Critical Section


Saturday,  06/12/04  11:01 PM

So this is first attempt at catching up since resurfacing.  We'll see what happens :)

"Whatever else history may say about me when I’m gone, I hope it will record that I appealed to your best hopes, not your worst fears; to your confidence rather than your doubts."
Ronald Reagan

So "Dutch" has died.  I can't add much to the mounds of things which have been written to eulogize him; he was a great man and President, and his place in history seems secure.  I found it particularly poignant to read Lech Walesa's tribute in the WSJ; it seems amazing that it was only 20 years ago that communism was such a force in Eastern Europe, and in the World.

Amazingly, I was actually at the Ronald Reagan library on June 4, the day before he died.  My daughter's 5th grade class was participating in a Constitutional debate, "We the People", held on the library grounds.  I passed through the museum, and stopped at a display commemorating Reagan's first challenge as President: the Patco strike (air-traffic controllers).  Reagan summarily fired the striking workers, and in so doing he not only ended a disruptive (and illegal) strike, he also served notice to the world of the kind of President they were dealing with: "I said what I meant, and I meant what I said".  He went on to prove this many times, as in his exhortation to Mikhail Gorbechev: "tear down this wall".

I am struck by two things among the remembrances; first, that Reagan was a man of principle, and second, that he was modest and gentle.  It would be better if today's men of principle were the same, our present President included...

Other Serious Business:

  • Gary Kasparov: Stop the Moral Equivalence.  "It is said that to win a battle you must be the one to choose the battleground."  A great strategic thinker, in chess and in life.  [ via LGF ]
  • Arnold Schwarzenegger has proposed a 75% tax on punitive damages.  Excellent.  That's tort reform.
  • More Arnold doings, Moody's Upgrades California.  He's doing good things.  Optimism and confidence work.
  • Bill Cosby speaks the truth.  "In the presence of NAACP President Kweisi Mfume and other African-American leaders, comedian Bill Cosby took aim at blacks who don't take responsibility for their economic status, blame police for incarcerations and teach their kids poor speaking habits."  Wow.  And people are not happy about it.  More from GNXP and Acidman, who notes: "Have you ever noticed that he can do a one-hour comedy routine, have the audience rolling in the aisles and NEVER use the word 'm*th*rf*ck*r'?"  I had noticed that.
  • Glenn Reynolds on the SAT: "My sense is that hostility to the SAT stems from the fact that it does exactly what it was designed to do - it makes it harder for college administrators to discriminate in admissions."  Exactly.

Space and Science:

  • The Hubble Telescope and new Webb Telescope as time machines: Peering Back at the Universe's Past.  Really makes you think that time is the fourth dimension.
  • The Mars rovers are on a new mission.  "The two interplanetary Energizer bunnies, NASA's Spirit and Opportunity rovers, keep going and going.  The pair of robotic explorers are now well into their extended missions on the surface of Mars."  Opportunity is being sent into the steep Endurance crater, from which it may never come out.  Meanwhile Spirit is on the road again, a month-and-a-half trek over two kilometers to the Columbia Hills.
  • The Riemann hypothesis may have been solved.  This long-standing conjecture is pretty inaccessible to those of us who aren't mathematicians ("The Riemann hypothesis asserts that all interesting solutions of the the Riemann Zeta function: z(s) = 0 lie on a straight line"), but one consequence is that there are infinitely many prime pairs p, p+2.  Most feel the hypothesis is true, but many also feel it is unprovable, but that the unprovability is unprovable.  (paging Kurt Gödel.)  Mathworld reports the proof is false.
  • SETI@Home logoWow, so SETI@home has turned five!  And I've been a user for five years; I've donated 125 years of computing time so far.  Wow.  No ET yet, but the search continues...
  • AlwaysOn: The Robot Business Sucks.  Pun intended.
  • The Scientist: Arnold Beckman dies at 104.  "The son of a blacksmith, Beckman created instruments that are now employed in virtually every laboratory across the globe, then used his fortune to up the pace of basic research."  The CalTech legend began his career by designing a pH meter for measuring the acidity of California lemons.
  • Hey, a new dinosaur! ...and it stumps scientists.  "The 50-foot-long sauropod has a number of distinguishing features, but the most striking is this second hole in its skull, a feature we have never seen before in a North American dinosaur."  You've got to love that...  it couldn't be a gunshot wound :)
  • Oh, and Chimps are not like Humans.  "The difference is 'much more complicated that we initially imagined or speculated'."  So be it.
  • And this explains a lot: Brains Cannot Process Two Tasks in Parallel.  "It's readily apparent that handling two things at once is much harder than handling one thing at a time.  Spend too much time trying to juggle more than one objective and you'll end up wanting to get rid of all your goals besides sleeping."  Um, is sleeping a goal?
  • We recently passed the 50th anniversary of Alan Turing's death.  This remarkable man was responsible for many of the foundations of Computer Science.  In a landmark 1950 paper he begins "I propose to investigate the question, 'can machines think'", and went on to found the field of Artificial Intelligence.  To this day "Turing Machine" and "the Turing Test" are crucial concepts in the science of AI.  Sadly he committed suicide at age 42 because his homosexuality was not accepted.  The world has grown in many ways since.

Life and Stuff

  • The Da Vinci Code was a fun book, but was it real?  Uh, no, but apparently a lot of people thought so.  And comments by Dan Brown, the author, that he left out the most controversial part have Catholics in a spin.  C'mon, it's a novel.
  • Remember the missing Stradivarius cello?  Well, it's been found.  Yippee.
  • robot protest!Blogging.la proposes a robot protest.  Be sure to check out the comment thread :)
  • PVRBlog notes: Tivo killed the rerun.  "Apparently, a sizable number of PVR owners are impacting their bottom line as their recorders automatically pass over old episodes."  Well, yeah.
  • I really liked Harry Potter, and the Prisoner of Azkaban.  I liked the first two, too, but this one was my favorite so far.  The effects were less intrusive but cooler (the marauder's map was excellent), and the kids were cooler and more kid-like, too.  Looks like this series does too have legs, which is great news.
  • Ottmar Liebert muses before La Semana was released:  "It has been a very hard year for us and frankly, if 'La Semana' doesn't bring a turn-around, I will spend 2005 to think of something new to do with my life.  Maybe become a resident guitarist in a hotel on the coast of Mexico?"  A great excuse for a Mexican vacation :)
  • What do you think is safer, a Mini or a Ford F150?  Check out these pictures, then revisit your opinion.  [ via Scoble ]
  • Jos Leys strange attactorHere we have 3D Kleinian Groups.  Fractals made by Jos Leys from strange attractors which are, um, strangely attractive.
  • Eric Sink is posting a great series based on The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing, the classic book from Al Ries and Jack Trout.  Check them all out, it's great stuff.
  • GNXP's Razib visited his native Bangladesh, and posted this remarkable report on their culture.  It is amazing to realize how different cultures around the world are from our own.  Please check it out!
  • The Incredibles Wired: Welcome to Planet Pixar.  "By any standards, Pixar Animation Studios has reached infinity and beyond.  From 1995's Toy Story - the world's first all-CG feature - to last year's Finding Nemo, Pixar's five hermetically crafted movies have grossed a staggering $2.5 billion at the box office, making it the most successful film studio, picture for picture, of all time."  They'll have to do something pretty incredible for an encore :)
  • Diet Coke with limeI really like the new Diet Coke with Lime.  So there.

Computers and Electronics:

  • Samsung 46" LCD TVI'm drooling; Samsung has released a 46" LCD TV, with a resolution of 1920x1080.  Okay, it's $10K.  But wow.
  • Here's a great slashdot thread: Worst Explanation from Tech Support?  "Uh, it looks like the bytes are getting through to you ok, but the bits are getting stuck someplace."  I love it.
  • This is amazing and terrible: Clear Channel has patented selling Live CDs after a Concert.  Think "business method" patents haven't gone too far?  Unbelievable.  [ via Ottmar Liebert, who comments "Next they'll give out patents for breathing on Thursdays with your head turned East".  Check out the comment thread on his blog, too. ]
  • localhost doormatOkay, you're a geek if you think this doormat is funny.  Thanks, Adam.
  • Steve Gillmor: Gates Paying Attention to RSS.  "Bill Gates finally speaks the 'R' word as he highlights the increasingly strategic role of RSS in Microsoft's seamless computing direction."  Even Google seems to be using the 'R' word, at least internally.  And Sam Ruby suggests Détente.
  • Brian Storms wonders Where have all the Users gone?  "I was astonished to see what the trends are in the past six months, for many of the sites I visit.  In a word, the trend is down."  Wow, can this be right?  [ via Doc Searles ]
  • Mark Andreessen considers web progress.  "First it was email, then web, then IM, then Napster/ Kazaa, then Apple iChat, now RSS.  One thing after another."  (italics are mine.)  [ via Dave Winer ]
  • Mac desktop for your PCPeter Rojas explains How to turn your PC into a Mac.  "So, you wanna make your ugly Windows XP interface look like Mac OS X, huh?  It's really not all that difficult to do, and with a little luck, you'll be able to convince all but the most die-hard Mac users that you run an Apple computer."  Cool.  I'm going to try this, but not on my main laptop :)
  • I'm sure you saw where Apple announced AirPort Express and AirTunes, hardware and software allowing music to be streamed wirelessly from your Mac to your stereo.  Pretty cool.  And now there's speculation that the next move is a wireless iPod, which will serve as a remote control and music source.  Excellent.
  • This is pretty big, if expected: Tivo Breaks into Home Networks.  "TV watchers can now connect their basic TiVo Series2 DVR to a home network and share content between two or more TiVo boxes in the same household, schedule recordings using the Internet, play music and view digital photos -- all features previously available with the company's home media option for an added fee."  I've always thought the RJ45 jack was more important than the Coax jack, looks like Tivo is starting to agree.

So, that's what happened.  One giant catch-up post.  Whew.

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