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Archive for April, 2006

April 27, 2006 2 comments

i don't know what the deal is w/ various articles of women's clothing showing up in my belongings, but that has got to stop!  within the past month, my lovely lady has discovered a thong and a pair of shorts, neither belonging to her, in my car and an old backpack.  what the hell?  i have no idea where they came from, who they may belong to, or why they were there.  the shorts and thong were from two different women (different sized articles), and neither one of them had the courtesy to let me know they'd be setting me up for a fall.  seriously, i'm looking totally shady right now, and it's 6 months before my wedding! 

so i am now issuing a proclamation to all the ladies of the world:  i know it's hard, but please, keep your clothing to yourselves!  i don't need it, i don't want it, and most especially, my fiance won't wear it.

Categories: misc.

vote for Net Neutrality!

April 23, 2006 1 comment

there's legislation working its way through congress that will result in an unequal internet. telcos and providers are lobbying to allow differential charges to website vendors for bandwidth. what that means is that big sites that have loads of visitors and provide lots of content will have to pay more money to the bandwidth providers. bigger companies and websites will spend more to maintain the same amount of viewers, and smaller websites will get screwed by the preferential treatment showed to higher paying customers. this screws everyone on the web except for the people providing your internet connection.

all major websites and internet companies are pushing against this bill, but their lobbying efforts have not proven equal over the years to similar efforts by the telcos who will benefit from the bills. this bill goes against everything the internet stands for – equality. it is a philosophical break with the very foundation of what has transformed our world and economy. the internet is based around a level playing field – those who provide better services and content end up w/ more visitors and users. the others get left in the dust. this bill will insure that those who pay the big bucks will retain more visitors. it's kind of like saying that only Barnes & Noble can move into ground floor retail in your downtown city districts – small bookstores need not apply.

you can learn loads of info and see the way your state reps are voting at this website: http://www.savetheinternet.com/ if your rep is voting against net neutrality (red dot) or is on the fence (yellow dot) you should call (phone #s are provided) and just tell them that you want them to vote for net neutrality.

don't let them ruin the internet.

Categories: tech, web

Texas Sports as subscribed via Google Calendar

April 23, 2006 2 comments

i've never been much of a sports guy.  never followed any sport whatsoever, never watched any sport religiously.  i have gotten hyped up for the Rosebowl the past two years, but on the whole, getting riled up over a glorified substitution for military strategy and activity has never been my cup of tea.  but now that i go to a big state school w/ a huge sport arm (and a good one, too) i figure its time to perhaps try to keep up.  i've said the same thing for the past 4 yrs, actually, and have never kept up w/ any of it.

but now that i can subscribe to the schedule of all UT Longhorn sports through an ical subscription on my Google Calendar, perhaps that will change.  this morning i loaded that calendar and discovered that UT baseball (last year's national champs) was playing Nebraska this afternoon.  right now i have a tab open tracking the game w/ constant updates.  unfortunately for my first day in tracking UT sports, we're currently losting 6-0.

why the sudden interest in Texas sports?  i think b/c i'm in NY.  to be from TX and be in NY carries a certain amount of baggage.  as i'm originally from NY, i used to think that NY was the shit – the be-all and end-all.  nothing could compare.  but after college (in ATL) i moved back to NY and wasn't in love.  i moved back to ATL and discovered that there was more to urban life than just NY.  there are other cities that have great things to offer, but it's funny that most NYers don't really understand that.  now i live in Austin, and though i didn't love it my first few yrs, now that i'm in NY i can understand the things that make Austin so unique and such a great place to live in.  i'm really looking forward to going back this summer and enjoying my remaining time there (how long we'll stay in Austin following my graduation is up for debate).

it's funny, b/c i had never noticed that egocentrism that is central to the views of nearly all NYers.  i obviously succumbed to it, but i now see past that juvenile belief that nothing compares to NY.  cities are just different, but NYers believe NY is the best.  it certainly has loads of experiences not available elsewhere, but can you go biking along a creek in any number of greenbelts w/ your dog in NY?  can you just chill w/ some beers and margaritas and beers in jeans and sandals anywhere you go in NY?  can you enjoy a mild winter in NY?  can you get Ruby's organic BBQ and Tito's vodka in NY?  and can you experience a nice airport in NY (take that LGA – JFK, i'll cut you slack b/c i think that following the renovation you'll be alright)?

everytime i talk to people who have never really lived or been outside of NY, they always somehow let something slide about the superiority of NY when i mention i live in Austin.  this morning at a doctor's appt, i had to change my address and health insurance to reflect my current TX status, and they were enthralled:

'you're from TX?  you're a long way from home!'    'well, NY is my original home.'    'do you like TX?'    'yeah, i do.  it's really different.'     'everything's different from NY.  NY is the best.'

i'll bet that girl has never lived outside of NY, and has traveled very little outside of NY.  its such superficially elitist outlook. 

Categories: Austin, NY, travel

the wonders of the web in relation to research

April 22, 2006 1 comment

i love the internet – everyone who knows me understands that i'd likely be the first to sign up for a permanent jack into the web.  but where it is really starting to shine for me has nothing to do w/ entertainment, but rather the ease w/ which i can gain access to information – and not just John Doe who wrote something on his blog about something that interests him or some CNN article.  i mean scholarly academic work.

Google Scholar's been around for something over a year now, and it is by far the best addition to online research.  my school, University of Texas, integrates Google Scholar right from the library's main webpage.  if you're on campus, than any hits you pull up through Google Scholar that the university maintains subscriptions are automatically integrated.  so my search on XYZ pulled up a hit in the journal of ABC – UT has access to it, so all i need to do is click the link and read the article.  better yet, you can still access this feature even if you're not on campus (like right now as i'm doing research in NY).  you can log in through a link on the library's homepage to still access this google scholar feature.

but what if we don't have access to a journal in the years desired?  for instance, today i did a search for an article in New Scientist from 1996.  UT's access only goes back as far as 2002.  but i could access the article through UT's membership w/ Lexis-Nexis.  so even if the university itself doesn't have the info, it is very likely that through some sort of partnership w/ other research institutions or organization that i'll be able to find the info.  all from my computer no matter where i am.

this is a wonderful development in the world of research, and one that i think will make research and learning more accessible to the masses (if they choose to learn).  one no longer need trek to the library if they live far away or if the weather is bad.  you can learn anywhere you want in any condition you want.  this isn't an argument against congregation – the ability to interact physically w/ others is still extremely important, but it doesn't have to be a determining factor anymore.

when all new books are published both physically and electronically, so that i can take out a book from the library no matter where i am and search the text to find exactly what i want – then we'll have some serious asskicking learning!  [btw, google book search and amazon's 'search in the book' already provide the ability to search text in a book and read excerpts, but only for a few pages with the intent that you buy the book to read more.  it would be great if libraries had this service in its entirety – something google has been trying to do, but unforunately has been stifled by copyright activists.]

Categories: school, tech, web

LI is a technological backwater

April 22, 2006 Leave a comment

so i'm trying to write this paper today, and i'm looking for a coffee shop w/ wireless internet.  i know starbucks can accomodate this need, but i don't want to go there unless i really have to – especially since they charge for their wifi.  but there is no alternative!  i just spent 40 min calling around a 15 mile radius to see if anyone had free wireless internet, but half the time they didn't even know what it was!  not know what wireless internet is?!  i'm sorry, what??!!  they responded as if i was a 3-headed idiot for asking such a weird question – internet at a coffee shop?  ludicrous!  then at starbucks, one store told me that their connection works half the time – something tells me they have no idea how to troubleshoot it.

am i in bizarro world?  is NY not supposed to be generally at the forefront, or at least up to date?  this is widely accepted technology that gained a foothold 4 yrs ago already!  do people around here not have computers?  do they not know how to communicate in our modern world?  i think that if the rest of the world's population disappeared, the people on LI would be perfectly comfortable continuing their daily existence devoid of the knowledge that something catastrophic had even happened. 

Categories: NY, tech

indoor noise pollution

April 22, 2006 4 comments

today i am set to write one of my two remaining papers for Society, Nature, and Technology – a class i took an incomplete in last semester b/c i could not catch up w/ all of the missed work due to Solar Decathlon. i was also really burned out and exhausted, so that was another reason i didn’t finish the work, and is one of the reasons i took off the semester to work. anyway, enough analysis – it’s time to write!

my first paper in the class was a small meditation on technology a la Heidegger. my final paper in the class was an exploration of the current state of automated home systems – what brought them to fruition, what their future might be, and what blocks them from gaining a significant foothold in modern houses. i’ve occassionally posted my thoughts on that, and once even had a home automation installation specialist from thailand post a comment! perhaps i’ll post my papers in the future…

today, though, i am going to focus on indoor noise pollution. not many people even think about the amount of noise that we have to contend with inside our offices and homes. that noise generally comes from HVAC, lighting, and computers, though there are certainly other items that create noise. most people disregard the associative noise as not worthy of attention, or a necessary component of modern life. but i intend to show that such noise contributes to an atmosphere that can lower concentration levels and heighten anxiety. many people will think that this is tree-hugging hippy ranting, but why is it, then, that people have to go out to the quiet country to relax? why do we need to take vacations in serene settings? sure, we want to get away from it all, but one of the most significant differences between our modern surroundings and undisturbed nature is the constant background hum of various mechanical devices designed to ‘enhance’ our quality of life.

of course, nature is chock full of it’s own noise, albeit a very different kind of noise. modern mechanical noises tend to be constant, whereas ‘nature’ tends to be sporadic. modern tends to inhabit sound frequencies not normally found in ‘nature’ – when was the last time you mistook a brook or wind blowing through leaves for an air-conditioner?

additionally, offices (moreso than homes) are very likely above the acceptable decibal range for indoor noise pollution. all modern buildings are designed to meet a threshold of noise – generally accomodating for mechanical equipment. due to improper design and maintenance, loads of buildings exceed that noise threshold. just this past week i was building a model in the office of our partner architect, and the entire time i was amazed at house loud the ventilation was as it escaped the vents. this leads to my next component – the advance of newer methods to distribute ventilation will allow new systems to be designed to reach lower maximum noise thresholds.

that’s a tall order for a 5 page paper, so perhaps it will be cut into two papers. either way, it’s something that is near and dear to my heart. ACTUALLY, maybe the second paper will deal with outdoor noise pollution in regards to road traffic (buses and trucks) and lawn maintenance (lawn mowers, leaf blowers, weed wackers)! i hate those things! i’m pretty sure that somewhere in my future will be the passage of a law banning leaf blowers from earth…

i present…the beautiful Penn Station!

April 21, 2006 Leave a comment

typical site at the entrance to the 1/2/3/9 subway from Penn Station:

subway

Categories: architecture, NY

down with rude behavior!

April 18, 2006 1 comment

today as i ascended from the bowels of Penn Station, i was greeted with the welcoming stench of stale urine for the second day in a row (the staircase of track 16 as it meets the main concourse).  aside from my vehement distaste for Penn Station and my continuing desire to see it demolished, this brought back not just a memory from this past weekend, but also an aggravation with public behavior in NY.

this past saturday evening, my lady and i were about the town.  we were on our way from midtown to the west village when we were visually assaulted by such a lack of taste and morality that i was beyond baffled.  we were transferring subways, i think from the 7 to the 2 at times square or from the 2 to the 1 at 14th street – it really doesn't matter.  we were waiting for the train with quite a full platform, and watched in horror as a woman traveling with her 3 young children had to make a difficult decision: go back upstairs and lose her subway fare or have her youngest child pee his pants.  but she thought outside the box – she took her kid to the edge of the platform, at the end so he was hidden from view by nearly everyone (except us and a young couple trying to get busy), and let her kid pee onto the tracks.  luckily his stream wasn't strong enough to hit the third rail.

i was so disgusted by this lack of respect for public space that i started looking for a cop.  i didn't find one and am kind of happy that i didn't.  honestly, she was in kind of a bad spot and there wasn't really much choice for her.  2 things come of this, though:

  1. her children are taught that public space is worthless and is available for debasement without retribution.   they will grow up thinking it is ok to pee on buildings, throw trash on the street, and deface property.
  2. we can recognize (as i've unhappily grown to accept) that the NYC subway system is in woeful disrepair and horribly out of date.  the fact that we don't have public restrooms in major subway stations reflects poorly on NYC's outlook on its responsibility to the public good.  the lack of public restrooms is being addressed slowly – Grimshaw has designed a major addition to the public domain in the form of freestanding public restrooms, bus stops, and magazine kiosks.  the horrible state in which our subways lie is a different story, though.

subway

Categories: architecture, NY, public, travel

dey done stole’d ma bike! tweece!

April 17, 2006 1 comment

2 weeks ago i was duly informed that my precious bike, my faithful companion since 6th grade, was stolen off of my front porch in austin.  i kind of had that coming, as i left it unlocked outside my front door, but there's a 7ft limestone wall surrounding our house, so someone had to come up to our front door to find out that there was a bike to be stolen.  i have my suspicions as to who stole it, but they're suspicions only.  the bike wasn't worth anything anymore anyway (any any any).  it was a rusting steel frame, it was heavy, and i was getting ready to finally upgrade to something a little lighter and in better shape soon.  so no real damage (except for the bike rack i had just bought and installed!).

it was with that in mind that i decided to buy a bike in NY for my daily commute to the train, with the intent of bringing it back to austin in july.  well, apparently bikes are more expensive here in NY than they are in austin.  there was no way i was going to drop over $1k for something that would be several $100 cheaper in austin.  so i hit craigslist.

after a few days i found the piece of junk that i would ride to the train everyday: a $25 mountainbike w/ shocks apparently for a person smaller than i.  but that was ok!  the ride was only 5 minutes and it would only be for 3 months.  after that i would sell it back on craigslist.  my mom went insane ranting about how my bike would get stolen – i insisted nobody would want to steal this piece of junk.  i was talking with experience – nobody had stolen my junky bike in austin after riding it for 3 yrs!  and this was cedarhurst – a nice safe neighborhood!

so i rode my small crappy bike to the train, locked it up at the train depot (first mistake) w/ a shitty lock i found in the garage (second mistake).  the bike had been outside in a rain storm several days prior, so the seat got my ass was all wet – but i was ok, b/c it was a nice morning and a nice ride.

later that day when i returned from NY, i stepped off the train, looked for my bike, and exlaimed with laughter: 'oh my god!  somebody stole my bike!'  i was hysterical – after all the crap my mom gave me, and the crap i gave right back to her, it turned out she'd been right.  i know that if i'd have locked the bike in a more public place than the hidden bike rack at the train depot with a kryptonite lock (not the easily clippable lock i used) it would have been fine.  but i did what i did and the bike was stolen on its first day!  it was only $25, though, so no love lost.

i laughed as i walked through the front door after walking home. 

'where's your bike?' asked my dad. 

'a funny story about that…' i replied. 

Categories: Austin, haha, NY

finally, Google Calendar

April 16, 2006 5 comments

i've been waiting for Google Calendar for about 2 years now, and was so excited when it finally came out. back when i was on a PC, i used Outlook for all of my calendar needs. that was ok, i found it to be pretty productive, but what i really wanted was a calendar that i could access from any computer. so i started using yahoo calendar again (i had used it years before), and loved the free SMS message reminders. but yahoo calendar was clunky and slow and it really hated syncing w/ Outlook despite the existence of Intellisync. after i used Intellisync for the first time, i ended up w/ doubles of just about every event i had in my calendar. i very quickly stopped using Intellisync and stuck to yahoo calendar alone.

i was never able to fully clean out all of the doubles from my yahoo calendar, so i started using sunbird, the super young calendar program from mozilla. i think that sunbird is now up to version 0.3, inching along… i'm not sure, but i think it may have been merged into mozilla lightning, the calendar that's supposed to inegrate with thunderbird. i can never figure out the mozilla naming strategy – they seem to have multiple projects with the same exact purpose running concurrently under different names.

anyway, sunbird was so new back then that it had a whole lot of bugs, and it wasn't a top-ranking project in the mozilla foundation (firefox hadn't even left beta at that point). i began to search out a ported version of apple ical, since i knew it had everything i wanted in a calendar – multiple calendars/categories, color coded, easy search capabilites, task manager integrated with the colored calendars, all in an aesthetically pleasing candy coated shell. the only port i did find was out there in the open with the large disclaimer that it was most definitely not stable. so i most definitely did not use it. the extend of my mac paint job on my pc was left with objectdock from stardock. how many hours were spent downloading program icons w/ julia at my favorite coffeeshop, spider house, i can't begin to count (okay, probably about 10).

i think i went back to outlook for a little while until my computer finally died for the last time and i moved to a mac (which was my final step in becoming a fully converted cult of mac devotee). at that point i got to use my most favorite calendar program, apple's ical. it was perfect in every way except one – i couldn't sync it with an online version. apparently i had overlooked .mac from apple, which i decided to try out using the complimentary 3 month trial period. i was very unimpressed w/ .mac. for $99/yr, i was going to get: email (i already used the superior gmail, so i didn't care about that); web storage (i already get web storage through school, with roughly the same amount of space, so i didn't care about that either); a few other doodads; and finally the ical sync. ical sync was not as wonderful as advertised. unless there was something that i was doing incorrectly, the ical sync did not replicate the multiple calendar colors as i had on my mac. the online interface was most definitely lacking (granted this was pre-AJAX). there was no way that i was going to pay $99/yr for a so-so online calendar synchronization. so there went .mac.

meanwhile, i was left w/ ical, which i continued to be very happy with. UNTIL… i started working. they use outlook at work, though nobody really uses the calendar component that much. a few people use it, but nobody sends out event/meeting invitations, or blocks off time as busy or anything. basically if there is something very important, it might go into the outlook calendar. for the most part, i have no idea how people schedule their time. now, there was no way i was going to bring my laptop to work everyday just so i could look at my calendar – which has become extremely uncluttered since i'm not taking classes and now spend all of my time building models and working in Microstation. but there are those few times when i do need to see my calendar to schedule things several weeks in the future (and also because i'm actually more productive when i can see my highly stacked calendar – i'll fill it with small deadlines to get moving).

obviously with my calendar desires being common, the market was bound to start popping out online AJAX-y calendar apps. i put my money on 30boxes a few months ago when it launched as it had the quickest and most robust interface. it had the first instance i had seen of text recognition ("dinner with cindy at Aquarelle at 8:30pm next Tuesday"). the layout was clean and uncluttered. i could share my calendar with other people. and i really liked the way the day's agenda printed out. but there were several things i definitely did not like, and knew at that point that i would not make 30boxes my ultimate default calendar. first of all, it did not show a 'day' or 'week' view – just monthly. perhaps that will change, but really like being able to see all of my day's appointments with times blocked out – i can see how close my appointments are really getting. second, 30boxes jumped on the tagging craze. i think tagging is great for many things – delicious, flickr, gmail, even wordpress (kind of). but not for calendars. i don't need to have 20 billion descriptors for my daily events – i just need to know what they are, when they'll occur, whether or not they have some sort of priority status, and the ability to differentiate between different types of events. that's where ical's multiple calendar / color code came in really handy. plus, since things were tagged in 30boxes, that meant that you couldn't color code them. let me tell you – looking at loads of events in a calendar w/o any sort of color coding scheme is extremely difficult. you have no way of understanding which event is what w/o really reading each of those events. extremely inefficient.

following my initial infatuation with 30boxes i partially resumed use of backpack. backpack is great for reminders, notes, and small project organization. of course, if you pay more, you'll get more space for more event creation. one really great feature in backpack is RSS aggregation – i was able to subscribe to my backpack events within ical. very cool. but still, it wasn't a full fledged calendar.

so i was SUPER psyched last week when what i knew was coming, and what i had been waiting years for arrived: Google Calendar. i knew it was only a matter of days by then as screenshots had started leaking over the past month. i woke up one morning and there it was on GigaOm – dear lord it had arrived! i immediately logged on to see that Google Calendar had multiple calendars – hooray! – with custom color coding – hooray! – with text recognition – hooray! – and event sharing – hooray! – and RSS aggregation – hooray! – and drag and drop interface – hooray! – and day, week, month, next 4 day, and agenda views – hooray! – and the ability to import existing calendars in ical or vcs format – super hooray! – and subscribe to ical feeds – hooray! i think there are more wonderful things in store with Google Calendar, but i still have not fully explored its capabilities. one thing i will say needs improvement – loading time. this is probably b/c half the world is trying it out right now, but i'm sure that loading times will improve as they scale up support. one other cool thing i discovered today is that Gmail now has Calendar features built in to the edit bar when composing a new message – clicking 'add event info' will show event creation features that will effectively turn the email into an event invitation. that info gets automatically added to your Google Calendar, and anybody to whom you send the invite doesn't need to be a Gmail or Google Calendar user. very nice.

the only thing that i immediately see as a drawback is the inability to see the calendar when i'm offline. so the only major suggestion i have right now would be desktop version of calendar that automatically syncs with the online version when you get internet access. it could still be browser-based so that there is no confusion on the user's part as to what version is really being accessed – it will all always look the same. when offline, the calendar info could be hidden away in a default folder somewhere on the user's hard drive. the only issue i see with this is if you were to update the online version of the calendar on a public computer, and then come back to the computer where an offline version is stored – but has not been updated with the new info from the public computer. i could see that bothering me and confusing a lot of boneheads out there. anyway, just a suggestion.

all in all, i've been very happy with the first stab at Google Calendar. it can only get better from here, and since this is a space that has been dying for some real innovation, Google's attempt will only goad Yahoo and Microsoft to spiff up their stagnant products (both Yahoo and Microsoft say they're working on revamping their calendar products – or course, Microsoft has been saying that for years…)

Categories: tech, web