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Archive: March 2016

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super Tuesday

Tuesday,  03/01/16  09:21 AM

Super Tuesday - R editionHi everyone, welcome to March!  And to Super Tuesday; today citizens of 10 states will vote in Presidential primaries ... Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont and Virginia will hold contests for both Republicans and Democrats.  Additionally Republicans in Alaska will hold caucuses, as will Democrats in Colorado.  There are 661 Republican delegates at stake, out of 1,237 needed for nomination, and 865 Democratic delegates at stake, out of 2,068.  Here's a nice analysis of where each candidate in both parties stands, with some nice maps.

My biggest fear is the most likely outcome: that Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton will win decisively, moving them into near-certainty as their party's nominees.  I can't imagine two worse candidates for President, and yet, these are apparently the choice we will have.  (Where by "we", I mean the ten states in which Presidential votes actually count.)  I'm going to try to have a nice day anyway :)

SpaceX SES-9 at T-0, click to enbiggenDid you watch the SpaceX non-launch on Sunday?  It was the third attempt for their SES-9 mission, and it *almost* went off.  I was sort of live-blogging on my Facebook...  in case you missed it, with about two minutes until launch, a vessel entered the "keep out zone" downrange of the rocket, postponing the launch for about twenty minutes, and then at T-0 the rockets fired, there was a huge blast of flame ... and the rocket shut itself down!  Apparently it has the ability to do that, which is pretty impressive, and it did.  The reasons haven't been shared publicly yet, but some computer somewhere must have detected something amiss, and the launch was scrubbed.  The vehicle is fine and now we just have to wait for the next attempt which is scheduled for 5:05PT today.  Onward!

Margot Robbie at the 2016 Academy AwardsDid you watch the Oscars?  If you did, apparently you were one of ever-fewer; the Academy Awards have fallen from favor, especially among young people.  Watching millionaire winners of the genetic lottery lecture us on liberal talking points does get a little old after a while.  I especially enjoyed Leonardo DeCaprio warn us about climate change, just before jetting off in his Lear Jet.  I didn't mind the Chris Rock lecture about racism, it was tempered with humor and it did cut both ways.  In my household the "red carpet" is actually more important than the awards, and the best dressed winner of the night was apparently Chrissy Teigan; my vote went to Margot Robbie, and was promptly ignored on the grounds that I was not actually voting for her dress.  Fair enough.

Paul Watson rants about today's musicPlease check out this wonderful rant from Paul Watson about the homogeneity of popular music today.  I cannot agree more.  Where are the David Bowies, the Led Zeppelins, and the Talking Heads of today?  Apparently the 15 most popular songs in 2015 were written by just four people / organizations.  That's just weird.

Teapot building in ChinaDid you see this?  China have apparently declared "no more weird buildings", after a spate of rather creative efforts by various world-renowned architects.  The combination of a rapidly growing economy and a desire to appear "modern" led to some amazing buildings.  Of course with modern steel and engineering just about anything is possible.  Maybe now they'll go back to the 30s for some design inspiration ... that would be excellent.

Raspberry Pi 3Progress on the microprocessor front continues: the new Raspberry Pi 3 has a 64-bit processor and built-in WiFi and Bluetooth, for $35.  Wow.  If you ever wanted to use an array of inexpensive computers for distributed applications, here you go.  These little machines typically run Linux, and include an HDMI output that can drive a 5mp monitor, too.

Scott Kelly returns from the ISS, where he has spent 340 days in spaceUpdate: Wow, how did I miss this?  Tonight, Scott Kelly comes home from space after nearly a year.  "According to the flight schedule, Kelly and Russian cosmonauts Mikhail Kornienko and Sergey Volkov will undock from the International Space Station tonight at about 8pm ET. After maneuvering away from the space station, they will be in position to begin their de-orbit burn about 2 hours and 30 minutes later."  The International Space Station has been part of our world for so long now ferrying astronauts to and from it almost seems routine, but ... it isn't, it's amazing.  Good luck!

Well, onward.  It should be an interesting day ... let's root for Rubio and Sanders and SpaceX and Kelly, and see what happens!



Friday,  03/04/16  12:09 PM

Snoopy: TGIF!I am not a TGIF person.  I like weekends but also, I like other days.  However today I am sick :P and tired :P and low energy, so I am looking forward to the option of doing nothing.  And of course I also have the option ... to blog!

Cruz to Trump: breatheDid you watch last night's debate?  Me neither.  But I love that Ted Cruz came out swinging and clearly rocked Trump.  Honestly after Super Tuesday, Hillary is going to be the Democratic candidate, so our only hope to avoid Clinton vs Trump is Ted Cruz.  He's actually been my pick all along, on IQ grounds.  You can choose a candidate for their views and personality and apparent morals, but at the end of the day smart is smart and smart people hire smart people.

I was never a fan of Mitt Romney (or was I? ... I did vote for him; anyone but Obama ...), but I loved his well reasoned attack on Donald Trump.  Trump *is* a con man, and we're seeing the curtain pulled back bit by bit.  Unfortunately it might be too late, and the electorate might not be smart enough to see it for what it is.

I think the best analogy for what's happening with Trump might be Jesse Ventura winning Governor of Minnesota, or possibly Arnold Schwarzenegger winning Governor of California.  You get these confident guys who seem like they're going to make things happen, but then they win and can't do anything.  I do think both Ventura and Schwarzenegger were better people than Trump.

Scott "Dilbert" Adams' debate scorecard: "When I say FOX annihilated Trump, I mean they guaranteed a Trump landslide... We're past the question of whether our politicians are lying to us. That’s a given. The system forces them to lie to get elected. I'm not sure the voters care at this point."

SpaceX: Falcon 9 landingThis afternoon at 3:35PM will be SpaceX's fifth attempt at their SES-9 mission.  Please keep your hands inside the vehicle and fXf. I never did read why they scrubbed on Sunday, but all week it has been too windy in the upper atmosphere for another attempt. Today looks good.

Just a reminder there are two exciting things going on with this launch, first, putting a huge satellite (5,300kg) into geosynchronous orbit (35,000km, 7,000mph), and second, landing the booster stage on a barge at sea so it can be reused.

Wolfram black holesStephen Wolfram has posted another one of his long detailed explanations of complicated things; this time he tackles black holes.  A great article with amazing diagrams.  I feel a little like I felt after attending a Feynman lecture on special relatively; I think I finally get it, but I'm afraid the understanding is going to slip away.

Dave Winer analyzes the new Facebook feature: How Instant Articles helps the open web.  Instant Articles are based on RSS - which Winer invented - and so apparently you can have content outside Facebook which is also shared inside; like my blog posts!

Speaking of the open web, here we have Open source Tesla and SolarCity monitoring code.  Wow, how cool is that?  Now you, too, can create web and mobile applications to monitor your car and house.  Do not ask "why would you want to do that", instead celebrate that you can if you want.

astronaut Scott Kelly: back to EarthBy the way, Scott Kelly and his Russian colleagues returned safely to Earth, landing their Soyuz spacecraft in the Afghanistan steppes.  (How amazing would it be to an American from 1969 to read that sentence?)  No "The Martian" -style rescue effort was required.

Cory Doctorow: Why the first amendment means that the FBI can't force Apple to write and sign code.  "Code is speech."

Totally agree: If you don't support nuclear power, you don't really care about global warming.  Nuclear is the *only* economically viable alternative to fossil fuels.

Alternate verions of Wonder WomanSo here's what's wrong with web video.  I see this link, the various costume changes of Wonder Woman throughout her 75-year history.  And even though it is a video, against my better judgment, I click through.  And instead of seeing the promised costume changes of Wonder Woman, I see many many seconds of someone named Arris Quinones talking, various production logos ... blah blah blah.  I clicked back before seeing a single costume change.  I've linked the video so if you do watch it all the way through, tell me if it was worth it.  For me it was V;DW*.

DeeDee Jonrowe and teamAnd finally, this weekend the Iditarod starts!  Woo hoo.  The ceremonial start in Anchorage is tomorrow, and the "real" start of the 1,000-mile sled dog race from Willow to Nome is Sunday afternoon.  It is snowing in Anchorage right now, which is great news; last year they actually had to move the start to Fairbanks, because there wasn't enough snow in the Southern part of the course.  Not so this year.  I will of course be rooting for DeeDee Jonrowe, in her thirty-third year of racing (go DeeDee!); this year there are 86 team entered, the most ever.  DeeDee has finished second twice, and in the top ten sixteen times.

* V;DW = Video, Didn't Watch


apartment D

Friday,  03/04/16  06:07 PM


Wonder what Apt 4D looked like ... before



Iditarod: the ceremonial start

Saturday,  03/05/16  08:08 PM

Today I watched the 2016 Iditarod's Ceremonial Start, a slow procession of each musher down 4th Avenue in Anchorage, accompanied by their Iditarider (a passenger who's paid for the privilege of riding along at the start).  The "live" coverage on was great; charming, relatively low tech, and pretty informative.  I especially liked the little vignette interviews with each musher; you can learn a lot overall by picking out the little pieces here and there.

Tomorrow of course is the Restart, when the actual racing begins.  This year is even, so the Iditarod is taking the Northern Route, shown in purple on the map below:

Iditarod Map, 2016 will take Northern Route (purple). Click to enbiggen!
The Idita-route ... click to enbiggen.  In 2016 the race will follow the Northern (purple) route.

For those of you who are Iditarod rookies, welcome!  It's an amazing event.  Here are some of the key facts:

  • The race is about 1,000 miles, from Willow to Nome.  There are 21 checkpoints.
  • There are 86 teams in the race.  Each team has a musher (human) and sixteen dogs.  Each team must finish with at least five dogs.  If desired, a musher may "drop" a dog at any checkpoint, either because they are tired, injured, or for strategic reasons.  Most teams finish with 10-16 dogs.
  • Each team can rest or run whenever or however they please, but they must take one 24-hour rest (usually at McGrath or Takotna), then one 8-hour rest somewhere along the Yukon river (Cripple, Ruby, or Galena), and one final 8-hour rest at White Mountain.  There is considerable strategy in where to rest and for how long.
  • Dog sleds can run at 9-14mph.  A team can run for 6-8 hours before it needs rest.  The dogs need less rest than the mushers...  and burn about 10,000 calories each day!  A good time for the race is 10 days, and 8 days will probably win it.  This year is expected to be a little slow due to ice and wind.
  • Teams must carry [at least] a sleeping bag, ax, snowshoes, eight booties for each dog (to protect their feet from ice), an operational cooker and pot, and a veterinary notebook.
  • No communication with the outside is allowed, other than conversation between mushers at checkpoints. 
  • The teams each carry GPS trackers.  So we know where they all are, even though they do not!

I am rooting for DeeDee Jonrowe to win, she's the reason I became a fan in the first place, and is am amazing person.  Not only a 34-time competitor, but a cancer survivor and someone who has worked tirelessly to raise money for cancer research and cancer treatment "in the wild".  This year was especially tough for her, she lost her Mom and then her home in the horrible Sockeye Fire.  But she started and she's going to be competitive...  here's a picture of her team at today's start:

Go DeeDee!

[All Iditarod 2016 posts]



Iditarod 2016

Sunday,  03/06/16  08:03 PM

For you #Iditarod fans out there, here's an index of all my 2016 Iditarod posts:

03/05/16 08:08 PM -

Iditarod: the ceremonial start

03/07/16 07:55 AM -

Iditarod: day one! ... and they're off

03/08/16 09:34 AM -

Iditarod: day 2 ... up the Alaska Range

03/09/16 08:11 AM -

Iditarod: through the heart of Alaska, taking 24s...

03/09/16 11:01 AM -

the Iditarod race flow tracker!

03/10/16 08:30 AM -

Iditarod: the 24s are over, let the racing begin!

03/11/16 09:15 AM -

Iditarod: to the Yukon, and beyond!

03/12/16 09:05 AM -

Iditarod: Brent Sass in the lead, crazed attack on Jeff King and Aliy Zirkle

03/13/16 11:39 AM -

Iditarod: Leaders reach Norton Sound, Seaveys one two

03/14/16 09:10 AM -

Iditarod: In the Nome stretch, Seaveys vs Sass

03/14/16 07:15 PM -

Iditarod: Seaveys and Sass, sprint to the finish

03/20/16 09:45 PM -

Iditarod wrap: Seaveys one two again, Sass 20th after 26 hour delay, DeeDee 44th!



Bitcoin classic

Sunday,  03/06/16  08:30 PM

Have you been following the recent doings with Bitcoin?  It's pretty interesting. 

There's a technical challenge in the network architecture brought on by Bitcoin's maximum blocksize of 1MB.  Bitcoin is designed such that a new block is created every ten minutes.  This means the network can only process about seven transactions per second.  That's a lot, but it's not enough.  There have been various proposals for solutions, but one of the simplest is to simply double the blocksize to 2MB.  This doesn't solve the problem forever, but it neatly kicks the can down the road for a while, until the blocksize can be doubled again to 4MB or another solution is implemented.

The small group of developers who maintain Bitcoin ("the core team") have opposed this simple solution, on the grounds that it doesn't solve the problem permanently.  While they debate, the network has become steadily busier, to the point where the second-transactions-per-second limit has been reached several times.  So a few developers split from the core team and created a hard fork, a version of Bitcoin which implements 2MB, and does it in a backward-compatible fashion.  They've called their version Bitcoin classic.

The logic of Classic is to continue processing 1MB blocks until the number of nodes in the network which can support 2MB blocks reaches 75% of all nodes.  At that point, the network seamlessly switches to using 2MB nodes.  Any nodes running older code can continue to process transactions, but they can no longer mine new blocks; all blocks will be 2MB from that point on.

This seems like a pretty good solution, and in just a few months about 20% of the Bitcoin network now has nodes running Classic.  We'll see if and when the 75% threshold is reached, and/or if another solution comes forth and is adopted.  The beauty and inherent strength of Bitcoin is that nobody and no group can decide this on their own; there has to be a consensus for any change to take effect.

There are currently a little over 6,000 nodes in the network, spread all over the world.  Some of them are individual servers, like mine, others are huge arrays of powerful machines with dedicated hardware which do the vast majority of the mining.  (Many of them are in China.)  Below is a map of the Bitcoin network (note top "user agents" at the upper right):

Waterhouse Classic, running along...

I have of course converted my server to run the Classic code; my version is called Waterhouse [of course]:

It will be most interesting to watch this play out.  Pass the popcorn!



Iditarod: day one! ... and they're off

Monday,  03/07/16  07:55 AM

And they're off!  In perfect weather, the 86 competiting teams of the 2016 Iditarod left Willow Lake yesterday afternoon, and are now mushing along.  Observers agree the trail conditions are perfect, hard and fast, but not icy.  The challenge for the would-be winners is holding their teams back so they have enough energy in another week.

Iditarod via Google street viewIf you're following along, here's another way: Google brings Street View to the Iditarod!  Cool.


Iditarod - bonfire at Finger LakeOne of the interesting thing about sled dog racing is that a lot of the action takes place at night; the dogs run better in the colder air, and the difference between experienced mushers who know what to do and rookies is more pronounced in the dark and cold.  The picture at left is classic Iditarod; the checkpoint at Finger Lake, bonfire burning, teams resting in the snow, framed by the Northern lights.

[The pictures are from the amazing Sebastian Schnuelle, a successful musher in his own right who is following and blogging the race, and taking a bunch of great pictures.  Be sure to follow him on the Iditarod website.]

The map below shows the location of all the mushers; most have past through Skwentna and are now on the trial to Finger Lake, with Nicholas Petit pushing ahead and leading the race.  From Finger Lake the teams start the long climb up the East side of the Alaska Range up to Rainy Pass.

Cheers and stay tuned!

Iditarod 3/7/16 at 6:48 AST - click to enbiggen
(click to enbiggen amazingly)

[All Iditarod 2016 posts]



Monday,  03/07/16  09:31 AM

A rare Monday morning filter pass ... I spent the weekend sick, and have now recovered ... did manage to get some interesting things done, including 3D-printing a fantabulous marble machine :)  And in the meantime, it's all happening...

Unbelievably, it is snowing in LA!  Yes indeed, when I left my house early this morning there was a serious downpour, and when I reached my client's office in download LA there was snow on the ground and on the cars.  Wow.  You live long enough you'll see everything.

the Reagans campaign in 1976Amid all the heated politics of this Presidential year, it's easy to forgot that this isn't the first Presidential race we've ever had, and some media are apparently unaware that America has seen hotly contested primaries before.  This is more proof, if any were needed, that the smartest people don't become journalists, and hence journalists are not the smartest people.  Ed Driscoll blogs about the "Gell Mann Amnesia Effect":

You open the newspaper to an article on some subject you know well.  In Murray Gell-Mann’s case, physics.  You read the article and see the journalist has absolutely no understanding of either the facts or the issues.  Often, the article is so wrong it actually presents the story backward - reversing cause and effect.  I call these the “wet streets cause rain” stories.  Paper’s full of them.  In any case, you read with exasperation or amusement the multiple errors in a story, and then turn the page to national or international affairs, and read as if the rest of the newspaper was somehow more accurate about Palestine than the baloney you just read.  You turn the page, and forget what you know.

This happens constantly.  Think about a subject you know well.  Does the media cover it accurately?  I'm confident to say no they do not, without even knowing what subject you chose.

This is why I'm not so worried about the decline of journalism.  Here's a boo-hoo article: What happens when no one wants to print stories anymore?  Well here's what happens: bloggers, Twitter, etc pick up the slack.  And somehow everyone is better informed than before, without professional journalists filtering the story.

I will admit there will always be a role for serious investigative journalism, like that chronicled in Spotlight.  But who will fund it?  A little appreciated site-effect of the awesome Craigslist is that it is putting newspapers out of business.

the Reagans in 1952 at the Stork ClubYou probably read that Nancy Reagan just passed away, at 94.  Here's a classic picture of the Reagans in 1952, at the Stork Club in New York.  Wow, another world.

Flyover Nation, by Dana LoeschSpeaking of another world, I love this: Flyover Nation.  The tagline is perfect: you can't run a country you've never been to.  It's bad grammar but makes a perfect point; our candidates generally come from the big cities on the coasts, but there's a whole big nation in between...

I see where Peyton Manning is going to retire.  So be it.  He had a great career and is going out on top.

Who could have predicted this?  The music startup meltdown.  "Startup founders overestimate just how much music matters to the average person.  When you love music, you surround yourself with similar people, and that creates a confirmation bias  - everyone wants to share playlists and discover new bands just as much as you and your friends!  But really, they don’t.  The average consumer is happy to listen to the radio or Pandora, see a few concerts or a festival once a year, and leave it at that."  Perfect point.

Apropos: check out These are the startups pitching at the Brooklyn TC meeting.  I go to a lot of these "speed dating for companies" events, and I must tell you 99% of all "companies" are really just "products", and not actually interesting ones at that.  I think too many people start companies to start companies, instead of having a genuine interest in solving a real problem.

TechCrunch sound a similar theme: After the gold rush.  "Those hordes of ambitious entrepreneurs still stampeding to the Bay Area in the hopes of building their Minimum Viable Product, getting into Y Combinator, and growing their app into the Next Big Thing–they're already too late. That era is behind us."  Mercifully.

the most dangerous writing app ... don't stop!Speaking of strange new products; here we have The most dangerous writing app.  You pick a time interval, start typing, and then you must continue to type, or you will lose everything.  Wow, *that* will blow up writer's block!  [Thanks, Josh!]

Did you see this?  Intuit are selling their Quicken business to private equity firm HIG Capital.  My longtime friend and ex-colleague Eric Dunn spearheaded this transaction, and will now be running the new Quicken business.  Best wishes to him!

Deep sea Octopus ... Casper?And here we have a brand new Octopus species discovered at 14,000 feet under the ocean: Meet Casper.  More proof that just when you think you've seen it all, you realize "it all" is so much more than you imagined.



Iditarod: day 2 ... up the Alaska Range

Tuesday,  03/08/16  09:34 AM

Nicholas Petit and team coming into Finger LakeThis morning we recap Iditarod 2016 day 2, as "the peleton" make their way up the Alaska Range to Rainy Pass.  The leaders have already started down the backside, through the most treacheous sections of the race, Dalzell Gorge, and then Farewall Burn.

[at left, Nicolas Petit and team]


Dallas Seavey and team through Rainy PassLeader Nicholas Petit has nearly made it to Nikolai (#12 on the map below), closely followed by defending champion Dallas Seavey (#16) and his father, four-time champion Mitch Seavey (#19).  Wade Mars, Hugh Neff, Peter Kaiser, perennial contender Aliy Zirkle, and brothers Lance and Jason Mackey complete the top ten.  No surprises so far.  Many of these teams will stop and take their 24-hour rest in Nikolai.

[at right, Dallas Seavey and team]


Dalzell GorgeThe reports are that the Dalzell Gorge is in much better shape this year than it was in 2014, a year when many competitors wiped out there, and more than a few had to drop out afterward.  Plenty of snow and good trails. 

[at left, Dalzell Gorge trail]


Farewell BurnSimilarly for the Farewell Burn, a desolate area in the middle of nowhere where you are surrounded by the ghosts of old trees burned by a fire.

[at right, Farewall Burn...]


sunset into NikolaiRace veterans say if you can make it to Nikolai, you can make it to Nome.  Of course there are still 700 miles to go, long cold stretches along the Yukon River, and icy wind along the coast of Norton Bay.  The possibly of dogs encountering moose.  And the ever-present possibility of bad weather.

[at left, sunset coming into Nikolai]


[The pictures are from the amazing Sebastian Schnuelle, a successful musher in his own right who is following and blogging the race, and taking a bunch of great pictures.  Be sure to follow him on the Iditarod website.]

Onward to Nome!

Iditarod 3/8/16 at 7:49 AST - click to enbiggen
(click to enbiggen amazingly)

[All Iditarod 2016 posts]



Tuesday,  03/08/16  09:44 AM

return ... to zeroHa ... did I say I had recovered from my cold?  Kidding.  Precelebration is the root of all failure.  Anyway, yesterday was one of those days; I spent the whole day refactoring some code to make it better, only to realize at the end that it was not actually better.  This morning I'm back to the code as it was on the weekend.  Sigh.  I have been enjoying the Iditarod so far, as always (go DeeDee!), and am now deep into the mysteries of SVG ... and making a filter pass.

So this is cool: MIT scientists stunned by scalable quantum computer.  Apparently they have now made five "qubits".  I remain skeptical about quantum computing, but then, Einstein was skeptical about quantum mechanics, too.  Worth watching.

Apropos: this McKinsey report (!): the growing potential of quantum computing.

Not all research is equally cool: this paper appears to imply glaciers have gender.  Wow, that's about all I can say.  You almost think this must be a hoax, but then you realize, as a hoax it would be too obvious.

ice fishing in Astana, KazakhstanHere we have Ice fishing in one of the world's coldest cities (Astana, Kazakhstan).  I've been to Astana, but fortunately it was in Spring.  Astana is not only the coldest capital city in the world ... it is also one of the warmest.  I guess the weather in the Kazahkstanian steppes is ... variable.  A good place to be a climatologist!  (of any gender :)

Brad Feld with an interesting rumination: No one gets out of this alive.  (Where by "this" he means "life".)  "While I fantasize about the singularity and hope I live long enough to have my consciousness uploaded into something that allows me to continue to engage indefinitely, even if it’s a simulation of mortality, I accept the reality that life is finite.So far ... :)

3D TV ... makes a comeback, this time without the funky glassesThe glasses-free technology that made me believe in 3D TV again.  The human factor here is pretty important.  After watching Avatar I was convinced 3D would take over, but it hasn't, not even in movies, and I think that's because of the glasses.  The same problem that will afflict VR.

Leam Motion's VR controllerSpeaking of VR: Leap Motion's Minority Report -style gesture controller gets smarter, faster, and more accurate.  This is way cool, the input side of the VR equation is just as important as the output side.

Oblong's Mezzanine in medicine: Mercy Virtual Care centerAnd more speaking of VR (and more Brad Feld): Mercy Hospital virtual care center supported by Oblong.  Remote healthcare is one of the most compelling applications for AR/VR, removing the barriers of space and time to bring expertise to people who need it.  Oblong was founded by the people who made Minority Report, and began as a company making gesture controllers; their Mezzanine product now drives rooms with the walls covered in monitors, and supports wands as well as gloves.  Much better for business and medical settings where people are not going to wear goggles or gloves.

NASA tech: cordless vacuums and so much moreAll of which goes to show, you need more NASA technology in your life.  A nicely done post on the NASA tumblr which shows off some of the tech developed for space which later made it into our lives (and no, Tang is not included :)  I think the ongoing research on human bodies and how they are affected by space is some of their most important work.

NASA also do a lot of research on Solar storms...

solar flare!


Iditarod: through the heart of Alaska, taking 24s...

Wednesday,  03/09/16  08:11 AM

mushing into Nikolai... perfect racing conditionsGood morning and welcome to Iditarod central!

We've reached the "middle" of the race, day 3, and despite the great mushing conditions there has been a gradual decanting.  You can now see the teams which are in it to win - probably about 20 left - and those which are in it to finish - everyone else.

[left - mushing into Nikolai]


Wade Mars coming into Nikolai ... where he is taking his "24"At this point it becomes a little tough to see who's where because of the 24-hour rests.  Everyone has to take a 24-hour rest at a checkpoint, and some mushers do it "early" at Nikolai or McGrath, many/most do it at Takotna, and some do it "late" at Ophir or even Cripple.  A lot of strategy in this, and it makes the teams hard to compare.

[right - Wade Mars into Nikolai, taking his "24"]


Aliy Zirkle into NikolaiThe strongest teams seem to be defending champion Dallas Seavey (late 24), his four-time champion father, Mitch Seavey (middle 24), Wade Mars (early 24), Noah Burmeister, who is driving his brother Aaron's team this year, Brent Sass, Nicholas Petit, Aliy Zirkle, and the other "usual suspects".  No surprises so far.

[left - Aliy Zirkle + team into Nikolai]


the dogyard in NikolaiAlso complicating efforts to figure out what's going on: many mushers take breaks outside the checkpoints, which is nice and quiet for their team (and for them), and which hides the amount of rest they've already had.  In a few days those rests will tell, and some teams will be going 12mph while others go 8mph.

[right - the dogyard in Nikolai, open for business]


Lance Mackey leaving Nikolai (at high speed!)Another interesting development is that many teams now have a "caboose", a little sled behind the main sled which allows the musher to rest dogs.  For years mushers have rested dogs on their sled (up to 2), now they can rest two more in the caboose.  Dallas Seavey is a practitioner, you can see his sled setup in the picture at left.

[Dallas Seavey and team leaving Nikolai ... at high speed]


Mitch Seavey's team taking a break in NikolaiTeams like Mitch Seavey's shown at right which have been running some doges while resting others are probably [a little] slower but [a lot] fresher than team which are running all their dogs.  This is hard to see now - it looks like the team is just running more and resting less - but it will definitely show up later.

[right - team Mitch Seavey taking a break]


Dallas Seavey accepts the award for the first musher to reach McGrathThe Iditarod is an important part of the traditions in central Alaska; the little towns along the route each celebrate the race coming through in their own way.  Many have special awards for the first or last musher to come through.

[left - Dallas Seavey accepts the award for the first musher to reach McGrath]


Noah Burmeister quietly mushing along into McGrathAccording to the reports the trail is in great shape, with plenty of snow covering the ground, but not too much fresh snow to make breaking the trail necessary.  And not too much ice - so far...

[right - Noah Burmeister quietly mushing along into McGrath]


Aliy Zirkle and team flying into TakotnaOnward ... after tomorrow all the teams will be through or well into their 24s, and I'll probably have to start posting twice a day to take in all the action.

[left - Aliy Zirkle + team flying into Takotna]


[The pictures are from the amazing Sebastian Schnuelle, a successful musher in his own right who is following and blogging the race, and taking a bunch of great pictures.  Be sure to follow him on the Iditarod website.]

Below is the situation at 7:49 this morning (Alaska time) ... please click to enbiggen.  You can see some of the leading teams have left Ophir and are headed up to Cripple, where they'll take their 24.  Others have stopped in Ophir, still others have stopped in McGrath or Nikolai, and there are plenty of others along the trail.  Quite a story yet to be told in the days ahead...

Iditarod 3/9/16 at 7:49 AST - click to enbiggen
(click to enbiggen amazingly)

[All Iditarod 2016 posts]



the Iditarod race flow tracker!

Wednesday,  03/09/16  11:01 AM

Hi Iditarodians ... I am excited to announce the Iditarod race flow tracker!

For years I have tried to find a "better" way to watch the Iditarod, the ongoing ebb and flow of teams across nine days of racing.  And here is my modest effort to do so:

Iditarod flow tracker - click to launch!
(please click to launch!)

This tracker shows a realtime graph of the top mushers*, where they are (y-axis) at each point in time (x-axis), and how fast they are going (slope).  The Iditarod checkpoints are shown along the right, and Alaska time is along the bottom.  The graph extends "up" and "right" over time, as the race unfolds.

With this view, you can learn a lot by watching :)  Rests are shown as horizontal lines (many but not all at checkpoints).  A team's speed is shown by the slope of their line, and the length shows how long they've run between rests.

I'm going to keep playing with this through the next week - your comments are eagerly solicited - but even now in baby form I think it's pretty cool.

* by default the graph shows the top 15 mushers + teams.  The starting position and number of mushers can be changed in the fields at the top.  You can also "clip" the graph by entering a mile number.  This has the effect of zooming into the upper right corner, where the action is!

[All Iditarod 2016 posts]



(not) too busy

Wednesday,  03/09/16  11:10 PM

(not) too busyGreetings, blog public, how is everyone "out there"?  I've decided it officially feels like 2016 now, the new year is no longer the new year, and we're well into the meat of it.  (Just in case you wanted to know.)  I've been too busy coding on various projects to take a breath and step back and get perspective.  Maybe I'll do that.  But in the meantime...  I'll just blog.

So, even NPR agrees that Obamacare has failed.  The question now is what do we do about it.  This Genie cannot go back into the bottle, so we must move forward to make the program work.

Ann Althouse thinks it's time Marco Rubio suspended his campaign, before the Florida primary where he will take voters away from Ted Cruz, and perhaps give Donald Trump another victory: "It seems obvious to me that if Rubio is interested in stopping Trump, he should get out before Florida and allow as many of his votes as possible to go to Cruz. He should endorse Cruz now. It's the one thing he can do, and since it is so clear, if he fails to do it, he's responsible for Trump's getting the nomination."  I doubt very much he will do this, but it's a great point.

behind the curtain: Blue Origin's headquartersThis is excellent: Behind the curtain, Ars goes inside Blue Origin's secretive rocket factory.  Interesting that Blue Origin are now "coming out" and going public.

Blue Origin are often cast as a "rival" to SpaceX, but I think both companies are on the same side, of finding a commercially viable path into space.  They're going about it differently and are at different points in their development, but I see their efforts as complimentary.

Interesting point: Chris Nuttall, author of Ark Royal, notes that space science fiction usually envisions the military in space as being like the Navy, rather than the Air Force.  (His own books, for example!)  He ponders what it might look like with Air Forces in space...

Dos Equis exiles the Most Interesting Man in the World to MarsThis is classic: Dos Equis exiles Most Interesting Man in the World to Mars.  A perfect end to a great campaign!

It's interesting to think about ... what makes someone interesting?  I think it has to do with unexpectedness.

Mark Suster on falling valuations and LA's tech scene.  I've never met Mark but he just seems like a great guy.  I would love to have Upfront back a company I was involved with, and Mark is the biggest reason.  And yes, "By any definition we've been in a funding bubble for years... with a massive increase of supply of capital undoubtedly valuations go up and you end up with overfunding."

Aston Martin DB11 ... beautiful! (too bad it isn't electric)Too bad it isn't electric :) ... The Aston Martin DB11 arrives with 600 horsepower, stunning design.  Yes it does.

News you can use: Apple's software SVP says quitting multitasking apps not necessary, won't offer improved battery life.  I've been telling my friends this for years, but they didn't believe me.  Maybe they'll believe him...

Use a pun, go to jail: The curse of people who can't stop making puns.  Clearly, they should be punished!



Iditarod: the 24s are over, let the racing begin!

Thursday,  03/10/16  08:30 AM

Martin Buser's lead dog Fiddle takes a well deserved restGood morning Iditarodians ... it's been an interesting race so far, right?  Although no big surprises, either in the field or with the trail.  Most of the leaders have now taken or are now taking their "24" - the 24-hour rest they must take somewhere along the route - and that signals the start of the real race. 

[right: Martin Buser's lead dog Fiddle takes a well deserved rest]

Defending champion Dallas Seavey was leading the race by a pretty wide margin, and mushed all the way to Cripple before taking his 24.  His father Mitch, himself a four-time champion, opted for the book move and took his in Takotna.  Other leaders are or were resting in McGrath.  And another ex-champion Jeff King looks like he's headed through Cripple, and going all the way to Ruby before resting his team.  Different strategies ... which one will win?


Iditaflow on 3/10/15 at 7:30 AKSTI'm loving my little Iditaflow tracker, it makes visualizing and pondering all these permutations much easier.  If you haven't already, please check it out.  (And for those of you who have, thanks for the nice feedback :)  I'm pondering a change to analyze rest/run cycles, and maybe even project when a musher would reach Nome.  Stay tuned!

[left: Iditaflow on 3/10/16 at 7:30 AKST... please click to enbiggen!]


Mitch Seavey's sled (showing "caboose")Meanwhile here are some more great pictures from the trail, courtesy of erstwhile mushing champion and now official Iditarod blogger Sebastian Schnuelle...

Here's an interesting analysis of the runtime and rest schedules of the leading mushers so far.  By carrying dogs and allowing them to rest, teams can run further and rest less, but their speed will be less, too.

[right: Mitch Seavey's sled, showing the "caboose" where dogs can rest while the team continues running.]



Welcome to McGrathWelcome to McGrath!  I love this poster... to the small villages along the Iditarod route this race is a big deal, and in fact it's a big deal all throughout Alaska too.


DeeDee Jonrowe and her team in their signature pinkHere's a great shot of my favorite (and many others') DeeDee Jonrowe, flying along the team with her team in their signature pink.  DeeDee isn't quite up with the leaders this year - currently, she's in about 45th place - but let's hope she makes a late surge and moves up. 


The race isn't even halfway yet and it's hard to judge positions; a well rested team can make up a lot of ground on a tired team along the ice at the end.



Kelly Maizner's team coming into OphirHere's Kelly Maixner's team, coming into Ophir; Kelly is always a strong contender but looks especially good this year. 


He has a more traditional sled setup and runs a more traditional rest/run schedule, but it's working just fine so far.  There's a reason the conventional wisdom is called wisdom :)


Brent Sass flying into CrippleAnd here's a beautiful shot of Brent Sass and his team, flying into Cripple.  The dark coats and lime green booties are an especially effective combination in the dusk, don't you think?  Brent was tapped to be among the contenders this year and he his, posting some of the fastest point-to-point times.



Here's a shot of the race situation as of this morning.  You can see Jeff King way out ahead, having bypassed McGrath, Takotna, Ophir, and Cripple; he's obviously planning to run all the way to Ruby and take his 24 there.  Meanwhile Dallas Seavey is in the middle of his 24 at Cripple, and there's a big pile of mushers at Ophir too.  Onward!


Iditarod 3/10/16 at 7:20 AKST - please click to enbiggen!

(please click to enbiggen amazingly)


[All Iditarod 2016 posts]


Thursday,  03/10/16  11:20 PM

Have you ever had a day when you were looking forward to working on something, but you had a bunch of meetings and calls and other things which were more urgent to do first?  And you fought your way through all that, and then finally started working on the thing, but then discovered it was harder and less elegant than you thought?  And you ended up all disappointed and frustrated?  Well I just did :(  Maybe I can blog my way out of it...

Amazon AirThis is pretty interesting: Amazon leases planes to take greater control of shipping and delivery costs.  I was just emailing with my longtime reader and commentator Marc Cote about this...  he noted:

 "I was speaking with someone about it; they could not believe Amazon would do that. I said that obviously Amazon/Bezos thinks like I do, I usually believe that with the right knowledge it is easier, cheaper, and more effective to own a process than not. And Amazon is definitely large enough to own this process. UPS and Fed-Ex are going to feel this one in their wallets a little further down the line."

I think he's right.  It’s kind of weird because the conventional wisdom is that a company does something in-house if they have a competitive advantage in doing so, and outsources the things other people do better. For most companies “things other people do better” is a big category and they stay focused. But Amazon seem to take on anything and do it well.

I can remember not so long ago it was funny to think that an online book and movie site would create their own hosting infrastructure. Why not just outsource to someone else? But they have now become the people who do it better, and the whole world is hosted on Amazon. Who knows maybe they will end up in the freight business, would not be surprised if they are better and cheaper than UPS and FedEx.  In the meantime, we all get cheaper and faster shipping!

Walmart closing storesMeanwhile: Walmart's customers are too broke to shop.  This article describes a "perfect storm" for America's largest retailer, in which revenue is flat due to lower customer spending, and pricing is held down by online competition like Amazon.  Other negative factors include rising minimum wages.  I'm kind of worried about this, Walmart is a bellwether for a big part of our economy.

The follow on effect of this is bad for poor areas; people can't spend as much, Walmart has to raise wages so they hire fewer people, so those people can't spend as much, and Walmart closes stores in those areas, so those people lose a big local store with lots of stuff at bargain prices.  One of the most insidious examples where government "help" hurts the very people they're trying to help.

I meant to share this before, this seems like a perfect time:

minimum wave ... the worst idea to help the poor, ever

I find that minimum wage is a perfect litmus test for whether I can have a conversation with someone about the economy.  If they don't understand that a minimum wage law hurts poor people, then it will be hopeless.

Speaking of really bad ideas, Microsoft starts testing advertising inside Windows 10.  Add that to the long list of reasons not to upgrade from Windows 7.  Honestly I don't know what these people think.

Department of recursion: The link above is to Forbes' website, which now features a lockout if you are running an ad blocker.  (Add that the list of reasons not to visit Forbes website.)

containers, VMs, and DockerHere's something you might find interesting: A nice introduction to containers, VMs, and Docker.  Just in case you, like me, were wondering what all the fuss is about.

I have been working with a client who are using Docker, and I must tell you so far I'm underwhelmed.  The theoretical ease-of-use and performance benefits seems to be swallowed up by the complexity, especially when it comes to device support and networking.  Onward.

Van Gogh flower paradeAnd here's something cooler than the other side of a pillow: A flower parade in the Netherlands featuring floats inspired by Van Gogh.  Some people have too much time on their hands, and I am so very glad they do!




Iditarod: to the Yukon, and beyond!

Friday,  03/11/16  09:15 AM

Nicholas Petit mushing into CrippleAnother day, another day of mushing for the Iditarod competitors.  The leaders are now on the Yukon River, heading West.  This marks the halfway point in the race, both in terms of mileage and mindset.  Making that left turn, heading for Nome, with the Alaska Range a distant memory ... it feels like you're almost there.

[right: Nicholas Petit mushes his team into Cripple.  Love the jackets, looking sharp!]

Of course, you still have several days left, no sleep, tired and hungry dogs, and the possibily of high winds and sheet ice on the coast, not to mention the possibility of crummy weather.  Who can forget 2014 ... Jeff King was nearly to Safety, leading the race, when a sleetstorm forced him off the trail and he had to abandon.


Ken Anderson and his team fly into CrippleAliy Zirkle has now taken over the lead, followed closely by Brent Sass.  Dallas and Mitch Seavey are also right there, as are Noah Burmeister and Robert Sorlie.  I think one of them will win, but which one?

[left: Ken Anderson and his team flying along]


musher Jim Lanier, author of Beyond Ophir, competing in his 5th decade of IditarodsI was reading Sebastian Schnuelle's excellent posts from the trail (all of these pictures are his, by the way), and he shared this picture of 75-year-old Jim Lanier, who has now competed in five decades of the Iditarod.  Wow.  He's the author of Beyond Ophir, a perfect light read recounting all some of his adventures along the trail.  Highly recommended.

[right: Jim Lanier, in Ophir]


Iditaflow! - click to enbiggenStill loving my Iditaflow race tracker, this is such a good way to visualize what is going on.  (As opposed to just watching the GPS tracker, which is great for seeing the situation "now", but not how it got that way, or how it is likely to evolve.)

Next up: run/rest stats, and finish predictions!

This idea by the way came from the Yukon Quest website, and the design came from  I just reimplemented it.


Wade Mars mushing out of CrippleA team I haven't mentioned much but who are very much in the hunt are Wade Mars; this is a great shot of them leaving Cripple.

In reading about this year's race, it seems a key challenge for each musher is how to keep their teams from running too fast.  The conditions are perfect, but this is a 1,000 mile race and you want your team fresh at the end.


So here's the race situation as of this morning.  You can see Aliy is on the Yukon, mushing toward Galena, with several other teams close behind.  Most of the race is still heading North through Cripple and toward Ruby.  Onward!

Iditarod - 3/11/16 at 8:04 AKST - please click to enbiggen amazingly!
(please click to enbiggen amazingly)

[All Iditarod 2016 posts]



Devo: what we do

Friday,  03/11/16  11:57 AM

This ... is like the coolest thing ever:

(please click to play video)

[Found via the always interesting jwz]



Iditarod: Brent Sass in the lead, crazed attack on Jeff King and Aliy Zirkle

Saturday,  03/12/16  09:05 AM

Jeff King's dog Nash, killed by a crazed attacker outside NulatoWow, horrible news from the Iditarod overnight, some crazy attacker apparently drove a snowmobile right into the teams of first Aliy Zirkle and then Jeff King as they were coming into Nulato.  Aliy was okay although one of her dogs was injured, but Jeff King's dog Nash was killed and two of his other dogs were injured. 

I'm speechless with anger and sadness that someone would do this.  The Iditarod is like the Tour de France, it's a race that takes place out in the world, amid the world, and anyone can watch.  That's what's great about it.  But one crazy person can ruin it, causing injury and affecting the race.  Don't know what can be done, it is what it is, but it's too bad.

[at right, Jeff King's dog Nash, who was killed]

Meanwhile out on the trail, Brent Sass is stretching out his lead.  I know you are watching the Iditaflow tracker :) so you will have seen, he was slow going from Galena to Nulato (slope of line not very steep), but he continues to mush along and has a considerable lead. 

BTW tracker update: added run/rest times, #runs, and %running, as well as indicators for 24- and 8- hour rests.

The tracker below shows him and Mitch Seavey both in Kaltag, but Mitch still has to take an 8 hour rest, and Brent does not.  I think actually Aliy Zirkle and Dallas Seavey are both ahead of Mitch for the same reason.  Watch the Iditaflow tracker and you will know all :)

Here are some more pictures from the trail, courtesy of Sebastian Schnuelle, who continue to be a wonderful reporter on the trail (as well as a musher in his own right).


Brent Sass's dog Celia, in GalenaBrent Sass's lead dog Celia, in Galena.  Note that in dog sled racing both dogs and humans of both genders compete equally.


Aliy Zirkle and her beautiful team out on the Yukon RiverAliy Zirkle and her beautiful team out on the Yukon River.


Brent Sass and his team, on the YukonBrent Sass and his team, on the Yukon.  I continue to love the lime green boots.


Mitch Seavey and team on the YukonMitch Seavey and team, on the Yukon.  If you've been following the tracker you will have seen, Mitch is making more runs and shorter ones, and resting more.  But he's right in there, and his team may be fresher at the end.


Noah Burmeister and team, outside GalenaNoah Burmeister's team, outside Galena.  Noah has taken more rests than anyone, and is in the hunt.  You'll remember this is his brother Aaron's team, and they've done exceedingly well in the past.


The Yukon RiverThis is the view you would have as a musher, out along the frozen Yukon River, heading West.  Onward to Nome!


Here's the GPS tracker view of the race this morning:

Iditarod - 3/12/16 at 8:03 AKST - please click to enbiggen!
(please click to enbiggen amazingly)


[All Iditarod 2016 posts]



more blanket

Saturday,  03/12/16  06:35 PM





short night, late night

Saturday,  03/12/16  11:20 PM

A short night, late night, filter pass, as we await our longer blanket in the morning...

AlphaGo in actionHave you been following the "Go" match between Google's AlphaGo AI and Go champion Lee Se-dol?  It's pretty amazing.  Se-Dol finally won a match after losing three in a row.  Some things that stand out for me: First, Go is far more complicated than Chess, from a "possible moves" standpoint.  So complicated that brute force cannot work, even for a fast supercomputer.  So this is a battle of heuristics.  Second, AlphaGo is playing "good Go".  Several observers have called its moves beautiful.  Third, AlphaGo is making unexpected moves.  It's creators are constantly amazed and surprised by what it comes up with.  So interesting.

Joi Ito, director of MIT Media Lab, posted a nice article on DRM, the World Wide Web consortium, Net neutrality, and other tech policy.  "Intentionally or unintentionally, poorly crafted or outdated laws and technical standards threaten to undermine security, privacy and the viability of our most promising new technologies and networks.

Scott Greenfield Tweet about political discourseGlenn Reynolds' Tweet of the Day, from Scott Greenfield.  Agree completely.  (As I've often written, "the smartest people don't become journalists, so journalists are not the smartest people".)   This is why the Internet is so important.

Dave Winer: The Political River.  An endless meta-RSS feed of posts on political blogs and websites.  Just in case you don't want 23-year-old humanities majors to be your source of news :)

As much as I bemoan all the politics on my Facebook feed, at least my friends are not 23-year-old humanities majors ... or at least, most of them aren't ... even though they sometimes post as if they are!

Seth Godin: the difference between confidence and arrogance.  Ah yes, this is certainly a fine line for me.  As it is for many.

BB8 visits JPL!Of course: BB8 visits JPL.  Where the real space robots are made. 
I love the visitor's badge, nice touch.

Solar Eclipse from Alaska AirThe recent Solar Eclipse, as viewed from Alaska Air.  You may know they rerouted a flight to give passengers this view.  Awesome!

As you watch this, you can't help but think, what did ancient people make of this?  It could only be explained as the work of Gods, right?

And finally, of course Dire Straits Walk of Life improves every movie.  Of course.


Iditarod: Leaders reach Norton Sound, Seaveys one two

Sunday,  03/13/16  11:39 AM

Hugh Neff mushes into NulatoI enjoyed a great sleep last night, but the leaders in the 2016 Iditarod did not; they pressed on from Kaltag to Unalakleet and then headed up the Coast to Shaktoolik.

[right: Hugh Neff mushes into Nulato.  Awesome jackets, team!]

At this point there seem to be five teams in it to win; defending champion Dallas Seavey and his father Mitch, also an ex-champion, Brent Sass, Aliy Zirkle, and Wade Mars.  I'd rate their chances of winning in that order, although much can happen in the last 200 miles.


Iditaflow ... into ShaktoolikIt's interesting, in years past I would stay up late and get up early at this point in the race, staring at the GPS tracker to watch the race unfold.  This year I slept soundly knowing I could see how everything unfolded on theIditaflow race tracker.  And indeed, you can!

Here's the view I saw when I woke up; Brent Sass (brown line) was in the lead, but Dallas Seavey (black line) was gaining, followed by Aliy Zirkle (olive), and Wade Mars (green).  Mitch Seavey (red) passed both Wade and Aliy, but then chose to take a four-hour rest before reaching Unalakleet.  The leaders all rested in Unalakleet until Mitch got there.  Mitch passed right through after a short rest, and then Brent and Dallas took off, followed later by Aliy and Wade.  Mitch was first to Shaktoolik, followed closely by Dallas, and Brent was almost there, but going somewhat slower.  The whole story is right there in those wiggly lines :)

Iditaflow predictions as of 3/13/16 at 10:30 PTIditaflow feature update: yes, I added predicted finish times.  Click the predict button and the algorithms will churn away and tell you when they think each musher will finish.  Here's the predictions as of 10:30 this morning; Dallas and Mitch will be in a dead heat, and Brent is predicted to finish ahead of Aliy and Wade.  If this is right both Seaveys would beat the overall record of 8 days 14 hours.


Robert Sorlie mushes into KaltagHere are some more pictures from yesterday, again taken by veteran musher Sebastian Schnuelle who is on the trail.  Be sure to check out his blog posts on for an expert take on all the action, as well as more pictures.

[left: Robert Sorlie mushes into Kaltag.]  Robert is not doing quite as well as predicted; his team are making great progress with no problems, but he's stopped a lot (37 times, more than anyone in the top ten besides Noah Burmeister) and has not really been in contention.


Joar Ulsom mushes into KaltagJoar Leifseth Ulsom mushes into Kaltag.  Joar has another strong team who have been "up there" all race, but not really in it to win it.  Definite top ten though.


John Baker mushes into KaltagHere's John Baker and his team mushing toward Kaltag.  John is an ex-champion and hanging around, currently in 10th place.  He's known as someone who will pick up teams at the end as they tire and he does not.  I don't think he'll win, but top five is a possibility.


Here's the GPS tracker view.  The checkpoint where the Yukon meets Norton Sound is Unalakleet, from there the race heads north along the coast.  Shaktoolik is the checkpoint along the coast where the leaders are...  they're heading up toward the ice.  Onward!

Iditarod - 3/13/16 at 12:07 AKST - please click to enbiggen
(please click to enbiggen amazingly)

[All Iditarod 2016 posts]




Sunday,  03/13/16  10:15 PM

moving!Wow, so much going on!  We're moving (!), my daughter Meg is out to visit (!), and it seems like Murphy is working overtime making sure his Law is obeyed.  Meanwhile the Iditarod is coming to a head, there was great cycle racing this week at Tirreno-Adriatico and Paris-Nice, March Madness is upon us, and ... I'm blogging!

Good to know: Don't bother with Zen, stress helps you perform better.  Stay tuned for my report on a test of this :)

SpaceX Falcon HeavyMark your calendar: SpaceX Falcon Heavy to make maiden voyage in November.  Three booster stages means three attempts to land a booster, all at once!

The real news here is that this booster will have enough thrust to take people into orbit.  Yippee.

ExoMars blasts off!Meanwhile: Is there [already] life on Mars?  ExoMars mission is set to find out.  "A spacecraft created to detect the atmospheric gases of Mars blasted off into space Monday morning."  Excellent!  (More here.)

Bitcoin: After the Satoshi roundtable, is there a way to bridge the divide?  An excellent survey of the current situation and paths forward.  The tension between central management and a decentralized architecture is so interesting.  Like the Internet, Bitcoin was built to survive ... but how and where is hard to predict.  Meanwhile the technology is most interesting :)

Hendo hoverboard (that really hovers)21st Century: This hoverboard that actually hovers is real and it's spectacular.  Tony Hawk is involved, so I suspect this *is* real and it *is* (will be) spectacular.

It seems to rely on the floor being a "track", which limits the ultimate coolness.  Still.

working video: table with hidden compartmentIf you love woodworking videos (and you know you do), check out this awesome one showing Dustin Penner building a table with a hidden compartment.  What is it about woodworking that's so cool?  (And that makes you want to run out and do it yourself :)


Iditarod: In the Nome stretch, Seaveys vs Sass

Monday,  03/14/16  09:10 AM

Brent Sass and team on Norton SoundGood morning Iditarodians...  overnight the race for first really coalesced into a three team fight to the finish.  Defending champion Dallas Seavey looks like he's going to repeat, followed by his father Mitch, also a champion, and Brent Sass, who has run a great race but looks to be fading. 

[right: Brent Sass and team on Norton Sound]

Inspection of the Iditaflow race tracker shows that Brent has consistently run longer and slower than both Seaveys, and it doesn't look like he'll have the speed to pass them.  Still stranger things have happened (like the finish in 2014), so we watch. 


Aliy Zirkle and team at ShaktoolikAliy Zirkle has consolidated fourth, finishing in the top five yet again (!), and it looks like there's an interesting race shaping up for fifth, with Wade Mars ahead of Peter Kaiser, Joar Leifseth Ulsom, Noah Burmeister, and Nicholas Petit.  Jeff King has made it up into the top ten which is amazing considering the attack he suffered at Nulato.

[left: Aliy Zirkle and team approaching Shaktoolik]


Dallas Seavey and team at ShaktoolikThe leaders are just now approaching White Mountain, where they have to take a manditory eight hour break.  After that it's a "sprint" of about 100 miles to Nome, along the coast.  My algorithms are predicting that Dallas could break his own record of 8 days, 14 hours, so stay tuned for that!

[right: Dallas Seavey and team leave Shaktoolik]


Mitch Seavey and team at ShaktoolikMeanwhile, here are some more amazing pictures from the trail, taken by musher / blogger / photographer Sebastian Schnuelle.  Be sure to follow his updates on

[left: Mitch Seavey and team outside Shaktoolik]


Wade Mars and team outside ShaktoolikWade Mars and his team outside Shaktoolik.  Wade has run a great race, steady all along, but has been just a tick slower than the Seaveys and Sass.


Peter Kaiser and team outside ShaktoolikPeter Kaiser and his team outside Shaktoolik.  Peter is coming on strong and has an outside shot at the top five.


Wade Mars and team on Norton SoundHere's a great shot of Wade Mars and his team on the ice of Norton Sound.  Yes, there is wind. Whew.


Mitch Seavey and team on Norton SoundMitch Seavey and his team on Norton Sound.  Unlike a lot of mushers Mitch doesn't "help" by running along the sled or poling.  He saves his energy for taking care of his team, and it's worked out well for him.  Let's see whether he can catch his son!


Brent Sass reaches Koyuk (in first!)Brent Sass reaches Koyuk (in first!)  This will probably be the high point of his race, before he was passed by Dallas and Mitch.  Still loving the fluorescent green booties :)


DeeDee Jonrowe outside GalenaAnd speaking of fluorescent, this shot of DeeDee Jonrowe outside Galena.  DeeDee hasn't been up with the leaders this year but she's running a solid steady race, and will finish in the top half.


Here's the GPS tracker view as of this morning:

Iditarod - 3/14/16 at 10:00 AKST - please click to enbiggen
(please click to enbiggen amazingly)

[All Iditarod 2016 posts]



Iditarod: Seaveys and Sass, sprint to the finish

Monday,  03/14/16  07:15 PM

Dallas Seavey and team pulling out of White Mountain, on the Nome strechI thought I'd check in with another Iditarod update, since it's likely that the race will be won sometime late tonight / early tomorrow morning.  Checking the Iditaflow race tracker we see that defending champion Dallas Seavey is now solidly in first, having just completed his mandatory 8-hour rest in White Mountain; he is now off on the final stretch of 100 miles to Nome.  His Dad (and ex-champion) Mitch Seavey is about 45 minutes behind, with about 30 minutes left in his rest.  Third place Brent Sass is now about two hours behind, with 1:45 left in his break.  Those are the three teams which have a chance to win, and honestly Dallas looks pretty good.

[right: Dallas Seavey and team pulling out of White Mountain, on the Nome stretch]


Dallas Seavey and team first into ElimChecking the slopes of the vertical lines you can see his speed in the past 100 miles was at least as good as Mitch's, and considerably faster than Brent's.  He is not quite on pace to beat his record of 8 days 14 hours, but he could pick it up in the Nome stretch and yet beat it.  That would have him finishing at 4:00AM in the morning Alaska Time.

[left: Dallas Seavey and team first into Elim]


Aliy Zirkle and team into ElimFourth place Aliy Zirkle is six hours behind; she's also in White Mountain in her break, and although she's run a great race as usual she is probably out of it.  Fifth place Wade Mars is just getting to White Mountain, closely pursued by Peter Kaiser. 

[right: Aliy Zirkle pulling into Elim]


Joar Leifseth Ulsom on the way to White MountainThey're going to have quite a race for top five, and I'd have to give the edge to Peter based on apparent running speed.  Also in the hunt are Norwegians Joar Leifseth Ulsom, about an hour behind Wade and Peter, and Ralph Johannessen, about 1:30 behind.

[left: beautiful shot of Joan Leifseth Ulsom and his team mushing along to White Mountain]


Brent Sass and his team at ElimHere are some more cool shots from the route, as usual taken by Sebastian Schnuelle, who is blogging on the official Iditarod website.  Having an experienced racer out there giving hour-to-hour updates from the checkpoints is so cool.

[right: Brent Sass and his team pulling into Elim with those trademark lime green booties]


Wade Mars and team at ElimNice shot of Wade Mars and his team pulling into Elim.  He waited just long enough to leave Elim before Peter Kaiser got there; they're going to have quite a race to White Mountain.


Peter Kaiser and his team flying to White MountainAnd here is Peter Kaiser and his team, flying out of Elim toward White Mountain.  Currently he has over 1mph on Wade (8 vs 7), that could be enough to move into the top five.


Noah Burmeister and team at ElimNoah Burmeister's team in Elim, raring to go.  They are definitely in the competition for best dressed with snazzy jackets and matching boots.


Jeff King and his team at ElimHere's an interesting shot of 10th place Jeff King and his team pulling into Elim.  Jeff is quite an innovator; he pioneered the "caboose" behind the main sled, and now has this interesting stovepipe / cooker arrangement for heating dog water and dog food quickly.  Jeff seems to have recovered amazingly from that unfortunate incident in Nulato.


So here's the situation: the top five teams all at White Mountain with 100 miles along the coast left to Nome. 
There's still the Safety checkpoint but most of the time it's just in and out. 
The first teams are likely to reach Nome late tonight / early tomorrow morning.

Iditarod - 3/14/16 at 18:45 AKST - please click to enbiggen
(please click to enbiggen amazingly)

[All Iditarod 2016 posts]



happy Pi day!

Monday,  03/14/16  11:24 PM

happy Pi day!Hi everyone ... happy Pi day.  Did you compute some digits?  (NASA did...)

Weird: Mathematicians discover a conspiracy in prime numbers.  I'm not a number theorist, but it seems likely that this is a result of representing primes in base 10, and not actually a fundamental asymmetry.

The trouble with TPP, the case against ratifying the Trans Pacific Partnership.  Doesn't surprise me at all to find there are tons of unwanted side affects when you try to manage economic relationships this closely.  Bah.  Let the markets decide...

The new WASPs: it isn't a Rand vs Hobbes world, after all.  "One of the great fictions we've perpetrated on ourselves is the belief that we ultimately face a choice between Ayn Rand and Thomas Hobbes: an atomistic, individualistic, capitalistic ethic that rejects the philanthropic impulse categorically vs. Leviathan, an almighty potentate to which we owe allegiance because the alternative is bellum omnium contra omnes, a life that is solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short. In fact, the opposite is closer to the truth: When you have a thriving free-market economy throwing off great gushing rivers of profit, the most successful people begin to look for satisfaction in something other than 22-bedroom beachfront estates."  Yes.

Should be required reading for all those considering a vote for Bernie Sanders.

Forbes: Obamacare impact on premiumsI sometimes often like rereading old posts, and just came across this one, which seems particularly apt given current debates about Socialism and Obamacare: Universal Healthcare:

"Health care in the U.S. is the best in the world, for those who can afford it. Better than the U.K., better than Canada, better than the Netherlands. In those countries there is no private profit motive for healthcare providers which drives them to be best. Good thing for them they have the U.S. market pushing technology of which they can then take advantage. ... What is also true is that health care in the U.S. is not as good as other countries for those who can't afford it. That's because good health care is too expensive. So the question is, how to make it more affordable. And the answer is, let the market figure it out.

True as it ever was.

America's Cup racing - foiling cats!You know what's cool?  America's Cup racing.  These foiling cats are amazing.  I'm so glad they've gone to smaller boats, too; it makes the whole thing seem more accessible.  Would *love* to go for a sail on one of these!

I was watching cycling on NBCSN the other night and boom there it was, America's Cup racing, on TV.  I've never seen that before.  Now that my Tivo knows this could happen, I'll see it a lot more :)


Mathematica: computing piSo, want to compute some digits? 
Just launch Mathematica, and here you go:


Iditarod wrap: Seaveys one two again, Sass 20th after 26 hour delay, DeeDee 44th!

Sunday,  03/20/16  09:45 PM

The 2016 Iditarod is history (sorry for the delayed wrap, but I picked a lousy time to move :)... and I'm going to say it was kind of boring at least compared to other years.  Defending champion Dallas Seavey won for the third time in a row and fourth time in five years (wow, but ... yawn), and his father Mitch finished second for the second year in a row; he's won twice but would have won four times if it wasn't for his son.  They are pretty dominant right now, and Dallas is the youngest champion ever, so it could be is quite a dynasty.

Dallas Seavey and his leaders, top dogs of the 2016 Iditarod. Click to play video of live finish...

Dallas and his leaders, top dogs of the 2016 Iditarod. 
Click through for live video of the finish! (actual finish is at about 24:00)

Brent Sass and his team *try* to leave White MountainThe most interesting story was Brent Saas and his team; after being in the top three with Dallas and Mitch for the whole race, he came into White Mountain in third, and took his mandatory eight-hour break.  But then ... his team didn't want to go!  He ended up saying in White Mountain for 26 hours, resting and feeding his team, and finally finished 20th.  Too much run and not enough rest caught up with them; they ran a great 900 mile race, but the Iditarod is 1,000 miles.

right: Brent Sass and his team *try* to leave White Mountain



DeeDee Jonrowe finishes a steady 44thMy favorite (and many others') DeeDee Jonrowe finished a fine 44th.  She was never in it to win it, but ran a steady race and finished strong.  After all she went through this past year (losing her Mom to cancer, and her home to a fire) it was a great showing.  Look for her to be back next year, running strong!

left: DeeDee and her team finished a steady 44th



My favorite part of this year's race was hacking together my little Iditaflow tracker, which made watching the race way more interesting (and way less time consuming, because you could see easily what had happened).  I have a number of ideas for improvement, but they'll have to wait for next year.

Below is the final view of the tracker, showing all 86 mushers' tracks.  Onward, 'till next year!

Iditaflow of Iditarod 2016, showing all 86 mushers' tracks - please click to enbiggen!
(please click to enbiggen amazingly)

[All Iditarod 2016 posts]




Sunday,  03/20/16  09:56 PM

Whew, we moved!  (made it :)  So much fun ... all the boxes, and figuring out where everything goes, and getting your servers back up.  Fortunately everything went pretty smoothly and after a metric ton of work, [almost] everything is up and running.  I am now back on Time Warner cable, after four years on Verizon Fios, and it is surprisingly faster!

Speedtest of Time Warner cable

In case you're wondering, we moved about three miles, no longer on Westlake Island but now back in the hills, in an area called North Ranch (where we lived before, for many years).  So be it ... change is good :)


{filter pass}

Sunday,  03/20/16  11:05 PM

A Sunday night filter pass ... after a day of unboxing and folding paper and sailing (!)  Yes I am quite sore and tired, so naturally, it is time to blog:

[Note to self: do not use <angle brackets> in headlines, the blogging software does unusual and unexpected things.  {braces} seem okay.]

iPhone SE (rumored)Apple's iPhone SE announcement: what to expect from Monday's (tomorrow's) event.  As a devote of small phones, I am excited about this; I've had my iPhone 5S for over two years now, and yes it's a great little device but it might be fun to get a new toy.  Other than "thinner and lighter", the best new feature for me will be Apple Pay.  Potential show stopper: if the camera protrudes from the back.  That is the ugliest crappiest thing about the iPhone 6 family.

Not gonna say anything about the primary elections and the fact that it looks like our unattractive choices for President will be Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton.  We get the leaders we deserve, apparently.

I did enjoy this note from chess champion Garry Kasparov: Don't lecture me about socialism; I lived through it.  "A society that relies too heavily on redistributing wealth eventually runs out of wealth to redistribute."  There are NO counterexamples.

Fabian Cancellara wins Strade Bianca in the Plazzo del SienaThere has been some great cycle racing, have you watched?  My favorite so far was Fabian Cancellara powering to victory in the Strade Bianca, which finishes in the Plazzo of Siena.  An amazing setting for an amazing race.  The one-week stage races of Paris-Nice and Tirreno-Adriatico were both interesting and well fought, and amazingly both had their queen stages cancelled due to snow.  Al Gore must have flown out to watch.

Tesla factory: robots!Coming up next week (Thur 3/31): Tesla's Model 3 unveiling.  Teslarati recently reported Analysts Tour Tesla factory, cite "stunning progress".  This is the $35,000 car for the masses which *could* enable electric cars to cross the chasm.  Stay tuned.

Cars are cool: they are robots built by robots.  How soon before they are sentient?

3D-printed Tesla supercharger for your deskWhile you're waiting for a Model 3, you can build your own 3D printed Tesla supercharger (for your phone!)  Oh I am SO going to do this... hehe.

VC Brad Feld: help me understand the value of Slack instead of an email list.  Yep, this emperor is wearing clothes, but they're nothing we haven't see before.  Best advantage of email over Slack is that you can have one inbox for everything, while for Slack you have to explicitly check each one.  I find the decay constant of Slack usage/excitement is short.

ISS: Soyuz launchThe next three-person ISS crew is on its way!  It still seems so weird that the only launch vehicle to reach the ISS is Russian.  Not good.  But it is good that these launches are now so routine.

Another there with no there there: In Africa, IBM Watson's sister Lucy is growing up with the help of IBM's Research team.  It is increasingly evident that "Watson" is a branding effort, not a thing.  IBM have spent $100M over three years in Africa to create this AI, and so far it doesn't "do" anything, seems they could have spent it more wisely.

Onward into the week!


phone-y dreams

Monday,  03/21/16  08:19 AM

First Motorola cellphoneI was just ruminating on the possibilities of the just-about-to-be-announced iPhone SE.  We've all read what's coming; the iPhone SE will be a 4" phone, similar to the iPhone 5S, but with some of the improvements made in the iPhone 6: better camera, Apple Pay (NFC), A9 processor, barometer, better battery life, 3D preview.  Oh and it may be thinner and rounder and possibly come in some new interesting colors.

But if I could make my dreams a reality, what would I really want in a new phone?  Hmmm...

Smartphones have become amazing and most of the things you could dream about are evolutionary improvements: smaller / thinner / lighter / faster etc.  The real weak points now are in the human-device interface.

  • On input, something better than a virtual keyboard would be a huge advance.  Physical keyboards *are* better, at a slight cost of making the device larger, but they're a compromise.  Maybe some means of giving a virtual keyboard tactile feedback?  Or a way to use any available surface as a keyboard (laser etc)?  Or something brand new ... a direct neural link!
  • On output, a built-in projector which enables a larger display than the phone screen would be great.  Oh, and cordless earphones.

We'll check on this later today after the announcement :)

PS of course, I'd love it if IOS 10 looked like IOS 5, but that *would* be dreaming


SE edition

Tuesday,  03/22/16  10:07 PM

iPhone recursionYeah so Apple announced the iPhone SE*, so now I can finally get a new phone.  Yippee!

This is a picture from December 2012, when I first bought an iPhone 5 (I've since upgraded to an iPhone 5s).  At the time I thought *it* was too big :)  Yay, smaller phones.

It was a maximally boring announcement, and many are actually wondering if this kind of incremental update shouldn't be announced via a press release instead, saving announcement events for truly new things like Apple Watch or the iCar**.


Apple: 40 years in 40 secondsThe event actually started great but went downhill.  Apple did a nice little 40 years in 40 seconds video, which is kind of cool.  And Tim Cook's defense of Apple's customers' privacy was strong and unambiguous ("we will not shrink from this responsibility").

IMHO the green-ness was a little overdone.  A tepid response from the audience, and the blogosphere.  Carekit - okay, that's cool, and useful.  Points for that, but not big points. 

Then a whole range of incremental product updates: Apple Watch bands, new tvOS, 5" iPhone SE (yay, but yawn), IOS 9.3 (meh), and last but perhaps not least 9.7" iPad Pro (meh).  The most interesting thing in all of that was Apple's explicit positioning of the iPad Pro as a replacement for old PCs (by which they meant, old Windows PCs, but it could apply equally to old Macs too).  I still think iPads are great for consuming content, not for creating it.  I can't yet imagine that a tablet will be my everyday computer.  But of course for many it already is.

So what about my phone-y dreams?  Still just dreams.  Maybe truly revolutionary improvements to the smartphone will come from smaller companies.  Anyone want to embed a projector in their phone?  Or to design a new better input mechanism?  Please, go for it!

* So what does SE mean?  "SE Edition", of course :)

** The Tesla Model 3 event next week should be amazing




Thursday,  03/24/16  11:41 PM

Escher: drawing handsI am writing a test system for my test system. My motto: anything worth doing more than once is worth automating.

(Oh, and this is not the first time that I've written a test system for testing.  But I want to avoid the hammer factory factory effect :)

C|Net ask, do you think virtual reality will be bigger than phones in your digital life?  Yes, I do.  Especially if you remove the word "digital".  I think VR is going to be huge.

Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster thinks virtual reality will be the ultimate iPhone killer.  It could be...

21st century: North Carolina passes bill which limits bathroom use by birth gender.  This doesn't seem weird to me.

Ivanpah solar electric generatorThe great solar epic fail of all time?  "A federally backed, $2.2 billion solar project in the California desert isn't producing the electricity it is contractually required to deliver to PG&E Corp., which says the solar plant may be forced to shut down if it doesn't receive a break Thursday from state regulators."  $2.2B pissed away.

Also this: "California’s one remaining nuclear power plant, Diablo Canyon, produces more electricity than all of California’s solar power installations combined."

Meanwhile: This is the year that shale gas passes coal.

Gary SchandlingComedian Gary Schandling has passed away.  Watch this episode of him with Jerry Seinfeld in Comedians in Cars drinking Coffee, and tell me it didn't make you laugh out loud.  He was great.

From Caltech's Quantum Frontiers, Remember to take it slow.  "'Spiros, can you explain to me this whole business about time being an illusion?'  These were William Shatner’s words to me, minutes after I walked into the green room."  In which the arrow of time is revealed to be nothing more than probability.

Charles Murray: An open letter to the Virginia Tech community.  Most people who criticize the Bell Curve have never read the book.  I have, and I think it is amazing.  You should too :)

Apple's HLS streaming ... who ordered that?One thing I forgot to mention about the Apple Special Event, at which the iPhone SE was announced; Apple have apparently decided to create their own proprietary event broadcast software called HLS.  Isn't that special.  It was not possible to watch the presentation from Chrome.  The only supported Windows browser was Microsoft Edge (yes, seriously!)  I literally booted a VM with OS X so I could watch in Safari.  Now that cannot be good.

Interesting profile of Jeff Bezos in Fortune.  Amazon are truly unique.

Josh Newman quotes Epectictus: "If you wish to be an extraordinary person, if you wish to be wise, then you should explicitly identify the kind of person you aspire to become.  Precisely describe the demeanor you want to adopt so that you may preserve it when you are by yourself or with other people."


the chart of cosmic exploration

Thursday,  03/24/16  11:58 PM

Love it!
(as usual, click to enbiggenize)



Saturday,  03/26/16  10:56 PM

It's Saturday night, I'm exhausted after a long day of unpacking and moving furniture, and ... I'm blogging.

Johan CruyffGoodbye to Johan Cruyff, the flying Dutchman, who invented and personified "total football".  I'm not a soccer fan but Paul Mirengoff is, and remembers the Dutch master.

Sixth anniversary: Obamacare was going to lower health care costs; what actually happened.  What happened is what always happens when the government steps in and fixes prices, costs go up, quality goes down.  The best way to lower health care costs is to let the market work.

And no, the market wasn't allowed to work before Obamacare either; Medicare essentially acts as a massive price fixing program.

Cygnus spacecraft docks with ISSIn case you're wondering, how will Cygnus spacecraft dock to space station?  Cool.  Cygnus will carry almost 7,500 pounds of science and research, crew supplies and vehicle hardware to the orbiting laboratory.

Fun facts about Mars: gravityNASA: Fun facts about Mars.  Their Tumblr is awesome, if you're interest in space, check it out!  (Wish their manned missions were equally as cool :)

Oculus Rift headsetWant to visit the ISS, or Mars?  Oculus have [finally] started shipping their Rift headset.  VR is probably the best bet most of us have for space travel...

Jeff Atwood: thanks for ruining another game forever, computers.  An interesting rumination on the ever-increasing computing power of personal computers, and the ever-improving heuristics of AI.  Possibly a key part of VR and "visiting space".

self-driving cars at an intersection with no red lightsAnother key application for AI, self-driving cars.  This fascinating IEEE article muses that self-driving cars won't need red lights at intersections, the image at left shows the rather scary result.  I guess if could work, but whew!

Joi Ito: On Disobedience.  "Society and institutions in general tend to lean toward order and away from chaos. In the process this stifles disobedience. It can also stifle creativity, flexibility, and productive change-and in the long run-society's health and sustainability."  Great post.

map of New York eruvsThe nearly invisible wires that enclose nearly all major cities of the world.  Jewish communities string the fishing line -like wires to establish "eruvs", small regions within which they can perform actions otherwise only permitted inside their homes.  What a weird custom, who knew?

From Brad Feld: Fork - a short story.  Very cool.  I love the idea that our universe is constantly forking, that each quantum mechanical decision point is instantiated both ways.

Darth Vader on open systemsJWZ: Instagram hates the Internet.  "Instagram's design decisions are among the most user-hostile and Internet-hating that I've ever seen."  The gravitational pull of open systems is  s t r o n g.



Meg epiphany

Saturday,  03/26/16  11:58 PM

Meg epiphanyMe: Hi Meg, what's up?

Meg: I had an epiphany about quantum mechanical entanglement.

Me: Whoa.

(I love my kids :)



virtual Easter

Sunday,  03/27/16  10:53 PM

Happy Easter!Happy Easter!  In which we celebrate the resurrection of the son of God by eating chocolate bunnies...  or are we celebrating spring fertility by hunting for hidden eggs?  Not clear.  At least Easter is a nice opportunity to get together with your family, enjoy a great dinner with some nice wine, and reflect on the nature of the universe...

the Oculus RiftSo, the Oculus Rift is out!  Yes I am getting one, despite not being a gamer; I can't wait.  I believe it may be the first iPod or iPhone or iPad of a whole new product category, VR devices.  But two things limit it, the form factor (people are NOT going to end up wearing headsets, I just know that) and the need for a powerful desktop PC to drive it (people are NOT going to buy powerful desktop PCs for VR).  The tech issues will get resolved.  I just wonder about the form factor.  Maybe VR rooms are going to be the future. They have issues too though, but more comfortable and more social. Will be most interesting to watch this play out.  There are many things VR can do besides gaming...

the original KindleWhile moving I found my Amazon Kindle.  Not my new one that I use every day for reading outside, but my original Kindle.  It gave me goosebumps.  Still works, and works well as a way to read a book.  But I so remember getting it, it was 2008, and I was going to Brazil on a business trip, and it was a cool way to bring a bunch of books and a Portuguese dictionary and maps of Sao Paolo and Rio de Janeiro with me. During that trip I had this epiphany, the ebook form factor was great, but the ability to *instantly* access new content was a game changer. Someone mentions a book, and poof! you can download and read it.

When you first put on a VR headset – whether a Cardboard or a Rift – you have this "wow this is cool" experience.  As I noted I'm not sure the headset form factor is perfect, but for now it is what it is.  I do think that as with ebooks and music and all sorts of other content, the ability to *instantly* access new content is going to be incredible.  Say we are talking about Madagascar.  With VR, poof! we can go there*.  Say we are talking about designing a new bathroom.  With VR, poof! we can see what it would look like.  Say we are talking about a cool new car.  With VR, poof! we can see the car, and we can even drive it.  It is going to be so cool.  The VR content industry is going to be much bigger than the VR hardware industry.

* I do still want to visit Madagascar in person, and I probably will.  But probably not Mars.

Bigelow Aerospace expandable habitat, attached to the ISSHere's why the next SpaceX launch isn't just about the booster landing.  It's also about the Bigelow Aerospace expandable habitat.  The picture at left shows it [virtually] attached to the ISS.  These "living spaces for space" have significant advantages in size and weight.  Excellent.

Scott "Dilbert" Adams: The Elbonian Zombie virus.  "Now here’s the interesting part.  What is the functional difference between the Elbonian Zombie Virus and radical Islamic terrorism?  In both cases they are spread by prolonged personal contact. In both cases you have no way to identify infected people until there are symptoms. In both cases the “virus” is deadly to both the person infected and those around them."  Adams is on fire as a blogger.

Religions are a mental virus, and idea I first encountered in Susan Blackmore's excellent (and under-appreciated) The Meme Machine, an intellectual follow-on to Richard Dawkins The Selfish Gene.  This way of looking at them is amazingly insightful.

News item: California to announce $15 minimum stage wage.  Meanwhile: restaurants face pressure to trim menus and staffs under California's wage hike.  This is going to be a massive failure, especially for the poor people it is trying to help.  Perhaps the only good that will come from it is that the concept will be discredited.

"Fongbakt" - my Escher -style tessellationNews you can use: Make Escher -style tessellations online!  Heh, excellent.  Just a little too late for coloring Easter eggs, maybe next year :)

I've decided to call this one "Fongbakt", for obvious reasons.




Tuesday,  03/29/16  11:29 PM

Spring!  Brrr...  Good thing I got our Nest working.  (A simple matter of a blown fuse, buried deep within the HVAC unit...)  Meanwhile, it's all happening...

What we know about the Tesla Model 3 (due to be unveiled Thursday).  A better headline would be, what we don't know... since we don't know much.  One of the more interesting questions is whether Model 3 owners can use the Tesla Supercharger Network (most likely, yes) and whether they'll have to pay when they do (most likely, yes).

BMW Isetta (IZA), now electric!The BMW Isetta (IZA) is being resurrected as an electronic vehicle.  Awesome!  My Mom owned an IZA as her first car, back when I was born; teeny, three wheels, door in the front ... what's not to love?

Okay:  Republicans better pay attention to Bernie.  If it weren't for Donald Trump, the big story in this election cycle would be Bernie Sanders' increasingly successful challenge to Hillary Clinton.  Maybe it will be Trump vs Sanders?

4,000 people have signed a petition to allow guns inside the arena at the Republican National Convention.  Why not?

Oculus ... Woaa!Five hard questions facing Oculus Rift.  Yeah, it's too expensive, and yeah, you have to wear a [tethered] headset*, and yeah, you need a powerful desktop to run it.  But yeah, it is going to stimulate a lot of VR content, and get the chicken-and-egg hardware-and-content ball rolling...

* This picture is cute but one thing it gets crucially wrong; when wearing an Oculus, you can't see, and others cannot see you.

Bitcoin rival Ethereum climbed 1,000% in 3 months, crossing $1B in value.  The interesting thing about Ethereum is that it features a more powerful embedded transaction set which is more usable for Smart Contracts.  Whether that will cause it to "tip" remains to be seen ... I'm betting, no.

the Mini Linux computer, $39Powerful things come in tiny packages, and this mini-Linux computer for $39 proves it.  It's so cute!

Ed Driscoll has Gone to Texas (from Milpitas, California).  "Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end.

California sucks, but it *is* better than every other place :)  Especially because it is so nice and ... warm.  Brrr...



Wednesday,  03/30/16  03:59 PM


when left and right become entangled



Wednesday,  03/30/16  11:22 PM

Long day today, up with the sun, gone with the wind...  (she always said I was crazy :)

Tesla Model 3 ... coming soon!So tomorrow is the BIG DAY.  You know what I'm talking about, I know you do...  and I know you're excited.  Tune in, 8:30PM tomorrow night, for the live unveiling.  There are people reserving theirs in Australia right now :)

In re Chirality, yes it is weird.  And how weird is it that space exhibits this property.  Left and Right are *not* like Up and Down.

climate policy illusionA peek behind the curtain: Another climate alarmist admits real motive behind warming scare.  "'One has to free oneself from the illusion that international climate policy is environmental policy.  This has almost nothing to do with the environmental policy anymore, with problems such as deforestation or the ozone hole,' said former United Nations climate official Ottmar Edenhofer.  So what is the goal of environmental policy?  'We redistribute de facto the world's wealth by climate policy,' said Edenhofer."  Oh.

The NY Times reaches peak cluelessness: Who will become a terrorist?  Research yields few clues.  It would be funnier if people didn't keep getting killed.

From 2013: John Mulaney on Donald Trump.  "I bet when Donald Trump makes a decision, he says to himself, what would a cartoon rich person do?"  Nailed it.  John Mulaney is so good.

Toy Story 2: Jesse Important work: All sixteen Pixar movies, ranked.  #1 is Up, and #16 is Cars 2, and I agree with both.  My biggest issue with this list is putting Toy Story 2 at #9.  That's one of my all-time favorites.  YMMV!



the future has arrived!

Thursday,  03/31/16  09:05 PM

the Tesla Model 3


Return to the archive.

About Me

Greatest Hits
Correlation vs. Causality
The Tyranny of Email
Unnatural Selection
Aperio's Mission = Automating Pathology
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
the big day
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?