Critical Section

Archive: April 25, 2016

points of view

Monday,  04/25/16  10:30 PM

points of viewI'm been ruminating on points of view.  Everyone knows that people see things differently, but is that because they literally see the same thing and perceive it differently (sometimes) or are they viewing the same thing but seeing something different ... because they have a different point of view.  A lot of the work in understanding something is moving to different / better points of view.  So if you want to know a lot, you have to move around :)

If you're wondering "how could anyone ever support X", where X is one of the current presidential candidates, consider their point of view.  They are probably seeing different things than you are, rather than perceiving the same things differently.

Try ... if you can ... playing the "under the skin" game.  The other person is usually more rational than you thought, and you are often less rationale when seen from another person's point of view.

Tesla gigafactory as seen by a droneSpeaking of points of view, here we have the Tesla Gigafactory as seen from a drone.  Wow.  It's hard to comprehend just how large this building is...

Not surprising to me: Human intelligence is declining according to Stanford geneticist.  "I would wager that if an average citizen from Athens of 1000 BC were to appear suddenly among us, he or she would be among the brightest and most intellectually alive of our colleagues and companions, with a good memory, a broad range of ideas, and a clear-sighted view of important issues."  Clear evidence for Unnatural Selection.

Life in 2016: How White Castle will adjust to a $15 minimum wage.  A minimum wage is one of those issues where people definitely have different points of view.  If you're poor and struggling to live on a minimum wage, you will think this could help.  And if you're an economist or student of history, you will think this can only hurt.  The challenge is not figuring out who's right, but how to we get the right thinking implemented.

Victor David Hanson: The next President is going to be hated.  Yeah.

Alpha Centauri - target for Yuri Milner's probeSome people would say this is a waste of time and money, but not me: Yuri Milner is spending $100M on a probe that could travel to Alpha Centauri.  I saw Yuri speak at a Caltech event recently, and he's level headed and constructive about this.  Most impressive.

Meanwhile, at the other end of the political spectrum, Bernie Sanders is now calling for a nationwide ban on fracking.  See, to me, he *really* doesn't understand how things work.  But to you, maybe this makes sense.

on identity: is this 5'9" white guy really a 6'5" Chinese girl?A sad aspect of today's political environment is that people can't say what they think anymore.  Don't believe it?  Check out this video, in which a 5'9" white guy challenges people to say he isn't a 6'5" Chinese girl.  This is not proof of people seeing things differently, it's evidence that people don't feel comfortable saying what they see.

I'm not one of those people: I see crap, and I call it crap:  Brutalist websites.  This is a variation of my "patience" rant; people can whip out something ugly, call it style, and move on, instead of taking the time to make something worth making.  And once again let's not confuse simplicity (which is good) with brutalism or as I might call it lazyism (which is bad).

10,000 days of MathematicaAn extraordinary read: Stephen Wolfram, my life in technology.  Stephen is one of the people I admire most, a thinker who is also a doer, and who has thought and done some amazing things.  Mathematica and the Wolfram Language are two of the marvels of our time.  From any point of view :)

I'm going to wrap up with this, which is ... great, 1986 in photos.  Talk about having a different point of view, imagine how differently you would have reacted to these pictures thirty years ago (or forty years ago!).  And how we will look back and view the events of today.  As you look at these pictures, which one strikes you?

Donald Trump in 1986




Archive: April 27, 2015

what a week

Monday,  04/27/15  09:40 AM

at BacaraWhew that week flew by, eh?  And what a week.

I had a great long weekend; drove up to visit friends in Montecito, explored the backwoods of North Santa Barbara county, stayed in Pismo Beach, and rode a century in Creston (through the wine country East of Paso Robles).  On the way back we spent the afternoon at Bacara (pictured).  Intermingled was some great think time.  To be repeated soon and often!

Okay, time for a filter pass...

Samantha Cristoforetti selfie from ISS with SpaceX capsuleEpic selfie: Astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti points to SpaceX resupply capsule from International Space station, while dressed as Captain Kathryn Janeway from Star Trek.  Love it!

(and ... love that this tech actually exists, not just in movies ...)

Interesting question: would you rather have 2014 standard of living and 1964 health care, or vice versa?  Easy answer [for me]: I'd choose 1964 standard of living (better) and 2014 health care (much better).

Sexy conservatives will out-breed barren liberals.  "Liberal women, encouraged by the sour crones of the radical feminist movement, often wait far too long to marry and to begin families. They were lied to - you can't have it all.  Life is choices, and a family is a choice that means trade-offs.  Choose unwisely, and one may not be able to undue the relentless ticking of the biological clock.  And as far as liberal men go, well, just look at them."  Hehe.  Instapundit's perfect comment: Troll level, grandmaster.

Carly FiorinaApropos: Fiorina has Hillary defenders worried.  She'll make a great VP.

Did you know?  Just seven percent of journalists are Republicans.  Worth remembering when you read anything in the media.  I continue to maintain, the brightest people don't become journalists, so journalists are not the brightest people.

TomorrowlandLooks promising: trailer for Tomorrowland.  On the list.

(I've had an uneven experience with movies lately; walked out of Kingsman [hated it], walked out of While We're Young [boring], and loved Woman in Gold [compelling].  It's all about the target IQ in the Director's head [memo to self, must look up political affiliation of Directors of movies.]  So there you are.)

Totally agree: What really caused the world's worst financial crisis (in 2008).  Here's the formula:

  • The federal government pushed banks and Fannie/Freddie to lend more money to poorer-than-average Americans so that they could buy houses

  • The flood of money on easy terms (0% down, etc.) drove up the price of houses to the point where poorer-than-average Americans could never hope to pay off loans

  • By 2008 half of all mortgages in the U.S. were essentially subprime

  • Fannie/Freddie told everyone that less than 1% of their portfolio was subprime (a lie)

  • When people discovered that the U.S. mortgage market was primarily subprime they panicked

  • Mark-to-market accounting rules made banks look great on the way up but exacerbated the panic on the way down

Worryingly, the same conditions that caused the crash of 2008 are still present.

Glenn Reynolds notes: An inconvenient truth about homeownership: Policies aimed at decreasing inequality by helping the poor buy homes often do the opposite.

this is ArtIn re: Regarding Art, Vulture on the New New Museum, the Whitney.  "Museums have changed - a lot. Slowly over the past quarter-century, then quickly in the past decade.  These changes have been complicated, piecemeal, and sometimes contradictory, with different museums embracing them in different ways...  The museum used to be a storehouse for the art of the past...  Now the museum is a revved-up showcase of the new..."  Yes!  All art was once contemporary!

the Kano modelWhy you'll hate the Apple Watch.  Linkbait for sure, but an interesting discussion.  TL;DR: you'll hate it at first (because it doesn't work well as a watch), but you'll love it over time (for the other things it does).

This will be big: Like Uber but for shipping stuff, Shyp raises $50M.

Sniff: Makerbot's saddest hour.  Could be another case where a big not-cool company (Stratasys) buys a small cool startup and kills it.  I love my Replicator 2 - the best toy ever - but I am not tempted to buy a new one.

Graham Bower: How to turn great IOS app ideas into something real.  You need an amazing developer :)

Alejandro Valverde wins Leige-Baston-LeigeLast week was big in cycling, with the Ardennes Classics, and also big for Alejandro Valverde, who finished second in Amstel Gold, then won Fleche Wallonne and Leige-Baston-Leige.  He's one of my favorite riders despite his alleged doping issues back in 2008.

Onward!  A big week ahead featuring a little road trip to Pahrump, Nevada and a little climb up Towne Pass in Death Valley.  Stay tuned...


the Hubble at 25: Celestial Fireworks

Monday,  04/27/15  10:46 AM

Wow, cannot believe, the Hubble Space Telescope has turned 25!  So interesting that the original images were a huge disappointment, due to spherical aberation, but new cameras and computational techniques overcame the limitations and turned it into an even huger success.  Unquestionably one of mankind's most important space missions.

Here's the Hubble image NASA have chosen to celebrate its 25th birthday, entitled Celestial Fireworks:

(click to enbiggen)
(click to enbiggen)



Archive: May 1, 2014

Thursday,  05/01/14  10:15 PM

May!  ("It's not just a name, it's an attitude") ... and the Ole filter makes a pass ...

Isn't it weird / cool the way just about every animal has a special name for their babies?  Okay, ducklings makes sense for baby ducks, but goslings for geese?  And cygnets for swans?

Shaun the Sheep ... the movie!Big news: Aardman are making a Shaun the Sheep movie!  Yay.

I don't have to say anything about the Donald Sterling situation, because Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has said it all for me.

Windows 8 logoRedesigning the Windows Logo, from Feb 2012.  That anyone thought this was an improvement tells you all you need to know about Windows 8.  It was already possible to see then that Win 8 would have problems.

Jimmy Fallon and Emma Stone square off in a lip sync battlePretty awesome: Jimmy Fallon and Emma Stone square off in a lip sync battle.  The songs they each choose were perfect.

world's largest solar arrayWorld's largest solar power plant opens in Arizona.  2,400 acres!  No, that didn't harm the environment at all.


Archive: May 3, 2013


Archive: April 20, 2012

Zeno's paradox

Friday,  04/20/12  10:39 AM


at 53 I feel like this has been going on for a while
so far it hasn't caught me yet :)



Archive: May 3, 2011

views from NOLA

Tuesday,  05/03/11  11:30 PM

at Galatoire's on Bourbon Street (in a borrowed jacket)I'm in New Orleans, and yes, don't do the math, it is *late*.  I spent a pleasant day at the Dark Report's War College conference, and after had an amazing dinner at New Orleans' institution Galatoire's on Bourbon Street, followed by some excellent live music and beignets eaten at midnight.

In customer situations I just about always wear a sports coat, but it was a warm balmy night and it was Bourbon Street so I figured what the heck, no coat required.  Wrong.  I get to Galatoire’s and they politely offered me a dinner jacket.  Brown, clashed perfectly with my pink shirt.  Reminds me of a story about President Jimmy Carter; you'll recall he often wore a cardigan instead of a coat, and one time he went to a fancy restaurant in Washington, with secret service and all, and the maître d’ politely offered him a jacket.  A secret service man pulled the maître d’ aside and said "do you know who that is?"  He calmly replied "all the more reason he should be properly dressed". So be it :)

A subplot of being in NOLA was the swelling of the Mississippi further North; news reports were coming in of flooding near Memphis.  Although the river was placid and calm while I was there, in another couple weeks it could be quite different.  fXf!

Paul Ryan sells his budget planPowerline: How Paul Ryan won the recess.  The Republican budget plan isn't just better than the Democrats, it exists, and its proponents are out there in the country talking about it and listening to feedback.  Whether you agree or disagree with the plan details, you have to admit, that's how it should work.

Meanwhile President Obama seems more concerned with Donald Trump than the budget deficit.

Timeline: Bin Laden over the years.  It was "interesting" flying yesterday, with heightened security but few delays and no incidents.

Paul AllenBoing Boing interviews Paul Allen.  "You invested in Burt Rutan's SpaceShipOne, which became the first successful civilian space flight and is now being commercialized by Virgin. Where do you see the space-tourism industry going in the next generation?  I think it's great. It's going to be very interesting to see the level of demand as the years go by."  Among his many projects is the Allen Institute for Brain Science, one of my customers and an amazing organization.  Count me as a huge Paul Allen fan.

space-time experiment to verify RelativityEinstein was right, again.  Actually a better headline would be "Einstein is still right".  Relativity might be counter-intuitive, but at this point it's a proven fact.

Oh, that's it, time for bed.  And I have to get up at 5:00 to work out.  Yawn!


Archive: May 3, 2010

Monday,  05/03/10  11:00 PM

Greetings y'all...  quite a  l o n g  day today and so you may ask yourself, why is he blogging?  But that's not the right question, is it?  No... the right question is, why isn't he blogging more...

I have a little ethical dilemma for you... say you have a friend, a good friend, who recommends a band.  Say you download some of their music and find that it sucks.  (For you it sucks; of course for your friend, it doesn't; suckiness is relative.)  Okay now your friend asks if you liked it.  Do you tell the truth ("your band sucks, I can't even believe you like that crap"), or do you tell a little white lie ("yeah it was interesting, need to listen to it a bit more"), or do you politely decline to respond ("huh, can't really remember, I'll check it out again")?

And so Apple is shutting down Lala.  " was never really clear how Lala’s streaming Web-based music model was going to fit into the Apple iTunes universe."  So they bought Lala just to take them off the market?  Huh.  Maybe someone should start Lala2?  It was a pretty nice service!


Archive: May 3, 2009

hope and change (New Yorker, 5/4/09)

Sunday,  05/03/09  09:11 PM

New Yorker: caption contest

New Yorker: caption contest
my own favorite:

"hope and change"

(somehow I don't think mine will win :)



Sunday,  05/03/09  09:49 PM

Had a nice quiet day, thanks for asking...  took it easy, I'm still pretty thrashed after battling Breathless Agony yesterday.  It was a gorgeous day and we celebrated by going for a nice walk in the morning, and having a wonderful lakeside brunch.  Every Sunday should be like this.  Oh, and I did some intense coding... in PowerPoint.  And made no time for Project Q.  Again.

My Caltech class of '79 is about to have - ta da - our 30th reunion.  Wow.  I've been in contact with some of my classmates, and it seems many are going.  I went to our 20th reunion, and that was fun, -ish, but this seems funner.  Somehow at 50+ I think we're more relaxed than we were at 40+, the pressure is off.  I'm thinking about this quite a lot, stay tuned...

Completely rational: Catholics attack Dan Brown film Angels and Demons.  Aka the thought police, apparently.  I am reading the book now, preparatory to watching the movie; so far I like it a lot (and yes, it reminds one of the Da Vinci Code quite a lot).

Good question: Why is it so difficult to fire bad teachers?  The first answer is "unions", and that pretty much tells you all you need to know.  (Note: this is the answer to another good question: why did U.S. carmakers become uncompetitive?)

NewTek video toaster, circa 1990This is a total classic, the NewTek Video Toaster, from 1990... wow how cool was that?  I remember it well...

fractal timepieceHere we have an extensive collection of strange and wonderful timepieces.  Some of them are really quite wonderful.

SearchEngineLand reviews the Wolfram Alpha "fact engine"...  it looks really cool, but I'm hard pressed to say whether it is useful...  I suspect it is something you use once, then like, then start using more often.  Right now I haven't used it :)

The WSJ's Daily Startup wonders: Is that an IPO we see?  SolarWinds Inc. is apparently going to test the waters, which would make then only the second IPO in the last twelve months (Rackspace is the other one).  Wow, let's all wish them luck!

cool bike bridge over I-280More of these please: a cool bridge just for bikes.

Dave Winer starts out loving his new iPhone, but then "I'm reminded how shitty the keyboard is on the iPhone, and think it's a paradox that Apple's COO says netbooks have 'cramped' keyboards.  The iPod has the worst keyboard.  Even if I type something correctly, there's a pretty good chance it'll change it to something ridiculous."  Personally I'll take a Palm any day, and I cannot wait for the Pre...

Firefox tip: how to keep sites from resizing or moving windowsThe killer tip of the day, how to prevent websites from resizing or moving your Firefox windows.  This is major, I totally hate it when sites do that (and why do they do this, nobody knows...)  Anyway here you go... you're welcome!

ZooBorn: white lion cubAnd finally to kick your week off on the right note, my ZooBorn of the day, a little white lion cub

Have a great week!


Archive: May 1, 2008

Furnace Creek, here I come

Thursday,  05/01/08  10:34 PM


508 Race Office []


Thursday, May 01, 2008 6:18 PM


Ole Eichhorn []


Furnace Creek 508



Hello and congratulations!

You have been selected to compete in the 25th Anniversary Furnace Creek 508 on October 4-6, 2008, "The Toughest 48 Hours in Sport".  You are part of a select group who will participate in this world-famous spiritual odyssey through Death Valley and the Mojave Desert.  We look forward to sharing the experience with you!

To confirm your spot in the race field, please submit the appropriate Furnace Creek 508 entry fee and the attached three-page Pdf form WITHIN ONE WEEK.

2008 will be an extra special edition of "The Toughest 48 Hours in Sport" as we celebrate the race's 25 year history.  Thank YOU for being a part of history!

Best of luck with your preparation and please let us know if there is anything else that we can do to help.


Chris Kostman
Chief Adventure Officer, Race Director, and Totemizer
AdventureCORPS, Inc.

Yay, I made it!  Or maybe, crap, now I'm in for it...  Whew.  There are two tragedies in life, not getting what you want, and getting what you want.  Which is this?  Stay tuned :)



Ole's ride for cancer

Thursday,  05/01/08  10:57 PM

As you saw, I have been accepted to compete in the Furnace Creek 508 bicycle race, "The Toughest 48 Hours in Sport".  This is a pretty incredible event; competitors have 48 hours to complete 508 miles through Death Valley and the Mojave Desert, including 35,000' of climbing.  For some people it is a race to see how fast they can do it, for me it will be a contest to see if I can do it.  It will be one of the hardest and coolest things I've ever done.

LiveStrong - Lance Armstrong FoundationTo give myself extra motivation, I'm asking all of you to sponsor me, and will donate the proceeds to the Lance Armstrong Foundation.  You may know, in addition to being one of the greatest cyclists of all time, having won seven consecutive Tours de France, Lance Armstrong is also a cancer survivor, and his foundation is prominent in funding cancer research, raising awareness of cancer, and most importantly helping cancer victims and survivors.  It is a wonderful organization and [I think] a very appropriate recipient of whatever donations I am able to raise in this way.

If you are interested in sponsoring me and making a donation to the Lance Armstrong Foundation, please let me know.  Your interest will be a pledge, and if I am successful in finishing the race, I'll let you know so you can make a donation.  The race is this October 4-6, and I'll post / email progressively more information as that date gets closer.  I also plan to post periodic updates so everyone knows how much money we've raised together!

I am pretty excited about competing in this race, but also pretty daunted by the difficulty.  In the middle of the night on Saturday, with 250 miles ridden and 250 left to ride, the idea that I'm helping to raise a bunch of money for cancer will be a great motivator.  Thank you in advance for your sponsorship (!), and stay tuned for more details...


Thursday,  05/01/08  11:38 PM

Happy May Day to you!  Man, four months gone in 2008 already, one third of the year.  Not that it hasn't been eventful - wow, has it ever - but still it does not seem like it has been that long.  Among other things, that means I've been blogging again for four months!  Yay.  I hope you're enjoying it as much as I am :)

Biking news - today I did the Stunt / Piuma loop, with my friend Tim; man, I felt strong.  Last Tuesday I did the Mount Palomar / Lake Henshaw loop, and that felt good, too.  I think I'm ready for Breathless Agony Saturday; now I just have to eat and drink a lot tomorrow, to make sure my tank is full. 

As you saw, today I was accepted to ride in the Furnace Creek 508 (yay!) and am turning it into Ole's Ride for Cancer (yay!).  I'm pretty excited about that!

So that's my news, now, let's see what's happening everywhere else, shall we?

Dodge ChallengersTTAC on the Dodge Challenger: the retro-flop has landed.  What I think is really interesting is the accompanying picture, see at left, comparing the 1970 Challenger to the 2008 model.  Each seemingly epitomizes the design ethic of its time.  Now, which is more attractive?  To me there is no question, the 1970 car is way nicer looking.  The thick bodies, skinny windows, and big rear ends of today's cars are ugly.  It can only be a matter of time before the pendulum swings back...

I'm shocked: Twitter said to be abandoning Ruby on Rails.  This should spark a great debate in the Web 2.0 echo chamber, but really, we all know Ruby performance sucks, so why would it scale?

Other shocking news: Blu-ray: the future has been delayed.  "Hot on the heels of last week's report from ABI Research noting that many consumers may not see the picture quality difference between Blu-ray and standard DVDs comes the latest Blu-ray sales figures from NPD Group. And they're not pretty."  The real problem is online video, the attack from below.  Apple just announced they will be selling new movies on iTunes the same day they're released on DVD.  That's just another nail.  Blu-ray will never be big, before long it will be irrelevant, its "victory" over HD-DVD long forgotten.  Remember laser discs?

R2D2 DVD projectorHere we have the R2D2 DVD projector.  Once you see it, you realize this was inevitable, how utterly cool.  Too bad it costs $3,000, however...

IBM 101 keyboardDerek Miller on the joys of the old IBM 101 keyboard.  Man, I loved those keyboards, makes me want to go find one.  Nothing quite like that real metal base, with the unique buckling-spring key action.  And you can be heard typing for miles :)  Right now I use a nine-year old Micron keyboard; I love it, but I know the day will come when a key will break, and then what?  Today's wimpy limpy keyboards are massively worse.  Well there is always eBay...

Finally, via my friend Peter, these pictures of a record-breaking Coke / Mentos explosion-fest, as 1,500 students discover the joys of Chemistry.  Whoa.



Archive: April 30, 2007

The Traffic School Web Usability Test

Monday,  04/30/07  10:00 PM

So, the other day I got a traffic ticket.  (It was boring, 65 in a 50 zone near my house.  Sorry.)

Fortunately, I was able to ask the court for traffic school so the ticket won’t go on my permanent record.  This is especially fortunate because one measly ticket would mean I’d have to start robbing banks to pay for my car insurance.  But I digress.

Now, the LA County Courts have accredited a number of online traffic schools.  I’ve done this before, you pay a fee (typically about $20), read a bunch of online pages, answer questions to show you’ve read the pages, and after a couple of hours, poof, you’ve done the equivalent of an eight hour traffic school.  (BTW I think this is a good thing, sitting in a physical traffic school all day on a Saturday leads to serious brain damage - from the other students if not from the instructor - this way you really do read about traffic laws and such, and no brain cells are harmed.)  Anyway as I said there are a number of these schools, a large number.  So which to pick?

This turned into an interesting exercise in web usability.  There are quite a variety of designs represented among the various schools, from the austere to the gaudy, and from the professional to the distinctly “my son did this for a high school project”.  (e.g. this one.  Oh, and this one gets the “look Ma, I know how to use a table” award – I’m surprised they don’t have a “works best with Netscape” badge.) 

So what are my criteria? 

At the highest level, I want the site to work (!), I don’t want to pick some weird school which is about to go out of business, or whose servers go down when the neighbor’s air conditioning kicks on.  Or which doesn’t support Firefox.  Or which is going to require me to install some odd browser plug in.  Etc.  There is a kind of pass/fail to this, either site looks professional, or it doesn’t.  Even the URL of the site is a clue; a common URL like feels more professional than  

I also want it to be fast.  If there was a way to know the “average time taken by students to complete course”, that would be great.  Too bad that kind of stat isn’t available, and none of the sites even advertise that they’re fast, because you’re taking this in lieu of an eight hour class.  They use “easy” as a metaphor for “fast”, and maybe also to reassure you that you don’t have to be a computer person to figure it out.  However that kind of “easy” can also mean “dumb”, and I don’t really want to have my intelligence insulted for two hours.  So there’s a judgment call.  There’s even a traffic school for dummies.  Now who identifies with that?  (Oh, and here’s one if you’re lazy.  I am not making this up.  I can see myself in court now, telling the judge “yes, I did remember to mail in the completion certificate, I know I did”.)

Then, I am choosing nice looking pages.  Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but we can all agree on ugly.  And some of these sites, we would all agree, are ugly.  In a W=UH way as well as a plain old U way.  Give me simple, with clean graphics, lots of white space, and I’m happy.  Give me this, and I can’t click on the back button fast enough.  Oh, speaking of back buttons, there was one site which, when I hit back, opened a new browser window to ask “do you really want to go back”?  Bzzzzz.  Get the hook.

Some of these sites seem to feature comedy, like the site will be funny, or something.  I must confess there is nothing funny about traffic school to me.  I have attended “comedy” traffic schools in the past, and other than some of the things said by idiot students, there was nothing remotely funny about them.  I am steering clear of comedy.  If I want to laugh, I’ll apply a VS 2005 service pack.

Then there was a site called  Good name, right?  That’s me, I’m skilled :)  The site is clean and they let you start the course before you have to pay.  Now that is a great idea, because it feels like there’s no investment to try it.  Of course once I’ve spent twenty minutes, I do have an investment, and if it isn’t awful, I’m likely to continue.  These guys feel like they’ve thought this through, I like it.  (On the other side of smart, we have this: Welcome to the Traffic Violator Internet Program.  That’s me, I’m a violator.  Back!)

I liked it when a site had a nice “how it works” summary.  You want to know what you’re in for; an overview is helpful.  I didn’t like it when the site didn’t even load.  (YMMV.)  That’s not a good sign.  Back!  And a definite don’t – sound in the home page (“look Ma, I can link a Wav file”).  Barf.  And back!

So in the end, although I found this site pretty compelling (not), I picked this one.  I’m not even sure why.  It isn’t the prettiest, not even.  But it seemed simple and fast, clean, no nonsense, with fast loading pages.  I started, and once I started, it felt like “okay, this is straightforward, no problem”.  One thing I really liked was that all the information fit into my browser, no scrolling.  And I liked that I could shift-click to the next page, so I had all the pages from a section up at once (so I could search them easily while taking the quiz at the end of the section).

The whole thing is kind of interesting when you ponder what does attract consumers to a product?  Somehow it seems like there is an expectation, and whichever meets the expectation best – with no surprises – wins.  Exceeding the expectation is even better.  At Intuit Scott Cook was famous for saying our goal was to delight the customer.  So I can’t say I am delighted with my choice of online traffic school, but still, there is an underlying feeling which is kind of like that.

So, what do our customers experience when they visit our company website?  Or maybe more importantly, when they use our product?  Does it meet their expectations?  Could there be a version with the same functionality which was significantly more compelling, that seemed easier?  It is not enough to make it work.  You have to make it great.  You have to delight the customer!  Because consumers have choices.  And back buttons :)


Monday,  04/30/07  10:13 PM

Day two of my return to blogging.  So far, so good.  Y'all can keep sending me email to tell me how glad you are I'm posting again, it's been great :)

Ivan BassoSo, this sucks - Discovery has released Ivan Basso, at his request.  "On Sunday April 29th Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team member Ivan Basso requested a meeting with General Manager Bill Stapleton and Sports Director Johan Bruyneel.  At the meeting Basso asked to be released from his contract, effective immediately, citing personal reasons related to the re-opened investigation by the Italian Olympic Committees (CONI)."  This is just bogus.  There is no proof Ivan has done anything wrong, and yet he is being convicted in the press.  I want cycling to be clean as badly as anyone, but doesn't there have to be a presumption of innocence?

Meanwhile Tyler Hamilton and Jörg Jaksche will start the Giro, despite being just as involved in the Puerto investigations as Basso - which is to say, their names have been mentioned, with no further proof.

The average American household spends $1,200 annually on gadgets.  I guess my household is not average :)

FuturePundit reports 60% Cancer Drop From Vitamin D Supplements.  "In June, U.S. researchers will announce the first direct link between cancer prevention and the sunshine vitamin.  Their results are nothing short of astounding.  A four-year clinical trial involving 1,200 women found those taking the vitamin had about a 60-per-cent reduction in cancer incidence, compared with those who didn't take it, a drop so large — twice the impact on cancer attributed to smoking — it almost looks like a typographical error."  So be it.  Yet another reason to enjoy the sunshine!

Saturn: Hexagon at the North PoleSo, what did you make of this: Cassini Images Bizarre Hexagon on Saturn?  "An odd, six-sided, honeycomb-shaped feature circling the entire north pole of Saturn has captured the interest of scientists with NASA's Cassini mission.  NASA's Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft imaged the feature over two decades ago.  The hexagon is nearly 25,000 kilometers (15,000 miles) across.  Nearly four Earths could fit inside it."  Whoa.  Bizarre doesn't even do it justice! 

I just love all the weird and wonderful stuff coming back from the Cassini mission.  (And all the great stuff from the Mars rovers, and the comet probes, and so on.)  I know all the arguments about feeding the poor people on Earth and everything, but this stuff is really important.  More important than feeding all the poor people on Earth.  And compared to manned missions, these unmanned probes are downright cheap.

I can't wait to seen Indoctrinate U.  The PC pendulum just has to start swinging back, doesn't it?  How much further can it go without falling over the top?  [ via Glenn Reynolds, who comments "I hope it gets seen".  Me too. ]

So, I'm seriously considering doing away with my Blogroll altogether.  It is grossly out-of-date, as I don't use it anymore; seems like it has been fully superceded by the OPML list of RSS feeds to which I am subscribed.  The Blog Roulette feature is kind of cool, though.  Maybe I ditch the blogroll and wire the Roulette wheel into OPML?  Comments?


What do I do?  (New Yorker - 1/12/07)

Monday,  04/30/07  10:51 PM




Archive: May 3, 2006


Archive: May 3, 2005


Archive: May 3, 2004

Rendering Images in 3-D

Monday,  05/03/04  10:36 PM

3-D decovolutionThe Scientist has an interesting article about Rendering Images in 3-D:

To the uninitiated, three-dimensional microscopy makes the pretty pictures of fluorescently labeled cells that grace the covers of scientific journals.  But to today's microscopists, the capacity to render images from 3-D and 4-D datasets is critical for studying the distances between objects in a sample and for tracking how complex samples change over time.

The article discusses many of the techniques commonly used for 3-D imaging, including confocal microscopy and deconvolution (illustrated in picture at right).

Aperio's ScanScope digital slide scanner is capable of scanning microscope slides at multiple Z-levels, yielding a 3D dataset.   This is particularly useful for cytology preparations and other "thick" specimens.   Please click here for an example of 3-D virtual slide viewing.


Monday,  05/03/04  10:40 PM

Corrine du Toit takes a wonderful high-level view of the war on terror.  "What makes the War on Terror(ism) unique from the War against Communism, is that it is not a battle of one or more nation states against one or more other nation states.  It is about random populations of people who share an ideological perspective, and wish to impose that perspective on their resident nation state, and the rest of the world."  If you're wondering "what are we doing in Iraq", here's the answer.

SailrocketThis unusual sailboat is "Sailrocket"; a one-tack wonder designed specifically to break the world sail speed record of 46 knots.  "SailRocket comprises a full length weather hull with minimal drag due to a huge hollow in the middle allowing the hull to sit on just two planing surfaces when traveling at high speed.  The pilot sits in the cockpit right at the back of the hull and there is a foil, inclined to port forward.  The crossbeam extends forward to port and has a tiny bullet shaped float at the end of it on which the mast sits.  At high speed the boat will fly its leeward hull - the opposite of a conventional catamaran - and only the two planing surfaces on the weather hull will remain in the water."  Very cool.

Maldives coral - growing back!BigWig notes a real-world example of natural selection in action, as Maldives nurses its coral reefs back to life.  Apparently 70% of the coral in the Maldive Islands was wiped out by El Nino in 1998.  Now the coral is growing back - five times faster than normal.  "The pace of coral regrowth shouldn't come as much of a surprise.  There's not a lot of competitive pressure from other individuals when 70% of a population is wiped out.  The fact that the new corals seem more heat-tolerant should have been expected as well - anyone familiar with the idea of natural selection should've been able to predict that the children of the obviously more heat-tolerant surviving corals would dominate the next generation."  Excellent.

Global warming is back in the news with the imminent release of The Day after Tomorrow.  FuturePundit notes All Warming In United States Since 1975 May Be Due To Aircraft Contrails.  "NASA scientists have found that cirrus clouds, formed by contrails from aircraft engine exhaust, are capable of increasing average surface temperatures enough to account for a warming trend in the United States that occurred between 1975 and 1994."  Fascinating.

I think the real solution to global warming - and to the world's entropy problems - is to continue developing nuclear power plants.  But what do I know.

This is interesting, but I'm not sure what conclusions to draw: a table of U.S. states, average IQs, average incomes, and whether they voted for Bush or Gore in 2000.  [ via razib ]

I'm going to find some population growth data, and we can play the extrapolation game...

Seth Goldstein opines on Google vs. Wall Street.  "What I saw was the end of a certain kind of investment banking innocence."  The Google auction of shares is definitely going to shake things up.

Wired has an interesting article about Walt Mossberg, the WSJ's tech columnist: The Kingmaker of Personal Tech.  I like Walt's columns; I guess most people do, which is why he's successful.  He seems to have retained the common point of view.  His balanced and insightful reporting combines with the WSJ pulpit he occupies to make him very influential. I was at Intuit when Walt criticized TurboTax for it's intrusive registration process, and it really made waves.  Then-CEO Bill Harris literally called Walt to discuss his criticism.

Keep an eye on this: BBC introduces flexible TV with online trial.  "Later this month, the BBC will launch a pilot project that could lead to all television programmes being made available on the Internet.  Viewers will be able to scan an online guide and download any show."  Of course.  [ via Dave Winer ]


Alice in Wonderland in 3D

Monday,  05/03/04  10:51 PM

Alice in Wonderland by Robert SabudaSpeaking of 3D viewing (we were); check out this amazing pop-up version of Alice in Wonderland, by Robert Sabuda.  (click on pic at right for larger version.)  A 2D web page just cannot do this 3D creation justice :)

The pop-ups in this book are simply amazing.  Not only are they marvelous 3D creations that emerge effortlessly from a 2D book, but they are dynamic; the movement of the pictures as each page is opened illustrates the action of the story (for example, a white rose bush is painted red).  Each page has a major work of sculpture, as well as smaller books embedded on the page which contain an abridged version of Lewis Carroll's classic (and which have pop-ups of their own!)  The rabbit hole is a genuine telescoping tunnel into the earth which must be seen to be appreciated (yeah, it folds out from a 2D page, too).  Very cool.

Megan was recently given this book as a birthday present.  I'm not sure which one of us is enjoying it more :)

One pill makes you larger
And one pill makes you small...
Go ask Alice
When she's ten feet tall.


Archive: May 3, 2003

Fehlervorhersagefreude II

Saturday,  05/03/03  05:29 PM

Are you using Fehlervorhersagefreude in everyday conversation?  You're not?  Well, perhaps the proper pronunciation is holding you back.  Lakmal Gunasekara kindly provided this example, however he assures me that this is an "unwort" (a word that isn't a word).  He did mention that there is an official group which elects an Unwort of the Year, so we can always hope...


Saturday,  05/03/03  06:11 PM

Time Magazine: The Truth about SARS.  "It's deadly, infectious and not going away."

We know it is deadly, and we know it is infectious.  What seems controversial is the idea that it is not going away.  History is definitely on the side of the pessimists; no such disease has ever been defeated by quarantine alone.  Until there is a successful treatment regime and some sort of vaccine to keep it from spreading, it is going to spread.

Consider the parallels to AIDS, a viral infection like SARS.  AIDS is not airborne, it requires fluid contact between people for transmission.  SARS is airborne.  AIDS has a slow incubation period.  SARS appears to have a fast incubation period.  If untreated AIDS generally results in death, although there are exceptions.  SARS appears at least as fatal as AIDS, although it is too early to be certain.  Despite medicine's best efforts over the last thirty years, including development of a successful treatment regime, AIDS is still growing and remains a leading cause of death, especially in Africa.  It would appears that AIDS will not really be slowed until a vaccine is developed.  AIDS has resisted development of a vaccine by mutating rapidly; SARS has already demonstrated a similar capability.  Unless there is a breakthrough and a SARS vaccine is developed more quickly than one for AIDS, doesn't it seem like SARS is going to follow the same trajectory as AIDS, only faster?

Steven Den Beste posted a fascinating article about blogrolling.  He notes the dilution that occurs when people have really long blogrolls...  (and interestingly calls it an "inverse network effect".)  Similar to this discussion on Pierre Omidyar's site about BlogShares, which models the "value" of a blog by its inbound links, and then divides this value among its outbound links.

Steven also draws a distinction between 'linkers' (bloggers who's posts are centered around links to other blogs, like Glenn Reynolds) and 'thinkers' (bloggers who write articles with original content themselves, like Steven himself).  I must admit I spent much more time linking than thinking...

Jamie Zaworsky says CSS is BS.  The post is interesting and so is the comment thread which follows it.  I'm not as anti-CSS as he is, but I must ask - what's wrong with tables?  They do seem to work...

Here's an interesting post by Rob Howard; he reports on a product review meeting attended by Bill Gates.  "I thought it was going to be more overview and less detail, but instead what it reminded me of was a feature team meeting."

After 19 seasons, John Stockton is retiring.  I guess he was a lot of people's favorite player; he was one of mine.  He always seemed like an underdog, even though he was probably the most talented point guard ever to play.  A small white guy in a league of big black guys, he used quickness, court sense, and anticipation instead of sheer athleticism to dominate games.  Like Magic Johnson, another of my favorites, he made his teammates better and was always looking for someone to setup with a pass, but if you left him open he'd burn you with a jumper, especially with the game on the line.  I rooted against the Jazz more often than for them - most of the time when I watched a Jazz game they were playing the Lakers - but I respected John and the league will miss him.  And to prove his feel for the game, he's retiring at the right time...

Finally - check out bardcode - Shakespeare in bar code.  Some people obviously have too much time...


Try, or Try Not

Saturday,  05/03/03  08:40 PM

For everything there is to do, the easy way to fail is simply not to try.  In this I humbly disagree with Master Yoda, who famously noted:

Master YodaTry not.  Do, or do not.  There is no try.

There is definitely a try, even if it doesn't lead to a do.  And this separates winners from losers more surely than anything else.  Trying does not, in and of itself, lead to success, of course.  Depending on the goal, there are many ways to fail.  But not trying surely leads to failure.

I was thinking about John Stockton, the recently retired Utah Jazz basketball player who typified "trying".  He had a lot of talent, of course, so his trying led to success, but he will always be noted for his effort rather than his talent.  In thinking about John and giving full effort, I wondered "why doesn't everyone always try"?

There is effort involved in trying; an investment of resources, if you will, and so one could argue that not trying when you know you will fail is prudent.  But I don't think that's it.  Not trying is not a calculated decision, it is emotional.  People just don't like to fail.  If you don't try, you can always reassure yourself with the false comfort that you would have succeeded, if only you had tried.  Once you try and fail, that's it.  Actually there is a gradient all the way from not trying to giving 100% effort.  Sometimes people do something in a half-hearted way, and possibly this is their form of "not trying"; they can feel they would have succeeded if they had given full effort, and thereby feel less bad about themselves for having failed.

As I've noted before, I believe happiness comes from liking yourself.  Things which make you feel better about yourself are "fun", and things which make you feel worse about yourself are not.  Trying to do something you are not good at may not be fun, in the sense that you will feel worse about yourself for your lack of skill or success.  This accounts for the wide range of things people do to have "fun"; different people are skilled at different things.  Certainly you don't have to feel worse about yourself for not trying or doing all of these things.  That is the "out"; if you don't try, you won't fail.

But...  That's fine for discretionary recreational activities.  But what about life itself?  What about your family?  Your profession?  Your contribution to the world?  In these things not trying is the surest way to fail.  You may be able to convince yourself that your lack of success is due to lack of effort, not lack of skill, but that is secondary; your lack of success will be a fact either way.

The key seems to be to regard trying itself as a success.  Yoda himself understood this, for he said:

Learn to lose as well as win, a Jedi must.

If you can feel good about yourself for your effort - regardless of the results - then you can always succeed.


flight   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?