Critical Section

old ideas

Sunday,  07/26/20  09:54 PM

old ideasAnd so we celebrated the 28th solar orbit of our marriage; where by "we" I mean Shirley and me, but also our kids Jordan, Alex, and Meg, and our grandkid Ori.  A time of reminiscence.  A lot has happened during those orbits, and a lot has changed, but also the song remains the same.  The sound track was the Beach Boys, who were always nostalgic even when new.

Ottmar Liebert: Old Ideas.  "Perhaps the desire to change or become something else is a genetic selection… because, if everyone wanted to change it might create too much societal upheaval. If no one wanted change society would become stagnant."  Agree entirely.

And it's an old idea: viz Progress Ratchets.

Le Tour 2020: 8/29 - 9/20?One of the joys of having blogged for 17 years now is checking to see what I was blogging about this time last year, and the year before that, and so on ... the old ideas spawn new ones.  I was sad this year that there was no Tour, and now I'm sad that I'm not sad that the Tour has ended, as I usually am at the end of July.  It's presently scheduled for Aug 29 - Sep 20, but that seems rather optimistic now and I'm betting it will not take place.

Some of the things which have been and shall be delayed by the pandemic will just take place as usual, but later, but some will be quite changed by the delay, including athletic events where the athletes trained for peaking at a given time.  The effect on the Olympics of 202021 will be significant.

Pangea with modern-day bordersThe Visual Capitalist outdo themselves: map of Pangea with modern-day borders.  You must most definitely click through and oogle.

Did you know?  You can now boot a Win95 PC inside Minecraft and play Doom.  Ah, but can you play Minecraft on it?

More Ottmar: "perhaps I should use the word timeless instead of old".

A new video blog to watch: The Reassembler.  Great stuff; interesting, and narrated with great humor.

square waterSo you can make square water.  Or perhaps more accurately, square pools of water.  You never know when that might come in handy.

Am I the only one who immediately thought of yelling SQUARE WATER!  Yeah, I guess I was.

More old ideas: Scarlet, a previously unreleased 1974 Rolling Stones song that features Jimmy Page on guitar.  Not bad and age hasn't hurt it one bit.

Ottmar again: "The idea of balancing two extremes is what makes a great piece of art, whether it is a painting or a piece of music…. or food. What are those extremes? They can be familiar and strange, comforting and arousing, sour and sweet. It’s all about the balance."


comet Neowise

Saturday,  07/25/20  09:47 PM

A collection of photos and videos capturing Comet C/2020 F3 Neowise, visible during July 2020:

comet Neowise

Awesome! - please click through for the rest...


sail on

Sunday,  07/19/20  09:20 PM

sail onAmid all the sheltering, I've been sailing!  Yippee.  The local clubs here in Southern California haven't exactly opened up - the clubhouses and bars are locked tight - but they have started running simple "practice" regattas.  So much fun.

Literally unbelievable: Widespread Twitter Hack Reaches Bill Gates, Kanye West, Elon Musk, Joe Biden and Barack Obama.  I follow Elon and was almost taken in myself.  Wow!

Experts agree: US should reopen schools.  Much to the chagrin of some media.

Powerline: America's reporters and editors are liars.  Yep, no surprise there.

Half of Americans have used Telehealth services during pandemic.  Excellent.  But what about all of you in the other half?

The Atlas of MoonsNational Geographic: The Atlas of Moons.  Over 200 of your favorites, with all known data about each one.  Definitely a bookmark to revisit.

Although I must say, the site is a tad over-engineered; it would have been better without all the background processing.

Mark your calendars: NASA's SpaceX Crew Dragon astronauts will return to Earth on Aug 2.  Excellent.

Apropos: SpaceX wins NASA approval to launch astronauts on reused rockets.

Less certain: NASA chief says he's 'very confident' in a 2021 launch date for SLS.  Did he read this: What you need to know about our SLS rocket's 'green run test'.

Inspector General: NASA's Orion is a program of lies.  Sad.

But ... at least NASA is keeping the astrologers honest, so they've got that going for them.

Katmai National Park "bear cam"Here we have the Katmai National Park annual "bear cam", showing bears, salmon, and all sorts of other wildlife.  I've visited three times and seen bears every time.  Sooo cool.

On behalf of environmentalists, I apologize for the climate scare.  Why thank you.

Related: A visual lesson in energy density.  Green entropy barely shows up.

back to the futureBerci Mesko: I would love to go back to 2006 to show this image to someone and ask what they think is going on here.

Doc Searls: How long will radio last?

Doom processor array graphAnd finally from John "Doom" Carmack: "Someone noticed that when you have hundreds / thousands of cores in a supercomputer, the individual utilization boxes in Task Manager start to look like pixels. People started making pictures by doing different amounts of work on specific processors."
It escalated quickly.

Onward ... smooth sailing!


Economist filter pass

Saturday,  07/18/20  09:54 PM

Hi all ... I've done a poor job recently in my unofficial role of Economist filter, for which I apologize.  Some fairly recent links:

Economist: steeper than expectedTechnology Quarterly: An understanding of AI’s limitations is starting to sink in.  Subhead: “steeper than expected”.  A good collection of articles about real-world experiences with AI, including Brain Scan, about the potential and pitfalls of Medical AI.

Economist: The New World DisorderSpecial Report: The New World Disorder.  Subhead: “global leadership is missing in action.”  (The Economist would always rather have governments in charge, despite their market focus.)  It’s a good survey of the dynamics in world politics, including the fading role of the UN.

Zoom and Gloom.  “Can Zoom be trusted with users’ secrets?”  Interesting survey including the back-story with a Chinese founder and development team.

From yields to maturity.  “The Fed has been supporting markets.  Now it must find ways to boost growth.”  Well in my view supporting markets is exactly and only what the Fed should to do boost growth, but what do I know.

Economist: The World IfThe World If.  “Scenarios for a warming world.”  Their Editor’s Note: Each of these climate change articles is fiction, but grounded in historical fact and real science.  Okayyy.  They don't quite say the pandemic is good for the Earth, but they certainly hint at it; a sample musing: Peak Plane (“What if aviation doesn't recover from Covid-19”).  For me the most prescient was The Road Not Taken, “what if nuclear power had taken off in the 1970s”.

Economist: Invisible MenAnd finally from the most recent issue: Invisible Men, “how objectivity in journalism became a matter of opinion.”  It is, dare I say, a reasonably objective survey of how the pendulum has swung over the years.  We expect journalists to try to be objective, and are dismayed when they aren't, but it was not always so, and increasingly it isn't so anymore, either.

Cheers and happy reading

PS I share these links thinking they are publicly readable, please let me know if they are not, and I'll share the articles themselves instead.


Tuesday,  07/07/20  11:58 PM

blown away by the soundRocking in the USA...

Covid - second wave? (no)Second wave?  Not even close.  And you might ask yourself, how did I get here?  We've stopped making sense.  There are many people who want a disaster and are rooting for it.  Including especially the mass media.

I've noticed my friends fall into two groups: those who watch CNN and MSNBC and who think things are bad and getting worse, and those who get their news from the internet and who think CNN and MSNBC are the real problem.

Deja Vu all over again?  Daniel Patrick Moynihan to Richard Nixon: "To a degree that no one could have anticipated even three or four years ago, the educated elite of the American middle class have come to detest their society, and their detestation is rapidly diffusing to youth in general."

Gerard Vanderleun: Heaven's Mailroom.  "Thank you, Hashem, for giving me the ability to share this message and for giving me so many wonderful people with whom to share it."

safest sources of energyThe safest source of energy will surprise you.  Well, it didn't surprise me, but I love having the data.

Nerding out: Implementing Ctrl+F.  This is interesting but misses another approach - creating an index tree.  For one search it might not be the best, but for many many searches it is far more efficient.

Modified Bayes Theoremxkcd: Modified Bayes Theorem.  P(C) is correlated to knowing you need P(C).

Kind of apropos: ESR on Defect Attractors.  "A 'defect attractor' of a program, language, API, or any other kind of software construct is a feature which, while possibly not bad in itself, spawns defects in the design or code near it."

And I found this recursively cool: Microsoft scrambles to stop AI reporter from reporting on itself.  I wonder if the AI reporter will find this story?

Space DragonLiterally awesome: the SpaceX Crew Dragon docked at the International Space Station.  It only looks like a movie.  This picture taken by an astronaut on a space walk.

SpaceX ... to Europac|net: SpaceX could send NASA to Jupiter's potentially habitable moon Europa.  Excellent, where do I buy a ticket?



Tuesday,  07/07/20  11:45 PM

Stillwater ... the best band that never was.


Imagine my delight to find their full album!  Indeed we have Fever Dog, Love Thing, Chance Upon You, my favorite Love Comes and Goes, Hour of Need, and of course, You Had to be There.  Written by Nancy Wilson and Peter Frampton, and with Mike McCready of Pearl Jam on guitar (incendiary!) they were awesome.  In fact you might even say they were Almost Famous...


missing Le Tour

Tuesday,  07/07/20  08:22 AM

This morning it struck me suddenly, with great sadness, that This Is July and I Miss Le Tour.  Every day in July since ... well ... maybe 2000 or so, I've gotten up early and watched it.  Not only the great racing but the views of France, the voice of Phil Liggitt (sadly, Paul Sherwen is no longer with us), the whole experience of it.  Weirdly, of the many changes in my life due to the pandemic, this might be the most emotional.

Le Tour!

Vive Le Tour


Teladoc += InTouch

Wednesday,  07/01/20  12:58 PM

Teladoc += InTouch

Even more excited about this than when it was announced back in January. Together we are improving healthcare for the world!

Teladoc Health Completes Acquisition of InTouch Health, Creating Single Virtual Care Delivery Leader from Hospital to Home

If you're an engineer looking for an interesting and rewarding opportunity with an amazing company, please let me know. We're looking for you :)


deep dive

Tuesday,  06/30/20  11:53 PM

The Visual Capitalist takes a deep dive into the world's oceans, lakes, and drill holes:

a deep dive into the world's oceans, lakes, and drill holes

Excellent (click through to enbiggen).  What's most surprising to you?  I found the fact that the trenches - the so-called "Hadal Zone" - are so much deeper than the oceans as a whole (which are also deep).  And also, David Bowie and Freddy Mercury :)



filter pass

Sunday,  06/28/20  09:55 PM

Bacara ... long Father's Day weekend ... yayThe Ole filter makes a pass ... looking back, it's been kind of a post-less June, sorry about that.  Not that I need an excuse, but I have a reason; last week / weekend we escaped for a wonderful loong Father's Day at Bacara, one of my very favorite places.  It's reopened in a careful way, yay.

Last week was Apple's virtual WWDC, and a lot of pretty real changes were announced, including the much-anticipated switch from Intel to Apple / ARM processors.  Serenity Caldwell serves up a great two-minute overview of all the announcements.

Tidbits: the case for ARM-based Macs.

The Progression continues...I love this: Moths to the Flame.  "The International Moth remains the pinnacle of small-boat foiling, with devotees committed to 'the progression'."  After two years I am still on the first rungs of the ladder, but boy are they fun.

Awesome: The return of the 90's web.  Serverside rendering, no-code tools, personal websites (!) ... crazy talk!

Reid Hoffman: Forgot writing that business plan.  Design an experiment instead.  More crazy talk :)

Roglic beats Pogacar to win Slovenian championshipHardly any "real" sports you say?  Yeah, but ... in Slovenia, they had an actual cycling race for their National Championship, wherein Primoz Roglic beat Tadej Pogacar.  Slovenia just happens to have two of the top cyclists in the world, and also, no Covid cases.

Eric Raymond: A user story about user stories.  "Design by user story is not a technique for generating code, it's a technique for changing your mind."  When ESR talks, people listen.

'Take on Me', in ExcelHere we have 'Take on Me', performed in Excel.  Just when you think you've seen it all, you realize "it all" is so much more than you thought.

Take note: Facebook on fact-checking political statements.  "We will protect political speech, even when we strongly disagree with it."  So that's good, but I can't help noticing the royal "we".  Stay tuned.

James Lileks wonders: "Have you ever asked yourself if there's something you can say today that you will not say next week?"  Yes.  The most worrisome thing about today's political climate is the number of things one cannot say.  All opinions matter.

As Instapundit notes: "we've moved from 'Blazing Saddles could not be made today' to 'No one will be allowed to watch Blazing Saddles'."

One more: John Cleese on extremism.  "Hard to tell if I recorded this 30 years or 10 minutes ago."  Notably and encouragingly, linked by Boing Boing and Kottke, among many others.

Very seldom have I laughed this hard: if Frazer Crane were still in Seattle.

Rolling Stone: Stillwater! (from Almost Famous)YES!  Almost Famous cast and creators reunite for a 20th anniversary podcast series.  My very favorite movie of all time.  To this day, when a waiter asks if I want sparkling or still water, I yell: "STILLWATER!"

Walt Mossberg reviews the original iPhone in the WSJ, 6/28/2007Finally this blast from the past: 13 years ago Walt Mossberg reviewed the original iPhone.  "One of the most important trends in personal technology over the past few year has been the evolution of the humble cellphone into a true handheld computer."  Good call.


messing about in small boats, with little people

Saturday,  06/27/20  09:20 PM

Spent today as a Saturday should be spent, messing about in small boats, with my favorite little person.

Ori sailing

thar she blows

To be repeated soon and often!


spacecraft UI

Wednesday,  06/10/20  12:52 PM


spacecraft UI

The evolution of spacecraft UI over time. 
Apollo - 1961-1972.  Shuttle 1981-2011.  Dragon: 2020-????




Sunday,  06/07/20  11:50 PM

the majestic generalsToday I blasted off into another great corner of California, the recently reopened Sequoia National Park, home of the world's largest trees (and hence, largest living things, period).  These majestic trees are just amazing, and they're surrounded by "ordinary" pine trees, so you can tell just how much bigger and awesomer they are.  Oh, and they're over 2,000 years old.  Yeah, the stories they can tell...

My weekend forays have given me some interesting data points about how people "out there" are handling the pandemic.  Today it was evident many things besides the National Park have reopened - like restaurants, there was a lot more traffic, and far fewer people are wearing masks.

I've often wondered: Why we refuse to spend much money on Apps.  "First is a principle called anchoring, or the idea that there is a sort of reference price for particular items, based on what else is available and how the first price was set."  Yep I get it.  Online everything is anchored to free.

The very definition of contrarian: The Gospel According to Peter Thiel.  His central thesis is that we can improve ourselves and the world, a sort of anti-fate.  Very cool, and the comment thread is pretty interesting, too.

where does your electricity come from?Visual Capitalist: Do you know where your electricity comes from?  Hint: fossil fuels.  But you've watched Planet of the Humans, so you knew that already, right?  Another *great* graphic from this great blog...  (by all means, click through to enbiggen!)

Via Reid Hoffman, this great framework for business strategy from Shishir Mehrotra: Four Myths of Bundling.  The whole notion of establishing value for abstract things is so ... weird.  Like Apps :)

Chris Dixon: Why Decentralization Matters.  More insightful business philosophy.  Decentralized networks should win, but will they?

Hardspace: ShipbreakerThis looks cool: 'Hardspace: Shipbreaker' is a puzzle-solving parable.  I'm rarely attracted to games (and often disappointed in the ones I try), but this looks like it might be worth a chance.

Unreal 'Nanite' game engineMeanwhile, this demo of new Unreal game engine is unreal.  I found the spatial sound as impressive as the incredible lighting.  Virtual reality is definitely in the uncanny valley now.

Eye, Robot: Artificial intelligence dramatically improves accuracy of classic eye exam.  Linked for the headline pun but also quite interesting; and click through if you want to take the eye test yourself :)

killer acoustic version of "Whole Lotta Love"Luca Stricagnoli brings us this unbelievable acoustic cover of Led Zep's Whole Lotta Love.  Well worth the three minutes - maybe six if, like me, you want to hear it again :)

Finally: Is 2020 over yet?  This website will help you figure it out.


sine wave filter pass

Sunday,  05/31/20  09:03 PM

Today was a sine wave of emotions; great excitement with the SpaceX astronauts reaching the International Space Station, and great sadness watching rioting and looting all over the United States.

Reading my Facebook and Twitter feeds, it seems we may have reached peak virtue signaling...

Covid deaths in US on 5/7/20Meanwhile, oh yeah, we have a pandemic.  And check out this amazing graphic; the green counties are 1/3 of all the deaths in the US, the yellow are another 1/3, and the red the final 1/3.  Wow.  Please click to enbiggen...

the Clinton archipelagoReminds me of another remarkable map, The Clinton Archipelago, showing the areas of the US which voted for Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump, which famously contain more than 50% of the population.  Please click to enbiggen...

Mediterranean Sea of AmericaAs long as we're doing remarkable maps, here's another... The Mediterranean Sea of America.  Interesting that it is *so* large, and also, that the latitudes line up so well.  Who would have thought Northern Italy lined up with North Dakota?  This map also includes the Black Sea, which overlays the Great Lakes pretty nicely, both in size and location.  Supercool.

xkcd: confidence intervalAs we are all looking at models and maps, the inimitable xkcd nails it: confidence interval.

The CDC’s New ‘Best Estimate’ Implies a Covid-19 Infection Fatality Rate Below 0.3%.  That rate is much lower than the numbers used in the horrifying projections that shaped the government response to the epidemic.  But if they were so wrong before, maybe they are equally as wrong now?  (What is the confidence interval? :)

How Innovation WorksMatt Ridley has a new book out: How Innovation Works.  "Innovation is the main event of the modern age, the reason we experience both dramatic improvements in our living standards and unsettling changes in our society."  In the queue...

Finally, have you been following Magic Leap?  This company was founded in 2010 and has raised $2.6B (yes!) to develop augmented reality systems.  So far the demos have been excellent but the products have been terrible, and the company recently announced half the staff would be laid off "due to Covid-19".  Riight.  But wait! - they have now raised a new $350M (yes!), but their CEO is resigning.  John Gruber helpfully offers a Translation From VC-Backed PR Jargon to English of Magic Leap CEO Rony Abovitz’s Statement That He’s ‘Stepping Down’.  "I am amazed that we raised $2.4 billion and have managed to stretch this con out for 7 years and counting. We even convinced Google to invest.  Google!"  Stay tuned.

Well that's today's filter pass (and exercise in mapmanship); let's hope tomorrow is less exciting, and the day after even less so.  2020 is not messing around!



wrap master Christo, 1935-2020

Sunday,  05/31/20  08:56 PM








... a unique creative force ... he will be missed ...


Fairly recent posts:

07/26/20 09:54 PM -

old ideas

07/25/20 09:47 PM -

comet Neowise

07/19/20 09:20 PM -

sail on

07/18/20 09:54 PM -

Economist filter pass

07/07/20 11:58 PM -

Tuesday,  07/07/20  11:58 PM

07/07/20 11:45 PM -


07/07/20 08:22 AM -

missing Le Tour

07/01/20 12:58 PM -

Teladoc += InTouch

06/30/20 11:53 PM -

deep dive

06/28/20 09:55 PM -

filter pass

06/27/20 09:20 PM -

messing about in small boats, with little people

06/10/20 12:52 PM -

spacecraft UI

06/07/20 11:50 PM -


05/31/20 09:03 PM -

sine wave filter pass

05/31/20 08:56 PM -

wrap master Christo, 1935-2020

05/30/20 05:07 PM -

the great Endeavor

05/29/20 06:38 PM -

do or do not

05/28/20 12:50 PM -

man vs nature

05/24/20 11:05 PM -

weekend voyager

05/22/20 10:39 PM -

SpaceX: ready to launch

05/19/20 04:52 PM -

"game changer"

05/17/20 11:26 PM -

commence societal release

05/16/20 09:22 PM -

SpaceX ISS docking simulator

05/10/20 01:26 PM -

2020 explained

05/06/20 07:25 PM -

Sailor = 23

05/03/20 11:39 PM -


05/02/20 10:37 PM -

seven years

04/27/20 01:04 AM -

Happy Koningsdag!

04/26/20 11:02 PM -

going viral

04/19/20 10:39 PM -

Wahoo Zwifting

For older posts please visit the archive.


this date in:
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
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?
still the first bird
progress ratches
2020 explained