Archive: December 9, 2019
Archive: December 9, 2018
Archive: December 9, 2017
Archive: December 9, 2016
Archive: December 9, 2015
Archive: December 6, 2014
Here we have a table held up by the buckets resting on it. Yay. Yeah, it's physics, not sorcery. The gravitational pull on the buckets pulls them down, which in turn pulls the table up. When the buckets are resting on the table they're still being pulled down, but the table counterbalances the force. As long as the buckets are heavier than the table, this is going to work.
Of "the power tower feeding frenzy" and hyper-large numbers. "You know how sometimes you go through life, and you’re lost but you don’t even know it, and then one day, the right person comes along and you realize what you had been looking for this whole time? That’s how I feel about Graham’s number." I love this; all the ways to represent really big finite numbers. What's especially cool is that each notation "maxes out", and then a new notation is needed to keep going. (Yes, Virginia, we are told there are an infinite number of notational systems, but we aren't told what they are :) After you think about this for a while, you realize ... whoa.
Hey guess what? NASA have successfully launched Orion! This is the next step in a progression that eventually puts people on Mars. Yippee.
The YotaPhone. Two sides, zero gimmicks. Not such a terrible idea, really ... the e-ink side can always be on for notifications, and respond to input without unlocking, while the LCD side is for more directed interactions. Wouldn't mind trying this.
Asking the important questions: What if girls were browsers? What if guys were social networks? Hehe.
Archive: December 9, 2013
I'm just thinking about the importance of immediate gratification in meeting customer needs. This is unquestionable the key driver behind the recent disruptive technologies which upended media businesses such as music (iTunes/iPod), video (Netflix/settop boxes), and books (Kindle).
This is most definitely a key value for visual search: take a picture, do a search! What could be faster?
Any business contemplating an emerging market has to figure out how to drive adoption, and immediate gratification is a key aspect of this. Imagine you're selling washing machines to people doing their laundry by beating clothes in the river. The key value isn't that they no longer have to visit the river, it's that their clothes can be clean sooner.
I think immediate gratification is part of why 3D printers have become so popular. But it takes the whole ecosystem; without Thingiverse's 1,000s of readily downloadable and printable designs, it wouldn't have that aspect. Based on this I predict the 3Doodler will not be as successful (it takes practice and work to make something interesting).
Who knows ... perhaps immediate gratification even lies behind many social changes.
Archive: December 9, 2012
Archive: December 9, 2011
How cool is this: SpaceX have launched a spaceship into Earth orbit and successfully brought it back! Wow, that's amazing; a clear precursor to manned flight into Earth orbit. Congratulations to them, and most especially to my onetime colleague and friend Elon Musk, who founded SpaceX in 2002 and has invested a ton of his own money in its success.
You might think SpaceX must be doing things similar to NASA and the ESA, in order to get these results. And of course the science is the same. But they are a little different too; these launches cost less than 1/10th of a comparable mission sponsored by a government agency. And for this particular mission the payload was ... a large round of cheese :)
Archive: December 9, 2009
This is cool: visualizing the speed of light, in which it takes 1.26 seconds to travel from Earth to the Moon.
Knowing that light is *really* fast, for me this says more about the distance between the Earth and Moon than about light's speed...
This is way cool: Hubble's ultra deepfield, taken in late August 2009; the faintest and reddest objects in the image are galaxies that formed 600 million years after the Big Bang..
(click to enbiggen amazingly)
Another long day followed by a long (but pleasant) meeting over dinner; we managed to drink a bottle each. So it's going to be like that, is it?
Beware, coherence may be limited. Even more than usual. (hic)
A really important resource: the Western States Ride Calendar. Every known organized cycling ride in the Western U.S. Wow how cool is that?
Monster Monday: Surf's up as biggest waves in five years come to Hawaii. Wow, those are cool. I am a wimp when it comes to surfing, but we all love looking at those huge waves, don't we?
Ed Driscoll wonders Is Newsweek a Brand that will Disappear in 2010? You mean Newsweek still exists? I thought they transformed themselves into a political-People magazine for liberals, and quietly faded into irrelevance. Oh, they did.
Google's Chrome browser now has extensions. Yay. Give me Adblock, and Firefox may be history.
Facebook pushes people to go public. I predict this will not end well. I knew enough to explicitly switch all the preferences back to private, but I bet many many people will not, and Facebook will never be the same.
Yesterday I reported on Virgin Atlantic's Space Ship Two launch; Rand Simberg has more: the Tip of the Iceberg for Private Spaceflight.
Pantone has named Turquoise 2010 color of the year. "...evokes thoughts of soothing, tropical waters and a languorous, effective escape from the everyday troubles of the world, while at the same time restoring our sense of wellbeing." So be it.
TTAC reports Speed Cameras Gift Wrapped in the Netherlands. As they should be, everywhere. Big brother please take a hike.
From the Onion: Alphabet updated with 15 exciting new letters. Paging Dr. Suess, some people stop at the Z, but not me! I love it :)
ZooBorn of the day: a tiny Kimodo Dragon. See even baby giant lizards are cute!
This is post #508 this year, officially making this my most prolific blogging year ever. So far. It is also post #1999 of all time. (Perhaps I should have made another post celebrating that, which would have been #2000 :) This is
probably more exciting to me than to you, but I just had to note the milestone; if you're interested, all 1,999 posts are linked from The Archive.
Cheers, and please stay tuned for thousands more!
Archive: December 9, 2008
Man, it was cold today - 40s! - and windy... really felt like winter. (No I did not ride, what do you think I am, crazy?) I spent the day hunkered down in my office, working while listening to the wind howl.
Well actually I did escape this morning for an important trip to the valley, I picked up the fantabulous Team Aperio 2008 mugs (which I get to give out on Friday in conjunction with our
Christmas Holiday Party), and enjoyed myself wandering around the Topanga Mall. Can I just tell you, I love shopping, I love malls, and I especially love shopping in malls at Christmas. I know, weird. What can I tell you?
I can report that the mall was uncrowded. Whether this is a sign of the times, or just Tuesday morningness, I cannot say. I will return next week for a better data point :)
This is so cool: celebrating the 40th anniversary of the mouse. Click through and check out that demo by Douglas Engelbart (in 1968), he was the man. Imagine how it would feel to develop something like that, and to see what it has become today? So cool. Wired has their take also: the mother of all demos; they labeled the picture at left "Douglas Engelbart, the father of the mother of all demos" :)
BoingBoing has a message from the auto industry: you wouldn't buy our shitty cars, so we'll be taking your money anyway. I'm afraid that's the size of it.
Well this sucks; ads coming soon to a paused Tivo menu near you. "According to a press release issued today, TiVo will now offer ad space on its pause menu. Designed to outsmart those who fast-forward through the ads (we assume that's almost everyone at this point, right?) buyers will be able to target viewers of a specific show, or they can opt to 'cast a wider net' and advertise within genres or keywords of program descriptions." This is what not taking care of the customer looks like. I haven't seen this yet, but as soon as I do I'm going to complain. Maybe if we all complain, they'll back off.
Here we have the ukulele version of "while my guitar gently sleeps", by virtuoso Jake Shimabukuro. It is better than you think, even if you think that already. Check it out.
Snowflakes as you've never seen them before.... incredible microscopic views... done by a researcher at Caltech. Beautiful!
Coffee. I love it (and I love coffee).
Archive: December 9, 2007
Archive: December 9, 2006
Archive: November 26, 2005
Can't really call these coffee notes, because I've already had my coffee. In case you're wondering, yes, I did put up our Christmas lights yesterday, and yes, I did not fall off the roof. It wasn't raining and it wasn't windy, so this year was easier than some. (Of course there was a light string which worked perfectly in the garage, but failed when attached to the gable on the second floor, with me standing on the sloping roof, changing bulbs, trying to find the bad one...) Anyway, here's what's happening...
I am reading Woken Furies by Richard Morgan. Almost done with it. I love it, this is his best yet. (The third in a series which began with Altered Carbon and continued with Broken Angels.) And I am so happy because I really loved the first two books in this series, but then Morgan wrote Market Forces, which wasn't part of the series and which I didn't like at all (and didn't even finish), and so I didn't think there would be more books in the series. But there are, so yay!
My favorite and weirdest part of this book is where Morgan describes huge vertical structures on alien planets. (Morgan's planets were formerly occupied by "Martians", who flew, and who left behind amazing "buildings" made of inexplicable materials with unexpected properties.) Somehow their verticality really confers alien-ness, I can feel my vertigo as I read the words. Great stuff.
Speaking of science fiction (we were), did you catch this picture of Saturn's moon Hyperion? Now that is cool. How did those craters form? What a mystery. Almost like something from a Richard Morgan book :) Cassini is awesome!
Christmas Cards are on my mind today. Today is the day I must compile a collage of pictures of my kids, so we can print them, so they can be included with our Christmas Cards, so you-all can see how beautiful they are! Seriously it sounds like a fun project, and it is, but having today as the deadline makes it a bit less fun. I wish I'd done it, like, last weekend. But I didn't, and so here we are. Weird the way that works...
A little while ago Wired ran a story called The Silence of the Leaf Blowers. With which I so agree. I hate that sound - especially on a Sunday morning, or a Saturday, but all other times as well - and I wish there were a good alternative. He who invents a quiet powerful motor will reap great rewards, and not only financial ones. Talk about a problem worth solving!
This problem doesn't only affect yard equipment. How about off-road bikes? Or snowmobiles? Or outboard engines? There are a lot of recreational vehicles which make a ton of noise, and wouldn't it be great if they didn't?
Today is the day for SpaceX. Finger's crossed, good luck, guys! Although they don't need it. I'll be monitoring Kimball's blog all day...
Do you hate business jargon as much as I do? Blech. Stephen Baker of Business Week's Blogspotting wants to Rid the World of "Solutions", and I heartily agree. One of the first things I do when I encounter a company is check whether their website has a “products” page or a “solutions” page. Products = good, this is stuff they make and sell. Solutions = bad, it is sometimes impossible to tell what is being made or sold, besides marketing hype. As an example, I received an email from a company called BSIL, and this was on their home page:
"We are a global, end-to-end IT solutions provider with a global delivery footprint. With over 20 years of experience, we understand our customers’ needs better and provide a portfolio of services, using robust processes, which enable them to leverage their IT investments."
Do you have any idea what these people do? Nor do I. (Apparently they "provide solutions" :)
A classic example of meaningless jargon is "Web 2.0". Nobody knows what it means, it doesn't mean anything. It is simply buzzword-compliant crap to put in a marketing plan. Or for naming a conference.
(And don't tell me it means "web applications built with AJAX", because that is not what it means, and anyway "web applications" and "AJAX" are two other examples of bogus jargon. (meta-jargon, anyone?))
I'm not the only one to think so, there seems to be backlash forming:
Xeni Jardin spots trends before most of us: Web 2.0 cracks start to show.
Joel Spolsky's reliable BS meter reports: The Architecture Astronauts are Back!
And not only is "Web 2.0" itself jargon, it has spawned other jargon; check out this page, which allows you to create your own Web 2.0 company. The general schema, "X via Y", is a great clue to the cluelessness of it all. Truly interesting concepts are just "X", the "via Y" part is mere implementation...
Hey, and we even have Web 2.0 Bingo!
For an unbelievable example of jargon run amuck, consider Microsoft's recent "Live" announcement. Talk about meaningless blather.
Just look at this diagram, does this make any sense at all?
I happen to think Bill Gates is incredibly overrated as a smart guy. He is a lousy presenter, and really smart guys give good, focused presentations that make you realize they are really smart. Steve Jobs would be an example. Kip Thorne - now he's a smart guy. Or how about Richard Feynman; in addition to being interesting, he exuded intelligence and deep understanding. Bill Gates may be a great businessman, but he is not a great technologist. And he is not a really smart guy. Sorry.
If you disagree, please refer back to the picture. Would a really smart guy stand in front of that diagram? (Click for a bigger picture, or see Niall Kennedy's Flickr photo, which has a great comment thread. Via Tom Coates, who comments: "God, does anyone have the slightest idea what Microsoft are on about?")
We've all become a bit immunized to Microsoft's jargon; the reaction to the "Live" announcement was fortunately muted and mostly negative:
Steve Gillmor: Beep Beep. "Remember Wily Coyote? He's the Roadrunner's nemesis, chasing him out off the cliff's edge. Then there's that exquisite moment where he stands on thin air, about to realize he's got nothing. That's Microsoft, folks." Ouch.
Joel Spolsky's BS meter pegged immediately: Massive Frontal PR is Incompatible with Ship Early and Often; a wonderful roasting even though it lacks Joel's usual pithy title.
Robert X. Cringley had Deja Vu All Over Again, in which he notes Microsoft's "Live" reaction to Google is analogous to Microsoft's "Active" reaction to Netscape. Perfect; neither "Active" nor "Live" have any content at all.
Mary Jo Foley: Hailstorm take 2. (You know you're in trouble when your new jargon is seen as the second version of your old jargon.) "When you get past the marketing fluff of 'sea changes' and '21st century Internet,' Microsoft did not announce a lot of new deliverables." She did go on to write, "We didn't notice a single mention of Web 2.0 during Chairman Bill Gates and Chief Technology Officer Ray Ozzie's remarks. That earns Microsoft some big points in our book." Okay, I'll give 'em that. They piled on their own jargon, but steered clear of everyone else's...
Poor Robert Scoble was left to respond: "I don't think it was clear." (D'ya think?) "This was the beginning of a major rudder turn on Microsoft." Iceberg ahead.
The "Live" demo itself was as lacking in content as the concept; Dave Winer liveblogged: "An hour into it they finally start the demo. The screen is blank, the guy is talking. It's live.com. The demo didn't work. A total demo disaster."
(Gates' performance prompted Dave to link his classic Demoing for Fun and Profit, from 1995; as true and relevant today as it was then. Perhaps Gates should read it.)
Even if the demo had worked, it would have been unimpressive; to my eye live.com is pretty uninteresting. Okay, we have a personalized portal. What is this, 1997? Not to mention, it is not even a good personalized portal; maybe they should have visited My Yahoo! or NetVibes, or even their own Start.com. Cue the clowns.
Perhaps we need some new jargon, a word which means "a word which actually means nothing".
Archive: December 9, 2004
I had always thought we'd have to pay for anti-gravity.
(new yorker, 12/04/06)
If you want to support our troops and help someone less fortunate this Holiday Season, consider donating phone cards to wounded troops. You can send phone cards of any amount to:
Medical Family Assistance Center
Walter Reed Medical Center
6900 Georgia Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20307-5001
Apparently they need an "endless" supply of these -- any amount even $5 is greatly appreciated. Walmart has good prices on AT&T cards, Sams Club is even better, if you are a member.
You can buy phone cards for troops online as well.
Please pass this on, copy and paste it into your e-mail, and send to everyone you know. These men and women are supporting us, now let's support them!
I had a good day today. Got a lot done. Enjoyed being with my kids. In fact only one bad thing happened today, but it was bad; MY DSL WENT DOWN! Gasp!! How can anyone survive life without broadband, especially in December, and especially when hosting ten websites?
So I called Verizon, and predictably they didn't find anything wrong, and have "opened a trouble ticket". I asked for a prognosis and they said these kinds of problems are usually resolved within 24-48 hours. What! You want me to be down for two days!! Okay, stay calm. I made a dial-up connection from my laptop to pacbell.net, my trusty ISP going back for about ten years, and poked around a bit. I found a diagnostic program on the Westell website for my DSL modem. This program cannot even find the DSL modem, let alone diagnose it. I'm guessing the modem has died. It will take Verizon days to agree and more days to ship me a new modem. So I'm down. I can dial-up from my laptop, but my network is down. Sigh.
But wait! I have an Airport Extreme wireless access point - and it has a built in V.90 dial backup facility! To make a not-so-very-long story short, I was able to configure the access point to act as a dial-up gateway to my pacbell.net account, so here I am, with my entire network running on a V.90 dial-up at 56K. Yeah, my websites are slow, and yeah, surfing is a bit slow, but email and RSS are working just fine, and everything is up. If you are reading this, you are reading it over a dial-up connection.
I knew Apple's wireless hubs were cool, but this is really cool. And it isn't even a feature I would have ever looked for or cared about until now. Excellent.
P.S. I have modified my page template to eliminate all unnecessary images. Not too bad, eh? Who knows, I might leave it this way. What do you think?
Poking around the 'net at 56K, here's what we find...
The Economist ponders America's One-Party State. "If you loathe political debate, join the faculty of an American university... Academia is simultaneously both the part of America that is most obsessed with diversity, and the least diverse part of the country." A great point, and well made. Some would say this is an IQ-driven thing (smarter people vote blue) but I would suggest a role-driven thing (people with skin in the game for red).
Ethan Zuckerman is looking for a name for 4.8B people! There are 800M people currently "on" the Internet, and then there is "the next billion". Which leaves 4.8B people which are neither currently "on" nor about to be. Check out the comment thread as well... My personal favorite is "The Unwired".
LGF reports French Winemakers are Whining. "'We are a sector in crisis,' said Jean-Michel Lemetayer, the head of France’s main farmer union, urging the state to bail out an industry awash in a sea of Chablis and Bordeaux. France’s wine industry, which employs about 500,000 people, says exports through Aug. 31 dropped by more than 5.5 percent in volume and 9.6 percent in value." Boo hoo. Interesting that they don't mention France's increasingly hostile relationship with the U.S., which is obviously a key factor.
This is great news: The Commercial Spaceflight Bill has passed! "Under this legislation, the FAA's role until 2012 will be to protect the uninvolved public on the ground, and allow passengers to ride as long as they've been properly informed of the related dangers." This will greatly reduce the liability of private spaceflight pioneers, reducing cost and making space tourism much more feasible.
AdAge has a terrific story Dissecting the wreckage of airline marketing disasters. "In retrospect, it's easy to see the fallacy of an all-forks strategy. But in the short term, many of these marketing moves increased revenues and profits. It's only in the long term, and in the presence of narrowly focused competition, does an all-forks strategy fall apart." This is a great analysis; why are Southwest and Jet Blue viable, yet United, American, and Delta are hovering on the brink of disaster? [ via Doc Searles, in a post titled "Customers to airlines, go fork yourself" ]
Oh my gosh - F.A.O.Schwarz is back! Too bad they're not bringing Zainy Brainy back with them. One of the few crummy things about shopping for Christmas this year has been doing it at Toys 'R' Us instead >:(
The new VoIP? Not voice, but video! Leading voice-over-IP providers Vonage and VoicePulse are both planning video-over-IP services. Excellent! That should finish off whatever is left of the analog phone companies... Apparently Vonage is introducing a $600 phone called the Videon (pictured at right); this seems like a high price point, but maybe it will be okay for early adopters.
Matt Haughey had a chance to try a hacked DirecTivo. "Once you've got a DirecTiVo on the network, you can use TiVoWebPlus as a front-end to add shows, sort recordings, and do some deep searching. Along with the included FTP and telnet, you can extend the basic toolkit in all sorts of ways. This is really exciting stuff, and the start of the perfect TiVo toolset I always dreamed of having."
Matt also interviews Margaret Schmidt, Tivo's Director of User Experience. Matt fails to ask the key question, how does Tivo balance the conflicting needs of their consumer users and their advertiser customers? I wonder what she thinks of displaying ads during fast-forwarding!
Oh, and here's a review of BeyondTV, a PC-based PVR from SnapStream which really seems to be as easy to use as a Tivo. Almost :) The screen shots look very nice, anyway.
And of course, Video Feeds Follow Podcasting. "We think of it internally as TiVocasting. It's one thing to have a bunch of video files dumped into a folder on your desktop. The interesting future is when it is put into a TiVo-style mechanism." Yep.
A boy and his dog - in space. By Floyd Darrin Perry, former Creative Director for Wired, who recently passed away...
Just a big dinghy? The Open Pro 60 looks like it, doesn't it? Amazing. Must be fun - and just a bit exciting, too. [ via The Horse's Mouth ]
Gerard Van Der Leun, The Name in the Stone. Great post, very moving.
Om Malik thinks the personal blog is dead. Um, not quite. Bloggers are terrific filters. The bigger the net gets, the more need there will be for filtering... [ via Scoble, who is a great filter himself ]
Heck, even Eliot Spitzer has a blog.
Finally, my DSL is down - boo! - maybe I should blame it on Christmas Lights?
So did you get snowed in? We don't get snow in Southern California, but it is finally feeling like winter; cold weather, brisk winds, and blowing yellow leaves everywhere. And Christmas lights! I love it.
There's a new Dutch princess! And Adam Curry reports her name - Catharina Amalia - was discovered by a reverse DNS lookup on the Dutch royal website. Is this a great time to be alive, or what!
I agree with King Kaufman a lot (he writes a sports column on Salon), but I don't link him much. However, today he bangs the nail through the wood: any way you look at it, USC belongs in the national championship game. I understand the BCS computer thing is what it is - no humans were involved - but three of the last four years it has messed up. Back to the polls!
Bonus question: If USC beats Michigan in the Rose Bowl, shouldn't they be #1?
Bonus answer: Yes.
Robert X. Cringley discusses e-voting: No Confidence Vote. He concludes that since e-voting is an IT project, of course it will be late, over budget, and buggy. This is a bit glib, but he does raise a good question, why don't voting machines keep a paper audit trail?
Oh, and the answer? Voting confidentiality. The only way a paper trail would help is if there were something to "balance" against. There's no database of people and their votes (and there won't be anytime soon!), which makes it tough.
From Princeton: Full Body Scan, Imaging Project Offers View Inside Earth. "Like doctors taking a sonogram of a human body, Princeton geoscientists have captured images of the interior of the Earth and revealed structures that help explain how the planet changes and ages." Very cool.
Astrobiology has an interview with Dan Werthimer, the project scientist behind SETI@home. There's some interesting news about BOINC, the generic distributed computing follow-on project.
Jeremy Zawodny's 2004 crystal ball looks great to me. "Yeah, we all know that RSS has been growing in popularity, thanks largely to weblogs. What will make 2004 different? In 2004, RSS is going to go mainstream--and it's going to happen in a big way." I agree. And I also agree with this: "Forget Atom/Pie/Echo/whatever. It will be RSS. RSS may not be perfect, but it's good enough. That train left the station quite a while ago." There's more besides RSS, check it out.
Oh, and Paul Boutin lists 10 Technologies That Have Changed the Way we Live. #1 is the Internet - duh - but interestingly #2 is genetic engineering. "An estimated 70 percent of processed foods contain genetically modified ingredients, such as soybeans or corn engineered for higher crop yields." I did not know that.
According to Les Jones, Star Wars Jedi are Pussies. "Maybe that's why I blew it with the queen. Padme's turned me down so many times I think I've become a bedsheet instead of just wearing one. These days I'd give anything to just be covered with fur. Because like the Young Senator from Naboo says 'Once you've had Wookie, you never go back'." I have to admit, a leash on those lightsabers would make sense :)
Mark Pilgrim discovers Cantor sets. And Sierpinsky carpets, and Menger sponges. "A Menger sponge has infinite surface area but 0 volume. Each face of a Menger sponge forms a Sierpinski carpet, and each cross-section diagonal of a Menger sponge forms a Cantor set." You might say there's an infinite set of possibilities :)
Oh, and here's more - check into the Infinite Hotel.
Dave Winer posted some awesome Jewish mother jokes. My favorite:
Q - How many Jewish mothers does it take to change a light bulb?
A - (Sigh) Don't bother, I'll sit in the dark, I don't want to be a nuisance.
And here we have - the iDuck. A new duck-shaped USB storage drive with 16MB of storage space that lights up when plugged into a computer. I am not making this up.
Correlation vs. Causality
The Tyranny of Email
Aperio's Mission = Automating Pathology
Try, or Try Not
Books and Wine
God and Beauty
Moving Mount Fuji
Rock 'n Roll
IQ and Populations
Are You a Bright?
The Joy of Craftsmanship
The Emperor's New Code
The Return of the King
Religion vs IQ
In the Wet
the big day
solving bongard problems
the nuclear option
estimating in meatspace
On the Persistence of Bad Design...
Texas chili cookoff
almost famous design and stochastic debugging
may I take your order?
New Yorker covers
Death Rider! (da da dum)
how did I get here (Mt.Whitney)?
the Law of Significance
Daniel Jacoby's photographs
the first bird
Gödel Escher Bach: Birthday Cantatatata
Father's Day (in pictures)
your cat for my car
Jobsnotes of note
world population map
no joy in Baker
where are the desktop apps?