Critical Section

Le Tour 2014, stage 4: yet another sprint to Kittel

Tuesday,  07/08/14  11:50 PM

Marcel Kittel takes third stage in four racesAfter a smashing start the 2014 Tour has settled into a (yawn) pattern; the field ride for several hours, millions of people cheer them on, and then Marcel Kittel outsprints everyone else for a win.  It's happened three times now in four stages, and it's getting just a bit old.  Today was a bit closer than yesterday but the result was the same.  It does not make for gripping spectation.

Tomorrow will be different however (!), we have a flat stage featuring nine cobbled sections of pave, duplicating a substantial section of the famous Paris-Roubaix race. The GC contenders will all be trying to finish intact while the classics' specialists like Fabian Cancellara try to pull off a win.  In fact, with most of the field just two seconds behind current yellow jersey wearer Vincenzo Nibbali, there's a great chance for someone to take the overall lead, at least for a day.  That should make for a great race.  Onward!

[ Le Tour 2014: all posts | index ]


the three hour rule

Monday,  07/07/14  11:02 PM

three hours later...Today I rediscovered for the Nth time the value of the three-hour rule*: it takes three hours to get anything "done", especially if that thing is something which requires concentration, like programming.  And during that three hours it's best disable all interruptions; don't check email, take phone calls, send texts, etc.  Three hours.

A good day includes at least one three hour window, and a great day includes two :)  Today ... was a good day.  Tomorrow?  We'll see :)


Le Tour 2014, stage 3: sprint into downtown London, Kittel triumphs again

Monday,  07/07/14  10:37 PM

Marcel Kittel triumphs in downtown LondonHo hum; today's Tour de France stage was parade from Cambridge into download London, where Marcel Kittel finished off the field easily in a bunch sprint.  The GC was unchanged, and on we go into France.  There were huge crowds in England lining the road nearly the entire way - again! - but they didn't have much of a race to watch today.

Tomorrow the field crosses the channel into France for another flat stage, a warmup before the Paris-Roubaix-like cobbles of stage 5.  Stay tuned...

[ Le Tour 2014: all posts | index ]


my new $500 laptop

Sunday,  07/06/14  04:26 PM

My new $500 laptopA week ago I swapped my four-year-old laptop for a brand new one.  It only cost $500 and I now have the fastest, coolest laptop on the planet, basically it’s a rocket ship.  How was this possible?

I replaced the hard drive in my four-year-old laptop with a solid state drive.  1TB for $500.  And now it flies.

This was amazing but actually not surprising, since Windows Paging is so crummy.  Now that physical memory once again exceeds logical memory, you can run lots of stuff but you can't do it without paging.  The best solution is a really fast disk.  And eliminating seek time and rotational latency altogether means faster is blazingly faster.

So if you have an old laptop which could use a little speed boost, consider an SSD.  Try it, you'll like it :)

PS for you Mac people, OS X is better at paging than Windows but the speedup will still be dramatic


Le Tour 2014, stage 2: tough day in the hills of Yorkshire; Nibali wins late against GC rivals

Sunday,  07/06/14  03:12 PM

Vincenzo Nibali attacks to winExcellent stage today in Le Tour; six solid hours of racing up and down, with nine categorized climbs and several others too, narrow roads, massive crowds, and great riding.  It was capped by the GC contenders battling on a 25% hill three miles from the finish, with Chris Froome, Alberto Contador, Alejandro Valverde, and Rui Costa all in the mix, together with the all-around amazing Peter Sagan, but they all watched Vincenzo Nibali attack with 1 mile to go and couldn't bring him back.  He only took two seconds in the end but it was a great victory for him and puts him in yellow.

massive Yorkshire crowds line the routeIn addition to the beautiful Yorkshire countryside, the star of today's stage were the people; I've been watching bike racing for many years but have never seen such crowds.  Even the small hills in the middle of nowhere had thousands of cheering fans crowding the road.  Excellent.

Stage 3 is a flat and crispy parade into London, which should culminate in a bunch sprint; too bad Mark Cavendish' crash yesterday forced him to abandon.  I guess it will be Kittel vs Greipel and everyone else can rest up.  Onward!

[ Le Tour 2014: all posts | index ]


World Cup: and then there were four

Sunday,  07/06/14  02:53 PM

Germany France 1-0So the World Cup quarterfinals are in the books, and we had four completely different games.  Germany outlasted France, 1-0, not an exciting game but a study in precision football.  Hard not to pick the Germans to go all the way.  This game proved my theory about soccer only becoming interesting after one team scores; it was 1-0 after fifteen minutes, and it was pretty entertaining the rest of the way.

Brazil Columbia 2-1Next Brazil outflopped Columbia, 2-1, scoring a first goal seven minutes in, and then the teams traded goals in the second half.  This was a bit disappointing because neither team played their best; it felt like the referee let things get out of control, and the play suffered.  We're still waiting to see a brilliant Brazilian side show up, and they'll have to against Germany.

Argentina Belgium 1-0And then Argentina outplayed Belgium 1-0, again the only goal being scored early, but this time it led to a bunch of marching up and down the field with no real spark.  So so glad my Tivo has a fast forward button.  Not even Messi could liven up a dull game, and while the Belgians can play elegant soccer when they want, they didn't.

Netherlands Costa Rica 0-0 4-3In the final quarter Netherlands defeated Costa Rica 0-0, 4-3, in a game that could serve as a counterexample against my "give one team a goal" dictum.  The football was fun and the Dutch certainly controlled the ball and squandered many chances, but in the end it came down to penalty kicks and that was that.  If you weren't rooting for anyone you'd have to pick the winner of this team, based on sheer fun, so Go Oranje!  I think the Netherlands - Argentina game is going to be quite entertaining.

All my picks made it through and I'm stick with my picks for the next round: Germany vs Netherlands in the final.


Fifth wheel

Saturday,  07/05/14  11:06 PM

by the lakeBig wheel keep on turning...

The pic is a tribute to Westlake, my little home, but also to my iPhone 5S, which has this amazing ability to take good pictures in bad light.  (please click to enbiggen)

And so the Ole filter makes a pass...

Le Tour makes its Grand Depart in YorkshireYay, the Tour started today!  Yesterday I was with a friend, and I said "tomorrow the Tour starts", and he said "what Tour?"  If you're in that category, so be it.)  I will be making separate posts as per usual*, so those of you who would say "what Tour" can safely ignore them...

* where by "usual" I mean up through 2011, since in 2012 and 2013 I was Facebooking instead of blogging

Evolution in Action: "Convicted criminal offenders had more children than individuals never convicted of a criminal offense...  We conclude that criminality appears to be adaptive in a contemporary industrialized country, and that this association can be explained by antisocial behavior being part of an adaptive alternative reproductive strategy.Yikes.  Sounds like Unnatural Selection in action.

philosopher referee hand signalsPhilosopher referee hand signals.  I love it.

Dear fellow zillionaires: they're coming for us with pitchforks.  A hereditary millionaire makes the liberal case for raising the minimum wage.  Sorry, I'm unconvinced, it still feels like socialism, and socialism never works.

Bill Whittle: Firewall: Throwing away victory in Iraq.  I must say I agree with quite a lot of this, although not with the implication that Obama and his team don't want to win.  I think they honestly don't know how.

Pretty interesting: If I were Ted Cruz.  I was fairly anti-Cruz after the government shutdown, and I still don't think that was a reasonable political tactic even though I don't think Obamacare was a good idea or well implemented.  But I recently read The Rise of Ted Cruz in the New Yorker - I'm pretty sure it was not supposed to be flattering - which put him in a different light.  Just wish he didn't have that Christian-religious-sanctimony.

visualizing algorithmsThis is just beautiful ... visualizing algorithms.  Amazing how much animation brings understanding of an algorithm.  There was a lot of work in creating these examples, but they're worth it :)

optical illusionSuper cool optical illusion.  The principle behind this is most interesting.  I wonder if it could be used for movies?  (e.g., use a 3D screen?)

Seth Godin: Is better possible?  "The answer to this is so obvious to me that it took me a while to realize that many people are far more comfortable with 'no'."  My answer is 'yes', even if it *isn't* obvious.

The visualization posts illustrate an important principle to consider when reading political posts: point of view matters.  If you want to change someone's mind, the fastest way is to help change their point of view.

Emperor penguinsWhew!  Antarctica sets new record for sea ice.  I was worried about these Emperor Penguins...

The mixed signals of climate change are an especially good example of drawing different conclusions from the same facts based on point of view.



Le Tour 2014, stage 1: Jens breaks away, Fabian attacks, Kittel wins, Cavendish crashes

Saturday,  07/05/14  10:43 PM

Jens Voight breaks awayLe Tour 2014 is officially under way, after a most Grand Depart in Leeds; stage 1 was a meandering tour of Yorkshire, in the North of the UK, with just enough little climbs and big rollers to keep things interesting.  The weather was perfect and the crowds were huge and enthusiastic, a great start to what should be a great tour.

Marcel Kittel outsprints the field for the winJens Voight was part of the initial break and finally attacked out of it to lead most of the way and gather enough points to be initial leader of the King of the Mountains, yay, Jens!  And just as the peleton regrouped for a final sprint, Fabian Cancellara attacked and nearly won.  But he didn't, and Marcel Kittel did (just like last year), after Mark Cavendish crashed in the runup to the finish (just like last year).  Peter Sagan took second and staked his claim to the green jersey.

Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwin, the voices of July...Along with welcoming back a great spectacle and competition, it was so nice to hear Phil (Liggett) and Paul (Sherwin) back in action.  Todd Harris is fine as MC, Bob Roll is pleasant and insightful, and this year we have Christian Vandenberg, who isn't quite as polished but makes interesting observations.  And I love having Steve Porino out there in the middle of the peleton on a bike; he seems to know all the Directors Sportif intimitely, and brings great in-race insights.

Tomorrow brings another lumpy stage with narrow roads and nine categorized climbs, could be a day for a break!

[ Le Tour 2014: all posts | index ]


Le Route of Le Tour

Saturday,  07/05/14  10:41 PM

The organizers of Le Tour have once again setup an amazing website chock full of information; among other things, nice maps of the route and all the stages, along with detailed elevations of each stage.  Check it out and keep it handy for your second screen as you watch the racing!

Le Tour, the route

[ Le Tour 2014: all posts | index ]


Le Tour, 2014

Saturday,  07/05/14  10:38 PM

This post is a compendium of all my Tour de France 2014 posts...



Pebble Steel review

Saturday,  07/05/14  10:25 PM

Pebble SteelPebble Steel first impressions:

  • Nice looking but is not going to replace my Hublot or Cartier anytime soon.  Kind of wish I didn’t go for slate and went for a fun color since it isn’t exactly a dress watch.
  • Kind of biggish feeling
  • Leather and steel bands are a nice touch
  • Installation was a breeze.  Downloaded and installed iPhone app and it did all the work.
  • From within the iPhone app you find Pebble apps, and “faces”.  I’ve experimented with a few faces like this one. Some add data like the weather.
  • Buttons are a little too firm, hard to click easily.  Left button is “back”, Right has three buttons: “up”, “select”, and “down”.  That’s the entire interface.
  • Charging is trivial, USB cable attaches to watch with a magnet
  • Screen seems a little dim.  Shaking watch turns on backlight but only briefly.
  • Simple to setup and use, a good thing.  Not too many options.
  • Echos text messages.  Does not do Emoji though which is crummy.
  • Shows when phone is ringing and allows you to answer or ignore
  • Shows calendar alerts and slows you to sleep or dismiss them
  • Rings when alarm goes off and allows you to snooze or dismiss
  • There are a bunch of Apps available, more for Android than IOS.  Most of them coordinate a function between the watch and the phone.
  • Apps sync easily and settings are easy to maintain.  I installed “PebbleBucks” which is a readout of your Starbucks account (can't do anything, but you can display a payment barcode; will try it next time I’m at Starbucks).
  • Some Pebble apps require a symbiotic phone app to be running.  For example you can download an app which controls your phone’s camera (take picture, etc) but it requires the app to be running on the phone.  This is considerably less convenient of course because by the time you've run the app on your phone you might as well just use the phone.
  • A cool app called Slides lets you remote control a slide display running on your phone.  I haven't gotten it working but that would be useful (as opposed to merely cool).

Stay tuned for more!

Pebble FluffyPS most important development so far – I’ve created a custom face, using my cat Fluffy as a model :)


July the Fourth be with you

Friday,  07/04/14  11:23 PM

July the Fourth be with youHey everyone happy Fourth!

I celebrated as I always do, by competing in the Westlake Yacht Club's annual 'Round the Island race.  It didn't go as planned; the wind was foul and my passage under the bridge was slow, impeded by Murphy, and I did not win. 

long may it wave!I did have a great time, as always, and reflected on living in a country where sailing a boat under a low bridge is my biggest problem.

Fire in the sky!My good friends Mark and Rhonda live right on the water in Marina del Rey, and host a party every year to watch the annual fireworks show in the harbor, and we all settled down to a beautiful evening of controlled explosive watching.  Yay!

Tomorrow there will be fireworks of a different kind, internationally, as the Tour de France gets under way (in Leeds, England!), and the Netherlands tries to advance to the World Cup semi-finals against Costa Rica (go Oranje!).  And who knows I might do a little coding.  Onward...


World Cupdate

Thursday,  07/03/14  06:57 PM

OranjeballSo, we're down to eight teams, and honestly nobody can be too surprised about the eight which are left.  Cinderella has left the hall.  I suppose the fact that Spain was eliminated early could be considered a surprise, and England too, but all the group winners won their round-of-16 matches.  And in my humble opinion the soccer was quite boring, everyone playing not to lose.  So be it.

My picks for the quarter-finals: Brazil over Columbia, although this could go either way, and Germany over France; again, a tossup.  This is the stronger side of the bracket.  Of course I pick Netherlands over Costa Rica (go Oranje!), I think most pundits would agree, and Argentina over Belgium, although the Argentineans haven't shown their top game yet.  (But ... they have Lionel Messi, who is impossible)

My picks for the semi-finals: Germany over Brazil (!), and Netherlands over Argentina, setting up a rather epic contest between the two Northern European neighbors for the Cup.  Could this be the year for the Dutch?  We'll see.


half two

Wednesday,  07/02/14  10:58 PM

Yosemite ValleyHalf two!  Time to start playing :)

I've enjoyed the World Cup so far (go Oranje!) but have a fundamental observation about soccer: the game doesn't become interesting until after one team scores.  Maybe they should flip a coin to see which team starts out ahead 1-0, in the interest of making things interesting.

I am *not* tired of pictures from Yosemite Valley yet.  Stay tuned for [possibly a lot] more...

world population mapA weird map showing the world's countries drawn according to their population size.  This is excellent.  One of the key takeaways for me from my recent trip to Kazakhstan was how much bigger the world is than just the US.  We all know this intellectually, but a map like this really brings it home.  Just look at all those people in Asia.

So, is there such a thing as "coder's high"?  Of course there is.  Pass the C++ please.

Seth Godin: Don't blow it (the secret of b2b).  "If you sell to businesses, you're either calling on unsuccessful companies, who are panicking and afraid and don't have a lot of resources to spend on new things...  Or you're selling to successful businesses. And in those organizations, most people walk around with a three-word mantra imprinted on their arm: Don't blow it."

writing on the wallThis is awesome: Rube Goldberg meets MTV, in M.C.Escher's warehouse.  The writing is on the wall ... or is it?

Wurlitzer wizardsDid you know, I love church organs?  I do.  Not only their awesome music, but their amazing physics and ancient engineering.  So now Wurlitzer wizards bring the music back to Amsterdam's art deco marvel.  How cool is that?

Do I think this is cool?  Yes.  Software spots genetic disorders from regular photos.  Do I think this is real?  No.

Jimmy the robot (Intel's 3D-printed kits)Welcome to the 21st century:  Intel offering 3D-printed robot kits.  I can only imagine where this will go ... how soon before they start printing themselves?

On the Fermi Paradox (aka, "where is everybody?").  "Depending on where The Great Filter occurs, we're left with three possible realities: We're rare, we're first, or we're fucked."

SecondLife VRExcellent: SecondLife's second act will be a social network for virtual reality

Microsoft are preparing to release 'Threshold', a new desktop-focused version of Win 8.  Whew.  Kind of like the way Win 7 was a correction to Vista, this will be a correction to Win 8.  But it might be too late to matter much...

From Popular Mechanics: 25 Makers who are reinventing the American Dream.  Unlike a lot of such lists, I actually knew of most of these people, and yes they have made an incredible difference.  Where would we be without them?

There is no App.  M.G.Seigler considers WUT, in which the notification is the message.  Not groundbreaking but interesting, and potentially useful.

Android Wear watchesDan Frommer, on the new Android Wear watches from LG, Samsung, and Motorola: These are not the wearables we've been waiting for.  Bad grammar but good points.

solar flaresAnd meanwhile, on the surface of the sun ... wow!


road trip report

Sunday,  06/29/14  10:05 PM

Tahoe barn on the Emigrant TrailI'm baack after a great road trip, yay.  I did ride the Alta Alpina Double Century, and I did not finish, but I did ride 160 miles and climb 17,000 feet, so I did feel good about it.  And the trip up and back was interesting and wonderful.

This is an old barn I passed while riding the Emigrant Trail near Markleeville.  Wonder if the people who built it 100 years ago envisioned a stream of lycra-clad riders passing by... :) 

And in the meantime, it's all happening...

Andrew TalanskyCongratulations to Andrew Talansky for winning the Criterium du Dauphine.  Any time you beat Chris Froome, Roberto Contador, and Vincenzo Nibali in a stage race, you have to feel pretty good about it :)  We'll be watching him closely at Le Tour - which starts next weekend!

Also warming up for the Tour: World Champion Rui Costa wins the Tour de Suisse.  Was a pretty interesting race, Tony Martin would have won if he'd had any kind of time to help him.  Clearly Costa and Martin are ready for July.

Tour de France 2014 - the routeBTW here is a nice overview of Le Tour, by the numbers.  It starts in the UK this year, and features a lot of climbing.  Should be most excellent.  (I'm rooting for Wilco Kelderman ...)

Please click on the thumbnail at right to enbiggen...

One more pre-Tour note: What are the most memorable Tour stages of all time?  For me, I'd go with Floyd Landis stage 17 of the 2006 TDF.  It was definitely the most dramatic victory ever, even if it was subsequently tainted by doping.

Virgin Galactic's spaceship twoCool: Inside Virgin Galactic's newest passenger spaceship.  Now you, too, can go into space ... defined as about 18 miles up.  Of course this is nowhere near actual space ... as in geocentric orbit,which is 22,000 miles up.  But still, what a time to be alive!

Chris Dixon: The next twenty years is going to make this last twenty years just pale:

If we were sent back with a time machine, even 20 years, and reported to people what we have right now and describe what we were going to get in this device in our pocket - we'd have this free encyclopedia, and we'd have street maps to most of the cities of the world, and we'd have box scores in real time and stock quotes and weather reports, PDFs for every manual in the world - we'd make this very, very, very long list of things that we would say we would have and we get on this device in our pocket, and then we would tell them that most of this content was free. You would simply be declared insane. They would say there is no economic model to make this. What is the economics of this? It doesn't make any sense, and it seems far-fetched and nearly impossible.

But the next twenty years are going to make this last twenty years just pale. We're just at the beginning of the beginning of all these kind of changes. There’s a sense that all the big things have happened, but relatively speaking, nothing big has happened yet.


Marc Andreessen: What will it take to create the next great silicon valleys?

the new Jaguar F-type coupeCar and Driver: Review of the new Jaguar F-type coupe.  "The best part is that the coupe is the first Jaguar since the original E-type to look like rolling sex. And that, combined with a righteous perform­ance-per-dollar ratio, places the S at the F coupe’s sweet spot."  I find it hard to get excited about any gas-powered cars anymore, but this certainly is a beautiful machine.

Harley Davidson electric motorcycleSpeaking of beautiful machines: Harley Davidson unveils their very first electric motorcycle.  I find it fascinating that they went to the trouble of creating a sound for it ... which is actually generated by a sound system, not the engine.  Here's a test drive report...

So, can there be such a thing as a three-sided die?  Yes!  Interestingly the same technique can be used to create an any-sided die.

Myo armbandSo this is cool: Myo, a gesture control armband.  It measures your finger and wrist movements by the muscles in your forearm.  Excellent.  But I wonder, will it be useful?  The Leap Motion is cool too, but has had trouble finding real world applications.

Google I/O: Android everywhereLast week featured Google's I/O conference, and by most accounts the keynote was too long and didn't offer much in the way of surprises.  Mat Honan has a nice overview.  Aside from Google's ambition to power everything with Android (your phone, your car, your TV, and all your wearable devices), the big news was Google's increased push into cloud services, competing with Amazon (and to a lesser extent, Rackspace et al).  For me there were two dogs that didn't bark in the night: Google Glass, conspicuously missing, and Google+.

And meanwhile, the long awaited switch to Android-first development hasn't happened yet.

Google CardboardI was most interested to see Google Cardboard, a tongue-in-cheek but functional way to turn an Android phone into a VR device.  The line between actual Reality and virtual Reality is blurring rapidly.

In case you're wondering, Facebook is still a big hit among teens.  Yeah, various messaging services like Instagram might command their attention, but no Facebook-killer has yet appeared.

Through the Phone - pictures of iPhones taking picturesAnd this is cool: Through the Phone, a series of picture-in-picture photos of iPhones taking photos.  Next up, iPhones taking pictures of mirrors :)


Fairly recent posts:

07/08/14 11:50 PM -

Le Tour 2014, stage 4: yet another sprint to Kittel

07/07/14 11:02 PM -

the three hour rule

07/07/14 10:37 PM -

Le Tour 2014, stage 3: sprint into downtown London, Kittel triumphs again

07/06/14 04:26 PM -

my new $500 laptop

07/06/14 03:12 PM -

Le Tour 2014, stage 2: tough day in the hills of Yorkshire; Nibali wins late against GC rivals

07/06/14 02:53 PM -

World Cup: and then there were four

07/05/14 11:06 PM -

Fifth wheel

07/05/14 10:43 PM -

Le Tour 2014, stage 1: Jens breaks away, Fabian attacks, Kittel wins, Cavendish crashes

07/05/14 10:41 PM -

Le Route of Le Tour

07/05/14 10:38 PM -

Le Tour, 2014

07/05/14 10:25 PM -

Pebble Steel review

07/04/14 11:23 PM -

July the Fourth be with you

07/03/14 06:57 PM -

World Cupdate

07/02/14 10:58 PM -

half two

06/29/14 10:05 PM -

road trip report

06/26/14 10:22 PM -

charging up the road

06/22/14 11:14 PM -

World Cup odds

06/22/14 10:16 PM -


06/22/14 08:54 PM -

passwords considered harmful

06/15/14 05:18 PM -

happy Father's Day

06/14/14 10:47 PM -

it's all happening

06/14/14 09:13 PM -

on the road again, and again, and again

05/27/14 11:15 PM -

Tuesday,  05/27/14  11:15 PM

05/24/14 10:11 AM -

Kazakh report

05/17/14 02:42 PM -

off to Kazakhstan

05/17/14 10:54 AM -

Amgen Tour - a little ride up to Mountain High

05/15/14 08:57 PM -

Thursday,  05/15/14  08:57 PM

05/15/14 08:04 PM -

ostrich inc

05/14/14 10:42 AM -

where should I post this photo?

05/13/14 05:43 PM -


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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
second gear
On the Persistence of Bad Design...
Texas chili cookoff
the inflection point
almost famous design and stochastic debugging
may I take your order?
paper art
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
in praise of paddle shifting
the first bird
Gödel Escher Bach: Birthday Cantatatata
shining a light
Father's Day (in pictures)
your cat for my car
discovering the third quadrant
Jobsnotes of note
world population map
no joy in Baker
introducing eyesFinder