10-28-09 - Diversions

We're going to SF for Halloween. It's weird to be going back; I've been thinking about what one thing I really miss and what I'd like to do, and I can't really think of anything specific. I just liked being there, wandering around, exploring, taking little pointless trips around the city.

San Francisco for Halloween is kind of a weird thing because so many typical costumes are just normal clothes there. Dress as a guy from the 70's like Starsky or Huggy Bear? Oh, that's just a normal hipster. Dress as Tobias Funke as in daddy likes leather? Just a leather daddy from the Castro. Dress as a woman? Just another tranny. It's hard to dress up as something unusual when everyone is so unusual all the time.

Starsky and Hutch great photo.

Crafty Goths really are fucking crafty with leather. Wow.

Speaking of leather crafts ; Mr. S Leather is really fucking disturbing. I don't understand at all the urge to do those things to yourself, or to see other people do them. I have a pretty high tolerance to raunch and this almost made me vomit. (there's nothing bad on the greeting page until you click "enter")

Sunrise / Sunset times in Seattle ; our days are now down to 10 hours and we lose 3 minutes every day. (of course even when it is "day light" it's fucking gray).

Superbomba! photo tumblr; pretty rad.

Little Red Studio Erotic Haunted House in Seattle looks so awkward and unpleasant. I really want someone else to go so I can hear about it, though.

I've had this dream for a little while of adapting a bicycle to ride train tracks by putting an outrigger on it. Well of course someone's done that which is rad and all but sort of reduces my excitement about the idea.

Pretty good historical costume rental shop in Seattle . I don't really like dressing up for Halloween, but I've always wanted to go to a real fancy dress costume party. But not like the ones that actually exist. The ones that exist are either fucking fancy society events where people dress nice (good) but everyone is a bore (bad), or house parties where the costume theme is "pimps n' hos" or some shit and people just get drunk and act like they always do (it's always funny when some college house party has a theme like that and most people don't even dress up at all, but there's always one girl who shows up very nearly nude). In my imagination I'd go to masked balls for young beautiful sophisticated people where the costume gives you anonymity and lets you sink into sensual depravity. Which leads me to -

Venetian carnival masks ; this one is apparently made by the Boldrin brothers who made the actual masks for Eyes Wide Shut. (BTW Scorcese really likes Eyes Wide Shut which prooves he has terrible taste). I like the historical myth of the Bauta, that it let upper class Venetians go incognito and cavort without staining their honor.

I finally made it to the Seattle Graffiti Wall with N ( see also ). It's a pretty rad thing. There were three guys there painting when we stopped by. It gets painted and repainted over and over; when we were there one guy was finishing up this really wicked octopus, but it's probably gone by now.

Afrikando Afrikando is a pretty fucking great experience if you like weirdness and adventure dining. There's a lot of fun little ethnic pockets down in South Seattle.

Taqueria La Estacion in Burien are the best tacos in Seattle. If you're driving around the Mexican part of town trying to pick which Taqueria to stop at, do what I do : look for a Mexican in a cowboy hat. If you just go to the place that has a bunch of vatos, it will probably just be cheap and not necessarilly good (and they're probably ordering tortas, not tacos); look for the well dressed older Mexicans.

10-28-09 - ...

It is disappointing that we appear to have revived the sensual excess of Rome in the realm of food, but we have neglected sex and violence (orgies and gladiators).


10-27-09 - The Evil of Obama

The really tragic thing about Obama is that he's an illusion, a palliative. Back during the GWB years we had a brief moment where liberals in America actually paid attention to politics again and were fired up enough to actually vote and counteract the right-wing nutjobs who seem to always be fired up enough to vote. All that energy got channeled into electing Obama, which it turns out was just a diversion, a waste of energy. It's just like sporting events or booze or television, a distraction to keep the rabble from realizing the reality and rising up.

Liberals are self-doubting, try to compromise, try to be reasonable, while conservatives seem to just dig in farther, toe the line, and move further to the right. And then liberals compromise again. So it has been since the 70's. I was telling Jeff the other day, I think modern democrats are obviously much more conservative than Nixon (who actually enacted many of our modern social programs). Even with democrats in power in government it doesn't seem to matter, we've continued to move to the right during this term. You may say "no no we're to the left of where we were under GWB". Not so - the pendulum is currently in its left-most part of its swing, but the center of the pendulum swing is still shifting right.

Obama & the democrats so far have been extremely right wing in everything they've actually done. Some of the speeches sound somewhat liberal, but those don't turn into actual actions, and instead we get sly under the radar extremely conservative actions. The worst things that Obama has done have been the furthering of opacity of the executive office, continued extradition of suspects to countries that torture, continued domestic surveillance, and complete subsidy of the finance industry without any increase of regulation.

What we needed after GWB was a really big correction back towards civil liberty, transparency, higher taxes on the rich & corporations, real health care reform, real environmental rules, an end to corrupt subsidies for oil companies, natural gas, ethanol, agribusiness, huge cuts of the pentagon budget, a real new policy on prisoners, and we've gotten none of that. But the real evil is that despite all that, most liberals are still self-satisfied because we "did a good thing" electing a black man. Bully for fucking us.


10-25-09 - Seattle Election

In case you haven't yet, how to vote :

Initiative 1033 : NO NO NO. These sort of funding freeze measures are super retarded and are the reason why so many local goverments around the country are broke and cutting crucial services.

Referendum 71 : Yes. Domestic partner rights. Meh.

County Executive : Dow Constantine. This one's pretty important. Hutchison is the Sarah Palin of Seattle.

Mayor : meh, I think they're both pretty retarded clowns and don't actually have that much power anyway. I voted McGinn just because Mallahan's entire platform is absolutely nothing but political platitudes and mumbo-jumbo like "we need to make seattle a great place for seniors, and encourage diverse business opportunites". Okay ass-clown, way to be vague and promise nothing, you don't get a vote.

BTW this stupid issue of the Viaduct replacement has dominated local elections recently even though it's already been decided and is basically a foregone conclusion that we're getting a stupid expensive tunnel that will take forever. I think pretty much everyone has the wrong solution on it. The real solution is no tunnel and no fucking raised viaduct either. The whole problem is that the current viaduct is not earth-quake safe and we need to replace it. Well fuck replacing it; just tear it down. We don't need all these freeways and cars. Tear it down, make 1st street and the whole Pike Market area pedestrian-only, and use the money for some public transit. We would have a much better city that way. (it's basically what San Fran did with the Embarcadero after the quake which was a huge success for them).

Attorney : Holmes. I'm pretty meh on this but Carr is so anti-nightlife, all the music venues are very strongly against him.

Most of the council positions I don't know anything about, but I have heard Robert Rosencrantz on the radio a few times and he is pure evil; he's a landlord & real estate investment advisor and basically wants to fuck over everyone but landlords and real estate speculators. So Position 8 vote Mike O'Brien.

These kind of non-partisan council elections are a big problem because the council is what actually has the power in Seattle but voters don't follow who's who. I really think that our democracy would work better if you just voted by party or something. Instead we have "nonpartisan" elections where voters are supposed to inform themselves (lol) and vote based on the issues (lol) as opposed to listening to unrealistic promises or just judging people by their looks and charisma.

BTW I think it's fucking retarded and probably illegal that you have to put a stamp on your damn ballot to mail it in. It should be prepaid.


10-22-09 - Inaction

There's a mistake on my cable bill. They're charging me $5/ month for cable modem rental, when I had my own cable modem and not renting. Calling them to fix it will take at least 30 minutes and may or may not involve some aggravation. I'm just not gonna bother and pay the damn $5/month. Maybe if I have some other reason to call them someday I'll fix it then.

I broke my TiVo a month ago or so. I was trying to replace the fan, which I did, but now whenever I boot it freezes up. If I do the status-46 key code thing, it tells me it detected a temperature too high and shut itself down. I think that's spurious, there's no way it's too hot, something is busted in the temperature control. Whatever, I'm just not gonna fix it. I'm not watching TV live or on DVR any more at all. I get torrents for shows occasionally, mostly I just download whole seasons.

I've written before about how my damn Nokia 1208 cell phone randomly doesn't send texts. Obviously it's a bug in the firmware which this guy describes decently . There is a firmware update which probably fixes it (Nokia is totally mum about the bug and whether they fixed it because they're fucking cunts who don't want to admit a bug because it's bad publicity). It's totally not worth trying to flash my fucking phone firmware. It was free after rebates and I can get another newer phone for like $10 after rebates. I'll just live with the bug until I get a new one.

I sort of feel like if my laptop or car broke, I just wouldn't replace them and I'd quit driving or computing or whatever.

Why do visually striking movies have to be such fucking pieces of turd? Can't a director make beautiful images and also make the movie not suck balls? We just watched "The Fall" which is just unbearable; yes, it's occasionally beautiful (the beauty if basically just shots of India, but seeing India well framed is nice). But you could say the same of "The Cell" or "In Dreams" or "The Science of Sleep" or etc. etc. I guess when a movie is incredibly beautiful and also has a tolerable plot, it's a rare and delightful pleasure. I'm also just kind of sick of the flashy high-saturation "beauty" that has characters dressed up in bright red flowing cloth standing in the middle of a desert with cameras flying around them.

I'd like to have torrents that run at full speed when I'm doing nothing else on the net, but automatically shut off when I'm trying to do something. And the torrent server is a separate machine from my laptop so it can't be software that just runs on my machine, I guess it has to be in the router. Does a router that does "QoS" actually do this right?

One of the interesting articles in the IEEE magazine recently was on "Flow" streaming routers .

I'm pretty annoyed with my HTPC. It's annoying enough that I wind up not watching TV or listening to music because I don't want to deal with it. There's nothing wrong with the software or hardware, it's just inherently a bad thing I now realize. I like having the music as physical objects. I want to be able to set my favorite music on top of my music player. I want to move them around the room. I want to be able to browse my music collection at the same time that I have something on TV - this it turns out is a major annoyance of the HTPC. In theory you can still watch shows and browse music at the same time, but in practice it just sucks to have a single device that controls both. And having your TV as the interface to your music sort of sucks too, it means you have to turn on the TV to play music, which is not cool when you're trying to lounge around on your bear skin rug with scented candles lit and whatnot.

I also keep forgetting that it's just a PC. Like I still can't get the fucking MediaPortal Netflix plugin to work right. But you know that doesn't really matter, I can just use the mouse to go to Netflix through IE and just play movies that way, I don't need the damn MediaPortal integration.

I also get annoyed by making playlists with the remote control; it's just too hard to browse through a giant music collection to find things and assemble a playlist. But of course it's just a computer! I can browse the shared music folder from my laptop, make playlists, and save them to the HTPC, which auto-loads them. (the only bit of a fudge there is WinAmp saves playslist as relative paths, so I have run a script to make them into absolute paths; no biggie).

Anyway, I guess I'm stuck with it, there's not really a reasonable alternative. I've been thinking now that I only use the computer to watch things, I could just have a monitor instead of a TV. I'm not really clear on what the difference is between an "LCD TV" and an LCD monitor. It seems like the TV's are just generally worse in terms of contrast and black level and response times.

Watched "Sin Nombre". It starts out pretty promising; I like the story of the immigrant family and the extra silly fictionalized action element from the violent gang to spice things up. But then it degenerates into "girl being a fucking stupid cunt" story element which I find so intolerable. This is a standard narrative crutch in which writers create tension and danger by making the female characters just do completely retarded selfish emotional stupid shitty things.


10-21-09 - Deadwood

I'm watching Deadwood, I'm into Season 3 now. It's good and all, but :

It's ridiculously Shakespearean. I mean it's literally a Shakespeare play staged in the old west; you have the Fool (Calamity Jane), the Narrator (Farnum), the tragic hero, the plotting sinister antiheros, the lower class righteousness and anti-government, and most of all you have the long soliloquies where people go off on these long explanations of what other characters are thinking and hypotheticals and so on. The monologes by Swearingen and Farnum are particularly hillarious.

"Yond Bullock has a lean and hungry look; He thinks too much: such men are dangerous". (Act I, Scene II). "Men at some time are masters of their fates: The fault, dear Farnum, is not in our stars, but in ourselves, that we are underlings" "If you prick us, do we not bleed? if you tickle us, do we not laugh? if you poison us, do we not die? and if you wrong us, shall we not revenge?"

I just completely randomly opened some Shakespeare and got this :


K. John. Though you and all the kings of Christendom Are led so
grossly by this meddling priest, Dreading the curse that money may buy
out ; And by the merit of vile gold, dross, dust, Purchase corrupted
pardon of a man, Who in that sale sells pardon from himself, Though you
and all the rest so grossly led This juggling witchcraft with revenue
cherish, Yet I alone, alone do me oppose 170

which is straight out of Deadwood. Anyway, it's so obvious that it must be intentional by the creators. I haven't done any research into whether they admit it, maybe they do.

I find the anachronisms a bit disturbing, but since it's just a play I roll my eyes and let it slide.

I find the constant repetition of "cock-sucker" and "fuck" to be pretty tedious. It doesn't make the dialog more realistic or gritty. Are HBO viewers fucking time travellers from the 1950's where all it takes is a bit of profanity to get them all excited? If you want to do an old-west show where the characters are "salty" then make it more fucking interesting, use some actual period slang for one thing, and fucking vary it up so it's not just always the same shit. It's not funny, it's not interesting dialog texture, it doesn't add impact, it's just fucking juvenile.

Also the Calamity Jane actress/character is totally intolerable. Following my great success in just skipping past the horrible cooch girls in Carnivale I'm just skipping every scene with Jane in it. It's great! Not only do I get to skip over awful dragging bad parts of the show, it actually makes the rest of the show more interesting because I have to figure out what happened in the parts I missed. All TV these days is way too repetitive and leaves out all mystery for the viewer; they lay everything out so obviously that you don't have to use your brain at all to follow along; things are much better when they challenge your mind a bit to put the pieces together yourself. You can create this puzzle for yourself by just skipping over 25% of any TV show.

10-21-09 - Buying A Bike

A lot of people have been asking me for advice on buying a bike recently, so I thought I'd write a few notes.

First of all, if you aren't currently riding much at all, then my main advice is just to buy something cheap and plan to replace it in 6 months. If you haven't ridden real road bikes much at all, they will all feel weird to you and you won't know how to tell if they fit, so you will most likely make a bad purchase. Try to buy something for $500 or so and don't sweat it too much and then replace it when you know better. When making this initial cheapo purchase, worry more about fit and less about materials or components or brand name. The most important thing is to get your body used to the feel of a proper road bike.

Secondly, you have to decide what you want this bike for. Most of the bikes in a bike shop will be "road bikes" that are targetted at racing. This is probably not what you want so you should ignore all these bikes. These bikes are usually very light, very stiff, very jittery, with tiny hard saddles, very low handlebars, no room for fenders or racks, with very aggressive geometry that requires you to be riding hard and leaning forward a lot. You probably want a bike to get around town, that's pretty fast, can handle some wet road, maybe a rack to carry things, that you could ride out on the weekend for exercise once in a while. In that case what you want is going to be a "commuter" or "touring" bike (note, NOT "hybrid" bikes or bikes with suspension). They should have a slightly more relaxed geometry, room and braze-on bolt holes for fenders/rack.

X. Saddle. The main issue here is that most "road" bikes come with saddles that are too small and hard for the way people will ride them. In particular, a correct saddle is a personal thing, they should be sized to your sit bones, you may or may not want a taint-saver cutout (I recommend them), and if you are not going to ride with padded shorts, then you should have a semi-soft saddle. (note : NOT one of those big honking "comfort" saddles, but a race saddle with small gel pads or something like that).

A really good bike shop will let you swap the saddle. Most won't. If you can't find a bike with a saddle you like, just replace it.

X. Stem / handlebars. This is one of the crucial fit adjustments. (I don't mention the seat post, because pretty much all bikes have enough seat post adjustability to fit any reasonable rider). Lots of stems now are the threadless kind without much range of adjustment. IMO that sucks really bad. It means that you need to spend more time in the purchase making sure that the stem/handlebars are in a good position for you. If possible buy something with the ability to do a little adjusting. In our modern era you probably won't be able to avoid having to buy stem extenders or a flippable step or something similar.

In particular, if the bike stem is already angled way up (as many bikes sold today are), then you won't have any ability to adjust up more. That means it should feel plenty high to you as it is. As you get more experienced you can buy another stem that's flatter to bring the bars down some. In addition to the bars moving up and down think about how you might want to move them forward to back.

X. Tires. People spend all this money on bikes and worry about what the frame's made out of blah blah blah which doesn't hardly affect your ride at all. The #1 biggest bang for your buck thing that affects your ride is tires. Most "road" bikes are sold with tires that are too thin and hard for what people use them for. Conversely, if you want a faster bike, you can get a huge bump by taking that old beater and just putting some thin hard tires on it. It's a lot like swapping snow tires for racing slicks on your car. There are basically two extremes (ignoring mountain bikes / cruisers / etc) :

Commuting / rough roads : you want something like 28c or 32c tire , with some real pattern on the tread so it can grip in sand and wet. Inflate to 60-100 PSI. The wider tire is a bit slower, but will grip a lot better when you go over rocks and sand and pot holes. The lower inflation smooths out road bumps and also provides better grip. (It's an old trick that in extremely bad grip scenarios you can deflate even more, but that slows you down a lot).

Speeding : on good roads, you can run a 23c tire at 120-140 PSI with slick or semi-slick tread. This gives you very low rolling resistance, you can just touch the pedals and the bike glides and feels like it will never stop. If your bike is in good kip, there should be almost no friction in the turning parts of the bike, it all comes from the tires on the road. Of course these tires are very dangerous in the wet or even on sand. The hard inflation also makes the ride very rough, and can make the bike feel "jittery" because every little pebble is transmitted to your hands.

Often people will test ride some racing bike and think "wow that's fast" when in really all they're feeling is properly inflated fast tires.

X. Some bikes I like :

Navara Randonee at REI
Jamis Aurora
Salsa Casseroll
Surly Cross Check
Surly Long Haul Trucker

These are all around $1000 sadly. Most of these are classified as "touring" or "cyclocross" now. In reality they're closer to old fashioned "road bikes" than the modern compact little racing bikes. An old road bike like a Raleigh or all the Japanese bikes had braze on holes for fenders, racks, had relaxed geometry for comfort on longer rides, had some more room for adjustment of the stem/handlebars, etc.

ADDENDUM : buying used can be a great deal, but you have to be pretty smart about the condition of the bike and pricing. Some people have very crazy ideas about what things are worth. They'll say "I bought it for $600 ten years ago, so I'm selling for $550" . Umm.. no. A used bike should be half or less the price of a new one generally. If you look around you should be able to get bikes like the above for under $500. Also, you should not buy anything very old. Even if it works great it will be a pain to maintain or upgrade because the components are not compatible with modern gear. The oldest you should go is early 90's , and you want Shimano kit (though the chance of getting Campy on a cheap bike is very slim, you don't want it because replacement parts are so much more expensive and hard to find). Some people have absolutely insane ideas about what very old bikes are worth.

For your first time buying a bike, you can get a decent approximation of your size just by taking your inseam * 2/3. So for example my inseam is 34" * 2/3 = 57 cm ; I actually ride a 58 or 59, but it's close. I don't recommend sizing yourself this way for a serious purchase, you should try the bike and feel it because bikes with different geometry can have nominally the same "size" ("size" = seat tube center-to-top length), but it's an okay way to size yourself to find a very cheap craigslist first bike.

10-21-09 - The Day's News

ADCTC is the best published image compressor. It's a pretty obvious jamming together of various old ideas. It uses DCTs of various sizes for transform, up to 128x128 and allows non-square partitions. It picks optimal partitions like an old "Wavelet Packet" coder. Then the DCT coefficients are coded very much like ECECOW using a context coder with big contexts (ADCTC doesn't actually code bit planes like ECECOW does, it codes significance and top bit position, but uses contexts similar to ECECOW; the older verison AGU is really just like ECECOW/EZDCT).

DLI appears to be the best image compressor now. He's released zero info about it. So fuck him.

Twitter image compression challenge is cute.

I made new compiles of the LZP exes (as a I posted about before) ; they should not crash now. Back in the Amiga days I would always write my string matchers without bounds checks, because reading out of bounds was not an access violation, and then I would clamp the length after the fact. That is, rather than something like :

for(i =0; i < maxLen && ptr1[i] == ptr2[i] ; i ++ ) ;

I would just do

for(i =0; ptr1[i] == ptr2[i] ; i ++ ) ;
i = MIN(i,maxLen);

(this is simple pseudo-code to make the point, not actual code).

That doesn't work any more now that reading outside of the allocation is forbidden (there are ways you could make this style of thing still work of course, by allocating extra space off the end, and then concatenating a sequence that does not occur in the original text; I'm not sure if there's a very simple/fast way to find a sequence that never occurs in the original text).

Anyway, this was because the Squeeze Chart guy tested the old LZP's ; it's kind of amazing that they're still vaguely competitive in terms of speed/quality, though the more modern variants of course do better (such as Yann Collet's "LZP2" and of course higher compression LZP variants like the stuff by Ilia Mureyev etc. from compression.ru)

In other news :

Said the Gramophone is a good music blog.

From Busto to Robusto is a pretty nice poker show about real internet poker. (2 Months 2 Million is a fucking clown show)

George Nakashima is a fine wood furniture maker from Seattle. In the 50's he did seminal work creating simple furniture which explored the natural grain and shapes in the wood, letting it speak for itself. It's rather old hat now as so many cheezy places like ABC / DWR copy the Nakashima style, but the originals still have a profoundly elegant combination of understated refinement and untamed natural forms.

10-21-09 - Jesus fucking christ Gmail

Well I now I have to dig through my Spam folder every day and see what ridiculous thing gmail has got wrong.

Here's an example of the kind of thing that's getting spammed : (this is from my landlord who has a fucking GMAIL email account and who I've mailed with many times before). This is the entire text of the mail, so you tell me what fucking Bayesian model decided this was likely spam :

Thanks for reminding, they should be able to come in this week so I will
let you know which day and if you can't be there I will meet them

Sent from my iPhone

On Oct 19, 2009, at 8:22 PM, Charles Bloom wrote:
>    Hi Lisa, is something happening with the fireplace?

WTF !?!?!?

I mention the fact that it's from a gmail account because obviously gmail should be able to direct-send mail internally and validate that it actually is from that sender; in that case you should be able to just identify accounts as either "spammers" or "not spammers" ; it's not like I have friends who will occasionally send me spam that should be filtered; if someone is my friend you should always let their mail through regardless of what the content is, hell if one of my friends forwards me one of their spams about Cialis because it was funny, that should get through.

The converse is a little bit trickier, you can't necessarily exclude all mail from "spammers" since I've got some corporations marked as spammers but would still like some mail from them to get through. That's a more tricky edge condition type of thing that I wouldn't be surprised if gmail got wrong, but oddly it never seems to get those wrong! It only gets the incredibly obvious ones wrong.


10-19-09 - Against asynchronous GUIs

Most new Microsoft products have super asynchronous GUIs. This means they do GUI refreshes and window popups and threads and so on. This sounds like a nice thing, it removes big stalls and freezes in the GUIs and makes them "respond" more quickly, in the sense that when you request some new view it pops the window up immediately and then gradually fills it in, whereas before it would just freeze and wait for the new view to pop up.

In practice for power users this just sucks absolute balls. Power users use the keyboard. We use our peripherial vision. We don't sit around and wait for windows to pop up, we hit key combos that we know and we memorize sequences. So for example you might memorize that hitting Alt-F opens a find dialog and puts the focus in the entry window, so you can highlight the text you want to find, Ctrl-C, Alt-F, Ctrl-V, Enter, all in a row boom you're searching for that text.

BUT NO! No you aren't, instead you just pasted that text into your document because the fucking finder window was being built on a thread and wasn't opened in time to receive your ctrl-v so your ctrl-v went to the old window.

There are few obvious GUI design fails here. One is that asynchronicity and focus stealing should never go together. If a window opening is async then it should not transfer focus to that window. Also, if a key pops up a new window and transfers focus, do that immediately and queue up the key presses and don't process them until the action associated with each key press is complete. eg. if you get input like A,B,C, if you process A and it fires something async, then don't respond to B until the action from A is done if it's possible that they affect each other.

More generally, this programming pattern of finding clever complicated ways to hide the fact that your systems are overly bloated and slow is just not the win. You will only make the failure cases less common but more ugly. For example in this particular case I'd rather have a slow modal popup than an unpredictable async popup.

Now, there certainly is a place for asynchronicity in GUIs, namely in tasks spawned from GUIs that run in a pane. When you start some long process, that should be async from the GUI and run on its own thread, but I would argue that the entire GUI should run on one single thread and GUI drawing updates of things like icons and buttons should not be async (not any aspect of it that affects user input - purely visual updates could be async). So like for example, when you open a new folder, the population of the list for that folder should NOT be async because the user may be typing characters to navigate to names within the folder, and if you populate async you will screw up the response to their typing (it could be okay to be async here *if* you make it respond in the same way that it would if it was synchronous!). Ideally GUI operations should just be fast and not need to be async.

How do we not have a fucking universal laptop docking multi-port thing !? WTF.

The delay of Windows/PC's recognizing USB devices is really tilting. Every time I move my laptop or plug in the keyboard, it's wait .. wait .. wait .. okay now I can type. Urg.

I'm trying this new thing where I put my computer on automatic standby after 2 hours. I've tried lots of reminder apps before to make myself get up and stretch, but I always just ignore them. Standby is a hard enough obstacle that I think it might make me actually get up - if nothing else I'll get up in anger because the standby will fuck up what I'm doing. But when I come out of standby I have to deal with the fucking USB.

Computer-laid-out maps are abominations. Hand drawn maps are beautiful and convey so much more information. (what follows are just links related to maps, not examples of great hand-drawn maps)

Metskers Maps in Seattle is pretty great.

FeetFirst is a non-profit that supports walking in Seattle. Their maps are only okay.

See also : City of Seattle Map of public art and Historic Places in Seattle .


10-18-09 - Personal Whining

I'm reading Steppenwolf for some damn reason (fucking people recommending shit to me; it's almost a negative correlation between recommendations and what's actually good; any time someone is like "oh this is good, somebody said so" I now think it must be crap). Anyway, it's fucking awful, it's such self-indulgent mopey high school shit, oh I'm so intelligent and sensitive, I'm too good for this world, I'm above it all and it's trivialities and pettiness, god how juvenile.

Depression is fucking weakness, it's an excuse to avoid life. Irony and superiority are cowardice; acting like you're too good for something is just a way of avoiding trying it and failing.

Often I'll fail in some way to live up to my expectations of myself being strong and dynamic as I think I should be, and then I sink into a spiral of self-loathing for my weakness. Like when someone is being petty or insecure or hurt around me, and I know I should rise above it and give them what they want to hear, but instead I lash back at them, I should be better than that and then I hate myself for it. Then I sink into a wallowing pathetic mire of self-hate and I become quiet and morose and function even worse then, which makes me hate myself more for being such a coward. But all of that is really just a childish way to avoid trying, it's a way of fleeing the challenge, it's an excuse not to try any more.

It's very hard to tell sometimes what exactly is your personality and what is just some current behavior that you can and should change. Is my depressiveness and antisociality actually who I am, or is it just a cowardly behavior I've adopted that I could stop at any time?

Lately I've found it very hard to have any opinion about anything. I don't mean that I have no thoughts on it, it's that I can't figure out what opinion is really mine. The problem I'm having is that I try to be positive and see the good in things. Like hey, singing folk songs around a bon fire, that could be fun, you know camraderie, fresh air, the fun of making myself do something unnatural to myself, good right? Yeah, but that's not my real opinion, that's just me trying to be accepting. Actually it's just really awful, I hate it. But that's sort of just the sour side of me that thinks everything is awful, is that my real opinion? Like even all this electronic music that I listen to, I mean really (rational critical brain) it's fucking awful, and the whole scene is so unpleasant and cheesy and lame, but hey no (accepting see the bright side brain) , the people are silly and silliness is wonderful and it's just movement which is great. Anyway, I find a lot of the time when people ask my opinion on something my response is something like "oh yeah it's great! I mean really it's awful, but no, it's great!". To some extent there's also the "everything else is so fucking awful that in comparison it's great"; like we went to Lark recently which really if I'm honest was pretty fucking awful, but I mean really most restaurants are so absurdly bad that actually it was pretty damn good in the scheme of things.

Human conversation :

"This weather is something something".

"That sports team did that thing they did".

"What about that TV show that was funny? that was funny."

"Funny line repeated ad-nauseum out of context and made un-funny".

"Pleasantry asking about something in your life I don't care about".

"Opinion or speculation about something I know nothing about".

"Self-righteousness and rationalization of why my way is the right way".

There, what a nice chat we just had, now we all feel better.

I foresee my future : being a miserable fucking salary man, going to a job I don't particularly like because it's easy enough and pays well, taking as much time as possible on lunch breaks to avoid the drear of the office, talking to coworkers about banal bullshit, becoming more boring and bland every day, going home with no fire no energy no vitality nothing new to talk about for my wife, slumping on the couch and watching TV, sucking all the happiness out of our home, slowly killing our relationship, making her cry about what a dreary life she's in, while I begrudge her not having to go to work and don't think she's doing enough to reach out to me.

I just don't see how it could really be any other way, that's what being an adult is all about. Almost every adult male that I know has gone down that path or something similar, and it's certainly the direction my momentum is moving in at the moment.

The first part of a relationship is so magical, you just want to see each other all the time and it just feels so amazing to just sit and look into each other's eyes or whatever, but you have to be careful, because that inevitably ends; it's a limitted resource, it's a battery you're draining, or a burning candle. You can extend it a bit by burning it less often, seeing each other less, but that doesn't really work, it's more just a time expiration.

One trap is that it feels so good just to do nothing and be together, that you stop doing interesting things. That makes the battery of magic drain out much faster and you will quickly lose it.

Another trap is to abuse it too much just for the good feeling. It's like eating chocolate, or masturbating, or drugs, it's an easy mood fix. You had a bad day, you're down, you just want to see your lover because they'll make you feel alright. But no, don't use them like that, it's too easy, it drains the magic.

You can definitely prolong the magic by only seeing someone in special circumstances. Entertainers of course know this, they try to avoid breaking the veil. A great magician or entertainer won't let themselves be seen when they're not in costume and in character and "on" , with their charisma and energy pumped up. When they're preparing or tired or whatever they hide away to preserve the illusion. We humans are really stupid, we associate our feeling about someone with our experiences around them, so if you only hang out with someone when you're doing amazing things, you think they're amazing. While this certainly works it's not really viable for a long term relationship because you can't be "on" all the time and you want to see this person more often than that.

It's sad how fast you start to take someone for granted. Our human brains are only sensitive to deltas, so when you come upon a new situation you see the delta and think my god this is amazing it's so good it's so different, but quickly that becomes the norm and then you stop perceiving it. One trick I've found to rejuvenate it a bit is to spend time with other humans, and then you see how shitty they are in comparison and you miss your lover anew and appreciate how great they are.


10-16-09 - Computer Complaints

God damn it, it really bugs me that anything still goes through the Firefox downloader; I want "download them all" to completely replace the downloader, but so far as I know it's not possible. Anything you download manually is fine, the problem is so many fucking sites are too smart for their own britches and launch the download for you and then that goes to the standard downloader. If you try to right-click and download it manually you get some fucking php thing instead of the real file. URG.

Christ you gmail spam filter fuckers suck so bad. The constant stream of "Cialis ! Grow your Peener!" emails that were somehow not marked as spam seems to have abated of late, so kudos for that, but instead I'm now getting completely insane false positives, which is much much worse. Just randomly today I thought "hmm let's take a peak in my spam folder" and WTFBBQ there are emails from my grandma and my girlfriend in the spam folder which have absolutely zero characteristics of spam but gmail decided I didn't deserve to receive.

What's worse than the fact that these emails have absolutely no spam similarity in their content is that they are with addresses from whom I have received 100+ emails and not marked any of them as spam and now you decide that you know better than me. WTF that's such an obvious fucking early out "hey this sender address is obviously trusted, just pass it through". Yes yes I know I can manually create my own filters to do that now but I never should've had to go searching around my spam filter for this shit.

So far as I can tell it still completely ignores your personal history of what you mark as spam or don't mark as spam. That's just insane. WTF you should just never ever never have a false positive from an address that you have communicated with many times in the past.

... AND fuck you some more. I just dug through some more and found falsely marked spam from Casey, Sharp, and Hook, all of whom I've had countless emails with and not marked as spam. I also was trying to have a technical discussion about H264 with a guy, and gmail in all its fuckitude randomly spammed about half of his emails !! So I got enough emails through that I thought I was getting replies when in fact I only saw half of them. WTF WTF WTF.

One of the things a good spam filter should have is the ability to show you why it marked a given mail as spam, and let you say "you were wrong about this".

Also, when I clear my spam folder it seems to delete permanently !?

When you remove an item from a project in VC 2005 it tries to fucking delete it from source control !? What crack are you all smoking !?


10-15-09 - Yoga and Government

I went to a Yoga class the other day. I keep trying to get into it periodically because every time I talk to people about my back problems they say "you should do yoga", so I feel like I have to do it just to exhaust my options. It sucks pretty bad in many ways, but I guess it was good for me. I can tell I used various postural muscles that I don't normally work. I'm pretty good about doing PT and my exercises and so on, but left to my own devices I fall into that human trap of just doing the things that feel good to me; it's good to have someone force me to do the things that just feel awkward and unpleasant and like they're not really good for me, but actually are.

On the down side, I hurt myself a bit because I tried a back bend. It's a freaking beginner class, way too many students, most super out of shape, and the dumb teacher first leads us into shoulder stands. I don't think *anyone* should ever do shoulder stands, even if you are fit and flexible enough to do them without hurting yourself, it's still not actually good for you to bend the neck forward that hard and put so much weight on your neck. In any case certainly beginners should never ever do them. So I spend like 5-10 minutes in fucking child's pose because of the fucking inappropriate shoulder stands where I'm just sitting there being annoyed, and then he leads us into back bends. I know I shouldn't try a back bend with all my problems but I'm sick of doing nothing so I go for it. And I hurt my neck. Yeah, dumb. Now I hurt.

I see trainers in the park sometimes doing those "boot camp" things, and they have a bunch of newbies doing straight leg lifts for abs, which is almost as bad. Shoulder stands are just horrifically bad for the neck, they squeeze the hell out of your discs. Straight leg lifts are horrifically bad for your low back unless you are already strong and flexible enough. Fucking personal trainers are so incompetent at their damn jobs.

That reminds me, I ordered a cocktail last night, and it's always such a harrowing process for me. I don't want to order something that the bartender isn't good at making, but it's hard to just ask them straight out because they often lie to save face, or get offended or think you're a snob or whatever. I want to ask "if I order a Collins will you use mix or make it from scratch?" "how much ice and soda do you think belongs in an old fashioned?" "do you know what a real daiquiri is? will you squeeze fresh lime juice?" it's like I have to give them a job interview before I can order a drink because you know, god forbid that a fucking bartender actually know how to make drinks, it's only like their job that they do every day. It would help if people would just admit that they suck and tell me what they can actually do. Like if the bartender would just tell me "look bub I can't really mix a drink to save my life, you should just order a beer" I would be like "cool, thanks" and I would be happy about it. One of the things that's always pissed me off is restaurants that actually have one or two really great dishes that they do well, and then like twenty other dishes on the menu that are absolute shit. That would be fine if they would just admit it, I'd be like cool, gimme those ones you do well. (or even better, just don't even put the shit on the menu; I'd love to see more places that had super tiny menus, like maybe 5 dishes total and all executed perfectly). Sadly in the real world if you ask the waiter what the best dishes are you will more often than not be led astray.

(aside : I once had an idea for a small restaurant; call it "Braise" or something like that. Everything would be cooked ahead, and we would only do stuff that was like a 4+ hour cook, stuff like braised short ribs, cassoulet, whole roast pigs, legs of lamb; different each night, sometimes maybe just one dish, like one night we just do huge batches of paella on an open fire and everyone gets a plate of paella - the point is to do stuff you can't do in normal restaurants because they have to be able to fire individual orders one by one, because we have such a limited menu we can put more time and money into each dish)

I don't really know what we hope to get out of Afghanistan, and I think sending more troops is a mistake. Politically it's a nightmare for Obama, because if he pulls troops out it will get worse there and he will be seen as causing that, but if he keeps going or puts in more troops he'll be seen as getting us stuck in a quagmire (since nothing good will come of it; there's no end point). The fact is Al Qaeda is long gone from Afghanistan already. The entire modern culture of Afghanistan is built on either corrupt tribal warlords or extreme Islam (Taliban) - no military action is going to change that, you can only push the people to one side or the other, there's very little middle ground of reasonable people. You can't ever defeat the Taliban when a big chunk of the population wants them there and they will come right back across the Pakistani border. The alternative to the Taliban is supporting the warlord factions, which is basically what we've done so far, which leads to antagonizing the population and creating more Taliban because they see the corruption and excesses of the government and have no faith in the democracy.

King County recently has been run by a temporary executive Kurt Triplett. The government around here is a huge fucking mess. The city, county, and state services all overlap and conflict. The cities also often choose to purchase services from the county or state rather than provide them themselves (stuff like fire, police, animal control, etc). There're no income taxes and there are lots of voter initiatives limiting how the governments can raise & spend money. The city of Seattle and King County are both run by councils, and the Mayor and County Executive act a lot like a national president in the sense that they "enforce the law" as passed by the councils, and they propose budgets to the councils, but the councils have to okay everything. It takes forever to get new funding for anything, because it has to be proposed by executives, approved by one or more local councils, then it often by law has to be approved by voters and/or the state government too.

I've been listening to local politics on the radio during drives lately. Triplett is pretty impressive; he wasn't elected and he's not seeking re-election, he's running King County in the interrim. He's intelligent, speaks directly to the issues, doesn't talk a lot of nonsense politics, and is being forthright about the situation, which is basically that King County has a massive budget defecit, and the retarded voters won't okay tax increases, and they also don't want service cuts. It's really encouraging to hear someone like that talk directly to the issues.

Then you get to listen to the candidates running for his spot - Hutchinson and Constantine. They both seem like pretty big toolbags who refuse to talk to the reality of the situation, they keep saying they are somehow going to save services and not raise taxes. However, there is a big difference between the two - Hutchinson is just obviously a moron who has no ideas and never says anything but a bunch of political nonsense and tries to hit irrelevant emotional keywords like "politics as usual" and "elections bought" and all that shit. She evades any questions about cutting services or says she won't, but also insists she won't raise taxes, and as soon as someone tries to pin her down she squirms and dodges. It's revolting. The fact that she's ahead (presumably just because she used to be on TV) is pretty fucking sickening.


10-13-09 - Linkage

Junk from the past two months :

Some music :

That Sound Hosted by Dave Cusick, the best new music. � Blog Archive � That Sound #60 - Psapp, Dimes, Asobi Seksu, +-, Shugo
YouTube - Raphael Saadiq - 100 Yard Dash - groovy new soul
YouTube - Night By Night - Chromeo - new Chromeo is always good
SeattleDNB Mix Archive
Mod Blog � Music For Riding High - just cuz the bicycle race photo is so great
Ctrl_Alt_Dlt on MySpace Music - Free Streaming MP3s, Pictures & Music Downloads
23five Live Archive - weird dj sets
Made Like a Tree Podcasts

Some visuals :

Galleries Architecture Abandoned Seattle Flour Mill Fubiz�
YouTube - The Mill - video in that same mill
Wojciech Burkot's Photo Galleries at pbase.com - some random photos with bikes
Yskira, The Skira Yearbook of World Architecture
vintage english bikes - bespoke frame makers ; awesome galleries
YouTube - The fastest human powered bicycle
YouTube - Quite - yes we can - gorgeous demo
YouTube - Performance - bicycle spoof rap video ; pretty awesome
YouTube - Angles morts - someone sent me this
RRE Photography - Ryan's photos
Flickr The Zoneplate Pool
Flickr sinosoidal's Photostream
Creep. - a set on Flickr - great photos of urban decay
CGarchitect.com Architectural 3D Awards - nice
Artforms of Nature � subblue

Some diversion :

_A Trip Inside Your Coffee Pot_ - really awesome detailed coffee brewing history
That Which Does Not Kill Me Makes Me Stranger - New York Times - old article about ultra-endurance athlete
Luna Park Seattle History
Life of a Pig - Seattle chef buys pig at birth, photo guide through its life and slaughter
Cheese or Font - so fucking rad - Cheese or Font !
Hideous Belltown - awesome
dschwaz - the title is a link, the post is a picture, fun
Gravel Beach - great blog about PNW beachology
Mountain ranges of the western U.S. - Geography - awesome geography overview of the west
Urban Exploration Resource Forum - US Pacific Northwest
The Physician and Sportsmedicine Knee Pain and Bicycling - good article on bicycle knee pain
The Personal Assistant Thread - something I often considered
REI Half Dome 2 HC Tent at REI.com - awesome tent
Pike Place Market Lunch Crawl - Mouthfuls - these guys ate through every stand in the Pike Market (forum)
Dark Natasha - Adult Gallery - so awesome
nations photo lab - good B&W photo printers
MUTEK News - good electronic music festival in montreal
largehearted boy a music and literature blog
Idle Words 07.2009 - decent blog
Degenerate Art Ensemble - Seattle group, pretty cool
Canon S90 - I'll buy one of these if they ever come out
Calendars - Printfree.com printable monthly, 2009
Brotherhood of b - abandon hope all ye who enter here
Amazon.com Ashley Book of Knots (9780385040259) Clifford Ashley Books - rad
CHDK Wiki - the Canon camera firmware hack thing for old Powershots

Some science :

Why Should Engineers and Scientists Be Worried About Color - about color maps for data visualization
What color is a blackbody - some pixel rgb values
VS .Net 2005, how to disable intellisense...
VR Seattle Blog � Panoramic VR Images of Seattle - boring but useful for environment maps
Visual C++ Team Blog IntelliSense History, Part 1
vision.middlebury.edufloweval - evaluation of optical flow algorithms for computer vision
Theora 1.1 Released Breaking Eggs And Making Omelettes - supposedly new Theora is getting better ?
The Anatomy of Reference Counting � ��Bartosz Milewski�s Programming Cafe
Source Checkout - meshimport - Project Hosting on Google Code
Roundup Recent sketches on concurrency, data design and performance. - macton's posterous
Ranger - Nearest Neighbor Search in Higher Dimensions
PngSuite - the official set of PNG test images - to stress your PNG reader code
Micro-Rendering for Scalable, Parallel Final Gathering
Lost in the Triangles � Blog Archive � Encoding floats to RGBA � the final
Lost in the Triangles � Blog Archive � Compact Normal Storage for small g-buffers
Locality Sensitive Hashing (LSH) Home Page
Humus - Textures - Cubemaps - cubemaps are hard to find, here are some
HaukeHeibelGaussianDerivatives - nice images of the Gaussian derivates used in computer vision
Fractal Explorer Pixel Bender Plugin � subblue
Flicker Free Drawing in Windows - how to draw your shit right in Win32, good stuff
EnterTheSingularity Hierarchical Cone Tracing
Diary Of An x264 Developer � Why so many H.264 encoders are bad
Diary of an x264 Developer Test clips
Crytek GmbH Presentations - the new realtime GI stuff
Cris�s Image Analysis Blog � Blog Archive � Gaussian Filtering
codersnotes.com - Ramblings - Graphics - Papers, please - nice collection
CAVE Projects What is a Good Nearest Neighbors Algorithm for Finding Similar Patches in Images
Blob detection - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Blind source separation and Independent component analysis.
ANN - Approximate Nearest Neighbor Library
Malwarebytes.org - best malware cleaner
A guide and tutorial on using ComboFix - hardcore computer fixer if malwarebytes don't do it


10-12-09 - The Great Recession

In Praise of the Recession

Most people are only looking at the bad side of the recession, but it's also doing a lot of good things. For one thing, I believe that the malfeasances of wall-street have been rather over-stated as the cause of the recession. Yes, they were the straw that broke the camel's back, but the fundamental problem with the US economy is structural and has been building for nearly 40 years : a steady loss of middle class jobs leading to fall in median income, coupled with growth of imports and consumption. We've basically all been living in a fantasy land house of cards where people can get no education (college degree = LOL), have absolutely no skills, do no useful work (being middle men = LOL), and yet live in ridiculous luxury. Well, perhaps that time is over, and that's neither a huge surprise nor a huge tragedy.

People write about the behavioral changes caused by the recession as if giving up ridiculous unnecessary consumption is some kind of crisis. My god I might not be able to buy a new car this year !? WTFBBQ. If you look at the behavorial changes that are being blamed on the recession, things like : eating out less, doing more work at home, not using gardners or nannies, buying less new things, sewing, repairing, kids seeing parents being domestic, reduced work hours - these are all positive steps towards a simpler more home oriented life that will benefit all of us in the long term.

These are all changes that we should be making anyway, because our natural resources and our population growth will not tolerate the continuation of our lifestyles of constant disposable consumption. But people don't respond well to gradual changes. Over all these years that income growth has not matched inflation, people should have been simplifying, cutting back, but of course they don't. They need a punch in the nose. People respond to shocks - in fact they generally over react. The general pattern of human behavior is : ignore obvious warnings, ignore obvious warnings, oh shit something happened, severely overreact. Well, IMO we needed a big correction, so yay.

I think most Americans still aren't facing up to the reality of our humbler future. They think of this recession as a temporary setback, and afterward they'll go back to being an unskilled "loan officer" in a local bank and make $200k a year. No, most of you won't. America has very little advantage over the rest of the world, and in many crucial areas (education, IT infrastructure, energy infrastructure) we are way behind. Yes, I believe Wall Street will be just fine and traders will go back to making megabucks, but that is one small area where we do have an advantage, and the rest of you will not benefit from that.

The future of America is even further income inequality than we have now, with an even smaller upper class. The lucky few at the top will still be massively successful, but most Americans will be worthless cogs that scrape by an existance by scooping up the scrabs that fall from the table of the rich.

As our country falls into the shitter, we upper class need to think about how we are going to preserve a nice place to live for ourselves, and stop worrying about the rabble - they are already lost.

One issue is the blight of fallow properties. Seattle has not been terribly hard hit by this recession, but even we suffer now from vacant lots and half-finished construction projects, empty condos, vacant homes, etc. These badly hurt the neighborhood. It seems pretty easy to fix, you simply make some "use it or lose it" laws like Brazil : empty vacant lots that sit undeveloped become city property and then are either converted to parks or auctioned. Empty apartments and condos and homes are forced to sell at auction (to someone who will actually live in them, not absentee owners for speculation).

Another issue is that all the cool broke artist kids are being driven out of desirable neighborhoods. In the future America in which only the top 1% can afford to live decent lives, we don't want to exclude the young beautiful fresh blood. The easiest way to fix this is to make subsidized housing for hot young people. We should construct and provide hip urban lofts as low income housing, but rather than the current low income qualifications, require applicants to submit nude photos and write a condescending music review for pitchfork.

Another big issue is health care - we need to make sure that the massive burden of keeping alive the rabble is not too much of a drain on the wealthy. In particular we need to find a way to change the expectations of the rabble so that the idea that they deserve to be completely healthy throughout their lives and kept alive as they get old is out of their heads. If someone poor in China gets a disease, they don't expect to get treatment, they hope it passes, and might ask the doctor for some drugs to ease their pain as they die. That's a massive competitive advantage that China has.

10-12-09 - Some Food Notes

The NYT magazine this week is one of the worst ever; I guess it's going linearly downward all the time so it's not surprising that each week seems to be worse than the last. Every article these days is either "duh" or "so" ("duh" = my god that's so fucking obvious why bother writing about it, or "so" = that may or may not be true but it's so fucking irrelevant or provincial that I care not). Anyway :

My god I am so fucking sick of hearing retards talk about food and diets. If you all actually want to eat healthy, it's fucking stonkeringly simple - just eat natural foods with a variety of nutrients, listen to your body, don't eat all the processed poisoned shit, don't eat out much. But you don't actually want to be healthy, you want to obsess over stupid shit like new research in fucking omega-tryptolic-beta-lythogens and fucking calorie deprivation for life extension and whatever other useless fucking irrelevant distraction you can use this week to keep from just doing the very simple and obvious thing that we all know is right.

A delicious soda for adults :

Fill glass with mineral water and ice. Real mineral water is key, it should have a nice bitter minerally flavor, not mild.

3 drops vanilla extract.

One half to one teaspoon of simple syrup, depending on your sweet tooth.


Optional : garnish with mint.

On Wine Aeration (is it hooey?) : We talked about this at cantinetta ; interestingly there now seems to be some debate :

Wine certainly contains lots of sensitive flavinoids that change under oxidation :


this straightdope article seems to repeat the old "common wisdom" that wine exposed to air changes flavor because it oxidizes :


however, some modern experts claim that is basically nonsense, that the reactions aren't fast enough, and alcohol and tannin are both anti-oxidants and preservatives that stop that process. They claim the only things you actually get out of aeration are evaporation of ethanol and sulfides , which lead you to conclude the wine is "smoother" (less alcohol) and less "harsh" (sulfur smell)



they leave no conclusion about whether something like the penny + decanter method would give you appreciable oxidation in a few minutes swirling.

Had a fun day taking Thatcher around town. I still have yet to see a single Salmon in the fish ladder even though I've gone a few times when it's supposed to be season.

Cafe Besalu in Ballard has some fantastic pastries. Crispy buttery, not too sweet, maybe the best in Seattle, but I'm holding out that judgement until I try them again. Sadly the coffee is just disgusting piss. My god. Ballard is gentrifying fast and is now the best neighborhood for bakeries. There's a new cute mini-neighborhood around 70th & 14th that features Honoray (Honore) bakery, Caprice Kitchen and the new pizza place Delancey.

Delancey is the pizzeria opened by Orangette which means I'm boycotting it. Oh your fucking food blog is so fucking precious. Let's see, Brandon works the wood fire, makes the dough, rolls the pizzas, travelled the country to figure out the dough, and you ... throw on some toppings that are widely considered boring and what are holding back the pizzas ? Good for you.

Fortunately Ballard also has the charmingly un-pretentious Veraci which is maybe the best pizza in Seattle. They also have a cool page about their ovens

A week ago we went to Cantinetta. Review : the pastas are very good, house made, well sauced, not overcooked like most fresh pasta; they're pretty straightforward, just very well balanced, very nicely salted. The apps were also very nice. The secondi (meats) were all pretty boring though decently skillfully made, I would skip them and just get apps/primi. It's a nice neighborhood italian place, but the insane long wait we had to endure was not really worth it. On the other hand, I guess it is miles ahead of any other italian place in Seattle, so maybe it is worth it. Desserts were terrible, like they should be ashamed, really fucking bad. Oh it's actually quite cheap by modern restaurant standards, if you avoid the crazy expensive wine list that is.

Harvest Vine : pretty fanastic Spanish small plate place (not tapas). I recommend sitting at the bar and going on a Wednesday or some night that's not too crowded. Order a few things, watch what the chefs are making for other people and ask them what it is and order what looks good. You will need a lot of plates, it's not cheap, expect to spend $100 per person. Avoid the cold plate appetizers, stick with the freshly cooked hot foods.

Black Bottle : the food is basically shit here. It's a Belltown popped collar cougar / sorority trash whore pickup scene. Avoid.

Spur : It was disappointing. Every plate has some gel or foam on it. I'm not inherently opposed to gels and foams, but these were generally badly made and often unnecessary; they had too much xantham gum or whatever they use, it make them too thick and sticky and tasteless. The food is all well designed, there are good interesting flavor combinations, but the execution and ingredients are just a little bit below the level they need to be, which makes everything a bit disappointing. We also ordered 6 plates and they brought 5 all at once and then realized they were firing too fast and held the last one (it's really hard to find a place that will give you a properly paced dining experience here).

On the plus side, the cocktails are amazing, like maybe the best in Seattle. They're interesting, all of them are slight twists on classic flavors, but not *too* interesting, the basic delicious booze flavor shines through (unlike Licorous which is very interesting but too weird, too much lavender and thyme and molasses and craziness at Licorous). The fried hominy snack was also out of this world.

Recommended for great drinks and a snack, not for dinner.

Oh, and the sous vide quail egg was good, but again not mind blowing. It basically comes out like a very nicely soft boiled egg, but perfectly evenly cooked through, so it is soft and custardy but cooked. I stand by my belief that sous vide is really a treat for the chef (because it makes things easier), not for the diner (because you can get the same results or better without the sous vide). (there's a funny flap in Seattle right now because the health department just realized that "sous vide" involves holding food right in the danger zone of temperatures for a very long time, which means it is technically illegal; to legally use sous vide a restaurant needs an additional industrial food processing permit, which of course none of them have).

jesus if you drink 10 cups of 16 oz decaf coffee you may get the same amount of caffeine as one 8 oz cup of regular. So if you drink 20X the volume you might get the same caffeine. Holy fucking news flash.


10-09-09 - Misc

I just rebuilt my old LZP exes with VC 2005. No code changes at all. (the last build was 98-99 , I think that was VC6) I was a little shocked at the file size difference :

w:\exe>ziplist lzpexes_old.zip
Archive:  lzpexes_old.zip
 Length    Date    Time    Name
 ------    ----    ----    ----
  53248  10-20-99  11:18   lzp1asm.exe
  45056  12-08-98  13:24   lzp1.exe
  65536  12-08-98  13:25   lzp2.exe
  45056  12-08-98  13:29   lzp3.exe
  41472  10-10-98  18:13   lzp3o2d.exe
  60857  10-10-98  18:13   lzp3o2.exe
 ------                    -------
 311225                    6 files

w:\exe>ziplist lzpexes.zip
Archive:  lzpexes.zip
 Length    Date    Time    Name
 ------    ----    ----    ----
  90112  10-12-09  13:07   lzp1.exe
 102400  10-12-09  13:07   lzp2.exe
 102400  10-12-09  13:07   lzp2d.exe
 217088  10-12-09  13:15   lzp3.exe
 217088  10-12-09  13:15   lzp3d.exe
 192512  10-12-09  13:15   lzp3o2.exe
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One of the first ads in the IEEE magazine this month is for NVidia Tesla rack-mount server blades. I'm not sure who exactly is buying these GPU computers but apparently somebody is. They're obviously awesome in terms of flops per watt, which is the real important metric, but there aren't that many applications that can get a good win from them currently (almost all of those applications are some kind of finite element simulation).

It is interesting the way parallelism and GPU computing have brought us back to brute force. It's sort of like how doing custom clever hardware keeps getting beat by cheap off the shelf cobbled together parts, similarly doing custom clever software can now be easily beat by just doing brute force and going wide. For example, I've been looking at some fancy high-dimensional nearest neighbor acceleration structures such as approximate KD tree searches, BD trees (box decomposition) and VP trees (vantage point) (see the nice free packages ANN or Ranger ). They in fact do work great on single cores, but you can beat them easily by just doing dumb brute force and going super wide.

People are so selfish and unashamed. There's this weird intersection where Rainier Ave hits Jackson and 14th and turns into Boren that I go through most days on my way home. Yes, it's kind of weird there, I grant that. But I've seen three different times now some jackass gets confused and is in the wrong lane, like he's in the left lane and suddenly realizes he needs to turn right - and the jackass either slams on his brakes and puts on his turn signal and stops in the middle of flowing traffic, or just cuts right across dense traffic to make the turn anyway.

WTF. You fucked up, you got confused, you were in the wrong lane - you don't get to turn now ! Fucking go past and pull out of traffic and get your shit together and come back when you can make the turn without fucking stopping in the road. I just don't understand how someone can think that's okay. You fucked up, now you have to eat the pain yourself. You don't inflict your fuckup on the rest of the world. I miss turns myself from time to time, but I fucking keep going and circle back around, I don't make other people suffer for my mistake. It's fucking selfish and inconsiderate.

Similarly, if you are a fucking tard who sucks at parallel parking, don't try to do it on a busy street where you jam up a million people waiting for your dumb ass to pull in and out over and over while you fail to park. You should be ashamed of your suckitude and you should pull off the arterial route so you can park in privacy and not inconvenience us all.


10-06-09 - Automatic Timed Reset

File under : "Shit that's so obvious I've thought about it for a long time but not considered it worth writing" , sub-category "you all fucking suck so bad let me tell you how to do your jobs".

Lots of things should have automatic delayed resets. What I mean is various settings should be temporary and restore themselves to default or previous after some time elapses. You should of course be able to choose the time. You shouldn't have to remember to restore them when you're done with whatever temporary thing you wanted to do. Some examples :

Telling the radar detector to shut up. This should be a button that's like "shut up for 5 minutes" and you can push it again to add time. Instead because this button doesn't exist, you wind up just turning it off, and then you forget that you turned it off and suddenly you have a ticket.

Turning off the smoke alarm while you cook. Duh. This is a great example of how good user interface controls make a product *radically* more functional - not just a small improvement. In many places that I've lived, I've had to just completely disable the smoke detector near the kitchen because it's too sensitive and goes off any tiem I cook. That means it's not functioning at all. If it had a convenient button to say "shut up for 1 hour" I would hit that instead of disabling it, and it would actually provide a service.

EFT authorizations. When you give someone your bank routing number to be able to pull money out of your account it should clearly be a short-term access code that has an automatic expiration date on it, so you can say here's an access number that will last a year. That way after a year I don't have to remember to make sure they aren't still pulling money from me. (some kind of public key / private key thing here is also obvious; your bank account number should be a private key you never give out; you should give out a public key which people can use to send you "messages" (transactions))

WiFi access points. Obviously any time you hit "okay" to log in to some random wifi at a coffee shop or something that should have a timed lease on it that automatically expires. It should be "okay allow access and remember this for 1 hour".

etc. etc. basically any time you do something and think "oh gosh I'm gonna have to remember to undo that in an hour" it means your life is being shit on by bad usability designers.


10-05-09 - Body Fixing

I think I wrote this before (?) but it's been crystallizing in my head more. In the past few weeks I've been really busy and exhausted and have been slacking about maintaining my good body habits, and now my back is killing me and my scap is winging again and I'm a wreck. The thing is, I've kept doing the massage and PT for the most part, but I lost the most important piece of all : maintaining good body usage patterns throughout the day. With that preamble I give you :

The three step process to fixing musculo-structural problems in your body :

1. Tearing down. In this step you try to break your body out of the trap of the old bad habits. You may have pinched nerve pain which is causing you to hunch in weird ways - so first of all you need to ice it and take NSAIDs or whatever to just temporarily make that go away. You probably have tight ropey knotted muscles, so get massage. You probably need to stretch parts that are over-shortened.

This step is crucial, but it actually does nothing to fix the problem or make it go away. You are just trying to temporarily clean the slate so that you can build up again without the bad patterns from the past. If you don't use that clean slate to move on to step 2, it's completely temporary and pointless.

2. Building up. In this step you try to build new patterns and muscles that will hold your body in the right way. This is your Physical Therapy appointment, your home therapy, your exercise, your yoga, etc. This is an hour a day of making your body do the moves very consciously using the right muscles and the right posture and the right sequencing of muscles. If you just go through the moves without being mindful about *how* you are doing them, it's pointless. The point is not to get stronger, it's to retrain which muscles fire for certain motions. Even simple things like sitting up in a chair you need to train your body to do it with the right posture and muscles.

This requires a lot of concentration because if you stop being mindful for a moment, your body will fall back into old habits which it has learned over many years. You have to remember that muscle control and balance and posture and so on mostly go through your reflexive lizard brain, which is really dumb and is trained through repetition. By sitting at a desk have trained your lizard for many years, for many hours every day, to do exactly the wrong thing. If you stop focusing for a second, the lizard takes over and does it's thing. You can use your conscious mind to take over the muscles and override the lizard. You have to do that frequently enough that it starts to pick up the habit on its own. Doing the Physical Therapy once a day is only partly about strengthening, it's as much about the repetition which gives us :

3. Rehabituation : changing your habits. The most important step is adopting the new pattern in your daily life, every hour of every day. The hour a day of physical therapy is a start, but if you do an hour of PT and then go back to bad habits for the rest of the day you will make no progress. Again the PT is pointless unless you use it as a jumping off point to rehabituation : using the right muscles and doing the new body patterns every day for hours.

The real point of this whole process is #3. #1 and #2 are just steps to get to #3. If you don't put in the real effort to rehabituate and make the new patterns the norm in your daily life, then it's all for nought. A lot of people will be in pain and then just get massage, and of course there's no long term benefit. Maybe they'll take the next step and go to a PT and do the exercises, but then every day they go back to old patterns and gain there's no long term benefit. You have to do it all, and you have to really commit to #3 every single day.


10-03-09 - How to Ride a Bike

I've been meaning to write this for a while, but keep losing my motivation. Well Fucking Dave Moulton posted in my blog so I decided it was time. This is a guide mainly for beginners to correct what I believe are common mistakes. I know it's pointless, nobody who could benefit will read this and get it, but here you go anyway :

1. How to sit . Before you start trying to move you need to know how to sit. You should not be sitting on your ass like a ton of bricks. You are doing something physical - engage your muscles! The saddle (sic. "seat") of a bicycle should carry maybe 20% of your weight; your hands should get 20% and your legs should get 60%. I think the best way to feel how you should be sitting on a bike is actually to get off the bike and get into the position that a sprinter gets in at the start of the race : squat down with your legs apart, put your two hands in front of you, now extend your legs and arch your back - that's a biking position.

Many people incorrectly think that they need to sit upright for their "back". Nonsense. Upright is actually very hard on your back, and if you sit with your weight on the seat it means you are transmitting every bump in the road straight into your spine. It's actually much more natural for your spine to be arched. Imagine yourself like a cat, your spine is bent, it has springy energy, when a bump in the road shocks you it just flexes the bow of your body a bit, no big deal (a proper biking position is kind of like the cat back position in yoga). (upright bicycle sitting is good if you have a bad *neck* - the forward leaning bicycle position while actually good for the back is bad for the neck when you look upward with it).

Never ever lock your elbows or your knees and just rest with them locked. They should be slightly bent at all times. Your muscles should always be engaged so that you are a big arch of muscles - never resting on bones or joints. You should be light on your feet with tension in your legs and your weight on your feet, not your seat - you should be able to "post" out of your saddle like an English style horse rider at any time. The way you make your ride soft is not by buying a big padded seat (which is very bad for you) it's by posting out of your saddle and turning your body into a bow.

Obviously you can't sit correctly if your bike doesn't fit you. This is too big of a topic for to cover in depth here, but I'll say a few things. Many road bikes sold to the casual market have way too big of a drop from the saddle to the handlebars. For casual riders you actually want the bars and the saddle pretty close to equal height. Sadly most bike shops either sell ridiculous casual bikes that are way too upright or racing bikes that have way too much drop, it's hard to find a comfortable efficient road bike but it's getting a bit better these days.

(aside) : Another issue with fit that I'll mention because most shops fail on this so hard : presumably you are a beginner or a semi-amateur like myself that goes in an out of shape; if you are buying a bike you are probably not in great biking shape at the time that you buy it, but you will be riding yourself into shape over the course of a season. As you get into better shape, you will want a different position on the bike, a more aggressive drop, perhaps a more powerful saddle position. What this means is you need some room to adjust in your bike sizing. You should never buy a bike that just barely fits you, or where you have to put the seat all the way down to the frame to make it low enough, or all the way up to the end of the seatpost to make it tall enough. It's important that you get a frame that is comfortable now in a more relaxed position, but has room to adjust towards more aggressive and still fit you. In general if you're deciding between a frame that's a bit too big (so there's very little exposed seatpost) or too small (lots of exposed seatpost) it's better to go with the frame that's too small, because you do have some ability to make it "act bigger" through the stem and seatpost, but you can never get smaller than the frame limits.

The other big issue is how your saddle contacts your body. You should feel the contact on your sit bones. You should not be sitting on the nose of the saddle with it jammed into your taint. The nose of the saddle is not for sitting on, it's for guiding you on and off the saddle when you post in and out of the saddle. When you sit back onto the saddle you should feel your sit bones contact the two padded wings near the back of the saddle (but not so far back that your thighs run into the saddle when you pedal). Your pelvic bone should be pretty close to vertical - not tilted way forward so that you are jamming your gonads into the saddle. Your gonads should basically not be contacting the saddle at all; you'll hear beginners say "ow it hurts my balls to sit on those hard skinny race saddles" ; well dumbass you're not supposed to sit *on* your balls. When you lean forward to reach the handlebars it should come from arching your back, not rotating your hips - your pelvis should stay vertical. Note that saddles are not one size fits all ; you should get a saddle that is the correct width for your pelvis and sit bones (women in particular should usually have non-standard saddles, but so should men with unusually wide or narrow hips).

You need to get comfortable in "ready position". When coasting, get your pedals level with each other, stand up on them so your butt is just barely off the saddle. Hold your bars with both hands, elbows and knees should be bent, back should be arched. This is the position where you have the most control of the bike and are ready for anything. This is how you should go over bumps, this is how you should be when you might need to brake hard, when you're around dangerous traffic, etc. Any time you are riding you should be able to post up into ready position at any moment.

2. How to brake . This is perhaps the biggest mistake that I see beginners make and maybe the most important because good braking is critical to surviving.

You stop yourself with the front brake. To stop quickly, you need to pull it *hard*. You need to get comfortable with this before you go riding at all, because when that car or pedestrian jumps out in front of you, you should be able to stop from high speed fast. Lots of beginners go off riding fast and can't stop themselves and it's a huge mistake. You need to hold the handlebar hard while you brake, your hand should wrap around the brake and the handlebar and you squeeze them together.

Beginners are afraid of pulling the front brake hard because they are not in good control of their bike. First of all, learn to sit right and be comfortable in "ready position". Now, when you brake really hard, hold the handlebars firm with both hands so they can't twist. The bike is going to stop suddenly which is going to fling your body weight forward and try to throw you off over the front of the bike. If you are in ready position and using your muscles that's not really a problem, it's only bad if your body is limp or your limbs are locked and you're just sitting on the saddle. When you jam on your front brake, you should push forward with both your arms, sort of like a push-up movement, but to push your body weight backwards towards the back of the bike; this braces against the momentum that will try to send your body over the front; you also want to crouch down on your legs to lower your body weight.

You should practice stopping with only the front brake to make sure you are comfortable with it. In the dry you are not going to skid on your front tire ever - you will skid on the back very easily which is why you don't use it for hard stops. You should be able to stop from 20 mph in about 10 feet. If you can't do that, you need to practice jamming on your front brake harder. To brake really hard when going fast, you want to get your hands down in the front vertical part of the drops, get your weight up on your legs and crouch down and move your bodyweight back to get ready. Don't go fast unless you can brake properly when going fast.

3. How to pedal . Now that you know how to sit and brake you can start thinking about moving. The first issue is how to pedal.

First make sure your leg is moving through the proper range of motion. Your seat should be at the right height so that your leg can extend almost all the way in the down-stroke, but not so that your knee straightens completely or you have to reach with your tip toes or sway your hips. Your hips should stay level, your knee should stay bent at all times, and your foot should stay roughly flat the whole time (a tiny bit of "walking" motion is okay). Again one issue here is getting the bike sized right for you; to some extent you can adjust this by raising or lowering the seat if that works with the rest of the bike geometry; however one issue that is often not addressed is the length of pedal crank arms; people with shorter legs should have shorter cranks so that their knees are not coming up too high at the top of the stroke.

The next big issue is cadence (how often the pedals go around). You want to be pedaling at least 60 rpm generally. Amateurs often pedal very slow cadence in heavy gears and have to stand up in get their weight into it to turn the pedals over. You want your pedalling motion to be a circle, not pounding like pistons that only push in the downstroke. You want to feel like your feet are just constantly whooshing around in fast circles.

4. How to ride with cars . If you're riding in the city you need to know how to be a safe rider around cars. Your main concern should be your own safety.

The most important thing is being predictable and visible. There are a few things that amateurs do really wrong.

First of all, you should ride in straight lines as much as possible. This makes it clear the line you are taking. In particular, do not weave in and out of parked cars. A lot of amateurs are scared of traffic and want to stay as far to the right of the road as possible, so they will weave in to the right when there's a gap at a driveway or whatever. This is a very bad thing to do. Pick a consistent straight line and stick to it.

Second, claim your space. Make yourself visible and take the road when you need to. Don't worry about blocking cars if you have to. For example if you see up ahead that there's a branch in the bike lane or something, don't try to just barely skate around it and leave the lane for cars. Instead pick a safe time and pull out all the way into the middle of the car lane and claim the space visibly until you pass the branch. Don't wait until the last minute before an obstacle and swerve to avoid it - claim the space early and make it clear what line you will be taking.

Don't be afraid of the cars that are moving along beside you. They are actually the least of your worries (but do worry about them if they are braking or moving erratically as it indicated they are trying to parallel park through you or turn right across you). Do be afraid of parked cars - don't ride too close to parked cars or driveways. Generally being out in the middle of the road where you are visible and can see other moving cars is the safest area to be. Being near obstacles and things that block vision like buildings or parked cars is the worst place to be.

Remember to watch the road conditions and be vigilant and don't be afraid to defend yourself and inconvenience cars. Most of my worst crashes have been due to junk in the road that I hit because I was watching the cars, or I was trying to be polite to the cars and was riding in the shoulder or the gutter or something.

5. How to shift . I won't say much on this (see Sheldon on Shifting ) but two things that I see almost all beginners mess up :

First, bikes are designed for you to use the front & rear derailleur in tandem, not just one or the other. You should think of the chain as wanting to always be parallel to the bike. You want to shift such that the chain moves directly sideways either inwards towards the bike (lower, easier gears) or outwards (higher, harder gears). The chain does not want to be at an angle to the bike. So, you should use the small front chainring for the lower (larger) gears on the back, then as you shift up through the sprockets on the cassette (in the rear) at some point near the middle you should then pop up to the larger harder front chainring, then finish shifting up through the sprockets on the back until the chain is all the way to the outside.

Second, your front derailleur almost certainly has a "feathering" adjustment capability of some kind. What this means is that the movement of the front derailleur is not digital - it's not just on the small chainring or the big chainring in a fixed binary state. You can "feather" the front derailleur to move it slightly without shifting to the other state. This lets you move the derailleur cage so that it doesn't hit the chain. Any time you are "cross gearing" at all (small front chainring to small real sprocket or big-to-big) (cross gearing is bad, it's the angled chain that I said to avoid in the first section) you can use the feathering to keep the front derailleur cage from rubbing on the chain.

A properly adjusted bike should be almost silent. If your gears make a lot of noise as you shift, either you are doing something wrong or it is out of adjustment.

old rants