Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day

Here's a tiny tribute to remember those who have given their lives in the service of our country.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

The radiator as art

An Italian design company, Runtal, has a very interesting way with radiators.  The first one below is called the Splash:

That's it hanging on the wall, looking like a white piece of art.  It's made out of Corian.  Here is the "rough" translation of Runtal's description in Italian:

Runtal Splash
A beautiful work of art, you might think.
This object on the wall, in fact, does not show its true function at first glance. only when you touch and feel the heat radiating, the work of art reveals a hot body.
And the wonder you feel is no accident but the result of the combination of artistic inspiration ration and multi-material research.
Corian ® is the name of the material through which Runtal has succeeded in developing a new language of shapes in the design of its radiators. the motif of concentric circles created by Christian Ghion resembles a falling drop of water creates gentle waves. water waves to the eye, concealing heat waves.
Stillness and movement, art inspired by Zen

The second is a concept design, made out of wood and Corian:

Put one of these on your wall and see what kind of comments you get.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Measuring the amount of oil leaked into the Gulf of Mexico

This is not good, no matter how you adjust the leak rate:

Friday, May 28, 2010

Nissan Leaf sold out for 2010

Good thing that I got my reservation in early!  Nissan announced today they have received 19,000 pre-orders for the Nissan Leaf, using up the supply available for this year.

Plus they are heading for places like California first, where the charging infrastructure is to be installed.  Here is an interesting article about the effort to bring charging stations to the public.

All very new, and very interesting.

UPDATE:  Look what Nissan just sent me!!!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Tough hockey players

Here's a good article on SF Gate about how tough hockey players are.  It was prompted by the last game between the Chicago Blackhawks and the San Jose Sharks on Sunday, in which Chicago defenseman Duncan Keith took a hard slap shot to the mouth.

Even though Keith was wearing a mouth guard, he lost SEVEN teeth in the incident.  But almost unbelievably, he was out of the game for less than seven minutes!!!!!  He went to the locker room, got sewn up and received some painkillers, and was back on the ice in almost no time at all.

There is a reason why most people don't play hockey.  Those guys are tough.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Electronic fireflies

Out here on the West coast, we don't get the fireflies that they do on a summer evening in the East coast.  So an entrepreneurial engineer figured out how to make electronic ones:

Up close, they look very high-tech:

He is selling them in small batches for $10 each, and offers a "buy-by-the-month" plan to allow you to reach the optimum number for your yard.  Plus he is donating a portion of each purchase to charity.

All around very cool.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

More backyard construction

Things are moving along in the back.  Here are some pictures of how things have been changing.

First, lots of drainage and irrigation work:

Notice the nice drain rocks.  

Then, lots of framing for the deck and the new steps:

Good thing we have experts doing all of this.  I could not manage it, but I like the way it's going.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Moving Lemonheads

Ok, I am not going to dwell on the Sharks being swept by Chicago in the Western Conference finals.  Clearly the better team won this series, and there is some solace in the fact that the Sharks got a lot further this year than last (when they were swept out by Anaheim in the first round).

But watching the Friday and Sunday games from Chicago, I noticed something interesting.  Like all teams, the Blackhawks sell a lot of advertising along the boards.  It used to be distracting; now I am just used to it.  And I was interested on Friday night to see the mid-center-ice board was advertising Lemonheads, those sweet and tart candies I used to eat when I was a kid.

Yet when the Sunday game rolled around, the Lemonheads had moved!  They were now behind the right-hand goal.  In their place at center ice were ads for Morton's Steakhouse, Geico, and Verizon.

It must be that the Blackhawks sell the positions for the ads for each game, and that they change.  Not to mention that Friday's game was on Versus and Sunday's game was on NBC.

Now I am wondering if all sports teams do this?

Sunday, May 23, 2010


Back in early March I wrote that our new peach tree had blossomed.  Well, it turns out the blossoms were actually worth something, because now there are peaches!!

Three of them.  Just enough for a personal peach pie.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Facebook and privacy

This makes a lot of sense to me:

Friday, May 21, 2010

Tsunami - the official logo

Karen is fascinated by the risk of tsumanis.  So I thought it was amusing when I spotted this in Oregon:

Thursday, May 20, 2010

B and B's in Oregon

On our trip last weekend, we stayed in two bed and breakfast's, quite different from each other.  In Eugene, we stayed at C'est La Vie, a restored Victorian-era home with a very French style:

It was charming, with gracious hosts, wonderful breakfast, and even a model train in the garden!

On the coast, we went to the small town of Yachats, and stayed at the Seaquest Inn.  This was a beautiful, large home right on the ocean.  Here's the view from our room:

Our host there, Nerina, was charming and friendly, without being imposing.  Yachats is the kind of place where you could really go to relax, which we did, albeit for much too short a time.

Just outside the inn, a small river feeds directly into the ocean:

I really liked watching the fresh water flow onto the beach.  Extraordinarily peaceful.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Bicycles - Oakland Museum

I spend too much time in the Oakland Airport.  Recently, though, I came across a small exhibit from the Oakland Museum, highlighting Bay area bicycles.

Two of them really caught my eye.  The first is called a "lowrider" bike:

Here's the description:

The second one was a "tall bike:"

And the description of this one:

Kind of cool.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Home of the Ducks

We spent last weekend up in Oregon, with a nice visit to see Sam at the University of Oregon.  The school is quite beautiful, and we were lucky to get a lot of sunny weather (not the norm, of course).

Most of the buildings are made of brick - very much like an East coast school:

Here is the law school:

Quite a pretty place.  More on Eugene to follow.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Go Sharks!

The Western Conference championship series starts today in San Jose, where the Sharks will be taking on their nemesis of the past couple of years, the Chicago Blackhawks.

The Sharks knocked out the NHL powerhouse Detroit Red Wings to make it to the championship round:

Halfway to the Stanley Cup. 

Go Sharks!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

A really big photomosaic

Here's a piece about a Google employee in London who decided to create a photomosaic using hundreds of 4x6" high resolution photographs.  This sounds a bit crazy (which he admits), but the end result is pretty cool:

Kind of hard to believe - here is a closeup of the space right of the yellow O and left of the lowercase G:

Fair amount of creativity there.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Rest in peace, Mildred

My sister-in-law, Susan, lost her mother this week.  Mildred Valis was a woman that you remembered immediately having met her just once.  She was warm, friendly, welcoming, caring, everything that a person should be, without being overbearing about any of it.  She genuinely wanted everyone around her to be happy and comfortable and safe.

Every time I was in Mildred's home, I felt like a special guest.  She would welcome you and make you feel like you belonged.  The last time I saw her, in December, I was admiring a small little statue that was part of a set; she insisted I take the whole set home!  Here they are, siting on my desk:

There was another part of Mildred that was very special.  Susan's sister Terri is disabled and has lived her whole life with her parents.  Mildred (and, of course, her husband Jim) sacrificed a great part of their world to take care of Terri's every needs.  I've never seen such selfless behavior in my life - extraordinary.

Mildred was suffering at the end, so it is a blessing that she is now at peace.  I will miss her, but I will always have my statue set to bring back fond memories.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Triggering a green light

The first instruction, for "demand-actuated" lights, is pretty helpful:

Look for the trigger

This method won't work for every light. For example, in city block grids, the lights are more often than not programmed by timer -- that is, they're set to coordinate with the lights near them so that most poor suckers won't get caught every hundred yards (see Hackers). Other coordinated traffic systems are "actuated-coordinated" which means they will not immediately turn green even if your vehicle is detected. This allows for major corridors to remain coordinated while you wait for your time in the cycle. Lights that aren't pre-programmed are called "demand-actuated" lights, because they only change their state when a vehicle rolls up to them.
To find out if you're sitting at a demand-actuated stoplight, look for the inductive-loop detector embedded in the asphalt in front of you. An inductive-loop detector is a loop, or double-loop, of wire that's been embedded into cut pavement and then tarred over. It detects the presence of conductive materials, like the steel or iron used to make your car, or aluminum or titanium in a bicycle. Aluminum bicycle rims, positioned appropriately over the sensor, are adequate.
You can also look at the traffic signal arm for other methods of detection such as cameras or radar sensors. These are newer and much more reliable technology.

One of those little things most people don't know.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Oh, those British

I like this report on the appointment of David Cameron as the new Prime Minister of England:
As he was traveling from Buckingham Palace to 10 Downing Street -- ashort drive -- the palace issued a statement saying: "The Queen received the Right Honourable David Cameron this evening and requested him to form a new administration. The Right Honourable David Cameron accepted Her Majesty's offer and Kissed Hands upon his appointment as Prime Minister and First Lord of the Treasury."
Kissed Hands!  So British.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Supreme Court, again

Elena Kagan seems like another perfectly reasonable choice, though I did not realize when we elected Barack Obama that he was only going to appoint women to the Supreme Court.

It does strike me as a bit unusual, however, that she seems to have targeted this position her entire life.  Well, she reached her goal.  Hope it works out well.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Sharing with the world (really)

This impresses me a lot.  There is an article in the NY Times today about enterpreneurial Google fans who are creating downloadable versions of the open-source Chromium operating system, the precursor to Google's Chrome OS, due later this year.  The story highlights a 17-year-old in Manchester England who has built versions of the OS that run on all types of computers, just using a USB flash drive.

What gets me is the amount of sharing this guy has really done.  If you go to his site, you find builds for Windows, Linux and Mac computers.  And when you click, say, the Windows instructions, you find a very simple set of instructions - 7 single line bullet points.  But he has provided these instructions in 35 different languages!  Here's the list:

Table of Contents

That is very cool, and the way information should be shared.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Star Trek crazy

Ok, people say I am a bit nutty about Star Trek.

Look at these guys:


Saturday, May 8, 2010

Renovating the backyard

So we've begun the process of redoing the backyard.  We were going to update our deck and add some additional decking, but of course it did not work out that way.  So now it has turned into a major demolition and rebuild project.

Here's the location of the old deck:

This is the central portion, where the hot tub used to be:

Here's the area for our "retreat" - note the trench on the right (for drainage, because you don't want the retreat to be underwater):

And, just for fun, this is the way you saw out portions of your existing concrete patio:

It looks worse than it is, and it will be really nice when it's done.

Friday, May 7, 2010

The Complete Works of William Shakespeare, Abridged

We went out last night to see Abby perform in her latest school play.  The Complete Works of William Shakespeare, Abridged, was originally written for 3 actors.  Abby and her classmates did it with a cast of 15 or so.  It was very funny, and they seemed to get most of the plays in, not to mention 154 sonnets condensed down to a 3x5 card.

Here is Abby as Hamlet:

And here is most of the cast taking their bows:

All in all, a very creative play.

Thursday, May 6, 2010


So Conan O'Brien came to talk at my company today.  I was not a big fan, but just because I don't know the guy. His show was always on too late for me to watch.

Today I became a fan.

He was hysterically funny, self-deprecating and very normal for a huge star.  The audience loved him - he spent 45 minutes taking questions, telling jokes and just being very entertaining.

Another good perk of my job.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Cinco de Mayo in Calistoga

We went up to the Napa Valley on Sunday, mostly because it was a perfect day for a ride in the convertible.  But we happened to arrive in Calistoga just before their Cinco de Mayo parade got underway, so we decided to find a good spot and watch.  Smart idea - it was total fun.

There were horses:

And great dancers:

And adorable little children:

And there was a whole lot of entertainment:

What a terrific day!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Invisible buttons

Kind of geeky, but interesting.  Apple has filed a patent on "invisible buttons" for mobile devices.  

TechCrunch describes it as "a way to create backlit micro-perforated holes on the aluminum casing of a MacBook or other device which could be used for buttons on the lid when the laptop is closed or below the keyboard when it is open. The buttons could serve as simple displays for WiFi signal or battery strength, control playlists and volume for iTunes songs or movies, or even replace the trackpad."  

And it quotes AppleInsider's description as follows:
The input appears invisible to the user because it would be made of the same material as the housing it is contained in. The use of “invisible” backlit holes could make the input selectively visible or invisible for the user.
One illustration included with the application shows an iPod-like control wheel located to the left of the notebook’s trackpad. Such controls could be displayed with the touch of a finger, and then disappear when they are not in use — such as when a user’s wrist is resting in that area for typing on the keyboard.
Not a bad concept.  Sort of like the disappearing dashboard display on high-end cars like the version demonstrated by Visteon last year.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Times Square

I just got back from New York on Thursday night, after staying 4 days at the Millenium Broadway hotel at Times Square.  Wednesday night I was out there late with some friends, marveling at the people and the activity and the happiness that the theater district brings to New York.

Then Saturday night a car bomb is discovered and defused, right where I was only a couple of days earlier.  Very unsettling.  I am glad the NYC police department did such a good job and no one was hurt, but it makes you think quite a bit.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

A sports kind of Saturday

Yesterday was sort of reserved for sports.

I played golf in the morning with friends at The Bridges (shot 83, but I was 11 over after 10 on some bad tee shots and then even par for the last 8 holes).

Then we went to see our nephew Justin play lacrosse - his team won 9-3, and their record is now 11-1.  Pretty impressive.

Finally, after some miscellaneous stuff (including transporting Abby from a show she is working as asst. stage manager to her school where she is starring in another show), we settled in late to watch the Vancouver Canucks beat the Chicago Blackhawks in the first game of their Stanley Cup series.

Lots of sports.  Sunday will not be that focused (except for the Sharks game in the evening!).

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Apple shuts down Lala

This report from Wired just makes me mad:

Apple Kills Lala Music Service

Lala users were greeted with this banner image, atop a note about what will happen to their music collections and existing credits.
Lala users were greeted with this banner image, atop a note about what will happen to their music collections and existing credits.
Apple closed down the cloud-based Lala music service Friday for reasons unknown, after acquiring it in December. Lala members can still access their online collections, but only until May 31, when Apple will take the service offline completely.
When that happens, all the web-based music purchased by Lala members will become unplayable. Unused music credits, which Lala users bought in chunks in order to redeem multiple songs, will become unredeemable. Any MP3s purchased and downloaded from the service will of course continue to play, but this represents a blow to early adopters of Lala’s streaming songs, which only cost 10 cents.
“In appreciation of your support,” reads a note on that is only accessible to members, “you will receive a credit in the amount of your Lala web song purchases for use on Apple’s iTunes Store.”

A really good product, purchased and killed.  I've used it a lot for this blog, but no more.

Bad move.