Politics, open government, and safe streets. And the constant incursion of cycling.

Tech Notes: Desk Clearing Edition

This story on “passive” heating of homes just confirms my decision that if I’m ever building a place for myself, I’m hiring Germans to do it:

The concept of the passive house, pioneered in this city of 140,000 outside Frankfurt, approaches the challenge from a different angle. Using ultrathick insulation and complex doors and windows, the architect engineers a home encased in an airtight shell, so that barely any heat escapes and barely any cold seeps in. That means a passive house can be warmed not only by the sun, but also by the heat from appliances and even from occupants’ bodies.

And in Germany, passive houses cost only about 5 to 7 percent more to build than conventional houses.


I wouldn’t even consider owning an iPhone (keyboard required), but I’ll have to admit that this nifty little application – which geocodes your photographs by syncing your iphone’s GPS position with the timestamp on your photos – makes me wish my Treo could do that.


I wonder if this search/bridge will make the Tor anonymizer service any more useful. I try to keep a Tor node running most of the time, but it doesn’t seem to see much use.  What’s Tor?

Tor is endorsed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation and other civil liberties groups as a method for whistle blowers and human-rights workers to communicate with journalists, among other uses. It works by randomly routing traffic, such as website requests and e-mail, through a network of nodes hosted by volunteers around the world before delivering it to its destination. The traffic is encrypted enroute through every node except the final one, and the end point cannot see where the traffic or message originated. Theoretically, nobody spying on the traffic can identify the source.

It’s often painfully slow and not terribly easy to use, however.  Perhaps the app I linked will help stimulate some interest in overcoming that.


Looks like NASA is contracting out resupply of the International Space Station to two private operators.  While part of me is pleased to see an operator like SpaceX get some stability through this, I can’t help but wonder if it’s a significant step down the path of placing the space program (and tech) entirely in private hands.  The problem I have with that is massive public spending on R&D that will only end up being locked up for private benefit.


Consider the possiblities of this published research:

Rapid and selective erasures of certain types of memories in the brain would be desirable under certain clinical circumstances. By employing an inducible and reversible chemical-genetic technique, we find that transient CaMKII overexpression at the time of recall impairs the retrieval of both newly formed one-hour object recognition memory and fear memories, as well as 1-month-old fear memories. Systematic analyses suggest that excessive CaMKII activity-induced recall deficits are not caused by disrupting the retrieval access to the stored information but are, rather, due to the active erasure of the stored memories. Further experiments show that the recall-induced erasure of fear memories is highly restricted to the memory being retrieved while leaving other memories intact. Therefore, our study reveals a molecular genetic paradigm through which a given memory, such as new or old fear memory, can be rapidly and specifically erased in a controlled and inducible manner in the brain.


Open source once against illustrates the dangers of putting our elections in the hands of Diebold and other black box voting technology companies:

Ballot Browser, an open source Python program developed by Mitch Trachtenberg (yours truly) as part of the all-volunteer Humboldt County Election Transparency Project, was instrumental in revealing that Diebold counting software had dropped 197 ballots from Humboldt County, California’s official election results. Despite a top-to-bottom review by the California Secretary of State’s office, it appears that Diebold had not informed that office of the four-year-old bug.



Homebrew is better.

I spent no small amount of time this year revising and improving my shot-to-publication workflow for my photo coverage of pro cycling races.  It’s an enormously time consuming process, and I’m still looking to improve it.  Reading this (recent) history of pro photog filing systems makes me rather thankful for today’s tech.


Speaking of photo tech – Polaroid is done making instant film today.

Almost 60 years after Polaroid introduced its iconic instant camera, the company will stop manufacturing the film Dec. 31. Remaining film supplies are expected to dry up sometime next year.

“Shake it like a what?”, the kids ask.


130k Troops in Iraq? Let a Stringer Cover It


Midweek Makeover: No Song Is An Island


  1. Peej

    ““Shake it like a what?”, the kids ask. ”

    Reminds me of “Spin me right round like a what, Auntie Peej?”

    (Hmmm…I sense a good theme for a music post!)

  2. MB

    To which you replied, of course, “Like a record, baby. Right round.”

  3. sasha

    Round round.

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