Critical Section

Archive: April 10, 2021


Archive: April 5, 2020

checking in

Sunday,  04/05/20  11:38 PM

just checking inHi everyone, how's it going?  Are you sheltering in place?  Hanging in there?  Able to escape a little bit, or going crazy inside your four walls?

Yeah, I know the feeling.  I am, like you, sheltering in place, and like you, hanging in there, and able to escape a little bit.  And I haven't yet gone crazy, although wow are these crazy times.  Nothing quite like running an engineering team for a telehealth company in the middle of a pandemic...

You just have to feel bad for Zoom ... this is their moment in the spotlight, and while their service works great, their security has been terrible: Zoom CEO: 'I really messed up' on Security as Coronavirus drove tool's appeal.  It seems like a cultural thing, there have been too many issues.

TelemedicineNews you can use: A patient's guide to Telemedicine.  Have you see a doctor virtually yet?

With the media playing politics instead of journalism, it's hard to get good info.  Here's a great article from Caltech: The Covid-19 virus, by the numbers.  It links a research paper which has a lot more good info, too.

Bill Gates: One of the questions I am most often asked about the Covid-19 pandemic is how, and when, it will end.

Noted: CNN should change its format back to news.  "At this point, their ratings can't get much worse."

NASA: the worm is backSome good news: NASA brings back its rightful logo.  Next maybe they'll start launching manned missions again!

This looks pretty cool: The Adafruit Clue.  "The fact that for under $30 you can have a board that is this packed with sensors, has bluetooth connectivity, and a display is pretty mind blowing. The addition of circuitpython is pretty nice as well."

I must get one of these.  I played a little with an Arduino in the early days of having a MakerBot Replicator 2 - yes, I was able to "burn" my own version of the firmware - but I'm a total rookie at this stuff, and it is so cool...

Canadian whiskyImportant research: Why the world overlooked Canadian whisky.

Powerline: How Charles Murray became Charles Murray.  An interesting conversation with one of the premier social scientists of our time.  "Maybe my favorite part of this conversation is our detour into NASA and the Apollo program. Few people know that Charles and his wife Catherine Cox wrote a terrific narrative about the Apollo program, Apollo: The Race to the Moon."  I did not!

We each have something we especially miss with everything on pause; for me, it's pro cycling.  Today would have been the Tour of Flanders, possibly my favorite face ever; in 2010 I rode it myself (well, the amateur grandfondo the day before, on the same course), and watched the Pro race live.  Yves Lampaert contemplates a year without De Ronde...

Tokyo 2021For many, the thing they'll miss most is the summer Olympics, officially postponed until 2021.  Of course the right thing to do, but the disruption for everyone involved is unbelievable.  Think of all those athletes working toward this one moment in time...

Well hang in there everyone - stay safe.  And I do hope you don't go crazy...


Archive: April 10, 2019


Archive: April 10, 2018


Archive: April 9, 2017

Roubaix day

Sunday,  04/09/17  10:17 PM

Greg Van Avermaet wins Paris RoubaixHappy Paris-Roubaix day!  Did you watch?  Did you love it?  (Do you have any idea what this is all about?)

Congrats to Greg Van Avermaet, he is having a great year, and dominating the classics, as he dominated today.  And wow what a race!

Today was Tom Boonen's last day as a professional in the peloton, he finished sixth, not bad, but not on the top step of the podium as he had hoped.  He brings his magnificant career to a close at Roubaix, the race which he has won four times.

Fabian Cancellara wins time trial at Rio OlympicsThe ultimate example of going out on top was Fabian Cancellara winning gold in the Rio Olympics time trial.  Another great career ended in perfect fashion; the Swiss time machine rang the bell one more time.

And speaking of Van Avermaet and Rio, I wasn't blogging back then, but the road race was pretty much the best race ever.  A great route with a mix of terrain made for a wide-open race, it wasn't a race for sprinters, or climbers, or strong men, or anyone ... it was a race for everyone.  Yay.

The women's race was great too; Anna van de Breggen won, for the Netherlands (yay), but her teammate Annemiek van Vleuten was on her way to possible victory when she suffered a horrible crash.  Fortunately she was okay.  Whew.

Well so much for cycling, what else is happening?

President Trump ordered a Tomahawk missile strike against the Syrian air base from which it is believed that a chemical weapons attack was launched against Syrian civilians.  Whether you agree with this action, you have to agree: yay, we have a President again!  That message will be much more important than the strike itself.

We also have a full Supreme Court again; President Trump's nominee Neil Gorsuch was confirmed as a replacement for Antonin Scalia, after the Senate voted to repeal the ability to filibuster confirmation hearings.  So much winning.

Walt Mossberg with Steve JobsWalt Mossberg is retiring in June.  The most influential tech journalist of all time; he will be missed.

Apple Mac Pro - over due for an updateJohn Gruber reports: The Mac Pro Lives.  So be it.  This strikes me as "announceware", something Apple hardly ever do.  A clear sign of weakness, IMHO; they have lost the edge at the high end of the market, and they know it.

In case you were wondering: Why climate change models are so horrendous.  "Among the culprits are a failure to accurately account for clouds and the Sun, two things which, in Earth science, are kind of a big deal."  There may be global warming taking place, and some of it may be influenced by the actions of men, but the vast majority of "climate science" is junk, influenced by politics.

New you can [maybe] use: Robert X Cringley explains How to Get Rich Trading Bitcoin.  "My new Bitcoin trading strategy, which I admit I have only tried so far on paper... when Bitcoin value goes down, BUY!  When Bitcoin prices rise SELL!"  There you have it, buy low, sell high; who knew?

Seth Godin: The Candy Diet.  "The bestselling novel of 1961 was Allen Drury's Advise and Consent.  Millions of people read this 690-page political novel.  In 2016, the big sellers were coloring books."  A thoughtful discourse... but maybe just evidence for Unnatural Selection?

Harmony of the Seas ... damn, that's an ugly ship!I have to agree: Damn, that's an ugly ship!  [via the Horse's Mouth]




Sunday,  04/09/17  11:45 PM




Archive: April 6, 2016


Wednesday,  04/06/16  11:49 PM

HTC ViveToday I had a new experience; I flew around the Earth!  My ship was an HTC Vive.  I was able to fly around, zoom in and out, and even see population statistics and social media traffic superimposed over the globe.  It was seamless 1080p at 90fps, and I was there.  I didn't feel sick or scared, I felt liberated and elated.  And I can't wait for my next flight!

The headset is light and comfortable, but it's a headset, and it's tethered by a not insignificant wire bundle.  That's the downside.  The controllers are easy to use and importantly, appear in the field of view.  So while your hands do not - and they could be added, of course - you definitely have the sense of your movement corresponding to the world's movement.  I don't know how this stacks up against the Oculus Rift, but I can't wait to find out.  Stay tuned :)

For the to-learn list ... Unity.  [Apparently, one of] the easiest / best ways to develop VR content for Vives, Rifts, and their brethren.

ILM's VR lab in actionInside Industrial Light & Magic's virtual reality lab.  "Industrial Light & Magic’s Experience Lab (ILMxLAB) is a newly-formed supergroup of artists, engineers, sound designers, and storytellers prototyping the future of interactive, immersive cinema for Lucasfilm."  Next gen moviemaking.

Of course the ILMs of the world will be making VR content, but with the tools now available, there's going to be a democratization and everyone will be able to make VR movies, just like anyone can shoot HD with their phone.  It will be all about the destinations and stories.

And this: StreamVR featuring the HTC Vive:

StreamVR in action

----- Meanwhile, back in the "real" world... -----

Jeff Immelt of GE counterpunches: Bernie Sanders says we’re ‘destroying the moral fabric’ of America. He’s wrong.  "We create wealth and jobs, instead of just calling for them in speeches."  Absolutely.

Sigh: Jerry Brown admits $15 minimum wage does not make economic sense.  California is such a contradiction, a bastion of liberal thinking and the best counterexample :)

John Hindraker considers The Left's new battleground: co-ed bathrooms.  "The 'discrimination' consists of the fact that men can’t use women’s rest rooms ... There was a time when, if you had said that one of our major political parties would someday consider it a vital civil right that men be allowed to use women’s bathrooms, people would have thought you were nuts. They would have been right."

I can see on the Internets including my Facebook feed that the North Carolina law has attracted the ire of many liberals, protesting this "discrimination".  More proof, if any were needed, that Idiocracy was a documentary.

All is not lost, however: When Mark Steyn struck back.  The rapid decline of conditions in Europe are a cautionary tale for sure.  Those who fail to learn the lessons of history current eventsare doomed to repeat them.

Re Mark Steyn: Tomorrow's civilizational cringe today.  Featuring the evergreen Tim Blair headline: British Muslims Fear Repercussions Over Tomorrow’s Train Bombing.  [Thanks, Zoya]

----- But on the plus side... -----

Peter Sagan wins Tour of FlandersPeter Sagan wins Tour of Flanders, his first monument, but surely not his last.  It's not just that he won - while wearing the world champion's rainbow jersey - it's the way he won, riding right away from the field to power to victory.  You just don't see that very often in today's peloton.  I can't wait for Paris Roubaix next Sunday!

Hat tip to Fabian Cancellara, who finished a charging second; he did his best in his final effort (he's announced his retirement), but nobody can catch Sagan when he's on a good day anymore.

HP's new logoThis is HP's new logo.  I like it.

xkcd: mycologyThe incomparable xkcd: Mycology:

Perhaps the fungus actually causes comics about fungi :)


Archive: April 7, 2015

cache management

Tuesday,  04/07/15  10:32 AM

<post type=nerdy optional=yes>

Cache maintenance between multiple threads is a tricky business.

Consider a simple situation, a cache which contains items read from disk.  The basic thing we do with this cache is search for an item, and if not found we read the item and put it into the cache.  With one thread this is dirt simple:

  • Search cache for item, if not found:
    • Read item from disk
    • Put item in cache

With more than one thread, things go from simple to not simple.  Now the cache must be protected by a gate to serialize access (gates are also known as a “semaphores”).

For some reason under Windows these are not called gates or semaphores, they are called CriticalSections or Mutexes. Don’t get me started.

Okay, so the basic logic above now becomes (try 1):

  • Get cache gate
  • Search cache for item, if not found:
    • Read item from disk
    • Put item in cache
  • Free cache gate

Does this look right?  Well, if we leave the cache gated while reading from disk, we force all cache users to block on the disk read.  Not good.  So how about this (try 2):

  • Get cache gate
  • Search cache for item, if not found:
    • Free cache gate
    • Read item from disk
    • Get cache gate
    • Put item in cache
  • Free cache gate

Better, right?  This way we will only serialize cache access, not disk access.  That is probably the main reason we have multiple threads, so this is good.  But we do have a problem, what if two threads concurrently want the same item?  We could have the following timing:


  • Get cache gate
  • Search cache for item, not found
  • Free cache gate -->
  • Read item from disk
  • Get cache gate
  • Put item in cache
  • Free cache gate -->  


  • Blocks on cache gate
  • Get cache gate
  • Search cache for item, not found
  • Read item from disk again
  • Blocks on cache gate
  • Get cache gate
  • Put item in cache again
  • Free cache gate

Depending on the application, this could happen anywhere from "never" to "always".  If items are accessed more or less randomly "never" is probably a good approximation.  But if items are accessed more or less in sequence "always" is probably close.  For this case is there anything better we can do?

The crux of the problem is that thread2 doesn't know thread1 is already reading the item.  If it did, it could simply wait, then retrieve it from the cache, and life would be good.  So suppose we use this logic (try 3):

  • Get cache gate
  • Search cache for item, if not found:
    • Put "in progress" token for item in cache
    • Free cache gate
    • Read item
    • Get cache gate
    • Put item in cache, clear "in progress" token
  • If item "in progress":
    • Free cache gate
    • Delay
    • Loop up to top
  • Free cache gate

Of course the "in progress" token adds complexity.  But now the scenario above becomes:


  • Get cache gate
  • Search cache for item, not found
  • Put "in progress" token in cache
  • Free cache gate -->
  • Read item from disk
  • Get cache gate
  • Put item in cache
  • Free cache gate -->


  • Blocks on cache gate
  • Get cache gate
  • Search cache for item, returns "in progress" 
  • Delay ...  
  • Blocks on cache gate
  • Get cache gate
  • Search cache for item, returns "found"
  • Free cache gate

Much better…  A more complicated solution still would be to replace the delay with some kind of event.  In actual practice a simple delay and retry is probably sufficient.



Tuesday,  04/07/15  08:55 PM

Man is it *cold* out here today.  Brrr...  Too cold to ride.  Even too cold to think!  But not too cold to blog...

Deborah Harry, Tom Petty, and Ronnie SpectorHow great was this: Tom Petty backing Deborah Harry at the Whisky?  (I saw Alannah Myles there, does that count?)

So, Rand Paul is running for President.  "I am running for president to return our country to the principles of liberty and limited government."  Sounds good, but ... I just can't get excited about him.  I don't think he will be the GOP candidate.

In re Indiana: Tim Cook, end the hypocrisy.  "Tim Cook’s message [about Indiana] seems rather ironic in light of the fact that Apple willingly does business with some of the most virulently anti-gay nations on the planet."  This is the challenge when business leaders start staking out political views.  I wonder if Tim Cook will think this through?

Glenn Reynolds: You've probably breaking the lot right now.  "While a century or two ago nearly all crime was traditional common-law crime - rape, murder, theft and other things that pretty much everyone should know are bad - nowadays we face all sorts of 'regulatory crimes' in which intuitions of right and wrong play no role, but for which the penalties are high."  Ignorance of the law is not only a valid excuse, it's inevitable.

the Boneshaker Big WheelA cross between a penny-farthing and the Burning Man strandbeest: the Boneshaker Big Wheel.  Wow.  That's just about all I can say.

Only on the Internet: Science Babe takes down Food Babe.  "Hari's rule?  'If a third grader can't pronounce it, don't eat it.'  My rule?  Don't base your diet on the pronunciation skills of an eight-year-old."  Hehe.

baby elephant gets help crossing a roadHow did the baby elephant cross the road?  With help from two adult elephants.  Cuteness overload.


noone noticed

Tuesday,  04/07/15  09:04 PM

Very apropos considering my recent return:

"phew, noone really noticed you were gone"



Archive: April 10, 2014

Political correctness run amuck

Thursday,  04/10/14  10:04 PM

I've been watching the whole Mozilla / Brendan Eich thing with great interest.  Seems to me we've reached a new low in the political discourse of the United States, that a CEO could be forced to resign because of his alleged political views.

You know the story; Brendan Eich, a legendary software developer (creator of JavaScript while at Netscape) and a founder and longtime Mozilla employee, was promoted to its CEO.  Mozilla is of course the company behind the Firefox web browser and other open source projects.  Shortly after his promotion news broke that back in 2008 he had contributed $1,000 to support California's Proposition 8, which specified that "only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California."  (Voters passed the amendment but it was overturned by a court in 2010 as unconstitutional.)  This was translated into "Eich is anti-gay", there was a sizeable uproar including companies redirecting users who surfed with Firefox to special anti-Eich pages, and after a couple of weeks Eich chose to resign rather than fight.

Voltaire: I do not agree with what you have to say, but I will defend to the death your right to say itA new low.

You may know, I'm an ardent libertarian, and to me the salient point is not whether Eich is anti-gay (turns out, he's not) or anti-same-sex-marriage (turn's out, he's not anymore*), but whether the prevailing political winds should determine whether someone is fit to be an executive of a company.  We should defend people's right to have whatever view they want, especially on something as controversial as same-sex-marriage, even if we disagree with them.  We should not shut down public discussion of such issues by forcing a prevailing view.  And we especially should not confuse an individual's personal views with their fitness and performance as an executive of a company.

Lest you think this is an isolated example, there have been serious suggestions that other executives who have contributed to unpopular / un-politically-correct initiatives be "purged".  That's pretty scary, don't you think?

I think we should support different points of view and open debate, especially since the political winds can shift so quickly.  While support for same-sex-marriage is now pretty strong, it wasn't too long ago that it was "politically correct" to have an opposite view.  Consider the matter of abortion, which is not yet settled.  Having either a pro-life or pro-choice view is okay for a CEO, today.  But what about in five years?  What if one of these positions "wins"?  Should we then criticize or censure the people who had an opposite view today?

Pretty scary.

* BTW many notable public figures have changed their mind about same-sex-marriage, including President Obama. 


Thursday,  04/10/14  10:51 PM

Minion!Multithread city over here, I have been courting investors, coding, team-building, and assembling a sales plan all at once.  And I need help, so I've also been making Minions =)

Biggest news the last couple of days has been heartbleed, the webserver bug (in OpenSSL) which is so bad it has it's own name (and logo).  Server admins all over the world are scrambling to apply patches, and users everywhere are changing passwords.  Crap.  So, does this refute Linus's Law?  (That with many eyes, all bugs are shallow.)  Nope. 

Land Rover's virtual transparent hoodThink Visual Search is flying under the radar?  No such luck.  Facebook's face identification project is accurate 97.25% of the time.  That's amazing.  And Twitter adds photo tagging.  It isn't automatic - yet - but imagine how cool when it will be.  Won't be long, check this out: Impala lands on Android to herd more cat pictures.  And there are applications like this: transparent Land Rover hoodOnward!

Seth Godin: Not even one note.  "We opt for more instead of better.  Better is better than more."

Cancellara just ahead of Boonen in the 2014 Tour of FlandersI've been remiss in my cycling commentary, which for some of you is just fine and others a travesty.  We're in the middle of the "classics" season, and next Sunday is the most classic classic, Paris-Roubaix, featuring a head-to-head battle between Fabian Cancellara and Tom Boonen.  In the last ten years Boonen has won four times, Cancellara three, including last year.  My money's on the Swiss time machine; he looked pretty amazing winning the Tour of Flanders last weekend...  (That's him leading Boonen in the Ronde.)

Office for iPad: it's here!So, Microsoft have announced Office for the iPad, or rather, Word, Excel, and Powerpoint.  Early reviews have been uniformly positive and the products are already very popular though some pundits seem to feel this is only for business customers.  No, it is nothing less that a grand repositioning of the company away from desktop toward mobile; a great move, IMNSHO.  Good for Satya Nadella: Who are you, and what have you done with Microsoft's CEO?

Meanwhile, Microsoft's OS Chief Terry Myerson does not get it, per this interview with Mary Jo Foley.  "How the Windows experience spans these form factors and is familiar across them - that's what we need to deliver if we're going to delight people in the whole ecosystem."  That's old school thinking; I predict he will be gone soon...

Amazon's Fire TVMeanwhile, Amazon launches FireTV, their answer to AppleTV, Roku, and Chromecast.  Coolest differentiator is the voice-controlled remote, which apparently actually works.  That would be cool.

Oh, and they also launched Dash, which is a combination barcode scanner and voice recorder to help you order from Amazon Fresh.  Quite interesting.  I could see this making a difference in convenience...

finding flight 370 ... the depth of the problemSo, we still haven't found Malaysia Flight 370 :( despite an incredible effort.  At this point the most likely scenario all along seems the only scenario; the plane had trouble and crashed into the ocean.  The Washington Post created this illustration of how difficult it's going to be to find it.  It's not going to be easy to find the black box at the bottom of the ocean, as this illustration shows.

esr: Zero Marginal Thinking (Jeremy Rifkin gets it all wrong).  A thorough fisking.  Whew!

You, too, can be a Glasshole! (On April 15, one day only)Do you want to be a Glasshole, too?  On April 15 - for one day only (tax day!) - Google will sell one to anyone.  A mere $1,500 and you too can take pictures by winking.  Go for it!

And finally: how to flirt, according to science.  A big key is maintaining eye contact.  So Glass is great for flirting :)


Archive: April 10, 2013


Archive: April 1, 2012

moved ... to Facebook

Sunday,  04/01/12  10:43 AM

The question is: who are *they* going to tell?Hi y'all!  Well I haven't posted here for a while - a long while - my last post was in January, right after I'd moved physically.  The truth is that without meaning to I've moved digitally too ... to Facebook.

Over the past six months I've become a daily Facebook poster, and while I don't really do my "linkblog" thing there (yet!), the best way to keep up with me is to subscribe to me there.  Everything I post to Facebook is public, and while it isn't necessarily the most interesting stuff on the 'net, you're welcome to read it :)

The pic above right is one of my favorite moments from one of my favorite movies, the Social Network.  Right after they've "gone live" they email a bunch of friends to tell them about it.  And Mark Zuckerberg's character says "the question is, who are *they* going to tell?"

The background truth is that I'll go back to blogging "someday", I do miss it.  But I've been super busy at Aperio with a massively interesting project, and involved in two startup companies as a consultant, and have done a little vacationing here and there, and have been cycling a lot, and ... blogging has fallen off my daily todo list.  But please stay tuned and please follow me on Facebook in the meantime :)


Archive: April 9, 2011

Good Morning, Kansas City!

Saturday,  04/09/11  06:30 AM

Kansas City bull!You know what happens when you had a long emotional day, but then you have to fly to Kansas City to give a presentation the next day?  And you get in late and are tired beyond tired but you can't sleep, and so you watch a movie (the King's Speech - most excellent)?

tropical workout Kansas CityAnd you toss and turn and get up after two hours of "sleep" to go work out, and find some kind of weird tropical atrium right outside the workout room, but you have a great workout anyway?  Want to know what happens?


Paul Ryan for President.  Maybe.  "If we choose to have a federal government that tries to solve every problem, then as long as society keeps growing more complex, government must keep on growing right along with it. The rule of law by the people must be reduced and the arbitrary discretion of experts expanded..."  Indeed.  The longer I live, the less I look to the government to solve any of our problems.

the electronic RollsThe electronic Rolls Royce, it's amazing.  "The first electric Rolls-Royce is big. It is smooth. It is mind-bogglingly luxurious. And the torque just keeps coming. It has the largest battery ever installed in a passenger car, a 71-kilowatt-hour monster that would power your iPhone until Armageddon."  Yes.

Mian ManshaMian Muhammad Mansha, Pakistan's richest man, speaks...  and what he says makes a lot of sense.  I'll say it again; the best hope for countries like Pakistan is their own leaders, not help from the U.S.

SpaceX Falcon HeavySpaceX promises biggest rocket since Saturn V.  "SpaceX is poised to take a giant leap with the biggest rocket since the Saturn V carried men to the moon, and it could blast off by early 2013.  Elon Musk’s private space startup announced Tuesday that the 22-story Falcon Heavy will carry more than 117,000 pounds into low Earth orbit, giving it twice the lift capability of the space shuttle or the Delta IV heavy rocket built by Boeing–Lockheed Martin."  Yes.

Virgin OceanicRichard Branson launches Virgin Oceanic: deep-sea exploring submarines.  "Today, Sir Richard Branson, American sailor, pilot and explorer Chris Welsh, and submarine designer Graham Hawkes launched Virgin Oceanic, a project to explore 'the last frontiers of our own Blue Planet: the very bottom of our seas.'"  Yes.

Loving this: The next Napster?  Copyright questions as 3D printing comes of age.  Ah yes, what happens when atoms can be encoded as bits?  It means physical objects become information, and as we all know information wants to be free, or at least easy.  When do you suppose we'll be able to buy [the instructions to print] a chair on iTunes?

The new LinkedIn platform: the professional web.  Facebook -like features for LinkedIn, including the ability to "Recommend" items online and sign-on via LinkedIn's authentication system.  This could be important.  I started to add a LinkedIn "Recommend" button to my blog, but then I realized 'hey this is my personal blog'.  But perhaps I will do so on The Daily Scan?

ZooBorn: [Chinese] baby giraffeHow do you say Giraffe in Chinese?  ZooBorn of the week: a [Chinese] baby giraffe.

Onward: I am giving a talk about Digital Pathology for Patient Care in an hour.  Wish me luck.  And have a great weekend!


Archive: April 4, 2010

more: riding the Tour of Flanders

Sunday,  04/04/10  11:22 PM

Yesterday I rode the Tour of Flanders (yay, me) and gave a brief report; but here's more...

(Oh, and I posted a bunch of pictures, please check 'em out if you're interested.)

You start the 260km (162 mile) ride in the medieval city of Brugge, beautiful in the early light, from the pro podium (!) which is in the central square, just in front of a gigantic cathedral.  Appropriately solemn.

the starting podium in Brugge Markt (central square)

There were 3,000+ riders, and they all looked fit; about a hundred languages were spoken, with Dutch predominant (this *is* Flanders :), French second, and English third. 

ready to roll in the early morning
I must tell you it was cold, brrr...

The first leg takes you West toward the ocean in blustery conditions, a continuous peloton of riders streams along.  Too bad the wind was from the side, and the road was too narrow for echelons.

heading West toward Oostende

Next there's a long stretch South East through West Flanders, into the teeth of a headwind; rolling farmland interrupted by quaint little villages.  Lots of company on the road, and beautiful, but urgh that wind!

heading East toward the Ardennes where the muirs and pave awaits

With 3,000 riders the checkpoints were absolutely jammed.  Besides needing food and drink, you had to get your ticket punched - literally.  Food was a bit different - Belgian waffles! - and drink was lemonade, no Hammer in sight.  I ate and drank as much of everything as I could...

the checkpoints were a zoo

And then the rain began, just in time to enter the Ardennes...  and the cobblestone stretches begin; bumpy and slippery when wet.  The climbs are hard because they're steep and slippery, and the descents are hard because they're so bumpy.  Miles and miles of it, too.

climbing the cobbles - arms sore already and much more ahead

The Ardennes features long stretches of isolated narrow roads, winding through the hills.  Some of the paths are steep and slick, but the views are amazing.

warning, slippery when wet

The climbs which combine cobbles with narrow steep sections are particularly fun, Belgian cycling at its finest :)  Here's the bottom of the famous Koppenberg - I would have taken pictures near the top, but was desperately trying to keep my bike moving.  Sitting is the key, in fact sitting back; mountain biking experience is helpful...

the Koppenberg - wet cobbles and 20% grade, Belgian cycling at its finest

After what seems like an endless series of short steep hills and cobbled stretches, punctuated by picturesque little towns, you finally reach Noneve, and there it is, the finish!

raining again but the finish is a sight for sore eyes, yay, I FINISHED!
152 miles, 12:32 riding time

After you finish the whole thing suddenly makes sense.  You need all that distance, the cold, the rain, the wind, the cobbles, and the steep climbs...  all the obstacles just making overcoming them to finish all the better.

one exhausted, wet, cold, sore rider...
and feeling rather pleased with myself

Next up, the Pros race the same course, in the legendary Tour of Flanders!  This year featuring Tom Boonen, Fabian Cancellara, George Hincapie, Phillipe Gilbert, ... and Lance Armstrong.  Stay tuned for a report on that...


watching the (Pro) Tour of Flanders

Sunday,  04/04/10  11:40 PM

After having ridden the Tour of Flanders course yesterday, today I had a chance to watch the Pro Peloton tackle the same thing.  Wow, what a day.

I began with a little strategy, huddled over my strong Belgian coffee; where should I watch?  The 260km course features 15 muirs (hills), and twenty-five sections of pave (cobblestones), any one of which would be fun to see.  I decided on a hill - easier to watch as the riders are going slower - and then I decided on a late hill - more decisive.  And yet the very latest hills are a zoo, "everyone" is there, maybe I couldn't get a good view.  So I finally decided on the Tenbosse climb at the edge of the city of Brakel; it's the third-to-last climb, long enough and steep enough to be decisive, and because it's sort of in town, there would probably be enough viewing locations that I'd be able to see everything.  Turned out to be a great decision :)

at the top of Tenbosse climb - it will be a bit more crowded later on :)

I had plenty of time to kill - the Tour wasn't going to pass through here for four hours - so I walked into Brekel and found a cool little bar crowded with cyclists watching the early part of the Tour on a large TV.  The "Ronde de Vlaanderen" is one of the biggest sporting events in Belgium, think "World Series" or "Super Bowl"...

watching the early part of the race from a cafe on the village square

I mosied on back to the climb, hungry, and was delighted to find a vendor grilling frankfurters.  Yippee.  With some Jupiter (Belgian bier) it was perfect.

these guys' hot dogs and bier were killer

There was a little pub right near the top of the climb; I found myself a spot at the bar and watched the middle of the race.  As the peloton moved into the cobbles and climbs it splintered, and a lead group emerged which swallowed the early break.  On the famous Molenberg Fabian Cancellara attacked, and only Tom Boonen could follow, and those two took off in the lead with about 40km left.  Chasing were the usual suspects (Phillipe Gilbert, David Miller, George Hincapie, Steyn Devolder) and a little pack led by Lance Armstrong.  What a race!

watching the middle part of the race with a bunch of Belgian fans
they were rooting for Tom Boonen, as he marked an attack by Fabian Cancellara

And then suddenly it was time!  Everyone filed out of the bar and joined the [huge] crowd which had assembled lining theTenbosse climb.  I managed to find myself a prime spot, right on rail on the inside of a slight bend.  Helicopters appeared, a cavalcade of police filed by, silens wailed, and then silence ... and then there they were!  Tom Boonen flying up the hill, with Fabian Cancellara right on his wheel.  Wow.

the race leaders! Tom Boonen followed closely by Fabian Cancellara
man they just blew up this hill, amazing

Next on the road came Phillippe Gilbert and David Millar, then George Hincapie and Steyn Devolder.  And then The Boss himself, Mr. Lance Armstong, who got a huge cheer from the crowd.

the boss! - Lance Armstrong leads the next chase group
the Belgian fans cheered louder for Lance than anyone except Boonen

After the peloton passed through, everyone piled back into the bar to watch the finish.  (And I do mean "everyone"; no fire codes in Belgium, apparently :)  On the next climb, the famous Kapelmuur, Cancellara attacked! and pulled a gap, and time trialed to victory.  The Belgian fans were sad to see Terrible Tom lose, but gave Fabian a big round of applause; they knew the strongest man had one on this day.  What a race!

But my day wasn't over...  I rambled back to Ghent through the Belgian countryside in my little Peugeot diesel - watching the charming little towns go by while listening to African techno (!) - and ended up in Brugge, where I found a cute little cafe nestled among the canals.  A great dinner was the perfect ending to a great day :)

Brugge has a ton of canals (brugge means bridge)
this one is named after Jan van Eyck



Archive: April 10, 2009

on your left (New Yorker)

Friday,  04/10/09  07:12 AM

(You know you've been riding too much, when... :)


Friday,  04/10/09  07:21 AM

Whew, a  l o n g  day yesterday, up early, drive to Vista, meetings... and then a cool bike ride from Dana Point down to the Camp Pendleton and back before dinner with a friend (thanks Mark!) and heading home...

I have a riding breakthrough to report - you will think this is ridiculous, but I must tell you; so I do quite a bit of riding at night, and it can be cold... and riding kit is, well, not warm.  Mostly my fingers and my face do not like it.  I have definitely spent time riding while freezing.  So I bought some riding gloves with fingers (fingers! who knew?) and a cotton hat for my head (cycling helmets have a bunch of holes designed to keep your head cool, not warm).  In combination these keep me nice and toasty.  Last night it was in the low 50s along the beach, and I was really comfortable.  How excellent is that!

Project Q: 0 cycles.

driving!Today my daughter Alexis is getting her learner's driving permit.  Yikes!  Man do they grow up fast, eh?

Midnight express ride: 50 miles and 6,300', at midnight!Tomorrow I have an unusual riding program: I'm competing in the Mulholland Challenge, a long hard century featuring 12,000' of climbing (!)... and then tomorrow night at midnight I'm riding in the Midnight Express, a 50 mile ride with 6,300' more of climbing.  Whew...  but I must tell you I am looking forward to it.  As usual stay tuned for a full report :)

Nassim Nicholas Taleb, author of The Black Swan, offers ten ways to avoid black swans...  good stuff.  I especially agree with #1 which is pertinent to software systems' design: "What is fragile should break early while it is still small."

Wow, Facebook has 200M users.  That's pretty incredible...  you can argue about whether it has value, but obviously a lot of people have checked it out; there is a there there.  Time will tell whether it has legs. 

I guess it did all its breaking when it was small, because it seems to stay up now; impressive scalability.  (Especially compared to Twitter, which is far less complicated and far more fragile.)

Evan Williams, founder of Blogger, Odeo, and Twitter, gives his startup advice: Do Something Awesome.  It is great advice - I'm hoping Project Q will be awesome (!) - but interestingly neither Blogger nor Odeo nor Twitter are particularly awesome.  Their adoption and usage were awesome, much to Evan's and his teams' credit, but the products themselves were dead simple.  And that is good underlying advice - for Project Q :)

One more related note: Twitter's the new driving menace.  So be it...

CrunchPad - the TechCrunch tablet...Mike Arrington on the CrunchPad Tablet.  I can't believe this is real, but it looks ... real.  What a coup if they are really able to get this thing built and launched.  Wow.  To be clear, my skepticism is around the price, I have no doubt they can built it, but $250 is a tough price point.

So, the next America's Cup is going to take place on February 8, 2010.  Mark your calendars...  "The obvious question now is to see where the match will take place. Ernesto Bertarelli has stated various times that his intention is to hold it in Valencia while on the other hand the city's and region's authorities will do whatever they can to convince Alinghi's owner. In any case, one thing is for sure, BMW Oracle's monster trimaran will come to Valencia this summer. Tom Ehman, GGYC's spokesman, had stated last December the 90ft trimaran would come to Valencia if his team won the legal case, something he confirmed again today when we contacted him."  Yay, we're going to see Trizilla in action!

ZooBorn: Hoglets!ZooBorns of the day - and they are amazingly cute - Hoglets!


Archive: April 10, 2008

Thursday,  04/10/08  10:26 PM

John McCain with Condoleezza RiceFrom CNN: poll suggests McCain - Rice ticket could win big.  Yes, please.

On the other hand, a National Health System is not polling well: 29% favor national health insurance.  No, please.

Georgie Hincapie gets ready for Paris RoubaixI'm getting mentally ready for Paris-Roubaix, how about you?  My money's on George Hincapie to finally, finally, pull it off.  As I watched him win the final stage of the Tour of California - in the rain - I thought "this guy is ready", and reading this interview in Velonews confirms my opinon.  Of course luck plays a part; in 2005 George was this close but broke his stem just before finishing.

history of my blog - why I deleted my Twitter accountI'll be the four millionth blogger to link cartoonist Hugh LcLeod: why I deleted my Twitter account.  Of course, I've never had a Twitter account, and have a curious lack of desire to open one...  interesting too is the contrast he draws between 2005 and 2006.  I've noticed that too; the blogosphere has become increasingly inwardly focused; Twitter is just the endpoint of that trend.

Alfa Romeo 169I'm linking this TTAC post about Alfa-Romeo as an excuse to run a picture of the rumored Alfa 169, which may use the new Jaguar XF platform.  Wow.  This is the only car I've seen that rivals the Maserati GT.  It's like comparing two beautiful women, it's fun to compare, but in the end they're both beautiful.

Phobos!I'm not used to getting space news from CNet, but whatever: Orbiter's close-ups of Martian moon Phobos.  "NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter used its High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera to take the sharpest images ever of the Martian moon Phobos, though previous spacecraft have swung closer to the moon for more detailed images. Scientists were able to add color and combine the photographs to make a 3D image of the terrain."  Excellent.  Sci-fi movies are gradually being replaced by reality :)




Archive: April 10, 2007


Archive: April 10, 2006


Archive: April 10, 2005


Archive: April 8, 2004

Thursday,  04/08/04  10:25 PM

One year ago I was feeling proud as Baghdad fell.  "I know the war's not over yet.  There is much work to do, in some ways the hard part has just begun.  Winning the peace may be harder than winning the war."  Boy, didn't that turn out to be true...

Here we have - the national budget simulation!  Think the national debt is too high?  Now you, too, can try your hand at balancing the budget.

It is probably a good thing I'm not in charge of this - I'd pay for extra space projects and other science activities by reducing child care and other family support.  And probably cause a revolt.

From the BBC: File-sharing to bypass censorship.  "By the year 2010, file-sharers could be swapping news rather than music, eliminating censorship of any kind."  I kind of don't get this, it feels a bit clueless.  In the year 2004, people are swapping news rather than music, only they're using blogs.  The time-lag inherent in file-sharing is too high for news, but realtime posting to blogs is perfect.  And it is happening now.  [ via Dave Winer, who would probably point out that it has been happening for a while already; his blog Scripting News just turned seven. ]

In the past I've noted some of the problems with a two-party political system.  razib suggests Mixed-member Proportional Voting, in which individuals and parties gather votes.  Interesting.

are you prepared? ( you prepared?  These billboard are up around L.A. - posted by the Los Angeles Bioterrorism Unit.  Am I prepared for bioterrorism?  No.  What can one do?  Buy ducttape?  [ via Cybele ]

pricelessAdam Curry linked this "priceless" takeoff on the Mastercard ads.  Excellent :)  He also discusses his ideas for Personal TV Networks (a session he is hosting at BloggerCon).  I actually think the phrase "personal TV network" doesn't quite have the flavor of how this will evolve; I wouldn't necessarily describe all the MP3 files on my computer as a "personal radio station".  Although I guess it is...



Archive: April 10, 2003

Thursday,  04/10/03  09:52 PM

France hails 'fall of Saddam'.  What a bunch of disgusting front-runners.  The subtext is "we really want TotalElfFina to continue their lucrative oil contracts".  I hope they get what they deserve: nothing.

Cloudsoup quotes Shelley: "... And on the pedestal these words appear: "My name is Ozymandias, king of kings: Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair! Nothing beside remains. ..."

Timbu has a great post: Parachuting Cats - Unintended Consequences.  This is blogging at its finest.

Nick Denton has a wonderful conversation with a sceptic.  Notice how much more effective sarcasm is when done with a light touch?

NRO has rerun "Freedom", an article on Iraqi Regime Change written by Abd al-Majid al-Khoei, the Shiite leader who was assassinated in Najaf.

A withering look at the Bizarro Broadcasting Company (BBC), courtesy of DuckSeason.  You knew there was a problem when the H.M.S.Ark Royal switched them off...  (Actually if you read BBC stories at all you knew there was a problem!)

ConcordeWell, the Concorde is grounded for good.  I suppose this is the right thing to do, economically, but it is too bad.  The Concorde is a mechanical marvel, a beautiful example of form following function.  All the more amazing in that it is over 30 years old.

I found a great new blog - Arguing with signposts - added to the roulette blogroll but check it out.  I love the comparison between Iraqi Information Minister Mohammad Said Sahhaf and Groucho Marx.

With all the news from Iraq this has been under-reported: Scientists identify virus behind deadly SARS:

"SARS, which was spread around the world by travelers, has killed an estimated 110 people and infected more than 3,000. But authorities in the United States and other countries believe they have the infection under control."  [italics are mine]

This feels to me like pre-celebrating; I'm betting right now that SARS kills more people than the war in Iraq.  And the problems will be with us much longer.  Remember, AIDS is a venereal disease, it only spreads through sexual contact.  SARS spreads through the air.  Not good.

This is fascinating: the Miniature Earth.  Really thought provoking.  I think this type of analogy will be great for illustrating concepts in Unnatural Selection.  People can relate to 100 objects much more easily than 10 billion.  [via Solonor's Groovy Groove]

Have you noticed that the use of "www" seems to be declining?  More and more sites have URLs without a leading "www".  And many more make it optional (it is on my site, works just as well as  Saves typing, but even more important it makes them easier to say; "double-you double-you double-you dot" just wasn't efficient.  And "triple-dub" never caught on.  Just wondering.

Apple in talks to buy Universal Music Group.  I am not making this up.  And - I don't get it.  Universal is the largest music label - 25% of worldwide sales, and they are struggling, like all of "big music".  This would make Apple "more like Sony", but in a bad way; I don't think Sony's acquisition of CBS (aka Columbia/Epic) is regarded as a success.  { For what its worth - Universal is presently owned by Vivendi, a French media conglomerate. }

Do you think the Martha Burk -led protest of the Masters golf tournament is as stupid as I do?  I see where they are comparing themselves to Martin Luther King.  Excuse me, but I think the civil rights movement of the 1960s was a teeny bit more substantial.


this date in:
About Me

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