Critical Section

politics after Scalia

Sunday,  02/14/16  10:40 AM

Antonin ScaliaUnless you've been out living a normal life away from a computer you will have heard; Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia has passed away, at the age of 79.  This is a pretty big deal because he was a staunch conservative, and it opens the door for current-President Obama or whomever is our next President to nominate someone considerably less conservative.  It feels like the 2016 Presidential race will take place in two parts, before Scalia, and after.

It is worth noting that in this context conservative is used in its traditional, one might even say "conservative" meaning, as one who conserves the status quo, and resists change.  Justice Scalia was apolitical, but became embroiled in politics by arguing strongly against those who wanted to have the court drive change.

President Obama has already said he will nominate a replacement, and the various Republican candidates for President, debating last night in South Carolina, have all called for the Republican-led Senate to delay confirmation of any candidate until the next President is seated.  It will be an interesting fight, and it will be played out in public.  A year is a long time to go without confirming a new judge, but it is unusual for a lame duck President to nominate a new justice.

I watched a little of the debate last night, and I must tell you, whatever softening I had in my opposition to Donald Trump has hardened again.  I will vote for anyone against Hillary Clinton, but I certainly hope it won't be Trump.  I think Trump and Sanders are both selling magic, and while that might work to get elected, it doesn't do much to make things better once you're in office.  (And I guess President Obama is exhibit A.)  This is the downside of our democracy; everyone gets to vote, and everyone isn't very smart, so we end up picking leaders with not-very-smart thinking.

I still think Ted Cruz is the smartest candidate, and support him on that basis, but perhaps Marco Rubio is the most likely to get elected running against Clinton, and so I support him on that basis.

As Winston Churchill noted, "democracy is the worst form of government, except for everything else".

PS did you see this Cruz ad now running in South Carolina, "It feels good to be a Clinton".  +1 for the Office Space reference and +1 for not letting Clinton off the hook for having a personal email server while Secretary of State.  Heh.

feels good to be a Clinton




Sunday,  02/14/16  10:08 AM

Valentine's puzzleGood morning blog public, and happy Valentine's Day to you all.  I celebrated in the usual way - by 3-D printing a heart.  This year I decided to print it as a four-part puzzle, which seems appropriate given the complexity of relationships :)

Valentine's Day seems stressful to a lot of people; of course it is fun to celebrate being with the one you love, but demonstrating just exactly how much you love them with physical objects can be difficult :)

Did you know?  Spotify will make a playlist out of your Valentine's love note.  Well that's certainly demonstrating your love ... hehe.

How did this all get started?  Apparently it began with a pagan fertility festival in February (as so many good things do :), and then the Catholic church mutated it into a celebration of St. Valentine.  Most countries with a Catholic tradition celebrate it today, but more as a secular ode to love and relationships than a religious holiday.

The weirdest practice was that when I was a kid, we bought Valentine's Day cards for all the kids in our class, not just the one we thought was special.  (Is that still done?  Maybe?)  An early attempt at political correctness but perhaps a defensible one, to avoid hurt feelings.  I do remember taking great care over the exact wording with which I signed certain cards :)

I hope you enjoy the day, and are able to fit your pieces together...



happy birthday Mr. Darwin, Mr. Lincoln

Friday,  02/12/16  11:08 PM

Chuck D ... natural selectaWeird, 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.

spot the ISSBut ... 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.)

Minority Report - user interface of the futureGood 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.

little Russian ATV is amazingOkay, 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 :)



'Normal' is one of the most powerful words a Radiologist can use

Friday,  02/12/16  10:57 PM

Radiology CTs - which of these are normal?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.

Radiologist at workThat 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 :)



system update update

Friday,  02/12/16  10:33 PM

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 :)



ode to old school: Craigslist

Thursday,  02/11/16  09:42 PM

craigslist!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.

The pages are simple and clean, and load instantly.  There is no delay waiting for a metric ton of JavaScript to load, and no shifting images, input fields which aren't ready to respond, and other artifacts of today's emphasis on slick user interfaces.  Somehow this old school site "just works".

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


gravitational waves

Thursday,  02/11/16  09:29 PM

gravitational wavesPretty 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!



Thank *you*, Carly

Wednesday,  02/10/16  10:15 PM

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:



From the bottom of my heart, thank you so much for everything you've done for this campaign. For standing with me, for fighting with me. For your generosity, for your support, and for your faith. Thank you.

This campaign was always about citizenship—taking back our country from a political class that only serves the big, the powerful, the wealthy, and the well connected. Election after election, the same empty promises are made and the same poll-tested stump speeches are given, but nothing changes. I've said throughout this campaign that I will not sit down and be quiet. I'm not going to start now. While I suspend my candidacy today, I will continue to travel this country and fight for those Americans who refuse to settle for the way things are and a status quo that no longer works for them.

Our Republican Party must fight alongside these Americans as well. We must end crony capitalism by fighting the policies that allow it to flourish. We must fix our festering problems by holding our bloated, inept government bureaucracy accountable. Republicans must stand for conservative principles that lift people up and recognize all Americans have the right to fulfill their God-given potential.

To young girls and women across the country, I say: do not let others define you. Do not listen to anyone who says you have to vote a certain way or for a certain candidate because you're a woman. That is not feminism. Feminism doesn't shut down conversations or threaten women. It is not about ideology. It is not a weapon to wield against your political opponent. A feminist is a woman who lives the life she chooses and uses all her God-given gifts. And always remember that a leader is not born, but made. Choose leadership.

As I have said to the many wonderful Americans I have met throughout this campaign, a leader is a servant whose highest calling is to unlock potential in others.

I will continue to serve in order to restore citizen government to this great nation so that together we may fulfill our potential.

Thank you again for all you've made possible.


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

Wednesday,  02/10/16  08:56 PM

New Hampshire primary resultsThe 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.

DiSaaSter 2016Mark 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.

professional peloton blows overThis 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.

FirewatchNoted: 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.

Ark Royal, science fiction by Christopher NuttallReviewed: 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!



Monday,  02/08/16  09:53 PM



(Still not quite as bright as the Galvanick Lucifer :)



Amazon support: not helpful

Monday,  02/08/16  09:08 PM

We all think of Amazon as a company that cares about their customers and wants us to find the right products, right?  Well...

Amazon support not helpfulAmazon 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, 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): Hello Ole, my name is Adam. I'm here to help you today.
I understand that you want to find Kindle books for you. No worries, I'll do my best to help you with your concern, Ole.

A member of our Kindle team will be the perfect person to help you with this. Please hold while I transfer you. One of our Kindle Specialists will assist you shortly.

02:46 PM PST Jeff(Amazon): Hi Ole, Thanks for contacting Amazon. How can I help you today?
02:46 PM PST Ole Eichhorn: Hi can you please help me find Kindle Books recommended for me?
02:47 PM PST Jeff: A member of our kindle specialist team will need to help you with this. Please hold while I transfer you. One of our kindle specialist representatives will assist you shortly.

02:48 PM PST Ina(Amazon): Hello, my name is Ina.
How may I help you today?
02:48 PM PST Ole Eichhorn: Hi can you please help me find Kindle Books recommended for me?
02:49 PM PST Ina: What kind of Kindle books are you referring to?
02:50 PM PST Ole Eichhorn: Any kind of books. You have a page of Kindle books recommended for me and I cannot figure out how to get there

(long pause)
Hi are you still there
02:50 PM PST Ina: Yes.
02:51 PM PST Ina: One moment.
02:52 PM PST Ina: Are you referring to the Recommendations that can be found on your device?
02:52 PM PST Ole Eichhorn: Not on my device ... on your website
02:53 PM PST Ina: One moment.

(long pause)
02:55 PM PST Ina(Amazon): I'm sorry we were disconnected. I can pick up where we left off.
Please click on the link:
02:56 PM PST Ina: Check to see if you are able to locate "Sign in to see personalized recommendations" button.
02:56 PM PST Ole Eichhorn: I am signed in already
02:57 PM PST Ina: Kindly log out and sign in when prompted once you click"Sign in to see personalized recommendations" button.
02:57 PM PST Ole EichhornI am signed in already
Hi can you please help me find Kindle Books recommended for me?
02:58 PM PST Ole EichhornI cannot find the link
02:58 PM PST Ina: Kindly click on the link below:
02:59 PM PST Ole Eichhorn: that is a signon link
02:59 PM PST Ina: Sign in to see the Recommendations.
03:00 PM PST Ole EichhornI am signed in already
03:00 PM PST Ina: Let me connect you to Generalist for further assistance. Please stay connected. Thank you.

03:00 PM PST Amazon: Thank you for contacting Chat Support my name is Shanice.
03:00 PM PST Ole Eichhorn:
Me: Hi can you please help me find Kindle Books recommended for me
03:01 PM PST Amazon: Let me transfer you to our Kindle team.

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 :)


super bored

Sunday,  02/07/16  10:48 PM

Audi super ad: "Commander"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 :)

designer kryptoniteHehe :)



Saturday,  02/06/16  11:14 AM

wisdom can be found in the most unexpected places :)



Thursday,  02/04/16  09:19 PM

dualWhew, 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.

minimum wage impact on jobsHmmm... 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 :)

Alternatives to Resting Bitch FaceImportant work:  Alternatives to Resting Bitch Face.  In my family (four daughters) "RBF" is a well-recognized and often-used acronym... :)

ion propulsion - the force of the futureNASA 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.

Feyman diagram: dualityWell, so much for blogging (yawn), I'm off to bed. 
I think I'll watch Groundhog Day ... again.


no shadow

Tuesday,  02/02/16  08:22 AM

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!


Fairly recent posts:

02/14/16 10:40 AM -

politics after Scalia

02/14/16 10:08 AM -


02/12/16 11:08 PM -

happy birthday Mr. Darwin, Mr. Lincoln

02/12/16 10:57 PM -

'Normal' is one of the most powerful words a Radiologist can use

02/12/16 10:33 PM -

system update update

02/11/16 09:42 PM -

ode to old school: Craigslist

02/11/16 09:29 PM -

gravitational waves

02/10/16 10:15 PM -

Thank *you*, Carly

02/10/16 08:56 PM -

the day after

02/08/16 09:53 PM -


02/08/16 09:08 PM -

Amazon support: not helpful

02/07/16 10:48 PM -

super bored

02/06/16 11:14 AM -


02/04/16 09:19 PM -


02/02/16 08:22 AM -

no shadow

02/01/16 10:29 PM -

electoral fail

02/01/16 09:54 PM -


01/31/16 04:45 PM -


01/30/16 11:34 PM -

known star systems

01/29/16 11:27 PM -

the three laws of robotics

01/29/16 10:43 PM -

Lo and Behold

01/27/16 08:35 PM -

filter pass

01/27/16 08:19 PM -

anyone can quantum

01/25/16 11:42 PM -

the song remains the same

01/25/16 07:58 AM -

survey: page width?

01/24/16 10:56 AM -

the immigrant song

01/24/16 08:56 AM - fail

01/23/16 03:44 PM -

a better way to handle passwords

01/23/16 01:21 PM -

Kara (Star Wars episode VIIa)

01/23/16 09:57 AM -

Saturday morning post

For older posts please visit the archive.


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Correlation vs. Causality
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Unnatural Selection
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