This is a just a quick note to officially state that my first day at LinkedIn is tomorrow, May 29th.  I’ll be joining as Sr. Director of Product, working for the founder, Reid Hoffman.  I’m incredibly excited to join such a great team and to work on such a great product.

As with my previous role at eBay, I don’t plan on blogging about work here on Psychohistory – this is my personal blog.  However, I’ve always been open and honest about my background and my work, so this announcement is fair game.

If you aren’t familiar with the company, LinkedIn is a great new site that is based on the premise that the single most important asset of your professional career is your relationships with the people who you know and trust, and who know and trust you.  The site offers a suite of powerful tools that make it exceptionally easy to communicate & leverage your professional network in entirely new ways.  You can read more about the site and what it offers here.

On a personal note, this means my 15-minute commute to San Jose has just become a 10-minute commute to Mountain View.  Such is life in Silicon Valley.

# Garden 2007: Sweet 100, JetSetter, Banana & Green Grape Tomato Plants

I’ve been a bit surprised at the ongoing popularity of the one or two posts from last year on my tomato harvest, particularly the pictures of my Mr. Stripey tomato.

As a result, I thought I’d post an update for 2007 on my garden. I love working in the garden – my only regret is that I only have 3 garden boxes to work with. Of course, that’s about 10x the space I had a few years ago when I was growing plants on the balcony of my apartment.

This year, I’ve lined up what I think is an excellent crop:

Box 1: Peppers

I love medium-to-hot peppers, so this year I’m growing five varieties:

• Banana
• Serano
• Jalapeño
• Thai
• Habañero

Here’s a shot of the 9 plants (2 of each except for the 1 Habañero)

Box 2: Cucumbers

I also grow cucumbers, using a trellis so I can get a large crop with very little space. This year, I’m growing four varieties of cucumber. Two years ago, my Japanese cucumbers reached almost 2 feet (24 inches) in length, so I’m trying to build on that success.

Here are the four varieties I planted this year:

• Lemon
• Japanese
• Table (regular)
• Armenian

I’m excited about the last one, because I’ve never grown Armenian cucumbers before. They apparently are light green skinned, and can grow to 3 feet long! Should be fun.

The plants in the bottom corner are herbs that I use to fill out the box – basil, oregano, thyme.

Box 3: Tomatoes

And finally, my prize plants, the tomatoes. This year, I’m trying to stretch a 3×6 box to handle 4 plants. I’m also trying out a much more robust 7mm steel support for the plants after last years disaster with my huge plants bending the smaller steel frames mid-August. I got them at Gardener Supply online.

The four varieties of tomato this year feature two hybrids for volume & eating, and two heirloom varieties for flavor & fun.

• Sweet 100 (cherry)
• JetSetter (large, red)
• Banana Fingers (4″, orange/yellow)
• Green Grape (small, green/stripe)

I’ve had them in the ground for four weeks, and they are really doing well. See below.

Should be a great year for the garden. Everything is really taking off. I feel like Brie from Desperate Housewives, but even my Hydrangeas are doing fantastically well.

# Heroes Season 1 Finale: I Thought Peter Could Fly… (Spoilers)

Hopefully the fact that Peter Petrelli can learn the powers of other heroes is sufficiently old that I won’t get in trouble with the RSS Spoiler police. I’m still smarting from the flames about my Battlestar Galactica post about Starbuck…

Heroes finished off Season 1 this week with the big finale. “How to Stop an Exploding Man”

The question I had on my mind at the end was,

“Why does Nathan Petrelli have to fly Peter up to the sky so he can safely explode? Peter can fly also – he got the ability from Nathan.”

Well, I found this snippet on SyFy portal where the series creator comments on the issue:

“You know, theoretically, you’re not supposed to be thinking about that,” series creator Tim Kring told TV Guide’s Matt Webb Mitovich and Michael Logan. However, Kring did prove correct many theories following Monday’s airing that Peter was so distracted by the fact he was about to explode that he didn’t have the energy or the attention span to use an of his other abilities.

Of course, that’s trying to find a way to explain an action from a story standpoint. But from an entertainment factor, Kring admitted that he was much more interested in having Nathan — who had become somewhat of a bad guy on the show in recent weeks — to save the day.

“Yes, I will admit that there’s a very tiny window of logic there, but what can I say?” Kring said. “It requires the proverbial suspension of disbelief.”

Well, it’s nice to see I’m not the only one who got caught in that “tiny window of logic.” Otherwise, that was really my only problem with the finale of Season 1.

Well, that and the cheesiness of Sylar apparently “not really dying”. Lame. Sylar & Peter are both too powerful, frankly, to hang around too long. A lot of comics have the concept of borrowing powers temporarily, but when you get to keep them forever, you eventually just become a god. Being invincible quickly becomes boring.

# How to Mount NTFS Drives on Mac OS X with Read/Write Access

Elliot, this post is for you.

A couple of weeks ago, I got really irritated with the whole Mac/Windows thing.  I had purchased a USB hard drive with the intention of using it as a backup drive for both Mac & Windows machines.

Unfortunately, I discovered that Mac OS X cannot write to NTFS volumes – it can only read from them.  I then discovered that Windows XP has lost the ability to read or write to HFS+ drives (Windows 2000 had it).

Well, I am here to say that there is a pretty cool solution for mounting NTFS volumes on Mac OS X.  Interestingly, it comes from Google.

The MacFuse project on the Google Code site is a BSD-license open-source project that lets you use any FUSE-compatible file system on Mac OS X.  FUSE (File-system in USErspace) originated on Linux, but apparently the port to Mac OS X has been live for a while.

NTFS-3G is the open source project that implements NTFS support for FUSE.

This lovely site has packaged together DMG installer versions of each for easy installation on Mac OS X.  (Please note: only do this if you are running Mac OS 10.4 or later, and are somewhat technically savvy)

Amazing.  It just works.  In fact, I’ve only hit one glitch.  If you fail to put away your NTFS volume properly on Windows (using the Safely Remove Hardware command), NTFS can get itself all locked up, and unable to mount properly.

Now, let me give due credit to this blog post for helping me find this solution.

Also, it’s worth noting that the write performance isn’t speedy right now.   The teams contributing seem to know this, and are working the issues.  As a result, I wouldn’t use this solution to make NTFS your default volume format for files.  However, if you need simple read/write to the occassional NTFS volume, this looks like a good answer.

Why Apple can’t ship decent NTFS support for Mac OS X is beyond me.  And why Microsoft can’t support HFS+ is also beyond me.  Given that there are tens of millions of machines out there who create and use each of these volume formats, I would say that it clears the bar of “important enough” to support.

Update (6/3/2007):  A brief warning.  Apple just released a security update that is currently not fully compatible with the ntfs-3g files.  My PowerMac was unable to read UDF (video DVDs) until I removed these files.   I’m sure a fix will be out soon, but be careful.  This thread on Apple Discussions captures the solution.

# Judge Judy Episode on eBay Trust & Safety

Sorry, I’ve been sitting on this one too long, and I just have to post it.

This is the Judge Judy episode where the eBay scammer gets her due… to the tune of a \$5000 judgement. More importantly, she gets taken to task for even pretending that this was OK or justified.

Premise: The defendant sold two expensive cell phones to the plaintiff, but then only shipped them pictures of the cell phones, claiming the listing was only for the photo, not the cell phone. When the buyer complained, she left them negative feedback claiming they were the scam artists! Sleazy.

Look, I know Judge Judy is no Rob Chesnut, but then again, Rob Chesnut is no Judge Judy. 🙂

I admit to having a soft spot for these type of shows… call it a weakness. But I admit a strong desire to see the few bad actors out there who make the world a worse place get some public humiliation.

Of course, if these buyers had purchased the cell phones on eBay Express, they would have been covered by 100% buyer protection, and they would have gotten their money back quickly. Still, that wouldn’t have been as much fun as this TV clip.

# Diamond is NOT the Hardest Material (Who Knew?)

News flash. Two years late. Diamond is not the hardest known material. There are at least three known substances that are harder: Rhenium Diboride, Ultrahard Fullerite and Aggregated Diamond Nanorods.

I’m a little worried. I think this is what happens when you grow older. Technology has just outdated one of those simple scientific truths I learned about in school. What’s worse is that it took me almost two years to find out about it.

But before I get into a self-pitying “science is for the young” groove, let me tell you what I’ve learned so far.

First, a big thank you to Business Week. Yes, that’s right, Business Week. Not known for it’s scientific coverage, but the May 7, 2007 issue had a snippet on page 79 about the successful effort to create a substitute for industrial diamonds for slicing through steel. Apparently, the diamond reacts with the steel to form by-products that dull the blade. Scientists at UCLA have discovered a mixture of Boron and Rhenium that is hard enough to scratch diamond, and doesn’t react with steel. Press release dates to April 19, 2007, so it’s a pretty recent discovery.

In all fairness, Rhenium DiBoride is only harder than diamond in certain directions, due to its layered structure. But reading about it sent me to the web – what other substances have been discovered that are harder than diamond? Somehow, learning that diamond wasn’t the hardest material bar none made me realize that I last took Material Science coursework at Stanford in 1992.

Fortunately, in the 15 years since that coursework, a lot has happened to help me get up to speed in a matter of minutes. And I am glad I did, because new materials are just too cool.

First, let’s start with the simpler one: Ultrahard Fullerite. Fullerene is a form of carbon based on the $C_{60}$ structure of buckyball-fame. From Wikipedia:

Ultrahard fullerite ($C_{60}$) is a form of carbon which has been found to be harder than diamond, and which can be used to create even harder materials, such as aggregated diamond nanorods.

Specifically, it is a unique version of fullerene (which is a class of spherical, ellipsoidal, or tubular carbon molecules) with three-dimensional polymer bonds. This should not be confused with P-SWNT fullerite, which is also a polymerized version of fullerene. It has been shown[1][2] that when testing diamond hardness with a scanning force microscope of specific construction, ultrahard fullerite can scratch diamond.

Very cool, but now, of course I’m thinking, “Tell me more about these aggregated diamond nanorods!” (I’m sure you were thinking the same thing.)

That, my friends, is a thing of beauty. According to this article at the European Synchotron Radiation Facility, Aggregated Diamond Nanorods are the least-compressible known material. To be specific, the density of ADNR is 0.2% to 0.4% greater than Diamond. ADNR is also 11% less compressible than diamond, and has an isothermal bulk modulus of 491 GPa (gigapascals) compared to just 442 for diamond.

Of course, I’m only reading about this now. PhysicsWeb.org had the coverage on this discovery in Germany back on August 26, 2005. (it’s actually a very clear & well written piece.) You can bet that the PhysicsWeb RSS feed is going into my reader tonight…

Wikipedia has a very nice summary here as well.

Oh well, better late than never. My guess is that one or two people out there also missed this, which is why I’m posting it tonight.

Now, I think we just need to find a way to start a luxury jewelry business that specializes in ADNR-based engagement rings. Why settle for diamond, which can get scratched so easily? We could make a fortune on this one on the high end…

Update (1/4/2010):  See the comment from January 2010 below, but it seems Rhenium DiBoride is no longer assessed as harder than diamond.

# John Adams Dollar Coins: First Significant Mint Error Found (Double Edge Lettering)

Well, I guess it was inevitable.

With all the press coverage and excitement around the George Washington Presidential Dollar Coin errors, you just knew that people would be all over the next dollar coin looking for problems. However, even I am a little shocked at exactly how voracious the coin collecting community has been tearing apart this new issue looking for problems.

The Coin Collecting News has some great information on what looks like the most significant error to be found on the John Adams dollar coins to date: a coin with double edge lettering.

As a reference, this article on About.com has over a dozen possible errors documented already! I’m going to reproduce the list here, just to give you an idea of the incredible detail available already:

• Die clash – Traces of reverse show on obverse
• Over-abraded die – lost detail (probably to repair die clashes)
• Struck through grease filled die – lost numbers & words in lower legend
• Struck through grease filled die – random spots & smears
• Small die chips – “Warts” and “Infected President” types

• Die clash – Traces of obverse show on reverse
• Over-abraded die (New Type!) – “Blinded Liberty” shows Liberty’s right eye polished flat
• Struck through grease filled die – random spots & smears
• Die crack in torch (New Type!) – “Broken Torch” type has moderate die crack
• Minor die break – “Filled S” type (One or the other S in STATES, both reported)
• Minor die break – “Extra Curl” has small die break in Liberty’s hair between curls

Adams Dollar Edge Errors & Whole Coin Errors

• Unburnished planchet – Planchet missed polishing & brightening step
• Double edge lettering – Coin went through edge lettering machine twice
• Shifted edge lettering – Edge lettering doesn’t line up properly with other coins
• Embossed letters – Improperly called “dropped letters” – appearing on edge and surfaces

An unbelievable list for a coin that is four days old!

Hopefully I’ll be getting my first mint boxes of coin rolls soon. I’ll be selling them again on eBay, along with some unopened rolls of George Washington dollar coins.

Update (5/24/2007): For a limited time only, I am now carrying unopened, original John Adams Presidential Dollar coin rolls in my eBay Store. Click here to buy them on eBay Express. I also have a few more original bank rolls of the George Washington dollar coins.  Click here to buy them on eBay Express.

If you are interested in the other rolls I am carrying, click here for all the coins I am currently selling on eBay Express.