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April 2005 Archives

April 1, 2005

I am a plagiarist

With all this talk of accountability, it's time for me to come clean -- this entry is the only entry I've ever penned myself. The rest were outsourced to India, where one can purchase high quality posts for $0.01 per word. I can't afford those rates, but much like hair school haircuts, one can volunteer to have your blog posted to by a blog trainee.

Wait, I must confess some more -- I'm not writing this post either. It's the thought that counts, and a lot of thought went into the $1.00 I paid for this. Pity, a dollar doesn't buy very

Ode to '97

under construction

I did say that I hoped to never do this again, but as I've previously confessed, I'm a plagiariser -- I never wrote that in the first place. So for today only, I've updated kwc.org to make homage to the 20th century's greatest contribution to the Web: blinking text.

Update: There's only so much my stomach can take, but for those of you who haven't quite vomited from my nostalgic makeover, you can still get your fill.

Support kwc.org

In order to recuperate the $1.00 I spent outsourcing my plagiarism entry, I've decided to join Boring Boring and Gakker in adding banner ads to this site to support my continued plagiarism. Fear not, this is only for the short-term, as I've contacted the makers of Bloggy, the Blogging Robot about building my own kwcBloggy -- well, not really building my own, but rather paying someone else to build one for me.

craigslist cowboy pretty hip tired lessig

April 2, 2005

Book: Maya Lin Boundaries

A few scattered thoughts, with quotes and a smattering of images in the extended entry to go along with Lin's sculptures/memorials.

Technical vs. emotional issues

This quote pretty much captures how I currently feel about engineering:

p. 3:11

There are always technical problems to be worked out -- getting the water in the Civil Rights Memorial to flow upside down or designing the click mechanism for Eclipsed Time -- but these problems did not pose a real difficulty for me (though my technical consultants might disagree). The challenge, for me, is not technical, but emotional: the attempt to capture the essence of the idea that is so much a part of the original model.

Typeface choice for the Women's Table

The sculpture uses Bembo to mimic the Yale course description book. It also happens to be the same typeface as Envisioning Information, which means that when Tufte is teaching his courses at Yale, his design evokes the process of choosing one's courses. I am reminded of Paul Dourish's Where the Action Is, which shares the same cover design as our MIT Medical pamphlets. My impression, as a former student, is that one must be careful in evoking administrative material in your design.

Art by blueprint

p. 4:44

But is sometimes easy to lose sight of the underlying idea in the making of architecture; it is easy to lose the soul of the work as one focuses on all the smaller aesthetic decisions. Or if one is too strong or relentless in the expression of the underlying idea, that idea can overwhelm the day-to-day functioning of the place; it can force the dweller into a space that is too singular in purpose. The process of making architecture is labored and detail-oriented. The actual process must be thought through thoroughly in advance -- it is a premeditated process, making it difficult to be spontaneous and intuitive. Imagine making a blueprint of a painting and then following it exactly through to its completion. How would it differ from painting the canvas with the guidance of an underlying sketch, yet inventing or seeing it for the first time on the canvas? Architecture requires a close adherence to the drawings and plans you have produced in order to construct the building; changes and alterations must occur during the earlier stanges of design -- in the drawings and models. Although there is room for some maninpulations and alterations ot the design during construction, this is not the time to be changing your mind.

Continue reading "Book: Maya Lin Boundaries" »

April 4, 2005

Java/Windows Hate Hate Hate

I occassionally encounter something so moronic while doing my daily software programming, that I feel compelled to share. I know that many of you don't write code, but I hope that you can appreciate my sarcasm and the stupidity of the problem regardless.

Java, on Windows, does not correctly adjust for Daylight Savings Time.

I know that being able to tell time within your own timezone correctly is a minor feature, I mean, who needs to know that it's 6:24PM when you can more precisely find out that it's been 1112664323536 milliseconds since midnight, January 1, 1970 (UTC)?

More cathartic details are in the extended. Proof that I wasn't hallucinating this but are in this Java Forums thread: default timezone is wrong!.

Continue reading "Java/Windows Hate Hate Hate" »

Yahoo term extraction examples

I was curious to see how well the new Yahoo term extraction API would work, so I coded up a quick script to get some results on my most recent blog entries. I was hoping that this api might make it easier to write something to go auto-tag all my previous entries or otherwise allow me to add some interesting bit of info to these pages, but I'm not so sure. You can see the samples in the extended entry as well as python code for doing it yourself.

Continue reading "Yahoo term extraction examples" »

April 5, 2005

Google's plan: World Domination

I've finally collected evidence of Google's plan for world domination:

map

Notice the faint "(c) 2005 Google" text that is scattered in about a dozen different places across the satellite map -- Google's copyrighting our planet! From this image it appears Google now has faint control over much of Merced county.

Seriously, though, when Microsoft, of all companies, can offer the high resolution, public domain, satellite imagery on their Terraserver site, assessible via a Web services API, is it really necessary that Google crud up their images with their subliminal plans for Global World Control?

As a comparison: * Castro Street, Mountain View, on Terraserver * Castro Street, Mountain View, on Google Maps

Disclaimers: MS gets their imagery from the USGS, Google gets their imagery from DigitalGlobe, which explains some of the copyright issues, but not their expression of it. Google Maps does have a better UI than Terraserver, as well as Yahoo Maps and Mapquest (which both seem to have taken away their satellite views), but it does not have the GIS-friendly API of Terraserver.

Update: an even better map showing Google (c) World Domination over Burning Man (appropriate, considering the tradition of the changing Google logos first started b/c of Burning Man).

For all you urban planners...

horizonline's blog has been launched on movabletypo.

April 6, 2005

Living in the SV

Screw the O.C., this is the S.V.

UBERNRD

Update: this is the day for S.V. license plates. ln m spotted 3DSTUD and honeyfields spotted GOTMAYA. Also, back in the archives there's good ole KILLAOL.

Getty sun comparison

The advantage of going to the Getty twice, as well as having a partner the second time around armed with another camera, is that you have plenty of photos with which to make comparisons. Our most recent trip was much later in the day that my first trip, and the sky was slightly more overcast, which meant that the dramatic shadows of my previous photos were missing. However, we were also there fairly close to sunset, so we got to watch as the building transitioned from bright white to orange hues. The reflections off of the curved structures were also much more intense, and in some cases were reminescent of Gehry buildings.

Getty Sun-01 Getty Sun-15

Getty Sun-03 Getty Sun-04

More photo comparisons are in the extended entry. You may want to check out horizonline's Getty photos -- I stuck with a telephoto lens while horizonline used the stock EF-S rebel lens (save time and weight). She ended up taking many of the photos I wish I could have taken (including some of the ones seen here), given that I often had to stand halfway across the plaza to even be able to get enough of what I wanted into a shot.

Continue reading "Getty sun comparison" »

April 7, 2005

Google adds factual answers

Hogue's project at Google has started appearing in Google queries -- you can now ask Google for 'facts'. I use the term loosely, referring back to my bastard corollary of doing research: "Any 'sufficiently lazy' Internet search can confirm anything."

I tried out the Google system with some sample queries that Hogue passed along, and I also asked BrainBoost the same questions for comparison, noting the results below. They have very different approaches to how they answer the question, with Google favoring a concise statement of what the answer is (citing a single source), whereas BrainBoost simple returns multiple sentences it believes answers the questions for you, without trying to extract the exact answer. I am preferring the speed and clarity of Google's approach, but neither is perfect -- for both you have to take the answers with a grain of salt.

I had a hard time formulating questions for either system. For example, neither would tell me Paris Hilton's e-mail address or cell phone number (certainly public knowledge by now). They are both also very sensitive to phrasing. For example, Google doesn't know "what is the capital of California," but it does know "capital of California." (correction: Google does answer "what is", but from the Glossary instead) The exact opposite was true of BrainBoost; it could answer "what is the capital of California," but not "capital of California.". Also, Google thinks Mountain View is located in "Mt. CB (condo shuttle bus)," and when I asked it where SRI is, it gave me the location of Sri Lanka.

I've tested the queries Hogue sent me along with some of my own -- you can view the results in the extended entry. One query that I omitted is one that shows that Google knows the birthday of Hogue's daughter -- parsed from Hogue's personal homepage -- demonstrating the potential of Google's approach.

Continue reading "Google adds factual answers" »

SF salt beds

I love it when my flight into the Bay Area takes me over the salt beds in the South Bay -- the color from the air is so brilliant, and each 'tile' of water is so distinct. They're not quite as impressive when viewed from the ground, partly because of the rotten aroma, though it is interesting to see the salt caked up on the retaining walls when you cross the Dumbarton Bridge.

I finally took the time to lookup more information about these salt beds and found out that they were started by Cargill Salt over a century ago, and many are still in active use today. The Cargill Web site has a brief virtual tour that explains some of the process of converting Bay water into the salt product.

In 2003, many of the salt beds were bought by the state/federal government to be turned back into wildlife refuge. The John Cang Photography site has a photo essay that shows the potential future of these salt beds, juxtaposing wildlife in the salt beds with the same wildlife enjoying the Palo Alto Baylands Preserve.

I also grabbed two images, one from Keyhole and the other from Cargill's site that you can compare. The shaded blue represents salt beds that are now under refuge status.

04-05-05.saltbeds.rot.jpg

04-05-05.cargill.saltbeds.map.gif

credit A Whole Lotta Nothing for reminding me of the topic (though his WAG may have a couple inaccuracies)

April 8, 2005

Craigslist + Google Maps

I've seen several Google Maps hacks since its recent release, but this one takes the prize for actually being useful: Craigslist + Google Maps

You can see all of the Craiglist apartment rent/sale listings overlaid on a Google Map, and if you click on a listing it will show you the details for that listing, including pictures. You can also narrow the listings down to your particular price range.

Having used Craigslist before to find housing, I know that this would have saved a lot of time and effort.

April 9, 2005

APE 2005

APE 2005 (Alternative Press Expo) was a good warmup for Comic-Con: < 1/10th the size, ~ 1/10th the cost, ~ 1/10th the time. It's also a good time to give more love to the indies that generally look a lot more lonely during the full-scale Comic-Con.

I picked up a print, a poster, and a t-shirt, and got a sketch from each artist that I purchased something from. My favorite item is a PETA-be-damned "How to Create a Fighting Machine" poster print by Jared Purrington, which is a visual instruction manual for turning a roll of tape, a knife, and a hamster into your own instrument of death (update: jwz did a scan of the cartoon). Purrington's sketch for me can be viewed as a sort-of appendix:

purrington

I also picked up a samurai rabbit shirt ("The Cursed" by Duzty) (no, not Usagi/Sakai). Haven't read the comic, as there is not much posted online yet.

duzty

My last item is a print by Attaboy, which looks like this without the text. This is a quick sketch he did for me, which is appropriately twisted:

attaboy

Gallery Nucleus had a bunch of stuff that I wanted, but did not have the fund$$$ for, so I thought I would buy their stuff online instead. I made the mistake of not getting this "Ninja in the Snow" piece, which is $50 instead of the $20 I could have paid.

April 10, 2005

Morgan Hill Grand Prix

The Morgan Hill Grand Prix was two great races -- both the Men's and Women's pros turned in great efforts. In the women's group, Christine Thornburg barely held onto a breakaway to take the race -- she was nearly caught on the final climb, and on the final straightaway the entire pack was breathing down her neck.

In the men's group, it was an example of one rider completely outclassing the rest -- Dave Zabriskie, the winner, races for CSC, an international team, whereas many of the other riders were locals racing for local teams. Despite the complete domination, it was entertaining to watch as he executed his tactics without fail. Zabriskie was racing without support from his team, so he first brokeaway from the pack to get some of the better riders to chase him and form a virtual breakaway team for him. He then attacked that breakaway group to break off some of the Webcor riders (there were 3 in the breakaway), and with one final attack he was able to solo multiple laps to victory.

As usual, I took quite a few photos of the races, though it was a lot easier than usual to filter the photos, as a large percentage of them were out of focus or contained shots of bare road. I thought my fancy new telephoto lens would solve all my difficulties shooting photos at bike races -- I would have beautiful, crisp, close-up shots of bike racers battling for victory. It turns out that you actually need talent to shoot photos of people moving 40 miles/hour, but I'm happy to get the practice. I have a far greater appreciation for Graham Watson now. I uploaded a small set of the photos that you can checkout:

Morgan Hill Grand Prix Photoset

Morgan Hill Grand Prix-03 Morgan Hill Grand Prix-15

April 12, 2005

Budget stat visualizations

John Maeda has posted his "Money Counter" which visualizes compares different Federal budget expenditures. With my own caveat that statistics can lie or be overly selective, feel free to check it out. The data is based on Parade magazine's "Where does your tax money go?" article. The javascript did weird things to my Firefox (don't follow these links until you've bookmarked all your tabs), including rendering the pull-down menu for selecting different comparisons inoperable, so I'll link to the comparisons available individually:

Talk: Recent Innovations in Search and Other Ways of Finding Information

Peter Norvig, Google; Ken Norton, Yahoo!; Mark Fletcher, Bloglines/Ask Jeeves; Udi Manber, A9; Jakob Nielsen, NN Group

I went with bp and Neil to a BayCHI talk on "Recent Innovations in Search." I agree with bp's sentiment -- there were some interesting moments, but the talk was short on revelations or insights. I guess that is to be expected as the title of the talk is past focused ("Recent Innovations") rather than future focused ("Future Innovations"); it's hard to believe that the panelists would give away yet unrevealed technologies they were working on. I'm going to try and save as much effort as possible, given that bp posted his notes. In fact, as I am going to crib from his notes, or just omit what he already has, you should just go read them instead.

Continue reading "Talk: Recent Innovations in Search and Other Ways of Finding Information" »

April 14, 2005

kwc.org Search Keyword Fight I

In the spirit of mining stats to do auto-captioning, and inspired by wombat's Googlefight model of decision making, I bring you the latest to be scraped from my server logs: kwc.org Search Keyword Fight I (roman numerals indicate the potential for future fights). Rules: each term below is given a score indicating the number of times it was used in a search query (Google/Yahoo/etc...) that ended up on kwc.org. For example:

  • mit 9
  • stanford 7

means that "MIT" was used in 9 search queries, and "Stanford" was used 7 times.

Round 1: Gender superiority

Hard to judge this round: man has a slight lead in the individual scoring, but Batman was a suprise third.

  • man 22
  • woman 16
  • batman 10
  • stickman 8
  • manchuria 7

Women shutout the men in the team competition, and the co-ed X-Men team posted a respectable score for homo superior.

  • women 34
  • x-men 6
  • men 0

Round 2: Warrior supreme

  • samurai 50
  • pirates 9
  • ninjas 6

Note to Hollywood: do more samurai films (w/o Tom Cruise).

Round 3: Computer Religion

I couldn't help but notice these two fighting neck-and-neck for position among my stats:

  • apple 67
  • microsoft 67

Round 4: Morality

  • evil 33
  • hate 13
  • good 9
  • love 0

I'm not sure how to interpret this round. Is it my site is evil -- I do write about evil bunnies from time to time -- or is it that people who use search engines are looking for evil/hateful content?

Bonus Round

This is a search query stat fight, so we'll end the scoring with a fight between the search engines themselves:

  • google 125
  • yahoo 11

Craigslist + Google Maps Followup: Urbanrenter

As a followup to my Craigslist + Google Maps post, Josh sent me a link to urbanrenter, which does with the Craigslist/Maps brainmeld did, with a few bonus extras.

Urbanrenter uses data from Craigslist to display both macro- and micro-level rental details -- you can tell, for example, that living south of 280 is hecka expensive (darker map shading), and if you zoom in there are circles representing individual Craigslist listings. This provides a good resource for figuring out where you can afford to live as well as finding apartments for rent there.

Urbanrenter also features draggable maps like Google Maps, a feature that Peter Norvig noted as one of Google's "differentiating features" at the BayCHI panel two nights ago. The implementation is a little different -- Urbanrenter uses a single, over-sized map image, whereas Google Maps uses multiple map tiles, with some lying off-screen (somewhat akin to old videogame implementations). Google's implementation gets the nod for now (dynamically resizable, smoother loading), but it's good to see that others have this feature.

Overall, I'm also preferring the Craigslist + Google Maps meld to Urbanrenter for the task of finding an apartment. C+GM is easier to use overall -- Urbanrenter requires you to type in a street address or zip code (neither is an easy detail if you don't already live in the area) to get the listings, and the overlays showing the locations of listings is not as easy to read. These seem like small quibbles that could easily be fixed.

April 15, 2005

GarageBand-ready popular music

It's not quite my feature request, but it's pretty close and cool nevertheless. To recap, being a guitar player, I thought it would be really cool that instead of just selling songs on iTunesMS, it would be really cool if Apple also started offering GarageBand-ready mixes, or at the very least, remixes of songs with the guitar/vocals/(your musical talent here) knocked out so that you could play along.

Trent Reznor of NIN has done just this -- you can download a 70MB GarageBand-formatted version of "The Hand That Feeds."

Yes, this is pretty much what I asked for with one minor caveat -- from what I've heard from the most recent album, there's very little chance that there's a guitar track that I can knock out and play. Oh well, minus my own lack of versatile musical talent, that's pretty cool.

April 17, 2005

Pinnacles and California Condors

California Condorota had the great idea of taking a trip down to Pinnacles National Monument (southeast of Monterey). Driving there is deceiving -- up until you reach the park you are in the typical Northern California rolling green hills, but once you reach the remains of the former volcano, you are suddenly surrounded by large rock towers jutting straight up out of the ground. The main high peak is a haven for large birds, which are constantly circling above and around.

If you enjoy hiking, birding (condors, vultures, sparrows, hummingbirds), chapparel flora, rock climbing, or small caves, there's plenty to do and be entertained by. We hiked up to the High Peak, where we spotted one of the few remaining California Condors -- it became an instant tourist attraction. At one point we saw what looked like a kid squirting the condor with a squirt gun and throwing small rocks -- we shouted for the kid to stop and leave it alone. Turns out it wasn't a kid; it was a park ranger trying to get the condor to leave the company of people.

I've have been reading the condor field notes from Pinnacles, and the acclimation to people is a big problem the condor reintroduction program is frequently dealing with. Periodically they have to capture some of the more human-friendly condors and bring them in for "aversive conditioning."

As usual, there are hundreds of photos to process and rank, but in the meantime I've uploaded some of the condor photos. It appears to be a young one, as my reading tells me that adults have pink heads, but if it weren't for the tag on the shoulder I wouldn't have known it from the turkey vultures that were also circling above. I believe the condor is number 306, described in the field notes as a "young female" that was recently introduced to the park. She appears to have been one of the last of the recently introduced condors (November 2004) to venture from the flight pens and around the park, and my camera was lucky that she has become more adventurous.

Update:

Related entries * Pinnacles Photos * Pinnacles Panorama California Condor Photo Album

Pinnacles Panorama

pinnacles panorama

Still going through the Pinnacles photos, but this panorama should give a better idea of what Pinnacles looks like.

April 18, 2005

Armstrong retires

Lance Armstrong-1Lance Armstrong will retire the day after this year's Tour de France. The rumor mill this year started off trying to guess which races Armstrong would be racing this year, but this soon became overwhelmed by retirement rumors after being quoted as saying "Four months and it's over." Given all the challenges left unfulfilled (Giro d' Italia, Vuelta a Espana, hour record), it'll be sad to see him go, but I hope that the nascent US cycling events that he helped grow will continue to blossom even in his absence.

Pinnacles photos

My Pinnacles photo album is up, as is horizonline's (we have very different photography styles).

Highlights: * The moon was showing its face during the afternoon, and I managed to capture a nice image of a plane contrail crossing the moon. The moon also makes appearance in several other photos (good size reference for how big the rocks are). * We also ran across a bunch of different lizards. You can decide whether you like vertical lizard or horizontal lizard better. * The small-but-adventuresome Balconies Cave makes a brief appearance in some of the photos * Things shaped like things: Bird-shaped rock 1, Bird-shaped rock 2, Wizard-shaped tree

Pinnacles-21 Pinnacles-25 Pinnacles-04 Pinnacles-22 Pinnacles-13 Pinnacles-44 Pinnacles-41 Pinnacles-40

April 19, 2005

Blasted midnight

I was shopping for Episode III tickets online and came across this difficult-to-interpret listing:

screenshot

12:30am is listed last, which would seem to indicate that it means the morning of the 20th, but if I click on 12:30am it tells me that I would be purchasing tickets for "12:30am the evening of Thu, May 19."

parakkum has clarified that they actually mean "12:30am the morning of the Fri, May 20," as it appears that the real midnight showing tickets are listed when you choose Wed, May 18.

Canon USM

pqbon and I have been trading lists of lenses that we are lusting after, and I've been realizing that all this Canon lens terminology has been leaking from my brain faster than I can put it in. I've decided that I'll do a series of posts representing various things I've learned on the Web about Canon equipment, as well as photography in general, in the hopes that I can slow the rate of leakage.

One bit of Canon terminology that is troubling is USM, a technology for autofocusing that stands for "Ultrasonic Motor." USM was a term they first started using in 1987 when they developed a new fast and quiet motor, which they dubbed a "ring ultrasonic motor" -- the motor uses tiny vibrations to generate rotation. As the term "ring" implies, the autofocusing mechanism sits in a ring around the optics of the camera, and most importantly, it allows you to do manual focusing even when in auto focus mode. Steve Weixel put together a nicely photographed dissection of his broken ring ultrasonic motor. Here's a photo of the ring motor itself:

04-19-05.ring-motorb.jpg

Several years later, Canon developed a new autofocusing technology that is a motor that connects to the focusing mechanism via a set of gears. This mechanism is cheaper to produce, and Canon also touts the ability to stick it into smaller lenses. As you can see from the photo below, this new motor is considerably different from the ring-style motor:

04-19-05.ultraimage2.jpg

The downside of this new motor is that it is louder than the ring-style mechanism and in most lenses that it is used in you cannot do manual focusing when in auto focus mode -- you need to check if the lens has "FTM" (full time manual) as a feature.

Blessed with creativity, Canon decide to call this new technology "micro USM." In an attempt to conserve letters, Canon shortens this to "USM" in its product names and instead of having a red-rimmed ring around the front of the lens they use a golden ring (update: red-rim indicates "L" luxury lens, which happens to generally be an indicator of ring-type USM, but there are several ring-type USM lenses that are golden-ringed -- see comments).

If you read this photo.net thread, you'll find people listing all sorts of other 'tests' you can do to see what type of USM motor a lens has, though the easiest method is probably just to use Google to find out which type your lens has.

Does the difference between the two lenses really matter? Depends on you, really. Micro-USM saves you money, and I'm also so used to flipping a switch between autofocus and manual focus. Another caveat is that you have to be careful that you are not in sports mode on a Digital Rebel, as in sports mode the auto-focus mechanism will try to continually autofocus in order to follow a moving target (AI Servo mode). So, for me it probably doesn't matter, but I do enjoy the feel of the ring ultrasonic motor on my 70-200mm lens.

Link summary: * Canon Web site on Ultrasonic technology * Philip Greenspun posting on photo.net about Canon EOS lens * Dissection of an ring ultrasonic motor

April 20, 2005

QotD: Delay's Evil Internet

"Absolutely. We've got Justice Kennedy writing decisions based upon international law, not the Constitution of the United States? That's just outrageous," DeLay told Fox News Radio on Tuesday. "And not only that, but he said in session that he does his own research on the Internet? That is just incredibly outrageous."

AP/CNN article

Technorati Spam

E-mail spam. Comment spam. I've even received spam in my Web server referrer logs -- i.e. spammers will visit your Web site and claim to have been referred to you by a spam site; if you happen to publish a list of sites that are linking to you, the spammer's site gets on the list.

The newest, strangest type of spam I'm now getting is Technorati spam. Technorati is a site that gives you a list blogs linking to your blog -- they call this your "cosmos." This can be a useful feature, because you can find out when some random stranger writes something about an entry of yours. The last thing I expected, though I should have, was that spammers would subvert this for their purposes.

Well, they have -- there are now spam blogs out there that will link to your blog, I presume for the purpose of getting noticed by Technorati. If I now search for a cosmos of my site, I have to wade through dozens of spam sites among the results. I presume that the hope of these sites is that I will embed a technorati widget on my blog that lists my cosmos, generating Google juice for their sites.

This seems like such a low yield spamming attack -- they have to link to thousands and thousands of blogs, polluting the cosmos of all of these sites, all in the hopes that some of those blogs happen to use Technorati cosmos (and won't take it down once they notice the spam results). Only in the short term does this seem to have any viability, with the long term result being that Technorati either counteracts it, or becomes more and more irrelevant. Mostly, I find this a depressing statement on the economics of spamming that spammers find this a profitable form of attack.

disclaimer: I could be wrong in my interpretation of this spam -- there may be some purpose other than gaming Technorati, but I'm finding it difficult to come up with other reasons as to why a spammer would link to my blog, unless they somehow expected to trick my site into linking back to them.

April 21, 2005

Yet-Another TiVo

TiVo has a deal for rewards program members where you can get a 140-hour TiVo for free if you pay for a 1-year or lifetime subscription -- naturally, the TiVo-hoor that I am, I was on the phone within minutes ordering one. My little 40-hour was getting strained w/ four people using it, and my other 40-hour unit is still out on loan to a friend. Besides, now I should be able to keep an entire season's worth of MythBusters, no sweat.

There isn't enough room in my TV stand to store two TiVos, so I'm am offering my Series 2 40-hour unit out as a lender to friends with one condition: two weeks only (otherwise, I can't lend it to someone else).

Eventually I plan on using the 40-hour TiVo for testing the experimental Home Media Engine. Last time I played with this feature, my TiVo got extra slow and was more crash-prone, so it will be nice to be able to play with Google Maps and Flickr on my TV without worrying about stability.

xxx

My Mac-killing superpower is going strong -- I just received news of three more dead Macs in the office: two along my corridor, and one on the adjacent corridor. The two along my corridor I have used before, but the one in the adjacent corridor makes me think that my superpower is getting more potent. Also, I almost hit for the cycle: eMac, iBook, and PowerBook. I don't think we have any iMacs around, but I should try focusing my powers to see if I can take out one of the imposing G5 PowerMacs.

April 25, 2005

Afikommen master

I found the afikommen for the second time in two tries. Two times in a row makes it a streak, and two-for-two means that I am undefeated, so by all rights I title myself an undefeated afikommen champion. I hope to defend my title in the future, but in the meantime my chocolate prize will help bring back good memories of a delicious meal.

My ten first liners

Following parakkum's and meta's lead, here are the first lines of 10 books I like. I think that I have chosen relatively easy books, though I've tried to spread the genre's around. Clicking on the links will give you the entire first page of the book, as well as the answer (check the URL).

  1. Current theories on the creation of the Universe state that, if it was created at all and didn't just start, as it were, unofficially, it came into being between ten and twenty thousand million years ago.

  2. It is often said that America "invented" democracy.

  3. "You would need an engineering degree from MIT to work this," someone once told me, shaking his head in puzzlement over his brand new digital watch.

  4. Anyone who watches even the slightest amount of TV is familiar with the scene: An agent knocks on the door of some seemingly ordinary home or office.

  5. Our thinking is filled with assessments of quantity, an approximate or exact sense of number, amount, size, scale.

  6. "Filipinos are a warm, caring, giving people," Avi says, "which is a good thing since so many of them carry concealed weapons."

  7. After Slitscan, Laney heard about another job from Rydell, the night security man at the Chateau.

  8. I was born in the city of Bombay... once upon a time.

  9. The amber light came on.

  10. Welcome to Java.

April 27, 2005

Post-Its at 25

Happy 25th Anniversary, Post-It Notes, the indespensible element of my note-taking and todo-list management.

I was reading a history of the invention of the Post-It notes, and I found it interesting how much it parallels other classic stories of invention: small inventor vs. corporate behemoth, great invention but no idea what to use it for, near-failure, etc... It especially reminded me of many of the classic PARC vs. Xerox stories, from the invention of ethernet to the invention of the laser printer.

I've heard many times the story of how the adhesive used in Post-Its was a failed attempt at creating a super-strong adhesive; I don't know if that is apocryphal or not, but the history above doesn't even go into this. Instead, it talks about the various failed ideas for how to use the substance, from Post-It Bulletin Boards (images of corkboard printed onto a large tacky surface) to Post-It bookmarks. Even when Fry, the inventor, finally came upon the idea of Post-It notes, he had trouble getting 3M to produce them. Despite their wild popularity within the company, 3M didn't want to shift their production process from things that you sold on rolls; Fry had to build his own miniature manufacturing machine to prove that it could be done.

MS goes Nintendo

Auxiliary Display

Microsoft is demoing "Auxilary Display" technology -- a fancy name for what you get when you plug a Gameboy Advance into a GameCube. Dang that Tingle was freakin' annoying.

Microsoft demos Auxiliary Display

April 28, 2005

Photos: Chris Jordan

Chris Jordan's photos remind me a lot of Michael Wolf's, but with consumer refuse rather than ultra-dense housing. Some of his prints are huge (44"x75"), which would be really interesting to see in person. Hopefully he'll do an SF exhibit one of these days, or maybe I'll stop by the paulkopeikingallery next time I'm down in LA.

04-28-05.crates.b.jpg 04-28-05.boards.jpg 04-28-05.cars.jpg 04-28-05.chassis.b.jpg

April 29, 2005

Got my backpack

update 2 (5/3/05): I (still) like Backpack -- it's a well designed technology, with a diverse set of potential applications. However, I think their page limit is whack (i.e. it eliminates many of those potential uses by making them unaffordable). My extended gripe is here.


I got my Backpack account today and I'm pretty excited. I've been bastardizing 37signal's project management software, but Backpack should do away with that as it makes it easy to build pages with lists, links, notes, images, files, etc... that you can share with friends. All of it can be edited quickly and directly in the browser.

While I was at PARC I worked on Sparrow Web, which was a technology for making easily-writable Web pages, and I've been missing that technology ever since I left, so it's nice to have what appears to be a good, fast, free, easy-to-use writable Web page system.

I'll write more once I have a chance to really test drive it.

Update: here's our Fred Steak Planning Page that honeyfields and I put together. They're not opening Backpack up to the public until Tuesday, so until then I won't be able to give anyone the ability to edit the page, which makes the Fred Steak page rather pointless right now.

April 30, 2005

de Young

Neil and I went to go see the under-construction de Young, which was designed by Pritzker-prize-winning architects Herzog and de Meuron. It's right in the heart of Golden Gate Park and sits on an odd juxtaposition of architectural styles (all three photos taken from the same spot):

photo photo photo

tea garden, de Young, Music Concourse

The surrounding area is being redesigned by Walter Hood and has a lot of potential to become an interesting public space with all the open space that the Music Concourse provides -- it may end up being a nice, relaxing place to spend your day in the park. (more about the museum and landscape design).

As for the de Young itself, I'm of mixed opinion. I like the fact that the color of the building tries its best to blend with the surrounding landscape, but it seems that Herzog and de Meuron designed the building with bright blue skies in mind, rather than the grey overcast that dominates that part of San Francisco. From the artist renderings it also appears that they intended for it to have more of a red-coppery presence at the start than it actually does -- I'm sure the sun would bring out a little more of the color, but the sketches were far more bright than the building could ever be. After 15 years, though, they do expect the building finish to be much duller. I posted some of my photos from the site on Flickr:

de Young-34

Photos: Japanese Maple

I practiced my Japanese maple shooting technique after my not-so-great attempts 3 weeks ago. Here's the latest results from today's trip to Golden Gate Park (Japanese Tea Garden and Botanical Gardens).

maple-7 maple-5 maple-2 maple-1 maple-6