Critical Section

Wednesday,  02/25/15  09:51 PM

Still coding away, in between doing higher level stuff like giving demos and presenting to potential investors :)  And still blogging...

Where is MH370?How crazy am I to think that I know where that Malaysia Airplanes plane is?  Well...  nobody else seems to have a good idea, either.  Jeff Wise thinks it is in Kazakhstan.  Could be...

Guy Kawasaki: Hindsights.  Good observations, if not groundbreaking; I like #5, "Learn to like yourself and change yourself until you can like yourself."  Happiness comes from liking yourself :)

Dave Winer: comments on the Node Foundation.  I've coded for a long time now without paying serious attention to Node, which is an environment to write server-side applications in JavaScript, but it definitely has a lot of fans.

Amazon FireflyInteresting: Amazon's product-finding Firefly lands on Fire HD tablets.  When Amazon first announced Firefly along with the Fire Phone, I thought it would have significant impact on visual search applications, but it turns out Firefly is less about raw visual search and more about barcode reading and optical character recognition.  Still Amazon is not known for giving up; they will keep making it better and better and more useful to consumers.

classic rock plays by yearAsking the important questions: Which rock is classic?  I'm tempted to say "you know it when you hear it", but this is a more quantitative analysis.  It does seem to have more to do with how it sounds than with when it was releasedJust the other day I was surprised to realize Guns N' Roses "Welcome to the Jungle" dated back to 1987; when it was released, it wasn't classic, but it sure is now.  What of today's music will be considered "classic" in the future?


digital darkroom

Monday,  02/23/15  10:41 PM

Adobe Photoshop turns 25Cannot believe it but Adobe Photoshop is now 25 years old.  Co-creator Thomas Knoll reflects: Dreams from my Digital Darkroom.

I've been using Photoshop for a long time now ... remember Kai's Power Tools? ... and my current active version is (sigh) v6.01, from 2001.  (Hey, it works!)  Can't honestly believe there was ever imaging life before Photoshop.

It's not often that a software tool becomes a verb :)



Monday,  02/23/15  10:22 PM

Crescent Dunes solar power plantDo you know what this is?  Depending on your point of view, it's either a solar power station, or a serious threat to birds.  JWZ reports this battle station is now fully operational.

If you're a frequent reader you know I think solar power stations like this are ridiculous, not because of their danger to birds, but because of their inefficiency; if there were no subsidies available they would be uneconomical and would never be built.  Solar power makes sense for heating water on rooftops, but not for generating electricity.

From John at Desk: thoughts on distribution.  "I have historically and naively believed in the if you build it they will come sentiment around building great apps and making them work as a business and I now know, without a shadow of a doubt, that having anything close to that attitude and perspective is the easiest way to through away time, effort, and a ton of money."  Amen.

He quotes Peter Thiel in Zero to One: It's better to think of distribution as something essential to the design of your product.  Yep.

should you be a startup CEO?VC Mark Suster asks: Should you be a startup CEO?  A really good discussion about the personal economics as well as the other considerations.

John Gruber: On the pricing of Apple Watch.  Everyone seems to agree the gold Apple Watch Edition models will be expensive - thousands of dollars - but nobody can agree on just how many thousands.  My vote goes for $4,999.  Based on trying to get a mass market, not on trying to maximize profit.

Apple Watch Edition gold caseRelated: I think if Apple make the case reusable / innards upgradeable it will help their sales tremendously.  Everyone knows there will be a Watch 2, a Watch 2S, a Watch 3, etc., and if that means you'll only get one year out of your $5,000 investment it will restrict the market significantly.  On the other hand, being able to upgrade the innards every year and keep the watch case for a while would be quite different.


space probes

Sunday,  02/22/15  11:10 AM


This is so cool: the website tracks all space probes currently active in and around our solar system.  (Well, all human space probes, anyway :)

From this you can learn that ... Voyager 1 is the furthest from earth, but Voyager 2 was launched just before it, and that only one probe has visited Uranus or Neptune (in 1979), and that DSCOVR, the most recently launched (by SpaceX!), is destined for the infamous L1 point between the Earth and the Sun.

And that there are only 29 such probes in existence.  Or depending on your point of view, that there are 29! probes.  How many of these could you name?  How many do you recognize?


Sunday,  02/22/15  10:04 AM

Megan at CCAWell it all worked out perfectly in the end yesterday - an amazing trip, with great results - but there were some disturbances in the force, for sure.  Wow.

That's Meg at right, awaiting the tour.

welcome to the jungle, cello styleLoved (!) this ... an impressive cello cover of Guns N' Roses 'Welcome to the Jungle'.  Most surprising thing about this was realizing this song dates back to 1987.  Wow.

So tonight we have the Oscars ... which means many should be reading this: How to accept an Oscar properly.  I always thought John Wayne set the standard.  Honestly upon rewatching that, and looking at the stars, their dress, and their class ... how the mighty have fallen.  Few among tonight's award presenters or recipients can rise to that standard.  But they can at least try!

Racism in America: some minorities are more equal than others.  So if I read this correctly, Asians need SAT scores 140 points higher than comparable whites (to receive admission to Princeton), while hispanics only need scores 185 points lower, and blacks 240 points lower.  How can this be anything except blatant racism?

Supreme Court justice Clarence ThomasAt least one Supreme Court justice agrees with me: Clarence Thomas, the second black justice, is now leading the national debate on race.  "His opinions are rooted in the premise that the 14th Amendment - guaranteeing equal rights for all - cannot mean different things for different people."  Does not seem especially controversial, but yet in 2015, it is...

This is excellent: what's useful about the long lines at the California DMV?  In which an independent game developer used people waiting in line to test his games :)


Friday,  02/20/15  10:36 PM

CCATomorrow I shall be called upon to arise at 3:30 for a quick trip to San Francisco, taking Meg to visit California College of the Arts.  That should be "fun".  And so I should be sleeping ... and so I'm blogging instead ...

Scott Walker's new specialty: punting.  "Sometimes the best answer to a question is a refusal to answer."  Especially when the purpose of the question is a gotcha, rather than an honest attempt to learn.

Mark Cuban says Net Neutrality will f*ck up the internet.  I'm not sure I'd put it that strongly, but more government regulation is never the solution to any problem.  And it isn't clear there even is a problem here.  It bothers me that so many people think net neutrality is obviously right* and don't even understand the issue.

* the way the issue has been named is quite clever, because we're all coached to think "neutrality" is a good thing.

cricket, explainedWell played: An animated guide to Cricket.  Now you, too can argue infinitely about whether someone was LBW.

2015 ATOC route announcedExcellent: 2015 Amgen Tour of California Route announced.  Love that they're heading to a mountaintop finish on Mt. Baldy again, and yes, of course I am going to ride it and watch the finish.  Great stuff.  So glad an America bike race has become one of the top one-week stage races in the world!

frozen Hudson RiverGlobal Warming update: The coldest day ever.  "Temperature records broken across the country by the 'Siberian Express' cold snap as Manhattan hits 1F."  Did not realize Al Gore was visiting New York.  Click through to see the pictures, they're beautiful as well as impressive; that's the Hudson River, frozen, at right...

Mars / Venus Conjunction tonightI'm too cold to check this out: Mars and Venus Conjunction tonight.  It's pretty rare to have the Moon in the mix too, wonder what that means?



don't drink and derive

Wednesday,  02/18/15  11:30 PM


although I must say drinking does help you integrate with others :)



Wednesday,  02/18/15  10:36 PM

objective CI have been working on an iPhone app.  In the past I've played with Objective C and even modified existing working code, but this is my first foray into creating a new app from scratch*.  Pretty interesting.  As usual learning the environment (Xcode etc) is a bigger curve than learning the language and runtime...

* where by "scratch" I mean heavily copy-and-paste-ing from others :)

Meanwhile, it's all happening...

the rewriteWe watched the Rewrite the other night, on iTunes, before it was even released into theaters.  A pleasant Hugh Grant romantic comedy.  I like Hugh Grant and like his character, but why does he always get written as a has-been?  (About a Boy, Music and Lyrics, and now The Rewrite...)

As the father of four girls / women, I enjoyed this essay by Whitney Fleming very much: To my daughter, at halftime.  Since this was written by a mother of a 9-year-old, I feel like adding to her #10, which is "the best is yet to come", a #11: "you ain't seen nothing yet" :)

From the CEO of Gallup, an unusually opinionated stance: The Big Lie: 5.6% Unemployment.  The government has been moving these goalposts for years; I've been in the workforce for ... um ... thirty-five years, and that whole time people have complained that the economy isn't as robust as the government claim it to be.

Apropos: America's new aristocracy: the hereditary meritocracy.  An important point, well taken; as society removes the barriers which prevented people from all strata to succeed based on merit, new stratification caused by merit will form.  This is the biggest obstacle those who would battle "income inequality" face, and the more barriers they remove, the stronger the obstacle.  My opinion is that all such barriers should be removed, and after that it is what it is.

So we've had a [half-]black President now, what's next?  Maybe a non-college graduate?  A Scott Walker Presidency would be a breath of fresh air for an ivy-league suffocated government.  Given the previous point about meritocracy, one might conclude this has become less likely than before, but of course there will always be exceptions and Governor Walker appears to be a big one.

Powerline examine CNN's claim that this has been a Hellish week for Religion.  "What we have here is a series of atrocities carried out by extremist members of one religion, Islam. You could compile a similar list just about any week out of the year. What makes this a story about 'religion,' rather than about Islam?"  I'm not a fan of organized religions, but Islam definitely stands out as the religion most often cited as the inspiration for terrorism.  I'm tired of the media hiding this under the blanket of multiculturalism.  All cultures are not equal.

Pebble supports Android WearPebble's smartwatch now supports Android Wear apps.  Cool.  I'm a Pebble Steel wearer and I'm rooting for little Pebble against giant Apple and Google.  This compatibility makes it easier for app developers to support Pebble, and hence makes Pebble more compelling for users.


more cowbell

Monday,  02/16/15  11:02 PM

more cowbell: Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake open the SNL 40 year anniversarySo, did you watch SNL's 40th anniversary show?  It was pretty amazing... from the opening number by Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake (more cowbell!), to Emma Stone imitating Gilda Radner as Rosanne Rosannadanna, to Bill Murray singing the love song from Jaws.  Yay.  (Oh, and that Wayne's World top ten was pretty great.)  Worst moments: Miley Cyrus ... (predictably lame) ... and Eddie Murphy (unexpectedly disappointing).

Apparently the after party was quite something, too :)

Global Warming update: Boston's snowiest month ever.

the Apple car?The past week we've been inundated with rumors of an Apple Car.  That would be cool, but Jason Calacanis thinks Apple will buy Tesla for $75B in 14 months.  Noted.

Jean-Louis Gassee does not think so.

Apple's Jonny IveThe New Yorker profiles Jonny Ive.  A most interesting in-depth article.  It does NOT seem they are working on a car.  But it does seem like the Apple Watch is going to be quite something.

Frank Drake (of the Drake equation) points out that it's silly to send messages to ET.  It would take too long to be useful, and if ET is out there, she's already sending messages to us.  Interesting.

new VAIO Z laptopIt has been a LONG time since I've lusted after a new laptop.  My main axe is a four-year-old HP, recently revitalized with an SSD.  But checking out the new [Sony-less] VAIO Z series makes me think ... hmmm.


alien spaceship

Sunday,  02/15/15  10:46 PM


my latest 3D printing project:
the alien spaceship
turns out 808K vertices and 1.6M faces present a slight problem
so be it
stay tuned :)




Sunday,  02/15/15  10:33 PM




Saturday,  02/14/15  10:26 AM

the DrakkarI've been busy ... coding, riding, and thinking ... in approximately that order, of various permutations thereof.  The year is now truly under way...

Powerline remembers Mr. Lincoln.  "Lincoln was America’s indispensable teacher of the moral ground of political freedom at the exact moment when the country was on the threshold of abandoning what he called its 'ancient faith' that all men are created equal."

the Genius BarOh no ... the Genius Bar might be losing its logo.  "It’s possible that this is a move by Apple’s new retail chief, Angela Ahrendts, to make her mark on Apple’s worldwide retail locations."  Sigh.  The first thing marketing people want to do is change the names and the logos.

Good to know: Tesla Model S voice commands.  Best single feature: "Play X", where X is any band, song, or album ... thanks to Slacker.

When dining at a restaurant, often the best options is to sit at the bar.  I agree entirely.

This is excellent: The problem with action movies today.  Goes a bit deeper than you might think, and provides great examples.  The two best suggestions: the hero must be a real person, and they must have a real challenge to overcome.

the trailer: Star Wars vs Star TrekMeanwhile: Star Wars vs Star Trek.  "No, it's not real.  Yet."  It's interesting to think about, which is/are the better action movies?  I would vote for Star Trek, on two counts; better (more relatable) heroes, and better (more realistic) science.  Though I will most definitely see the next Star Wars movie :)

Awesome: Watch a reply of the ESA's spaceplane launch.  Who knew?

And ... DSCOVR space satellite successfully launched by SpaceX.  Sadly the weather at the landing site was too rough to allow an attempt to land the rocket boosters on a barge, so that will have to wait for next time.  Onward.

Radio Shack TRS-80I, Cringley remembers Radio Shack.  "The barebones TRS-80 cost $199.95 in a pretty much unusable form and about $1800 completely tricked out. The TRS-80 was fabulously successful."  I remember that, and also when Radio Shack was a mini Fry's.

J Class yachts racing (1937 America's Cup)This is excellent: J Class to be part of 2017 America's Cup.  Watching huge catamarans foiling at 50 knots is pretty cool, but watching majestic J Class yachts racing is the best.  So interesting that new ones are being built today, and are designed to be competitive with the survivors from the golden age of the 30's and 40's...

the original SNL castCNN: 40 reasons why SNL is still awesome at 40.  I'm not a regular SNL watcher (nor actually a regular TV watcher at all), but I'm a fan of SNL and am anticipating the 40th anniversary show this Sunday with great interest...


the Fry's toy store

Thursday,  02/12/15  10:43 PM

Yesterday I had the need / opportunity to visit my local Fry's Electronics, aka "the toy store".  I hadn't been there for a while, but fortunately nothing had changed.  Well actually the store is in a constant state of upheaval, with new aisles and products and product categories all the time, and old ones gradually being phased out, but much like a stream of water from a faucet the overall shape remains the same.

(click to enbiggen)

I was especially delighted to see a large wall of motherboards for sale.  Over the years the specs have changed - possibly they change daily! - but the idea that you can build your own computer remains.  I've never done this, but something inside me wants to, and it's a comfort to know that I can.

Other random observations:

  • Can't believe they *still* sell software in boxes.  Not nearly as much, but still.
  • Computer gaming seems to have peaked and is now in decline.  No doubt consoles have eclipsed PCs for general gaming.  Xbox etc.
  • Desktop PCs are history.  Laptops are where it's at, along with Chromebooks and tablets and phablets.
  • Glad to see they still sell basic electronic components like power supplies and circuit boards.  With the demise of Radio Shack (and the previous conversion of Radio Shack from hobbiest heaven to phone stores), Fry's are the last bastion of do-it-yourselfish-ness.
  • Stereo systems are definitely on the decline.  Replaced by ... what, exactly?  Multimedia centers, maybe.  Still plenty of speakers but they are TV/video -oriented, not necessarily for listening to music.
  • Curved TVs we hardly knew ya.  3D TVs ... huh?  And now we have 4K.  So be it.
  • Interesting how much home security stuff they now sell.  Complete surveillance systems.
  • 3D printing has come to Frys... they have printers, filament, etc.  Yay!

Random prediction:

  • Wearable computing will be big.  By Fall there will be a huge section of them at Fry's.

I'll be back...


Mobile Apps 2.0

Thursday,  02/12/15  10:10 PM

Didn’t see this coming but a most interesting move for both companies: Apple teams up with Pinterest to help make app discovery even easier.

In thinking about the endgame for every business having an app, the problem of how to get users to download and use hundreds of apps seems severe. In fact even finding the apps is a problem. Perhaps this could help.

We continue to see that the applications for visual search are vast and growing.

I’ve been thinking about mobile apps a lot lately … (as you might expect!) The IOS and Android app ecosystems are thriving and perhaps one might think nothing need be done to make them healthier, but in fact, there is a lot that can be done.

First, there is the problem of finding interesting apps, isolating the signal from the noise. No app store has solved this effectively. Second, there is the problem of installing apps; in theory a single link can do the trick, but in practice the process is more complicated, involving authentication and many clicks and time. People are loathe to pay for apps without trying them first, and there is no way to have trial periods without complicated fremium models or implementing in-app upgrades. Perhaps more significantly, there is significant effort requires to create apps, far beyond (and different from) the effort required to create websites. And finally there is competition for apps on a phone; too many apps take up too much space, and clutter one’s phone desktop. Honestly the desktop itself is a problem; except for the home page, who searchers for apps by visually scanning their desktop anymore?

I predict this whole mechanism will evolve. Finding apps will be as easy and varied as finding websites, with many search engines and referral processes and review media. A single link will do the trick for trying an app, and it will not require authentication or [too much] time, and it will be easily reversible. The business models will evolve to make upgrading to a paid version easy. (Most apps are free anyway, just like most websites!) There will be cloud-based caches for apps, so that competition for phone resources will not be a problem. (Similar to the way iCloud and Dropbox have made “infinite” libraries of music and videos possible.) And finally the desktop will be replaced with something better and easier. We no longer have an icon on our computer for each website we visit, and we will not have an icon for each app we’ve tried either. The home page will be a most-recently used cache.

Oh one more crucial thing … mobile apps will evolve a mechanism for deep linking, so that they can link to each other, and link to each other’s content. This capability is the single main thing that made the web what it is today (indeed, it is the reason the web is so-named), and the lack of it is the most restrictive thing about the mobile app world.

Perhaps the best way to kill several of these birds with one stone is to park each mobile app at a unique URL in webspace. You can link to the app simply by … linking to the app, and if you follow the link then the app is loaded. A well defined way will be created to serve up an IOS or Android or Windows version, as appropriate. URLs which are subordinate to the app can be used for deep linking.

And of course, visual search will be integrated into the discovery process, to make finding apps even easier.


eight people to dinner, solved

Wednesday,  02/11/15  08:46 PM

The other day I asked:

Eight people are seated at a circular table. Each person gets up and sits down again_either in the same chair or in the chair immediately to the left or right of the one they were in. How many different ways can the eight people be reseated?

So ... I know you've all been working on the problem ... want to know the answer?  No, it's not 42, it's ... 49!  Is that what you got?

very long not-round tableHere's how I got it.  Basically each person can either stay where they are or swap with the person next to them.  If they don't stay where they are and don't swap, then you end up with an unused chair and someone who has no chair, and that's not allowed.

Let's first consider a table which is NOT round.  Let's call N(x) the number of ways people can be reseated at such a table, where x is the total number of people and seats. 

The first person can either stay where they are, or they can swap with their only neighbor.  If they stay where they are, there are N(x-1) remaining possibilities.  If they swap, there are N(x-2) remaining possibilities.  That means N(x) = N(x-1) + N(x-2). This happens to be the Fibonacci sequence.  Who knew Fibonacci was a waiter?

Next lets consider a table which IS round.  Let's call R(x) the number of ways people can be reseated at such a table, where x is the total number of people and seats.

The first person either stay where they are, or they can swap with their left neighbor, or swap with their right neighbor.  If they stay where they are, there are N(x-1) remaining possibilities.  (See what I did there?)  If they swap, there are N(x-2) possibilities, and they have two neighbors with whom they can swap.  That means R(x) = N(x-1) + 2N(x-2).  Except ... with a round table there are two other possibilities, everyone can swap right, and everyone can swap left.  So R(x) = N(x-1) + 2N(x-2) + 2.

Okay... now we can solve the problem:

N(1) = 1
N(2) = 2
N(3) = 1+2 = 3
N(4) = 2+3 = 5
N(5) = 3+5 = 8
N(6) = 5+8 = 13
N(7) = 8+13 = 21

R(8) = N(7) + 2N(6) + 2 = 21 + 2(13) + 2 = 49

Bon appetit!


Fairly recent posts:

02/25/15 09:51 PM -

Wednesday,  02/25/15  09:51 PM

02/23/15 10:41 PM -

digital darkroom

02/23/15 10:22 PM -

Monday,  02/23/15  10:22 PM

02/22/15 11:10 AM -

space probes

02/22/15 10:04 AM -

Sunday,  02/22/15  10:04 AM

02/20/15 10:36 PM -

Friday,  02/20/15  10:36 PM

02/18/15 11:30 PM -

don't drink and derive

02/18/15 10:36 PM -

Wednesday,  02/18/15  10:36 PM

02/16/15 11:02 PM -

more cowbell

02/15/15 10:46 PM -

alien spaceship

02/15/15 10:33 PM -


02/14/15 10:26 AM -

Saturday,  02/14/15  10:26 AM

02/12/15 10:43 PM -

the Fry's toy store

02/12/15 10:10 PM -

Mobile Apps 2.0

02/11/15 08:46 PM -

eight people to dinner, solved

02/10/15 10:46 PM -

Tuesday,  02/10/15  10:46 PM

02/09/15 10:10 PM -

3,000 posts, and counting

02/09/15 08:34 PM -

Monday,  02/09/15  08:34 PM

02/07/15 09:27 PM -

Alta Alpina, again

02/07/15 08:21 PM -

Mount Thielsen

02/06/15 09:57 PM -

Friday,  02/06/15  09:57 PM

02/05/15 10:52 PM -

black and white

02/04/15 10:48 PM -

twenty reasons

02/04/15 10:06 PM -

Wednesday,  02/04/15  10:06 PM

02/02/15 09:41 PM -

reliving Groundhog Day

02/01/15 11:09 PM -

Super bad call

01/31/15 10:45 PM -

Saturday,  01/31/15  10:45 PM

01/28/15 09:11 PM -

the big Apple

01/26/15 07:59 PM -

Monday,  01/26/15  07:59 PM

01/25/15 09:24 PM -

eight people to dinner

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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?