“I like Robin Williams in Dead Poet’s Society”

For whenever I start feeling sorry for myself
[Via Respectful Insolence]

I know I kvetch from time to time about the currently dismal funding situation for biomedical research and worry about whether I’ll be able to keep my lab funded. However, every so often I’m reminded that cancer researchers by and large have it pretty good, at least compared to some academic disciplines:


Cynicism vs. naivete. More academia humor.

Posted in Science. Tags: . 1 Comment »

Nice story about getting to the rally in DC

My Contribution to Restoring Sanity
[Via EvolutionBlog]

Your humble blogger went to the big rally yesterday. Here’s what it looked like:

I never noticed it before, but the National Mall looks a lot like the Vienna/Fairfax Metro stop. But let me start at the beginning.

I hit the road at 8:30 in the morning, which normally would get me to DC well before noon. I figured there would be traffic and delays, but I did not feel obligated to attend the whole, three-hour event. Maybe I get there by one, I thought, and still have two solid hours of rally fun! It had occurred to me to drive to DC the night before and find a place to stay for the night. But, even leaving aside the fact that I had other plans for Friday night, my understanding is there wasn’t a hotel room available anywhere near the city.


Great pictures and essay. Almost 6 hours just to get near the rally. But luck was with him. Got to the train station. Found a parking spot. Got on a train. Walked to the back of the rally.

Always nice to hear about perseverance paying off. Many people just went to the nearest bars.

Everyone who worked on creating the iPad should see this video

NYT Story on the iPad as a Device for the Disabled
[Via Daring Fireball]

Don’t miss the accomanying video.


I’ve worked on projects that resulted in products that changed people’s lives. I know the intense personal reaction that comes from realizing that working on even the smallest bit of game-changing projects can positively impact people’s lives.

This video shows the effect the iPad can have on a very disabled child who still has an intelligence that needs engaging. The iPad lets him do things almost impossible before. The iPad can can empower him to interact with the world in ways previously closed to him.

I hope every single person who helped make the iPad possible sees the video and realizes just how important their effort was. It changes lives.

Crazy like a fox or like a dirty, mumbling street preacher screaming that player pianos will make a comeback

the end is near by Sister72

Ballmer on Windows Phone ‘07: ‘We’re early; there’s no question we’re early’
[Via MacDailyNews]

“I think it finally happened. We’d all been expecting it for a while now, but not quite so suddenly or emphatically: Steve Ballmer has gone completely insane,” Robert X. Cringely writes for Infoworld.


MS is early to the mobile market? Has Ballmer been right about anything in the market the last few years? His view of the iPad was way off. Apple hardware market share is increasing, currently up to 10%. Without counting iPads, which Ballmer says should be counted. Apple shipped 3.3 million iPads in the third quarter. Including them would have put Apple well above 10% of the market. Now MS is busily scrambling to keep up.

It is a hoot to go back and read his prognostications from years past. Just on the iPhone. From 2007:

There’s no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share. No chance. It’s a $500 subsidized item. They may make a lot of money. But if you actually take a look at the 1.3 billion phones that get sold, I’d prefer to have our software in 60% or 70% or 80% of them, than I would to have 2% or 3%, which is what Apple might get.

Also from 2007:

“[Apple's iPhone] is the most expensive phone in the world and it doesn’t appeal to business customers because it doesn’t have a keyboard which makes it not a very good email machine…”

From 2009:

“The real market momentum with operators and the real market momentum with device manufacturers seems to primarily be with Windows Mobile and Android.”

Also in 2009:

“Let’s face it, the Internet was designed for the PC. The Internet is not designed for the iPhone,” Ballmer told the AP’s Jessica Mintz. “That’s why they’ve got 75,000 applications — they’re all trying to make the Internet look decent on the iPhone.”

In 2008, he said that only Symbian, Linux and MIcrosoft were positioned to meet the meeds of cell phone makers.

In 2010, Apple market share for smartphones was at 14% and rising. MS was at 5% and dropping. Symbian is down 10% year over year and Linux is down to 2.4%. Only Google and Apple have cellphone OSes that gained market share.

I wonder how well this goes over with the investors who have watched MS’s share of the mobile market simply die over the last 3 years or watched Apple take over a segment of the market with iPads that MS had tried to drive for 6 years. A year ago he was previewing Windows Mobile 6.5, which is now orphaned a year later for their new OS, Windows 7 Phone, which has all the features the iPhone had 3 years ago.

When a CEO is that disconnected with reality, it usually means they are not long for their position.

Science humor

A science joke for your Saturday morning
[Via Boing Boing]

As told by Mr. Karl Sinfield in the comments section of a Tom Chivers blog post at the Telegraph:

A geneticist, a physiologist and a physicist were summoned to meet a wealthy racehorse magnate. He told them he would give a million pounds to the one who could accurately identify race-winning horses. After six months of hard work, they returned to present their results to the expectant millionaire.

The geneticist said, “I’ve looked into all the current genetic research, checked blood-lines going back decades, but there are just too many behavioural and environmental factors. I can’t help.”

The physiologist said, “I’ve looked at muscle mass, bone volume and density, and all the other factors I can think of, but the problem’s too complex. There’s just no guarantee of predicting a winner.”

Finally, the physicist calmly walks up to the millionaire and gives him an index card. “Here you go,” he says “I’ve found an equation that solves the problem for you.”

“Wow,” said the millionaire, “That’s impressive…I’ll get my cheque book.”

“Great. But there’s one thing you should know,” said the physicist. “It only works for a spherically symmetric horse travelling in a vacuum.”

(Via Martin Robbins)


It’s funny because it’s true.

Maybe you just have to be a scientist. But I laughed. Funnier than a priest, a minister and a rabbi go into a bar.

No patents for genes

201010300956.jpg by ynse

Natural genes can’t be patented says U.S. government
[Via Boing Boing]

In a reversal of long-standing policy, the U.S. Justice Department announced on Friday that naturally occurring genes—human or otherwise—could not be patented. This ruling does not include manipulated or altered genes. So, for instance, you can still patent the specific, fiddled-with genes behind a GM crop. But, this is still a very big deal. Right now the genes associated with increased risk of breast cancer are patented and, thus, there is only one, very expensive, test available to look for them. In March, a judge ruled those patents invalid. And now it looks like the federal government is backing up that ruling.


This could have some real impact. But it really goes back to the idea that you can not patent natural products, only what you do with them. So, one should be able to patent a particular implementation using a gene but that should not prevent others from using the gene for their own, different implementation.

We used to be prevented from even working on a particular gene to see what it would do because another company held the gene patent.now, all those companies THAT thought they could keep others from working on a gene because they owned a patent may have to do some real competing.

iTunes has Genius sidebar back

Apple updates iPhoto to fix data loss bug, modifies iTunes sidebar
[Via AppleInsider]

Apple released Friday an update to iPhoto to resolve a data loss problem that can occur when upgrading one’s library to iPhoto ’11. The company also quietly modified the sidebar in its iTunes software to bring back Genius Recommendations.


The update of iTunes that brought us Ping also got rid of one of my favorite tools for finding music – the Genius Sidebar. When I would be playing a song, the sidebar would show me any similar songs by the same band, as well as some similar ones. It helped me keep up to date with my favorites.

But the last update got rid of this, replacing it with the Ping sidebar for Apple’s social network. While I think Ping might be useful someday, it seems unfinished now and not a very good way to find music.

A lot of people complained and refused to update the software. including me.

So, I waited to upgrade, waiting to see if Apple would listen. Seems they did and the Genius Sidebar is back.

From TSA – another reason to get the 11-inch Macbook Air

TSA clears Apple’s 11-inch MacBook Air to stay in carry-on at airports
[Via AppleInsider}

Owners of Apple’s new 11-inch MacBook Air will not have to remove the thin-and-light notebook from their bag at security checkpoints in U.S. airports, the Transportation Security Administration has announced.


I think this is the first Apple laptop to be small enough to leave in your carry-on. Nice. Of course, this still means that any TSA agent can make you take it out of the carry-on. I wonder how many Airs will actually make it through without needing to be taken out? Or even something worse could happen if they are taken out.

.[Listening to: Beyond, Within from the album "If" by Glass Hammer]

I touched a Macbook Air today and it really wanted to follow me home

macbook air by bfishadow

MacBook Air Feels Like an iPad in a Laptop
[Via Apple Hot News]

Walt Mossberg at AllThingsD.com reviews both the 11- and 13-inch models of the MacBook Air and writes that the “gorgeous, very thin and light, but very sturdy” computers “really do offer the different, more iPad-like experience Apple claims they do.” Noting their efficient flash storage, high screen resolution, strong battery life, near-instant wake from standby, and full-size keyboard, Mossberg concludes: “Overall, Apple has done a nice job in making these new MacBook Airs feel more like iPads and iPhones without sacrificing their ability to work like regular computers.”


I walked in to the Apple store yo get the new version of iLife. It was so crowded that I actually had to flag down someone to let me pay for it. They were really busy with a lot of the blue shirts showing off the Airs.

They are for people attracted to iPads but wanting more ability to easily create content. The iPad is great for reading content. It is small and light. Nice to carry around. And its battery life means you hardly every have to charge it. As opposed to most smartphones – even the iPhone – which need to be tethered to power even when not in use as they drain so fast.

Up until now really useful laptops have not had the qualities of an iPad – small, light, no need to keep plugged in – although some of the newer Macbooks started getting battery life over 5 hours.

But now these Airs combine the lightness and battery life of the iPad with the power of a laptop. Standby can last for 30 days, so you really never need to shut them off. After an hour or so, it enters hibernation but can be roused in seconds. Just charge them up every once in a while. So, instant on is a real pleasure.

The flash drive reduces battery use and is much faster in real life use than a normal disk drive.

But none of this is what you notice when you pick one up. It is so light and thin that it seems just impossible it actually has a computer inside. Man, I can see it being a great computer for a student, or someone traveling a lot.

I love my 13 inch MacBook Pro but these Airs are really seductive. No wonder they are selling so fast.

[Listening to: Tonight, Tonight, Tonight from the album "Invisible Touch" by Genesis]

I did not even know there were neuromarketing companies

What Neuroscience Has to Say About Gap’s Logo Disaster
[Via Discoblog]

GapThe abysmal flop of the Gap logo redesign has prompted a flurry of critique from marketing experts, branding consultants, as well as the inner critic in each of us that wants to explain what, exactly, went so wrong.

Now another group is chiming in: neuroscientists. NeuroFocus, one of the leading neuromarketing firms in the country, just released an analysis of why our deep subconscious rejected the Gap logo with such finality. Here are some of their findings:

1. When words overlap with images, as in the unsuccessful Gap logo, our brain tends to bypass the word and focus on the image. So we ignore the “p” when it’s placed over the blue box (for the Gap name, that’s a big fail).

2. We’re hardwired to avoid sharp edges because in nature they represent a threat. The sharp edge of the box cutting into the curved “p” is unappealing for that reason.

3. Being a little funky appeals to the brain. The original Gap typeface was unusual enough to stand out from the crowd. The new one, on the other hand, is boring old Helvetica (which really is taking over the world).

4. The brain loves high contrast. In the original logo, white letters “pop” against a dark blue background. In the new logo, the blue box weakens the black/white contrast.


It kind of makes you wonder about the neurology of the people who approved the new logo? Are they wired differently than the rest of us or do they have some learned response that overcomes their natural neural pathways?

The little blue box in the new one might work if they wanted to emphasize the ‘P’ but it does not work for ‘Gap’. I wonder if it would have worked better with a blue circle overlapping all the letters?

Neuromarketing sounds all cool and such but I wonder how well it really works?

Coolest Halloween idea

Halloween Costume Idea: Pretend You Have a Portal in Your Torso
[Via Discoblog]

There are still a few days before Halloween costume frenzy will reach its peak, but we think we have a winner. Forget all those Lady Gaga and Chilean miner costumes: We’re taken with Ben Heck’s ingenious see-through portal t-shirt.

portal2This high-tech costume makes it look like the wearer has a hole in his torso, thanks to a tiny camera on his back, and an LCD screen on his chest that shows the image captured by the camera. Want your own? Here’s a blow-by-blow video of how to build it. There are a few digressions into other projects, but we encourage you to watch through and get all the info you need to avoid the fate of being just another Gaga.


I’d imagine this could be used to really great effect for Halloween. I wonder how well the effect works in person compared to seeing a picture?

Erasing all files from an ebook reader – Not a good thing to hear

trashcan by meshmar2

Yet Another Reminder That You Don’t Own Your Ebooks: B&N Nook Deletes Files, Blames User
[Via Techdirt]

Just as Barnes and Noble is updating the Nook, its ebook reader that hasn’t gotten much traction, comes reports that of an upset customer who found that the Nook deleted all of his files, and when he complained to B&N, the company basically told him it was his fault and there was nothing it could do. While B&N was able to restore the ebooks, it could not restore anything else, not from B&N, such as his own documents and notes:

I tried to turn my Nook on this morning and it wouldn’t turn on. Finally, it gave me a screen that said it was updating and that I needed to leave it be, so I did. When it had finished updating it had wiped all of the files off of my nook. When I reregister the device, the books from B&N will return, but everything, including documents not from B&N, has been deleted.

When I called technical support (1-800-THE-BOOK) to complain/make sure they were aware of the problem so that it wouldn’t happen to other people, I was informed that this can happen when the device hasn’t been updated in awhile. I asked if this was something they were trying to fix and I was blamed for the fact that everything had been wiped from my device because I had not been studiously updating the device. I asked if he understood how absurdly incompetent this was, my computer, after all, does not delete all my files because I don’t update it for awhile. I was informed that my computer updates everyday, whereas I have apparently not updated my nook in a terribly long unspecified length of time, which was just too long and too many updates for it to handle without deleting all my files.

Amazon got in a lot of hot water years ago for deleting copies of an ebook. You would think Barnes & Noble would know better than to do the same.


Erasing all the files does not seem to be a good way to update a reader. One of the nicer things about tying an iPad to a computer is that it creates backups of the iPad, as well as remind about syncing.

Not as great a chance of losing everything. Just another instance of Apple having a better implementation of an idea.

Finding humor in the comments

Christine O’Donnell’s campaign manager offers $1,000 to anyone who can prove “separation of church & state” is in the Constitution
[Via Boing Boing]

Jonathan Moseley, a Virginia attorney serving as Christine O’Donnell’s campaign manager during the primary, offers a “$1,000 reward to anyone who can find the phrase ‘Separation of Church & State’ in the US Constitution.” (via Teresa Nielsen Hayden)


Most times comments, particularly when dealing with political things, are a real waste of time. Not much intelligent thought. But Boing, Boing often has some real gems amongst the detritus so I do check.

And found this reply and request for their money:

But it’s right there in Article I, Sections 1 and 2:

Article. I.

Section. 1.

All legiSlativE Powers herein grAnted shall be vested in a CongRess of the United StATes, whIch shall cONsist OF a Senate and House of Representatives.

Section. 2.

The House of Representatives shall be composed of Members CHosen every second Year by the People of the several States, and the Electors in each State shall have the QUalifications Requisite for EleCtors of tHe most numerous Branch of the State Legislature.

No Person shall be a Representative who shall not have attained to the Age of twenty five Years, AND been seven Years a Citizen of the United STATEs, and who shall not, when elected, be an Inhabitant of that State in which he shall be chosen.

Answering a stupid request with an ingeniously stupid reply. The Constitution Code. Nice.

Macbook Air an early Christmas present?

macbook air by dan taylor

Apple’s hot selling 11-inch MacBook Air sees shipping times slip
[Via AppleInsider]

New orders of the $999 11.6-inch MacBook Air are now estimated to ship within 1 to 3 business days, suggesting demand for the entry-level version of Apple’s new thin-and-light notebook lineup has been greatest in the first week of sales.


I’ve had Macs since the original 128K. And in all those years I do not remember a laptop from Apple being so popular that its supplies were constrained.

But if these new Air laptops really will represent 17% of all Mac shipments this quarter, Apple had better find a way to produce enough of them.

I think the 11-inch will appeal to those who want an iPad’s light weight and responsiveness with a little more oomph for creating content. The iPad is wonderful in so many ways but it is not optimal – yet – for creating Keynote presentations, for example. A Macbook Air could be.

And I love this exchange in the comments:

Quote: Originally Posted by s4mb4 i ordered a 13″ Air from MacConnection on Tuesday and it is on my porch right now. Going to run home at lunch to grab it.
They left a MacBook Air on your porch and didn’t consider the possibility that it might get stolen? 201010271214.jpg

Quote:Originally Posted by Joe hs They left a MacBook Air on your porch and didn’t consider the possibility that it might get stolen?
I’ve spent the last hour trying to figure out where he lives.

Crushing an iPad may be too hard for those 20 lengths behind

airplane crash by Vrysxy

How to crush the iPad in 12 not-so-easy steps
[Via Digital Trends]

Want to get into the tablet PC business? Stop. Remember the warning Dorothy, Toto, the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodsman and the Cowardly Lion encountered on their way into the enchanted forest on their way to their appointment with the Wicked Witch of the West? “I’d turn back if I were you.” Since you’re not Dorothy and a bucket of water will not melt Steve Jobs, that’s good tablet PC market advice. (There’s a joke about Apple sales-associates as flying monkeys in there someplace, but damned if I can find it.)


This is a very truthful and humorous article. With steps like ‘Mine’s Smaller, But Better” or “Make It Cheaper” or “…But Not Cheap.”

I particularly like “Fictional Character endorsement”:

Suddenly, the iPad is the biggest star on TV. Apple’s tablet has made appearances in episodes of The Good Wife, NCIS, CSI: New York, Parenthood, Law & Order: Special Victim’s Unit – at that’s just one month into the new TV season. Since there won’t be a James Bond movie for a while, you’ll have to find a role for your tablet in a different cultural geek zeitgeist franchise. Do hobbits use tablets?

Someone 20 lengths behind might actually think a hobbit with an tablet would work?

Copying Apple without really understanding why t is so successful demonstrates a Cargo Cult way of thinking – “if we just believe hard enough, our cardboard airplane will take off because it looks like an airplane.” [Reminds me of this humorous piece from the 90s “If Operating Systems Were AIrlines.” Maybe we should have a new one for tablets.

They simply do not understand the underlying principles of the iPads’ success like Apple does. Until they do they will not have a useful competitor. Everyone forgets that it took 3 iterations of Windows before it became competitive with the first version of the Mac. Only by then did they get an inkling of the underlying principles, although I do not think they have every really gotten most of them. MS understood just enough to get the plane in the air.

It may have been a 707 compared to Apple’s Concord but it was compelling enough, and cheap enough, to succeed. I figure it will take as long for others to get what Apple already understands.

But this time it may very well be that Apple does not make its old mistakes. They certainly have seemed to do that with MP3 players. The iPod is 9 years old now yet Apple is the leader and there have been no real competitors that overtook them.


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