Shhh, Don't Wake the Congressman

FroshRep Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) is telling it in his own words on CNN.com.  He has a great hook too: You fancy members with your apartments near the capital ain't got nuthin' on the cot he brought with him from home.   He sleeps in the closet and showers at the House gym.  Thing is, the article turns out to be a compelling point of view look at entering the hallowed halls, trying to sleep when they are cleaned, and what it takes to get clean yourself in the basement.

[ Is it really fair to tag this "politics"? It is actually the absence of politics where you might expect them that makes this attractive. ]


Making Gmail Available Offline - Actually, it already is.

There are reports that Google may take steps to provide access to gmail and google calendar offline. Fine, but don't go thinking that gmail is online only. For those of us with wireless devices and the gmail app, gmail already provides the ability to download email at one subway entrance, compose responses, and send them after you exit the train. (I know Verizon provides access in a of metros, but not all of our employers choose Verizon - it's more expensive compared to other business accounts).


Yeah, That About Sums It Up.

It is rare when you can find a video that so neatly sums up an expression. Rarer still to find two.

You know that feeling you get mid-project when thing after thing is going wrong?

Or how about when you're trying to get help at a store from someone who knows less than you do about the product they sell 8 hours every day?

Fun, innit?

Navel Contemplation

I used Google Analytics to track the activity on the blog, so I have some idea of what's going on out there. I figure you might like a peak into some of those numbers.

I just ran the numbers of the last 30 days (Dec. 28-Jan.27) against the same time last year and found that visits over the period jumped 34%. More interesting still is that a readers are spending an average of 1:34 on the site today vs. :34 on the site a year ago. Beyond these numbers, things get fuzzy.

For example, the site tracks "absolute unique visitors," but that number can't be right because it is in the 400-500 range. I don't flatter myself. Further, most of you out there are operating on a dynamic IP through your ISP, so every time it changes your IP, you become a "new" visitor. The other fudge factor here is the growth of RSS feeds. If you use an RSS reader, the reader gets the site once for you and anyone else who subsribes, so it underreports visitors. On the other hand, it may check the site a lot more (I don't know), so it may overreport pageviews.

The fuzzy data isn't all useless, however. There is a rise in the raw number of visitors and, more interestingly, in the "loyalty" of visitors - the number of times the same visitor comes back. Last year 52% of visitors visited just once. This year, it's down to 42%. At the other side of the scale, there is an average of 7% growth in each category of loyal visitors: 26-50, 51-100, 101-200 (# of visits. )

Hope you enjoyed that. If not, it's back to fun tomorrow.

Kremlin Gives B--chslap

Glasnot wasn't bad, until the consultants showed up from the West and tried to wrench a country solidly stuck in 1972 into the modern era. Needless to say, there was some wasted cash, broken infrastructure, and bruised egos. Turns out, some bruises take a while to heal.

The World Economic Forum was apparently the site for slights today, as China's representative slyly decried the excesses of the You-Know-Who-S-of-A. Then this:[Fortune]

At the official opening ceremony of the World Economic Forum in Davos,
Putin, now Russian Prime Minister, delivered a 40-minute speech touching on
everything from why the dollar should not be the sole reserve currency to how
the world needed to enter into a smart energy partnership with Russia. Then it
was time for questions. First up: Dell. He praised Russia's technical and
scientific prowess, and then asked: "How can we help" you to expand IT in
Putin's withering reply to Dell: "We don't need help. We are not invalids.
We don't have limited mental capacity." The slapdown took many of the people in
the audience by surprise. Putin then went on to outline some of the steps the
Russian government has taken to wire up the country, including remote villages
in Siberia. And, in a final dig at Dell, he talked about how Russian scientists
were rightly respected not for their hardware, but for their software. The
implication: Any old fool can build a PC outfit.

Now who's the fear-mongering autocrat, huh?!


Expensive, But Dumb

It's not that Cheetah snowboard's must think we're crazy if we're going to buy a $1300 snowboard. In truth, snowsports are where trust fund babies can ride a conveyor belt over and over again so that everyone can see what happens when you stick several grand worth of skis, poles, boots, technical undies, and designer outerwear on an uncoordinated beginner. They might be right there.

It's that Cheetah must think we're stupid. See that slit in the center of the board? That's to allow you to go faster because there is less friction. Except that every skier and boarder knows that to go faster, you get longer skis or a taller board. Increasing surface area means that you have more space to spread your weight, so there is less pressure pushing each point of your board/ski into the snow. That results in less friction. Reducing the area has the opposite effect.

It is true that you can wear skis long enough (in theory) that their weight alone will increase the friction and slow you down, but that would take some damn long skis. Think about opposite extreme: skiing on ice skates. They have a small surface area so all your weight cuts into the ice to get you an edge.
Who would have thought that such a cool looking board could make its rider look like such a tool? I think they are banking on it.

Cool, but not Polished.

Here is part 1 of the International Space Station Tour. When you get to the end, YouTube will pop up parts II-IV. Is the video sexy, no? Instead, it is incredibly cool in part because of the quiet matter-of-factness of it all.



It feels like years since I posted, even though I think I served something up Friday. Anyway, here is a little eye candy from the folks over at the AP and the NYT about 43. They were reviewing their favorite photos of him, dark back corner of a bar-style. Now it is my turn to editorilize a little.

You live in the spotlight for 8 years and there are bound to be a "few" of these. Still, I couldn't help looking at this and thinking, "Well, doesn't that just about sum it up?"

Then I saw this one. I just have to give the benefit of the caption, if for no other reason than to lend some credibility:

U.S. President George W. Bush writes a note to Secretary of State Condoleezza
Rice during a Security Council meeting at the 2005 World Summit and 60th General
Assembly of the United Nations in New York September 14, 2005. World leaders are
exploring ways to revitalize the United Nations at a summit on Wednesday but
their blueprint falls short of Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s vision of freedom
from want, persecution and war. (REUTERS/Rick Wilking)

Catch the rest here. Look, I don't think the next 8 years will be perfect, but I lived through the last eight, and I know how I feel about them. The White House just seems a little whiter now.


It's Not How Long Your Fuselage Is, It's How Often You Use It.

You've likely seen photos of airplane graveyards. You certainly have if you've read the blog before. These graveyards On the other hand, you've probably also looked out your window while taxing to or from a terminal before and seen - off the in distance at the Cargo terminals - a beat-up 747 that has to be at least thirty years old. What's with the disparity?

This is one of those things that isn't obvious, until you hear it, and then makes total sense: airplane age is not a function of time, but a function of pressurizations. This is rust-resistnt metal. Existing doesn't wear it out very quick. Neither does shooting through cold, thin air. Instead, being inflated and deflated over and over like a balloon is what causes the stress, both on the metal skin and the things that hold that metal to the frame and the other metal.

Planes flying short haul (think: NY/DC) have very short lives, taking perhaps 3-5 pressurizations a day. That 747 you saw? It might take 3-5 presurizations a week, so it can last, theoretically, over 50 times longer.


Transition of the Office for the Office

Standing in front of the Washington Monument on Tuesday morning, I posed the question that had been bouncing around in my head for a bit to my gaggle of friends: What do you think it looks like to turn over the Oval Office for the new president?

The office traditionally is redesigned by each incoming president. That, along with the First Lady's selection of White House china has been the fodder for Ladies' Home Journal articles since the birth of hairspray - perhaps before, I didn't look it up.

Our question turned out to be more interesting than the reality - at least this year. You have 10-12 hours to rip out all the fixtures, paint the walls, reset an ornate carpet, let everything dry, and then place about 10 pieces of furniture (Desk/Chair/2 Couches/2 Receiving Chairs/4 end tables (optional) and hang drapes. Do you use quick drying glues? How many people show up? And so on and so on.

This year, the move was "easy." Obama is keeping W's rug and the desk. The desk is actually not W's - it is known the "resolute" desk and is over 100 years old, having spent nearly all of them in the Oval or the residence. The rug, on the other hand, was designed by Laura Bush with a TX artist. Keeping has been called an act of goodwill. It may instead be a jobs program, as W recommissions the TX artist for a copy to be placed in the presidential library.

What you are probably realizing is this: The transition this year was a snap. No rug, no painting, and no moving several hundred pennyweight of priceless timber. Just a few couches and chairs. Talk about "No Drama, Obama." Even the art was a one way trip out of the office. You'll notice that the walls were blank during the redo of the oath. W's TX themed art went out and Obama has yet to pick out a few choice pieces from the Smithsonian collection to adorn his walls. Oh, and that Harvard diploma, of course.


Obama Tech

We all got to see the "Beast" yesterday. You know, that thing that looks like a limo until someone walks up to it and you realize that is 6 ft tall with 8 inch thick doors.

Turns out there was an even cooler piece of tech on view for every V-Obama-yeur. His bullet resistant suit. It's made from a material that feels like fabric but whose molecules reorienct in response to kinetic impact. The result is that the material goes from soft to rigid when hit by something like a bullet. (This is like non-newtonian fluids).

Now bullet resistant is not bullet proof, just as with water. Thing is, for a few thousand a suit, it is a lot cheaper than the Secret Service that surrounds it, and really is the last possible line of defense.

First Black President or First Woman President? How About Both?

I am a nerd and a lawyer, that alarming combination known in chemistry circles to spark the creation of eye-glaze, while simultaneously known in the medical community to prompt the seemingly contradictory involuntary eye-roll. Despite the potential for ocular disturbance, let us proceed to the nit-picking!

We dems had a choice. First Black POTUS or First Chick POTUS. For about a minute yesterday, we may have gotten both in the person of SECSTATE Condi Rice. [Spoiler alert: Condi was president after Bush and Cheney ceased to be POTUS and PUREEVIL (at least in office) at noon but before Biden was sworn in at 12:01. Here's the explanation: (HT City Paper)

(1) The 20th Amendment provides that “[t]he terms of the President and Vice
President shall end at noon on the 20th day of January. . . . ”
(2) Art II.,
Sec. 1 Cl. 8 provides that “[b]efore he enter on the Execution of his Office,
[The President] shall take the following oath. . . ”
(3) President Obama did
not take the Oath of Office until about 12:03 pm today, after Vice President
Biden took it at about 12:01 p.m. (Yo Yo Ma and Itzhak Perlman were still
fiddling at noon).
(4) Therefore, there was a brief window (just after noon)
when George Bush and Dick Cheney were no longer President and Vice President,
but Barack Obama and Joe Biden also were not yet qualified to enter on the
Execution of their offices.
(5) The Presidential Succession Act, 3 U.S.C.
sec. 19(a)(1), provides: “If, by reason of . . . failure to qualify, there is
neither a President nor Vice President to discharge the powers and duties of the
office of President, then the Speaker of the House of Representatives shall,
upon his resignation as Speaker and as Representative in Congress, act as
President.” Section 19(b) states that the President Pro Tempore of the Senate
shall act as President (under the same terms and conditions) if the Speaker of
the House fails to qualify.
(6) Neither Nancy Pelosi nor Robert Byrd actually
resigned their seats in the Congress. Thus, neither of them qualified to become
Acting President under the Presidential Succession Act. Plus, interbranch
appointments might be unconstitutional anyhow. See Akhil Reed Amar and Vikram
David Amar, Is the Presidential Succession Law Constitutional?, 48 Stan. L. Rev.
113 (1995); but see Howard Wasserman, Structural Principles and Presidential
Succession, 90 Ky. L.J. 345 (2002).
(7) Section 19(d)(1) of the Presidential
Succession Act provides: “If, by reason of . . . failure to qualify, there is no
President pro tempore to act as President under subsection (b) of this section,
then the officer of the United States who is highest on the following list, and
who is not under disability to discharge the powers and duties of the office of
President shall act as President: Secretary of State . . . ”
(8) Notably,
Section 19(d)(1) does not condition the Secretary of State’s assumption of the
powers and duties of the office of President on resignation of her current
office, nor does elevation of the Secretary of State raise any constitutional
issue of interbranch appointment.
(9) The term of office of the Secretary of
State does not automatically terminate at noon on the 20th day of
(10) On January 20, 2009, Condoleeza Rice was (and is) still the
Secretary of State.
(11) Accordingly, from 12:00 noon until 12:01 p.m. (when
Vice President Biden took the oath of office and became Vice President),
Condoleeza Rice was momentarily the Acting President of the United States, our
first African-American President.
I suppose the obvious counterargument is
that Secretary Rice *also* never took the Oath prescribed in Art. II, Sec. 1,
cl. 8, and thus was no more qualified than Barack Obama or Joe Biden to act as
President at 12:00 noon. But if Secretary Rice was not President from noon to
12:01, then who was?
–Ken KatkinProfessor of LawSalmon P. Chase College of
Law556 Nunn HallNorthern Kentucky UniversityHighland Heights, KY 41099

Clearly, this does not matter, but it is nonetheless interesting.


This might be slummin' it, but I have enjoyed Austin Peanut Butter and crackers for over a decade (yikes), since callege. Kelloggs just recalled a bunch for salmonella. So, um, when do I get the "all clear"?


I was there...

There are a lot of things I could tell you about this morning's inauguration, but let me start with the most basic fact: there were a lot of people.  This is CNN's sattelite image of the event.  Thing is, it was taken at 11:15 a.m. By noon, there were a LOT more people there.  I know - I walked with them as we left.

More later. Wow.


Aural Lie

Your voice sounds different in your head than it does through a microphone because your ear picks up the bone conducted vibrationa as well as those traveling through the air. The bond-transferred tones are usually low and full, which is why mic'd sounds tend to sound high and tinny.

Bone conduction has been used with great success in headsets, most notably the Aurial Jawbone, to identify the speakers voice and isolate it from the background noise.

[Arigato to Styx for the pun ]


So you Think You're a Steampunk?

This looks like your run-of-the-mill-at-least-if-your-mill-is-located-on-a-salt-flat rocket car. Thing is, that's water vapor coming out the back of two steam turbines. Target speed is actually modest 170mph for this british team. That said, they'd be breaking a century-old record.

Wired nailed the appeal: "quaint and cool." Can't you see two chaps on a horse-drawn number in bowlers and riding boots on grass by the test-road exclaiming, "Look Kensington, it's those South Hampton boys and their vapor-spewing contraption." (zoom!) "I say! But, that does put a tiddle in the ol' wink doesn't it?"

Dames Deign Designs Discriminatory

Smart Design has an internal group called the Femme Den - four female industrial designers that have expertise in female-specific product considerations. Not surprising. Their insights: think about women and design for the ways we know women are different (emphasis on 'soft' features like aesthetic, a product's affect on others, etc.). Again, not surprising.

Here are the three numbers I found interesting: (most pulled from Consumer Electronics Association)

* Chicks make 80% of consumer purchases. It is not surprising that is over 50, but 80?!

* Babes buy 57% of all CE. They buy for themselves and their loved-ones. That does mean that my 2400W amp with Dolby 12.1, each with their own fiber optic output, should also appeal to the missus? (No offense to you audiophillic missus out there.) What is interesting about this number is not so much that it is pro-femme, but, rather, how much lower it is than the 80% women make up of total purchases. 20% of buyers make up 43% of this market. That means that, when men do shop, they are much more likely to shop for CE.

* Dames influence 90% of all CE purchases. Hm. Sounds impressive, but what the heck does "influence" mean? Do they impact the binary decision to buy, or the price, or the features? Heck, any CE product that is used in a house with two people usually requires input from both people. The remaining 10% could be single nerds or small purchases that don't require input - like my remote control helo, etc. This number seems, at best, deceptive.

[HT: Fast Company - I don't usually read you any more. You are SO touchy-feely.]

p.s. What does a man have to do to get a decent headline around here?


Sparmin' Garmin Anyone?

I have told many of you about this video. Best teaser ever.


Tomacco Juice

From the genius of www.failblog.org. This, of course, will trip the light fantastic in the cortexes of Simpson fans:
In the Simpsons episode, AABF19 "E-I-E-I-(Annoyed Grunt)" from season 11,
episode 5, Homer Simpson accidentally
creates the tomacco when he "planted a little bit of everything" and fertilized
his tomato and tobacco fields with plutonium. The result is a
tomato that apparently has a dried, gray tobacco center, and, although many
characters describe it as tasting terrible (Ralph
: "Eww, Daddy, this tastes like Grandma!" Clancy
: "Holy Moses, it DOES taste like
, it is also immediately and powerfully addictive. Homer promptly
labels the creation "Tomacco" and sells it in large quantities to unsuspecting
passers by.


No No, Reality IS Blurry

http://www.jeanyveslemoigne.com/ understands that a "standard" photo can say a lot more than CGI. The grittiness of a "true" image makes the images far more visually convincing - a plus when you do mind-bending images like these.
See more small versions here or see the artist's site above for big ones. The effect is MUCH better in the larger size, where the pixels are much bigger.


What Came First, the Chicken or the Unbelievable Sexist PIG?!

The IOC for the Vancouver Winter Olympics in 2010 voted against including the women's ski jump. It is the only sport in which there is a men's competition, but no women's competition. I looked at their reasons, and they seem reasonable.

You see what I did there? My headline implies one bias, but the article is far more even-handed. I took a page from the Vancouver Sun, which ran the story under the banner, "Women ski jumping would `water down' Olympic medals, Rogge says." Read the story and you find out that he said it because there are only 80 women ski jumpers in the world, as compared with hundreds of competitors in the other sports who have to compete within their own countries to qualify for the olympics. Including a sport with such a small participation would, in effect, make it too easy to win a medal. It is not a gender issue at all. Rogge - the commissioner - said as much.

There are lots of good arguments against this position: This isn't the only sport with a small base. Think of reperchage, javelin, women's velodrome, doubles still-water canoeing. A lot of people get into those sports just because it makes it easier to get to the olympic level in an obscure sport. There is something to be said for equality for equality's sake. And, more importantly, including the sport would create the participation you say it lacks for the next olympics. If that's the case, I would imagine that the right move is to make this an exhibition sport this time around. I think we can fault them for not doing that much at least.


There is Bad Policy and Then There's Being a Jerk

Reports are coming out that Bush turned down the Obamas' request to stay at Blair House a little early before it was ever booked to begin with. Instead, former Aussie PM, Howard, is staying in one of the 119 rooms for one night next week. This is petty and it doesn't do much for a president whose legacy can use all the help it can get. I am glad the Obama camp has been mum about it.


Money. Cars. And Naked Women.Now That's What I Call a Bailout.

First, I sure I am not the first person to note the resemblence here. Second, Flynt - who you may know from his charming litany of literary publications or simply Flynt, The People vs. - has requested $5 billion in bailout money.
Personally, I think this is free publicity. The real downside is that is leads to the inevitable, "Hey, everyone else if &^%@! the taxpayer, might as well let a pro do it!" Actually, the real real downside that is that might get something.
In all seriousness, I would expect all vice, gambling, drinking, smoking, and sex, to do just fine in a down economy. Anyone have numbers on that?


Well, Holy Crap.

Crayon Physics for iPhone. Don't see anything on the screen to help achieve your goal? Draw it into existense.

Like a Bull Catching Flies In a Chinashop with Vinegar

The Senate refused to seat Balgo's pick to replace Obama - Burris - citing the fact that his appointment paperwork had not been signed by the IL Secretary of State, as required by Senate rules. The IL Sec State refused to sign the sheet because Blago was the one doing the appointing. Setting aside two interesting issues (IL's constitutional right to Senate representation regardless of the Senate's procedural rules and how exactly one goes about suing to exercise that right), I want to instead focus on Burris.

Burris is clearly smart and popular. He is a high-ranking attorney and was elected by the state to his position four times. That's why I don't get his strategy. He knew the taint of his appointer, and he knew that the Senate would plan to reject him. Seems to me the correct course of action would have been to take the case straight to the media with a message that you are capable, stable, and highly ethical.

Imagine a press conference the day of the Burris announcement in which he stood up and said, "I am a good choice by a man who has made some bad choices, but that only means that I will have to show the people of IL and the people everywhere in this country just what sound government means. I'll be held to a higher standard of scrutiny and I welcome it." Reid would have been mad that Burris went to the media, but he would have been stuck. Burris could have made this a conversation about his own credentials, pushing Blago into the background. Reid and Pelosi's principled stance would have crumpled as the desire to move past this, even with a mediocre but solid pick, would have overwhelmed them.

Instead, Burris thumped his fist, showed up at the chamber knowing he would not be let, and otherwise just looked for a fight. In doing so, he looked like an extension of Blago, another hot-headed IL politician, and played right into Reid's arms. Now it seems reasonable to shun him, citing instead the need for true democracy in the form of a special election. I, mean, really? How did Burris not see this coming?


Wing Nuts

wingsuit base jumping from Ali on Vimeo.

Just breathtaking.

Outside the Border Patrol

Following a wonderful Air Canada Jazz flight, we had a less than stellar experience with our "US" leg. First, US Customs and Border patrol has a wing in the Toronto airport. Canadians wearing U.S. government uniforms checking U.S. passports. I really like Canadians and all, and the Royal Mounted Police is quite capable, but isn't this a function we should keep "in house"?

But really, that's just an aside in this rant; for, you see, the real problem isn't that Border Patrol is well over the border, it's that having to go through the process before you reach the U.S. doesn't save travelers any time at all. To wit:

We arrived at 12:45 on the dot and walked to U.S. Customs. Once inside, we had to pick up our bags. Or, rather, we had to wait 30 minutes for the privilege of picking up our bags in the tiny restricted-access carousel. I don't envy baggage services. They had to segregate all the U.S. bound transfers from the regular transfers and get those to a totally separate belt. Still, it was now 1:30 including the walk. We hit Customs at 1:40, and our bags were on the "recheck" belt at 1:45. 4 bags went in; only 1 made it on our 2:28 p.m. flight. They went in on the same belt, one after the other. More infuritatingly confusing is that I was the only one of the three of us traveling to check 2 bags and only 1 of my 2 bags made it. No rhyme or reason. Any system that requires you to recheck bags needs to staff sufficiently to make sure all bags checked almost 1 hour ahead make it on the plane. No exceptions.

Now, usually, you get "home" to the airport, hit the customs line, and then head to baggage. That lag allows baggage services to get your bags to the belt in time for you to step off the escalator and see your bag gingerly roll down of the conveyor to rest in its spot on the metal lazy river. Of course, having gone through customs in Canada, we just "breezed" into the terminal to instead spend the 40 minutes waiting for our bags. Actually, make that 1:15, as every US Airways express flight (20+) dumped on to the belt. Finally, I saw my bag, waited 15 minutes and hit baggage services automated kiosk. Actually, this was the second trip. On my first trip, the kiosk said it had no idea where the bags were.

They are getting delivered today. Sadly, even if you don't count the bags, the trip took 9 hours. Drive time: 12, including stops. And there is no fee for bags, no security, drinks are just $1, and the scenery can be breathtaking. I am just saying.


From 23D on Air Canada Jazz

Small thoughts took a break while I stood on a mountain in Quebec and
tried to understand myself better by taking in great views at high

I am writing now because Air Canada Jazz - the commuter jets - have
digital entertainment units AND a USB port. My iPod is charging, as is
RSC's BlackBerry. Life is good.

More on the skiing later. Suffice it to say there was a lot of ice.
Enough to put me on a snowboard for two days. Still amazing.

Sent from my mobile device

read the "small thoughts" blog