2009-12-22

Papyrus.

Me + Timon:

2009-11-09

Rogue Wave

Pat Spurgeon: "It's absolutely necessary you be healthy, and deep down I'm like, 'yeah, but I wanna tour.'"



Looking forward to seeing this film.

Ignorance

Thomas Goetz in Wired:
"A remarkable 55 percent of deaths for people age 15 to 64 can be attributed to decisions with readily available alternatives. In other words, most people are the agents of their own demise. That's a vast difference from a century ago, when, Keeney estimates, a scant 5 percent of deaths were brought on by personal decisions (infectious diseases account for most of the rest)."

2009-11-04

JFDI

Khushroo Poacha: "If you want to do good work, you simply do it."

2009-10-13

Re: Vipassana Courses

I did my first 10-day Vipassana meditation course back in 5/2001, and have done a number of them since. Friends and family inevitably ask me about them each time they see me heading off to spend another ten days on the cushion, and over the years I've compiled a list of links I email people when they inquire. Rather than repeatedly sending that email, I can now send 'em a URL:
Here's some related reading, not Vipassana-specific but great for context:
  • What the Buddha Taught by Walpola Rahula, one of the simplest, easiest to read distillations of what the whole thing is about
  • Old Path White Clouds by Thich Nhat Hanh, a chronological compilation of stories from the Tipitaka, told in narrative form and utterly delightful to read. I finished it in a single sitting during a 30-hour bus ride from Yangon to Mandalay, and could hardly put it down.
And lastly, some random photos from my Vipassana travels:

www.flickr.com
...and a few other folks' accounts of their first courses:

2009-10-06

Money quotes from Social History of the mp3

This is a damn fine piece, here are a few nuggets that leapt out at me:
"Music is a social process driven by passion, not market logic or copyright."
...
"The mp3 may have atomized music into millions of little pieces, but each piece, it seems, found a publicist. The average music fan now has the built-in capacity to double as promoter and distributor in an ever-expanding arena that's making and eliminating rules every minute."
...
"In the same way that technology is a social force created by humans, with the power to expand or restrict what we're able to do, so goes the law."
...
"What DRM taught us during its short life, is that for the law to work, people have to believe in it. This doesn't necessitate Pirate Bay-level countercultural deviance, but the simple idea that the rules laid down are based in common sense, not the frigid logic of corporate balance sheets."
[via Nick via Noah]

2009-09-20

Early Mashing-up

Simon Napier-Bell, in Black Vinyl, White Powder:
"The club only lasted a couple of years, but during that time its resident DJ invented a new form of dance music. He was Francis Grasso. Writer Albert Goldman claimed that, 'Grasso invented the technique used by every DJ ever since of holding the record he was about to play at the precise point he wanted it to start playing, while a felt mat underneath it revolved on the turntable. Then letting it go, to make a seamless connecting point between two pieces of music.'"
"Grasso's other specialty was to play two tracks at the same time mixing the raunchy heavy drums of British rock music with the soaring voices of American soul. Led Zeppelin's thumping solid drum breaks would throb like an amphetamined heartbeat under the delicate vocals of Gladys Knight or Aretha Franklin. According to Albert Goldman, Francis Grasso didn't just play records, 'he reinvented them out of their composite parts,' the top end vocals and the bottom end rhythm. His method of mixing the different parts of different records to make altogether new music was 15 years ahead of its time."
Emphasis mine.

2009-09-19

Wash Your Hands

And use hand sanitizer. Ideally CleanWell.

NYTimes:
"During the eight-week study period, students in the dorms with ready access to hand sanitizers had a third fewer complaints of coughs, chest congestion and fever. Over all, the risk of getting sick was 20 percent lower in the dorms where hand hygiene was emphasized, and those students missed 43 percent fewer days of school."

2009-09-18

Oh. My.

Yes Nick, I most certainly am. Dom, this one's for you.

2009-09-02

That's a big Card Catalog

Jon Orwant: "We've learned the hard way that when you're dealing with a trillion metadata fields, one-in-a-million errors happen a million times over."

[via Chris]

<3 Ars Technica

Clear off a few hours on your calendar, make yourself a cup of tea, and enjoy the Epic Snow Leopard Review

I love that they do this with every Mac OS X release—I definitely savor each one. Thank you, John!

Obviously

John Mackey in the WSJ:
"Unfortunately many of our health-care problems are self-inflicted: two-thirds of Americans are now overweight and one-third are obese. Most of the diseases that kill us and account for about 70% of all health-care spending—heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes and obesity—are mostly preventable through proper diet, exercise, not smoking, minimal alcohol consumption and other healthy lifestyle choices."
This isn't rocket science, people.

2009-08-16

The Beatles: Rock Band

Great piece in the NYT Magazine about it, can't wait to play.

Obama NYT Op-Ed

Katie's doing an awesome job with the Whitehouse's Twitter feed:
Obama NYT op-ed: “We are bound to disagree, but let’s disagree over issues that are real.” http://bit.ly/iF8kr #healthcare

2009-08-01

Friendly Multi-Factor Auth

The Twitter "hack" has had me thinking about authentication lately, as have conversations with Buzz and Kellan. I'm curious about user-friendly multi-factor auth, and want to try it out with Google Apps to see how it fares as a standard consumer experience. I couldn't find any hardware-based OTP solutions in the Enterprise Solutions Marketplace, just software—I'm specifically looking for hardware.

While digging this morning I came across the very-intriguing ('cause it cleverly pretends to be a single-key USB keyboard) Yubikey:
One use-case it doesn't address is if your device (say, a smartphone) doesn't have a USB port. How would you log into gApps from an iPhone?

Am curious for y'all's thoughts, experiences, annoyances, etc. with the Yubikey—I'm also listening on Twitter.

2009-07-15

Herb Hilgenberg: One-Man Weather Forecasting Service

Whenever I fly anywhere, I leaf through the airlines' in-flight magazines on the off chance I'll encounter something interesting. In between ads for Brazilian steakhouses and executive dating services, I found a gem of a piece in American Way about Herb Hilgenberg, a one-man weather forecasting service operating out of rural Canada. Fortunately AA puts their articles online in their entirety, so you can check it out without flying. Here's the beginning of the story:
Down inside a yacht anchored off an island in the Caribbean, skipper Jason White shows off a state-of-the-art computerized control center. He points out a marine single sideband (SSB) radio, somewhat of a sailing-instrument anachronism amid modern technology like satellite phones and weather faxes.

And then he tells me about Herb. Somewhere out there, on the frequency 12359 kilohertz, is a man named Herb who will give any boat a personalized weather forecast upon request. He’s more accurate than any weather service, say the mariners who rely upon his expertise. But very few sailors even know he exists.

“He only says it once, and he talks so fast, you have to record it and listen to it later,” says White, holding up a small digital recorder. “I use him all the time. But if you bug him too much, he’ll just ignore you.”

In November 1999, Hurricane Lenny developed south of Cuba and then moved west to east, the first Caribbean tropical storm in recorded history to do so. It would eventually smash through several islands, causing hundreds of millions of dollars in damage. Herb was in contact with a number of boats in the danger zone and immediately directed them around the Category 4 storm. Except one.

“There was one guy just sitting north of Puerto Rico,” Herb Hilgenberg recalls. “A Swiss couple and their dog. I talked to him and said, ‘You’re gonna have a hurricane in front of you, and it’s gonna approach you in the next six hours.’ “

The sailor radioed back, saying, “I need to get off the boat; I can’t make it. My engine’s not working.” In six hours, he, his wife, and their dog were going to get ravaged by a hurricane with wind speeds of 150 miles per hour and be pounded to pieces. And they couldn’t move.

Herb called the U.S. Coast Guard based in Puerto Rico, but they had already lashed down all their helicopters for the storm. They managed to establish contact with a nearby commercial vessel, and it was able to approach the boat and rescue the couple and their dog.
Read the rest.

2009-07-09

On Leadership

Bill Taylor:
"The best leaders I know don't want the job of thinking for everybody else. They understand that if they can tap the hidden genius inside the organization, and the collective genius outside the organization, they will create ideas that will be much more powerful than what even the smartest individual leader could ever come up with on his or her own. Nobody alone is as smart as everybody together."

2009-07-01

Bike More

Green by Design: "For now, the only real solution is the simplest one: Driving less. A lot less."

Update: note the drama and controversy in the comments of that GBD post! Hopefully driving less and biking more isn't controversial.

2009-06-15

Ridin' with Dom

Check 'im out!


Skating Across America - Skater Profile on Dom Sagolla from Mark Lukach on Vimeo.

Just Say No

A snippet from The Pirate's Dilemma, a Kindle read I recently finished:
"The United States and New Zealand are the only two countries in the world where it is legal to advertise prescription drugs. The United States accounts for almost 50% of all monies spent on prescription drugs worldwide. But according to a 2006 report by the Journal of the American Medical Association, US residents are nearly twice as sickly as their English counterparts, despite the fact that the former spend almost twice as much on healthcare per person."

2009-05-25

Spoiled

J.J. Abrams in Wired, "on the Magic of Mystery"

This is why I don't read rumor sites.

2009-05-22

How (not) to Lock your Bike

Check out Streetfilms' three-part series on how to lock (and not lock) bikes in cities. I'm definitely still in the B-C range, but am learning fast.

2009-05-20

Garbage 2.0

This is incredible:
Taipei has strived to achieve "zero landfill, total recycling" by 2010, 30 years ahead of the UN's trash targets. It will probably fall short, but its policies are still exemplary. The city has encouraged the private sector to build composting facilities and recycling plants, and requires residents to pay for trash collection by the bag. Garbage trucks playing Beethoven's "Für Elise" and Badarzewska's "The Maiden's Prayer" collect trash, which must be in city-approved bags, from residents, who toss the bags into the trucks themselves. Taipei promotes trade in secondhand goods and introduced new methods of kitchen-waste disposal -- one pilot program turns food waste into pig feed. The result: The volume of trash has been slashed by well over 60%.
Emphasis mine.

[via Fast Company, photo from Wikimedia Commons]

2009-05-18

Easy Kindle Clippings

The main reason I use a Kindle is because I'm a chronic annotator*. It lets me highlight passages as I read them, which is minimally disruptive to my reading flow. The problem later though is, how to get those annotations into a human-readable format—the Kindle's MyClippings.txt file is definitely not this.

After some digging, I found Erik Lundqvist's MyClippings Java app for both Mac and Windows. It ain't pretty, but it'll export the file into HTML, CSV, or DOCX (for Word). From HTML, I just copy/paste into Google Docs, which makes my notes searchable.

How do you handle your Kindle annotations?

* Whenever I read anything (book, magazine, whatever), I take notes from it—quotes, passages that resonated, things to research further, etc. And because I'm a geek, I must eventually type up said notes, so that I can search them later. My nerdy note-taking goes way back—I've still got notes from 2000, when I used to scribble them into MacNoteTaker on my Palm V in Graffiti. Yikes.

Update: Dunno when this went live, but you can now see Kindle clippings on Amazon's site.

2009-05-17

Pete Seeger

Give this 6-min PBS doco clip about Pete Seeger a watch, it's just fantastic.

2009-05-03

Good Advice


Via Dipanshu, from the Global Pagoda.

2009-05-02

Scratch those Itches

This is a great 37s post, and shows that everyone's capable of creating and innovating by scratching an itch. Doesn't matter what industry it is, or career, or materials, or place. Itch-scratching is hacking, plain and simple.

2009-04-23

@cookbook

Maureen and Blaine are in the Times!

2009-04-22

Objectified

This looks so good.



[via my homeboy Nick]

2009-04-01

Stay Healthy

The Chronicle:
"Unfortunately, the scientific findings on diet and disease are marginalized by the political power of huge, mutually reinforcing commercial interests - meat, dairy, sugar, drugs and surgery." 

"These industries are desperate to sell a solution that obscures their part in the problem. If they can convince people that the cause of our health crisis has nothing to do with eating unhealthy food, and everything to do with increasing access to drugs and surgery, Americans will spend trillions more on health care without improving their health."
[via Mom]

2009-03-25

Huge Props to the TSA

You read that right. A few weeks ago I had an awesome experience with SFO's TSA (specifically, Covenant Aviation Security), and I'd like to share it with you.

In addition to my own distractibility (which is clearly at fault here), I blame Daylight Savings Time. For some reason we were flying out at 7am (just a few short, sleepy hours after DST kicked in), so I was already off-kilter. Going through the security screening, I unconsciously took off my shoes and belt, tossed my bags in the queue, and put my Air in a plastic bin. Showed my boarding pass and ID to the screening guy, waited for my gear to appear, re-robed, and headed off to the gate.

You can see where this is going, right? Still half-asleep and not really knowing what time it was (or was supposed to be), looking forward to going back to sleep on the plane, I didn't realize until somewhere over Minnesota that my Air was no longer with me. I'd left it sitting in that plastic bin back at SFO. Absentmindedly, I'd channeled Steven Levy. Apple's partially to blame here too—the Air is so damned light I didn't even realize it wasn't in my bag.

Virgin America's sympathetic flight attendants advised me to check in with their ground staff as soon we landed, who could get in touch with their SFO counterparts, who could contact the TSA. (Alas, they wouldn't check for me mid-flight). I wrote down all the details I could remember—what time we went through security, the color and texture of my Air's sleeve, that it had an iPhone sync cable in its pocket, etc.—and tried to put the whole thing out of my mind for the remainder of the flight.

But I couldn't stop thinking through worst-case scenarios. I reckoned it was already loose in the black market, what with this terrible economy and all. I didn't have FileVault enabled, nor an open firmware password set up—just OS X's "require password when waking from sleep or screen saver," and disabled auto-login. My 1Password pass was different than my login and system passes, so theoretically those should be safe. But given physical access to a machine, anything's possible, data access-wise. Oy! But it's an Air, which has no cd drive, so admin access to the machine would be a bit challenging.

Finally we landed at JFK, and I eventually found a kind and persistent Virgin America baggage services employee named Zarmina who helped me out. After a few telephone back-and-forths with some too-busy-to-help-us SFO/Virgin people, it became clear that I'd need to sort it out myself. Zarmina told me on the phone that evening that their SFO supervisor checked with the TSA, and they didn't have it.

Sigh.

Off to the Apple Store to plunk down for a new laptop. Ouch.

(An aside: my tale broke several Apple employees' hearts, and they very kindly tossed in a free case. A red one this time. Like, less easy to leave sitting in a plastic bin at airports.)

My last hope (to which a very small part of me still clung) was TSA/Covenant's official Lost and Found process, which I initiated via a voicemail on their SFO phone #. They said they'd call back during their normal business hours, which (sadly) never happened. I called several times a day until I got ahold of a real live person.

Her name was Asia, and she is my hero.

I described my laptop to her, and how and when I'd so carelessly left it back at SFO, and she said, "It's sitting right here."

Elation!

I nearly fell over. And she could FedEx it to me by 10am the next morning. Apparently this happens all the time, so they've got well-worn process for tracking and returning things to people. I faxed her the details, and had my laptop back the next morning.

And the Apple Store crew gladly accepted my returning the one I'd just purchased, and were relieved by the tale's conclusion.

--

The TSA takes a lot of heat while doing a difficult job, and much of it is justified. But here's one example of a great experience with them, where their organization and process worked exactly as it was supposed to.

What have I learned?
  • label my gear with my contact info, just. in. case.
  • customize it to distinguish it: when I got home I decorated it with stickers from Blogger, Fire Eagle and DollarApp
  • research Mac OS X security more deeply (which I've done, and will write more about soon)
  • and double-check bins when leaving a TSA booth. Duh.

2009-03-12

Faith and Reason

On first glance, this guy sounds kinda totally nuts. But by the end of the interview, he's saying some perfectly reasonable things:
Wired: Thorny ethical issues?
Horner: If you think we're playing God, maybe. But we're already modifying plants and mice. I don't see a lot of people jumping up and down complaining about better tomatoes.

...

Wired: Are you getting flak from other researchers?
Horner: Scientists who play by someone else's rules don't have much chance of making discoveries.

...

Wired: It would certainly prove the creationists dead wrong.
Horner: Religion is about faith, not evidence. Comparing science and religion isn't like comparing apples and oranges—it's more like apples and sewing machines.

2009-03-11

Matt Haughey fixed Obama's Blog Feed

Indirectly.

Back on February 23rd, he twittered:
"The whitehouse.gov blog really needs to understand the guid. Google Reader shows every edited post 2 or 3 times as separate items. Annoying."
That had been annoying me too, but I'd just been paging by them. Matt's note reminded me that I have a friend who worked with the Obama Campaign and Transition Team's tech crew, and he probably knows the right people to sort it out. I sent him a quick email, and a day later it was fixed.

And Matt (and the rest of us) rejoiced:
"! Whitehouse.gov fixes their feeds! http://tinyurl.com/ahwg6b I can't imagine the last presidency going from complaint to fixed in 24hrs."

2009-02-25

The Jellyfish: Doing the Math

This Worldchanging piece about the Jellyfish caught my eye, but it sounded too good to be true. I emailed my neighbor Tony about it—he's all about science—and he responded with the following:
It is a toy but it has some attractive features.

First of all, the claim of 40 kilowatt-hours per month says nothing about under what conditions one might expect to generate this much energy.  If you simply do the math, and assume that the thing is going all the time, this means that it is generating 55 Watts constantly, 24/7.  We also see that it does nothing below 5 mph and it feathers out at 30 mph.  As I sit here typing this, I'm guessing that it's blowing about 7 mph or about 3 meters per second. 
So now we will estimate the power output of the thing.  It is essentially a Savonius Darrius (actually a variant of a Gorlov) rotor, with a power coefficient of maybe 35% at best. The thing is about a meter tall and a third of a meter wide, so it has a rotor area of 0.3 square meters.  The density of air is about a kilogram per cubic meter and the power output is one half the product of rotor area, air density, power coefficient and the cube of velocity. 
Do the math: I get about 1.4 watts. If I plug in all the numbers and crank the windspeed up to about 23 mph, I get close to 55 watts. So you want 40 kilowatt-hours a month?  It's gotta blow 23 miles per hour 24 hours per day, 30 days a month. What's it gonna generate today?  Let's be optimistic and say it blows like this all day long.  .0014 kilowatts x 24 hours = .03 kilowatt-hours.  It comes with it's own grid-tie inverter (an attractive feature) that probably runs at 50% efficiency so you get .015 kilowatt-hours back to the grid.

So now lets compare it to a single 150 watt Sharp solar panel that you can buy at Frys for about 750 bucks.  If positioned properly, it's out there right now generating perhaps 100 watts and averaged out over 24 hours, it will generate maybe .6 kilowatt-hours.  Again, throw half away for the inverter and you're at .3 kilowatt hours.  A small grid-tie inverter will cost you maybe as much as the solar panel.

So now we compare:


  • Jellyfish operating all day today: .015 kilowatt-hours for 400 bucks.
  • Sharp solar panel and inverter operating all day today:  .3 kilowatt-hours for 1500 bucks.
Of course, perhaps I've picked a day that favors solar power and not wind power.  But to get this thing up to competing with the solar panel, it's gotta blow a lot. 
Now that said, there are a variety of competing systems out there that are a step up from this system that have better rotors (higher power coefficient), more rotor area, require a little better tower, a little fancier inverter, and cost quite a bit more.  But they are a better investment, i.e. 2 real wind turbines is more cost-effective than 4 or 5 jellyfish. 
And around here, solar beats wind. And if I lived in Nebraska, I wouldn't fuck with this tinkertoy, I'd put up a real wind turbine. 
All of their assumptions about time-to-payback are based on how much the wind blows.  Additionally, they are touting this thing as a "plug in the wall socket" toy while at the same time, talking about sticking them on top of power poles. 
The rugged-izing needed to stick it on a power pole in a utility environment is an order of magnitude greater than that required for a "gee-whiz" home installation. How much did your simple breaker box cost that you stuck in your wall?  And finally, cost efficiency goes up as the size of the wind turbine goes up. That's why industrial strength wind turbines are the size of a house, not the size of a suitcase. So they are being loosey-goosey with their numbers, i.e. they are comparing apples with oranges and frankly, being a little disingenuous. If you want to look at what a real system of roof-mounted residential turbines should look like, check out the AeroVironment wind turbine systems. 

2009-02-18

Over Yonder

Sidenote: we're posting regularly to the Domainr and nbio blogs if you're curious about what we're up to.

Eric Case, Headhunter

Not really, but I'm excited to see how well things worked out for Wendy and Get Satisfaction. I think it was June last year when Wendy and I were chatting, and she mentioned wanting to find CEO-level work at a mature SF startup in 2009—this was a career shift she felt she was ready for.

Satisfaction immediately came to mind, because they're both a startup and an actual business, and I knew they were growing and could probably use some deeper business experience at some point (Venture Beat has some good coverage).

Satisfaction's premise, that "customer service is the new marketing," is something I feel very strongly about. What they're doing is the only way to scale customer service—I know this first-hand from my time on Blogger Support—and I've been a fan of their product and vision since Lane and Veen first told me about it. Not only does awesome customer service make users happy, but it has the side benefit of implicitly marketing products.

Congrats to all involved!

2009-01-17

Stay Well

WSJ:
"Heart disease, diabetes, prostate cancer, breast cancer and obesity account for 75% of health-care costs, and yet these are largely preventable and even reversible by changing diet and lifestyle. As Mr. Obama states in his health plan, unveiled during his campaign: 'This nation is facing a true epidemic of chronic disease. An increasing number of Americans are suffering and dying needlessly from diseases such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease, asthma and HIV/AIDS, all of which can be delayed in onset if not prevented entirely.'"