Ferrari, Lamborghini and Trader Joe's

Ferrari Lamborghini Ferrari
Yellow Ferrari, Red Ferrari, and Yellow Lamborghini (I think)
Just another day in Southern California. On our way back from the beach we stopped at Trader Joe's to pick up some food. What should we find in the parking, but two Ferraris and a Lamborghini (I think) all parked next to our mini-van. Sort of a funny thing to see at the grocery store, but I hardly even batted an eye it's so normal to me.
Ferrari Lamborghini Ferrari

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Home Theater Modelled after Star Trek Bridge


This is so geeky that I cannot describe it. It is something that only Paul Allen would dream of doing, but no, it in fact belongs to someone else. A home theater that looks just like the bridge of the Star Ship Enterprise. Funky 3-D view of it can be found here. Otherwise the photo gallery is here.

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The 100 patty In-N-Out hamburger

big burger

Here in Southern Cali, the burger franchise known as In-N-Out burger is a local delight. They only sell hamburgers, fries, soda and milk shakes. They use decent quality food to make their wares and they make it fresh while you wait. There is also an In-N-Out burger right by my bus stop. That is torture.

I didn't know that you could add as many patties as you want to a hamburger at $1.00 each. Apparently some dudes executed some physical reductio ad absurdum and ordered a 100-patty burger. Hilarity and internets fame ensued:
What Up Willy! - Surfin, Hangin, Poker, and Life's other goodness: In-N-Out 100x100

"Here are a couple of interesting stats to summarize the experience:
Total calories (extrapolating from info provided here): 19490 calories
Total eaters 8 (2 girls and one guy who already ate dinner and only ate 6 patties)
Most patties eaten by one person : I think I ate about 20. I think Nalin ate about 20 as well (including the raw ones)
Time to finish : less then 2 hours
Number of people who barfed : 1 (way to go Elena!)

I now have another thing to do while I'm waiting for my bus!

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Finding copies of web sites online


Here is a cool website that will find copies of two websites. Valuable if you are worried that people are ripping off your content and claiming that it is thier own. Copyscape

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Southern California Language and Culture

Light Bulb photo courtesy of Poppyseed Bandits

Overheard in Southern California the birthplace of many a trend:

"Yea, that's the first time we've had a kickback"

Translation: That's the first time we've had a party.

"Yo, Dog! Cool scooter. Keep it real."

My best guess to the translation: cool scooter

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Ethical Jam

Owl photo courtesy of marysson7

From the Nature podcast:

What do you do if you see an endangered animal eating an endandered plant?

Trillium photo courtesy of StephenHill

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What good is a blog if you can't post information in your own self-interest? I was recently profiled in an alumni column for my high school alma mater, the Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology

"Patterson now works at U.C. Irvine in the Department of Informatics, a type of computer science that does evaluations of new technology with people involved. He will become a Ph.D. next week."

A copy of the article is archived here.

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Well said Professor. What were some of your small roles and behind the scenes jobs whilst treading the TJHSST boards as an amateur thespian?

Posted by: Nate at January 20, 2006 4:00 AM

Umm.-. I played "Ed" in "You Can't Take it With You" I am still haunted by the fact that I have no idea what my lines are.

Posted by: Don at January 20, 2006 10:45 AM

Robert Schuller and the Crystal Cathedral

Crystal Cathedral photo courtesy of ttrier

One of the many reality bending experiences that go on in Southern California is the Sunday program at the Crystal Cathedral. This is Robert Schuller's church. It is widely viewed with disdain from the evangelical Christian community. I have driven by it on the way to DisneyLand because they are separated by about 3 miles. Honestly I've never been there, but all of the press that I've seen has suggested its a huge production with television involved. The building itself reminds me of a Mormon temple. Neither of these things appeal to me.

So it was with some surprise that I read an article by my former pastor speaking quite highly of Dr. Schuller. I'm glad I read this early on in my Southern California adventure (technically my third such adventure). It will allow me to speak more intelligently about such an influential local institution.

From: Lunch with the Schullers at the Crystal Cathedral | Resurgence

"This is the final week of Dr. Robert H. Schuller's tenure as senior pastor of the Crystal Cathedral in Southern California. He founded the church some fifty years ago and is handing the leadership of both his church and the "Hour of Power" television program, which he has led since 1970, to his son. Throughout his ministry, Dr. Schuller has been a controversial leader, lauded by some for pioneering cutting-edge ministry, and loathed by others for promoting over-the-edge doctrine..."

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As long as I'm going to post about how to get off of telemarketing lists, on the left is an awesome counter script to use when a tele-marketer calls. It's really funny. I can't wait to try it out. Click on the image to see the whole thing.

Source for this is here.

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TV-B-Gone is an awesome little device. It is an infrared keychain fob. When you press a button on the keychain, it emits all the known infrared signals for the "Power-Off" command on many types of televisions. It is available at Think Geek

More details are here.

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Google Prediction for 2006: Google-Real

Mary on a Billboard
Photo courtesy of ratterrell

If you aren't familiar with the way the AdSense/AdWords program works at Google, it goes something like this: If you are someone with something to advertise you can set up an account that will place your ad on a search results page. You can specify which search results page you want your ad to show up on by specifying the keywords of the search query. So if you sell fruit, you can have Google put your ad up on the search results page when someone searches for "oranges". Google will charge an advertiser for this placement. But, clever people that Google are, they don't fix the price. The price is set in an auction that basically causes more profitable words to cost more. A very expensive word to advertise next to is "sex". Google will charge you over $1.00 everytime someone clicks on your ad advertised next to a search that includes "sex." In the course of a single day, (as of right now) it will cost you over $48,000 to place such an advertisement. (Meaning that 48,000 people will click on your ad) Google has some tools to help prevent you from spending more than you want and more than you plan, as you would expect, but this is the basic idea.

Another way that Google advertises is when people, like me, allow Google to put an ad on their site. (See the ad box on the right). In this case, the auction for advertisers is similar, but rather than placing ads based on words in a search query, ads are placed based on the words used on the web page. But anytime someone clicks on the ad on my site, I also get a portion of the revenue as a benefit for placing the ad on my site. So far the revenue ($1.00/month) is far less than the amount that I pay my hosting company to host this site ($9.00/month).

Anyway, so now to the point of my prediction. I predict that in 2006 Google will roll out a new type of ad medium. They will begin to buy digital billboards on streets, in grocery stores etc. Then they will begin to place the ads that usually go on web-sites on to these billboards. But because now, there are no keywords involved and no clicks involved, how will they charge their advertisers and how will they determine the type of content to put on the digital displays? This is the heart of my prediction. They will decide what is relevant to the digital display by using the results of Google Local to flavor the display. So if someone previously wanted to put an ad on webpages that talk about pinatas, now their ad will run on displays that are near stores that carry pinatas. If an advertiser wanted to advertise next to the word "orange", now their ad will show up in grocery stores, and markets that carry oranges.

The second part of my prediction relates to how Google will deal with not having "clicks" to evaluate the effectiveness of ads. I predict that initially the price of showing an ad on a Google-Real display will be related to sensors in the vicinity of the display. So, for example, it will cost more to display an ad on a street when the traffic on the street is high. It will cost more to display an ad at a grocery store checkout when the check out lane is very busy. It will cost more to display an ad on the back of an airplane seat when the seat that views it is full, less when it is empty, but the seat next to it is full and even less when the entire row is empty and only people going to the bathroom on the airplane might catch a glimpse of it. This is a subtle revolutionary change, because it currently costs a lot to advertise on billboards on busy streets, but I predict Google will allow the price to vary based on the real-time traffic information. Is there a big car accident just after the billboard? Then the cost of advertising will shoot up as sensors notice traffic is at a standstill.

Eventually I believe that Google will roll out a click mechanism that will allow you to "click" on a Google-Real ad with a cell-phone camera. The cell-phone camera will decode a watermark in the ad, will send the result to Google, Google will tally the "click", charge the advertiser, and send the person with the phone the information they requested - on their phone of course.

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Breathe Deep the Breath of God

Lost Dogs album cover

Breathe Deep (The Breath of God) 1996

from the album "Green Room Serenade, Part One" - THE LOST DOGS Green Room Serenade, Vol 1

Politicians, morticians, Philistines, homophobes
Skinheads, Dead heads, tax evaders, street kids
Alcoholics, workaholics, wise guys, dim wits
Blue collars, white collars, war mongers, peace nicks

Breathe deep
Breathe deep the Breath of God
Breathe deep
Breathe deep the Breath of God

Suicidals, rock idols, shut-ins, drop outs
Friendless, homeless, penniless and depressed
Presidents, residents, foreigners and aliens
Dissidents, feminists, xenophobes and chauvinists

Breathe deep
Breathe deep the Breath of God
Breathe deep
Breathe deep the Breath of God

Evolutionists, creationists, perverts, slum lords
Dead-beats, athletes, Protestants and Catholics
Housewives, neophytes, pro-choice, pro-life
Misogynists, monogamists, philanthropists, blacks and whites

Breathe deep
Breathe deep the Breath of God
Breathe deep
Breathe deep the Breath of God

Police, obese, lawyers, and government
Sex offenders, tax collectors, war vets, rejects
Atheists, Scientists, racists, sadists
Photographers, biographers, artists, pornographers

Breathe deep
Breathe deep the Breath of God
Breathe deep
Breathe deep the Breath of God

Gays and lesbians, demagogues and thespians
The disabled, preachers, doctors and teachers
Meat eaters, wife beaters, judges and juries
Long hair, no hair, everybody everywhere!

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Academics are Intellectual Entrepreneurs


There is an interesting post at the Tomorrow's Professor's blog about how professors are "intellectual entrepreneurs." I think this describes very well what I spend my time doing: raising money, selling my ideas, training people to execute the ideas and to come up with their own under the umbrellla of a single research agenda. It just fits. The article is here.

Choice quote:

"Some may better understand what academics strive to do not by thinking of classes and books but of "intellectual capital." Like monetary capital, intellectual capital is the cumulative product of both individual effort and supportive communities. Intellectual capital is the dividend of years of hard work and practical experience that bears fruit by transforming lives and benefiting society."

It gets a little self-aggrandizing at points, but the general idea is a good one.

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Living for the Global City: Mobile Kits, Urban Interfaces, and Ubicomp


I just finished reading an interesting paper from the UBICOMP 2005 conference, called "Living for the Global City: Mobile Kits, Urban Interfaces, and Ubicomp". It's available online for a fee, but if you hunt around you can find a free copy.

Anyway the paper was cool. The authors looked at young urban professionals in three citiies, LA, Tokyo, and London and looked at how the technology that they carried with them interfaced with the infrastructure in their location. The researchers were interested in what services were trusted and which were not and how private and public things were mediated by infrastructure.

Some cool quotes which give a flavor of the paper:

"We also sought with some skepticism, to assess the notion that places like London, L.A., and Tokyo actually form a coherent category - that they are essentially a single, distributed place, despite their apparent diferences."

"Much of what they carried with them are interface tokens" [emphasis mine]

"Mobile Kit" : this is the collection of technology, old and new that people carry with them.

"L.A., in particular, has captured the imagination of a group of urban theorists, resulting in an emerging field of 'Los Angeles Studies' ."

"What differences (if any) between global cities matter? To what degree is it warranted to talk of 'the global city' or 'urban computing' as if they were unitary domains?"

"Cocooning items...items that allow escape from one's current environment through creating a kind of 'bubble' in which outside distractions are shut out. ...iPod...."

Neat paper, one of those things that you read that inspire creative thinking because they are the result of good creative thinking.

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Car Fire in Los Angeles

Car on Fire

Just needed a little break this weekend, so we drove into Los Angeles to see the sights. Apparently the reason why movies all have car chases and explosions is because this is the daily life of Hollywood. Art imitating life. On the left is a real car fire that happened on our way to check out the farmer's market in L.A.

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Craigslist is amazing


Life is changing. Part of the changes in my life have been a reorganization of my computing resources. I had a Pentium II desktop computer at home that has become unused now that my family is running off of laptops. I was then faced with the eternal dilemma of how to dispose of a dual-headed-CRT tower computer that was somewhat obsolete. Being a responsible fellow, I won't put them in landfills because computers are filled with hazardous waste. (I know that no one else cares) So typically disposing of these things costs ~$50.00 and a bunch of time trying to find the right place to take them. (Side note: There's been news recently that sometimes these computer-dropoff places are just dumping the junk in Africa [NY TImes][blog][primary source], not recycling them, but still, I try to do the right thing)

So I took a few camera-phone shots of the thing, wrote a description of the guts and posted it on craigslist as a "free" item. Within 5 minutes of the ad going on the web, I had a list of 6 people who wanted to come by my house and take the computer off my hands! In fact the phone was ringing so often I freaked out and pulled the ad off of craigslist before I got anymore interest. The first guy that contacted me was at my house in less than an hour, carting it off.

So I asked myself, did I make a mistake? Was this computer worth something? So I looked on ebay to see the going prices of the components and pretty much convinced myself that between the profit that I would have gotten on the good parts and the cost of disposing the bad parts I would have come out even and spent a lot of time shipping stuff.

The moral of the story is: If you have marginally valuable stuff that you want to get rid of quickly, put a classified ad up on the local craigslist and stand by the phone. It worked in Seattle, it worked in Orange County with this computer and it's worked in Orange County in the past with a bunch of moving boxes I got rid of the same way. Props to craigslist. I still don't know what that means.

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I have a topper for that. I unearthed a bunch of landscaping rocks from our yard and put them on craigslist. We had multiple requests. They were gone within a week.

Posted by: Nate at January 11, 2006 12:14 PM

Google is Running Ads in the Chicago Sun-Times!

newspaper ad from google

When will the madness end? Google has started to fill the unsold space in the Chicago Sun-Times with their own ad content. There is no apparent monetization of this for them yet, but it's clear that this is huge! Google is moving into real world advertising. ClearChannel better get ready to fight.

Sun-Times nets Google ad deal | Crain's Chicago Business

Now, in the Sun-Times, Google is running ads in proximity to relevant content. On Dec. 12, for instance, Google ads touting ticket brokers, White Sox apparel and Chicago Bears memorabilia ran in the Sports section.

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retrievr: Sketch-based image retrieval

boatdrawing.jpg boat.jpg
Photo courtesy of heydrienne

retrievr is a sketch based image query tool. The user draws an image using coarse colors and brushes, like my picture on the left, and then retrievr searchs through flickr's photo database to find images that match. The image on the right was among the ones returned.

It's pretty cool. It kind of works.

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Speculation on Google PC

Photo by beezly

This is entirely speculation, but it is curiously close to reality and too juicy not to mention. Rumors are flying on the internets that Google is considering launching their own home-PC box of some sort. The most interesting part of the rumor is that they are replacing Microsoft OS with their own. It will probably leverage all the Google tools that are available online and become the home-media center, because what good is a rumor like this that doesn't center on a "home media center".

The source of this rumor appears to be a predictions for 2006 article (which used to be) located ( ",0,3503327.story")here, in the LA Times. It is far from confirmed, but dangerously believable.

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