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Archive: January 2015

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Happy New Year: 2015

Friday,  01/02/15  09:19 PM

Happy 2015!Hi everyone, Happy New Year!  I hope you all had a wonderful December celebrating whatever you celebrate, and hanging out with whomever you hang out with.  Yep, I did, thanks for asking.

I'm very busy with eyesFinder of course, the little visual search startup I started a year ago, but I'm slowly getting caught up on blogging.  In addition to posting about all the cool stuff that's been happening - wow, more every day - there's all my opinions to share!  Wow, more every day :)

The start of each year happens to mark my blogiversary, too.  I started blogging on January 1, 2003, so I am now entering my thirteenth year of blogging!  During that time I've made nearly 3,000 posts, incorporating over 9,000 images.  I get about 5,000 visitors each day, mostly directed here from search engines, and serve about an equal number of RSS feeds.  I'm always astonished by the amount of hotlinking that takes place*, and by the vast diversity of inbound links.  Random message boards, Facebook posts, and Tweets form the bulk of the referrers.

* hotlinking refers to linking to images instead of the posts which contain them, a generally a frowned-upon practice, and I while I have hotlinking protection in place it doesn't seem to keep people from trying to do it anyway.

My most popular post remains The Tyranny of Email, which was posted a mere three months after I started blogging.  It was linked by Dave Winer and subsequently slashdotted, and that early momentum has apparently kept it going.  (That, and the fact that email remains tyrannous!)  My second most popular post is IQ and Populations, and the third is The Law of Significance.  All in the first half of my blogging career...

You guys might know, this blog began as a way for me to write a book called Unnatural Selection, about this idea:

Once upon a time the fittest, smartest people were the ones having kids. Their kids were fit and smart, and each generation was smarter than the last. But that stopped happening a long time ago, and these days, less fit, less intelligent people are the ones having kids. So their kids are not as fit and not as smart, and each generation is less and less intelligent. This is Unnatural Selection

I never did write this book, although I think about it all the time.  Maybe someday...

now powered by AWS!Over the years a few things have changed, but not much; my blog looks and feels pretty similar to the way it did back in 2003.  I'm marking this blogiversary with a biggish change, at least under the covers; I've switched hosts!  For the last fourteen years this blog has been running on an old Pentium 2 stashed in a closet, running RedHat Linux 7.3 ("Valhalla").  It's a rock solid platform and has served me well.  Back then, it was rather unusual for people to run their own servers, and in the meantime it became quite common and then again rather unusual, as virtual hosting services have taken over.  So as of today I am hosted at Amazon.  Should be faster and more stable, and open the door to some new stuff.

Thanks to all of you for reading; this is an ego-powered blog, and if it wasn't for all you guys I wouldn't do it.  Cheers and best wishes for a great 2015!


blogging in the new year...

Saturday,  01/03/15  10:09 PM

And so it begins ... blogging in the new year.  As the Ole filter makes a pass...

Dave Barry's 2014 in reviewBut first, this: Dave Barry's Year in Review.  Funny and great.  "There's just no explaining 2014"...

The Economist: 2014 Year in ReviewAnd then there's the Economist's Year in Review, too.  I *still* like the Economist; in this world of instant news there seems to be a role for a weekly news magazine that does more than merely tell you what happened.  (The link is to a PDF made from their four-page summary.)

Eric Sink wonders: do elite programmers exist?  Apropos my post the other day about the 10X agency who represent programming superstars.

This website is one mile long.  Why?  Because it can be.  If you like that, you can move up to the World's Highest Website (11.77 miles long).

There's a Powerpoint-replacement presentation tool called Prezi which is based on the concept that your entire presentation is a single giant page, and you just zoom in and out of various regions of it.  Extending this concept, maybe the entire web is a single giant page, and we're always just zooming in and out of various parts of it?

Grand Canyon in snowJust beautiful: New Year's snowstorm turns Grand Canyon into 'winter wonderland'.  I think 2014 is the year that "global warming" tipped.  Of course there is man-made climate change occurring but it doesn't appear to be the disaster it was positioned to be.

(click to enbiggen amazingly)


smart world

Sunday,  01/04/15  09:23 PM

It's turning into a pretty smart world out there.  Check out this screenshot from my feed reader:

These are real news items, not science fiction headlines.  Everything from Bluetooth-connected thermometer patches to virtual worlds to home automation to fingerprint scanners to electric cars.  What a time to be alive!  (Awesome :)



higher ground

Monday,  01/05/15  10:21 PM

higher ground - go for it!Marco Arment thinks Apple has lost the functional high ground, in a piece which has received wide attention and spawned wide discussion.  (He regrets having published this, but I'm glad he did; the article raises some important issues.)  I have to agree with the concept; Apple's software *has* become buggier and harder to use.  It might still be better and easier to use than Windows or Linux (or Android), but that's the wrong measure. 

It used to be that Apple strove for greatness and sometimes achieved it, now it seems they're content with goodness and often don't get there.  As users, we are more concerned with their apparent lack of ambition than their lack of achievement.  We want them to be great.  Onward to the higher ground!

BandStand for Apple WatchPart of that striving of old was shown by Apple's pre-announcement of the Apple Watch, an ambitious play to enter a new market (and perhaps, create a new platform category).  We still don't know when it will start shipping - late-first-quarter, by current analyst estimates - but already we are starting to see accessories starting to come out, like this charging dock.

Dawn spacecraftAwesome: NASA spacecraft approaching dwarf planet Ceres.  Ceres is of course the largest object in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, thought to be remnants of a disintegrated planet.  And after Ceres the Dawn mission will visit Vesta, another dwarf planet in the same orbital belt.  "Orbiting both Vesta and Ceres would be truly impossible with conventional propulsion. Thanks to ion propulsion, we're about to make history as the first spaceship ever to orbit two unexplored alien worlds."

Who doesn't love this stuff?  (Look at the way the Philae lander captured our attention!)  Every time I see pictures of these spacecraft I have to remind myself "this is not a movie".

California's high-speed rail experimentHmmm slash yawn: California starts building its high-speed train system.  It's cool that it is happening, but what it is is not that cool.  A massively expensive fast train between South Fresno and North Fresno is not that compelling.  LA to San Francisco would be different, but the right-of-way necessary to make that happen is not available.

Vusix smart eyewearIntel are betting $25M on smart eyewear maker Vuzix.  So be it.  This seems like such an important category, despite the stumble Google Glass has experienced.  Of course it will be the perfect platform for visual search applications...

Geek eyewearJust looking at the Vuzix solution, nah, it's not going to work.  When someone cracks the "smart eyewear" code, they will look like ordinary glasses.  The camera will be hidden and the display will be integrated into the lenses of the glasses.  I would not be surprised if Apple were working on this already.  In fact, I would be surprised if they are NOT working on it.  Each new product category riffed on an old one; iPods looked like PDAs, iPhones looked like phones, iPads looked like computers, and smartwatches look like watches.  Smart glasses are going to have to look like glasses to be accepted.



evolution of writing

Monday,  01/05/15  11:08 PM

From John of Desk: the Evolution of the Digital Writing Environment:


Reading about Desk makes me want to try it.  Of course, that would mean 1) blogging from a Mac desktop, and 2) fixing the meta-weblog API to my own home-grown blogging system.  Too much change there.  But I still want to try it :)

(... maybe on the eyesFinder blog ...)


Harbin ice festival

Tuesday,  01/06/15  09:44 PM

I post about this every year, because every year it's SO cool ... the Harbin Ice Festival.  Wow!

Most definitely on my bucket list!


Je Suis Charlie

Wednesday,  01/07/15  10:11 PM

Je Suis CharlieYeah, that sucked; Twelve dead, magazine silenced in Paris Terrorist attack.  "Two heavily-armed Muslims attacked the offices of the satirical Paris weekly Charlie Hebdo this morning, killing twelve people, including the magazine’s two most famous cartoonists. The attackers were heard to shout 'Allahu Akbar!' and 'The Prophet is avenged'...  CNN reports that the killers' motives are still unknown."  I know correlation is not causality and I know there are [many] good Muslims, but how often are Muslim extremists at the core of these attacks?  We have to stop pretending!

Sigh.  In joyless nanny state called America, government prohibits sledding.  Please tell me this pendulum is going to swing back to center!

From Ev Williams, founder of Blogger, Twitter, and Medium: A mile wide, an inch deep.  "Most Internet companies would build better things and create more value if they paid more attention to depth than breadth."  Picking the right metrics to measure success is crucial.

Lamborghini cellphoneHere we have the Torino Lamborgini, a limited edition $6,000 cellphone.  Whether it's a great cellphone is pretty much beside the point, as is wondering about whether a Patek Phillipe watch keeps time well.  Phones have entered the luxury items category.

Of course one challenge faced by luxury phones is that they can be obsolete so quickly.  That doesn't happen with watches.  Although it probably will happen with smartwatches, and it will be interesting to see the implications of this for the Apple Watch and its Google Gear competitors.

3D-printed hammer (with "wood" and "metal")MakerBot wants you to start printing in metal and wood (sort of).  Awesome!  I can't wait ... the limitations of the materials are the biggest obstacle to making "real" things with a 3D printer.

Everything you need to know about the SpaceX resuable rocket launch.  Now scheduled for Saturday.  Stay tuned!

Good to know: Machine learning will eventually solve your JPEG problem.  That problem being, how do you organized thousands of pictures.  Visual search will help.


NASA exoplanet travel posters

Thursday,  01/08/15  09:44 PM


These are wonderful:
NASA travel posters for exoplanets, celebrating the Kepler space telescope:






Friday,  01/09/15  09:34 PM

Steve Jobs iPhone announcement 2003Eight years ago today, Steve Jobs announced the iPhone, quite possibly his best "jobsnote" and almost surely the one for which he will be best remembered.  (If you're interested, I've kept a little gallery of Jobsnotes of note).  At that time he was already a legend, having founded Apple and developed the Macintosh, left in disgrace to found Next, returned triumphantly to launch the iMac, and then having restructured the music industry with iTunes and the iPod.  We knew he was going to announce a phone and we knew it would be cool.  But we didn't know he was going to restructure the telecom and computer industries and propel Apple to becoming the most valuable company in the world.  Re-watch and enjoy!

Tim Cook announces the iWatchApropos: Selling Apple Watch.  "I’ve learned to change the way I explain Apple Watch to friends and family. Instead of starting out with a list of reasons why they may enjoy an Apple Watch, I now begin with a pretty simply explanation: Apple is making a watch with customizable faces and bands."  Hehe.  And Apple made a phone with customizable icons...

I wonder ... do you suppose that in years hence we'll recall Tim Cook's "iWatch" announcement with similar reverence?  I doubt it.  The Apple Watch might become a huge success and might even restructure the watch industry, and it might herald a new age of wearable computers, but the announcement itself was somewhat lacking in flair and drama.  I don't [yet] have a "Tim Cook keynotes of note" web page.  One obvious difference, Steve Jobs knew he was about to change the world (even if we did not), while Tim Cook was [perhaps fittingly] much humbler.

the rumored "iPad-book", a 12" MacBook Air with no portsMG Siegler: Whittling down the MacBook to an iPad.  At least in terms of hardware, there is a convergence.  I might be old school but to me there's a huge difference between the platforms for content creation.  I would not want to code, or create web pages, or edit movies or photos, or even to blog regularly on an iPad*.  For content consumption the victory of tablets is already complete.

* The key restriction for blogging is multi-windowing.  While blogging I have literally dozens of windows open; not only my blogging tools and blog sources, but various types of editors.

Dumbest story of the day: France has strict gun laws, why didn't that save Charlie Hebdo?  This isn't a parody, but perhaps it should be...  What would have happened if even one of the victims had been armed?

Martian invasions from EarthExcellent: Every mission to Mars, visualized.  I didn't realize the USSR had so many failures, and the total number of missions took me by surprise.  How many more before we have a manned mission to Mars?


of nested CSS selectors

Friday,  01/09/15  11:04 PM

<rant nerdlevel="11">

Today I actually used this selector in a style sheet:

table:not([bordercolor="#C0C0C0"]) > tbody > tr[bgcolor="#ffff99"]
  { display: block; border-radius: 15px; box-shadow: 2px 2px 4px #a0a0a0 }

Figuring out I needed to do this took me deep into the arcana of CSS selectors.  As you know, with CSS you specify the object(s) you want to style, and then what you want to do with them.  The specification of objects(s) is accomplished via selectors.  I had used the three most simple selectors before: specification by tag type (<tag>), specification by class (.<class>), and specification by id (#<id>).  For this case I wanted to style specific <tr>s unless they were inside a specific <table>s.

The <tr>s to be styled could be identified via their background color, hence, tr[bgcolor="#ffff99"].  The <table>s to be excluded could be identified via their border color, hence table[bordercolor="#C0C0C0"], specified with the :not property.  So at first* I tried this:

table:not([bordercolor="#C0C0C0"]) tr[bgcolor="#ffff99"]
  { display: block; border-radius: 15px; box-shadow: 2px 2px 4px #a0a0a0 }

But no joy in Mudville, it didn't work.  Huh?

The tr[bgcolor="#ffff99"] selector selects the <tr>s I want (I experimented to verify), and the table:not([bordercolor="#C0C0C0"]) selector selects all tables except the ones I want to exclude (I experimented to verify).  But no workey.  The <tr>s inside the <table> s were *still* selected and styled.

After a lot of extended messing around, I figured it out.  Turns out the <tr>s in question were inside the <table>s in question, but those tables were themselves nested inside a table which was not excluded.  Separating two selectors by a space only requires nesting, not immediate nesting.  Aha!

So next I tried this: 

table:not([bordercolor="#C0C0C0"]) > tr[bgcolor="#ffff99"]
  { display: block; border-radius: 15px; box-shadow: 2px 2px 4px #a0a0a0 }

The ">" means immediate nesting, the first selector must be the direct parent of the second.  But that didn't work either.  One more insight later, I realized that all <table>s actually have a <tbody>, even if it isn't explicitly specified, and so the <tr>s are actually nested inside a <tbody>, which in turn is inside the <table>.  Hence the selector shown at top, which worked (yay!).

You can see the result here.  I'm quite proud of myself :)


* The "at first" part of this is a lie; understanding attribute selectors and :not required a lot of Googling.


Saturday,  01/10/15  11:50 PM

2014 NFL playoffsSettled in to a nice rainy day with lots of great football, including lots of great chili.  What could be better?

Am rooting for the Ravens (over the Patriots), Colts (over the Broncos), Seahawks (over the Panthers), and of course the Packers (over the Cowboys).

Great news!  L.A. stadium plans going forward.  "The St. Louis Rams could be headed back to Los Angeles as early as 2016."  I'm an old time Rams fan ... Roman Gabriel, Jack Snow, Lamar Lundy, Merlin Olson, Rosey Grier, Deacon Jones ... fXf!

CES wrapup: smartwatches everywhereSo, CES is finally over.  Here's everything you missed.  Whew.  There always seems a bit of an offset; last year at CES it was "the year of wearable computing", and yet it feels like that year will be this year.  This year at CES there were lots of tech/car things, and that might be next year.

SpaceX successfully launched a resupply mission to the International Space Station, but their attempt to land the booster on a drone ship at sea was unsuccessful.  CEO Elon Musk tweeted "Rocket made it to drone spaceport ship, but landed hard. Close, but no cigar this time. Bodes well for the future tho."  So be it.

Apple Pay - death of digital wallets?With the launch of Apple Pay, have they killed digital wallets?  Seems like yes.  Digital Wallets offered convenience to consumers but nothing to merchants and banks.  Apple Pay is more convenient, and saves banks money (on fraud).  Now all that remains is saving merchants money too, by bypassing the credit card exchanges.  Stay tuned.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's new novel Mycroft HolmesKareem Abdul-Jabbar has written a novel about Sherlock Holmes' older, brainier brother Mycroft.  Coool.  Kareem continues to surprise :)

MG Siegler considers McDonalds vs ShakeShack.  "The young are leaving McDonald’s and Taco Bell for burger brands such as Shake Shack and Five Guys. They prefer the food, they can afford the prices and they regard McDonald’s as unhealthy, outdated, downmarket and not a nice place to be."  So be it.

Another demo shift: Brand and Retailers, if you don't get mobile right, you're screwed.  Yep.  Those same kids eating at Shake Shack are on their phones 24x7, that's where they live and that's where they shop...

Brody Brixton the French BulldogToo cute to be missed: Brody Brixton the French Bulldog puppy performs a bunch of tricks.  Awww.


resolved, again

Sunday,  01/11/15  11:16 PM

the leapLast year I broke my personal tradition and made a few resolutions:

  1. Work out consistently;
    try to do something every day
  2. Keep my to-do list current;
    and have a schedule
  3. Spend quality time with my family;
    one-on-one as well as together
  4. Make time for reading

I also started eyesFinder, a visual search company.

2014 began well, but in the last six months the startup conflicted with the resolutions, and in the last three months I pretty much abandoned them altogether.  Yikes.

2015 is beginning similarly, with the same resolutions and the same situation.  This year I will do better :)  And to do that, I will have to do things a little differently.  So be it.

I hope you have a great year too... Onward!


Monday,  01/12/15  10:01 PM

Ducks vs BucksWell, the Ducks got crushed.  So be it.  You can't even call it a good game; yeah it was close for a while, but only because the Buckeyes kept giving the ball away.  Oregon couldn't do anything with it, and so it goes...  personally I think they lost when they chose those hideous uniforms.  Their everyday uniforms are perfectly nice, why change to ones which don't even use your school colors for the big game?

Scott "Dilbert" Adams: Corporations vs Countries.  "In my opinion, there is a 100% chance you will see a private corporation go to war with a small country, and win, within twenty years."  Interesting and a rather depressing take; I hope he's wrong.

2015 movie adaptations -> books to read nowThe other day I noted some nice reading for the year ahead.  Here's some more: 2015 movie adaptations of books.  You can read them before you watch them :)

Dave Winer announces good RSS from Twitter.  If you ever want to follow a Twitter feed with RSS, here you go.  Interestingly I think a lot of people would like the opposite, to follow an RSS source like a blog with Twitter.

basic feature - copy and pasteAs we reminisce about the iPhone launch eight years ago (!), it's interesting to remember that it took three years before iPhones had Copy and Paste, and even longer before they had native Apps.  It didn't keep the iPhone from being successful.  Complexity is not always a good thing.

Of course this is all relative to the market and the competition.  No phone could be successful today without Copy and Paste, and the perceived lack of apps has hurt Windows Phone adoption even thought the phones themselves have had great reviews.

Interesting: the real story behind Jeff Bezos' Fire Phone debacle.  The phone even has copy and paste, *and* the Android ecosystem behind it.  Yet somehow it did not meet consumers wants or needs.

Minority Report - best Hollywood attempt at Strong AIGood point: Brad Feld notes Hollywood's Massive Miss on Strong AI.  There seems to be general agreement that Minority Report is the best attempt to predict what "strong AI" will look like.  Other recent attempts like Her, Transcendence, and Lucy do not get close.

COOL ... Andorra is the hardest Vuelta stage ever.  Says Eusebio Unzio, manager for the Moviestar team.  "Firstly there’s six classified climbs, and that adds up to 5,200 metres of climbing ... But it’s the shortness, too, of the stage, 138 kilometres, which will make it really hard. There’s no time to recover between the climbs at all."  Should be fun to watch!


Tuesday,  01/13/15  10:28 PM

fall in love with anyone by staring into their eyesHmmm... to fall in love with anyone, do this.  Where "this" is, answer a series of increasingly personal questions for each other, and then stare into each other's eyes for four minutes.  I guess if you're already predisposed that way - and you'd have to be, in order to try - then maybe this could work.

The shift online continues: Macy's announces massive restructuring.  They're putting a brave face on it - consolidating functions in an effort to streamline operations and provide better service - but they're also closing 14 stores and eliminating 2,200 jobs.

I find it fascinating to ponder where this trend is going to end?  What will Macy's, Nordstrom, etc look like in 10 years?  In 20?  Will we even still have real stores in the future, or will we all shop virtually with an Oculus headset?

DTS ... Digital Theater SoundGreat news: DTS is making movie and TV dialog easier to hear.  "The neat trick with DTS:X, however, is that it separates dialogue into its own thing that you control the volume of independently from everything else."  Well that would be great!  How often do you listen to a movie at home, and find the volume of sound effects and music to be way louder than the dialog?

Parenthetically, I have a fifteen-year-old Yamaha receiver; in addition to Dolby and all kinds of surround sound effects, it supports DTS.  I have never used this and had no idea what or who they were.  So be it.

From CNN (of all media): Quran has enough justification for militants.  "The fact that the Paris attacks have something to do with Islamic beliefs cannot be wished away either by claims that Islam is simply a religion of peace, or by political correctness, or because we live in an increasingly secularized modern era that often doesn't take deeply held religious beliefs sufficiently seriously."  So given that, what is to be done?  Honest appraisal is helpful, and articles like this are a good start.

As is denunciation by Muslim leaders, like Ahmed Aboutaleb, Mayor of Rotterdam.

SpaceX booster landingClose but no cigar ... the spaceship that almost landed, from Rand Simberg.  "Most reports of Saturday morning’s flight by SpaceX to the International Space Station note that the primary mission was successful, but that the company “failed” to stick the landing...  But to focus on what went wrong is to ignore the many other things that went astonishingly right, and just how close the company came this time to achieving their long-time goal of recovering the first stage of the Falcon rocket."  Missed it by -> that <- much.

Boo hoo: mainstream Windows 7 support ends today.  Kidding: actually, Windows 7 is still supported for another 5 years.  Good, because that's what I'm using every day, waiting for Windows "nine" (10) to be ready.

Apple eyes big improvements for iPhone 6s camera.  This is why stand-alone camera manufacturers are doomed.  The volume of smartphones is so high that companies like Apple and Samsung can afford to invest huge sums in incremental improvements.  Smartphones are already the most popular cameras, and more than good enough for most of us.  And they keep climbing up the market, a classic attack from below.

prime rib!Whew!  Prime Rib regains its place as a restaurant centerpiece.  What could be finer than a nice rare Prime with a glass bottle of Cabernet?



Tuesday,  01/13/15  10:38 PM

Keystone pipelineFrequent visitors will know, one of my favorite sites is Inhabitat, a green-focused blog with a lot of interesting stories and pictures.  They also run "green news stories", and this one caught my eye: Obama's veto on Keystone pipeline will likely hold.  I was moved to comment:

"Hi could you please explain to your readers why opposing the Keystone Pipeline is good for the environment?

I’m a serious environmentalist but I’m puzzled by other environmentalists' opposition to this project.

In my view, the pipeline is more environmentally friendly than the alternative means of transporting oil from Alberta to Texas. Perhaps not transporting the oil at all would be preferred, but that’s not on the table. We might as well pick the best way to move the oil.

This seems similar to the equally puzzling opposition that some environmentalists have to nuclear power generation. Perhaps not generating power at all would be preferred, but that’s not going to happen, so if power is going to be generated at all let’s pick the cleanest way to do it.

So what's the answer?  Is this another case, like nuclear power, where environmentalists are on the wrong side of a trade-off, or is there another point of view?


the biggest ocean animals

Tuesday,  01/13/15  11:01 PM

Answering important questions: just how big are the biggest animals in the ocean?

Great chart; please click to enbiggen!

What strikes me is that mammals are the largest animals in the sea, as they are on land.  Clearly a successful strategy for preserving entropy!


A brief history of UI

Wednesday,  01/14/15  10:27 PM

(click to play)
Via John at Desk, who comments "It’s 11 minutes well-spent."  Agree!


ch ch ch ch changes

Thursday,  01/15/15  11:05 PM

This is cool: David Bowie through the years:

turn and face the strange


Friday,  01/16/15  10:29 PM

the lying-in-bed desk!I need one of these!  The lying-in-bed desk.  Perfect for blogging!

This is a perfect example; just when you think you've seen it all, you realize "it all" is so much more than you thought :)

SpaceX booster landing: close but no cigarThe other day I noted "close but no cigar", SpaceX's successful launch combined with their unsuccessful attempt to land a booster on a barge in the ocean.  So now they've released video of the crash.  You can clearly see they got the booster to the barge, which was pretty amazing, and failed to land cleanly.  Onward!

The ASO have revealed the list of teams invited to participate in this years' Tour de France.  Director Christian Prudhomme gives a great overview of who was invited and why.  Can't wait ... as every year, but especially this year, should be great!


Lego Hogwarts

Saturday,  01/17/15  11:02 PM

Here we have Lego Hogwarts, painstakingly recreated from over 400,000 bricks.  Wow.  I can't believe the things people can spend time doing, but I'm so glad they do it.  The attention to detail is amazing, and I love the way it is lit up at night!

"It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live"



hawks vs pats

Sunday,  01/18/15  11:42 PM

Did you watch the conference championship games today?  They were both played in 50o weather with intermittent rain, and both featured two solid teams with strong quarterbacks and defenses.  But the similarity ends there. 

Seattle over Green Bay in overtime!The NFC game, in which Seattle barely edged Green Bay 28-22 in overtime after coming back from being down 16 points at halftime was a game for the ages, featuring a fake field goal for a touchdown, great field goal kicking, five turnovers by the winning team, a successful onside kick, a wild two-point conversion, and two late drives for touchdowns by the winning team.  Whew.  If you didn't watch that one look for it, you should.

New England over IndianapolisThe AFC game was an old-fashioned stomping, New England thrashed Indianapolis 45-7 in a game which wasn't even *that* close.  Andrew Luck and his dynamic offense could only manage one TD against the Pats, in the first quarter, and the Colts defense couldn't do anything against Tom Brady and company.  Wow.  If you didn't watch that one you probably don't have to.

On the Super Bowl, one more game* to be played this season.  It should be pretty interesting, matching the two best teams in football at a point where they are both playing well and relatively healthy.  I'll be rooting for Seattle but honestly this one will be too close to call.  Pass the nachos!

* Pro Bowl does not count


blue Monday

Monday,  01/19/15  10:38 PM

blue MondayBlue Monday.  Is today actually the most depressing day of the year?

At least now we're over the hump :)

Great post from VC Mark Suster: Blogging for the Hell of it, not blogging to stay relevant.  "I used to love blogging ... it feels good to be back."  Hehe, yep, that's me!

government app: please visit to applyWell that should be easy!  "Please visit to begin the application process"  Click to enbiggen and smile :)

Wired asks Why is it so difficult to land a rocket?  It's like balancing a broom just by placing the end of the broom on your hand.

So, today is the last day to buy a Google Glass.  So be it.  This doesn't mean Google have finished with smart glasses, they're simply retooling for version 2.  As you know, I became a Glasshole last March.  I don't wear mine all the time, but it was most useful to see the future.  Especially in the context of visual search :)

Meanwhile, Audi is putting a virtual car dealership inside the Oculus Rift.  Of course they are.  Pretty soon that will be the only kind of car dealership there is.

Tesla Model S P85D on the stripFor the record: Tesla Model S P85D 1/4 mile record set.  10.85s at 126mph.  Wheeee!

And so what will search look like in Mobile?  John Battelle shares a visit with Jack.  In which companies are working to make the mobile app world more web-like.

And Amazon is going to produce its own movies and release them in theaters.  Why?  But then that's the question with a lot of things Amazon do, and while some of them don't work out, some of them are amazing.

how a cantilevered bridge worksThese people demonstrate how a cantilever bridge works.  Awesome!  They built Scotland's Forth Bridge in 1890, and it was the world's longest cantilevered bridge for 17 years.



Monday,  01/19/15  10:44 PM


Can't wait for the next one :)



Tuesday,  01/20/15  10:26 PM

exploding kittens - the card gameHere we have Exploding Kittens, a new Kickstarted card game from (among others) Matthew Inman of the Oatmeal.  The game has raised over $1M from their target of $10K.  Wow.

I'm trying to figure out, did the thousands of backers want the game, or the perceived coolness of being part of the Kickstarter?

[Update on 1/25: 97,000 backers and $3.8M raised.  Wow.]

On the eve of the State of the Union address (#SOTU), Richard Epstein notes ObamaCare's Slow Death.  "The results are now clear, the Affordable Care Act has done nothing to unravel the past mistakes that in large measure were attributable to excessive regulation and transfer payments."

free wool coatsThis cartoon illustrates the mechanism perfectly :)

With the annual Davos Economic Forum on the horizon, this observation: "it turns out that global warming causes private jets."  Via Instapundit, who asks (as I do!), "where's mine"?

dueling selfiesSmile!  Next up from Blade incubator, a startup to "solve" digital photos.  Interesting, but the article doesn't actually say what "solve" means, or what they perceive to be the problem.  I think finding digital photos once taken is a big opportunity, a perfect application for visual search...

Boeing 777 model made from manila folder piecesExcellent!  Five foot long Boeing 777 replica made from 2,000 pieces of manila folders.  Wow.  Just when you think you've seen it all...


Captain America

Tuesday,  01/20/15  10:57 PM


your animated GIF of the day

(you're welcome)



Wednesday,  01/21/15  10:14 PM

Windows Holographic headsetToday's big news wasn't last nights #SOTU talk, no, it was today's announcements by Microsoft, about Windows 10 and some new augmented reality software called Windows Holographic. (Where is it written that everything Microsoft do has to be called "Windows X".  Anyway.)  It looks pretty amazing.  Of course this tech will be used for gaming, but who knows what else, too?  I'm starting to think shopping - in virtual stores - might be a big application.  Coupled with visual search, of course!

And so, what will Google Glass 2.0 need to succeed?  The commenters on Slashdot have focused on hardware and software answers, as is their wont, but to me the answer needs to take the form of a market opportunity, an unmet need that smart glasses can fulfill. And one beyond gaming.

Astronaut Scott KellyLittle commented on among the #SOTU discussion, President Obama mentioned the U.S.' "re-engergized space program", and astronaut Scott Kelly, who's about to leave Earth for a one year tour abord the ISS.  Of course, he's going to get there in a Russian spaceship, despite the SpaceX resupply missions.  "Good Luck captain, and make sure to Instagram it!"

may the farce be with youThis is one awesome lightsaber battle.  May the Farce be with you.  Absolutely no movies have spawned as many fan-created sequels, parodies, and tributes as Star Wars.  Can't wait for the next one!

Finn sailor Oli TweddellThis is cool:  My name is Oli Tweddell, and I sail for Australia. For anyone who thinks dinghy racing is not a real sport.  But where are the deck chairs for lounging?

the Frilled SharkAnd here we have the ancient and venerable Frilled Shark, an 80 million-year old design which is still with us.  Awesome.


climbing the Dawn Wall

Wednesday,  01/21/15  10:38 PM

Wow, this is amazing...  Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson just completed the first ever free climb of the Dawn Wall of Yosemite's El Capitan.  It's been called the most difficult climb ever completed.

Jason Kottke describes the whole thing, with links to a video of the climb, as well as the NYTimes awesome interactive map showing the climb itself as well as a huge zoomable picture of the El Capitain, a thumbnail of which is shown above (click to enbiggen).  Incredible!



Thursday,  01/22/15  10:00 PM


Google Glasses?



Thursday,  01/22/15  10:13 PM

the Hubble Space telescopeI can't really believe this, but the Hubble Space Telescope is now 25 years old.  Wow.  Slashdot has a nice thread about the camera that changes the universe.  What's weird is that it didn't work very well at first, until scientists figured out how to correct the images with software.

Powerline: At last, the kind of inflation Americans care about.  "Over the years, some have argued that not having to care about politics is a luxury that Americans are able to enjoy because of our stable democracy and effectively guaranteed freedoms. There is some truth to that. Still, it is hard to believe it is a good thing that sports arouse more passion, attract more attention, and are more often the subject of intelligent discussion than politics."

the Hobbit, the movieThe Hobbit: the Tolkein edit.  In which nine hours of bad moviemaking are converted into a single four-hour film which is faithful to the book.  "The investigation of Dol Guldor has been completely excised, including the appearances of Radagast, Saruman and Galadriel... The Tauriel-Legolas-Kili love triangle has also been removed."  Seems like a great watch.

So, Apple paid $10B to developers in 2014, via the app store.  That means this ecosystem is now bigger than Hollywood, the ecosystem of major movies and their distributors.  That's ... amazing.  This ecosystem is also growing faster and has more successful players in it, at more layers.

An interesting subject: blockchain scalability.  Many of us have a vague idea of how Bitcoin "works"; it is a public ledger, with a fixed number of slots, and we can all bid to buy one of the slots.  But how big can it become?  How easily can each node compute the validity of the blockchain, and what will happen as the system scales?  Great read.

John at Desk: Seasons of silence.  "When building a product you can often find yourself in long stretches of relative quiet, where you're just heads-down building and there isn’t much more to tell or to share."  Indeed.

ZooBorn: East African Black RhinoZooBorn of the day: a baby East African Black Rhino, the first born in captivity for eighteen years.  Yay.  And boy is she cute.  Few things are less cute than a full-grown rhinoceros, and yet, few things are cuter than a baby one...


hello, ello?

Thursday,  01/22/15  10:42 PM

So, apparently, it's time for ello:

I signed up for the beta a few weeks ago, when there was some buzz around ello, but now I can't honestly think of any reason to join.  Are any of you members?  What's it like?




Gates foundation: the Big Bet

Friday,  01/23/15  09:58 PM

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation: the Big BetYou've heard me say, I was never a big fan of Bill Gates as a business leader, but now I'm a huge fan of him as a philanthopist.  His Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation just released their annual letter, and as always, it's most interesting reading.

Their big bet: "the lives of people in poor countries will improve faster in the next 15 years than at any other time in history."

  1. Child deaths will go down, and more diseases will be wiped out.
  2. Africa will be able to feed itself.
  3. Mobile banking will help the poor transform their lives.
  4. Better software will revolutionize learning.

We'll see.  The biggest problem poor countries face is seemingly fast population growth, but (1) and (2) will definitely help, and seem plausible.  I'm interested that (3) made the list; it seems so specific compared to the other items.  Not surprised to see (4) and indeed one would expect this.

I'm curious whether other issues can be solved, such as political corruption, unproductive infighting between factions, basic property rights, and differential birthrates between different economic groups.  We'll see.

Regardless, there is little doubt that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has made a huge difference.  Onward!


Saturday,  01/24/15  10:22 PM

Opportunity 11-year anniversary

Opportunity celebrates 11 years on Mars with an incredible panoramic photo, taken from the highest location it's ever visited.  Awesome!  Long may it continue to roll around "up there".  (click to enbiggen amazingly)

Consider all the amazing things that have happened in the last 11 years here on Earth in the meantime...

Genecoin - make a backup of your DNA in BitcoinJon Evans of TechCrunch: this industry is still completely ridiculous.  Yes it is.  Click through for some especially good examples.  "Satire and reality are not merely indistinguishable but actually interchangeable."

The Onion predicts Overstock's web streaming service.  From November 2013: "In a broad push to offer new content to the website’s millions of customers, executives from online retailer officially announced plans Tuesday to develop a slate of original online programming."  At the time that seemed like a good joke.  From January 2015: ", known for selling products online at discount prices, will launch a video-streaming service in the first half of this year."  Yep, interchangeable :)

NASA's Martian helicopterMeanwhile: NASA wants to send a helicopter to Mars.  Of course it does!

"Mr Cub" Ernie BanksSad news: "Mr Cub" Ernie Banks dead at 84.  Ernie Banks was my most treasured baseball card, back in the day.  Nothing which has happened in the 45 years since has made it less treasured.


Sunday,  01/25/15  08:47 PM

global coolingMatt Ridley: I am a climate lukewarmer.  "When I first started writing about the threat of global warming more than 26 years ago, as science editor of The Economist, I thought it was a genuinely dangerous threat...  Gradually, however, I changed my mind. The failure of the atmosphere to warm anywhere near as rapidly as predicted was a big reason: there has been less than half a degree of global warming in four decades - and it has slowed down, not speeded up."  I'm one too.

Related: 2014 was one of the 3% coldest years in the last 10,000.

IBM prepares to lay off 111,800 employees.  Wow.  That would be the biggest corporate layoff in history, by far, exceeding the previous record of 60,000, also set by IBM back in 1993.  Remember when working for IBM meant lifetime employment?

greatest (and stupidest) hacking scenesThe greatest (and stupidest) hacking scenes in movies.  I feel like the list of greatest is a lot shorter than the list of stupidest.  I especially like it when viruses are depicted visually.  My own favorite scene was in The Social Network, when Mark Zuckerberg created his "hot or not" site in one night.  That felt pretty real.

Cadel Evans (2011 Tour de France)It's a little early in the year for me to be a cycling fan - I usually get excited around the time of the spring classics in April - but this year I did pay some attention to the Tour down Under, which was won today by Rohan Dennis.  More significantly, it marked the last Grand Tour race for Dennis' teammate Cadel Evans, who finished third, wrapping up an amazing career that included a world championship and an (unblemished!) Tour de France victory.  I was fortunate to be in Paris for Cadel's 2011 victory, as well as in Grenoble the day before, when Evans took the yellow jersey from Andy Schleck in the final time trial (pictured at right).  He's had a great career, a nice guy who finished first.


eight people to dinner

Sunday,  01/25/15  09:24 PM

eight people to dinnerEight people are seated at a circular table. Each person gets up and sits down again_either in the same chair or in the chair immediately to the left or right of the one they were in. How many different ways can the eight people be reseated?

[Update: eight people to dinner, solved]



Monday,  01/26/15  07:59 PM

A quiet day of work today.  Work work work.  A little rain, a little sunshine, and a little news.

gray whaleI hardly ever watch "news" video online, do you?  But this one caught my eye: Whale watchers celebrate epic season.  So that's good news right?  Or is it bad news ... I can never remember which way climate change is supposed to cut.  The picture of a gray whale at left is on the website, listed as an endangered species.

Northeast stormMeanwhile they're having a huge storm in the Northeast, almost exactly a year after the NYTimes declared "the end of snow". 

What all this means to me is that climate science is not actually science.  There are huge variations in weather from year to year, but nobody yet understands the longer term trends.  And to the extent that they are understood, very little is changing.  Nothing to see here, move along.

under-ice robotThis is pretty cool (NPI): Robot finds fish beneath Antarctic ice.  "When a group of scientists drilled through 2,430 feet of ice in Antarctica to get to the water underneath, they only expected to find a few microbes here and there. Instead, they discovered a thriving community of fish and crustaceans."  Unlike climate "science", this is real science; a theory and an experiment to test it which modifies the theory.

the taco toasterWow I need one: The Taco toaster.  Crunchy tacos without frying in oil...

But of course: Worry for Solar Projects after End of Tax Credits.  Too bad all that money is being wasted on subsidies for non-viable tech.

I'm installing the latest Windows 10 Technical Preview.  The more I read, the more I'm convinced this will be my next OS.  You may ask, why not OS X?  Good question.  I guess I just like Visual Studio for C++ development...?



the big Apple

Wednesday,  01/28/15  09:11 PM

the Apple WatchApple just had the most profitable quarter of any company, ever.  Giving credence to the supposition that iPhones are the most successful products, ever.  Did we know that back in 2007?  No.  Although maybe Steve Jobs did.

I was just reflecting on early iPhones, thinking that not having Flash would hold them back.  In retrospect that was a good call by Mr. Jobs.  YouTube are now supporting HTML5 video by default.  Primarily because of IOS.

And lest you think Apple have peaked, the Apple Watch will be out in April.  I bet they sell a few of those.  I'm going to get one, of course, but as a mostly happy Pebble Steel owner I wonder how useful they will be.  They might be cooler than we think.

Apple's "hobby" isn't doing badly either; 25M Apple TVs shipped in total.  I still love mine.  That could end up being a bigger hit for them than anyone thinks.

Tangerine - shot on an iPhone 5SApple are now the largest camera company in the world.  And interestingly, also the largest video camera company, by far.  Just recently the film Tangerine was lauded at the Sundance Film Festival, and it was shot entirely on an iPhone 5S.

Still, with all the amazing technology, the biggest driver's of Apple's success have been the Mac and IOS ecosystems they've created.


Saturday,  01/31/15  10:45 PM

the Ying Yang boxOn the eve of Super Sunday, the Ole filter makes a pass...

(That's a Ying Yang box ... my latest effort at coding with atoms.)

the BombeLiked Imitation Game.  A lot.  And if you did too, you probably loved Cryptonomicon...  (Slash, if you loved Cryptonomicon, you will like Imitation Game.)  My one criticism is that they made the invention of the Bombe* seem like a single act by a single person.

* the actual name given to Turning's anti-Enigma machine.

Well, that sucks: AOL are shutting down TUAW.  AOL continue to be the graveyard of interesting single-interest websites, which despite hype cannot grow too far beyond their single-interest.  John Gruber notes: "Things I learned today: AOL still exists."

Paul Rahe: Party of the living dead.  "Thanks, in part, to the self-absorption of their standard-bearer [President Obama], the Democratic Party now controls fewer Congressional seats than at any point in my lifetime. Its presence in the Senate is at a near-record low, and one would have to go back nearly 90 years to find a time when it was in as bad a shape in the state assemblies and senates."  I can remember when I considered myself a Democrat.  It wasn't that long ago.

MaVeNS - the key to Yahoo?Marissa Mayer thinks MaVeNs are the key to Yahoo.  "Mobile, Video, Native, Social."  Aside from being a terrible acronym, not worthy of the stretch effort to create it, what does that even mean?  I feel like Yahoo have to decide whether they are content creators or content publishers, and then go deep on whatever they decide.  It's been a long time since anything they did felt cool to me.

SpaceX Falcon 9 Heavy rocketSpaceX show how their Falcon 9 Heavy rocket will work.  A great animation in which we can see the recovery of all three boosters as a satellite is blasted into orbit.  Rooting for them!

Tesla Model S getting even quicker via a software update.  Wheeee.  The coolest recent software update has added better energy management tools, backup camera guides, and traffic-aware cruise control.  Yes!  (Caravans are finally here!)

Newsweek cover: Women in TechFinally, have you seen the recent Newsweek cover about Women in Tech?  (Yeah, Newsweek [apparently] still exists, and yeah, they still have covers.)  What do you think?  Some suggest the cover itself is sexist, others, that it is an emotional issue which triggers an emotional reaction, regardless.  I think it's an important issue and I'm glad it's being discussed.

I've worked in tech my whole career and have had women colleagues that whole time, and always figured tech was more of a meritocracy than other fields, and so gender discrimination was less of an issue.  But of course, being a man, I might not have seen it.  It does seem that the attention has lessened the issue.  Let's hope this pendulum doesn't swing too far into over-correctness, and just stops in the middle, at equality.


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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