How to find out who watches Rocketboom

I’m amazed by the volume of discussion about Amanda Congdon, Andrew Baron, and the history and future (or not) of Rocketboom. I’m looking forward to seeing what either or both of them do going forward, like everyone else, but have nothing to add to the discussion other than best wishes.

However…the flap is also having the side effect of showing that just about everyone I “know” online has been watching Rocketboom. Check out the Technorati search for pointers to Amanda’s departure post and see how many names you recognize. Who knew?

Update 07-06-2006 16:20 PDT: Rocketboom the comic
Update 07-12-2006 21:42 PDT: Rocketboom is back on the air with new host Joanne Colan, here’s her debut.

Bell Labs Holmdel to be demolished for new office parks

I’m surprised to read in Engadget that the old Bell Labs Holmdel research facility is slated to be demolished and turned into three office parks. I recently tossed out some old project papers from the days when AT&T still ran Bell Labs, and I had occasion to visit the site from time to time.

Aside from the long history of really cool projects there (radar, sonar, cosmic background radiation, cell phones, networking, etc), the building (designed by Eero Saarinen), is huge (six stories, two million square feet), and visually striking. Externally, it sits on a large parcel of land by itself, making it hard to get a sense of scale as you approach. Internally, the lobby atrium is vast, open to the ceiling, and surrounded by chrome, gray, and fluorescent-lit mezzanine floors. Stepping inside felt a bit like landing in the Death Star.

As interesting and historic as the building is, what I really miss is the broad scope and scale of activity at the pre-divestiture AT&T Bell Labs. The closest thing to it today is probably at Google, funding a lot of motivated smart people with its massive stream of ad revenues, trying out a lot of interesting but not always commercially viable ideas. I always thought Microsoft could have done more along these lines with revenues from Windows and Office. You pretty much need monopoly-level profits to fund big private research for any length of time.

Update Friday 09-01-2006 16:49PDT: Looks like the developers have come up with a plan that preserves the main building.

PREI announced that the landscape, oval, tower and two of the original Phase I Eero Saarinen-designed buildings will remain (including the 80-foot tall center lobby), in addition to developing a historic library to highlight Bell Labs’ artifacts and paraphernalia related to the facility. Also being built are five new adjacent buildings (in orange, above), though two of the original Phase II buildings (and two wings that were added later) will be demolished.

Independence Day 2006

Busy day today. Went to the Palo Alto Chili Cookoff, the Redwood City Fair, and wrapped up by watching fireworks at Shoreline this evening.

Fireworks at Shoreline Fireworks at Shoreline

In addition to a prize for Best Overall Chili, there is also an award for Best Decorated Booth, so there are usually some interesting ones.

Chug-a-lug Wall of Beer Hotter than Baghdad

Emily really liked the Starship 2000 ride which spins around and sticks everyone onto the walls, so we went on it twice.

Starship 2000 IMG_6554

HP’s new logo, same as the old logo

Someone pointed out to me that the latest HP site redesign changed the logo back to something like the “old” logo, dropping the “invent” that was tacked on underneath a few years ago. Perhaps this reflects more getting back to basics, “doing” rather than “talking”. In any case, it won’t be missed.

The press release about the site redesign still has the old logo, though.

Bob Colwell on being a CPU architect

An excellent guest lecture at Stanford’s EE380 sometime around February 2004 by Bob Colwell, chief architect of Intel’s IA32 microprocessors from 1992-2000. (90 minutes, Windows Media).

On the history of CPUs, chip processes, power and heat dissipation, Itanium IA64 versus IA32, target markets and economies of scale, FDIV, CPUID, lifetimes of architectures, organizational politics, learning to deal with branded consumer market rather than pure technology customers.

Architects must take the long view
Architect’s job is to make valuable products
- not clever microarchitectures or instruction sets
- not “blue crystals” – useless differentiating features
- look for intersection between what technology will be able to do and what buyers will want, then sell that vision to rest of company

This presentation was made a couple of years ago, in the middle of Pentium 4 and the early days of Centrino, Itanium was the path forward, Opteron was under the radar, and power dissipation and mobility were rising in perceived importance compared with higher clock speeds and CPU benchmarks alone.

via The Inquirer

Update 03-08-2006 23:03 PST: Here’s the abstract and speaker bio from Stanford EE380

Curious George and Clueless Ted

We went to see Curious George at the movies this weekend. We were probably at the old end of the target demographic, but my 9-year-old and I have spent many hours reading Curious George stories together since before she could actually read, and we both enjoyed the movie. Unlike many current kids movies, this one doesn’t have a frantic, over-the-top feel to it, and the soundtrack by Jack Johnson is pleasantly calming.

A few thoughts upon reflection:

  • The books, being from a different era, have some problematic elements which are edited out for today’s audience:

    1. George is more or less kidnapped and stuffed in a bag by the man with the yellow hat at the beginning of his adventure. In the movie, George follows the man onto the ship by himself.
    2. The man with the yellow hat smokes a pipe. I think George might have had a smoke too, in the first book.
  • “George” has been redesigned for the movie. Perhaps to make him cuter? Call me reactionary, I like the original George better.
  • Although the movie is titled “Curious George”, the movie is mostly about the man with the yellow hat, and the museum that he works for. An alternate title could have been “Clueless Ted and the Legend of Zagara”. I don’t think George is called “Curious George” anywhere in the movie. In the book, he’s only called Curious George in the introduction to each story, which is absent in the movie.
  • Ted, the man in the yellow hat, is nice but somewhat geeky and is extraordinarily clueless, failing to notice Drew Barrymore’s character’s interest in him, as opposed to his museum lecture.
  • I enjoyed some of the randomness (“my cornea!”). The ship is named “H.A. Rey” after the book’s author. George does an accidental imitation of King Kong, with the aid of a special projector. The antagonist’s goal in life is to build a parking garage.
  • I found it vaguely disturbing that the man in the yellow hat disowns George and sends him away in a cage. The recurring theme in the books is that George, childlike, gets into trouble because of his curiosity, but the parent-like man in the yellow hat always turns up to rescue him. Sending George away for causing well-intentioned trouble is at odds with the entire body of work.

This is probably best viewed as a movie with some similar elements as the book, rather than actually being the same characters as the original Curious George books. I’m biased, of course, having read the original books when I was in elementary school.

The best investment might be to get the books and listen to the movie soundtrack while reading them (and looking at the original illustrations) with your kids.

(at Amazon)

Google and magazine covers as a contrary indicator

Is Google headed for a downturn? Not only is it featured in a generally negative cover article in this week’s Barron’s, but now it’s featured on the cover of Time as well. These magazines cater to very different audiences, so turning up on both at the same time could be considered a sign that Google is reaching a peak of sorts on both the financial and general cultural fronts.

There’s a long tradition of things going badly for companies and people after getting this sort of high profile magazine cover treatment. If Google turns up next on the cover of People or Entertainment Weekly they’re probably doomed…

Update 02-12-2006 18:31 PST: John Battelle suggests that having made the cover of Time, Google has “jumped the shark”, while Matt Cutts offers a recent historical perspective of Google’s non-shark-jumping behavior while simultaneously demonstrating effective link baiting technique.

I don’t consider myself an expert on shark-jumping, but I do think that hitting the covers of Barrons and Time is qualitatively different than the counter-examples that Matt offers. Google is transitioning out of being loved for being better, new, and whizzy, and into a stage where people expect it to “just work”. Google has gotten large enough that people are developing a love/hate relationship with it (and web services in general) like they have with e-mail, and where the discussion about privacy, media, and commerce is just starting to get some critical attention from people outside tech land.

Dae Han Min Kook!

dae-han-min-kook costa-rican-section

Yesterday I went to see an exhibition match between the Korean and Costa Rican National Teams at the Oakland Coliseum. These are basically training games for the World Cup series starting later this year.

The Korean team did unexpectedly well in the last World Cup series in 2002, making it all the way to the semifinals, which precipitated huge street celebrations and instant celebrity status for the entire team. My wife, who generally has no interest in organized sports, was getting up at 3 in the morning to watch the games on Telemundo, which is representative of the level of interest among the general Korean community.

It’s fascinating to me to see that many Koreans in one place. As you can see in the pictures, the Korean fans mostly wore red (the team is called the “Red Devils”). Many people also had those red plastic things which seem to be mostly for the clapping part of the cheer “Dae Han Min Kook – clapclap clapclapclap”. It’s extremely loud when it gets going, and very impressive. I enjoyed the fact that everyone from young kids to elderly halmonis and harobogis were there and having an enthusiastic time together. Judging from the vehicles in the parking lot yesterday, some of the Korean churches in the area organized carpools for their members to the game in church vans.

There was a much smaller section of Costa Rican fans. Costa Rica won the match, 1-0, which gave them something to cheer about too, but the Korean side appeared to play better overall, with about 10 attempts on goal (of which two bounced off the post) vs 1 for the Costa Ricans, and seemed to have the ball most of the time.

Next week the Korean team is playing the Mexican National Team in Los Angeles. I suspect there will be a larger turnout on behalf of the Mexican team down there, although there are also many more Koreans in L.A. than here in the Bay Area. The good news is, the match is being carried live on Telemundo, so we get to watch it up here.

A Digital Pantheon with D&D character alignments

This randomly turned up while I was looking into something else and will make absolutely no sense to you unless you have played Dungeons and Dragons at some point in your life.

Digital Pantheon

Lawful Good: Steve Jobs (Apple / Pixar)

Neutral Good: Larry Page/Sergey Brin (Google)

Chaotic Good: Linus Torvalds (Linux)

Lawful Neutral: Bill Gates (Microsoft)

True Netural: Peter Norton (Norton Utilities / Antivirus)

Chaotic Neutral: Shawn Fanning (Napster)

Lawful Evil: Nobuyuki Idei (Sony)

Neutral Evil: Steve Case (AOL)

Chaotic Evil: Ruslan Ibragimov (Spammer / SoBig virus)

Original post at LiveJournal, with comments.

See also: Wikipedia entry on character alignment in role playing games.

The Return of Vinyl

It’s been a long time since I’ve had a working turntable at home. This evening I suddenly have lots of new old stuff to listen to.

There’s a divide in the music I’ve been listening to for the past ten years or so. I packed away the records and turntable around the time our daughter was born, thinking that I’d put it back together when she was old enough not to destroy the records. So, ten years later, I have a fairly large collection of digital music, and a large collection of analog recordings which don’t overlap much, but which have languishing in storage.

I’m happy to find that the turntable still works. Modern stereos don’t have phono inputs, so I ended up rummaging in the garage to dig up an old amplifier, which makes for a large but serviceable preamp. Right now I’m listening to Brian Eno’s Music For Airports.

Looking through the boxes I’ve hauled out so far is like receiving a musical time capsule from myself. There are a lot of albums I haven’t heard in a while and that Emily’s never heard at all. Tomorrow I think I’ll see how she likes J. Geils Live or The Roches. The plan is to gradually migrate the vinyl to digital and put it on the server with everything else, but this evening I’m just enjoying a bit of analog technology and album artwork the way it was meant to be.

I haven’t started researching the best solution for digitizing the albums and possibly cleaning up scratches, pops, clicks, and surface noise. Anyone have a favorite method they’d like to recommend?

Beauty is only Pixel Deep

I’m not very good at Photoshop, but this portfolio of photo retouching projects by Glenn Feron nicely illustrates the disconnect between reality and the beautiful Photoshop-enhanced images that fill today’s advertising and print media. You can view his before-and-after images by moving your mouse back and forth, some of the differences are quite striking. These images were all part of various commercial projects, but if you have a favorite photo you can apparently send it to him for the full treatment. I’m not sure how well this works when you start with normal-looking people, though. All of the “before” photos are of professional models who look pretty good to start with.

For those who want to play along at home, you can read more about how to remove wrinkles, and blemishes, plump up lips, whiten teeth, tidy up loose hair, add contours, and generally glamourize your photos in these articles:

Maybe there should be a service splicing the Amazon Mechanical Turk with Gimp and HotOrNot to help people who need to boost their photo appeal?

A Vicarious Tour Inside North Korea

During trips to China, I’m always intrigued by the departure boards in the Beijing airport showing flights to places like Pyongyang, Ullan Battor, and other parts of the world that are hard to get to from here. I’ve been to the South Korean side of the DMZ but the only way to get to the North is through China, and it’s not like you can just hop over for a weekend to take a look around.

north korea arirang festival mass games

In the meantime, here’s a fascinating series of posts with photos and video from Dan Schorr (not the reporter), who recently spent several days on a tour to North Korea, where he attended the Arirang Festival.

…we went to an event unlike anything I’ve ever seen: Mass Games. A tremendous, socialist mass art form in which thousands and thousands of people move in ultra-choreographed performances – gymnasts, soldiers, schoolkids, acrobats, and dancers with lights and music, with thousands more holding large cards that are flipped from color to color to create words and images as a backdrop. The last Mass Games was in 2002 – the next is supposed to be in 2008. They are planned to celebrate major events – in this case, the 60th anniversary of the liberation from Japan.

He also makes a trip to Panmunjon from the North Korean side, visits Kim Jong Il’s mausoleum, and checks out the casino for foreign tourists:

Definitely a weird place – chips were only in U.S. dollars, which I purchased with Chinese RMB. The dealers spoke Mandarin, and since casinos are illegal on Mainland China it was the first time I heard a casino dealer running a game in Chinese – and I had to come to North Korea for it. The playing cards said “Pyongyang” on them and I really wanted to buy a deck – perfect for my home game – but unfortunately they wouldn’t sell them. However, I was able to walk out with a few chips that say “PY” on them.

Dan’s lengthy posts also include many observations on the North Korean version of history and current politics, and on the members of his tour group:

Our guide also commented on George W. Bush’s “Axis of Evil” statement – she wasn’t too fond of it. But she did say that “normal American people are friendly.”

She also said that “North Korean people hate Bush,” to which one woman in our American tour group quickly replied, “We do too.”

As I mentioned earlier, in general I have no problem with people hating the President and saying so. Furthermore, showing the North Koreans that we can dislike our own leaders and freely talk about them in a negative way can be healthy because it is a stark contrast to their world in which their leadership must be revered and can not be questioned.

I had heard other similar statements on the trip, but this comment stood out and infuriated me even more because of the use of the word “we” – she was appearing to represent the whole group, including me. I didn’t want to get into an argument, but I had to speak up.

“Not all of us,” I said, and left it at that.

via BoingBoing
previous BoingBoing article on North Korea vacation promo (flash movie)

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