Speaking of fallacies, Minimum Wage, Maximum Ignorance. "Once upon a time, the minimum wage, like free trade, was a basic test of whether you were awake in the first week of econ 1." Of all the liberal economic canards, this one is my favorite. Socialism does not work, period.
I'm not a gamer - at all - but Monument Valley looks amazing. iPad-only, which hardly even raises eyebrows anymore...
Way cool: A jewel at the heart of quantum physics. "The amplituhedron looks like an intricate, multifaceted jewel in higher dimensions. Encoded in its volume are the most basic features of reality that can be calculated, ‘scattering amplitudes,’ which represent the likelihood that a certain set of particles will turn into certain other particles upon colliding." I don't know enough to know if this is "right", but something more elegant will eventually replace the particle zoo...
Listening to UB40 while coding... what could be better than that? (Okay, maybe listening to Threshold :) Actually it is interesting that the type of music I select corresponds to my type of work; if I'm *learning* I like softer dancy reggae-y blues-y stuff, and if I'm *creating* I like harder rock-y metal-y stuff. Right now I'm exploring AJAX, when I'm ready to build something, I'll switch to Dokken :)
This I love; Telebaby. Webcams in the newborn nursery, what could be better than that... from UMC Utrecht, a highly innovative hospital system in the Netherlands who happen to be an Aperio customer :)
Sounds right: Why the next iPad won't have a rear facing camera. "Apple is ahead of the curve, it doesn’t follow... a rear-facing camera in such a device is not useful and adding it only because others have it is not Apple’s style... if the iPad 2 will have two cameras, how will Apple surprise us? ...both cameras will be front facing and will allow for 3D video chat. That would be Apple." Yes, please!
Adam Curry: The App Economy is Bogus. "I have witnessed every income class, without exception, balk at paying for an app. There is something mystical about a millionaire who just finished a $180 bottle of wine complaining that an app is $1.99 or that there isn’t a free trial with just enough features instead. In my experience, the audience has become expert at finding free apps that more often than not have more functionality and flexibility that their for-pay counterparts." This feels true, doesn't it?
Yes, I'm calling about your car, is it still for sale?
Um... well... uh...
You live in the Los Angeles area, right?
Uh, yeah, but...
Do you know anyone at Walt Disney? Anyone high up in the company?
Uh, no... sorry. Why are you calling exactly?
Well I have an item, a collectible item, which could be worth a lot of money to the right collector, it's a Disney item, one-of-a-kind, could be worth a million dollars - or more! - to the right person.
Yeah, but what does that have to do with my car?
Well I was thinking, maybe we could make a deal, I could trade my item for your car, there could be some cash involved too.
Huh. (pause) I'm not sure I want to sell my car, I haven't thought about it.
Okay, let me tell you... you see, I have this cat, and my cat's coat has this marking, it looks just exactly like Mickey Mouse, and I was thinking...
Are we talking about your cat or my car?
Well I was thinking, maybe we could work a trade, because this cat is very valuable, I posted it on the Internet, you can see it for yourself...
Wait a minute, you want to trade your cat for my car?
You really have to see this cat, it looks just like Mickey Mouse, it is amazing...
Are you serious? This sounds like a joke.
Am I on a radio show?
You're calling to see if I would trade my car for a cat?
Monday Monday, what was I going to do with you? Well as it turns out, a lot; managed to plow through all my status / email / reporting stuff and make it to some real work: coding! I have a technical project which just has to be done this week, and although I have a million many balls in the air and high-level meetings etc. it just has to be done. So why am I wasting time blogging? Um ... um ...
An obituary for obituaries? "You probably didn’t read the story – because what red-blooded American reads a newspaper anymore? – but apparently the nation’s newspapers, having already lost their editorial dominance to cable news and the Web, their sports coverage to fan sites, their classifieds to Craigslist, and their editorial pages to the blogosphere, are now under heavy assault on their last profitable redoubt: the obituary page." So be it. (BTW the "rainstorm" link above is to the LATimes website, but via Drudge's RSS feed. That's the future, right there...)
Actually what I think is that newspapers aren't dead, they're just fading away into irrelevance. Same with news magazines. Print media will continue to exist, but they'll just evolve. I just got the latest issue of Wired - one of my favorite magazines, and it is about 1/8" thick, about half what it used to be. On the cover, in 72pt. type, is the word Fail.
Related: Michael Arrington bemoans the end of hand-crafted content. Oh I don't know about that... seems like blogs and Facebook and Twitter all facilitate hand-crafted content. No machine can crank out this stuff!
Doc Searles agrees with me: the revolution will not be intermediated. "Just as an aside, I’ve been hand-crafting (actually just typing) my “content” for about twenty years now, and I haven’t been destroyed by a damn thing."
The Google Phone: this changes everything. Aka the HTC Passion, running Android. To me the fact that Google are "making hardware" isn't that big a deal (they're reselling hardware). But if they sell an unlocked phone and it uses VoIP, that would be different. A data-only phone could change the model. How interesting.
I'm shocked: Microsoft's top developers prefer old school coding methods. "'Graphical programming environments are usable when they are useless, but unusable when they would be useful," said Jeffrey Snover, a Microsoft distinguished engineer... While visual programming can be easier to learn and can help make developers more productive, it's also 'easier to delude yourself,' said Butler Lampson, a technical fellow at Microsoft. For instance, 'no one can ever tell you what a UML diagram means.'" This makes me so happy; I knew that UML emperor wasn't wearing any clothes...
Some people don't care about Z, but not me: I love my new notebook and like Win7, but over time I've noticed a galling problem; it messes up Z-order. This is the sequence of windows from front-to-back. Alt-tab does not always do what you expect, and that's annoying. Seems like this would have been easy to find and fix during beta testing, too. PS yeah I know about Window-Tab, and yeah I think it's cool too, but it doesn't solve this problem; the Z-order is wrong.
The Giant Crystal Cave: deadliest place on Earth? "It's 50oC and has a humidity of 100%, less than a hundred people have been inside and it's so deadly that even with respirators and suits of ice you can only survive for 20 minutes before your body starts to fail. It’s the nearest thing to visiting another planet – it’s going deep inside our own." Sounds like a scene from a movie. Another good place to visit via avatar...
I love the sound of rain. I haven't been sleeping too well (thanks to the scrapes from my wipeout) and it was so pleasant to lie in bed last night, listening to the rain failing...
This morning I've cracked my office window just so I can hear the drops falling outside, at the cost of a bitter cold draft. I'm actually looking forward to riding today - yeah, it will be cold, and I will be slow (probably even will do it on my mountain bike) - but the sound of rain is so delightful.
I wonder why that is? We humans must be pre-programmed by evolution to like hearing water, we even build fountains just so we can hear it flow...
Today I was looking through my RSS feeds and suddenly noticed that Wired News' feed contains ads! So you know what that means, yep, I made a home-grown feed for it... I have a little cottage industry here reformatting feeds and scraping home pages to include entire content, include direct links, synthesize permalinks, and eliminate ads. Here's my current collection:
So I did take a ride in the rain, on my mountain bike, and it was great. Yeah, it was wet and cold, but I loved the sound and the smell of the rain, the peace and quiet, the simple beauty. There is a field I ride by in Hidden Valley, it was freshly plowed a few days ago, and today the entire field was covered with sprouting grass! A beautiful light green against the dark brown earth, glistening in the rain. Anyway it was great, I hope it keeps raining...
Oooh, I like this! From Rich Kaarlgard: Turning Around America - A Modest Proposal. "Here is how. Let’s put every elected federal official and appointee and bureaucrat on a stock option plan. The value of these options would be tied to the health and wealth of America. Half the options would vest over two years so as to spur politicians to make immediate changes. The other half would vest over 20 years, so politicians could build a framework for enduring success and be rewarded for it." Yes!
Scott Adams: Financial markets explained. "In my capacity as cartoonist, I feel an obligation to simplify complicated discussions until two things happen simultaneously: 1. Absurdity is achieved. 2. The reader feels as if it all makes sense." Suddenly I feel all savvy :)
BusinessWeek reports Palm Pins its Hopes on Nova. "The smartphone maker debuts its new operating system, code-named Nova, at January's CES. Palm says its phones for it will bridge the BlackBerry-iPhone gap." So be it; I'm rooting for them but I'm not hopeful.
From the "truth is stranger than Onion" files; CNet reports Our April fools jokes turn into real products. "Back in 2007, we put out two April Fools' Day posts chronicling fake and absurd start-ups. One was a Google Maps mashup for rodent sightings in New York restaurants. The other was a prenatal version of Twitter where unborn children could post status updates. A few readers took the bait in the comment sections, but it appears our ideas weren't so far off, as both have come to fruition just a year and a half later." I love it!
Just when you thought Elon Musk was busy enough - what with Tesla and SpaceX - turns out he is also Chairman of SolarCity, a company which leases solar panels. Wow...
Speaking of Tesla, Top Gun's Jeremy Clarkson gives it a test drive, comparing it on a track to a Lotus Elite. He likes it! It is faster in a straight line than the Lotus (and faster off the line), but corners slower due to the extra weight of the batteries...
Speaking of being green, the Economist notes species banking, in Biodiversity. "The most fundamental question is whether species banking works. Imagine that an endangered species remains in only ten acres of private land. If ten people each own one of those acres, in theory five could build on their land in exchange for promises of conservation in perpetuity from the other five." What an amazing concept... it could work!
Finally, the cutest picture you'll see all day, or maybe all year... keyboard kitty!
Can't really call these coffee notes, because I've already had my coffee. In case you're wondering, yes, I did put up our Christmas lights yesterday, and yes, I did not fall off the roof. It wasn't raining and it wasn't windy, so this year was easier than some. (Of course there was a light string which worked perfectly in the garage, but failed when attached to the gable on the second floor, with me standing on the sloping roof, changing bulbs, trying to find the bad one...) Anyway, here's what's happening...
I am reading Woken Furies by Richard Morgan. Almost done with it. I love it, this is his best yet. (The third in a series which began with Altered Carbon and continued with Broken Angels.) And I am so happy because I really loved the first two books in this series, but then Morgan wrote Market Forces, which wasn't part of the series and which I didn't like at all (and didn't even finish), and so I didn't think there would be more books in the series. But there are, so yay!
My favorite and weirdest part of this book is where Morgan describes huge vertical structures on alien planets. (Morgan's planets were formerly occupied by "Martians", who flew, and who left behind amazing "buildings" made of inexplicable materials with unexpected properties.) Somehow their verticality really confers alien-ness, I can feel my vertigo as I read the words. Great stuff.
Speaking of science fiction (we were), did you catch this picture of Saturn's moon Hyperion? Now that is cool. How did those craters form? What a mystery. Almost like something from a Richard Morgan book :) Cassini is awesome!
Christmas Cards are on my mind today. Today is the day I must compile a collage of pictures of my kids, so we can print them, so they can be included with our Christmas Cards, so you-all can see how beautiful they are! Seriously it sounds like a fun project, and it is, but having today as the deadline makes it a bit less fun. I wish I'd done it, like, last weekend. But I didn't, and so here we are. Weird the way that works...
A little while ago Wired ran a story called The Silence of the Leaf Blowers. With which I so agree. I hate that sound - especially on a Sunday morning, or a Saturday, but all other times as well - and I wish there were a good alternative. He who invents a quiet powerful motor will reap great rewards, and not only financial ones. Talk about a problem worth solving!
This problem doesn't only affect yard equipment. How about off-road bikes? Or snowmobiles? Or outboard engines? There are a lot of recreational vehicles which make a ton of noise, and wouldn't it be great if they didn't?
Today is the day for SpaceX. Finger's crossed, good luck, guys! Although they don't need it. I'll be monitoring Kimball's blog all day...
Do you hate business jargon as much as I do? Blech. Stephen Baker of Business Week's Blogspotting wants to Rid the World of "Solutions", and I heartily agree. One of the first things I do when I encounter a company is check whether their website has a “products” page or a “solutions” page. Products = good, this is stuff they make and sell. Solutions = bad, it is sometimes impossible to tell what is being made or sold, besides marketing hype. As an example, I received an email from a company called BSIL, and this was on their home page:
"We are a global, end-to-end IT solutions provider with a global delivery footprint. With over 20 years of experience, we understand our customers’ needs better and provide a portfolio of services, using robust processes, which enable them to leverage their IT investments."
Do you have any idea what these people do? Nor do I. (Apparently they "provide solutions" :)
A classic example of meaningless jargon is "Web 2.0". Nobody knows what it means, it doesn't mean anything. It is simply buzzword-compliant crap to put in a marketing plan. Or for naming a conference.
(And don't tell me it means "web applications built with AJAX", because that is not what it means, and anyway "web applications" and "AJAX" are two other examples of bogus jargon. (meta-jargon, anyone?))
I'm not the only one to think so, there seems to be backlash forming:
And not only is "Web 2.0" itself jargon, it has spawned other jargon; check out this page, which allows you to create your own Web 2.0 company. The general schema, "X via Y", is a great clue to the cluelessness of it all. Truly interesting concepts are just "X", the "via Y" part is mere implementation...
For an unbelievable example of jargon run amuck, consider Microsoft's recent "Live" announcement. Talk about meaningless blather.
Just look at this diagram, does this make any sense at all?
I happen to think Bill Gates is incredibly overrated as a smart guy. He is a lousy presenter, and really smart guys give good, focused presentations that make you realize they are really smart. Steve Jobs would be an example. Kip Thorne - now he's a smart guy. Or how about Richard Feynman; in addition to being interesting, he exuded intelligence and deep understanding. Bill Gates may be a great businessman, but he is not a great technologist. And he is not a really smart guy. Sorry.
If you disagree, please refer back to the picture. Would a really smart guy stand in front of that diagram? (Click for a bigger picture, or see Niall Kennedy's Flickr photo, which has a great comment thread. Via Tom Coates, who comments: "God, does anyone have the slightest idea what Microsoft are on about?")
We've all become a bit immunized to Microsoft's jargon; the reaction to the "Live" announcement was fortunately muted and mostly negative:
Steve Gillmor: Beep Beep. "Remember Wily Coyote? He's the Roadrunner's nemesis, chasing him out off the cliff's edge. Then there's that exquisite moment where he stands on thin air, about to realize he's got nothing. That's Microsoft, folks." Ouch.
Robert X. Cringley had Deja Vu All Over Again, in which he notes Microsoft's "Live" reaction to Google is analogous to Microsoft's "Active" reaction to Netscape. Perfect; neither "Active" nor "Live" have any content at all.
Mary Jo Foley: Hailstorm take 2. (You know you're in trouble when your new jargon is seen as the second version of your old jargon.) "When you get past the marketing fluff of 'sea changes' and '21st century Internet,' Microsoft did not announce a lot of new deliverables." She did go on to write, "We didn't notice a single mention of Web 2.0 during Chairman Bill Gates and Chief Technology Officer Ray Ozzie's remarks. That earns Microsoft some big points in our book." Okay, I'll give 'em that. They piled on their own jargon, but steered clear of everyone else's...
Poor Robert Scoble was left to respond: "I don't think it was clear." (D'ya think?) "This was the beginning of a major rudder turn on Microsoft." Iceberg ahead.
The "Live" demo itself was as lacking in content as the concept; Dave Winer liveblogged: "An hour into it they finally start the demo. The screen is blank, the guy is talking. It's live.com. The demo didn't work. A total demo disaster."
(Gates' performance prompted Dave to link his classic Demoing for Fun and Profit, from 1995; as true and relevant today as it was then. Perhaps Gates should read it.)
Even if the demo had worked, it would have been unimpressive; to my eye live.com is pretty uninteresting. Okay, we have a personalized portal. What is this, 1997? Not to mention, it is not even a good personalized portal; maybe they should have visited My Yahoo! or NetVibes, or even their own Start.com. Cue the clowns.
Perhaps we need some new jargon, a word which means "a word which actually means nothing".
Dave Winer on Trusting Google. Or rather on not trusting Google. I think this is important; big companies like Microsoft and Google need user trust to be successful. I know a lot of people who are staying away from Google's Desktop Toolbar (and Microsoft's MSN Toolbar) for exactly this reason; they don't want these big companies messing around with their hard drives. Among biggish software companies who do we trust? Intuit comes to mind. As does Norton (Symantec). And eBay...
This is cool: Proud France Inaugurates World's Highest Bridge. "The highest of the bridge's seven concrete pillars stands at 343 meters (1,125 ft), 19 meters (62 ft) higher than the Eiffel Tower. At almost 2.5 km (1.5 miles), it is longer than the Champs Elysees and slightly curved to afford drivers a dramatic view of the surrounding countryside and the ancient town of Millau with its medieval bell tower." Beautiful, form following function. [ via Ann Althouse ]
Something you might find in the Apple store: an analog dashboard for digital data. Perfect for monitoring blog hits :) [ via Doc Searles, who wonders, "does it use RSS?" ]
Camels and Rubber Duckies. Joel Spolsky has posted another in his infrequent series of musings on life and software, and you know what that means: you have to read it! Truly of all the mysteries of marketing, pricing is the most opaque.
Yahoo Video Search. Of course. Search is the new black, and video is the newest search. As with pictures, the limiting factor in video search is the inability to canvass content directly, you have to rely on metadata.
Here we have Me-TV. "On me-tv, you can easily watch the videos that your friends post on their blogs. You subscribe to channels (RSS feeds of your friends), and me-tv lets you watch them all in one place. It's a feedreader for video."
Wonder if it will use the Media RSS extension proposed by Yahoo. "Q. How is Media RSS different from RSS enclosures? A. Media RSS adds functionality to RSS that improves the handling of multimedia content, such as encoded video files." Okay. I think the functionality of having a media client for enclosures - such as a Bittorrent receiver - makes sense.
Ross Rubin thinks Tivo should skip ahead and kill subscription fees. Essentially eliminate them by bundling a 'lifetime subscription' with each sale. I think this makes sense; I bet a lot of people are threatened by the idea of yet another monthly fee. And it is cash up front...
Wow, this is cool; someone has figured out how to add WiFi to a Treo 650! They've modified the driver for the Palm Tungsten T5. Excellent. Probably doesn't work with a Treo 600, through.
NASA to fire projectile into comet. Another NASA/JPL production, called Deep Impact, will launch in January 2004. Objective: "To study the pristine interior of a comet by excavating a crater more than 25 m deep and 100 m in diameter." Cool.
I like CNet, but I hate the way they only ever link to themselves. So you read about Deep Impact, why can't they just link to the site? What do they think, we can't Google? C'mon guys, this is 2004. The walled garden is a chimera.
From Gerard Van der Leun comes this dysfunctional gift suggestion: these missile balloons. "Do you know someone who has trouble with tailgaters and lane changers?" I can see a whole genre of products in this area, balloons to tow with your car. I'd like a nice pirate ship, myself. Or perhaps a giant iPod :)
Here's an interesting reaction to Saddam's capture:
"The man who ruined our year"
Courtesy of Merde in France, who linked Contrepoison. Apparently L'Express said the same thing about Eisenhower in 1944. Clueless fools.
Magic Johnson in Fortune discusses Why Race Matters. "Minorities make money, but we don't generate wealth. But a business generates wealth — it is power, it is something that you can pass on to the next generation. That is what is needed in the black community." Man, he is one smart guy. This kind of thinking is what minority communities really need, not the blame-oriented ravings of Jesse Jackson.
Ottmar Liebert considers the Canadian 'MP3 player tax': "That is truly pathetic. Double taxation. Pay tax on the mp3 player and then legitimately purchase music downloads and pay tax on that as well?" I agree.
Are carrier pigeons faster than the 'net? This article suggests for certain applications - like sending memory sticks with photographs out of caves - they are! (Of course there is also Google's "pigeon rank".)
David Coursey lists the ten things Microsoft needs to do in 2004. Can't really argue with any of it, but I don't see any brilliance here. David used to be better, I think he's gotten bored with AnchorDesk and now just whips out these missives with little thought.
Each year December brings challenges that cause me to take my life into my hands. First there is putting up lights on our house - always dangerous - and then there is selecting the picture(s) for our Christmas Cards - even more dangerous, with five women involved. Anyway here's this year's offering - I survived!
The ceramics teacher announced on opening day that he was dividing the class into two groups. All those on the left side of the studio, he said, would be graded solely on the quantity of work they produced, all those on the right solely on its quality. His procedure was simple: on the final day of class he would bring in his bathroom scales and weigh the work of the “quantity” group: fifty pound of pots rated an “A”, forty pounds a “B”, and so on. Those being graded on “quality”, however, needed to produce only one pot -albeit a perfect one - to get an “A”. Well, came grading time and a curious fact emerged: the works of highest quality were all produced by the group being graded for quantity. It seems that while the “quantity” group was busily churning out piles of work - and learning from their mistakes - the “quality” group had sat theorizing about perfection, and in the end had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and a pile of dead clay.
Wired ponders Next-Gen Flight: Sci Fi Scenarios. "In the second century of flight, private companies will ferry tourists into space, personal flying machines will roam digital skyways and executive jets will make supersonic speed around the globe, aviation experts and scientists say." Excellent. The future is closer than you think.
Oh, by the way, SpaceX has their November update posted. They continue to make excellent progress. I love the way Elon Musk, their CEO, tells it like it is, good or bad. That's one of the reasons Elon has been so successful, he doesn't lie to himself.
Joel Spolsky considers Biculturalism, the difference between Unix and Windows. "What are the cultural differences between Unix and Windows programmers? It comes down to one thing: Unix culture values code which is useful to other programmers, while Windows culture values code which is useful to non-programmers." Joel is my hero, as regular readers know, but in this case I think he is not even wrong. I'll have more to say about this later, but in the meantime please read it - it is well written as always - and decide for yourself.
CNet reports Apple hits 25 million iTunes downloads. "Apple Computer has nearly doubled sales of digital music through its iTunes music store since launching a Windows-compatible version of its iTunes software in October." They presently have an estimated 75% of the market for legal music downloads. Wow.