September 30, 2004

New home for Miranda photos

I've moved the photos of Miranda to a new location. Some of you may have seen the photos of Miranda that I posted online at At the time, I thought it was an adequate online service to allow people to view photos, and also order prints if they so chose.

I also dabbled with posting photos to a free hosting service. However, I had to create the interface for viewing the photos, and the process was somewhat cumbersome and time consuming. Each time I decided to add a photo, I had to recreate and upload the entire photo album: photos, pages, thumbnails, and all.

Then, Ofoto recently informed me via e-mail that unless I purchased a print from them, they would shut down my account and delete my photos on September 30.

Bye bye, Ofoto.

I then came across Flickr, a promising new service that combines photo sharing abilities with other social networking type features. So, I've moved the photos that were on Ofoto to Flickr.

I find it's best to use the "next in set" and "prev in set" picture buttons on the right hand side to navigate, as that will take you through the pictures in the order that I've specified. The forward and backward buttons above the photo take you through the pictures in the order I've uploaded them in Flickr (what they call my "Photostream"), which may or may not be in any sort of logical order.

Let me know if you like using Flickr, there are some things I really like about it (like a cool slideshow feature), and some things that I find confusing (like the above mentioned navigation).

September 24, 2004

Chinese Grand Prix

Chinese Grand Prix at the Shanghai International Circuit []

The inaugural Chinese Grand Prix kicks off this weekend as the newest race on the Formula One calendar, joining Bahrain as first time races on this season's calendar. As an American-born Chinese (ABC, Banana, Twinkie, what have you) I can't say I am that closely tied to the land of my ancestors, but there are still some residual feelings of nationalism whenever China is mentioned in the world arena. Or at least in an apolitical world arena. It's times like these when say "Hey, China and the Chinese can [do|be|put on] a kick-ass [whatever]." It's like how we all rooted for Michael Chang in the late 80s and early 90s, even if we had no previous interest in tennis whatsoever.

I continue to be amazed at myself for feeling as I do about Jacque Villenueve's return to F1. I've never really rooted for him, and despite his World Championship in '97, never gave much respect to him as a driver, either. I didn't follow F1 back then, and when I did start following it in 2000 he had signed with the nascent BAR team and was struggling to score points. Still, I find myself cheering his return, and anxious to see him do well this weekend. Maybe it's just the terminally robotic Schumacher always giving his slight grin while answering questions at press conferences, but F1 has sorely lacked personalities ever since JV left. We could use Eddie Irvine back, too, but I don't think that'll be happening anytime soon. Anyway, it's good to see JV back in action. And in a Renault!

Anyway, back to the Shanghai race: The circuit looks really interesting. I've only looked at the map and at some photos, but the drivers have been giving it raves. The first corner (or two) in particular looks very different from any other first corner on the F1 calendar, and while the first complex (turns 1-3) is slightly reminiscent of Malaysia, the steadily decreasing radius turns 1-2 (>270 deg. !) will certainly make for an interesting first corner at the start. The Turn 5 kink will prevent any serious overtaking opportunities at 6. Then it's a couple of high speed sweepers before what look to be essentially a double apexer at 9-10, although it's hard to tell from the map.

Following a short straight comes a critical complex at 11 and 12. You probably have to get these just right, as turn 13 is a slightly banked increasing radius turn that opens up onto the back straight, the longest straight on the circuit, capped by the tightest hairpin. This is probably where most of the overtaking will take place, but you won't be in position unless you get turns 11 and 12 right. Turn 13 is a blind apex left hander that leads onto the start/finish straight.

I don't know how much overtaking will happen at the end of the start/finish straight into turn 1, because, as I've said, it's a couple of turns with profiles not seen before in F1. If it's wide enough through 2 and 3, you could see some inside/outside maneuvering for position.

I'll end this by saying all my comments here are based on track map inspection, grainy photos, and driver comments only. I've yet to watch Friday practice broadcast on the Speed Channel.

Trivia note: The Shanghai circuit, penned by Herman Tilke, the architect of Maylaysia, Bahrain, and the emasculated Hockenheim, was designed to mimic the Chinese word "Shang"(), which is the first word in Shanghai and means "above" or "up."

September 20, 2004

The Home Computer of 2004

A picture of a "typical" home computer in the year 2004 "...with teletype interface and FORTRAN!"

Brain Teaser of the Day

Petals Around the Rose Figure out how the score is calculated, and "become a member of the Fraternity of Petals Around the Rose. Also, read what happened when Bill Gates was introduced to Petals Around the Rose in June 1977. How he tackled this brain teaser is an interesting insight into the man at the helm of Microsoft."

I'm pleased to note that I figured it out in much less time than Bill Gates.

Note: It is disappointing that this version does not work on Mozilla Suite or Firefox. I'll have to adapt it. Google for other versions of this game if you run Mozilla or Firefox.

September 17, 2004

JV to test for Renault

Renault: 'Jarno's out & Jacques is in' [] "...the team finally admitted on Tuesday evening that [Trulli's] departure is imminent. And that Jacques Villeneuve could be his replacement."

In following Formula 1 for the past few years, one thing I've come to realize is that no sport offers more in the way of media spin than F1. You think MLB or the NFL is bad with disingenuous injury reports? That's nothing compared to the spin that F1 teams put out.

Just yesterday Renault was adamantly denying that Trulli's race seat was in jeopardy, and dismissed it as "pure media speculation." Now, it appears that Trulli is done with Renault (he's off to Toyota, I believe, in 2005), and that Jacques Villeneuve is being fitted for a race seat and will test this week. If he performs even just competently, expect to see him in the R24 for the Chinese Grand Prix on 26 Sep.

Renault's line-up for 2005 is confirmed, so this isn't a prelude to a long term deal between JV and Renault. But it could be the springboard for JV landing a race seat elsewhere in 2005. If BAR lose Jensen Button, they'll need a driver, but I can't see JV going back there after they sacked him at the end of 2004. He probably also won't want to go to backmarker teams such as Jordan or Sauber or Minardi.

One interesting possibility is Jaguar, which has been totally underwhelming this season, but is rumoured to be rebranded as the Ford team for next year. I'd be willing to bet Ford would like to have one of only two F1 drivers recognizable to North American race fans, the other being Juan Pablo Montoya, moving from Williams to McLaren next year.

I know F1 would like to have more of a North American presence, and there has always been talk of a North American-based team with North American-based drivers. You can't get a better start on that than Ford + JV.

UPDATE (Sep 15 2004, 12:00PM): Jacques Villeneuve has signed to drive for Sauber for 2005! Could this be a calculated attempt to land Michael Schumacher's Ferrari seat after his contract expires in 2006?

Also, it would appear that Jaguar will not be re-branded as a Ford factory team next year. Instead, they are looking to Ford for a budget increase to allow them to be more competitive with the front runners.

UPDATE 2 (Sep 17 2004, 11:00AM): Well, Jaguar is no more. Ford is pulling the plug on the Jag F1 team (see bottom of press release) as it seeks to shore up the flagging Jaguar brand. So much for the hope of Ford's involvement in getting an American-based F1 team up and running. I have to say I'm pretty disappointed by this action. Ford is undoubtedly the US' most admired racing marque, and to see them pull out of F1 (as well as cut its sponsorship to Cosworth) is depressing to see.

September 14, 2004

Getting Ready For The Addition

While we haven't committed to anything yet, we do believe we're getting close to signing a contract and having work begin on our new addition.

To this end, we've cut down 3 trees in the backyard to make room. It's made the backyard much sunnier, yet at the same time there's a more desolate feel to it compared to the intimacy that the cover of the erstwhile 3 trees provided.

We had talked to some people about the bid process, and one acquaintance of mine said that the 3 bids for his remodel project all came back at pretty much the same number. Not so with us. There was a pretty wide variation in terms of the bids we got back.

All the advice we've read (like This Old House magazine) have said to reject the lowball bid. Bit our low bid was so attractive price-wise that we could not ignore it.

The premise behind rejecting the low bid is that the contractor is probably taking some shortcuts to arrive at that price point, or is desperate for work. However we don't believe that to be the case here. We know that he is in the early stages of another sizable project. Also, in our dealings with the bid process, he has been the most detailed and organized of the 3. He was previously an engineer, so we believe that his meticulous preparation allows him to spec a job with more detail and accuracy than the others, who have probably built in a sizable safety margin to protect themselves.

If things go according to plan, we probably will start the project in a matter of weeks. Check out a previous post for details on what we're going to do.

September 11, 2004

Tribute In Light Panorama

Tribute In Light to honor victims of September 11, 2001 - Fullscreen QTVR Panorama

Here's a Quicktime panorama of the Tribute In Light, taken from street level looking straight up. Pan up from the initial view to get the best view.

September 07, 2004

Having Kids Lowers Your IQ

Indiana University study: having children significantly lowers parents’ IQs []: "People who before were intelligent and open-minded turn into raving lunatics who want to blame a teacher or coach every time their mediocre child fails"

As if it wasn't bad enough that I feel I am half as smart as I was in high school and college, now comes word that being a parent lowers one's IQ even further. The article has a kind of The Onion-essay parody flavor to it, so it's hard to know whether to take the Hoosier Gazette seriously. I'll have to look on i's site to see if there's a press release on the research findings.

It would be interesting to see if it is merely the loss of objectivity that is the basis for the reduction in IQ, or if there is a psychological effect that lowers IQ across the board.

But a loss in objectivity in one particular area does not necessarily have to point to a lower IQ. I once listened to a lecture from Nobel Laureate Daniel Chinaman, a cognitive psychologist who observed that most people over estimate their abilities. This was borne out by a question he posed to the audience: "All those who think they are better than average drivers, raise their hands." About half the audience did. Then he asked, "All those who think they are below average, raise their hands." Not one hand went up.

The obvious lesson is: since empirically there must be an equal number of above and below average drivers, this simple experiment proves that people overestimate themselves, or at the very least their driving abilities.

Does this loss of objectivity necessarily have to manifest itself as a lowering of IQ? Does the fact that I think my kid is the best ever have some bearing on my abstract and visual reasoning capabilities? Like I said, it seems very suspect.

UPDATE: According to the Kinsey Institute site [], the article is a hoax. Also, just a little digging by me would have shown that the Hoosier Gazette "was created by a couple of guys who thought it would be fun to create a website that uses both real and fictional news stories to provide a humorous look at life and culture in the state of Indiana." So my "The Onion-esque initial characterization was right on. I still feel dumber than I did 20 years ago, though. :)

September 03, 2004

Revolutionary New Type of Nuclear Reactor Being Built in China

Let a Thousand Reactors Bloom []: "... a new nuclear power facility that promises to be a better way to harness the atom. A reactor small enough to be assembled from mass-produced parts and cheap enough for customers without billion-dollar bank accounts. A reactor whose safety is a matter of physics, not operator skill or reinforced concrete."

Nuclear energy in the US and much of the industrialized West is very much a pariah among energy sources. Accidents at Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, not to mention many a Hollywood movie plot, have cast nuclear energy as an inherently dangerous method of generating energy: an operator misstep away from turning the entire planet into a glowing ball of radiation.

It turns out that it didn't have to be that way. From the very beginning of atomic research, there have existed ways to harness power from atoms without the danger of meltdown and radiation release. But historical decisions and inertia, not physics or science, are what have made all nuclear power plants in the US as dangerous as they are.

Traditional water-cooled designs have fuel rods which are essentially time bombs, prevented from going critical through the use of cooling water and control rods. If you fail to manage the controls rods properly, or let the cooling water drop to expose the fuel rods, you have a major problem.

Essentially, the new reactor design places great emphasis on the design and creation of the fuel elements themselves. The fuel elements are designed and arranged in such a way such that they physically cannot go critical, no matter what. From a safety design perspective, this should be a no-brainer. But for various reasons, this design was not adopted for nuclear power generation.

One beneficial side effect of this design is that it can also be harnessed to generate hydrogen from water. Think of it: an inherently safe, non fossil-fuel, non-greenhouse gas emitting energy source that can also be a catalyst to drive the adoption of non-fossil fuel energy for automobiles and fuel cells.

Yes, there is still the matter of nuclear waste disposal. And it's no small matter. The public also will need to be acclimated to the fact that nuclear energy can be much, much safer than it currently is. But with so many potential positives, I think it's definitely worth pursuing.

Even pre-eminent British environmentalist James Lovelock agrees: "We have no time to experiment with visionary energy sources; civilization is in imminent danger and has to use nuclear, the one safe, available energy source, now, or suffer the pain soon to be inflicted by our outraged planet."

September 01, 2004

Backup Your Backups

Is your data really safer stored digitally? [] "I popped the CD-RW into my PC with the same expectation one gets when cracking open a time capsule. And I got -- I got -- nothing but a Windows error message offering to format the unformatted disc in my PC. Everything I had saved, everything I had disposed of because it was supposedly safe, was gone."

This article highlights a fact for which many people have misconceptions: "digital" does not equal "forever." When CDs first came out in the 80s, people said, "Oh, they're digital, they'll last forever. Not like those pesky vinyl albums and magnetic tapes."

What they really meant to say was: "Oh it's stored in a digital format, so it'll be lossless for the life of the medium." Yes, you won't lose any information as long as the storage medium remains intact.

But now we're coming to realize that CDs and DVDs don't last forever, and this is especially the case with recordable CDs and DVDs: CD-R, CD-RW, and the myriad recordable DVD formats. The dyes in CD-Rs will eventually break down, as will the crystalline recording layer of CD-RWs. Recordable DVD have similar physical degradation issues. The optical media industry itself has estimated recordable optical media lifetime of between 20 and 200 years, though there have been reports that some become unreadable after just 5 years.

The current recommendation is to re-copy those backups to newer media every few years or so. Don't just assume that because it's digital, it's forever.

The article also highlights another less publicized issue: that of format obsolescence, as opposed to physical obsolescence. Got any documents in WordStar format? Or pictures in RLE? What can you use to read them now?

In addition to making sure that your physical media isn't degraded, you also need to be sure that your files can be read by existing software. Sure, JPEG seems like it's been around forever, and will always be here. But can you be so sure that it'll be a standard 50 years from now?