Archive: December 11, 2016
Archive: December 11, 2015
Archive: December 11, 2014
A few fallacies, for your consideration... #1 is my personal favorite, correlation vs causality.
Speaking of fallacies, Minimum Wage, Maximum Ignorance. "Once upon a time, the minimum wage, like free trade, was a basic test of whether you were awake in the first week of econ 1." Of all the liberal economic canards, this one is my favorite. Socialism does not work, period.
[Update: Elizabeth Warren: Minimum Wage Would Be $22 An Hour If It Had Kept Up With Productivity. This is a beautiful example of both fallacies highlighted above, combined!]
Paul Graham: The Final Pinch. "There may be nothing founders are so prone to delude themselves about, as how interested investors will be in giving them additional funding." Ouch.
This is pretty cool: Tableware appears to sink into the table. These mats could be useful for explaining gravity :)
Ev Williams, founder of Blogger, Twitter, and Medium, [re]launches a venture fund called Obvious Corp. Cool!
And finally, I agree with Kottke: this skiing line of the year is batshit crazy. Just when you think you've seen everything, you realize "everything" is so much more than you thought.
Archive: December 9, 2013
I'm just thinking about the importance of immediate gratification in meeting customer needs. This is unquestionable the key driver behind the recent disruptive technologies which upended media businesses such as music (iTunes/iPod), video (Netflix/settop boxes), and books (Kindle).
This is most definitely a key value for visual search: take a picture, do a search! What could be faster?
Any business contemplating an emerging market has to figure out how to drive adoption, and immediate gratification is a key aspect of this. Imagine you're selling washing machines to people doing their laundry by beating clothes in the river. The key value isn't that they no longer have to visit the river, it's that their clothes can be clean sooner.
I think immediate gratification is part of why 3D printers have become so popular. But it takes the whole ecosystem; without Thingiverse's 1,000s of readily downloadable and printable designs, it wouldn't have that aspect. Based on this I predict the 3Doodler will not be as successful (it takes practice and work to make something interesting).
Who knows ... perhaps immediate gratification even lies behind many social changes.
Archive: December 11, 2012
Archive: December 11, 2011
Archive: December 8, 2010
How cool is this: SpaceX have launched a spaceship into Earth orbit and successfully brought it back! Wow, that's amazing; a clear precursor to manned flight into Earth orbit. Congratulations to them, and most especially to my onetime colleague and friend Elon Musk, who founded SpaceX in 2002 and has invested a ton of his own money in its success.
You might think SpaceX must be doing things similar to NASA and the ESA, in order to get these results. And of course the science is the same. But they are a little different too; these launches cost less than 1/10th of a comparable mission sponsored by a government agency. And for this particular mission the payload was ... a large round of cheese :)
Archive: December 9, 2009
This is cool: visualizing the speed of light, in which it takes 1.26 seconds to travel from Earth to the Moon.
Knowing that light is *really* fast, for me this says more about the distance between the Earth and Moon than about light's speed...
This is way cool: Hubble's ultra deepfield, taken in late August 2009; the faintest and reddest objects in the image are galaxies that formed 600 million years after the Big Bang..
(click to enbiggen amazingly)
Another long day followed by a long (but pleasant) meeting over dinner; we managed to drink a bottle each. So it's going to be like that, is it?
Beware, coherence may be limited. Even more than usual. (hic)
A really important resource: the Western States Ride Calendar. Every known organized cycling ride in the Western U.S. Wow how cool is that?
Monster Monday: Surf's up as biggest waves in five years come to Hawaii. Wow, those are cool. I am a wimp when it comes to surfing, but we all love looking at those huge waves, don't we?
Ed Driscoll wonders Is Newsweek a Brand that will Disappear in 2010? You mean Newsweek still exists? I thought they transformed themselves into a political-People magazine for liberals, and quietly faded into irrelevance. Oh, they did.
Google's Chrome browser now has extensions. Yay. Give me Adblock, and Firefox may be history.
Facebook pushes people to go public. I predict this will not end well. I knew enough to explicitly switch all the preferences back to private, but I bet many many people will not, and Facebook will never be the same.
Yesterday I reported on Virgin Atlantic's Space Ship Two launch; Rand Simberg has more: the Tip of the Iceberg for Private Spaceflight.
Pantone has named Turquoise 2010 color of the year. "...evokes thoughts of soothing, tropical waters and a languorous, effective escape from the everyday troubles of the world, while at the same time restoring our sense of wellbeing." So be it.
TTAC reports Speed Cameras Gift Wrapped in the Netherlands. As they should be, everywhere. Big brother please take a hike.
From the Onion: Alphabet updated with 15 exciting new letters. Paging Dr. Suess, some people stop at the Z, but not me! I love it :)
ZooBorn of the day: a tiny Kimodo Dragon. See even baby giant lizards are cute!
This is post #508 this year, officially making this my most prolific blogging year ever. So far. It is also post #1999 of all time. (Perhaps I should have made another post celebrating that, which would have been #2000 :) This is
probably more exciting to me than to you, but I just had to note the milestone; if you're interested, all 1,999 posts are linked from The Archive.
Cheers, and please stay tuned for thousands more!
Archive: December 11, 2008
I managed to have a pretty nice wipeout this afternoon, was descending Decker Canyon at about 30mph when I hit some gravel and blew my front tire, ended up skidding across the road into a ditch. Nothing broken, just lots of bruises and road rash. It only hurts when I sit :P my dancing form will be a bit modified at the Aperio Holiday Party tomorrow night (but the way I dance, nobody will be able to tell :)
This is a public service announcement: it is okay to remove those stupid stickers from your PC. You know, the "Designed for Windows" and "Intel Inside" and "Centrino" and all the rest. Who knows how it started that all those companies could pay all that money to stick all those ads on your computer, but once you own it, guess what? You can remove them! Really really. This seems to have escaped most people so I just thought I'd tell you.
As long as I'm on the subject, in the same category we have that protective plastic that wraps new electronic toys. You are allowed to remove the protective wrap after you own the device! Like your iPod or iPhone. I have a colleague who left the protective plastic on his iPod Touch so it would protect his device, and now it is all peeling off and curling and tattered and looks like hell, but I guess it is still protecting his device - just not from looking awful. Again, not obvious to some, so I thought I'd mention it.
And finally, since the people who make iPhones and so on do their best to make them thin and beautiful, why use a case? It just makes the device thicker and uglier. Trust me, in 100% of the cases (p.i.) the case looks worse than the device. You might think you are making a statement, but you might not realize that the statement is "I didn't know I didn't need a case". You are allowed to stick your phone in your pocket or purse without a case, and no babies are gonna die!
Ouch. Sore from the wipeout. Otherwise happy; Christmas Cards mailed, Team Aperio 2008 mugs all packaged and wrapped ready for me to distribute them tomorrow (!), and anticipating our
Christmas Holiday Party tomorrow night, should be fun.
Meanwhile, let's make a pass on the blogosphere, shall we...
Yay! Auto bailout bill stalls in Senate. I do not want my taxes used to bogusly subsidize UAW workers making cars nobody wants to buy. What is it with these "bailouts"? If I screw up my personal finances, or Aperio screws up its finances, nobody is there to bail us out... but if Citibank or General Motors screws up their finances, we taxpayers have to jump in to save them. I don't get it. Let the companies fail and the chips fall where they may... let the markets work.
Look, up in the sky! It's a bird! It's a plane! No, it's the moon! Tomorrow night will be a full moon, and it will be the biggest full moon in 15 years (because the moon is closest to the Earth). Be sure to check it out!
Mike Arrington thinks this is the best commercial ever made; hundreds of Danish women skydiving topless to spell out the name of a Siemens washing machine. So be it. I know sex sells, but does it sell washing machines to women? Somehow I think it is more effective when selling beer to men... but what do I know.
I must say I kind of feel bad for Mike; his site TechCrunch grew rapidly by chronicling the Web 2.0 startup boom; now that the boom has busted, there's a lot less to report. Hence, Danish washing machine ads featuring topless women :)
I see the same thing with Engadget and Gizmodo, and Techmeme... less going on means either less content or a lower signal to noise ratio...
The other day I noted the sonic boom we heard when Endeavor landed at Edwards air force base, and the fact that it costs $2M to transport a space shuttle back to Florida. Well this is how they do it; see the picture at right, the shuttle rides piggyback on top of a specially modified 747. How cool is that?
This spring Lance Armstrong will ride in his first Giro d'Italia, and it happens to be the 100th anniversary of that event. He says he's not the favorite, and likes Ivan Basso, who's back in the peloton after a two-year suspension. Among other things, the route features a 67km time trial (about two hours). Should make for some great racing...
Cute overload: ZooBorns, a blog about baby animals in zoos. How awesome. Subscribed!
Sailing Anarchy links this promo piece from the 505 class... I think this is the toughest class of them all, in addition to being a fantastic boat to sail. If you can win in a 505, you can win in anything. About twenty years ago I raced in the 505 worlds, in Kingston, Ontario, and finished about 40th out of 100 boats, and I count that among my best finishes in sailing. And one of the most fun regattas, too :)
Archive: December 11, 2007
Archive: December 11, 2006
Archive: November 26, 2005
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:
Xeni Jardin spots trends before most of us: Web 2.0 cracks start to show.
Joel Spolsky's reliable BS meter reports: The Architecture Astronauts are Back!
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...
Hey, and we even have Web 2.0 Bingo!
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.
Joel Spolsky's BS meter pegged immediately: Massive Frontal PR is Incompatible with Ship Early and Often; a wonderful roasting even though it lacks Joel's usual pithy title.
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".
Archive: December 11, 2004
I've decided I have one "out there" goal for my life; before I die, I want to visit Titan. This is the largest of Saturn's 33 moons, larger than Mercury and Pluto, and has an actual atmosphere. It is a bit cold (about -290°F) but it is really cool, too. Next Monday the Cassini spacecraft is going to make another close flyby of Titan, hopefully taking more "cool" pictures (check out this one of Saturn; it just doesn't look real, does it?)
Here's an amazing composite of all Saturn's moons... If you go to this page and click Moons, you'll get an interactive version with mouse rollovers that tell you about each one; they are each fascinating in their own right. The big orange one is Titan:
Why Titan? I could say why not, but really Titan is an interesting destination; there is a mystery about its composition and atmosphere. It is more complex than most moons; it appears to be "alive", with active geology, weather systems, etc. It even looks a bit like Earth, doesn't it? One could imagine some sort of alien life living in its Nitrogen clouds... It is the only moon in our solar system with an atmosphere, and understanding it better could help us understand Earth, too. Here's a comparison of Earth's and Titan's atmospheres:
This image from the mission pages explains "why explore Titan", and shows a visual comparison to similarly-sized planetary objects in the solar system:
This page explains the Cassini mission in more detail. NASA did a terrific job with this website; how great is it to have this kind of information available online?
On Christmas Day, the Huygens probe will separate from Cassini and begin its voyage to Titan's surface. It will reach Titon's atmosphere on January 14, 2005, and who knows what will happen after that? Here's a picture of Huygens, which was built by the European Space Agency:
Looks like something from Myst, doesn't it :)
Cassini recently captured a bunch of high-resolution images of Titan, which have been assembled into a mosaic for this full-disc view [ via Gerard Van Der Leun ]:
(click image for full-size interactive viewer)
Be sure to hit F11 to maximize your browser's window so you can see as much of the image as possible.
As usual with big images, I upsampled it and am serving it with Aperio's image server software.
Archive: December 10, 2003
This really pisses me off.
Once upon a time, there was this nice little toy store business called Zainy Brainy. They specialized in educational toys, cool things smart parents wanted for their smart kids. A cut above Imaginarium, and about ten cuts above Toys 'R Us. They found a market niche, and they grew slowly but steadily.
And once upon a time, there was this nice big toy store business called F.A.O.Schwarz. They'd been around forever, with a famous flagship store in New York on Fifth Avenue. They specialized in unusual and exotic toys, cool things rich parents wanted for their rich kids. Definitely several cuts above Toys 'R Us. They found a market niche, and they grew slowly but steadily.
And then it happened that the founders of F.A.O.Schwarz became old, and sold their business to an investment corsortium. The investors wanted to "leverage the brand". They created a galactic "destination website" and broadened their offering. They stopped specializing, and became a general purpose toy vendor, mixing it up with Toys 'R Us and Wal-Mart and KBToys and everyone. They grew fast! But they'd lost their differentiator...
And then it happened that the F.A.O.Schwarz investors decided the "education" niche was a good area for growth, and they purchased Zainy Brainy. And they wanted to "extend the brand". They created a galactic "destination website" and broadened their offering. They stopped specializing, and became a general purpose toy vendor, mixing it up with Toys 'R Us and Wal-Mart and KBToys and everyone. They grew fast! But they'd lost their differentiator...
And then it happened that the stock market bubble burst, and terrorists attacked America, and the economy floundered. And toy sales were off. And F.A.O.Schwarz and Zainy Brainy had to mix it up with Toys 'R Us and Wal-Mart and KBToys and everyone, and they stopped growing. And then they started shrinking. And then, in the horrible fashion of bad big businesses everywhere, they began throwing furniture into the fire, closing Zainy Brainy stores in an effort to stave off the inevitable.
So now Zainy Brainy is dead, and F.A.O.Schwarz is dying. And the smart parents with smart kids and the rich parents with rich kids have to shop at Toys 'R Us and Wal-Mart and KBToys.
And they are pissed.
And they blog about it.
- Arctic squirrels rock. And they're cool, too :)
- P.S. "Eichhorn" means squirrel in German. (But I'm Dutch.)
- Sperm whales rock, and are unfortunately soaking up human-created toxins. The top of the food chain has its drawbacks.
- Did you realize there are 350,000 of these guys in the oceans? Wow.
- Mars rocks. But it might be tough for humans to go there, because of radiation...
- It does appear to be warming up!
- [ via Bigwig, who rocks, and who thinks this "proof positive that not only is Mars inhabited, it's inhabited by SUV driving Americans!" ]
- Oh, and Jupiter's Moons rock. Which is why NASA is planning a cool new nuclear-powered probe.
- This faked teaser trailer for the Hobbit rocks, and so does the creators' effort to recruit Peter Jackson to make this movie.
- This shockwave "thing" from Nicolas Clauss totally rocks. Check it out. Now. And stick with it, it gets cooler, and cooler, and cooler...
- Tivo rocks. But the company has issues, like how to ignore your best customers...
- iPods rock. Literally. But you knew that.
- Van Halen rocks. That's just about all I can say.
This eye chart rocks. "Increase distance from chart until readable" :)
- WinHex rocks. If you ever need to edit a disk boot record, this is your tool.
RSS rocks. SharpReader rocks. Citydesk rocks.
- Oh, and yeah, this HP ad rocks. Don't you think?
Correlation vs. Causality
The Tyranny of Email
Aperio's Mission = Automating Pathology
Try, or Try Not
Books and Wine
God and Beauty
Moving Mount Fuji
Rock 'n Roll
IQ and Populations
Are You a Bright?
The Joy of Craftsmanship
The Emperor's New Code
The Return of the King
Religion vs IQ
In the Wet
the big day
solving bongard problems
the nuclear option
estimating in meatspace
On the Persistence of Bad Design...
Texas chili cookoff
almost famous design and stochastic debugging
may I take your order?
New Yorker covers
Death Rider! (da da dum)
how did I get here (Mt.Whitney)?
the Law of Significance
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
where are the desktop apps?