Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Panoramic pics from an iPhone

Here's an interactive panoramic view of the Braves & Marlins playing a spring training game on 3/22/12 in Orlando, FL. I built the picture using Photosynth - a very excellent free app for the iPhone that intelligently stitches together multiple images of the same setting.

More of my panoramas - including those from my visit to the Kennedy Space Center can be found here.

Friday, March 16, 2012


Yep, new iPad. Didn't plan on it - I assumed that I'd buy a used iPad 2 instead, but the used prices haven't fallen like I expected.
"New" iPad 2's are $399, refurbished $349, and used are still $325-$350. I thought that they'd be <$250 (half-price), but no such luck. I think a new iPad is worth the ~$150 premium.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Small knee update, with cool graphics

It is early March in central Virginia, and the high temperatures this week will all be 70 degrees or better. The unseasonably warm weather has allowed me to undertake some quality cycling, and allows me to gauge my progress in recovering from articular cartilage implantation surgery (carticel) eight months ago. 

Though I am still not permitted to stand up on the pedals - essential for climbing in anything but the lowest gear - I surprised myself yesterday by accidentally choosing a cycling route with 2 x category 5 climbs. (>1mile each, with an average grade >3%), so I realized that I maybe ready to do one of my favorite rides that has a good amount of climbing. This also allows me to do a direct comparison with my pre-surgery performance - something that I've stayed away from. 

Today's moderately hilly route was 20.2 miles, with 413 feet of climb. My pre-surgery rides of this route averaged 1:09, an average speed of 17.3mph.

Today's (post-surgery) ride was 1:20, an average speed of 15.1mph, so I was ~13% slower, but I'd say that the wind was a bit heavier than usual today, and more importantly, I was a bit heavier today. (I still haven't worked off all of my post-surgery and winter weight gain.) Wind and weight probably explains at least half the performance gap, so all in all, I enjoyed a good ride, and seem to be recovering well. 

When inputting the ride data into a tracking site that I use (, I noticed a new, cool option that I'd like to share: 3-D flyover of your cycling route. Take a look below, and pay attention to the speed of the flyover - the flight accelerates or slows based on whether the course is downhill or uphill - very cool.

I can't believe that this very cool technology can be applied to my simple bike rides in central Virginia.

Friday, March 09, 2012

"Sick and tired of the Middle East"

That's the headline from an opinion article that makes a ton of sense to me.

With the exception of the Warsaw Pact bloc during the Cold War, since WWII, no region has taken more US attention, lives, and capital (both financial and political) as the Middle East. Leaders of both parties have banged their head against the wall working for Middle East peace, with just enough progress to give the illusion that the US is making a difference in the region.

I'd like to see a new US policy to the Middle East based on the following:

1) the Middle East isn't THAT important to the USA. The Middle East borders 3 continents (Europe, Africa, and Asia.) If the region is so important, how come the stakeholders on any one of these 3 continents aren't more active than the USA, located ~4,000 miles away from the region.

Putting this in GDP terms, the GDP of Afghanistan + Pakistan + Iraq is still less than the country of Venezuela, and I'd argue that Hugo Chavez is more of an imminent threat to the USA than anything in any of those countries. Looking more broadly, the 14 countries of the Middle East (stopping at Libya) roughy equals Italy, in GDP terms. So, if the entire Middle East disappeared, it would be about as economically significant as if Italy were to go on permanent vacation, or if China closed down for 4 months. Either way, I think we'd survive.

2) we fundamentally don't understand the Middle East region. Be it religious, tribal, political or ethnic differences, something causes America's best efforts to be unappreciated, scorned, or unaccepted.
3) if the region wishes to maintain cultures that are fundamentally either A) dictatorships or B) still stuck in the first millennium AD, we should let them. How can we believe that we can install democracy in a region - or even understand - a place where don't even have the right to drive a car?

3) there is an opportunity cost of American efforts in the Middle East. What if our diplomatic, military, and trade efforts were more balanced to include South America and Africa? Both continents are closer, larger, and higher leverage than the Middle East. Imagine if the trillion dollars spent across Iraq and Afghanistan instead were spent building connections (and the economy) of Africa and/or South America?

Unfortunately, I expect the opposite to happen. Iran's pursuit of the atomic bomb means that USA attention to the Middle East is more likely to increase than decrease in the near term.

With my new friends on the Great Wall of China

With my new friends on the Great Wall of China
Click to go to my online photography

World sun clock

Uncommon Man's Creed

"I do not choose to be a common man. It is my right to be uncommon -- if I can. I seek opportunity -- not security. I do not wish to be a kept citizen, humbled and dulled by having the state look after me. I wish to take the calculated risk; to dream and to build, to fail and to succeed. I refuse to barter incentive for a dole, I prefer the challenges of life to the guaranteed existence; the thrill of fulfillment to the stale calm of utopia. I will not trade freedom for beneficence, nor my dignity for a handout. I will never cower before any master, nor bend to any threat. It is my heritage to stand erect, proud, and unafraid, to think and act for myself, to enjoy the benefit of my creations, and to face the world boldly and say, "this I have done." All this is what it means to be an American." -- Anonymous