Friday, April 29, 2011

Sentence of the day: Chutzpah edition

Amazon, on charging customers to store the festering carcass of their destroyed data:
If you have no need for this snapshot, please delete it to avoid incurring storage charges.
- Posted using BlogPress from my iThing

Monday, April 25, 2011

Carnegie Museum of Natural History: GigaPan

Last Saturday, the Spousal Unit and I spent the afternoon at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh. The museum was generally excellent. The dinosaur collection is world-famous, with type specimens for Tyrannosaurus rex and Diplodicus carnegii. The explanatory materials were copious, informative, and well-written, including honest descriptions of false steps and ongoing controversies. I think it’s important to show the public that science is not inerrant, but is self-correcting in the long run, and honest disputes are part of the process.

I was, however, disappointed by one of the temporary exhibits, mostly because it turned out to be not at all what I was expecting. The exhibit description read:

Gigapixel Imaging for Science
Through July 24, 2011
R.P. Simmons Family Gallery, Third Floor

Eight stunning high-resolution photos—some up to 17 feet in length—provide incredible detail of subjects such as a bait ball in the Galapagos Islands and one of the world's largest colonies of penguins. The photos were selected by a jury as part of the Fine International Conference on Imagery for Science, exploring high-resolution imaging technologies in science.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Eating Parker: Rack of Parker

For more about our 4-H lamb, Parker, see the first installment of Eating Parker.

Seven years ago today, I proposed to my Girlfriend Unit, and for reasons that remain unfathomable except to her, she agreed to become my Spousal Unit. In celebration of this anniversary, not to mention Easter, I roasted a rack of Parker.


The preparation was simple; I applied olive oil, garlic, and herbes de Provence, salt, and pepper, and roasted for 20 minutes at 500 °F. For sides, I sautéed potatoes in duck fat with smoked Spanish paprika, and nuked some frozen peas.

The lamb was, as usual, excellent; very tender, with mild flavor. I’m really getting spoiled with this lamb!

On the night of our engagement, we dined at Bistro 45, and drank 2001 d’Arenberg Shiraz “The Dead Arm.” Since then, I’ve built up a vertical of the wine, from 2000–2006, starting with at least three bottles each, and we open one each year on this occasion. We’re on our second pass through the list, so we drank our second bottle of the 2000 tonight. Unfortunately, neither of us was very impressed with the wine, and I suspect that it was an off bottle.

Decanted off moderate sediment. Youthful dark red. Immediately, wet earth, baking spices, cooked red fruit, mocha. Somewhat austere on the palate, with dust, red berries, iodine. Didn't improve much. A lot of acid and some medicinal notes, with little fruit. Bad bottle? (86 points)

Unfortunately, I have not been able to purchase the 2007 or later Dead Arm vintages in the United States. When 2007 was late being released, I asked @darenberg whether it had been made; they responded that it had, and its release was delayed due to the poor economy. Since then, it has been released in other markets, but I haven’t seen it in the US.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Apple Location Services

My iPod Touch doesn’t have a GPS receiver, so the only way it knows my location is by looking up the detected WiFi networks in a database. The first and most famous such database is Skyhook, and Apple used to use them, but last year they parted ways, and Apple switched to an in-house database.

How do these databases know how to map WiFi networks to geographic location? Well, you can imagine driving a vehicle all over the place, like Google StreetView. In fact, the Googlemobile did detect wireless networks, and got in trouble for collecting a bit more data than was necessary. But I’m sure that kind of survey is one source of data.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Weird usage of the day

The Wall Street Journal on iOS vs. Android:

The study also found that although iPad owners are more than Apple “fanboys,” they’re less likely to own BlackBerry or Android phones. Among iPad owners, 27.3% also have iPhones, while 17.5% have BlackBerry devices and 14.2% have Android phones. (The rest use other operating systems or have flip phones rather than smartphones.)

"Flip phone" to mean non-smartphone is a new one for me. (Says the guy who has a non-flip dumbphone.)

Monday, April 18, 2011

F’in Low Dispersion

This is why you pick up a thesaurus instead of letting your engineers name the technology:

FLD ("F" Low Dispersion) glass is the highest level low dispersion glass available with extremely high light transmission. This glass has a performance equal to flourite [sic] glass which has a low refractive index and low dispersion compared to current optical glass. FLD glass offers superior optical performance, equal to flourite, at an affordable price.

ELD (Extraordinary Low Dispersion) glass has lower dispersion characteristics than SLD (Special Low Dispersion) glass, which Sigma has been using in its APO lenses (and some non-APO lenses as well) for many years now. It has other advantageous properties as well.

See also: Chateau Potelle VGS wines. They're very good.

Thursday, April 14, 2011


Today’s ZipCar IPO was underpriced, so the institutional investors—not ZipCar—made lots of money on the day’s gains:

ZipCar's underwriters, Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan, just screwed the company and its shareholders to the tune of an astounding $50 million.


By wildly underpricing the deal and selling ZipCar's stock to institutional clients way too cheaply.

Google did it right, using an auction to set the IPO price of its shares. Why doesn’t everyone do it that way?

Maybe “Public Timeline” was not the best name for that


Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Slate discovers “consumer surplus”

Annie Lowrey writing in Slate:

It sounds ridiculous, but many economists would love to run this experiment. That is because they suspect that our computers are worth, in some strange way, more than what we pay for them.

Strange? You mean like every other good that people purchase voluntarily?

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Decepticons: 16% is not 0%

There’s a local TV ad for a window company. They advertise “5 year no-interest financing, or a 30% factory-direct discount.”

Targ manure! If the cash price is lower than the financed price, you’re effectively paying interest on the financing. But how much?

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Kinchley’s Tavern

Tim Kang at Serious Eats’ “Slice” blog reviewed the pizza at Kinchley’s Tavern, Ramsey, NJ. A must-stop whenever we return to the Spousal Unit’s ancestral homeland, Kinchley’s has the best pizza I’ve had in my life. So far.

Our mandatory pie is the garlic pie. The garlic is infused with the sauce.

Addendum: Serious Eats also covered the strawberry donuts from Donut Man in Glendora, CA—my all-time favorite donuts. Two coast-to-coast favorites in a single week! Donut Man was also the first place I went in the first car I ever owned. I picked up my 1994 Civic del Sol from the dealer in El Monte in April 1999, and picked up some celebratory dozens for my fellow grad students on the way home. I guess the donuts were lucky; I drove that car to over 200,000 miles before selling it in good running condition.

Monday, April 4, 2011

0 0 1 1 * /usr/bin/issue_award

Via Kottke, Josh Nimoy describes special effects work on Tron: Legacy:

In Tron, the hacker was not supposed to be snooping around on a network; he was supposed to kill a process. So we went with posix kill and also had him pipe ps into grep. I also ended up using emacs eshell to make the terminal more l33t. The team was delighted to see my emacs performance -- splitting the editor into nested panes and running different modes. I was tickled that I got emacs into a block buster movie.

This comes on the heels of wget's flawless performance in The Social Network.

Clearly we have enough momentum for an annual* award for the best performance by a UNIX command in a major motion picture.

I propose calling it the Lexy, after the Jurassic Park character Lex, who exclaimed “It’s a UNIX system! I know this!” upon seeing SGI’s File System Navigator fsn**.

* Yeah, both The Social Network and Tron: Legacy were released in 2010. We’ll construct the Award Year to split them, in the interest of making the project viable.
** The best supporting command can get the Yaccy.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

C'est un piège !

As a fan of both Magritte and Star Wars I’m surely biased, but this is the best thing I’ve seen in a while: