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April 29, 2007

Oh, this is going to make commuting to/from the East Bay suck for weeks: Tanker fire destroys part of MacArthur Maze, 2 freeways closed near Bay Bridge. Short of the bridges themselves, this mega interchange overpass area is the keystone of transportation in the Bay Area. (Washington, D.C. residents, picture the Springfield 495/95/395 interchange.) It'll probably be a lot better in a couple of days when they can sort out the damaged roadways from the usable ones and set up detours, but the traffic going through that area is heavy all the time. Fortnuately no one was killed, and there's very good public transportation that goes under the bay, but for anyone from, say, Alameda planning to drive a work truck to a job site in Pacifica, their commute just became much worse.

Sometimes the importance of usability is best explained in concrete terms: Shopping the PlayStation's Online Store is Fun and Convenient.

Totally addictive, free fun online game: Desktop Tower Defense

April 17, 2007

Families everywhere rejoice, as RIM (the company that makes Blackberry devices that so many workaholics love) is apparently having a multi-hour outage, not just limited to individual carriers as initially suspected:

Funny: Megadeth frontman Dave Mustaine on YouTube: Dave vs. The St. Louis Dipshit! Dave vs. The Laser! Dave Vs. Flying Bra! Dave vs. Jeopardy, Part I and Part II!

Cool: (via Pax) Dan Le Sac vs Scroobius Pip 'Thou Shalt Always Kill'

April 16, 2007

Wow: Google Reaches Deal With Clear Channel to Sell Radio Ads

Life Support: Let the children go on foot and on bike. This story confirms that I'm not imagining it. Parents are absurdly overprotective now regarding kidnapping, molestation, etc. compared to when I was a kid. I had tremendous physical freedom when I was a kid; I rode my bike around about a half mile radius from where I lived when I was 7 or 8 years old, with only a rough description of where I was going given to my mother. As I got older, say 12 or 13, I was roaming through woods, creeks, strip malls, cemeteries, and housing developments with a similar radius with basically no limit. The threats of falling down and injuring myself, being hit by a car, getting in trouble for trespassing, or being bitten by some kind of snake or insect were far, far more real than being snatched by a "kiddie fiddler", and so I learned to be careful. I captured unidentified snakes, got stung by angry hornets whose nest I accidentally damaged, fell off my bike a few times, got scraped up by thorns, and got chased off of construction sites by the police. In doing so I learned real boundaries: minor things heal; most snakes in Virginia are not poisonous and none of them are there just to ambush children; certain intersections are very dangerous and kids get killed crossing them on their bikes; certain natural and man-made areas are potentially lethal if you fall or drown.

At no point were there hordes of pedophiles following me around trying to convince me to come get in their unmarked white van; no child I knew had anything remotely like that happen to them. The kids I knew who got injured either did so while skiing, whitewater canoeing, playing football, or in fatal cases, driving while intoxcated. In other words, risky physical activity beyond their limits resulted in blunt trauma. Creepy stalker types had nothing to do with it. (They're all indoor threats now anyway, via MySpace and any other places where today's kids are spending all their time. :) )

April 15, 2007

We're back from a week in Cabo San Lucas (San Jose del Cabo to be precise). We had a great time; we drove all over the region, snorkeled, ate some really good food including huitlacoche quesadillas at the Hangman and Cactus tacos at Taco Inn. We also stopped in at Art & Beer, which is part new age off-the-grid desert compound, part roadside bar, part art gallery, for a mango margarita at sundown. Baan Thai has an interesting and picante interpretation of Pad Thai, and has Dorada on the menu but is actually referring to Sea Bream rather than Mahi Mahi. Nonetheless their outdoor dining is excellent and the food is great.

Cabo and the surrounding area is undergoing massive real estate development, and little or no municipal infrastructure development. Basically every resort is expanding, new ones are popping up all over, and other things are getting renovated in-place. I've never seen so much construction, even in Las Vegas. It's crazy, and as usual the pitch is that if you buy now at a few hundred thousand dollars, it'll be worth millions in a couple of years. Can you say bubble? If each resort creates dozens or hundreds of new apartments, condos, and villas (which they are) and new resorts open and they all sell, where are the thousands or tens of thousands of suckers going to come from who will pay millions of dollars for a property instead of waiting for the next one a half mile up the beach that will cost $300K? Are there really thousands of people with millions of dollars to sink into this particular vacation resort?

I suspect that U.S. real estate speculators are going to start investing abroad in this and other resort areas that are growing at similar rates. We talked to a guy who is pitching timeshares to tourists down there in the "Mega" grocery store in San Jose del Cabo. He said he moved down there with two friends from San Ramon (up here in Northern California) and was planning to do some real estate development in the small coastal town of Los Barriles (an hour and a half north of San Jose del Cabo, or about 2h from Cabo San Lucas) which was also booming recently, due to its superior marlin fishing compared to Cabo. La Paz, another hour and a half up the eastern coast along the Sea of Cortez, is an older, larger, and more well-rounded town, and it also has an international airport. There's no reason that a similarly crazy number of resorts couldn't spring up all around La Paz as well; Baja California is huge, and I don't see why there couldn't be another Cabo waiting to happen even further north. So where's the scarcity that's going to drive up prices? I don't see it.

Anyway, we managed to repel the hucksters with comments like "I'm starting my own company and have zero salary", "look at these freckles, I get a sunburn from a CRT", etc. and found fun away from the tacky tourist culture that is Cabo. Todos Santos is pretty cool, La Paz is chaotic but seems like a fairly authentic Baja city, and the desert highways gave us a lot of time to just space out and enjoy the scenery (in between goat crossings). Good times.

April 6, 2007

Just when I was convinced that YTMND was all about random stupid pop culture jokes, I was proven wrong by this, which is awesome: The Size of Our World. (The spooky score is from The Black Hole, and is by the brilliant John Barry.)

April 2, 2007

Pedantic vocabulary lesson du jour: rife vs. ripe. "Rife with" is more idiomatic than "ripe with" but I've seen them both; presumably "ripe with" is a common error based on a mishearing of "rife" as "ripe" and some contextual guessing. They aren't interchangeable by definition, but strangely, they both do make sense in some contexts. "X is rife with Y" means that X has many Y's. "X is ripe with Y" means that X has a Y-ness that makes X mature and/or prepares X to undergo some kind of change. Ex. "CyberFoo 2.0 is rife with security vulnerabilities" means that it has a lot of vulnerabilities (which implies you will get hacked). "CyberFoo 2.0 is ripe with security vulnerabilities" means that it's ready to get hacked (which is what happens when you have a lot of vulnerabilities). So, in that usage it makes sense both ways, and means more or less the same thing by implication. The same thing goes for "ripe with opportunity" vs. "rife with opportunities"; both work. Some real-world usages that don't work: "ripe with scams", "ripe with challenges". Those uses only make sense with "rife".

Via Faisal: Bizarre hexagon circles Saturn's north pole.

You say you want a pro-gun Libertarian sci-fi comic book, that you can read online? With talking monkeys (machine assisted, of course!)? You got it!

Funny web comic: The difference between a normal person and a scientist.

Who knew? Bill Mumy: With Big Ideas is actually pretty good. Not what you'd expect given his other career but he's a decent musician and songwriter.