Lepus californicus, yesterday
click to embiggen
cottontail (Sylvilagus audubonii) nonchalantly munching Caesalpinia gilliesii last year Rabbits eat your plants.

So do other creatures, and not always predictably. I had an incense cedar tree that went untouched for 14 years, then we had a drought and somebody ate all the foliage off it. I mentioned this a while back, saying "I think a career as lumber is in its near future." I only recently got around to machining some of its wood and found it surprisingly tough, the hardest softwood I've ever worked with.

Arizona cypress must not taste good. I didn't bother caging an AZ cypress sapling I've been growing (mentioned in the same blog posting linked to above) because nobody ever eats that stuff. But just this year a jackrabbit has taken to, well, not so much eating my cypresses as pruning them. The rabbit chews off pieces and leaves them scattered around. I think it's his idea of an art installation. The cypress sprigs do enhance the look of my driveway, not that the pic below does them justice--but that's the nature of installation art, it always comes across better in person. art
From Politico a few days ago:
CORRECTION: An earlier version of the story misidentified the fictional character name Bannon uses to refer to Jared Kushner as Frodo, a “Lord of the Rings” reference, rather than Fredo, a reference to “The Godfather.”
♃  ♂  α Librae
Jupiter, Mars, and Zubenelgenubi before sunrise this morning, with clouds lit by moonlight. Jupiter and Mars will appear closer in the sky over the next few days.
Sadie
I exchanged New Year's greetings with friends today and that's cool but it was also refreshing to spend time with a four‑legged friend who has no truck with calendars.
A character in a dream last night said that his desktop publishing software automatically replaced ss with ß as long as the line of (German language) text it appeared in was within 22 degrees of horizontal.

German has rules about this but they're nothing like that.
A friend and I used to argue over whether Google was evil. I think we were arguing less about Google than about whether a yes‑or‑no question does justice to the issue. I keep coming back to Solzhenitsyn's take on such matters: "If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?" (from The Gulag Archipelago)

That said, Google looks more uncool to me with time. I don't know which is changing more, Google or my point of view.

Google Maps recently started asking me about places I've been to. As fate had it, the first instance of this was creepy: my Android phone spontaneously asked me whether parking at a doctor's office was free. The same parking lot serves a bunch of businesses but Google knew I was at a medical office.

I usually have satellite navigation turned off on my phone but I had it on inadvertantly a couple weeks ago. And there are other ways a phone can sense its location, e.g. from which Wi‑Fi networks it detects.

Chrome was my (desktop) browser of choice for years but I'm trying out others now, partly because I'm more leery of Google and partly because of performance issues. I've been seeing Chrome do inordinate amounts of disk I/O. There are threads on various web fora about this kind of problem, some with suggestions on how to ameliorate it—but there's something to be said for a browser you don't have to figure out how to tame.
first ascent
A buddy drilling a hole for a bolt on lead on a first ascent today.
the same garment featured in the 1 November postingOne of the more understated logos on anything I own.
Shorter Sarah Sanders (from today's press briefing, after being asked about allegations of Tr‑‑p's sexual misconduct):
He says it didn't happen. And besides, it happened a long time ago.
Following up on some old postings:

Ivan Chermayeff, designer of (among many other things) the big red 9 I mentioned on 25 Jan 2010, died on Saturday at 85. His obituary in the NY Times includes this paragraph:
Working in three dimensions, Mr. Chermayeff designed the sidewalk sculpture — an immense number 9 in red steel — that marks the entrance to 9 West 57th Street in Manhattan. The building, by Gordon Bunshaft of Skidmore Owings & Merrill, is noted for its convex facade that glides down to street level.
Well. 9 W 57 is concave, not convex. (You could argue that any concave surface is convex when regarded from the other side. But a façade is generally apprehended from without, no?) Obligatory screenshot here in case the Times fixes* their page.


On 19 May 2011, I wrote about metastability, defined by Wikipedia as "the ability of a digital electronics system to persist for an unbounded time in an unstable equilibrium or metastable state." Metastability rears its intractable head when (for example) a system has to decide which of two events happened first. See also Buridan's ass.

Bitcoin's blockchain system is subject to metastability. Each Bitcoin miner that strikes paydirt adds a new block to the blockchain and announces it to the network. Should two miners extend the chain at about the same time, the distributed database may fail to reach consensus as to who was first. As described in the original Bitcoin paper, the can is kicked down the road:
If two nodes broadcast different versions of the next block simultaneously, some nodes may receive one or the other first. In that case, they work on the first one they received, but save the other branch in case it becomes longer. The tie will be broken when the next proof-of-work is found and one branch becomes longer; the nodes that were working on the other branch will then switch to the longer one.
That works unless two miners again succeed at about the same time. In practice these disputes are resolved before too long but there is no guarantee of how quickly resolution will come.

* It's fixed as of 11 Dec 2017 (tacitly, i.e. without a correction notice)
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