Yesterday, the American people sent a strong signal. They didn't vote for President-elect Trump or the Republican party, and they didn't vote against Hillary Clinton. They voted for change. They did not like where we were headed, and they said so, loudly.
In 2008 after Barack Obama was elected President, the Democratic party controlled both houses, 29 governorships, and 27 state legislatures. But in the four elections since the Democratic party has moved further to the left and left America in the middle. Now Donald Trump has been elected President, the Democrats have lost both houses, and they are left with only 18 governorships and 12 state legislatures. *That* is change you must believe in.
I didn't see this coming. I don't like Donald Trump. But I am delighted that the era of liberal policies, free-spending big government, victimology, and sanctimonious political correctness may be brought to an end. We have serious problems and we need serious solutions. We cannot expect our government to provide those solutions, we can only hope that they get out of the way. Obamacare is only the latest in a long serious of fiascos where the government attempts to manipulate a market, and causes incredible damage. (For an earlier example, see the government's subsidy of subprime loans via FNMA and FDMC, which caused the disastrous housing bubble of the mid-2000s.)
I would guess that 75% of you, my friends and readers, are more liberal than I am. Many way, way more. (You are great friends for all that.) Same for the bloggers I follow (great bloggers), my Facebook and Twitter feeds, etc. Since last night there has been a vast outpouring of anger and frustration and denial. It will take time to understand what happened. But I hope those who are angry and frustrated will take that time.
This was not about race, not about gender, not about multiculturalism, not about trivial considerations of social correctness. You and I, we live in a bubble. We cannot easily identify with those who cannot find work, who see their towns shrinking, their kids growing up worse off than they were, the way of life they love slowly eroding. But that is reality for millions of people, and those people voted for change. They are Americans of all races, genders, and cultural backgrounds (check the stats, Trump received more minority votes and more support from women than Mitt Romney). They want to make America great again.
Let's work together and make that happen. We learn from the past, take all the best ideas, and move forward. I am not angry or frustrated, I am excited and energized. It is a new beginning, let's make the most of it!
The New Yorker's annual tech issue just came out - see my previous post for the awesome cover - and as usual it contained a lot of interesting stuff. I can't do it all justice, but I can summarize one clear trend: there are more and more articles about "wearable computing".
Of course we are all eagerly anticipating the Apple Watch, which might be the definitive device that kicks off a new category. The Google Glass is/was cool but [generally agreed] not useful. Or perhaps too dorky looking to be given a chance to be useful. I personally think there is no doubt at all that some kind of Glass-like device is going to take off; the utility of having a camera at eye level combined with a heads' up display is too evident. But then again, I founded a visual search company, so perhaps I'm biased :)
Wrist devices, glass devices, various types and styles of fitness trackers; these are all examples of wearable computing. But they are only the start. Each of them generally functions by communicating with your phone, leveraging its superior compute power, battery life, and cellular connectivity. In the near future though we're going to see these devices integrated into clothes to a degree only hinted at now. Why not put a phone in a shoe? (Paging Maxwell Smart!) Plenty of room for batteries. Or in a belt. Some belts weight more than some laptops. Your shirt can surely measure your heartbeat and other body functions better than any strapped on device. And so on.
And only one step after that will be implantible computers, devices which become a part of your body, both to measure it and to communicate with it. In my lifetime I confidently expect to see all of us carrying around various implanted computers. It will change our lives. (And can you imagine the sports controversies!) Augmented reality, indeed!
The working theory (with which I entirely agree) is that software engineers are artists, and talented ones are worth 10X more than mediocre ones. Companies who recognize this are desperate to find great developers, and willing to pay for them.
The 10X agency represents talented engineers, finding them work, negotiating their rates and terms of service, and in general performing the crummy tasks which have to be done by someone to support freelance careers. These engineers are great at creating software, but maybe not as great at the business aspects of being independent contractors, and are only too glad to pay 15% for someone else to do the dirty work. Especially if it leads to more and better work :)
I'm pretty fascinated by this concept; it will be most interesting to follow their success. It's possible that this is the start of a new model, and that someday the best engineers will routinely work freelance and be represented by agents, in much the same way that actors and musicians evolved from working for producers to working independently. (Athletes are entertainers who haven't quite made the jump; they work for their teams, but are represented by agents in negotiating their contracts.) It's also possible that paying 10X for engineers which are 10X better just isn't sustainable. So many companies few engineers as interchangeable resources, and treat them accordingly.
A quiet little day today; you know you didn't get much done when your biggest accomplishment was drafting a press release. Still, it did get drafted. I had a lot of time, so I was able to make it quite short :)
By the way I must confess, I just rewatched the whole Toy Story series. Pretty great, and they hold up amazingly well. Toy Story 2 has to be about the best animated movie ever.
Want to play with your family a bit tomorrow? Maybe make some Grime Dice to confound them. In which, Dice A will systematically beat Dice B, which systematically beats Dice C, but C beats A. Paging Kurt Godel...
Leonado da Vinci invented numerous devices that he never built*, including the viola organista, a machine-line instrument that combines a harpsicord, organ, and viola da gamba. This 500-year-old idea is now a reality, however, thanks to Polish musician Slawomir Zubrzycki. Cool. Some people have too much time on their hands, and we are glad they do!
* while I was non-blogging last summer I visited Tuscany, and Vinci, and the da Vinci museum, which features cool scale models of many of Leonardo's designs. Way cool and well worth seeing.
This morning I woke determined to get in a longish ride as a pre-turkey / stuffing antidote. Yeah, it was kind of cold (50s) and yeah, it was windy (20s), but off I went. The strong wind was blowing due South, so I decided to head North... and kept going through Westlake and Thousand Oaks and Moorpark and through Grimes Canyon until I ended up in Fillmore. At which point I turned around and rode the South wind home; nothing nicer than a tailwind behind and a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner with my family ahead.
It was a good solid ride, perfect for thinking thankful thoughts. And a nice respite from worrying about the future.
I hope you are having a wonderful day, spent quietly and peacefully with those you love...
Good morning y'all! Hope this finds you well and recovering nicely from a great Thanksgiving dinner. I must tell you Shirley and the girls outdid themselves last night, we had a marvelous meal, very traditional with turkey and stuffing and bread pudding (!) and vegetables and so on... accompanied by a nice Jumilla. And finished off with pumpkin pie, apple pie, and cheesecake, a la mode. Just typing these words makes me feel full all over again.
Cyclelog (pre-dinner of course!): Rockstore, 28 miles, *again*. Wow 15 days in a row and still not getting easier. We'll see what today brings. You might think I would be getting sick of this ride and you might be right.
Today is my annual brush with death as I put up Christmas lights. Fortunately it is a beautiful day, not raining and not windy, both factors which have made previous years more interesting. I will be inspired by Carson Williams' amazing "Wizards of Winter" display from 2005, YouTube at right. I plan to take it slow and easy :)
I keep accumulating links about the Obamaniacs, but I'm in a good mood so I'm not going to share them. I will say, it is becoming increasingly obvious to many (as it was to me all along) that John Bolton was right.
Tim Bray makes a great observation about using his Android smartphone: "A huge amount of most people’s workload is manageable given anything with a decent email client and browser. For now, I can’t really use the phone for anything creative: Writing, or coding, or photography. I wonder when and if that might change?" Other than sending email, which is arguably a creative act, you can't originate content on a smartphone. Okay, you can take pictures, crummy ones, which you have to edit later on a PC to make them halfway presentable. But can I post to my blog? Not yet. And coding is clearly out of the question. For now. But like Tim, I have no doubt this will change...
The Space Shuttle Atlantis landed this morning, boom boom. We've become so used to this; the amazing fact that we can launch a spaceplane, have it dock with a space station for eleven days, and then return to Earth safely raises hardly an eyebrow anymore. It costs a lot, but it works. Check out these amazing pictures taken while the Shuttle was docked on the ISS and astronauts worked on the outside. Scenes from a movie. My favorite is the one showing both the Shuttle and the Russian Soyuz docked side-by-side. How cool is that?
When you're out in the ocean every once in a while you encounter a "rogue wave", a wave which is vastly larger than the average. Such waves are caused by a random confluence of a number of difference factors, each unpredictable, and each coming together to create a freakishly large wave. Nobody can predict such waves, they just happen, but if you're out at sea long enough, you'll encounter one.
An outlier like this is sometimes referred to as a "black swan", a term popularized by Nassim Taleb, in a book of the same name. Nassim is writing about large-scale negative events which are unpredictable; just like rogue waves these are the result of a large number of different factors, each difficult to predict individually, and impossible to predict as a group.
Sometimes such a rare event can be positive, maybe we could call that a white swan? For example, it can happen in sports; on any given day a particular athlete might have the performance of her life. Such deeds result from the confluence of many different factors, each hard to predict on their own and together as a group, impossible. If the white swan performance just happens to come at the right time, it becomes legendary, as when Bob Beamon set the long job record at the 1968 Mexico Olympics - it stood for 23 years - or when Floyd Landis put seven minutes into the Tour de France peloton on stage 17 of the 2006 Tour.
Of course, not every white swan occurs to a world-class athlete on the biggest stage. It can happen to anyone at any time. In fact, it could happen to me. And today, it did.
There's a ride I like to do, from my house, down around Westlake, past Lake Sherwood, and through Hidden Valley. It is a 25.3 mile loop with three sharp climbs and one gradual one, and in the past eight years I've done it dozens of times, maybe over a hundred. I've gradually lowered my average time on this route to about 1:25, for an average speed of 18mph. On any given day I might be a minute or two faster or slower, depending on how I feel, what I ate for breakfast, the wind, the heat, the road surface, traffic lights, etc. There are a lot of factors, but they all sort of even out. Except today, when they all came together. Today I did the ride in 1:18, for an average speed of 19.5mph. That's ridiculous. It's... absurd. It was a white swan.
From the moment I started out, the ride felt good. It was a perfect day, crisp and clear, with yesterday's rain still pooled in pockets but the road mostly dry. There was no wind at all, and no traffic; it's Thanksgiving and everyone was watching football :) As I reached the first climb my split was great, well ahead of average, but not unusually great. But then I just floated up the hill, using two more gears than usual. I powered down the backside, looked at my computer, and realized I had a chance to do something special; I was three minutes ahead of my best split. Whoa. From that point on I really pushed myself, and steadily opened up time on my best splits. I did get a bit tired on the last grade, but I pushed myself hard, knowing I had a white swan by the tail, and milking it.
Who can say why I felt so strong today? Was it the burrito last night? (doubtful) Thanksgiving? (possibly) The music my DJ iPod chose for me? (no doubt a factor) The beautiful day? The lack of wind, and traffic? (likely) Or all of the above? I might never feel this strong on that ride again, but it sure was fun. And you never know, tomorrow might just bring another white swan, and if not tomorrow, then the next day, or the next...
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".
Wow. Thanksgiving is over. It's Christmas time already. Where did 2004 go?
So I know you were wondering - thank you - and yes, I survived my annual brush with death. The house has Christmas lights everywhere. Complicating matters, in their infinite wisdom the gods decided it should be raining while I did this. Standing on a 25' aluminum extension ladder in the rain is not high on my list of fun things to do. However the lights look great, and I am flushed with virtue. I do still have to debug one of my reindeer; how is it that something can sit passively in a garage for 11 months and develop a short? But that's what Sundays are for...
Did you watch the USC / Notre Dame game? Great game for about 20 minutes, and a slaughter thereafter. I really like Tyrone Willingham (Notre Dame's coach) from his Stanford days but of course I was rooting heavily for USC. We don't have pro football out here anymore, so the Trojans are as close as we get. In fact, they look like a pro team, especially on offense.
Looking at the L.A.Coliseum, filled with nearly 100,000 people, it makes me wonder why it is that sports are so appealing. Clearly it is simply a proxy for "real life", but as such it has become so important that it truly is real life. Athletes make much more money than people who do real things like scientists and engineers, and are more celebrated. Fascinating.
Speaking of sports as a proxy for real life, I voted for Pat Tillman in Sports Illustrated's Sportsman of the Year fan poll. You should, too; Tillman exemplified everything that's great about sports. (And this is coming from a big time Lance Armstrong fan; Lance would be an excellent choice, but since he won last year I'd give it to Tillman. I actually think Lance would agree.) Tillman was pretty good at real life, too - selecting him would be a great way to recognize all the unsung heroes serving in our military forces. Tim Layden posted a nice column explaining why he feels the same way.
"In the year 2014, the New York Times has gone offline. The Fourth Estate's fortunes have waned. What happened to the news? And what is EPIC?" So begins a time-shifted transmission from the Museum of Media History. Pretty cool, with great production values, but a bit heavy-handed and preachy. I did enjoy this line: "The New York Times becomes a print-only newsletter for the elderly and the elite". Ironic, because that's what it has become already :)
The central point missed by this video is the completely undirected nature of the 'net. Nobody chooses anything. This is captured perfectly in a New Scientist article: The Blog Revolution Sweeps China. Quoting Issac Mao, cofounder of CNBlog.org: "What is our strategy? We do not have a strategy. But the information flow in the blogosphere has its own Way. The Way is our strategy: personal, fast, connected and networked."
For a more realistic take, see this: NYblogs, the Movie. Obviously not everyone has received The Way. Yet.
Great line from a young woman: "Bloggers? We are French, we don't know." Be sure to watch all the way to the end, you'll die laughing. At least I did.
And in NYblogs, the Sequel, a shoeshine man explains, "Who is it gonna help? The people doing it. Who is it gonna hurt? The publishing companies." He has received The Way.
By the way, I love the format of these posts. This is video blogging, Ladies and Gentleman, coming soon to a PC near you. [ via American Digest ]
The Economist hits a similar note in their reporting of Dan Rather's retirement.
"The bloggers have often been at their most devastating when they have been criticizing the old media for bias. Their favourite target has long been the New York Times." And CBS, and CNN, and ...
From the December issue of Wired, which I've already applauded: The Dream Factory. "Any product, any shape, any size - manufactured on your desktop!" And made from garbage... Well we can dream, anyway.
And from Wired news, Software Detects the True Artist. "Scholars have had their suspicions that the painting of Madonna and child credited to the Italian Renaissance master Pietro Perugino wasn't really done by him alone. But they could never be sure. Now, a new set of software tools, developed by a Dartmouth College team, seems to confirm the art historians' doubts, showing evidence of at least four different painters working on the canvas." Very cool. Of course, they used feature-based pattern recognition, a tough slog for such problems.
Are you a Mac Powerbook user? Then check out SideTrack. Makes your Mac trackpad as functional as any PC laptop's, as it should be. Excellent.
It's fun when you post something quirky, and people like it. Recently I had two such posts; Solving Bongard Problems, which seems to have attracted an eclectic mix of links, and Referral Spam Be Gone, which definitely struck a chord. I've actually had a blizzard of referer spam hits since I implemented this filter, and it is so satisfying to watch them flail. Some of the spam hits are apparently for a website which sells software for initiating referer spam. I was so impressed by this that I decided to spam them; they're getting a steady steam of hits from me, referring them to my site. I hope they enjoy it :)
To everyone, everywhere...
especially to all the young men and women serving in our armed forces,
helping to keep us free.
Here's today's "order-of-magnitude" thought experiment - what if everyone made twice as much money (was twice as productive - note to liberals, this is not a zero-sum situation!) Would that be qualitatively different? How about 4 times as much? Or 10 times? Would this be better for you, or worse? Just wondering.
This SCO lawsuit against "Linux" is way out of hand. Pure grandstanding; a "bet the company" move which will either pay off hugely or fail completely. And either way SCO will be vilified. Now Source Claims SCO Will Sue Google. Of course, only they'll wait until Google's IPO has been filed. "Industry wags are saying that God invented SCO to give people a company to hate more than Microsoft." This is so counter productive, no value is created by this activity at all.
Fortune wonders Can Google Grow Up? "[Google co-founder Larry] Page says he doesn't spend much time worrying about competitors: 'That's not what we're about. We think of what we do as adding more value to the world.'" The boldface is mine. Compare Google to SCO.
Samsung Unveils High-tech Robot Vacuum Cleaner. Wow. "The Samsung cleaner draws a 3-D map of the environment to identify its relative location, enabling faster and more efficient cleaning of a defined area. The VC-RP30W can be remotely controlled using a computer with an Internet connection too. When controlled over the web, a user can monitor its working environment with the cleaner’s built-in camera." Seems more like a toy than a way to clean your house, huh?
Tim Bray considers Do Databases Suck? Yes, they do. They are great for some things, not so great for others. Like any general purpose solution, they are inherently less optimal for any specific problem.
A not-to-be-named company at which I have many friends recently migrated a large transaction system from a proprietary database optimized for transaction processing to a general commercial RDBMS. Guess what happened? Yep, performance sucks. For any heavy-add application like transaction processing, relational databases are not going to be fast. In some cases their optimal search and reporting capabilities compensate, in others, they don't.
Adam Curry passes on this ad - okay, I laughed. Out loud. For about five minutes :)