only the start.  Each of them generally functions by communicating with your phone, leveraging its superior compute power, battery life, and cellular connectivity.  In the near future though we're going to see these devices integrated into clothes to a degree only hinted at now.  Why not put a phone in a shoe?  (Paging Maxwell Smart!)  Plenty of room for batteries.  Or in a belt.  Some belts weight more than some laptops.  Your shirt can surely measure your heartbeat and other body functions better than any strapped on device.  And so on.

And only one step after that will be implantible computers, devices which become a part of your body, both to measure it and to communicate with it.  In my lifetime I confidently expect to see all of us carrying around various implanted computers.  It will change our lives.  (And can you imagine the sports controversies!)  Augmented reality, indeed!

but of course



Wednesday,  11/26/14  11:34 PM

the 10X crowd
Are these guys 10X better?

Among the interesting articles in the New Yorker's recent annual tech issue was The Programmer's Price, about a company called 10X that acts as a talent agency for superstar developers.

The working theory (with which I entirely agree) is that software engineers are artists, and talented ones are worth 10X more than mediocre ones.  Companies who recognize this are desperate to find great developers, and willing to pay for them.

The 10X agency represents talented engineers, finding them work, negotiating their rates and terms of service, and in general performing the crummy tasks which have to be done by someone to support freelance careers.  These engineers are great at creating software, but maybe not as great at the business aspects of being independent contractors, and are only too glad to pay 15% for someone else to do the dirty work.  Especially if it leads to more and better work :)

I'm pretty fascinated by this concept; it will be most interesting to follow their success.  It's possible that this is the start of a new model, and that someday the best engineers will routinely work freelance and be represented by agents, in much the same way that actors and musicians evolved from working for producers to working independently.  (Athletes are entertainers who haven't quite made the jump; they work for their teams, but are represented by agents in negotiating their contracts.)  It's also possible that paying 10X for engineers which are 10X better just isn't sustainable.  So many companies few engineers as interchangeable resources, and treat them accordingly.

Stay tuned!


Return to the archive.

this date in:
About Me

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