Thursday, December 22, 2005

a year of searching

Google recently made available a way to see what your most popular searches of the year were. My results offer quite a bit of insight into my personality... mainly that I'm a vain, self-absorbed, mash-up/podcast listening, photo sharer who lives in zip code 10128.

Top searches


I had no overlap with the (English-speaking) world's most popular 10, but did have a "top gainer" in my top 10 ("wikipedia").

Sunday, December 04, 2005

geekdom come to fruition

So as some of you know, I've recently been working on a little side project outside of work which I've taken to calling "party chat." It's this group-chat like bot for Google Talk which (for the most part) acts the way I always sorta thought low-traffic group-chats should act.

Anyways, thanks to lots and lots of help from Michael Bolin, I've finally "launched" PartyChat as the inaugural post to my new geek-oriented blog Techwalla. Please take a look, make a poke, and let me know what you think (as well as any bugs you find). It currently isn't that solidly implemented, but it should be able to handle a few hundred users. If you want to know what chats I'm in, just send me an IM, and I'll let you know =).

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

my conversation with jon stewart

I went to the filming of today's The Daily Show with Jon Stewart with some other Googlers. On a whim, I suggested we all wear Google gear to the studio in hopes of getting some attention and maybe a mention on the show.
We didn't get an on-air mention, but our four black, Google t-shirts immediately grabbed Jon's attention when he came out chat with the crowd before the show. After asking us if we really did work for Google, he started quizzing me about how Google works.

Jon: So tell me this, you know that "I'm Feeling Lucky" button Google has on the front page? How does that work?
Me: It reads your mind.
Jon: No really, how does it do it?
Me: You want the real answer? It's just the first search result.
Jon: But how does it know what I want? You push the button and it just magically takes you to porn.
Me: But you were looking for porn, right?
Jon: Well, yeah [crowd laughs] What? Isn't that what the Internet is for? Porn and Shopping.

Unsatisfied with my answer, he announced that it's probably a bunch of gerbils inside his computer creating the search results. He must already be well versed in our patented PigeonRank technology.

Sunday, October 02, 2005


Well, as you might guess, after a day (or week) of working on Blogger, I lack the energy to come home and do blogging of my own. So as low traffic as this blog has been in the past, it'll probably get even slower for the next few months. Life is interesting and I do my best to take advantage of the city. Work is good and stuff. Yeah.

Alright, back to watching the Sox in HD on my 50" TV. Ah the good life.

Monday, September 12, 2005

good ol' mcgruder

Good ol' Aaron McGruder

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Jon Stewart and Christopher Hitchens on the nature of national dissent over the Iraqi War

Many of you have probably heard or read about Jon Stewart's August 25th interview of Christopher Hitchens on Comedy Central's The Daily Show. Video clips of the interview can be found on the CommonBits website (courtesy of Crooks and Liars) and on The Daily Show's official website.

In the interview, Stewart does a wonderful job articulating many Americans' frustration with how the current administration has dealt with the war in Iraq. A transcript of the most important part of the interview was done by Wonkette and has been widely circulated around the internet. Being a former college newspaper editor who once evoked campus outrage when being too precise in the transcription of an interview, I decided to fix up Wonkette's text using the recording of the show I have on my DVR. What follows is my best transcription of Jon Stewart and Christopher Hitchen's exchange:

Jon Stewart: The people who say we shouldn't fight in Iraq aren't saying it's our fault. That is the conflation that is the most disturbing to me --

Christopher Hitchens: Don't you hear people saying we've made them nastier?

Stewart: I hear people say a lot of stupid [bleep]. But what I'm saying is, there is --

Hitchens: You promised me you'd never say that.

Stewart: There is reasonable dissent in this country about the way this war has been conducted, that has nothing to do with people believing we should cut and run from the terrorists, or we should show weakness in the face of terrorism, or that we believe that we have in some way brought this upon ourselves. They believe that this war is being conducted without transparency, without credibility, and without competence --

Hitchens: Well I'm sorry, sunshine, I just watched you ridicule the President for saying he wouldn't give a --

Stewart: No, you misunderstood why --

Hitchens: a timetable. You said [unintelligible] --

Stewart: That's not why I ridiculed the Pres. . . What I ridiculed the President was, He refuses to answer questions from adults as though we were adults and falls back upon platitudes and phrases and talking points that does a disservice to the goals that he himself shares with the very people he needs to convince.

[Audience erupts in applause]

Hitchens: [barely audible] You want me to believe that you're dying to be his side...

[Continued applause]

Hitchens: [gestures to the audience] There you go! You did it again! . . . C'mon c'mon [gesturing to Stewart to display Hitchens' book] . . . get it done and delivered.

[Audience still applauding, eventually dies down]

Hitchens: You want me to believe that, really, you're secretly on his side -- you just wish he was more persuasive. You want me to believe that.

Stewart: I secretly need him to be on my side. He's too important and powerful a man not to be.
The Daily Show with Jon Stewart - August 25th, 2005

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

finding it

realized today that blogspot blogs are their own domain and can use the "site:" parameter to do an internal search. a little html source code hacking later and voila, my own personal blog search.

if that means nothing to you, look in the right hand column and check out the little "Search ( ! )" box.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

dodge that ball

In May, Google acquired/hired, a SMS-based social networking tool. Since NYC is precisely the kind of place where the ability to find out what bars/clubs friends are at and how to meet up with them is important, I've been using dodgeball for a while now since moving into the city. But, as you shall now hear, dodgeball is thankfully available in a number of major cities.

I'm in the bay area for a few days and I was supposed to meet up with my sister at a bar in San Francisco last night. Unfortunately, she gave me directions on how to get there while I was in a groggy-post-nap condition and, hearing her wrong, I some how convinced myself that the bar was on third street. It wasn't. My sister, being my sister, is absolutely terrible about answering her cell phone so there I am, groggy, in San Francisco (which I am not familiar with at all) with no idea of where I'm supposed to go.

Then, in a moment of brilliance, I opened up an SMS compose message to sf(a) and queried it with the name of the bar, "21st amendment?" 10 seconds later I received back dodgeball's glorious response "Sounds like you're looking for the 21st Amendment @ 563 Second Street (btw. Bryant and Brannan)..." And all was good (so was their jerk chicken).

Friday, August 19, 2005

blogger hack

So you super observant readers might notice this, but the ( ! )'s main page has changed subtly. Now under each post, you can not only see how many people have commented, but who has commented.
It's a neat little feature I found out about here. There are lots of other "hacks" you can add to your blog that I might try playing with in the future too.

Monday, August 15, 2005

never buy a mattress from Sleepy's

I bought a mattress from Sleepy's Mattress whatevers on the beginning of July. I thought all was good, they were willing to deliver it soon, were giving me a good price, and so on. When the sales rep went to go ring it up, she had trouble getting the discounts to work out properly, so she was $20 above the price we had agreed on. She fuddled around with the computer for 10-15 minutes until finally convincing me to pay the total bill and have her write a note on the receipt promising me a phone call and my $20 back.

A week later. My mattress had arrived fine, but no call from the sales woman. I went back to the store, but a different sales rep was there. He called the store the woman was working on to confirm the refund. She gets on the phone and tells me that she tried to call me the day of my purchase to tell me that her manager had not approved our "deal" but that there must have been something wrong with the number I gave her because she was not able to get through, which is crap, seeing as she gave my # to the delivery guys who had no trouble getting a hold of me. After bitching at her and talking to other sales rep, I was able to get the process of refunding restarted, with a promised call in a few days.

Two weeks later, no call, no refund. I go to the store once again and talk to yet another rep. who appears to be higher up in the chain. She tells me they've had problems what my original rep in the future and apologizes. She then does mumbojumbo with my card and says that they'll be refunding me $60, again sorry for the inconvenience. That was 3 weeks ago and I still haven't seen any money put back into my account.

So, what do we learn? Never buy from Sleepy's. Never ever ever. I hope someone who was thinking of buying from them reads this post and changes their mind. At the very least, I'll never buy from them again.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

best served chilled

So my suitemates and I live in a new apartment in a complex which only opened recently. Amoung other things, this means the apartment gadgets are still new.... which is why we only recently realized we've been refrigerating our fridge's instruction manual for the last month.

Sunday, July 31, 2005

Full disclosure

For readers of ye olde blog who aren't up-to-date with the more meanigful aspects of my life, a quick update on the parts of the world which I revolve around and, on occaision, revolve around me.

I've moved to the upper Upper East Side of NYC and begun working full-time for a relatively young company named Google, Inc. As their headquarters are in Mountain View, I'm working in their remote office in midtown Manhattan.

Amusingly enough, Google has made me part of the Blogger team. That's right, I now spend my time making this site better and cooler. I'm really enjoying my first few weeks at work and I look forward to (positively) impacting company and... the world. At least the internety parts of it.

Thursday, July 28, 2005


it's funny because it's true

Friday, July 08, 2005

More fun links

Got a lot of positive feedback on the last post, so I figured I'd put up some more links to interesting programs/links

  • Google pedometer - Measure the length of paths using google maps! (double click to mark path anchors).
  • Deskwin - A little application for Windows that gives you multiple desktops. What makes it nicer than most other applications is that it's easy to move windows between desktops (drag them in the little preview window), your taskbar only shows the windows on that desktop, and you can set keyboard shortcuts for switching between desktops.
  • TopDesk - Apple OS X's Expose for Windows. In lay terms, it's a nifty little eye-candy program that makes switching between windows cooler than you ever thought it could be.
  • - What's that? Just moved into a new apartment in a big city and don't have any internet till the cable guy comes 2 weeks from now? Well, you're probably not reading my blog if you are, but if you ever find yourself in such a situation, use this site to find somewhere you can get your wireless fix for free.
  • Web Sudoku - I started doing sudoku puzzles when my home paper (L.A. Times) began carrying them. They can get pretty tough and are surprisingly enjoyable for a game that involves nothing but numbers....
  • Google Firefox Extensions - Little plug-ins of goodness from everyone's favorite search company for everyone's favorite browser. Includes the recently released Google Firefox Toolbar.
  • Google SMS - Ok, I know, this is a lot of Google and this one isn't even an internet thing; still, when people ask me about what kind of stuff is left for Google to do, Google SMS is the cool little application no one's heard of but knocks everyone's socks off. SMS a geographic query (e.g. store + zip code: "Jamba Juice 10128") to GOOGL (46645) and Google will text message you back with the address (and phone number) of the nearest store that matches (you can be general too, querying "Ice Cream 02139" yields the addresses for Toscaninis, Dunkin Donuts, and Baskin Robbins). A lifesaver in an urban jungle like Manhattan.
That's it for now. If this stuff is still tickling your pickle, let me know and I can keep this stuff coming.

Move to NYC is almost done -- a few of the last apt. pieces fall into place this weekend.

I am thoroughly incompetent at all things Ikea.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Internet round-up

I've been home for a little over 3 weeks and just now has the boredom finally reached "maybe I'll post to the blog" levels. Well, that's not totally true... I did make that last post about penguins, but who could resist posting about penguins?

Anyways, I mainly distract myself by surfing the internet. Periodically I'm surprised by how many people know nothing about all the interesting software/websites out there on the internet. Really, this isn't very surprising since the only reason I know all these cool net things is because (a) I'm a geek (b) I have a fast internet connection (c) I'm generally quite bored. Anyways, here's a round-up of interesting stuff that I think is cool... some of it is common stuff, some of it is a bit obscure.

  1. Firefox + Adblock (+ filter) is good stuff. I know I've posted about this in the past, so I won't say more.
  2. Tracks up the Tree - is a podcast focusing on indie music. You don't need iTunes/an-ipod/macosx whatever to listen. You just need a computer and an internet connection to listen. The hosts (Funtime Ben and Josiah) didn't strike me as terribly funny when I first started listening (I used to listen primarily for the music) but their last few shows have been quite hilarious.
  3. - in big words, is a "social bookmarking community" or something like that. Practically speaking, it's somewhere you can bookmark cool/interesting websites, adding little tags to describe what the site is about (my bookmarks can be found here). The /popular page lists those websites which have received a lot of attention recently -- thus acting as a collection of cool new websites for the exploring. Particularly if you're bored, like I often am. Yeah... I check /popular about twice a day....
  4. skype - you can talk (voice talk, not typing talk) to other people for free through your computer. This isn't the crappy, circa 2001, shouting into a cheap headset internet telephony... it's really easy to use (especially on laptops, which almost always have a built in microphone, even the old ones) and is like using a normal speaker phone... except that it's *free*... even talking to people on the other side of the world.
  5. Google Maps - somehow, some people never found out about Google's venture into online cartography. Well, if that someone is you, then get your fingers clicking. Note, you can drag the map. no waiting to reload, just move the map as needed. Apparently you can do smooth zooming in IE too, but really, it's not worth using a crappy browser.
  6. - is like or, but much cooler, better looking, useful, and informative.
  7. CommunityBits - snippets of politics related media (like the Daily Show). It's rss friendly, so easy to keep track of through a podcast subscriber or through an rss aggregator like
  8. Bloglines - It's not for reading blogs (though you can use it to do that). It's about being intelligent when surfing the web and not having to read the same thing twice. News sites, webcomics, blogs, media sources, what have you -- find out when there's something new and never have to sort through stuff you've already seen. Trust me, it'll change the way you use the internet.
  9. Live Music Archive - recordings of live concerts by groups/musicians like Howie Day, Jason Mraz, the Grateful Dead, Tenacious D, Jack Johnson, and (one of my favorites) Glen Phillips. All for free. You used to need a winamp plug-in to play the music, but now-a-days a lot of it is available in .mp3 so just go ahead and listen.
  10. flickr- I don't actually use flickr... yet. A lot of other people do, however, and it's really one of the best online photo sharing websites I've ever seen. So use it and when you have pictures to share with me, I'll appreciate it.
  11. TinyURL - Too many links but not enough space in your AIM profile? Have a long url that would be a pain to send anybody? TinyURL will totally rock your socks around the block. It makes long urls really short so you can send them with ease. AND TinyURL comes in a handy bookmarklet form. Just take (TinyURL!) <-- that link and drag it to your bookmark toolbar. Then, whenever you're surfing the net and you want to send someone a link to the page you're at, click the "TinyURL!" in your bookmark toolbar and it'll automatically make a tinyURL for you. It's like magic! Except not. But it's still cool.
  12. How to (painlessly) phase out of MIT e-mail - Aimed at MIT alums (or soon to be alums) but it really can work for anyone in college. Your school e-mail will expire eventually and, presumably, you'll start using online e-mail services like Gmail instead. This handy little website (written by me... because I was bored) shows you how to set up your current e-mail preferences so that when that day comes, you'll be able to make the school->web transition with remarkable ease.
Alright, that's enough listing for me. Time to sleep. Hope y'all found something useful in the list.

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Apple - Trailers - March Of The Penguins

This has to be one of the cutest things ever: Apple - Trailers - March Of The Penguins (courtesy of nanphan).

Monday, May 16, 2005

more arrested development

As reported by an article on the TV Squad website, the best-written show on television, Arrested Development, will be back for a second season. The only way this could get any better is if they start distributing it online too.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

The MPAA/RIAA Guide to Leveraging New & Promising Technology: just kill it

Today the MPAA targeted and shut down 6 major websites which specialized specifically in trading television programs via bittorrent (cnet story).

I, personally, was a regular user of the first site listed in the MPAA press release, shunTV. While I can't speak for the other websites which were targeted, shunTV had a very specific and strictly enforced "no HBO shows and no DVD rips" policy. As a result, almost all shows posted to the site were captures of television shows freely availible on broadcast television. Thanks to shunTV, my tv viewing habits grew by approximately 700%, I started buying television show DVDs that I would have never purchased otherwise, and I started writing a column for the MIT school newspaper about all things television related.

What is particularly frustrating is that, as far as I can tell, there isn't a very strong legal standing for the MPAA's actions. Movies? Music? You know, the MPAA and RIAA came off as bullies, but it truly was within their prerogative to take legal action -- both are content which users pay for that is often behind a content protection technology. Broadcast television, on the other hand is transmitted over what is considered the "national resource" that is the television broadcast spectrum and is, by definition, NOT enclosed in any sort of content protection. IN FACT, the federal courts just recently ruled that the FCC (taking action requested by the MPAA) did not have the authority to even INTRODUCE such restrictive technology. In this case, the MPAA is just plain-ol-big-enough that it can flex its muscle and shut down these sites which can't take the risk (shunTV didn't charge money or run ads, so I seriously doubt it was trying to make a profit, let alone a signficant take-on-the-MPAA like profit) or bear the cost of questioning their authority.

All of this two weeks after the return of a television show which was resurrected, more than two years after its cancellation, thanks to staggeringly high DVD sales fueled ALMOST ENTIRELY by extensive online trading by young adults.

Such stupidity

Sunday, May 08, 2005

look ma, a blog

I went to a talk Friday about algorithmic analysis of social networks. The talker collected data from the livejournal community and so, as an aside, asked a room full of ~40-50 members of MIT CSAIL how many of us had a blog. About 4 of us raised our hands. Is it me, or does that strike you as rather low? I still remember how at the beginning of last summer I had to explain to one of my coworkers what a blog even was. I thought these things were commonplace by now.

Moon toilet/the cobbler is in Taiwan right now providing humrous cultural commentary she's allowed to make because she's the right ethnicity. Anyways, apparently National Geographic there had a show about viruses which devolved into a sexually charged indian music video. This leaves me utterly speechless... I'm flabbergasted and so confused as to (a) how someone could ever come up with this (b) what it was doing on Taiwanese television.

More comics which will disappear evntually.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

can you even do that with a cheeseburger?

more colorful commentary can be found here. If you don't understand what's going on, perhaps you don't know what "i'd hit it" generally implies.

The New York Times > Fashion & Style > The Man Date

The New York Times > Fashion & Style > The Man Date: "Simply defined a man date is two heterosexual men socializing without the crutch of business or sports. It is two guys meeting for the kind of outing a straight man might reasonably arrange with a woman. Dining together across a table without the aid of a television is a man date; eating at a bar is not. Taking a walk in the park together is a man date; going for a jog is not. Attending the movie 'Friday Night Lights' is a man date, but going to see the Jets play is definitely not."

It's an interesting thought -- though the author left "getting drinks" off the list of non-man-dates despite it being a common guy thing and (i think, at least) a viable date possibility. I'd never really thought of it before, but most of my lunch appointments during the week are with women (not all though -- Whitehead Inst. salmon on Friday's with Javy is a regular). Intriguing that the article author had to make up a name for the activity.

Lastly, am I hallucinating or does the by-line state her middle initial is "8"?

Thursday, April 07, 2005

more comic

The problem with blogging about comics is that they generally disappear after about a month, so the image files I link to will probably not be in this post after a few weeks. Oh well.

It looks like Aaron McGruder of "Boondocks" fame is back at trying to get himself censored again. It's hilarious stuff.

Friday, April 01, 2005

no comic swap

It used to be an April Fool's tradition that on April 1st, comic strip artists would swap comics for the day (e.g. Jim Davis would draw "FoxTrot" and Bill Amend would draw "Garfield"). Doesn't look like anyone did that this year, which is sad -- it was cool to see artists trying their hand at someone else's character.

The only hack I'm aware of is this one (as documented by @ "Three of the strips, Get Fuzzy by Darby Conley, Pearls Before Swine by Stephan Pastis, and FoxTrot by Bill Amend, are virtually identical. They feature a story about a Ouija board that is supposed to spell out messages from the great beyond, but is used by one character to write out insults to another. Satchel in Fuzzy, Paige in Fox and Pig in Pearls get the taunts, and all reply with the punch-line, 'I imagined the afterlife to be a more peaceful place.'"

the strips:

does anyone else know of other hacks?

Sunday, March 20, 2005

more mashing

Still listening to mashups. Here are some more songs I'm listening to.


Wednesday, February 23, 2005

pod world

After getting my new ipod about 3 weeks ago, I decided to check out podcasting (of recent mention in the NYTimes). While I still think there's a pretty high signal/noise ratio out there amongst podcasters, there are a few goodies like Coverville, The Laporte Report, and (my favorite) On the Media. "On the Media" is actually an NPR show, i.e. a real bona-fide radio program; it's just waaay more convenient to listen to it on my iPod than trying to catch on the radio.

Anyways, you don't need an iPod to listen to these things, just a computer and a podcast aggregator. I used to listen to the radio 24/7 when I was in high school but now only listen for the 30 seconds it takes to get me out of bed in the morning. While I love the music I have, it's nice to have some new music(or intelligent/interesting fodder for thought) to freshen things up.

Partly due to listening to Adam Curry's The Daily Source Code, I've started listening to a lot of mashups recently. Some of them are quite good and I'm especially fond of Beatles mashups because they add flavor to quality music that's almost gone bland after static repitition. Anyway, a few favs are: "No One Takes Your Freedom" by DJ Earworm, "Numb/Encore" by Linkin Park + Jay-Z, and "Boulevard of Broken Songs" by Party Ben. Check 'em out and see if you get addicted too.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

The New York Times > National > Jailing of Reporters in C.I.A. Leak Case Is Upheld by Judges

The New York Times > National > Jailing of Reporters in C.I.A. Leak Case Is Upheld by Judges: "Two reporters who have refused to name their sources to a grand jury investigating the disclosure of the identity of a covert C.I.A. officer should be jailed for contempt, a unanimous three-judge panel of the federal appeals court in Washington ruled yesterday.

The panel held that the reporters, Judith Miller of The New York Times and Matthew Cooper of Time magazine, may have witnessed a federal crime - the disclosure by government officials of the officer's identity. The First Amendment, the panel ruled, does not give reporters the right to refuse to cooperate with grand juries investigating such crimes."

It's a good question, should reporter's be able to receive information that is illegal for anyone to disclose? What pisses me off is that Robert Novak, the guy who published the identity of a secret agent, is not the one being jailed. That makes no sense to me.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

baby eaters

as posted on the recently killed

Good god, when was the last time you saw a company consciously launching a campaign of terror? I don't use bittorrent to download illegal music but tactics like these inspire me to commit egregious acts of violence against the heads of the MPAA (and RIAA).

Perhaps they should use this as inspiration for future campaigns?

Friday, February 11, 2005

the way we speak

I've always been very sensitive about the way people speak. I often identify voices not by their tone or pitch, but the way they pronounce words and their inflection. If only I could consciously reproduce these subtleties, I would be great at doing impersonations.

Anyways, over the last few months, I've noticed that I speak like a theoretical computer scientist, or, at the very least, an MIT theory of CS person. In everyday conversation I talk normally, but when I start explaining something, or stating an opinion, I start introducing pauses, emphasis, and sentence inflections in a way that people in my lab do. I've always been slightly conscious of this, but as I sit here in the Theory of Cryptography Conference, I'm acutely aware of how distinct a way the people here have of explaining things. There are some variations of this "Theory accent" and I'm quite sure that the MIT version of the accent has been heavily influenced by the Italian accent of Silvio Micali.

This, I think, is due to the facts that Silvio a) has the strongest accent in the department and b) is easily the most interesting person to listen to for any period of time. Regardless of the cause, however, it's rather surreeal to be talking to someone about something utterly non-geek-related and realize I'm speaking with a mild Italian inflection (not pronunciation, mind you, inflection).

For example: In normal English, when you pose a rhetorical question, you do it much in the same way you would pose a normal question: your voice rolls up and down as you ask the question, with natural peaks at both the key word in the question (i.e. who/what/etc.) and the sentence end. With an MIT TOC accent, however, your voice naturally ramps up during the entire question, raising in urgency until you reach the end of your rhetoric question. Then you have a pause, where it is clear that no one should interject an answer, then you give your answer with strong emphasis.

I guess it's natural for people who spend a lot of time talking each other to speak in a similar way (e.g. siblings), but it's just so strange to think of that happening to you in someplace like the crypto group at MIT....

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

the end is nigh

Just a few minutes ago, I saw a girl running on a treadmill and talking on her cellphone at the same time. And I'm not talking "earbud crazy person wire"-talking on the phone -- she was full on holding the phone to her right ear as she ran at an awkward angle to compensate for the fact that she was only swinging around her left arm.

Crazy. Maybe she was talking to her personal trainer? I don't know.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

do the evolution

Now that I've stopped updating my news-related blog, i feel the need to post striking facts in this blog. Apparently not only are youth ignorant about the 1st amendment, but only recently did half of this sountry start believing in evolution. I remember my Biology AP teacher, a devout Christian, started the evolution unit with the disclaimer "I don't believe this, but it's covered on the AP so I'm going to teach you this." But it's still amazing...

The New York Times > Science > Evolution Takes a Back Seat in U.S. Classes: "In a 2001 survey, the National Science Foundation found that only 53 percent of Americans agreed with the statement 'human beings, as we know them, developed from earlier species of animals.'

And this was good news to the foundation. It was the first time one of its regular surveys showed a majority of Americans had accepted the idea. According to the foundation report, polls consistently show that a plurality of Americans believe that God created humans in their present form about 10,000 years ago, and about two-thirds believe that this belief should be taught along with evolution in public schools."

Thursday, January 27, 2005

well now

For regular readers who remember my previous web celeb post, it would seem that Google updated its webcrawl and has rediscovered my website. My (in)famous yatta page is once again at the top of the heap and, more excitingly, is no longer listed when searching with the family name. Instead, my personal homepage pops up as hit #9 under that search, making me, somehow, the highest ranked Patil in my extended family. Probably because I'm the only one that cares. Anyways, good to know that people looking up my uncle's bio won't be bombarded with diapered Japanese men anymore.

Monday, January 24, 2005

it's art, stupid

I've been mulling about a digital art idea for a while and while I don't have the patience to create the full realization of the final vision, I did have the time (and patience) to make a pretty good approximation which is a few "coolness" points lower, but probably better looking.

It's a bit out of step with previous projects (like my collages and "eyes" page) but as someone pointed out today, it's the natural inverse of my "faces" piece. I took the text of Lewis Carroll's "Alice in Wonderland" (courtesy of Project Gutenberg) and superimposed some of the book's original illustrations on top -- creating an image out of the words.

The resulting files are rather large, about ~30MB, since a) the font can only get so small and stay readable b) they're .tiff (uncompressed) files c) I'm hoping to be able to print it out at somepoint, so I figured 3' x 4.5' ish was a good sounding size. If you have the bandwidth and monitor size to check out the final files, please do and give any feedback you might have. I'm not sure how much change I can make* but I'm always looking to improve things. (* the fastest computer I have is a 1.2 Ghz P3 with 512MB RAM, so Photoshop takes something like 15 minutes just to change the font size of the text. I made these two images while snowed in on Sunday)

Below I'm posting thumbnails which link to the full-sized files as well as a "zoomed in" view to better show the text/image detail (for non-bandwidth blessed). Give some feedback!

pink panther

Steve Martin is starring in a new addition to one of my favorite movie series, The Pink Panther. If you watch the trailer, it really makes you appreciate how hard of a character Insp. Clouseau is to pull off and how much better Peter Sellers was than Steve Martin ever will be. It's funny how many people these days don't even know who Peter Sellers was or hadn't heard of "The Pink Panther" until the Steve Martin film went into production. And that's *after* being the focus of a reasonably well advertised and double-Golden Globe winning biopic. Just goes to show, I guess.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

you don't care, but google does

and posting on wings that work is pointless since google currently doesn't index it.

Running Firefox 1.0 on Mandrake 10.1

Monday, January 10, 2005

getting creative

some more amusing brevity:

Thanks to a story in Wired, I've become aware of the amusing Gates quote about redefining intellectual property and the resulting "creative communists/commonists" fad centering around the creative commons movement. I've always been a fan of creative commons -- another cool thing they're doing is hosting the "the fine art of sampling" contest which has already revealed to me that I have absolutely no patience for music sampling... it's fun to do in my head, but a pain to actually try and do on a computer.

Anyways, "Giant Robot Printing" is selling "Creative Commies" t-shirts which are quite nice and very reasonably priced ($8-10 after s&h). Gonna order me one in a little bit. Sadly no money from the shirt goes to support CC, so if you're feeling a bit more generous, check out your donating options. Of course, if you're in a giving spirit, be sure to remember recent victims as well as multitude of always deserving.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

delayed discharge

More unrelated thoughts presented in itemized list format

  • I was watching "60 Minutes" with the extended family and there was a story on Google. During the story, Leslie Stahl does a little demo of "Google SMS". The Fam was quite delighted -- they immediately began experimenting with their own cell phones and squealing in delight when they received their results. Anyways, the few family members (including myself) who are, for lack of a better term, "computer oriented," were shocked by everyone's ignorance -- google sms is old news as far as we're concerned. Now my family isn't exactly stupid (if level of education is an accurate measure), so our incredulity just goes to show how specialization blinds us to the outside world and fosters arrogance about the importance of our own field. Case in point, later that weekend I guessed that humans have 26 pairs of chromosomes. Damn, I'm getting stupider. Anyways, check out Google Labs and this previous post if you're smart enough to not spend >40% of your life in front of a computer.

  • Just watched two interesting movies: The Gods Must Be Crazy and Tadpole. Both were not what was expected and require a bit (maybe a lot) of tongue biting ("oh! come on!"), but were certainly worth watching; especially after a few weeks of watching nothing but generic Hollywood movies.

  • For some reason, our router at home (Southern California) refused to connect to the MIT domain (18.*) so I was unable to see, check my e-mail, access my web-locker, etc. It turned out to be the perfect incentive to give Tor a real test-drive. Tor is a web-anonymizer that allows you use the internet with (reasonable) anonymity -- in doing so, it accesses the internet through a variety of other computers which comes in handy when surfing the internet from behind an unintentional, or deliberate, firewall. To the point, it allowed me to bypass my web-restriction problem with moderate ease. Hot stuff.
    Tor recently received backing from the Electronic Frontier Foundation which is just another reason (in a long list of reasons) why the EFF kicks ass.

  • Wired Magazine has a beautiful story on the history, impacts, and implications of everyone's new favorite p2p program, BitTorrent.

well put.