Tuesday, July 29, 2008


Based on the 5-day forecast, we are looking at running the air conditioner for a solid week. I think that is the first time for that, in our 6 years in Minnesota. (I have a high threshold for turning it on, typically 86 degrees.)

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Golf Considered Incompatible with Fitness

I am a true believer in, and mild evangelist for, the seemingly limitless benefits of exercise. So many people seem to use the excuse that they don't have enough time. Like most excuses, that probably would not hold up to scrutiny. Then I thought about some of the people I know who aren't so fit, but have a pretty good golf game, and I realized that if they were to trade their golf game for strenuous exercise, they could probably be competing in triathlons if they wanted to!

If you play golf once a week, that is probably a 5 hour time investment, unless you are very good. And if you are very good, and it only take you 3+ hours to play--well, that probably means you play 2-3 times per week, and maybe spend some more time at the driving range. So no matter how you slice it, even a moderate golf hobby takes up an amount of time that could account for a pretty decent starter exercise program.

I don't really have anything against golf, this is just an observation. I know, golf provides a little bit of exercise. But considering the fact that almost everybody seems to want to take a cart now, rather than walk, it really doesn't give you very much.

Carpet Is Over-Rated

Nothing feels as nice under the feet as nice, plush, clean carpet. Unfortunately, that feeling doesn't last very long, unless you have no kids, no pets, few visitors, and replace your carpet every 5 years. I have come around to thinking that it would be better to have little or no wall-to-wall carpet. Much better to have wood, fake wood, or tile flooring, all of which are much lower wear and maintenance. It's only taken me 42 years, but now I try to view every consumer decision in terms of its maintenance implications. And carpet requires maintenance, and it still degrades rather quickly. Plus it hides lots of allergens.

Credit to Gates for Moving On

Bill Gates recently retired from active involvement in Microsoft. Gates founded Microsoft 33 years ago, without any venture capital, and was deeply involved in and identified with the company throughout the years of meteoric growth, and well into sedate middle-aged corporate maturity. I have to give him credit for being able to let go. More significantly, he gets credit for fostering an organization that he can step away from without causing much more than a ripple of nostalgia. This is the defining characteristic of what Good to Great author Jim Collins would call a "fifth level leader".

(As an aside, I have deep doubts that Steve Jobs meets this standard, though at the moment, he seems like a helluva fourth level leader.)

Recession-Plagued Nation Demands New Bubble To Invest In | The ...

This Onion headline says it all.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Exercise Anti-Aging

I think of exercise as the silver bullet of health (first rule of silver bullets: there are none). But so did this guy, right down to bicycling avidly, and he almost suffered Tim Russert's fate.

Isn't "Steering Committee" an Oxymoron

I mean, have you ever seen a vehicle steered my two people at the same time, much less by a committee?!

Telephone Call Volume

I find it very tiring and stressful to engage in a telephone conversation in which it is difficult to hear the other party, for whatever reason (more often than not, because they are habitually speaking too softly). It would be a very, very nice feature if phones could dynamically adjust for loudness--amplifying quite voices, and muting loud ones. That would be some fairly sophisticated signal-processing, but in this day and age, it seems possible.

North Shore

After our second trip to Minnesota's north shore, I now understand why people rave about it. The first time, we focused on the shore part, enjoying our campground that backed up to the Lake Superior. That was very nice, but not quite spectacular, at least no more spectacular than other parts of the Great Lakes.

This time, we headed north, into the many, many state parks, all of which have rivers that flow into Superior. Those offered truly spectacular views and hiking, and so pristine. We get it now.

Worse Than Focus-Stealing

Most irritating thing about it is the way the trackpad works. Hesitating while positioning the cursor is interpreted as a click. This has already resulted in wrong information being transmitted to Netflix
That is quite a useability defect!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

eBay Doldrums

Slate has a good article on eBay's doldrums.

I have never been a big fan of eBay, or online auctions in general. I have found that it is waaayy too inconvenient for the buyer. Too much time and energy invested in figuring out what to buy and then waiting to see if your bid wins, which it often doesn't.

Part of the problem is that eBay's auctions do not closely enough mirror bricks and mortar auctions, where both the buyer and seller are under time pressure. In eBay's case, time works against the buyer. If you are trying to buy some item, like a $40 used MP3 player, and you lose a couple of auctions, you have now spent a week (elapsed time) trying to buy an item. It's just not worth it. There is the "Buy It Now" option, but in my experience, the prices people set for those are ridiculous--you could buy the item new, at a store, for the Buy It Now price.

I have an idea for solving this problem, by blending aspects of Buy It Now into the auction process, in order to make the element of time work more like a real auction. The seller would set a "win it now" price, but that price would be hidden from bidders (but once set, not changeable by the seller). The way it would work is that the highest bid exceeding your hidden "win it now" price would be accepted, after one hour of no subsequent bids, as the winning bid.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Terrifffic Anti-Apple Tirade from Dave Winer

Dave says:
I just don't like the smarmy marketing attitude of Apple, he's kind of like the teacher's pet in music class, pretending that he's a connoisseur -- I see flaws and bugs everywhere. Fix the bugs and STFU about how great the product is. Sorry. I want to use Apple's products the same way I use a Canon camera, as a product I respect, but if they ever start screwing around the way Apple does, I'd switch to a Nikon or whatever. Problem is there is no Nikon or whatever in PCs and iPods. All the other products suck. Hugely. Apple's just suck a bit less. Not a huge accomplishment for an industry, imho.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Gas Prices

Given the fact that oil keeps going up, and we are in the summer driving season, I am surprised that gas has stayed around the same "trading range" for the last 4 weeks (here in MN, that would be $3.85 - $3.99 / gallon).

Outlook Message Recall

Probably more than you want to know about recalling a message in Outlook. All in all, it is almost too dangerous and unpredictable and probably the world would be a better place if it were removed as a feature.
Recall Message functionality was designed with a passive rather than aggressive system in mind and is dependent on the Outlook clients' background "sniffer" idle process to remove the recalled message from the recipient's inbox. In order for this message to be recalled automatically, the specified criteria must be met. In addition, Outlook clients must also have the Tools, Options, Preferences, E-Mail Options, Tracking Options, "Process requests and responses on arrival" selected. This feature enables the background "sniffer" to run. When it detects an Outlook idle time (generally anywhere from 60-500 seconds) then it will run and process all unread items in the Inbox to see if any of them require its attention such as Meeting Requests, Read Receipt responses, or Message Recalls.

Bitly implements my anti-linkrot feature


We automatically mirror each page, never know when you might need a backup.
This is what I was thinking of several years ago, when suggesting a feature like this for blogging software.

Zippers Are the Weak Link

So often, one finds that the zipper is the weak link in an otherwise expensive garment. I have had to toss perfectly good jackets because the zipper was trashed. I don't think it has to be that way. I have a 10-year old L.L. Bean knapsack in which the zippers (and everything else, for that matter) are holding up splendidly. And that is considering I haven't always treated them with kid gloves--I sometimes get lazy, and pick them up by the zipper tab. I hasten to add, this was a very modestly-priced purchase.

Long Story Short

In the last year or so, I have noticed a trend of shortening the well-established phrase "to make a long story short" as simply "long story short". As in "Long story short, by the time I retrieved my car from the New York City impound lot, it was 3 AM, I was $300 poorer, and felt lucky just to be done with the entire ordeal".

Surprisingly, this usage doesn't grate on me. In fact, I find it oddly charming.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Dave Winer

Dave Winer: I saw the story about the librarian who wasn't allowed to wait for a McCain event because she held a sign with a political message, a subtle one, a thought-provoker...When you put on your plastic lapel pin, you should think about the Government of the People, by the People and for the People ...McCain could give a speech about that librarian, that would be truly impressive. Here's something he can fix right now. Tell the people who watch the people lining up to let people express their political thoughts, esp those who do it legally and peacefully.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

CT Scans

This NYT article suggests that CT scans for heart patients are over-used, because the machines cost $1 million each, so one a practice commits to buying one, they have to use it a lot to amortize that high cost.

Without addressing whether CT scans for heart disease are effective, I do have an observation. Similar to airports, this is very expensive equipment, and it should be utilized on a 24x7 schedule. What this would mean is fewer machines purchased, shared between more or larger practices, and some inducement needed to compensate patients for taking the "graveyard shift". Still, it seems do-able. If not fully 24x7, the something close, like maybe 18x7. Having it un-utilized all day Saturday and Sunday certainly seems unjustifiable.

Of course, in implementing this kind of factory-like, high-utilization model, we have to be wary of law of unintended consequences. The one I can see coming, a mile away, is that insurers will set their reasonable & customary based on the midnight rate, and pretty soon, everybody will be trying to book the off-peak hours, and the appointments during peak hours will go begging!

Monday, July 07, 2008

Viacom/YouTube Privacy Problem: Another Reason to Use Anonymous Browsing

In all the words I have read about the Viacom suit against YouTube, the possibility of anonymous browsing to remove the problem of preserving one's privacy has been thoroughly overlooked.