Critical Section

Archive: November 26, 2015


Archive: November 26, 2014

(New Yorker, 11/24/14)

Wednesday,  11/26/14  10:04 PM


"time warp"

(cover of the New Yorker's annual "tech" issue)



wearable computing

Wednesday,  11/26/14  10:22 PM

The New Yorker's annual tech issue just came out - see my previous post for the awesome cover - and as usual it contained a lot of interesting stuff.  I can't do it all justice, but I can summarize one clear trend: there are more and more articles about "wearable computing".

Of course we are all eagerly anticipating the Apple Watch, which might be the definitive device that kicks off a new category.  The Google Glass is/was cool but [generally agreed] not useful.  Or perhaps too dorky looking to be given a chance to be useful.  I personally think there is no doubt at all that some kind of Glass-like device is going to take off; the utility of having a camera at eye level combined with a heads' up display is too evident.  But then again, I founded a visual search company, so perhaps I'm biased :)

Wrist devices, glass devices, various types and styles of fitness trackers; these are all examples of wearable computing.  But they are only the start.  Each of them generally functions by communicating with your phone, leveraging its superior compute power, battery life, and cellular connectivity.  In the near future though we're going to see these devices integrated into clothes to a degree only hinted at now.  Why not put a phone in a shoe?  (Paging Maxwell Smart!)  Plenty of room for batteries.  Or in a belt.  Some belts weight more than some laptops.  Your shirt can surely measure your heartbeat and other body functions better than any strapped on device.  And so on.

And only one step after that will be implantible computers, devices which become a part of your body, both to measure it and to communicate with it.  In my lifetime I confidently expect to see all of us carrying around various implanted computers.  It will change our lives.  (And can you imagine the sports controversies!)  Augmented reality, indeed!

but of course



Wednesday,  11/26/14  11:34 PM

the 10X crowd
Are these guys 10X better?

Among the interesting articles in the New Yorker's recent annual tech issue was The Programmer's Price, about a company called 10X that acts as a talent agency for superstar developers.

The working theory (with which I entirely agree) is that software engineers are artists, and talented ones are worth 10X more than mediocre ones.  Companies who recognize this are desperate to find great developers, and willing to pay for them.

The 10X agency represents talented engineers, finding them work, negotiating their rates and terms of service, and in general performing the crummy tasks which have to be done by someone to support freelance careers.  These engineers are great at creating software, but maybe not as great at the business aspects of being independent contractors, and are only too glad to pay 15% for someone else to do the dirty work.  Especially if it leads to more and better work :)

I'm pretty fascinated by this concept; it will be most interesting to follow their success.  It's possible that this is the start of a new model, and that someday the best engineers will routinely work freelance and be represented by agents, in much the same way that actors and musicians evolved from working for producers to working independently.  (Athletes are entertainers who haven't quite made the jump; they work for their teams, but are represented by agents in negotiating their contracts.)  It's also possible that paying 10X for engineers which are 10X better just isn't sustainable.  So many companies few engineers as interchangeable resources, and treat them accordingly.

Stay tuned!


Archive: November 26, 2013

big bottles

Tuesday,  11/26/13  11:12 PM

Just in time for Thanksgiving, here's a handy naming guide for big bottles:

big bottles!
(click to enbiggen further :)

Did you know?  In addition to looking and well being cool, big bottles also taste better.  Apparently there's something about the chemistry that causes wines to age slower but better in big bottles.  Enjoy a Nebuchodonesor today!


Tuesday,  11/26/13  11:25 PM

Today ... was a good day :)  Feeling very Thankful on many fronts...
(yes of course ... that is my 3D-printed turkey)

the Blue Planet, in CopenhagenHere we have ... the world's sexiest buildings!  I have to admit, they are amazing.  I love that building materials are now so strong that architecture can looking like anything you can imagine, instead of being a slave to functional strength.  Pretty soon buildings will be 3D-printed like turkeys :)

I have to agree with this: Let's kill the aid industry.  "Most development aid is actively harmful. Selling goods for less than production cost is dumping, a business practice condemned as predatory; aid is just dumping with the price set to zero."

OCD attack scoreboardThirty infuriating images that will trigger your OCD.  Hehe.

Did you know?  It turns out that cabbage, kale, broccoli, brussels sprouts, kohlrabi, collard greens, and cauliflower are all the same species of plant (Brassica oleracea).  And so ... I like cabbage, kale, and broccoli, find caulifower to be meh, and do not like brussels sprouts.  Go figure.

From the Oatmeal: how to suck at your religion.  There's one good way, which is toinsist that I have to care about your religion.  Unfortunately religions are mental viruses, and the most successful are designed to pull in new hosts.

thermal images of Emperor PenguinsThermal images of Emperor Penguins show how they stay warm.  I think Penguins are so cool!

Antarctic EmeraldfishRelated: the gorgeous, dangerous world below Antarctic ice.  Brrr...

teeny SpekeltTiny animals on fingers.  Pretty much the cutest things ever... wow.


Archive: November 26, 2012


Archive: November 26, 2011


Archive: November 25, 2010

riding the South wind

Thursday,  11/25/10  04:34 PM

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

cycling playground: Grimes canyon - thank you for this!This morning I woke determined to get in a longish ride as a pre-turkey / stuffing antidote.  Yeah, it was kind of cold (50s) and yeah, it was windy (20s), but off I went.  The strong wind was blowing due South, so I decided to head North... and kept going through Westlake and Thousand Oaks and Moorpark and through Grimes Canyon until I ended up in Fillmore.  At which point I turned around and rode the South wind home; nothing nicer than a tailwind behind and a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner with my family ahead.

self-portrait: a cyclist thinking thankful thoughtsIt was a good solid ride, perfect for thinking thankful thoughts.  And a nice respite from worrying about the future.

I hope you are having a wonderful day, spent quietly and peacefully with those you love...


Archive: November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday,  11/26/09  10:21 AM

Good morning y'all and Happy Thanksgiving!

Looking at the posts of Thanksgivings past, I see it is usually a day of contemplation for me.  Might be too early for that, so stay tuned; perhaps football, food, and a little ride (all planned) will yield some philosophy.

For now it is enough to note that it is a beautiful day, and I hope you enjoy it wherever you are, quietly and peacefully with those you love...

Speaking of which, one of my important tasks for the weekend is making our annual Christmas Cards...  which will probably feature the picture above (Nicole, Megan, Alexis, Jordan, Shirley).

My girls are definitely the thing for which I am most thankful!


Archive: November 26, 2008

Wednesday,  11/26/08  10:03 PM

thanksgiving eve celebration!Greetings all, Happy Thanksgiving Eve!  (There such a thing, of course there is, and this is it :) 

I spent this morning attending Grandparents Day at Oaks Christian School, the middle/high school which Megan and Alexis attend, together with my Mom (!), and it was great.  Megan is in the Advanced Middle School band (flute), which gave a performance along with other art groups, and they were all terrific.  The key to kids' performances is to keep them crisp.  Five minutes is good, ten minutes, not so good.  The same with the speeches.  Overall Oaks' organization of this event was superb and a good time was had by all...

Later I hosted a conference call with Aperio's Technical Advisory Board, a group of longtime / expert customers who help us review our product development plans.  They're all smart opinionated people, motivated to help us, and it was a great discussion.  The challenge is always to take notes, so many ideas get thrown around, so fast...

And then later still, I didn't ride, and had a huge burrito for dinner while watching football (Monday night's 51-29 demolition of the Packers by the Saints).  Warming up for Thanksgiving tomorrow, I guess...  it was a fun game, and a great  burrito, but I am massively full.  Okay, I know, too much information.  Off we go...

rain! in Southern CaliforniaThis sucks: Thousands ordered to flee homes as storm hits Southern California.  Those fires are a double whammy, not only to they threaten homes while burning, but they burn up the brush that stabilizes the soil, so later when it rains we have mudslides.  And we now have record rain.  Yuk.

Barack Obama named Paul Volcker to head his Economic Recovery Advisory board, prompting Powerline to note: back to the future.  It does seem as if experience is called for, and Volcker received high marks from nearly everyone during his nine-year tenure as Fed Chairman (1979-1987).

Slate helpfully explains What it means for the Fed to start "printing money".  Volcker made his reputation as an inflation fighter, now he may have to create some inflation to stave off recession.

A rerun from John Robb as he explains Normal Debt Levels.  According to him, the Fed will have to print quite a bit of money to make up the deleveraging gap - about $30T.  I swear his posts make more sense to me now than they did two months ago; he did too know what he was talking about...

Eclipse ultralight jetSign of the times...  Philip Greenspun reports that Eclipse has declared bankruptcy.  They were the makers of ultra-light jets; I had high hopes of being able to buy one someday.  They never really made it, their jets never really worked (!), and the price never really made it low enough.  Personal jets are still a rich person's plaything, not yet a reality.  But you have to believe it is only a matter of time.

King KaufmanIf you're a longtime reader, you know I like Salon, and I like King Kaufman.  He's had a daily column about sports for as long as I can remember, but no more; as he reports this is the end of the daily.  So be it.  I will look forward to his weekly :)

Jeff Atwood wonders is Email = Efail?  I would have to say, no, most emphatically no.  The idea that you can replace a queued communication medium like Email with a realtime mechanism like Twitter or IM is ridiculous.  It is wishful thinking, predicated on the idea that it is okay to ignore things if you couldn't pay attention to them at the time.  (Might as well get rid of voicemail; if you can't talk to someone when they call, why listen to their message?)  The key problem is limiting input; if you have too many emails, you can't process them all.  I'm sympathetic, but the solution is intelligent filtering, not dumping your inbox entirely.  That's just giving up.

By the way, I meant to mention, I'm experimenting with a new Email technique which has a lot of promise.  The problem is spam on my phone.  Usually when I'm away from my desk, my laptop keeps running and keeps filtering my spam (thank you, SpamBayes).  My laptop syncs to Exchange, and so does my phone, and so spam is also filtered from my phone.  Furthermore my laptop picks up email from my personal accounts via POP (Gmail etc), and that gets synced to Exchange, and on to the phone.  So it all works.  However if I'm traveling with my laptop, none of it works.  Now I have major spam on my phone with nothing cleaning it out, and I don't get personal email.  It all doesn't work...

So here's the solution.  I have an old server at my house which runs Windows, and I installed Office 2003 and I'm now running Outlook on it, syncing to Exchange.  This instance of Outlook has SpamBayes installed, so it filters out the spam, and it retrieves email from my personal accounts via POP, so they get synced into my Exchange inbox.  It does all the work my laptop used to do.  My phone (and my laptop) just sync to the Exchange inbox, and it all works.  And because my server is always on, it all works all the time.  Stay tuned for more, but so far, so good...

Lotus EvoraWired reports Lotus Guns for Porsche with the Evora - moving up the food chain.  "Lotus believes the Evora will propel it into the big leagues. It is betting on the car to broaden its appeal beyond the hard-core enthusiasts who so love the Elise by offering the same razor-sharp handling in a car more suited to daily driving."  So be it.  I must say, it's cute :)

Aston Martin RapideTTAC notes the Aston Martin Rapide, their entry into the four-door sports sedan category.  The Quattroporte remains the best looking of the bunch, but this is a nice looking car, unlike the Panamerica...  interesting, these cars are all amazing...  I guess there are other people (besides me :) who want a real back seat in their sports car...




Archive: November 26, 2007


Archive: November 26, 2006


Archive: November 26, 2005

to look or not to look

Saturday,  11/26/05  10:59 AM

Great shape - can I look?Okay, I need help with something.  I'm a man, and I like looking at women, particularly attractive women.  So, is this okay?

Here's the situation.  Women do everything they can to have great-looking bodies.  Then they dress to accentuate their great-looking bodies.  But it feels like it is not polite to look at them...  Why is that?  It is considered okay to look at a woman's face .  But is it okay to look at her breasts, even if they are beautiful, and even if she is wearing a low-cut tight top that screams "look at these"?  Is it okay to admire her legs, or her bottom, even if they are amazing, and even if she is wearing a short skirt or tight low-cut jeans?  Not clear.  So I'm asking you, what do you think?

I am a woman (or a homosexual man)

I am a man (or a homosexual woman)

I think it IS okay
to look at a woman's body

I think it is NOT okay
to look at a women's body

I think it IS okay
to look at a woman's body

I think it is NOT okay
to look at a woman's body

P.S. I do not think this is symmetrical between men and women.  It seems more acceptable - and unusual - for a woman to look at a man's body than vice-versa.

total votes = 146

  (ended 12/04/05)


Saturday,  11/26/05  11:45 AM

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...

Woken FuriesI 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.

Saturn's moon HyperionSpeaking 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...


Web 2.0, "Live" and other meaningless jargon

Saturday,  11/26/05  12:42 PM

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" :)

Is this Web 2.0?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.

Bill Gates announces Microsoft "Live"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  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 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   Cue the clowns.

Perhaps we need some new jargon, a word which means "a word which actually means nothing".


Archive: November 25, 2003

Tuesday,  11/25/03  11:15 PM

WSJ has a nice op-ed for Thanksgiving: Our Soldiers, Our Thanks.  I agree with the sentiment 100%.  I remember reading somewhere (I can't remember where!) that the U.S. makes lousy teenagers, but great young men and women.  That's for sure.

and the winner is... Valencia!To the surprise of nobody, Valencia, Spain, has been selected as the next venue for the America's Cup (in 2007).  Olé!

Newsweek has the first review of LOTR III.  It is really positive, I can't wait (December 17th is the release date).  "The Return Of The King is a sure contender for best picture.  More than that, it could be the first franchise ever that didn't, at the end of the day, let audiences down--either because of laziness, pretension, greed or other phantom menaces.  This is an especially poignant possibility at a time when we can all still smell the smoke from the wreckage of The Matrix."  Oh, and if you're a LOTR fan, you might enjoy this interview with Peter Jackson about LOTR gaffes.

Scoble posted an interesting rant about retail sales of computers.  "The retail industry seems to be giving up the fight.  Everything inside the store screamed 'we know you're gonna buy a Dell anyway.'"  This seems very true of most stores - certainly Best Buy, which Robert is primarily writing about, and Circuit City.  I think CompUSA hasn't quite given up, and Fry's hasn't.  And of course Apple and Gateway have their own stores.  On the whole I think a better buying experience would be in every manufacturer's best interest, but it is expensive.  Home entertainment manufacturers have pretty much given up, except at the extreme high end.

Treo 600The connected PDA notes now supports the Treo 600.  Now you can listen to books on your phone!  [ via Ottmar Liebert ]

Here's an interesting technical article complaining about recent changes at Google which have apparently caused many sites' ratings to drop.  Of course the target audience for the "Search Engine Guide" is sites who are trying to [falsely] boost their ratings.  Personally I've noticed an increase in Google-search traffic to my blog lately, but I'm not doing anything to cause it.  Maybe that's the secret!


'14   '13   '12
'11   '10   '09
'08   '07   '06
'05   '04   '03
flight  X
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?