Critical Section

Archive: August 2008

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just got back

Sunday,  08/03/08  11:08 PM

Just got back from Illinois, locked the front door, oh boy, got to sit down, take a rest on the porch...

We had a wonderful time in Montecito, during which I managed to work on nothing except my tan for four days.  Yay me.  Of course my brain didn't stop and I have millions of thoughts spilling out in all directions :)

Sadly, SpaceX launched their third rocket yesterday, and suffered their third failure.  That was the Falcon 1; meanwhile they conducted a successful full thrust firing of their bigger Falcon 9 rocket.  I am so rooting for them and we all know that rocket science is, well, rocket science, but oh-for-three is not good.  Let's hope fourth time's a charm, as their next launch is coming up.

SpaceX Falcon 1 launch 3 videoSpaceX have posted a great webcam movie from the rocket of its five minute lifespan in space.  Amazing.  (click pic to play.)

A sad side note, this rocket carried the ashes of James Doonan, better known as Star Trek's Scottie.  Beam him up, Captain!

Kielder Astronomy CenterInhabitat posts about the Kielder Observatory, a self-sustainable astronomy center.  When form meets function, beauty is often the result.  I love it.

Affymetrix has received FDA clearance for the first gene-expression microarray-based test, for tissue of origin (identifying the original source organ of metastasizing cancer cells).  That's cool.  (There is more on the FDA's website.)  And at bottom this is a software test, the first of many, and indeed Aperio will someday have such tests as well...

If you've been reading my blog, we've enjoyed this year's Tour de France together; John Wilcockson posted his reflections on a breakthrough Tour.  "After a Tour in which there was plenty of 'escape, excitement and suspense,' I’m confident that we will all be back next year, either racing through the French countryside, glued to our TV sets or following 'live' updates on the Internet, just waiting to see if Christian or Levi can again challenge for the podium whoever emerges as the man to beat. One Tour is over, long live the next."  Amen.

Of course, next up: The Olympics!  Yep, they start this Friday, if you can believe it.  Personally I cannot wait, my Tivo is warmed up and ready.  I just hope I have enough disk space for all that HD.  I might have to invest in more :)

Looks like Alejandro Valverde is ready; he handily won the San Sebastian one-day classic.  Perhaps he's better on one day than three weeks; he has faltered in grand tours, but looks unstoppable in single day races.

the Large Hadron's big picture features the Large Hadron Collider.
Wow, that's just about all I can say.  Wow.

Most of the iPhone apps I've read about are either games or curiosities; they don't seem useful.  However Nullriver's NetShare would be an exception; it lets you setup a computer-to-computer WiFi network between your laptop and iPhone, and then bridges traffic from the iPhone's 3G wide-area network connection to the WiFi network.  Essentially your iPhone acts as a 3G modem for your laptop.  Sweet!

Looks like Wil Shipley agrees with me; the Mojave Experiment: Bad Science, Bad Marketing.  "Is 'Our Customers Are Stupid and Have No Idea What They Really Want' really Microsoft’s new mantra?"  I don't think it is that bad, I think Microsoft just doesn't think these things through.  They're amateurs.

This is pretty funny: McCain makes historic first visit to Internet.  "McCain aides said that the senator's journey to the Internet will span five days and will take him to such far-flung sites as, eBay and Facebook."  I love it.



Monday,  08/04/08  06:29 PM

I had a pretty rough return to reality today; after disconnecting almost completely for four days, bamm, work!  My todo list was frightening, especially since two of the highest priority entries were "sort through notes from X" and add to todo list.  Fortunately I slogged through and made progress (that is, my todo list is now up to date :)

Among the difficult tasks I had to confront today was posting pictures of my family at the beach.  If you have ever tried to choose pictures of women in swimsuits you know what I'm talking about.  I have a great looking family (if I do say so myself) and they do not take a bad picture, but this is still an enterprise fraught with peril.  If my posts cease mysteriously, you will know what happened...

For those of you who recognized yesterday's reference to Creedence Clearwater, thank you.  For the rest of you, sorry, it is what it is.  Not everything I post is explicable :)

In a small orgy of naval-gazing, I enhanced my already-better-than-most archive to show monthly stats.  Clicking on a month in the grid takes you to the posts for that month.  Yes, this is cool, you're welcome.

While testing the new archive I was drawn to a few old posts, such as this one from two years ago: estimating in meatspace.  This remains to this day one of my best tricks.  Trust me, for an engineering manager being able to coax good estimates out of people is crucial.  Yes, you're welcome for this, too.

TheScientist - magazine of the year!So I see where TheScientist was voted Magazine of the Year (by someone, presumably not their own staff :).  Congratulations to them, I must say, I enjoy reading it and [as you know] frequently link their articles.  Good stuff.

Carlos Sastre in yellowWant to see some awesome pictures from the Tour de France?  Here you go, on a Polish website.  They're really amazing.  I think this picture of Carlos Sastre in yellow on the Champs d'Elysee is my favorite.

Glenn Reynolds notes another grim milestone: "Thirty years ago Jimmy Carter established the Department of Energy. And all our energy problems were solved..."  As he would say, heh.

La Shawn Barber: Is Climate Change… Racist?  I love La Shawn; a black woman who deals in truth, and ends up on the conservative side of many issues as a result.  Can we vote for her?

This is pretty cool: Brian May, founder and lead guitarist of Queen, gets his PhD in Astrophysics.  Not, that is not an Onion headline :)  Good for him.

"in case of emergency, break glass"A lot of what you find on the 'net is "fanned in"; you read a blog, and they link or post something, and so you find it.  But sometimes you actively seek content, and so it was today; I was looking to comfort a friend dealing with a crappy situation, a wine-enjoyer, and thought to find a cartoon depicting "in case of emergency, break glass".  Sure enough, poof, I was able to find it; thank you Mr. Google.  I liked this visual pun even before I saw it :)

"in case of unhappiness, break glass [gently]"In the course of finding this I serendipitously found something else awesome, too...  isn't this wonderful?  (I guess I meant "aw"-some :)

The time/money formula of free.  "At some point in your life, you will wake up and discover that you have more money than time. And you will then realize that you should start doing things differently, which means not walking four blocks to find an ATM that doesn't charge a fee, driving for miles to find cheaper gas, or painting your own house."  Yep, I passed that point quite a while ago, but it is an equilibrium; as soon as you begin hiring people to save you time, you have less money :)




driven up

Monday,  08/04/08  10:15 PM

the death ride - dum dum dumWell this is cool; there is a movie called Driven Up being made about the Death Ride.  And they're soliciting riders' stories, and they've posted my story online!  ("frozen and soaked" - yeah, that's pretty accurate :) 

One day, 129 miles, 15,000' of climbing, 4AM chill, desert heart, mountain rain and hail, yet all around me are smiles.  What drives these cyclists up the Tour of the California Alps - Death Ride?

I have no idea.  But I do know it was really fun, and I'll probably do it again next year :)

Anyway I've preordered the DVD and can't wait to see it.  Stay tuned!



Tuesday,  08/05/08  10:51 PM

After yesterday's adjustment from doing nothing to working, today's adjustment from working [alone] to working [in meetings all day] was not too jarring, but still...  I'm ready for more beach time!  Man there is a lot to do - and they say August is a "dead" month.

Do you have Java installed?  Do you get periodic update notifications?  And have you noticed how completely absurd they are?  Somehow the engineers at Sun think people actually care about Java.  Hello?  Most people have no idea at all what it is, and don't care.  Applying an update with a whole installer with questions about configuration, etc., is just bizarre.  (Okay, so you have an update, just go ahead and install it, and leave me alone.)  Lately however they've reached a whole new level of absurdity, because the Java updater installs OpenOffice by default.  Talk about crapware!  If I want OpenOffice I'll get it myself, thank you.  I can only imagine someone like my Mom, having this whole office suite installed by the update.  It probably steals the MS Office file associations, too, so suddenly instead of getting Word or Excel, you get OpenOffice.  Blech.

inhabitots!I'm linking this purely because their logo is so cute: Inhabitots.  "Sustainable design for the next generation."  Excellent.

The other day I noted SpaceX executed their third launch, and suffered their third failure to reach orbit.  Wired posted a candid interview with SpaceX founder Elon Musk.  Elon comes across as honest and determined.  I especially like this: "Wired: How do you maintain your optimism?  Musk: Do I sound optimistic?  Wired: Yeah, you always do.  Musk: Optimism, pessimism, fuck that; we're going to make it happen."  Exactly.  I believe they will make it happen.

Maarten Schmidt - Time coverWhen I was growing up, my parents were friends with the Schmidts, that is, the Maarten Schmidts, the famous Caltech astronomer who discovered that Quasars were red-shifted stars which were really far away (3 billion light years) and moving really fast (1/6th the speed of light).  Wired recently revisited Aug 5, 1962, the date on which the first Quasar was discovered.  Time magazine memorialized Quasars and Schmidt on the fantastic cover shown at right.  Ah, those were the days, for astronomy and for the world... (and for Time!)

Martian moon PhobosMeanwhile Mars Express acquires sharpest images of Martian moon Phobos.  SpaceX' challenges highlight the extreme success enjoyed by JPL's unmanned satellites, in mission after mission.  Excellent!

The NYTimes are sorting out coffee's contradictions.  First it turns out wine is pretty good for you, and now coffee, too?  All my vices are really virtues?  (I want a study on the health benefits of marzipan!)

This is pretty interesting: LinkedIn, like Facebook, is allowing employees to sell vested private stock before they are public.  Both companies are worth a lot, of course, and neither has imminent plans to go public, so I guess this makes sense, at least from the employees' standpoint (it might make less sense from an investor standpoint).  I wonder if these are isolated incidents, or whether the lack of an IPO market will make this a more common occurrence?

Cirrus personal jetPopular Mechanics: the 10 best planes from the Oshcosh Air Show.  I want a personal jet just like the Cirrus SJ-50, shown at right.  That would be great...

Calvin and JobsAnd here we have...  Calvin and Jobs.  I am not making this up - check it out, pretty great.







predicting bugs

Wednesday,  08/06/08  11:35 PM

Today I spent considerable time on a problem that confronts all software developers: how can you predict bugs?

I don't actually need to predict specific bugs, I need to predict how many bugs I'm going to find.  This comes up when you're in the middle of testing something; you are some percentage of the way through testing, and you have found some percentage of the total number of bugs you're going to find.  If you could predict how many more bugs you're going to find, and you know about how long each bug takes to fix, then you can predict when you'll be done.  There is some of estimating involved, but it is better than holding your finger up in the air and taking a guess!

So what is the relationship between "% test coverage" and "% bugs left to find"?  At first you might think this is linear, but it isn't; you find way more bugs in the beginning than you do at the end.  This is mostly because many bugs are "global"; you will encounter them regardless of what part of the software you're testing.  Installer bugs, for example, or bugs which keep you from accessing a database, or user signon bugs.  As you get to the end of testing, you are finding bugs which only afflict a small number of things, or just one thing.

After playing with real data and bouncing "what if" scenarios off real developers and real QA engineers, here's what I came up with:

graph: bugs found vs test coverage

This is an inverse logarithmic relationship; as the test coverage increases, the percentage of bugs left to be found decreases, asymptotically approaching zero.  After you've tested 10% of the software, 80% of the bugs remain, after test 25%, 50% remain, after testing 50%, 20% remain, and after testing 75%, 8% remain.  This "feels" right, at least in my experience (and in comparing to actual data), but of course it could vary significantly for your team :)

Here's the actual equation:

equation: bugs remaining given test coverage

Here t is the "test coverage", and f is the "resulting bugs left to find".  The parameters a and b adjust the equation, for my purposes I determined a = 2.75 and b = 0.05, which yield the graph shown above.  Here's what that looks like in Excel:


To use this, you have to substitute the t, a, and  b with the cell addresses which contain these values.

Having done all this, it turned out to be rather useful; I could apply this to each area of software in a release that we're in the middle of testing, and predict how many more bugs we're going to find, and hence, when we'll be done!  It might not be right - that remains to be seen - but it feels better than just guessing :)



Wednesday,  08/06/08  11:41 PM

Today I nerded out from dawn to dusk, with no time for anything else; between various meetings and demos, predicting bugs, and working on code I didn't eat, ride, or do anything...  by 7:30 I was toast.  Driving home from Vista I stopped in Dana Point and had dinner at the Charthouse, which revived me wonderfully; nothing like a rare prime rib and a nice Pinot to recharge the batteries.  Still pretty wiped out though...  so what's happening?  Well...

So are times really that bad?  My personal theory is that yes, there are problems, but nothing out of the ordinary.  However the media companies are experiencing huge challenges (newspapers and television networks), and therefore the people who work there tend to think everyone is having the same challenges.  For example, check this out: down economy spares no one, including the rich.  "It may have taken longer and it may not be as acute, but there are early hints that the economic slump is crimping the lifestyles of the wealthy."  Note the careful language, a telltale sign the reporter is manufacturing a story to fit a theory.  And sure enough this story has zero facts, just statements from individuals using words like "suggest". 

My own view is that the mainstream media are doomed, especially since they've stopped running factual stories and have resorted to this sort of piffle.

BTW as a counterpoint, here's an interesting factual article on CNN about married women who choose not to work.  Apparently the economy is sparing them :)

A380 first class cabinAnd perhaps related, here's a cool review of the first class cabin in an Emirates A380 airplane.  This seems to be designed for rich people; apparently the economy is sparing some of them :)

Times really are that bad for Obama, however; he is sinking in the polls, which now have him tied with McCain.  I'm actually surprised, but maybe I should give the American people more credit.

Obama's supporters are starting to worry; check out why Obama can't win, posted on the Huffington Post, a typically liberal group blog, and Pundits beginning to worry about Obama.

Blogging.LA helpfully reminds everyone to register to vote.  Wait, stop the presses!  Don't do it!  I am a contrarian on this, if people don't want to vote, let them.  Why have people who are not motivated to vote dilute the votes of those who are?

Gerard Vanderleun links the great Paris Hilton "response" to McCain's ad which featured her; looks like he's planning to vote!  You know, despite all the bad press and weird behavior, I like Paris, she seems smart and she has her head screwed on the right way (as opposed to, say, Britney Spears, also featured in the McCain ad, who doesn't).  View this video and listen to her describe her "energy platform", and tell me you don't agree...

BTW her thoughts on energy seem to make more sense than Obama's plan to inflate everyone's tires.

Linux (T-shirt) bloatThis is pretty amazing, check out this chart, showing the T-shirt size distribution at Linux Symposium.  Wonder if the same thing is happening at JavaOne, or Microsoft's PDC?  Is there a correlation between the size of the programmers and the size of their code?  Inquiring minds want to know :)

Timing is everything - as noted the other day SpaceX flight 3 failed to reach orbit, and they've posted a detailed explanation of what happened.  I find it extraordinary how transparent they're being about their issues and what they're doing about them.  Good for them!

505 from the 1960sFinally, I love this; an article from the early 60s about the 505 class.  The boat is completely recognizable, despite all the high-tech innovation which has occurred in the intervening 50 years... 
Check out the crew's hat!







Thursday,  08/07/08  11:55 AM

So, I am taking my computing life into my hands, and - gasp! - installing XP SP3.  Yes, I have a current backup, thanks for asking.  If past experience is any guide, having it will be the main reason I don't need it.

And so it begins...

XP SP3 - starting!

Okay, here we go...

XP SP3 - ntdetect error

Ah yes, I had forgotten how much fun Windows Service Packs could be...

[Update (eleven hours later): Cannot get past this point.  I've tried a bunch of stuff, but this error always appears.  A few times it was preceded by some other errors which gave me an "ignore" choice, and which I ignored, but this one can't be bypassed.  I'm giving up; there wasn't anything in SP3 I was that interested to get, I just felt I needed to "stay current".  I'm afraid this starts the clock on when I'm going to have to reinstall XP from scratch, that's something to look forward to...]



Thursday,  08/07/08  11:21 PM

Today was a mixed bag; I enjoyed scheduling a release beta now that I can predict bugs, and got in some productive coding, but also pissed away quite a bit of time trying to install XP SP3.  I did have a great ride, felt really strong, and joyfully setup my Tivo to record the Olympics, which as you know start tomorrow! 

Olympic road race profileActually one of the first events of the Olympics is the Men's Road Race, as previewed by Velonews.  Check out the stage profile at left - wow - bet you've never seen anything like that before.  I think it favors someone like Levi Leipheimer, he's my pick to win.  There isn't quite enough climbing for Contador, there's too much climbing for Evans, and Valverde likes an uphill finish, but he'll tire on all the other climbs.  We'll see!

Engadget tells us how to get the most out of the 2008 Olympic games.

Hillary Clinton on McCain and ObamaI love this ad from McCain, especially that great snippet from Hillary at the end: "I know Senator McCain has a lifetime of experience that he will bring to the White House, and Senator Obama has a speech he gave in 2002."  Ouch!  There is a serious side to this message; by showing that prominent Democrats think they can work with him, McCain is telling us he'll be able to get things done even if he has a Democratic Congress, which is very likely.  Perhaps many of those Democrats would find it easier to work with McCain than Obama...

McCain and Obama both commented on Bambi, guess who said what:

    • "I think I may have teared up at the end..."
    • "Oh, yeah, I cried.''

Right there you have the stark difference between these two guys.  Of course Obama might change his mind after polls show Americans don't like crybabies.

Extreme 40 capsize!The iShares cup, presently being held in Extreme 40 catamarans, off Cowes, England, is amazing.  Check out this action from Sailing Anarchy!  Whoa.

Martin Eberhard's TeslaMartin Eberhard, ex-CEO of Tesla, has driven 1,000 miles on his car, and posted a review.  Overall he seems pretty happy, but the range is only 125 miles, and the nav / radio seems pretty broken.  The range will be harder to fix :)  Also note his snide reference to a MacLaren F1; that would be Elon Musk's car, and we can guess that Elon is responsible for the fact that Martin is no longer at Tesla...

Chris Anderson: thirteen words that lose their meaning when the denominator approaches infinity.  "Here are five words that I would suggest are usually meaningless in a world where the populations we're talking about are limitless in size and diversity and doubling overnight (just add the word "blogs" after any of them and you'll see what I mean): Most, Average, Typical, All, None/No".  It is an interesting point but I think it is dead wrong; just because you don't know the absolute quantity doesn't mean the ratio isn't meaningful.  You can say "most blogs" and make a point without knowing how many blogs you're talking about...

Some interesting speculation: AppleTV could become a Real TV?  There could be something to this; all the other speculation about Apple's forthcoming "product transition" has struck me as too lame to be true.

This could be from the Onion: Athiest finds image of nothing in his toast.  I love it :)



8/8/8 - crazy eights!

Friday,  08/08/08  09:18 AM

Wow, today is crazy eight day!  8/8/8.  Or if you prefer (and I do, for sheer weirdness), 23/23/23.  This would be three two to the threes.  Reminds me of the preface to Godel, Escher, Bach, in which Douglas Hofstadter reminiced that at an early age he was taken with the idea of three threes, operating on three with itself.  He must be happy today :)

8 x 8

Today is also the day on which the Bejing Summer Olympics begin!  I am feeling Olympic today...  and finally, Wikipedia tells me that the last time we had an 8/8/8, in 1908, Wilbur Wright made his first public flight, in France.  Who knew?

I hope you have a gr8 day!



in a rut

Friday,  08/08/08  05:47 PM

stuck in a rutI find myself in a rut.  I've been visiting the same old blogs and websites - via RSS - for months, actually, for years.  I like them all, mostly, and they link to a lot of other blogs and websites, but still, I am in a rut.  I need to branch out, find some new blood. 

I discovered my rut by happening by chance across a whole lot of nothing, Matt Haughey's blog.  Hey, I like this stuff!  And I used to visit it regularly.  But now, never.  How many other great blogs are there "out there"?  Literally thousands, I would think, there are quite a few lots of nothing out there.  And unless I happen upon them by chance, I'll be missing a bunch of great stuff.

Okay, so I'm in a rut, and I want to get un-rutted.  One thing I really can't do is burn a lot of time; I already spend inordinate amounts of time reading blogs and telling y'all about them :)  And I don't really want to give up on my current population of sites, although I must admit some of them are basically dead, and others are pretty boring.  Hmmm...

Okay, here's my plan, we'll see whether this works.  Every day I'm going to try to find one new blog that I like.  I'll subscribe to the feed, and tell you about it.  After a week we'll decide whether to leave the blog on the island.  And if we do, I have to kick at least one old blog off, to make room.  Anyway that's my plan, stay tuned!



Olympic WOW

Friday,  08/08/08  11:43 PM

Did you see the Opening Ceremony of the 2008 Summer Olympics tonight?  WOW!  Unbelievable.  What an amazing spectable, I have never seen anything like that...  I tuned in, expecting to be entertained, like yeah, this is cool, but I was unprepared for how amazingly great it was.  If you saw it, you know what I mean, and if you didn't, find a friend who recorded it!  (In HD, preferably; this was certainly something you will want to see in HD!)

What particularly struck me, beside the ingenuity of the spectacle, was that much of it was so human; you had literally thousands of people giving a performance in sync, without too much automation.  The coordination and practice required must have been unbelievable.

Here are some pics, taken of my TV screen, as recorded by my Tivo...  (click each to enlarge)


If the rest of these Olympics live up to the standard set by these Opening Ceremonies, it is going to be a most excellent experience.  I cannot wait!  And things kick off right away, tomorrow we have the Men's Cycling Road Race (I'm sure you're as interested in that as I am), and of course the sailing competition begins.  Stay tuned!




Saturday,  08/09/08  02:13 PM

Happy Saturday, y'all!  I'm still buzzed from the Olympics' Opening Ceremony last night, wow.  And this morning started with a nice little 60 mile ride out to Santa Paula and Fillmore.  Is is a beautiful day, light breeze, little puffy clouds...  what more could you ask for?

Stuff happens...  and I blog about it :)

Cassini's Enceladus flybyWhile you're hanging out watching the Olympics, out near Saturn little Cassini remains busy; now it prepares to swoop by Saturn's geyser-spewing moon Enceladus.  "Cassini will zoom past the tiny moon a mere 50 kilometers (30 miles) from the surface. Just after closest approach, all of the spacecraft's cameras -- covering infrared wavelengths, where temperatures are mapped, as well as visible light and ultraviolet -- will focus on the fissures running along the moon's south pole. That is where the jets of icy water vapor emanate and erupt hundreds of miles into space. Those jets have fascinated scientists since their discovery in 2005."  Cool.

For you in case it is of interest, and for me to find later: Kottke links a great resource: how to find free topographical maps.  I could have used this when I hiked climbed Mt. Whitney!

AppleWatch wonders, should you pay twice as much for a Mac?  So I don't know if the premise is accurate, but I could easily see paying twice as much for something, why not?  Who says a Windows laptop is the equivalent of a Mac?  At some level a Buick is the equivalent of a Maserati, but many people would gladly pay twice as much for the Maserati... 

The same theme recurs in this article from TTAC, about a review of the Hyundai Genesis.  Yeah, at some level it is equivalent to a Lexus GS460, but then again...  not.

Aston Marton one77And finally in the same vein here we have the Aston Martin 1077, which is rumored to cost $2.3M (unseating the Bugatti Veyron as the most expensive [or depending on your point of view, preposterous] car).  Well I must admit, it is pretty...

Dave Winer wonders could Vista fail?  "Vista has the smell of death. I don't believe Vista will be around much longer. I don't want to be one of those people who has a computer that runs Vista, anymore than I wanted to use OS/2 when Windows 3.x was in its heyday. I remembered too well what it was like to use an Apple III when it failed to take over, as expected, from the Apple II. Operating systems can fail, and Vista shows every indication that it is one of those operating systems."  Could it fail?  Should it?  Yes, please!  It would make my life so my easier if I could ignore this inferior piece of crap.

You might ask, what should Microsoft do instead?  Glad you asked.  They should release a new version of XP which is faster and more stable.  That's it.  No new features, just faster and more stable.  That alone would sell millions of copies.

Samuel Sanchez wins gold!Congratulations to Samuel Sanchez who won the gold medal in Bejing, in the men's cycling road race this morning.  Sounds like it was a brutal course, long (245km), hot, and smoggy, with a bunch of climbs.  The Spanish are winning everything at the moment... yikes!

Dutch Tornado teamToday also saw the start of Olympic sailing...  one of the more interesting stories concerns the Dutch Tornado team, which have created a new kind of sail that helps them go to weather faster in the relatively light air found in Qingdao...  some of the other teams are crying foul, but the U.S. and Australian teams just went ahead and copied them.  Hey, innovation happens!

It is all part of the games; as Wired reports, gadgets boost Olympic performance - legally.  "Technology has helped push the boundaries of athletic achievement since the first time a caveman selected a lightweight birch branch for his spear instead of the usual heavy oaken staff. This year's Olympic Games will be no different, with swimmers, cyclists and even gymnasts making the most of tech -- and legal -- performance enhancements."  It is what it is...


stuff happens

Saturday,  08/09/08  07:11 PM

The situation with Russia invading Georgia is pretty serious, but I don't want to be a news site, so please Google for South Ossetia if you don't know what's going on.  Yeah, we have Russian troops fighting Georgian troops, and yeah, this could be war.  It is serious.

What I want to point out is this stuff happens.  It isn't the U.S.' fault, but it happened anyway.  It would be farfetched to tie this to U.S. policy in any way (although Georgia is a U.S. ally).  Given that this stuff happens, we need serious leaders.  I'd like all of you to compare Obama's reaction to McCain's reaction.  This is a real 3:00AM moment.

McCain has strongly and unequivocally come out in support of our ally Georgia, while placing the onus for the war squarely where it belongs, on Russia.  In this, he has aligned himself with our most loyal European allies.  Obama, on the other hand, issued the sort of vapid statement that would ingratiate him with the State Department while not requiring any distraction from his Hawaii vacation.

You decide, who would you rather have running things when stuff happens?



Sunday,  08/10/08  11:40 PM

I got a few emails from people who said they would rather have Obama than McCain as the guy in charge when stuff happens.  So be it.  These people might find it interesting to note that Obama has changed his position on the Russians in Georgia; he must have run a poll :)  Or perhaps he saw that Reuters changed the meaning of his statement, and liked their version better.

I think we're all suffering from Obama fatigue.  When there isn't much there anyway, over-exposing it isn't pretty.  The Economist's Lexington dives deeper into these waters.  "[These polls] suggest that, for all their energy and professionalism, the Democrats may have made a big strategic error: allowing the election to become a referendum on their candidate rather than a verdict on the Bush years."  Yeah, no kidding, that's it in a nutshell.  And Kerry lost for the same reason.

Today's post might be subtitled "Ole reads".  A little known fact about me, each morning I read while I shave.  The Economist is a favorite, as are Sports Illustrated, Fortune, and Bicycling; an eclectic selection.  As I encounter stuff I want to tell you about, I tear out the pages.  Sometimes I have to scan them, but usually they're online already and a simple Google away.  So here we go...

the "standard model"The other day I noted a pictorial gallery of the Large Hadron Collider, which is about to "go live".  The Economist has a nice article about what scientists are hoping to learn from this device: Known and unknown unknowns.  The known unknowns include the Higgs boson, which is part of the current particle zoom postulated by physicists known as the Standard Model, depicted at left.  The unknown unknowns are, by definition, unknown; but they may shed light on the whole model or possibly even replace it with something simpler and more complete.  That would be nice; to me, the Standard Model must be wrong because it is too complicated.  It reminds me of the various mathematical attempts to explain planetary orbits before gravity was understood.

White Knight TwoYou may have seen pictures of White Knight Two, the interesting plane designed by Scaled Composites for Virgin Galactic as a means of launching spacecraft into orbit.  Here's an interesting article about this Knight in Shining Armour, which can possibly be used for many other things as well, such as transporting 747 engines.  And interestingly Scaled Composites CEO Burt Rutan hints at possible extrapolations of the design to "much larger" airplanes.  Much, much larger...

the permission problemWe've all heard about the tragedy of the commons, wherein a common resource is exploited by a few to the detriment of the many.  But there's an inverse problem that can occur when resources are individually owned and can't be shared, particularly intellectual property.  James Surowieki takes a look at The Permission Problem, which afflicts biotech companies developing drugs, among others...  This same difficulty - getting people to cooperate for the good of all - is responsible for the prisoner's dilemma.

Dave Wiens leads Lance Armstrong in the Leadville 100Yesterday featured the Olympic Men's Road Race, but also the [in]famous Leadville 100, a mountain bike century in Colorado.  This year Lance Armstrong competed, and narrowly lost to the six-time defending champion Dave Wiens; SuperHumanMag has the story, including a nice movie and pictures.  Check it out!





gak! down...

Monday,  08/11/08  08:27 PM

Gak!  Just just just noticed that the site was down all day today, since just after midnight last night.  Yes, I do have a monitor, and yes, it faithfully reported the site went down.  But I was not paying attention; I left my house at 0-dark-hundred and spent the day driving around the desert (more on that later!)  Now that I'm back, I checked my email and noticed gak (!), we're down.  Anyway everything is back up, sorry for the disruption, and stay tuned for more about my adventures today...



(new yorker - 08/11/08 - future memories)

Monday,  08/11/08  10:52 PM


New Yorker 8/11/08 - future memories
"future memories"
(click to enlarge)


J.S.Sempe does it again...  I love it.



Monday,  08/11/08  10:57 PM

I spent the entire day in my car, reconnoitering the route for the Furnace Creek 508, the two-day cycling race across Death Valley in which I'm participating in early October.  I'm glad I did it - man, this is going to be tough! - but it was in some sense a lost day, since I didn't get anything else done.  And I have a lot to do...

One thing I was able to do in parallel was listen to the audio book version of Randy Pausch's Last Lecture.  (Thanks to my friend Nick DeNicholas for giving it to me!)  You may have heard about Randy; he was a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon who was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer.  He gave a massively popular "last lecture" at Carnegie Mellon which was taped and widely distributed, and the book is an expansion of the same theme: Really Achieving your Childhood Dreams.  So I enjoyed the book, although I didn't find it as profound as some.  It was a pleasant backdrop to driving through the desert.  it will be interesting to see if passages from the book come back to me during the race itself...

Having watched the Last Lecture itself, which was amazing, I will say the book didn't quite capture the same spirit.  Somehow the lecture was funnier and higher-spirited.  The book was more serious; a bit too much like a lecture :)

If you've been following the news about Russia and Georgia without understanding what's going on, Powerline helpfully posted a primer.  It still isn't clear what we should do, or even if there is much we can do about it.

Olympic Blue Screen of DeathI watched the Olympics' Opening Ceremony with awe and amazement, but I didn't see the Olympic Blue Screen of Death.  Did you?  I love it... I understand Bill Gates was there, so he no doubt saw it, but he was probably disappointed that it was an XP BSOD, and not the much more attractive Vista BSOD :)

Steve Jobs presentingCult of Mac reveals The secret of Steve Jobs' presentation technique...  (and you thought it was the black turtlenecks :)

The always-interesting Paul Graham shares A Fundraising Survival Guide.  "Customers don't care how hard you worked, only whether you solved their problems [and] raising money from investors is harder than selling to customers, because there are so few of them."

Ann Althouse says Goodbye to Podcasting.  So be it, she isn't the only one.  I think the fact that you can't easily skim podcasts makes them far less useful than blog posts.  There is no equivalent for an RSS feed...

Dave Barry covers the Olympics.  [ via Doc Searles, who notes "and the world is made more laughable" ]



Tuesday,  08/12/08  08:35 PM

Whew, spent the day heads' down, working on two negative time projects...  and also made time to document my Furnace Creek 508 reconnaissance from yesterday, stay tuned for that...  and probably spurred on by the knowledge that the 508 is going to be harder than I thought, I did a nice hard training ride today.  Felt good.

Okay, let's make a filter pass on the world...

From Judy at her JustEnjoyHim blog (which has transitioned from a blog about being a mother to an adopted child to a blog about being a breast cancer survivor): "Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle. ~ Plato".  I like that.  A lot.

Salon hosts Kathleen Hall Jamieson, who discusses Who's winning the message war, Obama or McCain?  A really well balanced thoughtful take...  bottom line is Obama was winning, but McCain has turned the tide.  Interesting that each candidate is trying to make the election a referendum on the other candidate.

Nordstrom opening at Oaks mallSo this is the big news around here: Nordstrom opening in three weeks.  Really big news.

the Higgs bosonIf you're interested in the Large Hadron Collider or particle physics, you might want to know What is the Higgs Boson?  Every time I read about particle physics I'm reminded of I.I.Rabi; upon hearing of the discovery of the neutrino he asked "who ordered that?"

Scott Adams, author of Dilbert and blogger, delivers a trip report on Turtle Bay, Fiji.  "One of the guests reported seeing a couple that was about to leave the island, sitting on the beach weeping. I didn't understand that until it was our turn to leave. We wept too."  Wow, sounds fantastic, when can I go?

$750M mansion in VillefranceDid you see this?  A mystery buyer paid $750 million for a house in Villefrance, overlooking the Cote d'Azur.  Wow.  I knew I was priced out of this market, but I didn't think I was that far out.

TTAC notes GM's Olympian Hype, regarding the vaporware Chevy Volt for which they are actually running ads during the Olympics.  It seems really weird that they would advertise a car they cannot sell yet, and maybe cannot make ever.  Seems like the ads are targeting investors rather than customers; a strange practice.  Note that the Volt is already three years late, and it doesn't even exist yet.

John Gruber: Why Apple doesn't do concept products.  Ha.  The linked article ends with Kontra's Law: "A commercial company’s ability to innovate is inversely proportional to its proclivity to publicly release conceptual products."

And tying these two together, we have Steve Jobs on concept cars.  "You know how you see a show car, and it’s really cool, and then four years later you see the production car, and it sucks? And you go, What happened? They had it! They had it in the palm of their hands! They grabbed defeat from the jaws of victory!"  This would happen with the Volt if it ever exists...

pics of Enceladus from CassiniWe have the first closeup pictures of Saturn's moon Enceladus from Cassini: "Cassini's first-of-a-kind sharp shooting over the south polar terrain of Enceladus to image the unusual geology there was a dazzling success, capturing, at close range, several of the 'tiger stripe' fractures that cross the south pole."  Excellent!

Olympic time trial women's podiumOlympic time trial men's podiumAnd last but not least, congratulations to Fabian Cancellara and Kristin Armstrong, who won the men's and women's Olympic cycling time trials today.  They were each the odds-on favorite, and they each came through.  Levi Leipheimer got the bronze for the men, too, edging his Astana teammate Alberto Contador.



Furnace Creek 508 recon

Tuesday,  08/12/08  09:38 PM

Monday I spent the entire day in my car, reconnoitering the route for the Furnace Creek 508, the two-day cycling race across Death Valley in which I'm participating in early October.  If you're ever thinking of riding in the 508, do yourself a big favor and drive the route beforehand yourself.  You cannot possibly imagine the distances, heat, desolation, climbs, or beauty without actually being there.

[ Update 8/8/30 - BIG TIME thanks to Chris Kostman, Mr. 508 himself, Chief Adventure Officer and 508 Race Director, who kindly pointed out a number of errors and omissions.  I've incorporated his feedback (of course the responsibility for remaining errors remains mine). ]

Before launching into detail, a few impressions.  First, the distances are immense, even in a car.  I've ridden a lot of double centuries, but this is something else entirely.  Second, there is a lot of nothing out there.  You will go for mile after mile without seeing any signs of human civilization.  You must have adequate food, water, tubes, etc. with you...  or in your nearby support vehicle.  For large portions of this route there is no cell signal.  Communication with your SAG must be via walkie-talkies and/or by having them nearby.  Everyone (rider+SAG) has to plan bathroom breaks, fuel and food, sleeping, etc.


Resources - maps, links, etc.
Overview of the Route - three main parts
Stage 1 - Santa Clarita to California City (82 miles, 6,176 feet)
Stage 2 - California City to Trona (70 miles, 4,212 feet)
Stage 3 - Trona to Furnace Creek (99 miles, 7,538 feet)
Stage 4 - Furnace Creek to Shoshone (73 miles, 6,744 feet)
Stage 5 - Shoshone to Barker (56 miles, 2,186 feet)
Stage 6 - Baker to Kelso (35 miles, 2,920 feet)
Stage 7 - Kelso to [almost] Amboy (34 miles, 2,280 feet)
Stage 8 - Amboy to 29 Palms (58 miles, 4,170 feet)
Projected Schedule
Final Thoughts...


508 Maps and Route description - PDF document
508 Route in Google Maps - web browser map display
508 Route in Google Earth - Google Earth KMZ file

A great write-up from a SAG perspective, from Matty J.  Also check out his blog.

Overview of the Route

The route is divided into eight stages, separated by "time stations".  If you are riding in a team, the time stations are where you switch active riders.  Here's an overall profile of the route:

Furnace Creek 508 route profile
Furnace Creek 508 route profile
(click to enlarge)

And here's the Google Maps view of the entire route:

Furnace Creek 508 - overall route map
Furnace Creek 508 - overall route map
(click to launch Google Maps)

After driving the route, it seems like it breaks into three main parts - everything before climbing into Death Valley, Death Valley itself (including the two major climbs, one in, and one out), and everything after Death Valley.  Here is an overview of those three parts:

508 route profile - part 1, everything before Death Valley
Furnace Creek 508 - part 1 - everything before Death Valley
(click to enlarge)

There are some climbs in this section, but mostly it is long rolling sections through desert.  The Windmills climb is notable for, well, wind, but since riders will be relatively fresh at this point, it won't be too bad.  The climb into Randsburg is gnarly, steep and desolate.  But the defining feature of this part is the long distances, particularly after Trona, where you just go mile after mile after mile through the upper desert, until finally you reach the turn at the end of the Panamint Valley that takes you up to the Townes Pass.

508 route profile - part 2, Death Valley including climb in and climb out
Furnace Creek 508 - part 2 - Death Valley, including climb in and climb out
(click to enlarge)

This section is - ta da - Death Valley, punctuated by a long steep climb coming in, followed by a descent, and a long steep climb going out, followed by a descent.  Fortunately for the heat the ride sets up so that you'll be in Death Valley at night, but unfortunately you won't be able to experience the beauty; another reason to drive the route beforehand :).

508 route profile - part 3 - everything after Death Valley
Furnace Creek 508 - part 3 - everything after Death Valley
(click to enlarge)

This section will seem endless - all that riding through the Mojave National Preserve - but at least you'll know you're on the final lap.  The climb into Kelso was long but not that steep (easy to say from a car), I suspect the last climb to Sheephole Summit will seem really hard after so much riding, but it wasn't too bad.  The biggest problem for this section might be heat, since that whole section through Mojave will be in the middle of the day Sunday.

Stage 1 - Santa Clarita to California City (82 miles, 6,176 feet)

The start, a long stage with two climbs, a nice canyon ride, and lots of flat pounding through the desert:

508 - stage 1 - route map
Stage 1 - route map

508 - stage 1 - profile
Stage 1 - profile

This stage is the start stage; if you're riding as a team, the whole team starts together.  The Hilton Garden Inn is right next to Magic Mountain, and the I5 freeway; it feels pretty different to most of the rest of the ride :)  SAG vehicles have to drive on ahead and meet their rider at the 24 mile mark before beginning "leapfrogging" from the rest of the stage.  The first five miles are through the bedroom communities along the North edge of Santa Clarita, then there's a left turn and poof you're in Santa Francisquito Canyon. 

San Francisquito Canyon takes about twenty miles, up and down, mostly up as you climb about 2,000 feet.  This is a good road, and not too busy - should be a nice part of the ride.

At the end of the canyon there's a nice descent down into the Mojave Desert; you turn right at "the Lakes" and soon find yourself in the middle of flat desert, with nothing but oil derricks.

Next up is 20 miles of flat.  These are quiet roads in pretty good condition.  The only problem might be heat, as the day warms up, and a headwind which builds as you approach the mountains to the North.  And boredom...

the view North on 110th Street, heading toward the Windmills
(click to enlarge)

Next you come to the "Windmills" climb.  This is about 1,000 feet, and not too steep, but there is a reason they put windmills here!  You will likely have a stiff headwind all the way up.  The only compensation is the 1,000 foot descent on the other side, for which you'll have a nice tailwind :)  Both the climb and the descent are about 10 miles.

(click to enlarge)

The descent gets you heading East, right at Mojave.  You'll skirt the West edge, and [unfortunately] won't be able to see much of the famous "aircraft graveyard" at Mojave airport.  The race organizers are trying to keep the riders away from all the truck traffic in Mojave, which is commendable, but still the airport is cool...

the Mojave aircraft graveyard
(click to enlarge)

That leaves about 15 miles of somewhat-downhill somewhat-tailwind through the desert to California City.  This will not be fun as it will now be HOT, and the scenery is rather unexceptional.  In the picture below you can see the giant Toyota test track (it dwarfs Mojave airport, which is pretty giant too), but you won't be able to see either from the ride.

Cal City itself is a nice bedroom community and feels very spread out.

The time station is pretty much on the corner, by that little building; cars park in the dirt lot indicated above, on your right just after turning left on Neutralia Ave.  There are plenty of facilities here for buying fuel, food, water, etc. - stock up!

Stage 2 - California City to Trona (70 miles, 4,212 feet)

This stage features more climbing than you might think from looking at the profile, and a lot of desert rollers.  Also it is going to be HOT during much of this ride.  At least the landscape becomes more interesting as it goes along...

508 - stage 2 route map
Stage 2 - route map

508 - stage 2 profile
Stage 2 - profile

The stage starts with a straight shot on a flat desert road due North, for about 10 miles.  In the picture below you can see the Honda test track, and this you will be able to see from the ride, since you go right by it.

Just before reaching Route 14 you turn right, and then it is another 15 miles of flat desert road, with rock quarries all around.  The "flat" might be deceptive as there are rollers here, it gets progressively more difficult as you ride East.

desert rollers
(click to enlarge)

The climb up to Randsburg is worse than it looks on the profile; it is about 1,500 feet, but it gets progressively steeper.  The landscape in the canyon you climb is oppressive, it looks like you're entering a rock quarry or something, there are zero plants.  The road surface seemed pretty good, fortunately, although it might get sticky in the heat.

Randsburg is a weird place in the middle of nowhere.  It feels desolate and friendly all at the same time; many of the buildings look abandoned, yet it doesn't feel like the place is dying.  Anyway so you turn left upon entering the town, leave it, and enter serious roller territory.

downtown Randsburg
(click to enlarge)

After riding through the hills North of Randsburg, you come to Route 395 and get on it heading South for a few miles - watch out for trucks!  You ride through Johannesburg (which despite proximity feels nothing like Randsburg, it is modern and uninteresting), and then after a few miles turn left onto Trona Road.  And enter the twilight zone...

Trona Road winds through the mountains, going up and down and left and right for about 15 miles until you come to Route 178.  I encountered more traffic than you might think, especially truck traffic, and the road surface is pretty lousy.  This is going to be a tough section, but it is pretty interesting; each turn seems to bring a new view.

Wagon Wheel rock formation alongside Trona Road
(click to enlarge)

After turning right onto Route 178, the road improves and begins descending, and for about 15 miles you have rollers which are up and down but more down, until finally you descend into the Searles Valley.  There is one really nice fast descent of about 2 miles right after you turn North, with the whole Searles Valley laid out in front of you, including Searles Lake.  At the end of the descent there is a bike path next to the road, but it is in disrepair and I would simply ride the shoulder.

Trona has a long and interesting history, but from the main road it seems to be one giant chemical factory, with railways and quarries for decoration.  (Trona is a chemical used to make Sodium Carbonate which is found in Lake Searles.)  The town is in on the Lake Searles playa and is surrounded by pinnacles and other odd rock formations.  The road through the town is straight, wide, and in good shape.  There are quite a few trucks puffing along, though, be careful.

Time Station #2 is opposite a gas station in a dirt field.  The gas station will be important, as it is the last place to get gas and supplies for a long time; given that you'll be riding through Death Valley at night there is nothing open at all.  You basically have to plan that Baker will be the next time you can replenish.

Stage 3 - Trona to Furnace Creek (99 miles, 7,538 feet)

This is definitely the "queen stage" of the whole ride, with plenty of rollers, long flats through the desert, a massive climb, and a massive descent at the end down into Death Valley.  And much of it will be ridden in the dark, whew.  Not to mention an uneven road surface through the Panamint Valley (quite a bit of it has been repaved, but the shoulder is lumpy).

508 - stage 3 route map
Stage 3 - route map

508 - stage 3 profile
Stage 3 - profile

Heading out of Trona, you are on a straight road with a few rollers, heading for some hills off in the distance.

the road North from Trona
(click to enlarge)

The climb into the Panamint Valley (ka "the Panamint Bump") is nontrivial, with some rather steep sections interspersed with brief descents.  The road has been resurfaced recently here, fortunately.  There is no shoulder in places, and the road is narrow.  There continued to be a surprising amount of traffic (at least in the middle of the day, a rider would likely encounter less as it is getting dark...)

climbing the Panamint Bump into the Panamint Valley
(click to enlarge)

a Panoramic view of the Panamint Valley, looking North
(click to enlarge)

After climbing through the mountains there's a windy [reasonably] fast descent, and then lots and lots of straight rollers through the desert, mile after mile, for about 20 miles.

mile after mile of straight nothing, just rolling up and down
(click to enlarge)

When you come to Panamint Valley road, bear left, don't continue on 178 up to Wildrose.  In the dark this will be an easy mistake to make, as well as a bad one :)  The road will continue on for another 15 miles or so before coming to Route 190.  There's a great sign, Lone Pine is 53 miles to the left, and Furnace Creek is 53 miles to the right.  Yeah, 53 more miles.

After the turn you will see big mountains rising dead ahead (or you would, if it wasn't dark, maybe that's a good thing :).  And at the top of those mountains is the Townes Pass.  This is the biggest climb in the whole ride, about 10 miles at 6%, I would say, with some sections over 10%.  The summit is at 4,956 feet, the high point of the ride.  It is going to take well over an hour to climb this, maybe nearing two.  Compounding the difficulty it will probably be cold at night, too.  At least the surface is good!

the approach to the Townes Pass; some objects are further than they appear
(click to enlarge)

average of 6% for 13 miles, with some sections over 10%; wow
(click to enlarge)

After cresting Townes Pass (yay!) there is a long, long descent all the way down to Stovepipe Wells.  If you had to climb this going the other way it would be the toughest climb in the ride, but you don't :)  Instead you have a winding 7% grade for about 17 miles all the way from nearly 5,000' down to sea level, in the dark.  Stay alert and have good headlights!

Stovepipe Wells - in daylight...
(click to enlarge)

Stovepipe Wells - at night, the way you'll see it...
(click to enlarge)

Elevation zero!

And finally the stage wraps up with a relatively flat section through the North end of Death Valley, from Stovepipe Wells to Furnace Creek.  (There is a good little climb past the Scotty's Castle turn-off.)  This is a beautiful area but you probably won't be able to appreciate it at night, barring a full moon...  to the right is an area called Devil's Cornfield, featuring weird sand sculptures that look a bit like corn, and to the left are the famous Death Valley dunes.  The road is wide and in good condition, with a nice shoulder.

the Devil's Cornfield - off to the right of the road
(click to enlarge)

the famous Death Valley dunes - on your left as you leave Stovepipe Wells
(click to enlarge)

the road down to Furnace Creek
(click to enlarge)

Finally after 100 miles you arrive in Furnace Creek, probably in the dead of night.  There will not be any facilities here, so you'll have to bring food, water, ice, etc. with you.  It is possible to get "pay at the pump" gas all night to feed your SAG vehicles.

Furnace Creek history on display - may not see much at night, though
(click to enlarge)

Time Station #3 is just past the campground in a dirt lot next to the Chevron Station on the right just after the Visitor's Center.  If you come to the Furnace Creek Inn, you've missed it.  (An early version of this report had the TS in the wrong place; please see aerial view above for the correct location.)

Stage 4 - Furnace Creek to Shoshone (73 miles, 6,744 feet)

This is the second-toughest stage, long, ridden at night, and featuring the second-toughest climb and the second-longest descent.  The roads at the South end of Death Valley are pretty crummy, too, adding to the fun.  On the other hand this is the halfway point, after this it is all downhill, at least in terms of mileage :)

508 - stage 4 route map
Stage 4 - route map

508 - stage 4 profile
Stage 4 - profile

The stage begins with about 20 miles of rollers from Furnace Creek to Badwater.  Just after leaving Furnace Creek you reach Badwater Road and turn right,. following Route 178 (Route 190 heads East into the mountains)...  at this point the road gets considerably worse.

the Badwater flats, looking South from the hills to the East
(click to enlarge)

the Badwater salt flats, closeup in the moonlight
(click to enlarge)

Badwater is the low point of the ride, nearly 300 feet below sea level.  (In fact it is the low point of any ride, being the lowest spot in North America :)  It can get really hot here, but fortunately it will be early in the morning when you ride through here.  From Badwater you continue on South on a pretty flat road for another 15 miles, before turning to the East to begin the climb up to Jubilee Pass.  The road seems worse after passing Badwater, lots of ruts and potholes.

After turning onto Jubilee Pass road, the climb begins, gradually at first and working up to 6-7% in places.  After about 5 miles you reach Jubilee Pass (1,285 feet) and then get a brief respite; a descent for about a mile.  Then the road kicks up again and winds through the mountains for another 9 miles to Salsberry Pass (3,315 feet), the grade here is about 5%.  From there you descend for about 15 miles gradually down into Shoshone.  The road gets better after the Salsberry Pass and is fine down the descent.

After the descent on Route 178 it joins Route 127 and you turn South, reaching Shoshone in a couple of miles.  Yay.  There isn't much to Shoshone, if you're going too fast you might miss it :)

Time Station #4 is located on the right, just after a Chevron station.  Depending on when you arrive in the morning, services may be available here (food, etc.), but you should probably plan to make it all the way to Baker.  There is "pay at the pump" gas available all night.

Stage 5 - Shoshone to Barker (56 miles, 2,186 feet)

If there's an easy stage in this race, this is it; one gradual climb up to the Ibex Pass, and then a long, long descent down into Baker.  When I drove through there was even a tailwind, YMMV.  There are a few rollers but the road is mostly flat and in good shape.  There may be some traffic.

508 - stage 5 route map
Stage 5 - route map

508 - stage 5 profile
Stage 5 - profile

The stage begins with about 5 miles of flat, and then there's a false flat / climb up to the Ibex Pass over the next 5 miles or so.  There are a lot of abandoned mines in this area, and as the sun comes up you might be able to look around and enjoy them!

looking South on Route 127 - the road to the Ibex Pass
(click to enlarge)

After the Ibex pass it is all downhill to Baker - about 40 miles of rolling descent.  Enjoy it while you can :)  That is not a misprint by the way, you will be descending for over two hours - although it won't be coasting, you will have to pedal.  Whew.

the "famous" Baker thermometer, "the largest in the world"
(click to enlarge)

Baker is the ONLY chance to stock up on gas, food, water, etc. before the finish; there is nothing in Kelso or Amboy.  It is a cute little town on Interstate 15, billing itself as "the gateway to Death Valley".  Much of the town feels 1950s-ish.

the "world famous" Mad Greek restaurant (across from Time Station #5)
(click to enlarge)

Time Station #5 is on the right, a paved lot across from the Mad Greek restaurant, pretty much in the center of Baker (just before reaching Interstate 15).

Stage 6 - Baker to Kelso (35 miles, 2,920 feet)

This is the first of two short stages in and out of the Mojave National Preserve - all desert.  You will climb 2,000 feet gradually over 25 miles, then descend for about 10 miles into Kelso.

508 - stage 6 route map
Stage 6 - route map

508 - stage 6 profile
Stage 6 - profile

You go straight South from Baker on Route 127; the road here is straight and flat, the surface is good.  There are volcanic cones along the climb to the left, and mountains to the right with mining ruins (Kelso is an old mining town).  It is going to be hot and getting hotter.

looking South from Baker on Route 127 - Kelso in the distance...
(click to enlarge)

The descent down into Kelso is gradual, flat, and straight...  Kelso is nearly abandoned, an old mining town on the railroad now sustained by tourists; there is an outstanding National Monument Visitor's Center.

the [restored] Kelso Hotel, along the railroad tracks
(click to enlarge)

Time Station #6 is on the right, just after crossing over the railroad tracks.  There are basically no facilities in Kelso, plan on having enough gas, food, water etc. to make it to the finish from here.

Stage 7 - Kelso to [almost] Amboy (34 miles, 2,280 feet)

The shortest stage but not the easiest, with a grueling climb out from Kelso and then a long fast descent down to Amboy.

508 - stage 7 route map
Stage 7 - route map

508 - stage 7 profile

The climb out from Kelso into the Granite Mountains is about 2,000 feet spread over 15 miles; a gradual but continuous ascent.  It should be nice and hot for this stage, mid afternoon on Sunday.  (Well, depending on your schedule; some riders will get here in the dark...)  The road quality is good.  The Granite Mountains are interesting and present a different look to the other mountains in the area, which is good because you'll be looking at them for a long time...

the Granite Mountains
(click to enlarge)

The descent from the Granite Mountain summit down into Amboy is pretty steep, losing 3,000 feet over the course of 20 miles, with some sections of rough road.  This is going to flash by after the long climb up to the Granite summit.

Time Station #7 is on the right just before you reach the National Trails Highway (formerly known as Route 66)!

Stage 8 - Amboy to 29 Palms (58 miles, 4,170 feet)

The final stage, and it isn't easy; at this point in a two-day adventure it will feel brutally long, and there is a decent amount of climbing, with a fairly steep ascent in the middle and then a long false flat to the finish.

508 - stage 8 route map
Stage 8 - route map

508 - stage 8 profile
Stage 8 profile

You start by passing through Amboy, which is a shell of its former self when it was a way station on Route 66.  Some real Americana here...  There are no services available in Amboy.  Be careful not to miss the left turn after leaving Amboy, Route 66 is cool, but finishing the 508 is cooler!

Shoe tree along Route 66

Roy's Motel and Cafe in Amboy - a Route 66 landmark
(click to enlarge)

Heading South from Amboy, you go for about 20 miles due South through the desert before coming to the climb up to Sheephole Summit.  Even in a car this seemed like a long way.  The ascent is about 8 miles, at about 5%, getting somewhat steeper at the top.

some amazing salt flats along the way South of Amboy
(click to enlarge)

After cresting Sheephole Summit there's a steep descent down the other side, over about 5 miles.  At the bottom of the descent the road turns West and heads across the desert to 29 Palms.

Now you have 20 miles straight West, with a slight grade upward, and [possibly] a headwind.  This is going to seem like it takes forever...  Yuk.  The road is straight as an arrow with rollers, the surface is not very good until you get near 29 Palms where it has been recently resurfaced.

Finally as you get into civilization (!) you turn left onto Utah Trail, and then right onto 29 Palms Highway.  After about 5 miles through the town of 29 Palms, you turn left on Panorama Avenue and reach the FINISH.  If you are riding as a team, the whole team can finish together.  Congratulations!

The finish is at the Best Western Hotel on Panorama Avenue, under the awning at the front door.

Projected Schedule

I've modeled a likely schedule for riding the 508, based on a given average speed.  The model is contained in this spreadsheet in case you're interested, and here is a summary:

You can see that an average of 13mph would yield an overall ride time of 39 hours, which means you'd finish at around 10:00PM on Sunday evening.  The times are significant because of temperature and light; Stage 2 will be hot, Stage 3 will be cold and dark, Stage 4 will be colder and darker, Stages 6 and 7 will be hot, and Stage 8 will get cooler and darker...

Final Thoughts...

The overall ride is much harder than I thought.  Not only is it 508 miles, but there is a lot of climbing, and a lot of rollers when the road isn't climbing.  For large portions of the ride the surface is not very good.  It will be hot during the day, and cold at night.  The physical challenge is significant.

However there is also a non trivial psychological challenge; keeping your head in the game for such long distances.  Riding 20 miles across desert is not the same as riding 20 miles in town, with interesting stuff to hold your visual interest; there are long stretches of desert, seemingly mile after mile of similarity...  You can often see the endpoint way off in the distance; so you'll be riding for hours looking at the road stretch on ahead into the horizon.  It might be hard to remain focused and find a mental zone which will allow these long distances to be traversed.  Still I haven't done it - yet - so I'm open to the possibility that there will be a lot more variety on a bike than there was in a car.  Nobody who has ridden the race has ever called it boring!



Wednesday,  08/13/08  10:02 PM

Heads down today, working...  I put my three-hour rule into effect - for about ten hours.  It was great, I got a lot done.  Every once in a while I have to remind myself how important dedicated time is for certain types of work - like programming...

Remember my exercise about predicting bugs?  Well, it gave me an answer, but not the answer I wanted.  I am always telling people "in business, you have to be honest", as in, don't kid yourself.  Now I have to eat my own words, and they do not taste good :(

drink coffee!Ignore this!

Before you click, take a guess; who's worth more, Google or Apple?  Not only are their market caps similar - surprisingly - but so are their P/Es....

a Tesla in the wildTTAC finds a Tesla in the wild...  and finds it to be quick.

Jeff Atwood shares secrets of the JavaScript Ninjas.  "JavaScript now works. Just look around you on the web."  Point taken.  I don't think it is great for everything however, even the slickest AJAX GUIs are a bit klunky and slow when compared to a native app.



solitude and lunacy

Wednesday,  08/13/08  10:12 PM




solitude ...




... and ...




... lunacy




Thursday,  08/14/08  10:08 PM

So what do we-all think of NBC's coverage of the Olympics?  It is fashionable to criticize them, on the grounds that they 1) show only a few "main" sports, 2) show only U.S. athletes, 3) do too many "human interest" spots, and 4) show too many commercials.  I guess this is true on all fronts, but I haven't been that bothered and actually have quite enjoyed the coverage so far.  First I have to say, once you've seen sports in HD you are not going to watch them any other way; it is wonderful to see everything in HD (with 5.1 sound, too!, although for sports sound isn't as crucial).  And then I have to add, once you've used Tivo for an event like this, you are not going to watch "live" ever again.  As far as the points above, 1) showing "main" sports is mitigated by the video streams on the NBC website (requiring Silverlight was a bit obnoxious but now that I've got it, I love seeing, say, the Laser racing (sailing) even though it isn't covered in the broadcasts, 2) the U.S.-centricity is a problem, but again, it is mitigated by the video streams, 3) human interest spots, what human interest spots (he says, clicking the 30-second skip button on his Tivo remote), and 4) commercials, what commercials (he says clicking some more).  So net net I've enjoyed the Olympics a lot.  The announcers seem good and the video coverage has been excellent.  Those super-slow-motion replays of gymnastics, for instance, are really cool.

Nastia LiukinAnd by the way I love the Nastia Liukin story, with her father being a ex-Russian champion and all that...  and she is really good.  Her kind of gymnastics - emphasizing style - appeals to me more than the Shawn Johnson / Chinese style which emphasizes athleticism.

One more thing - as the father of four girls, including one who is 11 and one who is 15, there is no way at all that those Chinese girls are 16.  You can argue about whether having younger kids on the team should be illegal - after all, they are great gymnasts, apparently, regardless of how old they are - but you can't argue they are 16.

[Update: I am reminded that Nadia Comanici was 14 when she won gold...]

TP52 rock and rollRock and Roll!  Sailing Anarchy posted this wonderful video showing a TP52 blasting along...  and of course the excellent Led Zep sound track is just okay, too.

This is kind of cool; HealthImaging reports on a study which shows 3D JPEG2000 compression "works" for radiology images.  Garden variety 2D JPEG2000 has been used in digital pathology from day one, because of the large file sizes and the need to reduce data for remote viewing performance, and as 3D scanning becomes more routine (capturing multiple Z-layers) 3D compression will be needed.

Typepad Camtasia-ed bug reportThis applies to .001% of you, but in case you have a Typepad blog you've probably noticed their "new composer" sucks.  It is slow, buggy, and tries to out-think the blogger with frustrating results.  I will say that Six Apart is listening and they respond to every email and trouble ticket.  Today I found a great way of giving them bug reports; I record myself blogging with Camtasia, digest the result into a Flash movie, and email it to them.






the ceremony

Thursday,  08/14/08  10:12 PM

the ceremony


(If you have to ask, please don't :)



Friday,  08/15/08  09:32 PM

Bloggin' while watchin' the Olympics tonight - good stuff.  I'm enjoying them quite a lot, aided by HD and Tivo.  That followed a nice evening ride, illuminated by a full moon; my new "usual" route up Decker Canyon and around Encinal Canyon.  (That dry run of the Furnace Creek 508 route last Monday has given me impetus for harder training rides :)

the "I am rich" iPhone applicationThe notorious "I am Rich" iPhone application, discussed in the Economist.  As an entre to a discussion about the tension [for Apple and iPhone developers] between openness and control.  { In case you don't know, this application, which costs $999, serves only to show the world "I am rich" (or perhaps I am stupid :) }

Beijing smogHere's a rather negative take on the Beijing Olympics, seen through the eyes of the Economist's correspondents.  I guess this could be considered the "view from backstage"; watching NBC of course one is in the intended audience, safely hidden from the gory details.  It is true that China's image as an authoritarian regime has been reinforced rather than changed by the games.  Still the spectacle is amazing, all the construction done on those cool new venues, and the impressive organization.

I can't figure out what Six Apart is doing with  Some kind of blog directory?

The Treo Pro cometh!  So be it. Nice-to-have features: WiFi, quad band (use it anywhere!), 100MB, and a microUSB connector.  I am still loving my Centro!

iMac gallery
Happy 10th Birthday to the iMac!
(I've owned one of each :)


full lunacy

Friday,  08/15/08  10:30 PM




full lunacy




Relay for Life

Sunday,  08/17/08  09:32 PM

Relay for LifeYesterday and through this morning (!)  I joined Team Aperio in participating in the National Cancer Society's Relay For Life, down in Encinitas.  It was an amazing experience.  These events celebrate cancer survivors and memorialize cancer victims, while raising money for cancer research and care for those battling cancer.  Teams representing companies or individuals relay continuously around a quarter mile track for 24 hours.  After dark the track is surrounded by luminaria, candles inside paper bags; the luminaria are each sponsored and carry messages, either congratulating cancer survivors or remembering cancer victims.  Walking along the track in the middle of the night, reading these handwritten messages was incredibly moving.  My favorite was one which began “Dear Grandma, I never knew you but have heard so much about you”.  It was signed Britta, age 8.  It really makes you realize how important our work is, and the work of our customers.

I couldn't help thinking about my father, who died twenty years ago of a brain tumor, or my friend and ex-partner Daniel Jacoby, who was similarly taken by cancer four years ago.  I thought of Randy Pausch, the "last lecture" professor, whose audio book I listened to recently.  I found myself blinking back tears, thinking of all the people - survivors, victims, caregivers, and family and friends - whose lives have been affected by this disease, the scourge of our time.  I'm tearing up right now just typing these words, recalling how I felt, and thinking of all those affected today and tomorrow.  It really brings home how important Aperio's work really is, and the work of our customers.

Relay for Life: luminaria commemorating survivors and victims line the track
...the long and winding road...



Sunday,  08/17/08  09:47 PM

Spent most of today asleep (!) after the Relay for Life yesterday and this morning; woke up at 3:00PM, and vegged the rest of the day in front of the TV, watching the Olympics.  I couldn't even muster enough energy for a ride.  Not necessarily my most productive day :)

The Economist's increasingly liberal bent on display: Taking on Terrorists.  This makes me so sad; there was a day, not too long ago, when the Economist set itself apart from the MSM by being relatively apolitical.  And they still are relatively apolitical, as Time and Newsweek (and U.S. News & World Report) and the rest accelerate into the trash.  But the trend is in the wrong direction :(

Kobe Bryant in BeijingI never thought I'd enjoy a Kobe Bryant interview; I was wrong, as Kobe schools NBC's Chris Collingsworth:  "Collinsworth: Is that a ‘cool’ thing to say, in this day and age? That you love your country, and that you’re fighting for the red, white and blue? It seems sort of like a day gone by(?)  Kobe: No, it’s a cool thing for me to say. I feel great about it, and I’m not ashamed to say it. I mean, this is a tremendous honor."  Excellent.  My opinions of Kobe and Chris are adjusted accordingly.

[Update: some commentors have suggested that Chris was just teeing up the question for Kobe, and upon rewatching the video of the interview, I agree.  So my opinion of Chris, formerly high, has been restored.  YMMV :]

In this context it is worth mentioning, by some accounts Kobe is the most popular athlete in the Olympic village; more in demand for pictures and autographs than even Yao Ming or Michael Phillips.

Another feel good story from Beijing: Cancer-stricken U.S. swimmer wins unexpected 'gold medal' in China.  "Although having failed to qualify for the final of the swimming competition at the Beijing Olympics, cancer-stricken U.S. swimmer Eric Shanteau won an unexpected "gold medal" from the Chinese.  He received the medal from Shanghai-based Cancer Rehabilitation Club for his fight against the disease, in the presence of 200 cancer patients from Shanghai."  Good for them.

A simple rule from Richard Wolpert for reconnecting a dropped cell conversation [ via Joi Ito ]:

  • If you dialed the other party, you redial.
  • If you received the call, you wait [semi-patiently] for them to call you back.

Pass it on...



Monday,  08/18/08  11:11 PM

Another day of eights - 8/18/08, and I notice I started this post at exactly 11:11.  FWIW :)  I rode my newish "regular" route this afternoon, up Decker Canyon and around Encinal Canyon; 30 miles with 3,000' of climbing.  That should keep me in shape...  actually I like it for the variety and beautiful views of the ocean and mountains, as well as for the roadwork.

Mark Burson and familyRegular readers may be familiar with Mark Burson, my friend and riding partner, with whom I have ridden many ultra centuries.  And you may recall my recap of the Hemet Double, in which I recounted Mark's battle back from having his hip replaced to return to form as an ultra cyclist, completing three double centuries within a year of his hip replacement surgery.  So Johnson & Johnson, which owns the company DePuy, that made Mark's artificial hip, is presently featuring Mark on their home page!  (hover over "never stop moving", and you'll see "new hip begins Dad's recovery"...)  Here's the whole article which includes a nice video.  It is a really great portrait of Mark and his family, and what they went through with Mark's surgery and recovery, but I thought this was pretty funny: "Two weeks later Mark was on his own bike and never looked back. Today he continues to ride and looks for ways to reassure other people who face joint replacement that it doesn't mean an end to their activities. "I'm like every other 'weekend warrior' with my bicycling,'" says Mark. 'I feel like I got my life back.'"  Yeah, like every other weekend warrior that rides ultra centuries :)

Jeff Jacoby points out that when it came to Iraq, Hindsight isn't 20-20.  "The prevailing wisdom 18 months or so ago was that invading Iraq had been, in retrospect, a disastrous blunder... But what if we had known then what we know now?  [Would we say] That Iraq is a pointless quagmire - or that it is a costly but winnable war, in which patience, tenacity, and smarts have a good chance of succeeding?"  I'd say the latter, but then, I said that before, too.  Maybe it isn't hindsight in general, so much as whose hindsight; for example McCain's seems a bit more accurate than Obama's :)  [ via Instapundit ]

women's value medalistsI agree with this: Salon reports 33 and Fabulous.  "The most outrageous happening [in women's gymnastics], by a long shot, was when Oksana Chusovitina won the silver medal on vault at 33 years of age...  Much has deservedly been made of Dara Torres' outstanding performance at age 41.  If 41 is old for a swimmer, 33 is ancient for a gymnast.  Chusovitina competed in her first Olympics at 17 years of age in 1992, winning a team gold.  This was the year that Shawn Johnson was born."  I saw this myself and couldn't believe it; Oksana looked like a team mom rather than a competitor.  But she did two great vaults.  I cheered for Dara - I guess we all did - and I cheered for Oksana, too.

It was also pretty cool when 38-year-old Constantina Tomescu won the women's marathon, but I guess older marathon runners are not quite as unusual as older swimmers or gymnasts.

One thing a commentator noted that I think is quite relevant; not only have training techniques improved, enabling older athletes to remain competitive longer, but financial support has improved too, such that 30- and 40- year olds can make a living as world-class athletes.  That was never the case in the past.

lego model of the birdcage stadiumlego road cycling!Here we have the 2008 Summer Games in Lego.  Wow, an incredible effort.  Nearly as difficult as building the real venues, and nearly as impressive :)  I'm absolutely sure this is the first time I've ever seen a Lego version of a cycling race; how excellent!

O'Reilly Radar highlights a practice I hate dislike intensely: linking to yourself.  You've encountered this I'm sure; you're reading a news article about company X, and you click on a link expecting to be taken to the X website, and instead get some kind of landing page on the news website with more information about company X.  Finding the actual link to X is always hard, and sometimes you even have to Google for it directly.  A short-sighted byproduct of advertising as a business model, I guess.  (Fortunately with Firefox and Adblock I never actually see the ads :)

This is so classic: ArsTechnica reports Pandora can't make money, may pull plug.  If you don't know, Pandora is a service which finds and plays new music that "sounds like" music you already know and like.  A perfect way for the music industry to get people to buy new music from new bands, right?  But instead of rewarding Pandora and other Internet broadcasters, the RIAA increased the royalties they have to pay, and now they may go out of business as a result.  The music industry are honestly a case study in stupid market management.

InfoWorld reports 1 in 3 business PCs drop Vista for XP.  Pretty amazing, isn't it?  And the other 2 out of 3 probably don't know they could do a free upgrade to XP using the Vista license.



(New Yorker - 09/25/06 - low hanging fruit)

Monday,  08/18/08  11:34 PM

low hanging fruit

... at a caveman SAG stop :)



Tuesday,  08/19/08  11:07 PM

Tonight we had a marvelous dinner with our kids; a "last supper of the summer"; they start school on Thursday.  Had a great filet with a '97 Kara's Vineyard cab which was out of this world.  (Trying, slowly, to drink through our old '97s before they turn the corner; this one was peak.)  Oh and with a tiramisu, a '55 Croft port.  I have never had a '55 anything before, it was wonderful - for a young port :)

With the Presidential race heating up (and by many accounts, now a virtual dead heat), and with VP picks on the horizon, and the conventions to follow, it is time to start watching the electoral vote tracker again.  This great site integrates across all the polls to tell you up to the minute what's going to happen.  I've heard it said there isn't one national election, there are fifty state elections, and that's how it works.  Anyway check it out, good stuff (despite the somewhat obvious Democratic bias of the webmaster :)!

BTW, the score is currently Obama 264, McCain 261.

Shawn JohnsonShawn Johnson wins goldDid you see this?  Shawn Johnson finally won a gold, on the balance beam, after four silvers.  Is she wonderful or what?  I still think Nastia Liukin is more graceful and beautiful, but Shawn's bubbly personality lights up the gym.  When she won who could help but be happy for her, Nastia included?

King Kaufman asks Why do runners 'shut it down'?  Yeah, I wondered that too... no clear answer.  It can't be that they save much energy over the last ten feet.  Has to be some kind of psychological thing, like they are showing up their opposition.  Huh.

Here we have an ode to weightlifting.  There has been zero weightlifting on NBC so far; boo.  I like it too, no difficulty scores, no judging, it is pretty binary.

What makes for a good blog?  Yeah, what?  If I only knew... :)



colored water

Wednesday,  08/20/08  11:19 PM


colorful blue lake colorful green lake
colorful red lake colorful orange lake

The 25 most colorful lakes on Earth.  Wow.  That's just about all I can say...


Wednesday,  08/20/08  11:32 PM

I am feeling Olympic tonight...  still enjoying it...  I love the uncertainty of the track events.  Sure, Usain Bolt was going to win (or was he?), but you just never know when someone will touch a hurdle, or get a slow start (or drop the baton!), or just get beaten by a virtual unknown, and poof, four years of work are gone in an instant.  Sport and especially track and field is a contrived, distilled microcosm of life.  Maybe that's why we like it?

In this connection I have to ask, how badly do we feel about Beijing's fakeness?  Sports Illustrated has an article about the lengths to which China have gone to hide reality and project a "clean, well-lighted place".  We all know about the coverup, even if we don't know exactly what is being covered up.  But how important is that?  Is the goal of the Olympics to learn the reality of the host city and country?  Or is it to experience something which is essentially artificial, this massive sporting event, given that sports themselves are a contrived, distilled microcosm of life?

Olga Korbut backflipA little more on the Olympics; Jason Kottke thinks "One of the best ways to watch the Olympics is to chase down all the references made by NBC's commentators on YouTube and watch them".  He's right; watching those old routines by Nadia Comanici (age 14), Olga Korbut, etc. is really eye-opening.  (Olga's backflip on the uneven bars [right] remains for me the single most enduring memory of Olympic gymnastics.)  They weren't as athletic as today's competitors, but the style was amazing.

Parenthetically, YouTube is amazing.  Anything you can think of - anything at all - is there.  A perfect extension to the magic of Google.

Robert Weintraub remembers when decathletes were cool.  Some people like me still think they're cool, but I agree it is no longer the marquee sport of the Olympics.  I think that happened when the U.S. athletes no longer dominated :)

You might enjoy this interesting debate between Glenn Loury and John McWhorter discussing McCain and Obama at the Saddleback Forum.  A pretty balanced analysis; that was a pretty valuable showcase for both candidates, I think.  [ via Instapundit ]

Looks like Rudy Giulani will be the keynote speaker at the Republican convention.  So be it.  Meanwhile Arnold might not make it; he's too busy fighting fires metaphorically back in California.  If he doesn't it will be too bad; I really enjoyed his speech at the 2004 convention...

Jason Kottke notes fake restaurant wins wine award.  "I named the restaurant "Osteria L'Intrepido" (a play on the name of a restaurant guide series that I founded, Fearless Critic). I submitted the fee ($250), a cover letter, a copy of the restaurant's menu (a fun amalgamation of somewhat bumbling nouvelle-Italian recipes), and a wine list. Osteria L'Intrepido won the Award of Excellence, as published in print in the August 2008 issue of Wine Spectator."  Given my own experience with the reliability of such reviews (basically, they are useless) this does not surprise me.



Thursday,  08/21/08  10:18 PM

Happy Friday, everyone!  (I have a friend who says Happy Friday every Friday, and it is infectious.  I find myself waiting for Friday so I can say it; in fact, I find myself saying it on Thursday night :) 

Look Keo pedalHad a great ride today...  I bought some new pedals, which are about 1/2 the weight of my old pedals, and either the actual difference or my mental approach because of the difference was dramatic.  I fairly flew up a couple of climbs.  Kewl!

Dutch vs U.S. in women's waterpoloSo tonight we watched the Netherlands defeat the U.S. in women's water polo.  I'm not a water polo fan, definitely not a women's water polo fan, but this was cool; the gold medal match came down to the last 30 seconds, and was decided by a single goal.  Pretty darn exciting.  As much as I root for the U.S. in most things, I found myself pulling for the underdog Dutch; they were not expected to do anything, but overperformed and beat the best team in the world.  That's what the Olympics are all about!

Another cool sport I knew nothing about until this Olympics: BMX.  You might think as a cyclist I would know about this, but I don't; yeah, I do a lot of road riding, and yeah, I do a lot of mountain biking, but BMX is quite different to both.  And it is fun to watch!  And a guy from Latvia (of all places) is the best in the world (who knew?).

Here we have the Advertising Olympics, courtesy of Slate.  That is one event I have definitely not been watching (thank you, Tivo); good luck to the competitors, but seriously, who cares...

Ecotricity wind-powered vehicleThe always excellent Inhabitat reveals the Ecotricity wind-powered vehicle.  Hard to park, but beautiful, and excellent for salt flats :)  Not to mention fast...

Did you know?  2008 is the coldest year in the 21st century (so far).  So much for global warming...

Shapeways objectShapeways: 3D printing for everyone.  How cool is this?  But Shapeways is outsourced 3D printing for everyone; I'm sure there will come a day when every household has their own 3D printer, and you make all these objects for your own use.  Seriously!

Amazon are bragging that they still have XP for sale...  Vista: "Give up!"  XP: "Never!"  Ha.  And remember, Amazon pride themselves on knowing their customers...



Friday,  08/22/08  11:03 PM

Just got back from a nice ride...  my usual route around Westlake has been interrupted by road construction, kind of fun discovering some new rides.  I'm going to be sad when the Olympics are over - what will I do late at night?  (Sleep?)

Joe BidenSo Joe Biden is Barack Obama's running mate.  So be it.  A safe choice, he's run for President himself (in 1988, and briefly earlier in the 2008 election), and presumably chosen in part because he's chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.  Among his activities Biden presided over the confirmation hearings for Clarence Thomas, while chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee; I guess we'll hear more about that...

Note: It is remarkable that the Wikipedia entry for Biden has already been updated!  Wow.

I have yet to try Microsoft's new Photosynth software, but everyone is raving about it...  This is an online tool which stitches together multiple photos taken of the same thing to create a 3D environment.  You could take a bunch of pictures of the inside of your house, for example, make a "synth" from them, and then "walk" through it.  Stay tuned...

Beijing watercube panoramaSpeaking of cool 3D representations, check out this awesome panorama taken from the 30 meter platform in the Beijing water cube.  Very cool, and the voiceover by a U.S. diving team member is a nice touch.  [ via Kottke ]

David Harsanyi: Let's chuck the drinking age.  Yeah, let's...  at least make it 18 instead of 21.

Aaron Schwartz: How to launch software.  (Really "how to launch a web application"...)  Some good thoughts here, basically he points out that a single massive launch without a good beta period is a recipe for disaster.  Of course beta testing is always a good idea, but the single massive launch does have its advantages - like getting everyone's attention.  His counter-example, GMail, isn't really a prototype for most companies because most companies aren't Google :)



introducing smokey

Saturday,  08/23/08  10:25 PM

Today our family acquired a new member; introducing Smokey:

smokey the Guinea Pig

Smokey is a baby Guinea pig, and the picture above is pretty close to actual size.  To say he is cute would be an understatement; he might be the cutest object there is; a physical embodiment of the word "fuzzball".  Especially endearing, when he is comfortable (like in this picture) he makes little low burbling noises.  In case you're wondering, Guinea pigs are not pigs, and do not come from Guinea; they are rodents, and come from the Andes.  They are however adorable little pets, and we are delighted to have Smokey join us.  Stay tuned for more :)



goodbye Beijing

Sunday,  08/24/08  09:18 AM

Beijing closing ceremonyWoke up this morning to headlines about the Olympics closing ceremony.  Last night I watched the Men's marathon, by tradition the "last event" in the Olympics, and also the 4x400 relays, which also traditionally come at the end (on "tape", kind of silly since the whole thing was delayed, but somehow the marathon was "live" and the relays were not...).  We'll watch the closing ceremony later today, I can imagine that it will match the opening ceremony for grandeur and spectacle.  

Beijing closing ceremonyI am absolutely uninterested in watching the basketball final (yay, the U.S. won the gold medal, so what) or the volleyball final (yay, the U.S. won the gold medal, so what).  Just now I'm thinking about all the sports I didn't get to see - weight lifting, for example, or the high jump, or [my favorite] the javelin throw.  Archery is an Olympic sport?  Who knew?  The only Taekwondo coverage was some guy who lost his temper and kicked a referee.  In all these sports I guess U.S. athletes weren't among the top performers so NBC didn't include them in their coverage.  We need a new rule; for sports where each match takes a long time, we only show the last ten minutes.  This would include especially volleyball and basketball in all their forms, which took inordinate amounts of time out of the coverage.

Beijing closing ceremonySo the Olympics are over, and I'm sad.  It was great fun, a once-in-four-years amazing cool thing, and now we'll have to wait until 2012 (which seems impossibly far away) for the next one.  I'm sure that one will be great fun too.  (Remember Athens?  I can - barely - but it is a distant memory...  the summer of 2004 was my first big gap in blogging so I didn't blog about it.)  You kind of wish the Olympics could go on forever, but of course if it wasn't so brief and so rare it wouldn't be what it is.

Beijing closing ceremony

Coupled with my kids going back to school, this really is the end of summer, 2008.  So be it, onward!  Goodbye, Beijing, it was amazing.






Sunday,  08/24/08  11:36 AM

Word of the day: Heisenbug.

A bug which is affected by the process of observing it, usually in an effort to get rid of it.  Examples include bugs which only show themselves in Release code, but not Debug, and timing bugs which go away when breakpoints are set or [more insidiously] when logging is activated.  In another variation they occur in the field at customer sites but not in a lab under controlled conditions.

Their possible presence leads to the Heisenbug uncertainty principle: it is never possible to be sure there are no more bugs :)

I am fighting a tenacious Heisenbug just now and wishing I could pause the universe temporarily to examine the server when an error occurs on the client.  I wonder if the developers of The Matrix began this way?

P.S. Yes of course there is a Wikipedia entry for Heisenbugs, as well as Bohrbugs, Mandelbugs, and Schroedinbugs.  And my favorite, the Stotle, “the incorrect output of a computer program that contains no bug”.


Sunday,  08/24/08  11:11 PM

Continuing the "Goodbye Beijing" theme from this morning, I'm about to watch the Olympics closing ceremony...  might be a bit anticlimactic, but then I wasn't expecting the opening ceremony to be that great, and it WOWed me.  Stay tuned for a full report :)

Today I added to my collection of full-text feeds, but with a twist.  There are some aggregation sites whose feeds link to landing pages on the aggregation site, rather than to the aggregated content.  Digg and Techmeme are both examples of this.  So I implemented filters for these feeds, which pass through the feeds largely unchanged but change the links to point directly to the aggregated content.  So now I can use Digg and Techmeme as indexes without having to click through the sites...  yay.

Myst!I am so excited about this: Myst returns on the iPhone.  (I assume it will work on my iToy as well.)  Can you remember the first time you played Myst?  I can - definitely - it was on an old Mac 6100 (the first PowerPC Mac!), at a time when CD-based games were amazing.  The graphics!  The sound!  The innovative animation!  It was really eye-opening...  and I can't wait to experience it again.

EVO n800cSo here's an interesting thing; while spelunking through old blog posts I found this one celebrating my old Compaq Evo laptop.  What's weird is that this post is from June 2003, more than five years ago, and to a first order the specs on that laptop are the same as my laptop today:  2MHz processor, 1.5GB RAM, 60GB hard drive, 100Mb ethernet, 802.11g WiFi, 15" screen at 1400x1050x32.  So PC technology has really stopped moving.  Sure I have a dual-core machine today (2x1.8MHz), with more RAM (2GB), more hard drive space (100GB), Gb ethernet, and 802.11n WiFi, but those are incremental improvements.  Interesting, especially considering the progress made in the previous five years, between 1998 and 2003.

The NYTimes thinks we've reached a turning point for touch screens.  Well, maybe.  I admit they are great for smartphones (like the Centro and more famously the iPhone), but I'm not sure about desktops or even laptops.  I can remember using a light pen, back in the day, and finding it very fatiguing.  And other than the "pinch to zoom" gesture, are they really that useful?

Easter Island observatoryThis is really cool: ten ancient observatories spied from space.  You'll see Stonehenge and Machu Picchu, but the weirdest/coolest to me is Easter Island: "Hundreds of stone statues called moai ring Chile's Easter Island in the remote Pacific Ocean. Almost all face inland, perhaps keeping watch over agricultural villages. But seven of the statues, located at an inland site known as Aku Akivi, gaze out over the ocean to a point on the horizon where the sun sets during the equinox."  That's awesome!

visualizing four dimensionsAs you think back in time to the days of the Easter Islanders, you might find yourself seeing in four dimensions.  ScienceNews links a series of videos which try to explain how you can visualize four dimensions using our three, by analogy to a "flatlander" visualizing three dimensions using only two.  Weird stuff, but pretty cool...

Astrobiology considers the possibility of Life on Titan.  "Titan, the sixth and largest moon of the planet Saturn, is thought to be made largely of ice. Some of that ice may melt during meteor impacts or in underground processes, producing “ice volcanoes” that emit a “lava” containing ammonia mixed with water.  Could tholins formed in Titan’s atmosphere react with liquid water temporarily exposed by meteor impacts or ice volcanoes to produce potentially probiotic complex organic molecules - before the water freezes?"  I can't wait to find out personally when I visit Titan myself :)

space shuttle bed for kidsTen pieces of unusually cool furniture for kids.  Wow, that's just about all I can say.  I would definitely have loved to have a Space Shuttle bed when I was a kid.  In fact, I wouldn't mind having one now, the better to dream of visiting Titan...

Yandex vs Google.  May the best engine win!

Want to speed up Firefox?  Try this.  It worked for me!  [ via razib, who reports "it worked for me" ]




Olympic BYE

Sunday,  08/24/08  11:56 PM

I watched the Olympic Closing Ceremony of the 2008 Beijing Olympics tonight, and WOW, it lived up to the promise of the opening...  really cool!  By this time I guess we're all a bit inured to the spectacle of the bird's nest stadium, and the fireworks, and the pageantry, but when you step back it really is amazing.  My favorite part of the closing was Jimmy Page of Led Zep playing whole lot of love (as part of a show within the show, introducing London as the hosts for the 2012 Olympics); one can only think that the London organizers are scrutinizing these Olympics carefully and wondering how they're ever going to live up to this.  I guess they can't, really; the best they can do is to do their best, and that will probably be pretty good (2012 will be London's third time as host, the first city to have that honor).

I actually think based on my limited knowledge of China that these Olympics did a faithful job of presenting China as China, for better or worse.  They are the largest country on Earth, with an ancient and venerable culture, in the midst of change, and the ceremonies reflected that...  pretty cool.  It was noticeable and probably not accidental that the ceremony begin well organized and structured, as the opening, but then devolved into a wilder somewhat disorganized "party"; an interesting metaphor for what is happening to China as a whole.

In case you missed it, here are some pictures taken of my TV screen, as recorded by my Tivo...  (click each to enlarge)

I guess my reaction after two weeks of watching the Opening Ceremony, all day / all night competition, and Closing Ceremony is...  WOW!



Monday,  08/25/08  11:09 PM

Happy Monday, y'all...  yes, I know, nobody says Happy Monday, sorry.  What could be less happy than a Monday, right?  Especially a Monday following the Olympics' end, and with the kids back in school. Still...

Happy Birthday!Today is my daughter Alexis' 15th birthday, so that's worth celebrating!  Happy Birthday, Alex!!  In typical teen fashion we didn't see much of her - she spent the whole day in school and with friends - but it is her birthday and we are celebrating.  Yay.

Have you ever noticed that when a company folds, the founders always say they had the right vision.  Maybe they couldn't raise money, or the market wasn't ready, or the competition was too tough, or maybe even they didn't execute, but always they still have the right vision.  It is weird, because to me most companies fail because they had the wrong vision; they thought they had a market opportunity but they didn't.  Either the value proposition wasn't there, or the dogs didn't eat the dog food.

global temperature trends, 2500 B.C. to 2008 A.D.Want some actual facts about global warming?  Then check out Global Temperature Trends 2500 B.C. to 2008 A.D.  Not quite what you expected?  Blame the mainstream media who can't be bothered to do this kind of research.  The [incredibly detailed] chart at left contains the punch line; please click to enbiggen.

I find myself completely uninterested in the Democratic Party convention now taking place in Denver.  It is dominating the news, but nothing that happens there will matter; Obama and Biden will be nominated, McCain will be attacked, and on we go in election 2008.  I refuse to blog about it further.

the Beginnings of the Space AgeJPL are hosting an awesome documentary on The Beginnings of the Space Age.  Really cool.  I love all that old equipment - much of it analog - really makes you realize how amazing it was that people were able to launch satellites into space "back then".  It is hard enough with today's technology!

Space Shuttle EndeavorSpeaking of today's technology, here's an awesome picture of the Space Shuttle Endeavor, with Earth in the background (click to enlarge).  We have come a long way...  and in many ways the space shuttles are old technology too; the epitome of our technology today would be recent unmanned spacecraft like Cassini and Huygens, and the Mars Rovers and Mars Explorer...  all that has happened in less than 50 years.  What will space technology be like 50 years from today?  The mind boggles...

Oh, and guess what?  Iran hopes to send astronaut into space.  Within ten years.  In this they join China, and others... this interesting chart shows the relative spending by Nasa compared to other countries.  So far Iran is not even on the list, but good luck with that!

Henny makes beat with Beatmaker!Russell Beattie notes the missing iPhone apps are appearing, and gives an example: Henny makes beat on the iPhone 3G using beatmaker.  You have to see this video to believe it...  not only for the coolness of the app, but for the complexity; who knew such a program could even exist?  There is a whole world out there - many whole worlds - which are so different to mine.

motion blur...Here we have 45 beautiful motion blur photos.  Yes they are artistically blurred... and they are beautiful, all right...

Finally, if you haven't said goodbye to the Beijing Olympics yet, Jason Kottke links to a bunch of great photos, including the Big Picture at the Boston Globe.  For me, I'm Olympic-ed out, so I'm not even going to copy one here, but please click away if you're interested...




early Phelps

Monday,  08/25/08  11:15 PM


Michael Phelps childhood photo



Tuesday,  08/26/08  11:41 PM

Long day today... up with the moon (0400), drove down to Vista, many meetings (it's all happening), bike ride (brief, up and down the beach from Carlsbad to Camp Pendleton), working dinner (release planning), drove home, blogged about it.

I mentioned earlier that I didn't think the DNC convention was blogworthy, as nothing was going to happen there.  Guess I was wrong, Obama has dropped three points since the convention started.  Who ordered that?

SmokeySo I mentioned we have a Guinea pig puppy?  Well this little guy talks a lot... and it turns out, they can really communicate.  He really seems to enjoy human attention; when you walk in, he starts chatting, and when you pick him up, he either "weeks" (I'm not happy) or "burbles" (I'm happy).  Way cute.

Sign of the times: the homeowners know the truth in California.  "California’s free-falling home prices sparked a fourth straight month of year-over-year sales gains during July, the California Association of Realtors reported Monday.  Median sales prices were down a record 40.3 percent from July 2007, CAR reported. ‘Deeply discounted, distressed sales continue to drive volume in many regions of the state."  This on a blog called the housing bubble, the existence of which is a real sign of the times...

So, if you're stuck using Vista, here are some workarounds for common annoyances.  Man, some people are trying so hard...



Wednesday,  08/27/08  10:47 PM

Suddenly the Olympics seem like they were so long ago!  Weird.  Did you know the U.S.Open is being played right now?  Yeah, me neither.  And now that I do know, I don't care.

Katrina victims' illiteracy hampers recovery.  Here's the subhead: "More than 40 percent of New Orleans adults lack the literacy skills to comprehend basic government forms. And Hurricane Katrina recovery programs have done little to ease the burden."  Get that?  It isn't their fault, because the government's programs haven't fixed the problem.  Wow.  Reading the article we get more victimology: "I didn't get a lot of school when I was a child. I guess they didn't have enough to go around."  See, there's always a they, and it is always their fault.  Ridiculous.

Alberto ContadorAre you ready for the Vuelta de Espana (Tour of Spain)?  It starts this weekend, of course...  Look for Team Astana to dominate, led by Alberto Contador (at right).  With Levi Leipheimer and Andreas Kloden, and with Denis Menchov and Cadel Evans not participating, they could sweep the podium.  This is the first year of the last three where I didn't have plans to visit Spain in September; I'm going to miss it!

More cycling: How Google Earth helped Kristin Armstrong win a gold medal.

Red digital movie cameraInteresting story in Wired about the new Red digital movie camera.  Developed by Jim Jannard, previously the founder of Oakley sunglasses, this camera shoots movies at 30fps with 4K x 2K resolution, good enough to be compared to analog film.  The cameras cost about $20K, but that's monthly rental on a movie film camera.  Plus the digital cameras don't need expensive film, and of course the resulting movies can be edited digitally without any transcoding.  The future is here!

More future: the Electric Cadillac?  Why not?  Someday all cars are going to be electric, the only question is when that day will come.

Today I discovered KillerStartups, which showcases 15+ new startups every day.  Today's startups include short movie reviews, a Canadian camping network, a way to make your email address anonymous, and help managing playdates for your kids.  Incredible, each of these has a bunch of people working to make them successful.  Just when you thought you've seen everything, you realize "everything" is so much more than you thought.



Thursday,  08/28/08  11:45 PM

I just returned from watching the Angels beat Texas, they scored five runs in the eighth and came back to win 7-5, pretty exciting.  The rest of the score was four hot dogs, two orders of nachos, and one ice cream sundae.  A good game.

The rest of today was good too, but I'm almost too tired to relate.  Had a long hard ride - lately I've been trying to keep my speed over 18mph on my "local" rides (which is nearly impossible), but constantly riding with my average speed displayed makes for harder workouts.  A tangible example of the metric magic :)

You'll notice I'm not saying anything about Obama's speech tonight.  First, I didn't see it, and second, we all know what he was going to say - a bunch of feel good platitudes, very little detail, and probably some hefty attacks on Bush and the Republicans.  Ho hum.

BMW/Oracle trimaranBMW/Oracle trimaranSo have you seen BMW/Oracle's new trimaran?  Wow, what a boat!  I can't believe they're actually racing these things in the America's Cup - what the heck is up with that? - but this is sure an amazing watercraft.  I want one :)  Or maybe just: I want to ride on one :)

If you're not visiting KillerStartups, you're really missing out on some great entertainment.  Honestly half of these companies don't even rate as products, in fact, many of them don't even rate as features of products.  Clearly the lowering of the start-a-new-company barrier has allowed all sorts of stuff to flourish.  A Cambrian explosion of new companies.  The best part is that the description of each company includes "why it will be killer"...  (and in the process, answers the other question, why it won't be :)

A few times now I've mentioned Smokey, our new Guinea pig... so it turns out they live about 4-7 years, sometimes as long as 10.  So I'm looking at little Smokey, and I'm really struck by this; his whole life is going to be compressed into a time period 1/10th as long as mine.  Why do animals live as long as they do?  Clearly some of it is physics, but also a lot of it is evolutionary.  Don't live long enough, and you can't have as many progeny as possible, nor care for the ones you have.  Live too long and you'll compete with your progeny for resources.  Fascinating... 

Sikorsky X2 prototype: helicopter with two counter-rotating bladesPhilip Greenspun notes Sikorsky's new prototype helicopter, the first commercially viable chopper with counter-rotating blades.  Apparently conventional helicopters are limited to about 165 knots, a counter-rotating one could go more like 250.  Cool!





Friday,  08/29/08  10:00 AM

Sarah PalinAwesome choice

Sen. John McCain today announced Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his vice presidential candidate, calling her "the running mate who can best help me shake up Washington." Palin says she "was just your average hockey mom in Alaska," before getting involved in politics.

I like her already.  She's 44, a first term governor, and a conservative Republican.  "Her past occupations included being a commercial fishing company owner, outdoor recreational equipment company owner and sports reporter, according to Congressional Quarterly.  She is blunt, outspoken and charming.  And don't assume she can't stand toe-to-toe with Joe Biden.  She is a great debater.  And she was runner-up for the Miss Alaska title, won Miss Congeniality in that contest, and plays the flute."  She'd be considered too inexperienced except by comparison with Obama (!)  Her nickname is "Sarah Barracuda"; it will be interesting to see her debate against Joe Biden :)

If the reaction in my household is any guide, this was an inspired pick.



Friday,  08/29/08  11:18 PM

McCain - PalinAmazing how the Gov. Palin announcement dominated the news and the blogosphere today... Obama's speech last night is a distant memory.  I'm wondering how Hillary Clinton feels about all this - pissed, I would guess.  She worked so hard and now it looks like someone else is going to have that shot instead of her.

My main reaction surprises me: I'm really happy a woman was nominated.  I have four daughters, all the genes I'm sending into the future are on X chromosomes.  Breaking the glass ceiling does matter.  Plus, she seems pretty solid, although I am worried about whether she's a creationist; that would be unfortunate.

Interesting: how a college sophomore won Sarah Palin the VP slot.

John Dickerson: huh?  I think all the "huh?" reactions are wishful thinking; she was a pretty inspired pick.  Over the next few weeks the excitement will fade, but she'll still be an excellent choice.

Mazda MPV electricWired: Mazda building a Volt of its own.  The difference between GM and Mazda is that Mazda will probably ship, and probably ship on time.  "What makes this especially interesting is Ford owns a big chunk of Mazda, which means anything Mazda builds could appear in showrooms with a blue oval on the hood. Looks like the race is on."  Good - for everyone...

Blaupunkt live with live video overlayThis looks really cool: Blaupunkt nav overlay on live video.  Excellent.

Remember Elementeo, the board game about Chemistry?  "In this action-packed game, two or more players wage a chemical war with just one goal in mind – destroy their opponent's electrons to zero! Armed with their arsenal of elements, compounds, and nuclear reactions, these young chemists strive to create, combat, and conquer the world!"  It is finally out, get your copy today...



email addiction + survey

Saturday,  08/30/08  11:02 AM

A few weeks ago I was contacted by Peggy Kuo, an honours student at the University of New South Wales, who is conducting a survey on "Email Addiction in the Workplace" as part of her thesis topic.  She found me because of my 2003 article The Tyranny of EmailPeggy has posted an online survey and asked me if I'd mind linking to it...  not at all, Peggy!  If you have a few minutes and would like to help her, please click through and take the survey.  I just took it myself in about five minutes.

The whole subject of email addiction is pretty interesting...  obviously email is an important communication tool, and many of us rely on it for business; as well, many personal contacts now are made and maintained that way...  when was the last time you wrote a [paper] letter!  If you encounter someone who doesn't have an email address it seems weird, in fact it seems weird when you encounter people who don't check their email at least daily.  Now that we have smartphones, checking email hourly seems pretty normal, and of course we all know "crackberry addicts" who check their email compulsively every minute.  Whether this rises to the level of addiction depends on how easily you can let it go, I guess; I like being informed and check email frequently, but I am able to unplug without too much trauma.

My biggest problem with email isn't that I feel I must check it, it is that I choose to check it as a way to procrastinate.  I have the same problem with reading RSS feeds.  And with posting to my blog :)



Furnace Creek 508 recon update

Saturday,  08/30/08  11:45 AM

The Furnace Creek 508A couple of weeks ago I drove the Furnace Creek 508 route in my car, and wrote a reconnaissance report.  The intended audience was my riding partner Mark Burson and our "crew" for the ride, Mark Elliot and Dan Pizano.  In typical 2008 fashion Google indexed the report, and pretty soon I was getting visitors from everywhere who were interested in the 508, including Chris Kostman, Mr. 508 himself, Chief Adventure Officer and Race Director!

Chris had some nice things to say about the report, and asked if he could host it on the 508 website...  Of course, Chris, you're welcome!  He also pointed out a number of errors and omissions; as a newbie who hasn't even ridden the route on a bike yet, I am barely qualified to give such an overview, while Chris has been running the race for eighteen years.  So today I went back and used Chris' remarks to update the report.  It is still probably "wrong", but at least it is right-er :), and who knows, it might appear on the 508 website soon!



Saturday,  08/30/08  11:37 PM

Well it definitely isn't summer anymore, as today the football season started (!); I watched USC crush Virginia.  Ouch.  I did discover that Smokey (my new guinea pig) likes to watch football.  Or at least, he likes to sit on my chest while I'm watching :)  Otherwise a quiet day off; I didn't even ride.  Got a long one planned for tomorrow though...  have to stay in the groove for the Knoxville Double which is coming up in three weeks, and next weekend I'll be in New York presenting at a conference.

Palin-ed out already?  I'm not...  interesting that a surprise selection like that changes everything, gets people talking.  The reaction I've noted is all over the map, too.  The choice didn't so much change minds as coalesce them.

If you're still trying to learn more, this Time interview is worth a read; it was conducted a couple of weeks ago.  Interesting that in Palin's political career her age has been more of an obstacle than her gender.

Politico has five questions about Palin; good ones, too, including: Is she a creationist?  (LGF tries to answer...)

Hurricane Gustav trackHurricane Gustav is not looking good as the threat to New Orleans increases.  Yikes, here we go again...  I really wonder what the Republicans are going to do, postponing their convention doesn't seem possible on such short notice, but going ahead and having it doesn't seem right either.

Team LiquigasThe Vuelta started today, with a team time trial in Granada.  Surprisingly Liquigas won, over favorites Astana and CSC, and Filippo Pozzato will wear the first golden jersey.  Ah, Granada... reminds me of the Vuelta two years ago when I rode and saw a stage up the Alta de Monachil that finished there.  That really was a perfectly incredible day...

An awesome rant from eco-geek: Why changing your lightbulbs doesn't matter.  "We will never significantly reduce our energy use in this country by asking nicely. If you tell someone 'Save the planet, change your light bulb' you'll be lucky to get a 20% action rate. But if you say 'save $200 per year, change your light bulbs' you're suddenly on the right side of every argument."  This is so true.  There has to be a positive local advantage for people to behave in a way that has global benefit.

local kiosk with flyersRussell Beattie visits the library, encounters a kiosk covered with flyers, and asks When will Local truly be on the web?  "I'm on the computer every day, all day and yet I know almost nothing about what's happening in my local area. Not only is it basically impossible to stumble upon the information, like I can while walking back to my car from the library, but even actively searching for it is normally fruitless."  I totally agree.  Right now there is no good way to find it all, why is that?

I'm having such fun with KillerStartups; today's preposterous startup of the day is, "a communication tool intended to accomplish one thing: get other ballers to the basketball court when you wanna play."  Why it might be killer?  "This is a great idea. Once more cities are added, it could turn from a simple site into an online movement, like Facebook or Twitter."  Riight...



Sunday,  08/31/08  09:02 PM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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this date in:
About Me

Greatest Hits
Correlation vs. Causality
The Tyranny of Email
Unnatural Selection
On Blame
Try, or Try Not
Books and Wine
Emergent Properties
God and Beauty
Moving Mount Fuji
The Nest
Rock 'n Roll
IQ and Populations
Are You a Bright?
Adding Value
The Joy of Craftsmanship
The Emperor's New Code
Toy Story
The Return of the King
Religion vs IQ
In the Wet
solving bongard problems
visiting Titan
unintelligent design
the nuclear option
estimating in meatspace
second gear
On the Persistence of Bad Design...
Texas chili cookoff
almost famous design and stochastic debugging
may I take your order?
universal healthcare
triple double
New Yorker covers
Death Rider! (da da dum)
how did I get here (Mt.Whitney)?
the Law of Significance
Holiday Inn
Daniel Jacoby's photographs
the first bird
Gödel Escher Bach: Birthday Cantatatata
Father's Day (in pictures)
your cat for my car
Jobsnotes of note
world population map
no joy in Baker
vote smart
exact nonsense
introducing eyesFinder
to space
where are the desktop apps?
still the first bird
electoral fail
progress ratches
2020 explained