September 2004

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Yerba Buena


What is the deal with this "good herb"? Apparently it is the name of a variety of mint that is used in making the rum cocktail called a mojito. (Click on the image on the left to see the recipe) Why United Airlines felt like they had to subject me to 30 minutes of discussion about the mojito is beyond me. Then I saw an ad for a jazz festival featuring a band called, you guessed it "Yerba Buena". Bacardi must have paid a pretty penny to get that subtle meme put in all of our airline cattle's heads.

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Hey, I made MIT Technology Review!


I was fortunate to get an article written about my research in MIT's Technology Review. Click on the picture on the left to read the article.

This is the Opportunity Knocks software that uses GPS to guide people around. It's also kind of cool that in addition to the real work, I took the picture that they used in the print version (although I don't get credit for either anywhere - such is academia).

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On the quality of CNN reporting


This terrific quote from a terrific piece of front page reporting on In the midst of the Iraq war and on the day of the first debates between Bush and Kerry, CNN headlines this story of a whale hitting a surfer. The surfer pinched his finger.

Unfortunately the story isn't online anymore.

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Nutch logo Suddenly this open source search engine software is being mentioned everywhere. Particularly by Oren Etzioni and the KnowItAll project, but also elsewhere at the WWW2004 conference.

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Zoka Coffee House


The best coffee in the world is at Zoka coffee shop in Seattle. It is so good I beg people to send me bean from there when they visit. In addition to top-notch coffee, they have free Wi-Fi, good Dessert, and invite excellent musicians like Kenny Meeks to play.

Click on the logo to go to Zoka's site.

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PowerBook G4


It is very hard to explain why I love my PowerBook G4 to other people. It is just such a better experience than using a Windows based laptop. The graphics are smooth, the power of open source is harnassed, but the fonts friggin' work (unlike all the Linux distributions that I use) , the laptop is portable and it all just works.

I think the people who have to maintain their own equipment like the PowerBook more. It costs more upfront, but in the long run the time you save more than makes up for it. For example how long does it take a Windows PC to connect to a Wi-Fi hot spot in a coffee shop that its never been in before? 10 minutes of futzing? the Power takes about 2 seconds.

Click on the image to go to the Apple Store.

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Kenny Meeks Rocks


Kenny Meeks is the first country artist I've ever liked. He played a gig at U-Zoka in Seattle which I attended and thoroughly enjoyed. I wish I had enough disposal income to invite him to play for my friends.

Click on the image to go to his site.

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Trabant Chai Lounge

trabant.jpg Trabant is a "chai house" in the U-District of Seattle. I am working here today to check it out, to try out chai, and to use their free Wi-Fi. My analysis: Chai is expensive ($4.10 for 16 oz). There is a "scene" thing going on here, but the atmosphere is good, the chai is good and it's fun to gawk at the passer-bys... Next time I think I'll get espresso.

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Dubai, where the other 0.000001% live

The Palm Resort in Dubai
Click to watch the surreal promo video.

During a recent trip to England I was introduced to a disturbing new development in Dubai called "The Palm". It is an artificial reef/island made in the shape of a palm tree on which are built luxury homes, resorts, spas, theme parks and restaurants. Around the edge are reams of beach front property. It disturbs me because it is such a manufactured experience designed to create a manufactured existence, and also because it is catering to class of people who are so fabulously wealthy that their priorities become secrecy and discretion.

First of all if you are not aware of Dubai, it is a small kingdom-like place in the United Arab Emirates. I spent some time there when I was in the military and, believe it or not, it really is a nice tourist destination despite being in the heart of the Middle East. It is very cosmopolitan and has lots of high-end hotels and gourmet restaurants.

Along with being cosmopolitan, though, is a weird libertarian we-don't-ask-and-you-don't-tell ethos that comes through subtly in the video promo above. My understanding is that a very small percentage of the people that live in Dubai are citizens and if they are, they are the beneficiaries of enormous oil wealth and are mostly related to one another. The majority of the population is extremely cheap labor from India, Pakistan, etc that are allowed to stay there a short period of time (2 years maybe) before being required to leave. In fact the labor doesn't mind because they go there to make money and bring it home to their family. Cheap happy labor means everyone wins.

I also met at least one guy who worked for Sony in Dubai. He was from India and he was trying to do a great job for Sony so that they would transfer him to Canada. Then he could potentially immigrate and settle in a place other than India. This is sort of the business equivalent of the computer science escape-from-your-home-country route. The computer science route involves getting a C.S. degree in the U.S. and being such a whiz-bang-hacker-theorist-bright person that a U.S. company snaps you up immediately and you get to stay in the U.S.. Everyone but your home country wins.


So Dubai also has these extremely expensive resorts and hotels including The Burj-Al-Arab hotel. It is truly a stunning hotel. But to get a sense of what I'm trying to say about Dubai consider this: this hotel has in-room check-in, a separate reception desk at every floor, chaffeur-driven Rolls-Royce services, personal butlers and can cost $3000 a night. Everything that an extremely rich person who wants to remain discrete would need. Who are these people? Celebrities? Multi-national corporate CEO's? Rich Arab oil men/politicians? International criminals? Maybe it's all one and the same and if you care then maybe you aren't the type of person they are looking for. To their credit though they make the lifestyle look attractive.

Now enter "The Palm" development. This is billed as a place for rich expatriates to be as far away from the rest of the world as they want. But if you watch the promo video - it has this really sinister Blade-Runner-in-the-sun feel to it. Extremely high security, sunglasses, families happily playing in the surf. The undercurrent is that they need to be there because they are in danger and they are in danger because they are so fabulously wealthy and/or notorious and/or famous that they can't be out in public.

the world.jpg
Satellite image of "The Palm"
The world

And as a final note, they have a new development in the works called "The World." Same concept but shaped like a world map rather than a palm tree.

Living on an artificial island, in a world full of restaurants and entertainment, protected from all the dangers of the world where every detail is taken care of. A world pre-built to perfection. And yet nothing is organic about this existence. It didn't occur naturally. It's not authentic. It has no substance. There is no community. There is no history. There is no dirt. It is trying to erase or remake reality, but it can't really do that because it's impossible. How long before the pollution in the water makes the beaches unbearable? How long before the displaced ecology causes sea-snakes to jump in the swimming pools? How long before the cocaine use causes someone to commit suicide and someone else to get murdered? How long before the smoke from the burning oil rigs and exploding mosques gives all the kids asthma? You can't escape this broken world with wealth.

"We won't ask if you don't make a scene" - The Palm.

Update (4/25/2005): Just to clarify, for all the people who leave insulting comments to me because they think I hate Arabs, I don't. I also don't think I know everything. Read what I am saying. If you have something substantial to say I'll post your comment. Otherwise go rant on your own blog.

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Tooth Tattoos

Tooth Tattoo package

Fortunately they are temporary, but here is the latest rage for the preteen set. Tooth Tattoos!

Click on the image to go buy some!

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Mars Hill Church


Meaning, Truth, Beauty, Community matter. Mars Hill Church strives to achieve all of them. They don't shy away from theology or culture. As a church it rocks.

Click on the image to go to Mars Hill's home page.

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Something has gone horribly wrong

phb.jpg Something has gone horribly wrong. Tomorrow I will be attending a meeting while I listen in on another meeting via an audio bridge thing on a cell phone earpiece. Does this mean that I am important or that I can't manage my way out of a paper bag?

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So that didn't go too well. The earpiece that I was using to listen in to the second meeting was making too much noise and it was bothering the other meeting's attendees. Note to self: get a better earpiece. Other Note to self: Manage life better.

Posted by: Don at September 22, 2004 11:16 AM

Adbuster Culture Jam


This is one of the adbusters commercials that no television station will air because it is counter to their interests. It is illuminating to understand what their interests are. Basically they portray themselves as purveyors of information, but in fact, their economic interests like squarely in separating you from your money in any way possible.

Click on the image to see the short commerical.

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Agathos Foundation
Click on the image to go to Agathos' homepage.
Fighting AIDS matters. The Agathos Foundation does this in a wonderful way. It is the merger of spritual transformation, economic transformation and a heart for the lost. Agathos focusses on helping the orphans and widows of South Africa's AIDS crises.

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Amnesty International

Freedom of conscience matters. Amnesty International always gets a liberal label, but it sures looks like the work of the Gospel to me.

Click on the image to go to Amnesty's homepage

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