Critical Section

Monday,  01/26/15  07:59 PM

A quiet day of work today.  Work work work.  A little rain, a little sunshine, and a little news.

gray whaleI hardly ever watch "news" video online, do you?  But this one caught my eye: Whale watchers celebrate epic season.  So that's good news right?  Or is it bad news ... I can never remember which way climate change is supposed to cut.  The picture of a gray whale at left is on the website, listed as an endangered species.

Northeast stormMeanwhile they're having a huge storm in the Northeast, almost exactly a year after the NYTimes declared "the end of snow". 

What all this means to me is that climate science is not actually science.  There are huge variations in weather from year to year, but nobody yet understands the longer term trends.  And to the extent that they are understood, very little is changing.  Nothing to see here, move along.

under-ice robotThis is pretty cool (NPI): Robot finds fish beneath Antarctic ice.  "When a group of scientists drilled through 2,430 feet of ice in Antarctica to get to the water underneath, they only expected to find a few microbes here and there. Instead, they discovered a thriving community of fish and crustaceans."  Unlike climate "science", this is real science; a theory and an experiment to test it which modifies the theory.

the taco toasterWow I need one: The Taco toaster.  Crunchy tacos without frying in oil...

But of course: Worry for Solar Projects after End of Tax Credits.  Too bad all that money is being wasted on subsidies for non-viable tech.

I'm installing the latest Windows 10 Technical Preview.  The more I read, the more I'm convinced this will be my next OS.  You may ask, why not OS X?  Good question.  I guess I just like Visual Studio for C++ development...?



eight people to dinner

Sunday,  01/25/15  09:24 PM

eight people to dinnerEight people are seated at a circular table. Each person gets up and sits down again_either in the same chair or in the chair immediately to the left or right of the one they were in. How many different ways can the eight people be reseated?



Sunday,  01/25/15  08:47 PM

global coolingMatt Ridley: I am a climate lukewarmer.  "When I first started writing about the threat of global warming more than 26 years ago, as science editor of The Economist, I thought it was a genuinely dangerous threat...  Gradually, however, I changed my mind. The failure of the atmosphere to warm anywhere near as rapidly as predicted was a big reason: there has been less than half a degree of global warming in four decades - and it has slowed down, not speeded up."  I'm one too.

Related: 2014 was one of the 3% coldest years in the last 10,000.

IBM prepares to lay off 111,800 employees.  Wow.  That would be the biggest corporate layoff in history, by far, exceeding the previous record of 60,000, also set by IBM back in 1993.  Remember when working for IBM meant lifetime employment?

greatest (and stupidest) hacking scenesThe greatest (and stupidest) hacking scenes in movies.  I feel like the list of greatest is a lot shorter than the list of stupidest.  I especially like it when viruses are depicted visually.  My own favorite scene was in The Social Network, when Mark Zuckerberg created his "hot or not" site in one night.  That felt pretty real.

Cadel Evans (2011 Tour de France)It's a little early in the year for me to be a cycling fan - I usually get excited around the time of the spring classics in April - but this year I did pay some attention to the Tour down Under, which was won today by Rohan Dennis.  More significantly, it marked the last Grand Tour race for Dennis' teammate Cadel Evans, who finished third, wrapping up an amazing career that included a world championship and an (unblemished!) Tour de France victory.  I was fortunate to be in Paris for Cadel's 2011 victory, as well as in Grenoble the day before, when Evans took the yellow jersey from Andy Schleck in the final time trial (pictured at right).  He's had a great career, a nice guy who finished first.


Saturday,  01/24/15  10:22 PM

Opportunity 11-year anniversary

Opportunity celebrates 11 years on Mars with an incredible panoramic photo, taken from the highest location it's ever visited.  Awesome!  Long may it continue to roll around "up there".  (click to enbiggen amazingly)

Consider all the amazing things that have happened in the last 11 years here on Earth in the meantime...

Genecoin - make a backup of your DNA in BitcoinJon Evans of TechCrunch: this industry is still completely ridiculous.  Yes it is.  Click through for some especially good examples.  "Satire and reality are not merely indistinguishable but actually interchangeable."

The Onion predicts Overstock's web streaming service.  From November 2013: "In a broad push to offer new content to the website’s millions of customers, executives from online retailer officially announced plans Tuesday to develop a slate of original online programming."  At the time that seemed like a good joke.  From January 2015: ", known for selling products online at discount prices, will launch a video-streaming service in the first half of this year."  Yep, interchangeable :)

NASA's Martian helicopterMeanwhile: NASA wants to send a helicopter to Mars.  Of course it does!

"Mr Cub" Ernie BanksSad news: "Mr Cub" Ernie Banks dead at 84.  Ernie Banks was my most treasured baseball card, back in the day.  Nothing which has happened in the 45 years since has made it less treasured.


Gates foundation: the Big Bet

Friday,  01/23/15  09:58 PM

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation: the Big BetYou've heard me say, I was never a big fan of Bill Gates as a business leader, but now I'm a huge fan of him as a philanthopist.  His Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation just released their annual letter, and as always, it's most interesting reading.

Their big bet: "the lives of people in poor countries will improve faster in the next 15 years than at any other time in history."

  1. Child deaths will go down, and more diseases will be wiped out.
  2. Africa will be able to feed itself.
  3. Mobile banking will help the poor transform their lives.
  4. Better software will revolutionize learning.

We'll see.  The biggest problem poor countries face is seemingly fast population growth, but (1) and (2) will definitely help, and seem plausible.  I'm interested that (3) made the list; it seems so specific compared to the other items.  Not surprised to see (4) and indeed one would expect this.

I'm curious whether other issues can be solved, such as political corruption, unproductive infighting between factions, basic property rights, and differential birthrates between different economic groups.  We'll see.

Regardless, there is little doubt that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has made a huge difference.  Onward!


hello, ello?

Thursday,  01/22/15  10:42 PM

So, apparently, it's time for ello:

I signed up for the beta a few weeks ago, when there was some buzz around ello, but now I can't honestly think of any reason to join.  Are any of you members?  What's it like?




Thursday,  01/22/15  10:13 PM

the Hubble Space telescopeI can't really believe this, but the Hubble Space Telescope is now 25 years old.  Wow.  Slashdot has a nice thread about the camera that changes the universe.  What's weird is that it didn't work very well at first, until scientists figured out how to correct the images with software.

Powerline: At last, the kind of inflation Americans care about.  "Over the years, some have argued that not having to care about politics is a luxury that Americans are able to enjoy because of our stable democracy and effectively guaranteed freedoms. There is some truth to that. Still, it is hard to believe it is a good thing that sports arouse more passion, attract more attention, and are more often the subject of intelligent discussion than politics."

the Hobbit, the movieThe Hobbit: the Tolkein edit.  In which nine hours of bad moviemaking are converted into a single four-hour film which is faithful to the book.  "The investigation of Dol Guldor has been completely excised, including the appearances of Radagast, Saruman and Galadriel... The Tauriel-Legolas-Kili love triangle has also been removed."  Seems like a great watch.

So, Apple paid $10B to developers in 2014, via the app store.  That means this ecosystem is now bigger than Hollywood, the ecosystem of major movies and their distributors.  That's ... amazing.  This ecosystem is also growing faster and has more successful players in it, at more layers.

An interesting subject: blockchain scalability.  Many of us have a vague idea of how Bitcoin "works"; it is a public ledger, with a fixed number of slots, and we can all bid to buy one of the slots.  But how big can it become?  How easily can each node compute the validity of the blockchain, and what will happen as the system scales?  Great read.

John at Desk: Seasons of silence.  "When building a product you can often find yourself in long stretches of relative quiet, where you're just heads-down building and there isn’t much more to tell or to share."  Indeed.

ZooBorn: East African Black RhinoZooBorn of the day: a baby East African Black Rhino, the first born in captivity for eighteen years.  Yay.  And boy is she cute.  Few things are less cute than a full-grown rhinoceros, and yet, few things are cuter than a baby one...



Thursday,  01/22/15  10:00 PM


Google Glasses?



climbing the Dawn Wall

Wednesday,  01/21/15  10:38 PM

Wow, this is amazing...  Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson just completed the first ever free climb of the Dawn Wall of Yosemite's El Capitan.  It's been called the most difficult climb ever completed.

Jason Kottke describes the whole thing, with links to a video of the climb, as well as the NYTimes awesome interactive map showing the climb itself as well as a huge zoomable picture of the El Capitain, a thumbnail of which is shown above (click to enbiggen).  Incredible!


Wednesday,  01/21/15  10:14 PM

Windows Holographic headsetToday's big news wasn't last nights #SOTU talk, no, it was today's announcements by Microsoft, about Windows 10 and some new augmented reality software called Windows Holographic. (Where is it written that everything Microsoft do has to be called "Windows X".  Anyway.)  It looks pretty amazing.  Of course this tech will be used for gaming, but who knows what else, too?  I'm starting to think shopping - in virtual stores - might be a big application.  Coupled with visual search, of course!

And so, what will Google Glass 2.0 need to succeed?  The commenters on Slashdot have focused on hardware and software answers, as is their wont, but to me the answer needs to take the form of a market opportunity, an unmet need that smart glasses can fulfill. And one beyond gaming.

Astronaut Scott KellyLittle commented on among the #SOTU discussion, President Obama mentioned the U.S.' "re-engergized space program", and astronaut Scott Kelly, who's about to leave Earth for a one year tour abord the ISS.  Of course, he's going to get there in a Russian spaceship, despite the SpaceX resupply missions.  "Good Luck captain, and make sure to Instagram it!"

may the farce be with youThis is one awesome lightsaber battle.  May the Farce be with you.  Absolutely no movies have spawned as many fan-created sequels, parodies, and tributes as Star Wars.  Can't wait for the next one!

Finn sailor Oli TweddellThis is cool:  My name is Oli Tweddell, and I sail for Australia. For anyone who thinks dinghy racing is not a real sport.  But where are the deck chairs for lounging?

the Frilled SharkAnd here we have the ancient and venerable Frilled Shark, an 80 million-year old design which is still with us.  Awesome.


Captain America

Tuesday,  01/20/15  10:57 PM


your animated GIF of the day

(you're welcome)



Tuesday,  01/20/15  10:26 PM

exploding kittens - the card gameHere we have Exploding Kittens, a new Kickstarted card game from (among others) Matthew Inman of the Oatmeal.  The game has raised over $1M from their target of $10K.  Wow.

I'm trying to figure out, did the thousands of backers want the game, or the perceived coolness of being part of the Kickstarter?

[Update on 1/25: 97,000 backers and $3.8M raised.  Wow.]

On the eve of the State of the Union address (#SOTU), Richard Epstein notes ObamaCare's Slow Death.  "The results are now clear, the Affordable Care Act has done nothing to unravel the past mistakes that in large measure were attributable to excessive regulation and transfer payments."

free wool coatsThis cartoon illustrates the mechanism perfectly :)

With the annual Davos Economic Forum on the horizon, this observation: "it turns out that global warming causes private jets."  Via Instapundit, who asks (as I do!), "where's mine"?

dueling selfiesSmile!  Next up from Blade incubator, a startup to "solve" digital photos.  Interesting, but the article doesn't actually say what "solve" means, or what they perceive to be the problem.  I think finding digital photos once taken is a big opportunity, a perfect application for visual search...

Boeing 777 model made from manila folder piecesExcellent!  Five foot long Boeing 777 replica made from 2,000 pieces of manila folders.  Wow.  Just when you think you've seen it all...



Monday,  01/19/15  10:44 PM


Can't wait for the next one :)



blue Monday

Monday,  01/19/15  10:38 PM

blue MondayBlue Monday.  Is today actually the most depressing day of the year?

At least now we're over the hump :)

Great post from VC Mark Suster: Blogging for the Hell of it, not blogging to stay relevant.  "I used to love blogging ... it feels good to be back."  Hehe, yep, that's me!

government app: please visit to applyWell that should be easy!  "Please visit to begin the application process"  Click to enbiggen and smile :)

Wired asks Why is it so difficult to land a rocket?  It's like balancing a broom just by placing the end of the broom on your hand.

So, today is the last day to buy a Google Glass.  So be it.  This doesn't mean Google have finished with smart glasses, they're simply retooling for version 2.  As you know, I became a Glasshole last March.  I don't wear mine all the time, but it was most useful to see the future.  Especially in the context of visual search :)

Meanwhile, Audi is putting a virtual car dealership inside the Oculus Rift.  Of course they are.  Pretty soon that will be the only kind of car dealership there is.

Tesla Model S P85D on the stripFor the record: Tesla Model S P85D 1/4 mile record set.  10.85s at 126mph.  Wheeee!

And so what will search look like in Mobile?  John Battelle shares a visit with Jack.  In which companies are working to make the mobile app world more web-like.

And Amazon is going to produce its own movies and release them in theaters.  Why?  But then that's the question with a lot of things Amazon do, and while some of them don't work out, some of them are amazing.

how a cantilevered bridge worksThese people demonstrate how a cantilever bridge works.  Awesome!  They built Scotland's Forth Bridge in 1890, and it was the world's longest cantilevered bridge for 17 years.


hawks vs pats

Sunday,  01/18/15  11:42 PM

Did you watch the conference championship games today?  They were both played in 50o weather with intermittent rain, and both featured two solid teams with strong quarterbacks and defenses.  But the similarity ends there. 

Seattle over Green Bay in overtime!The NFC game, in which Seattle barely edged Green Bay 28-22 in overtime after coming back from being down 16 points at halftime was a game for the ages, featuring a fake field goal for a touchdown, great field goal kicking, five turnovers by the winning team, a successful onside kick, a wild two-point conversion, and two late drives for touchdowns by the winning team.  Whew.  If you didn't watch that one look for it, you should.

New England over IndianapolisThe AFC game was an old-fashioned stomping, New England thrashed Indianapolis 45-7 in a game which wasn't even *that* close.  Andrew Luck and his dynamic offense could only manage one TD against the Pats, in the first quarter, and the Colts defense couldn't do anything against Tom Brady and company.  Wow.  If you didn't watch that one you probably don't have to.

On the Super Bowl, one more game* to be played this season.  It should be pretty interesting, matching the two best teams in football at a point where they are both playing well and relatively healthy.  I'll be rooting for Seattle but honestly this one will be too close to call.  Pass the nachos!

* Pro Bowl does not count


Fairly recent posts:

01/26/15 07:59 PM -

Monday,  01/26/15  07:59 PM

01/25/15 09:24 PM -

eight people to dinner

01/25/15 08:47 PM -

Sunday,  01/25/15  08:47 PM

01/24/15 10:22 PM -

Saturday,  01/24/15  10:22 PM

01/23/15 09:58 PM -

Gates foundation: the Big Bet

01/22/15 10:42 PM -

hello, ello?

01/22/15 10:13 PM -

Thursday,  01/22/15  10:13 PM

01/22/15 10:00 PM -


01/21/15 10:38 PM -

climbing the Dawn Wall

01/21/15 10:14 PM -

Wednesday,  01/21/15  10:14 PM

01/20/15 10:57 PM -

Captain America

01/20/15 10:26 PM -

Tuesday,  01/20/15  10:26 PM

01/19/15 10:44 PM -


01/19/15 10:38 PM -

blue Monday

01/18/15 11:42 PM -

hawks vs pats

01/17/15 11:02 PM -

Lego Hogwarts

01/16/15 10:29 PM -

Friday,  01/16/15  10:29 PM

01/15/15 11:05 PM -

ch ch ch ch changes

01/14/15 10:27 PM -

A brief history of UI

01/13/15 11:01 PM -

the biggest ocean animals

01/13/15 10:38 PM -


01/13/15 10:28 PM -

Tuesday,  01/13/15  10:28 PM

01/12/15 10:01 PM -

Monday,  01/12/15  10:01 PM

01/11/15 11:16 PM -

resolved, again

01/10/15 11:50 PM -

Saturday,  01/10/15  11:50 PM

01/09/15 11:04 PM -

of nested CSS selectors

01/09/15 09:34 PM -


01/08/15 09:44 PM -

NASA exoplanet travel posters

01/07/15 10:11 PM -

Je Suis Charlie

01/06/15 09:44 PM -

Harbin ice festival

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?