10.11.2011

In case you ever need to remove document protection on a docx

I had to do this to compare client's original agreement and the revised version. It turns out you can see all the parts of a docx file by changing the suffix to .zip and opening it in an archiving file. There are a surprising number of files in a docx.

Check it out here: http://newt3.typepad.com/newt3_weblog/2009/04/remove-document-protection-in-word-2007.html.

10.05.2011

I am not disappointed by iPhone 4S and iOS5, but others are...is that Apple's fault?

UPDATE:  This post was penned before it emerged that Steve Jobs died today. While I don't plan to take this down, I should acknowledge that Jobs's passing is momentus because of the products discussed in the post and yet somehow they seem immaterial next to the very same.

I don't envy Tim Cook one lick yesterday. He's Lyndon Johnson to Jobs Kennedy. His only hope is that Jobs growths more mythical he can escape the Johnson analogy by creating his own identity.

I was not disappointed by Apple's announcement yesterday. iPhone 3 got an S version before 4 came out, so this is expected. But others are disappointed. They are spoiled by iPhone 4, the iPad, and iPad 2, the last being a hardware redesign in v.2, something that other products like the iPod Touch and iPhone did not see. They miss Steve. Cook was clearly more CEO than the black turtlenecked guru. The slides had more charts, more graphs, more numbers. It's subtle, but look at Jobs's slides. 1 picture. 1 sentence. 1 chart with 1 data point. There wasn't much more from Cook, but there was enough to get noticed.

Kottke argues that this was one of two types of announcements from Apple - the Unicorn and the Wheel. Jobs and the iPad was unicorn. This was more of the wheel. I tend to agree, but I have three questions. First, is it really true that there are two unveils from Cupertino? Certainly some are more magical than others, but even the 'businessy' unveils got an 'Ahh' response when Jobs did the talking.

Second, should Apple have tried for a unicorn on this one? On the one hand, you want to install Cook as the emotional head of this emotional brand. On the other hand, if you really made this about 'wow' and Cook failed, that might really be the worst of all possible worlds. So I think Apple played it a little safe - a point which I may contradict almost immediately:

Third, and perhaps most important, what Siri a missed opportunity for a Unicorn? In this case, I am left wondering about Siri - the voice command interface in the version of the OS. Was that a unicorn that Apple failed to sufficiently build up? And why is that? Are we expecting to be disappointed by Cook in the personality department? Is he actually not as inspiring? I know voice command is troublesome and has always been, but if it really works, isn't it just as magical as touch click wheels, tiny super smart phones, and tablet computing?


9.26.2011

Berkshire Hathaway's Board decides that the best bet in this market...is Berkshire.

Berkshire's board has authorized the company to buy back its own shares. Why? Because when the market is getting pummeled as it is now, all shares sink, regardless of the value of the underlying business. Nobody knows Berkshire's business like Berkshire and it sees an opportunity to buy itself low and then likely raise capital in the future by re-selling its reserve shares back to the market at a higher prices in the future.  The future price rise will not only be due to a turn the market, but also a sense that Berkshire will be among the best at recovery. So the company is arbitraging against its own reputation and succeeding, creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. Still with me?

9.19.2011

Seriously folks, what was the big deal about The Hurt Locker?

I finally saw it. It is a war movie about Iraq. It does a good job of looking like modern warfare...and that's about it. As a movie it did not do what great movies do. It did not reach out with a great character or story or moment and grab you and hold you unable to look away for fear of missing something.

To the contrary, it followed some pretty set tropes: Person near the end of retirement in the line of duty; concerns about trusting the locals and/or humanizing them; contending with what it means to put your life on the line day after day. And I didn't see much to deal with these tropes in a new and interesting way.

Oooh, a female director. I am a big enough feminist not to care who directs my movie - boy or girl. Please just make it good.

9.13.2011

Clean design reigns at Google, Amazon, ...even MSFT.

There is a revolution in design going on and I love it. Some of the applications and services I use most, Gmail, Calendar, Amazon, Blogger, etc. have launched simpler, cleaner interfaces that strip away the 'bubble gum' in their interfaces in favor of subtlety. It's like I traded in my 1980's 'future-cool' plastics for the warm teaks of Scandinavian design.

The thing that prompted the post was news of the new Windows 8 taskbar design. Look at that. No huge lists of stuff. Just settings, search, and thats...like ... it.


Check out the new gmail:


And calendar


And Blogger


And even Amazon...I mean to you remember how cluttered it used to be?


Need a reminder? Here's the previous version:


Look, I am sure we'll get back to world of clutter. Indeed, I think this just counterbalances the clutter we're seeing in our ad-supported content sites. To wit:


And NYTimes

Keep in mind that that's simplified from what we used to have as well. Anywho...I can enjoy my cleaner, clearer world for at least a little while.

9.05.2011

So is a blogger a journalist or isn't he? Michael Arrington thinks he isn't and he might have convinced Aol.

Michael Arrington of TechCrunch - the blog that provides not so much the pulse of tech as the whims of Arrington - will be stepping back as head of the blog to run a fund. Aol stated that it did so because Arrington has a conflict of interest and Aol is a journalistic organization.

Here's the context for this action:

  1. This is a blog about VC and investment. VCs blog all the time.
  2. Aol does have a large journalistic component, but it is not a newspaper.
  3. Aol will back Arrington's fund, so it too should have a conflict of interest in permitting him to write for TechCrunch.
So, are we breaking with the journalistic paradigm or not if the man gets to blog? Is knowing his background and dealing enough?

8.29.2011

Virgin Limited Edition...You can't afford it, but you just have to look around.

http://www.virginlimitededition.com/en

Seriously. I clicked over there to check out the newest toy - the Necker Nymph - posted by Gizmodo. You see, the Nymph is a 3 person sub that 'flies'. It is related to the sort of boats that http://www.virginoceanic.com/ will be using.

Oh, and it docks with the Necker Belle, Sir Branson's catamaran yacht.

Which ports at Necker Island - private, mind you.

And that is one of several resorts in Morocco, Verbier (The Swiss Alps...just go there now and look...you just have to), and on and on and on.

Look, the man is a billionaire and these sites are at this point money-makers for him I imagine, renting out at upwards of $100-200K a week. (They sleep a lot of people and staffed and food is included because there isn't a Wawa at 3,000m in Switzerland...and you are filthy stinking rich, so you have no use for such trifles).

Anyway, enjoy.

8.23.2011

DSK Prosecution dropped...but if this was a strike, did it succeed?

So, first off, I understand that I should 'think horse, not zebra' on this one. But I cannot help it. The head of the IMF is captured on his way out of the hotel and to the airport. He's alleged to have raped a maid at the hotel. Big international scandal, DSK steps down, France gets to head the IMF, and then the case completely unravels. DSK's accuser lied to prosecutors, she lied to immigration officials, and the lies are about being raped - gang raped, actually. Prosecutors call the issues 'devastating' to their witness's credibility. They don't think she's lying, they just think they can't convince a jury of that.

So...if you're trying to oust DSK and install your own head of he IMF without having it land DSK in jail unjustly, congrats. You found just the right plant to do it. I'd if this was all being driven by some shady conspiracy, I just ought to know enough to realize it wasn't.

(For those not familiar with the phrase...doctors tell their students that when you hear hooves, think horse, not zebra. That is, when the evidence shows a cold or some rare disease, treat a cold.)

8.22.2011

Nationwide Series is awesome Montreal. Keep it!

http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2011/racing/08/20/montreal.nationwide.marcos.ambrose.ap/index.html?eref=si_mostpopular.

Just check out the action in that post.

First, I know. Another post about racing.

Second, at least it is not a review of the Vuelta a Espana or the even less interesting US Cycling Challenge, or whatever they have concocted out in CO.

Third, here we go:

Ambrose won his second road race in as many weeks. The Aussie rocks.

The relatively huge NASCAR cars look really awkward on this narrow road course generally the home of open wheel racers or 24-Le Mans style events. Still, watching these guys bounce over curbs and clang into each other...well, isn't that exactly what people tune in for? And because the corners are lower speed here, the 'crashes' aren't day ending, meaning time for more crashes. I'm all for it and thing that Montreal should re-up. Montreal is a great racing town and needs more high profile races.

8.19.2011

Sometimes, the People of Walmart come through in a positive way. FTW

This was on People of Walmart. It is not a site I spend time on because it feels bad. Call me strange, but cringe humor that has more of the former than the latter is not my cuppa.

Anyhoo, this baby shows up there. It's awesome. Hats off. Isn't it nice to find a gem?

Happy Friday.

8.18.2011

You know your eyeglass shop sends them to a lab, right? Do it yourself & save @eyeglasses.com

Sounds like an ad for www.eyeglasses.com, I know, but I just put lenses on a pair of rimless glasses AND a pair of rec specs (laugh if you must) for $230 ... shipped. Both require high impact poly-carbonate lenses for which I would normally pay $230/ea.

I was skeptical initially. I entered my full prescription data into the site, selected the lenses, asked their customer service people for advice, packaged up my glasses and sent them. To this point, I am doing exactly what your optometrist does, except I wasn't paying them as a middle man with a retail storefront.

If I sound exasperated, it is because I wandered into an eyewear store last month for a checkup. On the way out I stopped to get my first replacement pair. Cheap place. I thought, why not. 30 minutes later, I knew too well why not. My saleslady didn't understand lens materials, thicknesses, tint vs. polarization. Nothing. Just "These are thinner." Really? How much thinner for my prescription (modest)? "Dunno, but they are better." Ugh.

I went to Costco a week later and got better service and ended up with glasses at half the price. I am done with retail eyewear. So when it came to replacing lenses (Costco won't do these two), I needed a better option. Eyeglasses.com was recommended (Thanks Matt), and I am not looking back.

Ever see a German Wheel? This is harder...TRACES!

This is known as 'Ring Dance' by acrobatic troupe TRACES, currently in NYC. It's a single ring, permitting looser, faster tricks than the German Wheel. What is a German Wheel, you ask? Why this:


8.17.2011

NPR's Reaction to is it's top 100 SciFi/Fant Book List...priceless.

So NPR ran a contest to see the most popular 100 Sci Fi and Fantasy books. 60K voters later, they had a list. Then they handed the reigns to Glen Weldon on their Monkey See blog for a reaction. Result...a splendid dissection of the content. That includes the first and obvious comment: Why are we even lumping Sci Fi and Fantasy together?

The one questions I still need answered: Cryptonomicon is Sci Fi/Fantasy? Really? Ever heard of historical fiction?

8.16.2011

I think the guys who designed the front and back of the Olympic medals aren't on speaking terms....


These are the medals of the 2012 summer games. The left shows the front. The right shows the back. One of these things is not like the other - to the point that I find myself not liking the medals.

Now it is traditional for the front of the summer games medals to have the goddess on the front and the logo on the back, but medals like Beijing weren't so dischordant.

In contrast, the winter game medals are a free-f0r-all. Here are Turin and Vancouver:




8.15.2011

I'll admit that the world might have needed Dirty Dancing, but I won't admit we need a remake...

News out of Lionsgate is that they are making the perfect dose of semi-serious camp that is Dirty Dancing over again. I think the best we can hope for is a scrubbing of all the class/ethnic separation themes and a complete ignorance of the abortion scene that were the only things to give the original any gravitas.

Oh, and if you've never heard, it, you must queue up Peter Segal's (host of Wait Wait Don't Tell Me) story of how his serious screenplay about love in post-revolution Cuba turned into 'Dirty Dancing 2: Havana Nights'. Find it in Act 3 of this 'This American Life' Show.


8.14.2011

Forget the FOP, you now need a 'Thin Blue Line' Sticker.

So I have been seeing this sticker over and over and over all over the place. Turns out it is called the 'Thin Blue Line' and represents the 'thin blue line' of police protection that separates the public from, um, itself(?).

Anyway, if you're one of the cynical types that has a 'Fraternal Order of Police' sticker on your car so the po po choose to ding the guy next to you for speeding as you zoom past, you'll want to be adding this to your vehicular plumage.

8.11.2011

There is a wave of positive story-writing coming out...are we ready for happy to be popular again?

Check out these two 'most popular' stories in the NYTimes yesterday:

Friedman imagines what the debt ceiling deal could have looked like. Seriously, it will make you wistful if there is a reasonable bone in your jaded body.

And then there's Rachel. She isn't a new story, but in her untimely death, she motivated adults to donate almost a million to charity:water. Again, for the story to get this kind of play indicates that perhaps we're ready to turn a corner on the acrimony.

Am I hoping against hope?

Want to hear jaded? If hope gets popular, guess who benefits?

8.08.2011

First 787 delivered by Boeing, 4 years late. Ouch.


Boeing delivered (not tested, flew, etc.) the first of its new aircraft, the 787 this week to Japanese carrier All Nippon Air, or ANA. Here's a history of the craft to this point.

One could scoff at the delays given that the plane looks like, well, a plane. The shape masks some pretty big changes. First, the shape is not a classic Boeing shape. Rather, it looks like the Cessna Citation with a downturned nose that is more prevalent in newer designs.

Second, you can see in the photo above that the wings don't have winglets- the upturned bits at the end. Actually, that's not so much a lack of appendages that reduce wind disturbance at the tip, but a complete redesign of the wing from a basically flat slab to an arched design that more closely resembles the organic shape of a bird's wing in flight.

Third, see the squiggly back end of the engines? That feature reduces noise and eases airflow on a set of engines that were redesigned (twice actually) from the ground up to be 30% more efficient.

All good. If you want to be a cynic though, I have to permit it. After all, Boeing managed to roll out its newest 747, the 8F between the start and end of the 787 project, borrowing a lot of the tech. And, of course, the 747 project was in part Boeing's response to the Airbus A380 megajumbo (it's 2 stories). I saw an A380 land at LAX. I just stood there and watched. It's so big it looks a little impossible. That airframe also has curved wings, composite body components, and upgraded engines. It took less time than the 787 even though it required airport retrofits to accommodate the number passengers getting on and off.

Oh well. Enjoy!

Diana Nyad, Godspeed and may we see you in Key West in 2 days' time.

Diana Nyad is attempting the 103 mile swim from Havana to Key West. The waters are calm and she's in the water. She actually has to swim quite a bit farther than 103 miles to handle currents.

You can see a lot more detail in this video: http://news.yahoo.com/video/us-15749625/25925304

8.06.2011

S&P Downgrade of the U.S. 4 days after debt ceiling deadline. Really? Are you dumb or cowardly?

Standard and Poor's - they of the eponymous 500 - downgraded U.S. debt from AAA to AA+ on Friday. That means that U.S. borrowing could need to pay higher interest to offset the new risk.

S&P has been criticized for this, probably by many who have seen the move as 'unpatriotic.' Let's forget that and ask two simple questions:

1. Why did it take until Friday?

The debt ceiling deadline was Tuesday. The deal got done Tuesday. S&P claims it is concerned about the politicization of the debt ceiling process. Fair enough. I have concerns too. But those concerns were, if nothing else, lessened by Friday. If S&P really believed that the process created risk, why did it leave investors to twist in the roiling winds of the market this week before making its assessment?

2. Did S&P pay any attention to the market this week?

The DJIA (Dow Jones Industrial Average) gave away all the value it gained this year, tanking 500 points Wednesday and barely bouncing back by Friday. Where did investors go as stocks (equity) dove? They went to bonds, specifically Treasuries. So the market players are still saying that U.S. Treasuries are the low-risk investment of choice. They clearly don't see the risk S&P sees.

And, again, if S&P throughout this months-long process thought the U.S. was riskier, didn't it have an obligation to speak up before the market tanked and investors would predictably head to Treasuries?

Instead, S&P downgraded Friday, after the market reaction to the resolution of the debt ceiling fight played out. That way, their downgrade would have little to no effect on the market. If so, what is the point of the rating at all now that market participants have shown their preferences? S&P, if you are to have any value at all, how about a rating when it matters?

8.03.2011

The Keen Newport - Ode to the Greatest Shoe I Have Ever Owned

The Keen Newport sandal.

I bought the Keen Newport at Hudson Trail Outfitters just days before setting out on my honeymoon in the summer of 2005. While spending 13 hours a day, 6 days a week in the library studying for the bar, I had planned a month-long journey to southeast Asia including hiking, scuba diving, and lots and lots and lots of walking. Why southeast Asia? Well, there were literally no seats to Europe at the end of July. None. In fact, we had to fly back to NY instead of DC because those were the last 2 seats left from Tokyo.

When I got home from the bar (it was in Roanoke, VA, 3.5 hours south of D.C.), we had a week to pack. The wife and I needed shoes that could do hot, wet, cold, dirty, salty, and muddy, while staying comfortable and putting up with the miles. We hit on Keens. And we paid full price. And I didn't like it, but I needed shoes.

A month later, I would have paid triple happily. Some reasons why:

Crossing the street on the way to Chumpon - Chinatown in Ho Chi Minh city - yes, they have a Chinatown, I was looking up at a health clinic and kicked a bag of offal. It burst and sent whatever the hell its contents were all over the street. If you've never been to a third-world city, you don't really get what modern plumbing, street cleaning, and smog reduction do for a place. Needless to say, the bag contained the diametric opposite of that. In an open sandal, I would have veered into the nearest god-knows-what-I'd-find and scrub down thoroughly for around 30 minutes to insure I didn't get an infection. Instead, we both exclaimed that it was gross, thanked the Keen gods, and went on our way.

A week and half later, we were hiking into the mountains to the Hmong village. I've blogged about this recently in regard to the game we saw played there. Everyone else on the trip packed socks and hiking boots + sandals for heading into waterfalls. We packed 1 light pair of shoes and never changed. They dry up real quick in 100 degree heat.

Then it was back to the south of Thailand for a week on the beach and in and out of boats learning to scuba. No stubbed toes against air tanks, no splinters from the deck, no problems period.

Since then, I have put about 1000 miles on these shoes heading on 5-12 mile walks to the zoo, to work, to museums. On trips, I've worn them as I got muddied up to my knees in a hike to the top of dormant volcano that is Saba and then spent the next 3 days washing them in sea water off the back of a diving boat. I've slipped them on a hundred times to head out with my daughter.

And I think this is finally it for them. I've worn nearly all the rubber off the ball and heel of the shoes. The straps have pulled at the foam footbed so often that they've created wiggle space. These shoes, in a word, have lasted much longer and held up much better in that time than any shoe I have ever owned.

So this week, their replacements are coming. A new pair of Keen Venice sandals. Here's hoping for another 6 great years. Heck, I'll take 3.



Is Danica Patrick Just a Pretty Face?

Danica Patrick could make the move full-time to the NASCAR Nationwide Series (this is the AAA ball of NASCAR, usually run the day before the Sprint Cup). She is, of course, well known in and out of the sport as the GoDaddy.com girl. For me, two questions loom:

(A) Is she any good?
(B) Does it matter?

Is She Any Good?
Kinda. There are a lot of people racing in Indy Car and the NASCAR Nationwide series - the two places she races today. She races a full Indy Car schedule, so lets look there first.

Danica's Indy Car Stats. She had a great year in 2005 and has come down from that a bit in recent years, but this year is on pace to match 2010, when she ranked 10th overall. She is currently 11th. In perspective, there are 43 drivers, but only about 20 of them run the full schedule, so she's in the middle of the pack. That puts her above everyone you've never heard of and below everyone you have (or might have...Dario Franchiti, Scott Dixon, Sam Hornish, etc.). So she ain't bad, but she's bringing up the middle of the pack.

The story is the same in Nationwide. She's 27th overall, but she has run just a 1/3 of the races - 6 in total. In points, she well outclasses other drivers with 6 races, and, in fact, drivers with 7,8, and 9 races, except Sam Hornish - her Indy Car rival. If we 'annualized' her points (i.e. assumed she'd have the same proportion of points if she'd run 21 races), she'd have 623 points, putting her in 7th place. That's not bad, but I should note that it is again just over 1/2 way up the list of 16 drivers that have run a full Nationwide schedule.

So Does It Matter That Danica Be Good?
This is fuzzier. NASCAR wants a good woman driver. Second, being a popular NASCAR driver is arguably just as important as being good. Dale Earnhardt Jr. has had several poor seasons. Tony Stewart is not at the top of the points standings. Carl Edwards has only again become a contender this year. Jeff Gordon, again spotty for a few years. All are more popular than Jimmie Johnson, who has won the points standings in NASCAR 5 years running. So personality and marketability, coupled with a respectable race record might be enough.

If I may, I would like to point out that great women drivers exist already. Ashley Force Hood - daughter of John Force, placed second overall in the NHRA Funny Car standings in 2009 on her father's team. No girls' division, no minor league ball. This was the big show and she killed it week after week on the line and the shifter. Then again, that was a small media market, so she hasn't gotten her due.

So I think Danica could become a popular NASCAR driver and is good enough to make a respectable showing and that might be all it takes.

When under pressure, soccer goalies dive right 75% of the time; shots still 50/50

http://www.npr.org/2011/08/02/138922339/under-pressure-soccer-goalies-tend-to-dive-right

I don't know that I buy the explanation of why they dive right. It appears to be pure conjecture in the piece, but I'd love to understand it better.

8.02.2011

Baca, Hinchey, and Moore didn't vote on the debt ceiling bill. Really? Didn't have anything to add to this one?

Representatives Baca (CA 43), Hinchey (NY 22), and (WI 4) didn't vote on the Debt Ceiling bill. Just didn't vote. I mean, I am kinda sick of the whole thing, but seriously, you're a representative. There is no more national a conversation than the debt ceiling for the last month. Vote YEA or NAY, but for the love of god do some representing!

Am I missing an angle here?

7.29.2011

'Start and Park' Racing...broken NASCAR economics.

I know I lost a lot of you with the NASCAR reference, but if you are still reading, you are in for a treat. In a typical NASCAR race, around 40 cars qualify. Some don't finish. I always assumed those cars had mechanical issues and/or a crash.

Turns out, they might have just had money issues. Enter 'start and park' driving. You drive in qualifying - several solo laps to see who can run the fastest. You qualify. Then you start the race, run a few laps, pull onto pit round, into the garage, out of the car, and flip on the television to see the rest of the race for which you qualified.

Sounds crazy. Turns out it is an economic consideration. NASCAR grants points for starting the main race and pays out prize money based on finishing position, even if that finishing position was the result of a DNF (did not finish). So a driver who finishes 36th and runs the race to completion, expending fuel, tires, and parts and risking a wreck may only earn a few hundred dollars more than a driver who pulled in at lap 26 (of like 250) and DNFd at 37th spot. Prize money + costs avoided = good deal.

It is a particularly good deal if you have two cars. You use your main car to race and the start and park car as a cash machine. Second, if your main car crashes or has a mechanical, you swap and permit your start and park car to race to completion. Thing is, that car isn't racing to compete. It's racing to finish. A lot of fun that is to watch.

So start and park makes NASCAR less fun to watch: There are fewer cars out there and of those cars that are out there, the back of the pack is made up of people who aren't really and truly racing.

7.28.2011

Boogity Boogity Boogity...Amen. NASCAR gets a prayer in line with its post-race interviews.

When life imitates art, you have to smile. When the life is NASCAR and the art is Talladega Nights, you have to laugh. You just have to watch this.



A balanced budget amendment would mean Congressmen suing Congress with Judges deciding what to cut.

Perfect. Explain to me how conservatives are for this?

http://feeds.washingtonpost.com/click.phdo?i=a1d274c926216e9fa0322d917c36529b

7.26.2011

Clearly I was way out of my league even as a beginner mountain biker. I think my stitches make that clear.


(NOTE: this is a video of the trail I was on. It is not my video.)

So I decided to try my hand - actually my arm, but more on that later - at mountain biking this past Sunday. I ride 10 miles 2-3 times a week on roads with a decent number of hills. I have good bike control, so I thought, "Hey, there is a beginner race, why not?" So this past Sunday I loaded my bike into the civic, which requires dropping both seats, moving the car seat to the front and taking the front wheel and seat off the bike. And I drove 22 minutes to Wakefield VA.

This is not a 'hard' mountain bike trail. But I was to learn that I am not a 'competent' mountain biker. That's not really true. I am certainly in good enough shape. I was not sore after the race. I took to the back of the pack and focused on making it to the end.

And I did, unlike a poor gentleman on the trail who had to be gurneyed out over the berms on uneven terrain. I don't even want to know how long that took. But I understood how it happened.

You see, 'beginner' mountain biking is not like a beginner road race where you can just ride along at a clip and get passed; or a 5K run where most people can suffer to the end. You need to train on trails. Get comfortable with the bike. Learn positioning, traction on different surfaces, handling as you get tired, and so on and so on.

I had not been on a trail in 15 years.

The first lap went ok. I was passed a lot. No problem. My hands hurt from gripping the bars for dear life. I was amazed that anyone was comfortable zipping between branches. I will say that loved the stream crossings. The second lap started a lot better than the first. I knew the trail. I knew better where I had made mistakes in my line and gearing choices. I was focused and tiring some, but I was chugging. Then we hit the switchbacks heading down the berms and I ate it on a left turn.

How? Well, first let me say that I did this on my 'mountain' bike - a TREK 3700 that is perfectly nice on a bike back, but whose bottom bracket (the place where the pedals pass through the frame) was low enough to bottom out and hit many obstacles and knobby wheels were not up to this course. My fellow riders' bikes started at 3x the price of this thing and went up from there. They had larger tires with better rubber and tread patterns and better ground clearance. That would not have solved my problems, but it might have helped.

As I road away, I thought, "God, I hate that falling here means leaning forward into the fall (unlike skiing)." That was interrupted by a wet sensation on my left arm. Looking down at a flat spot I saw that my gloves were helping me grip the handlebar because they were soaking up blood from a decent sized cut. The rest of me was covered in red clay.

A mile later, tired and trying to ease it home, I fell again. Again on a left turn. This time, the browning blood got a layer of thick dirt. I got up and kept going. I finished near the bottom (but not at the bottom) and I was lucky enough to avoid a 'dnf' reserved for two of my compatriots in the class (Men < 34)

At the aid station, they looked in the cut. Poking a cut isn't fun. Just sayin'. Then it was up to me to clean off all the mud in the park bathroom - enough to get in the car, load up the bike, and drive home for a visit to the ER for a second poking. 3 hours later, I was showered, the car was clean, and I had 2 stitches in my arm. Oh, and I don't plan to head out in to the woods on a bike any time soon.



Don't let the happy music fool you, the trail at Wakefield VA is hard.

7.22.2011

OK silly reporters, Mr. Robinson does NOT own the house on which he's attempting adverse possession.

The story of Mr. Robinson paying $16 for a mansion is making the rounds on the internet. The reason I am writing about it is that even Gizmodo has the piece. The normally thoughtful blog is caught up by reading headlines.

Mr. Robinson has filed a petition for adverse possession in Texas, cost $16, that would permit him to claim ownership of the house in several years if nobody sues to get him out. The mortgage company foreclosed on the house and went bust so the successor to the company's interests can oust Mr. Robinson and I imagine it will. So the headline should have read: Area Man Pays $16 to Squat. Might Win Jackpot in a Few Years.

Seriously, adverse possession is a holdover in American law. It is possible that 1-2 properties a year convert ownership under this method, but it takes years (around 10 in most places) to complete a claim of adverse possession, so it is rarely successful.

Incidentally, adverse possession has one of the better legal standards. The squatter's possession of the land must be 'open and notorious.' That is, you cannot conceal your possession and - to the contrary - there must be clear signs of your possession. Mr. Robinson certainly has the notorious part down.


7.20.2011

I had to enable Captcha for Comments

You'll need to enter a word to verify that you are human before commenting from now on because I have been seeing some bot/spam in the comments. Sorry and keep 'em coming!

Sepak Takraw - Asian Foot Volleyball. Yeah. Link in to watch.

I first saw this sport in the native Hmong tribe villages in the north of Thailand on a trek during my honeymoon. It is not as exotic as it sounds. We wore Keens; the rest of the tourists brought sandals and hiking boots to change through as we transferred from trail to waterfall and so on. The guide - he wore plastic flip flops, pointed out where tribesmen had ridden mopeds up the trail bringing in food and water, and picked a beetle out of a tree (about 3 inches), hooked him to his shirt, and uttered 'snack' by way of explanation.

When we got to the camp/village, the guide set the women to make dinner and pulled out a wicker ball about the size of a regulation softball. The wicker was woven like a loose basket so the ball is totally hollow. If you listen in the video, you can hear the sound - like kicking a rattan ottoman. The white folks jumped in for a try. The rest of the world had a shot at this game having played soccer since their youth. I had no chance because I had not. Still I tried, picking up pointers from a tribesman who had sustained an injury years earlier and now hobbled on one good leg and used the poorly healed one to strike. Years of practice made him very very good.

And then there was dinner where I had to ask where the spicy food was. The Hmong pointed back to his house and brought out a few morsels. I am pretty sure his food works like an insect repellent pill. Anyone else remember the bug zapper Tabasco ad? That.

7.19.2011

President of Nauru in the NY Times. I can talk your ear off about Nauru if you let me.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/19/opinion/19stephen.html?gwh=84D441227FC5BADC56E23FA8BEB96ABC

Marcus Stephen, the president of the 8 mile island in the S. Pacific is going to address the UN tomorrow about climate change. Nauru was strip-mined to the core for phosphate starting in the middle of of the 1900s. More recently, it housed a detention center for Australia akin to Gitmo. If that seems radical, consider the fact that the country has no water, few crops, and has been stripped of the one natural resource it had.

I've done a bunch of reading on this little place. If you want to listen a bit dazed and cock-eyed for about 20 minutes, ask me about Nauru.


Career Colleges have done a 180 - now want 'gainful employment' rules to apply to all colleges. Bye bye poetry major.

Here's the NPR report.

Intro to 'Gainful Employment' rules: The U.S. Dept of Ed created 'gainful employment' rules for for-profit educational institutions after studies showed that for-profit colleges, places like ITT tech, etc., had student bodies taking on big federally-backed student loans and graduating to a dearth of jobs. The rules said: If you want your students to be able to get student loans to attend your institution, you have to show that a certain percentage of graduates get jobs.

This is not controversial on two grounds: (a) you are a for-profit institution. If those profits are really the student loans of people you ought to know should not pay them back, what you are really doing is funneling federal dollars in the door on the backs of people who will default and ruin their credit to add to a long list of troubles.

(b) Most for-profit institutions are vocational programs. Their sales pitch on television, radio and internet is simple: Better degree = better job = better wages. If that promise doesn't bear out - and I don't mean per person, I mean across the board - then we need to suspend federal support.

I am surprised that for-profit colleges are so baldly going after non-profit colleges (what one would consider 'traditional' colleges) with the claim of equal treatment. First, the data doesn't back them up. The very reason for 'gainful employment' rules in the first place was the distance between student loan default rates from traditional colleges and these new for-profit colleges. The traditional colleges are the baseline that we've been ok with for years. There are two objections to this: (a) That non-profit colleges include ones with huge corporate deals and campuses and TV deals - how is that really non-profit? (b) Coupled with that is a sense that these colleges lock out the population seeking for-profit institutions on the basis of academics. Even if we set aside the fact that that translates into de facto discrimination on the basis of class, it is unfair to compare the repayment rates of a self-selected group of academic achievers to those who have not achieved. It is literally penalizing C students because their employment rates are not equal to that of A students.

Fair, but that doesn't change the fact that institutions focusing on the C students are not giving them more opportunity. Indeed, the numbers indicate that with more debt and no jobs, this population is worse off. That leads to the second point - the long-term solution to this has to be supportive, not destructive. Gainful employment is destructive - it aims to withhold from institutions that don't meet certain standards. That would leave the market without educational options for what is a predominantly low income and minority population. But America needs more craftsman, manufacturers, and other skilled laborers. So we need to find a way to support this education using something closer to the traditional non-profit college model. I don't know enough to set a path for this, but I have to imagine it is possible.


7.18.2011

Nancy Grace, I hold you responsible if Casey Anthony gets hurt.

Nancy Grace publicly stoked the fires against Casey Anthony for months and months now. When Anthony was acquitted of charges and released, she was met outside by an angry mob. I don't know if Anthony is guilty and, frankly, I don't care. Her crime, if she committed one, is one of many committed around the country every day - it is a big place this America. And her prosecution, if botched, is, again, one of many around the country every day.

But what is not part of America every day - dare I label it 'Unamerican' - is to threaten the safety of a fellow citizen who has undergone the due process we have set up to deal with crimes.

And why the hue and cry? Nancy Grace. The woman's vitriol against Anthony on a daily basis is what sensationalized this trial. Indeed, it did as much or more for Grace's fame than for Anthony's. And if Anthony is hurt because people want to take their own vengeance, it will be at least in part because of not just the coverage that Grace provided, but the tone and context in which she delivered it.

Again, I don't have anything but disdain for someone who kills a child, let alone their own child, but we tried this woman for that crime and the people with access to the facts presented said she did not commit that crime. If you are angry at Anthony's lack of human compassion in this ordeal, you are no better if you act in an uncompassionate way.

7.15.2011

GMail Backup - charted again.



I just finished backing up my GMail. It took several days for two reasons:

1. I have more emails than I was lead to believe. Google listed 48K emails, but it really meant 48K conversations. That actually amounts to 84,000 emails. That is nearly double and puts my average over 40 emails a day. That is not high, but combined with my active RSS feeds, that's a lot of input in each and every day.

2. The mail program I used (Mozilla Thunderbird) didn't want to download all the messages at once. It did 500 at a time every minute for a few days and then hit 70 and then 20 messages at a time when we neared the present. I dont really understand.

The last number you see in the chart is the annualized total of emails. We're 195 days into 2011 and I got 14,444 emails. That translates into 27K for the year, but because the slope of email appears to be rising, the final total is likely to be higher.

I have to admit, these numbers seem huge to me. Imagine what you can do if you put a small effort into this pile. Say, email you friends once a week. Call it 5 friends * 52 weeks = 260 emails. Even if the pile of email I get requires no response, I am still left asking, "Why don't I commit 1/10 of 1% of my email box to people I love?" And that is how all that data can lead to guilt. You're welcome.

7.13.2011

Inbox Zero works! Recommended for those whose Inboxes overfloweth. #InboxZero

Back in May, I posted that I was going to try Inbox Zero (http://xerpentine.blogspot.com/2011/05/i-am-trying-inbox-zero-for-change-ill.html). Simple notion: You simply remove emails from your inbox once you have responded and require no additional follow-up.

I ran through all the then-current emails and archived the rest. I also signed up for Boomerang to permit to (a) have an email return to my inbox at a set time and (b) delay email sending to a scheduled time. Both are great features.

It has gone well. I have 12 emails in my inbox right now. All require action. I have recently been traveling and permitted my inbox to grow to 89 emails, but it took all of 5-10 minutes to sort through them and archive those which required no action. The move also permitted me to look over the prior work and determine what, if anything, required additional follow-up.

Down sides? I don't see any. Before, I never looked through my older emails except via search because there were too many of them. I am more likely to just run through the historical emails now because they are manageable. I don't have a case of purging an email I wish I had kept. It hasn't happened yet.

Wanna do it?
1. Make sure you have a good, stable place to archive emails.
2. Read your last 100 or so emails. Keep the ones that require action. Archive everything else.
3. Make it a goal every day or week to get as close to zero emails in your box as possible.
4. Consider a tool like Boomerang to help you.

GMail Backup - charted.

That's the number of emails downloaded from GMail for each year. A few notes:
  • It went up. Not surprise. I think most of us would report getting more email.
  • That might not mean that my 'real' email intake went up. I suspect that many of these emails are junk that either got ignored and archived (instead of deleted) or immediately filtered to a subfolder and never looked at.
  • It actually shows how little email I get. Overall, these 40K+ average out to 22 emails a day. Clearly, most of those are back-loaded. That said, I struck out on my own in 2009, using GMail to manage both work and personal emails in one account. Given that fact, it is interesting to see that there is little deviation from the arc. Indeed, that is my experience. I do a lot of work. I don't spend my time on email.

7.12.2011

1/2 way through backing up my GMail. First, it takes days. Second, my 40k+ emails = 22 a day.

46K emails since the start of 2006 = around 22 emails a day, taking out deletions, but leaving in a bunch of junk I just never threw out. I think this is below average, even taking into account that I didn't send as much email in 2006 as I do today.

If you are going to be a polygamist, just get one civil marriage. Right on.

The stars of "Sister Wives" are suing Utah (I believe) to challenge its polygamy law. (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/12/us/12polygamy.html?hp&gwh=D5C4EEAD2836F3E56DFAE7434FE6AB56). The family (families? Honestly, I have no idea.) were said to be under investigation in Utah for violating the law.

First off, that's odd given that the Utah attorney general's office explicitly states that law enforcement has no intention of focusing on enforcing those laws. (http://attorneygeneral.utah.gov/polygamy.html). I guess when you are flaunting it...

Second, the 'Utah Polygamy Law' is not merely a law, it article 3 of that state's constitution, included as a condition of statehood: (http://le.utah.gov/~code/const/htm/00I03_000100.htm)

First: -- Perfect toleration of religious sentiment is guaranteed. No inhabitant of this State shall ever be molested in person or property on account of his or her mode of religious worship; but polygamous or plural marriages are forever prohibited. .
Third, I happen to come down on the polygamist's side on this one. Here's how:

A. The Brown families have between them 1 civil marriage. The rest are religious marriages only.

B. While I admit that the intent of the Utah Constitution Article must have been to foreclose this loophole, I am not sure it can. Even if you say that the article prohibits religious polygamous marriage in addition to civil polygamous marriage, nothing prevents a man from simply taking up with several women, siring children with them and cohabiting. No stated marriage of any kind. There is no prohibition against "practical polygamy" or what I guess we'd consider polyamory.

C. As is clear from the paragraph above, the only thing the state must be targeting is religious polygamous marriage as it already makes bigamy illegal in the civil context. That raises some serious freedom of religion issues.

D. And yet, none of that forms the center of the current legal challenge, which relies on Lawrence v. Texas, in which two gay men were targeted by a neighbor who phoned in a fake weapons charge to get the two caught in flagrante delicto (don't you just love that phrase?). The Supreme Court held that laws targeting the sexual proclivities of consenting adults violate the due process and equal protection clauses of the U.S. Constitution.

Nice choice. Seems pretty clear cut that if you cannot make a threesome illegal for a man, married or not,you shouldn't be able to make the same act illegal just because the man claims a spiritual relationship with both women. (That would, for example, invalidate a lot of the early 1970s).

But, I can hear the nabobs nattering, this isn't about sex, it is about the rest of the relationship - the holding out oneself as head of many households. For that we go back to religion. How, forsooth, is being the head of multiple households of unmarried women different from a man who has multiple children out of wedlock and visits them all? Indeed, if that man were as involved as this man, we'd applaud him. Which means what we really don't like is the religion. See Article 1.

E. And a postscript: There are many things to dislike about polygamous communities in the U.S. as it pertains to individual rights, child abuse, and so on. The thing is, much of that is not a function of polygamy per se, but of the oppressive communal norms that attend it. Utah and other states focus on those violations as they should. Look, we don't outlaw rap or first round NFL draft pick-ed-ness or NASCAR or islam or fundamentalist christianity or ultra orthodox judaism or first generation immigrants because the incidence of domestic violence is higher in those communities. I admit there are efforts on that last one. We target the action itself and lay down a rule of law. The communities in question learn to respect that law and come to prize it. That is what makes America great.

7.11.2011

I am finally backing up Gmail. 6 years. 45K messages.

I am using a local backup. It is about time.

1. Download a secondary mail program - I am using Mozilla Thunderbird.
2. Put the mail files on an external drive (that takes a tiny bit of doing)
3. Create a POP connection to the gmail account and just download files for, like, ever.

I'll let you know how it goes.

7.07.2011

AVPlayer for iPad does video for real - most codecs, formats, etc.

http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/avplayer/id395680819?mt=8

AVPlayer. For someone who routinely ends up with XViD AVIs on his computer, iPad's native video player is lacking. It just won't play them. Enter AVPlayer. Generally, you upload a video and it works.

Even more important - you don't have sync through itunes. By turning on the WiFi transfer feature, the iPad acts as an FTP/HTTP transfer server. You enter the URL it tells you to enter on the machine from which you will upload the file and viola...

I assume if I lost you in the first sentence with all the jargon you haven't read far enough to reach this apology for said jargon.

Weezer Covering Green Day's Brain Stew = Win, unplugged.

This is from Weezer at Aol Sessions. No, I don't know what is with that outfit, but we're nixing the 'Waldo' comments.

At the very least, your life should be interesting in 100 words. WaPo readers managed.

HT to the spouse for this one.

WaPo asked their readers to write a vignette of their lives in 100 words or less. They got thousands of submissions and put these up:


I think most of us have some story, big/small, happy/sad, dangerous/funny, etc. that is compelling in 100 words. I think that's what makes some of these relatable.

My name is Garrett Waters and I attend St. Bernadette's School. I once made a play in a basketball game that you wouldn't believe. There were three seconds left and my team was down by two. My teammate passed me the ball. I shot from half court, and there was a long silence. Wish. Swish. I watched the ball go through the net and we won. My hope for the future is that everybody gets this feeling some time in their lives.

Others, well, they are just off the wall.

My name is Christopher Langstaff, from Washington. I am 12. My dad's dad is Ken Langstaff, who is married to Percy Lee Langstaff. Her great-grandfather was Stephen Dill Lee, who was distantly related to Robert E. Lee. Stephen Dill Lee was an artillery general for the Confederacy. It was his artillery at the bloodiest battle of the Civil War, in the cornfield at Antietam. We have his sword. We use it to cut wedding cakes.
Well that one wasn't so crazy. How about this one:

I am Reya Millicker, of Takoma Park. My parents were activist, intellectual, Marxist Jews. In the '50s they were blacklisted; in the '60s they worked for civil rights and painted an orange Day-Glo peace sign in our front window to publicize their opposition to the Vietnam War. They embarrassed the hell out of me, and I swore I would grow up to be normal. But what's written in one's DNA cannot be denied. Thirty years later, I am a 46-year-old Jewish bisexual priestess of eco-feminist witchcraft.

7.06.2011

Oh, and coffee to soda is a sustainable change because it is small...I wonder if that's true for swimming.



This is a great TED talk and short - about 3:30. Here's a man who is making small changes in his life and sticking to them for 30 days. Those he likes get integrated into his day. Those he doesn't fall away. And all the while, he is more mindful of his time.


I have swapped coffee for soda and it works! Thanks Juan Valdez! #caffeine

I drank a lot of soda. Two liters at a time perhaps twice a week. 44oz. plus on other days. On a bad day, I might go over the 64 oz. threshold.

You'd think at that amount, it would be the caffeine that would frighten me. It made me shaky. The massive intake of CO2 made my insides churn. The acidity could be annoying. But none of those things made me walk away.

Aspartame did it. The current EU safe limit is 40 mg per kg of body weight a day, 50 mg per kg in the U.S. That translates to roughly 16 cans in the EU and 21 in the U.S. Sounds like a lot to most people, but a 2 liter bottle of soda is nearly 7 cans, which means I was pushing 10 a day. I got headaches and migraines when I wasn't on it.

The studies aren't there to show it is a serious health risk, but approaching the advisable limit as I was, coupled with the other negative effects, pushed to me to find something else.

And that something else is coffee. The caffeine is concentrated. The ingredients in the drink are known and simple. The milk is good for me, and the sweetener - Splenda - is much more powerful, so not only am I drinking less of it per oz of liquid, I am drinking less caffeinated liquid - nearly 80% less.

So far, so good.

6.30.2011

But I like my iPad more.

I finally got an iPad and I use it all. the. time. And I barely play games on it. Here's a business use-case for the little bugger:

1. The rig: iPad (16GB wifi refurb + original apple case - seriously, why not? + stylus)
2. The most used programs:
  • PenUltimate for 'inking'. That's the name given to writing on the iPad. It is pretty good. $2.99 gets you the best program so far. Bamboo just released their program. It is a bit better, but it is basically in beta preview. Writing on the iPad isn't perfect, but it is pretty darn good and has completely replaced paper for my note-taking. I gave a briefing on the Hill yesterday and took nothing else. Worked like a dream.
  • Email. 'nuf said.
  • Dropbox and/or iBooks for viewing files.
  • Feedler for RSS. This program provides me the RSS experience I want: Massive amounts of information in a clean, dense interface. I also have Pulse and Flipboard. Both are great, but both are meant to look pretty. Flipboard is great for, say, reading Longform.org. Pulse is great for the opposite - People and TMZ rss feeds. I spend a minority of my time on either.
  • Good Reader - this is a program I don't yet have because I don't need it, but it permits one to 'ink' on PDFs and similar files, permitting you to hand edit/annotate a document. Everyone who uses the iPad like I do recommends it.
And, of course, I do have a little fun on the box.
  • TED has an app.
  • Snagfilms gives you access to great documentaries.
  • And Worms 2. The ninja rope, etc. are impossible to learn in the touch interface, but moving and firing most any other weapon are easy as pie. "Ach! Ahm Ded!"

So I guess I have to admit it...I like Windows 7.

I recently got a new computer that was a sea change from my previous thinking. Three years ago, I bought a Lenovo ThinkPad T61. Great machine. I still have it.

It was a laptop with XP. I paid more to downgrade from Vista - that is still a good decision. I had a mobile machine with an older stable operating system. Quick processor, decent RAM, slower HDD.

This time I bought an off lease desktop. Yeah. A desktop. The processor is old - an Intel Core Duo. Not Core2 Duo. This is several generations back. Think i3/i5/i7 > Core2 Solo and Duo > Core Solo and Duo. This is just after the Centrino days. Thing is, with a 3MhZ frontside bus, this super high-end processor from a few years ago benchmarks nicely against newer processors.

But that's just keeping up with the jones's. This is a new machine and has to fly, and it does. How? SDD. I paid an extra $100 and upgraded the $350 machine with a 64GB SDD and it just zooms. Windows 7 startup - 20 seconds. Opening Office - instantaneous. Photoshop - 2 seconds. Seriously.

The old HDD is in an external enclosure and holds all my files. Performance hit = 0. The internal drive holds the OS and Program files. 64GB is plenty to hold all my programs, including graphic design and web development tools. 250GB is plenty to hold everything else and setting the download, documents, and dropbox directories for an external drive is a cinch.

Right, so I haven't even started into Windows 7. I was skeptical. This is, after all, a rethinking of Vista with even more bubble gum graphics and the same convoluted security and administration windows. All true. When I have needed to be the Admin user, I have hated Windows 7. But for the day to day stuff, there are some wonderful fixes:
  • Start menu: No more huge start menus. Just type the program you are looking for and it pops up.
  • Folder Search works. Remember XP Search? It's that thing you tried once and ditched because it sucked. It works and it is wonderful. I used to have to open Dropbox.com to search my dropbox and then find the file on my local machine using the path. No more.
  • Multi-window: When you hover over an open program in the toolbar, it will dim all the other windows and show you the one you are pointing at. Can be nice if you have a lot of windows open. I sometimes do.
These might seem simple, but these are things that (a) didn't exist or work in XP and (b) never materialized in Vista, an OS so bad that - like I said before - people paid NOT to use.

6.29.2011

6 Hour Power. That's right baby. 1 more hour.

http://www.6hrpower.com/

Look like any drink you've ever heard of?

Also - its got the worst. ad. ever. http://link.brightcove.com/services/player/bcpid1138353315?bclid=1149097313&bctid=15154764001

Google, the startup. Seriously, homepage redesign and everything. #Google.

Google announced a few new products in the past few days:

Google+ is by far the most important of them, with the company taking on social networking and permitting users to create "Circles" of their friends with whom to share content. Unfortunately for me, I think this builds on Google 'Buzz', a service that pops up in my Gmail daily and gets ignored just about as often (unless you count the errant click below "Inbox").

Verdict: I will wait and see.

Google Swiffy Still in Labs, this product takes in SWF (Flash movies) and spits out HTML5. And not just animations, but also interactive features. That means developers can take legacy Flash, convert to HTML5 and make their content iOS (iPhone/iPad) friendly. And before we launch into histrionics about killing Adobe and sucking up to Apple-cum-world's-largest-consumer-electronics-company, Adobe is itself working on a product code-named Edge that looks and feels like Flash Studio, but outputs HTML5.

Verdict: Amazing. Also, the king is dead. Long live the king.

6.22.2011

Is the NFL Lockout really just about $80M as the new deal implies? #NFL #lockout

http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/news/story?id=6687485

So the sources say that the players and owners have agreed to a deal where the players get 48% of revenue. Sounds good, but compared to what?

There is $9B in the current pot. Previously, the owners got the first $1B, leaving $8B, and the players got 60% of that. For those keep score at home, the players have $4.8B.

Under the new deal, they would get 48% of $9B, or $4.32B, down $480 million. But the players say they never got more than 53% of revenues under the old model ((9-1) * .53) or $4.24B, so the new deal would constitute a gain of $80 million. To put that in perspective, Manning makes $23 million per year. $80 million just covers the salaries of the 4 highest paid players 2009-2010:
Total: $87 million.


6.19.2011

Carl Edwards would be leading both the Sprint and Nationwide Series right now. Right on. #NASCAR

Yeah. This might came as a surprise to some readers out there, but I follow NASCAR. I also follow cycling and some larger desert auto rally auto/motorcycle racing.

Carl Edwards has been my fan fave for a bit. He was a on a long dry spell last year. This year, he leads the main sersies - the Sprint cup. He can only earn points in that series, so the fact that he has won FOUR races and placed second in a few more Nationwide series races doesn't really count. Very impressive.

For the uninitiated - Sprint (sponsor name) is the main race series. There is generally a Sprint race Sunday. Nationwide (another sponsor) is one tier down. The car is similar, but not identical, and the race is run Saturday often at the same track.

6.16.2011

There are GMT+14 time zones...not really possible.


The Line Islands are +14 GMT. That's over a half a day (You know, those things based on the earth's rotation period so that any point to should +/- 12 hours of any other spot on the planet). I mean, I could see if these islands were the last thing before open water for several hours, but it does not exist. There are Islands to the northeast of these that are -11 GMT. Crazy.

6.15.2011

I just discovered Tripod - Aussie comedy rockers. @3Pod rocks!

Seriously, I love jam bads and I love good comedy. This is both. First, the site: http://www.3pod.com.au/.

And you just need to watch the whole thing:

6.14.2011

There's something about Christy. Does it make him unelectable? #2012election

There's something about Chris Christy that gives voters pause. His opponents have seized on it before, albeit implicitly.

Thing is, Christy is near the top of the aspirational party. Will those who want lower taxes and less government on the off chance they get rich enough to benefit from it vote for a man who looks like they do look rather than how they would like to look?


There's something about Christy. Does it make him unelectable? #2012election

There's something about Chris Christy that gives voters pause. His opponents have seized on it before, albeit implicitly.

Thing is, Christy is near the top of the aspirational party. Will those who want lower taxes and less government on the off chance they get rich enough to benefit from it vote for a man who looks like they do look rather than how they would like to look?


6.06.2011

Olafur Eliasson has another mindbending installation in the world.

Olafur Eliasson has been a favorite artist of mine ever since luvnmuzic and I stumbled on his work at the Tate during a post-college trip to London. He created a sunset so real to fill the great hall of the Tate that Londoners were laying on the concrete to bask in it during the London December. You couldn't help it. It just told your body that it was warm and waning.

He's at it again, this time with a rainbow walkway above a Danish museum. Don't judge it until you have walked through. These are experience pieces and I am sure this one is surreal. http://www.designboom.com/weblog/cat/9/view/14812/olafur-eliasson-your-rainbow-panorama-now-complete.html.

5.27.2011

What is the opposite of Garbage In, Garbage Out?

I was chatting this morning and found myself searching for a turn of phrase that that neatly sums up, "If you put something good into the process, you get something good out of it." We have the negative - GIGO - or garbage in, garbage out. But I can't find the opposite of GIGO.

GIGO is derived from FIFO - first in, first out - a stacking description like LIFO (last in, first out) used to describe the difference between, say, an ammo belt and an ammo clip. But that alone doesn't help.

Any suggestions? Gold in, gold out?

For that matter, do we have an opposite of garbage? Many things are garbage, but there is no one name for them before they become garbage.

5.25.2011

LinkedIn earned $16M last year. It's valued at $8.9B. You crazy enough to ride that train?

Joe Nocera asked whether LinkedIn was scammed by Morgan Stanley during it's IPO. The bank priced the IPO at around $45-48, paying the company a percentage of that valuation. The stock opened north of $90, which is where the bank sold it, netting the bank 100% profit immediately, plus filing fees, etc.

Likely true. Thing is, is LinkedIn (LNKD) worth $93 (where it stands right now)? Let me put it in perspective for you: it's price to earnings ratio (PE or the stick price * total shares / what you earned) is 561. The company earned $16M last year. The valuation has it at over $8.9B. Yahoo has those earnings even lower, putting the P/E at 1412.

Other prominent companies' P/E ratios:
AAPL - Apple - 15.95
GSK - GlaxoSmithKline - 37.48

Other brand new IPOs' P/E ratios:
WIFI - Boingo Wireless - 19.68 (Nice ticker symbol btw)
GNC - GNC Stores - 21.55

(ZIP - ZipCar had an IPO, but has not yet reported any earnings so P/E is not available.)


Callista Gingrich was great in Mars Attacks!



Callista Gingrich.

I'm jus sayin'

5.24.2011

At what point do we just call Frank Camping a liar? #NoRapture

Camping says to wait until October 21 for the rapture now. Right. 2011. Not 1994. I don't even believe that he believes this any more. That makes him a liar and his lies are hurting people and tearing apart families over this issue.

NPR Music is full of label shills. Seriously. It surprised me too.

Jacob Ganz and Frannie Kelley of NPR music were on Friday's Planet Money podcast. They were talking about Jonathan Coulton, a geek rocker who has no label deals at all and makes several hundred K a year selling his stuff online. The question was simple: Is Coulton's success a signal that the label system is going away?

Jacob Ganz and Frannie Kelley said Coulton was lucky, but his model was not repeatable. Their argument: Labels make artists. They take over all the backend stuff - marketing, booking, advertising, getting you on the radio, and on and on. The poster-child: Biebber. Coulton, working online, can't become Biebber.

Just listen to the podcast. It's 25 minutes of hipster music lovers defending labels that churn through, eat up, and spit out the indie-esque bands that NPR loves to feature in their tiny desk concerts. (Also recommended) Seriously?!

And to make you feel better, perhaps the best kinetic typography on the internet:




5.23.2011

Point against end times: no rapture. Point for end times: Pogue in Sheen-esque chick fight. #NoRapture

Seriously, how weird is it to read about David Pogue in a physical altercation with his estranged wife?

Oh, and I got a copy of Vanity Fair on paper this weekend read the Sheen recount. Well done. More on why I had that kind of time on my hands later.

5.17.2011

Slate's Hang Up and Listen. A multi-culti sports gabfest

Slate's Hang Up and Listen is part of the Slate Daily Podcast series and is not to be missed. This is not a blogger's podcast or even an ESPN sports podcast. This is Josh Levin of Slate, Mike Pesca of NPR and Stefan Fatsis (who brought you Word Freak about competitive Scrabble, which he still coaches at the national level) chatting about the business of observing sports.

Like the other gabfests, their's is a discussion about the discussion of sports. Their purview extends beyond the big 4 to NCAA, MLS, futbol, curling, and any other fancy you might have. This is smart sports even if you aren't into sports. (Think Sideshow Bob: Even non-sports fans? Especially non-sports fans, but especially sports fans.):

Bob: You again! Well, that's it. I'm going to do what I should have done a long time ago. (at the Simpson home, there is a knock at the door. Marge opens it and its Bob)Madam, your children are no more… (pause) … than a pair of ill-bred troublemakers.
Homer: Lisa too?
Bob: Especially Lisa. But, especially Bart.
- HT

5.16.2011

Count me an SSD convert. These things are awesome!

I just bought a new rig for work. I actually went from a laptop that acted as a desktop to a desktop that has now identity crisis. In the new desktop is a 50GB solid state hard drive. (An SSD for short).

For the uninitiated, HDD (hard disk drives) classically have spinning platters inside. The drives ability to access data relies on the data coming by as the disk spins. SSDs have no platters. They look like RAM (Random Access Memory) or a USB Drive, but much larger and with faster read/write abilities.

What's the big deal? My computer is an older Pentium dual core and still boots up Windows 7 Pro in 20-30 seconds. It opens Word in 1 second. It opens Photoshop in 2-5 seconds. I've never seen a bigger performance boost.

SSDs are expensive, but you don't need a huge one. Mine is 50GB (< $100) and houses Win7 + all my applications. All storage will be done on an external HDD that will be 250GB +.

http://www.buump.com/ - a relationship bracelet that screams "I will always be single!"

Seriously, bracelets with Facebook-style relationship statuses on them? Might be the dumbest thing I see all week. (www.buump.com)

5.14.2011

Iran to permit victim of acid burning to blind her assailant. What is the ethical thing to do?

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/may/13/iran-blind-criminal-acid

[First off, the latest I have is that this has been postponed.] The facts are pretty simple: Woman spurns her lover. He stops her on her way home and throws acid in her face, disfiguring and blinding her. It is part of a rash of such attacks in Iran.

The court awards her monetary damages and considers a physical penalty. She rejects the money and asks that he be blinded with acid - a literal 'eye for an eye' under Sharia law. The court allows it if the assailant is rendered unconscious and the victim uses droppers to drop the acid into his eyes. Gross, I fully admit.

But...what is the ethical thing to do here?

Progressive ethics says, "This is barbaric. Don't." I can't count current American ethics as progressive. Killing a person permits one to be killed; that's the granddaddy of them all, so arguing that lesser punishments for lesser crimes are somehow worse than the death penalty is illogical. American's wouldn't abide by disfigurement as a punishment owing to some mix of the Scarlet Letter and the Eighth Amendment. Still, I think an honest look concludes the position is inconsistent.

And what of the rash of such attacks? The death penalty does not deter murder, but could disfigurement deter disfigurement? I guess that's where the Scarlet Letter does make a difference. A murderer doesn't have to live the death penalty. If the American position that disfigurement is potentially worse than death is credible, then perhaps it could have real deterrent power. So, again, is such a punishment ethical?

I'll put in my opinion: Don't do it and work on the rule of law. Punishment to prevent injury was effective when policing could not deter crime as effectively as it does today. If a man who throws acid knows that he has a better than even chance of rotting in prison, he doesn't do it. I understand that achieving strong rule of law takes time, but the only way to have it succeed is for everyone to act as if it exists until it does. Acts like this erode it.

5.12.2011

Slate's Culture Gabfest - the least and shallowest of the them all, but still worth it.

I listen to every one of the Slate daily podcasts. You can get them all on one stream. They are: Politics, Hang Up and Listen (Sports), Culture, XX (Double X), Audio Book Club and a smattering of smaller features.

I just finished listening to the Culture Gabfest for this week and it is both exactly why I listen and exactly why it is my least favorite. The problem with the Culture Gabfest is that it is a culture gabfest - a navel gazing shallow picayune consideration of the mostly banal topic of the moment. The exercise frustrates because it often gives more thought to a thing than its creator did. In some cases, a lot more. It also frustrates because these people are so well educated and so knowledgeable about popular culture that you just wonder what they could accomplish if they did something productive with their lives. Imagine listening to the Cabinet sitting around talking about sports week after week after week; cool yes, but the futility would begin to wear on you. (If the hosts ever trip over this post, I apologize, but take it as an admission of your superior intellect).

So why listen at all? Two reasons:
1. iTunes on the iPod Touch as a 2x speed, bringing any conversation up to my preferred clip.
2. I do a lot of things to be exposed to matter I wouldn't see if left to my own devices. I won't read these books or think about the royal wedding or consider the post-tiger mother response by first generation asian american males, and that's just the past 2 week's worth. And of course, there is the occasional gem, like this:



5.11.2011

Peter Orszag, how did you go from healthcare reform pwrhouse at CBO and OMB to CitiGroup?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_R._Orszag

I don't mean to pick on Peter Orszag. He's a very smart guy and he just lost his dad. Thing is, I know the thoughtful Peter Orszag who spearheaded research into health reform at CBO and pushed for it at OMB. He's a wonk. His lack of polish is in direct proportion to his integrity.

Then I read about Peter Orszag, Vice Chairman of Global Banking at Citigroup and husband to Bianna Golodryga Orszag, Weekend Good Morning America host. Top level exec at the big banks whose bailout he assessed at CBO, traipsing around with on-air eye-candy in New York City.

Who is the real Peter Orszag?

5.08.2011

I am trying Inbox Zero for a change. I'll let you know if it works. Boomerang for Gmail too.

Inbox Zero: http://www.43folders.com/izero. The idea is simple. Instead of having 23,496 emails in my Gmail inbox accumulated over 10 years, I now have 3. I archived everything else, so that my inbox really consists of pending emails only. We'll see how that goes.

Also, I wrote several emails late last night that needed to be sent this morning. I didn't want to log in this morning to send them. Enter Boomerang for Gmail - http://www.boomeranggmail.com/. The service will let you schedule emails for a later time and do two more things I haven't thought through:

1. Boomerang an email back into your inbox at a later time. Think bills, follow up calls, etc.
2. Boomerang an email back to the recipient if they don't respond (or just as a reminder).

Where do you think I got the idea of Inbox Zero? duh. The second power might be too much. Heck, I am not sure I'll use the first, but the ability to delay send? That's gold.

5.04.2011

Small Thoughts on Podcasts: @waitwait from NPR. It's a little like liking chocolate: everyone does but you still like it.

I listen to podcasts almost exclusively. I don't mean that I have neglected eating, raising my child, changing my pants, et. al. to listen to podcasts. I mean that I spend about 9 hours a week with audio on. Of those, around 1.5 are at NPR.org listening to Morning Edition and the other 7.5 are spent on podcasts. I got a request from the child seat yesterday for "mooosic," but until then, it is all NPR and podcasts in my world.

So I have some strong thoughts on podcasting - what works, what doesn't etc. I won't rant here, but I will give you my favorites. Here is a tentative list of reviews that are coming:

* Wait Wait Don't Tell Me (this one)
* Freakonomics Radio
* Radiolab
* This American Life
* The Moth
* TEDTalks
* Science Friday
* Intelligence Squared
* Planet Money

Wait Wait Don't Tell Me
This is NPR's most popular show outside of the mainstays from morning and afternoon drive (Morning Edition and All Things Considered). Peter Segal, who penned a heart-wrenching screenplay of love in the time of Cuban Revolution that eventually somehow became Dirty Dancing 2 - Havana Nights (Google - Peter Segal Havana Nights American Life to hear how), Carl Kassel, and the team are laid back. The wit flows like water.

There was a stat about a year ago that males 18-34 got most of their news from The Daily Show. Yeah. Thing is, if you watch the Daily Show, you might get all the same information you get on cable news and they still have 17-19 minutes for straight jokes. Same goes for this show.

One recent development of note is a shuffling of panelists. The show has a host, an announcer, and three guest panelists who discuss the news and answer questions. I loved the old guard: Paula Poundstone, PJ O'Rourke, Kyrie O'Connor, and Tom Bodette. I hope they find some stable fresh blood.

And lastly, I can't resist: There is an Wait Wait stats blog showing panelist point totals and so on at http://closedsrc.org/_apps/waitwaitstats/. And EVEN BETTER, analysis of those stats: http://soquoted.blogspot.com/2010/10/bet-on-adam-and-kyrie-and-bet-against.html

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