Saturday, February 26, 2005

The thwarting of innovation over 50 years ago

I just finished watching The Man in the White Suit starring Alec Guinness, in a 1951 movie about the invention of fabric that won't wear out or get dirty. After toiling in various labs, Guiness's character, Sydney Stratton, finally produces the magic polymer and a suit of the material is made for a press conference. The textile mill owners quickly realize that it will be their ruin if such a material is produced and band together with labor to supress the technology by attempting to stop Sydney's idea from becoming public. A chase ensues, leading to a surprise ending. Funny thing: nanotech is making this movie more and more likely.

Nowadays, innovation paranoia isn't as prevalent, though it does exist here and there (Verizon's recent attempts to thwart the city of Philadelphia's efforts to deploy broadband via Wi-Fi is a good example).

The movie leads to thoughts about existent and nascent technologies/services, allowing serious changes to business/profit models:
Lots of companies will lose money, though lots will make money; many people will lose jobs, though many will find new jobs. All I know is that the consumer benefits time and time again. Keep your eye on the's gonna be fun to see what happens!

Monday, February 21, 2005


I woke this morning, unprompted (as usual), at 6:30am. Doesn't matter when I went to bed (was up til 4:30am reading last night), what I had to eat, or what I have to do...I wake up at 6:30am. However, this time, I had a blogging inspiration: obsessions. In particular, I'm interested today in WordNet 2.0's 2nd nounal definition:
obsession: an unhealthy and compulsive preoccupation with something or someone [syn fixation].
Sound familiar? Ah yes...we've all had them.

It being a being a cloudy/ugly holiday, I thought I would reflect on obsessions and my experiences with them.

Let us begin by dividing them up into various categories: self, collecting, digital. And then let us delve into the various precursors for obsession: genetic, boredom (sorry...couldn't find a decent link for this) and culture (yeah, yeah, yeah...this link was gratuitous...what of it?).

Let's walk through a few of my life's obsessions:
  1. Baseball cards (collecting...culture) - In 1978, I collected baseball cards. Not Fleer. Not Donruss. My cards were Topps. I lived and breathed these things. As soon as I had some loose change, or a dollar or two...up the street to the Candy Store I would go to get more. In the end, it all came down to Duane Kuiper...I sent word out that anyone who had Duane would get ALL of my duplicates, triplicates, etc. card was worth another three or four hundred to the lucky finder of Duane's card. I look back now and think: WHAT AN IDIOT. All those cards for Kuiper? At the was the only thing to do. It ended my obsession. I got Kuiper and could rest easy. The cards now rest in my room in my mom's house. Not sure what condition they are in or when I'll ever see them again. Perhaps it is time to send them back into the collecting world for others to obsess over. (Note: I will never forget Duane's name...impossible to do so. Upon moving to the Bay Area, a smile was formed when I found out that he is the local color commentator for Giants broadcasts.)
  2. Exercise/Food (self...culture) - In high school, I was pretty good at the 110-high hurdles. (Thanks for all that coaching Max, wherever you are!) When senior year rolled around, I got off to a lousy start, my times were not as good as I thought that they should be, and I blamed it all on my weight: a whopping 5 pound increase from the year before. I would train at practice, and then come home and stretch and do plyometrics and have a very meager meal. I NEEDED to get better. I was TOO heavy. Luckily, the French Club interrupted the season and while living large in Montreal and Quebec City with my classmates, I gained 7 pounds. Upon my return, the new weight changed everything: the records started to fall again, and I finished the season on a high note. And...I learned that food is fuel, not a foe.
  3. Games (self/digital...boredom) - The summer of '92, I spent at college, working part-time at the HUB and hanging out with friends. Most people were taking classes, so while they were busy studying, I was busy mastering Minesweeper. I HAD to have the best score on all the levels...and once I did, I had to beat that score. I think my records were: 6 seconds, 28 seconds and 62 seconds for the three different levels. It was INSANE how much time I spent playing that idiotic game. Luckily, a project came up that soon became my new compulsion (history project for a club I was in). To this day, I detest playing video games since I see them as such a waste of my time.
  4. Reading (self...boredom) - Sometime, after college, I REALLY began reading for pleasure. I typically jump around from genre to genre, but sometimes, I get hooked on a certain writer and immerse myself in her/his works. The last immersion was Vonnegut. I think I covered about 12 of his books in about three weeks. This isn't necessarily bad, but I have seen it impact my work in the past...staying up really late to finish a book and then being dead tired the next day. These days, I actually wish I had more time to read.
  5. Social Networks (digital...culture) - This is a relatively new phenomena...last 5 years or so. The Bay Area seems to be the hotbed for these networks (either founded or highly popular here): Ryze, Friendster, MySpace, Orkut, Mixermixer, LinkedIn; and now a few new destinations to steal time from my soul: Flickr, Blogger & Bloglines. I have a profile on every social site known to man. It probably didn't hurt knowing some of the founders (helping out their cause), but I definitely went WAY overboard in my dealings with those sites. The upshot...I made tons of friends, so the time can't be seen as a complete waste. you know some of my life obsessions. Do you have any to share? Are you living any of your own now?

One more reason I love my Alma Mater

In college, I participated in an event (dancing and organization) called the Dance Marathon. It supports the Four Diamonds Fund and is run by the Greeks of Penn State. This year, they did it again by raising over $4.1 million. The increases have generally been on steady uphill climb since the first event in 1973 raised a few thousand dollars. Even during periods of recession, the event generally matched the efforts from the previous year.

Back in the mid-90s the Children's Miracle Network knew a good thing when they saw it and took the idea and have franchised it to several campuses around the country. A few weeks back, while returning to work from lunch, I passed by a couple of canners (kids collecting money) for Stanford's Dance Marathon...their first Marathon. It brought back a wave of memories and money quicly flowed into their can.

Kudos to the kids at Penn State...JOB WELL DONE, again!!!!!!!

Saturday, February 19, 2005

The Michael Jordan/Wayne Gretzky of Lacrosse

Last night, I had the opportunity to see the San Jose Stealth lose (14-6) to the Colorado Mammoth in a National Lacrosse League match (thanks for the tickets, Joe!). It was the last regular season appearance in San Jose for lacrosse legend Gary Gait. True to form, Gait either scored or assisted on the first three Mammoth goals.

I have to admit, I had a great time at the game.
To describe it quickly...imagine regular outdoor lacrosse played like hockey: it had the back-and-forth quickness of tennis, the in-your-face agressiveness of hockey, the light-up-the-scoreboard scoring of basketball (well...peewee basketball). Perhaps this is why it is the fastest growing high school sport in America.

Based on what I saw last night and what I have read today...this sport is going to grow in popularity over the years. If you get a chance...check it out!

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

From Aaliyah to Zulma...

Check out the Name Wizard to see how the popularity of your name has waxed and waned throughout the years. Trends I noticed:
  • If you want your kid to stand out, have her/his name start with an F
  • Vowels...very popular these days
  • No one names their kid Claribel, Madonna or Mortimer anymore
  • Mercedes has been around longer than I thought
  • Boys dominate Q, U, W & X
  • Girls dominate K & Y
  • Pascual has come and gone a couple of times
  • There is only one Cher

Dearest Netflix...why I love thee so

I wanted to see what happened with unreleased movies(Saw and The Motorcycle Diaries) when placed in the #1 & #2 slots of my queue. Would they ship on time? Would they be passed over, due to "Long Wait" or "Very Long Wait"? Nope and Nope.

To my surprise, they shipped the day before they were released and arrived the same day that they could be purchased or rented at Blockbuster. Isn't that nice service!!! Too bad I had plans tonight and didn't have time to watch one of them. got an A for effort today!

Antarctic antics

A co-worker of mine spent a year at the South Pole. At lunch today, he spoke about life down in the land of nothingness:
  • The 300 Degree Club - when temps dip below 100 below, they pump the sauna up to 200 degrees, then jump outside for a quick pic in their shorts (with icicles instantly forming on their bodies) next to the YOU ARE AT THE SOUTH POLE sign. He cl
  • During the summer, when temps reach a balmy 20 below, they race clockwise around the pole for 3 laps...passing time zone to time zone, they quickly go back in time 72 hours...
  • Food is just about the only luxury they have, so late night kitchen snacks include leftover lobster and chocolate eclairs
  • The postman comes just once during the winter...and he just outbound mail
  • He was there before that Internet he had to pass time by actually *talking* to people....the SAME after day after day. Well...not true exactly, cause winter was just one LONG night.
  • Sleep rhythms adjust to the body's norm: two 4 hour naps separated by 3 hours of wake time.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

To possess or not to possess?

Yes...I did spend the weekend reading. Just finished with Tokyo: A Certain Style by Kyoichi Tsuzuki. In the mid-90s, Tsuzuki spent a couple of years putting together a photo book of low end Tokyo homes: students, artists, musicians and people who need a place to crash from time to time. The result: an inside look into the *real* urban Japan...that of the masses who are not professionals and who do not need material possessions to rule their lives.

It reminded me of my college and just-after-college days, when magazines, books, and music were my major possessions. Furniture and kitchen/laundry appliances were not needed; or if owned, were secondhand. My fraternity had dozens of rooms...some singles, and doubles and a handful of larger group rooms (the Penthouse and Cook's Room). Creativity and sweat equity were constants during each semester's shift in rooms: painting, ripping up/replacing carpets, constructing/deconstructing wet-bars, hanging tapestries. Hours and hours were spent fixing up my room to be just *right*.

In my first move to DC after college, my possessions equaled one carload. Two months later, en route to my new home of Boston, my material wealth had evolved to two carloads. In DC, I slept on the mattress removed from a foldout couch. In Boston, I slept on the floor for a few weeks and then on a doubled-over waffle mattress cover. That soon turned into a futon and then a real-life double mattress. By age 25, I came of age upon purchase of a real-life wooden bed frame.

In 2001, my move across the country forced me to rent a 17' truck to transport my *wealth*: living room/dining room/bedroom furniture, pots/pans, books, shelves, artwork, kitchen items, stereo/TVs/DVDs, sporting gear and lots and lots of clothes and shoes. I quickly moved to a flat in the city with enough closet and storage space to easily (and cleanly) store everything. Three point five years later, I have downsized to renting a room in a house, with several of my possessions either on loan to friends (thanks for helping out!), stored in boxes in the garage, or hastily stowed away (shoved) in the closet or under my bed.

The next move will again require me to rethink what I want and what I don't want. My gut tells me: those who have taken in my goods will end up inheriting what they are sheltering. What I have learned is that I can easily get by in life with much less than I thought I needed years ago. As long as I have some space to sprawl out on the floor, room to entertain a handful of friends, and quick access to what is important to me then life is good.

Confession: I like Dick

While perusing the company library, I stumbled across Philip K. Dick's The man in the High Castle. Dick was a sci-fi author in the 50s and 60s who is now widely known for his work being turned into movies such as: Blade Runner, Total Recall & Minority Report. He spent a long period of his life in San Francisco, so it comes to no surprise that he writes often of the city.

TMITHC takes place in 1962. FDR's assassination led to a serious change of events: the US doesn't enter WWII, allowing the Germans to whoop the Allies and the Japanese to whoop the US; and now America has been divied up by the conquerers. Along the way, those oh-so-lovable Nazis emptied the Mediterranean for farmland, wiped out the blacks and the Jews of the lands they controlled, sent astronauts to the moon and Mars, and take control of the world economy.

In the US, marijuana cigarettes are smoked for pleasure (legally...remember, he's from SF and he wrote this in 1962...wishful thinking on his part), Americana (antique Zippo lighters and Mickey Mouse watches) is desired by rich Japanese collectors, and people are starting to read a book that tells of an alternative where England and the US were the victors of WWII. The book is banned in German controlled areas, but freely read in the Middle West of America and the Pacific States of America.

I am now inspired to add Dick to my writers-I-should-read-more-of list. What do you think...which of his works should I read next?

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Using Flickr now...

I started using Flickr today to upload/webitize some photos that have been sitting in my hard drive. Now, I can share them with friends and family. I hope they do the same (hint hint...nudge nudge).

Flickr is a web-based photo-sharing/social website that is growing at about 30% a month. I'm way too knew to the service to fawn over all of the features...but the ones the I like so far:
  • You and others can comment on your photos
  • I can set up groups and watch them in a slideshow (though it seems that the show will only run once, and then prompt you to start it again)
  • In the "Everyone's" section, I can "play" by looking what other people have done with their public photos
  • From the Home page, you are welcomed with various international greetings: Hello, Ni Hao, G'Day, Salut, Ahoy, Namaste, etc.
What cool ways are you using Flickr?

Monday, February 07, 2005

How do you keep track of your blogs?

Now that I'm spending more and more time reading blogs, I decided to organize them with Bloglines, allowing me to instantly see which blogs (RSS feeds) have been updated. Integration with Firefox also lets me add a new feed very quickly. One reason I like it, is it allows me to see how *popular* various blogs are by listing how many subscribers each blog has (I have a whoppin' 2...and 1 of those is me. Whoever you are...thanks!) How do you manage your blogs?

My new toy!

An ARC'TERYX Khamsin 62 Posted by Hello

Who *borrowed* my wallet?

Looks like my wallet was *compromised*. Last week, I noticed that my ATM check card had a $29.99 security software download expense that I didn't make, so I called up and had to file a fraudulent claim. They noticed that my address and the address given didn't match. Today, while going through my AMEX statement, I found another erroneous listing: $475 at the Belmont Enterprise Rent-a-Car. This time, they noticed that the card was keyed in rather than swiped. Hmmmmmm...something smells fishy here!!!

So, looks like someone/somewhere went through my wallet and copied numbers down from my cards. Very cool!!!! Now I am wracking my brain, trying to figure out what happened. So...who *borrowed* my wallet?

Friday, February 04, 2005

Are you a geek or not?

If you can understand this, then you are...

A drive through the Central Coast

Just got home from watching Sideways at the artsy theater near work. Glad I finally saw it before the Oscars. Next week, I'll See Ray, so the only Best Film nominee that I will not have seen by then will be Finding Neverland. Having seen three of the five, my vote would go to Million Dollar Baby.

My (limited) thoughts:
* An actor friend of mine is getting married soon as well. Thank God (wait, I'm agnostic...) he's loyal and honorable, or I'd have to kick his ass.


* Thomas Haden Church (Miles)...when I detest someone in a movie...I know they did well.
* There is a scene where Paul Giamatti (Jack) and Virginia Madsen (Maya) are discussing why they like wine late at night on a porch. As Jack describes his love of pinot, you realize how lonely and sad he is. Lost in life and loved by none. Though as Maya describes why she loves wine, Jack sorta wakes up and gets a glimmer in life in him.
* Usually, I am mostly disappointed in endings. Not here folks (knock knock, fade to black...)...and I called it! Love when I do that!