April 2004 Archives



A couple of things going on at work today: we just got our business cards today. They're nice and glossy, made of good card stock. We're also expanding the office. The place will feel pretty cavernous after a couple of walls are knocked down.

I tried to use my cell phone today to send some text messages, but I've been having trouble with text messaging ever since the AT&T/Cingular merger.

Cingular = Bad


This past week, wherever I go, my cell phone has zero bars. In my apartment I used to get 5 bars... now I get 0. At work I used to get 2 bars, now I get 0. Mountain View I used to get 0 bars, and now I get 0. Whether this is because of Cingular or AT&T Wireless, I don't really care, but is there anywhere in the world that I can receive a Cingular signal?

Should I switch to Verizon or T-Mobile?

Update: Phone fixed, have full reception again.

North Korea Accident


The more things change...

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Asia is building a new 'Silk Road'

The original silk road came out of military and politial purposes: a court official named Zhang Qian was sent by Emperor Wudi to try and find allies against the Xiongnu (the Huns). But the Xiongnu captured Zhang Qian and held him for 10 years. Zhang escaped and continued his mission, but failed in finding allies. However, in his travels the information that Zhang Qian brought with him also made them desire the goods of each other.

In 200 AD, this trade route connected the Roman Empire in the west with the Imperial court of China. This was the most important trade route between East and West until the sea routes to Asia opened up in the 15th century.

It's important to note that it wasn't just goods that were being transported across the Silk Road, but also culture, art, philosophies and beliefs.

With this new silk road, even if the primary purpose is to transport goods, I think that just like the old trade route, much more will be transported than just goods.

You can polish hard drives with it


And so begins the digital revolution


Texas buys students laptops instead of textbooks

Part of the reason I find this interesting is that after brunch on Sunday, our discussion was centered on 20th century U.S. history, and how many students never get to that point in their studies, we segued from this into a discussion on how textbooks, because the state of Texas buys so many of them, are written with Texas schoolchildren being the target audience. Is this the future of textbooks? Instead of buying books, buying CDs/DVDs of our texts? On one hand, having them on the computer is good (I think a laptop often takes up less space on the desk than a text book) but I worry about copyrights and duplication. In time, we might find that copies of the books on CD/DVD to be more expensive than the paper versions we have now.

The other thing is whether or not you really want 5th and 6th graders carrying around $1,400 worth of computer equipment with them. We already have problems in this country with theft and robbery -- do we really want to lower the age bracket to 5th and 6th graders?

Ice Cream!


Given that we're seeing record breaking temperatures today, I'll be these two places would be crowded the next couple of days even without the free ice cream.

Today: Free Cone Day at Ben and Jerry's

Tomorrow: Free Scoop Night at Baskin Robbins

Warm Weather


It's pretty darn hot here today. 91 F (or 18.5 C). It's odd to have the weather so warm when it's still April, and it must be one of the hottest springs ever. It's supposed to be like this all week.

The weather reminds me of the heat wave last summer.

I have AC now in my apartment, but it's pretty ineffective again the oven-like atmosphere which this temperature creates. My summer vacation from school doesn't start until May 19th, but it's really not much of a summer vacation if I still have to work.

Da Vinci Cars


Leonardo's Automobiles

I've always enjoyed the illustrations from Da Vinci's notebooks. I do have to wonder sometimes if we humans, in our modern day environment create anachronistic counterparts of modern devices in his sketches, or their intended functions really were the same as what we would use them for in modern times.



Trailers for Steamboy, Katsuhiro Otomo's latest flick. Although I am not a fan of Otomo's storytelling abilities (at least on film), the animation within his features is usually of the highest caliber.

This particular story looks to be of the Steampunk (Victorians with steam-based technology) variety, an sf genre that has not been totally exploited in America (yet). I suspect that this movie might be a good intro to Steampunk in American sf (Both England and Japan has had Steampunk for quite some time now), although Bruce Sterling and William Gibson did write a mildly received book on it about 10 years back (The Difference Engine).

Spring is in the air

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One of my co-workers just brought in some roses that she clipped from a rosebush outside her house. I have this little twig which has some rosebuds on it. I have a small pop bottle which I'm currently using for a vase. So the office is now filled with the scent of fresh flowers, as these roses sit atop everyone's desks.

If I had some potting soil and I didn't mind destroying the flower, I could probably try and breed the rose, but it't a bit of work to do so, but it does remind me how nice it is to have a plant to bring some color to the sterile office environment.

Earth Day


Today is Earth Day. In honor of that, here are some environmental stories that I found interesting:

Since the passing of the Endangered Species Act, 114 species have gone extinct.

Highlights of the study:

  • 92 species became extinct with no Endangered Species Act protection
    lengthy listing delays, sometimes as long as 20 years, contributed to the extinction of 88 species
  • 27 species became extinct while waiting on the federal candidate or warrant review list
  • 21 species became extinct while the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service illegally delayed processing of petitions to protect them.
  • In some cases the agency knew the delay would cause extinction, but chose to do so rather than confront powerful political interests

Environmental Groups Plan to protest against Schwartzenegger's Hummers at Hummer dealerships

Schwartzenegger was the first U.S. citizen to own a Humvee. For him, I think the attraction was (as it is in most of Hollywood) that no one else had one. This is why Gov. Arnold wants to have his Hummer run on Hydrogen-Fuel Cells -- because no one else will have one like it. A mass-produced hybrid auto won't be enough for his ego, nor satisfy his need for public image. Thinking about it now, it may be in fact Schwartzenegger who started the SUV fad.

UC Admissions: No more space, here's a raincheck


Eligible students rejected by UC

Earlier this year, SFSU decided that one way of dealing with the California budget cuts in education was to cut the college of engineering from their campus. Now we have the UC handing out rainchecks for free transfers into the UC.

I remember my first semester at Cal, they had overbooked the dormitories. While they didn't offer apartment vouchers, they did cram every available space in the residence halls with as many students as they could into a room. The floor lounges were converted into rooms, housing 3 or 4 students.

I think it's awful, and I hope those who were given the raincheck can hopefully attend another university (where budgetary issues wouldn't be as big a concern)

NPR Stories


Sometimes while I'm at work, I'll listen to NPR on the internet. There were a couple of stories that caught my attention.

One of the stories about
San Francisco schools and segregation

Fuel Cells vs. Hybrid - Environmental Impact?

Fewer Students Enrolling in Computer Science classes

My commentary on these stories reside in the extended entry.

Thinking Green

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Painting the town white and green

"Fortunately, we can go a long way toward dissipating urban heat islands with modest measures. One solution is to use lighter colors for roofs and pavement. The other is to plant lots of trees, which have a two-fold benefit. First, they provide cooling shade. Second, trees, like most plants, soak up groundwater. The water then "evapotranspires" from the leaves, thus cooling the leaves and, indirectly, the surrounding air. A single properly watered tree can "evapotranspirate" 40 gallons of water in a day-offsetting the heat equivalent to that produced by one hundred 100-watt lamps, burning eight hours per day."

"Not all trees are equally beneficial. It is better to plant deciduous trees, for example, which give shade in summer but do not block the warmth in winter. Also, some types of trees emit large amounts of the volatile organic hydrocarbons (VOCs) that combine with oxides of nitrogen to form smog. Ash and maple are among the more VOC-free trees, emitting only about 1 VOC unit (defined as one microgram per hour per gram of dry leaf). Eucalyptus trees, on the other hand, are a problem. They were introduced a century ago, are thriving, and emit 32 units; perhaps they should be replaced with more suitable native trees. Weeping willows top the emissions list, releasing a whopping 230 VOC units. "

Whenever I read an article in which environmentalism and architecture intersect, I always end up getting really excited about it. I guess part of me still wants to be an architect. I think part of it is the awareness for the environmental conditions that architects sometimes don't think of -- how things like hundred-year flood levels should affect the design of a place, or giving thought to how the materials used will have an effect the surrounding conditions.

I remember being told in one of my classes how a new skyscraper had been built in Dallas, and how the adjacent building's air conditioning bills went up threefold due to the reflectivity of light across the new building's surface. I think that in a lot of fields, we're so focused on short-term results that we don't take the time to consider the long-term effects of our actions.

One of the major environmental problems facing California is eucalyptus trees. I won't go into the nitty-gritty details, but they are evil for a variety of reasons, amongst which are fire hazards, and the ability to make the surrounding land barren. No species in California feeds on eucalyptus either, which makes it one less potential food supply for wildlife.

Luxury Consumerism


Finding Glamour in the Gadget

Coincidentally, I received a new Sony catalog in the mail today. They've never sent me a catalog before, even though in the recent past, a good percentage of my consumer electronics in my house was manufactured by Sony. Right now, it's much more evenly distributed. Maybe it's because I just filed my taxes a few days ago, but I've been thinking about the value of money, and the ephermeral nature of technology and gadgetry. As long as the technology works, does it matter if you've got the latest, greatest, or most expensive? I say no, of course, but that's the way I've always felt about tech toys and gadgets. For me, a gadget must have utility and purpose. I honestly think this new product line by Sony will ultimately fail.

Your Phone or Your Life


Man gets shot twice for refusing to give up cellphone

I have the same model of cellphone as the victim. It's a Nokia 3390. It's one of the older models with a black and white screen. If confronted with a gun, I think I'd give it up in a heartbeat. I'd much rather lose a $20 piece of plastic and circuitry than get shot. I'll also go through the trouble of finding the numbers to input too.

Happy Easter, everyone!


One of the nice things about living in the multicultural Bay Area is that there's enough diversity here that places just don't close for many holidays -- They close for Thanksgiving, or Christmas, but that's about it.

I finally finished filing my taxes yesterday -- I actually started last weekend, but I needed to find some records to file them accurately. I always seem to owe on the California state taxes, but I always manage to get a refund from the government.

Lately it has been feeling like there's more things to do than I have time for.

Meditations on Massive Multiplayer


After reading an article on CNN entitled: Tale of Two Gaming Worlds: Online consoles soar while PCs tumble.

Maybe it's the gamer in me, but I really feel that comparing online console games with MMOGs on the PC is like comparing apples and oranges. There are some similarities, but aside from having the common feature of "playing them over the internet" (which is a lot like saying apples and oranges are both edible), they are quite different.

1 gigabyte of e-mail


Google announces 1 GB of e-mail.

The also announced some Copernicus Center job positions at their lunar surface research base. Last year they claimed that the reason google worked so well was because of their Pigeon rank technology.