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Archive: March 2008

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Saturday,  03/01/08  04:30 AM

Two months!  Yay, I've been posting for two whole months since starting again.  31 posts in Feb, following my record 61 posts in Jan.  Kewl.  So far, so fun.  One of the best things about posting is hearing from y'all; I have a little collection of "welcome back" and "thanks for posting" emails.  Please keep 'em coming, this is an ego driven blog!

bison!So I am in Denver at the moment, and last night had a fantastic dinner at the Capital Grille, rare bison with an '03 Rubicon.  Whoa.  (Cue Ted Nugent.)

If you're worried about whether John McCain, born in Panama, is qualified to be President, don't worry; read this explanation. [ via Instapundit ]  I just wish Arnold's father had been an American diplomat. 

Tesla P1Elon Musk, founder of Telsa Motors and proud owner of their first car, reports on driving P1.  "It has been a blast driving my Tesla Roadster every day for the past several weeks, using it as my daily driver from Bel Air to Hawthorne. I really think this is the most fun car I’ve ever owned, beating out the McLaren F1 and my 2007 Porsche 911 Turbo."  There has been a lot of bad press coming out of Tesla lately, but perhaps they are going to make good cars, which would save them...

The iPhone goes to war.  As Stephen Green points out, "Cool. Just don’t tie them all together in some kind of… Skynet." ;)

radial dinner tableI like this dinner table.  A lot.  I think I need one, don't you?

Jolie 1, Obama 0.

Solar Panels 1, Redwoods 0.

 

 

 

the checklist

Sunday,  03/02/08  09:44 PM

I've been meaning to post this for a while...  The New Yorker published a great article in their Annals of Medicine called The Checklist, by Atul Gawande.  The article describes how an emergency room physician named Peter Pronovost created simple checklists for routine emergency room procedues, and how use of these checklists has has a dramatic reduction in unforced errors.

the checklist

 "If a new drug were as effective at saving lives as Peter Pronovost’s checklist, there would be a nationwide marketing campaign urging doctors to use it."

It makes me wonder about the value of checklists in Pathology.  Many labs use checklists, either formally or informally, and there are some "standard" checklists in existence, such as the one found in the College of American Pathologists' Breast Cancer Protocol.

Aperio is in the process of running several clinical trials comparing digital pathology to conventional microscopy, for particular diagnosis situations (tissue type, preparation, etc.).  As part of these studies, it is necessary to devise a way of recording a diagnosis, in such a way that it can be objectively compared.  After reading The Checklist, it occured to me that perhaps the very act of recording the diagnois, by means of a checklist, might make the diagnosis itself more consistent and accurate.

 

entertainment

Sunday,  03/02/08  10:04 PM

... Posted after spending the entire day skiing at Loveland Pass, Colorado.  A day well spent 8) ...

<musing>

So I’m thinking about entertainment.

I confess to be confused about computer gaming.  Some of the best and hardest computer development is behind modern games.  I just read about some guys who created a Playstation emulator for the iPhone.  Think about how hard this was, it is unbelievable.  First of all the iPhone isn’t an open platform, you have to hack into it just to get stuff to run.  Beyond that, the form factor and user interface are far different from a Playstation, to say nothing of the available computer resources like the CPU and video system.  This was an almost magic endeavor.  And to what purpose?  Running games written for one platform on another.  The end result is “mere” entertainment.

At some level entertainment is a useless enterprise, no matter how great the entertainment, it is transient, no useful work is performed.  In many different areas of human endeavor the highest calling is entertainment.  Pretty much all art falls into this category; some of the most valuable individual works by humans are visual art, “mere” entertainment.  Novels command more attention and prestige than nonfiction works, yet they serve mostly and merely to entertain us, whereas nonfiction educates us.  (Although I grant novels often educate, and stimulate thinking and introspection.)

Visual arts are entertainment.  Movies and television shows are entertainment, along the lines of novels.  Movies are considered more prestigious by far than documentaries; the most successful “documentaries” are really thinly disguised movies.  Yet all movies do is entertain, while documentaries communicate facts.  Interesting.  (Movies can educate, and stimulate thinking etc. just like novels - but their value is not associated with this; it is purely associated with their value as entertainment.)  Movie stars are among our society’s highest earners, and command significant prestige, fame, and recognition for their entertainment.  Often this just boils down to, we like looking at them.

Music is entertainment.  Musicians earn a lot, and command a lot of prestige, fame, and recognition, yet in the end they are only entertainers; no net work is created.  Their “works” can be recorded for posterity and played back infinitely, but ultimately they do not in and of themselves accomplish anything tangible except entertainment.  (They do inspire and motivate us, and stimulate thinking, but the worth of a musical work is tied solely to its entertainment value.)  Musical performances are among the largest and most sought after gatherings of people, all to be entertained.

All sports are just entertainment.  Our present-day sports stars earn more money and command more prestige, fame, and recognition than leaders in any other field, yet all they do is entertain us.  (Although I grant, they can inspire and motivate us, too.)  At some level a star quarterback contributes far less to society than a star scientist.  Sporting events are the largest and most sought after gatherings of people of all, and they exist solely to entertain.  Consider the relative audience shares and levels of interest for the Super Bowl and a public debate among scientists [or for that matter, politicians].

Weird.

And consider the things we spend money on… consider the gifts we gave each other this past Holiday Season.  Are they for entertainment?  As I look around my house, my most expensive and treasured items serve only to entertain.  As I think about presents I gave, many of them are to entertain their recipients, and others are to enable their recipients to provide entertainment.  (Does wine count as entertainment or is it useful? :)

Finally consider the most precious resource any of us have – time.  How much of it do we spend entertaining ourselves, as opposed to doing useful work?  And how much of our useful work is creating entertainment for others?

I’m not sure I have a point.  I was just struck that the whole concept of “entertainment” is fascinating.  Why would people labor so hard to entertain each other, instead of working on something “useful”?  The answer is – people will pay more for entertainment than for things that are useful.  So why is that?  It seems misdirected, doesn’t it?  And massively inefficient.  We should all be spending all our time doing useful work!

</musing>

 

Wednesday,  03/05/08  06:52 AM

A morning coffee post, as I prepare to return from Denver...  I am in recovery mode from Sangria, Stout, and Stoli, so please calibrate this post accordingly.  (Note: if you find yourself in Denver and want a great Tapas restaurant, open the 9th Door.  You will not be disappointed :)

So Hillary Clinton is still alive!  Wow, good for her, and - dare I say - good for John McCain.  Somehow the Barack Obama bandwagon's music is turning flat for me, I actually, actually found myself thinking I might prefer Clinton to Obama.  (Slaps self in face.)  I still wish there was a Democratic candidate I could support, but it is what it is.

Ann Althouse foresaw: "I don't see how this doesn't send us into a six-week-long battle for Pennsylvania."  I don't see how it doesn't, either.

Megan McCardle on Obama: "Well, I certainly hope he's lying, because I think he's going to be the next president of the United States. But of course, as I've said before, I do not like it that politicians seem to feel the need to lie shamelessly to the electorate."  [ via Glenn Reynolds, who comments: "Generally, you have to hope that most of what most candidates say is a lie. Fortunately, it usually is..." ]

LGF reports Wilders film to air, Dutch government terrified.  This is such a good thing.  They should be terrified of an environment in which any film terrifies a government.

the Earth and the Moon seen from MarsPicture of the day: The Earth and the Moon, as seen from Mars.  Wow.  This brought tears to my eye in a "pale blue dot" sort of way.  Imagine all the crap stuff going on here, and it is all contained on that little ball...

Badness: the historic Paris-Nice cycling race starts Sunday, and it is still up in the air who will compete in it.  This race is run by the ASO, the same organization which runs the Tour de France in July, and they are at loggerheads with the UCI, pro cycling's international federation.  Both are threatening teams and riders with suspensions.  The whole thing sucks.

Randall Parker: Low testosterone boosts depression risk.  Wow, that would be depressing :)  I must say this does not seem to be one of my problems...

Blog title of the year (so far): Cory Doctorow says Toxic waste gets birds laid.  Yeah, go ahead, read it, but don't forget to savor the multiple meanings.

Jeff Atwood posted a fascinating dissection of the difference between Actual Performance and Perceived Performance (in software applications :)  Inevitably the discussion shifts to Vista: "Don't make the same mistake the Vista development team did. Think more holistically than mere benchmarks alone. Consider the user's perception of the process, too."  I totally believe this; Aperio's ImageScope viewer is carefully designed to appear as fast as possible (well, it is designed to perform as fast as possible, too, within the limits of bandwidth etc.)

I always knew Airborne was a fake, and now they've shown it.  But you knew that already, right?

Perhaps it would have worked even better if it was more expensive?

Finally, coat hangers sound just as good as Monster cables.  But you knew that already, right?  Riight?

 

United Express angel

Wednesday,  03/05/08  11:28 PM

A lot of times on blogs you read about bad customer service.  This is not one of those times.

My Treo has a nifty feature; when you're in another timezone, it not only reports the local time, but it converts everything on your calendar to the local time, too.  I started the day in Denver, with all my times off by an hour.  I had a plane flight at 11:00, which the Treo helpfully converted to 12:00.  I realized this at 9:30, while in my hotel room.  Yeah.

United Express JetI packed in 5 minutes, dashed to the airport (of course Denver's airport is way outside the city), returned the car (of course the Avis lot is way outside the airport), impatiently waited my way through security, ran through the airport (of course my gate was in Outer Mongolia), and barely got there just to watch them close the door.  Crap :(  But an angel disguised as a United Express agent talked the pilot into reopening the door and they let me on!  Even reopened the cargo hold to throw my bag in there.  How golden was that?

I know airlines don't get a lot of credit for customer service, but it all comes down to individual people and whether they care.  And one person caring sure changed my life today.  Thank you unknown United Express angel!

 

driving while phoning - (New Yorker 3/3/08)

Wednesday,  03/05/08  11:44 PM

driving while phoning

For my friends with iPhones :)

Update: I just felt the need to add, this is all very funny, but truly not being able to type one-thumbed on the iPhone is a deal-killer for me.  Over the years I've become really good at typing on the teeny little Treo keyboard with my thumb(s); I can text and email without any problem.  I love many things about the iPhone - almost everything - but I do not love the keyboard.  And that's such a big part of how I use my phone, that I would not consider replacing my Treo with an iPhone.

I know a lot of people agree with me, so it might be fruitful to speculate what Apple is going to do about this.  Clearly they are committed to a non-hardware keyboard, but if they could just provide some kind of tactile feedback, that would be great.  When your thumb is 5x larger than the button it is trying to push, you need tactile feedback to center on the key; visual feedback does not do it.  (Not to mention, it especially doesn't do it when you're watching the road :)  I suppose they could try audio feedback - a beep that rises in pitch as you center on the key - but that seems klunky.  Any technology that dynamically gave tactile feedback would be tricky and expensive, but how about just lightly etching some dots on the iPhone screen where the keys are?

 

Thursday,  03/06/08  09:41 PM

Back in the saddle, herding my cats... 

In case you're wondering, this is not me: Eichhorn announces Senate bid.  Not yet, anyway.  And this is not me either: Eichhorn strikes out sixteen.  Not anymore, anyway :)

the new terminatorYou won't often get a TV show recommendation from me, because I don't often watch TV, period.  But I watched The Sara Connor Chronicles and I loved it.  Instapundit reports, of the show, "I'll be back".  Of course it will :)

Maxell blows you awayThis caught Engadget's eye, and mine too; Maxell to no longer manufacture discs.  I love the iconic ad picture at left; I remember it from 25 years ago, too.  That looks exactly like my friend Mark, listening to Styx' Castle Walls...

BIG news today from Apple; the iPhone SDK.  Seems like they did just about everything anyone wanted, and they maintained control via exclusive distribution.  Pretty nice.  Oh, and the $100M Kleiner Perkins VC fund is pretty amazing.  Seems like they are totally poised to become a platform.

Daring Fireball: First Impressions and Questions.  "I was wrong. There was never any question that this is a big market, the question was whether Apple wanted a part of it. The answer, clearly, is yes."

Fake Steve Jobs: Happy Now, Bitches? "Seriously, folks, it's game over. This announcement today is as big as the announcement of the original Macintosh in 1984."  Hmmm...

Gerard Vanderleun comments: "Today I settled all family business" :)

Nothing to see here: Physicists successfully store and retrieve nothing.  Truth is stranger than Onion.

 

I did it again

Saturday,  03/08/08  07:31 PM

At this point riding centuries is a bit old hat for me, so perhaps I should stop posting about it.  After all I've sort of moved on to longer rides now; a "mere" century cannot be that interesting, right?  But today I successfully completed the Solvang Century (da da dum), with about 4,000 participants, and anyway it was a great ride so heck I'm going to post about it.  So yeah I did it, riding time 5:32, which considering the wind was pretty darn good.

Solvang Century - Ballard Canyon
Here's a picture of me at the top of Ballard Canyon, with about 10 miles to go;
it is notable for the house in the distance, which is my absolute dream,
a gorgeous mansion surrounded by Pinot Noir vineyards.
Hey, everyone needs a stretch goal, right?

Next up for me is a double-double at the end of March; the Solvang Double, followed the following weekend by the Hemet Double.  400 miles in 8 days.  That should keep me out of trouble :)

 

Saturday,  03/08/08  07:53 PM

John Marshall on Clinton vs Obama: Thank You, May I Have Another?  Not only is the bloom off the Obama rose, but the thorns are missing.  I know I don't want him answering that phone at 3:00AM.

who would you want to answer the phone?A Rasmussen poll which asked "who would you want to answer the phone", shows Clinton and Obama deadlocked at 25%.  McCain won easily at 42%.

In other political ad news, Ann Althouse likes John McCain's new ad.  It's about time.

SR-71 blackbirdA great post at Maggie's Farm: "I loved that jet".  "Only the Mach indicator is moving, steadily increasing in hundredths, in a rhythmic consistency similar to the long distance runner who has caught his second wind and picked up the pace...  With the power of forty locomotives, we puncture the quiet African sky and continue farther south across a bleak landscape."  I had the honor of meeting Kelly Johnson several times socially at his ranch.  Especially remarkable about the SR-71 is how old it was; this plane was designed in 1962!  And it is *still* the fastest jet ever flown.  [ via Gerard Vanderleun ]

Reader and fellow cyclist Joseph emailed me this link: Steve Jobs made me miss my flight.  Ah, the perils of owning an MBA.  (MacBook Air.)

Here we have a jet-powered Dodge Caravan, complete with soccer ball logo on the back.  "Like us, he apparently thought the 150-hp V6 just wasn't enough and added some supplemental power via a 1,000-hp helicopter jet engine."  Excellent.  [ via Instapundit ]

This is excellent; xkcd posted a tribute to Gary Gygax, inventor of Dungeons and Dragons, who recently died.  Er, you have to see it...

Andrew Grumet considers Life and Work.  I have to agree, these are not mutually exclusive, and heavily intertwined.

Earth and Moon from MarsFinally: I love this picture so much, I'm going to run it again.  Very thought provoking, somehow.  A close friend has a mantra, "don't worry about what you can't control".  And yet, I worry about everything.  It may be out of my control :)  Anyway looking at this picture, you realize how small and petty are the affairs of men.  A lot of the stuff I worry about doesn't matter at this scale!

 

 

pissed off in Peoria

Sunday,  03/09/08  09:39 AM

Yes, you can tell from the title, this is another

<rant optional=totally>

You all know I can't stand .NET’s virtual machine architecture, and you probably think I’m a hopeless dinosaur who just doesn’t get it.  Everyone knows Microsoft is great, everyone knows .NET and Java are the future, etc.  Someday Ole will retire from railing at progress.  (And everyone will be spared Sunday morning rants :)

Let me give you a clean example of what I can't stand about .NET’s CLR: Visual Studio 2005.

In terms of functionality, VS05 is a wonderful and pleasantly evolutionary improvement to VS6, which dates from 2001.  There are all sorts of little niceties sprinkled all over the program which make a developer’s life easier.  And the debugger is better, and edit and continue now works, and so on.  But in terms of performance, VS05 is a horrible dog.  And if you're a developer spending your whole day in the edit – compile – test loop, that performance goes straight to your bottom line.

I have a standard-Aperio-issue laptop, an HP nc8230 with 1.8GHz CPU and 2GB of RAM.  Nobody should need a faster machine than this for development.  And yet on my machine, VS05 is s l o w.  The editor is slow, it can't keep up with my typing.  The interface to P4 (my CMS) is slow.  The make management is slow.  The debugger is horribly slow.  Switching windows is slow!  Looking at compile errors is slow!  Loading project properties is tectonically slow.  Everything just feels glacial.  Even just launching a new solution takes “forever”.

This is especially glaring when I compare VS05 to the P4 client. Probably like you, while developing I switch between these two apps all the time.  P4 loads instantly, responds instantly, and is a pleasure to use.  It makes VS05 look exactly like the dog it is.

Just to piss myself off, I launched VS6 this morning.  It looks dated and there is stuff missing, but man, it was snappy.  As in, you type something, and poof it happens.  I want that back.

So why is VS05 so much slower than VS6?  That’s easy, VS05 is written in C#, while VS6 was written in C++.  It isn’t the C# language than makes VS05 slower – you could claim that C# is nicer than C++ as a language, and get no argument from me – it is the fact that C# compiles to an intermediate bytecode which then has to be interpreted by the CLR at runtime.  A horrible architecture which slows everything down and provides no benefit.

If it wasn’t for the fact that VS6 has been discontinued, I would seriously consider switching back.  As it is, I have to use VS05 all day long, and I hate it.  I thought maybe I would get used to it, but I just hate it more every day.  I keep thinking how wasteful this is, that we all have to suffer just because some idiot inexperienced kids in Redmond copied some idiot inexperienced kids in Santa Clara.  (In Sun’s defense, I will say they were explicitly targeting a “write once, run anywhere” environment including multiple machine architectures, while Microsoft knew they were only running on Intel.)

<bonus type=rant>

Want to know why Vista is so much slower than XP?  Now you know.

</bonus>

</rant>

Thanks for listening, we now return you to our normally scheduled content...

 

Sunday,  03/09/08  09:05 PM

Had a nice quiet day today; mostly reading and coding.  And eating (!) - I am still recovering from yesterday's century, evidently I didn't eat or drink enough, because I've been hungry and thirsty all day.

Actually I was able to delight two daughters with new phones, Alexis (14) has a new one to replace her old one, which died, and Megan (10++) has a new one for the first time, as a pre-birthday present.  An important rite of passage, getting your first phone!  Anyway she is one happy kid.

The weather here was great all weekend, how was yours?  (Nice and sunny, with a fairly stiff breeze.)  Anyway I hope you weren't in Ohio, because the weather there was incredibly awful; can you believe 20 inches of snow?

Rhea with ringsWow this is cool: Satellite shows Saturn moon might have rings.  "The international Cassini spacecraft detected what appeared to be a large debris disk around the 950-mile-wide moon Rhea during a flyby in 2005. Scientists proposed that the halo likely contained particles ranging from the size of grains to boulders."  How great is it that we can launch robots into space to learn these things?  What a great time to be alive...

EMR in Second LifeThis is really cool: Electronic medical records in a virtual hospital.  "The Ann Myers Medical Center is a hospital in Second Life, the virtual world where we organize medical exercises and simulations. John Norris is more than interested in medical informatics and the opportunities provided by Second Life in medical education. That’s all you should know before reading the next interview with John Norris about his recent experiments to implement electronic medical records into the virtual hospital."  I've contacted John about including digital pathology into the electronic medical records - now that would be cool.

Dave Winer pounds the nail through the wood: Hot products make successful startups.  "When I think about the people who had runaway successes that made them fortunes the ones that had great products and were admired by many were the ones that really hit it out of the park. I can't think of anyone who had a great product and failed because they didn't watch every penny."  Absolutely.  This is what was missing in the great debate about hiring people and watching your pennies...

Piling on in the vein of pissed off in Peoria, the NYTimes reports They criticized Vista.  And they should know.  "One year after the birth of Windows Vista, why do so many Windows XP users still decline to 'upgrade'?  Microsoft says high prices have been the deterrent...  An alternative theory, however, is that Vista's reputation precedes it. XP users have heard too many chilling stories from relatives and friends about Vista upgrades that have gone badly... Can someone tell me again, why is switching XP for Vista an 'upgrade'?"  I can tell you it definitely is not.

I really wonder what is going to happen here...  Can Microsoft possibly save Vista, with Windows Seven?  Or was XP the last good version of Windows?  One thing's for sure, if Microsoft doesn't bag the .NET CLR, they're toast.  Can you even imagine Office written in .NET?

Mark Pilgrim: Draconian error handling: still the worst idea ever.  As usual with Mark, what he says is interesting, but how he says it is better.  "My therapist says I shouldn't rely so much on external validation."  I love it.

 

managed memory leaks

Monday,  03/10/08  08:39 PM

(... I had such a good time with my rant about the .NET CLR yesterday, I thought I'd continue the series...)

This is another in my series of foaming rants whereby you the reader become convinced of my status as a coding dinosaur. So be it.

<rant type=foaming optional=absolutely>

As part of my subscription to Microsoft’s Developer Network (MSDN) I receive monthly issues of MSDN Magazine. You might think this would be a great thing, full of useful information, but really it is just a weird wonder to me. For one thing, most of the technology under discussion in this magazine is only of esoteric interest – things like Avalon (the replacement for GDI in Windows Vista), XAML (the non-procedural language used to define GUIs in Avalon), and Indigo (a new technology for remote object instantiation, supposedly fast enough to be useful, unlike COM+ and DCOM).

{
Imagine all the time wasted by all those people who read all those articles about the technical details of WinFS, the database-like file system which was going to be in Windows Vista, but which was scrapped because it was too slow. But I digress.
}

The point of view taken by this magazine is that the proper study for a software engineer is to learn how to use Microsoft’s tools to get their work done. Not how to understand user requirements, not how to design systems that work, not how to build code which runs fast and robustly, no, the idea is that if only you understand the tools well enough, they will do all that other stuff for you! Nobody I know believes this to be true – nobody just outside their senior year of college, anyway – but that is the point of view of the magazine. (Which I suspect is edited by people just outside their senior year of college.)

Okay, enough of that, on to today’s subject; which is: memory management! Ta da!

As we all know, memory leaks are one of the crummy things that have plagued programmers since the first core memory at time zero. One of the Really Great Things about managed code is that it completely solves memory leaks! Yes, that’s right, if you write your applications in C# or ASP.NET you will never have to worry about memory management.

(Stops to move a big grain of salt lying next to keyboard…)

So in a recent issue of MSDN Magazine one can find an article entitled “Identify and Prevent Memory Leaks in Managed Code”. How can this be? Memory leaks in managed code?

See, it turns out that there are two kinds of memory leaks. First, there are situations where memory is allocated, never to be freed again (or at least, never until the process is terminated – one of the best arguments for CGI in web applications, but I digress). This is the garden variety memory leak we all know and love. Second, there are situations where memory is allocated, and it will be freed someday, but it hasn’t been freed yet. This is a new exotic type of memory leak we don’t all know and don’t love, and which is the subject of the article in question. The difference is a bit philosophical, because if your program runs out of memory it doesn’t really matter whether there was a bunch of memory just about to be freed or not.

{
And actually under Windows your program doesn’t run out of memory, instead it just starts paging, along with all the other stuff trying to run, and because Windows has the worst paging algorithms of any modern OS this means performance death. So a user ends up trying to figure out why their machine has stopped with the disk light on solid, instead of wondering why a particular program died. (At least if a program dies you can restart it, but if you reach a paging heat death all you can do is go out for coffee, and flirt with the baristas at Starbucks. But I digress.)
}

The situation is this. Under the covers, “managed code” means your program is a bunch of hints to a master program about what to do. The master program is called the CLR (Common Language Runtime, which is a misnomer, because it is actually an interpreter, running code in an intermediate language called MIDL (Microsoft Intermediate Language), but I digress). When objects are allocated by your program, the CLR grabs memory from a heap. Your program never needs to deallocate objects explicitly, instead the CLR has a background activity called the Garbage Collector (GC) which figures out which objects are no longer being used, and puts them back on the heap.

In the old world of compiled code, you had to remember which objects you’d allocated, and explicitly free them. This was crummy and led to a lot of garden variety leaks. In the new world of managed code, you don’t have to remember which objects you’ve allocated, and you don’t have to explicitly free them. This is great, no more garden variety leaks! Unfortunately the GC is sitting back there trying to figure out which objects are no longer being used, and when to put them back on the heap. It may have a bunch of objects which it will free someday, but which it isn’t sure it should delete now. These can lead to an exotic type leak. The article in question has a great term for this situation, a “midlife crisis”! There you are, with all this memory which could be freed, but the GC won’t do it, and your program don’t know this is going on, and poof you run out of memory. The solution is that you have to provide hints to the GC so it knows when to free memory, and thereby avoid a midlife crisis.

Okay, let’s summarize. In the old world of compiled code, you had to remember which objects you’d allocated and explicitly free them. This was crummy and led to a lot of garden variety leaks. In the new world of managed code, you don’t have to remember which objects you’ve allocated, and you don’t have to explicitly free them you have to remember which objects you’ve allocated, and explicitly provide hints to the GC so it will free them for you. This is crummy and leads to a lot of exotic type leaks. Got that?

If you read this article you will really be impressed by the incredible variety of ways memory can be in limbo under the CLR. The kinds of things you have to do so the GC can figure out what to do are amazing. There is really a lot to learn, the situation is much more complicated than the old days, when you just had to delete everything which was new’ed. Whether this represents progress is a matter for debate, but you know which side I’m on…

{
Recently I did some work on ImageScope, Aperio's digital pathology viewer, which uses a bunch of COM objects packaged as the Viewport ActiveX control.

{
COM includes a mechanism for a sort of GC. Anytime you allocate an object, it has a reference count. Each time you create a new pointer to the object, you explicitly increase the reference count by invoking its AddRef() method. Each time you delete or reassign a pointer to the object, you explicitly decrease the reference count by invoking its Release() method. When the reference count reaches zero, there are no pointers to the object, and COM deletes it. This is a pretty useful mechanism although unless you’re careful it leads to a lot of garden variety leaks.
}

So in the course of working on ImageScope, and on Viewport, I had to plug a number of memory leaks. There were some leaks of the old C++ garden variety; objects were new’ed and not later delete’ed. (And in another variety, thank you Windows, there were objects which were SysAllocString()ed and not later SysFreeString()ed. But I digress.) And there were some leaks of the new COM garden variety; objects were AddRef()ed and not later Release()ed.

Care to guess which ones were easier to find?

I’m just glad I didn’t also have leaks of the new C# variety; objects which were new’ed and not later GC’ed (that is to say, not later in the sense of “soon”, rather than not later in the sense of “someday but not now”), because there were no explicit hints to the GC that they could be freed.

{
Taken directly from the article:

“This innocuous-looking code contains a major problem. All of these ASP.NET Page instances just became long-lived objects. The OnCacheItemRemoved is an instance method and the CacheItemRemovedCallback delegate contains an implicit this pointer, where this is the Page instance. The delegate is added to the Cache object. So there now exists a dependency from the Cache to the delegate to the Page instance. When a garbage collection occurs, the Page instance remains reachable from a rooted reference, the Cache object. The Page instance (and all the temporary objects it created while rendering) will now have to wait for at least five minutes before being collected, during which time they will likely be promoted to a Gen2. Fortunately this example has a simple solution. Make the callback function static. The dependency on the Page instance is broken and it can now be collected cheaply as a Gen0 object.

Well I think we can all understand that, right? Certainly managed code has simplified our lives and made memory management much easier.
}

But I digress.
}

<rant>

 

Monday,  03/10/08  09:07 PM

Just another day in paradise; here in Southern California, Spring has officially sprung.  I went for a ride this afternoon in short sleeves, must have been 75, bright and sunny.  The flowers are blowing out of the ground everywhere.  I love it.

record snow in OhioI'm not really trying to gloat, but I know it is not so everywhere...

Meanwhile, the Ole filter makes a pass...

So have you been following the whole Democratic delegates from Florida story?  (What is it with Florida, anyway?)  This is amazing; apparently the state went ahead and had a primary too early in the year, so they were stripped of all their delegates.  Since Hillary Clinton "won" Florida, and since it is going down to the wire between her and Barack Obama, this really matters.  Michigan is apparently in the same boat.  I'm tempted to comment, why vote for a Democrat when they can't even select their candidates properly, but I won't.

big 30" monitorWSJ: Bigger monitors = more productivity.  "Researchers at the University of Utah tested how quickly people performed tasks like editing a document and copying numbers between spreadsheets while using different computer configurations: one with an 18-inch monitor, one with a 24-inch monitor and with two 20-inch monitors. Their finding: People using the 24-inch screen completed the tasks 52% faster than people who used the 18-inch monitor; people who used the two 20-inch monitors were 44% faster than those with the 18-inch ones."  This applies equally to digital pathology and software development; in my experience bigger better monitors are a cheap way to help people be more productive...

planet alignment: Mercury, Venus, MoonPicture of the day: this rather astonishing view of Mercury, Venus, and the Moon, all appearing alongside a radio telescope array.  Fantastic.  (Please click to enlarge.)  "This picturesque conjunction was caught on camera behind elements of the Australia Telescope Compact Array (ATCA) near the town of Narrabri in rural New South Wales. The ATCA consists of six radio telescopes in total, each one larger than a house."  Beautiful technology, in both senses.

 

 

Oleosaurus: the dispose pattern

Tuesday,  03/11/08  10:03 PM

You all know how much I love .NET.  And you all pretty much figure I’m a hopeless dinosaur, and I just don’t get it.  And you’re all pretty tired of hearing me rant about it.  So, sorry…  but yes, here’s another one.  You may click "back" and get on with your life as appropriate.

<rant>

A recent issue of MSDN magazine had a couple of interesting articles.  Check out this one:

CLR Inside Out: managing Object Lifetime

So we all know, one of the key benefits of .NET is that the CLR performs garbage collection.  This is probably the most-often cited advantage of C# over C++.  (And for that matter, of Java over C++.)  Yet here we have an entire article describing something called “the Dispose pattern”, as a way to subvert the CLR’s garbage collection!  

The Dispose pattern is a really cool thing – in any object you can implement the IDisposable interface, and then you can call a Dispose method to free the object’s storage.  Wow!  This is an excellent solution to the pesky problems of garbage collection, wherein you have no control over when dead objects’ storage is released, and you have the storage deletion done in another thread, and you have potential and unpredictable hangs while the garbage collection takes place.  You just call Dispose, and poof, the object frees its memory.  How great is that?

Back in the old days of C++, we had a similar pattern.  We called it delete.  But I digress.

Then we have this article:

.NET matters: debugging finalizers

This is a Q&A, and the Q is:

I have a bunch of custom types that, for one reason or another, need to implement IDisposable. I want to make sure that the other developers on my team using this class always dispose of my types correctly. What can I do to warn one of my teammates if he forgets to call Dispose?

I can’t quote the A because it is about ten pages long.  The gist of it is that there’s a bunch of caveats you have to worry about if you implement “the Dispose pattern”.  You can cause deadlocks, end up with memory leaks, have difficulty debugging destructors, all kinds of fun stuff.  All the fun stuff that never happens because you have a garbage collector.  Yeah.  See the problem with the Dispose pattern is you have to remember to call Dispose.

Back in the old days of C++, we had a similar problem with delete.  You had to remember to use it.  But I digress.

And finally we have this article:

Bugslayer: Measuring the Impact of View State

This sounds like it wouldn’t have anything to do with memory, but here’s the first paragraph:

Isn't it funny how the Microsoft .NET Framework is thought of as an environment where you don't have to think about memory? Of course, what's one of the number one issues that continues to plague managed applications today? Memory! Why? When the garbage collector runs to reclaim memory, the common language runtime (CLR) suspends all the threads in the application—and no work gets done. When you're not getting any work done, you have a performance problem.

It is really funny that the .NET framework is though of as an environment where you don’t have to think about memory.  Hilarious, in fact.

</rant>

Okay, back to debugging some C++.  Oleosaurus out.

 

 

Tuesday,  03/11/08  10:46 PM

Busier than a cat in a sandbox over here, and curiously not much happening out there...  (I refuse to comment on the sexual travails of a certain [soon to be ex-] governor.)

Bram Cohen (creator of Bittorrent) usually blogs about esoteric technology, but occasionally considers other things also: Now is the time when the US media starts to lie.  "It happens every time - just when it's becoming clear who's going to get the nomination, the media completely manufactures the story of a competitive race, because it sells newspapers.  The truth is, it's basically over. The chances of Clinton winning the Democratic nomination have become remote. Now that that's the case, I feel it's time to talk about how completely surreal her campaign has been."  Great points, actually.

Mitt Romney is now running for Vice President.  Seems like a decent choice, actually.  He is a successful businessman and Governor, and complements McCain.  Whether they get along and could work together is another matter.

IBM's Virtual Healthcare Island in Second LifeAmazing: IBM builds Virtual Healthcare Island.  "The IBM Virtual Healthcare Island is designed with a futuristic atmosphere and provides visitors with an interactive demonstration of IBM's open-standards-based Health Information Exchange (HIE) architecture. Working with project leads in the U.S., the island was designed and built by an all-IBM-India team."  It does not appear to incorporate digital pathology, strangely, which I am trying to change :)

Caltech muralThis is so excellent: The writing's in the walls.  When I was at Caltech, one of the joys of the undergraduate dorms was the incredible murals painted on the walls by those procrastinating from studying...  these dorms have been refurbished and the walls have been painted over, but the memory of the murals is now preserved online.

I've begun re-reading Andrew Parker's excellent In the Blink of an Eye.  This is a book of ideas, and the ideas are really amazing.  The central theory is that the Cambrian explosion of variation among species was triggered by the evolutionary "discovery" of eyes; predators had a new weapon, and prey a new defense, and an incredible evolutionary arms race was the result.  It rings true - there is plenty of evidence, carefully presented - and I recommend this book to anyone who is thoughtful about such things...

 

denial by idiots

Wednesday,  03/12/08  09:03 PM

Idiot's Guide to the InternetEvery once in a while I glance at my server stats - it is fun to see how many referrals I've gotten, page views, stuff like that.  So today so far I have received 7,726 page views, about three times as many as normal.  Or should I say page hits, because nearly all of them are 404s - page not found.  Looking at my logs, I see someone from an ISP in Italy (host116-35-dynamic.2-87-r.retail.telecomitalia.it) and another someone from an ISP in Belgium (189-79-73-228.dsl.telesp.net.br) are whacking away at my server, requesting page after page with invalid URLs. 

Nice work, idiots.  If you're going to scrape a site, can you please test your script first before turning it loose?

 

 

Googling meatspace

Wednesday,  03/12/08  09:29 PM

Have you ever had the experience of trying to Google a physical object?

So today I’m thumbing through my JPEG2000 Image Compression book – which is massively dog-eared by now – trying to find something (and no it isn’t in the index, I checked), and I absent mindedly Googled for it.  This was done without any conscious thought on my part, just like if you want to find something, Google it.  After I did it, I sat there amazed, for two reasons; first, how stupid was it that I thought I could Google a physical object like a book (!), and second, it worked (!!).  

Turns out Google actually scanned this exact book and indexed itHow golden is that?

I wonder how long it will be before Google indexes everything?  Of course they're indexing this page even as I create it, and you read it...

 

Thursday,  03/13/08  11:05 PM

A quiet day today, with a bit of coding and a nice ride.  I've joined up with a local chain gang - the Conejo Valley Cyclists - and we had a nice group ride up Decker Canyon and Little Sycamore today.  Only about 25 miles, but I'm sore, nothing like a little peer pressure to make you push yourself :)

Robert GesinkSpeaking of riding, I see where Rabobank's Robert Gesink is making his mark in the Paris-Nice race; today's stage went up legendary Mont Ventoux.  Last year Paris-Nice featured another new kid on the block; Alberto Contador, who went on to win the Tour de France.  Well at least with Robert's success I have someone to root for!

Lance Mackey and friendCancer survivor Lance Mackey won the Iditarod dog sled race.  That's cool, I've always liked this event.  Truly an endurance competition for man and dog.  Mackey won $69,000 and a new truck, his team won steaks and a long nap in front of the fire :)

One of my favorite bloggers is John Gruber, not only because of what he writes about, but because of how he writes.  Consider this post: Sun, Apparently High as a Kite, Plans to Develop Java JVM for iPhone.  So now I'm spitting coke already, and I haven't even clicked the link, but once clicked we find him commenting on Sun's press release: "'If there are clauses in the iPhone beta SDK license agreement that potentially limit third party application distribution, then these are items that we want to have a positive discussion with Apple about.'  Please record these discussions and share them with the world, so that we can all have a good laugh..."  I've had one already. 

BTW there is zero chance Sun will be allowed to create a JVM for the iPhone, certainly less chance than I'd give Adobe of being allowed to create a Flash runtime.

Tonight I did my mitzvah for the week; I networked together four disparate laptops belonging to members of the Assistance League of Conejo Valley, Shirley's charity, in preparation for a big auction they're running Saturday night.  {I will not be attending, since I'm escorting my daughter Alexis to Oaks Christian's annual father-daughter dance, but I digress...}  So I hooked up my little Linksys WiFi hub and got the four laptops to talk to it, a Toshiba, a Dell, an HP, and a Lenovo, two running Vista, one running XP, and one running NT (!)  Leaving a lot out, it all worked (although I had to use WEP instead of WPA because NT only supported WEP; that threw me for a while).  Anyway I mention this because each of these laptops are absolutely covered with stickers.  All those little crapware logos from Intel, Microsoft, etc., all the little warning stickers, all the little protective coverings are still there.  (One is even wrapped in its original protective plastic - I am not making this up.)  Weird.  The first thing I do with a new PC is peel off all the stickers.  I guess that is one more way in which I am not like everyone else.

 

simplicity

Sunday,  03/16/08  08:26 AM

 

simplicity

 

 

Sunday,  03/16/08  08:33 AM

Wow, took a bit of a blog holiday there, didn't I...  Just busy, I guess.  Yesterday began with a great ride (60 miles, through Hidden Valley, down Potrero to Point Mugu, blasting down PCH to Malibu with a tailwind, up Mulholland, down Decker), then I helped prepare for Shirley's ALCV auction, and finally took Alex to the Oak Christian Father Daughter dance, which was rather wonderful.  Actually the dinner beforehand at P6 with five other Dads and Daughters was fantastic (and featured Fiddlestix Pinot Noir, just about my favorite wine right now).  I know, too much detail, but that's what happened...

Meanwhile in the blogosphere...

Gerard Vanderleun pounds the nail through the wood with The Pitch*.  "Obama: Yeah. You could run for President as a woman who is not really a woman, except when you cry, and I could run for President as a black man who is not really a black man, except when I go to church. Democrats would buy it. They really would. They're Democrats!"  Man does that ring true.  I must tell you, this stuff about Obama's preacher is damaging, the Democrats had a bad week.  More and more people all over the country are saying "yeah, I don't like Bush, but do I really want four years of this?"  Meanwhile McCain is in Iraq...

PI = 3.1415629...So I missed PI day (3/14), or at least I didn't blog about it; should have made a post at 1:59, huh?  Hope yours was, er, well rounded...  This always brings to mind the story - not an urban myth - that in the state of Illinois PI is officially 3.  They couldn't deal with the imprecision, so they passed a law to nail it down.  While the practicality of that is admirable, it, uh, didn't work.

Speaking of bad science, this excellent chart shows bad science in movies.  You can see at a glance which movies have sound in space, easy communication with aliens, faster than light travel, etc.  Very handy.

And here's some good science: Teen's cancer study wins Intel prize.  "A 17-year-old high school student from North Carolina has won the 2008 Intel Science Talent Search for developing a genetic method that predicts the likelihood of relapse in early-stage colon cancer patients."  How excellent!

Bora-BoraCheck these out: awesome aerial pictures of islands, from National Geographic.  Pictured at left is Bora-Bora, which has to be one of the most beautiful places on Earth.

In reply to my note about Googling meatspace, Josh Newman emailed this link: the Robot exclusion principle.  I love it!

I have to declare, I am completely immune to the charms of social networking software.  I read about Facebook this and MySpace that, (and Bebo, WTF?), and whatever, and it is all a giant "don't care" to me.  Am I unique in this?  I know there are billions of people who use Facebook and MySpace, and I suppose they love it and get a lot out of it.  So be it.  There used to be billions of people in AOL chat rooms (for all I know there still are?) and I was immune to the charms of that, too.

 

Monday,  03/17/08  07:38 PM

Do not adjust your set, yes, today we are going green, in honor of St. Patrick's Day.  I must tell you I think it is so cool that the Irish have their own day with their own color.  We Dutch have Queen's Day, on April 30, and everyone wears orange (the Dutch royals are the House of Orange).  But I don't see people drinking orange beer and so on, and surely nobody gets pinched if they don't wear orange.  So we have to work on our PR.  I will definitely try to "go orange" on Queen's Day, however.

In the meantime, let's make a pass through the world, shall we...

John McCain is now working with Carly Fiorina and Meg Whitman.  Interesting.  I wonder if Meg Whitman would be up for Vice President?  Now that would be interesting!  (Carly Fiorina, not so much...)

What are the odds of this happening?  I'm speechless.  Comedians everywhere are licking their chops.

the Cougar AceThis is just a great story from Wired Magazine: High Tech Cowboys of the Deep Seas: The Race to Save the Cougar Ace.  I can't properly excerpt from it, you just have to read it all...  fascinating and wonderfully written too.

orange fuzzballsFinger-sized creatures.  Warning, potentially hazardous levels of cuteness.  Hey, I wonder if the orange fuzzballs at right could be Dutch :)

Today Tesla began "regular production" of the Tesla Roadster.  "With this milestone, the Tesla Roadster is the only zero emission electric vehicle in production today – this is in stark contrast to the others who only talk about their future plans. Tesla’s remarkable achievement validates the vision, ingenuity, hard work and commitment of Tesla’s employees."  Excellent.  I can't wait to see them on the road.

So here we have Vista SP1 toilet paper.  I am not making this up.  One can only hope it is cleaner than the operating system (there are so many possible jokes here, it isn't fair; I guess I'll just have to settle for a crappy pun.)

Meanwhile, Vista SP1 availability remains a murky issue.  Actually, who cares?  Everyone I know, and I mean everyone, has either upgraded back to XP or never downgraded to Vista.  Pass the whisky, Laddie, it's over.

there once was an OS called Vista
the worst since they made the transistor
it sucked more than XP
how could such a thing be
now it's dead and we hardly missed ya

 

the $34T problem

Monday,  03/17/08  10:53 PM

Want something to worry about?  How about this: The $34 Trillion Problem.  Hint: it's Medicare.

the Medicare elephant: a $34T problemThis is the elephant in the room; amid all the petty talk of race and who said this and who said that, none of the candidates are talking about this problem, and it is the most important one we face.  "An analysis of their speeches shows that last year Senators Hillary Clinton, John McCain, and Barack Obama would occasionally mention the Medicare mess. But recently, with the economy slowing and voters feeling insecure, all three candidates have turned more populist: Their economic talking points are about feel-good reassurances, not about facing hard realities."  This is going to be the most important problem the next President will face, more important than Iraq, more important than immigration, and certainly more important than the petty crap which dominates today's headlines.  Tough decisions must be made, we cannot continue as we have.

This is closely related to the problems with any kind of universal healthcare, by the way; in fact, Medicare is a sort of universal healthcare, except it isn't universal.  However it does have the same flavor, of everyone paying for everyone else, instead of each person paying for themselves.  Such programs are always subject to a tragedy of the commons, and having them run by government ensures inefficiency.  But we can't just abolish Medicare altogether (or can we?), we have to replace it with something else, something that costs less and provides solid insurance for retirees.  This should be a subject of active debate, instead, it is taboo.

The only thing worse than talking about a $34 trillion problem is not talking about it.

 

remembering Daniel Jacoby

Tuesday,  03/18/08  11:23 PM

Daniel JacobyToday, in Aperio's monthly all-staff meeting, I made mention that last week was the fourth anniversary of my good friend and ex-partner Daniel Jacoby's death, at the hands of a brain tumor.  In thinking about this brief mention - what I was going to say, and what I ended up saying - I realize that he was a profound influence on me.  A few days may go by without me thinking of him, just a few, but more significantly not a day goes by without me thinking like him.  In a real sense he is still alive, in my mind.

We humans learn by copying.  It is easiest to copy other humans, but when we think of something ourselves, we are also copying - we're copying in the real world what we've already done in the fantasy world of our heads.  This "trial and error" of forethought is the primary evolutionary advantage of brains.  Much better to think of falling off a cliff - and think through the consequences! - than to do it; and yet the experience gained ("don't fall off cliffs") is the same.

When you get to know someone, there is another form of learning by copying, too; you copy what they are thinking!  Or even how they are thinking.  And so it is, with me, with Daniel.  As situations arise, I find myself thinking ahead, and also find myself thinking ahead like Daniel would have thought ahead, which gives me a point of view and a learning I wouldn't have had otherwise.  Very valuable, and very interesting.

So here's to you, Daniel.  May you always remain alive - in my head - so I can keep learning from you.

 

Tuesday,  03/18/08  11:29 PM

John McCainHendrik Hertzberg often writes editorials in the New Yorker, and he usually engages in relentless Bush-bashing (or Republican-bashing).  He writes well and thoughtfully, so much so that although I disagree with him, I don't mind reading it.  This week however he wrote about John McCain in a pretty positive way, and makes an interesting suggestion: Condoleezza Rice for Vice President!  "This space is usually devoted to pristine moral reasoning, but, hell, it’s an election year. Let’s get down and dirty. If McCain really wants to have it all—to refurbish his maverick image without having to flip-flop on the panderings that have tarnished it; to galvanize the attention of the press, the nation, and the world; to make a bold play for the center without seriously alienating “the base”—then he can avail himself of a highly interesting option: Condoleezza Rice."  Hey, I could go for that.  Not because she's a woman, and not because she's black, but because she's a pretty interesting choice; experienced, intelligent, and balanced.  Unfortunately I fear it won't happen because McCain will have to avoid any link to the present Bush administration.

Did you know that Rice is third in line to be President?  I didn't...  apparently the succession order is Vice President, Speaker, Secretary of State.  That would make her the closest a woman has ever come, already.  Update: Of course that is wrong, Nancy Pelosi is Speaker.  How quickly I forget :)  Another update (thanks, Shawn): Apparently Henrik Hertzberg got it wrong; the succession order is VP, Speaker, President Pro Tempore of the Senate, Secretary of State, so Rice is fourth.  BTW I had to look it up, President Pro Tempore is the most senior Senator of the majority party; currently Robert Byrd...

Barack Obama made his case with me for being President by giving a great speech yesterday.  It wasn't what he said, it was what he did; there was a problem (his association with Jeremiah Wright), and he took immediate action to deal with it (gave the speech).  He didn't disown Wright, and he didn't deny his involvement in Wright's church - both of those things would have made him look defensive - instead he used the opportunity to move forward.  I don't agree with Obama on many things, but he does have the Right Stuff to be President.

So it begins: Landis begins final appeal against doping ban.  Good Luck, Floyd!  I give him no chance at all, but yet I profoundly believe he is innocent, and more importantly that no proof has been made that he is not.  One might well say - as Floyd has - that the system itself is on trial.  Update: Velonews has a nice timeline of the case.

How to IPO in a tough market: Visa shows how it is done.  (Having a massive network effect is nice :)

 

6,608 miles... and counting

Wednesday,  03/19/08  09:08 PM

cycling!One year ago today I decided to start a log of my bike rides.  I can't remember why, but after years of "just riding" I sat down and created a little spreadsheet, and have since made one row entries for each ride; the route, the miles, and the time (if known).  This is pretty cool, because now I know that in the past year I did 210 rides, for a total of 6,608 miles, an average of 31 miles per ride, or 127 miles per week.  Wow, that is so cool!

Without having previous years' metrics to compare I can't be sure, but I have to believe I have ridden more often, and further, as a result of keeping this log.  There were days when I really didn't feel like riding - maybe it was cold, or I was busy, or there was a ready procrastination handy - but I did it anyway to keep up the pace.  Watching that little plot creeping upward was an ever-present inspiration.

I believe this is an excellent example of the metric magic.  For me, measuring works.  Your mileage may vary :)

 

Wednesday,  03/19/08  09:29 PM

2008 NCAA bracketIt is that time again, the Ides of March, the time for - ta da - March Madness!  Otherwise known as the Tivo-a-thon.  For the next four days, I will eat, sleep, and work while watching 48 basketball games.  How it was ever done before Tivo I don't remember (VHS tape?).  Anyway yes Aperio has a pool (we are raising money for cancer!) and yes I have filled in my bracket and yes you can see it; just click the excerpt at left.  And yes, I am picking UCLA to go all the way.  Go Bruins!

Arthur C. ClarkeWow, so Arthur C. Clarke has died, at 90, in Sri Lanka.  Of course when we think of him we all think of 2001: A Space Odyssey, but did you know he was the first to propose geostationary satellites as communication relays, in 1945?  To this day geostationary orbits are sometimes called Clarke orbits.

I totally love this: so at Geno's Steaks in Philadelphia there's this sign: "This is America: when ordering please speak English."  The Commission on Human Relations (whatever that is) recently ruled these signs do not violate the city's Fair Practices Ordinance.  Well I should hope not!  This is a free country, and what's more, our language is English.

I wish this would start a trend, for example: "This is America, when voting please use English", or how about this one: "This is America, when learning in school please use English".  I know it won't happen, but I can wish...

Steven Frank on niches in a market: The First, the Free, and the Good.  "Where you can really dominate is by combining two or more of these properties. If you are first AND best, you'll be doing quite well for a very long time, as long as you stay the best. If you're the best and free, it's going to be very hard to compete with you -- although those two lines don't intersect just every day."  I like First and Best.  Free, not so much.  Yeah I know you can make money with Free, but it isn't easy.  [ via John Gruber ]

Stanford 3D cameraThis is amazing: Stanford researchers cram 12,616 tiny lenses into a 3D camera.  "A team at Stanford is working on a 3D camera that uses 12,616 micro-lenses to generate high quality 3 megapixel images with self-contained 'depth maps' that measure the distance to every object in the frame. The system works by focusing each lens above four different overlapping sensor arrays, which work in concert to determine depth -- just like your eyes."  I guess the output is an image you can rotate to view at any angle.

Angel OakFinally, here we have a wonderful picture of an Angel Oak, in South Carolina.  Wow, that's just about all I can say.  (Please click pic to enlarge.)

 

 

 

Thursday,  03/20/08  10:06 PM

I was a little down today.  Not sure why.  A rough way to celebrate the first day of Spring...  (yay?)  And yet, it was a beautiful day, nothing bad happened...  weird.  Anyway you don't care about that, you care about this:

So interestingly for many the initial flavor of Obama's speech about race and Jeremiah Wright was positive, and this would include me, but the aftertaste is a bit, well, bitter.  Maybe, as Powerline notes, it was the part about his ["typical white"] grandmother.  Mickey Kaus thinks it was a disaster for him, at least in terms of reaching the voters he needs to reach.  I'm conflicted, and I'm one of those voters...

Paging Al Gore...  NPR reports on The Mystery of Global Warming's Missing Heat.  "Some 3,000 scientific robots that are plying the ocean have sent home a puzzling message. These diving instruments suggest that the oceans have not warmed up at all over the past four or five years. That could mean global warming has taken a breather."  I don't know about a breather, what it means is that we don't get it; the air is getting warmer, but the oceans - apparently - are not!

Ted NugentInstapundit links a post by Ted Bronson about Ted Nugent on gun control.  There's a link to his website; you will get the kick ass riffs introducing Stranglehold.  Man, that still sounds good, after what, thirty years?  A song I will always know from the first note.

Thinking about it being the first day of Spring, I clicked my "five years ago" link to see what was happening...  I took a bike ride, and worried about the Iraq invasion, then two days old.  Wow, five years.

Jason Kottke has some excellent excerpts from the International Time Traveler's forum.  "Take it easy on the kid, SilverFox316; everybody kills Hitler on their first trip. I did. It always gets fixed within a few minutes, what's the harm?"  Now that is great.

Theocacao: Writing Modern Copy for Product Pages.  "By saying specifically what your app is, you don't waste time, energy, and bandwidth on customers that aren't really customers. I'm not saying sell yourself short, just that you should focus on the people that are actually likely to enjoy what you've made."  Makes sense to me.

I was going to note Wired's incredibly bad cover story on Apple: How Apple got Everything Right by Doing Everything Wrong, but John Gruber beat me to the punch: How Leander Kahney Got Everything Wrong by Being an Irredeemable Jackass.  Sometimes you read an article and you think "this is not even wrong", but this is not even not even wrong, it is just plain wrong.  This is a classic example of a reporter who thinks of the angle first, then writes a story around it.  Never mind the facts, or logic.  But I agree with John; Wired used to be better than this...

Fail: Fail?The Fail meme, beloved by me in its Uncov glory, has perhaps jumped the shark.  Would we say, "Fail: Fail"?

Still, we do need something for DVD rewinders and their ilk...

 

 

 

more denial by idiots

Friday,  03/21/08  11:31 AM

The other day I noted a weird sort of denial of service "attack"; there was a broken script loose on the 'net, someone was scraping my site over and over with a bunch of bad URLs.  No real harm except a sad waste of bandwidth.

clone armyNow I have a new "attack" in progress, apparently from Russell Beattie's Mowser.  I'm not sure why Mowser would be scraping my site, but a bot with the user agent "Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 5.5; Windows NT 5.0; mowser; http://www.mowser.com)" has hit over 100,000 times each of the last three days.  All with invalid URLs.  I actually changed my site to specifically return "403 forbidden: please stop the DOS attack" to this agent, but of course being a bot this doesn't help.  (It did make me feel better.)

BTW I like Mowser, it provides a free mobile version of Critical Section which is pretty cool.

Russell has recently branded me an idiot for my political views, and asked me to stop sending him email, so I guess I'll just have to wait until he notices his broken bot.

Update: Looks like around 2:00 this afternoon the "attack" stopped.  Furthermore I notice that m.w-uh.com is no longer "moblified" by Mowser, it now just redirects to w-uh.com.  So thanks, Russell, for figuring it out, but too bad it means I don't have a mobile version anymore.

Further Update: The "attack" has resumed, this time with a MSNBOT user agent.  Perhaps the script simply uses various other robots' user agents, and Mowser was never involved.  Sorry, Russell!  Once again hit after hit to invalid URLs.  Anyway I am now returning 301s (permanent redirects) back to w-uh.com, it doesn't seem to help but it uses the least bandwidth.  What a waste of my time, in addition to bandwidth.  Idiots.

One More Update: I really owe Russell an apology - so sorry, Russell.  The hits have continued unabated, from various servers around the world, and using a variety of different user agents.  Clearly Mowser was not involved.  I cannot figure out the possible benefit of having a script launch 100,000 hits to my little site using one invalid URL after another, but that's what's happening.  Fortunately by returning the 301 it doesn't use much bandwidth or CPU, so it just clogs up the log files.  Hopefully the idiots will go away after a while - we'll see..

 

Saturday,  03/22/08  09:02 PM

Did a great ride today - 74 miles, with 9,000' of vertical, on a beautiful Spring day... then spent the rest of the day eating...  More of the same tomorrow, I'm afraid :)

I hope you all have a fantastic Easter, hanging out peacefully with the ones you love...

seeing red - 2004 county-by-county election resultsDid you know that Barack Obama is considered the country's most liberal senator?  I find that remarkable.  Not that he is so liberal - that I knew, or at least am starting to figure out - but that the Democratic Party is poised to nominate the most liberal senator as their candidate for President two elections in a row!  (You may remember John Kerry was considered the most liberal senator in 2003.)  Now regardless of your personal politics, you have to admit this is not smart.  History is not on your side trying to get the most liberal senator elected.  There are a lot of conservative people in the U.S., and they vote.  I would not be surprised if the Democrats end up seeing red come November...

The aftertaste of the Obama / Wright speech is definitely a bit bitter; Ann Althouse analyzes a Rasmussen poll taken just afterward...  "The important break in the numbers is between "excellent" and the rest, and 70% said the speech fell short of 'excellent.' This is, I think, disastrous for Obama."  I thought it was excellent and yet, I find myself more worried about him as a possible President.  I think Jeff Jacoby pinpoints the problem nicely: Wright and Wrong.

Slate writes Out-of-wedlock births are a national catastrophe.  Yeah, no kidding, more than half of all kids are born to a single parent.  Let's talk about this in the great Presidential debates, huh?

Big cycling news: Slipstream have been invited to the Tour!  That's excellent, so the U.S. will have a team...  Well I guess High Road is a U.S. team now too (formerly T-Mobile, and formerly German).  Just too bad politics have kept Astana out, Tour Director Christian Prudhomme said "These are, I believe, the best teams in the world", but he can't mean it; clearly the team with Alberto Contador, Levi Leipheimer, and Andreas Kloden is the best.

Fabrian Cancellera wins Milan - San RemoCongratulations to Fabian Cancellera; the Swiss time machine won the first "big" race of the year, Milan - San Remo, and he won it with style, powering out from the peloton with 3K to go and winning easily.  He is nasty strong, the best in the world right now.

Caltech's Thirty Meter TelescopeThe Caltech News' latest issue's back page was a diagram all about the new Thirty Meter Telescope.  The TMT will be the biggest, baddest, best ground-based telescope ever built.  I scanned the diagram; please click the thumbnail at right to enlarge.  It does look really cool; I love "big science".  {One funny thing; although the design of the TMT has been worked on a lot, the location has apparently not yet been decided.  One would think that would be important, eh?}

CIO magazine asks Should Microsoft Throw Away Vista?  Their answer is yes.  (Mine, as you know, is yes, too.)

This is really funny: PZ Myers was Expelled from watching Expelled, a new creationist movie, presumably because he's a vocal atheist, but his companion was not.  His companion was Richard Dawkins.  You might ask why people can't see the movie if they don't agree with it, but since we're talking about creationists here, logic does not apply...

 

Sunday,  03/23/08  11:11 PM

Yay, Easter!  Around here not so much a chance to celebrate the resurrection or anything religious, as a chance to celebrate Spring, family, and eat candy...  which I did all three in excess.  Especially the candy part.  Anyway I hope you had a wonderful weekend too, it was pretty quiet "out there", huh?

UCLA Bruins!So, how's your NCAA bracket looking?  Mine, not so good.  Although UCLA is still alive - barely - and so is Stanford, so I guess I shouldn't complain.  USC really hurt me, though; I picked them to overperform and they blew out in the first round.  My own picks aside I think it has been a pretty fun tournament so far.  Next week it really gets interesting, as the pressure turns up a notch.

Rand Simberg: War Critics Decry Interminable And Unwinnable Conflict (from 1945).  Not everyone will pick this up as satire...

Actually there is so little chance this kind of shoddy biased reporting would have taken place in 1945; back then news was, well, news.  For an example of how much has changed even since 1967, check out Time Magazine's reporting of the Six-Day War.  Honestly it gives me chills reading about it, and it really makes me wish we still had this kind of reporting.  Now Time has gone the way of TV News; it is mere entertainment.  Sad.

KindleJohn Patrick has been Kindlized.  "The most amazing thing about the Kindle is how easy it is to use. Amazon set out three years ago to create an entirely new portable reading device with the ability to wirelessly download books, blogs, magazines, and newspapers. The Kindle uses 'electronic paper' that makes the screen as sharp and natural as reading ink on paper without the strain and glare of a computer screen. You have to see it to believe it."  Quietly but steadily the Kindle is winning people over.  I've never seen one, but maybe I'll have to check it out...

Yesterday I noted how PZ Myers was expelled from Expelled; today we have this excellent comic treatment.  This is so excellent, I even love the title ("no intelligence allowed") and the tagline ("laugh and the world laughs with you; cry and you're just a wuss").

Update: Richard Dawkins tells his side of this story: Lying for Jesus.

 

Monday,  03/24/08  10:19 PM

I guess this Jeremiah Wright thing really has legs; at first I thought Obama's speech would put the whole thing behind him - and us - and I saluted him for dealing with it straightforwardly, but as I scan the blogosphere the discussion goes on and on...  This has got to hurt him, in November if not vs. Clinton.  And Clinton is floundering too, committing unforced errors.  Can it really be that the Dems are going to lose?  That would be a choke of unprecedented proportions.

Saturn and Titan from CassiniCassini continues to delight us all with spectacular pictures of Saturn and Titan; check this one out!  Doesn't it just look like a scene from a movie?  Imagine looking out the window of your spacecraft and seeing that...  It just whets my appetite; I can't wait to visit :)

Apparently there are Signs of Hidden Ocean Underneath Titan's Crust.

Word association: I read Powerline's headline "hey nineteen" and knew immediately what it was about.  You probably did too.  Weird isn't it that those two words, penned 28 years ago, would be so evocative?  I can not only hear the song, but feel the way I felt that summer...

Interesting discussion of housing prices on Instapundit.  "Prices have been falling for months, yet some people have strangely decided to start buying houses? Who in the world could possibly explain this bizarre phenomenon?"  Heh.  Indeed.

Fujitsu 300GB 7200rpm driveI try not to gadget blog too much - you can subscribe to Engadget as well as I can - but this is an object of my desire: Fujitsu announces a 300GB notebook drive spinning at 7200rpm.  I want one, please.

Important work: Scientists Discover Secret Sex Nerve.  I would be happy to participate in further research if they need volunteers for clinical studies...  oh wait...  I guess I am already participating in such a study :)

This is classic: Brad Feld loves LISP.  I have a box of parenthesis in the garage myself, just waiting for the day when I need them again.  Elegant weapons indeed.

 

Tuesday,  03/25/08  11:06 PM

Crazy long day - started at 4:00 with the alarm waking me to go down to Vista, and ended with me blogging, er, now.  In between many meetings, some debugging, a metric ton of email, and a job interview.  Oh, and a bike ride :)

American Digest notes Hugo Chavez "endorses" John McCain.  "Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, a socialist and fierce U.S. critic, warned on Tuesday that relations with Washington could worsen if Republican candidate John McCain wins this year's presidential election.... "Sometimes one says, 'worse than Bush is impossible,' but we don't know," Chavez told foreign correspondents. "McCain also seems to be a man of war.""  A tough endorsement to win :)

Jaguar XFIt finally happened!  Tata Motors buys Jaguar and Land Rover for $2.65B.  So be it.  Maybe once divorced from Ford these storied and differentiated brands can find their way again.  It has worked so far for Aston Martin.

The Vista train wreck continues: Microsoft succeeds in making Vista even worse.  Believe it or not, this is good news. The worse Vista gets, the better the chance that XP will be supported longer :)

Brahm Cohen on Smooth Traffic, links some bad advice: "1) Maintain a large space ahead of your car, 2) Encourage one, two even three cars to merge ahead of you, 3) If traffic slows to a complete stop, keep two car lengths of space open ahead of you."  This is exactly wrong

As I commented on the post: The most efficient thing to do is to tailgate, and try to make your acceleration match the car ahead of you as closely as possible. It might be nerve wracking but it is the best for the cars behind you. Since this is an algorithmic task which is repetitive and fatiguing, it should be delegated to machines.

kitten: I love dotMaximum cute overload; this kitten's fur says "I love dot".  Awww...

never say never :)I hate it when this happens.  Never say never :)

Mark Pilgrim on the Awesome Bar.  "The new location bar in Firefox 3 is growing on me. For several days, the beta 4 AwesomeBar picked the 'wrong' history items for single- or double-character queries — where by 'wrong', I mean 'unexpected'. But to the credit of the tenacious Mozilla developers, the bar in the nightlies seems to learn quickly and adjust to my habits... I was skeptical, but count me as an AwesomeBar convert."  I've had a similar experience; I didn't like it, but I used it, and then suddenly I liked it a lot :)

 

bringing Digital Pathology to life

Wednesday,  03/26/08  09:41 PM

Aperio - bringing digital pathology to life...A little Aperio chest beating, if I may...

Tonight I was reading a detailed report from one of Aperio's channel managers.  Included was a link to a demo site hosted by Nippon Roper, our Japanese distributor:

http://aperio.dip.jp:82/

Naturally I poked around a bit, and was pleased to note the remote viewing performance was quite good.

As I was sitting here viewing these digital slides from some server in Japan, I suddenly got chills.  These are actual Japanese Pathology slides, real data, scanned on the other side of the Earth using our instruments, hosted on the other side of the Earth using our software, and I’m able to view these images right here, at my desk in my house.  How cool is that?

This is really incredible. This is the vision that drove Aperio from the beginning, and we are making it a reality.

 

Thursday,  03/27/08  10:32 PM

Hi blogreaders, how are y'all?  I've been busier than a cat in a litter box, coding.  Good stuff, cleaning up lots of little odds and ends.  (And ranting internally about style and documentation.)  Meanwhile Spring has sprung, the weather here in SoCal is fantastic.  Oh, and I'm ramping up preparing for the Solvang Double this Saturday; doing some tough climbs and [slightly] longer distances.

And in the parallel universe of the blogosphere it's all happening...

Krauthammer: McCain Has ‘Hidden Agenda’ To ‘Kill The United Nations’.  What's funny is that this is reported as if it would hurt McCain - I don't know if we really wants to kill the U.N. - I suspect he will ignore it, however - but this can only get him more support, right?  (P.S. Bring back John Bolton!)

Geert Wilders' film, Fitna is now online.  So be it.  Whether you agree or disagree with the content, you have to agree that airing it publicly is a good thing.  It is disgusting to see the Dutch government scrambling to criticize the publishing of the film, in a transparent attempt to appease those who disagree with it.

Darway - 37-year old gas fire...This is amazing: a 37-year old gas fire: Darwaz, aka the door in hell.  "Darwaz - mysterious and strange place in Turkmenistan. Imagine range of desert sands and suddenly among the crater from which flames erupts."  Our world is stranger than you think, even if you know that about it...

I don't know if you've been following the incredible mess which the America's Cup has become - really I couldn't blame you if you haven't, I mean who cares - but Mascalzone Latino syndicate head Vincenzo Onorato has a nice piece on How to save the America's Cup.  It needs something; as it is right now all the racing is taking place in court.  What a terrible tragedy to squander the momentum of last summer's races which were the best ever...

Every once in a while you read a headline that isn't intended to be funny, but...  and so it is with Paris Hilton Says She's a Role Model for Young Girls.  LOL :)

Maserati Quattroporte interiorOver at TTAC Jonny Lieberman asks Which Car Do You Want To Be Buried In?  "My point?  Interiors matter.  In fact, some are so good that I want to spend eternity in them.  But which one? ...  Bury me in the Maserati Quattroporte Executive GT.  You?"  Yeah well you know what I think - but I'm hoping to put it off for a while :)

Tim Bray on Better feed reading.  "The key insight is that I just had to make up my mind and sort the feeds into two buckets, one for the can't-afford-to-miss stuff, the other for everything else."  I do exactly the same; I have an "everyday" group I read, well, every day, and a "whenever" group I read when I can, and delete when I can't.  My OPML is published, by the way, in case you care :)

I love this post from Maciej Stachowiak: Scences from the Acid test.  Whether you care about browser development or not, or web standards or not, you will find this interesting for the tone of pleasure and respect.  This is how the process should work.

BTW I have downloaded Safari 3.1 and played with it a little, but haven't seen anything there so far to convince me to switch from Firefox.  It is nice to be able to test Mac compatibility under Windows :)

Bertalan Meskó has added a spiffy search engine to his ScienceRoll site: check out ScienceRollSearch.com.  This is a really fantastic tool. You can search ClinicalTrials, DrugInfo, eMedicine, Medscape, PubMed Central, WebMD, etc. - all at once, or selectively.

Naturally to test it out I did a search for "Aperio", and found a lot of papers where people have used Aperio equipment for digital pathology!  That is so cool.

 

another double

Sunday,  03/30/08  10:01 AM

More cycle-blogging: Yesterday I completed the Solvang Double Century - 200 more miles.  (Yay!)  This was a great ride all the way up the central coast to Morro Bay, and then back down again, with a little climb through Drum Canyon to wrap it up.  Took me 10:58 of riding time, which is pretty darn respectable, and 12:45 overall.  This is over two hours better than I did in the Butterfield Double, and although that one was harder (more climbing), I've made pretty good progress.

Here's me and Mark Burson, my riding partner:

Solvang Double - Mark Burson and me

Next up for us is the Hemet Double Century next Saturday (yep; that will be two doubles in eight days).  If we survive that we'll have achieved the California Triple Crown!  After that, who knows...  maybe we'll have to do the RAAM :)

 

Sunday,  03/30/08  10:59 AM

Sorry for the gap; Friday night I was busy eating, getting ready for the ride yesterday, and last night I was busy eating, recovering from the ride.  Or something... 

Anyway here's what's happening, and yes I am feeling feisty today:

differential birth ratesThe Economist presents bad news from California.  Check out the chart at right.  Now this is actually mislabeled; it is presented as differential birth rates among unmarried women of different races, but really it reflects differential birth rates between unmarried women of different economic classes (nobody has shown that unmarried birth rates between, say, inner-city blacks and whites are that different).  We can all agree this is bad (for the women and their kids, and for our society), so what can be done?

AsI have argued before, the main influence on people's decisions to have children is economic.  (The Economist article suggests a societal influence, but if "traditional" values are giving way to more "modern" values; but where do these values come from?)  We need to make it harder for unmarried women to have kids.  Which means we have to reduce child welfare.  It is that simple.

Is the Al Gore solution realistic?  I don't think so.  Although having voted for him eight years ago, I would consider doing so again; certainly over Clinton or Obama.  He would give the Democrats a credible candidate.  I thought Obama was a credible candidate, but this Wright / church thing has him fatally wounded.  Not because of what he did or didn't do, but because of what he hasn't said since.

Meanwhile I am reading more about Condi Rice as John McCain's VP candidate.  I liked the idea from the start, and it is wearing well.  With McCain at 72 (admittedly an apparently robust 72) he had better choose someone who could conceivably be President, like Rice...  Her experiences certainly emphasizes both Clinton's and Obama's lack thereof.

Good for Google: they're hosting Fitna.  "What Google does now will be an interesting test for a company that claims 'do no evil' as its company mantra. The video is hosted in the US, and we presume with part or full support of the creators of the film negating any copyright considerations, so ultimately it will be up to Google to decide between free speech and global jihad."  This cat is out of the bad, and it is not going back in.

Meanwhile U.N. Secretary Ban Ki-moon condemns the film, and claims "The right of free expression is not at stake here".  What a sad tool.

telling stories on mapsThis is excellent: Telling Stories on Maps.  Interesting how iconic the Google Maps look has become, in such a short time...

Jeff Atwood: I�Unicode.  A great rant about Unicode, UTF-8, and the problems of developing software in a world with more than 128 text characters.  Brings to mind Joel Spolsky's classic: The Absolute Minimum Every Software Developer Absolutely, Positively Must Know About Unicode and Character Sets (No Excuses!).

 

 

how to disagree

Sunday,  03/30/08  01:59 PM

Paul Graham provides a valuable public service with an otology of ways to disagree.

  • DH0.  Name-calling.
  • DH1.  Ad hominem.
  • DH2.  Responding to tone.
  • DH3.  Contradiction.
  • DH4.  Counterargument.
  • DH5.  Refutation.
  • DH6.  Refutation of the central point.

"Now we have a way of classifying forms of disagreement. What good is it? One thing the disagreement hierarchy doesn't give us is a way of picking a winner. DH levels merely describe the form of a statement, not whether it's correct. A DH6 response could still be completely mistaken.

"But while DH levels don't set a lower bound on the convincingness of a reply, they do set an upper bound. A DH6 response might be unconvincing, but a DH2 or lower response is always unconvincing.

I've felt this instinctively, but it is great to see it cleanly laid out like this.  Especially helpful is the distinction between DH5 and DH6.  Often in debate a counter-argument will attack the weakest side point, without touching the central point.  While such an argument might feel convincing - in fact, it might carry the day - it is logically invalid.  Only DH6 really matters. 

 

Sunday,  03/30/08  09:18 PM

Big week ahead for me - many meetings, much to do, and then at the end of the week Aperio moves into a new building.  Yay! and Whew.  I'm having a Sunday night meltdown wherein I feel bad that I didn't get enough done over the weekend.  That's when you know you're a workaholic.  Not that I didn't know it before, but still.

The Economist: Where angels no longer fear to tread; scientists attempt to explain religion.  "Religion cries out for a biological explanation. It is a ubiquitous phenomenon - arguably one of the species markers of Homo sapiens - but a puzzling one. It has none of the obvious benefits of that other marker of humanity, language. Nevertheless, it consumes huge amounts of resources. Moreover, unlike language, it is the subject of violent disagreements."  Interesting stuff.  [ via Panda's Thumb ]  I think Daniel Dennett's seminal Breaking the Spell does a great job of investigating religion from a scientist's point of view.

Powerline explains the current fighting in Iraq.  If you don't understand the significance of fighting in Basra vs. fighting in Baghdad (I didn't), you will appreciate this clear explanation.  And you will not get anything like this from the MSM; they seem to equate fighting = bad = Bush-is-bad without further insight.

Reuters: Zimbabwe's meltdown in figures.  These numbers tell the story of one of the worst governments of all time, amid heavy competition.  [ via Glenn Reynolds ]  Dare we hope that Mugabe will be defeated?  We dare.

Malaysian towersThe fascinating inhabitat showcases Sustainable towers in Malaysia.  Beautiful, practical, and environmentally sound...  and still in the planning stages, unfortunately.  But we'll see.

the Dash ExpressThe Dash Express is now shipping!  A two-way GPS, including realtime traffic information.  How cool is that?

Mark Evans ponders Why Original Blog Thought is So Difficult.  Not a deep analysis, but a good question.  I guess there are a lot of linkers out there; I'm one, a lot of the time...  but there are also thinkers, and I'm one, at least some of the time.  I think linkers provide a useful service in that they act as filters for material created by thinkers.  Otherwise why would you read this blog :)

 

Monday,  03/31/08  10:22 PM

Quarter end!  Wow.  Doesn't seem like that long ago it was New Year's, and I had just restarted blogging...  And tomorrow is April Fool's, the annual silly season on the web where you can't believe anything you read (to an even larger extent than usual :)  Looking at history, four years ago Google announced Gmail.  That was the greatest April Fool's joke, because it wasn't a joke (so it was).

Also from history five years ago I wrote On Blame.  Not bad for a rookie blogger.  I still like that one a lot.

John Lott thinks The recession is a media myth.  "As any economist knows, a recession is two consecutive quarters of negative growth, and we haven't even had one single quarter of negative growth reported. The economy slowed down significantly during the end of last year, but that was after a sizzling annual GDP growth rate of 4.9 percent in the third quarter."  He could be right.  On the other hand, the credit crunch and precipitous fall in housing prices are not myths.

wine stave furnitureHere we have furniture from reclaimed wine staves.  "Furniture designer Cliff Spencer couldn't resist when he heard about a Napa winery discarding wine-stained oak. An avid user of reclaimed materials, Spencer now regularly reclaims oak staves from California wineries and transforms them into these stunning one-of-a-kind pieces for residential and commercial use. (p.s., you don’t have to be a wine aficionado to enjoy them)."  How cool is that?  I bet it smells wonderful!

Jaguar XF superchargedTTAC reviews the Jaguar XF Supercharged.  "For those unfamiliar with Newtonian physics, that means 'Ah Jenkins. It looks as if we're all about to die.' It must be said: 420hp is a lot of power. It’s enough shove to take the 4200 lbs. XF Supercharged from naught to sixty in five seconds flat."  Sweet.  Looks like the first Jag in a while to deserve to be a Jag.  A nice present for Tata :)

Tim Oren wonders Is Vista is Microsoft's Micro Channel?  I think it is worse than that; Vista is Microsoft's OS/2.

So I have a request; could we have a way to indicate when a link takes you to a page with an embedded video, instead of a page you can read?  I have little patience for watching video and generally avoid it, but nowadays it seems like half the links on the web are to video.  Anyway thanks in advance :)

Finally, Keith Kaplan reports researchers at Stanford have identified a specific pattern of brain activity which occurs when listening to the B-52s.  Tune Channel Z (vid)!  I am not making this up.

 
 

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may I take your order?
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how did I get here (Mt.Whitney)?
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introducing eyesFinder
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