Archive: May 2014
Yesterday I rode the Breathless Agony, "the toughest century in California", for the ... (counts fingers) ... seventh time. All 114 miles, 12,300 feet of climbing, and [in a special treat] 100 degrees from Redlands at the bottom to the 8,443' Onyx Summit at the top. Gasp.
I was definitely out of shape this year (argh!) and had to rely on my gears (yay, 34x28) and my stubbornness to make it to the top. That final five miles to the summit is horrible, and seemed to have extra sections since the last time I rode it. As I was struggling up at 4mph a bee decided to sting me in the neck. I was not happy with that bee.
Anyway I made it - yay - and after about five minutes of feeling like I was going to throw up and die, I was okay, and then the feeling of accomplishment took over. My total time to the top was 7:23, not my best - at all - but not horrible all things considered. As usual I wondered why I did it while I was doing it, and as usual with 24 hours past I can't wait to do it again. And I am resolved to be in better shape!
early morning, driving in - yep, I'm riding up there
paceline through Moreno Valley
sun peaking up and it is *hot* already
Jackrabbit Trail, the first climb - road surface has not improved
this guy is always here, on the second climb to Glen Oaks
summit of the second climb, now a fast descent, and then the real climb begins
onward and upward into Damnation Alley - 12 miles at 6-8% without a break
whew made it to Angelus Oaks checkpoint
yay, bacon :)
a brief respite before the final climb to the summit
view back down to the valley is incredible
Cinco de Mayo! On a Monday? Really?
Did you know? This holiday celebrates Mexico's victory over France, in 1862, and it is actually bigger in the US than Mexican Independence Day, which falls on Sept 16. It's usually a great excuse to drink beer and party, but ... not on a Monday. Boo.
This Saturday the cycling season officially transitions from one-day "classics" to week-long "stage races", as the Tour of California starts. The classic season was great, and now I can't wait for the ATOC. Especially since the decisive final stage is practically in my backyard, with a circuit of Thousand Oaks, Westlake Village, and Agoura Hills, featuring the famous "Rockstore" climb. Yes I will be there, and yes, I will post about it. Stay tuned!
Just when you think you've seen it all: eccentric axe uses physics to split wood. Please click through and check it out, it's more interesting than you might think...
Amazon launches wearable tech store. Of course they did. Accessible via their mobile app, of course :)
Interesting article about Elon's Elan; the empire built by Elon Musk which includes SpaceX, Tesla, Solar City, etc. And how he was able to finance each in creative ways... he certainly is a visionary, in the truest sense of seeing further into the future than most of us, and then making it happen.
The plant with 1,000 faces; this "chameleon" vine is a parasite which can look like its host, customizing its leaves to match nearby foliage. How interesting. And the mechanism by which it does this is not yet understood...
ZooBorn of the day: a porcupette. Awww :)
Hi all hope you had a great Mother's Day! At the end of the a nice long weekend, the Ole filter makes a pass...
Have you noticed that more and more websites are targeting "wide" browser window widths, to the point where content doesn't even display properly in narrower windows? Not good. I understand that lots of people maximize their browser now, and use tabs, but lots of people don't, too. Websites should work no matter what.
Another whiny observation: Now that computers are so fast, how come applications take *forever* to launch? I was playing on an old Win XP machine and double-clicked a PDF, and poof! Acrobat Reader launched and poof! the file was displayed. On my Win 7 machine I double-click a PDF and (yawn) it takes forever for Adobe Reader to launch and display the file. Not sure whether to blame Win 7 or Adobe Reader, probably both. Cruft!
So you can use it (and I can find it later): Here's how to clear out all your Message Attachments to reclaim a ton of space on your IOS device. I just removed 3GB from my iPad. It works.
Danny Crichton: A personal reflection on Google+. Seems my sloth in ignoring Google+ has been rewarded. Honestly Google+ was never something I didn't get, but it was always something I didn't want.
In which Robert Scoble restarts blogging: Knock, knock, is this thing on? I went through the same loop - blogging, blogging+Facebook, Facebook only, and back to blogging+Facebook - albeit less publicly than Robert. Welcome back to the blogosphere :)
Awesome: America's next fleet of spaceships will have to double as lifeboats. Amazing that there are six people living in the ISS and we hardly ever hear about it. Might make an interesting reality show?
Uranus, seen from Saturn. And no, this is not from a movie. Cassini seems to be the space photography gift that keeps on giving.
I actually don't think this will happen: Apple buying Beats could radically transform the music business. When was the last time Apple did anything like this? And when did we ever hear about it beforehand?
Did you enjoy Draft Day? I did. And did you enjoy the real draft day? Seems like it was even better than the movie. Who would have predicted that Cleveland would end up with Johnny Manziel, on the 22nd pick?
Yeah? When did guys start talking like valley girls? Stop, like, using like, dude.
Voronoi-zation - here's how you do it*.
0) Download and install Meshlab, an awesome open source program that let's you do all kinds of amazing transformations on meshes. What's a mesh? Any collection of vertices and faces. In particular, any object you might want to 3D-print, or any object you might create with a CAD program like Tinkercad. STL files contain meshes.
1) You need a starting point, the object to be "Voronoi-ed". For example, here we have a 3D object which is the famous "Love" sculpture. Launch Meshlab and perform File | Import Mesh to load the object.
2) Next we have to make sure there are hundreds of thousands of vertices in this object. Perform Filters | Remeshing | Subdivision Surfaces: Loop. Click Apply repeatedly and watch the number of faces multiply. you might have to change the Edge Threshold from 1.0% to 0.5%, to get to 300,000 or so vertices. You'll note that in the process some of the hard edges of the object are going to get softened, and that's good too.
3) Okay, now we cover the surface of this object with points, randomly. These are going to be the centers of the little holes we will remove later to create the Voronoi effect. Perform Filters | Sampling | Poisson-disk Sampling. You might have to play with the number of samples; the more complicated the original shape, the more points you'll want. For this example I've chosen 250, for a simpler object like a donut, maybe 100 would be okay. You can see the points as white dots.
A little digression; Meshlab does not have "undo". However in this case we are creating a new mesh from the old one, and we can delete the new mesh and create another, repeatedly. Select View | Show Layer Dialog and you'll see each of the meshes separately. You can right-click on the Poisson-disk Samples and select Delete Current Mesh if you want to retry.
4) Time to "Voronoi". Perform Filters | Sampling | Voronoi Vertex Coloring. Click BackDistance, and then click Apply. The original mesh will be colored based on how far each vertex is from the points in the random Poisson distribution. The far away areas are red - these are going to be the bones of the final object - and the close areas are green - these are going to be deleted.
At this point if you want to redo the operation, you can. Simply delete the Poisson-disk samples, create a new random distribution of points, and perform the Voronoi Vertex Coloring again.
5) Time to modify the mesh and create some holes! First, perform View | Show Layer Dialog if you haven't already, right-click on the original mesh, and select Flatten Visible Layers, then click Apply (accept the defaults). At this point the coloring is going to disappear, but the points are still there and the vertex distances from the points have been saved.
6) Next perform Filters | Selection | Select Faces by Vertex Quality. The term "quality" here really means distance from the points. Click "Preview" so you can see the vertices which have been selected; they'll be red. Slide "Max" all the way to the right. And now play with "Min" until you have the pattern you want. You might have to type values if the slider is too granular.
Note this step just "selects" vertices, so you can play around until you get it the way you want. In the next step we delete vertices and faces, and that's undoable.
7) When you've got the pattern just the way you want it, perform Filters | Selection | Delete Selected Faces and Vertices. You've cut away the mesh now, and we're well on our way to Voronoization.
8) Now it's time to cleanup the cut away mesh; as you can see, the pattern is rather jagged. Select Filters | Smoothing | Laplacian Smooth, and Apply a few times. Each time you apply the pattern will be smoother, and you'll also notice the holes get rounder in the process, making the object more spidery.
9) Next comes the crucial step; we're going to make a 3D object out of this! Right now the surface is the right pattern, but it has zero thickness, and that's not what we want. Select Filters | Remeshing | Uniform Mesh Resampling. Check the Absolute Distance box. There are two parameters here, and they're both important. The Precision value controls the level of detail, I usually set this to about 0.3. And the Offset value controls the thickness of the new object. You can play with this, I usually set around 0.5. You want the object to be reasonably thick so it will print properly; also, that makes it look cooler.
This process can take a long time (minutes rather than seconds), and it creates a new mesh from the old one. That means if you don't like the result, you can delete the mesh (right-click, select Delete Current Mesh), and try again.
10) Yay we have a 3D object! Now we want to clean it up. We have two tools for this; first, the Filter | Smoothing | Laplacian Smooth we used before in step (8), and second, the Filter | Remeshing | Subdivision Surfaces: Loop we used in step (2). The Laplacian Smooth moves vertices, while the Subdivision Surfaces adds them. Here's what the example looks like after a bit of smoothing:
11) And then after some Subdivision Surfaces to add vertices:
12) Awesome, right! Now we just need to reduce the number of faces. This figure currently has over 400,000, and while that makes for good definition, it's going to slow down our slicer amazingly when we try to print. Perform Filters | Remeshing | Quadric Edge Collapse Decimation. (Did you ever think you'd actually use a tool with that name? :) This allows you to reduce the number of faces. The target depends on the complexity of the object. For this case, I chose to reduce to 150,000. You probably won't even be able to tell the difference.
13) That's it we're done. Now just select File | Export Mesh As and save as an STL, and you'll be able to print the Voronoi-ed object. How cool is that?
* What is Voronoi-zation, you ask? Well, it's the process of taking an object and creating a new object from it with a bunch of cool holes cut into it, useful for making interesting 3D-printable shapes. Voronoi was a mathematician who studied surfaces; if you have a surface and imagine some selected points sprinkled over the surface, then for any point on the surface it is closest to a selected point. You can score all the points by how far they are from the closest point, and that defines a pattern. This pattern can be used to cut holes in an object. Once you've cut the holes, you can then make the surface three dimensional, and poof! you have a Voronoi object.
Yesterday I mentioned how slowly Adobe Reader launches on Win 7 compared to an old Acrobat Reader on Win XP. This struck a nerve, because a bunch of you supplied me with other examples of programs which used to launch much more quickly than they do today:
- Photoshop. Everyone agrees this is the slowest launching program ever, and just gets slower with each release. Except for...
- Visual Studio. Wow does VS 2010 take forever compared to VS 2005, which is way slow compared to say VB 6. What the heck is it doing during a launch, writing a novel?
- Outlook. Yeah, it was always slow, but it seems to get slower and slower and s l o w e r. Somehow its Office brethren are not as bad; Word and Excel are not speed demons, but they're not slower than they used to be either. (OTOH, Powerpoint ... yeah, it's a pig.)
- Firefox. Slower than molasses. When Firefox was my daily browser, I always kept an instance launched so new windows would open quickly. Now that I use Chrome this is no longer an issue.
- Safari. Yep, slow. So slow in all ways that many Mac users have turned to Chrome.
You might think this problem is limited to Windows, but no. I have a really old Mac SE30 (yay!) and I boot it from time to time just to make sure it still works, and man is it fast. Really. I know the old Mac OS (7.5.5) was a pig for many things, but ... somehow those old programs just launched right up.
On the other hand, if you ever want to see speed in action, try launching stuff on Linux. Wow. Poof, instant launching, even big complicated programs. I mostly use Linux as a server OS, but every time I use it as a desktop I wish my desktop was as fast.
Okay one final point: I think this is a big reason why people like tablets. They're instant on, and apps are instant launch. You never worry about whether something is "already running". That's a big deal.
Wow, love this: The Daily Overview offers up a new interesting satellite photo every day.
What a great idea.
The Palace at Versailles
(too bad they don't have an RSS feed...)
Wired Magazine asks the important question:
where should I post this photo?
And my answer is ... *here* :)
at the headquarters of Ostrich, Inc
Big day today, and bigger day tomorrow ... riding up the Big Pines Highway to the ATOC Stage 6 summit finish at Mountain High, and then attending my 35th class reunion at Caltech. Whew. And in the meantime, it's all happening...
Scott "Dilbert" Adams: Profiting from the news. "It's never a good idea to get investment ideas from a cartoonist".
The Oatmeal: What it's like to own a Tesla Model S. It's all great, but I especially like the part where he tries to come up with a better name. My favorite is "Electric Cruisebeast" :)
Hmmm: Apple hiring efforts point to medical tech integration. I like the idea that Apple are working on a wearable computer which is worn on the wrist, but is a lot more than a watch. The iPhone was a lot more than a phone.
Seth Godin: Embracing the Power User. We think about this a lot at eyesFinder. We have to get early adopters excited and delighted, then we can cross the chasm.
Things missing from profile at right: power users experiment and tolerate, but also criticize and move on.
Average Americans think they're smarter than average Americans. Hehe. Of course they do.
... Goes a long way toward explaining this: When will they ever learn? "Socialism is, by a very wide margin, the worst disaster in the history of the human race."
Athletes reveal true selves on Twitter after NFL player kisses boyfriend. My question is, are they allowed to feel the way they feel, or must they feel the way the media thinks they should feel? Who decides?
Okay, I'm off! Stay tuned for a full report...
Yesterday I rode up to the Mountain High ski area from Palmdale, ahead of Amgen Tour of California stage 6, which rode the same route about three times as fast as I did :) Was a perfect day for a little 25 mile climb at 8% up to 8,000 feet; 90+ degrees, hot and dry. Whew.
I began the day at the start town of Newhall; hung out with the teams :) watched the start, and then drove to Palmdate and rode up the mountain before watching the finish. A nice little cycling day.
Of possible interest, here are some pics:
The picturesque start town of Newhall
(not pictured, 100 degreee heat)
The picturesque start town of Newhall
All the team buses are there
And the team cars are ready!
Inspecting the Belkin bikes (talking Dutch was actually helpful!)
Sir Bradley Wiggins, replendent in yellow
Tom Danielson - would end up being critical on thisday
A young fan :)
The start! - and they're off...
Onward through the desert, with the high mountains in the background yet to climb
Parked, and I'm riding ... a mere 25K to go (straight up of course)
Onward and upward
Still smiling in the heat
More climbing up "Big Pines Highway", as desert gives way to pines
The final turn up to the ski area of Mountain High
Passing through the 1K banner, still smiling :P
300m to go, "shut up legs"
Jumbotron shows the breakaway behind, catching fast
The finishing straight
Made it! And so here I am, at the finish...
Wiggins survives on the day, led by Adam Yates
Stage winner Esteban Chavez
Today the Tour continues with a circuit race in Pasadena, and tomorrow it finishes up with an epic race in Thousand Oaks including the famous Rockstore climb which is practically in my backyard. Unfortunately I'll be well on my way to Kazakhstan by that time (really!) ... bad timing. More on that, stay tuned :)
Hi all, I'm off! Yes you knew that already, but now I'm really off ... off to Kazakhstan, to give a talk at the ASTEX 2014 conference next week. So, where is Kazakhstan?
Yep, it's huge, and it's directly in the middle of Asia, right between Russia and China. I'll be in Astana, the capital city, which is right in the middle of the country. I'm so excited, I mean, how often does someone invite you to give a talk in Kazakhstan?
Hi blog public ... well I'm back from spending a week in Kazakhstan, speaking at a tech conference called ASTEX 2014, and wow was it a great experience. I saw a lot, met a lot of interesting people, and had a chance to get clear perspective on the US and the tech scene in 2014.
My talk was entitled "The Future Store: Mobile e-Commerce", and it turned out to be nicely targeted and well received. Here are some takeaways from my trip:
"Mobile first" is the perfect message for Central Asia. Everybody has a smartphone - Android is much more popular than IOS - far fewer have laptops.
Hadoop is everywhere, the MySQL of the 2010s.
There are giant online companies which are very successful you've never heard of. Every country / region has it's own Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, Amazon, eBay, and PayPal.
Paying for stuff online is hard. Most people don't have credit cards, many don't have deposit accounts. Stored value instruments are popular. Bitcoin and its cyber currency brethren are taken very seriously.
Physical infrastructure is lacking. No Fedex or UPS. Kazakhstan is nearly the size of the US, with few roads, cities, or even people. Biggest question when you order online is not when will it arrive, but how.
Images are huge. With such a potpourri of languages and alphabets and cultures, a picture is worth way more than 1,000 words. Video is big too and getting bigger.
Russian is the lingua franca but increasingly people (try to) speak English. US is respected for its technology but even more for its culture. Perceived as diverse, tolerant, and industrious. Opposite of Russia :)
I haven't had such a "not in Kansas" feeling since being in Prague two years ago. Wish I could bottle and share. And in an attempt to do that, here's a pictorial report (aka photobomb!):
Kazakhstan is huge - and directly in the middle of Eurasia.
And Astana (yellow star) is in the middle of Kazakhstan.
On the way ... layover in Frankfurt ... visited the cool Museum Moderne Kunst
it's me, reflected around the maze
hmmm... so this is "art", eh? bottles of vinegar, dripping
also visited the Cathederal, which enabled me to add to my "awesome organ" collection
crossing the oldest bridge in Frankfurt, now for pedestrians only
seven-hundred-year-old clock mechanism in the toll tower, still accurate to the millisecond
the German crown jewels. Not pictured, electronic security up the wazoo
loved this room even more than the ancient art it contains
onward to Astana (TSE) ... it's a loooong way East
who knew there was so much land in central Asia (not me before this trip)
Astana is a new city of 1,000,000 people and incredible sculpture disguised as buildings
the media center, home of the ASTEX 2014 conference
those giant video screens are transparent, from the inside of the building you can see right through
with Sanzhar Kettebekov, my host and chairman of the conference
he is trying to build a tech startup ecosystem in Kazakhstan
the exposition which accompanied the conference, lots of Kazakh tech startups
getting ready to present before 1,000 attendees, with simultaneous translation into
Kazakh and Russian, after 25 hours of travel and 0 hours of sleep
presenting ... The Future Store: Mobile e-Commerce!
(seemed nicely targeted and well received :)
VIP lunch! - with my fellow presenters and local politicians
Astana features a huge new Opera House
are those horses solid gold? I hope not
the Khan Shatyr "entertainment center"; a huge shopping mall slash amusement park
inside the design is like a giant yurt, beautifully lit from above
headquarters of the Kazakh national energy company, the source of the country's wealth
a beautiful mosque contrasts rather dramatically with the neo-glass architecture
cool buildings and giant video screens everywhere
these buildings only seem to be waving in the wind
the Bayterek tower, symbol of Kazakhstan independance
97 meters tall; Astana became capital of Kazakhstan in 1997
cool sculpture garden in a nice little residential area established for diplomats
at the Astana Music Hall for a cultural dinner
the building is shaped like a giant vase spilling over
eating traditional Kazakh food while watching traditional Kazakh performers
the dancing was cool
at the mosque
dinner in an old Kazakh castle
grilling horsemeat on a hot stone - delicious!
at the Dymah aquarium - furthest in the world from any ocean
plexiglass tubes pass underneath a giant fishbowl...
... so you can see the sharks from underneath :)
a little amphitheater so you can watch them feed the fish
view of the Presidential Palace from the top of the Bayterek tower
inside the tower is a handprint of President Nazarbayev
you can put your hand in it, and if it fits, a red light comes on ... mine did not
view of the Bayterek and downtown Astana from the Presidential Palace
futuristic architecture for the Astana concert hall
Masonic symbolism? The Bayterek flanked by golden columns
the Presidential Palace, known locally as "the white house"
no guards in sight ... should I climb the fence?
the beautiful Kazakh Eli monument in independence square
the "palace of independance" hosted the 2014 Astana Economic Forum
a busy schedule for two days - nonstop speeches, presentations, press conferences, and photo ops :)
from the third storey of the Palace of Independence
view of the Pyramid of Peace back toward downtown (note Bayterek tower)
painting of President Nazarbayev's innauguration in 2006
see how many heads-of-state you can spot
(NB Nazarbayev has been Astana's leader since it became independent in 1991)
the massive Hazrat Sultan Mosque adjacent to the square
about 47% of Kazakhs are Muslim
the beautiful mosaic central dome of the mosque
with my new friends
LtoR: Baurjan Nazar, me, Anastaysya Petrova, fellow presenter Bob Bellack
time to head back! First a little six-hour flight back to Frankfurt
(seat power! - started recoding vector indexing logic :)
at the Apfulwein Klaus
great setting, good snitzel, but the Wein was Apful
perfect end to the trip - strudel!
I'm sure I'll have more thoughts about this amazing trip after I have time to digest ... please stay tuned!
My goodness; nearly two weeks since my last filter pass. Let's get on with it then, shall we?
Why should read The Circle, even if you don't buy it. I'm reading it, and while it is interesting, yeah, I don't buy it. It's tough to like a book which has such a strong point of view, especially when none of the characters are likeable. I'm struggling on...
Meanwhile, I enjoyed Hatching Twitter tremendously. What a story; four co-founders, all of whom contributed and none of whom are still involved in the day-to-day workings of the company. Such politics, such intrigue, and yet the company survived and indeed prospered. One gets the impression it all worked out because of the strength of the product, and the essential simplicity of the business model.
On the illusion of life; "The 12 basic principles of animation were developed by the 'old men' of Walt Disney Studios." Excellent.
Wow: Image is everything: Snapchat tops WhatsApp as biggest US messaging app by volume. It certainly could do with image search :)
Apropos: Facebook goes after Snapchat, again. "If you guys were the inventors of Snapchat, you'd have invented Snapchat." Hehe.
Reminds me to mention: great movie I've seen recently: Chef. In which a chef's son uses social networking to wildly publicize his father's food truck. There's a lot more to it than that ... watch it!
Marketing by Beats by Dre. "It's easy to see why Apple might want to buy them." Nope, I don't get it. I don't see the fit, and moreover, if this was real, I wouldn't expect to see so much information leak ahead of time. I believe there were discussions, but will be surprised if they actually lead to a deal.
Awesome: The Greatest Show Off Earth. Indeed it is.
This is so cool: Stunning quadcopter coverage from Big Sur at Amgen Tour. You can see where this kind of thing is going to become much more common, and soon we'll see sporting events from every conceivable angle.
Meanwhile I have to say, the video coverage of this event was awful. The frame rate stuttered constantly, and the compression artifacts were ridiculous. Embarrassing, really; when life cycle racing coverage in Europe is so excellent.
Agree entirely: Stop forcing people to wear bike helmets. The nanny state is unnecessary and unwanted.
Speaking of which: Why global warming alarmism isn't science. "Global warming alarmism fails the test of science. The alarmists' models generate one false prediction after another." Note, this doesn't not mean global warming isn't occurring, only that we do not have models which correctly predict it.
Excellent: Met puts huge image trove online. (You can browse it here...) There is going to be more and more of this, and it will be an incredible resource for widespread image search.
Absolutely beautiful: Stunning photos reveal the enchanting world of fungi.
Dave Winer: In news, the front page is the first problem. "When Twitter started owning the news cycle, that's what they call in business a "competitive threat." You can choose to respond or not respond. But if you don't respond, you pretty much always lose." Yep.
On the future of Metafilter. Google are the gatekeeper for traffic on the web, no question. What can break their hegemony? (Images?)
Awesome: Stunning digitally composited star trail photos. Way cool. This could have been done with film, of course, but digital makes this stuff so much easier.
Wrapping up... the proven way to add value: "Do extremely difficult work." Which might be true, and begs the question, "what makes work difficult?" I claim it isn't doing it, it is knowing what to do.
Return to the archive.
Correlation vs. Causality
The Tyranny of Email
Aperio's Mission = Automating Pathology
Try, or Try Not
Books and Wine
God and Beauty
Moving Mount Fuji
Rock 'n Roll
IQ and Populations
Are You a Bright?
The Joy of Craftsmanship
The Emperor's New Code
The Return of the King
Religion vs IQ
In the Wet
the big day
solving bongard problems
the nuclear option
estimating in meatspace
On the Persistence of Bad Design...
Texas chili cookoff
almost famous design and stochastic debugging
may I take your order?
New Yorker covers
Death Rider! (da da dum)
how did I get here (Mt.Whitney)?
the Law of Significance
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
where are the desktop apps?