Archive: May 2015

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wow, May!

Monday,  05/04/15  08:59 AM

Wow, May!  And what a week it was ... I drove to Pahrump, Nevada to visit my ailing aunt, via Death Valley, and on the way parked in Stovepipe Wells to ride up Towne Pass (sea level to 4,900 feet in 17 miles).  On the way I explored the "spaceport" at Mojave airport (open but quite a bit of forgotten glory), the Inyokern airport (now closed), and beautiful Red Rock Park (very much open and very much not forgotten). 

It's a dangerous business, going out your door; you step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to...

Meanwhile, it's all happening:

I have little to add to the crappy situation in Baltimore, except to observe that it reflects a class problem, not a racial problem.  In this context: White House defends Obama's record on race relations.  So weird that they feel they have to do so, who would have predicted that six years ago when he was elected? 

This is very cool: a mesmerizing visual score of Mozart's Clarinet Concerto.  The parallels between music and abstract art become very clear. 

Unsurprising: Uber are quietly testing a massive merchant delivery service.  I look forward to having my Amazon purchases - and perhaps my dinner - delivered this way :) 

I like this a lot, from Leander Kahney: In praise of the ambitious, indispensable, Apple Watch.  It was popular to praise the Apple Watch sight unseen, and is now popular to disparage the Watch also, but Leander does more than either; he considers that once again Apple have taken a chance on making a new market, and that it may take time before the market matures, or even emerges.  What was the MP3 player market like when the iPod was announced?  The smartphone market like before the iPhone?  Tablets before the iPad?  Indeed Apple have created a new category, which all the Pebbles of the world never had done. 

Big boo: RSS Graffiti have stopped operating.  This was my chosen cool way to automatically relay blog posts to my Facebook (from whence they are further related to my Twitter).  I get it; a free service cannot burn pennies forever.  Now attempting to use instead, stay tuned! 

The services in this "business" follow a familiar trajectory; a service proves useful, gets adopted, gets shared, gets popular, and then ... gets acquired by a real business which wants to make money.  And which discovers that adoption and popularity are not always enough.

Beautiful: Forgotten wonders of the digital world: World of Warcraft.  I've never played WOW but this article makes me want to visit.  Reminds me of the virtual worlds of Reamde and Ready Player One, which were more compelling than the real worlds which spawned them. 

And so it goes: Mercury orbiter Messenger retired after successful mission.  After being the first spacecraft to orbit Mercury, it was deliberately crashed into the planet surface, capturing this last photo as it did so.  Excellent. 

Seth Godin identifies an interesting phenomenon: Discovery Fatigue.  "When Napster first hit the scene, people listened to as many different songs as they could. It was a feast of music discovery, fueled by access and curiosity.  Now, the typical Spotify user listens to music inside a smaller comfort zone.

I've thought about this already, in the context of blogging; I can remember eagerly seeking out new blogs and diligently adding them to my blogroll, even as many others did the same.  Now, I mostly just pull over the same old feeds (including Seth's).  As he notes, once you're busy with what you've got, it diminishes your desire to get more. 

Earlier this week SpaceX successfully launched their Thales mission, but they weren't ready to retry landing the stage one booster again.  fXf for the next effort to do so on the ISS resupply mission in June.  But meanwhile Blue Origin launched their first rocket into "space", 300,000 feet up, but were unable to land their booster.  Space is hard. 

Hilarious: Tesla Club Sweden: Test drive of a petrol car.  "We also begun to understand why there must be so many petrol stations everywhere, if all petrol cars always have to drive to them to refuel. Imagine if you could charge your electric car only at the power companies’ most expensive fast chargers – and nowhere else!

Since this is Star Wars day ("May the Fourth be with you"), I have to note this excellent photo series: The Empire Reboots, presaging the new Star Wars movie to be released this Christmas.  Like you, I am having difficulty exercising Jedi patience to wait for it... 

Last night we watched Avengers (Age of Ultron), or should I say the first half of it, before walking out.  Bleh to the max.  We went home and watched the Empire Strikes Back, warming up for the new sequel.  CGI action is no substitute for an interesting story. 

May the fourth be with him, too: Star Wars fans angry about Scott Walker's tweet: "Hope for the Republicans, there still is."  Ann Althouse notes: If you strike him down he will become more powerful than you could possibly imagine :)



breathless again

Monday,  05/04/15  08:45 PM

Last Saturday I rode the Breathless Agony, once again*, and was once again breathless and in agony. 

This is a horrible 114 mile ride from the flatlands of Redlands up to the Onyx Summit at 8,440' above Big Bear Lake, and every year I ride it, hate myself for riding it, wonder why I'm riding it, and then afterward feel much better and soon cannot wait to ride it again.  Proof positive, if any were needed, that middle-aged cyclists are masochists.

* 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014

This year I made it seriously harder by making bottles with expired protein formula; note to self, don't do that.  Turns out you cannot climb very well when you run out of calories...

Herewith, some pictures:

endless stretches as the sun rises, before the first climb

summit #1, Jackrabbit, a Paris-Roubaix clone

summit #2 of Oak Glen, the steepest but not the hardest

climbing "Damnation Alley" to summit #3 at Angeles Oaks

forcing a smile

cresting summit #3, yay

hitting 7,000' on the way to summit #4, this is where it gets really bad

the summit!  Yay.  Not feeling that great, yet...

but after a period of lying-on-my-back recovery, ready to pose with the Reaper

Onward!  Can't wait to do it all again next year :)


it's fivesday again

Tuesday,  05/05/15  08:11 AM

Every Cinco de Mayo is fivesday, but 5/5/5 was pretty special, and I was delighted to see (via my cool Flight archive option) that I celebrated it appropriatelyten years ago.  So now it's 5/5/15, almost as cool, and I will celebrate equally appropriately, by finally telling you the other four regular solids (besides the Dodecahedron): the Tetrahedron (four triangles), the Octahedron (eight triangles), the Icosahedron (twenty triangles), and the Hexahedron (six squares, aka the Cube).

There are only five, and the largest uses five-sided faces.  This is not only true here on Earth, but anywhere in our universe, and in any other universe, too.  If you met an alien, you could start a conversation by drawing these five objects, and you would have something in common, as well as a starting point for counting, regardless of how many digits they might have and how they might count.  The fact that we have five digits on each limb, well, that could be an evolutionary coincidence.

May the Fifth be with you!


Richard Feynman's van

Tuesday,  05/05/15  08:59 AM

One of my colleagues was biking the other day and in a random parking lot in South Pasadena spotted a van that looked familiar (to him):

Those diagrams ... that van ... he remembered it from a documentary he watched in a physics class:

Seems a team of Feynman's friends and fans banded together to restore the vehicle, which is covered with the famous space/time diagrams Feynman created to understand four-dimensional interactions between particles.  It's now a registered "historical vehicle".  I wonder if it can go back in time?


Tuesday,  05/05/15  09:58 AM

Filter pass, fivesday edition...

Have you noticed?  So many of the "solutions" proposed by liberals are one-time fixes.  While solutions proposed by conservatives tend to be structural, self-regulating fixes.  I'm struck by this whenever there is a crisis somewhere and we are all asked to "contribute" to solve the problems.  Okay, let's just send money to Nepal.  Poof, fixed! 

The sad truth is that Nepal is a corrupt nation with a poor economy and little-heeded building codes, and was a disaster waiting to happen.  Sending money there delays the change required to solve this situation permanently.

Re: the Muhammad cartoon contest: those practicing their First Amendment rights were protected by those practicing their Second Amendment rights.  Each is an essential component of the other. 

I would like to strongly recommend to anyone who wants to publish blog content to social media. I was using RSS Graffiti to auto-publish my blog posts to my Facebook, and they shut down, so now I'm trying, and it works great.  Plus, I had a question and received an immediate and informative answer from their support team. 

The Brookings Institute have done an analysis of the return on investment of all two- and four- year colleges in the US.  I'm happy to see Caltech at the top of the list :)  I did find it interesting that Harvard, the top-ranked Ivy League school, was well down the list... 

Philip Greenspun attended an MIT alumni gathering last week, and filed this report.  "The medical doctor was at the peak of his career and in no danger of being fired. The university professor had the security of tenure and was looking forward to a defined benefit pension starting six years from now. The corporate attorney was finishing up a prosperous career. The engineers who'd chosen to work in industry, however, were a varied lot."  Hmmm...  perhaps those engineers should have attended Caltech instead? :) 

You might have seen Tesla's recent announcement of their home and business batteries.  The primary use cases appear to be time-shifting usage and backup.  A key example of time-shifting is using solar power; during the announcement Elon Musk showed how a comparatively tiny amount of land area could be used to power the Earth (given enough battery capacity to time-shift its usage).  I found it interesting to read about Hawaii's usage of solar power in this context; 12% of all homes there have solar power. 

One more week before the Tour of California and the Giro d'Italia.  I'll be watching the TOC closely, including visiting three stages and riding before one of them (!); please stay tuned.  There will be world-class sprinters like Mark Cavendish and Peter Sagan but no real favorite for the overall (boo hiss that [2013 winner] Chris Horner isn't riding, and nor is [2014 winner] Tejay Vangarderen).  Andrew Talansky could well win and I'll be rooting for him.  Meanwhile Alberto Contador is the clear favorite in the Giro, with last year's winner Nairo Quintana sitting this one out.  Richie Porte is about the only one who can challenge Contador, or possibly Fabian Aru.  Stay tuned for that one too! 

Via kottke: Web Mandelbrot.  Aw3some!  I found it disappointingly slow but as always exploring the Mandelbrot set is incredible. 

This is excellent: Every question in every Q&A session ever.  SO true.  Most questions are not even questions, and most questioners are far more interested in talking than listening.  A good moderator can help (preferably one with both sarcasm and a sense of humor :) 

Finally: tomorrow is [yet another] big day for SpaceX: the first launch of the Crew Dragon space capsule, for a critical "abort test".  I love that SpaceX are so open about their launches, makes for great theater.  I for one will be watching...



Thursday,  05/07/15  09:57 PM

Brrr...  man it has been cold in Southern California.  Too cold to ride, to cold to think even.  Global Warming, where are you?  Fortunately however not too cold to blog...

I'm drawn to stories like this: Tears of the Sun, about La Rinconada, Peru, the world's highest human settlement, where 50,000 people live in freezing and otherwise miserable conditions trying to strike it rich in the gold mines.  Wow.  Okay no more complaining about the cold here in SoCal :) 

Sanford & Benedict: Historic Vineyard's story told...  I have to say, Pinot Noir from Santa Rita Hills is the best thing, amazing the history behind it.  When you drive by (or pedal by) this vineyard it's quite unassuming, you would never know how amazing the wine that comes from it can be. 

The story doesn't mention that in addition to pioneering great Pinot from Santa Barbara County, this vineyard also pioneered a different model, wherein grapes growers are separate from wine makers.

So ... Snapchat "ghosts" are ready to haunt the real world.  So be it, another social media icon for real-world businesses to paste into their windows.  Will anyone actually scan a merchant's ghost to visit their Instagram?  Doubt it.  Cue Cat vN. 

Meanwhile, somewhere a mountain is shouting your Tweets.  Hmmm... so compelling, right?  I don't even like Twitter, but even if I did I can't imagine finding this interesting for more than a minute.  But it shows what people will do with their idle time... 

Good advice from Aliza Licht, via Guy Kawasaki: How to Intern like a Rock Star.  So interesting that suggestion #1 is "dress the part".  After all these years, that advice for new employees is still so important.  People will perceive you the way you project yourself. 

Amazing: Opportunity Rover reaches Martian Day 4,000 of its 90-day mission.  A real-world R2-D2. 

Of course: Heal, an Uber for doctor housecalls. Makes so much sense. 

Who knew?  Fraser Island, where cars and airplanes share the beach with tourists and scientists.  Australia's sand world has half of the world's rainwater-only lakes...  I have to travel more!



an Object at Rest

Thursday,  05/07/15  10:44 PM

Today's awesome animation: An Object at Rest.

So cool...



Friday,  05/08/15  05:59 PM

Leaving my house in a bit so my kids can throw a party ... wow does that sound like a great idea.  But I'm getting up at oh-dark-hundred to ride a century tomorrow, so it seems much the best ... fXf!

Carly Fiorina is doing it right so far.  "While Fiorina’s campaign has been all about introducing her to Americans, Clinton’s campaign has been all about hiding and damage control."  I must say her campaign has been much more interesting so far than I'd thought. 

Apropos: why Feminists needs to take Carly Fiorina seriously.  To me she is the epideme of the feminist ideal, a successful businesswoman who made it on her own, and is now running for President, with a stay-at-home husband who raised their kids. 

Keurig CEO blames disasterous financials on DRM.  In which the coffeemaker made it impossible difficult for their machines to be used with third-party coffee, and consumers revolted.  At least he owned up to the problem and is fixing it. 

Dan Kaplan says Peter Thiel is wrong about lean startups.  This interesting analysis hinges on the definition of "lean", and there actually isn't much disagreement.  In his book Zero to One (which I loved!) Peter writes an MVP is nothing but a half-baked product that you launch and iterate as you succeed, while Dan thinks an MVP is a way to test your hypotheses.  But are those actually different points of view?  I link, you decide. 

I included this picture of a cool train for the same reason TechCrunch did: it's a cool picture.  However it doesn't have anything to do with lean or startups or Dan or Peter :)

Cory Booker tweets that it's "not right" that someone must work 50 hours per week to escape poverty.  I guess I have to pay more taxes so that they don't? 

Wow: NFL Report: 'Much more probable than not' that Tom Brady knew footballs were doctored.  So we have to ask: Why?  In no way is this the reason the best quarterback of the best team won, so ... why cheat?  Blech. 

Good to know: it appears the universe is really, really flat.  Note that whether the universe is curved is a different question from how large it is; it can be both flat and expanding... 

Hehe ... Investors loan Rhapsody $10M.  To which John Gruber commented, "Which fact is more surprising about this story: that Rhapsody still exists, or that RealNetworks not only still exists but has the money to loan Rhapsody?"  For me it is the latter; I don't know anyone who uses Real Networks for anything.  Amazing that they are still around... 

Love this: the bullshit hypocracy of 'all-natural' foods.  People who eat "natural" or "organic" foods thinking they are healthier are kidding themselves...  I'd rather have GMO food and pesticides than bugs and diseases. 

So, is Gwyneth Paltrow wrong about everything?  Pretty much... I love that phrase "celebrity pseudoscience", maybe we can also have "celebrity pseudoeconomics", and "celebrity pseudodiplomacy"?  Being famous for being entertaining doesn't make anyone an expert.



Saturday,  05/09/15  08:29 PM

Well, we survived the party.  A few things were broken, a few things were lost, our kayak was stolen borrowed but recovered returned (!), and while there was a police raid, it was apparently an amiable one focused on noise reduction.  So much fun we will surely never do it again.  Whew.

Meanwhile, I had a nice day on the bike riding a century, report to follow.  And am anticipating a nice Mother's Day out on the lake, doing very little. 

Today in between concentrating on riding I thought a lot about capturing events.  So much of our lives is a sort of winding path connecting discrete moments, births, deaths, birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, parties, celebrations, etc.  In our world now these events are recorded, sound, pictures, and video, and increasingly shared with others, not only the participants but friends and friends of friends and random strangers.  In the process of being captured and shared, they are also recorded, to be revisited and remembered. 

An exponentially growing about of information, recording the present for the future.


Cruising Conejo

Monday,  05/11/15  10:00 AM

Last Saturday I rode the Cruising the Conejo century, a nice little 104 mile jaunt around the neighborhood, featuring 6,000 feet of climbing.  I managed to finish in a respectable 6 hours, with 5:46 riding time; my best century time in five years.  Yay, me.  It was even (gasp!) fun.


the route ... 104 miles 6,000 feet, a nice ride along the ocean, and spelunking around the hills

festival area; quiet before the start, raucous later

assembling to start

Rockstore! - my favorite climb was part of this ride (20:19 if you must know)

descending Encinal Canyon to the ocean

cruising PCH ... could have used a bit more sun, though

Mugu Rock - and the sun pokes through

USMC Missle Park

the finish!  yay

This marked my third century in three weeks.  Next Saturday I'll be riding the l'Etape California, a chance to ride the same stage 7 course as the pros competiting in the Amgen Tour of California, including the final climb to the finish at Mount Baldy.  Yippee.



Wednesday,  05/13/15  10:57 PM

Whew, what a day; spent much of it coding in Excel, and the rest coding in English.  Not my favorite, but it had to be done.  (Only coding in Powerpoint is worse :)  Perhaps tomorrow I can get back to Visual Studio ... (oh, wait a minute, no; I'm going to watch the Amgen Tour of California's stage from Santa Barbara to Santa Clarita in person...)

Last night I attended a classical music concert with my Mom featuring some young Dutch musicians traveling in the US.  It was an enjoyable evening, and the highlight was a young violinist named Svenja Staats, who was absolutely amazing.  She did things with a violin I had never seen before; plucking strings with her left hand while bowing with her right, and bouncing the bow on the strings like a drummer while playing an intricate melody, sounding more like Joe Satriani than Itzhak Perlman.  Wow. 

How to deny a question's premise with one word.  "Mu". 

The Watts Bar nuclear power plant, first launched in 1979, nears completion in 2015.  "The Tennessee River site is a cautionary tale for the power industry. When it’s finished, it will provide enough electricity to power about 650,000 homes in the Tennessee Valley. The cost of running a nuclear plant is relatively steady, and it does not produce greenhouse gases and other air pollutants."  I continue to be amazed that Greens have not embraced Nuclear Power. 

Meanwhile: Obama Sells Out the Environmentalists.  "No one is willing to sign up for poverty in order to combat global warming... The real role that global warming plays on the Left is strictly rhetorical: it can be useful to beat up on Republicans. But the Democrats have no intention of doing anything material about the crisis they pretend to believe in.

So this is interesting: Seymour Hersh claims the White House lied about how they found and killed Osama Bin Laden.  Hersch has an uneven history with the truth; since breaking the My Lai story in 1969 he's brought forth various "conspiracies" which later proved overblown or downright false.  Still this could be a case where there's enough smoke to indicate some fire.  Certainly nobody could doubt the Obama Administration would lie to serve their own political interest.  I'm sure we haven't heard the last of this... 

The machine vision algorithm beating art historians at their own game.  "Classifying a painting by artist and style is tricky for humans; spotting the links between different artists and styles is harder still. So it should be impossible for machines, right?"  This doesn't surprise me; Visual Search is getting more sophisticated all the time.  The computer doesn't "know" this is a Van Gogh, it only knows this "looks like" that, at a low level... 

News item: Verizon are buying AOL for $4.4BMG Siegler notes this interactive history of AOL's growth, including buying Compuserve ($1.2B in 1997), Netscape  ($4.2B in 1998), Hughes Electronics ($1.5B in 1999), Mapquest ($1.1B in 1999), and of course merging with Time Warner ($165B in January 2000).  That was the high point, it's been all downhill from there, to the point where they're just an accumulation of other media companies like Huffington Post and TechCrunch. 

When I was running Intuit's Bill Payment team, back in 1999, partnering with AOL was the most important deal we could do.  Hard to remember at that time they were the 800lb gorilla, much bigger than the Internet.  Yahoo were a distant #2, and Google were a teeny company in one building across our parking lot.

This *is* the droid you've been looking for: Artist creates R2-D2 themed Volkswagen Bus.  May the Force be with it!




Wednesday,  05/13/15  11:56 PM

Check this out: Arroutada, from Ron Risman:



visiting the Amgen Tour: Santa Barbara to Santa Clarita, via Balcom Canyon

Thursday,  05/14/15  11:00 PM

Today I had a chance to visit (and ride part of) the Amgen Tour of California, stage 5, from Santa Barbara to Santa Clarita, via Balcom Canyon.  I watched the start in Montecito, the "turn" from hwy 192 to hwy 150, on the way to Ojai, parked and rode up Balcom Canyon ahead of the peloton, and drove to Santa Clarita to watch the finish.  As usual it was a lot of fun, despite the fact that climbing Balcom is really hard, and it was cold and rainy and crummy all day.

Some pics:

my trusty steed, awaiting the day at the start in Montecito

and they're off - and the early attacks to form a break are on

sweeping from 192 to 150, chasing a 5-man break with 2:30

climbing Balcom Canyon; this is what 23% looks like
note the KOM banner on the skyline under the power tower

whew, made it to the KOM
sun is out, but not for long


the leaders in the break crest the summit
they were *not* driving hard, saving it for later

an attack from the peloton
unknown rider from an unknown team - this is how you make your mark

the peloton crest the climb, not driving
note Mark Cavendish among the leaders second from right

at the finish line - and yes, it is pouring rain

the field sprints for the line - and Mark Cavendish takes it!

So tomorrow's time trial at Big Bear Lake had to be moved to Magic Mountain, because of snow (!), and so I'm not planning to go watch.  It's been shortened to 6 miles so not too much overall impact.  Saturday I'm planning to ride up the queen stage to Mount Baldy, ahead of the peloton, that should be "fun".  Stay tuned!


two worlds, one sun

Thursday,  05/14/15  11:22 PM

From Gerald Vanderleun: two worlds, one sun:

Martian sunset
yes, for reasons not completely understood, the red planet has blue sunsets

Earth sunset
the blue planet has red sunsets

The sun appears a bit smaller on Mars, because it is 50% further away.  That means it receives just 25% of the energy, and since it has much less atmosphere, it retains a lot less of it.

I can't stop looking at the top picture; it is so weird to realize that really exists, it isn't just a scene from a movie...


Google Maps - own goal

Thursday,  05/14/15  11:37 PM

Many of you have been around long enough to remember when Google were just a scappy startup, and Yahoo, Alta Vista, Excite, and others were the kings of search.  (Back in the great "portal" era.)  I was just remembering this time thinking about Verizon's acquisition of AOL.

Google's text search was better right from the start, and that propelled them to early traction.  I would argue that in the entire history of Google, there were two formative events, both acquisitions.  The first was when Yahoo acquired Overture, in 2003 (for $1.6B).  That really established the paid search model, which has led to the lion's share of Google's revenue.  The second was when Google themselves acquired Keyhole, in 2004, which put Google Maps ... on the map, giving them satellite images in addition to road maps. (It was interesting looking back over AOL's acquisitions, to remember they bought Mapquest for $1.1B in 1999; at that time and until Google bought Keyhole, Mapquest were the clear leaders in mapping.)

Mapquest map, circa 2004

So ... since Google Maps was such a key driver of Google, they're taking good care of it, and making it better and better, right? 

Google map, circa 2004
less detail, but freely scrolling

Of course ... they've added such amazing features as Street View, and the Moon, and Mars, and Traffic, and even 3D-views of buildings and landmarks.  They've become the standard for map interfaces.  But then again...

Google satellite map
qualitatively different ... and better

Of course, not.  In March 2014 Google began testing a new interface which was dumbed down, slower, and removes key features like My Places and multi-point routing.  Users were up in arms, and Google decided to keep the new interface as an option, and let people "opt out" and use Classic Maps if they wanted.  A lot of people wanted.  So Google decided to go back to the old interface, right?

new Google Maps,with the 'return to class' option

Nope.  Google have now made the new interface the default without any obvious way to get back to the Classic Maps.  For a little while people figured out they could use:, but the Google people closed the hole.  As of this writing you can still use this URL:, the fact that a typo works shows that the functionality is still there, and they just patched it out.

I can understand not wanting to support two interfaces, but since people don't seem to want the new interface, why force it down our throats?  There must be a product manager somewhere who doesn't want to admit the new interface is worse, or something weird like that.  But going up to 10,000 feet, this is important.  Google Maps remains a key product for the company.  I'm not sure what their goal is in switching people to a new interface, but it's not their users' goal.  And it could end up opening the door to competition...

Bing Satellite Map



riding Mount Baldy (and visiting the Amgen Tour)

Sunday,  05/17/15  09:27 AM

Yesterday I rode the l'Etape California, a sort of pre-Amgen Tour event where normal people* could ride the same course up Mount Baldy as the professionals racing in the Amgen Tour of California stage 7.  The course started in the flats of La Verne, climbed 4,000 feet to Baldy Village, descended down Glendora Mountain Road, and then climbed Baldy again, 6,000 feet all the way up to the ski lifts, where you "finished" through the same course as the pros.  After which you could hang up at the top of the mountain and watch the pro race.  Awesome, right?

* "normal" aka crazy cyclists who like riding up steep mountains

Yeah, except for the 10,000 of climbing, including 10%+ in the last five miles, and the freezing cold.  Brrr.  Anyway I made it, so it is fun to talk about after, and I watched a great pro race; Julian Alaphillipe won, out-climbing Sergio Henao to the finish, but even more excitingly Peter Sagan hung on gamely for third, finishing just 47s behind, leaving him just 3s behind Alaphillipe going into today's final [sprint] stage from LA Live to the Rose Bowl.  Sagan will probably be able to pick up some bonus time in the sprints to win - stay tuned.  After yesterday's amazing ride we have to root for him, although Alaphillipe is a great young rider and if he wins he'll deserve it.

My own favorite Robert Gesink, who memorably won the 2012 Amgen Tour by out-climbing the field on the same mountain, finished fifth on the day and will probably finish fifth overall, too.

In the meantime, here are some pictures from my day:

the route: 84 miles, 10,100 feet (!); not pictured, freezing cold

early morning start, led by Jens Voght (!) - 500 eager riders

through the flats of La Verne (and yes, we *all* got lost for 5 miles)

climbing up to Baldy Village, not too bad (8% ish)

Baldy Village!

the critical turn up to the ski area; this is where it gets *steep*

5,000 feet, gasp

smiling with 3K to go, 11%+ here

just 1K to go but it is 14%

500meters... legs burning

the finish, yay!

lots of snow on the ground, and ice in the air, too

watching the peloton climb up the valley

the pros ... attack! Alaphillipe and Henao on the move

Alaphillipe leads strongly, with a motorcycle entourage

Sagan hangs in there, a great ride to limit his time loss

Cheers, and go Peter!



Visiting the Amgen Tour of California for ten years!

Sunday,  05/17/15  10:07 AM

The professional Amgen Tour of California race is in my back yard, so to speak, and I've watched it every year; can't believe it but this is the 10th anniversary:

In 2006 I watched stage 6, from Santa Barbara to Thousand Oaks; my friend Peter and I stationed ourselves on the Norwegian Grade and watched the peloton blow up it,

In 2007 I visited Solvang for the stage 5 time trial, and almost got run over by Thor Hushovd (unblogged), and

watched the peleton come up Balcom Canyon for the first time in stage 6 (a route almost identical to the one I watched Wednesday, unblogged)

In 2008 I again visted Solvang for the stage 5 time trial, and

again watched the peleton climb Balcom (again, a route idential to this year's)

In 2009 I visited Solvang for the stage 6 time trail, once again, and

climbed Mount Palomar for stage 7, in the snow (!)

In 2010 I climbed Rockstore and then watched the peloton do it four times, in the final stage 8; the ATOC moved to May to find better weather, so of course stage 6 up to Big Bear was snowed out; note that this happened again this year and Friday's time trial was in Santa Clarita instead of Big Bear as a result

In 2011 I watched the stage 6 ITT in Solvang, with S., very nice, and

then climbed Mt. Baldy with my friend Tim, to watch the stage 7 final at the top (wow), and am planning to do so again on this Saturday :) 

In 2012 I again climbed Mt. Baldy with friends to watch stage 7, again the queen stage, as every year since; a great battle to the finish (unblogged)

In 2013 the tour took a different route, starting in the South and working North, I watched, rode, and broiled stage 2 from Murrieta to Palm Springs (again, unblogged)

In 2014 the route was back North to South; I rode and watched stage 6, from Santa Clarita to Mountain High (gasp), before boarding a plane for Kazakstahn (and hence missed watching stage 8, on Rockstore, in person)

And in 2015, watched and rode stage 5, once again Santa Barbara to Santa Clarita, via Balcom Canyon, and

rode and watched stage 7, once again up to the summit at Mt. Baldy (yay)

Onward, to ten more years!


hot and cold

Sunday,  05/17/15  09:51 PM

I had a nice weekend; a freezing cold / hard ride yesterday, and a beautiful sailing regatta today.  Hope yours was equally fun and interesting.  And so the Ole filter makes a pass... (it's all happening!)

Peter Sagan barely finishes third to win the Amgen TourSo yes, Peter Sagan did win the Amgen Tour, by a whisker.  (He's in the multi-colored kit on the left of winner Mark Cavendish and second place finisher Wouter Whippet.)  He entered the day 3s behind Julian Alaphillipe; he picked up 1s at the first sprint point, and then a 4s time bonus for finishing third on the day to edge Julian by 2s.  Wow.  And that after 700miles of racing.  He deserved it; there's literally nobody else who could win a sprint, a time trial, and the overall in the same stage race. 

Barack Obama, pathetic at three levels.  "He's dishonest, he's un-Presidential, and he's un-serious."  He's been a huge disappointment to me. 

Victor David Hanson: the first-and-a-half amendment.  "Among those who attack free expression the most loudly are progressives who do not like politically incorrect speech that does not further their own agendas."  The extent to which dissenting views are censored these days is a little scary. 

For Meg and Alex*: how to inoculate your daughter against campus feminism.  From the Network of Enlightened Women

* my daughters, both of whom are far too outspoken to be cowed by political correctness.

It's the Thing Explainer, from xkcd's Randall Munroe.  "Annotated blueprints that explain everything from ballpoint pens to the solar system using line drawings and only the thousand most common English words."  Yay. 

You may have seen, Facebook have launched Instant Articles feature in their iPhone App.  The idea being, they can serve up the content people link to more efficiently than the content providers.  Hmmm...  I am the last to argue about the value of speed, but I think this has more to do with control.  Publishers are tooth gnashing about whether to join... 

This is reminiscent of Google's Web Accelerator project, now defunct, and Amazon's Silk Web Browser, which hasn't, er, set the world on Fire.  I think these sorts of things never find a business model.

Marc Cantor founds Interface.  Marc has been a big inspiration to me, ever since his Media Band days back in ... 1995.  He was one of the first to publish multimedia content on the web, and has remainder a leader.  Will be most interesting to follow Interface to see what they do.  (Not exactly a Google-able name, right?) 

Robert X. Cringley: the Kickstarter Paradox.  Not so much a description of a Paradox as an interesting muse on the value of Kickstarting; there is raising money, but also raising awareness, and testing ideas with real customers.  The Paradox is that Kickstarters are go-or-nogo, they don't support projects that will go forward no matter what. 

Wow, cool: Wolfram have created a website that identifies image contentImageIdentify is getting a lot of [good] press.  I have played with it extensively, and it’s impressive. Pulling out high-level information like “this is a handbag” is in many ways harder than “this is Prada model 4-567”. The former is qualitative, while the latter is quantitative. At eyesFinder we've focused on image matching which enables quantitative visual search, primarily for shopping applications. This is a bit different to object identification which it appears Wolfram are doing. 

Ultimately both kinds of visual search will have uses, and there will be applications which are better for each approach. For the applications where visual search can be done best by locating matching images in a search library, such as shopping, our VQ-based image matching is better (more accurate). Perhaps the best thing about Wolfram’s service is that it is calling attention to all the applications for Visual Search :)

Mark Suster with good advice about Unicorns (startup companies with $1B+ valuations).  "Here’s advice I give people all the time when they're raising money. Narratives matter. Narratives are memorable. I'm not talking about raising money at a billion dollars. I'm talking about making your company memorable by describing it with a narrative that people will later remember."  Totally agree! 



the world tomorrow (NY150515)

Wednesday,  05/20/15  07:31 PM


(click to enbiggen)

"the world tomorrow"
by Bruce McCall





testing the new Edge

Wednesday,  05/20/15  11:00 PM

I've been running Win 10 in a VM for a while now, just to play with, and mostly staying current with the latest builds just to watch the evolution.  As you may know, in recent versions Microsoft have released a new web browser, first [realistically] named Spartan and more recently [and somewhat optimistically] named Edge.  So ... I decided to try it.

I have to say I am *not* an IE user; for years now I have used Chrome as my day-in-day-out browser, with an occasional use of Firefox.  So trying IE (as a baseline) was a bit trying.  I had forgotten all the annoying warnings and restrictions and security crap.  Once having fought through those to get an actual working browser, IE 11 on Win 10 is clearly slower than both Chrome and Firefox.  It is also legendarily incompatible with everything else, so you could see why MS would want to rewrite it.

My first impression of Edge was not positive; it takes approximately forever to load.  I thought maybe this was a onetime thing, so I closed it and relaunched.  Nope, it's slow.  Of course my first test case was this blog :) and while it loaded just fine, and looked perfect, it did take a long time to load.  Hmmm ... maybe the cache needs to be filled?  I tried surfing around a little, but things didn't get any better.  It's just quite slow, even compared to IE, and especially compared to Chrome.  Blech.

So how about compatibility?  Let's ask HTML5 test, shall we...

That's ... horrible!  Seriously bad.  For the purpose of comparison, here's the latest IE...

So Edge is more compatible than IE.  Well that's something, anyway!  But how about the competition...

As you can see, both Chrome and Firefox are much better than Edge.  You would think MS are quite focused on this aspect of their spiffy new browser, but you would [apparently] think wrong.

As another comparison, here's the OS X competition...

So Edge on Win 10 is slightly worse than Safari on OS X, but considerably worse than Chrome and Firefox, which are both a little worse on OS X than they are on Windows.  Overall I can't say they're off to a great start.

For completeness, here's Firefox on Linux (Red Hat Fedora)...

I guess at the highest level Edge *is* better than IE, so that will make it easier for web application builders; it would be a great relief if your JavaScript did not to have to check whether you're running inside IE or not.  One would *hope* Edge is more similar to every other browser.  (The only thing worse than checking for IE would be checking for IE and Edge.)  Time will tell.

PS also ... Edge is ugly.  Yikes!



Still the Water

Thursday,  05/21/15  11:08 PM

Tonight sailed my venerable C-15 in the Sunstroke Series, in Marina Del Rey; despite some cobwebs and rust managed to finish 2nd.  My little boat "It's the Water" is now thirty-six years old (!) and still flying :)

And meanwhile, it's all happening...

Exquisite Rothko masterpiece sold for bargain price of $46M.  It's pretty abstract; lest you think the title is a clue to the intended message, it's Untitled (yellow and blue)

Do you agree?  Why is modern art so bad?  Is it?  My own view is that art has shifted from representational to conceptual; you might need to have more context to understand and appreciate it. 

So, why hasn't a cure for cancer been found yet?  Net net, because cancer isn't one disease, it's over 200 different ones with similar symptoms (uncontrolled and unregulated cell reproduction).  We have found the cure for some of them, and are working the list.  Great commentary... 

Who wants a Lily camera?  Me!  A drone that follows you ... very cool. 

Wow... A coalition of more than 60 Asian-Americans have filed a Federal discrimination complaint against Harvard.  Given the evidence of racial bias in admissions, they're quite likely to have a case.  Excellent, we have to abolish all racial discrimination. 

The reaction of the media to Seymour Hersh's Bin Laden scoop has been disgraceful.  It is odd that the story hasn't received more respect.  Even if aspects of it are wrong, there is a lot of evidence. 

So true (and in re, the climate jihadists): 

Years ago, I heard the Jewish comedian Jackie Mason performing in Beverly Hills, riffing on the primary motivation of wealthy liberals. They do things, he suggested, not because they actually accomplished anything, but because "I have to look at myself in the mirror."

Among the things it explains: The Income Inequality Warriors.  There seems to be an effect that the more you try to close the "income inequality" gap, the bigger you make it. 

16-year-old guitar virtuoso Tina S shreds Metallica's Master of Puppets.  The entire 8:32 is awesome, but for the TL:DW advance to 3:40, close your eyes, and drift...  YES.  And the solo at 5:30 totally rocks. 

MG Siegler: A Penny for your Thoughts.  Have you ever thought how weird it is that everything on the Internet is Free? 



Sunday,  05/24/15  10:41 PM

A mid-Memorial Day filter pass ... following up on a weird week where it feels like I was too busy to work.  Too much cycling, sailing, and um stuff to do, to get much stuff done.

It was exactly one year ago that I returned from a week in Kazakhstan, and posted a long pictorial report.  Wow, seems like way longer than a year... 

Of possible use: How to ship a Beluga whale via UPS.  I doesn't come up that often... 

FAO Schwartz to close Manhattan store in July as rents rise.  Sigh.  Not sure if this is a cautionary tale about specialty retailers expanding out of their niche, or about landlords ignoring market signals and overpricing.  Either way it's too bad. 

Of course: the House just passed a bill about space mining.  "Any asteroid resources obtained in outer space are the property of the entity that obtained such resources, which shall be entitled to all property rights thereto, consistent with applicable provisions of Federal law."  Excellent. 

How the Netherlands stopped the wind.  A rather breathless ode to 'big engineering'.  And also, the video violates the inverted pyramid for video.  An interesting watch nonetheless... 

A while ago, while musing on that same inverted pyramid, I linked this video of l'Hydroptere, an amazing foiling trimaran built to break sailing speed records.  Well they're at it again!  Amazing video of this amazing boat, but sadly, they do violate the inverted pyramid in this one.  Worth waiting for the boat sailing, though... 

Finally, after about 1,000 references, I can type "l'Hydroptere" without looking up the spelling.  My finders just don't want to type that :)

The headlines on this pretty much write themselves: U2's 'the Edge' falls off the Edge.  I guess he should join Yes :) 

Yay!  New electronics kit-makers aim to awaken the next generation of engineers.  I remember Heathkit with great fondness.  And did you know?  They're still alive... 

Interesting read: An oral history of Industrial Light and Magic.  What struck me most - among many other cool things - was that ILM survived a move to another city (from LA to SF) after they were already successful (after Star Wars IV). 

Excellent (and who knew): the Cirque of the Unclimbables.  This group of peaks in Northwest Canada, between the Yukon and Northwest Territories, is not only hard to climb, but it's hard to reach first.  A great story.  (I will say, this article suffers from lack of editing; it could be shorter and crisper.) 

I'm not a climber, but it would be amazing to visit as a hiker...



magnificent Madagascar

Sunday,  05/24/15  11:05 PM

Anthony Bourdain says Don't miss magnificent Madagascar.  "Despite being the fourth largest island in the world, the island of Madagascar appears to be off the radar for many tourists seeking a wildlife adventure."  It's been on my radar for a while, I would love to go.  I just hope I get a chance before the Four Seasons build a hotel there :)




sharing Facebook video

Sunday,  05/24/15  11:25 PM

For you, and for me so I can find it later...  Have you ever tried to share a Facebook video outside of Facebook?  Like, send someone a link in a message or email?  It's not easy but it is possible.  I guess Facebook want you to share inside of Facebook, but ... it's a bigger world than just them.

So here's what you do:

  1. Discover the Facebook video's number.  When you're viewing the video on Facebook, click on the little down arrow at the upper right and you'll have the option to Embed Video.  This gives you a string of HTML that looks like this:
    <div id="fb-root"></div><script>(function(d, s, id) {  var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];  if (d.getElementById(id)) return;  js = d.createElement(s); = id;  js.src = "//";  fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs);}(document, 'script', 'facebook-jssdk'));</script><div class="fb-video" data-allowfullscreen="true" data-href=""><div class="fb-xfbml-parse-ignore"><blockquote cite="/109918489208/videos/10153013265164209/"><a href="/109918489208/videos/10153013265164209/"></a><p>Happening now!!   Marina Del Rey is ready for NACs. Are you??</p>Posted by <a href="">Coronado 15</a> on Thursday, May 21, 2015</blockquote></div></div>
    Yeah, messy.  Anyway, the video number is in there, as I've highlighted in red.
  2. Build the URL for the video like this:

That's it.  You're welcome.

BTW, in order to view the video link recipients have to have access to it; so it either has to be public or they have to be signed into Facebook and be authorized to watch it.



Monday,  05/25/15  09:58 AM

Hey blog public it's Memorial Day.  Let's all take time out from hanging around BBQing or sailing or cycling (or blogging!) to remember all those who gave their lives so we could be free to enjoy our lives, today, and every day.

I just checked my blogging "flight" (things I posted on this day, in years past) and came across this post from 2008: dear soldier, a letter written by Meg when she was 11.  Pretty poignant.  I can only echo what she wrote in her last paragraph:

Thank you for fighting for our rights, our freedom, and our lives as they are today.  Thank you for being there for our country.

Happy Memorial Day!


Tuesday,  05/26/15  07:26 PM

Back at work after a loong pleasant weekend "off"; checking in with colleagues, partners, customers, and of course coding.  And making a filter pass!

I haven't blogged about the Giro d'Italia this year, but I am watching it, and it has been tremendous fun.  Even the "flat" stages have had surprised on GC, with crashes and such, and several breakaways have defied the odds and succeeded.  Can't wait to see today's killer stage up the Mortirolo, a legendary climb considered by Lance Armstrong to be the toughest climb he'd ever ridden.  (Did he ever ride the Angliru?  Must check.)  Anyway I'm rooting for Steven Kruiswijk, the young Dutchman, who has been impressive as one of the only riders who can stay with Alberto Contador in the big mountains. 

Great advice for graduates, from Ted Nugent: 

  1. Life is not fair.  Get used to it.
  2. Social justice is a commie scam.  Read the drivel of Saul Alinsky and fight it with all you've got.
  3. Nobody owes you jacksquat.  You will either earn your own way, or feel like a helpless leech.  There is no middle ground.
  4. Economic equality is for sheep.  If you really believe we are all equal in our capabilities you will go nowhere.

(I can't help it, reading this, I could hear those amazing opening chords of Stranglehold playing... :)

Law of unintended consequences hits liberals again.  Sigh.  I must write more about this whole minimum wage thing; the entire concept is flawed, and backfires immediately

Related: Minimum wage hikes hit San Francisco comic book store.  "I'm hearing from a lot of customers, 'I voted for that, and I didn't realize it would affect you.'"  I have to say these people are too dumb to vote.

Agree entirely: Glenn Reynolds comments on the Irish vote to legalize gay marriage: "It's much better to see change happen this way than by judicial fiat.

Sting joins Jimmy Fallon to sing Roxanne in a barbershop quintet.  Hehe... Excellent. 

I have to say, Fallon has been great as the Tonight Show's new host.  His sense of playfulness and energy has revitalized the entire concept of a late night "talk" show.

Good news: Bats' white-nose syndrome may be cured.  Horrible disease obliterating the bat population, fought with bacteria.  Amazing. 

Today's best animation (and it's great): Taking the Plunge.  This student project feels as polished as a feature movie from Pixar. 

How to mine Bitcoin with a 55-year-old mainframe.  A great description of what "mining" means in the context of Bitcoin.  I do think the challenge for Bitcoin is going to come from distributed swarms of mobile phones, not ancient mainframes :) 

Okay, now to settle down and watch the queen stage of the Giro.  Please pass the popcorn! 



extra time

Saturday,  05/30/15  10:19 PM

My Dad used to say, "time spent sailing is not counted against you".  And lately I've been spending a lot of time on "extra time", sailing.  I'm not quite sure why but somehow the call of the sea has been strong this year.  I've even been sailing my now-classic C-15, "It's the Water" which is ... thirty-six years old!  Wow.  I don't think I've owned anything else that long. 

Here's a little video clip taken by the race committee last Thursday:

I'm the dark blue boat with the best start :)

A key challenge with blogging about sailing is that it's not a great idea to take a phone/camera out on the water.  So I have to take what I can get!


Saturday,  05/30/15  10:38 PM

Here comes a rather grumpy filter pass, sorry.  Went sailing today; it was overcast, there was no wind, and it was a somewhat crappy experience.  Every day on the water is better than every other day, but this was not the best.  Blech.

Warren Buffet: Better than Raising the Minimum Wage.  "I may wish to have all jobs pay at least $15 an hour. But that minimum would almost certainly reduce employment in a major way, crushing many workers possessing only basic skills."  Well said, in fact, the entire article makes sense; read it! 

Apropos: this article by Philip Greenspun, commenting on a New York Times Editorial, which appears to be making a racial issue out of an economic imbalance.

Philip links this great interview of Milton Friedman: "A minimum-wage law is, in reality, a law that makes it illegal for an employer to hire a person with limited skills."  Another key point he makes: "The minimum wage destroys the best kind of training programs we've ever had: on-the-job training."

Hehe ... Carly Fiorina held a press conference outside Hillary Clinton's staged event (at which Clinton took no questions from the press, as has been her wont).  I find myself increasingly drawn to Fiorina. 

This is pretty interesting: high-rent blight in the West Village.  "Shuttered storefronts. Abandoned retail locations. Small businesses that fall like the House of Cards & Curiosities on Eighth Avenue. These are the signs of urban blight we usually associate with economic downturns or poor, forgotten neighborhoods. But these shuttered storefronts are in one of America's wealthiest neighborhoods; NYC's West Village."  Has to be a temporary instability between supply and demand, right? 

My pet theory: things are not as good generally as people think, based on media bias.  There will come a correction.

The Pebble Time is out, and has been getting quite positive reviews.  It's simpler and less ambitious than the Apple Watch and the Android Watches, but perhaps that's part of its charm.  I would consider it based on the always-on color screen and battery life.  It's also considerably thinner than the Apple and Google offerings... 

BTW yes, there is a Macintosh emulator out for it :)

Seems like this was only a matter of time: Google's URL shortener deep links directly into IOS and Android Apps.  Search *on* Mobile has been around for a while, but search *of* Mobile is still incredibly limited... 

This looks pretty amazing: Lenovo's projector phone beams a touchscreen onto any surface.  Such devices have been around for a while now, but they don't quite work.  Yet.  Maybe Lenovo have cracked the code. 

You probably know, Google I/O just took place; Google's annual developer conference, at which they announce cool new stuff.  Here you may find everything you need to know from the keynote

To me, the enhancements to Google Photos seem like the biggest deal: "Machine intelligence and ‘unlimited’ storage."  Right now the "machine intelligence" is being used for facial recognition, to track people, but we can imagine other kinds of things being tracked over time.  And maybe even Visual Search!

Whew.  Darwin's pink iguanas are all fine after Galapagos volcano eruption.  I was losing sleep over them, weren't you? 

Here we have the spectacularly colorful world of Panther Chameleons.  Yet another reason, if any were needed, for visiting Madagascar! 

Hmmm... well maybe it wasn't that grumpy after all.  Panther Chameleons can put a smile on anyone's face :) 



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