Critical Section

Archive: September 2008

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(New Yorker 09/1/08 - McCain, PO'W')

Monday,  09/01/08  07:40 PM


McCain, PO'W'


Monday,  09/01/08  07:43 PM

Woo hoo, September!  And...  Labor Day.  I labored at doing nothing today, did a little coding, a little football watching, a little hanging out.  Today is traditionally our last day of heating the pool for the summer, after this, the weather cools down, the kids are in school, and no swimming takes place.  I'm heading into a busy week with a lot going on and travel to Boston and New York at the end of it, so I rested up.

My server continues to labor, yesterday I mentioned I served over 4,800 pages (ended up over 5,000), today, over 2,400 so far...  and a ton of hits, too, mostly images (thar be hotlinkin' goin' on out thar).  So be it...  I don't have the energy or inclination to figure out what's going on, but I like it.  Welcome!

So it's curtains for Gustav, and now we await Hanna, Ike, and Josephine.  Welcome to the hurricane season, whew.  Not to trivialize the damage caused along the Gulf Coast, but the longest-lasting impact of Gustav was that it kept George Bush from speaking at the GOP convention in Minneapolis.  As noted in the New Yorker cartoon I just posted, he remains McCain's biggest liability, and although it would have been weird not to have the sitting President speak, it was fine that [because of Gustav] he didn't.  The GOP can now resume the convention with speakers like Giulani...

Google Chrome logoThe big news today was Google's Chrome, a new browser.  Or a new Web Operating System, if you prefer.  The idea that Google would do something like this has a pretty long history, as noted by Jason Kottke, why do it now, when Firefox has taken off so nicely?  Looking through comic book in which Google explains the plan, it seems the main reason is to have an architecture with separate processes for each tab / window, in order to get more parallelism for background tasks.  I guess that makes sense.  In conjunction with various client-side web applications (written in JavaScript), over time this could end up being a major threat to Windows.  We'll have to see how it plays out...

nested Klein bottlesCheck out these amazing nested Klein bottles...  3D equivalents to the 2D Mobius strip (Klein bottles have only one surface, Mobius strips have only one edge).  Beautiful, on two levels.

sabot on WestlakeThis is cool: Yacht Club prepares children for sailing, an article about the Westlake Yacht Club's summer sailing academy.  My kids are all happy graduates :)

As a veteran C++ programmer, I look over into the Objective-C world with curiosity and confusion.  Although superficially similar, they aren't really, and the difference is illustrated by the new blocks feature being added to Objective-C.  It is clearly more "dynamic" than statically compiled C++...

A great rant from ex-uncov-er Ted Dzuiba: OpenID is why I hate the Internet.  The real subject is "why I dislike OpenID", and the observations are accurate and compelling.  There is no way this is going to succeed, he's right.



Tuesday,  09/02/08  10:06 PM

September, Day 2.  A day of work - many meetings, conference calls, status reports to read and write and review and reply to...  I was frazzled all day, my todo list is now longer than when I started, and the one thing I had to do - for which I am on negative time - I never did.  I love Mondays, especially when they fall on a Tuesday.

One bright note: after being frazzled all day and almost talking myself out of riding altogether, I did make it onto my bike and rode my usual route around Westlake and through Hidden Valley in 1:16:56, an all-time record.  This route is 25.5 miles so that works out to an average of 19.97 mph.  I am -> <- this close to averaging 20, which would be awesome!  (Yes, there are three short but reasonably steep climbs, and one longer one at the end - it is no cakewalk; here's the route profile, courtesy of

Hidden Valley route profile

Okay, I know; who cares.  Well, I care, and this is my blog.  You get what you pay for :)

In the Asia Times, "Spengler" explains How Obama lost the election.  You might disagree, and events may prove him wrong, but it is certainly an interesting and well reasoned point of view.

Google Chrome logoSo like everyone (probably like you?) I tried Google Chrome, and I liked it.  Very fast, very clean.  Worked really well and I encountered no problems, and I liked the extra real estate and lack of clutter.  But then I chanced to load a site with ads, and I suddenly remembered why I prefer Firefox: Adblock.  There is simply no contest when Firefox extensions are added into the mix.  YMMV, but I doubt it.

browser market shareHere's an interesting point: Who cares about Chrome, IE6 has 25% market share.  "Everyone is writing about the features of the new browser, and its strategic significance. The product sounds great, but I can only get but so excited.  Why?  Because as a developer, Chrome seems to me to be little more than pissing in the wind.  Microsoft’s Internet Explorer controls around 75% of the browser market, and that’s not the bad news.  The bad news is that Internet Explorer version 6 has 25% of the market.True.

Of course, the real competition for Chrome isn't IE, or even Firefox.  The real competition is Windows and OS X.  If you don't believe it, check out the Chromium developer documentation: "In the long term, we think of Chromium as a tabbed window manager or shell for the web rather than a browser application.  We avoid putting things into our UI in the same way you would hope that Apple and Microsoft would avoid putting things into the standard window frames of applications on their operating systems."  Ha!

Shuttle Atlantis breaking the sound barrierToday's picture of the day: Atlantis breaking the sound barrier.

Jason Calcanis explains how to demo your startup.  Ten simple rules, starting with "show your product within the first 60 seconds".  I so believe this.  And later, violating his own stricture to keep it simple, he adds how to demo your startup, part 2, with eight more rules :)  They're not bad, but not as fundamental as the first ten, IMHO.

Here's an interesting twist on online dating: Psismic.  The idea is that you post stuff you like, and other people do too, and they match you with other people who like the same things you do.  Seems like it might work?

I've often thought that if you listed your top ten favorite songs, or movies, or wines, or anything - it would be a pretty unique "signature".  How many people have the same ten favorite songs?

Dash GPS - with realtime trafficRemember I posted about Dash?  This is a GPS unit that makes realtime decisions based on traffic.  Each Dash subscriber not only receives updates, but contributes to the traffic database by sending telemetry.  Sounds like a great idea - and guess what? - today I received an email telling me I'm under consideration for beta-testing Dash in the L.A. area!  Wow, how cool is that!  Anyway I filled out their survey and we'll see what happens - stay tuned...




Wednesday,  09/03/08  11:27 PM

I was totally heads' down today, coding and deHeisenbugging.  Even managed to obey my three-hour rule, which I'm better at explaining and promoting than following myself.  Much better than yesterday, when I basically spun in place without accomplishing anything.  And yes of course I escaped for a ride, didn't have the legs I had yesterday but managed to shake off a few cobwebs.  It is noticeable that the days are getting shorter, and the air has a "fall" feel to it.  Pretty soon it will be long tee-shirts for these evening rides...

Sarah Palin gives GOP convention speechOf course today's biggest news was Sarah Palin's speech at the GOP convention.  I watched it, after vowing not to watch any of the convention speeches (from either party) on the grounds that they didn't matter.  I guess I was curious, would we see a train wreck, or a tour de force, or ... what?

Levi Leipheimer in gold Vuelta jerseyAt the Vuelta, Levi Leipheimer won today's time trial and took over the gold jersey.  Yay.  He says he's going to continue working for Contador, and I believe him; Alberto is the best climber in the world, and there are some big mountains left.  But clearly Levi is on form, you never know...

Russell Beattie observes Tweets kill that blogging urge.  I don't know about that, since I don't tweet, but I do agree with this: "I can definitely tell you one thing I've noticed, and the reason I actually want to blog more - Tweets have no archival value of any sort."  Every time I've seen a blogger posts their tweets, it is mindless drivel.  Which doesn't help draw me to try Tweeting :)

the Energy Ball wind turbineThis is cool: the Energy Ball wind turbine.  I want one!

From Chris "long tail" Anderson: Fourteen free business models.  Not that the models are free (well, they are, he's giving them away on his blog :), but the models are for free, that is, how to make money in a long tail world.  Pretty cool analysis.

Oh, and this is nice: a new DirectTV Tivo which supports HD.  I'm not a DirectTV subscriber, but I'm still interested in this product because I'm interested in Tivo staying alive as a company, and this will help...



a Better Place?

Friday,  09/05/08  09:41 AM

(coming to you from a UAL jet somewhere en route from LA to Boston...)

Wired - the future of the electric carWired's cover story this month is  The Future of the Electric Car, about Shai Agassi and his company Better Place.  He has a pretty innovative vision.  Instead of building electric cars and selling them, he wants to build a network of charging stations and give cars away, then charge for access to the network.  A sort of weird melding of the business model of cellular phones with the technology of electric cars.  One advantage of this approach is that range isn't as much of an issue; if you could charge your car "everywhere", how far would it have to be able to go on a charge?

{I have one of the longest commutes to my office of anyone I know, 140 miles.  That is easily possible with many electric car designs.  It is trying to make them go 300 miles which is tough.}

From the Wired article:

Agassi dealt with the battery issue by simply swatting it away. Previous approaches relied on a traditional manufacturing formula: We make the cars, you buy them. Agassi reimagined the entire automotive ecosystem by proposing a new concept he called the Electric Recharge Grid Operator. It was an unorthodox mashup of the automotive and mobile phone industries. Instead of gas stations on every corner, the ERGO would blanket a country with a network of "smart" charge spots. Drivers could plug in anywhere, anytime, and would subscribe to a specific plan—unlimited miles, a maximum number of miles each month, or pay as you go—all for less than the equivalent cost for gas. They'd buy their car from the operator, who would offer steep discounts, perhaps even give the cars away. The profit would come from selling electricity—the minutes.

Better Place AutoOSA key is the AutOS (diagramed at right, click to enlarge), the network which provides electricity to the cars.

  1. A special key fob linked to the car indicates the status of the battery. If the logo is throbbing blue, the car is fully charged.
  2. The driver unplugs and heads out. The software analyzes the first few minutes of driving and guesses the destination based on past history: "Work?" it asks. The driver speaks a response and the system determines how much energy is needed for the day.
  3. During the commute, the location-aware system finds and displays three open parking spaces near the office that are equipped with Better Place charging spots.
  4. An automatic arm extends to plug into the car. The spot then communicates with the control center, which anticipates the driver's energy needs so as to allocate power economically. It might, say, limit consumption during expensive peak hours. The driver gets a text: "80 percent charged."
  5. An unexpected meeting comes up. The driver enters a new route, and AutOS determines there is insufficient charge to get there. The driver orders a battery swap.
  6. AutOS finds the most convenient battery-exchange location and books a bay. The old battery gets lowered onto a hydraulic plate, and the car moves forward on a car-wash-style track. In five minutes, a fully charged battery is in place.

This is the kind of "blue sky" idea that looks better on paper than in actual execution, but Better Place does seem to be getting some traction.  At least, they've raised $200M, gotten the attention of Shimon Peres, and made the cover of Wired.  To say nothing of appearing on my blog :)



Friday,  09/05/08  10:01 PM

(coming to you from a USAir jet somewhere en route from Boston to New York...  yes, it has been a  l o n g  day...)

election 08: lawyers vs not lawyersIs the election this simple (see at right)?

The Scientist: readers discuss Is Sarah Palin a Creationist?  That's a question I'd like to know the answer to myself.

Leslie Sanchez thinks Palin is a VP for the rest of us...

Karl Rove says Palin's toughest days are ahead...

Running Palin's and McCain's speeches through the word cloud...

She certainly does have everyone talking, huh?

In booking flights for my trip, I noticed a new sign of airline desperation...  they now offer to sell you additional miles when you book a trip.  Get that?  They take your money now, and owe you flights and upgrades later.  Anything to stay alive, I guess...

Here's some interesting inside information about Chrome, Google's new entry in the browser wars...  I love this quote: "Speed may be Chrome’s most significant advance. When you improve things by an order of magnitude, you haven’t made something better — you’ve made something new."  Very true.  Speed is important, but as long as Firefox has Adblock and Chrome doesn't, Firefox wins...

Lifehacker with a list of Chrome's "About" pages, the geek's view inside the Web OS...

woman in a LamborghiniSome important work: Science proves exotic cars turn women on.  Vroomm!  Follow the link for clips of a Maserati, Ferrari, and Lamborghini in action :)

the TalbotHere's something that turns me on - the Talbot, possibly the most beautiful car ever made.  What do you think (pic at right, click to enlarge)?

Vallegwag notes NBC dumps Silverlight after   Olympics.  "NBC streamed all its videos using Microsoft's Silverlight backend tech, but the network dumped Microsoft before last night's NFL kickoff — streamed live over and — opting to use Adobe Flash instead. Why?"  Ha!  Everyone has Flash, hardly anyone has Silverlight, even after the Olympics.  IIWII...



...and to think that I saw it on Mulberry Street!

Saturday,  09/06/08  09:28 AM

Friday night, 9:30PM, Mulberry and Grand, Little Italy, New York, New York.  I'm looking for dinner, and an interesting experience.  There are millions of people out, enjoying the nice weather (although Hurricane Hanna is on her way), enjoying the atmosphere...

Little Italy - Mulberry Street

Where will I eat?  What will I eat and drink?  What will I see?

Mulberry Street in Little Italy

There are a lot of choices, see the map above, all those little circles are restaurants - every restaurant has their menu posted, and each has a nice hostess who pounces on any seemingly interested would-be diner examining a menu.  But there is more at stake here than what to eat, there is also where to sit...  Every place has tables on the street, and you want to be on the street, because that's where the action is...  plus, you want to be seen on the street!  If you're seen at a back table, well, that's social death, isn't it?  And you want a large table, because, well, large tables are nicer, and anyway if someone sees you at a large table they'll know you are someone special, even if they don't know why.  And more importantly you'll feel special, because if you weren't special, you wouldn't be at a large table, now would you? 

Okay, back to the hostesses...  They have a lot of power, because they decide where you are going to sit...  but you have power too.  You can go to the next restaurant, or the next one, or the next one...  and one thing each hostess knows - if she has been doing this for a while - she knows if you know how the game is played.  And they like the game.  If you're a tourist and you walk up and say "I'd like a table for four" and she walks you to the little back table at the end and you sit down, you're not playing the game, and she's not having fun.

So I walk up to the menu at Sal Anthony's, that is the blue square on the map above.  Perhaps it was the location, perhaps it was the look of the awnings, perhaps it was the menu, perhaps it was the hostess? :)  So I walk up to the menu, and she walks up to me.

The best way to play this game is to be with a pretty girl.  You are male, the hostess is female.  She has no idea who you are, but if you're with a pretty girl, she trusts the girl, and you must be cool if she's with you.  The prettier the girl you are with, the nicer the table you will sit at, and everything goes on from there.

But I'm alone; the pretty girl strategy is out.  I have to get by with Plan B, which is ask don't answer...

Hostess: "Would you like to have dinner?"

Me: "I'm not sure, where would I sit?"

I have signaled that I'm playing the game.  She smiles.

Hostess: "Table for one?"

Me: "Um, maybe a table for two?"

Staying vague...  no need to lie but no need to tell the whole truth either.

Hostess (walking over to a little back table at the end): "How about this one?"

Me: "Huh, would I like to sit here?"  (pauses...)

The hostess knows I'm playing the game, she knows I would not like to sit here, so this is a rhetorical question.  If she pushed back, something like "absolutely, this is a great table", I might have to ask "can I see the street from here?", or possibly start walking back toward the street.  But this did not happen.

Hostess (walking up to a little table on the street): "How about here?

Me: "Perhaps...  would I have enough room?"  (pauses...)

The answer is yes, I would have enough room, but my question is not whether I would have enough room.  My question is, would you consider giving me a larger table.

Hostess: "I think you will enjoy this very much."  (smiles, this is the close)

Me: "Huh..."  (looks around, and 'accidentally' hits an adjacent table's chair)  "Huh..."  (pauses...)

I must tell you I would have been happy with this table, it was nice, but just then I see four people getting up from a larger table.

Me: "Perhaps...  could I sit there?"  (points to vacated table)

Hostess: "I don't know, I'd have to ask the manager" (frowns)

She doesn't have to ask the manager, but she will have to explain to the waiter why she sat one person at a table for four.  I plan to take care of that by ordering a nice bottle of wine, but she doesn't know that yet...  this could go either way.

Me: "I'm actually looking for some friends, and that way I won't have to move later?"

This is not quite a lie, I am always looking for some friends, I just don't know some of them yet :)

Hostess (walks over to bigger table): "Okay, enjoy your dinner!"  (smiles and concedes defeat)

Me: "Thank you!  Could I please see your wine list?" (telling her don't worry, this will work out)

Yay!  A big front table at Sal Anthony's on a Friday night, what could be better? 

One thus started, the snowball rolls.  The waiter treats me like royalty; I'm alone at a big front table, I must be important.  I order a nice bottle of wine (a smoky Sicilian, on the recommendation of the waiter), and I manage to drink most of it while enjoying Fritti di Calamari followed by Veal Scaloppine ai Funghi.  And I wrap it up with an amazing Cannoli - paired with a little espresso - ah, what could be better?

Sal Anthony's dessert table

And meanwhile, it's all happening...  by sitting at a front table on the street, you become part of the street, as people walk by, you nod and say "hi", they nod and say "hi" back...  you have the confidence of being at a front table, alone, and that transmits itself; passers by wonder who you are, and why you're there...  (and possibly, why you are smiling :)

For people watching there is absolutely nothing like Friday night in Little Italy.  You see tourists - lots of them - families gazing around in every direction, at the people as much as at the street, the stores, and the restaurants.  You see locals out for a stroll, couples, kids in groups.  Guys looking for girls (singly or in pairs), and girls looking for guys to look for them (in groups).  People selling, and people buying, people relaxed, and people hurrying by, seemingly on a mission.  You see every shape and size of human, dressed up or down in every possible outfit, often riding every kind of human-powered vehicle: bikes, skateboards, scooters.  And I must confess to a particular joy, when you are seated your attention is drawn to all kinds of shoes, a variety matched only by the people wearing them.

You never know what you'll see, especially after a bottle of Sicilian wine :) 

Oh, the things you might see in New York can't be beat...

you can see just about anything on Mulberry Street :)

...and to think that I saw it on Mulberry Street!



Saturday,  09/06/08  11:54 PM

(In which your intrepid blogger, having survived Friday night in Little Italy, presenting at a medical imaging conference in New York, and dinner at Keen's Steakhouse, attempts to survey the blogosphere...)

BMW/Oracle trimaran: the ultimate driving machine!Wow, check out this picture of the new BMW/Oracle trimaran (click to enbiggen).  The ultimate driving machine!  More pictures from Sail World are here.

NIN!Tim O'Reilly attends a Nice Inch Nails concert: I am trying to believe (that rock stars aren't dead).  "At 43, Trent Reznor can certainly still grab an audience by the throat and shake it. It was a fantastic show; the kind of show that has you checking to see if there are other tour dates within driving distance.  During a short break in the sonic and visual mayhem, Reznor spoke for a moment and told us emphatically to steal his music."  After a read-worth discussion (you should read it), he concludes: "The Rock Star's life style is going to go the way of Sun's multiples".

chrome OSnormal OSTed Dziuba on Chrome: A Web OS? Are You Dense?  Ted's rants are always worth reading for his sarcastic humor, even if (as in this case) they are overblown and a bit off the mark.  His argument is neatly summarized by the two excellent diagrams at right :)

Robert Scoble to Demo startups: your website sucks!  He makes some good points (your home page has to say what you do), and some bad ones (since when is video a good thing to use on a home page?  since never...)  I also don't know that saying the startup is exhibiting at Demo is that important, I mean, their investors might care, but their customers probably don't.  (Boy, it has been a long time since I've linked Scoble...  welcome back :)

I love this refutation of evolution, by Mahmoud Zahar: "After all, a donkey can eat shrubbery and survive, but a human cannot.  'So, a donkey is more evolved than a human? No!'".  The logic is stunning.  Perhaps donkeys are more evolved than some humans :)



poor man's SEO

Sunday,  09/07/08  08:24 PM

A week ago I mentioned a weird increase in page views to my blog.  Since that time each day I've averaged nearly 3,000 pages per day, which is about twice my usual average.  What's going on here?Google Pigeon Rank

Well it turns out, I had just created a new page indexing all my "keepers"; posts and articles I might want to cut and paste from, or link to, or change in the future.  This page isn't designed to be viewed by humans, it exists because I periodically purge old pages from my Citydesk content management system.  I don't purge any pages which are linked-to, and so by linking a page from the keepers index it gets "kept".

Anyway I linked this new keepers index from the sidebar (it is the little π symbol at the bottom).  And what happened was, search engine spiders found this link, and then found all the pages linked from the "keepers" index.  And through the mysterious ways of search algorithms, this increased the rank of all these pages, and now I'm getting twice the traffic from search engines like Google and Live as I did before!  Weird, but wonderful.

A poor man's search engine optimization.  YMMV :)



Sunday,  09/07/08  09:25 PM

Well I'm  b a a c k ...  after a whirlwind few days in Boston and New York, flew back to L.A. today.  It was fun to go, and it's great to be back home.  And checking the blogosphere, we find...

McCain and PalinHow do we know McCain is making progress against Obama?  Well, we can read the latest issue of the New Yorker, in which virtually every article drips Democratic venom.  Attacks everywhere, on McCain, on Palin, on their spouses, you name it.  They are clearly pretty worried.  And I guess they have reason to be, but I must wonder whether it helps; first, the readership of the New Yorker already feel this way, so they're preaching to the choir, and second, this kind of partisanship mostly backfires.

At the Vuelta Levi Leipheimer is back in gold.  And Contador is in second - anyone still doubt Astana are the best cycling team in the world right now?  It will be interesting to see who between these two wins overall, Contador is the better climber, and there is a lot of climbing left, but Leipheimer is the better time trialier, and you can make a big gap in a time trial.

copy and paste on the NewtonTurns out there is a good design for implementing copy and paste on a touchscreen-based system like the iPhone, the good old Newton already solved this problem!  Click here for a nice demo.  The basic idea is that the edge of the screen is the physical reality of the clipboard, you drag stuff to it to copy, drag stuff from it to paste.

the Age of AwarenessClive Thompson on the Age of Awareness.  "How News Feed, Twitter and other forms of incessant online contact have created a brave new world of ambient intimacy."  I guess I would have to use Facebook's News Feed, Twitter, or another form of incessant online contact to really get this.  For me, email and texting are as ambiently intimate as I get :)

ScanRobot book scannerHere we have the really cool ScanRobot book scanner.  I love the way the "out of the box" design accommodates so many different form factors for books.  Using vacuum to keep the pages flush against the scan head was inspired.  Still, you can see it would take quite a while to scan a book...





(New Yorker 9/8/08 - entering September)

Sunday,  09/07/08  11:11 PM


entering September - no shorts allowed

so be it



Monday,  09/08/08  10:45 PM

Man, I am frazzzled today!  All that travel over the weekend didn't make my todo list any shorter..  blech, Mondays...  Anyway I'm back, and I'm blogging...

An email exchange with my friend Gary; I had asked is the election this simple?

Gary: I've been curious to hear what you think. Given her beliefs I'm guessing you're like me and this is a massive WTF on my support for McCain. I'm asking 'John, what are you doing?'

Ole: I’m having an interesting reaction to Palin. I like her, even though I don’t care for many of her views. I’ve always regarded disbelief in evolution as a leading indicator of “stupid”, but I don’t think she’s stupid. Possibly the fact that I have four daughters is intruding into my logical analysis. Possibly I have become significantly more conservative than I always thought I was… although I must say I’ve never fired a gun, let alone owned one, I am a libertarian on social issues (legalize MJ, why not, gay marriage, why not), and ardently pro-choice (it’s not a moral issue to me). But I am a hawk on national defense, borderline militant on illegal aliens, anti-government, and anti-welfare.

I’m starting to realize that I like or dislike politicians for reasons other than their stated views. An interesting realization. I guess a President doesn’t really get to implement their views anyway, but they do have to set a tone, and react to events, and so you start thinking about what kind of tone will they set, and how will they react.

I’ve pretty much reached the point where I’m not going to vote for Obama no matter what. I just don’t like him. As it happens I also disagree with many of his views (why do the Democrats have such liberal candidates, this is the second election in a row they’ve nominated the most liberal Senator in the whole Congress as their candidate!) – but really I just don’t like him.

McCain and Palin on the trail in Colorado SpringsI like this slogan suggestion: McCain-Palin: New Energy for America.  I also like the accompanying picture, shown at left...  wow.  [ via Instapundit ]

As the polls swing toward McCain and Palin, ardent Obama supporters like Dave Winer are getting nervous.  "Okay, let's cede a point, the Republicans were brilliant, if cynical, in nominating Sarah Palin for VP.  It one-upped Obama in newness, in a year when newness matters, and it shines a different kind of light on McCain, he got his 'maverick' back - even though he never really was that much of a maverick.  Obama can try to refute it, but it probably isn't worth it, it probably won't work."  His advice: Obama, name your cabinet.  That would be cool!

Furnace Creek 508 routeHey, I'm [sort of] famous!  Remember my galactic recon of the Furnace Creek 508 race route?  Chris Kostman, the 508 race director, found it and decided to post it on the official race website!  And he had some nice things to say about it in his weekly AdventureCORP email:

I'd like to offer 508 rookie Ole Eichhorn, who will compete in his first ever Furnace Creek 508 on 2x Team Charlotte The Spider next month, a huge thank you for putting together a phenomenal new online survey of the 508 race route.

Basically, Ole went out and drove the whole route, taking photos and notes along the way, then he combined that with new images of the route, in 2D and 3D, which he created with mapping software. The result is the best detailed look yet at the race route. That's no small feat, because we already had fantastic software-created maps of the route which 508 veteran Doug Dog Sloan had put together in previous years. The difference now is that the mapping software is even better (sometimes technology does improve things) AND that was combined with photos and editorial comments from a recent trip on the race course.

How cool is that...

At the Vuelta, Astana deliberately gave up the golden jersey to Eustkaltel, in a perfect demonstration of grand tour tactics.  Johan Bruyneel is the master.  So now we have Egoi Martinez in the lead, with Leipheimer and Contador poised to pounce back in the mountains.

Today's cycling rumor: Lance is coming back!  I don't believe it, and tellingly, neither does Bruyneel.  Still you never know...  these great athletes find it hard to stay retired.  Look at Brett Farve, or Michael Jordan...

Humboldt squidThe Humboldt squid beak apparently has some amazing material properties.  "The [razor sharp] beak contains a huge gradation of stiffness: The tip of the beak is 100 times more rigid than the base of the beak — so the base can blend easily with the surrounding flesh. Water is the key to the proper functioning of this gradient: If the beak is dried out, the soft base calcifies until it’s nearly as dense and rigid as the peak."  Very cool, and sets up the possibility that perhaps manufactured materials could mimic this capability too...

Jeff Atwood, one of my favorite bloggers, is spawning a new process.  Congratulations!  As a dad I must say creating kids is way more important than creating code, but I seem to spend more time on the latter :)

Apple: Let's RockTomorrow is Apple's Let's Rock event.  Speculation is running rampant on what will be announced; the most popular guesses are new iPods and a new version of iTunes which includes a "Genius" capability for auto-matching your music into playlists. 

My favorite possible new thing would be AppleTV 3.0 however...  "Why now?  Because on Feb. 17, 2009, by Congressional mandate, all full-power analog TV broadcasts in the United States will cease. That means that not long after Christmas, tens of millions of American TVs will go dark unless they are connected to cable, satellite or an analog-to-digital converter box."  Aha...



Tuesday,  09/09/08  09:41 PM

Man, I had one of those days; up at 0400, drive down to Vista, spend the day in meetings, drive back, and attend my daughter Alex's back-to-school night.  After all that I feel like I didn't get anything done.  So, naturally, I'm blogging :)

Lance in LeadvilleSo - Lance is back!  Wow...  who would have believed it.  With Tyler Hamilton winning the U.S. Road Champs, and Floyd Landis signing with Healthnet, next year is going to be like 2005 all over again.  We'll even have Ivan Basso back, with Liquigas.  So I don't know how to feel about this, I'm his biggest fan, but Lance had such a perfect legacy it seems like he could only spoil it.  If he wins, so what, and if he doesn't - as seems pretty likely, given his three years out of the peloton, age (37), and the great young stars like Contador who have come along - then what does that mean?  Just another great athlete who couldn't stay retired, like Brett Farve or Michael Jordan.  I know one thing, it means more blogging about Lance...

Headline of the day: Anchors Away.  "Keith Olbermann may be the 'voice' of MSNBC, but network executives have decided to yank the talkmeister off its political anchor desk after the cable channel finished dead last in the Nielsen rankings of all news coverage during the two weeks of political conventions.  The network announced Monday that Olbermann and Chris Matthews have both been booted as co-hosts on political night coverage in favor of David Gregory, whose White House press corps experience may make him better suited to deliver sober and less opinion-driven assessments of the news."  So it wasn't the fact that they were hopelessly biased, but the fact that they got poor ratings.  Still :)

TechCrunch 50DEMO 2008I am totally ignoring Demo 2008 and TechCrunch 50, the two competing coming out parties for technology startups taking place this week.  Both are weird things, and the businesses they feature are at best footnotes.  When an interesting new business is started we'll hear about it, and not because they're demoing at some conference.

More interesting than the companies presenting at the conferences is the competition between the conferences.  It has been a great food fight for blogosphere spectators, even if it generated more heat than light.

Plastic Logic: electronic reader for businessOne interesting company that presented was Plastic Logic, which is making a "electronic document reader for business".  Looks really cool, although it is black-and-white only, and that might kill it.  I heard about it on blogs first, then noticed they were presenting at Demo.

The other day I noted Ted Dziuba's hilarious reaction to Chrome...  he's posted a follow up in The Register: Chrome-fed Googasm bares tech pundit futility.  "That's all well and good, but let's be realistic here. It's a fucking web browser. It runs JavaScript a bit faster than other web browsers. That doesn't add up to a Windows killer."  It's masterful; do not read while drinking any hot liquids :)

Finally, the Large Hadron Collider is open for business!  It worked, and the world did not end.  Whew.



the day before

Wednesday,  09/10/08  08:29 AM

September 10...  can't help remembering 9/10/01, when my friend Tom Schramm took me flying on a tour of San Francisco Bay in his Moody.  Little did we know that had we planned to do it the following day, we wouldn’t have been able to!

San Francisco from the air...

Just last week when I was in New York I made time to walk to and around the WTC site; pretty amazing. At night two massive floodlights beam upward to the sky, ghostly approximations of the twin towers.

World Trade Center ghost spotlights

Pretty cool. 
...and pretty sobering...



Wednesday,  09/10/08  11:10 PM

Apparently Joe Biden said Hillary might be a better VP candidate than he is.  And in so saying, makes the statement true.  Wow.  An impressive job of putting both feet in his mouth at once.

Apple: Let's RockApple: Let's RockDid you watch the Jobsnote from Apple's Let's Rock event yesterday?  As always, interesting for the form as well as the content; the announcements were somewhat predictable and had indeed been largely predicted; nonetheless good steady progress for Apple's music business.  John Gruber posted a nice summary if you'd rather just read about it.  Personally I'm rather interested in playing with the new "Genius" feature in iTunes, which makes playlists from compatible songs in your library.

I have to say, this was not Steve at his finest.  The drama was missing, and he had more voice noise ("um...") than usual.  Still, Steve at 50% is better than most anyone else at 110%.

BTW, why is the Quicktime player the slowest-loading application on the planet?  Just asking.

BMW/Oracle trimaranThe other day I posted a picture of BMW/Oracle's new America's Cup sailboat.  Here's another one.  The sheer scale of this thing is incredible, the mast is 158' high.  (click to enbiggen)

What your [global] neighbors are buyingA very cool interactive graphic chart map thing, from the NYTimes: What your neighbors are buying.  I'd like more categories, please!

Glenn Reynolds wishes he could go to the Singularity Summit.  Don't worry Glenn, you can always go [back], many times.  In fact, you may have gone [back] already...

ChromeSafariOperaFirefoxMozillaInternet ExplorerNetscapeMosaicThe history of the user agent.  In which truth is told, and an incredible morass is explained.  And there was humor, and it was okay.  [ via Daring Fireball, who comments "what a mess".  Indeed. ]



never forget

Thursday,  09/11/08  01:15 AM

New Yorker, September 24, 2001



Thursday,  09/11/08  11:12 PM

Well, another 9/11, and another year with no further terrorist attacks.  I will never forget, but it seems as time goes by more and more people are forgetting...  someone deserves credit for our security, right?  You don't know what you've got 'till it's gone...

I liked McCain's choice of Sarah Palin right away, but I'm amazed by how much it has changed the conversation around the election.  It almost seems to be Obama vs. Palin now...  and he comes out worse in this comparison.  Which helps McCain...

I've noticed a bitter anger among those who support Obama, even my friends.  They were nice while it seemed Obama was coasting to victory.  Now that the race is on (most polls show McCain ahead, even in the electoral vote department) they are worried, frustrated, and angry...

electoral college 09/11/08

Doc Searles, a rather easygoing Obama supporter, says Framing wins: "Palin is singlehandedly turning Obama into John Kerry".  Ouch.

Oh, no!  $100/gallon oil!  Oh wait a minute, this time we're approaching from the other direction  Whew.  Yes, Virginia, markets do work, especially if you just leave them alone...

Arnold the cyborgFull metal socket: how seniors became cyborgs.  "Twenty-four years ago, Arnold Schwarzenegger starred in The Terminator, a movie about a cyborg—part man, part machine—sent back in time from the year 2029...  Today, Schwarzenegger is 61, and the joke's on him. The cyborgs have arrived, and he's one of them. He's had a hip and two heart valves replaced, plus a femur repaired with screws, cables, and a metal plate."  Amazing.

Reminds me of the premise behind Richard K. Morgan's Altered Carbon.  In that book, set in the future, humans can buy "sleeves" - new bodies - and have their whole being transplanted.  It could happen!

Email addiction: five warning signs you need help.  The general suggestions are good, right along the lines we talked about earlier...  Of course, the first step in any addiction is recognizing you have a problem :)



(New Yorker 9/8/08 - McNopoly)

Friday,  09/12/08  07:41 PM





Another anti-McCain cover by the New Yorker, ho hum, and this one is kinda sorta cute, but I wonder whether this is really effective?  I'm not sure it is.  The bitterness of the left - particularly now that McCain has caught Obama in the national polls, making a race of it - seems to backfire.  (Even the battle for congress is now competitive.)   As I've felt all through the Bush years, I wish Democrats would concentrate on what they think should be done, instead of personal attacks.  I'm not Bush's biggest supporter, but I haven't seen much in the way of concrete proposals from the left on what they think should have been done instead.  And Obama has been suspiciously lacking in detailed proposals; we are left guessing what his Presidency might look like, all we know is it will be different - somehow.



Saturday,  09/13/08  11:48 AM

Dr. House - digital pathologist?Yesterday I talked with Dana Blankenhorn, a tech blogger and columnist for ZDNet; as a result he posted Dr. House meets HAL, his take on digital pathology.  It’s sound bite journalism, not too much there, but at least it isn’t wrong… they spelled our name right and linked to our website correctly :)

Um, y'all know who Dr. House is, right?  I did not (!), but I figured it out.  My cultural ignorance is [apparently] boundless.

Hurricane IkeWow, check out this high-res photo of Hurricane Ike (click thumbnail at left).  Wow.

Today was the "queen stage" of the 2008 Vuelta de Espana, the biggest, baddest, steepest of them all, and Alberto Contador rose to the occasion, attacking on the last climb and winning the stage, as well as taking over the overall lead.  Teammate Levi Leipheimer rode solidly in support and remains second, giving Astana one-two, which is how it is likely to end up.  (And now think about adding Lance Armstrong to this team?  Seem rather unfair!)

Good news: Bike accidents decline as ridership rises.  "According to a study by researchers at the University of New South Wales, the number of collisions decreases as the number of bicycles in traffic increases. It sounds like a paradox, they say, but motorists are more likely to drive carefully and respectfully when there are more cyclists on the road."  Great.  Get out there and ride, people!

Well, today is the big day - Ohio State vs USC.  The winner will likely have the inside track on winning the National Championship, and the loser might have a great season from this point on, but will likely be out of the running.  Should be a great game.

Ottmar Liebart - The Scent of LightArzuaga - Ribera del DueroMy Tivo HD is dialed in and ready; we're going to see Ottmar Liebert tonight at the Canyon Club, so I won't be able to watch the game live.  Should be a great concert - I love Ottmar - and we are planning to have some nice Arzuaga to accompany him.  Good friends, good music, good wine - it doesn't get any better.  And then watching 'SC win :)

P.S. Ottmar is warming up :)

Swype - a better way to "type" on a touchpad...One of the more interesting new technologies emerging is Swype, a company which has developed a faster way to "type" on touchpads...  that is a pretty cool thing, I wonder if Apple are talking to them?




Ottmar rocks!

Saturday,  09/13/08  11:17 PM

So!  We saw Ottmar Liebert and Luna Negra at the Canyon Club tonight, and may I just say they were excellent!  Man, what a great show...  (and the Arzuaga was a perfect accompaniment).  Ottmar pulled out his electric guitar a few times, which I always love; and he had an amazing sound last night, bouncy and precise.  The whole band was super tight, Souheil Kaspar on percussion was particularly amazing.  Some pics (sorry, Centro phone):

Ottmar Liebert
Ottmar Liebert at the Canyon Club

Ottmar Liebert
Luna Negra - Excellent!

Ottmar Liebert
The whole band was seriously tight.

Ottmar Liebert
Souheil Kaspar was amazing!



Sunday,  09/14/08  09:14 PM

A nice lazy Sunday... the last for a while, as my life prepares to become more complicated!  I did enjoy hanging out at home, cleaned out some stuff in the garage, did some testing before turning some last minute changes in, and watched football (!) - really feels like fall now.  Especially Pittsburgh playing Cleveland, with the rain falling and the wind blowing; it definitely isn't summer anymore.

USC demolishes Ohio State 35-3Did you see the USC game yesterday?  I watched it late last night...  wow.  When you root for a team, and they win, you celebrate.  And when your friend roots for the other team, and they lose, you gloat.  But when your team completely demolishes your friend's team, what can you do?  I have a close friend who is a big Ohio State fan.  What do I say tomorrow?  I hate to bring it up.

Hurricane Ike - ovefight of GalvestonWow, Ike really did a number on Galveston...  check out this Coast Guard overflight of the flooded areas...  horrible.  Every one of those houses is a story, people displaced, lives uprooted, memories drowned.  As with Katrina, I fear the recovery will take years.

The news of the train collision in Chatsworth was tough to hear, but even worse, today I found out Paul Long, one of my daughter's teachers died in the disaster.  He was on his way home from his mother's funeral.  That's just unbearably tragic.  And apparently the whole thing was human error...  seems so weird that there isn't some kind of fail-safe mechanism to prevent this type of disaster.

If you're a regular reader, you might remember my Second Gear essay?  It chronicles a bike ride up the Santa Susana pass... which happens to be just next to the tracks on which the collision occurred.  I'll never be able to ride that again without thinking of this tragedy...

day-by-day...Chris Muir's Day-by-Day continues to be excellent; I particularly liked this one today, with the classic Monty Python reference...

Voltaic roof shingles!  I want them, we all do; except they are really expensive, and don't really pay for themselves, even with government subsidies.  That's the big problems with alternative entropy sources, they're alternative for a reason (they aren't competitive with conventional sources).

Eric Raymond: Timing the Entitlements Crash.  "The fundamental problem is that income-transfer programs (and the interest service on the debt purchased to keep them running) are spending wealth in higher volumes than the economy can actually generate, and demand for that spending is rising faster than the economy is growing. Thus, raising tax rates is no longer a way out, if it ever was."  [ via Glenn Reynolds, who comments: "if something can't go on forever, then it won't." ]

Brian Maine - panoramic photosBrian Maine - panoramic photosThese panoramic photos by Brian Maine are amazing!  Wow, you have to click through to see them full size.  Beautiful and awe-inspiring...



gone codin'

Tuesday,  09/16/08  10:32 PM

I claim nothing is more boring than blogging about blogging, except maybe blogging about not blogging, but I must tell you I have gone codin' - head down and trying to deliver something on negative time.  Please stay tuned and our regularly scheduled programming will return shortly.

To tide you over, here's a spiffy puzzle from my friend Nick:

You are one of 20 prisoners on death row.  Your king is a ruthless man who likes to toy with his people's miseries.  He comes to your cell and tells you:

"I'm going to give you prisoners a chance to go free tomorrow.  You will all stand in a row and we will put a hat on your head, either a red or a black one.  Of course you will not be able to see the color of your own hat; you will only be able to see the prisoners in front of you with their hats on; you will not be allowed to look back or communicate in any way.  The prisoner in the back will be able to see the 19 prisoners in front of him.  The one in front of him will be able to see 18, and so on.  Starting with the last prisoner, the one who can see everybody in front of him, he will be asked a simple question: WHAT IS THE COLOR OF YOUR HAT?  He will be only allowed to answer BLACK or RED.  If he guesses the right color of the hat on his head he will be set free, otherwise he will be put to death.  And we move on to the one in front of him and ask him the same question and so on...  Well, good luck tomorrow, HA HA HA HA HA HA!"

You all can communicate freely during the night, can you find a way to guarantee the freedom of some prisoners tomorrow?  How many?

Enjoy :)

[Update: the answer has been posted... ]



still codin'

Thursday,  09/18/08  11:25 PM

I'm still sequestered, coding away on my little project, desperately trying to get it done...  progress is being made, but too slowly...  anyway I'm still alive and I'll be back on the air one way or another on Sunday :)  And tomorrow afternoon I'm driving up to Napa Valley so I can compete in the Knoxville Double on Saturday.  Whew.

I did want to give you the answer to Nick's spiffy puzzle... 

It is possible for only the back prisoner to die, no matter how many prisoners there are, and him only 50% of the time.  The back one computes the “parity” of all the hats in front of him, and he says one color if there are an even number of hats of a certain color, else the opposite.  {For example, he says "black" if there are an even number of black hats, else "red".}  He might have that color hat, and live, or the opposite color, and die; no way for him to know.  But now the second guy sees all the hats in front of him, so he can figure out his color using the “parity” given to him by the back guy.  {For example if he sees an even number of black hats, and the back guy said "black", then his hat is red.}  So #2 says his color and lives.  The third prisoner hears what second one said, and sees all the hats in front of him, so he can figure out his color using the “parity” from the first guy.  {For example if he sees an even number of black hats, and #2 said "black", and the back guy said "black", then his hat must be black also.}  So #3 says his color and lives.  And so on...  Each prisoner can figure out his color from what the ones behind said and what he can see of the ones in front of him, plus the back guy's parity bit.

Pretty cool, eh?

Cheers :)



sextuple double - riding the Knoxville Classic!

Sunday,  09/21/08  07:44 PM

Hi - I'm baack...  I emerged from a self-imposed deathmarch to deliver some software, just in time to take off for a few days and ride the Knoxville Double Century, in Napa Valley.  I made it - riding, as usual, with my friend Mark Burson - and enjoyed it very much.  It took us about 16 hours overall, 13:30 riding time. 

The course has about 12,600' of climbing, and it is deceptive; unlike other rides where there are a few well-defined big climbs, the course spreads the climbing over the whole ride, virtually all of it was up and down on rollers.  I don't think I've ever shifted so much, and managed to drop my chain about ten times with badly timed shifts from the big ring.  There were few opportunities to really crank, it was more just staying focused and adapting.

Knoxville Double - at the halfway point
Mark and I, about halfway done, and still smiling :)

I had one really scary moment; at about 175 miles I was barreling down a descent in the dark when I hit a bump, and my headlight shut off.  Wow, instant darkness, and I was still moving at 30mph.  I managed to come to a stop without hitting anything, and just sat there in the dark, my red taillight blinking its eerie glow without providing much light to see.  I had to wait for another rider to come along and then jumped on their wheel, and followed riders all the way to the next rest stop.  At which point, the headlight began working again.  Ah, Murphy, you're so much fun.

Adding to the pleasure of the ride, Friday night we had dinner with my friends Tim and Kathy Marshall, who have a beautiful property near Lower Lake, at the extreme North end of the ride route.  Serious amounts of excellent salad and pasta were eaten and Pinot Noir was drunk, including a fantastic wine called Six Sigma made by one of Tim's neighbors (an ex-GE guy, of course :)

Knoxville Double - dinner with Tim and Kathy Marshall
Kathy explains while Mark listens, and I mug for the camera

Tim and Kathy live right along the race route, so we saw them during the ride, too - wow, fans!  Their 70-acre property is not quite the middle of nowhere, but you can see it from there.

Knoxville Double - at Lake Berryessa
At around 50 miles, Lake Berryessa

One of the real pleasures of this ride was the isolation, we were on back roads most of the day, with little car traffic.  The scenery was amazing.  It is always such a joy to realize how much wilderness still exists in California, even after all the development that has taken place.

Knoxville Double - back country wilderness
Knoxville Road, in the Lake County wilderness

And then today we attended the annual California Triple Crown breakfast, where we were formally anointed as triple crown winners (as well as 1,000 mile club members).  I was able to tell Mark's story - he completed six double centuries this year on an artificial hip - and everyone was appropriately appreciative.  Among the highlights of the breakfast was the introduction of the 100 double century club, yes, that's right, these people have each ridden at least 100 double centuries in their lives:

California Triple Crown breakfast - 100 double club
The 100 double club.  Wow, just wow.

The guy second from the left in the picture above is Dave "big ring" Evans, who at 70 is still riding doubles, he completed the ride yesterday.  I can't even imagine that, but it is good to have goals :)

And speaking of goals, next up is the Furnace Creek 508!  Scary, now just two weeks away...



keeping score

Sunday,  09/21/08  07:49 PM

I just noted completing a sextuple double, by riding the Knoxville Double Century, but it was also my tenth ultra century this year (rides of more than 100 miles).  In the interest of keeping score:

ride datedistance climbingriding timenote

PCH Rando 200K


128 miles



PCH Rando 300K


185 miles



Butterfield Double


200 miles!



Solvang Double


200 miles


Hemet Double


200 miles



qualified for California Triple Crown!

Breathless Agony


114 miles



Eastern Sierra Double


200 miles



Grand Tour Double


200 miles



qualified for 1,000 mile club!

Markleeville Death Ride


129 miles



Knoxville Classic Double


200 miles



Still, who's counting?  Okay, okay, maybe I am.  Hoping for some more of that metric magic :)

Actually I've been keeping score another way, too.  After each ultra century, I've fashioned a little sticker commemorating the ride.  This is what the top tube of my bike looks like now:

ultra century stickers on top tube
(ultra century stickers - click to enbiggen)

Pretty cool, eh?  I get a kick out of making a new sticker after each ride, and I like the admiring stares when I ride with my local club on weeknights (the Conejo Valley Cyclists). Yeah, I’m a bit of a ham, what can I say.



Sunday,  09/21/08  08:42 PM

Well, I am back to the land of the "normal", no longer working day and night trying to get software delivered, or driving up to Napa to ride in a 200 mile cycling race.  A lot happened last week - a lot - and I must tell you, I am not a news outlet, so I apologize if I skip stuff which was "important". 

In particular while I am really worried about the Fannie Mae / Freddie Mac bailout, I don't understand it well enough to have an opinion.  Actually I do have an opinion, that it was really stupid to have these quasi-government quasi-private corporations in the first place.  I understand encouraging home ownership and I realize having a market for mortgages helps by lowing rates and allowing lenders to take more chances, but surely there was a better way?  We can see that now...  probably everything else bad that has happened and likely will happen can be traced back to this.

Happy Birthday!First and foremost, HAPPY BIRTHDAY to my wonderful daughter Jordan, who turned 22 today.  Wow, 22, I can so remember her as a little girl.  She says she feels old, which is kind of funny but kind of understandable.  I was 22 when I got married!  Wow.  Anyway Jordan is great and doing great, and [I think] had a nice day, so it was a Happy Birthday!

Even as we almost had a female President and could still have a female Vice President, the new Israeli Prime Minister is a woman, Tzipi Livni.  This is pretty important, Israel is a nuclear power, and Iran, another nuclear power, has threatened their extermination.  If there is a nuclear war on Earth in the next decade, this is most likely where it will start.

The media bias on display in this election has been nothing short of staggering.  All pretense of neutrality has been lost.  I understand Saturday Night Live had a joke about Todd Palin and incest.  Wow, is that funny (no, they don't deserve a link).  The Emmy Awards were a liberal feeding frenzy (no, they don't serve a link).  If you really want to see how bad it's gotten, check this out: CNN's Jack Cafferty thinks only racism explains close polls.  This wasn't a column, by the way, it was a "news" story.  CNN, the LATimes, the NYTimes, NBC, ABC, CBS - they're all in the tank for Obama.  And yet the polls do remain close, and not because of racism.  I think the US public has calibrated the media, and is disgusted by it.  And when they look at Obama, they don't see a man who is half-African American, they see an American, who happens to be just 46 and has served only one year as a Senator.

If, improbably, you're still undecided about who to vote for, you might find this article in the NYTimes comparing McCain's and Obama's positions on various aspects of science.  At the highest level the difference appears to be - as you would expect - that Obama wants to use public money, while McCain wants to support private industry.

Wades Wines logoThis is kind of cool: the Ventura County Star lauds Wade's Wines, my favorite local wine store.  They have great stuff, reasonably priced, and their people know wine.  You can walk in, describe what you want (a robust pinot with a smoky aftertaste for $25, from Oregon), and they'll point you right to it.

Levi Leipheimer wins final Vuelta TTSo Levi Leipheimer won the final time trial in the 2008 Vuelta a Espana, and Alberto Contador wrapped up the overall title.  That means Contador has won each of the grand tours consecutively, the 2007 Tour de France, the 2008 Giro di Italia, and the 2008 Vuelta a Espana.  (He did not ride in the 2008 Tour de France because his team Astana were not invited, due to past problems with doping which didn't involve Contador.)  Pretty cool.  And also cool that Levi finished second overall, giving Astana one-two, and a clear claim to be the top team in the world.

So do you now take this team and add Lance Armstrong to it?  I don't know, it might not even help...

Good news: the FDA is adding 1,300 more people.  Or is it?  I am conflicted; on the one hand, judging from Aperio's interactions with them they really don't have enough people, but on the other, government bureaucracies like this only get bigger, never smaller.

Goodbye to Yankee Stadium.  As a longtime Dodger fan, I'm not too sad about this.  I understand the iconic nature of the place - Sports Illustrated had a nice article about it, featuring George Bush throwing out the first ball the night of 9/11 - but in the end it is just a stadium.  Not like Dodger Stadium, for example, which is a temple!

Olin StephensSailing Anarchy notes The End of a Legend, as Olin Stephens has died.  "A wonderful man by all accounts, the body of work of Sparkman and Stephens, the design breakthroughs, and the sheer beauty of their work remains as a testament to the incredible boats they graced our sport with. Of all his brilliant accomplishments, designing eight of the nine America's Cup winners between 1937 and 1980 most certainly stands unmatched."  This man designed more of the top racing sailboats in the world over a longer period of time than anyone.




sick as a dog

Monday,  09/22/08  07:04 PM

sick as a dog :(Light blogging tonight as I am sick as a dog; temp hovering around 101o.  Also the coherence of these posts may be even sketchier than usual.  I attribute this cold/whatever to the no-sleep-deathmarch of last week, not riding a 200 on Saturday, but perhaps they were both contributing factors.  Anyway.

This is the saddest thing: Paul Long, my daughter Alex' English teacher last year, died in the Metrolink computer accident in Chatsworth.  Her whole school was closed today and they had a nice funeral service at the Cavalry Community Church.  Seems like everyone I know knew someone or knew someone who knew someone; such a tragedy.

Powerline asks Why Did It Happen?  And links this article by Kevin Hassett, which John Hindraker claims is all you need to know.  "Fannie and Freddie did this by becoming a key enabler of the mortgage crisis. They fueled Wall Street's efforts to securitize subprime loans by becoming the primary customer of all AAA-rated subprime-mortgage pools. In addition, they held an enormous portfolio of mortgages themselves."  Just as I suspected...

Wired News reports McCain affirms support for embryonic stem cell research.  Good!

Related: Eric Raymond pens Sarah Palin, American Centerist.  "In the fusillade of accusations that has been flung at Sarah Palin since McCain chose her as VP-nominee, there is one thread in common; that Palin is an extreme right-winger. There are several possible reasons for an accuser to take this position, but it occurred to me yesterday that the most important one may be accusers who are honestly confused about where the American center actually is."  This is so true!  If you only watched television and read newspapers, you would think the Republicans are hopelessly right wing.  Then you go into the real world and you discover that the Republicans are in the middle, and the Democrats are way over to the left!

I missed blogging about this when it happened somehow; StackOverflow launched!  This fine effort from Joel Spolsky and Jeff Atwood (two of my favorite "programming" bloggers) is a programming Q&A site.  Here's the draw, as described by Joel:

You know what drives me crazy?  Programmer Q&A websites.  You know what I’m talking about.  You type a very specific programming question into Google and you get back:

  • A bunch of links to discussion forums where very unknowledgeable people are struggling with the same problem and getting nowhere,
  • A link to a Q&A site that purports to have the answer, but when you get there, the answer is all encrypted, and you’re being asked to sign up for a paid subscription plan,
  • An old Usenet post with the exact right answer—for Windows 3.1—but it just doesn’t work anymore,
  • And something in Japanese.

I do know exactly what he's talking about, this has been my experience, too.  But the competition for a dedicated site is... well...  Google.  'Cause when I want to find something, I use Google to find it.  Anyway we'll see how well this works!

Bentley Continental GT SpeedThis is pretty funny; TTAC reviews the Bentley Continental GT Speed.  Yes, that's really the name of the car model, and apparently they weren't too impressed.  "The Speed’s full leather interior with cross contrasting stitching (a $3300 option) felt coarse and looked putrid in my test car. The Speed has as many electronics as Captain Mike’s AWACS plane, but the gadgets are all several years out of date, anchored by an all-in-one LCD screen for operating the radio, HVAC, and navigation system that was objectively rotten. The grand touring promise that should be inherent in such a titanic coupe is broken by back seats that are too small for adults."  Huh, so be it.  I have to confess, I used to love the way Bentley's looked, but now they just remind me of a Chrysler 300.  There are so many of those blingmobiles on the road, they've swamped the brand association of that look.

relative sizes of planets and starsRelative sizes of the planets and various stars.  Pretty amazing that there are several orders of magnitude more variation in star sizes than planetary sizes.  And wow, are we little!

Distant Replay: a great article about re-watching the 1958 NFL Championship game with 2008 eyes.  [ via Daring Fireball ]

Dear Lazyweb: anyone have any experience with Ooma?  It is a pretty slick-looking VoIP solution...  just curious.

Okay, not bad for a sick guy.  Now I am going to bed, taking my fever with me.  Keep your fingers crossed!



the ten yard line

Tuesday,  09/23/08  07:38 PM

Okay, I'm going way far from my usual subject matter here, but I want to discuss something of importance.  Everyone thinks the most important line in football is the goal line.  They are wrong.  The most important line in football is the ten-yard line.  Stay with me, like I said, this is important.

Last night I watched Sunday's Green Bay vs Dallas game.  Did you watch it?  Good game, matching two good teams.  So Dallas won, and there was a key play in the middle of third quarter which pretty much decided the game.  At the time nobody paid any attention, but shortly thereafter John Madden was talking about how you make cottage cheese, because the game was over.  (I am not making this up.)  Here's a recap of the game, see if you can spot the crucial play.  I'll wait.

Donald Driver makes an acrobatic move against DallasDid you spot it?  So here's the description from the recap:

With Green Bay trailing 13-6, Rodgers connected with Donald Driver on a 50-yard pass early in the third quarter -- but the Packers settled for a field goal.

That's it!  What really happened is that Driver got free, made a nice catch on a good throw, and ran down to about the thirteen yard line.  At that point he encountered a Dallas safety, leaped into the air, and made an acrobatic move to gain five more yards.  Leaving Green Bay first and goal at the eight.  The announcers praised Driver for his extra effort, and later when Green Bay had to settle for a field goal, they didn't refer back to this play at all.  (That's Driver celebrating at right; little did he know, he screwed up...)

Now consider, what if Driver knew the truth, that the ten yard line is the most important line in football?  Suppose he had just run out of bounds at the thirteen?  Now Green Bay has first and ten on the thirteen.  A whole different situation from first and goal at the eight.  Now they can make a first down inside the five.  If they don't, okay, they kick a field goal.  But their chances of advancing the ball from the thirteen to the three are a heck of a lot better than their chances of scoring from the eight.  And once they're inside the three, they're chances of scoring are pretty high.  In fact, they can take a shot at the endzone from the thirteen, too, it is easier to score with twenty-three yards of field to work with than eighteen.  See, this is the thing; when a team gets the ball between the fifteen and the ten, they score more often than when they get the ball between the ten and the five.  You can look it up.  I'll wait.

Consider what would have happened if Driver runs out of bounds on the thirteen, and Green Bay subsequently scores, either with or without getting a first down inside the three.  Now the game is tied, and Green Bay has momentum.  It isn't clear they would have won, but they would have had a much better chance of winning.

This is why the ten yard line is so important.  When a receiver or running back has the ball, and they are approaching the ten, they have to make a decision.  If they can score, great, do it.  But if they can't score, they should just run out of bounds on the thirteen, lie down on the field, whatever.  Seriously.  It goes against testosterone, but it is the right thing to do, statistically.

Thanks for reading.  I told you it was important!



Megan shoots, and scores!

Tuesday,  09/23/08  09:22 PM

Some parental chest beating...  my daughter Megan is amazing.  First, here's what happened:

Latshaw finalist in Discovery competition

Now, how did this happen?  Steve Latshaw was Megan's fifth grade teacher last [school] year, and among his many skills, he is a great science teacher.  And Megan loves science, so this was a wonderful match.  Mr. Latshaw thought it would be cool to enter a Discovery Channel competition, on "how to teach Newton's Laws in two minutes".  He designed a lesson, got all the kids in the class involved, and arranged for various parents to videotape it.  On her own bat, Megan decided to bring in her Flip video camera, and taped the lesson also... 

Flip video camera{ By the way, these little Flip video cameras are really cool.  Nothing is safe from being recorded around our house anymore :)  The idea of putting the software on the camera, accessible via the USB interface, was genius.  Nothing to install! }

... so it turns out none of the parents who videotaped the lesson came through with a finished video.  But Megan edited her video (on her iMac, using iMovie, of course :) and showed it to Mr. Latshaw, who was impressed, and they recorded a voice over, and she edited that in, and then we submitted it, and the upshot is that Mr. Latshaw was chosen as one of the Discovery Challenge finalists!

How cool is that!  BTW Megan is 11...



still sick as a dog

Tuesday,  09/23/08  09:41 PM

sick as a dogWell I am still as sick as a dog, temp still 101o, still coughing up a storm.  I am trying to pretend that I'm not sick, but it is so inconvenient.  For one thing, I was supposed to be in my office the past couple of days for a bunch of meetings, and had to take them over the 'phone instead.  Well, so be it, IIWII.  However tomorrow I am determined to feel better!

A beautiful day: I received this link from my friend Randy, and shared it with everyone at Aperio.  It has nothing to do with our work, and yet, everything. If you can make five minutes to watch, I believe you’ll be glad you did.

The Danger of being Too Nice at Work.  Not one of the things I ordinarily worry about :)

T-Mobile G1 smartphoneToday's big news was the announcement of T-Mobile's G1 smartphone, the first based on Google's Android operating system.  Of course everyone is comparing it to the iPhone.  There is a general sense that this is the first second device in the iPhone's class, in terms of usability and functionality.  I haven't seen or used one, but since my primary objection to the iPhone was a lack of hardware keyboard, I might really love it.  Now, if it could just be available on Sprint :)

Walt Mossberg's take: "In sum, the G1 is a powerful, versatile device which will offer users a real alternative in the new handheld computing category the iPhone has occupied alone."

TechCrunch says it is no iPhone, but close.  "In the end this is not really about Android versus the iPhone. It’s about Web phones versus the brick in your pocket."

Boing Boing gushes: "I've played with a lot of phones, but this is the first true 'smart phone' that is as easy to use as an iPhone, Sidekick, or Helio Ocean. Unlike the iPhone, it has a real keyboard that slips out from the bottom (and a bit more effortlessly than the one on my Ocean). Real keys, too, that feel good and click."

Sadly, I missed Oct 19th, the annual talk like a pirate day.  Arrr...  Anyway Google did not miss it, and added "pirate" as one of the languages they support.  "It recently came to our attention that Google was not accessible to a large, influential, and notoriously quick-tempered community: Pirates."  Reminds me of the famous pirate keyboard, with a single key: R :)

John Gruber digs deep into the new Microsoft commercials.  "And so what makes Microsoft’s new 'I’m a PC' commercials so jaw-droppingly bad is that they’re not countering Apple’s message, but instead they’re reinforcing it."  It is a well reasoned argument, but the conclusion "feels" wrong.  I've seen these commercials, and while they don't make me run out to get a PC, they aren't ridiculous, either.  (I must say, the Jerry Seinfeld commercials I did not get.  At all.)



still feel like crap

Wednesday,  09/24/08  08:09 PM

sick as a dogMy virus breeding program continues successfully, and my temperature continues to hover around 100o.  My thermostat is not functional, I ping between sweating and freezing.  My brain is barely functional (even less than normal).  Crap!

And I'm supposed to be at the College of American Pathologists conference in San Diego, hanging out with customers and colleagues, and learning a lot and having a good time.  Instead, this.  Crap.

While Tim Oren was out, our financial system went missing.  Lots of good links to explanations about what is going on and how it happened...

I really feel bad about this Lance Armstrong thing.  So he has now announced that he is joining Astana, and as you would expect Alberto Contador is hesitant to ride with him.  Who can blame him?  It would have been so much better for Lance to form a new team, with his connections and PR he could have recruited sponsors easily and started a whole new operation centered on him.  Instead I believe this makes the best team in the world weaker.  A team with Kloden, Leipheimer, and Contador does not need another leader.

Myst!Wired runs these great articles from interesting dates in the past, and goes back to September 24, 1993, when Myst was first released.  Boy do I remember that.  I had a Mac 6100 (first PowerPC machine, remember?) and I loved every second of Myst.  It was a completely new thing, a new world inside a computer.  I know, it doesn't hold a candle to today's games, but it was so new.  I also remember eagerly anticipating Riven, the sequel, and although Riven was great, it wasn't as great.  Maybe it just wasn't as new...

The article makes the point - well taken - that Myst not only sold 6 million copies, but it also drove sales of countless CD-ROM drives.  I well remember the era of PCs with external CD-ROM drives, don't you :)

Want to know what pisses me off?  Check this out: Students are always half right in Pittsburgh.  "Pittsburgh Public Schools officials have enacted a policy that sets 50 percent as the minimum score a student can receive for assignments, tests and other work. District spokeswoman Ebony Pugh said, the 50 percent minimum gives children a chance to catch up and a reason to keep trying."  Ebony Pugh is an idiot.  If kids don't try, they fail.  Period.

Cathedral of Christ the Light, in OaklandInhabitat notes the amazing Cathedral of Christ the Light, in Oakland.
It is wonderful!

Liron Shapira on the Singularity Summit 2008.  It defies synopsis, please click through to read his description.

Don Reisinger says Windows 7 must appeal to geeks, or else.  I keep saying it over and over, but they won't listen, there is only one thing Windows 7 must be in order to be successful: fast.  That's it!  If it is faster than Vista, faster than XP, then it will succeed.  If it is a pig like Vista, it will fail.

I'm not an iPhone developer, but I've been following the weirdness surrounding Apple's heavy-handedness with iPhone developers pretty closely.  Brett Simmons says it is Beneath Apple and John Gruber is starting to get The Fear.  Particularly striking in contrast to the wide-open approach Google is taking with Android...



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still the first bird
electoral fail
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