Archive: December 5, 2022
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Archive: December 5, 2017
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Archive: December 5, 2015
Archive: December 3, 2014
Happy Birthday ... to me! Yep, I've just completed another trip around the sun. One of my most eventful, actually, and I can't wait to see what the next one will be like.
A quick checkpoint as I pass the finish line of another trip around the sun...
Mark Cuban's 12 rules for startups. Many of these are pretty cliche, but I like #12: Make the job fun for employees. As you know I think "fun" are the things which make you feel good about yourself, so this translates to make your employees' jobs make them feel good about themselves. A great goal.
Now on YouTube: Richard Feynman, no ordinary genius. Excellent.
A lot of people have Feynman stories, I have two. First, he played bongo drums at my parent's wedding. (My Dad was a postdoc at Caltech at the time, back in 1957.) Second, when I was a freshman at Caltech, Feynman was still there but no longer actively teaching. One day everyone was notified the next freshman physics lecture will not be in the usual room, instead, it will be in <the largest teaching theater at the school>. The rumors began ... Feynman is giving a guest lecture! Sure enough, he was. The room was filled, not only with undergraduates but with graduates and postdocs and professors and administrators. He was a *great* speaker; interesting, funny, and enthusiastic. His subject was Special Relativity, and walking out of the two hour lecture I actually felt that for the first time I *truly* understood this arcane concept, not only enough to solve test problems, but enough to think about it. That feeling passed quickly and by the next day I was back to mere mortal status as a physics student, but I'll never forget that feeling of epiphany. He was most definitely no ordinary genius.
The super simple phone hack that will transform your productivity. Spoiler: turn off notifications. Seems ... hmmm ... that I've heard that advice before, somewhere...
Seth Godin has a new book out: What to do when it's your turn. "This is an urgent call to do the work we're hiding from, a manifesto about living with things that might not work and embracing tension when doing your art." Cool! Cannot wait to read it...
Onward, let the next trip begin...
Archive: December 4, 2013
Archive: December 5, 2012
Archive: December 5, 2011
Archive: December 5, 2010
Okay, you're sitting down, and you're not holding any sharp objects, right? And not drinking any hot liquids? Good.
I am impressed with the improvements made by United Airlines.
I fly a lot, and the past couple of years have strongly prefered "new" airlines like Virgin and Jet Blue. Everything about these airlines seems better; their planes, their seats, the inside-the-plane experience, WiFi, food, their reseveration websites, customer service, etc.
But of course I end up flying "old" airlines a lot too, because they have the routes, and I most often end up flying United. And so it was that on my recent trip to Chicago and New York - originally booked on Jet Blue - I had to rebook at the last minute, and ended up on United. And ... well ... it was great! Their website was great - it showed me all the choices, cleanly, including - and this is a longstanding complaint of mine - how I could use miles to upgrade. They have a spiffy facility for boarding passes on your phone - see Pre screenshot at left. There was plenty of room on the plane, and WiFi, and [working] power at my seat. And (can you believe) the food was good; I had a nice "tapas", a chicken wrap, etc., and plenty of diet cokes whenever I wanted.
Who knew? United rock.
Rounding out my extended birthday, tonight we had a "family" dinner, with an absolutely excellent steak, mashed potatoes, and roasted vegetables (including - gasp! - Brussels Sprouts). Accompanied by a wonderful 2007 Carlson Pinot Noir (Santa Rita Hills - BTW I must tell you, every year 'they' say 'this is the best year since 1997', but I really think 2007 *is* the best year since 1997; the Santa Barbara Pinots in particular are amazing).
Which leads me to introduce my saying of the month: Age improves with wine. Indeed. I am now 52, but I've switched to hexadecimal so this is 34. And I *feel* 34. I am determined to spend the next year acting 34, too.
This was my favorite birthday card :) I am getting some gray hair, and Shirley assures me it makes me look distinguished - and cute. So be it.
Archive: December 5, 2009
this one has been great, I'd have one every month
(I am considering alternate celestial events, an Earth orbit around the Sun is so conventional.)
Archive: December 5, 2008
Today was the most beautiful day outside, so naturally I spent it inside, debugging code, and peering out the window. I did get in a short ride which was long enough to discover it was colder than it looked :) Tonight we have a nice dinner planned to celebrate my birthday (this just goes on and on, doesn't it?) and tomorrow I am riding a 200K, Magoo's Ride to Mugu, my first long ride in two months. I'm really looking forward to it. (And after the ride, we get to watch USC dismantle UCLA to secure a rose bowl berth; I'm really looking forward to that, too :)
Meanwhile, it's all happening...
Cal Study: Poor Kids Lack Brain Development. Here we have a classic case of mixing up correlation with causality. A new study shows a correlation between kids' brain development and their economic stratum. Naturally the liberal media (who have been carefully coached never to imply that people are different) assume the causality is from the economic stratum to the brain development. But does that really make sense? Let's turn this around; imagine a group of smart people, and a group of dumb people. Turn them loose in the world, who is going to make more money? Ahem. And who is going to have smarter kids? Ahem. And later, when a study is done, which way should the causality run? Really the headline should read: Cal Study: Kids who Lack Brain Development are Poor. Sigh.
I love this Trek commercial: We Believe in Bikes. The mantra of the cyclist. I love it.
l’Hydroptère’s new record ratified by the WSSRC, 46.88 knots over 500 meters. "l’Hydroptère has bettered her own record and has become the fastest sailing boat on the planet over 500 meters and one nautical mile. The WSSRC, the British decision-making organization concerning records, ratified yesterday l’Hydroptère’s latest performance. On 13th November, while training on the speed base at Port-Saint-Louis-du-Rhône, Alain Thébaut and his crew took advantage of the favourable weather conditions to beat their time and establish a new record over 500 meters." Wow. You must click through and view the video to really appreciate how fast that is over water.
Seth Godin: How to answer the phone. "The only reason to answer the phone when a customer calls is to make the customer happy. If you’re not doing this or you are unable to do this, do not answer the phone. There is no middle ground on this discussion... Saving 50 cents a call with a complicated phone tree is a false savings." I so agree with this. [ via John Gruber, who does too... ]
CNN reports: A year later, Amazon's Kindle finds a niche. Boy I'll say it does, it is the iPod of books, for sure; I [still] love mine. I've completely transitioned to reading from my Kindle instead of reading books, the form factor is actually better for reading at night, and of course much better on airplanes etc. because it is smaller than 200 books :)
This is awesome: Hawaii makes electric car part of green power initiative. This is another huge Better Place installation; the other day California announced a plan for Better Place coverage also. I don't know if they're going to be successful, but they're certainly giving themselves a chance. They'll have sufficient scale for the economics to start working.
Paul Graham: The high-res society. "An ambitious kid graduating from college now doesn't want to work for a big company. They want to work for the hot startup that's rapidly growing into one. If they're really ambitious, they want to start it." This is absolutely true.
It reminds me of a story told by my friend Paul Fiore who founded Digital Insight; one day he was sitting around with friends talking about their ambitions, and someone said "I want to own Jets season tickets", and Paul said, "I want to own the Jets" :)
Cult of Mac asks Did you know your iPod Touch is a phone? No, actually, I didn't know that... so you need the Apple premium earphones which include a microphone, and you need VoIP software from Truphone. Oh, and you need to have a WiFi connection. I wonder if this is a dancing bear, or actually useful. I'll have to try it - stay tuned...
Zooillogix: Thousands of new species discovered on tiny island. "An expedition to a tiny island in the South Pacific's Republic of Vanatu has yielded hundreds of new species, including possibly 1000 new species of crab. 153 scientists from 20 countries participated in the survey of Espiritu Santo in the South Pacific, scouring caves, mountains, reefs, shallows, and forests collecting species. Out of over 10,000 species collected, the researchers are predicting that as many as 2000 may be previously unknown to the scientific community." Awesome! Check out those pictures, they're amazing...
Interesting story from Slate: Inside the world's most annoying economic crisis. Apparently there is a perceived shortage of coins in Argentina, such that a 1-peso coin is worth more than a 2-peso note. And the shortage is only perceived, despite the fact that "everyone" is convinced there is a shortage, there really isn't. Just shows how the value of currency is determined by confidence, not intrinsic worth...
An excellent picture of a giant ship carrying a giant radar platform, found on Digg with the title "Massive". Indeed it is.
The Astronomy Picture of the Day: Happy Sky over L.A. The Happy comes from the smiley face made by Jupiter, Venus, and the Moon, but it could equally apply to anyone standing on Mulholland Blvd looking at that view. I've seen it many times, but it is none the less breathtaking.
Archive: December 5, 2007
Archive: December 5, 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 5, 2004
So - I am just now on negative time working on two projects, and haven't even made time for reading blogs, let alone posting (SharpReader is already backed up with hundreds of unread items, sigh). Please stay tuned, regularly scheduled programming will resume "shortly".
I have now been blogging "daily" for nearly two years. (No snickering about that four month gap, please.) My daily viewership is about 500 people, who generate about 2,000 page views. Of them, about 350 are people who have previously visited at least three times. Plus, I now get over 2,000 requests for my RSS feed every day, and since my feed contains full item content a goodly percentage of these people are not web visitors. All this is so excellent, I thank you all.
Because of all you guys out there, whenever I have any gap in posting I always get a few emails asking if everything is okay, and when I'll resume. It isn't quite like the LATimes forgetting to put out an edition, but inquiring minds want to know.
So now you know.
Oh, and not to mention, my kids gave me Myst Revelation for my birthday - thanks! - and I can't wait to play it, only the real world is intruding...
Archive: December 2, 2003
Shirley and I have some parties coming up - my birthday, a dinner party, and an open house - and so we have to pick wines. I visited our local cheaper-than-dirt wine distributor (Wade's Wines), and picked eight possible chardonnays, in the range $5-$30 per bottle. I also threw in a known-to-be-good $50 bottle for comparison, and we did a blind tasting. Hey, it's hard work throwing parties :)
Tasting Chardonnay Blind
The results were amazing. I totally mis-called which wines I thought I'd like. My personal favorite going in was the 2001 Forman ($30), which ended up dead last. This is why you have to taste blind.
Remarkably, Shirley and I had similar tasting notes. We both found one wine to be the clear pick of the bunch - the 2001 Peters ($25). I promise you, this is a great Chardonnay. Our third favorite was a South African wine, the 2002 Graham Beck, which at $9 is a great bottle. And the cheapest wine of the bunch, the 1997 Chateau Woltner ($5), finished a respectable sixth, ahead of the expensive "benchmark", the 2000 Kistler ($50).
Here are the results, your mileage may vary:
- 2001 Peters Family, Napa Valley ($25)
Rich and smooth, with a wonderful nose and long vanilla finish. What can I say, this was a great Chardonnay. Yum!
- 1999 Thunder Mountain, Napa Valley ($20)
Lighter than the Peters, but very sound. Nicely balanced with full body. Shirley thought it would be better with food than by itself.
- 2000 Graham Beck, South Africa ($9)
A delightful surprise, nice and smooth, with full rich flavor. Kind of an exotic finish. It is always fun to find an inexpensive wine from "somewhere else" which is such a delight.
- 2000 Gary Farrel, Alexander Valley ($25)
A rich buttery chard, maybe a little unbalanced. Great nose. Gary Farrel is pretty reliable, and this was really nice. Plus, they have beautiful labels.
- 2001 Muir Hanna Estate, Napa Valley ($20)
Austere and complex, a little dry, but overall nicely balanced. Nice nose with a slightly bitter finish. This grew on me, I rated it higher on each pass. Maybe needed more time to air out...
- 1997 Chateau Woltner, Napa Valley ($5)
A lighter wine, clean and smooth and dry. Not rich enough to stand up to food, but a nice "sitting around and drinking" wine. And at this price, get a few cases!
- 2000 Kistler Les Noisetiers, Napa Valley ($50)
Probably not ready, seemed unbalanced and dull. Not much nose and slightly bitter finish. I'm a big fan of Kistler, this was a disappointment. Might be better later but so what.
- 2000 Muir Hanna Estate, Napa Valley ($20)
Thin and grassy, too much citrus. Lemon nose, weak finish. Way worse than the '01, not even remotely the same.
- 2001 Forman, Napa Valley ($30)
Just completely disappointing, thin, acidy, and unbalanced. Bitter finish. I picked Forman to win based on past history, but so be it. That's why you taste.
If you want to try this at home, here's how you do it. Person A uncorks the bottles, and wraps them in foil. Each bottle is given a letter (via a little sticky note), and Person A writes down the names of the wines and their letters. Next fold the paper so only the letters are visible. Then Person B removes the letter labels and at random assigns each bottle a number (via a little sticky note), writing each bottle's number next to the letter it replaced. Now you taste, and each person makes notes on the bottles by their numbers. Neither person knows which bottle goes with which number.
Some people like to compare notes as they compare wines. Shirley and I typically each make a pass without sharing our thoughts with each other, then make a second pass comparing notes.
Remember to have crackers, bland cheese, bread, and water handy for "cleansing the palate". Each person needs several glasses for comparison purposes. And remember you don't have to drink a lot! You can taste wines without swallowing... Of course you can, if you want to. Somehow our favorite, the 2001 Peters, was nearly gone by the time we were done.
Tasting Chardonnay, the unveiling...
Yeah, it's hard work, but somebody has to do it :)
Bad things happening on my hard drive, I'm crossing my fingers and performing other pagan rituals...
A couple of visitors suggested gently that I was out of my mind for agreeing with godless' thoughts on fashion. The gist of their objection was that it is bad to judge women by their external beauty, and shallow to consider overweight women ugly. Hey, it is what it is. Bad or good, men judge women by their beauty, and shallow or deep, overweight women are unattractive. Deal with it.
Cory Doctorow considers the "Analog Hole", and big media's efforts to plug it. "The second section [of the MPAA's Content Protection Status Report], 'Plugging the Analog Hole,' reveals Hollywood's plan to turn a generic technology component, the humble analog-to-digital converter, into a device that is subject to the kind of regulation heretofore reserved for Schedule A narcotics." Not good. I can't believe these people actually believe they can put the digital genie back in the bottle. [ via John Robb ]
YAMPA, from Wired. (Yet another micropayments article.) Will BitPass and PepperCoin supplant PayPal. No. The way is shut.
Joel Spolsky hits another nail on the head: Craftsmanship. "It comes down to an attribute of software that most people think of as craftsmanship. When software is built by a true craftsman, all the screws line up." This is what I strive for, every day. Lining up those screw heads...
At Slashdot a post linked this Christies auction of a 2,000 year-old 20-sided die, known to D&D gamers as a "D20". This is an icosahedran, a regular solid with 20 equilateral triangular faces. These fascinating objects have five-fold symmetry with edges forming regular pentagons. So I have to ask - what is the plane section with the greatest area?
Scoble discusses the state of Tablet PCs. "I think the problem is that most people buy on screen size and quality and the truth is that Tablets look weak when compared to a 15-inch high resolution monitor." That nails it for me. Give me a high-resolution screen (like that found on my laptop), and sure, I'd be interested. In 2003 nobody settles for 1024x768 anymore.
Matt Haughey reviews the Gateway connected DVD Player. "Overall, I'd rate this unit very highly as a capable network media device. With a simple setup and easy operation, it was painless to use all the files from my PC on my home entertainment center over the wireless network." There are going to be more and more of these things, until finally a network connection becomes a must-have feature.
And a big part of every home will be their media server. The Mirra is out, billed as the "first truly personal server". Among other things, it can be set to automatically backup and synchronize files from all the computers in your house. I wish I had this :\
Here's a cool new group blog: Blogging L.A. No RSS feed, yet. [ via Xeni Jardin, who comments "and then, in an unguarded moment, they loosened their standards and let me in" ]
Wired thinks Secret Energy Haunts Coral Castle. Check out the Coral Castle website. A friend who's seen it firsthand says it really is pretty amazing, especially the 25' lensless Polaris telescope, constructed from a 30-ton coral slab (see pic at right). Even if it wasn't done with some secret energy source :)
I'll leave you with the Wired Geek Gift Guide. A lot of terrific stuff here, for the geek on your list, or if you happen to be a geek, for your own list!
this date in:
Correlation vs. Causality
The Tyranny of Email
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
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?
still the first bird