Critical Section

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!


Tuesday,  02/10/15  10:46 PM

Post #3,001:  Back to work.  In which the Ole filter makes a pass, and finds ...

Sin City - Aerial photos of Las VegasSin City, a series of high-altitude aerial photos of Las Vegas.  Awesome!

SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, ready for takeoffSpaceX's launch attempt today was scrubbed due to excessive upper atmosphere winds.  So be it, stay tuned for another attempt mañana.  So interesting that this launch won't be as suspenseful as the landing.  fXf!

Did you know?  Apple's Dictionary is cooler than you think.  After reading this post, I have to agree.  Thanks.

Philip Greenspun attempts the impossible: Listing the most perverse things about the US tax code.  Child care deductions, alimony treatment, inheritance, health care, capital gains, and mortgage deductions are all featured.

Of course: JetBlue becomes first airline to accept Apple Pay.  Anywhere card swipes are a nuisance, NFC is going to be accepted.  I remember when the iPhone 5S was introduced thinking that fingerprint sensor was going to prove much more useful than people thought...

And: competitors race aluminum shovels down a ski slope at 65mph.  But of course!

The quest for virality is making everything shitty.  Yeah, that could be defended.  But fortunately you have the Ole filter to protect you!


3,000 posts, and counting

Monday,  02/09/15  10:10 PM

post ... gateJust noticed this will be my 3,000th post.  Wow.

I hope you've enjoyed them almost as much as I have.  And I hope they were gates rather than fences.

When I started blogging in 2003, I'm not sure I thought I'd still be doing it twelve years later.  Will I be blogging in 2027?  Stay tuned :)


Monday,  02/09/15  08:34 PM

Blogging the blues ...

'Get Lucky', covered ten timesOld meets new: A guitar cover of Daft Punk's 'Get Lucky' in the styles of 10 famous guitarists.  By the well-named Andre Antunes.  Carlos Santana, Steve Vai, Kurt Cobain, Angus Young (AC/DC), Slash (Guns 'n Roses), Brian May (Queen), Mark Knopfler (Dire Straights), Tom Morello (Rage Against the Machine), Joe Satriani, and Eddie Van Halen.  It's awesome.  The guitarists I know well (Santana, Knopfler, Satriani, and Van Halen) were covered perfectly.  I love it.

An idea whose time has come: Uber for helicopters.  Yes of course we all want this.  We might not be able to afford it yet, but we want it...

There's a new 'zine in town: Apple World Today, launched by former TUAW staffers.  (TUAW = "the unofficial Apple weblog", recently decomissioned by new owner AOL)  Subscribed!

preparing for Apple WatchAnd AWT are off to a good start with: Preparing for the Apple Watch.  A detailed list of launch features.  My favorite right now is that I'll be able to use Apple Pay from my iPhone 5S.

A nice long read: There goes the neighborhood, again.  In which a new Oakland homeowner in a newly gentrified area digs into the history of his house, and discovers the waves of settlers.  Most interesting.

Kaierkan, RussiaAnother good long read: Six stories from the Russian North.  I've been thinking a lot about settlement on Mars (!), and I believe settlement near the polar circle is a good proxy.  Amazing.

This is a picture of Kaierkan, Russia, which translates as "death valley".

PS did you know there's such a place as the White Sea?  Brrr..


Alta Alpina, again

Saturday,  02/07/15  09:27 PM

I've decided I need to ride Alta Alpina again, and this time, I need to finish.  You may recall, I tried last year, and despite riding 160 miles and climbing 17,000 feet, I did not make it.  Boo.  This is the toughest double century there is - 200 miles with 20,000 feet of climbing - and you have to be in great shape to do it, and I wasn't.  So... I'm planning to ride every day.  This is the kind of resolution that's easier to make than to execute.  Stay tuned!



Mount Thielsen

Saturday,  02/07/15  08:21 PM


(click to enbiggen)

Sunrise on Mount Thielsen, by Scott Loftesness

Seems like a great climb :)



Friday,  02/06/15  09:57 PM

Coding away again ... and the Ole filter makes a pass ...

imperial cruiserC|Net: Coolest vehicles in the Star Wars universe.  They *are* cool.  Which is your favorite?  Mine is unquestionably the Imperial Cruiser, based solely on the opening scene of the very first Star Wars movie.  Everyone remembers that as the first time science fiction became "real" :)

SpaceX Falcon9And meanwhile, back on Earth, SpaceX will attempt a potentially historic launch and landing this weekend.  Excellent and fXf!

Popular Mechanics has a detailed explanation of the mission.

Scott "Dilbert" Adams: What makes stuff go viral?  (In which he make the common confusion between "viral" and "popular".)  "The topic needs to already be in people’s minds, the quality has to be “good enough,” and it has to appeal to folks’ egos."  The last one is most interesting...

In case you need it: How to make an executive offer, and succeed.  "Never make an offer until you are 100 percent sure that the person is going to accept."  So obviously all the work comes before the offer.  Good luck!


black and white

Thursday,  02/05/15  10:52 PM



by Marcin Ryczek via MG Siegler



twenty reasons

Wednesday,  02/04/15  10:48 PM




Fairly recent posts:

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

01/25/15 08:47 PM -

Sunday,  01/25/15  08:47 PM

01/24/15 10:22 PM -

Saturday,  01/24/15  10:22 PM

01/23/15 09:58 PM -

Gates foundation: the Big Bet

01/22/15 10:42 PM -

hello, ello?

01/22/15 10:13 PM -

Thursday,  01/22/15  10:13 PM

01/22/15 10:00 PM -


01/21/15 10:38 PM -

climbing the Dawn Wall

01/21/15 10:14 PM -

Wednesday,  01/21/15  10:14 PM

For older posts please visit the archive.


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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?