Monday, November 28, 2005

Sunday, November 27, 2005

USATODAY- Portland as a software hub posts a story that claims Portland, Oregon is a new hub of software, particularly open-source software. IBM's lab, Linus Torvalds Open Source Development Lab, and others are all located in Portland.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005 - Google's Growth Helps Ignite Silicon Valley Hiring Frenzy - Google's Growth Helps Ignite Silicon Valley Hiring Frenzy: "Google, which saw its revenue increase more than sixfold to $3.2 billion between 2002 and 2004, is helping lead the latest charge. Its hiring drive began not long after its initial public offering in August 2004. At that time, the company had about 2,600 employees, a fraction of Microsoft's 60,000 employees and Hewlett-Packard Co.'s 150,000. Google grew to more than 3,000 by year end, to nearly 3,500 by March 31, and to just over 4,100 by June 30. As of Sept. 30, the company had 4,989 full-time employees, 87% more than when it went public."

Monday, November 21, 2005

Goat: the other red meat

No Kidding: Americans Acquiring Taste for Goat - Los Angeles Times

Goat experts are quick to cite the meat's nutritional benefits. A 3-ounce serving of roasted goat has about the same calories as an equivalent portion of chicken, but almost a gram less fat. It has the same amount of protein as beef, and about 10% more iron.
Although detailed statistics aren't as abundant for meat goats as in the cattle and pork industries, Texas Cooperative Extension researcher Frank Craddock said in a recent report that domestic goat slaughter rose 81% from 1996 to 2003. Craddock estimates that consumption will jump 42% from 2003 to 2007, when Americans are expected to be consuming 72.2 million pounds of goat meat annually.

Prices range from $6 to $9.50 per pound.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Camcorder decisions

The Panasonic PV GS400 is reviewed as all-around better than my old DV953. lowest price = $959.59

Sony DCR-PC350 goes for $789.

Conclusion from

The Panasonic PV-GS400 beats the Sony DCR-PC350 in my mind. While the camcorders are tied on video quality, with nearly identical reproduction, the PV-GS400 slightly beats out the Sony on low light performance. The Panasonic offers superior manual control, handling, and options. While I would pick the Panasonic over the Sony, I really should note that they virtually tie each other when it comes to performance. If you are a point-and-shoot user, and you don't prize manual control and want a camcorder that's easy to use, the Sony DCR-PC350 is a much better choice.

Consider this HD camera:
Sony HDR HC1 for $1439.95

Boy I'd love to get that one, but HD still suffers from several problems: you need $13 tapes to avoid framedropping, and Pinnacle doesn't support the HDV editing format. I can probably upgrade to HD-capable software, but you still can't burn to a disc.

Stumbling Goat

We visited Stumbling Goat, a bistro on Greenwood Avenue in Seattle, after hearing rave reviews, particularly from foodies who love nothing but the highest-quality ingredients. But when you cook only the freshest ingredients picked in season, the food quality is variable, and unfortunately my visit I think was on the lower end of the scale. The squash soup was excellent, but my entree, an Alaskan cod served with mushrooms and pea vines was, well, yes it was good but I wouldn't say it was outstanding. I tasted some of the duck leg and that was much better. The restaurant décor was well-appointed with fine woodworking -- fine enough that they proudly displayed business cards of Costwold Carpentry at the front desk. Everything was cozy, good-tasting, and worth visiting but I wish we had come in, say, late-Summer or some season when maybe some of the fresh ingredients would have been more to my taste.

Hurricane Katrina: the movie

The National Geographic Online Store
Recommended by my Mom, who saw it on TV. The DVD is available starting 11/15/06.

Recall Notice on Panasonic camera

Remember my broken camcorder? The one I paid $260 to repair, and just received back in the mail?

Well now I see this from Panasonic:Panasonic 3CCD User - Important Recall Notice On PV-DV953 And PV-GS200#post30514

Panasonic has discovered a premature component failure with a limited number of PV-DV953 (2003 Model) and PV-GS200 (2004 Model) 3CCD camcorders, which may cause an abnormal camera picture (incorrect color reproduction, reddish, noisy image, etc). This anomaly is limited to a specific range of serial numbers listed below.

If your camcorder demonstrates the specific symptom and falls within the serial number range, Panasonic will repair the camcorder free of charge.

Please call the following toll-free number for assistance in receiving a free repair:

Panasonic Call Center: 1-800-973-4264

Ask the Iraqis

House spurns calls for immediate Iraq pullout - Conflict in Iraq - "�It is the sense of the House of Representatives that the deployment of United States forces in Iraq be terminated immediately.�"

I think the best idea is to have the Iraqis vote on this. The next election there should include this yes/no referendum: "The Iraqi people call for Coalition troops to leave Iraq within the next 90 days." If a majority says yes, we should stick by their wishes. Then our departure would be way more honorable than under any of the other scenarios being debated.

But what if the Iraqis say no? Of course a lot of people would suspect the result was rigged, so the referendum should also include a promise to hold the same election again regularly. But what would American politicians (particularly on the left) say if it were obvious that most Iraqis want us there?

Saturday, November 19, 2005

CompUSA is selling the The Linksys Wireless-B Media Adapter for only $29, so I couldn't resist anymore and brought one home.

The Linksys Wireless-B Media Adapter lets you bring the digital music and pictures stored on your computer to your Home Entertainment Center, without running cables through the house. Using a wireless connection, the Media Adapter displays your digital photographs on the TV for the whole family to enjoy. And your digital music collection is finally freed from those little computer speakers and can play in full glory through your stereo system.

It's working now, but I had an awful time setting it up. The wireless part worked just fine, but it just sat there displaying the message "Waiting for host" on my TV. After hours of frustration and a long wait on Cisco's telephone support line, I found the culprit: my Windows firewall software. I unblocked the port for the adapter and now it works great.

Friday, November 18, 2005

More lies about Iraq

Hey Bob, hindsight is 20/20. Now we're pretty sure there are no WMD, but if you had been President in the post-9/11 world, would you have been willing to take a chance based on the evidence you saw at the time?

Ignore all the politics for a minute. Of course the Democrats are going to accuse Bush of misleading them--what would you say if you once voted for something you now find was a mistake? It won't fly politically to say "Oops, I'll be more careful next time." Part of the principal of government checks and balances is that Senators are supposed to be able to get access to intelligence information if they feel the administration is misleading them. Did those who voted for the war just blindly believe everything they were spoon fed?

Again, hindsight is 20/20. We'll never know what would have happened if we'd waited on the inspectors report. But one possible outcome that Bush must have been considering is this: the inspectors find nothing, and France/Russia lead a charge to drop sanctions. Today we might have been looking at a world where Saddam & sons were more powerful than ever: no sanctions, huge oil wealth and control, end of no-fly restrictions, and full speed ahead on a quickly reconstituted WMD program.

Rewriting History

Now here's a real scandal involving the rewrite of an important part of our history: [via NYTimes]

The back cover of this children's classic:

is modified in the latest printing to get rid of the cigarette in the author's hand:

Click here if you think this is over-the-top PC.

Bill Clinton lied about Iraq too

The New York Times says Bush lied about Iraq:
It's hard to imagine what Mr. Bush means when he says everyone reached the same conclusion. There was indeed a widespread belief that Iraq had chemical and biological weapons. But Mr. Clinton looked at the data and concluded that inspections and pressure were working

I just looked up on Factiva to see what Bill Clinton thought:
YOU KNOW, I HAVE REPEATEDLY DEFENDED President Bush against the left on Iraq, even though I think he should have waited until the U.N. inspections were over. I don't believe he went in there for oil. We didn't go in there for imperialist or financial reasons. We went in there because he bought the Wolfowitz-Cheney analysis that the Iraqis would be better off, we could shake up the authoritarian Arab regimes in the Middle East, and our leverage to make peace between the Palestinians and Israelis would be increased.
At the moment the U.N. inspectors were kicked out in '98, this is the proper language: there were substantial quantities of botulinum and aflatoxin, as I recall, some bioagents, I believe there were those, and VX and ricin, chemical agents, unaccounted for. Keep in mind, that's all we ever had to work on. We also thought there were a few missiles, some warheads, and maybe a very limited amount of nuclear laboratory capacity.
After 9/11, let's be fair here, if you had been President, you'd think, Well, this fellow bin Laden just turned these three airplanes full of fuel into weapons of mass destruction, right? Arguably they were super-powerful chemical weapons. Think about it that way. So, you're sitting there as President, you're reeling in the aftermath of this, so, yeah, you want to go get bin Laden and do Afghanistan and all that. But you also have to say, Well, my first responsibility now is to try everything possible to make sure that this terrorist network and other terrorist networks cannot reach chemical and biological weapons or small amounts of fissile material. I've got to do that.
That's why I supported the Iraq thing. There was a lot of stuff unaccounted for. So I thought the President had an absolute responsibility to go to the U.N. and say, "Look, guys, after 9/11, you have got to demand that Saddam Hussein lets us finish the inspection process." You couldn't responsibly ignore [the possibility that] a tyrant had these stocks. I never really thought he'd [use them]. What I was far more worried about was that he'd sell this stuff or give it away. Same thing I've always been worried about North Korea's nuclear and missile capacity. I don't expect North Korea to bomb South Korea, because they know it would be the end of their country. But if you can't feed yourself, the temptation to sell this stuff is overwhelming. So that's why I thought Bush did the right thing to go back. When you're the President, and your country has just been through what we had, you want everything to be accounted for.
Time, 6/28/2004

Thursday, November 17, 2005

The Google Story -- An Excerpt From David A. Vise's Book

The Google Story -- An Excerpt From David A. Vise's Book: "Over dinner and plenty of wine in February 2005, Sergey Brin discussed the prospects for genetics and Google with the maverick biologist Dr. Craig Venter. Venter, who had decoded the human genome, was in the midst of gathering oceanic samples from around the world and sending them back to the U.S. for analysis of nature's DNA. Despite millions of dollars in funding and thousands of hours of computing time from the federal Department of Energy, Venter needed more help to unlock the molecular myster- ies of life. It seemed to him that Google's mathematicians, scientists, technologists, and computing power had the potential to vault his research forward. He pressed Brin hard to get Google involved.
Also at the table was Ryan Phelan, chief executive officer of DNA Direct, one of the foremost Internet companies providing individuals with genetic testing and counseling. DNA Direct gets nearly all of its patients through ads it buys on Google. The ads appear to the right of the free search results when users type in 'blood clotting,' 'breast cancer,' 'cystic fibrosis' or certain other diseases. Brin, Venter, and Phelan were among those who had been invited to a dinner of the wealthy and wise at Cibo, a trendy Italian bistro in Monterey, California. Brin had brought along his friend Anne Wojcicki, a health care investor whose sister is a senior executive at Google. Seated nearby was early Google investor Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Amazon.
'What [Venter] was talking about with Sergey was, 'How can you use Google to really help access everything at the genetic level?' ' Phelan recalled. 'What Craig was after was pure raw science. What I was hearing was, 'What if Google was the repository for the distribution of this information?' Serg"

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Cheapest house on Mercer Island

NW Cable News did a report on housing prices in Western Washington, including this property they called the cheapest house for sale on Mercer Island:
$519K for 4BR, 2B.

Compared to California, I'd call that a bargain!

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Whole Foods Market Blog

John Mackey has a Blog : he's the CEO of Whole Foods Market, one of my all-time favorite stores and a wise stock pick I made several years ago that netted me 5x return on investment.

His first post is a debate with Milton Friedman and TJ Rogers about corporate responsibility. I have one question for John Mackey: Your profit margin is an objective, quantifiable way to measure how well you serve your investors, but how do you know what's in the best interest of your community? Say you donate a bunch of money to turn a rundown low-income housing complex into a beautiful new park. Is that good for the community? What if results in a bunch of people no longer having a place to live? Is that good for the community? What if the only people who are displaced are crack dealers?

That to me is the biggest hole in the corporate responsibility argument. What's truly good for the community is almost always good for a corporation in that community.

Here's a test of whether Mackey is truly a believer: give away your money anonymously. If it's so good for your community, it shouldn't matter that you get the credit. If anything, the recognition you gain is cheapening your intent. So stop telling everyone how responsible you are, and do it anonymously.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Sound Door Service

Our garage door wouldn’t open, leaving our car trapped inside. We called Sound Door Service at 10pm and got an instant quote and appointment for the next morning. “First thing” starts at 8am for them, which is fine.

Our serviceman, Joel, was super-friendly and helpful. He worked quickly and efficiently, and went out of his way to explain what he was doing so I can do it next time. He really knows doors, suggesting which parts would make it last longer and showing me how to do future maintenance. As a bonus, he even fixed (no charge!) the keyless entry system that we havent been able to get working.

He charged about $350 to replace the spring, two pulleys, and miscellaneous supplies. The entire process took about 45 minutes

My only nit was that he arrived 30 min late for the 8:00am appointment, but he called well before that to let us know he was stuck in traffic.

Edgeio is about to launch!

Edgeio is about to launch!

A potential competitor to Googlebase.

How King County Determines Voter Intent

A team of people in the elections office goes through ballots to determine "voter intent" in close races. [see Sharkansky]. But the decisions can be very arbitrary, and in my opinion directly manipulable if those doing the counting are biased. What do you think the intent was on each of these ballots?:

(note: the green and red marks are from the elections official determining the intent)

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Amazon Mechanical Turk

Got a few minutes? Earn a couple cents with Amazon Mechanical Turk.

I tried it briefly. They offered me 3 cents to look at five pictures and select the one that looks like a storefront. Amazon sends trucks through neighborhoods, snapping photos every second or two, and now they need to pick the best ones for a database of street-view scenes. Some of the photos were clearly not appropriate (a tree was in the way, there was no store, etc.) It's the kind of task that's trivial for any human over 3 years old, but extremely hard for a computer.

The cool part is that Amazon is trying to franchise this business by letting other companies contract to their marketplace for a percentage of the fee. If you have a stash of images (or other pattern-recognition problems that humans do easily), Amazon will expose your problem to their Mechanical Turk users.

It's named "Mechnical Turk" after a famous 19th Century Chess-playing machine that turned out to really have a person inside.

Babies gazing and speech

Watch for the point when a developing baby starts following your gaze. | University of Washington News and Information: "UW psychologists Rechele Brooks and Andrew Meltzoff have pinpointed this developmental step as beginning somewhere in the 10th or 11th month of life, and have found that infants who are advanced in gaze-following behavior before their first birthday understand nearly twice as many words when they are 18 months old. "

Monday, November 07, 2005

Evangelical Environmentalists

More evidence for my prediction that environmental policy is an issue that favors the Republicans long-term:

The NY Times reports on a draft policy statement from the National Association of Evangelicals that quotes Genesis 2:15 as proof that people need to be wise stewards of the environment.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Meteor Shower Nov 5-12

NASA says there's an unusually fiery meteor shower this year. Best time to watch is around midnight, directly overhead in the Taurus constellation.

[via Barry Briggs]