Critical Section

Archive: November 24, 2015


Archive: November 23, 2014

multiple hats

Sunday,  11/23/14  09:22 PM

startups!Another new (to me) blogger: Mark Suster, an LA-based VC.  He blogs about startups and investors, with a lot of good stuff mixed in.  Love it.  There is so much value in blogging and reading blogs.

Anyway here's a good one: In defense of Uber: an objective opinion.  I don't have any special insight but the whole "target journalists" thing seems way overblown.

Powerline wonders: Is there any hope for our civilization?  "Understand that the morons who wrote this incoherent drivel, which wouldn't have passed muster at my public high school in South Dakota, are PhD candidates."  I think there's plenty of hope, all over, including in academia, but certainly things in those environments have to change.  The pendulum has swung way too far to the left.

too many hats?Seth Godin: the jobs only you can do.  "One of the milestones every entrepreneur passes is when she stops thinking of people she hires as expensive ('I could do that job for free') and starts thinking of them as cheap ('This frees me up to do something more profitable.;')."  Yep.

This is cool: Google and Stanford researchers create image recognition software that goes beyond recognizing individual objects.  eyesFinder's visual search software is both dumber and more powerful than this; it doesn't try to "recognize" anything, but it can match all kinds of things to an image library, including individual objects as well as scenes.


Archive: November 24, 2013

catching fire

Sunday,  11/24/13  05:42 PM

the mockingjay appears

Watched Hunger Games Catching Fire today, and thought it was great.  A most worthy sequel, and amazing in its own right.  The direction and production values are excellent (those costumes!), and the story was simplified and embelished perfectly to adapt the book to a movie.  My only complaint is that since the book is written in the first person, there's a lot of subtley that viewers who haven't read the book might miss, but so be it.  Overall it was excellent!

My favorite moment was when Katniss' wedding dress turns into a mockingjay outfit.  Perfect.

It would be perhaps too obvious to say Jennifer Lawrence is great, but ... she is.  In fact the entire cast are as well, faithful to the characters from the book, and ... interesting.  It might be weird to say, given the fantasy nature of the whole story, but they seemed real.  I can't wait for the next, er, two (Mockingjay, the third and final book, will apparently be two movies...)



Sunday,  11/24/13  06:03 PM

nested Klein bottlesOnward, into the calm before the Thanksgiving storm ... a quick filter pass.

(the picture is my current 3D printing challenge, nested Klein bottles :)

Apparently 3D printable "physibles" are the next frontier of piracy.  So be it.  I predict this will go about as well as fighting audio and video copying...

Scott "Dilbert" Adams: I hope my father dies soon.  A powerful argument for the government to stay out of the way when it comes to things like doctor-assisted suicide.

I agree with Maria Kang.  We have to stop pretending it's okay to be fat and out of shape.  As soon as I travel away from LA, as I did last week, I'm amazed at the borderline obesity you see everywhere.  Not that it doesn't exist in LA either, but somehow it is less acceptable.  Or at least not celebrated.

Maria was banned from Facebook for posting her opinion.  That's terrible.  I doubt I'll be banned for posting mine, but we'll see :)

Barcelona bike sharingSix awesome bike sharing schemes from around the world.  Awesome indeed.  My first contact with such schemes was when I was in Dublin this Spring, but unfortunately I needed an Irish bank account.  Not too tourist friendly.

C|net - 2013 LA Auto ShowI didn't attend the 2013 LA Auto Show, but thanks to this C|net overview video, I didn't have to... the BMW i3 looks ugly, but it's all-electric, so that's cool, meanwhile the Jaguar F-type Couple looks amazing, but it's old technology under that hood.  And the Cadillac ELR is an upmarket Chevy Volt, with a bit of both.  And we now have hydrogen cars (!), at least as auto-show concepts.

How much ad / survey / link-me crap can a web page have?  This one seems to be trying to find out.

How did I miss this?  Halley Suitt shares her eBook secrets, and I agree with all of them:

  1. No glasses required.  (Change font size!)
  2. No lights required.  (Book light or backlight)
  3. Count Alexei Kirillovich Vronsky.  (Search for anything instantly)
  4. Have I got a deal for you.  (Cheaper all the time, and lots of deals most of the time)

the iTypewriterFor the Luddites in all of us: the iTypewriter.  The best way to type on an iPad?  [ via Daring Fireball ]

best word ever - final fourThis is most excellent: tournament-style brackets used to choose the best English word ever.  What's your favorite? 

(I like "diphthong" but I don't think it would make my final four...)

Another great list: Daniel Dennett on how to argue well (I wouldn't argue with any of this :):

  1. Attempt to re-express your target's position clearly
  2. List any points of agreement
  3. Mention anything you have learned from your target
  4. Only then say so much as a word of rebuttal or criticism

Africa's first underwater hotelA must-visit?  Africa's first underwater hotel.  I'm actually pretty drawn to the deck on the roof, looks like a perfect spot for reading :)

the Siats meekerorum, largest carnivorous dinosaurExcellent!  Massive new dinosaur discovered in Utah.  It looks terrifying, but we have to work on that name.  "Siats Meekerorum" just doesn't have the same ring as "Tyrannosaurus Rex".

Onward into the week!


Archive: November 24, 2012


Archive: November 24, 2011


Archive: November 21, 2010

blogging while low

Sunday,  11/21/10  11:00 AM

Boston common: two paths diverged in a wood...Yikes, another week past without blogging.  Will you forgive me?  I could tell you I'm feeling a bit down, but that's no excuse; in fact you might argue - convincingly - that I should blog my way out of it.  So be it.  Here goes...

Oh by the way I spent the week in Boston, attending a Personalized Medicine conference in Harvard, and *that* was fun.  Learned a lot and enjoyed Boston, always a great place with some nice memories and doubly nice in the Holiday cold.

Scott "Dilbert" Adams: the waiting room is your doctor.  What part of this future is unlikely in 200 years?  (What part in 20?)

can marketing data predict life spans?Wow: Can marketing data predict people's life spans?  "Life insurers are testing an intensely personal new use for the vast dossiers of data being amassed about Americans: predicting people's longevity."  This would not surprise me in the least.

ISS astronaut watches Earth - would make a great sci-fi novel cover, but it's real!Cory Doctorow observes this picture would make a great cover for a science fiction novel.  And he's right.  But even better, the picture is *real*; an astronaut on the ISS watching Earth.  How cool is that!

Where do I sign up?  Scientists propose one-way trips to Mars.  This totally makes sense, the expense of ensuring a safe return makes space travel prohibitively expensive.  Not to mention, if you are not coming back, your attitude about working with your coworkers and making a new life for yourself is going to be quite different.  Sort of like the Wild West 200 years ago :)

heavenly showerPicture of the week, from Michael Yon: Heavenly Shower.  Awesome.

From John Gruber: OpenTable from a restaurant's perspective.  I gather it is expensive for them, but I must tell you, as a user I love OpenTable!  Just this week in Boston I used it three times to find great / perfect places to eat.

Another thing I love / use all the time: Kayak files for $50M IPO.  I wish them well, and use them often.

Apropos: Frank Quattrone observes It's easier to go public than be public.  Not sure about that; if you're an entrepreneur or investor, it's easier to be public than not to be - and worry about liquidity...

Ars Technica review Facebook's new messaging system.  Count me among those who have not been affected.  Don't get me wrong, I love FB and visit it daily, but it is not going to replace email and text for me.  Yet anyway.

Beatles arrive in the USAnd so Apple are now selling Beatles tunes in iTunes.  Not sure this is a world changing event, more like a recognition that a world changing event has already occurred.  I see where next year Apple are projected to become the #1 retailer for music.  Done deal.

I think this was a bigger deal for Steve Jobs than for me, but hey, he is the guy who made it happen, so he should get to enjoy it!

dead downwind, faster than the windDead downwind, faster than the wind.  I don't know how it works either, but it seems to work well.  The physics of this are fascinating...

An important general principle: the toy will win.  "Toy [noun]: A technological product which is simple and fun to use, and which may be criticized by some people as being weak and not suitable for serious work."  I absolutely believe this.

Related: iPad may replace computers and textbooks in schools.  Yeah, I can see that.  The computer part, but also the textbook part.  What part of this seems unlikely in 20 years?

Do you think Steve Jobs saw this coming?  The whole iPod -> iPhone -> iPad thing?  I don't...  I think he believed in the iPod to distribute music, that led him to the iPhone, that led to a new computing paradigm (I don't think Jobs or anyone saw the App Store success coming) and that led to the iPad.  That's what I think anyway :)

A great web-based ebook from the Google Chrome team: 20 things I learned about browsers and the web.  In order to explain things this well, you have to understand them well.  Cool.

I love this: even if HTML5 doesn't give you much, it's buzzword status can still help your UI.  Basically, HTML5 provides a useful shorthand for "modern web browser".

Renovo wooden bike = way coolFrom Wired: Wooden bike like riding a perfect piece of furniture.  Hey, that's my next bike!  (Christmas is coming... I've been a good boy, right?)

Zooborns: black and white Jaguar twins!ZooBorns of the week: Black and white Jaguar twins!

Well and so do I feel better?  Um, yeah.  Not great, but better.  Onward!


Archive: November 23, 2009

Olympus BioScapes

Monday,  11/23/09  09:13 PM

Olympus BioScapes competition winners

(who needs amazing 3D fracals when we have real life?)


Monday,  11/23/09  09:47 PM

A quiet week, lots of people on vacation, lots of people shifting to "Holiday mode".  Spending time on planning for next year, and reflecting on this year.  It was a tough one for all of us, but could have been much worse.

Cyclelog: yet another Rockstore.  Twelveth day in a row but who's counting :)

Where has the Obama thrill gone?  "A righteous anger about an Obama trifecta - of serial apologies and bows abroad, massive borrowing and deficit spending, and government-take overs of private spheres of life - is swelling up in the electorate."  I see it all around me, the disillusionment is palpable.

Obama: fading fastXeni Jardin: Hope is fading.  If President Obama's lost Xeni, then he's lost.

If only Barack Obama were more like Sarah Palin.  "The animating spirit that electrified his political movement has sputtered out..."  I agree with Glenn Reynolds' take: "Obama's 'charisma' was based on voter narcissism - people excited not just about electing a black President, but about themselves, voting for a black President."

Concord C1 QuantumGravity watch, a must have for kazillionairesUnbelievable watch of the day: the Concord C1 QuantumGravity.  Just when you think you've seen it all, you realize "it all" is so much more than you thought.  Despite the massive size I would love to wear this watch; it is so bizarre...  the price isn't given, but I am sure if you have to ask, you can't afford it.  Limited edition of *ten*.

Virgin Galactic's spaceplaneWow, this is excellent: Virgin Galactic's Space-Grazing Aircraft Is Ready for Liftoff.  [Somewhat] the start of space tourism, right?  (Although we must note, this spacecraft is not going into orbit or anything, just high enough to reach "space" and return.  Trips to the Moon and Mars will be coming soon :)


healthcare usability 2009

Monday,  11/23/09  10:09 PM

Healthcare Human Factors: the state of healthcare technology in 2009.  Pretty sobering.  Yes, we need to work on this...

User-interface design is not easy.  I spent a good part of the day in conversation with a colleague as we tried to get rid of one checkbox.  Every single question you ask a user makes things harder, and every control is a question.


Archive: November 24, 2008

the food issue

Monday,  11/24/08  06:01 PM

New Yorker Nov 24, 2008Yesterday and today, while shaving, I read the latest issue of the New Yorker and I am so glad the election is over!  Finally, no more Bush-bashing, and no more Obama-touting, and we are back to their normally scheduled interesting articles.  This week's was "the food issue", as you might expect with Thanksgiving coming up, and there were great articles on (among many other things) Who makes the best BBQ in Texas? (apparently it's not who you think), The Rise of Extreme Beer (who knew?), and Among the Knifemakers (a great introduction to the art of knives, especially chef's knives).

I promise this blog won't become a New Yorker review site - well, I guess it is already :) - but I must tell you this is a great trend.  Yay.



software development, explained (New Yorker, 11/24/08)

Monday,  11/24/08  06:15 PM


software development explained :)

... software development, explained :)



more Trizilla

Monday,  11/24/08  06:28 PM

I just never get tired of looking at pictures of "Trizilla", the BMW Oracle racing Trimaran which may compete in the next America's Cup (depending on how the lawsuits sort themselves out, and hence the rules which will be used for the design of the boats).  Whether it ever races anything or not, it is a wonderful creation.  I really really really want to ride on it, a mini-life-goal :)

flying a hull
(click to enbiggen)

the helmsman is thirty feet off the water
(click to enbiggen)

coming at you - wide load
(click to enbiggen)

you can almost hear the rush of the water...
(click to enbiggen)



Monday,  11/24/08  07:14 PM

This morning I had my annual physical, and you will be happy to hear I am disgustingly fit.  Yay.  Yet another benefit of being at 180 :)  Later in the day I had a nice ride (although man, it is cold out here; 55o is not California riding weather; with rain predicted for the remainder of this week we'll have actual winter weather at Thanksgiving).  Oh, and I had my teeth cleaned.  In between I did a little coding and a lot of emailing.  So passes another day.

And meanwhile, the blogosphere continues to discuss, well, everything...

Eric SchmidtJohn Battelle linked an interesting speech by Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google, on 2009.  His take is more optimistic than most, and also more informed; besides his day job he is one of Barack Obama's economic advisors.  By all means check it out.

BTW, When Eric talks he seems really smart.  Like Steve Jobs.  (And unlike Bill Gates; I still maintain Gates is overrated as a really smart guy.)

The Economist wonders: Can Barack Obama and Tom Daschle fix American health care?  "Tom Daschle, former senator for South Dakota, is to get the job of secretary for health and human services.  This looks like a pretty shrewd pick, and the fact that it is the first cabinet job to be sort-of-announced is an indication that Barack Obama is in deadly earnest about one of his main campaign promises: comprehensive health-care reform.  It would be hard to find anyone better placed than Mr Daschle to get the job done, if anyone can."  Good luck!  It will be doubly hard with the present economy...

So, should Barack Obama go to church?  Of all the things he's dealing with, this seems among the least important.  It would be good to have a President who isn't religious, or at least, who doesn't appear to make decisions based on his religion.

Anatomy of a meltdown: John Cassidy on Ben Bernanke and the financial crisis.  A really interesting article about Ben and the current situation, and how it all came to pass.

According to Boing Boing, Nasim Nicholas Taleb, author of The Black Swan (which I'm reading right now), feels this economy could be worse than the Great Depression.  Oh great.

SpaceX tests the Falcon 9SpaceX successfully tested their 9-engine cluster, the Falcon 9.  Yay.  Kimbal Musk, Elon's brother, posted a video of the test firing...

sliding rock on Racetrack PlayaOne of my favorite mysteries: The Sliding Rocks of Racetrack Playa.  They aren't moved by people, so how does it happen?  Some of these rocks weight hundreds of pounds.  My vote is ... a combination of moisture and cold that lubricates the playa, and wind.  But who knows?

Robert Scoble: Obsessing about new news.  A nice overview of all the different mechanisms now available for receiving input... Twitter, FriendFeed, etc.  I still favor RSS, but I can remember when I thought RSS was weird and useless, so I may yet find the light.  Stay tuned :)

I find it interesting that so many bloggers are trying to find business models for Twitter: Dave Winer, Tim O'Reilly, and Steve Gilmor all weigh in.  There seems to be a there there, but what it is remains elusive...

Floyd Landis joins OUCHThe other day I reported that Floyd Landis will be riding again this year, with the OUCH team...  but apparently he is not done in court, and "has challenged the ruling of the international Court of Arbitration for Sport that stripped him of the 2006 Tour de France title in U.S. Federal court, charging that the system for resolving doping cases is inherently biased against the accused."  So in addition to overcoming his hip replacement and two years off from competition, he'll also continue fighting the cycling establishment.  Go Floyd!

John Patrick on the demise of PC Magazine: Vertical.  "The first issue of PC Magazine back in the summer of 1981 was a thrill to read and it was sad news this week that Ziff Davis Media has decided to cease publishing the magazine...  The more significant aspect of PC Magazine has been the early and innovative focus on 'vertical'."  Yeah, and it is increasingly difficult for "vertical" to survive in print.  Seems like the web is the future of vertical...

wild turkey!Apropos the week: Panda's Thumb: Meleagris gallopavo.  Yes, that would be... a wild turkey.  Wonderful.  (Especially with a nice Pinot Noir :)

One of the happy things about thanksgiving...  is getting stuffed...

leaves stuck in fresh tarmacSo today I was riding along, and there's one area right alongside Westlake (the lake itself) where there's a metric ton of leaves fallen onto the road, and you're basically riding through a cloud of yellow leaves; it was beautiful.  And one leaf floated up and stuck to my seat post, pinned by the 20mph breeze created by my forward motion.  And it was so cool; that leaf stayed there for about ten minutes before a side gust blew it away, I was sad to see it go...  and I got home and saw this post by Cory Doctorow, with a picture of leaves stuck in fresh tarmac.  How beautiful.  All streets should have leaves embedded in them...  I love fall.  Yay.




Archive: November 24, 2007


Archive: November 24, 2006


Archive: November 24, 2005

thanksgiving overflow

Thursday,  11/24/05  10:12 AM

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

glass half full? or half empty?I think Thanksgiving is one of my favorite "days".  (Odd, isn't it, this need we have to order things according to Earth's trips around the sun?  What would we do if a year was ten times as long?  Anyway.)  I have a lot to be thankful for, but I don't often stop and smell the roses.  I'm kind of a "glass half empty" kind of person, almost like noticing the glass is also half full would jinx things, and cause the glass to empty completely.  Thanksgiving gives me permission to concentrate on the full half of the glass, and maybe even to find that the glass is more than half full.

I have to start with my wonderful wife, Shirley.  (I don't like the word "wife".  It is such a crappy sounding word for such a wonderful thing.  Why don't we have a beautiful, melodic, inspiring -sounding word for this concept?  (Like "concubine".)  Or something.  Anyway.)  Shirley is not only a huge part of the full part of the glass, she is also the reason for other big parts of the fullness, my kids.  All of them are wonderful, amazing people - and you couldn't find more different people, amazingly, although they are all women - and I am very thankful for them.  And they, together, are responsible for another big part of the fullness of my glass, my life at home.  Which is wonderful.  Most of the time.  Certainly more than half of the time.  Especially right now, with my little dogs chasing my cat up the stairs :)

And then there is my work.  (I don't like the word "work".  It is such a stark, bare, unexpressive word for such a wonderful thing.  Why don't we have a noble, full, inspiring -sounding word for this concept?  (Like "endeavor".)  Or something.  Anyway.)  I am fortunate to live at a time when the intellectual effort of teaching machines to do stuff is valued.  And I am especially fortunate that the particular machines I am teaching to do stuff are helping us in such valuable ways.  I get up in the morning knowing that what I need to do that day matters.  And that is something for which I am very thankful.

overflow!And it is a beautiful day.  Bright and sunny, crisp.  As I sit here watching Tivo-ed football, typing on my laptop, a glance out the window calls me.  A bike ride is indicated, I think.  The exposure to the outside world will be good, and the exercise will be good, too, helpful in anticipation of serious food consumption ahead.  Now that is something to be thankful for...

My glass is actually overflowing. 
Odd that I notice that so seldom. 


Archive: November 24, 2003

Monday,  11/24/03  10:17 PM

Here's a though experiment: What if the world had twice as many people in it?  Every city you can imagine, duplicated - another New York, another Singapore, another Bombay.  Would it be the same, only more crowded, or would it be qualitatively different?  How about if we had 4 times more people?  Or 10 times more people?  There is a point at which things change, right?  Would it be better for you, or worse?  Would the world be more productive, or less?  Would the average quality of life be better, or worse?  Just wondering...

Hey, my favorite "little" VoIP company Vonage just raised $35M.  Yep, it's a Thing.

the time wheelThe time wheel.  I like this...  [ via Ottmar Liebert ]

Yahoo notes: New Robotic Gliders Can Soar Under Water.  "The submarine robots don't use propellers, jets or flapping wings to get about.  Nor do they swim.  Instead, they pump ballast water in and out to subtly change their buoyancy.  That enables them to alternately rise and fall through the ocean as they glide forward."  Pretty cool.

Hey, guess what?  Michael Jackson has a blog!  I am not making this up...


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Correlation vs. Causality
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visiting Titan
unintelligent design
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estimating in meatspace
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Texas chili cookoff
almost famous design and stochastic debugging
may I take your order?
universal healthcare
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how did I get here (Mt.Whitney)?
the Law of Significance
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