Critical Section

Archive: May 29, 2017

 

Archive: May 29, 2016

 

Archive: May 26, 2015

Tuesday,  05/26/15  07:26 PM

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

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

Great advice for graduates, from Ted Nugent:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 
 

Archive: May 27, 2014

Tuesday,  05/27/14  11:15 PM

minions!My goodness; nearly two weeks since my last filter pass.  Let's get on with it then, shall we?

Why should read The Circle, even if you don't buy it.  I'm reading it, and while it is interesting, yeah, I don't buy it.  It's tough to like a book which has such a strong point of view, especially when none of the characters are likeable.  I'm struggling on...

Meanwhile, I enjoyed Hatching Twitter tremendously.  What a story; four co-founders, all of whom contributed and none of whom are still involved in the day-to-day workings of the company.  Such politics, such intrigue, and yet the company survived and indeed prospered.  One gets the impression it all worked out because of the strength of the product, and the essential simplicity of the business model.

illusion of life, animation explainedOn the illusion of life; "The 12 basic principles of animation were developed by the 'old men' of Walt Disney Studios."  Excellent.

Wow: Image is everything: Snapchat tops WhatsApp as biggest US messaging app by volume.  It certainly could do with image search :)

Apropos: Facebook goes after Snapchat, again.  "If you guys were the inventors of Snapchat, you'd have invented Snapchat."  Hehe.

Chef ... TwitterReminds me to mention: great movie I've seen recently: Chef.  In which a chef's son uses social networking to wildly publicize his father's food truck.  There's a lot more to it than that ... watch it!

Marketing by Beats by Dre.  "It's easy to see why Apple might want to buy them."  Nope, I don't get it.  I don't see the fit, and moreover, if this was real, I wouldn't expect to see so much information leak ahead of time.  I believe there were discussions, but will be surprised if they actually lead to a deal.

Saturn: Greatest Show Off EarthAwesome: The Greatest Show Off Earth.  Indeed it is.

quadcopter at Big Sur, watching the Amgen TourThis is so cool: Stunning quadcopter coverage from Big Sur at Amgen Tour.  You can see where this kind of thing is going to become much more common, and soon we'll see sporting events from every conceivable angle.

Meanwhile I have to say, the video coverage of this event was awful.  The frame rate stuttered constantly, and the compression artifacts were ridiculous.  Embarrassing, really; when life cycle racing coverage in Europe is so excellent.

Agree entirely: Stop forcing people to wear bike helmets.  The nanny state is unnecessary and unwanted.

Speaking of which: Why global warming alarmism isn't science.  "Global warming alarmism fails the test of science. The alarmists' models generate one false prediction after another."  Note, this doesn't not mean global warming isn't occurring, only that we do not have models which correctly predict it.

Met collection onlineExcellent: Met puts huge image trove online.  (You can browse it here...)  There is going to be more and more of this, and it will be an incredible resource for widespread image search.

stunning world of fungiAbsolutely beautiful: Stunning photos reveal the enchanting world of fungi.

Dave Winer: In news, the front page is the first problem.  "When Twitter started owning the news cycle, that's what they call in business a "competitive threat." You can choose to respond or not respond. But if you don't respond, you pretty much always lose."  Yep.

On the future of Metafilter.  Google are the gatekeeper for traffic on the web, no question.  What can break their hegemony?  (Images?)

star trail photosAwesome: Stunning digitally composited star trail photos.  Way cool.  This could have been done with film, of course, but digital makes this stuff so much easier.

Wrapping up...  the proven way to add value:  "Do extremely difficult work."  Which might be true, and begs the question, "what makes work difficult?"  I claim it isn't doing it, it is knowing what to do.

 
 

Archive: May 29, 2013

 

Archive: May 29, 2012

 

Archive: May 29, 2011

Heartbreak Hundred

Sunday,  05/29/11  09:15 AM

Yesterday I rode the Heartbreak Hundred, a maniacal century accumulating 9,000' of climbing in a tour of the Los Padres National Forest.  The highlight is a 5 mile climb at about 7% called ... Heartbreak Hill.  The past two years I've actually ridden this as a Double - with 50 miles before, and 50 miles after, in an out-and-back from Palmdale - but this year I had to get back home for a dinner party so contented myself with the middle hundred.

The timing of this ride was *perfect*; after last week I had a lot to think about, and riding for 10 hours gave me a lot of time to think.  I have quite distilled everything down yet but stay tuned, I think I'm in for an inflection point.

Anyway the ride itself was great - I felt strong, and did it in 8:14 riding time, which is pretty good considering - and I enjoyed nice weather and beautiful views.  Here are some pictures:


the route: 100 miles and 9,000' of climbing, a nice little tour of the Los Padres National Forest


picture map courtesy of my iPhone; I love this feature...


initial climb up past Frasier Park; so far, so good


paceline up into the forest


first checkpoint at the top of the first climb; whew
only 25 miles down and a long way left


amazing vista open up along the forest ridge of Mt. Pinos


descending the backside down from the forest: wheeee!


at 'the place' halfway through the ride; ready to attack Heartbreak!


a little water hazard


Heartbreak Hill! - 5 miles at 7%


looking back down; did I just climb that?  (gasp)


Powering at 30+ mph back down - yay.
finished in 8:14 riding time, not bad

Onward!  Next weekend I'm riding the Ojai Valley 200K, and in the meantime I have much to think about :)

 
 

Archive: May 23, 2010

Amgen Tour of California: Stage 8 - Rockstore!

Sunday,  05/23/10  10:30 PM

Today was the *big* day; 2010 Amgen Tour of California stage 8, a four-lap circuit race right in my hometown, including the fabulous Rockstore climb I'm always telling you about, and the terrifying descent down Decker Canyon.  I was there (!), and managed to wangle an invitation into the Amgen VIP compound.  It was great.

Setting the stage, going in to this final day Michael Rogers of HTC/Columbia was leading overall, followed by Dave Zabriske of Garmin-Transitions 9s back, and Levi Leipheimer of Team Radio Shack 25s behind in third.  BTW those three finished 1-2-3 last year, and they figured to do it again; but in which order?  With such a tough finishing stage, anything was possible.

Naturally I took pictures, and naturally I'm going to share them with you.  Here we go:


I began at the finish :) in Westlake Village; all calm right now... but later will be a madhouse


riding up Rockstore, there it is, the Rockstore itself,with a zillion motorcycles parked in front as usual
there was a huge crowd here to drink beer, hang out, and oh yeah watch those cyclist guys


the climb was packed with cars and people and bikes and tents
lots of people chalking the road, too


here it is, the Amgen VIP compound, located on that last big turn before the top


yippee I'm in


the Amgen area included the peak overlooking the turn - and the whole valley
the red arrow shows where I stationed myself, an awesome spot
note the DJ in the foreground, rocking the Rockstore...


the view of the valley from the peak was unbelievable
the entire climb was visible, it was possible to watch the riders all the way up
the red arrow shows the location of the Rockstore at the base


overview of Amgen compound and the final straight of Rockstore up to the KOM point
note the crowds - it was really packed


and so the race is on!
on lap two a breakaway of seven riders formed, including George Hincapie
here they have about 2:30 on the peloton


the peloton fragmented behind the break
with the GC men and their domestiques in the chase group
tucked in note Rogers (yellow jersey), Zabriske (orange helmet), and Levi (red and black kit)


check out the size of the "peloton" after 35 miles of racing


the leaders on lap three
R-to-L: Chris Horner leads Rogers, Rory Sutherland, and Levi, with Zabriske at the far left


on the final lap the break itself broke; here are leaders Baredo, Pujols, and Hincapie
George was the crowd favorite (of course) and looked great for the win


after a series of attacks the GC men pulled out from what was left of the peloton
Levi, Rogers, and Zabriske mark each other, followed by Horner, Ryder Hesjedal, and Thomas Rabou
with no gaps by this point it was evident that Rogers was on his way to the overall win


the leaders crest Rockstore on the final lap
what a marvelous sight!

After the peloton passed I rode down Rockstore and cut through Triunfo Canyon to Westlake Village, but instead of heading for the finish line I headed home, so I could watch the whole thing on Versus.  Which I did, amazed that only a few minutes ago I had actually been there.

Oh, you want to know what happened?  Well, on the Mulholland rollers between Rockstore and Decker Hesjedal attacked, and Horner went with him.  They ended up catching the three leaders on the descent, and that group of five sprinted it out to the finish, with Hesjedal edging out George for the win.  Congratulations to him but boo; I was really rooting for George to get it.  Horner was third.

Must make a point of recognizing Thomas Rabou who won King of the Mountains going away.  A promising young rider on Rabobank, he had a horrible accident which took him over a year to recover from, and is now coming back as a member of Team Type 1.  He's been living a dream this week.

And in the GC it ended up being a parade; after all that work Rogers, Zabriske, and Levi finished together, and so they ended up on the podium in that order.  A great win for Rogers, and poor Dave finishes second in the ATOC for the third time.  Maybe next year!

Another fantastic day watching pro cycling... and this time right in my own town, on a climb I ride myself just about every week.  I'll never do it again without thinking of today.  How did I get here? :)

 

Sunday,  05/23/10  10:47 PM

Wow, quite a weekend, what with Megan's par-tay yesterday and the Amgen Tour stage today.  And so whew I get to relax... no wait that's wrong, I get to fly on a red-eye to Philadelphia!  I am in fact sitting at LAX at this very moment, waiting for my [late] flight to board.  Upon arrival it will be a day of meetings, followed by two days of customer visits, with a late flight back Wednesday and then a trip to Vista on Thursday.  I will be one tired puppy.  But don't worry, I will blog :)

the Treatment - the search for drugs to fight cancerThe latest issue of the New Yorker features a fascinating article by Malcolm Gladwell, The Treatment (PDF), about the search for drugs to fight cancer.  A must read even if you aren't in the business of building tools for cancer researchers like I am.

Dog bites man story of the day: HP confirms slate to run WebOS.  I bet it won't suck, and in fact might give Apple's iPad a run for your money.  Of course as with any platform the key will be the availability of content; will there be WebOS Apps?  Or perhaps the question should be will there be web apps.  You could see a version of Chrome for the WebOS too, including flash...

In this regard, it is interesting to ponder whether the Android platform is fragmenting [already].  What's important here is not bifurcation of versions or features, but whether all versions support the same apps.  E.g. Chrome + web = commonality.

More on Apple vs Google, in the wake of the Google I/O announcements: Robert Scoble posts hey Apple, you have mobile competition, and Eric Raymond thinks now's a bad time to be an Apple fanboy.  I love this from Scoble: “Hello?  This is Scoble.  You’re not calling me on your iPhone, are you?  Why do you say that?  Because I can hear you."  Ouch.  And Eric concludes "Apple has been outflanked by Google’s multi-vendor strategy, outsold in new unit sales, and is now outgunned in technology and user-visible features. Again, I was expecting this…but not so soon."  In this battle between two successful companies I don't see a loser, and for sure we consumers are the winners!

Stage 8 of the ATOC featured beautiful shots of Agoura Hills, Thousand Oaks, and Westlake VillagePS to my ATOC stage 8 report, not only did Ryder Hesjedal and Michael Rogers win, but so too did the cities of Agoura Hills, Thousand Oaks, and Westlake Village.  There were huge crowds everywhere, and the PR value of all those beautiful aerial helicopter shots is incalculable.

Oh and in the other big cycling race taking place at the moment, Ivan Basso won stage 15 of the Giro!  David Arroyo remains the overall leader, as the GC favorites continue to recover time from that amazing break which shuffled the standings.  They have a rest day tomorrow but then a week of climbing left.

Zooborn: quail chickWrapping up, the ZooBorn of the weekend is this quail chick.  Wow.  I must tell you I am a sucker for cute chicks :)

 
 

Archive: May 28, 2009

the greatest dinghies

Thursday,  05/28/09  08:48 AM

My list for the Tillerman, the greatest dinghies of all time (that I have sailed):

  1. International 505505.  The greatest doublehanded racing dinghy of all time, indisputably, as well as the prettiest.  Not to mention one of the toughest classes.  I raced in the 505 Worlds in, um, 1990 (had to think about that), in Kingston Ontario, finished about 50th in a fleet of 100 boats, and rate that one of my best regattas ever (that was back when I could sail).

  2. Laser.  The greatest singlehanded racing dinghy of all time, although the Finn would have a case, too.  Certainly the most popular; there are Lasers everywhere.  I've never had any success racing Lasers, exception in local fleets, the class is just too tough.  I've owned three lasers including Locomotive Breath, my current one, which is eight years old; I'm guessing I've had one for over half my life, and hope to keep that going...

  3. C-15: It's the WaterC-15.  This is my sentimental favorite, as I've owned my current C-15 It's the Water for 30 years, and have won three national championships in it.  Of course the C-15 isn't as fast as a lot of other doublehanded boats, but it is built better and they last.  (And in enough wind, they do manage to get out of their own way :)  Probably the high point of my sailing career was winning the C-15 International Championship in Japan, in 1978.  Yeah, I was 19; I peaked early...

  4. Snipe.  As the Laser is the most popular singlehander, the Snipe would have to be the most popular doublehander; you can find them all over the world.  They are not fast, but they're fun to sail and durable, and they have a feature which has ensured their popularity: they can be sailed by a guy with his girlfriend.  I owned a Snipe for about ten years, finally donated it to the Alamitos Bay Yacht Club when garage space became more important to me than sailing :)

  5. Hobie 16 in its natural environmentHobie 16.  The most popular catamaran of all time, by far; you can find them all over the world on every beach.  They're simple and fun and fast, and at one time there was a huge racing fleet which was amazingly competitive (seems to have died out a bit in recent years).  I raced them off Malibu, and enjoyed their speed and ease of sailing as much as the competition.  They are as happy sitting on a beach as they are in the water.

Assembling this list gave me a strong sense of nostalgia.  Nothing is as worthwhile as spending time sailing; my father used to say God did not count time on the water against your allotted days on the Earth.  I need to spent more time "out there"... maybe next weekend, with my daughter (the Westlake Cup Regatta, which I first won in a Cyclone at age 17), or a bit later, the High Sierra Regatta, fixture of the C-15 Class calendar, my first "out of town" race when I was a young teen, wide-eyed with wonder at seeing so many boats from so many places, and Huntington Lake is still one of the best places to sail anywhere.  Stay tuned!

 

Thursday,  05/28/09  09:01 AM

(...composed on USAir en route to Phoenix from Burbank...)

Yesterday was amazing, in fact it feels like part of today, because I woke up in Vista, spent the day working (productively, yay), had a fantastic dinner with colleagues and friends in Carlsbad (at which, I'll note we sampled a mini-vertical of Duckhorn Three Palms merlots, and concluded once more they are amazing), drove home, slept for three hours, got up and drove to Burbank airport, and here I am... whether this bodes well for my meetings later today remains to be seen :)

Scott "Dilbert" Adams is calling the bottom: "In January I wrote a post about Captain Sullenberger safely landing his plane in the Hudson River. At the end of the post I said it was a sign that the economy had reached bottom and would soon improve, thanks largely to what I predicted would be an upsurge in consumer confidence...".  And this appears to be exactly what happened.  But as Scott cautions, "Disclaimer: Don't get your financial, legal, or medical advice from cartoonists."

Sonia SotomayorSo President Obama has nominated Sonia Sotomayor for Supreme Court Justice, to replace the retiring David Souter.  Her proposition: 'I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male'.  Ugh.

From the department of unintended consequences: "Bond investors literally can't afford to lend to unionized companies because it's clear that current power in Washington will take the unions' side, despite past bankruptcy law precedents that favor senior creditors. That means Washington's actions in pushing for these bankruptcy verdicts to come out in favor of the unions will probably hurt unionized companies in the long run."  Repeat after me: governments should not be involved in markets...

President Obama's response to North Korea's apparently successful test of a nuclear weapon: "'Let's be clear: we are not taking adverbs off the table,' Mr. Obama said. 'If the need arises, we will use them forcefully, aggressively, swiftly, overwhelmingly and commandingly'."  As Powerline notes, no verbs in prospect.

RAID!Jeff Atwood tells us everything you wanted to know about RAID, and more...  I've become a convert to RAID, slowly; in the bad old days it seemed like the arrays' unreliability was worse than their drives', but these days that's no longer true and using RAID on servers seems almost required.

stand up to cancer!Now you can [apparently] Stand Up to Cancer, with Twitter...  possibly the best use of Twitter that has yet been found, although it cannot transmit pictures of Jennifer Aniston :)

FierceBiotech reports Cougar trial sees big response to prostate cancer drug.  "Researchers say that Cougar's lead drug candidate--abiraterone acetate--produced positive data in a small clinical study on prostate tumors.  Abiraterone is designed to stop the body from producing a hormone tumor cells thrive on.  Imaging scans of the 54 patients in the study demonstrated that nine of 24 subjects demonstrated a decrease in tumor size."  Excellent!

Cult of Mac reports iPhone under fire: "For the first time since the announcement of the original iPhone, there are legitimate competitors all around, many of them even approaching Apple’s thinking in creating a holistic ecosystem of supporting software, third-party development and services. There are three big threats to the rise of the iPhone right now: Palm Pre, mass availability of Android, and the Zune HD platform".  The iPhone will do just fine, competition is good.

Meanwhile TechCrunch thinks the Palm Pre will fail: "I'm afraid to report that after all the magic, all the tears, all the joy the Palm Pre will be just another phone.  It won't save Palm, it won't change paradigms, and it won't send the iPhone hegemony crashing to its knees."  We'll keep think link around and check back in a couple of months :)  My own view is that the Pre will succeed, and it has saved Palm already, although I agree it won't dent the iPhone hegemony.

'Up' - rising...CNet: How technology lifts Pixar's 'Up'.  It looks really good, wow, how can they have done it again?  Can't wait to see it; opens Friday...  BTW the Disney acquisition of Pixar looks like it worked, huh?

ZooBorn: baby baboonZooBorn of the day: a baby Baboon.  Looks like more trouble than a barrel of monkeys, doesn't he?

 
 

Archive: May 29, 2008

Thursday,  05/29/08  09:41 AM

I am starting to worry about my bruised rib a little.  It didn't seem that bad at the time, and doesn't seem that bad now, either, but it isn't getting better very fast.  Actually it isn't getting better, period.  Shirley says this is because I'm masking the pain with Motrin, and hence constantly re-injuring it.  Does that make medical sense?  No idea.

Today a colleague and I visited one of Aperio's partners; a great company with great products, but one that runs at a decidedly different clock speed than Aperio.  It was so apparent that while we want to get going immediately on any possible joint project, they need to study it, analyze it, think about it, and generally let time pass before they get around to it.  I could never work for a company like that.  Wow.

So really, what would happen?  Ralph Peters asks the question...  "To date, not one 'mainstream media' journalist has pressed the leading advocates of unconditional surrender to describe in detail what might happen after we 'bring the troops home now'."  Like I noted the other day, it is easy to be anti-war, but not so easy to say what you would do instead.

Jeff Atwood considers a subject I've often thought about myself: Designing for Evil.  It is one thing to build something useful for benevolent users, quite another to build something that can withstand malevolent users, too.  It ends up being a classic arms race, you try something, they try something, and each side responds to the other.  With the benevolent users who are the service's actual customers caught in the middle.

Jens Voight wins Giro stage 17Awesome!  Jens Voight powers away from the Giro d'Italia peloton for a stage win, as Alberto Contador solidifies his grasp on the maglia rosa.  I love Jens.

Doc Searles with what he thinks is a little good news: gas prices drop below $127/barrel.  Whether you think lower oil prices are good news depends entirely on your point of view.  Higher oil prices will reduce consumption, reduce American dependence on foreign supply, and stimulate demand for alternative sources of entropy, which are all good things.  Yay, $200/barrel!

Dude, where's my recession?  Yeah, seems to be missing; as James Pethokoukis notes, "What do you call a recession where the economy keeps going up and up, even if a bit sluggishly? Well, my friends, you call that an expansion. And that is what we seem to have right now, despite all the economic doomsaying about a recession or even a Great Depression 2.0."  The MSM is distorting economic news is just as badly as news from Iraq.  Somehow convincing the American public that the Bush administration is failing is more important than the truth.

I notice this most dramatically when I speak with people who don't read blogs, like my Mom, or my mountain biking friends.  Their impression of what's happening in the world is qualitatively different to mine.

The other day I noted Microsoft's rather weird "five misunderstood features in Vista".  What I didn't realize is that this was version 2.0 of this document; John Gruber links Steven Poole's fisking of the original.  Bizarre.  Microsoft have really lost their way, huh?

 
 

Archive: May 17, 2007

entrepreneurs inside the machine

Thursday,  05/17/07  08:43 AM

entrepreneurs inside the machineFortune discusses Entrepreneurs Inside the Machine, regarding integrating acquired entrepreneurs into a big company.

I find this to be an important issue, as a shareholder as well as an entrepreneur.  In the early days the value of a company like Aperio lies largely in its people.  Over time the value becomes institutionalized, and moves into the customers, the market approach, the brand, the products, etc.  (Not that people don’t remain important, but they become relatively less important.)  If an acquiring company plans to realize the maximum value from an acquisition, they must either provide a good home to those people, or wait until the value has shifted away from the people.  Or both.

From my personal experience Intuit bought its billpay business (which was a separate company) too soon, the key people left, and the value was not fully realized.  Digital Insight went public, experienced turnover without losing value (over a period of years), and was then ultimately acquired by Intuit, long after the value had moved.  PayPal went public, experienced a great deal of turnover and lost some value (over a period of a year), and was then ultimately acquired by eBay.  The value to eBay has been immense, but there was an even larger and more valuable business inside PayPal which wasn’t fully realized.  At one time we legitimately spoke of forming a rival to Wells Fargo and Citibank, now that seems silly.  (Many of the PayPal people who left went on to start other successful businesses, YouTube being the highest profile example.  Maybe someday Aperio will be another :)

 

The Bakeoff

Thursday,  05/17/07  10:49 PM

the bakeoffI'd like to refer you to The Bakeoff, an amazing article that I recommend to everyone.  Really excellent, really thought-provoking.

This was published in the New Yorker a couple of years ago, and I can't find it anywhere online so I’ve scanned it. 

The article is superficially about the quest for a healthier cookie.  At a level down it is actually as much about software development – or innovation in general – as it is about baking; Joel Spolsky is quoted, as is Linus Torvalds, and the philosophy of “open source” is examined, and “extreme programming” is debunked.  Jon Udell posted a nice overview if you're too busy to read it all, but the writing is excellent so I recommend you do when you can.  The author is Malcolm Gladwell (of The Tipping Point and Blink), and he nails it.

P.S. This is an example of the kind of thing you can't find anywhere else.  I can't stand the New Yorker’s politics, or the way they seem to sneer at anyone not in New York, but the magazine is invaluable as a bulletin board for this sort of stuff.

 

bigger than baseball

Thursday,  05/17/07  11:03 PM

Barry Bonds is back in the news as he nears Hank Aaron's record of 755 lifetime home runs.  Which recalls this fantastic New Yorker cover, from April 3, 2006:

bigger than baseball
(click to make even bigger :)

Big news - I love it!

 
 

Archive: May 29, 2006

 

Archive: May 29, 2005

the nuclear option

Sunday,  05/29/05  11:23 AM

Relax, this is not a post about filibusters or approving Supreme Court justices.  No, this is about nuclear energy.

oil & natural gas supplies over timeAs you know, oil supplies are peaking, and prices are on the rise.  Neither of these questions is really open to debate.  We all understand that oil is a finite resource.  We can argue about whether supply will peak in 2010 or 2040, but it is clear that it will peak, and thereafter we'll be running out of oil.  Any resource whose supply is limited and decreasing is going to become more expensive.  [ Mark Frauenfelder had a great link-filled post about this. ]

So what do we do?  Clearly there are two paths to follow, and clearly we must follow both of them.  First, we must try to reduce our entropy consumption.  Second, we must develop alternative sources of entropy.

Note: people often use "energy" when they mean "entropy".  The first law of thermodynamics tells us that in any process energy is always conserved.  The second law of thermodynamics causes the problem, it says that in any process entropy always increases.  Think of "entropy" as "randomness".  The more ordered things are, the less random they are, and the more potential energy is available.  All processes which release potential energy to perform work reduce the order, and increase entropy.  Think of any two-year old - as energy is released, order is destroyed :)

Reducing entropy consumption is all very exciting, but I don't want to talk about that today.  In the end this can only help, but it can't solve the problem.  As the worldwide standard of living increases, so, too, does the worldwide consumption of entropy per person.  It is worth trying to slow the trend, but it will be impossible to reverse.

So what alternatives do we have?

First, there is certainly hydroelectric power.  Can we significantly increase production of energy from hydroelectric sources?  Not really.  First, all the low hanging fruit has been picked; virtually every big river flowing through a gorge has been dammed.  Over time we have to use smaller and smaller rivers, which are harder and harder to dam, and which ultimately produce less and less power.  And the ecologic consequences of damming rivers is significant.  Other sources of hydroelectric power like harnessing tides are speculative.  They might work, but they aren't proven to scale.  Furthermore each tends to have some negative effect on its environment.

Next consider solar power.  Can solar power be the solution?  It can certainly be part of the solution.  In sunny areas it is great for small-scale projects like heating swimming pools.  On the upside it seems to have minimal effect on its environment.  However it isn't efficient enough - by orders of magnitude - to replace oil.  The power produced is too low, and the cost of the power is too high. 

How about wind?  I've considered wind power previously.  It really doesn't make much sense; it is inefficient, expensive, and highly detrimental to the immediate environment.  Furthermore the number of areas with consistently high wind and large areas of land is small.  Maybe someday people will figure out how to generate wind power out on the ocean - a good combination of high wind and large areas - but that's speculative.

Which really only leaves the nuclear option.  Nuclear energy is actually the best alternative to burning oil.  First, it scales; it is already possible to build big nuclear power plants which produce energy on the scales required.  Second, it is relatively clean; although the problem of waste disposal is a problem, it is arguably less destructive than releasing hydrocarbons produced from burning oil into the atmosphere, or damming rivers, or covering vast areas with windmills.

Amazingly, this option seems to be gathering support.  FuturePundit reported American electric utilities planning new nuclear reactors, and wondered will most environmentalists decide to support nuclear power?  Stewart Brand, founder of the Whole Earth catalog, makes the case for going nuclear.  [ via David Pescovitz ]

Even the NYTimes reported Old foes soften to new reactors:  [ via Glenn Reynolds ]

Several of the nation's most prominent environmentalists have gone public with the message that nuclear power, long taboo among environmental advocates, should be reconsidered as a remedy for global warming.  Their numbers are still small, but they represent growing cracks in what had been a virtually solid wall of opposition to nuclear power among most mainstream environmental groups.  In the past few months, articles in publications like Technology Review, published by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Wired magazine have openly espoused nuclear power, angering other environmental advocates.

Interestingly the focus of this article was reducing global warming, which is a consequence of burning fossil fuels, but of course reducing our dependence upon oil as a source of entropy is important, too.

Perhaps the best recent survey was in Business 2.0: Going Nuclear.  One emphasis of this article was on why nuclear energy is safe, and especially why it is safer than it was.  Naturally we're worried about disposing of nuclear waste, but we're even more worried about avoiding another Three Mile Island or Chernobyl.  The risk is nonzero but low, and getting lower.

This is all good.  It seems that intelligent people of all stripes are converging on the nuclear option.  Which is terrific, because the alternative - continuing to burn oil until it is gone - is no option at all.

 
 

Archive: May 20, 2004

RSS cookbook simplified

Thursday,  05/20/04  10:36 PM

The other day I posted an RSS cookbook, hoping to entice those of you who haven't yet discovered how cool RSS readers are to do so.  Well I figured out a way to make it even simpler, so if you haven't already, please check it out - again.  This will be worth it, I promise.

 

Thursday,  05/20/04  10:55 PM

Busy day, for me, for the world, and for the blogosphere...

The frustration Democrats have with the electorate is understandable; even after all the "bad news" from Iraq, cheered on by big media, Bush remains ahead in the polls.  Command Post notes Kerry is now trying to make the price of gas an issue.  That's a good tactic for him, but realistically there's little the President can do about them.  The world is running out of gas, and prices will continue to reflect supply and demand.

John Robb quotes the WSJ: "If current oil prices are sustained, the estimated losses at the airlines is expected to top $5B this year."  So be it.

Not shocking, but too bad; China Shelves Plan for Astronauts on Moon.  "China plans to build its own manned space station by around 2020 but has shelved plans to put a man on the moon for financial reasons."  So be it.

AlwaysOn: Video Gets Personal.  "Analysts generally seem to agree that the 'Tivo-ing' of America opens up new markets for on-demand Internet-based video content."  Yep.

So today I get an email from Vonage, offering to change my plan from $30/month to $25/month.  What!  No strings attached.  Excellent.  They also introduced a new $15/month plan which offers limited calling.  If you're still using analog phone lines, you are overpaying for phone service.

P.S. They're offering a $40 referral fee; if you sign up and let me refer you, I'll split it with you :)

Steve Sailer points out Mind - The Adaptive Gap, from the Scientist.  A nice review of the current state of evolutionary psychology.  "As a field, evolutionary psychology (EP) has the difficult, and some say untenable, mission of discerning whether complex human qualities--everything from sexual attraction to language--are adaptations honed through natural selection or just nonadaptive byproducts of a uniquely human collection of cognitive systems."  Great stuff.

The Heisenberg Penguins: The Scientist reports on a study which found penguins with flipper bands are late to breed and less successful at it.  (Sounds like a job for RFID.)

Seattle public library, designed by Rem KoolhaasIf you're a regular reader you know I like modern architecture, and especially Rem Koolhaas.  Check out these pictures of new Seattle public library.  Wow.  That's art.  (I love the floor of babble - what a great idea.)  Oh, and here are some QTVRs of the interior.  [ via Cult of Mac ]

PearPC - Mac OS X under WindowsWant to run Mac OS X on your PC under Windows?  (Slowly?)  The check out PearPC.  Here's a report from a guy who got it running....  The use case for this is weak, but I love it!

Mac SE web simulation, running OS 7Remember the old Mac SE?  I do, in fact I still have one (named Hen3ry).  Check this out - Oliver Soehlke & Lukas Pajonczek have created a web-based simulation (in German, no less)!  More proof that some people have too much free time.  I must say, it is cool.

It was pretty cool having the OS X screen shot (above, right) and the OS 7 screen shot (above, left) sitting side-by-side in Photoshop.  You've come a long way, baby :)

The Atlantic considers Broken Windows, from 1982.  This seminal work strongly influenced William Bratton, who first as New York Transportation police chief and then New York city police chief had unusual success by focusing on “broken windows” (literally and figuratively).  He was impressively successful at reducing graffiti and crime in New York, and subsequently wrote a book ("Turnaround") and then became L.A.’s police chief (!).  So far he's receiving high marks with his efforts here. 

Ongoing application of this theory may explain Why Is There a Plunge in Crime?

The Sun reports Star Wars Episode III will be called Birth of the Empire.  So be it.  "The highlight of the space epic will be a thrilling lightsabre clash between Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) and Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) while surfing on lava."  Cool.  In the wake of Episode II my expectations have been lowered to the point where I'll probably like this one.

MSNBC has a running commentary on "how Episode III can be saved".  I'm sure George Lucas appreciates the help (but probably not the suggestion that somebody else direct), but as the creator of what is arguably the most successful movie series in history, I doubt he really needs it.

Tuck Andress on learning to play guitar: It's the Guitar's Fault.  [ via Ottmar Liebert ]

Soon it may be illegal to drive while distracted in L.A.  What!  "Drivers distracted by eating, talking to pets or combing their hair could face new fines under a bill that passed the state Senate."  These guys have too much free time.  Are they kidding?  What if you're driving and a pretty girl catches your eye, does that count?  [ via Blogging L.A. ]

My friend Cynthia told me about this the other day, and I didn't believe her: Born a Boy, Raised a Girl, Became a Man.  "Dr. John Money, who had authored 40 books on human sexuality, had radical advice.  He believed that the gender of a person depends on how a child is raised rather than genetics."  This guy was a doctor?  Sigh.

Oh, but four trans-gender people are graduating from the LAPD police acadamy.  I am not making this up.  (I couldn't, I'm not that creative :)

Microsoft.com: The four-letter word that can get people excited.  Hint: It starts with a B.  [ via Scoble ]

Bill Gates gets blogs and RSS, too.

The RSS bandwagon keeps rolling, Time and ESPN.  As Dave Winer says, big bing!

Want to get your feed wet with RSS?  Check out my RSS cookbook...

 
 

Archive: May 29, 2003

the $21 question

Thursday,  05/29/03  11:34 AM

A few days ago I reviewed How Would You Move Mount Fuji, a great new book about the logic puzzles often used in technical interviews.  I received a lot of feedback - thanks! - and some interesting meta-reviews (reviews of my review).  My favorite meta-review was by Chris Lightfoot.  He was pretty critical - as he put it "such pontifications irk me" - but the reason I liked it was that he gave a different and better answer to the $21 question.

You may remember this question goes as follows:

Mike and Todd have $21 between them.  Mike has $20 more than Todd.  How much does each have (you can't use fractions in the answer)?

I called this the worst question in the book, based on the fact that it has no answer.  I went on to say:

Apparently sometimes people ask questions which have no answer to see how candidates react.  This might be helpful in some situations (if you're hiring for a company with a confrontational culture!), but I would never use it; I don't like what it says about me and my company, and I can't imagine what it would say about the candidate, either.

So it turns out that this question does have an answer!  Chris writes:

What does this illustrate?  That Ole apparently doesn't know that dollars are divided up into cents:

m = t + 2000¢
m + t = 2100¢

Hence,

m = 2050¢
t = 50¢

Excellent!  When I read this question in the book it was described as having no answer, and it never occurred to me that the book was wrong, and that this question really does have an answer.  I believe whoever first posed this question was looking for Chris' answer; this is a classic "thinking out of the box" test.  Any candidate is going to do the algebra and conclude that there is no integer solution in dollars.  Will they then consider shifting units to cents?  Very interesting.

I don't know what my reaction would have been if the question had been posed as answerable.  Would I have thought to give the answer in cents?  Don't know.  But when the book stated that the question was not answerable, I took their word for it.  Bad Ole.

Since I'm following up on the review, I wanted to mention a couple of other puzzles which were emailed to me as great questions:

The Bad King.  I had encountered some version of this before, and I like it.  I knew the form of the answer from having seen it before.  This question does have an answer and there is no trick - just logical thinking.  Click through if you want to try it.

The Switches Puzzle.  I have not figured this one out yet - it seems like it requires a trick, but according to the techInterview rating scheme the "aha" factor is low, implying that it doesn't.  Check it out if you're interested - if I can figure it out, I'll post a solution.

[ Later - I figured it out!  Please see The Two Switches for the solution. ]

In the meantime let me know if you encounter other interesting puzzles...  I'm practicing for the Worlds :)

 

The $21 Question

Thursday,  05/29/03  11:34 AM

A few days ago I reviewed How Would You Move Mount Fuji, a great new book about the logic puzzles often used in technical interviews.  I received a lot of feedback - thanks! - and some interesting meta-reviews (reviews of my review).  My favorite meta-review was by Chris Lightfoot.  He was pretty critical - as he put it "such pontifications irk me" - but the reason I liked it was that he gave a different and better answer to the $21 question.

You may remember this question goes as follows:

Mike and Todd have $21 between them.  Mike has $20 more than Todd.  How much does each have (you can't use fractions in the answer)?

I called this the worst question in the book, based on the fact that it has no answer.  I went on to say:

Apparently sometimes people ask questions which have no answer to see how candidates react.  This might be helpful in some situations (if you're hiring for a company with a confrontational culture!), but I would never use it; I don't like what it says about me and my company, and I can't imagine what it would say about the candidate, either.

So it turns out that this question does have an answer!  Chris writes:

What does this illustrate?  That Ole apparently doesn't know that dollars are divided up into cents:

m = t + 2000¢
m + t = 2100¢

Hence,

m = 2050¢
t = 50¢

Excellent!  When I read this question in the book it was described as having no answer, and it never occurred to me that the book was wrong, and that this question really does have an answer.  I believe whoever first posed this question was looking for Chris' answer; this is a classic "thinking out of the box" test.  Any candidate is going to do the algebra and conclude that there is no integer solution in dollars.  Will they then consider shifting units to cents?  Very interesting.

I don't know what my reaction would have been if the question had been posed as answerable.  Would I have thought to give the answer in cents?  Don't know.  But when the book stated that the question was not answerable, I took their word for it.  Bad Ole.

Since I'm following up on the review, I wanted to mention a couple of other puzzles which were emailed to me as great questions:

The Bad King.  I had encountered some version of this before, and I like it.  I knew the form of the answer from having seen it before.  This question does have an answer and there is no trick - just logical thinking.  Click through if you want to try it.

The Switches Puzzle.  I have not figured this one out yet - it seems like it requires a trick, but according to the techInterview rating scheme the "aha" factor is low, implying that it doesn't.  Check it out if you're interested - if I can figure it out, I'll post a solution.

[ Later - I figured it out!  Please see The Two Switches for the solution. ]

In the meantime let me know if you encounter other interesting puzzles...  I'm practicing for the Worlds :)

 
 

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