Critical Section

Sunday night scan

Sunday,  07/12/15  10:56 PM

It's Sunday night, I have a big week ahead.  So naturally I'm going to get a good night's sleep...  Bssst!  I'm going to blog.

From Fortune's CEO Daily: "Which number is larger: $350 billion?  Or $3 trillion?  The first is Greece's total debt.  The second is wealth that has evaporated from the Chinese stock market in the last month.  The difference suggests we are paying too much attention to the wrong thing."

The Shanghai and Shenzen exchanges continued their rout Tuesday, despite heroic efforts to stop them.  IPOs have been shut down, short-selling has been banned, more than 700 shares - about a quarter of the market - have been suspended from trading, and, oh yes, a government-backed fund is buying billions of dollars worth of stock.


I will say, at least China is reaping what they've sown.  Greece are being spared the consequences of their actions, with dire result.  VDH comments America, like Greece, may end with a lawless whimper.  "All the German euros in the world will not save Greece if Greeks continue to dodge taxes, featherbed government, and see corruption as a business model."

Yosemite Halfdome flake breaks offYosemite rock fall changes face of world-class climb.  "A massive sheet of rock fell from the vertical face of Half Dome in Yosemite National Park, making one of the most popular routes attempted by climbers in North America even more challenging, park officials said Tuesday."  Whoa.

NASA / SpaceX commercial astronaut teamMeet the first commercial space crew in NASA's history.  Wow, these four astronauts will be the first to fly to space in the SpaceX Dragon.  Awesome!

It cannot be too soon; do you realize it has now been 43 years since humans walked on the moon?  Mars or bust!

NASA's Mars TrekPerhaps they can use this: NASA's Mars Trek is Google Earth for the red planet.  Excellent.  Just wish the realtime traffic feature was working :)

Have you been tracking the soap opera at Reddit?  It's pretty interesting, and we public probably only know 1/10th of the truth.  Anyway Steve Huffman, the original founder, is back on the helm.  Judging from this public Q&A, things are going to get better.  At least he has a sense of why people use Reddit, and a desire to help them do it.  And he knew enough about their system to know this was the right way to reach them...

Sigh; the sexual train wreck behind 'yes means yes'.  Glenn Reynolds comments "I'm glad I went to college when I did, we had a lot more fun".  No kidding.  This pendulum must have swung about as far over as it can go, right?

Hehe: welcome to the paperless societyGreek newspapers are running out of newsprint, and Venezuela are running out of toilet paper.  And they've both run out of other people's money.

the Bitcoin blockchain, explainedThe Bitcoin blockchain, explained, from the IEEE.  A pretty nice video, not entirely right but not wrong either.  See my Bitcoin 101 and Bitcoin 102 posts for more :)

bluelist QR code - why?The other day I was having coffee with a friend at Coffee Bean, our local caffeinery, and they had a Bluelist QR Code next to the register.  I asked the Barrista about it, and she had no idea what it was or why it was there.  Staff training, anyone?

So okay, I launch Red Laser and scan the QR code, and ... the value is 4071.  That's it.  No URL!  Boy, this is going to be the most successful in-store program ever!

Most people think they check their smartphones less than others.  Yes, and most people think they're smarter and better looking than average, too :)

Totally agree:  Pompous Apple is Pompous, regarding their new "if it's not an iPhone, it's not an iPhone", ads.  Steve Jobs would never have run these.

Fast Company: Why the Apple Watch is flopping.  "How did this happen?  The answer may sound like heresy to those who canonize - or even merely admire - Apple's designers.  What if the Apple Watch, for all its milled and woven metals, all its appearances on the catwalk, isn't actually all that well-designed?  So far, the Apple Watch doesn't seem very useful, and it hasn't proven that fashionable."  I don't think it is flopping in the sense of not selling well, but I do think it hasn't changed the world.  Few of my friends wear them, and tellingly, few seem to know why they'd want one.

Parenthetically, I've been wearing my 40-year-old pre-TAG-Heuer a lot more often.  Sort of an anti-Apple Watch statement, I guess.  And I'm still proud of my Pebble Steel...

Okay, it's time.  Good night!


world of languages

Thursday,  07/09/15  09:11 PM

A great thought-provoking chart, showing the distribution of languages around the world
(click to enbiggen so you can read the fine print)

My takeaways:
- wow, Chinese
- okay, English 2nd, Spanish 3rd, Hindi 4th, Arabic 5th, but Portugese 6th?  (Brazil!)
- Tamil?  Telegu?  Urdu? ... India
- Surprised German and French aren't more broadly spoken

How broadly is C spoken?  World-wide, I think :)




Wednesday,  07/08/15  09:16 AM


Pluto! (as seen from New Horizons)

This is the best-ever photo of Pluto.
Tomorrow's will be better.




Tuesday,  07/07/15  09:51 PM

Having recovered from my diversion into Bitcoin, including figuring out how to build Bitcoin Core with Visual Studio, I am on to my next technical investigation, how to extract HD video from a Tivo, edit it, and encode as an MP4.  Stay tuned :)

the IBM 1620, from 1959This is so beautiful: The IBM 1620, an affordable "scientific computer" from 1959.  Where by affordable we mean, $88,000, which would be $715,000 in 2015.  Still looking at those old pictures, it was probably worth it.

No word on how fast it could run Handbrake to encode MP4 video :)

Detroit News documents the decimation of one city block.  I'm unclear on why news media use the phrase "predatory subprime lenders".  These are businesses which makes loans to "subprime borrowers", people who would not otherwise be able to purchase property because they don't have a sufficient down payment or cannot afford the monthly payments. So the interest rate is high, to compensate for the risk.  With such loans often the borrower can't afford the payments, doesn't have much or any money invested as a down payment, and hence abandons the property. Then the lender has to foreclose. This doesn't seems surprising or "predatory".

PS the comments are most instructive.  Many readers seem to feel racial preferences had something to do with lender decisions to foreclose.  I'd like to see evidence of that - correlation does not imply causality.

New Horizons to Pluto - the Wired previewOn deck this week: New Horizons mission to Pluto!  You can warm up by watching this video from Wired.  I can't wait!

You can read more about the mission on NASA's New Horizons mission website.  Coolest thing I learned: after its five-month-long encounter with Pluto, New Horizons will go on to explore other non-planets in the Kuiper Belt, including two over a billion miles beyond Neptune.  To give you an idea of the distance, it takes light 5 hours to travel from Earth to Pluto.

the abandoned TWA terminal at JFKInside JFK's abandoned TWA terminal.  Wow, frozen in time, and super cool.  TWA had a sad history, but use of this terminal was stopped by 9/11.  Let's hope it lives a nice new life as a hotel...


Sunday,  07/05/15  10:27 AM

A fifth filter pass ...

Amsterdam!I just mentioned this year's Tour de France starts in the Netherlands; apropos, TechCrunch has A look at the World's High-Tech Startup Capital.  "It may seem superficial to say so, but one of the biggest advantages Amsterdam has in the tech world is that it’s a place where people want to live — and can actually afford to, even on a startup budget. Local leaders recognize how attractive their city is, and they're not shy about selling it on those terms."

Europe: Debt as %GDPVox: 11 things about the Greek crisis you need to know.  Interesting although the confluence of fact and opinion is troubling, as always with Vox.  Biggest thing I learned: Vox thinks Kentucky is supported by Massachusetts.  (!)

I do agree with the central premise, that a single currency spanning multiple countries with varying fiscal policies was bound to run into trouble.

Business Insider: Margaret Thatcher was freakishly correct about why the Euro would be such a disaster.  She was, but not sure "freakish" is the right adjective for an experienced leader extrapolating from past experience.

From Nick Szabo*: The Greek financial mess and some ways Bitcoin might help.

* Nick has been rumored to *be* Satori Nakamoto.

not a bug :)Cory Doctorow: Not a bug :)

Totally weird: If you divide 1 by 999,999,999,999,999,999,999,998,999,999,999,999,999,999,999,999 (that's 999 quattuordecillion btw), the Fibonacci sequence neatly pops out. Wow!


taking the fifth

Sunday,  07/05/15  10:09 AM

Happy Fourth!Good morning all ... and welcome to the fifth of July!  Did you have a nice Fourth?

We did ... celebrated by competing in the Westlake Yacht Club's annual Round the Island Race* - in which the competitors must capsize their boats or lower their masts or otherwise navigate underneath a low bridge - and then watched fireworks from the back yard.  The technology of fireworks is amazing, isn't it?  Just thing of all the technology that goes into making cool visuals in the sky :)

* sorry but no, I did not win this year, some early and critical boat failures kept me way back, although I did make it under the bridge in fine style...

Onward to the Fifth! 

Le Tour 2015!Among all the other cool things that are happening this weekend, yesterday saw the start of this year's Tour de France, in Utrecht, in the Netherlands.  I watched the first stage last night and am planning to watch the second in a few minutes, also in the Netherlands, between Utrecht and Zelande.  I am most definitely looking forward to this year's Tour, not only is it a most interesting route, but for the first time in a long time all the favorites are riding, and it will be a horse race among [at least] four strong riders (Alberto Contador, Chris Froome, Vincenzo Nibali, and Nairo Quintana).

Right now I've decided NOT to follow my previous practice of blogging about each of the stages.  In a weird way this is a result of my blog's Flight feature, which shows my posts on the same day in each previous year.  I've realized that old TDF posts are just not that interesting.  So ... be it.



Friday,  07/03/15  05:12 PM

under the bridgeA relatively quiet day-before-the-Fourth ... it's always a bit weird when Holidays fall *on* the weekend, right?  Anyway if you've followed me and my blog for any time, you know there's only one thing for me to do tomorrow: race the annual Round the Island race at Westlake.  The race is around the Island :) a task somewhat "complicated" by the presence of a low bridge under which one must either capsize or lower one's mast...

This pic shows my mighty steed, "It's the Water", with a special rig to lower the mast, approaching the bridge...

Google Earth ... turns ten!Google Earth turns ten!  Wow.  Interesting to remember that when Google first bought Keystone and then launched this incredible service, they were not yet "Google", just an upstart search engine with a funny name and some big ambitions.  Google Earth remains entirely amazing, familiarity might hide it a bit, but how cool is it to pick anything on Earth - the pyramids, the North Pole, the Champs Elysees, or your girlfriend's house - and poof you can see it.  Very cool.'

Cannot wait for Google Mars.  I know it's coming :)

Novartis on digitizing medicine in an aging world.  A big vision.  Interesting that so much of the "innovation" in medicine comes from pharma companies, right?

orange kitten befriends photographerThis is adorable ... A tiny kitten befriends a photographer
Cats are amazing.

The morning routes of the most successful people.  I don't think there's one way to be successful, or even on definition of success.  Follow your own path :)

Hmmm... test pilot says the [new] F-35 fighter can't dogfight.  There's always some controversy around new expensive weapons systems, but it seems there is a lot of resistance to this one.  Too big, to ambitious, too expensive...

Beats 1So have you been listening to Beats 1?  Yeah, it's okay - I think the DJs are excellent - but then there's always a song I don't care for (usually rap or hip-hop) and then I change the channel.  It's a good option but only one of many.  (And with streaming services like Slacker, there are many... )

This image from a Beats 1 ad seems to capture the problem perfectly.  Everyone does not listen to the same music, any more than they eat the same food or wear the same clothes.  I predict this will end in failure.

Interesting note: no, Apple is not adding DRM to songs you already own.  Except ... yes, they are, kind of ... the key phrase in this story is "iCloud is not a backup service".  So if you're thinking, well, everything is copied to the cloud anyway, I can just delete my local copies, then you are going to get DRM if you ever try to download the music from the cloud.  So keep your local copies!


Bitcoin 102: Smart Contracts

Thursday,  07/02/15  01:22 PM

Some other things you wanted to know about Bitcoin, but possibly did not know you wanted to know ...  (this follows my now-infamous Bitcoin 101 post, read that first, if you dare :)


I had a little trouble* building Bitcoin Core, but finally emerged victorius with a working "full node".  Please check out this readme if you're interested in building one yourself...


Onward to a few comments about Smart Contracts...

<post type=informational>

Remember that time you discovered a poem you really liked had a totally different meaning when translated into French? And you were like, "whoa, who knew poems could even be translated"?


Well that's how I feel about blockchain transaction scripts. I thought Bitcoin and the blockchain was cool, but I had no idea how cool. There's another whole layer of amazingness here.

And I think ... this amazingness opens up some interesting business possibilities. Even better, I think relatively few people have investigated this deeply and hence this leads to some *unexplored* interesting business opportunities.


Allow me to digress for a minute, to talk about the epochs of Bitcoin (so far).

Epoch 0, the formative phase, was in the mid-2000s, when "Satoshi Nakamoto"* and a relatively few other academics had long and deep conversations about the potential value of digital currencies and how computational difficulty could be substituted for trust. Their motivations were political (libertarian, anti-government) and philosophical and technical; they did not appear to consider deeply the business implications of their work. During this phase Bitcoin was simply a term bandied about in emails and message boards, and was ignored by most of the 6B Earthlings.

* Satoshi was not his real name, and it appears likely "he" was actually a "they", and that they were English, not Japanese

This changed in November 2008, when Satoshi published the landmark Bitcoin paper, signaling Epoch 1, the implementation phase. In early 2009 Satoshi coded a reference client in C++, it was installed on six servers, and poof!, the Bitcoin network was born. The reference client (now called Bitcoin Core) implemented a "full node", a wallet, and a user interface, and was posted as open source (on SourceForge, but since moved to GitHub), enabling anyone anywhere to run a Bitcoin node. Due to the mechanism of mining, wherein operators of Bitcoin nodes are rewarded for doing so, everyone everywhere did so, and the network grew rapidly.

Criminals soon realized that Bitcoin provided an anonymous and untraceable way to exchange value, and the cryptocurrency was adopted for every kind of vice, from sex to drug dealing to arms merchandizing. This created demand for the currency, driving up its value. (The first Bitcoin transaction was 10,000 BTC for one pizza, but the value grew steadily thereafter :)

Meanwhile, the underlying technology of Bitcoin, the blockchain and the 2m+1 trust model and so on, began to attract serious academic and technical interest. The mechanism was verified theoretically even as it was being validated empirically in the real world by people with real money at stake. And Bitcoin began to creep onto the radar of businesspeople and investors.

That led to Epoch 2, the bubble, from early 2013 through late 2014, in which Bitcoin and the blockchain was celebrated as the solution to every problem everywhere, mostly by people who had limited understanding of what it was and less grasp of why it was interesting. The shark jump was probably the sensational and incorrect public identification of Satoshi Nakamoto by Newsweek Magazine. Meanwhile Andreesen Horowitz raised a blockchain investment fund of $BIG and tons of little startups spawned, and Chinese investors built gigantic Bitcoin mines. Which brings us to...

Today. Epoch 3, the reality, in which Bitcoin the currency is reasonably well established (the $1,000BTC bubble has burst, begatting $250BTC) and used by quite a few everyday people in addition to criminals, and not just for experimentation, and in which blockchain the technology is being explored for all kinds of business purposes.


So that was fun.

To understand the potential business value of Bitcoin transaction Scripts, we have to think about why they exist. Those idealistic theorists in Epoch 0 wanted it to be possible for *every* kind of business interaction to be enabled without a central authority, and especially without reference to any government. They were thinking wide and long term, and carefully built in a cool mechanism to enable arbitrary transaction structures. Immediate transfer of value from one party to another is the simplest case, and 99.99% of all Bitcoin transactions do just that. But far more complicated cases are inherently supported.

During Epoch 1 the proposed Script structure was documented and carefully implemented in Bitcoin Core. The current Script documentation shows that some of the more complicated cases have been deprecated (quoting: "Some of the more complicated opcodes are disabled out of concern that the client might have a bug in their implementation"), and there are documented bugs (Opcode CHECKMULTSIG: "Due to a bug, one extra unused value is removed from the stack."). The overall result is a stable definition of transaction logic supported across the entire network.

As businesspeople began looking at Bitcoin blockchain and Epoch 2 inflated, the phrase "smart contracts" began appearing in value propositions. I'm convinced most of the time it was simply parroted around, because there are very few explanations of what this means, not even incorrect ones. (The Bitcoin wiki has a good explanation, but it’s a bit technical and easily skipped*.) Most of the businesses created during the Bitcoin frenzy ignored transaction logic; they focused on Bitcoin as a ledger, Bitcoin as a currency, Bitcoin mining, and second-order opportunities like blockchain infrastructure and mining hardware.

* On my first pass I looked at it, said “hmmm”, and moved on…

Now that we're in the reality phase, we should examine the purported "smart contracts" value proposition in more detail. What does this really mean?

Consider the general case of a contract, a business agreement between multiple parties in which there is value exchanged. Each party agrees to input certain value in order to get specified other value as output, based upon certain conditions. Either all the parties trust each other, based upon experience or reputation, or a mutually trusted additional party is used to conduct an escrow, during which the various conditions are verified. The idea of "smart contracts" is that a complicated series of conditions can be evaluated without trust or any additional party.

The Bitcoin transaction script mechanism enables each party to contribute value as input, verified via the public key / signature mechanism, and arbitrary combinations of conditions to be evaluated, specified via additional public key / signatures. The existence or absence of each condition can be verified separately. When all the conditions are met in the specified combinations, all the outputs are authorized to the specified Bitcoin addresses. The mechanism provides for a two phase execution, similar to an escrow, in which the first phase defines the contract, and the second phase executes the contract, with the phases separated in time. There can be more than two phases, as with progress payments or periodic satisfaction of conditions. The minimum and maximum time elapsed between phases can be specified, as well as the time intervals required for each condition to be evaluated.

Examples of smart contracts include:

  • An escrow for purchase of an asset, by one or more parties from one or more other parties, with verification of certain conditions
  • A loan, in which one or more parties are lent value by one or more other parties, with or without collateral, with payments to be made at defined intervals
  • A service contract, in which parties agree upon compensation for services rendered over time, in which value is released as services are provided
  • An exchange of value, such as a purchase of an asset, in which the amount of value is contingent upon conditions which are evaluated over time

To nail the point home, let me expand on the first example. Suppose you are buying a house. You’ve agreed upon a price. Now you want to execute a contract to buy the house. You open escrow, make a down payment, and a number of contingencies are identified – you need a title search*, house inspection, earthquake review, loan qualification**, etc. The disbursements of funds are identified, payment to the seller, commission to the agents, fees to various vendors, etc. When all the contingencies have been met, and after a predefined time interval, the transaction is executed; the funds are disbursed, you receive a refund of the amount left, and title is transferred to you. How could all this be done with a Smart Contact in the blockchain?

  1. The contract is defined and recorded as a transaction.
    a.  As part of this transaction, you make a down payment.
    b.  The contract identifies all the contingencies.
    c.  The contract identifies the amount to be paid to the seller.
  2. Each party responsible for evaluating a contingency executes a transaction which updates the contact. For example, the home inspector performs the inspection, and executes a transaction which signifies the house has passed inspection, and charges their fee. The lender approves the loan, and executes a transaction which records that the loan is approved, and charges their fee. Etc.
  3. As a special case*, the title agency performs the title search, verifies ownership, and executes a transaction to say so, charging their fee. This is a special case because they are responsible for transferring title when the transaction is completed, which is [for the time being] an offline operation involving the government.
  4. When all the contingencies have been met, execution of the contract is triggered, and the funds are disbursed to the respective parties. The seller is paid, the various vendors receive their fees, and you receive the residual amount. The title agent records the title in your name (including a lien for the lender**), and you own the property.

* Of course, this would be even cooler if title were recorded in the blockchain, but that’s not necessary for this scenario to work

** Of course, this would be even cooler if the loan were recorded and serviced in the blockchain, but that’s not necessary for this scenario to work

Now that we have a preliminary grasp of Smart Contracts (we have translated the poem we like), where is the potential business value (what does it mean in French)?

It can be seen that translation of desired business terms into corresponding Bitcoin transaction logic is complicated. Consider a business which exists to help individuals and other businesses craft Smart Contracts, in exchange for a fee. Such a business would have the same relationship to Smart Contracts as outside lawyers have to ordinary contracts. The Smart Contract Consultants (SCC, your [better] name here) would create, verify, evaluate, and contest Smart Contracts on behalf of the parties. SCC would become expert in the creation of such contracts, and could carve out a significant niche in the blockchain value chain (p.i.).

I have a bunch of follow-on thoughts to this, presently half-baked, and this is already a longish post, so let me stop the business thinking here and continue separately in future.


Let me close with a couple of technical observations.

First, the genius of the Bitcoin transaction Script mechanism is that it is an explicit part of the blockchain. As noted previously, anyone can embed anything in the blockchain, including entire contracts or hashes of externally stored contracts. That would give integrity to the *existence* of a contract, but not to the enforcement of the terms of the contract. By including the transaction terms in the transaction logic, the entire Bitcoin network cooperatively enforces the contact.

Second, I feel the weakest part of the transaction Script mechanism is the treatment of time. Each transaction in a multi-phase contract is fixed in time, embedded in the blockchain. At time A, when transaction TA is executed, the most it can say about time B when transaction TB is executed is that it must occur within a certain time period. It feels like conditional time should be possible, with more flexibility. Perhaps after more study I'll conclude the mechanism is actually more powerful than I thought. But additionally, this constraint opens the door to more need for SCC, to correctly structure the transaction sequence within this limitation.


Bitcoin is cool, but the blockchain is really cool...


trebuchet = siege

Wednesday,  07/01/15  09:05 PM





QE filter pass

Tuesday,  06/30/15  09:11 PM

Wow, Q2 is done!  Whew.  And onward ... spent the day coding, riding, and bitcoin-ing.  And now blogging...

It's quite fun glancing through a Flight of past quarter end posts ... many of them report I'm getting ready to watch the Tour.  Which I am!  Cannot wait, this year should be a good one.

Apple Music - is iTunes dead?Slate says The iTunes Era is Over.  "Apple Music is here, and you might never buy a song again."  That might be true, but it might not be because of Apple Music, it might be because of Slacker, Pandora, Spotify, etc.  So I installed IOS 8.4 immediately, and tried Apple Music immediately.  And got pretty confused immediately.  Could not figure out the difference between My Music, For You, New, and Radio (which has my music, including new stuff, for me ...).  Will need to experiment a little.  I did try listening to Beats1, a button for which takes up most of the initial screen.  Not bad, until it was, and then I immediately looked for Next.  Ha!  Radio ... oh yeah, no Next button. 

My first impression has been reinforced.  Back to Slacker for me (the Machine Head channel :)

Arctic Sea Ice 2010-2014Gerald Vanderleun: The Eight Stages of Scam.  References the Great Cholesterol Scam 1955-2015, and compares it to the Great Global Warming Scam.  The core observation is that those pushing the scam are not interested in truth, they are interested in profiting from a crisis.

An interesting note from Justice Thomas, in his dissent on the Obergefell Supreme Court case: "The Court’s decision today is at odds not only with the Constitution, but with the principles upon which our Nation was built.  Since well before 1787, liberty has been understood as freedom from government action, not entitlement to government benefits."  I'm entirely in favor of LGBT Marriages, but they should be construed as contracts between consenting adults, not licenses issued by the state.

Related: Love Among the Ruins.  "The barbarians are at our gates. But inside our offices, schools, churches, synagogues and homes, we are posting photos of rainbows on Twitter.  It’s easier to Photoshop images of Justice Scalia as Voldemort than it is to stare evil in the face."

I'm equally guilty; today's big news was Greece defaulting on a €245B IMF loan, and I'm posting about a new music service.  (I did build a Bitcoin client from scratch today, does that count?)

Voyager 1Interesting question: Why didn't Voyager visit Pluto?  "Astronomers decided that in order to optimize their science at Saturn, they'd need an orbit that brought Voyager 1 up close with Titan.  But that flyby also would put Pluto out of reach after the spacecraft lifted out of our solar system’s ecliptic plane."  Hence New Horizons, a new spacecraft which is visiting Pluto ... in a couple of weeks!

Brad Feld: Oracle's Java API suit against Google - Five Years Later.  "It’s not as messy as the Greek debt crisis but directionally similar. And it’s far from over."

Mark Suster:  Do Less.  More.  Okay.  This seems like a good variation on "focus", with which I entirely agree.

Cory Doctorow:  Why I'm Leaving London.  "The short version is that we want to live in a city that's a livable place to work, where we can raise our family, and where we can run our respective small businesses."  How interesting...  He's moving to LA!  Welcome :)



Sunday,  06/28/15  12:10 PM

I love it

I've been reading a lot about space lately - Ashlee Vance's Elon Musk biography, which is excellent, by the way, a must-read for all of you (!), and Robert Zubrin's The Case for Mars, also excellent, despite having first been written in 1996 and updated in 2011, both following on Andy Weir's wondeful The Martian - and I'm struck by the moving timeline between Science (what we know how to do today) and Science Fiction (what we wish we could do tomorrow).



Friday,  06/26/15  12:30 PM

Spent yesterday coding and the evening sailing (on my rejuvenated C-15).  What could be better?  In the meantime:

ancient hourglassesAt part of my Bitcoin investigations, I've been perusing the writings of Nick Szabo, inventor of Smart Contracts.  (In case you're interested, I've translated his IEEE presentation on this subject from WordPerfect Presentations (!) into PDF...)  Among other things, Nick is rumored to *be* Satoshi Nakamoto.  

Nick has a blog called Unenumerated, and comments on a very underrated invention.  (Hourglasses)  For a longer treatment of the same subject, see A Measure of Sacrifice, in which the measure of time is seen to be important as a measure of investment and created value.

congressional cooperationThis is pretty depressing; 62 years of congressional cooperation in a single GIF. The red and blue dots represent congresspeople, and the lines indicate "cooperation", as measured by voting the same way on pending legislation.

It is interesting to speculate, what has caused this decrease in cooperation?  There are no doubt many reasons, but I suspect mass media is the biggest factor.  Politicians on both sides have been polarized...

Apropos: John Hindraker on Politics in the Era of Symbolic Liberalism.  John posts from a right-wing stance, but it can equally be argued from the other side.  Appearances have become far more important than actions.

Also apropos (or at least, related), James Lileks: The only reason Apple pulled Civil War apps from the store was fear of the Internet.  That is to say, fear of appearances.  "The loud people may complain. The company would have to explain. An explanation would be seen as a justification."

Note: they have not yet pulled WWII apps, despite the undoubted symbols of hatrid (swasticas etc) present...

Philip Greenspun considers Apple Music: A good reminder not to listen to computer scientists.  "Certainly nobody predicted that a company such as Apple would be able to take 30 percent of the recording industry’s revenue because the record companies were incapable of setting up their own servers."  How interesting, right?

remove cat before flight :)To more fun matters ... Have you see this?  Remove cat before flight.  I love it!  (Such a classic cat move, right?:)

Brad Feld wonders Why isn't PGP built into Gmail?  Yeah, good point.  In fact, why isn't PGP standard everywhere?  I've been having a discussion with friends which *might* lead to IP, and we're having it on Slack instead of email, to keep it private. 

Jeffrey Zeldman: Deep Tweets No 613664902180413440.  "Usability testing doesn't reveal problems in your product so much as it uncovers arrogance in your thinking."  Indeed.


landing rockets

Thursday,  06/25/15  10:59 PM

From SpaceX: the Why and How of Landing Rockets.  Seriously cool, both the content and the fact that this company chooses to share this kind of information about what they are doing, and why.  The article includes this amazing video of their last attempt, which was -> <- this close to being successful:

(please click to play video)

Their next attempt is on Sunday, as part of an ISS resupply mission; I'll be watching live and rooting for them!


Monday,  06/22/15  09:23 PM

Working away on several fronts... and blogging...

Escher: Drawing Hands aka C compilerLove this drawing by Escher, "Drawing Hands", aka the C Compiler.  One of my very favorites from one of my very favorites.  (Found via the Flight feature, in this post from 2003, regarding a Google Doodle which celebrated Escher's birthday...)

Hunter Thompson, on Finding your Purpose.  I think this is legit, but even if it isn't, it's great.

Scott "Dilbert" Adams: the famous quote I never said.  In which the distinction is made between Art and Design.

Digital GoldInteresting book review on Ars Technica: Digital Gold (how Silicon Valley and Wall Street arrived at a new gold rush called Bitcoin).  I'm super intrigued by Bitcoin.  {Thanks for the feedback on Bitcoin 101, and stay tuned for Bitcoin 102 :) }

Apropos Bitcoin: A space lawyer explains how we'll forge a civil society off Earth.  There will be blockchain.

Google confirms acquisition of Agawi, with technology for streaming native mobile apps.  I think this just makes all kinds of sense, the "find in App store and then download" model is so broken.  Mobile needs a "click address and run" model just like web pages.

Route 50: America's Loneliest RoadRoute 50: Driving America's 'Loneliest Road'.  "There are no points of interest. We don’t recommend it...  We warn all motorists not to drive there, unless they’re confident of their survival skills."  Sounds compelling, somehow.

Could not agree more with Glenn Reynolds, who links Facebook tries yet again to un-screw-up the News Feed, and comments "why not roll it back to the way it was in 2009?"  *Everyone* I know just wants to see all the posts from all their friends, in chronological order.

Snoop Dogg for Twitter CEO?Snoop Dogg for CEO of Twitter.  Click through, it's not such a terrible idea.  "The most important decision I’ve made in business? The choices of people I have around me."  Well, yeah.

The new, new economy is a little weird: AirBnB is now worth more than Marriott.  I get the value of services like Uber and AirBnB that connect consumers to people with excess capacity, but the service itself doesn't seem like it would be as valuable as the capacity.  This feels frothy...

Munich courtyard stairsFrom Inhabitat: Unique and Spectacular Staircases.  They are both!  Yay.  (So, Scott Adams, are these Art or Design? :)



Galapagos: island animals

Thursday,  06/18/15  10:58 PM

A beautiful advertising campaign for the islands of Galapagos, from Ecuador, showing the islands imagined as large animals.

I already had the Galapagos on my bucket list, this might bump the position up a little :)



Fairly recent posts:

07/12/15 10:56 PM -

Sunday night scan

07/09/15 09:11 PM -

world of languages

07/08/15 09:16 AM -


07/07/15 09:51 PM -

Tuesday,  07/07/15  09:51 PM

07/05/15 10:27 AM -

Sunday,  07/05/15  10:27 AM

07/05/15 10:09 AM -

taking the fifth

07/03/15 05:12 PM -

Friday,  07/03/15  05:12 PM

07/02/15 01:22 PM -

Bitcoin 102: Smart Contracts

07/01/15 09:05 PM -

trebuchet = siege

06/30/15 09:11 PM -

QE filter pass

06/28/15 12:10 PM -


06/26/15 12:30 PM -

Friday,  06/26/15  12:30 PM

06/25/15 10:59 PM -

landing rockets

06/22/15 09:23 PM -

Monday,  06/22/15  09:23 PM

06/18/15 10:58 PM -

Galapagos: island animals

06/17/15 08:25 PM -

Wednesday,  06/17/15  08:25 PM

06/17/15 08:19 PM -

two kinds of people

06/16/15 11:20 AM -

VS 2013: we can all agree on ugly

06/15/15 11:57 PM -

Monday,  06/15/15  11:57 PM

06/15/15 11:47 PM -

the canals of LA

06/14/15 11:01 PM -

flag day

06/14/15 10:52 PM -

bicycle day

06/14/15 10:42 PM -

everything inflation

06/14/15 09:46 PM -

Meg graduates!

06/12/15 05:08 PM -

Bitcoin 101

06/09/15 11:26 AM -

the Apple music mess

06/08/15 09:09 PM -

awesome Ceres flyover

06/07/15 07:09 PM -

re Caitlin

06/07/15 06:26 PM -

Sunday,  06/07/15  06:26 PM

06/07/15 06:01 PM -

beautiful Grimm reality

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?