Critical Section

Archive: August 20, 2017


Archive: August 20, 2016


Archive: August 16, 2015

filter pass

Sunday,  08/16/15  09:36 PM

on the road to Jalama BeachHmmm, so after politics and space, what else is going on?

Today I took a nice little ride from Gaviota to Jalama Beach.  This skirts the famous Hollister Ranch property, a vast private property along the California Coast spanning Point Conception.  Was a great ride up and down and around some amazing land.  Just when you think we're overpopulated, you realize ... we're not even.

BTW the New Yorker recently ran a story by Dave Eggers ("The Circle") about The Actual Hollister.  Apparently Eggers thought the famous Abercrombie & Fitch brand was named after a little town in the Central Valley, also called Hollister, and neither he nor his editors thought to Google and discover Hollister Ranch.  Remember that the next time you believe anything you read in the New Yorker.

Brazilian owlInhabitat reports Santos, Brazil is bringing attention to biodiversity with birdwatching street guides.  Excellent, but even more excellent is this picture of an owl.  Hehe.  Have to look at things from all angles, right?

The unexpected benefits of allowing the mind to wander and zone out...  perhaps an important part of the joy of cycling?

world's coolest watches - a must watch :)Here we have a compilation of the world's most incredible watch mechanisms.  Want!  There are all so much cooler than any smartwatch, right?  I honestly can't pick a favorite but I do very much like the one pictured here...

And so Google have split themselves into their search business (aka their real business), and everything else (aka their R&D), under an umbrella company called Alphabet.  Seems like it makes sense, and I doubt very much it has anything to do with keeping talent.  I found this interesting: "We liked the name Alphabet because it means a collection of letters that represent language, one of humanity’s most important innovations, and is the core of how we index with Google search!"  Hmmm... but what about in the future, when most search is visual search? :)

CurrentC may not launch until next year.  So be it.  Here's a doubly self-contradictory sentance: "Certainly going faster is always better - that’s not necessarily a debatable point. But we’re going to do it right.John Gruber comments:  "Where by 'we’re going to do it right', he means 'we are doing it all wrong'."


Archive: August 19, 2014

our Curiosity

Tuesday,  08/19/14  10:07 PM


Our Curiosity is a nice video by Caltech narrated by Neal deGrasse Tyson,
celebrating NASA's Curiosity Rover (which was designed and made for NASA by Caltech's JPL)

One of the most successful and influential unmanned spacecraft (robots) of all time. 
So cool



Archive: August 20, 2013


Archive: August 20, 2012


Archive: August 20, 2011

Cool Breezin

Saturday,  08/20/11  08:57 PM

Rode the Cool Breeze Double Metric today, wow, did I feel horrible. Got off to a good start riding with my fellow CVCers, but was dropped after less than 20M and struggled after that, fighting an upset stomach, saddle sores, hotfoot, and a general unwillingness to ride. Blech. Today was a bad day, tomorrow will be better.

Just a few pics...

Ventura River bike path, early in the ride, when I could still smile

CVC paceline powering through Ojai

the Ventura River burbles along...



Saturday,  08/20/11  09:04 PM

my original KindleWeekend!  Filter pass!  Yay!

I have been seriously enjoying reading on my Kindle.  No, not my Kindle 2, which I use all the time, my Kindle 1, which I lost and replaced.  There is a beautiful asymmetrical weirdness to this device which is quite compelling.  I'm rereading the Hornblowers, if you must know :)

Hitler finds out HP killed WebOSHitler finds out HP killed WebOS.  One of the better Downfall mixups ever, amid heavy competition.

So ... I complain about MSDN magazine quite a lot but there were a couple of articles in the most recent edition which were quite good; an introduction to HTML5, first of a useful series, and an overview of particle swarm optimization, an interesting iterative technique for finding approximate solutions to multi-dimensional optimization problems.  Nice.  So, I'll keep reading :)

AC45s showcase high tech sailboat technologyCool to see this coverage so mainstream, in Wired: America's Cup racers push sailboats to their limits.  "The next America's Cup will 'meet the expectations of the Facebook generation, not the Flintstone generation.'"  That's great, but my favorite AC of all time was the old 12 meters off Freemantle.  That was racing.

Bolero Flashmob in Copenhagen Central StationA Flash Mob at Copenhagen Central Station plays Bolero.  Cool!  Via ESR, who says it is a Flash at the heart of the West.


Archive: August 20, 2010

I'm baack!

Friday,  08/20/10  11:21 PM

Yay, back home, finally, after another long week on the road again...

Unexpected.  "The seemingly-endless parade of bad economic news, which time after time is described in the press as 'unexpected.' Apparently it is always a surprise when left-wing economic policies don't work. It happened again today, with the announcement that new unemployment claims rose to a nine-month high of 500,000."  It would be funnier if it wasn't our lives.

guy goes into a bar, there's a robot bartender...Guy goes into a bar, there's a robot bartender.  "So, you still happy you voted for Obama?"  It would be funnier if...

Q: Will Barack Obama be a one-term President?  A: Yes, he might last that long.

Union member fired for attempting to unionize union's employees.  I am not making this up.

Kindle and iPad displaysKindle and iPad displays, up close and personal.  Not only is the resolution on the Kindle better - as shown in these 400X pictures - but the contrast is *way* better, especially in bright light.  No comparison, really.

More on P ≠ NP: inside everybody's favorite million dollar math proof.  I love that everyone knows P ≠ NP, but proving it appears to be NP :)

rise of the MAMILs (middle aged men in lycra)The Rise of the MAMILs.  (Middle-aged men in lycra.)  "Flashy sports cars are out, now no mid-life crisis is complete without a souped-up road bike."  Very cool, and I love my bike, but I disagree that flashy sports cars are out :)

I have to pronounce my upgrade reload to Win 7 64-bit a success.  Everything is *faster*, and no babies died.  Woo hoo.

This is so funny, remember I told you my Mom was the only person I knew who used their iPad?  Well Bloomberg reports the iPad leads Apple to the elderly.  Probably not the main market but how cool is that?

Wired: the Web is deadWired: The Web is dead.  They must be desperate for circulation, this is the dumbest thing ever.  From the magazine that ran The Long Tail too.

bike shop with 120 bikes on the facadePicture of the week: A bike shop with 120 bikes on their facade.  I love it!  A sure-fire way of attracting MAMILs :)


no arms, no legs ... no worries

Friday,  08/20/10  11:41 PM

This you must see...

no arms, no legs ... no worries

Unbelieveable.  And incredibly inspiring!


Bowling for Tchaikovsky

Friday,  08/20/10  11:46 PM

Tonight we were guests of our friends Mike and Liz who took us to see the L.A. Philharmonic's Tchaikovsky Spectacular at the Hollywood Bowl.  It was indeed spectacular; the entire experience, including the ambiance, eating in their box (lobster salad!), the music itself - violin soloist Baiba Skride was awesome! - and of course the finale, featuring the 1812 Overture, the USC Trojan bands' brass section, fireworks, and yes of course cannon fire.  You can't get much more spectacular than that!

violin soloist Baiba Skride with conductor Bramwell Tovey
violinist Baida Skride with conductor Bramwell Tovey

Conductor Bramwell Tovey was magnificent, coaxing an energetic Capriccio Italien from the staid Phil, and then a rather peaceful and dreamy Swan Lake, before the excitement of the 1812 Overture finale.  Tovey's remarks to the crowd were delightful, about the trombone fanfare at the end he remarked "it is rather hard to ignore them, but I find it is worth the effort".

1812 Overture featuring fireworks, the USC Trojan bands' brass section, and cannon fire
the Bowl in full regalia; USC Trojan brass, L.A.Phil, fireworks, and cannon fire

A great evening and a wonderful example of a uniquely Los Angeles tradition...


Archive: August 17, 2009

I'm just a singer in rock band

Monday,  08/17/09  09:24 PM

Rock Band 2So last weekend while staying with friends in Montecito, I sang in a rock band.  Which is to say, they had the Rock Band video game, and we all grabbed the "instruments", and I ended up singing.  I blame the Sea Smoke Pinot, under which influence I will do most anything. 

So yes, there I was, singing to the Sweet's Ballroom Blitz, full gas: "ready Steve?, ah ha, Andy?, yeah, Mick?, okay, all right fellows... let's GOOOO", "and the man in the back said everyone attack and it turned into a ballroom blitz", "she thinks SHE'S THE PASSIONATE ONE".  It was pretty ugly, and pretty excellent.

Oh yeah we did some Black Sabbath and some Jethro Tull and even Edgar Winter.  Sadly, I do know all those lyrics, and sadly, I did belt them out at full volume.  Let me just say that I'm glad no recording exists.


my next bike

Monday,  08/17/09  10:09 PM

I have found my next bike.  It is made out of wood, by Renovo, and you tell me this isn't gorgeous:

Renovo R4

Stiff, light, smooth riding...  a perfect frame.  And you know this is going to turn heads wherever you go...  I cannot wait to get one.  I finally have found the right "next bike".  [ via Inhabitat ]


Monday,  08/17/09  10:27 PM

Off to bed, busy day and busier week ahead... but first a teeny bit of blogging...

the social media relationship diagramA perfect description of the current state of "social media", via Doc Searles.  "You’ll notice that blogging isn’t in the diagram.  I bring that up because I think there is a difference between the social media in the Venn diagram and blogging, and that difference is akin to that between weather and geology."  Bangs the nail directly on the head.

Arthur Brooks explains Why Obama's Ratings are Sinking.  "Citizens will put up with a lot - but not with anyone who imperils our future. There is practically nothing that lowers American happiness more than taking away our faith in a better tomorrow."  That's it exactly, it isn't bad enough that his programs aren't working, they're going to hurt us for a long time.

505 planing to weather on San Francisco BayAn awesome shot of a 505 planing to weather on San Francisco Bay, from the Horse's Mouth.  Thank you :)

Great news: the Palm OS App Catalog is now open for submissions.  Stand by for a flood of Web OS apps! :)

Galileo's Armillary Sphere (astolabe) from 1578I love this: Galileo's Armillary Sphere (aka Astrolabe) from 1578.  "At the center of this instrument sits a globe representing the earth. The bands around it pivot on a common center and illustrate the paths of the sun and moon, known planets and important stars."  Of course Galileo's observations were central to discrediting the theory that the Earth was the center of the universe.

Ted Dzuiba makes a great point: Context Switches are Bad, but Stack Traces are Worse.  "The danger here is when you're six or seven levels deep into yak-shaving, and your manager wants to know what you're doing and why."  Fortunately as a manager I understand this, and can accept a high-level summary.  I do think it is good to know what's going on, just to prevent infinite recursion and stack overflows :)

ZooBorn: Piping Plover chickToday's ZooBorn is another cute chick: a little Piping Plover.  Cheers!


Archive: August 20, 2008

colored water

Wednesday,  08/20/08  11:19 PM


colorful blue lake colorful green lake
colorful red lake colorful orange lake

The 25 most colorful lakes on Earth.  Wow.  That's just about all I can say...


Wednesday,  08/20/08  11:32 PM

I am feeling Olympic tonight...  still enjoying it...  I love the uncertainty of the track events.  Sure, Usain Bolt was going to win (or was he?), but you just never know when someone will touch a hurdle, or get a slow start (or drop the baton!), or just get beaten by a virtual unknown, and poof, four years of work are gone in an instant.  Sport and especially track and field is a contrived, distilled microcosm of life.  Maybe that's why we like it?

In this connection I have to ask, how badly do we feel about Beijing's fakeness?  Sports Illustrated has an article about the lengths to which China have gone to hide reality and project a "clean, well-lighted place".  We all know about the coverup, even if we don't know exactly what is being covered up.  But how important is that?  Is the goal of the Olympics to learn the reality of the host city and country?  Or is it to experience something which is essentially artificial, this massive sporting event, given that sports themselves are a contrived, distilled microcosm of life?

Olga Korbut backflipA little more on the Olympics; Jason Kottke thinks "One of the best ways to watch the Olympics is to chase down all the references made by NBC's commentators on YouTube and watch them".  He's right; watching those old routines by Nadia Comanici (age 14), Olga Korbut, etc. is really eye-opening.  (Olga's backflip on the uneven bars [right] remains for me the single most enduring memory of Olympic gymnastics.)  They weren't as athletic as today's competitors, but the style was amazing.

Parenthetically, YouTube is amazing.  Anything you can think of - anything at all - is there.  A perfect extension to the magic of Google.

Robert Weintraub remembers when decathletes were cool.  Some people like me still think they're cool, but I agree it is no longer the marquee sport of the Olympics.  I think that happened when the U.S. athletes no longer dominated :)

You might enjoy this interesting debate between Glenn Loury and John McWhorter discussing McCain and Obama at the Saddleback Forum.  A pretty balanced analysis; that was a pretty valuable showcase for both candidates, I think.  [ via Instapundit ]

Looks like Rudy Giulani will be the keynote speaker at the Republican convention.  So be it.  Meanwhile Arnold might not make it; he's too busy fighting fires metaphorically back in California.  If he doesn't it will be too bad; I really enjoyed his speech at the 2004 convention...

Jason Kottke notes fake restaurant wins wine award.  "I named the restaurant "Osteria L'Intrepido" (a play on the name of a restaurant guide series that I founded, Fearless Critic). I submitted the fee ($250), a cover letter, a copy of the restaurant's menu (a fun amalgamation of somewhat bumbling nouvelle-Italian recipes), and a wine list. Osteria L'Intrepido won the Award of Excellence, as published in print in the August 2008 issue of Wine Spectator."  Given my own experience with the reliability of such reviews (basically, they are useless) this does not surprise me.



Archive: August 20, 2007


Archive: August 9, 2006

the inflection point

Wednesday,  08/09/06  11:23 PM

Friends, colleagues, blog visitors, lend me your eyes...

Tonight I had a weird and moving experience which I wanted to share.  Here’s the message: life is short, and you should enjoy each day as if it were your last, because you never know what will happen.

As you may know I live in Westlake Village, CA, about 140 miles northwest of my office in Vista, CA, and hence I have a rather long commute.  I’ve been driving down to Vista at least once a week for nearly five years now, and it really isn’t bad; I enjoy the drive time as a quiet time for reflection and planning.  In those five years I’ve seen my share of accidents but fortunately I’ve avoided any myself and have had only a few annoying near misses (knocking on wood).  However, tonight as I was traveling home from the office I had the experience of seeing three entirely separate horrible fatal accidents.  I didn’t see any of them happen, but in each case I was close enough that emergency vehicles were still arriving as I sat in traffic behind them.

The first was a big truck which jackknifed across the center divider just South of the border control station in Camp Pendleton, smashing at least two other cars in the process.  The second was a three car accident where the 73 joins the 405, seemingly caused by a car ramming the end of a guardrail and subsequently bursting into flame.  The third was a car which ran into the center divider of the 405 in the Sepulveda Pass (north of L.A.), and then bounced across five lanes of traffic before ramming a hillside and flipping, spinning and smashing at least three other cars as it did so.  Each accident was worse than the previous, and seeing all three in sequence was a spooky and sobering experience.

It occurred to me that ordinary people like you and me died in these accidents, within minutes of the time I passed them.  They got up that morning living their day per usual, going about their business, with no idea at all that this day was going to be their last.  If they had known, maybe they would have kissed their kids a little longer, or hugged their dogs, or been nicer to their colleagues in email.  Maybe they would have made a donation to a charity, or spent time in their backyard enjoying the sun.  Or coded an amazing piece of software :)

I don’t want to be too sappy about this, but for me this really was an “inflection point”.  The memory of that drive is going to stay with me, and I’m going to try to live each day as if it were my last, because you just never know.


Archive: August 14, 2005

losing something

Sunday,  08/14/05  09:08 AM

I had a random thought last night which I thought I'd share.  There is a visceral human reaction to losing something.  People never ever want to give up something they feel they already have.  This is not a cold logical calculation, even if you give people something which is way more valuable than the thing you're taking away, they hesitate.  (This is why FREE is the most powerful word in marketing :)

The idea of accumulating "stuff" must have hit early on in the evolution of humans.  Anthropologists tell us we were herders, and [probably] harem-based, and both of these imply possession.  Intelligence may have evolved so we could evaluate trades.  Anyway however it happened, it is now true; we are materialistic.  Any human society which has attempted to deny this has failed, and the human society which is most successful is the United States, which celebrates materialism and features it as a core value.  One of the first things that must happen to transform a failed state is some sort of rule of law, including some rights to personal possession.

Losing something doesn't only mean losing an object, it can also mean losing a right, such as freedom.  And losing rights provokes even more of a reaction than losing objects.  Tell someone they can't do something, especially something they could do yesterday, and you are going to get strong resistance.

The implications of this for businesses are significant, especially those targeting consumers.  Any product or service which trades one thing for another is going to have tough sledding compared to a product or service which gives you something for nothing.

Media companies are finding this out the hard way.  Consumers do not want products with strings attached.  They are used to buying something, and owning it, and having complete freedom to do with it what they want.  Any kind of restriction is taking that freedom away, and is going to piss people off.  It isn't just that they won't buy the product or service - although they won't - it's that they're actually going to be insulted and angry.  Look at the way consumers have reacted to DRM.  ("You mean I buy it, but then I can't do what I want with it?")

Consumers don't do a logical calculation and say, okay, I get it, I pay you $X and get Y product with Z strings attached.  No.  They say, no way, if I give you $X for Y product I expect zero strings attached.  Don't take my freedom!  I hate losing something!


175 505s!

Sunday,  08/14/05  10:12 AM

From Sailing Anarchy, a great blog (which unfortunately does not have permalinks):

Is this the largest fleet for a World Championship?  175 505's are registered for the CSC 2005 505 World Championship in Warnemunde, Germany!  And yes, they will all be racing on the same course, at the same time.  Team USA is 10 boats strong, and I think it's noteworthy that Howie Hamlin and Cam Lewis are sailing together again, with a combined age of about 100!  On the other side of the spectrum, California high school sailing phenom, Parker Shim, has bought a boat and will also be competing.

Can you even imagine 175 505s on one start line?  Good thing they use a rabbit start.  I would not bet against Howard and Cam, man, what an all-star team!

505 start - watch the rabbit!

A 505 start
The boat on port tack is "the rabbit", everyone else starts on starboard and must duck the rabbit.
Typically the rabbit is the boat which finished 10th in the previous race.

I sailed in the 505 worlds at Kingston, Ontario, back in 1990.  "Only" about 100 boats.  We sailed our asses off and finished about 40th.  I really think boat-for-boat the 505 fleet is the strongest in the world.  If you win the 505 worlds, you're my hero.


Archive: August 20, 2004


Archive: August 20, 2003

Wednesday,  08/20/03  06:33 PM

Kim Jong IISlate discusses How Kim Lost the Russians.  "In the latest sign that the North Korean nuclear crisis might be on the verge of settlement, Russia has embarked on a joint, 10-day naval exercise with South Korea and Japan."  Let's hope for the sake of the North Korean people that Kim loses the Chinese, too, as soon as possible.

Think blogs are a backwater?  WP reports Bush Campaign Reaching Out to Bloggers.  And no, this is not a fad...  I agree with Dave Winer that blogging is going to play a very important part in the 2004 elections...

Speaking of blogging, Bill Whittle has posted a new essay on Responsibility.  As usual I recommend you read it immediately, and savor.

CNN quotes Arnold:  "We must immediately attack the operating deficit head-on.  Now, does this mean that we are going to make cuts?  Yes.  Does this mean education is on the table?  No.  Does this mean I'm willing to raise taxes?  No."  Easier said than done, but at least he's saying it.

ABC reports Ocean Sponge May Be Best for Fiber Optics.  "Scientists say they have identified an ocean sponge living in the darkness of the deep sea that grows thin glass fibers capable of transmitting light better than industrial fiber optic cables used for telecommunication."  Now that is cool.  I keep saying it, but what an awesome time to be alive (as a nerd, that is!)

NYTimes says In Los Angeles, Strip Mall Food is Cool.  Hey, in LA everything is cool :)

The parody site is back on the air, after a redesign which they claim dodges the legal claims previously made by to get them to take it down.  I have a feeling this is temporary - the site is still pretty - so you might want to check it out now while you can.

The Onion: I have an iPod in my mind.  "Thirty gigabytes?  So what?  I know 7,500 songs, maybe more.  Some songs, I forget I even have until they come around on shuffle."  Very apropos to yesterday's Rock 'n Roll postOkay, so everyone has an iPod in their mind, and why is it more fun to listen to music externally than internally? This is a very interesting question!

The market is smarter than the analysts department; yesterday I bemoaned the fact that whenever Intuit announces its fourth quarter results (always a loss), analysts and editors report it as a loss, instead of relative to the loss the previous year and in the context of the full-year numbers (always a tidy profit).  So, today the shares traded up nicely and closed 3% higher.  The people who own Intuit know more about it then the reporters.  Of course.

USB coffee warmerYou knew USB was handy, right?  Ah, but did you know you could get a USB coffee warmer?  I didn't think so.  Unfortunately, according to this review its performance is, er, lukewarm...  [ via Gizmodo ]

hummingbird nestCheck out these pictures of a Hummingbird Nest.  Man, are they cute or what?  { Hummingbirds fly differently from other birds, their wings are different, etc.  They actually fly a lot more like large insects.  A typical hummingbird flaps their wings 50 times/second! }  [ via Boing Boing, in a post titled "Hot Chicks" :) ]


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?