Critical Section

Archive: November 18, 2017


Archive: November 9, 2016

a new beginning

Wednesday,  11/09/16  09:03 PM

return of the elephants

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!



Archive: November 18, 2015


Archive: November 17, 2014

the Silent Captive

Monday,  11/17/14  10:14 PM

Magritte: the Silent CaptiveSeth Godin asks: Is a photo of a Magritte painting better than the original?

At right, one of my favorite pieces of art, Magritte's The Silent Captive.  Is this a painting of a painting?  A picture of a painting of a painting?  Or simply an idea, visualized?

Seth wraps up with "When the idea is famous enough, what is the original, anyway?"  Hehe...  BTW I must tell you Seth is one of my favorite new bloggers.  New to me, anyway.  Subscribed!

Kottke: the Work of Art in the age of Mechanical Reproduction.  "Last year, Greenheart Games released a game called Game Dev Tycoon in which you run a company that makes video games. As an experiment, they secretly released a cracked version of the game for pirates to download...with one small difference: players in the cracked version would always go bankrupt because of piracy issues."  I love it.  Be sure to check out their message board posts :)

Am I the only one who sees The Silent Captive idea in this scenario?

the Made in Space printer ... now at the ISSBut of course: there is now a 3D printer in the International Space Station.  I wonder if it can print itself?

This is quite interesting on several levels: the Desk App, a desktop app for blogging.  For OS X, and compatible with most blogging platforms.  Of course I blog on Windows and have a home-grown kludgy system which isn't compatible with anything, but ... that could change.  And in the meantime I'm fascinated by desktop apps!

In the healthy spirit of dogfooding, I see the Desk App has a Desk App Blog.  Well of course.  Awesome!  (and ... subscribed!)


Archive: November 18, 2013

Monday,  11/18/13  08:36 PM

Another quiet day, coding away, just me and Reginald...

moving platforms, the solution for train travel?So, what do you think, is boarding a moving train the way to speed up rail travel?  It certainly worked wonders for ski lifts :)  I've often pondered the "friction" inherent in starting and ending journeys; consider air travel, by the time you've driven to the airport, parked, passed through security, and boarded, you've probably used nearly as much time as your flight.  This is one of the most compelling things about cars, you get in, and you're off...

the big-fin squidAn amazing image of the elusive big-fin squid.  Wow.  The creatures of the deep blue sea are incredible.

An update in whale/dolphin friendshop news.  "Dolphins in a French aquarium seem to be 'speaking' whale—making whale-sounding noises at night that mimic the actual whale noises they hear all day on the soundtrack to the aquarium dolphin show they perform in. These dolphins have never met real whales. But dolphins are known mimics and it seems that they're capable of practicing and improving on mimicked sounds hours after the sound has gone away."  So cool.

Pinot Noir in a canblech: Pinot Noir in a can launched.  Seriously?

An interesting restrospective from my former colleague David Sacks: Why the Paypal 'mafia' was so great.  People ask me all the time, and my answer is simple: IQ.  Unquestionable the smartest group of people I've ever had the pleasure of working with.

Attending meetings lowers IQ.  Well, duh.  There were very few meetings at PayPal, and those that did take place were quick and effective.

Paul Graham: Frightening ambitous startup ideas.  "Don’t worry, it’s not a sign of weakness. Arguably it’s a sign of sanity. The biggest startup ideas are terrifying. And not just because they’d be a lot of work. The biggest ideas seem to threaten your identity: you wonder if you’d have enough ambition to carry them through."  #1 on his list is "a new search engine".  Hmmm :)

More about this here, on Kottke.  I like #6 on this list: We're going to make an IQ-enhancing drug and produce basic change in the human condition.  Excellent!

baby sloth wearing PJsWrapping up, to go with yesterday's baby hedgehog, here we have a baby sloth wearing pajamas.  Hehe :)


Archive: November 18, 2012


Archive: November 18, 2011


Archive: November 15, 2010

blogging while high

Monday,  11/15/10  12:24 PM

blogging while high - 37,208'From the "I'm doing it because I can" department, here I am at 37,208' feet, blogging while high above Arizona on my way to Boston...  I must tell you I am not in a great mood, although I'm listening to Dance-y music and it's helping (Afrojack!).  Maybe I should have some Chardonnay, that might help even more...  stay tuned :)

An honest and introspective note from a failed startup founder: Why Wesabe lost to Mint.  A couple of pull quotes with my highlights:

“Mint focused on making the user do almost no work at all, by automatically editing and categorizing their data, reducing the number of fields in their signup form, and giving them immediate gratification as soon as they possibly could; we completely sucked at all of that.”

“You'll hear a lot about why company A won and company B lost in any market, and in my experience, a lot of the theories thrown about -- even or especially by the participants -- are utter crap. A domain name doesn't win you a market; launching second or fifth or tenth doesn't lose you a market. You can't blame your competitors or your board or the lack of or excess of investment. Focus on what really matters: making users happy with your product as quickly as you can, and helping them as much as you can after that. If you do those better than anyone else out there you'll win.”

This seems dead on to me.  Do you use Mint?

I have to agree with this: Obama's India trip was worth all the money.  Even though it seems he came back empty-handed, without even a token diplomatic victory.  The thing is, international strength comes from internal strength...

Instapundit quotes Ed Morrissey: Who could have warned us that a man who served seven years in the state legislature and three years in the senate would not have been prepared to be President?  John McCain did.  And so did Hillary Clinton.

This is awesome: a Dutch bricklaying machine.  Streets paved with brick look good and wear well, and now they are easier to make, too.

Chinese jetlinerHaving just visited Bejing and Shanghai, this seems entirely plausible to me: China to build own large jetliner.  We're going to have significant competition from Asia in every market, and we better be ready.

Let's abolish the TSA.  Yes!  Anyone who thinks all that rigmarole we go through at the airport enhances safety is kidding themselves.  They're constantly re-fighting the last war.  Apropos: How Israel handles airport security, "The word 'profiling' is a political invention by people who don't want to do security.".

From Wired: How to make amends in the digital age.  Good to know.  I especially like the advice about Tweeting something boring; same for Facebook and blogs!  Your penance is to do something sufficiently interesting to make it worthwhile :)

Garrotxa - the drug of choice :)Aha!  Cheese addiction explained.  Garrotxa *is* a drug, I knew it :)

I totally called this: GPS-enabled smartphones putting squeeze on GPS makers.  My Palm Pre phone has the best Nav app I've ever seen, including realtime traffic etc., for $0.  Meanwhile the system in my car sucks like a Hoover and cost $big.

Facebook - now with email?And so Facebook have announced email messaging, aka "the social inbox".  Here's Ars Technica's take, I haven't digested yet.  Huh.

Proof: just because you can, doesn't mean you should :)  My mood is improving, seems blogging while high helped!

(And meanwhile, tomorrow is just another day that you'll never forget...)


Archive: November 17, 2009

Origin of Species Revisited

Tuesday,  11/17/09  10:21 PM

Darwin and Origin of SpeciesHappy Anniversary to Origin of Species, Charles Darwin's amazing work, unquestionably the most important work of natural philosophy ever published.  On the occasion of the work's 150th anniversary, New Scientist has a great survey by Steve Jones, Origin of Species Revisited:

Unique among scientific theories, evolutionary biology finds its roots in a popular book by a single author.  Darwin presented a new and radical view of existence: that life has changed over time and space, in part through a simple process called natural selection.  To a modern reader Origin of Species seems lengthy indeed, with only a single illustration to enliven its 150,000 words.  But Darwin was a clear thinker and the book is an impressive piece of advocacy.

It is amazing that after all this time, all the evidence in favor, and all the debate, there are *still* so many people who don't think this theory is true.  Apparently about 40% of U.S. citizens.  Clear evidence of the ongoing influence of 2,000-year-old religious teachings in our present day lives.


Tuesday,  11/17/09  10:47 PM

A really long day, whew.  Up at 0400, drove down to Vista, and meetings and presentations and conferences all morning, over lunch, all afternoon, and over dinner.  I know, I know, queue the violins.

Cyclelog: squeezed in a tough 25 miler through Vista, down to Oceanside, and along the beach back to Carlsbad.  Man I needed that...

drinking and driving don't mix :)Maserati abuse!  If you drink, don't drive.  And if you drive like Michael Schumacher, don't mix a drink :)  [ thanks, Craig ]

Win 7 so far so goodToday was my first on the road with my new Win 7 laptop.  I enjoyed the battery life :)  Didn't have any problems with WiFi, which was good, but missed Sprint PCS (my new laptop has an Express Card slot, so I had to order a new Sprint modem).  Win 7 is rock solid at going to sleep and waking up, and hot docking.  I don't like the trackpad support; you have to click to give focus to a window before brushing the pad scrolls.  This might be a configuration option; must investigate.  Anyway still so far so good.

Actually I have to say there is one thing definitely better about Win 7: the way Explorer handles image thumbnails.  Under XP rendering thumbnails was excruiatingly slow and buggy.  Not any more.  Yay.

The eight best questions we got while raising money.  A guest post on TechCrunch by Glenn Kelman, CEO of Redfin.  They are all great.  Interesting that Roelof Botha of Sequoia is featured prominently; I remember Roelof as a colleague, he was CFO of PayPal in the early days.  Whip smart.  I am not surprised he is a successful investor :)

Bad Code Offset - 10,000 lines!The Alliance for Code Excellence is selling Bad Code Offsets.  I love it.

I know a few people / companies who should be investing in these...


Archive: November 18, 2008


Tuesday,  11/18/08  08:29 PM

at the beach...Each culture has unique words that describe concepts important in the culture, and so it is with Brazil; and upon landing in Rio de Janeiro I was vividly introduced to maresia.  This word, loosely translated as "sea air", or "smell of the sea", refers to that warm relaxed comfortable feeling you get when you're at the seashore.  It is partly the physical; the sand, the warmth, the humidity, indeed the smell of the sea, but also includes the mental; the feeling of relaxation and lessening of tension.  Picture yourself at the beach on a summer's day, with nothing to do but read a book and drink some beer.  That's maresia.  (Just typing these words brings a smile ;)




Tuesday,  11/18/08  08:41 PM

instructions for DummiesHow many times have you flown, in your life?  And how many times have you heard the flight crew explain the safety instructions, the oxygen mask and the life jackets and the flotation cushions and all the rest?  If there were really an emergency, would you know what to do?  Yeah, me neither.  We don't really pay attention to instructions until we need them. 

A key problem in all user interfaces... 

This is why affordability is so crucial.  People have to be able to figure out what things are for and how they work "on the fly".  I'm guessing I would be able to use an oxygen mask, or inflate a life jacket, or use a flotation cushion without instructions, because of their inherent affordability. 

Would my customers be able to use my software without instructions?  I'm guessing yes :)



Tuesday,  11/18/08  11:43 PM

Whew, today was a  l o n g  day; I spent the day working in Vista, meetings and discussions from dawn to dark, and didn't escape for a ride until 9:30 (!); I just got back.  Glad I got it in though, I was in a first class funk, and rode it off somewhat.  Still there may be an edge left, sorry in advance :)

putting the air back inThe Economist on Putting the Air Back In.  A great explanation of the current financial crisis and the options available to governments to address it...

the money holeThe Onion wonders: Should the government stop dumping all our money in a giant hole?  Classic.

Apropos: Obama's Car Puzzle.  "Even as GM teeters toward bankruptcy and wheedles for billions in public aid, its forthcoming plug-in hybrid continues to absorb a big chunk of the company's product development budget. This is a car that, by GM's own admission, won't make money. It's a car that can't possibly provide a buyer with value commensurate with the resources and labor needed to build it. It's a car that will be unsalable without multiple handouts from government."  Are you getting this?  GM is spending all it's money building a car that won't make money, while asking you and I to pay for their ridiculous union worker's wages and retirement plans.  No thanks.

So Malcom Gladwell has a new book out, Outliers.  The early reviews are a bit, well, negative; consider this one in the NYTimes:  "Much of what Mr. Gladwell has to say about superstars is little more than common sense: that talent alone is not enough to ensure success, that opportunity, hard work, timing and luck play important roles as well. The problem is that he then tries to extrapolate these observations into broader hypotheses about success."  Joel Spolsky does not like anecdotes as proof of anything, although he himself engages in the same thing :)

I think this book suffers from something different; some of Gladwell's observations are more fundamental than others; Tipping Point, for example, was more insightful than Blink.  This seems more derivative than either...

Fomalhaut BWow, real pictures of exo-planets; the first is FomalHaut B.  Sounds like the name of a "B" movie :)  These planets are all really big, Jupiter-like gaseous giants, but at some point I'm sure we'll find another Earth...  how cool will that be?

Sailing Anarchy has an innerview with Dennis Connor!  (Entitled "hell freezes over" :)  A lot of DC's observations are pretty dead on, IMHO:  "In just a few years we went from all-amateur teams at the very top echelon of the sport, to teams of paid professionals earning something comparable to what they might be making at home as a plumber or carpenter or painter or whatever."  I've seen this myself; when I was a kid, all sailors were amateurs, even the best, now, at nearly every level they're pro.  Check it out.

the Winding RoadYay, Winding Road is available as a downloadable PDF again.  We win!  (In case you don't know, this online 'zine was formerly a PDF, then turned into this weird must-be-online-to-view thing.  Through it all the content remained excellent, but I missed the simple download and view model, and now it's back...)

I continue to love my Kindle; Slashdot looks at the economics of the Kindle...  This is all very interesting, but nobody buys a Kindle to save money on books, any more than they buy an iPod to save money on music.  The key in both cases is the ability to easily carry way more content around with you.  It is fundamentally better.  That it also costs less is a bonus :)



Archive: November 18, 2007


Archive: November 18, 2006


Archive: November 18, 2005


Archive: November 18, 2004

If you don't want commercials, tell Tivo!

Thursday,  11/18/04  04:59 PM

If you are upset that Tivo is considering displaying commercials while fast forwarding, call them and tell them!

877-367-8486 between 8:00 AM - 8:00 PM Pacific.  Ask for "live agent".

The other day I noted that Tivo is considering displaying commercials when you fast forward.  In the meantime this meme has spread and people all over the 'net are discussing how horrible it would be.  I'd said "if this is true, it is the beginning of the end for Tivo", and others were more succinct: Scott Shinn commented on Matt Haughey's PVRblog: "Tivo has jumped the shark!"

Today I was ruminating on this, and it seemed to me that this would be a betrayal.  Tivo was founded to help consumers, and in that regard they have succeeded brilliantly.  Everyone I know who has one loves it, in fact everyone I know who has one actively tells everyone they know how great it is.  Companies don't often get that kind of love from their customers.  But if Tivo really did this, then they'd be turning toward the dark side.  They're a business, and a business has to give their customers what they want.  Displaying commercials while fast forwarding is giving advertisers what they want.  So this would be a clear sign that you and I are no longer Tivo's customers.  And that would, indeed, be the beginning of the end.

But there is hope!

I decided to try to call Tivo to tell them how I felt.  I found the Tivo support phone number on this page, it is not easy to find.  I called and had to fight my way through a bogus automated attendant.  Once I finally had a human, I explained to her why I was calling.  Amazingly, she said Tivo is considering this change, but they're getting a lot of complaints.  Maybe they're still listening to us?

So - if you are upset that Tivo is considering displaying commercials while fast forwarding, please call them and tell them.  If enough of us complain, maybe they won't do it!  And that would be a good thing.

[ Added later... ]

Save the 30 second skip!

A bit later I called Tivo again and fought my way back through the phone system.  I ended up with another support rep, and she, too, indicated that Tivo is only considering this change.  Of course support reps are not product managers, but two out of two is an encouraging sign.

The reason I called back was to warn Tivo that I really wanted them to keep the 30 second skip, too.  What?  You mean you have a Tivo, and don't know about the 30 second skip?  Okay, here's what you do; grab your Tivo remote, and while it is playing a recorded program enter:


Tivo "advance" buttonIf all goes well you'll hear three beeps from your Tivo.  At this point you have activated 30 second skip.  Now whenever you hit the "advance" button (see picture at right), you'll get a 30 second skip ahead.  Once you've tried this I promise you will never go back to fast forwarding.

[ Added even later... ]

Another way you can contact Tivo; send email to  This is ostensibly the email address for the Tivo newsletter editor, but it appears to forward to Tivo customer support.  Remember, be nice.  We want their help, so don't flame the poor reps :)


Thursday,  11/18/04  11:20 PM

It's all happening...

North Korea in the news:  Powerline says there's something happening here.  Conrad reports strange doings in the hermit kingdom.  And Glenn Reynolds links The Age: North Korea's dear leader less dear.  "Analysts are debating whether Mr Kim is losing his grip on power, or, more likely, quietly downsizing his own personality cult."  Anyway North Korea may be easing stance on nuclear talks.  What does it all mean?  Can't tell.  But as Hindrocket notes: "North Korea is one of the places of which it can truly be said that things can only get better"...

Have you been following the case of the marine who shot the "unarmed wounded man" in Fallujah?  L.T.Smash ponders the rules of engagement.  I totally agree with him, and not just because my daughter's in the Navy.  There's a great discussion on Powerline about Kevin Sites, the reporter who shot the movie.  LGF has a more aggressive take: they're called security rounds.

Saturn's ringsBigwig predicts there's life in Saturn's rings.  Interesting!  and surprisingly plausible...

Wired: Stem cells feed brain tumors.  "Researchers have identified stem cells in brain cancer tumors that replenish the tumors and keep them growing.  Snuffing out these cancer stem cells could lead to a raft of new treatments for various cancers."  Excellent.

FuturePundit reports Sonic hedgehog gene triples brain stem growth.  No, I am not making this up, and yes, that is "Sonic hedgehog" as in the video game character.  Guess you'll just have to read it.

a little water, but good fishing...A little water, but good fishing... 
Oops.  I hate when that happens.  [ via Joi Ito ]

So I was typing really fast and somehow the letters came out wrong and I typed "connectino".  And I thought, of course, the elementary particle exchanged during socket connects!  Probably massless but definitely has spin and charge :)

Matt Haughey posts more information about the Tivo's fast forward plans.  I still think you should call them and complain.  They just might be listening.

when your coworker is away...This is just too funny!  When your coworker is away...

Here we have the Chief Blogging Officer.  Aka Rageboy.  Excellent.

Handbrake iconHas anyone out there used HandBrake?  A multi-threaded DVD to MPEG4 ripper/converter for OSX.  Looks like exactly what I need, if it works...

This is awesome: hack your way out of writer's block.  "Write five words - Literally.  Put five completley random words on a piece of paper.  Write five more words.  Try a sentence.  Could be about anything.  A block ends when you start making words on a page."  Sounds like great advice for coder's block, too.  [ via Mark Frauenfelder ]

gridlock!I just re-discovered gridlock.  What a great waste of time!

(not the way out of coder's block :)



Archive: November 18, 2003

Tuesday,  11/18/03  11:53 PM

Governor Arnold outlined his plan for addressing California's deficit today.  As expected, the centerpiece is up to $15B in new borrowing.  "Mr. Schwarzenegger emphasized that there would be substantial budget cuts in addition to the borrowing, including at least $2 billion out of this year's budget."  So be it.

News-Images.comThis is pretty cool; is a page which displays current news visually.  I think they're on to something here.  People respond to images...

X3D Fritz staged a comeback and nearly won game 4 of its match with Garry Kasparov, but Kasparov navigates through danger to draw game four and the match.  Experts regard the quality of chess in this match as very high; indeed, Kasparov's blunder in game 2 was the only big mistake.

Kevin Laws contemplates The Irony of Outsourcing.  "Question: Since 1995, two million American manufacturing jobs vanished.  How many manufacturing jobs did China add during the same period?  Answer: None."  There is no way to stop the market.

Random Bytes quotes Richard Feynman: "For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for Nature cannot be fooled."  Amen.

Epson flying robotEpson reveals the world's teeniest flying robot.  "The mFR causes levitation by use of contra-rotating propellers powered by an ultra-thin, ultrasonic motor with the world's highest power-weight ratio and can be balanced in mid-air by means of the world's first stabilizing mechanism using a linear actuator."  Another one for my Santa list :)

Philip Greenspun wonders should NASA send government employees into space?  And I say, NO!  It is time for the government to get out of the way and let private enterprise take over space exploration.  But you already knew that, didn't you?

Tivo HD DVRHey, guess what?  You know what this isIt's Tivo's new HD DVR.  "The new design offers viewers the flexibility of a DVR that is equipped to record today’s analog broadcasts along with the capability for recording the rapidly expanding programming offerings in HDTV."  Excellent!

CNet opines Internet calling verges on mainstream.  "Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) is racing toward mainstream acceptance, steered by attractive price points -- currently $200 to $500 per line -- proven cost savings in early-adopter deployments and significant improvements in voice quality and reliability."  Where do they get $200 per line?  Vonage is only $40/month.

Doors of Perception has an interesting article about the "clock of the long now".  "The idea was to build a monumental clock – the original inspiration was something that would tick once a year, bong once a century and the cuckoo would come out once a millennium."  The design of something that has to last that long is quite challenging.  [ via Ottmar Liebert ]

Vishal Joshi: The 10 commandments of .NET.  #10 is "Thou shall not underestimate the complexity of .NET."  Something I would never do :)

I'll leave you with the USB Christmas Tree light.  And no, I am not making this up.


About Me

Greatest Hits
Correlation vs. Causality
The Tyranny of Email
Unnatural Selection
Aperio's Mission = Automating Pathology
On Blame
Try, or Try Not
Books and Wine
Emergent Properties
God and Beauty
Moving Mount Fuji The Nest Rock 'n Roll
IQ and Populations
Are You a Bright?
Adding Value
The Joy of Craftsmanship
The Emperor's New Code
Toy Story
The Return of the King
Religion vs IQ
In the Wet
the big day
solving bongard problems
visiting Titan
unintelligent design
the nuclear option
estimating in meatspace
second gear
On the Persistence of Bad Design...
Texas chili cookoff
almost famous design and stochastic debugging
may I take your order?
universal healthcare
triple double
New Yorker covers
Death Rider! (da da dum)
how did I get here (Mt.Whitney)?
the Law of Significance
Holiday Inn
Daniel Jacoby's photographs
the first bird
Gödel Escher Bach: Birthday Cantatatata
Father's Day (in pictures)
your cat for my car
Jobsnotes of note
world population map
no joy in Baker
vote smart
exact nonsense
introducing eyesFinder
to space
where are the desktop apps?