Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Arco, No Threat to Starbucks

We were doing a Costco run to Carson City today and stopped by the Arco to fill up the tank. (Only $1.73 per gallon, gotta love Arco.) As I walked into the store I noticed a makeshift sign on the door advertising 99 cent espresso. Someone had actually taken a piece of cardboard and written "99 cent espresso" on it with a ball point pen and taped it to the door. As I was getting my change, I asked about the special.

"So you guys are offering espresso now?" I said.

"Naw, we've had it for a while. We're just running a special now," said the cashier, flashing her partially toothless smile at me.

I couldn't resist, I told her I would try one. She turned and yelled "Coffee!" over my shoulder to her co-worker in the back of the store. She then directed me to the coffee bar part of the mini-mart. There a handsome woman wearing a Happy New Year! tiara greeted me and asked what I wanted.

I told her just an espresso. She was amazed. No milk? No flavoring? No sugar? Just espresso? Yes, just an espresso please. This seemed to confuse her. The menu did indicate espresso along with lattes and cappuccinos. Finally she shrugged and got to work. It took quite a while and she even had to add more beans to the top of machine. After a few minutes, she presented me with a steaming 16 ounce cup filled to the brim with espresso!

"Wow, that's a big espresso," I said.

"Yeah, well I had to fill up the cup," she responded.

I realized that she had simply been pressing the espresso button on the machine until the cup was full.

"Usually an espresso is a lot smaller," I said, pointing to a small espresso cup next to the machine.

"Well I didn't realize that," she said, somewhat offended.

On the plus side, the coffee was actually pretty good. I could only drink about a double espresso's worth, and I'll probably be up all night because of that. It's a shame to waste so much coffee, but at least it only cost me 99 cents!

Barack and Me

I just read that Roland Burris has been nominated by Blagojevich to replace Obama in the senate. This struck me because I've actually met Burris. In fact, he's been to my childhood home a few times. My father, Jerry Beguelin, MD, was a early supporter of Burris and we had fundraisers at our home back in the 1970s. I have a vivid memory of the event. One of the Harlem Globe Trotters attended. I remember he had these really cool blue sunglasses. I commented on them, and he actually gave them to me. But I digress.

This is the second time in as many months that I've found myself connected to our President Elect. Last month I was watching Obama's news conference where he announced a bunch of cabinet nominations. It turns out his nomination for US Attorney General, Eric Holder, was actually my lawyer a few years ago. (A long story that I won't go into here.)

Holder was working for Covington and Burling at the time. My college roommate Stuart Irvin also works for this prestigious firm. I called him to chat about this coincidence. It turns out Stuart is also an alumni and parent at Sidwell Friends. Guess who else has kids going to Sidwell? Turns out Barack Obama's daughters will be attending Sidwell next month.

In another coincidence, my daughter's best friend from grade school is also attending Sidwell Friends.

Small world.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Diamond Peak

After a bunch of snow this week, all the lifts are open at Diamond Peak here in Incline Village. I took this shot from my iPhone yesterday. You can see Lake Tahoe in the background. I like the way the sun is reflecting off the lake but not coming through the clouds. The smaller peak in the center-right is the top of the Lakeview lift and the Snowflake Lodge.

Here's a shot from last weekend at Snowflake Lodge. You can tell it's closer to the lake and lower in elevation. I believe the point sticking out in the lake is actually the boarder between California and Nevada, home of the Cal Neva Resort. Note the term resort is used loosely. :-)

Seinfeld on Letterman

Seinfeld did a pretty funny stand-up routine on Letterman last week. I wanted to send it to a friend so I figured I would just blog it here.

And here's the post stand-up conversation if you're interested.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Got My Boxee

Just got my alpha invite to Boxee. It's a new piece of software that integrates video from your hard drive or from the internet with your TV. Now you can watch Hulu with your remote control.

I'm sure I'll have more to say after I've played with it a bit.

quick intro to boxee from boxee on Vimeo.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Always Look on the Bright Side of Life

In these dark days of winter, don't forget to look on the bright side. What've you got to loose? You come from nothing, you leave with nothing. Don't sweat it.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Canceled MobileMe Screws iPhone Sync

iTunes was telling me:

over-the-air settings can be changed on your iphone
But I couldn't find anywhere on my iPhone to change this.

If you cancel your Mobile Me account, make sure to turn off the Mobile Me syncing before deleting the account. I noticed that calendar events were not being updated back and forth between the iPhone and my Mac. Turns out I had deleted the Mobile Me account but iTunes was still relying on Mobile Me to do the work.

If you already removed your account, just add it back as described here. Your contacts will go away but you can then restore them by telling iTunes to copy them to your iPhone.

Cancellation of MobileMe considered harmful. Just don't sign up in the first place and you'll be fine.

More Tesla Driving

Here's a longer video. I couldn't get it uploaded to Smug Mug because they limit the size. YouTube was more lenient with the video size and time limits. So here you go. Maybe not as exciting as the first video...

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Starbucks-Aware iTunes

Ok, this is kinda cool and kinda creepy. I fired up iTunes while connected to the WiFi at Starbucks and it knew what song was playing in the store. I wonder how this works. iTunes must connect back to Apple every time I fire it up. There must then be some process by which it looks up where I'm connecting from. If it's a Starbucks, then they can figure out what's playing and show the correct thing.

I wonder if Starbucks are all playing the same songs at the same time? That might make it a bit easier to show what's playing. The satellite jockeys at Hughes Network Systems used to provide a system like that.

No, wait. I see that there is a flat screen on the wall showing the current music as well. The song showing on my laptop changes at the same time as the display on the wall. Nice. Perhaps iTunes is connecting to the same box that is driving the display and the audio here in the store to get the now playing information.

Now for a challenge, how do we change what song is playing? That sounds like a good hacker challenge to me.

Funny Rebuttal of Top Gear Video

My buddy Richard sent me this one. It's a rebuttal of the Top Gear episode I blogged about recently. The language is pretty rough so it's probably NSFW (not safe for work), depending on where you work.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Tesla on Top Gear

Looks like Top Gear, that quirky British TV show, covers the Tesla. They have a bit of trouble with the cars, but it's entertaining to watch them put it through a few trials.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Graham's Distractions

Paul Graham's essay on distraction struck a chord with me. Basically he talks about how easy it is to get distracted and some techniques for staying focused. My favorite quote is:

If you drink too much, you can solve that problem by stopping entirely. But you can't solve the problem of overeating by stopping eating.
For me, the Internet is a lot like food. I can't just give it up. It's integral to who I am and the kinds of things I like to work on. However, it's full of distracting treats and time wasters. Paul solves this problem by using a dedicated computer for all his email and web browsing. All his real work is done on another computer, that he keeps offline.

For me, I turn off all email alerts (Growl is not your friend) and shut down my email client when I'm trying to get some work done. Of course this doesn't help stem my tangential web browsing and whim following.

Of late I've started trying to group tasks together and focus on only those tasks for set amounts of time. If I can dedicate an hour or two to just the tasks related to a specific project, then I can make some real headway. Part of the key is just focusing on tasks related to that specific project and nothing else. Having a specific duration in mind can be a big help. By getting yourself to focus on one project for an hour (or even 10 minutes) will help you get into the flow of things. And for me, the flow around accomplishing tasks is really the best reward.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Tesla Roadster: First Impressions

I've now had my Tesla Roadster for more than 24 hours. I picked it up on Monday, which is the same day they delivered their 100th car. It's a lot of fun to drive, that's for sure. In fact, my neck hurts from all the acceleration!

As others have noted, getting into and out of the car takes a bit of acrobatic acumen. As you can see from the first picture, the car has a soft top that you roll up to remove. There is also a hard top, but they aren't delivering those with the cars yet. It's another body panel so by leaving it out, Tesla can deliver more cars per week. This is the correct choice in my opinion. I can wait on the hard top.

I have noticed some condensation in the passenger side headlamp. The brakes are making a strange noise which my son describes as a whale sound. The folks at Telsa Motors say they are looking into the condensation issue. I haven't asked them about the brakes, but Lawrence tells me it's pretty normal for the brakes on high performance cars to be noisy for the first 1,000 miles or so.

My friend Lawrence Sinclair is visiting from Saigon and we went for a spin. He shot the above photos and a couple of fun video clips of us driving it around the neighborhood hills. Here's one of the clips. I have a longer one, but I haven't had time to edit it down.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Amazon Race Condition

Since our family is spread all over the country (and a good part of the globe) we use Amazon's wish list to communicate what the kids want for Christmas and birthdays. It's nice because the kids don't see what has (or has not) been purchased, but the rest of the family can see what's left on the list. Presumably this avoids getting duplicate presents.

As any computer scientist knows, when you have a single variable and multiple updates going on in parallel, you can end up with what are called race conditions. Basically when multiple writers try to change the variable at the same time, the outcome is non-deterministic. Well yesterday we got caught by that non-determinism. Two uncles in different time zones ended up ordering the same gifts off of the kids' wish lists. Uncle Randy and Uncle Chad were doing their shopping at roughly the same time, unaware of the race condition. Luckily the uncles also sent email confirming their purchases so we were able to adjust the orders satisfactorily!

When I did my PhD in Computer Science back in the late 80s, I never would have thought that non-deterministic access to a single resource over a wide area network would impact my Christmas many years later. I guess it's a geek Christmas after all.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Native Client @ Google

My buddy Brad Chen over at Google pointed me to their release today of Native Client, a project that lets you safely run native x86 code in the browser. Sure, you can run code in the browser today (JavaScript, ActiveX, Java Applets) but typically you have to give up on either portability or performance. The brainiacs over at Google have figured out how to get safe, portable, and performant code running across multiple operating systems.

I've always thought it would be fun to build a computing grid out of idle web clients. Of course the communication patterns would be limited to client server, but at least with NaCl code you don't have to run your compute processes in JavaScript.

For more details, check out the Google Code blog entry or the project page itself.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Telsa 97 Arrives in Meno Park

I was able to touch my car yesterday. Number 97 of the Signature 100 Series is not quite ready, but I now believe I'll have it soon! The Tesla Motors showroom in Meno Park is a very busy place these days. There were a lot of Roadsters on the premises. I believe they delivered 5 cars yesterday.


Thursday, November 20, 2008

Tesla Owners Map

Tom Cathy Saxton over at Idle Loop has put together a Google Maps mashup showing the location of Telsa Roadster owners. I'm the first pin in Nevada. Now if I can just make friends with the guys in Sacramento, maybe we can swap HPC access!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Tesla HPC

The Tesla Motors HPC (High Power Connector) has been installed in our garage. As you can see it's not too big. Note the two inverters for our solar panels are much larger than the HPA.

They give you plenty of cable, that's for sure.

BTW, last week they delivered 17 Roadsters, two over the target of 15. They have now delivered around 50 or so of the Signature 100. Can't wait for number 97!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Web Camera Fun

I've been playing around with web cameras. I've been having trouble with the one on the front window but I think today I finally got it figured out. The above snapshot shows me standing in the driveway looking at my iPhone. I'm looking at the same shot you see above. How's that for recursion?

Initially I hooked up two web cams. The first was an old D-Link DCS-900w that had been pretty beat up. The other was a new Airlink 500w with night vision. The old one seems to be broken in a weird way. It works when connected by Ethernet, but the WiFi connection just won't work. I also noticed that the garage door opener wouldn't work while this camera was plugged in. I did a few tests and confirmed that the camera was interfering. My theory is that the D-Link is spewing some pretty nasty radio frequency noise. Of course, it was also interfering with the WiFi connection for my new camera too.

Now that the D-Link has been put out to pasture, my new Airlink is working well. Hopefully it will keep working. I'm hoping to catch some wildlife in the front yard.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Mountain Biking in the Snow

Yesterday I rode up from Incline Village to the Flume Trail. It took about an hour to get to the north end of the trail. There were parts that were almost entirely covered in snow. Luckily I brought a jacket for the ride down.

This is the first time I've ridden up to the Flume Trail from the Incline Village side. It seems easier than the climb from the Spooner Lake end. It was late in the day, so I didn't actually ride the trail, just did the climb.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Clinton Was Younger

I'm not as old as Obama, but I'm close. I was thinking that he might be one of the youngest presidents. Well it turns out that Clinton was younger. Obama will make the top ten, but only around the middle. Teddy Roosevelt was the youngest at only 42 when he became president! It looks like Chester Arthur will get bumped off the list.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Monday, November 3, 2008

Telsa Raises $40 Million

According to the NY Times, yesterday was a good day for Tesla. Even with the current economic downturn, Telsa has been able to get a commitment of another $40m from their current investors. While most of these investors are super wealthy, I'm sure they've all experienced significant drops in networth over the last month or so.

Personally, I'm excited to hear about this. I'm scheduled to get my Tesla Roadster this month. [Update: Telsa is delivering slower than expected. They now say December.] I ordered (and paid for) my Roadster in August of 2006. I've been anxiously awaiting it ever since. I was initially told I might get it by December 2007. Frankly, a 1 year slip seems understandable for a complex product like the Roadster. (Remember Microsoft's Longhorn delays?) I love the idea of electric cars. When I was a kid, my dad bought an electric riding lawnmower. It was so cool to mow the grass without all the noise. (And boy, did we have a lot of grass.) Back in the 1990s I test drove the EV1 and was tempted to get one, but the 70 mile range didn't seem practical.

Hopefully, this next month I'll finally get an electric car, one that gets 220+ miles on a charge and can hit 60mph in less than 4 seconds.

Tesla Motors, keep that faith!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Railscasts Rocks

I'm working on building a website in Rails and ran across this great site with a bunch of free screencasts related to Ruby on Rails.

A couple years ago I started playing with Rails version 1. Rails 2.x is the latest and a lot of things the 1.x commands don't work in 2.x. The one I ran into last night was rails migrate. It is now rails db:migrate. I'm sure there will be a few more gotchas like this, but in general 2.x seems to be worth it, even if a lot of the guides out there on the web are a bit out of date.

rails migrate becomes rails db:migrate
MySQL becomes sqlite3

BTW, if you like Railscasts, there is a donate link. I dropped$5 in the tip jar.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Wired on Arduino

I've been tinkering with the Arduino for a few weeks now. It's a great little platform. This Wired article gives a nice overview of the philosophy and the personalities behind the project.

Once you play with one of these things, your mind starts racing with possibilities. I was thinking of making a biking shirt that would display data about my current ride, something like "I've ridden X miles today" and have X update in real time as I'm riding. I would need to interface with my bike computer and be able to drive some sort of flexible LED display that could be wired into the shirt.

I was also thinking of hooking up some El Wire to a motion sensor in our front walkway. The stairs are a bit difficult to see, so I want to have them illuminated whenever someone starts heading out the door.

The possibilities are endless.

Daily Show in Alaska

Monday, October 20, 2008

JFK At Dawn

Taxi to gate 9.

Friday, October 17, 2008

SNL Covers The Final Debate

Pretty darn funny.

BTW, if you haven't seen the video of the 'crazy lady' you can see it here, where she calls Obama an Arab. McCain shakes his head and replies, that he's not an Arab, he's a decent family man.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Google Parking

Had breakfast with my friend Brad at Google this morning. It's much
easier to find parking here at 8:15am than at lunch time.

Took this shot next to the visitor parking.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Fall Arrives

The leaves are changing here in Incline Village. Nice.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Rain Forest Butterfly

This amazing butterfly decided to check us out today at the California Academy of Sciences rain forest exhibit.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Blue Angels in San Francisco

We saw the Blue Angels in San Francisco yesterday. We had a great seats. Our friends invited us to see the show from their yacht. The trip up from Coyote Point was a little bumpy because of the wind. But it was smooth sailing once we passed under the Bay Bridge. I swear the planes seemed to be so close that you could touch them.

The Blue Angles Rock!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Driving Pandora

I've been a fan of Pandora internet radio for a few years now. Pandora is great for discovering new music. With just a few clicks, you can create a custom music station out of your favorite artist, song, or album. Pandora will try to find similar songs and artists and play those on your personal station. You can fine tune the music they play by rating songs with a Tivo style thumbs up or thumbs down.

The folks at Pandora were quick to get on the iPhone bandwagon with a free Pandora iPhone app. (Thanks guys!) The app streams music over your WiFi network or over the AT&T network if WiFi isn't available. Recently I tested this on a drive from Tahoe to the Bay Area. I connected my iPhone to the car stereo through the AUX jack and fired up the Pandora app. We have good coverage of the Edge network at our place in Incline. I was curious as to how long the music would last. I was impressed, for almost the entire four hour dive we had continuous Pandora coverage. There were two notable exceptions. One is the stretch of road near Northstar, the ski resort between Truckee and Incline Village. That wasn't too surprising given the rural nature of that road. The other was near UC Davis. This was a bit more surprising since this is a pretty flat piece of Interstate 80. Maybe it was a bug in the Pandora application that caused the slight outage. I'm more inclined to think that it was a dead spot in the Edge network, given the fact that the music kept playing after a few minutes of silence.

Now most iPhone plans come with unlimited data. So streaming audio for 4 hours isn't going to cost me anything extra. The audio coming out of the phone seemed to be roughly equivalent to FM radio. I would guess that the bit rate was something like 128 kbs. How much data did I use on my drive? About 1/4 MByte GByte. [Corrected from MByte, thanks Pablo!]

128 kb/s * 1/8 bit/byte * 60 s/m * 60 m/h * 4 hr = 230,400 KB
Actually I find this to be surprisingly small. Given that AT&T charges $5 per month for a 1 MB data plan, this streaming would have only cost me $1.25 $1,150 (230 MB * $5.) Of course I have the unlimited data plan, so it didn't cost me any extra to listen to Pandora on my drive.

The kids have been asking for XM Radio, but I think I'll stick with Pandora for now. If I could only get XM Kids on Pandora...

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Great Tips from Pogue

I just read Pogue's list of basic tips that you assume everyone knows, but a lot of people don't. The one that caught me by surprise was the control + scroll wheel will zoom in a web page (or the entire screen on the Mac). This is very cool, especially for those of us with fading eyesight.

One that's missing from his list is the two finger scroll on Macintosh trackpads. Maybe he left this out since there is no Windows equivalent. In fact, the control + scroll wheel trick will work on the MacBook with the two-finger scroll, since it's the same as a scroll wheel.

I wrote a longer post about the two-finger scroll trick a while back.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Ikea delivery

Had some new furniture delivered recently. Turns out the pallets stay with us. Not sure what we'll do with them once the kids get bored with them. The delivery guy said that they burn well. We'll have to test that theory in the fireplace once the snow starts.

Arduino Segway

My Arduino Starter Pack arrived on Monday and I've been playing with it all week. It's a very cool little device. I've been working my way though the tutorials at ladyada.net and working my way through the Physical Computing book, both great resources.

Right now I'm in research and learning mode, but it seems there are a lot of interesting possibilities here. Today I ran across this video of an Arduway, a mini Segway build from an Arduino and Lego NXT. Very cute.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Nobody Knows You're a Chair

Seems there is something called the IP for Smart Objects as reported here. The concept is to focus on the issues around getting objects onto the network. It sounds a little crazy, but I really think that more and more objects will be network enabled.

I recently ran across a little device called the Arduino. It's an open source microcontroller that can be had for around $40. Basically it's a little hardware device that you can easily program from any computer. It allows the hardware-naive folks like me to actually build little devices that can sense and actuate. For instance, you could create a device that senses temperature and then updates your twitter feed if the temperature in your office goes above or below some limit. Ok, tweeting your office temp every 5 minutes is probably not the best use, but you get the idea.

The Arduino itself doesn't have the power of IP. Meaning it can't connect to the internet directly. You can use the built in USB connector and your computer can be the conduit to the net, or you can get a variety of other connectors, called shields in Arduino speak, that will connect to the outside world in various ways. I've seen WiFi, Ethernet, and Zigbee shields so far.

Zigbee is an up and coming home automation networking standard. Zigbee is cool because it's low power, cheap, and can do things like multi-hop messages. Low power is good because we don't want all our smart objects sucking down a huge amount of power to stay connected. Multi-hop means that if devices can't reach each other, then intermediate devices can forward the messages. WiFi doesn't do this, that's why adding more laptops to your home WiFi network doesn't make it more robust. Adding more Zigbee devices to a network actually increases it's coverage. Essentially each device can act like a router.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Netflix: You Suck at Streaming

We signed up for Netflix so we could use the "Watch Instantly" feature and catch up TV shows we missed while in Vietnam. Ah, this was going to be great. No dice. It seems that the streaming doesn't work on Mac.

Ok, so they're in bed with Microsoft so deeply that Macintosh households are out of luck. I dug an old XP laptop out of the bottom of the electronics drawer in my home office. After waiting 10 minutes for it to boot, I fired up Firefox and logged onto the Netflix site. I started getting excited about all the great streaming shows I was going to be able to watch on Netflix.com. Not so fast: Netflix doesn't stream with Firefox (even on Windows XP). Oh, great.

Luckily I hadn't removed IE from the old XP laptop. So I fire up Internet Explorer and try to watch the third episode of Weeds, Season 1. This takes about 20 minutes of software updating and installing of various media player components. Finally I get the media player running from Netflix.com. Just before the show starts I get a message that says my account is on hold and that I can't watch instantly until I update my account. Sure enough, we have a new billing address so I update my account information so Netflix has my correct billing address and try again. Nope! Same error. I try logging out and back in to my Netflix account. No luck. I try restarting Internet Explorer. No joy. I try restarting Windows, always good for a half hour of meditation. Nope, that's not it. I try calling Netflix customer support. The very polite customer support representative informs me that Watch Instantly servers update once a day. Turns out they update at midnight Pacific. Not exactly instant is it? Maybe tomorrow I can actually start watching instantly.

I understand that movie studios love their DRM. But if any of the Netflix gods are listening, you've got some work to do. In the meantime, I'll just cancel my subscription and check back in a year or so to see if they start supporting MacOS. Maybe Blockbuster will have that Weeds DVD in stock. I bet I can even watch it on my MacBook Pro!

Strange Sign

This is across from Giant Stadium. What do you think it means? Not

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Bob Lutz on Colbert

The GM Chairman talks about the new Chevy Volt, their electric car.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Databarge: Offshore Different

Wow, just saw this article about Google putting their data centers out to sea. It's a cute idea. You wouldn't want to put it into the Gulf of Mexico or any other hurricane prone area.


  • No property taxes
  • Free wave energy
  • Carbon free computing
  • Natural disasters (tsunami, hurricane, etc.)
  • Environmental impact (could interfere with marine life)
  • Hard to protect from the bad guys (pirates!)
  • Difficult network connectivity (satellite or undersea cable)
This might be good for some long term compute project that doesn't require a lot of bandwidth. Maybe some genetic algorithm number crunching...

Retro Future

This bike would make George Jetson proud.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Truveo iPhone App

Using the Truveo app, you can now watch a lot more internet video on your iPhone, not just YouTube. Sure, they include YouTube video too, but it's not all about YouTube.

One feature request though: a sort by runtime button. I've been using this to watch videos while working out at the gym. (My gym now has WiFi coverage...) I would like to have a button to show me videos over 5 minutes long, or perhaps do a descending sort by runtime.

Truveo is now my favorite app for the iPhone. Hats off to the folks at Truveo.

Here's a nice review of the Truveo iPhone app from Business Week:

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Mail Problem Post-PwnageTool

Yesterday I took the plunge and upgraded my 1st generation iPhone to 2.0.2. I've been anxious to start exploring all the great iPhone Apps out there. First off, you want to make sure you're using of the Pwnage Tool. I got mine off of BitTorrent. Make sure you check the sha1 hash for the file. You don't want to run a program that masqerading to be pwnage tool. Wouldn't want your Mac to be pwned by someone else.

To check that you have a legit version, you can run openssl dgst like this.

$ openssl dgst -sha1 Pw*
SHA1(PwnageTool_2.0.3.1.tbz)= a3faf5c074d5556a40ce4c7678a51995b5767073
Make sure the hash is a3faf5c074d5556a40ce4c7678a51995b5767073. If it's not, then you may have a hacked or corrupted version. Generally it's not a good idea to run anything you download form Bit Torrent.

After going through the pwnage process, everything seemed fine. I was able to download the Pandora and Truveo apps, which are very cool. Unfortunately I was not able to get the email app to run at all. After hearing all the bad press on MobileMe, I thought maybe this was the problem. Turns out it's not.

I found the solution on this post. The combination of pwnage and restoring messes with the file permissions. Luckily, BossPrefs, another great app, has a button to fix this. After running BossPrefs, email is working fine.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Flavia Hack

We've been fans of the Flavia for a number of years. Our first experience with Flavia was when we joined Dream Catcher Retreats (now Quintess) and all the homes were equipped with Flavia machines. These machines are great for making coffee, tea, or hot cocoa by the cup. A couple of years ago our friends the Bronders bought us a Flavia machine for our house. Now we can't live without it.

We recently moved to Incline Village and of course needed another Flavia machine. We ordered one online and it arrived this week. When reading the setup instructions, I learned a new trick. If you hold down the left and right buttons while turning on the power switch, the Flavia machine will dispense hot water until you release the buttons. Normally the Flavia won't dispense water unless a drink packet has been inserted. The drawback to this method, is that you have to continue to hold the buttons down until your cup is full. An alternative hack is to keep one of the used tea packets and simply reuse them. (Don't use a coffee packet, as they have a built in filter, the tea and cocoa packets are simply foil and have no integrated filter). The advantage of re-using a packet is that the machine automatically shuts off after dispensing one cup full of water. The disadvantage of the old packet method is that you have to have an old packet around.

As an aside, Quintess replaced all the Flavia machines with more serious espresso machines. I like the new machines at Quintess homes as well, but they don't make tea for the wife, nor cocoa for the kids. I'll just have to stick with my nouveau riche Flavia machines in our own homes and go upscale when staying at Quintess.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Flume Trail

Yesterday I rode the Flume Trail and it was great. In fact, it was one of the most spectacular mountain bike rides I have ever done. I found it by looking at a tail map I bought recently. The start of the trail was at Spooner Lake. According to the map, this is about 10 miles from Incline Village.

I decided I would ride along Highway 28 to Spooner Lake and then take the trail back. This was a bit of a mistake. The ride along 28 isn't fun. There is too much traffic and the altitude gain is close to 1,000 feet along route 28 between Incline Village and Spooner lake. It didn't help that I was expecting a 10 mile ride along Highway 28 and it was closer to 13.

At any rate, I finally made it to Spooner Lake. The sign above shows the distances from Spooner Lake. The 4.5 miles to Marlette Lake are almost all uphill, and pretty steep in parts. I was ready for some downhill riding by the time I got to the lake. Luckily it was almost all downhill from there.

Marlette Lake, as viewed from the head of the Flume Trail.

Head of the Flume Trail.

I'm not sure why the trail's historic, except for the fact that the sign says so. It was incredibly windy when I got to this point. I was glad to be heading downhill. Going uphill into the wind would be pretty difficult at this point.

Lake Tahoe View

Sand Harbor

The view from the trail was really amazing. My photos don't do it justice. It's difficult to get the perspective correct. I'm about 2,000 feet above the lake at this point.

Flume Trail Corner

The photo above gives you an idea of the beauty of this trail. You can also see how sandy the trail can get at certain points. The rocks are a brilliant white color, especially when contrasted against the blue water of Lake Tahoe.

At points along the trail I was reminded of Mykonos and Santorini. The brilliant whites and blues along with amazing views. The wind through the pine trees is also reminiscent of Greece.

The Flume Trail decends less than 100 feet during the entire run. At the end of the trail, there is a hair raising descent that takes you back to 28 at Hidden Beach or to Incline Village at the Ponderosa Ranch.

If you're interested in avoiding the ride along 28, I would recommend trying the Flume Trail Shuttle. Simply park at Spooner Lake and make it to Ponderosa Ranch at the end of Tunnel Creek Road between 1pm and 5pm. The shuttle leaves every hour on the hour and only costs $12. Parking at Spooner Lake is $6 per car or $2 if you bike in. For more details on the the ride, the shuttle and Spooner Lake, see Flume Trail Mountain Bikes.

For a slideshow of these photos (and a few more), click here.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Sand Harbor

Wow. This is the view from the Flume Trail near Incline Village.
Outstanding mountain bike ride.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Pneumatic Energy Storage

I just read this article on using compressed air as a way to store energy. At first I thought it was a joke, but presumably it's feasible to use compressed air as a way to store energy on a large scale. I remember when I was back in college, I spent some time thinking about compressed air engines and that you could at least start with old steam engine designs as they were essentially engines that ran on compressed air.

I also thought that it might be possible to use the pressure differentials on my 1981 Dodge Charger to generate energy. My idea was to run a tube from somewhere on the car where there was normal air pressure, like the engine compartment or the undercarriage, to a place where there was vacuum, like around the rear license plate. This seems like a crazy idea, but so does putting big compressed air containers the size of Yankee Stadium under New York City, and apparently that's now a reasonable idea.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Paris Apartment

A number of people have asked me about our Paris apartment, so I figured I would plug it here. We have a great place in the St. Germain area. The property is handled by a management company. You can find out more and even reserve it by going to the Paris RDF site.

The last time we stayed there we were lucky enough to play tennis at Parc Luxembourg, which is about a 10 minute walk from the apartment. Luxembourg also has a great playground for kids, which gave ours something to do while we played tennis.

Of course the apartment has free WiFi and free calls to the US so you can keep up with the world between your explorations of Paris.

Demolition Derby

Front row seats. Perfect for witnessing the mayhem.

Scenic Viewpoint

Stopped here on my ride up Mount Rose Highway.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Hair It Goes Again

Funky shack shop in Incline Village.

Bear Activity

Watch out!

One Week in Incline Village

View Larger Map

We've now spent a week living in Incline Village. I think I'm going to like it here. We've spent time getting the house in order but also exploring the area. I've been doing long bike rides. I did the Truckee triangle yesterday, which is a bit over 40 miles if you start and finish in Incline Village. See the map below for the route.

We've been taking the kids to the beach and short bike rides along the Lakeshore path. Jared has really learned to ride a bike this week, which is a relief. At the beginning of the week he always needed a push to get started and almost always stopped with a dramatic tossing down of the bike. Those days are over, he's semi-pro now. At least in his mind.

Yesterday we went to the Nevada State Fair. The kids had a lot of fun. A couple of the girls got sick from the rides. Not Jade, of course. She wanted to hit every crazy spinning upside down ride that she could convince her friends to go on. (And a few that they wouldn't go on). She was polite enough not to go on the ones with the really long lines, making her friends wait for her. The highlight of the evening was demolition derby. They had four heats: small trucks, big cars, women drivers, and compact cars. Cars were smashed, caught on fire, and emitted smoke of various colors. Everyone had a great time.

At the fair we met up with all the other Beguelin's in Nevada. My cousin Mark and Aunt Juana have lived in Nevada for many years. The trend continues.

The town of Incline Village is quite nice. I'm surprised at how busy it is here. I've heard that it will calm down after Labor Day Weekend. We'll have to wait and see. The people here are very nice. People spend a lot of time biking and walking the paths. They're easy to say hello and comment on the weather.

Incline Village has a few municipal beaches which are well kept but you need to pay to get in. As residents, we get a free id cards which give us access to the beaches. They also have a nice recreation center with tennis courts, an indoor pool and exercise equipment. The rec center requires an additional fee if you want to use it. The only thing missing is an indoor tennis court. Perhaps once the snow starts we'll end up spending so much time on the slopes that we won't notice that all the tennis courts are covered in snow.

The wilderness is not too far away. There are signs in our neighborhood warning of bear activity. We've found what seems to be bear scat in the yard. A lot of folks here have bear proof trash containers. I made the mistake of leaving our trash out the night before pickup. Some animal got into the cans and made a mess while snacking on our leftovers. I hope it wasn't a bear!

I've also noticed that the electricity here tends to be pretty flakey. Our power has gone off twice in the last three days. I hope this doesn't get worse with the snow. This morning the digital clocks were flashing and the wifi router was even wedged. I had to reboot it a couple of times before the wifi started working again. I wonder if anyone makes a device that can log power outages. It would have to be battery backed and have the ability to deal with electrical spikes. Hmm, might be a fun thing to build. Well, not today. Today is for yard work, bike rides, and cooking out on the grill with family and friends.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Don't Kite Surf with Fay

Here's why you should not go kite surfing in a tropical storm. Man, this is pretty crazy. Thanks to my friend Dave for sending me this one.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Made it to Incline Village

We opened the house in Incline Village today. The house is in better shape than we expected. We brought the bikes along and had a nice ride with the kids along Lakeshore Boulevard. Surprisingly, the DSL line was working. It's not supposed to go live until Monday.

The sound of the wind through the pine trees resembles a waterfall. Nice.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Emory Magazine

Last April I gave the Evans-Hall Lecture at Emory University. As a result, Emory Magazine did this nice article that even features a photo taken by my daughter Jade.

I enjoyed visiting Emory. It was fun to catch up with the professors that put up with me back in the early 80s. One of the great things about Emory is how the professors really care about the students.

I could tell the article came out by the increased comments on my blog. :-)

Here's the second runner up for the photo. The first one was more creative I guess. Or maybe this one was a bit too communist.

Friday, August 1, 2008


Thought I was almost there. Guess not!

The above photo was taken at about 80 minutes into my trek for the summit. I ended up throwing in the towel at about 2 hours and 10 minutes. If I had brought a power bar or something to eat, I probably could have made it to the top. I have found that it makes a big difference when you add some fuel every hour or so on these long rides.

Bike loading

Teewinot lift. The easy way up.

Lower Face Trail

Jackson Hole mountain biking. This is the "Lower Face" trail near our Quintess house. There is some great mountain biking here in Jackson Hole!

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Tesla Sandwich

Seems #6 was part of a car sandwich shortly after being delivered. I just locked in my color choices for #97 two days ago. I'm going with electric blue, hopefully it will show up better in traffic than the stealthy black.

My condolences go out to the owner of #6.