LASIK Experience: Intralase & Wavefront Monday, Mar 22 2010 


I grew up nearsighted pretty badly in my left eye (20/200, or -3.0) – my right eye too, but to a much lesser degree (20/35 or -1.0). I hated the idea of sticking stuff in my eye every morning and glasses didn’t appeal to me much as a kid, so I just went around with everything kind of in 2D. Sports like shotput and wrestling were obviously not too badly affected, and soccer even was not that bad (the ball is big and slow enough that parallax and ball size can give you enough cues with one eye to know where the ball is), but tennis didn’t work out so well for me. Around college I started wearing glasses as an experiment, mainly encouraged by girls who thought they framed my face nicely. And so it went for years – which mainly worked. But sometimes it’d be challenging – like when scuba diving, skydiving, snowboarding, or going to 3D movies and having to wear two sets of glasses at once. Sometimes I like to just let my nose rest and take my glasses off my face. So I started thinking about getting laser eye surgery.

A lot of my friends have gotten laser eye surgery over the years and I’ve been surprised by how uniformly they’ve been fans of it. Most described their surgery as “life changing” and “the best purchase of their life”. My company, PBworks, has a Health Savings Account and contributes $175/mo to it. If you’re not in the know, HSA’s are great because you can stash away pre-tax income and spend it with a special credit card on any medical-related expenses. Even Tylenol at Target! Acupuncture, teeth whitening, whatever. So I’ve been saving up in my HSA for a few years and finally built it up to the point where I had enough money for Lasik and to have some extra buffer left in there still.

Picking a Doctor & Procedure

After a lot of research, I found Dr. Craig Bindi of Laser Eye Center of Silicon Valley – he has a perfect 5-star rating on Yelp and heck, the center did Linus Torvalds’s eyes, so I figure it’s good enough for me. :) I first went in for measurements in July of 2009 and mulled my options for some time.

You have two options, one for each step of the procedure: whether you want conventional microkeratome or IntraLase and whether you want Traditional LASIK or Wavefront. The first choice is what technology the surgeon will use to cut a hinged flap of your cornea (to give them access to where you are going to have the correction performed) and the second is what technology will be used to actually perform the correction. A microkeratome is a small, vibrating knife that allows the surgeon to manually “saw” through your cornea. This is the more traditional way of performing LASIK, so most surgeons have a lot of experience doing these. That said, most post-op complications occur because of issues with the corneal flap (such as skin cells accidentally lodging under your flap and starting to grow!). IntraLase uses a computer-controlled laser to cut the flap instead, which makes for many fewer long-term issues. Your cornea heals much more strongly long-term, which is why both NASA and the US Air Force have approved laser surgery only where IntraLase is used (under high-G forces, a traditional LASIK patient’s corneal flap might dislodge, but not someone who’s had IntraLase). IntraLase is a chunk more expensive (+$500), but given that this is a once-ever kind of a thing and you want it done right, it seemed pretty obviously worth it to me. What I wasn’t told up front was that the eye is a little more beat up in the short term with IntraLase – people who have a microkeratome surgery often wake up the next day with near-perfect eyesight, but it can take a little longer for those with IntraLase to heal and the redness in the eye persists for some time.

The other option is Traditional or Wavefront LASIK. This covers what technology is going to be used to actually perform the correction. My understanding of Traditional LASIK is that the eye surgeon manually operates the laser during the procedure. It’s very important that the patient keep their eyes precisely still during the procedure, since a quick dart of the eye could cause a mis-correction. Small, unavoidable errors often happen, causing “night halos”. With Wavefront LASIK, a computerized map of the exact shape of your eye is made and a computer-controlled laser that continuously tracks your eye’s movement makes the corrections. This enables a much more precise surgery that is customized to your eye. There are a lot fewer reports of night halos with Wavefront and generally speaking it seems as though people’s vision (and astigmatism) could be more precisely corrected with Wavefront. So I opted to add that as well (+$700).


3/17/2010 Wednesday AM – I decide to go ahead with the surgery and schedule a Friday afternoon appointment.

3/19/2010 Friday AM – I’m feeling well-rested, calm, and confident going into the surgery. After doing some work, Anna drives me down to San Jose.

1pm – I arrive at the Laser Eye Center. They do some extra measurements, and offer people Valium. I decline since I’m feeling calm and don’t want to be drugged up. It turns out they’re running a 20% off “March Madness” special and the whole thing is going to cost substantially less than I thought. After a bunch of waiting, I’m guided to the IntraLase room and left to hang out for about fifteen minutes. I lay back on the operating table, alone, staring at the ceiling and meditating on health care that goes beyond just getting people back to a baseline of “not sick” but that focuses on helping people be as excellent as possible.

3pm – Dr. Bindi comes in with an assistant and provides extra-strength numbing drops. These ones tingle more than the earlier ones – it’s clear that these are the hardcore drops. A few seconds later, my left eye can’t feel a thing. The speculum (which keeps my eye open) is placed on my eye but I can’t feel it. Dr. Bindi walks me through what he’s doing and what I’m going to feel at all times, which is very helpful. The procedure is most uncomfortable because my eye is being pressed upon pretty hard for about ten seconds. (Or at least my eye felt pressed upon – turns out it was suction and not pressure!) I had originally thought that the corrective step would happen immediately thereafter – turns out, that was wrong! They give me a pair of sunglasses to wear and guide me to the Wavefront room. I’m really a little wigged out, knowing that my cornea is currently sliced in half as I’m walking around. I can’t see anything at all out of my left eye other than a vague sensation of light, which is pretty scary. I sit in the Wavefront room by myself as they wait for the swelling to subside.

3:10pm – A technician comes in to calibrate the Wavefront machine. This part is pretty fascinating as they put a sheet of metal under the machine and a pair of lasers click as they zap perfectly round holes into the metal. My eyes are about to be zapped by a machine that just drilled holes into sheet metal. I was mildly intimidated/amused.

3:15pm – Dr. Bindi and his assistant come into the room and check on my eye; it apparently looks good, so I lay down on the bed, which rotates underneath the laser. A blinking red laser comes into view above and a green laser below. The speculum is put in again and I’m told to keep my whole body completely still and stare just above the red dot. After a short while, the laser starts tracking my eye movements and stays in a fixed position in my sight. The laser “sparkles” are providing me with a pretty incredible – and awesomely personal – laser show. When the lasers start blasting, I don’t see a big flash of light or anything like that – the sparkles just freeze in place for a second or two and then resume, well, sparkling. It does smell just a little bit like burned hair. After about 30 seconds or so, Dr. Bindi washes off my eyes and removes the speculum. I’m pivoted out from under the machine and get up. I walk out of the room and into the lobby – “You’re all set!”. Given all the setup, it’s kind of funny to be released into the wild less than a minute after surgery. Some people told me their vision was better right off the table, but that definitely wasn’t my experience: the world looked as if I was seeing it through ten sheets of saran wrap. I’m given three kinds of drops: fake tears, Omnipred (anti-inflammatory), and Vigamox (antibiotic). I’ll need to drop the Omnipred and Vigamox four times daily for a week.

5pm – Dinner with Anna. My eye has begun healing noticeably. We’re down to “three or four sheets of saran wrap”. My eye is very red around the edges and there’s a bright red blob in the corner of my eye.

8pm – A work-emergency puts me in front of my home computer working on a customer issue for a few hours. It feels a little awkward.

10pm – I go to the Groove Armada show with Anna. It’s amazing. We meet up with her friend afterwards at around 1am. He seems surprised that I’ve had surgery that day.

3/20/2010 Saturday 7:30am – My bright-and-early followup appointment. I didn’t wake up with clear vision, which was a mild disappointment. I’m down to two sheets of saran wrap. The world is hazy but not blurry. It’s more like there’s Vaseline on my eyes than it is that my eyes are defocused. Anna (bless her heart, on some four hours of sleep) drives me to San Jose. The doctor (not Bindi) checks on my eye and concludes I have a corneal edema (swelling with fluids) due to my eye’s reaction to the Intralase and my cornea is dry/irritated. The edema explains the haziness; as it heals up, my visual acuity will improve. He measures my eye at 20/60, which is already a lot better than it started at.

3/21/2010 Sunday AM – One sheet of saran wrap. I look at the fire escape of the building across the way and can make out more fine detail with my left eye than my right for the first time in my life. I wonder if my eye dominance is going to switch at some point.

Sunday PM – just for fun, I try on my old glasses. My eyes kind of wig out and the world rapidly goes in and out of very crisp focus. I take them off quickly. My eye is looking better – the dark red patch has become a light pink blotch.

3/22 Monday AM – Still at “one sheet of saran wrap”.

3/23-24 Tuesday & Wednesday – I go up to Tahoe for some snowboarding. Since I’ve never had prescription goggles, this is the first time I’ve ever really seen the mountain in 3D. It’s pretty crisp, though I definitely need to keep my goggles on outside to keep my eyes from hurting in the bright light. My snowboarding improves somewhat, notwithstanding an epic 100+ foot slide down a double-black vertical that was basically just a solid ice sheet. I should have known better when a row of expert snowboarders were lined up at the edge looking down nervously and waiting.

3/26 Friday – It’s time for my one-week post-operative checkup. My eye doesn’t hurt at all and the “saran wrap” is now more like a thin layer of Vaseline spread over my eyeball. My left eye’s vision is measured at about 20/15, though there are still mild halos around bright objects. My right eye’s vision is definitely better – I can make out the text on the 20/20 line – weird. I’m told by Dr. Bindi that the halos will completely go away in about the next week and I no longer need to take my anti-inflammatory and antibiotic eyedrops. My cornea is apparently healing very well with no wrinkles, abrasions, or infections and the flap is beginning to firmly reseal. My eye is self-lubricating well, so I’ve apparently dodged the common dry-eye syndrome. I get a copy of all my records from the office and am pleased to see I rated 5/5 on “patient cooperation”. There’s a huge amount of data on my eyes they’ve processed!

3/27 Saturday – Driving is pretty comfortable now day or night. Still very mild “glow” around bright objects. I’m pretty happy with how the surgery has turned out and would probably recommend it. If the halos do finish disappearing over the next week and I have totally clear vision  I’ll be pretty pumped!

4/1 Thursday – My left eye is still much more sensitive to small bumps / being pushed than my right eye.  My eye is lubricating well but still feels a little “different” than my right. There’s still a very slight halo around things. Sunlight doesn’t bug me so much anymore, but I do like wearing these cool shades. :) I’m thinking about going into the DMV and getting my glasses restriction removed…


A Primer on Trademark Registrations Monday, Jun 15 2009 

Curious about the (TM) and (R) symbols by brand names? Interested in whether your company needs a trademark? I hope to here clarify for you what a trademark is, how to register one, and how to get your trademark registered internationally!

Disclaimers: I am not a licensed attorney and cannot provide you with legal counsel or advice. Consequently, there may be very serious errors in this writeup. You are strongly advised to consult with proper legal counsel before taking any action in filing or not filing a trademark. I am not responsible for you screwing up your trademark registration!

A “trade mark” is a unique piece of text or graphic that uniquely identifies your brand. Think of the Apple logo or the Nike swoosh, the blue stripes of the IBM logo or the bland text of “Microsoft”. All of these are trademarks. I’m not allowed to sell a piece of software and call it “Microsoft” or even “Micro Sawft” or anything that’s confusingly similar. Having it be clear to consumers what companies are making what products they buy is helpful to both consumers and the owners of trade marks.

Most marks are registered around certain “classes” of product or service. This allows two companies both named “Kara’s” to co-exist, where one is a gourmet cupcake outlet and the other is a home cleaning service. The point of having “classes” of products or services is that the purchaser of Kara’s cupcakes isn’t likely to believe that it’s affiliated with the home cleaning service. There’s a low risk of confusion so they could both own the trademark “Kara’s” in their respective classes.

In many countries, like the US, you get a trademark by default, just by virtue of using a particular name in commerce. Just registering a website and operating it is good enough. If you want to let the world know that you think you own a particular trademark, you can put “(TM)” next to the mark. This doesn’t require or grant you any particular legal rights, but does make an implicit statement that you are planned to sue people who infringe your mark. The burden of proof will fall on you, however, that you were the one to first use the mark. But in other countries, like Mexico and South Korea, there are “first to file” regimes — so even if you’ve been using a mark in commerce for years, if you haven’t filed with their patent office a brand new competitor could beat you to the punch and legally register your trademark. If you’re planning on doing business in one of these countries, it would be wise to file sooner rather than later.

If you’d like stronger protection for your mark, you can choose to register it with the US Patent & Trademark Office. This will cost you $350 per class. If you have a website, you probably want both the Product Class 9 and Service Class 39, for a total cost of $700. Not bad for lifetime rights to a mark. It will take about six months for your case to get assigned an examiner at the USPTO (it used to take over a year!) – the examiner might call, mail, or email you if they have questions about your mark. For instance, when I registered PBwiki, I had to explain to the examiner that I was not claiming ownership over “wiki”. Once you’ve cleared the examiner, the notice that you’d like to register the mark will be published in the Federal Register in order to let people who object to your registration see your intent and respond to it — for example, if you tried to register “Zeerocks” as a mark for a photocopier company, Xerox could object to the registration after your mark was published for opposition. If there has been no opposition, you should recieve your registration about three months after your mark has been published for opposition. At this point you can use the ® symbol next to your mark to indicate it’s a registered trademark. If someone violates your registered trademark, the burden of proof is now on them that they are not in violation — and if they’re found guilty, they are responsible for treble (3x) damages due to “wilful infringement” (namely: they should have known better since the could have seen the mark was already taken!).

If you’d like a template for how to do this, check out the PBworks trademark registration and note how the class 9 description focuses on the software as a thing and the class 39 description focuses on what it is doing to provide a service. You’ll need to phrase your filing in this way.

If you’d like to register your mark in other countries as your brand starts going global, there are two main ways. You can either do it yourself directly with each country’s government offices or you can use The Madrid Protocol – this mechanism allows you to submit one registration to several countries at the same time through the United Nations. Be warned, costs can add up in a real hurry – if you want to register your mark in two classes in all 42 jurisdictional areas, it’ll run you around $20,000. On the plus side, you’ve got a single entity to deal with (WIPO – the World Intellectual Property Organization, an arm of the U.N.) and don’t have to scurry around making lots of different filings with lots of different patent offices. On the downside, unless you’re a giant multinational corporation, you probably don’t have to worry about registering your mark in Lesotho. And you still can’t use this system to register marks in countries not under the protocol, like Brazil or New Zealand.

WIPO charges a pretty hefty overhead for the service – $653 + about double the rate that you’d pay to any single country’s trademark office. For instance, if you want to register an EU trademark directly, that’ll set you back 900 Euros (~$1200) but if you file through WIPO via the Madrid Protocol, it’s 2229 CHF (~$2000) to get coverage in the EU. So you’re definitely paying for the convenience of filing in one place.

Here’s a quick guide I’ve just assembled for the costs of registering trademarks in different countries and links to the online (English) applications:

I found websites for the following Patent Offices, but there wasn’t a clear link to online registrations – I’ll update this post at the point that I find those links!

Philosophies on Living Sunday, Dec 21 2008 

Because stories are told from a first-person perspective, they concern themselves with the subjective truth of the observer. different observers of the same factual events are recorded as different stories with different truths. many conflicting stories can be created from the same factual observations depending on the perspective of the observers. differences cannot always be resolved through dialogue, because the difference of opinion may not result from factual disagreement but rather from observer bias.

Anger resolves little. we get angry because it suits us to do so; it allows us to express our feelings and we temporarily feel better about having a candid exchange. but angry speech does not concern itself with being understood or with conveying ideas other than pain and guilt. angry speech concerns itself only with inflicting pain. regardless of motivation or provocation then, the presence of angry speech should always be relected as a weakness of the speaker, a lack of ability to seek an appropriate resolution. anger means you’ve lost.

Assume the other is willing to listen, can be convinced, and is willing to change. Assume the other means well and wants to be a positive influence on the world. Assume everything’s going to be okay. Assume you can understand things well enough to make a difference.

Speech for speech’s sake is intellectual masturbation. Do not talk for the pleasure of talking; speak to be understood and have your ideas acted upon.

Seek to have your hypotheses invalidated – ask in all things “how am I looking at this wrong?” and quest for your foolishness as eagerly as hunting for gold. If you look for confirming evidence, you will find it, even if it is weak. If you seek to have your ideas overthrown, however, you will quickly grow in wisdom. If you aren’t regularly seeing what a fool you are, you are probably just not looking hard enough.

You Must Remember Sunday, Dec 21 2008 

you must remember

that every action matters

that few act deliberately

that much is decided by those who wish to decide

the world is as small as you make it

life is as pliable as you let it be

you are every bit as much a victim as you wish to be

you make a decision to be happy

an absolute decision with real impact on those around you

as a result of a relative feeling


you will find everything you look for in this life

you will find beauty and tragedy,

hilarity and joy and loss and bitterness.

and what you see is true, all of it,

but what you choose to meditate on,

what you choose to observe

makes the universe more of that,

so if you see the universe as cruel and immovable

 then it becomes a little more cruel and immovable

 not just for you

  but for everybody

and if you choose to see the wold as lovely and full of promise and hope

then so shall it be



You have an obligation then to see all things

  (so as not to make decisions in ignorance)

 but to be particular in the matters you reflect upon

 for it is in these things

  that you form the universe whole

   in your mind

    and make your dreams and nightmares a reality.

Premature Thoughts on Weight Loss Thursday, Dec 11 2008 

I’ve been losing weight for a month and have managed to shed around 12 pounds; I’ve still got a ways to go, but I’ve been happy enough with the results and have received enough good advice about the topic that I thought it would be worthwhile to share. These thoughts are “wildly premature” because hey, I haven’t lost a huge amount of weight yet or kept it off, etc, so you’re free to wholly discount everything here. I’ll post again as I’m further through the process.

1) Have a reason you’re losing weight.

For years, I’ve generally had the thought that losing weight would be nice and that gosh I was getting a little uncomfortably soft around the middle. But it wasn’t until about six weeks ago that I decided to do something about it. I went in for my physical and my doctor looked me over, took my measurements, then looked me squarely in the eye and said “you’re in good health, but you really need to do something about your weight.” I realized then that I really did have a problem. I’m 30 years old, 6’1″ and was at 222 pounds – a BMI of 29.3, just 0.7 shy of obese! My sophomore year of high school, I was at full height and wrestled in the 172 pound weight class. So I had literally gained 50 pounds since then. Now I was pretty scrawny back then; a Fortune article on me my freshman year (after I was up to ~180) described me as “thin”.  I’ve probably been consistently putting on around 3 pounds a  year.

My frame’s large – my dad’s side of the family is big…and I don’t mean numerous. So I carry the weight well. But this has worked against me by making it difficult for me to see what was really going on. That I had not only become seriously overweight, but I could almost have been considered medically obese! It was time for me to do something. I finally had authoritative input I needed to lose weight. As a guy, this external impetus was important. Guys don’t want to lose weight for reasons of vanity: aren’t we supposed to not obsess about weight? aren’t we already attractive?

2) Set a specific goal over a reasonable period of time.

Since BMI was my concern, I looked up what my target BMI was and, since I’m a big-framed guy, picked something on the high end of the range of healthy – 189 pounds. I put a six month time horizon on getting to weight.

3) It’s a numbers game, dummy.

Then starts the actual work of weight loss, which is actually pretty darn simple matter of math. A pound of fat is about 3000 calories. So if you want to lose a pound of fat, you need to not eat (or exercise off) 3000 calories that you otherwise would have consumed (or not exercised). Since I want to lose 33 pounds, that’s around 100,000 calories over the next six months I have to burn off or not eat. That’s an odometer I have in my head – every time I work out it counts down and every time I save a few calories with a decision about what to eat, it counts down.

And a calorie is a calorie is a calorie. Different foods will let you feel different degrees of fullness or energy on a per-calorie basis, absolutely. But from the perspective of weight loss, I personally don’t feel it matters a whit where the calorie came from. I’m not on an Atkins diet, but the reason why Atkins (or any other effective diet) works is that it manages hunger and makes you feel full with a small number of calories.

Incidentally, alcohol has a huge number of calories. Some less-than-well-informed people insist that a “jack and diet coke” has no calories because it has no carbs. False: it’s got 64-128 calories. Things like choosing to have a glass of wine instead of splitting a bottle can make a big impact on your diet.

4) It’s much easier to not eat a calorie than to burn it off.

Especially if you are starting out not in shape, burning 300 calories is a lot of work! It could take about half an hour of huffing and puffing. But if at the office you switch from drinking two cans of Mountain Dew a day to two cans of sugar-free Red Bull, you’ve just put the same amount of savings. I decided to switch from putting cream and sugar in my coffee to adding Splenda, which probably saves ~100 calories a cup of joe. I actually decided to view every decision about food as a chance to roll that odometer down.

That’s not to say exercise isn’t important. Exercise is tremendously important to your mental and physical health! But the surprising thing is that exercise is not where you’re going to lose most of your weight.

5) You need to manage your hunger and energy.

If you’re consuming fewer calories, you’re going to have less natural energy and you’re going to be hungry more often. Find foods that fill you up but are low in calories. Oddly enough, water is pretty good for this. I’ve started drinking out of this HUGE VASE I keep next to me all the time at work. My coworkers think I’m silly, but I’m much better hydrated now and my stomach’s usually full of water. ;) But that doesn’t solve the energy problem. Recognize that you’re going to need to compensate. Don’t just rely on caffeine. As a big help here, recognize that working out at the gym actually gives you quite an energy boost! Watch out for mood swings that you didn’t have before or are stronger than expected. Don’t blame the people around you – recognize that it might be related to your weight loss.

6) Don’t try to build strength and lose weight at the same time.

One of the dumb things a lot of people do in the New Year is to charge into the gym with a resolution to lose weight. They go every day of the week into the gym and work out like crazy, lifting, pulling, squatting. And then they realize they’re just sore, low on energy, and haven’t lost any weight. And they give up. The economics of most gyms depend on most of their members being in this category. (And you wouldn’t want to cancel your gym membership, would you?)

When you’re bulking up by lifting weights, you get none of the real benefits of exercise other than having huge rippling muscles. (See “Brain Rules” for more on the mental and energy benefits of cardio vs lifting.) You put extra strain on your body and prematurely put wear and tear on your muscles and tendons.

Where you get the proven benefit is in elevating your heart level for 20 minutes or more three times a week. If you go all out, you’ll get hungry and will be very likely to quickly eat back what you just worked off! You’ll also be sore or hurt something and that will make you not want to come back to the gym. It’s important that you train yourself to enjoy things that are good for you! Think about training yourself to enjoy the gym. In my case, I make sure to take a hot shower after a workout, which makes me feel great. Gold’s has a really nice smelling body wash. It sounds very silly, but little things like that help provide the motivation you need to keep going.

I would very highly recommend the elliptical trainers or bicycling machines at the gym. They are easy on the joints but let you work up a good sweat. You’re not going to tear anything on an elliptical or while spinning. Aim for half an hour and don’t go all out. Just take it at a pace that gets your heart going (but not racing!) and keep it up for half an hour.

7) Eat slowly, stop when full.

A problem I’ve always had since a kid has been scarfing down food fast as fast can be. But portion control is a proven, effective technique. It’s pretty simple – if you put less food in front of yourself, you’ll eat less. So serve yourself smaller helpings. Divide the food into smaller pieces. Put less in front of you. Chew the food. And as soon as you start to feel full, stop.

If you had parents who said “eat everything on your plate”, you need to train that out of your system NOW. Call the waiter and have them take away the food. Dump the extras in the trash and wash the plate. Don’t let it sit there tempting you to finish it. Be done with your meal when you’re full. Don’t be tempted to get dessert if you don’t have room. Any meal that you walk away from uncomfortably full is a failure.

8) Be happy. Make this sustainable.

Seriously, you need to figure out a way to integrate this reduced-calorie regime into your daily life in a sustainable way. Recognize that losing weight is not just some one-off sprint, but is a new and healthier way of living. That results will take time and that this is not a sprint. This is not a brief period of punishment for being fat. This is about inventing a new you. This means making sure that you still eat foods you like. If you switch entirely to gross “diet food” that you hate eating, you’re not going to be able to keep the pounds off after a diet, because you will want to run away from the suffering. Eat the things you like, just less of them. Find yummy replacements for sweets – instead of eating an Oreo, try grapes. Instead of Doritos, try carrots. Split a slice of cake instead of eating the whole thing. These small choices add up!

9) Talk about weight and your weight loss goals.

Before dating a sociologist-boxer, I was pretty shy to talk about my weight in front of others. But after reading her observations about how men encourage each other with weight goals in the gym and about how important that is to effective weight management, I decided to start being a lot more bold about how I talk about weight. I started telling people how much I weighed, that I was overweight, and about my goal to lose 33 pounds in six months

And the response, instead of being cruel and snickering, has been overwhelmingly supportive and encouraging. And my friends have started to open up about their weight loss goals, which I can then in turn encourage. A more open dialog about what we weigh, how we see ourselves, what we’d like to weigh, and what is and isn’t working is very helpful. Have the courage to say to your friends “I’m overweight and I’d like your help to get healthy.”

10) Measure! Celebrate your wins, accept fluctuation.

Measure yourself on the same scale and track your progress with a spreadsheet. (Google Docs is good for this.) Understand that you don’t need a constant downward trend. If you gained a pound or two over Thanksgiving, it’s not a huge deal – this is going to pay off gradually, over the course of many months, so a daily hiccup or two is not the end of the world. But note the general progression – as you start to make real measurable progress, let your friends know and cheer it on!

You can do it! :)

Distillation Sunday, Nov 16 2008 

The experience itself has a small value, providing tidbits to recall later context for other experiences.

But raw experience cannot be shared effectively – the realtime essence of another consumes and overwhelms the viewer, requiring complete attention and subsumption into the experience of the other.

So there is value in compressing the experience for digestion by others and truthfully most of the real-time is low bandwidth.

One can have several different takes on this.

One is to focus on making the realtime higher bandwidth, to have more vigorous adventures, to have deeper and more moving moments and interactions, to be – in a sense – living a movie.

But this is too much for many.

Another is to consume compressed experiences, to read and listen to stories and process the concentrated essence of the lives of others.

Another option is to accept the low bandwidth nature of life.

Finally, a Zen option is to see that which already exists with in life and pay more attention to it, to perceive it in higher bandwidth.

David’s Two and a Half SSD Bets for 2010 Wednesday, Nov 5 2008 

I’ve been following with keen interest the development of solid state drives (SSDs), which are basically really fast and reliable flash memory to use instead of the current rotating magnetic drives. Why does this matter? Well, first and foremost, they don’t rotate, which means that they don’t have any moving parts, which means they could last much longer and consume less electricity. But most importantly, the computer does not need to wait for the read/write head to either pivot to the right place on the disk or wait for the right bit of data to rotate underneath it. These two wait times are usually combined into an average “seek” time. This “seek” time has only very marginally improved in the past 20 years. It’s clear how to improve the seek time – make hard drives rotate faster (lowering average wait times for a piece of data to rotate underneath the head) and make the disk smaller, reducing the distance the head has to travel to get to a piece of data. In the past 10 years, hard drive seek times have gone from ~9ms to ~6ms while storage sizes have gone from 20GB to 1.5TB. So, 30% faster seeks and 100x more data. So we’ve hit a bit of a brick wall in terms of how long it takes to get a piece of data from a magnetic hard drive.

The real answer is to not spin, but it has been just so darn cheap to make high-density hard drives that the cost-per-byte of other solutions has not been able to hold up. And it won’t for some time to come. But, fascinatingly enough, that may not matter. Because about five years ago we hit a magic tipping point where people (generally) stopped filling up hard drives. It seems around 100GB is the magic limit for most regular computer usage. With the demand curve on storage size tapered off, it became inevitable that the solid state solutions would start catching up. And that brings us to today. Or rather, to the end of 2010, which is what my two and a half bold, related predictions address:

1) Hard drives will be gone.

Excluding backup devices, consumer computer devices will not come standard with rotating magnetic hard drives by the end of 2010.

Why? Hard drives will still be larger, but it won’t really matter for the vast majority of people, who won’t use more than about 100GB of data and don’t want to worry about losing it. Like tape, hard drives will still be around as backup media, since our last-mile broadband issues won’t be solved by 2010. At least in the US. (Backups then as now won’t commonly be done to the cloud. Even assuming regular homes will have 2mbps upstream [optimistic!] backing up 100GB of data will still take 5 solid days to complete, versus a USB 3 hard drive which could do it in 17 minutes.)

2) Windows 7 will boot in seconds.

Microsoft is secretly developing an SSD-optimized (log-structured) filesystem for Windows 7 that will allow it to boot in seconds. This will be the principal selling point of Windows 7.

Microsoft has been very clear that speed is a primary goal for their next operating system. Experience accelerating Vista with hybrid drives has given them the start of the technical chops they need to be able to deal with the unique properties of flash memory. Their touchpoints with enterprise customers and storage vendors give them clear visibility into the developments happening in the space where the inevitable domination of SSDs should be obvious. Furthermore, Microsoft would want to keep these developments quiet to avoid spurring on currently-immature Linux flash filesystems like logfs. That way when Windows 7 launches in early 2010 there will be a large performance differential between it and any other desktop operating system. The marketing message will be simple: “The power of Windows, up and running in seconds.” This will be the last straw that gets people to upgrade from Windows XP.

2b) SSDs will come bundled with a Windows 7 Upgrade.

If bet #2 above holds true, since most of the performance advantages of Windows 7 will only be realized on a computer that has a solid state drive, to upgrade effectively requires you to also swap out from XP and your magnetic drive to Windows 7 and a solid state drive. This will be a HUGE driver for SSD upgrades when Windows 7 comes out in early 2010, helping bet #1 come true by driving quantities of scale. Because Microsoft will recognize the importance of SSDs to WIndows 7’s success, they will partner with vendors to offer an affordable “upgrade bundle” that combines an XP->7 upgrade with an SSD and costs less than $500.

Conclusions from this? Short hard drive companies that don’t have an SSD play, go long on the SSD manufacturers, and expect Microsoft to drive an unprecedented number of upgrades to Windows 7 in 2010, blowing the pants off of a (let’s be frank) incredibly lackluster Vista launch.

The 10 Levels of Modern Communication Saturday, Oct 18 2008 

My coworker Joël and I were today discussing the different ways we can communicate and how “serious” each was. From lightest-weight / most innocuous to most intimate and serious, we came up with the following:

  1. Facebook poke, friending someone on Facebook
  2. Twitter @person, Facebook wall post or picture comment, MySpace comment
  3. Twitter direct message, Facebook message, MySpace message
  4. Instant message
  5. Email
  6. SMS / phone text message
  7. Attending the same event
  8. A phone or Skype conversation
  9. Meeting one-on-one
  10. Handwriting a letter
This is hopefully a helpful guide for people deciding how meaningful a communication with another person is. It’s sorted almost directly by emotional weight as well as exposure and intimacy with the other – for instance, knowing someone’s handle doesn’t expose much, but their phone number is a more personal thing (and harder to control), and a home address even more so.
It’s amazing to me that handwritten letters are effectively the most esteemed and valuable forms of communication to our generation. I probably receive a full handwritten letter in the mail about once every other year and it’s always a profound experience. In high school, I’d send and receive several a week.
It may be an interesting reflection to note that I can barely write legibly and my hand cramps now after about a paragraph. I just never use those pen muscles anymore.

MRE Review: Sopakco Chicken Pesto Pasta (5/10) Thursday, Oct 16 2008 

This is my first review of an MRE from the Sopakco Sure-Pak 12. I got the version without heaters.

The chicken pesto pasta was pretty good. The overall sauce was a little on the thick side and I think could have benefitted well from a little zest, tang, and/or kick. But the quality was good and the chicken tasty. The pasta was not mushy at all and the pesto aftertaste lingered nicely without being too garlicky. 6/10.

The cornbread stuffing tasted alright but the texture was a little slimy on the outside, not at either end of the fluffy (cornbread) or gooey (stuffing) ends of the spectrum. Palatable but not delicious by any stretch of the imagination. 3/10. The “Osmotic Cranberries” were delish (9/10) and the peanuts alright (5/10). The crackers and peanut butter were so thick and pasty I think they immediately corked my duodenum. Yeesh. (2/10) The instant coffee was passable. (7/10)

Overall, this was not a meal I would regularly eat for pleasure. It was passable and would fill, but doesn’t strike any particularly interesting culinary chords, if you know what I mean.

Rating: 5/10

Great Music (for Brett Durett) Thursday, Aug 28 2008 

David’s Awesome Tunes You May Not Have Heard (for Brett)

– “Tabula Rasa” by Arvo Part
– “American Boy” by Estelle feat. Kanye West
– “Your Mama” by Kennedy
– “Dirty Laundry” by Bitter:Sweet
– “Teenage Dirtbag” by Wheatus
– “Mars” from The Planets by Gustav Holst
– “Love Beat” by Yoshinori Sunahara
– “Special” by Strange Fruit Project
– “Singin’ in the Rain” by Mint Royale
– “DVNO” by Justice
– “Proper Education (club mix)” by Eric Prydz
– “Flutter” by Bonobo
– “Curves” by Royksopp
– “Do Whatcha Wanna (Soul party remix)” by Ramsey Lewis & Mr. Scruff
– “So Long” by Mr. Scruff
– “Sun in My Candlelight” by Wahoo
– “Smile (Simlish Version)” by Lily Allen
– “Cassius 99” by Cassius
– “Madan Exotic Disco” by Salif Keita
– “Take me Back to Your House” by Basement Jaxx
– “Windowlicker” by Aphex Twin

On Beer, Wine, Mead, and Sake Sunday, Jun 29 2008 

Also known as: David’s Guide to Getting Drunk in Style.

With eight years of wine tasting experience, I’ve now become the sommelier (wine steward) for the house I live in, Rainbow Mansion (nothing to do with our sexual orientation; we’re at the end of Rainbow Drive). We drink a kind of startling quantity of alcohol, being eight strapping men and women in our 20’s and early 30’s who like bringing over friends and entertaining. It’s not unheard of for us to down half a case in a night and most evenings see one or two bottles dispensed with. So I’ve been tasked with keeping us supplied with quality, affordable liquors. So I make a point of trying a lot of different kinds of wines, beers, sakes, and liquors to bring the best home to the house. The great news is that the Good Stuff is often not startlingly expensive or even hard to find. It just needs a little researching. And that’s where I come in, so you don’t need to do that “hard work”.


Cheap Beer. Need to bring a six pack to a party and don’t want to be the chump bringing Bud Light? Good, cheap choices are Fat Tire, Widmer Hefeweizen, and Corona (with a lime in it of course — please bring the lime). They’re all good, widely available, and not very expensive. Heineken’s a little watery for my taste, but not a terrible pick. Sapporo goes well with Asian cuisine. And if you can get your hands on a six pack of Sam Adams’ Cherry Wheat, you’ll be a hit with the ladies. Please, please don’t show up with MGD, PBR, or Natural Light, even if it’s to be ironic.

Quality Beer. Boddington’s and Guinness are absolutely rock solid staples for quality beer. Incredibly drinkable and smooth nitrogenated beers, they have reached the same kind of unimpeachable staple perfection as Heinz hit in ketchup and French’s in mustard, Sriracha’s in Asian spicy sauce, and Tapatio in Mexican hot sauce. But I digress. Just make sure to buy the tall cans of these beers and serve them cold – pour them immediately after opening into tall, refrigerated pint glasses. Smithwick’s gets an honorable mention here, and Kilkenny Irish Cream Ale is the best of the bunch but VERY sadly not available for sale in the US. (I got hooked on the stuff in New Zealand and miss it terribly.)

Corked Beer. Everyone (including myself) is a sucker for Belgian ales with a champagne top. It just feels classy to decork your beer. Chimay Blue has you covere here. ~$10 for a wine-sized (750mL) bottle. Very tasty. This beer, like other Belgian ales, is actually ideally served in wine-like glasses to be sipped, not pounded. (There’s a time and a place for the red Dixie cups; this ain’t it.) Allagash’s Curieux is another Belgian-style ale, this one aged in Bourbon barrels; quite tasty and sophisticated.


Now most Americans haven’t had a lot of experience with sake. What experience they have had has been bad. My first take on sake was during college, watching anime with some friends, and we thought it would be really “authentic” to grab some sake to go with the anime. So we bought the cheapest stuff we could at the local liquor mart. We heard that traditionally sake is served warm, so we stuffed it in the microwave and served what came out. Good lord it was terrible, like getting assaulted by dirty gym socks. I decided that was it for me and sake.

Fast forward about three years from that to a trip I took to New York and some friends of mine wanted to drag me out to a sake bar. My protests were quickly waylaid as it became clear that noodles would also be served as I had missed dinner altogether. They bought a nice bottle (served cold) and gave me a sip – it was delicious! I was “reintroduced” to the world of sake.

Now if you happen to live in the San Francisco Bay Area, I would very highly recommend you take a day trip out to Takara Sake Factory in Berkeley. They provide free sake tastings (with an adorable museum) every day. And you can get some very, very good sake there very cheap. I’d particularly recommend the Shirakabe Gura Tokubetsu Junmai ($16/bottle), which serves amazingly well at room temperature and will absolutely convert new people to sake. The Sho Chiku Bai Organic Nama is refreshing and tasty (and a ridiculously cheap $7/mini-bottle), but the Sho Chiku Bai Nigori Crème de Sake is really what will win you friends. At $43 per CASE (12 small bottles), this stuff is one of the best deals for any kind of quality alcohol anywhere. And yes, trust me, you want a case of the Creme de Sake.


It seems that America over the last few years has begun to overcome its fear of wine. I’m very happy for this. The wine world can seem scary, with its pretentious personalities, complicated lingo, innumerable varietals and geographies, and marketing hocus pocus. But all of this serves to obscure the simple fact that alcoholic grape juice can be pretty damned tasty.

And tasty is really what it should be all about. NEVER feel pressured into buying a wine because it’s fancy or because you’re supposed to like it. The whole point is that you should like it. If you do learn words to describe the wines you drink, it should be for the primary purpose of finding other wines you like to drink, not to be pompous. So start with whatever comes to you, like “this reminds me of bubble gum.” Or “this smells like Grandma.” It’s fine. And if you find out you like a very unsophisticated or discount supermarket wine? Well, f— the haters. Know what you like.


The best white table wine in America is probably Carnival by Peju, a French Colombard that retails for about $16 a bottle; very lightly sweet and incredibly drinkable. Mondavi’s Fume Blanc is a little drier and is also a very solid and palatable white for even discerning palates at $15 a bottle. Navarro makes some of the best “off dry” (read: “lightly sweet”) whites out there, including their delectable late-harvest Riesling and, unbelievably, a Gewurtztraminer GRAPE JUICE that is out of this world – perfect for your Mormon friends. (Ditto their Pinot Noir juice.) Thankfully, I don’t like Sauternes at all, so won’t comment on them. The best port wines are the Vi Sattui 1999 Vintage Port ($34) and the 2006 Brutocao Ruby Port ($34)


Roederer’s Estate Anderson Valley Extra Dry (only available at the winery) is about $21 a bottle and is pretty much the only champagne I actually like. Yes, I’ve tried Dom Perignon and all sorts of other fancies, but most fizzies don’t sit well with me. Mind you, I won’t pass up a mimosa or a bellini.


In most other civilized countries in the world, red wine is as commonplace as water (and maybe consumed more often).  My favorites are Chilean Malbecs from Mendoza and Californian Pinot Noirs and Zinfandels. Specifically the the 2006 Duckhorn Migration Pinot Noir ($32/bottle), Imagery Zinfandel ($45/bottle), Benziger Tribute ($80), and Opus One ($150). The only wine club I belong to is Benziger and their sister wine Imagery is fantastic as well. The most FUN red wines probably come from a crazy old Dutch grandfather’s shack – visit Van Der Hayden Vineyards and you’ll probably be greeted by several children running screaming around the yard. It’s awesome.


Honey wine (also called “tej” if you’ve ever had it with Ethiopian food) is quite good and can surprisingly vary across the board from very dry to (less surprisingly) very sweet. There’s a lovely meadery in South Bay called Rabbit’s Foot Meadery, definitely worth a visit.

TERRIBLE UI @ Hotel Gotico: Elevator Monday, May 26 2008 

This could quite possibly be the worst designed elevator interface in the world.

Perill de Caigudes? Or Breakdancing? Monday, May 26 2008 

Photo from Barcelona – caution, you might be compelled to breakdance!

L0K8 – A Simple Location Service For Twitter Monday, May 12 2008 

This weekend I banged out a very simple location service called L0K8. It consists of a small (1.1MB) Windows download. You install & run, it pops up a web page, you give it your twitter username & password, and now as you move from place to place your Twitter location will change to follow you. And of course you can follow L0K8 on twitter to stay up to date with developments.

It was really fun and refreshing to go soup-to-nuts in 12 hours, something that I’ve done before with PBwiki,, QuickFinger, and FailStamp, but this is my first “single session hack” that involved both a desktop client and a web service. I used ActiveState‘s PerlTray to make a simple Perl script into a system tray executable then installed with NSIS. I can provide source if people are interested. The server backend is in PHP and uses libcurl to post Twitter updates and GeoIP to do the location lookups.

The desktop app sits resident and every five minutes pulls the update URL ( to fetch a JSON array of simple info about the user’s current location. If the location has changed since the last update, the app then presents the new location to the user and the server posts the update to Twitter if the user has associated their L0K8 account with a Twitter username and password. Multiple installations can be used by the same account and each install is labeled (e.g. with the name of the computer).

This was designed to be the simplest possible incarnation of the server that could work and I think it is a very exciting baseline that could be built out substantially as a simple presence redistribution point. I’m tempted to explore ways to virally engage people with L0K8. If you have feedback, let me know!

Essence of Life Wednesday, Apr 30 2008 

Who am I?

Who do I want to be?

I want to create, explore, dream

to add to the human experience

to love and inspire

and to give hope.

I want to experience the human condition

and have friends from all walks, in all places.

I want to feel pain, sorrow, loss, delight,

eat the finest and coarsest cuisines

I want to struggle and fail

to love unrequited

without becoming bitter.

I want to see God in every face.

Boingo Wireless: Astoundingly Confident & Poor Wednesday, Apr 9 2008 

When I was stuck in Boston’s Logan International Airport for a few hours waiting for a flight, I decided I ought to get some work done; I popped open my laptop to see if I could spot a free network. Signed onto “loganwifi” and got a page full of ads asking me to pay for access via Boingo Wireless. At $10/mo ($22/mo after the first 3) and 100,000 access points, I decided I might give it a whirl and plopped down my card. Things were smooth, but then it wanted me to download a Windows program. Ruh-roh. (I’m just connecting to wifi! Why do I need another resident program?) So I go ahead and install it and run it. It thinks for two minutes about logging in and then gives me a “999 Network Error” and a phone number for support. Here’s where things get good.

I connected with support relatively quickly, and the guy sounded educated and confident in his answers, but I was shocked at the things he said:

“Are you recharging right now? Yes? Then I’d recommend you unplug and move a few feet away. I know the signal strength says 77%, but that really doesn’t mean much. Most people I talk with who are having connection issues are recharging, you know.”

“Did you download the program with Firefox? Firefox sometimes has an issue with these wireless networks and the installed program might be corrupted, which could be causing the ‘999 Network Error’. Try downloading the program again with IE.”

“Okay, just go to Boingo and log in again…” (I log in and the website refreshes for several minutes saying “Now Loading Account Information” and then gave up.)

“Oh, you’re using a Core 2 processor with Boingo? You know, that just doesn’t work, the signal bounces back and forth between the two processors and so some locations you just can’t connect.”

I started yelling at him and eventually got a refund. [smacks head]

It was amazing how confident this guy was. I probably wouldn’t have known how nuts this guy was if I wasnt’ a computer scientist myself.

Thoughts on Architecture Sunday, Apr 6 2008 

written during an april 2008 trip to boston

Although my training is principally that of a computer scientist, I have a deep appreciation for architecture. The glory of computing is that in a short period of time and with only a limited set of resources, one can impact a very large number of people. The computer in this sense is an Idea Amplifier, a megaphone of sorts. But architecture is exciting in the opposite “time-people” slice, where a building has the opportunity to impact a large number of people over a large amount of time. While at any given point in time its impact is limited due to the size of the building (which cannot fit one million people) and the fact that it is located in a specific geographic location (and thus out of reach of people who don’t happen to be there), the building remains in a way that software does not, standing for sometimes hundreds of years. So I suspect that at some point in my life I may become quite fixated on creating buildings.

My friend Eric Silverberg and I yesterday walked through the Boston Public Library and its architecturally famous reading room. After a brief discussion on patent law inspired by browsing the year-over-year rapidly expanding volumes of the patent office (and remarking on the fact that the Patent Office in the 1800’s kept incredibly detailed records on all sorts of metrics of agricultural production and trade), we walked to the new wing of the library, built in the 1960’s. The change was visceral – the design went from open and magnificent to cluttered and claustrophobic. Eric and I paused to discuss the differences.

“Eric,” I said, looking around the new reading area, “I don’t get it – this space has all the right ingredients. Tall ceilings, smooth lines, marble and matte black. I can understand why someone would have given a thumbs up to this design. What’s not working?”

Eric pointed out that the light was not sunlight and was not sufficiently bright, but also that the stacks didn’t work visually – “it’s like they forgot that there were going to be books on the shelves!” That was a helpful epiphany; an unbacked bookshelf is going to look scattered. When designing a room consider its appearance and character when filled.

We walked to the atrium of the new wing, and could see the parallels to the classic wing: light coming form a skylight some six stories above, smooth marble paneling, and staircases going up the side. Again, all of the right ingredients for a marvelous welcome to the library. But it felt like an industrial test chamber, not a grand entrance like the old wing. I noted three key differences: the stairs were angular instead of swept in a curve (hence the industrial feel), the marble was matte instead of polished (lower cost, but less elegant, also reducing the light reflected from the skylight), and there was no artistic detailing on any features. No engraved writing or crests or anything, just a giant American flag hanging five stories up. The eye had nothing to settle on and

Other themes I’ve noticed from architecture: homes should have a larger number of smaller rooms. Who the hell needs a cavernous 2000 square foot “master retreat” for a bedroom? That’s just creepy and lonely. Use the extra floor space for guest bedrooms and common space. People don’t need giant bedrooms to be happy; just something that’s big enough for a comfortable bed, a small closet, and a desk. A bigger room than that doesn’t make people happier, but being able to host friends will. Bathrooms should also be small and purposeful. 95% of the time they are utility; they don’t need to be apartments unto themselves. Architects should focus more on a home for entertaining and being hospitable.

Instead of having a “McMansion” you could for the same price and with the same space build out a home with eight small bedrooms, three showers, five toilets, a great kitchen, and plenty of common space for events. And presto! you’ve set yourself up for a much more interesting and fulfilling life.

Mapping the Internet Sunday, Mar 30 2008 

With only about 50% of PBwiki’s traffic coming from North America and with preliminary benchmarks showing 3+ second page load times in Paris, I’ve been thinking a bit about how to make the PBwiki experience snappy for people around the world. We’ve experimented with using various CDNs, but I’ve actually yet to be blown away by any of them. Having our own nodes at the edge can provide a number of benefits, such as having a well-defined cache invalidation strategy, performing DNS closer to the edges of users’ networks, caching secure data, and performing SSL handshakes quickly for logins.

So a reasonable question to ask at this point is – where are the spots where we’d get the most bang for the buck adding a new server? Answering this question requires a basic understanding of Internet topology. Armed with VPS accounts in Singapore and The Netherlands and, I set out to get a basic feel for the current state of global networks.

My principal hoped-for finding turned out to be true – links are mostly additive. Meaning that if it takes 200ms to get from Singapore to California and 85ms to get from California to Virginia, it takes nearly 285ms to get from Singapore to Virginia. Generally the direct route times were about 10% faster than the sums of the links, but never a lot less than that. This was encouraging because it said that latency was fairly consistently due to the speed of light.

That said, there were some startling findings as to global connectivity – The Netherlands are about 4500 miles away from India, but packets from Amsterdam consistently routed through Palo Alto on a 16,000+ mile journey the wrong way around the planet.

I also found that most of South America seems to route through Miami – even traffic within South America! And that traffic for South Africa often routes through New York, even from London, crossing the Atlantic twice. SAT-3 doesn’t seem to be doing its job.

David’s Tips on International Expansion Ordering:

  1. 1st cluster: To be most Net-accessible, your first cluster should probably be hosted in the US on either the West or East coast, depending on target demographic.
  2. 2nd cluster: Your second cluster should probably be on the other US coast – this will mean you’re within ~40ms of nearly all of North America, are under 100ms from Europe, and are under 200ms from Asia & Oceania.
  3. 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th clusters: Once you get into the swing of having a few clusters, the remaining spots that make sense seem to be Europe (Amsterdam & London are eminently reasonable choices), Australia or New Zealand, Japan, and Singapore or Hong Kong. It looks like the European ISPs have been peering reasonably well and are all under 50ms from London or Amsterdam. AU and NZ are ~30ms apart (Sydney from Auckland), as are Singapore and Hong Kong.
  4. Extra clusters: As needed, you can deploy in Brazil (which won’t help other South American traffic), South Africa (which won’t help other African traffic), India, or Israel (for Middle East acceleration).

More later on how to expand into additional points of presence at a low cost.

On Free Speech Friday, Mar 21 2008 

A post of mine from a recent email thread on why a co-op should continue to host a server with arguably distasteful but legal content:

“I do not agree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

Those who believe in the power of free speech do not believe in the excellence of each speech, but in the excellence of the collective understanding that results. Each one of us has truths and falsities and we must together thresh the false ideas from the wise. Even wise men can be foolish and even fools may be privy to wisdom. So we must consider each speech on its own merits and not mute anyone or raise some other up on a special pedestal of infallibility. This perspective compels us to permit the submission of all ideas to the judgment of mankind. And if we are all separably and collectively wise in these things, devising best we can lies from knowledge, we shall thrive as a species, acting on all the best data available to us.

In this capacity have our servers been home to churches, governments, anarchists, junior republicans, UFO conspiracy theorists, strip clubs, libraries, political candidates, sex parties, kindergarden teachers, reading groups, carpentry shops, and multinational corporations. We welcome all(*).

– David

(*) Needless to say, the in-person user meetings could get awkward.

David’s Difficult Math Question Friday, Mar 14 2008 

In honor of pi day (3/14)…

If pi has an infinite number of digits in random sequence, then pi must contain all sequences.

It is commonly said that “pi does not repeat” and while generally true (pi does not predictably repeat) I think this assertion is clearly not strictly correct – there are an infinite number of repeated sequences in pi (e.g. “123123” occurs in the first million digits) as subsets of the sets of numbers in pi.

Therefore, I postulate that there exists at least one decimal position N in pi that is followed by the exact sequence of digits 1 to N-1. Namely, pi is “3.14159…314159..”. In regular expression syntax this question would actually just be phrased as /^([0-9]+){2}/, omitting the period after 3, naturally.

It should be provable that not only such an N exists but there is an infinite set of such repeating points. I would guess that that first N would be very large, maybe larger than the number of digits of pi yet computed (in the trillions), but if there is one there are almost assuredly an infinite number of other repeating points. This set would start with an almost improbably large number and I would suppose the numbers would very quickly get ridiculously larger.

There would be different such sets for different transcendentals, so perhaps we can discuss the creation of a function “D” that defines the infinite set of these “repeating points” for any transcendental. D(π) , D(e), D(φ), D(√2), etc.

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