Critical Section

Archive: August 31, 2016


Archive: August 31, 2015


Archive: August 27, 2014


Archive: August 31, 2013


Archive: August 31, 2012


Archive: August 31, 2011

fault lines

Wednesday,  08/31/11  11:03 PM


when you're more worried about fixing the blame than fixing the problems

(from the most excellent Michael Ramirez, via Powerline)



garbage collection

Wednesday,  08/31/11  11:15 PM

a pretty nice collection :)Wow what a day ... you wake up, you lie in bed, you think your day will go a certain way, and then ... it doesn't!  Wow.  Quite an amazing collection of things happened... capped by another wipeout, my second in a week, this time mountain bike riding.  I'm okay but this is a bad habit.  Anyway here's a collection of things which are happening...

Solyndra files chapter 11 after $1B in investment.  You and I invested over $500M via the US Department of Energy. So much for "green" jobs, huh?  Another failed Obama initiative, although to be fair many others were riding this bandwagon.

Chevy Chase gives the Francisco Franco updateDave Winer:  Francisco Franco.  Is still dead.

A godsend for those of us saddled with supporting IE8 seemingly forever: Lockdown-evading Chrome Frame exits beta.  I have no idea how this works, but mean to find out :)

I find Mark Frauenfelder to be the weirdest and least reliable Boing Boing contributor, but his recommendation of Ready Player One seems legit.  Maybe I'll try it, cool new SF is always fun.

Horace Dediu makes an excellent point about the iPad, it isn't ready to be disrupted from below - yet - because it isn't good enough yet.  Will be most interesting to see how this plays out.

airplane boarding, analyzedCritical research: how to speed up plane boarding.  "Even random boarding is faster than the back-to-front method the airlines currently use."  I so believe this!  (Check out this detailed analysis on different methods, and which are used by which airlines.)

ZooBorn: Oncilla cubZooBorn of the day: an Oncilla cub.  (Oncillas are small cats similar to Ocelots)

Clive Thompson on the art of public thinking.  Aka, blogging :)


Archive: August 29, 2010

weekend wrap

Sunday,  08/29/10  10:05 PM

Great weekend, didn't get enough done of course - as always - and feel a little guilty about it - as always - but I did have fun, got some exercise, and even (gasp!) got some sun.  All good.

The lightbulb goes on.  "The Fed will not come to the Democrats’ rescue, at least not in time to stave off a shellacking in November."  I'm not hoping for a Republican resurgence so much as a recognition that liberal economic policies have failed.

Women of Antarctica 2010 calendarI like this post by Scot Tempesta: Ice Queens.  "When I was 18 years old my best friend Ana died of breast cancer at the age of 32. This year I turned 32 and I realized exactly how much grace she exhibited during her ordeal in the prime of her life."  Wow.  Dying of breast cancer at 32.  Order the calendar!

Some of my best friends are that age.  When I was 32, I was divorced, my business was in trouble, and I felt my life was over before it had ever started.  When I think back to everything that has happened since, the possibility that life might have ended for me right then is frightening.  Makes you appreciate every day.

Google's HTML5 demo: The Wilderness Downtown featuring Arcade FireThis is awesome!  Check out Google's HTML5 demo, featuring Arcade Fire's "We used to wait", encapsulated in a "film" called The Wilderness Downtown.  You will need Chrome, and it will be worth it.

HTML5's capabilities notwithstanding, a LOT of sites use Flash, and they don't work under iOS.  John Gruber considers.  "Is there more pressure on Apple to add Flash support to iOS, or on websites with Flash-only content to produce iOS-compatible alternatives?"

I cannot believe the pre-hype and prognostication going on around Apple's "event" this week; nearly everyone agrees there will be some kind of iPod update, and also some kind of AppleTV update.  It is all very exciting, but let's wait to see what they actually announce instead of endlessly debating what they might announce...

[Update: yippee it will be streamed live.  Although I will be in sales training and will probably not have a chance to watch until... next weekend...]

Motto for this week: Drinks Well With Others:)


amazing 3D chalk art

Sunday,  08/29/10  10:18 PM

amazing 3D chalk art
I would love to see this stuff live


my Porsche Panamerica loaner

Sunday,  08/29/10  10:28 PM

I think you guys know, I smashed my little car, and the subsequent repairs have taken a long time.  By way of apology and sympathy, the awesome folks at The Auto Gallery have loaned me a brand new Porsche Panamerica! 

In case you don't know, this is a four-door sports sedan... and so far I have found the driving experience to be rather Lexus-like, smooth as silk if a little unexciting.  The interior is luxurious and it has all the bells and whistles, including an iPod interface and a great stereo.  How fun.

so what do you think?  beautiful?

the front definitely evokes "Porsche"...

... but the back seems a bit ... different

They say never look a gift horse in the mouth, and I do plan to enjoy it this week.  But I might have a few things to say about it next weekend... stay tuned :)


Archive: August 30, 2009

the nature of WHY

Sunday,  08/30/09  12:32 PM

question everything! including the nature of WHYHave you ever thought that of all the interrogative words, WHY is different from the rest?  Think about it; WHO, WHAT, WHEN, WHERE, HOW: they all have a factual answer.  But the answer to WHY is always an opinion, it cannot be absolutely factual, even if the answer seems clear.  Interesting...

I wonder WHY that is?


Google Galileo: 400th anniversary of the telescope

Sunday,  08/30/09  12:44 PM

Google Galileo: logo in honor of the 400th anniversary of his telescopeLast Tuesday, August 25, was the 400th anniversary of Galileo's telescope, and [as is their custom] Google celebrated with a custom logo, shown at left, one of their best.

Galileo's telescopeGalileo didn't invent the telescope - that would be Hans Lippershy - but he made it famous by doing something literally heretical: pointing it at the stars.  Prior "spyglasses" had been used primarily for spying on girls enemy warships, but Galileo looked our moon and discovered it had features (gasp!), it was not a perfect unmarked sphere.  That was pretty bad...  but later he found four moons orbiting Jupiter (gasp!) instead of Earth, and then Saturn's rings...  the totality of his observations convinced him the Copernican theory that planets orbited the Sun instead of Earth was correct.


god damned exception

Sunday,  08/30/09  01:07 PM

My colleague Bob was using Notepad++ and encountered this error:

god damned exception

It feels like an entry in a caption contest:

  • Wonder what 1-25 were?
  • I agree with her, exceptions are evil.
  • Is this an exception to being damned, or a damned exception?
  • Crap, not again!
  • Is this a content sensitive error?

Please let me know if you think of any :)


weekend of August 29, redux

Sunday,  08/30/09  06:39 PM

I kind of like posting at longer intervals than daily...  it takes some of the pressure off, and [I think] boosts my signal to noise, always a good thing.  I assume you are not using me as your primary source of late breaking news anyway :)

Relay for Life, Encinitas, 2009: "hope"Yesterday I joined about forty colleagues from Aperio in participating in the Encinitas Relay for Life.  I drove down in 100+o heat to watch our house band play (the "Frozen Sextions"), then did a great ride down around Mission Bay and back in the humid night before taking my walking shift at 1:00am...  As last year the really cool part is nighttime, in the dark, when the walking track is surrounded by luminaria, candles inside paper bags; each either congratulating cancer survivors or remembering cancer victims.  Reading the messages is incredibly moving; I'm tearing up just thinking about it.  I wore a Tiera Del Fuego tee shirt given me by my friend and colleague Daniel Jacoby, who died of a brain tumor five years ago.  And I thought of my father, who died of a brain tumor as well.  Very emotional.  If you ever have a chance to participate in a Relay for Life, do it!; a most worthwhile experience.

I'm in my office, not in the blogitorim, as I'm watching while posting...

And so the Vuelta a España is under way!  And although daily coverage isn't being broadcast on TV in the U.S. (boo!) the awesome Universal Sports are covering it on the Internet (yay!), and you can watch it live or watch video replays of each stage.  How excellent, much better than hunting about for torrents and laboriously downloading them as I've done in the past.  (Note: use this link for a spoiler-free index page; otherwise you'll get news of the stages before you can watch them :)

Fabian Cancellera powers to victory in the '09 Vuelta stage 1 / prologueCongratulations to Fabian Cancellara for winning stage 1 aka the prologue.  He absolutely owns short time trials.  I was really happy (and amazed) to see my boy Vino finish seventh.  Not bad.  All the other GC guys look to be on form, including Alejandro Valverde, who just has to be hungry for some grand tour action after being prevented from riding in the Tour de France this year.

Gerald Ciolek wins a field sprint to take stage 2 of the '09 VueltaCongratulations to Gerard Ciolek for winning stage 2, a flat dash through the Dutch countryside which ended in a field sprint.  He beat Tyler Farrar and Tom Bonnen, not too shabby.  Bogusly Vino didn't stay in the front and lost 18 seconds in a sheared peloton.  18 seconds might not matter, but that was stupid.

One thing that's rather weird about this year's "tour of Spain" is that the first four stages take place in The Netherlands.  Yes you read that right, do not adjust your dial.  We get flat cobbles in the rain for a few days, then blazing heat in the mountains :)

augmented reality... it's coming, great ready :)Scoble notes the new way to look like a dork: augmented reality.  The idea that an application can take advantage of life video and location information to tell you what's happening around you, *now*.  This is going to be huge; right now the iPhone is the main platform for delivery, based on its suitability (camera, internal GPS, etc), but I expect eventually this will be tied into glasses, with a built-in camera and heads'-up display, so that whatever you look like will be "augmented".  You know this will happen, the only question is how soon...

Health Care IT - augmented reality, too!The WSJ ran a nice article about The convergence between Health Care and Information technology; it included a great photo (at right) which is another way to think about augmented reality!

Congratulations to my blog-correspondent-friend Bertalan Meskó for finishing medical school!  A tremendous accomplishment.  He is probably the first MD 2.0 :)

This site closed for your protection.  Awesome.

(I think Chris Muir is really finding his form; it helps a political cartoonist when their views conflict with the policies of the administration in power...)

More Day-by-Day: The trouble with tying healthcare reform to Ted Kennedy.  I'm sorry Kennedy died, but let's face it; his memory is not going to help anyone sell anything, and especially not going to help Obama sell nationalized healthcare.

Lucky the carrier pigeon, with data back strapped on his backI love this: the pigeon protocol finds a practical purpose.  Yeah, I know, cell phones would be better, but how cute is it to think of these guys using pigeons to transmit photographs from the river...

ZooBorns: baby burrowing owlsA perfect segue to our ZooBorns of the weekend, baby burrowing owls.  Ooooo...


(New Yorker, 8/31/09)

Sunday,  08/30/09  06:50 PM

New Yorker 8/31/09 - "no trespassing"

at the border


Archive: August 31, 2008

Sunday,  08/31/08  09:02 PM

Wow, the last day of August, already!  Where did the year go? 

Did a great ride this morning; got up at 5:00AM (pronounced "oh-dark-hundred") and proceeded to ride 80 miles, through the Valley, down to the Santa Monica pier, up PCH, climbed Latigo Canyon, and down Decker Canyon.  Nice to do a long ride early, to have a lot of day left afterward, although I was a bit tired.  Sleep seems indicated...

Meanwhile, it's all happening (yawn)...

Gustav threatens...Today's big news is Hurricane Gustav, of course; the threat to New Orleans, and the consequent postponement / rearrangement of the G.O.P. convention this week.  Noemie Emery analyzes What Gustav Does...  be careful what you wish for, indeed!

Weirdly, today I had over 4,800 page views!  What could explain such a thing?  No new referring links, no major search engine activity... strange.  The whole world just decided to read my blog today, I guess :)  In other blog-gazing news, this is my 50th post this month, and 319th this year (but who's counting?)  My busiest blogging year since 2003, which was my first.  Interestingly, September has been my least active month of blogging.  We'll see what happens this year - stay tuned!

vote!An interesting post: the designers have spoken again...  various posters made in response to a design contest to encourage people to vote.  "Good design makes choices clear."  The posters are supposed to embody the reasons why people should vote, and many of them do, pretty nicely.

Of course people who aren't informed or interested enough to vote should not be encouraged to do so; it just dilutes the votes of those who are informed and are interested...

The MythBuster's Adam Savage has three ways to fix science education.  "When Jamie Hyneman and I speak at teacher conventions, we always draw a grateful crowd. They tell us Thursday mornings are productive because students see us doing hands-on science Wednesday nights on our show MythBusters, and they want to talk about it."  I like his way #1: Let students get their hands dirty!

Mt. Everest panorama
This is awesome, NASA's Astronomy Picture of the Day is actually a panoramic view taken from the top of Mt. Everest. 
Wow, that's just about all I can say.



Archive: August 31, 2007


Archive: August 31, 2006


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 31, 2004


Archive: August 31, 2003

IQ and Populations

Sunday,  08/31/03  11:35 AM

The other day I came across this table of National IQs for all the countries in the world.  (Drawn from Richard Lynn's and Tatu Vanhanen's "Intelligence and the Wealth and Poverty of Nations", via Gweilo, via razib.)  This is fascinating information, particularly when combined with population growth rates.

For the purposes of this discussion, let's stipulate that someone's IQ is just something you can measure, which may or may not have some correlation to anything else you can measure.  Whether it has anything to do with intelligence or any particular cognitive ability will not be addressed.

The U.S. Census Bureau has a terrific website called the International Data Base (IDB).  This includes a facility to create a table of National populations for any year between 1950 and 2050.  Let's assume that countries are (first-order) self-breeding and that measured IQ was/will be stable in each country during the 100 year period.  Combining all these data yields the following graph:

world IQ over time

The dark blue line is the average IQ of the world.  I've also plotted the population growth of the five most populous countries, India, China, the U.S., Indonesia, and Nigeria; the average IQ of each of these countries is in parenthesis.  (Nigeria is currently ninth, with Brazil (87), Pakistan (81), Russia (96), and Bangladesh (81) intervening, but by 2050 it will be fifth.)  As you can see, in a 100 year period the world's average IQ will have dropped from 92 to 86, a change of 6%.  That is pretty darn significant.  And all because of differential population growth.

I extrapolated the population growth of each country another 50 years to the year 2100 (lightly shaded region of graph).  At that time the world's average IQ will have dropped below 84.  Within this time period of 150 years, extremely short by any evolutionary standard, an incredibly significant change in this key metric will have occurred.  And there is no sign of the trend bottoming out, because the growth rate of countries with lower IQs exceeds the growth rate of countries with higher IQs.  The most populous country today is China, which has a high IQ (100), but its growth is actually projected to be negative because of their "one child" policy.  After about 2030 India will be the most populous country, and it has relatively low IQ (81).  At current growth rates by 2100 Nigeria will be the third most populous country, and it has a low IQ (67).

If you're interested in playing with these numbers yourself, here's the Excel spreadsheet with all these data.  If you publish further analysis or commentary, I would appreciate it if you'd link back to this page.

There were two assumptions we made up front, and I'd like to revisit them.  First, we assumed countries are self-breeding.  With modern vehicles and opportunities for travel this is becoming less and less true, but for the bulk of the world's population it is definitely a safe assumption.  The two largest countries, China and India, are both relatively undeveloped and by-and-large people do not travel in or out of them.  The third largest country, the U.S., is the only possible exception to this assumption, because so many people immigrate into the U.S. (in 1990 8% of the U.S. population was foreign-born).

The second assumption is more interesting; we assumed measured IQ was/will be stable in each country.  The Flynn Effect predicts this is false, and that measured IQ will increase over time.  (Historical data provide significant evidence for this.)  Many explanations have been offered for this effect, including steady improvement in testing procedures, and there is some evidence that in recent years the Flynn Effect has diminished.  If the overall world IQ changes due to differential birth rates among populations with different IQs (that is, separate countries), then it seems plausible that a country's IQ could change due to differential birth rates within its sub-populations as well.  In most countries and under most circumstances the birth rate of poorer and less educated people is significantly higher than the birth rate among wealthier and more educated people.  (China is the primary exception; due to their "one child" policies the birth rate within all sub-populations is essentially the same.)  Given the positive correlation between measured IQ and wealth, and between measured IQ and education, these differential birth rates would suggest that individual countries' IQs would decrease as populations expand.  If true, this would obviously accelerate the overall decrease in world IQ over time.

There are other factors at work.  For example, AIDS is presently the most common cause of death in Nigeria, which is one of the most populous and fastest growing countries.  Wealthier and more educated people are less likely to become infected by AIDS, because of awareness of the known transmission mechanisms and available protections, and also more likely to survive infection, because of availability of treatment (at least to the point of having and raising healthy children).  Because of this the effective birth rate among wealthier and more educated people in Nigeria is probably higher than poorer, less educated people.  There is a substantial correlation between wealth, education, and measured IQ.  Thus the AIDS epidemic may have the effect of raising the average IQ of Nigerians.

The human race has been in existence for approximately 150,000 years, during which time natural selection has incrementally increased human intelligence and cognitive ability.  It is not possible to give IQ tests to humans from 100,000 years ago - at least not yet :) - so we can only surmise that there would have been a corresponding increase in measured IQ as well.  Only recently - within the last 10,000 years or so - has this trend been halted, primarily by organized agriculture which enabled a small group of humans to provide food for a larger group.  It now appears that very recently - within the last 100 years or so - this trend has been reversed.  I call this Unnatural Selection, since it appears that societal rather than evolutionary effects are at work.  The consequences of this overall decrease in world IQ have yet to be quantified, but they are bound to be significant.


© 2003-2016 Ole Eichhorn


Sunday,  08/31/03  11:52 PM

In the wake of the Challenger disaster, CNN reports that Experts suggest extreme measures for NASA.  I suggest something really extreme: disband NASA, support commercial development of space as much as possible, and watch what happens.

But NASA keeps on ticking; they have plans for a light orbital plane to replace the space shuttle.  And this appears to have strong public support; "The survey found that 81 percent of Americans consider space exploration very important or somewhat important to the country's future."

Okay, so here's a cool idea: the idea a day site, "where ideas are free".  There are already 1109 ideas out there.  No RSS feed, but I've bookmarked it...  [ via Andrerib ]

Revolve - the bible for teenage girlsAnd here's an off-the-wall idea: a bible especially for teenage girls.  From the marketing pitch, "it's quite likely you'll see teen girls sporting the newest, hippest Bible this summer - from the beach to the mall, this magazine-style Bible is the most innovative concept in Bible publishing in the last twenty years."  Are you kidding me?  And no, I am not making this up.  [ via godless, who headlines her post "this is not the Onion"... ]

Yippee, another great book series coming to the silver screen.  This fall Russell Crowe becomes Jack Aubrey in Master and Commander, the initial episode of Patrick O'Brian's fantastic Aubrey-Maturin series.  If you haven't read the books, start now, that way you'll have read the first one by the time the movie comes out...

We're used to talking about the "brain drain" from Africa - smart young Africans go to school elsewhere, and stay there - but the Economist writes about the "brawn drain".  Interesting.  The markets for everything are becoming global, including skilled people.  [ via razib ]

bromine and raisinetteI found 101-365 in my referral log, and I like it!  Check it out, I mean bromine and raisinette, you can't really top that, can you?  (Bromine is bad stuff, but Chris' raisinette appears to be perhaps equally poisonous :)

Yesterday I linked a review of the new Archos Mediabox, and I wondered about an iPod A/V.  Well, here's the rumor.  If Apple could sell Quicktime-encoded downloadable movies through the iTunes store, they'd be able to print money.  And it would be time to short Blockbuster.

spider webThis is cool: Scientists Crack Secret Strength of Silk.  Spider silk is one of the most amazing things.  Aside from the material itself, which is amazingly strong and light, the 3D structure in which it is organized is amazing.  The elasticity of spider silk is actually a property of the way it is spun, not the material; essentially there are tiny "coils" of silk like beads on a string which act as springs.  And then there are the webs themselves, which have some amazing topological properties.  Richard Dawkins goes into some depth about spider silk in his terrific book Climbing Mount Improbable, check it out if you're interested in learning more.

Microsoft has an endless stream of great downloads available, monitorable with this RSS feed.  Of course 99% of them are uninteresting to any one user, but the other 1% are great.  Like this one, Inside the Microsoft .NET Framework.  If you've ever said "I don't get .NET", then this is for you.  Dr. GUI takes you on a magic tour through the .NET kingdom, with zero marketing BS.  Warning, it is 94MB, broadbanders only.

weapon of choicestick-figure ninjaAnd here we have - the stick-figure ninja!  Awesome flash animation, check it out.  A perfect stick-figure copy of this Fatboy Slim video, featuring Christopher Walkin.  (it is cool, too...)  [ via Bigwig ]

Want to read or share old Apple anecdotes?  Then visit the Apple Computer History Weblog.  { This is one of those things where I'm just glad it's out there.  I won't visit it often or bookmark it, but Google will know about it, and one of these days I'll be looking for something and poof!, there it is... }


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?