Monday, December 26, 2011

Triumph of the Nerds

For all you nerds out there, I found these videos fascinating. All about the development of the personal computer. Posted on YouTube by TTVRewind.

"(1of3) Triumph of the Nerds: Impressing Their Friends. 1996 480P Documentary"

"(2of3) Triumph of the Nerds: Riding The Bear. 1996 480P Documentary"

"(3of3) Triumph of the Nerds: Great Artists Steal. 1996 480P Documentary"

As you watch this stuff, pay close attention to how the industry grew extremely rapidly because ideas were shared/borrowed/copied/stolen. There weren't breakthroughs so much as there was steady growth, building upon the work of others. Don't get me wrong, there is true brilliance in recognizing the values of others' ideas and more effectively bringing those ideas to market, in addition to the generation of the original idea itself. But it annoys me to see how some of those same companies now bring lawsuit after lawsuit when they're on the other side of the fence.

Here's a YouTube clip of Steve Jobs, before he got defensive:
"Steve Jobs: Good artists copy great artists steal" posted by CDernbach

From Jobs' own mouth: "Good artists copy; great artists steal. We have always been shameless about stealing great ideas."

It would be interesting to see how many lawsuits the old Steve Jobs would file against the young Steve Jobs if, in some parallel universe, they crossed paths.

Think about how Apple and Microsoft grew, ruthlessly/shrewdly (depending on your point of view) taking ideas from many sources. And how they now decry others doing the same to them. Hypocrites, all of them. There is a political and business lesson here about software patents and about government involvement in general...

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Is Ron Paul a Racist?

I don't think he is. But how to explain those old newsletters being discussed in the news? I don't know what to think, but this article makes more sense than other things I'm reading on this topic.

From Bleeding Heart Libertarians:
"Ron Paul Continued: How Did We Get Here? Or, Why Do 20 Year Old Newsletters Matter So Damn Much?" by Steve Horwitz

Be sure to read the comments that follow the article, too.

Monday, December 19, 2011

YouTube "Politics" Channel

Did you know YouTube had a "Politics" channel? Neither did I. But considering that YouTube has virtually everything (except Samurai Tailor--long story), I should have known.

"YouTube Politics"

From this site you can see which political videos have been popular in a given period of time. And, of course, you can find links to the YouTube videos of the candidates.

I happen to think this channel is far and away the best:
"Ron Paul 2012"

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Google Zeitgeist 2011: Year in Review

It's that time of year again. As in past years, Google has released a video recapping the top stories (searches?) of the year. From Google:
"Zeitgeist 2011: Year In Review"

As in past years, Google showed off a number of its products in the video. The main thing to point out this year, and the main focus of the video, was Google+, and Google Hangouts in particular.

I have to confess, I didn't know who Ryan Dunn was. No offense, but I think that's a good thing.

The Super Bowl Champion Green Bay Packers are only shown once (Greg Jennings catching a pass), at 5:42. :(

And just like last year, Google has a site where you can see the most popular searches from 2011:

You can see which searches were most popular in which part of the world, and at what time. Play with this site a little, it's a lot of fun. Click around, it's a very good site.

Search on.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Hit and Run, Police Don't Care

Here's a fascinating story, from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

"Injured hit-and-run pedestrian finds assailant, wants officers disciplined"

A woman was a victim of a hit and run, and the cops did ... nothing. Nothing at all. Another sad story, you say? Not at all. This woman did a GREAT job investigating the case herself.

This woman was able to solve the case herself. And she is (rightly) pissed that the cops don't care.

One element of the story that makes me wonder is this: Did the people on the scene cooperate with the police? Did they talk to Harris-Brown and not to the police? If so, maybe you can understand their reluctance to follow up on this case. I still don't buy this excuse, however. A good cop knows his beat and is able to build up trust and work with all the people he/she interacts with. That's my opinion, anyway, because that's what I do in my job.

I hope those cops are fired. Remember, regardless of whether witnesses cooperated with them or not, they didn't even file a police report. They didn't take pictures. They didn't follow up once Harris-Brown told them the perpetrator's name. That's enough for me.

NWA was right, if you catch my drift.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Android: A visual history

As an owner of a number of Android phones, I loved this article from The Verge. I've been on the Android bandwagon from the beginning. This article was a fun walk down memory lane, and a great way to see how Android has evolved over time. Things we take for granted now didn't always exist (software keyboard, multiple GMail account support, and many other things).

"Android: A visual history" by Chris Ziegler

The article specifically mentions six Android devices:
- HTC G1
- Motorola Droid
- HTC Nexus One
- Samsung Nexus S
- Motorola Xoom (tablet)
- Samsung Galaxy Nexus

I have had three of the six mentioned above (G1, Nexus One, Nexus S), and still might pick up the Galaxy Nexus. Of all my phones, I think that the HTC Nexus One was the most ahead of its time when released. Many people I work with still use one as their primary phone two years after its release, even though they could get a newer phone. I still love mine, and have picked up others for family.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

How Badly Do You Want to Play in the NHL?

How badly would I want to play in the NHL? Not this bad.

From the New York Times:
"Derek Boogaard: A Boy Learns to Brawl" by John Branch

Friday, December 9, 2011

Google Calculator

Do you have one of those fancy graphing calculators? Or know a student who is forced to take one of those classes where he/she is forced to buy one of those things? I've never understood that, by the way, because I don't think it truly helps to teach mathematical concepts but that's another discussion.

Anyway, did you catch that Google is now a graphing calculator? Yes, among many other things, you can now do your graphing from a simple Google search box. From Google's Inside Search Blog:
"Showing some love to math lovers"

Give it a shot, it's very cool. And don't feel as though you need to buy one of those fancy calculators.

It's not quite "there" yet, though. I was hoping to be able to tell you that this feature also worked on Android phones, so that there really would be no need for a fancy graphing calculator. Alas, no. Notice the wording near the end of the article: "This feature ... is available in modern browsers."

When I saw this, I wondered what a "modern browser" was. Nowadays people access the web via browsers on their phones and on tablets. So, first thing I did was try this on my phones. On my Droid X, with the stock Gingerbread browser, this graphing feature did not work. Entering a mathematical function (that plotted easily on my computer) into the Google search bar merely did a Google search, no plotting. So I tried on my Nexus S, running Ice Cream Sandwich, supposedly with a fancy new browser. And it didn't work, either. So, Ice Cream Sandwich apparently does not have a "modern browser" by Google's own definition. Which made me a little sad, given how much they are hyping it.

Anyway, the ability to graph mathematical functions from a the Google search bar is great news for nerds like me, even if it doesn't yet extend to phones.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

I Raced a Harley Today

Here's a classic post to the old VFR (that's a motorcycle, by the way--you should know that!) e-mail list. I'll reprint it here, verbatim. Still gets me, after all these hears. I wonder whatever happened to Bill...

From Bill, originally sent on April 20, 2006:

I raced a Harley today and after some really hard riding I managed to PASS the guy. I was riding on one of those really, really twisting sections of canyon road with no straight sections to speak of and where most of the curves have warning signs that say "15 MPH".

I knew if I was going to pass one of those monsters with those big-cubic-inch motors, it would have to be a place like this where handling and rider skill are more important than horsepower alone.

I saw the guy up ahead as I exited one of the turns and knew I could catch him, but it wouldn't be easy. I concentrated on my braking and cornering. three corners later, I was on his fender. Catching him was one thing; passing him would prove to be another.

Two corners later, I pulled up next to him as we sailed down the mountain. I think he was shocked to see me next to him, as I nearly got by him before he could recover. Next corner, same thing. I'd manage to pull up next to him as we started to enter the corners but when we came out he'd get on the throttle and outpower me. His horsepower was almost too much to overcome, but this only made me more determined than ever.

My only hope was to outbrake him. I held off squeezing the lever until the last instant. I kept my nerve while he lost his. In an instant I was by him. Corner after corner, I could hear the roar of his engine as he struggled to keep up. Three more miles to go before the road straightens out and he would pass me for good.

But now I was in the lead and he would no longer hold me back. I stretched out my lead and by the time we reached the bottom of the canyon, he was more than a full corner behind. I could no longer see him in my rear-view mirror.

Once the road did straighten out, it seemed like it took miles before he passed me, but it was probably just a few hundred yards. I was no match for that kind of horsepower, but it was done. In the tightest section of road, where bravery and skill count for more than horspower and deep pockets, I had passed him. though it was not easy, I had won the race to the bottom of the canyon and I had preserved the proud tradition of another of America's best bikes.

I will always remember that moment. I don't think I've ever pedaled so hard in my life. And some of the credit must go to Schwinn, as well. They really make a great bicycle...

Bill in Brooklyn

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Rodgers versus Favre

As a Green Bay Packer fan, I have had the pleasure of watching Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers play quarterback. Incredible to watch, both of them.

It wasn't always so, not for me anyway. Consider this list of Packer quarterbacks, from Wikipedia.
"List of Green Bay Packers starting quarterbacks"

I missed the Bart Starr days, unfortunately, although I remember Starr showing up at many Packer functions at the Pfister Hotel when I worked as a banquet waiter there. Always amazed me what good shape he was in considering how long ago his playing days had ended.

Anyway, I never watched Starr play live, only on film. The first Packer quarterback I remember watching was Lynn Dickey. Dickey could throw the ball, and I still remember the Monday Night Football shootout versus the Redskins in 1983, just an amazing game.

After Dickey there was a very forgettable group including David Whitehurst, Randy Wright, Anthony Dilweg, and many others. Very frustrating watching the Packers in those years. I remember nothing but draw plays on third and long, essentially giving up. Pathetic.

The one bright spot, before Favre, was Don Majkowski. Majkowski could really play, but his career was ended by a shoulder injury. Well, he came back after the injury but he was never really the same, unfortunately.

And then came Brett Favre. What else can I say about Favre. Lots of great plays, and lots of ... interesting plays, too! Favre was a fierce competitor. When Warren Sapp or John Randle would knock him down, he would come back twice as determined.

Randle, in particular, had an interesting rivalry with Favre. From Wikipedia:
"To play off the rivalry with Brett Favre, Randle starred in a commercial which featured himself sewing a miniature version of Favre's #4 jersey which he put on a live chicken. The commercial then showed Randle chasing the chicken around what was supposed to be Randle's backyard and ended with Randle cooking chicken on his BBQ, leading to fierce protests from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals."
I remember that commercial well. It was hilarious.

We Packer fans were worried when Favre left. How can you replace a player like Brett Favre. Compounding our concern was (is?) the fact that Aaron Rodgers was quite frail. In the limited action he saw during the Favre era, it seemed like he would get hurt every time he stepped on the field.

I should add that I'm not an overly emotional Packer fan like those who either hate the Packers for pushing Favre out the door or hate Favre for not being loyal to the Packers (whatever that means). Point is: I can see the Packers' point of view. Rodgers was ready to play and Favre was not willing to be a backup. Tough, but that's the nature of competitive sports. I can also see Favre's point of view: I'd play as long as I could, too, even if it ultimately meant going to a hated rival like the Viqueens.

Well, so far so good in the Rodgers era (knock on wood). Although I realize I'm probably jinxing him now just by writing this (just before the NY Giants game on December 4th). I simply can't believe how well he played last year, and he's doing even better so far this year. Just amazing.

What prompted me to reminisce like this? It was an article I saw on
"It's Mr. Rodgers' neighborhood now" by Rick Reilly

Reilly is a very good writer, and I really enjoy reading his articles. But I can't agree here that one must be either a Favre guy or a Rodgers guy. I happen to be both, I appreciate both. I won't choose between them.

The article makes a number of good points, though:

"Rodgers picks his spots better than Favre ever did. Favre always figured a football could fit easily into a USB port from 40 yards away. Not Rodgers. He knows the value of a perfectly thrown spiral to a cheerleader."

"On prime-time TV, Favre is the gutsy cop who wants to throw a grenade and go running in after it to save hostages. Rodgers is the guy in the bow tie who talks it out on the headset with the kidnapper, all the while cleaning his rifle scope with his pocket square."

This I disagree with, totally:
"You really have to go a ways to cause a little town like Green Bay -- a place where football is the side dish served with every meal -- to turn against you, yet Brett Favre did it.
People are always emotional at first. Green Bay does not hate Brett Favre. Time heals little spats like this. Whatever was said when Favre left Green Bay will be forgotten and only the good memories will remain. Favre's battles with Sapp and Randle. The Super Bowl win, and loss. The crazy celebration after Favre's early touchdown pass in the Super Bowl, when he took off his helmet and ran around like crazy. All the great wins at a snowy Lambeau Field. That's how I'll remember him.

Reilly makes up for his mistakes in the final lines of the article, though, which are pure genius.
"'Oh, yeah?' Favre men usually say. 'If Green Bay doesn't love Brett Favre, why is there a Brett Favre Pass in town?'"
"To which we Rodgers men say, 'Wait a couple of years. Soon you'll be driving on the Aaron Rodgers Championship Beltway. You'll like it. It's safe, smooth and takes you where you want to go.'"

Monday, December 5, 2011

Song of the Day: Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Maps

Another song that I love. Just a beautiful, intense love song.

Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Maps

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Hermain Cain - Final Thoughts

This is a lightly paraphrased version of Hermain Cain's speech earlier today, in which he suspended his presidential campaign. Enjoy!

From the Borowitz Report:
"A Farewell from Herman Cain"

Although it is humorous, there is a lot of truth in there.

"After months of crisscrossing this great land of ours and participating in over three hundred televised debates, I am being disqualified because of an extramarital affair. And that raises the following question: are you fucking kidding me?"

"I mean, let’s get real. I never heard of Libya. I didn’t know whether that CNN dude’s name was Wolf or Blitz. And my only training for running the #1 nation in the world was running its #8 pizza chain. Yet none of that, I repeat, none of that disqualified me. In fact, I was the front-fucking-runner, as long as I kept my 9-9-9 in my pants. (I have no idea what I meant by that — I just like saying 9-9-9.)"

"But here’s the part that really kills me. You’re kicking me to the curb because I was messing around, and instead you’re going with… Newt Gingrich? I repeat: are you fucking kidding me?"

Friday, December 2, 2011

Song of the Day: Old 97s - Question

Here's an older song that I really like, but I just heard it again for the first time in a long time.

"Old 97s - Question"

I first heard this song on Scrubs, one of my all-time favorite television shows.

Here's the scene where they played the Old 97s on Scrubs:
"Scrubs 'Carla Finally Says Yes'"

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

How to Set Up Your Chromebook

Bias alert: Yes, I already have a Chromebook. Yes, I just ordered another one for Christmas. They're not for everyone, and they may not be suitable as your only computer. But they're very good at what they do, which is ... accessing the web. If you live in the "cloud" then a Chromebook does so with very minimal overhead. Quick to turn on (8 seconds). Long battery life. No need to load or update software or operating systems. No need (I'm told) for virus scanning.

And one feature that I really like about a Chromebook is that even I can share one (and I'm not very good at sharing)! When you log in, it remembers your settings just like it's your computer. When someone else logs in, it remembers their settings. No need to worry about them accessing your data or changing your settings or uninstalling your stuff. Compare this to your phone or your tablet (at least the ones I'm familiar with).

During this holiday season I asked myself, what would I rather have: A tablet or a Chromebook? I went Chromebook. I can't type e-mail and work on documents very easily with a tablet. A Chromebook does what I need it to do.

Okay, so let's say you've taken my advice and bought a Chromebook. How do you set it up? Luckily, Google has provided some instructional videos.

"Chromebook: Set Up"

You can see the whole series of educational Chromebook videos here:

And there is a YouTube channel for Chrome (including Chromebooks):
"Google Chrome"

I don't think I'm bragging too much if I told you that I knew EXACTLY what they were going to do in the "Chromebook: Back Up" video. You could see it a mile away. It was pretty obvious, wasn't it? :)

For more info on Chromebooks (I feel so dirty, but I can't stop myself), go here:

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Falcons Rise Up?

So, living in Atlanta, I've been seeing a lot of this commercial lately. From YouTube:
"Evander Holyfield In Atlanta Falcons Commercial" posted by chanmedia247

Every time I see it, I think two things.

1. Around 0:20 of the video they show a clip from a Falcons/Packers game. Do they not remember what Packers do? ESPN does:
Aaron Rodgers torches Falcons as Packers romp into NFC title game

2. Around 0:21 of the commercial Jimmy Carter asks, "What do Falcons do?" And every time he asks that I think, "And where do they do it? In a litter box, just like cats do?"

Friday, November 25, 2011

Song of the Day: Raleigh Moncrief - Lament For Morning

So for my Song of the Day I go from country music to this? Yes, my seven readers, I have strange tastes. I was once again listening to some of my free music sources and this song caught my ear. It's different, but it's growing on me.

Raleigh Moncrief - "Lament For Morning"

By the way, can you remind me again why anyone would bother to listen to the radio anymore? Other than talk radio and sports, there is simply no reason for radio to exist.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Google Ngram Viewer

Do you like words as much as I do? Here is a cool tool for you to play with. It's called Google Ngram Viewer.

Google Ngram Viewer

Type a word and see how its popularity has changed over time. This is particularly interesting as new phrases enter our language.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Re-Engineering Afghanistan

I found another fascinating article the ties engineering and politics together. But they are not a great combination. I guess politics and anything would be a bad combination, come to think of it.

Think about this article the next time you read how government investment in infrastructure will "stimulate" our economy. Government can't even do a good job when it has the best of intentions--and it often doesn't. From IEEE Spectrum magazine:
"Re-engineering Afghanistan" by Glenn Zorpette

The subtitle says it all:
"The coalition has spent hundreds of millions trying to give Afghanistan electricity. Unfortunately, it made many of the mistakes it made in Iraq"

If I quoted portions of the article that I thought deserved extra emphasis I'd end up quoting too much of the article. And I've already done that in plenty of other posts on this blog.

So I'll leave it at this: Read the article and see what you think about whether government can do a better job than the private sector in allocating scarce resources. And ask yourself what the hell we're doing over there.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Engineers and Scientists

I read a provocative article about engineering and science recently. As an engineer it caught my eye because it seems like the word "science" has a more positive connotation than "engineering" does. If there is a big technical achievement, it gets reported as a scientific breakthrough when often it is actually engineering that deserves the credit. Check out the article, from Design News magazine:

"Distinguishing Between Scientists & Engineers" by Henry Petroski

Mr. Petroski starts off with a great example:
"In October 2010, when 33 Chilean miners who had been trapped a half-mile underground for two months were brought safely to the surface, a headline in the Wall Street Journal described the 'rescue formula' as '75 percent science, 25 percent miracle.' In fact, as a participant in the feat was quoted in the story itself, the rescue was '75 percent engineering and 25 percent a miracle.' It was engineers who had designed the advanced drill bit that enabled an access shaft to be driven in record time; it was engineers who designed the rescue capsule that was used to haul the miners out one-by-one; and it was engineers who had designed the ancillary equipment that was necessary to carry out the rescue."

The two terms, science and engineering, are NOT synonymous. They may be close, but they're not the same.

"Aerospace engineer and scientist Theodore von Kármán, who directed the Guggenheim Aeronautical Laboratory at Caltech and was involved in founding NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, is credited with formulating a simple distinction between engineers and scientists. In one of its many variant forms, his dictum says that scientists seek to understand what is, while engineers seek to create what never was."

"What distinguishes the two pursuits may be said to be: engineering is the design of new devices and systems that serve a useful purpose that is not met by existing technology. The purest of scientists do not do this; they seek knowledge for its own sake, with no particular application or design in mind."

"Whatever relevant scientific knowledge and understanding are available to help achieve the goal will certainly be welcome, but in the absence of it, engineers forge ahead. Sometimes this means doing science themselves, such as by devising experiments and collecting whatever data might be necessary for design decisions to be made."

There, now that I've gotten that off my chest (thanks, Dr. Petroski!), I feel a lot better. Nothing against scientists, nothing at all, but I am happy and proud to be an engineer. :)

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Governments can see through the cloud.

The cloud. Surely everyone knows what it is by now (it's when your data--e-mail, documents, spreadsheets--lives in a remote data center rather than on your personal computer). And many of us have e-mail accounts in the cloud. It's nice to be able to access your e-mail and documents from any computer or smartphone, from any location.

But there is a downside. Not surprisingly, it comes from government. Consider this article from Reuters:
"Internet firms co-opted for surveillance: experts" by Georgina Prodhan

The article gets straight to the point:
"Internet companies such as Google, Twitter and Facebook are increasingly co-opted for surveillance work as the information they gather proves irresistible to law enforcement agencies, Web experts said this week."

"Although such companies try to keep their users' information private, their business models depend on exploiting it to sell targeted advertising, and when governments demand they hand it over, they have little choice but to comply."

"'When the possibility exists for information to be obtained that wasn't possible before, it's entirely understandable that law enforcement is interested,' Google's Chief Internet Evangelist Vint Cerf told Reuters in an interview."

"'Every decent-sized U.S. telecoms and Internet company has a team that does nothing but respond to requests for information,' Soghoian told Reuters in an interview."

"While U.S. courts are obliged to publish reports on wire-tapping of telephone lines, no similar information is required to be made public with respect to the Internet -- which grew up after the laws on electronic communications were passed."

"Google does voluntarily publish a transparency report every six months in which it details the number of requests it receives from governments around the world to remove content from its services or hand over user data."

"But the numbers do not reveal how many users are affected by each request -- only trends country by country ("

"Some governments are requiring Internet companies to collect more data and keep it for longer, said Katarzyna Szymielewicz, executive director of Poland's Panoptykon Foundation, which campaigns for human rights in light of modern surveillance."

And here is the real story. Governments that support freedom and privacy will thrive, in my opinion. Governments that don't, won't. There is a tremendous opportunity here for countries to develop thriving information technology sectors, if they want to. For example, if Canada resisted the urge to let governments have this data, if they had strict privacy laws where such information was safe from government, I wouldn't be a bit surprised to see a thriving data center hub develop in Montreal or Ottawa (just across the border, relatively close to large population centers in the northeastern United States). I know they won't, of course, given how liberal Canada is as a whole. But the opportunity is there. Similar opportunities exist for countries in Europe or Eastern Asia.

And the scary conclusion of the article...

"The ease and cost of surveillance are at an all-time low, Soghoian said, with Google charging an administrative fee of $25 to hand over data, Yahoo charging $20, and Microsoft and Facebook providing data for free."

"'Now, one police officer from the comfort of their desk can track 20, 30, 50 people all through Web interfaces provided by mobile companies and cloud computing companies,' he said."

"'The marginal cost of surveilling one more person is now essentially approaching zero.'"

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Cell Phones Really Do Distract Us While Driving!

Do you remember that Blackberry outage in the Middle East about a month ago? Did you catch some of the secondary stories associated with it? I've been meaning to post this story for a while, so here it is.

You know how you see distracted drivers all the time, playing with their cell phones? Yes, it is true, texting and reading e-mail really does measurably affect traffic safety. From TheNational:
"BlackBerry cuts made roads safer, police say" by Awad Mustafa and Caline Malek

"A dramatic fall in traffic accidents this week has been directly linked to the three-day disruption in BlackBerry services."

"In Dubai, traffic accidents fell 20 per cent from average rates on the days BlackBerry users were unable to use its messaging service. In Abu Dhabi, the number of accidents this week fell 40 per cent and there were no fatal accidents."

"Lt Gen Dahi Khalfan Tamim, the chief of Dubai Police, and Brig Gen Hussein Al Harethi, the director of the Abu Dhabi Police traffic department, linked the drop in accidents to the disruption of BlackBerry services between Tuesday and Thursday."

"Email, Messenger and internet functions were unavailable to users in the Middle East, Africa and Europe after a crucial link in the BlackBerry network failed."

Note the groups most affected by the Blackberry outage:
"Gen Tamim said police found 'a significant drop in accidents by young drivers and men on those three days'. He said young people were the largest user group of the Messenger service."

"Brig Gen Al Harethi said: 'Accidents were reduced by 40 per cent and the fact that BlackBerry services were down definitely contributed to that.'"

"'The roads became much safer when BlackBerry stopped working.'"

We already knew this, but it's interesting to see it proven in a real world experiment!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Operation Outward

Isn't it amazing how you find fascinating stories buried in the folds of history, stuff you never realized was there? Well, I came across such a story recently and I wanted to share it with you, my seven readers.

As an electrical engineer, I really enjoyed reading this story. We always hear about how terrorists can attack us by bringing down our power grid, and this is a legitimate worry. Well, in World War II Britain used a simple plan to try to attack Germany this way--and I had never heard of it until now! From IEEE Power & Energy magazine:

"Operation Outward, Britain’s World War II offensive balloons" by Raoul E. Drapeau

Britain launched balloons, with trailing cables, towards German power lines. Lots of details to make it work, but a very simple concept. In August 1942, according to the article, they were launching 1000 balloons per day! Who knew?

"Operation Outward was a British Admiralty program that, between March 1942 and September 1944, manufactured and launched almost 46,000 inexpensive hydrogen-filled meteorological balloons trailing a length of wire intended to contact and short circuit overhead high-voltage and lower-voltage transmission and distribution lines in Germany and in occupied Europe. By all accounts, this campaign succeeded in randomly disrupting target electrical systems, was conducted with relative safety to Women’s Royal Naval Service (WRNS) personnel involved, and was extremely cost effective. In addition to the actual damage caused and the loss of electric power, Operation Outlook had significant harassment value by imposing extra demands on German air defenses and aviation fuel supplies."

First the article gives some background:
"Surprisingly, the trials showed that even a thin steel wire (much thinner than that used to tether the static barrage balloons), when drawn in sliding contact across two or more phases, could cause an arc as long as 15 ft (4.6 m) that would be maintained until the circuit breaker opened. In some cases, the arc’s heat melted the aluminum outer layers and then the reinforcing steel center strands of the conductors. Further, even if not severed, the conductors would be so weakened by the arc that they would be susceptible to breaking due to increased load demands or even normal weather events such as wind, snow and ice. Then, even if the trailing wire was severed by the arc, the balloon with the remaining portion of the wire could be carried along with the wind to engage yet another electric line."

Brilliant! I love the engineering discussion in the article, too.

"The British knew that the German high-voltage electric transmission system was protected by Petersen coils, which could not cope with phase-to-phase shorts of the type that would likely be caused by the balloons’ trailing wire. Further, they knew that the German systems of that time used slower-acting circuit breakers, also not designed to handle phase-to-phase shorts. The British concluded that this design could lead to the destruction of the circuit breakers and transformers and cause even more catastrophic faults, such as wrecking an entire power generating station, which actually happened in 1942."

"Even though the British electrical system had a more developed grid than that of Germany, which could make it more vulnerable, it also had faster-acting circuit breakers, and had proven itself more capable of tolerating (but not be completely protected from) hits from errant barrage balloon cables. This made the British less worried about the effects of possible retaliation and more encouraged about the potential of trailing wires as a weapon."

"Further supporting the argument that trailing wires could be an effective weapon was the idea that since the balloons would be released in large numbers, they would be likely to cause numerous faults in the same area, thereby complicating the task of repair and further diverting valuable resources. Also, even a single balloon could cause multiple disruption events as its long wire dragged along the ground."

"Considering the shortages of materials for repair of electric power systems in England and especially in Germany, it was clear that the consequential damage of a balloon strike could be much greater than that caused by a single bomb dropped from an aircraft."

So, was the campaign effective?

"One of the most important instances of damage was the 12 July 1942 complete destruction of a power plant at Böhlen near Leipzig due to an Outward balloon that had been launched on 11 July 1942. A phase-to-phase short on a 110-kV overhead transmission line caused the circuit breakers to malfunction, causing one of the 16.5-MW generators to be thrown out of synchronism and begin to vibrate. Its rotor shaft bent, causing mechanical interference withthe fixed stator, followed by an explosion and a fi e that destroyed the power station. This event put 250 MW of generating capacity out of operation for an extended period. The value of that material loss was estimated by the team at £1,000,000 (US$4,250,000) in 1942 currency, not including the value of production time lost."

"The assessment team learned that the Germans realized the potential damage of the balloons and gave orders to shut down power lines in their path and make the circuit breakers more sensitive. However, the latter change made the system more sensitive to normal occurrences such as bird strikes and overloads and exacerbated the power outage problem. There were far more incidents on the more common lower-voltage lines, some of which would suffer from multiple failures. Worse, even though the breakers might have been reset and power restored, the lines often suffered damage to the wires that would become apparent later under heavy loads or adverse weather, when they would break."

"The team retrieved a report that showed that in the period from March 1942 through the end of January 1943, there were 520 major disturbances on German high-voltage lines of 110 kV and higher. In that same period, there had been about 25,000 Outward balloons launched. Belgian, Dutch, and French transmission lines also suffered. In France alone, over the entire program, there were 4,946 recorded incidents of power interruptions. The postwar assessment reports were quite specific in most cases about Operation Outward balloons being the cause of the damage cited."

"The team’s conclusion was '. . .the evidence obtained shows that these Outward attacks were a continual menace to the whole German Electric Supply system for even minor incidents caused continual interruptions to the power supplies with damage to the equipment involving diversion of manpower on repair work, to say nothing of production delays. The destruction of Böhlen alone however was an ample reward for these operations.' In another communication, the team wrote 'the result of the operation was out of all proportion to the man-power and material employed.' In fact, in some months, there was more damage done to electrical systems by the balloons than there had been by bombers—and at a much lower cost to Britain."

What a great story. Engineers kicking ass, I love it!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Google. It Knows.

Fascinating article in the London Review of Books:

"It knows" by Daniel Soar

This appears to be an article that digests several books about Google and attempts to divine Google's future plans. It's a fun read. Some highlights:

"Of Schmidt’s four technology juggernauts, Google has always been the most ambitious, and the most committed to getting everything possible onto the internet, its mission being ‘to organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful’. Its ubiquitous search box has changed the way information can be got at to such an extent that ten years after most people first learned of its existence you wouldn’t think of trying to find out anything without typing it into Google first. Searching on Google is automatic, a reflex, just part of what we do. But an insufficiently thought-about fact is that in order to organise the world’s information Google first has to get hold of the stuff. And in the long run ‘the world’s information’ means much more than anyone would ever have imagined it could. It means, of course, the totality of the information contained on the World Wide Web, or the contents of more than a trillion webpages..."

"But all this is just the stuff that Google makes publicly searchable, or ‘universally accessible’. It’s only a small fraction of the information it actually possesses. I know that Google knows, because I’ve looked it up, that on 30 April 2011 at 4.33 p.m. I was at Willesden Junction station, travelling west. It knows where I was, as it knows where I am now, because like many millions of others I have an Android-powered smartphone with Google’s location service turned on. If you use the full range of its products, Google knows the identity of everyone you communicate with by email, instant messaging and phone, with a master list – accessible only by you, and by Google – of the people you contact most. If you use its products, Google knows the content of your emails and voicemail messages (a feature of Google Voice is that it transcribes messages and emails them to you, storing the text on Google servers indefinitely). If you find Google products compelling – and their promise of access-anywhere, conflagration and laptop-theft-proof document creation makes them quite compelling – Google knows the content of every document you write or spreadsheet you fiddle or presentation you construct. If as many Google-enabled robotic devices get installed as Google hopes, Google may soon know the contents of your fridge, your heart rate when you’re exercising, the weather outside your front door, the pattern of electricity use in your home."

FWIW, I do have one of those devices that reports (or used to, anyway) my electricity usage back to Google. And several Android phones, too, of course! :)

"Google knows or has sought to know, and may increasingly seek to know, your credit card numbers, your purchasing history, your date of birth, your medical history, your reading habits, your taste in music, your interest or otherwise (thanks to your searching habits) in the First Intifada or the career of Audrey Hepburn or flights to Mexico or interest-free loans, or whatever you idly speculate about at 3.45 on a Wednesday afternoon. Here’s something: if you have an Android phone, Google can guess your home address, since that’s where your phone tends to be at night. I don’t mean that in theory some rogue Google employee could hack into your phone to find out where you sleep; I mean that Google, as a system, explicitly deduces where you live and openly logs it as ‘home address’ in its location service, to put beside the ‘work address’ where you spend the majority of your daytime hours."

"Some people find all this frightening. ...the fear is that all the information about us it has hoovered up is used to create scarily exact user profiles which it then offers to advertisers, as the most complete picture of billions of individuals it’s currently possible to build. The fear seems be based on the assumption that if Google is gathering all this information then it must be doing so in order to sell it: it is a profit-making company, after all. ‘We are not Google’s customers,’ Siva Vaidhyanathan writes in The Googlisation of Everything. ‘We are its product. We – our fancies, fetishes, predilections and preferences – are what Google sells to advertisers.’"

"The reason is that Google is learning. The more data it gathers, the more it knows, the better it gets at what it does. Of course, the better it gets at what it does the more money it makes, and the more money it makes the more data it gathers and the better it gets at what it does – an example of the kind of win-win feedback loop Google specialises in – but what’s surprising is that there is no obvious end to the process. Thanks to what it has learned so far, Google is no longer the merely impressive search engine it was a decade ago."

"What every one of those signals is and how they are weighted is Google’s most precious trade secret, but the most useful signal of all is the least predictable: the behaviour of the person who types their query into the search box. A click on the third result counts as a vote that it ought to come higher. A ‘long click’ – when you select one of the results and don’t come back – is a stronger vote. To test a new version of its algorithm, Google releases it to a small subset of its users and measures its effectiveness through the pattern of their clicks: more happy surfers and it’s just got cleverer. We teach it while we think it’s teaching us. Levy tells the story of a new recruit with a long managerial background who asked Google’s senior vice-president of engineering, Alan Eustace, what systems Google had in place to improve its products. ‘He expected to hear about quality assurance teams and focus groups’ – the sort of set-up he was used to. ‘Instead Eustace explained that Google’s brain was like a baby’s, an omnivorous sponge that was always getting smarter from the information it soaked up.’ Like a baby, Google uses what it hears to learn about the workings of human language. The large number of people who search for ‘pictures of dogs’ and also ‘pictures of puppies’ tells Google that ‘puppy’ and ‘dog’ mean similar things, yet it also knows that people searching for ‘hot dogs’ get cross if they’re given instructions for ‘boiling puppies’. If Google misunderstands you, and delivers the wrong results, the fact that you’ll go back and rephrase your query, explaining what you mean, will help it get it right next time. Every search for information is itself a piece of information Google can learn from."

"By 2007, Google knew enough about the structure of queries to be able to release a US-only directory inquiry service called GOOG-411. You dialled 1-800-4664-411 and spoke your question to the robot operator, which parsed it and spoke you back the top eight results, while offering to connect your call. It was free, nifty and widely used, especially because – unprecedentedly for a company that had never spent much on marketing – Google chose to promote it on billboards across California and New York State. People thought it was weird that Google was paying to advertise a product it couldn’t possibly make money from, but by then Google had become known for doing weird and pleasing things."

"What was it getting with GOOG-411? It soon became clear that what it was getting were demands for pizza spoken in every accent in the continental United States, along with questions about plumbers in Detroit and countless variations on the pronunciations of ‘Schenectady’, ‘Okefenokee’ and ‘Boca Raton’. GOOG-411, a Google researcher later wrote, was a phoneme-gathering operation, a way of improving voice recognition technology through massive data collection."

"Three years later, the service was dropped, but by then Google had launched its Android operating system and had released into the wild an improved search-by-voice service that didn’t require a phone call. You tapped the little microphone icon on your phone’s screen – it was later extended to Blackberries and iPhones – and your speech was transmitted via the mobile internet to Google servers, where it was interpreted using the advanced techniques the GOOG-411 exercise had enabled. The baby had learned to talk. Now that Android phones are being activated at a rate of more than half a million a day,[4] Google suddenly has a vast and growing repository of spoken words, in every language on earth, and a much more powerful learning machine. If your phone mistranscribes what you say, you correct it by typing it in, and Google’s algorithms – once again – are taught how to get better still. It’s a frustratingly faultless learning loop."

"They also threaten to put whole industries out of business by being free. In 2009, Google updated its Maps application for Android to include free turn-by-turn navigation: on-screen and spoken directions to whatever destination you choose. The cost to Google was negligible, and the damage to existing businesses was enormous: companies like Garmin and TomTom had been getting large margins on hundred-pound satnav hardware, and then charging for monthly subscriptions. Not any more."

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Song of the Day: Kenny Chesney and Grace Potter - You and Tequila - CMA Awards 2011

Not sure exactly what's going on here but I find that I'm actually liking country music more as I get older. Maybe I've lived in the south too long. Maybe country music is getting better. I don't know. But when my DVR recorded the CMA Awards, rather than deleting the show, as I would have in the past, I watched it. (I admit it, I had it set to tape "Revenge." Seriously.)

Some country songs are still miserable, difficult to listen to, but I guess you could say that about any genre. One song blew me away. I've heard it before and thought it was really good. Seeing it and hearing it played live was very impressive. Kenny Chesney and Grace Potter really captured the essence of the song. So here is the song that I thought was head and shoulders above all rest of the performances during the CMA Awards.

"Kenny Chesney Grace Potter - You and Tequila - CMA Awards 2011"

For what it's worth, I thought this song was second best. Kimberly Perry is really good.
"The Band Perry - If I Die Young"

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Leadership Principle #1

Here is a great article. It's nominally on sales management, but I think it applies much more broadly.

"Sales Management is the Hardest Job in Sales" by Jeb Blount

The article starts out with a classic quote from Vince Lombardi, so you know the article is good! :)
"Leaders aren’t born, they are made. And they are made just like anything else, through hard work. And that’s the price we’ll have to pay to achieve that goal, or any goal." – Vince Lombardi

The main thrust of the article is this: As a manager, you're not as important as you think.

"In sales leadership one principle stands above all: You need your people more than they need you. Another way of saying this is that you get paid for what your salespeople do, not for what you do."

"A basic understanding that you need your people more than they need you is the single most important leadership lesson you will ever learn. In our leadership seminars, we spend more time on this principle than any other concept. Why? Because until you get this—and I mean really make this principle part of your heart and soul—you cannot be a great sales manager. No exceptions."

I would add, as I said above, that this applies to other jobs besides sales. Consider the principal of a school. If he or she doesn't show up, life goes on. But if a teacher doesn't show up, that's a problem.

"One of the core traits of ineffective leaders and bad bosses is that they believe that they get paid for the things they do. These bosses range from the arrogantly self-centered to workaholics to micromanagers. They believe, at the core, that they are more important, smarter, and more competent than the people working for them."

"When you get your next paycheck, take a close look at it. The money that was deposited in your bank account was a direct result of the work your salespeople did. You were rewarded for their performance or nonperformance—not yours. To tell yourself anything different is an outright denial of the facts."

"As a sales leader, if your salesperson succeeds, you succeed. If your salesperson fails, you fail. So it follows that your job is to position your people to win. You must create an environment in which they can succeed, develop their skills, leverage their talents, and remove roadblocks so that they sell. You need them more than they need you. Anything that you do that impedes their success hurts you!"

"The single most important leadership principle is this: You get paid for what your people do, not what you do. You need your people more than they need you."

And the comments after the article are also very insightful.

From Scott Smith: "I believe as the leader of the sales team my job is not to be the boss, but to eliminate any and all problems the sales staff has so they can do their jobs more effectively, and to create a positive environment for them to work in."

Bill says: "The next time your manager calls you to 'check up on you' just ask him, 'What did you do today to help me make more money?' Most managers won’t have a clue how to answer and will be dumbfounded that you had the audacity to ask THEM that question(egomaniacs= most poor sales managers)."

From Guy Huttlin: "I was told a long time ago that a Sales Manager’s main job was to make heros not to be heros."

Greg Manjak says: "I had a former sales manager tell me years ago, that if you want to get to the top, then you must run interference for your sales team and give them a clear road to success. If you can do that, then your sales team will bring you to the top along with them!"

Monday, November 14, 2011

Life is Short ... Again. Rest in Peace, Jason

Found out today that a co-worker died in a motorcycle accident over the weekend. He worked at our site in South Carolina, but I was just down there working closely with him on a major issue. He was a great guy to work with.

Jason was a Harley guy, not a sportbike guy like I guess I am (if I had to classify myself). But we got along great and had fun talking about motorcycles. I remember him talking about riding over the weekend when we last spoke on Friday.

I checked out Jason's Google+ page after he died. Sadly, and I know this is true for a lot of people I know, I think I know him a lot better now than when he was alive. Isn't that sad???

So here are a few highlights from his G+ page:

"Sometimes it takes a whole tankful of fuel before you can think straight."
Amen to that. I absolutely have been there. See the final link at the bottom of this post.

"Nothing good comes from hitting 'Reply All.'"

"I own a Harley, not just a fucking shirt."

"Don't let my motorcycle ride interfere with the safety of your phone call."
Once again, AMEN!

"When you die doing what you love to do what happens to your eternal soul? I make this commit knowing Dan Weldon died doing what he loved. So The question is if we die doing what we love are we eternally in heaven ?"
Sad, reading that one. He had a couple posts after Dan Weldon (IndyCar racer) died.

After posting a story about Hermain Cain:
"For the Record I like Herman Cain as a person , however I'm not sure he'll make it though the whole election process. I'm not convinced he is the best choice . Today as well as the last election I believe Ron Paul is what's needed for this nation to right the ship. I'm not sure America is ready for that kind of reform."
WHAT? Jason was a Ron Paul supporter? No wonder he and I got along so well!!!

"Warning don't read this if you get offended easily"
Biker Chick: Top 25 Things Biker Chicks Say....(That make Bikers love them!!)
Maybe a bit over the top, but who can argue with that? :)

As I said above, it is a SHAME that I didn't know him better while he was alive. We had a lot more in common than I realized. There's a lesson there, I think...

I will miss him on a personal and professional level. Rest in peace, Jason.

This is the second time I've had to make a post like this. Maybe this is another sign that I'm getting old. If so, I don't like it, not one bit.

Here is what I wrote back on October 13, 2010 when my friend Aaron died:
Life is short, enjoy It. Rest in peace, Aaron.

And one of my motorcycle posts was really all about my uncle, who died of ALS a few years ago:
Blue Ridge Parkway, GA, NC, VA, WV, TN - Trip Report

Friday, November 11, 2011

Love Songs from the 70s

Maybe I'm old, but I remember a lot of these songs! And the ones I didn't remember by name, I remembered once I heard the song.

"The 25 Greatest Love Songs of the 1970s"

There are some GREAT songs on this list.

To be fair, there are also some dogs. I don't really get "Somewhere" by Tom Waits. I don't get Donna Summer, either.

Patti Smith, "Because the Night," on the other hand, is a song I really like.

And I can't argue with their number one choice.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Carolina Century, 2011

Once again, I completed the 102 mile Carolina Century this past Saturday. The family did the 31 mile option on their bikes. I need to get my girls used to skating long distances...

Not much to say, the skate was drama-free. So I'll just give some initial impressions.

What a great skate! Just like last year, conditions were perfect. No special difficulty, just a great day to skate.

Four skaters this year: Blake, Elizabeth, Bob Harwell, and me. Bob and I left Blake and Elizabeth fairly early in the skate, around 5-7 miles in (?). In Blake's defense, it sounded like he was on his phone quite a bit still working out some issues with other event organizers and volunteers.

Weather was perfect. Started at about 40 degrees, I think, but that wasn't a problem. Hey, it was 35 degrees last year and that turned out fine. Rose to nearly 70 degrees by the end of the day (and most of the day was closer to 70 degrees than 40 once the sun came out). Perfectly clear day, not a hint of rain. Just a crisp, clear, mountain day.

As good as the weather was, and it was incredible, the roads were even better. Let me be clear: I have never skated a course with better roads and I don't expect to for the rest of my life. The roads were THAT GOOD. Many roads looked like they had been paved within the past week--perfect, smooth, black ice (including one stretch that had been chip sealed just before this skate 4 years ago, so the contrast with skating that same stretch on gravel was striking). In fact, they were still paving one portion of the course during our skate and they were still painting another recently-paved portion. They didn't quite get the whole course done in time for our skate, but they were trying! Amazing. Really emphasizes the need to paint the course as late as possible!

No missed turns this year. Two years ago I missed a turn marker in the driving rain. And last year we missed a turn that cost us 2-3 miles as we backtracked (not a big deal). But I know the course a lot better now, so I don't expect to miss turns in the future.

I skated with Bob for about 85 miles. Bob is fast but I had a bit more climbing ability on this day. We skipped every other rest stop, but when we did stop we took our time. I'm NOT complaining, just describing the day. Lord knows that when I've skated with Mark Sibert in the past I've slowed him down (judging by our A2A times).

I felt very good all day, except for the usual general fatigue towards the end. Much better than I felt at A2A. At A2A my heart rate was up in the 140+ range, even my average heart rate early in the skate. For whatever reason, I wasn't up to the job at A2A. But during this event my average heart rate on the day was only 128 bpm. And it was in the low 120s early in the skate. Yeah, the pace was a little slower this year, but I did feel better than I did at A2A.

I was a little surprised at how many people were out shooting this year. There were at least three groups of people shooting rifles along the course this year. Looked like they were shooting at targets, sighting in their guns. Not a bad thing, just surprising to hear a number of gunshots along the course. Two of the groups were rather close to the road (shooting away from the road, by the way!).

Only hit 42.7 mph on the steep downhill near "Mount Trashmore" this year. Bob was concerned with the slight turn that doesn't allow you to see the end of the downhill so he didn't want to go down in a pack. He said that next year he'll be comfortable taking it all-out.

The downhill into the "T" was tough, as always--gotta make sure we controlled our speed. And then the infamous 4-mile uphill (around Miles 74-78?) that follows it was as grueling as ever. Bob told me I could skate ahead if I wanted to, but I didn't want to part company yet so I hung with him. I stayed with him until "A2A Hill" around Mile 85 or 86. I call it "A2A Hill" because it just seems like a cruel injustice to have such a steep hill at that point. Your legs feel like you should be done around 87 miles, but no, you're right in the middle of a monster climb. At that point I climbed on without Bob.

Not much more to say. I had enough water to make the finish, and didn't feel like eating anymore, so I skipped the final few rest stops. Blake added a few more "surprise" stops to make sure that people struggling to finish would have a place to rest and to take on some more water. Much appreciated but not necessary for me on this day.

The uphill finish was tough, as usual, but I made it. After resting a bit, I wanted to make sure that Bob was doing okay. So I grabbed a ride back to where he was. Turns out he was still 4 or 5 miles from the finish. Since I had rested for a while, I was relatively fresh (as fresh as you can be after skating 102 miles, I guess) so I did what I could to lead him home.

Some stats, from my Garmin GPS:
Total distance: 101.83 miles (GPS drops out a bit, it was probably a bit longer)
Total time: 8:01:18.38 (this must be "moving" time)
Avg. speed: 12.7 mph (again, "moving" speed)
Avg. heart rate: 128 bpm
Total Ascent: 9477 ft (should be the same as descent, some error here)
Total Descent: 9186 ft (should be the same as ascent, some error here)

Note: Starting time was 7:30a and finish time was 4:28p, so that works out to an official time of 8:58. Slower than I've done with Mark Sibert in the past, but not bad for me. We did have more resting time at the stops and we weren't able to climb the hills as quickly as Mark and I did. Even though my time was slower than last year, I felt like I could have duplicated my time from last year if Mark had been there.

Blake didn't have a scale handy at the finish for his power challenge (if you weigh half as much you have to skate twice as fast!), but I estimated 245 lbs. (with skates and such) as my official weight.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Song of the Day: Marina and the Diamonds - Are You Satisfied?

This is my new favorite singer. And my new favorite song.

Marina and the Diamonds - Are You Satisfied?

"Are you satisfied with an average life?"

Here's another song by Marina and the Diamonds. This one took me a bit longer for me to appreciate. The more I listen to it, the more I like it. You might say I'm becoming obsessed it with it. :)

Marina and the Diamonds - Obsessions

Lyrics for both songs....

Are You Satisfied?
Artist Marina And The Diamonds
Album The Family Jewels (2010) , Track 1

Song lyrics

I was pulling out my hair
The day I got the deal
Chemically calm
Was I meant to feel happy
that my life was just about to change

One life pretending to be
The cow who got the cream
Oh, everybody said
"Marina is a dreamer"
People like to tell you

What you're gonna be
It's not my problem if you don't see what I see
And I do not give a damn if you don't believe
My problem its my problem
That I never am happy
It's my problem, it's my problem
On how fast I will succeed

Are you satisfied with an average life ?
Do I need to lie to make my way in life ?

High achiever don't you see
Baby, nothing comes for free
They say I'm a control freak
Driven a greed to succeed
Nobody can stop me

Cause it's my problem
If I want to pack up and run away
It's my business if I feel the need to
Smoke and drink and sway
It's my problem, it's my problem
If I feel the need to hide
And it's my problem if I have no friends
And feel I want to die

Are you satisfied with an average life ?
Do I need to lie to make my way in life ?
Are you satisfied with an average life ?
Do I need to lie to make my way in life ?
Are you satisfied with an easy ride ?
Once you cross the line
Will you be satisfied?

Sad inside ... in this life ... Unsatisfied, praying
Sad inside ... in this life ... Unsatisfied, waiting

Are you satisfied with an average life
Do I need to lie to make my way in life

Are you satisfied with an easy ride
Once you cross the line
Will you be satisfied?

Are you satisfied? (x8)

Artist: Marina And The Diamonds lyrics
Title: Obsessions

Lyrics to Obsessions:

Sunday, wake up, give me a cigarette.
Last night’s love affair is looking vulnerable in my bed
Silk sheet, blue dawn, Colgate, tongue warm
Won’t you quit your crying? I can’t sleep
One minute I’m a little sweetheart
And next minute you are an absolute creep

We’ve got obsessions
I want to wipe out all the sad ideas that come to me when I am holding you
We’ve got obsessions
All you ever think about are sick ideas involving me, involving you

Supermarket, what packet of crackers to pick?
They’re all the same, one brand, one name, but really they’re not
Look, look, just choose something quick
People are staring, time to come quick in (?)
Cheeks are on fire; just choose something, something, something
Pressure overwhelming
Next minute I am turning out of the door, facing one week without food
A day, a day when things are pretty bad
Don’t let it make you feel sad, the crackers were probably bad luck anyway
Can’t let your cold heart be free
When you act like you’ve got an OCD

We’ve got obsessions
I want to erase every nasty thought that bugs me every day of every week
We’ve got obsessions
You never tell me what it is that makes you strong and what it is that makes you weak.

We’ve got obsessions
I want to erase every nasty thought that bugs me every day of every week.
We’ve got obsessions
You never told me what it was that made you strong and what it was that made you weak
Makes you weak, makes you weak, make you weak, make you weak, make you weak
Make you…

Sunday, wake up, give me a cigarette
Last night’s love affair is looking vulnerable again

Monday, October 17, 2011


Do you have your e-mail account "in the cloud" as they say? It is convenient, but there are risks.

Check out this article, from The Atlantic:
"Hacked!" by James Fallows

As someone who uses GMail literally everyday, I was almost literally screaming at the screen as I read it. USE TWO-FACTOR AUTHENTICATION, YOU DOLT! How could you possibly write an article like this without mentioning it? Until, finally, about 80% of the way through the article, the author finally got around to the most important point. Even then, he calls it a "half step". He's wrong, of course, to think of it that way just because other e-mail services do such a poor job relative to Google. But at least he mentions it and recommends it:

"Here it is: if you use Gmail, please use Google’s new 'two-step verification' system. In practice this means that to log into your account from any place other than your own computer, you have to enter an additional code, from Google, shown on your mobile phone. On your own computer, you enter a code only once every 30 days. This is not an airtight solution, but it can thwart nearly all of the remote attacks that affect Gmail thousands of times a day. Even though the hacker in Lagos has your password, if he doesn’t have your cell phone, he can’t get in."

"In case you’ve missed the point: if you use Gmail, use this system. Also, make sure the recovery information for your account—a backup e-mail address or cell phone where you can receive password-reset information—is current. Google uses these to verify that you are the real owner."

That is all good advice. Follow it.

Want more information? Check out this G+ post from a Google Senior VP:

"Just as a quick followup on yesterday's post, James has now posted a nice Q&A with the most frequently asked questions. The Gmail Help Center also has an excellent security checklist ("

"And just to add one more point: account hijacking is not a theoretical possibility. Every day we thwart tens of thousands of hijacking attempts where the hijacker has the correct account password. We've occasionally had attackers with hundreds of thousands of correct passwords (usually from users who use the same password and user name on other sites). Think about it--you could be one of them."

"Is using Gmail's 'two-factor' system a nuisance? Let me put it this way: is it a nuisance carrying around keys to your house, versus just leaving the door unlocked?"

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Apple's Siri versus Google's Voice Search

By now you must have heard of "Siri," the voice recognition software on the new iPhone. Wonderful technology. Here's an interesting article comparing it with Google's Voice Search voice recognition feature on Android phones. More importantly, it discusses the future of this technology.

From Datamation:
"Why You'll Fire Siri and Hire Google" by Mike Elgan

I don't know what the future holds but it sure will be interesting. More steps toward artificial intelligence, perhaps? Lots of the stuff from science fiction shows is becoming reality!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Song of the Day: Swati - 2 O' Clock In The A.M.

Why do people even bother to listen to the radio anymore??? Here's another song from one of the independent music sources I monitor.

From YouTube:
"Swati - 2 O' Clock In The A.M." posted by FifaBazula

Update, 9/11/15: Links go stale, here's a new version:
"2 O'Clock in the A.M."

Here's another one, a cover of a Bruce Springsteen song:
"Swati - I'm On Fire (Bruce Springsteen)" posted by Miroslawek65

Friday, October 14, 2011

Song of the Day: Katie Davis - It's You

Do you love sad songs? Katie Davis does. Love the mood she brings to her songs. I've posted some of her songs before, and it's time for another one.

Katie Davie - It's You

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Armed Chinese Troops in Texas?

Here's a thought-provoking video for you. Check it out before you look at its source.

"Armed Chinese Troops in Texas!"

Also see this video on YouTube:
"Ron Paul's What If ? Remastered" posted by mattgeb84
This is from a speech that Ron Paul gave on the House floor on February 12, 2009. Oops, did I give away the source of the first video? :)

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

What do those lights mean, anyway?

I'm sick of governments telling us that they need red light cameras. The simple fact is: POLICE DEPARTMENTS DO NOT CARE! If they want red light cameras, it is for revenue only.

How do I know? I have been hit by someone running a red light, and the police officer tried to cite ME for being hit rather than the Mexican who couldn't speak English (I obtained a tape of his conversation with my insurance company prior to my court case, in which I prevailed). I see people run red lights literally every week, nobody cares. I have seen people run red lights right in front of cops, the cops don't care.

And earlier this week, driving home from work on Monday, I saw a cop flat-out run a solid red light. So you simply cannot tell me that the police care one bit about this issue. I have eyes. I can see for myself that they don't care.

For the record, he was heading northbound on Mableton Parkway. He was in a "Cobb Police" Crown Victoria. And he ran the light at Old Alabama Road, here:,-84.572057&spn=0.005661,0.009645&t=m&z=17&vpsrc=6

Monday, October 10, 2011

A2A 2011

I skated A2A (Athens to Atlanta) for the fourth time, yesterday. It was a tough day for me. But, hey, that's the nature of the event.

Weather was cool and overcast, so overheating was not a problem. Winds were mixed, swirling sometimes, maybe even more time spent with a slight tailwind than fighting the wind. Overall, the weather conditions were very favorable.


I didn't have "it" yesterday. Legs were tired, didn't have that spring in my step. (Had a very tough hockey game on Thursday, plus inline skating on Wednesday and Friday--looks like my legs don't bounce back as quickly as they used to.) That affected me in a specific way. In order to have a good time, you need to skate in a pack, so you don't have to fight wind resistance nearly as much. My problem was that I wasn't able to keep up with the packs I wanted to. Some packs speed up and slow down at different times, depending on who is leading. And let's face it, people want to get moving. Bottom line is that when the packs sped up, I wasn't able to keep pace--even with people that I believe I could have kept up with on an average speed basis (I tend to be a little better going up hills--that is, I don't have the top speed they do on flat ground but I don't get slowed down by hills as much as they do).

I almost forgot one other problem with skating alone. At one point, after checkpoint #4, I didn't remember the course. And when I didn't see an arrow painted on the road in a little while I actually stopped and turned around! Before long I saw some other skaters heading towards me, so it was a mistake to have turned around. Naturally, there was an arrow just past the intersection where I turned around. If I had just kept going a little further I would have gotten confirmation that I was on the right track. Maybe that cost me a mile. It was a mistake that a pack doesn't make, because someone in the group would know the course well enough to keep going. Very frustrating.

This is where I lost track of where I was, on Herrington Road as I was crossing Hwy 316.,-84.077511&spn=0.021392,0.032659

And, just to be complete, here is an A2A map in Google Maps.
Anyway, because I wasn't able to hang with a couple packs I wanted to, I ended up skating more than half the skate completely on my own. Which is really tough, and really slows you down. End result is that I did it in 6:50:26. Which is about how fast I usually do, regardless of conditions. Really, it's amazing how many different obstacles you have to overcome from year to year. But it appears as though I haven't run into all of them in the same year, nor have I had a year where everything has gone right, although I have had things that have helped me in every year. So I end up skating about about the same speed year after year.

2011 87-Mile Results:

Summary of past years--different challenges but similar results:

87 miles, 6:46:20, 12.85 mph
This was my first time doing this event, but I found a great skater (Tom Grosspietsch) to work with almost the whole way, and that made all the difference.

89.4 miles, 7:02:32, 12.69 mph
I learned all about sciatic nerve pain early in the skate but later found some good partners to skate with including one guy (Bill Zinser) who I skated with more than half the distance--he carried me in the middle of the skate and I carried him towards the end of the skate. Note: They needed to add a detour for road construction hence the distance change.

87 miles, 6:44:46, 12.90 mph
I had some great packs to skate with most of the way, but we fought headwinds most of the way. More importantly, I "hit the wall" between checkpoints #4 and #5 when I had to stop for 5-10 minutes and lost my GREAT pack I was skating with at the time.

87 miles, 6:50:26, 12.7 mph
I got hooked up with some good packs, just like I had hoped, but couldn't "stick" with them. I struggled on my own about half the way. The weather was favorable, otherwise my time could have been a lot worse. I got into a great group of three (Patrick Thompson, Lisa Bongiorno) after Checkpoint #5 to finish strong.

Here is a picture of the group just prior to take-off:

Here is a picture early in the skate, when I was still part of a strong paceline.  You never know how the day will turn out.  I was feeling good at this point but most of this group later dropped me when I couldn't keep up when they put the hammer down.  However, I passed a number of these people later in the skate with my slow but steady approach.  You just never know; it's a long skate.

And here is a picture of me in the early to middle part of the skate, not sure exactly where, maybe staggering into Checkpoint #2. This picture pretty much sums up my day.

Grabbing water at a checkpoint:

In closing, I would like to quote from another skater. I couldn't have said it better than Greg did: "This really is a special event that I think I enjoy more each year." I agree totally.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Quote of the Day: Steve Jobs on Death and Courage

From Steve Jobs' commencement address at Stanford, June 14, 2005:

I had quoted a portion of this speech before, in a previous post:
Quote of the Day: Steve Jobs, on what's important, back on March 13, 2011

I think it's worth quoting from that speech more fully today.

"Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure - these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart."

"No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.

"Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary."

- Steve Jobs [1955-2011]

Steve Jobs

By now you've all heard the news about Steve Jobs, nothing more for me to add. I did happen to really like this graphic produced by Jonathan Mak, though:

Select comments:

Larry Page:

"I am very, very sad to hear the news about Steve. He was a great man with incredible achievements and amazing brilliance. He always seemed to be able to say in very few words what you actually should have been thinking before you thought it. His focus on the user experience above all else has always been an inspiration to me. He was very kind to reach out to me as I became CEO of Google and spend time offering his advice and knowledge even though he was not at all well. My thoughts and Google's are with his family and the whole Apple family."

Sergey Brin:

"From the earliest days of Google, whenever Larry and I sought inspiration for vision and leadership, we needed to look no farther than Cupertino. Steve, your passion for excellence is felt by anyone who has ever touched an Apple product (including the macbook I am writing this on right now). And I have witnessed it in person the few times we have met.

"On behalf of all of us at Google and more broadly in technology, you will be missed very much. My condolences to family, friends, and colleagues at Apple."

Mark Zuckerberg:

"Steve, thank you for being a mentor and a friend. Thanks for showing that what you build can change the world. I will miss you."

Bill Gates:

"I’m truly saddened to learn of Steve Jobs’ death. Melinda and I extend our sincere condolences to his family and friends, and to everyone Steve has touched through his work.

"Steve and I first met nearly 30 years ago, and have been colleagues, competitors and friends over the course of more than half our lives.

"The world rarely sees someone who has had the profound impact Steve has had, the effects of which will be felt for many generations to come.

"For those of us lucky enough to get to work with him, it’s been an insanely great honor. I will miss Steve immensely."

On a less serious note, it appears that the unofficial way to mourn the death of Steve Jobs is to keep your iPhone (or iPod or Mac or whatever) at half charge today. Just do a Twitter search on "iphone half charge" to see what I mean.!/search/iphone%20half%20charge