Weird, that two of history's most amazing people have birthdays on the same day, and today is that day. Congratulations on another trip around the sun, Mr. Darwin, and Mr. Lincoln...
Scott Johnson remembers Mr. Lincoln.
And Boing Boing remembers Chuck D, natural selecta :)
Taking nothing at all away from Mr. Lincoln, who had an impressive series of failures before an even more impressive legacy of success, I think Mr. Darwin had one of the most important insights ever. He saw that over time natures behaves like a rachet, in which good ideas accumulate and in so doing yield even better ones.
And so ... how being awesome became the great imperative of our time. I have resolved to cut down on "awesome" as my go-to adjective for greatness.
But ... literally awesome: spot the International Space Station. If you do, you will be awestruck :)
Hmmm... Time Inc acquires MySpace. That feels like a headline from fifteen years ago, doesn't it? Who know that Time Inc. and MySpace still existed...
I was in a meeting the other day with some twenty-something colleagues, and PayPal came up, and someone said "PayPal, that's so old school." Heh. (covers eyes and shakes head sadly.)
Good question: Who will own the virtual reality interface? Of course sensing and reacting to head motion is all very exciting, but what about hand motion? (Remember Minority Report!)
Meanwhile... Microsoft's latest iPhone app will tell you what kind of dog you are. A pretty low use of visual search, but still, cool and possibly even useful.
Sadly: scientists have given up on the Philae lander. As time passes the dust accumulation will make it increasingly less likely the robot will have enough power to wake up.
Okay, I agree: this little Russian truck is amazing. The secret is the giant tires, which give it floatation, the ability to go anywhere, and ... cuteness :)
This morning I was reading The Health Care Blog, as usual, and came a across a most interesting post: The Radiology Report.
I thought this phrase was intriguing: "'Normal' is one of the most powerful words a radiologist can use". Which of course begs the question, how does the Radiologist get to "normal"? They use their training and experience. And they do this all day long, with case after case, normal, normal, normal.
But what if they could hit a single button to quickly search a vast reference library of exceptional cases just to be sure. If there are no strong correlations, great, the case is "normal", nothing to see here, move along. Every once in a while - perhaps every once in a great while - they might get a hit back which triggers a thought. And every once in a while that hit might cause a "normal" to be reported as a possible "not-normal", perhaps saving a patient’s life.
That is the value proposition behind eyesFinder for Radiology.
I am excited about many many of the possible applications of visual search, but I'm especially driven by the possibilities in healthcare. We've been working with Leica for two years on a decision support tool for Pathology - now being field-tested - and are actively seeking partners in Radiology as well. So that 'Normal' can be even more powerful :)
Want to know what happens when you run Lenovo System Update?
Yep. And guess what happens next? Nothing. 99% of the time, the only update System Update updates is System Update. Van Quine would love it :)
The other day I had to sell a car (details redacted). I did what millions do every day, posted it on the venerable Craigslist. Within an hour I had several calls of interest, and within three hours the car was sold, cash. It is possible it was priced to move, but still, that's impressive.
Even as impressive or more so is Craigslist itself. It exists as a simple HTML website, a throwback to the mid-90s. I'm sure it runs on LAMP*, is rock solid, and can handle millions of concurrent users on crappy old hardware without breaking a sweat.
I love it, and not just because it could help me sell my car in a few hours. To me this is true design elegance. Long may it wave...
* LAMP = Linux, Apache, MySQL, Perl
Pretty cool, huh? So we've detected gravitational waves, but what are they? NASA attempts to answer, here. The NY Times also does a nice job with a video, here.
This rabbit hole is pretty deep. Normally with "waves" you think of things moving in time. But ... what if the waves are time itself? Yeah. Whoa.
Anyway it's great that we have further confirmation, if any were needed, that Einstein's 100-year-old theory of the universe is correct. I don't think this is quite as surprising or momentous as a lot of news reports make out... we've had a long time now to confirm this theory in all its aspects, and have found zero counter-examples. It would have been surprising if the absence of gravitational waves had been proved, but of course it is hard to prove a negative.
Missing from all the breathless reports is any new implication. I find experiments which yield new implications to be more interesting than those which confirm existing ones.
Well anyway it was fun, and the diagrams are cool. Onward!
After yesterday Carly Fiorina saw the writing on the wall and has suspended her campaign. After some early momentum last Fall she never connected with voters and dropped off the main stage of contenders. I was an early fan, partly because she was a businessperson, not a politician, but mostly because I liked the blunt way she took on Hillary Clinton, the Obama administration, and the pervasive liberalism of the mainstream media. I will say I did not agree with all her positions and in particular her strong anti-abortion stance. Still I hope that she stays in the national picture; it's possible she might even be a vice presidential candidate, if it is deemed helpful to have a woman on the Republican ticket.
Today Carly sent a Thank You email to those who had registered as supporters:
It's a nice message, but as the father of four daughters I thought the words about feminism were particularly apt (highlighted in blue). "A feminist is a woman who lives the life she chooses." Or I suppose a man who supports women who are this kind of feminist :)
I know I'd rather my kids end up being like Carly, a self-made woman who became CEO of one of the largest companies in the world, then ran for President as a person rather than a woman, than like Hillary, a woman who succeeded by being the wife of a successful man, and is making a point of running as a woman. Thanks, Carly!
The day after (the New Hampshire primaries): wow, I can't believe Bernie Sanders actually beat Hillary Clinton (yay) and by 20 percentage points (double yay). And wow, I can't believe people are still supporting Donald Trump (boo), and Jeb Bush still has support too (double boo). Sort of a regression to the mean from Iowa, I guess. Next up is South Carolina...
If you want an example of the sort of weird thinking people put into their support for a Presidential candidate, here's Jason Kottke: the symbolic President. He's actually planning to vote for Hillary Clinton because she's a woman, and presumably voted for Barack Obama because he's [partially] black. I like Jason (usually), but that is not deep thinking.
And this: the left has two huge advantages, and I have no idea how we overcome them. The third advantage is shallow thinking, apparently.
Scott Adams tries to explain: the Thinking Filters. He also tries to explain why he was wrong about Rubio, and fails (after explaining that we would think so). Some of what he's written about Trump is interesting, but it is starting to feel more like random hammers hitting nails than actual analysis.
Mark Suster: the resetting of the startup industry. "Much has changed in the past four months of the technology startup world and how outsiders value the business." Regression to the mean.
It's starting to feel 2008-ish again, featuring a presidential election year and a major economic meltdown.
This you have to watch: impossibly strong winds stop professional cyclists cold. Yes the entire peloton comes to a standstill with riders falling off their bikes etc. Wow. I thought that only happened to me and my friends :)
From John at Desk: the customer is right (and wrong). "The customer is right about the experience today and wrong about what the experience will be tomorrow." I think that's right.
One year of Apple World Today! Congratulations to them. My advice, should they choose to take it, is to concentrate on features and analysis, and leave the news to big sites like Engadget. That's what makes John Gruber and MG Siegler worth reading.
Noted: Firewatch could be the prettiest mystery you play this year. It could be the only mystery I play, too, but "pretty" and "interesting" have me pretty interested. The trailer looks great.
Reviewed: Ark Royal, the first of a new science fiction series I've started to read, by Christopher Nuttall. So far I like it a lot, reminds me of the Hornblower series but moved from the oceans of the 1800s into space.
Oh, and Christopher has a blog, too. (Sample: In Contempt, about the Sad Puppies fiasco around the Hugo Awards for science fiction.) Subscribed!
To be read: Free Bitcoin textbook from Princeton. "It's over 300 pages and is intended for people 'looking to truly understand how Bitcoin works at a technical level and have a basic familiarity with computer science and programming'." Huh, stay tuned.
So be it, New Hampshire is over, and we're on to the next. Onward!
(Still not quite as bright as the Galvanick Lucifer :)
We all think of Amazon as a company that cares about their customers and wants us to find the right products, right? Well...
Amazon is first and foremost a book store, and their Kindle ecosystem has transformed publishing. Furthermore their "recommended for you" algorithms have set a high bar for e-commerce sites everywhere. So finding Amazon's "Kindle Books recommended for you" should be easy, right? You just visit amazon.com, sign on, and poof there they are! Nope.
I challenge you to find Kindle Book recommendations linked anywhere on the website. It's there, but you won't be able to find it. Today I was trying to find it, spent a good ten minutes clicking around, and then figured I might as well just ask. My first attempt was to chat with an Amazon rep. Here's how that went:
Initial Question: Hi can you please help me find Kindle Books recommended for me?
02:45 PM PST Adam(Amazon):
02:46 PM PST Jeff(Amazon):
02:46 PM PST Ole Eichhorn:
02:47 PM PST Jeff:
02:48 PM PST Ina(Amazon):
02:48 PM PST Ole Eichhorn:
02:49 PM PST Ina:
02:50 PM PST Ole Eichhorn:
02:50 PM PST Ina:
02:51 PM PST Ina:
02:52 PM PST Ina:
02:52 PM PST Ole Eichhorn:
02:53 PM PST Ina:
02:55 PM PST Ina(Amazon):
02:56 PM PST Ina:
02:56 PM PST Ole Eichhorn: I
02:57 PM PST Ina:
02:57 PM PST Ole Eichhorn:
02:58 PM PST Ole Eichhorn:
02:58 PM PST Ina:
02:59 PM PST Ole Eichhorn:
02:59 PM PST Ina:
03:00 PM PST Ole Eichhorn:
03:00 PM PST Ina:
03:00 PM PST Amazon:
03:00 PM PST Ole Eichhorn:
03:01 PM PST Amazon:
So that was fun. Next I tried calling customer support. The first person with whom I spoke was unintelligible. I have no problem with people who have learned English as a second language, but in a customer support situation you have to be able to communicate. When I called back, I was transferred three times between teams. Finally I was told there is no such link. I knew there was such a link - I've visited it - so I hung up and tried again. On my third try, the second rep put me on hold and never came back.
So, what to do? I decided to spend another ten minutes poking about the site, trying to find the link, and this time I found it! Yay... here it is:
You might want to bookmark this link because it is *not* easy to find :)
So, did you watch the Super Bowl? (Of course you did!) And did you think it was amazing? (No, you did not...) And did you watch the Super Ads? (Of course you did!) And what did you think, any of them stand out for you? (No, they did not...)
My friends and I did enjoy the game and the commercials (and the chili and the guacamole ... thanks Kevin!), but we failed to be wowed by any of it. The two things which stuck out for me were 1) good defense beats good offense, and 2) the Audi ad featuring an aging astronaut driving an Audio R8, with a David Bowie soundtrack.
Wow, another Super Sunday has come and gone. Onward into the year!
Mark Suster: Why Uber should go public. Great post and great thinking. Basically, they should go public because the scrutiny of public markets will force them to improve. Interesting argument. Of course you could argue the other way, that the need to deliver quarterly results works against innovation...
Hmmmm.. Retail apocalypse: 2016 brings empty shelves and store closings all across America. I haven't noticed this myself, but I could believe it is happening without my awareness. What do you think?
Meanwhile: Aetna joins growing chorus warning about ObamaCare failing. Yeah, you could see this coming from a long way off. They're running out of other people's money already. (Which means, they'll be coming for more of ours...)
Three ways the blockchain will change the real estate market. This hasn't happened as quickly as I thought, but I still think it will happen. Especially perhaps in connection with unmapped real estate, like asteroids and planets :)
wisdom can be found in the most unexpected places :)
Whew, what a day. Please remind me never to schedule an investor update and a software design review on the same day, especially if they're for two different companies. I survived and actually both went very well, but that was so much fun I might not do it again. Onward...
Do you think we've reached Peak Trump? I'm hoping ... yes. His overreaction to having "lost" in Iowa proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that he is not Presidential material.
Hmmm... Minimum Wages Surged In 6 Cities Last Year; Then This Happened. "Wherever cities implemented big minimum-wage hikes to $10 an hour or more last year, the latest data through December show that job creation downshifted to the slowest pace in at least five years." Shocking.
That's an interesting article, but Investors Business Daily has a horrible website. About 4MB of crap loads first, and then you get the only thing you care about ... the article itself.
Glenn Reynolds: 21st Century Headlines: Luxembourg to invest in space-based asteroid mining. Excellent! May the force be with them.
Doc Searls: The Giant Zero. "A world without distance." Most thought-provoking... Proving once again that he can blog with the best of them :)
Important work: Alternatives to Resting Bitch Face. In my family (four daughters) "RBF" is a well-recognized and often-used acronym... :)
NASA helpfully explain: Ion Propulsion ... What is it? "Instead of heating the gas up or putting it under pressure, we give the gas xenon a little electric charge, then they're called ions, and we use a big voltage to accelerate the xenon ions through this metal grid and we shoot them out of the engine at up to 90,000 miles per hour." The Dawn spacecraft uses this technology.
An interesting post from Robert X. Cringely: personal computers approach retirement age. He quotes himself from 25 years ago: "Don’t worry; you'll understand it in a few years, by which time they'll no longer be called PCs. By the time that understanding is reached, and personal computers have wormed into all our lives to an extent far greater than they are today, the whole concept of personal computing will probably have changed." Heh.
Well, so much for blogging (yawn), I'm off to bed.
I think I'll watch Groundhog Day ... again.
The scene this morning at Gobbler's Nob, Punxsutawney, PA:
And the good news: "'There is no shadow to be cast! An early spring is my forecast!' ... 'Take your jackets off, you're not going to need them!' Few in the crowd followed that advice; the temperature this morning in Punxsutawney, Pa., was reported at 22 degrees." Here in San Diego it is 35o, brrrr...
Hope you have a nice day, wherever you are, and whatever the temperature. And if you don't, well, you can always do it again. It's Groundhog Day!
You might not know, but the US is about to elect a new President this year. And you might think that US citizens elect their President. But you would be wrong. And therein lies a huge electoral fail.
Instead, US citizens vote for candidates, but their votes determine which electors chose the President. Each candidate submits a slate of electors, who are chosen at state party conventions or by each party's central committee. The actual people chosen to be electors don't really matter, because they don't have a choice; they are chosen to be an elector, they vote for their candidate. So far, so complicated, and so far, no big problem.
The problem comes from the fact that in all but two states, *all* the electors are chosen from the slate given by the candidate who receives the most votes in that state. (Can you name the exceptions?*) This winner-take-all aspect means that if the citizens of a given state split their votes 51%/49% between two candidates, 100% of the electoral votes from that state go to the winning candidate. In practice, this means the vast majority of states and the vast majority of votes do not matter.
* In Nebraska and Maine the electors are chosen by the popular vote in each congressional district.
For example, as the most populous state California has the most electoral votes, 55. It is virtually certain that the candidate for president nominated by the Democratic party will win the popular vote in California. So California and Californian voters don't matter. The second most populous state, Texas, has 38 votes. It is virtually certain that the Republican Presidential candidate will win in Texas. So Texas and Texans don't matter.
The map below illustrates the overall situation. Of the fifty states, which collectively have 538 votes, all but 10 are likely to vote for a particular party's candidate. Forty states which collectively have 418 votes do not matter, including the states containing the ten largest cities in the US.
The 10 states which do matter include Florida (29 votes), Ohio (18), North Carolina (15), and Virginia (13). You can expect to see those states get a lot of attention from candidates this year. In fact, the only reason for a candidate to campaign outside of these states is to raise money. Get that? We Californians contribute money to candidates so they can campaign in ten other states where the votes count!
This is the most bizarre and dysfunctional system imaginable. A huge electoral fail.
So what can be done? The most logical thing would be to simply add up the popular vote, and declare the candidate with the most votes the next President. Suddenly California and Texas and New York and Illinois would matter. But this isn't going to happen easily. Any change to the electoral laws will be made in the US Senate, where each state has two equal votes. Smaller states are not going to support a change which strongly lessens their influence.
The next most logical thing would be to have each state behave like Maine and Nebraska, and split their votes in proportion to the popular votes in their state. (Doing this by congressional districts probably makes sense.) This would vastly increase the influence of the largest states, and make the whole process more democratic. And it could be done state-by-state at the state level, without a federal change.
So why hasn't this happened? Well, consider the situation in California. Democrats control the state. Would they vote to give Republicans more than 0% say in the next election? They would not. Would the Republicans who run Texas vote to give Democrats in Texas more than 0%? They would not. So we have a bad deadlock. The small states won't vote for an overall popular vote, and the big states won't agree to split the vote within their state. The present situation is suboptimal but locked in by self-interest.
I think the only way this will change is when a President is elected who did not win the popular vote. The popular outcry against the system which allows that to happen might be strong enough to cause the Senate to change the system. This almost happened when George Bush defeated Al Gore in 2000, because he did not win the popular vote (it was very close). If it happens again, I would expect the winds of change to blow.
In the meantime, we Californians get to watch Floridians and Iowans elect our next President. Pass the popcorn.
PS... as a separate observation, note the large advantage a Democratic candidate has among the "locked in" states (56 votes!). The other day I posted a map showing party affiliation by congressional district. If you compare the two maps, the districts of states which are "in the bag" for one party but which have the opposite party affiliation are the ones which will drive change. I would expect Republicans to be more interested, both because the present system is not in their favor and because they generally support local solutions over national ones.
Hey, it's February! Let's celebrate ... with a curious blog post :)
Here we have a wonderful "selfie" taken by the Curiosity Rover. (Please click to enbiggen.) This is a cool picture of a rover on Mars, and then you realize ... who took the picture! The secret is that this image is a composite of 57 images snapped with the MAHLI camera, which is on the end of the rover's arm. By combining the pictures in just the right way, it looks like the camera was completely separate from the rover. Most curious...
Back here on Earth, it looks like Ted Cruz defeated Donald Trump in the Iowa caucuses, with Marco Rubio a strong third, and on the other side of the aisle Bernie Sanders tied Hillary Clinton. All good news from my perspective, but there's a long way to go.
Also, Alphabet passes Apple as the world's most valuable company. Basically the two leaders in cellphone technology. Remember when oil companies were the most valuable? And who will be next? (SpaceX, after they colonize Mars?)
Meanwhile, the National Debt hits $19T. Yeah, that's about 38 times more than Alphabet and Apple are worth. Not good. And not clear if any of the current Presidential candidates can or will do anything to reverse the trend.
Oh, and Venezuela is on the brink of a complete economic collapse. That's not surprising, but the article reads like one from the Onion: "Hugo Chávez's socialist government started spending more money on the poor, with everything from two-cent gasoline to free housing. Now, there's nothing wrong with that - in fact, it's a good idea in general - but only as long as you actually, well, have the money to spend." I love the weird economic editorializing right in the middle of a "news" article. More proof, if any were needed, that since the smartest people didn't become journalists, journalists are not the smartest people.
Here's some important work: Ars Technica considers the science behind a good cup of coffee. And also the health benefits: "Caffeine enhances perception, reduces fatigue, increases abilities to stay awake, and may help improve long-term memory. In addition to the pick-me-up, caffeine is linked to boosting metabolic rate and energy expenditure, and it may reduce the risk of developing metabolic syndromes." Mmmm... most curious!
Fairly recent posts:
For older posts please visit the archive.
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?