Critical Section

Archive: November, 20

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Ole's voter guide

Monday,  11/01/04  12:55 AM

Here it is, Ole's voter guide.  If you're not a Californian citizen, feel free to skip this post.

Okay, here we go:

  • Proposition 1AYes.  Helps ensure local revenue is spent locally.
  • Proposition 59Yes.  Makes government more open.  Won't really do much but harmless.
  • Proposition 60Yes.  Top vote getters from each party's primary appear on general ballet.  This is essentially what happens today, somewhat helps minority parties.  Hopefully 62 passes, if not, this would be better than nothing.
  • Proposition 60ANo.  Requires that proceeds from state property sales would be used to pay off specific bonds.  Not a bad idea but voters should not be micromanaging the budget.  This started as part of proposition 60 (believe it or not), but was so unrelated that a judge ordered it be a separate proposition.
  • Proposition 61No.  $750M bond for children's hospitals.  Look, I'm all for medical care for children, but California is broke and we can't afford to borrow for this sort of thing.
  • Proposition 62Yes.  Any citizen could vote for any candidate in the primary elections (regardless of part).  This is important, it would bring both parties back toward the center.  I hope this passes which would make 60 irrelevant.
  • Proposition 63No.  1% personal income tax on income over $1M to fund health services for the mentally ill.  A good cause, but not a good way to do it.  Special interest taxes are bad.
  • Proposition 64No.  Arnold calls this "stop shakedown lawsuits" but actually this protects big companies against liability suits without accomplishing genuine tort reform.
  • Proposition 65No.  An early version of 1A with klunkier provisions.  Vote yes on 1A instead.
  • Proposition 66Yes.  Limits "three strikes" law to violent and serious felonies.  This just makes sense, and would save millions in prison costs.  Three strikes has not proven to be much of a deterrent anyway, and it sure inhibits rehabilitation efforts.
  • Proposition 67No.  Increases surcharge on mobile phones for emergency medical services.  Another good cause done in a bad way.  These special taxes don't really work out.
  • Proposition 68No.  Along with 70, would enable significant expansion of Indian gaming.  68 permits more casinos near residential areas.  I think the whole idea that Indian reservations have different laws than the rest of the state is ridiculous.
  • Proposition 69Yes.  DNA database for felons.  This is a good thing.  I don't mind the privacy implications.
  • Proposition 70No.  See 68.  This bribes the state to keep gaming exclusive for Indian reservations.  Completely and totally absurd and doesn't have a chance of passing.
  • Proposition 71No.  $3B bond issue to fund stem cell research.  Okay, this one was hard for me, because I really really think stem cell research is a good thing.  However California is broke and we can't afford this.  Also, I don't think government funding is the best way for these technologies to develop.  Better the state should help by staying out of the way of academia and private enterprise.
  • Proposition 72No.  Requires minimum health care coverage to be offered by medium and large businesses.  This is the kind of law that makes doing business in California so expensive, and which drives business to other states and offshore.  Let the market deal with these issues.

And if you live in Ventura County...

  • Proposition AYes.  0.25% sales tax for purpose of land preservation and open space creation.  We really don't need more residential expansion into the hills.
  • Proposition BYes.  0.5% sales tax for purpose of highway maintenance.  This won't pass but we really need this money, since the state is broke.

Thanks for your attention!


'Twas the Night Before

Monday,  11/01/04  09:45 PM

As benefits election eve, some election blogging...

As usual, Cox & Forkum nail the truth, about Decision 2004:

Decision 2004

Bush supporters are voting against terrorism, Kerry supporters are voting against Bush.

The New York Post Editorializes: "If President Bush is re-elected tomorrow, the victory will have come despite the best efforts of two erstwhile American journalistic icons - The New York Times and CBS News."  I think in the future blatent media bias will be seen as "the story" of the 2004 elections.

The other candidate for "the story" of 2004; the role of bloggers.  As C|Net reports, Blogs play critical role in campaigns.

Bill Whittle's Thoughts on the Election.  "People are telling you that Tuesday will be the most important election of your lives.  That is not true.  The most important election of your lives was held on Tuesday, November 7th, 2000.  You just didn't know it.  Neither did I."  He voted for Gore, and after 9/11 he was glad Gore didn't win.

I remember the evening of Tuesday, November 7th, 2000, like it was yesterday.  I was in a country club bar in Princeton, New Jersey, celebrating a business deal with some new partners.  They were all staunch Republicans, rooting for Bush, I was a not-so-staunch Democrat, rooting for Gore.  We stayed up confidently expecting a decision sometime that night.  Ha.  Pretty interesting, every ten minutes brought a new prediction about Florida, a new twist.  Little did we know then it would take over a month before Florida was carried by Bush with 537 votes.

Don't think your vote doesn't count!  Especially if you live in Florida :)

Virginia Postrel: How can you vote for a guy like that?  "I'm not picking a boyfriend here either, or, for that matter, an intellectual mentor.  Given the current balance of power in Congress, there are only two things the president can significantly affect: foreign policy and regulatory policy.  I prefer Bush to Kerry on both.  It's a cold calculation."

Glenn Reynolds thinks Osama Bin Laden is an economic illiterate.  "Iraq and Afghanistan together have cost us less than $300 billion, including the money Bush is going to ask for next year.  In the same period, the US economy will have grossed about 36 trillion dollars."

On a lighter note: The Onion's 2004 Election Guide.  Real journalistic talent, with no bias.

Wrapping up - the latest update from Electoral Vote Predictor is Kerry 298, Bush 231.  "We have the most studied election in the history of the world.  And what's the conclusion?  Nobody knows."  So, I don't know either, but if Bush wins it will be because of The Right Issue.  Way back in March I wrote:

"I think Democrats are making a big mistake by featuring the war on terrorism as an election issue.  This is an issue on which they cannot win...  The best thing terrorists could do if they want Kerry to win - and who doesn't doubt that they do - is to keep things quiet and hope the electoral debate shifts to economic and social issues, on which Bush is much more vulnerable."


Monday,  11/01/04  10:25 PM

Well, it seems I've finally caught up from my four month blogging hiatus.  I'm down to a handful of entries in my RSS reader, from over 300.  Onward... 

So, I post about trying to lose some weight, and I post my 2004 California voter guide.  Which do you think got more feedback?  Seriously, you guys are great :)

The Desktop Search Land-Grab.  Of Google and Microsoft, and X1, and Blinkx...  So I actually think this is far from a done deal.  I don't mind Google or Microsoft indexing my blog, but I don't want them indexing my hard drive.  I don't trust them, their ambitions are too large.

First we had the iPodDownload plug in, which enabled any song to be pulled off any iPod, and which Apple broke with an update, and which we can now fix.  Now we have Open Pod, which does the same thing.  See also Dave Winer's comments, and Marc Cantor's...  Apple is not helping themselves with this behaviour.

Griffin iTalkDave wonders how Griffin's iTalk works?  And then finds out how.  It does look pretty cool; essentially it turns your iPod into a spiffy voice recorder.

Hey, this is cool: Amazon's A9 toolbar now available for Firefox!  Cool on two levels, first, since I use Firefox exclusively as my day-in-day-out browser, I can now try A9, and second, it shows the extent to which Firefox is making inroads on Internet Explorer.

Browser statistics from Critical Section, month of October 2004:

  • Internet Explorer - 48% (all platforms)
  • Firefox - 16%
  • Safari - 5%
  • Opera - 1%

The remaining 30% was a random collection of bots, spiders, and various other browsers.

limecatLimecat is not pleased.  More proof, if any were needed, that you can find anything on the 'net.  [ via Ned Batchelder ]

How to tell your personality type from your code.  I'm a combination of cynical and realist :)  [ via #!/usr/bin/girl ]

Rolling Stone: Rock's 10 Wildest Myths.  [ via J.P.Butler ]

Clive Thompson notes the latest issue of National Geographic, which has the cover story "Was Darwin Wrong?"  I'll spare you the suspense: No.  It is a terrific article but of course with their readership it is likely preaching to the choir.  Of course even if Darwin was wrong it doesn't legitimize creationism as a scientific theory.  But the evidence is overwhelming.

the Cat with the HatFrom Addision at Grouchy Old Cripple: The Cat with the Hat.
Excellent Photoshopmanship!

Tonight I did a bit of blogrollcleaning; I checked all the links in my extended blogroll.  I pruned the dead links (few) and the dead blogs (many).  Lots of great stuff there, and variety like you can't believe.  Check 'em out!

Why Knot? tie-tying machineFinally, here we have the Why Knot? tie-tying machine, which ties your ties in a mere 562 steps.  I am not making this up.




the big day

Tuesday,  11/02/04  08:16 AM

The big day is here.· I'm going to post updates in this entry all day...

[08:16] That valuable resource Electoral Vote Predictor has it Kerry 262 and Bush 261.  That pretty much sums it up.  After all this time, all these events, the debates, the discussion, and the spinning, as a nation we are pretty much divided 50/50.  May we live in interesting times, indeed.

[08:23] If you're not a fan of tabbed browsing, today would be a great day to download Firefox and try it.  When you're tracking fifteen different blogs it is way easier to have fifteen tabs in one window than fifteen windows.  Really.  Of course, those of you with Safari on Macs already know this :)

[08:27] NYTimes: The Revolution will be posted.  Prominent bloggers describe what they feel was the turning point in this campaign.

[08:33] I'm reading all these bloggers report standing in long lines to vote.  Seems the turnout today will be heavy.  { Is that a good thing?  I say no.  Maybe more on this later. }  Anyway it is too late now but I strongly recommend registering as a permanent absentee.  You can vote ahead of time in the comfort of your home, surrounded by materials with easy access to the web.  Don't just vote, be an informed voter!

[08:45] One thing nearly everyone writes is "go vote"!  I have a heretical counter-view.

  • If you don't know the people and what they stand for, don't vote.
  • If you are uninformed on the issues, don't vote.
  • If you don't know who you are going to vote for, don't vote.
  • If it is too much bother for you to get yourself to a polling place, don't vote.
  • If you can't decide whether you should vote, don't vote.

Look, we have a democracy, one person, one vote.  The results of this election matter, the people we elect become our representatives, run our governments, make our laws.  The issues we vote on matter, they affect govenment spending and policy in important ways.  Voting on such things requires a certain amount of consideration and thought.  You have to know the people and what they stand for to make a decision about them.  You have to understand the issues and how they might affect your life to vote them in or out.  This cannot be done at random.

I would much rather our elected officials be elected by people who want to vote, people who know who they are going to vote for.  I would much rather our issues are decided by people who understand them, who have a defensible point of view.

So if you were not planning to vote or don't know whether you should vote, don't vote.  And if you are blogging, don't encourage people to vote.  Their votes will only dilute your vote and mine.

[08:50] Wow, John Kerry's pollster predicts a 3% Bush victory.  "We simply do not defeat an incumbent president in wartime."  Can this be right?

[09:55] If you want one site (or one feed!) with which to follow the action, check out The Command Post.  Excellent as always, and lots of updates.

[11:53] Powerline is at NBC: "The word here is a Kerry blowout, and almost everyone is happy."

[11:55] Andrew Sullivan reports early exit polls favorable for Kerry.   "A Kerry landslide?  Could be.  Could be."

[12:13] NRO's Cliff May makes an interesting point.   "It's 3 PM on November 2, 2004.  There has not been a terrorist attack on American soil since 9/11/01.  If Osama bin Laden could have attacked us over the past three years, he would have.  If OBL could attack us today, he would.  Whoever is responsible for keeping the barbarians outside the gates deserves praise - and re-election."

[12:34] The Command Post has poll closing times.   With the networks a bit more cautious this year, wanting to avoid the embarrassment from last time, this is how long we have to wait...

[12:53] Zogby (the major pollster) currently scores it 252 to 252.   They call Florida and Ohio for Bush, Michigan for Kerry, and feel Virginia and Pennsylvania are the deciding states...

[01:05] CNN Money reports Investor worry: No election winner.   "Markets on edge due to the possibility of protracted legal challenges to presidential election...   'I'm at a one-in-three chance that we will not know for days who won the election,' said Greg Valliere, chief strategist at Schwab Washington Research Group.  'I'd say it's a one-in-five chance we won't know at the end of November.'"   Ugh.

[01:14] Another great site for following "what's going on": Real Clear Politics.   Ungrammatical but informative, and chock full of links.   They have a bunch of polls posted in realtime, most of them leaning slightly toward Bush.

[04:25] I took a break to *work*.   Sigh.   Okay the returns are staring to come in.   Right now CNN is projecting Bush wins in Indiana, Kentucky, and Georgia, and a Kerry win in Vermont.   None of this surprising.   The big news is the heavy voter turnout.   Bloggers on both sides are spinning this hard.

[04:29] One of the more interesting senate races is in South Dakota, where Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle is fighting for his seat against Republican John Thune.   (Most predictions have him losing rather decisively by a whisker.)   Check out the action at Daschle v. Thune, a great blow-by-blow.

[04:38] Hugh Hewitt seems to be sweating.   He's a big Bush supporter, so he spinning the early pro-Kerry news.   Everyone agrees it is too early to draw any conclusions, then they draw them anyway :)

[04:42] Slate has Kerry ahead in Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.   If that's true, that would do it, I think.

[04:45] Megan McArdle, on Instapundit, also reacts to the pro-Kerry exit polls.   "The trend is definitely Kerry, but in the key states, the margin is small, meaning that Florida and Ohio could easily swing Bush, throwing him the election.  So Republicans, don't despair; Democrats, don't break out your party hats just yet."

[04:47] Looks like Democrat Daniel Mongiardo will soundly defeat Republican Jim Bunning in Kentucky's Senate race.

[04:49] Bram Cohen, author of Bittorrent, considers Electoral College Effects.  "Given the electoral college system, does it favor the large or the small states?  The very short answer is that it ridiculously disproportionately favors the small states, because they're flat-out given disproportionately large representation.  And if that weren't the case then switching to a simple electoral majority would be uncontroversial, following the trend of a simple majority deciding within each state."   Depending on how things go, this could become more or less important later tonight...

[04:52] Along with all the heavy traffic reported at polling places, political blogs are reporting heavy traffic, too.   At both ends of the spectrum, too; Daily Kos reports "its a bad time to be a webserver", and Little Green Footballs says traffic is insanely high.

Four years ago, could we have predicted that the Internet would become such an important factor in American politics?   Maybe yes, maybe no.   Certainly there were blogs, but blogging as such wasn't considered a political activity, or even a news-gathering activity.   So what will things be like in four more years?   Interesting to speculate...   Maybe we'll all be voting with our cell phones :)

[04:58] This is cool, Astronauth Leroy Chiao became the first American to vote for president from space. [ via Command Post ]

[05:07] Election Law reports Democratics sue to keep polls open in Ohio.   And so it begins.   Apparently the turnout was really heavy, with  l o n g  lines everywhere.

[05:40] CNN is calling Virginia for Bush.   I think that would be the first "news" of the night.

Interesting line on CNN - "too bad you can't Tivo the news".   Well of course you can, but that darn fast-forward button doesn't seem to work :)

[05:50] More real news; NBC is predicting North Carolina for Bush.   For those keeping score at home, that would be John Edwards' home state.   Ouch.

[05:55] Hindrocket on Powerline: Bush takes lead in Florida.   "With 35% of the votes counted, Bush's lead is 56% to 43%. The Democrats I'm hanging out with here aren't as cocky as they were a few hours ago."   Of course you remember from 2000, Miami-Dade County reports last and is heavily Democratic, so we have to wait to see about Florida...

[05:56] Ann Althouse is Feeling a strange, nervous equanimity.   "Time for a nice glass of wine!"   Great idea!

[05:59] Andrew Sullivan: "C-SPAN is so cool, I like their map the best."   Colored in as states are declared, and you can mouse over to see current status.   Okay, that is cool!

[06:02] The Denver Post reports Relief as electoral reform fades.   "The fevered interest in Colorado's Electoral College reform proposal has fizzled - one less thing for the warring presidential candidates to worry about."   So all nine of Colorado's votes will go to the winner.

[07:33] Everyone's settling in, it's nervous time.   The East Coast went pretty much as predicted - Bush did take Virginia - with Florida still being counted (Bush leads, but Miami remains).   The Midwest is solidly for Bush but we knew that; Kerry has a decent lead in Pennsylvania and Bush leads in Ohio.   Looks like Minnesota will go Blue and Wisconson and Michigan Red.   So now we move West toward the "left coast" and we wait...

[07:45] Now CNN projects Bush will win Missouri and Arkansas.   I don't know enough to know the implications...

[07:52] Robert Scoble with a great post: blogs move market?   Regarding this headline: Blogs send stocks lower on talk of Kerry victory.   "Hey, Doc, I guess the world has come full circle for you here.  Markets are conversations?  Heh, how about 'conversations move markets?'"   You bet, they always have, but now they're online and much faster.

[07:55] Andrew Sullivan posts Pennsylvania for Kerry.   "The first real bummer for Bush.  How many times did he go there?  Now what if Kerry wins Ohio and Bush wins Florida?  It seems clearer to me that Bush is going to win in Florida.  The squeaker squeaks some more."   Squeeeeeak.

[08:08] KJL on NRO asks a good question: Did Edwards do anything for Kerry?

[08:11] Ann Althouse Did young people turn out for Kerry?   No, apparently.   "NBC is reporting that, for all the efforts at bringing young people to the polls, the percentage of 18-29 year old voters is exactly the same as it was in 2000 (17%).  And the number of voters in the 30 to 44 year old group has actually declined, going from 33% to 28%."   Hmmm...

[08:15] CNN reports GOP projected to gain at least 5 house seats.   And retain control of the senate.

[08:25] Shirley and I are drinking Napa Cellar's 2002 Chardonnay tonight, a perfect compliment to an exciting election.   Okay, off to read with Megan.  See you soon!

[08:49] Well, this is big.   CBS calls Florida for Bush.   I think this means Kerry must win Ohio, but he's behind right now.   And even if he does win Ohio I think Bush can still win.

[09:05] According to LGF, Bush still leads in Ohio.   "With 63% of the vote counted in Ohio, President Bush's lead is holding at 52% vs. Kerry's 47%."   Seems to me if Bush wins Ohio, it's over.

[09:10] Californians have passed Proposition 71, the "stem cell initiative".   I have mixed feelings about this; I'm a big fan of stem cell research, but a big critic of government-funded research in general.   As Wendy Wright posts, "Californians pass Prop 71, spending $3 billion on embryonic stem cell research.  So even if school children don’t have textbooks and highways crumble for lack of funding, Californians will still have to fund risky, unethical research for 10 years - even if, say in the third year, it proves unsuccessful. "

[09:21] Powerline: Where we stand now.   "President Bush currently has 204 electoral votes.  He obviously will win Florida, which makes 231. I assume he will take Colorado, New Mexico, Alaska, Nevada and Arkansas for an additional 28, making 259.  If he wins Ohio, of course, the race is over.  If he loses Ohio, he needs 10 more votes."   Okay.

[09:25] Looks like Thune will beat Daschle, knocking the Senate minority leader out of his seat.   A big GOP victory in a small state.

 [09:37] Ohio seems to be the key, and Powerline reports that with 65% precincts in, Bush has a five-point lead.   "It's hard to see how Kerry can make this up, even with lawsuits and a reasonable amount of fraud."

Interestingly, Powerline have "dressed down" their site, eliminating a lot of graphics and presumably saving bandwidth.   The political blogs collectively got hammered today; there will be a lot of tired webservers tomorrow :)

[09:55] Fox just called Ohio for Bush.   Of course, this is not authoritative.   Command Post reports James Carville was on CNN saying of Ohio, "they won it".   With Alaska and New Mexico this would give Bush 274.   Bing!

[10:02] The Calfornia popular vote is interesting; 52% Kerry to 47% Bush.   Much closer then anticipated.   This is important because if Bush wins the Electoral College vote but does not win the overall popular vote - as in 2000 - it will have that "not really legitimate" flavor.   With Nevada, New Mexico, Nevada, and possibly Iowa, it may be a reasonably solid win.

[10:10] Josh Marshall, a very thoughtful blogger on the left, concludes "One thing that does seem very clear tonight -- at least if what I'm hearing from the exits is true -- is that the much-ballyhooed youth vote simply did not show up. Simple as that."   So I'm not in Josh' class as an analyst, but I think it was simpler than that. Bush ran on his record, and Kerry ran against it.

[10:20] Republican Mel Martinez is leading in a close race for a Florida Senate seat.   Many observers felt his influence with the hispanic population in Miama accounted for Bush's stronger showing in Florida this time.

[10:33] Andrew Sullivan posts a concession: it's over. "The most fundamental fact of this campaign - and one of the reasons it has been so bitter - is that we are at war.  Our opponents at home are not our enemies.  The real enemy is the Jihadist terror network that, even now, is murdering innocents and coalition soldiers in Iraq.  Our job now - all of us - is to support this president in that war, to back those troops, and to pray for victory."   Right on.   I've said all along, if the war against terrorism remained the center of the debate, it was the right issue for Bush.   Our biggest challenge is going to be to reach out to each other, fellow Americans, who had an honest disagreement about the best leader to take us forward, and together fight our enemies.

[10:50] The discussion now seems to be: can Bush win without Ohio?  Because it appears Ohio may not be resolved tonight; there are a lot of provisional ballot to be counted, and that could take two weeks.  Apparently Bush is now leading in Iowa.

[10:55] Powerline summarizes tonight's Senate results; Republicans have picked up two seats and could pick up four if Thune (South Dakota) and Martinez (Florida) hold their leads.  The people are speaking.

[11:02] Daily Kos is a bit less gracious than Andrew Sullivan in his Final Thoughts.  "This is just the beginning, not the end.  Regardless of who takes that oath next January we still have a war to wage.  We won't wage it with violence, but by building a solid foundation for a new progressive movement.  Lawyers are heading out to Ohio to demand a fair count."  The math would indicate this party is over.

[11:17] Interesting to hear the pundits debate whether Kerry should concede.  Everyone agrees it would be bad form for Bush to claim victory before a concession.  Kerry has a close relationship with Ted Kennedy, who has been very influential in his campaign (Kennedy's chief of staff, Mary Beth Cahill, is Kerry's campaign manager), and Kennedy will remember Nixon's concession to Jack Kennedy in 1960, in another close hard fought victory, when the nation was "at war".  Anyway we'll see.

[11:21] Apparently NBC is reporting that Kerry will not concede tonight.  Bad form, IMHO.

[11:25] So now John Edwards will speak to the Kerry supporters in Boston, gathered for the "victory party", to tell them they are not going to concede and will keep counting votes in Ohio.  Sigh.

The Democrats need to learn from their mistakes.  Gore destroyed himself politically by fighting so hard and so unreasonably in 2000.  Ohio in 2004 is much further apart than Florida was in 2000.  Nothing to gain and so much to lose.

[11:30] Edwards' statement was short and weak.  "We will make every vote count, and count every vote."  Judging from his demeanor, he knows they've lost.  I'd even guess if it were up to him, he would have conceded; he seems a gentleman, unlike the Massachusetts boys.

Since Bush is ahead by 125,000 votes in Ohio, after 97% precincts have reported, this seems like a hopeless effort.  Perhaps in the cold light of day tomorrow they'll rethink this and concede.

On the other hand, I just heard someone on Fox say the Democratic party has 3,200 lawyers in Ohio.

One final point - Bush leads the overall popular vote 51% to 48%, a cushion of about 3,000,000 voters.  So unlike in 2000, there will not be any moral imperative propelling the Dems.

[11:40] I didn't think I'd ever enjoy watching CNN anymore, but it is a pure pleasure tonight.  They have not called Ohio, they have not called Iowa, and they are desperately spinning that the election is not over and Kerry can win.  However despite their brave words, the attitudes say it all.  Wolf Blitzer looks crestfallen.  Larry King looks old and frail.  They're literally discussing in roundtable form "what can we do to find votes for Kerry in Ohio?"  It is a delicious moment.

[11:43] A brief cut away on CNN to show Arnold Schwarzenegger giving a victory speech recounting the California ballot initiative results.  Arnold pretty much got his entire slate, he has tremendous popularity at the moment and parlayed it into substantial electoral power.  Importantly, propositions 68 and 70 were defeated, dealing the Indian gaming interests a strong blow.  It looks like 71 passed, so we are now funding a $3B stem cell research program.  More later on the rest...  It was interesting that the CNN anchors cut to Arnold thinking he was going to comment on the Presidential election, but then when he didn't they cut right back.  Who cares about California anyway?

[11:55] This is quite enjoyable.  I haven't watched TV "news" for so long.  Now I'm on CBS, watching Dan Rather.  He is clearly having a tough time with this.  They've got it 249 to 242, with Ohio, New Mexico, Nevada, Wisconson, and Iowa still in play.  However with Bush ahead by over 100,000 votes in Ohio and with a plurality in the popular vote of over 4,000,000 votes, the game is up, and you can see it on Dan's face.

[12:10] ABC has speculation about what might happen with a reelected Republican in the White House, and clear Republican majorities in the House and Senate.  Linda Douglass is saying she thinks there are a huge number of [liberal] people who will not be represented.  She just doesn't get it.  This election shows clearly that the Democratic party has moved too far to the left, leaving their constituents stuck in the middle.

I'm like that; I used to consider myself a Democrat, in fact I voted for Gore in 2000.  But there was no way I was going to vote for Kerry, "the most liberal member of the Senate".

[12:20] Okay, well, it looks like the action is over.  It was a big day.  See you tomorrow :)

[12:42] Sorry but I just can't stop watching CNN.  It is fascinating.  These guys are such amateurs.  My goodness, they just don't have a clue.

I just looked at Slate, and William Saletan wrote a great story: Simple but Effective.  (Subtitle, "Why you keep losing to this idiot.")  He was wrong - he supported Kerry, and predicted a big Kerry win - but he gets it: "Why don't a majority of voters agree with us?  How has Bush pulled it off?  I think this is the answer: Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity."

[01:09] Still watching.  On ABC they have reality; Cokie Roberts was just saying that if the Democrats want to recapture the Congress and the White House, they have to look at the map and notice it is painted Red:  "More liberal and more progressive politicians are not the answer for the Democrats."  Yeah, exactly.

It is striking that the entire North East went for Kerry, along with the West Coast, but that the South, and the entire Middle went for Bush.  I think the old left-right axis doesn't really describe this split.  There are a lot of people [like me] who are conservative on national defense and taxes, yet liberal on social issues.  Arnold in 2008?

[ Note: This post was originally reverse-chrono, like the home page of a blog.  I decided to switch it around for posterity, it makes more sense read in forward-chrono order... ]


well, it's over

Wednesday,  11/03/04  12:24 PM

So John Kerry has conceded.  Now we can move forward, thank goodness it is over.

American flagAs you know I supported President Bush - reluctantly - but I am not going to gloat.  Frankly we have serious problems in our country and although I preferred Bush to Kerry one man cannot solve them all.  We need to get back together as friends and neighbors and colleagues and Americans, and work together on our problems.

I think it is wonderful that there were no terrorist attacks.  We had a peaceful election, a fruitful exchange of ideas, some good debates about what is good for the future of our country.  Now we have to get to work.

Although the Republicans increased their majorities in the Congress and retained the White House, this election was not a unanimous mandate for conservatism.  I see this more as a repudiation of the Democrats' liberalism.  One has to wonder what might have happened with a Democratic candidate who was closer to the center - someone like Joe Lieberman or indeed someone like Al Gore, or at least the 2000 version of Al Gore.  I see this as a mandate for active defense, a mandate for active protection, a mandate for U.S. leadership in the world.  I see this as a mandate for fiscal responsibility (although the Bush administration could hardly be considered a model for this during their first term; hopefully they will do as they said and not do as they did in their second term).

Two things stand out for me about this election.  First and foremost, the "old media" northeast liberal bias was truly exposed.  Clearly CBS, ABC, NBC, and CNN, and the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the L.A.Times do not represent America, and they lost credibilty and readership.  It will take them a long time to rebuild the trust.  They need to go back to being journalists, and stop trying to be entertainers and politicians.  Secondly, the power of the Internet for "open source" communication was truly revealed.  Not only in blogs but all kinds of news sites, all kinds of one-to-one and one-to-many communication.  The power of the Internet to route around the blockage of big media was impressive and amazing.



Wednesday,  11/03/04  12:34 PM

It is way early but I just wanted to put in my thought about 2008: Barack Obama vs. Arnold Schwarzenegger.  An African-American vs. an Austrian-American.  Both conservative on national defense and fiscal policy, both liberal socially.  Both the bright future of their respective parties.  Given what I know right now, I would have a hard time choosing between them, but wouldn't mind if either one won ;)


seeing red

Wednesday,  11/03/04  11:39 PM

Here's an interesting map, showing the county-by-county breakdown of Republicans and Democrats in the 2004 Presidential election:

USA 2004 Presidential election county-by-county

Obviously since Kerry received 48% of the popular vote, there are a lot of people living in the blue areas, including the largest cities: New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago.  [ via S-Train ]

[ Laterelectoral mapmanship reveals surprising little changed from 2000 to 2004... ]



Wednesday,  11/03/04  11:55 PM

Earlier today John Edwards and John Kerry made graceful concession speeches, and Dick Cheney and George Bush made equally graceful victory speeches.  The emphasis from both sides was on healing the divide we all feel.  Kerry made a great point: "In American elections there are no losers, because whether or not our candidates win or lose, the next morning we wake up as Americans."  It is good form and smart politics for candidates to react this way, but one senses they meant it sincerely.

Of course not everyone was equally graceful.  I enjoyed Joi Ito's post: The people of America have failed us today.  Joi is a VC who was educated in the U.S. and who makes his money from American companies, but is a Japanese citizen and lives in Japan.

purple haze electoral mapXeni Jardin of Boing Boing posted a purple haze electoral map; an interesting counterpoint to seeing red .

Leander Kelly of Cult of Mac thought the election a Global Catastrophe, and ran a classy picture of our reelected President.

My favorite graceless reaction was from CNN, which ran a picture of Bush named "asshole.jpg".  How pleasant.  Still, I guess you can understand why they're so bitter; they tried so hard to influence the election yesterday.  

Rebecca MacKinnon has great inside analysis of what's happened to CNN...

Jay Rosen noted The Coming Apart of an Ordered World.  I'm not sure what happened with the early exit polls, but something was definitely fishy

And how about the way states were "called"?  Logic Times terms it Bias Beyond the Pale:

  • Are you aware that the Pennsylvania race was closer (Kerry gets 51.08%) than the Ohio race (Bush gets 51.2%) or Nevada race (Bush gets 51.4%)?  Think about this fact.  Did the networks have any problem calling Pennsylvania for Kerry?  None whatsoever.  Did they have a problem calling Ohio or Nevada for Bush?  Apparently.
  • Are you aware that New Hampshire was called for Kerry with 50.7% to 49.3%?
  • Are you aware that Wisconsin was called for Kerry with 50.2% to 49.8%?
  • Are you aware that Iowa was NOT called for Bush with 50.5% to 49.5%?
  • Are you aware that New Mexico was NOT called for Bush with 50.9% to 49.1%?
  • Are you aware that Nevada was NOT called for Bush with 51.4% to 48.6%?

Not very "fair and balanced", was it?

I will say most lefty blogs have been graceful, and are constructively analyzing the election.  You learn much more from setbacks than victories.  If the end result is a Democratic party that better represents Americans' views, it will be a victory for the entire country.  Hey, it's the American way.


electoral mapmanship

Thursday,  11/04/04  07:16 AM

Good morning!  First post in a post-election world...  I promise this is not going to become a political blog.  Really.

Yesterday I noted the 2004 county-by-county electoral college map.  Today Command Post has the same map along with the corresponding map from 2000.  Here they are, so they're together:

USA election 2000 county-by-county

2000 US Presidental Election - County-by-County

USA election 2004 county-by-county

2004 US Presidential Election - County-by-County

USA election county-by-county difference

County-by-County Difference between 2000 and 2004 US Presidential Elections

The bottom map is the Photoshop difference between the two maps (after a bit of color diddling and stretching).  I'm sure this analysis will be done in spreadsheets everywhere with far more accuracy, but I find this pretty revealing. 

The pink areas switched from Democrat to Republican, and the blue areas switched from Republican to Democrat.  The orange areas switched from Democrat to neutral, and the teal areas switched from Republican to neutral.  To me the conclusion is inescapable - Bush essentially won everywhere he won in 2000, but Kerry did not hold all the Gore territories.  The most significant change was the Southeast area of Florida - Miami-Dade county - which is very populous.  In 2000 this area went for Gore - even though as we know Bush managed to carry the state overall in the end.  In 2004 this area was even, and as a result Bush won Florida rather easily.  Perhaps the real key to the Bush win was Mel Martinez, the newly elected Republican Senator for Florida who was influential with the Cuban population of South Florida.  For students of this map, the results in Pennsylvania and Ohio were no surprise.  The other key part of Bush's victory was all the orange areas in the Northeast.  These shifts from Gore to neutral didn't cause any states to fall for the Republicans, but it did increase Bush's margin in the popular vote.

I'm puzzled by the spin from the liberal press about "conservative value voters".  They must not be looking at this map.  I suppose it will take a bit of time to digest this election, but it was very simple.  The mainstream media apparently can't handle the facts.

I see Ann Althouse agrees with me: "Is this wonderful new punditry about the voter behavior based on the same exit polls that proved so wildly inaccuate in predicting that Kerry would win?"

And so does Peggy Noonan: "A big win for America, and a loss for the mainstream media."

One final point.  Note how little change there was in California and New York.  The two most populous states were considered "locked up", so neither candidate paid them any attention.  I agree with Megan McArdle and would not be surprised to see California or New York follow the lead of Colorado, and try to pass initiatives to split their electoral votes.  Now that would change things, and if I were a Democratic strategist the possibility would have me quite worried.

[ Later: you might want to check out more electoral mapmanship... ]



Thursday,  11/04/04  11:27 PM

Rob Caron emailed a great suggestion: "It’d be interesting to see that map side-by-side with one of those nightime satellite photos of the US that shows where the nightime light concentration appears."  Yeah, it would:

USA Election 2004 county-by-county

USA at night from space

So, what conclusions can one draw from this?  Obviously the population centers were more likely to vote for Kerry.  Were they more "enlightened"?


Friday,  11/05/04  08:04 AM

We now return to your regularly scheduled programming...

Actually I'm so relieved that the election is over.  Now I can read about news - about anything - without immediately wondering how it will affect the election.  And I know whatever it is will be reported without [as much] bias, since the spin is not as important.  I read somewhere that the period after an election is "the most honest period in American politics", and I think that's right.

I decided to turn my Big Day post from election day inside out.  It reads better that way.  I couldn't believe this note, taken at 8:50 in the morning: John Kerry's polster predicts a 3% Bush victory.  Did he nail it or what?  That guy is good.

What do we make of this?  A listing of states, IQs, and how they voted.  Looks like I'll have to move to Mississippi :)

[ Later: This has been debunked by Steve Sailer.  I knew it was too cute to be true :) ]

Claudia Rosett considers Osama bin Losin'.  "If the medium is the message, let's take a broader look at what's really going on...  First, bin Laden is afraid...  Second, bin Laden's pals are also running scared."  Too bad he is merely scared, and not arrested or dead.

Spirit Mars roverDid you know those two little rovers are still tooling around on Mars?  "Martian rovers Spirit and Opportunity are going strong 10 months after they began their geological study of the red planet, mission scientists said Thursday."  Spirit is currently climbing high into the Columbia Hills, which rise above Gusev crater where the spacecraft landed.  The crater floor is made of relatively new volcanic rock, formed by lava flows that would have covered any evidence of ancient bodies of water.  Opportunity is exploring in an area called Meridiani Planum on the other side of planet.  The rover hit pay dirt early, landing inside a shallow crater ringed in layered rock outcroppings.  This is awesome - more evidence, if any were needed, that robots are the best way to explore space.

Florida Today: NASA's robotic moon mission spins its wheels.  "NASA now plans to spend $5 billion between 2005 and 2020 to launch a dozen robotic missions to the moon, or one per year, beginning in 2008.  The idea is to have robots map the moon, search for water ice, survey potential landing sites, and test prototypes for oxygen production and electrical power plants, among other things."  I sure hope Bush will continue with this vision, now that he's won a second term.  Although I am ambivalent about federal funding for space research...

What would happen if we discovered a new species of Human?  Desmond Morris considers Eton or the Zoo?  "Suppose for a moment that a living tribe of these beings is discovered, how should they be treated?  Are they merely advanced apes, or are they miniature humans?"  He goes on to consider the religious implications, "In theory, the existence of Mini-Man should destroy religion, but I can already hear the fanatics claiming that he has been put on earth by the Devil simply to test our faith."  I love it.

iPod phoneThe iPod phone, as envisioned by Isamu Sanada, the great fantasy Mac designer.  [ via Cult of Mac ]

Interesting new blog: Vision Matters.  Consider Consumer File Sharing.  Great Stuff.  [ thanks, Doc ]

Not a big shock, movie industry to sue file sharers.  Will this have a deterrent effect?  Maybe.  Will it prevent digital distribution from taking over?  In no way.  According to this article Bittorrent now accounts for 35% of the 'net's traffic.

Related, iPodDownload is back, the application which allows you to take music from anyone's iPod and copy it to a hard drive.  The digital genie is not going back in the bottle.

Dear Tivo, please give me permalinks for TV shows.  [ via Matt Haughey ]  I must be behind the curve on this, although I love my Tivo, I have never wanted to schedule it via a web site.  But maybe I just don't know what I'm missing.

Are you writing a marketing plan?  Creating a website?  Posting on a blog?  Then you may find this useful: the Web Economy BS Generator.  Some quick samples:

We must enhance world-class mindshare, extend e-business applications, unleash one-to-one bandwidth, and orchestrate revolutionary convergence.  This will iterate impactful content, empower e-business portals, and transform dynamic markets.

Pretty good, huh?  verb-adjective-noun, and away you go...

Of possible interest, and so I can find it again: S5, A Simple Standards-Based Slide Show System.  "S5 is a slide show format based entirely on XHTML, CSS, and JavaScript. With one file, you can run a complete slide show and have a printer-friendly version as well. The markup used for the slides is very simple, highly semantic, and completely accessible."  This looks really cool, and useful.

Eric Meyer's cool CSS tricks only work perfectly in Firefox, not Win IE, more's the pity.  Although Firefox now has 3% of the market.  I'm sure people are switching based on security concerns, not the ability to load slideshows.  Still.

Return of the Jedi - version comparisonAre you a Star Wars junkie?  You know you are.  Here's a wonderful comparison between the recent DVD release of Return of the Jedi to the original release, and the Special Edition film version.

20 reasons: boy with BushI just ran across this again: 20 reasons why you shouldn't post your picture on the Internet.  Man is that funny, some great Photoshopmanship.



Friday,  11/05/04  11:00 PM

Interesting that Iowa was the last state decided in the Presidential race.  Kerry lost there, too, by a narrow margin.  It was Iowa where Kerry defeated Dean, putting him on the road to the Democratic nomination.  That one small state in the heart of America chose the candidate to carry the banner for the liberals of the Northeast - and Southwest.  Perhaps the primary process needs to be fixed, eh?  Glenn Reynolds has further thoughts...

The other day I noted a thought for 2008: Arnold vs. Obama.  Several people emailed to remind me about the Constitution's Article 2: It sets the requirements for serving as president - a minimum of 35 years of age, 14 years continuous residence in the country and being a "natural-born citizen".  Aha, but check this out:  "Amendments require a two-thirds majority in both houses of Congress as well as a majority in three-quarters of the state legislatures.  That said, influential Republican senator Orrin Hatch has introduced such an amendment into Congress, sparking conjecture the Republican Party is paving the way for its newest star to run for president as early as 2008."  Still there will be opposition.

Another thought.  Looking at the electoral maps from this election, one is struck by the fact that California and New York barely changed from 2000 to 2004, solidly blue but turning toward red.  Indeed the two most populous states were hardly noticed by the candidates in this campaign, since they were "given".  But as Glenn Reynolds notes, "Republicans in New York and California will follow the lead of Democrats in Colorado, and propose initiatives to split the states' electoral votes."  That should have Democrats worried...

I've stayed silent on the Theo Van Gogh murder.  It seems horrible but all too inevitable.  ParaPundit has a great analysis with which I concur.  "The [liberal press] are more worried about the safety of Muslims in the Netherlands than the safety and liberty of the Dutch."  This isn't going to get better - the idea that all cultures are equally worthy is as preposterous as the idea that all people have equal abilities.

Venus and Jupiter conjunction - 11/05/04Did you see today's conjunction?  "A planetary conjunction occurs when two or more planets appear to be very close together in the night sky as seen from Earth.  Conjunctions between Venus and Jupiter are fairly common, occurring as often as three times a year.  But on the morning of November 5th, just before dawn, Venus and Jupiter will be less than one degree apart in the sky in the constellation of Virgo the Maiden."  I missed it...

This sounds like a joke: Big bottoms crushing airlines' bottom lines.  "American's growing waistlines are hurting the bottom lines of airlines as extra pounds on passengers cause a drag on planes.  Through the 1990s, the average weight of Americans increased by 10 pounds, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  The extra weight caused airlines to spend $275 million to burn 350 million more gallons of fuel."

Fascinating article in Scientific American: Music and the Brain.  "Music surrounds us–and we wouldn't have it any other way.  An exhilarating orchestral crescendo can bring tears to our eyes and send shivers down our spines...  Therein lies an intriguing biological mystery: Why is music--universally beloved and uniquely powerful in its ability to wring emotions--so pervasive and important to us?"  [ via Adam Curry ]  I think it is related to our why we perceive beauty.  But you read, you decide.

Interesting Slashdot thread: Could nuclear power wean the U.S. from oil?  You know my answer; Yes.

Walter the wall climbing robotThis is cool: Duke robot climbs to victory in Madrid.  "Our robot Walter was the only one that could start flat on the floor and climb the wall on its own, go over a barrier across the wall or stop itself after crossing the finish line."  Excellent.

Adam Bosworth: Evolution in Action.  Regarding IE and Firefox and the 'net as a platform.  [ via Tim Bray ]

Remember my note the other day about Tivo permalinks for TV shows?  Guess what?  Here they are.  Now you can share shows with your friends, or at least share the concept of recording a particular show.

hidden doorThe Hidden Door Company.  You know you want one of these.
I know I do :)

Sign of the times...  Near my house there is a store called "Kiss it Goodbye".  They sell your old stuff on eBay for you.  In exchange for a percentage, they photograph the item, list it, and pack and ship it.  What a great idea!

the IncrediblesPixar is amazing.  I'm sure you've seen the trailer for The Incredibles, which opens this weekend.  The reviews so far are amazingly positive.  And next year we get Cars, which looks pretty cool, too.

Finally, do you have a cat?  Does s/he like to walk over your keyboard?  Yeah, mine does too.  So here's the answer: PawSense.  "PawSense is a software utility that helps protect your computer from cats.  It quickly detects and blocks cat typing, and also helps train your cat to stay off the computer keyboard."  I am not making this up.


Saturday,  11/06/04  10:44 PM

A cold crisp dark silent night, perfect for reflections...

As I was sitting around tonight, drinking a nice glass of merlot, I reflected on the fact that it has now been two years since I've consumed any French wine.  In April 2003 I noted "Drinking French wine is like wearing real fur - politically unacceptable", and I still feel that way.  I'm not alone, either; back in June (when he was still blogging) Steven Den Beste reported: "Agence France-Press reports that French wine sales in the US are significantly down."  I don't think the red states are red because they're drinking Burgundy :)  I'm hoping for regime change in France; I have no quarrel with the French themselves, just with their leadership, who are grappling with the reality of four more years.

Of course as you know Chirac is presently taking care of Yasser Arafat, who apparently lies at death's door.  This speaks for itself; you didn't see Arafat flown to the Mayo Clinic, did you...

John Perry Barlow:  Magnanimous Defeat.  Among all the liberal hand-wringing about the election results, this excellent and constructive article stands out.  Read it now, especially if you're a Bush supporter.  There is clear coherent thought on "the other side".  [ via Joi Ito, who was less magnanimous himself ]

This is awesome: A Physics of Ideas, by Nova Spivack, subtitled "measuring the physical properties of memes".  Excellent.  [ via Marc Cantor ]  The kernel is that ideas, or memes, can be treated as units of information passing through the world, with size and velocity.  This contains some interesting thoughts about how each of us is bombarded with memes, how we filter and prioritize them, and how we pass them on.  For example by posting to our blogs :)

I find that I'm too much a conduit for existing memes, not enough an originator of new memes.  I spend too much time processing information, too little digesting it and adding to it.  And far too little time creating new information.  I need a self-imposed moratorium on new input.

So, Proposition 71 passed in California, and a new $3B institute for stem cell research will be established.  Whether this will be a boon to medical research or a boondoggle for the fiscally-challenged state remains to be seen.  Naturally a phalanx of researchers are writing grant applications in realtime to get a piece of the pie.  This could be, as Wired Magazine notes, The Stem Cell Gold Rush.

It could be good for Aperio, too; Pathology is central to cancer research, and Aperio's mission is Automating Pathology.  I bet there are a million other little biotech companies like Aperio, each thinking "how can we get involved, how can we contribute, how can we profit from this..."  Maybe the whole idea wasn't stupid, if it stimulates private enterprise.  Time will tell.

Kate Yandoh had a great experience consuming from CD Baby.  "Your CDs have been gently taken from our CD Baby shelves with sterilized contamination-free gloves and placed onto a satin pillow.  A team of 50 employees inspected your CDs and polished them to make sure they were in the best possible condition before mailing."  Does this stuff matter?  Yes.

New Year's Resolution update: 204.5 = no progress.  Sigh.


Birds-eye view of Disneyland

Monday,  11/08/04  08:55 PM

This is pretty cool; an aerial view of Disneyland.  I took the highest resolution shot, upsampled by 2X and filtered it, and here you go - 10,800 x 14,400 pixels:

Bird's-eye view of Disneyland

(click image for full-size interactive viewer)

Be sure to hit F11 to maximize your browser's window so you can see as much of the image as possible.

As usual, I upsampled the image and am serving it with Aperio's image server software.


More electoral mapmanship

Monday,  11/08/04  09:45 PM

If you enjoyed the electoral mapmanship from the other day, you'll really like  these really cool maps, and especially this one:

USA election 2004 proportional county-by-county

This map has distorted the shape of each state to show the population of the state rather than the land area, and the degree of blue / red / purple is determined by proportion of voting.  Obviously this is a better representation of the distribution of votes, and gives a lie to the "two countries" theory.  The center of the country is redder and the northeast and west are bluer, but you can see there is a pretty deep division all through.  A much healthier mix than the simple "red states" map would imply.


Monday,  11/08/04  10:04 PM

You may have heard U.S. forces are on the attack in Fallujah.  If you want the details, check out blogs like Belmont Club, which consistently has more and better military information than the networks.

Smart-1 ion-rocket probeThe Guardian reports Probe will discover secrets of the Moon.  "The Smart-1 robot probe, launched by the European Space Agency, will spend 2005 using an X-ray detector to map the composition of the Moon's surface. Results will then be used to solve one of astronomy's greatest mysteries: the origin of the Moon."  So that's cool, but that's not the real story; Smart-1 is powered by an ion rocket, the first satellite to prove out this promising technology.  "Smart was originally designed to test the feasibility of 'ion engines' which operate by shooting out streams of electrically-charged xenon.  This generates a tiny thrust equivalent to a postcard resting on a person's hand.  But unlike standard chemical rockets, which can fire only in bursts before exhausting their fuel, an ion engine can burn continuously for years."  Excellent.

And this is awesome - a time-lapse photograph of the recent lunar eclipse:

time-lapse lunar eclipse

Even more space news: The rules have been set for Robert Biglow's $50M 'America's Space Prize'.  This is quite a bit tougher than the X-prize: "Anyone who wants to follow in the shoes of Burt Rutan and win the next big space prize will have to build a spacecraft capable of taking a crew of no fewer than five people to an altitude of 400 kilometers and complete two orbits of the Earth at that altitude.  Then they have to repeat that accomplishment within 60 days."  As previously noted here, reaching orbit requires about 25X more energy than "reaching space".  My personal bet would be on SpaceX to capture this prize, and they're not even trying to do so.

Hough waveWow, these are beautiful: Hough waves.  "Hough waves or so called Hough transformations are named after Paul Hough who introduced the algorithm in 1962.  The algorithm is used to find certain characteristics in pictures, for example, lines, circles or ellipses." [ via Ottmar Liebert ]

Mark Cuban wonders When will the Music Industry do it Right?  "This is the only industry in the world that can see thousands of its retailers close, reduce the number of products it sells via cutbacks in artist rosters and albums released, cut back marketing and promotional dollars and then blame a reduction in sales on someone or something other than themselves."  I love it that people like Mark blog.  As the founder of, he knows a little about this, too...

A related question might be "will the Movie Industry learn from the Music Industry's mistakes"?

And meanwhile Wired reports File-sharing Thrives under Radar.  "A file-sharing program called Bittorrent has become a behemoth, devouring more than a third of the internet's bandwidth, and Hollywood's copyright cops are taking notice."  Bittorrent and its brethren are really taking over, in the vacuum caused by the lack of legitimate businesses.  Look at the success of the Apple music store - just about every track sold could be found on the net free.  By the way I don't believe the one-third-of-all-bandwidth number, that's not real world.

I can't figure out if this is important: Real has done a deal with Starz.  Apparently it is a high-quality video on demand service, drawing on Starz' library of content and Real's technology.  Interestingly, it is an "all you can eat" business model; a fixed monthly fee for any amount of consumed content.  We'll have to keep an eye on this...

chess-playing "thinking machine 4"This is so cool.  A chess-playing applet which shows visually the moves it is considering.  Awesome!

I'm just wondering - are there any commercials on television which don't use special effects?  I didn't think so.



Tuesday,  11/09/04  10:35 PM

Okay, no more maps, I promise.  Just good old blog filtering...

This is fascinating - Donna Frye, environmentalist, gadfly, and surf shop owner, is likely to be the new major of San Diego, and she was elected as a write-in candidate!  How cool is that!!  Democracy in action.  She's a "blue" in a red city, but her populist message has apparently stuck a chord.  [ via Ann Althouse ]

Philip Greenspun thinks Kerry voters will be happier than if Kerry had won.  "For most people it would appear that anger is preferable to despair."  Interesting.  I have to admit, George Bush sure has been a convenient target for everyone.

Bambi Francisco opines Stem-cell research payoff to take years.  At least ten, maybe more - which means VCs will not be in on the action.  However there could be ancillary businesses which benefit in a shorter timeframe.  Such as Aperio :)

reef-fish skinsScience News: Hide and see.  "Conflicting views of reef-fish colors."  Wow.

SkinIt! adhesive skinsAdhesive skins for everything!  SkinIt will clothe your phones, PDAs, remotes, you name it...  [ via Matt Haughey ]

Drazen Pantic: Anyone can be TV.  "To be a real-time video journalist, all you need is a blog, a camcorder, and a laptop with WiFi."  Excellent.  [ via Doc Searles ]

Henk suitcaseHere we have the Henk suitcase.  Custom built, and only $20,000.  Forbes reports since its unveiling in September, a total of zero have been sold.  [ via Ottmar Liebert, who notes "they built it and no one came!" ]

firefox logoHey, today Firefox 1.0 was released!  Cool.  Here's a link to the bittorrent download for it.  If you're still using Internet Explorer as your default browser, you should really check this out.  Friends don't let friends surf with IE...

And, Konfabulator for Windows shipped today, too.  This is a cool runtime platform which enables you to build and run small programs called "widgets".  There's a ton of widgets available for download.


Wednesday,  11/10/04  11:54 PM

Today was a good day.  For many reasons.  Some of which I can tell you about, some not.  Yet.  But please stay tuned.

diplomaOne of the ones I can tell you about; my daughter Alexis made the Headmaster's List - with a 4.0 GPA - in her first term at middle school.  Yay, Alex!  The triumph of hard work over bad genes :)

Citizen Smash posted a great tribute on the Marine Corp's 229th birthday.

IFILM is screening Theo van Gogh's Submission.  Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh was assassinated November 2, 2004, by a 26-year-old extremist Muslim of Dutch-Moroccan descent.  The current theory is that he was taken down for his critical look at the treatment of Muslim women.  [ via LGF ]

razib posts a voice from the dykes:  "The Dutch population have been attacked, harresed, intimitated and made to feel a stranger in our own country for decades.  This isn't a case of one man or a group of extremists who held a grudge against Theo Van Gogh, since nearly every Muslim in Holland disagrees with his given right to criticize, or 'insult' Islam."  Ugly.

Glenn Reynolds with many links and discussion of the situation in The Netherlands.  "You can't have a tolerant country if you're not willing to get tough with the intolerant."  Great point.

With the pending launch of Microsoft's search service, many analysts are wondering what this means for Google.  John Battelle pleads Can we please bury the Netscape metaphor?  "Let's get one thing straight, for once and for all: Google ain't no Netscape.  As many have pointed out, it's looking more and more like the next Microsoft, in terms of business model, talent, and riches."  I agree.

AlwaysOn reports Google is now crawling 8B web pages.  That's B, not M.  Bill Coughran, Google's VP/Engineering, blogs about this.

It's alive!  MSN Search (beta).  Well, almost alive.  Uh, Redmond, we have a problem...

MSN search error
(well, no, I didn't get the results I expected)

Looks like MSN Search has a blog, too.  "We know still have a lot of work left to do.  We'll keep you updated here as we make progress."  Okay, so be it.  [ via Dave Winer ]

Charles Arthur: Why iPod's tune won't change.  "The iPod has a path to dominance the Walkman never had."  An interesting and well-defended [albeit contrarian] point of view.  [ via Cult of Mac ]

ballot receiptCory Doctorow: How a ballot-receipt should look.  Taken from Wired magazine's "objects found from the future".  In a previous life I built transaction systems for banks, including ATM networks.  Paper receipts are indeed a great thing.  However in order for them to be useful, they have to balance against a transaction database

And therein lies the rub – are people really going to allow the government to store their voting record in a database?  I don’t think so.  This is the unpleasant reality of voting machines, if you don’t keep an audit trail, you can’t balance, and if you can’t balance, you can’t verify the machines’ operation.

Patrick considers personalized ad insertion; another interesting business model for video content.  With the advent of Tivo, I've definitely noticed an increasing amount of non-personalized ad insertion...

Ross Rubin: How Microsoft's Media Center will save Television.  Yeah, right.  Actually the article is a lot less sanguine about Media Center's prospects than the headline: "Media Center is a take-it-or-leave-it option and most consumers will leave it for the foreseeable future.That's right.

The other day I asked "I'm just wondering - are there any commercials on television which don't use special effects?"  Well through the magic of referer logs I found a post by Bruce on The Galactic Patrol in which he answered: "My mind immediately popped back to one of the best TV advertisments I've ever seen - Honda's 'Cog' ad.  That thing is incredible, and has no special effects."  He's right, that ad was incredible.  And notable especially for the fact that it did not use special effects.

Honda "cog" ad - tires rolling uphillUpon re-watching, my favorite part is where the tires roll up a ramp.  No special effects, simply weights inside the tires, so the center of gravity goes down even as the tire rolls up.  Very cool.



Veteran's Day Thanksgiving

Thursday,  11/11/04  08:25 AM

American flagJust wanted to say "Happy Veteran's Day".  Never have I been prouder to be an American, and happier to have all the wonderful men and women in our armed forces protecting me and my family and friends, and my way of life.  Of course I'm especially proud of my daughter Nicole, presently serving in the U.S. Navy.  So to all of them - past and present, and future - I say "thanks!"


Thursday,  11/11/04  10:04 PM

Martin Peretz, editor of New Republic, on John Kerry: Bad Messenger.  An interesting analysis of the state of the Democratic party, and their future prospects.  "I actually believe that, had Lieberman won the nomination, he would have won the election.  I think Gore would have as well."  I actually believe that, too; almost all of Kerry's support was anti-Bush sentiment.  [ via Glenn Reynolds ]

Man, this is really bad; Slate reports Holland in Flames.  "Religious violence and terror arrests stun the Netherlands in the aftermath of filmmaker Theo van Gogh's murder."  An unfortunate wakeup call for Europe's multiculturalism.

mini vs. truck in crashThis is a bit old - I might have even linked it before - Malcom Gladwell considers Big and Bad, how the SUV ran over automotive safety.  "Internal industry market research concluded that S.U.V.s tend to be bought by people who are insecure, vain, self-centered, and self-absorbed, who are frequently nervous about their marriages, and who lack confidence in their driving skills."  The only hope is $10/gallon gas, I think.

Wired reports Vonage dodges state regulations.  "The FCC decides that cable, phone and other companies offering internet-based phone services fall under federal jurisdiction. The company calls the ruling a victory for consumers."  Yippee.

The impressive 311 service in New York: Operators are standing by.  "When people talk about network technology revolutionizing politics, it's usually in the context of national campaigns: Internet fundraising, political blogs.  But the most profound impact may be closer to home; even in an age of global networks, 311 reminds us that all politics is local."  Very cool, something useful to do with taxes.

Keyspan Airport Express remoteI might have to get just ordered one of these: Keyspan Airport Express remote.  "Airport Express Remote allows you to wirelessly control your iTunes playback by plugging in the USB remote receiver into a PC, Mac, or even the AirPort Express itself."  Awesome, this is what Airport Express needs to be a real solution for my family room stereo.  I already never play CDs in my car anymore, now I won't have to play CDs in my house, either.

How long before there is an equivalent solution for video?  Components include: broadband video delivery to computer, computer interface to TV, remote control.

Speaking of video in my family room, Has Tivo forsaken us?  Interesting interview with Tivo general counsel Matthew Zinn about Tivo's limited time video-on-demand.  Essentially, they had to do it to comply with Macrovision's licensing agreements.

And of course if Tivo becomes too obnoxious, Tivo hacks flourish.  You are running a Apache on your Tivo, right?

The streamzap remote looks close.  But it communicates with your PC, which is in the wrong room.

Can this be right?  Robert on ponders a potential Mike Piazza for Shawn Green trade.  Hmmm...  If you were going to do this, why trade LoDuca?

Dave Winer considers the nature of podcasts, and the fundamental difference between audio and text.  "Finally we have a medium that, unlike the Web, can't be skimmed. Reading comprehension keeps going down, people skim for keywords, not for understanding."  This is why it isn't compelling for me; I like to skim, I don't have the patience or time to listen to the whole thing.


more Veteran's Day Thanksgiving

Thursday,  11/11/04  11:03 PM

Cox & Forkum Veteran's Day 2004

Cox & Forkum outdo themselves; Veteran's Day 2004.


Friday,  11/12/04  10:47 PM

wind turbinesSay it isn't so - Wind power not all pleasant breezes.  "A group of Canadian and U.S. scientists reported Tuesday that computer simulations show that a large-scale use of wind farms to generate electrical power could create a significant temperature change over Earth's land masses."  There is no free lunch.  [ via Adam Curry ]

Tim Oren ponders Why does the networked left keep losing?

Meanwhile Wired is Longing for a blogging candidate.  Only a matter of time, I should think...  [ via Powerline, in an introspective post: Should Presidential candidates blog? ]

How "blue" is California?  Check out this county-by-county map posted by Citizen Smash.  We are a microcosm of the U.S. as a whole - red over most of the land, blue in the cities.  But there are populous areas which are red - such as my own Ventura County...

China - old and newEastSouthWestNorth - awesome pictures from China.  Very thought provoking, somehow; there's a whole world there which is not here.  [ via The Peking Duck ]

ExtremeTech reviews the new video-on-demand service from Akimbo.  Their approach is to sell you a box which receives video over your broadband connection and displays it on your TV.  Then you subscribe to the service.  We'll have to keep our eye on this one...

Just want to shout out for collision detection, Clive Thompson's blog.  I link to him often and enjoy him daily. 

Bathsheba Grossman's "math art"Like this - Bathsheba Grossman's "math art".  The piece at right is "a 4-dimensional solid projected into 3-space, the 4-space analogue of the dodecahedron.  It's named for its 120 dodecahedral faces, which appear skewed in this projection, but of course in 4-space they are all regular dodecahedra."  Of course.  I love it!

New Scientist interviews Benoit Mandelbrot - a fractal life.  I really enjoyed this article because it made him seem like a nice guy; previously I had the impression he was a bit stuffy and rather full of himself.  And then there's this: 

Mandelbrot setQ: What are you working on now
A: My work is more varied than at any other point in my life.  I am still carrying out research in pure mathematics.  And I am working on an idea that I had several years ago on negative dimensions.

Negative dimensions?  Wow.



Saturday,  11/13/04  09:52 PM

NYTimes: Tolerant Dutch Wrestle with Tolerating Intolerance.  Great headline and a good survey article.  "The Netherlands is undergoing a sea change."  My sense is that the murder of Theo Van Gogh has been a wake up call, and that intolerance will no longer be tolerated...

Tony Blair has it right: "Asked whether he felt the United States owed Britain something for Mr Blair’s support of the war in Iraq, Mr Blair rejected the notion.  'We’re not fighting the war against terrorism because we are an ally of the United States.  We are an ally of the United States because we believe in fighting this war against terrorism'."  I believe John Howard would agree.  [ via Command Post ]

aerial shot of FallujahHere's a terrific aerial shot of Fallujah.  [ via John Robb ]

Deacon on Powerline: Why the PLO must go the way of Arafat.  Truth.

Audion logoCabal Sasser: The true story of audionThis is what software development is really like, you could not make this up.  Not even the chili from Wendys.  Not even the joy of debugging in kernel mode.  And especially not this: "'Yeah, that's impossible,' I told him.  And then a few days later I had a semi-working prototype.  The idea was so cool, I just had to try it."  And then there's this: "The feeling of being beat to market by days is an interesting one — imagine being punched in the face by a drunk kangaroo then finding five dollars while lying on the floor, a simultaneously crushing but ultimately inspiring experience."  You better just go read the whole thing - now!  [ via Daring Fireball ]

Among all the great things in this article is a link to Slashdot from October 2001 about the iPod.  "No wireless.  Less space than a nomad.  Lame."  Not everyone has future vision :)

More audio: Logitech now has speakers that go up to 11.  What a great marketing ploy.  And of course, they are loud :)

Bigwig posts great advice: "One's spouse should not make the mistake of being asleep when the ball-throwing child knocks the fancy cherry-red lamp-oil candle off the television, as this implies gross callousness on their part when it comes to their regard for the calamitous potential of ball-throwing lamp oil accidents occuring within the home."  Got it.

Slashdot threads on a pocket projector under development by Fraunhofer.  "It uses a laser beam and a rotating mirror to display the image. Another laser and a photo diode is used to verify whether the displayed image is shown correctly, so the electronics can adjust the image when the beamer moves."  Excellent.

Doc Searles with some sage advice: Dude, don't be so, like, harsh.  "Hating L.A. is a Bay Area tradition, even though it's not reciprocated.  L.A. folks are often surprised to find there's some kind of war going on.  They'll be all like, You hate L.A.?  Really?  Dude, like, y'know... why?"  As a lifelong LAer who lived in Silicon Valley for a few years, I find this is so true.  When I lived in Los Altos people would hear we were from L.A. and they'd say "oh, you must be so glad to live here now!"  And we'd be like, "uh, no, we like it here, but we liked it there, too."

Weekly New Year's Resolution update: 104.  Not good. 
Maybe I have to breathe more...



Sunday,  11/14/04  11:52 AM

dead bugThis morning I fixed a bug on this site which dates back to 11/6 - some of you may have arrived at my home page only to find it blank.  I apologize!  Especially since this bug only affected those of you who have visited me for over a year.  Sigh.  Well, sorry again and since you're reading this I guess it didn't keep you away forever!


Sunday,  11/14/04  09:33 PM

Holiday Season.  Yippee!  (Sorry, but with two weeks eleven days until Thanksgiving it is time.)  Fa la la la la, la la, la la...

Powerline reports on The death of Mr. Bastard.  The part that grabbed my attention was this: "He leaves behind 13 children fathered with an assortment of women."  Whew.  Unnatural Selection in action.

Steve Jobs with BonoBill Gates and Queen LatifahNYTimes: Gates vs. Jobs, The Rematch.  "As was the case in computers, Apple has sprinted ahead in the music market with an innovative product, elegant design and tight links between its hardware and software.  Plodding along after it is a vast army, organized by Microsoft, of rivals that may be less skillful than Apple but offer a broader array of options and cheaper prices."  How will this play out?  Will Microsoft win in the end?  Or will Apple hold their early lead?
Stay tuned :)

Related: Engadget reports Patent for wireless iPod turns up.  Cool.

This is excellent; Ben Hammersley reports: "I’ve cobbled together a server app, RadioPod, to record streaming radio stations, convert them to MP3s, and then provide an RSS 2.0 feed for a PodCasting application to download and then throw into iTunes ready for my iPod."  Woah.  This sounds like something I'm going to have to check out...  I've stayed away from Podcasting pretty much because there wasn't much content; I love the idea, but still.  However this might be the reason to get excited about it.

Oh, and Pedro Alcocer reports How to never miss an episode with Bittorrent and RSS.  (Next up, how to never split an infinitive :)  Anyway this is awesome: "In this post you will learn how you can never miss an episode of your favorite shows ever again.  This will be accomplished through the magic of BitTorrent and RSS...  The are many solutions to this problem, but this is how I do it.  The BT client checks an RSS feed for torrents that match certain criteria.  When it detects those criteria, it begins to download the torrent.  The result is something like TiVo, but free."  Okay, this looks cool.  Stay tuned for report.

Slashdot discusses Microsoft's Upcoming Desktop Search Tool.  "Back in July, Microsoft purchased a company called Lookout who made a tool that allowed users of Outlook 2000+ to search through their email at greater speed and accuracy to the standard Outlook search tool.  Since Microsoft acquired Lookout, the MSN team have been steadily working on Desktop Search and web search technologies."  So be it.  Personally I don't trust Google or Microsoft; I use X1, which is faster and which is a single-purpose utility without grand pretensions to rule the world.


Can you read this?

Sunday,  11/14/04  10:36 PM

Can you read this?


Monday,  11/15/04  11:27 PM

Today's big news: Condi Rice to be named Secretary of State, replacing Colin Powell who resigned today.  So be it.  Personally I liked Powell and his moderating influence on the White House, but I agree the consistency Rice brings might be helpful.

Ann Althouse suggests Condi Rice for President in '08.

Tony Blair, wearing a poppy...Slate explains What's that Flower on Blair's Lapel?  A Flanders poppy, of course, an international symbol of remembrance for veterans of war.

Poppies are featured in Sting's Children's Crusade, one of the best lyrics ever, as he compares WWI to the drug wars of the 1980s...

Meanwhile the diplomatic Jacques Chirac comments, "Britain gave its support [to the war in Iraq] but I did not see much in return.  I am not sure that it is in the nature of our American friends at the moment to return favors systematically..."  American friendsNon.  [ via LGF, in a post titled "It's hard not to hate the French".  Certainly not Chirac and his regime. ]

Robert Novak: The Senate vs. the U. N.  "'The extent of the corruption is staggering,'' Sen. Norm Coleman told me.  'The scope of the ripoff at the U.N. is substantially more than the widely reported $10 billion to $11 billion in graft.'"  Woah.  That's $B as in billion.  That is our money.

Robert Crawford comments on Tom Maguire's blog: "I'm not sure if I have this straight: On Saturday, the NYTimes prints a story going after blogs for repeating conspiracy theories that have been debunked.  Then, on Sunday, the NYTimes prints an EDITORIAL latching on to those same debunked conspiracy theories."  Uh, yeah.  Maybe they don't read their own paper?  [ via Glenn Reynolds ]

John Fund reports on the Swift Boat Vets: The Last Mission.  "I met John Kennedy.  I know John Kerry.  The two men were very different in how they handled the military, despite John Kerry's attempts to create a Kennedy aura around him.  I think the American people rendered the right verdict this month.  They concluded that John Kerry was no Jack Kennedy."  Indeed.  [ via Powerline ]

2004 election - county-by-county showing populationYet another red/blue map - the coolest yet, showing population as columns.  Pretty clear what's going on here, huh?  [ via Bigwig ]

Randymac on GNXP considers Dutch demographics.  "Clearly, the Netherlands needs a new policy towards its immigrant population."  And it seems the murder of Theo Van Gogh gives such a change political momentum.

The Economist plugs patent reform: Monopolies of the Mind.  "Patent offices need to find ways of applying standards more strictly.  This would make patents more difficult to obtain.  But that is only right.  Patents are, after all, government-enforced monopolies and so, as Jefferson had it, there should be some 'embarrassment' (and hesitation) in granting them."  Absolutely.  Next to tort reform, this is our biggest problem.

Digital Tiger triple displayHave a nerd techie on your list and don't know what to get them for the Holidays?  Check out Tom's Hardware's 2004 Holiday Buyer's Guide.  For me, how about the Digital Tiger triple monitor display system; 1920x1200 in the middle, and 1600x1200 on either side.  Ho ho ho.

AlwaysOn discusses Embryonic Stem Cell Misconceptions.  "Embryos are the only source for the stem cells that will cure diabetes, spinal cord injuries, and a host of debilitating diseases, right?  Um, not quite."  The technology is promising but not a general panacea, of course.

Joe Kraus: flossing and startups.  "Just floss the teeth you want to keep.  Just measure the goals you want to meet.Excellent.  Joe is batting 1.000 on his blog.

Harvard Business School asks Tivo Ready to Fast Forward?  "TiVo appears to be running out of time.  In its fiscal year that ended in January, the company lost $22.4 million on sales of $141 million, which was followed by two more quarters of losses.  What's worse, competitors are surrounding TiVo on all sides."  Oh no Mr. Bill!  Maybe broadband video will save them - I seriously doubt advertisers will...

Finally, Beavers weave stolen cash into Dam.  "A bag of bills stolen from a casino was snapped up by beavers who wove thousands of dollars in soggy currency into the sticks and brush of their dam on a creek in eastern Louisiana."  Excellent.  I am not making this up.



Monday,  11/15/04  11:54 PM

So what did you make of this

Can you read this?

It was written with a 3D font called UniversRevolved, and it says:


I came across this font, designed by Ji Lee, in Wired magazine a couple of months ago.  He took the Univers font and rotated it, creating characters which have rotational symmetry yet recognizably represent capital letters.  Very cool.

I had only the printed pages of Wired magazine, but I wanted this as a font, so I scanned the pages, edited them in Photoshop, and then created a font using High-Logic's Font Creator.  The tough part was converting grayscale surfaces into the pure black-and-white shapes needed by font glyphs, using a skewed diamond halftone screen.

If you're interested you can download the TrueType font here.  Simply copy to C:\Windows\Fonts, and poof, you too can write in 3D!

All your base belong to us


Tuesday,  11/16/04  11:48 PM

The Ole filter makes a pass...

I got a nice chuckle from this Slashdot thread, discussing an image billed as the "largest digital photograph in the world".  It is a mere 7.5GB!  Of course my little company Aperio routinely creates virtual slide images which are 40GB or more...  (Check 'em out here.)

Nasa X-34A scramjetThis is cool: Nasa's X-43A Scramjet breaks Speed Record.  "NASA's X-43A research vehicle screamed into the record books again Tuesday, demonstrating an air-breathing engine can fly at nearly 10 times the speed of sound.  Preliminary data from the scramjet-powered research vehicle show its revolutionary engine worked successfully at nearly Mach 9.8, or 7,000 mph, as it flew at about 110,000 feet."  Useful for commercial travel?  I don't know.  I believe at that altitude there isn't enough air to cause sonic booms, anyway.

Tim Bray considers Garden Walls.  "In 2004, America Online doesn’t matter much any more."  Amazing how true that is - I can definitely remember the time, not so long ago, when CompuServe, Prodigy, and AOL were all bigger and "more important" than the 'net - in approximately that order.  How the might have fallen.  And Tim puts his finder on the reason - open vs. closed.

Eye TVPowerbook Central reviews the EyeTV, a software/hardware PVR for Macs.  Looks pretty cool.  I wonder if these PC/Mac-based PVRs will really take over from dedicated boxes like Tivo.  You still have the "last 30 feet problem" (the distance from your office [where your PC is located] to your family room [where your TV is located]).   [ via Matt Haughey ]

And this is bad news - Tivo to add banner ads when fast-forwarding.  Links this LATimes article, which reports "By March, TiVo viewers will see 'billboards', or small logos, popping up over TV commercials as they fast-forward through them, offering contest entries, giveaways or links to other ads."  I might have to get a PC/Mac-based PVR.  My instinct is that if this is true, it is the beginning of the end for Tivo.

Matt also reports on WM Recorder, an application that formalizes the "analog leak" by letting you capture streaming windows media to a file.  He notes "Seems like they'll be on shaky legal ground as many pay-only audio and video services use the windows media format solely to get around people doing this."  Yeah, like CinemaNow and MovieLink.  But isn't it too bad that building software which does something useful like this could be illegal?

You're all big RSS fans, right?  (You're not?  Well then please please please check out my RSS cookbook.  But I digress.)  Okay, so if you like RSS, do you like OPML ?  Do you even know what it is?  Dave Winer thinks "lurking in OPML is another big idea".  I agree, stay tuned for more...

dating at the Apple StoreLooking for love?  Then perhaps you should visit the Apple Store.  Is this a great time to be alive, or what?  [ via Cult of Mac ]

Okay, now I've heard it all: David Lee Roth is a paramedic in New York.  I am not making this up.  [ via Xeni Jardin ]

And speaking of Van Halen, here's a website which will sing any lyrics you want!  [ via collision detection ]  More proof, if any were needed, that you can find anything on the 'net!


If you don't want commercials, tell Tivo!

Thursday,  11/18/04  04:59 PM

If you are upset that Tivo is considering displaying commercials while fast forwarding, call them and tell them!

877-367-8486 between 8:00 AM - 8:00 PM Pacific.  Ask for "live agent".

The other day I noted that Tivo is considering displaying commercials when you fast forward.  In the meantime this meme has spread and people all over the 'net are discussing how horrible it would be.  I'd said "if this is true, it is the beginning of the end for Tivo", and others were more succinct: Scott Shinn commented on Matt Haughey's PVRblog: "Tivo has jumped the shark!"

Today I was ruminating on this, and it seemed to me that this would be a betrayal.  Tivo was founded to help consumers, and in that regard they have succeeded brilliantly.  Everyone I know who has one loves it, in fact everyone I know who has one actively tells everyone they know how great it is.  Companies don't often get that kind of love from their customers.  But if Tivo really did this, then they'd be turning toward the dark side.  They're a business, and a business has to give their customers what they want.  Displaying commercials while fast forwarding is giving advertisers what they want.  So this would be a clear sign that you and I are no longer Tivo's customers.  And that would, indeed, be the beginning of the end.

But there is hope!

I decided to try to call Tivo to tell them how I felt.  I found the Tivo support phone number on this page, it is not easy to find.  I called and had to fight my way through a bogus automated attendant.  Once I finally had a human, I explained to her why I was calling.  Amazingly, she said Tivo is considering this change, but they're getting a lot of complaints.  Maybe they're still listening to us?

So - if you are upset that Tivo is considering displaying commercials while fast forwarding, please call them and tell them.  If enough of us complain, maybe they won't do it!  And that would be a good thing.

[ Added later... ]

Save the 30 second skip!

A bit later I called Tivo again and fought my way back through the phone system.  I ended up with another support rep, and she, too, indicated that Tivo is only considering this change.  Of course support reps are not product managers, but two out of two is an encouraging sign.

The reason I called back was to warn Tivo that I really wanted them to keep the 30 second skip, too.  What?  You mean you have a Tivo, and don't know about the 30 second skip?  Okay, here's what you do; grab your Tivo remote, and while it is playing a recorded program enter:


Tivo "advance" buttonIf all goes well you'll hear three beeps from your Tivo.  At this point you have activated 30 second skip.  Now whenever you hit the "advance" button (see picture at right), you'll get a 30 second skip ahead.  Once you've tried this I promise you will never go back to fast forwarding.

[ Added even later... ]

Another way you can contact Tivo; send email to  This is ostensibly the email address for the Tivo newsletter editor, but it appears to forward to Tivo customer support.  Remember, be nice.  We want their help, so don't flame the poor reps :)


Thursday,  11/18/04  11:20 PM

It's all happening...

North Korea in the news:  Powerline says there's something happening here.  Conrad reports strange doings in the hermit kingdom.  And Glenn Reynolds links The Age: North Korea's dear leader less dear.  "Analysts are debating whether Mr Kim is losing his grip on power, or, more likely, quietly downsizing his own personality cult."  Anyway North Korea may be easing stance on nuclear talks.  What does it all mean?  Can't tell.  But as Hindrocket notes: "North Korea is one of the places of which it can truly be said that things can only get better"...

Have you been following the case of the marine who shot the "unarmed wounded man" in Fallujah?  L.T.Smash ponders the rules of engagement.  I totally agree with him, and not just because my daughter's in the Navy.  There's a great discussion on Powerline about Kevin Sites, the reporter who shot the movie.  LGF has a more aggressive take: they're called security rounds.

Saturn's ringsBigwig predicts there's life in Saturn's rings.  Interesting!  and surprisingly plausible...

Wired: Stem cells feed brain tumors.  "Researchers have identified stem cells in brain cancer tumors that replenish the tumors and keep them growing.  Snuffing out these cancer stem cells could lead to a raft of new treatments for various cancers."  Excellent.

FuturePundit reports Sonic hedgehog gene triples brain stem growth.  No, I am not making this up, and yes, that is "Sonic hedgehog" as in the video game character.  Guess you'll just have to read it.

a little water, but good fishing...A little water, but good fishing... 
Oops.  I hate when that happens.  [ via Joi Ito ]

So I was typing really fast and somehow the letters came out wrong and I typed "connectino".  And I thought, of course, the elementary particle exchanged during socket connects!  Probably massless but definitely has spin and charge :)

Matt Haughey posts more information about the Tivo's fast forward plans.  I still think you should call them and complain.  They just might be listening.

when your coworker is away...This is just too funny!  When your coworker is away...

Here we have the Chief Blogging Officer.  Aka Rageboy.  Excellent.

Handbrake iconHas anyone out there used HandBrake?  A multi-threaded DVD to MPEG4 ripper/converter for OSX.  Looks like exactly what I need, if it works...

This is awesome: hack your way out of writer's block.  "Write five words - Literally.  Put five completley random words on a piece of paper.  Write five more words.  Try a sentence.  Could be about anything.  A block ends when you start making words on a page."  Sounds like great advice for coder's block, too.  [ via Mark Frauenfelder ]

gridlock!I just re-discovered gridlock.  What a great waste of time!

(not the way out of coder's block :)



still no frames

Friday,  11/19/04  10:48 PM

Do you ever use my One Year Ago feature?  I do, all the time.  In fact, it might be my favorite thing about blogging; I can see where I was at a year ago.  I'm really looking forward to looking back two years, or ten!  How the time flies...

Anyway, a year ago today I finally got rid of frames.  I like frames, that is, I like the user experience of viewing a website inside frames.  There are some problems with frames - permalinks, titles, compatibility - but I figured out how to deal with them.  And when I started I was quite proud of them :)

But, hardly anyone else liked them.  I kept getting feedback that they were a bad thing.  And they are certainly harder, there's a whole bunch of stuff you have to do on this side to deal with them.  So last November I got rid of them, and I haven't really looked back.


Friday,  11/19/04  11:18 PM

GNXP notes a little common sense from the Dutch.  "If you want to live in the Netherlands, you have to adhere to our rules ... and learn our language."  I would say the same to immigrants to the U.S.  All of them, or course, but especially those from Mexico.  I think it is just weird when you get a government document with Spanish-language text.

Geert Wilders, a popular Dutch politician, suggests shutting down radical mosques.  "'We are a Dutch democratic society.  We have our own norms and values,' right-wing lawmaker Geert Wilders told The Associated Press in an interview.  'If you chose radical Islam you can leave, and if you don’t leave voluntarily then we will send you away.  This is the only message possible.'"  Can you tolerate intolerance in a tolerant society?  No.  [ via LGF ]

Ann Althouse: The political structure of academia.  "The NYT reports on a study that shows (unsurprisingly) that Democrats greatly outnumber Republicans in academia.  The ratio is 7 to 1, generally, 9 to 1 at Berkeley and Stanford."  It doesn't surprise me, either, but it is kind of amazing.  Is this self-selection?  I don't buy the "correlation to IQ" theory.  I might buy the "correlation to non-real-work" theory, though :)

This is kind of interesting: Triassic reptiles had live young.  "The largest and most diverse group of Triassic aquatic reptiles gave birth to live young, researchers report in this week's Nature.  The finding in sauropterygians is the first evidence of viviparity in this group of animals, which lived throughout the Mesozoic era, from 250 to 65 million years ago."  Even more amazing than the fact itself is the fact that we can know this!

Randall Parker notes: Scientific advances are the solution to high medical costs.

home-built cyclotronHey, want to build your own cyclotron?  I know you do...

Alex Uchôa landscape photos of BrazilThese landscape photographs from Brazil, by Alex Uchôa, are amazing.  Just beautiful.  I can't decide which I find more impressive, the subject or the photographs.  I guess maybe it is the subject; I knew Brazil was beautiful, but not this beautiful.  Please go and check 'em out!  [ via Glenn Reynolds ]

Heard about the brawl / riot at the Piston's game last night?  Ugly.  I have to say, somehow so far this season I just don't care about pro basketball.  Maybe because Shaq left the Lakers, or maybe just because...  I can see getting excited about college basketball, but not before Spring.

Did you tell Tivo you don't want commercials during fast forward?  You did?  Good.  Matt Haughey reports on an interesting study that shows people pay more attention while fast-forwarding.  Yeah, but do they pay more attention while 30-second-skipping?  I doubt it.  Look, this is simple; most people don't want to watch commercials.

Want a PVR, but can't figure out which one to buy?  Check out PVR Comparisons.  [ via Matt Haughey ]

Oh, and here's a review in Wired of the ConvertX PVR, software for your PC or Mac.  I wonder if this is the future of PVRs?  Somehow I can't see it.  Maybe it is the "wrong room" problem, or maybe the "not dedicated" problem.

Glenn Reynolds: Video killed the TV star.  Features the Ventura County Star, our "local" paper...

Meanwhile, AOL cues up the video.

The whole Internet video space is exploding.  It is already big, but it is going to be huge.

GunkanjimaThis is just really spooky; photos of Gunkanjima, a coal-mining island off the coast of Japan, in 1974, and today, now that the island has been abandoned.  [ via Ottmar Liebert ]



It's that time...

Saturday,  11/20/04  10:13 AM

So, what's going on?  Are you ready for the Holidays?  This is the time - the weekend before Thanksgiving - where suddenly I get that pang of adrenaline.  Yep, it is really happening.  Moo!

Thanksgiving - moo!


Saturday,  11/20/04  10:54 PM

Interesting website: Release 1.0.  I followed Rafe Needleman there from AlwaysOn.  Interesting content, like this: What Money Buys.  "What driven entrepreneurs imagine doing after their own financial success is often not what they really need to do - which is launch another startup."  Very true.  P.S. Don't you hate it when a site has RSS feeds, but they don't test them?  Sigh.

how news travels on the InternetHow news travels on the Internet (click for fullsize image).  Interesting.  I am part of the "lesser blogosphere", and contribute significantly to the "dark matter" via emailed links.  What is most interesting about this diagram is the lack of mediation at the top - the memes flow where they want, they are not directed.  Successful memes are the ones which have sufficiently broad appeal to make it all the way to the bottom.  And note that the path to the bottom is mediated - by the promindantly left-learning mass media...  [ via Joi Ito ]

Henry Bekkering can jumpFile this movie under "serious hops".  Henry Bekkering, a high school basketball player in Alberta.  Yes, he is jumping over his teammate.  Wow.

LGF quotes the Washington Times:Message to media: The election is over.  You lost.  "Watching the nightly news, you might not have known that U.S. forces achieved a historic victory in Fallujah this week. You might not have known this because all the U.S. media, spearheaded by NBC News, seemed to care about was one Marine shooting an insurgent pretending to be dead."  Seems like good news just isn't news anymore.

Jack Kelly gets it right: Victory in Fallujah.  "The victory in Fallujah was also remarkable for its speed, [ret Army Lt. Col. Ralph] Peters said.  Speed was necessary, he said, 'because you are fighting not just the terrorists, but a hostile global media.'"  The more I read, the more respect I have for our marines.

surf's up!Check out this wave.  Yes, that is someone surfing on it.  Part of a series; the Billabong Global Big Wave awards.  Amazing.  Don't you just love really big waves?  [ via the horse's mouth ]

[ Later: Here's a bigger version... ]

the real death star, Eta CarinaeThe real death star, Eta Carinae.  "the seventh star of the southern Carina constellation and the most massive and luminous star known in our galaxy.  It's 100 times as massive as our sun and 5 million times brighter.  Its diameter is about the size of Jupiter's orbit and it is extremely unstable.  Currently it is in the process of rapidly exhausting its fuel supply and is on the brink of self-destruction. It could collapse into itself and form a black hole at any moment.  Eta Carinae is also interesting because it's probably the only star in the night sky that could conceivably kill you."  [ via American Digest, an interesting blog I've added to my blogroll. ]

New Year's Resolution update: 205.  Moving in the wrong direction.
More drastic measures may be required for progress. >:(


That's Incredible

Sunday,  11/21/04  04:33 PM

The IncrediblesI saw The Incredibles with Megan this afternoon.  I thought it was - excellent.  I can't wait to see it again, and to have the DVD.  I'll say what everyone else always says about Pixar movies, it isn't the animation or the technology, it's the story.  And this was a wonderful story.  I mean, how great was it that the "supers" were retired by liability lawsuits?  And I loved the line "when everyone is super, nobody is", and the graduation from 4th grade to 5th grade.  A politically incorrect but terrific statement, embedded in an action movie disguised as a kid's cartoon.  The whole thing just worked.

One suggestion for the Pixar team, not that they need it; in the sequel, it would be great if there was a "super" who wasn't genetically super.  Sure, some are born with "special powers", but you can be super through hard work and determination, too.

I can't wait for Incredibles, Too.


plaintext email is obsolete

Sunday,  11/21/04  04:56 PM

It's Sunday afternoon, I'm sitting in front of the fire, watching football, so it's time for a rant.  Let me just say, that in 2004 plaintext email is obsolete.

First and foremost, if you cannot see HTML-formatted email, then you're using the wrong email client.  Don't send me email (plaintext or otherwise) extolling the virtues of pine or eudora 1.0 or your favorite program from 1993.  If your client cannot display formatted email, then you're totally behind the curve.  This is a platform-independent observation, it doesn't matter whether you use Windows or Mac or Linux or whatever - I promise there is a client that can render HTML email.  Heck, my Treo phone can render formatted email.  You don't watch black-and-white TV, do you?

Next, if you don't send HTML-formatted email, then you're behind the curve.  You don't have to use eight different fonts and colors and lines and boxes (although it might help you communicate).  You don't have to include diagrams and pictures (although it might make your email more interesting).  But you need the basics; paragraphs, italics, underlines, proportionally spaced fonts with serifs.  How lame is it when you get a plaintext email and the lines wrap in funny places for no reason?  You don't type memos on a typewriter, do you?

The most common objection to formatted email is that it isn't compatible.  That was perfectly valid in 1997.  However in 2004 that argument is ridiculous.  It is like optimizing video for viewers with black-and-white TVs.  (Yeah, I know, home teams still wear white.  That's dumb, too.)

Then there is the objection that plaintext email is cooler.  Well maybe to you.  To me, handwriting is cooler than printing, stereo is cooler than mono, color is cooler than black-and-white, 3D is cooler than 2D.  And formatted email is cooler than plaintext.

Some will tell you plaintext email is faster.  That was true with 9600 baud dial-up.  With broadband, it is a specious argument.  (You do have broadband, don't you?  You don't!  Okay, then it doesn't matter for 56K dial-up, either.) 

Even free online email services like Hotmail and Yahoo let you send and receive HTML-formatted email (sometimes they call it "rich text").  Heck, even AOL lets you format email.  It might not be the default - you might have to change your options to turn it on - but you should.  If you're sending plaintext email you're sending the wrong message.

Okay, back to football.


(new yorker, 11/22/04)

Sunday,  11/21/04  06:38 PM

CSI Tulsa


language talks

Sunday,  11/21/04  08:01 PM

One of the really great things about blogging is picking through your referer logs.  Because you serendipidously discover all kinds of great stuff "out there".  The blogosphere is already way too big to grasp, and coming across links to links to links is a great guide.

Anyway, today I found Paul Graham's site; it is not a blog, more an old style home page with a collection of essays.  Among them was Great Hackers, which is quite thought-provoking.  Among the interesting ideas is the notion that when starting a project, or a business, the choice of language limits the quality of programmers.  Paul doesn't think too much of Java:

When you decide what infrastructure to use for a project, you're not just making a technical decision.  You're also making a social decision, and this may be the more important of the two.  For example, if your company wants to write some software, it might seem a prudent choice to write it in Java.  But when you choose a language, you're also choosing a community.  The programmers you'll be able to hire to work on a Java project won't be as smart as the ones you could get to work on a project written in Python.  And the quality of your hackers probably matters more than the language you choose.  Though, frankly, the fact that good hackers prefer Python to Java should tell you something about the relative merits of those languages.

Paul is also biased against Windows:

A couple years ago a venture capitalist friend told me about a new startup he was involved with.  It sounded promising.  But the next time I talked to him, he said they'd decided to build their software on Windows NT, and had just hired a very experienced NT developer to be their chief technical officer.  When I heard this, I thought, these guys are doomed.  One, the CTO couldn't be a first rate hacker, because to become an eminent NT developer he would have had to use NT voluntarily, multiple times, and I couldn't imagine a great hacker doing that; and two, even if he was good, he'd have a hard time hiring anyone good to work for him if the project had to be built on NT.

I'm not sure I share his biases against Java or Windows.  (Although I must say for myself, if I have to build something, I wouldn't choose either one.)  Anyway I fully agree that in choosing a platform, you are choosing a culture.

This is particularly relevant to me because I'm embarking on a new project.  I have the opportunity to begin from scratch, with any language.  I need to build programs which are clients and servers, and I need to build an interactive website.  I want at least some of the stuff to be cross-platform.  So what do I use?  ASP?  C#?  Java?  I don't think so.  Perl?  PHP?  Maybe.  C++?  Python?  Very likely.

This isn't just about me.  I'm going to be working with others...  And like Paul points out, this is not just a choice of programming technique, it's a choice of culture.  Language talks.


Monday,  11/22/04  11:42 PM

Checking in on the world...

Good news: Space tourism legislation makes comeback.  "After weathering the ups and downs of the lame-duck legislative process, legislation that would open the way for suborbital space tourism was cleared by the House and sent on to the Senate for final congressional approval."  Good news; the prospect of revenue from space tourists would drive a lot of private spaceflight development.

Meanwhile India debates [manned] space flight as lunar project proceeds.

Ray Bradbury writes it is Time to Explore Again.  "In this time when our freeways are frozen in place, space travel suffers the same terrible winter.  How can we thaw this deep-freeze to unlock our vision so that we see the stars once more with the same fever that we knew that fabulous night we took the first Giant Step?"

Bill Whittle of EjectEjectEject has a new book out: Silent America, essays from a democracy at war.  Ordered!  I've always enjoyed his essays; they have that "I say that, but I don't say it that well" quality.

There's a petition out on the 'net to support the U.S.Marine caught on video killing an insurgent in Fallujah.  I signed it, and when I checked a few seconds later about fifty other people had after I did.  Took my breath away.  I was #127281, amazingly as of right now there are 176,973 signatures.  Semper fidelis!

Rathergate non-update: Glenn Reynolds notes it is now two months since CBS President Andrew Heyward promised that the investigation would be over and public in "weeks, not months."  Ha.  More lies from a network which has lost all credibility already.

Mr. IncredibleYesterday I noted how much I enjoyed The Incredibles.  Anita Sharp did too, and notes "The Incredibles is not only a huge box-office hit, it's also reigniting the debate on how society should treat gifted kids: does 'No Child Left Behind' really mean, 'No Child Should Get Too Far Ahead?'"  You have to love it that the villian in the movie was named Syndrome :)  And the NYTimes editorializes When Every Child is Good Enough.  This is a real sore point with me, I can't wait for the political correctness pendulum to swing back a bit.

Clive Thompson ponders How running made us human.  "Did humanity's ability to run long distances turn us into the world's dominant species?  That's what a couple of scientists - Dennis Bramble of the University of Utah and Daniel Lieberman of Harvard - argued last week in Nature."  Cool.

More from Clive; a killer idea for advertisers concerned with Tivo customers fast-forwarding, "why don't they simply embed an advertisment within the normal ad that becomes visible only when you're speeding through the TV spot at high speed."  That would be so cool, I might not use my 30-second skip just so I could see them :)

basketbrawlYou probably saw or heard about the brawl between the Pistons, the Pacers, and Detroit fans?  Yesterday the NBA sent a Stern Message; commissioner David Stern announced nine suspensions including Ron Artest for the entire season.  I have to say after seeing the video, this seems warranted.  Someone could have been seriously hurt.

OFX logoOFX consortium develops new approach to financial data aggregation.  This XML-based spec is used by home banking systems and financial software like Quicken and Money to communciate with banks.  OFX has somewhat of the same function as RSS, for financial data, and predates it considerably.  It also incorporates some refinements which would be useful in RSS, including authentication, encryption, high-water marketing, and multipoint distribution....

Interesting thread on How to encode Bittorrent in podcast feeds?  Seems like the feed should contain a pointer to the torrent; they aren't the same kind of thing.


solving bongard problems

Monday,  11/22/04  11:52 PM

I found a great site from Harry Foundalis about his Research on the Bongard problems.  What's a Bongard problem?  Well, here's one:

Bongard problem #6

These problems were devised by the Russian scientist M.M. Bongard in 1967, as a test for automated pattern recognition systems.  Each of the 100 problems consists of two groups of six patterns.  The boxes on the left each conform to some rule, while the boxes on the right are counter-examples to the rule.  The problem for the automated pattern recognizer is to determine the rule for each problem.  Can you find the rule for the problem above?  Click here for the answer

Okay so that one was pretty easy - for a human - what about this one?

Bongard problem #4

Do you see the rule?  I've worked with these quite a bit so I see it right off, but it might not be obvious.  Click here for the answer.

Okay, now for a pretty hard one.  What's the defining rule for this one:

Bongard problem #20

Pretty tough, eh?  Just when you think you have it, you find one of the patterns on the left doesn't match, or one of the patterns on the right does.  Anyway click here for the answer.

I finally, some of these are maniacal, consider this one:

Bongard problem #72

It would be pretty tough for an automated pattern recognizer to figure this one out!  If you give up, click here for the answer.

Harry Foundalis actually developed software to parse and analyze these figures.  It is a tough problem; first you have to get from pixels to lines, shapes, etc.; just the representation is tough.  Then figuring out the set of all possible rules is really hard - the set is almost infinite - and winnowing down the list to the rules that match on the left and don't on the right is pretty tough.  To date his program can solve about 20 of the hundred, including the top two above.  Pretty impressive.

The rule is "isocoles triangle".  Click to return to problem.

The rule is "convex".  Click to return to problem.

The rule is "dots on same side of neck".  Click to return to problem.

The rule is "ends are parallel". Click to return to problem.


Wednesday,  11/24/04  11:00 PM

The Ole filter makes a pass... 

BTW, thanks to all of you for visiting.  I've had a weird year of blogging; I started out blogging furiously, then in mid-January I just stopped, for eight weeks.  I picked it up again, blogged consistently through mid-May, then stopped again for four weeks, resuming briefly to congratulate Jordan on her graduation before petering out again after about a week.  Then I stopped for four months.  Wow.  And then I started again in mid-October, and so far so good...  Why am I telling you this?  Well, through all of this you guys have kept visiting!  Even during my huge gap this summer, every day I would get a bunch of hits.  So thank you for hanging in there.  The best I can do in return is to try to be interesting :)

NZBear nails it: Memo to the left, time's up.  "Here's the bulletin: this country needs you.  We need intelligent voices to criticize the policies of this - of any - administration.  We need differing viewpoints; different ideas about how to deal with the tremendous challenges that history has decided to toss at this generation.  We need the balance that a liberal perspective can bring to the debate about where this country is going...  But the first thing you have to accept is that opposition in itself is not a policy."  Yeah, where's Kerry's plan?  Might as well tell us about it now, right?  It might have some good ideas.  [ via American Digest ]

So Dan Rather is retiring.  Instapundit has some links to commentary, including Scrappleface: "Dan Rather Scrambles to Confirm Story of His Resignation."  This is not the solution for CBS however; they have to fix the system, not the symptom.

Vaclav Havel for U.N. Security General?  Why not.  Kofi Annan has definitely passed the point of effectiveness, with people calling for his resignation left and right.  "The mild-mannered Annan may not himself be corrupt.  But he has presided over no less than the largest corruption scandal in the history of the world, Oil for Food.  Never has the U.N. been more disrespectable or useless."

Corruption as a way of life at the U.N.  Disgusting.  This is our money!

Wired Magazine - December 2004Do you get Wired Magazine?  If you do, you'll probably agree that their latest issue about The New Art of Exploration is excellent!  And if you don't, I recommend you buy a newsstand copy.  Lot's of great articles about space, the oceans, caves, and other yet-to-be explored wilderness.  Diagrams, pictures, and all of it really thought-provoking!

Daniel Pipes: Identifying Moderate Muslims.  He quotes Saudi journalist Abdel Rahman al-Rashed: "It is a certain fact that not all Muslims are terrorists, but it is equally certain, and exceptionally painful, that almost all terrorists are Muslims. …  We cannot clear our names unless we own up to the shameful fact that terrorism has become an Islamic enterprise; an almost exclusive monopoly, implemented by Muslim men and women."  [ via LGF ]

Screenwriter Bridget Johnson: Look who isn't talking.  Yeah, why doesn't Michael Moore make a documentary about this?

stormy weather disrupts holiday travelStormy weather disrupts holiday travel.  Wow.  Here in Southern California, I'm looking forward to my next bike ride.  A bit crisp, but bright and sunny.

dolphinDid you see this?  Dolphins save swimmers from shark.  Incredible.

Kurt Cobain, Boston fan?  Apparently (link to mp3).  [ via Bigwig, who notes Sounds like Teen Spirit ]  I must say, isn't it amazing how well Boston holds up?  That was some amazing stuff.

After reading this post by Scoble, it occurred to me that bloggers are the long tail of journalism.

Here's today's new meme: Blog Torrent.
I haven't tried it yet, but I will; stay tuned.

Renee Zellwegger as Bridget JonesHalley comments on Bridget Jones.  I think the reason Renee Zellwegger is sexy as Bridget isn’t because of the way she looks, it’s because of the way she feels.  Renee as Bridget is a thin person in a fatter person’s body; she knows she’s sexy, so she acts that way.  Most people who put on weight feel worse about themselves for doing so, and they project that.  Renee put on the weight deliberately for that role, she knows she can shed it again, and so she projected differently.

I think the same thing happens when woman are pregnant, which is why pregnant women come across much more attractively than women who are overweight.

I've made a big decision; I'm teaching myself Python.  After reading Paul Graham's essay about Great Hackers I figured it was worth seeing why great hackers like Python.  I've installed ActiveState's ActivePython and I'm following Mark Pilgrim's Dive into Python tutorial; so far so good.  One impressive thing is that all this goodness is free.  Amazing.  Thanks ActiveState, and thanks Mark.  It makes me feel that if I ever do anything useful with Python, I have to give it away...

You think liability lawsuits aren't out of control.  I mean, completely.  Then see this: Benihana Chef's Playful Food Toss Blamed for Diner's Death.  I wish I was making this up, but I am not.

New Year's Resolution update, pre-Thanksgiving: 203.5.  Progress!


referral spam be gone

Thursday,  11/25/04  09:00 AM

spamDo you blog?  Have you noticed an increase in "referer spam"?  I have.  Seems like every day now I get about three sites which come along and "link" to every page on my blog.  It's become annoying, because I really enjoy looking through my referral logs, it's one of the best ways to find cool new blogs.  Anyway this morning I decided to do something about it; I wrote a little spam filter for my server logs.

What's all this about?  Well, every time someone requests a page from my server, it causes the server to write a log entry into a file.  As part of the request, there can be a "referer", which is the address of the page from which the request was made.  If the request was a result of a link, the referring page will be the page which contained the link.  If site X has a link to me, and someone clicks on that link, the log will have the URL of the page on site X.

Unfortunately there are dirtbags out there who exploit this as a means of publicity; they make bogus requests to my site giving the URL of their site as the referer.  Of course their site doesn't actually link to me, they just want me to go check out their site.  It is a very lame way of publicizing a site because 1) the only audience for the referers is a site's webmaster and 2) if s/he does visit the referred-to site they'll already have a really low opinion of the site operators.

So, what to do?  Well, I'm already piping logs through a filter, the great little [free] program called cronolog.  I just added another filter to get rid of referer spam.  Here's my new ErrorLog entry (in Apache's httpd.conf):

ErrorLog "| /var/log/httpd/ | /usr/local/bin/cronolog /var/log/httpd/"

This is all one line.  The webserver passes each log entry into the reffilter.ksh script (my new invention), which then passes each entry on to cronolog (which writes the entries into files named for the current year and month).  The reffilter.ksh script processes every log entry as follows:

  • If the entry doesn't have a "referer", pass it through.
  • If the entry's referer is my site, pass it through.  This happens a lot; links within the site, and links from pages on my site to image files.
  • If the entry's referer is not a well-formed URL, pass it through.  A lot of search engine robots and RSS feed readers give a bogus URL, these are actually nice to have, so I leave them.
  • If the referer is a well-formed URL which is not my site, I retrieve the page from the URL.  If this fails, I pass the referer through.  I don't mind having referers which I can't access (because they're password protected, or from an email system, or whatever).  No referral spammer would give a bad URL.
  • If I was able to retrieve the page, I scan it to find the reference.  If there's a link to my site, great, it was a legitimate referral, and I pass it through.
  • If there's no reference to my site - aha, I caught you.  I piss on you from a great height, and silently remove the referral from the log entry before passing it through.

So far this morning I have filtered 13 spams.  Very satisfying.  Yes, it is an odd way to spend Thanksgiving morning.  But then, I am odd, so there you are.

BTW, yes, "referer" is misspelled.  Someone at NCSA spelled it wrong at time zero, and now we're all stuck with it.  You've got to love that.

P.S. If you would like my little script for your own use, please shoot me email, I'm happy to share.


Saturday,  11/27/04  11:20 PM

Wow.  Thanksgiving is over.  It's Christmas time already.  Where did 2004 go?

So I know you were wondering - thank you - and yes, I survived my annual brush with death.  The house has Christmas lights everywhere.  Complicating matters, in their infinite wisdom the gods decided it should be raining while I did this.  Standing on a 25' aluminum extension ladder in the rain is not high on my list of fun things to do.  However the lights look great, and I am flushed with virtue.  I do still have to debug one of my reindeer; how is it that something can sit passively in a garage for 11 months and develop a short?  But that's what Sundays are for...

Did you watch the USC / Notre Dame game?  Great game for about 20 minutes, and a slaughter thereafter.  I really like Tyrone Willingham (Notre Dame's coach) from his Stanford days but of course I was rooting heavily for USC.  We don't have pro football out here anymore, so the Trojans are as close as we get.  In fact, they look like a pro team, especially on offense.

Los Angeles ColliseumLooking at the L.A.Coliseum, filled with nearly 100,000 people, it makes me wonder why it is that sports are so appealing.  Clearly it is simply a proxy for "real life", but as such it has become so important that it truly is real life.  Athletes make much more money than people who do real things like scientists and engineers, and are more celebrated.  Fascinating.

Pat Tillman, Sportsman of the YearSpeaking of sports as a proxy for real life, I voted for Pat Tillman in Sports Illustrated's Sportsman of the Year fan poll.  You should, too; Tillman exemplified everything that's great about sports.  (And this is coming from a big time Lance Armstrong fan; Lance would be an excellent choice, but since he won last year I'd give it to Tillman.  I actually think Lance would agree.)  Tillman was pretty good at real life, too - selecting him would be a great way to recognize all the unsung heroes serving in our military forces.  Tim Layden posted a nice column explaining why he feels the same way.

New York Times vs. Googlezon"In the year 2014, the New York Times has gone offline.  The Fourth Estate's fortunes have waned.  What happened to the news?  And what is EPIC?"  So begins a time-shifted transmission from the Museum of Media History.  Pretty cool, with great production values, but a bit heavy-handed and preachy.  I did enjoy this line: "The New York Times becomes a print-only newsletter for the elderly and the elite".  Ironic, because that's what it has become already :)

The central point missed by this video is the completely undirected nature of the 'net.  Nobody chooses anything.  This is captured perfectly in a New Scientist article: The Blog Revolution Sweeps China.  Quoting Issac Mao, cofounder of "What is our strategy?  We do not have a strategy.  But the information flow in the blogosphere has its own Way.  The Way is our strategy: personal, fast, connected and networked."

For a more realistic take, see this: NYblogs, the Movie.  Obviously not everyone has received The Way.  Yet. 

Great line from a young woman: "Bloggers?  We are French, we don't know."  Be sure to watch all the way to the end, you'll die laughing.  At least I did.

And in NYblogs, the Sequel, a shoeshine man explains, "Who is it gonna help?  The people doing it.  Who is it gonna hurt?  The publishing companies."  He has received The Way.

By the way, I love the format of these posts.  This is video blogging, Ladies and Gentleman, coming soon to a PC near you.  [ via American Digest ]

Dan Rather - overboardThe Economist hits a similar note in their reporting of Dan Rather's retirement.   "The bloggers have often been at their most devastating when they have been criticizing the old media for bias.  Their favourite target has long been the New York Times."  And CBS, and CNN, and ...

Steve Sailer: The Baby Gap, explaining Red and Blue.  Woah.  [ via GNXP ]

From the December issue of Wired, which I've already applauded: The Dream Factory.  "Any product, any shape, any size - manufactured on your desktop!"  And made from garbage...  Well we can dream, anyway.

Pietro Perugino - Madonna and childAnd from Wired news, Software Detects the True Artist.  "Scholars have had their suspicions that the painting of Madonna and child credited to the Italian Renaissance master Pietro Perugino wasn't really done by him alone.  But they could never be sure.  Now, a new set of software tools, developed by a Dartmouth College team, seems to confirm the art historians' doubts, showing evidence of at least four different painters working on the canvas."  Very cool.  Of course, they used feature-based pattern recognition, a tough slog for such problems.

Are you a Mac Powerbook user?  Then check out SideTrack.  Makes your Mac trackpad as functional as any PC laptop's, as it should be.  Excellent.

"Thanks" in 465 different languages.  I am not making this up.  [ via Halley ]

It's fun when you post something quirky, and people like it.  Recently I had two such posts; Solving Bongard Problems, which seems to have attracted an eclectic mix of links, and Referral Spam Be Gone, which definitely struck a chord.  I've actually had a blizzard of referer spam hits since I implemented this filter, and it is so satisfying to watch them flail.  Some of the spam hits are apparently for a website which sells software for initiating referer spam.  I was so impressed by this that I decided to spam them; they're getting a steady steam of hits from me, referring them to my site.  I hope they enjoy it :)


Survey: What if people were larger?

Sunday,  11/28/04  11:10 AM

A year ago I posted a series of "order of magnitude" thought experiments about the future of people.  Over the next few days, I'm going to repeat them as surveys...  Here we go.

Today's order-of-magnitude thought: What if people were larger?  Not bigger as in "I ate a lot of turkey yesterday", but bigger as in most people are about 10' tall, and weigh 400lbs...  Would that make our lives qualitatively different?  Would this be better for you, or worse?

My life would be better if people were larger

My life would be worse if people were larger

My life wouldn't change if people were larger

total votes = 45

  (ended 12/31/04)


Sunday,  11/28/04  09:48 PM

Kiev protestorsHave you been following the situation in the Ukrane?  Check out this picture from downtown Kiev.  That is millions of people, in freezing weather, protesting an allegely stolen election.  Democracy rules.  Let's hope it wins, too.  A thought about the Ukrane situation, where's the U.N. involvement?  They're eager enough to meddle in U.S. elections, but how about this situation, where they're actually needed?

It is time for a change at the U.N.; Glenn Reynolds in WSJ: It's time for a Kofi break.

NetZero AOL parody adHave you seen those lame AOL ads, where they claim to be responsive to their customers?  Well NetZero has gone them one better; they've duplicated the ads using the same actors, emphasizing the same responsiveness, and then concluding that NetZero is half the price.  Clever.  Of course comparing a "mere" ISP like NetZero to AOL is kind of silly - there's that whole walled garden of content at AOL in addition to the 'net - but the ads are great.  [ via Collision Detection ]

Remember caravans?  They're back!  Check out this article in Science News on Cruise Control and Traffic Flow.  "One potential solution is to equip a car with adaptive cruise-control technology.  Such a system uses radar and a computer to maintain a safe distance from another car or truck.  Its advantage is that it can respond much more quickly and precisely than human drivers can to any change in speed."  Couldn't have put it better myself.  Just shows it's not the idea, it's the execution...

ZAP Smart CarComing soon to a sidewalk street near you: The ZAP Smart Car.  AutoWeek reports Company Gets Clearance to Sell Two-Seater in U.S..  Excellent.  I wonder how long before Ottmar Liebert gets one? :)

DVD Jon has cracked Windows Media 9: So Sue Me.  I'm sure Microsoft will oblige.  This shows - once again - that "strong DRM" is not the solution to protecting digital content.  Slashdot thread here.

Speaking of code-breaking; here's a real life "DaVinci code": Mystery not an Enigma.  "Bletchley Park codebreakers had been called to an historic monument in Central England.  Their mission was to crack an 18th century puzzle - the carved letters "D OUOSVAVV M" - that some believe contains a clue to the location of the Holy Grail."  The most popular decoding: Jesus H. Defy.  [ via David Pescovitz ]

From The Angloshere Challenge: "The first indication came when the falling price of computers crossed the point where the average programmer could afford to own a computer capable of producing the code from which he typically earned his living.  This meant that, for the first time since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, the ownership of the most critical tool of production in the most critical industry of the world's leading economy was readily affordable by the individual worker."  Then it goes on to make the same point about video production.  Looks like a must-read book!

Macleans on Hot Television: "The new wave of online piracy is all about TV - and Hollywood is sending lawyers."  Of course lawyers are no defense against the likes of DVD Jon.  This genie is not going back in the bottle.

Apple - eMagic breakout boxApple is apparently working on a "breakout box"; developed with technology from their eMagic acquisition.  A cool analog interface for GarageBandAh, but will it do video?  That is the question...

More from Wired 12.12 (December 2004): James Cameron: The Drive to Discover.  "Exploration is not a luxury.  It defines us as a civilization.  It directly or indirectly benefits every member of society.  It yields an inspirational dividend whose impact on our self-image, confidence, and economic and geopolitical stature is immeasurable...  What are we waiting for?  Let's go!"

Nature: Scientists propose conservation parks on Mars.  "They suggest rules such as 'no spacecraft parts to be left in the park', and would allow access only along predefined routes, like hiking trails in terrestrial parks."  I love it.

American Digest: Five Pictures in Search of an Explanation
Hmmm...  These could explain a lot :)




The blogger's dilemma

Monday,  11/29/04  08:09 AM

The blogger's dilemma

Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
or to take arms against a sea of troubles, and by opposing end them?


Monday,  11/29/04  10:21 PM

Arrowhead Starbucks flyerThe new milkmen?  I found a flyer on my door handle telling me that Arrowhead now delivers Starbucks coffee as well as water.  So be it.  I'm sure the per-pound profit on coffee is a lot higher than drinking water.  Too bad we prefer Peet's...

Interesting that the concept of a dairy that delivers daily has faded...  When I was a kid, "everyone" on our street got all their dairy products that way.  What killed it?  Price?  It sure was more convenient, a precursor to Webvan, which remains to this day my single biggest regretful memory of the dot-com era.  We loved Webvan, and eagerly look forward to the day when someone resurrects that type of service...

Microsoft Virtual Desktop ManagerNew cool toy: Virtual Desktop Manager.  Maybe this is old hat to you, but it wasn't to me; VDM is a free "power tool" from Microsoft which lets you have four separate desktops, each with its own "alt-tab space" of programs.  Excellent for me; I can but email, SharpReader, Firefox, etc. on one desktop (for interacting with the outside World), Visual Studio and Perforce on another (for programming), and Citydesk and Photoshop on a third (for blogging).  I love utilities that do just one thing, and do them well.

BW has an interesting Special Report on TV, Today and Tomorrow.  The most important trend: TV meets IP.  This is being talked about so much it is practically a cliché; so where is it?  I want my IP TV.

CNet considers Video Search.  "Google, Microsoft and Yahoo are quietly developing new search tools for digital video, foreshadowing a high-stakes technology arms race in the battle for control of consumers' living rooms."  I think control is wrong word; the disintermediation caused by the 'net is always about giving consumers more control.   But if Google can help me find my IP TV, I'm all for it :)  [ via John Battelle ]

Matt Haughey wonders Is 'Transitional Fair Use' the Wave of the Future?  No.  At best, it would be a "transitional" solution for digital content owners...

Meanwhile Wired wonders about Tivo: TiVo Their Way: Ads, Copy Brakes.  This emphasis on advertizing is a shark jump, unfortunately.

From What not to do.  A pretty good list, and it concludes with the following five tips to get you on the right track:

  1. Know your goals for the venture.
  2. Recruit and hire the best people.
  3. Develop a forgiving strategy.
  4. Be honest with yourself.
  5. Commit to the business.

Dilbert's Ultimate HouseAnd here we have - Dilbert's Ultimate House.  Not a joke, this is pretty cool, actually; readers of Dilbert emailed suggestions for Dilbert's "perfect house", and the combination is a great house, as well as a green one.  My cat Reggie would like it, too :)  [ thanks, Kevin ]

I know, I know, this is old news.  The Scientist welcomes Google Scholar.  I didn't want to post about this 'till I had a chance to use it.  So now I have; I was doing some research on Vector Quantization, an interesting mathematical technique for compression bitstreams which has applications in pattern recognition.  Well guess what?  It works.  Nicely.

science textbook disclaimer stickerThink the whole Intelligent Design vs. Evolution "debate" isn't out of hand?  Check out these disclaimer stickers for science textbooks.  Hint: some of them are real.  My favorite is at left; I'm thinking of putting these on my kids' textbooks even if they don't already have a sticker, just for fun :)



(new yorker, 11/29/04)

Monday,  11/29/04  11:42 PM

bunny economics

The laugher curve?


Tuesday,  11/30/04  10:05 PM

If you're following the situation in the Ukraine, you may enjoy this first-person account from Kiev.  "It has become clear to any observer that this crowd is bound to win."  Amazing.  Before the blogosphere, there was no way to get this kind of reporting unfiltered.

Man, is it cold.  We're talking Montana / Minnesota cold, not just Southern California cold.  As in frost on the car and gloves and jackets and boots and brrrr...  What's up with this?  Surely it is colder than usual in late November?  (Maybe Al Gore gave another speech on global warming.)

cold themometerI watched the Denver / Oakland football game tonight, taped from Sunday.  They were playing in the snow, in 18° weather, with a wind-chill of 6°.  I love watching football in the snow - from the warmth of my family room.  Okay, maybe it isn't that cold.  (Right now it is 35° here.)

mind hacks - tips and tools for using your brainDo you enjoy Tom Coates' Tom Stafford's and Matt Webb's weblogs?  Then check out their new book Mind Hacks, "tips and tools for using your brain".  I love it.

This equation explains a lot.

Do you like Joel Spolsky?  Then mark this date; he's doing a NetSeminar on December 2 (Thursday), about social software.  I'm going to "attend" just because I like his writing.

Ottmar Liebert is pondering a podcasting subscription service.  You know I love his music; I for one would subscribe immediately.  What's interesting is that with all the noise about podcasting, there is no well-defined way to do this.  The only simple possibility is to assign subscribers a unique URL for downloading the feed, but there is no way to perform authentication.  AdamDaveAndrew?  What sayeth y'all?

Brent Simmons ponders The Virtues of XML-RPC.  If you're not a nerd, feel free to skip, if you are, click through - you'll enjoy it.

In this corner, Jay Rosen claims the press is Not Up to It, in the other, Stephen Waters writes Journalism Is Up to It.  Interesting debate.  [ via Doc Searles ]

firefox logoIf you're a Firefox user - and you should be - you should check out Luke Hutteman's comments on Firefox and his must-have extensions.  BugMeNot and NukeAnything look pretty useful!  (Don't worry, Microsoft, Firefox is not a platform :)


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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?